Matt writes: The uplifting new documentary by Mary Mazzio, “A Most Beautiful Thing,” will have its official US release on Friday, July 31st. Click here to read Mazzio’s insightful article about the film, which is preceded by the following introduction penned by Chaz Ebert…
“I think that ‘A Most Beautiful Thing,’ Mary Mazzio’s inspiring documentary about the first African-American high school rowing team, will be one of the most important documentaries released this year. It tells the story of former gang members from the West Side of Chicago grudgingly getting together to form a sports team that had never been formed before, a Black rowing team. Initially they didn’t get the support of their own student body because they weren’t playing the popular sports like basketball or football. And incredibly, it also shows these same former gang members teaching members of the Chicago Police Department how to row. But that’s only part of the story. They reached out to an Olympic rowing coach for lessons, and put these skills to use in making decisions to change the trajectory of their lives.
Mary Mazzio shows how poverty should be treated as a health crisis and how systemic racism can be addressed at its roots by redressing structural inequities. It is a film about the ups and downs of life in the city. About the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants. About addiction and recovery, about family and community. And about a brighter path being forged from sheer hard work and discipline. It also has brilliant narration by Common and a music track that hits the spot.
It was originally scheduled for release in March, but the opening was delayed because of the Coronavirus Pandemic and it is now being released on Friday, July 31st. I am reposting the director’s insightful article about her film that we originally published this past March during our Women Writers Week. I believed so much in this film because I too grew up on the West Side of Chicago and I have fervent hope for how it can encourage another generation. Although I am an executive producer of the film, I had no influence or editorial oversight of the documentary.
In his SXSW review of the film, RogerEbert.com managing editor Brian Tallerico wrote, ‘Not everyone could have gotten these guys to open up the way they do in ‘A Most Beautiful Thing,’ and that’s often an underrated element of documentary filmmaking. Common may do the narrating but Mazzio lets the people like the unforgettable Arshay give the film its momentum. And these guys who could have had much different lives recognize how the most unexpected art of rowing changed their trajectories. … Mazzio’s approach reminded me of Steve James, another filmmaker whose undeniable empathy comes through in every frame.’”
I Used to Go Here (2020). Written and directed by Kris Rey. Starring Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Kate Micucci. Synopsis: Following the launch of her new novel, 35-year-old writer Kate is invited to speak at her alma matter by her former professor. After accepting the invitation, Kate finds herself deeply enmeshed in the lives of a group of college students. Debuts in the US on August 7th, 2020.
Words on Bathroom Walls (2020). Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Written by Nick Naveda (based on the novel by Julia Walton). Starring Charlie Plummer, Taylor Russell, Molly Parker. Synopsis: A teenager coping with paranoid schizophrenia hopes his new experimental drug treatment will help him navigate high school and the outside world. Debuts in the US on July 31st, 2020.
Project Power (2020). Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Written by Mattson Tomlin. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, Machine Gun Kelly. Synopsis: When a pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation. Debuts in the US on August 14th, 2020.
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn (2020). Directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad. Synopsis: A look at the events surrounding the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager in Brooklyn, who was killed in by a group of white youths. Debuts on HBO on August 12th, 2020.
Song Without a Name (2020). Directed by Melina León. Written by Melina León and Michael J. White. Starring Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Párraga, Lucio Rojas. Synopsis: Georgina’s newborn daughter is stolen at a fake health clinic. Her desperate search for the child leads her to the headquarters of a major newspaper, where she meets a lonely journalist who takes on the investigation. US release date is TBA.
Possessor (2020). Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean. Synopsis: Follows an agent who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies – ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients. US release date is TBA.
Work It (2020). Directed by Laura Terruso. Written by Alison Peck. Starring Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Keiynan Lonsdale. Synopsis: When Quinn Ackerman’s admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she forms a ragtag group of dancers to take on the best squad in school…now she just needs to learn how to dance. Debuts on Netflix on August 7th, 2020.
The Swamp (2020). Directed by Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme. Synopsis: A look behind the curtain of Washington politics by following three renegade Republican Congressmen over the course of a pivotal year in politics as they champion the President’s call to “drain the swamp.” Debuts on HBO on August 4th, 2020.
Strasbourg 1518 (2020). Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Synopsis: The filmmaker of “Under the Skin” reunites with his Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi for an experimental short. US release date is TBA.
