Sunday, December 30, 2018

LOST IN CYBERSPACE: a review of "Searching"

Screenplay Written by Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
**** (four stars)

This one really shook and rattled me down to my bones.

I will forever appreciate when a film can take me completely by surprise and for my sense and sensibilities, Director Aneesh Chaganty's film debut "Searching" is 2018's finest thriller and believe me, I never saw this one coming. Chaganty has created a powerful thriller that exists without graphic violence, without prefabricated set-ups and preposterous outcomes.

It is a film that is set and planted so firmly inside what is now the mundane in our 21st century societal landscape regarding our relationship with electronics, the internet and social media, that the results nearly push the thriller element into sheer horror, for how rapidly and how realistically the very premise could logically occur to any one of us in the real world. Brilliantly possessing and utilizing more thought that it ever needed to have, "Searching" is a popcorn thriller re-contextualized into a multi-layered experience that plunges into the dark heart of our on-line obsessions and dependency. And through Aneesh Chaganty's innovative techniques (more on that later), "Searching" grows into something that is nothing less than ingenious in its white knuckle tension as well as its deeply astute societal commentary.

Set in San Jose, California, "Searching" stars John Cho as David Kim, devoted husband to Pamela Kim (Sara Sohn) and Father to their daughter Margot (Michelle La). After Pamela's death from lymphoma, David and Margot, while still close, gradually begin to emotionally drift apart, never connecting upon the loss that has forever altered their lives together as well as individually.

One night, Margot visits a friend's house for a school study group. Later that night, Margot attempts to call David three different times to no avail as her Father is sound asleep. By morning, as David awakens and spends the day trying to re-connect with Margot, he soon discovers that she is indeed missing, thus beginning a search into her whereabouts with the aid of Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing).

This is as far as I am willing to go with plot description regarding the film. But in essence, what I have given you is as much as you need heading into Aneesh Chaganty's "Searching," a film that again takes the exceedingly familiar,  so familiar that it is now commonplace and even innocuous, and transforms it into something utterly terrifying. I would not be surprised if your perceptions are altered after viewing this film, just as mine were. So much so, that logging onto my favorite sites felt markedly foreign all over again...and to the point of being absolutely sinister.

Now, regardless of everything that we have been hearing in the news regarding privacy issues and the dissemination of fake news, I am not the person to jump onto the "Facebook Is Evil" bandwagon. Facebook is not the monster, in and of itself, for everything depends upon how it is being used and the intentions of the user.

That being said, "Searching" feels like the perfect extension of films like David Fincher's "The Social Network" (2010) and even Bo Burnham's "Eighth Grade" from this year, as the former film served as a societal warning to our decreasing sense of humanity as or technological advances continued to increase, while the latter delved into our societal dependence upon social media and the soul sickness that has resulted from our human disconnections with each other plus the multiple lives we live and cultivate when comparing our activities within the real and virtual worlds. 

It is this very conceit and perspective that makes "Searching" such an insidious feature, especially as Chaganty is never hyperbolic in his storytelling or messaging, simply allowing everything to unfold in a matter-of-fact fashion that only accentuates the terror as the social media landscape is so vast, uncharted and therefore, unchecked and regulated, seemingly impossible to ever being effectively policed. We are shown precisely just how easy it is to hack into another's social media accounts, how simple it is to assume another identity, how the creating of new personas and on-line lives is simultaneously cunning as well as almost seen as an afterthought.

This thematic quality ties directly into the aforementioned technique that Chaganty employs in "Searching" and at is he has chosen to tell his story solely through the lens of social media, text messages, laptop and surveillance cameras, television broadcasts and the like, meaning not one scene in the film is set explicitly in the real word as everything is viewed through another lens.

This effect, which could have completely existed as a gimmick, is in actuality superbly and seamlessly executed, allowing the film to function as an unnerving Hall of Mirrors for the characters as well as ourselves, as David Kim, through his relentless pursuit of his daughter, is forced to confront his impressions of the person he knows in the real world and the greater truth of the person that exists within the internet and social media, therefore upending everything that he ever knew to be real about this child and ultimately, his own life and family. 

Smartly not content to just allow "Searchng" to exist as a dizzyingly inventive visual feat, Aneesh Chaganty has ensured that his film is cemented with a series of compelling and realistic characters and motivations that allows the thriller to unfold cleanly and almost as akin to a magic trick being slowly unveiled before our eyes.

Yes, it is an intense as something like Ron Howard's "Ransom" (1996), for example. But what made the film burrow deeply under my skin was all contained in the film's opening minutes as we witness the life and times of the Kim family, entirely through photos, home videos taken via computer cameras, computer calendars and so on, from Margot's earliest years through her Mother Pamela's death, making for a sequence that was as devastating as the opening sequence from Pixar and Pete Doctor's "Up" (2009). "Searching" could have easily existed as the next revenge film like Pierre Morel's "Taken" (2008). But Chaganty gave us something exceedingly better, deeper, and defiantly more palpable in its wrenching tension, and it was all due to its overall sense of humanity.

In addition to serving as a thriller and cultural commentary, "Searching" is also a stirring meditation upon grief and mourning. Just look at the film's title and especially at John Cho's pitch perfect performance (once again, representation is everything as "Searching" marks itself as the first American thriller headlined by an Asian-American), as we are easily able to regard the multiple meanings implicit in the film's name, Yes, David Kim is literally searching for his daughter. Yet, we are also asked to read the word regarding how it is used within our lives within the internet as well as David and Margot's pursuit of solace in the aftermath of Pamela's death, which rightfully hangs over the entire film as a cloud of unending sorrow.

That feeling of loss is indeed the soulful core of Aneesh Chaganty's "Searching." The loss of loved ones and family but perhaps, even greater, the gradual yet rapid loss of ourselves over something that is, in essence, quite meaningless.

This message is intended for those of you who happen to be parents, particularly of teenagers. As stated, there is nothing gratuitous within "Searching." No graphic violence or anything of that salacious content.

However, I do think that what is presented in the film is done so through a viewpoint that is more realistic than escapist making the drama of the film much more aching than one might envision before heading into this movie. Perhaps I might be over-sensitive but it did cross my mind as I watched the film and remarked upon how effective and even moving the experience was for me...and I do not have children of my own at all. 

Yet, if by seeing this film one was to become more watchful of their child's on-line activities, then I would imagine that the film has made a positive impact. To that end, this postscript is not to be read as a warning for you.

Just some words of preparation from your friendly neighborhood film enthusiast.


Thank you.

There is this suggested sense of small-ness that is connected to those two words but I graciously and politely implore of all of you, dear readers, to please recognize and gather the magnitude contained within those two seemingly tiny words.

It was nine years ago today as I sat in the basement of my parents' house in south suburban Chicago, IL when I first hatched this blogsite with the hopes and wishes to simply have a "home" to house my musings about the movies that I saw in my cinematic travels.

Looking back, I remain so humbled that all of this time has passed and all of these words have been written and even read! Certainly, I would have written all of these reviews regardless of having an audience or not. But, to have earned your attention, to have earned your praise, to have earned your time in reading even one word that I have written in this world which is jockeying for our eyeballs all of the time...well, that makes me feel very blessed...

After all of this time, plus my other blogsite Synesthesia, additional real world duties and responsibilities and now, with the passing of my Dad three weeks ago, life certainly does look and feel very different than it once did. I wish to assure you that my love for movies and writing remains as powerful as it ever has and I pledge to do my very best in continuing what has begun and to also perform to the best of my abilities to keep Savage Cinema a positive on-line home for you to visit and engage with me.

So...again, and as always, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, 1000 TIMES THANK YOU!!!

Let's make it to a full decade together!!!! I don't wish to be here without you!!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

LEGACY: a review of "Creed II"

Based upon characters created by Sylvester Stallone
Story by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker
Screenplay Written by Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Steven Caple Jr.
***1/2 (three and a half stars)

This review is dedicated to my Dad, Powhatan Collins, who passed away on December 9, 2018, exactly one week after I saw this film. 

I hated "Rocky IV" (1985). Actually, I did not simply hate the film, I downright loathed it.

