Film Lists

4 Underrated Kristen Stewart Films to Watch Before “Spencer”

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana only comes as a shock if you only know her from Twilight

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the upcoming film, "Spencer"

I have to say it: Thank God for Twilight.

No one is surprised that the fad franchise about teenage vampires didn't age well, but we have Stephanie Myers and her My Chemical Romance fan-fiction-turned-novel-turned-movie (a genre that also includes 50 Shades of Grey, which was in fact conceived as a Twilight fanfiction … there's too much to unpack there, so I won't do it) for launching the careers of R-Patz and K-Stew.

For a while, it was looking pretty grim for the both of them. Robert Pattinson spent all his press tours scowling and actively hating the movies that propelled him to superstardom, and Kristen Stewart spent years the subject of a meme about having an inexpressive face.

Turns out that was just a character choice she made for Bella Swan, and Kristen Stewart does have the range.

Keep Reading Show less

Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza in "Happiest Season"

This review contains spoilers.

"Happiest Season" is a nearly perfect Christmas movie.

The film, created by Clea DuVall of But I'm A Cheerleader fame, is a beautiful, entertaining, and very queer love story. It stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis (who you might recognize from Black Mirror's classic queer episode San Junipero) as a couple who live together and love each other very much. At least, we're led to believe they love each other from the first scene, which features Davis persuading an anti-Christmas Stewart to climb up on a roof to see some Christmas lights.

Right away, we think that Davis's character is—Ghost of Christmases Present-style—benevolently helping Abby rekindle her love for Christmas. But it doesn't quite work out that way. After someone in the house sees them and starts screaming about calling the police, Abby and Harper try to climb off the roof—but Abby winds up hanging off the edge, and eventually falls off and winds up crashing into the ground. Miraculously, mostly thanks to the cushioning presence of a blow-up Santa, she's unhurt.

Keep Reading Show less
Film Features

Should There Be Movies About 9/11?

Can fictionalized movies about 9/11 ever be good entertainment, or just exploitation?

Universal Studios

For Americans, 9/11 was more than just a horrendous terrorist attack.

9/11 changed the very fabric of American culture. Even for people who didn't lose anyone close to them in the tragedy, life seemed to shift post-9/11. Many realized that their world was much darker and much less safe than they had once imagined. Fear of outsiders seeped into public consciousness. Some of it was warranted, but a lot of it was not. Opposing parties briefly united under the banner of American pride and then separated almost as quickly in disputes over how to best move forward.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture News

Could the New Twilight Spinoff Be the Redemption Arc Fans Want?

Stephanie Meyer is finally releasing "Midnight Sun." Let's regress back to the heyday of "Twilight" and explore what that might mean today.

Vampires never die. Neither does The Twilight Saga.

Since Stephanie Meyer released the first Twilight novel in 2005, the franchise has never stopped growing, mutating and eventually attaining immortality. There were the movies and their respective stars; there was the fanfiction juggernaut that culminated in the Fifty Shades series. And now, well over a decade after the first book came out, Meyer is publishing a spinoff.

Keep Reading Show less

Glorious Food: On Kelly Reichardt's "First Cow"

There are no good or bad people in Kelly Reichardt's films. There are just people who, despite often being trapped in circumstances beyond their control, have to make choices.


The other day I saw two adults face off over a box of spaghetti.

The pasta shelf was otherwise empty. Desperate shoppers were loading up their carts with provisions that would, they seemed to hope, last them long enough to outlast the onslaught of the virus-that-shall-not-be-named. The two pasta hunters pulled at opposite ends of the box for a second. They glared at each other. Neither spoke. Then, because we live in a civilized society where it's not really that hard to find dry spaghetti, one of them let go with a huff, turned around, and walked away.

