Thursday, September 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: September 2021

 

Autumn has arrived and honestly, this is where the real heavy-duty film watching season truly begins as I’m a bit excited about it while still aware of some of the bullshit that is happening around the world. Even here in the U.S. as there’s still a bunch of stupid anti-vaxxers who really have no clue to the fact that the pandemic is not over and they’re the ones keeping it going. George Carlin was right, never underestimate a group of stupid people as they will just make things worse. I’m just glad I choose not to be around morons though I see them every now and then whenever I’m out to a restaurant or to get groceries as I’m always taking my mother somewhere as she is currently overseeing a new paint job for our house.

One of the things I’ve been able to enjoy aside from my time with my niece and nephew is professional wrestling as All Elite Wrestling didn’t just deliver one of the best pay-per-view events of the year but followed it up with a major event in New York City as they performed in front of more than 20,000 people at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens for an episode of AEW Dynamite and a taping of AEW Rampage as it featured one of the best matches I saw this year between Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson that went into a 30-minute draw. The fact that AEW is making fans love pro wrestling again is proof that wrestling fans are now part of a newfound renaissance period and it’s not just in AEW. NWA, Impact, Ring of Honor, the hardcore GCW, AAA in Mexico, and New Japan Pro Wrestling have managed to provide that sense of joy again as well as bring in wrestling fans together instead of being forced to watch three hours of bad TV every Monday on the USA Network from 8 PM to past 11.
It’s not just that there’s so much going on in pro wrestling that is good but also in the actions of these companies as AEW has been doing a lot of incredible charitable work yet the biggest news in recent weeks involves their work with the Owen Hart Foundation. Now Bret Hart maybe in my top 5 all-time favorite wrestlers along with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, CM Punk, and Randy Savage yet Owen was my favorite of the Hart family as I just enjoyed his ring work and exuberant personality as his tragic death in 1999 is something I still never got over. Yet the revelations about what happened on the night of his death were far more troubling as the years of anger towards his widow for not allowing WWE to honor his legacy subsided once the truth came out as I don’t blame her for not wanting to do anything with that shithole. The fact that she and AEW are working together in an act of charity and to honor Owen’s name made me elated while there will be an upcoming tournament named in his honor as it’s something I look forward to. It is proof that AEW is putting their money where their mouth is and bring some good in the world instead of using charity as a form of marketing like that shit-hole slop-shop at Stamford.
In the month of September, I saw a total of 25 films 14 first-timers and 11 re-watches with five of those first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Slightly down from last month yet it was a solid month as a major highlight of the month is my Blind Spot film in Pixote. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for September 2021:

1. Annette

2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 

 


 3. Emma

4. Lisztomania 


 

 5. Just Mercy


 

Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Twenty Something

The first of two short films from SparkShorts series that I watched on Disney+ where the first short is from Aphton Corbin as it a simple short film about growing pains. It is about a woman turning 21 yet she is presented as three young kids in different ages and emotions as they deal with being this new age and becoming an adult. It is a touching and witty short film that is definitely spot about the fear of being an adult and letting go that aspect of childhood. It is an incredible short film that is full of humor but has a lot of heart.

Genesis: The Last Domino?
Genesis has just started what might be their last tour and it is really likely that it is their last largely due to Phil Collins’ health and the fact that he, guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford, and keyboardist Tony Banks are in or nearing their 70s. With longtime guitarist/bassist Daryl Stuermer playing, the live band consists of two backing vocalists in Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth who both contribute percussions with Phil’s son Nic playing drums solely this time around. The documentary about this upcoming tour that just began more than a week ago showcases Collins’ struggle to sound right for this tour as he is unable to move around except in sitting on a chair and sing. It also shows that a lot of the preparation for the tour has taken a mental toll on him due to his personal issues relating to his ex-wife with the band and his son being really helpful as it’s something for fans of Genesis as the recent shows have been well-received as the band have been playing a lot of songs from various periods including the songs that Peter Gabriel sang.

Pauline





One of two short films from Celine Sciamma that I saw as the first one (thanks to Brittani of Rambling Films for finding me this one) is a simple seven-minute short where the camera is still for a long time as a young woman talks about her sexual identity. Shot in one entire take, the film that was made for a government program to combat homophobia as Sciamma’s short allows Anais Demoustier to talk about her struggles and her desire to find happiness as it is really a gem of a short film that fans of Sciamma need to watch.

La Coupe Bernard Tapine
A two-minute documentary short film from Sciamma that is really a tribute to her favorite women’s football club in France. Though it is really short, it does say a lot about the culture of football in France as well as what it means to women who do have a league of their own even though it’s small in comparison to the big football league in France. Still, it is a short worth watching on the link above as it proves that Sciamma is a true visionary.

When Nirvana Came to Britain





Given that September 24 is the 30th anniversary of a bunch of landmark albums from 1991 such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Bloodsugarsexmagik, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica (in the U.K.), Pixies’ Tromp Le Monde, and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. It is also the day Nirvana’s Nevermind came out as it would be the album that changed music culture as this documentary film from the BBC about the band’s relationship with Britain and how the country was able to discover them first before American audiences did. Featuring interviews with bassist Krist Novoselic, drummer Dave Grohl, radio deejays Jo Whiley and Steve Lamcq, Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines, Ana da Silva of the Raincoats, Biffy Clyro vocalist Simon Neil, the band’s U.K. touring dancer Antony “Tony” Hodgkinson, and many others.

The film showcases how the band first came to Britain in late 1989/early 1990 and the buzz they attracted during a time when British popular culture was trying to find a new identity in the decade. The film also showcases a lot of moments where vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain was quite happy as well as the fact that their legendary 1992 performance at the Reading Festival would be their last U.K. appearance as the band never played the U.K. following Cobain’s death 2 years later. It is not just something that fans of the band should see but also music fans as it showcased how this small band from Aberdeen, Washington would change the world for a bit as Grohl has managed to maintain relationships with those people that helped Nirvana become a big deal in the U.K. through his work as part of the Foo Fighters.

Nona
The second SparkShorts film that I watched on Disney+ is another touching and winning short film as it’s about an old woman wanting to watch a wrestling show when her granddaughter appears all of a sudden. Torn between two things that she loves, she eventually finds a way to bring them both together as it’s something that is a lot of fun while it also has a lot of heart as it’s a short that fans of pro wrestling can definitely enjoy but also relate to their own grandparents or their grandchildren.

Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James
While he’s known more lately for things he said on Dave Chappelle’s show through the stories from the late, great Charlie Murphy. There is no question that Rick James was one of the greatest artists that ever lived despite his troubles with drug addiction and such. Still, the documentary showcases his artistry with interviews from his widow, his eldest daughter from his first marriage, and various band members as they talk about the highs and lows along with his battles with MTV for not playing his videos. Even as he struggled with drugs as it is entertaining but also sobering of a man who was unable to cope with his demons.

