Monday, January 31, 2022

Films That I Saw: January 2022

 

Well, this year has gotten off to a shitty-ass start with some notable deaths in Sidney Poitier, Meat Loaf, Peter Bogdanovich, Bob Saget, Gaspard Ulliel, Jean-Jacques Beiniex, Yvette Mimieux, Hardy Kruger, Louie Anderson, Howard Hesseman, and so much more. It feels like there is a culture in the world of film, music, and comedy that is just going away as this is something I’m now starting to get used to but I’m not happy about it. Yet, I’m more upset that someone like Ulliel died at the age of 37 from a skiing accident and was about to be part of something much bigger in his upcoming role in the MCU TV series Moon Knight. Yet, I’m also aware that COVID is still happening and more stupid people have emerged over these anti-vaccination rhetoric including Joe Rogan who is a fucking cunt. Spouting all sorts of misinformation and bullshit about what is happening is just wrong and I’m glad that Neil Young and Joni Mitchell chose to pull their music from Spotify because they don’t want to associate themselves with that bullshit. I was using Spotify for a while but I still prefer iTunes as I ended up deleting Spotify as I was more annoyed by its ads and didn’t want to pay money to a service that supports bullshit.
In the month of January 2022, I saw a total of 28 films in 14 first-timers and 14 re-watches with 3 of those first-timers being films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Not a bad start despite dealing with the flu for a few weeks as I’m still dealing with a cough at the moment. The big highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot Series choice in Bringing Up Baby. Here are my top 5 films of January 2022:

1. The Power of the Dog
2. Licorice Pizza
3. Nightmare Alley
4. No Time to Die
5. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

Far from the Tree
A short film I watched on Disney+ as it had accompanied Encanto during its theatrical run is a compelling short film about a baby raccoon looking into the sea with its parent trying to stop him from getting in trouble. It is an effective and touching short film that plays into this young raccoon and this moment that would repeat itself when he has to care for a young raccoon. It is a film that is like a silent film but it proves that images and sound can still create a story that says a lot by saying little.

The Super Bob Einstein Movie
For anyone who was a child of the 70s/80s probably knew who Bob Einstein was as the ill-fated stuntman Super Dave Osborne. Yet, people also know him for his role as Marty Funkhouser in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Still, Bob Einstein who is really the older brother of Albert Brooks is a hilarious figure who not only mastered the art of playing it straight but also knew how to push people’s buttons. It is a hilarious and witty documentary film that features Einstein’s final interview years before his death in 2019 as it shows him as a man who was also quite complex and rarely showcased anything in his private life. Featuring interviews with Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Kimmel, and many others who worked with him, it is a documentary that fans of comedy should see as well as getting to realize the influence Einstein had in the world of hip-hop.

Syd Barrett: Under Review





From the Amplified YouTube page of documentaries about music and the artists who made them is this film from the 1990s about the co-founder of the art rock band Pink Floyd. It does tell the story about Barrett and his time in the band only to be out of the group due to his erratic behavior involving LSD which led to a solo career with 2 studio albums released in 1970 that were produced by members of Pink Floyd including his replacement in David Gilmour. It is a film that is interesting but also boring at times since it never said anything new other documentaries about Floyd and Barrett that had come out in the 2000s and so-on have done which were far richer in their tone as well as said a lot into the band’s history.

Nimic
A short film from Yorgos Lanthimos that I watched on MUBI is this inventive short film about identity starring Matt Dillon as a professional cellist who meets this woman who mimics his movements and eventually takes over his life. It is a totally engaging and stylish short film that is one of many good reasons to have MUBI as it is a streaming service that anyone who wants to see different films from other parts of the world should see.

HAIM/Valentine





One of two musical short performances directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this 14-minute short is a studio performance from Haim playing three songs from their second album in 2017 is definitely engaging. Notably in the fact that Anderson had filmed several music videos for the sister-trio and does this short for them as there is something enthralling in the way he films them as if it’s in a studio with some banter in between. It is something that newer fans of the group should seek out as they’re a good band.

Anima
The second short film by P.T. Anderson revolves another staple of music acts he collaborates in Radiohead as he’s worked frequently with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood who does a lot of score music for Anderson. For Radiohead vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Thom Yorke is a performance project for Yorke’s own solo record through a few songs yet they’re performed through dance where Yorke plays a man in a dystopian world as he is trying to return a lunch box to a woman who accidentally left it. It is something fans of both Anderson and Yorke must see as it is a damn good reason to have Netflix.

Why You’ve Never Met the 4th Haim Sister





From Funny or Die is a short film that is about the 4th Haim sister who is played by none other than Brie Larson in Frime Haim as she gets a visit from her sisters as she asks if she can join the band. It is a hilarious short that has Larson being crazy while Haim are reluctant about seeing her as they feel like she’s not talented enough to be in the band. It is something for fans of Haim should see while also proof that Brie Larson is one of the best actresses working today.

The Book of Boba Fett (episodes 2-5)
The show from Disney+ so far is just incredible in not just exploring more of what happened to Boba Fett following the events of Return of the Jedi in which he would befriend the Sand People and become part of their tribe but also in being a new crime boss in Tattooine where things are going wrong. Even as there’s political forces and such who want to bring trouble to Fett and Tattooine as the most recent episode saw the return of the Mandalorian who goes to Tattooine about a new ship where he is asked to help Boba.

Wrestling Match of the Month: Sammy Guevara vs. Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed TNT Championship Ladder Match-January 26, 2022 episode of AEW Dynamite-Beach Break





This is a new thing I’m planning to do as it relates to professional wrestling as I want to make notes on the good and the bad of professional wrestling. So far, there’s been some good stuff including Bryan Danielson vs. Hangman Adam Page for the AEW World Championship earlier this month that saw Page retained his championship as the former is about to go into a program with the returning Jon Moxley. I haven’t been able to see anything from New Japan Pro Wrestling including the matches at WrestleKingdom other than clips as I’m eager to see the matches from Kazuchika Okada as well as the match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and KENTA for the IWGP U.S. Championship. Along with things happening in GCW, Impact, and the NWA as things are going really well including wrestling fans telling former ECW wrestling legend Bully Ray to fuck off following some awful comments he made about Jon Moxley’s return as I hope Charles Barkley beats the living fuck out of that fat piece of shit.

