Saturday, June 23, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: The Emigrants




Based on the novel by Vilhelm Morberg, Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) is the story of a poor Swedish farming family who travel from a small village in Sweden to America in the hopes of finding a new life in a new world. Directed, shot, and edited by Jan Troell and screenplay by Troell and Bengt Forslund, the film is the first of a two-part film series that explore the life of a family who deal with the hardships of their homeland and the need to find something new. Starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman, Eddie Axberg, Allan Edwall, Pierre Lindstedt, Hans Alfredson, Sven-Olof Bern, Aina Alfredsson, Ulla Smidje, Eva-Lena Zetterlund, and Monica Zetterlund. Utvandrarna is a rapturous and evocative film from Jan Troell.

Set in 1844 Sweden, the film revolves around a family of farmers who live in a small village as they decide to move to America in the state of Minnesota in the hopes of a new start. During the course of their long and arduous journey, they deal with so much that would challenge any kind of family in the course of a long period of time as well as this seaside journey from Sweden to America. The film’s screenplay by Jan Troell and Bengt Forslund does have this unique structure that play into the journey that Karl Oskar Nilsson (Max von Sydow) and his wife Kristina (Liv Ullman) would take starting off in the Swedish province of Smaland in a small village where they try to tend the farm and its land that Nilsson got from his father which is unfortunately filled with large stones. Much of the first act is set in Sweden where the Nilsson family that include Karl Oskar’s younger brother Robert (Eddie Axberg) deal with not just the land of their family but also this sense of oppression among their authority figures including those who lead this strict idea of faith.

This idea of Lutheran faith and its rule would force Kristina’s uncle Danjel Andreasson (Allan Edwall) to leave town as he would join Nilsson and his family to go to America with a young farmhand in Arvid (Pierre Lindstedt) whom Robert met when they worked for a cruel farmer. The second act is set on the ship from Sweden to America as there is so much the passengers endure ranging from seasickness, bad food, horrible weather, and death. There is also question about whether the decision to leave Sweden was the right one as the third act is set in America where there is a sense of confusion over what to expect as well as the fact that they have to take another journey to the state of Minnesota where an old woman’s son is living at.

Troell’s direction is mesmerizing in the way he captures mid-19th Century life in Smaland as well as the way America looked in that time. While much of the film was shot in Sweden with the scenes in America shot at Lake Krageholm in Scania, Troell uses the location to showcase not just the sense of wonderment that is America but also the struggle that Nilsson and his family would endure early on. The first shot of Nilsson’s father Nils (Sven-Olof Bern) trying to pull a big stone out of the ground on a rainy day is an example of the kind of troubles Karl Oskar would endure as there’s something mythical into this ongoing struggle where all of these stones are in the family’s fields. Troell’s usage of the wide shots play into the scope of the landscape as well as the sense of struggle that Nilsson has to cope with in relation to his land as well as providing for his family. Even as Robert would be forced to work for a cruel farmer as Troell showcases not just the day-to-day grind but also the lack of appreciation Robert and Arvid would get as Troell would shoot them in close-ups as well as medium shots to show their cramped living quarters.

Also serving as the film’s cinematographer and editor, Troell aims for a naturalistic look into the film in not just the landscapes but also the scenes on the ship. With much of the direction emphasizes on hand-held cameras to get that air of realism, Troell would shoot the scenes on the ship as if he was a passenger to get an idea of the danger of that journey. His approach as an editor isn’t just using dissolves and jump-cuts but also some fade-outs to help transition parts of the story that is grand not just in its 190-minute length but also to play into the struggle these characters endure. Even in the third act where they arrive in America as the confusion is shown in the editing where it is like a fish out of water but also in their attempts to communicate with Americans for direction as they still have trouble trying to speak English. The film’s ending has Troell play into the possibilities as well as the end of this journey that Nilsson takes over his desire for a new start. Overall, Troell crafts an intoxicating and riveting film about a Swedish family going to America to start over.

Art director P.A. Lundgren does brilliant work with the look of the homes the Nilsson family lived as well as the interiors of the ship they would board on to America and some of the locations in America. Costume designer Ulla-Britt Soderlund does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the period of the times where there isn’t a lot of color into the clothes that the characters wear that include the wooden clogs they would wear in Sweden. Sound mixers Eddie Axberg and Sten Norlen do superb work with the sound in capturing the sounds of the different locations in the film including the scenes on the ship as well as the natural sounds of nature. The film’s music by Erik Nordgren is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that appear in some parts of the film as it play into the drama with its soft strings as well as some intense musical moments that help add to the drama.

The film’s terrific cast feature some notable small roles from Tom C. Fouts as an American pastor who helps out Nilsson and his entourage find their destination, Ake Fridell as the cruel farmer Aron who severely hits Robert’s left ear, Gustaf Faringborg as the local vicar Brusander who feels threatened by Andreasson’s teachings, Aina Andersson as Nilsson’s young daughter Marta, Bruno Sorwing as the local sheriff whom Nilsson has to deal with in relation to Robert’s issues with Aron, Eva-Lena Zetterlund as Ulrika’s daughter Elin who befriends Robert on the way to America, Ulla Smidje as Andreasson’s wife Inga-Lena who copes with the journey on ship, Hans Alfredson as a fellow traveling Swede in Jonas Petter, and Sven-Olof Bern as Nilsson’s father Nils who copes with the injury that would cripple him as well as realize the lack of future for his sons and their families in Sweden. Monica Zetterlund is fantastic as Ulrika as a former prostitute with an awful reputation who joins the journey as she is someone that Kristina isn’t fond of until she proves her worth as well as being someone that is helpful. Pierre Lindstedt is superb as Arvid as a farmhand that Robert meets as he’s a simpleton who is aware of the cruelty he’s dealing with as he’s eager to want something more as he joins Robert on the journey to America.

