Each week the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer questions relating to the current events of that particular week. This week with the end of the summer movie season and the start of the fall/prestige movie season we ask:
WHAT WAS THE BEST MOVIE YOU SAW THIS SUMMER?
If there was one takeaway from Summer 2018, it was that it was (finally) time for Asians to come to the forefront of mainstream Hollywood. Crazy Rich Asians
It accomplishes this by to not showing these characters as the other, sure culturally there may be some differences between their experience and yours but at the end of it the core experience of love, dealing with your parents/ in-laws is by in large universal. Perhaps this is why Crazy Rich Asians
There exists no shortage of coming-of-age films set in high school or even college, but there are hardly any that focus on the middle school experience. That could quite possibly be because that period of time in everyone’s life is collectively a horrible nightmare that no one ever wants to relive or remember. It’s when we are at our most awkward, and our most emotionally vulnerable, and in our eyes, the world could not seem crueler. It’s a point in our lives when we are the worst versions of ourselves that we can be, but musician/stand-up comedian Bo Burnham decided to tackle all of that awkwardness and insecurity with unflinching reality in his directorial debut feature, Eighth Grade. Burnham’s screenplay and direction along with Elsie Fisher’s powerfully authentic performance paint a portrait of universal adolescence that is so painfully true to life, yet explores that personal hardship to uncover truly resonant and profound depths of reflection and self-discovery.
For the first time in several years, a superhero movie did not instill yours truly with some degree of beleaguered contempt. The Incredibles 2, the film whose memedanticipation rivals only Leo’s holding of an Academy Award, was a simple, sweet, and glorious reminder of how exciting and universal the concept of an adolescent fantasy can be. The indistinguishable and vacuous aesthetic template of the contemporary superhero film is replaced by colorful and clean set pieces supported by a collection of characters that have already been proven as spectacularly endearing. While its story could be called inconsequential, the experience of watching a blockbuster where every player, setting, and
Sometimes the most lighthearted, campy and fun movies are all that you really need, and you don’t have to look farther than Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again for a genuinely good and entertaining excursion at the theatre.
With beautiful vistas, charming performances (particularly Amanda Seyfried and Lily James), and of course the wonderful music of ABBA, this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still knows why it exists; and that is simply to make us smile. As I wrote in my review, Mamma Mia shouldn’t be viewed as a heavyweight of musical theatre or film, but it never pretends to be one either. Instead, it opts to give us a leisurely escape from the hectic and often sad world and makes us want to sing, dance and be happy. And with a musical
WHAT WAS ONE THING YOU SAW THIS SUMMER THAT FLEW UNDER THE RADAR AND SHOULD BE SEEN BY MORE PEOPLE?
Leave No Trace in fitting fashion considering its title came and went seemingly without a trace. Despite unanimously positive reviews from critics, this release was hampered by a short run through art indie cinemas and the lack of any immediately recognizable star power in its cast. That is not to say that the movie is lacking in talent. Coming from director Debra Granik, Leave No Trace should be the breakout project for Thomasin Mckenzie similar to how Granik’s previous film Winter’s Bone proved to be the breakout role for a then relatively unknown Jennifer Lawrence.
Mckenzie plays a teenager named Tom who lives an unconventional nomadic lifestyle with her father (Ben Foster) but as she gets older she must come to terms with whether such a lifestyle is for her and how such a decision will affect her father. It’s a subdued performance (much like the rest of the minimalist film) that manages to capture an abundance of emotion in few actions and even fewer words. So before she becomes a household name, seek out Leave No Trace, not only will you see a beautifully realized depiction of the Pacific Northwest but also you can say you were on the Thomasin Mckenzie bandwagon long before it was full.
Probably just as synonymous with the summer moviegoing season as the multi-million dollar tentpole blockbusters are the Sundance indie sleeper hits that provide a nice relaxing change of pace from all the superheroes and explosions. In previous years, Sundance winners such as The Big Sick and Dope have had the chance to break out in the summertime. Unfortunately, not every indie is able to experience that same level of mainstream success.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is the second film by director Desiree Akhavan, following up her equally as excellent and underseen directorial debut, Appropriate Behavior. It won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has sadly grossed less than $1 million at the domestic box office in total. Chloe Grace Moretz gives a restrained and emotionally damaged performance as Cameron Post, a homosexual teenager who is sent to a gay conversion camp. With the help of some new friends including Sasha Lane (who also had a supporting role in another wonderful yet underseen indie darling this summer, Hearts Beat Loud) she learns to love and accept herself for who she is, while living within an institution designed to make her and other troubled youths despise themselves for who they are. The film provides an authentic portrait of life in this camp without ever overdramatizing the topic at hand for political purposes. It’s a sobering, emotional film with a lingering final shot that will stick with you.
Largely notable as a work in retrospect instead of as a fully recommendable piece of consistently functional entertainment, Summer of 84 is more necessary than required viewing for anyone that has fallen in love with the 80s revival aesthetic. Spending its energy becoming another accessible throwback to the neighborhood mystery comedy like The Burbs, the majority of Summer of 84 becomes indistinguishable from any other unbalanced, unrealistic, and problematic pop 80s youthful milestone film. By the conclusion, the swearing, hormone-crazed, mythologized youths become bitterly real, as does their time period. The subversion of the formula helps to ground the time period into something sobering and unappealing. It’s not always successful, but if you’re looking for the cure to the contemporary 80s craze and a bold reality check, it’s been under your nose for months.
