Well, this year went from shit to the growing possibility of being completely fucked in the idea that World War III could really happen. This past Wednesday is a day I’m sure many aren’t going to forget as the world watches Vladimir Putin sending the Russian army to invade Ukraine over pieces of disputed land and then take over the whole country. What happens when he decides to go into other countries? That’s the big question and I hope I don’t have to answer nor does anyone else. It is disheartening to watch that a country is being invaded with many of its citizens fleeing including the elderly, the mentally ill, women, and children trying to survive while there are those who are staying in the country to fight. People so far have died though I’m hope it’s not in vain like those 13 people in a small island who told a Russian warship to go fuck themselves as they fought to the death. The fact even Putin’s own home country didn’t want this and want Putin gone as it is clear we’re living in some serious dark times.
Times are tough as there’s a pandemic happening with more stupid people bringing more harm than good as it’s hard to escape from all of this. The fact that what is happening in Europe now is even scary, it is more frightening to know that here in the U.S. There are those that aren’t just supporting Putin’s actions but also there are those who believe that this invasion is a fake as I just can’t stand these fucking imbeciles. They can cheer for their dumbass dictator all they want as he takes it up the ass from Putin yet when Putin gets his ass kicked as does his bitch El Pendejo and his other fat, tubby bitch Steven Seagal is concerned. Maybe we should kick their asses as well for fucking with our lives as well as these idiotic anti-vaxxers who threaten the safety of others because of their own bullshit.
In the month of February 2022, I saw a total of 25 films in 15 first-timers and 10 re-watches with 8 of the first-timers being films directed or co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Not bad as far as first-timers are concerned as well as the number of films by women I watched this month. The big highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot film in Mandabi. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for February 2022:
From the 30 to 30 is an episode about January 2002 NFL playoff game between the New England Patriots vs. the Oakland Raiders where it is a game about a rule that definitely played into the fates of two former Michigan teammates in Tom Brady and Charles Woodson as they talk about the game in the former’s mansion. What happened during this game was that there was a fumble but the referee claimed that it wasn’t as it allowed the Patriots to not only win the game but also begin this dynasty period with Brady as its face. It is definitely a special that does play into these fates but also what happened though Woodson still remains successful and doesn’t harbor any hard feelings towards Brady as they just talked to each other like old friends.
Affairs of the Art
One of the nominees for Best Animated Shorts in the Oscars is a film from Joanna Quinn revolves around a woman who is an artist but never managed to break through as it is animated in a crude hand-drawn animated style. It plays into this woman’s desire to be an artist as well as what she wanted to create ever since she was a kid. It is truly incredible from start to finish as it is something that is a must-see as I need to give a shout-out for Brittani for praising this short and allowing me to seek it out.
ASSEMBLED: The Making of Hawkeye
Part of the Marvel making-of documentary series that began last year with Wandavision, the one on Hawkeye definitely explore what it took to develop as cast and crew members are interviewed. They also discuss the search of trying to find the right person to play Echo and how Alaqua Cox got the casting call. They also explore the emphasis on stunt work and how they kept things secretive as it’s a documentary series that fans of Marvel need to watch.
A film that my niece and nephew have been watching a lot on Disney+ is a film that has been really popular in the movie theaters and at home as I watched this one night with the kids. It is an incredibly rich film that is about a family in Colombia who all have magical powers except for one girl who notices that their house is crumbling as she wants to know why. It is a film that has these great songs written by Lin Manuel-Miranda and also a lot of heart as it is also about identity and being that true self. It has a great voice ensemble cast and gorgeous visuals as I’m glad this is available on streaming services and it’s something that my niece and nephew love.
Incident by the Bank
One of two short films that I watched from my MUBI subscription as the first one by Ruben Ostlund is about a real-life bank robbery in Sweden as it is shot entirely on one-take as if it was a security camera where it would zoom into one thing and then zoom out to show the whole thing. It is a darkly-comical short film that showcase what these bank robbers tried to do and all of these people watching outside of the bank as they comment on all of the absurdity.
Life is But a Dream
While it is largely a promotion for the new Apple iPhone that is coming, Chan-wook Park’s short film as it is a period film where an undertaker digs a grave to find wood to finish a coffin where a ghost from that grave confronts him. The undertaker then tells a story about the coffin he’s building for as that ghost would confront the other ghost as it is a short filled with humor but also some stylish action and such. It is also a lot of fun as it play into the idea of death and the afterlife.
The second short that I saw on MUBI is an avant-garde short by Akosua Adoma Owusu that takes a bit from the 1970s about a hair salon in a predominantly-white town in Virginia where they reveal how white people get afros. It is filled with some text by Toni Morrison and all of these weird visual flares as it does play into this idea of racism and people profiting from racism.
8. Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SmiLe
9. Team Thor
10. Team Thor Pt. 2
Well, that is all for February as March is going to be big with the release of The Batman as I have a ticket to see that film. Other than that, I have no idea whatever theatrical releases I will watch as I have several films on my DVR as well as the streaming services that I have where I hope to catch up on some Oscar nominees and such along with the next film in my Blind Spot Series. There isn’t a big wrestling match that stood out to me this month though I’m sure something will happen in AEW Revolution this coming weekend. While I hope that people in Ukraine are OK as I’m aware that there’s some Ukrainians that have died. I want to express my condolences to the families and friends of people who died this month in Monica Vitti, Mark Lanegan, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, legendary wrestling referee Mickie Jay Henson, Ivan Reitman, Ian McDonald of King Crimson and Foreigner, Jon Zazula of Megaforce Records, and visual effects legend Douglas Trumbull. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Tenet is the story of a secret agent who takes part in a mysterious mission involving time travel as he is able to manipulate the flow of time to prevent from a major event from happening. The film is a sci-fi action thriller that explore the idea of time but also the perspective of others as this agent finds himself in a strange world. Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel, Clemence Poesy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Martin Donovan, Fiona Dourif, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. Tenet is a visually-sprawling yet messy film from Christopher Nolan.
