Sunday, September 30, 2018

Films That I Saw: September 2018



The fall is starting to arrive although it still feels warm here in the South and not in a good way. It’s wet and rainy as I’m just waiting for the cold to emerge as I tend to sleep better when it’s cold. Yet, it is the start of some serious film-watching with everyone trying to get a spot for the Oscars although I’m relieved to know that the widely-reviled Best Popular Film category is suspended and hopefully deleted. I think it’s a stupid category and it just brings in a lot of bad ideas all in an attempt to get ratings. If the Oscars want to create new categories, I’d suggest giving awards for the casting to its casting directors, for stunt work given to anyone leading the stunt team, and for dance choreography. That’s all the Oscar needs as these are people whose work don’t get enough credit and should be rewarded although I feel like the casting Oscar should be named after the famed Marion Dougherty in her honor.

Here in America, things are just as fucked up as it relates to the whole thing with Brett Kavanaugh who is the last person that should be sitting on the seat of the Supreme Court. While there’s people who don’t believe these claims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse that he’s being accused of. I actually believe these women due to the detail they were describing as having him in the Supreme Court is a bad idea and a slap in the face for all women. I would think of all of the young women who would be unable to get abortions or not have rights as it’s just another series of shit that is happening in America. The world is laughing at this country and let’s thank Fuckhead for that. Thanks a lot Fuckhead you stupid piece of shit.


In the month of September 2018, I saw a total of 35 films in 21 first-timers and 14 re-watches as four of these first-timers were directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Same as last month which I think is pretty good as one of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in Fat Girl. Here are my top 10 first-timers that I saw for September 2018:

1. Le notti bianche


2. Affliction


3. From Here to Eternity


4. Ginger and Fred


5. Call Me by Your Name


6. Thieves Like Us


7. Blue Collar


8. Italianamerican


9. Star Trek Beyond


10. Jane Fonda in Five Acts


Monthly Mini-Reviews

Megamind: The Button of Doom


This was a short film I saw on YouTube as I liked Megamind and often wondered when there will be a sequel. This little short made a year after it came out is a fun little short film that has Megamind and Minion selling their old gadgets until they learned about a gadget that was never used and things go wrong. It’s a fun little short that is enjoyable for kids but also has something for older audiences.

Bad Girl


This was a late film I saw on one of the channels from Showtime/the Movie Channel as it was an OK film. It’s about a family who moves somewhere in rural Australia where a teenage girl meets another teenage girl who turns out to be a lot of trouble. The bad girl is played by Samara Weaving as she is incredible in this as someone who is mysterious as well as have this side that is terrifying. It’s got the usual elements of suspense and drama but it does have some interesting visuals as it’s worth seeking out despite its flaws.

Industrial Light and Magic: Creating the Impossible


From the same people who created a documentary about the world of film editing is this documentary about the creation of the special effects team in Industrial Light and Magic. Narrated by Tom Cruise, it’s an interesting documentary about the history of visual effects and its evolution with George Lucas dominating much of the film as he co-founded the company. It also talked about how it would help take part in creating Pixar as well as pushing the boundaries of what visual effects could do before 2010.

Star Trek Beyond


This was a big surprise as I hope to do a full review of the film real soon along with other films of the Star Trek series as this was just a lot of fun. Justin Lin did a great job in not just with the visuals but also in maintaining that sense of camaraderie between the main cast in what is expected in the series. Even as the smaller moments of Spock and Dr. McCoy banter with the latter having to help the former who is injured as their scenes are fun as if they’re a married couple. I love what Sofia Boutella did in the film as this alien who helps the crew of the Enterprise as well as the fact that it never took itself seriously. It was also quite moving towards the end in which relates to what Spock was given from his older self as it’s something that I’m sure touched all fans of the series. Even as the film is a fitting tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin who are going to be missed.

Heaven Can Wait


A remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan that stars Warren Beatty which he co-directed with co-star Buck Henry and co-wrote with Elaine May is a film that is just full of charm and wit. While I had seen another remake of that story in Down to Earth starring Chris Rock and Chazz Palminteri, this film is not just funnier but also filled with a lot of heart. Especially in the scenes Beatty had with Julie Christie and Jack Warden while the funnier stuff comes from Charles Grodin as his devious attorney and Dyan Cannon as the cheating wife. It’s just a film that I hope to revisit again soon as I think Beatty as a filmmaker doesn’t get enough credit.

The Oslo Diaries


A documentary from HBO about the attempted peace treaty between Israel and Palestine in the 1990s is a sobering film that explores everything a group of people from both sides who were trying to create something that could’ve been a big step towards peace in the Middle East. Featuring some re-created footage shot on old VHS and interviews from the participants of the Oslo Accords, it’s a film that showcased how close both sides were achieving something that could’ve been huge and a major step forward but forces from both sides would undo all of those things. Even as relations between both Israel and Palestine has gotten worse with the people involved in the accords watching from the sidelines wondering what could’ve been.

