2018 Summary

With awards season well under away and the fact that I have not written anything since June, I felt it was time to do a quick summary of some of my favourite movies of the year., there are still anumber that were released that i have gotten round to yet but here are some quick thoughts about some of what I did manage to see..

Suspiria

Suspiria is the remake of Dario Argento’s cult classic horror movie from the 70’s. I haven’t seen the original but I was a huge fan of director Luca Guadagino’s Call Me By Your Name, a movie that really touched me. However this is a different beast all together.

Set in 1970’s Berlin the movie revolves around a young dancer joining a new highly respected troup where she lands the lead dancer role in a renowned dance after the former girl accuses the directors of being involved in witchcraft. This is not going to be a movie for everyone and will prove divisive. It is a slow paced, art house horror movie that focusses on atmosphere and disturbing visuals while retaining a certain level of ambiguity. It is a film that has layers of subtext just waiting to be unpacked and discovered upon rewatches.

On the technical side it has some of the best cinematography of the year. It utilises a mix of different techniques to enhance the story. There is always something to appreciate going on visually in this movie, which helps keep it engrossing from start to finish. Although I will add the pacing could’ve been tightened up a little bit. It boasts some sequences that could only be described as a nightmarish, with a stand out dance/torture sequence that is utterly unrelenting and some delightfully disturbing imagery throughout. The cheoregraphy during the dances is unique and bizzare and fitting to the overall style of the movie. The film is bold enough to allow these sequence to run on for a significant amount of time yet never loses focus during them. This is also in part to Thom Yorkes musical score. There is a whole host of different compositions that help elevate the sequences. During the gonzo finale the choice to use a completely contrasting peice of music is one that may not gel with everyone but I personally loved.

All the acting is great, especially from Tilda Swinton who pulls triple duties here. The set design is also of note. The editing, sound design, setting, costumes… You name it. I felt everything really came together to make something special. My only issue is that the pacing could’ve been tightened up somewhat but I feel like I’m fishing for that, maybe other aspects will become more apparent on further rewatches but I was so absorbed watching it initially that I did not notice them. This is a movie that really impacted me and that I keep thinking about. I can’t wait to watch it for a second time to unravel some of its mysteries.

Climax

Gasper Noe’s latest movie is cinema in its purest form. The film is light on plot but is an audio-visual feast. The core premise revolves around a group of dancers who get spiked with LSD while rehearsing a new routine. From there events take a turn for the worse and descends into a hellish nightmare.

The camera serves as the perfect vessel to communicate what the dancers are experieincing, without erver showing what they’re actually seeing. This makes everything even more viceral and intesne. The way the camera moves in this movie is incredible to behold and really unnerves you, one particular sequence the camera is upside down while your witnessing carnage on screen. The level of coordination is amazing to witness, there’s so many characters on screen and in the background, always acting believably and the shots run on for a long time. You’ll be so wrapped up in what you’re watching that you’ll remember minutes later that this whole sequence has been shot in one continuous take. The contrast between the opening dance number, when everyone is working in harmony together, and the end of the film is also communicated in the camera moves. The latter half of the film has the camera tilted at really uncomfortable angles which really draws you in to the experience.

The pulsating electro score is another key element that really heightens the experience. You can always hear the music in th ebackground and as things begin to unravel it gets more and more intense, perfectly matching the insane visuals up on the screen.

I did have a few minor issues with the movie, for one I thought the middle act when the characters were just talking could’ve been cut down. I loved how naturalistic the dialogue came off and you learned a lot about the individual characters, each with a distinct personality, but I do feel it went on too long. I’m also not sure what the point in the elongated fade to black cuts was for this scene. There’s some stylistic flourishes that came off as a bit pretentious for me also, as I do not feel they really contributed anything of merit to the movie.

While this movie is certainly not for everyone, it was a delightfully fucked up experience unlike anything else I’ve seen. This was my first Gasper Noe movie and I’m certainly going to check out some of his other movies.

Mandy

Many is another arthouse horror movie that is absolutey bonkers. I personally loved it but I know that it has proved divisive. This comes from director Panos Cosmatos and stars the one and only Nicholas Cage in the lead role. It revolves around Red and Mandy living the idyllic quiet life before having it destroyed by a cult led by leader Red. It also involves a biker gang hopped up on LSD who may or may not be some sort of demons.

