Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: June 2021

 

Summer has arrived and things are starting to get a bit normal in this post-pandemic world we’re about to venture into though I am aware we’re not in the clear at the moment. People still wear masks and I have as well on a few places but it does feel like we’re getting back to that sense of normalcy even if it means more violence here and there. For anyone that has lived in Georgia or areas in and near Atlanta, there’s two places that we don’t go. One is Lake Lanier as I hadn’t been to that lake in more than a decade and have no plans to as someone always die there due to some accident or from a drowning as it’s one of these man-made lakes that’s just cursed. The other is Lenox Mall near Buckhead as it used to be this somewhat-posh mall where it had places other malls didn’t have but now it’s become a place where there’s a shooting or some kind of incident happening almost every day. I rarely go there and the last time I was there was last year during the pandemic as I have no interest in going there anymore. It’s just dull nowadays as it has me realizing that malls are on their way out.

Just because we’re going back to sporting events, restaurants, and such doesn’t mean we should deal with the fact that this pandemic could happen again but there’s also this realization that things might have to change. Having seen what just happened near Miami with this apartment collapse that has killed 12 people so far with 149 people still missing. It is a wake-up call that there are still things happening in the real world but also knowing that areas in South Florida including Miami might not exist sooner than we realize as there needs to be some kind of change in Florida to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, there’s the powers that be who are either ignorant or indifferent to what is coming and they will reap for what they sow.
In the month of June, I saw a total of 21 films in 8 first-timers and 13 re-watches with only one film as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as it’s down slightly from last month due to other activities involving my niece and nephew. Still, a highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment choice in Pink Flamingos. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for June 2021:

1. The Sparks Brothers
2. Ford v Ferrari
3. Lean on Pete
4. Chyna
5. Boy Erased
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

Take Me Home Tonight
This comedy set in the late 1980s about an aimless rental video store employee who copes with his lack of prospects while going to a party as it stars Topher Grace in the lead role that features an ensemble cast that includes Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, Teresa Palmer, Michael Biehn, Michelle Trachtenberg, Dan Fogler, and Angie Everhart. It’s a film that has some funny moments but it often tries too hard to be funny and to be compelling as it is just a mess.

Chyna
From VICE TV is a documentary about the life and death of Joanie “Chyna” Laurer who was definitely a fucking icon in the world of professional wrestling in the late 90s and early 2000s as she was everywhere on TV and such and her popularity at that time remains unmatched. Yet, the documentary features footage from an unfinished and unreleased documentary about her final years as a woman is trying to clean herself up and get her life back together. Featuring interviews with some former wrestlers including Kevin Nash, Mick Foley, Masahiro Chono, Billy Gunn, and Sean Waltman as well as former WWE writer Vince Russo as they come off well in this with Waltman being remorseful for his time with Chyna when they were both doing drugs and such. The film also show cases what was happening as her manager was trying to get Chyna to do this and that upon her return to the U.S. from Japan as it only got her back into drugs and such.

During the making of the documentary, Chyna’s relapse that would include time with one of the film’s co-directors who would become a heroin addict and later go to prison for a time for supplying drugs showcase how bad things are. There is also an appearance from Dr. Drew Pinsky whose presence really makes things worse as there’s a scene of Chyna and her manager Anthony talking to her about prescription drugs she needed where Dr. Drew is just a fucking enabling quack who exploits people at their lowest. People also wonder why she never got a solo induction into the bullshit world that is the WWE Hall of Fame as her ex-boyfriend Triple H claims that if people who go to Google and find her name that it will showcase her porn career. Yet, there’s people in that fucking piece of shit hall of fame who have done worse. The truth is that a lot of people failed her and she never got the chance to be celebrated for what she’s done and it’s a shame that she’s gone now.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 3)
Also from VICE TV is the first half of the third season of the documentary series about the dark world of pro wrestling that begins with a two-hour special on the life and death of Brian Pillman who was a gifted high-flyer who could also do amazing promos in and out of the ring while creating a character that was unpredictable. Yet, a Humvee accident in 1996 would mark the beginning of the end as he would be severely injured and couldn’t wrestle the same way again as his addiction to painkillers lead to his death a year later. The piece also featured interviews with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Jim Ross as well as Pillman’s sister who has been a real saint as she had been the one to help bring Brian’s children together including Brian Pillman Jr. who is right now part of a popular tag team in the Varsity Blondes with Griff Garrison and Julia Hart in AEW. The series also had pieces on extreme hardcore wrestler Nick Gage and his own love of ultraviolence as he’s been recently having a career resurgence along with a piece on the infamous 1995 Collision in Korea event in North Korea that is just insane about what WCW and New Japan did as it was just fucking scary.

Episodes on the life and death of the Ultimate Warrior is a bit weak since they didn’t cover Warrior’s time in WCW in 1998 and the years between that and his death in 2014 while the darkest episode is on the wrestler Grizzly Smith and his children in wrestlers Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Sam Houston, and Rockin’ Robin and the abuse they endured as children and adults. The Grizzly Smith episode was intense in not just his exploits in pedophilia but also other things as his children have managed to survive though remain estranged from one another despite their desire to wanting to be together. The last episode of the series so far is on the Dynamite Kid who was known as a major innovator despite his small stature but the abuse on his body and horrific pranks on other wrestlers including Jacques Rougeau who would get revenge on him in the worst way are among the most compelling. The second half coming later in the year is going to be intense as it will profile on the lives of Luna Vachon, Chris Kanyon, and Ion Croitoru as well as promotions such as XPW and FMW, and stories on the 1992 steroid scandal and its 1994 trial and the legendary Plane Ride from Hell in 2002.

Loki (episodes 1-4)
From Disney+ is a series I’ve been waiting for and so far it’s just incredible as it focuses on the God of Mischief and his many misadventures as he is living in an alternate universe helping out a bureaucratic organization known as the TVA to protect the flow of time. Tom Hiddleston returns in the titular role as he is given more to do flesh out the character who learns a lot about his fate and everything else where he definitely showcase Loki’s own faults and the fact that there is good in him. The ensemble cast that includes Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Sasha Lane, and the voice of Tara Strong really make this show a joy to watch with Wilson having great rapport with Hiddleston as this is a partnership that I just love to watch with Mosaku being this no-nonsense guard of the TVA. Then there’s Sophia Martino in the role of Sylvie as this variation of Loki who is just full of surprises and charisma as she and Hiddleston together are incredible to watch.

