Monday, July 31, 2023

Films That I Saw: July 2023


This has definitely been a really hot summer as due to the heat. It is often best to spend time at home or somewhere that is a bit of an escape as long as there’s air conditioning. Usually, home is where it’s at as one of the reasons to stay home is to watch whatever you’re into. However, the yearning for new content is something all of us are going to have to wait longer than we expected as the SAG-AFTRA strike has commenced on July 14 joining the WGA strike that began early this past May all because the studios are a bunch of greedy assholes. The threat of artificial intelligence is real as the idea of AI coming in and creating ideas is harmful while the writers themselves aren’t getting paid properly with streaming services and their bosses making lots of money with the writers getting very little. The Screen Actors Guild had joined them in an act of solidarity with the Writers Guild of America as they too are affected by A.I. and the fact that they’re also getting underpaid for their past work that is shown on various streaming services and getting little in return.

One would think that this is all about these movie and TV stars and writers wanting more money which is true but a closer look at the residual checks many of these actors are getting however show that they have a point. Getting something like 8 cents for one episode of a popular TV show that is being streamed on Netflix is fucking criminal. It is a disservice for anyone working in the industry as you have people in sound, visual effects, and other post-production services that are going to be fucked because they can’t work with the actor on wanting to finish something while the writers also can’t be involved in the post-production for notes or advice that the director and an editor would want. It also affects upcoming films that are set to appear in film festivals as the actors and writers won’t be able to show up to promote or do interviews as these festivals are going to be fucked. It’s assholes like David Zaslav that has fucked things up for everyone all in the idea of greed while Bob Iger at Disney remains to be clueless on what these people want while forcing audiences to watch projects that are just mid at best.

Letterboxd have recently presented a guide on this whole strike and what film buffs should do in support of the strike. AEW pro wrestler Ryan Nemeth who is also an actor has been using the YouTube channel Being the Elite as a way to provide coverage of the strike talking to writers and actors while getting his own endorsement as the Hollywood Hunk. For those who love to watch films and write about it can do their part to support the strike but that doesn’t mean we can stop watching content. We just need to know that we care and not give in to this AI bullshit as I’ve been seeing a lot AI created music on YouTube as I choose to remove it from my recommendations while a NIN fan-created YouTube page has done some AI related stuff with some of NIN’s music and I fucking hated it. I don’t want this shit AI shit around when it comes to at because it would never understand what it takes for someone to create something that comes from them.
In the month of July 2023, I saw a total of 26 films in 16 first-timers and 10 re-watches with 9 of the first-timers being films directed or co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Down a bit from last month though the quality of films have been amazing as one of the highlights of the month is my Blind Spot film in One-Eyed Jacks. Here is the top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2023:

1. Barbie
2. Red, White, and Blue
3. Mekong Hotel
4. In My Room
5. Ashes
6. Nightwalk
7. Shangri-La
8. The Wedding Singer’s Daughter
9. (The [End) of History Illusion]
10. Shako Mako
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

The Dream Studio

This 28-minute documentary short film about Zoetrope Studios that was part of an extra from the DVD release of One from the Heart in the early 2000s is a fascinating film about Francis Ford Coppola purchasing the old General Service Studios lot in 1980 in the hope to create a dream studio. Notably as it would be this place where young filmmakers would be able to create something and build sets while Coppola would use the studio to work on his 1982 musical as well as produce other projects around this time. It is a story that shows a man that is willing to gamble on himself though there’s also this story of Icarus when it comes to the fact that Coppola tried to emphasize on innovation and creative freedom but it came at a massive financial cost due to the commercial failure of One from the Heart in its 1982 release that would put Coppola in serious debt as he would spend almost an entire decade making films for studios to cover his debt.

This 20-minute short film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is an experimental piece that mainly consists of stop-motion photography as its visual presentation where a man walks a dog and the places he would encounter. It’s not a short film that is meant to say anything but rather be seen as a visual medium as it does prove that Weerasethakul remains one of these fascinating figures in world cinema. Even if some of the projects he makes don’t make any narrative sense but it really doesn’t matter because they’re so beautiful to watch.

Lucky Star

A 2 ½ minute commercial for Mercedes directed by Michael Mann starring Benicio del Toro who plays a criminal that is being hunted by the LAPD. It is a commercial that sort of presents it as a trailer for fake feature film though it bears a lot of the visual style that Mann is known for as this is something fans of Mann should see.

