Sunday, May 31, 2020

Films That I Saw: May 2020





What is there to say right now? More than 100,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the past 2 months here in America and things are getting worse. A man was killed by police as his last words were “I can’t breathe” as riots have ensued including one here in Atlanta in front of the CNN building. People are having parties during Memorial Day weekend as if nothing happened and our human septic tank of a dictator is saying “things are fine, all is well” while calling African-Americans thugs and question the idea of masculinity in his refusal to wear a face mask. Is this the end of civilization as we know it? Honestly, I’m starting to feel like the end is near and I don’t know what will kill me. An invisible disease, killer hornets, the police, racist motherfuckers who will kill you for jogging near some neighborhood, a fucking asteroid, nuclear missiles? If you’re going to tell me that I’m going to die tomorrow. At least give me the option to die on my own terms.

In all seriousness, this pandemic has definitely gotten troubling as my mother has really been troubled by having to be isolated and not really going anywhere or do anything. She’s quite active as she likes to go out and shop and such whereas I prefer to stay home. Online shopping is something that is really foreign to her as all she does on the Internet is watch stuff on YouTube or do on-line video chats with friends. Yet, being at home all day isn’t that much for me either as I’ve lost some motivation to watch and review films while projects that I’ve been trying to work on has been on hold. It has been difficult as I spend part of my time playing games either on my laptop or my phone as a way to cope with the boredom and uncertainty. Even as the idea that things could be re-opened in the fall doesn’t give me a lot of hope but rather dread after hearing from people such as Dr. Fauci that a second wave might be coming.

I know there’s movies going to come out in the summer as they will play in the theater but I’m really not eager to return fearing that someone might be infected with COVID and might infect everyone. I’d rather wait for a vaccine and then get everything back in order. I really think all movies that are set to be released in theaters are going to wait longer until a vaccine is ready and everyone can be safe.


In the month of May 2020, I saw a total of 27 films in 15 first-timers and 12 re-watches with two of the first-timers are directed by women based on the 52 Films by Women pledge. The highlight of the month is my Blind Spot Choice in Blind Chance. Here are my top 5 picks for May 2020:

1. The Rider


2. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril


3. Foxtrot


4. The Great Buster: A Celebration


5. Targets


Monthly Mini-Reviews

Bad Boys


The first of two documentaries of the 30 to 30 series that I saw as it’s about the Detroit Pistons of the 1980s and early 1990s that featured a dangerous line-up of players that included Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, John Salley, Rick Mahorn, and many others. They were the bad boys of the NBA in their day and made no apologizes about it. For me as a fan of the Atlanta Hawks, I hated them as did my dad but we couldn’t help but realize how good they were. It is a fun documentary that also showed why this team were so good and why they were the definitive bad boys until 1991 when all of the players got traded to other teams as they weren’t the same afterwards.

Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children


A documentary series that had been on HBO since April is a revelatory documentary about the Atlanta Child Murders from 1979 to 1981 and the troubling aftermath following the capture of Wayne Williams who was convicted of the murders. The five-part film series definitely showcase Atlanta’s troubled history before the murders and the arrival of Maynard Jackson as the city’s first African-American mayor which only created more tension between African-Americans and those affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. There is a belief that Williams didn’t kill the children as the film shows also how the FBI managed to not really do enough with the case with current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta’s police chief Erika Shields made the announcement in 2019 to re-open the case and go more into depth over who killed these 28 young people. It’s something that for anyone from Atlanta must see as well as anyone interested in the way murder cases can be mishandled.

New York, New York




From Spike Lee is a short film he created on his Instagram page as it’s a tribute to the city but also to those working on the front lines in this time of need. To the tune of the Frank Sinatra song, it’s about the city and how it’s willing to keep going in these troubled times with the focus on the doctors, nurses, and volunteers who are trying to help the city as it’s being stricken hard by this pandemic. It’s definitely one of Lee’s most inspiring works as well as a film that showcases the good of humanity in these trying times.

Sole Man


The second film from the 30 for 30 series that I saw is about Sonny Vaccaro as a man who would be the one to make Nike big as well as have Michael Jordon be attached to the brand only to switch allegiance to Adidas after a fall-out with Nike by having Kobe Bryant sign with Adidas. It’s a film that explore the world of sport shoes and how it helped sell the name of basketball yet it also explore the dark side of college recruiting as it shows the corruption within the NCAA in how players get their likeness used in video games. It was something that Vaccaro was appalled by as he was hoping young players would get some money even if they didn’t make it into the NBA as he would fight the NCAA for what they did. Vaccaro is a polarizing figure but still a fascinating one.

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson


One of the major downsides of this pandemic is insomnia as I have a hard time trying to sleep at night forcing to watch movies late at night and sometimes. I end up watching bad movies but this. Oh… this is definitely one of the worst films I had ever seen in my life. It’s not just the fact that people like Mena Suvari as Nicole Brown Simpson, Agnes Bruckner as Kris Jenner, Taryn Manning as Faye Resnick, and Nick Stahl as Glen Edward Rogers in a narrative that claims that Rogers killed Simpson and Ron Goldman are involved in this but I beg the question into who the fuck funded this shit? Daniel Farrands is someone who never should be behind the camera nor should be involved in cinema because what he’s making is obscene. Especially as it borders into awful attempts at comedy in a scene inspired by Nightmare on Elm Street to the scene of Simpson and Goldman being killed as I felt like I was watching a snuff film. This isn’t cinema, this is trash of the worst kind.

