Published on 14 Aug 1919
Fox Searchlight has released the first trailer for A Hidden Life. This is the latest from acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick, who has had something of a cold streak in recent years. However, based on the early word coming out of Cannes earlier this year, this could be a return to greatness for the director behind movies such as Badlands and The Tree of Life. Based on this initial footage, this World War II epic seems like a surefire awards season contender and Oscar hopeful.
The trailer kicks off with some truly stunning landscape shots. It sets up the relationship at the center of this tale, going over the courtship and bond these two people share before they were ripped apart by the horrors of war. While WWII movies have been done many, many times in every imaginable way over the years, this looks rather unique, as we're presented with a German man who is conflicted about the leadership in his home country. It's a seemingly grounded, human tale, as opposed to a grand war epic.
A Hidden Life centers on the story of an unsung hero by the name of Franz Jägerstätter. He refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. The Austrian peasant farmer was faced with the threat of execution for treason. Yet, his faith was unwavering and his love for his family helped to keep his spirit alive. The cast includes August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon, Tobias Moretti, Bruno Ganz, Matthias Schoenaerts, Karin Neuhäuser and Ulrich Matthes.
Aside from looking like the sort of thing that is destined to rack up a number of Academy Award nominations, this could be a crucial movie for Fox Searchlight. Disney merged with Fox earlier this year and, so far, things have been a bit rocky. Disney axed most of Fox's development slate and the future for many projects remains uncertain. Fox Searchlight is a haven for indie movies. The banner's upcoming slate, which also includes Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, a title that also focuses on WWII, yet in a very different way, will need to convince Disney these types of movies are worth investing in. That's no small task.
Recent Terrence Malick efforts, such as Song to Song and Knight of Cups failed to garner much mainstream attention. However, this has earned some of his best reviews in years and looks to be a return to form for the auteur. It currently boasts a 74 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. And let's not forget the last time Malick tackled WWII, we got The Thin Red Line. Malick penned the screenplay in addition to directing. Dario Bergesio, Josh Jeter, Elisabeth Bentley and Marcus Loges serve as producers. A Hidden Life is set to arrive in theaters on December 13. Be sure to check out the trailer from the Fox Searchlight YouTube channel for yourself.
Published on 08 Aug 1919
Oscar season starts early at the Cannes Film Festival, but its official launch is unquestionably fall movie season. Starting near the end of August, an onslaught of potential Oscar contenders will world premiere &mdash or reemerge after playing at festivals like Sundance, Berlin, and Cannes. Three major fall film festivals have already announced their main slates: the Venice Film Festival August 28-September 7, the Toronto International Film Festival September 5-15, and the New York Film Festival September 27-October 13. At these gatherings, new films from Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach, Marielle Heller, Edward Norton, Steven Soderbergh, and more will debut and either launch into the awards season or fizzle out. The fourth major festival is Telluride August 30-September 2, hough the event does not reveal its lineup until days before it starts.
Below, IndieWire has dug through the Venice, TIFF, and NYFF lineups to determine the 30 biggest Oscar hopefuls confirmed to be hitting the fall festival circuit. Additional titles will be announced in the lead-up to festival season and added to the list below. It should be noted that only films confirmed for fall festivals appear below, which means expected contenders without festival debuts are not included such is the case for Greta Gerwig's “Little Women“ and Todd Haynes' “Dry Run,“ for instance.“The Irishman“
“The Irishman,“ Martin Scorsese's highly-anticipated return to the gangster drama, will world premiere on opening night of the New York Film Festival before making its international premiere at the end of the BFI London Film Festival. Scorsese reunites with “Goodfellas“ actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, plus directs Al Pacino for the first time, in this decades-spanning story of a young gangster who entered the inner circle of mob boss Jimmy Hoffa. The talent involved and the film's de-aging special effects which bumped the a budget to a reported $160 million have turned “The Irishman“ into one of the can't-miss titles of the fall festival season. Expect NYFF to be the start of a season-long awards campaign from Netflix.Photo : Netflix “Marriage Story“
Noah Baumbach has been nominated for one Oscar throughout his career so far Best Original Screenplay for “The Squid and the Whale“, but many awards pundits are expecting the indie favorite to break through in a big way with “Marriage Story.“ Netflix is launching the Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson-led domestic drama in competition at Venice, then taking the film to both TIFF and NYFF. Rumor has it “Marriage Story“ will stop at Telluride as well, making the Baumbach film a rare title to play all four major fall festivals. Netflix brought “Roma“ to all four festivals last year and ended up with 10 Oscar nominations, an outcome the streaming giant is surely hoping to repeat with “Marriage Story.“Photo : Netflix “Motherless Brooklyn“
Edward Norton returns to the director's chair for the first time in nearly two decades with the 1960s-set New York City murder mystery “Motherless Brooklyn,“ based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem. Norton stars in the film as a private investigator with Tourette syndrome investigating the murder of his mentor. Warner Bros. is premiering the drama at TIFF before a closing night bid at NYFF and is surely hoping Norton can build buzz in both the directing and acting awards races. Norton is a three-time Oscar nominee for his acting “Primal Fear,“ “American History X,“ “Birdman“, so it shouldn't be hard to get him into the latter conversation.Photo : Glen Wilson “Pain and Glory“
After winning Antonio Banderas the Best Actor prize at Cannes, Pedro Almodóvar's “Pain and Glory“ will begin its Oscar campaign in full with screenings at TIFF and NYFF. Many expect the award-winning film to be Spain's official submission for Best International Feature Film previously the Best Foreign Language Film category, a category Almodóvar previously won with “All About My Mother.“ Expect Sony to mount bids for Almodóvar in the Best Actor race and Almodóvar for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay the only category the filmmaker has won, with “Talk to Her“.Photo : Cannes “Parasite“
Bong Joon-ho made history at the Cannes Film Festival when “Parasite“ became the first Korean movie to win the event's top honor, the Palme d'Or. Can “Parasite“ make history again at the Oscars by earning South Korea's first nomination for Best International Film? “Burning“ missed out on a nomination last year despite critical acclaim, so “Parasite“ is not a no-brainer just yet. Neon will reignite buzz for the film with screenings at TIFF and NYFF.Photo : Cannes “Portrait of a Lady on Fire“
Céline Sciamma's ravishing lesbian romance “Portrait of a Lady on Fire“ took the Cannes Film Festival by storm, winning the Queer Palme and the Best Screenplay prize. Neon picked up the drama after its premiere and committed to a fall awards campaign, so it's likely “Portrait“ becomes France's official submission for the Best International Film Oscar. Neon will screen the movie at TIFF and NYFF ahead of a December 6 release date. With both “Portrait“ and “Parasite“ on its hands, Neon seems likely to break into the Oscar race this year.Photo : Cannes “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood“