Notably in the third episode that include these quiet moments where Loki and Sylvie are in a train talking as the former talks about Frigga. While Frigga may not have been featured enough in the MCU with Avengers: Endgame at least giving Rene Russo a chance to flesh her out more for a brief scene. It is proof that Frigga isn’t just this great character but also the best mom in the MCU that any hero could have. Credit should to director Kate Herron and showrunner Michael Waldron for creating this show that isn’t afraid to be silly but also showcase their influences in films like Brazil and Metropolis. The fourth episode is the best one so far not just for the twists and turns but also in the development of a few supporting characters and some unexpected twists and turns including a cameo from a supporting character from the MCU.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Das Boot
2. Thief
3. Moneyball
4. I, Tonya
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
6. Wildcats
7. S.F.W.
8. Mr. Mom
9. Night Shift
10. Wonder Woman 1984
That is all for June. Next month, the Cannes Film Festival marathon will officially return as I will make a formal announcement this coming Friday on the films I will be watching for the marathon. There will be breaks during the marathon that will include a viewing of Black Widow as I’ve purchased my ticket for that film as it will be the second film this year I will watch in the theaters with The Sparks Brothers being the first and it felt really good to return to the movie theaters. Now that I have a Blu-Ray/DVD player and a couple of new fireTVs, that means I have more to watch including my next Blind Spot. Plus, if there’s more stimulus money coming. I hope I can get tickets to see King Crimson at the Fox Theatre or the Atlanta Hawks going to the NBA Finals as the idea of them winning the championship would be a big deal but also an emotional one as I grew up a Hawks fan as did my dad. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and oh…. Loki is mine bitches!

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Lean on Pete

 

Based on the novel by Willy Vlautin, Lean on Pete is the story of a 16-year old boy who works at a stable where he befriends an ailing horse as he deals with the horse’s fate. Written for the screen and directed by Andrew Haigh, the film is a study of a young man who cares for this racehorse as he does whatever he can to save it. Starring Charlie Plummer, Chloe Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Amy Seimetz, Steve Zahn, Alison Elliott, and Steve Buscemi. Lean on Pete is a touching and heartfelt film from Andrew Haigh.

The film revolves around a 16-year old kid as he helps a horse owner in getting horses for a race where the kid befriends a horse named Lean on Pete as he deals with the horse’s declining health and the idea that he might be slaughtered. It’s a film that explores a young man trying to find some stability in his home life but also something to be attached to as he lives in Portland with his absentee father and doesn’t have much of a future until he helps a horse owner who gives him a job. Andrew Haigh’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative as it’s more of a coming-of-age story for the 16-year old Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer) who lives with his dad Ray (Travis Fimmel) who is having an affair with a married woman that would later have dire consequences involving her husband. Charley would help the aging horse trainer Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi) who is dealing with declining funds as well as horses who aren’t delivering including Lean on Pete who could only do quarter-mile races.

While a jockey in Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny) understands Charley’s growing attachment to Lean on Pete, she warned him to not get too close as the horse’s health is starting to fail forcing Montgomery to sell him and possibly to Mexico where he would be slaughtered. The film’s second act is about what Charley’s actions as it relates to the horse and what he hopes to do in trying to find his estranged aunt Margy (Alison Elliott) whom he hadn’t seen in years. It would be this moment that play into Charley’s own sense of loss and alienation as well as a world that is really complicated as he would encounter various people including a couple of former soldiers and a homeless couple as it would play into is view of the world.

Haigh’s direction is entrancing for not just the scope of the locations as it is shot on various locations around Portland, Oregon but also to capture the look of the American West that does feel disconnected from the rest of the world. The usage of wide and medium shots do play into the events that Charley encounters in the second act with Lean on Pete as it play into the journey these two would take. Haigh still infuses some intimacy that include close-ups as well as what Charley sees during the horse races along with these moments that play into his own sense of despair when he deals with reality. There are also these scenes that do feel loose such as a conversation Montgomery is having with other owners about changing times and how simple things were back in the 80s and 90s for the world of horse racing along with a scene in the bar where everyone is drunk while Charley wants to talk both to Bonnie and Montgomery. Haigh also presents scenes where there aren’t much dialogue or scenes that has Charley talking to the horse as it help play into this young man dealing with reality that is hard to digest. Even in its third act as he copes with the people he encounter and his own actions knowing he has made decisions that would put him in trouble yet is seeking to find some hope in a cruel world. Overall, Haigh crafts an evocative and intoxicating film about a 16-year old boy befriending an ailing race horse.

Cinematographer Magnus Joenck does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of available and low-key lighting for the scenes set at night as well as natural lighting for the scenes set in the day. Editor Jonathan Alberts does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts for a few dramatic moments as well as a few transitional dissolves. Production designer Ryan Warren Smith, with set decorator Jenelle Giordano and art director Jonny Fenix, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Charley lived in as well as a stable room where Charley stayed with Lean on Pete living next door and a trailer where Charley meets a homeless couple. Costume designer Julie Carnahan does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual to play into the look of the American West that include trucker hats, skinny jeans for the women, and other clothes that play into that world.

Visual effects supervisor Fred Ruff does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it play into a key scene in the film along with bits of set-dressing for the horse race scenes. Sound editor Joakim Sundstrom does brilliant work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the way some of the sparse moments in the film occur as it’s a highlight of the film. The film’s music by James Edward Barker is wonderful for its understated country-folk based score as it play into the drama while being low-key while music supervisor Connie Farr provides a soundtrack that is mostly diegetic as it’s played on location as it features pieces from Melissa Manchester, Melinda Salcido, Alih Jey, Lluvia Rosa, Jeannie Seely, Roy Drusky and Priscilla Hubbard, Faron Young, Larry Dean and Jonathan Sloan, Donnie Owens, Jeannie C. Riley, Sanford Clark, Brendan McKinney, Eddie M, Brandon Flowers, Selena Gomez, Tegan & Sara, Jessie Ware, Limb, Cut Yourself in Half, Will Oldham, Richmond Fontaine, Vic De Leon, and Donovan.

The casting by Carmen Cuba does superb work as it feature some notable small roles from Tolo Tuitele as Lynn’s husband who attacks Ray, Bob Olin as an old man in Mr. Kendall that Charley eats dinner with, Teyah Hartley as Mr. Kendall’s daughter Laurie whom he verbally abuses at, Justin Rain and Lewis Pullman in their respective as a couple of military veterans in Mike and Dallas who take Charley and Pete in for a bit, Steve Zahn and Rachael Perrell Fosket as a homeless couple that allow Charley to be with them for a bit, Amy Seimetz as Ray’s married girlfriend Lynn, Travis Fimmel as Charley’s absentee yet well-meaning father Ray, and Alison Elliott as Charley’s estranged aunt Margy who appears late in the film. Chloe Sevigny is brilliant as the jockey Bonnie as someone who is kinder to Charley but also warns him about becoming too attached to Lean on Pete as she also tells him about the reality he has to face.

Steve Buscemi is amazing as Del Montgomery as an aging horse trainer who has been through a lot and is a cynical person yet does give Charley a few life lessons but also appreciates the work that Charley puts through. Finally, there’s Charlie Plummer in an incredible performance as Charley Thompson as a 16-year old kid who is dealing with instability in his life where he then works in the stables and befriends this horse as he becomes attached to this horse while dealing with the reality that the horse has to face. Plummer brings this anguish and angst to the role that is understated but also someone who knows he is way over his head in what he’s trying to do while hoping to find a world that he can call home and with the horse he’s grown to love.

