Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Films That I Saw: February 2018



What the fuck America? What’s the point of having gun control laws if you can’t stop a psychotic 19-year old kid from killing 17 people at a school in Florida? Yet, the solution of El Stupido is…. To have teachers carry guns. There are students at this school who are making more sense of what needs to be done while this moron would make the whole thing about himself. No wonder the rest of the world thinks of America as not just as a laughing stock but a country that no one takes seriously anymore. It’s just the continuous amount of insanity that is emerging in the country as it’s become less safe these days yet there is a solution for all of this. The problem is that there’s politicians who are busy trying to hide whatever money they were given by the NRA.

When I heard what happened on that horrible day in Florida which was Valentine’s Day. I was thinking “oh shit, someone is going to blame David Bowie for this as he made a song called Valentine’s Day about a high school shooter”. Of course, Dumb Man blames it on movies and video games which is always being blamed for as it was also being the source of blame back in 1999 during Columbine. In all honesty, fuck the NRA and everything it stands for. If I ever come across Charlton Heston’s grave or tombstone, I will gladly take a shit on it.


In the month of February, I saw a total of 33 films in 21 first-timers and 12 re-watches with four of the first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Definitely a more relaxing month than the previous as there were days where I didn’t want to watch films. The highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in Black Girl as I feel like it’s a film everyone should see as one of the reasons why I love doing this is to find something and tell everyone else about it. Here are the top 10 First-Timers for February 2018:

1. Black Panther


2. Antonia's Line


3. The Shape of Water


4. The Thief of Bagdad


5. Downfall


6. The Producers


7. Bessie


8. Babette's Feast


9. My Brother's Wedding


10. Loving


Monthly Mini-Reviews

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword


I do like Guy Ritchie as he has a style that is unique even though it can be flawed. His take on the King Arthur story is a mixed bag as it rely too much on CGI and extravagant action set pieces instead of focusing on the story. Charlie Hunnam is good as King Arthur while it does have some inspired casting such as Jude Law as the antagonist and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a sorceress aiding Arthur. It’s just that the story doesn’t really do enough to be compelling while it tries to be gritty and street-like in its approach as it’s just an OK film.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul


I enjoyed the film series as I think it’s a witty family comedy about a kid dealing with growing pains and accepting responsibility for his actions. This new film with an entirely new cast including Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott as the parents this time around is just horrendous. It’s not just the casting that is uninspiring as fans of the original film series had every right to be upset as the kids who are cast as Greg and his older brother Rodrick are just bad as the kid who plays Greg portrays him as an irresponsible little asshole who is more concerned with wanting to go to a video game convention than take part in a family vacation. He runs around in his underwear in one sequence that is just creepy while there’s a recurring gag that has him trying to get a diaper out of his hands which makes him an Internet phenomenon for the wrong reasons. Yet, the most offensive thing about the film is this homage to Psycho in which Greg is hiding in a bathtub from a guy he keeps bumping into as the man sits on a toilet to take a shit as the sound is just obscene. Then he finds the kid and ugh… it’s a slap in the face to film buffs. Plus, since it’s a road movie. The scenes on the road are excruciatingly boring as this is a film that should be avoided at all costs.

Gifted


There is always a gem to come around as this film from Marc Webb is actually a nice film to watch. Sure, it’s predictable but at least it has characters who are compelling as it centers on a man who is raising his niece that proves to be a very gifted young girl that can solve any kind of complex mathematical problems. Still, he wants her to be normal as a promise to her late mother but his mother would arrive to complicate things as the casting of the film that includes Chris Evans, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, Lindsay Duncan, and an incredible performance from Mckenna Grace as the young girl makes the film such a joy as it needs to be seen despite its conventions.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Somewhere


2. Witness


3. Wonder Woman (my mother finally saw it and loved it)


4. Spider-Man: Homecoming


5. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief


6. Romeo and Juliet


7. Hitchcock/Truffaut


8. The Great Muppet Caper


9. Whip It


10. Short Circuit


Well, that is it for February 2018. Next month, I’m not sure what new releases I will see as I’ll be focusing whatever I have in my never-ending DVR list and whatever film I can get from the local library. Along with the upcoming Auteurs piece on Taika Waititi in which I will watch some shorts as well as Boy. I’m also working on what might be the return of the Favorite Films essay series as the film I’m writing about is Coming to America as it’s in the early stages as I hope to have it finished. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off….

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Black Girl




Written and directed by Ousmane Sembene that is based on his own novella, La Noire de… (Black Girl) is the story of a woman from Senegal who travels to France where her work as a maid for a wealthy white family that becomes not what she thought it would be. The film is a study of alienation and repression from the eyes of a woman who arrives into a world that sees anyone from Africa as beneath them as she also copes with her identity. Starring M’Bissine Therese Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinek, Robert Fontaine, and Momar Nar Sene. La Noire de… is a ravishing yet eerie film from Ousmane Sembene.

The film follows a young woman from Senegal who meets a Frenchwoman in the city of Dakar where she is hired to be their maid and go to France hoping to make some good money and live a decent life. Instead, she finds herself having to serve the rich French couple and endure all kinds of verbal abuse from the Frenchwoman as it would become overwhelming as she thinks about her old life in Senegal. Ousmane Sembene’s screenplay has a back-and-forth narrative that follows the protagonist of Gomis Diouana (M’Bissine Therese Diop) who copes with her situation as she thinks about how she got hired and her old life in her home village near Dakar. Much of the film is told from Diouana’s perspective with a lot of voice-over narration (provided by Toto Bissainthe) where her job was to watch over the children of this couple but instead has to serve them where it’s very demanding. Especially as she’s never given much time to herself nor have the chance to explore her surroundings as she’s heard so many great things about France.