The film follows a CIA agent who joins a mysterious organization to stop a madman in unleashing the end of the world through time travel as he learns how to manipulate the flow of time and help the madman’s wife in retrieving her son. It is a film that is filled with complexities as it play into the idea of time paradoxes and the flow of time where this agent finds himself dealing with not just these mysterious figures including another agent but also other people whom he has to battle. Christopher Nolan’s screenplay is filled with a lot of complexities but also a narrative that explores this unnamed figure that is known mainly as the Protagonist (John David Washington) who is first seen in a mission at a concert hall in Kyiv to retrieve an object and then he sees something where it was largely a test for him where he joins this secret organization. He meets his handler Neil (Robert Pattinson) who is often vague about what he knows as they target this Russian oligarch named Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh).
In order to get to Sator, the Protagonist and Neil approach his estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) to get close to him in the hope she can regain regular contact with their son whom she is unable to see often. She agrees to help them as it involves all sorts of objects that they need to retrieve yet the script is also filled with a lot of exposition into the world that these characters are in as it relates to inverted objects that rewind into an object and all of these ideas of time paradoxes. It is an aspect of the film that isn’t just overwhelming but it does drag the story at times as there are moments where scenes are recreated from another perspective in its third act as it play into the idea of past, present, and future but Nolan does make it confusing at times.
Nolan’s direction is definitely vast as it is shot on multiple locations such as Oslo, Mumbai, the Almafi coast in Italy, Estonia, Denmark, Britain, and the U.S. including some studio-created sets shot in Los Angeles. Nolan creates a world that is vast as it opens at a music hall where a concert performance is happening and then a group of terrorists come in and terrorize everyone leading to a battle between terrorists and the military yet the Protagonist is part of a group that is trying to do something else and fight off whoever they can. It is definitely a great way to start the film as there is a lot happening but it also reveals what the Protagonist is encountering when he sees a bullet hole disappear all of a sudden as if it never appeared. Nolan also include a lot of wide shots of buildings and these large windmills as it play into the world that the Protagonist is a part of where he goes to India to meet a mysterious arms dealer in Priya Singh (Dimple Kapadia) who serves as the mastermind of her business with her husband Sanjay (Denzil Smith) as its face. The film also feature these dazzling stunts and fight choreography in the way Nolan presents this world where things move forward and backward as if it is a dance of sorts. Even in some of the intimate fights where Nolan uses medium shots and close-ups as there is a lot of attention to detail in what is being shown.
Nolan’s usage of wide and medium shots play a lot into the scope of the film as well as how big the world the Protagonist and his cohorts encounter as well as in some of the locations that include coastal ports and windmills in the middle of the sea. The close-ups do play into some of the intimate moments but also in some suspenseful moments but the film does drag in scenes that do involve lots of exposition as it does get overbearing and confusing at times. The film’s third act is essentially a recreation of scenes from the first half of the film but it play into a different perspective for the Protagonist as well as others as it play into the ideas of fate and reality. Even for those who feel trapped by their own reality and need a way to make sure that they can control the future without having to control the future of others. Overall, Nolan crafts an exhilarating yet clunky film about a secret agent going on a mission that involves time paradoxes and the fate of the world.
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its wondrous approach to natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes of these vast locations as well as some stylish usage of lights for many of the scenes at night. Editor Jennifer Lame does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, montages, and other stylish cuts to play into the sense of confusion and chaos that looms throughout the film. Production designer Nathan Crowley, with set decorators Emmanuel Delis, Kathy Lucas, and Anna Pinnock plus art directors Toby Britton, Rory Bruen, Eggert Ketilsson, and Jenne Lee, does amazing work with the look of some of the places that the characters go to including some of the factories that Sator owns as well as buildings and such for some of the film’s elaborate set pieces. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the stylish clothing that Kat wears to the tailor-made suits that the Protagonist and Neil wear as well as some of the clothes that Sator wears.
Special makeup effects artists Toni Bisset and Melanie Askamit do terrific work with some of the scars and such for some of the characters in the violence they encounter. Special effects supervisor Scott R. Fisher, along with digital/visual effects supervisors Andrew Jackson, David Lee, and Andrew Lockley, does excellent work with the visual effects in its emphasis to look and feel real in the highway chase scene as well as the battle scene in its third act. Sound designers Richard King and Kathie Talbot do superb work with the sound in the way objects sound though it often clashes with the score as it overwhelms the dialogue at times. The film’s music by Ludwig Gorransson is wonderful for its mixture of hypnotic electronic music with bombastic orchestral swells to play into the suspense and drama though it could’ve been mixed down as the soundtrack also features an unnecessary and awful piece by Travis Scott in the film’s final credits.
The casting by John Papsidera is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Denzil Smith as Priya’s husband Sanjay who is the face of an arms trafficking business, Laurie Shepherd as Kat and Sator’s son Max, Jack Cutmore-Scott as a storage facility manager named Klaus, Yuri Kolokolnikov as Sator’s bodyguard Volkov, Martin Donovan as the Protagonist’s CIA boss Fay, Clemence Poesy as a scientist named Barbara who introduces the Protagonist to the concept of inverted bullets, Fiona Dourif as a military officer who is part of a task force as she also does some exposition, Himesh Patel as a wise-cracking fixer named Mahir, and Michael Caine in a one-scene appearance as a British intelligence officer in Sir Michael Crosby who provides some information to the Protagonist as well as what he would face.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is excellent as the military commander Ives who knows about the idea of time paradoxes and such where he helps out the Protagonist and Neil while also having some motives of his own. Dimple Kapadia is fantastic as Priya Singh as an arms trafficker dealer who is part of a secret organization as she gives the Protagonist clues on what he will face but also has her own interests into Sator’s plans in the hope that she can benefit from whatever the Protagonist does to stop Sator. Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Andrei Sator as this Russian businessman who deals in illegal businesses as he also has the power to manipulate time as he is hoping to profit from this as he has extremely personal reasons to end the world no matter the cost.