Basically this is a really quiote fucked up, very violent and disturbing film that is also completely nuts and doesn’t always take itself too seriously. It is held together by a brilliant performance by Nicholas Cage who proves that when given the correct character and director who can harness his energy he can really do great things. A sequence of him in the toilet is equal parts funny and sad and is shot in one unbroken scene showing the gauntlet of emotions Red is experiencing.

This really is not a film for everyone. The plot is thread bare with there not really being any surprises along the way. You know what you’re getting. What makes me love this film so much is the unique presentation. This is like an acid trip gone bad thrown up on screen.There are disturbing sequences with editing tricks that add to your uneasiness. Many people will feel it is style over substance, which is somewhat true but for me the style is the substance. The visual presentation is unlike anything I have seen, with some truly disturbing imagery and some beautiful compositions with a bold use of vibrant colours throughout. These visuals are accompanied by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s stunning score which is really something special. It is parts death metal, part eerily beautiful soundascapes or epic orchestrations.

The film could’ve been paced better at the start for sure but once it gets going it’s an absolute ride into hell that boats extreme violence and a unique presentation. Highly recommended.

Free Solo

Free Solo is a fantastic documentary that chronicles the exploits of climber Alex Honnold as he sets out to climb the infamous El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes…

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this other than the fact that I really loved it. It was a great insight into the mindset of someone who continiually risks his life seeking a rush. It was also surprisngly emotional as it shows you how much his risk taking affects his loving girlfriend, his close friends and the team who are filming him, showing how worried they get during the climb and wondering if they are going to distract him or encourage him to take risks that he otherwsie wouldn’t take.

The footage they capture from the climb is astonishing and awe inspiring, never failing to capture just how daunting this task is. Even with the knowledge that he completes the climb they still wring in immense amount of tension out of watching the climb and the failed practices. A truly great documentary that everyone should check out.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos and revolves around Queen Anne during the war with the French. It focusses in on her relationships with two women, Lady Sarah played by Rachel Weisz and Abigail played by Emma Stone.

Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne is an absolute revelation in this film, completely inhabiting the character in every way. In fact, every performance is great in this movie. Much has been said about the three female leads, and rightly so, however I Nicholas Hoult as the conservative leader hasn’t gotten enough love for his remarkably funny turn.

The cinematography is wonderful here, with natural lighting often being used to great effect. There are a couple shots where they utilise a fish eye lens that really took me out of the scene and I found distracting but other than that, this is some of the best cinematography of the year. The classical music used in the score is very fitting given the time period this takes place in.

What surprised me most about the film is how funny it is. I was consistently laughing throughout at the witty lines or the farcical situations. A stand out moment has to be a dance between two characters which is utterly bizzare but hilarious.

The film is a great character study exploring these women’s relationship with the Queen and their struggle for power. As the films develops you are constantly changing your affiliations for the characters as you learn more about them. Each character is so well drawn here and so interesting, with motivations that can hopefully be further explored upon rewatched.

The ending was perfect too. I remember watching and thinking this is the perfect moment to end the movie without really knowing why. It just felt right. It was abrupt and offered no closure, but it just felt right. And then when I spent sometime thinking about why it worked and where the characters are, you start to really appreciate it even more.

Green Book

What is there to say about Green Book that hasn’t already been said a thousand times after it claimed Best Picture at this years Oscars… It’s bland, cliche, and offers a very simplistic view of racism. It boasts two great performances. But it’s incredibly forgettable. It also is more problematic when you relaise the film makes never consulted the black musicians family about the movie and misrepresented the story… It’s alsmost fitting given the core premise of the movie…

Bohemian Rhapsody

Again, I don’t have much to say about this. All I have that is positive to say is that Rami Maleck is fantastic as Freddie Mercury. The rest of the film relies to heavily on the audiences love of Queen’s music without offering up any interesting insight into the character of Freddie. It’s watered down and you can feel the bands fingerprints all over. I’m hesitant to say that it’s a bad film however. Just a mediocre one.

Widows

Widows is another excellent addition to Steve McQueen’s stellar track record. It is also his most accessible movie but it does not lose any of his artistic flourishes in the process. If anything Steve McQueen takes what could have been a run of the mill, female empowerment style heist movie and elevates to something much more.

