The Films of 2021

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
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cantinflas
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Re: The Films of 2021

#51 Post by cantinflas » Sun Apr 04, 2021 3:13 am

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#52 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Apr 04, 2021 8:25 pm

Shiva Baby: What better way to amplify situational cringe comedy than to set the nightmarish experience at a populated Jewish service. The stereotypical cultural behaviors of oblivious Jewish parental harassment, forceful neurotic persuasion and judgment, are perfectly in step with an already-brutal predicament, disallowing any small anxiety-provoking detail to be left alone. Those who are familiar with the milieu will get their moneysworth of affirmative connection with the esotericism of this atmosphere of escalation, but the wry generational dissonance and universal awkwardness of being trapped in a small space with overwhelming stimuli, secrets, and history (not to mention the Pinter-esque bleeding of the surreal into the real, dark comedy stemming from terrifying destabilization) will still land for most everyone.

The film is essentially a one act play, but its strengths are purely cinematic in contrasting Sennott’s subjective social claustrophobia with the triggers she’s responding to, the camera’s placement and blocking of action crucial to delivery. The string and percussion score is emulating the dread-soaked music from modern indie horror films, and is one of many creative artistic choices that work to elevate the anxiety and comedy alike in this brilliant condensed heart attack of a movie. It could not be a single minute longer than its 72 minutes, so trigger warning: I’ve never seen a cringe comedy this relentless in my entire life. This is a movie made by a filmmaker who deeply understands and belongs to this social context, and who deeply understands cinema and belongs in the director’s chair for many years to come. I still can't decide whether its tone leans more toward comedy or horror (and not just by my own flexible metrics), which is another testament to its subjective realism at finding these pervasive sensations in one's social environment. Emma Seligman could tackle either genre next, separate or together, and I'll be in the theatre on day one.

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Finch
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Re: The Films of 2021

#53 Post by Finch » Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:41 pm

I guess between the second Borat film and Bad Trip, those public prank movies/satires aren't for me anymore. I turned both off before the half hour mark. I ended up watching all of Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider (1985) for the first time instead (good film though too long and not in the same league as High Plains Drifter or Outlaw Josey Wales, my favourite two westerns Clint did himself; loved seeing Michael Moriarty!).

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#54 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:45 pm

Bad Trip peaks early with the hilarious smoothie shop scene and the back half drags, so yeah, if you didn't find that funny probably best to bail when you did

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Matt
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Re: The Films of 2021

#55 Post by Matt » Fri Apr 09, 2021 11:15 pm

For those with even the slightest interest in dance (or Morton Feldman), I strongly recommend When We Fell, a short film featuring 6 New York City Ballet dancers co-directed by choreographer Kyle Abraham and cinematographer Ryan Marie Helfant. It’s shot in 16mm black-and-white, in mostly static frontal and overhead long shots with the occasional slow zoom. It’s beautiful dancing and beautiful filmmaking, available free now through April 22 on their website or YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/nycballet).

Next month’s film will be a series of performances filmed by Sofia Coppola with Philippe Le Sourd.

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TheKieslowskiHaze
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Re: The Films of 2021

#56 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:52 pm

I checked out The Empty Man after hearing some glowing word-of-mouth. It's not as good as those words and mouths suggested, not as genre-transcendent as The Witch or Midsommar, but it's pretty high caliber for a conventional horror movie. It has some of the creepiest scenes in recent memory. A great time; I recommend it.

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Persona
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:16 pm

Re: The Films of 2021

#57 Post by Persona » Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:56 pm

I loved STOWAWAY. There have been a handful of space mission movies over the past decade or so and this is the best one. Has a nice naturalistic intensity to its scenarios and moral dilemmas, wonderful performances from the 4-person cast, and director Joe Penna totally nails the quiet stillness with a deep undercurrent of tension that the film needs. It also managed moments of real poignancy, and I found myself misting up a couple times--including the ending, which apparently the larger audience hates but I found just about perfect, aside from maybe one slight contrivance that had to set it up. But I found the payoff worth it. A great new space mission flick.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#58 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat May 01, 2021 1:33 am

Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus: Dalibor Barić has concocted an experimental noir that could pass for a Guy Maddin student film on acid. This Croatian animation is so loosely defined that it's difficult to understand what's going on plotwise, let alone care, but that's part of the fun because there is so much "going on" outside of conventional structure. This also seems to be very much the point. This is a film so violently untethered from any patterned internal logic, translating its postured genre's fatalism in the hallucinatory magnetism to some semblance of narrative, or even more flexibly (yet not elastic enough) to the images and space of celluloid. You get the sense this film wants to escape what it is and evolve into some other form of art entirely, but alas it cannot. This gravity even binds it to various influences i.e. a Godardian opening monologue over images worthy of an Alphaville sequel, or even more glaring, the feathery debris levitating in the air right out of a Tarkovsky film in an early scene. However, these moments are fleeting and the film is constantly on the run from falling into any trap of consistency that could allow its protagonists to sit long enough to get caught by the authorities, or the audience, or ponder the meaninglessness of it all. It's pretty self-reflexively noir in that way.

This is a hard film to recommend in absolute terms, because it doesn't add up to anything more than an explosive attempt to pin down experimental cinema into traditionally coherent narrative form, but in that failure we feel the anxiety of trapping 'liberation', and it's a pretty cool, wild ride of confusion to inevitably surrender to the paradoxes trying to coexist in one movie. The friction burns the skeletal fabric so far down to the rubber that the characters break the fourth wall and ultimately become transparent with the viewer about this suffocation stemming from limitations, citing Cronenberg and Tarkovsky by name as indirect culprits of unwanted rules prohibiting salvation in artistic freedom! And yet there are so many detours into the sublime possibilities of cinema, that Barić's playfully creative spirit propels this into a unique mode of greatness, functioning just fine in a fourth dimension where this kind of film might be normal, haunted by the ghosts of these influences as faint memories or perhaps déjà vu from a time that once was, or a dream, elusively out of reach.

kidc
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Re: The Films of 2021

#59 Post by kidc » Tue May 11, 2021 7:01 pm

Matt wrote:
Fri Apr 09, 2021 11:15 pm
For those with even the slightest interest in dance (or Morton Feldman), I strongly recommend When We Fell, a short film featuring 6 New York City Ballet dancers co-directed by choreographer Kyle Abraham and cinematographer Ryan Marie Helfant. It’s shot in 16mm black-and-white, in mostly static frontal and overhead long shots with the occasional slow zoom. It’s beautiful dancing and beautiful filmmaking, available free now through April 22 on their website or YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/nycballet).

Next month’s film will be a series of performances filmed by Sofia Coppola with Philippe Le Sourd.
Thanks for this Matt. Coppola's film has now been up for a few days, I almost missed it because it's just titled '2021 Spring Gala'.

New York City Ballet, directed by Sofia Coppola, available until 20th May.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#60 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed May 12, 2021 6:59 pm

French Exit is a strange film, and one that doesn't really deliver on its eccentric vision, nor earn its merit badge as an original work. Hedges and Poots really weigh down the film as vapid characters of the next generation whose banal energy likely has the opposite of the intended effect, by making the older compromised characters far more interesting and worthy as a fading presence, signifying the termination of something special rather than demonstrating an abnormal facilitation of the cycle of life. Or perhaps we're meant to understand that they all started out like these empty youngsters and that they too may grow more peculiar over time, peeling back onion layers of personality, or adding to bland ones, to reveal/form idiosyncratic reasons for living.

The problem is that everything is so vague and meandering without any existential or emotional payoff. Pfeiffer is terrific, and the film is worth seeing for her perf of false austerity meshed with madness, a kind soul with an enigmatic bite, though she's far too obscure to latch onto, and the film lays its full bet on her to provide meaning to the film. There are weird narrative inclusions of magical realism that should color this thematically or aesthetically within its absurd internal logic, but instead it's like watching a mashup of Buñuel's C-grade surreal gags edited into an unfinished The Royal Tenenbaums-aping domestic dramedy. The film can't find a tone, which could generously be reflexively read as an externalization of Pfeiffer's mental state, but since we don't even know what that is, this doesn't really work either.

