Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Tales of Hoffmann

Based on the stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann and the opera of Jacques Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann is a multi-layered film that tells three different stories in a stage setting captured on film. Written for the screen and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the film is a mixture of fantasy, ballet, and opera told in a thrilling and cinematic fashion. Starring Moira Shearer, Robert Rounsville, Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann, Pamela Brown, Ludmilla Tcherina, and Ann Ayars. The Tales of Hoffmann is a majestic and evocative film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

The film revolves around three different stories told by its author during an intermission for a ballet performance where he tells friends at a tavern about three women he had fallen for. The first was an automaton ballerina the man would fall for unaware of who she really is as their creators would scheme and ruin things for him. The second involves a courtesan, who works for an evil magician, who would seduce him in order to steal his soul. The third story plays into an ailing soprano singer who cannot sing as it means death until she is coerced by an evil doctor. All of which told by this writer in Hoffmann (Robert Rounsville) who would play the protagonists in his stories while he would also deal with a rival in Councillor Lindorf (Robert Helpmann) who would be seen as the antagonist in all three stories. At the same time, Hoffmann’s aide Nicklaus (Pamela Brown) would be in all of the stories to observe everything as it relates to many of Hoffman’s failures.

The film’s script by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is told in a sort of reflective narrative where it plays into Hoffmann telling his stories to people at a tavern as it then moves into the first story and then to another and then to the third story. It’s a film with simple narrative yet it is largely told by the music where a lot of the dialogue in the film is sung in an operatic fashion thanks in part to Dennis Arundell who would write the film’s English libretto for the singers to sing. Each story would play into Hoffmann’s attempt to win over an object of desire but always has to endure the presence of Lindorf who would play different personas to stop him from winning over a young woman.

The direction of Powell and Pressburger is quite simple as much of it is shot inside a soundstage that acts as this artificial stage where much of the ballet and operatic performances take place. The usage of wide and medium shots capture everything that is going on in the stage as well as some crane camera shots to shoot from above to capture some of the dancing as well as the singing. There aren’t a lot of close-ups in the film in order to capture the sense of performance that happens on the stage yet it has this sense of flair in the camera movements. The usage of tracking and dolly shots would say a lot into way the dance, which is wonderfully choreographed by Frederick Ashton with additional work from Alan Carter and Joan Harris, is presented as well as some camera tricks to play up this sense of fantasy as well in the wide shots to see the staging of these sets. While each story has its own personality, they all display that sense of fantasy but also a dramatic flair that adds so much to what Hoffmann would endure as the film would end with not just the reality of what he faced in his stories. It is also in the fact that he could’ve handled things better as well as find a way to outwit Lindorf. Overall, Powell and Pressburger craft a ravishing yet magical film about a man’s trilogy of stories of love lost.

Cinematographer Christopher Challis does brilliant work with the film‘s gorgeous Technicolor cinematography as it captures every bit of detail in the color of how the sets look and how things are lit to play up the sense of fantasy. Editor Reginald Mills does amazing work with the editing with its rhythmic cuts, stylish usage of dissolves to play up the fantasy, and other stylish cuts to say a lot about the dancing and the world these characters are in. Production/costume designer Hein Heckroth, along with art director Arthur Lawson and co-costume designer Ivy Baker, does fantastic work with not just the look of the sets as it plays up this air of fantasy and artificiality but also in the costumes including the dresses and gowns the women wear in the performances.

Makeup artist Connie Reeve does nice work with the makeup in the way the characters look to the environment they‘re in. Sound recordist Ted Drake does terrific work with some of the minimal sound effects that is recorded in the film as much of the sound work is done in post-production. The film’s music of Jacques Offenbach, with English libretto by Dennis Arundell, is incredible as its mixture of opera and orchestral music is key to the film as it helps tell the story as well as play into many of the trials and tribulation that Hoffmann would endure throughout the film as the string arrangements under the music direction by Sir Thomas Beecham.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small roles from Frederick Ashton in a dual role as the puppet master Kleinsach from the first story and Cochenille in the second story with Murray Dickie as his singing voice, Mogens Wieth and the singing voice of Owen Brannigan as Antonia’s father in the third story, and Edmond Audran as Stella’s dance partner in the prologue. Leonide Massine is fantastic in the multiple roles as the automaton creator Schemil in the first story as well as a count in the second story and a deaf servant in the third with Owen Brannigan and Grahame Clifford in his singing voice. Pamela Brown is superb in the role of Nicklaus as Hoffmann’s friend who observes everything that goes on while being the conscience of sorts as she also tries to stop Hoffman from making the wrong decisions. Ana Ayars is excellent as the third woman in the story named Antonia as an ailing singer who deals with the temptation of singing again knowing that she’ll die if she does as Ayars also provides her own vocals.

