Jackie: The Unstable Narrator

Jackie is an atypical biopic seen through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman). The main framing of the story follows the events which occurred prior and subsequent to her husband’s assassination in 1963.

Directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín and produced by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) who was previously set to direct the biopic, Jackie follows fewer biopic conventions and tends towards psychological tendencies.

Initially pitched as a HBO mini-series, Jackie truly takes advantage of its film medium. Director of Photography Stéphane Fontaine’s (Rust and Bone) cinematography is sensational, only enhanced by the decision to shoot on 16mm film, expertly blending in with authentic archival footage from the period. Coupled with spectacular production design by Jean Rabasse and to-die-for costumes by Madeline Fontaine, the visuals in Jackie work perfectly, engaging us unquestioningly in the historical period and Jackie’s world.

It is the other cinematic elements which set Jackie apart. The score is composed by Mica Levi (Under the Skin) and is nothing short of unsettling, tainting the precise visuals entirely. Levi’s accompaniment transforms Jackie from run-of-the-mill dramatic biopic to psychological thriller.

Jackie is masterfully portrayed by Natalie Portman whose spot-on accent, although strikingly accurate, is somewhat alienating at times. Perhaps due to the fact that Portman was one of the few actors to tackle a strong accent with such ferocity, Portman’s dedication and study of Jackie’s ‘posh-NY-British’ dialect seems a tad out of place among the subtler Transatlantic accents. However, the protrusion of Portman’s accent could be more of a reflection on her supporting cast’s lack of commitment by association. Moving past her accent, Natalie Portman is astounding as Jackie. I truly believe that nobody could have done a better job than her, and that this is her best performance to date.

Jackie’s most intriguing and engaging feature is the story of the woman herself. It was widely known that Jackie Kennedy had two sides – the put-together debutant persona which she shared with the public and media, and the feisty, intelligent identity that she kept private. These two personas are played upon by Larraín throughout the film, as Jackie reverts to her public persona in order to maintain control of her private situation prior to her husband’s assassination. She never crumples, continuing her duties as First Lady even after Lyndon Johnson is sworn in. This polarisation is expressed visually through stability and symmetry when Jackie is feeling in control and slow, hand-held camera when she lets go. Jackie talks about truth, in what people believe to be true and what she knows to be real. Her own eventual blurring of her personas ultimately makes it difficult for her to tell the truth, especially when she continuously switches her public persona on and off. She loses track – What is real? What is performance?

Jackie competed for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was also selected at Toronto. Natalie Portman is nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes but unfortunately did not receive any further nominations. Come Oscar nominations, I think that Natalie will certainly be nominated again, but no other major nominations akin to Best Picture or Director. However, I do believe that nominations for costume and production design will certainly be in order.

Ultimately, Jackie succeeds as an absorbing character study of Jackie Kennedy. We come to understand her private self and her motives to build and maintain the Kennedy legacy as the ‘Camelot’ era. The film is visceral and disturbing and will perhaps estrange less informed viewers expecting a traditional biopic. Nevertheless, I would take this kind of experimentation through filmmaking over a lacklustre biopic any day (looking at you, Hacksaw Ridge).

★★★★1/2


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

La La Land: Spot the Reference

La La Land is the third feature-length film from writer/director/wunderkind Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). Set in modern-day Los Angeles, La La Land pays tribute to and ultimately reinvents both classic Hollywood cinema and musicals, as well as several other genres including the romantic comedy.

The film stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, again proving that there can be no better on-screen chemistry than what they demonstrate. Gosling is quick, subtle and so believable as jazz-obsessed Sebastian. His musical performances are effortless, with Gosling mastered piano for the role, deeming the use of a piano double unnecessary. However, I truly believe that although La La Land is, for the most part, an ensemble piece, Emma Stone steals the show in every scene in which she is featured. She is positively magnetic in her execution of humour, from the imperfections in her vocals to her prickly vulnerability. Stone’s ability to fit and match so perfectly into this world as movie-loving Mia works to enhance the film’s metanarratives. She is astonishing and this film and this performance will truly come to define her career.

The use of colour in this film is wonderful. With the idea of each character having a separate dream, Mia and Sebastian are regularly bathed in either red or blue light. Red being Mia’s colour and blue being Seb’s. In the musical sequence which features the delightful song ‘A Lovely Night’ (which is now stuck in my head), the pair dance in front a purple L.A. sunset as their colours collide and their dreams change to focus on each other.

Chazelle’s world decorated with primary and secondary block colours, best demonstrated in the film’s opening number ‘Another Day of Sun’. Each colour worn by different characters represent the dreams that they are chasing in Los Angeles.

La La Land utilises characteristics of the old Hollywood musical such as the wide tracking shot. Although the execution of these sequences are nothing short of perfect, the film differs from many of its predecessors with the presentation of imperfect subject material. For example, during ‘Someone in the Crowd’ (a delightful “girls getting ready” song), we are led through Mia’s small apartment which she shares with three other aspiring actresses. We glimpse realistic details and imperfections such as an untidy corner or a clothing strap sticking out of a dress. This aspect is consistent throughout the film, grounding it in reality, even during the film’s dream sequences. This small detail sets La La Land apart from its generic counterparts, in addition to Chazelle’s extraordinary screenplay. The dream sequences feel deserved and are so much more moving because we care for the characters and believe in their world which is so rooted in reality. However, this is not to say that La La Land is an entirely happy film. If anything, it is realistic which makes it both joyful and heartbreaking. In both screenings that I was lucky enough to attend, I (discreetly) wept.

