Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Elle (2016)

“Paul Verhoeven is back with a possible satire on boredom”

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a disturbing story of circumstance about a female video game developer named Elle, who gets raped in her own home. After the fact, Elle begins to receive phone calls from her attacker which leads to a cat and mouse countdown, as to when it will happen again. While this transpires, Elle must deal with disappointment in her son and his abusive girlfriend, disgruntled employees, an ex husband who has moved on, an abnormal mother and her father’s legacy of being a serial killer, whose sinister ideals roped her into a fatal homicidal incident as a 6 year old, turning her into a national pariah.

Elle is a subpar suspense film that reveals it’s self to be an intriguingly complex character study of modern day human clandestine conditioning. The over arching theme being an idea of boredom to reach a certain height, that anything negative yet involved to happen to you, is in some way a blessing to avoid a mundane existence. Such as; garnering a less than substantial job, unexpectedly, excepting a baby that’s not your own and allowing rape to become a sexual fetish of some kind.

The film uses Elle’s video game developing business and therefore video games, as a backdrop to the ordeals Elle and the other characters face. Used as a mocking metaphor of taking on destructive paths within violence and procrastination such as of playing a video game, the idea of real life representing the anti-climatic resolution of beating a video game, and only receiving a title screen/video sequence as a means of reward. As well as an eventual indifference to reoccurring negative tendencies; in relation to the repetitiveness of a video game.

A side plot of Elle is Elle’s relationship with her father, as he roped her into his nihilistic homicidal career when she was a child, instantly creating pathology towards Elle to become a child of nihilism. This adds to the movies theme of invited destruction, as Elle throughout the movie becomes implicit with creating problems between herself and the people in her life for sear pleasure.

This is a mysteriously blunt and clever entry by Paul Verhoeven that organically pushes the point it’s trying to make, while reserved and stylistically stagnant, to make setting contemplations about the films subject matter that can be applied to reality in a modern era.


       -  Maurice Jones

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight is about the career of a black man who from childhood to adulthood, has to navigate his life concealing his gay sexual orientation from the masculine black culture of South Florida.

Barry Jenkins debuted with a quiet frustrated slice of life with Medicine for Melancholy (2008). About a black bike courier who contemplates with a black woman who’s in a relationship with a white man. Barry Jenkins returns to the social struggle of the black experience with Moonlight.

Like Boyhood, Moonlight chronicles the touch stone moments of a boy’s life that add up to who he is. What Moonlight does better is focus in on those moments that turns one into their worst self. Through universal cultural missteps and sub cultural missteps of one’s race. There being a notion of mandatory apparent strength, aggressiveness and violence associated with black males within the black community, also linked to the imperative need for a positive male role model in a boy’s existence. As a partly back person myself, I can a test to this but I would most definitely say this cultural gripe is egged on universally by whites through media as a way to belittle the black experience and once again make being a colored person a caricature.

Moonlight also touches on refusal by the black community to understand gay rights and the possibilities of being black to be more 3 dimensional than 2 dimensional. Having the up-bringing of most black males to be a fight to be who they really are as oppose to an image being projected on to them for societies own indifferent pleasures. The movie’s title reflects on this as pertaining to “moonlighting” as someone during the day and as someone else by night. Also portraying an important scene and plot point of the movie as our protagonist has his first gay experience under the blanket of beach bound moonlight.

Moonlight is a very poignant film for one a like to see, and casts an important light onto the eye opening truths of black stubbornness and incapability to see past a crippling stereotype of their communities, while also being the product of a homophobic and prejudice global society. We need to change things once and for all, towards the betterment of our fellow human beings, young and old.

 -                 - Maurice Jones

Monday, November 7, 2016

Christine (2016) “Get out of your head….”

Christine is a 2016 bio-pic about manic determined newscaster, Christine Chubbuck, who shot herself live on air in 1974.

What’s brilliant about Christine is organic way it makes some characters in the film come off a sinister way, based on Christine’s mannerisms, when in reality everyone is just trying to help. It never tries to make Christine into a victim but presents the evidence of her own insecurities as a shining result. Though things get over whelming, unfortunate and laborious for Christine, the movie begs for her to step outside of herself and “see the bigger picture”. Things build up for Christine without any intake of insight and expansive reflection. Whether or not any of the depictions are accurate to the real life circumstances of real life Christine Chubbuck is unknown, but the film creates an important character study of plausible human behavior. And when it gets to the ever so anticipated, heart-stopping trans-gressive climax, it’s handled realistically without sardonic overtones or melodramatic fallacies.

Christine has uncanny touches to David Flincher’s signature style; IE – Zodiac, of creating a sense of dread, but the films atmosphere is extremely straight forward and naturalistic, and if there’s any misconduct, it’s because Rebecca Hall’s performance alienates her world’s intentions.

