Friday, May 31, 2019
This has been a whirlwind of a month not just in the world of film, politics, and wrestling but also here at home. After four rounds of chemotherapy, my father’s cancer is getting its ass kicked and that is good. Yet, he will have to have surgery in mid-June where to remove the small cancer in his stomach as well as remove part of his stomach but it’s not as bad as it should be. He will be fine though it’s been a very tiring period and it’s going to be tiring following the surgery. In a way, not doing the Cannes marathon this year has been a blessing as I didn’t have the energy to do more than 10 films in a-11 day period.
Speaking of Cannes, I must say the festival was definitely eventful as I’m happy about Bong Joon-Ho winning the Palme d’Or for Parasite as there’s also some other films such as Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Atlantique, Little Joe, Bacarau, and Les Miserables in my watchlist while I was happy for the reception that Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse getting some good reviews and some positive notices as I’m eager to see all of those films. Then there was the debacle that is Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo by Abdellatif Kechiche of Blue is the Warmest Color as it’s the second film in a trilogy of films about young love.
It’s one thing to make films about sex but if you want to just want to make films about ass and titties for nearly four hours. That’s fine but don’t expect a lot of people to see it. I have no problem with explicit or non-simulated sex in film or even in a porno film. However, if you go from being a filmmaker that makes pretentious and interesting films about people and social classes to just making films about ass and titties and forcing young actors to engage in non-simulated sex without their consent that includes a young woman getting cunnilingus for about 10 minutes. You’re not a filmmaker. You’re a fucking asshole exploiting people for your own bullshit.
The world of American politics is fucked up with a bunch of dumbass white fuckheads trying to reverse Roe vs. Wade while making it OK for rapists and pedophiles to rape a woman and a young girl so that she can’t get an abortion in Alabama. That shit is wrong. Here in Georgia, we’re dealing with similar shit about abortion and it sucks. Women shouldn’t be told what to do with their bodies unless they decide to have ass implants which is just disgusting. It is America going backwards and it fucking sucks ass as we have people in government that have no fucking balls to pull the fucking trigger to get Dumbfuck out of the fucking White House.
In the month of May, I saw a total of 27 films in 16 first-timers and 11 re-watches which an improvement of sorts from the month prior as three of the first-timers were directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Despite being tired at times, it was a decent month as the highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in This is Not a Film. Here are my top 10 first-timers that I saw for May 2019:
1. An Autumn Afternoon
2. The Death of Stalin
3. Death of a Cyclist
4. The End of Summer
5. The Eyes of Orson Welles
6. All the Money in the World
7. What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali
8. Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don't Know Me
9. At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
10. Fierce People
The Dominican Dream
The first of two 30 for 30 documentaries that I saw this month is about the life and career of Felipe Lopez who is this kid from the Dominican Republic that didn’t play baseball but he was someone that had a lot of promise in the world of basketball. For someone who was considered a big deal in his high school career, he didn’t get the same kind of hype and prestige in both his college and professional career yet he did become an icon for Dominicans and Dominican-Americans alike as it’s more about the immigrant idea of the American Dream as it includes interviews with Alex Rodriguez, Chris Mullin, and author Susan Orlean who all reveal their own immigrant backgrounds.
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
One of two films from HBO Sports that I saw this month is definitely one of the most sobering films about the rise and fall of USA Gymnastics. Featuring interviews with various gymnasts, the film is a shocking input into the world of USA Gymnastics and its failure to protect young women from the sexual abuse in the hands of Larry Nassar. Some of the graphic detail into what Nassar did is just horrific as it include explicit detail in his abuse of young girls as young as the age of 5-6. What is more damning is that officials at the University of Michigan and at USA Gymnastics knew about this and didn’t do a fucking thing until there were too many young women voicing up about what they did as this film is a must into the fall of USA Gymnastics and why it needs new rules for this to never happen again.
From Griffin Dunne is an adaptation Dirk Wittenborn’s novel about a young teenager and his recovering substance-abuse addicted mother staying at a small house on the property of a rich man whom the mother had befriended. It’s a flawed but still engaging film thanks in large part to its ensemble cast that include Donald Sutherland, Diane Lane, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Perkins, Chris Evans, and the late Anton Yelchin. It play into a young man coming of age as well as a study of first love and jealousy among young men.
Before the Bell: The Story of All Elite Wrestling
While the documentary is really an advertisement of sorts for All Elite Wrestling that premiered days before their first official event that was Double or Nothing. The forty-five minute documentary short is about the formation of this new wrestling promotion as it does use footage from the YouTube show Being the Elite about Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson of the Young Bucks, Hangman Adam Page, and several associates. Still, it is a short film that play into the arrival of this new promotion that is already lighting a fire in the world of professional wrestling as they got a TV deal with TNT for a show coming in the fall as it is exciting to be a pro wrestling fan again who are already disillusioned with the stale product that is the WWE.
