Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Films That I Saw: August 2016



The summer is coming to an end and thank goodness because in all honesty, I didn’t think it was very good. Not just because of all of the chaos that is going on around the world as well as all of these deaths as I’m pretty bummed about the passing of Gene Wilder. It’s also for the fact that I found the whole summer blockbuster season to be very underwhelming and I only saw one film in the theaters this summer as I’m just frustrated by the films that I want to see come out and then be gone the next week. Another problem is that a film I want to see is at a theater 20-30 minutes from where I live but I can’t go because my parents always have to go somewhere as it just really sucked. While I did manage to see a lot of films at home, it’s just been frustrating that a lot of good movies are being overshadowed by a lot of bullshit.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was OK. I thought the opening and closing ceremonies were alright though my favorite thing in the latter was about what the Japanese will do for 2020 in Tokyo as it involved Super Mario. I liked some of the events that happened as it relates to the gymnastics, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and the fact that Honduras made it to the semi-finals in soccer. Yet, I was disgusted by Ryan Lochte did as the guy is a world-class moron who should be punished and be sent to prison for bullshitting everyone. I was also uneasy about the fact that there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes as I saw Bryant Gumbel’s report on HBO about the International Olympic Committee and what they’re doing as it is corruption of the worst kind. While all of us were all dazzled by a lot of what is happening, there is a downside to all of this as anyone who knows what happened to Greece in 2004 as well as what countries will do to create the perfect event will see what the Olympics are really all about.


In the month of August, I saw a total of 35 films in 24 first-timers and 11 re-watches. Slightly down from last month not surprisingly as there hadn’t been a lot of old films on TV that I’ve already seen. One of the big highlights of the month was my Blind Spot assignment in A Brief History of Time. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for August 2016:

1. Like Someone in Love


2. Breaking Away


3. Touki Bouki


4. Son of Saul


5. Hitchcock/Truffaut


6. Shotgun Stories


7. Youth


8. Trances


9. Straight Outta Compton


10. The Street Fighter


Monthly Mini-Reviews

Concussion


I’m sure many who follow the NFL are aware of the fact that there’s so many great players who are gone or are fading away considering the dangers of what happen when they play. This is a film that had its right place in its heart and was willing to say something but its execution is rather poorly. Despite the supporting performances of Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin, the film doesn’t do enough nor was it willing to go all the way to really go into deep about the damage of concussions in football. Another aspect of the film that is troubling is Will Smith’s performance where it’s really him not really selling the drama while putting on a bad accent. It’s also a shame that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is given the thankless role as Smith’s love-interest where she is given very little to do.

Vixens from Venus


I like softcore porn films. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I grew up on softcore porn films though I will admit that a lot of the films of the genre haven’t been very good. This one in particular however is an exception. Three hot alien chicks from Venus arrive on Earth where they’re observed by scientists as there’s a lot of hot sex that goes on. It does have some substance about the fallacy of being overly-intelligent while also exploring the idea that not everything can be explained in a rational way. It’s just good fun with a lot of hot ladies.

Feast


The short that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film is definitely a gem that anyone who loves animation must see. It’s a simple story about a stray dog who is picked by a man and gets involved into the man’s love life while having a lust for food. All of it told in the span of a few minutes where it has so much to say with so little time as it is a real gem from Disney Animation Studios.

Team Thor


With all of the chaos happening in the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, it is clear that Marvel is pretty much winning and having a good time. Plus, they’re not taking themselves so seriously where it is obvious the people involved have an idea of what to do. This recently-released mockumentary short film reveals where was Thor during the events of Captain America: Civil War as it is just down-right hilarious. It’s Chris Hemsworth making Thor be funny while it features a great cameo from Bruce Banner who is just taking it easy.



Top 10 Re-watches:

1. Ratatouille


2. Casino Royale


3. The Red Balloon


4. Spaceballs


5. Straw Dogs


6. Never Say Never Again


7. Bloodsport


8. Fernando Nation


9. June 17th, 1994


10. Double Impact


Well, that is all for August and the summer. In September, I will be watching a lot of films that is in my never-ending DVR list as well as films by the remaining subjects of my Auteurs series. Most notably Alejandro Jodorowsky as he is the next filmmaker I will discuss in my Auteurs series as well as the next film in my Blind Spot Series. In the world of music, I will be attending a concert for the legendary electronic group Kraftwerk in which I will post a review of the show in my music blog. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mavis!



Written and directed by Jessica Edwards, Mavis! is a documentary film about the life of legendary soul/gospel singer Mavis Staples as she embarks on another tour while talking about her life with the Staple Singers that featured her siblings and their father Pops Staples as well as her solo work. The film follows Mavis as she goes through a revival while showcasing footage of her work as a vocalist where she still manages to play to an audience wanting to hear her music. The result is a fascinating and joyful film from Jessica Edwards.

From the late 1950s to the 1970s, the Staple Singers were considered the definitive soundtrack for many in the Civil Rights movement as it consisted vocalist/guitarist Pops Staples and a revolving door of his children who would sing in the group with the exception of its lead vocalist in Mavis Staples. Shot largely from 2012 to 2014, the film follows Mavis Staples as she goes on the road touring and playing shows while also talking about her life in the group as she’s accompanied by her sister Yvonne who sings backup for Mavis in the solo tour while also handling some of the business aspects for Mavis. The film’s narrative moves back and forth into Mavis’ life as a popular soul/gospel singer and going on the road while remaining humble about her status as an icon.

The film also play into the group’s history as well as Mavis’ own solo career which had some moderate success as she was more interested being with the family. Mavis talks about a lot of the music she and her family made as well as being accepted into the world of the folk music scene in the 1960s where they gave their own interpretation of folk songs including the ones written by Bob Dylan who appears in the film through archival footage. Along with interviews from music critic Greg Kot, Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy, country music artist Marty Stuart, Bonnie Raitt, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and people in Mavis’ band, the film play into the world that Mavis lives in as well as the world of gospel music and why the Staple Singers were considered influential.