Wrestling the Curse


A 30 for 30 short that I found on YouTube is a small piece about the Von Erichs who were a family of wrestlers that were considered among the greats. Yet, it is largely told by Kevin Von Erich who is the sole survivor of the five brothers who wrestled yet all endured moments of tragedy. Especially as they were considered a group of brothers that were destined for greatness and were selling out stadiums in Texas as fans wanted to see them fight off the Freebirds. It’s a nice short though I’m sure wrestling fans wanted more about the Von Erichs.

Pitch Perfect 3


I like the film series while I was hesitant about seeing the third as I learned how messy it is. It is a mess but it still a fun film though it’s not as good as the previous films. Even as they tried to do a lot of things to keep it entertaining and such though a few things in the film don’t work. Plus, why would anyone want to work with DJ Khaled? He sucks. Some of the music is good as it’s just a nice movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and yearns to be entertaining.

Top 10 Re-watches (that isn’t Lost in Translation):

1. The Avengers


2. Dr. No


3. Licence to Kill


4. The Spy Who Loved Me


5. Tomorrow Never Dies


6. For Your Eyes Only


7. Never Say Never Again


8. Diamonds are Forever


9. Live and Let Die


10. Octopussy


Well, that is it for September 2018 as the month did end on a high as I was able to see Nine Inch Nails and the Jesus & Mary Chain at the Fox Theatre as it was one hell of a concert. Next month will be focused largely on films of suspense, horror, and other weird films based on a list of films that is available on my DVR and local library including one of my Blind Spots for the year. Another big thing in October will be a few more films by Orson Welles in anticipation for the release of The Other Side of the Wind as I’ve just seen 2 of the three versions of Mr. Arkadin. For theatrical releases, I’m not sure what I’m going to watch but I know there’s a lot of good films coming out so I hope to see what I can get while I will still continue my NIN marathon as I’m extending it to the end of the year as I’ve already have thoughts about doing more for my music blog next year. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jane Fonda in Five Acts




Directed by Susan Lacy, Jane Fonda in Five Acts is a documentary film about the life and career of Jane Fonda as she talks about her life being the daughter of actor Henry Fonda as well as the many identities she took in being an actress, an activist, a workout enthusiast, and many other roles on screen and off screen. The film has Fonda also discuss many things that she encountered as well as aging as fellow actors and other personalities including family members and two of her three ex-husbands talk about the woman who has done a lot and is embarking on a new chapter in her life. The result is a fascinating and touching film from Susan Lacy.

The eldest daughter of Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda would make a mark of her own as an actress in film, TV, and theatre but also would take part in other ventures including activism. The film is told through five different parts with Fonda discussing many aspects of her life as the four preceding acts all represent the men who were important in Fonda’s life with the first being her father. Fonda revealed that for the image that her father had represented to the public was different from what he was in private as all Fonda wanted from him was to be proud of her. Plus, she admitted to struggle with her early image once she became an actress as well as be the public face of Henry Fonda’s daughter.

The preceding acts each represent the three men that Fonda would marry in filmmaker Roger Vadim, activist/politician Tom Hayden, and billionaire/media mogul Ted Turner. All of which would have Fonda discuss their importance in her life as well as giving her a sense of direction and identity but also revealed why the marriage fell apart. When it came to her activism, Fonda knew she was going to get a lot of heat but wanted to contribute something to the world and help people. When it came to the issues in the Vietnam War and her visit to North Vietnam during the war, Fonda does have regrets over the way she put herself into a position as the film opens with an audio recording of Richard Nixon talking about how bad Fonda has fallen and felt for her father.

Fonda also reveal a lot of her own faults as a person and as a mother where despite the glowing commentary she would receive from her son in actor Troy Garity and adopted daughter Mary Luana Williams as well as former stepdaughter Nathalie Vadim. Fonda’s eldest child in Vanessa Vadim doesn’t appear in the film as Fonda admits to not being a better mother to her due to her activism and selfishness even though her grandchildren do appear in the film looking at old family photos with Fonda. Then there’s Fonda’s mother in actress in Frances Ford Seymour who had some mental health issues including manic depression that only worsened during her marriage to Henry who would later have an affair with socialite Susan Blanchard who was nine years older than Jane. In April of 1950, Frances committed suicide when Fonda was 12 and Peter was only 10 as there is a scene of Fonda visiting her mother’s grave as it’s a somber moment that shows a sense of loss and overwhelming emotion of a woman who really loved her mother.

With the help of cinematographer Samuel Painter, Susan Lacy’s direction is straightforward in not just getting Fonda to speak openly along with members of her family but also friends and fellow actors such as producer Paula Weinstein, Robert Redford, and Lily Tomlin. Tom Hayden also appears as he talks about his marriage with Fonda and why it fell apart yet it is the rare appearance of Ted Turner at his ranch where he gets a visit from Fonda that is the most fascinating. Especially as it reveals there’s still a love between the two but it’s more of a friendship that has them riding horses on fields and watch buffalos.