Ludmilla Tcherina is brilliant as the courtesan Giulietta as this object of desire in the second story who is really working for one of Lindorf’s personas as her singing voice is dubbed by Margherita Grandi. Moira Shearer is amazing in a dual role as Hoffmann’s current object of desire in a prima ballerina named Stella in the film’s prologue/epilogue and as the automaton ballerina known as Olympia who is full of life but is also very odd as her singing voice is dubbed by Dorothy Bond. Robert Helpmann is great in the multiple roles he plays as the film’s antagonists in Lindorf in the film’s prologue/epilogue as well as the other devious and manipulative personas in the puppet maker Coppelius in the first story, the schemer Dapertutto in the second story, and the morose Dr. Miracle in the third story as his singing voice is dubbed by Bruce Dargavel. Finally, there’s Robert Rounseville in a sensational performance as Hoffmann as this poet who tells the story of heartbreak and loss as he endures so much while doing things that would also undo with Rounseville maintaining a great presence as well as doing his own singing.

The Tales of Hoffmann is a phenomenal film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Featuring a great cast, dazzling visuals in its photography and art direction, and a sumptuous music score. The film isn’t just one of the quintessential films of the Archers production team but also a film that manages to convey the idea of fantasy with a richness that isn’t seen very much in films. In the end, The Tales of Hoffmann is a spectacular film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Powell/Pressburger Films: (The Spy in Black) - Contraband - (The Lion Has Wings) - (An Airman’s Letter to His Mother) - 49th Parallel - One of Our Aircraft is Missing - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - (The Volunteer) - A Canterbury Tale - I Know Where I'm Going! - A Matter of Life and Death - Black Narcissus - The Red Shoes - (The Small Black Room) - (Gone to Earth) - (Oh… Rosalinda!!!) - (The Battle of the River Plate) - (Ill Met by Moonlight) - Peeping Tom - (They’re a Weird Mob) - (Age of Consent) - (The Boy Who Turned Yellow)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Goodbye Solo

Directed and edited by Ramin Bahrani and written by Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, Goodbye Solo is the story of a Senegalese cab driver working in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he befriends a depressed old man. The film is an exploration of friendship and alienation in a world that is increasingly demanding and modern where two men go into a personal journey. Starring Souleymane Sy Savane, Diana Franco Galindo, and Red West. Goodbye Solo is a mesmerizing and heartfelt film from Ramin Bahrani.

A Senegalese cab driver is asked by an old man to drive him to Blowing Rock, North Carolina on a specific day as it’s the day the man has chose to die. The cab driver is confused by this demand but is willing to do it as he eventually befriends this depressed old man who seems to have been lost in the world. It’s a film that explores an unlikely friendship between this immigrant who is trying to make a better life for himself but also try to get to know this old man. The film’s screenplay by Ramin Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi is quite minimalist as it immediately begins with this cab driver in Solo (Soulemayne Sy Savane) who reluctantly takes money from this old man named William (Red West) as Solo knows he needs the money but is confused by William’s request.

The film takes place in the span of two weeks in Winston-Salem as it explores Solo trying to see if William would change his mind by introducing to his family. Even to the point where William would be happy but it wouldn’t last as there isn’t much for William to offer to the world which has passed him by. For Solo, he’s working to become a flight attendant as William would help him study for the test and pass as it’s Solo trying to prove that he can do more than just be a cab driver for his wife. Another source of optimism that would be helpful for both Solo and William is the former’s stepdaughter Alex (Diana Franco Galindo) whom the latter would also befriend despite his reluctance to open up.

Bahrani’s direction is definitely ravishing for not just the minimalist approach to the story but also setting it almost entirely in Winston-Salem as it is a character into the film. It’s a city that is this melting pot of not just immigrants whether they’re from Africa or Latin America but also a land that is also filled with people who are born in the South. Much of the compositions for the city are shot with a sense of intimacy and realistic approach with very little wide shots in favor of medium shots as it relates to the characters in the film. Bahrani’s usage of close-ups and medium shots for much of the scenes set in the cabs as well as scenes to show the lives of Solo and William play into that sense of intimacy. Also serving as editor, Bahrani’s approach is very straightforward where it’s more about capturing what is going on and just let the camera play things out on a take instead of cutting from one perspective and to another.

