Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Year-End Reflections of 2020

 

What a horrendous fucking year this has been. The past few years for me personally had been tough as I lost a couple of my pets a few years ago and then my father last year. The year didn’t start off great as I was dealing with bronchitis although my mother and I are convinced we had some form of what would become the coronavirus in late December of that year. Well... whatever plans I had or wanted to do for the year went to shit as I never thought I would live through a fucking pandemic. I ended up only seeing two films in the theaters before the whole world went to shit and it just stifled me in a lot of ways of not really being able to do what you want and not go out though I’m not really an outgoing person.

The fact that nearly 2 million people have died from this pandemic around the world and nearly 300,000 have died here in the U.S. by the end of this year is something that shouldn’t have happened. My brother-in-law got infected before Christmas as my sister and her son had to stay with me and my mother for nearly 2 weeks before he eventually got better all because a bunch of stupid assholes didn’t wear mask at his office and their dumb-fuck of a boss is convinced that it’s all a hoax. Cunts who believe that this pandemic is a host and dumb ass motherfuckers who decide to hold events such as stupid prayer circles outside of a fucking mall can not only go suck my fucking dick but also should be beaten to a bloody fucking pulp by the people who lost friends and family from this fucking pandemic.

Yet, there are so many people this year that have died from COVID and non-COVID related deaths as it really made the year a total shitshow. Kobe Bryant, Kenny Rogers, Neil Peart, Ginger Baker, Eddie Van Halen, Bill Withers, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones, Dawn Wells, Little Richard, Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Sean Connery, Ennio Morricone, Olivia de Haviland, Kirk Douglas, Danny Hodge, Pat Patterson, Phil Niekro, Chadwick Boseman, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Regis Philbin, Naya Rivera, Tony Rice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Prine, Hana Kimura, Alex Trebek, Kelly Preston, Terry Jones of Monty Python, Max von Sydow, Andrew Weatherall, James Lipton, Vera Lynn, the greatest of all-time in Diego Armando Maradona, and more recently Jon Huber aka Mr. Brodie Lee along with so many others. Yes, 2020 is fucking shit.

In the world of cinema, I have to say that this wasn’t a good year not because the industry got shut down because of this pandemic and the idea that cinema itself is in danger with more studios decided to stream new films on the day they’re also released in theaters is to me a bad fucking idea. In the year of 2020, I saw a total of 316 films in 154 first-timers and 162 re-watches with 32 of those first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as I admit that this year was lackluster and I’m blaming it on the fucking pandemic. The Blind Spot Series has always been a major highlight of the year as here is the final ranking of the films of the 2020 Blind Spot Series:

1. Grave of the Fireflies
2. The Koker Trilogy (Where is the Friend's House? - Life, and Nothing More... - Through the Olive Trees
3. Betty Blue
4. The Grapes of Wrath
5. I Am Cuba
6. Phantom of the Paradise
7. A Place in the Sun
8. One Sings, the Other Doesn't
9. The Big City
10. Blind Chance
11. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
12. Louisiana Story
With every new film to watch aside from my Blind Spot picks, here are my top 25 pre-2015 first-timers that I saw for 2020:

1. The Lone Wolf and Cub film series.

2. Out of the Past

3. White Dog

4. The Housemaid

5. Insignificance

6. Meshes of the Afternoon

7. Forty Guns

8. Diary of a Lost Girl

9. The Harder They Come

10. Le Amiche

11. Ceddo

12. Hardcore

13. Closely Watched Trains

14. Female Trouble

15. Scent of a Woman

16. Shallow Grave

17. Targets

18. Emitai

19. Teorema

20. The Crimson Kimono

21. Creature from the Black Lagoon

22. House of Bamboo

23. Underworld U.S.A.

24. Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment

25. Satan's Brew

Despite the fact that I didn’t see the films that I wanted to see, at least I saw a good amount. Plus, I’m also glad that I got to see some old concert movies and such from some of my favorite acts. If anyone is to ask me what is the best album of 2020? It is Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters as it is this incredible album that if full of humor but also this amazing musicianship from a woman who is probably eons above every other artist out there in terms of quality and standards. I also want to give mention to Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, the Strokes, Paul McCartney, AC/DC, and Kylie Minogue for putting out some solid albums this year though there wasn’t much new music that I heard this year as I went more towards older music. I want to also thank professional wrestling for making me matter again despite these tough times as promotions such as All Elite Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and the National Wrestling Alliance as well as various independent promotions for at least trying to bring it to their audience and put the safety of their wrestlers, the staff, and audience first instead of trying to make a lot of money unlike some slop house who tells you who to cheer for and who to boo for.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy new year but given the fact that everyone went through a rough year. I think it’s best to just say this… FUCK YOU 2020!!!!!!!!!!!!



© thevoid99 2020

Films That I Saw: December 2020

 



This horrible year is about to end and this was a tiring year that I think early on that we all wished it was over. So many people have died from COVID and I’m sure there’s a lot of us here in the U.S. waiting for that stimulus check that we all need and hope Mitch McConnell can go fuck himself. This has been a fucked-up year and let’s just take a shit on this horrible year.
In the month of December 2020, I saw a total of 24 films in 11 first-timers and 13 re-watches with two films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. A nice number to end the year as the highlight of the month has been Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker trilogy as the final entries of my Blind Spot Series. Here are my top 5 first-timers of December 2020:

1. A Hidden Life
2. Her Smell
3. Cameraperson
4. Song to Song
5. The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
Monthly Mini-Reviews

Depeche Mode: Devotional



From longtime collaborator Anton Corbijn is a concert film for Depeche Mode during their tour for their 1993 album Songs of Faith & Devotion. It is a typical concert film but with some amazing images and stage design by Corbijn that had its principle members on top of the platform while vocalist Dave Gahan on the stage floor singing while the band’s songwriter Martin Gore would come down on stage to sing a few or longtime keyboardist/programmer Alan Wilder would come down to the stage playing live drums. It’s something that fans have seen before though it is more of a reflection of a tumultuous period for the band due to Gahan’s growing drug use but also the fact that this 18-month tour would gain notoriety for a lot that happened where keyboardist Andrew Fletcher sat out part of the tour due to clinical depression and when the tour ended. Many thought the future of the band was done when Wilder left the group in 1995 but Gahan would clean himself up and the band returned with a new album in 1997.

