FIVE REASONS THIS COULD BE GOOD: COCAINE BEAR (2023)
Every now and then a film title hooks you in immediately. Snakes on a Plane (2006) anyone? Now, another beast driven movie comes along and says, “Hold. . . My. . . Bear!”Enter the thrill-a-second trailer for – Cocaine Bear (2023)!
So here are five reasons, Cocaine Bear (2023) could be good!
The title of the film is Cocaine Bear (2023)!
It has a kill crazy bear high on cocaine in it!
It is amazingly inspired by a TRUE story!
It’s Ray Liotta’s R.I.P, final film.
The trailer is amazing – check it out here:
Cocaine Bear(2023) releases on February 24th 2023 in the US, UK and most of the world exclusively in movie theatres.
Main cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, Woody Harrelson etc.
Cinematography: Fredrik Wenzel
Edited by: Ruben Östlund, Mikel Cee Karlsson
Music by: Mikkel Maltha, Leslie Ming
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Ruben Ostlund is fast becoming one of those go to directors who can be relied upon to deliver cinema of the highest quality. His latest film, Triangle of Sadness (2022) is his finest to date. Having said that, his Force Majeure (2014) was one of those excellent films I hated. Technically, it was beautifully shot, performed, and directed, however, I just found the characters too irritating. Personally despising ski holidays probably didn’t help either. I actually wished the characters had been killed in the avalanche to save on all the middle-class matrimonial moaning.
Ostlund’s next film The Square (2017) was bravura arthouse storytelling containing wonderful digs at the nature of modern art and how rich people will buy any old crap if it is put in a gallery. While a tad overlong, it was wonderfully funny with hilarious mocking of the bourgeoisie, art and the rise of social media. With Triangle of Sadness (2022), Ostlund has moved up the social strata and focussed his satirical eye on the uber-wealthy, combining socialist dialectic with gross-out comedy, as Das Kapital meets Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983).
The film opens with Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), a model and Social Media influencer, as a couple whose relationship is fraught with problems. Through Yaya’s connections she secures them free passage on one of the most luxurious yachting holidays on the ocean. While they aren’t short of money, they have nothing compared to the wealthy millionaires and business types on the boat. As Carl and Yaya act as our conduits in the story, Ostlund uses them to explore the petty first world problems which impact many romances. The staff are also introduced as key players in the “Upstairs, Downstairs” character dynamic, notably Woody Harrelson’s drunken socialist Captain Thomas Smith, and Vicki Berlin’s staff supervisor, Paula. Lastly, the money is represented essentially by lonely tech millionaire, Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), obnoxious Russian, Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) and stroke victim, Therese (Iris Berben) and her husband.
Throwing these disparate, and latterly desperate personalities, into the trapped spaces of a superyacht is great writing by Ostlund. What unfolds in the second act of the film is an extended set-piece of riotous fun. As the yacht becomes battered by the stormy sea and weather, the guests all become violently ill to devasting impact. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I was laughing for twenty odd minutes straight at this sickening skewering of these privileged people. At the same time the drunken Dimitry and Captain Smith argue relentlessly about the differences and merits of capitalist and Marxist ideologies. It’s easily one of the funniest and impressively directed sequences of this cinematic year.
But Ostlund isn’t finished yet. These characters have not suffered enough for him, and the final section of Triangle of Sadness (2022) drenches the story in another hilarious and satirical direction. I won’t spoil the events which unfold, but Carl and Yaya’s relationship issues come to the fore as a darkly comedic peril strikes the yacht and passengers. Here Ostlund strikes a further blow against capitalism, exploring the nature of survival of the fittest and true values of human currency in a savage indictment against the obscenely rich. Overall, while the characters may not be the most likeable, that is never Ostlund’s aim. Ostlund’s desire is to critique capitalist hegemony through both high and low brow humour. He succeeds, making Triangle of Sadness (2022) one of the most thought-provoking and exhilarating cinema experiences of the year.