What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali
From Antoine Fuqua comes the second HBO Sports documentary I saw this month as it is about the life and career of Muhammad Ali told by the man himself through archival footage, his fights, and through rare video and audio interviews. The two-part film chronicle Ali’s career as the first part ends with his shocking defeat against Joe Frazier with the second part being about his comeback and the remaining years of his life. It also touches upon his reluctance to retire in the early 80s and the effects it would have on him though he remains a powerful figure till his passing a few years ago. It is something fans of Ali should see as they get to see the man himself speak.
The second 30 for 30 piece that I saw is about Janet Guthrie who was the first woman to drive both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the 1970s long before the overrated hype that was Danica Patrick on the former. Guthrie was someone had an interest in driving and someone that definitely had the talent and drive but what hampered her career wasn’t just sufficient funding for an entire year but also corporate politics. It is definitely a superb entry to the documentary series as well as also give some profile to the women that came before Guthrie’s time as they also raced but never accomplished what she did as Guthrie’s top 10 placing at the 1978 Indianapolis 500 is still impressive.
Top 10 Re-Watches:
2. Full Metal Jacket
3. Attack the Block
6. Romancing the Stone
9. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
10. Honeymoon in Vegas
Well, that is it for May. I’m not sure how much I will do for June and what new films I will see other than maybe Toy Story 4. I am still going to do the annual exploration of LGBT films that I do every June as there’s a few films I have in my never-ending DVR list as well as some films I had reviews prepared for. I just started work on the Auteurs piece on Kelly Reichardt while I also have an idea of what to do as my next Blind Spot. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…
© thevoid99 2019
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon) is the story of a family patriarch who is aware that his time is coming as he devotes his final moments by arranging a marriage for his daughter in the hope she can have a future. Ozu’s final film of his illustrious career is an exploration of modernism and a man keeping hold on tradition as he is aware that he has to let his daughter go and have a life of her own while hoping she retains his values. Starring Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida, Shinichiro Mikami, and Eijiro Tono. Sanma no aji is a ravishing and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.
The film follows a widower who is aware that he’s in the final years of his life where he decides that it is time for his daughter to find a husband after seeing a mentor of his drunkenly reveal his own regrets in life. It’s a film with a simple premise by writers Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda as it’s also about a family growing and adjusting to the changes in their lives. Notably in Shuhei Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) who works at a nearby factory in an office while he shares his home with his youngest son Kazuo (Shinichiro Mikami) and his 24-year old daughter Michiko (Shima Iwashita). His eldest son Koichi (Keiji Sada) is already married to Akiko (Mariko Okada) as they’re living their own lives while they endure a few problems of their own as Koichi is given some used golf clubs at a bargain price that Akiko disapproves of. Yet, Shuhei is concerned about trying to find a husband for Michiko during a night out with friends along with their old teacher of Chinese classics in Sakuma (Eijiro Tono) that would spur Shuhei to make plans for the future after seeing Sakuma extremely drunk as well as how his daughter Tomoko (Haruko Sugimura) reacts to her father.
Ozu’s direction which doesn’t aim for anything stylized or flashy does play into the simplicity of the story. Notably with his stationary static shot where he never moves the camera at all just to get enough coverage of what is happening during the course of the film. Shot on location in Tokyo, Ozu does use some wide shots of the location but also some precise compositions of the factories as well as certain locations including a bar that Shuhei goes to often as well as sushi restaurants. Ozu doesn’t use any close-ups in favor of just simplistic medium shots where the camera is often in front of the actor to talk to another actor or in a shot where there’s more than one character in a frame. Ozu would also play into this sense of loss but also acceptance of a new world in a scene at a bar that Shuhei goes to where he meets a sailor from his past in Yoshitaro Sakamoto (Daisuke Kato) who reminisces with him about the war and muse about what happened if Japan had won.
While there are elements of humor in the film, there is also this air of melancholia that Ozu would use throughout the film as it relates to what is the end of something. Notably as Shuhei saw what happened to Sakuma and how far he’s fallen with little to show for in the end just as he and a couple of his friends have done well. Shuhei realizes what he must do for Michiko as it’s not just about the acceptance that he’ll have to do things by himself once Michiko and Kazuo leave for their own lives. It’s also about Michiko needing to let go of taking care of her father though she admits to be unsure about wanting to get married. The film’s final images is about that acceptance but also the end of something as it relates to Shuhei yet Ozu manages to maintain a semblance of dignity knowing that even though a man’s life is to end. It at least has created a new beginning for those who are important to him. Overall, Ozu crafts a rapturous and intoxicating film about a man trying to find a suitable husband for his daughter.
Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does incredible work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its emphasis on naturalistic lighting for many of the daytime scenes while using low-key lights from Kenzo Ishiwatari for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night including the bar that Shuhei goes to. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into the conversation scenes. Art directors Tatsuo Hamada and Shigeo Ogiwara do brilliant work with the look of the sushi restaurant and the bar that Shuhei goes to as well as the noodle shop that Sakuma runs and Shuhei’s home.
Costume designer Yuji Nagashima does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largey straightforward with the suits the men wear and the modern clothes of the time that the women wear along with traditional Japanese robes. Sound editor Ichiro Ishii does superb work with the sound as it is largely straightforward as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sounds of television showing baseball games. The film’s music by Kojun Saito is amazing for its lush and somber orchestral score with its usage of strings that sweep into its arrangements to play up the melancholic tone of the film while music coordinator Takanobu Saito provide a few traditional pieces as well as a war march piece that play into Shuhei’s fondness for his military past.
The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Fujio Suga and Zen’ichi Inagawa as a couple of drunks that Shuhei talks to at the bar, Shinobu Asaji as Shuhei’s secretary, Toyo Takahashi as the waitress at the sushi restaurant, Daisuke Kato as a former sailor in Yoshitaro Sakamoto that Shuhei remembered and chatted with at the bar, Ryuji Kita as an old friend of Shuhei in Shin Horie, Michiyo Kan as Horie’s young wife Tamako, Nobuo Nakamura and Kuniko Miyake in their respective roles as family friends Shuzo and Nobuko Kawai, and Kyoko Kushida as the bar proprietor whom Shuhei believes looks like his late wife. Eijiro Tono is superb as Shuhei’s former Naval mentor Seitaro Sukuma as a man who has fallen on hard times and is coping with his own failures while Haruko Sugimura is terrific as his daughter Tomoko as a middle-aged woman running a low-level noodle shop that is struggling as she copes with missed opportunities for herself. Shinichiro Mikami is fantastic as Shuhei’s 21-year old son Kazuo who works nearby at a factory as he is more concerned about what is for dinner rather than do something for himself. Teruo Yoshida is excellent as Yukata Miura as a friend of Koichi who gives Koichi some golf clubs while also having interest towards Michiko despite being attached to another woman.
Mariko Okada is brilliant as Koichi’s wife Akiko who is concerned with the money that Koichi spends knowing that they need it for more important things while Keiji Sada is amazing as Koichi as a man trying to live his own life and help his father find a husband for Michiko despite his own shortcomings in spending money he doesn’t have. Shima Iwashita is incredible as Michiko as a young woman in her 20s who is reluctant about getting married as she runs the household but also worries about what her father will do when she leaves and he’s on his own. Finally, there’s Chishu Ryu in a phenomenal performance as Shuhei Hirayama as a man knowing that he is facing the final years of his life as he also thinks about his past and his daughter’s future knowing what will happen to her if she stays home where it is a performance of grace and sensitivity as a man who has accepted his fate but also thinks about the incredible life he’s had.
Sanma no aji is an outstanding film from Yasujiro Ozu that features a tremendous performance from Chishu Ryu. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous images, a potent music score, and touching themes of life and family. It is a film that is a family drama that is told with such restraint and tenderness as well as being a great final film from one of cinema’s great storytellers. In the end, Sanma no aji is a magnificent film from Yasujiro Ozu.
Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – Passing Fancy - (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - The End of Summer
© thevoid99 2019
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Directed, shot, and starring Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, This is Not a Film is the story of Panahi’s house arrest following a sentence from the Iranian government that bans him from making films for 20 years as he meets with family, friends, and his attorney trying to appeal his six-year jail sentence. The film is a documentary feature that shows Panahi’s day-to-day life as he endures his time at home but would find ways to at least tell a story. The result is an intoxicating and riveting film from Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb.
Shot at an apartment in Tehran in the course of 10 days, the film follows filmmaker Jafar Panahi awaiting word on his appeal following a conviction from the Iranian government over claims of propaganda against the regime as he is given a six-year prison sentence plus a ban from filmmaking for 20 years. Gathering material of four from a ten-day shoot, Panahi and co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb discuss the appeal as well as the projects Panahi wanted to do. During the course of these ten days in March of 2011 where Panahi would watch news about the 2011 Tohuku earthquake and tsunami as well as have phone conversations with his lawyer, family members, and a few friends about being on house arrest.
With Mirtahmasb following Panahi around his apartment with a digital camcorder and Panahi carrying his iPhone, Panahi is also at home watching the family’s pet lizard Igi who would steal the show at times either walking on walls or a couch. Panahi would show Mirtahmasb a script he is working on as well as what he would’ve done for the film’s opening scene using tape on the carpet as an example where Mirtahmasb would shoot from above. There are moments where Panahi becomes emotional over the idea of never making a film again but he is determined to find a way as he and Mirtahmasb would use their cameras to find something even as Panahi would watch a building being built from his balcony as both men serve as cinematographers for the film.