Marielle Heller's “Can You Ever Forgive Me?“ earned three Oscar nominations earlier this year, including acting bids for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Sony Pictures is definitely hoping for a similar awards outcome for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,“ Heller's biographical drama about beloved TV personality Fred Rogers. The drama, world premiering at TIFF, stars none other than Tom Hanks in the leading role, which means Oscar buzz is all but certain for the November release &mdash whether it's good or bad remains to be seen.Photo : Sony “Clemency“
After winning the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Chinonye Chukwu's acclaimed prison drama “Clemency“ will reemerge at TIFF in hopes of building awards buzz for Alfre Woodard's lead performance. Neon is distributing the film on December 27, so an appearance at Los Angeles' AFI Fest in November isn't out of the question either. With towering performances and a hot-button social issue at its center, “Clemency“ could become a dark horse contender if Neon plays its cards right. A successful relaunch at TIFF will be the first step.Photo : Sundance “Ford v Ferrari“
After directing the Fox superhero tentpole “Logan,“ James Mangold gets back to the kind of historical drama that Oscar voters often find hard to resist. Mangold's latest, “Ford v Ferrari,“ stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon in the true story of the Ford Motor Company's attempt to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mangold has an impressive track record with the Oscars that doesn't get enough attention &mdash his films “Girl, Interrupted“ and “Walk the Line“ won acting prizes for Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon. “Walk the Line“ was a five-time Oscar nominee, with Mangold's “3:10 to Yuma“ picking up two craft Oscar nominations. If Mangold can nail the high octane thrills of the race drama, he should find himself back in the conversation. The drama is already set for TIFF and is rumored to be in the running for Telluride.Photo : Fox/Disney “Joker“
Ryan Coogler's “Black Panther“ became the first comic book movie to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, can Todd Phillips' “Joker“ become the second? Warner Bros. is debuting the Joaquin Phoenix-starring tentpole in competition at Venice before screening the film at TIFF. Programmers from both festivals have already gone on record praising the film and Phoenix, whose interpretation of the iconic Batman villain seems on paper like the film's best Oscar bet. Heath Ledger posthumously won the Best Supporting Oscar for playing the Joker in Christopher Nolan's “The Dark Knight,“ and Phoenix is expected to be a contender in the leading actor race this year.Photo : Warner Bros. “Just Mercy“
Before he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Shang-Chi,“ Destin Daniel Cretton is expected to stir up Oscar buzz with his Warner Bros.-backed courtroom drama “Just Mercy.“ The film reunites Cretton with his “Short Term 12“ and “The Glass Castle“ star Brie Larson and features Michael B. Jordan in the lead role. The drama is world premiering at TIFF before a Christmas release. “Just Mercy“ tells the true story of Harvard-educated lawyer Bryan Stevenson Jordan, who fights to exonerate a wrongfully accused Alabama man Jamie Foxx sentenced to death. Larson and Foxx are both Oscar winners and Jordan could finally land his first nomination if early buzz about his performance proves true.Photo : Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock “The Goldfinch“
Another high profile awards contender from Warner Bros. is “The Goldfinch,“ John Crowley's adaptation of Donna Tartt's bestselling novel of the same name. Crowley's last feature was the coming-of-age romance “Brooklyn,“ which was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan. With its award-winning source material and starry ensemble Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright, “The Goldfinch“ will surely attract Oscar pundits at TIFF.Photo : Warner Bros. “Frankie“
Sony Pictures Classics made the first deal of the Cannes Film Festival by picking up Ira Sachs' “Frankie,“ starring Isabelle Huppert. Before its October 25 release, SPC will bring the well-reviewed drama to TIFF. Huppert is the film's best shot at an Oscar nomination, but getting her into the race will require significant buzz at TIFF. Huppert finally landed her first Oscar nomination for “Elle“ in 2017 and is certainly overdue for more awards love in the U.S.Photo : SPC “Dolemite Is My Name“
Over a decade after Eddie Murphy “Dreamgirls“ infamously lost the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Alan Arkin “Little Miss Sunshine“, the beloved comedian returns to Oscar season with the Netflix-backed “Dolemite Is My Name.“ The comedy-drama is the latest from filmmaker Craig Brewer and will world premiere at TIFF. Murphy stars in the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, the comedian who became a Blaxploitation icon in the 1970s with his eponymous character. Brewer's breakout drama “Hustle & Flow“ earned Terrence Howard an Oscar nom for Best Actor, and that's surely Netflix's best Oscar play for “Dolemite“ given Murphy's overdue for recognition by the Academy.Photo : Netflix “First Cow“
With the backing of A24, the esteemed indie filmmakerKelly Reichardt could have her biggest hit and first serious Oscar hopeful on her hands with “First Cow.“ The drama, starring John Magaro, is confirmed to screen at NYFF and will likely world premiere at Telluride. Reichardt's acclaimed dramas often feature performances that become Oscar dark horses think Lily Gladstone or Michelle Williams in “Certain Women“, and with enough critical support out of the festivals “First Cow“ could find itself with serious Oscar buzz.Photo : NYFF “Jojo Rabbit“
Fox Searchlight Pictures always manages to break into the Oscar race the studio won Best Picture in 2017 with “The Shape of Water“ and earned 13 Oscar nominations this year between “The Favourite“ and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?“, and the studio's big contender for the 2020 Oscars is Taika Waititi's “Jojo Rabbit.“ The anti-hate satire is world premiering at TIFF before an October 18 release date. Searchlight also has Noah Hawley's “Lucy in the Sky,“ but currently “Jojo“ is the only title the studio's taking to the festival circuit.Photo : Kimberley French “The Laundromat“
The high-powered pairing of Oscar winners Steven Soderbergh and Meryl Streep makes “The Laundromat“ a must-see for all awards pundits this festival season. The Netflix release is competing at the Venice Film Festival and will also screen at TIFF. The Soderbergh drama takes on the Panama Papers scandal and stars Streep opposite a star-studded ensemble that includes Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone, and Antonio Banderas. Soderbergh hasn't been Oscar nominated since the 2001 Academy Awards, where he won Best Director for “Traffic“ and was nominated in the same category for “Erin Brockovich.“ “The Laundromat“ could mark Soderbergh's return to the Oscar race.Photo : Netflix “The Lighthouse“