Lean on Pete is a phenomenal film from Andrew Haigh that features a great leading performance from Charlie Plummer. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous visuals and locations, enchanting sound work, and its themes of growing pains and search for stability in a cruel world. The film is definitely a coming-of-age film that plays into a boy’s fascination towards a race horse and his hope to help this horse. In the end, Lean on Pete is a sensational film from Andrew Haigh.

Andrew Haigh Films: (Greek Pete) – Weekend (2011 film) - 45 Years

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Pink Flamingos

 

Written, directed, shot, edited, and narrated by John Waters, Pink Flamingos is the story of a criminal who proclaims herself to be the filthiest person alive as she is confronted by a couple of other criminals who want to out-do her in terms of filth. The film is an exploitation and offbeat comedy that explores the idea of what is obscene as it is more of an exercise in poor taste as it confronts the idea of how much filth someone can take. Starring Divine, Edith Massey, Mary Vivian Pierce, David Lochary, Mink Stole, and Danny Mills. Pink Flamingos is a grotesque, revolting, and hilarious film from John Waters.

The film revolves around a feud over the idea of who is the filthiest person in the world as a drag queen was given that title by a local tabloid which upsets a couple who wants to that title. It’s a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it plays into the exploits of this drag queen who lives in a trailer under an alias with her mentally ill mother, a delinquent son, and her traveling companion as they do gross things while pushing the boundaries of what is obscene as John Waters’ screenplay isn’t just this study of filth but also what a few people will do to outdo the ideas of filth. Notably as this couple in Connie and Raymond Marbles (Mink Stole and David Lochary, respectively) are appalled by the antics of Divine aka Babs Johnson (Divine) who does disgusting things but not into the realm of something evil that the Marbles do as they kidnap young women for their servant Channing (Channing Wilroy) to rape and impregnate so they can sell babies to lesbian couples. Yet, the Marbles do whatever they can to try and humiliate Divine and her family but are unaware that Divine can do much worse.

Waters’ direction has a crudeness not just in its look and low-budget aesthetics but there’s also something that feels real as well in the way he captures the life of these unique characters. Shot on location largely in Phoenix, Maryland as well as parts of Baltimore, Waters does aim for straightforward compositions while also infusing a few tracking shots such as a scene where Divine walks in the city as a car is filming her in a wide-medium shot. Serving as the film’s cinematographer, Waters doesn’t go for any kind of stylish lighting as much of the film is shot in the day with a few scenes at night where Waters maintains a looseness to the presentation with hand-held cameras as well as this air of improvisation that gives the film an air of realism. Even in scenes that play into the extremity of what is decency and obscenity such as Divine’s son Cracker (Danny Mills) having sex with a woman along with a chicken. Also serving as editor, Waters keeps much of the cutting straightforward while he also provides narration as an off-screen character enjoys the crude antics of Divine.

Waters also does go into these ideas of offbeat behavior as Raymond is someone that likes to flash people while having a kielbasa or a piece of meat attached to his penis. Even as he is willing to break taboos that includes a contortionist who does trick with his asshole that is just disgusting to watch yet it also intriguing to watch. Even as the boundaries of what is obscene gets pushed further into the film’s third act that includes this eventual confrontation between Divine and the Marbles. All of which plays into the idea of who is the filthiest person in the world where Waters would have one more thing for the finale to up the ante of what is repulsion. Overall, Waters crafts a filthy, disgusting, and fucking hilarious film about a drag queen battling a couple of assholes for the title of the filthiest person in the world.

Production designer Vincent Peranio does excellent work with the look of Divine’s trailer as well as the home of the Marbles with their posters and kitsch furniture. Costume designer/makeup artist Van Smith does fantastic work with the look of Divine as well as the dresses that she wears. Sound recordist Bill Porter does terrific work with the sound as it is straightforward in playing up to the locations and the atmosphere in a scene including the party scene. The film’s incredible music soundtrack as it features pieces from Little Richard, Link Wray, the Centurions, LaVern Baker, Bill Haley & His Comets, the Nighthawks, the Tyrones, the Trashmen, Patti Page, the Robins, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, and the Tune Weavers as it help play into the film’s offbeat tone.

The film’s casting is superb as it features appearances from David E. Gluck as the contortionist, Elizabeth Coffey as a person Raymond would flash at, Susan Walsh and Linda Olgierson as a couple of women the Marbles kidnap for Channing to rape and impregnate, Pat Moran (in a deleted scene in the 1997 reissue) as a friend of Divine in Patty Hitler, Steve Yeager as a news reporter, Paul Swift as the egg man that Edie loves, Channing Wilroy as the Marbles’ servant who rapes and impregnate kidnapped women, and Cookie Mueller as a woman the Marbles hire to spy on Crackers and have sex with him. Edith Massey is fantastic as Divine’s mentally-ill mother Edie who eats nothing but eggs as well as sit inside a little playpen while Danny Mills is terrific as Divine’s son Cracker who likes to fuck chickens and do perverse things. Mary Vivian Pearce is excellent as Divine’s accomplice/friend Cotton as a woman who not only enjoys perverse content but also do whatever she can to deal with the Marbles.

Mink Stole and David Lochary are amazing in their respective roles in Connie and Raymond Marble as this perverse and evil couple who like to kidnap women for their servant to rape with Stole sporting bright orange hair and Lochary with blue hair as they do whatever to try and outdo Divine. Finally, there’s Divine in a tremendous performance as Divine/Babs Johnson as a drag queen who is known for being outrageously filthy and disgusting where Divine just adds a lot of charisma to a role that demands a lot of that where Divine plays up this larger-than-life character as it is a definitive performance from the late drag queen.

Pink Flamingos is a phenomenally revolting film from John Waters. Featuring a great cast lead by Divine, a fun music soundtrack, a crude yet engaging look, and its willingness to be offensive and disgusting. It is a film that isn’t afraid to be outlandish but also unafraid to be ridiculous in its offbeat and crass humor. In the end, Pink Flamingos is a sensational film from John Waters.

John Waters Films: (Mondo Trash) – Multiple Maniacs - Female Trouble - (Desperate Living) – (Polyester) – (Hairspray) – (Cry-Baby) – (Serial Mom) – (Pecker) – (Cecil B. Demented) – (A Dirty Shame)

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Sparks Brothers

 

Directed by Edgar Wright, The Sparks Brothers is a documentary film about the legendary pop group Sparks lead by the brothers Russell and Ron Mael. The film showcases the career of this band that mainly consist of the Mael brothers as well as how they’ve continued to reinvent themselves while maintaining a cult status in various parts of the world. The film features not just interview with the Mael brothers but also fans ranging from musicians, filmmakers, TV writers, and many others who praise the work of this duo who continuously redefine the ideas of what pop music could be. The result is a tremendously witty, engaging, and exuberant film from Edgar Wright.

