Monday, July 31, 2017

Films That I Saw: July 2017



Well, this has certainly been a crazy month as there so much that happened. In late June, there was plans to bring in the daughter of a family friend to stay with me and my parents for a few days but something bad happened forcing her brother and his girlfriend to stay with us for more than a week. It was very chaotic but I was surprised at how calm I was through the whole ordeal. Then weeks later, another major change came from the assholes at AT&T and DirectTV which I knew wasn’t a good idea. It had been a year since we changed satellite/cable providers but I had been suspicious about DirectTV and my suspicions definitely got confirmed. Once again, we had to change cable/telephone/internet providers with Spectrum but I’m still unsure if it’s a good idea. It’s too early to tell about the service as I was forced to make changes into everything I wanted to see though I’m fortunate that I was able to get one of my Blind Spots available on DVD through the local library and three of them are going to be on TV in the coming months.


In the month of July, I saw a total of 35 films in 24 first-timers and 11 re-watches. Down from last month but it was still really good considering the fact that I saw more films this month in the theaters than I did in recent years. One of the highlights this month is definitely my Blind Spot assignment in Rio Bravo. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2017:

1. Dunkirk


2. The Beguiled


3. Stalag 17


4. The Big Short


5. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


6. Dirty Harry


7. Baby Driver


8. 99 Homes


9. Spider-Man: Homecoming


10. 20th Century Women


Monthly Mini-Reviews

Bad Moms


This was actually a nice surprise as it is definitely a very funny film as it revolves Mila Kunis whose husband has left her as she deals with work, taking care of two kids, and living up to all of the things at the PTA. She vents out by hanging out with two other stressed out moms as all hell breaks loose where it is just bonkers from start to finish. Add a cool Martha Stewart cameo, some fucked up moments, and all sorts of shit. You got a recipe for a funny movie that my mother really fucking loves.

Horns


This was a weird late night movie that I watched yet it was a pretty cool film. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young man who has been accused of killing his girlfriend as he later gets horns growing in his head as he tries to find her killer. It’s a very strange thriller with some very offbeat characters and situations as it has Radcliffe in a great performance as he displays some humility and grit while also being kind of a badass. It’s a fun film that blends horror, suspense, and dark comedy.

Descendants 2


I’ve only seen bits of the first film from the Disney Channel as I know what it’s about. The sequel is actually pretty good since it revolves the children of famed Disney villains who not only adjust to living in a kingdom ruled by the son of Beast from Beauty and the Beast but also the pressure for Maleficent’s daughter Mal to be his girlfriend. The performances of Dove Cameron as Mal as well as Sofia Carson as Evie (the daughter of the evil queen from Snow White), and China Anne McClain as Uma (daughter of Ursula of The Little Mermaid) are definitely the standouts with McClain being the antagonist. It also include some nice musical numbers and moments that actually appeal to more than just the teen audience as it’s got some substance that showcases the idea of growing pains and being true to yourself as I recommend for kids.

Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy


From HBO is a documentary about Diana, Princess of Wales as it’s told by her sons who finally share their own experiences with their late mother. Along with Sir Elton John, her brother Earl, and other close friends, the film showcases not just aspects of Diana’s life but also the role she played as the Princess of Wales in which she used it as something meaningful by reaching out to the people as well as take causes involving the homeless, those with AIDS, and landmines. That willingness to help people is something her sons have continued to do in their role as royals as it’s something they hope to do and pass down toward their children.

Passengers


I like sci-fi films when they’re done right and have a unique premise as this is a film that could’ve worked in its study of isolation in space. Instead, it’s just a by-the-numbers sci-fi thriller with some drama. While Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, and Laurence Fishburne give fine performances, they’re not given any strong material to work with while there is also that sense of morality into what Pratt has done to Lawrence that is just creepy and wrong. For all of its grand visuals, it’s just a total letdown of a film.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Love & Mercy


2. Iron Man


3. About a Boy


4. Maradona ‘86


5. Sudden Impact


6. Bachelor Party


7. The Golden Child


8. Role Models


9. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves


10. The Dead Pool


That is it for July. Next month, I hope to see theatrical releases like Detroit and Lucky Logan while I would spend much of time watching different films from new DVR list as one of them will be the long version of Wim Wender’s Until the End of the World which I had considered to have as a Blind Spot for next year but decided to watch it immediately. I’m also thinking of reviewing a few films I’ve recently purchased at the Barnes & Noble Criterion DVD sale. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk



Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk is a dramatic re-telling of the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II in which three different stories are happening during the course of the event. Told on land, sea, and the air, the film follows the lives of soldiers, pilots, and people from Britain who try to escape from the Germans in Northern France. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance. Dunkirk is a gripping and evocative film from Christopher Nolan.

In 1940 at the Northern-French coast of Dunkirk, thousands of British soldiers are trying to flee the country following France’s defeat to the Germans as naval ships are being sunk with many hoping for a miracle. The film is about this major event in World War II in which many British soldiers are stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk as they’re dealing with German warplanes and forces coming into the city as the French try to hold them off with three different things happening all in the span of a week on land, a day on the sea, and an hour on air. Christopher Nolan’s screenplay is presented in a somewhat non-linear narrative where time is distorted as it showcases what is happening as characters from the different storylines don’t interact in the course of the evacuation. These three different storylines are each given a different title based on its setting as they all would intertwine throughout the course of the film as some of these characters in the different stories would meet with one another to provide some multiple perspectives of what is happening.

