221 Contributions by: Renee Cuisia (Page 11)

Staff & contributors

Mike Mills has always had an obsession with childhood and parenthood, often honing in on the beautiful, frustrating, and inevitable mess that comes with them. C’mon C’mon is no exception, but here, Mills blurs the lines between the two even more. Sometimes the kid acts more like an adult, and the adult more like a kid; sometimes the uncle acts as a surrogate mother, and the mother (unsurprisingly) takes on the role of an everywoman, attempting to be breadwinner, caretaker, and friend all at once. 

C’mon C’mon has no allegiances; it simply shows us the dynamics between one family and mirrors what we already know about ours. Shot in black and white, grounded in simple conversations, and interwoven with moving essay excerpts and real interviews, C’mon C’mon feels at once personal and universal; a moving feat of a film.

It looks like something you’ve already seen before: a student genius turns a simple high school cheating scheme into a full-blown, high-stakes heist. But layered with great acting, taut writing, and sharp observations about the ways in which education (and society in general) fails its students, Bad Genius turns a familiar premise into something genuinely exciting and impressively affecting. It’s everything you want a caper movie to be: smart and thrilling, with almost no moment to breathe, and of course, peppered with characters you can’t help but root and be nervous and excited for. 

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

The Outfit doesn’t need to do a lot to be as sleek and surprising as it is. In fact, much of the film takes place in a single place while consisting of only a few (albeit memorable) characters. It’s deceptively simple, but the tricks it hides up its sleeves are plentiful and pleasurable. It’s a well-made and even better-performed gangster movie. Led by a quietly powerful Mark Rylance (who plays Leonard, the tailor with hidden depths), the actors are serious enough to lend it gravitas but easygoing enough to make it light on its feet.  

All in all, The Outfit is an agile action film with twists that will keep you at the edge of your seat right till the very end. 

It’s very likely you already know about the fictional character Matilda, a clever but neglected child who discovers she has telekinesis and uses it for good. You may have even grown up watching the 1996 film multiple times, as I have, and secretly tried to move a random object with your mind to see if you somehow shared Matilda’s powers…as I have.

If so, I can assure you that you’ll enjoy the latest Matilda adaptation, aptly called Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical on Netflix. It’s pure energy, all bright colors and high-pitched emotions, but not overwhelmingly so. It is also funny and tender, and the techniques it uses to transition and transpose are eye-poppingly inventive. It stars Emma Thompson, once again prosthetic-ed to perfection; Lashana Lynch, a grounding and heartwarming presence; and Alisha Weir, a revelation of a child actor.

When Mikey Saber’s porn career takes a dip in California, he returns to an estranged wife in Texas, where he meets new and old friends alike and attempts to rebuild his life through a couple of odd jobs. Though Mikey eventually earns his keep, his vanity and eagerness to succeed at all costs threaten to get the best of him.

All this happens against a vibrant backdrop of local sights, beautifully lit and framed by director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine). Quaint, naturalistic, and ever-so-subtly political, Red Rocket is another great entry into Baker’s impressions of the vexed American Dream.

Unlike the many courtroom films of its time, My Cousin Vinny forgoes theatrics and drama for true-blue comedy. It stars Joe Pesci as the titular Vinny, a newly minted New York attorney who's taking on a murder trial in Alabama as his first case, while Marisa Tomei plays Vinny's fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito, in an Oscar-winning turn. The loudmouthed couple are decidedly out of place in Alabama, supplying the film with many comedic gems, but they're also unexpectedly clever. Along with its humor and memorable characters, My Cousin Vinny has come to be known for its legal accuracy and flair.

Miso may be living day to day on her meager earnings as a cleaner, but she is decidedly content. She insists that all she needs to get by are cigarettes, whiskey, and time with her boyfriend, so when a spike in rent and prices invites her to reassess her priorities, she doesn’t budge. Instead of forgoing these luxuries, she gives up her tiny place and couch surfs with her old bandmates. What follows is a reunion of sorts, where darkly humorous epiphanies are had on both ends about adulthood, responsibilities, and what it really means to be happy in an increasingly indifferent, profit-oriented world.  

Microhabitat treads on very grave themes, and the images it conjures can be unsettling. But it is also surprisingly light on its feet, displaying sharp satire and sweet empathy for its unyielding protagonist. Miso is portrayed with a smartness and softness that evades rational judgment, and this endearment makes the story, especially the ending, all the more painfulul, poignant, and impactful.

In 2003, NASA launched twin rovers Oppy (short for Opportunity) and Spirit into Mars expecting them to last for only 90 days. But equipped with almost human-like perseverance and personality, the rovers lasted for years, tracing terrain and reporting extraterrestrial findings back to Earth until Oppy’s final goodbye in 2018.

Good Night Oppy follows the rovers and the team who made their journeys possible, discovering warmth and emotion in the daunting task that is finding life on Mars. It’s as informational as it is inspirational, a gratifying watch on all accounts.

Welcome to the Dollhouse tells the story of Dawn, an unpopular seventh-grader mercilessly bullied at school and ignored at home. Her day-to-day is painful to watch; her classmates make fun of her, her teachers never believe her, and her parents punish her, blatantly favoring her other siblings over her. But all this she puts up with, as if going through the murky in-between stage that is adolescence isn't confusing enough. Dawn finds no respite elsewhere, except perhaps in her friend Ralphy (another target of bullying) and her crush, the high schooler Steve.  

A Sundance jury winner back in '96, Welcome to the Dollhouse is as darkly funny as it is grim. It takes on a deadpan approach in handling its more serious topics; it doesn't make fun of them so much as it shines them in a new and blinding light. It's difficult to look away from this frank and well-balanced film; a sure good watch for anyone curious to know what it's really like to be a teenage loner.