Thursday, August 31, 2023

Films That I Saw: August 2023


Summer is coming to an end and it’s been one hot fucking summer as it’s not fun to be outside as it makes me worried for my niece and nephew as they both love to go outside but the heat is horrendous. My mother is from Honduras as she’s experienced heat that is intense but she will admit that it’s not like this here in Georgia as I even read from a fellow blogger who lives in Minnesota of all places stating that she experienced heat that is above the 100s. That is fucked up and with a hurricane coming to Florida as well as all of these wildfires and other shit. This has been a chaotic summer not just in terms of nature such as the hurricane happening in Florida as well as the wildfires on Maui but also what’s been going on all over the world as it relates to shootings, political barbs, and all sorts of shit as I’m just like “I’m tired of this shit”.

The WGA-SAG strike still continues with several films being delayed such as Dune Part 2 being pushed to next year which sucks but it does allow me the chance to save more money to see Priscilla hopefully as Sofia Coppola comes first before everything else. The fact that it’s still on-going is proof that these actors and writers are in need and with films and TV projects continuously being delayed. Studios are going to have cough up not just a lot of money but also these studio executives are going to have to take a massive up pay cut in order to keep these actors and writers not just happy but content. Even as the fall film season with its many film festivals coming and many of the actors appearing in these films won’t be able to appear because of the strike.

The world of professional wrestling was a big up and down this year as the big came in the form of AEW’s All In event in London at Wembley Stadium as it broke the all-time paid attendance record with 81,035 people at the event breaking 2 events from WWE in WrestleMania 32 and WrestleMania III as both events stated false records in 101,763 people at AT&T Stadium and 93,173 people at the Pontiac Silverdome respectively with real numbers being 79,800 for WrestleMania 32 and 78,000 at WrestleMania III. The events at Collision in Korea from WCW and New Japan at North Korea in 1995 doesn’t count because the people attending both shows in 1995 were forced to attend. The event itself is monumental for a professional wrestling company that hasn’t even been around for five years yet it shows that AEW is going to be here for a while no matter how much money and fake records WWE can tout. While AEW is going to do a second event in the U.K. next year and even opening the possibility of doing an event in Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

It is a company that needs to be successful despite the fact that Tony Khan doesn’t have a lot of guts when it comes to confrontation as All In had a recent incident once again involving CM Punk due to words said by Jack Perry during the pre-show and the two got into a brawl before Punk’s match with Samoa Joe as both men are currently suspended as they will miss All Out at Punk’s hometown of Chicago this coming Sunday. Even though Punk was in the right over what had happened with Perry, Punk’s fight with Perry didn’t make him look good as he’s already gotten into some trouble with other people as he had some of the banned from AEW Collision. It is Warner Discovery that wanted Punk back in AEW as did Tony Khan but it’s doing more damage than good as it’s another thing that David Zaslav has touched and has fucked it up even more. It’s bad enough what he’s done in cancelling films and gutting Turner Classic Movies but him getting involved in professional wrestling is a bad sign as it’s going to hurt AEW.

Then there’s the big downside in the world of professional wrestling in the passing of two major figures. The first is Terry Funk who is truly a legend in his own right having crossed over many different generations and decades through many different promotions and was always his own man. His work with his brother Dory Funk Jr. as a tag team to winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in the 1970s to his work in Japan in the 80s and 90s including participating in death matches with Mick Foley and Atsushi Onita in which the latter had both taken part in the exploding ring match in the 1990s. There was also his legendary feud with Ric Flair in 1989 that served as a prototype for hardcore wrestling in the 1990s as well as the empty arena match with Jerry “the King” Lawler in the early 1980s. The man did so much but he was also one of the most generous people in professional wresting as his passing at the age of 79 is sad but he lived a full life and a career that will never be duplicated. Even through is many retirements throughout the years including this great moment in Japan.

The day after the announcement of Funk’s death came another death but one that shocked me and in an unexpected way and that is in the passing of Windham Rotunda aka Bray Wyatt. Rotunda’s death at the age of 36 is tragic not only because he died so young but also leaves behind four children who will never grow up with a father as well as the untapped potential he had. While the booking of Wyatt in WWE for the past decade has been spotty with some amazing matches but also some shitty matches yet he did a lot in his brief career that many wish they would’ve accomplished. He had recently returned in late 2022 and did a match with L.A. Knight at the Royal Rumble which wasn’t a good match and was set to face either Brock Lesnar or Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 39.

Unfortunately, Wyatt was hit with COVID that triggered a serious heart condition and it was life threatening as he spent the last several months trying to recover. This passing just as he was set to return and also get married is just soul-crushing yet he did make an impact through his audience as well as other wrestlers as many of them from different promotions paid tribute to him in some way or form as he will be missed though it is a real shame that he never rose to a level that he should’ve had due to some poor booking by some aging old fart who is more into oily bodybuilders and jingoist attitudes than something different.
In the month of August 2023, I saw a total of 17 films in 11 first-timers and 6 re-watches with four first-timers being films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. A decent month despite the fact that I didn’t see much because of two energetic kids but I still saw a good amount of films. A major highlight of the month has been my Blind Spot film in Kiki's Delivery Service. Here is the top 10 first-timers that I saw for August 2023:

1. Oppenheimer
2. Education
3. Alex Wheatle
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
5. Eyes Two Times Mouth
6. A Pure Spirit
7. I and the Stupid Boy
8. Pitch Black Panacea
9. Then a Year
10. Sorcerers: A Conversation with William Friedkin and Nicolas Winding Refn
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I Saw

Then a Year

A short film by Kelly Reichardt that I was fortunate to find on YouTube as it had been unavailable for years though its presentation is a bit substandard in comparison to the quality often shown on YouTube. Still, Reichardt’s experimental short film is a fascinating look into her arrival into Portland with images of the city and its nearby locations filled with sound collages including love letters by Mary Kay Letourneau, TV commercials, and other voiceovers as it plays into this air of disconnect that was looming in the early 2000s.

A Pure Spirit
One of two short films I saw on MUBI as the first is from Mia Hansen-Love as it is mainly a silent four-minute short film of a young woman walking through a park. Even as she watches a lot of things happening around as she thinks about the world around her as it is something fans of Hansen-Love should seek out.

Pitch Black Panacea
The second short from MUBI that I saw is a strange mixture of live-action and animation by Thomas Hardiman as it explore two people with lazy eye who live in a dark room for 10 days as they endure surreal moments through animation. It is a short filled with a lot of imagination as it also play into what these two people have to endure in order to cure their lazy eye as it is worth seeking out.

Sorcerers: A Conversation with William Friedkin and Nicolas Winding Refn

This 77-minute film of sorts made in 2015 revolves around a conversation between William Friedkin and Nicolas Winding Refn in talking about the former’s 1977 film Sorcerer. It is an entertaining conversation that has Friedkin busting Refn’s balls throughout the whole conversation while they talk about Friedkin’s original casting idea that was to include Steve McQueen, Marcello Mastroianni, and Lino Ventura along with other things that impacted the production. Friedkin also revealed into why it didn’t do well in the box office when it first came out as well as how films were promoted then as to how they would be promoted in the 21st Century. It is something fans of both filmmakers and the film Sorcerer should seek out in lieu of the recent passing of William Friedkin who will be missed as he died earlier this month.