The first story entitled The Mole refers to the stranded soldiers on land as they’re trying to evacuate as Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is watching over the evacuation as he converses Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy) over what is happening as they believe many of the soldiers will be left behind. Three of these soldiers including Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), and Alex (Harry Styles) struggle to survive as they try to evacuate and endure everything that has been thrown at them. The second story entitled The Sea revolves around what is happening where a mariner in Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) decides to sail to Dunkirk to save the soldiers with the help of Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan) where they would pick-up a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy). In the third story called The Air, two British pilots in Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) fight off against German planes and bombers as the former contends with a malfunction in his fuel gauge.

Nolan’s direction is definitely riveting from start to finish as he doesn’t go for anything that showcase who these characters are before what is happening as it’s more about what is happening in Dunkirk and these soldiers trying to survive. Shot on the actual location at Dunkirk beach in France with some of it shot in Great Britain and the Netherlands with the ship interiors shot in the U.S. Nolan decides to create this sense of immediacy and terror that looms throughout the film as it just keeps going where there is no idea what will happen next. Shot on 65mm film and 65mm IMAX film stocks, Nolan would use the wide shots to capture the vastness of the locations including the English Channel to see how big the evacuation was and how many small boats and ships were there to save these soldiers from imminent doom. There are some close-ups and medium shots to display that terror including some hand-held cameras that help create that suspense and terror in scenes where a German plane is flying and ready to attack the soldiers on the beach.

For a film where so much is happening all at the same time or what happened a few minutes before, Nolan doesn’t stray from the human story as he does showcase these small moments that play into characters dealing with what is happening and figuring out how to survive. Whether it’s on a small boat or inside a plane, Nolan always show what these characters are looking into as well as the fact that he never shows the face of the enemy throughout the entirety of the film. There are also these moments amidst this massive shroud of darkness that showcase not just a glimmer of hope but also the sense of good in humanity amidst the plague of fear looming. Especially as Nolan would put in that sense of historical context into how important the evacuation was as a touchstone moment for Britain. Overall, Nolan crafts a thrilling yet rapturous film about the real-life Dunkirk evacuation that was a pivotal moment for Britain’s role in World War II.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema does phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography from the sunny look in some scenes set in the sea to the greyer look of the scenes on land and in the air as well as some nighttime shots with the usage of fire for lighting specifics. Editor Lee Smith does incredible work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and some stylish non-linear cutting that help provide different perspective of the events that happen in the film as it is a highlight of the film. Production designer Nathan Crowley, with set decorators Emmanuel Delis and Gary Fettis plus supervising art directors Kevin Ishioka and Eggert Ketilsson, does excellent work with the look of the interior of some of the naval ships as well as Mr. Dawson’s ship and the decayed pier at the Dunkirk beach. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does superb work with the costumes as it is mostly some army and naval uniforms which Commander Bolton wears in the latter.

Special effects supervisors Ian Corbould and Paul Corbould, along with visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, does fantastic work with the usage of practical effects for some of the aerial scenes with a few bits of computer-based effects for set dressing and crowd scenes. Sound editor Richard King does brilliant work with the sound to create a sense of atmosphere from the sound of planes flying in the air to the sound of torpedoes and bomb as the sound is often filled with terror as it is another of the film’s highlights. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is amazing for its orchestral-based score with its offbeat arrangements in the percussions and sound as it help play into the suspense with some more somber pieces in the drama as it is one of Zimmer’s finest scores of his career.

The casting by John Papsidera and Toby Whale is great as it does feature a couple of notable small roles from Jochum ten Haaf as a Dutch seaman and the voice of Michael Caine as a radio communications man talking to Farrier and Collins. Jack Lowden is superb as the air force pilot Collins as a man trying to do whatever he can to stop the Germans from sinking ships and kill soldiers as he would also have a moment of terror of his own. Tom Hardy is excellent as Farrier as an air force pilot who is dealing with the malfunction of his fuel gauge as he is aware of how low he is on fuel but knows what he has to do as he doesn’t show much of his face except his eyes to show what must be done. Fionn Whitehead is fantastic as the young soldier Tommy who is the first character shown in the film as someone dealing with trying to survive while Harry Styles is wonderful as Alex as another young soldier who is also trying to survive but also has suspicions toward something that he feels is off. Aneurin Barnard is terrific as Gibson as a young soldier who is also trying to survive as he spends much of the film not saying very much.

Barry Keoghan is amazing as a 15-year old boy in George who helps Mr. Dawson and his son in retrieving soldiers on the sea while Tom Glynn-Carney is brilliant as Mr. Dawson’s son Peter as a young man who is helping his father as well as converse with those he saves. Mark Rylance is marvelous as Mr. Dawson as a civilian who decides to go to Dunkirk with his son and George in an act to help soldiers without having the navy to take his boat as he is aware of what is at stake. Cillian Murphy is incredible as a shell-shocked soldier Mr. Dawson saves as he copes with what he’s experienced as he’s in a state of shock. James D’Arcy is remarkable as Colonel Winnant as an officer trying to make sense of what is going on as well as wondering what is next for Britain in World War II. Finally, there’s Kenneth Branagh in a phenomenal performance as Commander Bolton as a naval officer trying to manage the evacuation as well as pondering if there is some form of miracle as his performance is just the most touching in the way he reacts to that glimmer of hope.

Dunkirk is an outstanding film from Christopher Nolan. Featuring a great ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, top-notch technical work in the editing and sound, Hans Zimmer’s enthralling score, and an inventive script that creates a sense of terror and intrigue. It’s a war film that just goes head on into what is happening as it’s told in multiple perspective from the soldiers stuck at the beach, on sea, and air to the civilians who travel from their homeland to bring their boys back home. In the end, Dunkirk is a magnificent film from Christopher Nolan.