Most of all, La La Land is an unequivocal tribute to the Hollywood films and musicals of yesteryear. Chazelle unashamedly references films such as Shall We Dance, An American in Paris, Funny Face, Singin’ in the Rain and Rebel Without a Cause. It is, of course, for people who love the musical genre by someone who worships it. This is not to say, however, that La La Land is only for these people. I truly believe that this film can appeal to everyone.

La La Land is definitely one of my favourite films of the year. It is such a feat of filmmaking and will hopefully shock the genre back to life. Also, it’s just delightful.

With Awards Season commencing, La La Land has already won Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards and has been nominated for seven Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor. With the Academy Award nominations on the horizon, it is almost certain that it will receive similar nominations and win many more awards, leading the nominations with Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea.

Do yourself a favour and see this film. You deserve it.

★★★★★


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

 

 

Paterson: The Duality of Things

Paterson is an independent film by writer/director Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Only Lovers Left Alive). Having been heavily featured throughout international film festivals including Cannes, Toronto and MIFF, Paterson is a quintessential ‘festival darling’.

Paterson’s story follows a bus driver/poet named Paterson (Adam Driver) who lives in the picturesque town of Paterson, New Jersey. We follow Paterson closely through his day-to-day interactions, ultimately coming to know him and his perspective intimately. Paterson, played with expert subtlety by Driver, differs from the typical male protagonist through his endearing introversion which ultimately translates as insight and perception. In fact, with the audience granted the ability to see Paterson’s world from his perspective, we gain the opportunity to learn about secondary characters with ease. Moreover, Paterson’s creative expression through his poetry is reserved, enclosed in his “private notebook”.

In abject opposition to Paterson’s introversion is his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Laura’s creativity spreads from her textile work (which she wears) to painting to cupcakes to music. In fact, in demonstration of Laura’s extroversion, her work spreads all throughout their small house, whilst Paterson’s is confined to his small notebook. He internalises, she externalises. This is however, not to say that they are dysfunctional. Each has their routine and they are inseparable.

One of the more intriguing visual and story motifs of this film is its placement of twins. Throughout the week that we spend with Paterson, he comes into contact with several sets of twins. There is also a consistent discussion of separate entities sharing the same names, including Paterson himself and his town of residence. Additionally, Paterson’s favourite poet William Carlos Williams wrote a book of poetry named ‘Paterson’ whilst residing there also. This realisation accompanies Paterson’s eventual understanding that people or entities can have more than one purpose, with many successful poets gathering their inspiration from other professions.

Paterson’s strongest element is its writing, specifically during the scenes of dialogue. It felt genuinely authentic through its portrayal of a diverse range of people and cultures. Also notable is the depiction of lived economic hardship. Too often in modern cinema do we see the representation of living below the poverty line portrayed both inaccurately simply to emphasise drama. Paterson succeeds in seeing the greater picture, with low economic stances shown to not define characters. My favourite scenes were the bus scenes, with a range of different people conversing on public transport, from working-class people to students. I must also add that I almost squealed as I realised that two students riding the bus were played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman from Moonrise Kingdom. Sneaky.

What really sets Paterson apart is its apparent lack of plot. There is no inciting incident which calls for drama or tension. Rather, there is a drive which comes from the genuine care and interest in Paterson himself, as well as the community of Paterson, NJ. Everything about Paterson is understated, the beauty within the small details. Additionally, Carter Logan’s score is for the most part unnoticeable with the soundtrack diegetic in its embedding.

Whilst Paterson grapples with some truly philosophical subject matter, it is truly subtle in its execution and social commentary. Although I personally did not connect on an emotional level with the characters, the expert implementation of perspective and themes proves it as a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

Lastly, the absolute star of this film is unquestioningly Marvin the English Bulldog. Unsurprisingly, I am not alone in praising the performance, as Paterson was honoured with the ‘Palm Dog Award’ at Cannes Film Festival.

★★★1/2


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

 

Nocturnal Animals: Stylish Exploitation

Nocturnal Animals is written for the screen and directed by renowned designer Tom Ford (A Single Man). Based upon Austin Wright’s 1993 novel, the film stars an extensive ensemble cast headed by Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Nocturnal Animals is gripping, stylish and most surprisingly, kind of weird; verifying Ford’s abilities as a modern polymath of the creative industries.

The idea that most struck me upon viewing this film was the element of exploitation that is so present in culture nowadays, only made more obvious from the opening sequence of this film. I am not going to spoil the opening sequence, but it is really worth discussing and sets the tone of the film marvellously.

Susan (Adams) lives in a world where everyone is engaged in exploitation. As an art gallery owner, she is surrounded by art which involves violence and abuse. When she goes home, she orders her butler to do medial chores as she watches (and turns off) a reality TV programme. When her husband (Armie Hammer) returns home, he can only give her money for her gallery, turning his energy to his mistress. These types of exploitation seem unexceptional in Susan’s life, visually communicated as cold and expensive (but still terribly stylish). It is only when Susan receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Gyllenhaal) that Susan begins to gain awareness of how isolated she has become.

