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  • Downton Abbey

    Downton Abbey

    ★★½

    “It takes a village,” says no one in Downton Abbey. Yet there’s no more accurate a proverb, in a film that doesn’t lack for them, for the effort involved in maintaining the appearance that the British aristocracy wasn’t going the way of the dodo in the early 20th century. But for better and worse, the film reorients this existential crisis, framing it almost exclusively from the point of the view of the domestic servants to the Crawley family, who learn…

  • Tigers Are Not Afraid

    Tigers Are Not Afraid

    ★★½

    At its most assured, Tigers Are Not Afraid strikingly literalizes the idea of the ties that bind, suggesting how the living and the dead walk hand in hand, almost as a matter of course, in a modern-day Mexico where 160,000 have been killed and 53,000 have disappeared since the beginning of the drug war in 2006. Before Estrella (Paola Lara) stumbles upon a dead man’s body, you get the sense that this day isn’t the first time she’s seen boys…

  • Papi Chulo

    Papi Chulo

    John Butler’s Papi Chulo is a shrill and insipid spectacle of cross-cultural communion, but don’t call it stupid, as that would suggest that it doesn’t know exactly what it’s doing. For one, “papi chulo” is pointedly never spoken in the film, which traces the emotional breakdown of a TV weatherman, Sean (Matt Bomer), reeling from a recent breakup and who desperately strikes up a friendship with a Latino migrant, Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño). “A vicious circle,” says Sean, describing the unpainted…

  • El Chicano

    El Chicano

    ★★

    At the root of the film is an essentially conservative belief that non-white, low-income communities are prone to self-destruction. On the other hand, El Chicano is wise to frame its vigilante justice as a response to the lack of response by those outside of such communities. Either way, the film peddles notions of self-realization and self-actualization that might have felt less moth-eaten had Ben Hernandez Bray’s direction lent them mythic grandeur.

    To read the rest of my Slant review, click here.

  • End of the Century

    End of the Century

    ★★★½

    A triptych of snapshots, two real and one possibly imagined, from the lives of two gay men, writer-director Lucio Castro’s End of the Century is at its most intense, and sexiest, when it’s also at its most unknowable. More precisely, up to the moment that one of these men, Ocho (Juan Barberini), remains unknown to himself, withering in uncertainty, Castro’s feature-length directorial debut is a profound and casually artful expression of the lengths to which people go in order to…

  • Island of the Hungry Ghosts

    Island of the Hungry Ghosts

    ★★★½

    Sometimes a metaphor is necessarily, unavoidably blunt. Case in point: the many shots in Gabrielle Brady’s documentary Island of the Hungry Ghosts that regard, from a measured distance, masses of migratory red crabs making their way toward the ocean across concrete roads. The setting is the Australian territory of Christmas Island, which has a population of just under 2,000 people and has become a haven for asylum seekers. Throughout the film, Brady stitches together images of the red crabs’ late-fall…

  • Boy Erased

    Boy Erased

    ★★

    Baby’s First Requiem for a Dream.

  • First Man

    First Man

    ★★★½

    That's one small step for film, one giant leap for Damien Chazelle.

  • Mandy

    Mandy

    ★★★

    The second half of Panos Cosmatos's film is, if nothing else, confirmation that Nic Cage is far from running out of the crazy gas. Glad, too, that "the bathroom scene," which cedes the stage fully to the actor, arrived when it did. Mandy's first half is all gauzy Lynchian call-outs, one after another occurring at a climax (which is to say, wanting for a sense of crescendo). Fetching but tiring. Then Cage's character steps into the bathroom, freaks out, and…

  • Sorry Angel

    Sorry Angel

    ★★★½

    Sorry Angel isn't as galvanic as Robin Campillo's BPM, but then galvanism isn't Christophe Honoré's end game here, at least not in the conventional sense of the term. I can count at least four quietly disarming moments off the top of my head—from the bathroom scene between Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) and Marco (Thomas Gonzalez) in which the latter so casually cracks wise about how AIDS has weakened his body, to the three main characters in the film lying together in…

  • Sorry to Bother You

    Sorry to Bother You

    ★★½

    Cult indie rapper Boots Riley's feature-length debut, Sorry to Bother You, is a satire about the desperation of being down and out in America when you're a person of color. Which is to say, the film knows what's real—though “real” isn't the right word to attribute to this sci-fi comedy whatsit that takes place in an alternate-reality version of Oakland where everywhere you turn is an advertisement touting Worry Free Living, a voluntary forced-labor system.

    The film's greatest gag occurs…

  • Paul, Apostle of Christ

    Paul, Apostle of Christ

    ★★

    The unseen Nero casts a large shadow over the film's Rome, where Christians are immolated and forced to live in the shadows. And yet director Andrew Hyatt doesn't exactly make us feel the horror of this oppression in the pit of our stomachs, and not because his camera literally turns away from the film's most graphic depictions of violence. The film's narrative takes place across conspicuously clean sets that, like the garden where Mauritius holds court and gives good face…