The best match I saw this month was from AEW for the TNT championship as there was supposed to be a rematch between the champion Cody Rhodes and the man he beat in Sammy Guevara for the Battle of the Belts special. Unfortunately, Rhodes was hit with COVID and had to sit out the event forcing AEW to create an interim championship that Guevara won in a match against Rhodes’ older brother Dustin in a damn good match. This match on the most recent episode of Dynamite is definitely something wrestling fans need to see. Notably the spot in which Guevara leapt on a ladder and onto another to give Cody this cutter as it was something I had never seen. There’s been some great ladder matches but this one just raised the bar a bit as it showed some unique ideas of Cody is going with his character as a heel who thinks he’s a babyface while Guevara’s win not only makes him one of the key stars of the company but also someone who is among the young new stars who is already becoming established.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Nights of Cabiria
2. Toy Story
3. Iron Man
4. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
5. Frozen
6. Luca
7. Ant Man and the Wasp
8. When Nirvana Came to Britain
9. The Three Caballeros
10. Robin Hood
Well, that is all for January 2022. I’m not sure what I will do next month aside from the Blind Spot Series as I’ve become disenchanted with the idea of the DVR as I barely have time to watch films from my DVR and that it records things that ended up not recording anything. It’s become annoying at this point as it’s now making the argument of wanting to get rid of cable altogether as I have other things to do in the many lists of my watchlist I can do. As for theatrical releases, I’m not sure. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, January 30, 2022

007 James Bond: No Time to Die

 

Based on the novels and characters by Ian Fleming, No Time to Die is the story Agent 007 James Bond as he is coaxed out of retirement to deal with an evil figure following the kidnapping of a scientist. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and screenplay by Fukunaga, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge from a story by Fukunaga, Purvis, and Wade, the 25th film in the James Bond film series follows the British secret agent dealing with a new world and new foes as he struggles to try and find a life outside of his majesty’s secret service as he is portrayed by Daniel Craig for his fifth and final outing as 007. Also starring Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, Jeffrey Wright, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah, with Christoph Waltz as Blofeld and Ralph Fiennes as M. No Time to Die is a riveting and mesmerizing film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Five years following an assassination attempt in Italy, James Bond is coaxed out of retirement to find a scientist as it leads to something much bigger involving a mysterious figure who has gained access to biochemical weapons that would go after specific targets. It is a film in which the secret agent doesn’t just deal with a new foe who wants to go after Bond but also those close to him as well as his enemies including Ernst Stavros Blofeld whom had been involved in not just the assassination attempt on Bond but also another incident several years prior that involves this madman in Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) who has a major grudge against Blofeld and his organization in Spectre. The film’s screenplay opens with a scene involving a young Madeleine Swann (Coline Defaud) who witnesses the murder of her mother (Mathilde Bourbin) and her own near-death experience from Safin as it then cuts to her as an adult (Lea Seydoux) who is vacationing with Bond in Italy where things went wrong as Bond believed that Swan betrayed him to Blofeld.

Much of the story takes place five years after Bond’s assassination attempt as he had retired in Jamaica when Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) asks for his help following a break-in at a MI6 lab where the Russian scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) had been kidnapped as he had created a bioweapon with nanobots for MI6 called Project Heracles that was intended as an off-the-books project in the hope that it would kill intended targets. Instead, it goes in the wrong hands where M sends Nomi (Lashana Lynch) who is the new 007 to Cuba where Bond meets the novice CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas) who helps him retrieve Obruchev to Leiter but something goes wrong due to Leiter’s new partner Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen) who causes trouble for Bond and Leiter leaving Obruchev to escape. The second act revolves around not just revelations for Bond about Swann, who gets an unfortunate meeting with Safin, but also what happened in Cuba in what Bond and Paloma saw as the former meets with Blofeld as they both learn that they have a shared enemy. Yet, Bond’s journey leads him back to Swann who has another surprise that only add more stakes to what Bond is facing as well as what Safin is planning in the film’s third act.

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction definitely has an air of style in the way he presents the different locations Bond is in but also a world that is about to be in danger once again as Bond has to save it. Shot on various locations in Norway, Italy, Jamaica, the Faroe Islands, and London with some bits shot in Pinewood Studios in Britain. Fukunaga definitely plays into a spy that has been through a lot but he is also coping with loss and betrayal as he is unsure about returning to the world in general as it is often ever-changing. Fukunaga does make the sets feel important such as the scenes at Matera in Italy that includes a big chase scene that is captured through wide and medium shots where Bond and Swann are dealing with cars and motorcycles with the Aston Martin DB5 being the weapon to deal with these assassins. The scenes set in Cuba that were shot on location at Pinewood are also filled with these medium and wide shots but also this sense of movement and where the cameras are placed as it adds that air of location where there are moments of humor from Paloma but also moments that play into the suspense.

There are also close-ups in some of the film’s emotional moments where Fukunaga play into Swann’s own fear as it relates to Safin but also this meeting between Bond and Blofeld as it adds a lot of suspense and drama. Fukunaga definitely aims for something straightforward for these non-action scenes that also includes the scene where Bond discovers a major secret from Swann which add a lot of what is at stake for Bond. Notably as Safin is someone whose background as it relates to his family and what they’ve done for Spectre shows exactly why he wants revenge and sees Bond as an equal in the fact that they’re both killers yet Safin is just trying to tidy things up for a new world. Fukunaga’s approach to Safin’s island and the factory/lab he has definitely echoes a lot of Bond films of the past while he also creates some unique tracking shots for a key scene up the stairs where Bond deals with Safin’s soldiers. The film’s climax is immense with a lot at stake but there is so much more as it relates to not just the world in general but also Bond himself as it relates to Swann as well as everything he had went through. Overall, Fukunaga crafts an exhilarating and gripping film about a spy who deals with a new foe who is creating a bioweapon that would wreak havoc on the world.

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes in Cuba to the natural lighting for scenes in Italy as well as some stylish interior lighting for the scenes at Safin’s island. Editors Elliot Graham and Tom Cross do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and rhythmic cuts as well as knowing when to let shots linger as well as to help create suspenseful moments. Production designer Mark Tildesley, with set decorator Veronique Melery and senior art director Mark Harris, does brilliant work with the look of the cabin home that Madeleine lived in as a kid as well as Safin’s island as well as his lab and factory. Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlab does excellent work with the costumes from the clothes that Bond wears as well as some of the stylish clothing of Nomi and Swann and the robes that Safin wears.

Hair and makeup designer Mark Phillips, with prosthetic makeup designer Brian Gower, does fantastic work with the look of Safin from his disfigured look as well as the look of Blofeld following what happened to him previously. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, along with visual effects supervisors Yael Majors and Charlie Noble, does terrific work with the effects from the stunt work and set pieces as well as some of the visual effects that involve some of the bioweapon that Safin is developing. Sound designer Brian Bowen, with sound editor James Harrison and Oliver Tarney, does superb work with the sound in the way some of the gadgets sound as well as the way explosions sound and other sparse moments.

The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is phenomenal for its soaring orchestral-based music score that also feature elements of other compositions of past movie themes including the song We Have All the Time in the World from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service while the titular song by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell that is performed by the former is this moody and somber song that is actually a really good song that does play into the drama. Music supervisor Randall Poster does create a wonderful soundtrack that includes We Have All the Time in the World as well as a French pop song from Dalida and some reggae for scenes in Jamaica.