Still, there are fun bit parts, and the blending of eccentric with relatable compassion lends itself well to the challenges properly expressing this, often by giving homeless people money or attempting to make connections in a manner that begins with accidentally putting up barriers rather than transcending them. The film doesn't make that clear enough or go with the idea full-tilt either though, so it's still aimlessly wandering in space looking for a home in one of its concepts. The best comparison might to be call this an anti-Desplechin film, for while that artist finds himself squatting transiently in countless homes via full-measured dedications to his many ideas, messy but with deep affection and confidence in his ethos, this film is just.. messy.

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Persona
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Re: The Films of 2021

#61 Post by Persona » Sat May 15, 2021 10:25 pm

OXYGENE

Give Aja all the crazy concept thriller movies because his direction sells the heck out of them. Here he's also helped out by a fantastic performance from Melanie Laurent. A very worthy follow-up to the excellent CRAWL.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#62 Post by Pavel » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:28 am

I wasn't a big fan of Edgar Wright's The Sparks Brothers. It succeeded in making me love the Mael brothers, but it's waaay too long and you don't learn more about Sparks in 140 minutes than you would've in 90. The people Wright interviews make for fun cameos but don't really tell you anything interesting about the band except to showcase Sparks' broad influence. The animation was fun, but only added more filler to an astoundingly bloated film. But the Maels are entertaining enough to keep the film from feeling too much like a chore

spoink47
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Re: The Films of 2021

#63 Post by spoink47 » Sat Jul 10, 2021 1:38 pm

speaking of The Sparks Brothers
Ken Burns is probably the greatest producer of documentaries ever. Hundreds if not thousands of people followed in his footsteps. Edgar Wright does also, but he adds innovation into the mixture by using cartoons and claymation style cartoons to illustrate where no film exists, and throws in a helping of wit and humor to keep things moving. He largely avoids the practice of panning over photos (the "Ken Burns effect"), and chooses dozens of interviewees from a large swath of musicians, producers, writers, and A-list actors to discuss their love of all things Sparks.

I won't comment on the band themselves, because I cannot be objective. I've been a diehard fan since I first purchase their 1975 album Indiscreet (for 99 cents in the cut out bin). It's head scratching that a band that was so instrumental in so many areas of popular music never became huge in the US.

If you're a fan of Edgar Wright or have eclectic taste in music, you need to see this film. If you're not either, I'd still recommend it, as you might become a fan of both Sparks and Mr. Wright.

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John Cope
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Re: The Films of 2021

#64 Post by John Cope » Sat Jul 17, 2021 4:40 am

Flashback is a tremendous picture, audacious and amazing, one that actually manages to follow through on all the promise it establishes which is amazing enough, and one I was really unprepared for. I admired director Christopher MacBride's The Conspiracy but wasn't necessarily blown away by it. Well, I was by this. And that's especially impressive as this recalls so many other films and that's usually a very bad sign. But rather than being simply derivative, this film seems galvanized by its direct and obvious influences and inspirations and that's what you want to see if such stuff is going to be so brazenly worn on the sleeve. There are shades here of Donnie Darko but also of some of the films of Benson/Moorhead, especially the recent Synchronic. But there are also more subtle seeming influences like the work of Shane Carruth for instance. And the presence of Emory Cohen invokes the spirit of the great, much missed The OA, and that too is an appropriate comparison point. For this may be in some ways the sum of those influences but, man, has MacBride learned the right lessons from them and been clearly and genuinely inspired by them.

I really don't want to give too much away about the specific narrative or subject of this film as the discovery of it is, as rarely happens now, truly arresting. I will say that it does venture into sci-fi terrain similar to those films noted above but there is much that distinguishes it. On the most basic level what distinguishes it is the seriousness with which it takes all this; and by that I don't mean a suffocating self-seriousness but rather one that is humbled by the majesty of what is suggested here. It pursues the meaning of that as well as the moral and emotional implications of it. That would be enough actually but there's way more. It has a singular and uniquely crafted relentlessness of focus, an oneiric one that never wavers and yet constantly expands out in scope and meaning. The film also never explains itself. It's not confusing or hard to follow; far from it. But it is never burdened by the weight of excessive exposition. You get the bare minimum to get you through it and that's enough.