Ahsoka (season 1, episodes 1-3)
The stuff that the Star Wars franchise has been doing with TV in The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor has been great though there’s been a lot of negativity towards this show before it even came out as it reminds me that there’s a group of fanboys who are nothing more than a bunch of whiny little bitches with sand in their vaginas. Three episodes in so far and I’m enjoying what Dave Filoni has created as it is set years following the end of the Empire where Ahsoka Tano teams up with her former Padawan in Sabine Wren and their old friend in General Hera Syndulla over rumors that Admiral Thrawn is alive. Rosario Dawson is perfect as Tano with Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Wren and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Syndulla who both provide great performances. The show also features Ray Stevenson in one of his final performances as a former Jedi in Baylan Skoll who has his own Padawan in Shin Hati, played with such grit in Ivanna Sakhno as they both are great antagonists so far. It’s already starting to come around as I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Wrestling Match of the Month: MJF (c) vs. Adam Cole for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship – AEW All In – 8/27/23

The main event at AEW All In is also the hottest story in professional wrestling as it involves two guys who started off as rivals early this summer only to team up via raffle to fight FTR for the tag team titles to suddenly become best friends. There is a lot of intrigue into the growing friendship between Adam Cole and MJF as neither of them are trustful but they somehow made it work. The match they would have at Wembley in front of 81,000 people is full of drama but also hesitation from both men along with false finishes and interference from Cole’s soon-to-be-former-friend in Roderick Strong trying to help Cole cheat. It is a match that is just fun to watch as well as the fact that it will continue the hottest story in wrestling right now that isn’t from WWE or has any relation to the Bloodline or the Judgement Day.

Top 6 Re-Watches

1. Sex & Lucia
2. Thor: Love & Thunder
3. Sleeping Beauty
4. Ring of Fire
5. South Beach
6. Dead Tides
Well, that is all for August. I am not sure what theatrical release I will watch other than My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 with my mother who wants to see it as she rarely goes to see films in the movie theaters. Aside from whatever I can watch on various streaming services, I hope to watch Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up as I’ve managed to get a few things for my Auteurs profile on her written while I plan on pushing the one on Michael Mann to early next year as I’m not sure if I will do J.C. Chandor next in anticipation for Kraven the Hunter or just push him to next year in favor of David Lean. As for my next Blind Spot choice, I’m unsure what film to do as it’s likely to be India Song.

Before I leave, I want to express my condolences to those who have been lost in these recent events in shootings and deaths to Mother Nature as well as the following in filmmaker Nancy Buirski, Belgian actor Roger Van Hool, cinematographer Gabor Medvigy, Notre Dame sportscaster Tony Roberts, Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake, voice actress Arlene Sorkin, Hersha Parady of Little House on the Prairie, TV writer David Jacobs, Ron Cepha Jones, Bobby Eli of MFSB, original Pavement drummer Gary Young, Sir Michael Parkinson, American football legend Gary Barnes, Robbie Robertson, Johnny Hardwick of King of the Hill, Sixto Rodriguez, John Gosling of the Kinks, music composer Carl Davis, Mark Margolis, and the greatest game show host ever in Bob Barker. We will miss you all. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2023

Monday, August 28, 2023

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem


Based on the comics/animated TV series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the story of four mutant turtles with martial arts skill who go undercover to hunt down a mysterious crime syndicate that is terrorizing New York City where they deal with other mutants causing mayhem. Directed by Jeff Rowe and screenplay by Rowe, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Hernandez, and Benji Samit from a story by Rogen, Goldberg, Rowe, and Brendan O’Brien, the animated film is a reboot of the film/TV series that is set in a modern world with an array of different animation style as it plays into these four teenage turtles trying to find themselves but also use their skills to make the world a better place. Featuring the voices of Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon as the titular characters along with Seth Rogen, Ayo Edebiri, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Rose Byrne, Natasia Demetriou, Giancarlo Esposito, Post Malone, Ice Cube, Hannibal Burress, Paul Rudd, and Jackie Chan as Splinter. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an exhilarating and ravishing film from Jeff Rowe.

The film revolves around a series of thefts committed by a mysterious figure where four teenage mutant ninja turtles find themselves battling this mysterious figure as well as trying to be accepted despite the fact that they’re mutants and their adopted father in a mutated rat in Splinter warns them about humans. It is a film that plays into that these four teenage turtles who want to be part of the world even though they’ve been trained by Splinter in the art of ninjitsu in order to get things from the outside world. Still, there is chaos looming throughout New York City as it relates to a mutagen that was developed by a scientist working for a mysterious corporation as it would play not just how the turtles and Splinter would be mutated but also a mysterious figure known as Superfly (Ice Cube) who would hire thugs to steal things and then kill them as they would be witnesses. The film’s screenplay is largely straightforward with a few backstory as it relates to Splinter, the turtles, Superfly, and his gang while it also play into what is at stake as well as these four turtles who all want to be part of the world and be accepted.

Notably as the turtles themselves are teenagers with different personalities that all want to be in the world as Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu) is sort of the leader of the group but is also awkward and unsure of himself. Raphael (Brady Noon) is brash and sarcastic but is also full of energy and aggression that he needed to let out. Donatello (Micah Abbey) is the nerdy one who knows how to work tech while also wears glasses. Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) is the goofball in the group who is good at improvising while also wanting to party. Superfly was someone that was cared for by the scientist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito) along with other creatures until he was attacked by the corporation he was working for lead by Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph) who wants to weaponized the mutagen for her own reasons as the opening scene is about her gang attacking Stockman with a mutagen canister falling into a sewer on Splinter and these four young turtles. Yet, it was Superfly who would save other animals that were being mutated as they would be part of a gang as they would meet the turtles and realize that Superfly’s plans in dealing with humans might not be the right thing to do. Even April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) who would meet the turtles after retrieving her scooter as she sees their intention as well a story she is trying to cover in her high school despite a disastrous moment in her attempt to be a news journalist.

Jeff Rowe’s direction is definitely wondrous for not just its story but also a look that is unlike a lot of animated films as it aims for a look that is crude, unpolished, and at times were drawn by children. Yet, it works because it not only adds to the tone of the film but also this world that is off-kilter at times while a lot of its look plays to the fact that it is a film about teenage turtles who are dealing with growing pains but also this need to connect with a world they’ve been sheltered in. With help from co-director Kyler Spears and an immense team of animators that include character designers James A. Castillo, Justin Runfola, and Woodrow White. Rowe would maintain a look and feel to the film as it play into not just the grittiness of New York City but also in the sewers the attention to detail in how it looks thanks in part to the work of production designer Yashar Kassai, along with art directors Arthur Fong and Tiffany Lam in maintaining that look. Even with the work of cinematographer Kent Seki in the lighting as well as the visual effects work of Chris Kazmier and Matthieu Rouxel to help play out the look including the design of the mutants.

Rowe’s direction also has these unique compositions in the close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the turtles and their desire to connect with the world as there’s a scene of them watching a bunch of people watching a scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. There are also some unique wide shots that includes the film’s climax which is grand in terms of what the turtles have to face as it plays into Superfly’s own plans to destroy humanity. Rowe would maintain a massive canvas for the climax as it plays into what is at stake but also what the turtles have to do as they not only get some life lessons about acceptance as well as doing the right thing. Overall, Rowe and Spears craft a riveting and imaginative film about four teenage mutant ninja turtles trying to fit in with the human world as well as take down some bad guys.