The Little Story of Gwen from French Brittany




From Agnes Varda is this 2008 short film about a young woman who lives in California as she runs a small movie theater in the town with her husband. It is a delightful five-minute short film that explores the simple life of a woman named Gwen with Varda making an appearance where Gwen hosted a mini-festival devoted to Varda’s films with Varda doing some Q&A as it’s a must for anyone interested in Varda.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind


HBO’s documentary film that is produced by Natasha Gregson Wagner is a startling yet touching film about the life of Natalie Wood who is Wagner’s mother. Featuring interviews with Robert Wagner, Natasha’s younger sister Courtney, step-sister Katie, stepmother Jill St. John, Natasha’s father Richard Gregson (before his passing), and those who knew Wood including Mia Farrow as they all talk about Wood’s life and career which was sadly overshadowed by her mysterious death in 1981. Even as Robert Wagner discusses about what happened that night on the boat with actor Christopher Walken and the boat’s captain as well as the awful tabloid reporting about Wood’s death with Robert Wagner being a suspect as Natasha and others defend him as they also raise question about Natalie’s sister Lana and her pursuit to go after Robert Wagner.

Fire (Pozar)




An animated short film by David Lynch definitely play into his surrealist approach to storytelling as it’s more of a collaboration with musician Marek Zewbrowski. The animated short is really about the imagery of fire as it has this air of beauty but it’s also disturbing. It’s another gem from Lynch as it’s something fans of his work will enjoy.

Celebration Day


Airing for free during this weekend on YouTube, Dick Carruthers’ 2012 concert film showcasing Led Zeppelin’s October 2007 one-off reunion as part of a tribute concert to Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun. I had seen clips of the film through performances of a single song but not the film as a whole as it is just an incredible concert film presented in multiple film stocks that shows a band just killing it. With Jason Bonham filling in for his late father John, the reunion definitely shows what happens when Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones can do when they’re not being forced to reunite following two disastrous reunions for special events in the 1980s. On that night, they weren’t just in top form but they were in a moment that can’t be replicated and why it’s best that Led Zeppelin should never reunite unless it’s for something special.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood


2. Police Story


3. Young Frankenstein


4. Commando


5. 9 to 5


6. David Bowie: Finding Fame


7. The Falcon and the Snowman


8. The Jane Austen Book Club


9. Starter for 10


10. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert


Well, that is all for May as I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next month other than the films I have on my never-ending DVR list and whatever film I choose next from my Blind Spot Series. Other than Katy’s Movie Challenge blog-a-thon, I have no idea what to do as I’m trying to get back into the MCU is Cinema series as that’s something I want to finish and then return to the Auteurs series. This air of uncertainty and not knowing is starting to get to me as I’m just watching whatever I can find such as this piece about Woody Allen that is full of revelations about the accusations he’s been getting and why he’s really innocent of these false charges as it’s also an exploration of this disgusting social media culture who aren’t willing to listen or read the fact with Mia and Ronan Farrow are really among some of the worst people out there. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Blind Chance



Written and directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski, Przypadek (Blind Chance) is the story of a medical student whose journey leads him to a series of encounters as it play into the fates of his life upon trying to catch a train to Warsaw. The film is a drama that follows a man who tries to deal with his political ideals and personal happiness during the period of Communist Poland as he copes with the choices he has. Starring Boguslaw Linda, Tadeusz Lominicki, Boguslawa Pawelec, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Jacek Borkowski, and Monica Gozdzik. Przypadek is an evocative and compelling film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

The film is the simple story of a medical student who runs after a train on its way to Warsaw as three different scenario occurs that would play into his fate. It is a film about a man’s decision as he endures a lot in his life as it leads to him chasing this train to Warsaw following the death of his father. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s screenplay is a study of not just fate but also the situations the film’s protagonist Witek (Boguslaw Linda) would endure as each scenario has him running at the train station as he would bump into an old woman who would drop a coin for a man to pick up to buy beer as Witek would also bump into him. Each scenario would have Witek take part in something that allows him to be someone of importance in some form of social or political faction while would also be attached to a woman in that scenario that would drive his decisions and such.

Kieslowski’s direction has some gorgeous visuals in a film that largely relies on simplicity as it plays to the fates of Witek. Shot on various locations in Poland including Lodz and Warsaw, Kieslowski captures the life of this young man though it opens with a flashback montage of Witek’s life as he’s screaming as he’s waking up in an airplane thinking about his life. It then cuts to the news about his father’s death where Kieslowski maintains an intimacy in the medium shots and close-ups as it play into Witek’s reaction in the world around him and such. Each scenario opens with the scene of Witek running into a train as each brief encounter with the old woman and the drunk guy all play into his fate as there is this element of suspense in trying to catch this train. Each different scenario has Kieslowski not only use wide shots to establish the location that Witek is in but also to play into the uncertainty of what he’s going to do. Even as it play into the world of early 1980s Polish politics during the era of communism.

Kieslowski’s direction also maintains a different tone for each scenario as each one ends with a slow-motion shot as it would lead to the next scenario and so on towards the third and final one. Kieslowski keeps the narrative straightforward while also playing into these decisions that Witek has to make. All of which kind of revolves around some form of conformity where the first one relates to being part of a government, the second has him be part of a movement, and the third relates to things before his father’s passing as well as a compromise of the two different ideals. Yet, each story also ends with Witek possibly catching a plane to Paris, France as it shows what he might’ve accomplished or a sense of failure. Kieslowski’s direction also play into characters what Witek would meet but also those he would briefly encounter as if he known them from another moment in time or had just seen them and don’t know who they are. Especially in the film’s final moments as it play into the ultimate fate that Witek has chosen as well as those he had probably never met. Overall, Kieslowski crafts a rapturous film about the fates of a young medical student and the decisions he would make.

