Saturday, September 18, 2021

Emma. (2020 film)

 

Based on the novel by Jane Austen, Emma is the story of a young woman who serves as a matchmaker for friends and such while dealing with her own whirlwind life relating to growing pains and family. Directed by Autumn de Wilde and screenplay by Eleanor Catton, the film is a comedy-drama set during the Regency-era of England in the first half of the 19th Century as a young woman tries to find her own identity through others as the titular character is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Also starring Mia Goth, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy. Emma is a ravishing and riveting film from Autumn de Wilde.

Set during the Regency-era of England, the film revolves around the activities of a young woman in the titular character of Emma Woodhouse who likes to be a matchmaker as she also copes with her own desires in life while improving the lives of others. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it explores a young woman who seems to have a lot of influence on those she meets yet often finds herself sparring with her brother-in-law’s brother in George Knightley (Johnny Flynn). The film’s script is told in the span of the year and broken into four seasons beginning with autumn and ending in the summer. It all play into Emma’s own pursuit of control and success in matchmaking as she befriends a student in Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) who lives in an orphanage of sorts as she is awaiting the identity of her father. Emma tries to get Smith to be in a relationship with the young vicar in Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor) that doesn’t go well while she also tries to be get in a relationship for herself with her former governess’ step-son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner).

The script uses the four season structure to play into Emma’s growth as a person but also in her friendship with Smith and rivalry with Knightley although the latter also cares for Emma’s father (Bill Nighy) who copes with the idea of being alone though Emma plans not to leave him. The script also play into Emma’s relationships with others including Miss Bates (Miranda Hart) whom Emma is fond of as well as her former governess Mrs. Weston (Gemma Whelan) and her husband Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves). Notably as Emma would meet Churchill as she has to deal with the presence of Mrs. Bates’ niece Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) as it would create a rivalry of sorts for Churchill’s affections that would serve as a challenge to Emma who is forced to confront her own faults.

Autumn de Wilde’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in her presentation from the meticulous attention to detail in her framing as well as the way she presents this vibrant period of the times in England as it is shot on various locations in Britain with Firle Place in Sussex as the exterior of Emma’s home. The direction has de Wilde maintain this sense of atmosphere in the film as she also maintains a certain look for each season to recreate this idea of what it was like in those times. The usage of wide and medium shots add to the look of the film where de Wilde create these striking compositions that include shots of young girls wearing red robes walking in the background. There are also these shots that do look like they’re recreation of paintings while de Wilde also knows when to use close-ups as whether it’s a close-up of a face or hands as it says a lot in doing so little. It showcases the attention to detail in what de Wilde wants to capture in the way characters behave towards one another while choosing to create scenes that help play into the drama or a comedic moment.

Much of the film’s humor is low-key as de Wilde knows when to create something that is funny but it is done with much subtlety in the way Smith reacts to Mr. Elton’s portrait or the way Emma reacts to a bad situation along with her own feelings towards Mr. Knightley later in the film. The direction has de Wilde also maintain this air of tension that does start to loom in the third act with some revelations about Churchill as well as Emma losing some sense of control as she is forced to deal with her own growing pains. Still, de Wilde does find a way to flesh out the story and characters where it would allow Emma to figure things out but also do something for herself towards the end. Overall, de Wilde crafts an intoxicating and heartfelt film about a young woman who plays matchmaker for those around her while coping with her own faults and feelings about herself and everyone else.

Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does brilliant work with the film’s lush and colorful cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes set in sunny days to its usage of low-key lights and filters for a few scenes in the winter along with candle lights for a few nighttime interior scenes. Editor Nick Emerson does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the dramatic and comedic reaction of characters. Production designer Kave Quinn, with set decorator Stella Fox and supervising art director Andrea Matheson, does amazing work with the interior look of the rooms and places that Emma and other characters go to including some of the shops and the ballroom for the ball scene at Miss Bates’ home. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne does fantastic work with the costumes as it has a lot of life from the simplest of clothing to the lavish dresses the women wear as it is a highlight of the film.

Hair/makeup designers Marese Langan, Laura Allen, and Claudia Stolze do wonderful work with the design of the hairstyles as there’s a lot of attention to detail into the hairstyles that the women have including some of the things that Emma has on her head. Special effects supervisor Neal Champion and visual effects supervisor Dillan Nicholls do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal special effects as it is largely bits of set dressing to help enhance the visuals. Sound editor Glenn Freemantle does superb work with the film’s sound as it adds to the atmosphere of the scene in capturing the natural locations along with some mixing in the way music and sparse sounds are heard in a room. The film’s music by Isobel Waller-Bridge and David Schweitzer is incredible for its mixture of orchestral music and the folk music of the time as it adds to the humor and drama with some lush string arrangements in some parts of the film while music supervisor Becky Bentham help provide the array of folk themes that were available during those times including a few originals that add to the atmosphere of the period.

