Everything Everywhere All At Once

a24/139 mins.

Ronan Moore

If you want to read a quick review: it’s as good as everyone says it is.

I got the privilege to see this alongside my fellow filmmakers at UNCSA, and both times I saw it, they talked about how evident it was that Daniels (the directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) absolutely love making movies. They’re not selective, they’re not picky; they love everything about making and watching all different kinds of movies. The brand of these particular directors can be off-putting for some, as they veer in the direction of very silly and zany setups before revealing the true heart underneath. I strongly hope to see more from them after this, but they made Everything Everywhere All At Once like it was the last film they were ever going to make, and you can tell in the best possible way.

The films follows Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), an older woman who runs a laudromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Evelyn finds herself rather displeased with her life, with a daughter (Stephanie Hsu) who never calls and endless taxes to hash out. On the day she goes to visit the IRS in hopes to resolve things with the inspector (Jamie Lee Curtis), she’s swept up into an incredible adventure across the infinite multiverse, tasked with stopping the nefarious Jobu Tupaki, who’s closer to Evelyn than Evelyn may realize.

I find the best way to describe films from Daniels is to take two elements that you wouldn’t believe are from the same film. In this film, you will find Michelle Yeoh fighting two men in order to prevent either from inserting a buttplug, and in the same runtime, you will find Michelle Yeoh convincing someone why it’s worth it to live your life regardless of how small you may feel when existence is so big. It’s ridiculous and it’s tender. It’s insanity and it’s loving. I have seen many brazen souls shed a tear at this incredible feat of filmmaking. Believe it or not, this is a stroke of googly-eyed genius.

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Jasper Mall


window pictures/84 mins.

by ronan moore

As I’ve grown up, I’ve asked my mom a lot of questions about what she did when she was my age. One thing that was a certified staple of her teen years was going to the mall with friends. Decades ago, malls were the place to be, but evidently, their prominence as social spaces has faded due to the advent of shopping online and other technological advances that have worn down the attractiveness of what malls have to offer. More malls are closing everyday, and thus, stories like the ones found in Jasper Mall are becoming harder and harder to find.

Jasper Mall tells the story of a lot of folks, but the documentary centers around a superintendent/security officer/caretaker named Mike. Mike provides a lot of history around the mall, from its inception and success in the 80’s to its slow but sure quelling of occupants. We also meet many of the storeowners, even as several of them prepare to pack up and leave, knowing that maintaining a future there is not viable. Even so, the mall is not dead. We meet a few of the previously mentioned occupants, like an interracial high school couple and a group of men who gather to play dominoes every afternoon. In a way, at the expense of the mall’s success, the viewer gets to know everyone on camera more intimately.

Thanks to a Q&A session with Bradford Thomason, one of the directors, the audience got to learn more about the ideas behind the making of the documentary and even more about the people featured in the film. Apparently, there was a shoplifiting incident that Mike removed his mic to go take care of, much to the chagrin of Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, the other director. There were moments and places that they hoped to capture, but weren’t able to for one reason or another. In general, it was a delightful experience to be able to learn about this place that used to be enormous; and though its emptiness has grown, there will always be a lot of soul within the walls of this old mall in Jasper, Alabama.

a/perture was delighted to host this film and Q&A for one night only. Thomason also confirmed that physical versions of the film will become available, so keep an eye out for that!

The Batman

by Ronan Moore

warner bros/176 mins.

I’d be surprised if you didn’t know who Batman was. At least nine different films with the name “Batman” have come out since the mid 60’s, all featuring billionaire Bruce Wayne stopping the efforts of a criminal, some sympathetic, some sadistic. Matt Reeves’ interpretation of the Caped Crusader is not an enormous departure from previous entries in the pantheon of Batman, as this entry certainly owes its existence to Nolan’s trilogy. However, I do not think that a director’s love for the character has ever been so apparent. This movie forgoes connections to other DC films in order to completely hone in on a variety of aspects that the character brought to audiences on the page. Reeves’ infatuation with the character makes for a curious case study in fandom, for better or worse.