Secret Invasion (season 1 episodes 3-6)
Overall as a series, this is pretty much the weakest series from the MCU though I enjoyed it but it left me underwhelmed at times. It had a good premise as it relates to Skrulls invading Earth as they struggle to find a home following the events of the Blip with Nick Fury feeling guilty for not fulfilling his duties. Unfortunately, some of the writing left a lot to be desired while the deaths of a few beloved characters didn’t really do much to drive the narrative. Kingsley Ben-Adir is an excellent actor but the character of Gravik is badly written as he ends up being a very one-dimensional antagonist that never really thought anything through other than kill some people including people close to Fury. Even towards the end of the series where his followers begin to question his leadership definitely show a lot of serious flaws in the character as he’s pretty much not just one of the weakest villains in the MCU but also one of the stupidest whom audiences won’t have to deal with.

Despite a lot of those flaws, the show did have some solid work from Samuel L. Jackson as Fury as well as Emilia Clarke as Gi’ah, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, and Don Cheadle as the Skrull version of Rhodey as Cheadle does get to have fun in playing the asshole though it raises confusions into what really happened to Rhodey all this time. Charlayne Woodward as Fury’s Skrull wife Priscilla/Varra is a standout as the one person who really understands Fury while Killian Scott’s performance as Gravik’s right-hand man Pagon I thought was way more interesting than Gravik as he seemed to have ideas that should’ve helped the rebellion. Yet, the show really belongs to Olivia Colman as Sonya Falsworth who just steals every moment in the film as she elevates everything whenever she’s one as well as knowing when to camp it up a bit or to be slimy. She is so fun to watch as I hope the character returns and let’s hope it’s a better project.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 4 episodes 6-8)
The second half of the season showcases three episodes as it relates to some really dark shit in the three wrestlers they profiled. The first is about Adrian Adonis who is someone that didn’t have the physique of many but was a really tough individual who rose through the ranks in various territories that lead him to a run in the WWF in the 1980s. Yet, it was his drug issues that eventually was his downfall as he would be fired from the company only to clean himself up and get himself back in shape until a tour through Canada where he and two other wrestlers were killed in an auto accident on their way to a show in Newfoundland as only one person survived the wreck. The other story that also played into drugs in its most recent episode involves Bam Bam Bigelow who would be a big star in the late 1980s as this agile big man only to rub some veterans along the way in his first run in the WWF as his second in the mid-1990s that included being in the main event of WrestleMania XI against football legend Lawrence Taylor.

Unfortunately, backstage politics involving the Kliq would force him to leave WWE as he would have a successful run in ECW but his addiction to prescription pills eventually became his downfall as he would die sometime in the late 2000s as he was attempting to get his life back on track. Then there’s episode of Abdullah the Butcher as, with the exception of Mick Foley and Tony Atlas, many of the individuals on that episode came off as scummy as Abdullah was known for violent matches and bloodbaths that made him notorious in Puerto Rico while his work with Devon Nicholson in the 2000s is infamous with Nicholson claiming Abdullah gave him hepatitis from the used blades that Abdullah had taped in his fingers. Whether it was true or not, it didn’t make Nicholson a sympathetic individual as he often blames someone while making excuses over an incident years ago when he rammed a spike on a referee that was too much to bear. There’s claims about Abdullah being illiterate but I’m not sure as the episode made me squeamish at times. There’s two more episodes left with the first one being about the incident at WCW Bash at the Beach 2000 and the season finale on Marty Jannetty.

Wrestling Match of the Month: FTR (c) vs. Jay White & Juice Robinson for the AEW World Tag Team Titles in a 2 out of 3 falls match – AEW Collision – 7/15/23

While I don’t think having a wrestling show airing on a Saturday night on national television is a good idea, AEW Collision has become a really solid wrestling show as it has a different feel from AEW Dynamite as there’s more in-ring action as well as having an old school vibe to it. FTR has made the program their home and has continuously proven themselves to be the best tag team working today as a program against Jay White and Juice Robinson of Bullet Club Gold has been phenomenal with a 30-minute match the week before where Bullet Club Gold won leading to this 2 out of 3 falls rematch where the tag titles on the line. While I didn’t catch live as I was out of the house at the time, I did watch the whole thing as it was fucking intense. This is tag team wrestling at its finest where both teams put everything on the line as BCG won the first fall but it was FTR who came back to win the next two falls. There has to be a third match and what better place to do it at AEW All In at Wembley Stadium in London. FTR continues to be this great tag team while Jay White and Juice Robinson with the Gunn Club has managed to breathe some new life into the Bullet Club brand as it is floundering at New Japan Pro Wrestling under its current leadership in David Finlay.

Top 10 Re-watches

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2. Iron Man
3. The Lion King
4. Twenty Something
5. Smash and Grab
6. The Good Dinosaur
7. The Skeleton Dance
8. Building a Building
9. The Olympic Champ
10. Goofy Gymnastics
Well, that is all for July. Next month, I’m not sure what will be my next Blind Spot film as I own 3 of them on Blu-Ray with one of them on DVD while the fifth Blind Spot is likely to be purchased as a rental on YouTube. Other than that, I will definitely watch Oppenheimer and maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem as far as theatrical releases are concerned. Then there’s Showing Up by Kelly Reichardt which is available on YouTube via rental as I will watch this along with some short films as I am hoping to restart and re-work my Auteurs piece on her while also finishing up Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology film series.

