St. Vincent releases the first trailer for her mockumentary film The Nowhere Inn

St. Vincent Stars In First Trailer For 'The Nowhere Inn'

Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, released the first trailer for the official release of her music mockumentary film The Nowhere Inn.

2021 has already proven itself to be a very busy year for Clark, her sixth studio album Daddy’s Home released on May, 14 and she’s expected to headline Pitchfork’s Music Festival in Chicago on Sept. 11 later this year. As it would turn out the Oregon-born singer is adding yet another project to the already stacked lineup she has this year, coming in the form of a meta-documentary.

“Me and my bestie made a bananas art film…it was supposed to be a music doc but somewhere along the way, things went terribly wrong,” says St. Vincent in the caption of her Instagram post.

The film first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020. However, IFC has subsequently picked up the distribution rights for the film and will be releasing it later this year.

The film is a collaboration between her Carrie Brownstein a fellow musician. Previously Clark has worked with Brownstein as the main producer on The Center Won’t Hold for her band Sleater-Kinney. Both artists also have previous directorial credits, however the film was directed by Bill Benz. Regardless, Clark and Brownstien remain the sole writers of the film.

The film is meant to be a mockumentary where Clark and Brownstein play dramatized versions of themselves trying to make a real documentary about St. Vincent. However, as Clark says in the trailer, “something went terribly wrong.”

The Nowhere Inn will make its official debut in theaters and on demand Sept 17. Pre-order is available at nowhereinn.movie.

Kanye West documentary goes to Netflix for $30M

Kanye West
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A documentary 21 years in the making featuring exclusive footage of Kanye West has been sold to Netflix for a reported $30M, according to Billboard.

The documentary is the work of two filmmakers Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, who’ve previously worked with Kanye on several music videos for iconic tracks like “Jesus Walks” and “Through the Wire.” For over two decades the two have been documenting the artists life and are finally ready to release the miniseries later this year.

In the past the two directors have also worked on other documentaries, like their critically acclaimed ESPN documentary series 30-for-30, and Benji, a film about Chicago basketball player Ben Wilson.

The documentary series aims to tell the story of the producer turned rapper turned billionaire entrepreneur’s rise to stardom and success as well as his effect on the music industry at large, something undeniable to many artists working today.

According to Billboard, the directors relationship with West serves as the “backbone” of the series, dispute West having nothing to do with the project creatively. With that being said, Kanye West has reportedly given the documentary his “blessing” and his willingness to be filmed for 21 years is support enough.

Kanye West is no stranger to headlines. Just last month, Forbes estimated that the rapper’s net worth was around $1.8 billion making him one of the richest black men in the world. A year prior, West made headlines for his presidential bid. However, it would seem this documentary is going to cover far more than what general audiences have been exposed to thanks to the “exclusive” and “rare” footage the directors have captured.

While the series remains untiled it is slated to release later in 2021.

Disney Vs Sony: The harm of public opinion

spiderman far from home box officeIt was recently announced by Deadline that, beloved Marvel character, Spider-Man would no longer be present in the MCU due to legal issues with Sony. Since the Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films back in the mid-2000s Sony has owned all film rights for the usage of the Spider-Man character. However, in order to include Spider-Man in the MCU, Disney, who owns Marvel Studios, made an agreement with Sony. Up until now that agreement had long stood and carried them into Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The deal was simple and went something like this: Marvel would only attain 5 percent of first-dollar gross. So that initial box office day Sony receives an overwhelming amount of that. It seems like a bad deal until you realize that their agreement also meant that Disney would get one hundred percent of all merchandise sales. Which if Frozen was any indicator means that Disney would receive adequate compensation for the usage of the Spider-Man property.

Now after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home and the announcement of the fourth phase of the MCU, Disney came back for a new deal which ultimately shook their creative ties with Sony. Disney’s new deal entailed a fifty-fifty co-financing arrangement between the studios. However, seeing that Spider-Man: Far From Home had just become Sony’s highest-grossing film of all time, they obviously declined the offer entirely. So now it would seem that all future MCU endeavors would have to continue without Spider-Man and any film using that IP would no longer include Kevin Feige as the lead producer.

However, this isn’t the only messy part of the story. Sony Pictures took to twitter to tie up a few loose ends and explain their thoughts on the matter specifically about Feige. The internet wasn’t ecstatic about it, to say the least. The hashtag “SaveSpidey” is now trending on twitter guided by a large group of people that have no idea what they’re actually talking about. Many are quick to villanize Sony for their apparent lack of understanding but simply just taking a step back to analyze the situation further will make the situation more clear.

