The unsettling power of Black horror, plus the week’s best films to see in L.A.

A Black family waits at the front door for trouble.
From left, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Evan Alex in the movie “Us.”
(Claudette Barius / Universal Pictures)

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

I have heard many people say recently what a great time it is right now for going to the movies in Los Angeles, full of exciting programming and fully engaged audiences. And two pieces of news this week point toward things getting even better.

The Los Angeles Festival of Movies will launch its first edition April 4-7, to unspool at Vidiots in Eagle Rock, 2220 Arts + Archives in Historic Filipinotown and Now Instant Image Hall in Chinatown. The program will open with the local premiere of Jane Schoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow,” and other titles announced so far include Eduardo Williams’ “The Human Surge 3” and Chantal Akerman’s “Toute une nuit.” Musician Kim Gordon and author Rachel Kushner will have a conversation about Los Angeles.

The festival is programmed by Mezzanine artistic director Micah Gottlieb and founded and co-produced by Gottlieb and film producer Sarah Winshall. As Gottlieb told me, “Often I think that new independent films struggle to gain a foothold in L.A. Film festivals in L.A. are often defined in relation to the commercial film industry. We wanted to create a space for the kinds of films that either don’t usually play in L.A. or, if they do, they may not get the platform that they deserve.”


Then came the news that more than 30 directors, led by Jason Reitman, have come together to take over ownership of the Village Theater in Westwood. It‘s an impressive group, including Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher McQuarrie, Judd Apatow, Damien Chazelle, Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Hannah Fidell, Alejandro González Iñárritu, James Gunn, Sian Heder, Rian Johnson, Gil Kenan, Karyn Kusama, Justin Lin, Phil Lord, David Lowery, Chris Miller, Todd Phillips, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Jay Roach, Seth Rogen, Emma Seligman, Emma Thomas, Denis Villeneuve, Lulu Wang, Alexander Payne and Chloé Zhao.

Josh Rottenberg spoke to Reitman, who said, “Right now I honestly just feel like I’m living in a dream. It was literally a matter of months ago that I was standing in front of this theater, wondering if I can help save it. And just a week ago, I was in the lobby with heroes of mine, directors who were among the reasons I became a director myself, and we stood together like a group of giddy kids in disbelief that we now own this theater. And that thrill is carrying me every day right now.”

New Black horror at the American Cinematheque

The American Cinematheque has launched a series on New Black horror at the Los Feliz 3. Having already opened with Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning “Get Out,” the program really kicks into gear this week with Nikyatu Jusu’s “Nanny,” Bomani J. Story’s “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster,” Mariama Diallo’s “Master” and Peele’s “Us.” This is a smartly curated series with a group of films that, taken together, show the power of the horror genre to address contemporary social issues while also providing audiences with a thrilling time.

This notion was summarized by actor Lupita Nyong’o (who gives a terrifying turn in “Us”) when speaking to Jen Yamato after the film premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2019.

“Accepting the duality that, actually, evil is human,” said Nyong’o. “Darkness is a part of being human. Oftentimes, you’ll hear there have been atrocities in the world and people will say, ‘How inhumane.’ But the more distance we put with such things, the harder it is to keep them under control, because humans do heinous things and they do not lose their humanity when they do.”

When Nikyatu Jusu spoke to Sarah-Tai Black about her experiences making “Nanny,” the story of a Senegalese immigrant who takes a job looking after the child of an upscale New York City family, she said, “In recent interviews, Jordan Peele has spoken of the disproportionate burden of Black directors working in horror. Those of us who understand the conventions of the genre know that there has to be conflict, there has to be trauma, and often both of those things are relentless. Because my protagonist is a Black woman and because I’m cognizant of how Black women have been conveyed in motion pictures — the lack of care that they are given — it’s important to me to have that balance of light and dark.”

A woman in a towel looks into a bathroom mirror.
Anna Diop in the movie “Nanny.”
(Prime Video)

“Master” is set on a college campus, where a professor (Regina Hall) must navigate a daily barrage of microaggressions that lead her to wonder if she is losing her mind, while a young student (Zoe Renee) may have become possessed by an evil spirit in her dorm room.

Diallo spoke to Sonaiya Kelley about the claustrophobic sense of dislocation the film creates. “I’ve heard back from many, many Black people — Black women in particular — who have been in some of these similar spaces and institutions and they’ve remarked how true it feels to their experience and how validating and even surprising it is to see it represented onscreen in a way that it hasn’t before,” said Diallo. “People of all different races have told me they’ve seen commonalities between the characters and their own experiences of isolation in certain spaces. That’s been really cheering to me.”