Upon the time of the release of "Rocky IV," I was 16 years old. While I was certainly not astute enough at that time to even have begun to fully formulate any sense of a socio-political worldview, I instinctively knew when something just was not right and from my perspective, "Rocky IV" was as wrong as it got.

As a film, and as the fourth installment in the on-going story of our favorite boxer from Philadelphia, "Rocky IV" fully jumped the shark, leaving anything remotely grounded in reality far in the dust. Written, directed and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa essentially became a superhero in a ridiculously misguided effort that eschewed everything regarding character development for shamelessly shallow music video editing and sequences that pitted the Italian Stallion against the Russian behemoth Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) as Balboa attempts to avenge the death of former rival/best friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), whom Drago killed in the boxing ring. The film culminates in a climactic battle between Balboa and the synthetically enhanced Drago, with of course, our hero pummeling Drago to the gradually and rapturously cheering of...the Russians?!

The dynamic presence of James Brown's "Living In America" notwithstanding, I vividly remember sitting in that crowded movie theater with stomping feet and applause all around me and just seething for I just knew that I had just sat through some brain dead, rah-rah-rah, jingoistic propaganda tailor made for the hungry masses of the mid '80s Cold War occurring between the United States and Russia. It was a feature length Reagan era commercial promoting America's supposed dominance disguised as popcorn entertainment and I wanted nothing  to do with this Right Wing fantasy film...especially one that more than conveniently had a dead Black man housed at its core.

Now, of course, since that time, the "Rocky" series has done more than its share to return to its roots and return the character to a sense of normalcy by striping him of his wealth and bringing him back to the Philadelphia streets, concluding, such as it was, with the touching, elegiac sixth installment "Rocky Balboa" (2006), again written and directed by Stallone. For me, that film, righted a lot of wrongs about the series while also giving it its much overdue finale.

So, imagine my surprise once we arrived with Ryan Coogler's "Creed" (2015), a film that we never, ever needed but one I was ecstatic to behold (and completely against all of my severe skepticism) as Coogler richly re-invented and extended the saga of Rocky, while attaching it to the beautifully moving and uncompromisingly primal story of Adonis Johnson Creed (the outstanding Michael B. Jordan), the son of the late Apollo Creed, produced through a long ago extramarital affair. Adonis' search for his life's meaning and significance via his familial legacy in name and boxing was a soul stirring achievement that made me believe in this series in ways that I had ceased to since "Rocky II" (1979), and truth be told, by that film's end, I was ready for more. 

With "Creed II," as directed by Steven Caple Jr. taking over for Coogler who was ensconced in his directing duties for this year's "Black Panther," we are delivered a more than worthy second installment that comes just this close to reaching the heights set by "Creed." It is a film that like its predecessor focuses smartly and sharply upon character instead of spectacle, while also delivering the pulse pounding fight sequences that excite as well as enliven all of the character's motivations throughout. And even further, it achieves the near miraculous by taking what was once a cartoon in "Rocky IV" and re-envisioning that experience as one worthy of gripping, mature, and achingly humane pathos.

Steven Caple Jr.'s "Creed II" opens three years after the events of "Creed," as Adonis Creed (again played by Michael B. Jordan) becomes the heavyweight champion fighter of the world. Now possessing wealth, fame and the love of his longtime girlfriend, the aspiring singer/musician Bianca Taylor (the great Tessa Thompson), Adonis proposes marriage and Bianca suggests moving to Los Angeles from Philadelphia, a decision Adonis is reluctant to make due to his familial bond with the aging Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). 

Meanwhile in Russia, the aging Ivan Drago (again portrayed by Dolph Lundgren), disgraced in his country from his loss to Rocky thirty three years earlier, seeks his chance for redemption via his own son, the boxing behemoth Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), by seeking a once-in-a-lifetime challenge against Adonis, a boxing event aided to fruition by the duplicitous boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby).

While Adonis itches to take on Viktor as a means to avenge his Father's death by Viktor's Father, Rocky Balboa refuses to train him, causing a rift be tween the two men who have now become surrogate Father and son towards each other. Adding additional stress to Adonis is the continuing decline of Bianca's hearing plus the birth of their daughter Amara, who may be genetically inclined to deafness.

