Warm, winning, and gloriously alive, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a deeply moving and unforgettably poignant look at childhood. Set on a stretch of highway just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince in a stunning breakout turn) and her rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vinai, another major discovery) over the course of a single summer.
Fans of the Sundance darling 'Tangerine' are in for another visually mesmerizing experience with Florida Project, an all-too-real look at the bond between a mother and daughter struggling to get by, living in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida.
It's a deep film which seldom takes itself too seriously. I thoroughly enjoyed Tangerine for many of the same reasons I enjoyed Florida project; world building, character arcs, and a checkered protagonist who felt like a real human being.
In their critique of the film, Youtube Channel Nerdwriter1 makes a compelling case for why the film should have been nominated for an Oscar, and takes a look at some of the visual themes throughout the film. You can watch that video here.
The characters in the film are relatable and loveable despite being severely flawed. The film features a lot of great performances, but three that really stuck out were; Willem DeFoe, Bria Vinaite, and the sensationally talented Brooklynn Prince who plays the film's six-year-old protagonist Moonee.
Bonus points for the film's title. 'Florida Project' was the original name for Walt Disney World. There's a lot to unpack in that, and when the mother-daughter duo sit and watch the Disney fireworks from a distance, you can really feel the impact of what Baker's actually trying to say with this film.
ROBERT MISOVIC | FILM REVIEWS
After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine "Connie" Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through the city's underworld in an increasingly desperate—and dangerous—attempt to get his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail.
I honestly loathe Twilight. And for a long time, everything and everyone associated with those films made me physically ill. But as it would turn out, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are surprisingly talented actors when they're not being asked to bring to life one-dimensional characters or terrible scripts (I'm still pissed I watched Twilight). Stewart's been on the rebound for a while, but 'Good Time' is absolutely Pattinson's coming out party.
'Good Time' is an immersive experience. You're there with these brothers on this night where everything that can possibly go wrong goes wronger than you ever thought possible. The film is totally a throwback to 80's character-driven marvels like Dog Day Afternoon and Mean Streets. But it's so much more than just that.
It's a raw and unfiltered look at a desperate, highly flawed protagonist existing in a world that feels like it's breathing in your face. It's unflinchingly real and packed with so much reality, adrenaline, and tension, you might be forgiven if at times you feel as if you're playing a video game. I mean this of course, in the best sense possible. F*ck you Safdie Brothers. I now have to exist in a world where Rob Pattinson is one of my favourite actors. I'm not sure who I even am anymore.
4. FLORIDA PROJECT (SEAN BAKER)
5. QUEST (SANTIAGO RIZZO)
3. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (LYNNE RAMSAY)
Our July Picks are in. This time, we're going all indie with 5 films that'll blow your mind. To watch any of these films is to have yourself transformed in a very permanent way. Is there a single theme or thread that ties all of these films together? Perhaps heart. Maybe grit. Truth?
A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe's nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.
This is one of those films that critics and filmmakers are probably going to appreciate a hell of a lot more than the average viewing public. And perhaps that's something we've come to expect from Lynne Ramsey's films. They're unassuming, a bit abstract, and often offer more questions than answers.
You've heard that old saying "sound is fifty-one percent of the film"? I can't think of three films that have taken that message to heart more than Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here. It's not just the amazing score by Johnny Greenwood-it's the sound design by Paul Davies that puts this film into masterpiece territory. On my second viewing, I just closed my eyes for most of it. It's the type of film which warrants two or three watches.
Joaquin Phoenix, who has unquestionably cemented himself as one of the ten (or five?) greatest actors of his generation, carries this film on his back. I can't think of two minutes when he's not on the screen, or one scene where he isn't perfect. In terms of a one-man-show, this is probably right up there with Steven Knight's 2013-thriller Locke starring Tom Hardy.
