Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Films That I Saw: September 2020

This year has worn me out mentally as so much bad shit happening here in America as more than 205,000 have died from COVID while a bunch of racist cops were found not guilty in killing Breonna Taylor as it’s just a bunch of fucking bullshit. Even as we’re about to go into debates and all of this shit as I’m just tired of politics and Dookie Tank in general. Even as I’ve been spending a lot of my time watching over my 18-month old nephew Mateo on weekdays with my mother as he’s just been a fucking tornado as he’s moving and biting me a lot. Yet, it’s all in good fun as I enjoy my time with him as I’m going to have more to deal with as I’m going to have a niece coming next March. Still, I worry about having to tell them all of the awful shit that they might have to go through when they’re older. I barely have time to watch anything on the weekends as I blame myself for not being active as I used to.

In the month of September 2020, I saw a total of 20 films in 10 first-timers and 10 re-watches as it’s definitely an underwhelming number for this month. However, there is a major highlight this month in my Blind Spot choice in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (review will come in a few days). Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for September 2020:

1. White Dog

2. Moana

3. Teorema

4. Le Amiche

5. Christopher Robin

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Suede: Love and Poison

A 1993 concert video that was released during a fruitful time for the seminal Britpop band is presented on YouTube in a newly-remastered presentation as it showcases the band’s performance at the Brixton Academy in late 1993. Featuring many of the songs from the band’s first album as well as B-sides from that period, it is the first of a series of concert performances the band is releasing on YouTube since, like many, they’re not able to tour at the moment. Still, this is a concert film that fans hold in high regard as it is the only concert film to feature the original line-up of vocalist Brett Anderson, guitarist Bernard Butler (who would leave during the making of the band’s second album), bassist Mat Osman, and drummer Simon Gilbert.

A constant staple right now on Disney+ that my nephew loves to watch is this film as I do think it is one of Disney Animation Studios’ great films so far. It is about the daughter of a Polynesian chief who finds a mysterious rock as she hopes to put it back and restore the heart of an ancient demigod to save her home. It’s a film that doesn’t just feature rich animation but also the music that is co-written by Lin Manuel-Miranda as it features a lot of great voice work from Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as the demigod Maui, Rachel House as the titular character’s grandmother, and Jemaine Clement as a crab who sings my favorite song in the film in Shiny as it sounds a lot like David Bowie.

Barely Lethal
While it’s not as bad as many claim to be, it is unfortunately not a film that is worth a lot of people despite some of the talent involved. It is about a teenage spy who becomes tired of becoming a spy in favor of wanting to be a normal teenage girl and live a social life. However, things go wrong while a rival spy tries to ruin her attempts at normalcy and an evil criminal also tries to create more chaos. Hailee Steinfeld is alright in the lead role with some nice supporting work from Samuel L. Jackson, Dove Cameron, and Sophie Turner but the script never brings enough suspense and the humor feels forced while Jessica Alba’s performance as the main villain is just horrible as she tries to be funny and menacing only to be neither.

Christopher Robin
In what is definitely Marc Forster’s best film since Stranger Than Fiction is this heartwarming tale about the famed character of the Winnie the Pooh stories as he is an adult that is having a hard time trying to be a responsible husband and father while trying to save the jobs of his fellow workers at a luggage factory. Ewan McGregor’s performance as the titular character hits all of the right notes as a man who had lost himself until he is reunited with Winnie the Pooh and the other creatures of the Hundred Acre Woods as it’s just a film filled with a lot of heart and depth. Even as it features a radiant Haley Atwell as Robin’s wife who would discover her husband’s childhood and see what had become of him as an adult. The visual effects presentation of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, and many others are amazing as it does add a lot of life to the film that is a worthy sequel to the animated films.

I am baffled to this day into why certain movies don’t get played at my multiplex but this film did for a weekend despite the fact that it didn’t do well commercially nor critically. This film about Joe Weider who would Muscle & Fitness magazine with his brother Ben and their obsession with bodybuilding is just fucking horrendous. Tyler Hoechlin’s performance as the young Joe is an example of bad acting at its worst where he just mumbles a lot and tries to play insecure while you have Kevin Durand as a rival magazine publisher that is just comically bad. Add Julianne Hough as Ben’s second wife Betty as I wonder who keeps casting her in films as she couldn’t act for shit while we get someone playing a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as it’s just comically horrendous for a film that tries to take itself way too seriously. Plus, it ignores a lot of factors about bodybuilding such as steroids and such. I’m going to have pro wrestling legend Bret Hart state his opinion about bodybuilding:

Nine Inch Nails-Live: Cold and Black and Infinite

Having attended this tour two years ago, the band was supposed to do another small tour in the U.S. this year to promote Ghosts V-VI but since the pandemic happened. The band instead allowed a group of fans to create a concert film available for free on YouTube showcasing their performance from a trio of shows in New Orleans. Shot in black-and-white, it is a performance that is quite intense as it features material from the band’s previous trilogy of recordings in Not the Actual Events, Add Violence, and Bad Witch as well as classic material from past albums. The five-piece line-up of Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Robin Finck, Alessandro Cortini, and Ilan Rubin is probably the strongest line-up the outfit has ever had as a live entity as well as the most dangerous in terms of its musicianship.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. The Descendants

2. Amy

3. Aladdin

4. Beauty and the Beast

5. Don Jon

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

7. Saved!

8. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

9. Team Thor

10. CB4

That is it for September as October will be largely dedicated to films relating to horror, suspense, and other weird shit with Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise being the next Blind Spot film I will watch. I made a list of the films that I hope to watch as that is something I’m going to focus mainly and then get back on board with everything else I have in my never-ending DVR list. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and hoping that everyone stays safe and not get into some awful shit.

