Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Written & Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Your life is all you know. We might imagine other possibilities, whether looking back in regret or curiosity about past choices, or contemplating what the future might hold. But, regardless of all of this, we only exist in the present, in now. We can’t ever go back and change things, and the future is eternally unattainable as it inevitably becomes now. Lately, the Multiverse has become a concept in the zeitgeist, made possible by numerous films touching on it. In their latest film, the duo known as Daniels have constructed a story that embraces this cosmic, near-incomprehensible concept’s fantastic and highly human aspects.
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The Northman (2022)
Written by Sjón and Robert Eggers
Directed by Robert Eggers
Robert Eggers has carved out a niche for himself as a filmmaker that attempts to recreate the feel of specific periods in humanity’s past. With The Witch, he captured the colonial paranoia of the fear of the wilderness. The Lighthouse evokes the birth of psychoanalysis and the expansion of the Western mind’s interiors. He does this once again in the Viking-centered The Northman, a picture that transports into the mind of the 9th century. Here the landscape is imbued with mystic power, and humanity believes that through faith & ritual, they can connect with these volatile elements. While not as profoundly esoteric as Eggers’ previous two features, The Northman is still a film overflowing with aesthetic richness and exploring complex themes.
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This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1988)
Written by C.S. Lewis & Alan Seymour
Directed by Marilyn Fox
I remember having the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia read aloud to me around seven or eight. It was my first introduction to C.S. Lewis’ series and immediately piqued my interest. A couple years later, this British television mini-series aired on PBS’ Wonderworks, a children’s anthology, and I was pulled in right away. While it doesn’t compare to the lavish production values of 1980s blockbusters, it did make me feel like I was passing into another world. Narnia felt very real and honestly very frightening. The series does not hold back on some terrifying imagery for a little kid. Many years passed before I rewatched it and what I found was that, while very faithful to the book, it does not hold up from an adult perspective.
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Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers
Directed by Spike Jonze
To be a child is to be overwhelmed. I often think back to my own messy childhood and feel pangs of regret that my way of thinking was so warped by Christian-conservative ideologues for parents that I just don’t have some of the same experiences that many of my peers did. However, I believe all children struggle with how to process their emotions. Some have good supportive parents, while others have parents who model terrible behavior. The key difference has always been a parent who can say they are sorry to their child, which my parents could not and still can’t do. The parent who does that, who can shrug off the ego, understanding that “sorry” will help shape their child into a kind person, does something revolutionary. Where the Wild Things Are is about the tension, that moment of growth from being self-centered to understanding the experiences & feelings of others.
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Into the Woods (1991)
Written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine
For a minute, I thought about rewatching the Frank Marshall-directed version of this musical, but the idea of watching James Corden turned my stomach enough to find an alternative. So I decided to finally check out this film of the original Broadway cast’s performance. It may not have the digital effects and “star power” of the 2014 motion picture, but it is the complete musical being done by highly talented people, and I loved it. I was able to see the entire story, all the scenes and songs deleted from the Disney movie, and the result was a story with much more cohesive themes and a maturity the film ultimately lacks.
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Written & Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Memoria is difficult to talk about because it really isn’t a movie in how we typically define such things. It’s filmed on a camera, there are actors and a script, but in terms of narrative, it’s glacially slow. Memoria is a filmed meditation, and because of that, it can be frustrating at times. I know I didn’t enjoy my entire time with the picture, yet some moments took my breath away. I have to assume this is the desired outcome from the director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This is a movie about creeping existential dread that never allows its protagonist to fully define or name what is causing this feeling inside them.
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The Spine of Night (2021)
Written & Directed by Philip Gelatt & Morgan Galen King
American animator Ralph Bakshi saw his star rise and fall across the 1970s and early 1980s. He’s fondly remembered as the director behind numerous fantasy films of that period, Lord of the Rings probably his most well-known work. Because hand-drawn animation had many limitations, Bakshi would often employ rotoscoping, a technique where film of live action actors is drawn over, adding textures and embellishments but keeping the fluid motion of real people. This technique would evolve into digital motion capture, and rotoscoping has become a niche technique used sparingly. However, Richard Linklater has used it to make his films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Inspired by Bakshi, we have The Spine of Night, a dark horror fantasy that tells of another world where ancient dark magic prevails.
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Written & Directed by Dean Shaw
If Cryptozoo feels like an indie comic book, you wouldn’t be wrong. The creator Dean Shaw is a comic book writer/artist. The work looks like a crude outsider art piece with hints of inspiration from other obscure animated works. I personally saw a lot of Fantastic Planet in the character movement and the themes of the narrative. The story is ambitious but ultimately fails to come together, in my opinion. There’s something here, but I don’t think all the ingredients mixed well. We have an animated film that wants to build a vast world and talk about the environment & humanity.
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Written by John Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg
Directed by John Boorman
The story of King Arthur has been endlessly adapted into all forms of media, and it can be assumed that it will continue for as long as humans make art. This particular adaptation is a theatrical version of Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. If you’ve seen The Sword in the Stone or anything where Merlin takes an important role, it’s most likely derived from Mallory’s writings on Camelot. Director John Boorman was initially interested in doing a three-hour film centered on the famous wizard of British lore, but the studios thought it was too costly and without broad appeal. Boorman then turned his attention to a live-action adaptation of Lord of the Rings, which fell through, but there was interest in a film about King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable.
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Time Bandits (1981)
Written by Terry Gilliam & Michael Palin
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Over the last 20 odd years, I’ve held varying opinions on the work of Terry Gilliam and Monty Python. I can’t say I was ever a superfan of either, but I certainly have enjoyed pieces of their work. For a long time, I counted Brazil as one of my favorite films ever. The more I rewatched it, the more I cooled on that opinion, and I still regard it as one of the best movies to come out in the 1980s. I think the problem I have with Gilliam is the inconsistency of his work, especially within a single film. There will be moments of sheer brilliance followed by sloppy, amateurish content. I always feel like I am on the precipice of greatness watching his pictures, only to walk away with the sense that some vital component was missing. I first saw Time Bandits on television when I was a child, and it left an impression on me to the point that specific images were seared onto my brain after a single viewing. Revisiting the movie, I found it once again had great ideas but poor execution.
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