Rebecca Hall unflinchingly takes hold of Christine Chubbuck and explores the troubled possibilities and apparent neurosis of Christine, using Christine’s infamous speaking voice to expose even further the cognitive emotional battle bubbling underneath her. With Rebecca’s naturally awkward and quietly anxious acting style, she’s able to congruently parallel the pressure of a fast paced newsroom both athirst and unpredictable like an ulcer, which ironically plays an important role throughout the movie. This is Rebecca Hall at her best, honing her talents to conjure the most absorbing performance of her career - Absolute perfection.

The soundtrack is nostalgically amazing and isn’t featured ironically, just appropriate to the times; but displaying the idea of music (especially in a time like the 1970’s) being the one release in where people were free of thought and “man-made” pressure, and were allowed to be who they really are when they were alone.

Christine is one of the few bio-pics that simultaneously portrayed a real person’s life while making a point about stress, self indulgence, western civilization and the importance of self preservation. It cultivates the TV broadcasting experience in all its hyper glory of local and national awareness and spectacle, conjuring a disturbing tone within the lived through past of an actual era, the 1970’s, all thanks to thoughtful director Antonio Campos.


-         -  Maurice Jones

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Force Majeure (2014)

To quote Dustin Hoffman quoting Lenny Bruce in the movie Lenny, referring to his bit about Jackie Kennedy wanting to flee during the assassination of JFK: “People don’t stay……They don’t stay…” Force Majeure is the exact examination of that quote and theory. That a person’s first instinct is to escape sudden tragedy, rather than stick around and help whoever else involved from harm.

Force Majeure is about a family on vacation in the mountains on a skiing trip. One day while the family is having lunch on a patio, a mountain erupts next to them and a mild avalanche over throws their table. Before this happens, the father immediately flees to safety, leaving his wife and two kids behind.  

A father stuck in his head; a wife and kids disappointed. Force Majeure dives deep into the phenomenon of its title, the idea that we all have an internal need to survive and at almost every soon-to-be tragic occurrence, our first instinct is to remove ourselves from wreckage. What Force Majeure does well is the examination of what an Alpha male is, and what being male is meant to be within society but how those ideals are heightened when added to the label of father. The unwritten laws that civilization has placed upon us all, ignores and negates our own feelings on self-preservation. Force Majeure doesn’t only explore the meaning of being male and being a father, as it presents the idea that even though the mother is upset that her husband abandoned them, she too has the same tendency, but in an observational pre-emptive way before any tragedy can be completely noticed.

The director also uses the cold atmosphere of a snow mountain landscape mindfully, by letting the grey tone of the sky with snow fall to illuminate the phony cover up of its characters emotions. To express the pure dread that haunts this whole vacation, as when it starts things seem bright and as it goes on things look more and more glum stylistically.

Force Majeure is a perfect unflinching exercise in human behavior and a testament to the truth of Lenny Bruce’s infamous joke. Definitely a must see film.

-        -  Maurice Jones

Monday, September 26, 2016

Certain Women (2016) Like a horror anthology about misunderstood women.

Last week the fifth and final movie I saw at TIFF, was also my most anticipated of the entire festival, Kelly Reichardt’s sixth and soon to be most seminal film yet: Certain Women.


Certain Women is exactly about that, three mini stories about three different women who work in the same rural counties and whom lives cross paths with unfortunate acquainted circumstances of crisis. Laura Dern is the focus of the first movie, then Michele Williams the second and then Lily Gladstone the third along with Kristen Stewart. Each section is a character study about a certain version of oppression towards a woman and the effects it has on their perspective.


Kelly Reichardt creates her best and most thoughtful piece yet of human observation with Certain Women, by naturally presenting the subtlety in the way a woman in a big career position is seen as less assuring next to a man, how a woman is seen more aggressive when she’s being assertive and how woman can’t easily be seen as heroic. Kelly Reichardt’s signature style perfectly encapsulates this, by letting us sit with these characters and absorb their organic emotional reactions, in a rural setting that reciprocates and highlights those exact feelings. The best thing about Certain Women is that Reichardt’s doesn’t only show the plight of these women, but points out these women have allowed their own resentment based disillusions to remove them from realizing their emotional mistakes.


Laura Dern does a surrounding job as a broken down lawyer with a troubled client, Michele Williams does a poignant measured job as a wife and mother who cares more about her business than her own family, but Lily Gladstone is the break out performance of the film, as a naïve loner ranch worker who falls for the maniac yet cavalier Kristen Stewart.


Certain Women is no doubt Kelly Reichardt’s best film and is a marvel in exposure, and the best way to understand it, is to see it.


  • Maurice Jones

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Personal Shopper (2016) A ghostly Technohorror…….

