Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: November 2019

Saturday

30

November 2019

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The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter 4

Written by , Posted in Blog, TV Reviews

Note: This review contains spoilers

For a show with very little established narrative, it makes perfect sense that The Mandalorian would look to an established Western trope for its first episode on a new planet. The plotline of “gunslinger comes to rescue peaceful town from rogue bandits” has been played out time and time again, but there’s a good reason for that. It’s a very easy story to get behind.

Baby Yoda did a lot of walking this episode. It’s also clear from the use of “he” pronouns that the adorable creature is a male, or masculine identifying, character. It’s a little absurd that he walked around so much considering he’d been confined to his basinet for the other episodes, but that’s okay. The sight of Baby Yoda casually drinking soup while watching a brawl demonstrates the show’s keen understanding of its best asset.

Baby Yoda is the heart and soul of the show. He can provide great comedy as well as heart stopping moments, like when he was briefly in a bounty hunter’s cross hairs. Few television character can demonstrate such powerful emotion with only a few expressions.

As I’ve said in past reviews, part of this dynamic reflects the fact that the Mandalorian is a difficult protagonist to connect with. We don’t see his face and he doesn’t have a ton of conversations in the first three episodes. Chapter 4 explained a lot more about his backstory, mainly that he was adopted by the Mandalorians.

Mandalorian code forbids the removal of helmets. While that’s canon from a historical Star Wars perspective, it’s limiting from a character perspective. I imagine we’ll eventually see Pedro Pascal’s face, since there’s only so many times people can ask the character about this strange situation.

Cara Dune is a very fun character. Gina Carano did great work endearing herself to the audience in such a short amount of time, possessing a natural chemistry with the Mandalorian. Hopefully we get to see more of the shock trooper turned Rebellion fighter turned mercenary in the future.

Are we supposed be scared of a AT-ST? The bigger AT-AT walkers can certainly maintain their menacing nature since Empire Strikes Back, but the smaller AT-ST’s were pummeled by the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Why would the Mandalorian be afraid of something that can be destroyed with a sinkhole or a bunch of logs?

The whole training of the village was quite clichéd. The scenes didn’t really take away from anything else, though. At 41 minutes, the episode was the longest of the four. A couple more conversations with Cara and The Mandalorian probably would’ve been a smart move, since he’s had so few meaningful interactions with characters who can talk.

It’s unclear why the Mandalorian landed on Sorgan, which apparently has plenty of bad stuff going on. Not the greatest spot to lay low with Baby Yoda. He spent time wondering if Cara Dune was tracking him, but that shouldn’t necessarily matter. The fact that he ran into a mercenary buddy at a small forest café alone should be a good sign that it’s time to move on.

This episode presented compelling drama for the Mandalorian’s conflicted nature toward parenting Baby Yoda. Yes, the child would probably be better off safe somewhere in a village. No, the show is probably not going to take that route. It’d be pretty easy for the Mandalorian to ask someone like Cara about a safe family within the New Republic, even if he isn’t a fan of them in general. That would take Baby Yoda out the equation though, something that would cause the Internet to riot.

Chapter Four – Sanctuary was a very enjoyable episode. We’re still not 100% sure where the show is going in terms of a larger episode, but this installment delivered plenty of action and character development. As Baby Yoda has proved, a few key expressions can carry a whole episode, but the show isn’t simply riding off his cuteness.

We’re halfway through the season now. It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see some bigger narrative start to unfold until closer to the end, if ever. The Mandalorian has done a great job keeping the focus fairly episodic. The show doesn’t necessarily need a broader arc, but it’ll be interesting to see how Werner Herzog’s Client comes back into the picture. Until that happens, the weekly adventures of a single parent and his child are pretty fun.

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Tuesday

26

November 2019

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Frozen 2 Is an Entertaining Return Trip to Arendelle

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The massive global popularity of 2013’s Frozen made the idea of a sequel inevitable. As with most follow-ups, the question of whether or not the magic could be recaptured loomed heavily over the prospects for Frozen 2. The sheer number of memorable songs from the first trip to Arendelle set a fairly high bar that seemed almost impossible to top.

