Saturday, February 22, 2020

Broken Blossoms

Based on a short story by Thomas Burke, Broken Blossoms is the story of an abused young woman who meets a kind-hearted Chinese man as they fall in love as he helps her get away from her abusive father. Written for the screen and directed by D.W. Griffith, the film is a silent drama that explores a woman who finds solace in this foreigner much to the dismay of her father. Starring Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, and Donald Crisp. Broken Blossoms is a fascinating though flawed film from D.W. Griffith.

Set in London’s port areas, the film revolves around a Chinese man who moves from China to London in the hopes of spreading the message of Buddha to the Anglo-Saxon world as he befriends a beautiful but abused and unwanted young woman who is treated cruelly by her boxer father. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into the misfortunes of a young woman and a Chinese man trying to live in a world that is cruel and unforgiving as he tries to display his ideals to the world. D.W. Griffith’s script doesn’t have a strong plot as it never goes more into the misfortunes of this young woman as well as the Chinese man trying to help her. Even as the character of her father plays up to the many clichés of a man full of pride and cruelty with some of the dialogue not being strong enough to get past the clichés.

Griffith’s direction does have elements of style in the compositions he creates though it is hampered by many of the shortcomings of the film’s script. While the setting he creates for the foggy port area of London is entrancing to watch with some color schemes to help set the mood. Griffith’s approach to getting his actors to perform at times comes off as overly theatrical or overly-emotive while having white actors play Asians definitely puts the film on a bad light. Despite the choices made in those times, Griffith does create some unique visuals and compositions in capturing the dreariness of the locations through wide and medium shots along with the interaction between characters in the latter as well as close-ups. Griffith also plays into the melodrama as it relates to the plight of the young woman and the kindness she would receive from the Chinese man despite the terror her father would bring that would include this terrifying scene in a closet that showcases her father’s rage. Overall, Griffith creates a compelling though substandard film about a young woman seeking solace in a kind Chinese man.

Cinematographer G.W. Bitzer does excellent work with the film’s grainy de-colored cinematography with its usage of filters to help set the mood and lighting schemes for scenes set at night. Editor James Smith does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to heighten up the drama. The visual effects work of Hendrik Sartov does terrific work with the visual effects to help create foggy look for a few scenes as well as the look of China. The film’s music by Joseph Turrin, for its 2001 restoration, is amazing for its score with its emphasis on lush orchestral strings with some traditional Chinese-inspired pieces including its usage of string instruments and some piano pieces as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s cast feature some notable small roles from Norman Selby aka Kid McCoy as a prizefighter, Arthur Howard as Burrows’ manager, George Beranger as a friend of Burrows who spies on the Chinese man, and Edward Piel Sr. as a Chinese man known as the Evil Eye who causes trouble as it’s one of the worst performances as it is a white man playing an evil Chinese man as it just feels wrong. Donald Crisp’s performance as the boxer Battling Burrows has their moments in terms of the ferocity and terror he brings though it is hampered by some of his performance choices including the boxing scene as he isn’t convincing as a boxer. Richard Barthelmess’ role as the Chinese man Cheng Huan as it has moments where he displays that air of kindness but the fact that he’s a white man playing Chinese where he has to squint his eyes just adds that air of discomfort into his performance. Finally, there’s Lillian Gish in a fantastic performance as Burrows’ daughter Lucy where she brings that air of despair into her performance despite the fact that her character is 15 and she’s a lot older than that though Gish also provides that sense of radiance into the performance to make up for that flaw.

Broken Blossoms is a stellar though flawed film from D.W. Griffith. While it does feature some nice visuals, gorgeous compositions, and a few notable performances from its cast. It suffers from some of the dated racism in the film as well as in some of the casting decisions that had to be done during the late 1910s as it does hurt the film. In the end, Broken Blossoms is a fine but discomforting film from D.W. Griffith.

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Love in the Tech Age

In the eighth week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into love in the tech age as it’s become something common now in the 21st Century through chatrooms, social media apps and devices, and all sorts of shit. A world that is about wanting to connect yet it also serves as a danger in the way it disconnects people with actual human contact. Here are my three picks as they’re all directed by women:

1. Making Mr. Right

From Susan Seidelman comes an underrated romantic comedy about a PR agent who is hired to meet a scientist who has created an android for space exploration. Yet, the android named Ulysses falls for the PR agent as she shows him the ideas of humanity including love. It’s a stylish and offbeat comedy that features John Malkovich in the dual role of the emotionally-repressed scientist and the android Ulysses as he proves to hilarious in the latter as he tries to understand the ideas of humanity as his creator has trouble trying to connect with humanity.

2. You’ve Got Mail

An updated remake of The Shop Around the Corner comes a charming and delightful romantic-comedy from Nora Ephron starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as two people who can’t stand each other when they meet yet are unaware of their own presence online through AOL (anyone remembers that?) It’s an inventive film that play into some of the early ideas of online dating and chatting as it also funny. The film also succeeds in having a rich ensemble supporting cast that include Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, and Jean Stapleton as it is a film that still holds up despite the presence of AOL.

3. Teknolust

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s 2002 film is a strange gem of a film starring Tilda Swinton as a scientist trying to create artificial life through an android as she ends up creating three as a way to encounter humanity but also love. The androids are also played by Swinton as they all display offbeat personalities but also have a thirst for semen leaving men in horror. It’s kind of an obscure film but worth seeking out mainly for Swinton’s performances.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Based on the DC comic series by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Chuck Dixon and the Harley Quinn character created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is the story of an anti-hero who teams up with other women to protect a young thief from a Gotham crime boss who wants to take over the crime world of Gotham and get rid of Joker’s former flame. Directed by Cathy Yan and screenplay by Christina Hodson, the film explores the character of Harley Quinn following her break-up with the Joker as well as trying to find herself and be part of a team with different women who all feel out of place with society as Margot Robbie reprises the role of Quinn. Also starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis/Black Mask. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a dazzling and exhilarating film from Cathy Yan.

