Category Archives: Film and Television

Female Marketing Exec Defends Misogynist Film

Ok so my headline is kinda tongue-in-cheek, but listen to Paramount Pictures’ President of Marketing and Distribution Megan Colligan’s bizarre defense of the grotesque infanticide, cannibalism, and violence in Darren Aronofsky’s Mother (2017):

“This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold… Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.”

Not sure what Netflix production she’s referring to. 13 Reasons Why (2017)? Must have missed the graphic infant dismemberment and cannibalism in that one. I could see maybe arguing the brutal scenes were necessary for the story (such as it was), but “audacious and brave” and “bold”? Brave? Did the filmmakers take personal risks to tell a story no one else wanted to tell? Give me a break!

What bold statement does this film make? That human beings abuse the earth? Oh boy, we’ve never heard that before. Couldn’t have conveyed that message without stripping Jennifer Lawrence’s character and repeatedly punching her in the face.

Truthfully, I wanted to like this film. The preview was compelling and it looked like it had a lot of promise. I like Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. It was just so boring and unnecessary. Only the last twenty minutes are worth talking about, and only because of how graphic it was.

Mother! still has an F rating on Cinemascore. No other recent release even falls below a B minus.

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Mother! A Pretentious Danse Macabre

 Mother! (2017), staring Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character and Javier Bardem as her husband, Him, is writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s nihilistic allegory for Biblical creation and the rape of nature. Though marketed as a psychological thriller, Aronofsky told Vanity Fair after the Toronto International Film Festival the film is “about how it must feel to be Mother Nature.” It was partially inspired by Shel Silverstein’s picture book The Giving Tree. No, really.

The story itself isn’t very interesting. A writer lives with his much younger wife in an old octagonal farm house on the prairie. Uninvited house guests interrupt their solitude. Their transgressions worsen, climaxing in a murder that leaves a permanent, bloody scar in the floor. Things settle down again after Mother becomes pregnant, but then crescendo into an orgy of violence and depravity as the writer’s fans take over the house and begin worshiping him.

It’s difficult to say for what audience Mother! was intended. People who enjoy long, boring interludes punctuated by moments of extreme violence? It’s not for the squeamish or easily triggered, but it’s not a work of genius either. For my part, it was painful to see talented actors and actresses, including Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, wasted on this pretentious monstrosity.

Throughout the film, and especially in the final act, Mother is marginalized, tormented, brutalized, and violated. At one point, her clothes are torn open and she is repeatedly punched in the face. Finally, her heart is torn from her burnt chest. I think it’s a little bizarre that A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence, who prides herself on playing strong female leads and on being a role model for young women, would agree to star in her boyfriend’s deranged snuff film.

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First Impressions of Mother!

Curiosity led me to watch Mother! (2017) last weekend, writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s nihilistic allegory for Biblical creation… or something. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as Mother [Earth] and Javier Bardem as Him. I’ll mention that Darren and Jennifer are a couple only because it helps explain why she agreed to appear in this pretentious and awful film. Like Him, Darren Aronofsky is a writer and significantly older than his love interest, Jennifer Lawrence. Hmm, it doesn’t take a psychology major to figure out what’s going on here. Anyway, these are my first impressions:

  • If I hadn’t read about its controversial ending ahead of time, I probably would have walked out of the theater. When Mother wakes up the morning after having sex and declares “I’m pregnant,” someone in the audience actually started laughing. I had a hard time staying awake until the end.
  • Knowing what Mother! was about prior to watching it may have ruined the experience for me. It was hard to miss the obvious symbolism and painful attempt to distill the Biblical story down to its worst elements.
  • I considered comparing this movie to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Fando y Lis (1968), but that would be giving it too much creative credit.
  • When Fando y Lis premiered at the Acapulco Film Festival, a riot broke out and the director’s car was pelted with rocks. It was banned by the Mexican government for its sacrilegious depiction of Catholic ritual. But will Mother! have that kind of impact in 2017 America? Or will audiences simply react with revulsion to its grotesque Grand Guignol and miss the religious symbolism altogether?
  • I think it’s a little bizarre that A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence, who prides herself on playing strong female leads and on being a role model for young women, would agree to star in her boyfriend’s deranged snuff film.
  • Once again, the setting was the best part. Everything had a raw, earthy look and feel. Real texture. I love when the characters literally dig into it and organic wounds open up as though the house itself is alive.
  • Why are films so out of focus lately? Is this the “shaky camera” trend of the late-2010s?