Bahrani’s compositions would instead have his actors be framed where one would be in the foreground and the other in the background to get a sense of how Solo is trying to connect with William or William trying to distance himself from Solo. It adds to the realities of their situations where Solo would face his own reality in the third act as he also a child coming into the world and the possibility that he might not succeed in becoming a flight attendant. The realities would lead to this climax at Blowing Rock which is this mystical gorge where the wind blow below from the forest against this gorge. If one was to drop something into the gorge, the wind would fly it up in the air as it becomes the centerpiece of the film where Solo would see something that couldn’t be explained as it also provides an ambiguity into his own experience. Overall, Bahrani creates a riveting and evocative film about two different men befriending each other for a personal journey.

Cinematographer Michael Simmonds does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this very natural feel to the way many of the daytime interior/exteriors are presented including the scenes at Blowing Rock while using some lights for the film‘s interiors at night. Production designer Chad Keith and art director Adam Willis do nice work with the some of the minimal set pieces from the home that Solo lives in as well as the motel that William would stay in. Sound designer Abigail Savage does superb work with the sound as it play into the natural aspects of some of the film‘s locations including how music is heard on a radio or something as well as the naturalistic world of Blowing Rock. The film’s music by M. Lo. is wonderful as it is very low-key with its mixture of folk and ambient as it only plays in the final credits while music supervisor Joe Rudge create a soundtrack that is essentially music that is being played on a radio or from afar as it is a mixture of hip-hop, reggae, world music, rock, and country.

The film’s amazing cast include some notable small roles from Carmen Leyva as Solo’s wife Quiera, Mamadou Lam as a fellow cab driver, and. Lane “Roc” Williams as a passenger friend of Solo. Diana Franco Galindo is fantastic as Solo’s stepdaughter Alex who is full of life and energy as she manages to win over William while being someone who can get Solo to do things. Red West is great as William as this old man that is coping with a lot as he wants to end his life where he reluctantly befriends Solo as he still ponders about whether to end his life and see if he still has something to offer. Finally, there’s Soulemayne Sy Savane in an incredible performance as Solo as this hopeful and upbeat cab driver that is determined to make a better life for himself as he also befriends this old man where he tries to cheer him up and see that there are reasons to live no matter how hard life can be.

Goodbye Solo is a spectacular film from Ramin Bahrani. Featuring a great cast, a simple yet compelling premise, gorgeous visuals, and themes of loneliness and struggle. It’s a film that manages to be so much more in its simple premise while displaying something is very American in its realistic yet evocative setting. In the end, Goodbye Solo is a tremendous film from Ramin Bahrani.

Ramin Bahrani Films: Man Push Cart - Chop Shop - Plastic Bag - At Any Price - (99 Homes) - (The Auteurs #45: Ramin Bahrani)

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Karate Kid Part III

Directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Robert Mark Kamen, The Karate Kid Part III is the third film of the series where both Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi become victims in a revenge scheme by an old foe, his friend, and a young contender where the two find themselves diverging into different paths. The film is a revenge tales of sort but from the antagonists point of view where it’s the good guys that get attacked forcing them to fight back as both Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita respectively reprise their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Keisuke Miyagi. Also starring Thomas Ian Griffith, Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan, and Martin Kove as Kreese. The Karate Kid Part III is a silly and idiotic film from John G. Avildsen.

The film is a revenge tale of sorts as it relates to character of John Kreese where the film picks up months after the events in the second film where he loses his student and his dojo is going bankrupt where he gets help from his old Vietnam comrade in Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) who is a billionaire that actually founded the dojo. Silver decides to give Kreese a vacation to Tahiti while he would be the ones to find LaRusso and Miyagi and make their lives hell with the help of a vicious karate fighter who wants LaRusso’s title where Silver promises a cut of dojo’s profits if he beats LaRusso. It’s a film that is very strange in the way it handles the concept of revenge as it’s told from the side of its antagonists where it is an interesting idea but there’s a lot of problems with the way it’s handled.

Robert Mark Kamen’s script (which was largely re-written by another writer) doesn’t just portray many of the revenge aspects of the film to be very silly but it’s also in the motivations. While Kreese has legit reasons for wanting revenge on Miyagi and LaRusso, the character of Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) is only involved because of money while Silver is just there for kicks. For LaRusso and Miyagi, the script has them returning from Okinawa where Miyagi loses his job until LaRusso has an idea to create a bonsai tree shop for Miyagi that he could run. At the same time, LaRusso is asked to return to defend his title but doesn’t want to at first until he is threatened and blackmailed by Barnes which only causes a schism in his relationship with Miyagi where he unknowingly turns to Silver for help unaware of Silver’s true intentions. The development in LaRusso is very startling in how bad his character would regress from confronting someone who is able to kill him to now being whiny and doing stupid things around guys who are just as idiotic.