The manuscript, as it is being read by Susan, acts as a dual narrative with somehow interconnected storylines. The stories are told beautifully with both the real-life Susan, as well as flashbacks that are provoked by the story. It is executed masterfully and is ridiculously meta.

The manuscript story follows Tony – who Susan imagines as Edward (Gyllenhaal) – his wife Laura (Isla Fischer) – who is based upon Susan – and their teenage daughter India. The fictitious family are torn apart in an incredibly violent turn of events. It’s very hard to explain, but translates magnificently on film. As Susan becomes engrossed in the story, so too does the audience, with intriguing characters such as the Detective (Michael Shannon) who begins as a ‘white-hat’ good-guy (with a literal white hat), only to remove his hat and show his true colours. I need to interject and say that Michael Shannon’s performance is one of the highlights of this film, adding moments of genuine humour and charm. I might be biased, however, as I would pay money to watch him eat a sandwich.

Susan is both horrified and titillated by her ex-husband’s story, reflecting on the person that she was when she loved (and was loved) by Edward. The commanding use of tone to identify the warmth of that time is gorgeous, only aiding the plight of Susan’s present, cold character. It becomes clear towards the end of the film that there are three ‘Susans’ – past, present and fictitious: seen and created by Edward. The saddest realisation for Susan is that Edward created at least two of those identities, and in that, exploited her.

One of the most interesting storytelling aspects is that we never actually meet present-day Edward, but know him through his writing and from Susan’s memories. It brings in the questioning of the unreliable narrator, as each characters’ perceptions of the other is tainted in some way. And whether a man who writes so violently could be the same as the one that Susan once loved. He is ambiguous to the audience and Susan both.

Nocturnal Animals is singular in its ability to tell a convincing, compelling story. There are so many ways to look at this film, requiring repeated viewing and thought. It maintains such visual prowess, with Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey who’s previous works include Atonement and We Need to Talk About Kevin. In all of these films, the visuals prove critical in their successful disclosure of tone and narrative.

Also a highlight is Abel Korzeniowski’s spectacular score which demonstrates the importance of selectivity, as only the most transient scenes are underpinned with symphonic score.

Amy Adams shines in this performance, even though she is not (for the most part) the warm, lovely lady that we are used to. Jake Gyllenhaal is so brilliant that it is at times scary to watch, demonstrating that when he chooses a role, he bloody commits (lookin’ at you, Nightcrawler). Also look out for a dozen cameos – Tom Ford loves attractive human beings.

Come Awards Season, I think that Nocturnal Animals will be a frontrunner. It is an all-round beautiful film, but is unique from other typical Awards Season films, as it looks inward and at the medium as a whole. In terms of nominations, Tom Ford may receive Directorial and Screenplay nods, but there will certainly be nominations for Cinematography and Original Score. There could also be a Supporting Actor nod for Michael Shannon, because, well, he deserves all the awards (and kisses).

★★★★


This piece is also featured on Pop Culture-y

For Your Consideration: Oscar Futures

Over the next few months, our list of ‘films to see’ will grow exponentially with some of the year’s best films. Released in preparation for the Awards Season between November and February, the list is so packed with diverse titles that it may be difficult to choose just what to see. With many of these films making the circuit at Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, the immediate futures of these films after release is generally nominations. I’ve put together a list of my own most anticipated upcoming films which are gaining so much “Oscar Buzz” that it’s virtually deafening.


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Moonlight

Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a portrayal of growing up African-American and homosexual. A story as untold as it is important, the central character Chiron is played by three separate actors (Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert) during multiple stages in the character’s life. Not only is the premise of the film’s production intriguing, but quality LGBTQ+ media is few and far between, especially in mainstream media. With the two previous Academy Awards being #sowhite, this film has the potential to break the mould with a strong demonstration of diversity.

Moonlight is yet to receive an Australian release date.


NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Nocturnal Animals

The much anticipated follow-up to his directorial debut A Single Man, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is said to be a visual and stylistic masterpiece. It stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and a star-studded ensemble cast which includes Michael Shannon (with whom I am mildly obsessed) and Aaron Taylor-Johnston. The psychological thriller follows a gallery owner (Adams) whose ex-husband (Gyllenhaal) torments her through the writing of his novel. Having won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival, Nocturnal Animals is said to be visually stunning, with cinematography by Academy Award nominee Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, We Need to Talk About Kevin). I am electrified to see this film, and will expect nothing less than a stylish freak-fest.

Nocturnal Animals is out November 10.


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Lion

Directed by Garth Davis and based upon Saroo Brierley’s novel, Lion is said to be a captivating drama, hitting close to home with critics and audiences alike. Lion follows a boy from Calcutta who is adopted by an Australian family, only to seek them out 25 years later. Starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman, Lion is partially funded by Screen Australia, with a large portion of the production taking place in Oz. The prospect of another Aussie film (following of Mad Max: Fury Road) being featured during Awards Season is very exciting. It seems like Australia is well on the way to being placed on the map of Hollywood cinema. Supposedly, Lion is an emotional rollercoaster, leaving not a single eye dry.