The casting by Debbie McWilliams and Jemima McWilliams is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Hugh Dennis and Priyanga Buford as a couple of scientists who worked with Obruchev, Mathilde Bourbin as Madeleine’s mother, Coline Defaud as the young Madeleine, Dani Benssalah as Safin’s henchman Primo who wears a mysterious fake eye, and Lisa-Dorah Sonnet as a young girl named Mathilde. Billy Magnussen is terrific as the CIA agent Logan Ash who is Leiter’s assigned partner who annoys both Bond and Leiter as he has ulterior motives of his own. Rory Kinnear is superb as M’s chief of staff Bill Tanner who aides Bond in getting the chance to interrogate Blofeld as he also question M’s motives over the Heracles project. David Dencik is excellent as the Russian scientist Valdo Obruchev who created Heracles as someone who is this slimy yet comical villain who is willing to help Safin. Ana de Armas is fantastic in her brief role as the novice CIA agent Paloma who helps Bond in retrieving Obruchev as she has some funny lines while also being a total badass as she is just so fun to watch.

Christoph Waltz is brilliant in his brief role as Ernst Stavros Blofeld as the head of Spectre who is in prison as someone who is still running his operation as he becomes aware that he and Bond have a shared enemy as he also toys with Bond about Bond’s own motives. Ralph Fiennes is amazing as M as the head of MI6 who is reluctant to have Bond back on board while also revealing about his intentions for Heracles as he realizes that it was a bad idea as he hopes Bond can stop it from happening. Jeffrey Wright is incredible as Felix Leiter as a CIA agent and Bond’s friend who coaxes Bond out of retirement as he is aware of what Obruchev has created and hope that the project is stopped as he is also suspicious about Ash whom he’s not fond of. Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are remarkable in their respective roles as M’s secretary Moneypenny and the quartermaster Q as the two who stick by Bond with the former being a no-nonsense secretary who knows something is up and wants Bond to handle while the latter brings a lot of wit as someone who has a love-hate relationship with Bond as he would also uncover some deep secrets that involve Safin.

Lashana Lynch is phenomenal as Nomi as the 007 who Bond meets in Jamaica as he sees her as a threat of sorts though he realizes that she is a damn good spy as well as someone who doesn’t take any shit as Bond is aware of her worth. Lea Seydoux is tremendous as Dr. Madeleine Swann as a psychiatrist who is carrying secrets about her own past and her time with Safin as well as something that adds to the stake where Seydoux brings a lot of complexity to the character that play into a woman filled with regret and loss but also some hope for Bond. Rami Malek is sensational as Lyutsifer Safin as a madman who is trying to destroy Spectre as well as see Bond as a threat as he has this creepy presence to him as someone who wants to clean up the world but through nefarious means. Finally, there’s Daniel Craig in an outstanding performance as James Bond as the famed spy who is eager for a life outside of being in her majesty’s secret service only to deal with a much more sinister plot as Craig maintains that brooding persona but also someone who has humor and knows what is at stake as it is a fitting finale in the famed role as Agent 007.

No Time to Die is a sensational film from Cary Joji Fukunaga that features a tremendous performance from Daniel Craig in his final outing as James Bond. Along with its ensemble cast, riveting suspense and action, high-grade stakes, gorgeous visuals, and an incredible music score and soundtrack. The film isn’t just this sprawling and eerie spy-suspense film but also a film that plays into a man having to save the world with much more for him to deal with as it is also one of the finest films of the James Bond film series. In the end, No Time to Die is a spectacular film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia With Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Casino Royale - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall - SPECTRE

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

Cary Joji Fukunaga Films: Sin Nombre - Jane Eyre (2011 film) - (Beasts of No Nation)

© thevoid99 2022

Friday, January 28, 2022

2022 Blind Spot Series: Bringing Up Baby

 

Based on a short story by Hagar Wilde that was published in the Collier’s Weekly magazine, Bringing Up Baby is the story of a paleontologist who finds himself in a series of odd situations involving an eccentric heiress and a leopard named Baby. Directed by Howard Hawks and screenplay by Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols, the film is a screwball comedy that explores a man who is dealing with all of these absurd situations with a woman who is often an abundance of trouble. Starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, and May Robson. Bringing Up Baby is a whimsical and rip-roaring film from Howard Hawks.

The film revolves around the series of misadventures involving an engaged paleontologist who meets a dizzying heiress who puts him in a lot of crazy situations that also includes a leopard named Baby (Nissa). It is a film that explores a mild-mannered man who is about to be married to a colleague while awaiting a rare bone that he needs to complete a four-year project involving a brontosaurus but also money that he needs for the museum. Yet, his encounter with this woman who plays to the beat of her own drum and is always running around would shake up his world as he finds himself in these crazy situations that would also involve a leopard. The film’s screenplay by Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols is filled with a lot of offbeat dialogue that comes from the heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) as well as the paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant). The former is this man that seems content with his life as he’s to be married to a colleague in Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) yet needs this million dollar donation from Elizabeth Random (May Robson) who is considering as he tries to convince her lawyer Alexander Peabody (George Irving).

While golfing with Peabody, Huxley bumps into Vance who is also playing yet causes trouble by stealing his car believing it belongs to her while they would bump into each other at a posh restaurant where they both endure some mishaps. Vance is a woman who is often absent-minded where she takes things not knowing it doesn’t belong to her while is often moving around as she is the complete opposite of Huxley who is all about order and organization. On the day he is to marry Swallow, Vance asks for his help involving this leopard named Baby and he drives her to Connecticut from New York City to bring the leopard to her aunt and a lot of mayhem occur. Even as Huxley learns who her aunt is and things don’t go as planned for him as the script is definitely filled with chaos and confusion as it would later involve Constable Slocum (Walter Catlett) and other locals where Baby and a dog named George (Skippy) just stir things up.

Howard Hawks’ direction definitely play up into the air of chaos that occurs throughout the film while also creating some unique compositions to play into the scope of a setting that adds to the film’s humor. Shot on various locations in Southern California with some areas shot in studio backlots at 20th Century Fox Studios, Hawks’ direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates where he does a lot with the wide and medium shots to show the interactions between Vance and Huxley and the surroundings they’re in. Hawks also uses close-ups to play into some of the reaction from the characters but also in the scenes with Baby along with some of the medium shots adding to a scene where there are these small moments that Vance does unaware that she’s putting herself in trouble yet she often bullshits her way to get out of a situation that includes a hilarious scene late in the film where she talks as if she was from the mob.

Hawks’ direction also has a lot of innuendo and such that were quite edgy for its time but also in things that were ahead of its time such as a scene at the home of Vance’s aunt where Huxley is wearing a bathrobe and says something that is really funny as it relates to not just his situation but also in what he was wearing. Hawks’ approach to staging the humor such as a scene where Huxley is watching George and following him because of the brontosaurus bone that belonged to Huxley as George had hidden it. It would then lead to some misadventures in the second act involving Huxley and Vance as well as a dinner guest in Major Horace Applegate (Charles Ruggles) who is a big-game hunter that knows how to do animal sounds as it adds to the humor. The third act that also involves trying to retrieve Baby due to a series of mishaps also play into this air of absurdity but it also features that air of naturalism in the humor as if they’re making it up as they go along which adds to the energy of the comedy. Overall, Hawks crafts an exhilarating yet hilarious comedy about a paleontologist’s time with a dizzying heiress and her new pet leopard.