Allan Edwall is excellent as Daniel Andreasson as a preacher whose ideas of faith gets him in trouble with the local vicar as he decides to go America with his family where he deals with his own tests of faith through the circumstances he endures. Eddie Axberg is brilliant as Robert Nilsson as a Karl Oskar’s younger brother who likes to read and is more fascinated by science and social ideals rather than farming as he is eager to go to America in the hope of doing something that matters. Liv Ullman is incredible as Kristina as a woman who endures a lot in her journey hoping for something good as she is also a God-fearing woman that believes God will bring something as she later copes with her own challenges towards faith. Finally, there’s Max von Sydow in a remarkable performance as Karl Oskar Nilsson as a man who is given his father’s farm to tend only to deal with the same struggles of his father prompting him to go to America with his family as a way to start all over as he would also cope with the wonderment and confusion of his encounter with America.

Utvandrarna is a phenomenal film from Jan Troell that features great performances from Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, and a gripping yet somber story about a family’s journey from Sweden to America in the mid-19th Century. It’s a film that captures a moment in time of a family dealing with uncertainty in their homeland as well as wanting to see if they can find something new in what was then known as the New World. In the end, Utvandrarna is a tremendous film from Jan Troell.

Jan Troell Films: (Here is Your Life) – (Who Saw Him Die?) – (The New Land) – (Zandy’s Bride) – (Bang!) – (Hurricane (1979 film)) – (Flight of the Eagle) – (Land of Dreams) – (Il Capitano: A Swedish Requiem) – (Hamsun) – (A Frozen Dream) – (As White as in Snow) – (Everlasting Moments) – (The Last Sentence)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Auteurs #66: John Cameron Mitchell




Among one of the current figures in American independent cinema who makes film that doesn’t play by the rules, John Cameron Mitchell is a figure in cinema and television who is interested in telling stories about those who struggle with being part of conventional society. Being openly gay, Mitchell started off as a voice for LGBT audiences only to broaden himself even more in making films and projects that also appeal to straight audiences but without giving in towards the conventional ideas of cinema. While he would also work as an actor in various projects to get funding for films that studios wouldn’t want to take on. His independent spirit has made him a vital voice for filmmakers who like to think outside the box.

Born on April 21, 1963 in El Paso, Texas, John Cameron Mitchell was the son of a U.S. Army general as he and his brother Colin along with their Scottish-born schoolteacher mother moved around the world as Mitchell and his brother Colin grew up on different army bases in West Germany, Scotland, and in various parts of the U.S. During that time when he was living Scotland, he attended the Benedictine boarding school where he discovered theatre as he would play the Virgin Mary for a Nativity musical at the age of 11. Through his love for acting and theatre, Mitchell would later attend Northwestern University in Illinois in 1981 where he attended the school for four years studying drama as he would also learn about film. On the year he graduated from Northwestern in 1985, he also came out of the closest to friends and family knowing that homosexuality was still considered taboo in America.

Living in Chicago following his college graduation, Mitchell got the role of Huckleberry Finn for a stage play in the city’s Goodman Theatre as it got the attention of theatre agents in New York City as he played Finn once again in a stage version of Big River. Mitchell would also get work in television, commercials, movies, and theatre for the course of more than a decade as he played different kind of roles. It was also around this time that he also learned the craft of directing theatre where he founded the Drama Department Theatre Company in the mid-1990s as he directed a version of Tennessee Williams’ Kingdom of Earth that would star Cynthia Nixon and Peter Sarsgaard. It was around this time that Mitchell met musician Stephen Trask through various punk rock clubs in New York City. The two shared an interest for music as they both loved David Bowie and 1970s glam rock as they decided to collaborate on a theatre project that would get the attention of the world of theatre.

Hedwig & the Angry Inch



In 1998, Mitchell and Trask staged their off-Broadway play about a German androgynous rock singer with a botched sex change operation who is touring with his band as they’re following a more popular singer that used to be the lover of the titular character. The character was partially inspired by Mitchell’s German babysitter when he was living in Junction City, Kansas as well as other luminaries in 70s glam rock like Bowie, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop. The play would have a two-year run off-Broadway as it grew a lot of attention including the endorsement of David Bowie and talk show host Rosie O’Donnell who invited Mitchell and Trask to perform a song on her show. The success of the play would inspire Mitchell to do his own film version of the play as he would co-write, direct, and star in the film with Trask also co-starring and co-writing the film’s script.

With a budget of $6 million that was aided by famed independent film producer Christine Vachon who would produce the film, Mitchell would be given the chance to create his own film version of the story he created rather than have big Hollywood studios adapt it and make it more mainstream. With Mitchell playing the role of Hedwig as he did onstage and Trask as one of the band members, the film’s cast would include Miriam Shor who would reprise her role as Hedwig’s husband/back-up singer Yitzhak, Andrea Martin as Hedwig’s manager, and then-newcomer Michael Pitt as Hedwig’s former lover Tommy Gnosis who had become a popular singer that had taken the songs he and Hedwig had written. Mitchell would gain the support of cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco to shoot the film as he would be a recurring collaborator of Mitchell for much of his film as DeMarco would create visuals to play into Mitchell’s ambition.