The casting by Jessica Ronane is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Chloe Pirrie as Emma’s sister Isabella, Oliver Chris as George’s brother and Isabella’s husband John, Tanya Reynolds as a young woman in Augusta whom Mr. Elton would be with later in the film, Gemma Whelan as Emma’s former governess in Miss Taylor who becomes Mrs. Weston, Rupert Graves as Mr. Weston who does what he can to help Emma out, Amber Anderson as Miss Bates’ niece Jane Fairfax who becomes a source of competition for Emma although she is really a nice person, and Connor Swindells in a superb performance as Robert Martin as a friend of Mr. Knightley who pursues Harriet as he is someone that doesn’t have much to offer but is still a man of honor. Callum Turner is terrific as Frank Churchill as Mr. Weston’s son from his first marriage who is a charming young man that intrigues Emma though he is also quite cagey in the way he reacts towards Miss Fairfax.

Josh O’Connor is fantastic as Reverend Mr. Elton as a young vicar whom Emma tries to have him be a suitor for Harriet only he’s kind of a dimwit with other interests instead of Harriet as he would also prove to be much colder later in the film. Miranda Hart is excellent as Miss Bates as a woman who had been a lifelong family friend to Emma as she is trying to organize balls and be helpful to Emma and Harriet as it is an understated yet touching performance from Hart. Bill Nighy is brilliant as Mr. Woodhouse as Emma’s father as a man of great importance as well as being wise to the young people while lamenting over the idea of being lonely and ill since he is unable to deal with cold weather as it is a touching performance from Nighy. Johnny Flynn is amazing as Mr. George Knightley as a young man who is close with Emma’s family as he isn’t fond of Emma’s schemes and her behavior yet also is aware of her value as he also is attentive towards Harriet following Mr. Elton’s snub towards her proving he’s a good man that Emma really needs.

Mia Goth is phenomenal as Harriett Smith as a young woman who is awaiting the identity of her father as she lives in a school/orphanage where she becomes Emma’s friend while trying to find herself and her own wants in life as it is this mesmerizing and heartfelt performance from Goth. Finally, there’s Anya Taylor-Joy in a tremendous performance as the titular character as this young woman who likes to be a matchmaker and be in control of everything. Taylor-Joy brings a lot of wit and charisma to her performance but also bring up this air of naïveté as someone who doesn’t know as much as she believes as it is a career-defining performance for Taylor-Joy.

Emma is a sensational film from Autumn de Wilde that features a great leading performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, its theme of love and control, a mesmerizing music score, and gorgeous locations. The film is definitely a compelling and whimsical comedy-drama that plays into the ideas of love and a young woman’s perception of it as it is faithful to the ideas and vision of its creator in Jane Austen. In the end, Emma is a phenomenal film from Autumn de Wilde.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Outlaws

 

For the 37th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the simple subject of outlaws. Men and women who live their lives outside of the law and defy authority to get what they want as much of these films are set in the West. Here are my three picks as they’re all from one of the greatest outlaws in cinema in motherfuckin’ Sam Peckinpah:

1. The Wild Bunch
A group of men rob a bank as they’re pursued by a former friend as they trek through Mexico where all hell breaks loose. Notably as they encounter the Mexican army and a German political figure as it play into changing times and a world that has become complicated. Yet, for these group of men. They refuse to play by these new rules as it is a film filled with gratuitous violence as well as ideals and language that will definitely offend today’s viewers but that’s why it’s a masterpiece. If there’s a definition of what a “fuck you film” is. It’s this one.

2. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
In either its preview version of over two hours or the 115-minute special edition from 2005, Peckinpah’s tale about the friendship between the outlaw in Billy the Kid and the man who would kill him in Pat Garrett remains an overlooked western while many Peckinpah fans consider the film in its un-truncated version to be one of his best. It is a film that explores greed and betrayal as Garrett is forced to find and hunt Billy the Kid who is this free bird outlaw that lives by his own rules and refuses to cower to a bunch of wealthy cattle barons who hired Garrett. It is a rich film that features an incredibly underrated music soundtrack from Bob Dylan who appears in the film as one of Billy’s friends.

3. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Though it was set in a more contemporary world, the film is still a western at heart as it is Peckinpah’s most uncompromising film about a man who is trying to find the head of a dead man for a bounty that would involve all sorts of seedy people. It is a film that is violent, lewd, and just downright obscene but this is what Peckinpah wanted. Even as he gives Warren Oates the chance to play a lead as Oates definitely gives the performance of a lifetime as an ex-Army officer doing this job for a crime boss whose daughter was impregnated by this man whose head is this bounty. It is a film that is still controversial like many of Peckinpah’s work but it is so worth watching for audiences that just want something that is uncompromising and doesn’t give any fucks on who is offended by this.

