Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 19



We talk a lot about Clouds of Sils Maria, and Morvern Callar
We also talk about depression and suicide.  If you are ever feeling down, remember that you are love.
You are.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
-Scott Thorough


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 19!!


Where else can you find a podcast that gives the same respect to Bowfinger & After The Wedding? That's exactly what I thought. You can't. 

In this latest episode we get in to everything from post-mumblecore horror to the heartbreaking aspects of Toy Story 3 (we also go on mild tangent about battle towards the end of the episode).

Enjoy
(don't for forget to subscribe, rate & listen on iTunes)

Friday, July 14, 2017

ENTRANCE


Dallas Hallam & Patrick Horvath’s Entrance is a horror film about a recent Los Angeles transplant ("Suzy") who cant find her groove/footing in her new west coast surroundings. While that sounds like a standard plot that's been told a million times, this is a unique horror film with multiple layers & double meanings. The first layer is the slow-burn story of a woman being stalked by a violent mysterious figure. This basic idea is nothing new. Horvath & Hallam just kind of turn things up a bit and use the horror genre as a vessel to get a deeper point across. This is actually the second layer of Entrance. The politics within the film double as a sort of commentary on the harassment that women often have to deal with. In this climate of "post-horror" nonsense, a lot of horror films aren't given the credit they deserve beyond gore & jump scares from critics who don't fully understand/respect the horror genre. Entrance is incredibly personal. Co-director Patrick Horvath revealed to me that some of the genesis of Entrance came from very real life stories & experiences from the women involved in the movie both directly and indirectly...

That was definitely our main intention though, essentially the heightened fear of the day-to-day experience of a woman...
A lot of those scenarios came from Suziey, Karen and Dallas' wife Michelle. I mean, you know, sans serial killer.
- Patrick Horvath

All the scenes of Suzy walking down the street alone passing by male pedestrians is reminiscent of the infamous street harassment video that went viral a few years ago (for those that don’t know or remember – a “social justice warrior” strapped a hidden camera on himself and followed a paid women/model around and recorded all the harassing comments & gestures she endured throughout the day). While the video (shown below) is quite different than Entrance, they both still share some of the same strands of DNA (that street harassment video also has layers of race baiting and questionable editing, but at the end of the day, some men can be pretty disgusting and disrespectful to women and I guess that’s the ultimate point).



Entrance highlights the realism of the harassment that women deal with. I often hear my lady and her female friends talk about the potential dangers & fears of walking to and/or from a train station late at night or, depending on their moods, how uncomfortable they (sometimes) feels next to men or groups of men when they're alone (even if the men they are around aren’t even conscious of them or have any kind of bad intentions).

Note the number of times we see Suzy walking alone with tight/protective boy language with an unknown man behind or next to her.




Suzy walking alone with tight/defensive body language

And look - I'm a large man that lives in crowded-ass New York City. A lot of men end up being in close proximity to women with absolutely no bad intentions. Some places are crowded and there's nothing that can be done about it. And some people don't always grasp the idea of personal space. But there is a physically intimidating presence some men do intentionally use around women.


In my opinion, Dallas Hallam & Patrick Horvath travelled down the same path as films like Peeping Tom, Psycho, & When A Stranger Calls kind of created but then they went a bit further and added some necessary social commentary. The violence against women in the aforementioned films are obvious but it just kind of stops there for some people. There are certainly knowledgeable critics who have called out violence against women on the big screen long before it became popular, but those people are still outnumbered by audiences who seem to get off on violence against women. Entrance makes it clear that empty violence against women (on & off film) is a serious problem that is often fetishized.


I don’t want to turn this review in to an ironic twist of a male critic (…me) forcefully urging other women to see this, but it is an important film that I strongly recommend to women who take a special interest in female safety, feminism and/or violence against women (especially in film). There’s also something kind of refreshing about the fact that two male directors seem to “get it” when it comes to that kind of stuff.
The only potentially challenging thing about Entrance is that a lot of it is very (intentionally) mundane. A lot of people hate “boring”. Personally, I love boring when it’s done right (like in the case of Entrance). But the boredom in Entrance takes on a kind of metta level because a big part of the film is an exercise in boredom and the mundane day to day life some of us live in. Much like Michael Haneke’s The 7th Continent, the boring and the mundane is part of what makes Entrance truly horrific. Monsters, Zombies and murderous stalkers are certainly scary, but not as scary as loneliness, depression, living your life set to an alarm clock, living pay check to pay check or not finding your footing in a new city. These are some of the things that our protagonist deals with in Entrance. To be honest, Entrance is a horror film for mature adults with a good attention span and an equal appreciation for horror & experimental film.

I think this movie might be off-putting to others because it’s so real & relatable (just like Haneke’s 7th Continent). We wake up every day and go to work, get frustrated, dream of things we’ll never attain and find disappointment in our commutes to & from work in real life. Movies are an escape for a lot of people. Why would you want to spend the few hours of free time you have watching sad/scary elements of your real life on TV? So Entrance isn’t for everyone (sorry to the filmmakers if I’ve discouraged viewers). But that’s what makes it special at the same time. The folks who “get it” will appreciate Entrance to the utmost.