“The Lighthouse,“ Robert Eggers' long-awaited follow-up to Sundance sensation “The Witch,“ was one of the most critically acclaimed films out of Cannes this year. The psychological drama debuted at Directors' Fortnight and was named best film by the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI. A24 is bringing the movie to TIFF, but it's going to be tough for a genre film as challenging as this one to break through with Academy voters. It's not impossible, especially with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in the lead roles. Dafoe is coming off back-to-back Oscar noms “The Florida Project,“ “At Eternity's Gate“, and Pattinson is a critical favorite overdue for his first nomination. IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson wrote at Cannes that Dafoe and Pattinson's performances should factor into the upcoming Oscar race. The film's period production elements could also be strong contenders.Photo : A24 “The Personal History of David Copperfield“
“Veep“ brought Armando Iannucci Emmys glory for years, but the Scottish writer-director has not been as openly received at the Oscars. While Iannucci earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination in 2010 for “In the Loop,“ his most recent comedy “The Death of Stalin“ was completely ignored by the Academy. Can Iannucci get back into the awards race with “The Personal History of David Copperfield“? It's one of the big questions that will be answered when the movie world premieres at TIFF. Working in the director's favor is the all-star cast he's assembled for his Charles Dickens' adaptation: Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, and more.Photo : TIFF “The Report“
Amazon won raves at Sundance with the premiere of Scott Z. Burns' political drama “The Report,“ which will have a two-week theatrical release starting September 27 before hitting Amazon Prime on October 11. The film will open after the movie reenters the awards conversation at TIFF. “The Report“ earned some of the biggest Oscar buzz out of Sundance, with IndieWire's Editor at Large Anne Thompson singling out the strong performances from Adam Driver and Annette Bening. If Amazon can launch a successful campaign, Bening could be a strong contender for Best Supporting Actress.Photo : Amazon “The Two Popes“
Fernando Meirelles' “The Constant Gardener“ was nominated for four Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz the Best Supporting Actress prize, but the director has not returned to the Oscar race in the years since. Meirelles'latest, the Netflix-supported “The Two Popes,“ could do the trick. The movie will make its Canadian premiere at TIFF, which means a world premiere at Telluride is all but confirmed. “The Two Popes“ centers around the relationship betweenPope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI, played by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins.Photo : Netflix “Uncut Gems“
Josh and Benny Safdie are two of the most exciting indie filmmakers working today, but their edgy dramas have not been the easiest sell for Academy voters. Robert Pattinson was a dark horse contender for “Good Time,“ and Safdie fans are certainly hoping their latest, the crime thriller “ Uncut Gems,“ earns similar buzz for Adam Sandler. The comedian missed out on an Oscar nomination for Paul Thomas Anderson's “Punch-Drunk Love“ and Noah Baumbach's “The Meyerowitz Stories“ but now has a shot with “Uncut Gems,“ which will have its international premiere at TIFF after a likely Telluride debut. A24 is releasing the movie December 13.Photo : A24 “The Truth“
Hirokazu Kore-eda is opening the 2019 Venice Film Festival with “The Truth,“ starringCatherine Deneuve as a famous French movie star whose contentious relationship with her daughter Juliette Binoche only gets more complicated with the publication of the actress' memoir. Throw Ethan Hawke into the middle of these two French legends and what you get is an irresistible awards hopeful, bolstered by Kore-eda's Palme d'Or win and Oscar nomination for his last movie, “Shoplifters.“ IFC already has North American rights to “The Truth“ and could set a fall release date depending on the buzz out of Venice.Photo : Venice “Ad Astra“
James Gray and Brad Pitt join forces for the space drama “Ad Astra,“ world premiering in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Gray's films almost always launch an actor into the award conversation think Joaquin Phoenix in “The Yards“ or “Two Lovers,“ Marion Cotillard for “The Immigrant“, and Pitt is already having a strong year with Oscar buzz for his role in Quentin Tarantino's “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.“ Space dramas are often catnip for Oscar voters, whether in major categories “Gravity“ or just the crafts “Interstellar,“ and “First Man“, so the quality of “Ad Astra“ will no doubt determine just how big the film can be this Oscar season.Photo : Fox/Disney “Seberg“
Benedict Andrews' “Seberg“ stars Kristen Stewart as “Breathless“ actress and French New Wave icon Jean Seberg, which alone should make the Amazon Studios release one to watch for Oscar pundits. The drama, which follows Seberg as she's targeted by the FBI because of her political and romantic involvement with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal, is world premiering out of competition at Venice. Amazon has not announced a release date for the film, but any Oscar buzz for Stewart out of Venice could sway the studio to get the film ready for a release before 2020.Photo : Courtesy of Amazon Studios “The King“
Timothée Chalamet has factored into the last two Oscar seasons “Call Me By Your Name“ landed him a nomination, “Beautiful Boy“ earned buzz but no nom, and he's back again this year with Netflix's “The King.“ The David Michôd-directed Shakespearian drama isn't going to be Netflix's Oscar season crown jewel &mdash that will likely be “Marriage Story“ or “The Irishman“ or both &mdash but Chalamet's leading role and the period production values could give it an awards season chance if reviews are strong. Netflix is debuting “The King“ out of competition at the Venice Film Festival.Photo : Netflix “A Hidden Life“
“A Hidden Life“ earned Terrence Malick his strongest reviews since “The Tree of Life,“ when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Fox Searchlight bought the religious drama and set a December release, bringing Malick back to Oscar season. “The Tree of Life“ earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, which bodes well for “A Hidden Life“ given its critical support. While the drama has not been announced for TIFF, NYFF, or Venice, word has it the movie is a lock for the Telluride Film Festival.Photo : Cannes “Wasp Network“
One potential awards player without U.S. distribution is “Wasp Network,“ the latest drama from “Clouds of Sils Maria“ and “Personal Shopper“ favorite Olivier Assayas. The movie will world premiere at Venice and screen at NYFF. The cast includes Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, “Narcos“ breakout Wagner Moura, Gael García Bernal, and Ana de Armas. Given the strong talent in front of the camera and the movie's true story, “Wasp Network“ could crash the fall movie season if a distributor picks it up out of the festivals.Photo : NYFF “Ema“
Pablo Larraín is bringing his domestic drama “Ema“ to both the Venice Film Festival and to TIFF, which is the same festival strategy used by his beloved “Jackie“ in 2016. “Jackie“ did not have U.S. distribution going into Venice but was bought by Fox Searchlight, who mounted an awards campaign that resulted in Natalie Portman's Best Actress nom and Mica Levi's Best Original Score nom. “Ema“ also does not U.S. distribution yet, but clearly one should never count out Larraín from crashing the season with a festival debut.Photo : TIFF “Varda by Agnès“
Agnès Varda's last movie, the autobiographical documentary “Varda by Agnès,“ debuted to acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival and will reemerge this fall at the New York Film Festival. Given the film's critical support and Varda's passing just weeks after the movie's debut, it's surprising no U.S. distributor has stepped up to buy the documentary. Perhaps more buzz at the fall festivals will do the trick. Varda never won a competitive Oscar and was only nominated once “Faces Places', so not only is she overdue for a win but “Varda by Agnès“ is her last chance.