Knowing that musicals often are made with large budgets that was one of the reasons the genre had phased out in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well as attempts to revive the genre in the coming decades haven’t been well-received. Mitchell knew that he didn’t want to fall into the traps of creating spectacles as he used the film’s $6 million budget to his advantage to create something that has elements of spectacles but not be afraid to play into its low budget aesthetics. At the same time, Mitchell wanted to create that air of excitement into the fact that his musical is largely based on rock n’ roll rather than the typical idea of show-tunes as the songs he and Trask created definitely had an edge as it play into Hedwig’s own faults and anger towards his protégé whom he felt had used him for his own success.

The film made its premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year as it won the festival’s Audience prize as well as a directing prize for Mitchell. The film would also make its European premiere a month later at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the festival’s Teddy Award as it appealed to the LGBT audience. The film’s success through film festivals lead to a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later that summer. Despite its immense critical success, the film only made $3.6 million which wasn’t enough to cover its $6 million budget though the film would eventually become a cult film since its release. Mitchell would also garner a large amount of critical support as he would win the L.A. Film Critics Association New Generation prize as well as Best Debut Director from the National Board of Review in the U.S. and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a comedy/musical.

Bright Eyes-First Day of My Life (music video)/Scissor Sisters-Filthy/Gorgeous (music video)




The critical and cult success of Hedwig & the Angry Inch would give Mitchell the chance to do other work as well as be a host for the Independent Film Channel’s Escape from Hollywood film series in showcasing revered independent films to a wide audience for two years. While trying to get money in developing a new film project, Mitchell would also take the time to direct a couple of music videos during this break between film projects. The first of which is a video for the indie folk group Bright Eyes as it was a simple video of various people on a couch as they listen to the song on headphones as it play into the idea of love. The video would help Bright Eyes become a viable act in the indie scene as Mitchell would make another video for the American dance band Scissor Sisters that would be extremely controversial as it is set at a sex club though Mitchell didn’t want to make it totally explicit. Still, the video in an edited version and its uncensored version was considered too controversial to be aired on MTV or any mainstream music outlet.




Shortbus



Wanting to make his next feature film something completely different and use non-professional actors, unknowns, and some obscure actors, Mitchell and producer Howard Gertler decided to get people to answer a casting call on participating in a film project about sex. The film would revolve around a group of people in New York City coping with their sexuality and what it would mean to them as it include a subplot in which a sex therapist deals with her lack of orgasm in her sexual life. Many people would send thousands of confessional tapes and such for Mitchell and Gertler to watch as one of the tapes came from Jonathan Caouette whose confession lead to Mitchell finding him and eventually fund Caouette’s own documentary Tarnation that was released through film festivals in 2004 to rave reviews. Nine people were eventually chosen including Canadian radio personality Sook-Yin Lee who had appeared in a small role in Hedwig & the Angry Inch as they would all take part in a workshop to develop ideas for the film and its characters.

Three people would leave the workshop while Lee’s involvement in the film would nearly have her fired by her bosses until several people such as filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola, Gus Van Sant, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Bart Freundlich along with actress Julianne Moore and musician Moby stepped in to save Lee’s job. Mitchell would take the workshop to Los Angeles to find more actors as he would succeed as well as get the $2 million he needed for the film along with distribution in THINKfilm. The film was finally shot in the summer of 2005 as Mitchell brought along his collaborators that include sound designer Benjamin Cheah, animator John Bair for some visual effects, production designer Judy Asnes, and costume designers Bart Mueller and Kurt Swanson for the production. Much of the cast of non-professional actors and amateurs would take part in sexually explicit acts but Mitchell knew he didn’t want to make a film that many thought would be pornography.

For an orgy scene, Mitchell decided to take part in the scene as an act of solidarity with the other actors taking part in the orgy as he and a cameraman were both naked for the scene. Even as there’s moments in the film where real orgasm and real sex occurred where during a shoot where Mitchell and his crew were finishing up the shoot that night. Actors involved in an orgy were still having sex that made Mitchell and crew members restless into having the people finish things up as Mitchell would also have another crew film the making of the orgy scene. Actors would get tested for STDs in case something goes wrong though fortunately no one had any STDs as Mitchell was able to get what he wanted.

The film made its premiere in May of 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival in France where it received a rousing reception in its screening as it was released a few months later by THINKfilm in the U.S. in a limited release due to its sexually explicit content as Mitchell refused to do further cuts by the MPAA and chose to release the film unrated. Despite its lack of commercial appeal and receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film did manage to make more than $5.4 million in its limited theatrical release against its $2 million budget. The film would also play in film festivals around the world where it received some accolades giving Mitchell some clout in the industry. A year after its release, the film was banned from South Korea for its release though it would still play in film festivals in the country that did help the ban get lifted for the film two years to be seen publicly in its unrated presentation.

Rabbit Hole



Following a break between films in which Mitchell was trying to develop other projects, he went to see David Lindsay-Abaire’s play about a couple dealing with the loss of their child as it would play into their disintegrating marriage where they each go into separate paths to cope with their grief. The play’s 2006 premiere on Broadway that featured Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery in the lead roles was a major hit as Mitchell met Lindsay-Abaire about the play as the two decided collaborated on turning the play into a feature film project. With Lindsay-Abaire winning the Pulitizer Prize for its play, he agreed to work with Mitchell due to their experiences in theater as they also wanted to stray from the conventional ideas of Hollywood as it relate to hit plays becoming mainstream films that often don’t deliver.