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

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson



Based on the play Indians by Arthur Kopit, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson is the story of Buffalo Bill trying to stage a Wild West show where he gets the services of a deposed chief in hoping to present a show for the American president. Directed by Robert Altman and screenplay by Altman and Alan Rudolph, the film is an unconventional western that explores a man’s desire to uphold his own mythological persona while dealing with the realities around him including his own conflicts with Native Americans. Starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Chaplin, Joel Grey, Shelley Duvall, Harvey Keitel, Will Sampson, and Burt Lancaster. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson is a whimsical yet engrossing film from Robert Altman.

Set in 1885 during the last years of a conflict involving Native Americans, the film revolves around a legend of the West who learns he’s gotten the services of the famed Chief Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts) for his show celebrating the West as it would prove to be more troubling as he would have to stage it in front of President Grover Cleveland (Pat McCormick). It’s a film that explores some of the behind-the-scenes moments of Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman) trying to stage this show as he wants to present the ideas of the West as something wild and with its own sense of mythology. The film’s screenplay by Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph doesn’t just explore Cody trying to present his stage show as this fa├žade of what the Wild West was but is forced to cope with the realities of what really happened. Especially when he meets Sitting Bull who he thought was this savage that enjoys killing people but it’s revealed to be this very calm, quiet, and morally pure which complicate everything that Cody wants to stage to the people.

The script also showcase Cody’s attempt to play up this persona he’s created as he becomes upset over not just Sitting Bull’s presence but also the fact that Sitting Bull doesn’t want to compromise very much as his interpreter Halsey (Will Sampson) has to speak up for him. Cody would also get into some tension with some of the players including Annie Oakley (Geraldine Chaplin) who is more sympathetic towards Sitting Bull. After a stage show with Sitting Bull where Cody expected him to be booed, it goes the other way around as it destroys everything Cody wanted to present in his idea of the American West. Adding to this turmoil is the fact that Cody isn’t just getting older but he’s having a hard time living up to the persona he’s created as his loyal nephew Ed Goodman (Harvey Keitel) is forced to realize this while his biographer Ned Buntline (Burt Lancaster) is trying to tell many about the many myths of Cody and romanticize to the people working at the show.

Altman’s direction is definitely stylish for not just creating a film that is quite chaotic and loose but also play up into this conflict of reality vs. myth with the West as its backdrop. Shot on location at the Stoney Indian Reservation in Alberta, Canada, the film does play into this idea of a man trying to recreate the Wild West in the middle of a forest near the Rocky Mountains as Altman would use some wide shots to establish the beauty of the location. Yet, he would go for more intimate shots in the usage of close-ups and medium shots as it play into the events happening behind the scenes as everyone is trying to stage the show. The presentation of the shows are quite lavish including the recreation of the Battle of Little Big Horn which shows Cody trying to show the battle from his view but the reality turns out to be more troubling.

The conflict of reality vs. myth is what is at stake in the film as Altman showcases these scenes where Cody is surrounded by things that aren’t real as he has opera singers as lovers, a biographer trying to embellish his legend, and people working with Cody trying to create the greatest show possible. Yet, there are things in the second half that showcase Cody’s struggle to create this myth in a moment where Sitting Bull and some of his people from his tribe have left as Cody and his men try to find them. What happens is that unveiling of the reality that Cody couldn’t face as he has to maintain his persona as this mythological figure of the West to President Grover. Though there are times the sense of looseness in the film does meander a bit for the film’s pacing, Altman does try to maintain a sense of liveliness to capture a moment in time with its protagonist being unaware of what is ahead. Overall, Altman creates a very intoxicating yet offbeat film about a legend of the Wild West trying to stage the ultimate show to present his vision of that world.

Cinematographer Paul Lohmann does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in using some gorgeous natural lighting to capture the beauty of the locations in the day along with some lights for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Peter Appleton and Dennis M. Hill do terrific work with the editing as it’s mostly straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into some of the humor and moments of the show. Production designer Anthony Masters, with set decorator Dennis J. Parrish and art director Jack Maxsted, does amazing work with the look of the sets for the stage show as well as the room where Cody sleeps in as well as the bar and a few other places at the circus area.

Costume designer Anthony Powell does excellent work with the costumes from the clothes that Cody wears as well as some of the actors to the simpler look of Sitting Bull and his tribe. Makeup artist Monty Westmore does nice work with the look of Cody as well as some of the makeup the characters wear during a performance. Sound editors Richard Oswald and William A. Sawyer do superb work with the sound as it play into the raucous sounds such as the overlapping dialogue and other things in and around the field for the stage show and circus. The film’s music by Richard Baskin is wonderful as it’s mainly an orchestral score filled with woodwinds and brass instruments that is often played on location to create this sense of pageantry into Cody’s own legend.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast include some Jerri and Joy Duce as cowboy trick riders, Bert Remsen as the bartender Crutch, Robert DoQui as an African-American actor who would often play the Indian chiefs in the stage performances, Bonnie Leaders and Evelyn Lear as a couple of opera singers who try to entertain Cody with the latter being the one who would sing in front of the president, Patrick Reynolds as the president’s aide, Patrick McCormick as President Grover Cleveland, and Shelley Duvall as the First Lady. Will Sampson is terrific as Sitting Bull’s right-hand man and interpreter Halsey as a man that is just trying to keep the peace and explain Sitting Bull’s view of things while Frank Kaquitts is superb as Sitting Bull as the revered Indian chief who rarely says anything as he maintains this presence of purity throughout the film.