Editors Benjamin Gray and Kris Liem would help Lacy in cultivating many archival interview footage that Fonda did in the past with Fonda commentating on where her head was at the time as well as the films she did as she admitted that some of her performances in her early films sucked. Sound editor Steve Borne would also cover through archives of audio including some of the famous recordings of Richard Nixon who was disgusted by Fonda’s activism. The film’s music by Paul Cantelon would provide a wonderful score that play into the highs and lows that Fonda endured as it is largely a low-key orchestral score.

Jane Fonda in Five Acts is a sensational film from Susan Lacy. It’s a film that explores the life of one of the finest entertainment and social figures who is still going to strong while still having things to say. Even as the woman herself dismisses the many myths about herself and her family as well as provide insight into a woman who is complex but also endearing. In the end, Jane Fonda in Five Acts is a phenomenal film from Susan Lacy.

© thevoid99 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Italianamerican




Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Mardik Martin, Italianamerican is a documentary short film that has Scorsese’s parents Charles and Catherine Scorsese talking about their experiences as immigrants while showing what they do on a day in their life. The film is an intimate that has Scorsese wanting to learn about himself and his roots where he turns to the people who brought him into the world. The result is an exhilarating and engaging film from Martin Scorsese.

Shot at the loft-apartment home of Charles and Catherine Scorsese with just a small crew, the film has Martin Scorsese talking to his parents about their life in Italy and how they arrived in America and what was it like back then. During the course of the entire film, the couple talk about so much more as the questions Scorsese wanted to ask ended up getting more than just answers but also insight into who he is as well as his family. Even as Catherine is cooking dinner for the family as well as the crew members that consist of cinematographer Alec Hirschfield and his brother Marc as a cameraman and the sound man in Lee Osborne. Particularly as Catherine would talk about how she got recipes from her mother, mother-in-law, and other relatives while talking about what it was like back then in Italy and why many went to America.

Much of Scorsese’s direction with the aid of cinematographer Alec Hirschfield is straightforward as it maintains an intimacy throughout the film in this apartment filled with plastic-covered furniture. Notably as Scorsese let his parents take over the film in their discussion over the family background as well as the family history that include some pictures that they show that would be inter-cut by editor Bert Lovitt with some stock footage of early 20th Century life in New York City. The pictures that include early photos of Scorsese as a child show a life that was simple but also loving and full of life including recent vacation photos Scorsese’s parents showed during their recent trip to Italy. While Charles Scorsese doesn’t talk as much as Catherine, he still provide some insight about the family and their roots with Catherine being someone who always has a lot to say and is this incredible presence onscreen even during the moments when she is unaware that she’s being filmed.

Italianamerican is an incredible film from Martin Scorsese. It’s an intimate documentary film that has Scorsese filming his parents where he learns about himself and his entire family as well as their roots. It’s a film that is full of life and energy as well as moments that are touching to display on the identities of those and who they are. In the end, Italianamerican is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) – (Street Scenes) – Boxcar Bertha – (Mean Streets) – Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince – (The Last Waltz) – Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - GoodfellasCape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) – (Casino) – (Kundun) – (My Voyage to Italy) – Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) – Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) – No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) – (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo (2011 film) - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) – The Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Fat Girl




Written and directed by Catherine Breillat, A ma soeur! (Fat Girl) is the story of a twelve-year old girl who is on vacation with her family including her 15-year old sister who falls for an Italian law student leading to a corruption of innocence. The film is a coming-of-age story that revolves on a young girl who deals with her looks as well as her older sister’s beauty just as she watches her sister’s loss of innocence. Starring Anais Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero de Rienzo, Arsinee Khanjian, Romain Goupil, and Laura Betti. A ma soeur! is an eerie and mesmerizing film from Catherine Breillat.

The film revolves around a couple of sisters vacationing where the eldest meets an Italian law student as she would lose her virginity to him thinking its love while her younger sister deals with what she sees and the corruption it would bring. It’s a film with a simple and minimalist premise as it mainly takes place in the span of a few days as it’s really about the relationship of two sisters who don’t really look like each other as the 15-year old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is thin and beautiful while the 12-year old Anais (Anais Reboux) is fat and insecure. Catherine Breillat’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more about Anais’ fascination with her older sister’s interest towards sex upon meeting the Italian law student Fernando (Libero de Rienzo) who charms Elena and her parents (Arsinee Khanjian and Romain Goupil). Upon visiting her later that night, the two engage in sexual activity much to Elena’s reluctance with Anais watching with discomfort and intrigue. Notably as the relationship becomes troubling with Anais feeling disconnected from Elena as well as some moments that would play into the dissolution of the relationship.

Breillat’s direction is intoxicating for the compositions she creates in the film as well as aiming for something simple and to the point in her approach to the story. Shot on locations in France at small towns such as La Palmyre for the beach scenes and Les Maithes for the resident scenes along with some interior shots at a studio at Arpajon. Breillat does use wide shots of these locations to play into the sense of boredom Anais and Elena endure during the vacation as well as these moments such as the woods that would be important in their idea of love. The attraction between Elena and Fernando is immediate but Elena’s idea of sex and losing her virginity is seen from something that feels innocent but Anais who would watch their first sexual encounter in her bed in the same room doesn’t see it that way. Especially as Fernando would coerce Elena into ideas about willing to do things for him as an act of love.