Sembene’s direction is intoxicating in capturing life in 1960s Senegal as well as the sense of alienation Diouana endures in the French seaside town of Antibes. Shot on location in Dakar and Antibes, Sembene would show two different worlds that would play into this conflict that Diouana would endure throughout the film. Sembene would use a lot of wide shots of the locations but much of his compositions are set in the close-ups and medium shots to play into Diouana’s sense of alienation and her surroundings. Notably in a scene where Diouana is serving guests of the French couple as Diouana is hearing what her employers are saying about her. There is also a key scene where Diouana gets a letter from her mother as the narration has Diouana believing that the letter is false as it just adds to this sense of repression as well as a mental sense of domination from the perspective of her employers.

Sembene’s direction has a looseness in the way Diouana’s life in Dakar is as she has a boyfriend (Momar Nar Sene) while being very playful and happy. Even as her job as a nanny of sorts in Dakar for the same couple where she watches the kids is actually filled with some joy. When Sembene is in Antibes, it has a different feel where Diouana is completely all by herself in a world that is dominated by white people who are rich and are often absorbed into their own bullshit. Even as a guest would want to kiss her against her will as it just adds to this sense of smugness from the people she’s serving as she knows what they’re talking about as it relates to African colonialism and how they view their contributions to Africa. It just play into Diouana’s own repression where Sembene would create a powerful conclusion followed by a return to Dakar that just shows how the world views Africa and their own ignorance about what they’re really doing. Overall, Sembene crafts a rapturous and haunting film about a young woman’s journey to France from Senegal and the oppression she would endure.

Cinematographer Christian Lacoste does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the vibrancy of the exteriors in Dakar as well as the beauty of Antibes and the true attention to detail into how people look such as the locals in Dakar as well as Diouana’s own interaction with her employers. Editor Andrew Gaudier does amazing work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in its approach to the drama while it would have some jump-cuts to play into some of the looser elements in the film. The film’s soundtrack mainly feature an array of traditional African music as well as contemporary music from France to play into the different world that Diouana is in.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Raymond and Suzanne Lemery as a couple of guests of the French couple, Ibrahima Boy as a young boy with a mask, Nicole Donati and Bernard Delbard as a couple of guests at a dinner party, and Momar Nar Sene as Diouana’s boyfriend whom she meets when trying to find a job and deals with Europe’s influence in Senegal. Robert Fontaine and Anne-Marie Jelinek are excellent as the French couple who hire Diouana with Fontaine as the indifferent husband who would pick Diouana up on her arrival while Jelinek is the more aggressive and abusive madam who is so full of herself. Finally, there’s M’Bissine Therese Diop in a phenomenal performance as Gomis Diouana as a young woman from Senegal whose dream to go to France becomes a nightmare as she endures cruelty, indifference, and doubt where it’s a restrained yet evocative performance that plays into a woman dealing with a situation and make sense of what she’s enduring.

The 2017 Region 1/Region 2-disc DVD/1-disc Blu-Ray from the Criteron Collection presents the film in a new 4K digital film restoration by the Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project with the aid of Cineteca di Bologna and with the blessing of Sembene’s son Alain. The film is presented in black-and-white with Dolby Digital mono (uncompressed in its Blu-Ray release) in French with new English subtitle translation. The DVD/Blu-Ray set features an abundance of special features that relates to the film as well as its creator Ousmane Sembene. In the first disc of the DVD, there’s the film’s trailer for its 2016 restoration edition as well as a twelve-and-a-half minute interview with actress M’Bissine Therese Diop conducted in 2016 as the actress talks about her experience working with Sembene as well as the themes on the film. She also revealed that many of the things seen in the film are actually true in the way Europeans treat Africans as she had seen it up close while she talked about her own experiences in the film including her collaboration with Sembene whom she knew was someone that had ideas of what he wanted to do while Robert Fontaine, who played her employer, was Diop’s acting coach that she knew for a while and was one of the few Europeans who opposed France’s rule on Africa. Diop also talked about her character and the ideas she brought to the film as it added to realistic elements of the film which was something a few of the politicians in Senegal at the time were not ready for.

The 22-minute interview with filmmaker/scholar Manthia Diawara about the film and Sembene has Diawara talk about the film’s importance in cinema as well as its place for African cinema. Diawara talks about the fact that the film is based on a true story that Sembene learned about when he was in France and turned it into a novella. Diawara talks about what was happening in Senegal at the time as the country had just become independent yet its president at the time was still doing deals with France that made some uneasy. Diawara also talks about the film’s unexpected success and its impact on African-American cinema and African cinema though there were some that hoped Sembene would stay in Senegal but the filmmaker refused to be pigeonholed in order to tell the stories he wanted to do which added more weight to his legend.

A one-minute alternate color sequence provided by the BFI in their own restoration of the film is really the driving scene in Antibes where it does have a beautiful look as it was a sequence shot originally in color before going into black-and-white for its final version. The two-minute excerpt of the March 1966 broadcast of the JT de 20h is an interview with Sembene who talks about the film as well as getting the Prix Jean Vigo which surprised him as he told the interview that he was about to leave until his landlady told him.

The second disc of the DVD features a 1994 one-hour documentary film entitled Sembene: The Making of African Cinema by Manthia Diawara and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The film follows Sembene as he talks about his views on Africa and African cinema as well as the need for the continent and its countries to create its own identity after years of being colonized by other countries for so many years. Talking to various film students as well as filmmaker John Singleton, Sembene would also talk about some of the dark historical context of the country and its struggle for independence as a lot of films had to do with the search for an identity. Plus, he never uses professional actors while often telling stories about those who aren’t part of traditional society which has upset some of the African audiences from upper-middle class backgrounds. It’s a compelling documentary that showcases the films Sembene made up till 1994 as well as his views of what Africa could be and what they need to do to achieve that.