Knowing that the film would mark a major departure for Mitchell from his more raucous stories of sexuality, the film would have Mitchell play it straight but also go further into the way a couple deals with grief. With the exception of longtime cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco and sound designer Benjamin Cheah, Mitchell took on an entire new crew for the production during its development as he and Lindsay-Abaire got the attention of Nicole Kidman who is interested in doing the film. Kidman who dropped out of a film project for Woody Allen agreed to do the film in the role of Becca as she would also serve as one of its producers to keep the film’s budget low. For the role of Becca’s husband Howie, Aaron Eckhart accepted the role as he would go into his own research into the idea of grief by attending meetings for parents who had lost their children.

The ensemble would include Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, then-newcomer Miles Teller, and Dianne Wiest as Becca’s mother as the shooting began in late 2009/early 2010 for a 28-day shoot in the boroughs of Queens in New York City with the small budget of $3.2 million. Mitchell wanted to maintain the same kind of intimacy that the play had while shooting the film on various locations in Queens such as an arcade where Howie and Sandra Oh’s character Gabby decide to skip a grief counseling meeting to just hang out and have fun. It would play into Becca and Howie’s disintegrating marriage as Becca would find herself spending time with the character of Jason, played by Miles Teller, who accidentally killed their son as he feels guilty over what he did giving Becca a chance to cope with her own loss as well as learning her sister is pregnant. Mitchell chooses not to over-embellish nor underplay the drama in order to play with these ideas of grief giving the actors a chance to take the characters into places that most films wouldn’t go into.

The film made its premiere in September 2010 at the Toronto Film Festival where it was well-received as it was later distributed by Lions Gate which gave the film a limited release later in December for its Oscar consideration. The film received rave reviews from critics while managing to do well in its box office making more than $5 million against its $3.2 million budget while it would give Kidman an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Though there were some who were critical of the changes Mitchell and Lindsay-Abaire made from the play into the film. Mitchell and Lindsay-Abaire were still proud of what they did as it would help the former become more visible in Hollywood despite his reluctance to play into their world preferring to remain independent.

Dior: L.A.dy Dior/Dior: Lady Grey London/Dior: Dior Homme Sport




After the release of Rabbit Hole, Mitchell chose to take on a few small projects as he was asked by Dior to direct a few ads for the fashion company. A couple of these ads/shorts would star French actress Marion Cotillard as the first short involved her as a movie star in Los Angeles that is tired of the photoshoots and such as the overwhelming pressure in being a star finally gets to her as she acts out. The second short set in London which also starred Ian McKellan and Russell Tovey in which Cotillard played a mysterious stage performer who entrances both a crippled McKellan and Tovey as an artist as it is a mixture of cabaret and melodrama. A third short film Mitchell did for Dior would star Jude Law as a man driving to Paris to the South of France to meet a woman as it is told through the Rolling Stones’ song Paint It Black where Mitchell infuses it with a sense of style and Law’s sense of cool.







How to Talk to Girls at Parties



During a long break between films in which Mitchell directed an episode of Showtime’s medical comedy-drama Nurse Jackie in 2013 as well as appearing in a recurring role for the HBO comedy series Girls from 2013 to 2014 and later appearing as Andy Warhol two years later in another HBO series in Vinyl. Mitchell’s foray into television was brief as he shot an unaired pilot of another Showtime comedy series in Happyish that never got off the ground since the pilot featured one of the final acting performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman who died in early 2014. It was around in 2015 when Mitchell was approached in helming a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story about a young punk rocker who meets and falls in love with a young woman who is believed to be an alien as it’s set during the late 70s punk movement in Britain.

Mitchell collaborated with Philippa Goslett in adapting the script as they were able to get the film shot in Sheffield instead of London due to the fact that certain locations in London didn’t look like what they did back in 1977. Along with longtime collaborators in Frank G. DeMarco and Benjamin Cheah, Mitchell would get the services of famed costume designer Sandy Powell in creating costumes just as Mitchell also got Nicole Kidman on board to play the role of punk rock leader Queen Boadicea. Mitchell wanted Marion Cotillard to do a cameo appearance in the film but Cotillard was unable to take part due to scheduling conflicts as the cameo was scrapped where Mitchell focused on getting the right actors for the lead roles. It was in British theater actor Alex Sharp who would get the role of Enn while American actress Elle Fanning played the role of the mysterious alien Zan.

The ensemble cast would include Matt Lucas and Ruth Wilson as colony leaders as shooting began in November 2015 on a $3.8 million budget for the film. Being familiar with the world of punk culture, Mitchell wanted to maintain that air of authenticity as well as writing original songs for the film that Zan and Enn would sing to play into their growing union. It added to this energy that Mitchell wanted while he wanted the scenes involving the aliens to be filled with some comical absurdity as idealists who have an agenda yet would be confronted by the punks who reveal the major flaws into their ideals. All of which would lead to Enn, who is an artist trying to find his own artistic voice, to write up his own experiences similar to what Gaiman had experienced in the time of punk rock.

The film made its premiere in May of 2017 at the Cannes Film Festival in France where it played out of competition where it got a mixed reception. The film was eventually released in theaters a year later in Britain and in the U.S. where some praised the film for its energy though some felt the blending of different genres hurt the film. The polarizing reaction did hamper the film’s limited release in the U.S. even though Mitchell remains confident over the film and his vision.

While he’s only made four feature films so far and doesn’t make films very often due to his reluctance to work with Hollywood. John Cameron Mitchell is still an important figure for American independent and LGBT cinema as he would be a champion for both movements as well as maintain that need to not be pigeonholed like other filmmakers known for doing certain types of films. It is why cinema should be grateful in having someone like John Cameron Mitchell to be the voice for stories that Hollywood wouldn’t dare touch.