For Anais, seeing her sister falling for Fernando is troubling just as she starts to deal with her own physicality such as a scene looking at herself in the mirror exposing her breasts. It’s a scene that is disturbing considering that Anais is underage while Elena is 15 years old though she’s only one year away from being legal (in Europe) as it is equally as disturbing that she wants to lose her virginity to a law student in his 20s who would trick her into having sex thinking she would marry him later on. Instead, things get troubling as it relates to the fact that the vacation was cut short because Elena and Anais’ father had to leave vacation for business and later other things that would impact the vacation altogether during an appearance from Fernando’s mother (Laura Betti). Breillat would create these intricate compositions that play into the drama including a second sex scene that is shown from Anais’ perspective as she is seen in the foreground while Elena and Fernando are in the background. Even as it play into this idea of a loss of innocence that would come to ahead in the film’s final moments which play into a graphic scene of violence. Overall, Breillat creates a riveting yet unsettling film about two sisters and their loss of innocence in their encounter towards sex.

Cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is low-key in its approach to colors for many of the film’s exteriors along with the look of the interiors including the film’s two major sex scenes. Editor Pascale Chavance does amazing work with the editing as it is straightforward with some jump-cuts in a few scenes that don’t require long shots in some of the big dramatic moments. Production designer Francois Renaud Labarthe, with set decorators Cecilia Blom, Fabienne David, Christophe Graziani, Fabrice Heraud, Gerald Lemaire, Jean-Luc Molle, and Yann Richard, does fantastic work with the look of the bedroom that Elena and Anais share as well as a few other interiors at the house.

Costume designers Ann Dunsford and Catherine Meillan do terrific work with the costumes from the stylish and skinnier look that Elena wears to the more casual look of Anais. The sound work of Jean Minondo is superb for its natural approach to the sound in the way a location sounds as well as music that played on a radio. The film’s soundtrack largely consists of diegetic music that is either played on location or through a score by Breillat that is played in a couple of scenes with music from Laura Betti, Tavernanova, and David Bowie.

The casting by Fabrice Bigot, Gilles Cannatella, Olivier Carbone, Nicolas Lubin, and Michael Weill is wonderful as it feature a few notable small roles from Laura Betti as Fernando’s mother, Albert Goldberg as a mysterious man at a rest stop, Romain Goupil as Elena and Anais’ father, and Arsinee Khanjian as Elena and Anais’ mother. Libero De Rienzo is excellent as Fernando as a charming law student who falls for Elena as he convinces her to engage in anal and oral sex as a way to give her this idea of what love is. Roxane Mesquida is amazing as Elena as a 15-year old girl who falls for Fernando thinking it would give her this idea of love and sex only to realize that it’s actually complicated and filled with a lot of demands she’s too immature to understand. Finally, there’s Anais Reboux in an incredible performance as Anais as a 12-year old girl who is fascinated by the idea of sex despite her own issues with her appearance as she also becomes fascinated but also disgusted by what Fernando and Elena does as it adds to her own sense of despair as well as feeling disconnected from her sister.

A ma soeur! is a phenomenal film from Catherine Breillat. Featuring a great cast, mesmerizing visuals, and a disturbing story of the ideas of sex and love. It’s a film that is definitely not for everyone as it play into the idea of girls dealing with their own image as well as the expectations of love and sex that is filled with complexities they’re unprepared to understand as well as an ending that is visceral in its delivery. In the end, A ma soeur! is a tremendous film from Catherine Breillat.

Catherine Breillat Films: (A Real Young Girl) – (36 Fillette) – Romance - (Brief Crossing) – (Sex is Comedy) – (Anatomy of Hell) – (The Last Mistress) – (Bluebeard (2009 film)) – (La belle endormie) – (Abuse of Weakness)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Farms




For the 38th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. We venture into the subjects of farms whether it’s films about farming or films that are set in farm lands. Here are my three picks:

1. The Tree of Wooden Clogs



The 1978 winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival from Ermanno Olmi is truly one of the most fascinating films about farm life set just a couple of years before the 20th Century at the Bergamo region of Northern Italy. The film focuses on the lives of four farming families who work on land for a greedy landlord. It’s the study of the lives of these families set in the course of a year as they work and deal with a lot of hardships but also try to maintain an idea of community despite this emergence of change coming including ideas of socialism which the farmers are indifferent to. It’s a long film but an enriching one that showcases a way of life that is lost through ideas of greed and progress.

2. Son-in-Law



While the film doesn’t exactly fit the bill with the subject as it’s more about a girl from the Midwest traveling to California to go to college only to return to her home for Thanksgiving with her wild resident advisor. It is still set partially in the farm where Pauly Shore plays the resident advisor who learns about the idea of farming and embraces it through his own means such as feeding the pigs, cleaning up the shit, fixing the fences, milking cows, and cutting up some corn with the big-ass tractor. It’s one of the better films that Pauly Shore has been in during that brief run in the 1990s where he was a big comedy star.

