Acasă, My Home

“In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.”

Another Round

“Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.”

Collective

“Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.”

Identifying Features

“A mother travels across Mexico in search for her son whom authorities say died while trying to cross the borders into the United States.”

Josè

“José lives with his mother in Guatemala. It’s a tough life in one of the most violent and religious countries. When he meets Luis, he’s thrust into new-found passion and pain.”

Psycho Goreman (2020) - IMDb

Psycho Goreman

PG (Psycho Goreman)

Essentially a 90-minute power rangers episode if it were written and directed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Psycho Goreman uses sci-fi horror tropes and wonderful, old-school special effects as a vehicle for some pretty good absurdist humor. There’s a heavily built-in audience for this kind of movie, so if you think you’ll like it, you probably will, and if it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, you’re probably right about that. In terms of throwback camp, this movie definitely strives for originality and quality. It’s dizzyingly creative and fun, and doesn’t just throw out references to other movies or time periods. Serviceable work is put into the script to make it feel like more than just a nostalgia-trip, and the jokes are consistently funny (although not when they’re milked). A good, Saturday night, “just want to watch something fun” kind of movie.

Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time

“Márta, a forty-year-old neurosurgeon, falls in love. She leaves her shining American career behind and returns to Budapest to start a new life with the man. But the love of her life claims they have never met before.”

Promising Young Woman Movie Poster

Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

Many are eager to watch this topical thriller, and I’m happy to say it’s pretty good (some ham-fistedness aside). Its most novel aspect is in the implication of the non-threatening, somewhat nerdy “nice guy” type in the culture of toxic masculinity, the khakis-clad, young professional who seems too good to be true and, in fact, is. Beyond that, Promising Young Woman is best enjoyed as a stylish, surface-level satire with bold tonal shifts that go for poignancy and excitement rather than complexity. If you’re looking for more than that, I’d suggest watching something that views the issues at a more systemic level, like The Assistant or Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Queer Japan

“Trailblazing artists, activists, and everyday people from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality defy social norms and dare to live unconventional lives in this kaleidoscopic view of LGBTQ+ culture in contemporary Japan.”

Amazon.com: Official - Some Kind of Heaven (Lance Oppenheim) 2020 Movie Poster (27"x40"): Posters & Prints

Some Kind of Heaven

Some Kind of Heaven

If you don’t know much about Some Kind of Heaven, that’s good. You will get the most benefit from it if you go in blind, with only your initial impressions based on the poster above and the general premise that it’s about The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community, located in central Florida and home to over 120,000 residents.

There’s a certain amount of quirkiness to be expected, but that’s really not the focus of the film. Instead, it follows four main subjects who don’t seem to fit in with the general culture of The Villages. Their experiences create a very unexpected narrative which explores aging to some degree, but more so examines the isolating effect of conformity, the loneliness of adulthood, and outsider-ism within a utopian framework. There’s a certain way that structures meant to create happiness and perfection can be alienating, especially for individualistic types or simply those who need more than just a fun setting to feel content and fulfilled. If an environment can’t make room for negativity, then it will never be adequately positive. Marginalizing issues does not erase them. And in that sense the movie speaks to a greater conundrum of American culture, which has always predicated happiness on consumption and a restrictively uniform image of the ideal lifestyle.

A Thousand Cuts

“A look at how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte uses social media to spread disinformation.”

poster

The Toll

The Toll

The Toll kinda spins out of control by the end, but I only say that to preface the fact that it’s one of the strongest examples of “has potential” to come around in recent years. Most horror movies are either good or bad (sometimes enjoyably so, but still bad). The Toll, however, manages to be both brilliant and clunky at once. It’s wonderfully directed for the first thirty minutes or so—subtle, slow-burning, atmospheric, but also realistic in a very unsettling way. It perfectly captures that eerie feeling of a quiet car ride in an unfamiliar and heavily wooded area. Director Michael Nader is both stylish and economic, setting up two characters using very little exposition but  just enough visual information to make them suitably vivid. Credit for this must also go to Jordan Hayes and Max Topplin, who play a burned out woman coming off of a long flight to visit her dad in the woods and her chatty, somewhat suspicious rideshare driver, respectively.

Our two main characters get stuck on a gravel road in the woods and find themselves stalked by a mysterious and terrifying force which torments them at the same time that they navigate their newfound, highly distrustful relationship. Nader exercises beautiful restraint for the first forty minutes or so of this film, employing long takes and clever editing to set up successful, subtle scares. Once the explanation of these events occurs, however, Nader loses this subtlety. The film devolves tonally into something much more action-oriented and clumsily thematic. This all culminates in an absolute misfire of a twist which feels blunt and contrived. It’s not that these things make the movie terrible, but they absolutely don’t live up to the set-up

Still, the attributes, here, hint at a potential future body of work that, if done the right way, I want, like, yesterday.

Nic Champion is a Customer Service Associate and Reference Librarian at the Kirkwood Public Library, and he moonlights as a film critic for online publications. Among his favorite filmmakers are Bong Joon-ho, Buster Keaton, and Todd Solondz. In addition to film, Nic's other interests include reading authors such as Jon Ronson and Haruki Murakami, discovering new music, and researching any topic that catches his curiosity.