And now, with new adversaries to face down, will Adonis Creed rise to the legacy of his name and his Father or will he crumble under the enormity of its weight?

Steven Caple Jr.'s "Creed II" more than delivers the good as you would expect from this series that has now surpassed 40 years in its beloved longevity, almost through a sheer force of will and unshakable perseverance...much like the characters who are the engines of this story. Caple Jr. more than picks up the hefty mantle left by Ryan Coogler as he beautifully helms an equally smart, sophisticated, and highly assured episode that honors all that has arrived before while also charting new territories that ensure the film attains newfound emotional depths.

First of all, and especially within a cinematic year that has more than showcased a variety of examples of Black Excellence--from Spike Lee's "BlacKKKlansman," Boots Riley's "Sorry To Bother You," George Tillman Jr.'s "The Hate U Give," Ava DuVernay's "A Wrinkle In Time" and of course, the aforementioned "Black Panther" from Ryan Coogler--Caple Jr.'s "Creed II" is an exceedingly welcome addition as we are again given over to the supremely magnetic presence, skill, agility, athleticism and superlative acting chops of Mr. Michael B. Jordan, who commands the screen every single moment in which he appears.

To that end, I deeply appreciated that Tessa Thompson returned for this installment, giving me, and audiences, a rare glimpse into Black love, Black relationships and Black families within mainstream films (I especially loved the moment when Adonis and Rocky playfully spar over what to name Adonis' newborn daughter), as Thompson also possesses a magnetic presence making her Johnson's equal, much like the characters they portray. Their union, so complete in struggles tension, peaks and valleys, is more than refreshing to witness. As always, representation is everything and having that opportunity to witness the continuing love and life story of Adonis Creed and Bianca Taylor, lifted me as I was proud to see another visualization of the Black Experience on screen.

Additionally, this specific quality not only provides a nice symbiotic link to "Rocky II," as love story of Adonis and Bianca allows "Creed II" to be grounded within the same adult hopes and fears faced by Rocky and Adrian. It assures the film remains with its feet firmly planted upon the Earth as the nuances and challenges of their relationship remain palpable in their inherent drama, as well as keeping the overall humanity of the piece firmly intact.

In fact, I would argue that the greatest feat of "Creed II" is  how Caple Jr., the entire cast and crew have transformed the cartoon of "Rocky IV" into something with true gravity, pain and sorrow regarding the crippling sense of loss  that exists within Adonis for certain but has spread itself around to Rocky, Adonis' stepmother Mary Anne Reed (Phylicia Rashad) and to even Ivan Drago himself.

Instead of being utilized as a cheap plot point to promote a political agenda, the death and loss of Apollo Creed has, at long last with this new series, been humanized for all participants involved. In "Creed II," as Rocky painfully tries to dissuade Adonis from taking on Viktor Drago, he espouses the following concerning Ivan Drago: "He's broken things in me that ain't never been fixed."

That one line is chilling to say the least and Sylvester Stallone plays it with a beautiful, natural and honest quality that flies against every artificial second of "Rocky IV" by never once suggesting the prefabricated path for revenge or the re-writing of history. This time what we are given is a moment in the life of a legendary character marked with real and tangible unhealed pain and brutal regret.

For that matter, the character of Ivan Drago, as portrayed here in "Creed II" is a near miracle as the cartoon villainy is completely excised and what remains in a real man, broken by the defeat of his past and the ensuing humiliation that followed when his nation, friends and even his wife all walked away from him. And through the purity of Dolph Lundgren's brooding yet melancholic performance, I think we are also asked to try and discover the hint of deeply burrowed yet unending guilt stemmed from his murder of Apollo Creed.

And from the vantage point of these two now elderly yet irrevocably damaged men, we find how their choices have unleashed consequences that have reverberated through time itself to the children; Viktor Drago, Adonis Creed and even to Rocky's long estranged son, Robert, now living in Vancouver.

