Tag Archives: a24 films

Review: ‘Showing Up’

Michelle Williams and Hong Chau star in director Kelly Reichardt’s gentle, lovely slice of creative life.

We are surrounded by creativity. How did it get there? 

Hard work and perseverance, according to Showing Up, the newest film by director Kelly Reichardt. The title, apparently quoting Woody Allen — “Ninety percent of success in life is just showing up” — is apt, though it only begins to explain what drives the titular artist (Michelle Williams), a sculptor making final preparations for her next show in Oregon. 

The artist sculpts out of her home studio with her roommate, a cat. To support herself, she works as a commercial artist at an arts & crafts combine, managed by her mother (Maryann Plunkett). She visits her father (Judd Hirsch), a retired artist, and worries about her brother (Jean-Luc Boucherot), an artist with an unsteady grasp on life. 

She crosses cordial paths with fellow artists all day long, though she has become angered as of late with Jo (Hong Chau), an artist on the rise. Their point of contention is a hot-water issue in the house owned by Jo, of which the artist rents space for living and working.

All these are little matters that only become bigger issues when they veer from distractions  to obstacles that impinge upon the artist’s free flow of creativity. They may seem small, if not outright petty, yet they grow into mountains when ignored. 

Written by frequent collaborators Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt, Showing Up flows by with casual grace, capturing the gentle push and pull of daily life for an artist. She’s not a ‘struggling’ artist, in that she has food to eat and a safe place to live. Still, hers is a modest life, like that of many of her fellow artists. Occasionally, some may break through and start to enjoy greater success, as Jo appears to be doing. 

More often in life, the artist does not have greater success; the only success they can hope to achieve is to do the work, to finish the work, and then live for another day, so they can start on a new piece of work. The end goal is not necessarily to achieve great success, but to express what is inside, what they may not be able to explain to anyone else, except for showing the work. And to do that, first they just have to show up. 

Director Kelly Reichard does that better than most, as expressed delicately, yet with great passion, in all her films to date. Without the noise of genre films, she captures great big slabs of life, and then distills them into tasty slices that resonate and echo, like a flat stone skipped on a calm lake, rippling quietly yet memorably.

The film opens Friday, April 21, Angelika Film Center (Dallas), Cinemark West Plano, and Alamo Drafthouse Richardson, via A24 Films. It will expand April 28 to additional theaters in Addison, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hurst and Plano, . For more information about the film, visit the official site.

Review: ‘Marcel The Shell With Shoes On,’ I Laughed, I Cried

Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini star in the best film of the year, directed by Dean Fleischer Camp. 

I am a solo traveler in the world of cinema. 

Sometimes, other people accompany me on individual jaunts. Mostly, it’s just me and the movies. And that is perfectly fine with me. The better movies invite me to accompany them on their individual jaunts, building a nest where we can live together in a cocoon of dreams that can be comforting, disturbing, relaxing,  unsettling, hilarious, poignant, recognizable, strange, or something altogether different and unexpected. 

Disarmingly wonderful, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On tells a story that I never wanted to end. Using only her voice, Jenny Slate embodies a character who is miniscule in size yet embraces all that he comes upon in a world he has only begun to explore. 

Marcel lives with his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini) in a house where a man and a woman once lived. The humans moved out some time ago, for reasons unknown to Marcel. Ever since, Marcel and his grandmother live without any notice from the temporary residents who come and go from the rental abode, moving in for a day or two or a week or a month and then moving out. 

Marcel and his grandmother get along very nicely on their own, thank you very much. They forage for food in the comfortable house and surrounding yard, building ingenious devices to sustain their lifestyle, and enjoy their peaceful existence. Marcel loves his grandmother, but is conscious that she is slowing down. He misses the community of his fellow shells who once lived in the house but moved away some time ago, for reasons unknown to Marcel. 

Dean Fleischer-Camp moved into Marcel’s house as a temporary residence, then decided to make videos about him and his life as a shell with shoes on, which he begins posting on the internet to increasing interest and growing popularity. Popularity does not equate community, though, and Marcel yearns to reunite with his lost community of fellow travelers. 

What may seem initially like a one-joke movie blossoms into a garden of comical delights, told from Marcel’s perspective. He often sounds like an extremely well educated baby, able to leap tall bounds of wisdom and common sense, but his humor is grounded by what he perceives and understands, which is that we all need someone. Maybe not someone to love romantically, but someone with whom we can share our life’s experiences, our challenges, our successes, our failures, our joys, our thoughts, our opinions. 

Or our view of movies and television shows like 60 Minutes. Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate, who wrote the screenplay together with Nick Paley, based on a story by Fleischer-Camp, Slate, Paley and Elisabeth Holm, understand this. Fleischer Camp directed with a lovely mixture of live-action faux documentary techniques and stop-motion animation that is utterly beguiling and, somehow, completely transfixing and entertaining. 

I laughed, I cried, I was glad to be alive to see Marcel the Shell With Shoes On with an audience as we shared the experience. It’s good to be alive. 

Originally published on ScreenAnarchy.com. The film will open Friday, July 8 in Dallas movie theaters via A24 Films.


Review: ‘Minari,’ It’s All About Family

Steven Yeun stars in director Lee Isaac Chung’s beguiling tale about a Korean family and their new farm in Arkansas during the 1980s.

Families come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and races. We know this to be true, yet the sight of a new, “different” family coming into our neighborhood nowadays can still stir old resentments and, sadly, old prejudices. 

How much more so, then, if a film rewinds to the 1980s and sets itself in rural Arkansas, as writer/director Lee Isaac Chung does in his beguiling new family portrait Minari. On the face of it, a film revolving around a Korean family moving to the South during a period of economic revival in “Reagan’s America” appears destined to depict harsh racial prejudices and unwelcoming neighbors. 

Jacob (Steven Yeun, best-known from TV’s The Walking Dead) is none too interested in any neighbors; his focus is the land. In Arkansas, real estate prices have made it possible for him to buy sufficient acreage for a working farm. While he and his wife Monica (Han Yeri) spend their weekdays doing the same type of mind-numbing manual labor that they did previously in California, Jacob spends every available hour developing the farm, leaving their children, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho) to fend for themselves. 

Constantly exhausted, Jacob and Monica have little time for each other, much less their children, so Jacob eventually agrees to invite Monica’s mother Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) to come from Korean to live with them. This helps relieve some of the pressure on Monica, but more especially helps provide companionship to young David, though he is initially resistant to a grandmother he has never known before. 

The adult actors all give performances that feel authentic and lived-in; they are not always admirable, which, truthfully, bolsters their believability. Chung, drawing from his own personal life and family experiences, details the characters distinctly and buttresses their strengths and weaknesses with events that look and feel vividly cinematic. The emphasis on the family pushes supporting characters firmly to the sidelines, which also feels and looks like the best way for the family, or any family, to succeed in their new circumstances. 

The interplay between family members tugs at the heart. It’s easy to root for the family, who may speak Korean but also convey the universal truth that family comes first, come what may, no matter what anyone says or does. 

The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on Friday, February 12, 2021, via A24 Films. It will be available On Demand on February 26. For more information about the film, visit the official site.