The film explores the journey of Harley Quinn following her break-up with the Joker as she tries to find herself only to realize that all of Gotham’s criminal underworld want her dead as she makes a deal with the mob figure Roman Sionis to retrieve a diamond in exchange for protection. Yet, the diamond is in the hands of a young pickpocket who had swallowed the diamond as it leads to chaos but also Quinn gaining a conscience to protect this young girl leading her to get the help of three other different women who get involved with this young girl. Christina Hodson’s screenplay is largely told from the perspective of Quinn who narrates the film and breaks the fourth wall at times but also play into the events that lead to her trying to find herself and embrace the idea of not needing the Joker. The first act establishes the events in Quinn’s life that lead to her break-up with the Joker as it doesn’t become known to the criminal underworld despite her sullen behavior until she destroys a major symbol of their relationship where everyone discovers the truth.

Among those that discovered a key evidence of this breakup is Gotham detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who has spent years building a case against Sionis as well as wanting to capture Quinn but is often passed over for a promotion as well as not getting credit for the work she gets. Sionis’ club singer/chauffeur Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) turns informant when she learns that the young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) had stolen a diamond that Sionis wants as Montoya tries to protect Cain. The second act revolves around Quinn taking Cain as well as learn of the bounty on Cain for half a million dollars while it’s open season on Quinn who is trying to not get killed. It is also the moment where Quinn learns about Cain where she hopes to use her as a deal with Sionis but then becomes conflicted and gets to know Cain. Adding to this growing chaos is a mysterious assassin known as the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whose family was killed by various mobsters including Sionis’ right-hand man Victor Zsaz (Chris Messina) as she would find herself involved in protecting Cain as she, Montoya, and Lance would team up with Quinn to deal with Sionis who hopes to rule Gotham.

Cathy Yan’s direction is definitely stylish as it play into this crazed world of crime and mayhem as it relates to the chaos that Harley Quinn surrounds herself in. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Yan plays up into a world that is separated into camps where one is the criminal underworld and the other is the streets where not much is happening and people are struggling as Quinn is in the center of both as she was part of the underworld but is living in an apartment above a Chinese restaurant with her new pet hyena named Bruce. While there are some stylish compositions that includes a hand-drawn animated sequence that narrates Quinn’s life with the Joker, Yan does manage to create some straightforward compositions as well as emphasize on the characters where she does manage to allow audiences to get to know Montoya, Cain, Lance, and the Huntress though it does remain Quinn’s story.

With some second unit work from Stahelski in some of the action scenes, Yan does manage to keep things simple when it comes to characters interacting with one another such as a scene of Quinn and Cain watching cartoons and eating cereal or all five women just talking to each other. Yan also uses medium shots in some of those interactions and close-ups that either play to some moment of drama or for something funny. Yan doesn’t go for anything serious as the film’s climax that involves the formation of the Birds of Prey and going up against Sionis and his gang as it is balls-to-the-wall action with all sorts of outlandish moments. The mixture of humor, action, and suspense is key to the film’s success with Yan also creating something where women take charge and allowing its central character to realize that she doesn’t need a man to define her. Overall, Yan crafts a riveting yet thrilling film about an anti-hero who tries to protect a young pickpocket from a mob boss with the help of three other women.

Cinematographer Matthew Libatique does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the usage of vibrant colors for some of the daytime scenes along with stylish lights and moods for some of the interiors and nighttime exterior scenes in the film. Editors Jay Cassidy and Evan Schiff do excellent work with the editing as it emphasizes a lot on style with elements of jump-cuts and stylish montages as well as allowing shots to establish exactly what is going on in the action and humor. Production designer K.K. Barrett, with supervising art director Kasra Farahani plus set decorators Jennifer Lukehart and Florencia Martin, does amazing work with the sets from the apartment that Quinn lives in as well as Sionis’ nightclub and the abandoned amusement park where the film’s climax takes place. Costume designer Erin Benach does fantastic work with the costumes from the colorful clothing that Quinn wears as well as the black leather of Huntress, the tight pants of Lance, and the casual look of Montoya as the clothes help flesh out the personality of the characters in the film.

Hair designers Adruitha Lee and Nikki Nelms, with makeup artist Miko Suzuki, do terrific work with the look of Quinn’s hair as well as Lance’s hairstyle and the look of Zsaz. Special effects supervisor Mark Hawker, along with visual effects supervisors Yael Majors and Greg Steele does wonderful work with the visual effects as it help play into the colorful visuals as well as bringing some grit and over-the-top style to some of the action scenes. Sound designer Paula Fairfield and sound editor Katy Wood do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the way weapons sound and such as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Daniel Pemberton is incredible for its mixture of orchestral music with rock and jazz as it help play into the humor and action while music supervisors Gabe Hilfer and Season Kent create a chaotic yet fun soundtrack of music that ranges from pop standards, classic rock, classic soul, and modern music from Heart, Barry White, Ohio Players, Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion with Normani, Lauren Jaurengi, Charlotte Lawrence, and many others.

