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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals Art Gallery Naked

Directed by: Tom Ford

Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey

Starring: Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-Johnson

Runtime: 1h 56m

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Rating: ♣♣♣♣♣

 

Life and love are crafted through choices and sacrifices.  Tom Ford’s adaptation of Susan and Tony, by Austin Wright, clearly shows how choice and sacrifice have an unequivocal role in determining one’s path in life.  Merriam-Webster defines sacrifice as “an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially :  the killing of a victim on an altar.” The choice and sacrifice made on the part of Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams, meets these criteria and dictates both her life and that of Edward Sheffield, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Get Out (2017)

Get out

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Cinematography: Toby Oliver

Starring: Daniel KaluuyaAllison WilliamsCatherine KeenerBradley WhitfordCaleb Landry Jones, and LilRel Howery

Runtime: 1h 44m

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ♣♣♣♣

In an attempt to not spoil this movie I have my review in two sections.  The top section is more of a general response to the film and below that is a section where I dig into more specifics about the film that I want to unwind.  So do not read the whole thing if you want to avoid spoilers.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes and unsure of where the characters stand the whole way through.  The story follows Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, and his girlfriend Rose, played by Allison Williams, as they visit her family in upstate New York.  No more information is needed.  Peele succeeds in taking the viewer on a comedic, thrilling, and satisfying ride.

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Toni Erdmann (2016)

Directed by: Maren Ade

Cinematography: Patrick Orth

Starring: Sandra HüllerPeter SimonischekMichael Wittenborn, and Thomas Loibl

Runtime: 2h 42m

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: ♣♣♣♣

 

Toni Erdmann is triumphant in its use of socially uncomfortable situations to pursue a relaxed and less serious take on life.  The film follows uptight and determined business woman, Ines Conradi, played by Sandra Hüller, and her jester father, Winifred, a.k.a Toni Erdmann, played by Peter Simonischek.  Their characters could not be more polar when it comes to self-confidence in terms of social acceptance. In other words, he doesn’t care what people think about him and she is obsessed with self-image and self-preservation. Ines is making a name for herself as a consultant in the oil industry in Bucharest, Romania.  Winifred is a teacher in Germany who spontaneously decides to visit his daughter after the death of his dog.  Her somber and humorless demeanor mixed with her fierce determination to move up in her company puts her in a highly stressful state throughout the movie.  This, coupled with her father’s outrageous and eccentric persona that is embellished by his live-in-the-moment attitude and absence of shame, makes him push his daughter to her limits. Continue reading “Toni Erdmann (2016)”

Transition, Race, Death, and Drama in 2016

The year 2016 was a dramatic and transitional year in the States; marked by numerous shootings in America and acts of extreme violence world wide.  The deaths of many influential people who helped transform the 20th century was more impactful in 2016 than previous years.  Some notable deaths include: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Harper Lee, Garry Shandling, George Martin, Prince, Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali, Garry Marshall, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Fidel Castro, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. The political landscape saw some major shifts, including the inauguration of Donald Trump, Brexit, the impeachment of the Presidents of Brazil and South Korea, major turmoil and civil war in Aleppo, Syria.  That is not to say the year was all bad: scientific breakthroughs such as the detection of gravitational waves 100 years after Albert Einstein’s prediction, the Cubs winning the World Series, and a decrease in the unemployment rate provided positive relief from the tragic aspects of the year.  All in all, there did seem to be an overwhelming desire to “start fresh” in 2017.

