100 posts categorized "Coming-of-Age"

November 14, 2023

SAM NOW

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ColeSmithey.comDocumentarian Reed Harkness follows his half-brother Sam on a life-altering odyssey to find Sam's mother Jois, who inexplicably abandoned her family when Sam was 10-years-old.

Reed's home movies of his younger sibling provide dynamic background for the film to crescendo into an emotional knock-out that takes the viewer by surprise.

There's a lot to ponder after the credits close.

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What begins as a deeply personal coming-of-age adventure, evolves into a macro-micro study of the generational effects of abandonment.

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The narcissism that Jois inflicts on her family is laid bare in all of its ugly nature.

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25-years in the making, "Sam Now" is a terrific documentary certain to stir lively discussion among its fortunate audiences.

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It may be a bitter pill, but this brilliant movie conveys things that only documentary Cinema can capture and express.

Reed Harkness's innate sense of editorial restraint is impressive.

Not Rated. 87 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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October 23, 2023

THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOU'VE NEVER SEEN — SHOCKTOBER!

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Pure Friedkin Evil
Friedkin's Masterpiece of Horror Gets Better    
by Cole Smithey

ColeSmithey.comOn the day after Christmas in 1973, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin followed up the tremendous success he enjoyed with "The French Connection" (1971), with the most daring horror film ever made; an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel "The Exorcist."

Blatty, a devout Catholic, had been inspired by a 1949 Washington Post article entitled "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held In Devil’s Grip," and carefully crafted his novel around the area in Georgetown where he attended Jesuitical Georgetown University.

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Although the movie barely escaped an "X" rating by the MPAA ratings board, it was treated as an "X" movie in cities like Boston and Washington D.C. where children under 17 were not admitted into theaters showing the film.

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Immediately after the movie was released, stories spread around the country about audience members walking out, vomiting, fainting, or suffering heart attacks. The Toronto Medical Post released an article about four women so traumatized by viewing it that they were confined to psychiatric care.

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There was a rumor that two nuns in D.C. committed suicide because they felt ‘evil’ had entered their bodies when they watched the movie. In the U.K., leaflets were passed out in front of cinemas asserting, "We cannot stop you from seeing this film, but you should know that it bears the power of evil!" Even now, the movie is banned from being released on video in the U.K. because: "Showings of this film have resulted in severe emotional problems for a small but worrying number of adults."

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By 1974, Blatty’s novel was on every bestseller list, and the movie was a blockbuster before the idea of "blockbusters" ever existed. It was a classically compelling American Gothic legend that set up an earth-shattering physical and religious battle between good and evil over the possessed body of a young girl named Regan MacNeil (unforgettably played by Linda Blair). Regan’s possessed entity was, and is, the closest vision of sheer evil to ever appear in fictive film. It was only fitting that the two exorcists attempting to save Regan’s life, by expelling the demon within her, offered up and ultimately sacrificed their lives. That the priests themselves were the real target of the demon’s malevolence, is the element most underscored by the newly restored version of "The Exorcist."

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Many people were outraged that 12-year-old actress Linda Blair was allowed to make a film in which she spewed obscenities like a satanic sailor, and abused her genitalia with a crucifix before shoving her mother’s face into her blood-soaked crotch. But that was just the beginning of numerous terrible episodes of head-twisting, levitating, and bile-vomiting that attracted spectators in droves. Little did audiences realize that Friedkin had already severely pulled the reigns on the terrifying effects of the film by cutting out 11 minutes of [what he considered] "excess footage" to bring the film in just under two hours. William Blatty was furious over the cuts, believing that the movie had lost its moral center, and was upset that audiences might think that the demon had won in the end.

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Judging from the hugely negative impact that Friedkin’s restrained version had during its initial release, the hot-shot director did himself, and society, a favor by taking out most of the newly restored footage. Finally, after 25-years of constant cajoling to replace the lost footage, Blatty’s appeal was answered when Friedkin agreed to re-examine the missing scenes and became inspired to rework much of the material back into the film. The most obvious addition is the inclusion of the much-discussed "spider-walk" scene, in which stunt woman Linda Hager descends the MacNeil stairway as the possessed Regan. She scurries upside down and backwards on all fours down the staircase in her nightgown. Between the modified sound effects of her hands and feet hitting the floor, and the tag shot that ends the sequence, the vision instills pure terror.

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Aside from a newly enhanced soundtrack, near subliminal images of the demon’s altered face appear along with quick-cut hallucinations. While the device may seem heavy-handed to some audiences, the images expand the haunting aftereffects of the movie. It’s these half-seen images that recur in the viewer’s mind days later.

