Summer is nearly coming to an end yet it feels like the heat isn’t going away literally but also figuratively. What’s happening in Afghanistan is awful as the Taliban and ISIS are creating chaos as it’s starting to overwhelm the world while the possibility of another pandemic is emerging thanks in part to a bunch of stupid people. You have to be a real imbecile to listen to the likes of Rob Schneider, Jenny McCarthy, Tucker Carlson and his cronies at FOX News and every other idiot that is spouting this rhetoric as they don’t give a fuck about the safety of others. Now Eric Clapton has released a song that spouts anti-vaccination bullshit as he is someone I’d rather not listen to these days as I hope he gets shunned by his peers who at least do express concern for the safety of others. Especially as tours have been cancelled including Nine Inch Nails who were planning to play two shows in Cleveland and festival dates as I’m glad they chose to put safety first rather than getting someone sick because some moron didn’t get vaccinated and is spreading COVID on everyone.
If I had money, I would love to go to concerts but I too prefer to be safe and keep people safe yet it is filled with a sense of melancholia with the recent passing of Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. Two years ago, my dad was hoping to see the Rolling Stones in Jacksonville before he passed but the show got cancelled because of Mick Jagger’s illness as that put a real bummer for me as well. Now that Watts have passed, the idea of never getting to see the Stones has become more of a reality as I can’t imagine seeing this legendary band without the man who was their heartbeat. I am aware of who Steve Jordan is and I know he’s a great drummer but it’s not going to feel the same as Watts had a feel in his playing that is unique and of his own. This was a man that wasn’t about the solos but rather laying a certain foundation and groove to the songs as I can’t imagine the greatness of those songs without those drums. A great band is defined by those who bring something to a song as I knew the Stones were always evolving through those that played with them. They had evolved yet there was a constant in that sound and Watts was one of those individuals that defined them.
It really does make me sad that I will never see him play as he was my favorite member of the Stones because he was the coolest guy in the band. He didn’t just play the part but he dressed the part as well and kept everyone in check. To me, this is the end of an era in popular music as the passing of Joey Jordison of Slipknot, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, and reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry has shown me that a lot of the music that has defined my life and my father’s life is coming to an end. Not on digital music services as I just signed up on Spotify (which I’m enjoying) but rather on a live setting as I’m hoping to see some of these older acts sooner than later like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Elton John, Deep Purple, Bob Dylan, Genesis, and someone from Pink Floyd while also hoping to see Radiohead once in my life before I pass.
In the world of professional wrestling, I never thought it would happen as I was content with CM Punk not returning to the world of professional wrestling after everything that happened to him in Meekmahan-land yet there were reports he was coming back. I was like “yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll wait till I see it” as it then became more real as I watched AEW Rampage (which is a decent show so far) as the moment Living Colour’s Cult of Personality hit. I heard the loudest fucking pop ever on TV as I was like “WHAT!?” Then, he arrived out of the tunnel and in front of more than 15,000 people at the United Center in his home city of Chicago as it was a moment that wrestling fans will never forget. For all of the talk from Meekmahan-land and their Tribal Chief Roman Reigns claiming Punk never moved the needle. Well, in comparison to John Cena, Cunt Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Crock… definitely but he only became successful in that slop-shop in spite of them. The fact that more than a million people on TV saw him return is proof he didn’t just move the needle. He is the fucking needle.
I’ve been already enjoying AEW since its inception and I’m happy that pro wrestling is starting to feel important again with Bryan Danielson also coming to AEW as I feel like another god is going to arrive. NWA has also been making waves with their return to St. Louis in reviving an old tradition in doing shows at the Chase Hotel where they did a double-show with the first being an all-women’s PPV event produced by Mickie James that has gotten rave reviews and is proof that women’s wrestling matters as it brought people from different wrestling companies together while NWA’s follow-up 73rd anniversary show is already being a success with Trevor Murdoch defeating Nick Aldis for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship after Aldis’ reign of nearly 1043 days with Ric Flair being the one to present Murdoch with this prestigious championship that has regained its importance in the past few years. The top prize in pro wrestling in my opinion is the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship from New Japan with AEW’s World Heavyweight Championship in second and then the NWA.
The fact that you have NWA, AEW, Impact, AAA, New Japan, and other companies including the independents and the hardcore wrestling scene such as GCW is making pro wrestling fun again while also wanting to ensure that audiences get vaccinated and be safe instead of being that slop-shop at Stamford who want to make a lot of money by making their audiences watch shitty shows and false advertise while knowing one of their performers was struck with COVID and didn’t tell anyone she wasn’t showing up until the last minute. It makes me hopeful that all of these professional wrestling companies come together and put Meekmahan-land out of business.
In the month of August, I saw a total of 26 films in 11 first-timers and 15 re-watches with three of those first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. An improvement over the past few months as it feels like a return to normal of sorts despite having to take care of a 5-month old girl who likes the Bee Gees and a two-year old who left pre-school because the school is shit as they weren’t ready for his energy. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in The Hitch-Hiker. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for August 2021:
A short I watched on Disney+ with my niece and nephew is a film that takes place during the events of Frozen but told from the perspective of Olaf after Elsa had created him. It is about what happened upon his creation and what he was doing before he meets Anna, Kristoff, and Sven where it is a short filled with humor but also fascinating ideas on existentialism. It is a short that is a lot better than it should’ve been but also with a lot of heart and humor with latter referring to Olaf trying to find his nose.
With the buzz surrounding the recent Palme d’Or win for Julia Doucournau and her film Titane which is set to come out in the U.S. later this year. The timing couldn’t be any better for her 2011 short film to be shown to a wider audience on YouTube. Starring Doucournau regular Garance Marillier as a teenage tomboy dealing with puberty. The short film is truly something that really needs to be seen as it deals with growing pains as well as what happens to a young girl when she starts to embrace her femininity with elements of body horror. For anyone that wants to see Titane and haven’t seen Raw, see this film now.