The casting by Rich Delia is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Francois Chau as a rival mob figure of Sionis, Dana Lee as the owner of Quinn’s favorite Chinese restaurant in Doc, Steven Williams as Montoya’s former partner/superior Captain Erickson who often takes credit for her work, Bojana Novakovic as a club goer Sionis humiliates, Ella Mika as a young Helena Bertinelli, and Ali Wong as Montoya’s former girlfriend/district attorney Ellen Yee who is reluctant to help Montoya but often puts Montoya in trouble in favor of saving her own ass. Chris Messina is superb as Sionis’ right-hand man who is also a fierce killer as he is also a major target of the Huntress. Ella Jay Basco is fantastic as Cassandra Cain as a teenage pickpocket who steals a diamond that Sionis wants as she copes with having a price on her head while trying to understand Quinn whom she would see as a big sister. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Roman Sionis/Black Mask as a mob figure with a narcissistic personality who hopes to rule Gotham as he wants this rare diamond to have that power to buy off anything and anyone he wants to.

Rosie Perez is brilliant as Renee Montoya as a police detective who often feels spurned by others as she often speaks in 80s cop clichés while is someone who is cynical but believes there is hope as it relates to Cain while is reluctant to help out Quinn. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is amazing as Dinah Lance/Black Canary as a singer who sings at Sionis’ nightclub while also working as his chauffeur as she is a street-smart woman who knows Cain as they live in the same apartment building while also carries a weapon that she inherited from her late mother. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is incredible as Helena Bertinelli/the Huntress as a crossbow assassin who is the daughter of a revered Mafia figure who was killed along with her entire family as she goes on a quest for vengeance while reluctantly helping out Quinn as Winstead maintains a low-key demeanor to her role. Finally, there’s Margot Robbie in a phenomenal performance as Harley Quinn as the former psychiatrist turned insane criminal who is trying to find herself following her break-up with the Joker where Robbie brings that air of charisma and energy into the character but also someone who is conflicted in wanting to create trouble but also wanting to help this young pickpocket where Robbie brings that humanity to the character as well as someone who is willing to be a team player as Robbie has great rapport with her other female cast members.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a sensational film from Cathy Yan that features a great leading performance from Margot Robbie. Along with its ensemble cast that include top-notch performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, and Ewan McGregor as well as colorful and dazzling visuals, high-octane action, a witty sense of humor, and an energetic music soundtrack. It’s a film that refuses to take itself seriously while also being this off-the-wall and thrilling action-adventure comedy with some suspense and drama with a woman teaming up with a bunch of other ladies to take down some bad guys. In the end, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a phenomenal film from Cathy Yan.

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman -Shazam! - (Wonder Woman 1984) – (The Batman) – (The Suicide Squad)

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

Multiple Maniacs

Written, directed, shot, edited, and scored by John Waters, Multiple Maniacs is the story of a troupe of sideshow freaks who rob spectators as its leader decide to go on a killing spree after being betrayed by her boyfriend. The film is an outlandish dark comedy that involves characters who go beyond the idea of bad taste as they also go all out in killing people. Starring Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, and George Figgs as Jesus Christ. Multiple Maniacs is a strange and outrageous film from John Waters.

The film is about a drag queen who leads a troupe of sideshow freaks who present a show where they invite people and rob them but things get a little bit more violent eventually leading to its leader going on a killing spree after being betrayed by her boyfriend. It’s a film with a simple premise that doesn’t have much plot yet John Waters does create a story that begins with a presentation of sideshow that includes a guy eating his puke, two guys making out with each other, and all sorts of fucked-up shit as the spectators are then captured and robbed until its leader Lady Divine (Divine) decides to kill them. Her boyfriend Mr. David (David Lochary) was surprised by the idea as he decides to leave with a woman named Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce) who wanted to join the troupe but was rejected by Lady Divine. After learning of the betrayal and a troubled encounter with a couple of glue-sniffers, Lady Divine endures a crisis of faith until she meets Mink (Mink Stole) who becomes her new lover as they plan on getting revenge on Mr. David.

Waters’ direction is engaging as it play up to many of the film’s low-budget aesthetics as it is shot in grainy 16mm black-and-white film stock and on location in Baltimore, Maryland. With its usage of hand-held cameras and some long shots that occur, Waters’ direction does maintain this element of shock value in some of the activities of Lady Divine and her troupe as it does border the idea of what was considered bad taste as some of it still maintains its shock value. While there are some wide and medium shots of the locations including a few sequences that play into Lady Divine’s crisis of faith that feature Jesus Christ being crucified as he’s portrayed as a hippie. There are some close-ups that play into some of the action and conversations as the grainy look of the film courtesy of Waters as the film’s cinematographer while he also maintains some straightforward bits in the editing along with some jump-cuts in some of the surreal scenes.

Yet, it adds to the film’s offbeat tone while Waters is aware of the limitations he has in his budget but it works to his advantage. Even if there’s moments of violence where there’s no gunfire being shown yet it’s the impact of the violence that makes it important. Even in the film’s climax as it involves this large lobster-like monster that is created by Vincent Paranio as it’s one of those moments that is baffling yet it kind of makes sense. It is Waters pushing the ideas of what is bad taste and what is shocking as he would definitely succeed as well as show the cruelty of violence in a drag queen gone mad. Overall, Waters crafts an insane yet riveting film about a drag queen whose thirst for violence increases after her lover leaves her for a woman rejected from the queen’s gang of sideshow freaks.

Special effects by Ed Peranio is terrific for some of the macabre approach to humor as well as the scene with the lobster-like monster. The sound work of Ryan Hullings from its 2016 restoration edition is superb as it help intensify some of the sound effects and audio presented in the film. John Waters’ score is wonderful for its kitsch-like score of weird psychedelic music and offbeat pop while some of the orchestral bits come from George S. Clinton.