The Life & Trials of Oscar Pistorius
From 30 to 30 is an abridged episode about the Paralympian Oscar Pistorius and how he was this revered athlete who had his legs amputated when he was a kid and then become this inspiration athlete who brought joy to the world. Then a horrific event in which he shot his girlfriend to death claiming to believe that he mistook her for a robber adds to a lot of turmoil. It’s an intriguing film in this classic rise-and-fall tale but it also play into this world that is South Africa and the horrendous rise of violence against women and why Pistorius became this unlikely poster child. Even as no one knows what really happened and did Pistorius kill this woman out of rage or was it really an accident?

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. Die Hard
2. The Beguiled
3. Tootsie
4. The Blues Brothers
5. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
7. Real Genius
8. Billy Madison
9. Legally Blonde
10. Mo’ Money
Well, that is all for December as a new year is to begin within hours and let’s hope this upcoming year doesn’t suck. For January, I hope to catch up on some 2020 releases including films such as Mank, On the Rocks, Soul, and many others as well as films in my never-ending DVR list and in my new watchlist of extras in A Little Something Extra list. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Hidden Life

 

Written and directed by Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life is the story about Franz Jagerstatter who is an Austrian farmer and devout Catholic who refused to fight for the Nazis during World War II as he would later be beatified by the Catholic Church. A historical drama that is based on diaries and notes on Jagerstatter’s life that includes his time with wife Franziska, the film is a look into a man whose silence and questions about humanity makes him a target for those who are appalled by his actions as Jagerstatter is portrayed by August Diehl and his wife Franziska aka Fani is played by Valerie Pachner. Also starring Mathias Schoenaerts, Jurgen Prochnow, Maria Simon, and the final film appearances of Bruno Ganz and Michael Nyqvist. A Hidden Life is an intoxicating and ravishing film from Terrence Malick.

Set largely in the small mountainside village of St. Radegund, Austria from 1939 to August of 1943, the film revolves around the life of Franz Jagerstatter as a farmer who tends his family land with wife Fani as well as their three young daughters, his mother, father-in-law, and sister-in-law Resie (Maria Simon) as World War II begins as he refuses to fight for Nazi Germany due to his principles and questions into why should anyone kill another person? It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into a man with strong beliefs as he copes with what he’s being asked as he would also be aware of the horrors of war just as his village is being swept up by the ideology of nationalism. The film’s screenplay by Terrence Malick is a largely straightforward affair as he returns to a traditional three-act narrative following a period of loosely-based films with no scripts. Notably as much of the script is based on corresponding letters, notes, and diaries from Jagerstatter and his wife where Malick maintains this narrative of a man holding on to his faith and his devotion to God during a tumultuous time that is World War II.

A common trait in Malick’s work is in the voice-over narrations as the film is told through both Franz and Fani with the first act being about their life together at St. Radegund as farmers raising three young daughters with Franz briefly leaving to do basic training until France’s surrender to Germany where he is sent home. Yet, his return home to his farm life is brief as the war rages on where able-bodied Austrians have to swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich as it’s something Franz just couldn’t do. Even during his time in basic training, he saw images that haunt him as he goes to his local priest in Ferdinand Furthauer (Tobias Moretti) for guidance as the priest does give Franz a chance to speak with Bishop Joseph Fleisser (Michael Nyqvist) for advice but doesn’t get anything that will help him. The film’s second act play into Franz trying to decide on what to do as he and his family become ostracized over his beliefs as he would go to prison and await his fate with Fani dealing with the verbal abuse of many locals despite the help of a few.

Malick’s direction is definitely rapturous in not just in his overall presentation but also in maintaining something spiritual in the world he’s in. Shot on various locations in northern Italy near the Alps with some parts shot at the Studio Babelsberg at Postdam, Germany and the meeting with Bishop at Brixen, Austria. The locations for St. Radegund is a character in the film where Malick’s usage of wide and medium shots of its mountain ranges, skies, trees, grass, and wheat fields really play into this idyllic world that is simple and almost disconnected from the world of the cities as if they’re not distracted by its chaos. Shot on various styles ranging from these gliding tracking shots on Steadicams or in these hand-held camera shots with wide lenses that gets a lot of coverage of the rooms or locations these characters are in. Malick does play into a world where everyone knows everyone and treat each other with kindness and decency but then news about World War II and Austria being swept up by German nationalism of the Nazis where everything changes.

The constant imagery of nature does play into the tone of the story where the usage of dark rain clouds and dark colors do emphasize what is to come and how dark the world becomes with Franz and Fani both becoming ostracized for their beliefs. Malick does maintain that intimacy in the direction as it relates to the love between Franz and Fani through medium shots and close-ups as well as through their corresponding letters in the film’s second and third acts. Notably with Franz going to different prisons in Enns and later Berlin where he would meet his fate on August of 1943 as there are individuals, including a judge, (Bruno Ganz) at Franz’s trial who understands what he’s doing yet are aware of the consequences he is facing. Malick also would infuse stock footage that include rare home movies from Adolf Hitler and images of trains as it play into some of the narration about the dilemma that Franz is dealing as well as some of the abuse that Fani would go through.

Malick also showcase some of these fanatical moments of nationalism that definitely echo a lot of what had been happening in the U.S. in the late 2010s as it is clear that there is some political subtext that Malick has brought yet he chooses to state his views in a subtle and silent manner. Even with Franz being someone who is just asking simple questions that local leaders to those up in the higher echelons of the government at the time refuse to answer. Yet, Malick does something remarkable towards the end of the film that does have a near-three hour running time for a story that is simple as it says a lot about those who aren’t willing to ostracize nor take sides of anything by just being decent. Even as something as simple as faith being the one thing that allows a person to be grounded and ask these questions during a dark time of inhumane events happening as this one man stands up for his beliefs as well as be human in these horrific times. Overall, Malick crafts a touching and evocative film about an Austrian farmer who refuses to pledge his allegiance to Nazi Germany during World War II through an act of silent defiance.

Cinematographer Jorg Widmer does phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting as it helps capture the lush colors of green trees and forests as well as many of the natural surroundings with some low-key artificial lighting for some of the interiors as it is a highlight of the film. Editors Rehman Nizar Ali, Joe Gleason, and Sebastien Jones do brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts to play into some of the emotional elements of the film as well as some rhythmic cuts to play into the conversations. Production designer Sebastian T. Krawinkel, with set decorator Yesim Zolan plus art directors Steve Summersgill and Bryce Tibbey, does brilliant work with the look of the farm as well as some of interiors of the town as well as the prison interiors. Costume designer Lisy Christl does fantastic work with the costumes from the blue dress that Fani wears when she meets Franz for the first time as well as a lot of casual look of the people at St. Radegund and the Nazi uniforms of the times.

