Film Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (USA 2018)

The Other Side of the Wind Poster
Trailer

A Hollywood director emerges from semi-exile with plans to complete work on an innovative motion picture.

Director:

Orson Welles

In the words of Orson Welles himself: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is a crazy picture.  It is not a documentary.  It is a departure from moviemaking.   Everybody will think the film is autobiographical but it is not.  

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is a film within a film.  It is supposed to be Welles’ comeback film after being ostracized by Hollywood.  He never completed the film and passed away with the footage locked in  a Paris vault.  Funds were eventually provided by Netflix for its completion.

The film opens by a voiceover describing the final day of Jake Hannaford (John Huston), an aging Hollywood director who was killed in a car crash on his 70th birthday.  The narration is from an elderly Brooks Otterlake (Peter Bogdanovich), who had been a protégé of Hannaford’s. Just before his death, Hannaford was trying to revive his waning career by making a flashy film, laden with gratuitous sex scenes and violence, with mixed results. At the time of Hannaford’s party, this film (titled The Other Side of the Wind) has been left unfinished after its star stormed off the set, for reasons not immediately apparent to the audience.

A screening of some incomprehensible parts of Hannaford’s unfinished experimental film takes place, in order to attract “end money” from studio boss Max David. Hannaford himself is absent, and a loyal member of his entourage, the former child star Billy Boyle, makes an inept attempt to describe what the film is about. Intercut during this, we see various groups setting out for Hannaford’s seventieth birthday party at an Arizona ranch. Hannaford arrives with a young Brooks Otterlake, a commercially successful director with a talent for mimicking celebrities, who credits much of his success to his close study of Hannaford.

The story goes on but the film is all over the place and hardly coherent when one finally figures out what is happening.  The film contains a few stunning segments, the most notable being these two most sexually explicit ones:

 – the beginning graphic lesbian steamroom scene, rapidly intercut, featuring Oja Kodar (the actress at the time was Welles’ lover), which Hannaford is in the process of filming at the start.

the sex scene in an 1968 Ford Mustang fastback. The car takes off in the rainy night, and as the boyfriend drives, the pair have sex in the passenger seat next to him. After a few minutes the boyfriend stops the car, grabs the girl off of Dale (the actor playing the lading character in WIND), and appears to make an attempt to engage her for himself. She rebukes him and the pair is then tossed out. John Dale, with his pants halfway down, lands in a large puddle.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is definitely not a masterpiece as Welles hoped it to be.  It is not even a good film.  It is madness personified into a film, with a few absorbing segments as well as unconnected boring parts in between.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND will be more interesting to cineastes (for example; what does the title even mean?) but for the rest the film is best avoided.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMWHBUTHmf0

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Film Review: THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD (USA 2018) ***1/2

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead Poster
Trailer

In the final fifteen years of the life of legendary director Orson Welles he pins his Hollywood comeback hopes on a film, The Other Side of the Wind, in itself a film about an aging film director trying to finish his last great movie.

Director:

Morgan Neville

THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD is a 2018 American documentary film, directed by Morgan Neville, revolving around the making and filming of the infamous never completed and now just completed THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, directed by Orson Welles.

A bit of background knowledge is necessary in order to appreciate the Orson Welles/Neville doc, THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD.  The doc should be watched together with THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, though best before or after could be argued.  WIND was Welles’ comeback movie that took him umpteen  years tin the making but never competed due to his craziness and lack of funding.  WIND was supposed to be autobiographical though Welles claims it was never so.  He had directed his best friend John Huston play the director and Peter Bogdanovich play another director who was not Peter Bogdanovich.  He has impressionist Rich Little hired to act in his film and then edited him out.  More information and madness are revealed as Neville’s doc unfolds.

The doc is immensely entertaining for several reasons.  Firstly, Welles was a charismatic and intriguing character.  It is also about filmmaking and  filmmakers implying that all cineastes should love the doc.  And Neville has done a wonderful job revealing both sides of Orson Welles.

Neville also includes short clips (wish he had shown more) of Welles’ famous films like CITZEN KANE, THE TRIAL and A TOUCH OF EVIL while mentioning his never completed films like THE DREAMERS (not to be confused with the Bertolucci film of the same name).