Jessica Edwards’ direction is straightforward where she manages to balance the film’s back-and-forth narrative while providing some insight into moments where Mavis performs live to an audience whether it’s at a music hall or in a festival. Even as she would capture a rare moment with Levon Helm of the Band during a visit before his death in 2012 where Mavis talks highly about the song she sang with them in The Weight in the 1978 film The Last Waltz. With the aid of cinematographer Keith Walker in shooting the interviews and concerts as well as editor Amy Foote compiling all of the footage of the many appearances of the Staple Singers on TV as well as a rare clip of Mavis working with Prince in the late 1980s. Sound editor Brian Bracken and sound designer Lou Teti do nice work in capturing the sound of the music as well as presenting some of the rare recordings including an album Pops Staples was making before his death in 2000 which was finished by Mavis and Jeff Tweedy.

Mavis! is an extraordinary film from Jessica Edwards that explores the life and career of Mavis Staples. It’s a film that isn’t just fun to watch but also engaging for the way it explores a woman’s life and her love of music where she manages to maintain that sense of spirit in an age where all forms of music are being compromised for the masses. In the end, Mavis! is a marvelous film from Jessica Edwards.

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Youth (2015 film)



Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Youth is the story of two old men who travel to a holiday spa in Switzerland as they reflect on their life as they also cope with aging and their longing to be youthful as they meet other people young and old. The film is a study on the ideas of youth, aging, and the struggle about what to do with the time that is left in one’s life. Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Youth is a ravishing yet evocative film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Set in Swiss Alps in a holiday spa, the film follows two men who are vacationing there as they cope with what is ahead as one of them is a famed composer trying to enjoy retirement while his friend is a filmmaker eager to make one more film and get a big-time actress to star in it. During their time, the two discuss things they can and can’t remember as well as the fact that they’re in their final years unsure of when death will arrive. Especially as the two also have children who are married to each other where something unexpected happens as they would also meet various characters in the course of their vacation. Paolo Sorrentino’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the ideas of youth, aging, life, and death but also the struggle for identity and meaning in the world. Even as these two men try to see if they still matter or have already contributed to the world and be forced to realize they have nothing to prove anymore.

The composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and the filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) both try to deal with their roles in life as the former copes with the task of performing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and her husband for the latter’s birthday while the latter is trying to make a film which he believes will be his greatest work. During the course of their stay, they befriend an actor named Jimmy (Paul Dano) who is doing research for a role while Fred is accompanied by his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who just went through a life-changing event making her stay at the spa much longer. Around the same time, Fred and Mick also encounter many eccentrics during their stay as they also comment on their past as well as their own faults as men where Fred admits to not being a good father to Lena as well as the fact that he wasn’t faithful to his wife where he copes with the fact that he couldn’t do his greatest piece without her.

Sorrentino’s direction is gorgeous for the way he presents this world of tranquility and peace that is like paradise. Shot largely on location in Flims, Switzerland at the Waldhaus Flims hotel with some shots at the Hotel Schatzalp in Davos and additional scenes set in Rome and Venice. Sorrentino creates some unique compositions to play into something that is idyllic in terms of where the elderly would go to relax as well as the fact that it’s a place for those in their prime as well as the young. Sorrentino’s usage of wide shots play into the look as well as some of the intimate moments that involve many of the residents at the spa where they’re shot in groups. The intimacy would also be used in the close-ups and medium shots as Sorrentino knows where to frame the actors or create something that is adds a lot to this air of tranquility and calm as these residents are given the chance to relax but also do some activities and listen to music.

The direction also has moments that are quite surreal as it play into this air of fantasy that some of the characters embark on. These sequences not only are dream-like but also play into some of the fear some of the characters endure but also moments that play into their sense of desire. Even as they are these odd moments that do make sense as well as showcase that feeling of existence where it would be overshadowed by the harshness of reality. Notably in a sequence in the third act which relates to the lives of Fred and Mick as the former is still carrying some form of grief and regret while the latter would face heartbreak of the worst kind. All of which these two men would be forced to carry for the remainder of their lives. Overall, Sorrentino creates an enchanting yet rapturous film about two old friends going on a holiday in the Swiss Alps coping with the remaining moments of their lives.

Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of its natural and colorful look for many of its daytime exteriors the usage of lights and moods for many of the scenes set at night. Editor Cristiano Travaglioli does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the offbeat moments while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Ludovica Ferrario, with set decorator Noel Godfrey and art directors Daniel Newton and Marion Schramm, does amazing work with the look of the rooms the residents live in as well as some of the design of the rooms and places they would go to. Costume designer Carlo Poggioli does excellent work with the different array of clothes of the many residents who are at the spa as well as the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with.

Hair/wig designer Aldo Signoretti and makeup designer Maurizio Silvi do fantastic work with the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with in her diva-esque persona as well as the look for Mick‘s own surreal moment. Visual effects supervisor Andrew Morley does terrific work with some of the visual effects as it play into the elements of surrealism that the characters would encounter or dream about. Sound editor Dario Calvari does superb work with the sound in playing up that sense of tranquility as well as the layer of sounds that Fred would hear in a surrealistic moment. The film’s music by David Lang is wonderful for its mixture of somber folk with elements of orchestral flourishes that play into the serenity of the locations as it would also feature additional contributions by Mark Kozelek who appears in the film as himself in creating some songs that are performed including Fred‘s famed composition that is sung in the final credits by the soprano singer Sumi Jo.

The casting by Shaheen Baig, Laura Rosenthal, and Anna Maria Sambucco is great as it feature some notable small roles from the British pop vocalist Paloma Faith as herself, Ed Stoppard as Lena‘s husband/Mick‘s son, Alex MacQueen as an emissary for Queen Elizabeth II, Ian Keir Attard as the emissary‘s assistant, Madalina Diana Ghena as Miss Universe, and Roly Serrano as an overweight and ailing version of the famed futbol icon Diego Maradona. In the roles of the screenwriters who work with Mick on his story, there’s Tom Lipinski, Chloe Pirrie, Alex Beckett, Nate Dern, and Mark Gessner as these different writers who provide Mick different ideas as well as try to come up with the ending as they‘re all fun to watch. Luna Mijovic is wonderful as a young masseuse that Fred befriends while Robert Seethaler is superb as a mountain climbing instruction that Lena takes interest in. In a small but crucial role as the diva-esque actress Brenda Morel, Jane Fonda is incredible as this longtime collaborator of Mick who makes this appearance as she represents some of the harshness of reality that Mick faces where she just owns that scene.