Hair/makeup designer Waldemar Pokromski does terrific work with the look of the characters in the hairstyle of the times as well as the facial hair in some of the male characters in the film. Visual effects supervisor Antoine Durr does nice work with the visual effects as it is largely bits of set dressing in some of the locations. Sound editor Brad Engleking does excellent work with the sound in not just capturing a lot of the natural elements of the sound such as the sharpening of the scythe as well as the locations and in the voice-over narrations. The film’s music by James Newton Howard is marvelous for its somber yet broad orchestral music score that adds to the drama while music supervisor Lauren Mikus helps provide a soundtrack that feature several classical music pieces Georg Fredric Handel, Avro Part, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Antonin Dvorak.

The casting by Anja Dihrberg is superb as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from trio of Ida Mutschlechner, Maria Weger, and Aennie Lade as Franz and Fani’s daughters, Amber Shave and Barabara Stampfl as younger versions of the two elder daughters, Karl Markovics as the mayor of St. Radegund, Johan Leysen as a church painter, Johannes Kirsch as a miller who is one of the few that treats Fani with kindness despite the behavior of the community, Franz Rogowski as a crazed local who lives in the woods, Mark Waschke as a kind blacksmith, Maria Stadler as an old widow that Fani helps out who later helps her in return, Alexander Fehling as Franz’s trial lawyer, Sophie Rois as Fani's aunt, Jurgen Prochnow as a military officer, Maria Simon as Fani’s sister Resie, and Karin Neuhauser as Franz’s mother who would resent Fani over her Franz’s decisions only to see the cruelty of her townspeople. Ulrich Matthes and Tobias Moretti are excellent in their respective roles as Fani’s father and the local priest Father Furthauer who are both supportive of Franz and Fani. Matthias Schoenaerts is fantastic in his small role as an Austrian official who tries to help Franz and to not get him in trouble while Michael Nyqvist in one of his final film roles is brilliant as the Bishop Fleisser who talks with Franz though he doesn’t give any answers possibly to not upset the Nazi regime.

Bruno Ganz is amazing as the trial judge who takes the time to understand what Franz is doing as he is also aware that the man has chosen his fate as it’s a somber performance from Ganz in one of his final film appearances. Finally, there’s the duo of August Diehl and Valerie Pachner in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Franz and Franziska “Fani” Jagerstatter with the former as the farmer who refuses to fight for Nazi Germany based on principle as he also asks questions as he holds on to his faith as Diehl just displays a sense of humility and wonderment of a man standing up for his beliefs. Pachner as the latter has this air of grace in her performance as a farmer’s wife trying to raise her daughters and do all the farming duties as she dealt with the struggle of doing it by herself or with her sister as it’s just a radiant performance as she and Diehl just have this touching chemistry as they’re a major highlight of the film.

A Hidden Life is an outstanding film from Terrence Malick that features great performances from August Diehl and Valerie Pachner. Along with its ensemble cast, radiant cinematography, majestic music soundtrack, themes of faith and beliefs against the ideas of evil, and gorgeous locations. The film is definitely a drama that showcases faith in a positive way as it also play into a kind of act of humanity against something as inhumane as war and fanatical nationalism. In the end, A Hidden Life is a magnificent film from Terrence Malick.

Terrence Malick Films: Badlands - Days of Heaven - The Thin Red Line - The New World - The Tree of Life - To the Wonder - Knight of Cups - (Voyage of Time) – Song to Song - (The Way of the Wind)

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984

 

Based on the DC Comics series by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman 1984 is the sequel to the 2017 film that has the titular character deal with an oil baron who gains the power of a mysterious object that allows him to grant wishes to everyone but with a price as the Amazonian princess deals with a wish that she made where she is reunited with her true love in Steve Trevor. Directed by Patty Jenkins and screenplay by Jenkins, Dave Callahan, and Geoff Johns from a story by Jenkins and Johns, the film explores the idea of truth and the fallacies of wishes where Diana Prince deals with her choices and its costs but also in unexpected foes including a woman who wanted to be like her as Gal Gadot reprises her role as Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine also returns as Steve Trevor. Also starring Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright. Wonder Woman 1984 is a wondrous and exhilarating film from Patty Jenkins.

Set in 1984 during the Cold War, the film revolves around Diana Prince who works at the Smithsonian as an anthropologist while doing hero work as Wonder Woman in secrecy as she and a gemologist discover a mysterious gem that grants wishes as a failing oil baron gains access to the stone and becomes the stone to gain power prompting Prince to stop him. It’s a film with a simple premise of sorts yet it explores the idea of wishes but also the lesson about the cost of a wish. Patty Jenkins and co-screenwriters Dave Callahan and Geoff Johns do explore the themes of wishes in the form of this object though there are some spotty moments in exploring that theme but also in some of the character development for a few characters. The film begins with a brief sequence of a young Prince (Lilly Aspell) who takes part in a multi-stage athletic competition that plays into lessons she would have to learn from both her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) as it would play into everything Diana would have to face.

The antagonist in Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is an oil baron who is also a TV personality who wants to present this idea of success as a way to improve the life of himself and everyone else but is already in debt as he hopes to obtain this ancient stone to make himself rich and powerful. Lord isn’t an evil person as he has a son in Alistair (Lucian Perez) he cares about but his desire for greed and power makes him lose sight of things. Another person who becomes entranced by that stone’s power is a gemologist in Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) whom Diana befriends as Minerva is this shy and awkward woman that wants to be like Diana yet the wish she makes has her becoming a stronger, confident, and sexier person but there’s some flaws into the development into how she sides with Lord. The story about this stone is a strange MacGuffin of sorts as Trevor, who returns because of Diana’s wish, believes that the stone is a variation of a Monkey’s Paw where whoever grants the wish is forced to sacrifice something and the only way it can be stopped if that person renounces its wish. For Diana, she is forced to make some difficult decisions just as she copes with what she has lost upon the wish that she made.