Editor Greg Levitan does amazing work with the editing with its fast-cutting style for some of the action and fight scenes but allows shots to reveal what is going on along with stylish moments such as a montage sequence of each turtle fighting bad guys is a highlight of the film. Sound editor Mark A. Mangini does fantastic work with the sound in some of the sound effects for the weapons as well as some of the tech characters use. The film’s music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is phenomenal with its electronic-based score ranging from pulsating, industrial-based themes to some low-key yet plaintive piano-based bits as it is a major highlight of the film. Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer does excellent work in cultivating the film’s soundtrack that largely features 80s/90s hip-hop and other music with contributions from Blackstreet with Dr. Dre and Queen Pen, Wayne Newton, M.O.P., A Tribe Called Quest, BTS, Bobby Vinton, Natasha Bedingfield, Vanilla Ice, Liquid Liquid, De La Soul, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Gucci Mane with Bruno Mars and Kodak Black, ESG, Hugh Masekela, and variations of the 4 Non Blondes song What's Up? that includes a famous remix made for He-Man.

The casting by Rich Delia is great as it features some notable voice cameos from comic creator Kevin Eastman as a human in the film’s climax, Alex Hirsch in a dual role as the voice of a mutated cockroach in Scumbug and a small crime boss who is hired by Superfly, Michael Badalucco as another local crime boss hired by Superfly, Andia Winslow as a TV news anchor, Raechel Wong as a TV news reporter on the scene during the film’s climax, and Giancarlo Esposito in a small but crucial role as the scientist Baxter Stockman who created a mutagen in order to create something unique rather than use it as a weapon Other notable voice performances as members of Superfly’s gang include Hannibal Burress as Genghis Frog, Austin Post/Post Malone as the mutant manta ray known as Ray Fillet, and Natasia Demetriou as the mutant bat Wingnut as they all get the chance to stand out and be funny. The voice contributions of Rose Byrne, John Cena, Seth Rogen, and Paul Rudd in their respective roles as Superfly’s gang members in Leatherhead, Rocksteady, Bebop, and Mondo Gecko are a joy to watch in how they bring in a lot of nuances and humor to the roles with Rudd being the standout as Gecko who seems to find a friend in Michelangelo.

Maya Rudolph and Ice Cube are excellent in their respective roles as the antagonists Cynthia Utrom and Superfly with the former being a corporate executive who wants to weaponized the mutagen as she sees the turtles as a threat while the latter is a more complex individual who is protective of his family but also has some valid reasons into his own hatred for humanity though his plans prove to be extreme for some. Ayo Edebiri is amazing as April O’Neil as high school student who wants to be a reporter as well as becoming the first human friend of the turtles with Edebiri also bringing a lot of charisma to a character that is often sexualized in films as she is presented as a street-smart African-American high school student as it feels fresh. Jackie Chan is brilliant as Splinter as a rat who also becomes mutated by the mutagen ooze as he teaches his turtles ninjitsu but also warns them about not going into the human world due to his own prejudice towards humanity until he would discover about Superfly and his own intentions where he does what he can to make his adopted sons happy.

Finally, there’s the quartet of Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey, and Shamon Brown Jr. in incredible voice performances as Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. Rather than having adult actors voice teenagers, the casting of actual teenagers to play these teenage turtles as they all bring this sense of energy but also a realism that adds to the performance as the kids who are just trying to find themselves. Notably as Cantu, Noon, Abbey, and Brown were able to provide a sense of personality and charisma to their respective characters as they are a major highlight of the film.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a sensational film from Jeff Rowe. Featuring a great ensemble cast, inventive animation, a compelling story on the desire to be accepted, gorgeous visuals, and an incredible music score. The film is definitely an animated film that manages to be more than just a fun action-adventure film but also a compelling coming of age film that also has references to past films from other franchises relating to these turtles. In the end, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a phenomenal film from Jeff Rowe.

Related: (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990 film)) – (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze) – (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) – (TMNT (2007 film)) – (The Mitchells vs. the Machines) – (null 16)

© thevoid99 2023

Monday, August 21, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: Kiki's Delivery Service


Based on the novel by Eiko Kadono, Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki’s Delivery Service) is the story of a young witch who moves to a new town during a mandatory one-year moment to be independent as she struggles to fit in while using her magic to support herself. Written and directed for the screen by Hayao Miyazaki, the animated fantasy film explores a young girl trying to find herself in a new environment as well as meeting a young boy with aspirations to be a pilot. Featuring the voices of Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, and Kappei Yamaguchi. Majo no Takkyubin is a majestic and heartfelt film from Hayao Miyazaki.

Set in the 1950s, the film revolves around a 13-year old witch who decides to move to a new town during a one-year mandatory period of independence to find herself where she uses her magic to be a delivery girl for a local bakery. It is a film with a simple premise that plays into this young girl who is trying to find her place in the world while befriending a few locals including a young boy who wants to be a pilot. It plays into this young girl who decides to do her mandatory one-year journey of independence in her training to become a witch as her mother lends her a broom while the titular character (Minami Takayama) is joined by her pet black cat in Jiji (Rei Sakuma) who can talk to her as they travel to a port town. Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative as it explores a world for this young girl who is trying to make a living while maintaining her training but she also sees a world where there is a lot happening including girls in her age groups who go to parties and have fun in a world that feels like years removed from war. Still, Kiki has to cope with a world that is new and modern despite her ability to deliver things to people until changes in and around her life start to impact her while she ponders if she could still continue being a witch.

Miyazaki’s direction is rich in its imagery from the attention to detail he puts in towards the fictional port city of Koriko to the sense of realism and imagination he puts in towards the world that Kiki would encounter. Aided by supervising animators Yoshifumi Kondo, Shinji Otsuka, and Katsuya Kondo, who would also serve as the character designer, Miyazaki’s approach to the animation with its two-dimensional, hand-drawn style has this element of wonderment in how Kiki would encounter her new world along with the people she meets. The usage of wide and medium shots allows the city of Koriko to be a character in the film while Miyazaki would also allow the latter to play into some intimate moments in the film that also include close-ups such as Kiki’s encounter with an artist in the forest in Ursula (Minami Takayama) along with an old lady (Haruko Kato) whom she helps bake a pie with an old stone oven.

With the aid of cinematographer Shigeo Sugimura in terms of the lighting for some scenes set at night and in the rain along with production designer Hiroshi Ono for the look of Koriko. Miyazaki does play into this world that is vibrant and moving towards a postwar world that includes a dirigible that Tombo (Kappei Yamaguchi) is interested in as it’s about to launch. It would play into the film’s third act as it relates to Kiki’s own revelations about herself as she contends with being someone that wants to socialize with people in her age group but also wanting to support herself and to be a witch. Yet, Miyazaki would maintain this sense of fantasy in a world that is realistic as the two would converge in this climax as it plays into a young girl who is trying to find her purpose in life. Overall, Miyazaki crafts a rapturous and intoxicating film about a young witch who tries to find herself by becoming a delivery girl through magic.