John Considine is fantastic as Frank E. Butler as the husband of Annie Oakley who would often be the person holding her targets as well as deal with the chaos of the show. Kevin McCarthy is excellent as Major Burke as a military official who would be the one to get Sitting Bull to be involved as he’s this boisterous individual that likes to have fun and make sure everyone have fun. Joel Grey is brilliant as the producer Nate Salisbury as a man trying to keep everything in control while being announcer for the stage shows while Harvey Keitel is amazing as Cody’s nephew Ed Goodman as an assistant for Cody who is trying to keep him calm and deal with Halsey and Sitting Bull.

Burt Lancaster is marvelous as Ned Buntline as a journalist who is writing Cody’s biography as he tries to maintain that air of mystique for Cody though he is aware that the idea of myth won’t last. Geraldine Chaplin is remarkable as Annie Oakley as the famed sharpshooter who is seen with her right arm in a sling as she copes with not just her injury but the treatment of Sitting Bull as she becomes frustrated with Cody and his desire to present his idea of what the Wild West is. Finally, there’s Paul Newman in a phenomenal performance as Buffalo Bill Cody as a man that is trying to live up to the mythical persona he’s created as he copes with not just the reality of the West but also himself as it’s a performance with charm but also humility as it’s one of his finest performances of his career.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson is a vivacious film from Robert Altman that features an incredible leading performance from Paul Newman. Along with its great supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, and themes on mythology vs. reality, it’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules into the ideas of the Wild West though it does have a few flaws in its pacing. In the end, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson is a sensational film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) – (The James Dean Story) – Countdown - (That Cold Day in the Park) – M.A.S.H. - (Brewster McCloud) – McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) – (Thieves Like Us) - The Long Goodbye - California Split - Nashville - 3 Women - (A Wedding) – (Quintet) – (A Perfect Couple) – (HealtH) – Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) – (Streamers) – (Secret Honor) – (O.C. and Stiggs) – Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) – (Aria-Les Boreades) – (Tanner ’88) – (Vincent & Theo) – The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) – (The Gingerbread Man) – Cookie's Fortune - Dr. T & the Women - Gosford Park - The Company (2003 film) - (Tanner on Tanner) – A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Hired Hand




Directed and starring Peter Fonda and written by Alan Sharp, The Hired Hand is the story of a man returning home after going away for seven years as he tries to win back his wife by becoming her hired hand. The film is an unusual western as it explores a man dealing with abandoning his wife as well as gaining some redemption. Also starring Verna Bloom and Warren Oates. The Hired Hand is a ravishing and touching film from Peter Fonda.

The film follows a drifter and his friend whose years of trying to find work forces him to return home to the wife he abandoned and win her back by becoming her hired hand. It’s a film with a simple story as it explores a man who had been away for seven years as the years of drifting from one place to another and a violent encounter with a corrupt gang leader forces him to return home. Alan Sharp’s screenplay begins with Harry Collings (Peter Fonda) roaming around place to place with his friend Arch Harris (Warren Oates) and a young man named Dan Griffen (Robert Pratt) as their companion as they go into this remote desert town where trouble occurs. Following this troubling encounter, Collings decides to return home to his estranged wife Hannah (Verna Bloom) whom he hadn’t seen in seven years as she is not happy to see him. Her disdain towards him is something Collings understands as he realizes what she had to do to survive as it bear some elements of feminism in the script. Especially as Collings realize that tending to the farm is not enough to win her back while Harris yearns to see the ocean as he helps out so that Collings could get his redemption.

Peter Fonda’s direction is very unusual in his approach to creating a western as it doesn’t play into some of the conventional tropes in favor of something more meditative as well as reflective. Shot largely on location in New Mexico, the film’s first act is set in a river and later in the desert at this remote town where Fonda would use some wide shots for some of the locations but also some unique close-ups of the characters. Fonda’s approach to style doesn’t just play into some of the close-ups and medium shots he would create for much of the film but also in these evocative montages filled with superimposed images and dissolves that add a very poetic quality to the film.

Notably as it play into not just the sense of guilt that Collings is filled with but also this determination to redeem himself to his wife Hannah as well as the fact that he has a young daughter named Janey (Megan Denver) he just learned about. There is a confrontation in its third act but Fonda would aim for something unconventional as it’s more about a man needing to fight for a reason rather than just be in a shootout as well as a vow he’s made to the woman he loved and abandoned in the hope he wouldn’t do so ever again. Overall, Fonda creates a dream-like yet intoxicating film about a man being a hired hand for his estranged wife.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does brilliant work with the film’s gorgeous and dream-like cinematography with its natural usage of sunlight for some of the scenes at the forest home of Hannah as well as the usage of low-key lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Frank Mazzola does amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of montages through its superimposed dissolves and stylish approach to freeze-frames as it’s a major highlight of the film. Production designer Lawrence G. Paull and set decorator Robert De Vestel do fantastic work with the look of the desert town with its ruined stones and bricks as well as the look of Hannah’s home.