What If…? (Episodes 4-8)
The next five episodes in the season so far definitely show some major highlights as the fourth episode about Doctor Strange dealing with loss as it features some of the show’s best animation. The fifth and sixth episode were also inventive as the fifth one is about the Avengers dealing with zombies while the sixth explore the possibility of what if Tony Stark was saved by Killmonger who would later conspire to create trouble for the Wakandans and SHIELD. The seventh episode about Thor being an only child is entertaining as it is filled with some hilarious moments including Loki presented as a Frost Giant as he and Thor have this mischievous relationship while Darcy marries Howard the Duck. The most recent episode about the idea of Ultron winning is the weakest so far yet it does showcase what happens if Ultron had access to the Infinity Stones and how it ends up creating trouble for the Watcher character. It is definitely an excellent show with one more episode coming to end the season.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 3-episodes 8 & 9)
Being a fan of pro wrestling and this series from VICE TV, I knew fans were about to get into some serious stories and the most recent episodes so far are intense. The eighth episode is about the infamous Plane Ride from Hell in which a bunch of WWE wrestlers are flying home from Britain to the U.S. where a bunch of bad shit happened including Curt Henning wrestling Brock Lesnar on a plane following a prank, a drunken Dustin Rhodes serenading his ex-wife Terri to great embarrassment, pranks involving Michael P.S. Hayes and JBL, a regrettable incident involving an intoxicated Scott Hall trying to make a pass towards a stewardess, and Ric Flair wearing nothing but his robe and flashing everyone while trying to flirt with that same stewardess. Henning and Hall were fired for their actions while Flair got a pass because of who he is as it really represented on a culture that never should be re-lived again as Flair has recently lost some commercial opportunities including a rumored spot in AEW as Andrade El Idolo’s manager.

The other episode on Chris Kanyon is a heartbreaking episode as it relates to a wrestler who didn’t get enough credit for his work in the ring yet he was a man that had a lot of personal issues including the fact that he was secretly gay. Featuring interviews with James Mitchell, Diamond Dallas Page, the Young Bucks, and Brian Cage, the episode revealed the man’s struggle and his anger as well as events that really destroyed his career including an unfortunate segment on WWE Smackdown in 2003 where he was dressed up as Boy George singing to the Undertaker only to be beaten horrifically with a steel chair. Years later, Kanyon would struggle with his demons as well as eventually coming out and sadly his own suicide in 2010 as he is someone that never got a fair treatment during a time when homosexuality was seen as taboo in professional wrestling as the industry has now changed for the better with a lot of openly-gay wrestlers being celebrated.

Top 10 Re-watches (that isn’t Lost in Translation)
1. Mirror
2. The Darjeeling Limited
3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
4. Big
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. The Mummy
8. I Love You, Man
9. The Mummy Returns
10. Major League II
Well, that is all for September 2021. Next month is October which is often the time to watch films relating to Halloween which means a lot of horror films as I’ve made a watchlist on the films I hope to watch for the month. A few of which will include theatrical releases such as Titane, Last Night in Soho, and Dune and hopefully No Time to Die as that’s a film I hope to watch with my mother as a tribute to my dad who was a big James Bond fan. One film in that list is a Blind Spot film as it will be Perfect Blue as it’s usually a fun time to watch scary movies as I hope to introduce my niece and nephew to some animated Halloween-based films that aren’t scary but fun. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Just Mercy

 

Based on the memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy is the story of a young attorney who takes on an appeals case of a man accused of murder as he deals with the many injustices that this man has dealt with. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and screenplay by Cretton and Andrew Lanham, the film is based on the real life story of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian who was falsely accused of murder in Alabama where his attorney in Bryan Stevenson tries to prove his innocence as Michael B. Jordan portrays Stevenson with Jamie Foxx as McMillian. Also starring Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, and Rafe Spall. Just Mercy is a riveting and heart-wrenching film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

Spanning from November of 1986 to March of 1993, the film follows the wrongful arrest and conviction of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian over the murder of a young white woman in Ronda Morrison as he would be represented three years later by an idealist young attorney from Delaware in Bryan Stevenson who would do what he can to exonerate McMillian and prove his innocence. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more about a young man dealing with a world that he doesn’t know much of despite having to deal with the prejudices that he also faces as an African-American. The film’s screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham is straightforward as it opens with McMillian’s arrest after a hard day’s work cutting trees as he’s accused of killing this young white woman as the film then pushes a couple of years later where Stevenson meets a young convict just before Stevenson is officially an attorney where it is a scene that establishes the idealism that follows him and his determination to make things right in the unforgiving environment that is the American South in Monroe County in Alabama.

The script also play into Stevenson not only focusing on McMillian and trying to gain his support as well as the support of his family but also look into the cases of others including a former war veteran in Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan) who is suffering from PTSD as Stevenson tries to save him from execution. Aiding Stevenson in these cases include a local in Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) who helps him find the Equal Justice Initiative as she is disgusted by not just the racism in her home state but also the indifference of prosecutor Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall) who declines to help Stevenson out in favor of protecting the state. While Stevenson was able to get an alibi from a family friend of McMillian who later backs out, the script shows Stevenson’s determination where he questions another prisoner in Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson) where some major revelations occur about why McMillian was convicted as it leads to major challenges for Stevenson to free McMillian.

Cretton’s direction is largely straightforward to play into its grounded presentation about a real-life story. While the film is set in Alabama and shot partially in Montgomery, much of it is shot on location in and around parts of Atlanta to play into the look and feel of late 1980s/early 1990s Alabama. Cretton does make the locations feel like a world of its own with prison cells also being characters as it is this place of fear where Stevenson has to endure some humiliation in his first visit in Alabama by stripping down where Cretton brings that sense of claustrophobia in the medium shots and close-ups. The usage of those shots add to the prison cell where McMillian is alone with Richardson next door to him on the left and another in Anthony Ray Hinton (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who was also wrongly convicted. Cretton does use some wide shots to showcase some of the locations including images of trees during a scene where McMillian offer words of comfort to Richardson in one of his PTSD moments.

Cretton also play into this air of racism that is prominent in Alabama where Stevenson is an outsider of sorts as he does get a closer look of what it’s like being a black man in Alabama where a lot of the cops and local authorities are white. Cretton doesn’t paint them as typical villains as a young guard in Jeremy Doss (Hayes Mercure) becomes more sympathetic towards McMillian while the revelations about Myers showcase the similarities towards those who live below the poverty line as he too is a victim. The first act is about Stevenson’s idealism and his attempts to try and get McMillian a retrial while the second act is about these revelations and this retrial for McMillian. Yet, there’s this third act where Cretton goes into deep into the many injustices towards McMillian but also for black men as well as Chapman’s role who is someone disconnected from what is really going on as he has to deal with the status quo who are resistance towards change. Overall, Cretton crafts an engaging and evocative film about a young attorney who tries to free a wrongly-convicted man of murder in Alabama.

Cinematographer Brett Pawlak does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes at night as well as some understated colors for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Nat Sanders does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into some of the film’s intensely-dramatic moments. Production designer Sharon Seymour, with set decorator Maggie Martin and art director Peter Borck, does amazing work with the look of the house that Stevenson and Ansley bought as their headquarters as well as the look of the jail cells the prisoners live in and the court rooms. Costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with some of the refined clothes of McMillian’s family during the trials and church scenes along with the expensive suits that Chapman wears. Makeup artist Bridgit Crider and hair stylist Crystal Woodford do terrific work with the look of McMillian early in the film as it played into the period of the times along with the look of Ansley in her ragged yet simple look.