The title takes the words from from a prophetic comment Welles made to Peter Bogdanovic that centred on Welles’ return to the U.S. in the early 1970s to shoot his ill-fated Hollywood comeback film.  The documentary concludes with his death in October 1985. “Welles is the protagonist of my documentary,” Neville said. “(The Other Side of the Wind) is so autobiographical, even though he said it was not.

The doc is also a study of the madness that goes with genius.  Welles’ not only drove himself crazy but those around him.  Like his cameraman, Gary Graver.  After working him to death to the point that Graver would strangle him and call Welles a fucking fat idiot, Welles would put his arm around Graver and tell him that he was doing a great job.

The film is all about great directors.  Besides its subject Orson Welles who made arguably the best film (as polled by critics over the years) of all time CITIZEN KANE, the film features Peter Bogdanovich who accomplished three great films during the making of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER MOON and WHAT’S UP DOC?. This film is directed by Morgan Neville who directed the Best Documentary Oscar winner, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM as well as the well critical received BEST OE ENEMIES and WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

This film should be seen together with the recently completed THE OTEHR SIDE OF THE WIND, thanks to additional funding provided by Netflix.   THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD is also a Netflix original film now playing on Netflix.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_kOsnGzfYY

Film Article: THE GOLDEN GLOBES 2019

The 76th Golden Globe Awards were handed out on Sunday, January 6, 2019.  Killing Eve star Sandra Oh and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg co-host the 76th annual ceremony, that aired live on NBC at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific.

Oh is the first Asian to host or co-host the Golden Globes.  Oh, a Canadian is the perfect choice having made her name both in drama and comedy in television and motion picture in both Canada and the United States.

The Golden Globes are organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HPFA) recognizing achievement in both television and film.  The winners are usually the frontrunners of the upcoming Academy Awards (the Oscars).  

The Golden Globe ceremony is quite different from The Oscar ceremony as the former allows the guests to sit at a table, have dinner and drink alcohol, which makes for a more relaxed and entertaining evening.  Rick Gervais a part host was notorious in keeping the proceedings lively while spurting insults at the presenters. “I don’t care…” was his favourite words.  Gervais is my favourite host of all time as one can always appreciate a good laugh, even at the expense of others.

In one of the best Globes openings, Oh and Samberg roasts the nominees.  The first victim was Spike Lee, called Spice Lee by Oh.  Multiple nominee Amy Adams is called doll s*** and told to reserve awards for the others.  Films get roasted too including the $200 million blockbuster CRAZY RICH ASIANS which impressed Asian mothers everywhere.  Oh was tremendously funny, even choking Lady Gaga laughing.  Jim Carrey was roasted too providing a great come back.  In a more serious note, Oh mentioned the face of change in her being chosen to co-host the Globes.  

Oh herself won a Golden Globe later in the show for KILLING EVE.

Of the winners, Regina King who won the Best Supporting Actress went overtime and got too political in her acceptance speech.

The Life Achievement Award went to Jeff Bridges.

Mistakes at the Globes?  When Cuaron won the second time the night for Best Director, the announcer said Cuaron won the first one for Best Screenplay but he did not but for the Best Foreign Film. 

Best acceptance speech of the evening was delivered by Glenn Close winning for Best Actress in a drama for THE WIFE.  Close got a standing ovation.  Close also acknowledged her mother who gave everything for her husband and mentioned the need to follow ones dreams.

The FILM Winners of the Golden Globes are listed below for each category together with the nominees.  The Winners are indicated with the notation ‘winner’.

Best Picture — Drama`

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody ***winner

If Beale Street Could Talk

A Star Is Born

Best Picture — Comedy or Musical

Crazy Rich Asians

The Favourite

Green Book ***winner

Mary Poppins Returns

Vice

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody ***winner

John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama

Glenn Close, The Wife ***winner

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Nicole Kidman, Destroyer

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Rosamund Pike, A Private War

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

Christian Bale, Vice ***winner

Lin Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Robert Redford, The Old Man & the Gun

John C. Reilly, Stan & Ollie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns

Olivia Colman, The Favourite ***winner

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Charlize Theron, Tully

Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali, Green Book ***winner

Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Amy Adams, Vice

Claire Foy, First Man

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk    ***winner

Emma Stone, The Favourite

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Director — Motion Picture

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma ***winner

Peter Farrelly, Green Book

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

Adam McKay, Vice

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite

Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Adam McKay, Vice

Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Green Book       ***winner

Best Motion Picture — Animated

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Mirai

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ***winner

Best Picture — Foreign Language

Capernaum

Girl

Never Look Away

Roma ***winner

Shoplifters

Best Original Score — Motion Picture

Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place

Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs

Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther

Justin Hurwitz, First Man ***winner

Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns

Best Original Song — Motion Picture

“All the Stars,” Black Panther

“Girl in the Movies,” Dumplin’