Paul Dano is excellent as Jimmy Tree as a young actor who befriends Fred and Mick where he shares their frustration with their work as he’s famously known for playing a robot where he hopes to find a role that could give him more. Rachel Weisz is amazing as Lena as Fred’s daughter who is also his assistant as she makes an unexpected return to the retreat where she copes with some of the bitter aspects of her relationship with her father. Harvey Keitel is phenomenal as Mick Boyle as a filmmaker eager to try and create one final film that would define his legacy while dealing with aspects of his life along with his friendship with Fred. Finally, there’s Michael Caine in a remarkable performance as Fred Ballinger as this music composer trying to retire as he is dealing with the demands of his former career in doing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and write a memoir while dealing with his own faults as a man, a father, and as a husband where he also recalls things he can and can’t remember.

Youth is a spectacular film from Paolo Sorrentino that features brilliant performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Along with memorable performances from the rest of its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, strong themes on life and death, and superb music. It’s a film that explores many of the ideas about getting old as well as the idea of capturing some element of youth in an old age. In the end, Youth is a tremendous film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Paolo Sorrentino Films: (One Man Up) - (The Consequences of Love) - (The Family Friend) - (Il Divo) - (This Must Be the Place) - (The Great Beauty)

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Son of Saul




Directed by Laszlo Nemes and written by Nemes and Clara Royer, Saul fia (Son of Saul) is the story about the thirty-six hours in the life of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando unit who works at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. The film is a study of a man who is tasked to do a lot of the clean-up as he copes with finding the body of a young boy where he goes on a search for a rabbi to give the boy a proper burial. Starring Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, and Urs Rechin. Saul fia is a gripping and intense film from Laszlo Nemes.

Set in 1944 at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, the film is about the life of a Jewish-Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando unit who finds the body of a boy at a gas chamber as he decides to give him a proper burial. It’s a film told in the span of thirty-six hours where this man is tasked to do a lot of clean-up work and make sure the gas chamber is clean for the next group of people killed. When he finds that a young boy has survived being in the gas chamber and later die in the infirmary, he is consumed with grief as he tries to do what is right. Yet, the journey to find a rabbi as well as maintain his job becomes a risky one as Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig) is trying to keep himself in check and not get killed. The film’s screenplay doesn’t really have much of a structure as it is more about Saul trying to do whatever he can in his journey to do what is right as he has to contend with other members of the Sonderkommando as well as the Germans running the camp.

Laszlo Nemes’ direction is very entrancing for the fact that it is shot largely inside the camps as there aren’t a lot of exterior shots in the film as it’s shot on location in the small town of Budafok near Budapest, Hungary. Shot in the Academy aspect ratio of 1:37:1, the film has this presentation that is very narrow and claustrophobic as it play into the sense of realism that occurs inside the camps as well as a look into the gas chambers and where these men had to sleep at. That sense of intimacy in the direction as well as not using a lot of wide shots play into a world that is quite dangerous and everything has to be up and running. The usage of the medium shots and close-ups add to that claustrophobic tone while much of the film is shot with hand-held cameras to play into that urgency and immediacy inside the camp including the ovens.

Nemes also goes for these long and intricate tracking shots as it play into a lot of what goes on where Nemes knows when not to cut for dramatic effect while just letting these scenes play out. Even towards its third act where Saul does whatever to find a rabbi as it include this intense sequence of him going into the woods where Jews are being executed. The film’s climax doesn’t just involve Saul’s chance but also a realization of what is happening as it play into the danger that is the life of a Jew inside this concentration camp. Overall, Nemes crafts a very visceral and riveting film about a man trying to bury a boy at Auschwitz.

Cinematographer Matyas Erdely does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this air of realism in its look while using some light for much of the interiors while emphasizing on natural lighting for the exterior scenes in the film. Editor Matthieu Taponier does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it doesn‘t play into any kind of stylish rhythms while using cut-to-black for the opening sequence. Production designer Laszlo Rajk, with art director Hedvig Kiraly and set decorators Dorka Kiss and Judit Varga, does amazing work with the look of the infirmary, ovens, and gas chambers of what play into this intense world of the concentration camp.

Costume designer Edit Szucs does terrific work with the costumes as it has this sense of de-colorization as well as not going for any style other than the uniforms of the Nazis. Sound designer Tamas Zanyi and sound editor Tamas Szekely do excellent work with the sound in playing up the atmosphere of the camps in and outside as well the sounds of the gas chambers and the people screaming from the inside heard by those outside of the chambers. The film’s music by Laszlo Melis is wonderful as it is mainly played during the final credits as it’s really just somber string music that play into the tragic events that occur in the film.

The casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Juli Jakab as prisoner named Ella who would give Saul a package used to buy things, Todd Charmont as a French rabbi Saul would find late in the film, Kamil Dobrowolski as a section captain, Jerzy Walczak as a rabbi who refuses to help, Uwe Lauer as a commandant, and Christian Harting as another commandant who watches over the men dig ashes into the river. Sandor Zsoter is excellent as Dr. Miklos Nyiszli as the camp doctor who helps Saul hide the boy’s body as well as try to do whatever he can to keep it a secret from the Nazis.

Urs Rechn is brilliant as section captain who tries to maintain some order while secretly trying to plan a revolt against the camp. Levente Molnar is fantastic as Abraham as a Sonderkommando worker who also tries to stage a revolt as well as maintain a low profile. Finally, there’s Geza Rohrig in an incredible performance as Saul Auslander as this Sonderkommando member who finds a boy in the gas chamber as he tries to do what is right while coping with the danger of his personal task along with the presence of the Nazi.

