‘Fantastic Beasts’ and Where J.K. Rowling Lost Me

Only two questions were running through my mind as I watched J.K. Rowling’s new Potter Tale, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: “Who the hell is that?” and “What the hell is happening?” After two hours, I find myself still asking those exact questions. Truthfully, I was never on board with this new iteration of the Wizarding World franchise from the start. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them remains one of the biggest disappointments in my nerdy little life. It’s a movie that used the world I know and love, but deeply misunderstood why I fell in love with it in the first place. Out with the lovable, rich characters from Harry’s world and in with the stereotypical stock of Newt’s that populate a film with only scraps of world building on its mind. Unfortunately, if you are reading this, I can only inform you that no lessons have been learned since 2016.

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The Crimes of Grindelwald is not just bad. It’s not even a cohesive film. There is no basic understanding of narrative form; no three-act structure, no character development, no sense of conflict, no tension, no focus, no protagonist, but more importantly— there’s no clear message. This is not a story; this is a collection of different ideas and Pottermore footnotes that Rowling has mashed together into something resembling a story. This is a vehicle in which she is able to retcon her way through the lore of her own beloved work through a series of contrivances and poor attempts at some spectacle. Worst of all, none of it makes any absolute sense. The “twists” that this film uses to shock you are lazy afterthoughts that make Rey parentage theories from Reddit seem like they were written by Charlie Kaufman.

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‘BoJack Horseman’ Takes Risks to Explore Regret in Inventive, Poignant Season 5

After a tumultuous, watershed year in real-life Hollywood, BoJack Horseman has invited us back to the not-so-fictional world of Hollywoo for the show’s fifth season. Yet even as the comedy nears veteran status in the fast-paced context of streaming – and the absurdity and horror of the entertainment industry threatens to make all parody moot – BoJack manages to remain as smart, funny, and brutally poignant as ever, using inventive narrative devices to explore complex ideas and catapult the show into a stratosphere of greatness all its own.

If the first four seasons of BoJack are about the myriad ways we cope with the deep, dark shit of life, season five is about the work that comes after we survive. How do we move on from our lowest lows without digging the same holes – or falling into someone else’s – all over again? How do we forgive the unforgivable? And who does forgiveness actually benefit?

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Diane and Bojack in ‘BoJack Horseman’ © Netflix

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‘Madeline’s Madeline’ Expertly Blurs the Line Between Performance Art and Reality

Madeline’s Madeline is unafraid to delve into the volatile psyche of a teenage artist. Art is so often used as a tool to sort through perplexing emotions, so it makes sense that struggling teens tend to lose themselves in this low-cost form of therapy. This semi-experimental fever dream poses the question: At what point in the creative process does art as personal self-expression begin to do more harm than good?

Madeline (newcomer Helena Howard) is a 16-year-old actress in a physical theater troupe, fresh out of a brief stay in a psychiatric ward. Her teacher Evangeline (Molly Parker) is at once forceful and understanding, as if Fletcher from Whiplash actually had a heart. On the flip side is Madeline’s mother Regina (Miranda July), an unstable but ultimately loving helicopter parent whose moods, like Madeline’s, violently change at the blink of an eye. From a more neutral perspective, Regina’s actions may come across as a frustrated, terrified mom doing her best to make sure her daughter stays healthy. But the eyes of a teenage girl, especially one with mental illness, see the world through a distorted lens. I know this because I once was one.

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Ghosts Aren’t the Only Things That Haunt Us in ‘The Little Stranger’

Imagine, if you will, driving down a quiet country road, surrounded by greenery. As you round a corner, there is something looming ahead: a large, old house in a state of disrepair. There is something fascinating about this crumbling estate – it was once something grand and beautiful, but now shabby. You’re enchanted, mesmerized, and want to walk through its threshold to see what lies behind its doors. This is the estate at the center of director Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger, a film that seems to defy a genre label, spanning thriller, drama, romance, and supernatural. But the marketing, as minimal as it has been, makes The Little Stranger seem purely like a horror movie. Horror fans, or people looking for a horror movie, will be disappointed. Instead of ghosts, they’ll get melancholy, loneliness, desperation, and the need to hold onto the past.

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Domhnall Gleeson as Dr. Faraday in The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger begins with Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) visiting the dilapidated Hundreds Hall to check on the Ayres family’s young maid, Betty (Liv Hill). After the visit, he becomes close with the family, particularly Caroline (Ruth Wilson), as he helps her injured war vet brother, Roderick (Will Poulter). As Faraday learns more about the family, seemingly supernatural events start taking place around the house, slowly tearing the family apart.

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‘Sharp Objects’ Recap: Falling

*Spoilers Ahead*

As the end of Sharp Objects approaches, I keep thinking there’s no way this show could get any more upsetting, raw, and tense. And each week, I’m proven wrong. In the penultimate episode to HBO’s limited series, the pain, cruelty, and suffering of each character seems to reach its peak.

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The episode begins with a surprisingly tender moment as Adora tries to take care of Camille after her night of partying with Amma. However, Camille is quick to reject such attention, pushing her away and refusing medicine from a rather large blue bottle. As Camille is leaving the house, she checks on a hungover Amma, who says, “You know what my favorite part of getting wasted is? Mama takes care of me after.” She also reveals that John is about to be arrested for the murders of Anne and Natalie. Camille rushes to John’s girlfriend’s house, while Richard, on the other hand, does his own investigation: This time, it’s into the death of Marian Crellin. As he speaks to nurses and reads old medical records, it becomes increasingly clear that Adora suffers from Munchausen by proxy, a disorder where a caretaker makes someone sick on purpose. There are not only records for Marian, but for Amma’s various hospitalizations. This is juxtaposed with Amma lying sick in bed, sweating, puking, trying to escape her mother’s medication.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,’ Brilliantly Speaks Truth to Power

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

The Germans have a word for acknowledging their Nazi past. Known as “Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” it literally means “coming to terms with the past,” describing the process by which the country tries to learn from the mistakes it made during the 30s and 40s, most significantly the Holocaust. This process makes Germany quite a unique country, as no other major nation-state can claim to have gone through quite the same amount of personal soul-searching.

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This dream of awakening her home country of Romania is the mission of Mariana, an artist who wants to put on a reenactment of the Odessa Massacre of 1941 in which between 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were either shot or burned to death by Romanian troops. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, is named after a quote that was used to justify the process. According to her, its a part of history glossed over by Romanians, who prefer to remember the time they joined the Allies three years into War. A pertinent clip from the Romanian film The Mirror, released in 1994, shows just how deep the distortion of history goes, displaying Ion Antonescu — the Romanian leader — as a sympathetic character who only “deported” non-Romanian Jews, instead of killing them. This is a blatant lie and something that Mariana is determined to deconstruct.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Miriam Lies’ Is a Harsh yet Necessary Coming of Age Story

In Latin America, there is no event more important for young girls than the quinceañera. Families will save up every extra penny to make sure that the celebration is a lavish affair, welcoming the girl’s progression into adulthood with a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. For Miriam (Dulce Esther Rodríguez Castillo), however, her 15th birthday is loaded with dread, as she has a secret that she doesn’t want the rest of her family to know about.

She has a boyfriend named Jean-Louis, who she only knows from chatting online. One day, she goes to meet him at a natural history museum, but upon seeing his face, something holds her back. She doesn’t talk to him, and runs away, explaining to her mom that he didn’t turn up. At first, this seems like natural shyness, but it slowly becomes clear that it’s because he’s black. The resulting film is a piercing tale that functioned both as a well-worked character drama and a seething critique of a racist society.

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