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Lisztomania

 

Written and directed by Ken Russell, Lisztomania is the story of the famed composer and pianist Franz Liszt who tries to break from his decadent lifestyle while dealing with the women in his life who keeps trying to get him back to that world as well as his rivalry with composer Richard Wagner. Based partially on the book Nelida by Marie d’Aglout that is about her affair with Listz, the film is an unconventional study on Listz and his need to be great as he is portrayed by Roger Daltrey of the Who. Also starring Paul Nicholas, Sara Kestelman, Rick Wakeman, and Ringo Starr as the Pope. Lisztomania is an extravagant yet exhilarating film from Ken Russell.

The film is about the life of the 19th Century composer/pianist Franz Liszt as he deals with his decadent lifestyle that include infidelities, putting his work over his family, and such just as he is dealing with a tumultuous rivalry with Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas). It is a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it is more of a character study of a man trying to do wonders with his music but also deal with his fame and family life where he tends to create trouble around him. Ken Russell’s screenplay is straightforward in its narrative though it contains a lot of surrealistic sequences and flashbacks that play into Liszt’s friendship with Wagner that eventually became this toxic rivalry that has the latter embracing elements of the occult and later Nazism. Russell definitely brings in a lot of anachronisms into the film in order to play up the idea that Liszt was a rock star like many other composers back in the 18th and 19th Century that had adoration from many with fangirls screaming over them.

Russell’s direction is definitely outrageous in terms of its presentation where it opens with Listz having sex and kissing a woman’s breast to the timing of a metronome until that woman’s husband arrives for a duel with sabre swords as it displays the kind of film that Russell is presenting. Shot on various locations in Britain including various studios in Britain, Russell play into this world of decadence that Listz is a part of where his concerts are extravagant events as he is playing to screaming fangirls with lovers and groupies are backstage waiting for him. While Russell does maintain some straightforward imagery in some of the wide and medium shots to get a scope of the world that Listz lives in as well as these intimate moments where Russell would use close-ups for some of the conversations including a scene where Listz talks to the Pope about his impending marriage to Princess Carolyn (Sara Kestelman) whom he had been in a relationship with for a time in his attempt to reach greatness.

Russell also play up this extravagance in the sequence where Listz meets Princess Carolyn as their meeting features these lavish set pieces including large penises, images of icons, and moments that are off the wall including Listz sliding backwards into Princess Carolyn’s vagina. It is then followed by Listz riding a gigantic penis where Princess Carolyn and his lovers all take a ride on it as it play into the decadence that Listz enjoys yet it becomes fleeting by this air of political turmoil that Wagner is coping with. It would play into events in the third act where Listz learns that his daughter Cosima (Veronica Quilligan) has associated herself with Wagner as he is this representation of Nazism believing his music will change the world as Russell portrays Wagner as an evil rock star with a machine-gun like guitar with his minions dressed up like Superman. It would lead this clash of ideals but also force Listz to deal with his own faults and his need for redemption as it would be told in an anachronistic yet lavish form. Overall, Russell crafts a surreal yet wondrous film about the vices and desires of an 18th Century composer who is presented as a rock star.

Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography as it help add to the film’s extravagant visuals with its unique approach to lighting along with some straightforward lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Stuart Baird does excellent work with the editing as it is stylized in its approach to montages, jump-cuts, and other rhythmic cutting to play into the insanity of the film. Production designer Philip Harrison does incredible work with the set designs for some of the places that Liszt goes to including some of the rooms that he lives in as it is a major highlight of the film. Costume designer Shirley Russell does fantastic work with the design of the lavish clothing that Liszt wears as well as the costumes that the women wear along with the clothes that Wagner’s followers wear.

Hairstylist Colin Jamison and makeup supervisor Wally Schneiderman do terrific work with the look of the characters including the many looks of Princess Carolyn and some of Liszt’s mistresses. The special effects work of Colin Chilvers is wonderful for the design of some of the things in the set as it help play into the decadence that Listz is a part of. Sound editor Terry Rawlings does superb work with the sound in capturing the way music is presented live as well as sound effects including some scenes in the film’s third act. The film’s music consists of pieces from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner with additional pieces by Rick Wakeman who does much of the music as its mixture of rock bombast and orchestral music is a highlight of the film as it is a major character of the film as it showcases of how the music of those times would influence pop and rock n’ roll with songs sung by some of the cast including Daltrey as it adds to the decadent world of Liszt.

The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Georgiana Hale reprising her role as Alma Mahler from Mahler, Izabella Telezynska as Madame Nadezhda von Meck from The Music Lovers, Oliver Reed as Princess Caroline’s servant, Murray Melvin as Hector Berlioz, Andrew Faulds as Johann Strauss II, Kenneth Colley as Frederic Chopin, Otto Diamant as Felix Mendelssohn, Ken Parry as Gioachino Rossini, Nell Campbell as one of Liszt’s lovers in Olga Janina, John Justin as Count d’Agoult who challenges Listz to a duel in the film’s opening scenes, and Rick Wakeman in a small yet hilarious performance as a Frankenstein-like monster that Wagner created who looks like the Nordic icon Thor. Ringo Starr’s two-scene appearance as the Pope is a highlight of the film as he just brings a low-key sense of humor to the role while just being someone who is willing to help Liszt. Fiona Lewis is fantastic as one of Liszt’s lovers in Countess Marie d’Agoult whom Liszt is first seen having sex with as she becomes upset by his attention towards his music. Veronica Quilligan is excellent as Liszt’s eldest daughter Cosima who is supportive at first of her father’s quest for brilliance only to later associate herself with Wagner as she becomes angry over her father’s obsession and neglect.