Published on 23 Jul 1919
Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?“, can be found at the end of this post.
This week, IndieWire published our list of the 100 Best Movies of the 2010s.
Of course, any list of 100 movies barely scratches the surface of a decade that saw the release of thousands and thousands, and a ton of special films &mdash especially of the contested or obscure varieties &mdash didn’t make the cut. And, so with that in mind, we asked our panel of film critics to pick the one overlooked film of the past 10 years that they most hope people will find, rediscover, or reconsider in the future.“Advantageous” Jennifer Phang
Allyson Johnson @AllysonAJ TheYoungFolks.com,ThePlaylist.net, CambridgeDay.com,TheMarySue.com
There's always been an abundance of beautifully insightful films that miss the general audience conversation but few have been as audaciously assured as director Jennifer Phang's 2015 feature “Advantageous.“ Evident by her directorial work in television, Phang is no stranger to science fiction and with “Advantageous“ she took the genre and doubled down on themes of sexism, motherhood, aging and moral autonomy and how they all intersect into something the systems surrounding us deem products for sale or service. It's a strikingly ominous picture with a standout performance by co-writer Jacqueline Kim featuring imagery that lingers so thoroughly that it's a film worthy of ongoing dissection.
Not a work that rests solely on its thematic potency, it's also such an impressive science fiction film that – like most great films of that genre – perfectly marry concept with imagery, creating something visually timeless while keeping evidence of the era it was borne from. As it was directed by a woman on a shoestring budget and released exclusively through Netflix, it's not surprising that it was so overlooked. However, “Advantageous“ is worthy of a new look – both one of the best science fiction films of the past decade and a scorching indictment of how we commodify women’s bodies and minds. Phang created a sharp, engaging and heartbreaking film with “Advantageous,“ shot with a keen, stylish eye with washed out palettes transporting us into the “near future,“ cutting a fascinating story of excessive opulence, affluent apathy and mothers love. There are few films like it.“Annihilation” Alex Garland
Matt Zoller Seitz @MattZollerSeitz, RogerEbert.com
“Annihilation.” Possibly the first big-budget visionary science fiction film in a ” vein since “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” that stuck the landing. It did it by not explaining itself, a temptation that too many idea-driven SF films, including the good ones, are unable to resist. I’ve seen it five times and shown it publicly twice, and what strikes me most about it is that everyone who describes what it is “about” has a different interpretation.“Bandslam” Todd Groff
Danielle Solzman @DanielleSATM, Solzy at the Movies/Freelance
The most underrated film of the last decade and certainly among the most criminally under-appreciated is Todd Groff’s “Bandslam.” Summit Entertainment distributed the film in August 2009, and while it did well with critics, it was a failure with general audiences. The movie hasn’t even picked up a second life on streaming. Nobody really talks about it, and it’s been on my mind lately because of the upcoming 10-year anniversary in August.
Much in the same way that Annapurna’s marketing for “Booksmart” was criticized, we can say the same for Summit’s strategy surrounding “Bandslam.” This is a film that features Gaelan Connell, Aly Michalka, and Vanessa Hudgens in starring roles.  Michalka and Hudgens had a built-in fanbase that came as a result of their work on Disney. Rather than attempt to sell the movie on the concept, the studio opted to focus on the Disney ties.  This was a bad idea, and I can only hope it gets rectified.“Bellflower” Evan Glodell
Aaron Neuwirth AaronsPS4, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, Out Now with Aaron and Abe
While there’s plenty to consider when it comes to unheralded films of the last ten years, whether it’s Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” or Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets,” the first movie that came to mind was Evan Glodell’s “Bellflower.” Billed as an apocalyptic romance, the film earned its share of good reviews, as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination, though it still seems to have passed people by. That’s a shame.
Director/Writer/Editor/Star Glodell may not have immediately jumped to another project, but making a film that works as an anti-arthouse romance film, with enough eccentricity to also work as an homage to “The Road Warrior” certainly seems like something that could gain the attention of more than just a few. That in mind, when it comes to celebrating what “Bellflower” has to offer, well, this is a movie that found Glodell and his crew building one-of-a-kind cameras to deliver a unique visual experience involving two apocalypse-obsessed dudes, a heavily modified car, and a seemingly doomed relationship.
“Bellflower” actually taps into a lot of ideas that, good or bad, have even more relevance today than when it initially hit theaters back in 2011. Made on a shoestring budget, the film is rough around the edges, but also intensely wonderful to look at as a visual oddity with a lot of ambition. It also features a cinematic vehicle that could have become iconic if the film had received more considerable attention, as who can resist a 1972 Buick Skylark equipped with flamethrowers and referred to as Mother Medusa?“Cloud Atlas” Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Fran Hoepfner @franhoepfner, Bright Wall/Dark Room
Time will pass, civilizations will fall, Neo Seoul will rise, and I’ll still be beating the drum for Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski sisters’ 2012 adaptation of Cloud Atlas. Based on David Mitchell’s arguably unfilmmable novel, the movie is a nearly three hour epic&ndash&ndashan exploration of time and people and civilization, and a mediation on the way in which a gesture can ripple through time and space. Told through six stories, each its own genre ranging from historical travelogue to s pulp crime thriller to futuristic science fiction, the film reuses its actors across each narrative in order to build to a sense of cohesion. At the time of its release, Cloud Atlas was maligned, in part, due to its use of race ering make-up on both white and non-white actors. I see the criticism, and I agree with it, and where I find myself seven years after the film’s release is that that creative choice is both unacceptable and entirely necessary.
That none of it works cinematically without seeing the same actors over and over again, throughout time, across the globe, and so I’m left with a big question mark hanging over my head. But so much of what is on screen is stunningly shot, deftly funny, and deeply heartfelt. That what’s on screen both works and doesn’t work is part of the magic of it, what makes it feel so intensely personal rather than generated by a series of algorithms. To have something so grandiose feel this specific is increasingly rare across the cinematic landscape, and for that reason alone, Cloud Atlas ought to be celebrated. Even thinking about its six minute ! trailer will bring me to tears! And, not for nothing, Tykwer’s score for the film is without a doubt one of the best scores of the decade.
Don Shanahan @casablancadon, Every Movie Has a Lesson, 25YL, and Medium.com
Reflecting back on an entire decade of film, for me, is a measurement of staying power.  That lingering draw can be a result of any range of emotional or intellectual triggers, from fondly regarded feels to the festering mental gymnastics of an experience you can’t get out of your head.  Frustration can make memories as strong as enjoyment.  A movie of maligned quality that fits those catalysts and barbs is 2012’s “Cloud Atlas.”  It’s a review, to this day, I haven’t been able to write as a critic. The massive work of Tom Twyker and the Wachowski sisters is a such a clash of magic and madness.
