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Yazdi | Best of 2022 Films

Of all the things in all the world, I am often grateful most for the drifting away from my own life and becoming part of another when watching a really good film. You know, when you forget where you are, and who you are, and for a blissful couple of hours are in another’s world.

Like every year, 2022 provided its share of movie riches. This year I watched 77 films (thank you, Letterboxd) and was happy to be back amongst the tribe of those happiest with their faces backlit from the light emanating from a giant film screen in a theater.

Every year I say that it is hard to pick just the top ten or fifteen films, and yet it is truer with the passing of each year. So as before, here is a list of the films this year that turned on something within me: with anger, with intellect, with wonderful oddity, or just with giddy high-altitude entertainment.

Honorable Mentions: I do want to acknowledge some other films this year that I truly enjoyed. A call out to the goofy but smart, under-the-radar charm of CONFESS, FLETCH, the cool-witty vibe of the Jane Austen contemporary adaptation that is FIRE ISLAND, the intelligent,  brave two-hander that peaked too early in the year: GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE, the sweetly grounded Cinderella charm of MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS, the visually arresting, brutal and relentlessly dogged THE NORTHMAN, the most striking and well-realized Indian film I saw this year, PONNIYIN SELVAI, PART ONE (sorry, RRR), the big-eyed but ultimately wistful wonderment that was THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF SOLITUDE, the artful twisting of horror expectations in SPEAK NO EVIL, the stealthy look at race in a film slyly disguised as a high-school comedy: EMERGENCY, the late-career Adrian Lyne concoction that is equally weird and libidinous, DEEPWATER and the unfairly maligned DONT WORRY DARLING.  

However, here are the fifteen films that I most want to celebrate:

1. TAR: this film reminded me what cinema should be, and how we have so lost our way. At once, unapologetically cerebral, ruthless, and crafted with precision, TAR engages us with all the questions that gnaw on us in 2022. With a career already as storied as that of Cate Blanchett, it says something to claim that this might yet be her finest achievement. The film is smart for as much information it withholds from the viewer as what is given to us. Just as in real life, where we contend with questions around privilege, abuse of power, sexual misconduct and the scrutiny of public gaze with incomplete information. We almost never know the full truth. 

2. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN: This was the funniest film I saw this year, and also at the end the most heart-rending. While the film is ostensibly about a simple friendship between two men (played by Colin Ferrell and Brian Gleason) wherein one suddenly decides one day that he wants to terminate the friendship, it could be about any type of relationship. Have we not all dealt with individuals in our life who mean well, but will just not take no for an answer? Also, what do you do when one person in a relationship wants out and the other doesn’t. Writer-director Martin McDonaugh takes this premise and runs with it to the extreme with his characteristic flair for absurd and unexpected violence. Also this film that is nominally about the sundering of the friendship between these two men is perhaps in reality only a stealth setup to actually tell the story of the character of Ferrell’s sister, played wonderfully by Kerry Condon.

3. EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE: What more is left to say about this film at this time. Yes the film’s title is apt, it is indeed about seemingly a hundred things at once, and the first hour appears so gonzo as to seem that the directors, The Daniels, have no plan in mind and are just throwing things at the screen randomly to see what sticks [BULLET TRAIN also suffers from the same misperception]. But through all of the craziness that unfolds on screen, there IS a plan, there is a method to the madness. And a message as old as the hills, about the need for tolerance and the value of family over all else. The mile a minute leaps in the film also afford the filmmakers to pay quick homage to so many other films. Perhaps none as wistful and lovely as the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it section set in Hong Kong that venerates the woozy romanticism of Wong Kar Wai films, principally, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. That this little film, released in February is holding up strong late in the year and is at the forefront of every discussion about the best films of the year speaks to how indelible an impact the film has had. That and the fact that this film finally gives Michelle Yeoh the opportunity to prove once and for all that she is a film god.