© thevoid99 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Le Amiche

Based on the novella Tra donne sole by Cesare Pavese, Le Amiche is the story of a woman who goes to Turin to start a new shop as she meets with a group of wealthy women as they all cope with the troubles of a friend amidst the turmoil in their own lives and in the world around them. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and written by Antonioni and Susu Cecchi D’Amico with contributions from Alba De Cespedes, the film is an exploration of five women dealing with their own identities in Turin as they deal with their own world and growing changing times around them. Starring Eleonora Rossi Drago, Gabriele Ferzetti, Franco Fabrizi, Valentina Cortese, Yvonne Furneaux, Madeleine Fischer, Anna Maria Pancani, Luciano Volpato, Maria Gambarelli, and Ettore Manni. Le Amiche is a riveting and somber film from Michelangelo Antonioni.

The film revolves a group of upper class women in the city of Turin as they deal with the suicide attempt of one of their friends just as a woman who is part of the social circle returns to the city from Rome to open a fashion salon. It’s a film that is more of a study of a group of women who live in the posh world of fashion and posh surroundings as one of them becomes despondent over her existence while another returns to her hometown as she ponders if she really fits in with this social circle. The film’s screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni and Susu Cecchi D’Amico features a straightforward narrative that does focus on these five women that are part of this social circle of upper-class women living in Turin wearing expensive clothing and such. For Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago), returning to her hometown to open and manage a fashion salon from Rome allows her to look back at the town but also see the chaos in the social circle that she’s in as it relates to Rosetta (Madeleine Fischer) whose suicide attempt has disrupted a lot of the social activities in these women.

The script does feature a lot of dialogue that play into Rosetta’s despair and her need to find meaning in her life as it play into the faults of the upper-class world. Even as she find herself attracted to the artist Lorenzo (Gabriele Ferzetti) who is married to another artist in Nene (Valentine Cortese) who is also part the social circle of women with Momina De Stefani (Yvonne Furneaux) and the shallow and flaky Mariella (Anna Maria Pancani). Clelia is aware of Rosetta’s troubled emotional state as she finds herself at odds with Momina and Mariella with Nene becoming suspicious of Rosetta’s attraction towards Lorenzo. The film also showcases Clelia beginning a relationship with the architect’s assistant Carlo (Ettore Manni) who is an outsider due to his working class background yet Clelia is still fascinated by him since she doesn’t care about his social standing while Momina gets involved with Carlo’s boss Cesare Pedoni (Franco Fabrizi) who is building Clelia’s salon for this major event to occur that would attract Turin’s upper-class.

Antonioni’s direction is filled with striking and evocative compositions and settings that would play into the visual style that he would hone in later films as it play into the theme of alienation and loneliness that revolves around these characters. Shot on location in and around Turin, Antonioni uses the city as a character as a place that is changing where there a lot of these posh places emerging and such while there are places that the middle and working class go to but also the lower class as it play into Clelia’s return as she looks back at this place that was once her home. A scene where she and Carlo walk to find furniture where they walk to a street that she used to live is key to who she is as it was a place she knew she had to leave but has a fondness to it while knowing it’s different now and can’t fully return. Especially as she’s already in a world that has a lot to offer and has so many things but she does maintain a sense of reality in comparison to the likes of Momina and Mariella.

Antonioni’s usage of wide and medium shots not only play to the locations but also in the air of disconnect as it relates to these women and reality though Nene is someone who is given an immense opportunity that only a fool would turn down. Yet, she is troubled by Lorenzo’s failings as an artist as well as his attraction to Rosetta where there is a scene where she confronts Rosetta but not in a heavy dramatic way since Nene is aware of Rosetta’s mood swings. The confrontation takes place in its third act where it is about Clelia’s presentation that is followed by a troubling aftermath where all five women and a few of their dates go to eat dinner and things unravel. Especially at it all relates to Rosetta who is yearning to be fulfilled as its ending revolves more around Clelia and her own pursuits as she is aware of the faults of the posh world she lives in. Antonioni maintains that air of conflict in Clelia as well as her own feelings about Rosetta’s despair in a world that has so much but offer little salvation. Overall, Antonioni crafts a compelling yet heart-wrenching film about a group of posh women in Turin who deal with their world and the suicide attempt of one of their own.

Cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography in the way many of the daytime exteriors are presented from the natural look of the scene on the beach to the greyer look of the city while the exterior scenes at night feature some unique lighting to maintain its atmosphere. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play into the drama as well as the conversation between characters with some rhythmic cuts for dramatic effect. Production designer Gianni Polidori does amazing work with the look of the salon that Clelia is overseeing as well as a few of the homes of the women to play into their posh environment.

