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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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Things to Come

Things to Come is the detailed tapestry of one woman’s life, as she moves through an important transition.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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1.

"'Bring Me The Girl': Why 'The Revenant' was Hard for My Friends and Me": A great essay from Sasha Lapointe at Indian Country Today Media Network.

“I probably had a cracker smeared with brie to my lips or perhaps a mouthful of winter ale when I heard the Frenchman speak, when I read the English translation on the bottom of the screen.  Scrolling across the snow were the words: ‘Bring me the girl.’ I don’t remember much after that. As is the nature of my trigger, my descent into emotional blackout is not something I’m usually conscious of. Later I was told I stood up when the rape scene began. I exited the living room calmly and silently. I texted a childhood friend. When my partner found me in the kitchen I was trembling over the sink, face streaked in tears, bottle of dark rum tipped back and pouring down my throat as I stood shaking in the moonlight coming in through the window. I remember almost none of this. I don’t remember if he held me, if he took the bottle from me, if he walked me back to the couch, or if I walked back on my own. I don’t remember the rest of the film, not one moment of it. I couldn’t make it through it, though I attempted or pretended to. I do remember concerned looks from my friends. And one of their attempts to console me, ‘Sasha,’ he said, ‘It’s okay, she got him. She castrated that French bastard. She got her revenge!’ I don’t remember if I was courteous or polite, I’d like to think I was. I’d like to think I was gracious for my friend’s words, his attempt at kindness. ‘Bring me the girl.’ That was the last clear thing I remember before falling into a downward spiral of bad memories and the nightmare of trauma. Powaqa enters the scene. She says nothing. When we see her she is bent against the trunk of a tree as the French captain violates her. Perhaps it is the nature of the assault. Perhaps it is just the right recipe of scene, of tree, of lighting, that has triggered my own memory of assault. Whatever it is, I am ruined, unable to finish the film.”

2.

"Joanna Coates and Daniel Metz on 'Amorous'": At Indie Outlook, I chat with the filmmakers about their immensely provocative picture, currently available on Netflix.

“[Indie Outlook:] How did you go about earning the trust of your actors? [Coates:] ‘The first thing was that we decided not to use a traditional script. Daniel and I wrote out a 40-page outline of what would happen, and then presented it to the actors that we were auditioning. It was through honest conversations in the auditioning that we worked out who we cast. The actors knew coming into it what the story was roughly, and they knew what the demands were, in terms of sex and nudity and commitment. So we started off from a good point, and we also brought people in who would be able to improvise dialogue—not improvise story but improvise how they would express themselves, moment to moment. A lot of that trust was earned through the process of who we decided to work with, so we knew that we were starting with people who were committed. That was the most important thing. We all started from the same point, and we were interested in what we were doing. It wasn’t just a job for people—because we were young and didn’t have money. [laughs] We worked for about a month in the house together, and we did exercises like taking baths together or sunbathing together. There was a physical intimacy that we worked up to. It wasn’t a case of signing a contract requiring you to take your clothes off on a particular day. People were setting their own boundaries in terms of what they felt comfortable with. We tried to look at all of our own vulnerabilities before we went on the set, because it was located hundreds of miles away in the countryside. Once you were there, you were there. People brought stories about the break-ups they’ve had or the sadness they’ve experienced, and we talked about them. Daniel suggested an exercise during one of the auditions where the actors brought the suitcase their characters would’ve packed, containing items such as letters or paint sets or birth control pills. All of these details fed into the structure that already existed.’”

3.

"Haunting, powerful, passionate: Martin Scorsese's 'The Age of Innocence'": Carrie Rickey reflects on Scorsese's 1993 masterwork at Library of America.