Paul Nicholas is amazing as Richard Wagner as he’s portrayed as a fan of Liszt who feels slighted by his idol as he later turns to politics and then blend both music and politics to become this megalomaniacal vampire of sorts who embraces Nazism as it is this dazzling and fun performance from Nicholas. Sara Kestelman is incredible as Princess Carolyn as the Polish noblewoman who wants to grant Liszt his search for greatness while hoping to marry him as she is also over-the-top and so fun to watch. Finally, there’s Roger Daltrey in a phenomenal performance as Franz Liszt as this brilliant composer who is trying to reach greatness despite the fame and adulation he’s already attained while also trying to find meaning in his music as well as hoping to change the world where Daltrey brings a lot of charisma and energy to the character.

Lisztomania is a spectacular film from Ken Russell that features a great performance from Roger Daltrey as well as incredible supporting performances from Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Fiona Lewis, and Ringo Starr. Along with its outlandish presentation, outrageous set pieces, gorgeous visuals, themes of ambition, and a whimsical music soundtrack from Rick Wakeman. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules in its study of a revered music composer who is trying to find meaning through his music while dealing with his own faults and vices. In the end, Lisztomania is a tremendous film from Ken Russell.

Ken Russell Films: (Peep Show (1956 short film) – (Amelia and the Angel) - (John Betjeman: A Poet in London) – (Gordon Jacob) – (A House in Bayswater) – (Pop Goes the Easel) – (Elgar) – (Watch the Birdie) – (Bartok) – (French Dressing) – (The Dotty World of James Lloyd) – (The Debussy Films) – (Always on Sunday) – (Don’t Shoot the Composer) – (Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World) – (Billion Dollar Brain) – (Dante’s Inferno) – (Song of Summer) – (Women in Love) – (Dance of the Seven Veils) – (The Music Lovers) – (The Devils (1971 film)) – (The Boy Friend) – (Savage Messiah) – Mahler - (Tommy) – (William and Dorothy) – (Valentino) – (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) – (Altered States) – (The Planets (1983 film)) – (Vaughn Williams: A Symphonic Portrait) - (Crimes of Passion) – (Gothic (1986 film)) – (Aria-Nessun Dorma) – (Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music) – (Salome’s Last Dance) – (The Lair of the White Worm) – (The Rainbow (1989 film)) – (Women & Men: Stories of Seduction) – (The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner) – (Whore (1991 film)) – (Prisoner of Honor (1991 TV film)) – (The Mystery of Dr. Martinu) – (The Secret Life of Arnold Bax) – (The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch) – (Lady Chatterley (1993 TV film)) – (Alice in Russialand) – (Mindbender) – (Ken Russell’s Treasure Island) – (Dogboys (1998 TV film)) – (The Lion’s Mouth) – (Elgar: Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle) – (The Fall of the Louse of Usher) – (Trapped Ashes) – (A Kitten for Hitler)

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Outrage (1950 film)

 

Directed by Ida Lupino and written by Lupino, Malvin Wald, and Collier Young, Outrage is the story of a woman whose life is shattered after she had been raped as she struggles to move on. The film is a study of a woman whose life was about to take a major step is suddenly traumatized by an act of rape just as she was returning home from work. Starring Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, and Robert Clarke. Outrage is a haunting and evocative film from Ida Lupino.

The film follows a young woman who is walking home from work where she is raped by a man with a scar on his neck as she struggles with what happened to her as she runs away from her life and home uncertain about what to do. It is a film that has a simple premise as it explores rape and trauma where a woman who just got engaged to another man is pursued and raped by another man whom she sees every day at work but never really knew. The film’s screenplay by Ida Lupino, Malvin Wald, and Collier Young is largely straightforward in its narrative yet it is really more of an exploration of trauma and how a woman’s life shatters by this event and how it would force her to run away but still haunted by what happened to her. The script largely follows its protagonist Ann Walton (Mala Powers) who had a lot going for her but being raped by a concession stand worker she sees everyday but is unaware that he was stalking her would change things.

The film’s first half is set in small town where Ann’s family and her fiancée Jim Owens (Robert Clarke) are concerned for her but there’s people gossiping and whispering around her as it added the carelessness she is dealing around her forcing her to leave. The film’s second half has her trying to go to Los Angeles but ended up in a small town when she learned she’s being searched as she finds refuge in a small town after she had been found by Reverend Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews) who is unaware of her real identity after she sprained her ankle. Ferguson is a man who also went through a lot following World War II as he returned to his home because he felt a peacefulness there and wants to help as he gets Ann a job while learning more about who she is and the trauma she is dealing with.

