ROUND-UP July 31-August 9, 2018

Yay! New writing! Enjoy two movie reviews for Moviejawn, a book review for PopMatters, and a photography exhibition review for the Humble Arts Foundation.
"Custody works most effectively in the scenes where Antoine’s mask of gentle resignation falls away. As he pulls up in front of Miriam’s parents’ home for the first time to pick up Julien, Miriam and Julien hopelessly try to beg off, claiming that Julien is sick. Julien shrinks away from his father’s hug, is largely non-responsive toward his paternal grandparents, who are housing Antoine, but it’s not until Antoine confronts Julien over his notebook that we see that it’s not a matter of miscommunication or misunderstanding, but that Antoine is a real threat to the safety of his wife and son. While the performances in Custody are all strong, relative newcomer Thomas Gioria runs away with the movie, especially in these tense, heart-stopping scenes, which Legrand’s observational direction captures perfectly."
"It’s hard to describe the visuals of A Midsummer Night’s Dream without getting too hyperbolic, but Mott has really taken pains to make every element of the film experience reflect the essence of the play. Monologues are delivered both as dialogue and as voiceovers, often cutting between both in the middle of a sentence to heighten the sensory and unstable nature of the events of that one night. There are flashbacks and flashes forward, snippets of footage that make it unclear who’s watching whom, or whether we’re even watching events as they unfold, or a dream, or a film within the film. Aesthetically, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is indebted to Luhrmann’s dreamy, punkish Romeo + Juliet, but on the whole it reminded me more of Joss Whedon’s casual, intimate Much Ado About Nothing in how deeply it’s rooted in the specific geography of Los Angeles (where I happened to have grown up). For any filmmaker, turning out a Shakespeare adaptation this creative, vivacious, and hilarious would have been a feat, but it’s incredible for a debut feature. (If you’re keeping track of the pairings in the Deborah Krieger Film Festival, either the Luhrmann R+J or the Whedon Ado will do.)"
"Unlike Dave Eggers, whose arguably tech-phobic The Circle had me wondering whether the author knew the differences among an operating system, hardware, and software, it's clear that James Smythe has done at least enough research to make Organon's capabilities fathomable, if not totally understandable on a nuts-and-bolts level. Smythe also has the upper hand on Eggers when it comes to marrying touching emotional resonance with his tech-y cautionary tale of sorts; as Laura's Organon grows more and more unique and capable, she comes to realize over the decades that even the best facsimile of a relationship, the clearest and most accurate hologram, pales in comparison to the real bonds we form with one another as we grow up. When you close I Still Dream, you'll find it hard to walk away from its strangely positive and uplifting view of the future and the tech that will shape it: in a world of Palantir, you'll wish for more Organons."
"Taking in Cornwall’s images is like a crash course in seeing how facts can be whitewashed and obfuscated. It’s an exercise of being shocked and horrified, but not surprised. Because it’s never impacted me directly, I’ve never actually known what the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay looks like. I’ve pictured a sort of Shawshank-Redemption-looking building, its rattling gray stone and barred-up windows like teeth with braces—something that signals visually, cartoonishly, just how evil and sinister it is on the inside. As photographed by Cornwall, it’s actually an innocuous-looking campsite of buildings in neat rows, an endless array of ordinary-looking white rooms with small windows. Yet over the course of “Welcome to Camp America,” we see how somewhere so unspeakably awful appears so banal, even pleasant, and we see how the unlawful suffering of its detainees can even be commodified and sold."

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