Jenkins’ direction has these elements of something grand in its opening sequence of a young Diana to this weird sense of nostalgia set in Washington D.C. in 1984. Shot on various locations at the Warner Brothers Studio at Leavesden, England as well as location shoots in Washington D.C. and its nearby areas as well as parts of London, the Canary Islands, and Almeria, Spain. The film does play into this air of 1980s Cold War but also what the 80s was like in America as one of its early sequences involve a robbery at a jewelry store that is foiled by Prince as Wonder Woman as it has this element of humor but also nostalgia for those times. Jenkins does use a lot of wide shots to establish these locations but also in the world that Prince ventures into including Egypt and other parts of the world in some broad action set pieces. Still, the film is grounded by some close-ups and medium shots to play on this sense of loss that still looms over Prince as it relates to Trevor as her wish, that she unknowingly did, to have him back would come true but it also plays into the fact that she’s had trouble moving on and still holding a torch for him as he’s inhabiting another man’s body as it does play into some of the humor with Trevor being the fish out of water as it relates to 1980s culture.

While the film does have some humor as well as light-hearted moments in the action, there are still this air of suspense and danger that Prince does encounter as it relates to what she sacrifices upon making her wish. Especially during the film’s second half where Lord gets more powerful to great extremes though some of the execution relating to his development does get spotty as well as the development in Minerva who would make another wish that leads to the film’s climax. The climax is grand though it has some clunky moments as it relates to what Minerva has become where the visual effects don’t really do justice despite the stakes of what Prince has to do. Her confrontation with Lord in that scene does say a lot about the fallacy of wishes and the need for truth though its execution is clunky despite its good intentions. Overall, Jenkins crafts a compelling and thrilling film about an Amazonian princess battling an oil baron and an unexpected foe to save the world from greed and lies.

Cinematographer Matthew Jensen does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of vibrant colors for some of the daytime exterior scenes in Washington D.C. and Cairo as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editor Richard Pearson does terrific work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic and jump-cuts to play into the action as well as some of the suspense and drama. Production designer Aline Bonetto, with set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson plus supervising art directors Alex Baily and Peter Russell, does amazing work with the look at some of the places that Prince goes to including her own apartment in Washington D.C., the interiors of the Smithsonian, and at a communications base for the film’s climax. Costume designer Lindy Hemming is brilliant for not just the design of the 80s clothes of the times that feature some funny and awkward moments but also in some of the designer dresses that Prince and Minerva wear as well as a legendary costume that Prince wears for the film’s climax.

Hair/makeup designer Jan Sewell does fantastic work with the look of the characters including the look of Minerva from her nerdy look to being this confident yet dangerous woman. Special effects supervisor Mark Holt and visual effects supervisor John Moffatt do some superb work in the visual effects in some of the set dressing and action set pieces though the design of Minerva’s final evolution as Cheetah is one of the clunky aspects of the visual effects where it doesn’t feel like it’s finished. Sound designer Michael Babcock, along with sound editors Jimmy Boyle and Richard King, does fine work with the sound in creating some sound effects as well as maintaining a raucous atmosphere for some of the big scenes in the film. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is wonderful for its bombastic music score as it play into the action along with serene orchestral textures for some of the dramatic moments of the film while music supervisor Carmen Murlaner provides a soundtrack that largely features the music of the 1980s from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Clinton Shorter, and John Murphy doing a piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Pat Moran, and Lucinda Syson is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Gabriella Wilde as Lord’s secretary, Natasha Rothwell as Minerva’s boss, Kristoffer Polaha as the man Trevor inhabits, Amr Waked as an Egyptian oil baron that Lord makes a deal with, Stuart Milligan as the U.S. president, Oliver Cotton as Lord’s frustrated investor Simon Stagg, Kelvin Yu as a colleague of Minerva at the Smithsonian, Ravi Patel as a mysterious man who knows about the history of the stone that Lord wants, and Lucian Perez in a grating performance as Lord’s son Alistair as a kid who just whines all because he wants to be with his dad. Lilly Aspell, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright are excellent in their respective roles as the young Diana, Queen Hippolyta, and Antiope with Aspell reprising her brief role as the young Diana for the film’s opening sequence while Nielsen and Wright’s sole scenes in the opening sequence do provide some gravitas to the lessons that Diana would instill on her journey.

Kristen Wiig is alright as Barbara Minerva as a geologist/gemologist who admires and wants to be like Prince as the wish she makes would have her go from awkward geek to a strong yet cold woman as its development is hindered by the fact that Minerva is underwritten in how she loses some of her humanity and how she would become the villainous figure that is Cheetah. Pedro Pascal is amazing as Maxwell Lord as a TV personality/oil baron that wants to succeed as he believes that this ancient stone would give him everything he wants as Pascal displays some charm but also a man who loses his own humanity that makes him a complex villain of sorts. Chris Pine is incredible as Steve Trevor as Diana’s former lover who returns mysteriously due to a wish as Pine gets to show a lot of humor in his interaction with 1980s culture but also some truth about why he is back as it is a grounded performance that allows Pine to be someone that has to remind Diana about some of the darkest realities of the world but also the good aspects.

Finally, there’s Gal Gadot in a phenomenal performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman as the Amazonian princess warrior who moonlights as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian while secretly being a superheroine as Gadot brings some charm but also some vulnerability as a woman still driven by loss and the reluctance to let go. Notably in her scenes with Pine as it plays into a woman that still carries a torch for Trevor as she does come to terms with this loss as Gadot brings in these somber moments in another defining performance for the famed superheroine.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a remarkable film from Patty Jenkins that features a towering performance from Gal Gadot. Along with the strong supporting performances of Chris Pine and Pedro Pascal as well as grand action set pieces, some humorous moments involving 1980s nostalgia, and its exploration of greed, wishes, and truth despite a few spotty moments. The film is still a heartfelt superhero film that does bring in a lot of adventure but also wonderment and the need to accept what people have instead of what they want. In the end, Wonder Woman 1984 is an incredible film from Patty Jenkins.

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) - (The Suicide Squad)

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Blog News: Blog Plans for 2021

 

Well, this was a horrendous year as the unexpected happen in the fact that a worldwide pandemic occurred and everything went to shit. Everything I had planned for the year went to shit and I lost some momentum and I also felt stifled by everything that had happened. I don't know when I even plan on returning to the movie theaters when it is safe again as 2020 just absolutely fucking sucked. I am aware that as early into the new year, things will be just as slow as I now have a niece coming in March as I doubt I can do some big projects though I am hoping to revive some of them for the new year.

