This review comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, from whom I received a screener. I was not paid or compensated for this review in any way.
By looking at the poster for Foxtrot, you might draw a few conclusions on the subject, such as life in the midst of war. You would be correct in doing so, but of course the film is much, much more complex than that and honestly I would be at a loss how best to suggest the film’s complexity be expressed in its press material.
In the simplest terms, the movie is an Israeli war drama about the effects of a young soldier’s death on his family. That alone would have held my interest, as war and its cost, when deftly handled, is fascinating enough. However, Foxtrot was not content to showcase such a straightforward premise and instead dives deep into family dynamics and personal demons.
It was warmly received at Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won awards, but for some reason did not receive an Oscar nomination. Politics may come into play, as it depicts the Israeli Defense Force committing a problematic crime against Arabic people, and so the film was denounced by Israel’s Minister of Culture. There are much, much smarter people out there who can speak to the complexities of this subject, and I will willingly admit to ignorance on many of these issues.
Foxtrot, named for both the dance and the Nato phonetic alphabet, is not a light movie but it was a brilliant depiction of loss and raw emotions.
Note: Normally, Late to the Theater’s resident Ballet Expert Achariya reviews performances. As she is on a well-earned family vacation, Jen attended the Saturday night performance of Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast and is writing up this review.
Overall, the performance was an absolute delight and comes highly recommended. The choreography was playful and even cheeky while still doing honor to the balletic tradition, the costumes and sets were creative but still functional, and the story exciting and innovative while still recognizable to the audience as a well-known and loved fairy tale. I found myself wishing I’d known beforehand what an uplifting and charming evening I was in for so that I could spread the word to friends, family and coworkers looking for a more sophisticated kind of family night.
(Although Orlando Ballet originally presented this ballet in 2016, I am entirely unfamiliar with that performance and can only speak to the quality of this production and their previous piece, Romeo and Juliet. I will also assume the reader is already familiar with the Disney versions of Beauty and the Beast, from which the ballet is inspired.)
The Academy Awards felt as relevant and fresh as they could while yet maintaining all the cheese and slight odor of staleness that marks this large, ponderous institution.
Achariya: Full disclosure, although I unreservedly love the red carpet of any Hollywood event, I haven’t watched the Academy Awards for years, in part because it felt like there was little point to watching Hollywood wank itself over movies that I generally find uninteresting. I’m a geek and like action/spy/fantasy/sci-fi/arthouse movies, and the stuff that tends to win is what garnered best actor last night, movies like Darkest Hour (which, ok, I kinda liked).
Jen: Even though I appreciate the fanfare and pageantry, the Oscars have become a thing I’m aware of rather than look forward to. I appreciate filmmakers and crews and such receiving much-deserved recognition because it usually results in more work for them and more creative control, but for me actually making time to sit down and watch is less a priority than knowing what’s nominated and what won.
Achariya: I watched the show last night because after the #MeToo movement pointed out all the flaws in the Hollywood system, I wanted to see how the Academy Awards producers would handle it. And in fact, they handled it subtly and well.
By now, some of the shine has worn off the novelty of Netflix Original movies. For me, this is largely due to the fact that there are so damned many of them, with everything from horror to comedy, both foreign and domestic. It’s far, far too much to keep up with and as a result, a lot of titles slip through my net unless something about them stands out – such as a director I really like (Duncan Jones!) a cast I really like (Paul Rudd! Justin Theroux! ALEXANDER SKARSGARD!), and an intriguing premise (Amish man searches a futuristic dystopia for his missing girlfriend). Thus we have Mute.
Overall, Mute‘s appeal was also its biggest drawback – it had a rawness that a big studio would have no doubt filed and sanded down, which was what I appreciated about it. There were also so many characters and fascinating paths to follow that it was hard to stay focused on the main story. Although its parts seem sci-fi, the sum is actually a story with its roots in film noir. It finds Skarsgard playing Leo, who was silenced as a child in a boating accident and now works as a bartender in a club in Berlin. After his girlfriend disappears, he embarks on a journey through the city’s underworld, crossing paths with the likes of Rudd, Theroux, and even Dominic Monaghan in a bizarre and fun cameo.
I would recommend Mute to fans of cyberpunk and noir, with the proviso that it’s definitely got its own strange, bloody flavor. The world it posits is brutal and cruel, which makes Leo’s kindness and compassion stand out all the more. Skarsgard is eminently watchable doing anything and his Leo is fascinating and communicative. Paul Rudd makes an interesting diversion from his usual Likeable Snarky Guy to an edgy bastard. The real standout performance though is Theroux as Duck. From the very moment of his introduction Duck is difficult to pin down, seeming alternately warm, friendly, and predatory. He and Rudd’s character, Cactus Bill, are in a toxic relationship, and he ends almost every line of dialogue between them with a creepily murmured ‘Babe.’ Bill’s verbal and physical abuse wounds him openly, and Theroux does a great ‘hurt’ face, but after finding out what he’s been up to the very sight of him made my skin crawl.
Mute is a familiar story made more engaging by its characters and their performances; we’ve seen this kind of grotesque dystopia before so seeing it again with a somewhat fresh take involving the Amish was definitely entertaining. I wish there had been more female characters but we can’t have everything.
My auto-correct is trying inform me that Afrofuturism isn’t a word, and it’s wrong because it is and this movie is it.
Last night I actually left the house and stayed up past my bedtime to go see Black Panther. Currently it sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you don’t need me to do an actual serious review of it when there are much better critics out there singing its praises.
However, here are five things I found absolutely delightful and wanted to share.