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Juvenile Delinquents




For the 25th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The subject is on juvenile delinquents. Kids who are troubled and acting out as they get themselves in trouble as a way to escape whatever problems they’re having at home or at school. It’s often a complicated subject yet it often create some compelling films. Here are my three picks:

1. The 400 Blows



Francois Truffaut’s feature-length debut film is definitely one of the finest films of the 20th Century as it explores the journey of Antoine Doinel. A young boy who is having trouble at school and at home as he spends a lot of time playing hooky where he would also see his mother with another man. This leads to the boy acting out and do all sorts of things but also face revelations about himself and his family life that would have Doinel deal with his many issues for next several years into three more films and a short as it is this film that remains one of Truffaut’s best.

2. Over the Edge



A film that didn’t get a lot of appreciation upon its initial release in 1979, Jonathan Kaplan’s film about a group of kids rebelling against their parents and authorities over plans to destroy the recreational center for an industrial park instead of a cinema and roller rink. Along with an abusive policeman giving the kids a lot of shit, it leads to this moment of chaos and rebellion as it is an intense film that really meant a lot of those who grew up during the 1980s who were angry over the world of Ronald Reagan.

3. Mommy



From Xavier Dolan comes one of the best films of the 21st Century so far as it is about a young teenager who has ADHD as he has trouble trying to be normal as he’s angry, destructive, and unpredictable as his mother seeks the help of a neighbor in trying to help him. It’s an unconventional drama that is set in a world that features a fictional law that relate to troubled children where they have to be sent to hospitals if they become unruly or harm their parent. It’s really a character study in which a woman is eager to hope for the best for her son with the help of this insecure schoolteacher as the three become this unlikely family dynamic that wouldn’t last for long. It is a film with an unconventional presentation that definitely works as it would play into the evolution of these characters and the situations they’re in as it is a crowning achievement for Xavier Dolan.

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Incredibles 2/Bao




Written and directed by Brad Bird, Incredibles 2 is a sequel to the 2004 film about a family of superheroes who come out of hiding to fight supervillains as they deal with trying to win back the support of the public for past mistakes as well as deal with a secret supervillain. The film is an exploration of family dynamics as a family cope with trying to rehabilitate their image as well as maintain their life as a family. Featuring the voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Michael Bird, Huck Milner, Jonathan Banks, Phil LaMarr, and Isabella Rossellini. Incredibles 2 is a riveting and exciting film from Brad Bird.

Bao



Directed by Domee Shi, Bao is the story of a Chinese mother who deals with loneliness following the departure of her son to college as a dumpling she created comes to life. It’s a film with a simple premise that plays into a woman’s sense of loss and longing as it play into the idea of a child growing and what a mother would often expect. All of which is told in a simple yet calm manner through its rich animation as well as being accompanied by Teddy Chu’s understated yet rapturous score that rely on traditional Chinese string music and woodwinds. It is truly a spectacular short film that is moving as well as being engaging and funny.

Incredibles 2

The film picks up where the previous film left off where the Parr family find themselves fighting a supervillain in the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) as they succeed in saving the city but the damage that was created accidentally by the Incredibles left the family in trouble as superheroes are still forbidden by law. It’s a film that is about the Incredibles trying to get back in the game with the help of a telecommunications tycoon who wants to get superheroes back in the world seeing that they can still make the world safer. Yet, it would lead to a change in dynamics as Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is chosen to be the representative to bring superheroes back into public eye while Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays at the family’s new home to watch over the kids as he deals with being a full-time father and not doing superhero work. Brad Bird’s screenplay doesn’t just play into Bob’s struggle with raising three children including the baby Jack-Jack who is starting to gain multiple superpowers. It’s also the fact that Helen was chosen instead of him as he’s forced to realize that he isn’t the right choice due to the damages he accidentally causes in trying to save everyone.

Bob’s arc is the most interesting aspect of the film where he is seen out of his comfort zone as he tries to help Dash (Huck Milner) with his math homework and to not get into trouble while Violet (Sarah Vowell) is dealing with growing pains as it would relate to the fact that her crush Tony Rydinger (Michael Bird) doesn’t know who she is due to the fact that his memory was erased over the Underminer incident. It’s where the kids realize how much they miss their mother as Helen is doing work for Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who is willing to help the superheroes get their jobs back as he felt the superhero ban was unjust due to the fact that his father was killed by a robber. Helping Helen in her new work is Winston’s sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) who would create some new technology as she feels underappreciated for her work as she and Helen bond as the latter is trying to discover of the identity of this mysterious villain known as the Screenslaver. The Screenslaver is an unusual antagonist whose intent is to control everyone and is against superheroes wanting to return in order to stabilize the status quo.

Bird’s direction is definitely grand in terms of the world that the Parrs are in as it does start off with this battle with the Underminer as they’re aided by longtime family friend Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) in stopping his machine from wreaking havoc. It is a massive set piece that play into the strengths of the family but also for the fact that Dash and Violet are still new in the superhero game as they have to watch over Jack-Jack while their parents and Frozone stop the Underminer. Bird’s usage of the wide shots play into the scope of these action set pieces as it include this intense scene of Helen trying to stop a train from going out of control as its engineer was unknowingly controlled by the Screenslaver. It’s a sequence that play into Bird’s approach to action including this massive climax as it relates to the Screenslaver and its power on everyone which feature some unique hypnotic lighting where Bird and animation director Travis Hathaway use it as a way for Screenslaver’s desire for control.