Editor Takeshi Seyama does amazing work with the film’s editing in the way it plays into some of the suspense and drama with some jump-cuts and other rhythmic cutting as it adds to the sense of whimsy throughout the film. Sound mixer Shuji Inoue does superb work with the sound in the way certain objects sound as well as sound effects for the way Kiki would fly on her broom. The film’s music by Joe Hisaishi is incredible for its mixture of folk and orchestral music that play into the sense of wonderment that Kiki encounters as well as songs that add to the beauty of the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small voice roles from Keiko Kagimoto as the granddaughter of the Madame, Hiroko Seki as the Madame’s maid, Koichi Miura and Mieko Nobusawa as Kiki’s parents, and Koichi Yamadera as Osono’s husband Fukuo who helps her in a lot of the baking for their bakery. Haruko Kato is fantastic as the voice of the Madame as an old woman who asks Kiki to deliver a pie to her granddaughter’s birthday party only to not be ready because she can’t fix an electric oven only to be saved by a rarely-used stone oven that Kiki knows how to use. Kappei Yamaguchi is excellent as the voice of Tombo as a young boy who befriends Kiki as he is fascinated by her while showing her his love for flying through a propeller he created with his bike in his hopes to be a pilot.

Keiko Toda is brilliant as Osono as the pregnant bakery owner who allows Kiki to live in a room at the bakery while giving her advice about life and such. Rei Sakuma is amazing as the black cat Jiji who is able to talk to Kiki while also helping her out in her deliveries and falling in love with a neighbor cat. Finally, there’s Minami Takayama in an incredible dual-voice performance as the titular character and the young artist Ursula. In the latter, Takayama brings a sense of maturity into this young artist that is still trying to find her own voice as she gets inspiration from Kiki while also helping Kiki to find herself. In the titular role, Takayama brings that sense of innocence and whimsy into the character but also some angst as this young girl that is determined to be a delivery girl although the temptation of being with kids her own age come into play as it adds to this conflict that she needs to find balance for.

Majo no Takkyubin is a spectacular film from Hayao Miyazaki. Armed with gorgeous animation, wondrous visuals, a compelling story of growing up, and a majestic music soundtrack. The film is a rich coming-of-age film set in a fictional world filled with wonder as well as exploring a young girl trying to find herself as a witch. In the end, Majo no Takkyubin is a tremendous film from Hayao Miyazaki.

Hayao Miyazaki Films: (The Castle of Cagliostro) – (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) – (Castle in the Sky) – My Neighbor Totoro - (Porco Rosso) – (Princess Mononoke) – Spirited Away - (Howl’s Moving Castle) – (Ponyo) – The Wind Rises - (The Boy and the Heron)

© thevoid99 2023

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Small Axe


Directed, co-edited, co-written, and created by Steve McQueen, Small Axe is a five-film anthology series that explores the lives of West African immigrants from the 1960s to the 1980s in five different stories. The five films tell stories that play into the identities of individuals who deal with social and political changes in London throughout the course of two decades.

Written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons. Starring Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Alex Jennings, and Jack Lowden.

Set from 1968 to 1971 in Notting Hill in London, the film revolves around a real-life story in which a Trinidadian immigrant in Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes) opens a West Indian restaurant for his community where it would be continuously raided by the police leading to protests and eventually a court battle against the police. It is a film that plays into a racially-motivated incident that has the police raiding against a restaurant with claims of criminal activity where Crichlow and several others in the community stage a protest that unfortunately got violent where Crichlow and eight others defend themselves in court with Ian McDonald (Jack Lowden) representing them as their attorney. The screenplay explore these events where the British-born activist Barbara Beese (Rochenda Sandall), the Trinidadian Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe (Letitia Wright), the Trinidadian activist Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), Crichlow, and five others were put on trial as they accuse Constable Pulley (Sam Spruell) of harassment.

McQueen’s direction is riveting in the way it explores this community as it is shot in areas near Notting Hill with recreations of the restaurant that is known as Mangrove. McQueen maintains an intimacy throughout the film with his close-ups and medium shots including scenes inside the restaurant where people are eating food and listening and dancing to Caribbean music including reggae and soul. McQueen would infuse wide shots for scenes outside of the restaurant and in the areas of Notting Hill as well as the courthouse where the Mangrove Nine trial happened. McQueen would create compositions that add to the drama as well as this exploration of how the Mangrove Nine would defend themselves in court with Jones-LeCointe and Howe both representing themselves. McQueen reveals that the Mangrove Nine had a lot going up against them including Judge Edward Clarke (Alex Jennings) who oversees the trial with a jury that only featured two black people.

Lovers Rock
Screenplay by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland from a story by McQueen. Starring Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Micheal Ward.

Set in 1980, the film revolves around a house party to celebrate a young woman’s birthday as many partygoers attend this party including a couple of women wanting to have a good time. It is a film that is told in the span of a day where a young woman sneaks out of her house to go to this house party where she bumps into a former boyfriend while meeting a man whom she would fall in love with. It also play into this simmering tension among former lovers as well as unexpected visitors who want to cause trouble. The film’s screenplay by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland doesn’t have much of a plot as it follows the lives of a few people with Martha Trenton (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) going to this party with her friend Patty (Shaniqua Okwok) as it is also a birthday party for a young woman in Cynthia (Ellis George) that is hosted by a few people. Much of the film takes place in and out of the house as people drink, eat, and smoke while listening to all sorts of music as things would also be filled with bits of trouble.

McQueen’s direction is intoxicating in the way it captures the atmosphere of a party as the music soundtrack is a key part of the film as it ranges from soul, disco, reggae, and dub. While there are a few wide shots in the film to establish a few bits of the location in and out of the house, much of McQueen’s direction is intimate with its close-ups and medium shots that also include these extreme close-ups of walls where the heat starts to show as well as body parts grinding on one another. Even as McQueen would use different shooting styles ranging from hand-held to static shots as it play into the atmosphere of the parties. Even as Martha gets an unexpected visit from her grieving cousin Clifton (Kedar Williams-Stirling) while also bumping into a former boyfriend in Bammy (Daniel Francis-Swaby) who would eventually cause some trouble. McQueen also maintains this sense of community within the party as the music also help drive the emotional elements of the film as it also leads to a sense of growth for Martha and the man she falls in love with in Franklyn Cooper (Micheal Ward).

Red, White and Blue
Written by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland. Starring John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Neil Maskell, and Stephen Boxer.

Set in the early 1980s, the film is about the real-life story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega) whose father Ken (Steve Toussaint) had been assaulted by a couple of white police officers as Leroy would join the police force in the hopes to bring change from within. It is a film that begins in the 1960s when a young Leroy (Nathan Vidal) is waiting for his dad to pick him up at school where he is questioned by a couple of officers until Ken arrives where things don’t go well for Ken as he would struggle to deal with the police until being assaulted as he sues them in court which makes the adult Leroy’s journey in becoming a police officer difficult. The film’s screenplay by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland reveal the tension between father and son as the latter is trying to bring reform to an already complicated situation as the only other non-white officer he works with is the Pakistani Asif Kamali (Assad Zaman) who would also endure his own brush with racist attitudes from fellow officers.