Before I leave, we should make note once again on those who have passed as this month sadly saw the passing of Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman, Jane Birkin, Sinead O’Connor, Randy Meisner of the Eagles, screenwriter Julian Barry, screenwriter Bo Goldman, Pamela Blair, British wrestler Tommy Siegel, Inga Swenson, Leila Goldini, film/TV writer Stu Silver, documentary filmmaker Sue Marx, Nick Benedict, Anthony Meo of Biohazard, writer Milan Kundera, Mike Halac aka Mantaur, Exotic Adrian Street, Jeffrey Carlson, singer Vickie Anderson, film producer Lawrence Turman, and the legendary Tony Bennett. We will miss you all. This is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2023

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: One-Eyed Jacks


Based on the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider, One-Eyed Jacks is the story of a bank robber who goes on a quest for revenge against his former partner who had abandoned him during a showdown with the Mexican mounted police. Directed by Marlon Brando and screenplay by Guy Trosper and Calder Willingham, the film is an exploration of a man trying to get revenge on the man who left him as well as hoping to rob a bank. Also starring Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Pina Pellicer, Larry Duran, Sam Gilman, Miriam Colon, Timothy Carey, Margarita Cordova, and Elisha Cook. Jr. One-Eyed Jacks is a gripping and evocative film from Marlon Brando.

Set in 1885, the film follows a bank robber, whose partner reluctantly abandoned him during a showdown between them and Mexican mounted police forces, who escapes a Mexican prison with a fellow cellmate as they travel to Monterey, California with a couple of men to rob a bank as well as get revenge on his former partner. It is a film that explores a man who felt cheated by his former partner who had ended up making a decent life for himself as a sheriff in Monterey while he spends five years in prison waiting to get revenge. The film’s screenplay by Guy Trosper and Calder Willingham, with un-credited contributions from Sam Peckinpah and Rod Serling, follows the journey that Rio goes through as he is first seen taking part of a bank robbery with his partner Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) and another robber in Doc (Hank Worden) in Mexico that is successful until Rio and Longworth are chased by the mounted police as they’re stuck on a hill with Longworth leaving to get new horses yet he never returned as Rio gets captured and spent five years in a prison which he would escape with Chico Modesto (Larry Duran).

Upon meeting Bob Emory (Ben Johnson) and his partner Harvey Johnson (Sam Gilman), Rio and Modesto travel to Monterey, California upon learning that Longworth is the sheriff in the town as he has married a Mexican woman in Maria (Katy Jurado) who has a daughter of her own in Louisa (Pina Pellicer). Though the plan is to rob the bank in Monterey, Rio decides to meet Longworth without stating his intentions while falling for Louisa as he spends time with her during a fiesta the next day. Yet, things get complicated where Longworth learn about what the two did where Rio gets punished as he and his gang are forced to leave as they shelter themselves in a beachside village as it plays into Rio’s sense of uncertainty about wanting to rob a bank. Even as Maria learns more about her husband’s past as well as what happened with Rio and Louisa that would complicate matters.

Marlon Brando’s direction is filled with gorgeous compositions as it is shot on various locations in California with Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula being key locations along with Sonora, Mexico for the scenes set in Mexico including its mountains. Brando’s approach to wide and medium shots add to the beauty of these locations with all of these meticulous attention to detail in the ocean waves that Brando captures to play into a world that feels new to Rio as it is also this escape from the rugged nature of Mexico that Longworth wants to leave behind. Brando also maintains some intimacy in the close-ups and medium shots in the first meeting in five years between Rio and Longworth as it play into the tension as Brando creates unique compositions in these moments. Notably in Rio’s infatuation towards Louisa as he would say some lies in order to woo her but eventually realize that she’s a good young woman whom he doesn’t want to take advantage of.

By the time the film moves into the second half where the tension between Rio and Longworth come to ahead despite the former’s action in saving a woman who is being abused by a man. It would allow Longworth to punish Rio in front of the town as revelations occur as it relates to Rio’s original intentions as he retreats to the beach as regrets come into play along with other revelations as it relates to Rio’s love for Louisa. Even as Maria begins to piece out Longworth’s issue with Rio during the film’s third act where a showdown would occur where the idea of vengeance shifts towards guilt with Rio realizing of what Longworth is trying to hold on to that only makes Longworth much worse. Overall, Brando crafts an exhilarating and mesmerizing film about a gunslinger going after his former partner for abandoning him following a bank robbery.