Bird’s direction for Bob’s arc is more intimate with its medium shots and some close-ups as it play into his struggle in trying to keep up with Jack-Jack’s growing powers that include a comical sequence of Jack-Jack fighting with a raccoon. The sequence of Bob taking Jack-Jack to Edna Mode (Brad Bird) is also comical for how Edna reacts to Jack-Jack as someone she believes can inspire her to create better costumes while being upset that Helen is given a new one without her consent. Bird also knows when to create these small moments as it relates to Bob trying to understand Violet’s growing pains as well as finding his footing as a dad where he can be himself and Mr. Incredible. It all play into the idea of the family dynamic as Helen’s time away from her family has her needing them once she deals with the Screenslaver whose plans for control is at great risk prompting the Incredibles, Frozone, and other superheroes to go out there and fight for the good of the world. Overall, Bird crafts an exhilarating yet engrossing film about a family of superheroes trying to get back in the game as well as balance their lives as themselves.

Cinematographer Mahyar Abousaeedi does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in creating moods and shading for many of the animated sequences as well as things look at night and in the day. Editor Stephen Schaffer does amazing work with the editing as it help play into the intensity and craziness of the action scenes through some fast cutting as well as slowing things down in straightforward cuts for the dramatic and comedic scenes. Production designer Ralph Eggleston and art director Josh Holtsclaw do fantastic work with the look of the city as well as the new home of the Parrs as well as the office building that the Deavors live in Sound designer Ren Klyce and co-sound editor Coya Elliott do superb work with the sound in creating some effects for some of the weapons, Jack-Jack’s voice based on archives from the previous film, and superpowers as well as the effects in Screenslaver’s images. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is great for its jazzy score with elements of horns, strings, and percussions as it help play into the air of excitement as well as some smooth and heavy pieces for the suspenseful moments as it’s a highlight of the film.

The voice casting by Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher is wonderful as it include some notable small roles from John Ratzenberger as the Underminer, Kimberly Adair Clark as Lucius’ wife Honey, Bill Wise as the mysterious Screenslaver, Paul Eiding as an aging superhero named Reflux, Phil LaMarr in dual roles as the superheroes Krushauser and Helectrix, Michael Bird as Violet’s crush Tony Rydinger, Jonathan Banks as the Parrs’ old government friend Rick Dicker who tries to help them while dealing with the loss of his job, and Sophia Bush as a young superheroine named Voyd who idolizes Elastigirl as she can get objects to disappear and reappear through different dimensional voids. Brad Bird is fantastic in the voice role of Edna Mode as the fashion designer who creates superhero costumes as she helps Bob deal with Jack-Jack whom she sees as a muse while creating a tracking device to anticipate his growing powers. Isabella Rossellini is terrific in a small but memorable voice role as the Ambassador as a foreign official who is eager to get them back in service while befriending Elastigirl.

Bob Odenkirk is superb as Winston Deavor as a telecommunications mogul who wants to help Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone get back into the game in the hopes of bringing superheroes back into the world as he’s also a hardcore fan of the superheroes. Catherine Keener is brilliant as Evelyn Deavor as Winston’s older sister who is a tech genius and creates all of the gadgets yet feels underappreciated for her work while at least getting some compliments from Elastigirl. Huck Milner is excellent as Dash Parr as the boy with super-speed who is trying to be a good kid despite being a troublemaker as well as trying to solve math problems. Sarah Vowell is amazing as Violet Parr as a teenage girl who can turn invisible and create force-fields as she starts to deal with growing pains as well as uncertainty in wanting to be a superhero.

Samuel L. Jackson is remarkable as Lucius Best/Frozone as a superhero with the ability to create ice and freeze things who is first recruited Deavor into getting the superheroes back on the job while he also helps Bob deal with Jack-Jack’s growing powers. Craig T. Nelson is marvelous as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible as a hero of great strength who deals with sitting at home to watch over the kids as he laments his own bruised ego and shortcomings as a father forcing him to find his balance. Finally, there’s Holly Hunter in a phenomenal performance as Helen Parr/Elastigirl as a heroine with the ability to stretch her body parts into anything as someone who is given the chance to bring heroes back into the public eye while dealing with the mysterious foe in the Screenslaver as she suspects that something isn’t right.

Incredibles 2 is a film that definitely lives up to its incredible namesake thanks in part to Brad Bird’s sprawling vision as well as a spectacular voice cast. Along with its gorgeous visuals, Michael Giacchino’s thrilling score, and a mixture of genres that blend together to create something entertaining and compelling. It’s a film that manages to provide so much in the idea of what a superhero film can be as well as showcase the life outside of a superhero that is trying to find that balance in being both a hero and a regular person. In the end, Incredibles 2 is a sensational film from Brad Bird and Pixar.

Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) – (Finding Nemo) – The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) – (Cars 3) – (Coco) – (Toy Story 4)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Broken Movie




Directed and shot by Peter Christopherson and written, co-starring, and scored by Trent Reznor, The Broken Movie is a twenty-minute short film in which a young man is kidnapped and tortured as he’s forced to watch videos. The film is a companion piece to the 1992 EP by Nine Inch Nails that is presented as a snuff film to play into many of Reznor’s dark vision of the record with help from Christopherson who would also direct a couple of the music videos in the film with the duo of Eric Goode and Serge Becker directing two of the videos and Jon Reiss directing a video. The result is a grisly, disgusting, and insane short film from Peter Christopher and Trent Reznor.

The film follows a young man who is taken by a mysterious man in a mask as he’s forced to watch four music videos while being tortured, sodomized, and all sorts of things as it is being filmed for a snuff film. That is pretty much the premise as it is presented in graphic detail by director Peter Christopherson who shoots it on a hand-held home video camera where this young man is being tortured into watching these five music videos. Two of the videos by Eric Goode and Serge Becker for the instrumentals Pinion and Help Me I Am in Hell show two ideas of torture as the former features what happens when a toilet flushes and where does it go while the latter involves a man eating steak in a room surrounded by flies that is inter-cut with him in S&M gear.