4. ARMAGEDDON TIME: There is something about the pandemic that has made many top-end filmmakers look back upon their childhoods and to make films that look back upon their time growing up. Kenneth Branagh did this with BELFAST, Sam Mendes with EMPIRE OF LIGHT, and most recently Steven Spielberg with THE FABLEMANS. But of all these films looking back at a specific place and time when these directors grew up, ARMAGEDDON TIME from James Gray is perhaps the most emotionally honest and effective. Based in the eighties when he was growing up as a teen in New York in an immigrant family, James Gray presents the entire film I think, as an apology. As we transition from kids to adults we are also growing up in terms of moral rigor, and the ability to take stands on issues political or otherwise, and we are developing the confidence to speak up. With the giddy energy of a teen that doesn’t always allow for full understanding of social, moral or racial issues, Gray failed to stand up for a friend when he was a child, and this film is his mea culpa. I do not think he is asking us to absolve him of what happened, but just document those events. And to his great credit, Gray is not afraid to show himself and his family with all their imperfections, with a brutal honesty that puts this film ahead of others in this genre.

5/6/7. The Kill-The-Rich trilogy of TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, GLASS ONION and THE MENU. What good fortune to have, not one, not two, but three intensely entertaining films come to us this year, all about the indulges of the uber-rich. And as broad and on the nose as all three films may be in dialing up their satire of the gruesome excesses of the wealthy, the great satisfaction they deliver in seeing them get their comeuppance cannot be denied.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS the latest from the wily provocateur that is Ruben Ostlund, offers a nasty, if heavy-handed skewering of the privileged aboard a small luxury-ship. And then in a smart second act sees the fates and the power dynamics gleefully flipped when the ship collapses and a few seek refuge on an island. Featuring one of the most daring, and wait-what-just-happened endings of the year, this one will have you leaving the cinema vigorously debating. As the better films tend to do

GLASS ONION: in another year, this would easily have been my top film of the year. Rian Johnson pulls off another delicious Agatha Christiesque whodunit by retaining the beats from KNIVES OUT but opening it up to more hijinks, more commentary, and more visual candy. When you have a murder mystery set on an island owned by a tech bro, you just know that the super-privileged have their comeuppance served steaming on a hot platter. Add to that some uncanny casting (hello Janelle Monae, why aren’t you a major star yet?) that eschews high voltage stars for more apposite casting, and you have a true charmer on your hands.

THE MENU: this one is yet another film about a group of superrich invited to a private island. The upper echelon chef who owns the island wants to deliver not just the ultimate in experience in food, but something a little more transcendent. With a script that always leaps a few steps outside the viewer’s grasp, and a premise that at its core is so absurd that you cannot do much else than shrug your shoulders, this is a glitzy piece of undeniable entertainment. Plus committed performances from the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Anya-Taylor Joy, Nicholas Hoult and Hong Chau never hurt a film.

8. DUAL: Riley Stearns has been quietly making dryly absurdist films for the last few years and we are ignoring the intricate world-building of this smart filmmaker at our own risk. If you were already a fan of his THE ART OF SELF-DEFENCE from 2019, then you will find his latest just as hard to resist. Consider the premise of DUAL. Learning that she has a terminal disease a woman arranges to have a clone made to outlive her. Only she somehow prevails over her disease and now there’s two of her, which the cloning company will not allow, and now she has to fight herself to the death so that only one remains, thereby restoring order. Like a quieter Yorgos Lanthimos, Stearns sticks by the absurd rules he has created to deliver a smarting thriller that will long stick with you.

9. CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH: This shouldn’t work; it reads like a crank ‘em by the numbers indie film script. But writer/director Cooper Raiff has an earnestness that you either buy and settle in with or roll your eyes over; it was the former for me. The screenplay has a specificity that rings true and the characters never stray from who they are for an easy laugh. A paid for hire bar/bat mitzvah party-starter builds an unusual rapport with the mother of an autistic girl. See what I mean? This film made me smile the whole time I was watching it and I am learning that Dakota Johnson may be one of our great stealth actors.

10. CORSAGE: One of the films last year that just didn’t work for me was SPENCER, a fictionalized imagining of a weekend late in the life of Lady Diana. I found the film shrill and exhausting and overly affected. CORSAGE this year attempts a similar approach and comes out aces. It is a fictionalized accounting of the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Anachronistic, stylized and often a wishful-thinking revisionist, feminist take on the life of the real empress, the film is an attempt to do a biopic through a punk-rock lens. As played by Vicky Krieps, this empress is exhausted from the role of just the royal clotheshorse and wants more: more men, more political authority, more agency. I can see why this take on a historical figure may upset Austrian traditionalists looking for a onscreen adaptation faithful to real life. But like Sofia Coppola in MARIE ANTOINETTE, the filmmaker Maria Kreutzer here is more interested in capturing what might have been the inner life of this historical figure through a resolutely modern lens.