With the World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday 20th November 2022, I thought it was the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and consider six of the best football films ever made.
Now, when I say “best” I say this cautiously. The relationship between football and cinema hasn’t always delivered the highest of cinematic art. However, there have been some highly entertaining films set in and around the world of this great game. A sport that involves human beings kicking a sphere into a net. A game I love!
ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981) – Directed by John Huston
Wow! What a cast! This prisoner-of-war film starring Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max Von Sydow, Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, John Wark and many more football stars of the era, shouldn’t really work. Yet, it somehow successfully combines football and WW2 prison break subgenres in a beat-the-Nazis-boy’s-own adventure of stirring derring do.
THE FIRM (1988) – Directed by Alan Clarke
An unflinching and gritty exploration of the football hooligan subculture so prevalent in the English game in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Gary Oldman and Phil Davis portray rival gang-leaders of opposing football teams, highlighting how football was used as a substitute for urban warfare up and down the cities and motorways of our green and pleasant land.
GRAHAM TAYLOR: AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB (1994)
Firstly, I must say that Graham Taylor was a great man and exceptional football manager at clubs teams including Watford and Aston Villa. This soul crushing fly-on-the-wall documentary covers in painful depth the ill-fated attempt by the England football team to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Brutally honest, poignant, funny and embarrassing all at the same time, this is one of the most absorbing sports docs of all time.
SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001) – directed by Stephen Chow
Combining football and martial arts is a master stroke of the highest order. In the turbo-charged, Shaolin Soccer, we get both an underdog story and a litany of incredible kung-fu action set-pieces with scorching goals at the end of them. Brilliantly choreographed by Stephen Chow and his production team, this is a funny, kicking and net-busting classic!
THE DAMNED UNITED (2009) – directed by Tom Hooper
This exceptional adaptation of David Peace’s classic novel scores on many levels. None more so than Michael Sheen’s eloquent portrayal of top manager, Brian Clough and the excellent Timothy Spall as his assistant, Peter Taylor. Dramatically picking apart Clough’s disastrous tenure at premier football club, Leeds United, it shows even genius can get it utterly wrong. Clough would last 44 days at the damned United, but would later prove at Nottingham Forest what an incredible manager he was.
DIEGO MARADONA (2019)
Asif Kapadia’s documentary is arguably one of the finely crafted sports films of all time. Here he takes his razor-sharp filmmaking focus to the massive highs and eventual lows of Diego Maradona’s time at Napoli following his move from Barcelona in 1984. Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, but had not hit expected heights at the Catalan Kings before moving to Naples. Here Maradona elevated a mostly unsuccessful team to the top of the Italian league. After becoming a footballing god to the Napoli fans, off and on-pitch behaviour would subsequently sour the romance in a powerfully thrilling documentary drama.
Raindance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the UK. Holding the 30th festival in 2022, Raindance is based in the heart of London’s buzzing West End film district.
Raindance Film Festival is officially recognised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences USA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the British Independent Film Awards. Selected shorts will qualify for Oscar® and BAFTA considerations.
Festival Sections: – World-renowned programme of the best UK and international independent films. – House of Raindance – talks and panels at Genesis Cinema – Raindance VRX programme for virtual reality and new media Networking events – Attracting 16,000 visitors including 500 industry professionals into London.
The 30th Raindance took place between October 26 – November 5 2022 in Central and East London. I attended many of the amazing events.
Opening Night Gala and Film – Corner Office (2022)
The opening night Gala at the Waldorf Hotel, was a fantastic event and Jonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave deservedly received Raindance icon awards.
The opening gala was preceded by the opening film. Starring the cast-against-type, Jon Hamm,Corner Office (2022) is a fine surreal comedy. He portrays an office worker who finds a room in the office which no other worker can see. Is he crazy or the sanest person in the company? Joachim Back directs a stylish and offbeat indie cinema treat!