Lupino’s direction does bear elements of style yet much of her presentation is straightforward though the film opens with a view of Ann running as she is being chased by this unknown man. Shot on various locations in California including some sets in Hollywood, Lupino does maintain this air of suspense during this chase scene where her usage of close-ups and medium shots add to the terror where she doesn’t show the actual rape but rather use sound and bits of shadow to show what is happening. Since the word “rape” was taboo in the late 1940s/1950s and wasn’t considered a serious things back then. Lupino does showcase this sense of ignorance and lack of real understanding over what happened to Ann despite the concerns from her parents, Jim, and a few others including a police detective that is trying to understand what happened to her. Lupino’s direction also play into this air of claustrophobia into the shame that Ann is carrying as she thinks it’s her own fault. Lupino’s wide shots that includes the film’s opening sequence and another version of that same chase scene do play into that sense of fear but also in serene moments in the film’s second half where she meets Ferguson as he shows her his favorite place overlooking his hometown.

Lupino does calm things down for the film’s second half when Ann is in this new town where she is given a new job but there are these moments of a woman that is having a hard time opening herself to people with Ferguson being patient. Even during a scene that is about trauma and Ann completely losing it where Ferguson not only learns what happened to her but he is the one that is willing to say something. The film’s ending is an ambiguous one as it relates to Ann’s journey as it is clear that she’s still coping with what happened to her where Lupino keeps the camera away but knows when to shoot a close-up or a medium shot to play into Ann’s final decision. Overall, Lupino crafts a riveting yet terrifying film about woman who gets raped and deals with the trauma of what happened to her.

Cinematographers Louis Clyde Stoumen and Archie Stout do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it add to the film’s eerie presentation in its usage of shadows and light for the chase scene as well as aiming for something naturalistic in the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Harvey Manger does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish montages and some rhythmic cuts that play into the suspense as well as the usage of dissolves as it help play into the drama. Production designer Harry Horner, with set decorators Harley Miller and Darrell Silvera, does brilliant work with the look of the Walton home as well as the look of the home that Ferguson lives in. The sound work of John L. Cass and Clem Portman is terrific for the atmosphere it creates in some of the film’s suspenseful moments as well as how sound effects add to the drama. The film’s music by Constantin Bakaleinikoff and Paul Satwell is wonderful for its orchestral score as it play into the drama with its lush strings and eerie arrangements for the film’s suspenseful moments.

The film’s superb cast featured some notable small roles from Tristram Coffin as a judge at a small town, Jerry Paris as a man at a gathering that pursues Ann at the small town, Roy Engel as the local sheriff, Kenneth Patterson and Angela Clarke in their respective roles as Tom and Madge Harrison who are friends of Ferguson, Hal March as Detective Sergeant Hendrix who is trying to help Ann find her attacker, and Raymond Bond and Lilian Hamilton as Ann’s parents who are troubled by what happened to Ann as well as try to understand her trauma. Robert Clarke is fantastic as Ann’s fiancée Jim as a man that is having a hard time coping with what happened to her while is hoping marriage will heal things. Tod Andrews is amazing as Reverend Bruce Ferguson as a kind-hearted man from a small town who helps Ann in finding a job and solace while being patient in trying to understand what happened to her. Finally, there’s Mala Powers in an incredible performance as Ann Walton as a woman who suffered a traumatic event in her life where Powers displays the anguish and turmoil of a woman that is suffering while being unsure in how to cope with what happened to her as it is a mesmerizing performance from Powers.

Outrage is a phenomenal film from Ida Lupino that features a haunting performance from Mala Powers. Along with its ensemble cast, striking visuals, and its themes of trauma and anguish following the act of rape. The film is definitely a look into a then-taboo subject matter and how it is told as it is a film that was ahead of its time when the subject of rape wasn’t in the discussion. In the end, Outrage is an incredible film from Ida Lupino.

Ida Lupino Films: (Not Wanted) – (Never Fear) – (Hard, Fast, and Beautiful) – The Hitch-Hiker - (The Bigamist) – (The Trouble with Angels)

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021

Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon 2021

 

It’s that time once again for the Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon hosted by Wendell of Dell on Movies as it’s the chance for everyone to defend a movie that doesn’t get a lot of love but also bash the films that gets a lot of love. Being a participant since 2015 and contributing for the years that follow since with entries for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and last year. It’s always fun to watch yet it is getting harder to find films that are considered beloved that I don’t like very much. Here are the rules for this year’s edition:

Pick one movie “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com (or at least 7.5 on imdb.com). Tell us why you hate it.

Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com (or 4.0 or less on imdb.com). Tell us why you love it.

Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own (just include all the pertinent details), or just mention this blogathon if using an audio or visual medium.

