Thursday, April 02, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (Seven Deadly Sins Edition): Greed

In the 14th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the subject of the Seven Deadly Sins in the theme of greed. A theme that play into the dark aspects of humanity as it’s more about wanting more and making sure no one else has anything. Considering the times we’re in and that here in America, we have a personification of greed who not only runs the country but is also putting its people down the fucking toilet. Here are my three picks:

1. Shallow Grave

Danny Boyle’s feature film debut isn’t just a fascinating subject on the theme of greed but also in its exploration of human nature. It’s about three flat mates from Edinburgh who take in a mysterious man only to later find him dead but with a suitcase full of money. It is where the film really takes hold as these three people figure out what to do as some are willing to spend while there is someone who becomes unhinged about where the money comes from and all hell starts to break loose. It is an incredible debut film from Danny Boyle which also features longtime Boyle regular Ewan McGregor in his one of his first film roles.

2. There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! is a film that is dark representation of greed in how a man whose discovery of oil and the oil boom that would emerge in Southern California in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Featuring Daniel Day-Lewis in a terrifying yet monstrous performance as a man who goes into the oil business is a study of obsession and power. It shows what a man is willing to do to succeed but also has to endure moments that would shake him but also the sacrifices he would make into his success but at the cost of his own morality and lack of compassion.

3. Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s mystery-comedy is definitely one of the finest films of the 2010s so far as it explores a family whose patriarch had died suddenly as they wonder who will gain his inheritance while an investigator wonders what happened. In the middle of all of this is a young nurse who was caring for this patriarch who created an empire of novels yet had plans about his inheritance as it leads to family members wanting that inheritance. It’s a film that is full of twists and turns that also include some dark secrets as well as revelations about members of the family and why they might’ve been cut off from the inheritance. Daniel Craig’s performance as the investigator Benoit Blanc is a joy to watch as is Chris Evan’s performance as the family’s black sheep in Ransom. Yet, it is Ana de Armas that is the real break out as the nurse Marta who cares for the patriarch played with such reverence by Christopher Plummer.

© thevoid99 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Films That I Saw: March 2020

Well, this year absolutely, totally fucking sucks. I never thought I would see the day that a pandemic would emerge around the world and now that reality has happened and it really fucking sucks. I thought a lot about what my dad would’ve thought of this as the idea of him staying at home not doing anything. Not watching sports and not being able to go anywhere would really fuck him up as I’m glad he’s not around to live through this. Now I may not consider myself to be an out-going person as I don’t go out much except to the movie theaters, get groceries, buy a few things every now and then, and drive my mother to whatever she needs. Yet, having to be stuck at home with my mother even though we haven’t been infected with the coronavirus isn’t really that fun. The only time we go out is for groceries and stock up on supplies but that is really it. Other than that, we can’t really do anything and the worst part about is that I can’t see my nephew in person though my mother is fortunate to speak to my sister, her husband, and her grandson through her iPhone.

Being in quarantine with my mother hasn’t made things easy for the both of us as we’re bored and not really doing much other than do some cleaning around the house though Netflix has been a good distraction of sorts as we binge-watched the show Gentefied while my mom has been watching a lot of stuff on YouTube which she loves. For me, watching films hasn’t gotten any easier due to the fact that there’s a lot happening as the only other thing me and my mother watch is CNN and the local news on what is going on. So far here in Georgia, there’s been nearly 4000 cases with nearly 230 cases here in Cobb County. Things haven’t been good here in Georgia but around the country is really fucking bad and it’s hard to think about those who are dying as this country has more cases than anyone at over 180,000 cases with the state of New York at nearly 75,000 cases. I do think things aren’t going to get better and I’m not really surprised considering that we have our idiotic human septic-tank of a dictator who cares more about getting the economy going than saving lives as he insults governors, journalists, and others while not really giving a shit about what is going on.