I thought about that while watching First Cow, the new, luminous feature film by Kelly Reichardt. In one scene, a group of men stand in line–each clutching something valuable, shells or coins or a paper deed of currency–waiting patiently for the chance to buy a sweet cake. These are gruff, dirty, smelly men who've found their way to the Oregon Territory sometime in the late nineteenth century, in search of riches, work, or perhaps a little corner of the woods to call their own. There aren't many cakes available. They're going fast. A young man's eyes follow each transaction, his mind calculating whether he'll make it to the front of the line before the final cake is gone. He does. There's one left. Suddenly, from behind him, an arm shoots out. A hard-faced elder takes the sweet, pays, walks away. The young man stands there aghast. He too, eventually, walks away.

First Cow Kelly Reichardt A24

There are no good or bad people in Kelly Reichardt's films. There are just people who, despite often being trapped in circumstances beyond their control–of gender, class, culture, geography, weather, biology–have to make their own choices. There are, to be sure, right and wrong choices, but "right" can mean many things, depending on the person and the circumstances. Right can mean morally correct, but it may also mean appropriate, advisable, expedient, or necessary, and everybody knows that those imperatives often exist in opposition to each other.

First Cow is about food (I mean, the protagonist's name is "Cookie," for crying out loud). Everything that lives must eat. First Cow shows chicken gobbling feed, and the cow chewing on grass, and a cat pawing at table leftovers; there's a pack of wolves snarling ravenously as they hunt for prey. But there's food and there's food. We eat because we need to but also because most of us love it, not just to fill our bellies but to nourish our souls.

The most crucial choices in First Cow are made by Cookie (John Magaro), a sensitive, flutey-voiced baker's apprentice from the East Coast, and King Lu (Orion Lee), an adventurous Chinese man with a gentlemanly manner and high ambitions. Although First Cow is the story of their friendship, it's not about friendship, or, I should say, it is, but in a strange, wonderful, roundabout way. It's not about cows either, though it does feature a cow.

The two first meet when Cookie finds King Lu hiding amidst the foliage, stark naked, and shivering. Cookie is a bringer and a finder and a maker of food. King Lu's first word to him is "hungry." So Cookie brings him food. Reichardt follows him as he forages for mushrooms, picks blueberries, pulls fish out of a stream. At King Lu's urging, Cookie steals some milk from the titular cow, imported to the hinterland by the pompously British Chief Factor (Tobey Jones) to make a batch of biscuits. It's King Lu who suggests they take Cookie's creations "to market," where Chief Factor anoints them as "delicious baked comestibles."

Neither one is someone you'd call a good guy. Cookie's nice, but he also leaves a baby unattended for the chance to drink a few sips of moonshine. King Lu is a thief and a killer. Still, they find and link themselves to each other with a finality already hinted at in the film's opening moments, and they make a chain of choices, some small, some momentous, some separately, some together. Their bond is formed as each saves the other's life–Cookie feeds a starving King Lu, who later returns the gesture by taking the cook in when he's run out of money and options. As their circumstances worsen and their options narrow over time, that bond becomes the core of their existence. The expressions on their faces as they find each other at a late, crucial moment–the concern, the relief, the love–are Reichardt's answer to that most fundamental question: What do we live for?

We need contact with others as much as we need food, which is why the virus-that-shall-not-be-named is messing with our heads. But true friendship is a rare thing–as rare, and as precious, as a dough puff slathered in honey is to a frontier woodsman who wears a dead possum for a hat.


Why Kristen Stewart Is Reviving an Actress Who Supported the Black Panthers

In Seberg, Kristen Stewart portrays film legend Jean Seberg, whose support of the BPP led to a horrific FBI harassment


Actress Jean Seberg began her acting career at the age of 18 with a starring role as Joan of Arc in 1957's Saint Joan.

Director Otto Preminger selected her from over 18,000 entrants in a talent search for the role of the teenage martyr—burned at the stake for fighting for her beliefs. Seberg would later earn a reputation in French New Wave cinema as possibly "the best actress in Europe," but by the 1970s Seberg's career would end in much the way it began: martyrdom. Kristen Stewart's new film, Seberg, seeks to tell that story.