Cinematographer Charles Lang Jr. does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of Technicolor film stock to capture the beauty of the exteriors in the beaches and mountains while John P. Fulton provides some special photographic effects for some scenes on the beach as backdrops for a few of the film’s conversations including one between Rio and Louisa. Editor Archie Marshek does excellent work with the editing with its usage of straight cuts to play into the suspense and drama as well as knowing when to allow shots to linger to help amp up the suspense. Art directors Hal Pereira and J. McMillan Johnson, with set decorators Sam Comer and Robert Benton, do amazing work with the look of Monterey as well as the cantina in Sonora where Rio and Longworth went to after the robbery early in the film. Costume designer Yvonne Wood does fantastic work with the costumes in the dresses that the women wear along with the ragged look of Rio as well as the refined look that Longworth has as sheriff.

The makeup work of Yvonne Wood and Wally Westmore, with hair stylist Nellie Manley, do terrific work with the makeup from Longworth’s rugged look early in the film to the mustache he would have as sheriff as well as the look that Rio would have including the aftermath of a beating he would take from Longworth. The sound work of Hugo and Charles Grenzbach do superb work with the sound as it play into the natural elements as well as the sounds of gunfire from afar or up close. The film’s music by Hugo Friedhofer is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score as it plays into the sense of adventure and suspense as the soundtrack also include a flamenco piece for a key moment in the fiesta sequence.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Mina Martinez as a young woman Rio flirts with early in the film following the bank robbery, William Forrest as a bartender in Monterey, Hank Worden as Rio and Longworth’s robbery partner Doc, Philip Ahn as the owner of a beach hostel where Rio would recover in the film’s third act, Ray Teal and John Dierkes as a couple of deputies, Joe Dominguez as a corral owner, Tom Webb as the corral owner’s son, Joan Petrone as a flower vendor Rio flirts with to buy her necklace, Rodolfo Acosta as a Rurales captain, Margarita Cordova as the flamenco dancer, Timothy Carey as a local from Monterey who would be pushy towards the dancer at a bar, Miriam Colon as Longworth’s lover from Sonora whom Rio would meet five years later, and Elisha Cook Jr. as the banker who runs the bank at Monterey that Rio considers robbing. Sam Gilman is terrific as Harvey Johnson as a gunslinger Rio meets in Mexico as he is eager to rob a bank while Larry Duran is fantastic as Rio’s prison mate Chico Modesto who is sort of the film’s conscience as he is willing to help Rio while also knowing the conflict he’s dealing with.

Pina Pellicer is excellent as Louisa as Longworth’s step-daughter who falls for Rio though she is unsure about his intentions while learning about why he’s in Monterey where she begins to see things about Longworth that makes her uncomfortable. Slim Pickens is brilliant as Longworth’s deputy Lon Derrick as a man who doesn’t like Rio while is also infatuated with Louisa despite the fact that she thinks he’s a total creep. Ben Johnson is amazing as Bob Amory as a gunslinger Rio meets in Mexico who joins him on their journey to Monterey while also being someone who has issues with Rio over when to do the robbery as often finds a way to push Rio’s buttons. Katy Jurado is incredible as Longworth’s wife Maria as a woman who is given a great life in her marriage to Longworth only to become suspicious about Rio where revelations about Longworth’s past has her questioning things while discovering some things about Louisa’s relationship with Rio.

Karl Malden is phenomenal as Sheriff Dad Longworth as Rio’s former partner who had abandoned Rio following a showdown between him and Mexican mounted police forces as he creates a new life for himself only to deal with Rio where he is filled with guilt but also not wanting to reveal his own dark past that would eventually alienate him from his family. Finally, there’s Marlon Brando in a tremendous performance as Rio as a bank robber who seeks revenge on his former partner as he is hell-bent on getting revenge until he meets Louisa which complicates things. Brando brings this sense of restraint as a man that is conflicted in his actions but is also someone who is seeking justice of his own while also realizing the complications he is dealing with in his revenge plot as it is one of Brando’s finest performances.

One-Eyed Jacks is a sensational film from Marlon Brando that features incredible performances from Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Slim Pickens, Ben Johnson, and Pina Pellicer. Along with its gorgeous visuals, its unconventional study of vengeance and guilt, and an exhilarating music score. The film is a fascinating western that doesn’t play by many of its tropes in favor of exploring the path of two men who were once partners as it leads to this eerie world of vengeance and the revelations of how the past can affect someone’s future. In the end, One-Eyed Jacks is a spectacular film from Marlon Brando.