Costume designer Enzo Bulgarelli does fantastic work with the costumes in the design of the many dressed the women wear as it represents their unique personalities as it has a lot of life as well as the world that they represent. The sound work of Giulio Canavero, Emilio Rosa, and Ennio Sensi is terrific for its natural approach to the sound in many of the film’s locations as well as capturing the atmosphere of some of the gatherings including the fashion salon presentation. The film’s music by Giovanni Fusco is wonderful for its mixture of somber guitar-based pieces as well as heavy piano themes that play into the drama.

The film’s superb cast feature a couple of notable small roles from Maria Gambarelli as Clelia’s boss who appears late in the film and Luciano Volpato as Mariella’s boyfriend in the film’s third act. Franco Fabrizi is terrific as the architect Cesare as a man whom Momina becomes attracted to as she tries to start a relationship with him while Gabriele Ferzetti is fantastic as Lorenzo as Nene’s husband who is trying to make it as an artist while is becoming attracted towards Rosetta leading to some major trouble for everyone. Ettore Manni is excellent as Carlo as Cesare’s assistant who is a working class man that befriends Clelia as he would fall for her but is aware of their social class differences despite their fondness for one another. Anna Maria Pancani is amazing as Mariella who is this shallow woman that seems to care more about herself and whatever man she can get with little regard for people’s feelings as well as just getting everyone to join her in some gathering.

Yvonne Furneaux is brilliant as the pessimistic Momina as a woman who often says the wrong things and prefers to be the one to run things as if she maintains this air of importance unaware of the things she says about Rosetta. Madeleine Fischer is incredible as Rosetta as a young woman who is recovering from a suicide attempt as she questions about her own existence in the upper class world as well as her feelings for Lorenzo along with all sorts of things as it is a dramatic-heavy performance from Fischer. Valentina Cortese is phenomenal as Nene as Lorenzo’s artist wife who is given an opportunity to have a show in New York City where she also watches from afar in what is going on with Rosetta as she delivers a low-key yet effective performance as a woman who knows what is going on but prefers to not cause trouble nor create a scene. Finally, there’s Eleonora Rossi Drago in a sensational performance as Clelia as a woman who returns to Turin from Rome to open a fashion salon who finds herself in a posh circle of friends where she copes with trying to get a business started as well as Rosetta’s own issues where she tries to help her as it is a tender and engaging performance from Drago.

The 2016 Region 1/Region A DVD/Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection presents the film in a new 2K digital restoration in its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio and a remastered Italian mono soundtrack (uncompressed in its Blu-Ray release) as well as improved English subtitles. The DVD/Blu-Ray set also feature two featurettes that relates to the film as the first of which is a 27-minute conversation piece from scholars David Forgacs and Karen Pinkus on the film and its themes. Especially in what Antonioni changed from the novella, which had a more post-war environment, as well as what he wanted to say about the women in those times. Even in a place like Turin which was this city that was modern and attracted people from the south of Italy going north because there’s job opportunities there. Forgacs and Pinkus also talk about the importance of women in the film and all of those characters with the latter revealing that the film in some respects was ahead of its time in its exploration on a group of women being friends as it relates to shows like Sex & the City and Girls yet it’s a more cynical film set in a crueler environment.

The twenty-two and a half-minute interview with film scholar Eugenia Paulicelli on the film’s usage of fashion where Paulicelli discusses the importance of fashion in post-war Italy. Even as it helped create a new identity for the country following the aftermath of World War II where a new group of costume and fashion designers emerged as Antonioni was aware of this growing wave as he would use it in his films. Especially where Paulicelli talks about how the clothes play up the personality of the women in the film as well as analyze the women in who they are.

The DVD/Blu-Ray set also features an essay from film scholar Tony Pipolo entitled Friends-Italian Style that discusses the film and how it would serve as a preview of the films Antonioni would do in the 1960s that would garner him a lot of fame. Pipolo talks about how the film version differs from Cesare Pavese’s novella which was set a few years after the war where Turin was rebuilding itself whereas Antonioni chooses to set the film on Turin as it was becoming a thriving city that attracted the upper class. Pipolo also talks about Clelia’s return to the city that she used to live in and how much it changed but also what hasn’t changed as well as how fashion is used as a façade to the world that Clelia’s friends are in. Particularly a world that is disconnected from the real world that has the middle and working class wanting to be part of this new Italy whereas the rich begins to see this façade in this amazingly-written essay.

Le Amiche is a sensational film from Michelangelo Antonioni. Featuring a great ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, themes of alienation and identity in an upper class world, and a rich music score. The film is definitely an enthralling and evocative film that doesn’t just showcase a woman returning to her home city where she becomes part of a troubled social circle of friends but also watch as a young woman in that circle falling apart in a world that demands so much. In the end, Le Amiche is a phenomenal film from Michelangelo Antonioni.