The 20-minute interview with scholar Samba Gadjigo has him talking about Sembene and his contribution to cinema. Notably as he was someone that lived in France where he was a member of the country’s communist party as he learned to read and write as he had been unable to as a child. He also learned about what was happening in Africa and why there hasn’t been any stories told about them. Despite the success of his films early in his career, Gadjigo revealed that there weren’t a lot of cinemas in Senegal and other countries in Africa as many of Sembene’s films were seen in Europe and in America. Gadjigo also talked about Sembene’s body of work as it revealed a lot of the stories he told and the common themes they had about oppression and the need to find one’s voice as many of films had been banned in Senegal, France, and other parts of Africa because of its political commentaries. Nevertheless, those who did work with Sembene in the 1960s would become filmmakers themselves and helped create a movement for African cinema and eventually have their films seen by Africans.

The 20 minute short film Borom sarret (The Wagoner) is Sembene’s debut film as it is about a day in the life of a cart driver where a man deals with his work as he tries to do his job. Yet, he would deal with customers who don’t pay him as he tries to continue to work as it would be trying as well as endure a sense of alienation in his surroundings where he drives a customer to the city. It’s a tremendous short film that explore the early years of Senegal’s independence and some of its drawbacks for those who live in rural areas as well as the sense of oppression they endure when they arrive in the city. The thirteen-minute interview with filmmaker/scholar Manthia Diawara on the short has him talking about the short film’s importance to African cinema as well as Sembene’s political commentary on what he wanted to say. Even as the short would have an impact on some of the later films he did as it relates to struggle of working-class Senegalese.

The DVD/Blu-ray set also include an essay from film critic Ashley Clark entitled Black Girl: Self Possessed. The essay doesn’t just talk about the film but also Sembene and how the film was made knowing that the novella he wrote wouldn’t be enough to reach the people in him country since many Senegalese at the time were illiterate. The film was released six years after the country had declared its independence from France but were still mired in the stench that was left from colonialism as it forced Sembene to make films about those that weren’t prospering from this new independence. Clark would also talk about many of the film’s themes of postcolonial prejudice and the sense of superiority Europeans had towards Africans which only added to their ignorance of what they did to them for so many years and their treatment of Diouana in the film. Its ending relates to the Europeans facing the sins they’ve created as it would haunt them from the people they’ve tried to rule over who will create something hopeful for their continent as it’s a must-read for anyone interested in African cinema.

Le Noire de… is a tremendous film from Ousmane Sembene. Featuring its great cast, gorgeous visuals, haunting music, and themes on identity and cruelty during the post-colonial period of Senegal in France. It’s a film that showcases a woman dealing with prejudice and superiority as she forces to face the reality of who she is and the need to reclaim it. In the end, Le Noire de… is a phenomenal film from Ousmane Sembene.

Ousmane Sembene: (Mandabi) – (Emitai) – (Xala) – (Ceddo) – (Camp de Thiaroye) – (Guelwaar) – (Faat Kine) – (Moolaade)

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Black Panther (2018 film)




Based on the comic series by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Black Panther is the story of a king of an isolated yet thriving African country who finds himself dealing with his new role as well as an enemy who wants to claim his right to the throne. Directed by Ryan Coogler and screenplay by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, the film is an exploration of a man trying to protect his country while dealing with some of the drawbacks of his country’s isolationist approach from outsiders as Chadwick Boseman plays the titular role of the hero and the King of Wakanda in T’Challa. Also starring Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Leticia Wright, Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Isaach de Bankole, and Angela Bassett as the Queen Mother of Wakanda in Ramonda. Black Panther is a riveting and exhilarating film from Ryan Coogler.

Following the events in which King T’Challa finds the true killer of his father as well as deal with conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, the new king of Wakanda returns home where he doesn’t just deal with his new role but also the threat of new enemies who challenge T’Challa’s claim to the throne as well as what the country possesses. It’s a film that doesn’t just explore a man dealing with the weight of what he has to do to protect his country and its people but also deal with the sins of the past that his predecessors had made including his own father T’Chaka (John Kani) as it relates to the country’s isolationist persona. The film’s screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, with un-credited contributions from Donald and Stephen Glover, doesn’t just explore some of the fallacies of being an isolationist country that prefers to keep its resource known as vibranium to itself rather than share it with others in fear they would use the resource for devious reasons.

It’s this sense of isolation that would prove to be futile as the film has a prologue in which the young T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) confronts a man (Sterling K. Brown) who helped the notorious arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) in obtaining vibranium. That man would have a son named Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) who would later create havoc with Klaue’s help as he has some legitimate reasons for wanting to stake his claim to Wakanda’s throne. For T’Challa, the news about Killmonger as well as his failed attempt to capture Klaue has him turning to his father’s longtime advisor Zuri (Forest Whitaker) about some truths of Killmonger’s identity as well as what happened back in 1992 as it relates to Killmonger’s father. Killmonger’s motivations for wanting to claim his right to the throne definitely has a lot about not just Africa’s role in the world but also the need to rise up against those that had repressed the continent and its people where he sees Wakanda as a country that should lead this revolt. For T’Challa, he understands Killmonger’s reasons but knows that it can go wrong where he finds himself having to deal with Killmonger.

It’s not just Zuri that T’Challa turns to for advice and wisdom but also his mother Ramonda and other tribe elders who express concerns for Killmonger’s claim and Klaue’s black-market dealings. Still, T’Challa has others to count on such as his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is the country’s tech genius, his former lover/spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is the leader of the king’s personal bodyguard regiment known as the Dora Milaje who all understand T’Challa’s struggle to make the right decisions. There are also tribe leaders such as longtime friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who wants the country to thrive yet understands that Killmonger has some legitimate views about Wakanda. Killmonger’s threat to the throne would also force T’Challa to turn to a tribe leader in M’Baku (Winston Duke) whose tribe isn’t part of the council due to ideological disagreements as he would see what Killmonger is trying to do with Wakanda.