© thevoid99 2023

Saturday, July 22, 2023



Based on the dolls created by Ruth Handler and the Mattel Toy Company, Barbie is the story about a variation of the doll who finds herself in an existential crisis as she and Ken go into the real world in a journey of self-discovery despite the presence of Mattel’s CEO. Directed by Greta Gerwig and screenplay by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, the film is a comedy of sorts in which the titular character and her longtime boyfriend begin to question their own existence as they travel to the real world in the hope they can fix themselves as Margot Robbie plays the titular role with Ryan Gosling as Ken. Also starring America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Emma Mackey, Ariana Greenblatt, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Dua Lipa, John Cena, Scott Evans, Hari Neff, Alexandra Shipp, Sharon Rooney, Emerald Fennell, Michael Cera, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell, and narration by Helen Mirren. Barbie is a whimsical and riveting film from Greta Gerwig.

Set partially in a utopian alternate universe, the film revolves around a titular doll who lives in a world that is meant to represent all of the good qualities of young girls and women until she suddenly experiences an existential crisis where she and her boyfriend Ken travel to the real world to discover a world that is way more complicated. It is a film where this doll that is meant to be an inspiration for girls and women all over the world finds herself thinking about death and all sorts of things as her journey to the real world in Los Angeles has her coming to terms with who she is and the complicated feelings she’s developing. The film’s screenplay by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach has a simple structure that features bits of narration by Helen Mirren that adds to the drama that Barbie faces as well as her many variations that also include discontinued dolls such as Allan (Michael Cera) and the pregnant doll Midge (Emerald Fennell) as the former also goes through his own existential crisis.

The first act is set in this utopian universe known as Barbieland as it is this matriarchal society where Barbies rule the land while the Kens do recreational activities on the beach while the Barbies are doctors, lawyers, politicians, and such as its protagonist known as Stereotypical Barbie starts to crumble through her own existential crises as she turns to Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) for help where Barbie decides to go to the real world with Ken joining her as he also experiences an existential crisis. The film’s second act is set in Los Angeles where Barbie realizes that she isn’t this inspiration upon meeting a teenage girl in Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) whose mother Gloria (America Ferrera) works as a receptionist for Mattel’s CEO (Will Ferrell). Gloria is a fan of Barbie as she learns about what Barbie is going through as the CEO and his team of executives try to put Barbie back in her box in their idea that it would save their own universe. The film’s third act returns to Barbieland where things definitely go wrong as it relates to Ken’s own discovery of patriarchy in the real world with Barbie becoming more unsure of herself and her purpose in life whether it is real or plastic.

Gerwig’s direction is definitely wondrous for the fact that it pays tribute to cinema and its long history ranging from American musicals to the French cinema of the 1960s yet it begins with a scene that sort of spoofs Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It opens with young girls playing with plastic baby dolls that doesn’t do much until they see a giant Barbie doll as it is all narrated by Helen Mirren that sets the tone for the film as well as the influence Barbie would have for young girls. Shot largely on location at the Warner Brothers Studio lot at Leavesden, England with the second act shot entirely on location in Los Angeles. Gerwig presents Barbieland as this world where it is artificial including the beach where there are these matte backgrounds and artificial lighting yet there is something beautiful in the way Gerwig presents it. Notably as the usage of the wide and medium shots showcase this world that is off the wall but also gorgeous with these immense set designs as well as some dance numbers choreographed by Jennifer White.

The scenes in Los Angeles is more straightforward with Gerwig using close-ups as it plays into Barbie’s interaction with the real world and the weight of emotion that she is dealing with as it includes this brief interaction with this old lady (Ann Roth). Gerwig also maintains this element of surrealism when Barbie is running from the CEO and his executives where she hides in a room where she meets another old woman in Ruth (Rhea Perlman) as it allows Barbie a glimpse into a world that is ordinary yet full of wonderment. The third act has Gerwig not only play into these gender politics and identities that men and women play into but also the many complications and contradictions both men and women deal with. Even as the Barbies realize the lack of power the Kens have as they also deal with the CEO and his executives who are forced to ponder their own roles in selling Barbie to the world. Then there’s Barbie and Ken as the film’s ending relates to who they are by themselves and their own purpose in the world. Overall, Gerwig crafts a rapturous and witty film about a living doll going on an existential crisis and discover her true purpose for womanhood.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its vibrant usage of colors in the usage of artificial lighting for the scenes in Barbieland including the scenes at night while the scenes in Los Angeles has a more naturalistic look in the film. Editor Nick Houy does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style in the montage of Barbie and Ken traveling through the portal as well as some straightforward cutting that include shots where scenes are allowed to linger including the first party in the film’s first act. Production designer Sarah Greenwood, with set decorators Katie Spencer and Ashley Swanson plus supervising art directors Andrew Max Cahn and Dean Clegg, does phenomenal work with the look of Barbieland with its design of the dream houses that the Barbies live in as well as the places and the beach in Barbieland as well as the interiors of the Mattel building. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran does amazing work with the costumes from the different array of clothing the Barbies wear including some of the iconic dresses as well as the clothes that the Kens wear including some of the stuff in the film’s third act as it is a major highlight of the film.

