Friday, February 23, 2024

2024 Blind Spot Series: Splendor in the Grass

 

Directed by Elia Kazan and written by William Inge, Splendor in the Grass is the story of a young woman’s love for a young man from a rich family in Kansas has them wanting to take a big step as they deal with a lot of things in its aftermath. The film is a coming-of-age romantic film that explores two high school sweethearts who fall in love and embark on new places into their relationship as it would delve into chaos and heartbreak. Starring Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, Zohra Lampert, Joanna Roos, and introducing Warren Beatty. Splendor in the Grass is a rich and ravishing film from Elia Kazan.

Set in 1928 Kansas, the film revolves around a relationship between a working class girl and a young rich boy who fall in love and want to take the next step into their relationship yet expectations and pressures from their parents about their individual futures and such would drive the couple apart and into chaos. It is a film that explores young love between two high school kids who are devoted to each other yet both of them are from different social statuses despite attending the same high school as well as their parents wanting to do something for their futures as well as wanting to keep them together. William Inge’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it opens with Wilma Dean “Deanie” Loomis (Natalie Wood) and Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) making out in his car as the latter wants to go forward but the former is reluctant for the relationship to be sexual. Still, the two want to maintain a relationship with Stamper wanting to marry Deanie in the future yet his father Ace Stamper (Pat Hingle) has plans for him to take over the family business even though Bud knows he doesn’t have the grades to go to Yale.

While Deanie lives comfortably despite her being over-protected by her mother (Audrey Christie), she is eager to become Stamper’s wife though is still reluctant to lose her virginity while also having to watch the dysfunctional world that is Stamper’s family. Notably as his older sister Ginny (Barbara Loden) has returned home from Chicago from an annulled marriage as well as a getting an abortion done, which was illegal at the time, where she becomes a source of discord for the family. Even as her behavior would create gossip with Ace wanting to focus more on Bud’s future where he convinces Bud to break up Deanie temporarily as the result would be chaotic with Deanie becoming erratic over its break-up. The two would endure their own separate journeys where Stamper deals with the futility of expectations while Deanie goes on her own journey to discover herself.

Elia Kazan’s direction is evocative in not just the richness of its compositions but also in its overall presentation as it plays into a world where parents are expecting this great future emerging just a year before the Crash of 1929 that lead to the Great Depression. Shot largely at the Filmways Studios in New York City with exterior locations shot on Staten Island and High Falls, New York, Kazan creates a film that plays into a period in time where Prohibition was still happening though the rich were able to get alcohol through some illegal means and get away with it. Even as Kazan shows how Ace Stamper is able to get alcohol in those times as he is a rich man with oil wells and cattle ranches where he wants Bud to run these things in the future though Bud is more interested in just wanting to run a ranch. Kazan plays into this sense of generational gap involving Deanie and Bud against the expectations of their parents as Kazan’s unique compositions in his close-ups and medium shots play into the melodrama and dramatic suspense.

There are some wide shots in Kazan’s direction in the way he films scenes in Kansas including this waterfall area for the film’s first scene as well as a couple of key moments that would play into the Deanie and Bud’s dissolution. Kazan also maintains this air of sexual innuendo in the way Ginny presents herself as well as a scene of Deanie in a bathtub as she is talking to her mother as she would act erratically over what happened with Bud. It would play into this third act of Bud and Deanie living separate lives but also confront their own issues with themselves but also gain an understanding of what their parents want. Notably as Bud’s time in Yale produces poor results in a scene with him, his father, and Yale’s dean (Kermit Murdock) where Kazan definitely shows who is running the conversation as that person is starting to unravel with Bud caught in the middle. Its ending refers to a poem by William Wordsmith that Deanie struggled to read and comprehend in its second act as it would return as a way to express what she and Bud had endured but also the choices they would make as adults. Overall, Kazan crafts an intoxicating and exhilarating film about high school sweethearts whose love life is disrupted by the demands of adulthood and the expectations of their families.

Cinematographer Boris Kaufman does amazing work with the film’s cinematography in the richness of the daytime exterior locations as well as the usage of lights for some of the interior scenes at night along with an emphasis on low-key lighting for the exterior scenes at night. Editor Gene Milford does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the melodrama as well as some lighthearted moments in the film. Production designer Richard Sylbert and set decorator Gene Callahan do brilliant work with the interiors of the Loomis family home in its simple yet classy style that is a sharp contrast to the way more refined world of the Stamper family estate with all of its bigger rooms and such. Costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone does fantastic work with the costumes with the dresses that the women wear being a highlight including some of the clothes that Deanie would wear later in her life as well as the raunchy clothes that Ginny wears.

Hairdresser Willis Hanchett and makeup artist Robert Jiras do terrific work with the hairstyles that the women wear at the time including Deanie’s hairstyle in the film’s first and second act as well as a more refined look in the third act. Sound editor Frank Lewin does superb work with the sound in the way waterfall sounds from its location up-close and from afar as well as the way a room is presented in its location. The film’s music by David Amram is incredible for its jazz-like score that features some saxophone and piano to play into the melodrama and romance that includes some orchestral flourishes with a soundtrack filled with the music of the times.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Ivor Francis as Deanie’s psychiatrist Dr. Judd, screenwriter William Inge as the local pastor Reverend Whitman, Kermit Murdock as the dean of Yale in Dean Pollard, Phyllis Diller in her film debut as the famed performer Texas Guinan, Martine Bartlett as the school literature teacher Miss Metcalf, the duo of Sandy Dennis and Crystal Field as two of Deanie’s friends in Kay and Hazel, Charles Robinson in an un-credited performance as a young man that Deanie meets in a hospital in John, Gary Lockwood as a friend/teammate of Bud in Toots, Jan Norris as a slutty classmate of Deanie in Juanita Howard, and John McGovern as Doc Smiley who becomes concerned for Bud’s health following a collapse at a basketball game while also believing that Bud is being put into a lot of pressure from his father. Joanna Roos is wonderful as Bud and Ginny’s mother who is supportive of Bud’s relationship with Deanie though she has great concerns over her husband’s ambitions and the pressure he put on their son. Fred Stewart is superb as Deanie’s father Del Loomis as a man who runs a small shop next to the house as he is this low-key person that doesn’t try to cause trouble while is also doing what he can to make Deanie feel happy as he would also feel that his wife is smothering her.

Zohra Lampert is fantastic as Angelina as this young Italian immigrant that Bud meets in Yale as she would help him see things differently as well as be an important person to him later in his life. Audrey Christie is excellent as Deanie’s mother who is protective of Deanie as she also sees her as a young girl as she unknowingly would smother her as it would add to Deanie’s emotional and mental troubles. Barbara Loden is brilliant as Bud’s older sister Ginny as this young woman who likes to push her father’s buttons as well as be this ultimate rebel though it would also put her in danger including an attempted rape on her as she’s also gained notoriety for all of the wrong reasons. Pat Hingle is amazing as Bud’s father Ace Stamper as this rich oilman who expects so much from Bud to succeed him as he talks a lot while also making some bad suggestions as he would help play a role in Bud and Deanie’s break-up as he is really a complex man that is severely flawed and tries to control so many things in his life.

Finally, there’s the duo of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Bud Stamper and Deanie Loomis. Beatty in his debut performance has all of the attributes of a high school sports star in terms of its physiques and looks yet it is Beatty’s vulnerability that makes Bud compelling to watch as someone who is aware of his flaws and shortcomings as well as the fact that he doesn’t have his father’s ambitions. Wood exudes a radiance in her performance as a young woman that has an air of innocence but is also someone who had been too sheltered leading to an emotional breakdown and issues that would allow her to act out where Wood brings in that intensity to a young woman that is unraveling. Beatty and Wood together have this amazing chemistry as a young couple in love but one of them wants to get more physical but other isn’t willing as it causes problems with Ace getting involved as it adds to the drama as the two are a major highlight to watch.

Splendor in the Grass is an outstanding film from Elia Kazan that features great leading performances from Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, wondrous visuals, a fiery music score, and a story of young love and the expectations of adulthood. It is a film that explores two young people wanting to devote their love for one another only to cope with life changes and the move into adulthood as well as the demanding hopes of their parents. In the end, Splendor in the Grass is magnificent film from Elia Kazan.

