If you are a connoisseur of independent films, this series is for you! The Plaza presents critically acclaimed films from across the globe. The films are selected to generate conversation, and after each screening faculty and alumni from the St. Joseph's College film studies program conduct an interactive discussion with the audience.
Chief Curator, Peter Mascuch, PhD A tenured Associate Professor of English and American Studies and Coordinator of the Cinema Studies Program, Peter Mascuch has taught at St. Joseph’s College since 2003. He specializes in Film Studies, with a particular focus on American cinema since 1945. Together with Campbell Dalglish, Peter Mascuch has co-hosted The Plaza’s Annual Oscar Party in 2015 and 2016. Dr. Mascuch has conducted many Q&A at The Plaza and previously moderated two other film series.
Custody (NR) Writer/Director Xavier Legrand broke out onto the scene during the 2013 Oscar season, at which point his short film, Just Before Losing Everything, was nominated in the short live action category. CUSTODY is the extension of the 29 minute short film about a woman fleeing her abusive husband with her children in tow. Brutal and relentless, this film follows the custody battle of Antoine and Miriam, as their son Julien wades through the conflict. At ten years old Julien cannot make his own decision about which parent he would like to live with, and as a result he becomes trapped in a vicious battle between parents. His older sister Joséphine is considered legally as an adult, and is allowed to make her own decisions. The film is raw: these types of situations exist in reality, making it all the more suspenseful and intense. The documentary style cinematography adds another layer of depth to the film, juxtaposing sweeping courtroom scenes with claustrophobic moments where the viewer is packed into a car with two other characters. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Xavier Legrand
Starring Denis Ménochet, Léa Drucker, Thomas Gioria
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (R) Gus Van Sant’s newest film is based on the memoir of graphic artist John Callahan (Played by Joaquin Phoenix), who became a quadriplegic at age 21 after a car accident. The movie explores his adjustment to this new body, as well as his recovery from alcoholism which spurs a newfound interest in drawing. Callahan became a cartoonist by holding a pen between both of his hands after regaining some use of his upper body, and the film focuses on on the dark and often provocative drawings that he became known for. There is also an exploration of the relationships he keeps with the people around him, played by an all-star cast including Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. The film offers a true story about redemption, forgiveness, and the healing power of art. DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara
Sorry to Bother You (R) In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, CA, black telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) discovers a magical key to professional success, which propels him into a macabre universe of "powercalling" that leads to material glory. But the upswing in Cassius' career raises serious red flags with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist and minimum-wage striver who's secretly part of a Banksy-style activist collective. As his friends and co-workers organize in protest of corporate oppression, Cassius falls under the spell of his company's cocaine-snorting CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.
Directed by Boots Riley
Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer
Hereditary (R) Ari Aster’s directorial debut HEREDITARY has caused quite a buzz in the horror film community. It has been considered so unsettling that distribution company A24 even hooked a viewer up to a heart rate monitor to show just how intense it is. Aster has called the film "a tragedy that curdles into a nightmare." The film centers on Annie (Toni Collette), a miniature artist and mother of two children. When her mother passes away, Annie delivers a eulogy in which she talks about how she was a very secretive woman. This secrecy burrows its way into the main plot of the film as the family struggles to cope with her loss while simultaneously dealing with strange happenings in their individual lives. The film blends family drama and horror while also using breakaway sets to create a surreal cinematic experience for the audience. Adding to the horror aesthetic is the music, scored by Colin Stetson, which helps build the terror and becomes a central part of the film. HEREDITARY premiered at the Midnight section of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by Ari Aster
Starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro
You Were Never Really Here (R) Adapted from the Jonathan Ames novella of the same title, this 2018 film has been called the Taxi Driver of this era. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Joe, a contract killer hired to rescue victims of sex-trafficking and to dispose of those involved. When a senator’s underage daughter is kidnapped and sold into one of these operations, Joe is called in to get her back. What follows is a masterfully crafted series of plot twists and nonstop action throughout. The film is filled with high energy, gripping until the very end. Based on Joe’s perspective, the viewer is taken into the protagonist's head, experiencing both his heroism and hallucinations that come from his past. This is the latest film from Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ratcatcher) whose idea for the film came from her interest in violence: where is it all coming from and where is it going? YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival to a seven- minute standing ovation from the audience. It also won best screenplay, and Phoenix won best actor at the festival.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov
Oh Lucy! (NR) Atsuko Hirayanagi’s first full length feature is based on a short film of the same name that she directed in 2014. It originated out of an exercise in one of her MFA courses at NYU: come up with 100 three-line film ideas in four weeks. Upon going back to these ideas for her thesis, she chose to work on a script about a lonely 55 year old named Setsuko. The short film won the Jury Prize for International Fiction at the Sundance FIlm Festival, and after that Hirayanagi worked to turn the project into a feature film. Setsuko works in an office and has a generally mundane lifestyle. At the insistence of her niece, she starts taking English classes with a strange instructor named John. His unorthodox way of teaching results in her wearing a blonde wig and taking a new name: Lucy. Her new identity bathes the film in optimism as she starts reaching outside of her comfort zone, especially whens she finds out John has gone to California. Comedy ensues as she follows him there and learns more about Lucy and more about Setsuko. The film was screened in the International Critics Week section of Cannes in 2017.
Directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi
Starring Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Shioli Kutsuna
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (NR) Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1940s. In the 1930s she did a scandalous nude scene in the film Ecstasy, fled from an oppressive marriage, and found solace in an acting career through MGM studios. She became such an icon that her likeness was the inspiration for both Catwoman and Snow White in later films. Behind the glitz and glamour, however, lay the mind of an inventor. Lamarr had no formal training, but studied science and taught herself about aerospace engineering and electrical engineering in her spare time. She went on to help invent a torpedo radio guidance system during World War II; her studies and inventions became the basis for the bluetooth and WiFi technology we use today. She is also known for her work in signal-hopping and aerodynamics. Her work made such an impact on science and technology that she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. This film follows her life story, from her glamorous acting career to her hobbies in the sciences. Through the use of interviews and never before heard audio clips, Hedy Lamarr tells her story in her own words. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was named one of the best films of 2017 by Artforum.
Directed by Alexandra Dean
Starring Nino Amareno, Charles Amirkhanian, Jeanine Basinger
The Florida Project (R) Brooklynn Prince stars as Moonee in her breakout role as a six-year-old girl living in the Magic Castle, a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, in the shadow of Disney World. She and her friends Scooty and Dicky spend their summer wreaking havoc on the motel guests, then having to answer to the owner, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), for their mischievous crimes like throwing a dead fish in the pool and dripping ice cream through the lobby. Moonee’s mother Halley lets her have fun, most often to cover up the reality of their impoverished situation. The film puts the viewer into the eyes and mindset of Moonee, who finds beauty and excitement in spaces that would normally seem dark and uninhabitable. She brings magic to the motel, although it isn’t always welcomed by the guests and Bobby. When Halley turns to drugs and prostitution in an attempt to provide for her daughter, Bobby steps in as a guardian to both mother and daughter. The reluctant caretaker shields Moonee from the realities of her upbringing, protecting her innocence for as long as he possibly can. The film tackles American poverty and everyday life with crisp and beautiful cinematography provided by Alexis Zabe. It premiered at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight, and has won several awards from the Hamburg Film Festival, Detroit Film Critics Society, and, most recently, the Golden Globes.
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite
The Square (R) Inspired by an art installation designed by Ruben Östlund and Claes Bang, THE SQUARE has gained momentum at some of the biggest film festivals around the globe. Having won the 2017 Palme d’Or, the film has gone on to win critical acclaim at the European Film Awards, and, most recently, a Golden Globe nomination. Billed as a satirical drama on pretension and privilege in the art world, the film follows curator Christian (Claes Bang) as he works to build a PR team for his new exhibition. Right from the start the pretentious language his team uses in their online catalog catches the eye of journalist Anne (Elizabeth Moss) who confronts him about the unreachable dialogue in an interview. New media becomes a central focus of the film, as a selfishly distracted Christian unwittingly approves a sensationally tasteless video that goes viral and causes backlash against him and the museum as a whole. An egocentric man, he ironically stumbles through the film trying to keep a confident hold on his museum, and, in turn, his entire understanding of reality. Throughout the film the artists being portrayed push the boundaries of artistic license, and artistic surrealism bleeds into the lives of the characters. Östlund’s film pushes against the satire inside the art world, making for an entertaining and approachable glimpse of the inner workings of the gallery space.
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West
Human Flow (PG-13) Ai Weiwei is no stranger to controversy. His works of art have garnered a multitude of it in recent years, even landing him in jail in 2011 at the hand of the Chinese Government. As a contemporary artist and human rights activist Ai works to create art that captures attention and reveals the reality of social justice situations. His newest film peels back the curtain on the refugee crisis and examines the mass movement of people taking place across the globe. In the last few years over 65 million people have been forced from their homes due to a variety of issues. Famine, war, climate change, and other social problems have caused the greatest migrant crisis since the Second World War. In this film Ai visits 23 different countries, following chains of humans fleeing their homes in search of safety. The movie takes you far beyond what you read about in articles or see on the nightly news. Ai’s goal is to completely uncover the refugee crisis and display it in pure visual terms.