3. At Any Price



From Ramin Bahrani comes a film that is about the modernization of farming as well as a man trying to expand his business only to get himself into trouble. Yet, it’s really more about a father and son at odds with ambition as the latter wants to be a race car driver and not take part in the family business although he knows a lot about what to do and move it forward. It’s a complex film that is one of Bahrani’s more accessible films so far yet it also showcases this idea of America that is coming to grips with the 21st Century and the need to adapt or die which does put a lot of pressure to farmers who are struggling with the way things are as of 2018.

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Thieves Like Us



Based on the novel by Edward Anderson, Thieves Like Us is the story of three men who escaped prison as they go on a crime spree throughout the American South during the 1930s. Directed by Robert Altman and screenplay by Altman, Joan Tewkesbury, and Calder Willingham, the film is a loose remake of Nicholas Ray’s 1949 film They Live by Night which was also an adaptation of Anderson’s novel as it blends elements of humor and crime. Starring Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Tom Skerritt, Bert Remsen, and Louise Fletcher. Thieves Like Us is a riveting and mesmerizing film from Robert Altman.

Set during the Great Depression in the American South, the film revolves around a trio of escaped convicts who become bank robbers as they would become successful and notorious only to go way over their head when they are later pursued by the authorities. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into three men that want to live the good life during the Depression as well as endure some of the trappings of success in their work as bank robbers. The film’s screenplay by Robert Altman, Joan Tewkesbury, and Calder Willingham does follow a straightforward narrative but it’s really more about three guys trying to plan robberies and such as one of them is a young man named Bowie (Keith Carradine) is someone that is learning the ropes of robbing but is eager to wanting to have a good life with a young woman in Keechie (Shelley Duvall). Yet, Bowie is pressured to continue robbing by his partners T-Dub (Bert Remsen) and Chicamaw (John Schuck) as the latter becomes more violent and troubling to the point that he would cause a lot of trouble.

Altman’s direction has elements of style in terms of the compositions and scenes he creates but he also does things that doesn’t play into conventions such as the robberies where he never reveals what happens during the robbery. Instead, it’s about the action outside where Bowie is the getaway driver as he waits for T-Dub and Chicamaw leaving the bank and getting into the car. It’s among these moments in the film that has Altman deviate from what is expected in caper films as he’s more concerned about the characters and how they plan a robbery. Even if it means laying low between robberies where they can get a chance to enjoy themselves as T-Dub would live at a house with Chicamaw and a woman whose young adult daughter is someone he is in love with. Shot largely on location in the state of Mississippi, Altman does maintain that air of realism into the locations such as the swamps and dirt roads along with showing this period of the American South during the Depression that was grimy but also kind of exciting.

Altman’s direction also emphasizes on the usage of radio reports as well as diegetic music to capture the idea of the times where it is either used as a form of entertainment or to intensify the drama during the film’s second act where Bowie, T-Dub, and Chicamaw become fugitives. Altman’s usage of long takes in the drama add to an energetic tone as well as the events that would occur in the third act with Chicamaw becoming violent as Bowie finds himself being a reluctant participant in these violent acts. Even as Bowie wants to take part in a simple life with Keechie but is pulled into wanting to participate in more robberies as it would eventually get more troubling. All of which has Altman showcase these haunting moments of violence that would haunt Bowie whose life is in greater danger just as he’s trying to make changes for himself. Overall, Altman crafts a witty yet compelling film about three convicts making a name for themselves as bank robbers during the Great Depression.

Cinematographer Jean Boffety does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it has a low-key approach to the way many of the daytime exteriors look with ideas of grainy photography as well as the way some of the scenes at night are lit. Editor Lou Lombardo does amazing work with the editing as it has an air of style for its usage of jump-cuts as well as a key scene towards the end with its usage of slow-motion as it is a highlight of the film. Costume designer Polly Platt does excellent work with the costumes from the look of the dresses the women wear as well as the clothes the men wear during those times. Sound mixer Don Matthews does fantastic work with the sound in the way music and radio programs sound like inside a car or at a house as well as the atmosphere of the locations including the scenes involving overlapping dialogue.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Arch Hall Sr. as a young man who picks up Bowie, T-Dub, and Chicamaw early in the film, Al Scott as a prison warden, Ann Latham as T-Dub’s young lover Lula, and Tom Skerritt in a terrific small role as the general store owner Dee Mobley who also runs a small-time criminal operation that he eventually abandoned. Louise Fletcher is fantastic as Lula’s mother Mattie as a woman who lets T-Dub, Bowie, and Chicamaw stay at her home where it eventually becomes chaotic to the point that she would later play a part in their downfall. Bert Remsen is excellent as T-Dub as eldest of the three thieves who walks with a cane and is always trying to ensure that things go well while not wanting to be violent as he enjoys the fruit of success.