It’s not just here that I’m looking on as I think about what is happening in Italy, Spain, and the rest of the world as this pandemic has really been a fucking kick in the balls. My mother talks to one of her friends who is stuck in Panama while her husband is stuck in Venezuela as they’re both in stay-at-home-orders while they have family in Spain and Italy who are also in quarantine. My mom would sometimes talk to friends/relatives late at night as we can’t really sleep considering what is going on as waking up in the early or mid-afternoon is starting to be regular. Things are getting bad as there’s no point in having anything happen. Sporting events, social gatherings, and all of that is not what should be done as we all need to distance ourselves and to try and get things better. I don’t see the point of just trying to get things back to normal at the moment as our moronic dictator wants to re-open everything by Easter as that is the day my nephew’s first birthday is going to happen but it’s very unlikely that things will get better as me and my mom won’t be there to celebrate as it really fucking sucks.

I’m doing whatever I can to just live and focus on writing as I’ve started on the fifth part of my MCU is Cinema series but I’ve now started to question about going forward with other projects as I’ve decided to push the Auteurs series on Kelly Reichardt until after I finished the MCU project. Then there’s the Cannes marathon as I cancelled it last year because of my dad and now I’m not sure if I want to do one this year as the festival has been postponed from somewhere around June or July but I don’t know if I want to do the marathon around that time. It wouldn’t feel right to do it at that that time and with the way things are. I don’t think doing a marathon would be the right thing. I’d rather just focus on being safe and stay home while working on my other projects.

In the month of March, I saw a total of 26 films in 10 first-timers and 16 re-watches with three of those first-timers being films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Considering the circumstances, it’s not bad as the highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot Series choice in A Place in the Sun. Here are the top 5 first-timers that I saw for March 2020:

1. At Eternity's Gate

2. Shallow Grave

3. Closely Watched Trains

4. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache

5. Blinded by the Light

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Johnny English Strikes Again

If there’s one film franchise that I’m willing to defend despite the poor reviews and bad Rotten Tomatoes scores, it’s the Johnny English franchise. Why? It’s because it never takes itself seriously and it plays into the strengths of Rowan Atkinson and this film is no exception. In fact, it was really damn funny as it plays into English trying to understand the modern world of technology as a tech guru tries to get the world to go with his security system. With Emma Thompson as the British prime minister and Olga Kurylenko as a Russian spy trying to thwart English only to later team up with him, the film is just a whole lot of fun with Atkinson always finding a way to bring in the laughs as he is one of the finest comedy actors ever.

Women of Troy

From HBO Sports is a documentary about the USC Trojans women’s basketball team where they were the not just the crown jewel of college women’s basketball but also the pioneers who would help pave the way for future women players to become pro and become the prototype players of the WNBA. In the spotlight is Cheryl Miller as many said women’s basketball can be sum up into two periods, before and after Cheryl Miller as women’s basketball wasn’t taken seriously until the early 1980s when the first NCAA women’s tournament emerged with Louisiana Tech starting to show what can be done until the Trojans would arrive lead by Miller. After Miller came the Tennessee Lady Volunteers under the tutelage of the legendary Pat Summit as Miller never went pro though some of her teammates did and eventually play in the WNBA as it is something sports fans should see.

Blinded by the Light

From Gurinder Chadha comes a film that is way better than it should’ve been in this adaptation of Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir about the life of a young British-Pakistani man during the late 1980s amidst the era of Margaret Thatcher, unemployment, and the National Front as he would discover the music of Bruce Springsteen. I consider myself a casual admirer of Springsteen as I like some of his music but this film made love the music a lot more than ever. Notably as it play into the plight of this young student who feels lost in the small British town of Luton and how he was able to connect with Springsteen’s music in ways that he never expected. Viviek Kaira’s performance is full of heart as this young kid that wants to be a writer yet has to contend with his father’s traditional values and such as it also feature great supporting performances from Kulvinder Ghir as the father and Hayley Atwell as Kaira’s writing teacher who saw promise in his work. It’s a film that is inspirational and touching as the music really says a lot of what this young man is going through and what he would become as it is a real gem.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Having enjoyed both the original and David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was skeptical about this film since it’s not based on the original trilogy by its original writer. Still, I wanted to see it as it’s an alright film but too conventional for my taste. It does play into Lisbeth Salander becoming a vigilante until dark secrets from her past emerges in the form of her sister. Claire Foy is solid as Salander with Sylvia Hoeks being the major standout as Salander’s long-lost sister Camilla who is just chilling. There are some nice thrills though the casting of Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist is uninspiring.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Avengers: Endgame