Saul fia is a phenomenal film from Laszlo Nemes. Featuring a great cast, a discerning tone, an eerie soundtrack, and intoxicating visuals. It’s a film that doesn’t just showcase some of the darkest aspects of the Holocaust but what a man tries to do to try and do something good in a very dark world. In the end, Saul fia is a tremendous film from Laszlo Nemes.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hitchcock/Truffaut




Based on the book by Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut is a documentary film about the interview with filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock by Truffaut where the two talked about Hitchcock’s own films during this eight-day interview that Truffaut would make into a book. Directed by Kent Jones and screenplay by Jones and Serge Toubiana, the film is about the meeting that took place that offices of Universal Studios in 1962 where several contemporary filmmakers talk about that meeting and what it meant for the world of cinema. The result is a mesmerizing film from Kent Jones.

In 1962, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut went to Hollywood with a translator to meet the famed British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock following a series of corresponding letters where Truffaut praised the works of Hitchcock. The meeting that took eight days in the offices of Universal Studios where Truffaut would talk to Hitchcock about all of his films that would later become a book about Hitchcock and his work as a filmmaker. The film isn’t just about the meeting between the two filmmakers but also the book itself as it would be seen as something very influential to other filmmakers who would view cinema as a serious form of art and present Hitchcock as one of the great artists of the 20th Century.

The documentary would inter-cut not just footage from the many films of Hitchcock with some by Truffaut but also pictures of the meeting and interviews of filmmakers who were influenced by the book. From old-school masters such as Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Peter Bogdanovich to contemporary filmmakers like David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplachin, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the filmmakers talk about the importance of Truffaut and several other French New Wave filmmakers who didn’t just cite Hitchcock as an influence but also talk about the depth of his work as a filmmaker as they felt audiences didn’t take his craft very seriously and only saw them as just suspenseful entertainment.

The film also features many audio tidbits of the meeting between Hitchcock and Truffaut as well as stories of a friendship that built where the two gave advice to each other about what to do with their respective films. Kent Jones also play into the different periods of Hitchcock’s career and how his work in silent films would do a lot for the films he would make in the emergence of sound. With the aid of editor Rachel Reichman in assembling some of the film footage and some rare footage of Hitchcock working on a film set. Kent showcases the artistry of what Hitchcock was doing with the filmmakers commenting on some of the things he was doing as well as provide discussions on some of his great films like Psycho and Vertigo.

With the aid of cinematographers Nick Bentgen, Daniel Cowen, Eric Gautier, Mihai Malaimare Jr., Lisa Rinzler, and Genta Tamaki as well as a team of sound mixers, many of the interviews are straightforward as it allows the filmmakers to showcase not just their love for Hitchcock and Truffaut but also delve into their reason into Hitchcock’s stature as a prominent artist. The American release features narration by Bob Balaban to discuss many of the aspects of the meeting between Hitchcock and Truffaut while the French release is narrated by Mathieu Almaric. The film’s music by Jeremiah Bornfield is superb for its mixture of orchestral music that play into the events of the meetings while music of the music soundtrack comes from the various films by Hitchcock and Truffaut.

Hitchcock/Truffaut is a remarkable film from Kent Jones. Not only is this a film that fans of cinema would want to see but it also displays something for casual audiences about the power of cinema and how a filmmaker wants to celebrate the work of another by showing the world of that man’s brilliance. In the end, Hitchcock/Truffaut is an incredible film from Kent Jones.

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: A Brief History of Time




Based on the book by Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time is a film about the life of Stephen Hawking and his views on the universe. Directed by Errol Morris, the film is a documentary on the man with interviews with Hawkings as well as various family members and colleagues. All of which told in a very stylistic manner in a mixture of straightforward interviews, archival photos, and recreated dramatic images to support Hawking’s theories on time and space. The result is a compelling and riveting film about the life and mind of Stephen Hawking.

The film is a documentary on the life of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking as well as his views on the subject of cosmology as he reveals many theories on the universe and the idea about time. Told through interviews as well as archival footage and some dramatic creations based on Hawking’s theories, the film also explores many of the ideas about how the universe was created and the idea about whether or not there is a God. While the film moves back and forth into aspects about Hawking’s life told by his mother Isobel and sister Mary as well as various friend and colleagues. It also features footage of Hawking talking through a voice synthesizer about himself and views on the world as it relates to his increasing study on the universe.

Errol Morris’ direction is quite straightforward when it comes to the interviews as they’re shot largely in medium shots with a few stylish angles and close-ups as it relates to the way Morris presents Hawking. The scenes where Morris creates these visual tricks using diagrams and drawings based on Hawking’s theories do have some unique visual tricks as well as the way he presents simple objects to support his theories. With the aid of cinematographer John Bailey with additional work from Stefan Czapsky, the interviews and the dramatic recreations definitely have a unique look that is also aided by production designer Ted Bafaloukos and art director David Lee in creating sets for the interviews as well as a scene of a teacup falling into the floor.

With contributions from editor Brad Fuller along with sound editors Eliza Paley and Ira Spiegel, Morris‘ usage of stock footage as well as film footage from the sci-fi film The Black Hole is intriguing as it play into the mystique of the black hole with Paley and Spiegel providing a few sound effects in those dramatic recreation sequences. The film’s music by Philip Glass is amazing for its eerie yet soothing electronic score that play into that sense of drama but also with moments that are low-key as it play into the pieces that relates to Hawking’s family life.

The 2014 Region 1/Region A dual DVD/Blu-Ray release presents the film in a newly remastered 4k digital transfer supervised by Errol Morris and cinematographer John Bailey. Presented in the 1:85:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 Surround Sound with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for the Blu-Ray. The special features include a 34-minute interview with Errol Morris who talks about the film as well as working with Stephen Hawking. Morris also talks about his approach as well as being someone who didn’t follow the rules of conventional filmmaking as it relates to the documentary. Along with tidbits on its visual presentation, Morris also talked about his time with Hawking around the time the film was made which occurred during a crucial period in Hawking’s own personal life as he was going through a separation with his first wife Jane Wilde as Morris revealed he was unsuccessful in getting Wilde to be in the film because of his poor cello playing.