Cinematographer Krzysztof Pakulski does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as well as the emphasis on natural lighting for many of the scenes set in the day. Editor Elzbieta Kurkowska does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward that allow shots to linger for a while there are also some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Andrezj Rafal Waltenberger and set decorator Borzyslawa Chmielewska do amazing work with the different places that Witek would go into including his own apartment, the homes of the women he would meet and fall for, and some of the places he would work at. Costume designer Agnieszka Domaniecka does fantastic work with the look of the clothes that Witek would meet as it play into the choices he makes in his life as well as the people he meet in the different kinds of clothes they were to suit the environment he’s in.

The makeup work of Teodor Grmaszewski is terrific for the look of some of the women that Witek meet as well as some of the eccentric characters he would meet in the film. The sound work of Michael Zarnecki does superb work with the atmosphere of the locations including the train station as well as some of the quieter moments that occur in the film. The film’s music by Wojciech Kilar is incredible for its somber string-orchestral score that play into the fates of Witek as it is one of the film’s major highlights.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Jerzy Stuhr as a party organizer, Jacek Kaczmarski as a protest singer, Zygmunt Hubner as a medical school dean, Irena Byrska as Witek’s pro-communist aunt, Tadeusz Lomnicki as a mentor of Witek, Adam Ferency as a wheelchair-bound pastor named Stefan, Jacek Sas-Uhrynowski as an old friend of Witek in Daniel, Jacek Borkowski as an anti-communist organizer named Marek that Witek befriends, and Zbigniew Zapasiewicz as a government official named Adam who would put Witek into some uncomfortable situations. The trio performances of Boguslawa Pawelec, Marzena Trybala, and Monika Gozdzik are remarkable in their respective roles as Czuszka, Werka, and Olga as three different women who would offer Witek different paths in his life with Pawelec as the more political-driven Czuska who was an old lover of Witek, Trybala as the more spiritual Werka who is Daniel’s sister, and Gozdzik as the more reserved Olga who was also a schoolmate of Witek in medical school. Finally, there’s Boguslaw Linda in a phenomenal performance as Witek as a young man who is trying to catch a train as he deals with the choices he made when he catches the train as well as what happens when he misses the train as he copes with all of the ideals and choices he makes as it is just this chilling yet intoxicating performance.

Przypadek is a phenomenal film from Krzysztof Kieslowski that features an incredible performance from Boguslaw Linda. Along with its naturalistic visuals, themes of fate and choices, immense character study, and Wojciech Kolar’s haunting score. The film is definitely a mesmerizing look into the life of a man told in three different scenarios as it play into the world he’s in through the choices he makes as well as the futility of these choices. In the end, Przypadek is a sensational film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Krzysztof Kieslowski Films: (Personnel) – (The Scar) – (Camera Buff) – (The Calm) – (Short Working Day) – (No End) – (A Short Film About Killing) – (A Short Film About Love) – The Decalogue - The Double Life of Veronique - Trois Couleurs-Bleu - Trois Couleurs-Blanc - Trois Couleurs-Rouge

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Great Buster: A Celebration



Written, directed, and narrated by Peter Bogdanovich, The Great Buster: A Celebration is a documentary film that explores the life, career, and influence of silent film star/filmmaker Buster Keaton. Featuring interviews from various filmmakers, historians, actors, and comedians, the film follows the man’s life as well as his struggles to be relevant when silent films ended as well as the long overdue adulation he would ultimately receive before his passing in 1966 at the age of 70. The result is a rich and exhilarating film from Peter Bogdanovich.

In the 1920s, one of the biggest stars of the silent film era was Buster Keaton whose stone-faced look and elaborate approach to physical comedy and action as it would influence many in the years to come. The film explores not just Keaton’s life including his struggles to make movies during the post-silent film era but also in some of his failures he would endure and comeback during the late 1940s. Narrated by its writer/director Peter Bogdanovich who shows a clip of himself on The Dick Cavett Show in the early 1970s with filmmaker Frank Capra as they talk about Keaton’s influence in cinema as other filmmakers ranging from comedy filmmakers like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner to the likes of Werner Herzog, Quentin Tarantino, and Jon Watts as they all talk about what Keaton brought to the world of cinema. Watts especially as he reveals that Keaton’s stone-faced expression was an inspiration to the look of Spider-Man under his mask in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The film also goes into depth into Keaton’s personal life through historians and those who knew him including actors Norman Lloyd and Dick Van Dyke while comedian Richard Lewis talks about his friendship with Keaton’s widow Eleanor Norris as she would give him her husband’s famed hat. Actors/comedians such as Cybill Shepherd, Nick Kroll, Bill Hader, French Stewart, and Johnny Knoxville also talk about Keaton’s films and his approach to physical comedy as Knoxville reveals that part of the reasons he created Jackass and its films was to do stupid stunts but also to understand how Keaton was able to perfect the stunts and set pieces he created in his films. Much of the narrative that Bogdanovich creates is largely straightforward but it also play into the decline in his career as it relates to his time working with MGM where Keaton lost a lot of his creative control as several colleagues including Charles Chaplin urged Keaton to not sign with MGM but Keaton ended up taking the advice of those who were managing his business as it ended up being a bad business deal.

After two failed marriages and a career that is nearly dead, it would be his marriage to MGM dancer Eleanor Norris that would help as he would be hired by MGM to write gags and such as well as direct a gag for other filmmakers. The work for MGM and appearances in commercials and television would help revive Keaton’s career and financial fortunes as it would give him a memorable cameo in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard as well as a memorable appearance in Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight where the two shared the screen together. Lloyd revealed that Chaplin brought Keaton just to work with him and help him out as they created a great scene while the finale was partially directed by Keaton who helped Chaplin out with the scene. Many also discussed that as great as a filmmaker and physical comedian that Keaton is, some say he is underrated as an actor as historians and filmmakers do feel that Keaton had a lot more to offer. Even in his final years as it play into the films he was doing such as Beach Blanket Bingo as he was dealing with ill health but was enjoying his work.