Coogler’s direction is sprawling not just in its action set pieces but also for the way he would create a country that is unique in the middle of Africa where it disguises itself as a third-world nation but is really a first-class country that has technology that is far more advanced than the rest of the world. Shot mainly at EUE/Screen Gems studio in Atlanta with a few sequences shot in Busan, South Korea and Oakland, California, the film does play into this idea an African country that never experienced being colonized or endure ideas of racism like other countries in Africa. The country of Wakanda is a character in the film where it has this mixture of being pure in its fields, mountains, and rivers while the cities are filled with these immense technological advances but that are also colorful and with its own identity. It’s a country that Coogler created where it feels like it could be real and it also displays elements of tradition and culture that has a lot of respect of what Africa is and what it could be if they weren’t shackled by colonialism and centuries of horrible atrocities and oppression.

Coogler’s direction also has some stylistic flair in its visuals as well as in some of the action scenes where he would create some tracking crane shots to play into the scope of the action as well as some of the dramatic moments in Wakanda. The usage of wide and medium shots do capture that beauty of Wakanda with a great depth of field as Coogler would see what goes inside of the country as it relates to its mines as well as the council meetings where tribe leaders, tribe elders, and others are treated equally in a shot with T’Challa part of this circle. Especially the women as the Dora Milaje is a task force that takes care of business where Coogler knows how to present them with this air of importance as well as knowing they’re a regiment not to be fucked with. The stakes do become more important in the third act where T’Challa has to turn to those who are loyal to him as well as unexpected allies that include CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) who would see what Wakanda really is as well as why the country has isolated itself leading to this climax between T’Challa and Killmonger. A showdown that isn’t just about Wakanda’s future but also a chance for the former to prove his worth as the country’s true king. Overall, Coogler crafts a gripping yet thrilling film about a king defending his throne and people from a mysterious outsider.

Cinematographer Rachel Morrison does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of colors and lighting cues for many of the exterior settings in South Korea and Wakanda as well as some low-key yet gorgeous looks for some of the interiors including the vibranium mines and Wakandan herbs. Editor Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello do excellent work with the editing as it does have elements of style without going too much into fast-cutting editing styles where it allows the audience to see what is going on as well as provide rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s humorous moments. Production designer Hannah Beachler, with set decorator Jay Hart and supervising art director Alan Hook, does incredible work with the look of Wakanda in the buildings as well as the palace hall and Shuri’s lab to showcase a world that is unique as it is a highlight of the film.

Costume designer Ruth E. Carter does amazing work with the costumes from the look of the Black Panther costumes to the colorful robes and uniforms that the characters wear as it is based on a lot of African clothing as it is another of the film’s highlights. Makeup designer Joel Harlow does fantastic work with the some of the makeup that the characters would sport including some scars in the bodies and prosthetics that one of the tribe elders would have. Special effects supervisor Daniel Sudick and visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann do terrific work with the visual effects in the way they present some of the exteriors of Wakanda and its city as well as the vibranium mines and other things including Shuri’s technology as it is another highlight of the film.

Sound designer Steve Boeddeker, along with co-sound editor Benjamin A. Burtt, does superb work with the sound as it help play into some unique sound effects as well as textures in the sound to play into the locations and weapons that are used. The film’s music by Ludwig Goransson is phenomenal for its bombastic mixture of orchestral music with elements of traditional African music in its mixture of string and vocal music as it play into the world that is Africa while music supervisor Dave Jordan would provide a mixture of traditional African music and some hip-hop with original songs by Kendrick Lamar who would help cultivate a soundtrack that features contributions from Vince Staples, SZA, 2 Chainz, Schoolboy Q, Saudi, Khalid, Swae Lee, Yugen Blakrok, Jorja Smith, Future, the Weekend, and several others as it’s a highlight of the film.

The casting by Sarah Finn is tremendous as it feature some notable small roles from John Kani as T’Challa’s father T’Chaka, Atandwa Kani as the young T’Chaka, Denzel Whitaker as the young Zuri, the quartet of Danny Sapani, Connie Chiume, Dorothy Steel, and Isaach de Bankole as tribe elders, Seth Carr as the boy version of Killmonger, Ashton Tyler as the young T’Challa, the obligatory cameo from comic co-creator Stan Lee, Florence Kasumba as Okoye’s right-hand woman Ayo who is second-in-command of the Dora Milaje, and Sterling K. Brown in a small yet pivotal role as a Wakdadan agent who would play a major role into the drama that would occur many years later. Andy Serkis is terrific as Ulysses Klaue as a black-market arms dealer that is trying to get a hold of vibranium to sell as it is a comical yet fun performance from Serkis. Forest Whitaker is superb as Zuri as a royal advisor who was a friend of T’Chaka as he would guide T’Challa about his role as well as carry secrets that he knew would haunt him. Angela Bassett is fantastic as Queen mother Ramonda as T’Challa and Shuri’s mother who would help T’Challa with his role as well as deal with revelations about Killmonger.

Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as W’Kabi as a tribe leader who leads the country’s border defense team that is a friend of T’Challa who finds himself intrigued by what Killmonger is offering while Winston Duke is brilliant as M’Baku as a tribe leader of an isolated mountain clan who has issues with T’Challa but realizes the seriousness of Killmonger’s threats. Martin Freeman is amazing as Everett K. Ross as a CIA agent trying to capture Klaue in South Korea only to be injured by an attack where he’s taken to Wakanda as he learns about the country and helps T’Challa deal with Killmonger. Danai Gurira is incredible as Okoye as the leader of the Dora Milaje special forces unit whose job is to protect the king as she is also a traditionalist of sorts as it relates to Wakanda as she also sees Killmonger as a serious threat to everything she stands for. Letitia Wright is marvelous as Shuri as T’Challa’s teenage sister who is considered to be the smartest person in the world as she creates much of the country’s technology as well as provide gadgets for her brother and is also willing to defend her brother’s throne by any means necessary.