Hair/makeup supervisors Robb Crafer and Lois McIntosh do fantastic work with the look of the Barbies and their different hairstyles as well as the look of Kens including the ones they would adopt in the film’s third act. Special effects supervisor Mark Holt, along with visual effects supervisors Glen Pratt and Ned Wilson, does brilliant work with the effects with the emphasis on stylized visual effects for some of the scenes in Barbieland including some practical effects such as a dog that Weird Barbie owns along with a few bits in the scenes in Los Angeles. Sound designers Dan Kenyon and Ai-Ling Lee do superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects that appear in Barbieland that add to the artificial element of the film as well as the natural sounds in the scenes set in Los Angeles.

The film’s music by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt is wonderful for its mixture of pop and electronic sounds with elements of orchestral textures to play into the adventure and humor while music supervisor George Drakoulias cultivate a fun music soundtrack that features an array of music that include contributions from Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice with Aqua, Billie Eilish, Karol G with Aldo Ranks, Sam Smith, Tame Impala, Dominic Fike, Haim, the Kid Laroi, Khalid, Gayle, Ava Max, Fifty-Fifty with Kalil, PinkPantheress, the Indigo Girls, Matchbox Twenty, Brandi Carlisle with Catherine Carlisle, and Ryan Gosling singing his own song about Ken and a cover of Matchbox Twenty’s Push.

The casting by Lucy Bevan and Allison Jones is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Annie Mumulo as an anxiety-ridden mother at a middle school, legendary costume designer Ann Roth as the old lady that Barbie meets in Los Angeles, Connor Swindells as a Mattel intern who tells the CEO about a Barbie and Ken on the loose, Jamie Demetriou as the Mattel CFO, Rob Brydon as the cancelled Sugar Daddy Ken, Tom Strouton as the discontinued Earring Ken, the quartet of Olivia Brody, Isla Ashworth, Eire Farrell, and Daisy Duczmal as the four young girls in the 2001 sequence, Ryan Piers Williams as the el esposo de Gloria, Emerald Fennell as the discontinued pregnant Barbie known as Midge, and Rhea Perlman as a mysterious figure known as Ruth whom Barbie would meet at the Mattel building. In the roles of the variations of Ken, there’s Simu Liu as a rival of Ken, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Ncuti Gatwa as a couple of Kens who are friends of Ken, Scott Evans as Ken’s rival’s friend who always backs up his Ken, and John Cena as merman Ken as they all provide some hilarious performances with Liu being the standout as the guy who has issues with Ken.

In the roles of the variations of Barbies, there’s Dua Lipa as a trio of mermaid Barbies, Ana Cruz Kanye as Supreme Court Judge Barbie, Nicola Coughlan as Diplomat Barbie, Ritu Arya as Journalist Barbie, Sharon Rooney as Lawyer Barbie, Emma Mackey as Physicist Barbie, Hari Neff as Dr. Barbie, Alexandra Shipp as Writer Barbie, and Issa Rae as President Barbie as they’re all fantastic with their humor as well as what happens to them in the third act. Kate McKinnon is excellent as Weird Barbie as an outcast of sorts who has been to the real world and guides Barbie to go there while also being this representation of what young girls do with Weird Barbies. Ariana Greenblatt is brilliant as Sasha as a tween girl who believes Barbie represents a negative image to young women as she’s going through growing pains until she realizes how much her mother loves Barbie dolls and the fact that she can help change things.

Will Ferrell is amazing as the Mattel CEO who is troubled by the idea of Barbie and Ken in the real world as he deals with a lot of trouble while also finding a way to go to Barbieland where Ferrell’s reactions to everything around him is hilarious. Michael Cera is great as Allan as a discontinued doll who is often neglected by many in Barbieland until he starts to rebel against the events in the film’s third act where he becomes an ally to the Barbies. America Ferrera is phenomenal as Gloria as a Mattel receptionist for the CEO who is a fan of Barbie as she is dealing with all sorts of issues including her daughter Sasha as she also realizes what Barbie is dealing with as Ferrera has a great moment in a monologue that plays into the many contradictions that women deal with.

Ryan Gosling is magnificent as Ken as this doll who is just trying to get Barbie’s attention as well as be this boyfriend to her though he often feels neglected until he goes to the real world and discovers patriarchy where he finds some meaning but also becomes unsure of himself as Gosling brings in a lot of humor and heartbreak in his singing as it is a performance for the ages. Finally, there’s Margot Robbie in a tremendous performance as Barbie as this doll who experiences an existential crisis where she travels to the real world as she becomes more confused about her role where Robbie brings a lot of wit but also in displaying the sense of despair when Barbie becomes sad as it is an iconic performance from Robbie.