Many of the films last year encapsulated the struggles of 2016 in powerful and engaging ways, others succeeded in distracting people from the real world.  Racial tensions were highly publicized throughout the year in local and national news.  This ever-present and compelling issue found its way into many commercial and less-commercial motion picture vehicles.  Many films conveyed impactful and engaging messages that reach a wide audience. Continue reading “Transition, Race, Death, and Drama in 2016”

Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water

Directed by: David Mackenzie

Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens

Starring: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham

Runtime: 1h 42m

Genre: Crime, Drama, Western

Rating: ♣♣♣

 

Hell or High Water follows two brothers, Foster and Pine, as they crusade through West Texas with a carefully crafted bank robbing system.  Tepid on their trail are the Texas Rangers, Bridges and Birmingham.  The film falls victim to a few western clichés, the robin hood story and the soon-to-be retired Ranger on board for one last hurrah, however the story has some unexpected turns and is nimble and poignant in terms of lower class society.  The film touches on several relevant themes to the current social climate, including: the banking system, race, greed, and the effects all of these have on the working class. Continue reading “Hell or High Water (2016)”

I ♡ Huckabees (2004)

Directed by: David O. Russell

Cinematography: Peter Deming

Starring: Jason SchwartzmanIsabelle HuppertDustin HoffmanLily TomlinJude LawMark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts

Runtime: 1h 47m

Genre: Comedy

Rating: ♣♣♣♣

 

I   Huckabees is a philosophical comedy that follows Albert Markovski, played by Schwartzman, as he is investigated by existential detectives, Hoffman and Tomlin.  His desire to find meaning in specific coincidences in his life inspires him to learn more about the meaning of life.  The story encompasses opposing and differing ideologies surrounding self-image and status,  the human impact on the world, and the interconnected relation-ship between everything within the universe.  The film also features a comedic performance from Wahlberg as well as Jonah Hill’s debut in the acting world. Continue reading “I ♡ Huckabees (2004)”

Cat People (1942)

Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca

Starring: Simone SimonKent SmithTom ConwayJane Randolph

Runtime: 1h 13m

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Rating: ♣♣♣♣

 

With love and passion comes sin and strife, this is the theme throughout Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People.  Is the curse of the cat people a figment of their imagination, are they alive and well, or is there a panther on the loose?  Cat People tells the story of Irene and Oliver as they fall in love and reconcile the difficulties of marriage. Continue reading “Cat People (1942)”

The Wrestler (2008)

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Cinematography: Maryse Alberti

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Todd Barry

Runtime: 1h 49m

Genre: Drama

Rating: ♣♣♣♣♣

Darren Aronofsky is a craftsman when it comes to engaging and immersive experiences.  There is a realism that his projects embody that is consistent through and through.  Everything from the script and story, the shots, the editing flow, and casting all come together to bring a unique experience for the viewer.  The Wrestler is no exception if this masterful approach to film. Continue reading “The Wrestler (2008)”

Mr. Nobody (2009)

Directed by: Jaco Van Dormael

Cinematography: Christophe Beaucarne

Starring: Jared LetoSarah PolleyDiane KrugerRhys IfansNatasha LittleLinh Dan PhamToby RegboJuno Temple

Runtime: 2hr 21m

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: ♣♣♣♣

 

Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody is an ambitious project in terms of concept and structure. The film dissects life’s struggles and achievements through an examination of infinite choices, possibilities, and outcomes.  Nothing happens in a vacuum, and this film functions as a vehicle to demonstrate this idea.  An individual’s path in life can be broken down into a series of junctions defined by choices, actions, and responses.  Each junction setting the stage for the next and influenced by the previous.  Dormael accents this powerful exploration of the human mind with a mosaic of differing camera shots and editing styles.  The final result is a challenging concept that loses some of the impact through convolution.

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Black Swan (2010)

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Cinematography: Matthew Libatique

Starring: Natalie PortmanMila KunisVincent CasselBarbara HersheyWinona Ryder

Runtime: 1h 48m

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Psychological

Rating: ♣♣♣♣♣

 

Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a fresh interpretation of the 19th century ballet, Swan Lake.  The film follows Nina, played by Natalie Portman, as she trains for the part of the white/black swan.  A role that requires her to metamorphose from her pure and immaculate persona into an untamed embodiment of raw sexuality. Nina’s agonizing drive for perfection takes her on an odyssey into madness.  Aronofsky’s creative style and vision emphasizes the psychosis in this psychological thriller. Continue reading “Black Swan (2010)”