Elizabeth Debicki is amazing as Sator’s estranged wife Kat as a woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage as she decides to help the Protagonist and Neil in stopping her husband in the hopes she can see her son much more as it is a performance full of complexities and emotional gravitas. Robert Pattinson is incredible as Neil as the Protagonist’s handler who helps the Protagonist with the missions while also knowing things that the Protagonist doesn’t know as it relates to time paradoxes and such where Pattinson brings some wit into his performance. Finally, there’s John David Washington in a phenomenal performance as the Protagonist as this unnamed CIA agent who takes part in a mission where he finds himself learning to manipulate time but also deal with all of these complexities as it is a performance full of intensity and determination despite some of the confusing aspects of the script.
Tenet is a remarkable yet overwrought film from Christopher Nolan. While it does feature some incredible visuals, amazing stunt work, a great ensemble cast, and some chilling music pieces. It is a film that has a lot to offer in terms of its action and suspense yet it tries to be complex for its own good where its emphasis on exposition tends to drag the film as well as be confusing. In the end, Tenet is a marvelous yet flawed film from Christopher Nolan.
Written and directed by Ousmane Sembene, Mandabi (The Money Order) is the story of an unemployed man who receives a money order for 25,000 francs from his nephew where he deals with all sorts of obstacle to cash in his money order while dealing with those who want his money. Based on Sembene’s own novella, the film is the study of a man who is given this large sum of money only to deal with all sorts of complications that threatens the chance to live freely. Starring Makuredia Guey, Yunus Ndiay, Isseu Niang, Mustafa Ture, Farba Sar, Serine Ndiay, Therese Bas, and Mussa Diuf. Mandabi is a compelling and engaging film from Ousmane Sembene.
The film follows an unemployed man living in a village near Dakar who receives a money order for 25,000 francs where he hopes to cash it in but he deals with the modern world where he has to have his identification and birth certificate as he doesn’t have any of those things. It is a film that is really a study of post-colonial modernism where a man who lives in a village with not much knowledge on the methods of the modern world as well as the fact that he’s illiterate. Ousmane Sembene’s screenplay that is based on his own novella is this exploration of a man who is dealing with the modern world as well as the world of bureaucracy as they demand some form of identification for proof. For its protagonist Ibrahima Dieng (Makuredia Guey), it is a revelation about how much he is disconnected from post-colonial society as he lives in a home with two wives in Mety (Yunus Ndiay) and Aram (Isseu Niang) as well as seven children.
He often has to borrow money from people including the local shopkeeper M’barka (Mustafa Ture) as news about the money he’s receiving have those wanting Dieng to pay them back including his sister (Therese Bas). Many around him hear that he has money coming as it becomes troubling where Dieng would even find himself giving money to a beggar only to see her again asking for money again as it play into this new world of greed. There is also his other nephew in the businessman M’baye Sarr (Farba Sar) who does help him a bit but he is also this presentation of someone who is in tune with the modern world while he lives in a posh area in Dakar.
Sembene’s direction is largely straightforward in its presentation as he does shoot the film largely on location in and around Dakar with the exception of one lone scene shot in Paris as it relates to Dieng’s nephew Abdou (Mussa Diuf). The scenes in the villages including the small home where Dieng and his family live showcase a world that is simple despite not having much food or water to use but they live decently despite Dieng being unemployed for four years. The usage of medium shots and close-ups add to the intimacy of how small the house is as well as a shop that M’barka runs where Sembene uses a lot of actual places for the film. The scenes in the city has Sembene use a lot of wide shots to get a scope of how big Dakar is how overwhelming it is for someone like Dieng who has lived largely in a small village and noticed how much the world has changed. Even as Sembene play into the way men treat their wives in those times and how the wives would try to protect the shortcomings of their husband only to make things more troubling. Sembene’s continuous approach to showcase Dieng’s struggle to just get his money from having to get a photograph and realize he had to wait a lot longer to the process of having his money order cleared as it requires many procedures showcase the many fallacies of bureaucracy.
Sembene’s direction also play into this air of post-colonialism that is prevalent in the modern world where begging is now a trade of sorts as it alienates Dieng who is a devout Muslim who often prays to God. Yet, there is this growing disassociation with faith in this modern world that Dieng is dealing with as he would turn to Sarr for a key scene in the second act where Sarr would write a check and get him some money as he would be a key figure for the third act. Notably as it play into Sarr’s own connections with the modern world and what he could do to cut through the bureaucratic tape yet this isn’t the old world. It’s a world that Dieng doesn’t recognize as it play into his own growing sense of doubt and place in the new world. Overall, Sembene crafts a riveting yet harrowing film about a man trying to cash a money order he received from his nephew.
Cinematographer Paul Soulignac does incredible work with the film’s colorful cinematography as its usage of vibrant colors for many of the daytime exteriors showcase some realism but also this air of modernism that shocks Dieng. Editors Gilou Kikoine and Max Saldinger do excellent work with the editing as it has bits of style in its jump-cuts and a transition wipe while much of it is straightforward. The sound work of Henri Moline is brilliant for capturing the natural aspects of sound on location while also cultivating the film soundtrack that mainly features a folk piece that play into Dieng’s plight.
The film’s superb ensemble cast include Ousmane Sembene as a bank worker who reads Abdou’s letter, Mussa Diuf as Dieng’s nephew Abdou who works in Paris as a street sweeper, Therese Bas as Dieng’s pushy sister, Serine Ndiay as an Imam who is asking about Dieng’s money, Mustafa Ture as the shopkeeper M’barka who often helps Dieng out thinking he would get his money back, and Farba Sar as Dieng’s posh nephew M’bay Sarr as a businessman who helps his uncle out but also with some motives of his own. Yunus Ndiay and Isseu Niang are fantastic in their respective roles as Dieng’s wives in Mety and Aram as two women who run the house and take care of the children as they deal with the demands from neighbors and others about the money but also the need to protect Dieng from those who want the money badly. Finally, there’s Makuredia Guey in an amazing performance as Ibrahima Dieng as an unemployed man who is given this money order for 25,000 francs as he hopes to cash it and take some of it for himself and his family but also do good with it only to deal with the many complications as it relates to the fact that he is completely disconnected from the modern world.