Lion is out January 19.


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Hidden Figures

Probably the most exciting release of Awards Season, Theodor Melfi’s Hidden Figures has “Oscar” written all over it. Also breaking the mould of last year’s #oscarssowhite campaign, Hidden Figures is the true story of three African-American women who aided NASA in its first successful space mission. Starring Taraji P. Henson (queen), Octavia Spencer (queen) and Janelle Monáe (queen), the telling of this story is incredibly well-timed in the discussion of diversity and the roles of women. The fact that this story (based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s novel) is only hitting mainstream media now is total substantiation of black women’s stories going untold, and the over-valuing the stories of white man’s ‘strength’. One of the biggest issues raised by last year’s #oscarssowhite campaign was that quality representation and diversity were not present. This was clearly due to the under-valuing of diverse stories and experiences, which are now being better told by films such as Hidden Figures. We should not, however, see this as enough. As consumers of media, it is important to seek and support diversity, making it clear that there’s always room for more. Otherwise, important stories go untold.

Hidden Figures is out February 23.


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La La Land

Absolutely my most anticipated non-Star Wars film of this year, La La Land is a romantic musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (the best fake couple of a generation). La La Land is written and directed by Damien Chazelle whose previous film is Whiplash which is one of my favourite movies of all time. Although Whiplash was not technically a musical, it’s musicality was remarkable, as the visual composition matched and enhanced that of the music. I can only imagine the kind of virtuosity Chazell will bring to La La Land, added to the fact that the guy is only thirty-one and just in the formative years of his career. Already raking in remarkably high praise from critics and audiences alike, La La Land received the People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival. As a fan of the musical genre, I have been saddened with the lack of musicals in media (save for Hamilton and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and am thrilled at the prospect of La La Land’s potential to revive the genre for cinema. Additionally, after the proverbial dumpster-fire of 2016, La La Land could be just what we need right now.

La La Land is out December 26.


This year, I am excited to be covering all the ins and outs of the Awards Season, including the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards and, of course, The Academy Awards. I will be reviewing as many of the upcoming films as humanly possible in order to make informed predictions come time for nominations and awards. Nominated films are by no means the best movies, as they are seen as noteworthy by a specific group of people. The Awards Season is highly politicised and strange at times, but interesting in terms of its attempt to reflect culture. That being said, the Awards Season is a good time, albeit a tad cringe. It’s extremely gratifying seeing a filmmaker or actor that you admire win for a piece of media that you love, which I hope every year happens.

Also look out for:

  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Fences
  • Moana
  • Arrival

This article also appears on Pop Culture-y

The Light Between Oceans: Love Actualised

The Light Between Oceans is directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, A Place Beyond the Pines) and stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. A romantic melodrama to its core, the story follows a lighthouse keeper and his wife as they meet and begin their lives together in post-Great War Western Australia.

Based upon M.L. Stedman’s acclaimed novel (which everyone’s mum has probably read), the film brings the same sense of yearning and warmth, only adding to this with spectacular visuals of both the coastline of Australia and the line of Michael Fassbender’s jaw.

For me, the most compelling and arguably the strongest element of Cianfrance’s films are his emphasis on casting and chemistry. Prior to filming his movies, Cianfrance organises for his actors to live privately together for a number of months, in which time they fall in love. This is a process that has proven successful in the filmmaker’s previous films Blue Valentine and A Place Beyond the Pines, also proving that Derek Cianfrance is a boss matchmaker. The actual love between Fassbender and Vikander resonates so strongly onscreen that it fully aids the intimacy and believability of the story and emotion that is played out. Perhaps without it, the film could be just another romantic period melodrama.

This film is also incredibly unique in terms of its visual style. With cinematography by Aussie Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom, Macbeth), each frame is thoughtfully plotted out. Each shot is framed into three sections, with the action taking place on the outer two triads in scenes of conflict or discomfort, action which takes place in the centre establish scenarios of equilibrium or peace. It is a marvellous demonstration of visual metalanguage.

Having noticed this early in my viewing of the film, I felt so connected to the idea of ‘the light between’. It really got me thinking about where that light would come from for each character, with Tom’s (Fassbender) narration aiding this idea. Tom, as the lightkeeper, tends and brings the light himself. Tom states that his own light comes from his wife Isobel (Vikander), but when her light dims, they are both in darkness.

The use of light and dark as a visual motif is utilised masterfully throughout the film, carrying through the question of where each character’s light comes from as we meet new characters and the story unfolds.

And, of course, the title of this film is one of such poetry. That, as it is explained in the movie, it is their lighthouse that stands between the Southern and Indian Oceans, ‘the light between oceans’. But this can mean so much more for each character.

Underpinning the gorgeous visuals is the score by Alexander Desplat, which is swelling, yet subtle and understated. Desplat again demonstrates his abilities to reinforce emotion and drama through music.

In terms of performances, Michael Fassbender carries the film tremendously. He is consistently proving to be one of the most talented, versatile and bankable actors working today. But if this film proves anything about Fassbender, it is that only he can make a moustache smoulder.

Then there’s Alicia Vikander. Fresh off her Best Supporting Actress win for The Danish Girl (spiritual win for Ex Machina), she is stunning and raw as Isobel. I completely bought her enduring performance and was moved by her character’s plight as she questions her role and identity as a wife, a mother and a woman.