Cinematographer Russell Metty does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it is largely straightforward with some unique lighting schemes for many of the film’s exterior scenes in the forest at night. Editor George Hively does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some transitional dissolves and rhythmic cuts to help play into the humor. Art director Van Nest Polglase does amazing work with the look of the interiors of the home of Vance’s aunt as well as some of the places Vance and Huxley go to. Costume designer Howard Greer does fantastic work with the costumes from the gowns and clothes that Vance wears as well as some of the clothes that Huxley wears including some clothes that he would wear in acts of humility.

The special effects work of Vernon L. Walker is superb for scenes involving the animals as it adds to the sense of realism but also the humor for scenes involving the humans and animals. Sound recordist John L. Cass does nice work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of scenes as well as how a leopard would sound to a mating call. The film’s music by Roy Webb is wonderful for its playful and upbeat orchestral score while Webb also handles the film’s soundtrack which featured a lot of the standards of the time including a song that Baby likes in I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby that is written by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from D’Arcy Corrigan as a professor in the film’s first scene, Billy Bevan as a bartender teaching Vance a trick, John Kelly as Constable Slocum’s assistant Elmer, Tala Birell as Mrs. Lehman, Leona Roberts as Mrs. Random’s maid Hannah Gogarty, Barry Fitzgerald as Mrs. Random’s alcoholic gardener Aloysius Gogarty who thinks he’s seeing things upon seeing Baby, Virginia Walker as Huxley’s fiancée Alice Swallow who is baffled by Huxley’s involvement with Vance, George Irving as Mrs. Random’s attorney Alexander Peabody whom Huxley tries to win over, and Fritz Feld as Dr. Lehman as a man whom Huxley and Vance bring trouble to involving Baby as he is a psychiatrist who believes that they’re both crazy. Walter Catlett is fantastic as Constable Slocum as a local police official who is baffled by Vance’s appearance and the trouble she causes in his town as well as the chaos she and Huxley create.

Charles Ruggles is excellent as Major Horace Applegate as a dinner guest of Mrs. Ransom who is this big-game hunter that also can do animal mating calls as he is baffled by the behavior of Huxley as well as what he would encounter in Baby. May Robson is brilliant as Elizabeth Carlton Random as a rich woman who is considering in giving a million dollar donation as she is baffled by some of Huxley’s activities that involve Vance as she is fun to watch as a straight woman. The performances of Skippy and Nissa in their respective roles as the dog George and the leopard Baby are a joy to watch in the way they help add to the humor of the film as Skippy brings a lot of energy and chaos while Nissa is just relaxed and doesn’t do much to create chaos.

Finally, there’s the performances of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Susan Vance and Dr. David Huxley. Grant’s performance is straightforward for much of the film’s first act as he is this great straight man in someone who is put into these crazy situations and then starts to act out due to his encounters with Vance as Grant just adds a lot of wit and energy to his role. Hepburn’s performance is just this whirlwind as this heiress who is often doing things unaware that she doesn’t own them as she also does things to get out of a bad situation. Hepburn and Grant together are fun to watch in the way they play off each other as it adds to their chemistry as they are major highlight of the film.

Bringing Up Baby is a spectacular film from Howard Hawks that features iconic performances from Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a fun music soundtrack, and its inventive usage of live animals. It is a comedy that isn’t afraid to be absurd or be a little edgy while it is also this unconventional romantic-comedy of sorts between two people who are total opposites yet bring out the best in each other. In the end, Bringing Up Baby is a sensational film from Howard Hawks.

Howard Hawks Films: (The Road to Glory) - (Fig Leaves) - (Cradle Snatchers) - (Paid to Love) - (A Girl in Every Port (1928 film)) - (Fazil) - (The Air Circus) - (Trent’s Last Case (1929 film)) - (The Dawn Patrol (1930)) - (The Criminal Code) – Scarface (1932 film) - (The Crowd Roars (1932 film)) - (Tiger Shark) - (Today We Live) - (The Prizefighter and the Lady) - (Viva Villa!) - (Twentieth Century) - (Barbary Coast) - (Ceiling Zero) - (The Road to Glory) - (Come and Get It) - (Only Angels Have Wings) - (His Girl Friday) - (Sergeant York) - (Ball of Fire) - (Air Force) - (To Have and Have Not) - (The Big Sleep (1946 film)) - (The Outlaw) – Red River - (A Song is Born) - (I Was a Male War Bride) - (The Big Sky) - (Monkey Business) - (O Henry’s Full House) - (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) - (Land of the Pharaohs) – Rio Bravo - (Hatari!) - (Man’s Favorite Sport?) - (Red Line 7000) - (El Dorado) - (Rio Lobo)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): 2021 Freshman Series

 

For the fourth week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the world of television in 2021 Freshman TV series as there was a lot of new TV shows to emerge in the previous year. Here are my three picks as they’re all from MCU!!!!!!:

1. Wandavision
The first of five shows from MCU is one of the most original and inventive projects they’ve created in homage to the sitcoms in which Wanda and Vision have moved to New Jersey to live their lives as they encounter many different changes as it revolves around the evolution of American television. Yet, it has so much more in than just being a homage to American sitcoms as it is also a study of grief as well as a woman dealing with the powers that she has while dealing with someone who wants that power. With Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their respective roles as Wanda Maximoff and Vision along with Kat Dennings, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, and the scene-stealing Kathryn Hahn who gets to have her own theme song that is truly one of the best songs ever.

2. Loki
The third show from the MCU doesn’t just play up into the world of alternate universes but it is also a show about its titular character learning about his fate and the need to redeem himself and find his own purpose. It is a show that has a lot of humor but also some drama as it has Tom Hiddleston being the God of Mischief once again who is trying to catch an alternate version of himself in the form of a woman who calls herself Sylvie. With an ensemble cast that includes Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia di Martino, Eugene Cordero, Sasha Lane, Wunmi Mosaku, and special appearances from Richard E. Grant and Jonathan Majors. It is a show that is filled with a lot of whimsy that includes Loki having to meet many different versions of himself with a few of them having redeeming qualities including Sylvie but it is also a show that opens up a lot more for what will come hopefully in its second season and in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

3. Hawkeye
The fifth and most recent show from the MCU that came out in 2021 is a holiday special of sorts as it revolves around a young woman named Kate Bishop who finds herself in a murder mystery where she wears the costume of Ronin that lead her to meet her idol in Clint Barton. It is a show that doesn’t just play into this titular character dealing with loss and wanting to go home to his family but also clean up some dirty laundry with the help of this young lady as they would deal with the Tracksuit Mafia and those with some serious issues towards Barton. Among them comes in a breakthrough performance from Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez/Echo who is just fucking cool while stealing the show for the show’s second half of the series is a guest appearance from Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova whose encounters with Bishop are among some of the funniest and light-hearted moments of the show.