Let Me Come In
An experimental short film from Bill Morrison that I saw on Turner Classic Movies is one of the strangest yet fascinating short films I had seen. It is essentially a presentation of decayed reels from a lost silent film from Germany in Pawns of Passion where Morrison presents with some new music and uses the decayed fragments of this film. Yet, it is something that needs to be sought out as well as being a nice introduction to the work of Bill Morrison who uses fragments of lost silent films that are decayed to showcase cinema that is lost but also its history.
Linda and the Mockingbirds
A documentary short film by James Keach that serves as a follow-up of sorts to Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice as it follows Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and Eugene Rodriguez on a trip from California to Mexico as it plays into Mexican-Americans traveling to Mexico to explore the roots of the music. It also reflects on an album in the late 80s that Ronstadt made that was based on Mexican roots music and mariachi music. While Ronstadt is unable to sing due to her Parkinson’s disease, she does remain this guiding light for these young musicians as a lot of them are children with Browne being an outsider who was a crucial part to the film in bringing his own perspective. Notably as he talks about the similarities between Mexican and American folk music as it is something for fans of Ronstadt need to see.
What If…? (Episodes 1-3)
While it is so far the weakest show from the MCU, it is still an incredible animated show that Marvel has produced as it play into alternate ideas of what if this happened instead of what would really happen that audiences know and love. The first episode that involves Peggy Carter becoming Captain Carter is a lot of fun as it does feature some humor thanks to the voice work of Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, and Dominic Cooper reprising their roles. Yet, it’s the second and third episodes that are so far the strongest with the former being about T’Challa as Star-Lord as it features an incredible voice performance from Chadwick Boseman in one of his final performances as he is a way cooler version of Star-Lord. The third episode is about Nick Fury’s recruitment of the Avengers and a mysterious assassin who is trying to kill them off where Fury has to make an uneasy alliance with Loki. It is a fun show to watch as I’m eager to see what else they can do.
Well, that’s it for August. Next month, I will hopefully do a review of Annette as I also have a ticket to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings along with other new releases. Along with films in my new never-ending DVR list, I hope to watch some films from whatever streaming services I have along with a film from the Blind Spot Series. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…
Directed and edited by George Lucas and screenplay by Lucas and Walter Murch from a story by Lucas that is based on his own short film, THX 1138 is the story of a man who falls in love with a woman during a dystopian world run by an android police force and mandatory drug use to suppress emotions. The film is a sci-fi drama set in a dystopian world where a man comes out of this state as he deals with the chaos around him. Starring Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Maggie McOmie, Don Pedro Colley, and Ian Wolfe. THX 1138 is a sprawling and engaging film from George Lucas.
Set in the 25th Century where humanity live in a dystopian underground where everyone has their head shaved, wear the same white clothes, take drugs to suppress their emotions, and all work in a factory to create androids as the police force. The film revolves around a man named THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) who becomes ill during his work as he starts to become emotional as his living partner notices as they fall in love where trouble ensues once he starts to rebel. It’s a film with a simple premise as screenwriters George Lucas and Walter Murch play into a man who works to create androids as he starts to act erratically as his mate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) works in surveillance notices his illness as she starts to feel for him where the two fall in love and have sex as the latter is considered taboo. This would put both of them in trouble as another surveillance officer in SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance) offers to be THX’s new roommate but things eventually go wrong as THX stop using drugs as it starts off a chain of events that would put himself, LUH, and SEN in trouble.
Lucas’ direction does bear some style in the way he presents this dystopian world as it is shot largely at the Zoetrope Studios in San Francisco along with a few areas nearby. Lucas maintains a world that is cold in its presentation but also futuristic as it play into a world where everyone is watched with surveillance footage being prevalent throughout the film. Yet, it opens strangely with an episode of a sci-fi TV show from the 1950s/1960s as it play to into this idea of what the future would be like yet Lucas would then showcase a future that isn’t pleasant at all. The wide shots do play into this massive dystopian world including the factories with medium shots showcasing the surveillance room and rooms that the people live in as there’s also a bit of claustrophobic feel to how small the homes that THX and LUH live in that also include a living room where they would watch holographic programming including pornography through a machine that helps THX masturbate.
Also serving as the film’s editor with additional help from his then-wife Marcia, Lucas does put in bits of style in the editing with a few jump-cuts and dissolves while also playing up to the film’s suspense that includes a tense scene of THX having a blackout of sorts during work as it is this chilling moment of him losing control and the surveillance people trying to get him back on track. Lucas also play up the idea of what happen to those who stray from the rules as the setting in this white prison where it is vast and inescapable showcase a man that is stuck in the middle of this large white room. Yet, it would serve as the catalyst for THX to make sense of the world he’s in as there are also some revelations for those he had met and befriended where they endure some serious challenges. Even in the climax where Lucas does maintain the suspense of what is out there that THX is trying to find and see if there is a world that is better than the one he and so many others are living in. Especially as there’s another character who is trying to make sense as he would encounter children and later contemplate his own fate. Overall, Lucas crafts a mesmerizing yet eerie film about a man living in a dystopian world where emotions are suppressed.
Cinematographers David Myers and Albert Kihn do amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of lights for many of the interiors including bright white for the white room scene and low-key shades for some of the interior scenes in the surveillance room. Art director Michael D. Holler does brilliant work with the look of the film including some of the factory interiors and the rooms that the people live in as well as the design of the android police force. Visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr., for the 2004 restored/director’s cut edition, does nice work as it is largely minimal that includes bits of scenes in the factory.
The sound work of Walter Murch, with additional sound design by Tom Myers for the 2004 restored/director’s cut edition, does excellent work with the sound as it adds to the atmosphere of the film along with the montages that Murch has created that is an early example of sound design with Myers adding broader mixes for the 2004 edition of the film. The film’s music by Lalo Schifrin is fantastic for its wondrous orchestral score with lush strings and choirs that includes variations of classical music as it help add to the film’s suspenseful moments.