The film’s brilliant cast feature some notable small roles from George Figgs as a hippie-like version of Jesus Christ, Paul Swift as a druggie named Steve that is dating Lady Divine’s daughter Cookie, Michael Renner Jr. as a perverse version of the Infant of Prague, and Edith Massey in a dual role as the barmaid Edith and a warped version of the Virgin Mary. Cookie Mueller is fantastic as Lady Divine’s daughter Cookie as a young woman who is often seen topless as she engages in sexual activities to shock people. Mink Stole is excellent as a weird religious woman named Mink whom Lady Divine meets as she performs a strange sexual act to Lady Divine inside a church as she decides to help her kill Mr. David.

Mary Vivian Pearce is amazing as Bonnie as a woman who wants to be part of Lady Divine’s troupe but is rejected as she engages in an affair with Mr. David and plots to kill Lady Divine. David Lochary is superb as Mr. David as the emcee of the troupe and Lady Divine’s boyfriend as he becomes tired of Lady Divine’s antics prompting him to engage in an affair and kill Lady Divine. Finally, there’s Divine in a phenomenal performance as Lady Divine where he displays this brash personality into the role of a drag queen who has a thirst for violence and feels betrayed where Divine just adds a lot of charisma and attitude into that character.

Multiple Maniacs is a marvelous film from John Waters that features a great performance from Divine. Along with its ensemble cast, provocative and confrontational tone, low-budget aesthetics, and its willingness to shock. The film is definitely not for everyone as it also contains elements that are still shocking as well as play into this drag queen going mad. In the end, Multiple Maniacs is a remarkable film from John Waters.

John Waters Films: (Mondo Trash) – (Pink Flamingos) – (Female Trouble) – (Desperate Living) – (Polyester) – (Hairspray) – (Cry-Baby) – (Serial Mom) – (Pecker) – (Cecil B. Demented) – (A Dirty Shame)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Meet Cute

In the seventh week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of meet cute. It’s the moment where characters meet something or someone that is so cute and adorable as it might lead into something good or the cute thing turned out to be something really bad. Here are my three picks:

1. Gremlins

It’s the Christmas holidays as a man meets a Chinese man who gives a Mogwai as gift for his teenage son but with three specific rules. Don’t pour water on it. Don’t feed it after midnight. Don’t expose it to bright light. Well, that cute little Mogwai named Gizmo gets wet and sprouts other little furry Mogwais who eat after midnight as they turn green and ugly and wreak havoc on the city. Yet, they did the town a favor by killing that evil old lady while enjoying old Disney movies. They weren’t so bad.

2. Child’s Play

A dying serial killer does a voodoo ritual to transfer himself into the body of a Good Guy doll named Chucky as a woman buys the doll as a gift for her little boy. Yet, this doll is fucking insane as he scares the crap out of the kid as well as kill a bunch of people. It’s crazy as fuck but it’s so fun to watch just to see a doll kill a bunch of people and find a human body to transfer his soul onto that body. Alas, the film would spawn several sequels including a recent remake/re-boot that didn’t do well. A few of the sequels were good while others were just fucking shit but the original can’t be topped.

3. Problem Child

A kid that just wants to be loved yet is neglected and mistreated by several foster parents and treated like shit at an orphanage is finally adopted by a couple who can’t conceive. Yet, the kid still gets treated like shit by neighbors, his adoptive grandfather, and other people while he idolizes a criminal who wears a bow tie. It’s a silly film yet the kid named Junior does manage to find a positive father figure in John Ritter’s character who was at least patient and reasonable with him. Unfairly panned in its initial release, it at least seemed to have some love from Martin Scorsese and Robert de Niro who both chose to feature the film in their remake of Cape Fear while it also lead to an underrated and enjoyable sequel while the straight-to-video third film is total shit.

© thevoid99 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Harder They Come

Directed by Perry Henzell and written by Henzell and Trever D. Rhone, The Harder They Come is the story of a man trying to find work as he becomes a singer until a dispute with his producer forces him to venture into crime. The film is an exploration of a man just trying to survive and have the chance to make a living only to become a folk hero of sorts just as the song he’s created is becoming an anthem for the people of Jamaica. Starring Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw, Ras Daniel Heartman, Basil Keane, Robert Charlton, and Winston Stona. The Harder They Come is a thrilling and riveting film from Perry Henzell.

The film follows a naïve man from the countryside as he arrives to the city looking for work as he decides to become a singer where he creates a hit song but gets little from its success prompting him to turn to crime. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into a man trying to make a new life in Kingston but there are little opportunities as he also endures rules and prejudices that is foreign to him. The film’s screenplay by Perry Henzell and Trever D. Rhone is largely straightforward as it follows the character Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin (Jimmy Cliff) who arrives to Kingston from the countryside to live with his mother but things don’t go well as well as finding work and such. Yet, he wants to be a singer as he often encounters trouble with a preacher whose adopted daughter Ivan has interest in as well as people who take advantage of him. Upon recording a song that becomes a hit, he tries to sell it independently but ends up getting $20 from a music producer as it would lead to more trouble as he turns to crime where he deals in drugs and becomes a Robin Hood figure of sorts fighting against corruption and injustice.

Henzell’s direction does have elements of style in the presentation of crime scenes as much of it is straightforward as it is shot largely on location in and around Kingston, Jamaica. There is a looseness to Henzell’s direction as the wide shots get a look into the locations as much of the direction has Henzell use close-ups and medium shots to get a look into the atmosphere of the shantytowns in Kingston as well as the places that Ivan goes to. The usage of hand-held cameras add to the liveliness of the film such as a club scene where Ivan hears his record being played along with some of the action as they mirror some of the images of westerns that he and others saw earlier in the film. Henzell also play into this world of corruption involving the police, record producers, and marijuana suppliers with Ivan getting caught in the middle as Henzell does create this air of suspense and intrigue but also fantasy as it play into Ivan’s embrace of being famous either for the song he created or for the crimes he’s committed. Overall, Henzell crafts an exhilarating and gripping film about a country bumpkin whose desire to become a singer in the city leads him into the world of crime and infamy.

