Earwig and The Witch
Dir. Gorõ Miyazaki – Children’s Animation – HBO Max
The latest Studio Ghibli feature, and first in CGI animation, is a fun and magical tale about a young girl named Earwig. The daughter of a witch, Earwig is raised in an orphanage until she is adopted by another mysterious witch, Bella Yaga. Earwig stays under the agreement that Bella will teach her magic, but she soon realizes that her new guardian has no intention of keeping her promise. Teaming up with a talking house cat named Familiar, Earwig must plot a way to escape the confines of her new home. The film may lack the grand sense of adventure found in earlier Studio Ghibli works, but its fresh use of color, style, and music make it well worth a watch nonetheless.
One Night in Miami
Dir. Regina King – Drama – Amazon Prime
Regina King’s directorial debut is a masterful adaptation of Kemp Powers’ play. The film follows the profoundly impactful night Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali) beat Sonny Liston and won the World Heavyweight Championship. That night, Clay met with his friend Malcolm X as well as star football player and actor Jim Brown and hugely successful musician Sam Cooke at the historic Hampton House Motel in Miami, Florida. Though the film may take some creative liberties in writing the conversations the men had that night, it is fascinating to see each person’s point of view on the injustices they face and their responsibilities as prominent Black figures in the Civil Rights Era.
The White Tiger
Dir. Ramin Bahrani – Thriller – Netflix
Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of the 2008 novel The White Tiger is a thriller that features thought-provoking social commentary through a dark comic lens. When Balram Halwai starts work as a driver for a wealthy family, he holds a great desire to surpass the stark class divide between them. In getting to know the young husband and wife he works for, brilliantly played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao, Balram discovers the reality their class differences encourage as well as the lengths he will go to escape the role society has placed upon him. The film works so well due to its standout performances, particularly Adarsh Gourav as Balram, and its pristine and beautiful cinematography.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Dir. Shaka King – Historical Drama – HBO Max
Shaka King’s historical drama is an artfully shot film that features bold and fresh ideas, both in terms of its filmmaking and the young activists it portrays. The film tells the story of the FBI investigation and later assassination of Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old activist and chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Focusing on both Fred Hampton’s rise as a community-minded advocate for social change as well as the experience of William O’Neal, the FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party during Hampton’s time as chairman, the film gives a complex and nuanced account of the events that led to Hampton’s death in 1969. Though the story may reckon with great tragedy, the film shares the same energy and exuberance as the young activist it chronicles, and will inspire its audiences to consider this moment in history’s ongoing relevance.