How often do you see a modern horror film compared to the work of Michael Haneke? And Haneke is my own comparison. Some of you may find this hard to believe but The Dardenne Brothers (and their Belgian elder Chantal Akerman) played a part in the inspiration of Entrance.

That summer when we conceived it [Entrance], Lorna's Silence came out and it also happened to be when Zombie's Halloween 2 came out.
We were lamenting how a slasher film would be a lot more interesting as a Dardenne film, and so it went.
- Patrick Horvath


Entrance / Lorna's Silence

Subconscious shades of Chantal Akerman (left) in Entrance (Right)


But all artsy references aside, this is a film directed by a team responsible for The Pact 2 & one of the stories in Southbound (two projects that came after Entrance, but still). So they understand horror. Entrance is a breath of fresh air within the horror genre and shows that Hallam & Horvath have the chops to step outside of the traditional horror tropes. Or...they have the chops to take traditional horror tropes and deconstruct them in to something new & fresh.

And if you’re looking for a co-sign from within the world of horror then look no further than Stephen King...

This is a very interesting low-budget? almost no-budget? film. Suzy (Suziey Block) is a pretty young barista living a barely middle-class life in Los Angeles. She has a roommate and a lovely dog named Darryl. For the first 60 minutes of this scant 84-minute movie, we see her going through her routine, almost the same every day. It becomes clear that she is disconnected from any real, vital life but perhaps too emotionally numb to be lonely…although she senses something is wrong. She brings a fella home from a bar and stares blankly up at the ceiling as he makes love to her. No distaste, no disgust, also no excitement or pleasure.
Little by little, we realize that something is VERY wrong with Suzy’s life. Her dog goes missing, and this becomes the emotional center of the movie. I was deeply moved by her halting efforts to get him back and by her breakthrough sadness. There’s no movie music, the actors are not professional, and for long stretches, nothing seems to be happening. But my anxiety built up almost to Blair Witch Project levels. You know something awful is going to happen, and there comes a point when you wish it would, so you could relax. Finally it does. I was really astounded by how much the filmmakers (Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath) did with so little, especially when Horvath’s only other picture was a slasher job called Die-ner (Get It?) -Stephen King


It really is worth the wait if you sit through the first major chunk of Entrance because there are plenty of entertaining elements to counter the experimental qualities that some may not be used to. Whats also great is that this is a fun second viewing because you want to go back and see if you missed any small/minor details.

But at the end of the day, the very real depression & loneliness in Entrance is what makes it a horror film in my eyes.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 18!!



We're back with a new super fun episode!

This week we delve in to the non-Killer Of Sheep work of Charles Burnett, Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, Miami Connection and so much more.

Enjoy...


Sunday, July 2, 2017

THE CINEMA OF MARINA DE VAN TOLD THROUGH IMAGES & STILLS


Marina De Van is a director/writer/actress that walks along her own unique path. With five feature films and a handful of shorts under her belt she has not only made a dent in the art house world (The New French Extremity scene to be specific), but has also carved out her own little niche and breathed life back in to genres like Body Horror and the Psychological Thriller (I consider her feature debut In My Skin to be one of the best films of the last decade).
Marina De Van is an important female voice in modern film. While filmmakers like Catherine Breillat tackle the subject of sex & sexuality among women (especially young women) and Claire Denis focuses on the (sometimes) taboos of interracial relationships often told from the perspectives of (white) women, De Van focuses on sanity, repressed memories and the female psyche.
Her films are defiant & challenging. Why is it that when a male director gives us an unflinching (yet tasteful) look at sexuality, blood & violence it’s ok, but when a woman does it, it causes a mini-uproar? Films like History Of Violence & Eastern Promises (Cronenberg) & Bug (William Friedken) are met with generally open arms while In My Skin (De Van), Trouble Every Day (Denis) & Anatomy Of Hell (Breillat) were all met with initial hostility & pushback. These are the kinds of questions that come about when discussing her work.

Marina De Van isn't exactly a household name but just about all of her movies are available on every major streaming platform. Hopefully this piece will inspire some of you to seek out her work and get familiar.



WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN / FEMALE LEADS
Mental illness affects us all. It doesn't specify according to gender. However Marina De Van focuses on mental illness among women. Her films are very "female-centric" and there's a lot of estrogen in the cinematic universe of Marina De Van. Who knows hormones & the mindstate of women more than a woman herself? That's not to say a man couldn't direct a film about mental illness as it pertains to women but wouldn't you want to see a woman do that first?

Now that we're in an era where folks are pushing for female filmmakers now more than ever, perhaps Marina De Van should be considered a varsity-letterman in that movement...
In My Skin
Don't Look Back
Dark Touch
Le Petit Poucet
8 Women (directed by Francois Ozon but written by Marina De Van)
See The Sea (directed by Francois Ozon but written by Marina De Van)
La Promenade
Alias
Bien Sous Tous Rapports
L'Epicerie


with that being said...