The film revolves around a group of woman who decide to pull off a heist after their criminal parnters all die and they are left destitute. One thing I appreciated about having a cast of strong, female characters is that it’s incidental. These are characters first and foremost and the film is mature enough to not be shouting from the rooftops about how progressive it is, while still exploring gender politics. The film shows aspects of crime from all angles so that it can explore themes of power and corruption. It has shady polticians, gangsters and shows the economic disparity between the have’s and the have nots. One shot sees the camera planted on the bonnet of a car, we hear the conversation continue inside but without exposition we see the contrast in wealth in the city, and how close they are located to one another. It was a really powerful shot that spoke to Steve McQueen’s ability as a visual storyteller.

All in all it’s a great film, that works as an entertaining heist film but also as a crime drama that explores that many facets that lead people to crime. It boats a great score from Hans Zimmer, amazing cinematography and brilliant performances from a ensemble cast. Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya in particular were the stand outs for me. My only issue is a late stage twist that feels unnecessary but this is a fairly minor gripe. Another home run for Steve McQueen.

 

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is the latest offering from director Wes Anderson. It is his second film utilising stop motion animation and focuses on an island of outcast dogs in Japan and a young boys quest to find his old dog.

Seeing as this is Wes Anderson’s second film in stop motion you would expect to see improvements from his sophomore effort, the wonderful Fantastic Mr Fox, in terms of the fidelity of the animation. Thankfully the animation in this movie is sublime and is an absolute joy to behold. The amount of detail that’s poured into every frame is something to behold, with your eyes often darting about the screen trying to take in all the scenery. Subtle details such as the dogs hair gently blowing in the wind, or Greta Gerwigs character Tracy’s neck chief billowing slightly with her movements add another layer of sheen and believability to the animation. A sushi making scene also stood out as being particularly beautiful with it’s framing, use of colour and score.

Wes Anderson displays his technical competence here that is a joy to behold. The way the camera fluidly tracks vertically or horizontally with shots having a focus on being symmetrical is a Wes Anderson staple but he seems to be growing ever more confident in his ability to pull off more challenging shots. The level of coordination, time and planning these must take in this format is daunting to consider. However this medium grants him a greater degree of control over how everything looks and moves which he clearly relishes with his idiosyncratic stylings.

The cast is typically jam packed with huge stars as per usual, it certainly seems he’s one of those directors than can get pretty much anyone to star in his films, regardless of how small the part. The cast uniformly solid with Bryan Cranston taking the lead as Chief. His relationship with the young boy Atari is the emotional core the film is centered on. His journey from cynical feral dog not trusting the human to wholeheartedly loving the young boy is really sweet to watch unfold, especially if you like dogs.

The film is also very creative in how it translates the Japanese dialogue. There are no subtitles for the majority of the movie. Instead the Japanese characters speak in their native tongue, either with translators speaking over them or not at all. It’s a refreshing and quirky technique that works well here and feels quintessential Wes Anderson. You also never feel lost when there’s no translation due to the body language and tone conveying enough information for you to understand the context of what is being communicated.

For me, however, I didn’t get a lot out of this movie other than it being a really enjoyable, whimsical tale about the special relationship between dog and man. That’s not to say every movie has to have complex underlying themes to unravel, I just didn’t connect with the film on a deeper level, be it emotionally or thematically. I didn’t connect with the characters as strongly as I would have liked either, despite all the actors doing stellar work. This prevents the film from standing side by side but I don’t want to sound too negative as I still thought it was a wonderful piece of filmmaking that I’m looking forward to see again.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the score to this movie, by Alexandre Desplat. Most notably a recurring theme that really stood out with it’s unique sound and contributing to the atmosphere of the world.

All in all this was an enjoyable and really rather lovely film with truly stunning visuals and animation with a unique premise and lovingly crafted world. It didn’t resonate with me as much as the Grand Budapest hotel nor Fantastic Mr Fox, but then those are very high bars too clear. Another solid entry to an ever impressive filmography.

Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers is a mini series that focuses on the exploits of Easy Company’s World War 2 campaign. It was released in 2001 and still remains one of TV’s strongest outings. Developed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it shares the same gritty aesthetic that works so successfully in Saving Private Ryan and almost serves as a companion piece.