House of Raindance at Genesis Cinema
At the wonderful Genesis Cinema, near Stepney Green in East London, the Raindance Film Festival created the House of Raindance and Backyard cinema marquee full of fantastic industry events and screening. These included: panels with industry professionals from TooFar Media, Paus TV, and Celtx; masterclasses with filmmaking experts and retrospective screenings of classics such as Pulp Fiction (1994), Memento (2000) andOld Boy (2003).
Closing Party and Film – Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022)
After watching over 15,000 feature and short film submissions, the Raindance programmers delivered an array of amazing cinematic works. Films screened from all over the world included: Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls (2022), Iguana (2022), Pantafa (2022), Karaoke (2022), Little Axel (2022), Swallow (2022), Razorlight: Fall to Pieces (2022); and many shorts programmes including Raindance Film School Student Showcase, Queer, Horror, Radical Agendas and Transient Venture strands.
Having opened with a brilliant film, Raindance 30th Film Festival closed with another entertaining one too. It was the romantic, heroic and comedic 1970s period film, Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022). It’s the story of Roger Sharpe, the young midwesterner who overturned New York City’s 35 year-old ban on pinball machines. Influenced stylistically by Martin Scorsese, it is a niche but fascinating and bumping slice of American legal historia. Safe to say to the closing party at Genesis Cinema was flipping marvellous too.
See you next year at the 31st Raindance Film Festival!
Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age – by Dan Attias – Review by Paul Laight
The opening quotes of praise from a myriad of industry colleagues will make my little review pale into insignificance, as there is no doubt that Dan Attias is a director of some repute, expertise, and experience. Here is an Emmy-nominated director who has worked on an incredible list of amazing television shows such as: Miami Vice, Beauty and the Beast, Wolf, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Sopranos, The Wire, House, Homeland, Witness (Peter Weir), Northern Exposure, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, The Americans, The Killing, The Boys, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Friday Night Lights, etc.
With such a breath of experience Dan Attias therefore offers much to those seeking insight into the world of directing high quality TV. Moreover, it will also give priceless advice to those seeking a career in directing for all forms of creative media. It is structured and presented eloquently in a language that doesn’t blind the reader with techno-speak either.
The author began as an actor before moving into directing. In fact he states that the best training he had for directing was being an actor. Dan Attias moved from in front of the camera to behind it as assistant director for Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola before directing the feature film Silver Bullet (1985). After which he moved into directing episodic television.
Throughout the book, the author shares his wealth of experiences, highs, lows, and scars got from directing many great TV shows of recent years. Dan Attias does not glamorise the industry but illustrates that the craft of television production is all about the hard work and harder knocks. He advises honing one’s craft through being prepared, with collaboration also being vital. It’s a fast-paced endeavour where choices can often go wrong. But learning from those mistakes builds one’s directorial nous. Preparation is invaluable. Even if episodic television does not always allow it. The director will often arrive late to the party as it were with the showrunners, writers, actors, and pre-production crew having worked months developing a project.
I was seriously inspired by many of Dan Attias’ informative anecdotes. Having worked in both drama and comedy it is clear he is not just a point-and-shoot director. One senses a burning desire on his part to tell stories an imaginative, creative, and emotionally interesting style. Moreover, the book provides key insight into the rehearsal process, positioning actors, use of lenses, shifting points-of-view within scenes, framing, background mise-en-scene and of course lighting. For Attias, above all else, engaging with the environment is imperative as, “Each scene is staging a journey.”
As well as the technical knowledge delivered, the author continually promotes the idea that coordinating positively with showrunners and writers is integral when creating the best work. That does not mean there won’t be disagreements or having to overcome material which appears dramatically unpromising. It is the director’s job to be creative and collaborative while breathing new life into well-known characters within long running shows.
