After 40 years of waiting, seeing the words “Netflix presents…An Orson Welles picture” is incredibly surreal. The excitement that came with discovering that The Other Side of the Wind was to be completed for this year, was like seeing an article about lost silent films that were found in someone’s barn after believing they would be lost forever. Now, one of Welles’ last big pictures is available to everyone with a Netflix subscription.
Welles was an auteur who was always experimenting with new ways to tell a story. This is seen most famously in his first film, Citizen Kane. The director perfectly utilizes all the stylish camera techniques used at the time and puts them together to depict the rise and fall of the world’s biggest business magnate, Charles Foster Kane. Where the narrative is concerned, it doesn’t stay on the traditional paths that Hollywood storytelling walked on up to that point. It’s not linear or chronological — instead, it relies heavily on flashbacks and several narrators to express different points of view and recount different parts of Kane’s life. If The Other Side of the Wind proves anything, it’s that Welles never stopped experimenting.
Jeremy Saulnier is known for violence, from his 2013 film Blue Ruin to 2015’s Green Room. His films are relentless, bloody, and exhausting. But his most recent film is another creature entirely. Hold the Dark, released on Netflix, is a slower, quieter meditation on violence that explodes into something weird and fascinating. It appears to be a simple man versus nature tale, but becomes a story motivated by revenge and a deranged sense of justice.
Hold the Dark, based on William Giraldi’s novel of the same name, follows wolf lover and author Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) as he travels to Alaska. Why Alaska? He receives a strange letter from Medora Slone (Riley Keough) about a wolf who took her child away. It is a strange, almost cryptic letter, but Core still decides to help the grieving woman before her husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard), returns from war. What Core finds in the Alaska village of Keelut is something much bigger than a hungry wolf. He finds grief, anger, frustration, and vengeance.
Keough delivers a chilling and unsettling performance as grieving Medora. She sets the tone from the very start as her low voice reads her letter to Core. Sadly, she disappears too soon into the film. I found myself missing her unnerving stare and strange sayings. However, Skarsgard delivers on the unnerving stares. He is absolutely terrifying in this film, despite barely saying a word. He is a silent force, stalking the cold Alaskan night with a gun and crossbow.
The setting of Hold the Dark is central to the film’s meditation on violence and pain. The Alaskan wilderness is harsh and freezing. It is wild, relentless and doesn’t care about a human’s need for heat. The humans that call it home are reflecting the natural world in their own actions. The vastness of the wilderness, and what it holds, is just as terrifying as human’s capacity for violence. Continue reading “Searching for Justice in ‘Hold The Dark’”→
Netflix favorite Shannon Purser is back as a leading lady in Sierra Burgess is a Loser, the streaming service’s latest rom-com after a summer full of hits. With Purser as the titular character, the film follows the teenage writing prodigy as she tries to survive her final year of high school while being an outcast. She’s got wicked wit, a great best friend and parents that love and support her. But, like many of us at that age, her body image and fear of being rejected create limitations. So when the cute jock Jamey, played by Twitter’s latest boyfriend, Noah Centineo, pursues her via text message under false pretenses, Sierra takes it as opportunity to let a boy get to know her without the risk. It may play as predictably as most rom-coms, but the cast still charms.
After delivering a series of awful originals this year, which include The Cloverfield Paradox, Mute, and The Kissing Booth, Netflix finally delivers with Alex Strangelove. A touching film that hits familiar John Hughes-esque territory, but delivers a raunchy, comedic and heartwarming story of self-discovery.
The film follows type-A nerd Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), as he navigates the “savage kingdom that is the modern American high school.” He meets Claire (Madeline Weinstein) and they become best friends, start their own web series, and eventually, they start dating. This is where the familiar “You’ll be the laughing stock of the school if you don’t lose your virginity!!” flashbacks kick in, and just like every teenager, Alex is going through the same pressure. But things get complicated when Alex meets the charismatic, gay Elliot (Antonio Marziale), who sends Alex down a rollercoaster of sexual discovery and acceptance.
Netflix’s thought-provoking and controversial series, 13 Reasons Why, returned for a second season after its popular first. In the premiere season, the thirteen episodes were structured around the thirteen taped recordings the late Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, left behind before committing suicide, each explaining why thirteen of her peers receiving the tapes were the reason she decided to take her life. This time around, there are no more structurally-convenient tapes and the show uses the testimonies made during the case surrounding Hannah’s death as the new guide. The latest episodes do a great job of encapsulating where each character ends up following the aftermath of discovering the tapes and Hannah’s death, but major missteps take away more attention.
Recently, legendary director Steven Spielberg went on record stating that he believes that films premiered on streaming services like Netflix should be considered TV movies eligible for Emmys rather than Oscars. This topic isn’t new as the Cannes Film Festival has had issues with Netflix Originals. Attempting to differentiate films by their distribution, however, will lead to a dangerous, elitist territory in Hollywood.
Let me start by saying that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of my absolute favorite actors, male or female. So, it breaks my heart that I thoroughly did not enjoy Netflix’s latest original film. Directed by Stephanie Laing, Irreplaceable You shares Abbi’s journey as she learns she is dying of cancer not long after she becomes engaged to her life-long boyfriend, played by Michiel Huisman, and tries to find him a potential mate for after she dies. Along the way with treatment, Abbi encounters different people struggling with cancer as well, like Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon.