Every month A Place for Film will bring you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series will reflect the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema, as well as demonstrate the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | Creed II (2018)
I’m a big fan of the Rocky franchise, and I loved writer-director Ryan Coogler’s reinvention of said franchise with Creed. Director Steven Caple Jr. takes over the reigns for this sequel, and he does a great job at giving some visceral life to familiar story beats. Michael B. Jordan gives an excellent lead performance as Adonis Creed, the son of classic Rocky character Apollo Creed. The supporting cast is great, especially Tessa Thompson as Creed’s musician wife Bianca and Sylvester Stallone as the iconic Rocky Balboa. You can only truly enjoy Creed II if you’ve seen the other Rocky movies, especially Rocky IV. But it’s also a great boxing movie that takes time to offer reflective commentary on themes such as legacy and how pain can be passed on through generations. The final fight alone is worth the price of admission.
Laura Ivins, contributor | First Man (2018)
When I went to see First Man (Damien Chazelle, 2018) last month, I didn’t know anything about it. The family wanted to see a movie together, and this seemed like the most appealing – or at least inoffensive – option for a group with widely divergent tastes. Nothing too violent for some; nothing too cutesy for others.
From the first scene, I was blown away. Unlike many astronaut films, First Man stays close to the perspective of the astronauts themselves, preferring first-person close-ups from inside the shuttle rather than the usual wide-shots that focus on the technical beauty of spacecraft. The perspective is disorienting and claustrophobic, and even though we mostly know what’s going to happen (because the film is based on familiar historical events), the novel storytelling techniques create effective tension.
This might top my list of favorites for 2018.
Caleb Allison, contributor | First Man (2018)
Damien Chazelle’s First Man puts us in the driver’s seat with the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, but you already knew that. You know how it all ends and its significance, no spoilers there, but Chazelle offers a perspective and style that is so intimate and enveloping it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a biopic that gets caught up in the historical details or technical jargon of going to the moon, but revels in the cinematic and aural rhythms of flight and the emotional repression it took to do it. Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy are Neil and Janet Armstrong residing on opposite ends of the emotional health spectrum, and the heart or heartbreak of the film often rests in their dynamic.
First Man is decidedly not in line with the Apollo 13-type space movie (which I happen to think is still very good), where everything is clearly explained, communicated, and read. It has its own charms, but Chazelle prefers to revel in ambivalence, gestures, and things unsaid, which more than makes up for its foregone narrative conclusion. It’s not about the ultimate achievement, it’s about the process and its toll.
The cinematography mirrors the highly intimate bubble of the space program and the internalized emotional build-up of Armstrong, with close-ups so claustrophobic you can’t breathe and cockpit dials shaking so violently you feel it in your seat. The sound design and score contribute no small part of this. Justin Hurwitz’s score knows exactly when to bathe you in operatic theremins and when to thrust you forward with rhythmic, almost western, bravado. For most of the film it’s all about the increasingly tense build-up of sounds, and then, all of a sudden, it’s about no sound, and we are Neil Armstrong on the moon in majestic 70mm. It is otherworldly and about as close as anyone of us will ever come to being there. This one’s definitely worth stepping outside the capsule for, folks.
Michaela Owens, editor | Blindfold (1966)
When Arthur Vicenti, a valuable government scientist and a former patient of psychiatrist Dr. Bartholomew Snow (Rock Hudson), suffers a mental breakdown, CIA man Gen. Pratt (Jack Warden) coerces Snow into treating Vicenti at a secret location that requires him to be blindfolded every time he is taken there. Things only get more complicated when Snow meets Vicenti’s sister, Vicki (Claudia Cardinale), who will stop at nothing to figure out what has happened to her missing brother. As if that wasn’t enough, Snow is approached by Fitzpatrick (Guy Stockwell), a man who claims to be from the real CIA and makes Snow question if Gen. Pratt is the real deal. Has Snow been helping the enemy all along?
Blindfold is a little quirkier than your typical spy yarn. It has a great sense of humor, which works in tandem with the thriller aspects quite well. The movie’s first big fight scene is a good example. Snow is grabbed by the bad guys and taken to a nearby storage shed to be interrogated about Vicenti’s whereabouts. He is able to break free, though, and briefly fights them off by swinging around a canoe that he accidentally gets his head stuck in. He then finds himself keeping them at bay by spraying them with a fire extinguisher…while sitting on a carousel horse. The whole situation becomes a little ridiculous, which is reflected in Snow’s giddy reaction.
Hudson and Cardinale are simply terrific together. Although their first meeting doesn’t go smoothly, their characters share an instant connection that neither of them expected. Whenever they are alone together, there is an undeniable sensuality between them. Blindfold is a stylish, lush piece of entertainment with two winsome leads and an incredible supporting cast. Its daffy charm and clever script are sure to please you. I mean, it’s Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale — what’s not to like?
Note: I couldn’t find a trailer, so here is a tribute video instead.
David Carter, contributor | Set It Off (1996)
A film came out a few weeks ago that I’ve been eagerly anticipating all year called Widows. It’s a heist movie filled with incredible actors both veteran (Liam Neeson, Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jacki Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Jon Bernthal) and up-and-comers (Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry) and has all the elements of my beloved “3 star” thrillers but exceeds those aims and becomes something truly worthy of the awards buzz it’s getting. It’s also a heist movie with a predominantly female cast and one where the heist is committed only by a team of women.
Ever since this movie was announced it immediately rung a bell in my head. The bell it was ringing was a movie called Set It Off, directed by Friday and Fate of the Furious’ F. Gary Gray and written by Takashi Bufford (House Party 3) and Kate Lanier (What’s Love Got to Do with It?). This film came out in the mid-’90s back when it seemed a little more common to have a black-directed and -led film get a wide release and be something that wasn’t a raunchy comedy, an after-church film, or a prestige picture that has to the carry the weight of representing an entire culture for a year. It was a film that could be an entertaining piece of popcorn fun, have black people (women even!) in front of and behind the camera and be great all at the same time. Imagine that.
The film stars an incredible cast of talent kind of before they became household names. Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah (who amusingly would later star in 2017’s Girls Trip together and make a not-so-subtle reference to this movie), Vivica A. Fox (hot off of Independence Day), and Kimberly Elise (whose sadly the exception of that earlier statement about household names — she’s worked steadily since but never had quite as big a career) all play women down on their luck and even further down on their circumstances in the hoods of L.A. When things hit bottom for 3 out of the 4 women, they decide it’s time to take matters into their own hands and get the money they need by robbing banks. To say more would dissuade you from seeing the film. All that you need to know is that for me the film is a quintessential ’90s heist film and neo-noir with some great set pieces and amazing chemistry among the cast. If you’ve seen Widows and want something else with that energy or just want something fun and exciting to watch on a Friday with a little heft to it, then seek out this film.