Also featured in the film is Rachel Weisz who gives a strong performance, although her old-school Australian accent is questionable at times. Also, shout out to Emily Barclay (Please Like Me) who makes a little appearance as Weisz’s sister.

This film does feel somewhat Australian, filmed in both Australia and New Zealand. I got ‘the feels’ during a scene in which Tom and Isobel dance to ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

Come Awards Season, The Light Between Oceans may receive a few nominations, including Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a possible nomination for Alicia Vikander. However, due to the sheer abundance of Oscar-worthy films coming up, The Light Between Oceans may slip under the radar. Regardless, The Light Between Oceans has longevity, which cannot be said for many other films, including past award winners and nominees alike.

I really loved this film. It pushes against romance and melodrama conventions, instead drawing from and eliciting real emotion, payed off through visual motifs and splendid writing which ties up loose ends and satisfies. The lead performances are absolutely divine, matched only by the visuals of coastlines and sunsets galore (although I may still prefer Fassbender’s face over the latter).

★★★★


This piece is also featured on Pop Culture-y

Girl Asleep: High School Horrors

Girl Asleep is an Australian film directed by Rosemary Meyers and written by Matthew Whittet, based upon a play by the same writer. It is a portrayal of adolescence set during the 1970s, allowing dance sequences that verge on excessive.

Please do not get me wrong, there were elements of this film that I truly loved. However, this film is separated into two parts, the latter I felt was somewhat inconsistent with the tone of the first.

This is how I would describe the visual and narrative tones; the first half of this film follows Greta (Bethany Whitmore) through her experiences at a new high school, her family, and the mess when the two collide. It’s somewhat humorous, but is a starkly accurate depiction of the trepidation of high school and adolescence. It’s like Napoleon Dynamite and any Wes Anderson movie had a baby and she was a girl.
Which then takes me to the second half. And I must stress how confused I was by this change of tone, from a comedy to an abject horror movie, the likes of which I can only compare to The Babadook. Although I was totally aware of the fact that Greta was asleep (like the title – I get it), I was too invested and interested in the previous narrative to get into a new one in a dream sequence. It became clear only at the end of the sequence what it was for, at which point, I must admit, I maybe shed a small tear.

The film really grasps with the concept of what happens to the child-self when the adolescent takes its place. Only as I am writing this does the film really gel for me, because adolescence is truly a horror movie. Greta makes the choice to embrace her child-self so that, resonant with the adolescent experience, that part of her is not killed off, which perhaps happens to us all.

Additionally, this forces us to question the two contrasting tones that makes it unclear which half is more like a horror movie. It provoked a reflection on my own horrific experiences in high school, making me realise that I would rather reside in that horror landscape than go through adolescence again. It also touched me that Greta is constantly folding paper cranes, something that I did for years.

The most compelling elements of Girl Asleep come from the direction and visual language. Some of the imagery is astounding with its use of colour, framing and symmetry. This could have been a silent film and I would have still understood the narrative. Saying that, the dialogue in this film was very ordinary and distracting, which did take me out of the story many times. That and a bizarre “love” scene that could have been taken out of the film completely.

It must also be mentioned that the young cast of Girl Asleep is great. They have the tricky task of holding together this movie, which they accomplish with flying colours.

Although I perhaps did not enjoy watching much of this movie, I am conflicted with my fondness for it upon writing about it. I think I will try watching again with ear-plugs (sans dialogue).

★★★1/2


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

10 Cloverfield Lane – Palpable Tension

i_knew_this_day_would_come___10_cloverfield_lane_by_lewisdowsett-d9uhfyk10 Cloverfield Lane is a thriller directed by Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams’ production house Bad Robot. A ‘spiritual sequel’ to Cloverfield (2008), 10 Cloverfield Lane takes the grandiose sci-fi apocalypse plot of its predecessor and condenses it into something unique.

10 Cloverfield Lane sees Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) involved in a car accident, which leads to her detainment in an underground bunker by Howard (John Goodman) as well as a second bunk(er)-mate, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Although the men inform Michelle that everyone above the ground are likely dead due to a chemical attack, Michelle still suspects that there are other, more sinister reasons for her capture.

I personally went into 10 Cloverfield Lane expecting (and hoping) for some answers to the ending of Cloverfield which had us all guessing. Although I did not receive any of these answers, I was surprised and delighted with what was delivered through 10 Cloverfield Lane. Though Trachtenberg’s directional debut touches on many genres of cinema including horror, drama, sci-fi and mystery, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a pure thriller. And I would have gladly chosen this film over a pure sequel to Cloverfield.

Visually, 10 Cloverfield Lane is stunning. With no natural light, each scene is penetrated with a succinct mood, following the narrative through scenes of intensity, as if each small flicker of the florescent light ticks the audience into a new level of suspense. As the camera moves around the bunker from scene to scene, we as the audience feel as though we know the floor plan of the bunker as well as Michelle does.

Speaking of Michelle, one of my favourite things about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it is told from the perspective of a female character. At the beginning of the narrative, we know nothing about Michelle, only that she is leaving her home, and fiancée, behind. In many ways, Michelle’s character is very much like Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), in that the audience is forced to guess their backstories and position, usually resulting in audiences involuntarily placing a bit of themselves into a character.