Cinematographers Peter Jessop, David McDonald, and Franklyn St. Juste do excellent work with the film’s cinematography as they use grainy camera footage to capture a realism of the locations as well as using available light for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Reicland Anderson, John Victor-Smith, and Richard White do terrific work with the editing as it has elements of style in some of the jump-cuts and montages that play into Ivan’s many misadventures. Art director Sally Henzell does nice work with the look of some of the places that Ivan goes including a bar and a few homes he would crash at.

The sound work of Bob Povey and Winston Rodney is superb for capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the way music sounds on a radio or at a club. The film’s music soundtrack is incredible as it features songs by Jimmy Cliff, Scotty, Desmond Dekker, the Slickers, and the Maytals as it is all rooted in reggae music as it has many songs on the soundtrack that stand out including its titular track and You Can Get It If You Really Want that are both sung by Cliff.

The film’s wonderful cast feature an appearance from reggae music legend Prince Buster as a DJ at a club, Leslie Kong as a recording engineer, Basil Keane as the preacher who doesn’t like Ivan, Carl Bradshaw as a friend of Ivan in Jose, and Ras Daniel Heartman as the dealer Pedro. Janet Bartley is fantastic as the young woman Elsa whom Ivan would fall for as she becomes troubled by his criminal activities later on while Bob Charlton is excellent as the corrupt music producer Hilton who makes money through payola. Winston Stona is brilliant as Detective Ray Jones as a corrupt police official who helps control the drug trade as he finds Ivan as someone who is just disrupting everything. Finally, there’s Jimmy Cliff in a phenomenal performance as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin as this country bumpkin who arrives to the city looking for work to pay for his chance to be a singer yet endures corruption and uncertainty as he goes into crime where Cliff brings in some charm as well as that naiveté into a man who doesn’t understand how hard the ways of the world is at it is an iconic performance from Cliff.

The Harder They Come is a sensational film from Perry Henzell that features a great performance from Jimmy Cliff. Along with its compelling story of social and geographical differences, lively visuals, and a killer music soundtrack. It’s a film that explore the world of Jamaica at a time when reggae is starting to emerge as well as a man trying to become famous or die trying. In the end, The Harder They Come is a phenomenal film from Perry Henzell.

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, February 07, 2020

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929 film)

Based on the novel Tagebuch einer Verlorenen by Margarete Bohme, Diary of a Lost Girl is the story of a young woman who is raped by her father’s clerk as she becomes pregnant and later rejected by her entire family forcing her to fend for herself. Directed by G.W. Pabst and screenplay by Rudolf Leonhard, the film is a silent drama that explores a woman’s plight as she copes with her situations as well as the terror that women endure due to actions beyond their own control. Starring Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp, Andre Roanne, Josef Ravensky, and Franziska Kinz. Diary of a Lost Girl is a rapturous film from G.W. Pabst.

The film follows the journey and plight of a young woman who is raped by her father’s clerk and becomes pregnant yet her refusal to marry the clerk has her kicked out by her family where she endures a journey to find herself. It’s a film that explores a woman coping with being raped and being shunned by her father and her new stepmother as she endures cruelty prompting her to go into a world of prostitution and uncertainty. Rudolf Leonhard’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative yet it explores the journey that the protagonist Thymian Henning (Louise Brooks) goes through as she would write her experience from a diary that her fired housekeeper Elisabeth (Sybille Schmitz) had accidentally left. After refusing to marry her father’s clerk Meinert (Fritz Rasp), her new housekeeper Meta (Franziska Kinz) sends Thymian’s baby to a midwife while Thymian is sent to a reformatory as she endures all sorts of cruelty in the hands of its matron (Valeska Grest) and her brutal assistant (Andrews Engelmann). Though she gets help from Meinert’s friend Count Osdorff (Andre Roanne), Thymian will make some discoveries as she turns to prostitution as well as uncertainty about her life.

G.W. Pabst’s direction does have elements of style yet it his approach to compositions including some of the close-ups that add to the film’s brilliance. Shot partially on soundstages in Germany, Pabst does create a world set in Germany that explores the plight of post-war uncertainty with Thymian in the middle as she sees what happens to Elisabeth and her eventual outcome. Though there aren’t a lot of wide shots, Pabst’s usage of medium shots do get a lot of coverage of the rooms and places that Thymian goes to as well as the reformatory she is forced to attend. Pabst’s camera movements including a shot of Thymian walking up the stairs are among the key moments of the film yet it’s the close-ups that help add to the drama. Even as Pabst captures the anguish and torment in Thymian upon her decision to become a prostitute that includes a nightclub scene that shows how lost she is as she also deals with the plight of others who become lost due to actions beyond their control. Overall, Pabst crafts a heart-wrenching yet intoxicating film about a woman fending for herself after being shunned by her family for not marrying the man who raped her.