Hoping that I can get some money from whatever stimulus check I can get, I will use some of it to purchase a Blu-Ray player as it is time to catch up and watch a lot of films that aren't on DVD. Yet, there is more to offer as there's so many things coming in streaming services though I am not a fan of the new strategy that Warner Brothers and HBO Max is doing to release new films on the same day they're out in the movie theaters. Given that I have a bunch of films in my never-ending DVR list, there are also films, shorts, and docs from all of these special features from many of DVD/Blu-Rays that I own as I've made a list of these films that I also hope to watch as to diversify more. Even in some of the films that I have chosen to watch for the 2021 Blind Spot Series.

I still plan on taking part in the 52 Films by Women pledge as I hope to reach 52 films in the new year as well as the Thursday Movie Picks. Yet, there are also some unfinished projects such as re-starting the MCU is Cinema project in anticipation for the arrival of the fourth phase. Then there's the Cannes Film Festival marathon that I do every May as I was unable to do it in 2019 because of my dad and I ended up not doing it this year because of the pandemic. If there isn't going to be one for the next year, then I will focus on planning for the 2022 Cannes Film Festival marathon which will be an all Palme d'Or edition.
Usually, when it comes to planning things. There's things that I want to do as I want to start from scratch on watching The Story of Film series that I never finished while I've also thought about doing a tribute to B-movie filmmaker Andy Sidaris in re-watching his franchise of Girls, Guns, and G-Strings as he's someone in a shortlist of filmmakers I want to cover for the Auteurs series. The Auteurs series is something I hope to revive as I was forced to cancel everything in 2019 because of my dad while I was hoping to re-start everything again in 2020 but the pandemic happened. Fortunately, I do have access to a few of the films that I need to watch while searching for an obscure film or two. The one on Kelly Reichardt will happen some time between January and March and then I'll do J.C. Chandor for the spring. Then there's Michael Mann and David Lean who I also had listed for the past two years as I plan on doing those two for the second half of the new year and then I'll make plans for what will be for the 2022.

I think that is all I have been planning for the new year as I don't have any interest to create anything for my music blog in The Void-Go-Round unless bands begin to tour again. Everything right now is up in the air as I might go with these plans or it will be another duldrum year. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off...

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Holiday Action Films

 

In the 52nd and penultimate week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of holiday action films as Christmas and action movies seem to go hand-in-hand. Here are my three picks that all involve screenwriter Shane Black and none of them are… THE GREATEST XMAS MOVIE EVER MADE in… Die Hard:

1. Lethal Weapon
Shane Black’s screenplay for Richard Donner’s action-buddy cop film is set around the holidays with an aging veteran detective who is investigating the death of a young woman as he’s teamed up with a troubled and suicidal detective that is still reeling from the death of his wife. Yet, they find themselves dealing with someone really evil in the form of Gary Busey as these two unlikely partners work together and kick some ass while making the holidays safe for everyone with three more films to follow as who couldn’t enjoy the pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover with the latter often saying “I’m getting too old for this shit”?

2. The Long Kiss Goodnight
From Renny Harlin is a film that gets more underrated as the years go on despite Harlin’s spotty track record as a filmmaker. Still, he manages to take Black’s script and add a dose of fun as it revolves around a schoolteacher who survives an accident where she suddenly remembers she used to be an assassin. Teaming up with a private investigator in Samuel L. Jackson, Geena Davis brings a lot of charisma to her role as the former assassin who is forced to confront her past as well as be home in time to be with her daughter during the Christmas holidays and save the world.

3. Iron Man 3
With Black on board as the director in the first entry of the second phase period of the MCU!!!! The film revolves around Tony Stark dealing with some PTSD issues as well as some secrets in the past as he is confronted by a mysterious villain known as the Mandarin. Much of it takes place during the holidays as Stark and his pal Rhodey/War Machine have to fight the Mandarin and his forces while Pepper Potts gets her first chance in wearing an Iron Man suit as she gets on board during the film’s climax. It is a fun action that features a lot of Black’s humor but also gives the Iron Man story a proper ending as he would take on a bigger role for the rest of series in the MCU!!!!!

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Through the Olive Trees

 

Written, directed, designed, and edited by Abbas Kiarostami, Through the Olive Trees is the story of an actor who pines for the woman he marries in another film as he pursues her while dealing with the people he met in that film a few years before. The third and final film of a trilogy of films set around the village of Koker in the north of Iran, it’s a film that is based on the production of Life, and Nothing More… as it once again blurs the line of what is real and what is fiction. Starring Mohammad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hossein Rezai, Tahereh Ladanian, Hocine Redai, Babak Ahmadpour, Ahmad Ahmadpour, and Mahbanou Darabi. Through the Olive Trees is an intoxicating and ravishing film from Abbas Kiarostami.

The film is about a fictionalized re-telling of the production of Life, and Nothing More… in which there’s a scene of the filmmaker having a conversation with a newlywed as that person is trying to pursue the woman who is playing his wife into marrying him. It’s a film that explores life in Koker where a filmmaker is trying to make a film but is dealing with a lot of the drama that is happening behind the scenes. The film’s screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami definitely blur the lines between fiction and reality as there are people from the two previous films of his trilogy who appear as themselves while the stonemason named Hossein (Hossein Rezai) is trying to pursue his co-star in Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian) who has no interest in him. The script also showcases a filmmaker, his assistant, and others trying to get the scene made while looking upon the surroundings they’re in.

Kiarostami’s direction is largely straightforward though he does blur the line of what is real and what is fantasy throughout the film as it is shot on location in Koker, Iran with the zig-zag road on a hill being a common image throughout all three films. While there aren’t a lot of close-ups in the film in favor of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations as well as this one singular recreation of a scene from Life, and Nothing More… with its lone static camera shot that lingers for a few minutes. Kiarostami also creates shots that goes on for a few minutes such as a scene of the director’s assistant driving a car and picking up a few passengers including Ahmad and Babak Ahmadpour from Where is the Friend’s House? who were picking up flowers for the scene. Kiarostami also maintains this air of realism where the filmmaker (Mohammad Ali Keshavarz) is talking to young women for the role that needs for the scene as it’s the first scene of the film.