The final chapters share excellent scene breakdowns from the author’s experience of working on three different TV shows, Snowfall, Manhattan, and Good Girls Revolt. Here he delivers a fine perspective of a director’s vision, using the camera and stylistic choices to tell the story, both following and breaking the rules. If you’re breaking the rules you may face conflict from certain crew members, but it is all about staying confident in one’s vision for the storytelling. Overall, Attias’ honesty in overcoming difficult creative moments is to be admired.
Some may think that television was always the lesser cousin, locked in the artistic attic when compared to the noble art of cinema. No more though as programmes such as Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, Breaking Bad, and many more have proved. Such classic television finds the writing, cinematography, acting and increased production values, elevating their status to the cinematic. The old-school image of a 1970’s TV director shouting at a bank of monitors giving orders to the beleaguered floor manager and cast in a studio is now gone. Dan Attias and his book are testament to that.
Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) was launched in San Francisco in 1976 primarily to produce films. Today, the company is known worldwide having published some 200 books. Some of the bestsellers have been translated into 18 languages, are used in over 700 film courses, in the Hollywood studios and by emerging filmmakers.
Paul Laight is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and blogger. In 2005, he formed Fix Films and has written and produced many shorts and other promos. Many of his films have been screened all over the world at various film festivals.
Paul is currently working on feature and short film scripts for future productions. His work can be found here:
Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin & Martin McDonagh
Main Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, etc.
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Edited by: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
Music by: Carter Burwell
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is Martin McDonagh’s latest cinematic masterpiece. Not only is it one of the best films of the year he has, as with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), constructed one of the most formidable screenplays of many a year. As a playwright McDonagh has won many awards for his works. His debut film, In Bruges (2008), was a deceptively simple story of two hitmen on the run which, with rich thematic power, became a darkly hilarious existential cult classic. His follow-up Seven Psychopaths (2012), a heady mix of criminals versus writers in a meta-fictional Hollywood-based narrative was brilliantly written and acted, if slightly lacking thematic clarity. Like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a highly emotional human drama which contains intelligent allegory, incredible characterization, and cracking dialogue.
Set in 1923 on an island off of Southern Ireland called aptly Inisherin, the film opens by focussing on genial everyman farmer, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and his daily routine. After tending to his animals, he usually calls for his friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) to go to the island pub, the J.J. Devine or Jonjo’s. In England there is an idiom called, “sending someone to Coventry.” This means to ignore or ostracize an individual or individuals. So, basically Colm chooses to do this to his long-standing friend, Pádraic. This shunning completely bemuses Pádraic and despite Colm’s pleading for Pádraic to respect his wishes, he continually seeks an answer to his former friend’s decision.
After this intriguing premise is established, what follows is a tremendously original, darkly funny and emotionally penetrating succession of scenes. The exchanges between the two characters begins as bickering but then descends into some seriously disturbing acts of recrimination. Attempting to make them see sense are various eccentric characters on the island who provide many witty and absurd exchanges that McDonagh specialises in. Further, Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) is almost the one voice of reason as the feud escalates. As she tries to diffuse the conflict, even Barry Keoghan’s young idiot, Dominic Kearney, the initial comic relief in the film, attempts to make these two men see sense.
Visually, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), is incredibly rich. The territory displays gorgeously photographed shots of the rocks, the sea, the stone roads and the lush green countryside. But while there is a sense of expanse and freedom initially, the feeling of isolation pervades. As the story continues the characters feel more and more segregated by the sea and their own or other’s decisions. None more so than Farrell’s Pádraic. A simple man who just wants to do his work and get drunk with his friend, he finds he is sequestered by Colm’s desire to self-isolate and concentrate on his music. Here, Farrell and Gleeson give tremendous character work. Farrell especially has rarely been better as Pádraic’s attitude turns initially from shock to bitterness over the journey of the narrative.
