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How Four Films Demonstrate The Cinematic Beauty Of Moments Both Big And Small

Film
Photos Courtesy of NYFF

Looking at the latest auteur-driven works

The 2018 New York Film Festival doesn’t have any major first-time-anywhere feature premieres. This is unusual for the festival, which usually has at least one exclusive up its sleeve, but I wonder if its selections simply took up too much space to accommodate such an addition. Not in the sense that a few titles suck up all the oxygen in the room, blockbuster-style, but because so many of this year’s works by major directors ably function as both immersive big-canvas experiences and finely detailed portraits.

Strangely—or maybe not; maybe this is the new normal—two of the biggest movies are also Netflix-distributed titles that may well turn up in living rooms as soon as they come out in commercial release. Theatrical releases for the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma are coming, but seemingly not yet finalized; few theaters are willing to book something day-and-date with a streaming title, and Netflix has previously been unwilling to back down from offering its acquisitions an exclusive theatrical window. They may yet compromise for the Coens and Cuarón, perhaps aware of just how many people would make a point of seeing these movies on the big screen.

Buster Scruggs was initially described as a possible Netflix series, but the Coens clarified at a post-screening press conference that this was never really the plan for their collection of six short Westerns. The film bears this out; the running time is approximately the equivalent of six 20-something-minute “episodes,” but the shorts themselves are not uniform in length, varying from a relatively brief misadventure with James Franco as an ill-fated (or maybe just evenly-fated?) outlaw to a fairly long film with Zoe Kazan as a “rattled” woman on a wagon train to Oregon.

The format of Buster Scruggs might sound like a comedown in scope, a more formalized version of the vaguely vignette-based Hail, Caesar! But unlike so many anthology movies, the pieces of the Coens’ omnibus build into something more. Part of the movie’s scope has to do with the vast scenic landscapes captured by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (marking his second collaboration with the Coens after Inside Llewyn Davis, and again creating images that feel, paradoxically, rich in faded colors). It’s a gorgeous movie, and frequently a grim one, which is what unites the six parts even more than their impeccable craft. Many of the Coens’ stories involve sudden, terrible twists of fate—and, of course, it’s not news that life in the Old West was cruel and punishing—but the Coens haven’t exactly made a movie about life in the Old West; they’ve made a gloss on stories about the Old West, with a throughline that keeps it moving in one particular direction, until the movie reaches a logical conclusion with a segment that manages to be both one of the funniest, featuring an all-time great instance of a Coen character who speaks at length to the growing irritation of his listeners, and the most elegiac. Going smaller has allowed them to think pretty big.

Cuarón’s Roma is also deceptively big; it’s mostly about Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a housekeeper for a moderately well-to-do family in Mexico City in the early 1970s, and though it doesn’t have the sprawling cast or running time associated with epic sweep, Cuarón, shooting in black-and-white on the digital equivalent of 65mm, captures Cleo’s time and place with a series of stunning sequences. Even in a static first shot, he’s filling eyes; the opening credits play over a shot of soapy water sliding over a floor, eventually reflecting an image of a window in the water. Before any people have been introduced, before the camera has moved, he captures something indelible.

In a way, that signals how the rest of the film will proceed. It’s not that the people of Roma aren’t important to him—Aparicio is terrific as Cleo, naturalistic and affecting—but the characters aren’t always distinctive enough to stand out against the dazzle of the filmmaking. There are astonishing scenes here, where Cuarón will track his camera across a seemingly intimate scene, only to gradually reveal its full scope: the number of people teeming in the background, the endless waves of an ocean shore, or the full tides of history, as when Cleo has a medical emergency in the midst of a deadly clash between would-be revolutionaries. The ensuing sequence is harrowing, heartbreaking, and so devastating that I had to wonder why, exactly, the movie was putting its audience through this wringer.

As an experience, Roma is vivid. As a narrative, it’s more on the familiar side: infidelity, pregnancy, class divisions, without the moments of personal idiosyncrasy that often define material rooted in memory and experience (Cuarón, in his NYFF press conference, repeatedly discussed the film coming together as an amalgam of experiences, his as well as others). The movie never feels quite like a first-person account because none of the characters have much pop; even Cleo, compelling as she is, is more reactive than anything else. It’s a beautiful, often thrilling film that for all its craft sometimes feels observed from a distance. If Gravity, Cuarón’s previous project, underlined its emotional story in the midst of the technical spectacle, this one flips the intimate/epic ratio: the technical stuff isn’t as immediate as unbroken space-cams in IMAX, but the most emotional moments feel reserved, maybe even, sometimes, not especially specific. (Reader, I cried. But for perhaps more personal reasons than involvement in the story at hand.)