Also serving as the film’s editor and production designer, Kiarostami manages to recreate the home all of its detail for the scene from Life, and Nothing More… as well as maintain something straightforward in the editing in order to let shots and conversations linger for a few minutes. Most notably in how he creates that scene and then cut to a shot of the director yelling “cut” as it has this repetition that is expected in a recreation. There are these elements that do feel like a documentary film with the usage of hand-held cameras as well as scenes that feel like a flashback or something that blurs the line of reality and fiction. The film’s final moments return to this narrative of Hossein pursuing Tahereh despite the fact that he’s illiterate and doesn’t have a home yet wants to be there for her. The final scenes don’t just play into that story but also the location with the director looking on from afar as if the fourth wall is starting to break as it is this ambiguous moment in this singular final wide shot. Overall, Kiarostami crafts an astonishing and evocative film about an actor trying to woo his co-star on a film set in Koker.

Cinematographers Hossein Jafarian and Farhad Saba do amazing work with the film’s cinematography in capturing many of the natural lighting as the entire film is shot on the day to capture its sunny look and the vibrant green colors of the olive trees. Sound editor Changiz Sayad does brilliant work with the film’s sound in capturing many of the natural elements as well as some of the music that is played that includes the film’s music by Amir Farshid Rahimian and Chema Rosas that is a largely a traditional Iranian folk sound with the only non-diegetic music piece played is a classical cut by Domenico Cimarosa.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Ahmad and Babek Ahmadpour as themselves helping out the film crew, Kheda Barech Defai as the school teacher from Where is the Friend’s House? as someone that Mrs. Shiva picks up early in the film, Hocine Redai as a young woman the director wants for the film, Mahbandou Darabai as Tahereh’s grandmother, Zarifeh Shiva as the filmmaker’s assistant Mrs. Shiva, Farhad Kheradmand as himself reprising the role he was playing in Life, and Nothing More…, and Mohammed Ali Keshavarz in a superb role as the filmmaker who observes everything and everyone around him. Finally, there’s the duo of Hossein Rezai and Tahereh Ladanian in incredible performances in their respective roles as Hossein and Tahereh as actors who are hired for the scene with the former as a stone-mason trying to woo the latter as they bring a realism to their performances as well as what they’re asked to do.

Through the Olive Trees is a magnificent film from Abbas Kiarostami. Featuring a great cast, a unique blur of reality and fiction, its gorgeous locations, and its study of humanity through filmmaking. It’s a somber yet engrossing film about the process of filmmaking as well as a young man trying to pursue a young woman in an attempt to make a better future for both of them. In the end, Through the Olive Trees is an outstanding film Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) – The Traveler (1974 film) - (A Wedding) – The Report (1977 film) = (First Case, Second Case) – (Fellow Citizens) – (First Graders) – Where is the Friend's House? - (Homework (1989 film)) – Close-Up - Life, and Nothing More... - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) – (ABC Africa) – (Ten (2002 film)) – (Five (2003 film)) – (10 on Ten) – (Shirin) – Certified Copy - Like Someone in Love - (24 Frames)

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, December 21, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Life, and Nothing More...

 

Written, directed, and co-edited by Abbas Kiarostami, Life, and Nothing More… is the story of a filmmaker and his son traveling through Iran following the 1990 Earthquake as they also venture into Koker to find the whereabouts of the people who appeared in Kiarostami’s film Where is the Friend’s House? The film is a mixture of fiction and documentary as well as the second part of a trilogy of films based and set in the Koker villages in rural Iran as a man tries to find out what happened to the people who lived through the devastating earthquake. Starring Farhad Kheradmand, Pouyar Payvar, and Hossein Rezai. Life, and Nothing More… is a rapturous film from Abbas Kiarostami.

Set in the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake in the Manjil-Rudbar area of northern Iran, the film is about a filmmaker and his son who both try to go to Koker to find the lead actor from the film Where is the Friend’s House? and see if he’s alive. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it blurs the lines between reality and fiction as the father and son are portrayed by non-actors yet many of the things they encounter and the people they meet are all real people who all survived the earthquake. Even as they would meet a few of the actors who were in that film and see how they dealt with what happened to them and what they gained and lost from this devastating event.

Abbas Kiarostami’s direction is largely straightforward as it is presented as if it was a documentary film. Though some of its narrative is fictional, much of what Kiarostami is presenting are real life events happening on film as if it’s all being documented as it is shot on the locations of where the earthquake is including the small village of Koker and nearby areas. The usage of the wide and medium shots do gaze into these various locations including the zig-zag road on the hill as well as these locations that play into this beautiful landscape that is ravaged by this horrific earthquake. Throughout the course of the film, Kiarostami has the filmmaker and his son talk to various people as they discuss what they lost and such but also some unique perspective on how life works and how to move on.

Editing the film with sound editor Changiz Sayad, Kiarostami would keep much of the editing straightforward with some long shots gazing towards certain locations or having the camera be shot from the point of view of the car the filmmaker’s driving whether it’s on a narrow mountain road or in a small area. With sound recorders Hassan Zahedi and Behrouz Abedini capturing a lot of the natural sounds that Sayad would editor into some collages as it add to the tense atmosphere of the film as well as in some of the quieter moments such as the filmmaker finding a baby in the woods crying or the filmmaker’s son having a chat with an actor from Where is the Friend’s House? about who will win the 1990 FIFA World Cup. There are also these moments that showcase the human spirit where all of these people come together to help one another despite losing their homes as they would all watch a World Cup game. The film’s ending is about the filmmaker focusing on his quest to find the lead actors from that film but also to see what people had to endure in the aftermath of this catastrophic event as they all had to go on despite what they had lost. Overall, Kiarostami crafts an evocative and ravishing film about a filmmaker and his son traveling to Koker to find a couple of actors in the aftermath of the Manjil-Rudbar earthquake of 1990.

Cinematographer Homayoun Payvar does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward to maintain a somewhat-documentary look yet it captures many of the film’s locations with such beauty that is just astonishing to watch. Costume designer Hassan Zahidi does nice work with the clothes that the filmmaker and his son wear as well as a newlywed that the filmmaker meets. The only piece of music that appears in the film is a classical piece by Antonio Vivaldi that pops up every now and then throughout the film. The film’s cast that largely features non-professional actors that include Hossein Rezai as the newlywed man and Mohammed Reza Parveneh as one of the young actors from Where is the Friend’s House? The performances of Farhad Kheradmand and Pouya Payvar in their respective roles as the filmmaker and his son are amazing for expressing a sense of naturalism into their performances as well as providing that air of humanity that the film needs.