© thevoid99 2022

Monday, January 24, 2022

Licorice Pizza

 

Written, directed, and co-shot by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza is a coming-of-age story about a child actor in his mid-teens who falls for a young woman in her mid-20s as they deal with growing pains and other things in the San Fernando Valley in the early 1970s. The film is look into the life of a young man and a young woman as they meet an assortment of characters in that time as they also deal with themselves and other things during a tumultuous time in California. Starring Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Benny Safdie, and Bradley Cooper. Licorice Pizza is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Paul Thomas Anderson.

Set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, the film revolves around the relationship of a 15-year old child actor who meets a 25-year old woman at a yearbook photo shoot as they become friends and business partners through many ventures as they also encounter many misadventures and an assortment of characters during their journey. It is a film that is partially based on the real-life story of film producer Gary Goetzman who was a child actor in real life as well as being a young businessman where Paul Thomas Anderson uses Goetzman’s story to not just explore a young man dealing with growing pains and first love but also a young woman trying to find herself. Anderson’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it follows the many misadventures of the 15-year old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and the 25-year old Alana Kane (Alana Haim) who meet each other at the former’s high school for a yearbook photoshoot that the latter is working at.

The two take a liking to each other with Kane chaperoning Valentine for a show in New York City as well as assist him on some business ventures he has ideas for as the first one involves selling waterbeds. Yet, Kane being an adult and Valentine being immature causes tension with Valentine takes interest in other girls including Kane while he would take her to acting auditions as she is opening to doing nude scenes which upsets Valentine. The script doesn’t just play into the relationship but also their encounters with famous people and such during that period including an aging film star in Jack Holden (Sean Penn), a crazy filmmaker in Rex Blau (Tom Waits), the film producer Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper), and the politician Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) as they’re all based on real people with Peters and Wachs actually being real people. These encounters as well as the ambitions they have would also play into their own growing pains with Valentine being really naïve about his views of the world while Kane becomes aware of the gas crisis of that year that would majorly affect Valentine’s waterbed business.

Anderson’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he portrays the San Fernando Valley and its many areas as they are characters in the film yet it is a look at a time when things were simpler but also crazy. Shot on location in Encino, California with locations shot in and around areas in the San Fernando Valley, Anderson definitely uses a lot of wide and medium shots to get a scope of these locations while shooting in either actual locations of some restaurants or in places that were once there but have been recreated to capture that period that is the early 1970s. There is also an intimacy in Anderson’s direction where he does use close-ups whether it is to play into a character’s face or to play into the desire of a character such as a scene where Kane and Valentine are lying on a waterbed where the latter is looking at Kane and is thinking about doing something that she wouldn’t approve of as she is sleeping.

There are also scenes that do play into the culture including meetings with the owner of a Japanese sushi restaurant in Jerry Frick (John Michael Higgins) who would often talk to his wife in a bad Japanese accent to speak English to whomever he was married to at the time as Anderson definitely focuses on that man’s wife to show her discomfort. With co-cinematographer Michael Bauman, Anderson shoots the film on 35mm with camera lenses dating back to the 1970s to create this feel of the 1970s as there are a lot of colors for and grain for much of the scenes set at night outside including moments where there are little lighting in the film. Notably in some of the tracking shots he creates as it play into the atmosphere of some of the places the characters go to. Anderson definitely showcase this air of reality into the gas crisis of 1973 as everyone is affected including someone like Jon Peters who was then the boyfriend of Barbra Streisand as he’s just fucking insane. There are also a lot of these things as it relates to Kane and Valentine’s relationship where it is taboo considering that the latter is a minor yet he’s the one that is pining for the former who is aware that the idea of them having a relationship is wrong yet she also has feelings for him.

The film’s third act definitely play into the flaws of their relationship as it relates to the world of politics which Kane is interested in yet Valentine isn’t in favor of wanting to do something else that involves money. It doesn’t just show the interests of young people but also two people who are forced to face reality about the worlds they’re in as it proves that they need each other. Even as they realize that they’re still young as they live in a world that is ever-changing with adults who don’t have their shit together. Overall, Anderson crafts a majestic yet intoxicating film about two young people trying to find themselves in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

Editor Andy Jurgensen does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts and a few montages that play into memories or ideas the protagonists have. Production designer Florencia Martin, with set decorator Ryan Watson and art director Samantha Englender, does amazing work with the look of some of the restaurants the characters go to as well as a gathering where a bunch of kids try to sell things and other stuff. Costume designer Mark Bridges does brilliant work with the costumes from the casual clothes some of the characters wear including jeans and shirts as well as some of the stylish clothes that both Kane and Valentine wear. Hair designer Lori Guidrox and makeup designer Heba Thorisdottir do fantastic work with the look of the characters including Jon Peters with his stylish hair as it play into his over-the-top persona.

Special effects supervisor Elia P. Popov and visual effects supervisor Laura J. Hill do nice work with some of the visual effects which is largely set dressing for some exterior scenes as well as a major scene involving a motorcycle stunt. Sound editors David Acord and Christopher Scarabosio do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the way certain things sound from afar. The film’s music by Jonny Greenwood is incredible for its low-key orchestral based score that is used sparingly that also include covers of a few songs while music supervisor Linda Cohen creates a music soundtrack that features an array of music from the 60s and 70s that include David Bowie, Sonny & Cher, the Doors, Gordon Lightfoot, Todd Rundgren, Nina Simone, Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman, Chuck Berry with the Steve Miller Band, Paul McCartney and Wings, Seals and Croft, Donovan with the Jeff Beck Group, the James Gang, Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Taj Mahal, Mason Williams, the Congregation, Chico Hamilton Quintet with Buddy Collette, and Clarence Carter.

The casting by Cassandra Kulukundis is marvelous as it feature appearances and cameos from John C. Reilly as Fred Gwynne playing Herman Munster at a convention, Ryan Heffington as Peters’ assistant Steve who really works for Barbra Streisand, Emma Dumont as a stewardess named Brenda, Milo Herschlag as Valentine’s younger brother Greg, James Kelley as a fellow child actor in Tim, Tim Conway Jr. as a casting director, Maya Rudolph as the casting director’s assistant Gale, Destry Allyn Spielberg as a Japanese restaurant waitress who had a fling with Valentine, Isabelle Kusman as a young girl named Sue Valentine meets at the opening of his waterbed shop, Iyana Halley as a wig shop clerk, George DiCaprio (Leonardo’s dad) as a wig shop owner who introduces Valentine to the waterbed, Jon Beavers as a creepy guy late in the film, Nate Mann as a political volunteer that Kane befriends, Joseph Cross as Wachs’ dinner guest, Yumi Mizui and Megumi Anjo as Frick’s Japanese wives whom he speaks in a bad Japanese accent towards them, Ray Chase as the KMET radio deejay B. Mitchell Reed, Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Valentine’s mother who manages his career, and Skyler Gisondo as a child actor in Lance whom Alana briefly dates until an awkward dinner with her family.