Beyond all that is a game cast led by Dylan O'Brien in a stunning performance that should be star making and career defining but probably won't be unless word spreads and it's seen enough. He's mostly known for teen franchise fare like The Maze Runner films which he was okay in but nothing more, serviceable but that's it. Something like this makes you realize how little has been expected from him (and so many others); here he rises to the challenge with an intensified performance that fuses the casual drift which he's demonstrated elsewhere with a convincing and compelling slow burn devastation. His character's name is Frederick Fitzell and the film was originally called The Education of Fredrick Fitzell and that's what it should have remained as that's what it's about.

Film also has an incredibly powerful and moving ending, something else I was not prepared for and yet one that is absolutely earned and deserved (and again not over explained or even explained at all in terms of the meaning we take from it and which we understand without having to have it explained to us). It's here too that we get finally the film's greatest metaphysical reveal in that we recognize that it's also about the tension between ultimacy or divinity and humanity and who would have expected that. But that's how far this goes.

There are many films that are created to be "cult films" and strive to establish that kind of an audience right from the start. I don't know if that was MacBride's intent but if it was it's okay in this case because this one is one of the rare ones that actually should be that and hopefully will be. It may be the only way for it to get its proper due. Certainly this is among the very best searching-for-a-former-friend-who-is-now-missing films ever made.

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jazzo
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Re: The Films of 2021

#65 Post by jazzo » Thu Jul 29, 2021 1:58 pm

Thanks for this passionate recommendation, John. I just placed an order for it from WowHD, as it's Lionsgate and, therefore, not available to Canadians. Because, y'know, fuck us.

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lacritfan
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Re: The Films of 2021

#66 Post by lacritfan » Thu Jul 29, 2021 3:44 pm

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2021

#67 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Aug 21, 2021 12:23 am

Anyone see 499? I've never heard of it, but it just opened at BAM to great word-of-mouth. Director Rodrigo Reyes did a Q&A tonight and has another tomorrow.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2021

#68 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Aug 21, 2021 11:30 pm

Ito (Satoko Yokohama, 2021)

A slow-burning but delightful film, set in Tsugaru and featuring lots of Tsugaru dialect and shamisen playing. A loner high school girl (from a village near Hirosaki) takes a part-time job at a maid cafe in Aomori. -- a somewhat surprising job for someone who is painfully shy about speaking. Ito (our heroine) lives with her father (a professor of linguistics seemingly) and her deceased mother's mother (who is a master shamisen player). She previously won competitions as a young shamisen player -- but is currently alienated from her shamisen and family life. The film follows her adventures at work and her difficulties at home. A lovely slice-of-life drama.

The film is generally lovely looking -- with cinematography by Katsumi Yanagijima (notable for his work with Kitano, among others). The film has special meaning for Patty and I due to our visit to Aomori (including Tsugaru) back in 2018. It was quite pleasant to see scenery we recognized (including the wonderful apple orchards and Mt. Iwaki in the background).

Highly recommended (for those who enjoy Kore'eda and Kawase)

https://film.japansociety.org/page/japan-cuts-2021/

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2021

#69 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:25 pm

The Goldfish: Dreaming of the Sea / Umibe no Kingyo (Sara Ogawa, 2021) (virtual screening -- Japan Cuts 2021)

Another first feature film written and directed by a young actress. But this one, happily, was splendid. The main character here is Hana, a girl who has been in a foster home for 10 years (following her mother's arrest for a crime). She has to juggle life as a senior in high school (where she is pretty much an outcast due to her situation) with her role as "big sister" to a whole lot of younger children. The newest arrival at the home, Harumi, is there due to maternal abuse -- and is "difficult". But Hana and Harumi form a close bond eventually. Lots of slow-moving scenes of life in Kagoshima, with a flash of drama towards the end. Pretty much a movie tailor-made for my tastes...

Everything here is first rate -- the acting (including that of the children), the script, the cinematography (by Yutaka Yamazaki, who has done films for Kore'eda and Kawase), and the direction. Miyu Ozawa, in the central role, does an especially fine job.

Highly recommended,

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MichaelB
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Re: The Films of 2021

#70 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 25, 2021 11:15 am

spoink47 wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 1:38 pm
If you're a fan of Edgar Wright or have eclectic taste in music, you need to see this film. If you're not either, I'd still recommend it, as you might become a fan of both Sparks and Mr. Wright.
My son (a rabid Wright fan) dragged me to see this last night, and since it was at a cinema with extremely comfortable seats I thought I could probably doze off if it was really tedious.