Michelangelo Antonioni Films: (Story of a Love Affair) – (I Vinti) – (The Lady Without Camelia) – (Il Grido) – L'Avventura - La Notte - L'Eclisse - Red Desert - Blow-Up - Zabriskie Point - (Chung Kuo, Cina) – The Passenger - (The Mystery of the Oberwald) – Identification of a Woman - (Beyond the Clouds) – Eros-The Dangerous Thread of Things

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: The Band

In the 38th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of the band. Films about a music band just trying to create music or a band that is just coming to an end. Whether it’s real or fiction. Here are my three picks:

1. Trances

Unless you are familiar with Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, this film from Ahmed El Maanoui is considered a gem on world cinema as it explores the music of the Moroccan folk band Nass El Ghiwane. Made during a tumultuous time in the country, the film explores this band making music that expresses a lot of the political and social turmoil of the time with a focus on the country itself. It’s a film that is told in different styles with live performances, interviews, stock footage, and profiles on the five band members including insight into the Moroccan theatre scene of the 1960s.

2. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco

One of the great American bands to emerge from mid-1990s as an alt-country band born from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo to becoming this experimental rock band with touches of alt-country, indie, and such. Wilco is a band that may not have a lot of mainstream success but a devoted following that has continued to thrive. The 2002 documentary by Sam Jones explore the making of the band’s landmark 2001 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as it showcases a band dealing with recent departures, issues with their record label Reprise Records following a change in leadership, tension between vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett that lead to the latter’s departure after the album’s completion as it showcases a band trying to make an album and without any compromise during a tumultuous time in the music industry.

3. Iron Maiden: Flight 666

One of the most popular and seminal bands of the heavy metal genre, Iron Maiden remains one of the most vital bands in heavy metal as the 2009 documentary film by Scot McFayden and Sam Dunn explore the band’s 2008 Somewhere Back in Time world tour. What makes the documentary unique isn’t just the fact that the band did this world tour in 5 continents on Boeing 757 named Ed Force One but also for the fact that it’s co-piloted by their vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The tour itself is unique as the band play in countries that rarely had any major worldwide acts arrive in their country. Especially in countries in Latin America where Iron Maiden’s following is immense with stops in Bogota, Colombia, and San Jose, Costa Rica in big stadiums. The latter of which almost never happened due to a bruise that drummer Nicko McBrain received when he played golf as the idea of a band like Iron Maiden playing in a third-world country like Costa Rica is surprising. It’s a film that also showcases a band who are humble and proud of their success while being surrounded by personnel and family who contribute to their success.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, September 14, 2020


Written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Teorema is the story of a wealthy family whose upper-class lifestyle is turned upside down when they invite a stranger into their home. The film is a study of a family from Milan who endure some serious revelations upon inviting this man into their home as they cope with their identities and their environment. Starring Terence Stamp, Laura Betti, Silvana Mangano, Massimo Girotti, Anne Wiazemsky, and Ninetto Davoli. Teorema is a majestic and surreal film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Set in the bourgeoisie world of Milan, the film revolves around a wealthy family who invite a mysterious visitor to their home for a brief stay as his presence would turn their world upside down. It is a film with a simple premise as it play into a family who spent much of their lives living in the bourgeoisie society as they’re not fully aware of what the world around them. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s script doesn’t feature a conventional plot, despite featuring a straightforward narrative, nor does it feature a lot of dialogue in favor of characters reacting to this mysterious and unnamed visitor (Terence Stamp). The visitor’s presence would create a reaction to this family including its maid Emilia (Laura Betti) who is suffering from depression as her encounter with the visitor has her facing many things. The visitor’s time at this home is only for the film’s first half but his impact would play a major key role in the film’s second half as it relates to the family.

Pasolini’s direction is largely straightforward in its compositions yet it does contain an element of surrealism as it relates to the world of this bourgeoisie family as it is also shot on location in and around Milan. There are some wide and medium shots of the locations as well as the home of this family yet Pasolini also uses it to convey the sense of isolation this family lives in as it is clear that their lack of interaction outside of their environment has made them too comfortable. Here in this strange visitor, the bubble that this family is living in proves to full of faults and fallacies as the visitor is someone who would inspire each member of the family in some way. The usage of the close-ups and medium shots add an intimacy to what Pasolini is conveying in how each of the family members and the maid deal with this visitor.

While much of the film’s first half is straightforward, there are elements that are surreal that would include recurring images of gray and dusty landscapes. The second half of the film is where Pasolini brings in a lot of these surreal moments as they’re more about these revelations of this family and their own individual needs and wants. Pasolini also play into the idea of spirituality as well as some of the harsh realism of the modern world since the family patriarch Paolo (Massimo Girotti) runs a factory as he is already troubled by some of the growing tension between factory workers and those in charge. By the film’s third act where Paolo and his film start to unravel in different ways, it all play into these ideas of existentialism as well as identity. Notably as it features Paolo and the recurring images of the gray landscape that he’s been thinking about as well as the lack of depth in the bubble he had lived in for many years with his family. Overall, Pasolini crafts an entrancing and eerie film about a mysterious visitor’s time at the home of a Milanese bourgeoisie family and its aftermath.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Ruzzolini does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography to capture the lush colors of the locations within the family home that is a direct contrast to the more realistic look of the locations in and outside of Milan with the opening shots of the film presented in a sepia-like filter. Editor Nino Baragli does amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts for the recurring images of gray landscape that appear every now and then as well as rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Art director Luciano Puccini does excellent work with the look of the family home with its stylish rooms that play into the personality of the characters.