11. THE INSPECTION: Write about what you know, they say. And first-time writer and director Elegance Bratton tells a story based on his own experience as a lost man who enrolls in the Marines and must contend with being a gay Black man at boot camp. The film lives by the grays it creates; this is not the by-the-books retelling of homophobia in a training regiment that you might expect. The writing is nuanced and fluctuates back and forth between the lead  (played by Jeremy Pope) dealing with the physical requirements of the boot camp and his emotional setbacks. Of particular impact are the few but sharply abrasive interactions between Pope’s character and his mother, played by Gabrielle Union. This is a coming of age film with uncommon honesty that never settles for pat, unrealistic resolutions.

12. THE WONDER: This film lives up to its pedigree, and it is a shame it hasn’t gained more awards traction. Based on the book by Emma Donoghue (writer of THE ROOM), directed by one of our most consistently adventurous directors Sebastian Lelio, and starring the best-in-her-generation Florence Pugh, the film is about a puzzle that needs to be solved. During the 1850’s, an English nurse is sent to a small Irish town to investigate the ‘miracle’ of a young girl who is able to survive without eating. As she spends more time with the girl and her immediate family, the nurse is convinced there is a scientific reason why the girl is able to survive without food. Part detective story, part commentary on the eternal clash between faith and scientific reason, and part angry indictment of predominantly men’s spaces that will not let a woman in, this is a well rendered piece of work. Special bonus: the opening and closing shots which economically convey the magic of moviemaking itself.

13. HONK FOR JESUS, SAVE YOUR SOUL. This film from first time director Adamma Ebo is structured as a mockumentary and saves its indignation for the very end. It is a funny yet scathing look at the institution of the megachurch in southern United States. In its telling of the fictional account of a pastor and first lady of one such megachurch trying to recover from a scandal and build back their congregation, the film offers, finally, a great opportunity for Regina Hall to demonstrate how good an actor she can be when given the chance. The film has been criminally overlooked for its controversial subject, but gives us that outsider view of the hypocrisy that pervades most religious powerhourses today.

14. EMILY THE CRIMINAL. Aubrey Plaza is almost always hired to play the smartest person in the room, the one who will cut you down with the slyest, driest retort. But we ignore her versatility at our own peril. When given the opportunity, she can pull off complex characters with easy gait; see the criminally overlooked BLACK BEAR from last year alone. Now this year EMILY THE CRIMINAL gives Plaza a lead role that she chews up  with ace commitment. Plaza plays someone crippled by student debt who slowly embarks on at first small, then large jobs that function outside of legal propriety. Each job puts her in greater mortal – and moral – danger, and the film smartly depicts how difficult it is to pull out of a criminal setup once you are already a part of it. For a small independent enterprise, this film gave me more anxiety in my theater seat than any other this year. The action is tightly written and constructed to play out dangerously in real time. In our minds, we repeatedly beg the lead character to walk away, to not make another bad decision. Even as we fully know that we too would lack the luxury of moral fortitude if faced with the same circumstances as the lead character.

15. BULLET TRAIN. Is this the most misunderstood film of the year? Based on a Japanese manga of repute, all this film wants to be is a lark, a giddy piece of entertainment that would win the admiration of Tarantino. The plot is complex web of players and killers and too smart for this own skin hustlers whose lives cross-connect on the bullet train of question. The labyrinthine plot especially in the first hour where characters and their motivations are thrown at you in rapid succession has turned off many viewers. TOP GUN: MAVERICK came in a close second, but BULLET TRAIN was the film that gave me the giddiest joy in my theater seat this year. Is the plot too complicated? Are these characters impossibly smart? Do they talk with the sort of rapidfire wit that is entirely unrealistic? Yes, yes, and yes. But we go to the cinemas fully aware of the make-believe we are going to see on screen. Sometimes it is good to just to embrace the artifice and go along for a hyper-violent, fast paced ride. Also of note, I believe that years/decades from now, people will look back on the current time as the finest hour of Brad Pitt’s career. Ever since he has embraced the supporting character role, he has been doing work that most other actors lack by way or charm or effortless cool; see also Pitt’s solid turn in BABYLON.

Yazdi’s Best of 2019: the First Half


Hello film lovers. Yazdi here.