From 1971 to 2020, the duo of Russell and Ron Mael known largely as Sparks have released 23 studio albums with another album set to come out in 2021 have amassed a varying degree of success and acclaim throughout their career while continuously reinventing themselves to follow their own muse. The film isn’t just a love letter to the band but also dissecting the mystique of these two brothers from Pacific Palisades, California who are considered icons in Britain, parts of Europe, Latin America, and Japan yet are a cult band in America. Director Edgar Wright, who is a life-long fan, doesn’t just tell the story of the band’s origins and their rollercoaster career but also what keeps them going and why they never stuck to one certain sound in favor of just doing other things.

Featuring interviews with the Mael brothers plus some of the musicians that played with them from bassists Ian Hampton, Sal Maida, and Leslie Bohem, guitarists Earle Mankey and Dean Menta, drummers Hilly Boy Michaels, Harley Feinstein, Steve Nistor, Christi Haydon, and Tammy Glover, and producers such as Tony Visconti, Giorgio Moroder, and Muff Winwood as well as many others. Among them include musicians Beck, Alex Karpanos of Franz Ferdinand, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell of Erasure, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor of Duran Duran, Roddy Bottum of Faith No More, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, producer, Jack Antonoff, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, “Weird” Al Yankovic, legendary rock groupie Pamela des Barres, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert of New Order, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Martyn Ware of the Human League/Heaven 17, and Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s also talk about the band’s influence with Wiedlin having collaborated with the group in the early 80s as well as having a brief romance with Russell.

Yet, musicians and collaborators aren’t just those who have been influenced by Sparks as actors and comedians in Jason Schwartzman, Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Mark Gatiss, Adam Buxton, Fred Armisen, April Richardson, and Scott Aukerman as well as writer Neil Gaiman, TV show host Jonathan Ross, and TV show runners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino all talk about their love for Sparks. The interviews with these individuals doesn’t just showcase the band’s reach and influence on their respective arts but also what their music means so much to them as Wright does go into brief tidbits of the band’s respective studio albums and how they’ve evolved but also go into where some of that music might’ve come from. The Mael brothers do talk about their childhood that included the death of their father Meyer when they were young as the film is dedicated to their parents including their mother Miriam whom they both felt was the best mom they ever had as they were around when rock n’ roll had just arrived and had seen the Beatles live twice in their lifetime.

Throughout the group’s evolution as they would be part of one phenomenon yet the two often would prefer to follow their own muse as they had no interest in being part of a trend or do something commercial as the band would also admit to having a contentious relationship with the music industry. Most notably in the six-year gap between 1988’s Interior Design and 1994’s Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins where the band had no record deal yet they continued to make music. The film also go into discussions into their failed film collaborations with Jacques Tati in the 1970s and Tim Burton in the early 1990s as the former in Confusion with Tati was mean to be a film with Tati’s Monsieur Hulot character set in a futuristic society. The latter in an adaptation of the manga Mai, the Psychic Girl into a musical with songs by Sparks and directed by Burton but it fell apart.

Wright’s approach to the interviews are straightforward with the Maels and many others are shot in black-and-white by cinematographer Jake Polonsky with a backdrop by art director Ves Philippi. Wright and Polonsky would also shoot footage of some of the band’s shows in 2018 and 2019 including shows in Europe and Latin America as it would be shot in color while much of the material Wright would use with editors Paul Trewartha and Tobias Zaldua as well as sound editor Jamie Allen would be from many interviews and TV appearances. Even as Wright interviews a couple of fans about those interviews where one of them is revealed to be in a concert footage as she hugged Ron when she was only 14. Another thing that makes the film more compelling is the usage of hand-drawn animation as well as stop-motion animation from Joseph Wallace that featured a legendary story of John Lennon talking on the phone with Ringo Starr about discovering Sparks as they’re voiced respectively by longtime Wright collaborators in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Wright also goes into the band’s work ritual as Russell has a home studio where the duo have their own routine with Ron often taking walks on a park and the two would go to a coffee shop in Los Angeles in the afternoon and return to work. Many of the people who are interviewed also discuss why Sparks has continued to endure and many say that they never take their music seriously nor do the Mael brothers take themselves seriously right up to the end of the film including the post-credits. It all play into who these two men are and why they continue to be interesting and refusing to compromise their idea of what art is. Even as they’ve finally ventured into the world of film with the upcoming Annette from director Leos Carax.

The Sparks Brothers is a spectacular film from Edgar Wright. It’s a film that fans of the group will enjoy as they see how appreciated they are from many corners in the world of art while those new to the group will get an understanding of why they’re so revered despite their refusal to become commercial and stick to one sound. It is also a film that doesn’t play by the rules that captures the spirits of who Ron and Russell Mael are and isn’t afraid to be odd or irreverent. In the end, The Sparks Brothers is a sensational film from Edgar Wright.

Related: Annette (2021 film)

Edgar Wright Films: (A Fistful of Fingers) – Shaun of the Dead - Hot Fuzz - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - The World's End - Baby Driver - (Last Night in Soho)

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Natural Disasters

 

For the 24th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subjects of natural disasters where they’re often quite popular as it has people freaking out over something happening around them whether it’s an earthquake, a hurricane, or something awful on Earth. Here are my three picks:

1. Volcano
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Gaby Hoffman, this was one of those typical films that came out in the 1990s as it was one of 2 films that was about volcanos that came out in the same year. This was an OK effort with Jones being a fireman and Heche as some earthquake expert as it had a few decent moments in which Los Angeles is being destroyed by a volcano though it is largely forgettable.

2. The Day After Tomorrow
Roland Emmerich’s 2004 global-warming film about half of the world being frozen by a new ice age as it was a film that also had its moments. It largely revolves around Dennis Quaid as a scientist where he and a couple of men try to go to New York City from another location to retrieve Jake Gyllenhaal as Quaid’s son. While the film does try to at least acknowledge the issue of global warming, it does feel like it gets dumbed down to the masses.

3. San Andreas
This was kind of dumb as it’s just another action film starring Dwayne Johnson as a helicopter rescuer who tries to save Alexandra Daddario, who plays his daughter, during an earthquake ravaging California. It’s a film that is insane that includes Carla Gugino as Johnson’s ex-wife who joins Johnson in the adventure where there are some scary moments but also some weird moments includes the famed Australian pop star Kylie Minogue as Gugino’s boyfriend’s bitchy sister doing a massive-budget fall similar to what she did in a much superior film that is Leos Carax’s Holy Motors.

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ford v Ferrari

 

Directed by James Mangold and written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, Ford v Ferrari (Le Mans ’66) is the story of about a team of British and American engineers and designers who team up to help Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca to design the Ford GT40 in an upcoming race in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race against the much revered racing team led by Ferrari. The film is a dramatization of the events leading to the 1966 Le Mans race where an American designer asks a British driver to be part of this team as they also deal with various issues along the way. Starring Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, and Ray McKinnon. Ford v Ferrari is a gripping and exhilarating film from James Mangold.