But I was surprisingly gripped by it - I think it's decidedly overlong (did we really need that coda of people queuing up to basically reiterate what they'd already been saying throughout the rest of the film?), but I was much more the target audience than he was, as he ruefully admitted to me upon leaving.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#71 Post by Dr Amicus » Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:42 am

In The Earth (Ben Wheatley) - shot in 15 days between lockdowns last summer and set during a global pandemic (not COVID - not explicitly stated but seemingly rather worse) this follows a scientist and a guide make their way into a (possibly haunted) forest to make contact with a research camp who havent' made contact in a while. Unsettling, occasionally visceral (there are a couple of sections which got a very audible reaction from the audience) and really quite impressive. It starts off reasonably conventionally, but when Reece Shearsmith turns up as an oddball hermit than things start taking a turn for the weird. Excellent score by Client Mansell as well which is part of a memorable soundscape which adds much to the unsettling feel of the film.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2021

#72 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:15 am

I was happily surprised by David Bruckner's The Night House, a Sundance debut that ably balances creepy and melancholy while adding a couple of genuinely jump-worthy scares* to the emotionally fraught story of Rebecca Hall's search for the reasons behind her husband's unexpected suicide and the nature of the house he built for them. I'm already a big fan of Hall's, and her performance here did nothing to dissuade me from that opinion; she more than sells the psychological stress of her situation even before any supernatural elements begin to worm their way into the plot.

The film feels somewhat indebted to Mike Flanagan's recent features and the two Haunting series, but with a little more rawness and less rigorous control over performances and the camera, in ways that mostly worked for me; definitely recommended to fans of that type of emotion-forward horror. Not every swing it takes totally connects, but enough do that it feels satisfying both in delivering the shocks the genre demands while also offering a relatively mature examination of the tolls of depression, suicide, and secrets.

This is the only thing I've seen by Bruckner outside of one of the least-successful segments of the original V/H/S horror anthology, but he's apparently been given the reins of the new Hellraiser; can anyone vouch for his Netflix feature The Ritual from a few years ago?

*Caught this by myself in its last screening at one of my local theaters, and there's a moment about halfway in that lulled me into a false sense of complacency and then made me jump halfway out of my chair, which would have been embarrassing had there been anyone else nearby.

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brundlefly
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Re: The Films of 2021

#73 Post by brundlefly » Fri Sep 17, 2021 4:15 am

DarkImbecile wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:15 am

This is the only thing I've seen by Bruckner outside of one of the least-successful segments of the original V/H/S horror anthology, but he's apparently been given the reins of the new Hellraiser; can anyone vouch for his Netflix feature The Ritual from a few years ago?
Went back and forth on it. Sometimes it seemed special and enticingly underexplained, sometimes it just seemed to be parsing out too few ideas. Nifty monster, though, and it was decent enough that I am looking forward to The Night House.

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Persona
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Re: The Films of 2021

#74 Post by Persona » Sat Sep 18, 2021 8:01 am

I agree. The Ritual has some incredibly effective moments and the monster is indelible, but somehow it doesn't quite add up. I think maybe because it is very much character-centered horror and the character work isn't quite strong enough to elevate the film on that level.

So it leaves me about 50% excited to see The Night House, ha.

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Persona
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Re: The Films of 2021

#75 Post by Persona » Sat Sep 18, 2021 8:06 am

Dr Amicus wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:42 am
In The Earth (Ben Wheatley) - shot in 15 days between lockdowns last summer and set during a global pandemic (not COVID - not explicitly stated but seemingly rather worse) this follows a scientist and a guide make their way into a (possibly haunted) forest to make contact with a research camp who havent' made contact in a while. Unsettling, occasionally visceral (there are a couple of sections which got a very audible reaction from the audience) and really quite impressive. It starts off reasonably conventionally, but when Reece Shearsmith turns up as an oddball hermit than things start taking a turn for the weird. Excellent score by Client Mansell as well which is part of a memorable soundscape which adds much to the unsettling feel of the film.
Thank you. I had been wondering about this one and heard virtually nothing. I presume it simply hasn't been seen by many. And now I'm looking and see it's on Hulu!

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