Another aspect of the script that doesn’t work is another love interest for LaRusso in a pottery shop clerk named Jessica (Robyn Lively) who is really an uninteresting character that is put in bad situations whenever LaRusso finds himself in trouble with Barnes and his goons. It adds so much to LaRusso’s regressive development where he would become scared of these guys forcing Miyagi to finally step in and set his student back on the right path.

John G. Avildsen’s direction doesn’t really do anything new at all in terms of compositions and such but that isn’t really the problem with the film at all. Avildsen does manage to keep things lively and engaging at times despite the many problems with the script but it’s really a lot of things that is wrong. The film is set months or days after the event of the second film as it had been three years since the release of that second film and five years since the release of the first. There is something wrong with the way it is set as LaRusso looks older as well as the fact that a lot of things had changed in the past five years from the music and the culture itself. It is among the many things in the film that feels very wrong not just tonally but also in some of the visual aspects of the film. It’s also a bit more violent as it also adds to the awkwardness of what Avildsen wants. Even as the climax where LaRusso would face Barnes comes off as idiotic and pointless. Overall, Avildsen creates a very messy and nonsensical film about a man and his student being victims in a silly revenge scheme.

Cinematographer Steve Yaconelli does some nice work with the cinematography as it does have some amazing lighting in the sequence where Miyagi confronts Kreese, Silver, and Barnes along with some of the daytime exteriors as it‘s shot largely in Southern California. Editors John G. Avildsen and John Carter do OK work with the editing as it relates to some of the suspense and action though not enough work is put into trimming a few things that went on for too long. Production designer William F. Matthews, with set decorator Catherine Mann and art director Christopher Burian-Mohr, does terrific work with the sets from the look of Miyagi‘s home to the bonsai tree shop he and Daniel would hope to run.

Sound editor Scott Hecker does nice work with some of the sound in the way action is presented along with some of the intense moments in the Californian forests. The film’s music by Bill Conti is superb though it‘s just really just re-hashes of previous scores from the other films though they‘re still effective while music supervisor Brooks Arthur provides a terrible music soundtrack of pop and rock music of the late 80s that just sound very dated and slick.

The casting by Caro Jones is alright for the cast that is assembled as it features appearances from Frances Bay as the old lady that lived in Daniel’s old apartment complex, Randee Heller as Daniel’s mother, Gabe Jarret as a guy that was harassing Jessica at a club that Daniel would brutally beat up, fight choreographer Pat E. Johnson as the tournament referee, and Jonathan Avildsen as one of Barnes’ friends and goons in Snake who is just very annoying. Sean Kanan is alright as Mike Barnes as a skilled and vicious karate fighter who agrees to antagonize and scare LaRusso into taking part of the tournament for Silver with a cut of whatever Silver plans to do for the resurrection of the Cobra Kai dojo. Martin Kove is terrific as John Kreese as the former Corba Kai sensei who feels humiliated by Miyagi as he turns to Silver for help where gladly takes part in Silver’s plan for vengeance.

Robyn Lively is terrible as Jessica as this young woman who works at a pottery shop that finds herself in trouble whenever she’s around Daniel as it involves Mike Barnes as she and Macchio have no chemistry at all. Thomas Ian Griffith is fantastic as Terry Silver where he just exudes the idea of a slimy billionaire that wants to help his friend Kreese and just bring hell to Miyagi and LaRusso where he is just fun to watch. Noriyuki “Pat” Morita is excellent as Miyagi as the karate master who is concerned with LaRusso’s behavior as well as becoming disappointed with LaRusso’s decisions where he try to stay out of the way until he realizes what is really going on. Finally, there’s Ralph Macchio in a horrible performance as Daniel LaRusso where he spends a lot of the film either being whiny or being angry where Macchio would overdo things as he just makes LaRusso even more pathetic than he was in the first film.

The Karate Kid Part III is a horrible film from John G. Avildsen. Despite a few top-notch performances from Noriyuki “Pat” Morita and Thomas Ian Griffith, the film isn’t just a re-hash of sorts of the original but it lacks heart and characters to care for. In the end, The Karate Kid Part III is a film that just plainly fucking sucks.