The 2021 Region 1/Region A DVD/Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection presents the film in a 1:66:1 aspect ratio with a new 4K digital restoration and an uncompressed mono soundtrack in its Blu-Ray release in its original Wolof and French languages with English subtitles that is translated by Sembene biographer Samba Gadjigo. The special features include a thirty-minute introduction by film scholar Aboubakar Sanogo who talks about many of the film’s themes as well as Sembene’s views on post-colonialism and its effect on the lower and working class. Sanogo talks about the decision for Sembene to shoot the film in color as a way to showcase this new presentation of post-colonial Senegal as well as continue this theme of people being neglected by a new system as it is this incredible piece that showcases the film and its themes.
The 19-minute conversation with author/screenwriter Boubacar Boris Diop and feminist activist Marie Angelique Savane have them talk about Sembene but also Dakar in the 1960s including the social imbalance that occurred during the early days of post-colonial Senegal. Diop and Savane talk about the film as a political statement about what was happening and how it was also inspired by events around the world in 1968 as the film was released in Senegal that November. It was well-received by audiences including students but it was a film that was not well-received by its government as the film told a lot of truths. Savane also go into the role that women played at that time as they had to serve the needs of their husbands though it was something Sembene didn’t believe in.
The 15-minute featurette entitled Praise Song that features outtakes from the 2015 documentary about Sembene with interviews from activist Angela Davis, musician Youssou N’Dour, filmmaker Clarence Delgado, California Newsreel director Cornelius Moore, scholar Manthia Diawara, actress/activist/journalist Fatoumata Coulibay, writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, and novelist Cheikh Hamidou Kane as they all talk about Sembene’s influence and impact on art, politics, and activism. Many of them talk about his novels and films but also the fact that he was also someone that wanted to use art to educate and talk about something that the world doesn’t want to talk about. Davis cites Mandabi as a key example as she talked about what Dieng went through as it relates to her mother having difficulty getting her passport.
The 26-minute 1970 short film Tauw is about a young man who spends much of his day trying to find work to appease his frustrated father as he deals with a pregnant girlfriend and lack of prospects. It’s a short film that plays into this young man’s plight as his little brother also is trying to work to get money for the family as they’re living in a shantytown with little to offer. It says a lot about the many issues about post-colonial Senegal and how the poor was unable to benefit from these changes as the film definitely does a lot in what it needs to be said despite the lack of a strong plot.
The DVD/Blu-Ray set also includes Sembene’s novella that film is based on as well as two other pieces of text in a separate booklet about the film. The first is an excerpt of a 1969 interview with Sembene from the journal L’Afrique litteraire et artistique where Sembene is interviewed by film critic Guy Hennebelle. The interview has Sembene talks about the film and its themes but also his idea of what he wants to do with his art. He also talks about the state of Senegal at that time as he talks about the problems the country was facing such as neocolonialism and the emergence of bourgeoisie amongst a certain population in Senegal and other parts of Africa.
The second piece of text is an essay entitled Mandabi: Paper Trail by film scholar Tiana Reid explores not just the film but also its themes and where Sembene was at in his career as both a novelist and as a filmmaker. It wasn’t just Sembene’s first color film but it was also his first to be told in the country’s native language of Wolof as Sembene felt that if he made a film about common people in their language as a way to reflect on their disconnect with the modern world. He could do something and help them during a moment in time when intellectuals and bourgeoisie Africans were running things to oppress those below their class system as well as take advantage of them as Reid’s essay says a lot about the film and Sembene.
Mandabi is a phenomenal film from Ousmane Sembene. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a haunting music score, and its themes of alienation in a post-colonial and modernistic world. The film is a riveting yet harrowing look into the plight of a man who is given a money order but has trouble trying to cash it in due to a world that is completely foreign to him. In the end, Mandabi is a sensational film from Ousmane Sembene.
Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere is the story of a woman who drops out of med school to deal with her husband’s prison sentence that leads her to a journey of self-discovery. The film is a study of a woman dealing with not just the actions of her husband but also some things about herself forcing her to find her own path. Starring Emayatzy Corinealdi, Omari Hardwick, Edwina Findley, Sharon Lawrence, David Oyelowo, and Lorraine Toussaint. Middle of Nowhere is a somber and compelling film from Ava DuVernay.
Following events that lead to her husband’s criminal activities which forces him to serve 8 years in prison, the film follows a woman who is trying to live her life while often visiting her husband who is getting a chance to be paroled. It is a film that explores a woman who had a lot going for her only for her life to fall apart as she drops out of med school and works as a nurse at a local hospital while taking care of her nephew for her sister who is struggling to find work on her own. Ava DuVernay’s screenplay does follow a straightforward narrative yet it is really more of a character study of this woman in Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who is a registered nurse a local hospital in Southern California as her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) is serving about to serve his fifth year in an eight-year prison sentence as the news of him getting a parole brings joy for Ruby.
Yet, there are some complications for that to happen where Ruby asks her mother Ruth (Lorraine Toussaint) for help in getting their attorney Alberta Fraine (Sharon Lawrence) to help out despite her busy schedule. The script doesn’t just play into Ruby’s own dedication to helping out her husband while doing what she can to help her family but also in sacrificing aspects of her own life including what she wanted as her mother feels disappointed that Ruby never finished med school. The film’s second half involves Ruby spending time with a bus driver in Brian (David Oyelowo) whom Ruby sees on her route to work all the time as it play into revelations about her husband’s activities in prison that also relates to why he went to prison. For Ruby, the film’s second half is about a journey into herself and all of the sacrifices she made for her husband as it has her questioning many aspects of her life while spending some time with Brian.