Lupita Nyong’o is remarkable as Nakia as a former lover of T’Challa as a spy for the country who works to liberate people from other countries as she helps T’Challa in his new role as well as the threat of Killmonger whom she sees as a dangerous extreme. Michael B. Jordan is phenomenal as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens as a mercenary who has legitimate claims to the throne of Wakanda as he’s an unconventional villain that has not just political and social motivations for his claim to the throne but also personal as he displays a sense of charisma that makes him a top-tier antagonist that has some compelling arguments about Wakanda’s place in the world. Finally, there’s Chadwick Boseman in a sensational performance as the titular character/King T’Challa of Wakanda as a man who has just become king as he deals with his new role and the new threats that are emerging where it’s a performance that has humor but also a gracefulness and the need to display humility as a man that is trying to create his own legacy but also play a role that carries a lot of weight as it’s a career-defining performance for Boseman.

Black Panther is a tremendous film from Ryan Coogler. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, top-notch art direction, stylish costumes, thrilling visual effects, a killer music score and soundtrack, and themes that are willing to engage audiences about political and social themes around the world. It’s a film that isn’t just an entertaining and riveting superhero film but it offers so much more as it allows audience ideas of what an African country could be but also what it could for the world and the people with a simple message that universal and relevant. In the end, Black Panther is a magnificent film from Ryan Coogler.

Ryan Coogler Films: Fruitvale Station - Creed (2015 film)

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man & the Wasp - (Captain Marvel) - (The Avengers: Infinity Wars Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Antonia's Line



Written and directed by Marleen Gorris, Antonia’s Line is the story of an independent-minded woman who returns to her home village where her arrival would create small changes for the village throughout the course of half a century and through the generations of people around her. The film is a look into the life of a village following the aftermath of World War II where a woman and her daughter would play a key role into the evolution of a small village and the people living at the village. Starring Willeke van Ammelrooy, Els Dottermans, Jan Decleir, Marina de Graaf, and Mils Seghers. Antonia’s Line is a ravishing and extraordinarily rich film from Marleen Gorris.

The film follows the life of a woman who returns to her birth village in the aftermath of World War II with her adult daughter as they would settle and make a life there where they would make little changes for the next half-a-century. It’s a film that play into the lives of various people in this small Dutch village who would become part of this thriving community of farmers and ordinary people who would live a life of peace and harmony despite some obstacles along the way. Marleen Gorris’ screenplay is largely told from the perspective of a narrator (Lineke Rijxman) where it begins on the final day of the titular character (Willeke van Ammelrooy) who is awaiting for her death with her loved ones including her daughter Danielle (Els Dottermans), her granddaughter Therese (Veerle van Overloop), and great-granddaughter Sarah (Thyrza Ravesteijn). Though Gorris never reveals certain events in story and when it takes place, it just adds to the development of the characters and their surrounding including those who started off as people opposed to Antonia’s arrival only to accept her later on.

Throughout the course of the story, Antonia and Danielle would each face their own obstacles with the latter seeing things come to life in a humorous way as she is new to the home of her mother while wanting to become an artist. Both Antonia and Danielle would get suitors in their own way with the former having a relationship with a kind farmer in Bas (Jan Decleir) while Danielle would have a child from a man she met through an acquaintance and later fall for Therese’s tutor Lara (Elsie de Brauw) whom she would have a lesbian relationship with. Another person Antonia and her family would be close to is an old friend named Crooked Fingers (Mil Seghers) who is this reclusive intellectual that reads a lot of books but often display a lot of cynical views which would intrigue Therese as a child and as an adult as she would become this child prodigy in math and music. Therese would also endure moments that nearly shook her to the core as it relates to a man named Pitte (Filip Peeters) who was the son of a rival farmer that abuses women including his mentally-handicapped sister DeeDee (Marina de Graaf) where he returns fifteen years after his exile from town to claim his ownership of the family farm.

Gorris’ direction is simplistic in its visuals where it doesn’t really go for a lot of stylistic elements with the exception of a few bits of fantasy that Danielle would see. Shot mainly in rural locations in Belgium, the film does play into this simple world of small villages and farm countries where everyone kind of knows each other. Gorris would use some wide shots to establish the vastness of the locations but also in the way she would view certain parts of the locations and how the characters fit in towards a certain location. There is also a repeated wide shot of a dinner that Antonia would have as it’s filled with family, friends, and other locals that eventually gets bigger with each passing year as it play into the closeness of the community. Even in a scene during the second act where Pitte had returned and has managed to anger Antonia in a way that is unlike anything where it’s followed by young local men who learned what he did and give Pitte exactly what he needed.

Gorris’ direction doesn’t have a lot of close-ups as it’s often centered on more than one character as she uses a lot of medium shots in the film. Notably in a montage where various characters in the film are making love to express their sense of joy. It’s among these moments that play into the closeness of the community where even the church becomes less oppressive through forms of playful blackmail and everyone becomes less judgmental. The film’s third act would change in tone though Gorris would create some beautiful compositions to play into the fact that times change and people would go away including elements of tragedy but it adds to the way life is which Antonia would tell to her great-granddaughter. Even as the film opens and ends with Antonia’s death as it all play into the circle of life with those who had been with her being there as she embarks on another adventure. Overall, Gorris crafts an enchanting and rapturous film about a woman’s return to her hometown and creating a sense of change and community during the course of half a century.

Cinematographer Willy Stassen does excellent work with the cinematography as it play into some of the natural elements of the exterior locations in the fields and small towns with some low-key lighting for a few scenes at night including the local pub. Editors Wim Louwrier and Michiel Reichwein do brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some stylish montage sequences and some playful jump-cuts. Production designer Harry Ammerlaan does amazing work with the look of the farm and other buildings in the village including Crooked Hands’ home filled with books, the church, and the local pub. Costume designer Jany Temime does fantastic work with the costumes as it help play into ordinary yet colorful look of the clothes and how they would evolve through each passing year and decade.

Makeup designer Jan Sewell does incredible work with the makeup in the way the characters look as they age while not needing to do too much in terms of conventions in the way characters age. The sound work of Dirk Bombey is superb as it play into the natural atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the things heard in the places the characters go to. The film’s music by Ilona Sekacz is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that play into the dramatic elements of the film as well as providing various music pieces ranging from classical to pop to play into the period of the times.