John G. Avildsen Films: (Turn on to Love) - (Guess What We Learned in School Today?) - (Joe) - (Cry Uncle!) - (Okay Bill) - (Save the Tiger) - (The Stoolie) - (Fore Play) - (W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings) - Rocky - (Slow Dancing in the Big City) - (The Formula) - (Neighbors) - (Traveling Hopefully) - (A Night in Heaven) - The Karate Kid - The Karate Kid Part II - (Happy New Year) - (For Keeps) - (Lean on Me) - (Rocky V) - (The Power of One) - (8 Seconds) - (Inferno)

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Antonio Gaudi

Directed and co-edited by Hiroshi Teshigahara, Antonio Gaudi is a documentary film of sorts about the famed artist and his works where Teshigahara serves as a tour guide to Gaudi’s great architecture including his unfinished masterpiece in the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The result is an entrancing and evocative film from Hiroshi Teshigahara

The film is an exploration into the works of Antoni “Antonio” Gaudi (1852-1926) whose architecture is considered among the finest in the art form as many believe that the man was ahead of his time. While the film doesn’t exactly say anything much about Gaudi as an artist or a person, the film is more focused on his work in the buildings he created as well as his drawings and ideas he would create for Spain. What Hiroshi Teshigahara would do is create a visual poem where it would gaze and look into the many buildings and architecture Gaudi created as much of it is based in Barcelona. From the apartment buildings, parks, and houses in and around areas near Barcelona, Teshigahara and his cinematographers in Junichi Segawa, Yoshikazu Yanagida, and Ryu Segawa would shoot many of these locations where the camera would gaze very slowly to capture every attention to detail of these creations of Gaudi.

With co-editor Eiko Yoshida, Teshigahara would put in a few inserts of Gaudi’s drawings or events in Barcelona to take breaks between the different places he and his crew would look into. There’s also a couple of brief moments that involve dialogue as it both relates to the restoration of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral which serves as the film’s climax. Especially as the construction and restoration for this cathedral that is based on Gaudi’s model is shown the film where it is painstakingly slow but what had been completed and restored since the film’s release in 1984 showcases a sense of beauty. Especially in what it might turn out as it’s rumored to be completed in 2026 to 2028. Adding to the film’s unique visual tone and look is the music by Toru Takemitsu, with sound textures by Shinji Hori and Kurodo Mori, as it usage of ambient sounds in its percussions and strings play into the atmospheric look of Gaudi’s work with Hori and Mori adding some sound that is recorded on location in Barcelona that help play into its sound.

Antonio Gaudi is a phenomenal film from Hiroshi Teshigahara. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of the documentary but rather be seen as a visual tour guide of sorts that takes a look into the work of Antoni Gaudi. In the end, Antonio Gaudi is a ravishing film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Hiroshi Teshigahara Files: (Pitfall) - (Woman in the Dunes) - (The Face of Another) - (The Man Without a Map) - (Summer Soldiers) - (Rikyu) - (Princess Goh)

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Films That I Saw: April 2016

I fucking hate 2016. There, I said it. It’s bad enough that David Bowie died and the fact that I’m still not over it. Now Prince is gone and this is too much for me. While I’m glad to wrote a tribute to his Royal Badness, it’s starting to hit me though I’m glad to see his videos again on YouTube though I don’t know for how long. It hasn’t been a good year for my parents either as the husband of one of my mother’s cousins suddenly collapsed and died instantly. This is just fucked up and now rumors that this person will die or that person. I can’t take it anymore. Unless it’s Donald Trump, the Kartrashians, or Justin Bieber as I ain’t going to miss any of those fuckheads.

Then there’s WWE as well… it’s over. WrestleMania 32 was the final straw as I didn’t just delete my wrestling blog but I deleted links to various wrestling websites. It had been a toxic relationship for the last few years and WrestleMania 32 for myself and some very devoted hardcore wrestling fans was like a big “fuck you, we got your time and money” to those fans. I’m surprised that a riot didn’t happen. Reading about it through Twitter had me like “what” and “huh?” as I think the moment that I found myself realizing how unhealthy it has become is when Shaquille O’Neal made an appearance at the Andre the Giant Battle Royal where I nearly had a stroke. Seriously, I found myself twitching as it just was really an awful night that featured the Rock now becoming a cocksucker and telling the fans that they broke the all-time attendance record but also lied to them about the number which was really about 97,000 and not the 101,000 suckers that WWE will claim that was there.

