Sometimes you don’t need a take. Us is pretty good, the final act didn’t quite land for me in the way that it was supposed to, but the strength of the filmmaking and the sustained tension throughout that final sequence was enough to keep me through until the end. I guessed what the twist was right at the beginning, usually it’s not something I’m good at in films, and generally I try not to make a habit of it, so those final moments maybe didn’t hit me like they did some others.
So, Eva Melander’s Tina is a woman with this facial deformity who works customs in small Swedish port town, she displays the uncanny ability to literally sniff out those who come off the ferry smuggling contraband. When someone born with the same condition as her disembarks and volunteers to be searched, all of a sudden she doesn’t know for the first time what to make of someone. It’s an initial touch of charming magical realism. We see this woman hurry between her ailing father; a boyfriend that takes advantage of her; a world that discards her for her appearance — secure in the knowledge that, at least in her unappreciated vocation, she’s the fucking best.
The one thing that works in Alita: Battle Angel is Alita herself. Forget the strange discomfort you’ll have at first to the overlarge, CGI augmented eyes set inside that tiny impish face. Rosa Salazar’s performance as an amnesiac robot discovering the world for the first time is truly winning. Robert Rodriguez’s vision of a future after the devastation of most of the planet detailed enough that we are content largely to watch it unfurl through her eyes.
It’s hard to know where to begin, every shot in this film aches with such sincerity and affection that by about the twenty minute mark I was already a puddle of tears in an oversized hoody. Sure, I’m a sucker for tragic romance, seeing struggling people pull together to face adversity. The leads of If Beale Street Could Talk are family; their problems are largely private and, while beset by problems from the outside world, they find strength in their unity. Barry Jenkins chooses to centre so much of his movie around acts of care, prioritising the depiction of tenderness in a world that can oft be so cruel.
I’ll admit, the first shot of Glass didn’t fill me with much confidence. A masculine bodied person, wearing a dress, stalks into a room to intimidate a new batch of abducted young girls. It spoke to everything that I hated about Split: its stigmatisation of non-normative bodies, the casual nature of its depictions of abuse. Our first glimpse into the lives of our self-identifying heroes and villains disappointingly confirms that not much has changed.
Shortly after my screening of Aquaman I was chatting with someone who was considering going to see it. ‘I’m not too sure yet, people have told me it’s cringy.’
‘I wouldn’t say “cringy”,’ I replied, ‘but it’s definitely silly.’
I worked in a call centre for several years. So when, in the very first scene of this movie there’s this archly framed shot of Lakeith Stanfield’s hero in front of a noticeboard on which the contextless word ‘You’ is prominently displayed — I felt that. As he begs for a job with his fraudulent credentials across from the desk of some pasty old dude who is over-friendly and a little lascivious you’re firmly established in the realm of a workplace comedy. There’s echoes early on of Mike Judge’s Office Space, though we can tell that Boots Riley approaches the environment with a more easily apparent political bent.