I feel that here is where Steven Caple's Jr.'s "Creed II" finds its greatest and most stirring success, because at the film's core, we have a film that is entirely about the tenuous, and again, primal relationships held between Fathers and sons. Yes, the central relationship between Adonis and Rocky  is designed to evoke a son/Father dynamic with each other but it is also designed to echo the relationships with the Father and son each character has lost.

Beyond that, we are dealing with the full nature of legacy on a multi-character scale, as Caple Jr. presents a deeply moving story that concerns itself and often centers itself around the plight of the sons and how they are  each attempting to fit into the massive shoes left by their Fathers. Can the son ever indeed live up to the legacy created by the Father? Can the son ever extend beyond the Father's successes and failings? Can the son ever carve out their own legacy that honors, yet is fully independent of the Father?

For that matter, Caple Jr. is wisely sympathetic enough to allow strong inner turmoil for both Rocky and even Ivan Drago as both men question the choices they have made that have now affected their relationships with their own children. Is Ivan forcing Viktor into a life of boxing solely to support his son's true desires or to assuage his own pain? Is Rocky making the same mistakes with Adonis that he has made with Robert, therefore risking losing another child who means the world to him?

"Creed II" could have easily existed as a rather cheap, money grab sequel exploiting the popularity of "Rocky IV." Yet, gratefully, graciously and often grandly, Steven Caple Jr. finds ways to make sure his film is more than about what occurs in the boxing ring. That "Creed II" achieves precisely what was achieved in the original, Oscar winning "Rocky" (1976), the very film that made us fall in love with the character in the first place.   

With everything being said, "Creed II" falls a  hair short of its predecessor solely due to the fact that aspects of the story arc make the proceedings more than a bit predictable as the training sequences and fights, while well staged and presented, do indeed follow the classic "Rocky" structure of failings and comebacks, thus reducing some of the overall tension and accomplishment.

But that is essentially a somewhat minor quibble as the depth and grace of what Steven Caple Jr. has presented is what has resonated with me so powerfully. The constant themes of perseverance, integrity, and forcing oneself to rise to the best of themselves even when feeling battered, bruised and completely down for the count still resonate powerfully and remain as relevant and as present in 2018 as they did in 1976. 

In fact, Steven Caple Jr.'s "Creed II" is so good that it almost makes me want to forgive "Rocky IV," because we woud not even have this new film without having had that older film...regardless of what I thought about it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

MAJESTIC MADNESS: a review of "The Favourite"

Screenplay Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
**** (four stars)

This is emphatically NOT your parents' historical costume drama.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos first arrived upon my cinematic radar most brazenly with his surrealistic nightmare entitled "The Lobster" (2015), easily one of the very best films that I have seen in the past 10 years. It was a visionary achievement quite unlike any I had seen and confirmed that he would remain a filmmaker to watch closely in whatever he devised as a follow-up.

"The Killing Of A Sacred Deer" (2017), while a hair muted inits impact when compared with the gut punch of "The Lobster," again provided me with that idiosyncratic dark mirror cinematic vision, where a world that looks like our own inexplicably functions within some bizarre nightmare logic that always feels as if the sky is precariously close to detaching itself from the heavens only to fall and crush us all.

With his latest feature, "The Favourite," Lanthimos dials down the surrealism somewhat without diluting the film's raw, unapologetic power. In fact, it feels to be a much angrier film than its two predecessors, yet simultaneously playful in its fury, as we are thrown into a battle of wills between three female forces of nature, all brilliantly portrayed by three powerhouse actresses, each performing at the top of their respective games. Garish, ravenous and utterly ruthless, Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite" not only completely upends the classic costume historical drama, it fully obliterates it, ultimately creating a work that maniacally feels more honest than any stuffy, repressed feature we have witnessed before. 

Set in 1708, as Britain is at war with France, "The Favourite" stars Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne, an imposing royal figure rapidly succumbing to madness due to a chronic illness with gout as well as unimaginable grief due to 17 children she has lost over the years and whom are now all represented by 17 pet rabbits named for each of her deceased offspring.

