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Roger & Me. On one clip from an appearance on Roseanne Barr’s short-lived talk show, Moore is even seen making nice with Donald Trump him- self, who compliments Moore’s Roger & Me and notes, “I hope he never does one on me.” Too bad he didn’t. The problem with Fahrenheit 11/9 is that it’s Trump’s Fahrenheit 9/11 rather than Trump’s Roger & Me. The genius of Moore’s first film was its entry point: Moore began with an up-close look at his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and then expanded out to make Flint a microcosm for a broken nation. The current water crisis really is an equivalent to the tragedy at Roger & Me’s cen- ter, the abandonment of Flint by General Motors. The best material here — serious and comic
— addresses that crisis: the specifics of how it happened, the danger the citizenry still faces and the efforts of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s admin- istration to cover it up. What Moore reports here is vital, enraging and not widely known. What
we know all about, on the other hand, is Donald Trump and the 2016 election. So it’s hard not to wonder how much Flint material was left on the cutting-room floor so Moore could take a victory lap for having said on TV in 2016 that Trump could win or rehash Trump’s well-documented history of racism and misogyny or (yes) relitigate 2016’s Democratic primary. (Jason Bailey)
HALLOWEEN (2018) There are two opposing films running simultaneously in David Gordon Green’s Halloween, a reboot/sequel of an end- lessly rebooted/sequelized series. One, led by Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, pushes the horror genre into more cerebral, violent terror, with an eye on the very real effects of childhood trauma and assault. The other larger, dumber film drags that first one screaming back to the ’80s. Yeah, I know John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s first Halloween was released in 1978, not the 1980s. But Green’s film’s slasher lineage doesn’t even stretch back to his supposed source material; it’s
as if Halloween’s knockoffs had replaced the original in the director’s mind. What made the 1978 version work was the overwhelming sense of dread from being the third party to Michael Myers’ surveillance of these teens. The serial killer watches, and sometimes we watch him watch, and other times we simply wait to see him watching. Too often, in this version, Green doesn’t seem to know where to put the camera to elicit that sense of surveilling or being sur- veilled. Worse, that incompetence often works hand in hand with overwrought comic dialogue. But let’s get to what really works, here: Curtis. We meet Laurie in her super-sealed woodsy compound, almost 40 years to the day after the 1978 murders. Laurie is a tactical assassin now, training in knives, combat and armory, but not so adept that it becomes implausible. But whoever made the decision to slash up some hot and horny teens to round out the movie has seriously undercut what might have been a horror achievement of weight and importance. (April Wolfe)
GO THEHATEUGIVEThemovieshavelong lied that an impassioned speech can change everything. George Tillman Jr.’s fierce, clear- eyed The Hate U Give, based on Angie Thomas’ acclaimed young-adult novel, surges toward
a climactic Hollywood monologue as its hero, 16-year-old Starr (Amandla Stenberg), finds her voice and dares to speak truth to power. Starr witnessed a white cop gunning down her child-
hood friend Khalil (Algee Smith), the latest of
far too many unarmed black men to suffer such a fate. Her father (Russell Hornsby) has urged her to tell her truth, to let her light shine. When events push her at last to seize a literal mega- phone, the world responds as it might in real life. The troubles around her keep getting worse. Something crucial is changed, though: Starr herself — and quite possibly young viewers (and readers) stirred by her story. Starr learns that fighting for change demands a lifetime com- mitment. Her life bustles with more people and incidents and conflicting impulses; the film runs 132 minutes but everything in it is vital. While Starr lives in a black neighborhood, she attends a mostly white private school, where she finds it imperative never to appear ghetto. The Hate
U Give takes time to focus on the nuances of Starr’s life, on the effort of code-switching, on the layers of self that Starr must sort through in everyday interactions. The plotting demands that Starr slowly take everything in, surveying both of her worlds before taking significant ac- tion. That’s unusual in studio filmmaking, which has long emphasized a heroic decisiveness in its protagonists. At each step, Stenberg reveals the pain and promise of committing oneself to ideals. (Alan Scherstuhl)
MID90S Largely plotless, slice-of-life dramas often get described as “quiet,” yet Mid90s, the largely plotless, slice-of-life drama from Jonah Hill (his first film as writer-director), is marked by vio- lently loud moments and blaringly time-capsuled needle drops (from The Pixies to The Pharcyde). From the first scene, we witness 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) being tossed against the wall and beaten by his older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). The sound design has been crafted to shock — a smack against the chest could actually be an encyclopedia crashing against concrete. Stevie finds his crew with local skater boys he has been observing from afar. Hill’s debut has drawn a lot of comparisons to the no-filter styling of director Larry Clark, and it also easily calls to mind Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. Homophobic slurs abound; in the mid-’90s, teens weren’t yet “canceling” each other for being problematic. The depictions of drug and alcohol use, sex (Stevie getting it on with an older girl) and violence
(both self-inflicted and by others) are difficult to watch, as Hill brings a fly-on-the-wall candor to his depiction of youth and the film’s era. But let’s not forget Hill’s sense of humor: Mid90s, for all its darkness, is uplifted by its hilarious moments and joyous skating shots — filmed on Super 16, set to the golden Californian soundtrack of the Mamas & the Papas. There’s a final violent moment, when everything comes to a crash, filmed and staged for shattering effect, but even after that, the film suggests that Stevie will bounce back just fine — as he’s done before. (Kristen Yoonsoo Kim)
GO SUSPIRIAI’mhappytoreportthatIhave no idea what’s going on in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, and that’s wonderful. The two Suspirias function more as companion pieces than as mirrored twins, sharing only a few key details: There is a ballet school that is run by witches, and people are dying. Other than that, the new version blazes its own path, which writer David Kajganich smartly intertwines with the politics of Cold War-era Germany. In this version, Dakota Johnson plays Susie Bannion, newly arrived at a Munich dance academy
and pleads her way into getting an audition
to join the company. She enters a spare, mir- rored studio and whips her body around with such zealous purpose that it seems an act of sacrifice. She’ll hurt herself for her art. Her per- formance rouses the attention of the school’s master, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), who senses Susie’s presence from another room. Meanwhile, an ominous, skinless figure lurks in the basement, a telltale heart whose blood gets pumping whenever Susie dances. The women of the company welcome Susie, with the exception of a couple who seem psychologically scarred
by the recent disappearance of one of the star dancers, Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz). Madame Blanc and her witchy cohorts insist Patricia
left of her own accord, but dancer Olga (Elena Fokina) lets everyone know she doesn’t buy it. Of course, Olga must be shut up or the school masters risk being exposed for whatever it is they’re doing at this school that makes young women disappear. But the manner in which Olga is punished is breathtakingly sick and gorgeous. Like great dance, it becomes an expression of the soul. (April Wolfe)
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