The Batman starts with this particular interpretation of the character (Robert Pattinson) in his second year of vigilantism in Gotham City. The police know him, and save for Jim Gordon (Jeffery Wright), they don’t much like him. Much to their chagrin, working with Batman is the only chance they have at stopping the newest threat to Gotham – a deranged serial killer with a penchant for brain teasers known simply as The Riddler (Paul Dano). Every member of this cast puts out spectacular performances, with my personal favorite being that of Jeffery Wright, whose casual use of “man” when referring to the guy dressed in gun metal grey gives me a good chuckle.

Unfortunately, I do feel that the film wavers when it comes to consistency across its 3-hour runtime. There are many moments, like the introduction of Pattinson’s Batman, that excited me and even gave me goosebumps, but there are just as many moments where I feel the mystery is drained from this detective story because Matt Reeves seems to struggle with subtlety in a lot of cases, making it feel like you’re being told important plot elements just to move the story along. There are also a handful of plot elements that, while not necessarily poorly written, are not essential to a story that’s already packed so tightly. It’s apparent, after some deliberation, that this movie did not require almost 180 minutes to tell a solid and effective story.

Public perception will be interesting to watch, especially since the Batman character is a role model of many men, young and old, across the world. I think it’s especially interesting when considering the fact that Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman not only serves as a rather forced love interest out of obligation to source material, but also does not truly get the agency she deserves in her own story. What I hope this film will inspire is conversations about masculinity, and the lessons we take away from a man that is still learning how to truly be a hero. But who knows? Ultimately, it’s an entertaining, if a bit bloated, cinematic experience that is definitely worth an eighth of your day.

2022 Oscars: Animated Shorts

by Ronan Moore

Animation has always been very near and dear to my heart, so it was a joy and a privilege to be able to check out this year’s Oscar-nominated animated short films. I’ll do a short blurb about each, give it my rating, and tell you which one I think should win. I can’t wait any longer to talk about these shorts, so let’s jump into it!

Affairs of the Art

beryl productions/16 mins.

A quirky artist reflects on her life and the people she grew up with, comparing their journeys with her own to ultimately reflect on where they’ve all ended up today.

The fluid style is sincerely impressive, and it’s always nice to see 2D animation in a world where there’s less of it every day. Unfortunately, I can’t say I liked everything else as much as I liked the animation. There’s not much of a story; rather, a series of loosely tied together anecdotes that the protagonist narrates outside of her own scenes. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to see it, but I don’t think it should win.

Rating: /

Bestia (Beast)

maleza studio/16 mins.

A woman, Ingrid, works for the Chilean Intelligence Directorate in 1975. Her relationship with her feelings, her dog and her body all come to a front to reveal the true nature of the situation in which she lives.

A wholly disturbing and authentic look at a piece of Chilean history. The complete lack of words adds to the immediate unsettling nature of the short. The animation style gels well with the type of story being told, and is used in a very clever way at the end. I would encourage you to research “Chilean military dictatorship” if you’re looking for more context behind this short, but be warned; just like in this short, there is no regard for human life or wellbeing. Very uncomfortable, but I must say that it lacks the edge to justify it. I am unsure if it deserves the golden statue.

Rating: ///

BoxBallet

melnitsa animation studio/15 min.

Olya, a talented ballerina, and Evgeny, a roughed-up boxer, meet each other by chance. From there, an unexpected love begins to blossom.

This film never slows down too severely from where it starts, and it’s one of my favorites because of that. I laughed a lot at this one, and while the only spoken words in the entire runtime are rather R-rated, I was really invested in the relationship between the nimble ballet dancer and the gruff boxer! It even offers an interesting realistic twist that, while uncomfortable, ends up making the resolution that much sweeter to witness. I’d be quite happy if this one ended up winning.

Rating: ////

The Windshield Wiper

leo sanchez studio/15 mins.

A lone man in a cafe poses the question: “What is love?” A series of vignettes try to find the answer to his question.

