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Director: Barry Jenkins Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King Running Time: 117 minutes


“I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass.”

The words of James Baldwin, from a character that sadly knows that plenty have had to look at someone they love through glass, or through some restriction or another, few, if any, deserving to have their full hearts clutched by oppressive fists. As a writer who felt even harder than he thought and had too many of his own restrictions, it’s hard to blame the writer for his frustrations that ignored that pathos. Writing about the cinema of his time that aimed to show the black experience, socially active author Baldwin only ever found it inadequate. Their feel-good narratives rang false, tripping gracelessly over themselves to reassure and reframe for guiltily ignorant, or ignorantly guilty, white audiences. We can’t speak for Baldwin, but in adapting his novel If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins has clearly and skillfully endeavoured to present a lived experience that is genuine, lives that feel real, and a lush love story that is all the more enriched by that effort to be genuine.

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Director: James Franco, Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco Running Time: 105 minutes


To know exactly how The Disaster Artist approaches its subject, know this. The film opens with a slew of Hollywood celebrities earnestly describing their love of The Room, the titular disaster, and closes with praise for the phenomenon that the film and its artist, Tommy Wiseau have become. Captions and real footage show Wiseau in attendance at some of the many midnight screenings that have transformed his terrible film from being an LA inside joke to the central story of a genuine Oscar contender, a feel-good wrap-up of an unlikely success story. It’s hard not to see a bit of self-back-patting at the heart of this endeavour. King of the so-bad-its-good films, the appeal of The Room is that it’s a genuine attempt at creating art and exploring human emotions from a man who seemingly understands neither art nor human emotions, nor human anything for that matter. A film that is just off in every way imaginable, provoking equal parts hilarity, revulsion and perverse curiosity. The appeal of The Disaster Artist is The Room. James Franco’s love of the cult film comes through and is sure to get laughs from fellow fans, inspiring a few more along the way, as he takes on the Tommy persona impressively and recreates the best-worst scenes. However, there are depths to this bottom-of-the-barrel that he is not so interested in delving into, preferring a level of insight that never reaches much higher than sketch comedy.

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