Elia Kazan Films: (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) – (The Sea of Grass) – (Boomerang!) – (Gentleman’s Agreement) – (Pinky) – (Panic in the Streets) – A Streetcar Named Desire - (Viva Zapata!) – (Man on a Tightrope) – On the Waterfront - (East of Eden) – (Baby Doll) – (A Face in the Crowd) – (Wild River) – (America America) – (The Arrangement) – (The Visitors (1972 film)) – (The Last Tycoon)

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Sandra (1965 film)

 

Based on the Greek tragedies of Electra by Sophocles and Euripides, Vaghe stele dell’Orsa (Glimmering stars of the Great Bear) or Sandra is the story of a woman who returns to her ancestral home town to celebrate the eve of her father’s death where she renews her incestuous relationship with her brother to the shock of her husband. Directed by Luchino Visconti and screenplay by Visconti, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, and Enrico Medioli, the film is a modern take of the Greek tragedies of Electra in which a woman copes with loss but also secrets that would ruin her family as the titular character of Sandra is portrayed by Claudia Cardinale. Also starring Jean Sorel, Michael Craig, and Renzo Ricci. Vaghe stele dell’Orsa is a ravishing yet eerie film from Luchino Visconti.

The film follows a woman who returns to a small town, with her American husband, in Tuscany to commemorate her father’s passing as she also hopes to deal with some unfinished business with her funny including her brother whom she had an incestuous relationship with. It is a film that puts the Greek tragedies relating to the character of Electra and set in 1960s Italy as this woman returns home as she copes with various issues within her family as well as the need to commemorate her father who had died in a concentration camp at World War II. The film’s screenplay, that also features additional yet un-credited contributions from Giampiero Bona, is largely straightforward as its titular character is a woman who has created a new life away from her small town yet knows she has to return to that town with her husband Andrew Dawdson (Michael Craig) for her late father as well as to maintain a secret relationship with her brother that she doesn’t want Andrew to know.

Yet, the arrival of Gianni (Jean Sorel) at the family home does create confusion within Sandra as she also knows that he would arrive as he had been staying at their old home for some time. There is also tension relating to their stepfather Antonio Gilardini (Renzo Ricci) who knows about their secret as he and Sandra despise each other with Gilardini also taking care of their ailing mother (Marie Bell) who also issues with her children. Dawdson would try to settle things as he also meets a former lover of Sandra in Dr. Pietro Formari (Fred Williams) who would further the tension that is already boiling as he is also watching over Sandra and Gianni’s mother. Even as Dawdson would stage a dinner for everyone to settle matters once and for all as he would learn about his wife’s shocking secret.

Luchino Visconti’s direction is mesmerizing for the way he captures a woman returning to her hometown as it is filled with unique yet abstract visuals that play into this sense of dread and regret. Shot on location in Volterra in the Tuscan region of Italy, Visconti maintains an intimacy throughout the film though there are wide shots of these locations including the main home where Sandra’s family lived in that includes some decayed area where a bust of her father’s head is to be unveiled. Much of Visconti’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it plays into the dramatic tension and melodrama that occurs throughout the film. Notably in the scene at the decayed wall on a windy night where Sandra and Gianni reunite as there is something rich in Visconti’s compositions as well as scenes where Gianni and Andrew walk around town where the latter meets Dr. Formari for the first time as it is an awkward meeting.

Visconti also maintains this dramatic tension as it includes a tense scene between Sandra and her mother that is intercut with a meeting between her and local officials including her stepfather as the tension is felt throughout the film. Even as Visconti would go into the melodrama as well as these rich compositions in a scene at an old water tower between Sandra and Gianni as it acts as the two siblings possibly rekindling their taboo relationship. Yet, their relationship is put to the test in this climatic dinner scene at the film’s third act where Sandra, Gianni, Andrew, Dr. Formari, and Gilardini are attending as Visconti definitely creates this tense atmosphere where something is about to happen. Even as its aftermath would have this sense of tragedy but also acceptance of letting go something that has been the source of discord within her family. Overall, Visconti crafts a chilling yet rapturous film about a woman returning home to celebrate her father’s legacy as well as confront her troubled relationship with her brother.

Cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it is filled with imagery with its usage of lights and shadows for the interior/exterior scenes including some really dark scenes in some of the bedrooms at night. Editor Mario Serandrei does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play into the dramatic tension as well as some of the melodrama that occurs with its usage of rhythmic cuts. Production designer Mario Garbuglia and set decorator Laudomia Hercolani do amazing work with the look of the rooms at the family estate including its main hall and a room full of statues and antiques as it is a highlight of the film.

Costume designer Bice Brichetto does fantastic work with the costumes in some of the suits the men wear as well as the stylish clothing that Sandra wears. The sound work of Bruno Borghi and Claudio Maielli do superb work with the sound in the way the wind sounds up close and from afar in a key scene early in the film as a lot of it emphasizes on natural sounds presented from its location as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Cesar Franck is phenomenal for its classical-based piano score that features some classical variations as it adds to the drama and tension that looms throughout the film while its soundtrack features some pop and rock music of that period.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from noted production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti as a party guest at the film’s opening scene, Amalia Tosca as the family maid Fosca, and Marie Bell (w/ the voice of Andreina Pagnani) as Sandra and Gianni’s mentally-ill mother who despises her children. Fred Williams is terrific as Dr. Pietro Formari as a former lover of Sandra who finds himself dealing with some of the family chaos as he also cares for their mother as he tries to help settle things despite the awkwardness between him and Dawdson. Renzo Ricci is excellent as Antonio Gilardini as Sandra and Gianni’s stepfather who isn’t fond of them yet loves their mother as he is trying to take care of her while he knows about their secret relationship as it is the source of his issues between his stepchildren.

Michael Craig (w/ the voice of Giuseppe Rinaldi) is brilliant as Sandra’s American husband Andrew Dawdson as he is someone trying to learn about the family as well as Sandra’s early life as he also serves as a mediator between the family and their many issues as he is largely reserved until the film’s climax. Jean Sorel (w/ the voice of Massimo Turci) is amazing as Sandra’s brother Gianni Wald-Lutazzi as a man who had maintained a mysterious life as he spends much of his time at the family estate as he hopes to renew his incestuous relationship with Sandra, despite liking Dawdson, as he becomes unhinged over the possibility that it wouldn’t continue. Finally, there’s Claudia Cardinale in a tremendous performance as the titular character as this woman who returns to her hometown to commemorate her Jewish father as well as deal with family issues including her brother as she is unsure about restarting their taboo relationship. Cardinale brings in a complex performance as a woman that is full of grief but also someone that is conflicted and full of rage as it relates to her family as it is a career-defining performance from Cardinale.

Vaghe stele dell’Orsa is a sensational film from Luchino Visconti that features a great leading performance from Claudia Cardinale. Along with its ensemble cast, riveting story of family tragedy and taboo, ravishing visuals, and an evocative music score. It is a film that explores a woman trying to settle family matters as well as confront a taboo relationship with her brother that had been the source of family drama. In the end, Vaghe stele dell’Orsa is a phenomenal film from Luchino Visconti.

Luchino Visconti Films: (Obsessione) – (Giorni di gloria) – (La Terra Firma) – (Appunti su un fatto di cronaca) – (We, the Women) – (Bellisima) - (Senso) – White Nights (1957 film) - Rocco and His Brothers - (Boccaccio ’70-Il lavoro) – The Leopard - (The Stranger (1967 film)) – The Witches-The Witch Burned Alive - The Damned - Death in Venice - (Alla ricerca di Tadzio) – (Ludwig) – (Conversation Piece) – The Innocent (1976 film)

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Innocent (1976 film)

 

Based on the novel The Intruder by Gabriele d’Annunzio, L’innocente (The Innocent) is the story of a womanizing aristocrat who openly engages in an affair with his mistress in front of his wife until he learns that his wife is having an affair of her own. Directed by Luchino Visconti and screenplay by Visconti, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, and Enrico Medioli, the film is an exploration into fidelity as well as a man coping with his own chauvinistic views that has gotten him into trouble. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. L’innocente is a riveting and evocative film from Luchino Visconti.