John Schuck is brilliant as Chicamaw as the most brutal of the three thieves as well as someone who isn’t satisfied with robbing banks where he becomes more violent and unruly where he would get everyone into trouble. Shelley Duvall is amazing as Keechie as Mobley’s younger sister who falls for Bowie as they embark on a relationship where she knows what he does but also keeps it a secret while dealing with the idea that Bowie would abandon the good life in favor of the thrill of danger. Finally, there’s Keith Carradine in an incredible performance as Bowie as a young thief who contemplates his role as someone who is a robber where he relishes in having money and wanting a good life but becomes disturbed by some of the violence he encounters as it’s a role that has Carradine display humor but also someone who comes to term with the trouble he’s created and the need to make things right.

Thieves Like Us is a sensational film from Robert Altman that features great performances from Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall. Along with its ensemble cast, evocative cinematography, loose take on theft and notoriety, and an unconventional take on the caper genre. It’s a film that play into the idea of three men wanting to succeed through crime only to go way over their heads once they become notorious. In the end, Thieves Like Us is a phenomenal film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) – (The James Dean Story) – Countdown (1968 film) - (That Cold Day in the Park) – M.A.S.H. - Brewster McCloud - McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) – The Long Goodbye - California Split - Nashville - Buffalo Bill and the Indians or, Sitting Bull's History Lesson - 3 Women - (A Wedding) – (Quintet) – (A Perfect Couple) – (HealtH) – Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) – (Streamers) – (Secret Honor) – (O.C. and Stiggs) – Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) – (Aria-Les Boreades) – (Tanner ’88) – (Vincent & Theo) – The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) – (The Gingerbread Man) – Cookie's Fortune - Dr. T and the Women - Gosford Park - The Company - (Tanner on Tanner) – A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Affliction




Based on the novel by Russell Banks, Affliction is the story of a small-town policeman who investigate a fatal hunting accident as he deals with his own issues in his family including his ex-wife and his domineering father. Written for the screen and directed by Paul Schrader, the film is the study of a man becoming obsessed with trying to solve an accident while dealing with the history of violence from his family including his own troubled relationship with his father. Starring Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, Willem Dafoe, Jim True-Frost, Mary Beth Hurt, and James Coburn. Affliction is a harrowing yet mesmerizing film from Paul Schrader.

Set in a small town in New Hampshire, the film revolves around a man who investigates a hunting accident at the woods nearby where it raises questions about what happened just as the man is starting to unravel through his theories as well as his own behavior in relation to his father. It’s a film that is really the study of a man who is extremely flawed in what he does as a local cop as well as a father and as a man who is having a hard time trying to be a good person while bearing the dark persona of his father. Paul Schrader’s screenplay follows the life of Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) who is a local police officer that works for the local town selectman in Gordon LaRiviere (Holmes Osborne) as he is divorced and dealing with this detachment from the fact that he carries some of the abusive behavior of his father Glen (James Coburn) which he is in denial of.

While the narrative follows many of the activities of Wade, it is told partially through his younger brother Rolfe (Willem Dafoe) who doesn’t appear in the film until its second act. Rolfe is aware of the abuse that his father instilled on Wade, himself, and their other siblings as he is the one who only appears briefly during its second act as his character lives in another town and having a life completely different from his father and older brother. Still, Rolfe’s narration does provide some insight into Wade and coming to terms with the abuse their father had done as it would seep into Wade as it relates to his relationship with his daughter Jill (Brigid Tierney) whom he unknowingly neglects and tries to win over as he has a lot of bitterness towards his ex-wife Lillian (Mary Beth Hurt). While Wade tries to attempt to create a normal life with girlfriend Margie Fogg (Sissy Spacek), he would unfortunately introduce her to his father as she would watch over him as it becomes overwhelming just as Wade’s attempt to investigate the hunting accidents starts to become troubling.

Schrader’s direction is understated in its presentation as he aims to capture life in a small town in New Hampshire during the Halloween period though it’s snowy as it is shot mainly on location in Quebec. While Schrader would use some wide shots for some of the locations including a few of the mountains in the background as well as the intimacy of the small town. Much of Schrader’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it play into the way Wade would interact with other characters as well as scenes with his father where it is clear there is still a sense of fear whenever Wade is being seen from his father’s perspective. The direction also would have Schrader create different perspectives of what Wade is thinking about as it relates to the accident that involved his friend Jack Hewitt (Jim True-Frost) who was accompanying one of the rich locals in Nick Wickham (Wayne Robson) for a deer hunt. Even as Rolfe would provide Wade an idea of what might’ve happened as it add to Wade’s sense of paranoia.

Schrader also uses these haunting flashback scenes shot in grainy film stock that show Wade and Rolfe as kids and the terror they endured around their father who is a full-blown alcoholic with a lot of disdain for the world. Even during the film’s second act following an event that would bring Rolfe back to town along with his other siblings as it shows a man who could care less about what just happened as well as how he presents himself in front of his children. The third act has Schrader play into this man unraveling and dealing with the fact that he is like his father in the way he drinks heavily as well as becoming unruly towards those he works for and those he is friendly with. The film’s final moments isn’t just this revelation for Wade about his father but also in the fact that he will never escape his father’s cruelty as well as the actions he would later commit that would hurt those who are close to him. Overall, Schrader crafts an eerie yet riveting film about a man coming to terms with himself and his father’s abuse towards him.