The performances of Moti Haim, Donna Haim, Este Haim, and Danielle Haim in their respective roles as Kane’s parents and Kane’s older sisters are fun to watch with Moti being the cantankerous father who often spouts profanity. Harriet Sansom Harris is fantastic in her one-scene performance as Valentine’s agent Mary Grady who interviews Alana as a favor for Valentine where she takes a liking to her. John Michael Higgins is terrific as the Mikado Restaurant owner Jerry Frick who does business with Valentine often talks to his Japanese wives in a racist accent that often brings a look of discomfort to whomever he is married to. Christine Ebersole is superb as Lucy Doolittle as a major TV star that is inspired by Lucille Ball who makes an appearance at a show in New York City where she definitely has issues with Valentine who humiliates her on TV as she wanted to kill him. Benny Safdie is excellent as the real-life politician Joel Wachs as a man filled with ideals that appeal to Kane yet is someone that has secrets of his own which were taboo at that time.

Tom Waits is brilliant as Rex Blau as a filmmaker based on Mark Robson who is a friend of Jack Holden as he would help stage a stunt that Holden used to do where Waits brings that sense of charisma and command as a man who knows how to get people’s attention. Bradley Cooper is incredible in an over-the-top yet spot-on performance as the famed film producer Jon Peters who was then Barbra Streisand’s boyfriend/hairdresser as a figure of masculinity who threatens Valentine on the job he is to do while also being a buffoon of sorts who is just trying to be cool. Sean Penn is amazing as Jack Holden as an aging film actor based on William Holden who does an audition with Kane and tries to get her to take part in a stunt that he did in a film with Blau as Penn does bring that sense of old Hollywood that clashes with the New Hollywood that was happening at the time.

Finally, there’s the duo of Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in tremendous debut performances in their respective roles of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine. Haim’s performance is full of energy as a young woman that is still trying to find herself where she would aid Valentine in a bunch of things where she is put into humiliating situations while reminds herself that he’s still a kid. Hoffman’s performance also exudes energy as someone who is enthusiastic and has a lot of charm to get what he wants but is still a teenager who is indifferent to the realities of the world of around him as he has trouble coping with that reality whenever he fails. Haim and Hoffman together are a joy to watch in not just the chemistry they have but also in the mixture of humor and drama they bring to their roles and the situations they’re in as they are a major highlight of the film.

Licorice Pizza is a magnificent film from Paul Thomas Anderson that features great leading break-out performances from Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, exploration of growing pains, dazzling visuals, offbeat humor, and a sumptuous music soundtrack. The film is a fascinating coming-of-age story that play into the relationship of two young people who are both trying to find themselves during a crazy year in the San Fernando Valley while encountering people and worlds that are strange and entrancing. In the end, Licorice Pizza is an outstanding film from Paul Thomas Anderson.

P.T. Anderson Films: Hard Eight/Sydney - Boogie Nights - Magnolia - Punch-Drunk Love - There Will Be Blood - The Master (2012 film) - Inherent Vice - Junun - Phantom Thread

Related: The Shorts & Videos of P.T. Anderson - The Auteurs #15: Paul Thomas Anderson

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Time Loops

 

For the third week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of time loops where characters are re-living the same day or same moment as it is either played for laughs or in something serious. Here are my three picks:

1. La Jetee
Chris Marker’s experimental short film that features mainly still photos is about a man in post-World War III being used in a time travel experiment where he relives a certain day in his life as he meets and falls for a beautiful woman while seeing someone die in the process. He goes through this moment every time as it adds to the suspense and intrigue as it is a film that would inspire a lot of time loop films with Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys being this expanded remake of Marker’s film.

2. Source Code
Duncan Jones’ sci-fi film revolves around a soldier who takes part in an experiment where he has to relive every moment of a bombing in a train as he falls for a woman who would die from that bombing. There, he has to find out who is the bomber for the authorities to find this person before another bombing arrives as it is a flawed film but it has a great ensemble cast in Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright.

3. The Final Girls
A horror comedy that revolves around a young woman and her friends finding themselves in a 80s slasher movie following a fire at a revival screening is an inventive take on the slasher films but also play up its clichés. Starring Taissa Farmiga as this young woman whose mother was the star of this slasher movie is an inventive one that also play into the idea of the final girl who often survive the slasher film. Farmiga and her friends spend much of their time reliving the same movie over and over again as they do whatever they can to survive but also play against the rules as it is a well-made and inventive film.

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in Hospitals

 

For the second week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of movies set in hospitals whether they’re medical dramas, horror, or just weird movies set in a hospital. Here are my three picks:

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel about a criminal who goes to a mental hospital to avoid going to jail by pretending to be mentally ill as it is a film set entirely at this mental hospital. With this great ensemble cast that include great performances from Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif, Scatman Crothers, and William Redfield. The film is an exploration of life in this mental hospital where a bunch of men are treated cruelly by this nurse as it is an exploration of inhumanity where this criminal is in a place that is far worse than prison as he learns that these men who do need help are also prisoners themselves where Nicholson’s character at least tries to give them some idea of life. It is a film that truly deserves the accolades it has received as well as a film that manages to go into depth about mental illness.

2. It's Kind of a Funny Story
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s adaptation of the Ned Vizzini novel is another film set in a mental hospital but it is more about the exploration of a young man who checks himself in following an attempted suicide jump as he learns that there’s other people at this hospital who all suffer from depression. Boden and Fleck not only manage to put in some humor and light-hearted moments in a film that is meant to be serious yet it manages to be quite hopeful in its presentation. Especially with its ensemble cast in Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Jeremy Davies, and Zach Galifianakis who are able to bring some reality into people with real problems but also provide hope as well as a way to show the joys of life no matter how hard the real world can hit someone.

3. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel is one of the filmmaker’s more underrated films as it is more of a suspense-drama set inside this mental hospital in an island where these two detectives are there to investigate a patient’s disappearance. It is a film with a lot of complexities into the idea of madness as one of these detectives is also dealing with loss. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his more overlooked performances with an ensemble cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Michelle Williams. It is a film that is very stylized in its presentation but also in how Scorsese manages to bring a lot of complexity to these characters with an inventive twist in the end that only gets more compelling through re-watches.