Set in late 19th Century Italy, the film revolves around a philandering aristocrat who openly spends time with his mistress towards his wife whom he neglects until he learns that she had slept with someone as he devotes his full attention towards her. It is a film that explores a man who is married yet treats his wife terribly as he often engages in affairs as he tries to win over his mistress away from a rival. Yet, the news that his wife did have an affair only upsets him as he would try to devote his fullest attention to her until he learns more about the affair and its outcome. The film’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative as it showcases the life that Tullio Hermil (Giancarlo Giannini) has where he lives a rich life as he is married to a beautiful woman in Giuliana (Laura Antonelli) but he is also in love with his mistress in another aristocrat in Teresa Raffo (Jennifer O’Neill) whom he sees at an intimate concert. Giuliana suspects that something is going on when Tullio leaves the concert to talk with Teresa where he later confesses his relationship with Teresa but wants the marriage to continue as a way to maintain his social status.

When Tullio is out of town to pursue Teresa away from another aristocrat in Count Stefano Egano (Massimo Girotti), Tullio’s younger brother Federico (Didier Haudepin) is asked to watch over Giuliana as he invites some friends including an author in Filippo d’Arborio (Marc Porel) for dinner when Giuliana falls ill only to enjoy Filippo’s company. Tullio’s pursuit for Teresa would have issues as she is just as cruel as he is in the way he treats Giuliana until he wonders where Giuliana goes to when he’s not home as he also learns she goes to see his mother whom he would later visit with Giuliana. Giuliana’s affair would force Tullio to focus on her as he would be enamored with her until he brings her news that changes everything. The news would be exciting for Tullio’s family yet Federico becomes suspicious into Tullio’s behavior as Tullio becomes confused in his love for his wife but also wanting to be with his mistress.

Luchino Visconti’s direction definitely plays into a world that is set entirely in aristocratic society as it is shot at the Villa Mirafiori in Rome and two villas at the town of Luca with the Villa Butori being a main setting. Much of Visconti’s direction has this element of intrigue in the way he follows Tullio in this world of the privileged as well as being a man who feels like he could do whatever he wants and he can get anything he wants. Much of Visconti’s direction utilizes a lot of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the rooms that the characters walk into as well as this world where it is disconnected from the world of the working class and the poor as they’re never shown. Even as there are these rare moments of the rich walking into the streets such as a Christmas mass scene in the third act where everyone but Tullio attends. There is also an intimacy into Visconti’s direction in the medium shots and close-ups in the way he films Tullio’s reaction or the way he gazes into Giuliana’s face as she laments over her actions as well as Tullio’s response.

Visconti also plays into this air of masculinity that Tullio takes pride of as the revelations over who Giuliana had an affair with as he gets a look into the man as there is this air of humiliation and him being a cuckold. The film’s second act which takes place at the home of Tullio’s mother where Federico makes a visit showcases this sense of immorality that Federico notices in his brother’s behavior as he becomes concerned for Giuliana as the two would have a fencing duel that gets a little aggressive at one point. The third act relates to the film’s title where Giuliana starts to realize the emotional and mental toll her affair had yet more revelations occur following Tullio’s actions as Visconti reveals the many faults of Tullio’s masculinity and his inability to accept defeat. Even as the film’s final scene relates to result of his actions as well as the revelation of not having it all as it also relates to Teresa. Overall, Visconti crafts a chilling and intoxicating film about a philandering aristocrat trying to win back his wife after learning about her affair.

Cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its approach to natural lighting as well as its usage of light for many of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of its dramatic reactions as well as in some of the suspenseful moments in the film. Production designer Mario Garbuglia and set decorator Carlo Gervasi do amazing work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as a villa that Tullio decides to make as his home as plays into his lavish personality. Costume designer Piero Tosi does fantastic work with the costumes from the design of the dresses and gowns the women wear as well as some of the looser clothing that Giuliana wears when she’s resting as well as some of the military uniforms that Federico wears.

The sound work of Mario Dallimonti is superb for its natural approach to sound in the way epees sound during duels as well as scenes from one room to another in some of the villas. The film’s music by Franco Mannino is incredible for its orchestral score filled with piano and string arrangements that play into the drama as well as some of the suspense that looms throughout the film while its soundtrack largely features some classical and operatic pieces from Frederic Chopin, Franz Listz, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Christoph Willibald Gluck.

The film’s remarkable cast feature some notable small roles from Enzo Musumeci Greco as the fencing master, Vittorio Zarfati as Dr. Milani, Alessandra Vazzoler as a nanny, Claude Mann as a prince who is another romantic rival of Tullio for Teresa’s affections, Roberta Paladina as Federico’s date during a dinner where Filippo met Giuliana, Marie Dubois as a princess that is part of Teresa’s social circle, and Massimo Girotti as another of Tullio’s rival for Teresa in Count Stefano Egano whom Tullio despises. Marc Porel is superb as the writer Filippo d’Arborio whom Giuliana meets at Federico’s dinner as he is someone that the opposite of Tullio in his personality as well as being someone that doesn’t say much as he has no clue who Tullio is. Didier Haudepin is fantastic as Tullio’s younger brother Federico as an officer who observes a lot into what is happening to the point where he becomes disenchanted with life at the family home as well as being around Tullio whom he feels has become a monster.

In her final film performance, Rina Morelli is excellent as Tullio and Federico’s mother Marchesa Marianna Hermill as a woman who adores Giuliana while is hoping to have an heir to continue the family name as she becomes baffled by her eldest son’s cold demeanor. Jennifer O’Neill is amazing as Teresa Raffo as this aristocratic beauty who is also Tullio’s mistress as a woman who is fond of Tullio but often makes him go after her as she also has other suitors that she is eager to be with as O’Neill brings a lot of great facial expressions as her voice is dubbed Valeria Moriconi. Giancarlo Giannini is brilliant as Tullio Hermill as this aristocratic man who gets away with lot and feels like he’s untouchable while neglecting and humiliating his wife. Even as he would later become humiliated himself where Giannini brings that sense of restrained fury as a man eager to get revenge while also wanting to have control of his wife in seducing her every way possible.

Finally, there’s Laura Antonelli in a tremendous performance as Tullio’s wife Giuliana as a woman who is mistreated horribly by her philandering husband as she copes with her loneliness and being neglected until she meets a friend of her brother-in-law. Antonelli has this sense of restraint and melancholia as a woman who doesn’t feel appreciated until her brief affair where Tullio devotes a lot of attention to her as she becomes troubled by his behavior as well as some news that would shake their relationship as it is a revelatory performance from Antonelli who has this radiance that is often overlooked considering that a lot of her work has been in Italian softcore erotic films as this is her career-defining performance.

L’Innocente is a phenomenal film from Luchino Visconti that features great performances from Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. Along with its ensemble supporting cast, ravishing visuals, a haunting music score, and its story of infidelity and the fallacies of male chauvinism. It is a film that is this evocative period drama that explores a man being forced to deal with his life but also maintain control of who he is as it serves as this fitting finale for Visconti. In the end, L’Innocente is a sensational film from Luchino Visconti.

Luchino Visconti Films: (Obsessione) – (Giorni di gloria) – (La Terra Firma) – (Appunti su un fatto di cronaca) – (We, the Women) – (Bellisima) - (Senso) – White Nights (1957 film) - Rocco and His Brothers - (Boccaccio ’70-Il lavoro) – The Leopard - Sandra – (The Stranger (1967 film)) – The Witches (1967 film)-The Witch Burned Alive - The Damned - Death in Venice - (Alla ricerca di Tadzio) – (Ludwig) – (Conversation Piece)

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Past Lives

 

Written and directed by Celine Song, Past Lives is the story of two childhood who reunite in New York City as they spend the week discussing their lives as well as their choices. The film is a semi-biographical film about these two people from South Korea who both contend with the choices they made in their lives as well as the possibility of what happened if fate hadn’t intervened. Starring Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro. Past Lives is a rich and evocative film from Celine Song.