Costume designers Roberto Capucci and Marcella De Marchis do fantastic work with the costumes with Capucci creating lavish and stylish clothes for the family matriarch to wear with De Marchis creating clothes for the other characters that are posh but casual. The sound work of Bernardino Fronzetti is superb for its atmosphere of the locations at the home where it’s tranquil in comparison to the noisier world of industrial-driven Milan. The film’s music by Ennio Morricone is tremendous for its mixture of lush orchestral music mixed in with elements of jazz that is driven by horns as well as a bit of rock n roll while its soundtrack features a classical piece from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Ninetto Davoli as the postman Angelino, Adele Cambria as a maid also named Emilia, Alfonso Gatto as a doctor, Susanna Pasolini as an old peasant, and Laura Betti as the family maid in Emilia whose encounter with the visitor has her dealing with ideas of spirituality. Andres Jose Cruz Soublette is superb as the young man Pietro who rooms with the visitor as he would later cope with his identity as well as the world he lives in. Anne Wiazemsky is fantastic as the family daughter Odetta who is a young woman of innocence as someone who cares for her father as her meeting with the visitor has her thinking about men in a sexual way as it becomes an emotional revelation for her.

Massimo Girotti is excellent as the family patriarch Paolo as a man who owns and runs a factory who becomes ill as he also copes with the world of industrialization and social turmoil as well as dreams of a land where his encounters with the visitor forces him to see things differently. Silvana Mangano is amazing as Lucia as the family matriarch whose encounter with the visitor awakens her own sexual desires as she deals with the trappings of her own surroundings where she would go into an existential journey of her own. Finally, there’s Terence Stamp in a sensational performance as the visitor as this mysterious young man who is a guest at this home where he doesn’t do much other than just read books, play with a dog, and other casual activities as he is also someone that doesn’t reveal exactly who he is as Stamp just plays it straight in an understated yet ravishing performance.

Teorema is a spectacular film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Featuring a great cast, lush visuals, a riveting music score by Ennio Morricone, and a study of identity and lifestyle. The film is a provocative and rapturous film that explores the life of a bourgeoisie family as their world goes upside down following a strange visit from a mysterious young man as it play into the many faults of the upper-class and their disconnection with the rest of the world. In the end, Teorema is a phenomenal film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) – (La Rabbia) - Mamma Roma - (Location Hunting in Palestine) – (The Gospel According to Matthew) – (Love Meetings) – (The Hawks and the Sparrows) – The Witches (1967 film)- The Earth Seen from the Moon - (Oedipus Rex) – (Porcile) – (Medea (1969 film)) – (Appunti per un film sull’India) – (Notes Towards an African Orestes) – The Decameron - The Canterbury Tales - Arabian Nights - Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Non English-Language Movies

In the 37th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the subject of non-English language films as it’s often been a common subject with Thursday Movie Picks for the past few years. It’s often where everyone discovers something from another country to show that we’re not alone in whatever people are dealing with. With South Korea being a major force in the film industry due to the fact that Parasite won a shitload of awards including the Palme d’Or and multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture. Here are my three picks of gems from South Korea:

1. The Housemaid

The film by Kim Ki-young is widely considered to be the film that paved the way for modern-day Korean cinema dating back to 1960. It is a film about a young woman who becomes a housemaid for a middle-class family where she would create chaos and do things that would be troubling. Especially as the patriarch who is a music teacher for a factory begins an affair with the maid and it eventually becomes torrid and torturous to the point that the family dynamic unravels.

2. The Way Home

Lee Jeong-hyang’s family film is a strangely accessible drama about a young boy from the city who is forced to live with his mute grandmother in a rural village while his mother goes to the city to find work. The boy is spoiled and doesn’t know life in a small village as there’s a scene of him wanting fried chicken but the grandmother only knows how to make chicken a certain way. Yet, the bond between grandson and grandmother does strengthen as it helps the boy find ways to communicate with his grandmother and speak for her in the small village.

3. Treeless Mountain

From So Yong Kim is this family drama about two young girls who are forced to fend for themselves after their mother left to find their estranged father while they live with their aunt who is an irresponsible person. It also showcases these two girls who lived in the city and then move to a small town as the changes in their environment is shocking yet they find a way to get things done. It isn’t an easy film to find yet it engaging for its exploration of two young girls bonding as well as try to find hope during troubled times.

© thevoid99 2020

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

White Dog

Based on the novel by Romain Gary, White Dog is the story of a dog trainer who helps a young actress retrain a stray dog that was trained to kill black people in an examination of racism. Directed by Samuel Fuller and screenplay by Fuller and Curtis Hanson, the film is an exploration of a black man dealing with a dog that kills black people as he tries to retrain it and tame him with the help of a young white actress as they deal with what had happened to this dog. Starring Paul Winfield, Kristy McNichol, Jameson Parker, Parley Baer, and Burl Ives. White Dog is a chilling and provocative film from Samuel Fuller.

A young actress finds a stray dog that she hit one night as she would take care of it unaware that it’s a white German Shepard who has been trained to kill black people where a series of incidents forces her to seek help where a black dog trainer tries to tame the dog. It’s a film with a simple premise as it plays into this young woman who finds a dog unaware of where it came from as she would see what this dog does first-hand during a film set where she was working where the dog attacked a black actress. The film’s screenplay by Samuel Fuller and Curtis Hanson is straightforward in its narrative yet it is more about this dog that the actress Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) found where she took to a vet and pondered about taking it to a dog pound yet chooses to take care of it much to the dismay of her boyfriend Roland (Jameson Parker) who suspects something isn’t right about the dog.