DuVernay’s direction does bear some style in terms of its presentation of montages and flashbacks yet much of her direction is largely straightforward as it is shot on location in various areas in Los Angeles. While there are some wide shots in the film to get a scope of the prison exterior, much of DuVernay’s direction is intimate in its usage of medium shots and close-ups. Notably in the scenes where Ruby arrives in prison as she goes through a routine to enter to meet Derek as well as what she does every day where she works the night shift as a nurse. DuVernay also maintains this air of claustrophobia in her close-ups as it play into Ruby’s own world coming apart as she is trying to get her husband released for his parole hearing as well as the pressures from her family. DuVernay’s compositions do add that air of drama but also some light-hearted moments that include scenes where Ruby spends time with her sister Rosie (Edwina Findley) and her son Nickie (Nehemiah Sutton) as well as a scene in the third act where Ruby and Brian go see an art house movie that confuses the latter. Still, DuVernay does play into some of the dramatic suspense such as the parole hearing in the film’s second act that is a key moment in the film that changes everything for Ruby.
The second act does play more into DuVernay’s claustrophobic presentation in some of the dramatic moments as does the third act in a scene where Ruby, Rosie, and Nickie are having a quiet dinner with Ruth that is filled with a lot of tension. DuVernay also play up into the decisions Ruby is making for herself with those such as Derek’s friend Rashad (Troy Curvey III) who discovers what Ruby is doing with Brian as he threatens to tell Derek. It does play into this decision that Ruby needed to make for herself even though she still loves Derek despite all of the shit he put her through. Overall, DuVernay crafts a mesmerizing and compelling film about a woman dealing with her identity and her relationship with her incarcerated husband.
Cinematographer Bradford Young does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of available and low-key natural lighting for many of the exterior and interior scenes in the day as well as using little lighting for some of the scenes at night to give it a sense of realism. Editor Spencer Averick does excellent work with the film’s editing as it is straightforward with a few montages and jump-cuts where the latter is for dramatic reasons. Production designer Claudia Roque does fantastic work with the look of the home that Ruby lives in as well as Ruth’s own home as it play into this world of modesty but also what Ruby has to live with from the life she used to have.
Costume designer Stacy Beverly does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including some of the expensive clothes she wore for the parole hearing. Sound editor Kunal Rajan does terrific work with the sound as it is straightforward but also to capture the hollow textures of the prison rooms as well as the exterior scenes in the streets. The film’s music by Kathryn Bostic is wonderful as it is a largely ambient-based score that play into the drama while music supervisor Morgan Rhodes creates a soundtrack that features elements of hip-hop, R&B, and indie including cuts from Little Dragon, Afua Richardson & Alexa Edmonds Lima, Jimi James, Goapele, J Mitchell & Melodious Fly, Aybee featuring Omega, Fink, Natalie Gardiner, Trek Life & Oddisee, the Nonce, and Spektrum.
The casting by Aisha Coley is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Maya Dunbar as a former girlfriend of Derek in Gina who confronts Ruby early in the film, Troy Curvey III as Derek’s friend Rashad who is not happy with Ruby’s social activities, Nehemiah Sutton as Rosie's’ son Nickie who is fond of Ruby and asks when his uncle is coming home, and Sharon Lawrence in a terrific small role as the attorney Alberta Fraine who arrives for the parole hearing despite her ever-busy schedule. Edwina Findley is superb as Rosie as Ruby’s sister who is trying to find work as she also deals with Ruby’s own situation knowing that Derek did a lot to hurt her. Lorraine Toussaint is excellent as Ruby and Rosie’s mother Ruth as a woman who spends time taking care of her grandson while lamenting over the unfulfilled promises that her daughters had including Ruby whom she felt was meant for so much more.
David Oyelowo is brilliant as Brian as a bus driver whose bus Ruby rides as he befriends her at a party and later meet her at another party as the two begin a relationship despite knowing that she’s married and he’s divorced with a child while offering her something stable. Omari Hardwick is amazing as Derek as Ruby’s incarcerated husband who is serving an eight-year sentence as he is given a chance to be paroled where he finds himself doing things as well as keeping secrets from Ruby that puts his chance to be released in jeopardy. Finally, there’s Emayatzy Corinealdi in an incredible performance as Ruby as a former med student who works as a registered nurse at a local hospital that is desperate to try and get her husband out while dealing with the things she sacrificed her life as it is a fierce and somber performance as it play into the sacrifices of a woman who lost part of her life due to her love for her husband.
Middle of Nowhere is a marvelous film from Ava DuVernay that features a phenomenal leading performance from Emayatzy Corinealdi. Along with its ensemble cast, character study, naturalist visuals, and its haunting music score. The film is definitely a compelling drama that explores a woman who is trying to get her husband home but also deal with the sacrifices she made for herself. In the end, Middle of Nowhere is a remarkable film from Ava DuVernay.
Ava DuVernay Films: (This is the Life (2008 film)) – (I Will Follow) – Selma - 13th (2016 film) - (A Wrinkle in Time (2018 film))
For the seventh week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of the romantic tropes series. We venture into the subject of second chance love where it plays into someone who either lost someone or got dumped as they endure another chance in having a happy ending. Here are my three picks:
Douglas Sirk’s 1955 melodrama about a relationship between a widow and her gardener as the latter is 15 years younger than her as it does play into the taboo of ageism but also in social standings. It is a film that breaks a lot of rules but also this exploration of a woman trying to find happiness again yet there are those who are appalled by choosing someone as a gardener who isn’t just younger than her but also lives a simpler life that appeals to her.
