Monday, April 27, 2020


One of the few positive things to come from this quarantine craziness is my podcasting output. Outside of the weekly Zebras content, I've been appearing on numerous podcasts to discuss everything from the work of Ivan Dixon to Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (two films that have a significant connection to my Grandmother & Father)

Click below to listen to me on the excellent Kill You Last Podcast and the wonderful We Cut Heads podcast.


Friday, April 24, 2020


On the latest episode of Zebras we're joined recurring guest Saskia Kahn to discuss Eliza Hitman's latest.


Monday, April 20, 2020


Let me be clear - The Invisible Man is a solid movie. It’s a fun entertaining retelling of a horror classic that mixes elements of everything from Psycho & Hollow Man to The Predator & Lost Highway.

My kind of movie...

Psycho / The Invisible Man

Hollow Man /
The Invisible Man

Lost Highway/
The Invisible Man

Predator /
The Invisible Man

And I know everyone has made the Sleeping With The Enemy connection but it takes on a whole other meaning when you actually see the spot-on comparisons versus just saying a movie inspired another...
Sleeping With The Enemy /
The Invisible Man
Sleeping With The Enemy / The Invisible Man
Sleeping With The Enemy /
The Invisible Man
Sleeping With The Enemy /
The Invisible Man

Outside of the obvious (and maybe the not-so obvious) cinematic references, The Invisible Man is also a timely & topical story in terms of subject matter. Outside of the basic horror elements, this is also a movie about surviving domestic abuse. Throughout the film Moss is terrorized by her husband yet no one believes her which definitely does translate to real life. Men love calling women "crazy" or dismissing their claims for weak reasons and this movie highlights that. Yes, this movie wears its politics on its sleeve but I’m not really bothered by that. In my opinion it works overall. I was also really impressed with the editing & camera work and how it conveyed that someone was in a room even when they couldn't be seen.

What does bother me is some of the misguided hype & praise surrounding the movie. Not the actual movie itself. Often times the majority doesn’t stop to think about the thoughts & perspectives of other demographics and smaller groups of people outside of who a movie is geared towards (and I’m not saying it’s the job of the director or storyteller to consider every single person’s thoughts & feelings. But just know some folks are going to view & receive things differently than intended). It’s common knowledge that the default perspective of just about anything is White. That’s just how it is. I’m not breaking any new ground or saying something you didn’t already know. Sometimes the default setting is white even in places where they aren’t the majority. And often times the default is white men. In the case of The Invisible Man it’s white women. That's not to say others can’t enjoy this or relate to the deeper issues the film touches on (again - as I eluded to at the start of this piece, I did enjoy this). I just hope that when folks leave this movie they don't only associate white women with domestic abuse or make them the poster children when women of every race are affected by it.

I wasn’t even going to say anything about The Invisible Man but a few weeks ago a lot of (mostly white women) were misguidedly praising the movie by “thirsting” over Invisible Man co-star “Aldis Hodge” to the point where it was trending. This kind of opened up a can of worms in my (Black male) brain..

As I just stated seconds ago, I'm a Black male (with a white wife), so naturally stuff like this is going to catch my attention. These types of tweets set all of this off and got me to thinking - this kind of "thirsting" could have got Aldis Hodge killed if we were in a different era. Making Aldis Hodge the "ally" in the film felt a little cheap and safe to me (it kind of felt like a coded new age flip on the helpful “magical negro” trope which can be found in characters portrayed by everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Morgan Freeman). I find it a bit problematic that the protagonist’s friend in the film is a person who looks like/represents a group of people that were lynched decades ago off of the strength of believing women in a movie that is partially a play on the phrase "believe women" (I'm aware the current movement of believe women is different from believing the false accusations of a woman decades ago in the deep south).
I just thought it was odd that people found the time to find this guy sexy & attractive in a movie that is far from either sexy or attractive (this is an issue that's much bigger than The Invisible Man). Without spoiling too much, The Invisible Man features scenes of various women (not just Moss) being beaten (and worse). Where do you find the time to think someone is sexy or hot in a movie like this? Naturally this could branch off in to a discussion or topic about the sometimes objectification that White woman have towards Black men and the dark history between them in America...

