The Other Voices: Atlantics

Hey! It’s been a long winter vacation, but I’m back this week with French director Mati Diop’s supernatural indie drama ATLANTICS, now available on Netflix.

On New Year’s Day, for some reason, my partner put TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON on the TV first thing in the morning. That night, we decided to watch 6 UNDERGROUND, completely not intending to make it a full circle Michel Bay kind of day. And if there’s one thing I learned from that experience, it’s that if you’ve ever wondered what the opposite of a Michael Bay movie is, it’s ATLANTICS.

ATLANTICS tells the story of a young Senegalese woman, Ada, who despite being engaged to a rich asshole,  is in love with a construction worker named Souleiman, who, along with his coworkers, is not paid his promised salary for 4 months of work on a huge tower that looms over the town of Dakar. In order to find work, the men all hop on a boat and try to cross the sea to Spain, leaving their women behind. The men don’t reach their destination, and that’s when weird shit starts happening.

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai – 35th Anniversary

NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE!

In 1984, a film was released that was considered to be a flop at the time. It made very little at the box office, however, the film went on to become a cult classic. The reason for this is: nobody really knows exactly what the film is about. You can speculate; you can say what the story beats are,-you can even think that you know what the deeper meaning of the story is. The truth is- this is a film that is completely unique to everyone who watches it. It’s a film that could easily be dismissed as a cheesy product of the 1980’s. You would be so very wrong in your dismissal though. There is more to this film than it’s cheesiness- which there are moments of- there is no denying that. One of the biggest draws of the film is the fact that it dumps the audience into an existing universe and offers very little information about it up front. It tells the audience ‘this is the world, you’ll catch up.’ Treating the audience with respect, and treating them like the intelligent people that they are, was something that is very rare in film in general. It was especially rare in the early 1980’s.

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The Other Voices: Mary Queen of Scots

Many years ago, I did a heavy research dive into Mary Queen of Scots with an idea of trying to find a good story where I could make her a badass hero. It became clear pretty quickly that this was impossibly without a lot of bullshit. She just wasn’t a great role model. She was almost always on the run either literally or metaphorically, she was easily manipulated by men specifically, she was so obsessed with her lineage that she never put the right amount of energy into being a good leader in the job she already had, and she ended up dying when she wouldn’t stop obsessing about Elizabeth, who she never actually met in person. I decided there just wasn’t a story there – not with her as the protagonist.

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The Other Voices: Tigers Are Not Afraid

I think we can all agree that children shouldn’t have to be warriors. They should have homes and parents and food and time to play without worrying about survival. Unfortunately, not all children get to have that. Mexican director Issa Lopez’ 2017 dark fairy tale, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, is the story of a group of orphans who have to wake up every day and fight the evil that grown-ups are too scared to face.

This is not some happy story of victory over evil. It’s about the cost we ask our children to pay when we don’t protect them, and I know I’ll be thinking about it for days. It may take place in Mexico, but we are not so removed from this world. We conduct active shooter drills in schools now. Police officers sometimes assault or kill black children instead of protecting them. Our loudest activists against gun violence have become teenagers. This is a burden they should not have to bear, but they do.

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The Other Voices: Us

Obviously there are a lot of horror movies out there that are just meant to be fun, low-budget schlockfests to give you a good scare before bedtime, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Jordan Peele, it’s that he’s not interested in any of that. If he’s going to scare us, it’s not going to be with a creepy monster – it’s going to be with the truth of our own society. And his latest, US, is certainly in line with that trend.

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The Other Voices: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

I was supposed to write this article three weeks ago, when it was still October, but I had decided in September that I could just work 30 straight 12+ hour days doing 3 jobs and it would be fine. I am no longer 20 years old. It was not fine. I had to push one week for work, but then the Saturday when everybody was getting ready to go to all the parties, I dropped on the couch and suddenly realized I had a 101 fever and I was going to miss Halloween this year. I had multiple illnesses and ended up lying in bed for days without the attention span to watch a whole movie in between naps. Moral of the story: Even if it IS the American way, don’t try to work yourself to death.

So I’ve been away, but I finally got around to watching Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 indie film, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. Amirpour is Iranian-American, but she was born in England and moved her at a young age. She used film to relate to American culture, particularly loving the films of David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Richard Linklater…. All the artsy guys. So it should surprise nobody that this film is hella-artsy.

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The Other Voices: The Babadook

I had no idea what THE BABADOOK would be about when I put it on. The impression I had from the Internet was that it was about a gay dinner guest in a jaunty hat. This was definitely a film where that lack of knowledge was helpful in making me very scared.

THE BABADOOK, an Australian film by Jennifer Kent, is about grief. It’s pretty easy to suss that out, which I like, because I can get really annoyed at films that have this allegory so complex that you need a PhD in Pre-post-colonial literature (an actual class I took in grad school) in order to understand them. Yes, I have a graduate degree in English. I have studied literature. I have been an academic. And I really hate having to use my degree to understand shit. Make your story deep and beautiful and artsy, sure, but make sure that at the end of the day, I can see what the central argument or point of the film actually is. Otherwise, what are we doing here.

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The Other Voices: El Mariachi

Many years ago, when I was a wee film baby, I read the book Robert Rodriguez wrote about making his first feature, EL MARIACHI. It was all about throwing caution to the wind, going for broke, and just making a movie with no money and a lot of moxie. He made this film with essentially no crew, which is why his book is called REBEL WITHOUT A CREW. I was inspired! Not to make a film without a crew, because that is exhausting and ill-advised, but to learn more about filmmaking and the work it requires.

Now, of course, I am film crew, and I’m a little horrified by the idea of making an entire action film with like, 3 crew members. I regularly see young filmmakers who seem to think it some kind of badge of honor to work with a tiny crew, like that makes them better. A filmmaker I knew even tried to tell me that script supervisors are an old-fashioned job that is no longer necessary in a world where you can shoot a movie on an iPhone. I can’t wait to find out how many continuity errors his most recent film has.

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Stepping Through the Wormhole: 25 Years of Stargate: Part 1

UNLOCKING THE GATE – THE ORIGINAL FEATURE FILM

In October of 1994, Stargate hit the cinema screens and became a surprise hit. Critics were not kind to the Roland Emmerich-directed epic adventure, but it struck a chord with audiences with it’s stunning photography and intriguing story. It launched a franchise that has become one of the most popular Science Fiction franchises of all time. A franchise that consists of: 3 films, 3 live action series, 1 animated series and, most recently, a 10 part mini-sode series. Not to mention the various games and books that were released. But we will get to all that in time; first we need to go back to the beginning, to where it all started….The 1994 feature film.

I should probably preface this part of the article with a small statement; it may seem like I am being harsh against the feature film but that is only because of everything that came after. The film started it all and without it we wouldn’t have got SG1 or anything else, however, for me the film just doesn’t hold up in comparison to the series.

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The Other Voices: Girlfight

I was a very angry kid who got into a lot of fights in school. I went to a school full of nerds – and I was one of them – so fights weren’t going to lead to hospital visits and they were very short, but I had such a short fuse that I would just go off on whatever kid pissed me off that day. I really, really wanted to take martial arts. I finally did learn to kickbox with a trainer as an adult, but had to stop because of an injury. I’ve watched a lot of boxing and MMA ever since. So GIRLFIGHT has long been on my list of films I should have seen by now. Good thing I have a column that makes me watch movies directed by women and POC.

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