“Requiem for a Private War,” A Private War

“Revelation,” Boy Erased

“Shallow,” A Star Is Born *** winner

Film Review: A TWELVE-YEAR NIGHT (Uruguay 2018) ****

A Twelve-Year Night Poster
Trailer

1973. Uruguay is governed by a military dictatorship. One autumn night, three Tupamaro prisoners are taken from their jail cells in a secret military operation. The order is precise: “As we… See full summary »

Director:

Álvaro Brechner

During the dictatorship in Uruguay, there was the 12-year incarceration of members of the Tupamaros, a left-wing urban guerrilla group active in the 1960s and 1970s, 9 of whom were held as “hostages” between 1972 and 1985. 

A TWELVE YEAR NIGHT is the dramatization of the account of 3 (among 9) prisoners who were imprisoned in solitary for a period of these 12 years.  The pure thought of being in 12 years of darkness is unimaginable, less 12 years of imprisonment in solitary, less 12 years in imprisonment.  Thankfully, as if it is not bad enough, the 12 years are not totally spent in total blackness, but it could be described as nights with a little light, but still in solitary.  The question the film asks is how a human being can survive in such conditions to fight and maintain their integrity.  The film is inspired by the book Memorias del Calabozo by Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, who, along with José “Pepe” Múgica, travelled between more than forty jails during the terrible military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay over the course of 12 years, starting in 1973. The film made its world premiere in the Orizzonti section at the 75th Venice Film Festival.  Be prepared!  Needless to say, the film is not an easy watch, but it is a story that needs be told.  The film demonstrates both how cruel human beings can be as well as the resilience of the human spirit in overcoming extreme adversity.

The film begins with quotations from Franz Kafka: “In the Penal Colony”.

The man looked at the guard and asked the officer: “Does the convict know his sentence?”

“No”, said the officer, “but he will experience it in disown body.”

It is difficult to ascertain which is worse – the mental the physical torture.  The former is emphasized by director Brechner  by the titles that come with the unfolding of the film, as if counting the days before the order is over.  The prisoners are often shown huddled in a corner, or almost going mental by not knowing how their families are doing on the outside.  Not knowing is worse than knowing the truth.  The prisoners are also subject to physical torture in segments that are so terrible that they are almost impossible to watch.  Brechner  fortunately only gives the audience short glimpses of these tortures as a series of fast edited images.  And a few are a combination of both mental and physical – torturing by ultrasound or by inserting an antenna into the prisoner’s ear to create sounds and voices.

But the only defeated are the ones who stop fighting. The film is not only gloom and despair as it is occasionally inspirational as during the scene the doctor gives the prisoner, Mujico just a little hope, and that is all he can cling to.  The Simon and Garfunkel song “Sound of Silence” is incredibly moving when used in certain scenes.  Mujico went on, after finally being freed to be elected the President of Uruguay at the age of 76.

The film contains very little humour, which is expected given the sombre subject matter.  director Brechner  resorts to flashbacks where the prisoners imagine their past during their freedom days to give audiences a break from the harsh conditions on display.

How does the Uruguayan Government get away with the atrocities?  The film demonstrates.  Before the prisoners are queries by the International Red Cross, the prisoners are warned: “Say anything stupid and we will rip your head off.”  Not only that, but they are not given a chance to say anything either.

The film contains a few exciting segments like the one where the prisoners are captured in a raid.

The film is Uruguay’s entry for the 2019 91st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.  Though, it did not make the December 9-film short list, A TWELVE YEAR NIGHT is more than a deserving effort.  The film is a Netflix original film and it is still playing on Netflix.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y97o1phiyRY

Film Review: WILDLIFE (USA 2018) *** Directed by Paul Dano

Wildlife Poster
Trailer

A teenage boy must deal with his mother’s complicated response after his father temporarily abandons them to take a menial and dangerous job.

Director:

Paul Dano

Writers:

Paul Dano (screenplay by), Zoe Kazan (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Paul Dano, in his early 30’s  is an excellent actor who has been seen in a diverse range of films from COWBOYS AND ALIENS to 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  He has delivered outstanding performances in his films, the best of which is with Daniel Day Lewis, holding his own with the multiple Oscar Winner in P.T. Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD in which a troubled teen learns of life.