Set in the early 1960s, the film revolves around Ford who found themselves struggling with low sales as well as losing the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France to the Italian car manufacturer Ferrari where Ford’s vice president Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) turns to a designer and a hot-headed British driver for help in the upcoming 1966 race. It’s a film that explores these two men who agree to help for the Ford motor company not only to try and defeat Ferrari but also prove what a car can do. The film’s screenplay takes place largely in the mid-1960s where sports car designer and racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) who won Le Mans back in 1959 but is forced to retire due to his heart condition as he is approached by Iacocca to create a car that can compete against Ferrari who had been dominating Le Mans for years. Shelby agrees to help but wants to bring in the British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to the fold despite the fact that he is hot-tempered yet knows more about cars than anyone else.

The film also showcased why this rivalry between Ford and Ferrari has intensified where the film has Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) trying to figure out what to do with Iacocca being the one man who has an understand of what Americans want as Ford’s company tried to buy Ferrari (Remo Girone) who felt insulted by their deal as he ends up choosing to make a deal with Fiat that at least gives Ferrari more control on what he could and participate in Le Mans. With Ford reluctantly giving Shelby and Miles the chance to create a car for Ford, Miles does the job so he can help his family as they’re going through debt as his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and son Peter (Noah Jupe) are able to watch closely with the latter befriending Shelby and Shelby’s chief engineer Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon). The script also showcase the tension between Shelby and Miles though both are able to be on the same page with the latter focusing on improvements of the GT40 Mk II while the former tries to deal with Ford executive Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) who despises both Shelby and Miles.

James Mangold’s direction does have elements of style as it play into the world of the 1960s though it begins with Shelby being a racer and being able to finish it despite his growing heart condition. Shot largely on location in California with additional locations in Georgia, Louisiana, and bits of Le Mans in France, Mangold does use these locations not just as race tracks but to showcase a world where the auto industry is going through changing times as it play into what consumers want as they want the cars that James Bond wants to drive. Mangold’s usage of wide and medium shots do play into these locations including the California race tracks and the places where Shelby runs his company. There are also close-ups that do play into the character interaction including a scene where Mollie is angry about her husband returning to racing as she is driving the car ferociously in a way that even scares Miles. It is a moment that does play into some of the humanistic moments in Miles’ life as he is someone that does care for his family but knows more about cars and how they should be driven better than anyone.

Mangold also uses a lot of point-of-view shots of what it’s like inside a car when it’s going fast to nearly 218 miles per hour as it was the highest speed at the time and what it took for that car to be intact. The film’s second act is about these tests for the GT40 as well as Shelby’s war with Beebe who wants to play it safe as it leads to a race in Daytona where Miles succeeds with the Mk II that leads to Le Mans for the film’s third act. The Le Mans race is intense where it’s not about what is going on at the track but also what is happening behind the scenes with Beebe trying to assert his authority and what both Ford and Ferrari are watching as Miles is part of a team representing Ford going against racers representing Ferrari. There is a lot of drama on and off the track where Mangold manages to maintain that air of suspense that plays into Miles’ skill as a driver who is willing to push the limits of what a race car can do. Overall, Mangold crafts a mesmerizing and riveting film about two outsiders who help Ford create the ultimate race car against the brilliance of Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the daytime exteriors with some lighting schemes for scenes at night along with low-key interior lighting for some scenes at night. Editors Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland, and Dirk Westervelt do amazing work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and rhythmic cuts doesn’t just capture the frenetic energy of the races but also has this rhythm that play into the excitement and terror of those races while the editing is also straightforward for the non-racing scenes. Production designer Francois Audouy, with set decorator Peter Lando and supervising art director Maya Shimoguchi, does excellent work with the look of Shelby’s home base, the Ford factory, Miles’ home, and the race stand at Le Mans. Costume designer Daniel Orlandi does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the looks of the time that include some of the clothes that Mollie wears and the suits that the men wear in those times.

Special effects supervisors Mark R. Byers and Charles-Axel Vollard, with visual effects supervisors Olivier Dumont and Kiruba Nanthan, do brilliant work with the way cars crash as well as scenes involving the races as well as some visual effects to play into some of the landscape that does a bit more than just do set-dressing. Sound designer David Giammarco and sound editor Donald Sylvester do phenomenal work with the sound as it play into the way a car sounds and how tires sound when it’s on the ground as it’s being driven as the attention to detail in the sound work as it is a major highlight of the film. The film's music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders do superb work with the film’s music with its mixture of orchestral bombast and low-key electronics to play up the thrill of Le Mans while music supervisor Ted Caplan provides a fun soundtrack consisting of music of the times from acts and artists like James Burton, the Kingsmen, the Sonics, Nina Simone, Lucky Blondo, Buck Owens, the Byrds, Link Wray, the Shadows of Knight, the Sparkles, Billy Riley and His Little Green Men, and Les Baxter.

The casting by Ronna Kress is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Joe Williamson as a chief engineer for Ford in Donald N. Frey, Corrado Invernizzi as Ferrari’s right-hand man Franco Gozzi, Jack McMullen as the mechanic Charlie Agapiou, JJ Feild as the famed British engineer Roy Lunn who works for Ford yet helps Shelby and Miles with what cars can do, and Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari as the famed Italian sports car maker who is intent on creating the perfect car while having issues with the ways Americans do business. Josh Lucas’ performance as Ford executive Leo Beebe is good as it allows Lucas to be the smarmy douchebag that hates Shelby and Miles because they don’t fit in with what Ford should be. Noah Jupe is superb as Miles’ son Peter as kid who enjoys seeing his father race as well as having an interest in cars as he does serve as a rock of sorts for his father but also understands some things that helps cars work where he befriends Shelby and Remington.

Ray McKinnon is fantastic as Shelby’s engineer Phil Remington as a man that knows cars but also understands what can work and what can’t work where he often finds a solution to a problem. Tracy Letts is excellent as Henry Ford II as the CEO of Ford and the grandson of Henry Ford as a man trying to find out how to get Americans to buy his cars but also deal with the fact that times are changing where he is eager to beat Ferrari at Le Mans. Jon Bernthal is brilliant as Lee Iacocca as the vice president of Ford who goes to Shelby for help as he understands what consumers want while trying to deal with the presence of Beebe whom he feels doesn’t understand change. Caitriona Balfe is amazing as Miles’ wife Mollie as a woman who understands her husband’s love and knowledge for cars though she isn’t happy about him returning to racing knowing he might do something dangerous as she does manage to hold her own.

Finally, there’s the duo of Christian Bale and Matt Damon in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby. Bale brings in that performance of a man who knows a lot about cars but is also hot-tempered and frustrated by people’s lack of respect for cars as he’s also an intense driver that is aware of what a car could do within its limitations. Damon is more reserved as a former racer who designs and sells sports cars as he is also aware of what needs to be done to beat Ford while having to deal with some of the business aspects including Beebe whom he despises. Bale and Damon together have this amazing rapport together as they not only showcase two men who have a love of cars but also know what it takes to win in the world in racing as they’re a big highlight of the film.