Feels Good Man (2020). Directed by Arthur Jones. Synopsis: Artist Matt Furie, creator of the comic character Pepe the Frog, begins an uphill battle to take back his iconic cartoon image from those who used it for their own purposes. US release date is TBA.
How to Fake a War (2020). Directed by Rudolph Herzog. Written by Tim Price. Starring Katherine Parkinson, Lily Newmark, Jay Pharoah. Synopsis: When an outbreak of peace threatens rock star Harry Hope’s charity concert, he dispatches his PR consultant to create a fake war story – until the concert, at least. US release date is TBA.
The Shadow of Violence (2020). Directed by Nick Rowland. Written by Joe Murtagh. Starring Ned Dennehy, Barry Keoghan, Anthony Welsh. Synopsis: Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong has become the feared enforcer for the drug-dealing Devers family, whilst also trying to be a good father. Torn between these two families, Arm’s loyalties are tested when he is asked to kill for the first time. Debuts in the US on July 31st, 2020.
Random Acts of Violence (2020). Directed by Jay Baruchel. Written by Jay Baruchel and Jesse Chabot (based on the comic by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti). Starring Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Jay Baruchel. Synopsis: A pair of comic book writers begin to notice scary similarities between the character they created and horrific real-life events. Debuts in the US on August 20th, 2020.
Radioactive (2020). Directed by Marjane Satrapi. Written by Jack Thorne (based on the book by Lauren Redniss). Starring Rosamund Pike, Yvette Feuer, Mirjam Novak. Synopsis: The incredible true-story of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize-winning work that changed the world. Debuts in the US on July 24th, 2020.
Tesla (2020). Written and directed by Michael Almereyda. Starring Eve Hewson, Ethan Hawke, Hannah Gross. Synopsis: A freewheeling take on visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light. US release date is TBA.
Endless (2020). Directed by Scott Speer. Written by Andre Case and Oneil Sharma. Starring Famke Janssen, Alexandra Shipp, Nicholas Hamilton. Synopsis: When madly in love high school graduates Riley and Chris are separated by a tragic car accident, Riley blames herself for her boyfriend’s death while Chris is stranded in limbo. Miraculously, the two find a way to connect. Debuts in the US on August 14th, 2020.
Out Stealing Horses (2020). Written and directed by Hans Petter Moland (based on the novel by Per Petterson). Starring Stellan Skarsgård, Bjørn Floberg, Tobias Santelmann. Synopsis: A grieving widower moves to the country where a chance encounter rekindles memories from his past. Debuts in the US on August 7th, 2020.
She Dies Tomorrow (2020). Written and directed by Amy Seimetz. Starring Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley. Synopsis: Amy thinks she’s dying tomorrow…and it’s contagious. Debuts in the US on July 31st, 2020.
Matt writes: On the heels of our critic Odie Henderson giving the masterful performance of Broadway’s phenomenon “Hamilton” now streaming on Disney+ a richly deserved four stars, Katherine Tulich spoke with the show’s creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda along with his fellow performers Leslie Odom Jr. and Renée Elise Goldsberry in this exclusive video interview.
Ebert Fellow Among New Oscar Voters
Matt writes: Chaz Ebert recently penned an article congratulating Ebert Fellow Sue-Ellen Chitunya, a post-production coordinator on such Marvel blockbusters as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame,” on becoming a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Skip to the 10:57 mark in the excellent video dispatch embedded above to see Chaz’s interview with Sue-Ellen at Cannes 2018.
Shadey (1985). Directed by Philip Saville. Written by Snoo Wilson. Starring Antony Sher, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Macnee. Synopsis: A young man discovers that not only does he have the ability to read minds, but that if he holds a camera next to his head he can transmit the thoughts he sees onto film.
Leave to Remain (1988). Directed by Les Blair. Written by Iraj Jannati Attai. Starring Lavinia Bertram, Amir M. Korangy, Jonny Phillips. Synopsis: Set during the political upheaval following Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in Iran, this gripping film tells the story of Shahin Mohamedi, a young Iranian woman studying in London. When the cheques her father sends from home are intercepted by the Khomeini government, she is threatened with repatriation by vicious British immigration officers.
Wild Flowers (1989). Directed by Robert Smith. Written by Sharman Macdonald. Starring Colette O’Neil, Beatie Edney, Stevan Rimkus. Synopsis: An exquisite drama set at the funeral for a daughter, where her mother remembers the passionate yet painful affair she once had with another woman in Scotland.