Costume designer Richard Bruno does nice work with the costumes from the ragged look of the clothes the men wear early in the film to the simple look of Hannah. Sound editor James Nelson does terrific work with the sound as it is very straightforward to play into some of the quiet sounds of the location as well as some of the gunfire that occurs in some of the action scenes. The film’s music by Bruce Langford is excellent for its rapturous music score that is filled with rich acoustic instruments and woodwind sounds that help give the film a dream-like feel that is just intoxicating to listen to.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Owen Orr and Ted Markland as a couple of henchmen for a local outlaw, Ann Doran as a neighbor of Hannah, Robert Pratt as Collings and Harris’ traveling companion Dan Griffen, Rita Rogers as a Mexican woman that is mistreated by the brutish local outlaw, Megan Denver as Hannah’s daughter Janey, and Severn Darden as the brutal outlaw McVey as a man who runs a remote desert town and tries to get Collings and Harris into trouble.

Verna Bloom is brilliant as Hannah as a woman who has a lot of pent-up anger towards Collings as she isn’t eager to have his help while she doesn’t trust Harris despite the fact that she knows that he’s a good man. Warren Oates is amazing as Arch Harris as a cowboy who is eager to see the ocean knowing that his days of drifting are gone as he tries to help out at Hannah’s home and farm as well as lament on the life Collings would have if he chooses to stay with Hannah. Finally, there’s Peter Fonda in an excellent performance as Harry Collings as a drifter that is trying to redeem himself to his ex-wife as he would fix things at her home while dealing with the years of drifting that lead to nothing as well as being forced to fight again to protect the things he’s starting to regain as it’s a very understated role from Fonda.

The Hired Hand is a remarkable film from Peter Fonda that features great performances from Fonda, Verna Bloom, and Warren Oates. Along with Vilmos Zsigmond’s beautiful cinematography, Frank Mazzola’s dizzying editing, and Bruce Langford’s haunting score, the film is a very unconventional yet rich western that bear elements expected in the genre but also with ideas on feminism and a woman’s role in the West. In the end, The Hired Hand is a sensational film from Peter Fonda.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance



Based on the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the story of an attorney whose encounters with a notorious outlaw has him teaming up with a gunslinger to deal with him in order to protect the people at a small town in the West. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, the film is an exploration of two men with different ideas of the world who team up to face off against someone who just wants to bring chaos into the world. Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Jeanette Nolan, Woody Strode, Strother Martin, and Lee Van Cleef. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a grand yet evocative film from John Ford.

The film is essentially a reflective story in which a senator recalls a time in his life when he was just an attorney arriving into a small town in the West where he tries to stand up against a notorious outlaw where he later teams up with a gunslinger and a few others in making a stand against him. Especially as he would later become a pillar of hope in a town that is still ravaged with fear prompting this attorney from the East to make a difference. The film’s screenplay begins with Ranse Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) arriving to the small town of Shinbone as the local press wonder why he’s there. He then tells them the story of how he first came to the town 25 years earlier where he would meet Hallie and stand up to the outlaw known as Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) after trying to stop him from robbing a widow during a stagecoach robbery. After being healed by Hallie and a local rancher in Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), Stoddard would do whatever he can to help the town.

Stoddard is a man that is educated and isn’t willing to be violent as he is trying to make sure there’s some law and order in this small town he’s arrived in as he also wants to be there for the people whether it’s to defend them in a court of law or teach them how to read and write. He would live at the restaurant that Hallie works at while doing his law practice at the local newspaper run by its publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) who would befriend Stoddard as they would team up for an election on statehood. While Doniphon appreciates what Stoddard is doing, he feels that Stoddard is also just making things troubling because of Valance who wants to maintain his own power by beating up anyone or kill someone. Doniphon is a no-nonsense man who can read and write but knows how lawless the West can be as he is the only man that can out-gun Valance.

John Ford’s direction is definitely rapturous in terms of some of the visuals he creates as well as the fact that much of the story is told in a reflective manner by Stoddard to a journalist. Shot on the studio backlots at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, the film is more intimate in terms of its location even though there are a few scenes set in the desert as much of it is shot at a soundstage as the fictional town of Shinbone. While there are some wide shots of some of those locations, Ford would emphasize more on close-ups and medium shots for much of the film as it relate to the intimacy in the story as well as capturing some of the conversations and moments with the characters. Notably in the scenes that show Stoddard doing all sorts of things whether in educating some of the locals, cleaning the dishes at the restaurant where he’s staying at, or looking at Peacock’s articles. While much of the film is dramatic with some suspense, Ford would infuse the film with bits of humor such as a scene where Doniphon would show Stoddard how to shoot a gun as it would reveal how tough Stoddard really is.

As for some of the action, there are moments where the violence is quite brutal such as the Stoddard’s first encounter with Valance where Valance would whip him such a visceral way. The scenes where Valance is around is always filled with dread as the man is quite unpredictable as he would just scare people with his presence or through his violent actions. There is a showdown that would occur between Stoddard and Valance but it’s a very unusual showdown early in its third act. Notably as it would be followed by its aftermath as it relates to not just what happened to Valance but also who shot him as it would create this myth that is very unsettling. Overall, Ford creates a mesmerizing yet intense film about a lawyer and a gunslinger standing up against a notorious outlaw.

Cinematographer William H. Clothier does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the sunny look of the daytime exteriors to some of the stylish usage of shadows and shades for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Otho Lovering does excellent work with the film’s editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the action and suspense as well as some straightforward cuts for the drama. Art directors Eddie Imazu and Hal Pereira, with set decorators Sam Comer and Darrell Silvera, do fantastic work with the look of the saloons, restaurants, and Doniphon’s ranch as well as the interiors of some of the buildings in the film.