Told in the span of 24 years, the film follows the lives of two childhood friends from Seoul, South Korea who would lose contact with each other for 12 years only to finally reunite 12 years later to explore the state of their individual lives. It is a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more about possibilities and the lives they were living as well as what could’ve been. Celine Song’s screenplay opens with an off-screen couple watching the two main characters and another man in a conversation as the couple wonder who these people are as it then cuts to 24 years earlier in Seoul. The film’s main narrative begins with these two 12-year old kids in Na Young (Seung Ah Moon) and Hae Sung (Seung Min Yim) who are schoolmates who have feelings for one another yet the former is about to leave Seoul with her family as they’re to emigrate to Toronto to start a new life.

The two wouldn’t contact each other again as Na Young changed her name to Nora (Greta Lee) as she is trying to become a playwright while the adult Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is currently serving the country’s mandatory military service as they both discover they’re on Facebook. The two would talk to each other through video and such yet plans to see each other would fall apart due to the demands of Nora’s career while Hae Sung is still trying to find work as he would travel to China for a Mandarin language exchange. It would be another 12 years where they would finally meet in New York City yet both of them would reveal completely different lives with Nora having already been married to another writer in Arthur Zaturansky (John Magaro) while Hae Sung was in a relationship that is on hold.

Song’s direction is largely straightforward in its overall presentation as it is shot on 35mm as it added a sense of grain and realism to the film as they’re shot largely on locations such as Seoul, New York City, and Montauk in the upstate area of New York. While there are wide shots of some of the locations including scenes shot on a phone during a video conversation between Nora and Hae Sung. Much of Song’s direction is intimate with its usage of medium and few close-ups as it plays into the closeness that the young Hae Sung and Na Young had where there is this great shot of the two walking towards different parts of the street for their farewell. There are also some distinctive compositions that Song creates such as a scene of the young Hae Sung and Na Young playing in a park as their mothers watch from afar suggesting about a future for the two. By the time the film shifts twelve years later where Hae Sung is seen as an adult in a wide shot doing his mandatory military service and then cuts to Nora who is living her life in New York City trying to create something through writing. Song would mix both English and Korean throughout the film as Nora would speak Korean when she talks to Hae Sung through Facebook or when he goes to New York City.

Song also plays into this sense of isolation that looms throughout the film with the wide and medium shots she creates including these intimate moments where Nora and Hae Sung are communicating through Facebook video during the film’s second act with the third act being the two reuniting in New York City. Song definitely plays into the sense of awkwardness that would occur between Nora and Hae Sung with Arthur being a third wheel as he laments over the fact that Hae Sung could be Nora’s true love as it is told in a comical manner. The meeting between the two men is just as awkward due to the fact that Arthur only knows a little bit of Korean and Hae Sung speaks very little English but Song finds a way for the men to find some common ground as well as these revelations of what could’ve been for Hae Sung and Nora but also if that could happen in another life. Overall, Song crafts a rapturous and touching film about two childhood friends who deal with their longing for one another as well as what could’ve been.

Cinematographer Shabier Kirchner does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of 35mm film stock as it has elements of grain to play into much of the film’s naturalistic look with some stylish lighting for a few interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Keith Fraase does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it doesn’t aim for anything stylish other than a few jump-cuts in order to play into the drama. Production designer Grace Yun, with set decorator Joanne Ling and art director Alan Lampert, does brilliant work with the look of the apartments that Nora and Hae Sung would live separately in the film’s second act as well as the home that Nora would live in with Arthur. Costume designer Katina Danabassis does nice work with the costumes as it is largely low-key and casual with the exception of the clothes that the young Hae Sung and Na Young wears.

Hair/makeup artist Heejin “Emily” Baek, along with makeup artists Ivy Emert and Tayler Winer plus hair stylist Antoinette Wade, does fantastic work with the hairstyle that Hae Sung would wear in much of his young adult life as well as a more refined look he would have in the film’s third act. Visual effects supervisors Michael Huber and Alex Lemke do terrific work with the visual effects as it is largely set dressing including a scene at a hotel room in China. Sound editor Jacob Ribicoff does superb work with the sound as it mainly focuses on natural sound in how a room sounds as well as a bar and such. The film’s music by Christopher Bear and Daniel Rossen is wonderful for its somber and low-key score filled with piano-based music with some folk elements that add to the sense of longing while music supervisors Meghan Currier creates a soundtrack that features an original song from Sharon Van Etten as well as music from Leonard Cohen, Kim Kwang Seok, Paul Eakins, Them with Van Morrison, and John Cale.

The casting by Ellen Chenoweth and Susanne Scheel is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Min Young Ahn as Hae Sung’s mother, Ji Hye Yoon and Choi Won-young as Nora’s parents, Yeon Woo Seo as Na Young’s younger sister, the trio of Noo Ri Song, Si Ah Jin, and Yoon Seo Choi as Hae Sung’s friends in Seoul, Jojo T. Gibbs as a fellow writer that Nora works with in the film’s second act, Seung Min Yim as the young Hae Sung, and Seung Ah Moon as the young Nora in Na Young. John Magaro is brilliant as Arthur as Nora’s husband who met her at a retreat as he fell in love with her while he would later lament about the presence of Hae Sung even though he doesn’t want to cause any trouble.

Teo Yoo is amazing as Hae Sung as a Korean man who longs for Nora/Na Young as he deals with growing up in his native South Korea as well as wonder if he would ever reunite with her and later does where he goes to New York City to lament over what might’ve been if he had gone to New York City 12 years earlier. Finally, there’s Greta Lee in an incredible performance as Nora Moon/Na Young as a woman who emigrated from South Korea to Canada and later a life in New York City as a writer where she thinks about Hae Sung only to get married where she also ponders about her feelings for him upon their reunion as it is a radiant and somber performance from Lee.

Past Lives is a phenomenal film from Celine Song that features a trio of great performances from Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro. Along with its gorgeous visuals, a mesmerizing music soundtrack, and its story of longing and fate. It is a film that plays into destiny and fates as well as the decisions in life that would impact two childhood friends in the span of 24 years. In the end, Past Lives is a sensational film from Celine Song.

© thevoid99 2024

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Holdovers

 

Directed by Alexander Payne and written by David Hemingson, The Holdovers is the story of a New England boarding school teacher who spends the Christmas holidays chaperoning kids who are forced to stay at school as he deals with a troubled student as well as a school cafeteria manager. The film is a comedy-drama set in the early 1970s where a strict teacher copes with his own life as he would unknowingly forge a bond with one of his students and the cafeteria manager who is grieving over the loss of her son in the Vietnam War. Starring Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, and introducing Dominic Sessa. The Holdovers is a rich and riveting film from Alexander Payne.

Set during the Christmas holidays in 1970 at a New England boarding school in Barton, the film follows a curmudgeon ancient history teacher who is asked to stay at the school to watch over students who are unable to go home for the holidays where he deals with a troubled student who becomes a holdover at the last minute. It is a film that explores a teacher that many don’t like as he doesn’t think highly of the students as he doesn’t care who their parents are as he would befriend one of these students who is forced to stay at school because his mother is taking a vacation with her new husband at the last minute. David Hemingson’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it is set during the Christmas holidays of 1970 where Barton’s classic ancient history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is asked to stay at school to watch over the holdover students left for the holidays in an act of punishment for flunking a student whose father is a U.S. senator and an important school donor.

Staying with Hunham is the school’s cafeteria manager Mary Lamb, whose son Curtis was a student at the school as he was recently killed in Vietnam, as well as four other students. When another student in Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) becomes a holdover at the last minute because of his mother going on a vacation with her new husband. Things become tense as Tully already has issues with another student in Teddy Kountze (Brady Hepner) who often says terrible things as the holdovers are forced to study and not do much until a father of one of the holdovers arrive having contacted the parents to return home with only Tully staying behind because he couldn’t contact with his mother. It only adds the tension between teacher and student though it is clear that none of them want to stay at the school during the holidays while they also befriend Lamb who is going through her own issues. Still, the three deal with the situation as Tully isn’t just dealing with his hatred for his stepfather but also being vague about his own father as Hunham learns to loosen up despite several incidents with Tully.