Directed by Ai Weiwei
Good Time (R) Paying homage to the reckless crime dramas of the 80s and 90s, GOOD TIME has been billed by some critics as a modern day Mean Streets or Dog Day Afternoon. This is the first runaway hit for the Safdie brothers, directors of films such as Daddy Long Legs and Heaven Knows What. Robert Pattinson steps into the role of Connie, a man down on his luck trying to rob a bank with his mentally handicapped brother Nick. When their heist goes wrong, Nick goes to jail, and Connie is left to come up with bail money. What ensues is a fast paced, drug ridden look at the underbelly of New York City as Connie searches for ways to come up with $10,000 to save his brother. Selected to compete for the Palme d’Or for 2017, GOOD TIME is a crime drama that goes beyond the viewer’s expectations, constantly offering more than one expects. It is a movie about love, redemption, and the lengths a man would go to to save someone he cares about.
Directed by Joshua Safdie, Ben Safdie
Starring Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie
A Ghost Story (R) C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) live together in a ranch style home in an unnamed suburb. Their life together is cut short when C is involved in an accident and killed. When M leaves the morgue to go mourn alone, C transforms into a traditionally styled sheet ghost, one a child might make for a Halloween costume, with black holes for eyes. For the rest of the film C is contained in the house he shared with M as he watches her life move forward. Life goes on, and time passes as C remains confined to the home, watching the world change around him as new families move in after M leaves. He is a silent observer, standing over the inhabitants as they share memories and make the house their home. In his fits of rage C can make things happen, like a light flickering or loud noises, all of which upset the home’s various inhabitants. An analysis of love and loss, A GHOST STORY invites the viewer to think about what happens after death and whether or not our deceased loved ones are truly watching us from the beyond. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by David Lowery
Starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Colossal (R) Gloria loves to party. Her wild nights and erratic behavior have led to the end of her relationship with Tim (Dan Stevens), who forces her out of his NYC apartment due to her alcoholism and unemployment. Forced to move back to her hometown in the Midwest, Gloria starts working at a local bar, fueling her alcohol addiction and transforming some old friends from her childhood into new drinking buddies. Meanwhile, a giant kaiju monster is terrorizing South Korea. These two stories don’t seem related at first, but Gloria quickly realizes that the mysterious monster is connected to her whereabouts and movements. Things only escalate as a gigantic robot monster manifests itself, and a battle between monsters begins as Gloria wages her own battles at home with her friends and her internal issues. Considered a genre-hopping film, COLOSSAL connects the classic monster movie to a black comedy with elements of science fiction. The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival.
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens
Obit (NR) When we think of an obituary, the first reaction is often melancholy, lamenting the passing of a loved one or a cultural icon. However, for the small group of obituary writers at The New York Times the job is to celebrate the life of a person while also dealing with death in a balancing act. The goal is to acknowledge the death, but focus on the accomplishments and deeds, whether honorable or nefarious, and the life of the person being remembered. This form of documentary storytelling weaves together a lifelong history of accomplishments culminating in the person’s death, and the obit team at The New York Times has been heralded as one of the best at doing just that. The film is the first of its kind to deal with obituaries, and it asks important questions about mortality, fear of death, and how to be remembered after we are gone. OBIT not only focuses on the writing process of the obituary, but it even gives the viewer a look at The New York Times century-old archive of obituaries run by archivist Jeff Roth. OBIT is a recipient of a 2015 NYSCA Artist Grant, and received support from IFP and Made In NY Media Center.
Directed by Vanessa Gould
Frantz (PG-13) Set in Germany and France in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, (1914-1918), Frantz recalls the mourning period that follows great national tragedies as seen through the eyes of the war's "lost generation": Anna (21 year-old Paula Beer in a breakthrough performance), a bereft young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed during trench warfare, and Adrien (Pierre Niney, Yves Saint Laurent), a French veteran of the war who shows up mysteriously in her town, placing flowers on Frantz's grave. Adrien's presence is met with resistance by the small community still reeling from Germany's defeat, yet Anna gradually gets closer to the handsome and melancholy young man, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz, conjured up in evocative flashbacks. What follows is a surprising exploration of how Ozon's characters' wrestle with their conflicting feelings - survivor's guilt, anger at one's losses, the overriding desire for happiness despite everything that has come before, and the longing for sexual, romantic and familial attachments. Ozon drew his inspiration from Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 drama Broken Lullaby, with stunning visual references to painter Caspar David Friedrich.