I’ve actually seen this animation style one other time, in a show called Love, Death and Robots that I would emphatically recommend for you to check out on Netflix. But to get back on track, Alberto Mielgo’s vivid, lifelike style is so enchanting to watch – I’m shocked it isn’t rotoscoped. As for the story behind the short, the idea isn’t bad. However, it’s easy to tell that it needed more time in the oven, and that ends up hurting what impact this short could have had. The storytelling that weaves throughout each segment is decent, but nothing to write home about. Definitely worth seeing, but doesn’t hold a candle to this last short.

Rating: ///

Robin Robin

aardman animations/31 mins.

Robin, a bird raised by mice, sets out to find food for her family, and ultimately ends up finding herself in the process.

I should tell you that I’m probably a little biased when it comes to this one. Aardman is responsible for Wallace and Gromit, a franchise that was fundamental in my animation upbringing, and I’ve always been charmed by what they put out. So when they put out a cute musical about a bird growing up with a family of mice, I already knew this one would be my favorite. Adorable character design, whimsical songs, top-notch production design and a heartwarming story? Game over, man. This one should win, and I hope it does. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, so please go check it out.

Rating: /////

I hope y’all have an opportunity to come check these out at a/perture starting this Friday! Click the link below to get your tickets now!

The Worst Person In The World

by/ronan moore

neon/128 min

I think young people are tired of being told how easy they have it. Telling people younger than you that life only gets harder isn’t the incentive you think it is. Life is always hard – and you choose to do with that information what you will. You can try to plan out the rest of your life, or you can try to live in the moment. You’ll more than likely end up doing a mix of both. You may feel like you have no idea how to do it. Neither does Julie.

Joachim Trier’s final installment in his Oslo trilogy is separated into fourteen parts, spacing out a narrative that isn’t necessarily structured to be observed back-to-back. Over the course of the film’s runtime, Renate Reinsve’s Julie tries to figure out the direction in which to guide her life, which people to surround herself with, and most importantly, how she wants to reflect on the person she is when all is said and done. Her journey is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. A soulful through-line ensures that you endure her struggles as if they were your own, because, in all honesty, they very well could be.

Though Julie herself is rarely confident, Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt’s script flies along with its unusual structuring, boasting strong characterizations and devastating dialogue. Though its style veers on the self-indulgent side from time to time, the strongest, most emotional moments rarely suffer from this. The Worst Person In The World is an intimate story with moments of extraordinary beauty, both happy and sad. It’s hard to tell where it might go next, but when you decide to tell a story about life, isn’t that the most authentic way to do it?

sundance satellite 2022: emergency

by/ronan moore

Emergency Review: Sundance Buddy Comedy Tackles Racism in America – The  Hollywood Reporter

As introductions to Sundance go, you certainly can’t go wrong with this one.

Kunle and Sean, two college students on the brink of graduation, plan an intense night of partying. All that is upended, however, when an unconscious young white girl is found in their living room. Fearing the worst may happen if the authorities are contacted, they take it upon themselves to find a solution to the problem.

One thing people may not get from the marketing around this film is that it’s pretty darn funny. RJ Cyler shines as Sean, an incisive, if a bit inebriated, friend to the group determined to help the young girl. Many moments with him garnered great laughs in the theater. The one responsible for the biggest laughs, though, was Sebastian Chacon’s Carlos, an optimistic misfit who is deceptively prepared for anything. The protagonist, Donald Watkins’ Kunle pretty much plays the straight man, but while he bears the brunt of carrying the film’s more serious moments, he is not without a good chuckle or two.

To bring it back to the serious moments of this film, there are many sobering instances that shine a light on what life is really like for young Black Americans. I had the privilege of seeing Emergency with a very reactive audience, so when scenes that played on the suspense of white outsiders misinterpreting the situation the main characters found themselves in, you could feel the collective heart rate of the room go up. There are some moments that expertly entwine comedy and social commentary, particularly towards and at the end.

This film is greatly elevated by its script and direction. Carey Williams does an outstanding job of elevating the genres he’s using by combining their strengths and providing results in the form of strong emotional moments. The conflict between Kunle and Sean is given so many more dimensions than most “college party” movies because Williams’ story and direction take full advantage of the Blackness of these characters. I think (and sincerely hope) that this movie inspires more conversations because of what it manages to say with its genre balancing. In my humble opinion, a film that makes you laugh and think is the best kind of film.