By: Henry J. Fromage –
This week, for the first time in three years, my travel schedule aligned with the Wisconsin Film Festival, the first four flicks below being my bounty.
Zhang Yimou returns to opulently costumed and production designed period pieces with ample balletic action and blood-spurting violence. However, he’s trying new things, with a striking black, white, and grey color scheme that evokes ancient Chinese landscape paintings and heightened, even shrill, performances evoking Chinese opera. It’s not going to be for everyone, but when the razor umbrella fights start, I wager you’ll want to be there. Three Beers.
99. Ash is Purest White
Jia Zhangke delivers what feels like a career summation alongside his wife and longtime lead actress Zhao Tao, who resembles Meryl Streep in more than just her face. This ode to the changing face of China in the last two decades mirrors the evolution of Zhangke’s own career, and reinforces his status as the preeminent filmmaker in the country. Two Beers.
100. Little Woods
With this film, Nia DaCosta establishes one hell of a calling card that she’s already tossed down- she’s the latest filmmaker to join Jordan Peele’s ever-increasing, ever-promising roster. Little Woods is a small-scaled drug dealer thriller and drama that benefits immensely from Tessa Thompson and Lily James’s sisterly chemistry, but especially Thompson’s amazing ability to communicate multitudes without speaking even a word. Two Beers.
101. Hotel by the River
At this point, you know what you’re getting with Hong Sang-soo, and for me what I’m getting is an occasionally insightful, but always talky and painfully self-analytic arthouse film following the same general template he’s been following for two decades. I always feel like I should see if the lauding of his latest is the one that makes me understand it all, but here we are again, at: Four Beers.
102. Happy Death Day 2
Who would have thought that a Groundhog Day/slasher mashup would have spun comic and high-concept genre gold for not one, but two franchise outings. I’m still not as sold on some of the easy humor as most, but there’s no denying the magnetism of Jessica Rothe nor the visual inventiveness on display here. Three Beers.
103. World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts
Don Hertzfeldt does it again, returning to his Oscar-nominated, visually mind-blowing, utterly delightful world of tomorrow, in which time travelling tourist clones of little 4 year old Emily (voiced by his own obviously completely precious niece) visit her at play and take her on a journey across time and the cosmos once more. One of the true cinematic joys, and well worth the Vimeo rental fee. A Toast.