Special effects supervisor Nicholas Coleman and visual effects supervisor Chris LeDoux do some fine work with the special effects as it is largely set-dressing for some of the film’s locations along with a few scenes in the prison. Sound editors Onnalee Blank and Katy Wood do superb work with the film’s sound as it help play into the tense atmosphere of the prisons as well as some of its sparse moments and scenes in some of the locations in the film. The film’s music by Joel P. West does wonderful work with the film’s music score as it features elements of orchestral music with some gospel to play into the world that is the American South while music supervisor Gabe Hilfer cultivate a soundtrack that largely features elements of soul, gospel, rock, and R&B as it features pieces from Martha and the Vandellas, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Alabama Shakes, Hilton Felton, Sister Emily Braum, The Mighty Indiana Travelers, Atlantic Starr, Ella Fitzgerald, and a few others.

The casting by Carmen Cuba and Tara Feldstein is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Rhoda Griffs as a judge late in the film, Norm Lewis as the voice of a newscaster, Hayes Mercure as the young prison guard Jeremy Doss who becomes sympathetic towards McMillian during the film as he realizes that McMillian is innocent, Dominic Bogart as Eva’s husband Doug, C.J. LeBlanc as McMillian’s son John, Karen Kendrick as McMillian’s wife Minnie, Darrell Britt-Gibson as a family friend in Darnell who has an alibi for McMillian only to be spooked by the authorities, and Michael Harding as the racist Sheriff Tate who doesn’t care if McMillian is innocent as he is someone trying to instill his authority. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is fantastic as Anthony Ray Hinton as a wrongfully-convicted man who is a cell-neighbor of McMillian as he believes that Stevenson is a man of hope as Stevenson also tries to help him with his own case.

Rafe Spall is superb as Tommy Chapman as a prosecutor who is unwilling to help Stevenson as he would be the opposition as a political figure who is trying to protect his own community while dealing with the fallout of his own actions. Tim Blake Nelson is excellent as the convict Ralph Myers as a white man who made the claim that he saw McMillian commit the murder as he makes some startling revelations where Nelson provides some chilling monologues and moments that showcases a man who had been used as a pawn for a cruel system. Rob Morgan is amazing as the convicted war veteran Herbert Richardson as a man who suffers from PTSD as he awaits his execution as he hopes to save as his performance is heartbreaking to watch as someone who is consumed with guilt while coping about his own fate. Brie Larson is brilliant as Eva Ansley as a local who becomes Stevenson’s right-hand woman as well as a mother who is aware that she is targeted while also doing what she can to help as well as give Stevenson an understanding of the cruelty that is Alabama and the American South.

Jamie Foxx is tremendous as Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian as a man who is wrongly accused of murder as he is skeptical of Stevenson’s intentions due to past attempts by others as he also copes with the many challenges in getting a retrial where Foxx is just understated in his performance as well as a man who clings on to hope knowing that truth can save him. Finally, there’s Michael B. Jordan in a phenomenal performance as Bryan Stevenson as a Harvard-graduate attorney from Delaware who moves to Alabama with ideas to change the world only to deal with some reality that is intense yet Jordan maintains that determination of someone who wants to do what is right as well as understand his own identity as a black man in the South who is just trying to make a small change to a cruel world as it is a career-defining performance for Jordan.

Just Mercy is a sensational film from Destin Daniel Cretton that features great performances from Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Along with its ensemble cast, understated presentation, an engaging music soundtrack, and its exploration of racism and injustice in the American South. It is a film that manages to explore a young man trying to save another man from injustice while also learning about what to do to combat hate in a world that is prejudice and resistant to change. In the end, Just Mercy is a phenomenal film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

Destin Daniel Cretton Films: (I Am Not a Hipster) – Short Term 12 - (The Glass Castle (2017 film)) – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, September 27, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Pixote

 

Based on the novel A Infancia dos Mortos (The Childhood of the Dead Ones) by Jose Louzeiro, Pixote is the story of a young boy who is used by corrupt military and police officials to commit crimes and smuggle drugs as a means to survive in the chaotic lower-class area of Brazil. Directed by Hector Babenco and screenplay by Babenco and Jorge Duran, the film is a look into the world of corruption where a young boy tries to survive a world that is intense and brutal as the titular character is played by Fernando Ramos da Silva. Also starring Jorge Juliao, Gilberto Moura, and Edilson Lino. Pixote is a gripping and haunting film from Hector Babenco.

The film revolves around the journey of a ten-year old boy who is part of a number of juvenile delinquents who is taken to a reformatory center as he endures a lot of horrors where he would escape with a few other young men and go into a world of crime. It is a film with a simple premise yet it explores the life of a young boy who encounters a lot of what is going on during a period of Brazil’s rule under a military dictatorship where he does what he can to survive. The film’s screenplay by Hector Babenco and Jorge Duran is largely straightforward in its narrative as it follows the many ordeals of Pixote as a boy who had been captured by the police and is sent to this reformatory center where kids would be raped by older kids while they do drugs and all sorts of shit. The first act largely takes place in this reformatory center where Pixote has to accept the new reality he’s in to keep himself out of trouble while he befriends the stoner Fumaca (Zenildo Oliveira Santos), the transgender hooker Lilica (Jorge Juliao), the intense Dito (Gilberto Moura), and Chico (Edilson Lino).

The second act following a riot and later an escape over the deaths of a few kids by corrupt police officials, Pixote, Lilica, Dito, and Chico go to Sao Paulo to become street thieves and later meet a former lover of Lilica in the drug dealer Cristal (Tony Tornado) who gives them a chance to deal with a showgirl in Debora (Elke Maravilha) in Rio de Janeiro where things don’t exactly go well where they return to Sao Paulo where the film’s third act has them teaming with a prostitute in Sueli (Marilia Pera). These trips and encounters that Pixote would have that include moments of violence has him dealing with growing up too fast but also losing so much of his innocence in a world that is just unruly and cruel.

Babenco’s direction is definitely intense in terms of presentation as it has this documentary-like feel to maintain this air of realism of what is happening during this period of military dictatorship in Brazil in its final years. Shot on various locations in Brazil including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Babenco does use wide and medium shots to establish the locations but often maintains an intimacy with the usage of the latter and close-ups including scenes at the reformatory bedrooms where it does feel cramped and over-crowded. Even as Babenco would use the wide shots for some of the exteriors where it doesn’t feel as crowded but there is this air of decay in the building but also an air of hopelessness despite the fact that there’s a few people who at least are trying to be fair despite some awful people living in that building. Notably in a scene where Lilica is having to dance in front of a group of men and is berated with a lot of homophobic and transphobic slurs at him. Babenco also uses a lot of hand-held cameras that include these wide shots of Pixote, Dito, and Chico stealing purses and wallets from people walking in the streets of Sao Paulo.

Babenco also play up the reality of what Brazil is outside of this postcard imagery of gorgeous beaches and vibrancy despite a scene at the beach where Pixote, Chico, and Lilica are thinking about the future and what to do if they succeed. Yet, each act would end with tragedy and violence as the end of the second act has Pixote committing his first murder out of rage, grief, and feeling cheated. It is where Babenco returns to this reality of slums as it is a reflection of what Brazil really is where people live in decayed and poor homes where Pixote and his friends would stay with Sueli. It is a world that is unforgiving but there’s also something lively about it though it also has this tension of what Lilica realizes knowing that he can’t be part of this world while being aware he doesn’t fit in with the conventions of society. For Pixote, the events in the third act are revelations of who he is but also this air of uncertainty for young kids like him who don’t come from stable homes and are forced to fend for themselves. Overall, Babenco crafts an unsettling yet rapturous film about a young boy trying to survive the cruel world of reformatories and crime in Brazil.