Ford v Ferrari is a tremendous film from James Mangold that features great leading performances from Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, incredible sound work, and exhilarating music score, the film is definitely a rapturous film that explores the world of racing and what a group of outsiders try to do to compete with Ferrari and help Ford become important again during the 1960s. In the end, Ford v Ferrari is a spectacular film from James Mangold.

James Mangold Films: (Heavy) – (Cop Land) – (Girl, Interrupted) - (Kate & Leopold) – (Identity (2003 film)) – (Walk the Line) – 3:10 to Yuma (2007 film) - (Knight and Day) – The Wolverine - Logan - (Indiana Jones 5)

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, June 11, 2021

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan

 

Directed and co-edited by Xavier Dolan and screenplay by Dolan and Jacob Tierney from a story by Dolan, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is the story of a young man who reminisces his time as a child when he wrote corresponding letters to an American TV star who died mysteriously following a scandal that also affected the young boy. The film is an exploration of celebrity as well as a young man coping with his possible role in the death of his idol as well as how many claimed their relationship wasn’t innocent. Starring Kit Harrington, Jacob Tremblay, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandiwe Newton, Ben Schnetzer, Sarah Gadon, Emily Hampshire, Jared Keeso, Amara Karan, and Michael Gambon. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is a messy and overly-dramatic film from Xavier Dolan.

The film follows a young novelist/actor who is interviewed by a journalist over a book he wrote about his corresponding letters with an American TV star more than a decade ago who died mysteriously following a scandal relating to both of them. It’s a film that is an exploration of fame and celebrity as well as how his stardom won the affections of a young boy who would write corresponding letters with him that eventually would cause trouble. It’s an idea that is interesting yet Xavier Dolan and co-writer Jacob Tierney create a script that is overwhelmed with ideas but with not much to say as the result is something extremely messy and overblown. Notably as its narrative moved back and forth into the story of its titular character (Kit Harrington) and his young fan in Rupert Turner (Jacob Tremblay) while the older Rupert (Ben Schnetzer) talks about everything to the journalist Audrey Newhouse (Thandiwe Newton).

The script opens with the news of John F. Donovan’s death and Rupert’s reaction as he is watching it on TV at a coffee house with his mother Sam (Natalie Portman) as it would be the start of a non-linear reflective narrative where the older Rupert talks to Newhouse about the book he wrote. Yet, Dolan and Tierney chooses to create a parallel narrative about Donovan’s rise and his need to keep his homosexuality a secret while the young Rupert is striving to become a young actor inspired by Donovan despite the homophobic abuse he receives from classmates. It’s a narrative that showcases both Donovan and Rupert’s own issues with their mothers but also their own struggles with who they are yet it is a narrative that tends to overwhelm itself with the older Rupert coming across as someone who has become an asshole. Especially as it features various characters in their lives with the exception of a few who are either underwritten or played as clichés.

Dolan’s direction definitely has ambition and a look that plays into this world of celebrity though it is largely set in three different cities such as New York City, London, and Prague as much of the film is shot on location in Montreal. While many of Dolan’s compositions are straightforward, there are elements of style in some of the scenes he shoots as it play into some of the film’s melodrama. There are some wide and medium shots in not just scopes of the locations but also in some intimate moments with the latter as it play into conversations including scenes that play into the lives of Donovan and the young Rupert as they struggle with their own issues as well as their own parallel relationships with their mother. Yet, there are these moments in the film where Dolan’s approach to melodrama does create scenes that are either cheesy or just overwrought such as a scene where Donovan visits his mother Grace (Susan Sarandon) for Thanksgiving as Donovan is accompanied by his wife Amy (Emily Hampshire) and his brother James (Jared Keeso) as it becomes this overblown moment of Grace feeling unappreciated while she’s drunk as Donovan gets angry over his uncle being an asshole.

It’s not just that sequence that feels overwritten as well as a scene where Rupert’s corresponding letters were discovered after a homophobic classmate stole them where Rupert had to break into the boy’s house to get it back. It’s also scenes where the older Rupert talks to Newhouse about ethics where he comes off as entitled as it’s another scene that doesn’t work. Dolan also puts in an odd scene where an old man (Michael Gambon) gives Donovan some advice late in the film where it is a strange moment that never feels earned as it would be followed by a scene of Donovan at his mother’s house where he and his brother are singing Lifehouse’s Hanging By a Moment that feels tacked on and never adds anything to the story. For a film that is meant to be this exploration of scandal, misunderstanding, and celebrity, Dolan not only doesn’t say anything new but he also dwells into clichés that doesn’t feel earned nor does it help the story in general. Overall, Dolan crafts an overwritten and baffling film about a young man reflecting on his time as a kid corresponding letters to a troubled TV star.

Cinematographer Andre Turpin does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as its emphasis on low-key lighting and lack of vibrant colors do add to the film’s dramatic tone despite its messy narrative. Editors Xavier Dolan and Mathieu Denis do fine work with the editing where it does have elements of style though some of it do go overboard to play into some major dramatic moments. Production designers Anne Pritchard and Colombe Raby do fantastic work with the look of the home that Donovan’s mother live in as well as the school and home that the young Rupert goes to in London. Costume designers Michele Clapton and Pierre-Yves Gayraud do nice work with the costumes as it has some style in the clothes that Donovan wears while much of it is just casual.

Hair/makeup designer Jan Archibald does terrific work with the look of Sam with her hairstyle as well as the look of a few other characters to play into the world that Rupert and Donovan are in. Special effects supervisor Guillaume Murray and visual effects supervisor Jean-Francois Ferland do some OK with the film’s visual effects for scenes relating to the TV show Donovan is in as well as some set-dressing for some of the film’s locations. Sound designer Sylvain Brassard does superb work with the sound in the way music is played on a car radio to the atmosphere of a few party scenes as well as some sparse moments in the dramatic aspects of the film. The film’s music by Gabriel Yared is good for some of the lush orchestral score pieces that does play into the drama though it does have moments where it does feel overdone while the music soundtrack that features music from Cat Power, Adele, P!nk, Lifehouse, and the Verve do have their moments as it play into the period of the mid-2000s yet some feel used in the most clichéd ways.

The casting by Carmen Cuba is wonderful despite the fact that the cast wasn’t given strong material to work with as small roles from Jane Wheeler and Susan Almgren as two of Donovan’s aunts, Craig Eldridge as Donovan’s asshole uncle Patrick, Lukas Rolfe as the young Rupert’s homophobic classmate Cedric, Sarah Gadon as one of Donovan’s co-stars in Liz Jones, Jared Keeso as Donovan’s older brother James, and Chris Zylka in a somewhat-bland performance as an actor in Will Jefford Jr. who would have a thing with Donovan as he’s never given anything to do. Michael Gambon’s one-scene performance as a man who gives Donovan advice is amazing despite the fact that the scene made no sense while Emily Hampshire’s performance as Donovan’s wife Amy is severely underwritten as someone who never really says a lot in the film.