Costume designer Edith Head does nice work with the costumes from the look of the hats and clothes the men wear to some of the dresses that Hallie wears. Sound recordists Charles Grenzbach and Philip Mitchell do terrific work with the sound as it play into raucous sound of the meetings as well as in some of the moments of suspense as it relates to the showdown between Stoddard and Valance. The film’s music by Cyril J. Mockridge and Alfred Newman is wonderful for its mixture of bombastic orchestra music with its large brass arrangements and string flourishes for some of the dramatic moments as the score also include some folk-based music of the times.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Denver Pyle and O.Z. Whitehead as the father-son duo of Amos and Herbert Carruthers, Willis Bouchey as a train conductor, Joseph Hoover as a journalist interviewing Stoddard in the film’s beginning, Jeanette Nolan and John Qualen as the Swedish immigrant couple in the Ericsons who work with Hallie at the restaurant, John Carradine as a speaker for a convention representing those in favor of territory rights, Ken Murray as the local doctor Doc Willoughby, Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef as two of Valance’s henchman in their respective roles as Floyd and Reese, and Woody Strode as Doniphon’s ranch hand Pompey as an African-American that is very helpful as well as wanting to be educated by Stoddard. Andy Devine is terrific as the local marshal Link Appleyard as a man that has a hard time upholding the law as he’s afraid of Valance as he is kind of the film’s comic relief. Edmond O’Brien is excellent as Dutton Peabody as the local newspaper publisher who is full of gusto in the things he says while admittedly being a drunk but a man that can rile up Valance through his words.

Vera Miles is amazing as Hallie as a local woman who runs a restaurant as she is courted by Doniphon as she would fall for Stoddard whom she sees as a man that can help her as well as make her into something more. Lee Marvin is brilliant as Liberty Valance as a brutish outlaw who likes to wreak havoc on the people as he tries to assert his own power and whatever he can to play into his role in the West. James Stewart is incredible as Ranse Stoddard as an attorney who is trying to help the locals in the small town as he also stands up to Valance where he is forced to see what he has to do to deal with him. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a phenomenal performance as Tom Doniphon as it is a performance where Wayne display some charm as well as humility as a gunslinger that is the one person that can deal with Valance but also is aware of what Stoddard is trying to do for the town as he would take action that would prove to be catastrophic for both men.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a sensational film from John Ford that features great performances from John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, and Lee Marvin. Along with its dazzling visuals and a compelling take on heroism, it’s a film that explore what some will do to help people not be afraid from the presence of an outlaw but also into the myths of the West. In the end, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a tremendous film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Big Short



Based on the novel by Michael Lewis, The Big Short is about the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 and how a small number of individuals knew it was coming and tried to salvage what they would be lost. Directed by Adam McKay and screenplay by McKay and Charles Randolph, the film is an unconventional take on the crisis with its mixture of humor, drama, and moments that break down the fourth wall. Starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Melissa Leo, and Brad Pitt. The Big Short is a gripping and chilling film from Adam McKay.

Set in the mid-2000s just a few years before the world economy would collapse in such a massive way, the film follows the lives of a few different men who would make a discovery that would lead to its collapse. Told through three different narratives, the film follow the events of these men who wouldn’t just discover loans and bonds that would cause the housing market to become unstable but also do whatever they can to survive and profit from this upcoming financial collapse. The film’s screenplay by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph weaves through these multiple narratives as the storyline of the different individuals who would be part of this catastrophic event would all effect one’s narrative and such. Even as there’s moments where a character from one storyline is in the same place with other characters from that storyline but none of them really meet each other.

The character Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is this oddball hedge fund manager who is socially-inept as he would start the whole story going when he would look into numbers involving high-risk subprime loans as he decides to make a bet against market-based mortgage-based securities by using a credit default swap. Dr. Burry’s plans had bankers laughing thinking he would fail as his actions wouldn’t just get the unwanted attention of his mentor Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts) but also the attention of a low-level salesman for Deutsche Banks in Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who is the film’s narrator. He would learn about what Dr. Burry is planning where he joins forces with Front Point hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) after one of Baum’s employees called Vennett by accident as the two analyze what Dr. Burry has found. From a prospectus that Vennett created, two young investors in Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) would find that prospectus as they would take part in the plan to buy credit default swaps with the advice of a former securities trader in Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt).

The film’s narrative would cross-cut through all three different storylines as well as explore all of the traits of these characters as Vennett is a man that is vain and interested in getting the money from the fallout that is to come while Baum is a man just trying to make sense of the world he’s working for as he’s also dealing with his brother’s suicide. The duo of Geller and Shipley are just two guys that wanted to be rich as they get the help of Rickert as they would make a move that would be big but there comes a moral price over what had happened as it would be a discovery that would make Baum not just uneasy but also realizing the large scale of what is to come. Each act opens with a quote as it play into these men making a discovery and see what would happen and then realize the massive scale of the risk as almost everyone in the financial world is against them. Yet, it’s a risk that is would showcase not just the sense of arrogance and indifference of these people in finance but also those who would be seriously affected by this crash.

McKay’s direction is definitely quite engaging for the way it explores the world of finance in all of its complexities and finding a way to make it accessible for anyone who has no clue about bonds, stocks, securities, or anything in the world of finance. Shot largely in New Orleans with some of it shot on other locations such as New York City and Las Vegas. McKay would create something that is grand in some scenes but maintain some intimacy in his usage of close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the drama. Especially in the usage of hand-held camera for these scenes while giving each storyline a different tone as the Dr. Burry storyline is often set in an office building while the stories involving Venette/Baum and the trio of Geller, Shipley, and Rickert also have different presentations though there is that one scene where the two groups are in the same sequence through an intricate tracking shot.