Frozen 2 never really feels like a movie trying to one-up its predecessor. Set against the backdrop of an autumn palette, aging is a predominant theme of the narrative. In this regard, the film wields the six year gap between installments to its advantage, using the timeless anxiety that many feel toward the passage of time to fuel a number of its songs.

The actual plot is a bit convoluted. Elsa and Anna’s grandfather was involved in a conflict with the tribe of Northuldra, which angered the elemental spirits who encased a forest with a mist that trapped everyone inside. In the present day, the spirits have a strange connection to Elsa, the only person able to hear them, leading the sisters, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven on an adventure to get to the bottom of the seemingly existential threat to Arendelle.

As complicated as that sounds, the story largely plays second fiddle to a number of other considerations, namely character development and musical numbers. The plot is largely obligatory, existing to provide a reason to spend more time with these characters. The core group is charming enough to carry the film on their own, aided by several interesting new characters.

The animation is unsurprisingly superb. The color scheme is absolutely beautiful, capturing the essence of autumn in a breathtakingly authentic manner. The animation is so powerful that it helps buoy the narrative through some of its lackluster sequences.

The songs are definitely not as catchy. To some extent, that’s to be expected. “Let It Go” is without a doubt Disney’s biggest musical success of the new millennium. Frozen 2 could be forgiven for failing to top that, but the songs are too narrative orientated in nature, making them much harder to remember.

Frozen 2 is an enjoyable film, though Elsa’s lack of romantic plotline would be more admirable if all of her songs didn’t make her sound like she was trying to come out of the closet. Part of this can be blamed on the vague nature of her conflict, leaving songs like “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” to present meaning in the absence of clarity. Children, particularly young girls, certainly need narratives that aren’t explicitly linked to their ability to find love.

Queerbaiting is an easy charge to levy at a company like Disney, which has hardly been leading the pack with regard to inclusivity. For the franchise that first introduced “Love is an Open Door” seemingly destined to become an LGBTQ anthem, Elsa’s sexuality is something that the film feels oddly comfortable playing footsie with. The situation is hardly helped by the fact that so much of Anna’s plotline is tied to her future with Kristoff. Young children likely won’t pick up on this dynamic, but as an adult it’s hard to ignore.

Frozen 2 isn’t as good as its predecessor, but it’s still a fun movie. The characters are endearing and the action sequences are quite well choreographed. Parents may rejoice at the idea that the songs aren’t likely to receive as much endless airtime.

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Tuesday

26

November 2019

0

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Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator Is a Lesson in the Dangers of Hero-Worshipping

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I first learned of Bikram Choudhury’s less than stellar reputation while I was doing yoga teacher training in 2012. Much of the general disdain for Bikram as a person stemmed from his efforts to copyright his signature sequence of twenty-six yoga poses and two breathing exercises, which is always taught in the exact same order. Bikram didn’t actually create any of the poses, and accounts from India suggest that the sequence wasn’t of his making either. Beyond that, his reputation for sexual harassment and climbing on his students, as well as his company’s stranglehold on studios that wish to teach Bikram yoga, led my teachers to recommend that we avoid any affiliation with his name.

The new documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator sheds light on the most egregious behavior from the founder of the craze that helped popularize yoga in America. The film includes many accounts from students and teachers with first-hand experience with Bikram, as well as many of his accusers. Through the narrative, a simple pattern emerges. Bikram is a grifter and a creep, a very talented one at that.

Though Bikram himself unsurprisingly does not appear in the documentary, archival footage from past interviews paints a compelling portrait of his character. Bikram chased wealth, and believed himself to be above any notion of consequence. He made his fortune through expensive teacher trainings and licensing his name to studios who wished to teach his practice.

Where the documentary is less effective is in explaining the simple fact that association with Bikram is a choice for yoga teachers, not a requirement with which one’s livelihood hangs in the balance. This puzzling dynamic is repeatedly on display throughout the documentary, particularly with interviewees who don’t have harassment allegations against Bikram. Many knew he was a bad guy and chose to remain affiliated with him anyway, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

These people could have opened up studios of their own, teaching practically any other style of yoga, incorporating all the poses that Bikram teaches, just as countless other studios do. Much of the narrative centers around why all the people stayed in this destructive clique, victims or otherwise. To some extent, it’s refreshing to see people unafraid to be openly conflicted about a man they’d put on a pedestal for so long.

There’s a certain urge to call the nature of the Bikram yoga circle messy, people who came together ostensibly to improve their own lives and their health. The documentary isn’t interested in differentiating sinners from saints, presenting the conflicted feelings of Bikram’s victims alongside those who remain devoted fans. For those who don’t want any part of that, there is, and always has been, alternative ways to practice yoga.

Bikram is a destructive force in the yoga world, but the documentary makes a compelling case that many of his followers aren’t particularly faithful to Krishnamacharya either. Plenty of people practice yoga to improve their lives. There are many who go to the studio simply to show off their beautiful bodies encased in expensive leggings. Viewers will undoubtedly be turned off to Bikram yoga as a style, but the broader takeaway should be to be cautious of those who practice yoga not out of mindfulness, but self-interest and greed.

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Saturday

23

November 2019

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The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter 3

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Note: this review contains spoilers

The breakout sensation that is Baby Yoda does not need much of an explanation. The audience knows absolutely nothing about this character, no name, no species, and certainly no backstory. None of that really matters since the character is one of the most adorable creatures in Star Wars history. There is perhaps another reason why this character has won over the hearts of so many in such a short period of time.

As a franchise, Star Wars evokes a lot of emotion from its fans. People passionately dissect every new minute of content entered into this canon for a very simple reason. They care.

The Mandalorian doesn’t give its viewers many outlets to channel that intense emotion. Its title character has yet to show his face. This isn’t a particularly dialogue-heavy show, dispensing character development in incredibly small doses. Baby Yoda captures the audience’s attention through its sheer cuteness, but also because there hasn’t been anything else presented to care about.

Chapter 3: The Sin was a very effective episode, delivering subtle nodes of character development while also establishing the clear arc of the narrative. Wisely, the show is doubling down on Baby Yoda, who won over the Mandalorian while playfully tampering with his ship’s controls. Every scene featuring Baby Yoda is like an instant endorphin rush.

The whole Mandalorian guild is a little silly, a bit too reminiscent of the Jedi Order. Why do all of these people wear their masks at all times? Don’t the insides start to smell?

At least we finally got a female character with a speaking role. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the first Star Wars live action installment directed by a woman. Deborah Chow did a great job with the episode, particularly with the framing of the action sequences.

Similarly silly was the idea that asking about the bounty is against the Mandalorian “code,” something that was brought up by both The Client and Greef Karga. It’s hardly outside the norm for a bounty hunter to be expected not to care about what happens after payday. There isn’t really a need to mythologize the taboo nature of his line of questioning.

There’s still five more episodes for the Mandalorian to show his face, but it would be a misstep for the show to go the whole season without this reveal. Boba Fett may not have taken off his helmet in the original trilogy, but his father did in Attack of the Clones. The difference between those two roles is that Boba Fett was barely even a character in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, on screen for barely more than five minutes. Here, the Mandalorian is a lead character.

This episode featured a couple fun Star Wars throwbacks. A super battle droid appeared in a flashback sequence from the Mandalorian’s childhood. Best of all was when a patron of the cantina uttered “echuta” at the Mandalorian in response to his success with the bounty, a line first spoken to C-3PO by a fellow protocol droid in Empire Strikes Back. “Echuta” is probably the closest we’ll ever get to Star Wars profanity.

Thankfully, the show looks poised to head to a new planet. The dynamic on the planet that’s probably Tatooine was getting a little old, exacerbated by the lack of compelling characters for the Mandalorian to interact with. Carl Weathers is perfectly serviceable as Karga, but the character simply isn’t that interesting.