Other points of interest

‘Buck and the Preacher’

Two men carry pistols.
Harry Belafonte, left, and Sidney Poitier in the 1972 movie “Buck and the Preacher.”
(United Archives via Getty Images)

On Saturday the Academy Museum will screen the 1972 western “Buck and the Preacher” as part of a tribute to Harry Belafonte, with a pre-screening conversation with the actor’s daughter, Shari Belafonte, and stuntman Henry Kingi. Belafonte appears in the film alongside Sidney Poitier, who also directed the film, the first-ever on-screen collaboration between these two longtime friends.


When Poitier died in 2022, I spoke to a number of people about his cinematic legacy. Maya Cade, creator and curator of the Black Film Archive, described the western as “a studio film that openly questions the inhumanity of whiteness and fights against that.”

Stephen Chow double bill

A man in a white shirt dominates in a fight.
Stephen Chow in the movie “Kung Fu Hustle.”
(Saeed Adyani / Sony Pictures Classics)

The New Beverly will host a double bill of filmmaker-star Stephen Chow’s 2004 “Kung Fu Hustle” with 2001‘s “Shaolin Soccer” on Feb. 27-29. Both films are wildly inventive mixtures of martial arts action, special effects and slapstick comedy that are just pure joyful fun.

In her original LAT review for “Hustle,” Carina Chocano wrote, “For all its extreme cartoonish violence, ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ is a surprisingly sweet and charming movie that mocks the shallow posturing of unabashed cinematic love songs to bad guys. … Brilliantly choreographed and shot, ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ is often grisly, visually spectacular and unabashedly silly, sometimes all at once.”

Robert Altman’s ‘3 Women’

A woman aims a pistol.
Robert Fortier and Sissy Spacek in the movie “3 Women.”
(20th Century-Fox)

Director Robert Altman’s filmography is so vast that there are still various underexplored corners, which is why it has been exciting to see the revival of his “3 Women.” The film is a sun-baked, pastel-colored psychosexual fever dream, starring Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek as two roommates who find their lives increasingly intertwined. Vidiots will screen the movie on Sunday at 3 p.m.

In his original review from April 1977, Charles Champlin wrote, “Altman is nothing if not a filmmaker of considerable daring, in what he does to as well as for his audiences. He sometimes accuses critics (including me) of trying to read into his work what is not there. … Yet it is clear that Altman is nothing so simply as a maker of vaudeville turns. His ability to capture the sights, sounds and atmospheres of the real world and his affinity for the loners, losers, outcasts from and rejects and victims of that real world run through his best films.”

Also in the news

Emails from Barbra Streisand Barbra Streisand is receiving a lifetime achievement award at the SAG Awards this weekend. Our own Glenn Whipp exchanged emails with Streisand and covered a wide variety of topics, from her recent astonishingly detailed and excellent memoir, her aversion to awards shows, shoes, ice cream, her favorite deli in L.A. and more.

SAG Awards head to Netflix Wendy Lee and Josh Rottenberg took a look at what it means that Saturday’s SAG Awards will be the first awards show streamed live on Netflix. Exactly how this will impact the feel of watching the show — or how it might potentially lead to changes in how other awards shows are produced — remains to be seen.

‘The Envelope’ podcast The latest edition of The Envelope podcast features interviews captured on the day of the recent Oscars nominees luncheon. We commandeered a room overlooking the pool deck at the Beverly Hilton Hotel: Yvonne Villarreal spoke to America Ferrera about her role in “Barbie,” and I talked with Nadia Stacey, recognized for her work on the hair and makeup in “Poor Things.”


Austin Butler and director Denis Villeneuve on ‘Dune: Part Two’ Josh Rottenberg spoke with filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and actor Austin Butler, who plays the villainous Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, about the upcoming “Dune: Part Two.” As for what potentially comes next in the sprawling universe of “Dune” storytelling, Villeneuve said, “When I embarked on the ‘Dune’ journey, I proposed that it could be three movies. I absolutely love ‘Dune Messiah’ and that is in the works. When people ask me, ‘After “Dune Messiah” will you be done with “Dune”?’ I say yes because at that point it will have been almost 10 years of my life. It’s healthy to think that there’s an end to this. But one thing at a time. After ‘Dune Messiah,’ ask me again and we’ll see.”