Nicholas Stoller’s 2008 film is about a TV show composer who gets dumped by his TV star girlfriend who leaves him for a rock star. It is a hilarious yet heartfelt rom-com that plays into the heartbreak of a man who goes to Hawaii for a vacation only to learn that his ex is also there with her new boyfriend where a kind-hearted hotel concierge allows him to be at the hotel. It is a film that is much smarter than it needed to be as it really served as a break-out performance for Mila Kunis as the hotel concierge who has the film’s star/writer Jason Segal the chance to find love again and realize that is ex is a bitch!
Nicole Holofcener’s 2013 film is a bittersweet film to watch as it features James Gandolfini in one of his final film performances. The film has Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a masseuse who meets Gandolfini at a party as she also takes a job for a woman unaware that she’s Gandolfini’s ex-wife. It is a film with a lot of wit and heart where it shows that Gandolfini isn’t just funny but also sensitive as the scenes he has with Louis-Dreyfus are filled with sweetness and care as it is about these two people given another chance to find love again no matter how messy things can be.
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks is the story of a woman who seeks the help of her playboy father as they suspect that her husband is having an affair where the two deal with this possibility. The film is a study of a father-daughter relationship where the latter lives a sophisticated life with two young children but ponders about her marriage with the former deciding to help out despite his impulsive lifestyle. Starring Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Jenny Slate, Jessica Henwick, Barbara Bain, and Marlon Wayans. On the Rocks is a riveting and heartfelt film from Sofia Coppola.
The film revolves around a novelist who turns to her playboy father after becoming suspicious about her husband whom she believes is having an affair. It is a film with a simple premise as it plays into a woman not just dealing with the possibility of her husband having an affair but also questioning about the behavior of men where she turns to the worst person to go to in her father. Sofia Coppola’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative yet it really follows the journey that Laura Keane (Rashida Jones) is going through not just as a mother trying to work on another novel but also raising two kids in Maya (Liyanna Muscat) and the toddler Theo (Alexandra and Anna Reimer) while her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is an entrepreneur trying to work on deals that would help their lives despite having to travel a lot.
Yet, when Dean returned home late one night and acting confused and Laura would later find a toiletry bag in Dean’s luggage that belonged to his one of his co-workers in Fiona (Jessica Henwick). Laura talks to her father Felix (Bill Murray) who arrives to New York City from Paris to visit as Laura tells him about Dean where Felix believes something is off. Felix has these theories while also has a lot of connections that makes him suspicious about Dean while he would take Laura out to posh places to eat as it also bring in some observations from Laura about why her father was always flirting and going after other women. Coppola’s script has a lot of witty dialogue but also a lot of dramatic suspense as it play into Laura’s own revelations about her marriage as the script also has Coppola maintain some element of repetition which add to the routine that Laura endures at home as she struggling to write and be a parent to two young kids.
Coppola’s direction does have some elements of style in the compositions that she creates that include some of her trademark shots that she is known for. Yet, much of it is straightforward in terms of its overall presentation as it is shot largely on location in New York City with one scene shot outside of the city and the film’s climax in Mexico. The film opens with a brief scene of Dean and Laura’s wedding and a moment where they go skinny-dipping at a pool as it play into a moment of happiness which then cuts to black and then back to Laura in bed sleeping when Dean arrives as he kisses Laura and has this confused look in his face that would also confuse Laura. Coppola’s approach to repetition in the way Laura spends much of her day in making breakfast for the kids, dropping her oldest to school, bringing the youngest home to nap, to try and work on her novel, and then pick up her oldest from school has a charm to the way every-day life is but it also play into Coppola’s recurring theme of disconnection where Laura feels like her marriage is in trouble. The usage of the wide and medium shots do play into that disconnect whether it’s in some of the exterior locations in New York City or in Mexico or at a certain place like a restaurant or a hotel bar.
Coppola also uses close-ups to play into not just this air of confusion and despair but also in moments that play into Laura’s relationship with her father such as a scene where they’re at the actual bar in the Continental hotel in New York City as it play into the way men are where Felix flirts with a women at the bar. The scene where Laura and Felix are trying to chase Dean shows that Felix is not just this ball of fun but also the fact that he really does care despite his offbeat behavior where he can be cynical at times. The third act as it relates to a business trip Dean went to that leads to this moment where Laura asks why Felix cheated on her mom as well as having affairs with other women. It is a scene where Felix does show he’s vulnerable but also about the fallacies of human nature as it is about control which is something Laura is trying to maintain. Overall, Coppola crafts a ravishing and somber film about a woman turning to her playboy father over concerns about the state of her marriage.
Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key and vibrant lighting for many of the daytime exterior/interior scenes as well as some low-level lights for some of the interior scenes at night to help set a mood for some of the dramatic moments in the film. Editor Sarah Flack does amazing work with the editing as it does have some stylish usage of jump-cuts and such yet much of it is straightforward in terms of playing into the drama as well as some inventive montages to play into the routine of Laura’s life. Production designer Anne Ross, with set decorator Amy Beth Silver and art director Jennifer Dehghan, does excellent work with the look of the loft that Dean and Laura live in with their children as well as the office that Dean works at and the classroom where Laura is often in a conversation with another parent.
Costume designer Stacey Battat does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the casual clothes that Laura wears including a few stylish clothes she wears along with some of the suits that Felix wears to play into his posh lifestyle. Sound designer Richard Beggs and co-sound editor Roy Waldspurger do superb work with the sound as it adds to the atmosphere of the scenes such as how car horns and alarms sound outside of a building from the inside as well as the way an engine sounds on a vintage corvette as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Phoenix is sublime in its mixture of ambient and indie to play into the sense of uncertainty that looms in Laura as they also supervise the soundtrack with Ian Broucek that doesn’t just feature a song by Phoenix but also an array of music ranging from jazz, classical, pop, and mariachi music with additional contributions from Paul Shaffer on producing songs that Felix sings as the soundtrack features bits from Chet Baker, Michael Nyman, Porches, Thelonious Monk with the Clark Terry Quartet, Franz Schubert, the Bill Evans Trio, and Mina.