Having proven his active chops, Dano has now taken on directorial reins in a new film again centring on a troubled teen.  Dano also co-wrote the script with his partner Zoe Kazan, this giving the film a female point of view.  It is familiarity that Dano has dealt with and it is of no surprise that the actor he has chosen to play the 14-year old protagonist, Joe looks somewhat like a younger version of himself.

The film is set in 1960, Montana.  Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) have recently moved to Great Falls, Montana with their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).  Tensions build after Jerry is fired from a low esteemed job as a golf pro at a country club.  He is offered his old job back but refuses out of pride, and instead of looking for work, he sleeps in his car and watches the local firefighting efforts against a forest fire raging in nearby mountains.  To support the family as Jerry looks for a job, Jeannette takes a job as a swimming instructor, while Joe works at a local photography studio.  One day, Jerry decides to take a low-paying job fighting the forest fire, which upsets Jeannette and worries Joe.  Jeannette speaks openly about her strained marriage with Jerry to Joe, and the stress of the situation takes a minor toll on Joe’s school life.  

While Jerry is away, Jeannette becomes romantically involved with one of her students, Warren Miller (Bill Camp), a rich older man who owns an automobile dealership.  Fireworks begin when Jerry returns and Jeannette announces that she is moving out – all this inferno of and to Joe’s dismay.

WILDLIFE s a simply told family drama but one told with conviction.  The mountains and icy landscape look stunning in  the background, reflecting the loneliness of people in  the vast surroundings.  Dana connects the audience with both points of view, that of the mother and the father but it is the story of the young son.   “I surprised myself and had a good time.  Did you?”  asks the mother to Joe and one point int he film, illustrating how the film looks from the woman’s point of view and then when there is no answer from the son, switches perspective back to the son.

The desperation of the mother is what propels the family woes.  She tells Joe after Joe catches her making out with Miller.  “He wants to make it better.  Maybe you got a better plan.  I wish I was dead.”

It is a common story of father leaving home to get a decent job while mother becomes restless.  There is really nothing Joe can do.  He wants to keep the family together, but all he can do is to say how each misses the other.

Dana keeps his film on track as Joe’s coming-of-age passage as he is forced to navigate the complex dynamics of adult relationships and figure out what to make of the woman who used to be just Mom.   A well paced family drama with real characters from Paul Dana. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q77YXl_ujBM

Film Review: ASH IS THE PUREST WHITE (China 2018) ****

Ash Is Purest White Poster
A story of violent love within a time frame spanning from 2001 to 2017.

Director:

Zhangke Jia

Writer:

Zhangke Jia

The first 15 minutes of ASH IS THE PUREST WHITE shows the difference between China and the western world.  Everyone is smoking in the train that gos into the city.  Smoking is still allowed everywhere in 2001, China.   When Qiao arrives at a mah-jong parlour. she hits several men who tease her hard on the back.  Hitting is tolerated.  A debt argument in the parlour results in a firearm pulled out and pointed at the debtor.  This is clearly a China or country one is unfamiliar with, which would make a good intriguing story for a film.  The first half of the film is set in 2001 and the second half in 2006 after Qiao has served a 5-year jail sentence for firing an illegal gun.  She did it to protect her gangster boyfriend, who leaves her when she gets out of jail.

The story follows Qiao, a strong willed woman who survives the changing environment of cultural progress and her relationship changes.  Qiao never break down.  The film begins in Shanxi, a dying coal town, where Qiao, a modern, feisty local beauty spends her time with her boyfriend, Guo Bin, a local gang boss.  Qiao takes care of her father, who insists on fighting for the coal workers’ rights, although in an embarrassing fashion.  Qiao is not Bin’s woman, as she carries herself as an equal among gangsters. When a group of young thugs starts making noise in the town, the clash with Bin’s gang is inevitable, and in the film’s most violent scene, Qiao ends up saving her boyfriend by shooting a gun, in a series of events that lead her to prison.

Five years later, and during the fourth phase in the evacuation of the Three Gorges Dam Project area, Qiao is released and tries to reconnect with Bin, who is is avoiding her.