Since the idea of finances and all of the things that go on are considered very complex to anyone that has no idea about these things. McKay would use a few celebrities like actress Margot Robbie, singer/actress Selena Gomez, famed chef Anthony Bourdain, and the economist Richard Thaler to provide some comical expositions to reveal what is a mortgage-based security, a subprime loan, a collateralized debt obligation, and a synthetic CDO. McKay would also showcase images and footage of what was the culture of the world was like in the mid-2000s as people are unaware of what is happening as its third act is quite dark. Notably in the sense of immorality that is happening in the financial world and the people who really lose it all which makes characters like Baum and Rickert uneasy. Especially as it once again play into this air of cynicism and what often happens in the financial world on who is saved and who is left in the dust. Overall, McKay creates a haunting yet evocative film about a group of individuals who would make a discovery that would shake up the financial world in the late 2000s.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural and low-key lights for the scenes at Dr. Burry’s office as well as the lighter look of the scenes at Baum’s office as well as some of the stylish yet low-key lights for some of the scenes in Las Vegas. Editor Hank Corwin does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, freeze-frames and other stylish cuts to help find ways to create smooth transitions for the different storylines as well as using montages to play into the growing sense of time. Production designer Clayton Hartley, with set decorator Linda Lee Sutton and art director Elliott Glick, does fantastic work with the look of the different offices as well as the garage office that Geller and Shipley work at and the home of Rickert. Costume designer Susan Matheson does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual with the suits that the men wear as well as shorts and t-shirt look of Dr. Burry.

Visual effects supervisor Paul Linden does terrific work with some of the film’s visual effects which is essentially set-dressing to play into the period of the mid-2000s. Sound editor Becky Sullivan does superb work with the sound as it play into the world of parties and meetings where it can be raucous but also quiet. The film’s music by Nicholas Britell is wonderful for its low-key electronic score that play into the drama while the soundtrack features an array of music from rock, hip-hop, and pop music.

The casting by Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Rudy Eisenzopf as the mortgage-backed security creator Lewis Ranieri, Max Greenfield and Billy Magnussen as two young mortgage brokers who con people into getting bad loans, Byron Mann as a CDO manager Baum talks to in Vegas about synthetic CDOs, Karen Gillian as the ex-girlfriend of Shipley’s brother who meets Shipley in Vegas who dismisses him as she had just quit the SEC, Adepero Oduye as Baum’s colleague Kathy Tao, Tracy Letts as Dr. Burry’s mentor Lawrence Fields who is aghast over what Dr. Burry did, Melissa Leo as a Standard & Poor’s employee who make some revelations to Baum about some of the dark aspects of the financial industry, and Marisa Tomei in a terrific small role as Baum’s wife Cynthia who is trying to help him with his own revelations as well as the loss of his brother.

John Magaro and Finn Wittrock are superb in their respective roles as Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley as two young investors who discover Vennett’s prospectus as they try to take advantage of their discovery in the hopes they would get a chance to be part of the elite in finance. The trio of Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, and Hamish Linklater in their respective roles as Baum’s three employees in the optimist Danny Moses, the rash and impulsive Vinny Daniel, and the reserved Porter Collins as three men who help Baum in figuring out numbers as well as discovering how much would be lost. Brad Pitt is excellent as Ben Rickert as a retired securities trader who helps Geller and Shipley with their discovery as it’s a very low-key yet humorous role as a man who reluctantly returns to the world of finance but what he discovers would make him uneasy.

Christian Bale is brilliant as Dr. Michael Burry as a hedge fund manager who would discover the instability of mortgage loans as this oddball that loves to listen to heavy metal as a man who is great with numbers but awkward when it comes to people as he tries to profit everything and ensure the trust of his investors. Ryan Gosling is amazing as Jared Vennette as a low-level salesman for a powerful bank who would discover Dr. Burry’s report and take advantage of his discovery while teaming with Baum to make some money as Gosling’s performance is funny in display his air of arrogance. Finally, there’s Steve Carell in a marvelous performance as Mark Baum as a hedge fund manager for a financial company who would team up with Vennette in betting against the market as he would make a startling discovery of what is going to happen that consumes him with guilt as Carell has this air of energy and anger in his performance that is coupled with humility and sadness.

The Big Short is a spectacular film from Adam McKay. Featuring an inventive script, an incredible ensemble cast, and witty views of financing with stylish moments of exposition that prove to be helpful. It’s a film that explores a moment in time where the world’s finance industry was hit by their own stupidity and those who saw it coming and tried to warn them. In the end, The Big Short is a phenomenal film from Adam McKay.

Adam McKay Films: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy - Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - Step Brothers - (The Other Guys) - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

99 Homes




Directed and edited by Ramin Bahrani and screenplay by Bahrani and Amir Naderi from a story by Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, 99 Homes is the story of a young man who joins forces with the man who evicted him from his house by evicting other people from their houses so he, his mother, and son a chance to find a home again. The film follows the real-life situations of people losing their homes during periods of recession where a young man succumbs to greed in his desperation to survive. Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, and Laura Dern. 99 Homes is an eerie yet harrowing film from Ramin Bahrani.