Some moments absolutely shatter us to our cores while others overshoot every cerebral landing strip. Even attempting to adapt its monstrous source novel, “Cloud Atlas” stands as one of the most determined and zealous undertakings I’ve ever seen. For all of the touchy and warranted buyer beware flags it earns length, racial dynamics, spirituality, and more, I will always respect the talent and the effort. We weren’t ready for its headiness seven years ago and the critical and public divisiveness shows.  We still might not be ready diving towards 2020.  Nevertheless, in an era where a sizable cross-section of filmgoers and cinephiles have started to long for more substance out of cinematic blockbusters, “Cloud Atlas” needs updated attention, freshened eyes, and a renewed chance to earn artistic acclaim and lasting appreciation.“Coma” Sara Fattahi
Richard Brody @tnyfrontrow, The New Yorker
There are many kinds of contempt that great movies suffer, and the Syrian filmmaker Sara Fattahi’s first feature, “Coma,” from 2015, has suffered a cruel version of it: neglect. “Coma” is one of the most original documentaries of recent years filming in Damascus&mdashlargely in her family apartment, mainly centered on her mother, her grandmother, and herself&mdashamid civil war, Fattahi films the intersection of personal and political life with a rare aesthetic imagination. Whether intended or not, Fattahi’s first feature strikes me as the most inspired film influenced by the work of Chantal Akerman. “Coma” won a major award at the Viennale in 2015 it still hasn’t been released here neither has her 2018 film, “Chaos”, but, at least, New Yorkers can see for themselves: it’s at least screening, once, at Anthology Film Archives on August 15.“The Edge of Seventeen” Kelly Fremon Craig
Christopher Llewellyn Reed @chrisreedfilm, Hammer to Nail, Film Festival Today
In a just world, terrific and entertaining films like Destin Cretton's 2013 “Short Term 12,“ Gillian Robespierre's 2014 “Obvious Child,“ Rick Famuyiwa's 2015 “Dope“ and Kelly Fremon Craig's 2016 “The Edge of Seventeen“ would all have been big hits, bringing fresh writing and exciting performances to the screen. Instead, they each made, respectively according to Box Office Mojo, $1 million, $3 million, $18 million and, again, $18 million. That last figure truly surprises, since “The Edge of Seventeen“ offers teenage angst &ndash something we have all experienced &ndash from the perspective of actress Hailee Steinfeld's beautifully nuanced and humorous turn as Nadine, a high-school junior in the middle of a depressive funk. When she approaches her favorite teacher, played by Woody Harrelson, to tell him she plans to kill herself, he surprisingly refuses to play nice, establishing a strange, off-kilter rapport that sets the tone for this enjoyable coming-of-age story. Perhaps it's Nadine's underlying sadness that kept more people from seeing the movie, but this viewer found director Craig's approach a welcome reprieve from the usual platitudinous approach to the adolescent experience. Let's hope it finds a larger audience over time.“God Help the Girl” Stuart Murdoch
Jesse Hassenger @rockmarooned, The A.V. Club, The Week, Nylon
I’ve gone on about this movie at every opportunity, but in my heart of hearts, there’s no other choice from this decade than 2014’s “God Help the Girl,” an indie musical written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, leader of the Scottish rock band Belle & Sebastian. In a decade that saw the movie musical become a regular fixture on release schedules again, it pains me to see how often the best English-language musical of the decade has been overlooked–or dismissed as amateurish or, worse, twee. I’ll save my treatise on how poor a handle most people using the word “twee” have on its definition for another time. This is a small-scale musical about a young singer-songwriter Emily Browning finding her voice amidst some mental-heh struggles and new friendships with a couple of other misfits Hannah Murray Olly Alexander, but Murdoch feels profoundly less embarrassed to mount actual musical numbers than most of his lumbering, overscaled competition.
The DIY music-video vibe gives the musical numbers an infectious sense of joy, all the more impressively vivid given the movie’s sustained mood of melancholy. The movie also works as a thoughtful consideration of how a musician’s artistic vision and sense of ambition can develop during personal tumult &mdash and probably some form of coded autobiography for Murdoch, which makes it a superior ernative to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman” as well as jukebox horrors of “Mamma Mia.” Granted, “God Help the Girl” jams on a few of my personal-taste buttons pretty hard, from the Belle & Sebastian-adjacent music to the wistful youthfulness to the 16mm cinematography. But I’m still a little surprised this doesn’t seem to be a beloved cult item, and I’ll be throwing away a best-of-the-decade vote on it as many times as possible this year.“Ingrid Goes West” Matt Spicer
Max Weiss @maxthegirl, Bimore magazine
Still somewhat amazed that Matt Spicer's “Ingrid Goes West,” a gimlet-eyed satire of our Instagram-obsessed culture, didn’t garner more critical love. What it delineates so clearly is that Instagram needs a yin and a yang&mdashboth the “influencer“ who carefully crafts a perfect public image and the needy, gullible consumer, who believes in and craves that perfection. Aubrey Plaza is wonderful&mdashsad and scary and darkly hilarious&mdashas the dangerously obsessed Ingrid. As Taylor, the object of her obsession, Elizabeth Olsen is an utterly convincing sun-kissed SoCal princess&mdasha woman whose entire job is to exist on the Internet. Filled with tiny, trenchant details&mdashTaylor's husband is an artist who repurposes other peoples' work by stamping hashtags on them Taylor litters her page with inspirational quotes from books she's never read&mdashthis feels in many ways like the defining satire of our generation.“The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
Daniel Joyaux @thirdmanmovies, freelance contributor for Vanity Fair, The Verge, MovieMaker Magazine, Filmotomy
Let me first say that I wish this were two questions, spread out over two different surveys. There are a lot of great overlooked movies from this decade and there are also a lot of unfairly maligned movies from this decade, and forcing respondents to choose one angle or the other only limits the number of films that can be dusted off and discussed. Having said that, I’ll go with the unfairly maligned angle because I write a lot about the Oscars, and absolutely nothing can cause a movie to be unjustly loathed more than winning a few major Oscars. I’ll be honest&mdashI actually think every Oscar best picture winner from this decade is pretty good though certainly some of them weren’t their year’s best film. But on this week of all weeks, in light of the hilariously awful “Cats” trailer, I’m reminded that no best picture winner is more unfairly hated than 2010’s “The King’s Speech.”