The 12-minute interview with cinematographer John Bailey has the cinematographer talking about his collaboration with Morris on the film as well as his approach to lighting. Especially as he reveals how different it was in terms of shooting something for a dramatic feature and what Morris wants to say visually. Bailey also talks about some paintings that inspired him for some of the lighting in the interviews while revealed that he and Morris had to work with Hawking for a few days in shooting him for his own scenes as it’s a very fascinating piece about what a cinematographer’s role in the documentary. The dual-disc release features two additional texts that doesn’t appear in the DVD as it includes a chapter from Hawking’s 2013 memoir and an excerpt from the titular book the film was named after.

The third piece of text that appears in the dual-disc release and solely on the DVD release is an essay by film/book critic David Sterritt entitled Macrobiography. Sterritt’s essay talks about Hawking’s status as an unlikely celebrity as well as the fact that his work is seen as this guide to the ideas of the universe. On the film, Sterritt talks about how accessible the film is on a subject matter this is often very complex to the average person as well as Morris’ visual treatment of Hawking and his theories. The essay also talks about how the film relates to a lot of the work of Morris as a filmmaker as it all play into this fascination with humanity while often trying to find ways to reinvent the idea of nonfiction filmmaking as it’s a wonderful read to a great film.

A Brief History of Time is a phenomenal film from Errol Morris. Featuring dazzling visuals, a hypnotic score by Philip Glass, and fascinating interviews with colleagues and family who know Stephen Hawking as well as tidbits from the man himself. It’s a film that doesn’t just defy the idea of what a documentary is but also creates a portrait to one of the most riveting human beings on the face of the Earth. In the end, A Brief History of Time is an incredible film from Errol Morris.

Related: The Theory of Everything

Errol Morris Films: (Gates of Heaven) - (Vernon, Florida) - The Thin Blue Line - (The Dark Wind) - Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control - (Mr. Death) - (The Fog of War) - (Standard Operating Procedure) - Tabloid (2010 film) - (The Unknown Known)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Return of the Street Fighter




Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa and written by Hajime Koiwa with English dialogue by Steve Autry, Return of the Street Fighter is the sequel to the 1974 film The Street Fighter in which Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi goes on a war against the Yakuza for stealing money from charities. The film has Tsurugi trying to be the hero despite his anti-hero persona as he is once again played by Sonny Chiba. Also starring Yoko Ichiji and Masashi “Milton” Ishibashi. Return of the Street Fighter is a wild and stylish film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

The film is the story of this mercenary in Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi who continues to do work for money where he finds himself targeted by the Yakuza after refusing to kill a master who is suspicious of the organization taking money away from charities. It’s a film with a simple plot as it play into this man who is once again set up after refusing to kill someone he actually admires as well as the fact that he is also on the run from the police for killing two men he was hired to kill. Even as it plays into the world of corruption where a Yakuza boss is trying to embezzle money for a martial arts institute in Tokyo for Asia which was really a front for his organization. When the karate master Kendo Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki) discovers his name being forged, he starts to question things and nearly gets killed prompting Tsurugi to do what is right as he would also go against an old foe.

Shigehiro Ozawa’s direction is quite simple while it is also very stylized in his compositions and the way he presents the action sequences. Shot largely in Tokyo, Ozawa’s direction has this immediacy in the opening sequence as it relates to the job that Tsurugi is being asked as it play into that sense of frenetic action and chaos. Even as it isn’t afraid to play into its low-budget aesthetics where there are moments where the violence is silly and fake blood is shown. Even at one point, there’s a moment that is quite graphic but also ridiculous where Ozawa isn’t afraid to display that humor. Ozawa would use footage from the previous film as flashbacks to establish some of the back story and characters from the previous films. All of which play into the motivation for Tsurugi to go out there and kick ass in a climax that is just over-the-top but also filled with thrills. Overall, Ozawa creates an exhilarating and crazy film about a mercenary taking names and kicking some fuckin’ ass.

Cinematographer Sadaji Yoshida does excellent work with the film‘s grainy cinematography from the usage of black-and-white for the flashbacks as well creating some lighting and moods for some of the fight scenes including its climax. Editor Kozo Horiike does nice work with the editing with its usage of a few fast-cuts as well as other rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and action. Art director Norimichi Igawa does fantastic work with the look of the home base of the Yakuza boss as well as the dojo run by Masaoka. The film’s music by Toshiaki Tsushima is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral music and rock as it play into the air of excitement into the fights as well as in some of the moments of suspense.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Claude Gagnon as a mysterious mute man, Hiroshi Tanaka as a Yakuza boss in Otaguro, Naoki Shima as a police investigator named Yamagami trying to help Masaoka, and Masahashi “Milton” Ishibashi as an old foe of Tsurugi in Junjo. Masafumi Suzuki is superb as the karate master Masaoka whom Tsurugi has great respect for as he refuses to kill him for Otaguro and the Mafia. Yoko Ichiji is alright as Kitty as a young woman who aids Tsurugi as she is really a double working for the Mafia where she eventually falls for Tsurugi despite her nerdy appearance. Finally, there’s Sonny Chiba in a remarkable performance as Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi as this mercenary who isn’t afraid to kill or beat anyone up who threatens him as Chiba just maintains that sense that restraint when he isn’t fighting and then just go full-on badass in taking names and kicking some ass.

Return of the Street Fighter is a phenomenal film from Shigehiro Ozawa that features an incredible performance from Sonny Chiba. While it is a film that more of the same in comparison to its predecessor. It is still a film that is a lot of fun while not being afraid of being ridiculous not matter how silly some of the violence is. In the end, Return of the Street Fighter is a sensational film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

Related: The Street Fighter - (The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge)

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Against the Crowd Blog-a-thon 2016




Last year, Wendell of Dell on Movies created a blog-a-thon that is about defending movies that don’t get a lot love and trash those that do. It was a unique concept last year that I participated in with my piece as it was a lot of fun. This year, Wendell is hosting the blog-a-thon again with Kgothatjo Magolego of KG's Movie Rants. Here are the rules:


1. Pick one movie that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own.

5. Comment on this post, or on KG's Movie Rants with the two movies you intend on writing on.

6. Publish your post on any day from Monday August 22 through Friday August 26, 2016.

Here is what I’m offering:



James L. Brooks is known for not just warm and sentimental comedy-dramas like Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News as the latter is a film that I actually like. The rest of his work however isn’t very good. I don’t think very highly of Terms of Endearment while Spanglish and I’ll Do Anything are mediocre and How Do You Know is just shit. Then there’s As Good as It Gets that is loved by many as it won Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt Oscars. Why would a film that a lot of people love be in this blog-a-thon? Well, here’s why.

