[What Did Jaci Think? Early March]

First off, for International Women’s Day I participated in a women-in-film dinner party with Screen Queens. Find out why I want to have dinner with Alice Wu here.

Also, the month started off with the 10th annual Nordic Lights Film Festival, & I tackled some of those titles here.


The Legend of the Demon Cat was about three different movies in one, but it was gorgeous and it featured a lengthy flashback with Hiroshi Abe doing a lot of brooding, which was an unlooked-for treat.

My review of Captain Marvel varied depending on who I was talking to. For straight people: “For a Marvel film, it’s a solid B. Better than Wonder Woman, because she wasn’t motivated by a man.” For queer people: “It was so gay. SO GAY.” My main issue with it is that “Just a Girl” was a bad call for scoring a fight. Get some Liz Phair in there for fuck’s sake. Also, I genuinely wonder if all the MRA-types who are pissed about it being *~political~* insofar that it centers women even noticed that it was political insofar as it centered refugees. WAIT one more thing. De-aged Sam Jackson was fine with me except when he ran, and then it was serious TFA Harrison Ford vibes. Lucky for Fury, there are better building standards in the MCU.

In between two sold-out opening weekend shows of Captain Marvel, we spent all day at the Egyptian for the SciFi Fantasy Short Film Festival, always a treat. My faves this year were 10 Minute Time Machine (for its humor, its humanity, and its perfect ending), Who’s Who in Mycology (for its gorgeous, clever design), Brian & Charles (for its deeply awkward friendship and home-grown robot), Final Offer (for its navigation of bureaucracy), and The Restrictor (for its Nordic as fuck premise). Pro tip to everyone submitting to SFFSFF: I never want to see the first episode of your webseries or your pitch to make a feature. I just want to see a self-contained short. Thank you.

I didn’t entirely buy the answer to the mystery in Everybody Knows, but it’s such a great cast & such a lived-in setting, that it almost didn’t matter. Everybody does know everything about everyone all the way back, and the undercurrent of what they are and are not talking about was palpable. Plus it’s always a treat to see Ricardo Darin on the big screen.

Vietnamese martial arts film Furie features a straightforward Taken-style plot (apparently, though I’ve never seen Taken), but with terrific action scenes and, to my delight, *lady* gang bosses. Hai Phuong has left the gang life behind and is scraping together a living in the country as a debt collector – never the most popular person in a community – but when her young daughter is kidnapped she fights her way to and through Saigon to save her. It was extremely my jam.

Unlike First Man, where I wished I had seen it on a smaller screen, Apollo 11 demands the largest screen you can find. Created from original footage of the Apollo 11 mission, including 65mm, it’s just gorgeous. Like They Shall Not Grow Old, it becomes more immediate by sticking to the past, by using only original footage and news coverage and eschewing talking heads. It honors the work of everyone who contributed to the mission, sometimes through split screens tracking multiple teams at work in a given moment. It is obvious in retrospect, but I had never thought of the astronauts also as filmmakers. Apollo 11 is a time machine in the best way.

Captive State, I’m sorry to report, was boring, which is kinda bullshit for a movie that opens with an alien invasion. I saw it because I figured you can’t go wrong with John Goodman and aliens, and because I had an A-List slot free, but I almost walked out twice and really, I should have done it. The aforementioned invasion starts us off, we get some background details via emails/message boards under the credits, and then we’re about a decade post-invasion, the aliens have taken over, and another uprising is on the horizon.

It’s frustrating because there are so many hints of interesting worldbuilding – the semi-organic tracking system, the grimy tech of the near-future setting, the idea of the aliens as legislators rather than explicitly dictators – but it just doesn’t work. We don’t see enough of the aliens (though I dug their character design), we don’t get to know any of the characters outside of their role as cogs either for or against the machine, and it flat-out wastes Goodman, Vera Farmiga (a scene related to her is the second time I almost walked out), and even KiKi Layne (I was so excited to see her, and then she had one scene and nothing to do in it!). Disappointing.

Not disappointing, however, was Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, as long as you go in with expectations of cheese. It’s a teen Hallmark mystery, by which I mean it’s very white middle class, it fetishizes small-town living, and it’s overall pretty goofy, but it’s also damn fun and centers friendships between the girls. Also important: this Nancy is the soft butch detective of all our childhood dreams. She’s introduced while skateboarding! She’s often in flannel, plus there’s one scene where she’s in disguise as a plumber and another where she wears her dad’s suit coat! And at the end she talks about how she’s excited to have a break from detecting to talk about Instagram, nail polish, and boys, and everyone laughs because obviously she is not interested in any of those things. Bless.

I haven’t read a Nancy Drew book in twenty years (at least), so I have no interest in attempting to critique it as an adaptation, but as a teen girl centered mystery? Yes, this is my jam. Bring on Nancy Drew and the Mystery at the Lilac Inn, thank you very much.