McQueen’s direction is sparse in terms of its compositions while there are elements of style as McQueen aims for something that is intimate but also tense in its medium shots and close-ups as it plays into Logan entering into a chaotic system. McQueen also create these eerie compositions that play into the tension within the Logan family home as well as a holiday dinner with a family friend where both father and son are not saying anything to one another with Leroy not wanting to upset his father any further. Leroy’s hope in being an officer to ease tension between the police and non-white communities is a challenge where many blacks refuse to be around him with a young black man who was assaulted by white cops calling Leroy a traitor. McQueen also reveals the difficulty of a man trying to get his day in court as he is forced to face things beyond his control and not even his son could do anything. Its ending is more about these two men and the obstacles they face in a world where no matter how things change. There are things that wouldn’t change.

Alex Wheatle
Written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons. Starring Sheyi Cole and Robbie Gee.

Set in the late 70s and early 1980s, the film is about the early life of the revered young adult novelist as he struggles with trying to find his identity and roots during a prison sentence. It is a film that showcases a man who had been abandoned when he was a baby and put into foster care as a child only to struggle with authority and the world around him as a young man until he finds a home in Brixton that is predominantly black filled with Jamaicans and Africans. Living with these residents, the titular character (Sheyi Cole) struggles to adapt at first while he aspires to become a deejay with fellow residents until events of January 18, 1981 in which 13 kids were killed at a house party by a firebombing that lead to the Brixton uprising in April of that year. The script by McQueen and Siddons opens with Wheatle entering prison where he shares a cell with Simeon (Robbie Gee) who is dealing with the effects of a hunger strike as he asks Wheatle about his life story as the narrative moves back and forth with Wheatle’s life to his imprisonment. Even as it showcases Wheatle trying to find this identity as he is surrounded by people that is either in the drug trade or in the music trade.

McQueen’s direction is striking in the way he frames Wheatle in the opening shot as he’s shirtless and the next shot is a wide shot as he’s wearing his prison clothes as he walks to his cell with a guard. The direction also showcases this world of late 70s/early 80s Brixton where McQueen shows a world that is changing but also filled with tension with Wheatle being new to an environment that is largely black with much of its music soundtrack is reggae. Even as McQueen uses some unique shots and compositions that play into Wheatle’s plight as well as this sense of claustrophobia in scenes of Wheatle in his cell with Simeon as it play into a man that is trapped in a world of confusion but with someone who is on the path to finding himself. Even as Wheatle would eventually find something in his life to express himself and find out his identity.

Written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons from a story by McQueen. Starring Kenyah Sandy, Sharlene Whyte, Tamara Lawrence, Daniel Francis, Josette Simon, and Naomi Ackie.

A young boy living in the London suburbs is sent from a traditional school to a school with claims of special needs when the reality is that the school is one of neglect and sub-standard education. Set in the early 1970s, the film explores a young boy whose inability to read properly as well as having a lively behavior as he gets transferred to a school with other children with behavioral issues as well as those with low IQs with some of whom being black and of those of West Indian descent. The screenplay by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons focuses on this boy in Kingsley Smith (Kenyah Sandy) who has trouble adjusting to the new school knowing how unruly it is and the fact that the teachers really don’t teach at all where his mother Agnes (Sharlene Whyte) would learn about this from an activist in Lydia Thomas (Josette Simon) who is concerned over Kingsley as she had her friend in activist Hazel (Naomi Ackie) visit the school secretly to learn what Kingsley is learning. For Agnes, the revelations about why her son is sent to the school is alarming as it plays into an unjust system that would put children who don’t meet certain requirements the ability to fail in their lives.

McQueen’s direction definitely maintains this intimacy as it opens with Kingsley and his classmates watching a documentary on the universe as McQueen aims for a close-up in showing Kingsley’s expression. Yet, it is contrast to the way he would film Kingsley as he struggles to read a paragraph while the teacher calls him a blockhead as he would be humiliated in a medium close-up shot. Much of McQueen’s direction is straightforward in its compositions as there a few wide shots including an early scene of Kingsley being a bit unruly during music class while the scenes at a classroom at this special school does have a claustrophobic feel in terms of the sense of oppression he and his fellow classmates feel. The film is also given this unique feel as it is shot on 16mm to evoke the look of British television during the 1970s as a way to present a look of the past where McQueen would also showcase a world where working class West Indian immigrants are forced to see a reality that they couldn’t deal with. One where no matter how hard their children work in school, the system doesn’t do anything for them though it is through a community of people that would find a way where McQueen does provide a hopeful ending.

The overall presentation of the film series which explores the lives of West Indian immigrants from the late 1960s to the early 1980s showcases different people dealing with not just racism and class struggles but also their need to express who they are and their roots not just for themselves but also the next generation. McQueen would shoot all of the films in these areas in London that is part of a world where these people can express themselves and feel like they’re part of a community that is also inclusive to anyone that wants to be part of it as long as they’re respectful. While a lot of the tone of the films are serious and bleak to explore the black experience, there is this sense of hope in the endings but also a few that are ambiguous as it relates to the historical elements in these films. Overall, McQueen crafts a tremendously rich and intoxicating film series about the life of black West Indian immigrants in London during the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

Cinematographer Shabier Kirchner does phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key colors for the exteriors and low-key natural lighting for the scenes at night to play into the atmosphere of the rooms or homes that these characters are in. Editors Chris Dickens and Steve McQueen do incredible work with the editing as it has these stylish cuts to play into drama and some of the intense moments of suspense as well as scenes that showcase this sense of historical drama that looms throughout the film. Production designer Helen Scott, with set decorator Hannah Spice and supervising art director Adam Marshall, does brilliant work with the look of the places these characters live in or hang out as it plays into a world that was vibrant but also unruly considering the chaos these people endure from the police. Costume designers Lisa Duncan, Jacqueline Durran, and Sinead Kidao do excellent work with Duncan creating unique early 70s costumes for Mangrove while Durran does a lot of the costumes for Lovers Rock and Alex Wheatle to play into the vibrancy of the music these characters listen with Kidao doing the costumes for Red, White and Blue and Education to play into the world of suburbia.

Hair/makeup designer JoJo Williams does fantastic work with the look of the hairstyles of the times from the afros to the dreadlocks that both men and women had in those times. Special effects supervisors Scott MacIntyre, Steve Bowman, and Elly Dunsire, along with visual effects supervisors John Paul Docherty and Marc Hutchings, do nice work with some of the film’s visual effects as it is largely set dressing as well as some bits involving explosion in the riots. Sound mixer Ronald Bailey does superb work with the film’s sound as it plays into the atmosphere of the locations as well as how music is sound from afar or in a room as it is a highlight of the film series. The film’s music by Mica Levi is amazing for its low-key ambient music score as it appears in bits of episodes of the series while music supervisors Ed Bailie and Abi Leland create an immense music soundtrack that largely features reggae, soul, pop, and rock as it plays into the music of those times as it is a key factor to the film.

The casting by Gary Davy is marvelous as it features a massive ensemble for the five films that are presented in this film series. From Mangrove, the wonderful supporting performances of Jack Lowden as the barrister Ian MacDonald who defends the Mangrove Nine, Gershwin Eustache Jr. as Altheia’s husband, Richard Cordery as an older defense barrister in Mr. Croft, Llewella Gordon as Aunt Betty who helps run Crichlow’s restaurant, Sam Spruell as Police Constable Frank Pulley who has antagonized Crichlow and many others, Samuel West as the prosecuting barrister, and Alex Jennings as Judge Edward Clarke who handles the Mangrove Nine case.