The casting by Ann Brebner is wonderful as it features a voice appearance from David Odgen Stiers as a computerized voice, Ian Wolfe as an old prisoner THX and SEN meet, the trio of Marshall Efron, John Pearce, and Sid Haig as prisoners that THX meets, James Wheaton as the voice of a god-like figure that everyone confesses to, and Don Pedro Colley as a hologram actor that THX and SEN would later meet in the film’s third act as he would be someone that would help them escape. Maggie McOmie is excellent as LUH 3417 as THX’s mate who lives with him as she falls for him only to get themselves in trouble as she also causes trouble through her own actions that would put THX in deeper shit. Donald Pleasence is brilliant as SEN 5241 as a surveillance official who watches THX and LUH where he tries to help the former to not get into bigger trouble only to get himself in trouble as he tries to understand the world he’s in as well as pondering his own existence. Finally, there’s Robert Duvall in an amazing performance as the titular character as a man who becomes ill and suddenly stops taking drugs and rebels where he deals with the world he’s in as well as his own emotional vices as it is this low-key yet mesmerizing performance from Duvall.
THX 1138 is a phenomenal film from George Lucas. Featuring a great ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, an eerie music score, and a simple yet chilling premise of a dystopian world. The film is definitely a unique sci-fi suspense drama that play into the idea of de-humanization and consumerism in which the individual doesn’t have a choice only for that individual to rebel in the hopes to find something better. In the end, THX 1138 is a sensational film from George Lucas.
Directed by Ida Lupino and written by Lupino and Collier Young from a story by Daniel Mainwaring and adapted by Robert L. Joseph, The Hitch-Hiker is the story of two friends who pick up a hitch-hiker unaware that he’s a sociopath who has taken them hostage as the two friends try to escape from this man. Based on the real-life killing spree by Billy Cook as it is a suspense drama that play into two friends who deal with the presence of a man who is intent on bringing fear. Starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, and William Talman. The Hitch-Hiker is a riveting and chilling film from Ida Lupino.
The film is about a hitch-hiker who is on a killing spree as he kills those who pick up him as he is then picked up by two men who are in Mexico on a fishing trip as they become aware of who they just picked up as they cope with the situation they’re in. It is a film with a simple premise as it play into these two men who find themselves picking up a sociopath with a gun as he orders them to do thing they’re not comfortable with in a land where barely anyone speaks English. The film’s screenplay by Ida Lupino and Collier Young is straightforward yet it opens with a montage of the series of murders committed by Emmett Myers (William Talman) who kills his victims whenever they resist, take their money, and their car until the car runs out of gas and then hitch-hikes to be picked up by anyone else who would become victims.
For Roy Collins (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert Bowens (Frank Lovejoy), picking up Myers and then realizing who he is would be a decision these two men have to cope with. Even as they realize how controlling he is and how they can’t even escape whenever they’re sleeping as it adds to the dramatic suspense. There is also a subplot involving U.S. and Mexican police forces trying to find Myers as well as discovering that Collins and Bowens are taken hostage as the Mexican police would ask locals as it would lead to some major discoveries.
Lupino’s direction does bear some style from the opening sequence of images of faceless victims lying dead as well as stock footage of police cars on the chase as it play into the severity of the situation that Collins and Bowens are to face. Shot largely on location in desert areas in California, Lupino does use some wide shots to play into the scope of the locations yet maintains a simplistic approach to play into the sense of terror that occurs in the film through medium shots and close-ups. Lupino’s usage of medium shots for the scenes of the three principle characters in the car doesn’t just play into the suspense along with scenes outside the car where Myers is often seen from the overhead looking at Collins and Bowers sleeping on their sleeping bags as the two men watch in fear.
Lupino also uses the locations such as the desert to play into the setting that is unforgiving as it adds to the drama where Myers maintains a sense of control while Collins and Bowers are dealing with injuries, lack of resources, and being threatened with death. Even in scenes set in the night as it play into the suspense that include the film’s climax as it relates to the destination that Myers wanted to go into as adds to the tension. Notably as it play into Myers being this man of threat and treating Collins and Bowers horrifically to the point that the two men deal with the fact that he is a madman that needs to be stopped. Overall, Lupino crafts a gripping and unsettling film about two men who are taken hostage by a scary hitchhiker.
Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into its low-budget aesthetics with its somewhat-grainy presentation that does add to the sense of terror and realism into the film for much of the exterior scenes in the day and night. Editor Douglas Stewart does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense along with bits of transition wipes and dissolves to add to the drama. Art directors Albert S. D’Agostino and Walter E. Keller, with set decorators Harley Miller and Darrell Silvera, do fantastic work with the look of the grocery stores and cantinas that the three men stop at as well as the gas station and the port in the film’s climax.
The sound work of Roy Meadows and Clem Portman is superb for the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sounds of gunfire and such that add to the suspense. The film’s music by Leith Stevens is amazing for its soaring orchestral score that play into the suspense and sense of terror with loud and bombastic strings as it adds to the film’s unsettling tone.
The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from radio announcer Wendell Niles as himself, Jean Del Val as an inspector, Clark Howat as a government agent who works with the Mexican authorities, Natvidad Vacio as a man named Jose who gives Myers the name of a boat he can use, and Jose Torvay as Captain Alvarado as the leader of the Mexican police in the search for Myers. Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy are incredible in their respective roles as Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen as two men who are going on a fishing trip until they pick up Myers where they deal with their situation as well as try to escape with O’Brien as the more sensible Collins who is able to speak Spanish while Lovejoy as the latter is a skilled mechanic who would also deal with the brunt of Myers’ physical abuse. Finally, there’s William Talman in a phenomenal performance as Emmett Myers as this sociopathic serial killer who hitch-hikes his way to Mexico as he brings terror to these two men as well as being someone that isn’t a fool while can also do things to instill fear as he is one of the most chilling figures to ever grace the cinema.