2. Black Panther

3. Avengers: Infinity War

4. Thor: Ragnarok

5. Little Miss Sunshine

6. Arthur

7. Aquaman

8. Happy Death Day

9. Enemy at the Gates

10. Miami Vice

Well, that is it for March as other than my MCU project that I hope to continue and finish. I have no idea what I’m going to do other than watch films from my never-ending DVR list as it will include the Lone Wolf & Cub film series. I’m just going to stay home with my mother and be safe only to go out for groceries and supplies and that is it. This is a strange time as it’s not just me and my family that I’m concerned about but also many others as I hope everyone stays safe and be well. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache

Directed and edited by Pamela B. Green and written by Green and Joan Simon with narration by Jodie Foster, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a film about the life and career of one of cinema’s early pioneers who was also considered to be one of the first real auteurs who also owned and ran her own studio. The film showcases the woman’s career as well as the films she created as well as why she was often overlooked during her career and the re-discovery of her work. The result is an engrossing and wondrous film from Pamela B. Green.

In 1895, a secretary for engineer/industrialist Leon Gaumont attended a private screening of a film entitled Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory by Auguste and Louis Lumiere. The secretary that is Alice Guy saw a new medium as from 1896 to 1920, she made hundreds of films that would not just pioneer cinema as an art form but also would create techniques and ideas that would be the basis of cinema itself. Like the Lumiere Brothers, Georges Melies, and Edwin Porter, they would create short films that would showcase cinema’s tool in the world of storytelling yet it would be Guy that would take the format much further prompting others including Melies to step up their game. In 1907, Guy married Englishman Herbert Blache as he would be Gaumont’s production manager in the U.S. until 1910 when she and Blache formed the Solax Company to make their own films as she would use the slogan “be natural” to those who worked at the studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

One of Guy-Blache’s innovations in filmmaking was the creation of the Gaumont Chronophone system that allowed her actors to lip-sync to pre-recorded music and use the music to sync up to the film footage as it was the early ideas of sound heard in film. Guy was also ambitious as she made a 25-part series of shorts relating to Jesus Christ as it was quite bold for its time. Another form of innovation that she did during her time in New Jersey was make a film with an entirely black cast in A Fool and His Money as it was made because white actors didn’t want to work with black actors prompting Guy-Blache to just hire an all-black cast regardless of prejudice. She also made films that had gender roles reversed as well as tackle subject matters that not many were willing to go into.

Then came World War I as business started to hurt Guy-Blache’s studio but also this emergence of businessmen wanting to take over the world of cinema including Thomas Edison prompting many studios to move to California rather than work with Edison who wanted to have a lot of control on the world of film through his own equipment and such. Herbert Blache would also move to California due to his affairs with other women leading to the two to divorce in 1922 as she returned to France with their children never making films again. Especially as she wouldn’t receive the proper credit for her work with Gaumont becoming more of a businessman in running his own studio as things would get tougher during the Great Depression and World War II though Gaumont would try to rectify his faults in giving her proper credit despite people around him telling him not to.

The documentary also has Pamela B. Green who also serves as the film’s editor not just trying to find out more about Guy-Blache and her films but also asking many other filmmakers, historians, actors, and such including Julie Taymor, Peter Bogdanovich, Evan Rachel Wood, Ava Duvernay, Peter Farrelly, Andy Samberg, Julie Delpy, Lake Bell, Gillian Armstrong, cinematographer John Bailey, and many others about Guy-Blache as many of them admit to never having heard of her. There is also the story of Green not just trying to find information about her films and her life but also meeting those who knew someone who knew Guy-Blache including descendants of Guy-Blache such as her great-great granddaughter as well as descendants of Leon Gaumont as there’s a scene where the descendants of Guy-Blache and Gaumont would go to various locations where Guy-Blache made some of her films. Much of Green’s direction and editing is straightforward with a few montages of film archivists finding some of Guy-Blache’s work while also going into the difficulty of restoring her work.