While I made the decision to watch Ring of Honor on TV and not know what is happening though the episodes are taped. I can live with that as it’s just part of me just really wanting to disconnect myself from WWE. Once CM Punk makes his UFC debut, maybe I’ll watch MMA fighting. As for me and WWE, it’s over. Now we go to the world of films. In the month of April, I saw a total of 38 films in 26 first-timers and 12 re-watches as the highlight of the month was definitely my Blind Spot assignment in The Killer. Here are the top 10 First-Timers:

1. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

2. The Driver

3. Midnight Special

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

5. Les silence de la mer

6. Woodstock

7. Antonio Gaudi

8. Les enfants terribles

9. Ant-Man

10. Ginger & Rosa

Monthly Mini-Review


Whatever is on HBO to pass the time or something, I’ll give it a look as I decided to see this just to see how bad it is. Well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought but it has no idea what it wants to be. Ryan Reynolds isn’t terrible in the film but he’s not given really a lot to do while Matthew Goode is just too good to play the villain as he’s given much to do. It’s a chase film, it’s a sci-fi film, it’s a mystery, a suspense film, and a fantasy film. Those are among the things that really hurt the film in a lot of ways while it also gets some points knocked off for allowing Ben Kingsley to do so little with the small amount of time he’s in.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Never Let Me Go

2. Purple Rain

3. Black Narcissus

4. Being There

5. Marie Antoinette

6. Dressed to Kill

7. The Karate Kid

8. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

9. D.C. Cab

10. Junior

Well, that is all for April 2016. Next month will be the annual Cannes Film Festival Marathon that will commence from May 11 to May 22 as well as reviews of other films including hopefully, Captain America: Civil War. In my music blog, I plan to start the new series of lists called Ranked as it will profile the work of a band and artists in their body of work and their ranking of them as the first will be Prince as myself and many others at the NIN-forum Echoing the Sounds are doing a project similar in what we did for David Bowie in February as it will be called 31 Days of Prince but I won‘t be writing reviews this time around and instead just listen to his work and rank them. The Auteurs pieces on Spike Jonze and Ramin Bahrani will come next on this blog instead of Cinema Axis which I’m no longer a part of. Why? Long-story short, I fucked up. I said something really stupid and offensive at another site. Courtney saw what I said and confronted me about it. I told the truth and I apologized to him and we both agreed to part ways as I thank him for allowing me to write for the site and editing my work.

On one final note. I just want to express my condolences to the family of Chip Lary of Tips from Chips who recently passed away. He was someone I liked though he and I had different views and opinions on film but I always respected him. We will miss you Chip and we thank you for your contributions in your love of cinema.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Based on the graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is the story of a 15-year old girl who becomes sexually active when she begins an affair with her mother’s new boyfriend. Written for the screen and directed by Marielle Heller, the film is a coming of age tale set in mid-1970s San Francisco where a young woman tries to deal with her thirst for sex as she would tell her story in a diary filled with audio tapes and art. Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig, Austin Lyon, Madeleine Waters, Margarita Levieva, and Christopher Meloni. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a riveting and witty film from Marielle Heller.

Set in 1976 San Francisco, the film revolves around a 15-year old girl whose fascination with sex has her losing her virginity and having an affair with mother’s new boyfriend as she embarks into a journey of self-discovery through sex. It’s a coming-of-age film that says a lot about what a teenage girl would go through in her discovery of sex as she would express her feelings and views through drawings, audio tape diaries, and comics. Marielle Heller’s screenplay is quite loose in the way it tells the journey that Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) would go through as she is someone that is very gifted in her drawing but also na├»ve in thinking that losing her virginity and having sex makes her a woman. By having losing her virginity and having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), Minnie thinks she is in love as she tries to hide the affair from her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). Eventually, things get complicated where Minnie would have her own revelations about herself and Monroe as she tries to understand everything through her art.

Heller’s direction is very imaginative for not just the way she would fuse animation into live-action settings but also in re-creating 1976 San Francisco without doing a lot given that it’s made on a small budget as it is shot on location in the city itself. Heller’s usage of wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into the look of the city but also in how Minnie sees the world such as a shot of her on a bench looking at the city itself. There are some close-ups in the film as it relates to Minnie’s own reaction to herself or how Monroe tries to end the relationship when he realizes he couldn’t. The mixture of live-action and animation where much of the drawings are made by Sara Gunnarsdottir play into Minnie’s own imagination and view of the world where it has a sense of fantasy but also elements of surrealism. Even as the drawings Minnie would make would say a lot about herself and her growing awareness on sex as the animation would also express that growth in her as it relates to what she needs and why sex shouldn’t be complicated. Overall, Heller creates a sensational and captivating film about a young girl’s sexual awakening.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of stylish and low-key lights for many of the interior scenes including the ones at night along with the beautiful scenery for the exterior scenes in the day. Editors Marie-Helene Dozo and Koen Timmerman do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some bits along with montages and other elements that help play into the humor and drama. Production designer Jonah Markowitz, with set decorator Susan Alegria and art director Emily K. Rolph, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Minnie, her mother, and sister live in as well as the look of Minnie‘s bedroom with her drawings as well as a poster of punk legend Iggy Pop. Costume designer Carmen Grande does nice work with the costumes as it play into the period of the mid-1970s with its bellbottoms, skirts, and the clothes that Monroe would wear including jogging shorts.