Much of Bogdanovich’s direction is straightforward in the interviews which were shot with cinematographer Dustin Pearlman as it allow those who are interviewed the chance to be in their own world but also express their love for Keaton. Yet, it is through the footage of Keaton’s films and other archival footage that is the meat of the film with the aid of editor Bill Berg-Hillinger who would cultivate all of the footage including some of the rare TV clips and commercials. One aspect of the film that is crucial to the film are clips from the documentary Buster Keaton Rides Again which was a making-of documentary about a short film Keaton was making as it would be one of his last films. Sound editor David Barnaby would gather some audio archives as well as do some remastering in some of the film clips while music supervisor Chris Robertson cultivates an array of music scores from all of the film that Keaton was in as it help play into the humor and somber aspects of his life.

The Great Buster: A Celebration is an incredible film from Peter Bogdanovich. It’s a documentary that does a lot to explore the genius of Buster Keaton as well as the legacy he’s created in the world of film and the admirers he had gained for many years. Even as it showcases his films and why people love them as well as a look into his struggles after his years of stardom and control had faded away only to regain his dignity and overdue adulation he would receive for his gift. In the end, The Great Buster: A Celebration is a marvelous film from Peter Bogdanovich.

Buster Keaton Films: (The Rough House) – (One Week (1920 Short)) – (Convict 13) – (The Scarecrow (1920 short)) – (Neighbors (1920 short)) – (The Haunted House (1921 short)) – (Hard Luck (1921 short)) – (The High Sign) – (The Goat (1921 short)) – (The Playhouse) – (The Boat) – (The Paleface) – (Cops) – (My Wife’s Relations) – (The Blacksmith) – (The Frozen North) – (The Electric House) – (Day Dreams (1922 short)) – (The Balloonatic) – (The Love Nest) – (Three Ages) – (Our Hospitality) – Sherlock Jr. - The Navigator (1924 film) - Seven Chances - (Go West (1925 film)) – (Battling Butler) – The General (1926 film) - (College (1927 film)) – Steamboat Bill Jr. - The Cameraman - (Spite Marriage) – (The Gold Ghost) – (Allez Oop) – (Tars and Stripes) – (Gland Slam Opera) – (One Run Elmer) – (Blue Blazes) – (Mixed Magic) – (Love Nest on Wheels)

Peter Bogdanovich Films: Targets - (Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) – (Directed by John Ford) – The Last Picture Show - (What’s Up Doc?) – Paper Moon - (Daisy Miller) – (At Long Last Love) – (Nickelodeon) – (Saint Jack) – (They All Laughed) – (Mask (1985 film)) – (Illegally Yours) – (Texasville) – (Noises Off) – (The Thing Called Love) – (To Sir with Love II) – (The Price of Heaven) – (Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Women) – (Naked City: A Killer Christmas) – (A Saintly Switch) – (The Cat’s Meow) – (The Mystery of Natalie Wood) – (Hustle (2004 film)) – (Runnin’ Down a Dream) – (She’s Funny That Way)

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Targets




Written, edited, and directed by Peter Bogdanovich with un-credited contributions from Samuel Fuller and story by Bogdanovich and Polly Platt, Targets is the story of a young man going on a killing spree while an aging horror actor contemplates retirement just as he would encounter this troubled young man. Inspired by the shootings at the University of Texas by Charles Whitman, the film explores two different men who would meet as one of them decides to kill in reaction to the world around him. Starring Boris Karloff and Tim O’Kelly. Targets is a riveting film from Peter Bogdanovich.

The film revolves around the parallel lives of an aging horror film actor who wants to retire and a young man who goes on a killing spree as they would eventually encounter each other. It’s a film that play into two men who no longer feel like they fit in with the world as Peter Bogdanovich’s screenplay explore the diverging of these two men who would meet in its climax. The first act revolves around the actor Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) who has become tired of making films and is eager to return to England to live in his final days despite the fact that a young filmmaker in Sammy Michaels (Peter Bogdanovich) wants to make a film with him as Orlok is also asked to make an appearance at a drive-in movie for some Q&A in a film he starred in. The first act also play into the life of a young war veteran in Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) who has become obsessed with collecting guns as he also becomes unhinged. The second act is about Orlok reluctantly accepting the Q&A gig while Thompson’s path of violence begins.

Bogdanovich’s direction does have elements of style as it play into the world of horror in not just what scared people then but the reality of what would scare people outside of film. Shot on location largely in Reseda, California and parts of Los Angeles, Bogdanovich starts the film with clips of a horror film that Orlok is in as it would appear again for the film’s climax which are really clips from The Terror that also featured a young Jack Nicholson. While the film early on has tonal issues due to the fact that these two different stories in the film, it is mainly due to the fact that Bogdanovich was working on a limited budget provided by producer Roger Corman who co-directed the clips from The Terror with other directors as he tasked Bogdanovich to make a film with the Orlok character for two days and then do whatever the hell he wanted as Bogdanovich’s usage of wide and medium shots play into Thompson’s dark obsession and his thirst to kill. Also serving as editor, Bogdanovich maintains a straightforward approach to building up the suspense with rhythmic cuts as well as how it play into Thompson as he would begin his killing spree.