The film follows the life of a young man who had just lost another job as he is trying to save his home until he becomes evicted forcing him, his mother, and his son to live at a motel where he would later work with the man who evicted him. It’s a film that explores a man’s desperate need to survive as he is trying to do what is right for his mother and son. Yet, it would cause some moral implications as he would work with this real estate operator who makes a business in evicting people from their homes and then sell it off for more money. The film’s screenplay by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi doesn’t just explore this growing world in which people don’t just lose their homes to the banks due to troubling economic circumstances but also what happens to those homes as a man who would lose his family home would take part in something that is considered greedy and immoral. The character of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is someone who’s worked in construction and can do repairs as he is struggling to find work while his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) works as a hairdresser as they can barely get by.

The loss of their home is humiliating as Dennis’ son Connor (Noah Lomax) is forced to witness everything as the hotel they temporarily live at is filled with people who had also lost their homes. When Dennis tries to find his tools where he believes had been stolen and confronts the man who he thinks is the thief. He gets the attention of the real estate operator Rick Carter (Michael Shannon) who likes Dennis’ determination as he gets him to do some work where Dennis learns more about what Carter does. Dennis would do the things that Carter does in evicting people and getting people money to sell their homes as he would struggle with what he’s doing. Yet, the money he would make gives him the chance to have his home back as he doesn’t tell his mother nor his son what he really does. The film’s script does have a structure as it play into Dennis’ need to make money as the third act would reveal the implication of his actions but also what gets lost in the things he does.

Bahrani’s direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way he explores this divide in America between social classes where the rich is living without any kind of problems while the poor and middle class struggle to get by as some no longer have homes. While it is set in Orlando, Florida where there are some wide establish shots of the city. It is shot mainly on location in New Orleans to play into the world of suburbia and urban areas where Dennis and his family are forced to live in as well as the houses that Carter is trying to sell as he would later find himself competing with another real estate company during its third act. Much of Bahrani’s direction throughout the film has him emphasizing on more intimate shots with medium shots and close-ups as well as use hand-held cameras to get a sense of realism throughout the film.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Bahrani would play into the drama as he goes for a straightforward approach to the editing as it helps build up the drama and some of the moments of suspense. Even in moments that are simple as it play into why Carter is doing what he does which show some very cynical ideas about the ways of the world and why those who work hard for what they don’t often don’t get what they want. There are some truths to what Carter is saying but what he puts Dennis into showcases that air of immorality and guilt that Dennis would deal with in the third act where he has a dramatic encounter with someone whose house he evicted. Even as it play into events that are quite chilling as well as what some will do to keep their house in every legal way only to be hit with something that is unexpected. Especially as Dennis is forced to see things up close and deal with the consequences of not just his actions but the deal he made to get back his home. Overall, Bahrani creates a riveting yet chilling film about a young man taking a job in helping a man evict people from their homes.

Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski does brilliant work with the film’s rich and colorful cinematography to capture many of the daytime exteriors along with some scenes at night to make it look like a Floridian summer of sorts. Production designer Alex Digerlando, with set decorator Monique Champagne and art director Christina Eunji Kim, does excellent work with the look of Dennis’ family home and the cramped look of the motel room he, his mother, and son are staying in as well as the more spacious and posh home of Carter. Costume designer Meghan Kasperlik does nice work with the clothes as it is mostly casual and ragged with a cleaner and somewhat posh look for Carter and later Dennis.

Sound editor Odin Benitez does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the locations including a party scenes and things heard outside of Dennis’ motel room. The film’s music by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales is fantastic as it’s mostly an ambient-based score filled with soothing synthesizers and electronic textures while music supervisor Michael Hill provides a soundtrack that is mostly low-key filled with hip-hop, rock, and pop as well as a classical piece from Richard Wagner.

The casting by Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick is great as it feature some notable small roles from Nadiyah Skyy as Carter’s mistress, Nicole Barre as Carter’s wife, Javier Molina as a friend of Dennis who helps him uninstall air condition machines and pool pumps, Cynthia Santiago as the wife of a man who is trying to save their home, and Clancy Brown as a rich businessman that Carter is trying to make a deal with. Tim Guinee is terrific as a homeowner in Frank Greene who is trying to save his home every legal way as he knows Dennis because his son meets Connor early in the film as he is also caught stealing water and electricity from a home owned by Carter. Noah Lomax is fantastic as Dennis’ son Connor as a young kid dealing with the new situation he’s in as he’s hoping to go back home while being unaware of what his father is really doing.

Laura Dern is excellent as Dennis’ mother Lynn as a hairdresser who is kept in the dark about what her son is doing as she is aware of the reality of what is happening but has a harder time learning the truth about what Dennis is doing. Andrew Garfield is amazing as Dennis Nash as an unemployed single father who is trying to make money and do anything to get his house back only to put himself into a world of greed and guilt as Garfield displays that anguish and determination of a man trying to survive. Finally, there’s Michal Shannon in a brilliant performance as Rick Carter as a real estate operator that is quite shady but also determined to make money and bring Dennis into the fold as there’s a sense of charm in Shannon’s performance but also a role that is quite cunning that doesn’t make him into someone that is totally evil.

99 Homes is a phenomenal film from Ramin Bahrani that features incredible performances from Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and Laura Dern. Along with its rapturous script, realistic locations, and a themes of greed, loss, and survival, it’s a film that definitely has a lot to say while showing a dark reality of America as its people lose their homes all because of a missed payment with no chance of getting it back. In the end, 99 Homes is a sensational film from Ramin Bahrani.

Ramin Bahrani Films: Man Push Cart - Chop Shop - Goodbye Solo - Plastic Bag - At Any Price - (Fahrenheit 451 (2018 film)) - The Auteurs #55: Ramin Bahrani

© thevoid99 2017