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This article contains spoilers for It Chapter Two as well as the preceding film and the original novel.

Like the Stephen King novel on which it’s based, It Chapter Two opens with a hate crime. Adrian Mellon (here played terribly by former director of note Xavier Dolan) kisses his boyfriend at a Derry carnival, and the two are followed out of it by a gang of homophobic hoodlums. The two are viciously beaten, and a barely-conscious Adrian is thrown over the side of a bridge into a rushing river. He’s pulled out and eaten by Pennywise. …


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About halfway through Mysterious Skin, the nervy, tender Brian Lackey (who believes himself the victim of alien abduction as a child) meets fellow abductee Avalyn. Avalyn tells Brian that for abductees like them, everything they do and think and feel is informed by that experience. It all comes down to that one moment of victimization. She means it as reassurance, a comforting thought in a confusing world. The idea that all your pain and anguish can be explained so simply is a tempting one. …


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There’s something so charming about a stoner comedy done right, and something equally insufferable about a stoner comedy done wrong. It’s a fine line to walk, mostly because being stoned out of your gourd is always a more interesting experience when you’re the one having it. A lot of stoner films fail to capture that feeling, and end up being more like the experience of hanging out with a stoned person when you’re sober. Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face succeeds on the back of an aesthetic recreation of what it’s like to be high, rather than being around someone who’s high.

The film’s editing is its MVP. Director Gregg Araki edited the film himself, and he does a fantastic job of imitating the brainwave rhythms of stoned protagonist Jane F. The film floats aimlessly between ideas and events, down a stream of consciousness without a paddle. Intentions and characters are introduced and forgotten and picked up again at the slightest external stimulus. A single half-remembered line of dialogue instigates a total change of direction for Jane. Sometimes she just forgets that she’s supposed to be doing anything and stares into space for a while. Other times her brain concots sprawling fantasies that quickly spin-off into obscurity and nonsense. This is what I mean when I say that Smiley Face does a good job of cinematically approximating what it’s like to be stoned. You’re forced to live inside these editing beats, sharing Jane’s headspace. …


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The other day, preeminent trans film critic Willow Maclay wrote a great piece regarding a definitional understanding of trans cinema. In it, she argues that what makes the growing trans cinema canon so exciting is that there is no hard and fast definition — what we call trans films resonate with trans people on an individual level, and for deeply personal reasons. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve written two pieces this year, on Alita: Battle Angel and Phoenix, which reckon with films that are not explicitly about trans people, yet still depict a close approximation of my experience of being a trans woman. …


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I’ve long been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed games. I say “long” in lieu of the longer explanation of how I fell in and out of love with the series, and then back in again, and the exact points at which those relationship shifts happened. Suffice to say: I loved the early games, took a break, and came back with the most recent entries. There are gaming pressure points the franchise, in its best installments, powerfully hit upon for me. The big one is their open world design. I remember spending hours upon hours just running across Venice rooftops in Assassin’s Creed II, or climbing to the top of the highest point in Constantinople in Revelations and paragliding off the tip over and over again. There’s some magic in the maps of these games, some potent combination of living history and digital playground. …


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Anyone who knows me knows that I love the John Wick movies a whole lot. That love is informed by a lot of things, not least among them the series’ knotty plotting and labyrinthine world-building. When an action scene happens to John Wick, it’s for a plethora of increasingly convoluted reasons. I think that’s fantastic. It’s a joy to watch unfold. Still, there’s joy to be found in exactly the opposite approach as well.

In The Legend of Drunken Master (as it was released in the States), there’s a plot, yes. But a good portion of the fight scenes have little to do with that. For the first half of the film, Jackie Chan’s Wong Fei-Hung fights mostly over petty slights. He fights because he’s good at it, and he likes it. The film understands that there’s really no need for a narrative excuse for action. …


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It’s hard to find the right word to describe what Elisabeth Moss is doing in Her Smell. The one that keeps coming to mind is “dangerous.” Not because it’s the role is a daring risk in terms of her career or image, far from it. It’s in the performance itself. It is so unhinged, so unrestrained, that every single moment teeters on the edge of a disastrous abyss. She has to give this character an insane amount of energy and never let up for a second. But she has to be smart enough not to let it tip into self-parody or camp, because that is decidedly not the movie Alex Ross Perry is making. Her Becky Something has to feel, in all her specific vocal tics and explosive emotional outbursts, like a fundamentally real person. Otherwise, the film’s sobering final third just feels like another act. That Moss pulls it off is nothing short of extraordinary. …


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Life is short. There are only so many movies you can fit into your schedule before your synapses stop firing. So I tend to have little patience for movies that make me feel as miserable as Good Time. Each successive scene presents a new object of distress, every development a new anxiety. Nothing good happens to anyone in Good Time.

The film is a harder watch the second time around, when you anticipate every forthcoming disaster. It’s a film you watch with eyes wide open the first time, and rewatch through your fingers. I’m not typically a squeamish viewer, but there are plenty of “oh god please don’t do that” moments here. Chief among them, of course, is Connie coming close to statutory rape in order to distract a teenage girl from his face appearing on the news. …


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Have you ever seen a movie with a climactic moment so perfectly thrilling, so explosive in its joyous energy, so precisely timed for maximum emotional release, that the rest of the thing almost doesn’t even matter? If you haven’t, I’m sorry, because it’s just the best feeling in the world when a movie gets it exactly right. Might I recommend one?

Linda Linda Linda ends with a flawless final performance that just radiates happiness, but for most of its runtime, it’s remarkably sedate. Director Nobuhiro Yamashita is what I’ve called a “tableau director;” his camera rarely moves, and he’s adept at crafting images awash in lived-in detail and naturalistic blocking. There’s a stillness to much of Linda Linda Linda that belies its punk rock core. …


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Queer movies of the 80s and 90s always have a tinge of apocalyptic dread to them. The mainstreaming of the gay rights movement meant the rise of a far more vocal opposition in the form of religious conservatism, and the AIDS crisis threatened nothing less than our extinction. The films of this era tend to reflect a sense of encroaching doom, the inevitability of decay in an uncaring world. That’s the case in America, anyway. I’m not as well versed in the queer history of Japan, but Hisayasu Sato’s Muscle shares much of the same concerns of the American queer cinema of the late 80s. …

About

Esther Rosenfield

A trans girl writing about movies, TV, games, and sometimes other stuff.

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