In the roles of members who are part of the Mangrove Nine, the performances Jumayn Hunter, Duane Facey-Pearson, Richie Campbell, Darren Braithwaite, and Nathaniel Martello-White in their respective roles as Godfrey Millett, Rupert Boyce, Rothwell Kentish, Anthony Carlisle Innis, and Rhodan Gordon who are superb in their roles as five men trying to defend themselves. Finally, there’s the quartet of Rochenda Sandall, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, and Letitia Wright in incredible performances in their respective roles as the British-born activist Barbara Beese, the restaurant owner Frank Crichlow, the Trinidadian activist Darcus Howe, and the Trinidadian Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe as these four people who are trying to live their lives with Crichlow being a man just wanting to run a restaurant as it plays into the racial tension of the early 1970s.

From Lovers Rock, the film features some notable small roles from the legendary Barbados-born musician Dennis Bovell as a party goer, Frankie Fox as Franklyn’s boss at a garage, Shaniqua Okwok as Martha’s friend Patty, Ellis George as the birthday woman in Cynthia who would have a bad encounter with Bammy, and Dennis Francis-Swaby as Martha’s former boyfriend Bammy who would try to have his way with women only to cause a lot of trouble. Kedar Williams-Smith is fantastic as Martha’s grieving cousin Clifton who would also cause trouble but also a moment where he has everyone at the party to yell as it relates to the music. The duo of Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in great performances in their respective roles as Franklyn Cooper and Martha Trenton as two people who would meet and fall in love at this house party as they deal with the turmoil around them but also find something that would give them a future on this night of mayhem.

From Red, White and Blue, small performances from Nathan Vidal as the young Leroy, Jaden Oshenye as the young Leee John, Nadine Marshall as Leroy’s aunt Jesse, Tyrone Huntley as Leroy’s cousin in Leee John who at the time was the lead singer for the popular 80s British soul group Imagination, Antonia Thomas as Leroy’s wife Gretl, and Joy Richardson as Leroy’s mother Mrs. Logan as they’re all wonderful in their small supporting roles. Other noteworthy supporting roles include Assad Zaman as a British-Pakistani officer in Asif Kamali who struggles with his work due to the racism he endures, Neil Maskell as Inspector Willis who is Leroy’s supervisor who is sympathetic to the struggles Leroy faces, and Stephen Boxer as a chief inspector who sees Leroy’s entry as good publicity despite the racial tension between the police and community.

Steve Toussaint’s performance as Leroy’s father Ken Logan is phenomenal as a man who has an immense distrust towards the police due to his own encounters while also troubled by the fact that his son has joined the police force. Finally, there’s John Boyega in a spectacular performance as Leroy Logan who joins the police force despite his intelligence in forensics and athletic skills has him conflicted in being this poster boy while also dealing with the fact that making change from within is way more difficult than he realizes.

In Alex Wheatle, the small performances from Fumilayo Brown-Olateju as a neighbor in Dawn, Khali Best as a dealer in Badger, Jonathan Jules as a neighbor/activist in Dennis Issacs who would teach Wheatle the way adapt in Brixton, Johann Meyers as the drug dealer Cutlass Rankin who is suspicious of Wheatle at first only to accept him, and Asad-Shareef Muhammad as the young Wheatle. Robbie Gee is brilliant as Wheatle’s cellmate Simeon as a man dealing with food poisoning but also listens to Wheatle’s story as he gives him advice about finding roots as well as giving Wheatle the chance to find his identity for himself. Finally, there’s Sheyi Cole in a tremendous performance as the titular character as a young man struggling to find his identity and roots while also dealing with the world around him as it is this chilling and fierce performance from Cole. In Education, the small performances from Kate Dickie as a teacher in Mrs. Gill, Jade Anouka as a teacher at the special school in Mrs. Morrison, Stewart Wright as a teacher at the special school in Mr. Baines who does the most boring rendition of The House of the Rising Sun, Ryan Masher and Jairaj Varsani as a couple of Kingsley’s classmates at school, the quartet of Tabitha Byron, Roshawn Hewitt, Aiyana Goodfellow, and Nathan Moses as Kingsley’s classmates at this special school, and Adrian Rawlins as the school headmaster who suggest that Kingsley goes to this special school.

The trio of Jo Martin, Naomi Ackie, and Josette Simon are amazing in their respective roles as the teacher Mrs. Tabitha Bartholomew, the activist Hazel, and the organizer Lydia Thomas with Martin playing a teacher at a Saturday school who would prove to be helpful for Kingsley while Ackie’s performance as this activist who pretends to be a school psychologist is someone who got a closer look into the school that Kingsley is in. Simon’s performance as Thomas is one of grace and restraint as a woman who went to Kingsley’s mother while also organizing a meeting with other parents and people in the community who reveal a lot of revelations about the school system.

Daniel Francis and Sharlene Whyte are remarkable in their respective roles as Kingsley’s parents Esmond and Agnes with the former being convinced that his son needs to learn a trade only to realize the unjust system Kingsley is a part of while the latter is a woman that is trying to work for her family as she learns about Kingsley’s learning disabilities and what goes on at the school he’s been transferred to. Tamara Lawrence is fantastic as Kingsley’s teenage sister Stephanie who learns what happens to her younger brother but also a system that doesn’t help him. Finally, there’s Kenyah Sandy in a sensational performance as Kingsley Smith as young boy who has learning disabilities and an exuberant behavior who has trouble being transferred to a new school that not only does nothing for him but also keeps him back due to a terrible educational system that is definitely racist.

Small Axe is an outstanding film anthology series from Steve McQueen. Featuring a tremendous ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, stories about black life in Britain from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, and a rapturous music soundtrack. The film series is something that audiences need to see to get a glimpse into a world that isn’t talked about much as it relates to current events around to prove that not much has changed since. In the end, Small Axe is a magnificent film series from Steve McQueen.

Steve McQueen Films: Hunger (2008 film) - Shame (2011 film) - 12 Years a Slave - Widows (2018 film) - (Uprising (2022 film)) – (Occupied City) - (Blitz)

© thevoid99 2023

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks: Workplace: The Female Experience


For the 32nd week of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the world of the workplace experience from a female experience as women deal with having to working in a place where men rule everything. Yet, there are films that show that experience and how women can find a voice no matter how much shit they have to eat. Here are my three picks:

1. 9 to 5
Colin Higgins’ 1980 film about three different women working for an egotistical and sexist boss who treats them terribly while taking their ideas for his own gain in the corporate world. Starring the trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as these three women with Dabney Coleman as their boss. The film is an entertaining romp with a fantasy sequence of all three women dealing with their boss with Tomlin’s fantasy featuring elements of hand-drawn animation in a twisted way. It is truly one of the finest films of the 1980s as it also includes a great title song by Ms. Parton that is catchy as fuck.

2. Working Girl
Mike Nichols’ 1988 film explores a young secretary from Staten Island who gets the chance to work for a new boss in a woman only to realize that her boss is taking her ideas while is on vacation. It is a film that stars Melanie Griffith as this young secretary who is trying to work her way up the corporate world despite all of the odds are against her yet her initiative and street smart allows her to make things happen with the help of Harrison Ford as an executive who is willing to listen to her ideas as it is an incredible film that features not just a career-defining performance for Griffith but also great work from its ensemble in Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Cusack, and Alec Baldwin.