Seberg was 40 years old when she disappeared from her home in Paris in August of 1979. It took Parisian authorities more than a week to discover her body decomposing in the backseat of her parked car with a note that read, "Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves." Her death was deemed a probable suicide—the proximate cause being a potent mix of barbiturates and alcohol—but many have traced her downfall to events that preceded her disappearance by more than a decade. Events that involved FBI surveillance and a chance meeting with a member of the Black Panther Party.

It was on a flight to Los Angeles in October of 1968 that Jean Seberg first met Hakim Jamal—a prominent member of the Black Power Movement. They were both married, but Seberg was drawn to progressive causes and figures of revolutionary struggle more so than she was constrained by monogamy. She and Jamal began a short-lived love affair that reportedly ended when Jamal's wife placed a phone call to Seberg's father in Iowa. But Seberg's connection to the Black Panthers was already established.

She would go on to provide the movement with thousands of dollars in funding and was even arrested on misdemeanor charges thought to be connected to "running guns" for the BPP—not long after then-California Governor Ronald Reagan passed gun-control legislation that targeted the Panthers' open-carry protests (a style of protest that is now popular among gun rights advocates who hold Reagan in the highest regard). This is how Jean Seberg ended up on the wrong side of the FBI's COINTELPRO operations.

Jean Seberg

If you're wondering why anyone would make a movie celebrating a woman who supported a violent terrorist organization, you too have been made the victim of the FBI's smear campaign—though not as acutely as Jean Seberg and the Black Panthers. Along with blackmailing Martin Luther King Jr. and encouraging him to kill himself, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover sought to quash dissent within the American populace by infiltrating "subversive" organizations to promote infighting and discredit their causes. While those subversive groups included the likes of the KKK, they were not limited to that ilk. Hoover's megalomania would direct the FBI COINTELPRO (short for Counter Intelligence Program) against movements supporting feminist, racial justice, environmental, and anti-war causes.

Whatever became of the Black Panther Party's various chapters—as COINTELPRO encouraged internal schisms and violence—it's important to consider how the organization started. Black communities around the country were being neglected and harassed by the institutions that nominally served them. Poverty was destroying families, and the police often did more harm than good in ways that our country continues to reckon with. The Black Panthers set out to serve their communities with both charitable programs and vigilante groups that were intended to provide the benevolent protection that municipal police forces did not. Jean Seberg's first donation to the organization was in support of the Black Panther's free breakfast program.

Not long after the FBI worked with Chicago PD to drug and assassinate prominent BPP member Fred Hampton in his own home, they decided to take down Seberg with a smear campaign intended to "cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public." It was around this time that Seberg stopped being offered serious roles in Hollywood, likely as a result of being secretly blacklisted—along with Jane Fonda and others who supported the BPP. But the truly hateful attack came in 1970 in the form of a story that the FBI managed to get published in Newsweek, claiming that Seberg—who was pregnant at the time—was carrying the child of a Black Panther. This libelous story and negative attention that came with it purportedly caused Seberg so much distress that it triggered premature labor. She gave birth to a tiny daughter who died two days later.

Seberg spent the rest of her life in and out of depressive episodes and under continual surveillance by US intelligence services as she traveled Europe. She was the target of wiretapping, stalking, and burglaries, all at the behest of the US intelligence apparatus. Is it any wonder she had issues with her "nerves?"

Seberg attempted suicide on numerous occasions before her death, though there are circumstances that make her death suspicious. Kristen Stewart's efforts to capture her spirit in Seberg—including shot-for-shot recreations of Seberg's iconic performance in Breathless (1960)—have received praise, while some have criticized the film's treatment of historical events as "superficial." Regardless of the film's success in telling this story, it's important for all of us to maintain a cultural memory of martyrs like Jean Seberg.

We must never forget the lengths that entrenched power will go to in undermining any threat to their position. They will use petty differences and disinformation to turn us against one another. Only in solidarity can we achieve revolutionary change. Seberg, starring Kristen Stewart and directed by Benedict Andrews, is out now in select theaters.