Bogdanovich’s direction also play into this unexpected impact in Thompson’s killing as it would be key to the film’s second act in this act of violence that is shocking and disturbing. Yet, it also play into his lack of social awareness once he decides to kill from afar as he would clumsily leave away guns and ammo in the crime scene as he evades pursuit from the police. The film’s third act that climaxes at this drive-in movie theater where Orlok is to do a Q&A is where everything comes to ahead with Thompson hiding as he would just shoot random people with those being aware as if he’s trying to bring real horror instead of the horror that is being shown on the big screen. Bogdanovich’s approach to terror and horror help play into the sense of fear as it does feel real while it would also play into this confrontation between Orlok and Thompson about what fear does to people. Overall, Bogdanovich crafts a gripping and terrifying film about an aging horror film star and troubled young man whose diverging paths would collide to express fear in an ever-changing world.

Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its vibrant colors for some of the exterior shots in the film and usage of lights, shades, and shadows for some of the interior scenes at night as well as some elaborate lighting set-ups for the film’s climax. Production/costume designer Polly Platt does excellent work with the look of Orlok’s hotel suite and Thompson’s home as well as the clean-cut clothes both men wear. The special effects work of Gary Kent is terrific for the assassination scenes as it help play into the sense of terror that occurs. Sound editor Verna Fields does amazing work with the sound in the way gunfire sounds as well as the layers of sound to help in maintaining that air of suspense and terror throughout the film. The film’s music by Ronald Stein from the film The Terror is wonderful for its usage that help play into the suspense with its swell of bombastic string arrangements.

The film’s superb ensemble cast feature some notable small and appearances from future film producer/then-assistant director Frank Marshall as a ticket boy, James E. Brown and Mary Jackson as Thompson’s parents, Tanya Morgan as Thompson’s wife Ilene, Mike Farrell as a man in a phone booth, Sandy Baron as the radio dee-jay Kip Larkin, Nancy Hsueh as Orlok’s assistant Jenny, Monte Landis and Arthur Peterson as a couple of big-time film producers, and director Peter Bogdanovich as the young director Sammy Michaels who is trying to get Orlok to do one more film while they both watch a film by Howard Hawks. Tim O’Kelly is incredible as Bobby Thompson as an insurance agent/Vietnam veteran who is a quiet man that doesn’t show his troubles unless he’s carrying a gun as he starts to think about killing and seems to be in control and overjoyed when he kills someone. Finally, there’s Boris Karloff in a phenomenal performance as Byron Orlok as a horror film star who becomes tired of what he does as he’s also eager to retire while dealing with the world and what horror has become as it is a straightforward yet endearing performance from Karloff who brings a lot of gravitas to the role.

Targets is a sensational film from Peter Bogdanovich that features two incredible performances from Boris Karloff and Tim O’Kelly. Along with its striking visuals, exploration of horror in an ever-changing world, and its steady approach to suspense, the film is definitely a suspense-thriller that mixes in with a story of an old man wanting to retire as it play into the B-movies produced by Roger Corman with an element of character study. In the end, Targets is a phenomenal film from Peter Bogdanovich.

Peter Bogdanovich Films: (Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) – (Directed by John Ford) – The Last Picture Show - (What’s Up Doc?) – Paper Moon - (Daisy Miller) – (At Long Last Love) – (Nickelodeon) – (Saint Jack) – (They All Laughed) – (Mask (1985 film)) – (Illegally Yours) – (Texasville) – (Noises Off) – (The Thing Called Love) – (To Sir with Love II) – (The Price of Heaven) – (Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Women) – (Naked City: A Killer Christmas) – (A Saintly Switch) – (The Cat’s Meow) – (The Mystery of Natalie Wood) – (Hustle (2004 film)) – (Runnin’ Down a Dream) – (She’s Funny That Way) – The Great Buster: A Celebration

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Great Final Film Performances




In the 21st week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of great final films of actors and actresses which was suggested by me as some retire with a whimper while others choose to go out with a bang. Here are my three picks:

1. Bruce Lee-Enter the Dragon



The genre-defining starring and co-directed by Bruce Lee was the film that proved how immense the kung-fu/martial arts genre would be to capture the minds of western audiences. The film is about a spy who enters a secret invitational tournament to find out who killed his sister and the secrets behind the tournament. The film was released nearly a month after his death where he was trying to work on another film in Game of Death which he never finished though a 38-minute unfinished version of the film is available and is set to be available in a remastered form in an upcoming Blu-Ray box set devoted to Bruce Lee’s work from the Criterion Collection.

2. John Cazale-The Deer Hunter



Though he only appeared in five films during his life time from 1972 to 1978, John Cazale at least created an impressive amount of performances in those films as all five films that he appeared in remain revered and have either won or have been nominated for Best Picture. In his role as a steelworker who doesn’t join three of his friends to go to Vietnam to fight in the war, Cazale’s character is someone that talks a lot of shit but never does anything though he is a man that means well. Cazale’s performance is overlooked in comparison to his co-stars yet he does have moments where he stands out as it is a great farewell to one of cinema’s great actors.

3. Richard Burton-Nineteen Eighty-Four



Michael Radford’s adaptation of the George Orwell novel that stars the late John Hurt as Winston Smith is a film that explores a totalitarian world as Smith is someone who wants to be an individual in a world where individualism is taboo. It is a film that bears more relevance given the times we’re in this pandemic world. Especially in America as there’s a dictator that is creating lies and having followers who will spout his idiotic rhetoric. In his final performance as O’Brien, Richard Burton brings a lot of gravitas to his role as the antagonist who studies Smith’s activities and tortures him in the worst ways. It is a towering performance and a real way to go out.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, May 18, 2020

Blinded by the Light



Based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion, and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light is the story of a British-Muslim college student who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen as he finds inspiration as a writer as well as finding his own identity during a tumultuous time in late 1980s Britain. Directed by Gurinder Chadha and screenplay by Chadha, Manzoor, and Paul Mayeda Berges, the film is a coming-of-age story set in 1987 in the small British town of Luton where a young man deals with his father’s strict upbringing as he tries to find his own voice with help from the Boss. Starring Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nikita Mehta, Tara Divina, David Hayman, Sally Phillips, Rob Brydon, and Hayley Atwell as Ms. Clay. Blinded by the Light is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Gurinder Chadha.

