While many are stuck at home, wondering when life will go back to normal, film fans like myself are thriving off of the film festival season. This is the time when critics are allowed to see upcoming films early and predict if they are Academy Award nomination material. 

I was very fortunate to be a guest of New Jersey’s Montclair Film Festival, where they show student short films and features, while also presenting larger, in demand and Oscar buzz films. For my own safety, I took part in the festival digitally where they offered just as many, if not more, selections of films to see. 

Here are two films that I think should be on people’s radar!

“Black Bear”

“Black Bear” is the latest from independent filmmaker Lawrence Michael Levine, and stars Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott. The story follows a filmmaker as she stays in a bed and breakfast-like cabin in the middle of the mountains. I will keep the plot synopsis short and brief because it is best to experience this film, like I did, as blind as possible. This film was outstanding, and will definitely be overlooked by many Oscar voters. However, that should not stop you from checking out this unexpected and thought-provoking thriller. 

The film feels like it was created by two different filmmakers. The first act feels like a professionally made film by someone who understands the artform. The second act feels very chaotic, and mostly uses handheld camerawork. The script is tight and addresses topics of feminism, isolation and power. The performances by Plaza and Abbott are phenomenal, displaying Abbott as one of the best actors of our generation, who consistently brings A+ work to every film. 

Please see this film; it is one of the best of the year and will certainly be overlooked! “Black Bear” will be streaming, as well as released in theatres, on Dec. 4!

9/10

“Minari”

“Minari” comes from Korean filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung, and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung, Alan S. Kim and Will Patton. This film tells the story of the Yi family, as they are trying to get by in the 1980s in America. Chung claims that this is a personal film about his childhood. 

This film is nothing short of extraordinary and so far is my favorite of 2020! Chung has created something beautiful and quiet, while being sincere with the subject matter. The film discusses themes of love, faith, hope and the American dream, while not feeling clichéd or familiar. 

Yeun brings my favorite performance of the year. He has solidified himself as an actor to look out for, and I hope he garners some Oscar buzz around this performance. The direction is quiet and patient, and the screenplay asks the audience to empathize with the family’s struggles. I hope entertainment company A24 really pushes hard for this film this award season because it is something nobody has seen before. It is entirely unique, avoiding falling into the genre’s familiar trappings. “Minari” will be released in theatres soon!

10/10

 

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