The Neon Demon is a gorgeous film. The bold, color-saturated photography of Natasha Braier paired with Cliff Martinez’s haunting score makes the entire event a devilish sensuous treat. It’s a horror flick set in the L. A. fashion scene, a notorious breeding ground for real monsters. When everyone is beautiful, the currency of pretty depreciates quickly, so some other savage quality may be required to thrive. The Neon Demon jumps, with impish glee, straight into the sparkle-lined abyss that idea conjures, like Alice spiraling into the underworld.
Piper, the Alan Barillaro directed short animated film that opens Pixar’s Finding Dory, is a true work of brilliance. Not only does the film utilize ground-breaking technology to make animated sand, water, sea foam, bubbles, and feathers seem almost more real than real life, but it tells a profound story about the difficulties of growing up and the tough choices parents have to make to teach children to take care of themselves. By the end of this six-minute hair-raising pleasure you can’t help but feel a real kinship to Piper and his survival struggle.
In the world of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster you’re turned into an animal of your choice if you don’t find a mate. Most people choose dogs or at least mammals, but David’s (Colin Farrell) choice is more coldblooded and alien to humans: a lobster. His reasons are fairly logical from an organism’s point of view. The lobster has exceptional reproductive and longevity traits, but the blue-blooded part is a symbolic nod to human social status.
Steven Okazaki’s Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street was a gripping 1999 HBO documentary that peered into the lives of young heroin addicts on the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in the years 1995-98. Every story followed was heartbreaking and arresting, but Tracey Helton definitely stood out brutally candid honesty.
1991’s Thelma and Louise is a exhilarating thriller about the trouble women can get themselves in just for existing. Just being a woman can feel like a sin sometimes. The expectations put on women are often simple and stifling: look pretty, say little, be pleasing. We get a lot of direct and indirect messages that our sexuality is not our own. Of course, this is a simplification, a generalization, but it is a brutal truth about many moments of a female life. This is what Thelma & Louise addresses with a biting sass.
Some of my favorite moments in Purple Rain, besides, of course, the stage performances, are glimpses of The Kid’s personal space. His dressing room and the basement room of his parents’ house are both decorated with lips, sparkles, horses, and clowns. Lots of harlequin-style clowns.
One of the first historical references to a “Wicker Man” came from Julius Ceasar, but the myth building that solidified the story of the ominous Wicker Man in popular consciousness was a 1973 horror flick starring Christopher Lee. Radiohead recreated the plot of this classic movie in their Chris Hopewell-directed stop-motion music video for their new song “Burn the Witch.”
Jeremy Saulnier, who made waves in independent film with 2013’s Blue Ruin, is back again with Green Room, a perfectly paced horror-thriller. The monsters and scenarios in Green Room are so chilling because they’re familiar and realistic. Saulnier achieved this by ramping up some of the fear-inspiring experiences he had as a young punk scene kid.
Harvey, a 1950 film based on a play by Mary Chase that beat out The Glass Menagerie for a Pulitzer Prize, has a lot to say about how we live our lives. Some of the wisdom in Harvey does ring true, but much of it is bathed in a gauzy romanticism.
In writer-direct Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, 8-year-old Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent) is a boy who’s never seen the sunrise. When he finally encounters it, he gets some answers about his mystefying life, but the audience never really does.