Since it was shot in 10 days and the idea of a day-to-day routine can be boring but Panahi who would edit the film would he would also tell Mirtahmasb when to stop shooting or when to cut. Even as he would also talk about his ideas and use his own films as a frame of reference. Sound editor/visual effects compositor Javad Emami would gather some of the phone conversations that Panahi is having while there are scenes of Panahi interacting with neighbors including a young man collecting garbage in one single take during a holiday that had been banned by the government leading to protests outside of the building. For Panahi, he would film all of this where he would take a major risk for its ending as it is more about the chance for Iranians to tell their own stories without government or religion to restrict them.
This is Not a Film is a tremendous film from Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. It’s an unconventional documentary film that explore the idea of censorship and restriction where a filmmaker is able to tell a story despite the severe limitations he endures from his own government. It’s also a documentary that also play into the ordinary aspects of life and how someone can find wonder in the ordinary. In the end, This is Not a Film is a sensational film from Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb.
Jafar Panahi Films: (The White Balloon) – (The Mirror (1997 film)) – (The Circle (2000 film)) – (Crimson Gold) – Offside (2006 film) - (Closed Curtain) – (Taxi (2015 film)) – (3 Faces)
© thevoid99 2019
Sunday, May 26, 2019
Among the slew of independent filmmakers who had a lot of things to say in American cinema, the duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are among those who emerged from the world of independent cinema in making stories about characters not living in traditional society or dealing with issues that make them apart from the world. Although they’ve made five feature films so far including a massive commercial hit with Captain Marvel that is part of the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The two haven’t strayed from their ideals to tell stories about real people whether they’re from the fringes of society or part of a cosmic world.
Both born in 1976, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck both met at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts where they were film students. Boden was Newton, Massachusetts while Fleck was from Berkeley, California as the two both had similar interests in film before they met. It was through the films of Robert Altman that they bonded as they became collaborators where Boden helped Fleck finish a thesis film. After finishing NYU, the two would make a few documentary short films that would eventually lead to a narrative feature entitled Gowanus, Brooklyn that starred an unknown in Shareeka Epps who plays a young girl that befriends a school teacher struggling with drug addiction. The 19-minute short film would be shown at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year where it won a prize and gave Boden and Fleck the chance to develop their first film at the Sundance Writer’s Lab.
Inspired by the work they did on their short film Gowanus, Brooklyn, Boden and Fleck uses their time at the Sundance Writer’s Lab to expand the story into a feature film as it would explore this unlikely relationship between a drug-addicted school teacher and one of his students in the inner city. Boden and Fleck would expand the character Drey who had been portrayed by Shareeka Epps in the short as she would reprise her role for the film while the film would explore a man struggling with his addiction as well as help this young girl who is poised to embark on a bleak future as he grows concerned for her well-being. The script would attract the attention of Canadian actor Ryan Gosling who had just gained attention for his performance in the 2004 romantic film The Notebook as the film would mark a different path for the young actor.
After gaining funding for the film with a budget of $700,000 as well as a cast that would include another up-and-coming actor in Anthony Mackie as the drug dealer Frank, production began in 2005 in Brooklyn with Fleck serving as director while Boden would take part as a producer and as the film’s editor though she wouldn’t receive credit as a director due to rules from the Director’s Guild of America. With cinematographer Andrij Parekh being a key collaborator for Boden and Fleck early in their career as well as production designer Beth Mickle and costume designer Erin Benach. Boden and Fleck wanted to maintain an element of realism into the story though their attempts to get Gosling to ad-lib wasn’t easy though a compromise was made as it eventually lead to a smooth production and trust between Gosling and the filmmakers. Boden and Fleck would also ensure that they get a realistic approach to the world of drugs as it play into the struggle that Gosling’s character Dan Dunne and the demons he is carrying which would hinder his attempt in trying to have a normal life.
Through Gosling’s suggestion, Boden and Fleck hired the Canadian indie rock band the Broken Social Scene to do the score as it would help set a mood for the film. The film made its premiere on January 2006 at the Sundance Film Festival where it was a major hit at the festival leading to the distributor ThinkFilm to buy the film as it got a limited U.S. theatrical release later that August where the film won rave reviews and grossed nearly $2.7 million and an additional $2 million worldwide. Following a successful home video release with help from Sony Pictures in February of 2007, the film garnered several accolades including an Oscar nomination for Gosling for Best Actor as well as winning three Independent Spirit Awards to Gosling for Best Actor, Epps for Best Actress, and Fleck winning Best Director.