The hair/makeup work of Anouck Sullivan and Jennifer Tremont is terrific for the look of some of the characters in the hairstyle along with the makeup Minnie and her friend Kimmie would wear at a midnight screening for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sound designer Kent Sparling does superb work with the way some of the parties sound as well as in the sound effects that are created through Minnie‘s drawings. The film’s music by Nate Heller is wonderful as it is this mixture of rock and ambient music that play into the period of the times as the music soundtrack, that is assembled by music supervisor Howard Paar, features an array of music from the Stooges, Heart, Mott the Hoople, Nico, Television, T. Rex, Dwight Twilley Band, Banditas, the Rose Garden, Amy Raasch and David Poe, Labi Siffre, Barbara & the Browns, and Frankie Miller.

The casting by Nina Henninger is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Miranda Bailey and John Parsons as friends of Monroe and Charlotte, Susanne Schulman as the voice of the famed comic artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Quinn Nagle as a schoolmate of Minnie in Chuck, Austin Lyon as a popular junior named Ricky Wasserman whom Minnie would have sex with, and Abigail Wait as Minnie’s younger sister Gretel who becomes disapproving towards her sister’s crazy antics. Madeleine Waters is terrific as Minnie’s friend Kimmie who is just as sexually-outgoing while trying to understand the ideas of sex itself along with her own beauty. Margarita Levieva is superb as the lesbian Tabatha as this older woman of sorts Minnie would meet later in the film as she would take Minnie to a world that is very dark.

Christopher Meloni is excellent as Minnie’s stepfather Pascal who only appears in a few scenes as he is concerned about Minnie as well as Charlotte’s own well-being where he is totally aware of Charlotte’s major flaw as a person. Kristen Wiig is amazing as Charlotte as Minnie’s bohemian mother that is trying to live her life and be responsible as she has trouble trying to balance both where she eventually becomes suspicious towards Monroe. Alexander Skarsgard is fantastic as Monroe as Charlotte’s new boyfriend who finds Minnie attractive where he is reluctant in having sex with her as he tries to stop the relationship until things get a little crazy later on as it’s a performance full of charm and wit. Finally, there’s Bel Powley in a phenomenal performance as Minnie Goetz as this 15-year old girl whose interest in sex has her losing her virginity while recording her experiences through an audio diary and art where it’s a performance full of energy and wit that serves as a major breakthrough for Powley.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a sensational film from Marielle Heller that features an incredible performance from Bel Powley. Featuring a great supporting cast, a killer soundtrack, and a very inventive take on a girl’s exploration of sexuality. It’s a film that manages to do so much more for the coming-of-age angle as well a story about sex from the perspective of a young girl. In the end, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a tremendous film from Marielle Heller.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Based on the novel by Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the story of a high school senior who befriends a girl suffering from leukemia as he calls on the help of a friend to make her life a little better. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Jesse Andrews, the film is an exploration into death as well as a young man trying to find meaning in his young life with the aid of this dying young woman. Starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Connie Britton. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a heartwarming and witty film from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

The film revolves around a jaded high school senior who is forced by his mother to spend time with a leukemia-stricken classmate of his where the two become friends and bring another friend into the circle. It’s a film with a simple story but it is largely told from this young man named Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) who is trying to write his college essay as he talks about the time he spent with this young girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who tries to cope with her ailment. Even as he would eventually try to make a film for her with the help of his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) who would also befriend Rachel. Jesse Andrews’ script is told in a reflective narrative as Gaines tries to write his college acceptance essay which is largely about his time with Rachel and being her friend.