The film also features archival interviews from Guy-Blache from the late 1950s and early 1960s with narration by Jodie Foster who reads some of Guy-Blache’s comments and letters with a rare audio interview between Guy-Blache and a film historian in Brussels who wonders why she isn’t credited for her work. Notably as historians dating back to the 1940s would often omit her as some claim there was a lot of resentment towards her because she was a woman as some even question the validity of her claims in the mid-1970s after she had died in 1968. It would be Guy-Blache’s daughter Simone and other historians that would keep Guy-Blache’s name alive while Green would also talk to relatives who found old letters, photos, and notebooks that lead to many clues that show proof of Guy-Blache’s claims. Upon discovering the shorts of Guy-Blache, cinematographer John Bailey and others at the Academy Arts and Science would try to recreate one of her shorts with comedy actors Chris Kattan and Horatio Sanz with the same camera that Guy-Blache used.

Sound editors Casey Langfelder and Daniel Saxlid, along with sound designers Marcello Dubaz and Kent Sparling, do superb work in providing many of the audio archives from Guy-Blache’s interview with the Belgian film historian that his grandson had kept all of these years while also capturing all of the people who are interviewed for the film as they all talk about discovering Guy-Blache and her importance in film history. The film’s music by Peter G. Adams is terrific for its mixture of low-key electronic music and ambient pieces as it play into the search for Guy-Blache’s films and everything about her. Even as Green showcases old photos of the studio she created in New Jersey as well as visual recreation of the studio itself and where filming took place in the studio.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a phenomenal film from Pamela B. Green. It’s a film that anyone interested in film history or film itself must see as it not only does some correcting into some of the real stories about cinema’s birth but also in showcasing one of its pioneers and her innovative work. Especially as it showcases the woman’s work and her brief yet illustrious career that proved how influential she was. In the end, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a sensational film from Pamela B. Green.

Related: (The Short Films of Alice Guy-Blache Vol. 1)

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: A Place in the Sun

Based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and its adapted play by playwright Patrick Kearney, A Place in the Sun is the story of a young man who is love with two women including a socialite while the other is a woman whose uncle he works for as it leads to trouble. Directed by George Stevens and screenplay by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, the film is inspired on a real-life story of love gone wrong that lead to murder as it plays into a young man caught up in a torrid love triangle. Starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Anne Revere, and Raymond Burr. A Place in the Sun is an evocative and haunting film from George Stevens.

The film is the simple story of a young man who is given a job at his uncle’s factory where he dates a co-worker, despite rules against dating co-workers at the factory, while finds himself falling for a heiress where the love triangle leads to trouble. It’s a film that explores a man who arrives into a small town where his uncle is rich and gives him a job in the hope he can stay out of trouble and work hard. Yet, he befriends a co-worker as they start to date but he would fall for this heiress who represents a life that he might want with all of the splendors that it offers. The film’s screenplay by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown opens with George Eastman’s arrival into this small town where his uncle Charles (Herbert Hayes) is a rich industrialist who met George back in Chicago when George was a bellhop as he decide to give him a job working at his factory.

While he meets his posh relatives, George is aware that he’s an outsider to the family as he’s more concerned with just wanting to do good for his uncle. Upon working at the factory, he meets Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) whom he would date despite a rule in the factory for co-workers to not date each other. Yet, Alice intrigues George due to the fact that they both come from similar backgrounds with George not really wanting to be part of his relatives’ world of luxury and parties. That is until he formally meets the society girl Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) whom he had seen at his uncle’s home and much earlier when he was hitchhiking. Vickers is a completely different person from the more introverted Alice as she’s lively and often enjoying party while she finds George intriguing as the two fall in love but George cares for Alice as things become complicated when she becomes pregnant. Even as she confides in a shrink about what to do just as she learns that George is with Vickers leading to a lot of trouble all in the film’s first half.

George Stevens’ direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates yet he does manage to play into some of the dramatic tension that occurs throughout the film. Shot on various locations around Lake Tahoe, Echo Lake, and Cascade Lake in California as well as interiors at Paramount Studios, Stevens showcased a world that has this air of social divide where George lived in a small apartment while his uncle and Vickers lived in spacious homes. Stevens would create some unique wide shots to play into the spacious homes but also in some of the locations including the lakes where some of the characters go to. Stevens’ direction is also intimate in its approach to close-ups and medium shots in the way he would shoot certain scenes that include some gazing shots that goes on for a few minutes to play into a conversation. Especially during a moment where George meets Alice at his apartment for a dinner as he arrived late as it is about the lack of space and where the camera is placed as he shoots them from behind.

