“Phantom Thread” true art house cinema

There’s no mistaking a Hollywood Popcorn Flick.  Between the big laughs and over-the-top action sequences, audiences don’t have to think too hard: it’s escapism.  Art house cinema is the opposite in every way and generally appeals to a very niche market.  Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films generally skate a thin line between the two realms, though his latest, “Phantom Thread”, settles solidly into the latter category.

“Phantom Thread” tells the story of Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis), a respected dressmaker, and his model-turned-muse Alma (Vicky Krieps).  There’s very little dialogue and the actors are challenged to emote wordlessly, trusting that the camera will capture their inner thoughts.  It’s a credit to the formidable Lewis and Krieps, as well as their director, that the movie works at all.

Long silences are punctuated only by dialed up sound effects.  In fact, the sound effects, or foley, are added at such a pointedly-loud volume that they nearly become another cast member entirely.  Sounds like scratching pencils on paper and shoes on stairs lend a unique emphasis to the action.

For more about “Phantom Thread”, including the meaning behind the title, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Tommy Flanagan talk “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”

Traditional Westerns have fallen out of favor in recent years, though the values they espouse remain timeless.  Writer/director Jared Moshe’s “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” may fit the mold of a Western but with one distinct difference: it focuses on the overlooked sidekick rather than the standard hero.

Moral codes like integrity and loyalty, however, remain at the forefront.  In fact, it was this code of ethics in particular that drew Peter Fonda (“Edward Johnson”) and Tommy Flanagan (“Tom Harrah”) to the film.

For more about “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” directly from Bill Pullman (“Lefty Brown”), Fonda, Flanagan and Moshe themselves, take a look below:


–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

SUBURBICON Review & Analysis

“Suburbicon” is a film of broad-stroke social commentary that uses the concurrent experiences two families to reflect on society’s biases.

For a more in-depth examination of “Suburbicon”, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL Star Interview and Full Review

Judi Dench has played so many queens that she should be honorary British royalty.  In Victoria & Abdul, the time period is 1887 and Queen Victoria (Dench) is floundering.  The most powerful woman in the world, she languishes from personal loss, sleeps through her own banquets and suffers the indignity of reporting her bowel movements.

Enter Abdul (Ali Fazal)–literally.  He’s honored with the job of presenting a ceremonial Indian coin to Queen Victoria alongside Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), a last-minute fill in who wants nothing to do with the task.  Following an arduous journey from India, the pair receive strict instructions about protocol.  They are props just as much as the coin.

After giving Queen Victoria the coin and backing away as etiquette dictates, Abdul breaks convention and locks eyes with the monarch.  A tense moment ensues: how will she react?  Declaring him handsome, the queen decides both men should stay and thus marks the beginning of their relationship over the final 15 years of the queen’s life.

The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is integral to the course of the film and the pair’s on-screen ambiguous relationship.  Why exactly is Queen Victoria so taken with Abdul, whom she elevates from servant to teacher/advisor over the course of their years together?  Is it a matter of physical attraction or something more?

There’s a beautiful moment in the film when the queen and Abdul dance together on the verandah.  An interview with Fazal reveals the words were scripted, but the action was not.  He says director Stephen Frears asked them to dance while saying their lines, a move that results in Fazal beginning by reaching out rather gracelessly–an entirely real moment that appears in the final cut of the film.

What didn’t make it into the film?  Dench and Fazal slapping their faces as a multitude of mosquitoes swarm them in a boat.  Fazal says even coming from a country like India where the pests are everywhere, these were intolerable.  The scene with the boat remains in the film, though Fazal can’t help but laugh in memory at the outtakes.

For more about Victoria & Abdul directly from Ali Fazal, along with a discussion about themes and symbolism in the film, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Focus Features.

PATTI CAKE$ Writer/Director/Star Interviews & Review

Danielle Macdonald nearly turned down the lead role in Patti Cake$: she’d never rapped before.  She accepted the challenge, and watching her performance it’s hard to believe she’s not a veteran of the genre.  Macdonald practiced rapping in her closet (acoustics were better) and after hearing her Jersey accent on screen, learning she’s Australian only further emphasizes her skill.

Patti Cake$ is an underdog story about Patricia (Macdonald), a rapper who doesn’t look the part but perseveres anyway.  While there’s a unifying theme of loss among the leads, the overarching message is one of finding strength within.

Writer/director Geremy Jasper spent years on this ode to rap.  He utilizes a combination of shooting styles that complement each other well, further emphasizing the more magical elements of the story.

Patti Cake$ also stars Cathy Moriarty, Bridget EverettSiddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie.

For more about the movie, including exclusive interviews with writer/director Geremy Jasper and stars Danielle Macdonald and Cathy Moriarty, take a look below:


—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos and video are courtesy of Fox / Fox Searchlight.