Alexander Payne’s direction definitely harkens to a look and feel reminiscent of films from the 1970s in terms of its overall presentation though it was shot entirely on the digital Arri Alexa camera yet elements of grain and scratches were added to play into that look of 1970s cinema. Shot on various location in Massachusetts, Payne wanted to bring the sense of New England into the film in terms of its locations and accents while using very little sets for the film as everything was shot on location with the usage of wide and medium shots to get a scope of these locations including the main dining hall at the school as well as its chapel. Payne also maintains a sense of intimacy in his direction in how the main characters interact as well as watch TV or go on a rare social outing despite Hunham’s desire to follow the rules. Notably in the film’s second act where Hunham, Lamb, and Tully attend a Christmas Eve party hosted by the school headmaster’s assistant Miss Lydia Crane (Carrie Preston) where things starts to loosen up despite Lamb’s melancholic mood.

Payne also maintains this mix of humor and drama with the former being something that is expected but it’s all about the timing as well as in Hemingson’s dialogue such as the way Hunham speaks classical Latin on occasion or the way Lamb would talk back as she never takes shit from anyone. Even as Christmas has arrived where Hunham tries to show that he’s not some authoritarian while is also trying to prove that he can loosen up. The film’s third act is a break from the world that is Barton as it plays into the main characters all wanting to do something different where they all learn something from each other. Notably as Hunham and Tully both realize their own similarities as well as the fact that there’s things in Barton that protects them from a world that is often quite cruel as the latter is dealing with a future that might be even more troubling. Yet, it is Hunham and Lamb that would help guide this young man in not just showing him a future as he would give these two adult figures a hopeful outlook in life. Overall, Payne crafts a majestic and somber film about a teacher, a cafeteria manager, and a student staying at school during the Christmas holidays.

Cinematographer Eigil Bryld does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural light as well as maintaining a look that is reminiscent of 1970s American cinema as well as the usage of low-key lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Kevin Tent does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of transition wipes, dissolves, and other stylish cuts as well as knowing when to cut for dramatic and comedic effect as it is a highlight of the film. Production designer Ryan Warren Smith, with set decorator Markus Wittmann and art director Jeremy Woolsey, does amazing work with the look of some of the rooms to play into the period of the 1970s as a lot of the rooms are actual rooms instead of sets while they also brought old TVs and such to play into the period of early 1970s. Costume designer Wendy Chuck does excellent work with the costumes from the dresses that Lamb wears outside of the school as well as the clothes that Hunham and Tully wear to display their personalities and how they would evolve later on.

Hair stylist Jennifer Douglas and makeup artist Scott Hersh do fantastic work with the look of the characters with the hairstyle of the students reminiscent of the look of the early 1970s as well as some of the minimal makeup including a contact lens for Hunham’s lazy eye. Special effects supervisor Adam Bellao, along with visual effects supervisors Andy Chang and Jasper Kidd, does terrific with some of the minimal effects such as a scene where Tully tries to antagonize Hunham while the visual effects are also minimal as it’s mainly set-dressing as well as creating scratches and such to play into the look of the 1970s. Sound designer Frank Gaeta does superb work with the sound in maintaining a naturalistic approach to the sound in the way music is played on a location as well as how quiet a room is as it plays into how empty the school is with only three people living there.

The film’s music by Mark Orton is wonderful for its folk-inspired score with elements of orchestral flourishes as it plays into the world that is the early 1970s while music supervisor Matt Aberle creates a soundtrack filled with music from that time period including some Christmas music and contributions from Cat Stevens, Shocking Blue, the Temptations, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Damien Jurado, the Allman Brothers Band, the Chamber Brothers, Labi Siffre, Andy Williams, Artie Shaw and his Orchestra, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, the Swingle Sisters, Khruangbin, and the Trapp Family Singers.

The casting by Susan Shopmaker is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Kelly AuCoin as a former classmate of Hunham he bumps into in Boston, Darby Lily Lee-Stack as Miss Crane’s niece whom Tully befriends, Gillian Vigman and Tate Donovan in their respective roles as Tully’s mother Judy and stepfather Stanley as the latter is someone Tully dislikes, Stephen Thorne as a man that Tully wants to meet in Boston, Naheem Garcia as the school janitor Danny whom Lamb is fond of, and Andrew Garman as the Barton headmaster Dr. Hardy Woodrup who doesn’t think highly of Hunham as he forces him to stay in school during the holidays. The trio of Michael Provost, Jim Kaplan, and Ian Dolley are terrific in their respective roles as the school’s football quarterback Jason Smith, the Korean student Ye-Joon Park, and the Church of Latter Day Saints student Alex Ollerman as three of the five holdovers who stay temporarily with Provost as a quarterback who is trying to maintain some peace while Kaplan and Dolley as young pre-teen students both dealing with not going home.

Brady Hepner is superb as Teddy Kountze as a classmate of Tully who often says awful things and is a total asshole to other students as he is the embodiment of entitlement as he is not liked by many. Carrie Preston is fantastic as Miss Lydia Crane as Dr. Woodrup’s assistant who also works at a local bar as she is someone that is often nice to everyone including Hunham as he has a thing for her. Dominic Sessa is incredible in his debut film role as Angus Tully as a junior who had hoped to go on a vacation for the holidays as he deals with staying at school as well as other issues. Sessa also has this charm and humility as someone who knows he’s a rich kid but is also someone that is danger of possibly going to military school while also having problems that Hunham would discover and become sympathetic for. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is phenomenal as Mary Lamb as the Barton school cafeteria manager whose son had attended the school as she is mourning his death at the Vietnam War while is also someone that isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Even as she also has Hunham to be less authoritative as well as also say some funny things that showcases why she won’t take shit from anyone.

Finally, there’s Pal Giamatti in a tremendous performance as Paul Hunham as a classics professor who teaches ancient history as this curmudgeon teacher who doesn’t think highly of his students while is also authoritative and prefers to do things his way. It is a performance that has Giamatti often quoting Latin and other old languages where he can be funny but also someone who is also vulnerable as he is someone that has secrets of his own. Even as it raises questions into his lack of a social life as well as why he continues to teach at Barton when he go somewhere else where Giamatti brings that humility but also wit in what is definitely a career-defining performance from him.

The Holdovers is a tremendous film from Alexander Payne that features a trio of great performances in Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Dominic Sessa. Along with David Hemingson’s screenplay, a wondrous music soundtrack, its stylish visuals, and its mixture of humor and drama. It is a film that explores three different people stuck at a prep school during the Christmas holidays as they deal with themselves as well as a world that is confusing for them while dealing with loss and uncertainty. In the end, The Holdovers is an outstanding film from Alexander Payne.

Alexander Payne Films: Citzen Ruth - Election - About Schmidt - Sideways - Paris Je T'aime-14th Arrondissment - The Descendants - Nebraska - (Downsizing) – (Tracy Flick Can’t Win) – The Auteurs #5: Alexander Payne

© thevoid99 2024

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Killers of the Flower Moon

 

Based on the non-fiction book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon is the story of the real-life Osage Indian murders in Oklahoma from 1918 to 1931 where a man marries an Osage woman unaware that his uncle has been orchestrating these murders. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Scorsese and Eric Roth, the film is a revisionist western of sorts that explores a real-life event where men want oil on this tribal sacred land and how it lead to one of the darkest moments in American history that isn’t talked about. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, and Robert De Niro. Killers of the Flower Moon is an evocative and harrowing film from Martin Scorsese.

Set in the early 20th Century following World War I, the film revolves around a man who moves with his rich uncle as he meets an Osage woman, whose family owns land with oil, whom he would marry in an attempt to get her money in a scheme with his uncle to get all of the oil and the money. It is a film with a simple plot yet the story itself that is based on a real life event in American history that isn’t talked about very much plays into this world of greed, corruption, deceit, and violence. The film’s screenplay by Martin Scorsese and Eric Roth is largely straightforward in its narrative as it explores how the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the early 20th Century discovered oil in their land and how they got rich from it. Yet, it also reveals that they would be accompanied by court-appointed white guardians who would look after their money with one of them being William King Hale (Robert de Niro) who is rich himself as he owns a cattle ranch as he is also close with his neighbor in the oil land owner Henry Roan (William Belleau).