Set in 1987 in the small British town of Luton during the era of Margaret Thatcher and the rise of the far-right fascist political party the National Front, the film explores the life of a young British-Pakistani man whose life is changed by the music of Bruce Springsteen as it gives him inspiration to become a writer as well as makes of the world around in his small British town of Luton. It is a coming-of-age film that begins in 1980 briefly where this boy who is given a Rubik’s cube for his birthday while his best friend received a bike as they look for ideas to get out of this small town. Then in 1987 as Thatcher continues to be in power as prime minister of Great Britain amidst economic and social turmoil. The film’s screenplay by Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor, and Paul Mayeda Berges that is based on Manzoor’s memoir definitely play into the times as it is told largely from the perspective of this young man named Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra).

Khan comes from a British-Pakistani working-class family who lives in the suburb where his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) works in a top position for Vauxhall Motors while his mother Noor (Meera Ganatra) sews and does alterations. Khan also has a younger sister in Shazia (Nikita Mehta) is a student and a cousin named Yasmeen (Tara Divina) whom Malik and Noor raise as if she was another daughter as she is to be married. Attending this small college in Luton in a school that is surrounded largely by white and black, Khan is the only other South Asian student as he would meet other South Asian student in Roops (Aaron Phagura) who would loan Khan two cassette tapes of music by Springsteen. Upon the news that his father has been laid off and work becoming scarce, Khan deals with this great uncertainty as he thinks about giving up his dreams to be a writer believing that his poems, essays, and stories won’t take him anywhere. Then by accident, he listens to those two tapes of music by Springsteen and his world completely changes as Springsteen’s music seems to say a lot of what he’s dealing with at home but also in his small town as he’s harassed by white racists of the National Front.

The first act doesn’t just succeed in establish Khan, his family, and the world he is in as the second act is about him gaining a new identity, a new sense of confidence in his writing as he would write for the school paper, and find a lot of things from Springsteen’s music. Even as he learns more about the man himself and how this man from a small town in New Jersey would write songs about experiences and such that Khan himself is going through. Khan would gain a girlfriend in student activist in Eliza (Nell Williams) as the relationship would inspire him to write lyrics for his friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) for his synth-pop band who lives in the same neighborhood. The script also showcases the struggle that Malik endures in finding work but also holding on to his pride and maintaining his identity as a Pakistani as he would help out fellow Pakistanis in real estate deals without taking any money. He is a flawed man who means well but is also someone who seems to be lost in the ways of the world as it is something his son would realize more about during the film’s progression.

Chadha’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions that she creates though the setting of it does add an air of realism to the film as it is shot on location in Luton. Set in the 1980s during this period of Thatcher and a music culture that was more akin to slickly, over-produced pop music than the more earnest music of Springsteen. Chadha does make Luton a character as she focuses on certain locations including its mall, the neighborhoods, the college, and other parts as the usage of wide and medium shots play into this world that is unique but also filled with problems due to the growing unemployment and chaos that involves the National Front. Chadha’s compositions do help play into Khan’s growth as a person such as the scene where he listens to Springsteen for the first time in the song Dancing in the Dark as the lyrics would appear on the screen as it says a lot of what Khan is going through.

Springsteen’s music in the film definitely help drive the story as many of the songs used are from Springsteen’s first album in Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. to 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. as it bear an air of relevance to Khan’s development and the way he sees the world around him including racial prejudice as the music inspires him to stand up for himself. Even against the advice of his father who believes to not do anything which only made himself and other Pakistanis that he knows targets. That all comes to ahead in its third act when Khan gets the chance to buy tickets for a concert from Springsteen but it’s on sale on the day of Yasmeen’s wedding which coincides with a march from the National Front as Chadha’s direction really showcases this divergence of a young man’s dream to see his idol but also the reality that he briefly ran away from only to return to understand what is happening. Especially as it play into a clash of ideals and identity between Khan and his father with both of them being stubborn forcing the former to make decisions for himself but always find guidance from Springsteen’s music about who he is and what he’s become as well as to try and understand about his father and the frustrations his father is dealing with. Overall, Chadha crafts a touching and compelling film about a young British-Pakistani writer who finds inspiration and himself through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Cinematographer Ben Smithard does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of lights and moods for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as well as the usage of natural lighting for the scenes in the daytime. Editor Justin Krish does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some montage editing for one of the film’s early moments. Production designer Nick Ellis, with set decorator Lucy Howe and art director Grant Bailey, does fantastic work with the look of the college that Khan goes to as well as the home he lives with his family including his room that would transform into a shrine to the Boss. Costume designer Annie Hardinge does amazing work with the costumes from the traditional Pakistani clothes the women wear as well as what men wear in ceremonies as well as the more street look that Khan would adopt after hearing Springsteen’s music.

Hair/makeup designer JoJo Williams does brilliant work with the 80s hairstyle that some of the kids sport including Matt as well as the more guarded look of Khan before he loosens up a bit. Special effects supervisor Chris Reynolds and visual effects supervisor Dolores McGinley do nice work with some of the elaborate moments involving the music such as lyrics popping up as well as bits of set dressing to make Luton more like the 1980s. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle does superb work with the sound as it help play into how music is sound through a speaker as well as the atmosphere of the locations including a day-timer club that Khan goes to with his sister.