© thevoid99 2022

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Just a Gigolo

 

Directed by David Hemmings and written by Ennio De Concini and Joshua Sinclair, Just a Gigolo is the story of an officer who finds work as a gigolo following the end of World War I as he deals with a growing conflict in Berlin between Nazis and Communists. The film is a dramatic piece where a man deals with his new role just as the world he’s in is changing as he’s unsure of what to do. Starring David Bowie, Sydne Rome, Kim Novak, Maria Schell, David Hemmings, Curd Jurgens, and in her final film performance, Marlene Dietrich. Just a Gigolo is a nonsensical and ridiculous film from David Hemmings.

Set from 1918 to 1926, the film revolves around an officer who returns to Berlin three years after World War I with nothing that suits his skills other than menial jobs where he eventually becomes a gigolo amidst a growing conflict between Nazis and Communists. It is a film that explores a man just trying to find his role after the events of the world but it’s a film that wants to be a comedy but also a drama as well as a period piece but writers Ennio De Concini and Joshua Sinclair create a story that is just a fucking mess. Notably as the protagonist of Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski (David Bowie) is always in some situation where he is often lost and is often made to look like a buffoon. Notably as he would take jobs that are humiliating while is pining for a longtime childhood friend in the revolutionary prostitute in Cilly (Sydne Rome). Paul would often find himself in situations such as being an unwilling participant in a resistance group led by his former superior in Captain Herrmann Kraft (David Hemmings) that would eventually become the Nazis and eventually become a gigolo for the Baroness von Semering (Marlene Dietrich) where he woos older women including an officer’s widow in Helga von Kaiserling (Kim Novak).

David Hemmings’ direction is all over the place where it begins in the battlefield where Paul is at the front line of a battlefield where he meets Captain Kraft only to be hit with a shell that lead him to a French hospital where he’s mistaken for a French officer. There are some unique shots that Hemmings creates but the film has a lot of tonal issues in whether he wants to create something serious that is meant to be played for laughs or the other way around and it never works. There are also these moments on whenever a new year in the story begins, there is this recurring gag of two old ladies talking as it never establishes their purpose in the film while Hemmings’ direction with the actors has them in some situations that is humiliating with the exception of the two scenes with the Baroness. Even as it wants to be some political film or a character study yet there is never sense of cohesion throughout the film where Hemmings wants to make this some kind of political-comedy or a character-drama about a man who is lost after World War I. Overall, Hemmings crafts a messy and meandering film about a World War I Prussian officer who later becomes a gigolo.

Cinematographer Charly Steinberger does nice work with the film’s cinematography as it has some stylish lighting for some of the scenes at the Hotel Eden where the Baroness lives as well a few exterior scenes at night. Editors Siegrun Jager and Alfred Srp do fine work with the editing though given that the international version was cut down from the 147-minute premiere version to 105 minutes though there are moments in the film where it does meander. Production designer Peter Rothe does excellent work with the look of the home where Paul and his family live in as well as the ballroom of the Hotel Eden and the home of the Prince whom Cilly is sleeping with. Costume designers Mago and Ingrid Zore do amazing work with the stylish dresses that the women at the time with the former creating some designer clothing for the Baroness, Cilly, and the clothes that Paul wears.

Hair/makeup artist Antony Clave do terrific work with the look of the characters as it is stylized for the times. The sound work of Gunther Kortwich is good as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations though there’s moments that it does too much to play into the humor. The film’s music by John Altman and Gunther Fischer is wonderful as its mixture of jazz and folk to play into the music of the times do play into the humor while music supervisor Jack Fishman provide a soundtrack including some standards as well as an original song written by Bowie that a group of rebels sing early in the film as well as the titular song that is sung by the Baroness.

The film’s ensemble cast do have their moments though a lot of them were hampered by the film’s nonsensical script and messy direction as it include some notable small roles from Hilde Weissner as Paul’s aunt Hilda, Evelyn Kunneke as an old woman that is one of Paul’s conquests late in the film, Erika Pulhar as a prostitute who lives at the apartment where Paul’s family live in, Werner Pochath as Captain Kraft’s brutish yet idiotic henchman Otto, Rudolph Schundler as Paul’s catatonic father who spends much of the film not moving in a stupid way, and Curd Jurgens in a wasted two-scene appearance as a Prince whom Cilly is having an affair with as he barely does anything in the film. Maria Schell is fantastic as Paul’s mother who is amazed that he is alive while worries about the thing he is doing as a gigolo but also in his time with Captain Kraft. Marlene Dietrich is incredible in her brief two-scene appearance as Baroness von Semering as she just maintains this presence in her role as this woman who runs a brothel of gigolos as she is just a joy to watch.

David Hemmings’ performance as Captain Herrmann Kraft is just terrible in the fact that he is this former military officer who is trying to be part of the Nazi movement is often played for laughs though there is nothing funny in what he’s doing while he takes it way too seriously to be engaging. Kim Novak’s performance as an officer’s widow in Helga von Kaiserling is an odd performance that really doesn’t do much for Novak to be engaging but rather be this seductress who tries too hard at times while her attempts to be funny are forced. Sydne Rome’s performance as Paul’s childhood sweetheart Cilly as this revolutionary prostitute who later becomes a Hollywood film star is badly written as someone who wants Paul but then wants to be with the Prince and follow her dreams where Rome does have her moments as a cabaret performer but never finds her balance as someone who really is Paul’s love interest. Finally, there’s David Bowie as Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski as a Prussian World War I officer who is lost in trying to find work only to become a gigolo where Bowie never really gets to find his footing in the role where his attempts to be funny is forced while the dramatic moments barely has him doing anything as it is definitely one of his worst performances in his acting career.

Just a Gigolo is a horrible film from David Hemmings. Despite the two-scene performance from the late Marlene Dietrich in her final film performance, the film is a meandering mess that never finds its footing while giving its ensemble cast nothing to do. Even fans of David Bowie will find the film to be a chore as the man himself also made his dislike about the film after its release as he is given nothing to do other than look ridiculous. In the end, Just a Gigolo is just a bad movie by David Hemmings.

© thevoid99 2022

Friday, January 07, 2022

The Power of the Dog

 

Based on the novel by Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog is the story of a rancher in 1920s Montana whose thirst for power and control is confronted by the arrival of his younger brother’s new wife and her sensitive son. Written for the screen and directed by Jane Campion, the film is an exploration of a man trying to instill his will and ideals on the new people in his family including his nephew whom he feels is challenging his tough persona. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, and Frances Conroy. The Power of the Dog is a riveting and intoxicating film from Jane Campion.

Set in 1925 Montana, the film revolves around a rancher whose brother marries a local restauranteur whose son is known for acting a bit effeminate and talk with a bit of a lisp as he becomes uncomfortable with their presence as he becomes intimidating towards them. It is a film that explores a world where men and women have their place in the world but there is this sense of change where the definition of what men and women are begin to blur. Jane Campion’s screenplay is broken into a few chapters as it play into the relationship between the Burbank brothers in Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his younger brother George (Jesse Plemons) as the latter is an educated while the former prefers to maintain his lifestyle tending to the ranch as he has no interested in bathing nor show any kind of weakness. During a cattle drive where they stop at a nearby town at a restaurant run by Rose (Kirsten Dunst) whose son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a waiter where his lanky and effeminate presentation amuses Phil who would later mock Peter.

