Top 5 Local Film Stories of 2018
5. A movie about the 1975 bonded vault heist – it’s called Vault – filmed in Providence this April. The mob movie was co-written by Cranston native Tom DeNucci and local rapper B. Dolan, and the cast includes Don Johnson, Chazz Palminteri, Sons of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi, and Burt Young. I can’t find any word on a release date.
4. The Rhode Island Historical Society hired its Film Archivist & Curator of Recorded Media. According to a news release, Becca Bender‘s newly created position includes the management, cataloging, preservation, acquisition recommendations, and promotion of the society’s moving image, film, and audio-visual collections, including more than 9 million feet of moving image film and well over 2,000 sound recordings.
3. A supernatural horror series called NOS4A2 is currently being filmed entirely in Rhode Island. It stars Ashleigh Cummings as a woman with supernatural abilities and Zachary Quinto as the evil dude she’s chasing. (He feeds off the souls of children and sends them to a land where it’s always Christmas, I guess.) Based on the novel by Joe Hill, the ten episode series is tentatively scheduled to debut on AMC next summer.
2. Providence documentary filmmaker RaMell Ross had a huge year. In January he received a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for his film Hale County This Morning, This Evening, which you can see on PBS series Independent Lens later this winter. New York Times critic A.O. Scott also ranked it #1 on his list of the year’s best films. (Scott’s #1 was actually a four-way tie, but still.)
1. The Cable Car Cinema closed in May after over forty years in business. Owners Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian shuttered the business after failing to negotiate an agreeable long-term relationship with RISD, who owns the building. (In unfortunate timing, the closing came right as the owners were featured in an East Side Monthly cover story.) The South Main Street building is currently for lease.
10 Favorite Movies of 2018
I saw maybe thirty new movies this year, but of course there are many, many films that I didn’t see. (Disclaimer: Two of my favorite films of 2017, Call Me By Your Name and I, Tonya, didn’t play locally until this January. So ask me again around Oscar time and this list might be completely different.)
1. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)
The only movie I recall seeing recently where I wanted to leave the theater and buy a ticket to watch it a second time.
2. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
February seems like so long ago, doesn’t it? I’m barely invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the screenplay and costumes here are both amazing.
3. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)
This didn’t screen in Rhode Island despite the fact that it’s based on a novel by someone who actually lives here. Chloe Grace Moretz is fantastic.
4. A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)
I didn’t review this one because I figured you’d all see it anyway, if you wanted to. It got everything right – the songs, THAT HOUSE, and a refusal to subscribe to the theory that country rock is inherently any more worthy a medium than dance pop.
5. Double Lover (François Ozon) & A Simple Favor (Paul Feig) [tie]
One is a French thriller about creepy family secrets; the other is a tribute to French thrillers about creepy family secrets. They’re both beautiful and trashy and great.
6. The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (Massaku Yuasa)
This one played for a single day at Providence Place. It’s about a Japanese teen who decides to get as drunk as she possibly can, and the wild antics that ensue.
7. Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle)
This one appeared at NewportFILM in July, but I took the month off from reviews. It’s not perfect, but it’s a very stirring documentary about adoption, fate, and sinister conspiracies.
8. Blackkklansman (Spike Lee)
I don’t always like Spike Lee, but this one’s a real crowd pleaser, didactic lessons and all.
9. Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino)
This one’s still playing in East Providence. Go.
10. Not Goin’ Back (Augustine Frizzell)
A teen comedy about two troublesome Texas girls. I saw a trailer for this at the Showcase but it never played locally.
Runners-Up: How To Talk To Girls at Parties (John Cameron Mitchell); Lizzie (Craig William Macneill); Maya/Matangi/MIA (Stephen Loveridge); On Chesil Beach (Dominic Cooke); Game Night (John Francis Dailey)
Special Mention: Wild Nights With Emily is a strange and wonderful comedy about Emily Dickinson. Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon plays the poet, who it turns out isn’t the agoraphobic recluse that we’ve all been led to believe she was. It starts off like an episode of Drunk History and ends up like a lucid dream about historiography. IndieWire called it “the best lesbian comedy in years,” but despite great press it never really took off.
People that like to stream movies at home should know about Kanopy, a streaming service that you can log into with your public library card. You get eight free titles a month and there are over 30,000 to choose from. (In fact, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Not Goin’ Back, and How To Talk To Girls at Parties are all streaming there now, in addition to a bunch of Italian horror films, recent titles from A24, and fifty titles from The Criterion Collection.)
Corporations devouring one another is rarely something to get excited about, but in February I lifted my boycott of Regal Cinemas. (That said, I still haven’t actually written about them.) The nation’s second largest theater chain has zero Rhode Island locations, though they have four in Connecticut and ten in Massachusetts, including nearby Swansea, Bellingham, and Stonington, CT. Until February the chain was owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group – the same group that owns Coachella, and whose billionaire (x12) owner is a big funder of right wing causes. (There was a big Boycott Coachella campaign this past year.) Anyway, the cinema chain was sold last year and finalized in February. Some British conglomerate owns it now. Yay?
Good Old Movies
About a third of the sixty movies I recommended this year were old titles, which between them screened at some fifteen different locations around the state, including breweries (RIP Bucket Brewery), libraries, colleges, a park, a drive-in, a church, and (of course) some local theaters. Favorites included seeing O Soleil, a Mauritanian-French film from 1970, at Brown’s Cinema Ritrovato festival and the 50th anniversary IMAX screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In advance of reviewing them, I also rewatched Mean Girls, Cries and Whispers, and Belle de Jour.
Let Us Never Speak of It Again
Vox Lux is out this week – it’s at the Showcase in Warwick – and holy cow is it ever bad. A star vehicle for Natalie Portman where Natalie Portman does not appear for the first hour, it’s spectacularly messy, morally ugly, metaphorically clunky, and just no fun to watch. Twenty years from now it may become a cult classic — maaaaaybe — but from the opening school shooting scene through the overlong finale (whichI actually liked) the whole thing is wrong, wrong, wrong. In a year that gave us A Star Is Born and Suspiria, there’s no reason to watch this mutant hybrid of the two.
Other movies I could have done without: Chappaquiddick, Searching, Eighth Grade, Shirkers
Gripe of the Year
The closing of the Cable Car just aggravated an already dire shortage of independent movie theaters in Providence. We are the third largest city in New England and we pride ourselves on being a culturally literate, creative community. How, then, do we only have one lonely movie theater on Thayer Street? (Never mind that that theater frequently screens movies that are running in Warwick at the same time. They’ve both got The Favourite this week.) It’s one of the reasons why the weekly Movie Lounge features so many movies that are only playing in Newport, or even Mystic.
(This post originally appeared on December 15th; the date was later altered to bump the post to a more appropriate position in the calendar.)