A film director’s job is for me about making key creative choices. Martin McDonagh makes brilliant choices while working from his own exceptional script. I loved everything about The Banshees of Inisherin (2022). The look, the performances, the pacing, the locations and Carter Burwell’s phenomenal score are absolutely first class. I haven’t even mentioned Barry Keoghan’s memorable supporting turn. He surely is one of the most naturally gifted actors of his generation. Not to forget other striking characters in the ensemble such as the creepy, Mrs McCormick (Sheila Flitton), an old harridan who acts as a portent for death on the island.
Martin McDonagh expertly combines a superb ear for dialogue, a psychologically absorbing analysis of the human condition with elements from Waiting For Godot and Channel Four situation comedy, Father Ted. Above all else, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a darkly, spectacular cinematic experience which works on many levels. On one level it is about the isolation of island life and its inhabitants. On another it’s about the death of a friendship. While on yet another level it is about the analogous absurdity of civil war and how conflict can start for the merest of reasons. While the best cinema is certainly about showing and not telling, McDonagh proves again that dialogue-driven films can produce cinematic theatre, comedy and tragedy of the highest order.
Produced by: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, Robert Salerno, Gabby Olivera
Cast: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, etc.
Cinematography: Charlie Sarroff
If you search YouTube by typing ‘short horror film’ you will find hundreds of really good and often scary, surprisingly enough, short horror films. A great majority of them will have a lengthy suspenseful set-up, before ending on a startling jump scare. The model itself is arguably overdone, however, it is an excellent set-up-punchline structure for new filmmakers to learn film techniques and scare the viewers. Many such short videos go viral and, in the case of Laura Hasn’t Slept by Parker Finn, get picked up for feature development. Hence, we have Parker Finn’s film debut, Smile (2022).
Smile (2022) opens with a suggestion of childhood trauma for lead protagonist, psychiatrist Doctor Rose Cotter when a child. The action then moves to the present day and brings us Rose’s confrontation with the disturbed patient, Laura. What follows is an expertly crafted and incredibly disturbing sequence, which plunges Rose into major threat from a nefarious force. Parker Finn then slowly builds Rose’s psychological breakdown as she experiences hallucinations, frights and memory loss as her partner, family and friends find her behaviour to be disturbing to say the least. A particularly grisly scene at a child’s birthday party was especially deadly and memorable.
As the film continues, I could not help but be reminded of both The Ring (1998/2002) andIt Follows (2014) in terms of the story beats. Rose, while being pursued by some unknown demon, faces a race against time to avoid death. Both the aforementioned films are far superior as they have more plot and characterisation to propel the running time. Indeed, one of the major issues with Smile (2022) is that 115 minutes are too long for the character arc Rose Cotter is given. By the time her character revelation is complete it has taken an eternity to get there. Moreover, I was suffering jump-scare fatigue by the end, thus rendering the scarily horrific monster reveal to feel fearfully redundant.
Yet, Smile (2022) has an impactful thematic spine. While It Follows (2014) dealt with the threat of sexual disease within the subtext, Parker Finn’s debut powerfully delves into the impact of grief, guilt and mental health. Having said that, the narrative could have dug more into Rose’s past to really reveal the trauma she suffered as a child. Personally, I think a longer set-up of her character while growing up would have increased the drama. But Parker Finn gets an excellent performance from Sosie Bacon throughout, even if her perpetual appearance on screen as the harassed and troubled victim eventually promotes further fatigue. A scene-stealing exchange between Bacon and the electric Rob Morgan suggests his character should be lead in the inevitable horror sequel.
Screenplay by: Katie Silberman – Story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke and Katie Silberman
Produced by: Olivia Wilde, Katie Silberman, Miri Yoon, Roy Lee
MainCast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Chris Pine etc.
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Part arthouse character study, part science fiction social satire and eventually a rushed concertinaed thriller, the Olivia Wilde directed, Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is a visual feast, anchored by Florence Pugh’s devastatingly brilliant performance. However, the ambition of the themes remains hamstrung by pacing and structure which fails to serve the story to its full potential.