The first six months sometimes felt like the world was on fire. If not underwater. Literally. With record high temperatures world wide and biblical floods elsewhere. Mass shootings on a daily basis and a political regression to the early fifties. In these spiraling times, I found the best salve in the comfort of movie theaters, when stepping in, no matter how briefly, into the lives of others on screen was distraction enough. So now is as good a time as any to list the better films that got released in the first half of 2019.


  1. BOOKSMART (VOD: iTunes/Amazon)

Objectively smart, wickedly funny, and ultimately well meaning, this film will hold up as a classic of the American teen film genre.  Not since FRANCES HA have we seen a film take on, as its principal focus, the careful examination of the relationship between two female friends, an oft neglected topic. And start preparing to hear the name of Olivia Wilde at end-of-year Best Director discussions.


  1. GLORIA BELL  (VOD: iTunes/Amazon)

No film this year brought be greater delight at the simple joy of being alive as GLORIA BELL. Remaking his own celebrated 2013 Chilean film GLORIA, starring the indomitable Paulina Garcia, director Sebastian Lelio, fresh off his Best Foreign Film Oscar win for A FANTASTIC WOMAN, teams with Julianne Moore for his English language debut in GLORIA BELL. This film chooses to watch, without judgment, a woman of a certain age post-divorce try to find her place in the world again. People always complain that the stalwarts like Streep and Moore and Close always grab all the attention, not leaving room for new actor recognition, but to watch Julianne Moore here, in a resplendent, unaffected, and open performance is to realize why the good actors deserve our continued respect.


  1. US (VOD: iTunes/Amazon)

Jordan Peele’s sophomore feature lacks the elegantly clean plotting that made his first film, GET OUT, a breakout hit. This second film from Peele is messier and bites off more than it can chew. But that doesn’t make it a lesser film, just a more ambitious one. Most of the film plays, and effectively so, as a thriller, even as a genre home invasion film. But in its last thirty minutes it digs deeper at what Peele had in mind with the film all along. A blistering attack on privilege, the price we pay for repressing our identity, and our cultural acceptance of elitism, US has one of its characters say in so many words that the film title refers to an unsteady “United States” and not the deceptive warmth of “us”. Is it that each one of us has an other hidden self, the truer person that we keep firmly subterranean. And what if all our other hidden selves were to get together. That we are even discussing these ideas is a testament to the vision of Jordan Peele. When can we see your next film, Mr Peele?


  1. EVERYBODY KNOWS (streaming on Netflix)

A woman returns with her kids to her hometown in Spain for her sister’s wedding and her teenaged daughter goes missing on the night of the celebrations. This plays like a thriller, but only as a device to comment on the unknowable secrets that lurk within families. And the long-held resentments and past grudges that erupt when something bad happens. This is a melodrama in the best sense of the word, a fully satisfying moral dissection of family couched within a whodunit.  This is a Spanish language feature made by an Iranian director, set in Spain and features some of the best acting talent from Latin cinema. All one needs to say is that it stars Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darin. What more do you want from your cinema, especially coming from two-time winner of Best Foreign Film director Asghar Farhadi.  And as terrific as Cruz and Bardem (playing Cruz’s past lover) are in this film, it is Barbara Lennie who plays Bardem’s wife who should be included any year-end discussion of the best supporting performers in cinema. I wonder if there is a better film screening on Netflix right now.


  1. MIDSOMMAR (back in theaters for the Director’s cut with 30 additional minutes)

This film technically didn’t open until July 3rd, but I saw it at a screening earlier in June, so I am including it on this list. How could I not. This is not a perfect film, and a few times comes dangerously close to buckling under its own heft. And I wanted the ending to hold more wonders, be more original (although the conclusion has a delighting sourness to it). But the film is constructed with so much wonder otherwise, and is so masterfully crafted, that I readily surrendered to where it took me. The film is about a group of friends who visit the rural home of their Swedish friend to attend the once-in-decades Midsommar festival, and soon start to realize that things there may not be as idyllic as they seem. The film circles around so many issues, (including a nicely haunting prologue featuring rising star Florence Hugh having to deal with sudden tragedy), that it is often difficult to identify the film’s primary thesis. But therein lies its strength because the road to its conclusion is so gleefully unpredictable.