Cinematographer Paul Sarossy does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of snow and naturalistic photography for many of the daytime exterior scenes to the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Jay Rabinowitz does excellent work with the editing as it include a few montages in the flashbacks as well as what Wade sees in the hunting accident along with some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Anne Pritchard and art director Michel Beaudet do fantastic work with the look of the place where Wade works at as well as the diner her frequents and the home where his father lives in its messy look.

Costume designer Francois Laplante does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely casual to play into the look of the winter with its heavy coats as well as the Halloween costumes the kids wear early in the film. Sound editor Tony Martinez does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations including the sounds of winds and cars on the snow. The film’s music by Michael Brook is wonderful for its mixture of folk and ambient music to play into the drama as well as some of the intense moments of the film.

The casting by Ellen Chenoweth and Kathleen Chopin is great as it feature small roles from Marian Seldes as a local who keeps track of financial records as she revealed some things to Wade about LaRiviere, Wayne Robson as Nick Wickham who would go on a hunt that lead to a horrible accident, Joanna Noyes as Wade and Rolfe’s mother in the flashbacks, Brawley Nolte as the young Wade, Michael Caloz as the young Rolfe, Christopher Heyerdahl as the diner owner Frankie, and Brigid Tierney as Wade’s daughter Jill who is often unhappy around her father due to his neglect and not really being there for her. Jim True-Frost is terrific as the local hunting guide Jack Hewitt who would guide Wickham for a hunt that would turn tragic. Holmes Osborne is superb as Gordon LaRiviere as the town selectman who is trying to run things while is also doing some business that would make him rich much to Wade’s suspicions.

Mary Beth Hurt is fantastic as Wade’s ex-wife Lillian who still has issues with Wade as she is aware of his neglect towards their daughter while reluctant in having Wade be around her. Willem Dafoe is excellent in his brief performance as Wade’s younger brother Rolfe as a man who briefly returns home to deal with a family matter as he is aware of what is going on as it’s an understated performance that has Dafoe be aware of the abuse he’s endured but also with an acceptance over the persona of his father. Sissy Spacek is brilliant as Margie Fogg as the diner waitress who is also Wade’s girlfriend as she is aware of Wade’s issues while getting to know Glen closer than she expected which makes her uncomfortable as she is trying to get Wade to get away from his father.

James Coburn is phenomenal in a monstrous performance as Glen Whitehouse as Wade and Rolfe’s alcoholic and abusive father. Coburn displays this physicality as someone who lords over those who he feels are weak as there is an element of him that is filled with hate but also seems to have a dark glee in the way he conveys this idea of masculinity and power as it is a career-defining performance from Coburn. Finally, there’s Nick Nolte in an incredible performance as Wade Whitehouse as a local cop who is investigating a hunting accident thinking it’s not an accident where he would later unravel into his own thoughts as well as his relationship with his father that is complicated and filled with fear as it’s an eerie and chilling performance Nolte in one of his career-best roles to date.

Affliction is a tremendous film from Paul Schrader that features great performances from Nick Nolte and James Coburn. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, haunting music, and study of abuse and identity. It’s a film that explore a man unraveling as he deals with the fact that he inherits some of his father’s dark attributes as well as the dark history of his family. In the end, Affliction is an outstanding film from Paul Schrader.

Paul Schrader Films: Blue Collar - (Hardcore) – American Gigolo - Cat People (1982 film) - (Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) – (Light of Day) – (Patty Hearst) – (The Comfort of Strangers) – (Light Sleeper) – (Witch Hunt) – (Touch) – (Forever Mine) – (Auto Focus) – (Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) – (The Walker) – (Adam Resurrected) – (The Canyons) – Dying of the Light – (Dog Eat Dog) – First Reformed

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Blue Collar




Based on an article by Sidney A. Glass, Blue Collar is the story of a three men who decide to rob a safe at a union headquarters building as a way to deal with the mistreatment they receive from their bosses as well as those working for the union. Directed by Paul Schrader and screenplay by Paul and Leonard Schrader, the film is a study of three men who deal with money issues as well as the fact that they’re not being treated fairly where they make a chilling discovery of what is going on at the union. Starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto. Blue Collar is a witty yet compelling film from Paul Schrader.

Set in Detroit, the film revolves around three men who work at an auto plant in the city as they struggle to get by as they feel mistreated by their foreman while their union representative doesn’t listen to their case prompting them to steal from the main office. It’s a film that play into the sense of indifference that blue collar workers are dealing with as they would struggle with finances as two of them have families to take care of. The film’s screenplay by Paul and Leonard Schrader follow the lives of two African-American workers in Zeke Brown (Richard Pryor) and Smokey James (Yaphet Kotto) and a Polish-American in Jerry Bartowski (Harvey Keitel) as they all work in the auto plant with many others in Detroit. Like everyone else, they work hard all day and go to the bar at night to relax and then return home.

