Philly Film Society Spring Fest: MJ's Flick Picks

by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport and Benjamin Leonard, Best Boy

It’s spring time. The birds are chirping and the weather is finally getting nice, but there is no place the MJ crew would rather be than indoors, at the cinema. The Philadelphia Film Society Spring Fest kicks off Friday, April 27 and closes out on Sunday, April 29. The fest may only be running for a few days but it is packed with some of the latest and greatest films from this year’s festival circuit thus far.  

Here are just some of the flicks we don’t wanna miss…follow along on Instagram and Twitter for updates all weekend long. Hope to see ya at the movies, old sport!

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Leave No Trace
Director, Debra Granik
Showing: Friday, April 27 –
6:00pm at Prince Theater

This is writer/director Debra Granik’s follow up feature to her Oscar nominated, 2010’s Winter’s Bone. This film tells the story of a father and daughter living in what appears to be a perfect life that may resemble paradise. That is until they run into issues. Starring Ben Foster, this is one we don’t wanna miss!

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Blindspotting
Director, Carlos Lopez Estrada
Showing: Friday, April 27 –
8:30pm at Prince Theater

Blindspotting is a very funny look at race, gentrification and how you and others see you. It was written by (and starring) real-life friends Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs and directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and is the feature film debut for all three in those positions.

The story follows Collin (Diggs) living out his last three days on probation, trying to stay out of trouble, earn a living and get back with his ex (Janina Gavankar) all while maintaining his life-long friendship with Miles (Casal), a bad influence who certainly doesn’t make any of those things easier.

There are a few instances early on where some of the interactions come off as a bit clunky, but as the story plays out, the relationships solidify and the film really clicks. The comedy got some serious laughs out of me and the social commentary is dead-on. This movie hits at just about everything it swings at, not to mention some seriously well laid out shots. Don’t sleep on this one. Casal and Diggs will be present for Friday night’s screening.

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Ava
Director, Lea Mysius
Showing: Friday, April 27 – 8:30pm at PFS Roxy

Feature debut from French filmmaker Lea Mysius, that tells the story of thirteen-year-old girl who is progressively losing her ability to see. She decides to tackle this problem on her own terms.

Not to drop a pun, but gonna do it anyways: WE GOTTA SEE THIS ONE!

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On Chesil Beach
Director, Dominic Cooke
Showing: Saturday, April 28 – 12:00pm at Prince Theater

If Saoirse Ronan is showing up in a movie, we are watching it! An adaption of Ian McEwan’s novel, it tells the story of a young couple in 1962 England learning to navigate their relationship within social constraints. Judging by the production stills, this definitely seems like a flick you should see on the big screen.

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RBG
Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen
Showing: Saturday, April 28 –
2:20pm at Prince Theater

RBG details the life of 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg from childhood to today. Much of the story is driven by showing the love and support she received from her husband Marty. This does not take away from her successes but instead makes her more relatable by adding humor in a sweet and heartwarming way.

I don’t think the film will change anyone’s opinion of Justice Ginsberg, but it does give you a good look into her determination and love of fighting for equality and the law. Her story is inspiring and well worth checking out.

Eighth Grade
Director, Bo Burnham
Showing: Saturday, April 28 – 4:30pm at Prince Theater

Premiering at Sundance this year to rave reviews, writer/director, Bo Burnham tells the story of Elsie Fisher as she embarks on her last week as an eighth grader. After hearing the chatter about this one, it has been on the crew’s radar. However, if we miss it…it is good to know we can at least catch it in July when it hits theaters.

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American Animals
Director, Bart Layton
Showing: Saturday, April 28 –
8:45pm at Prince Theater

A crazy troupe thinks they are living in a movie and decide to plot a daring heist. This story along with a cast of Barry Keoghan (yes, that spaghetti eating kid from Killing of A Sacred Deer) and Udo Kier…counts us in!

Disobedience
Director, Sebastián Lelio
Showing: Sunday, April 29 –
2:00pm at Prince Theater

Some of the MJ crew were fortunate to see this flick during our trek to TIFF last year. Here’s MJ’s Fixer with her review that was featured in our annual TIFF special. Want the TIFF special in your mailbox this year? Click here to subscribe to Moviejawn!

Chilean director Sebastián Lelio wowed me with Gloria back in 2013 and when I heard about his adaptation of Naomi Klein’s tale of sin within a Jewish Orthodox community in London, I was down. Lelio has two films out in 2017, the other being A Fantastic Woman, and I must say, I really think he is A Fantastic Director.

Rachel Weisz plays Ronit, a free-spirited New York-based photographer returning to her Orthodox community in Hendon, North London after her father, prominent theological leader Rav Krushka, passes away. We know Ronit is disconnected from her origins because it’s made abundantly clear – by the way she dresses, how she approaches males (wrong), how those in the community choose to receive her. Allesandro Nivola is Dovid – her childhood friend and cousin, who became like a son to the Rav, and is now heir apparent in their synagogue and community. Dovid asks Ronit to stay at his home; it’s only right since she is technically the Rav’s daughter and everything. And then Ronit runs into Esti (Rachel McAdams In a Wig), a woman she had a very passionate, not-so-private love affair with before fleeing the community some ten or so years prior. Oh, and Esti and Dovid are like totally married and stuff now! Awkward as fuck, you guys. 

It doesn’t take long for Esti and Ronit’s connection to rekindle, and boy oh boy, does it have some consequences. We come to understand that Esti is a woman who “fancies women” only, and she knows it, but remains estranged from her body, disconnected from the person within as she withers away in a marriage not built for her own satisfaction. Instead Esti chooses to play hostage to her kidnapper, her imagination, coincidentally her only refuge from the cold reality of her daily existence. 

Bottom line, Disobedience isn’t perfect, but it’s an emotionally compelling film driven by two women finding strength in each other…strength to render them both more complete by the story’s end. 

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Director, Morgan Neville
Showing: Sunday, April 29 –
4:20pm at Prince Theater

In case you don’t remember... this has been on the MJ’s crew radar since we heard it was premiering at Sundance. Check out MJ’s The Projectionist’s write up on the trailer here.