After the success of their first feature film, Boden and Fleck wanted to do a film about the world of immigration in relation to baseball as well as players from the Dominican Republic and how they come into the system in America. Doing research about Dominican players coming to America and never making it to the major leagues prompt Boden and Fleck to create a film about the immigrant experience and how Dominicans come to America with dreams only to face some harsh realities. Retaining many of their collaborators including cinematographer Andrij Parekh, production designer Beth Mickle, and costume designer Erin Benach with Boden getting full credit as a director while also serving as editor. Boden and Fleck also decided to take some risks for the film.
Rather than get up-and-coming actors or someone on the rise, Boden and Fleck turned to casting director Cindy Tolan to get unknowns including Dominicans for the film as the lead role of the titular character is given to Algenis Perez Soto while much of the roles went to lesser-known character actors and other unknowns including Andre Holland as an American minor league player helping Sugar to understand American culture and the game. Much of the film was shot on location in Iowan towns of Davenport and Burlington as it is where much of the minor league system happens as it showcases how young Dominicans had to adjust to their new situations as well as having to learn English and the rules of the game. Boden and Fleck also play into the reality of what happen to those who don’t succeed in the minors and don’t make it to the majors as it adds to the pressure for players to succeed as they know they have a spot to protect. It also play into the pressure of Dominicans wanting to succeeds so they can help their families as Boden and Fleck would shoot on location in the Dominican Republic as well as parts of Arizona and New York City where many Dominican players would be at following their failures at the minors.
The film made its premiere in January of 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival where it was well-received but it would take a year for the film to get a theatrical release as it would be released by Sony Pictures Classic in April of 2009. The film would receive rave reviews and make over a million dollars in the box office due to its limited release. Yet, the film would make the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 best films of 2009 giving Boden and Fleck some clout as filmmakers that are willing to tell stories about people living on the fringes of society.
It's Kind of a Funny Story
With two back-to-back critical successes and some buzz from those films, Boden and Fleck were approached by producers Kevin Misher and Ben Browning about doing an adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s 2006 novel about a teenage kid who checks into a mental hospital citing exhaustion and anxiety over his future following thoughts of suicide. Vizzini’s book was a hit as Paramount Pictures and MTV Films bought the film rights for an adaptation to be made but development fell apart until Focus Features were able to secure the film rights as Boden and Fleck worked on the screenplay with Vizzini’s involvement as he would make a cameo appearance for the film. Retaining many of their collaborators for the film including cinematographer Andrij Parekh, production designer Beth Mickle, casting director Cindy Mickle, and the band the Broken Social Scene in providing the music score. Production would begin in November of 2009 in New York City and Brooklyn where the book was set.
The film’s ensemble cast would feature a group of up-and-comers and established stars as it would include Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakis, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, Zoe Kravitz, Thomas Mann, Aasif Mandvi, and Bernard White. For the production, Boden and Fleck would use Woodhull Medical Center as the hospital where the film is set as well as Poly Prep Country Day School as the school that the film’s protagonist Craig Gilner attends. It play into this need of wanting to succeed and be part of something where Gilner is tasked to finish an application to attend a prestigious summer school program with his father wanting him to attend this program. Boden and Fleck doesn’t just play into people having difficulty with the expectations of society but also unable to live up to what the world wants as well as the ideas of conformity. The film would provide Zach Galifianakis, who is known primarily for comedies, a rare dramatic performance as a man dealing with anxieties as well as uncertainty of where to go after he is to be discharged. Boden and Fleck would also infuse bits of style that has elements of surrealism as it relates to the ideas of depression and anxiety where Gilner would eventually find an outlet through drawing.
The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival in September of that year as it would be given a wide release in the U.S. a month later with a release around the world to follow. While the film was well-received for its ensemble and dealing with the subject of mental illness, the film did received mixed reviews with critics feeling that it was lightweight and tried too hard to balance comedy and drama. Commercially, the film was considered a disappointment grossing only $6.5 million against its $8 million budget.
Following the disappointing reaction of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Boden and Fleck spent the next few years working on various TV projects for work while developing a project relating to the world of gambling. Inspired by trips to riverboat casinos in Iowa and in the areas of the Mississippi River, the film drew upon a primary influence for Boden and Fleck in Robert Altman. Notably his 1974 film California Split that was about two gamblers who team together to win money as Boden and Fleck both decided to borrow that scenario and update it involving two different gamblers in two different directions as they travel through cities on the Mississippi River and eventually go to a big game in New Orleans in the hope to win some big money.
