Milk and Honey is a poetry book published in November of 2014. Minimalistic sketches are plentiful adding depth and visualization to stories focused on the hardships of intimate relationships, abuse, pain, and loss, from a feminine perspective. Different pains are revealed within each of the four chapters: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, The Healing.
Personally, as someone who has experienced abuse and mental illness, I believe this beautiful work of poetry describes internal conflict in ways those struggling may not be able to articulate. References to substance abuse and difficult upbringings connect the audience of readers to the personal traumas of the narrator. As a reader, you feel a mutual understanding and connection to the harsh and cruel experiences described. A sense of relief is felt in The Healing when strength is found in the darkest moments. A quick read in the style of internal dialogue, the suspense throughout this piece is enough to keep you reading front to back the first time you pick it up. Many aspects make this book a great one. The sense of gut-wrenching remorse experienced when putting your faith in people with foul intentions. Learning how to cope with the memories and let go of the fear. Reclaiming body, mind, and soul after someone has vandalized and sodomized. Learning to accept there is no fault for victims in trauma. All of these things make this story a true journey to recovery and an accurate description of pains experienced all too often as a young adult.
Editor: Autumn McClain
Movie Review: The movie Boys State, the movie Palm Springs, and the movie Judas and the Black Messiah
Zachary Hess Award Nominations Cont.
Boys State is a cinema verité documentary following the pretend Governor’s race at the 2018 Texas Boys State. Boys State and Girls State events are month-long mock government experiments. In Boys State, the American Legion assembles a thousand 17-year-old boys to build a representative government from the ground up. The documentary follows a few boys' experiences through this turbulent month. Directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine sifted through thousands of hours of footage to present a perfect microcosm of American politics. This is a documentary for anyone at all interested in politics. Currently, the only way to watch Boys State is through Apple’s streaming service APPLETV+. The service comes free for many who purchased an iPhone in the past year, but Apple provides a free trial for those who are wary about the new streaming service. While you are on the platform check out one of the best-animated feature contenders Wolfwalkers.
Very few films remind me of quarantine life like the Lonely Island produced sleeper hit comedy starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. Samberg’s Nyles is stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario at a wedding with Milioti’s Sarah. The two spend the run-time trying to figure out life when every day is the same. The movie takes some fun twists and turns that make for a great time. In a year that brought on a lot of monotony and repetitious days, Palm Springs brought some catharsis and joy. The Max Barbakow directed comedy made history at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival for breaking the record for the most a film had been purchased for out of the prestigious festival. HULU through their indie distributor NEON picked up the film for $17.5 million dollars and 69 cents. This beat the previous record by 69 cents. Find Palm Springs on Hulu.
Judas and the Black Messiah
This powerful biopic released at the 2021 Sundance film festival is a late-stage contender in the 2020 awards race. Judas and the Black Messiah is an acting tour de force. Get Out actor Daniel Kaluuya is enigmatic in this nontraditional biopic about the FBI’s COINTELPRO investigation into the Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton. Rising star Lakeith Standfield is the perfect lead playing an FBI informant/activist who acts as the audience's eyes in this remarkable crime thriller, romance, historical drama. Shaka King directs a revolutionary film that succeeds on every single front. Judas and the Black Messiah is built upon the ideas and tenants of the Black Power movement. A heavily researched and complex representation of those principles. Judas and the Black Messiah should be an instant front runner in the 2020 Oscar race. The film is available on HBO Max until March 15th, 2021. The film will continue playing in theaters where theaters are open after that date.
Honorable Mentions: The Small Axe Anthology, Da 5 Bloods, Emma, Mank, Wolfwalkers, One Night in Miami, Time, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Promising Young Woman, and Malcolm & Marie.
Popular Movies that I did not see before writing this list: Shiva Baby, Kajillionair, First Cow, Nomadland, Another Round, News of the World, The United States vs Billie Holiday, The Nest, Martin Eden.
Additional Note: Zachary Hess plans on writing another discussion series once the official Oscar Nominations have been released. So check back in for more great reviews in a couple months.
Editor: Zachary Hess
Movie Review: The movie Minari, the movie Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and the movie The Vast of Night
Zachary Hess Award Nominations Cont.
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari is a special film. The authentic story of a Korean family struggling to lay roots in a small Arkansas town. The heartwarming ensemble is brought together by the two parental performances by Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri. Yeun’s performance as a father who dreams of growing a Korean farm in America. As you learn in the film Minari is an East Asian plant that is used in a variety of ways. As the director writes, “Minari grows: It comes in the pockets of immigrants, dies the first year, it thrives in the second and purifies the water and soil around it.” That is the essence of this movie. A beautiful American tale of work and family. Minari is currently in theaters and is available for VOD Feb 26.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
“A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.” That is the official synopsis of Eliza Hittman’s low key drama that successfully walks the tightrope of discussing abortion in a nonjudgmental and informative light. I want to point out that this film is not graphic or obscene in any way. The honest story presented in this film is not glamorous. Sidney Flannigan plays the seventeen-year-old Autumn who experiences lots of hardship at the hand of the male characters in this film. The emotional tension that Never Rarely Sometimes Always walks is akin to Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade or Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. These important films for young people were limited by the MPA’s R rating. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is PG-13. It should be viewed by teenagers because it is a raw story that many teenagers have faced. Hittman’s movie isn’t a hopeless tale of teenage hardship. It is also a somber exploration of friendship and found family. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is available on HBO or on VOD where digital movies are sold.