Cinematographers Sepp Allgeier and Fritz Arno Wagner do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the dreary look of the reformatory as well as the gorgeous look of the brothel and nightclub that Thymian goes to. Art directors Emil Hasler and Erno Metzner do brilliant work with the look of the reformatory as well as the pharmacy that Thymian’s father owns and runs as well as the brothel. The film’s music by Javier Perez de Aspeitia from the 2012 restoration edition is incredible for its piano-based score that feature elements of flourishing themes along with some somber pieces as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s excellent cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Vera Pawlowa as Thymian’s Aunt Frieda who is against Thymian’s banishment from the family, Sybille Schmitz as the housekeeper Elisabeth who is fired early in the film as she drops a diary that Thymian would use, Edith Meinhard as Erika whom Thymian befriends at the reformatory, Arnold Korff as the elder Count Osdorff who is disappointed by his nephew and cuts him off, Andrews Engelmann as the reformatory matron’s creepy assistant, and Josef Ravensky as Thymian’s father Robert who is angered by his daughter’s plight as he would turn to Meta for guidance. Franziska Kinz is fantastic as the new housekeeper Meta who would woo Robert and use her influence to banish Thymian while trying to run the household much to Aunt Frieda’s dismay. Valeska Grest is superb as the reformatory matron who rules the place with an iron fist and demands order.

Fritz Rasp is brilliant as Meinert as Robert’s pharmacy clerk who would rape Thymian and try to marry her while being close in Robert and Meta’s circle to ruin Thymian as well as gain power in the pharmacy. Andre Roanne is amazing as Count Nicholas Osdorff as the nephew of a respected count who isn’t good at any trade as he prefers to party and have fun while does have ideas to create a more respectable brothel as well as helping Thymian out any way he can. Finally, there’s Louise Brooks in a phenomenal performance as Thymian Henning as a young woman raped by her father’s clerk and is forced to marry him only to refuse prompting her to fend for herself as there’s a radiance to her performance including the way she expresses her anguish and sense of loss as it is an iconic performance from Brooks.

Diary of a Lost Girl is a tremendous film from G.W. Pabst that features a radiant performance from Louise Brooks. Along with its riveting story, lush piano score, gorgeous dresses that Brooks wears, and its dazzling visuals. It’s a silent drama that explore a woman’s plight and the uncertainty she faces as well as the lack of roles that would help her find peace and salvation. In the end, Diary of a Lost Girl is a spectacular film from G.W. Pabst.

G.W. Pabst Films: (The Treasure (1923 film)) – (Countess Donelli) – (Joyless Street) – (One Does Not Play with Love) – (The Love of Jeanne Ney) – (The Devious Path) – Pandora's Box - (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) – (Westfront 1918) – (Scandalous Eva) – (The Threepenny Opera) – (Kameradschaft) – (L’Atlantide) – (Adventures of Don Quixote) – (High and Low (1933 film)) – (A Modern Hero) – (Street of Shadows) – (The Shanghai Drama) – (Girls in Distress) – (The Comedians) – (Paracelsus) – (Der Fall Molander) – (The Trial (1948 film)) – (Mysterious Shadows) – (Call Over the Air) – (Voice of Silence) – (Cose da pazzi) – (The Confession of Ina Kahr) – (The Last Ten Days) – (Jackboot Mutiny) – (Ballerina (1956 film)) – (Through the Forests and Through the Trees)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (Seven Deadly Sins Edition): Lust

In the sixth week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the first of the Seven Deadly Sins for the series in the subject of lust. Defined in many ways such as intense longing and a desire for something or someone. It is one of the seven cardinal sins that play into temptation and chaos. Here are my three picks:

1. The Center of the World

From Wayne Wang is an obscure erotic drama of sorts that was shot during the early days of digital cinema as it revolves around a dot-com millionaire who meets a stripper and pays her $10,000 to spend three days with her in Las Vegas. Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Molly Parker, it’s an exploration of desire and identity as this millionaire copes with his own loneliness and uncertainty while he plays to her rules of four hours of erotic play and no penetration. Yet, things get complicated as well as feelings for one another as it is also told in a non-linear narrative as it’s a gem of a film.

2. Lust, Caution

Ang Lee’s adaptation of Eileen Chang’s story set in late 1930s/early 1940s Shanghai during Japan’s occupation of China where a Chinese student joins the Chinese resistance to spy and later assassinate a top official working for a traitor to the Chinese. It’s a film that takes place during two different moments in time with the first half set in the late 1930s and the second half in the early 1940s with Tang Wei as this Chinese spy trying to meet this official in Tony Leung Chiu-wai who is the target yet there is a conflict between both of them as he’s married and she’s hired to target him as they both get into this intense affair with some nearly-graphic sex scenes.

3. Room in Rome

A loose remake of a Chilean film called In Bed, Julio Medem’s 2010 film about a Spanish woman and a Russian woman who meet in Rome as they spend the entire night together as they discuss their own desires and their own stories in the course of 10 hours. They also talk about their own sense of loss and uncertainty as well as their fascination towards sex with a man or a woman as it is an intimate drama starring Elena Anaya and Natasha Yarovenko that doesn’t have much plot but the performances and setting of the film makes up for it.

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, February 01, 2020

A Star is Born (2018 film)

Directed and starring Bradley Cooper and screenplay by Cooper, Will Fetters, and Eric Roth that is based on the 1937 film by William A. Wellman and co-writers Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell that was produced by David O. Selznick, A Star is Born is the story of a troubled country-rock singer who meets an unknown singer as he takes her on tour and help guide her own music career just as his starts to decline. It’s a film that was first told in 1937 and had been remade two more times in 1954 and 1976 as it is now told in another new interpretation for a new generation with Cooper playing the role of the singer Jackson Maine and pop singer Lady Gaga as Ally. Also starring Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, Rafi Gavron, Greg Grunberg, and Andrew Dice Clay. A Star is Born is a rapturous and heart-wrenching film from Bradley Cooper.