3. Clockwatchers
This 1997 film by Jill Sprecher is an underseen gem that plays into four different women who all work as temps as they deal with their environment as well as a series of thefts where the women find themselves at odds with each other. Starring Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Alanna Ubach, and Lisa Kudrow, the film is unique for the way it showcases women being friends but also dealing with an environment that is repressive as these four women deal with accusations of theft. Even as their personal lives would start to unravel as Collette’s character is the new temp of the four as she starts off as meek and uncertain about herself only to eventually stand up for herself and her friends in a film that people need to seek out.

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, August 06, 2023



Based on the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Oppenheimer is the story of Robert J. Oppenheimer and his role in creating the atomic bomb that would usher in the atomic age as it is told in different periods of time including two different hearings in the 1950s. Written for the screen and directed by Christopher Nolan, the film is an exploration into the life of a man who would help play a role in the destruction of the world as well as struggle with its aftermath that would play into his personal life as Oppenheimer is portrayed by Cillian Murphy. Also starring Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Olivia Thirlby, Benny Safdie, Dane DeHaan, Jason Clarke, Alex Wolff, Devon Bostick, Josh Peck, Michael Angarano, Gary Oldman, and Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss. Oppenheimer is a riveting and haunting film from Christopher Nolan.

July 16, 1945 is a day many physicists, scientists, and the world will remember in the project known as Trinity where a weapons test was held in the deserts of New Mexico 200 miles south from the Los Alamos area where many of these scientists would create the atomic bomb. A day that was overseen by J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team as they would create a weapon that had the ability to destroy cities and thus create a world of destruction as it would also set a chain of events leading to the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that went on for nearly 50 years but also terror that would engulf the world in how it can destroy itself. The film is about the man who would help create the atomic bomb as Oppenheimer is a man filled with complications as someone who had theories about quantum physics and what it could do while is also someone with political views that leaned towards communism as it would later get him in trouble in the 1950s as he would endure a hearing in the era of McCarthyism.

Christopher Nolan’s screenplay doesn’t follow a traditional narrative as it is largely non-linear as it focuses on Oppenheimer’s early life, working for the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, his chaotic personal life, post-war life, and two hearings in the 1950s that would also involve Lewis Strauss as the latter revolves around Strauss at a Senate confirmation hearing as it relates to the former who is questioned over being a communist. The script also showcases a world in which Oppenheimer would see things as it relates to quantum physics while also going into a world where he becomes part of a social circle in the late 1920s/1930s involving those with communist views including a young woman in Jean Tatlot (Florence Pugh) whom he would have an on-off affair with while later marrying Katherine Puening (Emily Blunt) who would stick by him despite his affair with Tatlot that would end in the early 1940s. Oppenheimer’s work through quantum physics and its theories that included collaborations with Ernest Lawrence (Josh Hartnett) and Edward Teller (Benny Safdie) as it gets the attention of the American military as they learn about stories of the Nazi Germany creating their own nuclear weapon program under the supervision of German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg (Matthias Schweighofer) whom Oppenheimer met in the 1930s in Switzerland.

Working with General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) and his then subordinate in Lt. Kenneth Nichols (Dane DeHaan), Oppenheimer would work with the military as they chose a remote area in the New Mexico deserts that would become Los Alamos as they also recruited many scientists, theorists, and others to create the atomic bomb. Even as there would be other places around the country including a location in Chicago headed by Enrico Fermi (Danny Deferrari) and David L. Hill (Rami Malek) who would have their own ideas as they would meet with Oppenheimer outside of their respective bases. Nolan would also play into Oppenheimer’s own personal issues as it relates to the fallout of his affair with Tatlot and the chaos in his marriage to Katherine as well as the aftermath of World War II as he becomes the advisor for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission headed by Lewis Strauss only for Oppenheimer’s ideas to restrict nuclear weapon development has him at odds with Strauss who has a storyline about his 1959 Senate confirmation hearing.

Nolan’s direction is definitely stylish as it plays into recurring images of water, stars, and fire that play into the mind of Oppenheimer who thinks about the destruction that he’s created. Shot on various locations at New Mexico, California, New Jersey, and bits of Switzerland on 65mm large-format film and IMAX 65mm film in both color and black-and-white film stock. Nolan creates a film that plays into a world that is ever-changing while using its non-linear narrative to move back and forth into stories that relates to Oppenheimer’s life as well as the 1954 security hearing and Strauss’ 1959 Senate confirmation hearing. Notably as Nolan uses a lot of wide and medium shots to cover the vast look of the locations as well some of the hearings with the latter providing a sense of claustrophobia for Oppenheimer’s hearing as it also include these close-ups that add to the drama. There are also elements of surrealism for scenes at Oppenheimer’s hearing that includes him having to talk about his affair with Tatlot as they’re having sex at the hearing with Katherine watching in horror.

Nolan also maintains this sense of drama as it relates to Oppenheimer’s post-war life and the emergence of the Cold War such as a scene at a posh restaurant that is presented in both black-and-white and color as it relates to mood in how it would affect later events. Notably as Oppenheimer also deals with figures such as Boris Pash (Casey Affleck) and William L. Borden (David Dastmalchian) who would try and discredit Oppenheimer in different periods of time as Nolan’s direction would have his camera not show their faces at first or re-show a shot from a different perspective as it plays into the drama. The Trinity sequence of that famed bombing is among one of the key moments in the film as it is about where the camera is as well as those watching from afar where the bomb is about to drop. There is also this tense moment as the countdown occurs as there is a lot of tension but also moments such as Oppenheimer and General Groves having a moment despite their own differences. It all leads to the bomb exploding as it is a key moment in the film but it is followed in this aftermath including a surreal moment in what Oppenheimer realized what he had created.

Nolan’s approach to the hearings as it has all of this drama where Strauss’ aide (Alden Ehrenreich) pieces everything that Strauss had been talking about as it relates to Oppenheimer. Even as it plays into the drama over Oppenheimer’s past as well as Katherine’s past due to her own brief affiliation with communism where the hearing is this chilling moment where Katherine is being grilled by Roger Robb (Jason Clarke) only for things to backfire. Even as it would parallel with Strauss’ hearing where it would play into some surprising revelations into why he and Oppenheimer had a falling out. Its ending plays to a scene as it relates to Oppenheimer meeting Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) that is shown early in the film but its conversation isn’t revealed until the end. It all relates to a quote about Prometheus and what he brought to the world as it alludes to the troubled legacy that Oppenheimer would bring to the world. Overall, Nolan crafts a gripping yet intoxicating film about the man who would bring the world a weapon that would destroy it.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema does phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for the scenes in Los Alamos and New Mexico including its usage of low-key lighting for the interior scenes at night while the black-and-white footage has a richness that play into the world that Strauss sees. Editor Jennifer Lame does incredible work with the film’s editing as its usage of montages, jump-cuts, and other stylish cut add to the drama as well as the usage of parallel moments in its non-linear narrative as it is a highlight of the film. Production designer Ruth de Jong, with supervising art director Samantha Englender plus set decorators Claire Kaufman, Olivia Peebles, and Adam Willis, does brilliant work with the look of the Los Alamos base including its houses, labs, and the tower where the bomb would drop for the Trinity project as well as the places that the characters lived in including the office where Oppenheimer has his hearing. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick does excellent work with the costumes that play into the period of the time as well as the suit and Fedora hat that Oppenheimer wears as well as some of the dresses that Katherine and Tatlot would wear.