WIND RIVER Review & Analysis

Wind River takes its name from a Native American reservation so large that it covers more acreage than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  With only six police officers to cover the vast territory, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and Fish and Game Department tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) step in to help.

The startling truth behind Wind River is just as dramatic; the danger on the reservation knows no bounds.  A two year initiative to decrease crime failed: instead, there was a 7% increase.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan uses the film to explore multiple issues: murder, missing women, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness in a wilderness where many don’t survive.

For more about Wind River, take a look below:


—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

BRIGSBY BEAR *Interview, Review & Analysis*

Brigsby Bear is a comedic ode to nostalgia, friendship and acceptance.  When James (Kyle Mooney, Saturday Night Live) discovers he was raised by kidnappers and is returned to his biological family, he strives to take control of his life again.  Harnessing the only thing he knows, a Brigsby Bear television show which his kidnappers created just for him, he decides to write and shoot the final chapter in his beloved bear’s story.

Rather than turn James into a joke, everyone around him embraces the project and takes it on as their own.  In the process, each of them discover elements that had been missing from their own lives, like the police detective (Greg Kinnear) who always wanted to act.

Brigsby Bear also stars Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Matt Walsh, Andy Samberg, and Michaela Watkins.  It was co-written by Kevin Costello and directed by Dave McCary, Mooney’s childhood friends.

Brigsby Bear and the friends behind it had some bumps–or learning experiences–as they worked to complete their first feature film together.  For more about Brigsby Bear, including an interview with Mooney and McCary about the movie and their process, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

LADY MACBETH Review & Analysis

Director William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth sounds as though it’s an adaptation from another William–Shakespeare, that is.  Rather, it’s based on an 1865 Russian novella by Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.  Regardless of which Macbeth this British film references, its lead actress, newcomer Florence Pugh, is well worth watching.  There is something utterly riveting about her, even when her most obvious physicality is sitting quietly on a couch.

Lady Macbeth marks Pugh’s first lead in a feature film after having moved into acting only two years prior to her casting.  Her command of the role–and the screen–are great;  this won’t be the last time we see her.

The film begins when Katherine’s married to a much older man, the action a product of her father’s negotiated sale as coupled with an unfortunate piece of land.  As she moves into his home, her new husband has no use for her presence and she spends her days abused by the staff and wandering, alone, from room to room.

The film veers in an unexpected direction in the second half.  Is Katherine a victim of circumstance or is she the cause?

Lady Macbeth also stars Cosmo Jarvis and Naomi Ackie.

For more about Lady Macbeth, including the juxtaposition between Katherine’s wedding and what’s to come, take a look below:


—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

ROMEO IS BLEEDING *Red Carpet Interviews*

The documentary Romeo Is Bleeding found an unlikely star in Donté Clark.  Clark turned to spoken word poetry to transcend the wide-spread violence in his hometown of Richmond, California where knowing a victim of gun violence is a way of life, not the exception.

Director Jason Zeldes first learned of Clark from his cousin, teacher Molly Raynor, who updated him about her talented student.  Zeldes’ interest grew.  Upon hearing about Clark’s writing project, a play about life in Richmond based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he asked if he could document the process.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Russell Simmons signed on as executive producer after the film’s completion in another coup for the already-successful project.

Romeo Is Bleeding has already been recognized multiple film festival awards, with more surely on the way.

Take a look below for interviews with director Jason Zeldes, stars Donté Clark and Molly Raynor, co-editor Kevin Klauber and executive producer Russell Simmons:


ALIVE AND KICKING Director Interview & Movie Review

ALIVE AND KICKING is a walk through the history of swing dancing up to present day.  It’s a documentary narrated by some of the original Lindy Hoppers as well as the current swing-dancing elite.

The swing dance world seems to be a separate entity from other genres of dance. For instance, unlike other forms in which winning competitions can translate into big bucks, competition payouts in swing are surprisingly low.  Instead, the titles lead to better teaching jobs–and that’s what pays.

Even more fascinating: competitive swing routines are improvised!  Dancers don’t know when they’ll get called to center stage during competition or even what music will be playing.  It’s unbelievable that these complicated dances are improvised and only further emphasizes just how talented these dancers are as well.

The facts keep coming all the way through ALIVE AND KICKING with impressive dance routines serving as the backdrop for a flurry of facts.

Susan Glatzer, a former Hollywood studio executive, first conceived of the documentary as a project for someone else.  She realized the film had become her project, though, as the amount of footage she shot started accumulating.  An avid swing dancer for 18 years, Glatzer documented a world with which she’s passionately in love.  In fact, while interviewing her alongside “Queen of Swing” and Lindy Hop creator Norma Miller, Glatzer became positively giddy when asked what it was like meeting Miller the first time.

For more about the history of swing directly from Susan Glatzer and Norma Miller, take a look below:

Stay in touch!  Find the author as @realZoeHewitt on Twitter and Instagram.

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

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