Note: This was originally posted as part of The Dissolve commentariat’s tribute to Nathan Rabin. The idea was to continue some of the columns he started before he was unceremoniously bounced. Thanks, Nathan, for being the most consistently entertaining and insightful pop culture writer working today, and apologies in advance for the pale facsimile that follows.
As James, the guitarist in the band at the center of Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl, Olly Alexander at one point describes himself as having “the constitution of an abandoned rabbit.” That vivid, sad, self-deprecating throw-off line is God Help The Girl in a nutshell – sort of adorable, sort of pretentious, totally genuine in its affection for the hurt and lost, and twee as twee can be.
Juan Francisco Olea’s feature debut is a curious and not entirely comfortable mix of tones and themes. Is it a “black comedy”? That’s what the promotional materials promise. Yet it is never funny, although plenty bleak. It has moments of levity, but veers more towards an existential examination of doubt, faith, and action.
Describing Sean Baker’s Tangerine is essentially making a list of dodgy propositions. It was shot entirely on iPhone 5s. It features two non-actors in the leads (though surrounds them with more established people like James Ransone, who played Ziggy on The Wire and will appear in the upcoming Sinister 2, and a whole cast of Armenian performers who are well-known abroad).
In the mountains of Albania, rigid gender roles dominate. But a curious exception exists: some residents born biologically female are permitted to become men if they swear to remain virgins for life. They do this for many reasons: maybe that’s the gender identity they recognized to be true from the start, maybe the family lacks a son and heir, or maybe they simply desire the freedom maleness provides.
It’s only May, but the top contender for documentary of the year has already arrived. Jason Zeldes’ portrait of Richmond, CA and the struggles of its youth in an incredibly dangerous environment is a staggeringly emotional and moving film. It provides narrative context for its subjects, and is both visually interesting and accomplished, but it also has the good sense to let these kids speak for themselves.
Irresistibly billed as “the first Iranian vampire Western,” A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is a strikingly shot, glacially paced wonder.
Its tagline could’ve included a range of other influences: noir, especially, the early 80’s indie sensibilities of Jim Jarmusch, occasionally the uncanniness of Lynch.
“I guess I wasn’t built for this.”
“Nobody was. It’s all just a trick we perform, when we’d rather not die immediately.”
Stanley Kubrick’s first feature Fear and Desire – famously considered lost for years, and famously dismissed by Kubrick himself as “a bumbling amateur film exercise” – is an existentialist war movie.