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Janelle Monae's Breakout Year

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Entries in religiosity (59)

Wednesday
Nov232016

Yes No Maybe So: "Silence"

Each and every year I pray that we will have ample time to CONSIDER each Oscar nominee. But one film always wants to emerge so late in the game that the world (i.e. Oscar fanatics, critics, list-makers, and awards voters) will be rushed to judgment.

I pray but I'm lost. Am I just praying to silence?"

It worked out well for the late arrivals last year (The Force Awakens and The Revenant which between them nabbed 17 Oscar nominations and 3 wins) so will it be as successful for Rogue One and Silence this year which we believe will be the last two movies to screen and which will dutifully fill the exact same slots of Star Wars Movie and Brutal All Male Historical Epic.

The Silence trailer is here so we may now finally judge for ourselves based on 2 minutes and 13 seconds instead of all of the rumors. The Trailer and our Yes No Maybe So™ breakdown after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct022016

NYFF: Mysteries of "The Ornithologist"

Nathaniel R reporting from the New York Film Festival 

Would it help if I could speak Portuguese? Perhaps an intimate knowledge of Portugal's history and politics or a Catholic education would do the trick? What is it exactly about films from Portugal that make them so impenetrable? The latest confusion-maker from the Iberian peninsula, on the heels of last year's confounding but intermittently wondrous Arabian Nights, is The Ornithologist by Joao Pedro Rodrigues.

The film begins, literally enough, with a long sequence in which our protagonist Fernando (Paul Hamy, a fine Tom Hardy-like specimen) watches birds for hours in an idyllic lake. He also takes a swim, has cel phone trouble when he tries to take a call, and kayaks further into nature to see rarer birds. The opening act, part nature documentary, part contemplative reverie is superb. Both the cinematography and its subjects are beautiful and irresistibly unknowable. One intuitively right and sustained visual motif is frequent shots from the birds point of view where Fernando looks just as alien to them.

This peaceful wonder gives way soon enough to abrupt danger. From that point forward the film becomes stranger and stranger with each new, well, stranger that Fernando meets in his travels: Chinese tourists, Amazonian hunters, mute shepherds, and more. While clearly allegorical in the telling, the meanings escaped me. 

LGBT cinephiles might know the director Joao Pedro Rodrigues from his disturbing and sexually charged debut O Fantasma (2000) or the trans drama To Die Like a Man which was Portugal's Oscar submission in 2010.  The Ornithologist is similarly suffused with queer eroticism -- Fernando is tied up like Saint Sebastian in his tighty whities in one memorable sequence, and has sex with a shepherd named Jesus in another. The Ornithologist is thankfully not quite as nihilistic as the director's earlier work and even ends on an incongruously giddy (tongue-in-cheek?) note, but it remains a head scratcher despite that inarguably hypnotic pull. 

Previous Reviews from NYFF:
Graduation (from the director of 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
The Unknown Girl (from Belgium's Dardenne brothers)
Staying Vertical (from the director of Stranger by the Lake)
Paterson (Directed by Jim Jarmusch starring Adam Driver)
Abacus (Documentary from Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame)
I, Daniel Blake (this year's Palme D'or Champ)
Hermia & Helena (Directed by Matías Piñeiro)

Saturday
Sep172016

Lovesick Brides to Be at TIFF

Nathaniel reporting from the last weekend at TIFF where brides-to-be are in the air. It's easy to see little mini-festivals blossom within the overall festival you're watching. Sometimes it happens quite by accident as with three films I caught recently (two of which might be fighting for Oscar foreign film nods). All feature female protagonists who pine for a man they thought they would marry before things went horribly wrong. We've already discussed François Ozon's Frantz. In that film the fiancee is already dead when the movie begins but in these next two films The Wedding Ring from Niger and Sand Storm from Israel, both of the young women begin the movie with a combination of dread and hope: will they be able to marry the man they loved who they met in a liberal university setting or does their conservative rural village community have other futures in mind? Both films are narrative debuts by female directors. In addition to their romantic dramas these two films speak to the clash of modernity and tradition, West and East, and especially to gender roles with young women chafing at the expectations placed on them to be subservient to whims of the patriarchy...

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Monday
Jun272016

The Furniture: The Venomous and Fanatical 'Embrace of the Serpent'

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber... 

Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia’s first-ever nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, contains multitudes. Ciro Guerra filters the Amazon Basin into a tremendous cinematic document, a rich cornucopia of unexpected tableaux. The choice to confine this colorful landscape to black and white would be uncanny enough on its own, but the narrative is also unmoored by transitions between the two timelines. Long before the final hallucination, our perceptions are overwhelmed by the range of complex images.

And, of course, the work of production designer Angelica Perea, art director Ramses Benjumea and set decorator Alejandro Franco is an essential component. The best example of their work comes right at the film’s midpoint, with a pair of profoundly unsettling episodes that interrogate the role of Catholic missionaries in Colombia’s colonial history. [More...]

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Monday
May302016

The Furniture: Design Heralds Doom in The Witch 

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Witch has a lot in common with Black Narcissus. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if the 1947 Powell & Pressburger classic weren’t still on my mind from last week’s column, but it’s very true. Thomasin’s family of fanatical Puritans and Sister Clodagh’s nuns both find themselves on the edge of their known world, motivated by faith to make a new life. Yet both groups are doomed from the start. They’re overwhelmed by their environments and fall in the face of doubt, sexual temptation and the power of nature.

Of course, Thomasin isn’t bedeviled by gorgeous matte paintings of the Himalayas. The Witch was shot in the very real wilderness of Ontario, in the former town of Kiosk. That’s “former” because the population starting leaving after the fire at the lumber factory in 1973. Now there’s just some abandoned railroad tracks and a towering forest. If that’s not the perfect place to shoot a horror film, I don’t know what is. 

The landscape dwarfs the solitary 17th century farm where the bulk of the film takes place. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke takes advantage of this as frequently as possible. There are countless shots in which the cast seem like helpless children at the mercy of the trees...

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