“It’s just one story. The oldest…light versus dark”
If time is a flat circle, the obsession to uncover the darkest corners of the nightmares in our culture yesterday, today and tomorrow is futile.
The first season of HBO’s eight-episode drama True Detective ignited high public interest before the pilot episode aired. With an 11 million-view count, the highly anticipated finale caused the great crash of HBO Go due to the overwhelming fan base wanting resolution behind the gruesome mystery of Carcosa.
Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Joji Fukunago the series focuses on Detectives Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they investigate the brutal, ritualistic murder of a woman in 1995. The two are reunited 17 years later by two other detectives trying to solve an identical murder suggesting the original killer from 1995 is still alive.
Poetically stylized and hauntingly menacing in the broad, tranquil grounds of rural Louisiana, True Detective far exceeds the procedural crime drama. It’s an investigation into the human character; searching for a creature you can’t see and hails on a dark philosophy suggesting that humanity is an error of evolution.
“To realize that all your life—you know, all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain—it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream. A dream that you had inside a locked room. A dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams there’s a monster at the end of it.” Detective Rust Cohle
“We make each other alive; it doesn’t make a difference if it hurts”
In Hollywood today we have friendships between directors and actors that have the power to produce cinematic masterpieces. From Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to Brad Pitt and David Fincher to Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino, some actor-director relationships spawn an amicable courtship that translates so well on screen that audiences never want the pairings to end.
In the ’60s/’70s the world had the romantic yet professional connection between Norwegian actress Liv Ullman and director Ingmar Bergman. Bergman died in 2007, but Ms. Ullmann, still beautifully mesmerizing in her mid-70s, recounts their life-changing relationship on and off camera. Whether or not you know the legacy and impact these two created amicably and hostilely together, their partnership in this documentary reveals themes everyone can relate to unfolded in six chapters: Love, Loneliness, Rage, Pain, Longing and the the most powerful form of Friendship that can only be described as soul mates.
The 2014 Oscars and I had a lot to agree on, but also a few minor disagreements. The winners were all unquestionably worthy of their awards, and the acceptance speeches were some of the best I’ve seen in recent history (motivational speeches over name-blasting goes far y’all!). My only qualms with this year were a few omissions in directing, acting and best picture, but I’ll hold my tongue on movie politics.
While this was not my favorite year for movies, 2013 relied heavily on exposing the culture we live in, a culture we could potentially live in and a look at one of our country’s darkest cultures in history. Movies like The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers offer an unflinching, realistic look at the corruption and superficiality of 21st century youth, while the movie Her takes us to a not-so-distant future where relationships of any kind have the power to produce as much joy as they do sorrow.
2014 also pushed an emphasis on relationships; how we treat people and how others treat us. Nebraska gave us a look at the humorous lengths we take for our family, while magnifying the destruction of aging. Movies like Fruitvale Station offer a story of hope, reinvention and the importance to empathize with people who we may not know. Whatever the relationship may be, compassion for the human spirit is a necessity for survival.
Here’s my list of my top 10 favorites of 2013–some are obvious choices, while some are obvious curve balls.
The 2014 Oscar nominations have not only been safe this year, they’ve also been overwhelmingly predictable. With Jennifer Lawrence stealing the BAFTA and Golden Globe from Lupita Nyong’o for her supporting role in American Hustle, the legitimacy of award season has been raised (again)—the same names, the same roles, the same results…
If you haven’t heard of indie drama Short Term 12, don’t be surprised. While it was the winner of the Audience Award at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, and earned Brie Larson a Gotham Award for best actress (trumping Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine), its visibility has been slim and has fallen through the mainstream cracks.
Rumors regarding Brie Larson’s performance prior to Oscar nominations began a buzz about whether the film would receive recognition next to the Goliaths of Hollywood. While Larson delivered a few scenes that were worthy of recognition, the scene-stealer, and the greatest powerhouse performance of the film, came from a complete unknown—Keith Stanfield.
The 22-year-old who was formerly “working in a weed factory learning the science of marijuana,” is now an Independent Spirit Award nominee and proof of the power of personal reinvention. He’s also another example for Hollywood to realize that raw, untrained talent still exists.
