The Other Voices: Blindspotting

Last night I watched BLINDSPOTTING.

Written by its stars, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, and directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, this 2018 film is about a black man and convicted felon at the end of his probation, trying desperately to avoid trouble in Oakland while his white best friend tries as hard as he can to start it.

I know this column, which I cruelly abandoned a few months ago with every intention of getting back to it soon (I AM going to finish my opus on 50 Shades), is supposed to be primarily about directors, so I’ll give a nod to Estrada, who cut his teeth on short films, music videos, and TV episodes before being given BLINDSPOTTING as his feature debut, so although he’s not a household name, he had a ton of experience before he walked onto this set, and this film appears to have raised his profile.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Blindspotting

Stepping Through the Wormhole: 25 Years of Stargate: The Complete Franchise

Because it became clear very early on into this project that an article covering the entire Stargate Franchise would be far too long I broke it down into four parts. But I also wanted to present the full article in all it’s glory as well so here it is. What you might consider the Deluxe Edition. I hope you all enjoy it.

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.

Continue reading Stepping Through the Wormhole: 25 Years of Stargate: The Complete Franchise

A Modern American Classic: The 25th Anniversary of Heat

It’s rare that films come along that are recognized as an instant classic, but 25 years ago the Michael Mann written and directed crime epic Heat did just that. Heat was not just any crime thriller; it was an intricate story that wove interconnected plots together like a fine suit with a realism that is rare in crime cinema. Not only that, it was one of the most meticulous and detailed films not only in the crime genre itself but in all of cinema history.

It is not widely known but Heat was actually based on a true story that happened in Chicago in the early 1960s. Neil McCauley was a real career criminal who had been in and out of prison throughout his entire adult life. The pursuit of McCauley was led by Chicago Detective Chuck Adamson, who would later serve as the inspiration for the character of Vincent Hanna. Adamson and McCauley did sit down and have coffee like in the movie and on 25th March 1964 McCauley was chased down during the execution of a robbery and gunned down by Adamson. When Michael Mann was introduced to Adamson by a mutual friend, a man by the name of Nate Grossman, the McCauley story captured Mann’s imagination. He put a lot of the real events into the story that would eventually become Heat.

Continue reading A Modern American Classic: The 25th Anniversary of Heat

The Other Voices: Booksmart

Every time someone I follow on Twitter watches director Olivia Wilde’s 2019 film BOOKSMART, they immediately rave about it and order everyone who reads their tweet to see it. So I finally saw it. And I agree one hundred percent: SEE IT. It’s even on Hulu right now, so just go watch it. I’m not gonna spoil it, so this article is safe for you to read, but as soon as it’s done, you need to see this film. Or go watch it now and come back after.

OK? OK.

I’m just gonna dive right in by saying that this is one of the best edited films I’ve ever seen. Editor Jamie Gross makes such judicious choices with where to let the story breathe and where to get cheeky. When filmmakers talk about voice – this film has it in spades. Even the music choices keep the momentum going when the story slows down. All this comes together in post – but it can’t happen unless the right shots were filmed on the day. And to that vision, we can credit Wilde and her cinematographer, Jason McCormik.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Booksmart

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.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Atlantics

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.

Continue reading The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai – 35th Anniversary

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.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Mary Queen of Scots

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.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Tigers Are Not Afraid

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.

Continue reading The Other Voices: Us

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.

Continue reading The Other Voices: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night