ASH is a female dominated picture.  The protagonist, Qiao is a survivor.   When she is robbed, she pursues and cares her thief and retrieves the stolen I.D. and money.  When sex affronted by a motorcyclist, she steals his bike.  The film is told from Qiao’s point of view.

Jia’s sprawling film can hardly be classified as a particular type of genre.  It is a character study while the protagonist undergoes changes in her life as society progresses as well.  New cities have sprung up and adapting is difficult.  Jia’s shows that one cannot always control destiny.  Qiao and Bin begins as a  decent couple, not overtly loving but not in an abusive relationship either.  Bin’s gangster connections lead him to trouble. One can see and pity Qiao.  She loves him and sacrifices 5 years of her life for the man she loves, spending it in prison and still helping him along when Bin loses everything while becoming a cripple.  One can see Bin’s bitterness.  Bin also cheats on Qiao with another woman.  “I don’t hate you.  I do not have any feelings for you,” Qiao tells Bin at the end.

The film’s message is revealed during early in the film.  Bin tells Qiao, “Enjoy the moment.”

Jia’s film is never short of surprises.  The surprises propel the narrative and are not without reason.  One of these involves Qiao on a train where she meets, by chance a loud man trying to recruit others for his UFO-tourism company.  “Yes, I have seen one.” Qiao quips.

ASH IS THE PUREST WHITE  is a moving story, one so deep in emotional content that it should keep audiences fully glued to the characters and the story.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOCpXuHQAZQ

Film Review: LE GRANDE NOIRCEUR (THE GREAT DARKENED DAYS) (Canada 2018) ***

While a world war rages, Philippe, a draft-dodger from Quebec, takes refuge in the American West, surviving by competing in Charlie Chaplin impersonation contests. As Philippe makes his … See full summary »

Director:

Maxime Giroux

Writers:

Simon Beaulieu (co-writer), Maxime Giroux (co-writer) | 1 more credit »

If there is a weird Canadian film of 2018, LE GRANDE NOIRCEUR must surely be the one.  Writer/director Maxine Giroux’s last film was Félix et Meira — which won the Best Canadian Feature at TIFF in 2014, but the two films are worlds apart.   LE GRANDE NOIRCEUR makes no sense at all, in setting, theme, structure, but it is this weirdness that makes Giroux’s film so fascinating.  And frustrating.  The film feels like a Kafka horror movie.

The setting could be the dystopian future, or during the World War II or even World War 1.  The film hints of the Trump-era  where things are about or already gone to shit.   Still there is the General Patton’s famous speech heard on the radio at one point in the film.  “No bastard ever won the war by dying for his country  He won the war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”  There is the unseen fascistic leader eerily conjuring the idea of “the other” currently playing out in the real world.

The film’s protagonist is Philippe (Martin Dubreuil), a would-be Québécois actor.  When the film opens, the audience see him dressed as Charlie Chaplin amidst a sea of other Chaplin impersonators.  Apparently, Philippe wins this contest and the money.  It is also revealed that Philippe has dogged the draft and escaped from Montreal to an unnamed southwestern American state.  He is robbed, stuck there and forced to deal with crushing poverty, a collapsing moral order, and persecution, all sparked by an ongoing, vaguely outlined war and the odious ethics of an unseen leader whose rants over the radio touting success at all costs.  Yet all around him, Philippe only sees abject squalor and a fearsome propaganda machine recalling 1930s-era Germany.

This is Philippe’s horror road trip.  Philippe meets an aloof, proud woman (Sarah Gadon) who lives in a cave/abandoned basement.  She introduces another girl as her dog.  Philippe also meets a nasty ringmaster (played by French actor Romain Duris) who tortures the weak to force them to become informants.  Already an outsider because of his  (French/Quebecois) accent, Philippe jumps from the frying pan into the fire.

Giroux’s film is filled with surprises or rather shocks.  His film gets really nasty at times.  The girl dog gets her tongue cut out by her mistress at one point.  Philippe is covered in mud shoulder down and tortured with his face dunked in the mud.  These are not pretty sights and hard for audiences to stomach.  One also wonders of the purpose of all this surrealistic horror.  At times, nothing makes any sense.

Near the end, Philippe wakes up from all the hour and finds himself in the midst of a desert.  He meets a Lucky Strike cigarette salesman with his briefcase full of Lucky Strike packages.  The encounter is weird and occasionally homo-erotic,

See THE GREAT DARKENED DAYS if you dare!  The film guarantees a really dark experience!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=seUDYmbbn0s