It’s an overrated and sappy film that has Jack Nicholson not really doing much but play an exaggerated version of himself with OCD and then fall in love with some dog while Helen Hunt is just absolutely bland in this. How these two won Oscars for very lame performances is beyond me as Peter Fonda should’ve won the Best Actor Oscar for Ulee’s Gold while the Best Actress award could’ve gone to either Julie Christie for Afterglow or Kate Winslet for Titanic. It’s overly-long and doesn’t have any great visuals as it’s really just one of the most overrated film of the 1990s.



Now here’s a film that didn’t get its due in its initial release nor was it shown to a wide audience in the U.S. in the preferred 146-minute director’s cut by Michael Cimino. Given the fact that Cimino was still stinging from the undeserved notoriety he got over 1980’s Heaven’s Gate where he would make four more films until 1996 and never make a feature film ever again as he recently passed away in July of 2016. It’s a shame considering that in recent years that Heaven’s Gate as well as 1985’s Year of the Dragon had been given some re-evaluation with the critics. His 1987 bio-pic on the Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano is an unconventional film that bears a lot of the visual motifs that Cimino is known for as it is clear he is inspired by some of the Italian epics of the 1950s/1960s like Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard. It is a flawed film as Christopher Lambert’s performance is kind of all over the place but it is this fascinating film that explores a man trying to help Sicily in the late 1940s/early 1950s in an attempt to liberate the land from Italy.

The supporting cast that includes Joss Ackland, Richard Bauer, and John Turturro help elevate the film as it explores this idea of old vs. new which is a recurring theme in Cimino’s work. Though Gore Vidal’s script doesn’t put much development into the women characters as well as emphasize a bit on camp. It does help play into the many conflicts that Giuliano would endure as he would even receive help from those he try to defy as it is about the common goal to free Sicily from Italy. More about the film can be explained in this review of the director’s cut of the film as the version that was panned largely by American critics that appear on Rotten Tomatoes is the 115-minute theatrical cut. The director’s cut version of the film is the preferred version as it’s one that audiences need to seek out and give it another chance just like Heaven’s Gate did in recent years.

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Teatro sin fin




Written, directed, shot, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Teatro sin fin (Melodramatic Sacramentral) is a documentary film of sorts that covers the Panic Movement co-founded by Jodorowsky. The 18-minute film is an exploration of a movement created to explore not just the ideas of surrealism but also in an attempt to keep it away from the mainstream. The result is a weird yet fascinating film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The film is a documentary that explores the performance of the Panic Movement in Paris, France in 1965 which was co-founded by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal, and Roland Topor. Taking excerpts from a four-hour performance held in Paris, the film showcases what the group does performances based on surrealism. The performances include topless women dancing, voodoo-inspired rituals with live chickens, a man walking into a vagina and coming out with turtles, and a drummer playing improvised pieces to some of the performances. Shot in black-and-white, Jodorowsky maintains something that is simple and to the point as it explores many of the ideas of the Panic Movement in their performance.

With the aid of editors Francoise Beloux, Catherine Dournion, and Christine Lecouvette, Jodorowsky creates something that play as a sampler of sorts of what the Panic Movement does. Even as it isn’t afraid to be out there as it is also considered something that is the precursor to the psychedelic scene in the U.S. The film’s music by Luc Perrini is a mixture of jazz and rock music as it play into the craziness of the performances as well as its emphasis on surrealism. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a strange yet compelling documentary about the Panic Movement.

Teatro sin fin is an excellent film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s a documentary short that isn’t just about a theatrical/art movement that is about bringing surrealism back to Earth but also a group of people trying to create something new. In the end, Teatro sin fin is a superb film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.


Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Tusk (1980 film) - Santa Sangre - The Rainbow Thief - The Dance of Reality - (Endless Poetry)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Street Fighter (1974 film)




Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa and written by Koji Takada and Motohiro Torii with English dialogue by Steve Autrey, The Street Fighter is the story of a mercenary who is hired by the Yakuza and the Mafia to kidnap a wealthy heiress only to realize what is at stake as he decides to oppose those who want her kidnapped. The film is the first of a trilogy of films where a man is just fighting and oppose those who go against him as the character of Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi is played by Sonny Chiba. Also starring Doris Nakajima, Gerald Yamata, and Milton Ishibashi. The Street Fighter is an awesome and exhilarating film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

The film revolves a man who is paid to do things as he is asked to kidnap the heiress of an oil company following her father’s death where he begins to realize who wants her and for what as it involves the Yakuza and the Mafia. It’s a film with a simple story where this man named Terry Tsurugi is someone who works for money but is also someone that no one should fuck with as he is a full-on badass that doesn’t take shit from anyone. The film’s script doesn’t have a strong plot but it does play into Tsurugi trying to do what it takes to win and oppose those trying to kill him. Especially when he is asked to do a job for the Yakuza, in affiliation with the Mafia, where he is suspicious knowing that they will set him up proving that he does have some kind of moral and sense of honor. Even those in the Yakuza have his values where they want to do this deal the right way but find themselves clashing with the demands of the Yakuza and the Mafia.

