J.S. Lewis

J.S. Lewis

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Reflecting on cinema through video essays, ranked lists and more.

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  • Dick Johnson Is Dead

    Dick Johnson Is Dead

    ★★★★★

    ► VIDEO: Why Dick Johnson Is Dead Just Became My Film of the Year

    How do we approach the sunset of a loved one’s life? Do we treat it like a taboo topic, not wishing to discuss it until we’re on death’s doorstep or do we approach it head-on, with our eyes wide to the inevitability of it all? Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson doesn’t wait idly by for death to come knocking at her father’s door. No, she flings the door…

  • The Social Dilemma

    The Social Dilemma

    ★★★

    I honestly believe this is a documentary that everybody should watch. Usually, that kind of statement is reserved for something truly great, which The Social Dilemma is not, but it does a respectable job highlighting an issue that greatly affects us all.

    Documentarian Jeff Orlowski wastes no time rolling out the silicon carpet for the impressive slate of interviewees, former higher-ups from all the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Letterboxd (just kidding). One by one, they sound off on how…

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  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    ★★★★½

    This absolutely rips and it most certainly roars. Not a second feels wasted in this fly, wicked, frisky and ultimately calamitous rat-a-tat chamber piece almost entirely set in a recording studio on a sweltering Chicago day in 1927. As with the fantastic Fences, August Wilson’s stageplay comes to life onscreen with the world on the wings as it settles down with some powerhouse performers.

    Viola Davis has only been better in Fences. She might not be singing, but she’s grabbing…

  • Underwater

    Underwater

    ★★½

    Man, I really wanted to like this one. When putting its best boot forward, there are shades of Alien and The Descent. It even has one of the most jaw-dropping movie moments of 2020. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get past the presentation and found this to be a strained eyesore at almost every turn. I get it, the herky-jerky cinematography and murky-lurky visuals are intentional and there for effect—it’s U N D E R W A T E R after all—but is it too much to ask for spectacle to be perceptible?

    ◘ HBO Max (Highland, UT)

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  • Hands of Bresson

    Hands of Bresson

    ★★★★

    Young hands. Old hands. Clean hands. Dirty hands. Free hands. Imprisoned hands. Steady hands. Shaky hands. The hands of an alcoholic. The hands of a pickpocket. Black and white hands. Hands in color.

    You can learn a lot about a filmmaker's body of work by focusing on one part of the body. Video essayist Kogonada artfully isolates the hands at work in the films of French auteur Robert Bresson. The director is known for lingering shots on hands, perhaps something…

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    ★★

    This sequel trilogy could be summarized with an analogy of a teenager whose parents go away for the weekend:

    THE FORCE AWAKENS sees the teen playing things incredibly safe and following all the rules their parents set for them. It’s a sweet gesture, but it kind of makes you wish the kid had some personality of their own.

    THE LAST JEDI on the other hand is a conscious bending and breaking of those rules. It’s a raucous house party with…