ABR Arts Film

The Social Dilemma

Joshua Krook
21 September 2020

If you watch one film about technology this year, make it this one. The Social Dilemma (Netflix) features almost every tech insider turned outsider. There’s Tristan Harris, Google’s former chief design ethicist who famously dissented over the company’s attention/addiction business model. There’s Justin Rosenstein, the inventor of the Facebook ‘like’ button, who now regrets his invention. There’s Guillaume Chaslot, inventor of the YouTube recommendations system, who now regrets his invention. There’s Jaron Lanier, founder of virtual reality, who now wants people to delete their social media accounts. There’s Shoshana Zuboff, author of last year’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, who blew the lid on the whole game. And that’s just in the first few minutes.

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Hearts and Bones 

Jordan Prosser
11 May 2020

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a slippery condition to pin down and portray. Cinema in general struggles to convey the depth and nuance of mental illness, especially when it stems from trauma. We’re often left with frenzied flashbacks, bombastic sound design, and overripe performances that skirt dangerously close to parody. A mental illness is like a haunting, which may be why genre cinema – especially the horror genre – has recently found such success exploring the topic.

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The Professor and the Madman 

Barnaby Smith
17 February 2020

When the British author Simon Winchester published the book The Surgeon of Crowthorne in 1998, the idea was, according to his editor, to ‘make lexicography cool’. The non-fiction work told the bizarre and oddly uplifting Victorian-era tale of the autodidactic linguist and scholar Sir James Murray and his relationship with William Chester Minor, a retired American army surgeon incarcerated at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Despite serious mental illness, Minor was a vital contributor to Murray’s gargantuan task of creating the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), an endeavour that began in 1879.

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The Lighthouse 

Andrew Nette
06 February 2020

It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of Robert Pattinson since the role that brought him to public attention, that of the reluctant vampire Edward Cullen, in the first instalment of the syrupy teen romance franchise Twilight (2008). In a little over a decade, he has transmogrified, via a series of eclectic, often challenging roles, into a major Hollywood talent, able to hold his own with screen veteran Willem Dafoe in Robert Eggers’s psychological horror, The Lighthouse.

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Uncut Gems 

Jack Callil
03 February 2020

There is something fundamentally irritating about Adam Sandler. Whether it’s his two-dimensional characters, mousey face, or nasally voice, he reminds you of that obnoxious guy whose loud voice dominates a party. He is the poster boy of puerile comedy, the SNL-alum visionary of some of the most blasphemously bad films of all time. The sheer offensiveness of his work is unignorable: the homophobia of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), the racism of Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), the sexism of … pretty much all of it. Each film generally comprises a character arc of Sandler urinating freely, shouting petulantly, fucking wildly, and then maybe punching someone: The end.

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A Hidden Life 

Jordan Prosser
29 January 2020

Terrence Malick’s mid-career output has been as divisive as his early films were revered. After The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or in 2011, To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), and Song to Song (2017) arrived in uncharacteristically quick succession, testing audiences’ willingness to indulge Malick’s stubborn stylistic sensibilities. His knack for laying bare characters’ inner lives simply didn’t have the same impact when applied to a smattering of good-looking celebrities milling about South by Southwest festival, or Ben Affleck’s middle-aged ennui.

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True History of the Kelly Gang 

Jordan Prosser
13 January 2020

The suggestion that any single retelling of the story of the Kelly Gang might come close to ‘true’ is laughable, but by drawing attention to this fact at the outset, Carey gives himself unfettered creative licence to embellish the tale however he pleases. And while the aural-visual medium of filmmaking could never hope to recreate the unique interiority of Carey’s Kelly or the breathtaking poetry of his loquacious, first-person prose, Kurzel’s film nevertheless succeeds, positioning itself less as a direct adaptation and more of an invocation. It summons the same restless spirit as the novel, and permits itself those same grand liberties with the so-called ‘truth’.

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The Truth 

Felicity Chaplin
18 December 2019

For much of his working life, Hirokazu Kore-eda has been preoccupied with the question of what makes a family a family. Following on from the critically acclaimed Shoplifters (2018), which received the Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Truth continues to explore the idea of family, the roles we assume, the parts we play, and, above all, the lies we tell. It also interrogates our attachment to the idea of truth, something which for Kore-eda we may never, as humans, reach.

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Sorry We Missed You 

Jack Callil
18 December 2019

For anyone who has seen I, Daniel Blake (2016), the baked-beans scene is likely to be burnt upon the brain. It is a harrowing moment, one that draws attention to the brutal lives of many people who depend on the British welfare system. The film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, tapped into what for many was a daily existence – and even influenced political elections. Now its director, the octogenarian auteur Ken Loach, has returned with Sorry We Missed You, a sort of thematic sequel following one working-class family’s struggle to stay afloat in the gig economy.

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By the Grace of God 

Nicholas Bugeja
25 November 2019

‘By the grace of God, the statute of limitations has expired’, pronounces Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (François Marthouret), the Archbishop of Lyon, at a 2016 press conference. He is, of course, referring to the historical child abuse crimes committed by Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley). The press corps is understandably shaken. A journalist rises, indignant: ‘Excuse me, do you realise how shocking that is?’ Barbarin tries backpedalling, to no avail. The words are etched in history, signifying a rare moment of truth nestled among the lies, prevarications, and confidentiality agreements that the Catholic Church has often deployed to salvage its tainted reputation. Yet these tactics have had the opposite effect, further plunging the Church into a profound legal and moral crisis.

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