The Hitch-Hiker is a tremendous film from Ida Lupino that features great performances from William Talman, Edmond O’Brien, and Frank Lovejoy. Along with its eerie visuals, minimalist premise, a haunting music score, and its sense of terror, the film is definitely a neo-noir film that doesn’t play by convention while being a study of two men being held hostage by a madman. In the end, The Hitch-Hiker is a spectacular film from Ida Lupino.
Ida Lupino Films: (Not Wanted) – (Never Fear) – Outrage – (Hard, Fast, and Beautiful) – The Bigamist – (The Trouble with Angels)
For the 33rd week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We delve into the subject of treasure hunts as it play into a group of people trying to find a mysterious treasure while also use it as a bonding experience or be destroyed by greed. Here are my three picks:
1. Enemy Gold
Part of the legendary Bullets, Bombs, and Babes film series from Andy Sidaris is a film directed by his son Christian Drew Sidaris about a team of secret agents trying to find missing Confederate gold before a group of bad guys get it first and sell it for a shitload of money. It’s a typical B-movie fare but Christian manages to capture much of his father’s tropes of gratuitous violence, thrilling action, comedy, girls in bikinis, and most of all, boobs. This is a film, like many of Sidaris’ work, never take themselves seriously as it adds to the entertainment quality while what straight-laced young man couldn’t enjoy seeing Playboy Playmate Suzi Simpson shooting a crossbow in a thong or the late, great Penthouse Pet Julie Strain wielding a samurai sword topless? Good times.
2. King of California
An overlooked gem of a film starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood as an estranged father-daughter duo with the former playing a mentally-ill musician who believes he knows where some lost treasure is as he seeks the help from the latter. There, they discover that the treasure is buried under a Costco as a series of misadventures ensue yet Douglas and Wood make the film such a joy to watch. Even as it play into a young woman coming to terms with her father’s illness and her own faults.
Taika Waititi’s sophomore feature film is definitely a film audiences need to seek out more as it is a comedy-tragedy film as it relates to a young boy whose father returns home unaware that his father has returned to find lost treasure he had hidden while being away. Really, it’s a film about a boy dealing with growing pains and the death of his mother years ago as well as this fantasy of what his father might be doing when he was away. It is a film that blur the lines between reality and fiction for the titular character as it has Waititi play the father who is a man that returned for selfish reasons yet has to face his own reality about the world he’s in and the fact that has a more important treasure to take care of.
Directed by Brian de Palma and screenplay by de Palma and Robert J. Avrech from a story by de Palma, Body Double is the story of a claustrophobic actor who house sits for a friend as he witnesses the murder of a neighbor as he tries to lure the killer with the help of a porn actress. The film is a study of obsession and voyeurism as a man watches in horror over a murder of a woman he had fallen for as he seeks the help of a porn actress to catch the killer. Starring Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd, Al Israel, and Dennis Franz. Body Double is a thrilling and stylish film from Brian de Palma.
The film follows an actor who loses a gig due to his claustrophobia and learns that his girlfriend is having an affair as he meets another actor who gives a job to house-sit a home for him where he peeps at a neighbor across the street who would later be murdered. It is a film that play into a man who falls for this woman who was dancing erotically as she mimicked the moves of a porn actress whom he would later hire to get him to solve this mystery. The film’s screenplay by Brian de Palma and Robert J. Avrech does play into the idea of voyeurism as the protagonist in struggling actor Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) meets another actor in Sam Brouchard (Gregg Henry) who is house-sitting a lavish home as he offers Scully to do the job as he’s set to go work outside of Los Angeles.
Brouchard would show Scully a house across from their home as they watch a woman dancing erotically through a telescope where Scully would later watch events where something is off as he would later follow this woman in Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton (with the voice of Helen Shaver)) who is aware she’s being followed as she’s also having issues with her husband. The day she and Scully meet where they’re seen by a mysterious man in a mask, Scully admits to following her as he would later watch her that night where everything goes wrong. The screenplay definitely show that Scully is someone who meant well though being a voyeur to a murder scene didn’t help matters until he discovers a porn film starring Holly Body (Melanie Griffith) who dances in a similar manner that Gloria did where he seeks her help.
The direction of de Palma definitely emphasizes on style as it also borrows some of the visual styles of his favorite filmmaker in Alfred Hitchcock. Shot on location in Los Angeles and Hollywood, de Palma definitely uses its studio backlots, the Hollywood Hills, and other notable locations as characters in the film while the lavish home that Scully is house-sitting is this circular home with a spinning circular bed is the icing on the cake. While there are these intimate moments including some inventive usage of medium shots and close-ups as it play into the drama and suspense. It is de Palma’s usage of wide shots add to the visual quality such as a scene outside of a beachside motel where everything is presented in a wide shot where Gloria is in one part of the motel and Scully on the stairs following her. It is among these shots including a sequence in the mall just minutes before as it is about where the actors are in a part of the mall and such as it showcases de Palma’s usage of geography as it add to the suspense and drama.
The direction also has de Palma explore the subculture of pornography where Scully would audition to be in a film as he uses his acting skills to find and meet Holly leading to its third act. It’s a sequence at a porno film set that featured members of the 80s British pop act Frankie Goes to Hollywood as it is a moment where de Palma brings a bit of humor to a film that is dark. Notably in its climax as it play into the reveal of who has been stalking Gloria and why Scully had to be involved. There are also these stylish moments that play into Scully’s claustrophobia where de Palma create these shots as it adds to the drama including its climax as it mirrors the film’s first scene where Scully freezes during a film shoot because of his claustrophobia. It adds to the suspense and drama but also in how it play into the schematics that is often expected in suspense dramas. Overall, de Palma crafts an exhilarating and provocative film about a claustrophobic actor who teams with a porn actress to solve a murder that he witnessed.
Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish usage of lights for some of the film sets as well as the lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night along with some straightforward lighting for the daytime exterior scenes. Editors Gerald B. Greenberg and Bill Pankow do brilliant work with the editing with its usage of slow-motion and jump-cuts as well as an inventive montage in the third act that play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Ida Random, with set decorator Cloudia Rebar and art director William A. Elliott, does amazing work with the interior of the home that Scully house sits with its circular setting as well as the lavish home that Gloria lives in and the porno film set. Costume designer Gloria Gresham does fantastic work with the costumes from the sleazy clothes of the porn actors as well as the stylish designer dress that Gloria wears.
Special makeup effects artist Thomas R. Burman does terrific work with the makeup in some of the makeup that Scully wears in the film’s first scene as well as in the porno film set. Sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick does superb work with the sound as it help play into the suspense including the murder scene and the film’s climax. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio is incredible for its score with its lush orchestral piano pieces and other string themes as it also feature some chilling themes and some electronic pieces as the score is a major highlight of the film as its soundtrack includes a music video from a new wave band and a performance from Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
The casting by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Steven Bauer in an un-credited cameo as an assistant director for the porn film shoot, Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood as themselves in the porn shoot lip-syncing to their song, Barbara Crampton as Scully’s girlfriend Carol who cheats on him, David Haskell as Scully’s drama teacher, Larry “Flash” Jenkins as an assistant director at the horror film shoot, Al Israel as a porno film producer, Monte Landis as Scully’s agent, and Dennis Franz in a superb performance as a film director who is helming a horror film where Scully freezes due to his claustrophobia. Guy Boyd is fantastic as Detective Jim McLean who investigates the murder and questions Scully as he’s suspicious of him but also is smart enough to know that Scully isn’t the killer.
Deborah Shelton is excellent as Gloria Revelle as a rich woman who is being stalked by a mysterious masked figure who keeps coming to her home secretly as she is also into eroticism unaware she’s being watched with her voice dubbed by Helen Shaver. Melanie Griffith is brilliant as Holly Body as a porn actress who is this charming young woman that is also a lot smarter than people give her credit for while also being aware that she is playing a major part in this murder mystery due to the way Gloria dances. Gregg Henry is amazing as Sam Brouchard as an actor who asks Scully to house-sit a home for him as he’s away for a gig as he helps Scully out in getting a place to stay while also hoping to have Scully enjoy the view. Finally, there’s Craig Wasson in an incredible performance as Jake Scully as a struggling actor whose girlfriend cheated on him and doesn’t have a home as he takes a job for another actor only to find himself in deep shit while dealing with claustrophobia as it is a gripping and engaging performance from Wasson.
Body Double is a spectacular film from Brian de Palma. Featuring a great cast, dazzling visuals, a chilling mix of sex and violence, and Pino Donaggio’s luscious score. The film isn’t just one of de Palma’s quintessential films but also a unique suspense thriller that explores claustrophobia, voyeurism, and desire. In the end, Body Double is a sensational film from Brian de Palma.
Based on the play by Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden is the story of a woman who believes that a guest at her home is the man who had tortured her years ago as she seeks revenge on him. Directed by Roman Polanski and screenplay by Dorfman and Rafael Yglesias, the film is a mystery-drama that explores a woman dealing with trauma and confronting it at a man who supposedly had done something to her many years ago. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson. Death and the Maiden is a riveting and unsettling film from Roman Polanski.
Set mainly at a house in a peninsula in a South American country that just freed itself from years of dictatorship, the film revolves around a woman whose husband has been picked up by a man driving on the way to their house as she believes that this was the man who tortured her some years ago. It is a film that explores trauma as a woman who was once a political activist with her husband set to possibly work for the new president of their country that is reforming itself as they meet this man who maybe her tormentor. The film’s screenplay by Ariel Dorfman and Rafael Yglesias is largely straightforward as much of the action takes place in and out of this house during a stormy night where the power is out and only candles are lighting the house.
The script features a lot of monologues and conversations between its three principle characters in Paulina Escobar, her lawyer husband Gerardo (Stuart Wilson), and this man in Dr. Roberto Miranda (Ben Kingsley). Paulina is at home making dinner as Gerardo is late as he’s meeting the new president about a new job he has yet to accept while his car had a flat where he is picked up by Dr. Miranda. Dr. Miranda and Gerardo get along immensely yet Paulina recognizes Dr. Miranda’s voice and smell as she would steal his car and destroy it and then take Dr. Miranda hostage with Gerardo watching in horror as Paulina confronts Dr. Miranda about his past. Revelations are upon unveiled with Gerardo also trying to make sense of what happened including his own role as an activist back then as he and Paulina were lovers during that time she was taken prisoner where she was raped and tortured.
Roman Polanski’s direction is largely intimate for the fact that much of it takes place in a house near this cliff side area as it’s shot on location in Chile as it is based on the country’s then-recent history of dictatorship under the rule of Augusto Pinochet that had ended in 1990. While the film opens and ends with a string quartet playing Franz Schubert’s piece in which the film is named after as the piece is also a crucial plot point in the film. While there are wide shots to establish some wide shots in some of the film’s location outside of the house including a lighthouse shown from afar. Much of Polanski’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots to play into the space of the house as well as having gazing long shots that last a few minutes to play into the monologues and conversations between the characters. The usage of tracking shots and camera pans add to the visual language of the film where Polanski makes sure every room in the film is presented with great detail but also playing into this sense of claustrophobia as the tension rises between Dr. Miranda and Paulina. Polanski also play into the suspense and drama as the power outage and usage of candle lights add to the visual tone where it does feel chilling as it includes a moment where Dr. Miranda needed to pee as it is this uncomfortable yet humorous moment in the film.
There are bits of humor that Polanski puts as much of it is dark though the first act where Dr. Miranda and Gerardo are talking and getting drunk as it’s just this moment in the film where Polanski does loosen things up as it does humanize Dr. Miranda even though it is uncertain if he was Paulina’s tormentor. Even as Dr. Miranda is someone who isn’t sure what Paulina is talking about but he does feel bad for her as Gerardo is stuck in the middle as he gets answers from both of them as it adds to this dramatic tension. Even in the film’s climax as it moves out of the house and at a cliff where Gerardo is trying to reach someone who knows Dr. Miranda to prove his innocence as it is followed by these revelations as it play into what did happen. The ending returns to the same theatre where the string quartet performs yet it is more about who is there and the aftermath of everything as it is an ambiguous ending that raises more questions than answers. Overall, Polanski crafts an engaging yet haunting film about a woman questioning a man who supposedly was her tormentor some years ago.
Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with its emphasis on low-key lights as well as natural lighting for many of the interior scenes as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Herve de Luze does amazing work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few jump-cuts while knowing when not to cut during some of the monologues as it adds to the film’s visual tone. Production designer Pierre Guffroy and art director Claude Moesching do excellent work with the design of the house as well as the rooms as it play into some of the claustrophobic elements of the film.
Costume designer Milena Canonero does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely a bit casual from a red dress that Paulina wears, the suit that Dr. Miranda wears, and a robe that Gerardo is wearing as it adds to the chaos in the film. Sound editor Laurent Quaglio does superb work with the sound as it play into atmosphere of the location as well as the sound of what is happening outside of the home. The film’s music by Wojciech Kilar is wonderful for the haunting and understated music pieces that play into the suspense and drama as well as the usage of the music piece by Franz Schubert.
The casting by Patsy Pollock and Mary Selway is terrific as the film feature some appearances from Jonathan and Rodolphe Vega as Dr. Miranda’s son via pictures, Krystia Mova as Dr. Miranda’s wife via picture, and Karen Strassman as a voice on a telephone. Stuart Wilson is incredible as Gerardo Escobar as a lawyer who was a former activist that is set to possibly take an important job as he deals with the chaos of his wife’s accusations towards Dr. Miranda while also seeking answers about what happened when Paulina was taken and did Dr. Miranda did those things.
Ben Kingsley is great as Dr. Roberto Miranda as a man who picks Gerardo up as he later returns a spare tire as he befriends Gerardo while baffled about Paulina as well as the questions she’s giving him where Kingsley display that sense of confusion as well as remorse as someone who is imperfect but also play up the ambiguity of whether or not he was Paulina’s tormentor. Finally, there’s Sigourney Weaver in a sensational performance as Paulina Escobar as a former activist who was captured and taken to prison where she was raped and tortured as a woman still dealing with trauma as she confronts Dr. Miranda where Weaver brings an intensity to her performance as a woman that could be paranoid or is really seeking out the truth as it is one of Weaver’s great performances as a woman in need of answers and closure no matter how unethical she can be at times.
Death and the Maiden is a phenomenal film from Roman Polanski that features great performances from Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson. Along with its enchanting visuals, intimate setting, eerie usage of music, and its study of trauma and torment. It is a film that explores a woman confronting her past in this man who could be her tormentor with her husband watching as he’s trying to make sense of everything that happened at a time when their home country is reforming itself. In the end, Death and the Maiden is a spectacular film from Roman Polanski.
For the 32nd week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of films that confuses you, from a suggestion by Brittani of Rambling Films, as not every film can make sense and there’s some that are just baffling. Some are just confusing for the sake of it but then there’s those films that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Here are my three picks:
Richard Kelly’s sophomore feature film about an apocalyptic event during the Fourth of July weekend as it involves an amnesiac action film star, a psychic porn star trying to get into reality TV, twins, and all sorts of shit. Yet, the film was nonsensical as Kelly tried to cram too many things into one entire movie as there’s so much happening including a musical number where Justin Timberlake’s character lip-syncs to the Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done as it made no sense to the narrative. It was a film with ambition but failed to live up to its scope as it’s a reason why Kelly only made one more feature film and then just disappeared.
For anyone that hasn’t seen Zack Snyder’s version of the film which does have some flaws. It is the definitive version as the theatrical cut that was re-shot, re-written, and fucked up by Joss Whedon and the brass at Warner Brothers is just a fucking mess. It doesn’t have much development while whatever motivations the characters have aren’t fully explained while there is so much in the theatrical version that never makes sense with jokes that feel forced. It is an abomination and seeing what Snyder was trying to do, Whedon really just half-assed his way into making a film that is meant to be DC’s answer to The Avengers into a film that is just dull and nonsensical.
Noah Hawley’s feature film directorial debut is an indication that either he stays in television or should just be deleted as this was a shitty-ass film that never took advantage of the craziness that the real life story. It is about an astronaut who embarks on an affair with a colleague as she tries to get back to outer space only to lose sight of reality and then do whatever she can to continue her affair in the most insane way. The film is confusing for the fact that it doesn’t do enough to dwell into this woman’s mental state as well as aiming for too many aspect ratios in which Hawley has no clue on which one to choose until its third act. Given the fact that the real story involved the woman wearing adult diapers, drinking lots of energy drinks, and going insane should’ve given the film a sense of camp as well as humor but Hawley instead takes it way too seriously as it is one of the worst films ever made.
Well, the 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival has ended and let’s hope it never happens again in July. It was a fun festival to go into as the coverage from the AV Club, Indiewire, and the Film Experience did an amazing job and be thankful for their contributions in covering the festival. This year’s festival that included many of the films in the competition have been incredible as there were a lot of discoveries as well as films from some of the greats had delivered. One of the reasons Cannes is so revered is the fact that it’s a stepping stone for new filmmakers and films from different parts of the world while allowing veterans to showcase something new to an audience that loves cinema.
You had one job Spike Lee. Just one. To accidentally announce the winner of the Palme d’or as the first award was a total fuck-up but at least I give Spike credit for at least apologizing. Still, there were a lot of films that garnered buzz such as Ryusuke Hamagachi’s Drive My Car and Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee as both films received major prizes while Paul Verhoeven proves he is still a dangerous filmmaker with lesbian-nun drama in Benedetta. Verhoeven wasn’t the only veteran that delivered as new films from Francois Ozon, Wes Anderson, Asghar Farhadi, and Apichatpong Weerasthakul came out as winners while actress Lea Seydoux was the star of the festival by appearing in four films including Anderson’s The French Dispatch even though she wasn’t present at the festival due to a COVID-related illness. Farhadi and Weerasthakul both would win prizes as would Leos Carax who opened the film with Annette to a warm reception as he would receive the Best Director prize while acting prizes went to Caleb Landry Jones for Justin Kurzel’s Nitram and Renate Reinsve for Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World.