Directed by François Ozon
Starring Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Paula Beer
Paterson (R) Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey—they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him; he writes poetry into a notebook; he walks his dog; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura's world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. Paterson loves Laura and she loves him. He supports her newfound ambitions; she champions his gift for poetry. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley
Elle (R) ELLE is a psychological thriller that follows a woman who strives to be strong and independent, even when it puts her own life at risk. After being assaulted in her own home, Elle (Isabelle Huppert) decides to go on with her life rather than reporting the incident to the authorities. As the CEO of a video game company, she spends her life working, trying to relate to her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) and having affairs with the various men in her life. A traumatizing incident from her past, combined with the fact that her father is a murderer have made her wary of police and general authority figures. As a result, Elle lives without regard for her safety, continuing to put her life at risk over and over. She works to uncover the identity of her assailant on her own terms, but quickly learns that asking her friends for help instead of the authorities may not always be the best solution. Elle is a fast paced film that keeps you guessing as the plot rapidly unfold.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling
The Eagle Huntress (G) THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breath-taking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography ever captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl's quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.
Directed by Otto Bell
Featuring Daisy Ridley, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Rhys Nurgaiv
Hell or High Water (R) Divorced father Toby (Chris Pine) is trying to make a better life for himself and his sons. His brother Tanner (Ben Foster) is an ex-con with a wild temper. Together, they plan a series of bank heists in order to save their family ranch. Working to catch them is Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a Texas ranger weeks away from retirement. As the siblings work together to shield Toby’s sons from a life of poverty, Marcus works against them to bring their robbery operation down. HELL OR HIGH WATER is a wonderfully crafted western that will leave viewers in suspense down to the last shot.
Directed by David Mackenzie
Starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
The Innocents (PG-13) Poland, December 1945: Mathilde (Lou de Laage, Breathe) is a young French Red Cross doctor based in Warsaw when a nun seeks her help. She is brought to a cloistered Benedictine convent where she discovers a young novice in labor. It soon becomes clear that the entire order has been profoundly traumatized and several other nuns are pregnant from a series of brutal sexual assaults by the 'liberating' Red Army. Needing medical assistance and fearing the shame of exposure and the hostility of the newly installed Communist government, the nuns - their faith challenged - turn to Mathilde, a non-believer, who becomes their only hope. THE INNOCENTS is the latest drama from acclaimed French filmmaker Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) that enjoyed its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by Anne Fontaine
Starring Lou de Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza
The Wailing (NR) The arrival of a mysterious stranger in a quiet rural village causes suspicion amongst the villagers- but as they begin killing each other for no apparent reason, that suspicion turns to panic. When the daughter of the investigating officer falls under the same savage spell, he calls in a shaman to assist in finding the culprit.
Directed by Na Hong-jin
Starring Kwak Do-wan, Hwang Jung-min, Jun Kunimura
Swiss Army Man (R) Outrageously fun and deeply affecting, SWISS ARMY MAN is a gonzo buddy comedy by acclaimed music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively known as DANIELS). Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore; the two become fast friends, and ultimately go on an epic adventure that will bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams. SWISS ARMY MAN creates a world like no other—a place of pure fantastical imagination, brimming with magical realism yet featuring two characters whose dreams and fears are entirely relatable.
Directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan
Starring Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
The Lobster (R) In a dystopian future where being single is outlawed, recently divorced David (Colin Farrell) arrives at an unnamed hotel with only one goal: to find a mate. He is given 45 days to fall in love, and if he fails to do so he will be turned into an animal of his choice. As David navigates through the trials and tribulations of relationships, he also stumbles onto an encampment of single people and finds an unexpectedly dangerous romance. This dark comedy provides a witty commentary on relationships as the characters go to extreme lengths to find love.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz
Dheepan (R) On the losing side of a civil war in Sri Lanka, a Tamil soldier (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) poses as the husband and father of two other refugees in order to escape their ravaged homeland. Arriving in France, the makeshift "family" sets about establishing a new life-only to find themselves once again embroiled in violence on the mean streets of Paris. A heartrending saga of three strangers united by circumstance and struggle, Dheepan is both a tour-de-force thriller and a powerful depiction of the immigrant experience.
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Jesuthasan Anthonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby
Mustang (PG-13) Early in the summer in a northern Turkish village, five free-spirited teenage sisters splash about on the beach with their male classmates. Though their games are merely innocent fun, a neighbor passes by and reports what she considers to be illicit behavior to the girls' family. The family overreacts, removing all "instruments of corruption" like cell phones and computers and essentially imprisoning the girls, subjecting them to endless lessons in housework in preparation for them to become brides. As the eldest sisters are married off, the younger ones bond together to avoid the same fate. The fierce love between them empowers them to rebel and chase a future where they can determine their own lives.
Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Starring Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu
The Witch (R) Writer/director Robert Eggers' debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival—winning the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition—painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions tragically turned to mass hysteria. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin—in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy—and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.
Directed by Robert Eggers
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie