Thursday, October 06, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Horror Themes/Scores

 

For the 39th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as it’s Halloween season. We go into the subject of horror film themes/scores as music is a key proponent of horror. It helps build up the suspense and terror that occurs throughout the film. Here are my three picks as they’re all score pieces in films from John Carpenter with music by John Carpenter:

1. The Fog



The theme to Carpenter’s 1980 film is definitely eerie in terms of its mixture of synthesizers, pianos, drum machines, and organs. It has this eerie tone that is perfect for a film that is set in a small seaside town where a lot of bad shit is going to happen. There’s a richness to the music as the theme does set the mood while it also has a tone that is intoxicating to listen to.

2. Big Trouble in Little China



Made in collaboration with regular collaborator Alan Howarth, the theme to his 1986 horror-comedy-action romp is definitely one of his most fun films. Notably as it’s about a trucker and his friend who try to retrieve the girlfriend of the latter from some mysterious Chinese sorcerer who has 3 bad dudes who are willing to help him. There’s a lot of crazy shit that goes on with Kurt Russell just being a hilarious badass. The theme itself entitled Pork Chop Express is just this great mix of 80s rock and synth-funk with a bit of synth-pop as it just feels right for the film’s insanely chaotic tone.

3. In the Mouth of Madness



Carpenter’s extremely-underrated 1994 film that was sadly overlooked is truly his most metaphysical to date in terms of how he blurs reality and fiction as it was inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Notably as it involves an insurance investigator trying to find a reclusive horror writer who had gone insane to explore the phenomenon of his own work believing his new manuscript will cause chaos. The theme Carpenter created with Howarth is this eerie mix of metal and soothing electronic music that play into the sense of terror and suspense that looms throughout the film as it is Carpenter’s most overlooked film.

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Blonde (2022 film)

 

Based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde is about the tumultuous life of Marilyn Monroe told through elements of fiction, legends, and exaggerations that play into a woman’s struggle with her identity. Written for the screen and directed by Andrew Dominik, the film is an unconventional character study that play into the life of Marilyn Monroe and her struggle to be this persona as well as who she is as she is portrayed by Ana de Armas. Also starring Adrien Brody, Xavier Samuel, Bobby Cannavale, and Julianne Nicholson. Blonde is a haunting and provocative film from Andrew Dominik.

The life and career of Marilyn Monroe is a story that’s been told through many films, documentaries, and in books that ponder how a woman who was one of the biggest film stars in the 1950s die so tragically in 1962 through an overdose of barbiturates. There have been a lot of stories about Monroe that wonder a woman who had entertained millions of people yet was also insecure about her skills as an actress as well as having to please people through three failed marriages as well as many rumors about her life. What Andrew Dominik does with this story of Monroe is take Joyce Carol Oates’ largely fictional novel about the film star and turn it into this unsettling and discomforting film that is mainly the anti-bio-pic. Notably as the film is more about the woman who inhabits the role of Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jeane Baker who would find success as Monroe but would have trouble trying to balance in being Baker and Monroe.

Dominik’s screenplay is straightforward in its narrative as it goes from Baker as a child (Lily Fisher) living with a mentally-ill mother in Gladys (Julianne Nicholson) to her final years being all alone and searching for her father (Tygh Runyan) whom she had never met yet would receive letters from him during her period of stardom as it becomes an obsession she has in trying to find him. The first is about Baker’s life as a child and then a pinup model who also did nude photos as she aspires to be an actress where she would get early film roles and attention as well as be in a polyamorous relationship with Cass Chaplin (Xavier Samuel) and Eddy Robinson (Evan Williams) who are the sons of famous actors. Yet, Baker’s desire to have a normal life and a family would often be pushed aside for her career as its second act is about her relationship with a former baseball player, in this fictionalized version of Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale), who would later be angered by the attention she gets as a sex symbol. The third act begins in New York 1955 when she met a playwright (Adrien Brody) who would treat her kindly and give her a life away from the glitz and glamour but tragedy and addiction would lead to her downward spiral.

Dominik’s direction is definitely stylish in not just the overall presentation with the usage of different aspect ratios with the 1:33:1 and 1:66:1 aspect ratios used commonly throughout the film. Shot largely on location in Los Angeles and areas in Southern California, Dominik creates a film that play into a woman being caught in the middle of this idea of fantasy and reality as one notable sequence in the first act is when the 7-year old Baker is woken up by her mother to see the Hollywood Hills being burned where Gladys claims that Baker’s father lives there. Yet, it is this scene that do play into a world that Baker is going into where she would later describe as Hell as it would be followed by Gladys having a mental breakdown. There are some usage of the 1:85:1 and 2:39:1 aspect ratios in a few scenes that play into Baker’s own ascent but also her own desires to have some freedom as she becomes an adult. Dominik’s usage of close-ups and medium shots do help play into Monroe not only interacting with people but also showcase a woman whose desire for stardom also would have her in some degrading moments. Notably as she meets a studio boss who pulls down her panties and fucks her up in the ass in an act of rape.

The film’s sexual content isn’t exactly explicit except for a scene late in the third act involving an American president (Caspar Phillipson) that doesn’t exactly show anything but it is clear what Monroe is doing as it is later followed by an unseen act. Dominik doesn’t shy away from the fact that Monroe is seen as an object of desire that men want but there are also moments that are surreal where there’s a shot of the playwright’s face being blurred along with men’s jaws getting larger during a film premiere. It is among some of the surreal elements that includes an image of a womb in Baker’s stomach that play into her desire to have a family but the specter of Monroe overtakes Baker’s first chance while there is a more gruesome depiction of abortion late in the film that is also surreal yet terrifying as it add to Baker’s own declining mental state.

It is clear that the film isn’t just about a woman coping with mental illness and misogyny at a time when women didn’t get much say in their role in the entertainment industry. It is really a film that blends genres in not just drama but also horror as it play into this nightmare that Baker had put herself into. Even as Monroe would become this troubled figure that is difficult to work with on film as she struggles to connect with someone who will see her as just Baker. Though there are men such as Cass, Eddy, the playwright, and her assistant Whitey (Toby Huss) who do treat her kindly along with care and love. They were unable to deal with the chaos that is Monroe and her road to self-destruction as well as being used by others who treat her like meat or just another woman they can just fuck and find the next piece of ass they can sodomize. Overall, Dominik crafts a visceral and harrowing film about a woman wrestling with a persona that she created that gave her everything as well as nothing.

Cinematographer Chayse Irvin does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of black-and-white stock for some scenes in the film to play into the period of the times as well as some colorful work including the Hollywood Hills fire scene as well as some scenes at Monroe’s home in her final days. Editor Adam Robinson does excellent work with its usage of slow-motion shots, jump-cuts, and other stylish cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Florencia Martin, with set decorator Erin Fite and art director Peter Andrus, does amazing work with the look of the apartment that the young Baker and her mother lived in as well as the homes and film sets that Baker/Monroe would be in. Costume designer Jennifer Johnson does fantastic work in creating some of the clothes that Baker/Monroe wear including some of her iconic clothing in the films she’s been in.

Makeup artist Tina Roesler Kerwin does brilliant work with the look of Baker/Monroe from the hair and the look she would having including aspects of her body during her final years. Special effects supervisor Jeremy Hays, along with visual effects supervisors Jindrich Cervenka, Jason Melcher, and Phillip Moses, does terrific work with some of the visual effects including the design of Baker’s womb in her stomach as well as some of the surreal bits in the film. Sound designer Leslie Shatz does superb work with the sound in the way flash bulbs pop and other sparse elements in the sound to play into the drama and horror. The film’s music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is phenomenal in this haunting and disconcerting music score that mixes elements of electronic and ambient music that help play into Baker’s own psyche as it is a highlight of the film.

The casting by Victoria Thomas is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Chris Lemmon as his father Jack, Michael Masini as Tony Curtis, Scoot McNairy as Tommy Ewell, Garrett Dillahunt in an un-credited appearance as a film producer, Ravil Isyanov as filmmaker Billy Wilder, Lucy DeVito as the ex-athlete's niece who is one of the few in his family that is kind to her, Eric Matheny as Joseph Cotten, Sara Paxton as Gladys’ neighbor who brief takes the young Baker in, Tygh Runyan as a picture of Baker’s father, Lily Fisher as the young Norma Jeane, Dan Butler as an industry boss of Monroe in I.E. Shinn, and David Warshofsky in a fictionalized version of Darryl F. Zanuck who would rape Baker/Monroe in their first meeting. Toby Huss is terrific as Monroe’s personal assistant Allan “Whitey” Snyder who helps with her makeup as well as doing what he can to help including getting her pills. Caspar Phillipson is superb in his brief role as a fictionalized version of JFK as a man who is trying to run a country but also fuck as many beautiful women as he can as he treats Monroe like shit.

Xavier Samuel and Evan Williams are fantastic in their respective roles as Charles “Cass” Chaplin III and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson Jr. as the sons of two film icons who become Baker’s lovers as they help her with their acting career but also do what they can to protect her despite their own flirtation with danger. Julianne Nicholson is excellent as Gladys as a woman that feels cursed by being daughter to a young girl as she exhibits serious mental problems while feeling distant when she meets Baker as an adult. Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody are brilliant in their respective roles as the fictionalized versions of Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller with Cannavale displaying a man that does love Monroe but becomes troubled by her fame as a sex symbol while Brody exhibits a sensitivity as a playwright who cared about her but is pushed away as he is unable to help her.

Finally, there’s Ana de Armas in a phenomenal performance as Norma Jeane Baker/Marilyn Monroe as a woman who is just trying to find love and be accepted as who she is only to go into a tumultuous and chaotic world where she is unable to really be herself. It is a performance that has de Armas take on an American accent as well as display that sense of anguish and longing of a woman that is desperate to be loved. Even as she had to endure not just humiliating moments but also moments that are degrading and horrifying as she succumbs to madness as well as a loss of identity in having to play a persona that ends up being just a nightmare. For de Armas, this is definitely a career-defining performance for the Cuban-Spanish actress who definitely proves that there’s a lot she can do while it is also proof that she’s really just getting started.

Blonde is an outstanding film from Andrew Dominik that features a towering leading performance from Ana de Armas. Along with its ensemble cast, rapturous visuals, a brooding music score, and its exploration of misogyny, identity, madness, and fame. It is a film that isn’t easy to watch while it is also willing to provoke the idea of myth and legend by showcasing a woman being trapped in a nightmare where she had no control of. In the end, Blonde is a magnificent film from Andrew Dominik.

Related: All About Eve - Some Like It Hot - Insignificance - My Week with Marilyn - Arthur Miller: Writer

Andrew Dominik Films: Chopper - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Killing Them Softly - One More Time with Feeling - This Much I Know to Be True

© thevoid99 2022

Friday, September 30, 2022

Films That I Saw: September 2022

 

Well, the summer has ended and it’s still somewhat warm here in the South. I’m fucking tired of mosquitoes and I’m waiting for the cold to arrive. Well, the world is still into chaos with Italy going into the far-right which is not a good thing. Didn’t they go through that a long time ago and it went to shit? Britain just lost their queen and there’s a new king but there’s still some bullshit along the way in the way they treat Megan and yet allow Prince Andrew to be involved which is horseshit. Inflation is kicking in and man, it’s kicking everyone in the ass as my mother is just unhappy with this inflation shit. I don’t like it either as it is making things harder as whatever money I get from my EBT card isn’t enough. I don’t just buy food for my mother and I but also fruits for my niece and nephew as they just love to eat fruit. They love to eat rice and beans. They love to eat ice cream every once in a while. This is all El Pendejo’s fault.

Then there’s the world of professional wrestling as the month began with complete and total anarchy in the worst way and it left me with disappointment and anger. Labor Day weekend not only had WWE feature one of the best matches they had shown ever in WALTER vs. Sheamus for the WWE Intercontinental Championship in Cardiff, Wales for Clash at the Castle as that match is proof that HHH is doing good with the fans. AEW would follow WWE the next day with a show of their own in 2022’s All Out that definitely had a solid card and some excellent matches with the big match of the night being Swerve in Our Glory vs. the Acclaimed for the AEW World Tag Team Championship not only stealing the show but it made the Acclaimed superstars even though they lost yet they just won those tag titles at the AEW Grand Slam event in Queens, New York at Arthur Ashe stadium.

They went from being this comedy act of sorts showing up on AEW Dark during the pandemic with Max Caster doing the rapping and Anthony Bowens being charismatic as both guys could work. It was this combination of who they are, their work ethic, and connecting with the crowd even though they started off as heels. It was one of these things that can’t be scripted as not being taken seriously and injuries didn’t stop their momentum while they teamed up with Billy Gunn and his sons Austin and Colten as a faction of sorts just to help the Gunn Club get over. Instead, the fans chose the Acclaimed because of Caster’s rap disses with an injured Bowens showing more charisma in his pinky than a lot of other wrestlers these days as he came up with things like “Scissor me Daddy Ass”. It was one of the dumbest things ever yet it worked and they’re hot right now as definitely a team that fans love.

Unfortunately, what happened at All Out should’ve been this great moment and celebration for AEW. Instead, it got followed by a disastrous media scrum that really should’ve forced Tony Khan to act more like a boss and be more of a businessman instead of acting like a fan. After winning the AEW World Heavyweight Championship at All Out, CM Punk at the media scrum just unloaded on everything and everyone as he made Khan look powerless while he’s munching on pastry and air out a lot of dirty laundry. Whether he was hurting from injuries he had suffered from the match, Punk’s behavior and the things he said weren’t just disrespectful but also unprofessional. Later on while Khan was talking the press, Chris Jericho went to Khan and whispered “some shit just went down” and everything fell apart where a backstage brawl between Punk, Matt and Nick Jackson, and Kenny Omega just came in where Punk’s friend Ace Steel bit Omega in the arm while Elite cohorts Michael Nakazawa and Brandon Cutler tried to stop the brawl along with producer Pat Buck and talent relations official Christopher Daniels.

It was an ugly event that really made AEW look bad and while I wasn’t happy with some of the creative decisions in recent time when it came to Punk. The backstage brawl and the media scrum just made me really disappointed and angry at Punk for not just acting like a whiny bitch but also not acting professionally and just spewing out things that is none of anyone’s business. While there are indeed issues as it relates to communications as well as those talking to the press in secret over things. That whole incident is just an ugly way to end someone’s wrestling career and it definitely exposed a lot of things that happened. The aftermath did have Punk, the Bucks, Omega, Steel, Cutler, Nakazawa, Pat Buck, and Daniels suspended over what happened yet Cutler, Nakazawa, Pat Buck, and Daniels had their suspensions lifted since investigators revealed that they did try to stop the fight.

I admit the reason I watch AEW is because I needed to fill something for my love of pro wrestling and they managed to fulfill it while not everything they did was great. They had growing pains and other things that showcased their flaws but what happened is a clear indication that Tony Khan needs to be more of a boss and have people in his circle to help run things. Fortunately, there had been talent meetings following All Out lead by Jericho, Bryan Danielson, and Jon Moxley who all stepped up and take charge in what should be done and not letting shit like this happen. Since then, AEW has managed to do well without the Elite and Punk as I think AEW doesn’t really need them. Moxley is clearly the Ace of AEW and has earned it while Jericho winning the ROH World Championship is a good business move that hopefully will get Ring of Honor a TV/streaming deal.

Then there’s Punk and the Elite as it relates to what happens to them. Punk’s friend Ace Steel should definitely be fired as he had gotten AEW into trouble with the censors and biting Omega in the arm is just ridiculous. While there have been reports that Omega was trying to stop the fight and was trying to get Punk’s dog Larry out of the chaos. Omega should remain suspended for the time being as he had been helping out behind the scenes with their upcoming video game as he had last been seen in Japan hanging out with Kota Ibushi. Yet, Omega unfortunately didn’t make himself look good during a talent meeting weeks before All Out due to a bad joke he said as it only made whatever relationship between talent and the Elite tense. Matt and Nick Jackson definitely should’ve restrained themselves but they didn’t do that and ended up making a mess into the brawl as they too were unprofessional in their actions. If there is some truth to them leaking things to media sources and such, they need to stripped of their powers as EVPs and remain suspended.

They have a reputation of acting immatures at times dating back to their time in New Japan as they really shouldn’t be talking to Dave Meltzer or anyone and leak shit. There is truth to what Punk had said at the media scrum as well as what Malakai Black has been saying as he is taking an extended leave of absence from AEW to deal with personal issues. Then there’s Punk as it is clear he started all of this and didn’t make himself look good in front of everyone. People will point the finger at Hangman Adam Page over a promo made back in May towards Punk but that is really Tony Khan’s fault for not telling Page to not say those things. Punk however didn’t act well to that promo and there were plans for him to feud with a returning MJF throughout the rest of the year but that is pretty much dead.

After Double or Nothing this past May, this should’ve lead to another Summer of Punk but because of a stupid stage dive that he did. Punk ended up injuring his foot and creating a mess with the AEW World Championship after his match with Moxley for that championship. His actions following All Out not only forced AEW to strip him from the title but also forced the company to have the title vacated leading to a tournament that was recently won by Moxley who never should’ve lost the match at All Out as he had been the one carrying this company this past summer and was the one busting his ass off which is why he earned that title as Ace. The Trios championship was also vacated after what happened as it was recently won by Death Triangle (Pac, Rey Fenix, and Penta el Oscuro) as it was created for the Elite but it really should’ve belonged to Dark Order.

I think in all of this, it is clear that there’s some talent that is willing to step up and prove to everyone that they don’t need Punk and the Elite while there are still things behind the scenes that need to be taken care of. WWE had every right to shit on AEW over what happened and it’s all in fair game. The Elite should not be around for a while and let other talent gain their spots while Punk should just fuck off. He has no business being a top champion since his body is unable to carry all of that responsibility while he is also someone that clearly has a lot of anger issues and often finds something to bitch about. There is no fucking way he will return to WWE and I don’t think HHH would want him as I’m sure a lot of the things HHH said about Punk are true and doesn’t want to deal with him. I don’t want to see Punk in New Japan as it is likely he wouldn’t catch up with any of the talent physically and mentally as he would be bitching about being in pain all of the time. I was excited when Punk made his return to wrestling but I am disappointed in how he chose to end it as I really don’t want to see him back in professional wrestling ever again. In fact, I would rather not see him anywhere anymore as I don’t want to see or listen to someone that is filled with bitterness and anger who is never happy over anything. I don’t need that shit in my life.
In the month of September 2022, I saw a total of 28 films in 17 first-timers and 11 re-watches with two of those first timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 films by women pledge as it is down from last month mainly because I’m taking care of my niece and nephew as they’ve become unruly in all sorts of fun ways. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot in Devi. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for September 2022:

1. Moonage Daydream
2. I Am Love
3. Rejected
4. World of Tomorrow
5. The Meaning of Life
6. The Staggering Girl
7. In the Darkness of Time
8. Hail, Sarajevo
9. This Much I Know to Be True
10. I Like Life a Lot
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

Unauthorized



A short film by Evan Rachel Wood in collaboration with choreographer Angela Trimbur as a love-letter to songs from Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a great piece that expresses the love for Apple but also dance. Wood’s direction definitely help capture the intensity of the dancing lead by Trimbur and others as it is set in different locations. Trimbur’s dancing definitely has that sense of movement that is unconventional but also with an air of grace as it is good to see ERW showing that she can do more than just act, sing, and kick ass.

Classic Albums: Suede: Coming Up
The Classic Albums documentary series is something I enjoy watching as it has musicians talking about great albums and those who created it as this episode is the one I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement last year. Often overlooked when compared to albums by Pulp, Oasis, and Blur, Suede’s third album is really a crown jewel of Britpop in terms of a band not only being re-energized following the departure of a key member and the struggle to find themselves after a difficult second album. Especially as they aimed to create an album with nothing but hits as Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Simon Gilbert, Richard Oakes, and then-new member Neil Codling are interviewed in how they created some of these songs and how the album brought new life to a band many in the press thought were finished after Bernard Butler’s departure.

Remembering
A short film from Disney+ that is mainly an advertisement for a virtual/artificial app. The short film is still an interesting one that features Brie Larson as a young woman trying to get ideas while a young child is meeting a mysterious thing that plays as an idea. It isn’t a great short but it does at least feature some superb performances from the newcomer Dusty Peak and Larson.

The Girl Chewing Gum
This avant-garde from 1976 by John Smith that I watched on MUBI is a fascinating though pretentious short film shot entirely on one location where the camera moves at a certain part of that location with Smith being this voice of God commentating on everything as if he is the director. It has some interesting moments but it’s just something only fans of the avant-garde might really enjoy.

Hail, Sarajevo



One of three short segments from Jean-Luc Godard that I saw on YouTube (the other was a segment from an anthology film) is this 2-minute short film made in the early 1990s relating to the Yugoslav wars of that time. It is really Godard narrating over an image of the war in Sarajevo and how it was disconnected with the rest of the world in the aftermath of the Cold War as if nothing is happening except in Sarajevo.

ASSEMBLED: The Making of Thor: Love & Thunder
The next film in MCU documentary series showcases not just what Taika Waititi wanted to do in terms of the technical aspects of the film such as shooting in a 360 degree studio set that mixed practical sets and visual effects to give a scene a lot of room for the action to occur. It also play into the story and how Waititi was able to get Natalie Portman back into the franchise as she underwent some physical training to play the Mighty Thor. The documentary also revealed Chris Hemsworth’s evolution in playing the character from his first audition to him wanting to do something different but also maintain a big physique for the character.

In the Darkness of Time



From the anthology film Ten Minutes Older: The Cello is a piece from Godard that is definitely a late-career highlight in terms of his love for cinema but also his own views on life in the 20th Century. Featuring clips of his own work as well as images of violence and historical events, the film is really a collage that is narrated by Godard as he talks about the world in general and humanity as it is a must for fans of Godard must see.

I Like Life a Lot
This 8-minute short film consists largely of animated drawings from children living in the Roma section a small town in Hungary as they discuss about their lives at home. Notably in what the adults do in their time at work and out of work as well as things that aren’t so good. It is a film filled with imagination as its final shots involve the kids creating these drawings as it showcases a lot of truth as it is a gem worth seeking out.

Rejected



One of three short films by Don Hertzfeldt that I had never seen before at all yet I had heard of him for a long time. The short is essentially a collection of rejected animated bits Hertzfeldt created for commercials and organizations who found his hand-drawn animated work to be a bit too extreme. Honestly, I thought they were great and hilarious as it had a lot of truth in what these companies wanted. Unfortunately, it’s clear that they don’t have a sense of humor as the drawings themselves get more depressing as it goes on as it play into a humorous take into rejection.

World of Tomorrow



Another short that is really a marvel in animation as it play into a young girl who meets herself from the future who shows her a unique and strange future. A world in which cloning is part of the norm where they would upload their memories into their new bodies and such. The animation showcases a mixture of hand-drawn and 3D computer animation where Hertzfeldt definitely does more but also find new ways to tell a story that transcends genre as the short is the first of a three-part trilogy.

The Meaning of Life



The third and final short by Hertzfeldt that I saw on YouTube is an absurdist take on the idea of life itself. It is a film that isn’t about humanity but also about aliens and all sorts of creatures in how they live and how they try to be part of something. Even when things go wrong as it has an air of crudeness in its look while there are also bits that are just fucking hilarious. Hertzfeldt is someone that needs to be seen for those who had never seen any of his work.

Berenice
From Eric Rohmer is the first short film he ever did back in 1954 that is based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe. Shot and edited by Jacques Rivette and set at the home of Andre Bazin, the film is an example of some of the attributes that would define the French New Wave as it has Rohmer play a man obsessed with his fiancĂ©e’s teeth to great extremes as it features narration, strange close-ups and other bits that would be part of that movement.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (episodes 3-7)
The hate this show is getting from a bunch of whiny fanboys with sand in their vaginas is proof that they just can’t handle anything in which women are at the helm. You have them complaining about this, that, this, and that. Oh, they also have a problem with She-Hulk twerking with Megan Thee Stallion. I think agree with one of those people who were shown on the film among those who complained as that one guy said “I don’t know about y’all but I’d smash”. I’m with you buddy. This show is awesome as it play into Jennifer Walter’s internal conflict in being She-Hulk but also wanting to be accepted as herself as Tatiana Malsany really brings a lot of complexities to the character as well as having some strong supporting work. Notably Jameela Jamil as Titania as this hilarious antagonist who is trying to make money off of the She-Hulk name and be a thorn in Jen’s side.

Andor (episodes 1-4)
The new show from the Star Wars franchise that is a prequel to Rogue One as it focuses on the character of Cassian Andor and how he joined the Rebellion. Four episodes in so far and it is definitely a different show in comparison to the other shows from Disney+ as it is more about drama and character study with a small emphasis on action and suspense. Yet, Diego Luna reprising the role as Andor not only feels right but we get to know more about his character and what he is trying to find while there are subplots about key individuals such as Genevieve O’Reilly reprising her role as Mon Montha who is aware she’s being watched by the Empire. It is a show that doesn’t just explore Andor’s early life but also the world of corporations controlled by the Empire as it is definitely a show Star Wars fans need to watch.

Wrestling Match of the Month: Swerve in Our Glory vs. the Acclaimed w/ Billy Gunn for the AEW World Tag Team Championship at All Out 2022
This was a match that came into the event with little build as it was one of the last matches added to an already stacked card. While the duo of Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee have had a good run as the tag team champions since beating the Young Bucks and Team Taz for those belts. There was no question that the Acclaimed have become fan favorites for months as their association with wrestling legend Billy Gunn and his sons the Gunn Club have increased their popularity with Gunn favoring them over his sons who have been annoyed in being called the Ass Boys prompting them to turn on their father and join the Firm lead by MJF and Stokely Hathaway. The match at All Out was expected to be just a typical tag team match or maybe the sleeper match of the night.

Yet, it ended up being the moment that the Acclaimed had arrived as more than 10,000 people at the Now Arena in Chicago were chanting “oh scissor me daddy” or “whose house? Daddy’s house!” as they were rooting for the Acclaimed. It would prompt Strickland and Lee to act heelish that only had the people rooting for the Acclaimed even more. The real surprise was in the fact that the Acclaimed had found ways to really prove that they can go with any team out there as they had near-falls and moments where they really surprised everyone including wrestling fans, skeptics, and peers. Even though they didn’t win the match, it is a major breakout moment for the duo with some hoping for Tony Khan to have called an audible for a change in the results but thankfully the Acclaimed are now the AEW World Tag Team Champions as the only real challenge they have is against another popular team in the current ROH/IWGP/AAA World Tag Team Champions in FTR to see who is really the best and most over team in AEW and professional wrestling.

Top 10 Re-Watches (that isn’t Lost in Translation)

1. Secretary
2. The Old Mill
3. Enchanted
4. Bao
5. The Goddess of Spring
6. Beezy Bear
7. Ferdinand the Bull
8. The Ugly Duckling
9. Lambert the Sheepish Lion
10. The Strongest Man in the World
Well, that is all for September as fall is starting to arrive. In October, it is Halloween season meaning I will be watching some horror, suspense, and other weird shit as well as some new releases like the already-polarizing Blonde and whatever films I can find. My next Blind Spot will be Pedro Costa’s Letters from Fontainhas trilogy while I will be re-watching some Halloween-themed stuff. Before I close, I want to express my condolences to the friends of family of those we lost this month in Louise Fletcher, Coolio, Antonio Inoki, and of course, Jean-Luc Godard. We will miss them for what they’ve done for us and hope to see them in the afterlife. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2022

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Moonage Daydream

 

Written, directed, and edited by Brett Morgen, Moonage Daydream is a documentary about the life and music of David Bowie told through rare and unreleased footage including live concert footage that are Bowie’s own personal archives. The film that is made with the approval of the Bowie estate showcases the artist’s unique evolution and many personas he had created from the mid-1960s to his death in early 2016. The result is an immersive and kaleidoscopic film from Brett Morgen.

When it comes to the subject of an artist like David Bowie, it is truly difficult to pinpoint exactly what he is and who he is as the man himself never stuck to one style let alone any style. Up till his death in January 10, 2016, the man continuously maintained a sense of intrigue as well as keep people guessing as he refused to live life by anyone’s expectations. What this film does isn’t really go into the many aspects of his life as an artist and as a person but rather a man who is often trying to find something and continue to find out whoever he is. A traditional documentary would’ve played by the numbers and sometimes tell things that people already know but what Brett Morgen does is have the man himself tell his own story through archival audio and video footage including rare and unseen material that had been kept by Bowie for years with the permission from his estate to allow Morgen to tell Bowie’s story.

Using all sorts of footage from Bowie’s lifetime including concerts, rare home films, pictures, paintings, interviews, and the films that Bowie had appeared in. Morgen creates a film that doesn’t have a traditional narrative as it play more into a man growing up and finding himself as this alien rock star from Mars, a troubled singer with a serious cocaine problem, a nomad living in Berlin, a traveler in transition as he goes around the world and do movies, a superstar who reached the masses only to compromise himself as an artist, and a man who found stability and love in all aspects of life while living in the present. Throughout the course of the film, there are these images of outer space as if the cosmos are being created as they kind of serve as structure breaks to play into Bowie moving from one persona and into another.

While the film doesn’t dwell too much into Bowie’s personal life other than bits about his early life including his love for his older half-brother Terry and later his second marriage to the model Iman. Morgen chooses to focus mostly on Bowie as he constantly changes and goes from one place to another in his own search for identity and meaning while it doesn’t include bits about Bowie’s time in Tin Machine from 1989 to 1992 which is just a minor omission as it doesn’t have any effect on the film’s unconventional narrative. Notably as it play on these key events such as Bowie’s stardom in the 70s to becoming this mega-superstar in the early 80s only to struggle with who he is as an artist and what people want in the second half of the decade. In the 1990s, Bowie found personal happiness in both as an artist and as a person up till the end of his life as he also talks about the idea of embracing chaos early and then eventually into finding some form of order with elements of chaos.

Among some of the footage shown in the film aren’t just films that Bowie starred in but also other films that play into Bowie’s own philosophies on life and art that include some of his own paintings where he explained why he never did an art gallery mainly because he considers his own paintings to be personal. Among some of the rare footage include some live performances as well as outtakes from music videos, promotional bits, his 1980 stage performance for The Elephant Man on Broadway, and other rare films including projects such as Love You Till Tuesday and the documentary Ricochet. One notably rare bit that is given some restoration is from the D.A. Pennebaker’s 1983 concert documentary film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that features Bowie and the band playing The Jean Genie with the Beatles’ Love Me Do with Jeff Beck that never made it to the final film and had often been shown in poor condition. What the film shows is a new look and the performance itself is among one of the gems shown.

Serving as the editor, Morgen does use a lot of footage, TV interviews, and rare footage presented and mix it with some film footage as well as some unique animated pieces by Stefan Nadelman and Vello Virkhaus that includes a rotoscope animated piece from outtakes for the music video Fame ’90 by Gus Van Sant in which Bowie is dancing with Louise Lecavalier of the Quebecois contemporary dance group La La La Human Steps who toured with Bowie in 1990 as it played into Bowie’s new outlook on life in the 1990s. Sound designers Samir Foco, Nina Hartstone, and John Warhurst help gather many of the audio from the many interviews that Bowie did in his lifetime along with excerpts from films and his music.

The film’s music is presented in a bit of a remix and collage style as it play into his many evolutions and periods in those years as a lot of it is supervised by Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti with Morgan also doing some of the mixing as well. Using not just some of Bowie’s hits but also deep cuts and instrumentals made throughout his career as it adds to the dramatic presentation of the film. Even as some of the deep cuts are presented in a new lights along with some of the live performances as the music sounds not just broader but also effective in their live setting.

Moonage Daydream is a tremendous film from Brett Morgen. While for anyone that doesn’t know much about David Bowie or are new to him are going to be confused at first by its unconventional structure yet will be amazed by the footage it does provide. For fans of Bowie, this film is a must to watch in terms of the rare footage as well as the chance to experience something that is more than just an audio/visual tribute to Bowie but also as a film that play into the man and his many guises and journeys he took into being this great figure of popular culture that the universe know and love. In the end, Moonage Daydream is a spectacular film from Brett Morgen.

Brett Morgen Films: The Kid Stays in the Picture - Crossfire Hurricane - Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck - (Jane (2017 film))

Related: Cracked Actor - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Jazzin' for Blue Jean - David Bowie: Five Years - David Bowie: The Last Five Years - David Bowie: Finding Fame

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Detectives & Investigators (Mystery Edition)

 

For the 37th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of mystery month. We go into the subject of female detectives/investigators as it is clear that women can do things better than men even when it comes to finding clues and such. Here are my three picks:

1. Trixie
From the often-underrated Alan Rudolph is a film about a security guard who goes undercover by working at a casino despite the fact that she’s inexperienced and still dealing with many issues in her own life. Starring Emily Watson as the titular character in a performance that is pretty funny, it is a film that isn’t seen a lot as it play into a murder mystery that involves all sorts of regulars at this casino with a lot of shit going on.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher’s remake of the 2009 film does bear similarities to the original film yet both manage to maintain its sense of intrigue and suspense in their respective take on Stieg Larsson’s novel. Notably as the film features an unusual protagonist in Lisbeth Salander who is a hacker that often find a lot of incriminating things while helping out a disgraced journalist in trying to solve a missing person case for an ailing billionaire. The film features not just Fincher’s unique visual style but also a break-out performance from Rooney Mara and an exhilarating music score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails.

3. Veronica Mars
One of the first films to be made through crowd-funding, the film version that is based on the late 2000s TV series about a young woman detective who is trying to solve murders while dealing with her own messy life prove to be a solid and engaging film. Notably as Kristen Bell reprises the role of the titular character who is reluctant to return to the role of being an amateur private detective yet is asked by her former boyfriend who is accused of killing someone as she and her friends do whatever to clear his name. It is a film with not just some humor but also has drama and suspense without being too serious and also fun which would lead to a brief revival for the series.

© thevoid99 2022

Monday, September 19, 2022

2022 Blind Spot Series: Devi

 

Based on a short story by Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Devi (The Goddess) is a landlord who is convinced that his daughter-in-law is a reincarnated version of a goddess as his delusions become troubling. Written for the screen and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is an exploration of fanaticism in late 19th Century India where this young woman is caught in the middle of a conflict involving religious ideals and the emergence of rational, modernist ideals. Starring Chhabi Biswas, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Purnendu Mukherjee, Karuna Banerjee, Arpan Chowdhury, Anil Chatterjee, Kali Sarkar, and Mohammed Israil. Devi is a mesmerizing and entrancing film from Satyajit Ray.

Set in late 19th Century India, the film revolves around a 17-year old young woman who is convinced by her father-in-law that she is the incarnation of a goddess he worships where he and other follows believe she can save everyone while her husband is skeptical about all of this following his return from his studies in Calcutta. It is a film that explore this idea of religious beliefs as it reaches elements of fanaticism and its conflict with rational thinking during a crucial period in India’s history under British rule. Satyajit Ray’s screenplay explore this family dynamic under the rule of this landlord in Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi Biswas) who is a devoted worshipper of the goddess known as Kali while his younger son Umaprasad (Soumitra Chatterjee) is studying to become a teacher as well as learn English as doesn’t agree with his father’s beliefs but doesn’t challenge them. Leaving for Calcutta to finish his studies, Umaprasad leaves his young wife Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore) with his father, older brother Taraprasad (Purnendu Mukherjee), his wife Harasundari (Karuna Banerjee), and their young son Khoka (Arpan Chowdhury) whom Doyamoyee is fond of.

When Kalikinkar has a dream about Kali, he sees Doyamoyee’s face in his dream where he ponders of she is the goddess Kali. It would take a few small things for Kalikinkar to be convinced as does Taraprasad and a few of Kalikinkar. Yet, Harasundari is skeptical for much of the film where Doyamoyee is given her own room but it also comes with a sense of isolation and an identity crisis. Even when a man whose grandson becomes ill where he prays to Doyamoyee and beg her to heal his grandson as it is a key moment in the second act that play into Kalikinkar’s own faith but also Doyamoyee’s identity crisis as she becomes more confused. When Umaprasad returns from Calcutta, he is baffled but also troubled by the throngs of people going to his wife knowing that she’s just an ordinary young woman.

Ray’s direction is definitely ravishing in not just the intimate moments that occur in the film but also the scope of the locations as it is shot largely in the Bengal region in India. While there are some wide shots of the locations in the areas near the rivers and long grassy fields, Ray does maintain some simplicity in his compositions in the way he presents Doyamoyee as she is in the middle of this shrine being worshipped through close-ups and medium shots. The scenes at the home are simple with the rooms being also claustrophobic as it play into Doyamoyee’s isolation as well as the tension that looms in the house with Kalikinkar making the home a place of worship with servants treating Doyamoyee with caution fearing they might cause trouble. Even as Ray keeps the close-ups tight while creating some unique imagery that play into this sense of fanaticism including a wide shot of people walking on the beach of the river as they line-up to meet Doyamoyee.

The film’s third act that relates to Umaprasad upon his return from Calcutta where he is troubled by what he is seeing as he is this representation of someone that is rational and is worried about his wife’s psyche. Even as he tries to get her out of his family’s house, Doyamoyee is just unsure where Ray’s camera is fixed upon this shadow of a shrine as if it is telling her something while Umaprasad is confused as he goes to his professor (Kali Sarkar) who gives him some advice as it relates to this conflict about rationality and faith. Even as it play into its climax where Ray definitely makes some commentary about the idea of blind faith and its fallacies where the end results are tragic. Overall, Ray crafts a riveting and somber film about a young woman who is seen by her father-in-law as the reincarnation of a goddess that leads to chaos.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its natural lighting for the daytime scenes along with some unique schemes for some of the daytime interiors as well as scenes at night. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the drama. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does fantastic work with the look of the home where the family live in as well as the shrine that Kalikinkar has created for Doyamoyee. The sound work of Durgadas Mitra is brilliant for its natural approach to sound in how some of the music is presented on location as well as the sparse moments in the river. The film’s music by Ali Akbar Khan does incredible work with the film’s score with its usage of sitars and percussions to play into some of the dramatic tension as well as how some of the music is played on location including a song sung by a man that becomes a key moment in the film.

The film’s superb ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Anil Chatterjee as a friend of Umaprasad in Bhudeb who go to him for advice in pursuing a widow, Kali Sarkar as Umaprasad’s professor who gives him advice on how to confront his father but also to not create further chaos, Mohammed Israil as an old man who renounced his faith in Kali until his grandson becomes ill, Karuna Banerjee as Taraprasad’s wife Harasundari who is skeptical about Doyamoyee’s persona as well as what her father-in-law believes in, Purnendu Mukherjee as Umaprasad’s older brother Taraprasad who is skeptical about Doyamoyee until he becomes convinced that she is an avatar of Kali, and Arpan Chowdhury as Taraprasad and Harasundari’s son Khoka whom Doyamoyee is fond of as she often plays with him until he deals with her new role as this goddess. Chhabi Biswas is excellent as Kalikinkar Roy as the patriarch of the family and a landlord as he is also a devoted follower of Kali where he is convinced that Doyamoyee is an incarnation of Kali where he loses sight of rationality while also is blinded by his delusions.

Sharmila Tagore is brilliant as Doyamoyee as Umaprasad’s wife as a 17-year old woman who is believed by her father-in-law to be this incarnation of Kali where she becomes confused by her identity as it added to some emotional and mental torture over the new role she’s playing. Finally, there’s Soumitra Chatterjee in an amazing performance as Umaprasad Roy as a young man who is hoping to bring a good life for his wife while he goes to Calcutta for his studies to become a teacher while learning English where he later deals with the chaos his father has brought and the anguish his wife is dealing with.

The 2021 Region A Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection presents the film in a new 4K digital restoration in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack that is also restored in its original Bengali language with a new English subtitle translation. The Blu-Ray release feature two special featurettes relating to the film as the first is a sixteen-minute, twenty-second piece from 2013 with interviews with two of the film’s stars in Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee where they both talk about the film, their experiences working with Ray, and the controversy about the film following its release in 1960. Tagore was only 14 when she made the film as it was her second collaboration with Ray as she was aware of the subject matter as well as what her character was going through. Chatterjee revealed a lot of the conflict that the film discussed as it was also happening in the late 1950s/early 1960s as it relates to the view of orthodox Hindus and their ideals which Chatterjee described as backwards. Tagore revealed that the film upon its release wasn’t well-received by both critics and audiences in India yet Ray was undeterred knowing that he was going to cause problems with that audience.

The 17-minute video essay by film scholar Meheli Sen discusses the film and its themes as well as the original short story that Ray would expand upon. Notably as it play into some of the social tension that was happening with modern ideals and the views of orthodox Hindus as it still happens in the 21st Century but on a smaller scale. Sen also talks about the role that women had to play in the late 19th Century and how the character of Doyamoyee was someone who never had any independent thoughts until she met Umaprasad. Sen also talks about the clash between rational thinking from the modern world and the irrational ideas from orthodox Hinduism as it relates to the film but also the times in which there were people wanting to break from these ideas in society in the hope they can create a better future despite being under British colonial rule.

The Blu-Ray set also features a booklet that includes an essay entitled Devi: Seeing and Believing by Devika Girish, who is the co-deputy editor of Film Comment magazine as she writes about the film. Notably as she describes the film as Ray’s most political film as it relates to the conflict with post-colonial India, just years removed from the Partition, from the orthodox Hindus and young people wanting a more rational idea that doesn’t believe in superstition. Girish felt that Ray would use the source material of the book to comment on this current conflict by setting the story in the late 19th Century as well as how Ray portrays women who are stuck in a certain identity they have to play. Even as it would begin a new theme that Ray would explore in his films about women trying to find their own voice in India as it is a great essay to read about this film.

Devi is a sensational film from Satyajit Ray that features great performances from Chhabi Biswas, Sharmila Tagore, and Soumitra Chatterjee. Along with its supporting cast, ravishing visuals, its exploration of religious fanaticism and loss of identity and rationality, and its haunting music score. The film is definitely a mesmerizing yet somber film that explore a family being undone by an old man’s delusions towards his daughter-in-law as she struggles with her identity and her husband trying to make sense of all of this chaos. In the end, Devi is a spectacular film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: Pather Panchali - Aparajito - (Parash Pathar) – The Music Room - Apur Sansar - (Teen Kanya) – (Rabindranath Tagore) – (Kanchenjunghar) – (Abhijan) – The Big City - Charulata - (Two) – (Kapurush) – Nayak - (Chiriyakhana) – (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) – (Aranyer Din Ratri) – (Pratidwandi) – (Sikkim) – (Seemabaddha) – (The Inner Eye) – (Ashani Sanket) – (Sonar Kella) – (Jana Aranya) – (Bala) – (Shatranj Ke Khilari) – (Joi Baba Felunath) – (Hirak Rajar Deshe) – (Pikoo) – (Sadgati) – (Ghare Baire) – (Sukumar Ray) – (Ganashatru) – (Shakha Proshakha) – (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Technological/Media Mysteries

 

For the 36th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of mystery month. We go into the world of technological and media mysteries as it play into the world where new things are emerging or set in a futuristic world that play into new mysterious elements. Here are my three picks as they’re all based on the early days of the internet and were made in the 1990s:

1. The Net
Starring Sandra Bullock as a system analyst who liked to go online and chat with other people where she meets a smuggler on vacation and things go wrong. Even as someone else took her identity as it involves a lot of government conspiracies and all sorts of shit. It is a film of its time considering the technological limitations it was dealing with but Bullock’s performance is what makes the film work despite its many flaws.

2. Hackers
Another film that was a product of its time in terms of some of the tech language and people had to use to get on the internet. It does a remain a cult classic in terms of its stakes that involves a securities agent trying to steal money with an executive only for that scheme to be discovered by a group of young hackers. The cast that features Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, and Renoly Santiago as the titular characters with a supporting cast that includes Fisher Stevens, Lorraine Bracco, Alberta Watson, Wendell Pierce, Penn Jillette, Felicity Huffman, and Marc Anthony all offer something while it has one of the most underrated film soundtracks of the 1990s that helped introduce audiences to electronic music.

3. Enemy of the State
An underrated film from Tony Scott that is about a lawyer who discovers a conspiracy and cover-up involving NSA agents is a film that has a lot of thrills and intrigue but also some incredible work from Will Smith and Gene Hackman. The film obviously takes a few cues from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation that starred Hackman yet it also involves the world of the internet and its growth at that time as it does serve like a modern update of Coppola’s film but it is also a film that can be part of a great list of films involving surveillance and intrigue.

© thevoid99 2022