Cinematographer Rodolfo Sanchez does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of grainy film stock to maintain a sense of realism as well as interior/exterior scenes at night that has some vibrancy in the presentation while maintaining its gritty tone. Editor Luiz Elias does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style in some jump-cuts and slow-motion bits as it adds to the drama and the film’s intense presentation. Art director Clovis Bueno does fantastic work with the look of Sueli’s home including her bedroom as well as the home of Cristal and the interiors of the room where the kids sleep at the reformatory. Costume designer Carminha Guarana is terrific as it play up the ragged look of the kids along with some of the more lavish clothing of Cristal and the sleazy look of Sueli.

The makeup work of Josefina “Nena” de Oliveira is wonderful to not just play into Lilica’s own look at times to look feminine but also the look of Sueli to play up her sleazy presentation. The sound work of Hugo Gama is superb as it help play up the atmosphere of the locations as well as how music sounds from a radio and the way sounds of angry kids are presented during the reformatory riot. The film’s music by John Neschling is amazing for its understated and plaintive piano-based orchestral score that play into the drama and a lot of the terror that Pixote encounters while the music soundtrack features an array of music ranging from rock, pop, and disco as it plays into the chaotic world that Pixote and his friends live in.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Joao Jose Pompeo as the dirty cop Almir, Israel Feres David as the cripple delinquent who is also a singer, Jardel Filho as a reformatory center superintendent who is trying to maintain control as he’s a man that means well despite some of his motives, Claudio Bernardo as a young delinquent in Garatao who was Lilica’s lover, Tony Tornado as a flamboyant drug dealer in Cristal who was one of Lilica’s former lovers, Zenildo Oliveira Santos as the stoner delinquent Fumaca whom Pixote befriends early in the film, and Elke Maravilha as a showgirl whom Dito does a deal with as it would up going very badly. Edilson Lino is fantastic as Chico as a young delinquent that Pixote befriends as he takes part in the world of crime where he hopes he can become a successful criminal. Marilia Pera is excellent as the prostitute Sueli as a woman who is seen as a maternal figure for Pixote despite her alcoholism and cruel demeanor at times where she brings tension within the group as it relates to Lilica.

Gilberto Moura is brilliant as Dito as a mid-teen delinquent who is good at futbol as he becomes Lilica’s new lover only to be more interested in women and crime as he becomes the leader of the gang. Jorge Juliao is amazing as Lilica as a transgender delinquent/prostitute who ventures into the world of crime and acts like an older brother to Pixote while dealing with Sueli’s presence as he feels threatened by her in how she gets Dito’s attention. Finally, there’s Fernando Ramos da Silva in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this ten-year old boy who endures cruelty, abuse, and uncertainty as he embarks on this treacherous journey where he’s forced to grow up too fast while coping with innocence loss as da Silva just exudes a lot of the anguish and curiosity of this character that adds a lot of realism to his performance.

As part of the 2020 dual-disc box set in the third volume of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project with five other films, the Region A Blu-Ray/Region 1 DVD set presents the film in a newly restored 4K digital transfer with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack for the Blu-Ray release in its 1:85:1 aspect ratio as it shares the disc with the film Dos Monjes and its special features. The special features on both the DVD and Blu-Ray feature a three-and-a-half minute introduction by Martin Scorsese about the film’s restoration as he talks about a lot of what the film needed as its restoration was overseen by the World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna and permission from the family/estate of Hector Babenco with work from cinematographer Rodolfo Sanchez and one of the film’s original sound engineers in Jose Luis Sasso, along with sound editor Beto Ferraz, who helps restore the sound mixing for the film while Scorsese discuss the film’s impact upon its release and how it served as an international breakthrough for Babenco.

For its U.S. release back in the early 80s, Babenco creates a two-minute prologue about the film with his star Fernando Ramos da Silva to discuss the conditions that the children in Brazil were living in at the time as well as the harsh realities they’re forced to deal with da Silva seen at his home where he lives in a small shack with nine other siblings. The 22-minute featurette on Hector Babenco are excerpts from a March 25, 2016 interview for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Visual History Program Collection just months before his death on July 13, 2016. Babenco talks about his early life as well as his love for cinema as well as his early films prior to Pixote. Babenco also talks about the film as well as his approach to directing the young actors at the time as he admitted that it wasn’t easy to gain their trust but also showed what he had to do as it gave him a lot of confidence in the story he wanted to tell.

The essay on the film entitled Pixote: Out in the Streets by Stephanie Dennison who is a cultural professor and author at the University of Leeds discusses not just the historical context of Brazil when the film was made but also the film culture at the time where some of its premier filmmakers such as Glauber Rocha and Joao Silverio Trevisan were either exiled or forced to make films that weren’t good despite the landmark films they made for the country in the past. Babenco’s role for Brazilian cinema, even though he was born in Argentina, would play into this growing change in Brazil’s political landscape as the years of military dictatorship is coming to an end. Dennison talks about the film and its production as well as the contribution of acting coach Fatima Toledo who was also an instrumental figure in two other landmark Brazilian films in Central Station and City of God who would be the one to help coach the young actors for Babenco’s film.

Dennison also talks about the film in general as well as the struggles that the titular character goes through along with his friends in a world where they live on the fringes of society as kids are often targeted by corrupt policeman who just want to maintain this sense of control. The film’s initial release in Brazil was received with mixed reviews as Babenco was criticized by the left for not doing more to explore the social issues in the film as Babenco stated he is not interested in politics. Despite its mixed reaction in Brazil, the film would win a lot of international critic’s prizes at various film festivals and would give Babenco the chance to make bigger films outside of Brazil including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ironweed, and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Babenco would return to Brazil in the late 90s as the country would go into its own period of change but also cope with the things that Babenco told in his breakthrough film still remains as the country is currently another social state of disarray.

Pixote is a tremendous film from Hector Babenco that features a great leading performance from the late Fernando Ramos da Silva. Along with its ensemble cast, gritty visuals, themes of uncertainty in an unforgiving environment, and a somber music score. The film is definitely an unflinching and haunting film that explores a young boy dealing with a world that is cruel as he’s forced to go into crime as a means to survive while dealing with his own loss of innocence. In the end, Pixote is a magnificent film from Hector Babenco.

Hector Babenco Films: (O Fabuloso Fittipaldi) – (King of the Night) – (Lucio Flavio) – Kiss of the Spider Woman - (Ironweed) – (At Play in the Fields of the Lord) – (Foolish Heart) – (Carandiru) – (El Pasado) – (Words with God) – (My Hindu Friend)

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Femme Fatales

 

For the 38th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of femme fatales as women who will make men do anything as well as get them into all sorts of trouble. It’s common in the world of film noir as well as in other modern-day films. Here are my three picks:

1. Out of the Past
Jane Greer’s performance as Kathie Moffat is definitely the archetype of what a femme fatale is as she is someone that Robert Mitchum’s character is asked to find yet he ends up falling in love with her as she ends up being more trouble than he realizes. Notably as she is someone who plays innocent and make claims about her boyfriend in Kirk Douglas who eventually realizes that he is being played for a fool. It is a film that is filled with a lot of twists and turns as it is a must for anyone wanting to discover film noir.

2. The Long Goodbye
Robert Altman’s radical take on Raymond Chandler’s novel that features an inventive and stylized script by Leigh Brackett play up the world of film noir as it revolves around a detective trying to solve the murder of his friend’s wife and his friend’s suicide as it is an offbeat take on the noir. Nina Van Pallandt’s performance as Eileen Wade isn’t a typical femme fatale as she is someone who is just as mysterious while also knowing a lot more that is happening. It is an unusual take on that stock character while she also has some amazing scenes with the film’s lead in Philip Marlowe played with such wit by Elliott Gould.

3. Brick
Rian Johnson’s feature-film debut is probably one of the finest gems of the 2000s as it is the film that marked Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ascent into an unconventional leading man but it is also a noir film set in a high school in the world of social circles and drugs. The femme fatale in the character of Laura played by Nora Zehetner is also a unique take on that stock character as she is someone high up on the social circle but also knows how to navigate her way to get what she wants while making Gordon-Levitt’s character go deeper into the underground world of drugs and violence. She does bring up this air of innocence and exotic presence but there is also so much more in what Zehetner does with the character right till the end.

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Emma. (2020 film)

 

Based on the novel by Jane Austen, Emma is the story of a young woman who serves as a matchmaker for friends and such while dealing with her own whirlwind life relating to growing pains and family. Directed by Autumn de Wilde and screenplay by Eleanor Catton, the film is a comedy-drama set during the Regency-era of England in the first half of the 19th Century as a young woman tries to find her own identity through others as the titular character is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Also starring Mia Goth, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy. Emma is a ravishing and riveting film from Autumn de Wilde.

Set during the Regency-era of England, the film revolves around the activities of a young woman in the titular character of Emma Woodhouse who likes to be a matchmaker as she also copes with her own desires in life while improving the lives of others. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it explores a young woman who seems to have a lot of influence on those she meets yet often finds herself sparring with her brother-in-law’s brother in George Knightley (Johnny Flynn). The film’s script is told in the span of the year and broken into four seasons beginning with autumn and ending in the summer. It all play into Emma’s own pursuit of control and success in matchmaking as she befriends a student in Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) who lives in an orphanage of sorts as she is awaiting the identity of her father. Emma tries to get Smith to be in a relationship with the young vicar in Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor) that doesn’t go well while she also tries to be get in a relationship for herself with her former governess’ step-son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner).

The script uses the four season structure to play into Emma’s growth as a person but also in her friendship with Smith and rivalry with Knightley although the latter also cares for Emma’s father (Bill Nighy) who copes with the idea of being alone though Emma plans not to leave him. The script also play into Emma’s relationships with others including Miss Bates (Miranda Hart) whom Emma is fond of as well as her former governess Mrs. Weston (Gemma Whelan) and her husband Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves). Notably as Emma would meet Churchill as she has to deal with the presence of Mrs. Bates’ niece Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) as it would create a rivalry of sorts for Churchill’s affections that would serve as a challenge to Emma who is forced to confront her own faults.

Autumn de Wilde’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in her presentation from the meticulous attention to detail in her framing as well as the way she presents this vibrant period of the times in England as it is shot on various locations in Britain with Firle Place in Sussex as the exterior of Emma’s home. The direction has de Wilde maintain this sense of atmosphere in the film as she also maintains a certain look for each season to recreate this idea of what it was like in those times. The usage of wide and medium shots add to the look of the film where de Wilde create these striking compositions that include shots of young girls wearing red robes walking in the background. There are also these shots that do look like they’re recreation of paintings while de Wilde also knows when to use close-ups as whether it’s a close-up of a face or hands as it says a lot in doing so little. It showcases the attention to detail in what de Wilde wants to capture in the way characters behave towards one another while choosing to create scenes that help play into the drama or a comedic moment.

Much of the film’s humor is low-key as de Wilde knows when to create something that is funny but it is done with much subtlety in the way Smith reacts to Mr. Elton’s portrait or the way Emma reacts to a bad situation along with her own feelings towards Mr. Knightley later in the film. The direction has de Wilde also maintain this air of tension that does start to loom in the third act with some revelations about Churchill as well as Emma losing some sense of control as she is forced to deal with her own growing pains. Still, de Wilde does find a way to flesh out the story and characters where it would allow Emma to figure things out but also do something for herself towards the end. Overall, de Wilde crafts an intoxicating and heartfelt film about a young woman who plays matchmaker for those around her while coping with her own faults and feelings about herself and everyone else.

Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does brilliant work with the film’s lush and colorful cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes set in sunny days to its usage of low-key lights and filters for a few scenes in the winter along with candle lights for a few nighttime interior scenes. Editor Nick Emerson does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the dramatic and comedic reaction of characters. Production designer Kave Quinn, with set decorator Stella Fox and supervising art director Andrea Matheson, does amazing work with the interior look of the rooms and places that Emma and other characters go to including some of the shops and the ballroom for the ball scene at Miss Bates’ home. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne does fantastic work with the costumes as it has a lot of life from the simplest of clothing to the lavish dresses the women wear as it is a highlight of the film.

Hair/makeup designers Marese Langan, Laura Allen, and Claudia Stolze do wonderful work with the design of the hairstyles as there’s a lot of attention to detail into the hairstyles that the women have including some of the things that Emma has on her head. Special effects supervisor Neal Champion and visual effects supervisor Dillan Nicholls do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal special effects as it is largely bits of set dressing to help enhance the visuals. Sound editor Glenn Freemantle does superb work with the film’s sound as it adds to the atmosphere of the scene in capturing the natural locations along with some mixing in the way music and sparse sounds are heard in a room. The film’s music by Isobel Waller-Bridge and David Schweitzer is incredible for its mixture of orchestral music and the folk music of the time as it adds to the humor and drama with some lush string arrangements in some parts of the film while music supervisor Becky Bentham help provide the array of folk themes that were available during those times including a few originals that add to the atmosphere of the period.

The casting by Jessica Ronane is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Chloe Pirrie as Emma’s sister Isabella, Oliver Chris as George’s brother and Isabella’s husband John, Tanya Reynolds as a young woman in Augusta whom Mr. Elton would be with later in the film, Gemma Whelan as Emma’s former governess in Miss Taylor who becomes Mrs. Weston, Rupert Graves as Mr. Weston who does what he can to help Emma out, Amber Anderson as Miss Bates’ niece Jane Fairfax who becomes a source of competition for Emma although she is really a nice person, and Connor Swindells in a superb performance as Robert Martin as a friend of Mr. Knightley who pursues Harriet as he is someone that doesn’t have much to offer but is still a man of honor. Callum Turner is terrific as Frank Churchill as Mr. Weston’s son from his first marriage who is a charming young man that intrigues Emma though he is also quite cagey in the way he reacts towards Miss Fairfax.

Josh O’Connor is fantastic as Reverend Mr. Elton as a young vicar whom Emma tries to have him be a suitor for Harriet only he’s kind of a dimwit with other interests instead of Harriet as he would also prove to be much colder later in the film. Miranda Hart is excellent as Miss Bates as a woman who had been a lifelong family friend to Emma as she is trying to organize balls and be helpful to Emma and Harriet as it is an understated yet touching performance from Hart. Bill Nighy is brilliant as Mr. Woodhouse as Emma’s father as a man of great importance as well as being wise to the young people while lamenting over the idea of being lonely and ill since he is unable to deal with cold weather as it is a touching performance from Nighy. Johnny Flynn is amazing as Mr. George Knightley as a young man who is close with Emma’s family as he isn’t fond of Emma’s schemes and her behavior yet also is aware of her value as he also is attentive towards Harriet following Mr. Elton’s snub towards her proving he’s a good man that Emma really needs.

Mia Goth is phenomenal as Harriett Smith as a young woman who is awaiting the identity of her father as she lives in a school/orphanage where she becomes Emma’s friend while trying to find herself and her own wants in life as it is this mesmerizing and heartfelt performance from Goth. Finally, there’s Anya Taylor-Joy in a tremendous performance as the titular character as this young woman who likes to be a matchmaker and be in control of everything. Taylor-Joy brings a lot of wit and charisma to her performance but also bring up this air of naïveté as someone who doesn’t know as much as she believes as it is a career-defining performance for Taylor-Joy.

Emma is a sensational film from Autumn de Wilde that features a great leading performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, its theme of love and control, a mesmerizing music score, and gorgeous locations. The film is definitely a compelling and whimsical comedy-drama that plays into the ideas of love and a young woman’s perception of it as it is faithful to the ideas and vision of its creator in Jane Austen. In the end, Emma is a phenomenal film from Autumn de Wilde.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Outlaws

 

For the 37th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the simple subject of outlaws. Men and women who live their lives outside of the law and defy authority to get what they want as much of these films are set in the West. Here are my three picks as they’re all from one of the greatest outlaws in cinema in motherfuckin’ Sam Peckinpah:

1. The Wild Bunch
A group of men rob a bank as they’re pursued by a former friend as they trek through Mexico where all hell breaks loose. Notably as they encounter the Mexican army and a German political figure as it play into changing times and a world that has become complicated. Yet, for these group of men. They refuse to play by these new rules as it is a film filled with gratuitous violence as well as ideals and language that will definitely offend today’s viewers but that’s why it’s a masterpiece. If there’s a definition of what a “fuck you film” is. It’s this one.

2. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
In either its preview version of over two hours or the 115-minute special edition from 2005, Peckinpah’s tale about the friendship between the outlaw in Billy the Kid and the man who would kill him in Pat Garrett remains an overlooked western while many Peckinpah fans consider the film in its un-truncated version to be one of his best. It is a film that explores greed and betrayal as Garrett is forced to find and hunt Billy the Kid who is this free bird outlaw that lives by his own rules and refuses to cower to a bunch of wealthy cattle barons who hired Garrett. It is a rich film that features an incredibly underrated music soundtrack from Bob Dylan who appears in the film as one of Billy’s friends.

3. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Though it was set in a more contemporary world, the film is still a western at heart as it is Peckinpah’s most uncompromising film about a man who is trying to find the head of a dead man for a bounty that would involve all sorts of seedy people. It is a film that is violent, lewd, and just downright obscene but this is what Peckinpah wanted. Even as he gives Warren Oates the chance to play a lead as Oates definitely gives the performance of a lifetime as an ex-Army officer doing this job for a crime boss whose daughter was impregnated by this man whose head is this bounty. It is a film that is still controversial like many of Peckinpah’s work but it is so worth watching for audiences that just want something that is uncompromising and doesn’t give any fucks on who is offended by this.

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Lisztomania

 

Written and directed by Ken Russell, Lisztomania is the story of the famed composer and pianist Franz Liszt who tries to break from his decadent lifestyle while dealing with the women in his life who keeps trying to get him back to that world as well as his rivalry with composer Richard Wagner. Based partially on the book Nelida by Marie d’Aglout that is about her affair with Listz, the film is an unconventional study on Listz and his need to be great as he is portrayed by Roger Daltrey of the Who. Also starring Paul Nicholas, Sara Kestelman, Rick Wakeman, and Ringo Starr as the Pope. Lisztomania is an extravagant yet exhilarating film from Ken Russell.

The film is about the life of the 19th Century composer/pianist Franz Liszt as he deals with his decadent lifestyle that include infidelities, putting his work over his family, and such just as he is dealing with a tumultuous rivalry with Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas). It is a film that doesn’t have much of a plot as it is more of a character study of a man trying to do wonders with his music but also deal with his fame and family life where he tends to create trouble around him. Ken Russell’s screenplay is straightforward in its narrative though it contains a lot of surrealistic sequences and flashbacks that play into Liszt’s friendship with Wagner that eventually became this toxic rivalry that has the latter embracing elements of the occult and later Nazism. Russell definitely brings in a lot of anachronisms into the film in order to play up the idea that Liszt was a rock star like many other composers back in the 18th and 19th Century that had adoration from many with fangirls screaming over them.

Russell’s direction is definitely outrageous in terms of its presentation where it opens with Listz having sex and kissing a woman’s breast to the timing of a metronome until that woman’s husband arrives for a duel with sabre swords as it displays the kind of film that Russell is presenting. Shot on various locations in Britain including various studios in Britain, Russell play into this world of decadence that Listz is a part of where his concerts are extravagant events as he is playing to screaming fangirls with lovers and groupies are backstage waiting for him. While Russell does maintain some straightforward imagery in some of the wide and medium shots to get a scope of the world that Listz lives in as well as these intimate moments where Russell would use close-ups for some of the conversations including a scene where Listz talks to the Pope about his impending marriage to Princess Carolyn (Sara Kestelman) whom he had been in a relationship with for a time in his attempt to reach greatness.

Russell also play up this extravagance in the sequence where Listz meets Princess Carolyn as their meeting features these lavish set pieces including large penises, images of icons, and moments that are off the wall including Listz sliding backwards into Princess Carolyn’s vagina. It is then followed by Listz riding a gigantic penis where Princess Carolyn and his lovers all take a ride on it as it play into the decadence that Listz enjoys yet it becomes fleeting by this air of political turmoil that Wagner is coping with. It would play into events in the third act where Listz learns that his daughter Cosima (Veronica Quilligan) has associated herself with Wagner as he is this representation of Nazism believing his music will change the world as Russell portrays Wagner as an evil rock star with a machine-gun like guitar with his minions dressed up like Superman. It would lead this clash of ideals but also force Listz to deal with his own faults and his need for redemption as it would be told in an anachronistic yet lavish form. Overall, Russell crafts a surreal yet wondrous film about the vices and desires of an 18th Century composer who is presented as a rock star.

Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography as it help add to the film’s extravagant visuals with its unique approach to lighting along with some straightforward lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Stuart Baird does excellent work with the editing as it is stylized in its approach to montages, jump-cuts, and other rhythmic cutting to play into the insanity of the film. Production designer Philip Harrison does incredible work with the set designs for some of the places that Liszt goes to including some of the rooms that he lives in as it is a major highlight of the film. Costume designer Shirley Russell does fantastic work with the design of the lavish clothing that Liszt wears as well as the costumes that the women wear along with the clothes that Wagner’s followers wear.

