Film Editor | Graciela Mae Chico
Our Not in Cinemassection is back, this time with reviews of more Netflix originals: The Silence, Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, Annihilation and productions by Ricky Gervais.
As we enter a new film festival season, with Cannes opening its shores to a new wave of films this May, streaming juggernaut Netflix is pulling out more tricks from its sleeve — especially now that more companies are putting their two cents in the streaming business, Disney with Disney+ for example. A new addition to the never-ending Netflix versus Hollywood debacle, the streaming service is reported to be in negotiations to buy the grand Los Angeles cinema, The Egyptian Theatre. While it is not yet confirmed, this will certainly fuel the complexity and discourse surrounding the eligibility of Netflix films to qualify for various awards — with the likes of Spielberg believing they should be barred from eligibility (we’re yet to see whether Spielberg will be applying the same rules for his prospective original content for Apple TV). Despite the various controversies, Netflix is unfazed and is determined to continue their awards season push — extending to the print market with their new publication, Wide, just in time for the Emmys this September. Luckily, we have a whole year to prepare for whatever drama onslaught will surround the next film awards season. But as future Oscar favorites premiere during festival season, it will certainly be interesting to watch what Netflix, and other streaming contenders such asAmazon Prime, acquire for distribution.
The Silence (2019)
Film Columnist | Luke Hetherington
Within a year, the exceptionally tense A Quiet Placeand the serviceable but illogical Bird Boxhave been released. Now The Silencejoins the wave of sense-based survival horrors. Despite being based on a book that predates A Quiet Place, The Silencestill feels like a Sci-Fi channel knock-off that meanders across a brief runtime and a quickly sketched landscape as Stanley Tucci’s family flee prehistoric bats that hunt on sound. Rather than let the audience’s imagination do the work à la Jaws or Alien, John R Leonetti opts to frequently show the bats in all their poorly-rendered, unintimidating glory. Leonetti (director of Annabelleand Wish Upon) seems to have staged as much action as possible in single, awkwardly framed shots; churning out the scene as quickly as possible. Added to this mix of rushed world-building — including the formation of an apocalyptic cult within three days of the bats appearing — are his ill-advised comments about actress Kiernan Shipka immersing herself to the point where she has an “almost innate sense of what it’s like” to be deaf that offended the hearing-impaired. With The Silence, an exploitative film based on the Manson murders, and an infamous Mortal Combat sequel, what unintentional comedy will he create next?
Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)
Student Writer | Sarah-Lisa Henning
Almost exactly a year after her ground-breaking Coachella performance, Beyoncé releases a documentary depicting the creative process leading up to this monumental event. Under the category ‘This movie is:’ in the Netflix description box, it only says ‘Inspiring.’ And it certainly is! Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé establishes the importance of taking the opportunity to make a statement. The documentary interweaves performance videos, quotes from HBCU graduates (a range of black scholars and public intellectuals), and her narration over behind-the-scenes clips. Beyoncé emphasized the double-meaning of her personal homecoming for her people and culture, and also as her return as a performer following a difficult twin pregnancy.
The documentary truly highlights the immense attention to detail Beyoncé puts into this performance. She voices her wish to ensure that everyone who has ever been dismissed because of the way they look “to feel like they were on that stage.” During the almost one-year preparation period, Beyoncé’s entire team studied their community’s history, the current events, all of the failures and triumphs of her 22-year career, to pour into this two-hour set. Ultimately, the documentary truly captures the beauty and magnificence of gathering this group of individuals, which accentuate one another’s strengths through their unique performances. Definitely worth a watch.
Student Writer | Niamh Cunningham
Photo credit: Netflix
Intelligently blending horror, mythology, and stunning visuals, Alex Garland’s Annihilationis seemingly the perfect sci-fi. Biology professor, Lena (Natalie Portman), joins a five-strong female team as they expedite into an area of Florida swampland, recently hit by an unpredicted meteor. This area, now surrounded by an unexplainable ‘shimmer’ blocks all communication with the outside world. Joining his prior film Ex Machina, his 2018 offering continues to raise the bar for exciting and intricately crafted science-fiction; asking big, difficult questions that refuse to provide easy answers. Another reoccurring characteristic of his work, Annihilationmust be lauded for its complex writing of female characters. Each of the five female leads provides a different skill set (a biologist, physicist, geologist, paramedic and psychologist). Although the film does not make an issue or pull too much attention towards gender besides the odd line of dialogue, it remains an exquisite and necessary attribute of the film. Each of the carefully constructed characters is essential in exploring the sensitive themes the film tackles; depression, grief and the human susceptibleness to self-destruction. The impeccable blend of quiet sensitivity and exhilarating action is an impressive reminder of Garland’s promise as a filmmaker.
Ricky Gervais on Netflix
Student Writer | Jack Andrews
Whilst Ricky Gervais’s The Office (BBC), Extras (BBC; HBO), and Derek (Channel 4)are now available on Netflix, Gervais has written two Netflix Originals, which he stars in, that similarly skirt the bittersweet life of the everyday man. Premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, Special Correspondentswas released by Netflix. The American-British-Canadian satirical comedy film was a remake of the 2009 French comedyEnvoyés très spéciaux, starring Eric Bana as Frank Bonnevile, a popular news radio journalist and Gervais as Ian Finch, a sound technician who collects superhero action figures and plays videogames to escape the reality in which his self-centered wife, Eleanor (Vera Farminga), cheats on him. Labelled ‘dark comedy’, the film touches upon socio-political issues such as suicide, ruthlessness of the media industry, terrorism and drugs. Within 100 minutes, the meek “stupid, incompetent piece of shit” that is Finch transforms into your cliché rom-com hero: the film itself becomes self-conscious of this at the end. Whilst Finch and his love-interest, Claire Maddox (Kelly Macdonald) walk out into an air-field sipping coffee, the cameras pan out and the screen dims, and Maddox says, “This is like the end of a movie.” Special Correspondentswas received quite negatively as Rotten Tomatoes notes that its “Feeble writing and two-dimensional characters make [it] an unsuccessful, embarrassing endeavor for creator Ricky Gervais.”
His more recent production, After Life, on the other hand has been highly praised for its “beautiful, sympathetic and very honest handling of a very real subject matter …”. As dark as it may sound, it is about a “fat, lazy, self-pitying lump”, Tony (Gervais), who loses his wife to cancer and doesn’t want to live anymore so goes through a battle against himself and others who just want to help him. Besides threatening a “tubby little ginger cunt” with a stolen hammer, this series surpassesSpecial Correspondentsnot only in depth but in its discussion of suicide, grief, drugs, and the self. The most we get from the 2016 comedy is Finch’s attempt to win his wife back in a lengthy letter in which he misspells “suicide” and his coked-up Scarface-moment where he shoots his Ecuadorean kidnappers. Meanwhile, within the 6 episodes of After Life, there is room for the bitter and grieving character to learn and change. At the beginning, we are introduced to his ‘superpower’: “If I become an arsehole and I do and say what the fuck I want for as long as I want, and then when it all gets too much, I can always kill myself.” With the support of surrounding friends – an intern, a sex worker, a depressed drug addict, his brother-in-law, and a widowed elderly – he comes to the realization at the end that “I could go on punishing the world, but I’m gonna punish people who deserve it. I’m gonna use my superpower for good.” Overall, the series fully encapsulates Gervais as a comedian and writer, it is relentlessly honest, crude and sentimental.