The Vast of Night
The Vast of Night is a low budget indie sci-fi movie that pays homage to the space-race era that the film borrows most of its aesthetic on. This stylish drama follows two radio-obsessed teens as they discover a strange frequency over the airwaves. A mystery that engages the viewer from the first frame to the last. Vast of Night’s plot plays into the canon of pulp science fiction of the 50s. Orson Welles's famous radio adaptation of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds inspires this film tremendously. The relatively unknown leads Sierra McCormick and Jack Horovitz play off each other well and make the campy story feel a little more grounded. The Vast of Night sparked some news coverage earlier in the year as the story off-screen was just as interesting as the thriller on. Director Andrew Patterson created the film within 4 weeks back in 2017 for 700 thousand dollars which he self-financed from putting together his life saving. This is unheard of for films of this scale and success. The Vast of Night was picked up by Amazon Studios out of the 2019 Slamdance independent film festival. The film is available for viewing on the Amazon Prime streaming service.
Watch Minari on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDXkOhzY5jg
Watch Never Rarely Sometimes Always:
Editor: Zachary Hess
Movie Review: The movie The Assistant, the movie Soul, and the movie I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Zachary Hess Award Nominations Cont.
a patiently paced story of the many unsung heroes in the film industry
The second film on my list places Julia Garner into the life of an assistant to a power film executive. The Assistant tackles the difficult topic of workplace abuses and misconduct widely discussed following the #METOO movement. A heart-sinking slow burn that leaves you in a bought of angst, The Assistant is one of the best films of the 2020 year. Kitty Green’s fiction feature debut is a beautifully paced look at a day’s work as one of the most underappreciated jobs in the film industry. From before dawn till after dusk our every girl protagonist, Jane, sends emails, checks schedules, files paperwork, and preps meetings. In the hands of worse filmmakers, The Assistant would crash and burn, but thanks to the sum of its parts this film is riveting. Distributed by Bleecker Street on Hulu The Assistant is an uneasy 90-minute stream away from appearing on your best of the year list.
Next comes a remarkable animated film that is safely locked onto the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but I would argue more deserving of the Grand Prize recognition. Pete Doctor’s Inside Out follow-up Soul. The animated adventure attempts to answer one of the most important questions in life, what’s it all for? What makes life worth living. Doctor’s fourth feature film Soul finds the innate beauty in all things. The simple musicality of life. It will make you cry, but it’s a testament to how successful the film is. It’s hard to summarize much of the plot without outright spoiling the narrative, so I’m going to just say go watch Soul it’s on Disney + for no extra charge.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Out of all the films on my list, Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is probably the least accessible. The hard to follow narrative is an easy turn off for many. The film follows a couple in a “meeting the parents” scenario. Quickly the narrative devolves into something far more abstract and headier. Topics of loneliness, artistic expression, intellectualism, and appreciation vs criticism are present in this snowstorm web of a film. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons play the couple at the heart of the story. For viewers familiar with Charlie Kaufman’s work, I’m Thinking of Ending Things will feel right at home in his filmography. The director previously wrote the award-winning films, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. If this is your introduction to the filmmaker, be prepared for a fun thought-provoking time. Kaufman adapted the film from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name. The film is likely to be competing for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is available on Netflix.
Watch The Assistant on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWEXqJgw5Xo
Editor: Zachary Hess
Note: These coming reviews will be a series created by Zachary Hess on his predictions of the 2020 Academy Awards. Check in, on (Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) to look over more of his predicted nominations.
Movie Review: Sound of Metal
2020 Academy Awards (and what I would nominate for the Best Picture)
It is safe to say that 2020 was a different year. The COVID-19 pandemic led to global societal changes and unrest. The film industry was not immune to the economic pause that the pandemic caused. According to AARP, Hollywood lost more than 110,000 jobs during 2020. When theaters closed, hundreds of movie releases were delayed, and most productions were put on a pause. This challenged companies to answer the question: what to do about the movies ready to be released?
Many small budget indies that would have gotten limited distribution runs went straight to Video-On-Demand (VOD). Larger studios either delayed their films or opted for Premium VOD, a luxury rental model that made for a pricey at-home viewing experience. The few companies that seemed exempt from the distribution pains were the streaming services: Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. The controversies came when Disney and Warner Bros opted to turn towards their new streaming services to premiere some of their high-budget movies like Mulan (2020) and Wonder Woman 1984. Film festivals also went digital allowing for more people to experience the formerly exclusive film premieres.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts responded to the pandemic by postponing their Awards ceremony from February 2021 to April 25th. This extended the eligibility window for films from December 31st, 2020 to February 28th, 2021. The nominations will not be announced until March 15th. The dearth of theatrical releases has led to many arguing for the outright cancellation of the 2020 Academy Awards Ceremony. This opinion fails to acknowledge the high number of fantastic films released in the COVID-19 year. Here I aim to argue my personal account of the best films of 2020. My list is not numbered as each of these films are great and worthy of your attention.
Sound of Metal
a beautifully intimate study in recovery
Even though my list is not numbered, I want to point out that Darius Marder’s big-budget directorial debut Sound of Metal is my favorite film of 2020. A breathtaking drama about the struggle and recovery of a heavy-metal drummer, Rubin, who suddenly experiences severe hearing loss. British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed as Rubin demands your attention in every scene. The isolating sound design place the audience in the protagonist’s head. This decision only heightens the shocking contrast between Rubin’s reality and that of his girlfriend, played by Olivia Cooke. Character actor Paul Raci puts on an Oscar-worthy performance as the leader of a community of deaf adults readjusting to life without sound. Sound of Metal is a stark portrayal of trauma, addiction, and recovery. There are very few films that scratch the itch Sound of Metal does. Stellar performances, thematically resonate, and technically perfect. Aside from the actors, the sound designers make themselves the stars through the film’s affecting sound mixing. From Amazon Studios the film would be a dark horse nominee for anything other than the Sound mixing award. Despite the low prospects for rewards recognition, it marks the top of my list. Sound of Metal is available on Amazon Prime.
Editor: Zachary Hess