Hale is a man who acts as a benefactor to the Osage as well as speak their language as a way to be their friend only to be someone who masterminds everything including killings to ensure that he would get all of their oil and the money from the oil. When his nephew Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives to move in with Hale after serving as an infantryman in World War I. Burkhart is given a job to steal from the Osage with his brother Byron (Scott Shepherd) while also working as a cab driver where he meets and falls for Mollie (Lily Gladstone) whose family owns oil headrights that would keep them rich. Burkhart is someone that wants to have a good life as well as money but he becomes a pawn in his uncle’s schemes as well as putting himself into awful situations that would make things worse. Even as he tries to keep Mollie in the dark yet she would deal with tragedy as her three sisters become targets as well as her mother while becomes mysteriously ill.

It all plays into this sense of intrigue where Mollie hires a private investigator in William J. Burns (Gary Basaraba) who leaves after an incident with a couple of thugs while a white oilman in Barney McBride (Brent Langdon) offered to help the Osage by traveling to Washington D.C. only to not return. Even as things become more violent with Hale getting Burkhart to commit more crimes as the first act is about Burkhart meeting Mollie and marrying her with the second act being the severity of the violence. The film’s third act revolves around the arrival of Thomas Bruce White Sr. (Jesse Plemons) who is an agent for an early version of the FBI after Mollie’s visit to Washington D.C. where Hale finds himself being targeted as does Burkhart who becomes consumed with guilt over his actions.

Scorsese’s direction is mesmerizing in not just the overall presentation of a period in time that saw a lot of prosperity but also a look into the ugliness that played into the events of this real-life incident that many didn’t want to talk about in relation to American history. Shot on location in Oklahoma including areas in Osage and Washington County with Fairfax, Pawhuska, and Bartlesville being main locations for much of the film as the small towns and landscape are key characters in the film. Scorsese opens the film with a ceremony in which an Osage tribe bury a peace pipe as an act of the end of an old tradition as their land would then shoot oil from the ground marking the beginning of a new era. An era that would put the Osage right into the 20th Century wearing more expensive clothing with their tribal blankets as well as live in nice houses while also wanting to maintain a sense of identity and tradition. Even as Scorsese has actors speak in both English and the Osage language with the latter spoken quite frequently.

Scorsese’s usage of wide and medium shots add to the scope of the film as it does play like an epic set in this land where oil is a plenty but there are those that want it by any means necessary. Scorsese doesn’t shy away from the brutality and horror of the violence such as a house being blown up or these wide shots of people being shot as Scorsese showcases a dark reality that many don’t want to talk about. Even as the close-ups also add to the horror with some in the Osage getting a look at something knowing that death is coming. Scorsese’s direction also uses old film stock to recreate some newsreel footage as well as gain some old newsreel such as a clip of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 as it adds fear to the Osage community as the killings become more prevalent. Even as Burkhart is someone who helped engineer these killings and events where he eventually becomes ridden with guilt and shame as he learned the severity of his actions. The events would force Mollie to take action of her own despite severely ill through the medicine she’s been given to combat her diabetes leading to its third act.

The violence does get tone down a bit in the third act where Scorsese’s direction becomes more precise and also chilling in its compositions where he would have shots linger for a bit including the trial scenes. There are also these eerie moments as it plays into not just what Hale has done but also the lengths into what he forced Burkhart to do who finds himself caught in the middle of this chaos. The film’s penultimate scene is told in an unconventional fashion as it relates into the fates of these characters but also into why the Osage murders had almost been forgotten about in American history. Scorsese appears in the scene as it is sort of this moment where the fourth wall is broken as it showcases not just the sense of shame over what had happened but also how past events shouldn’t be forgotten. Overall, Scorsese crafts a viscerally discomforting yet ravishing film about a man who marries an Osage woman in the hope of getting her oil headrights where he would serve as a pawn for his devious uncle.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of natural light and heightened colors in some of the daytime interior scenes along with some unique lighting for scenes at night including some scenes involving fire as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does brilliant work with the editing as her usage of rhythmic cuts and jump-cuts help play into the suspense and drama along with a few montages that play into some flashbacks and scenes where it adds to the sense of urgency and terror that looms throughout the film. Production designer Jack Fisk, with set decorator Adam Willis and supervising art directors Michael Diner, Matthew Gatlin, and Meghan McClure, does amazing work with the creation of the sets such as the interiors of the Hale estate as well as the home that Burkhart and Mollie lived in along with a pool hall where Hale and Burkhart would sometimes socialize as it is a highlight of the film. Costume designer Jacqueline West does excellent work with the period costumes from that time including the design of some of the blankets and tribal headgear some of the Osage leaders wear as well as the cowboy hats that some of the men wear including Burkhart and White.

Hair department head Kay Georgiou and makeup department head Thomas Nellen do fantastic work in maintaining a look and hairstyle for the characters to play into the period as well as maintain something simple in those looks. Visual effects supervisors Sam Bassett, Pablo Helman, and Andrew Roberts do terrific work with the visual effects for oil gushing scene early in the film as well as a few other scenes as set dressing. Sound editors Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton do superb work with the sound in the way oil machines sound from afar and up close as well as the way gunfire sounds and other naturalistic sounds that occur throughout the film. The film’s music by Robbie Robertson is phenomenal with its mixture of blues, folk, traditional Native American percussion and woodwinds, and country to play into the period of the time with themes that are unsettling and grimy in its presentation while music supervisor Randall Poster cultivates a soundtrack that features a lot of traditional music with contributions from David Mansfield, Rayna Gellert, Keiran Kane, Philip Jamison, Vince Giordano with the Nighthawks, Adam Nielsen, Adam Stein, and the Osage Tribal Singers who sing an original song for the film for its ending.

The casting by Ellen Lewis is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Martin Scorsese as a radio drama producer in the film’s penultimate scene as well as Jack White and Larry Fessenden as a couple of radio drama actors Vince Giordano as a radio drama band leader, Katherine Willis as Burkhart’s aunt Myrtle, Barry Corbin as the local undertaker Turton, the quartet of Larry Sellers, Everett Walker, Talee Redcorn, and Yancey Red Corn as the Osage tribal leaders with Sellers and Redcorn also playing medicine men, Elden Hensen as a Burkhart cousin, Brent Langdon as the white oilman Barney McBride who volunteers to help the Osage in their cause by traveling to Washington D.C. only to somehow never return, Michael Abbott Jr. and Charles Musselwhite as a couple of FBI agents, Tatanka Means as a Native American undercover FBI agent, Pete Yorn as a reclusive explosive expert in Acie Kirby, and Scott Shepherd as Burkhart’s younger brother Byron who often goes along with what his uncle asks him to do.

Other notable small roles include Gary Basaraba as the renowned private investigator Burns who arrives late in the first act only to get into some serious trouble, the quartet of Ty Mitchell, Sturgill Simpson, Tommy Schultz, and Louis Cancelmi in their respective roles as John Ramsey, Henry Grammer, Blackie Thompson, and Kelsie Morrison as accomplices of Hale and Burkhart who help them out in some of the violent acts as they would also either get caught or killed, William Belleau as a melancholic Osage who owns the oil land next to Hale’s land as he is close with Hale only to become a target, the duo of Steve Witting and Steve Routman in their respective roles as Dr. James Shoun and Dr. David Shoun as two brother doctors who work closely to Hale as they would provide Mollie medicine for her diabetes that really isn’t, Jason Isbell as Minnie’s husband Bill Smith who would later marry as he suspects Burkhart in these violent actions, and the trio of Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, and Jillian Dion in their respective roles as Mollie’s sisters in Anna, Reta, and Minnie as they bring fantastic performances as these sisters who are all targets with Myers bringing a lot of charisma as the decadent Anna.

