What’s New on the Site
Natalie Portman Deftly Portrays an Icon in Pablo Lorraine’s Jackie – Clint’s look at this biopic depicting the life of First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis following the days after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
What We’ve Been Reading
Christopher’s Reading List:
The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi
Paolo Bacigalupi’s fictional thriller set in the not-to-distant future is an exciting, action packed look in to what happens to us when our basic needs are shaken and redistributed. Despite it’s drab sounding premise of corporate espionage in a world where all of the water sources in the world are controlled by states and corporations, it manages to consistently enthrall the reader by zooming in on how this concept influences the lives of three very different characters: An everyday citizen just trying to survive and make ends meet, a journalist entrenched in her investigations in to these corporations, and a “Water Knife”, a gun for hire who’s primary job is to aggressively enact the will of higher-ups by whatever means necessary.
Through these three protagonists Bacigalupi is able to paint a vibrant picture of this world plagued by poverty, dust storms, and daily skirmishes where lives hang in the balance. In addition, Bacigalupi creates well-crafted character to populate the world with, and when they are placed in peril you are fully invested.
The Water Knife is a great read I highly recommend that offers a fantastical, but not unimaginable, look at the dangers we may face today, brought to their full conclusion.
Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
If it’s not obvious by now, we here at WDED are huge fans of Joe Hill and just about everything he’s put out so far. I had not read his debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, previously and am glad I was able to rectify that.
Following the exploits of Judas Coyne, an aging rockstar, as his past catches up to him in the form of a dead man’s suit- the latest in a growing collection of items in Coyne’s possession that dabble in the occult and the unsavory. This suit brings with it the vengeful spirit of a man he may have had connection to in the past.
Hill does what he always does so well, crafting a break-neck paced horror story that will keep you devouring the pages until you’ve reached the end of his “night road”. As it stands on its own Heart-Shaped Box is a solid entry in to Hill’s, for lack of a less pretentious sounding word, oeuvre. As part of a larger whole, Heart-Shaped Box is made even more interesting as it helps to reveal the shared universe Hill’s stories may take place in overall.
Clint’s Reading List:
The Vegetarian – Han Kang
A surrealist little novel about a South Korean woman who decides to become a vegetarian after having a disturbing dream, as well as her family’s reaction to this. In the beginning this is disturbing, horrifying, and even a little comical. In a culture where vegetarianism rare, but not unheard of, this woman’s decision provides complications for her family. The choice is used by the author to discuss gender roles within the society as well as examine familial drama and it moves from disturbing to hilarious and even to heartbreaking. It’s a breezy read at just 200 pages.
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
This is just too on the nose right now. The titular V, an antihero wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, tears through the streets of a fascist Britain, bearing bombs and knives as his main tools of attack on a government that destroyed him as he drags a young girl into the fight with him. Alan Moore was nigh-on prescient in discussion on fascism and oligarchy as well as things like state-religion and stance on societal issues like homosexuality or race. Even the head of state tells people he will “make Britain great again,” the whole thing feels like it was written as a ridiculously blunt parody of current news media but instead it comes from the 1980’s, predicting current life as well as skewering its homeland at the time. A very poignant read, given the current political climate, and I think a necessary one.
The Story of an Hour – Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin wrote a wonderful short story about marriage and freedom with this one. The whole thing is only two pages long, look it up! In all seriousness, the plot follows a woman who locks herself in her room under the pretext that she is grieving for her husband, whom she has just been informed is dead. However, once in her room she begins to experience joy and ecstasy at the freedom she has just found. This is a semi-comedic character piece and tickled my darker funny bone (you know, the one in the left elbow). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C7Q8N_IXo8
Bloodchild – Octavia Butler
This delicious little short story is sci-fi at its best. Humans have run away from Earth, without an explanation as to why, and are living in tandem with an insectoid species on their planet as refugees. Things get darker from here but I refuse to spoil the surprise. Just know that it’s pretty wild and reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien in so many ways. Great story, and can be found in audio format through the link below.
What We’ve Been Watching
The Edge of Seventeen
If you passed over The Edge of Seventeen initially, dismissing it as a standard “coming-of-age” quirky comedy, I strongly urge you to give it a second chance. The Edge of Seventeen IS those things. It does follow a young teenage girl, played brilliantly by up-and-coming actress Hailee Steinfeld, as she navigates your typical teenage drama and angst. She deals with all the things you would come to expect from a heartfelt teen comedy. She deals with friends, with family, teachers, and love. But the execution is what separates this film from the rest of the pack. As mentioned previously, the portrayal of the teen protagonist perfectly balances humor and heart, with unexpected vulnerability filtered through tough exterior and guarded sarcasm. The film slowly peels back these layer without ever feeling sentimental or manipulative by using the relationship and chemistry she has with the rest of the great cast of character. And above all, the movie is genuinely funny. Great comedic timing comes courtesy of the main character’s unfiltered approach to life, as well as funny performances by co-star Woody Harrelson.