  1. ROCKETMAN (VOD: Amazon/ITunes)

Now here is how to make a biopic.  Of a musical genius, even while being constrained by the jerky, necessarily episodic nature of the storytelling. In its execution and in its joyful, surreal, and altogether delightful visual splendor of the musical pieces, the film goes to heights that completely eluded the overcelebrated BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY from last year. Unlike that film, ROCKETMAN has its lead sing his own songs (and he is mighty adept at it), the film covers a relatively short period of time (childhood through the early eighties) in the life of its protagonist, and most critically handles them with integrity.


  1. PHOTOGRAPH (streaming on Amazon Prime)

As small as this film is, it gives so much. The director of the celebrated film THE LUNCHBOX, has his next film that is set in India deal with the unlikely connection between two strangers who need each other more than each realizes. Wise, gentle and never kneeling to the unnecessary turnings of a plot, PHOTOGRAPH best of all is a movie about movies, and finds a way to pay wistful homage to a past Bollywood that will never be again. The film is also a marvel of acting, as the unimprovable Nawazuddin Siddiqui creates another indelible character of an everyman in India. Seek out this film, particularly since it is streaming on Amazon Prime now.


  1. JOHN WICK 3 (VOD: iTunes/Amazon)

The John Wick films have become an unexpected paean to superlative action in cinema. And JOHN WICK 3 is no exception; the film is essentially a concatenation of hard-to-believe, how-did-they-do-that set pieces that frequently bring jaw to floor. How each successive film in the series amps the ingenuity of the action is something to marvel at, even as the scripts widen the mythology of the world created by the first film. What is not something to marvel at is how Chad Stahelski, the man behind these films, feels the need to also unfortunately ramp up the violence in these films; look, I am fine with violence in cinema and it doesn’t usually bother me. But as many others have mentioned, if JOHN WICK 3 didn’t get an NC-17 rating for extreme violence, then no film ever will. Why this need to push the limits of the eye-gouging and bone-crunching; Stahelski should have confidence in his craft and understand that not everyone savors violence as entertainment.


  1. GULLY BOY (streaming on Netflix)

A young man from the Mumbai slums dreams of becoming a rap artist. This was film I should have had no interest in, and yet it totally captivated me, proving again Roger Ebert’s assertion that it’s not what the film is about, but rather how it is about what it is about. Ranveer Singh just coming off his gloriously deranged role in PADMAVAT, plays the title character with a mixture of resigned despair and cautiously germinating optimism. And Alia Bhat playing his girlfriend who will take no prisoners, very nearly steals the film. This is another winner from writer-director Zoya Akhtar.


  1. THE DEAD DON’T DIE (VOD: iTunes/Amazon)

I am not routinely a fan of horror, but Jim Jarmusch’s droll, dry take on the zombie genre made me beam through the running time of THE DEAD DON’T DIE. Many found the film inconsequential, but I resonated fully with the deadpan humor, and the film’s frequent forays into self-aware breaking of the third wall. Bill Murray has reached a mythical stature in cinema, but to see his line readings in this film is to realize why he earns that place. And with a ridiculously privileged cast that includes Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny and Alison Janney, this film is a breezy hoot.


McQueen | Review

Most people aren’t interested in fashion or those designers who make fashion famous.  Most people will however recognize the name Alexander McQueen; the young protege who was as famous for making avant guard clothing as well as living an equally avant guard lifestyle and who at the tender age of forty would succumb to taking his own life having reigned as one of the most influential and original artists of our time
McQueen is a compelling and engaging must-see documentary about Lee Alexander McQueen who was born and raised in an East London working class neighborhood.  Lee as he was better known to his friends and family was likely predestined to have become a plumber, brick layer or cab driver like his father as opposed to one of the creators of the “Cool Britannia” movement that combined fierce romanticism and punk poetry in the 90s making him a reigning and sometimes controversial King of style.  This rags-to-riches story told through archival footage and by those people who knew and loved him to a fault show a thrilling portrait of a complex man who was equally talented and burdened emotionally.
McQueen is equal parts inspiring, sad and haunting and manages to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of a competitive and complicated world where reputation seems to be as important as the end product.  Filmmakers Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui do an incredible job of showing a unique account of someone obsessed with drawing clothes to McQueen’s meteoric rise as the top designer at the house of Givenchy in Paris.
What is perhaps most impressive about this documentary other than seeing the creation of beautiful clothing (that will forever be remembered as art) is the story behind the creator himself and just how the genius came to be.
“The most important question we wanted to answer was how this shy working class young man with no connections became Alexander McQueen” says Eddegui.  Well, they certainly succeeded.
McQueen will open in San Diego at the Hillcrest Cinema on August 10 2018, check local listings for show times in other Cities

After Auschwitz | Review

As the 70th anniversary of Holocaust Remembrance Day approached earlier this year, Poland passed some controversial legislation criminalizing any mention of Poles “Being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich.” They stated that the harshest penalties would be reserved for those who referred to Nazi-era concentration camps such as Auschwitz as “Polish death camps.”  Many in Israel called this an attempt to whitewash the role that some Poles had in the detention and killing of around three million Polish Jews during World War 2.

