by Jason Osiason

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS: Ruben Ostlund’s follow-up to his Palme D’ Or winning film The Square may not be the most profound of societal class satires, but I had such a spectacular typing watching this delicious ridicule on relationships and privilege through the lens of this harsh auteur’s voice. The film provokes and pokes fun at the rich, giving a great case study on the lower classes getting a taste of power first-hand. While the third act rings deliberately long, there is so much joy in this movie, including many skilling-directed set pieces, including one elaborate sinking ship-wreck featuring incoming seawater and bodily fluids, and also one incredible performance by breakout Dolly De Leon as a maid character appearing in the third act that is the only character with the smarts and wits to survive and quite literally steals the entire movie. [B+]

THE INSPECTION: The newest A24, primed to be the next Moonlight, is anything but. It’s certainly a well-made film that hits familiar beats based on the real-life story of writer/director Elegance Bratton. Although Jeremy Pope’s performance is splendid as a closeted gay man looking to escape the projects of New York and make something of himself, also traumatized by issues with his emotionally abusive mother, played Gabrielle Union. She has never been better on screen. Bokeem Woodbine also stands out as the tough-as-nails and homophobic drill sergeant, and you wish he had written a slightly better part about it. The film takes obvious inspiration from Full Metal Jacket and Moonlight but is enough of a personal picture to elevate. This is a movie that necessarily stands the test of time but shows promise at what comes next for its director. [B-]

BIOSPHERE: This is a post-apocalyptic dramedy set in one location with an evolutionary twist after the end of the world leaves us in a biosphere shelter with the President of the United States and his Dr. Fauci-like worker and friend, played Sterling K Brown. It plays with an inventive social commentary on gender and sexuality! It’s funny, insightful, and surprising every step of the way. It feels like a film that would play even better on stage, but the cinematic execution makes a great watch, and I could see this having excellent streaming success. The first-time director Mel Eslyn paired with star Mark Duplass has a wonderful ear for dialogue and features stupendous performances from both Duplass and Brown. [B]

HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE: Destined to be one of the most extensive breakouts of the fall festival circuit and was also recently acquired by Neon, this great second film from Daniel Goldhaber (who also directed 2018’s Cam). Think of the intensity of the Dead Freight episode of Breaking Bad as if Andrea Arnold directed it. The movie’s description is quite literally the film’s title, but with a unique storytelling structure that teases why each character banded together yet leaves many surprises in store. It features an inspired cast of uniformly excellent characters, especially Marcus Scribner from Blackish fame, who plays against type as a young activist. This is one of the most exciting and unique independent projects I have seen in years and is a must-watch that will gain both acclaim and a fanbase for years to come. [A-]

THE WHALE This heart-wrenching and poignant film are about a father eating himself to death and coming to terms with that when he accepted his sexuality; he broke up his family while also grappling with the death of the one true love of his life. The film shows flaws while establishing a cinematic identity but features a completely mesmerizing and unforgettable performance from Brendan Fraser in the title role. By the end of this incredibly stagey but well-shot film, my heart was as broken as Charlie’s. Darren Aronofsky is truly the ultimate actors’ director, and it’s a pure acting masterclass for everyone, but most notably Hong Chau, who injects so much humanity and depth into her supporting part as Charlie’s helper, but let’s leave who she is exactly for when you see the movie yourself. [B+]

The FABELMANS: Steven Spielberg’s life story on screen is an open-hearted familial tribute that delivers the goods as promised. The first half is about Steven Spielberg growing up in an authentic Jewish household and all about what inspired him to be a filmmaker—making these home movies that influenced many of his classics while also featuring an earnest tribute to his late mother, who was manic depressive and unhappy in her seemingly loving marriage. The film’s best section is his growing up in a wonder years type setting. Judd Hirsch’s eight-and-a-half-minute performance as Spielberg’s elderly old country-Jewish uncle that had a monumental impact on him was a wonder. It is hands down one of the most outstanding Jewish performances committed to screen. [B+]

THE MENU: It’s muddled and on the nose, masquerading as a prestige-adult film with great ideals and messages regarding socioeconomic class and food culture. It also has a tonal identity crisis where it can’t function as the horror, thriller, or playful food culture satire it attempts lazily realizes. Worst of all, it unravels with this high-concept yet contrived screenplay void of any tension or suspense. It ultimately struggles at all delivery points and is made under a visually uninspired aesthetic. Such a fun concept needed to be far more thrilling and funny. Finally, we are left with a poor example of a film satirizing class and privilege, featuring strangers finding themselves trapped somewhere dangerous together at the dinner table. Ralph Fiennes has given this villainous performance time and time again, but Anna Taylor Joy is probably the only saving grace of this highly overcooked and hammy misfire. The one saving grace this movie had made me appreciate Triangle of Sadness much more.[D]


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