Shigehiro Ozawa’s direction is quite stylish as it isn’t afraid to play up its low-budget aesthetics to create something that is exciting and engaging. Shot largely in Tokyo as well as Kobe in Japan and parts of Hong Kong, the film plays into a world where corruption is starting to become the norm in Asia as it’s all about money and power. While Ozawa would use a few wide shots, he would mostly emphasize on medium shots and close-ups to capture the action as well going for low and slanted camera angles to play into its energy. Ozawa knows when to give the film a break from its action in favor of bits of humor as well as providing a few bits of exposition on Tsurugi. Yet, the film is mainly all action where it isn’t afraid to be graphic in its violence where it can range from intense to just downright silly. Even as there’s moments where Tsurugi will fight women as it is clear that he’s a dick but a dick is about getting the job done no matter what he has to do. Overall, Ozawa creates a wild and fun film about a mercenary kicking the holy shit out of the bad guys and then some.

Cinematographer Ken Tsukakoshi does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its low-grade stock to play into the look of the locations as well as creating some unique lighting in some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Kozo Horiike does brilliant work with the editing as it is very stylized with its jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action. Production designer Takatoshi Suzuki does fantastic work with the look of a local dojo owned by a relative of the late oil tycoon as well as the home of a Yakuza leader. The film’s music by Toshiaki Tsushima is amazing for its mixture of orchestral-based music with bits of rock to play into its energy and craziness.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Fumio Watanabe as a boss that Tsurugi works for occasionally, Tony Cetera as a business partner of Sarai’s father, Masafumi Suzuki as a karate master who is also Sarai’s uncle that asks Tsurugi for help, Jiro Chiba and Etsuko Shihomi as a couple of siblings who fail to pay Tsurugi for freeing their brother Junjo, and Rin’ichi Yamamoto in a terrific performance as a Hong Kong crime boss named Dinsau who bears some old values about honor. Masahashi “Milton” Ishibashi is excellent as Junjo as an infamous crime figure whom Tsurugi would free only to want to go against Tsurugi in a fair fight over some debt. Goichi “Gerald” Yamada is brilliant as Tsurugi’s assistant Ratnose who does whatever he can to help his friend as he is a mixture of comic relief and the film’s conscience.

Yukata “Doris” Nakajima is wonderful as Sarai as a heiress to an oil company that is the target of a kidnapping as she is reluctant to accept the protection of Tsurugi while learning the truth about what happened to her father. Finally, there’s Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba in a phenomenal performance as Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi as this mercenary who takes jobs for money as he finds himself at odds with the Yakuza and the Mafia where he does whatever it takes to survive and do what is right. Even as he does things that aren’t cool like hitting women or do things that are ultra-violent yet Chiba still maintains that air of awesomeness in his performance as it’s really the most iconic role of his career.

The Street Fighter is a spectacular film from Shigehiro Ozawa featuring an incredible performance from Sonny Chiba. It’s a film that is just silly fun while giving fans of martial arts film something to enjoy as it features a lot of ass-kicking and all sorts of crazy shit. In the end, The Street Fighter is a tremendous film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

Related: Return of the Street Fighter - (The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge)

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Auteurs #58: Jeff Nichols




Among a small group of filmmakers to make a name for himself in the past decade, Jeff Nichols is someone who has only made a handful of films so far in his career. However, he’s managed to attain loads of critical support as well as gain a growing audience interested in his stories about regular people dealing with the world and their surroundings as they’re mostly set in the American South. While many of his stories that are often set in his home state of Arkansas as well as rural places with people dealing with something that is either real or otherworldly. Nichols has crafted a body of work that is compelling as well as grounded in that air of realism and tenderness that many of today’s mainstream filmmakers aren’t making these days.

Born on December 7, 1978 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jeff Nichols was born into a place that didn’t have much of a film culture yet would find some form of escape through books and films. Notably the work of Mark Twain who Nichols would consider to be a major influence in his writing while he was also interested in the world of cinema. Notably with the films of the New Hollywood era of 1970s American cinema and some of the films that was emerging during the 1980s. Through his interest in cinema, Nichols would attend the prestigious University of North Carolina School of Arts where it had become a starting point for emerging filmmakers such as David Gordon Green and Jody Hill who also made films set in the South. Nichols’ time at the school would prove to be a fruitful experience as he would meet those who would be part of his team of collaborators including cinematographer Adam Stone.

Shotgun Stories



Following his tenure at the University of North Carolina School of Arts, Nichols met another alumni in David Gordon Green who had been making critically-acclaimed films in the early 2000s as they were all set in the South. Green decided to produce Nichols’ first feature film as he would gather money to help get Nichols funding as well as offer him one of his editors in Steven Gonzales to edit the film for Nichols. For the casting, Nichols decided to cast several unknowns as well as actors that not many people knew. For the lead role of Son Hayes, Nichols cast Michael Shannon in the role as it would serve as a breakthrough for Shannon.

Shooting on location in small towns near Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols’ film revolved around a family feud involving two sets of half-brothers who both share the same father but both endured different relationships and lives with their father. The film follows three men who live very simple but troubled lives who still bear the scars of abuse of their father as they learn that he’s died as they crash the funeral to say insults towards him only to set a firestorm against their half-brothers. The feud wouldn’t just lead to tragedy but also a sense of unease where it is clear that it has come to the realization that this family is beyond damaged as three of these men who are just trying to make something in their lives are doing what they can while also trying not to carry the sins of their parents. Much of the film was shot in 2004 yet it took years and more funding for the post-production as Green was involved with other projects during that time which led to the film’s delay. It was around that time that Nichols brought in his brother Ben who was in the alt-country band Lucero to provide some score music as he would become an occasional collaborator for Nichols.

After some delay, the film made its premiere in February of 2007 at the Berlin Film Festival where it was well received as it led to a run of festival appearances that brought a lot of word of mouth for the film. Following a limited release in March of 2008 where it only made more than $168,000 against its $250,000 budget. The film was still a favorite with the critics as it made it into some top-ten lists for the year of 2008 including from the famed Roger Ebert who named the film one of the year’s best.

Take Shelter



Despite the critical support he’s received for his first film, Nichols knew that being an independent filmmaker wasn’t going to be easy as he still took the time to develop his next project. That project eventually fell apart yet he did get the attention of independent film producer Sophia Lin who did accept another script that Nichols was working that would be his next film. The film would be about a man having a strange premonition about a storm coming to his home as he is consumed by fear and paranoia to protect his family while wondering if it’s all true. The film would be a more ambitious project than his first film as Lin would team up with Tyler Davidson to produce it as they gained nearly $5 million for the budget.