Much of the its first act has Stevens establishing the characters and setting while its second act is where the drama intensifies as it relates to this love triangle between George, Alice, and Vickers as both Alice and Vickers would never meet each other during the course of the film. It is also where George deals with his own internal conflicts as it relates to what he wants as it leads to this eerie third act in relation to the aftermath of what he got himself involved in. Stevens’ direction definitely intensify not just this air of anguish and guilt but also this social divide as it relates to George being somewhat in the middle. Even as it relates to this tragedy where there are sides yet not everyone is willing to hear George’s story despite his involvement in what happened. Overall, Stevens crafts a rapturous and mesmerizing film about a young man caught in a love triangle that leads to trouble and tragedy.

Cinematographer William C. Mellor does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography at it helps set a mood for some of the film’s dramatic scenes with its usage of available light and shadows for scenes set at night as well as the way some of the daytime interiors/exteriors are presented as it helps heighten the world of Vickers and her friends. Editor William Hornbeck does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of dissolves and transition wipes as well as some rhythmic cutting to help play into some of the dramatic tension that occurs in the film. Art directors Hans Dreier and Walter H. Tyler, with set decorator Emile Kuri, do brilliant work with the look of the mansions George’s uncle and the Vickers family lived in as well as the small and cramped apartment he lives in.

Costume designer Edith Head does fantastic work with the costumes from the design of the dresses that Alice wears to the stylish gowns that Vickers wears. Sound recordists Gene Garvin and Gene Merritt do terrific work with the sound in the atmosphere of the parties as well as some quiet scenes in the film including scenes that involve a bird that would frighten George. The film’s music by Franz Waxman, with un-credited work by Daniele Amfitheatrof, is wonderful for its usage of lush orchestral textures in the strings as well as the usage of bombastic percussions to help maintain a tense atmosphere in the suspense.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Kathleen Freeman as a factory worker who testified in court, Ian Wolfe as the psychiatrist Dr. Wolfe, Sheppard Strudwick and Frieda Inescort as Vickers’ parents, Kathryn Givney as George’s aunt Louise, Keefe Brasselle as George’s cousin Earl, Walter Sande as George’s attorney, Fred Clark as a defense attorney, and Herbert Heyes as George’s uncle Charles Eastman who gives George the chance to make something of himself. Anne Revere is superb as George’s mother who lives in the Midwest as she hopes that her son would succeed and stay away from trouble. Raymond Burr is fantastic as District Attorney R. Frank Marlowe as a man who investigates the aftermath of the tragedy as he believes that George did create trouble and is guilty.

Shelley Winters is amazing as Alice Tripp as a poor factory worker that George befriends and would date despite rules from the factory as she is fascinated by George but questions about the validity of their relationship as she becomes pregnant and learns about his time with Vickers. Elizabeth Taylor is brilliant as Angela Vickers as a young heiress who is often the center of attention as she is always at parties where she takes an interest in George whom she sees as someone different but also a man who has a lot of value in introducing her to the world outside of her posh existence. Finally, there’s Montgomery Clift in a phenomenal performance as George Eastman as a man trying to not to get into trouble by working at his uncle’s factory and make something of himself only to be involved in a love triangle as well as two different lifestyles that offer a lot as he becomes tormented by his world as it is a haunting yet intense performance from Clift.

A Place in the Sun is a tremendous film from George Stevens that features great performances from Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, evocative music score, and its study of love and desire. It is a film that explore a man’s own torment and anguish that lead to tragedy due to not just the love triangle he involved himself in but also two different world that play into the social divide and their respective lifestyles. In the end, A Place in the Sun is a spectacular film from George Stevens.