Still, there are some problems at the plant as Zeke’s locker has been busted and has to open the locker through a hole which has damaged his pinky finger. Smokey owes money to a loan shark while Jerry has to get money for his daughter’s braces and Zeke finds himself in trouble with the IRS as they decide to rob a nearby union headquarters believing there is money. Yet, what they would find instead would impact so much more during the film’s second half as it play into what they found relating to criminal activities within the union. Notably in the third act as the three men find themselves to be big targets as it would involve blackmail and other dark ideas.

Paul Schrader’s direction is straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates as well as the fact that he shoots the film on location in Detroit where many cars are built. While there are some wide shots in Schrader’s direction, much of his approach to the compositions involve medium shots and close-ups while he play into the atmosphere of not just the auto plant but also the nearby bar and the homes of the three characters. Schrader’s direction also play into the atmosphere of the auto plant where it’s grimy and on-going as there’s a character in the film who is unable to get a cold drink from a vending machine which still hasn’t been fixed. Schrader also play into the struggles that these three men endure while they would have the time to relax and party but the idea of becoming rich starts to fade during the third act. 

Even as the Zeke, Jerry, and Smokey were approached by a federal agent in John Burrows (Cliff DeYoung) who believes something is up but they don’t want to become rats and get everyone else in trouble. Still, the dramatic stakes that occur in the third act in a couple of intense key sequences showcase a couple of the protagonists deal with something dangerous. Even as these events would force the protagonists to make uneasy decision that becomes more about themselves than everyone else. Overall, Schrader crafts a gripping yet engaging film about three auto plant workers trying to stick it to their bosses.

Cinematographer Bobby Byrne does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is straightforward for many of the exterior scenes while using some stylish and low-key lighting for some of the exteriors and interior scenes set at night. Editor Tom Rolf does terrific work with the editing as it is straightforward while featuring some rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s humor and suspense. Production designer Lawrence G. Paull and set decorator Peg Cummings do fantastic work with the look of the homes of the characters as well as the bar they go to after work.

The sound work of Willie D. Burton, Marvin Lewis, and Winfred Tennison is superb for the way the auto plant sounds with its machines and atmosphere as well as the scenes at the bar. The film’s music by Jack Nitzsche is brilliant as it’s a mainly a mixture of blues, rock, rhythm and blues, and country with additional contributions from Ry Cooder who provides a soundtrack of music including pieces from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike & Tina Turner, David Willis, Byron Berline and Sundance, and Captain Beefheart.

The casting by Vic Ramos is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Jimmy Martinez as a friend of Smokey in Hernandez who tried to help Smokey with their issues, Leonard Gaines as an IRS official who meets with Zeke, Chip Fields as Zeke’s wife Caroline, Lucy Saroyan as Jerry’s wife Arlene, Boran Silver as the auto plant foreman that everyone calls Dogshit Miller, and Ed Begley Jr. as an auto plant worker in Bobby Joe who shares the frustrations of his fellow co-workers. Lane Smith is superb as Clarence Hill as a union representative who tries to help out the workers yet is really involved in other activities as he is someone that Zeke dislikes. Cliff DeYoung is terrific as John Burrows as a federal agent who is trying to get information from the workers with claims he wants to protect them when is really someone that wants them to snitch on their fellow workers.

Harry Bellaver is fantastic as union leader Eddie Johnson who listens to Zeke’s complaints while being aware that there is this air of corruption happening yet is also a man that is cynical about the ways of the world. Yaphet Kotto is incredible as Smokey James as a maintenance man at the auto shop who is suspicious of what is going on as he needs the money to pay off debts while trying to maintain the idea that everyone has to work together to make things happen. Harvey Keitel is marvelous as Jerry Bartowski as a Polish-American auto worker who is the last to join on the scheme due to his daughter’s need for braces on her teeth as he deals with the dangers of the aftermath of the scheme prompting him to make an uneasy decision. Finally, there’s Richard Pryor in a phenomenal performance as Zeke Brown as an auto worker who is frustrated with management’s indifference towards everyone as he would take charge of the scheme to rob from the local office only to discover something bigger as it would later cause all sorts of conflicts for himself as he would make an uneasy decision that would help his family.

Blue Collar is a sensational film from Paul Schrader that features great performances from Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto. Along with its study of working class environments and corruption within those trying to help the common man, it’s a film that play into three men wanting to stick it to their bosses only to get way over their head into a world that is far more complicated and troubling. In the end, Blue Collar is a phenomenal film from Paul Schrader.

Paul Schrader Films: (Hardcore) – American Gigolo - Cat People (1982 film) - (Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) – (Light of Day) – (Patty Hearst) – (The Comfort of Strangers) – (Light Sleeper) – (Witch Hunt) – (Touch) – Affliction – (Forever Mine) – (Auto Focus) – (Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) – (The Walker) – (Adam Resurrected) – (The Canyons) – Dying of the Light – (Dog Eat Dog) – First Reformed

© thevoid99 2018