The video for Happiness in Slavery by Jon Reiss is a video of absolute extremes which features the late performance artist Bob Flanagan getting ready to sit on a torture device that is gruesome to watch in terms of what happens to Flanagan and its aftermath. The video for Wish by Christopherson that features NIN playing inside a cage with rabid fans wanting to kill them is the tamest of the five as a version of Gave Up is essentially a video of Reznor singing in black-and-white footage on a TV screen while the mysterious man unmasks and tortures his victim that is inter-cut with the aftermath that features then-NIN live guitarist/future co-founder of Filter in Richard Patrick as a police officer who goes into the scene of the crime. The film opens and ends with a man on his final walk before he is to be hanged as it play into the narrative over what had just happened.

The Broken Movie is a repulsive and diabolical promotional short film from Peter Christopherson but for all of the right reasons. It’s a film that is meant to be confrontational and controversial as an extremely dark vision from Trent Reznor over what a visual interpretation of his EP should be. It’s a film that is definitely not for everyone as well as being hard to find, unless you’re a NIN fan, which is often the case for a film that was never intended for a commercial release. In the end, The Broken Movie is a fucked-up yet incredible promotional short film from Peter Christopherson and Trent Reznor.

Nine Inch Nails: halos: halo 1 - halo 2 - halo 3 - halo 4 - halo 5 - halo 6 - halo 7 – (halo 8) – (halo 9) – (halo 10) – (halo 11) – (halo 12) - (halo 13) – (halo 14) – (halo 15) – (halo 16) – (halo 17) - (halo 18) – (halo 19) – (halo 20) – (halo 21) – (halo 22) - (halo 23) – (halo 24) – (halo 25) – (halo 26) – (halo 27) - (halo 28) – (halo 29) – (halo 30) – (halo 31) – (halo 32)

seeds: (seed 1) – (seed 2) – (seed 3) – (seed 4) – (seed 5) – (seed 6) – (seed 7) – (seed 8)

Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross Film Soundtracks: null 1 - null 2 - (null 3) – (null 4) – (null 5) – (null 6)

Soundtracks/Miscellaneous: (Natural Born Killers OST) – (Quake OST) - (Lost Highway OST)

Live Shows: (NIN/Bauhaus/TV on the Radio-6/7/06 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – (NIN/Deerhunter-8/13/08 Duluth, GA Gwinnett Arena) - (Jane’s Addiction/NIN/Street Sweeper Social Club-5/10/09 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – NIN/Godspeed You! Black Emperor-10/24/13 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena - (NIN/Jesus & Mary Chain/Tobacco-9/27/18 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Legends & Mythologies




For the 24th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The subject is on legend/mythology where stories are told countless of times that become some form of lore though they might not be true. Yet, John Ford says it best. If you’re ever choose to pick the truth or the legend, stick with the legend because it’s more interesting. Here are my three picks as they’re all films by Terry Gilliam:

1. Time Bandits



Terry Gilliam’s film about a boy who meets time-traveling dwarves where they encounter several mythological figures from Robin Hood to King Agamemnon. It’s an offbeat comedy filled with lots of imagination and ideas about legends and such while it never plays by the rules. It also presents some of these figures including Napoleon Bonaparte in ways that are unconventional as Robin Hood is somewhat of an idiot while Sean Connery’s performance as King Agamemnon is presented with a regality that isn’t seen often in films.

2. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen



Gilliam’s 1988 film about a legendary fantasist is truly the kind of film Federico Fellini would’ve made in his prime as Gilliam did work with several of Fellini’s collaborators for this film where the titular character deals with aging and reality. Featuring John Neville in a spectacular performance as the titular character, it has Munchausen encounter all sorts of mythological figures including Venus, the fire-god Vulcan, and Robin Williams as a delusional moon-king. It’s a film that is over-the-top but definitely play into the many tropes of legends and mythologies.

3. The Fisher King



Gilliam’s 1991 film set in New York City is this mix of grounded reality that collides with ideas of fantasy where a shock-jock tries to redeem himself by helping a man on a quest for the Holy Grail. Featuring Robin Williams in one of his career-defining performances as the ruined man and Jeff Bridges as the shock-jock in search of redemption. It’s a film that also doesn’t play by the rules yet it is one of Gilliam’s most accessible films in the way it plays into two men both going on a quest as it includes a well-deserving Oscar-award winning performance from Mercedes Ruehl as the video store owner Anne who prompts Bridges’ character to do what is right as she and Amanda Plummer also standout it is truly a film that does great work to play into the legend of the Holy Grail.

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lady Macbeth



Based on the short story Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth is the story of a woman in a loveless marriage as she begins an affair with a servant that eventually becomes toxic and dangerous. Directed by William Oldroyd and screenplay by Alice Birch, the film is an exploration of a woman coping with the role she played in mid-19th Century society as well as being in an affair where she would create a lot of trouble for the people around her. Starring Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, and Christopher Fairbank. Lady Macbeth is a rapturous and eerie film from William Oldroyd.

