#457 May 2, 2023


Matt writes: The world lost one of its greatest artists and humanists when Harry Belafonte passed away last month at age 96. His lifelong activism as well as his great performances in such films as “Buck and the Preacher,” “Carmen Jones” and “BlacKkKlansman” (not to mention the unforgettable use of his iconic songs in “Beetlejuice“) have made him a beloved figure on the world stage for generations (don’t miss Robert Daniels’ lovely tribute to him). The footage of Belafonte that I grew up watching countless times was his guest appearance on “The Muppet Show,” in which he preceded his wonderful song, “Turn the World Around” with the following words…

“I was in a country called Guinea. I went deep into the interior of the country, and in a little village, I met with a storyteller. That storyteller went way back into African tradition and African mythology, and began to tell this story about the fire, which means the sun, and about the water and about the earth. He pointed out that all of these things put together turn the world around. And that all of us are here for a very, very short time. In that time that we’re here, there really isn’t any difference in any of us, if we were to take time out to understand each other. The question is, ‘Do I know who you are, do you know who I am, do we care about each other?’ Because if we do, together we can turn the world around.”


Strange Way of life (2023). Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Pedro Pascal, Ethan Hawke, Manu Ríos. Synopsis: After twenty-five years Silva rides a horse across the desert to visit his friend Sheriff Jake. They celebrate the meeting, but the next morning Jake tells him that reason for his trip is not to go down the memory lane of their friendship. US release date is TBA.

The Starling Girl (2023). Written and directed by Laurel Parmet. Starring Eliza Scanlen, Lewis Pullman, Jimmi Simpson. Synopsis: 17-year-old Jem Starling struggles with her place within her Christian fundamentalist community. But everything changes when her magnetic youth pastor Owen returns to their church. Debuts in the US on May 15th, 2023.

Next Goal Wins (2023). Directed by Taika Waititi. Written by Taika Waititi and Iain Morris. Starring Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth MossTaika Waititi. Synopsis: The story of the infamously terrible American Samoa soccer team, known for a brutal 2001 FIFA match they lost 31-0. Debuts in the US on November 17th, 2023.

Reality (2023). Directed by Tina Satter. Written by Tina Satter and James Paul Dallas. Starring Sydney Sweeney, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis. Synopsis: A former American intelligence specialist was given the longest sentence for the unauthorized release of government information to the media about Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections via an email operation. Debuts on HBO Max on May 29th, 2023.

It Lives Inside (2023). Written and directed by Bishal Dutta. Starring Megan Suri, Neeru Bajwa, Mohana Krishnan. Synopsis: An Indian-American teenager struggling with her cultural identity has a falling out with her former best friend and, in the process, unwittingly releases a demonic entity that grows stronger by feeding on her loneliness. US release date is TBA.

L’immensità (2023). Directed by Emanuele Crialese. Written by Emanuele Crialese, Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni. Starring Penélope Cruz, Vincenzo Amato, Luana Giuliani. Synopsis: The story of love between Clara and her children, set in Rome in the ’70s. US release date is TBA.

Maggie Moore(s) (2023). Directed by John Slattery. Written by Paul Bernbaum. Starring Jon Hamm, Tina Fey, Nick Mohammed. Synopsis: Maggie Moore(s) takes place in a dusty desert town where nothing ever happens, as a police chief is suddenly faced with the back-to-back murders of two women with the same name. Debuts in the US on June 15th, 2023.

Monster (2023). Directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu. Written by Yûji Sakamoto. Starring Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa. Synopsis: The new film from the acclaimed director of “Shoplifters.” Debuts in the US on June 2nd, 2023.

White Bird (2023). Directed by Marc Forster. Written by Mark Bomback (based on the book by R.J. Palacio). Starring Helen Mirren, Gillian Anderson, Bryce Gheisar. Synopsis: This uplifting follow-up to “Wonder” shows how one act of kindness can live on forever. Debuts in the US on August 25th, 2023.