John Lithgow and Brendan Fraser are excellent in their respective roles as the federal prosecutor Peter Leaward and Hale’s attorney W.S. Hamilton with the former trying to get Hale convicted and bring justice for the Osage while the latter shows Fraser in this somewhat cartoonish yet chilling role as Hale’s attorney who tries to coerce Burkhart into defending his uncle. Tantoo Cardinal is brilliant as Mollie’s mother Lizzie Q. as this woman who becomes aware of what is happening as she senses death all around her while is having a spiritual connection with her ancestors as she knows that something isn’t right. Jesse Plemons is amazing as Thomas Bruce White Sr. as a FBI agent who leads the investigation into the Osage murders following Mollie’s visit to Washington D.C. as he is someone that is charming but also determined to get to the truth as he proves to be a formidable foe for Hale and Burkhart. Robert de Niro is sensational as William King Hale as a cattle ranch owner who acts as a friend and benefactor for the Osage when he’s really the devil in disguise. There is this sense of sliminess in de Niro’s performance as he displays a lot of charm and dark wit while is also manipulative in his actions as it is one of his finest performances.

Leonardo DiCaprio is phenomenal as Ernest Burkhart as a former World War I infantryman who moves to Fairfax to work for his uncle as he does his bidding including marrying Mollie in the hopes of getting her oil headrights only for things to get complicated. DiCaprio brings a gullible approach to his character who is willing to do things for his uncle while is also a total mess when he lies to Mollie where he later becomes filled with guilt and shame as he would also endure tragedy that would force him to make decisions for himself. Finally, there’s Lily Gladstone in a tremendous performance as Mollie as an Osage woman whose family owns oil headrights as she is charmed by Burkhart and would have a family with him while also becoming mysteriously ill. Gladstone brings a lot of layers into her performance as someone who knows a lot more than everyone realizes despite the tragedies she would endure as it only forces her to seek out the truth as it is a break-out performance for Gladstone.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a magnificent film from Martin Scorsese that features great performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert de Niro, and Lily Gladstone. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a chilling music soundtrack from the late Robbie Robertson (whom the film is dedicated to), discomforting moments of violence and suspense, and a story of greed, deceit, death and corruption. The film is an unsettling yet confrontational film that takes a look into one of those most horrific atrocities in American history all in the name of greed. In the end, Killers of the Flower Moon is an outstanding film from Martin Scorsese.

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

© thevoid99 2024

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Films That I Saw: January 2024

 

We’re one month into the New Year and already, it’s been insane as things between Israel and Palestine are at its worst as Joe Biden really should’ve stayed away from this whole thing as it’s been one complicated thing after another with no real winners. Here in the U.S. is just as bad as it is an election year as once again. Democracy offers very little to the common American as it’s really choosing between a shit sandwich and a giant douche. At the same time, there’s been a lot of cold weather as it’s gotten bad here in Georgia as my niece and nephew have gotten sick as did my mother and I. Well, things could be worse as part of me is glad that I’m staying at home.

This month in the world of professional wrestling has been fucking insane with Kazuchika Okada earlier this month announcing that he’s leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling as this is huge because Okada is considered the best pro wrestler ever. Yet, it shows that New Japan is going through a new transitional phase at this point as they’ve been through many ups and downs through its 50-year plus history but Okada’s exit is astronomical as it is believed that it has to do with a downturn in Japan’s economy. The question is where will he go as many believe it is likely he’ll go to AEW as it would be the right place for him as he wouldn’t have to uproot his family to America and stay in Japan and work with people he’s known for years as well as new friends such as Bryan Danielson whom he wrestled against at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom in what is definitely an early candidate for match of the year.

AEW is the most likely place for Okada as Will Ospreay is also leaving New Japan for AEW though both men are finishing up their obligations for New Japan. While there have been possibilities that Okada might go to WWE, there isn’t a lot of news over that as WWE made some groundbreaking news this past week in making a $5 billion deal with Netflix to stream WWE Raw beginning in 2025 as it is a landmark deal for the company. Unfortunately, all of that news that WWE was hoping to celebrate was overshadowed by the actions of its former chairman Vince McMahon over his own sexual allegations and misconduct that had been all over the news in the past year. Especially in light of a recent article from The Wall Street Journal over a relationship he had with an employee who is suing him for not just abuse but also sex trafficking even though she signed a NDA last year but that NDA became null and void due to the fact that she only received $1 million of the $3 million settlement she was supposed to get.

A 67-page legal document became public recently as I read the whole thing and well… it’s beyond repulsive. For years, I’ve known that McMahon has some weird tastes as anyone growing up during the Attitude Era of the late 1990s know how fucked up he is. In the mid-2000s when his daughter Stephanie was pregnant with her first child, he pitched an angle that he was the father of Stephanie’s baby but Stephanie killed that idea. Looking back at some of those angles he’s known for back then now takes on a different view and it’s even more disgusting in what I’ve read. The abuse this young woman went through is traumatic as it wasn’t just with McMahon but also a former employee in John Laurinaitis among several others. There were also explicit photos featuring her that were sent to supposedly Brock Lesnar as a way to get him to re-sign his WWE contract as well as having to do sexual favors for him. The things that I read are beyond the level of depravity as it has me thinking into why Stephanie McMahon resigned from WWE early last year when her father came back. I can’t same I don’t blame her as I think the only reason her husband HHH stayed is to protect some of the employees as he doesn’t want to talk about the allegations as it might be too uncomfortable for him.

Even though McMahon just resigned from TKO and WWE doesn’t mean he’s going away as he’s always going to find a way back but he needs to be banned from the company and be put into trial. Laurinaitis needs to be in prison as well as anyone who was involved with this incident as it might not be the only one as there’s probably a whole lot more. This bombshell really did overshadow a lot of things and has made it hard for pro wrestling fans to enjoy themselves as it’s hard to break away from being entertained and what is happening behind the scenes. Even though this year’s Royal Rumble was a good show with an awesome women’s Royal Rumble match that saw Bayley win it this year having going up against 29 other women (and R-Truth) entering the match at #3 and being in the match for 63 minutes. Yet, it doesn’t change the fact that the man who turned his father’s regional promotion into this global phenomenon has abused and did a lot to placate to his own ego as it’s made things hard to enjoy WWE just as it was starting to get good again. Still, I’m grateful for AEW, New Japan, Ring of Honor, and TNA for putting out good wrestling and will hope they do well in 2024.
In the month of January 2024, I saw a total of 30 films in 15 first-timers and 15 re-watches with four first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. An excellent start to the year despite not going to the movie theaters due to illness but I was able to get access to Paramount+ through Amazon Prime though I’m unsure for how long. A highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot film in Wanda. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for January 2024:

1. Babylon
2. The Last Repair Shop
3. Island in Between
4. The Stunt Double
5. Deciding Vote
6. Hearts Want
7. Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
8. Soul Boys of the Western World
9. Good Chemistry: The Story of Elemental
10. Omelia Contadina
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Soul Boys of the Western World
For anyone who grew up in the 1980s like I did would definitely know about the group Spandau Ballet and their hit song True. Yet, there was so much more to this band that were really part of the Big 4 when it came to the top British acts of the early 1980s with Culture Club, Duran Duran, and Wham! While they may not have had the same success as those four bands did in America, they were able to maintain their popularity throughout the 1980s until they broke up in 1990 after six studio albums. This 2014 documentary that I watched on YouTube about the band is a great look into their beginnings as well as their popularity as it is largely told through archival footage and audio interviews with the band members and how things fell apart towards 1990 as well as a contentious lawsuit between band members over royalties as the band’s guitarist/songwriter Gary Kemp saw it as a low point in his life even though he won the case while his brother/bassist Martin stayed away from the suit not wanting to be in the middle. It is something pop music fans should watch as it showcased their eventual reunion in 2009 up till 2014 though the band had recently disbanded after vocalist Tony Hadley had left the group though the band continued with another singer that didn’t work out.