The casting by Job Gosschalk and Hans Kemna is great as it feature some notable small roles from Catherine ten Bruggencate as the Mad Madonna who howls at night, Paul Kooj as her Protestant neighbor living under her, Flip Filz as the curate who forgoes his vow of chastity, Wimie Welhelm as Letta as a woman Antonia and Danielle meet in finding a man to have sex with Danielle as she later marries the curate, Leo Hogenboom as the village priest, Jacob Beks as the rival farmer Daan, Truus te Selle as his wife, Michael Pas as his youngest son Janne who wants to control the farm despite Pitte’s return, Jan Steen as the mentally-challenged Loony Lips, Marina de Graaf as Pitte’s mentally-challenged sister Deedee who would marry Loony, Reinout Bussemaker as Therese’s longtime childhood friend/husband Simon, Esther Vriesendorp and Carolien Spoor as the younger versions of Therese, Fran Waller Zeper as the Russian pub owner Olga, and Dora van der Groen as Antonia’s mother who appears briefly in the film on her deathbed.

Filip Peters is terrific as the abusive and bullish Pitte who is cruel to his sister Deedee where he would be gone from town for 15 years only to return to claim his inheritance where he later commits an unforgivable and unspeakable act that makes him a pariah among its locals. Thyrza Ravesteijn is fantastic as Sarah as Therese’s daughter who would inherit her mother’s intelligence but also a sense of curiosity about the world as she becomes close to her great-grandmother. Elsie de Brauw is wonderful as Lara as Therese’s tutor who would fall for Danielle as they would have a relationship of their own that manages to not stir any kind of trouble among the locals. Jan Decleir is superb as Bas as a farmer who falls for Antonia as he would be her companion as well as be someone who enjoys her sense of independence. Mil Seghers is excellent as Crooked Fingers as a reclusive philosopher as a man who would be Therese’s mentor knowing how gifted she is while dealing with the many things about the world.

Veerle van Overloop is brilliant as Therese as a woman who possesses great intelligence as well as the need to do so much yet has a hard time finding an intellectual equal as well as cope with its drawbacks in her attempt to connect with others. Els Dotterman is amazing as Danielle as Therese’s mother and Antonia’s daughter who aspires to be an artist but also wants to be a mother where she deals with her own sense of individuality while wanting to be an integral part of the community her mother helped built. Finally, there’s Willeke van Ammelrooy in a phenomenal performance as Antonia as a woman who returns to her home village where she would revive her family home as well as create something new that would thrive as she would also guide the generation of women in her life as well as many others as it’s a graceful and radiant performance from van Ammelrooy.

Antonia’s Line is a magnificent film from Marleen Gorris. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, and a compelling story about community where everyone lives freely and without judgment. It’s a film that isn’t just a riveting feminist film but also a film that shows what a woman could do to make small changes that would later become something bigger for everyone else. In the end, Antonia’s Line is an outstanding film from Marleen Gorris.

Marleen Gorris Films: (A Question of Silence) – (The Spirit of Grass) – (Broken Mirrors) – (The Last Island) - (Mrs. Dalloway) – (The Luzhin Defence) – (Carolina (2003 film)) – (Within the Whirlwind)

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Babette's Feast




Based on the short story by Karen Blixen under the Isak Dinesen pseudonym, Babette’s Feast is the story of a housekeeper who decides to create a feast for religious villagers in late 19th Century Denmark. Written for the screen and directed by Gabriel Axel, the film is a look into a woman with a mysterious past that decides to take action in the hopes of bringing people together to celebrate the 100th birthday of their late yet beloved pastor. Starring Stephane Audran, Birgitte Federspiel, Bodil Kjer, and narration by Ghita Norby. Babette’s Feast is an evocative and enchanting film from Gabriel Axel.

The film follows the life of two sisters and their French housekeeper who lived together for fourteen years when the latter had been taken in despite the fact that the sisters had no money. During their time as the sisters are running their father’s congregation with the remaining villagers left in their small village, their housekeeper plans to create a feast to celebrate what would’ve been the 100th birthday of the congregation leader. Gabriel Axel’s screenplay opens with the story of these two sisters in their youth where they are both pursued by different suitors who visit their small village but both women would stay with their father and later run his congregation. The story then shifts to thirty-five years later where the Frenchwoman Babette (Stephane Audran) has arrived based on the recommendation by a former suitor of one of the sisters who has left France due to a conflict in the country. The story would move fourteen years where Babette receives a letter from home as it would be a brief trip where she would return with ideas for a grand feast for the sisters and the villagers.

Axel’s direction is understated in terms of its setting as well as not going for any kind of stylistic shots to go for something simple and to the point. Shot on location in the small town of Lonstrup in Denmark, Axel would use wide shots to get a scope of the locations as well as some of its surroundings including its seaside cliffs and the oceans. Yet, much of what Axel would do is maintain an intimacy with its close-ups and medium shots where the film opens with Philippa (Bodil Kjer) and Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) is holding a congregation meeting with its small villagers while Babette would serve them food. The flashbacks of the sisters when they were younger as it’s told by Ghita Norby’s narration to play into the world they could’ve been in with Philippa being courted by an officer and Martine by an opera singer due to her voice. Axel would show why the sisters chose to stay as it relates to their father and the congregation that he is leading in this small yet fruitful community.

The tone of the film would change upon Babette’s arrival as she would eventually learn how to speak Danish as well as things do lighten up until Babette has to return to France briefly where a soup that she’s known to make that is recreated by the sisters isn’t as good. It would lead to the third act where Babette returns from France with a bevy of things as it relates to the film’s climatic feast. The attention to detail into what Babette would create in her feast is engaging where Axel is fixated on all of the ingredients she’s bringing in as well as the preparation for the entrees she’s making. The dinner which would include a couple of major guests as there’s a sense of apprehension from Philippa due to a surreal dream she had about what she and the guests will eat. Once the guests would get as their feast, something magical happens as it play into the unexpected as well as the familiar. Overall, Axel crafts a ravishing and sumptuous film about a French housekeeper and the feast she makes for her mistresses and their guests.