Emmett Till


And for folks thinking that the examples I am using are "dated" and/or old, less than two years ago we had a somewhat high profile case that echoed the aforementioned examples from the past...
I'm fully aware that headlines like this are exploitive but no matter how you cut it - the racial dynamic is there and people need to understand that pointing the finger at and/or calling the cops on Black people (Black males specifically) can be potentially dangerous and sometimes fatal (and they sometimes are).

As you can see the thoughts surrounding this movie open up a larger can of worms for a bigger discussion but I don't want to downplay or steal the spotlight from what the film is about which is abuse towards women. But as a socially conscious young-ish Black male, my take on the thirsting, reviews & thoughts surrounding The Invisible Man are slightly different from someone else's. And before you go any further I completely understand that the views & thoughts here are from the perspective of a man, so my opinions on the deeper issues in The Invisible Man are secondary to women who have actually experienced and/or survived domestic violence or have some kind of experience on the matter. I’m no men’s rights activist that likes to contradict women's rights. I think those guys are the worst (and a lot of men's rights activists have a direct connection to racist organizations & ideologies that no Black person should be remotely close to). And I have plenty experience of outsiders/other people trying to co-opt and/or ride the coattails of a Black civil rights movement or Black struggle for their own benefit. From people suddenly shouting “all lives matter” only after people started saying “black lives matter”, to every possible subgroup of people trying to claim reparations only after Black people started pushing for reparations. So the last thing I want to do is steer the conversation somewhere else.
But if we're going to have a deep conversation on the issues in this film and the sub-categories that spawn from it (which many critics are already doing), we should look at it from a broader lens (something I plan on doing on my own podcast very soon).

This “review” is essentially based off of the views & opinions I see on twitter, Facebook & Instagram. If you get caught up in the social media bubble (which I definitely do from time to time) you can start to think it’s a representation of what the rest of the world believes which just isn’t true. So I am aware that my own views & opinions on the praise & criticisms of The Invisible Man are based on a potentially small group of people.

And I don’t mean to get all Armond White/Brett Easton Ellis about my thoughts on The Invisible Women (who essentially felt Moss needed to "pretty up" and wear more make-up). There’s nothing worse than a mindless contrarian or someone that goes; “well, what about these people??!” when the focus is on someone/something else. And I know there isn’t a lot of nuance and/or middle ground left for potentially “spicy” conversations & opinions these days, but I think my views (which I plan to expand upon on my podcast soon) holds a little bit of weight.

Friday, April 17, 2020


This week we get in to the first three episodes of Dark Side Of The Ring as well as the phenomenon known as Tiger King.


Monday, April 13, 2020


Scott & I joined the guys over at the 26 Movies From Hell podcast to discuss Benny's Video and all things Michael Haneke


Friday, April 10, 2020


On the latest episode of Zebras, Scott & I get in to our favorite film of 2020; Joan Of Arc.


In fact, we were so inspired by Bruno Dumont's latest work that we put together a song inspired by Joan Of Arc...

Monday, April 6, 2020


I was going to start this piece off by telling a (very true) story about how in 2006 an old employer of mine called me when I was in the emergency room (awaiting to learn that my kidneys were failing) only to ask me where a file was saved on a work computer rather than ask me how I was doing first (there’s a somewhat similar scene towards the end of Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You where - after being jumped/attacked while on the job - the main character’s boss calls him in the E.R. Waiting room to tell him he’ll be fined for breaking company property and for missing work).
But a more recent topical event happened a few days ago when I was let go by my job in the middle of this Corona virus pandemic. I realize that there are currently millions of people in the same situation as me (some a lot more worse off) but at the end of the day I do have to think about myself first.
Some of you reading this may be saying to yourself; “well, Marcus, Owners & CEOs of companies have to think about themselves and their companies first due to the current situation we’re all in. Perhaps it was too costly to keep you on the payroll” This could be true (it's not, but lets just say it is). But my former employer (and others before it) loved to preach that “we’re a family” nonsense and last time I checked - Families (well, the functional, supporting & loving families I’m used to) don’t put other family members in compromising positions where they now have to worry about income & health insurance. Going back to my earlier example from 2006 - I don't expect anyone to ask me how I'm doing or how I'm feeling, but don't preach that your workplace is a family while expressing more concern over where a PDF is saved more than the health of one of your employees (or "family members"). My most recent employer literally laid me off with one day of health insurance coverage left (awesome timing). I’ve had a kidney transplant so I need health insurance for the rest of my life and Cobra is not cheap (I’ve since been put on my wife’s health insurance but not everyone has that luck/luxury).