Let us know what two movies you intend on writing, vlogging, posting, or podcasting about in one of the following ways: Comment on this or any AtC 2021 post on this site, tweet me, or hit me up on instagram @dellonmovies, or e-mail me at dellott@yahoo.com.

Publish your post on any day from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 12, 2021, and include a link to this announcement. If you’re a podcaster or YouTuber that is interested in participating just talk about your chosen movies during your closest podcast and/or video to those dates and mention that you are taking part in this blogathon.

If posting on social media, use the hashtag #AgainstTheCrowd2021
I love Martin Scorsese and a lot of his films and I like the music of the Band including their collaboration with Bob Dylan as The Basement Tapes is one of my all-time favorite albums. Now I don’t hate this film as I liked a lot of the music but it’s really about the presentation of the Band’s final concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in November of 1976. Notably as the film felt more like a celebration of the band’s main songwriter and guitarist Robbie Robertson rather than the Band itself as Robertson got a producer’s credit for the film as it marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with Scorsese that is still on-going. It’s not just that some of the interviews in the film has Robertson doing a lot of the talking on not just himself but also on the Band as drummer/vocalist Levon Helm and bassist/vocalist Rick Danko do get their say while keyboardist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Manuel and keyboardist/multi-instrumental Garth Hudson barely get to say anything. While the recorded performances of the Band with the Staple Singers on The Weight and with Emmylou Harris on Evangeline are among the highlights of the film.

There’s moments during the concert that are off-putting as the presence of the now notorious anti-vaxxers in Van Morrison (in his horrendous purple suit) and Eric Clapton (on the fucking booze) are more self-serving these days as a reminder of what they used to be and what they are now. There’s also that legendary story of Neil Young appearing at the show with fucking cocaine all over his nose but it was removed in post-production though it would’ve been much cooler to see how much coke Young had. While I do like Neil Diamond, his appearance in the concert is baffling as fuck as he’s only there because Robertson produced one of his albums. The final song that is performed with Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, and everyone else has some very bad direction as there’s a part where Manuel is singing but the camera doesn’t focus on him but on the other people on stage. It’s an overrated concert documentary film that is really more about what Robertson had done when the reality is that he’s only one of five individuals that made the Band so special as it’s no surprise the remaining members reunited without Robertson in 1983 and kept going despite Manuel’s suicide in 1986 and Danko’s death in 1999 with Helm ultimately passing in 2012.
This action film is stupid as it does feature a largely terrible music soundtrack featuring the blandness that is Uncle Krackhead but it is a film that knows it’s not taking itself seriously and doesn’t apologize for it. With an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Bokeem Woodbine, David Arquette, and Christian Slater as bank robbers who all dress up as Elvis impersonators as the film also features Courtney Cox, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Lovitz, Howie Long, Ice-T, Paul Anka, and Kevin Pollak. It is a film that is all action with some humor and sex appeal but it also play up some of the clichés that is often expected in these blockbuster films. You have Costner hamming it up a bit as the main villain as he seemed to be having a hell of a time in the film while also having some nice one-liners that include “tough guys gotta eat too” showing that there’s a bit of humanity in him.

Yet, the film really belongs to Kurt Russell as the criminal who got betrayed by Costner and is trying to retrieve the money as the film also play up Russell’s own history with the King. No one does a dead-on impression of the King better than Russell did where he definitely plays it straight yet manages to hold his own against Costner while also having great scenes with Courtney Cox as a woman whose young son is along for the ride. It is a film that features an over-the-top shoot-out climax that is fucking ridiculous but it is so fun to watch. Plus, it has one of the finest post-credit scenes in the film where Russell goes full-on King to sing Such a Night as it shows exactly how much fun that whole cast had in being in this film.





© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Actors or Actresses Playing Themselves

 

For the 36th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of actors and actress who play themselves. It’s one thing for an actor to play someone else but it is a bigger challenge to play a version of themselves whether it’s in an exaggerated version or a version no one expects. Here are my three picks as they star the legendary Bill Murray as himself:

1. Space Jam
Michael Jordan is helping out the Looney Tunes face off against aliens who had stolen all of the talent of other NBA players of the 1990s. Yet, when Jordan, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and others are a player short as they had gotten their asses kicked by the Mon-Stars. Who do they need to help them? Why Bill Murray of course.

2. Coffee and Cigarettes-Delirium
As part of Jim Jarmusch’s collection of black-and-white short films where two people have conversations smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. One segment featured the RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan talking about the dangers of nicotine and caffeine where they’re joined by a waiter who is none other than Bill Murray himself. Murray becomes the example of those dangers with some hilarious results as it is one of the stand-out segments of the film.