Barbie is a spectacular film from Greta Gerwig that features great leading performances from Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Along with a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a fun music soundtrack, immense art direction, and its themes on womanhood. It is a film that isn’t just entertaining in its humor and dazzling set pieces but also a film that showcases the importance of dolls and what they can do for children in proving they can be anything no matter how weird it can be. In the end, Barbie is a magnificent film from Greta Gerwig.

Greta Gerwig Films: (Nights and Weekend) – Lady Bird - Little Women (2019 film)

© thevoid99 2023

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Women's Tales IV


The Wedding Singer’s Daughter (Haifaa Al-Mansour) is set in 1980s Saudi Arabia as a wedding singer is performing at a wedding until her microphone goes dead prompting her daughter to find out what is going on. Especially as the bride and groom are set to enter the room as the young girl finds out what had happened to save her mother from embarrassment. It is a short that is definitely filled with a lot of charm as well as a sense of innocence as it has a sense of style told by Haifaa Al-Mansour that also has women wearing beautiful clothing in that world of the Middle East.

Shako Mako (Hailey Gates) revolves around a young actress who is working on a movie where she plays a young woman in Arab country whose town is destroyed by a bomb as she ponders the kind of roles she is playing. Even as she is also involved with the casting and such while is eager to break out from the roles she constantly plays as she even does an audition while on location. It is a film with an uneven narrative but it is still an excellent one thanks to a great leading performance from Alia Shawkat.

Brigitte (Lynne Ramsay) is a documentary short film about the photographer Brigitte Lacombe as she is filmed in black-and-white by Lynne Ramsay who captures Lacombe at work. The 30-minute short is among one of the longer shorts in the anthology series as it explore Lacombe’s methods in her photography as well as Ramsay being photographed. Adding to the brilliance of the film is the layered sound design that is a common element of Ramsay’s short films with a lot of these models wearing the Miu Miu clothes as it is one of the top tier shorts of the series.

Nightwalk (Malgorzata Szumowska) is about two different young people in Raffey Cassidy and Filip Rutkowski who play these young people stuck in their respective genders through the clothes they wear. The former is wearing a designer gown while the other is wearing a track suit as they walk out of their homes into the night stripping away the identity they’re forced to be as they become who they want to really be. It is largely a silent film of sorts with music being the dominant soundtrack yet the short does manage to have a great climax as these two young people would meet and embrace who they really are.

In My Room (Mati Diop) has director Mati Diop in her home apartment near Paris during the COVID-19 pandemic as she deals with her ailing grandmother who is living far from Paris as well as being unable to make something outside of her apartment. It is a phenomenal short that has Diop wear Miu Miu dresses and such to deal with her isolation while lip-syncing to opera music as a way to cope with her grandmother’s impending passing and being alone. Diop would serve as the film’s cinematographer where she would also shoot at the world around her including inside where she does mundane things while writing to Miu Miu about her situation as it is definitely one of the best shorts of the series.

Related: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part V

© thevoid99 2023

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Mekong Hotel


Written, directed, shot, and edited by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Mekong Hotel is an experimental film where a filmmaker is shooting a vampire movie on a hotel along the Mekong River. The film is a mixture of fiction and documentary as it explores a filmmaker trying to create this vampire movie involving a mother and daughter. Starring Jenjira Pongpas, Maiyatan Techaparn, Sakda Kaewbuadee, and Chai Bhatana. Mekong Hotel is an intoxicating and somber film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Set in a hotel that is based alongside the Mekong River in Thailand, the film revolves around a filmmaker trying to create a vampire movie while the small group of people at the hotel deal with possibly possessed by ghosts who would eat human internal organs. It is a film that doesn’t have much of a plot nor a strong premise yet it does play into people just trying to figure out what to do at this hotel as they look at their surroundings including the river itself. At the same time, there’s a mother/daughter duo who are both dealing the presence of a ghost as they would sometimes come out of this possession wondering what is happening as it blurs the line between reality and fiction. Notably as Apichatpong Weerasethakul doesn’t aim for something structured in favor of improvisation that allows a looseness into the story.

Weerasethakul’s direction is entrancing as it is shot on an actual hotel set alongside the Mekong River as both the hotel and the river itself are major characters in the film. While the film doesn’t have any close-ups, Weerasethakul’s usage of wide and medium static shots does maintain a sense of visual intrigue while there are moments where the fourth wall is broken where Weerasethakul talks to the film’s composer Chai Bhatana to perform music on an acoustic guitar as it would accompany the film throughout while Bhatana would only appear onscreen a few times. Serving as both the film’s cinematographer and editor, Weerasethakul would never move the camera throughout the film’s 58-minute running time as it would also include a lot of long shots where the camera gazes at the actors looking at or reacting to something that is happening.