Notably when the dog comes home one day with blood all over himself and following an incident on-set during a film shoot. She turns to the animal trainer Carruthers (Burl Ives) who sees what the dog does as does the black animal trainer Keys (Paul Winfield) who decides to take the dog in and hope to tame him. Yet, it would prove to be difficult as it play into the idea of race and what this dog had been trained to do where Julie learns first-hand about what this dog did as she isn’t sure if she made the right decision.

Fuller’s direction is largely straightforward with the exception of the scenes involving the dog attacking African-American victims. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Fuller presents a world where racism is still around but not in the most expected places as Sawyer lives in the Hollywood Hills trying to get work as an actress while Roland is a screenwriter. While Fuller does use some wide shots to establish some of the locations including the scope of the animal shelter where Carruthers and Keys train animals for film projects where they treat animals humanely and with care. Much of the direction has Fuller use close-ups and medium shots with some striking compositions that play into the interaction between human and dog. With the aid of Karl Lewis Miller of Animal Action, the dog is a major character in the film as he is portrayed by five different white German Shepard as Fuller’s close-ups of the dog in the way he looks at a black person showcases this sense of dread and what is to come.

Fuller also knows when to subvert some of the suspense during the film’s second act where the dog escapes as there’s a shot of the dog sniffing for food while there’s a young black child in the background as it adds to the air of discomfort. Keys is someone who would try and tame this dog as he has this hope that trying to show this dog kindness and compassion yet remains unsure of how a dog would act towards other people since dogs can only see black and white. Even as he is patient towards the dog to gain its trust but there is also this air of uncertainty into how a dog that had been trained to kill black people would react to society and a world that is complicated. Overall, Fuller crafts an eerie and visceral film about a white German Shepard who kills black people raising questions about the idea of racism.

Cinematographer Bruce Surtees does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some low-key lighting for some of the interior scenes at night as well as the usage of spotlight during a break-out scene at night. Editor Bernard Gibble does amazing work with the editing as its usage of slow-motion to play into the suspense as well as the stylish fast-cutting to showcase the dog’s attacks help play into the film’s suspense. Production designer Brian Eatwell and set decorator Barbara Krieger do fantastic work with the look of Sawyer’s home as well as the animal shelter that Carruthers and Keys run. Sound mixers Don Cahn, Jim Cook, Robert Gravenor, and Robert L. Harman do brilliant work with the film’s sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations and how animals sound from afar. The film’s music by Ennio Morricone is incredible for its usage of somber piano and lush strings to play into the drama as well as soaring string arrangements for some of the film’s suspenseful moments.

The casting by Jane Feinberg and Mike Fenton is superb as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Samuel Fuller as Sawyer’s agent, Paul Bartel as a cinematographer during a film shoot, Dick Miller as an animal trainer, Vernon Weddle as a veterinarian, Christa Lang-Fuller as a nurse, Marshall Thompson as the director of the film shoot, Lynne Moody as the actress the dog attacks, Bob Minor as a black animal trainer, and Parley Baer as a mysterious man who appears late in the film. Jameson Parker is fantastic as Sawyer’s screenwriter boyfriend Roland who is wary of the dog as he believes something isn’t right about that dog. Burl Ives is incredible as Carruthers as a semi-retired animal trainer/animal shelter owner who worked in movies as he has concerns about the dog while also watches closely at what Keys does believing it is working.

Kristy McNichol is amazing as Julie Sawyer as an actress who finds the dog and would take care of it but becomes troubled by his actions during a film shoot as she later realizes what kind of dog it is as she is unsure if she made the right decision. Finally, there’s Paul Winfield in a phenomenal performance as Keys as a black animal trainer who sees this dog as a challenge as he is eager to help this dog while is aware that he’s doing something impossible while he would find ways to get the dog to trust him yet has concerns about how this dog would react to society.

White Dog is a tremendous film from Samuel Fuller. Featuring a great cast, striking visuals, Ennio Morricone’s haunting score, and its study of racism and how animals are brainwashed to do horrific things. It is an unsettling film that explores the actions of a white German Shepard and a man’s attempt to try and cure the dog while dealing with the harsh realities of racism at its most rotten. In the end, White Dog is a sensational film from Samuel Fuller.

Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Park Row - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) – House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Run of the Arrow - Forty Guns - Verboten! - The Crimson Kimono - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill's Marauders - Shock Corridor - The Naked Kiss - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) – The Big Red One - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Domestic Thrillers

In the 36th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of domestic thrillers as it explore events that occur inside someone’s home and all things get scary. Here are my three picks:

1. Straw Dogs

Sam Peckinpah’s bloody film about an American mathematician moving to Britain with his wife where they encounter some local hoods who want to cause trouble is indeed a thriller. Anyone who had seen Peckinpah’s films would be aware of the uncompromising violence in the film as it play into a hood who once had a relationship with Dustin Hoffman’s wife as it leads to trouble and then things worsen when Hoffman protects a mentally-challenged person who gets into trouble leading this air of invasion by these men who want to kill Hoffman and his wife.