With Michael Shannon playing the lead role of Curtis LaForche, Nichols would also cast veteran actors such as Ray McKinnon as Curtis’ older brother and Kathy Baker as their mother while noted characters Katy Mixon and Shea Whigham would play supporting parts. For the role of Curtis’ wife, Jessica Chastain was cast as she was about to make waves for her work in Terrence Malick’s 2011 film The Tree of Life. The film would be mostly shot and set in Lagrange, Ohio with some additional shooting near Austin, Texas and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with regular cinematographer Adam Stone in 2010. While Nichols wasn’t able to get his brother Ben to create music, he was given the chance to work with composer David Wingo who had been scoring music for David Gordon Green and Jody Hill.

The film made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2011 where it was a big hit at the festival where it would receive a festival run for much of the year and then picked up by Sony Pictures Classic for a limited release in late September that year. The film would be a modest commercial success making back its budget yet it was a major hit with critics as the film was praised for its story as well as Shannon’s performance. Its success also gave Nichols some major clout as he was already embarking on his next project.

Mud



Since the premiere of Take Shelter at Sundance in early 2011, Nichols had been approached to make more films as he got the attention of producer Sarah Green who had also worked with Jessica Chastain on The Tree of Life. Inspired by the works of Mark Twain, Nichols’ third film would be about two boys who meet a mysterious drifter in an island in the middle of Arkansas River. The film would be a coming-of-age tale where a young boy not only learns about first love but also help a man try to reach out to a former flame. The project was fascinating as it got the attention of Matthew McConaughey who agreed to play the role of the titular character. Green provided Nichols the services of casting director Francine Maisler who would bring in Tye Sheridan from The Tree of Life to play Ellis while Jacob Lofland would play Ellis’ friend Neckbone. The cast would also include Reese Witherspoon as Mud’s old flame Juniper as well as small roles from Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, and Sam Shepard.

Retaining the services of cinematographer Adam Stone, composer David Wingo, and Nichols’ brother Ben providing additional music. The crew would also include production designer Richard A. Wright and editor Julie Monroe as the latter would become part of Nichols’ stable of recurring collaborators. Production began in September of 2011 in Arkansas as Nichols was given a $10 million budget as well as complete access to shooting around various locations in his home state. Especially in its river where Nichols and Wright helped create a boat that would be placed on a tree as it was integral for the plot. Nichols didn’t just want an air of realism but also that air of suspense as it relates to old enemies of Mud who want him dead.

The film made its premiere in May of 2012 at the Cannes Film Festival playing in competition for the Palme d’Or. While it didn’t win any prizes at the festival, the film was a major hit as it helped raise Nichols’ profile as a filmmaker as well as give Matthew McConaughey more acclaim where many believed he was in the midst of a career resurrection. Following its limited release in the U.S. in April of 2013, the film would be a hit not just critically but also commercially as it made more than $21 million in the U.S. box office and $11 million more worldwide. Though the film got overlooked during the awards season, the film would receive the Robert Altman Award for its ensemble at the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards.

Midnight Special



Following a break between films where Nichols had become a father, his time becoming a father would lead to a new project that would be about a father trying to protect his son from the government and a mysterious cult with the help of his estranged wife and a friend of theirs as they go on the road and on the run. The film was partially-inspired by Nichols’ love of sci-fi films including John Carpenter’s 1984 film Starman. Nichols took some time to write the script as he would get the support of producer Sarah Green as well as retain many of collaborators from his last film to be on board for the project while Michael Shannon was cast as the lead role of Roy Tomlin with recurring collaborators Sam Shepard and Paul Sparks playing small supporting roles. The cast would also include Joel Edgerton as Roy’s friend Lucas, Kirsten Dunst as Roy’s estranged wife Sarah, Adam Driver as government agent Paul Sevier, and Jaeden Lieberher as Roy’s son Alton.

Production began in January of 2014 with a $18 million budget in New Orleans where much of the film was shot there. The film would be Nichols’ most ambitious as it would rely partially on visual effects as Nichols wanted to maintain something that is real. Especially as it is about that relationship between father and son as they both try to escape the cult leader who is Roy’s father and wants Alton for something that he believes would send him to some kind of world. Nichols also wanted that air of suspense and action to be used but in a minimal sense so that it doesn’t deter from the heart of the story as some of the sci-fi elements didn’t just have some real-life stakes but also would be presented in a climax that is otherworldly.

Though the film was slated for a late 2015 release, it took some time for some of the post-production to be finished as well as the fact that Nichols was already working on another project at the same time. The film made its premiere at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival that May where it drew rave reviews as it led to a spring theatrical release in the U.S. While it would make $6.2 million in the U.S. box office despite the film being Nichols’ first film on a wide release scale. The film still managed to be a favorite with the critics as it helped give Nichols some mainstream visibility while maintaining his status as an independent filmmaker.

Loving



Nichols’ newest feature film is a dramatization over the real-life marriage between Richard and Mildred Loving as it was seen as illegal since the former was white and the latter was black. Starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in their respective roles as Richard and Mildred Loving with supporting parts from Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, Bill Camp, and Marton Csokas. Featuring the same collaborators that Nichols worked with in his previous work, the film marks as Nichols’ first period film as well as it wasn’t a film Nichols wanted to do but was convinced by his wife to do it. The film made its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that May where it was a major hit as it would get its theatrical release in November.

While he’s only made five feature films so far, Jeff Nichols is already creating a body of work that most filmmakers wish they could have as he is already on a roll. In an age where Hollywood wants to make films based on gimmicks, franchises, and such, Nichols is a filmmaker that American cinema needs as he creates stories about real people dealing with some type of situation whether it’s mysterious or real. Even as they’re set in places that is more homegrown rather than be set in cities or places that are often seen in Hollywood. If there’s any filmmaker that deserves a place to be called the best American filmmaker working today, it’s Jeff Nichols.

© thevoid99 2016