Director Lynn Ramsay has developed a knack for getting inside a character's head (Tilda Swinton in 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' comes to mind), and You were Never Really Here does much of the same thing. Through sound design, music, cinematography and a very non-cliche use of dream sequences, we enter the mind of a man with PTSD, and stay there the whole way through. This film is what happens when pitch-perfect cinematography, sound design, music, acting, and editing come together.
2. GOOD TIME (BENNY & JOSH SAFDIE)
toronto | new york | moscow | belgrade
1. THE CAKEMAKER (OPHIR RAUL GRAIZER)
Thomas, a young German baker, is having an affair with Oren, an Israeli married man who has frequent business visits in Berlin. When Oren dies in a car crash in Israel, Thomas travels to Jerusalem seeking for answers regarding his death. Under a secret identity, Thomas infiltrates into the life of Anat, his lover's newly widowed wife.
I'd heard such good things about The Cakemaker I took a 45 minute Uber ride to the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival to watch it. The experience was, to say the least, memorable. Upon arriving at the afternoon screening, I found myself sitting amongst 200 people, all of whom, except the couple to my right, were between 65-120 years old.
I was in between hotel rooms and was lugging a suitcase, hadn't slept or shaved in days, and felt weirdly out of place. But I had to watch this film. Just before the film started, I was approached by one of the festival's volunteers. My suitcase had caused a bit of a panic, and the man asked me if I had a bomb in my bag. I replied, "you're joking right?" He wasn't.
I wasn't as offended as the girl on my right, who after the altercation decided to apologize on behalf of all of humanity for what I'd just endured. I didn't make too much of it. I was an olive-skinned 30-year old attending a matinée Jewish Film Festival screening of a film about homosexuality with a suitcase. I get it. I got it. The fact that several members of the audience groaned in disgust during the lone sex scene between the two men only made the experience of watching it even better. It showed why a film like this exists, and why it's so important that it does.
It'd be fair to say, that I don't think The Cakemaker is an LGBTQ film at all. It happens to feature a plot line about two men who are in love with each other, but to say the film is about that primarily would be to miss the point. The film is about love, faith, forgiveness, and family.
The score is dazzling, and the performances are a masterclass in believability. In the coming weeks after the screening, I found myself re-watching scenes, and listening to the score on loop. It's a film about the fluidity, simplicity, and perseverance of love. It's probably my favourite film of 2018, and I absolutely cannot stop raving about what a great year this has been for films as a whole. When the film eventually goes to VOD or finds its way to streaming platforms, I sincerely hope it catches on. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently at 100, and I find that not the least bit surprising.
The film stars Gregory Kasyan and Lakeith Stansfield (Get Out) as a pair of graffiti artists/taggers struggling for meaning and a sense of belonging while battling some serious hardships at home. At the core, however, it's an inspiring story about the bond between an unthinkably compassionate teacher, based on the director's recently deceased teacher and friend Tim Moellering, and a child (Kasyan) battling to stay afloat while taking regular beatings from his stepdad (Lou Diamond Phillips).
Quest took some time to sink in. At first, I found myself disappointed. As a critic, I wanted a lot more from the plot. It felt that the supporting characters lacked depth. It also felt like there were too many subplots and storylines which took away from the one I was truly invested in. It wanted to do and say way too much for its runtime. As a human being, however, I found Quest to be a triumph. The message is hard to miss, but that doesn't make the message any less important.
For all that Quest isn't, it hits the mark on several points; it's interesting throughout, it asks important questions, it very seldom forgets what it's trying to say, it's gorgeous, and it's absolutely an important film given the socio-political climate. After watching the film, I found myself thinking about it every week for a month. It changed me in a way I hadn't expected. I found myself becoming more empathetic towards those I didn't understand, and more willing to listen than I'd ever been before. It's Rizzo's first feature film, and he's poured his soul into it. It's so obvious that your heart breaks for him.
The film also features Lou Diamond Philips giving perhaps his best performance yet. It's hard to fathom a film with this much emotional punch, and this many talented actors flying under the radar. You can support the film at the website. The film has toured the festival circuit with some very impressive stops and is currently seeking distribution.