2. Desperate Hours

A remake of William Wyler’s 1955 starring Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March that was adapted from a novel/play by Joseph Hayes, the 1990 remake is a deeply flawed film yet it does have some moments of suspense as it play into an escaped criminal who hides into the home of a family with two other criminals. What makes the film more unusual is that it’s directed by Michael Cimino which is odd since much of the film takes place inside a house as he’s known more filming gorgeous exterior settings though he is able to get some decent performances from Anthony Hopkins, Mickey Rourke, Mimi Rogers, and Lindsay Crouse.

3. Hard Candy

The film that introduced indie film audiences to the force that Ellen Page is this stylish drama where Page plays a teenage girl who gets the attention of a much older man in Patrick Wilson who invites her into his home and things become dark. Especially with Page taking control as it has this element of revenge as much of the action takes place at Wilson’s home. It is never afraid to go dark while it also play into the world of pedophilia and revenge.

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Da 5 Bloods

***In Memory of Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020) Rest in Power***

Directed by Spike Lee and screenplay by Lee, Kevin Willmott, Danny Bilson, and Paul De Meo from a story by Bilson and De Meo, Da 5 Bloods is the story of four Vietnam War veterans who return to the country to find the remains of their fallen leader as well as treasure they buried during the war. The film is an adventure-action story of sorts where a group of men return to Vietnam as they reflect on their time in the war as well as what was gained and wasn’t gained in their service as well as deal with demons from the past. Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Melanie Thierry, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Paakkonen, Jean Reno, and Chadwick Boseman as Norman Earl “Stormin’ Norman” Holloway. Da 5 Bloods is a gripping and evocative film from Spike Lee.

The film is the story of four men who served in the Vietnam War as they return to the country to retrieve the remains of their fallen leader as well as gold they had buried many years ago in the hopes of regaining it. It is a film with a simple premise as these four men who fought in the war as they are aware of the dark history of what African-American soldiers had endured as they hope to use the gold for something bigger than themselves. Yet, they return to Vietnam as older men who saw a country that has changed into something different but the past still looms in them. The film’s screenplay by Spike Lee, Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and Kevin Willmott does follow a traditional narrative yet it does have elements of flashbacks and insight about the war and the many different perspectives from those who were involved as well as how the world saw it. At the center of the story are these four men in Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who return to Vietnam hoping to get the gold this time for themselves and whoever they felt need it.

Joining the four men is Paul’s son David (Jonathan Majors) who is concerned about his father’s state of mind since Paul suffers from PTSD as well as spouting rhetoric that his fellow Bloods don’t follow as they’re also disturbed by the fact that he wears a MAGA cap. Otis’ return to Vietnam is more personal as it relates to a former lover he has in Tien (Le Y Lan) who gives Otis connections on where the gold is with the aid of a French smuggler in Desroche (Jean Reno) who wants a cut of the gold as an offer to get it out of Vietnam. The second act is about the journey to the jungle with the aid of a guide named Vinh (Johnny Tri Nguyen) who stays behind at a rendezvous point once they finish their journey. Yet, things become complicated as it relates to Paul but also for Otis, Eddie, and Melvin as they’re aware that they’re getting older as the trip back would be even more difficult. Even as they meet a landmine clearing organization group who have put themselves in trouble leading to all sorts of chaos relating to Paul’s paranoia.

Spike Lee’s direction does bear element of style in not just its visuals but also in the way he presents modern-day Vietnam as well as Vietnam in the past. Shot on location in Ho Chi Minh City as well as locations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Lee does present a world that has changed yet there is still some lingering resentment from the Vietnamese over the war such as a scene where a young man on a boat tries to sell some fruit only to upset Paul leading some harsh racial words and such. Even as Lee showcases that there are those who are trying to be respectful yet Paul is someone on the verge of going apeshit due to his PTSD as well as some harboring secrets he is carrying. Lee’s compositions are straightforward but also with some stylish compositions where he does use a lot of wide shots to not just establish the locations but also to get a scope of where the characters are at as the jungle itself is a character in the film as it is unforgiving and intense. Especially as there’s areas involving landmines where the people at LAMB come into play despite the fact that David had met them earlier.

Lee’s usage of close-ups and medium shots also play into the drama and exchanges between characters as much of the scenes in present-day Vietnam is shot on digital while the flashback scenes involving Stormin’ Norman is shot on 16mm film stock with a different aspect ratio that allows Lee to bring an air of realism as well as distinctive look of those times. Lee also uses stock footage and such about the Vietnam War including pictures of those who had fallen including African-American soldiers as it relates to the racial inequality that these men endured. Lee also doesn’t shy away from using film references where both Apocalypse Now and Treasure of the Sierra Madre are referenced as it does play into the story. Notably as things do intensify in its third act as it play into this showdown between Da Bloods and these Vietnamese gunmen over the gold the former had found though it the gold also has this history of why it played a part in the war in the first place. Even as it forces these four old veterans to deal with other forces as it all play into the fallacy of greed. Overall, Lee crafts a riveting and intoxicating film about four former Vietnam veterans returning to the country to find gold and the remains of their fallen leader.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lighting for some scenes set at night along with the usage of filters for the nighttime scenes in the jungle along with the stylish usage of grainy 16mm film stock for the flashback scenes. Editor Adam Gough does excellent work with the editing as it does have some stylish cuts while maintaining unique rhythms to play into the emotions as well as letting shots linger on for nearly a minute to play into the drama. Production designer Wynn Thomas, with set decorator Jeanette Scott plus art directors Truong Trung Dao, Anusorn “Sorn” Musicabutr, and Jeremy Woolsey, does amazing work with the look of a club where the Da Bloods go to upon their arrival in Ho Chi Minh City as well as a hotel the four men plus David stay where they meet the people from LAMB. Costume designer Donna Berwick does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward to play into the personality of the characters as well as the design of the uniforms the soldiers wore back in the 60s.