With a waning interest in governing and wildly increased eccentricities, including racing ducks in the palace, Queen Anne's fractured reign is truly being overseen by Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz)--the Queen's primary confidant, adviser and clandestine lover. Yet, Sarah's success at complete control over the Queen are consistently thwarted by Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (Nicholas Hoult), a member of Parliament as well as a landowner.

Emma Stone enters the film as Abigail Hill, who happens to be Sarah Churchill's destitute cousin, and is in search of employment. While first hired as a maid and subjected to all manner of menial tasks, Abigail soon learns of the Queen's affair with Sarah and devises of ways to ingratiate herself into the Queen's favor, ultimately threatening to usurp Sarah's prized status.

What results is an escalating war in the personal balance of power between all three women within a story during which victory is forever fleeting, the spoils are bracingly elusive and the relentless pursuit of both grows tirelessly rancorous.

Exceedingly profane, rapacious, wrathful, crude, vulgar, gluttonous, lusty, downright nasty and filled with all manner of verbal profanities from end to end, Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite" is an unrepentantly bleak comedy that not only bares its fangs viciously, it plunges its venomous bite continuously.

I have to admit that I have often had difficulty attempting to find my way into the cinematic worlds of costume period dramas. Of course, there have been some that I have loved, Milos Forman's "Amadeus" (1984) existing as one of the finest I have ever been graced to witness. But generally, the ornate quality of those sorts of films, while visually dazzling, like Martin Scorsese's "The Age Of Innocence" (1993) for instance, I am often held at an emotional arms length, making me feel somewhat as repressed as the characters themselves.

By astonishing contrast, Yorgos Lanthimos blasts apart any conventional sense or trappings of this particular cinematic sub genre, making "The Favourite" the first film of this sort that I have seen since Sofia Coppola's gorgeously unorthodox "Marie Antoinette" (2006) to play with the form... and ferociously so. In fact, Lanthimos's approach feels more akin to some enfant terrible wreaking havoc upon the most pristine snow globe by shaking it so violently that it threatens to fall apart, spilling its contents upon the floor underneath.

Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite" gleefully thrusts the faces of his characters, as well as those of us in the audience, into the visual and emotional filth of things, making the proceedings refreshingly visceral, giving us what a film like Paul Thomas Anderson's visually resplendent yet emotionally cerebral "Phantom Thread" (2017) only hinted at.

Working in astounding collaboration with Cinematographer Robbie Ryan, Lanthimos creates a pristine yet hallucinogenic landscape filled with all manner of fish eye lenses and upward camera angles designed to make the characters loom monstrously. And with that, Lanthimos then thematically and literally pulls the bottom out from his central trio of characters tirelessly, as all three are repeatedly thrown to the palace floors, dropped in mud, and splashed and splattered with water, sweat, spit, vomit and pigeon blood, fully desecrating any conceived sense of royalty. Lanthimos captures the rightful grime and filth as seen in Terry Jones' "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) and peppers it in an experience that could be seen as a combination of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "All About Eve" (1950) by way of Stanley Kubrick, Ken Russell and Terry Gilliam. 

Yes, "The Favourite" is that kind of a film. 

Even so, it is easily Lantimos' most accessible film since "The Lobster," and for that matter, it is even  more accessible as some of his aesthetics (the bone dry line readings, the Kurbrick-ian clinical cinematography) are toned down and therefore replaced with a more energetic, naturalized style. And still, this film feels to be very much of a piece with "The Killing Of A Sacred Deer," as we are witness to the searing battle between the failures of the flesh and the iron will of the mind, and even moreso with "The Lobster," as that film is continuing to reveal itself as existing as a work so insidious that it has now made its indelible stamp upon each of his subsequent features.

Within "The Lobster," we were given an unrepentantly frightening experience housed as a social satire regarding the nature of dating, relationships and societal pressures against being single, where in the dystopian land of this film, people who are unable to find a mate within a 30 day period will be therefore transformed into animals. This conceit led to a feature where Lanthimos was able to explore the juxtaposition of  humans and animals, allowing us to almost magically view the human inside of the animal and vice versa.