Hairstylist Colin Jamison and makeup supervisor Wally Schneiderman do terrific work with the look of the characters including the many looks of Princess Carolyn and some of Liszt’s mistresses. The special effects work of Colin Chilvers is wonderful for the design of some of the things in the set as it help play into the decadence that Listz is a part of. Sound editor Terry Rawlings does superb work with the sound in capturing the way music is presented live as well as sound effects including some scenes in the film’s third act. The film’s music consists of pieces from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner with additional pieces by Rick Wakeman who does much of the music as its mixture of rock bombast and orchestral music is a highlight of the film as it is a major character of the film as it showcases of how the music of those times would influence pop and rock n’ roll with songs sung by some of the cast including Daltrey as it adds to the decadent world of Liszt.

The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Georgiana Hale reprising her role as Alma Mahler from Mahler, Izabella Telezynska as Madame Nadezhda von Meck from The Music Lovers, Oliver Reed as Princess Caroline’s servant, Murray Melvin as Hector Berlioz, Andrew Faulds as Johann Strauss II, Kenneth Colley as Frederic Chopin, Otto Diamant as Felix Mendelssohn, Ken Parry as Gioachino Rossini, Nell Campbell as one of Liszt’s lovers in Olga Janina, John Justin as Count d’Agoult who challenges Listz to a duel in the film’s opening scenes, and Rick Wakeman in a small yet hilarious performance as a Frankenstein-like monster that Wagner created who looks like the Nordic icon Thor. Ringo Starr’s two-scene appearance as the Pope is a highlight of the film as he just brings a low-key sense of humor to the role while just being someone who is willing to help Liszt. Fiona Lewis is fantastic as one of Liszt’s lovers in Countess Marie d’Agoult whom Liszt is first seen having sex with as she becomes upset by his attention towards his music. Veronica Quilligan is excellent as Liszt’s eldest daughter Cosima who is supportive at first of her father’s quest for brilliance only to later associate herself with Wagner as she becomes angry over her father’s obsession and neglect.

Paul Nicholas is amazing as Richard Wagner as he’s portrayed as a fan of Liszt who feels slighted by his idol as he later turns to politics and then blend both music and politics to become this megalomaniacal vampire of sorts who embraces Nazism as it is this dazzling and fun performance from Nicholas. Sara Kestelman is incredible as Princess Carolyn as the Polish noblewoman who wants to grant Liszt his search for greatness while hoping to marry him as she is also over-the-top and so fun to watch. Finally, there’s Roger Daltrey in a phenomenal performance as Franz Liszt as this brilliant composer who is trying to reach greatness despite the fame and adulation he’s already attained while also trying to find meaning in his music as well as hoping to change the world where Daltrey brings a lot of charisma and energy to the character.

Lisztomania is a spectacular film from Ken Russell that features a great performance from Roger Daltrey as well as incredible supporting performances from Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Fiona Lewis, and Ringo Starr. Along with its outlandish presentation, outrageous set pieces, gorgeous visuals, themes of ambition, and a whimsical music soundtrack from Rick Wakeman. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules in its study of a revered music composer who is trying to find meaning through his music while dealing with his own faults and vices. In the end, Lisztomania is a tremendous film from Ken Russell.

Ken Russell Films: (Peep Show (1956 short film) – (Amelia and the Angel) - (John Betjeman: A Poet in London) – (Gordon Jacob) – (A House in Bayswater) – (Pop Goes the Easel) – (Elgar) – (Watch the Birdie) – (Bartok) – (French Dressing) – (The Dotty World of James Lloyd) – (The Debussy Films) – (Always on Sunday) – (Don’t Shoot the Composer) – (Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World) – (Billion Dollar Brain) – (Dante’s Inferno) – (Song of Summer) – (Women in Love) – (Dance of the Seven Veils) – (The Music Lovers) – (The Devils (1971 film)) – (The Boy Friend) – (Savage Messiah) – Mahler - (Tommy) – (William and Dorothy) – (Valentino) – (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) – (Altered States) – (The Planets (1983 film)) – (Vaughn Williams: A Symphonic Portrait) - (Crimes of Passion) – (Gothic (1986 film)) – (Aria-Nessun Dorma) – (Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music) – (Salome’s Last Dance) – (The Lair of the White Worm) – (The Rainbow (1989 film)) – (Women & Men: Stories of Seduction) – (The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner) – (Whore (1991 film)) – (Prisoner of Honor (1991 TV film)) – (The Mystery of Dr. Martinu) – (The Secret Life of Arnold Bax) – (The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch) – (Lady Chatterley (1993 TV film)) – (Alice in Russialand) – (Mindbender) – (Ken Russell’s Treasure Island) – (Dogboys (1998 TV film)) – (The Lion’s Mouth) – (Elgar: Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle) – (The Fall of the Louse of Usher) – (Trapped Ashes) – (A Kitten for Hitler)

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Outrage (1950 film)

 

Directed by Ida Lupino and written by Lupino, Malvin Wald, and Collier Young, Outrage is the story of a woman whose life is shattered after she had been raped as she struggles to move on. The film is a study of a woman whose life was about to take a major step is suddenly traumatized by an act of rape just as she was returning home from work. Starring Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, and Robert Clarke. Outrage is a haunting and evocative film from Ida Lupino.

The film follows a young woman who is walking home from work where she is raped by a man with a scar on his neck as she struggles with what happened to her as she runs away from her life and home uncertain about what to do. It is a film that has a simple premise as it explores rape and trauma where a woman who just got engaged to another man is pursued and raped by another man whom she sees every day at work but never really knew. The film’s screenplay by Ida Lupino, Malvin Wald, and Collier Young is largely straightforward in its narrative yet it is really more of an exploration of trauma and how a woman’s life shatters by this event and how it would force her to run away but still haunted by what happened to her. The script largely follows its protagonist Ann Walton (Mala Powers) who had a lot going for her but being raped by a concession stand worker she sees everyday but is unaware that he was stalking her would change things.

The film’s first half is set in small town where Ann’s family and her fiancée Jim Owens (Robert Clarke) are concerned for her but there’s people gossiping and whispering around her as it added the carelessness she is dealing around her forcing her to leave. The film’s second half has her trying to go to Los Angeles but ended up in a small town when she learned she’s being searched as she finds refuge in a small town after she had been found by Reverend Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews) who is unaware of her real identity after she sprained her ankle. Ferguson is a man who also went through a lot following World War II as he returned to his home because he felt a peacefulness there and wants to help as he gets Ann a job while learning more about who she is and the trauma she is dealing with.

Lupino’s direction does bear elements of style yet much of her presentation is straightforward though the film opens with a view of Ann running as she is being chased by this unknown man. Shot on various locations in California including some sets in Hollywood, Lupino does maintain this air of suspense during this chase scene where her usage of close-ups and medium shots add to the terror where she doesn’t show the actual rape but rather use sound and bits of shadow to show what is happening. Since the word “rape” was taboo in the late 1940s/1950s and wasn’t considered a serious things back then. Lupino does showcase this sense of ignorance and lack of real understanding over what happened to Ann despite the concerns from her parents, Jim, and a few others including a police detective that is trying to understand what happened to her. Lupino’s direction also play into this air of claustrophobia into the shame that Ann is carrying as she thinks it’s her own fault. Lupino’s wide shots that includes the film’s opening sequence and another version of that same chase scene do play into that sense of fear but also in serene moments in the film’s second half where she meets Ferguson as he shows her his favorite place overlooking his hometown.