Barry Jenkin’s adaptation of semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue is worth every ounce of praise it has received. Quiet and devastating, but not in a morose way. Moonlight carries a melancholy tone. It’s main character often never fitting in, instead chooses to observe the world around him in silence. All three actors portraying the main character are able to tap in to the same core, give the same gaze that lets the audience see the gears turn behind his ever changing exterior. The film is beautifully shot, the emotions are delicately captured, and the film is overall infinitely engrossing, choosing moments from his life that are rarely spectacular, but are always defining.
Few films have been as melodramatically hilarious or awkward as this one and it’s absolutely wonderful. A surrealist commentary on our current dating society, the pairing up according to rules and visual stimulus, superfluous things in common, all of it gets the skewer but the main thing on display is the self-conscious fear that if we do not have one exact thing in common we won’t be able to be together, despite understanding and attraction between both parties. Of all the insanity in this film, it’s the idea that you can live out the rest of your days as a genetically engineered animal that really drives home what is happening. Most people are unoriginal in their selections and ideas, but Colin Farrell’s choice is unique and rare, originality being what sets him apart and ultimately what winds up separating him from the others at the hotel and in the woods. As a relationship develops over secret communique and symbols (the jokes about texting are a bit obvious but fun) we watch as these two people struggle to have things in common, afraid that without those they would have nothing to talk about and nothing to make them a “match”. Such a hilarious, strange little film.
It’s not like we needed a sequel to the original film. They tried this before to zero success, and now they want to do it again. Is the film good? Eh, it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours. James Donahue, the little brother of the lead character in the first film, convinces his friends to search the woods for his sister after potentially seeing footage the woman online and they agree in a wild display of poor decision-making ability. In fact, the entirety of the film rests on the dumb decisions made by a cast of selfish characters. This isn’t to say I think we don’t need those in stories but…not all of the characters need to be that way, you know? Throw me one person that’s practical, someone to root for. Other than that I actually really love some of the ways this film builds on the original, adding to the mythology in different ways. This isn’t your standard witch in the woods, but rather something more primal – the oddly ethereal creature from the trees. It reminds me of Scott Snyder’s project with Jock, Wytches, and that’s a fantastic thing in an iffy movie.
It can be pretty frustrating when something has all the right ingredients and just isn’t quite a stew. Tom Hiddleston, Ben Wheatley at the helm, Clint Mansell on keyboards, Jeremy Irons playing the architect, all the right ideas are here and for an hour this is focused with laser-like precision. Depression, drug abuse, class separation, all of it swirling around and inside of a man who just misses his dead sister (the last family he had). The only problem is when the revolution starts and not only does the building begin to go downhill fast but so does the coherence of the plot. It never fails completely, but it disappoints. I understand the logistics, the scope of putting this beloved novel into a two-hour film, but it just misses the mark. The story centers around Dr. Laing (Hiddleston), a new tenant in the high rise apartments designed by Anthony Royal (Irons) and follows the merging of the classes into each other’s lives through warfare between the floors. An interesting idea that almost lives up to its potential but falls just a little short.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Doctor Moreau
You guys remember when Charles Laughton played Doctor Moreau and it was awesome? Sure, who doesn’t, it was a great role. Now raise your hand if you’ve seen Marlon Brando play the character in white-face, wearing a moo moo and a bucket of ice on his head while taking his lines from an earpiece and playing piano with a man who is two feet tall? Yup, that’s a thing and the final product is quite funny in its attempt to be a science fiction twist on Apocalypse Now. The main comparison to be made between Richard Stanley’s attempt on adapting this story and what Coppola did is that both have a documentary made about the filming that is much more interesting than what went to the theatre. This little documentary (available on Netflix) is an incredible look at just what it takes to derail a decent idea. Stanley talks about using witchcraft, begging, and even desperate demands to get his film made. He seems on the verge of success, at least right up until Val Kilmer bullies him so badly that Stanley climbs a tree and hides away there for hours. All this is just part of the documentary. If you want a glimpse into the production of a fun train-wreck you have to see this, followed by a viewing of the movie itself. It’s awful but hey, it’s got Brando and Ron Perlman so it can’t be all bad. Right?