Firstly, its about money for both sides. Many are claiming Sony is greedy simply because they didn’t want to extend the deal toward Disney more than they already were but one has to understand that this deal has stood for as long as Spider-Man has been in the MCU. That’s a three-year deal Disney was trying to completely flip on its head right after Spider-Man: Far From Home became Sony’s top-grossing film since Skyfall back in 2012. It’s astonishingly obvious why Sony would be hesitant about sharing their most valuable property.

Secondly, Sony has always owned Spider-Man. The Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films is essentially what kicked off the superhero film craze that has since become an industry standard. They got to the property first and did it playing square. It is their property which they are licensing out to another company. What they’re doing isn’t slimy or corrupt, it’s business.

Thirdly, it was Disney’s decision not to continue the deal and Feige’s to leave. There were plenty of negotiations that could have been met but Disney was simply not interested in that. It was reported in the Deadline exclusive that, Sony representatives did attempt to make configurations to their original deal, likely ones that would have accommodated their already established agreement. However, those were declined as well. So they reached an impasse and Disney ultimately dropped out and Feige severed ties with Sony himself. All due to the fact that they couldn’t take half of a property they never owned, to begin with.

It’s incredibly easy to shift the blame on to an unpopular company. Sony, who completely failed with their Spider-Man reboot back in 2012 and 2014, hasn’t received the best press since and isn’t the only offender in this situation. I implore everyone to look at the finer details before judging the two companies. Is Sony the lazy money-hungry entity trying to take credit for another company work or are they simply trying to take control of a property they own from an industry powerhouse that already owns many others? Well, that’s really up for you to decide, because with great power comes great responsibility.

Euphoria and its characters analyzed by a former high schooler.

Image result for euphoriaEuphoria is another one of those, teenage centric, celebrity produced, originals that, in the same vein as 13 Reasons Why, attempts to capture the true wonder and mystery of adolescence. Over the span of a few months, its garnered a very large fanbase and many are calling it one of the most brutally honest depictions of teenage life on television. While I beg to differ since this show was created by a man who hasn’t been in high school in 16 years, beneath all the dramatization there are a few painful truths that lie beneath.

Based on an Israeli series of the same name, Euphoria was created by Samuel Levinson, an American actor, screenwriter, and director.  Much of the show was based on the original series as it prominently features teens struggling with a life that mainly consists of drugs use and sex. However, Levinson’s personal struggles with drug abuse during his formative years also served as inspiration for those sections. That is the main crux of the story. The drug abuse, the misery that is bound to come with it, the struggles of attempting to quit, and the despair of failing several times.

When asked by an ATX representative about what separates Euphoria from the ongoing slew of dark, teenage melodramas, Levinson gave a non-commital answer saying he believed it was up to the audience to find their own answer. While this isn’t necessarily false it’s definitely unsatisfactory. So in an effort to defend a show I genuinely enjoyed, I will attempt to answer this question as well as how it holds up against actual contemporary highschool.

Firstly no, Euphoria is not the most realistic depiction of teenage life. It nails some things, completely misfires on others, and at some points just barely misses its mark. I will always maintain that the most realistic depiction of teen life is one that will actually cast teens as its lead actors. However, what Euphoria manages to ger right are typically what matters most to its central plot. Let’s discuss that first.

The drug addiction elements are right. The main character, Rue, throughout the show faces the ongoing challenge of substance abuse. The pain her family, friends and fellow NA members feel are very much indicative of how their real-life counterparts feel. Most people around me ended up falling into drugs during my high school life and along with them, I was forced to suffer the consequences. It’s the most gripping part of the story and therefore is most informed by real-life experience. I was never stupid enough to fall into such tendencies so my experience was very similar to Maude Apatow’s character Lexi Howard.

Lexi is a bystander, silently watching, and sometimes subject to the antics her drug-crazed, hormone influenced friends and family often find themselves getting into. She’s the one with the least amount of issues on the show and is also my favorite character. One may call her lazily written but there are a lot more Lexi’s out there than one would think. In the last episode, her character starts to get deconstructed which is all too real. She is mainly seen interacting with Rue despite the fact that her older sister, Cassie, is another prominent character in the show.

Cassies struggle has to do with her reputation and how her life is affected by it, which is another pretty realistic part of the show. During the show, she dates another character Mckay who just so happens to be in college. This is pretty common in high school but the most faithful facet of it has to do with how Cassie is typecast. She has to deal with the “slut” stereotype and because of that, she is treated differently by most men in the show. It’s somewhat painful watching this character interpreted. The only other couple on the show is Nate and Maddy which encapsulates the on again off again abusive couple. From their relationship derives the internal struggles between both of them characters which are pretty real in themselves.