3. Zombieland
A zombie apocalypse is wreaking havoc in the world where a cowboy, an uptight young man, and two sisters are trekking throughout the country as they stay at a house to hide. It is there they meet Bill Murray disguised as a zombie as more hilarity ensues as well as ideas of what to do when dealing a zombie.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, September 06, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

 

Based on the Marvel Comics series by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the story of a man whose father is the leader of a mysterious organization as he is drawn back to the world as he copes with who his father is and his actions while wanting to do good in the world. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and screenplay by Cretton, Dale Callaham, and Andrew Laham from a story by Cretton and Callaham, the film is an exploration of a man trying to make his own life as he hides his secret from those close to him as they’re brought into a world that is dangerous as the titular character is played by Simu Liu. Also starring Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Wenwu/the Mandarin. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an exhilarating and evocative film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

The film revolves around a young man who carries a mysterious secret as he’s the son of an immortal criminal who asks for his help believing that his late mother is alive in another world. It is a film that explores a young man, who had left his father’s world years after their mother’s death, who had gone to America to live a life that normal and fun with a friend until a letter from his estranged younger sister came in as it would lead to him and his sister reuniting with their father. The film’s screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton, Dale Callaham, and Andrew Laham does follow a simple structure yet it opens with the story of the Ten Rings that Shang-Chi’s father Wenwu had been carrying for thousands of years as it made him immortal and live for many years until his search for a mysterious land in China with great power is where he met Ying Li (Fala Chen) who was the guardian of this mysterious land as the two fall in love and raise two children until Li’s death.

The script also play into why Shang-Chi left his family to go to America where he and his friend Katy (Awkwafina) work as valets at a hotel and spend their nights doing karaoke and why his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is pissed off at him as it relates to the day he left. The first act establishes Shang-Chi’s life in San Francisco with Katy that is interrupted by assassins of the Ten Rings organization that included Razorfist (Florian Munteanu) who is trying to get a pendant that Shang-Chi had which was given to him by his mother as it is a clue to what Wenwu is looking for in this mysterious village known as Ta Lo. It’s not just the stakes that the screenplay establish as well as the worlds that Shang-Chi, Katy, and Xialing are entering into but also in the characters as Wenwu is an individual that is a man of power but his life with Li showed that he could change but his past would catch up with him that forced him to return to his dark ways. Shang-Chi isn’t sure if everything his father is saying is true as he is someone filled with conflict about his father’s teachings as well as guilt from his past as a boy. Xialing isn’t just someone who harbors resentment towards her brother for leaving her but also her father whom she felt neglected him following her mother’s death. Katy is this wisecracking outsider that is still trying to find herself as she also gets to know more about Shang-Chi and Xialing where she also learns more about herself.

Cretton’s direction is quite vast in not just the world that these characters are in but also in many of the ancient Chinese ideals and surroundings including the mysterious Ta Lo village as much of the film is shot on location in New South Wales in Australia and studios in Australia along with additional locations in San Francisco. Cretton doesn’t just play into China’s history as well as how Wenwu is involved but also in the creation of the Ten Rings organization as this force of power who controls everything. Through wide and medium shots, the presentation of the Ten Rings organization and the world it has established itself is vast including its fortress where Wenwu lives with his army. Cretton also maintains a sense of mystique and beauty into the world including the village of Ta Lo which feature these mystical creatures that are more than just animals. It is a place where Shang-Chi and Xialing meet their aunt Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) whom they had never met as it would add to the film’s stakes but also Shang-Chi’s own revelations about who he is and the conflict he is dealing with over his mother’s death.

Cretton also play into the style of fighting as much of the stunt work and fight choreography is assembled by Bradley James Allan (whom the film is dedicated to) as Cretton knows how to present it with close-ups and medium shots while also knowing to keep the camera going as well as get a sense of rhythm into the fights. Notably in the third act that is about this showdown between the Ten Rings and the forces of Ta Lo as there’s a lot that is happening yet is really about the acceptance of death and the need to let go. Even as both Shang-Chi and Wenwu have to deal with ancient forces that Nan is trying to keep at bay as it play into ancient ideas of life and death as well as what the former has learned from death and who he is. Overall, Cretton crafts a dazzling yet somber film about a young man coping with his identity, loss, and the shadow of his father’s troubled legacy.

Cinematographer William Pope does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as well as the vibrant colors of the daytime exterior scenes at Ta Lo as it feels dream-like. Editors Nat Sanders, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, and Harry Yoon do excellent work with the editing as its usage of stylish cuts add to the fight scenes where it does play into its intensity while being straightforward for the dramatic and comedic moments of the film. Production designers Sue Chan and Clint Wallace, along with supervising art director Richard Hobbs plus set decorators Rebecca Cohen, David A. Cook, and Leigh Welsh, do amazing work with the look of the Ten Rings fortress, Xialing’s own underground fighting circuit that she runs, and house and building at Ta Lo that all has its sense of beauty and wonders. Costume designer Kym Barrett does fantastic work with the costumes from the casual look of Katy and Shang-Chi as well as the uniforms that the Ten Rings wear as well as the clothes of the people at Ta Lo including what Nan wears.