Set in 1865 in the English countryside, the film revolves around a young woman who had been sold into a loveless marriage to a man much older than her as she would later embark on an affair with a new servant that would eventually cause turmoil at the estate. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into the idea of oppression and desire and how far a young woman will go to maintain a sense of freedom in her rich yet rigid environment. Alice Birch’s screenplay does take the three-act structure as it play into world that Katherine Lester (Florence Pugh) would encounter through her marriage to Alexander (Paul Hilton) as it was arranged so that his father Boris (Christopher Fairbank) could acquire her family’s land. The first act is about Katherine’s own isolation and boredom in her marriage when Alexander later leaves to deal with business as she has to deal with her father-in-law as the only other person at her home is a maid in Anna (Naomi Ackie).

Upon meeting the farmhand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) during a moment where he is humiliating Anna with other farmhands, she is entranced by him once Alexander is away where an affair ensues. The film’s second act revolves around the continuation of the affair but also the sense of unease from Anna’s perspective over events that occurred as she becomes mute. Yet, much of the film is about Katherine’s willingness to be in this affair and take direction of her own life but her actions would create chaos in her estate as well as the impact it would have in her relationship with Sebastian. Things would intensify upon the arrival of a woman named Agnes (Golda Rosheuvel) and a boy named Teddy (Anton Palmer) that would complicate everything for Katherine in maintaining her role as the woman of the estate as well as her affair with Sebastian.

William Oldroyd’s direction is ravishing for the way he creates this look of mid-19th Century Victorian Britain on various locations in the north of England to play into the life of this young woman in an oppressive estate. Much of the direction is shot with hand-held cameras where many of the scenes inside the home has a sense of precise composition in the way Katherine is framed as she’s sitting on a chair in a medium-wide shot to play into her loneliness. There is little camera movement in those scenes as there are these intricate compositions in the way Katherine is eating dinner with Alexander or Boris as well as where Anna is positioned to fetch a wine or something for Boris. The usage of the wide and medium shots play into the scope of the rooms as there’s also close-ups that capture the drama of how Boris reacts to Katherine during breakfast or dinner. The scenes outside of the estate is much looser where the hand-held cameras become more evident in shots where Katherine is walking on the fields or in the rainy grounds.

Oldroyd’s direction also play into the suspense where he does emphasize on natural sound as there are rare moments of the music score being played as it only appear in intense and dark moments that occur. These scenes aren’t just eerie but also contain an element of violence that is unexpected in a period drama as the drama intensifies in the third act with the arrival of Agnes and Teddy. Even as it all play into the decisions Katherine would make about holding on to her love for Sebastian as well as the social status she’s gained through her marriage to Alexander. It would come to these moments where Katherine would be the one to choose her fate and at great cost. Overall, Oldroyd crafts an intoxicating yet unsettling film about a woman’s deadly affair with a servant.

Cinematographer Ari Wegner does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it has this air of naturalism for much of the film’s exteriors including some daytime interior scenes at the estate as well as some low-key lighting for the scenes at night. Editor Nick Emerson does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style in its usage of jump-cuts as well as rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Jacqueline Abrahams and art director Thalia Ecclestone do amazing work with the look of the house in many of its interiors including the furniture, the beds, and the stables as it’s a highlight of the film. Costume designer Holly Waddington does fantastic work with the costumes from the dresses that Katherine wears to play into her personality as well as the look of the clothes the servants, her husband, and father-in-law wear.

Hair/makeup designer Sian Wilson does nice work with the look of Katherine’s hairstyle as it play into the period of the times as well as expressing her emotions where there’s something dark whenever her hair is tied in a bun. Visual effects supervisor Daniel Nielsen does terrific work with the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mainly set dressing for some of the film’s exteriors. Sound designers Ben Baird and Dan Jones do incredible work with the sound as it is a highlight of the film with its approach to sparse sound textures and how objects would sound in its natural state while Jones would do the film’s score as it’s a wonderfully understated usage of music in its ambient setting as it only appear in three key moments in the film.

The casting by Shaheen Baig is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Cliff Burnett as Father Peter, Rebecca Manley as the maid Mary, Bill Fellows as Dr. Burdon, Ian Conningham as a detective, Golda Rosheuvel as Agnes as a woman who knows Alexander and Boris, and Anton Palmer in a terrific performance as the boy Teddy who appears in the third act as he would be a source of disruption for Katherine and Sebastian. Naomi Ackie is fantastic as the maid Anna as a young British-African woman who finds herself being aware of Katherine’s affair with Sebastian as she would become mute following a drastic event in the film’s first act. Christopher Fairbank is excellent as Boris Lester as Katherine’s father-in-law who wants to maintain a strict idea of the household as he becomes suspicious of Katherine’s activities outside the home.

Paul Hilton is brilliant as Katherine’s husband Alexander as a man who is trying to maintain his role as a husband and businessman while his interest in Katherine is having her be naked while he jacks off to her to please himself. Cosmo Jarvis is amazing as Sebastian as a farmhand who is new to the estate as he has a carnal interest in Katherine which leads to this tumultuous affair that becomes toxic as he later copes with some of the chaos that would ensue during the film’s third act. Finally, there’s Florence Pugh in a phenomenal performance as Katherine Lester as a young woman forced into a loveless marriage as it’s a performance with some restraint in the way she has to present herself as well as some liveliness in her affair with Sebastian as there’s also some great facial expressions that says a lot into what she’s feeling or what she’s planning to do as there’s an element of darkness in the performance which is a total breakthrough for Pugh.

Lady Macbeth is a sensational film from William Oldroyd that features an incredible performance from Florence Pugh. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, intoxicating sound design, and an eerie story of lust and deceit, it’s a film that explores a woman’s desperation to maintain an affair while being in a loveless marriage that would eventually lead to total chaos. In the end, Lady Macbeth is a spectacular film from William Oldroyd.

© thevoid99 2018