Regardless of what you may think about who was complicit or how we refer to the role of Poland specifically, one thing is for certain; the holocaust occurred, it was one of the atrocious cases of mass killing, and we need to do everything we can to make sure such horrors never happen again.  This alone makes AFTER AUSCHWITZ critical and compelling viewing.  Recently I was invited to a sedar dinner where our host explained that one of the last remaining holocaust survivors at their local synagogue had just passed.  As the years move on, so do most of the remaining survivors and our ability to hear directly from them about the atrocities each of them faced for a period of their lives

Jon Kean’s AFTER AUSCHWITZ, is a “Post-Holocaust” documentary that follows six incredible women after their liberation from Nazi concentration camps.  It effectively captures what it means to move from tragedy and trauma towards life although we quickly learn that despite these women surviving and going on to build productive lives in the United States, they never truly find a place to call home.  Well-constructed with appropriate archival footage and in-depth interviews, the documentary examines the question around what happens after surviving an unspeakable horror.

For survivors of the Holocaust, liberation was both an incredible moment and a devastating one. It marked the beginning of a life-long struggle. Most wanted to go home, but home no longer existed in devastated post-war Europe. Many came to America and wanted to tell people about their experiences but were silenced. “You’re in America now, put it behind you” is what they were told. The women Kean follows became mothers and wives with successful careers, but never fully healed from the scars of the past

Their stories not only show the indelible role immigrants and women played in the history of America during the second half of the 20th century, but also how each of them tried to assimilate, some more successfully than others. In all cases however, what strikes the watcher most about these resilient and inspiring women and what is captured perfectly is this incredible will to survive and a sense of duty they feel to live a full life.

Although AFTER AUSCHWITZ deals with a specific group of survivors, it is universal in the questions it ponders about which relate to moving on after tragedy and adapting to a “normal” life. It’s a story we see repeated by survivors of other genocides – a sad recurring reality that haunts the women in AFTER AUSCHWITZ. Their suffering from post-traumatic stress is also unfortunately universal, as seen in the lives of soldiers coming home from war and even in victims of childhood abuse.

“We normally learn about the Holocaust as if it started with Germany invading Poland, and liberation was the end of it,” says Kean. “Allied soldiers triumphantly told Jews in camps, ‘you’re free, go home.’ But what happened to survivors on the day after liberation? And the day after that? That’s the film I wanted to make. By seeing the world through the eyes of these amazing women, we not only hear unique female voices, we witness stories of resiliency and determination that audiences have never heard before.”  Mission accomplished.

This is a rush out and see documentary that is compelling, heart wrenching and inspiring all at the same time.

AFTER AUSCHWITZ opens in Los Angeles on May 4th however for more information about the film, including dates, cities and theaters, visit https://www.AfterAuschwitz.com

Review | Viceroy’s House

At no other point in history has it been more fitting or important to share a story about the dividing of a nation and its people; extreme and differing political views, nations ravished by arguments over religion and ethnic cleansing often feature front and center in the news – only this story is set in India in 1947.

Welcome to the stunning epic of VICEROY’S HOUSE; the true story of Lord Mountbatten (played by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) who is dispatched, along with his wife Edwina (played by Gillian Anderson), to New Delhi to oversee the country’s transition from British rule to independence.  Taking his place in the magnificent mansion known as the Viceroy’s House, Mountbatten arrives hopeful for a peaceful transference of power. Yet ending centuries of colonial rule in a country divided by deep religious and cultural differences proves no easy undertaking, setting off a seismic struggle that threatens to tear India apart.

The sumptuous period detail created by the director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) brings to life a pivotal historical moment that re-shaped the world.  Indeed, the ramifications of decisions made seventy years ago have led to two nations (India and Pakistan) in a perpetual state of heightened tension with each other since their inception.