The action sequences were a lot of fun. We finally got to see a Mandalorian with a jet pack. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Mandalorian mythology comes into play now that the show is heading off planet, but there’s certainly a lot of unfinished business with regard to the fallout of the Baby Yoda jailbreak. Is the credibility of their whole group shot? Who knows, but the mystery is quite compelling.

This episode was hands down the best of the three so far. A lot of the cast has yet to be introduced, leaving plenty of plot for the remaining five episodes. This episode also put the previous one in context as a standalone adventure rather than simply stalling. As long as there’s plenty of Baby Yoda, it seems safe to say this show will continue to be a hit.

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Thursday

21

November 2019

2

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Season Three of The Crown Lacks Purpose

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Cast changes are a predicament that practically every television show faces. The idea of The Crown switching up its entire principal cast every two seasons is pretty much without precedent, though the name recognition of the subject matter makes this proposition a bit less daunting. It’s not as if the Royal Family needs much of an introduction.

To its credit, the new cast barely need to be reintroduced either. Olivia Coleman, Tobias Menzies, and Helena Bonham Carter all pick up their roles seamlessly, playing the aged Royals with grace consistent with the characters’ trajectories thus far. Pictures of the first generation cast, as well as an early cameo from John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill, serve more as treats for the fans than needed continuity bridges.

While the actors pick up where their predecessor left off, season three often feels unsure of where it’s supposed to go as a story. The previous two seasons of The Crown managed to blend larger historical plots with an intimate family narrative quite effectively. That sense of cohesiveness is completely missing here, the show’s attention scattershot over a spread of plots that share little in common with each other.

Season three feels determined to shine the spotlight on anyone other than Elizabeth, squandering Olivia Colman by reducing her character to a reactionary role. It’s hard to parse what exactly her plotline is supposed to be, as she’s rarely the main focus of any episode. Colman is superb, but she’s simply given nothing to work with, no time to shine. Claire Foy’s Elizabeth received many storylines with which she could advance her character. By comparison, Colman gets almost nothing.

The Crown has always been an ensemble drama, but the Queen isn’t supposed to be reduced to mere supporting character. Philip and Margaret both enjoy several episodes worth of extended focus. The show has always found plenty of time for Margaret, but season three doesn’t really have anything new to say about her as a person. The themes present in her focus episodes retread familiar ground.

This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the show now also focuses on the younger generation of royals, particularly Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty). The whole point of switching up the cast was to move the ball forward and tell new stories about this family. Too often, the show seems perfectly content to roll around in well-trodden grass, which often comes at the expense of the Queen herself. By the time the show carved out time for the rest of the family, old characters and new, there’s little space left for Elizabeth to have a substantive arc for herself.

There are a few standout elements worth noting. The Queen’s relationship with Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Jason Watkins) receives a fair amount of attention, a peculiar friendship given Wilson’s Labour roots. Menzies’ Prince Philip is the real standout of the season, building off Matt Smith’s early interpretation while leaving his own mark on a man eager to find purpose as age changes his perspective on life.

The Crown is rarely bad television, but it is often quite boring. The events covered feel quaint compared to magnitude of earlier arcs. This show is designed to portray 60 individual chapters in the life of this family. Season three feels like a big waste of time when you consider how much history lies within the walls of this family’s time in Buckingham Palace.

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Saturday

16

November 2019

0

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The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter Two

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Note: This review contains spoilers

The phenomenon known as “peak TV” can create a certain aura of expectation around certain shows, or the way they’re supposed to be presented. The Mandalorian is Disney+’s premiere offering, carrying certain natural connotations that this show is supposed to rival other flagship series. Star Wars is a bigger franchise than Game of Thrones, but the two shows don’t need to be of similar scales.

With a runtime of a little under half an hour, “Chapter Two” is an anomaly among dramas on streaming services. These shows can be as short or as long as they want, but the latter approach has almost always been favored, particularly on Netflix. The Mandalorian isn’t playing by the same set of rules.

Baby Yoda is one of the cutest creatures to come out of Star Wars, impressive for a franchise that includes Ewoks, Porgs, and R2-D2. You could probably make the case that this episode didn’t need to do more than simply show Baby Yoda’s face to be a success. He certainly makes an interesting traveling companion for the Mandalorian, who isn’t very talkative himself.

This episode also stands out for its self-contained nature. The conflict was introduced and resolved all within thirty minutes. We learn a little more about Baby Yoda and the titular hero, but this episode does look a little out of place for a show with a serialized narrative, especially one only on its second episode.

The presence of the Jawas seems to confirm that this show has been taking place on Tatooine. That would certainly make the most sense, especially after The Force Awakens introduced a Tatooine clone in Jakku. Any more desert planets than that and Star Wars will start to look a little too much like Star Trek in recycling the same set designs.

Why doesn’t a bounty hunter’s ship have any kind of anti-theft protection? Sure, the Jawas are expert scavengers, but it seems odd that the Mandalorian doesn’t even have an app on his cell phone that lets him know someone is fooling around on his ride. At least he didn’t kill them all like the Stormtroopers in A New Hope.

Kuiil, the Mandalorian’s Ugnaught farmer, is kind of a mixed bag. His affection for the bounty hunter isn’t really all that believable, unless he too is caught up in Baby Yoda love. In many ways, he feels like a character who’s simply there to give the Mandalorian someone to interact with. He’s not terrible in that role, but it’s not a particularly sustainable dynamic moving forward.

Baby Yoda uses the Force to stun the beast so that the Mandalorian can kill it and give the Jawas an egg that looks a lot like a pot of hunny right out of Winnie the Pooh. Weird climax for a weird episode. Not sure that the Jawas would want the creature dead since they seem to love those eggs.

It doesn’t feel entirely fair to call Chapter Two filler, a fun self-contained narrative full of action and cuteness, but this show has yet to establish its broader purpose. Will we figure that out before the season finale? I’m becoming increasingly skeptical. Chapter Two worked as a light-hearted adventure, but the effectiveness of this approach will likely diminish with repetition.

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Thursday

14

November 2019

0

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The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter One

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, TV Reviews

Note: This review contains spoilers

The Mandalorian carries a lot of weight that most television series don’t really deserve. After more than a decade of waiting, the first live action Star Wars show is finally here, a drama that also happens to be the flagship offering of a new streaming service. The kind of hype that comes with this terrain would be enough to destroy a planet the size of Alderaan.

To its credit, episode one never feels like it’s trying to juggle all this weight. Instead, it’s mostly an introductory narrative, one that isn’t particularly full of answers or compelling reasons to care about the characters. With regard to the latter, it doesn’t exactly need to give a reason. Star Wars already has plenty of fans.

As a lead, The Mandalorian is a challenging character to get behind. The helmet doesn’t help, limiting Pedro Pascal’s range. As far as this episode goes, how you feel about the title character could largely boil down to how cool you find his costume.

The breakout character in episode one is perhaps unsurprisingly Werner Herzog’s Client. There’s some obvious joy to be had in seeing such an iconic director amidst a group of Stormtroopers, but Herzog plays the role with complexity that makes you wish he were in more scenes.

The first half of the episode relies a bit too much on Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) to carry the narrative. He’s funny and the perspective is helpful as a means to introduce the show, but he’s also a guest character who isn’t going to be around for the long haul. At times, it felt like the episode was kicking its feet, waiting for the big action to begin.

The sight of The Mandalorian and IG-11 fending off countless foes on Arvala-7 was spectacular. The whole sequence brings out the best in Disney+, merging high quality production values with the comfort of one’s own home. The sets are all lavishly designed, but it wasn’t until the blaster fire picked up that everything really started to feel like Star Wars.

The end reveal of a baby from the same species as Yoda, the name of which remains a mystery to this day, felt like a bit of an unnecessary big finish, like the episode wanted to end on a note that would get everyone talking. It worked. We’ve never seen a baby Yoda before, unsurprising for a species that lives for hundreds of years.