TRUAMATIC EVENTS & TRIGGERS
In her feature film debut (In My Skin) we see our main (female) character develop a newfound fascination with cutting & self-mutilation after she takes a nasty fall at a party (the fall just triggers something dark that was already inside her).
In Don't Look Back we see a woman struggle with a split personality disorder brought on by something triggered from her past. Dark Touch is an allegory for child abuse (the child in this case happens to be a little girl) while Alias deals with a woman struggling from an unknown tragic event that stopped her modeling career...
In My Skin
Don't Look Back
Dark Touch
Alias




LONELINESS & DEPRESSION (mostly among women but with a few exceptions)
The traumatic events from the above category often leads to depression and characters isolating themselves from others...
Alias
Psy-Show
In My Skin
Dark Touch




THE FEMALE FORM
Marina De Van doesn't shy away from showing the beauty that is the female body. While a lot of female filmmakers avoid gratuitous nudity & "eye candy", De Van embraces the female form (In My Skin almost doubles as an excuse for her to show off her own beautiful body). 
And because we're seeing the female body through the lens of a woman, it ends up being tasteful...
In My Skin
Don't Look Back
Don't Look Back
La Promenade


La Promenade
Alias
Alias
See The Sea




BLOOD & BODY HORROR
I'm sure De Van would dismiss the idea of being labeled as a "horror director", but a large majority of her films feature blood, murder, mutilation and the occasional supernatural character.
She's also one of the leading voices in the current body horror genre although you'd never know that because most cinephiles with an opinion on said genre cant get past David Cronenberg. But almost everyone one of Marina De Van's films features gruesome body transformations (Don't Look Back), body dismorphia (Le Petit Poucet) or severe self-mutilation (In My Skin).
Don't Look Back
In My Skin
In My Skin
In My Skin
Dark Touch
Le Petit Poucet
Le Petit Poucet




TRANSFORMATION/METAMORPHOSIS/SURROGATES…
Characters in movies starting out one way then changing in to someone/something new is hardly unique. But in the word of Marina De Van it’s incredibly drastic and sometimes jarring. In See The Sea we watch a character take the place of someone after violently murdering them. At the start of In My Skin we watch a relatively happy person slowly change to a darker version of herself. In the appropriately titled Alias we see our main character ditch a party by making her housekeeper take her place (no one notices). And Don’t Look Back is about a character with multiple personalities disorder.
See The Sea (a new mother takes the place of the original mother at the end of the movie)
two different versions of our protagonist in In My SKin
transformation in Don't Look Back
switching identities in Alias




DARK LIGHTING
I'm not sure if this is intentional or not but what makes De Van's films work so well is that a large majority of her work is lit very darkly which adds to the mysterious ambiance. Marina De Van works almost exclusively within the horror & psychological thriller genres so dark color palettes & nighttime settings only enhance the scary/uncertain mood...
Don't Look Back
In My Skin
In My Skin
Dark Touch
La Promenade
Alias




VISUAL SIMILARITIES & (POSSIBLE) INFLUENCES ON MARINA DE VAN
Crash (David Cronenberg)/ In My Skin
Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bunuel) / In My Skin
Bladerunner (Ridley Scott) / In My Skin
Repulsion (Roman Polanski) / Don't Look Back 
Altered States / Dont Look Back




RECURRING SHOTS: MIRRORS & SELF-REFLECTION
Don't Look Back
Don't Look Back
Le Petit Poucet
See The Sea (directed by Francois Ozon but written & starring Marina De Van)
Dark Touch
In My Skin
Alias
Alias




SPYING & VOYEURISM
Horror, Psychological thrillers & The New French Extremity are the common genres that are associated with Marina De Van but she also dips her toes in to the neo-noir genre. We often find the characters in De Van's films creeping on others (La Promenade) or spying in an effort to uncover the truth (Don't Look Back).
In My Skin
In My Skin
La Promenade
Don't Look Back




CRITICISM OF (SOME) MEN
This one is a little complicated...

While she isn't calling out all men on their bullshit, De Van certainly shines a spotlight on the very real (negative) characteristics that do exist in some men.

The men in the films of Marina De Van are often monsters (Le Petit Poucet), aggressive (Dark Touch), aloof (Don't Look Back), weak & pathetic (Psy-Show) or aggressive & self-centered (Marina De Van's boyfriend in In My Skin is so self-absorbed that he isn't supportive of his girlfriend who is clearly suffering from severe mental illness).
Dark Touch
In My Skin
In My Skin
Don't Look Back
Le Petit Poucet
Psy-Show
Criminal Lovers (a film about a male sexual abuser inspired by a poem written by Marina De Van)




THE PRESENCE OF CHILDREN
The idea of "the past" is an overlooked element in the cinematic universe of Marina De Van. It's easy to forget when you're dealing with body mutilation & extreme violence but flashbacks (Don't Look Back), repressed memories (Dark Touch) and the past (Le Petit Poucet) are key elements within her work and they are usually manifested through the children in her films...

Dark Touch
Don't Look Back
Le Petit Poucet