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Before she captivated the film world with her performance in Scorcese’s crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon, Lily Gladstone starred in Erica Tremblay’s feature film debut Fancy Dance, earlier in 2023. It’s a tragic drama, wherein Gladstone portrays Jax, a lesbian woman dealing with the government that failed to find her sister, and that currently seeks to transfer her niece’s custody to her white father. But it’s also an uplifting drama, one that celebrates the connection between Jax and her niece Roki, the Cayuga culture and language, and the connection with their community and tribe that continues to persist despite state disenfranchisement. Pacing issues do make the film a tad rushed, but nevertheless, Fancy Dance is a subtle and poignant debut, made much more grounded with the excellent lead performances.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Audrey Wasilewski, Cory Hart, Crystle Lightning, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Jason Alan Smith, Lily Gladstone, Patrice Fisher, Ryan Begay, Shea Whigham, Tamara Podemski

Director: Erica Tremblay

Rating: R

To call Going to Mars a somewhat shapeless documentary isn't a criticism. If anything, its flexibility of structure feels entirely appropriate for the woman at its center, who doesn't necessarily defy categorization so much as she remains on the pulse of history as it continues to shift in unexpected ways. Nikki Giovanni is a person who knows who she is and knows that she stands for the essential dignity of Black people, and it's inspiring to see how she not only remains hopeful and articulate through every critical moment, but that she insists on being ambitious for what Black people deserve to achieve in the future. As her son tells her at a speaking engagement, Giovanni doesn't just dream of going to space; she feels that it is her people's imperative to be there.

Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson tell her (still ongoing) life story in a strikingly impressionistic way—cleverly playing with archival footage, but more importantly having Giovanni's candid words blending seamlessly into her poetry. This is a credit to how connected to the milieu Giovanni's work actually is, of course, but the film does a very good job defining her as someone who can bring beauty and grace out of every experience.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Kai Giovanni, Nikki Giovanni, Novella Nelson, Taraji P. Henson, Thomas Giovanni, Touré Neblett, Virginia Fowler

Director: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson

The Perfect Find follows Jenna (Gabrielle Union), a fashion editor trying to make a comeback after a public breakup and a high-profile firing. She lands a job at a new fashion magazine, but this is complicated when she falls for her charming and much younger coworker, Eric (Keith Powers), who just so happens to be the son of her boss. Admittedly, the plot is as cliche as can be, with a few shenanigans, quirky best friends, and an ex or two popping up in the third act. But it's also easy to fall for, especially with Union as the charismatic lead. The jokes about her character and Eric's age gap land well most times, and many parts of the film are beautiful enough, most notably: the talent, the color grading, and the eye-catching New York landscape. 

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Aisha Hinds, D.B. Woodside, Gabrielle Union, Gina Torres, Godfrey, Janet Hubert, Keith Powers, La La Anthony, Leigh Davenport, Numa Perrier, Remy Ma, Shayna McHayle, Sterling 'Steelo' Brim, Ts Madison, Winnie Harlow, Yrsa Daley-Ward

Director: Numa Perrier

Rating: R