Perhaps my understanding of what family means is different...

I say all this to say that I relate to the overall basic premise of Ken Loach’s latest film Sorry We Missed You. And that overall premise is: your job/institution you work for does not care about you. Sure there are exceptions but generally speaking - they could care less about you.
And let me be clear - I knew this long before Sorry We Missed You was released or before the current compromising situation the corona virus has put all of us in. Jobs & employment are about numbers and profits first and people maybe second or third (this should be common knowledge but it still needs to be said). But even if I knew how most employers don’t care about their employees, it still doesn’t reduce the sting & anxiety of unemployment (especially during a time when people are being laid off in large numbers and finding/starting a new job isn’t the easiest task when we need to stay home in order to combat the corona virus).

I didn’t really want to share my thoughts on Sorry We Missed You and how much I relate to it because - and this is a personal thing - I sometimes find it cringy when a major/serious world event happens and people start relating it to movies (similar to how when you scroll twitter & Facebook these days and find endless thoughts & opinions on Contagion and/or Outbreak as if they're the only two movies on the subject of pandemics/viral outbreaks). But as you can tell, I’m in a mood and I also have some newfound free time on my hands at the moment now that I’ve been laid off.

Sorry We Missed You is the story of a working-class family and their struggles in the modern work force. Ricky is a parcel deliveryperson and his wife, Abbie, is a special care/home nurse for various clients. Their son, Seb, is skipping school and getting in to trouble while their young daughter, Liza, seems to be carrying the brunt of all anxiety within the household as she’s the only character who’s able to kind of step back and see the big picture from afar (that’s not to downplay Ricky & Abbie‘s anxiety because they have to pay the bills and take care of the family).
And to add on to that, I want people to recognize that Abbie‘s story is just as important & crucial to the film as Ricky even if she gets slightly less camera time. In my opinion not only does she sacrifice the most (she sells her car early on in the film so Ricky can pursue his employment), but she represents a demographic of workers who are taken advantage of because they’re nice & caring even when they shouldn’t be. It’s easy for some people to take the stance of “Don’t always be so nice” (which is a good stance to have as far as I’m concerned), but not everyone has that ability which is just as much a blessing as it is a curse. Nice people are the easiest to exploit at work and Abbie is a prime example of that.

Sorry We Missed You is perfectly cast, masterfully executed and, as you can see by my intro, is a relatable film on multiple levels. Ricky & Abbie work in specific fields/careers but they're struggle is pretty universal. Many people have gone in to work sick due to fear of losing their job and/or money. Lots people have felt that fear & anxiety of asking for time off to handle to a personal or medical matter (NOT EVEN TIME OFF FOR RESTING OR VACATION, BUT TO HANDLE MORE SERIOUS SHIT OUTSIDE OF WORK WHICH JUST MAKES LIFE FEEL LIKE A CONSTANT GRIND SOMETIMES).

Sorry We Missed You deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Bicycle Thieves. 
Not only do both films start with our protagonists in desperate situations looking for work...
Bicycle Thieves /
Sorry We Missed You

but *SPOILERS AHEAD* they even have similar endings of little to no hope (both films end with the main characters broken holding back tears...

Bicycle Thieves /
Sorry We Missed You


There are even small moments where we see Ricky with his daughter having a moment together that might remind you of Antonio and his son in Bicycle Thieves...