Then there’s the Palme d’or winner and well…. Whatever controversy Verhoeven had with his film is nothing compared to what Julia Ducournau did. In fact, Ducournau just proved that woman can out-shock men better than anyone and basically caused mayhem at the screening that is expected at Cannes yet it will add to Ducournau’s already growing reputation. Her sophomore feature Titane about a woman who becomes pregnant after having sex with a car is one for the ages as being the second woman (Jane Campion being the first for The Piano) to win the Palme d’Or and with a film that shocked everyone is just incredible as I can’t think of anyone who loves cinema that doesn’t want to see this.
With the festival already finished but the marathon went longer than its expected time as this will be the last time I do a marathon like this ever again. Having not done the previous two years as the first was due to personal reasons and last year because of the pandemic and the festival being cancelled. I must admit that I was unsure about doing this marathon and now having completed it. July is not a good month to do a film festival marathon as well as the fact that I’m older and spending a lot of time taking care of two young kids is impossible to watch more than 10 films in the span of 11 days. I still plan on doing another Cannes marathon as next year will be an all Palme d’Or winners edition but with less than 10 films. So here are the fictional winners of this year’s marathon:
Ever since its premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and the buzz it had received, this was the film I had wanted to see more than any other film. Did it live up to the hype? Actually, it went beyond the hype as what Celine Sciamma created is a film that is the work of a new master in the art of cinema. This film about a painter who is tasked to paint a portrait for a woman who is uneager to marry a man as these two women embark on an affair that is considered taboo for its time. Sciamma’s direction is exquisite in every frame she creates as she also brings in career-defining performances from Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant as well as strong supporting work from Luana Bajrami and Valeria Golino.
Andrea Arnold’s film about a young woman joining a group of young people selling magazines through the American Midwest is a coming of age story unlike any other. Told in a unique yet simplistic style, Arnold’s film is probably the most American film made of the 21st Century so far made by a non-American filmmaker. Arnold’s approach to hand-held cameras, a loose approach to non-actors and amateurs to stand out as well as giving Riley Keough and Shia LaBeouf performances that are top-notch, and making a major discovery in Sasha Lane. It is a film that is unpredictable and often intoxicating in every image it does a lot with its 163-minute running time without making it feel like it is a film of that length.
Lynne Ramsay is already a master in cinema as her fourth feature film is this low-key yet unsettling film about a mercenary who tracks down kidnapped young women as his most recent assignment has him at the center of a sex trafficking organization filled with men of power. Featuring a performance from Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role as Joe where Phoenix is at the top of his game, Ramsay’s film is unafraid to go into extremely dark territory while also being a filmmaker who knows what not to show as it’s more about the aftermath of violence rather than its impact. Along with Jonny Greenwood’s eerie music score and ravishing visuals that add to the suspense and drama, the film is further proof of Ramsay’s talents as a storyteller.
Best Director Prize goes to… Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War
Pawel Pawlikowski’s approach to this love story that is partially inspired by the story of his parents as Pawlikowski presents the film in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio and in black-and-white to give sense of nostalgia in this love story between a singer and a musician during the Cold War. Pawlikowski’s direction is a major highlight in how he frames the romance and presents the differences between communist Poland and its nearby communist neighbors as well as Paris in its emergence into the jazz age and rock n’ roll. Pawlikowski creates a film that stands a stunning achievement and a career high-water mark for the filmmaker.
Best Screenplay Prize goes to… Noah Baumbach for The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
A film about family dysfunction as well as a trio of adult siblings who deal with their father who is a modestly-successful artist that often overwhelms them as Baumbach brings in a richness to the story as well as providing perspectives from these trio of siblings. The dialogue is often sharp and witty while it his approach to the way he writes characters that is unique where he shows them how flawed they are yet also have this air of redemptive qualities that makes them unique. Even as they all are forced to admit that their father is a pretentious asshole who is demanding and full of himself as Baumbach definitely shows himself as a master of human and family dysfunction.
Best Actor Prize goes to… Antonio Banderas for Pain & Glory and Joaquin Phoenix for You Were Never Really Here (tie)
Two actors in this marathon who presented career-defining performances showcase exactly what acting is supposed to be. For Antonio Banderas in his eighth collaboration with Pedro Almodovar gives a performance that is just immense of a filmmaker at the twilight of his career who is coping with the past, severe illness, and career regrets as he tries to make amends with the people in his life as well as find inspiration in his flailing career. It is Banderas who embodies many of the traits of a tortured artist while also playing a version of Almodovar himself except that Almodovar never did some of the vices that Banderas’ character would embark on.
Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the mercenary Joe in Lynne Ramsay’s film is a performance that audiences should seek out more as it had been overshadowed recently by his Oscar award-winning performance in Joker as this is the film to watch. Notably as Phoenix maintains this anguish and restraint of a man that is trying to keep it together as he copes with flashbacks and nightmares about his childhood and time as a soldier where he is asked to retrieve a young girl from a sex trafficking network. Phoenix does show his ferocity as a man just hell-bent on destroying those who harm people but there is also something that keeps him sane as lesser actors would just go all out but Phoenix chooses to restrain himself as it is a reason why he’s one of the best actors working today.
Best Actress Prize goes to… Sasha Lane for American Honey
There are discoveries in these marathons and Sasha Lane is a true find as credit should go to casting directors Lucy Pardee and Jennifer Venditti as well as Andrea Arnold in discovering her. Lane’s performance is this firecracker that is always engaging and full of life as she doesn’t just hold her own against seasoned actors like Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough but manages to steal the show. Even in quieter moments as well as these moments where Arnold is just letting everyone be natural as Lane is there being part of this gang of misfits as she also manages to hold her own in dramatically-heavy scenes that allow her to be in tense situations.