My fourth screening at TIFF was by Olivier Assayas with his newest movie starring Kristen Stewart, called Personal Shopper. I’ve never been familiar with Olivier Assayas’ work, so this was definitely a testing experience of what his movies conjure. I was excited to realize Personal Shopper is an observant venture that begs you to take from what you’re experiencing, and as much as it proves enthusiasm towards making a statement; it’s as enthused to have you piece together your own with unconventional attributes to a ghost story.
Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper to a celebrity in Paris, buying her boss dresses, necklaces and anything else needed within the fashion world. Part time Maureen is a medium, escorting ghost from newly bought homes. Maureen’s deceased older brother Lewis was a medium, which leaves Maureen to believe she made have conjured his abilities to speak to ghosts, but what confirms she’s capable is her recent encounters with her brother from the spirit world to the present world.
Personal Shopper is a deliberately stagnant observation of our connection to technology and our subconscious desire to relate to something from a pre-technological age that requires only the human soul to get in contact of; IE ghosts. Olivier Assayas does a neat uncalculated view on how someone in modern times does research, through watching videos on Youtube and searching online on an iphone, creating a visually absurd display of disconnect and commerce with advancement and convenience; the result could be that our minds could develop
Personal Shopper also delves into the fact that fashion and material items have gone up in interest in recent years (due to technology), and with the advent of online dating turning relations into order, inanimate objects have replaced sex and intimacy, and being current Is what now excites people the most. The connection with ghosts in Personal Shopper and fashion has to do with Assayas suggests how easily technology can trick us into thinking we’re experiencing something organic, the more we rely on it to get us by, the more we can forget it’s a machine and capable of dysfunction. The idea that technology can erode a soul by making everything so service based and instant, to the point where one loses their imagination and one’s sense of wonder of a natural world, with an obsession of wealth where you can change one’s self with clothing and shiny items in place of a self core.
Kristen Stewart is a great choice to play Maureen, as a subtly manic reserved actor as she easily portrays the symbolization of a personal shopper:  the link between tech capital and the self, as she Is the medium between her boss and her bosses self, therefore Maureen also being a mundane machine who transfers an item to another, like an iphone.
Personal Shopper has some strong intriguing themes, and just when you think it doesn’t know what it’s doing as a movie, it waits for you to realize it’s intentions by giving you straight ideas purposely distracted with a ghost tale, all-the-while being truly frightening with the reality it suggests of our present day.
  • Maurice Jones

Monday, September 19, 2016

Strange Weather (2016) A falsely progressive Lifetime movie.

The third movie I saw at TIFF was regrettably Strange Weather. What I thought would be a gritty rural revenge film seen from the female perspective; turned out to be a sugar coated version of a gritty rural revenge film seen from a stereotypically female perspective.
Strange Weather is about a woman from the South (played by Holly Hunter) who finds out her deceased son’s friend has stolen his business ideas and was involved with his murder. She decides the take things into her own hands and goes on a road trip to find out the truth behind her son’s legacy.
Not to be funny but the best part about Strange Weather is the near end, where it actually seems gritty, intriguing and almost experimental compared to the rest of the movie. Holly Hunter has a gun pointed at her antagonist’s head and by the way the music hits and how direct and strip down the scene is orchestrated, you have no idea whether the trigger will be pulled. That being the only interesting scene in the movie, you unfortunately have to sift through self indulgent, trace the lines scenes with faux liberal imagines intended to seem indie and hip without realizing how obvious this is. To further that, one has to put up with scenes of extended meaningless character involved dialogue, explaining the plot and quirks of its characters no one has asked for. Scenes of enjoying long drives and basking in the summer sun when a easy listening track is played right over! Yeah, in a tale about gun revenge……..Leading to scenes of white understanding where Holly Hunter stumbles upon the aftermath of a Southern flood where black families are gathering their stuff from wreckage, and Holly Hunter asks the one white couple amongst the families as to what happened, not to mention how bizarre the black extras are filmed and how none of them speak a word. Now in the Q&A at TIFF with director Katherine Dieckmann and actor Holly Hunter, Katherine said she wanted to show a white mind being enlightened seeing the reality of black families, being the ones to always suffer in Southern floods. Ms. Dieckmann, I know you had the best intentions in mind, but maybe viewing black people as “other beings” and not giving the people speaking parts isn’t the best way to go about displaying social injustice. Also, obnoxiously holding on a shot of an interracial lesbian couple kissing probably isn’t the best way to show equality if it’s obvious you’re trying to sit at the “cool kids” table.
Holly Hunter does a great job as expected, but unfortunately her character clearly was directed to be cartoonish as oppose someone with a death wish who is upset and determined. Now an animated Holly Hunter isn’t a bad thing but in this context made me completely for forget at times I’m watching a revenge plot.
Katherine Dieckmann set out nothing more than to create a stereotypical film for middle aged white housewives and wants us to believe she’s hip, liberal and socially aware, but instead reminds us of a white feminist who thinks her antics will relate to a black females outlook. If you have a brain, best to leave Strange Weather at the door.
  • Maurice Jones