Life, and Nothing More… is a spectacular film from Abbas Kiarostami. Featuring gorgeous visuals, a fascinating mixture of reality and fiction, and its compelling study of humanity in the wake of a tragic and catastrophic event. The film is a unique treasure in how it explores a couple of people traveling to Koker and watch the devastation of this earthquake and how people continue to live. In the end, Life, and Nothing More… is a tremendous film from Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) – The Traveler (1974 film) - (A Wedding) – The Report (1977 film) - (First Case, Second Case) – (Fellow Citizens) – (First Graders) – Where is the Friend's House? - (Homework (1989 film)) – Close-Up - Through the Olive TreesTaste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) – (ABC Africa) – (Ten (2002 film)) – (Five (2003 film)) – (10 on Ten) – (Shirin) – Certfied Copy - Like Someone in Love - (24 Frames)

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, December 20, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Where is the Friend's House?

 

Written, directed, and edited by Abbas Kiarostami, Where is the Friend’s House? is the story of a schoolboy who tries to return a classmate’s notebook at a nearby village in the hopes that the classmate doesn’t get expelled from school. The film is the first of a trilogy of films set in the rural village of Koker, Iran as it plays into a boy trying to do what is right amidst the pressure of doing well in school. Starring Babak Ahmadpour, Ahmed Ahmadpour, Kheda Barech Defai, Iran Outari, Ait Ansari, and Biman Mouafi. Where is the Friend’s House? is a touching and somber film from Abbas Kiarostami.

The film is the simple story of an eight-year old boy who learned that he has a notebook that belongs to his classmate, who is already in trouble with a threat of expulsion, as he decides to go to a nearby village to return it only to try and find his whereabouts. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to play into its simplicity as it has someone wanting to try and do the right thing and not see his classmate be expelled and get into serious trouble. There’s not a lot of plot that goes on in Abbas Kiarostami’s script as it’s more about a boy trying to do what is right as he ventures from his home village of Koker to a nearby village over the hill. In this nearby village, he asks neighbors and such while trying also to get bread for his family and cigarettes for his grandfather who watches him go up and down the hill.

Kiarostami’s direction is understated for its approach to simplicity as it is shot on location in Koker as it is this wondrous location that is a key part of the story. The image of the hill and its wide shot display the journey that Ahmed (Babak Ahmadpour) has to endure going up and down this zig-zag roadway. Kiarostami’s usage of wide and medium shots do give scope to these locations that include wandering camera shots of Ahmed running through a small forest and then running up a smaller hill of tombstones. The medium shots play more into the location of the village nearby Koker as it is largely a stony village where Ahmed is trying to find the right house despite some of the vague descriptions the locals have told him. Kiarostami’s close-ups add to the situation that Ahmed is in as he is desperate to find the home of his classmate Mohamed Reza Nematzadeh (Ahmed Ahmadpour) who is already in trouble for not being able to do his work or turn in his notebook.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Kiarostami doesn’t aim for anything stylish in the visuals or in the editing but rather just keep things simple. Notably in the editing as Kiarostami knows when to cut for an emotional reaction yet chooses to keep shots linger for a bit such as a conversation between Ahmed’s grandfather (Rafia Difai) and his friend (Ali Jamali) about discipline. It’s a theme that is at stake as Ahmed is someone that wants to do in school, do his homework, and help his family but doesn’t want Mohamed Reza to be expelled. Kiarostami would also have Ahmed meet an old man (Sadika Tohidi) who shows him the things he built while making claims that he knows where Mohamed Reza lives. There is something mystical in that scene as it takes place at night as the entire film takes place in the span of 24 hours as it opens and ends with the scene in the classroom as its ending is more about what Ahmed does than the fate of Mohamed Reza. Overall, Kiarostami crafts a touching and somber film about a boy trying to return a classmate’s notebook in the hopes that the boy doesn’t get expelled from school.

Cinematographer Farhad Saba does brilliant work with the film’s photography as it is largely straightforward to play into the usage of available and natural light for the scenes in the day as well as some stylish lighting for a few scenes set at night. Production designer Reza Nami does excellent work with the look of the classroom as well as the home that Ahmed and his family live in. Costume designer Hassan Zahidi does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including the brown pants that Mohamed Reza wears which Ahmed sees thinking it’s his pants. Sound editor Changiz Sayad does superb work with the sound as it captures a lot of the natural sounds on location to maintain a raucous yet somber atmosphere. The film’s music by Amine Allah Hessine is amazing for its discordant and folk-driven string playing as it adds to the drama and suspense that occurs in the film.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Iran Outari and Ayat Ansari as Ahmed’s parents, Biman Mouafi as a neighbor named Ali, Rafia Difai as Ahmed’s grandfather, Ali Jamali as the grandfather’s friend, and Sadika Tohidi as the Persian neighbor who used to create doors and such for people in his home village and at Koker. Kheda Barech Defai is terrific as the schoolteacher as someone who might seem like a stern disciplinarian but is also someone who tells his students about what they have to face as he is also sympathetic to what they do at home. Ahmed Ahmedpour is excellent as Mohamed Reza Nematzadeh as a young boy who has already gotten in trouble for not doing his homework and is facing the threat of expulsion if he doesn’t do his homework. Finally, there’s Babek Ahmedpour in a brilliant performance as Ahmed as a young boy who mistakenly took his classmate’s notebook and wants to return it as there is an air of realism in his performance to play into the plight he’s in and the noble thing he is trying to do for his classmate.

Where is the Friend’s House? is a tremendous film from Abbas Kiarostami. Featuring its understated yet entrancing visuals, a simplistic story, and its approach to realism in an area not seen often in films. It is definitely a touching yet engrossing film that isn’t afraid to be simple as well as tell a story of a boy just wanting to help a classmate. In the end, Where is the Friend’s House? is a magnificent film from Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) – The Traveler (1974 film) - (A Wedding) – The Report (1977 film) - (First Case, Second Case) – (Fellow Citizens) – (First Graders) – (Homework (1989 film)) – Close-Up - Life, and Nothing More…Through the Olive TreesTaste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) – (ABC Africa) – (Ten (2002 film)) – (Five (2003 film)) – (10 on Ten) – (Shirin) – Certified Copy - Like Someone in Love - (24 Frames)

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020

Her Smell

 

Written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, Her Smell is the story of a punk rock singer’s life of excess starts to take its toll upon being a mother as she deals with her band falling apart, dealing with old peers, and a new act on the rise. The film is an exploration of a woman dealing with changes as well as the fact that she is self-destructive as she hurts those including herself to the path of success. Starring Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Gayle Rankin, Eric Stoltz, Amber Heard, Dylan Gelula, Agyness Deyn, Dan Stevens, and Virginia Madsen. Her Smell is a riveting and evocative film from Alex Ross Perry.