The project was in pre-production and development as early as 2012 with Jake Gyllenhaal attached to play a role with Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn joining the project in early 2013. Yet with a lot of independently-funded films, financing would fall apart as Gyllenhaal left the project in the spring of 2013 until he was replaced by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds in June of that year while British actress Sienna Miller joined the film in November as shooting began in January of that year with American actress Analeigh Tipton joining the film a week after shooting began. With the exception of cinematographer Andrij Parekh and casting director Cindy Tolan, Boden and Fleck would work with a new film crew as much of the production was set in cities near or around the Mississippi River with New Orleans as the film’s climax. Boden and Fleck didn’t just want to play up into this friendship between two different men where Reynolds’ character is a guy who always win and Mendelsohn is someone who always lose but both realize their worth for another but also have things they want that is more important than winning money. Boden and Fleck would get filmmaker James Toback to appear in a cameo as a famed gambler for the film’s climax as it would play into the fate of the film’s protagonists and what they want in their lives.
The film made its premiere on January of 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival where it was major hit at the festival followed by well-received screenings several months later at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic and at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The film would get a limited theatrical release through A24 and DirectTV in late August of that year where even though it didn’t make much money against its $6 million budget. The film would garner rave reviews from critics who saw it as a return to form for the duo following the mixed reaction of their previous film as it did help raise their profile in the world of independent cinema.
Following a break between projects including Boden’s own pregnancy as she had given birth to a child in 2015, Boden and Fleck were approached by studios about helming all sorts of films yet it was Marvel Studios that continued to court them. In April 2017, the duo agreed to work with producer Kevin Feige on developing a film project about Carol Danvers who would become Captain Marvel as part of Marvel Studios’ highly-successful shared film universe known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film had been in development since 2014 as it would be part of the MCU’s Phase Three slate of films as part of the Infinity Saga. While the film would be an origin story of how Danvers went from being a Kree soldier into going on her own as Captain Marvel, the film would be the first film from the MCU in which a female superhero would have her own solo film and origin story.
The film went through years of development that includes a script from Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman and Meg LaFauve writing a version of the script that would be re-tooled for years with Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet taking part in shaping the story. It would be when Boden and Fleck took part in the film as they worked with Robertson-Dworet and Jac Schaeffer to write the script as it wouldn’t just be based on the original comics created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan but also Danvers’ own comic storyline by Colan and Roy Thomas. While the script would play with the tropes expected in an origin story yet it is more about a woman who is dealing with images relating to what might be old memories as she finds herself on Earth and discovers more about herself. Boden and Fleck knew that it had a human story to tell but also play along with the conventions of a superhero film. Like many films of the MCU and under Feige’s watch, Boden and Fleck knew they wouldn’t have final cut yet Feige would give them some control in what they wanted to do making the collaboration an easy one.
In 2016, Brie Larson, who had just won an Oscar for Best Actress for the film Room months earlier, was cast in the titular role while the ensemble would include MCU regular Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as a younger version of Nick Fury and Clark Gregg also reprising his role as Phil Coulson. With the aid of casting director Sarah Finn, Boden and Fleck would reunite with Ben Mendelsohn who would play the role of the Skrulls leader Talos whose shift-shaping alien race would also disguise themselves as humans where Mendelsohn would also play then-S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Keller. Lee Pace would make a small appearance reprising his role as Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy as the cast would then include Annette Bening, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, Akira Akbar, and Jude Law as Danvers’ Kree mentor Yon-Rogg. The film would also feature a cameo from one of the comic’s creators in Stan Lee who would make one of his final cameo appearances for the MCU. Shooting began in March 2019 with a budget of $152-$175 million as it would be the biggest film that Boden and Fleck would make.
Though Boden and Fleck wouldn’t have their regular collaborators on board and Boden stepping back from the editing, the two were able to keep the production grounded as the film would be set in the mid-1990s where Boden and Fleck worked with production designer Andy Nicholson in recreating 1990s California. The film would also mark the first film of the MCU to be scored by a woman as Pinar Toprak would help bring in some orchestral flourishes with the music soundtrack consisting of music from the 1990s. Boden and Fleck also played into Danvers’ lost identity as well as insight into this conflict between the alien races the Kree and the Skrulls that has similarities to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though the film would share storylines that play into other things that would happen for other films of the MCU as well as how Nick Fury would become this somewhat-cynical head of S.H.I.E.L.D. The film would give Boden and Fleck not just a new energy to the MCU but also help introduce a new character that would become crucial to the cinematic universe.
The film premiered on February 27, 2019 in London followed a wide worldwide release a week later as it had so far as of May 2019 made over a billion dollars worldwide with over $425 million in the U.S. alone. While the critical reception wasn’t as high as other films of the MCU or some of Boden and Fleck’s more well-received films, it was still lauded by critics as a fun action-adventure film with praise for Boden and Fleck in grounding the story without emphasizing on visual effects. Larson, Jackson, Law, and Mendelsohn also received great notices as the film would also be popular with a female audience as female-lead superhero films hadn’t been successful until 2017’s Wonder Woman giving Boden and Fleck some praise for giving that demographic another hero to root for.