Episodes often begin with the real life men from Easy Company discussing the events or ideas the episode is about to present us with. The show smartly forgoes naming these men until the closing statements of the finale. This allows the audience to still feel tension about who’s going to survive and also serves as a heartwarming ending where you realise who’s who and see how convincingly the actor portrayed them. All the actors are great throughout the show, believably conveying the changes the characters experience and always feeling like a unit, with the camaraderie between everyone really shining and adding another layer of authenticity. It truly is an ensemble piece, with each character being distinct and leaving an impression despite limited screen time in many instances. Often characters are granted one episode when they are centre stage and for the remaining episodes they feature primarily in the background. This allows each episode to be distinct from one another and help you connect with the multitude of characters. By the end of the show you’ll feel like you really know the characters. This is demonstrated best by the sequence where the men are playing baseball after the German armies surrender. With Damien Lewis narrating they inform the viewer about what each man went on to do following the war and in this heartwarming sequence that never fails to illicit a few tears…

The two part story set in Bastogne is the series highlight but there isn’t a weak episode throughout the run. By focusing on the medic during the period when the company faced barrages of bombs draws attention to the immense bravery and the mental toll war would take upon those who try to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. The episodes based around Bastogne is also where the show really shows off it’s budget. You really feel like you’re there, in the fox holes being bombarded by the enemy. Through this shared experience, you understand how such strong bonds are formed between the men. It’s quite jarring seeing how starkly the men, namely Marlarky, have changed in the subsequent episode. This is smartly centred on David Webster as he rejoins the company having missed Bastogne due to an injury. But having seen a mere glimpse of what they went through for the month you understand where the resentment they feel towards him originates, yet you also feel bad for the character having to earn the men’s respect once more, despite having been with them from the start. It’s great television that demonstrates the mediums ability to craft impactful stories and bring attention to different perspectives. It’s another aspect of the war, alongside the replacements episode, that you haven’t seen explored before that I found really engaging. The show really tugs at the heart strings too, with lovable characters suffering horrific injuries and a particularly emotional episode where the soldiers discover an interment camp. This powerful sequence comes during an episode focusing on intelligence officer Lewis Nixon’s struggles with alcohol and personal issues before coming face to face with the true horrors of the Nazis atrocities.

What’s impressed me upon my rewatch it just how well it holds up by today’s standards. At its time it was the most expensive TV show ever, with each episode costing around $1 million… It really shows too, as the production quality is second to none across the board. The focus on employing practical effects throughout is exemplary and helps the show stand the test of time. The CGI shots do stand out as being dated however but they are few and far between and understandable considering when it was produced. The show shares the same washed out colour palette that Steven Spielberg utilised in Saving Private Ryan that has now become a staple for the genre. The lack of vibrant colours effectively communicates the grim reality that these men experienced. It’s not until the final episode when the visual pallete expands and this coincides nicely with the surrender of the German army, where the men are able to relax and enjoy themselves.

All in all this is a seminal TV show that more than deserves its place amongst the very best that TV has to offer.

A Quiet Place

A quiet place
Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place is a high concept horror movie that leaves the viewer hanging on the slightest of sounds, ratcheting up the tension from the opening scene and barely relenting throughout. Directed by John Krasinski, it centres on a family trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world where monsters detect and hunt based on sound. It’s a great concept that the movie revels with during the run time. John Krasinski plays Lee, the father of the family with Emily Blunt playing Evelyn, his wife. Their two children are played by Millicent Simmons as their deaf daughter Regan and Noah Jupe as their son Marcus.

Being largely silent, this film relies heavily on the sound design, and thankfully this is an area it succeeds resoundingly. What the soundscape helps do is permeate the film with a sense of dread and remind you of the constant threat than hangs over them, bringing you in to the plight of this family. You’ll clench your fists and feel your pulse race when they inevitably make mistakes. The film, for the most part, effectively utilises the jump scare, seeing as it actually makes narrative sense here. However, there are a fair few instances where it felt cheap. Not having that loud noise play to artificially frighten the viewer would have been more effective. This isn’t something unique to this film as it’s prevalent in modern horror movies but I wish directors would have the confidence to not indulge in the cheap jump scare and let these moments play out naturally, letting the visuals create fear.

The film starts out really strong, setting up the brutal world and showing how much of a threat the monsters are. It’s certainly one of the more memorable openings to a horror movie I’ve seen recently. It continues well, with the first two acts being really solid. The ways in which the family reduce noise in order to get by in their day to day lives was well thought out and communicated visually rather than doled out in forced exposition. John Krasinski, in combination with cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen, display nice touches of visual storytelling such as crisps and pills being left on the shelves at a supermarket or lighting beacons to communicate with nearby survivors. These touches add more credence to the world without feeling forced.

