Elisha has written 390 reviews for films during 2020.

  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

    Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

    ★★★★½

    “Come on Alice, stop acting”
    -Actors, in character.

    This film is like a growing germ or a sneeze in my brain that won’t come out. The idea alone that a director is an actor (a role on two planes) who is exploring their many masks and ways of seeing through the filmmaking process is a can of worms on its own. Then to illuminate that search for reality by including the perceptions of other realities as a vehicle to explore…

  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    ★★★½

    When the credits began to roll over Da Five Bloods, I couldn't help but feel as if I'd just attended a funeral for the late Chadwick Boseman. When the last name had crawled away and darknesss flooded the screen, it felt like a burial—an irreversible ending. I feared a similar well of unease would await me whenever I got around to watching Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, so I put off what felt like the inevitable: a return to the joys and…

  • The Young and the Damned

    The Young and the Damned

    ★★★★

    SPOILERS (for this film, Pixote, and City of God):

    I see a lot of people drawing a link between this film and City of God, but I think it’s a lot closer in kinship to Pixote. There is, for instance, no pure soul such as Benny to mourn over here. Love is never found at all, and it is only sought after when it no longer has a chance to grow. Any imagined escape is an escape back into the…

  • Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

    Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

    ★★★★

    Finally finished Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy!

    SPOILERS:

    This is possibly the darkest, dark comedy I've seen in recent memory. Initially, the tonal shift from the first two films felt jarring. But I think when viewed in the context of each successive film's stylistic evolution, it makes sense. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance builds on the animated respites and stylistic excesses of Oldboy to find a comedic visual language that revels, not in self-parody, but in humorous and thematically-appropriate absurdity.

    It also…

  • Body and Soul

    Body and Soul

    Paul Robeson’s name and life story have been rotating in my mind this entire year, so I decided I’d check out his (oddly unacknowledged) screen debut. I don’t really have a review for this. It inspires a lot more reading, for me, than it does writing. A few observations though:

    • Paul Robeson is a fucking movie star.

    • Micheaux is experimental with his use of seamless flashback, intercutting and casting. But what I most enjoyed from a technical standpoint…

  • Driveways

    Driveways

    ★★

    I was watching this, wondering why Brian Dennehy’s Del seemed so much more centered and fleshed out than its two central characters, and why the one racist white lady was over drawn and overly emphasized to the point of caricature. Then I looked up the writers, and everything began to make sense.

    I can't say there’s nothing to this film. It’s nicely shot for the most part, and its quietest moments contain some of the emotional weight it seeks to…

  • Space Is the Place

    Space Is the Place

    ★★★½

    “Our realm is not based upon highness. Space is not only high, it’s low. It’s the bottomless pit. There’s no end to it.”

    Watched with Pops. There’s really no better way to describe this film, or Sun Ra as an artist, than with the quote above. A volley of otherworldly Blaxploitation, Black Power, and undefinable Black music. It’s set design and cinematography are just as brain-bending, working in tandem with its humorous performances to elevate a simple plot with a…

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin

    We Need to Talk About Kevin

    ★★★★½

    SPOILERS:

    Why would I not know the context? I am the context.
    –Kevin

    A searing indictment of "boys will be boys" culture and America’s fascination with violence, as well as a deep exploration of maternity’s dark side, nature vs. nurture, and sociopathy. Its mystery, nor its focus, necessarily lie in what may be deemed its central event. Ramsay makes no great pains to hide what Kevin has done, so much as how he’s done it—and how that connects with the…

  • King of New York

    King of New York

    ★★½

    My first Abel Ferrara film is supposedly one of his best.

    It’s pretty lukewarm in both its critique of capitalism and its dramatization, or lack thereof, of that critique. The screenplay has a tendency to orate through its characters, and this need to make things clear speaks to the underlying feelings of insecurity and powerlessness that color a lot of this film’s biggest power plays. I enjoy its ending. The city that Frank seeks to heal turns itself in on…

  • Tongues Untied

    Tongues Untied

    ★★★★★

    Black men loving Black men is the revolutionary act.

    Going to go ahead and consider this one of the greatest films of all time. Absolutely singular in both content and form, with every existential ounce of fear, love and desire connecting beyond the screen like a gut punch. I forgot to breathe, remembered to cry, and lost myself to all of its poetry—both auditory and visual. Few can speak through the body the way Riggs does, and few are able…

  • Images

    Images

    ★★½

    The first act of this film is laden with the seeds of distrust and intrigue inherent in Cathryn's mind. Each macro and micro element, from the voices on the phone to the pair of black gloves that Hugh enters the house wearing, raise an unsettling ambiguity around their relationship to Cathryn—and thus, Cathryn's relationship to her environment. Altman's direction is tight, finding Cathryn's illusions within the physical business of the scene, allowing quiet images and gentle objects to transport us…

  • The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy

    The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy

    ★★★★

    “My sons, nuns are never armed with love and compassion. However, you will be safe here for a while. And you have never even been safe before.”

    Kathleen Collins has held a special place for me this year, ever since I watched Losing Ground in June. I finished her beautifully bittersweet book of short stories, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, a week or so ago and I loved it. I'm also halfway through Notes from a Black Woman's Diary, and…