Look for a more thorough review on Thursday afternoon.

IT: Classic Horror Reborn

Seven pre-teen outcasts overcome their fears to confront a shape-shifting creature that takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and awakens every 27 years to feed on children in It (2017), the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name.

Written by Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga and directed by Andy Muschietti, It was filmed on a budget of $35 million and grossed over $117 million in its opening weekend. It revives classic American horror by delivering more than just jump scares. It was genuinely scary, but also at times heartfelt, funny, and sincere.

It‘s success is even more surprising given its director’s lack of experience. Andy Muschietti, an Argentine screenwriter, has only directed one other full-length feature. To entrust the long-anticipated reboot of one of Stephen King’s most iconic horror tales to an inexperienced director is, well, incredible. That he actually pulled off making It into a blockbuster will ensure a long career. It‘s opening box office earnings completely eclipse The Sixth Sense‘s and that film made director M. Night Shyamalan a household name.

I’m not a Stephen King fan and I don’t get the fascination with clowns. I never read the novel or saw the 1990 TV mini series staring Tim Curry, so I came to the theater without any preconceptions aside from bits and pieces of things I’ve heard about It over the years. Like most Stephen King novels, the horror element is a vehicle for exploring other issues, issues related to family, coming of age, bullying, confronting mortality, etc., all of which appear in this story.

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First Impressions of IT

I watched It (2017), the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name, in a packed theater this weekend. I’m not a Stephen King fan and I don’t get the fascination with clowns, but I have to admit there is a lot of genuine excitement surrounding this movie.

I never read the novel or saw the 1990 TV mini series staring Tim Curry, so I came to the theater without any preconceptions aside from bits and pieces of things I’ve heard about It over the years. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • A good horror movie is also a good movie. This was a good movie–it was genuinely scary, but also at times heartfelt, funny, and sincere.
  • It was set in 1989, so there are nostalgic elements, but It doesn’t bash you over the head with nostalgia.
  • In one scene, there are posters advertising A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which came out in 1989. I thought it was fitting to make reference to that franchise because many of the effects in It are reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street, especially when the hair comes out of the sink and pulls Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) toward the drain.
  • All the child actors in this movie are great. In a film that pits children against adults, the children are funny, relatable, and courageous, while the adults are creepy, sadistic, and often indifferent.
  • That being said… There are almost too many protagonists. I realize the film is just copying the number of characters in the book, but it’s difficult to become attached to the characters when there are so many. I don’t even remember their names. There’s the fat kid, the black kid, the girl, the stutterer, the one with asthma, the Jewish one, and the pervy one. There’s seven altogether… I think.
  • I’m not sure what to think about Bill Skarsgård‘s performance as Pennywise the Clown. Again, I’m not afraid of clowns and don’t think they’re creepy or funny. But Skarsgård pulled off a performance that was at the same time creepy, threatening, and maintained a weird air of innocence.
  • I’m not sure if this was a malfunctioning projector or what, but everything in the movie seemed really blurry.

Look for a more complete review on Monday! One last thing: This movie is the first of what I assume will be two parts. My understanding is that the book and mini series shows the protagonists as kids and again as adults. It (2017) only covers the period when the protagonists are kids.

Wind River

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker and an FBI agent team up to solve a double homicide on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming in Wind River (2017). On a mission to hunt down mountain lions killing local cattle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers the body of 18-year-old Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Asbille). The FBI sends Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a Nevada field agent, to determine whether a crime has been committed. They later find another body, deepening the mystery.

Wind River is writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s latest offering. Sheridan is known for writing Hell or High Water (2016) and Sicario (2015) and acting in a number of TV dramas. Wind River takes place in Wyoming in early spring and has a very Western feel, despite its snow-swept mountains. Stunning cinematography was not enough to make up for extremely slow pacing and lack of compelling story.

Some critics argue it is genre defying and highly original; I say it suffers from an identity crisis. Wind River is labeled a “murder mystery thriller film,” but isn’t either of those things. There’s no mystery because a flashback explains exactly what happened halfway through and the authorities never actually solve the crime or bring anyone to justice. It’s not a thriller because there’s no sense of suspense or urgency. Unlike a typical crime thriller, there’s no sense that one crime must be solved to prevent another from occurring.

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