Look, I get the complaints: it beat the superior “The Social Network,” which will deservedly top a whole lot of Best-of-the-Decade lists it’s a movie about a Great White Man Doing Great Things, of which there have been far too many and the Oscars have been far too willing to fall head over heels for and it’s a movie that washes away any problematic history from its story, such as Nazi sympathizing. But those are mostly complaints of context, not of quality. “The King’s Speech” is a lovely story without too many problematic liberties taken, the script is dynamic and funny, and the acting is absolutely wonderful. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter all give career-best performances in the film.
So much of the hatred aimed at “The King's Speech“ is based on what kind of movie it is. I also want more diverse representation in the film industry, and I especially want the Oscars to be far better at recognizing that diversity. But that doesn't have to come at the expense of movies like “The King's Speech“ or “The Imitation Game“ and “The Theory of Everything,“ which both fell prey to the same attacks. I reject the notion that a good story shouldn't be made into a film simply because it's about a dead white guy with an Encyclopaedia Britannica entry, and more and better stories of diversity don't have to come at their expense. This isn't a binary it's a case where audiences can and should have it both ways. We just need to retrain ourselves to believe that.“Knight of Cups” Terrence Malick
Broad Green Pictures
Joel Mayward @joelmayward Cinemayward.com
I am of the belief that Terrence Malick has yet to make a bad film &mdash he’s only made masterpieces, including that Google Pixel 3 ad. Many critics and audiences have maligned Malick for every one of his films following “The Tree of Life,” but I’m still captivated by the energy and spirit Malick brings to these recent projects. Though I could also praise “To the Wonder” and “Song to Song,” it’s “Knight of Cups” that I want to highlight here, a Malickian meandering through the world of Los Angeles in all its beauty and brokenness. Released in US theaters in 2016, “Knight of Cups” is the moody metaphysical antithesis of that year’s “La La Land” as both films offer imaginative fantasy depictions of the entertainment industry which permeates L.A.’s landscape. Malick’s improvisational approach, wandering camera, and notorious editing practices are on full display here. What results is dreamy, intimate, boundary-breaking, and haunting. Perhaps a cinematic meditation on the biblical book of Ecclesiastes–“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless”–or perhaps a reinterpretation of Walker Percy’s novel “The Moviegoer” and its protagonist’s ongoing existential quest, “Knight of Cups” has treasures to offer, both visually and philosophically, for those patient and resilient souls willing to take up the search.“Margaret” Kenneth Lonergan
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Chad Perman @everybody_cares, Editor-in-Chief, Bright Wall/Dark Room:
I’m an indecisive person by nature, the kind who can see every side to any argument and then some, but this particular question took me all of about three seconds to answer. Kenneth Lonergan's “Margaret” 2011 is an utterly unique, stubbornly sprawling, fiercely compassionate film that attempts nothing less than to capture an entire world in its three hours. The “extended cut“ that Lonergan was finally allowed to assemble for the DVD release&mdashthe only one he fully endorses&mdashis that rarest of things: a true work of art. Given the room to stretch its wings and fully breathe, the three hour and eight minute version of Margaret somehow manages to move much more quickly than the shorter theatrical cut ever did. Several scenes are drawn out and expanded, unspooling in the real-life rhythms which Lonergan had always intended missing puzzle pieces of the film's multifaceted plot are restored, allowing relationships between various characters to deepen and cohere a thematic marriage of content and form, which the earlier version often hinted at, bursts forth in full resonance. It’s an overwhelming experience, universal and specific all at once, and one of the very best films I’ve ever seen.“Mistress America” Noah Baumbach
Deany Cheng @dennynotdeeny, Freelance
“Mistress America”. Perhaps because it’s neither Baumbach’s best directing nor Gerwig’s best acting work of the decade–that’d both be the rightfully beloved “Frances Ha”–but this film feels like an un-favorite sibling in their respective bodies of work. A gentle skewering of the millennial ethos that isn’t as insufferable as most films with similar themes because of its thorny, fascinating sympathy for its messy, over-educated leads, “Mistress America” is a portrait of not-quite-youth that feels neither condescendingly pedantic nor hopelessly naive. Sure, that’s not a tone that makes it easy for the film to grab headlines or eyeballs, but it does make it infinitely more interesting to revisit and rethink, especially as the zeitgeist it portrays curdles and calcifies into something more difficult to generalize into a morality tale or pithy observation. If “Frances Ha” is Baumbach-Gerwig’s “Born to Run”, then “Mistress America” is their “Darkness on the Edge of Town”: Not quite as iconic, but almost as great, and an exceedingly fine companion piece.“Scream 4” Wes Craven
Joey [email protected], News Editor for Wicked Horror, freelance Birth.Movies.Death, Vague Visages, The List, Girls On Tops
“Scream” is a near perfect trilogy but the fourth installment, released in 2011 and intended to kick-start another trio of movies prior to the untimely death of creator Wes Craven, remains an underrated gem. Put simply, the flick is better than it had any right to be, and it’s only grown stronger with age. Most fans either didn’t bother with it or have forgotten about it in the intervening years but “Scream 4” is a smart, nasty, and consistently entertaining little slasher loaded with the requisite “Scream” charm but which also forges on with a decidedly modern slant.
Series stalwarts Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette all return, taking to their roles with gusto particularly Cox, who gets many of the best lines. The newcomers, including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, and Nico Tortorella, are game for the gory madness and the killer’s reveal is brilliantly done, especially in how it relates to fame-obsessed teens “I don’t need friends, I need FANS” which, eight years on, feels eerily prescient.
There are those who argue the ending flubs it by choosing instead to kill off the newcomers prancing around in the Ghostface outfit, leaving the original trio alive, but as Campbell’s Sidney states emphatically, you don’t f**k with the original. “Scream 4” pays homage to what came before while staking a claim for a new breed. Consider how the two! spinoff TV series fered in trying to recreate that old “Scream” magic and it’s clear just how special the fourth movie is. No slasher released since has reached its s and the film still feels current, which is no small feat.