In theory, the commitment to such large portions of the film having no spoken dialogue would allow the few moments where characters speak to be more powerful, however some of the dialogue in these scenes was cheesy and quite on the nose. Instances where the characters bluntly explain certain ideas the film was already doing a great job of presenting were unnecessary. Still, the script is impressively lean here with little bloat, with almost everything being set up and paid off later.

The performances are impressive too, with some nice nuances that add depth. The subtle resentment Lee displays towards his daughter, Regan, is handled well and shown through glances and the body language rather than having it shoved in your face… Right up until the son brings it up with some stilted dialogue. Emily Blunt convinces as the grieving mother and really shines in the films standout sequence that crescendos wonderfully. The eldest daughter is also pretty great here, believably playing the stubborn and difficult adolescent girl. It’s refreshing that they were able to cast a deaf girl in the role, allowing the performance to feel more natural.

The final act of the film is weaker than what precedes with some contrivances and cheese, but not enough to derail the overall experience. The films resolution makes so much logical sense that it makes you wonder how the characters haven’t thought to try it before, especially since attention is given to the father’s research into the creatures. In addition to this, certain moments towards the end didn’t land as strong as they should, largely due to the cheesy dialogue. However, the final shot of the film is brilliantly tongue in cheek.

In summary, this is a solid and tautly made film that showcases John Krasinski’s talents behind the camera. It’s not without its issues but it’s commitment to its unique concept is commendable and it remains sufficiently tense throughout its run time, making it an enjoyable and delightfully stressful trip to the cinema.

Annihilation Discussion

Alex Garland’s second film pulling double duties as director and writer is a perfect microcosm about the creative issues Hollywood currently faces. Here we have a hypnotic, intellectual sci-fi horror movie that refuses to dumb itself down to appeal to the largest common denominator. It is thought provoking, ethereal and a wonderful piece of art that asks questions of the audience. It was made to be seen on the big screen.  And Paramount wouldn’t release it theatrically worldwide, with only a short run at the US box office with little marketing… Thank god Netflix picked it up and thank god Alex Garland and his producer were able to release this without studio mandated changes.

I have now seen this movie twice and enjoyed it considerably both times. On the repeat viewing you notice subtle, and some not to subtle, acts of foreshadowing and visual parallels that occur throughout allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusions about the story. I watched it for the second time through the lens of everything being a metaphor for cancer. My friend saw someone mention it’s also about the importance of introspection and how, as humans, we constantly look outwards. This is a film that rewards with further viewings and deeper analysis. While I didn’t initially notice the theme of introspection, this is a deeply personal idea to me that likely helps explain, in part, why I enjoyed this film so greatly even if I hadn’t quite grasped those underlying messages.

The cancer metaphors are what initially jumped out of me- with numerous characters discussing cancer or having being affected by it- not to mention the repeated visual motifs showing cells mutating much in the same way that tumours do. The idea of The Shimmer representing cancer as an alien invader, attacking and mutating the DNA of Earth but without any malevolent purpose is quite profound. I also read the characters representing different ways people deal with cancer. Some fight it but are forever changed due to their experiences (Lena), some die in pain, and some have goals they need to accomplish before succumbing to the disease (Jennifer Jason Leigh). I felt Tessa Thompson’s character represented euthanasia, the way she accepted her fate and peacefully died. With Lena, I didn’t feel the shimmer in her eye meant that it was her copy, like Kane was, but that it indicated that she’s being changed, her DNA has been refracted due to her experiences in The Shimmer, much in the same way patients who survive the aggressive chemotherapy treatment will experience changes to their body and character. This was also foreshadowed early on with the Shimmer being reflected in her eyes when she first gazes upon it. Another reoccurring visual metaphor throughout the film is the forearm tattoo, that is designed to look like mutating cells. This appears on characters arms to symbolise their DNA having been mutated, with it first appearing on the dead soldier. There’s another nice piece of visual storytelling involving glasses with a late shot mirroring an earlier on shot, only this time the water droplets, again, look like cells mutating.

This film has scenes with grotesque body horror that really stay with you. One of the scenes that will surely haunt viewers involves a mutated bear who echoes the screams of a dead character after devouring her. As a character bluntly states after, a truly disturbing thought, having your last moments of pain be what you’re remembered for… Something I’m sure many cancer patients can identify with. This horror sequence is expertly handled with the tension mounting and impressive visuals and sound design being utilised to maximum effect.

