Call Me By Your Name

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Everything about Call Me By Your Name is gorgeous, from the lush Italian setting, to the idyllic 80s backdrop, the nostalgic summer moments, down to the strapping men at the center of it. Young Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is a renaissance teen-fluent in multiple languages, a musical prodigy, avid reader-enjoying his summer when he meets the American Oliver (Armie Hammer), a research assistant working for Elio’s father, and boarding with the family. Elio is fascinated, annoyed, and charmed by Oliver almost instantly and he must struggle through his evolving feelings towards him. Only it’s not that much of a struggle, and that is the beauty of the film.

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The Disaster Artist

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Making a movie about the making of the “worst movie ever made” (aka “The Room” aka “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”), it could be easy to just spend the time making fun of everything and magnifying the weakness. But director-star James Franco obviously has a soft spot for Room writer-director-star Tommy Wiseau and the Disaster Artist is really a paean to the struggling wannabe actor and his friendship between Wiseau and Room co-star Greg Sestero.

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I, Tonya

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The summation at the end of I, Tonya, the he-said/she-said retelling of Tonya Harding’s rise and fall, suggests that we, the public, want it easy. We want our heroes shiny and golden, and our villains, dark and menacing, and we have trouble accepting that the venn diagram that falls over most people has a big overlap in the middle. And most of the movie is spent detailing that middle as it comes to Harding (Margot Robbie), a prodigy in ice skating, spurred on by her cold, hard stage mom, Lavona (Allison Janney), who falls for the wrong guy, abusive dufus, Jeff Gilooly (Sebastian Stan). It’s a credit to the movie that it made me care about a subject (ice skating), characters (Harding/Gilooly), and general series of events (the Nancy Kerrigan incident), that I have zero interest in.

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The Florida Project

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Sometimes films move entirely too fast. They click through scenes in quick flashes, covering the pertinent details. Other times, films can be too slow. Interminably focused on minutiae and letting a shot of a melting candle drip on screen for hours. Neither of these is the case with The Florida Project but either would almost have been preferable to the pointless stacking of scenes that had no point. It’s not a bad movie, overall, but it’s a bleak movie. And it’s a torturous movie, miring the audience in the destitute motel in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom of DisneyWorld that is the movie’s setting.

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Coco

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It used to be that Pixar could do no wrong. The first few years, from first feature Toy Story, they churned out hit after hit. Yes, even A Bug’s Life. But somewhere after the first Cars sequel, it didn’t feel like they were trying as hard. Hell, I didn’t even see The Good Dinosaur. And while Finding Dory was fine, it just felt like Pixar was going down the wrong path of needless sequels and lackluster originals. While Coco isn’t a flat-out masterpiece, it’s pretty damn close.

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Wonder

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The trailers for Wonder suggested a movie that is not my wheelhouse: a treacly Lifetime movie family drama with a perfect martyr child at the center that is exploited for tears and yucks while heavy-handedly educating the masses on his disease du jour. And while an argument can be made that it is a bit of that, it’s also a well-done version, mostly by giving depth and agency to the wealth of supporting characters.

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Wind River

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A surprising, tense, yet thoughtful thriller set on an Indian reservation, Wind River opens with a girl frozen in the snow. Dead, barefoot, clearly having been chased. The jurisdiction in such matters is murky and a lone FBI agent, Jane (Elizabeth Olsen), must work with the local law enforcement (Graham Greene) and a hunter from the parks department, Cory (Jeremy Renner) to figure out the case. The murder brings up past issues for Cory, who is both an outsider to the reservation as a white-man, but also part of it given his children are half-Native American.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Weirdness for the sake of being weird or off-putting doesn’t do much for me. I kept thinking back to Mother! while watching this film, another movie that I’m sure my film fanatic friends will love but that I, like the slightly-above-average movie-goer, did not. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is also thick with metaphor, and has trouble with actual reality, but it coasts along with tremendous help from some compelling actors. Colin Farrell is Dr. Stephen Murphy, a heart surgeon with an uncomfortable relationship with a teenage boy, Martin (Dunkirk standout Barry Keoghan). Their relationship is left unexplained at first, all we know is they are not related, the Dr. bestows gifts on his young friend, and he’s lying to his friends about who this kid is.

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Better Watch Out

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There can be something refreshing about a movie you have no knowledge of or expectations for. I only knew of Better Watch Out because of a Thai-language trailer and a brief glimpse of Patrick Warburton (which is what led me to the movie’s title). He’s only in the movie about thirteen seconds longer than that, which is fine because it’s not like I’m some sort of Warburton fan. Not against him either, but really this is a huge digression. The movie concerns Luke (Levi Miller), the son of Warburton’s character (and, also briefly, Virginia Madsen). For some reason (plot!), Luke needs a babysitter – enter the fetching Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), the prototypical high-school babysitter, complete with wavy blonde hair and boy troubles.

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Bangkok

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I haven’t slept much the past week. My parents were visiting and being the combination of my mom being up at sunrise and me being a light sleeper resulted in less than my barely acceptable usual six hours of slumber a night. I’m tired, and I’ve been traveling and haven’t adjusted well. But I’m also in Thailand, so I can’t really complain. Getting here was ridiculous, with nearly 24 hours of travel, a delay, two airports, running through my layover, a metro station and a walk through a bustling metropolis at midnight while getting hit with waves of nostalgia along with the unmistakable aroma of Bangkok-like someone ate garbage and then farted it into the air. It’s a smell you get used to, like the slight urine-y waft of New York City.

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