Bicycle Thieves /
Sorry We Missed You

Even if you aren’t a big Ken Loach fan, I challenge any rational minded person to not feel something coming out of this movie. As I said earlier, the issues in Sorry We Missed You were prevalent long before the corona virus caused folks to lose their jobs. I guess the timing/release of it kind of feels like the perfectly executed bad joke.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Scott & I were joined by friend of the show (and husband to past guest Elana Levin) Frank A Smith to talk abut the films of Richard Stanley.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020


If Jeannette: The Childhood Of Joan Of Arc (the prequel/first installment in Bruno Dumont’s Joan Of Arc saga) is Drive, then Joan Of Arc (2020) is Only God Forgives. I realize this may not be the best sell to some of you as not everyone is a fan of either Nicolas Winding Refn and/or Bruno Dumont (especially not Dumont), but both Refn & Dumont are PINNLAND EMPIRE favorites so this comparison is on brand for me (some of you reading should know this by now). I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jeannette is more ”exciting” & externally intense while Joan Of Arc is more droning, meditative & intentionally slow. The musical numbers featured in Jeannette are heavy metal-inspired (a big draw/selling point for the film) and the score/musical numbers in Jeanette seem to come right out of Brian Eno’s Yamaha keyboard circa 1982...

In Bruno Dumont’s latest film we follow Joan Of Arc on trial after her fight against the English army (a slightly older Lise Leplat Prudhomm returns in the title role giving one of my personal favorite performances of the year so far). The basic story is nothing new. Everyone form Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion Of Joan Of Arc) & Robert Bresson (The Trial Of Joan Of Arc) to Victor Flemming (Joan Of Arc) & Luc Besson (The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc) has covered this subject matter. It’s history that just about all of us know even if it’s on a surface level. I think Bruno Dumont knew this which is why he not only made his series of films a musical, but he also added his signature Bruno Dumont touch. It’s all there. Awkward acting & exchanges of dialogue between mostly non-professional actors, dark/surreal humor mixed with drama and - there’s no light or politically correct way to say this, but - homely & odd-looking people make up most of the cast (something Dumont has been doing since day one which at times does feel like Harmony Korine-esque exploitation at first, but the more you get to know about Dumont you know his intentions are mostly genuine). He seemed to approach this project with the thought process of; “If I’m going to tell a story that’s already been told many times before, I might as well try to do it different.” And he certainly did that. But no matter how “different” this version may be to some, he still did his homework on the life of Joan Of Arc and the history surrounding her (he doesn’t use the weirdness and non-traditional approach as an excuse to ignore historical aspects or to be lazy).

Joan Of Arc makes Jeannette a much more impactful film in retrospect (it goes without saying that you should see the first part). Jeanette is essentially a coming of age tale/spiritual awakening. Right away this sets Joan Of Arc apart from its predecessors because rather than be thrown right in to the trial & execution, we watch Joan/Lise Leplat Prudhomm age through two films.

We’re in the midst of her coming of age: she’s grown up a little, she's no longer the little girl she was in Jeannette, and the child-like side to her has changed too. After all, remember she’s now a military leader. She’s acquired a confidence, a strength which needed to be filmed. She’s a soldier—a brave soldier, someone who managed to put King Charles VII back on his throne. And we needed to film and show that glory. Which meant we needed to design a glorious mise-en-scène, to capture her hierarchical dimension, her strength. - Bruno Dumont (

Carl Theordor Dreyer's influence on Dumont has been well documented long before PINNLAND EMPIRE even existed and Joan Of Arc is just another ongoing example...
The Passion Of Joan Of Arc / Joan Of Arc

And 25+ years later we find Bruno Dumont tackling a story that Bresson already did 60 years ago...
The Trial Of Joan Of Arc / Joan Of Arc

What I find most interesting is that even though this movie is the “weird one” out of the Joan Of Arc films, Dumont is still connected to Robert Bresson after almost 25 years (for those of you that don’t know, following Dumont's first two features in the 90’s he was dubbed the “son of Bresson” due to both director’s similar approach to dead pan/non expressive acting from their mostly non-professional casts.
In my opinion this version of Joan Of Arc deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Trial Of Joan Of Arc. Robert Bresson added his unique & signature style to the story of Joan Of Arc as well (intentional lack of emotion, non-professional actors, dry/deadpan delivery, etc). So this isn't the first non-traditional/slightly experimental retelling of the story of Joan Of Arc.

I always have to caution readers that are unfamiliar with Bruno Dumont's films that his style is an acquired taste, but between the lead performance and the amazing score - this is easily my favorite film of 2020 thus far...


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