The film is the simple story about the diverging paths of a troubled country-rock singer and the woman he would fall for and make her into a pop star. It’s a story that had been told three different times in its different incarnations as the script by Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, and Eric Roth use those three different stories to set in the 21st Century where country-rock artist Jackson Maine is touring and making music although his popularity is starting to decline as he would meet this young woman named Ally at a drag club where she sings La Vie En Rose. Ally is also a songwriter but hasn’t made any waves to attract people in the music industry as she’s stuck in a waitressing job and not do much other than live with her father Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay) who runs a chauffeur business with friends. When Maine meets Ally at the drag club and strikes a conversation with her about music, sparks happen as he later invites her to one of his shows as they sing a song that she created.

Immediately, Maine accompanies Ally on their tour yet his older half-brother Bobby (Sam Elliott) is concerned about Maine’s alcoholism as well as his tinnitus which is getting worse while Ally’s songs finally attract the attention of a producer in Rez (Rafi Gavron). Through Rez, Ally would go pop and become immensely successful yet Maine struggles with his own issues as he finds himself playing a show in Memphis for money as he questions his own integrity as well as Ally’s decision to do pop music. The script showcases not just some of the decisions Maine has made in his life and career but also the struggle to realize that Ally has so much to offer as he fears he would ruin her. Yet, Ally is aware of Maine’s troubles as she is eager to help him any way she can as well as willing to risk her own career.

Cooper’s direction does have some elements of style yet much of his direction is straightforward in his presentation of life on the road and on stage as well as the backstage parties, recording sessions, and rehearsals. Shot on various locations with much of it in Arizona and California, Cooper does play into this world that Maine is often surrounded in that include open landscapes, amphitheaters, and music festivals where appearances in such noted festivals as Glastonbury in Britain and Coachella in California are shown. Cooper’s usage of the wide shots showcase the vast world of the venues and festival areas that Maine and later Ally would play to but Cooper also maintains an intimacy as he often captures the performance on the stage with some perspective from the audiences and from the backstage area. The usage of close-ups and medium shots of the performances and some of the action backstage as well as the usage of cell phone footage add to the excitement of the performances in the film.

The non-musical scenes do have an intimacy in the way Ally and Maine would create songs as well as go into discussions about the idea of integrity in music as Cooper knows how to create simple compositions but also in the way characters would react to another. Cooper also maintains that air of simplicity while knowing what not to show during a key dramatic moment late in the film. Notably in the third act as it play into Maine’s own downfall due to his substance abuse as well as growing tinnitus where he is trying to recover but there is also this danger that he could screw things up again. Yet, there is the music as it is what brings him and Ally together as it is a crucial moment for not just its climax but also the ending into the journey that these two endure. Overall, Cooper crafts a touching and ravishing film about the diverging journeys between a country-rock singer and his pop star wife.

Cinematographer Matthew Libatique does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of stylish lights for some of the clubs, venues, and bars the characters go to as well as the lighting in some of the concert scenes and some of the natural elements in the film’s exterior scenes. Editor Jay Cassidy does excellent work with the editing where it is straightforward for much of the film while knowing when to keep shots going as well as create a few montages in some parts of the film. Production designer Karen Murphy, with set decorator Ryan Watson plus art directors Matthew Horan and Bradley Rubin, does fantastic work with the look of Maine’s home that he would later share with Ally as well as the home that Ally lived in with her father. Costume designer Erin Benach does nice work with the costumes from the casual and cowboy-like clothing that Maine wears to the more stylish look that Ally would sport in the clothes that she would wear as a pop star.

Hair stylist Joy Zapata and makeup artist Debbie Zoller do terrific work with the look that Ally would venture into from being somewhat plain into being a bit more glamorous into her transformation as a pop star. Visual effects supervisor Bruce Jones does wonderful work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it mainly serves as set dressing for some scenes in the film. Sound editor Alan Robert Murray does superb work with the sound in the way live music sounds on locations as well as the way music sounds when it’s being recorded as it is a highlight of the film. Music supervisors Julianne Jordan and Julia Michels do incredible work in cultivating the film’s soundtrack as it feature a lot of original songs sung and performed by Cooper and Lady Gaga with the latter co-writing some of the material with Lukas Nelson, Jason Isbell, Diane Warren, DJ White Shadow, Mark Ronson, and Andrew Wyatt as its mixture of country, country-rock, pop, and dance pop add to the story as it’s one of the film’s major highlights.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is marvelous as it feature notable small roles and cameo appearances from Alec Baldwin as himself hosting Saturday Night Live, Halsey as herself presenting an award, Marlon Williams and Brandi Carlisle as themselves performing at the awards show, Luenell as a grocery cashier, Eddie Griffin as a local preacher, Drena de Niro as the wife of Maine’s friend Noodles, Greg Grunberg as Maine’s driver Phil, the trio of Barry Shabaka Henley, Michael D. Roberts, and Michael Harney as Lorenzo’s friends, Shangela Laquifa Wadley as the drag club emcee, William Belli as the drag queen Emerald, and Ron Rifkin as Maine’s rehab therapist Carl. Dave Chappelle is superb as Maine’s longtime friend and former musician Noodles as a man who has chosen the simple life as well as offer Maine a glimpse into that life that would inspire him to commit full time to Ally.

Rafi Gavron is terrific as Ally’s manager/producer Rez as a man who would drive a wedge between Ally and Maine but is also aware of Maine’s troubles with drugs and alcohol and uses it against Maine. Anthony Ramos is fantastic as Ally’s friend Ramon who would introduce Maine to Ally as well as be someone who would be on Ally’s side and be one of the few people in her life who keeps her grounded. Andrew Dice Clay is excellent as Ally’s father Lorenzo as a man who is supportive of his daughter while is also worried about her not making it knowing about those who had the talent but never made it as it is a charismatic and grounded performance from Clay that also has an air of tenderness that is unexpected from the comedian. Sam Elliott is amazing as Maine’s older half-brother Bobby who also manages Maine as he is aware of his brother’s troubles with substance abuse and his tinnitus as well as being the one who is trying to take care of everything as it is one of Elliott’s finest performances.

