The Color Purple
Blitz Bazawule's adaptation of the Alice Walker classic (and the Broadway musical) is a more joyful, celebratory film than its predecessor.
The Color Purple has taken on a musicality ever since Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones adapted Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the screen. When the first film was released in 1985, Spielberg already referred to it as a “musical.” In a behind-the-scenes interview about the film's musicality included in Warner Bros’ sumptuous new 4K release, Walker, Spielberg, and Jones conduct us through the “diverse places” that music appears in the original film. There are rail work songs, African dance, juke joint blues, and revival gospel; all tonally matched together in a near seamless “immersion” of sound.
In an age where nearly every popular and cult film gets a Broadway adaptation, The Color Purple is a particular no-brainer. Celie’s journey of self-discovery through systematic abuses and struggles at the turn of the twentieth century lends itself to the kind of emotional bigness a musical requires. With music by the legendary Brenda Russell and the late queer songwriting icon Allee Willis, The Color Purple: The Musical also showcases a diverse range of musical styles and modes, especially those well suited for the stage, like swing and Greek chorus. Continue Reading →
Once Within a Time
When Godfrey Reggio’s monumental experimental documentary Koyannistqatsi (Life Out of Balance in Hopi) first entered the zeitgeist, its radical nature as a postmodern film, with a thoroughly entrancing score by Phillip Glass, became intertwined with the rise of MTV and a new era of visual aesthetic being born within the music sphere. From the noise rock band Cows to electronic musicians Dr. Atmo and Oliver Leib to superstar pop singer Madonna, the film had an indelible effect on music and the music video. Continue Reading →
A portrait of a closeted lesbian woman living in England during Margaret Thatcher’s oppressively homophobic 1980s reign, Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean illustrates a unique paradox for a critic. How does one navigate criticizing a film’s self-imposed binaries while also accounting for the realities of a restrictive period, the gravity of the subject matter (and parallel current circumstances), and the differentiation of what is intended as cinematic affect and what constitutes clumsy filmmaking? Continue Reading →
On a Wing and a Prayer
It’s 2009: Owl City changed the way people looked at fireflies, America was gripped by the reality TV exploits of a couple with eight kids. Oh, and an ordinary man with little flying experience named Doug White had to land a private plane with his family onboard after the pilot fell unconscious. The year of Balloon Boy was a wild one. Continue Reading →
Luther: The Fallen Sun
Idris Elba has been playing DCI John Luther for over a decade. A mixture of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, he’s a violent, angry, dedicated detective, doing whatever necessary to catch the grisliest criminals. Finally, after six seasons, Luther finds himself in a feature film, Luther: The Fallen Sun, with many of the trappings of his British series. A horrific serial killer is on the loose. The anti-hero detective must stop him, but there’s a major obstacle in his way. Specifically, he’s staring out at the world through the bars of a jail cell. Continue Reading →
Babylon is a frenetic crash course in Hollywood history that plays fast and loose with most of its facts. However, it still paints a vivid portrait of Tinseltown from its birth to the behemoth it is today. You won’t find the meticulous and mind-boggling commitment to detail of Mank (most of Margot Robbie’s costuming looks more 2010s than 1920s). Still, director and screenwriter Damien Chazelle is less interested in getting everything right than translating that history into something an audience can feel in their bones. Continue Reading →
The Michael Greyeyes-starring Sundance debut announces Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. as an exciting new filmmaker.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.)
The never-ending cycle of violence and abuse is at the center of Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s directorial debut Wild Indian. Part drama thriller and part character study of historical and generational trauma, Wild Indian announces Corbine as an exciting new voice. His vision is bold, confidently going to places that are dark and unconventional, with a masterful cinematic language often only found in the works of a seasoned filmmaker. His writing is airless, tightening the tension of the story up to eleven. It’s a phenomenal debut in the truest sense. Continue Reading →