The finale of this film is suitably mind bending and is a wonder to behold. There is a long stretch with no dialogue and only the wonderful visuals and score that combine to create something a very trippy and mind bending sequence. This sequence is pure sci fi goodness and doesn’t provide the audience with clear explanations about what exactly is happening. It trusts the audience is capable of coming to their own conclusions.

The camera throughout the film is used to communicate the idea that not all foreign bodies are necessarily a bad thing and good, even beautiful, things can come from initially horrible things. Shots of the two deer, the gorgeous flowers and the humanoid trees demonstrate this to me. I believe the film is trying to communicate that you can come out the other side horrific life events stronger than before despite been irrovecably changed. And that through introspection and self reflection you can become a better version of yourself.

In summary, this was a visually arresting, thematically resonant and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoyable film from start to finish. It is one that I will no doubt revisit numerous times, much like Ex Machina. I for one cannot wait to see what he treats us to next and let’s hope his projects only grow in ambition.

Blade Runner 2049

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Blade Runner 2049 (BR:2049) is one of my all time favourite sci-fi movies. It’s a shining example of how filmmakers should approach sequels and a greatly impressive feat of filmmaking prowess.

First, some background information about my relationship with the original. I appreciate the original movie more than I enjoy it. That’s not to say that I don’t still really like it but it’s never resonated with me to the degree that it does with other fans of the genre. On paper I should like it more than I do. The visuals, score, story and philosophical themes all really appeal to me but I have never connected emotionally to the movie. I feel the relationship between Deckard and Rachel felt forced and was only there to tie in with the central theme of the movie rather than it feeling natural. The film is at it’s best whenever Roy Batty is on screen, as he is by far the most interesting character. My two biggest gripes are not issues that BR:2049 shares with its predecessor.

The central plot of this movie revolves around the birth of the first replicant baby, with K, played by Ryan Gosling, tasked with tracking the child down. Ryan Gosling delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance, managing to convey so much with just the slightest glance. His ability to play the strong, silent character is used to maximum effect here. This is a character who longs for human connection and spends the film trying to discover and prove his humanity. That’s where Joi comes in, played by Ana de Armas. Joi is a female companion in holographic form. We are introduced to her “preparing” K’s dinner, showing us his desire to feel loved and his longing for a “normal” existence. The films poses an interesting question about how sentient Joi really is. Does she have her own wants and desires? Or is it all pre-programmed? An early scene where K takes her out to the rain would indicate that she is more than just a program is also a lovely call back to the original without it feeling hamfisted. However, during a stunning scene later in the film, K sees her holographic advertisement where she refers to him as Joe, indicates that she was just programmed to feed in to K’s wants and desires. The film doesn’t offer up a clear answer about how sentient she is. For me, I felt that she wasn’t just a program. While she may have been programmed to act a certain way towards K, wouldn’t that feel real to her still? To me, she experiences genuine feelings but doesn’t have free will in the way that the other replicants demonstrate. The fact she wanted to go out to feel the rain and that she contacted the prostitute off her own volition due to her desire to want to be with K, indicated that she is more than just her programming. A sex scene later in the film demonstrate Dennis Villeneuve’s mastery of visual storytelling, crafting a unique and beautiful sequence that leaves a strong impression upon the viewer.

The film tackles the theme about what makes you human in a way that really resonated with me. For me, the film demonstrates the idea that if a being has their own dreams, desires and free will then regardless of their form , then they have a soul and as such display their humanity. This is something K strives to find throughout the film and ends up proving through his act of reuniting Deckard with his estranged daughter. In doing this he proves his humanity through disobeying his orders and dying for a cause greater than himself, as stated by the replicant rebel leader. Traits that are distinctly human. In the final scene of the movie, the song Tears in the Rain plays while he lies down in the snow. A beautiful evocation of the finale in the original.

The cinematography in this movie is truly astonishing. Roger Deakins outdid himself here lovingly displaying the incredible world up on the screen in dream like fashion. After 14 Oscar nominations, he finally won. And a well deserved win at that. He has a career where he was created some of the most striking images ever put to screen and yet, this is one of his finest pieces of work. What I like so much about Deakins is that he moulds his style so effortlessly to suit the director he’s working with but you can still always feel his DNA all over the images he creates. The set and location design is expertly handled too. At once this world is both reminiscent of the original while exploring new locales. This allows the creative team to expand upon the world Ridley Scott created in interesting ways, making the universe feel believable and while insinuating that there is still plenty left to explore. Through the use of miniatures and clever camera techniques along with CGI when necessary the world feels tangible and lived in. The visuals and sets are varied utilising different designs and colour palettes, always giving you something to soak in. Working so closely with the set designers really worked wonders here as it allows everything to come together seamlessly. The way he lights Wallace’s office with water rippling across the walls is a stroke of genius, and is one of my favourite set designs in recent memory.

Another aspect that I feel is worth bringing attention to is the pacing and editing. This is a very long and slowly paced movie that never feels it’s length. Every scene has its place within the narrative. There’s so much to take in at any one moment that the movie remains gripping throughout it’s considerable run time. This is one such area that BR:2049 surpasses the original. The original is a very slow film that runs under two hours, but feels longer. There are scenes that ran on longer than they needed to and I found my attention waning in a few instances. There’s a brilliant example of editing that occurs when the camera pans up, tracking embers from a fire that blend into the cityscape seamlessly. All these techniques allow this to be an enthralling movie that never loses your attention.

Hans Zimmer has really been on his A game this year, crafting two of the years best and most unique scores. Here he creates such an uneasy, haunting and disconcerting soundscape that perfectly matches the visuals on screen. Yet, when the scene calls for it the score is beautiful, with serene tracks such as “Joi” and “Rain” being two of my favourite compositions of the year.

Dennis Villeneuve already cemented his place as one of my favourite directors working today. He has deftly jumped between genres and never delivered a final product anything less than great. Hollywood needs more auteurs like him. It is incredibly sad that this film underperformed at the box office because studios will be less likely to fork out the considerable money required to bring visions like this to the screen. There are sure to be many reasons this movie didn’t delivery the box office receipts many were expecting, the slow pace and complex narrative likely not helping. But it is a minor miracle that the creative team behind this were awarded the money needed and were able to craft the film as they saw fit. It is truly a masterpiece and one that will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

 

Anomalisa

This stop motion film from Charlie Kaufman is one of the most human and genuine movies I’ve seen. Here, Charlie Kaufman teams with Duke Johnson to bring us the story of Michael, played by David Thewlis, who works as an inspirational speaker but is unable to connect with others. This enables the movie to explore themes of loneliness, depression and isolation in a poignant manner.

Initially some of the techniques used seemed odd but as the film begins to reveal itself to you, they make perfect sense and do a great job of putting you in the main characters head space. The choice to have every character look the same and be played by the same actor is bold but serves a clear narrative purpose as it enables the audience to connect and feel sympathy for Michael, despite him not always being wholly likeable. It highlights how an individual such as Michael views the world and how he can’t connect with people on a human level as everyone is nondescript. A very impressive Tom Noonan is tasked is playing every other character bar Lisa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Through Lisa, Michael thinks he has found someone who he believes he can connect with and allow himself to feel something for, something that has clearly eluded him for a long time.

On a technical level, this film is a joy to behold and impressed me greatly. There were numerous long takes with multiple location changes which must have been hugely challenging. The cinematography and lighting really helps ground the characters in this space and helps the locations feel real. The detail in the environments is second to none and you never question whether or not these could be genuine locations. Clearly a lot of love and attention to detail was poured into every frame. Everything on display contributes to the overarching themes and ideas the film presents. On one hand, the film feels realistic in order to draw you in to the world and make it feel tangible. The film does not shy away from the banality of everyday life, with mundane tasks being allowed to run their course. Then, through the character design for example, makes you feel disconnected and isolated from the world at large. Every element works in harmony with one another to give this film a very strange quality to it. One of the movies standout sequences is a tender and very realistic sex scene. The way it presents this scene is very unique with its slow pacing and lingering on the minute details that occur. It is a sequence that is sweet and emotional yet it is also uncomfortable and awkward. A real masterstroke on the filmmakers behalf.

As an individual who hasn’t experienced feelings of depression and isolation like the film presents, the film still affected me personally a great deal. It is presented so well that almost everyone will be able to identify with it on some level. However, I would love to know how people who have suffered with these afflictions feel how accurately the film aligns with their own experiences.

Overall this is a fantastic film that I have only grown to appreciate more upon reflection. I hope Charlie Kaufman is able to finance more of his projects as he’s demonstrated himself to be a true auteur and artist, able to delve deep in to the human condition and challenge the audience in meaningful ways.