Indie Gems: 52 Tuesdays

When you don't know why you're sad.

Sixteen year old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is blindsided when her mother Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) tells her she's going to begin the transition from female to male. She changes her name to James, and has Billie move in with her father (Beau Travis Williams) for one year during her transition. They make a deal to meet every Tuesday from 4:00pm-10:00pm to spend time together. Billie navigates her mother's transition all while exploring her sexuality with her new friends. 

Director Sophie Hyde actually shot this film on every Tuesday for an entire year in South Australia. She didn't use professional actors and they were only given their scripts a week at a time. This is a tremendous gamble, but it paid off. Billie spends a good amount of the movie speaking to her own camera, and recording her friends. The use of non actors made it feel unprofessional in the best way possible.

Cobham-Hervey is a natural talent, and I hope I see her in more films. She really grasps Billie's confusion and insecurities. Del Herbert-Jane (who in real life identifies as gender neutral) plays James so well. She really showcased the frustrating aspects of transitioning and it not going the way you planned. 

The film isn't perfect. It shifts between Billie and James, and Billie and her two friends, which end up taking the bulk of the story later on. There's also Billie's eccentric uncle Harry (Mario Späte) who really doesn't seem to fit in the story. I could never tell if he was meant for levity or just to be a pain in the ass.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "A year is a long time at your age." - James (Del Herbert-Jane)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies that feature an actor who passed away in 2016

This might be the saddest theme Wanderer has ever presented us. We lost far too many great artists in 2016. Three of those artists hit me the hardest, and I'm going to share my favorite film of each of theirs.

1) Snow Cake - Alan Rickman

Rickman also played Severus Snape, one of the most fascinating characters in the Harry Potter series but his work in this little indie Snow Cake is among my favorites. He plays a man who goes to report the death of a woman he just met to her mother, who has autism and forms an interesting relationship with her. 

2) Like Crazy - Anton Yelchin

Narrowing down a Yelchin performance is difficult. I think my favorite film he's been in is Alpha Dog, but I wanted to pick a performance where he's the lead, and he was spectacular in Like Crazy.


3) The Empire Strikes Back - Carrie Fisher

I know it's rather typical to pick a Star Wars movie for Fisher, but Empire Strikes Back is still the best Star Wars movie out there and I count it among my favorite films of all time.

I really wish I didn't have to write this post at all. I wish these wonderful actors were still with us. 

Review: Jackie

Let them see what they've done.

In the days after John F. Kennedy's assassination, we follow his widow Jackie (Natalie Portman) as she recounts her experiences to a journalist. (Billy Cudrup)

It's a simple story, but enhanced by brilliant performances and the best score out of any film this year. Jackie is simply enchanting. This wasn't the Jackie Kennedy I expected to see. I can't say I've ever given her a thought that was deeper than superficial. Seeing her poise on how she handled something so traumatic was admirable. From trying to plan the funeral with Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgard) to telling her young children what happened, to leaning on her assistant, Nancy. (Greta Gerwig)

What Portman does here is amazing. She tries so hard to hold her emotion back, only for strong waves of it to seep through occasionally. We see her as a First Lady who is nervous in front of a camera to one who wants to face it head on so she doesn't hide from the American people. Sarsgard is also very good as Bobby Kennedy, and Gerwig FINALLY plays someone that isn't Greta Gerwig.

The film is the perfect length for its subject matter, and like I mentioned earlier, the score is magical. You never feel it dragging.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "And I don't smoke." - Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman)

Review: Hidden Figures

Can a lady get some credit around here?

The United States is in a race against Russian to put a man on the moon. NASA hires a handful of African American women but no matter how hard they work, they're still stuck in the basement. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is a math genius who is given an assignment to work under Al Harrison. (Kevin Costner)  She's the smartest person in the room, but her white male colleagues give her zero credit and welcome her with a "colored coffee pot" instead when she dares use theirs. The man she works with the most, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) frequently treats her like a secretary instead of an equal. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) works in engineering, but she doesn't get the title of an engineer because the courses she needs are only offered at an all white school. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) does all the work of a supervisor without the title or the pay. We watch these extraordinary women defy the odds and triumph in a world that's stacked against them.

Hidden Figures is an appropriate title. It's embarrassing to say that I had never heard of their stories before seeing a preview for this film. This is yet another reason why I love movies. They shine light on important things that I've missed.

I found myself getting so irritated at everyone in this film that wasn't Doorthy, Mary, or Katherine. Every time a door is slammed in their face, or they were treated with the bare minimum of respect, or when they have to run half a mile to use "their" bathroom, my heart ached. Even knowing I would get that eventual happy ending watching the behavior of some of the characters in this film was just gross. Seriously, every time Jim Parson's character opened his mouth...