Cinematographer Henning Kristiansen does brilliant work with the cinematography with its usage of natural lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes in the village with a few artificial lighting for a few scenes in the places outside of the village. Editor Finn Henriksen does excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts to play into a few scenes of Babette cooking or in moments that play into the lives of the two sisters. Production designer Sven Wichmann does amazing work with the look of the home that the sisters live in as well as the houses in the village and the interiors of the rich places that the suitors of the sisters lived in.

Costume designer Annelise Hauberg does fantastic work with the costumes from the plain and colorless dresses of the villagers to the colorful look of the officer’s uniform. Sound mixer Hans-Eric Ahrn does superb work for the sound in creating a natural mix of sounds to play into the atmosphere of the village and its surroundings as well as the climatic dinner scene. The film’s music by Per Norgaard is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that has elements of opera and traditional religious music that play into the world that the characters live in.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small performances from Gert Bastian as a poor villager who loves Babette’s soup, Pouel Kern as Philippa and Martine’s father, Hanna Stensgaard and Vibeke Hastrup in their respective roles as the younger versions of Philippa and Martine, Thomas Antoni as a Swedish lieutenant, and Bibi Andersson as a Swedish courtier that would introduce General Lowenheilm to his wife. Jean-Philippe Lafont is superb as the opera singer Achille Papin as the man who courts Philippa as he hears her voice and later send Babette to her and Martine. 

Jarl Kulle is fantastic as General Lorens Lowenheilm as a man who falls for Martine as he would see her years later in attending the feast. Bodil Kjer and Birgitte Federspiel are amazing in their respective roles as Philippa and Martine as two sisters who run their father’s congregation as well as dealing with its dwindling followers and reluctantly give Babette the chance to create her feast. Finally, there’s Stephane Audran in a phenomenal performance as Babette as a woman who becomes the housekeeper for two sisters where she would create food that would be extraordinary and wanting to return the favor to the sisters by creating a feast that would become an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Babette’s Feast is a sensational film from Gabriel Axel. Along with its incredible cast, gorgeous visuals, sumptuous music, and images of delicious food, it’s a film that explore what an ordinary woman could to help two old ladies and a village in giving them something that is extraordinary. In the end, Babette’s Feast is a spectacular film from Gabriel Axel.

© thevoid99 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bessie



Directed by Dee Rees and screenplay by Rees, Christopher Cleveland, and Bettina Gilois from a story by Rees and Horton Foote, Bessie is the story of the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith and the journey she would take to be one of the pioneers in blues. The film is an exploration of a woman in her rise to become the great singer as well as struggle with success and identity as she is played by Queen Latifah. Also starring Michael K. Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps, Bryan Greenberg, and Mo’Nique as Ma Rainey. Bessie is a rapturous and intoxicating film from Dee Rees.

The film follows the life and career of Bessie Smith who was considered an influential figure in the world of blues music from her period of success during the 1920s to the late 1930s before her death in 1937 at the age of 43. The film focuses on Smith’s life from her early period as a struggling singer in 1912 where she meets the famed blues singer Ma Rainey who would become her mentor to the mid-1930s just a few years before her death. The film’s screenplay by Dee Rees, Christopher Cleveland, and Bettina Gilois is straightforward with a few flashbacks as it relates to Smith’s troubled childhood though the film opens with Smith singing at a club when she was at her peak and then returning home as it would become a reflective story of sorts. Notably as Smith thinks about wanting to succeed and give people in her family as well as those close to enjoy her success. Learning from Ma Rainey in how to perform, engage the audience, and deal with the business side of things, Smith and her brother Clarence (Troy Kittles) would form their own show as they would get help from Jack Gee (Michael K. Williams) who would become Smith’s first husband.

Gee would also handle some of Smith’s businesses much to her brother’s dismay where things would go well but Smith has her own interests towards both men and women as well as a love of alcohol. Smith’s affairs with both sexes would cause trouble in her marriage to Gee who would take on other interests with her money as it would create a lot of discord. Even as Smith’s estranged older sister Viola (Khandi Alexander) whom she had reconciled with would take charge of Smith’s own personal life. Yet, it would also play into Smith’s fall when the Great Depression occur forcing her and Clarence to deal with their dwindling fortune but also the realization that there’s people who still listen to her music and needed her.

Rees’ direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way it captures early 20th Century life at a time when African-Americans are excluded from certain parts of the country. Shot largely in areas around Atlanta and other parts of the American South, the film has Rees use the rural locations to play into the American South where it was segregated but also lively as African-Americans had their own community and culture to live on. Rees would use wide shots of the locations as well as scenes in theaters to play into scope of the world that Smith is as well as the number of people who come to see her including a shot in the cotton fields as she watch them wave to her on her train. Yet, much of Rees’ direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it play into Smith’s interaction with other people in her life as well as the key moments that would shape her such as a stabbing she would receive from a man she earlier insulted for being rude to her. Rees’ close-ups would also play into the stage as well as the attention to detail of what Smith had to do to engage the audience in her performance as it would be her gift but also cause problems with Ma Rainey who realizes that Smith is a better singer.

Rees would also create some dream-like elements to play into Smith’s life at home as well as display something that is extravagant into the stage show such as the opening shot of her under a blue limelight. It would be seen again to set up the third act as it relates to the toll success would have on Smith. Even as she is aware that not everyone including upper-class white society will accept her as she also doesn’t give a fuck if they accept her or not. The third act does play into her descent where Rees reveals not just the pain of her childhood but also her own flaws where she would drive those who cared about her away. Still, there are those who were willing to stick by her as Rees would show what those outside of her circle were willing to do such as the character of John Hammond (Bryan Greenberg) in bringing her music to the masses. Overall, Rees creates a compelling and lively film about the life of one of the pioneers of blues music.

