This week, I welcome back our contributor Ben Sears to the podcast to review Robert Eggers’ incredible film, The Lighthouse. We also discuss some news regarding David Benioff and DB Weiss, the Game of Thrones prequel announcement, and more. For Potpourri, Ben shares his thoughts on AppleTV+ original series See, Dickinson, For All Mankind, The Morning Show, and the service itself. Then I share my thoughts on the Special Presentation screenings I attended at HIFF2019.
Premise: The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
“I knew ye was mad when ye smashed that lifeboat and chased me with that axe” Willem Dafoe’s Thomas Wake bellows to Robert Pattinson’s Ephraim Winslow (or is it Thomas Howard?) late in The Lighthouse, the newest from director Robert Eggers, after his breakout success of The Witch. The question, on its face, isn’t all that significant. What makes it stand out – and emblematic of the entire film – is that, just minutes earlier, we see the exact opposite happening with Dafoe madly chasing Pattinson. Is Dafoe messing with Pattinson? Was it a drunken hallucination? Is Dafoe the crazy one, or is Pattinson (or both)? Throughout The Lighthouse, Eggers has the audience constantly question what he just showed us, as his characters descend deeper and deeper into madness.
When The Witch debuted in 2015, praise was rightfully heaped on Robert Eggers for his thorough commitment to realism. Each detail felt lived in and authentic, from the dialogue to the sets that were built. For The Lighthouse, Eggers continues to raise his game – the crew even built a life-size lighthouse off the coast of Nova Scotia. Not only do both actors talk like they were plucked from the shores of New England at the turn of the century, but the minimalism of the island truly helps to feed the madness as it sets in. Shot by Jarin Blaschke on black and white film and given an almost square aspect ratio to evoke a more claustrophobic mood, The Lighthouse looks unlike any other movie you’ll see this year. Eggers and Blaschke take full advantage of the lack of running electricity to create some fantastically memorable images. Many scenes are only lit by a single light source, and the resulting shadows on Willem Dafoe’s face almost gives him an inhuman appearance. Pattinson at one point makes his way up the lighthouse stairs, where the lens is only visible through a metal grate. Eggers holds the camera on his face as he’s mesmerized by the glow, as patterns of light and darkness constantly dance across his face. He wants to be in the light, but just can’t break through.
The Lighthouse is a film where we can essentially guess the outcome from the beginning, but the process that Eggers takes to get there is full of fun and madness nonetheless. The story is mostly told from Pattinson’s perspective, so we see all of Winslow’s hallucinations and fantasies, though we’re never totally on his side. Is he justified in his accusations, or is he just a paranoid drunk? The cast list is literally three actors long: Dafoe, Pattinson, and Valeriia Karaman, who plays a mermaid, so there is no outside perspective to make any distinction between who is right and wrong. Of course, Pattinson and Dafoe give incredibly layered performances, one seeming to one-up and out-crazy the other. Both characters feel like real people with real grievances though; in lesser hands they could have easily slipped into caricature. And Eggers gives each actor plenty of meat to chew: Pattinson has a great scene where he drunkenly airs his criticisms, and Dafoe gives a terrifying yet exaggerated response.
Fans coming see an outright horror film may leave The Lighthouse a little disappointed; while there are plenty of disturbing images, most of the fear is internalized. Instead, almost every minute of the film has an almost dreadful atmosphere, where it feels like something will get markedly worse from one moment to the next. The distinctive foghorn blaring at all hours of the day probably doesn’t help matters much either. The “nature vs. nurture” debate is never brought up during the film, but maybe it applies to why these two people go insane. Were they crazy before arriving on the island, or did their close proximity to each other bring it out?
Premise: Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon. Continue reading →
Premise: In this dramedy based on the Mossack Fonseca scandal, a cast of characters investigate an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of a flamboyant Panama City law partners exploiting the world’s financial system. Continue reading →
Premise: A sequel, of sorts, to Breaking Bad following Jesse Pinkman after the events captured in the finale of Breaking Bad. Jesse is now on the run, as a massive police manhunt for him is in operation.