Stories about rock stardom and such often follow a formula in how they’re formed, how they become successful, more success, sex, drugs, alcohol, fights, they break-up, some tried to do solo careers, and then reunite. It’s a story that’s been told a million times yet what Alex Ross Perry does in this film is really the study of a singer whose love of rock n’ roll and excess would eventually takes its toll on herself, her family life, and her band. Notably as it’s told in five different scenes detailing the fall and resurrection of Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) who is the singer/guitarist for the punk rock band Something She as there’s brief segments in between detailing the band’s rise. Perry’s script is more about Becky and her attempt to try and be this rock star as well as a mother despite the fact that she’s divorced and at odds with her ex-husband and her own mother. The five segments all play into Becky and her band in their good times but mostly bad times with the second and third segments showcasing Becky’s self-destructive behavior and how she destroys her relationships with those who care about her. The fourth and fifth takes places years after the events of the first three segments as it relates to what she lost but also her own fears.

Perry’s direction does have some style in its approach to long static shots as well as tracking shots in some parts of the film yet much of it is straightforward. Shot on various locations in New York City as well as the upstate area for one segment, the film play into these moments in time as the first segment is about a performance from Something She and its aftermath and the second segment is about a failed recording session that lead to the band’s break-up while a new band in Akergirls watch in horror. The usage of close-ups and medium shots don’t just add to the intimacy of some of the tension but also in how much Becky is willing to destroy herself and everyone else in her path just as some are trying to help her. Even as it would capture the chaos during a scene in the third act where Becky and Something She drummer Ali van der Wolff (Gayle Rankin) have an intense physical fight backstage.

There are a few wide shots in the film yet Perry chooses to focus on these moments that play into Becky’s wild behavior and her need to have answers whether it’s spiritual or as a way to maintain this persona as a wild punk rock star. There is a lot of attention to detail in what is going on with and around Becky as the dramatic tension that occurs such as a failed recording session that lead to the band’s break-up shows more attention towards Ali and bassist Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn) who are struggling to keep it together but are aware that the band is done. By the time the film moves towards the fourth and fifth segments, things do quiet down as it play into Becky coming to terms with what she’s lost but also what she still has. Even towards the end as she tries to figure out if she has to play this wild persona or just be a mother to her daughter. Overall, Perry crafts an exhilarating yet intense film about a punk rock singer’s struggle to be all sorts of things including being a mother.

Cinematographer Sean William Price does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of low-key interior lighting for some the backstage scenes and in some of the stage lighting as well as natural interior/exterior lighting for the segment at Becky’s home with some blurry flashes for some of the concert performances. Editor Robert Greene does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in letting shots linger for a while as well as providing a few rhythmic cuts for dramatic effect. Production designer Fletcher Chancey, with set decorator Paige Mitchell and art director John Arnos, does fantastic work with the look of some of the backstage area in some of the shows as well as the look of the studio and Becky’s home. Costume designer Amanda Ford does nice work with the costumes from some of the stylish clothes that the bands wear as well as the ragged look in their clothing.

Hair/makeup designer Amy L. Forsythe does terrific work with the look of the Akergirls in their colorful hairstyle as well as how they would evolve in the coming years in contrast to the chaotic look of Becky. Sound editor Ryan M. Price does amazing work with the film’s sound in the way music is presented live as well as the way music is recorded in a studio and other aspects of the sound as it plays into the chaos of Becky’s life. The film’s music by Keegan DeWitt and Alicia Bognanno is incredible with DeWitt providing a low-key ambient score for some of the dramatic moments of the film while Bognanno writes some of the original songs for Something She and Akergirls while music supervisor Rob Lowry provide a couple of songs that Becky sings including a song by Bryan Adams and one from Charles Manson.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Daisy Pugh-Weiss as Becky’s daughter Tama, Hannah Gross as Tama’s stepmother Tiffany, Craig Butta as a studio recording engineer, Alexis Krauss as musician at the film’s final segment, Keith Poulson as Ali’s husband, Lindsay Burdge as Marielle’s partner, Eka Darville as a shaman who doesn’t seem to have Becky’s best interests, and Amber Heard in a small role as Becky’s former mentor Zelda E. Zekiel as a woman who is trying to help Becky to get her into the right path of life. The performances of Ashley Benson, Cara Delevingne, and Dylan Gelula in their respective roles as Roxie Rotten, Crassie Cassie, and Dottie O.Z. of the band Akergirls are fantastic as a new band who admire Becky as they see her as an influence only to realize how troubled she is to herself and to their own career. Eric Stoltz is excellent as the music manager Howard Goodman who manages both Something She and Akergirls as someone trying to maintain some control while starting to lose patience with Becky as he has a lot to lose with her drug abuse. Virginia Madsen is brilliant as Becky’s mother Ania as a woman who had seen Becky at her best and at her worst as she’s trying to help her but also knows when something horrible is to come.

Gayle Rankin and Agyness Deyn are amazing in their respective roles as Something She drummer Ali van der Wolff and bassist Marielle Hell as two women who are trying to keep the band together with the former as a drummer who is also wild but also in control until a major fight backstage while the latter is someone who is trying keep everything in control until she has had enough. Dan Stevens is incredible as Becky’s ex-husband Danny as a man who cares about Becky and their daughter yet is trying to get her help but also be there as a mother to their daughter. Finally, there’s Elisabeth Moss in a spectacular performance as Becky Something as the singer/guitarist for the band Something She as a woman just trying to be this wild persona and a mother to a young girl but is troubled by her drug abuse and need to control everything as it is Moss at her most energetic and most vulnerable as it is definitely the performance of her career.

Her Smell is a tremendous film from Alex Ross Perry that features a phenomenal leading performance from Elisabeth Moss. Along with its ensemble cast, fascinating character study, simplistic yet chilling presentation, and an energetic music soundtrack. It’s a film that explores a woman trying to balance responsibility and stardom but also destroy those including herself on her path as well as cope with everything she’s gained and lost. In the end, Her Smell is a sensational film from Alex Ross Perry.

Alex Ross Perry Films: (Impolex) – (The Color Wheel) – (Listen Up Philip) – (Queen of Earth) – (Golden Exits)

© thevoid99 2020