Unlike Marion Crane, however, upon her capture and subsequent transition into life in the bunker, Michelle perseveres (spoilers for Psycho). I really have to say that it has been a long time since, as a fan of the horror/thriller genre, I have seen a character with such calculated decision making skills. In the climate of irrational, terror-wracked characters, it was really refreshing to see Michelle, as a character, survive and even succeed in this world.

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the more suspenseful films that I have seen in a while. Essentially devoid of blood and gore (save for one scene), the film relies on tension created through technical elements such as sound and editing. There is one particular scene in which Michelle has to crawl through a closed-space vent, I was so physically uncomfortable that I had my hands clapped over my ears. Spoiler alert: Michelle was fine. But with the combination of the beautifully edited sound design and the high emotional stakes for the character, I had a lot of trouble viewing that scene (perhaps because of my own discomfort of small spaces, which I brought into my own understanding of Michelle).

I must also quickly touch John Goodman’s performance. Predominantly type-cast into jolly, edgy characters usually written by the likes of the Coen Brothers, John Goodman certainly brings a degree of this lighter spirit to his character Howard. And this spirit is absolutely vital, as it completely contrasts the other, more sinister side of Howard. Goodman embeds fear into the audience, which then dissipates leading us, like Michelle to trust Howard. It is when the plot turns and Howard reveals his true colours that we, and Michelle identify the sinister truth about what lies on the surface outside. This is really one of Goodman’s best performances, and I will be cheering him on come awards season.

10 Cloverfield Lane is really something. It is completely unpredictable in terms of its plot, which it definitely uses to its advantage.

★★★★


 

This article was also featured in SWINE Magazine’s November issue

G.O.T. Season 6 Predictions – UPDATE

I will be talking about episodes up to the most recent episode – ‘The Door’. If you have not seen every single one of these episodes, please be aware that I will be discussing SPOILERS, as well as informed predictions about what is left for our favourite characters this season.

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So far, my predictions have been pretty spot on. See my correct predictions below:

  • Jon Snow is resurrected by Melisandre
  • Jon Snow leaves the Night’s Watch
  • Ramsay kills Roose and Walder Bolton (although I did not predict the slaughter of that baby) and becomes Warden of the North
  • Ramsay is ‘gifted’ Rickon Stark
  • Brienne becomes Sansa’s protecter
  • Sansa meets Jon at The Wall (this was a hopeful one, as I had a sneaking feeling that they might have missed each other)
  • Arya recovers from her blindness
  • Arya goes on her first mission for The Faceless Men
  • Cercei is angry and vengeful
  • Tyrion is a wise-cracker (all those ‘dickless’ jokes)
  • Dany gains a Dothraki army
  • Bran goes into the past and sees his father, among other things

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I think that everything that we’ve seen of this season up until ‘The Door’ has been really solid (excluding Dorne, as there is no possible way to fix that horrible storyline) and I really can’t wait to see more, as this is by far the best season that we’ve had since probably season 3.


Here’s what could happen:

Bran is likely to survive with Meera and will continue to work on his new skillz. Hopefully he will at least reflect on the terrible decisions that he has made that GOT THE THREE-EYED RAVEN, SUMMER AND HODOR KILLED. I’m sorry, but the kid never learns. His mother was incessant about Bran not climbing, and he goes and gets himself paralyzed, and now thing. Come on, Bran. I think that Bran will go back and find out more about Lyanna, leading him to the truth about Jon’s true parentage. *Secret Targaryen*. After this, Bran will travel to a Weirwood/Heart Tree and warg to contact Jon, who will likely be praying or doing whatever Jons do.

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I think that at the Jon’s hesitance to lead, Sansa will become the driving force in gathering an army to take Winterfell (and stab Ramsay in the damn throat). They will all (Sansa, Jon, Brienne, Tormond, Davos, Melisandre and, of course, Podrick ~bless~) travel to Riverrun to see what’s up there. I honestly think that Littlefinger was lying, and that the Lannisters have The Riverlands, but regardless, I think Brienne will end up fighting Jaime. OR… Cleganebowl. If you do not know this theory, look it up. It’s mint (and pretty much confirmed)

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When it comes to King’s Landing, I think that they will succeed in rescuing Margaery from the High Sparrow, although she will not be the same. Loras will probably have to make his walk of atonement. Other than those two storylines, I really have no idea where the Kings Landing stuff is going this season, it’s effective but I think that most of the show’s audience like to focus on what’s happening in The North, as it’s doing an amazing job of paying off so many storylines this season.

I think that I am still right in predicting that Yara and Theon Greyjoy are taking their (enormous) fleet to Volantis, where Yara will have some fun with the prostitutes and eventually team up with Daenerys, providing her with those ships that she needed.
Boom.