Cinematographer Jeff Jur does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it play into some of the film’s natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes as well as some unique lighting for some of the interiors and scenes at night. Editor Brian A. Kates does excellent work with the editing as it play into the performances of the music as well as some of the drama that occur in the film. Production designer Clark Hunter, with set decorator Traci Kirshbaum and art director Drew Monahan, does amazing work with the look of the theaters, trains, cars, and other places to play into the look of the times. Costume designer Michael T. Boyd does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the dresses and hats that the women wore in those times as well as the suits and other stylish clothing that play into the period of the 1920s to the ragged look of the Great Depression.

Visual effects supervisors Paul Graff, Gong Myung Lee, and Eric J. Robertson do nice work with the visual effects as it is mainly set dressing for some of the exteriors including scenes outside of the train. Sound designer Kris Fenske and sound editor Damian Volpe do superb work with the sound in the way the crowd reacts to the music as well as some of the things happening on location. The film’s music by Rachel Portman is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score in some of the childhood flashbacks and intensely-dramatic moments while the rest of the soundtrack feature a lot of blues music from the real artists that are actually sung by the actors who play them including bits of jazz in the mix including the early dirty blues music of Lucille Bogan.

The casting by Billy Hopkins is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Joe Knezevich as the talent agent Frank Walker who would get Smith to sign with Columbia Records, Bryan Greenberg as the famed record producer John Hammond who would record Smith’s music late in her career, Oliver Platt as the controversial writer/photographer Carl Van Vechten who is fascinated by Smith until he told her the title of his controversial novel that pisses off Smith, Kamryn Johnson as the young Smith, Chantelle Rose Mussenden as the wannabe blues singer Gertrude Saunders that Jack wants to promote and develop, and Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s manager Pa Rainey who handles her business as well as help Smith in how to handle business. Tika Sumpter is wonderful as Smith’s lesbian lover Lucille whom she sleeps with as well as have her around for companionship while Mike Epps is superb as Richard as a bootlegger of alcohol who would become another of Smith’s lovers but also someone who really cares about her. Tory Kittles is fantastic as Smith’s brother Clarence who often accompanies her and makes sure things go well while being part of a power struggle over control of her career with McGee.

Khandi Alexander is excellent as Smith’s estranged older sister Viola who had never been fully supportive until she sees how successful Smith has become where she would reconcile with her but would also see her sister’s downfall very closely. Michael K. Williams is brilliant as Jack McGee as a man who falls for Smith and helps manages her career where he would do everything to make sure things go well but would also become frustrated by her other ventures leading to him doing things on his own. Mo’Nique is incredible as Ma Rainey as the blues pioneer who would be Smith’s mentor as a woman that knows how to engage the audience and deal with business as well as know where not to go as it’s a commanding and charismatic performance. Finally, there’s Queen Latifah in a phenomenal performance as Bessie Smith as a woman wanting to make it as a singer but also has a huge lust for life and everything else yet is haunted by her childhood and insecurities about herself as it’s a career-defining performance for Latifah.

Bessie is a spectacular film from Dee Rees that features a sensational performance from Queen Latifah in the titular role. Along with its great supporting cast, amazing music, and gorgeous visuals, it’s a film that doesn’t play into the conventions of a bio-pic while allowing audiences who aren’t familiar with the blues hear its importance to the world of music. Even as it gives light to some of its pioneers who would make that music important. In the end, Bessie is a tremendous film from Dee Rees.

Dee Rees Films: (Eventual Salvation) – Pariah - (Mudbound)

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Two Cars, One Night




Written and directed by Taika Waititi, Two Cars, One Night is the story of two boys and a girl who meet at a car park where one of the boys finds himself falling in love. The eleven-minute short film explores the idea of first love in a simple yet enchanting setting. Starring Rangi Ngamoki and Hutini Waikato. Two Cars, One Night is a dazzling yet enchanting film from Taika Waititi.

Set in a car park at a pub in a small, rural town in New Zealand, the film revolves around two boys in a car as they see a girl in a car beside them. Though the eldest boy and girl start off not liking each other, they become fascinated with one another as writer/director Taika Waititi uses a simple setting for this interaction to come to life. Even as it play into elements of humor where they mock each other but then realize that there is a sense of attraction. Waititi’s direction does bear elements of style as anything outside of the story is told in a speedy, time-lapse style yet much of his approach to the compositions are straightforward. Waititi’s usage of close-ups and medium shots play into the interaction of the characters as well as how they bond. There is some uncertainty into how long this interaction will last or will it ever continue but Waititi displays a tenderness into the idea of first love. Overall, Waititi creates a compelling yet charming film about first love in a car park.

Cinematographer Adam Clark does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the locations as well as the usage of lights of cars that pass by. Editor Owen Ferrier-Kerr does excellent work with the editing with its usage of time-lapse speed edits and jump-cuts. Art director Simon Harper does nice work with a few of the exterior look of the pub. Visual effects supervisor Tim Capper does terrific work with a few of the visuals for the time-lapse sequences. Sound editor/recordist Nic McGowan does superb work with the sound in how cars sound as they pass by as well as what is heard in the pub from the outside. The film’s music by Craig Sengelow is wonderful for its low-key score as it is mainly some ambient-based guitar sounds with vocals in the background for the film’s final credits.

The film’s amazing cast feature notable small roles from Dion Waikato and Riwai Waka as a couple of men passing by and Te Ahiwaru Ngamoki-Richards as the youngest boy in the car named Ed. The incredible performances of Rangi Ngamoki and Hutini Waikato in their respective roles as Romeo and Polly are a joy to watch in how they naturally approach each other and their conversation which has a mixture of humor and uncertainty.

Two Cars, One Night is a marvelous film from Taika Waititi. It’s a fascinating 11-minute short film that displays a lot of innocence told with light-hearted humor. In the end, Two Cars, One Night is a remarkable film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: Eagle vs. Shark - Boy (2010 film)What We Do in the Shadows - Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Thor: Ragnarok - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi

© thevoid99 2018