It would have been satisfying enough to watch this bygone event unfold through the lens of the Viceroy and his wife yet Chadha, ever an over-achiever, gives us a stirring love story that layers on top. Equally well acted, we experience the forbidden and complicated love story of Jeet a Hindu boy (played by the hundred Foot Journey’s Manish Dayal) and a Muslim girl, Aalia (played by Huma Qureshi) which perfectly demonstrates the impact that decisions made half a world away had on a people that had endured three centuries of colonization by the British.

An heir of this destiny herself, Chadha who describes herself as someone who “grew up in the shadow of partition” took her time to bring this project to fruition and in doing so uncovered some previously unseen documents, “I always got the impression that Partition was our fault, but the documents we found showed us there was already an agenda in place by the British”.

Chadha does a meticulous job of making this Every man’s partition story and as a result no one in this movie is portrayed as either a villain or a hero. Having been reminded by her own family to ensure that the “Mountbatten plan” was exposed, after doing her thorough research about this story, Chadha soon realized that India’s fate had already been sealed by Winston Churchill and that Mountbatten was merely a pawn led to the slaughter, the result of which would be a divided nation with millions of people getting slaughtered themselves in the process.  A tailor-made performance by Bonneville will certainly capture the audience’s empathy yet, when questioned about whether this was the desired outcome, Chadha reiterates her goal was to show just “how ill equipped he was to do such a huge task.”

It would be easy to think of this movie as just a political narrative but to do so would be an injustice.  Scattered with strong bold women like Edwina and Aalia who represent the heart and soul of the movie, we experience firsthand not only the exciting sights and sounds of India but also the heartache and trauma that many including the Viceroy himself experienced.  That along with an often heart wrenching last performance by the inimitable Om Puri makes this a must-see movie

One will easily be transported to another time and place when watching this movie yet when the credits run you can’t help but wonder whether we learned anything from history, given this was one of the largest movements of people from one place to another in the twentieth century.

THE VICEROY’S HOUSE opens on September 1 and is currently available on VOD – check local listings



Strike A Pose | Review

There are few pop songs that are as memorable as Madonna’s1990 hit VOGUE and along with it the iconic video that brought Voguing as a dance form into the mainstream conscience.  Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Extravaganza were the vogue dancers and choreographers from the Harlem “House Ball” community who introduced “Vogueing” to Madonna and who later would become her main choreographers for the video and the Truth or Dare tour.
If you grew up in the era of MTV, not only will the words STRIKE A POSE make you wave your arms in the air and perhaps stick out your butt but this is also the name of the acclaimed documentary directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaag abut seven young male dancers  (including Jose and Luis) – six gay, one straight who joined Madonna on her most controversial tour.  On stage and in the iconic film TRUTH OR DARE – one of the highest-grossing documentaries ever – they showed the world how to “Express yourself”, now, twenty-five years later, they reveal the truth about life during and after the tour. 
STRIKE A POSE is a fabulously candid documentary that reunites these sleek and effervescent dancers, exploring their lives after the tour and legal battles with Madonna, their glamorous and largely inspirational impact upon society, the horrific effects of HIV/AIDS during and since the 90’s and what it meant to participate in one of the most iconic and controversial tours of pop history. The film also explores what it’s like to overcome shame and find the courage to be who you are.
Watching people age over time is always a luxury and so this movie does a wonderful job of showing the promise that was and where these incredible dancers ended up.  As important as the story of the star is the story of those who get to bask in the fairy dust for a short period of time; It is clear that Madonna made a huge difference in these men’s lives and the short intense formative period of time that they spent with her was extremely meaningful for these men that left a long lasting effect.
The movie isn’t just a “Where are they now”, at times, it manages to go deep and uncovers the realities of youth, disease and even what the dark aftermath of fame (by association) can feel like.  Watching the genuine love and respect that remains between this group of talent after all of these years is beautifully captured and of course THAT song in the background will have you tapping your toes and clicking your fingers if not striking your own pose.
Following critical acclaim and successful premieres in Berlin and Tribeca, STRIKE A POSE comes to New York for its theatrical release at IFC on January 18, 2017, followed by its broadcast premier, an exclusive VOD release, and a home video release later in June to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month.  Check local listings: http://madonnadancers.com/req.php?req=static.php&page=where-to-see