Additional TV Projects
Like many filmmakers who work outside of the Hollywood film system, Boden and Fleck would go to television not just for work but also to fund projects and go live without having to worry too much about money. Among the TV shows Boden and Fleck would direct include episodes for the shows The Big C, The Affair, and Billions for the pay-cable channel ShowTime. Fleck would direct episodes for a couple of shows for HBO in In Treatment and Looking while he and Boden would write and direct an episode for the horror-thriller anthology show Room 104 entitled Red Tent that would have the duo reunite with Keir Gilchrist who plays a young man trying to create a bomb to detonate for a political rally until an air condition repairman (played by Hugo Armstrong) keeps interrupting him making Gilchrist’s character paranoid about the man’s identity.
Fleck would also take part in directing an episode for ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30 with Boden as an executive producer in the episode The Day the Series Stopped that was about the third game of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants where an earthquake happened in the Bay Area that would stop the game during that terrible event. Fleck would interview players from both teams as well as survivors as they recall that terrible day in October as he would use mainly footage from not just the game but also news footage from various local affiliates covering the earthquake as the episode which premiered in 2014 was well-received by audiences and critics.
With five feature films to date so far and an upcoming TV project in Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett as the controversial anti-feminist conservative writer Phyllis Schlafy in the works, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have already created a small body of work that all have to something say about individuals or a group of people who don’t fit in with the conventions of modern-day society. Whether they’re movies set in the inner cities, Middle America, a mental hospital, gambling, or outer space, Boden and Fleck continue to emphasize on bring a grounded realism to their films with characters that audience can relate to no matter how big or small the films are. They make films that are about people who deal with a real world but find ways to make their lives extraordinary.
© thevoid99 2019
Friday, May 24, 2019
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Kohayagawa-ke no aki (The End of Summer) is the story of a sake brewery family whose lives are shattered by discoveries relating to their patriarch and his secret life with a mistress. The film is a comedy-drama that relates to a family where a group of women deal with the news about their father while they try to adjust to the changes relating to their sake brewery. Starring Ganjiro Nakamura, Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa, Michiyo Aratama, Keiju Kobayashi, Masahiko Shimazu, Daisuke Kato, Haruko Sugimura, Hisaya Morishige, Chieko Naniwa, Reiko Dan, and Chishu Ryu. Kohayagawa-ke no aki is an evocative and somber film from Yasujiro Ozu.
The film follows a family who run a small sake brewery that is dealing with bigger companies as two women both deal with potential suitors recommended by their family patriarch who has just renewed his relationship with his old mistress. It’s a film that play into a family dealing with changes during a summer as a family patriarch is trying to ensure that his two daughters be wed to men while his widowed daughter-in-law Akiko (Setsuko Hara) is raising her child alone as she has little interest in getting remarried. With his son-in-law Hisao (Keiju Kobayashi) trying to run the brewery that is competing with a bigger sake competitor, the patriarch Kohayagawa Manbei (Ganjiro Nakamura) spends much of his time at home and would sneak out to visit his old mistress Sasaki Tsune (Chieko Naniwa) whom he’s rekindled a relationship with since the passing of his wife.
The film’s script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda play into these family relationships where Akiko is being pursued as is the youngest daughter Noriko (Yoko Tsukasa) as the latter is concerned about her own suitor just as she is interested in a lecturer. It play into the different directions of the family as Noriko’s older sister Fumiko (Michiyo Aratama) learns about her father renewing his relationship with Sasaki as it is believed that he also fathered Sasaki’s daughter Yuriko (Reiko Dan) whom his family hadn’t met. The script also play into this idea of death as it relates to Manbei as he is aware that his brewery might go out of his business as he also thinks about what will happen to his daughters and daughter-in-law.
Ozu’s direction is understated in terms of the simplicity that he maintains throughout the course of the film. Shot largely in Kyoto, the film does play into this world that shows Japan becoming modernized and more vibrant but also retaining elements of the past including some of its traditions. While there aren’t many close-ups in the film, Ozu’s direction is ravishing in his approach to simple compositions whether it’s in a wide or in a medium shot as he captures so much attention to detail on a location, a room, an office, or at a bar. The fact that he doesn’t move the camera at all as well as positioning it one or two feet off the ground which is a visual style that Ozu is known for adds to the simplicity of the film. Even in a wide shot where the camera would look down from a house where Noriko and Akiko are having a conversation at the beachside area of a river as it would then cut to a medium shot of the two on the beachside with Noriko watching her son play in the river.
Ozu would also play up the drama in a low-key approach where he doesn’t aim for melodrama but something that is straightforward but also filled with sadness as it relates to the news about Manbei and his ailing health. The film’s third act doesn’t just explore the idea of mortality but also the decisions a family would have to make as it relates to their business and future. Even as Noriko and Akiko have to find husbands so they won’t be alone and play up to the ideas of tradition though the suitors they’re set-up with don’t really have much to offer to them emotionally. Though the film’s ending is about the end of something, it is also the start of something new where Ozu’s precise framing and gorgeous compositions play into this idea of life and death. Overall, Ozu crafts a rapturous and heartfelt film about a family dealing with changes and their patriarch’s decision to rekindle his relationship with his mistress.