Kathy Bates and Amara Karan are excellent in their respective roles as Donovan’s manager Barbara Haggermaker and Rupert’s schoolteacher Miss Kureshi with the former being a no-nonsense manager who does what she can for Donovan but not put up with his bullshit while the latter is a kind-hearted teacher who believes that Rupert is gifted. Ben Schnetzer’s performance as the 21-year old Rupert is terrible as he switches between a British and American accent every now and then where he comes off as a real douche bag in how he talks about his past and observations while Thandiwe Newton manages to be solid as the journalist Audrey Newhouse as she just plays it straight and not putting up with some of the bullshit. Susan Sarandon has her moments as Donovan’s mother Grace in quieter moments though the scenes where she is melodramatic is her over-acting a bit.

Natalie Portman is superb as Rupert’s mother Sam as a woman who is baffled by her son’s relationship with Donovan through the letters where Portman does show some realism in the mother world despite some of the clichéd dramatic tropes she had to endure. Kit Harrington’s performance in the titular role is a mess as it does have moments of someone that is struggling with his identity but Harrington is unfortunately hindered by clichés that never allows his character to be fully engaging. Finally, there’s Jacob Tremblay in an incredible performance as the young Rupert Turner where Tremblay displays this air of energy and enthusiasm to the role but also someone who is just trying to understand the ways of the world as he is the only real highlight of the film.

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is a horrendous film from Xavier Dolan. Despite the performances of Jacob Tremblay, Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, and Amara Karan, the film is unfortunately bogged down by too many ideas in its study of celebrity and identity by favoring melodrama and tacked on moments that never says anything. It is a film that had a unique idea but fails in its execution where it dwells too much into convention while never going into places that could’ve done more with its subject matter. In the end, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is an absolute failure from Xavier Dolan.

Xavier Dolan Films: I Killed My Mother - Heartbeats (2010 film) - Laurence Anyways - Tom at the Farm - Mommy (2014 film) - (It’s Only the End of the World) – (Matthias & Maxime) – The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

 

For the 23rd week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of the worst book to movie adaptations as it should be noted that books and films are a different medium. Films will never be like the books themselves though sometimes both can succeed while a film can improve on what a book is trying to do. Then there’s just books that are revered that lead to some horrendous film adaptations. Here are my three picks:

1. Fahrenheit 451
Francois Truffaut is definitely one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th Century yet the French filmmaker’s only English-language film in Ray Bradbury’s adaptation is definitely the worst film he did. While it is faithful to the book, it’s just that it’s not interesting while Truffaut was way out of his element in a film that never comes together as a story while the fact that he’s making a film in English that is against his own sensibilities as a storyteller makes the whole film an awkward and unsettling experience that isn’t helped by awful visual effects and dialogue that is unrealistic with its lead Oskar Werner giving a dull performance.

2. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of Tom Robbins’ feminist novel about a woman with big mutated thumbs traveling in her search for free love as the novel was considered something of a big deal among the LGBTQ community. Yet, the film is one of Van Sant’s worst efforts mainly because it tries to capture many of the whimsical elements of the book as well as its themes. Unfortunately, it ends up being extremely pretentious, self-indulgent, and nonsensical where its lead in Uma Thurman is overwhelmed by the messiness of the film while its ensemble cast that includes John Hurt, Keanu Reeves, Lorraine Bracco, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Angie Dickinson, and so many others are never really fleshed out as real characters.

3. The Scarlet Letter
If there is an example of what not to do in adapting a book into a film, Roland Joffe’s 1995 adaptation of the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel about adultery is an example. The film was largely made as an excuse for Demi Moore to do nude scenes, have sex with Gary Oldman, and make Robert Duvall look foolish as it never goes into the themes of adultery like the book did. Instead, it plays off as some form of unintentional comedy where everyone looks ridiculous and there is no sympathy for everyone. It is truly a fucking piece of shit.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, June 07, 2021

Boy Erased

 

Based on the memoir by Garrad Conley, Boy Erased is the story of a teenage boy who is sent to a gay conversion therapy center by his Baptist parents as he struggles with his sexuality while his parents cope with the decision they made. Written for the screen and directed by Joel Edgerton who also co-stars in the film, the film is an exploration of a young man who learns that he’s gay as he has trouble trying to not be who he is while befriending those struggling with their own sexual identity. Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Madelyn Cline, and Michael “Flea” Balzary. Boy Erased is a compelling and somber film from Joel Edgerton.

Set in the early to late 2000s, the film revolves around an 18-year old boy whose father is a Baptist preacher as he is sent to a gay conversion therapy center where he struggles with its teachings. It’s a film that explores a young man dealing with his own sexual identity as he is sent to this gay conversion therapy center where he would spend much of the day in classes and then stay at a nearby hotel with his mother at night. Joel Edgerton’s screenplay has a narrative that follows the trials and tribulation of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) as the narrative moves back and forth on his time at the conversion therapy center as well as events that questioned about his homosexuality where Eamons tries to understand what got him into this place. Notably an incident in college where he was raped by a student named Henry (Joe Alwyn) who immediately regretted his actions yet would out Eamons to his parents.

For Eamons, the time at the center under the supervision of Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) proves to be challenging as a couple of the attendees give Eamons advice on what to do and what not to do to get through this. Though he is ordered to not share anything about what he has to do at the center, Eamons’ mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) does become concerned as she gets a look into the program’s handbook. While Eamons’ father in Marshall (Russell Crowe) is someone with good intentions and does want to help his son. He is someone that is from another world and doesn’t understand how to really help him as it does create a discord in his relationship with his son while being unaware of what really goes on at the center.

Edgerton’s direction is straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates as he is concerned with the world that Eamons is in which is the American South in Arkansas as it also showcases this world of gay conversion therapy centers that really try to suppress homosexuality. Shot largely on location in Atlanta with additional shots in New York City for a scene late in the third act, Edgerton does maintain a lot of simplicity into his compositions while he uses the wide and medium shots not just to get a scope of a certain location or a room but also into some of the therapy sessions that Victor tries to instill upon his attendees. There are also some close-ups to play into some of the intimate moments as well as medium shots where Edgerton would play into Eamons’ relationship with his parents as they are concerned with his mother being the one trying to understand what is happening. There are also a few tracking shots in scenes at Marshall’s car dealership as well as areas in the therapy center where Edgerton does infuse a bit of style. Still, Edgerton maintains that sense of unease in the drama such as a confessions scene where an attendee has to do a speech about his or her feelings and why that person is at the center.

Edgerton also play into the sense of growing discomfort that also include some of Eamons’ flashbacks about his arrival in college where he met Henry as well as a time where he went to an art show and met an artist. These two flashbacks along with a scene in high school with his then-girlfriend Chloe (Madelyn Cline) do emphasize his growing sexual confusion while there is also a scene in the third act where Eamons watches uncomfortably when an attendee in Cameron (Britton Sear) is accosted for failing an exercise and is then humiliated in front of family, attendees, and others in a scene that is just terrifying. It is a key moment in the film that raises questions into these methods that Sykes and his group are doing with an even more troubling aftermath that would affect Eamons and his relationship with his father though its conclusion is more about the chance of understanding and reconciliation. Overall, Edgerton crafts a riveting yet heart-wrenching film about a young man’s experience at a gay conversion therapy center.