Taraji is a breathtaking lead. I wish more people were talking about her in the best actress race. Monae and Spencer also give excellent performances. Kevin Costner was actually tolerable and it's nice to see Parsons play someone very different from Sheldon Cooper. Mahershala Ali is also a welcomed presence in a small role. 

It's a very formulaic film, but backed with an amazing ensemble and a great message, Hidden Figures rises above the normal biopic standards. I wanted to cry tears of joy when it was over just seeing what these women accomplished. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "God forbid anyone get in the way of Mary Jackson's dreams, myself included." - Levi Jackson (Aldis Hodge)

Indie Gems: A Man Called Ove

Idiots.

Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is 59 years old and recently retired. His beloved wife passed away six months earlier, and he has plans to join her, but every time he attempts to end his life, something distracts him. Whether it be his neighbors annoying dog, who he must berate. Or someone driving down the path they're not supposed to in his housing complex. Ove spends most of his time being a grouch. Then he gets new neighbors. Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) is a friendly mother of soon to be three who seems to understand him a bit, and she and her family made it harder for Ove to end it all.

A Man Called Ove finds a perfect balance between humor, sadness, and warmth. Ove's blunt manner and insistence that his neighbor's chihuahua looks more like a slipper are endlessly amusing. When we flash back to Ove's early life and time with his wife, we see that he's always been a bit standoffish, but he's faced enough tragedy that his attitude isn't surprising. While it's plot is somewhat similar to A Single Man, I didn't find myself comparing the two at all. 

Lassgård give an absolutely amazing performance. I wish he was in the Best Actor race this year. While Ove spends a lot of time being grumpy, it's those moments when he cracks that Lassgård shines the most. Pars is also a wonderfully peaceful edition. She's so kind and patient it's easy to see why she and her family of all people were able to get to him. 

Grade: A-

Watched on: DVD

Memorable Quote: "Keep those bastards off our path." - Ove (Rolf Lassgård)

Thursday Movie Picks: The Fashion World

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves makes my wallet hurt. I wish I could afford to dress in designer clothes and have a fancy job to show them off. Alas, I just get to watch movies about it. Here are my favorites.

1) The Devil Wears Prada

I'm sure this one will be popular. I never expected to like a film like this. It looked so "meh" to me then I ended up absolutely loving it. Hathaway, Streep, and Blunt were so amusing during awards season too. I'll never forget them wondering aloud at the Oscars whether someone got Streep a latte or not.

2) The Bling Ring

The true story of some fashion obsessed teens that actually had the balls to rob celebrity houses. I watched the reality show Pretty Wild, which starred two of the people in the Bling Ring. It was trashy fun. 

3) Funny Face

A bookstore worker meets a photographer who makes her into a model. A fun film with the charming Audrey Hepburn. 

Review: La La Land

Here's to the dreamers.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress working as a barista on a studio lot. By chance, she keeps running into Sebastian, (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist who dreams of owning his own club, but is stuck in the past music wise. This musical follows their relationship as artists in LA.

Despite a few questionable camera techniques, La La Land is beautiful to look at. It's bright and sunny even when our characters are at their worst. I loved everything from the places they shot to the outfits they worse. (Seriously, can I have Mia's wardrobe?) The musical numbers are a joy to watch and are very reminiscent of old Hollywood. I love anything that throws in a tap(ish) routine.

Stone gives the performance of her career in this role. It's hard not to love Mia, she's funny and charming and you can't help but get angry for her when she's shut down while giving a good audition. Gosling is good as well, and he and Stone have wonderful chemistry. As far as the singing, neither actor is a very strong vocalist.

The story itself, aside from the musical aspect is very generic and fairly predictable, which brings me to awards season. Without the music, I don't think we would be talking about this as a Best Picture front runner. I couldn't help but be reminded of The Artist while I watched it. This is a film that's gimmick is going to take it straight to the top. But is it going to be remembered the same way The Artist is now? With somewhat of a "ehh" years later? I can't help but feel a little weird about this, despite liking it so much. Arrival and Moonlight are better films in my opinion, but they're not flashy. I can't even get behind that it was a risk making this film because look at how the Academy ate up The Artist? This isn't a risk, they love it.

I don't want to sound like I'm hating on this, because I loved it, truly. Not as much as I have loved other films this year, but I had to bring this up somewhere.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Did you just say 'serious musician?'" - Mia (Emma Stone)