The casting by Courtney Bright, Allison Hall, and Nicole Daniels is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Juliana Canfield as Laura’s sister Amanda, Musto Pelinkovicci as Felix’s driver, Kelly Lynch as a blonde woman Felix flirts with at the Continental, Evangeline Young as Maya’s ballet teacher, Barbara Bain as Laura’s grandmother, Mike Keller as a police officer who stops Felix over his driving, Alexandra and Anna Reimer as Laura and Dean’s toddler daughter Theo, Liyanna Muscat as Laura and Dean’s adolescent daughter Maya, Jenny Slate as a parent named Vanessa who often talks to Laura about her attempts in dating, and Jessica Henwick in a terrific performance as Dean’s co-worker Fiona whom Laura believes is Dean’s mistress. Marlon Wayans is brilliant as Dean as an entrepreneur who spends a lot of time traveling and working while also trying to make time for the kids and for Laura as it is a low-key and restrained performance from Wayans who is often known for comedy.
Finally, there’s the duo of Bill Murray and Rashida Jones in incredible performances in their respective roles as the father-daughter duo of Felix and Laura. Murray’s performance is one full of wit and charm as someone who is just trying to be a good father despite his playboy persona where he becomes suspicious of Dean where Murray also display a lot of restraint but also some vulnerability in some scenes. Jones’ performance as Laura is great in playing it straight but also someone who deals with the ideas that her marriage might end as it is a performance with some wit but also with energy into someone that is just trying to find answers. Murray and Jones together play off each other well as they also know how to interact and bounce off one another as they are the highlight of the film.
On the Rocks is a phenomenal film from Sofia Coppola that features great performances from Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. Along with its supporting cast, rapturous visuals, intoxicating music soundtrack, and themes of marriage and the faults of masculinity. The film is a compelling yet low-key film that has Coppola going for something simpler but also play into the idea of a woman trying to understand her father while dealing with the possibility about her husband. In the end, On the Rocks is a sensational film from Sofia Coppola.
Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman is the story of a woman who goes on a quest vengeance against men due to a traumatic event that saw another woman be raped and humiliated years ago. The film is a revenge story of sorts but also a character study as it explores a woman who had a lot of promise in her life as she struggles with an incident that affected her as she struggles to forgive but also what happened to her friend many years ago. Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell, and Connie Britton. Promising Young Woman is an eerie yet visceral film from Emerald Fennell.
The film follows the exploits of a 30-year old woman who chooses to go after predatory men by pretending to be drunk and then make them uncomfortable as a form of vengeance to cope with the loss of her best friend years ago who had been raped and later humiliated in court that led to her suicide. It is a revenge film of sorts as it plays into this woman who saw her friend in that ordeal as they were both med school students at the time but incident lead both of them to drop out of med school as this woman works at a coffee shop by day and then go after men at night. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay is really a study of its protagonist Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) who was once a promising med school student who had all of the potential to become a doctor but the rape, humiliation, and eventual suicide of her longtime childhood friend Nina destroyed that dream. For Cassie, the need to play a drunken woman to go after predatory men is a way to cope with her loss though the presence of a former classmate in Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham) who goes to her coffee shop has her thinking about life for herself.
The first act is about Cassie and the life that she leads where she still lives with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge) who are unaware of what she does at night while also being courted by Ryan who is a pediatrician as he wonders why Cassie never finished med school. When Ryan makes mention that he’s been invited to the wedding of a former classmate in Al Monroe (Chris Lowell), the man that raped and humiliated Nina. The film’s second act revolves around this act of vengeance for Cassie on those who failed Nina as well as did dirty work for Al as it also play into this growing relationship with Ryan who wants to show her the good things in life unaware of the things Cassie does except on one night where he questions her actions. Fennell’s script is filled with these complexities but also the air of indifference about the rape of a young woman as some want to claim it’s a bunch of he-said, she-said thing when the reality is far more complicated. Even as Cassie would learn more about what happened on that night in the film’s third act.
Fennell’s direction does bear some style in its presentation with its emphasis on vibrant colors being present as backdrops yet much of her ideas in terms of the compositions are straightforward. Shot on location in and around Los Angeles, Fennell opens the film with three guys in a club talking about women as they see a supposedly drunken Cassie who is out of her mind where she accidentally shows her panties where a guy decides to bring her home. It is a sequence that sets the tone as it introduces the kind of woman Cassie is as well as the world she’s in where it is complicated where men are trying to be careful while women either portray themselves as victims or will do things to keep men down. Fennell’s usage of the wide and medium shots not only add a lot of scope into that world such as the home where Cassie lives with her parents or the coffee shop in its interior but also in some of the clubs she goes to.
Fennell also uses close-ups and long shots to play into some of the dramatic tension whether it has Cassie confronting an old friend or having her play a role to get what she wants. Fennell’s approach to the suspense is low-key in the way she builds up tension as if something violent could happen yet it would be typical for a revenge film to have some idea of violence. Fortunately, Fennell aims for minimal violence in just two scenes as one play into a moment where some guy annoys Cassie and the other is in the film’s climax in its third act. The third act isn’t just about these revelations that Cassie learned about the night of Nina’s rape but also who was there as it leads her to this big event where Al is present. It would be followed by an aftermath that do play into this idea of history repeating itself but its ending isn’t just this massive gut-punch that Fennell creates. It is more about a woman trying to bring justice for the friend she lost but also the loss of her own identity. Overall, Fennell crafts a haunting yet darkly-comical film about a woman going on a path of revenge for her late friend.
Cinematographer Benjamin Kracun does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography from the usage of natural lighting for the daytime interior/exterior scenes including some low-key lighting in a few rooms to the usage of stylish colors for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Frederic Thoraval does excellent work with the editing as does have some elements of style in the jump-cuts but also being straightforward in making sure shots linger to establish a moment in the film. Production designer Michael T. Perry, with set decorator Rae Deslich and art director Liz Kloczkowski, does amazing work with the look of the coffee shop in its interiors as well as a few places Cassie goes to as well as her family home.