I suppose if there was one thing that the show really struggled with it was with its writing. Toward the last stretch of episodes, the writing really begins to unravel and reveal awkward plot elements and holes. What Euphoria fights with the most is a classic case of “people don’t talk like that” or in this case “teenagers don’t talk like that.” While it may sound like I’m generalizing a lot here there really are some moments where the kids don’t really talk like kids.

I understand that there are some liberties that have to be taken as an adult writing for youths. However, some moments are utterly uncharacteristic. I do like that each character has their own level articulation, in the sense that some are very clearly more eloquent than others. However, in some cases, this has put Levinson into a corner and at times he’s had to make some characters more rational than they should be. Personally, I think Rue shouldn’t be as intelligent as she is in the show. She’s a drug-addicted teenager who as far as I know never excelled in school. While that doesn’t necessarily inform social ability as far as I’m concerned she should be grunting to communicate. It’s especially annoying during her moments of narration, she speaks like she’s reading off a script and not like she’s coming up with these thoughts herself.

I understand the initial question I posed was what made Euphoria stand out among its contemporaries however I wanted to explain those things before I answered it. I think what sets Euphoria apart from other shows like it, is that unlike them it doesn’t feel like a product. 13 Reasons Why has a commercial purpose, it attempted to jackpot off the current trivialized view of depression society has. On the other hand, Euphoria is very much a story personally tied with Samuel Levinson. Yes, it’s based off another show but Levinson purposely parallelled his life to it in order not to muddle its artistic integrity.

Euphoria isn’t a cautionary tale about drug abuse, although one could certainly take it that way. It’s more so telling the story that’s gripped its creator since their childhood. Look at the artistic choices in the show, its cinematography and focus on spectacle rather than the message. Even the last episode, despite being structurally faulty, the very final scene is so stylishly flared that its impossible to not recognize the passion and heart behind it. Euphoria is this surreal package that is just as confusing as the point of your life that it focuses on. It’s a good illustration of the simple fact that for as long as time continues to tick, the mystery of adolescence remains a mystery.

Ari Aster returns with folk horror film: Midsommar

midsommar_header.jpgInspired by a recent breakup Ari Aster has unveiled the follow up to his directorial debut film; Hereditary with an equally disturbing cult horror film simply titled: Midsommar. The film treads slightly different ground from his previous focusing entirely on an unsettling cult hidden deep within the Swedish forest. It’s in a similar vein to the cult seen at the end of Hereditary except they’re much more gruesome and frightening.

The film tackles themes of grief and the many struggles associated with a relationship. The film itself is very much as Aster describes it, “a breakup movie.” Whereas Hereditary focused on the horrors associated with family Midsommar takes a much more personal approach and focuses on two characters who are dating.

Once again, much like Hereditary Aster uses these dynamics in order to deconstruct them as a whole and for a second time, every young character seems to be really into drugs.

Throughout the film, the main couple, Dani and Christian, struggle with their intrinsic differences. The audience watches as their relationship slowly unravels before them all culminating into an astonishing climax and ending.

It’s everything you’d expect from a cult horror film but much more. Ari Aster’s cinematography and writing sensibilities seem to only get better with everything he sets his mind to. Lucky for cinema his time of filmmaking has only begun.

Midsommar is playing in theaters right now.

One Marvelous Scene – Iron Man Vs Thanos

iron man v thanosIn many ways, Tony Stark and The Mad Titan Thanos are very similar people. However, in many other more significant ways they are fundamentally different. There was a popular meme that circulated that posed the question of six children and three chairs. Many famously said that Thanos would rather kill three of them while Tony would build three more. While it’s certainly meant to be more humorous than anything else, this also perfectly demonstrates the crucial disparity between Tony and Thanos. Regardless of their similarities, they will always be marked by one stark contrast, pun intended.

The battle between Tony and Thanos is one of the few solo battles any avenger gets with the mad titan. Its purpose is instrumental to the overarching character progression of Tony and the overall tone of the film. Infinity War is very much about Thanos rather than the Avengers. The story is about his journey, to achieve what he believes is a perfect balance. Throughout the film, the audience is constantly reminded through his misadventures that behind almost every villain is a person who truly believes they’re right. Recall that once confronted about his heinous actions by his daughter Gamora, Thanos claims he’s the “only one that knows” that the resources of the world are finite.

The battle between Tony and Thanos is as much about brains as it is about brawn. The power of Tony’s sheer intellect has surmounted itself into his nanotech, armor that can literally morph itself into anything he desires. Thanos’ infinity gauntlet is the epitome of his endeavors he spent who knows how long meticulously planning. It’s abundantly clear both of these men are intelligent. Thanos himself claims that they’re both “cursed with knowledge.”