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Friedkin’s signature gritty documentary quality is retained in all of its stark, natural beauty. The contrast of scenes shot in low light and overcast skies pitted against special effects lovingly nurtured by Marcel Vercoutere and make-up wizard Dick Smith, retain their burly qualities. Ever surprising too are the pitch-perfect performances of every actor in the movie. Ellen Burstyn gets more screen time as Regan’s atheist mother Chris, and her tough yet sympathetic character carries a well of emotional weight that anchors the story.

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Significant is an added conversation between the two exorcists in which Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) explains to Father Karras (Jason Miller) that the reason this demon has chosen to consume the young girl is to rattle the faith of those around her. Regan is not the target of the evil, but merely the most effective device the demon can use to achieve its goal. The demon might not win by the terms that Father Merrin explains to Father Karras, but in the end there is no evidence that the evil that tortured Regan and those around her has been annihilated.

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Overall, the newly restored scenes give the audience a much clearer understanding of Regan’s possession, and assign a stronger empathy to Father Karras as the film’s protagonist. As William Friedkin told Fangoria magazine, "the whole progression of the movie is a series of increasingly bizarre, cataclysmic incidents that become more and more outrageous and disturbing, but which remain unresolved until the final exorcism."

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Indeed the supernatural incidents are resolved in the closing scenes of the movie, but the potential for evil to grip mortal humans is a ghost that lurks in the memories of every audience that sees "The Exorcist." Friedkin has also said that "you take away from the movie what you bring with you when you watch it." I went prepared to be scared, and woke up sleep-walking two nights in a row after I saw it. Isn’t that what horror movies are supposed to do?

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(Warner Brothers) Rated R. 132 mins.

5 Stars SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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PANIC ROOM — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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A Tight Spot
Fincher's Latest Hits the Mark
By Cole Smithey

Panic_roomDirector David Fincher's "Panic Room" opens with a sumptuous credit sequence so captivating that you're drawn into the movie before a single word is spoken. Fincher, like Hitchcock and Polanski, understands implicitly the importance of every split second of film to register a particular condition in an audience's communal mind. Giant white marquee lettering suspends at odd angles over various live action Manhattan locations to the sound of a clock softly ticking. There's retro ambiance that drips with majestic Neo-Gothic portent and shrewdly references movies like "Rear Window" and "Wait Until Dark." The film that follows lives up to every bit of suspense and tension that those classic movies still induce today.

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David Fincher ("Seven") is an audacious filmmaker interested in the pure physicality of emotion and movement to bare witness to hidden mysteries. No other living director goes as far in assessing the molecules of energy at the core of the stories he directs. Fincher's  previous film "Fight Club" polarized audiences. "Fight Club," like Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" or Mary Heron's "American Psycho," is a film you either adore or condemn for its deeply rooted violence and dark social commentary.

Panicroom

With "Panic Room," Fincher should have more luck converting audiences to his side because of the minimalism of the story and the extensive degree he goes to in expressing fear from inside the claustrophobic confines of a "safe" place. "Panic Room" (written by David Koepp, "Stir of Echoes") is a terror/suspense movie that takes you to the edge of your seat and pins you there with a tug of war between immaculate photography and a tension filled plot. As a battle of wits escalates between a mother with her teenage daughter and a trio of home intruders, we savor a best and worst case scenario of an unpredictably precarious kind.

Panic-room

Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is a recently divorced wife of a wealthy pharmaceutical giant who moves, with her teenaged daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), into a spacious upper west side "townstone" previously owned by a paranoid millionaire. The home's master bedroom is equipped with a high-tech steel-reinforced panic room in the event of intrusion or outside attack. With its own separat phone line, ventilation system, toilet, supplies, and bank of home surveillance monitors, the room also contains, unbeknownst to Meg or Sarah, a safe containing millions of dollars.

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One of the men who constructed the safe room (Burnham, played by Forest Whitaker) has conspired with Junior (Jared Leto), a former caregiver of the previous owner, to break into the safe while the house is vacant. Junior has covered his bases and elicited the help of another more experienced thief named Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) to assist in the robbery--complete with ski-mask, rubber gloves, and a silenced automatic pistol. Once the thieves realize that they are not alone, Meg awakens barely in time to rescue Sarah, and the panic room becomes an urgent refuge that sits as the very target that the thieves will do anything to break into.

Panicroom

The movie percolates in jolts and sustained dread over a brilliantly ominous score by Howard Shore ("The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"). Filmed almost entirely inside the eerie dark of a house barely lit by moon glow, Shore's noninvasive music chides, confirms, and punctuates the drama that unfolds as the thieves bicker and attempt various ploys to lure Meg out or to invade the room.

Panic_Room

Apart from one plot twist too many, "Panic Room" is a seamless suspense-thriller with a top-notch cast. Jodie Foster was past due for another foray into the suspense genre and brings a genuine maternal warmth to the role of a mother fighting with her every nerve and sinew to defend her family.

Rated R. 108 mins.

4 Stars SHOCKTOBER! KITTIESCozy Cole

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