Cinematographer Eduard Grau does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it has elements of style with its emphasis on low-key lights for some of the scenes at night as well as some interior scenes in the day. Editor Jay Rabinowitz does brilliant work with the editing as it features stylish usage of jump-cuts as well as a slow-motion sequence while. Production designer Chad Keith, with set decorators Mallorie Coleman and Adam Willis plus art director Jonathan Guggenheim, does amazing work with the look of the center including its main hall as well as the home where Eamons and his family live in. Costume designer Trish Summerville does fantastic work with the costumes that is mostly casual with the exception of the clothes that Nancy wears.

Makeup artist Kyra Panchenko does nice work with the look of Nancy from her hairstyle as it play into that world of the American South. Visual effects supervisors Eran Dinur and Chris LeDoux do terrific work with the film’s minimal visual effects as it is largely set dressing in some parts of the film’s location. Sound editor Glenfield Payne does superb work with the sound in capturing the sparse atmosphere of the center in its main hall as well as the way music is presented on the radio or at a concert. The film’s music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrians is wonderful for orchestral score that help plays into the drama while music supervisor Linda Cohen assembles a soundtrack that features some Christian music and Christian rock but also music from MGMT, Fleet Foxes, Jonsi, Underworld, Tracy Lawrence, Seether, and Troye Sivan.

The casting by Carmen Cuba is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Madelyn Cline as Eamons’ girlfriend early in the film Chloe, Jesse LaTourette as a female attendee at the center in Sarah, Theodore Pellerin as an artist Eamons met in Xavier, Britton Sear as a young center attendee in Cameron who is struggling with the methods of the program, Troye Sivan as an attendee in Gary who tells Eamons to stick with the program and not be noticed, and Cherry Jones as a doctor in a flashback who is concerned with Eamons’ decision to go to the center as she suggests that it’s best to not go. Xavier Dolan is superb as an attendee in Jon who is hell-bent on being fixed as he refuses to be touched while Michael “Flea” Balzary is fantastic as a tough-minded counselor in Brandon who emphasizes on masculinity to help out with the therapy through some extreme physical challenges. Joe Alwyn is excellent as Henry as a young college student Eamons meets where things don’t exactly go well as he would end up making things worse.

Joel Edgerton is brilliant as Victor Sykes as the director of the conversion therapy center who believes he is trying to help these young people as he is someone with good intentions but his methods end up being questionable and at times overwhelming to the point of abuse. Russell Crowe is amazing as Eamons’ father Marshall as a Baptist pastor who also runs an auto dealership who is concerned for his son yet is uncertain in what to do as Crowe does bring in this complexity into a man that does love his son but is also a man of God as he’s someone that is conflicted where Crowe plays him with great restraint as well as be someone that is full of fear though his heart is in the right place.

Nicole Kidman is radiant as Eamons’ mother Nancy as this air of warmth and understanding as a woman who does love her faith but she also loves her son as she accompanies him to the center while trying to figure out what they’re doing as Kidman just has this air of grace while knowing when to be the mama bear. Finally, there’s Lucas Hedges in a phenomenal performance as Jared Eamons as an 18-year old kid who is struggling with his sexual identity as well as his own experiences with homosexuality where he’s unsure if he’s done anything wrong while also dealing with the intense therapy sessions that has gotten him more confused as it is a career-defining performance from Hedges.

Boy Erased is an incredible film from Joel Edgerton that features great performances from Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman. Along with its supporting cast, amazing visuals, and its themes about sexual identity and its conflicts with faith, the film is a unique character study of a young man trying to understand himself but also in the world that he’s raised in and their reluctance to accept who he is. In the end, Boy Erased is a phenomenal film from Joel Edgerton.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Best Original & Adapted Screenplay Winners (Oscars Edition)

 

For the 22nd week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the Oscars in the form of winners of the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Everything begins with an idea that is put into paper or into a computer for a writer or a bunch of writers to create something that is based on their own idea or from a book or another source. Here are my three picks as they’re all films made in the 2010s (apologies to women writers that I didn’t pick):

Best Original Screenplay

Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen’s whimsical comedy about a writer who travels with his fiancée and her family to Paris is truly one of the most unexpected surprises from Allen who had spent much of the 2000s delivering a few hits but also some serious duds. This film is definitely in line with not just his best films but a story that is just full of wonder where the writer finds himself traveling in time to Paris in the 1930s and meeting all sorts of characters including T.S. Elliot, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and so much more as it just a film that is full of joy and laughs. If this is the last great movie Allen would make, then at least he made a winner.

Spike Jonze-Her
Spike Jonze’s 2013 romantic-drama is an unusual film as it explores a man dealing with divorce as he falls for an AI program with the voice of Scarlett Johansson. It is a film that plays into the idea of loneliness and heartbreak as it features Joaquin Phoenix in a career-defining performance as well as a story that plays into the soul of the machine. Especially as it showcases the world where technology begins to showcase more emotions but also this confusion into the idea of what living is.

Jordan Peele-Get Out
Before this film, Jordan Peele was known mainly for his work on the sketch-comedy TV show Key and Peele with Keegan-Michael Key as they would flirt with horror in some of their sketches. It is this film that showcases why Peele can do so much more as it is about an African-American man who meets his white girlfriend’s family and scary shit happens. It is a film about some of the dangerous aspects of racism and what some white people will do to keep black people down as it is truly an original idea that truly deserved its Oscar win for Jordan Peele.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Aaron Sorkin-The Social Network
The story about the founding of Facebook is definitely an unlikely film that plays into the work that Aaron Sorkin has done where much of his work was political-based yet it also had a lot of dialogue that often kept those films and TV programs interesting. In this film made with David Fincher at the helm, Sorkin’s writing with a non-linear script as it plays into the creation of Facebook and how its founders would fuck each other over and such as it also feature some incredible dialogue. It is definitely a creative peak for Sorkin as well as giving Fincher his most accessible film to date.

Adam McKay & Charles Randolph-The Big Short
Adam McKay is known mainly for comedies but in his collaboration with Charles Randolph about the story of the 2007-2008 financial collapse is a film with humor but it is more about the events and moves that lead to this financial collapse as it follow three different storylines. Yet, the film also feature some witty commentaries from celebrities who simplify certain language on the world of finance as there is also a richness to what McKay and Randolph have created but also with a humanistic story.

Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charles Wachtel, & Kevin Willmott-BlackKklansman
Spike Lee’s adaptation of the real-life story of Ron Stallsworth as this black police officer who pretends to be a white man via phone call in order to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. The film isn’t just a drama full of wit but also a film that is timely in its initial release during a period of racial discord spurred by the then-dictator of the United States at that time. Yet, Lee and his co-writers did create a film that explores a period in its time but also in showcasing who are the people in the KKK but also the people who are just trying to do some good in the world as it is a major achievement for Lee.

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