All the Light We Cannot See (2023). Directed by Shawn Levy. Written by Steven Knight (based on the novel by Anthony Doerr). Starring Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie, Aria Mia Loberti. Synopsis: The story of Marie-Laure, a blind French teenager, and Werner, a German soldier, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Debuts on Netflix on November 2nd, 2023.

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of the Midnight Cowboy (2023). Directed by . Synopsis: Follows the behind-the-scenes odyssey to get Midnight Cowboy produced, as well as the tumultuous era in which the movie was released and embraced. US release date is TBA.

A Haunting in Venice (2023). Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Written by Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie). Starring Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh. Synopsis: In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer. Debuts in the US on September 15th, 2023.

The Equalizer 3 (2023). Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Written by Richard Wenk. Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman. Synopsis: Robert McCall finds himself at home in Southern Italy but he discovers his friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia. Debuts in the US on September 1st, 2023.

Fast X (2023). Directed by Louis Leterrier. Written by Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin (based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson). Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa, Michelle Rodriguez. Synopsis: Dom Toretto and his family are targeted by the vengeful son of drug kingpin Hernan Reyes. Debuts in the US on May 19th, 2023.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023). Directed by Steven Caple Jr. Written by Joby Harold, Darnell Metayer, Josh Peters, Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber. Starring Pete Davidson, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh. Synopsis: Reportedly based on the ‘Transformers’ spinoff ‘Beast Wars’ which feature robots that transform into robotic animals. Debuts in the US on June 9th, 2023.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024). Directed by Adam Wingard. Written by Simon Barrett, Terry Rossio and Jeremy Slater. Starring Dan Stevens, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry. Synopsis: The latest installment of the “Godzilla and Kong” film franchise. Debuts in the US on March 15th, 2024.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Songbirds & Snakes (2023). Directed by Francis Lawrence. Written by Michael Arndt and Michael Lesslie (based on the book by Suzanne Collins). Starring Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis. Synopsis: Coriolanus Snow mentors and develops feelings for the female District 12 tribute during the 10th Hunger Games. Debuts in the US on November 17th, 2023.

Wish (2023). Directed by  and . Written by  and . Starring , , Chris Pine. Synopsis: The film will follow a young girl named Asha who wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her. Debuts in the US on November 22nd, 2023.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 

Matt writes: My favorite film of 2023 thus far just opened in theaters this past Friday: Kelly Fremon Craig’s marvelous adaptation of Judy Blume’s 1970 masterpiece, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., featuring a star-making performance by Abby Ryder Fortson. In addition to reading Marya E. Gates’ review, in which she hails the film as “exhilarating,” be sure to check out my interview with Craig and Fortson as well as Nell Minow’s conversation with production designer Steve Saklad

Cinema Femme Short Film Festival

Matt writes: The fifth edition of the Cinema Femme Short Film Festival kicked off online on April 28th and runs through this Thursday, May 4th, featuring the essential work of female and non-binary filmmakers from around the world (two in-person screenings will also be held tomorrow, May 3rd, at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre). My preview piece includes interviews with participating filmmakers Clelia Goodchild, Sophia Joanna and Tiffany Tenille, Tribute honoree Emily Hagins and the festival’s founder, my wife Rebecca Martin Fagerholm. 

Free Movies

Royal Wedding (1951). Directed by Stanley Donen. Written by Alan Jay Lerner. Starring Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford. Synopsis: A brother and sister dance act encounter challenges and romance when booked in London during the Royal Wedding. 

Watch “Royal Wedding”

The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1954). Directed by Alan Bromly. Written by Charles Terrot and Sidney Cole. Starring Felix Aylmer, Diane Cilento, Robert Eddison. Synopsis: An angel finds that she needs money to fulfill her mission on Earth. Her only solution to this problem is to pawn her harp.  

Watch “The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp”

Why (1973). Directed by Victor Stoloff. Starring O.J. Simpson, Linda Gillen, Jeannie Berlin. Synopsis: A group therapy session takes place involving a drummer from a suddenly defunct rock band, an athlete and a pregnant junkie.

Watch “Why”

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Short Films in Focus: The Shorts Programs of the 2023 Chicago Critics Film Festival