If only “Scream 4” had kicked off a whole new Craven trilogy, ’cause on this evidence, there was much more in the tank.“Spring Breakers” Harmony Korine
Mike McGranaghan @AisleSeat, The Aisle Seat, Screen Rant
Although it got generally good reviews, Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” didn’t really connect with audiences. Some were put off by former teen stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens appearing in a hard-R picture filled with sex and drug use. Some didn’t like Korine’s non-linear, dream-like style, while others simply didn’t understand it. All the negative talk overwhelmed the positive reviews. Here’s the thing, though: “Spring Breakers” is absolutely brilliant. Its neon-lit scenes contain some of the most gorgeous images ever committed to film. The story also has a lot more depth than many people realize. Yes, at first it seems like an ode to hedonism. Repeat viewings reveal that it’s actually a scathing indictment of an entitled generation led to believe that being a badass and having a screw-it attitude is a faster path to success than hard work. Other themes are present, too, but I hesitate to spell them out because I truly think people would enjoy discovering them organically. “Spring Breakers” is so much better than the reputation it’s been saddled with. No other film from the past ten years deserves a bigger re-appreciation.“Tamara Drewe” Stephen Frears
Andrea Thompson, @areelofonesown, The Young Folks, A Reel Of One’s Own, The Spool, Film Girl Film Festival
When the history of comic book movies is written, I hope it makes room for the 2010 film “Tamara Drewe.“ Based on a graphic novel that began as a weekly series of comic strips that was itself a modern reworking of the classic Thomas Hardy novel “Far From the Madding Crowd,“ got all that? the film is about the titular character, a writer who returns to her small hometown in the English countryside, where all kinds of romantic mayhem awaits.
Although it received mixed reviews upon its release, “Tamara Drewe“ is an adaptation that’s smart, sexy, and funny, while improving upon the source material. Gemma Arterton is a joy as the lead, along with some excelling supporting turns from Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, and Jessica Barden. It’s also one of the few graphic novel films to revolve around women’s lives while also featuring some commentary on male entitlement. Moira Buffini, who wrote the screenplay, would go on to do the same for another lush adaptation, the 2011 film “Jane Eyre,“ and co-create the criminally underseen Hulu series “Harlots,“ which far more blatantly addresses issues of sex, power, and class.“Thou Wast Mild & Lovely” Josephine Decker
Luke Hicks @lou_kicks, Film School Rejects/One Perfect Shot, Birth.Movies.Death.
I’m torn between Sofia Coppola’s gloriously trashy, deeply off-putting glam-heist masterpiece, “The Bling Ring,” and Josephine Decker’s “Madeline’s Madeline” pastoral, experimental, mumblecore-inspired “Thou Wast Mild & Lovely.” “The Bling Ring” would fall more accurately in the ‘wrongly maligned’ category while “Thou Wast Mild & Lovely” would fall in the ‘overlooked’ category. But seeing as one them has the last name Coppola and this is about underdogs, I’ll go with the lesser known of the two. Decker’s sophomore feature is a hectic, poetic haze of romance and rumination that abruptly upends your already dizzied sensibilities with a “Kill List”-esque genre twist in its final moments. Despite its wild, unpredictable exploration of style, everything feels fresh and controlled, likely due to Decker’s uncompromising approach as screenwriter, director, and editor, and the familiarity with regular collaborator and lead, Joe Swanberg. As if that isn’t enough reason to watch it already, it has a god-tier level runtime of 78 minutes. It’s one of the decade’s sharpest and most bewildering films.“The Visit” M. Night Shyamalan
Pedro Strazza @pedrosazevedo, assistant editor in B9
I don't think people give enough credit to “The Visit“ as they should. It is true that the found footage subgenre has met its fall in the last decade, as the “Paranormal Activity“ series lead an abnormal class of horror movies of the kind just because they were cheap to produce and earned big at the box office, but M. Night Shyamalan's take was some sort of a miracle not only because it showed that the format can be explored in different ways, but that it also can be used for purposes more meaningful than jump scares or &ndash like some people love to define &ndash bore crowds to its death by showing endless footage of nothing.
It's also really sad how the general narrative of Shyamalan's comeback in the end was mounted upon the success of “Split“, because it's in “The Visit“ where he most submits his cinema to points of rupture and deconstruction. Although he preserves the plasticity of his shots on the handheld camera format, the way the kids are always discussing camera positions and how to do interviews, combined to the ways the movie conduct its horror moments, really revigorate the fable narrative towards something new and more bold in the sense of an update of those structures to contemporary times. I can't think of another retelling of “Hansel and Gretel“ storyline that feels so fresh and consistent with today's dynamics of wanting to be famous &ndash even if the internet doesn't even exists and the kids just desire to be celebrated artists or something of the kind.
And the thing is: it works as fable as much as it works as horror, with that whole third act being just amazing and terrifying in all the right ways. I seriously doubt people won't define “The Visit“ as the most important addition to the found footage genre since “The Blair Witch Project“ in five or ten years.“Wuthering Heights” Andrea Arnold
Ethan Warren @EthanRAWarren, Bright Wall/Dark Room
As Andrea Arnold's name has gone around this summer for reasons both good and ill, she's often cited as the ferociously stylish auteur behind “Fish Tank“ and “American Honey.“ What's typically left out of the conversation, however, is the film that fell between those two: Arnold's 2011 adaptation of “Wuthering Heights,“ a film as startling and thrilling as either of her higher-profile credits. Arnold takes the staid tradition of gothic costume drama and strips it down to the bones and raw nerves, telling Emily Brontë’s story with as little dialogue as possible, favoring primal body language and focusing as much on the harsh landscape and punishing climate as the tortured characters at their center. Presented in Academy ratio, for the segment of film nerds who thrills to such technical details free of music and virtually any other concession to conventional taste in prestige melodrama, Arnold's masterpiece locates the myth underlying a familiar story, inviting the audience to reconsider their expectations not just for period drama, but for independent film as a whole.Question: What is the best movie currently playing in theaters? Answer: “The Farewell”
Published on 27 Jun 1919
If Fox Searchlight’s huge $12 million deal for Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” didn’t already make it clear the indie studio has big plans for the World War II romantic drama, then just take a look at the film’s new release date: December 13. Searchlight has announced the late 2019 theatrical rollout for the movie, positioning it as a late-breaking entry in the upcoming awards season.
“A Hidden Life,” starring August Diehl in the true story of WWII conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to near universal acclaim. IndieWire named the drama one of the festival’s 10 best titles and Malick’s single greatest achievement since 2011’s “The Tree of Life.” Fox Searchlight was behind the release of that magnum opus, which landed Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. The distributor is hoping for similar success with “A Hidden Life.”
“After seven long years of wandering in the desert, Terrence Malick returns with a shatteringly powerful story of faith in crisis,” IndieWire’s David Ehrlich raved in his A- review. “‘A Hidden Life’ is a lucid and profoundly defiant portrait of faith in crisis. It's an intimate epic about the immense strength required for resistance, and the courage that it takes for one to hold fast to their virtue during a crisis of faith, and in a world that may never reward them for it. It is, without question, the best thing that Malick has made since ‘The Tree of Life.'”
Following Searchlight’s mega-deal at Cannes, IndieWire’s awards editor Anne Thompson reported the studio would give “a robust Oscar campaign for Academy voters, who will appreciate the gorgeous production values and timely political message.” The film is expected to bring Malick back to the Oscar race in a major way, as none of his films have earned nominations since “The Tree of Life.” Follow-up projects “To the Wonder,” “Knight of Cups,” and “Song to Song” polarized fans, but “A Hidden Life” appears to have gotten the director back on track.
