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    1. A Couple Of Thoughts About Annihilation (2018)

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Just finished Annihilation. Decided to share some random thoughts:

      The film looks absolutely stunning. Perfect blend of beautiful and horrifying. But the characters… ugh. They are your classical horror film bunch of idiots. And, as per tradition with the modern sci-fi horror, they're supposed to be “scientists”. Bah.

      It seems like both the screenplay and the visuals were heavily inspired by Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, and possibly Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation, Stalker (1979), as well as a bit of his other sci-fi work, Solaris (1972), here and there. Honestly, if you like the idea of “alien shit twisting stuff around it”, and you like reading, you're way better off just reading Roadside Picnic.

      Why didn't most trees change? The flowers, the moss, and the animals get all kinds of wild twisted colours and mutations, but the trees remain just green? That really bothered me. They also don't mention all this mutated flora and fauna going outside “the zone”, which, I assume, would be a giant issue.

      That lighthouse would be so destroyed if it was really hit by an object of that diameter.

      I found it ironic that the psychologist of the team was the one who was severely depressed. Here in Russia we call that a “barefoot cobbler” situation. But the way the film shows severe depression is pretty accurate.

      Overall, I reluctantly enjoyed the film, but I couldn't stop thinking that all those visual effects and designs would be much more amazing in a Strugatsky bros. adaptation film.

      15 votes
    2. A (comically late) Black History Month Watchlist

      Yeah, so I know there's about a week and a half left in Black History Month (which is in February here, for the non-US and I believe Canada folks who didn't know), and this rec list is therefore...

      Yeah, so I know there's about a week and a half left in Black History Month (which is in February here, for the non-US and I believe Canada folks who didn't know), and this rec list is therefore super late, but I've been watching some movies that were historically significant in terms of breaking racial barriers at mainstream award shows like the Oscars and in film production at large, were pioneers in getting films from African nations famous and acclaimed worldwide, or just generally covered racial issues of their times in significant or compelling ways, and thought I'd post the watchlist here in case anyone was interested. So I guess either binge all these in the coming week and a half, keep this as a guide for next year, watch any of the ones that interest you past February, or save it for October, which is when I understand Black History Month takes place in the UK.

      • Within Our Gates (1920) - The first movie by an African American director to have a still surviving print.
      • Eleven P.M. (1928) - A silent era film led by a mostly black cast and directed by enigmatic little known African American director Richard Maurice. An absolutely bizarre surrealist melodrama.
      • Cry, The Beloved Country (1951) - This film examining the effects of apartheid in South Africa actually filmed almost entirely in segregated South Africa, possibly making it the first major film to do so.
      • The Defiant Ones (1958) - Sidney Poitier was the first black man to be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his role in this film. Details the story of two escaped convicts, a white man and a black man, becoming friends, with more nuance and layering than its premise and time period might suggest.
      • One Potato, Two Potato (1964) - One of the first, and possibly the first, films to deal with interracial marriage in a serious manner. Predates Guess Who's Coming to Dinner by 3 years.
      • Nothing But a Man (1964) - Realistic depiction of life in a racist society, consisting of a constant soul-crushing barrage of minor aggressions instead of huge explosions of hate. Selected for preservation in the Library of Congress and considered to be an important example of neorealism.
      • Black Girl (1966) - One of the first African films by an African filmmaker to receive international attention and acclaim. Shows the lasting damage and effects of colonialism both in the colonized country and the lives of those displaced as a result of it.
      • In the Heat of the Night (1967) - Tackled racial tensions in the South in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
      • Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - One of the few films of the time depicting interracial marriage in a positive light and a serious way. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
      • Black Panthers (1968) - Documents a small but significant moment in the history of the fight against racism in the US, the Free Huey movement championed by the Black Panthers.
      • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) - Considered an important film in the history of African American cinema, and credited as one of the pioneers of the blaxploitation genre.
      • She's Gotta Have It (1986) - The debut film of famed director Spike Lee, an ahead of its time depiction of polyamory and female independence, it showed Brooklyn's black community in a light that drew media attention and focus to its artists and musicians following its release.
      • Daughters of the Dust (1991) - The first by an African American woman to gain a general theatrical release (in 1991!). Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
      • Malcolm X (1992) - A biopic of civil rights leader Malcolm X, also directed by Spike Lee. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
      • Girlhood (2014) - The film discusses and challenges conceptions of race, gender and class; Sciamma's goal was to capture the stories of black teenagers, characters she claims are generally underdeveloped in French films.
      • Moonlight (2016) - Barry Jenkins' meditation on black sense of masculinity and the struggles of LGBT members in the contemporary American black community became the first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
      • Get Out (2017) - With this film exploring the exploitative horror of the modern white liberal brand of racism, Jordan Peele became the first black writer to win the Best Original Screenplay category at the Oscars, as well as the first to earn a Best Director nomination and a Best Picture nomination for a debut film.
      • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) - A film that explores the gentrification of San Francisco and the struggles in personal identity that arise from it.