Omelia Contadina
One of two shorts that I watched on MUBI comes from Alice Rohrwacher in collaboration with the artist JR is this 10-minute short that is a funeral for the world of farming in Italy. Presented as this funeral with these large paper-life figures designed by JR, the people that are part of a farming community all recite some form of a eulogy including a piece written the filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Even as it serves as a massive fuck you to modern-day governments and modern sensibilities as these burials of a way of life only serves as the beginning of a resurrection that is to come. It is something that anyone interested in Rohrwacher’s films should see.

Good Chemistry: The Story of Elemental
This documentary film shown on Disney+ is really an autobiographical film on director Peter Sohn and what inspired him to make Elemental. Notably as it mixes a narrative of him talking about his late parents who died during the film’s production as well as the two markets his father owned and ran in the Bronx. A lot of the stories Sohn talks about in his family life would inspire many of the things in Elemental which added a lot of more weight into that film. Even as his father would buy an art shop that his brother Philip would still run as it is a touching documentary that is worth watching as it serves as a great companion piece to Elemental.

I’m Going to Santiago
The second short I watched on MUBI is a 15-minute documentary film by Sara Gomez that showcases the world of Santiago, Cuba in the years following the Cuban Revolution. Notably as it’s a film made by a woman at a time when women filmmakers in Cuba were very rare as she created a documentary short that showcases a lot about the city and its history with its Afro-Cuban community. The film shows some of the city’s landmarks at its time culminating with its carnival that takes on a bigger meeting after the revolution as it’s something people need to seek out.

The Stunt Double



This 9-minute short film that I saw on YouTube that is directed by Damien Chazelle may be an ad for the Apple iPhone Pro 11 that is shot on a 1:1 aspect ratio. Yet, it is an incredible short film that has this stunt man doing a stunt only for the parachute to not work as he travels through the many different periods of cinema while trying to win over the leading lady. It is a fun short film as it is something fans of Chazelle should watch.

The Court Jester



If news over recent criminal charges of assault are true, then whatever comeback plans Pauly Shore has might be flushed down the toilet as it’s a damn shame. Especially as this short film from Jake Lewis that co-stars Jesse Heiman about a fictional appearance from Richard Simmons on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2004 that has Shore playing Simmons is a damn good one. While Shore may not have captured the voice of Simmons, he does manage to create a charismatic performance as well as bring a lot of gravitas to Simmons as he helps a young producer who is having trouble with his duties as well as being fat. Before the news of this assault, I was rooting for a Pauly Shore comeback but now that might not happen.

The Last Repair Shop



One of the five nominees for Best Documentary Short that is available both on YouTube and Disney+ is this heartwarming film about a repair shop for musical instruments for the Los Angeles School District and the four people who work at the shop. Even as school students are among those who talk about the instruments they love as they’re largely minority children who couldn’t afford these instruments but the four different people who help repair these instruments really put a lot of care into them. Especially as you have these four different people from different backgrounds who understand the importance of these musical instruments and what it means to these children.

Hearts Want
A short film I have been wanting to watch for years as it was written by one of my fellow bloggers in Ruth Maramis of Flix Chatter finally became available thanks to Ruth as I watched it some days ago on Vimeo thanks to a password Ruth sent me. It is this touching and evocative film about two actors who were once lovers reuniting in doing a play for their former mentor. It is filled with a lot of drama and tension as the performances of Sam Simmons and Peter Christian Hansen are incredible as this is a short that many people need to seek out as Ruth here has written a winner as I hope she does another one.

Deciding Vote



A documentary short that was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Short is a tremendous documentary as it revolves around New York’s abortion law back in the early 1970s and how one government official in George Michaels would kill his own political career by voting for the law that would protect women and doctors to perform abortions legally. The documentary features interviews with Michaels’ children and his granddaughter as how he was representing a county in upstate New York that was largely conservative despite being a Democrat as he originally opposed the law but changed his mind as it plays into the role of what a politician should be. Michaels’ vote may have killed his career but his legacy for standing up for women’s rights despite the fact that abortions are unfortunately illegal again showed a rare example when the powers that be does something right for a change.

Carl’s Date
A short film by Bob Petersen for Pixar that played with Elemental in its theatrical release features one of the final voice works of Ed Asner as he reprises his role of Carl from Up as he finds himself going on a date with a woman he had talked to on the phone. It is a funny short but also full of heart as Carl still has love for his late wife while is also unsure of what to do though Dug thankfully is there to help him. It is short that is a nice mini-sequel to Up while there’s also a great voice cameo that Petersen made as Alpha who seems to be enjoying post-guard dog life.

Island in Between



The second of the five Oscar nominees for Best Documentary short that I saw is from S. Leo Chiang who is a journalist from Taiwan that is based in New York City as he had just moved back to Taipei as this film is about a tiny island from Taiwan called Kinmen that is a few miles away from mainland China and serves as the first line of defense for Taiwan. Chiang talks about his early life in Taiwan as well as the propaganda it feeds itself for its citizens as it relates to them being the true Chinese yet it turned out to be more complicated. Even in 2001 when a ferry between the island and mainland China was used for Taiwanese to visit the mainland was used until the late 2010s and the emergence of COVID-19 halted things as tensions between Taiwan and China have risen recently. It is a riveting film that has the potential to be something longer but still Chiang manages to create something compelling about this little known island.

Echo
2023 has been a rough year for Marvel with the disappointing releases of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Secret Invasion which are both the worst releases from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fortunately, this show about Maya Lopez aka Echo is a solid one as it relates to the titular character who remains lost in her grief as she reluctantly returns home to Tamaha, Oklahoma though wanting to avoid some family members she hadn’t seen. It is a riveting show that isn’t just about loss but also a woman re-discovering her roots as well as come to terms with Winston Fisk who had been a father figure to her. The usage of American Sign Language and going into great detail on the Choctaw culture makes the show a joy to watch. Especially as Alaqua Cox as Lopez and Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk are phenomenal with a great supporting cast that includes Graham Greene as Maya’s grandfather. The only thing I’m disappointed about the series is that there’s only five episodes as it left me wanting more.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (season 1, episodes 4-8)
If this show is going to be renewed, then Disney+ has a winner in their hands as this first season is just great. Especially as the young actors were really the heart and soul of the film as they added that sense of realism and wit to their performances while the guest actors they brought in such as Toby Stephens as Poseidon, Jay Duplass as Hades, and in one of his final performances as Zeus is Lance Reddick. There is also in the role of Ares is…. THE RATED R SUPERSTAR!!!!!! ADAM COPELAND AKA EDGE!!!!! (Christian Cage is better). It is a show full of adventure with some amazing art direction as this is what the first film should’ve been but it is better as a TV series with Rick Riordan’s input as this feels more like something that had to take its time rather than be told in Hollywood film that tries to be too cool for its audience. Bring on season 2!

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. A Fish Called Wanda
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. Ratatouille
4. Bones and All
5. The Lion King
6. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
7. Frozen II
8. The To-Do List
9. Mulan
10. David Bowie: Glass Spider
Well, that is all for January. Next month will largely focus on films nominated for the Academy Awards as well as whatever films I had planned to review in the past few months. I’m not sure what theatrical releases I plan to watch though I have bought a ticket for Dune Part II this coming March. There’s a lot of films that I want to catch up on as I have a lot of things in my different watch lists as well as films for the Auteurs series as I will be writing them for the time being as well as other project. Yet, my laptop is starting to show its age as I am in need of a new one as my main priority for the next few months is to get a brand new laptop as that will be the laptop that I will use to write my book.

All of the things I write about in pro wrestling is likely coming to a different blog as I’ve thought about creating a new blog specifically for pro wrestling devoting to matches of the month and such as well as a way to keep track on the best matches of that year as I’m still unfinished with my best of 2023 in the year of pro wrestling. I think I will create that new blog once I get my new laptop. Before I leave, I want to express my condolences to those who have passed this month such as Melinda Ledbetter-Wilson, Chita Rivera, Sandra Milo, Hinton Battle, Jesse Jane, singer Melanie, music producer Frank Farian, Margaret Riley, Gary Graham, filmmaker Norman Jewison, Marlena Shaw, pro wrestler Hardbody Harrison, casting director Nancy Green-Keyes, David Gail, costume designer April Ferry, stuntman Conrad Palmisano, Glynis John, and David Soul. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2024