Special effects supervisor Herbert Blank and visual effects supervisor Richard Baker do fantastic work with some of the film’s action scenes as well as a few visual effects involving the flashbacks without the need to de-age the actors with the exception of a picture for the film’s ending. Sound editor Philip Stockton does superb work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of the jungles as well as the sounds of gunfire and explosions that occur in some of the action scenes. The film’s music by Terence Blanchard is incredible for its orchestral based score filled with heavy string arrangements that play into the action and drama as well as low-key somber pieces for the emotional moments of the film while music supervisor Rochelle Claerbaut creates a soundtrack that largely features the music of Marvin Gaye including six songs from his 1971 album What’s Going On as the soundtrack also feature a famed classical piece from Richard Wagner and music by Curtis Mayfield, Freda Payne, the Spinners, and the Chamber Brothers.

The casting by Kim Coleman is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Veronica Ngo as the Vietcong radio broadcaster Hanoi Hannah, Sandy Huong Pham as Tien’s daughter Michon, Nguyen Ngoc Lam as a leader of a gang of gunmen wanting the gold, Le Y Tien as Otis’ former Vietnamese girlfriend Tien, Jasper Paakkonen as a member of LAMB in Seppo, and Paul Walter Hauser as an American member of LAMB in Simon. Jean Reno is superb as the slimy smuggler Desroche as a Frenchman who offers to help Da Bloods in getting the gold out with a price only to make things worse during its third act. Melanie Thierry is fantastic as Hedy Bouvier as a LAMB leader whom David meets as she is a woman who uses her own wealth to clear landmines and wants to do something good for the world. Johnny Tri Nguyen is excellent as the Vietnamese guide Vinh who helps Da Blood go through the country and into the jungle while also having to deal with the gunmen as he would prove his worth to the team. Jonathan Major is brilliant as Paul’s son David as a man who joins the Da Bloods in the journey as he is concerned for his father’s PTSD as well as doing what he can to help everyone else as he would have a near-death encounter with a landmine.

Chadwick Boseman is amazing as “Stormin’” Norman Earl Holloway as the leader of Da Bloods who was a warrior as he would get the men to try and do the right thing despite being killed in battle as he would also appear in a vision during a dramatically-intense moment in the film. Norm Lewis is incredible as Eddie as a car salesman who helps fund the whole thing to find Norman’s body while he copes with his own issues as he also laments over the journey involving the gold. Isiah Whitlock Jr. is remarkable as Melvin as the one former soldier who is trying get everyone on check while also trying to do what is right as he is kind of the conscience of the group. Clarke Peters is marvelous as Otis as a soldier who is close to everyone as well as David’s godfather where he is concerned for Paul but is also forced to defend himself as it relates to his relationship with Tien. Finally, there’s Delroy Lindo in a phenomenal as Paul as a war veteran with PTSD and lots of emotional baggage while wearing a MAGA hat as he spouts racial rhetoric that makes everyone uncomfortable as Lindo provides that air of anguish and torment into his character as a man that is lost in his guilt.

Da 5 Bloods is a spectacular film from Spike Lee. Featuring a phenomenal ensemble cast, sprawling visuals, a compelling story of greed, guilt, and loss, Terence Blanchard’s soaring music score, and strong commentary about African-Americans’ role in the Vietnam War. It is definitely a film that isn’t just this reflective war movie but also a film that explores four men dealing with loss and wanting to bring some good to the world despite the complications they endure with the world. In the end, Da 5 Bloods is a sensational film from Spike Lee.

Spike Lee Films: (She’s Gotta Have It) – (School Daze) – Do the Right Thing - Mo' Better Blues - Jungle Fever - (Malcolm X) – Crooklyn - (Clockers) – (Girl 6) – (Get on the Bus) – 4 Little Girls - (He Got Game) – John Leguizamo's Freak - Summer of Sam - (The Original Kings of Comedy) – (Bamboozled) – (A Huey P. Newton Story) – 25th Hour - (Jim Brown: All-American) – (She Hate Me) – (Inside Man) – (When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts) – (Miracle at St. Anna) – (Kobe Doin’ Work) – (Passing Strange) – (If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise) – (Red Hook Summer) – Bad 25 - Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth - (Oldboy (2013 film)) – (Da Blood of Jesus) – (Chiraq) – Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall - BlackKklansman - (American Utopia)

© thevoid99 2020