WHO OR WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST WINNER OF SUMMER 2018?
Noah Centineo wins the summer on the back of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess Is A Loser. Netflix clearly thinks they have found an emerging star here and the widespread outreach of the streaming giant has made Centineo (or perhaps the name of his character – Peter Kavinsky) a household name. Catapulting off the success of this summer, he could project as the John Cusack of the Netflix generation or perhaps he aspires for a more Gosling-esque trajectory as he has already expressed interest in working with the likes of Gaspar Noe and The Coen Brothers. Whichever direction he chooses, Centineo exits this summer with his stock at an all-time high.
EDIT: As much as I wanted to give the crown to Centineo, We had a late summer candidate that came from behind a stole it.
Okay, Centineo came from relative obscurity to win over teens everywhere but his rise cannot compare to Henry Golding who wasn’t even an actor yet in the span of one summer has become a leading man to watch in Hollywood.
After the aforementioned Crazy Rich Asians, Golding also played a supporting role in the delightfully fun dark comedy A Simple Favor and to top it all off he is set to reunite with director Paul Feig in an upcoming Christmas romance co-starring alongside the Mother Of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke. Sorry
Donald Glover started off summer 2018 with a literal bang in the music video for his new single “This is America” which captured the cultural zeitgeist as a provocative commentary on our current state of socio-political affairs, as well as being a highly upbeat hip-hop track. He has also since released two other new summer jams “Feels Like Summer” and “Summertime Magic” with a new album still to come. As far as acting gigs, this summer also saw the second season return of his Emmy-winning FX series Atlanta, as well as his take on Billy Dee Williams’ legendary Star Wars character of Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. While the film itself might have been an underwhelming entry to the quickly oversaturated Star Wars franchise, Glover’s performance as Lando proved to be one of the only unanimous points of praise, even among the detractors of the film. Glover’s ability to excel in areas of film, television, and music over such a short period of time proves that he was the winner of summer 2018.
Paul Schrader, a once notable hero of late 70s/early 80s counterculture cinema, had fallen victim into a decades-long illness so many of our artistic heroes succumb to: insufficient and unremarkable output. The now 72-year-old filmmaker has been given the first ample bout of aplomb he has seen since The Last Temptation of Christ with First Reformed. His contemplative and politically timely attempt at transcendental filmmaking has become the darling of every critics Best of 2018 list by September. Going from Dying of the Light to a nearly guaranteed Oscar nomination in three years is no small feat.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST ANTICIPATED FALL / AWARDS SEASON RELEASE?
There exists a very real possibility that two Claire Denis films will finish the year in my top 10 if the early hype for High Life is to be believed (joining the stellar Let The Sunshine In). The first English language film for the French director, High Life sees her team up with Robert Pattinson (who impressed last year in Good Time) and the always great Juliette Binoche. Following a group of criminals that are sent to outer space in a series of wild science experiments, this film feels like a departure from Denis’ typical subject matter but from where I sit more filmmakers should look to take more risks with their material.
In any case, the pedigree of the names attached is reason enough to seek out this movie. For those who may be turned off by or intimidated by foreign language films in the past perhaps High Life can be a good introduction to the French auteur.
Barry Jenkins shocked everyone at the 89th Academy Awards when his film Moonlight, a deeply personal portrayal of homosexuality, was announced as the winner of Best Picture (and not just because La La Land was originally announced as the winner). His follow-up film, If Beale Street Could Talk, based on a novel by James Baldwin, looks like it could hopefully be another Oscar contender for Jenkins and crew. Judging only by the trailer (which intentionally does not reveal much about the story or characters), the film looks to be just as much of a quiet, passionate expression of human intimacy as his previous film.
Biographical movies on particular celebrated figures usually number from one to two, and typically years apart; what a pleasant surprise then to see the life of Vincent van Gogh dramatized on film in two consecutive years. Last year saw the release of Loving Vincent, a wonderfully unique and touching ‘painted’ animated film, that I ranked as one of the best films of 2017. Its portrayal of Vincent’s passion and torment shed a further light on this misunderstood titan, and it is with gladness that another cinematic version of his life is now among us.
November will see the release of AT ETERNITY’S GATE, a profile of the final days of the Dutch post-impressionist master in France. A live action film that will feature Willem Dafoe as van Gogh and Oscar Isaac as fellow artistic genius Paul Gauguin, it looks to pack an emotional punch as well an informative lens on the torturous end of van Gogh’s life. As a great admirer of van Gogh’s work, I am very eagerly awaiting this film with great expectations. Could this be the role that gets Dafoe some Academy attention? Regardless, spotlighting one of the world’s most iconic figures should be a treat in itself.
Luca Guadagnino, whose 2017 summer fling romance turned revelatory coming-of-age milestone, introduced his talent for presenting intimate and immersive settings to the mainstream with his decidedly un-mainstream Call Me By Your Name. One year later, he departs from his comfort zone to reimagine gonzo horror classic Suspiria (1977) as a reportedly 152