This theme continues strongly within "The Favourite" as a metaphor when thinking about Queen Anne's 17 rabbits, all named after her deceased children, and more emphatically within the film's final moments, a shattering climax (of which I, of course, would never spoil for you) albeit one that has already confounded audiences. Yet, for me, it felt to be the most perfect conclusion, as the themes of power, control, servitude and that aforementioned human/animal juxtaposition becomes even clearer, especially when dealing with the sub-human behaviors of the so-called higher species. Astoundingly merciless in its depiction as well as its warning, as I think "The Favourite" can also be viewed as a social/political allegory to our current inhumane political culture.

Awards season is going to have a rapturously difficult time attempting to determine which leading female performances should receive celebratory notices as "The Favourite" contains three which could easily be up for recognition simultaneously. Both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone have clearly relished the opportunities to break free from their respective comfort zones (especially Stone, whom I adore but have been feeling that she has been creatively holding back for quite some time) and unlock a previously unseen level of cunning and rage while also exhibiting rich behavioral layers which allows us to not only understand them and their actions, but to miraculously obtain sympathy.

Olivia Coleman is simply spectacular as Queen Anne, as she delivered a bravura performance utterly devoid of any stitch of vanity, as she fearlessly allows us to witness the height of royalty appear so loathsome, so infantile, so unattractive and all the while, again, we understand, and quite possibly sympathize with her the most.

In the character of Queen Anne, Coleman delivers a truly harrowing portrayal of physical and undeniably debilitating mental illness, which illustrates her unraveling regarding her governing duties as well as the relationships she has cultivated with both Sarah and Abigail yet inexplicably remains razor sharp when it comes to maintaining power. This is a tightrope walk of a performance, where Coleman has to present essentially all sides of the Queen's fractured psyche plus her physical ailments constantly, and without fail as one false move would compromise the full impact. Just a remarkable and devastating work.

While there are quite a number of films that I either have not seen or have yet to see, I am amazed at the level of greatness already screened in this cinematic year of 2018. Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite," so feral and filled with fury, is easily yet another one of this year's highest achievements.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Dear readers, as you may have noticed, Savage Cinema has been on an unexpected hiatus for almost one month now and I am here to give you an explanation as well as future hopes and plans.

My productivity over the last couple of months has indeed become considerably slower than in months and even years past and I have made somewhat veiled references to "life getting in the way," so to speak. I wish for you to understand that Savage Cinema means everything in the world to me as it is indeed an extension of my being as my love of movies is part of my DNA, and now, writing about the movies has claimed an equal status. The feedback I have received has always served as the finest fuel and continued inspiration to continue writing and sharing with you. Having any sense of a  hiatus is something I take extremely seriously and even moreso, it was an unplanned time and due to something even more important than the movies and writing and my love of both.

This period was entirely about my family, most specifically my Dad.

Over the entirely of Savage Cinema's existence, my Dad has been in declining health and since October of this year, very close to Halloween, I have spent considerable time travelling between Madison, WI and Chicago, IL. visiting and living with my Dad in the hospital. Thanksgiving of this year was spent directly by his side in his ICU room. I rode an ambulance with him to hospice care in early December and on the morning of December 9th at 9:40 a.m., my Dad passed away, transitioning into eternity. Visitations, the funeral and burial followed quickly afterwards and the rapid return to life and its daily responsibilities plus Christmas have followed suit as well. I have been running on adrenaline, attempting to regain some bearing and now with grief riveted by my side...well...I am hoping that you can understand.

So, what of Savage Cinema? It will remain and I am indeed gearing up to return to the review I never had the chance to begin and in many ways, it feels like the perfect review to get my feet wet at this again. I am also planning a return to the movie theater this weekend and we'll see where this goes from this point.

Yes, there is this part of me that wonders if writing about movies is worth anything anymore but I do think that my Dad would be saddened if he were to know that I gave up something I loved because my heart was broken. He would not wish for me to give up on something that helps to make my life complete just because his life ended. I have to keep one foot in front of the other, so to speak.

So...for my Dad, I will keep writing, as well as for myself and for you... please stay tuned for writing will arrive soon...

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

I love you, Dad. I'll keep writing. I'll keep trying.