While the audience has been aware of the underlying similarities between the Mad Titan and the Ironman this is the first time we’ve been made overwhelmingly aware of it. From this, its clear Thanos considers Tony and equal in some respects. Tony refuses to accept their similarities and in his usual snarky fashion responds to Thanos with, “my only curse is you.” Then, the fight ensues.

The fight itself is rather short, at only a minute and a half long. However, much is shown in that battle that adds to both characters. Tony was the first Avenger to make Thanos bleed, a feat that is made much grander once you realize the Russo Brothers have gone on record to say that Thanos has invincible skin. This truly shows the extent of Tony Stark’s power and intellect and, on the other hand, how even at his most powerful, Tony still couldn’t win. Even so, Thanos is impressed if not a bit patronizing. When he tells Tony that he has his respect it almost sounds completely genuine. This line also serves as a reinforcement of the duality between the two.

The battle between Tony Stark and Thanos is one of the most important of the MCU. It’s defining, climactic and most of all, entertaining. These are two larger than life characters bought together by what seems like fate finally meeting face to face. It’s as grandiose as it sounds, and a true spectacle. If only it didn’t end so bitterly.

A few notes on John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

jwick.jpgI believe the nicest part of watching a John Wick film is that you don’t need to watch them in order. I watched John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum with almost no knowledge of the previous two films and I was still able to enjoy it thoroughly. Were a few plot points and relationships unclear to me? Sure. Did that affect my overall enjoyment of the film? Not in the slightest. In fact, John Wick 3 accomplishes a lot more in its relatively confining genre than its other contemporaries. Action films are about very few things. I’ve overheard a lot of my friends call films like John Wick “brain dead movies.” While that may seem like a rather demeaning term I believe it succinctly describes an entertaining concept. It’s rather refreshing to not have to think so hard about a film and enjoy it for the pure spectacle that it really is, and I think the John Wick franchise captures that idea perfectly.

Another one of the many things the John Wick series of films does well is theming. At the start of John Wick 3, the audience is immediately thrown into the dark side of New York. The parts where angels fear to tread and only the worst criminals would even dare to inhabit. It’s a rather cold open but I think it fits nicely considering the rather dark tone of the film. This immense focus on world building is what makes John Wick a cut above the rest. When the stage is set so purposefully it makes the inevitable action that is bound to come along with it a lot more comprehensive and enjoyable. As I said before, even with no explanation I was still able to get into the film and its plot with relative ease and I believe that’s what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. John Wick uses its simple story very effectively in order to make itself more accessible.

While I still haven’t watched the previous two films it’s my understanding these things have been a precedent throughout the series. Here are a few other things John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum does well that I’ve been told has been done well in the previous films.

  • Fight scenes with no music

A film with no score is like a body without bones. It is an integral part of storytelling that can be used for better or for worse. It is incredibly difficult to score a scene however it is equally as difficult to know when not to score one. However, John Wick 3 is one film that understands when not to score. Many of the early fight scenes in the film have no soundtrack at all. The only sounds that occupy the empty space are the grunts of Wick and the various foley sound effects. Music is typically used to make a scene more tense and exciting but John Wick subverts this common practice opting to take a much more immersive approach. This, in turn, accentuates the ambient sounds and physical noises of the characters. Necks snapping, flesh tearing, arms breaking, and in one scene, horses kicking, all of it sounds and feels so real. As a member of the audience, you really feel like you’re in the film watching it happen live. Long takes and handheld camera movements also add to the overall sense of immersion of the film and when combined with no music John Wick truly feels authentic.

  • Amazing sound design

Every sound is so loud it feels like everything has been dialed up to eleven.  Remember the first gunshot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and how that was so loud and impactful? Well, imagine that for an entire film. Every gunshot fired, every bone that breaks, every piece of glass that shatters can be heard with a disturbing amount of clarity. This, once again, adds to the authenticity of the film. It makes every punch and hit seem that much harder. There were times where I actually found myself reacting to the punches on screen. The quality of the sound effects is also incredibly polished. There was obviously a great deal of care put into making everything sound and feel realistic.

  • Interesting subtitles

This is one of the more strange things about John Wick 3 but its something I found to be one part comedic and another part fascinating. Often times in films the subtitles are like this omniscient part of the screen. In English speaking films whenever there’s a scene that calls for subtitles I always wonder why they even needed to do it. I’ve maintained the idea that subtitles ruin the immersion and my overall suspension of disbelief. However, John Wick 3 has a different way of doing subtitles. Instead of doing static text at the bottom of the screen, the subtitles themselves are alive and part of the scene. A lot of latent intent can be derived from reading the animated text. It’s quite difficult to explain this idea adequately without any visual aid but honestly, it’s more something to experience than to simply see.

Overall John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is a good film. Action movies are often grouped within their own little field of mediocrity but what ultimately sets them apart are the choices made by its filmmakers.