George Stevens Films: (The Cohens and the Kellys in Trouble) – (Kentucky Kernals) – (Bachelor Bait) – (Laddie) – (The Nitwits) – (Alice Adams) – (Annie Oakley) - Swing Time - (Quality Street) – (A Damsel in Distress (1937 film)) – (Vivacious Lady) – (Gunga Din) – (Vigil in the Night) – (Penny Serenade) – (Woman of the Year) – (The Talk of the Town (1942 film)) – (The More the Merrier) – (That Justice Be Done) – (On Our Merry Way) – (I Remember Mama) – (Something to Live for) – Shane - Giant (1956 film) - (The Diary of Anne Frank) – (The Greatest Story Ever Told) – (The Only Game in Town)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): Documentary Series

In the 13th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the world of TV in the form of documentary series. TV programs that focuses on certain subjects and such that are often compelling as well as provide insight into the world that is more about facts as well as what can be seen as fiction. Here are my three picks:

1. Behind the Music

From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, VH1 (remember when they used to play middle-of-the-road music before they showed crap reality TV?) created a channel that profiled many artists, musicians, and bands through their many ups and downs. Eventually as the show wore on as it featured artists ranging from Milli Vanilli, Leif Garrett, Fleetwood Mac, Quiet Riot, and many others. Many of the stories ended up feeling like the same though some episodes stood out while others ended up being quite terrible. The show ran its course though it did prove to be an inspired choice in portraying the Ghost of Christmas Future in the VH1 made-for-TV movie A Diva’s Christmas Carol starring Vanessa Williams.

2. 30 for 30

Created in the mid-late 2000s from ESPN comes a series that explore the world of sports as it was originally meant to be 30 stories to celebrate the channel’s thirty years. Yet, it would prove to be far more interesting than its creators sought out to be as it ranged from all sorts of topics about the short-lived football league the USFL, Len Bias, the Buffalo Bills and their straight-losses at the Super Bowl, Jimmy Connors’ brief comeback, and many other subjects. Often ranging into different sports and subjects that included a brief spin-off devoted to the Title IX referendum for women’s sports in Nine for IX. The ESPN documentary series continues to delve into many subject matters often for fun or to talk about something serious.

3. Dark Side of the Ring

A documentary series from VICE that premiered last year and has just started its second season with a two-part series on the life of professional wrestler Chris Benoit and the unforgivable act he committed when he killed his wife and son and then killed himself in 2007. This series revolves around some of the dark elements into the world of professional wrestling from the murder of Bruiser Brody in the hands of Jose Gonzalez and its subsequent cover-up, the curse of the Von Erichs, the Montreal Screw-job in 1997, the death of Gino Hernandez, the tumultuous relationship between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, and the life of the Fabulous Moolah. That was all in the first season as each of these stories brought up a lot of discussion about some of these characters as the second season will also include stories about the careers of wrestlers such as New Jack, David Schultz, and the Road Warriors as well as the tragic death of Owen Hart, the mysterious death of Dino Bravo, the infamous Brawl for All of 1998, Superfly Jimmy Snuka and the murder he committed and got away from, and Herb Abrams’ UWF organization and its notoriety.

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Bad Boys

In the 12th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the simple subject of bad boys. Boys who don’t play by the rules nor do they do things that good boys do. After all, good girls like bad boys. Here are my three picks of three cinematic bad boys from the MCU!!!!!!:

1. Loki-Thor: The Dark World

If there’s one bad boy that the ladies already love, it’s Loki. The ultimate anti-hero and God of Mischief is definitely a misunderstood character who did bad things but looks cool doing it. In the second Thor film, Loki steals the show as he reluctantly help his adopted older brother in defeating the Dark Elves but also do some funny moments such as the montage of him putting on different disguises through his illusions including one as Captain America. Yet, the adventure he would have with Thor would inspire the great Norse mythology play that is The Tragedy of Loki of Asgard starring Matt Damon as Loki, Luke Hemsworth as Thor, and Sam Neill as Odin that has received much acclaim except from Thor who had a mixed reaction towards the play.