Hair/makeup designer Rick Findlater do terrific work with the look of a few characters such as the hair design of Razorfist as well as the look of the people at the Ta Lo village. Special effect supervisor Dan Oliver and visual effects supervisor Christopher Townshend do incredible work with the action set pieces as well as the design of Ta Lo and some of the creatures including a creature named Morris. Sound designer Jeremy Bowker and sound editor Katy Wood do superb work with the sound in the way the sound effects are presented as well as the atmosphere of the locations as it help add to the action and suspense. The film’s music by Joel P. West is phenomenal as its mixture of orchestral bombast and traditional Chinese orchestral music as it help play into the world that Shang-Chi is in while music supervisors Dave Jordan and Nick Lok create a soundtrack that mixes elements of pop, hip-hop, and classic rock as it features music from Niki, Swae Lee, Jhene Aiko, Anderson.Paak, JJ Lin, Saweetie, Rick Ross, and many others including some karaoke songs performed by Shang-Chi and Katy including the Eagles.

The casting by Sarah Finn is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Jade Xu as a Black Widow fighting an Extremis warrior in one of the rooms at Xialing’s building, Zach Cherry as a bus rider who records Shang-Chi’s fight in the bus, Stephanie Hsu and Kunal Dudhekar as a couple of friends of Shang-Chi and Katy respectively in Soo and John, Tim Roth in an un-credited voice performance as the gigantic villain Abomination as a fighter in Xialing’s building, Ronny Chieng as Xialing’s right-hand man Jon Jon at her underground building, Dallas Liu as Katy’s younger brother Ruihua, Jodi Long as Katy’s mother, Tsai Chin as Katy’s grandmother, Andy Le as the mysterious assassin known as the Death Dealer who was also the young Shang-Chi’s instructor, Yuen Wah as a Ta Lo leader in Guang Bo, Elodie Fong and Harmonie He in their respective roles as the adolescent and teenage Xialing, Jayden Zhang and Arnold Sun in their respective roles as the adolescent and teenage Shang-Chi, and Ben Kingsley in a hilarious performance as the actor Trevor Slattery whom had played a version of Wenwu many years ago and is imprisoned as he helps out Shang-chi, Xialing, and Katy in finding Ta Lo.

Benedict Wong is superb in his brief appearance as Wong as a master of the mystic arts who fights Abomination and later appears to chat with Shang-Chi and Katy while Florian Munteanu is terrific as the Ten Rings assassin Razorfist as a big man with machete/sword as a right hand as he is a formidable force that is intimidating but also with some personality. Michelle Yeoh is fantastic as Ying Nan as Shang-Chi and Xialing’s aunt who leads the people at the Ta Lo village as well as be a guide to her niece and nephew as well as be aware of Wenwu’s delusions. Fala Chen is excellent in her small role as Shang-Chi and Xialing’s mother Ying Li as a woman who was Ta Lo’s guardian when she met Wenwu as she is also this graceful fighter who gives her children something much more powerful than their father’s fighting style. Meng’er Zhang is incredible as Xu Xialing as Shang-Chi’s estranged sister whom he hadn’t seen in years as she runs an underground fight club in Macau as she also copes with the loss of her mother and her own issues with her father.

Awkwafina is marvelous as Katy as Shang-Chi’s best friend who doesn’t have much ambition while also realizes she doesn’t know Shang-Chi well at all but understands why he’s so guarded as she is a comic relief with a lot of heart but also someone who starts to embrace her Asian identity. Tony Leung Chiu-wai is phenomenal as Xu Wenwu as an immortal crime figure known primarily as the Mandarin as a man that craves power yet is ravaged by grief and the delusion that his wife is alive where Leung maintains a sense of gravitas and charisma to his performance as a man that is hoping to get his family back even if it means having to do horrific things. Finally, there’s Simu Liu in a sensational breakthrough performance as the titular character as a young man who is trying to not to be who he really is while carrying a lot of guilt over his mother’s death as where Liu maintains that sense of restraint while proving to be charismatic in the fight scenes as he is a major discovery in the film.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a sensational film from Destin Daniel Cretton that features a phenomenal ensemble cast led by Simu Liu and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Along with its supporting cast, dazzling visuals, incredible visual effects, themes of loss and family identity, and a sumptuous music score and soundtrack. The film isn’t just this exhilarating action-adventure blockbuster that introduces audiences to a new superhero let alone an Asian superhero. It is a film that is about a man having to embrace his identity but also do what he can in that identity to bring good to the world. In the end, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a spectacular film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

Destin Daniel Cretton Films: (I Am Not a Hipster) – Short Term 12 - (The Glass Castle (2017 film)) – (Just Mercy)

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

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

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame

Phase Four: Black Widow - (Eternals) – (Spider-Man: No Way Home) – (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) – (Thor: Love and Thunder) – (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) - (The Marvels) – (Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania) – (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) – (Fantastic Four)

© thevoid99 2021