By Ezra Stead
Maps to the Stars, Canada / Germany / France / USA, 2014
Directed by David Cronenberg
If A Dangerous Method (the end of the Viggo Mortensen trilogy as I like to call it, the first two being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) shows David Cronenberg at his most respectable, and Cosmopolis presents the Canadian director at his most unwatchable, his latest manages to avoid both of those traps. A sleazy, trashy, dark comedy about the amoral self-absorption of Hollywood, Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg’s best films.
The most coherent and interesting thread to be found amongst the rather large, interconnected ensemble concerns an aging actress (Julianne Moore) angling for the part played by her now deceased mother in a remake of one of the latter’s classic films. She hires an assistant (Mia Wasikowska) who has been disfigured by burns in a house fire she herself started. The mentor-protégé relationship gradually sours to the point of a rather shocking conclusion, and an earlier scene in which the pair sing and dance in celebration of the tragic death of another actress’s small child is easily the funniest moment in the film. Read More
By Mike Shaeffer
The Babadook, Australia / Canada, 2014
Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
― Emilie Buchwald
When marketing an independent film, producers want a trailer that will reel in any number of demographics. Their targeted audience may be those who love a good thriller, but the product is cross-marketed as a horror film or a psychological drama. Such is the case with the Australian outing The Babadook, released in the U.S. last November. While this film owes a bit to the horror genre, it works most effectively as an emotional thriller. Not only does it fit best within the thriller genre, it is most chilling when the ambiguities are cemented in the notion that this is not a supernatural haunting akin to The Amityville Horror; this is not some spin on the Necronomicon– the cursed book of flesh from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The Babadook is not a modern take on The Bad Seed, nor does this film involve cursed ground filled with angry spirits a la Poltergeist. The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent. The mother desperately loves her child, but she is overwhelmed, inept, and unable to combat the depression, fear, and anxiety she suffers after losing her husband and having to raise her boy alone. Read More
By Jason A. Hill & Ezra Stead
The MIDG Oscars Podcast, 2015 edition.
Oscar discussion and predictions for the show Sunday night, February 22nd, on ABC.
Part 1: 1 hour and 6 minutes.
Part 2: 1 hour and 11 minutes.
Intro Music: Theory Of Everything Theme
Outro Music: Whiplash Title Theme
By Ezra Stead
Yes, I know this should be “12 Days of Christmas Movies.” Listen, it’s the holidays, guys; cut me some slack. Anyway, Christmas is far from my favorite holiday, as evidenced by my much more thorough Halloween article (over four times as many movies in that one, folks!), but I wanted to take some time this year to look at some rather off-the-beaten-path movies, as well as a couple I had seen before, but felt it was time to revisit. Here they are, in the order in which I watched them. Happy birthday, Jeebus!
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL – a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge (Ebenezer apparently went the way of Adolph as a first name choice), Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo as Dickens himself. The biggest deviation from the source material is the casting of not one but two Jacob Marleys, in the form of crusty old hecklers Statler and Waldorf. Michael Caine gives a typically excellent performance, with far more emotional depth than you’d expect from a Muppet movie, and the film ends on a positive, Sesame Street-esque educational note: “If you’d like to know more, read the book.” **** Read More
By Ezra Stead
The Immortalists, USA / UK / India
Directed by David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg
This new documentary from David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg tackles one of the most fascinating subjects a nonfiction film could possibly cover: it is about scientists on the hunt for a cure for aging. In other words, the subjects of this film are trying to make natural death a thing of the past. What makes the film even more special and memorable is the fact that it is just as interested in these scientists as people, giving equal time to both their extremely compelling goals and their personal biographies. In investigating the reasons for their obsessions, the film tells us a great deal about these people, as well as about ourselves. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Under the Skin, UK / USA / Switzerland
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Species is a 1995 sci-fi/horror/action thriller about a terrifying extraterrestrial monster that assumes the physical form of an attractive and notoriously easy earth girl, then uses this form to dupe horny earth men into going somewhere private with her/it. She then reveals her true form and eats them. Or uses them to incubate her eggs. Or something. Point is, the guys meet a messy demise; glorious ‘90s nudity and gore abound. How do you take that basic, very cool idea and make an intolerably tedious art film out of it? Ask Jonathan Glazer. Read More