Orson Welles, as any seasoned film-lover knows, remains one of the medium’s more ambitious technicians, in addition to being one of its larger-than-life personalities. Dennis Hopper, meanwhile, is still an embodiment of the far-left countercultural rebellion. In spite of their differences, both men altered the course of film history with their respective directorial debuts, “Citizen Kane” and “Easy Rider.” “Hopper/Welles” is essentially a gripping, two-hour filmed podcast that captures a wandering conversation between Hopper and Welles, and what transpires is an unreasonably entertaining work of joyous film-nerd ephemera. “Hopper/Welles” is most invigorating when the directors find unexpected shared ground: both, in a telling moment, profess a pronounced distaste with the follies of European arthouse cinema of the 1970s. “Hopper/Welles” ends up being a rhapsodic snapshot of two very different geniuses, drawn to each other like moths to a lamplight for a flickering moment in time. The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang praised the film in her review out of Venice, writing that “what emerges more strongly is a sense of mutual admiration – sometimes even envy – and a fascinating snapshot of a period in time when movies could really matter, as experienced by two men whose movies were among those that mattered most.”
Release Date: TBD– NL
“The Human Voice”
There’s no one quite like Pedro Almodóvar, and while the “All About My Mother” director has enjoyed God-like status among cinephiles for decades, last year’s marvelous “Pain and Glory” saw the internationally-lauded auteur coming dangerously close to delivering a crossover hit, whilst gifting us a cinematic masterpiece that neatly encapsulated all of his preferred authorial obsessions in the process. The Jean Cocteau-inspired “The Human Voice,” starring the irreplaceable Tilda Swinton, is not a new Almodóvar feature; rather, it’s a 30-minute short film about a woman confronting the abandonment of a former lover. Still, some Almodóvar is better than none at all: just listen to our beloved Jessica Kiang, who was over the moon for the film, calling it “a concentrated half-hour dose of everything you love about Almodóvar,” and noting that the director’s signature “magnificence” is “worn lightly, with irony and mischief and a cheeky little moral about how to be a modern woman trapped in the very unmodern role of spurned lover.” “The Human Voice” suffered a few COVID-related production hiccups last year before premiering at Venice in the fall of 2020, and Sony Pictures Classics currently has rights to the film – let’s hope they devise a release strategy sooner rather than later!
Release Date: TBD – NL
Every January, your social media is inundated with inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, typically cherry-picked by white liberals to preserve the illusion of “peaceful demonstration” in the face of evil and bigotry. The erasure of King’s politics and the beliefs that got him killed has been well at work for decades now, but thankfully there are filmmakers like Sam Pollard around to set the record straight. In his searing new documentary “MLK/FBI,” Pollard uses archival footage and lost tapes to investigate the FBI’s role in the death of our most iconic civil rights leader. While most films that have covered, or even danced around the subject, have avoided the fact that the beloved Kennedy Brothers played a significant role in King’s assassination, Pollard has no qualms indicting everybody involved, regardless of political party. Documentaries and narrative features that set out to expose a system can often feel like they’re preaching to the choir, but Pollard’s film is all facts and no messaging; a clear-eyed, sobering look at the lengths our government and their taxpayer-funded resources will go to stop any revolutionary movement from making their demands a reality. It may lack the inspirational speechifying of Ava DuVernay’s 2014 feature “Selma,” but Pollard’s film should be the one we look to when remembering the man so many of us quote in earnest, yet fail to properly understand.
Release Date: January 15, via IFC Films.- MR
Riz Ahmed is hot off one of the best years of his career to date after solidifying himself as a surefire Oscar contender for his fearless performance in “Sound of Metal,” one of last year’s finest films. If nothing else, the upcoming “Mogul Mowgli” sees the brilliant young actor adding another notch to his proverbial belt; this time, Ahmed will be playing a role that’s close to the vest, at least autobiographically speaking. “Mogul Mowgli,” directed by “These Birds Walk” filmmaker Bassam Tariq, will see the actor playing a British-Pakistani hip-hop artist (for those that don’t know, Ahmed himself is also a rapper) whose ascent to stardom is derailed by a health scare. For those who worry that this might be an international retread of the themes explored in “Sound of Metal,” fear not: Ahmed has stated that he and Tariq made the film about “… family, art, identity, legacy, inheritance, the whole beautiful mess of being alive in our bodies on this creative journey.” The film played at Berlin last year and has been in cinemas in the U.K. since October 2020, and while no U.S. release date has yet been announced (“Mogul Mowgli” is currently without American distribution), fans of Ahmed’s will surely want to seek it out.
Release Date: TBD– NL
“My Salinger Year”
There’s no denying it anymore: Margaret Qualley is a star, and after her chilling breakout performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood,” the sky’s the limit as far as where she wants her career to go. Qualley is the main attraction of Philippe Falardeau’s “My Salinger Year,” based on the memoir of the same name by Joanna Rakoff. Qualley plays Rakoff in the film: an up-and-coming writer who moves from Berkeley, California to New York City and, before long, becomes nebulously entangled in the life and writings of the notoriously reclusive “Catcher In The Rye” scribe, J.D. Salinger. The critical response to “My Salinger Year” has been decidedly more mixed than many of the other films on this list, but honestly, it’s probably worth seeing for Qualley and co-star Sigourney Weaver. Playlist critic Jack King gave the film a positive review, praising its feel-good vibes and noting that while it may not always succeed in the larger debate it triest to define authorship and how the commercialization of writing infringes upon creativity, “the film’s central narrative following Joanna’s conflicting aspirations as a writer largely succeeds.”
Release Date: March 5, via Mongrel Media. – NL