Even as it explores Gaines’ own unwillingness to socialize with other students as he has trouble fitting in while he and Earl share a love of watching classic art-house/auteur-based cinema where their parodies of those films is something Rachel would enjoy. Earl is sort of the film’s conscience in the film though his commentary on things including lots of things about women’s breasts make him an odd but an endearing one since he really does care. Gaines is someone who is just unsure of himself as someone who is full of self-loathing in his belief that he couldn’t do anything right where Rachel would mark a change of direction for him. Yet, he keeps wondering if he’s going to make things worse just as Rachel’s own health is failing which prompts to question his own self and his own reasons into what he wants to do with his life.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s direction is very simple not just in terms of the compositions but also in the way he creates a story that is simple and makes it more rich and extraordinary that it already is. Shot largely in an anamorphic format, Gomez-Rejon’s approach to shooting to shooting the school as well as various locations in and near Pittsburgh would give the film a lot to say visually. Even in the way he would put his actors into a frame where one would be in the foreground and the other in the background or would just go for a simple medium shot during a scene where Gaines, Rachel, and Earl are eating popsicles. The film parodies that Gaines and Earl would make not only have something that is amateurish but also with a sense of charm where the two put their own spin on classic films including the ones by Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut, and Werner Herzog. Especially the one Gaines would make as it was created with the help of stop-motion animators Edward Bursch and Nathan O. Marsh as it would serve as the film’s climax for what Gaines would do for Rachel. Overall, Gomez-Rejon crafts a touching yet lively film about a high school senior trying to help a dying young girl.

Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung does brilliant work with the cinematography from not just the look of the classrooms and lunch room but also in the way much of the daytime interior/exteriors are lit as well as some unique lighting for some scenes set at night. Editor David Trachtenberg does excellent work with the editing as it has a lot of style with its jump-cuts and other stylish cut to play into the humor and some of the drama. Production designer Gerald Sullivan, with set decorator Diana Stoughton and art director Sarah M. Pott, does fantastic work with the look of the rooms that Gaines and Rachel had to express their personalities as well as the DVD store Gaines and Earl often go to where they show a lot of art films. Costume designer Jennifer Eve does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with bits of style to express the personality of the many characters in the film.

Visual effects supervisor Zared Shai does terrific work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects that include a few things in the home movies Gaines and Earl make. Sound designer Jacob Ribicoff does superb work with the sound in the way the lunchroom sounds as well as the way the movies are being heard on TV or on a laptop. The film’s music by Brian Eno and Nico Muhly is amazing as it features some soft, ambient pieces from the latter while the former would contribute music from some of albums ranging from experimental rock to ambient pieces while music supervisor Randall Poster would create a soundtrack that doesn’t just feature Eno’s music but also score pieces from composers like Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, David Shire, Wendy Carlos, and Jean Constantin and music from other films by Harry Nilsson, Explosions in the Sky, Ra Ra Riot, Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Cat Stevens, Lou Reed, and Roy Orbison.

The casting by Angela Demo is great as it features some notable small roles from Bobb’e J. Thompson as Earl’s older brother Derrick who doesn’t really like Gaines, Matt Bennett as the Goth kid Scott Mayhew, Masam Holden as the wannabe rapper Ill Phil, Edward DeBruce III as the young Earl, Gavin Dietz as the young Gaines, and Katherine C. Hughes in a wonderful performance as Gaines’ crush in Madison who would give Gaines the idea to make a film for Rachel despite his own reluctance to. Jon Bernthal is terrific as Gaines’ history teacher who would let him and Earl eat lunch at his office while watching classic film as he would give Gaines some very wise advice but death and what can be learned afterwards. Molly Shannon is fantastic as Rachel’s mother Denise who is a very sweet woman that is going through a lot as she also display a vulnerability as she copes with what she might lose.

Connie Britton and Nick Offerman are excellent as Gaines’ parents with the former as the one who would make Greg see Rachel and telling him to think about his future while the latter is an eccentric who likes to watch classic films while feeding his son and Earl some strange food. RJ Cyler is amazing in his film debut as Earl as this kid who says a lot of weird things yet is sort of the film’s conscience as this kid from the streets that is very kind and patient to Rachel while getting Gaines to deal with his own faults. Olivia Cooke is brilliant as Rachel as a teenager stricken with leukemia as she tries to deal with the seriousness of her illness while finding comfort in the presence of Gaines and Earl as she would also confront the former about his own worth as a person. Finally, there’s Thomas Mann in a marvelous performance as Greg Gaines as this jaded high school senior who is forced by his mother to hang out with Rachel where he tries to cope with her illness and ways to make her feel better where he is forced to deal with his own self-loathing and feelings about the ways of the world.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an incredible film from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Featuring a great cast, a compelling premise, and a sensational film soundtrack, the film is a witty yet engaging story that explores life and death from the views of teenagers as well as the ideas of the world itself. In the end, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a phenomenal film from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

© thevoid99 2016