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In other crackpot theories, I have some thoughts about Varys. Although he is quite an unassuming character, we still really don’t know a whole lot about his background. In ‘The Door’, Tyrion and Varys meet a Red Priestess who talks about “that time” that someone cut of Vary’s genitals and threw them into a fire. I think that the reason for this has to do with the Lord of Light (Shireen was burnt alive, Gendry’s blood etc.) and that Varys has King’s blood. There is a theory that has been making the rounds for years about The Blackfire Rebellion and the Black Dragons. I won’t go into details here but basically it ended up that a Targaryen prince was sent out of Westeros and that Varys could be distantly related to him. Not only does this explain Varys’ support of Daenerys and the Targaryen rein, but also many other things about him, including his bald head (it could be that he is hiding his silver hair). But what did the voice say?
Anyway, I was reminded of this theory whilst watching this episode and I’m intrigued to find out whether it comes to fruition. We all love Varys, after all!


I am so enjoying watching this season! I will post another update in a few episodes, but in the meantime, happy Cleganebowl watching!

Game of Thrones Season 6: Predictions

It seems like everyone is talking about the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, so as a self-confessed obsessed fan of most everything about the universe (including books and HBO adaption), I thought I should write up all of my (informed) predictions for what will happen in the next season! Warning: I am going to be talking about events from both the show and the books, so SPOILERS AHEAD. I should also say that I have watched all of the clip, trailers and teasers that HBO has released, so if you are avoiding information from these, please beware.

P.S. This is all pure speculation, so crack-pot theories are allowed.

Let’s start with who everyone is talking about.

Jon Snow

Jon

Jon Snow is definitely dead. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind about him staying this way for no more than a few episodes. The kid’s going to get resurrected, one way or another, most likely by the Lady Melisandre. We can see from the clips and teasers that Jon’s body is being guarded by Ghost and Davos, as well as Ed (I assume) and some others Brothers of the Night’s Watch. In one particular scene, Davos actually unsheathes Longclaw, ready to strike. Davos has nothing to lose, as he’s just lost Shireen (my heart has not yet mended) and his King. I think that Davos is going to have a hell of a lot to do this season, bringing together supporters for the Starks in the North (but more about that later).

Upon being brought back from the dead (because it’s obviously going to happen), Jon will rise a Stark. Jon Stark! He will also no longer be a Brother of the Night’s Watch. I also think that this may be the season in which L+R=J will be confirmed (if you do not know this theory, please look it up pronto!), which will reveal Jon’s status as a *Secret Targaryen*.

Like I said, Jon’s not going to be brought back for a while. HBO is going to drag this one out, unfortunately. Plus I think Melisandre needs to work on her resurrecting skillz. But once he’s back, Jon will fight for the Starks in the Battle of the Bastards (a great battle for The North between Ramsay Bolton’s men and supporters of the Starks — more about this below in ‘The North’).

Other than that, Jon’s always been the one that audiences have rooted for. He’s grown into a man before our eyes, and it would be a crime to not put into play so many possibilities for this character who ultimately stands for good.

The North

Now that we’ve gotten all of the Jon stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the North. When we left off at the end of season 5, the (blasted) Boltons ruled in the North with Roose at the helm as Warden of the North. Roose and his wife Walda (daughter of the ultimate evil, Walder Frey) are expecting a child, likely a boy. Roose’s bastard Ramsay who has been naturalised by King Tommen (“another bastard” — thanks Sansa) is already cranky about this, as it jeopardises Ramsay’s claim to the North. On top of that, Ramsay has just misplaced three people. Miranda has been murdered by Theon, who just escaped with Sansa.

I think that these recent events will have a significant effect on Ramsay’s psyche, which will ultimately lead to the deaths of Roose and Walda, leaving Ramsay as Warden of the North. Ramsay will lead his men into battle against the Starks, likely led by Jon or Sansa.

It was also made clear that the Umbers had sided with the Boltons. And we have to remember that when Bran sent Osha and Rickon away, he sent them to the Umbers. Therefore, Rickon may be used as a hostage to Ramsay during the Battle of the Bastards. Sansa’s going to have something to say about that…

Speaking of whom!

Sansa Stark

Sansa

So Sansa had a terrible time last season. I’m not really going to go into it because it really shook my confidence in the show, which is saying something. Fans have been assured since the beginning of season 6 production that Sansa’s story will definitely going somewhere. THE QUEEN IN THE NORTH!

When we last left Sansa, she had just escaped Winterfell with Theon, after attempting to do so herself as per Brienne’s (failed) plan. I’ve connected a few dots and I’ve come to the conclusion that she and Theon will get separated, likely with Theon sacrificing himself and being recaptured by the Boltons.

Sansa will then meet Brienne and Podrick again (although I don’t know how) and she will be brought to The Wall, to Jon. I’m not really sure what will happen from there, but I have some ideas. Sansa and Jon will travel around the North gathering the remaining supporters of the Starks, in order to reclaim the North, with Sansa as Wardeness. Sansa may also be involved in the resurrection of her brother(/cousin).

I have a few hopeful ideas about what else could be involved in Sansa’s story this season. It is my prediction that Sansa will meet Nymeria, Arya’s direwolf again (I will go into why more in Arya’s section below), because Sansa could do with some extra protection and guidance. It is also likely that Brienne will admit to Sansa that she failed to catch Arya. This will have a huge effect on Sansa, as she had no knowledge about Arya still being alive, let alone so close.

Sansa will likely be reunited with Petyr Baelish at some point, upon which she will do one of two things. Sansa will either: Kill Petyr (if she knows what’s good for her) or, Sansa will manipulate Littlefinger in order to gain more power in The South. In my opinion, Sansa should just cut his throat and be done with it.

