Like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is intently focused on the question of what makes us human, inviting us to empathize with beings that were artificially created, but still feel. But where the original film zeroed in on the concepts of mortality and memory, 2049 expands its scope to include the concepts of subservience, purpose, physicality, and individuality. It does this by introducing new characters and subplots as thematic reference points, asking the audience to tackle them by degrees. It’s true that Blade Runner 2049 could have been pared down significantly from its 2-hour-45-minute runtime without losing anything central to the plot, but doing so would rob the film of the complexity that makes it so special.
I’m being vague here, because another element that helps make Blade Runner 2049 such a joy is its marketing, which doesn’t dictate even the most crucial plot and character details. There’s a reveal in the very first scene which had not been spoiled for me ahead of time, and it’s essentially the linchpin of the whole story. These moments come frequently throughout the film, the world becoming larger and more complicated as the story draws the viewer deeper and deeper. I would hate to spoil that experience with a block of text.
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(this review is spoiler free up to a certain point, in which I will give a prominent spoiler warning)
Discussing Darren Aronofsky’s mother! without spoiling the experience entirely is quite the challenge. Before seeing it, a single word in a “spoiler-free” review colored my expectations and made certain elements far more apparent than they should have been at that point in the film. This drastically altered my experience with the film, and not necessarily for the better.
I’ll try not to ruin anybody’s experience here, but it’s probably good to have some idea of what you’re getting into with mother! The Rosemary’s Baby-inspired trailers suggest a tense, psychological horror movie. It’s very much NOT that. It’s ostensibly a story about a woman dealing with her husband, a creatively constipated poet. They inhabit a large house in the middle of a field and begin receiving unexpected visitors, who he embraces and she grows tired of. Things continue to escalate until the movie begins to show its hand, and you either roll with it or you reject it entirely.
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It’s rare that a TV show can be as entrancing and uncompromising as Twin Peaks: The Return. Even during the early episodes, when viewers were already trying to piece together the narrative and guess where it would lead, I cautioned others to let go of expectations and simply enjoy the show in the moment. David Lynch has always been an instinctual filmmaker, creating art that’s driven more by his own in-the-moment feelings and whims than the requirements of an overarching plot. This is why his work often takes on a sort of dream logic; it frees him from the constraints of reality, letting his work appeal to the viewer on a basic, primal level. He’s a maestro of emotional scene-construction, who’s not so much bad at traditional storytelling as he is completely disinterested in it.
This is why, as Twin Peaks entered the home-stretch of it’s first (only?) return season, I was shocked at just how much was congealing. Major reveals were coming left and right, tying together several threads from the original series (such as Bob, the “blue rose” cases, Major Briggs, the Black Lodge, and even “Judy”) into something resembling a consistent explanation. Even outside of the background story, Lynch seemed to be guiding the everything toward a cathartic, fan-pleasing finale. After 13 episodes straight of Dougie Jones shenanigans (which, for the record, I really enjoyed), Dale Cooper was finally back to his old self. “I am the FBI,” he proudly stated, to the widespread rejoicing of Twin Peaks fans.
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George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels are ultimately about balance. As the title suggests, the world is home to two extreme and opposite forces, that of fire and that of ice. Both have been linked to events that caused great damage in Westeros and Essos for several generations, but the hero of the story is the product of a father who represents fire (Rhaegar Targaryen) and a mother who represents ice (Lyanna Stark). Only he can ultimately bond the people of the world to fight off a cataclysmic crisis.
But the same metaphor could be applied to the creative shepherds of the TV adaptation “Game of Thrones”. Original author George RR Martin moves his story forward at a glacial pace, taking plenty of time to seed story elements and character motivations which will pay off at a later time. He has continued to expand his universe with each novel, to the point where the story is so unwieldy that it takes him more than six years to deliver a single book.
Continue reading Game of Thrones Season 7 Review
In my review, I called The Leftovers’ second year one of the “all-time great seasons of television.” Almost two years later, those 10 perfectly realized episodes still stand tall over everything I’ve seen, from wonderful character dramas like Better Call Saul to pulp-fantasy fare like Game of Thrones. Few shows since have been as profound, moving, entertaining, deftly written, or hilarious, and none have managed to hit all of those buttons at the same time.
Somehow, with only 8 episodes left to provide an answer for the meaning to life, The Leftovers wrapped with an even more brilliant season of television. It’s a perfect swan song, managing to broaden its storytelling horizon more than previous years while somehow clarifying and solidifying its central thematic question. The degree of difficulty here is astounding, yet you never get the sense that the creators are struggling or being crushed under the weight of the monumental challenge. In the end, The Leftovers tells you everything, or nothing. It just depends on how much you want to believe.
Continue reading The Leftovers Season 3 Review