Achariya: I’m a sports writer for my other-other job, and there are serious issues to discuss when talking about the coverage of women’s sports in popular culture. I was quite excited about the chance to watch The Miracle Season because I thought maybe it would bring a positive spotlight to women’s indoor volleyball.
And I found myself slightly disappointed that what could’ve been a great documentary about a fraught moment in the sport was turned into an after-school special about model/actresses who never were not in their tiny uniform shorts, even for walking around town.
Here’s a short synopsis: the film was based on the true story of Caroline Found, a high school volleyball player, and the events that happened to the team in her senior year. Plot spoilers after the warning.
Jen: In looking over the description and cast, several signs jumped out at me. One was the PG rating, which indicated a family-friendly sports movie; which is fine, not all sports films require steroid use or other challenging material. Another sign was the tagline ‘based on a true story,’ and a sense that the filmmakers were going to present a very specific type of sports movie – uplifting and crowd-pleasing, but lacking in depth.
Achariya: When you mention crowd-pleasing, I’m struck by a memory — as we were walking out of the theater, we overheard a man say, “I cried through the whole thing.” I admit that I also cried, it was hard not to simply due to the subject matter. It felt pretty manipulative, though. Perhaps the filmmaking itself was clunky and heavy-handed — the second we saw the slow-motion farewell smile from one of the initial main characters, we turned to each other in our seats and said…
At the advance screening for Isle of Dogs I attended, there were several moments within the film that got laughs, gasps of delight, and rounds of clapping from the audience. As of this post’s writing, Isle of Dogs sits at 93% on Rottentomatoes.com. It is a stop-motion movie about dogs with an amazing voice cast, a creative if not super complex story, and a delightful look. I should have liked it.
I did not.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a Wes Anderson devotee and am not inured to his unique voice, comedic flourishes, or banter. I enjoyed The Life Aquatic and outside of that I have few impressions of his films, other than they employ bright colors and have a lot of neurotic people struggling to manage family relationships.
Although Isle of Dogs did many technical things very well, it did some pretty major things poorly. The story is not charming or heartwarming enough to compensate for these missteps, and ultimately the whole thing felt like the film version of an ill-conceived rainy day craft project.
What I learned in middle school was that a small group of right-minded revolutionaries overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy to bring democracy to a nation mired in outmoded traditions. My textbook told only one side of the story.
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.)