My biggest prediction is that, although Sansa will not become Lady Stoneheart (probably the best storyline that we’re missing from the books), she will embody some of her more vengeful traits, going after the Freys and ultimately Ramsay. I also think that, like Lady Stoneheart, Sansa will punish Brienne for her devotion to Jaime Lannister, as well as for letting Arya slip through her fingers and failure to save Sansa. Sansa will probably send Brienne to fight for her in Riverrun, where she will ultimately fight Jaime.

But one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be Sansa’s season. I can’t wait for her to be a key player in the game of thrones.

Let’s hop over to Braavos for a bit shall we?

Arya Stark

Arya

I think that of all of the characters, Arya’s story is likely to be the most faithful to the books.

Arya is blind, obviously, and will live as on the streets of Braavos for a few episodes. She is also going to continue her ‘training’ with The Waif. I am really hoping that Arya’s blindness will allow her to work on her warging skillz, like in the books. Further, Arya will warg into her direwolf Nymeria and find Sansa, where she will have the direwolf watch over her older sister. Arya will recover from her blindness.

Also following the books, Arya will join a theatre troupe for her first apprenticeship. Arya will also take her first life as no-one.

Let’s leap over to King’s Landing

Cercei Lannister

Cercei

So Cercei is set to be nuts this season with rage’n’revenge. Jaime will return to King’s Landing with Prince Trystane (unless they went back to Dorne to drop him off) and the body of Myrcella. It’s very likely that Cercei will plead with Jaime to exact vengeance against the High Sparrow, but Jaime could (and probably should) act with caution. Everything’s all good though because they have Mace Tyrell (Mace is ah-mace-ing)!

Cercei will also take full advantage of her newest companion, Sir Robert Strong (also known as the Frank’n’Mountain). If the story’s anything like the books, SRS will murder Pycell and Kevan.

Just lots and lots of murder. And manipulation. And a few moments of tender motherly care for ickle King Tommen.

I also have an inkling that this could be Cercei’s (and maybe Jaime’s) last season. This may be the end of the Lannister line, as we’ve already seen the Baratheons come and go.

Onto the character with literally the best one-liners in the show

Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion

With Daenerys gone, Tyrion, Varys and Missandei will rule Meereen. They will deal with the politics and try to clean up the mess that the Sons of the Harpy (and Drogon) have left behind.

It is seen in the trailer that Tyrion goes down into the dungeons to visit Viserion and Rhaegal (Daenerys’ dragons). There are a few things that could happen here. Tyrion could be burnt to a crisp which, let’s face it, is not impossible (especially if they have written Tyrion’s story resembling that of Quentyn Martell’s). Somebody else (possible Grey Worm) could be burnt to a crisp, sparing Tyrion and leaving him with a crippling sense of guilt. Or, the third theory which is most popular among fans, Tyrion will be blasted by dragon fire and will survive like we saw with Dany in season 1. Tyrion would therefore be a *Secret Targaryen* and would ride the third dragon into the Great War with Daenerys and Jon.

It’s going to be an interesting season for Tyrion, though it always is.

And now to the queen whose titles keep multiplying!

Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys

Upon being dropped into the middle of a Dothraki hoard (thanks, Drogon), our Khaleesi will head into Vaes Dothrak and meet with Khal Jhaqo. I really have no clue what will happen there, but it is likely that she will spend some time with the khalasar connecting with her Dothraki roots.

Daenerys will somehow convince them to return with her to Meereen, where she will prepare to venture towards Westeros, likely through Volantis and then into Dorne.

(Speaking of Volantis, in the trailer it appears that Yara Greyjoy is hangin’ with the whores of Volantis and may assist Daenerys with the support of the Iron Islands, that is if Yara still has any claim, what with the rise of Euron Greyjoy. But that’s a whole other kettle of kraken)

It is possible that Daenerys could make it to Kings Landing this season. And if we’re being honest, it’s probably time.

And lastly, to the knower of all spoilers

Bran Stark

Bran

After spending an entire season inside a tree, Bran’s abilities of The Sight and warging will be very sharp, having been taught by the Three-Eyed Raven himself. Bran can now warg freely with heart trees, allowing him to see into the past – specifically Winterfell’s past. Bran will learn about his father, Eddard, as well as the events that led to the unseating of the Targaryen dynasty.

This is going to be an extremely important factor during this season. It is through Bran’s visions that we will see the flashback of The Tower of Joy, as well as the explanation of Jon Snow’s ancestry, that is, that Jon is the son of Rhegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Also through Bran’s visions, we will learn more about the Night’s King, possibly meeting him.

Another theory going around is that Bran will eventually come to warg into one of Daenery’s dragons and aid in the fight against the Army of the Dead. I’m not so sure about that one, but I am very sure that Bran is growing to be one of the most powerful characters on the show.

So that’s it! Of course, there is so much more and so many other characters to take into account, however if I began writing it now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.

I am so very excited to see my favourite show return, and am even more so with the nearing conclusion.

Please let me know what you think, I love a discussion.

Enjoy the season premiere on Monday (Sunday in the US and UK), I know I will.

Ella