The film’s music by A.R. Rahman is wonderful for its mixture of folk and Pakistani-inspired music as it help play into the culture that Khan is surrounded by while music supervisors Zoe Ellen Bryant and Pete Saville create a soundtrack that features a different array of music that include traditional Indian/Pakistani pieces as well as 80s Pakistani-pop from Johnny Zee & the Taz Stereo Nation and Heera as well as 80s music from the Pet Shop Boys, Level 42, Cutting Crew, a-ha, M/A/R/R/S, Mental as Anything, Danny Wilson, and Tiffany. Yet, the bulk of the music soundtrack features music from Bruce Springsteen including some rarities and unreleased song in I’ll Stand By You as the music of Boss is a major highlight as it goes into big hits, revered deep cuts, live bootleg material, and other rarities that fans of his work will enjoy.

The casting by Susie Figgis and Kirsty Kinnear is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Billy Barratt as the young Matt, Ronak Singh Chadha Berges as the young Javed, Kit Reeve as Matt’s girlfriend Emma who also works at a record shop, Lorraine Ashbourne as a regular alterations customer for Noor, Marcus Brigstocke and Olivia Poulet as Eliza’s parents, Sally Phillips as the school headmistress, Frankie Fox as the school deejay who dismisses Springsteen’s music in favor of what is considered hot as he proves to be the most uncool person out there, and Rob Brydon in a superb performance as Matt’s father who gives Javed a job for a bit while they share their love for the music of the Boss. David Hayman is terrific as the family neighbor/World War II veteran Mr. Evans who finds one of Javed’s poems as he would encourage him to write more as well as give him advice about being supportive to his friends and family. Hayley Atwell is fantastic as Javed’s English teacher Ms. Clay as a figure who finds promise in Javed’s work as well as also encourage him to find his own path in life instead of what his father wants from him.

Dean-Charles Chapman is excellent as Javed’s friend Matt as an aspiring musician that is trying to help Javed in getting girls and such while wanting to make music that matters to him despite his dad’s criticism. Nikita Mehta and Tara Divina are brilliant in their respective roles as Javed’s sister Shazia and cousin Yasmeen as two young women trying to maintain their values with the former carrying a secret about what she does at day-timers. Meera Ganatra is amazing as Javed’s mother Noor as a woman who works as well as be a mediator to the family while understanding that Javed isn’t trying to defy his father but reach for his dream. Nell Williams is remarkable as Eliza as a young student who is also active in politics as she is fascinated by Javed’s writing and his love for the Boss as she becomes a convert of his music. Aaron Phagura is incredible as Roops as a fellow South Asian student who introduces Javed to Springsteen’s music as they use the music as an act of defiance against racists and people who dismisses Springsteen’s music.

Kulvinder Ghir is phenomenal as Javed’s dad Malik as a Pakistani-born man who is proud of his heritage yet is angry and frustrated after being laid off as he tries to find work but is also upset over his son’s growing fascination with being a writer and listening to this American singer believing he’s Jewish as it is a touching performance from Ghir who creates a very complex and flawed character that is extremely relatable about the hopes and disappointments that fathers endure. Finally, there’s Viveik Kalra in a sensational performance as Javed Khan as this young British-Pakistani man who copes with his identity and the expectations from his father until he finds inspiration and solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen as he starts to find his voice as a writer as well as coming to terms with who he is and everything he wants to be but also hold on to his heritage.

Blinded by the Light is a tremendous film from Gurinder Chadha that features great performances from Kulvinder Ghir and Viveik Kalra. Along with its ensemble cast, vibrant visuals, themes of identity and pride, and an intoxicating music soundtrack that features a lot of phenomenal music by Bruce Springsteen. The film is definitely an uplifting and engaging film that explores the power of music and how it can drive someone to reach his dreams and share that with his family. In the end, Blinded by the Light is a spectacular film from Gurinder Chadha.

Gurinder Chadha Films: (Bhaji on the Beach) – (What’s Cooking?) – (Bend It Like Beckham) – (Bride and Prejudice) – (The Mistresses of Spices) – Paris Je T'aime-Quais de Seine - (Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging) – (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife) – (Viceroy’s House) – (Beecham House)

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Foxtrot



Written and directed by Samuel Maoz, Foxtrot is the story of a couple who receives news that their son was killed in a battle somewhere in the Middle East. The film explores a couple’s grief but also wonder what happened and where as they deal with the Israeli Defense Forces whom their son was fighting for as they ask big questions over what happened and if it’s true. Starring Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler. Foxtrot is a haunting yet offbeat film from Samuel Maoz.

The film revolves around the news of the death of an Israeli soldier as his parents want to know what happened yet confusion arises over his body as well as where their son is stationed at and what he and his fellow soldiers were doing. It’s a film that explore not just grief but also the world that revolves those who serve the Israeli Defense Forces as it isn’t everything that is cracked up to be. Samuel Maoz’s screenplay is oddly structured in the way it approaches the narrative as the first act is set almost entirely in an apartment loft in Tel Aviv where Michael and Dafna Feldmann (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler, respectively) receive the news about the death of their son Jonathan (Yonathan Shiray). Dafna is wracked with grief while Michael asks people from the IDF about his son’s body as confusion begins to emerge.

The film then moves to the second act at a remote area in the Israeli border where a group of soldiers are guarding the area as they live in a containment unit that is sinking on the land it’s on. There we get a glimpse into the lives of these soldiers and the boredom they have to do in their line of work as one of them is named Jonathan as it only raises the air of confusion of what the Feldmanns are going through. Especially as it would play into the third act over an act of confusion that would affect Jonathan and the other soldiers as it also play into this air of guilt and how fate plays into the actions of a few.