While there’s no established norm for runtime on a streaming service, at 39 minutes, episode one feels a bit on the short side for a show meant to be the premier offering for the whole streaming service. That’s not to say that the episode should’ve padded itself with extra filler, but the delivery felt a bit underwhelming. Worst of all, at times, it felt a little long. Not exactly a great sign for an episode shorter than most network TV dramas.

Chapter one was a passable episode of television that never felt like it was trying to win over viewers who weren’t bound to tune in already. Star Wars is a big deal. This episode felt small. That’s not the worst thing in the world, especially since it accomplished some world-building, but Star Wars deserves better.

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Thursday

14

November 2019

0

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Lady and the Tramp Is Visually Pleasing Lifeless Slog

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For a company known for its princesses, it’s rather remarkable that the original Lady and the Tramp remains one of Disney’s finest love stories more than half a century after its release. The film presents complex themes in a manner that can be understood by children but perhaps resonate more with their parents. After a year of highly disappointing live-action remakes that transformed their source material into bloated jumbled messes, failing to recapture the original magic, an adaptation made for Disney+ seemed like a good way to lower the stakes.

As far as aesthetics go, the 2019 Lady and the Tramp is a finely crafted film. The sets are spectacular, capturing the feel of the early 20th century in a way that feels suited for the big screen. Similarly, the acting is top notch. In particular, Yvette Nicole Brown and F. Murray Abraham look absolutely delighted to be there, giving performances that radiate their vibrant energy through the screen.

The voice cast finds itself in a puzzling position. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Tessa Thompson or Justin Theroux as Lady and Tramp. The trouble lies more with the nature of what they’re being asked to do.

The canine leads are convincing, but not particularly compelling. Using actual dogs carries a degree of authenticity that CGI can’t provide, but that also boxes the voices into a bit of a corner. Some degree of disconnect between the dogs and their human voices is to be expected, but this comes at a cost to the film’s emotional core. It’s hard to find the romance convincing when the actors aren’t capable of playing along.

Animation doesn’t really have this problem since the artists have plenty of leeway to impose human characteristics onto their subjects. With the 2019, Lady and the Tramp, the special effects department is perfectly capable of making the dogs talk, but they struggle to convey emotion in the process.

As fun as many of the human actors are, the nature of the film’s plot doesn’t give them much to do. Brown’s Aunt Sarah is a delightful villain, but she isn’t on screen very much. It’s almost as if the 2019 film expects its audience to be familiar enough with the 1955 version to superimpose their own nostalgic memories in the absence of strong character development.

The human leads aren’t really leads. Thomas Mann and Kiersey Clemons don’t do anything wrong, but there comes a point in time where the audience is supposed to care about this family. The film forgot to supply a reason.

Lady and the Tramp might be Disney’s best live-action remake of 2019. That’s not saying much. What’s most unfortunate is the idea that this is such a near miss. There’s so much to like about the way this film was constructed, from its beautiful scenery to the actors who so clearly love being a part of this timeless narrative. If only there was a heart at the center, beating life into the anemic presentation of the story.

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Thursday

14

November 2019

0

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“i’m gonna make you love me” Is a Moving Portrait of a Life in Transition

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Detransitioning, the process of transgender people returning to the sex one was assigned at birth, can be a touchy subject within the LGBTQ community. The notion of transitioning being a “mistake” naturally crosses most, if not all, trans people’s minds at some point in time, a natural feeling given the gravity of what’s at stake. The exact detransition rate can be hard to pinpoint due to differences in methodology used, but many peer reviewed sources have found the number to be anywhere from 0.3% to 3% among adults.

The documentary i’m gonna make you love me features a man named Brian Belovitch, who transitioned in the late 70s, living as Natalia/Tish for many years before reverting back. As Natalia, Brian got married, lived as an army wife in Germany, and performed in many nightclubs throughout New York City. The film presents a fascinating portrait of what life was like for trans people back then, as Natalia had seemingly little trouble living life as a woman, a stark contrast to the kind of narratives right-wing media pushes today.