The first act is about the relationship between the brothers as well as George’s yearning to marry Rose as he would do so much to Phil’s annoyance as her presence would cause tension just as Rose is trying to bring a few changes as well as invite Phil and George’s parents and the governor (Keith Carradine) and his wife (Alison Bruce) for a dinner. The second act is about Peter’s arrival to the ranch following his time in college where he’s studying medicine and surgery where he tries to stay away from Phil and his ranchers but also makes a discovery about Phil that would change their relationship in the film’s second half. It is where this theme of masculinity come into play as Phil would become open to show Peter the ideas of being a rancher that Peter takes great interest in. Yet, Rose becomes uneasy about it as she turns to alcohol to cope as she would do something that only anger both Phil and Peter.

Campion’s direction is definitely intoxicating for the presentation she creates as it is set in the American West that is Montana though it is shot on the Maniototo plains in the Central Otago region in New Zealand with several interiors shot on sound stages in Auckland. Campion’s direction is often filled with gazing wide shots of these locations where they are major characters in the film as it play into this world that is untouched by modern society which suits Phil and the world he cares about. Campion would also use medium shots and close-ups to get a look into some of the attention to detail in the locations including a small flower in the field or something is symbolic. Most notably in a shrine for Phil’s mentor named Bronco Henry as he would tell stories about his exploits as it serves as this idea of what Phil wants to maintain with his cowhands who are also this embodiment of intense masculinity. Even as there is that moment where Phil notices some flowers made out of paper that Peter had created and burns it up as a form of intimidation and mocking.

There are also these shots that play into the tension between Rose and Phil such as a scene of the latter trying to play a piano piece with Phil on the floor above play that same piece with his banjo as a form of intimidation. Campion also play up the tension during a key scene where Phil and his cowhands are on the river with Phil at another location in the forest by himself where Peter makes this major discovery. This revelation for the second half is where Phil realizes that he and Peter are a lot alike in the way they see things but also that Peter is a lot stronger than both Phil and Rose would believe as Peter is fascinated by the idea of what it’s like to be a cowboy. For Rose, it’s a terrifying idea as she becomes more troubled and fearful as it adds some chaos in the film’s third act. It is Peter’s actions in the third act in what he’s learned from Phil is key to this unexpected bond between these two men who don’t feel like they belong in the modern world despite the things that Peter is studying yet he’s more intrigued by a world that is much simpler and uncompromising. Overall, Campion crafts a ravishing yet captivating film about a tough rancher’s encounter with his new sister-in-law and her effeminate son.

Cinematographer Ari Wegner does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the exteriors including some scenes in the forests are just gorgeous to watch while many of the nighttime interior scenes are used with available light to help set a mood. Editor Peter Sciberras does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as some of the dramatic tension that occurs within the film. Production designer Grant Major, with supervising art director Mark Robins plus set decorators Gareth Edwards and Amber Richards, does amazing work with the look of the ranch and its interiors with how spacious the dining room is as well as Phil’s room that he shared with George and some of the exteriors including the stable where Phil keeps a lot of Bronco Henry’s possessions. Costume designer Kirsty Cameron does fantastic work with the costumes from the golden dress Rose wears to a dinner with the governor and others to the more rough-clothing and chaps that Phil and his cowhands wear.

Hair and makeup designer Noriko Watanabe does terrific work with the look of the characters from the dirty look of Phil as well as the hairstyle of the women during those times. Special effects supervisor Brendan Durey and visual effects supervisor Jason Hawkins do nice work with some of the effects as it relates to some of the horse riding and a few bits of set dressing for some scenes. Sound editor Robert Mackenzie and sound designer Dave Whitehead do brilliant work with the sound in the way cows and horses sound from afar as well as other sparse moments including the comb that Peter carries along with musical instruments as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Jonny Greenwood is phenomenal as its usage of discordant strings, eerie piano pieces, and lush orchestral string pieces add to the drama as it is a major highlight of the film while music supervisor Andrew Kotatko bring in a few classical and folk pieces that are performed in the film.

The casting by Nikki Barrett, Tina Cleary, Carmen Cuba, and Nina Gold is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Alice Englert as a young hooker who dances with a cowhand, Adam Beach as a Native American that wants to buy one of Phil’s rawhide, Maeson Stone Skuccedal as the Native American’s son, Sean Keenan and George Mason as a couple of Phil’s cowhands, Alice Bruce as the governor’s wife who is eager to meet Phil, Keith Carradine as the governor who is fascinated by Phil’s workmanship, Peter Carroll and Frances Conroy as Phil and George’s parents who are eager to see Rose in welcoming her to the family, Genevieve Lemon as the housekeeper Mrs. Lewis who kind of runs the ranch while telling Rose on a few house rules, and Thomasin McKenzie in a fantastic small role as the young maid Lola who works at the house and help Rose in a few things. Jesse Plemons is marvelous as George Burbank as Phil’s younger brother who is a more educated and kinder person than Phil as he would marry Rose as a way to have his own life instead of being intimidated by his brother.

Kirsten Dunst is incredible as Rose Gordon as a restauranteur who is intimidated by Phil as she is troubled by his presence that drives her to drink while becomes protective of Peter when he starts to befriend Phil where she does something that would upset them both. Kodi Smit-McPhee is phenomenal as Peter Gordon as a young man who has this effeminate presentation to him in the fact that he’s also very skinny yet Smit-McPhee makes Peter a far more intriguing individual who would do things that Rose would not approve of but Phil might’ve as well as show that he’s willing to learn as it play into his own ideas of life lessons. Finally, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in a magnificent performance as Phil Burbank as a rancher who is more content with doing work with the ranch and living a rough and tumble lifestyle as he is wary at Rose believing she is being disruptive but takes a liking towards Peter in the film’s second half as there is this ambiguity and complexity to Cumberbatch’s performance that can be chilling but also has this air of sensitivity that is definitely a career-defining performance for Cumberbatch.

The Power of the Dog is an outstanding film from Jane Campion that features phenomenal performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kirsten Dunst. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous locations, ravishing visuals, Jonny Greenwood’s unsettling score, a chilling soundtrack, and its themes on masculinity in an ever-changing world. It is a film that doesn’t play by the conventions of what it means to be a man or how to be one in a world that is removed from conventional society but rather to take an identity and own it no matter how hard society can hit. In the end, The Power of the Dog is a tremendous film from Jane Campion.

Jane Campion Films: Sweetie - An Angel at My Table - The Piano - The Portrait of a Lady - Holy Smoke! - In the Cut - Bright Star - Top of the Lake (Season 1) - (Top of the Lake-China Girl) – The Auteurs #25: Jane Campion

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