Prosthetic makeup designer Luisa Abel does terrific work with the makeup effects for a key scene in which Oppenheimer sees a young woman’s skin starting to peel away in a surreal moment as it relates to what Oppenheimer has done. The special effects work of Scott R. Fisher and Laurie Pellard, along with visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, do amazing work with the visual effects with the usage of practical effects to create the sense of realism in what Oppenheimer sees as well as the explosions in the tests he and his team would create. Sound designer Richard King does remarkable work with the sound in the way certain gadgets would sound as well as the immense explosion of the Trinity bomb as it is a major highlight of the film. The film’s music by Ludwig Goransson is phenomenal for its mixture of eerie orchestral pieces as well as some electronic-based bits as it plays into the dramatic suspense and tension that looms into the film as well as the sense of dread as Goransson’s score is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by John Papsidera is marvelous as it features some notable small roles and appearances from Flora Nolan as the young woman Oppenheimer sees at an event following the Trinity project whose skin gets peeled by the bomb, Danny Deferrari as the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi who works in Chicago, James Remar as the then-Secretary of War in the 1940s in Henry Stimson, Emma Dumont as Oppenheimer’s sister-in-law Jackie, Macon Blair as Oppenheimer’s lawyer during the security hearings in Lloyd K. Garrison, Matthias Schweighofer as the German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg whom Oppenheimer meets in the 1930s, Jack Cutmore-Scott as Security Officer Lyall Johnson, James Urbaniak as the philosopher Kurt Godel whom Oppenheimer would meet in Switzerland, James D’Arcy as the experimental physicist Patrick Blackett whom Oppenheimer studied from at Cambridge back in 1926, Hap Lawrence as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Louise Lombard as Teller’s lover Ruth Tolman, Josh Zuckerman as one of Oppenheimer’s first students in Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, and Gary Oldman in a superb one-scene appearance as U.S. President Harry S. Truman.

In roles as members of the team that helped Oppenheimer in creating the bomb include Michael Angarano as Robert Serber, Devon Bostick as Seth Neddemeyer, Olli Haaskivi as Edward Condon, Alex Wolff as a former student of Oppenheimer in Luis Walter Alvarez, Harrison Gilbertson as Philip Morrison, Jack Quaid as Richard Feynman, Josh Peck as Kenneth Bainbridge who would push the button for the Trinity bomb explosion, Gustaf Skarsgard as German-American physics theorist Hans Bethe, Christopher Denham as Klaus Fuchs who would later revealed to be a spy for the Soviet Union, and Olivia Thirlby as the lone woman in the team in Lilli Hornig who would play a key part in the development of the Trinity Project as they’re all fantastic in their roles with Angarano, Peck, Wolff, and Thirlby being the major standouts.

Other notable key small roles include Matthew Modine as Vannevar Bush who helps create the Manhattan Project, David Krumholtz as Oppenheimer’s friend Isidor Isaac Rabi who is also a physicist who is worried about the moral implications in creating the bomb, Dylan Arnold as Oppenheimer’s younger brother Frank who would help find the site for Los Alamos, Jefferson Hall as Haakon Chevalier as a friend of Oppenheimer with ties to communism, Tony Goldwyn as Gordon Gray as the head judge at Oppenheimer’s hearing, David Dastmalchian as William L. Borden as a government official who would write a letter to the FBI accusing Oppenheimer to be a spy for the Soviet Union, Dane DeHaan as General Groves’ subordinate Kenneth Nichols who would also try to discredit Oppenheimer in the 1950s, and Alden Ehrenreich as Strauss’ senate aide who accompanies Strauss during the hearing while trying to piece together Strauss’ relationship with Oppenheimer.

Tom Conti is excellent as Albert Einstein as the famed physicist/scientist whom Oppenheimer goes to advice over calculations as he would later meet Einstein years later in the 1950s as he laments over what Oppenheimer has created. Jason Clarke is superb as Roger Robb as a prosecutor at Oppenheimer’s hearing who is intent on bringing Oppenheimer and his associates down while Josh Hartnett is fantastic as Ernest Lawrence as a colleague at Berkeley who is aware of what Oppenheimer is creating though the two would later fall out for a time. Benny Safdie is brilliant as Edward Teller as the famed theoretical physicist who is a key figure that collaborates with Oppenheimer as well as coming up with the idea of the hydrogen bomb despite Oppenheimer’s views on nuclear weapons. Kenneth Branagh is amazing in his small role as Niels Bohr as the Danish physicist who is fascinated by Oppenheimer’s theories as he would be a mentor while also getting a look into Oppenheimer’s work.

Rami Malek and Casey Affleck are great in their performances in their respective small roles as physicist David L. Hill and Colonel Boris Pash with the former who worked in Chicago as he would later play a key role at Strauss’ hearing while the latter is a military official who tries to discredit Oppenheimer. Florence Pugh is incredible as Jean Tatlot as Oppenheimer’s lover in the 1930s who had communist views as they would have an unusual relationship only for things to disintegrate following his marriage to Katherine as their affair would later get troubling. Emily Blunt is marvelous as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer as Oppenheimer’s wife who deals with her husband’s role and his affair as well as the things said about him where Blunt has a great moment upon being confronted by Robb at her husband’s security hearing as she destroyed him. Matt Damon is remarkable as General Leslie Groves as a military official who works with Oppenheimer despite their own differences as he sees the potential of what they’re creating as he also knows what is at stake during World War II.

Robert Downey Jr. is phenomenal as Lewis Strauss as the head at U.S. Atomic Energy Commission who would bring Oppenheimer as an advisor only to feel humiliated by Oppenheimer as he would have a falling out with Oppenheimer as he would later have a Senate confirmation hearing where he would talk about his issues with Oppenheimer as Downey shows restraint in his performance but also a lot of complexities into the character. Finally, there’s Cillian Murphy in a tremendous performance as J. Robert Oppenheimer as the famed theorist physicist who is called the Father of the Atomic Bomb as he is man that is filled with complications as he tries to figure out how to create something only to realize that he has created a chain of events that would trouble him. Murphy’s performance is filled with a lot of restraint but also anguish into a man who deals with a legacy that would haunt him as it is a career-defining performance from Murphy.

Oppenheimer is an outstanding film from Christopher Nolan that features a spectacular leading performance from Cillian Murphy. Along with its ensemble cast, immense technical work, a screenplay that explores a man’s troubled life and what he created, and Ludwig Goransson’s eerie music score. It is a film that is unlike many bio-pics as it focuses more on exploring the legacy of a man who would create a weapon for the world to destroy itself and the morality he would endure for his part in that creation. In the end, Oppenheimer is a magnificent film from Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan Films: Following (1998 film) - Memento - Insomnia (2002 film) - Batman Begins - The Prestige - The Dark Knight - Inception - The Dark Knight Rises - Interstellar - Dunkirk - Tenet - The Auteurs #13: Christopher Nolan

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