Brian makes for a fascinating subject, an engaging man who wears his emotions on his sleeves. There are times when he clearly feels uncomfortable, but there aren’t any moments where it feels like he’s holding back. The archival footage contrasts well with his contemporary persona, a lively spirit who’s just trying to figure out who he is in this world.

Director Karen Bernstein features interviews from a number of people from various stages of Brian’s life, who help to add context to his transition. Brian’s family was far from supportive, even going as far as to blame him for adding stress to his mother’s life. Contemporary footage of Brian with his husband Jim helps take some of the edge off the often brutal narrative, giving the audience an assurance of a happy ending.

The documentary itself does have a bit of an identity crisis. As a film, i’m gonna make you love me largely aims to showcase the full picture of Brian’s life, past and present. The narrative is quite anchored to Brian’s transition and subsequent detransition. While Brian’s transition into Tish receives ample focus throughout the film, detransition is only covered for a brief portion toward the end.

Having thoroughly explored the origins of Tish, the film regrettably doesn’t have the same lust to dig deeper into the resurfacing of Brian. There are a few reasons offered to explain the detransition, including health and social considerations, but the brevity with which this is covered leaves a lot to be desired. To some extent, this is a natural product of the limitations of documentaries to adequately cover a full life within a ninety-minute narrative, but that’s also reflective of the choices that Bernstein made as a director.

There are people who will seek out this film as part of an effort to paint transitioning as a dangerous proposition with uncertain results. Brian has lived his life without regret. I’m gonna make you love me is not a film with an opinion of whether or not transitioning is a good idea, though many may try and twist Brian’s story to fit their own agenda. With that in mind, there’s an added importance to narratives like this one that showcase people rather than the ideas they’re supposed to represent.

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Monday

11

November 2019

0

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Making Waves Presents the Case for Sound

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The larger than life imagery that often dominates the big screen can make it easy to forget that movies are an experience enjoyed across multiple senses. Sound plays a crucial role in storytelling, conveying messages that words can’t possibly get across. In Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, director Midge Costin presents sound as a vital component for the staying power of cinema.

The film takes its audience on a tour through the history of filmmaking, thoroughly explaining the rise of sound and how it came to be taken seriously. The transition from silent movies to talking pictures was hardly seamless, as microphone technology at the time created many problems for the actors forced to perform within its confines. Most film fans are bound to have heard the phrase “sound stage,” though perhaps not knowing that Hollywood relied on these spaces because location shooting created noise beyond what anyone at the time had the power to control.

Making Waves utilizes footage from dozens of films, allowing film aficionados to connect with its messaging on a deeper level. The work that sound engineers do on a daily basis looks immensely complicated to a general audience, but the film never allows itself to sink into territory that’s too hard to understand. Costin explains the various ways that sound editors manage all the various components that go into their craft in a way that’s easy to understand.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film is best enjoyed by dedicated film buffs. Costin uses a variety of well-known films to illustrate her points, as well as interviews with numerous Hollywood icons including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The films used cover a wide enough spread that practically anyone can follow along, but there is definitely an added emotional resonance that stems from having experienced the sensations that are being described. The feeling of awe and wonder that stems from many Star Wars scenes is certainly more relatable to those who can remember the first time they saw those images

There are points where Making Waves does veer off a little into inside baseball. Costin, herself a sound editor, clearly has plenty of heroes within the business. A few receive extended focuses for their work alongside such directors as Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. These scenes are interesting enough, but there’s a bit of a disconnect between them and the broader focus of the film on the overall history of cinematic sound. Condensing documentary footage into one ninety-minute feature is always a challenge, but sometimes it felt like the film had its eye on two separate balls.

Making Waves illustrates the case for sound in a comprehensive and compelling fashion. Costin covers an astonishing amount of ground in one single documentary. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you as you sit down to watch another, taking extra care to absorb the craftsmanship from the sound editors. Fans of film, or those who want to deepen their understanding of cinema, will most certainly want to check this one out.

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