Technical Jury Prize goes to… Jonny Greenwood for You Were Never Really Here
Jonny Greenwood has definitely been one of the most exciting composers working today as he’s known largely for his work with Paul Thomas Anderson yet his second collaboration with Lynne Ramsay for her film showcases the Radiohead guitarist/multi-instrumentalist that he could do a lot more. Notably as his score pieces range from moody and ambient-based electronic pieces to low-key yet unsettling orchestral pieces as he adds to many layers of sounds to Ramsay’s film as well as knowing when to have music be used for a scene.
Special Jury Prize goes to… Veronnikah Ezell, Christopher David Wright, Shawna Rae Moseley, Dakota Powers, Isaiah Stone, Raymond Coalson, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Garry Howell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Crystal B. Ice, McCaul Lombardi, and Arielle Holmes for American Honey
While the film’s breakout star was Sasha Lane, it is the cast of unknowns and amateur actors that really make the film just as special. The performances of this ensemble really adds to the film’s unique energy as there’s just a lot of personalities that is hard to ignore as they all have something to offer as individuals but also as a collective. There’s not a single false note into what they bring in the film as they just add a sense of authenticity to the film that couldn’t be taught as these young actors really deserve props for their part in the film.
And now for the ranking of the remaining films of the marathon:
Pawel Pawlikowski’s romantic drama set during the early years of the Cold War from the 1950s to the 1960s is a ravishing film that explore a love story involving two people who fall for each other but are often separated by political and social ideals as they try to get together. It is a film that doesn’t play by convention as it also play into the many fallacies of the political and social worlds these two people are a part of where they’re forced to make compromises and do things to be together as it does feature some gorgeous visuals, a sumptuous music soundtrack, and great performances from Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot.
Abbas Kiarostami’s final film which was conceived in the final years of his life and finished by his son Ahmad and various collaborators. While there isn’t a narrative in the experimental film yet it does tell a story of art and photography where Kiarostami takes a simple image that is on display for four-and-a-half minutes as it’s just a simple shot where little things are moving. Whether it’s a painting in the first image or the 23 other photographs and images that Kiarostami had taken a photo of as they’re recreated into something special with the help of several of Kiarostami’s collaborators. It is a film that serves as a fitting finale for Kiarostami as he creates something that says a lot about who he is as a person and as an artist.
Pedro Almodovar’s semi-biographical film about a filmmaker at the twilight of his career dealing with his past and uncertain future is definitely another winner for the famed auteur. Starring Almodovar regular Antonio Banderas as a filmmaker with a severe back pain who reconnects with an actor whom he hadn’t seen in years as he reminisces about his childhood. Along with appearances from Almodovar regulars in Penelope Cruz, Cecilia Roth, and Julieta Serrano with a strong supporting performance from Asier Etxeandia as the actor Banderas’ character reconnects with. It is a film that bears a lot of what to expect from Almodovar but also showcases a man who often find new ways to tell a story.
Luchino Visconti’s tale of an ailing avant-garde composer going to Venice to recover from illness is this fascinating character study of a man who is entranced by the presence of a young boy whose beauty is unexplainable. Set during a period in the city where it also showcases a sense of social inequality where the people at the hotel are living comfortably amidst a mysterious illness that is happening in the city. Starring Dirk Bogarde in one of his great performances of his career as this ailing composer, the film is matched by Visconti’s wondrous direction that toes the line between fascination and creepiness but does it in a graceful manner.
Ken Russell’s unconventional bio-pic on the famed composer isn’t just a film that doesn’t play by the rules but rather create a narrative that is surreal and extravagant as it play into the composer returning home to Austria with his wife as he deals with his work, his life, and a crumbling marriage as his wife’s lover is on the same train. Starring Robert Powell in the titular role and Georgina Hale as his wife Alma, it’s a film that feature these dream sequences all to Mahler’s own music as it represents these strange imagery and set pieces including some that are anachronistic and decadent. Yet, that is often expected from someone like Russell who often pushes boundaries on what could be told as he also isn’t afraid to diss another film as it features a parody of Death in Venice for one scene.
Bong Joon-Ho’s genre-bending film about a bunch of super-pigs being raised around the world in the hopes to end world hunger is a touching tale that revolves around a young Korean girl trying to reunite with her pet pig and protect it from this corporation. Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins, Steven Yuen, Shirley Henderson, and Ahn Seo-hyun as the young girl trying to save her titular pet super-pig. It is a film that showcases some of the ugly aspects of capitalism as well as a young girl’s understanding of how the world works and how she is able to deal with it.
Noah Baumbach is a master of exploring family dysfunction as this film is no exception as it explore a trio of adult siblings who are overwhelmed by the presence of their modestly-successful sculptor father. With an ensemble cast that includes Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, Judd Hirsch, Emma Thompson, Candice Bergen, Adam Driver, and Dustin Hoffman. Baumbach creates a film that is witty but also touching as it is a generational film that explore three generation of people with one undermining his children who have been trying to find their own identities with a young college student starting to forge her own.
Vojtech Jasny’s intimate epic film about the life of a Czech village following the aftermath of World War II is a fascinating gem that needs to be seen more by a wide audience. Even as it explore regular people who become politicized and take on positions of power in the communist regime of the times as the film spans 15 to 20 years in different seasons. It is a rich film that explore the disintegration of a community that was once peaceful and unified who then are having to face new ideals and an ever-changing world that has a somber epilogue where a church organist returns from exile as he saw what his village had become and laments over everything that had happened.
That is it for the marathon as I hope to never do one like this ever again as I don’t have the energy nor time to do a marathon of 11-13 films during an 11-day period. Especially in a month like July instead of May as I don’t think it’s feasible at this point. I prefer to rest and just take my time. Until then, au revoir. Until then, au revoir.