“[Edith] Wharton’s hope for someone with ‘brains—& education!’ was realized when Scorsese’s adaptation arrived in 1993 to generally approving reviews—though some wags questioned what the heck the director of ‘Raging Bull,’ so knowledgeable about boxing gloves, was doing with (or to) a novel where opera gloves feature so prominently. ‘A gorgeously uncharacteristic Scorsese movie,’ observed Vincent Canby in The New York Times. “Raging Bull’ in a china shop,’ quipped The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane. Scorsese’s film version is many things, none of them, happily, ‘emotionally flaccid.’ More like palpably tumescent, and I’m referring not to the opening credits of flowers opening to reveal pistils and stamens, but to the considerable erotic heat between Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis. The plot is a romantic triangle that ultimately drives a wedge between desire and duty: On the eve of his wedding, Newland Archer (Day-Lewis) finds himself in thrall to the married Countess Olenska (Pfeiffer), who reciprocates his feelings yet persuades him to follow through with the wedding to her cousin, May Welland (Winona Ryder). In 1993, Scorsese, a son of Little Italy’s working class, noted that he and Wharton, a daughter of the nineteenth-century Knickerbocker elite, weren’t so different. After all, weren’t his first great movie, ‘Mean Streets,’ and her last great novel, ‘The Age of Innocence,’ both the works of tribesmen keenly observing their tribes? As it reckons the tribal price of being a social transgressor and the psychic price of not being one, ‘Innocence’ is thematically similar to many Scorsese films. It’s no surprise that he was as drawn to Wharton as Newland was to the Countess. Let’s say that the filmmaker had more success than Newland in consummating the relationship. Scorsese has even won over certain Wharton diehards at first shocked that he cast the fair-haired Pfeiffer as the Countess, described in the novel as a dark and ‘tall, bony girl with conspicuous eyes’ and the small, brunette Ryder as statuesque blonde May Welland.”

4.

"Neurothriller: Horror films are far scarier than in the past. Here's how...": Explains Aeon's Patricia Pisters.

“Hitchcock’s way of distributing narrative information and cinematographic effects guided his audience masterfully from one emotion to the next. During the shooting of ‘North by Northwest’ (1959), Hitchcock even confessed to his scriptwriter Ernest Lehman that he would love to access the spectator’s emotions directly. ‘The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note, and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react. And someday we won’t even have to make a movie – there’ll be electrodes implanted in their brains, as we’ll just press different buttons and they’ll go ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ and we’ll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won’t that be wonderful?’ Hitchcock reportedly said, according to Donald Spoto’s biography The Dark Side of Genius (1999). Today, Hitchcock’s fantasy of direct access to the brain is a reality in neurological operations such as deep-brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Experiments using the same technology aim to cure depression by stimulating more joyful emotional circuits. In turn, Hitchcock’s films are used by neuroscientists to study emotions in the brain. And while cinema itself has not literally transformed into a brain machine with electrodes hooked to our neuronal tissue, new models of cinema have nonetheless managed to plug more directly into the brain than the master himself. Consciously or unconsciously, contemporary filmmakers not only tap into increased knowledge about the brain offered by neuroscientific experiments, but their films also stimulate the neural senses of emotions without the detour of narrative.”

5.

"Inside Jaunt and Oculus' Plans to Teach VR Filmmaking": Keith Nelson Jr. explores the future of film at Digital Trends.

“Special effects pioneer Dennis Muren proclaimed the 1980 classic ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ the hardest film he ever worked on, because ‘we had to train people to do work that we barely knew how to do.’ That’s a conundrum creative types face: How do you do what’s never been done? ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas and the Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) team Muren worked with on the film ended up making their own machines and their own programming. Along the way they wrote the rules of special effects — rules that have been the DNA of almost every blockbuster film over the last forty years. That’s why VR companies like Jaunt and Oculus are taking virtual reality to New York University and the University of Southern California, starting Master Classes and creating workshops: to write the rules of this new revolution in filmmaking. ‘The concept of a VR lab started last summer, as we began planning on how we could work together,’ Jaunt Studios President Cliff Plumer told me in an exclusive interview with Digital Trends. The Jaunt Cinematic Virtual Reality Lab, which will launch later this year, is the product of a rich history between USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), Lucasfilm, and its founder, alumni George Lucas. ‘A number of us at Jaunt who came from Lucasfilm have worked with Dean Daley and the USC Cinema School for many years,’ Plumer said. The lab will be a three-year incubator at SCA where students can learn how to film for virtual reality, and try it out for themselves.”

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The Guardian's Benjamin Lee argues "why 'Vanity Fair''s Hollywood diversity cover fails to conceal industry prejudice."

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On the heels of his creepy triumph as Whitey Bulger in "Black Mass," Johnny Depp gets even creepier in Funny Or Die's scathingly hilarious Donald Trump satire, "The Art of the Deal: The Movie," directed by Jeremy Konner.

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