      I'd love to hear any feedback on the list or if you're gonna watch anything from it, and suggestions for any movies to add to it, especially between the 20s and 50s and the 90s and 00s, since those are especially massive gaps in my knowledge.

      8 votes
    3. 1917 editor Lee Smith reveals the truth about Sam Mendes' one-shot film

      1917 editor Lee Smith reveals the truth about Sam Mendes' one-shot film This is my favourite passage from this article: He asked [a journalist] how long the film shoot was; she looked at her...

      1917 editor Lee Smith reveals the truth about Sam Mendes' one-shot film

      This is my favourite passage from this article:

      He asked [a journalist] how long the film shoot was; she looked at her notes, said four months. How many days a week? Five.

      Do you think they never turned the camera off, he said; just do the maths. "And she went, 'Oh, right'."

      8 votes
    4. 1917 (2019) — Spoiler-free discussion thread

      Trailer topic Wikipedia I watched it last week. Fantastic movie. I don't watch many war movies (in fact this is one of my first ones), but I really, really liked it. I didn't even notice the two...

      I watched it last week. Fantastic movie. I don't watch many war movies (in fact this is one of my first ones), but I really, really liked it. I didn't even notice the two hours go by.

      The one-shot effect is really well done, and I enjoyed trying to spot the transitions.

      It's not an exceptional movie or anything like that, but it's one of the rare times I just went into the theater and came out exceedingly satisfied.

      11 votes
    5. Are there any remakes as good as the original movie?

      I was chatting with a friend today and this question came up - I drew a complete blank. Aside from a few foreign movies retranslated into a completely different context, like Seven Samurai and The...

      I was chatting with a friend today and this question came up - I drew a complete blank.

      Aside from a few foreign movies retranslated into a completely different context, like Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, most remakes don't even approach the quality of the original, for my tastes.

      Please enlighten me if you're aware of any superior, or even equivalent remakes that tell roughly the same story with the same characters.

      17 votes
    6. What are the best movies mainly set in a single location?

      I love single-location films, and use them as inspiration for my own very-constrained filmmaking endeavors. This is a space where great screenwriters and filmmakers shine, coming up with creative...

      I love single-location films, and use them as inspiration for my own very-constrained filmmaking endeavors. This is a space where great screenwriters and filmmakers shine, coming up with creative solutions to keep things fresh and enticing with little to no variation in ambiance. Some examples:

      • 12 Angry Men (1957)
      • Straw Dogs (1971)
      • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
      • El Angel Exterminador (Exterminating Angel, 1962)
      • Phone Booth (2003)
      • Coherence (2013)
      • The Invitation (2015)

      But I want more! Any ideas?

      I should add that my motivation for this question is research for my next production, and because of practical concerns I'm only looking for single-location films in which the main location is small and simple enough that its sub-divisions cannot be considered a location of their own. For example: according to my criteria, a large house or apartment would be a single location, because its subdivisions (living room, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc) can be considered as logical parts of the main one. A shopping mall, a large condominium or an apartment complex would not be a single-location, because its many buildings and apartments are distinct and independent enough to function as locations of their own. When in doubt, try applying production pragmatics instead of pure logic. If something is logically not really another location, but would be just as hard to manage as another location (a whole new set design), it is a location. Thanks!

      23 votes
    7. Which movies had a major influence in your formative years?

      I can mention many movies that influenced me in major ways. Stand By Me made me realize the importance of friendship High Fidelity helped me understand romance is not entirely about passion. It's...

      I can mention many movies that influenced me in major ways.

      • Stand By Me made me realize the importance of friendship
      • High Fidelity helped me understand romance is not entirely about passion. It's also about respect, love, and care. There's value in something that's simply "good", and "good" is not something to brush off.
      • Goonies and Godfather showed that, when shit hits the fan, family is everything.
      • Manhattan taught me love is nothing without courage
      • A Bronx Tale taught me that our parent figures can be imperfect and even downright criminal, but this doesn't mean they don't love us.

      Ant the list goes on...

      18 votes
    8. In The Tall Grass (2019) is…

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      … essentially Cube 2: Hypercube. It's even written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the man behind Cube. I didn't dislike it, in fact I liked it. But seriously, am I the only one who noticed that?

      Also, Harrison Gilbertson has big Aaron Paul energy. Especially in the voice.

      3 votes
    9. Top Movies of the 2010s

      The end of the year has me in a movie-watching mood and I want to add the best of the best into my queue for the next few weeks. Similar to games of the decades, what are your movies of the...

      The end of the year has me in a movie-watching mood and I want to add the best of the best into my queue for the next few weeks. Similar to games of the decades, what are your movies of the decades and why?

      22 votes
    10. Mary Poppins Returns: some thoughts

      I have just watched ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, after yesterday watching the original ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time. I have not, to my knowledge, ever watched ‘Mary Poppins’ in full before now....

      I have just watched ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, after yesterday watching the original ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time. I have not, to my knowledge, ever watched ‘Mary Poppins’ in full before now. I’ve caught snippets of it on weekend television, but I’ve never seen it from start to finish. Well, with our new Disney+ streaming subscription, I’ve finally seen ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time yesterday, and followed it up by watching ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ today.

      ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a sequel in name only. It’s basically a remake of the original. It’s as if the director had a checklist of everything ‘Mary Poppins’ contained, and just checked them off in this sequel:

      • Mary Poppins herself. Check.

      • A dirty working-class friend with a heart of gold. Check.

      • Children who didn’t know how to have fun. Check.

      • A father who needed to rediscover his children and his own childish joy. Check.

      • A woman who’s working for a progressive cause. Check.

      • Bank seen as a negative institution. Check.

      • Quirky relative of Mary Poppins who gives the children a different point of view. Check.

      • Animated sequence. Check.

      Actually, I’m surprised that there is an animated sequence in the sequel, given how much P.L. Travers reportedly hated the animation in the original. (Strangely, I’ve seen ‘Saving Mr Banks’ a couple of times, and even watched a documentary about Ms Travers somewhere along the way.) But I suppose she’s dead now, so her input is limited to just turning in her grave.

      It even gets more detailed than that. Individual musical numbers have been mapped from one movie to another:

      • Vaudeville-style song & dance number within the animated sequence, with the main characters performing alongside cartoon animals. Check.

      • Big dance number featuring the aforementioned working-class friend and his colleagues. Check. The names even have a metaphorical resonance: “Step in Time” becomes “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”.

      • Uplifting song at the end of the movie. Check. But instead of being about a child’s toy that flies in the sky (kite), let’s make it about a different child’s toy that flies in the sky (balloon).

      It’s a shame that Julie Andrews can’t sing any more. It would have been lov-er-ly (ha!) to see her in the cameo role that Angela Lansbury had. Not that I have anything against Ms Lansbury: far from it! But Dick Van Dyke got a small role, and it would have been nice to see Ms Andrews pop up as well. A little on-screen moment between her and Emily Blunt would have been sweet.

      There was one thing that the director left off his checklist, though: singable songs. While everyone knows “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and can sing it at the drop of a hat, noone is going to be singing “A Cover is not the Book”, as fun as it was. “A Spoonful of Sugar” is fun and memorable, while “Can You Imagine That” is fun and forgettable.

      This is not to derogate the performances. There were no weak links in this chain. Emily Blunt was spot-on as Mary Poppins. Lin-Manuel Miranda was technically great as Jack the lamplighter (and he certainly did a better Cockney accent than Dick Van Dyke – which admittedly isn’t hard). Miranda lacked a little heart, but is a great singer and dancer. The rest of the cast were also good. Not a sour note among them. They were just let down by a weak script and poor songs.

      The new Mary Poppins movie is a watered-down copy of the original – and the original wasn’t the best movie in the world to start with! I love me a good musical. I have a whole shelf full of musicals on disc, along with assorted soundtracks. I can quite happily spend an afternoon with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ or the family-friendly ‘My Fair Lady’. But ‘Mary Poppins’ was too bland for me. And its sequel/remake was even blander.

      15 votes