Cinematographer Asakazu Nakai does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its gorgeous approach to natural lighting for the scenes set at the day as well as the usage of low-key lighting for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Koichi Iwashita does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into some of the conversations between characters. Art director Tomoo Shimogawara does amazing work with the look of the home that Manbei lives in with Fumiko and Hisao as well as the home of Sasaki and the office that Hisao works at. Sound mixer Hisashi Shimonga does nice work with the sound as it is largely straightforward as it includes music that is being played from a certain location as well as sparse and natural sounds of a location. The film’s music by Toshiro Mayuzumi is fantastic for its usage of traditional woodwinds and flutes with some lush string arrangements in some parts of the film as it add to the film’s somber tone.
The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Chishu Ryu and Yuko Mochizuki as a farming couple appearing towards the end of the film commenting on a building, Kyu Sazanka as a clerk working with Hisao, Hisaya Morishige as Akiko’s suitor Isomura, Akira Takadara as the lecturer Teramoto Tadashi whom Noriko is interested in, Haruko Sugimura as a sister-in-law of Manbei in Kato Shige, Daisuke Kato and Haruko Togo in their respective roles as Manbei’s brother-in-law and sister in Kitagawa Yanosuke and Kitagawa Teruko who try to help Akiko find a suitor, Masahiko Shimazu as Hisao and Fumiko’s son Masao, and Reiko Dan as Sasaki’s daughter Yuriko who is more interested in Western culture while wondering if Manbei is really her father. Keiju Kobayashi is terrific as Manbei’s son-in-law Hisao as a man who is trying to keep the family sake brewery afloat knowing that it is futile where he tries to find ways to save it but also face the reality of what he must do. Michiyo Aratama is fantastic as Fumiko as Manbei’s eldest daughter and Hisao’s wife who spends time taking care of her father while being disapproving over his relationship with Sasaki.
Chieko Naniwa is excellent as Sasaki as an old flame of Manbei who is happy about spending time with him while knowing that his family doesn’t know about this new relationship as she agrees to keep it private until the rest of his family is ready to accept her. Yoko Tsukasa is brilliant as Noriko as Manbei’s youngest daughter who deals with the prospect of having to marry someone just as she is falling for a lecturer she’s known for years as she also deals with the idea of being alone. Setsuko Hara is amazing as Akiko as Manbei’s widowed daughter-in-law as a woman that is trying to raise her son but also help Noriko with dealing with the idea of marriage as well as pondering about getting married again. Finally, there’s Ganjiro Nakamura in a remarkable performance as Kohayagawa Manbei as a sake brewery owner who is trying to help figure out what to do for Noriko and Akiko while trying to renew a relationship with a former flame in the hope he can bring the people he love together.
Kohayagawa-ke no aki is a phenomenal film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an understated approach to narrative, and themes on life and death. It’s a film that explores a family dealing with secrets but also uncertainty as it relates to the future and their family business as well as themselves. In the end, Kohayagawa-ke no aki is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.
Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – Passing Fancy - (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - An Autumn Afternoon
© thevoid99 2019
Thursday, May 23, 2019
For the 21st week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of films adapted from other films in a different language as it’s often common that Hollywood would take a well-received film from a different country and then translate into English and into a Hollywood spectacle where it can work at times but most of the time. They’re just total shit. Here are my three picks:
1. A Simple Noodle Story
From Zhang Yimou is an odd remake of the Coen Brothers’ debut film Blood Simple as it is set in Ancient China that involves a noodle shop owner who hires a corrupt cop to kill his wife and her lover who is also the cook at the noodle shop. It’s a visually-stylish film as it has some nice moments but it has a weird subplot involving two men trying to take break into their bosses’ vault over payment. It’s one of Yimou’s weaker films but it is worth watching for anyone interested in Yimou and the Coen Brothers.
2. Let Me In
A remake of the 2008 Tomas Alfredson film Let the Right One In by Matt Reeves is a decent film mainly due to the performances of Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. It is quite faithful though it doesn't do enough to bring in the scares while it also play too much into the many conventions of horror and such in this story of a troubled young boy who meets a young vampire.
3. Funny Games
Michael Haneke’s 2007 remake of his 1997 film is probably one of the strangest remakes ever produced on film. There aren’t many big differences between the original and the remake other than the actors and language while the 2007 version is a bit more on the nose for anyone that had seen the original 1997 film. It’s a simple home invasion movie where a family meet these two young men who ask for eggs and awful shit happen while one of the young men asks the audience what they should do.
© thevoid99 2019