“A Hidden Life” now joins Fox Searchlight’s other upcoming Oscar contenders, including the Natalie Portman-starring astronaut drama “Lucy in the Sky,” directed by “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley, and Taika Waititi’s anti-hate satire “Jojo Rabbit.”
Published on 19 Jun 1919
American viewers watching Petra Costa's “The Edge of Democracy“ &mdash an angry, intimate, and haunting portrait of Brazil's recent slide back into the open jaws of dictatorship &mdash might find it morbidly fitting that the nation's capital is one hour ahead of Washington D.C. for all the specificity of Costa's doc, her film can't help but feel like a preview of what might be coming for us.
To a certain extent, that seems to have been Costa's intention, and we her target audience. There's a reason why her plaintive and poetic narration is delivered in English, and why her broad overview of Brazil's political scandals is pitched at viewers who are learning about them for the first time. This is a movie that seems as if it was always meant to be exported &mdash a cautionary tale that was sold to Netflix so that it could reach the people who most needed to see it.
On the other hand, there's always a chance that “The Edge of Democracy“ just evolved that way over the course of its long and harrowing gestation, as Costa sometimes loses her grip on the urgency of this material when trying to thread the needle between personal history and political inertia. At what point does a story about one failing democracy become a story about all failing democracies? Perhaps there's no way of knowing until it's already too late.
Costa, whose previous work “Elena,“ “Undertow Eyes“ has already established her mournful voiceover as something of a signature, offers a characteristically rhapsodic observation towards the beginning of her latest and most vital film: “Brazilian democracy and I are the same age,“ she says, alluding to the end of the country's military rule in 1985, “and I thought in our thirties we'd be on solid ground.“
Her sadness over that misapprehension is always palpable, even if it can be hard to parse the more intricate details of her relationship with her homeland, or the role that her family has played in a country that's later described as “a republic of families.“ Judging from a few instances of latent guilt and an unsatisfying aside about her grandfather's corporation, it would seem that Costa descends from some kind of privilege and power. Nevertheless, her parents were revolutionaries of the worker's party, and the remarkable access she displays here is owed more to her tenacity as a documentary filmmaker than anything else.
Far more than a reductive summary of recent events, “The Edge of Democracy“ wastes no time in cutting to the heart of the matter the movie's very first scene is set inside the apartment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the night of April 7, 2018, mere hours before he turned himself to the authorities on specious charges of money laundering and corruption. This will be the story of how “Lula“ went from being one of the most popular leaders in the world to being a political prisoner in the span of a decade, and it will sometimes only make sense in the most general of terms.
Costa's camera is right over the garrulous folk hero's shoulder, and close enough to feel his embrace. She clearly has love in her heart for this man who lifted an entire country up by its bootstraps only to be flattened under its heel, and so it's strange &mdash in such a first-person film &mdash that she works so hard to mute her feelings. More pained than partisan, and happy to let its right-wing antagonists damn themselves, Costa's documentary can be paralyzed by its selective refusal to emphasize individual people over the more abstract powers that ultimately shape their fates. Helplessness is the only consistent feeling that holds “The Edge of Democracy“ together. Helplessness, and the hope that it holds in its gripped fist.
“I fear democracy was nothing but a short-lived dream,“ Costa intones as she cross-cuts between stunning archival footage of Lula's rise, and washed out home video of her own childhood. She's hesitant to make herself too much of a proxy for her country, or to stake out a clear place for herself in this story it's welcome but disorienting whenever Costa's face pops up on screen, but the physicality of her presence comes to serve as a rebuke to a “democracy that was founded on forgetting“ a mess of war crimes and generations of violence. The body always remembers. It's also a vessel for hope, even for someone with an internalized understanding that freedom and tyranny can be cyclical.
Maybe that's why Costa sounds so flat and disengaged when she reflects on the compromises that Lula made with Brazil's powerful businessmen, but her film discovers its purpose after Dilma Rousseff &mdash the first woman to hold the Brazilian presidency &mdash is narrowly re-elected in 2014. That's when “The Edge of Democracy“ shifts into political thriller territory complete with disturbingly serene drone shots of the empty-looking capitol buildings, and stolen audio recordings that are presented on screen with the illicitness of the Watergate tapes. It's also when the film's personal and political elements mesh together, as Costa backs into a thought that can bind a country together or tear it apart: Democracy is a shared idea that can only survive for as long as people believe in it. When politicians stop abiding by it, the people will stop believing in it, and when people stop believing in it, the idea itself will cease to exist.
And so “The Edge of Democracy“ takes a terrifying turn when right-wing factions begin to question the legitimacy of Rousseff's re-election, and use the media to sow the seeds of discord. In one of the film's most effective moments, Costa arranges a stack of magazine covers to provide a galling chronological account of how the tail wagged the dog and forced a narrative of disgrace on Rousseff's administration.
Costa manages to spend a ton of time on the so-called “Operation Car Wash“ without actually clarifying how she feels about Rousseff's flaws or identifying what the actual merits of the scandal might have been, but &mdash frustrating as it can be to watch &mdash the truth isn't the point, and the point isn't the truth. In much the same way as the Trump administration has laid down enough cover fire to blind their most dedicated partisans to the facts, Rousseff's enemies including Jair Bolsonaro, who Costa interviews when the fascistic current president is still just an animated and arrogant political upstart spin a yarn that's big enough to cover the entire country in bullshit and convince the masses to root against their own future.
Costa tends to skirt over the role that “good old days“ racism played in the far-right's surge to power ditto the fundamental need for campaign finance reform, and the use of easily discernible songs from recent movie scores like “The Tree of Life“ and “The Grand Budapest Hotel“ give some of the most pivotal moments an odd prefab quality, but her film surges with the immediacy required to relocate its point. It's in the image of a woman at a protest who's surrounded by a crush of male bodies, or the eerie quiet of the presidential residence as Oscar Niemeyer's wide-open architectural masterpiece waits expectantly for whomever has the nerve to make it their home. And it's in the furious growl of Lula's cancer-stricken voice as he addresses his followers one last time before going to jail, the old man bellowing about the next round of their collective fight.
For Brazil, the future is now, and it's very scary. For America, teetering on “The Edge of Democracy,“ there may still be a window of time to restore some balance. But, if nothing else, Costa's film makes clear that even the most beautiful dreams aren't necessarily shared, and that some people losing sight of reality is all it takes for the rest of us to wake up screaming.Grade: B
“The Edge of Democracy” will be available to stream on Netflix on Wednesday, June 19.