“Broken Hearted Love Song”, the track from Jena Malone’s band The Shoe that plays throughout Lovesong’s end credits, talks of desire fulfilled and affection denied in sometimes crass, but always honest, manner.
The film that incorporates it has none of the crassness, and all of the sensibility – with the wonderfully talented So Yong Kim at the helm, Lovesong is a brightly lit, stunningly acted elegy to sexual and romantic frustrations, to the bittersweet feeling of both adoring someone as a friend, desiring them as a partner in flesh and in love, and coping with the fact that the world chastises you to renounce to one of those things. Oh, and as great as Malone, per usual, is, this is a flawless showcase of Riley Keough, one of the finest young actresses working nowadays.
4. Get me Roger Stone
The first of what I’m sure will be many documentaries dissecting the Trump era, Get Me Roger Stone is a fascinating, unflinching portrayal of one of the most shameless operatives in the last half a century of American politics. Roger Stone’s role in Trump’s election is the whole point of Dylan Blank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme’s perhaps serotinous exploration of his philosophy and strategies, legal or otherwise.
The prowess of their film comes from the honesty that the camera lens provides, giving us a peak into the psyche of a man that’s not despicable himself, but figured out that despicable people fare better in power. In the end, he’s not as repulsive or odious as we hoped – he’s just frighteningly, tragically right.
3. Bingo: The King of the Mornings
Brazil is currently home of some of the most vibrant, diverse and beautiful movies made all over the world, and their 2018 contender for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, Bingo: King of the Mornings, is proof.
A roman à clef biopic of the most successful children’s TV presenter on the country, who wore a clown suit every morning and best represented the mischievous spirit that resides at the center of Brazilian culture (for better or for worse), Bingo marks the directing debut of film editor Daniel Rezende, nominated for an Oscar for his work in City of God (2002).
It starts as a beautifully textured rags-to-riches story, and then it makes a smooth transition into redemption tale. Following the lead of Brazilian TV star Vladimir Brichta’s bravura performance, Bingo is an energetic, courageous, brilliantly written piece of cinema.
2. Body Electric
On the other end of the spectrum of Brazilian cinema, Marcelo Caetano’s debut feature, Body Electric, is deceptively simpler filmmaking in the service of a nobler cause and a true artistic vision. As it tracks Elias’ (Kelner Macêdo) journey through his everyday chores, relationships and reflections, Body Electric is an ably paced, sensitively crafted naturalist drama.
Its subjects, working-class queer people in Brazil’s biggest city, ring true in their strong personalities and complicated entanglements – but Caetano is not happy with just portraying the life of marginalized people. He, his cowriters Gabriel Domingues and Hilton Lacerta, and their troupe of charismatic actors breathe life, movement and a rush of blood into a story as strikingly young as it is surprisingly mature.
1. Casting JonBenet
No experiment in documentary filmmaking is quite like Kitty Green’s Castin JonBenet. When aiming to make a film about the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsay, one of the most saturated criminal cases of the later decades of the 20th century, this second-time feature director chose a different path. She put out a casting call for local actors in Boulder, Colorado (Ramsay’s hometown), and then put a bunch of them together to stage a magnum opus-like reenactment of the many ways the crime could have gone.
Casting JonBenet is a wonderfully crafted, detailed piece of filmmaking that finds novel ways to examine art’s empathetic effect on people’s views and opinions, especially in a case so charged with prejudices, taboos and shadowy grey areas.