Costume designer Nancy Steiner does fantastic work with the clothes that Cassie wears as it ranges from stylish to just casual as it adds to her offbeat personality. Sound editor Frederic Dubois does superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of some of the parties as well as the way sparse objects sound as it help add to the film’s offbeat tone. The film’s music by Anthony Willis is wonderful for its eerie orchestral score that include some themes that play into the drama along with bits that play into the film’s dark humor while music supervisor Susan Jacobs cultivates a music soundtrack that ranges from pop, electronic, indie, and classical with contributions from Juice Newton, Charli XCX, Maya B, the Spice Girls, DeathbyRomy, Cyn, MUNA, Donna Missal, Jacqueline Taieb, Carmen DeLeon, Lily & Madeleine, Richard Wagner, Sky Ferreira, Lionel Richie, Fletcher, BLESSUS, Kitty White, a string-based version of Britney Spears’ Toxic, Renni Rucci, and Paris Hilton for a touching and light-hearted scene involving Cassie and Ryan.
The casting by Lindsay Graham Ahanonu and Mary Vernieu is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Emerald Fennell as a YouTuber who makes an instructional video on blow job lips, Steve Monroe as a police detective late in the film, Francisca Estevez as a high school student that Cassie uses for a blackmailing scheme, Molly Shannon as Nina’s mother in a lone scene where she tells Cassie to move on, Adam Brody as a guy named Jerry who takes Cassie to his place in the film’s opening sequence, Sam Richardson as Jerry’s friend Paul who would also meet Cassie only to realize something is off, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a guy named Neil who tries to get her to do drugs and sleep with him only to put himself into trouble as he begs Cassie to not do anything, Max Greenfield as Al’s friend Joe who is the embodiment of a fucking douche, and Alfred Molina in an un-credited yet superb performance as Al’s former attorney Jordan Green as a man who admitted to what he did to Nina as he is filled with a lot of regrets over his actions.
Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge are excellent in their respective roles as Cassie’s parents in Stanley and Susan Thomas as the former is a man that prefers to not to say anything about what Cassie does while the latter is more concerned with trying to get Cassie back on board as she often tries to dodge questions to friends about Cassie. Laverne Cox is fantastic as Cassie’s boss Gail who often asks questions about Cassie’s life and feelings about men while also being someone who is funny and keeps Cassie around because she’s good at her job. Alison Brie is brilliant as a former classmate of Cassie in Madison as a successful woman who prefers not to talk about what happened to Nina thinking that no one should care until Cassie does something to her that would become key in the film’s third act. Connie Britton is amazing as the medical school dean in Walker as someone who was indifferent to the report about Nina as she is forced to deal with what Cassie is doing to her through means of blackmail.
Chris Lowell is incredible as Al Monroe as the man who raped Nina years ago and got away with it as he is about to be married as he is present at his own bachelor party where he meets Cassie unaware of her identity and why she wants to meet him. Bo Burnham is remarkable as Ryan Cooper as a former classmate of Cassie, who is now a pediatrician, who befriends her and tries to show her the good sides of life as he would fall for her as he is this idea of someone that is a good guy but also has some secrets of his own that he doesn’t want to share. Finally, there’s Carey Mulligan in a tremendous performance as Cassie Thomas as a former med student with so much promise to become a doctor only for the loss of her best friend to change all of that where Mulligan brings a lot of wit to her performance as someone that is willing to put men into her place as well as being someone that is also guarded. It is a performance that has Mulligan also slowly displaying her vulnerability but at its most restrained as well as showcase the struggle of wanting revenge but also showing forgiveness.
Promising Young Woman is a spectacular film from Emerald Fennell that features a career-defining performance from Carey Mulligan. Along with its supporting cast, colorful visuals, an offbeat music soundtrack, and its study of loss, vengeance, and forgiveness. It is a film that explores a woman’s journey to bring justice over not just the friend she lost but also her own identity that she lost as well while trying to see if she can find forgiveness and a new life for herself in a toxic environment. In the end, Promising Young Woman is a sensational film from Emerald Fennell.
For the sixth week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of the romantic tropes series. We go into the subject of famous person and non-famous person romance where some famous person meets an ordinary person and falls in love with that person creating all sorts of problems but also ponder if it is true love. Here are my three picks all starring Hugh Grant:
1. Notting Hill
One of the finest romantic films of the late 1990s is this incredible story about a shy bookstore owner at Notting Hill who gets a visit from a big-time movie star as they would meet each other again and again where they fall in love. Yet, it is a film that is filled with some incredible supporting characters yet it is Hugh Grant as the bookstore owner and Julia Roberts as the movie star. It’s a film that is well-written by Richard Curtis and wonderfully-helmed by the late, great Roger Michell as it is a film that isn’t afraid to be sensitive but also knows when to be funny.
2. Love Actually
From Richard Curtis is a film that I don’t like very much as I think it’s overrated and it is a mess yet the storyline involving Hugh Grant’s character as the British prime minister who falls for his new secretary where he has to vie for her affection against the visiting American president in Billy Bob Thornton is a decent storyline. Especially as Thornton learns a lesson about being president and visiting Britain, don’t ever take a woman from another man and if that man is the Prime Minister. Oh boy, fly your fat-ass back to America!
3. Music & Lyrics
Playing the role of a fading 80s pop star who is asked to write a song for a young pop singer, Hugh Grant plays the role of a fading pop star whose writing partner had left him many years ago and became a bigger star. It is in Drew Barrymore as a woman hired to take care of Grant’s plants that would become his new lyricist. It is a film that is filled with a lot of charm with Grant doing some of his own singing as well as a lot of dancing that has him shaking his bum a lot. After all, we can’t get enough Hugh Grant and what better way to end this list than with Hugh Grant…. DANCING!!!!