Lupino does calm things down for the film’s second half when Ann is in this new town where she is given a new job but there are these moments of a woman that is having a hard time opening herself to people with Ferguson being patient. Even during a scene that is about trauma and Ann completely losing it where Ferguson not only learns what happened to her but he is the one that is willing to say something. The film’s ending is an ambiguous one as it relates to Ann’s journey as it is clear that she’s still coping with what happened to her where Lupino keeps the camera away but knows when to shoot a close-up or a medium shot to play into Ann’s final decision. Overall, Lupino crafts a riveting yet terrifying film about woman who gets raped and deals with the trauma of what happened to her.

Cinematographers Louis Clyde Stoumen and Archie Stout do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it add to the film’s eerie presentation in its usage of shadows and light for the chase scene as well as aiming for something naturalistic in the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Harvey Manger does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish montages and some rhythmic cuts that play into the suspense as well as the usage of dissolves as it help play into the drama. Production designer Harry Horner, with set decorators Harley Miller and Darrell Silvera, does brilliant work with the look of the Walton home as well as the look of the home that Ferguson lives in. The sound work of John L. Cass and Clem Portman is terrific for the atmosphere it creates in some of the film’s suspenseful moments as well as how sound effects add to the drama. The film’s music by Constantin Bakaleinikoff and Paul Satwell is wonderful for its orchestral score as it play into the drama with its lush strings and eerie arrangements for the film’s suspenseful moments.

The film’s superb cast featured some notable small roles from Tristram Coffin as a judge at a small town, Jerry Paris as a man at a gathering that pursues Ann at the small town, Roy Engel as the local sheriff, Kenneth Patterson and Angela Clarke in their respective roles as Tom and Madge Harrison who are friends of Ferguson, Hal March as Detective Sergeant Hendrix who is trying to help Ann find her attacker, and Raymond Bond and Lilian Hamilton as Ann’s parents who are troubled by what happened to Ann as well as try to understand her trauma. Robert Clarke is fantastic as Ann’s fiancée Jim as a man that is having a hard time coping with what happened to her while is hoping marriage will heal things. Tod Andrews is amazing as Reverend Bruce Ferguson as a kind-hearted man from a small town who helps Ann in finding a job and solace while being patient in trying to understand what happened to her. Finally, there’s Mala Powers in an incredible performance as Ann Walton as a woman who suffered a traumatic event in her life where Powers displays the anguish and turmoil of a woman that is suffering while being unsure in how to cope with what happened to her as it is a mesmerizing performance from Powers.

Outrage is a phenomenal film from Ida Lupino that features a haunting performance from Mala Powers. Along with its ensemble cast, striking visuals, and its themes of trauma and anguish following the act of rape. The film is definitely a look into a then-taboo subject matter and how it is told as it is a film that was ahead of its time when the subject of rape wasn’t in the discussion. In the end, Outrage is an incredible film from Ida Lupino.

Ida Lupino Films: (Not Wanted) – (Never Fear) – (Hard, Fast, and Beautiful) – The Hitch-Hiker - (The Bigamist) – (The Trouble with Angels)

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021

Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon 2021

 

It’s that time once again for the Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon hosted by Wendell of Dell on Movies as it’s the chance for everyone to defend a movie that doesn’t get a lot of love but also bash the films that gets a lot of love. Being a participant since 2015 and contributing for the years that follow since with entries for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and last year. It’s always fun to watch yet it is getting harder to find films that are considered beloved that I don’t like very much. Here are the rules for this year’s edition:

Pick one movie “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com (or at least 7.5 on imdb.com). Tell us why you hate it.

Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com (or 4.0 or less on imdb.com). Tell us why you love it.

Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own (just include all the pertinent details), or just mention this blogathon if using an audio or visual medium.

Let us know what two movies you intend on writing, vlogging, posting, or podcasting about in one of the following ways: Comment on this or any AtC 2021 post on this site, tweet me, or hit me up on instagram @dellonmovies, or e-mail me at dellott@yahoo.com.

Publish your post on any day from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 12, 2021, and include a link to this announcement. If you’re a podcaster or YouTuber that is interested in participating just talk about your chosen movies during your closest podcast and/or video to those dates and mention that you are taking part in this blogathon.

If posting on social media, use the hashtag #AgainstTheCrowd2021
I love Martin Scorsese and a lot of his films and I like the music of the Band including their collaboration with Bob Dylan as The Basement Tapes is one of my all-time favorite albums. Now I don’t hate this film as I liked a lot of the music but it’s really about the presentation of the Band’s final concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in November of 1976. Notably as the film felt more like a celebration of the band’s main songwriter and guitarist Robbie Robertson rather than the Band itself as Robertson got a producer’s credit for the film as it marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with Scorsese that is still on-going. It’s not just that some of the interviews in the film has Robertson doing a lot of the talking on not just himself but also on the Band as drummer/vocalist Levon Helm and bassist/vocalist Rick Danko do get their say while keyboardist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Manuel and keyboardist/multi-instrumental Garth Hudson barely get to say anything. While the recorded performances of the Band with the Staple Singers on The Weight and with Emmylou Harris on Evangeline are among the highlights of the film.

There’s moments during the concert that are off-putting as the presence of the now notorious anti-vaxxers in Van Morrison (in his horrendous purple suit) and Eric Clapton (on the fucking booze) are more self-serving these days as a reminder of what they used to be and what they are now. There’s also that legendary story of Neil Young appearing at the show with fucking cocaine all over his nose but it was removed in post-production though it would’ve been much cooler to see how much coke Young had. While I do like Neil Diamond, his appearance in the concert is baffling as fuck as he’s only there because Robertson produced one of his albums. The final song that is performed with Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, and everyone else has some very bad direction as there’s a part where Manuel is singing but the camera doesn’t focus on him but on the other people on stage. It’s an overrated concert documentary film that is really more about what Robertson had done when the reality is that he’s only one of five individuals that made the Band so special as it’s no surprise the remaining members reunited without Robertson in 1983 and kept going despite Manuel’s suicide in 1986 and Danko’s death in 1999 with Helm ultimately passing in 2012.
This action film is stupid as it does feature a largely terrible music soundtrack featuring the blandness that is Uncle Krackhead but it is a film that knows it’s not taking itself seriously and doesn’t apologize for it. With an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Bokeem Woodbine, David Arquette, and Christian Slater as bank robbers who all dress up as Elvis impersonators as the film also features Courtney Cox, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Lovitz, Howie Long, Ice-T, Paul Anka, and Kevin Pollak. It is a film that is all action with some humor and sex appeal but it also play up some of the clichés that is often expected in these blockbuster films. You have Costner hamming it up a bit as the main villain as he seemed to be having a hell of a time in the film while also having some nice one-liners that include “tough guys gotta eat too” showing that there’s a bit of humanity in him.

Yet, the film really belongs to Kurt Russell as the criminal who got betrayed by Costner and is trying to retrieve the money as the film also play up Russell’s own history with the King. No one does a dead-on impression of the King better than Russell did where he definitely plays it straight yet manages to hold his own against Costner while also having great scenes with Courtney Cox as a woman whose young son is along for the ride. It is a film that features an over-the-top shoot-out climax that is fucking ridiculous but it is so fun to watch. Plus, it has one of the finest post-credit scenes in the film where Russell goes full-on King to sing Such a Night as it shows exactly how much fun that whole cast had in being in this film.





© thevoid99 2021