Finally, there’s Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Jackson Maine and Ally. Cooper’s performance as Maine displays a man who is talented but also extremely troubled as years on the road, recording, and partying is starting to take its toll while his tinnitus is starting to get worse as he is in denial about his issues while is forced to face the reality of his troubles. Gaga’s performance as Ally is a marvel to watch as she displays the sense of reluctance to go into a singing career while eventually finding the confidence but is also someone who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Cooper and Gaga together are incredible to watch in the way they bond with one another as well as the scenes where they argue as they added that edge into two people who both have a love for music and each other but at times can’t stand one another as they are a major highlight of the film.

A Star is Born is a spectacular film from Bradley Cooper that features great performances from Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, and Andrew Dice Clay. Along with its evocative soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, a fresh and daring reinterpretation of an old story, and top-notch musical performances. It’s a film that isn’t afraid of being a remake but also find ways to do something new with it while being this whirlwind romantic drama of two singers both going into different paths only to go up when they work together. In the end, A Star is Born is a sensational film from Bradley Cooper.

Related: A Star is Born (1937 film) - (A Star is Born (1954 film)) – (A Star is Born (1976 film))

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, January 31, 2020

Films That I Saw: January 2020

Well this has been a great start to a new year and a new decade. Why? Well let’s see… our dumb-fuck dictator has waged war on Iran and the idea of World War III might happen. People are getting sick left and right with Asia now being hit with a new disease in the coronavirus. Rush drummer Neil Peart died of brain cancer while Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash with several other people. Oh, and the supposed cold I had in the last month had brought me to the emergency room for a few hours as I had bronchitis. So yeah, I think things are really fucking great. That is if you’re a stupid motherfucker. Seriously, this hasn’t been good at all though I’m slowly getting better despite still coughing though not severely. Of course, the fucking bronchitis made me have to stay home as I had to miss some art house films I really wanted to see. Alas, things could be worse.

In the month of January 2020, I saw a total of 30 films in 12 first-timers and 18 re-watches with 2 of the first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in Louisiana Story. Here are the top 10 films that I saw for January 2020:

1. Parasite

2. Shazam!

3. Swimmer

4. A Star is Born

5. Ceddo

6. Emitai

7. Scent of a Woman

8. Dear Basketball

9. Duran Duran: There’s Something You Show Know

10. The Velvet Underground: Live MCMXCIII

Monthly Mini-Reviews:

Duran Duran: There’s Something You Show Know

A documentary about the band’s career that was shown on Showtime, the film showcases the band’s incredible career from their formation in the late 70s to their continued success into the 21st Century. Though it does skim on some parts such as their late 80s/early 90s drought and John Taylor’s brief departure in 1996 before returning in the early 2000s. The film does play into some of the band’s highs and lows including Andy Taylor’s second departure in the mid-2000s where they were sympathetic about why he left leaving the band to be a four-piece of sorts while there’s also interviews with other musicians, fans, and celebrities including Nile Rodgers, Boy George, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Mark Ronson as it’s something fans will enjoy.

The Velvet Underground: Live MCMXCIII

A concert film of the legendary band’s three-night performance at L’Olympia in Paris in June of 1993 showcases the brief reunion of the seminal band in the classic line-up of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen “Moe” Tucker. It’s a nice concert film that has the band play several of their classics from their four albums including the two albums made without Cale who proves to be a worthy replacement for the late Nico in singing Femme Fatale. Though it wasn’t entirely well-received when it first came out, the live show does at least showcase a band having fun and playing songs to a rapturous audience that wanted to see the band and hear those songs.


Swimmer from Natasha Braier on Vimeo.

From Lynne Ramsay comes her 2012 BAFTA award-winning short film made to celebrate the 2012 Olympics as it this gorgeous black-and-white short film about the journey of a swimmer going through various bodies of water in Britain. There’s not much of a plot to it yet Ramsay’s intricate approach to sound design with audio samples from other films as well as gorgeous photography by Natasha Braier add to its beauty and intoxicating atmosphere. It’s a film that fans of Ramsay must see as it is proof that she’s one of the best filmmakers working today.


A by-the-numbers bio-pic about the young life of J.R.R. Tolkien, it’s a film that has its moments due to Nicholas Hoult’s performance as the famed writer. While much of it takes place during Tolkien’s time studying languages and coming up with ideas for his work, it also showcases his experience at World War I. Lily Collins’ performance as his eventual wife is a standout as she manages to bring the best in Tolkien as it’s an OK film.

Dear Basketball

Dear Basketball from joe mcmaster on Vimeo.

In light of the shocking death of Kobe Bryant, the short film he created with filmmaker Glen Keane became available as it is definitely something special and deserving of the Oscar for Best Animated Short. It’s Bryant narrating about his love for the game and the many highs and lows he went through as a player but also someone who dreamed of playing the game as a kid. It’s a touching short made mainly in 2D hand-drawn animation as it adds a richness to a film that is just simple and personal.

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. Brazil

2. Aliens

3. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

4. Major League

5. Alien

6. Bad Times at the El Royale

7. The Addams Family

8. Paddington 2

9. Diego Maradona

10. About Schmidt

Well, that is all for January. I have no idea what I’m doing next month other than continue work on MCU is Cinema project as I took a break on it as making the fourth part has been difficult. That is something I want to finish and then return to work on my Auteurs piece on Kelly Reichardt. Other than, I’ll just watch films from the never-ending DVR list while I’m unsure of what film I’ll watch that is out in the theaters. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2020