“Money is the best drug. It makes you a better person.”
Director Martin Scorsese takes a stab at unveiling modern day human nature and our corrupted vision of the American dream in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Infused with Lamborghinis, yachts, drugs, sex, unimaginable amounts of cash, more drugs and more sex; the moral message of excess in America isn’t boding well with critics. According to screenwriter Terence Winter, “We never learn anything and things don’t change” and this unfavorable look at our economy doesn’t bode well with viewers. Cinemascore, a service that polls audience members during opening weekend, stamped Wolf with a C-grade ultimately questioning the intentions of the movie. Whether or not the film glorified corruption remains debatable, yet ultimately left patrons in disgust with the final product. “Shame on you” was in ear shot of Scorsese the night of the film’s opening screening.
Too conservative, misinformed or oblivious to the greater message that Scorsese meant to unveil, most critics missed the boat for the racy stock-broker film. 75-year-old Academy member Hope Holiday (who starred in 1960’s The Apartment), openly expressed his disgust on her Facebook page. It’s unlikely that Hope will be viewing Blue is the Warmest Color nor Nymphomaniac. Thank God.
“Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but you had to survive?”
Have you ever seen a movie that seemed so genuinely good, but was in some way a knockoff of somebody else’s work? The guy who made it was so sincere in his methods that the film was original to everybody who saw it. People believe what they want to believe, so who’s the master? The creator or the imitator?
In early December the New York Film Critics Circle stunned audiences when they awarded director/co-writer David O. Russell’s American Hustle Best Picture and Best Screenplay upturning 12 Years a Slave and the surprise festival favorite Her. Despite the countless positive reviews pouring in (a whopping 95% on Rotten Tomatoes), some critics (myself included) are finding too many parallels with the mob flick Goodfellas with a Boogie Nights vibe. But everyone in Hollywood knows copying is the highest form of flattery especially when it’s done well and done right—I’m talking to you, Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately, the American Hustle grand scam of corruption, love, loyalty and elaborate comb-overs doesn’t take us to any new levels. It doesn’t leave me wanting more…it leaves me wanting something period.
“Any last advice? Stay alive.”
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved not only to be a financial goliath raking in a record-breaking $110 million Thanksgiving haul, but raised a relevant question—when was the last time a sequel was this good?
As a movie sequel, Catching Fire proves to have as much punch (if not more) than The Hunger Games. The next chapter in the sci-fi young adult franchise delivers a broader and more layered reality of Panem jumping deeper into the darker territory of a tightly woven, government-controlled civilization bound to their gladiator-inspired Hunger Games. Not only do we get a greater sense of the mental and physical prison victors Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) exist in, but also the gravity of their defiance.
“Days ago I was with my family in my home. Now you tell me all is lost, tell no one who I am and that’s the way to survive. I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
12 Years a Slave has only been in theaters a couple weeks, but critics who applaud or shun the film are both left with a common reaction when the credits rolled—stunned.
Since winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the positive response to the film has since been met with criticism and dissatisfaction toward the gruesomely realistic glimpse at the antebellum South. The film tells the true story of Solomon Northup (British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in New York, who is kidnapped in 1841 and sold down the river to the owner of a cotton plantation in Louisiana. Many people are asking if we really need another slave movie?
But that’s exactly what it’s not. Director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years is not intended to re-expose the weakness of black culture’s roots nor is it intended to re-slap America on the hand bestowing another moral hangover. The argument “haven’t I seen this before?” is surfacing across the Internet, but the gravity of McQueen’s exposure of slavery as an economic necessity and the concept of slaves as property resonates far greater than any pre-Civil War period piece.
For our Halloween episode at Film Jive, Zach, Andy and I decided to choose three of our favorite scary movies to discuss in addition to a film voted by viewers. Dating back to black and white in 1932 to 1982 80s slasher sleaze, our four films are all unique to the horror genre and offer their own levels of creepiness.
Considered by many as the kick-off to Oscar season premiering some of the biggest films of fall, the Toronto International Film Festival will feature 146 world premieres over it’s 11-day run.
Although TIFF always has an impressive lineup, I’ve narrowed it down to what I’m most eager to see this year.