2. Flash Thompson-Spider-Man: Homecoming

Though the character is known largely in comics and previous film adaptations as a physical bully to Peter Parker before Parker became Spider-Man, the new version that is created through the new film series is largely different as he’s more a social bully. Tony Revolori brings a new personality to Flash as he’s more of a dick that thinks he’s cool and can drive a fancy car while is also smart. Yet, he’s not meant to be taken seriously as Parker as Spider-Man was able to scare him making Flash respect the guy and says to his classmates that Spider-Man wants to make him a better person before he sees Parker and says “what up dick-wad?” It’s a funnier version of the character who does get his comeuppance but also manages to do some good.

3. M’Baku-Black Panther

Though he is portrayed in the comics and in a previous animated TV show version as a villain, M’Baku isn’t really an antagonist as he’s really just someone that doesn’t share T’Challa’s idea of technology in favor of something more traditional. M’Baku is first seen as a tribe leader wanting to challenge for the throne of Wakanda as he did it with honor and managed to get some nice shots at T’Challa before accepting defeat. He’s also someone who is full of humor as he is just someone that is full of sarcasm and pride about the fact that he prefers to not be involved in other people’s messes. Yet, when Wakanda is in danger. He will be on the battlefield kicking ass as he does love a good fight and he's a vegetarian.

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

At Eternity's Gate

Directed by Julian Schnabel and written by Schnabel, Jean-Claude Carriere, and Louise Kugelberg, At Eternity’s Gate is the story about the final years of painter Vincent van Gogh. Based on theories by van Gogh biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, the film dramatizes the events of van Gogh’s final years as well as his eventual death as the painter struggles to get attention and recognition for his work as van Gogh is portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Also starring Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Friend, Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Oscar Isaac, and Niels Arestrup. At Eternity’s Gate is a rapturous and riveting film from Julian Schnabel.

Set during the final two years of the life of Vincent van Gogh, the film follows the painter as he struggles to make a name for himself while wanting to express himself artistically as well as questioning himself about his art and the divine. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it doesn’t play into a straightforward approach expected in films about real figures. Instead, it is a study of a man trying to find himself through his art as he also begins to question his being and worth as an artist and as a man while he would meet various people in his journey. The film’s script by Julian Schnabel, Louise Kugelberg, and Jean-Claude Carriere follows van Gogh in that journey where he often walks around landscapes in France as he would often paint what he sees as those who would see his paintings are convinced that he’s no good. Upon meeting the artist Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) in Paris as they both share their thoughts on art, van Gogh goes to Arles in the South of France to find inspiration in the landscape but is ridiculed by some locals for his aesthetics while a visit from Gauguin only adds to his emotional turmoil.

The film’s second half revolves around the events in which van Gogh had cut off his left ear as the narrative also feature voiceover narration from van Gogh through letters he would write to his brother Theo (Rupert Friend) who would fund his art. It is at this time that van Gogh would be sent to an asylum as he ponders about his art and such but also the beauty of nature and the divine. Even as he would continue to paint to the day he dies as the script also showcases the man’s delusions and episodes of mental illness as well as ideas of what might’ve happened on the day of his death.

Schnabel’s direction is definitely dream-like in some of the imagery he creates as he would also shoot the film on actual locations in Arles as well as additional locations in Bouches-du-Rhone, and Auvers-sur-Oise in France. Schnabel’s usage of the wide and medium shots add to the beauty that van Gogh was seeking but also something that is almost indescribable in trying to find the actual look of it which is why he paints fast. The attention to detail in the painting as well as what van Gogh sees adds to the beauty while some of the framing that Schnabel creates in the medium shots do match up to some of the paintings that van Gogh has created. Even in the close-ups as it help play into the sense of despair and torment that van Gogh endures with Schnabel often shooting scenes with hand-held cameras where the camera often glides or gets a point-of-view shot of van Gogh walking. The usage of the hand-held cameras would also play into the wonders of nature and the surroundings that van Gogh would encounter.

Also serving as editor with co-writer Louise Kugelberg, Schnabel’s usage of jump-cuts and dissolves add to some of the film’s emotional moments as well as play into van Gogh’s troubled mental state. Notably in scenes during the third act where van Gogh is in an asylum as it returns to the film’s opening scene where it is shown in a different context. It adds to this sense of despair and uncertainty in van Gogh where he meets a sympathetic priest (Mads Mikkelsen) who gets a look at one of his paintings and does express his opinion yet doesn’t think that van Gogh is a terrible painter. The third act also has Schnabel play into things that play into events relating to his work including a sketchbook that would be lost until 2016 and what happened to him on the day he died. Yet, Schnabel showcases a man that is driven by the beauty of his surroundings and hoping to capture it the way he and possibly God sees it. Overall, Schnabel crafts an intoxicating and enchanting film about the final years in the life of Vincent van Gogh.

Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of lush colors and dream-like photography add to the films’ beauty as well as its usage of blurry lenses and some black-and-white shots that showcases the depths of van Gogh’s psyche. Production designer Stephane Cressend, with set decorators Sonia Gloaguen and Cecile Vatelot plus art director Loic Chavanon, does brilliant work with the look of the places that van Gogh would go to and stay at as well as a tavern he would frequent at and the asylum where he spent some time during his illness. Costume designer Karen Muller Serreau does fantastic work with the ragged clothes that van Gogh wears as well as some of the clothes the other characters wear.

Special makeup effects artist Jean-Christophe Spadaccini and special effects makeup designer Mark Wotton do terrific work with the look of a few characters including van Gogh after he had cut off his left ear. Visual effects supervisor Arthur Lemaitre does nice work with the visual effects as it is largely minimal in presenting van Gogh without his left ear and a few bits of set dressing. Sound editor Thomas Desjonqueres does excellent work with the film’s sound in the way it repeats lines of dialogues to play into van Gogh’s delusions as well as capturing natural sounds as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Tatiana Lisovskaya is amazing for its lush and somber piano sonatas and low-key orchestral touches that play into the film’s melancholic tone as well as the sense of wonderment that van Gogh endures.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Anne Consigny as a schoolteacher who is disgusted by what van Gogh is painting, Louis Garrel as the voice of an article by an art critic, Lolita Chammah as a young woman van Gogh meets at the film’s beginning, Vincent Perez as an art gallery director, Amira Casar as Theo’s wife Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Vladimir Consigny as an asylum doctor, and Niels Arestrup as a madman van Gogh converses with at the asylum about insanity. Mads Mikkelsen is superb in his one-scene performance as a priest who converses with Van Gogh about art and the divine as it is a low-key performance from Mikkelsen who provides a sense of warmth to the character. Mathieu Almaric is fantastic in his small role as Dr. Paul Gachet as a man who is a subject of one of van Gogh’s paintings as well as be someone who would be with him on the last day of van Gogh’s life.

Emmanuelle Seigner is excellent in a dual role as the woman from Arles who becomes a subject of one of Van Gogh’s paintings as she would give him a place to stay while other role as Madam Ginoux is brief as the woman who would unknowingly have van Gogh’s sketchbook and put in a place that she would forget about. Oscar Isaac is brilliant as Paul Gauguin as an artist who shares van Gogh’s ideas about aesthetics yet becomes baffled by what van Gogh is trying to find through art believing that van Gogh would never get any attention. Rupert Friend is amazing as van Gogh’s brother Theo as a man who is also funds van Gogh’s work as he becomes concerned about his brother’s emotional and mental well-being. Finally, there’s Willem Dafoe in a performance for the ages as Vincent van Gogh as this tormented artist who is trying to create art that means something while dealing with rejection, criticism, and himself as Dafoe play into this man’s struggle as well as wanting to create something that he believes is closer to what God would see as it is a towering performance from Dafoe.

At Eternity’s Gate is an outstanding film from Julian Schnabel that features a career-defining performance from Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh. Along with its ensemble cast, Benoit Delhomme’s ravishing cinematography, Tatiana Lisovskaya’s somber score, and its exploration of an artist trying to create art that is divine. The film is an unconventional yet enthralling film that doesn’t play into the traditional schematics of a bio-pic in favor of studying a man trying to capture nature at its most pure. In the end, At Eternity’s Gate is a magnificent film from Julian Schnabel.

Julian Schnabel Films: Basquiat - Before Night Falls - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Lou Reed-Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse - Miral

Related: (Lust for Life) – (Vincent & Theo) – (Dreams (1990 film)) – (Loving Vincent) - The Auteurs #43: Julian Schnabel

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