The Gravity torch is picked up, meanwhile, by Damien Chazelle’s First Man (which did not play at NYFF but is opening wide today). Chazelle’s movie, about Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk and the trainings and attempts that preceded it, is both more encompassing than Gravity (it takes place over many years) and less (about half an hour of it, maybe less, actually unfolds in space). Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is involved in a momentous operation that transcends mankind’s seeming limitations, yet he is a very Gosling-y character: quiet, reflective, sometimes taciturn bordering on opaque, though we know at least part of what occupies him. Early in the film, the Armstrong family suffers a terrible loss, and if “refreshing” is the wrong word for this heartrending detail, it’s certainly a novelty to see a male astronaut unmoored by personal tragedy.

In a process that would be overly literal if it wasn’t so damn effective, Chazelle shoots on both 16mm film, grainy and handheld, for most of the movie, and full-on IMAX for the moon sequence (the amount of IMAX footage is accordingly small but still probably worth the price of a super-sized ticket—provided a genuine, non-retrofitted IMAX exists in your area. Another reason First Man would have made sense at NYFF is that the only such screen in New York City is just down the street at the Lincoln Square AMC). The moon landing itself is, per the movie, both a glorious technological marvel and a scrappy production that could have (and, in earlier years, did) left bodies in its wake. La La Land and Whiplash are both about the price of glory, and to some extent so is First Man, as Armstrong places stress on his family as he sticks with the mission (and Chazelle does give voice, however briefly, to those who would argue the whole thing is a frivolous, pride-based waste of taxpayer money in the face of genuine suffering). What makes the film special, and especially moving, is Chazelle’s consideration of moments that are bigger than his hero—both in the course of human history, as with the moon landing, and in the case of what Armstrong himself can bear.

Chazelle and Barry Jenkins were pitted as rivals in the 2016 Oscar season when the Best Picture race was said to come down to La La Land and Moonlight (Moonlight prevailed and La La Land won a bunch of other stuff, reinforcing that pre-show hunch). But their strengths as directors are not dissimilar: a strong sense of texture and emotional intimacy, which is certainly the strength of the new Jenkins film, If Beale Street Could Talk, which also played at NYFF. Adapting the James Baldwin novel of the same name, Jenkins is too respectful to jettison some narration that doubtless works better on the page; it sounds a little stilted in his film, because his images tend to speak for themselves, especially with his signature shots of character dead center of frame, staring straight at the camera. Like Roma, the Beale Street story is pretty simple. Alonzo (Stephan James) is falsely accused of rape while his love Clementine (KiKi Layne) is pregnant with his baby. Jenkins doesn’t create false suspense over the outcome of this charge, and is more interested in the dynamics of the investigation than the result, which he tips relatively early. For this reason, Beale Street isn’t as immediate as Moonlight; it doesn’t have that inexorable pull through the characters’ lives. What he retains is his gift for slowing down big moments and blowing up little ones. 

Jenkins, Cuarón, Chazelle, and the Coens all do this to varying degrees, and do it so well that you might forget how rare it is.

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Photo by Handout / Getty Images.

From selling probiotic supplements to picture frames and umbrellas

A Kardashian-level of success doesn't happen overnight, and it certainly doesn't happen without proper planning. Kim Kardashian West clearly knows this because, according to TMZ, she has already filed for trademark protection on the name of her two-week-old baby, Psalm West. From personal appearances and entertainment services to probiotic supplements and scrunchies, she is leaving no stone unturned in terms of possible business opportunities.

Apparently, all of the Kardashian parents file these kinds of trademark protections for their kids even if the businesses never come to fruition. It's done as a precautionary measure to keep others from profiting off of their name and to make sure that, should they ever want to start a business, they don't have to worry about someone else getting to it first. The sheer length of this list speaks to the huge earning potential of baby Psalm, who can't even control his own neck muscles yet, let alone go into business. Still, this brings a whole new meaning to "securing the bag."

Below, a list of all the things Kardashian West is seeking usage rights for.

Hair accessories

Barrettes

Bands

Bows

Clips

Ties

Ornaments

Pins

Scrunchies

Chopsticks

Twisters

Wrap

Hair extensions

Ornamental novelty pins

Entertainment services

Personal appearances

Skin care

Probiotic supplements

Toy figures

Doll accessories

Computer software

Clothing

Baby bottles

Furniture

Strollers

Beverageware

Swaddling

Blankets

Skin moisturizers

Lotions

Creams

Bubble bath

Fragrances

Body powders

Shower gels

Body oils

Skin serums

Nail polish

Nail polish remover

Nail care preparations

Puppets

Puzzles

Toy jewelry

Toy cameras

Toy food

Bath toys

Baby gyms

Playground balls

Electronic action toys

Baby bouncers

Baby changing tables

Baby walkers

Pillows

Mirrors

Cushions

Picture frames

Playpens

Baby carriers

Cosmetic bags

Toiletry cases

Duffle bags

Umbrellas

Clocks

Watches

Key chains

Calendars

Books

photo albums

Stationery

Stickers

Writing utensils

Collectible trading cards

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

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Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council www.youtube.com

Photograph via @kimkardashian.

"#NotOnMyMoodBoard"

Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.

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