Especially in scenes where someone would be eating internal organs and then wake up wondering what had just happened. Weerasethakul would emphasis on natural lighting as much of the film is shot in the day while he allows shows to gaze for a few minutes before emphasizing on straightforward cutting to move to the next shot. Especially as the film’s final shot is gazed upon the river as it showcases a world that is uninterrupted despite changing times and the specter of death. Overall, Weerasethakul creates a riveting and evocative film about a filmmaker trying to make a vampire movie on a hotel set alongside the Mekong River.

Sound mixer Richard Hocks does brilliant work with the sound in capturing many of the natural elements on location as well as the usage of voice effects for the scenes involving the ghosts. Music by Chai Bhatana is incredible for its plaintive acoustic guitar score that is filled with unique themes and melodies that help play into the drama. The film’s wonderful ensemble cast features notable small roles from Bhatana as the composer who plays on location as well as Apichatpong Weerasethakul as the director trying to make this vampire movie on a hotel. Sakda Kaewbuadee is excellent as an actor who is trying to understand what they’re planning to do while he would have a moment where he gets possessed. Jenjira Pongpas and Maiyatan Techaparn are incredible in their respective roles as the mother and daughter duo who deal with ghosts as well as other things as well as their surroundings with the former troubled by ghosts while the latter is pondering its existence.

Mekong Hotel is a sensational film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul. While it doesn’t have much of a plot, the film does manage to have gorgeous visuals as well as a premise that blurs the line of fiction and reality. Notably as it is set on real locations while playing into the idea of ghosts and death. In the end, Mekong Hotel is an incredible film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Films: Mysterious Object at Noon - (Blissfully Yours) – (The Adventure of Iron Pussy) – (Tropical Malady) – (Syndromes and a Century) – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - (Cemetery of Splendor) – (Ten Years Thailand) – (Memoria) – (The Year of the Everlasting Storm-Night Colonies)

© thevoid99 2023

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Women's Tales III


Seed (Naomi Kawase) is about a young woman whose encounter with a dress she finds in a creek has her in touch with not just nature but also the spiritual world. Starring Sakura Ando, the 9-minute short is shot on many locations with recurring images of waterfalls and other natural elements as this young woman who feels alive in this dress would meet a couple of different men including a homeless elderly where they make a simple swap that would bring joy to both them. It is an enchanting short from Kawase who takes something simple and showcase how wondrous the world can be.

That One Day (Crystal Moselle) revolves around a girl in her late teens who goes to a skate park in New York City hoping to fit in with the many inhabitants at the park only to befriend a bunch of other young women who love to wear designer clothing and skateboard. Starring Rachelle Vinberg as this young skateboarder who wants to fit in, it is a 9-minute short that showcases a young woman wanting to belong in a culture that is often dominated by men yet it is these young women that would later be known famously as the Skate Kitchen that Vinberg is a part of as it show these young women not just these incredible skate boarders but do it with style as they would wear these expensive dresses while skateboarding yet they make it look so fucking cool as it also features an awesome music soundtrack.

Carmen (Chloe Sevigny) is about a comedian who does a stand-up performance as she talks about her life as a single woman and the difficulties in the world of dating. Starring Carmen Lynch who also co-wrote the short with Sevigny, it is a film with a simple premise although it does meander at times since it never really goes anywhere. Visually, Sevigny does create some unique visuals including a few shots where everything stops while Lynch’s character continues to talk. While it does feature Lynch in a few beautiful dresses, it is one of the weaker entries in the short series.

(The [End) of History Illusion] (Celia Rowlson-Hall) is a short that is presented as this 1950s Cold War piece where there’s a bunch of women and two twin brothers living in an underground bunker of sorts as it is presented as some weird musical commercial. Featuring Caroline Polacheck as the woman bringing voice to this thing as well as the musician in the home, it starts off as this comical moment features a ballerina doing all of the cooking while a model does interpretive dancing while vacuuming. Everything would unravel through nuclear sirens blaring in the room where everyone is wearing something fashionable but it would be all of these women including a woman wearing a mermaid costume as it plays into this false illusion with an ending that has a lot of revelations about the artificial world as it is an excellent short.

Hello Apartment (Dakota Fanning) stars Eve Hewson as a young woman who purchases her very first apartment as it would be this important figure in her life where she would have parties as well as a whirlwind relationship with her boyfriend. It is a short that plays into a young woman dealing with elements of her life as the story is fascinating with Eve Hewson as the young woman and Christina Rouner as the older version of the character at the end of the short. The only gripe about the short is the appearance of Tom Sturridge as the boyfriend as he just maintains that muggy look he’s known for as he is a sore to watch every scene he’s in.

Related: Part I - Part II - Part IVPart V

© thevoid99 2023