Premise: Football and feminism collide in this documentary that follows former NFL cheerleaders battling the league to end wage theft and illegal employment practices that have persisted for 50 years.Continue reading →
Premise: A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.
A young black girl stares up at a man in a hazmat suit while a street preacher rants and raves about the contaminated water poisoning the residents. This is the introduction we get to Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Monty’s (Jonathan Majors) version of San Francisco in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”; far from the trolleys, five-star restaurants and tech headquarters of the city. The Golden Gate Bridge is off in the distance, but it’s far enough away that you may forget that it exists. Reality is certainly heightened here, but not so much to seem unbelievable. The film is loosely based on the true-life story of Jimmie Fails, who shares a story credit with first-time director and his childhood friend, Joe Talbot. Jimmie and Monty- both young, under-employed black men with dreams of bigger and better things- share a crowded bedroom in Monty’s blind grandfather’s house on the outskirts of the city. At night, when Jimmie isn’t working at a nursing home, the three watch old movies as Monty lovingly describes the action. On occasion, the two skate into the city to look after and fix up an old Victorian home in the Mission district that’s currently owned by an elderly white couple. Why is Jimmie so immersed in the upkeep of the home? He explains early on (to a Segway tour full of white people, of course) that the house was designed and built by his grandfather with his own two hands after World War II. Soon, the couple moves out and the home is abandoned, so Jimmie and Monty take over and renovate as they believe it should be, preserving as many details as Jimmie’s grandfather intended.
In this week’s episode, I welcome Patreon supporter, returning guest, and new contributor Ben Sears back to the podcast. We review Toy Story 4 and A24’s The Farewell. We also talk about several upcoming movies and both of our histories working in movie theaters.
Premise: The film follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester, a rising star in the live-broadcast ecosystem who built his following on wide-eyed optimism and teen girl lust, as he tries to escape a dead-end life in rural Tennessee.
What is the American dream, if not to get rich and famous? In 2019, the quickest and easiest way to get rich and famous is to make it big on social media. Such is the subject of Liza Mandelup’s newest documentary, “Jawline”. The film splits its time focusing on two groups of influencers at various stages of success. First there’s Austyn Tester, a 16-year old high school dropout from rural Tennessee who wants to use his good looks, sunny disposition, and rabid online fan-base to “get famous, so then I can change the world.” The second half goes to a group of interchangeable teen boys (we’re never given their ages, but at best, they’re fresh out of high school) living together in an LA home under the iron fist of their manager Michael Weist. Theirs is a tightly regulated lifestyle where any time not spent posting, tweeting, live-streaming, etc. any branded content is met with Michael’s scorn. At one point, an argument ensues about whether or not to open a video with “hey guys”, lest they alienate their non-female fans. Even though it’s not as well done as the Tennessee portions, the LA half of the film mostly serves as a distant warning to Austyn: this is the fate that awaits the rich and famous in 2019. Thankfully, the amount of time spent between the two is more heavily weighted to Austyn and his struggles.
This week, Tiny and I welcome special guest Ben Sears to the show! Ben is a patreon supporter who is known for his photography, going to elementary school (for a time) with Tiny, and paying us to be a guest on the podcast! In this special episode, we rundown this year’s Oscar nominees! Enjoy.
I watched Force Majeure back in 2018 and didn't care for it all that much. Downhill makes me want to revisit and re-evaluate Force Majeure.Downhill really isn't terrible. It just feels hollow. It only touches on the theme of fragile masculinity without making it a focal point of the movie, which is a big misstep. The relationship between Will Ferre […]
It's the kind of movie that thinks it's being clever despite not trying hard at all to do it. I appreciate the variety, I guess, but the tonal shifts among the different fantasies just made the whole movie feel like it was working through a genre identity crisis. The way the story tries to tie things together was a bit haphazard but better than not […]