Maoz’s direction is entrancing for the compositions he creates that include a lot of overhead shots that play into not just this air of grief but also confusion. Shot on location in Israel with the scenes at the Feldmanns’ apartment inside a studio, Maoz definitely aims for intimacy with the usage of close-ups as it play into this air of claustrophobia of repressed anger and grief that Michael Feldmann is carrying. Even as he is surrounded by family and soldiers with the latter often making suggestions. The usage of long shots add to this atmosphere that is unsettling as is in the framing where Maoz play into this tension between Michael and those around him as he begins to question about the validity of his son’s death and why there’s no body found. Maoz then goes into surreal elements in the second act where a soldier is dancing with this gorgeous landscape behind him but the reality is that he and the other soldiers are in a desolate area in the middle of nowhere. Even as the camera is tilted to show how deep the containment area they live in is sinking.

Maoz’s direction also play into this air of repetition and boredom where a soldier places a tin can of food to roll it down to see how deep the containment area is sinking day by day. The added boredom would also have the character of Jonathan tell his fellow soldiers stories about his father as it is told through animated drawings from Jonathan that does play into the film’s offbeat humor. The third act has Maoz return to the Feldmanns as it is more about the aftermath as well as a return to the intimacy of the film’s first act as it does play into not just grief but also fate. Especially as it play into revelations that occurred in the film’s first act and what did happen as it would play into the events of the third act and its ending. Overall, Maoz crafts a riveting and haunting film about a couple dealing with the possibility of their son’s death during his service for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Cinematographer Giora Bejach does brilliant work for the film’s cinematography with its low-key look for many of the interior settings including the scenes in the containment unit with its lighting as well as the nighttime exteriors with its usage of available light. Editors Arik Lahav Leibovich and Guy Nemesh do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the dramatic tension that looms throughout the film. Production designer Arad Sawat, with set decorator Felicity Good plus art directors Eyal Elhadad and Francis Kiko Soeder, does amazing work with the look of the apartment and how small the bathroom is as well as the look of the containment interior and how deep it’s sinking into the ground.

Visual effects supervisor Jean-Michel Boublil does nice work with a few of the film’s visual effects bit that includes the fantasy backdrop for one of the soldiers’ dancing as well as other bits of set-dressing. Sound designer Jonathan Ritzel does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sparse sounds in the apartment. The film’s music by Ophir Leibovitch and Amit Poznanky is wonderful for its low-key score that is a mixture of strings and ambient-based pieces that play into the sense of uncertainty and lack of action that occurs in the film while its soundtrack features an array of music ranging from foxtrot instrumental music, heavy metal, and some classical pieces including one from Avro Part.

The casting by Tanja Schuh and Chamutal Zerem is fantastic as it feature some notable small roles from Ilia Grosz as Dafna’s sister, Yehuda Almagor as Michael’s brother Avigdor, Karin Ugowski as Michael and Avigdor’s Alzheimer-stricken mother, and Shira Haas as Michael and Dafna’s daughter Alma. Yonathan Shiray is excellent as Jonathan as a young soldier who deals with the boredom of his work as he tries to liven up moral by telling stories to soldiers and such while he would also later deal with a moment that would shock him and many others all because of a misunderstanding. Sarah Adler is brilliant as Dafna Feldmann as a woman wracked with grief to the point she becomes hysterical and then numb while she is later filled with repressed rage during the third act over everything that had happened. Finally, there’s Lior Ashkenazi in an amazing performance as Michael Feldmann as the father of a soldier who deals with his son’s death as he tries to maintain composure until confusion about what happened to him makes him angry as he then copes with the sense of disappointment and guilt over everything in the film’s third act.

Foxtrot is a phenomenal film from Samuel Maoz. Featuring an incredible cast, a somber music soundtrack, intimate and chilling settings, ravishing visuals, and a stark yet captivating look on grief, frustration, and the fallacies of life in military service. It is a film that is unconventional in its approach to narrative as well as it how explore the themes in the film. In the end, Foxtrot is a sensational film from Samuel Maoz.

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Girls' Trip




In the 20th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of girls’ trip. Movies where it’s about the ladies having a good time and going on a trip as it’s been a popular subject with films in the last decade. Here are my three picks:

1. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion




One of the finest comedies of the 1990s as it revolves around two life-long friends who are trying to start a clothing business as their 10-year high school reunion is about to happen. Driving from Los Angeles to Arizona for this reunion, the two friends deal with themselves and what they hope to get out of this reunion in the hopes that everyone who saw them as losers in high school either accept who they are or can simply go fuck themselves. The duo Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow is what makes the film a joy to watch.

2. Spring Breakers



From Harmony Korine comes one of the great films of the 2010s as it revolves around four young girls going to the South of Florida to enjoy spring break and get themselves involve in some crazy shit. Along the way, they meet a drug dealer as a few of them take part in his crazy lifestyle while also getting wild and rowdy. It is a visually-entrancing film with some intense imagery of debauchery while it showcases Korine’s maturity as a filmmaker as he explore young people wanting to have fun and maybe get carried away a bit as it does prove to be a major breakthrough for one of cinema’s enfant terrible.

3. Rough Night



A bachelorette party that goes wrong where four college friends reunite with a new friend in tow to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of their own as they travel to Miami and do some crazy shit. An accident involving a male stripper, trying to hide the body, and all sorts of things lead to a film that is quite funny. Notably as Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Kate McKinnon are the ones providing a lot of the funny stuff while Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Kravitz wisely play it straight and do a few funny bits of their own. It’s an entertaining film that doesn’t take itself seriously and just let itself be insane as it wants to be.

© thevoid99 2020