Set within a utopian 1950’s sun blanched town called Victory, Wilde and her writers throw us straight into the hedonistic lives of a set of youthful and dynamic couples, drinking, partying and sexing. They work and play hard. Well, the husbands work as the dutiful women stay at home cleaning and churning out kids. So far-so-Stepford Wives! At the heart of Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is Pugh as the loyal but inquisitive, Alice. Her husband, Jack (Harry Styles) is ambitious, seeking the approval of big boss, the hubristic Frank (Chris Pine). When Alice begins to experience Kafkaesque dreams of feeling trapped by her daily life, she slowly realises all is not quite perfect in paradise.
No one does anguish and anxiety on screen like Florence Pugh. As Alice falls deeper down the rabbit hole of despair, Pugh produces true cinematic power once again. Olivia Wilde also brings a compelling image system to fully visualise Alice’s hellish descent. In comparison, the male characters are far less developed and the exchanges between Pugh and Styles, especially in the final act, are really lacking in dramatic punch. Styles himself I felt was miscast, but he does have an engaging screen presence. It’s just I didn’t feel enough threat from him.
Structurally, Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is also flawed. The major reveal comes way too late to assuage the pacing issues. While the narrative contains some striking visual set-pieces there are too many parties, barbecues and social events getting in the way of the potential thrills that could have occurred if Alice had discovered her plight much earlier. Overall, there is too much set-up and not enough punch. The longer you wait to reveal the twist, the bigger the revelation needs to be. The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone have done this style of story with more emotional impact and better economy. Pugh and Wilde though prove once again they are major talents and thematically speaking it’s good that men get another kick in. Men are fast becoming the go-to villains of this century and long may it continue.
I just thought I’d share some good news that both of the Star Trek fan films, I was involved in writing, have recently won some new awards in the first annual “Showrunner” Awards, an international festival for Star Trek fan films.
CHANCE ENCOUNTER (2017)
Chance Encounter has recently won some new awards in the first annual “Showrunner” Awards! An international festival for Star Trek fan films. The film was entered into various categories, each of which had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place available. The short film picked up the following:
Best Actress: Ayvianna Snow – 1st Place Best Actor: Hayward Morse – 2nd Place Best Direction: 3rd Place Best Fan Film: 3rd Place
Congratulations to Ayvianna and Hayward! You can read about the awards here! And see the film here:
THE HOLY CORE (2019)
The second fan film was entered into various categories, each of which had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place available. The Holy Core picked up the following:
Best Direction: 1st place Best Fan Film: 1st Place Best Writing: 2nd Place Best Editing: 2nd Place Best Sound Design: 2nd Place Best Costuming: 3rd Place
You can read about the awards here! And see the film here:
STAR TREK and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other “Star Trek” franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Wrenn Schmidt, Barbie Ferreira, Keith David, etc.
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Following on from the Oscar winning, Get Out (2017), and the should-have-won-an-Oscar-for-Best-Actress-in-Lupita-Nyong’o, Us (2019), Jordan Peele is back with the enigmatically titled, and equally ambiguous sci-fi-Western-horror film, NOPE (2022). Taking on writing and directing duties again, Peele has delivered a majestic looking cinematic feast, brimming with incredibly memorable images involving horses, chimpanzees, cinema, waving inflatables, surveillance cameras, carnival shows, and something very large that comes from beyond the clouds.
So, what’s Nope (2022) actually about? Well, put simply it’s all about cowboys and girls overcoming a monster. But it is much more than that. Because, narratively speaking it is difficult to sum up in a few sentences. Peele builds his most complex film to date by delivering a series of visually powerful set-pieces throughout. He also challenges the audience with an intelligent visual system which thematically links television, cinema, cameras, Hollywood, animals and a spectacular eye in the sky. Like Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) and Martin Scorsese’s religious epics, Nope (2022), is what I consider to be a big-budget, arthouse blockbuster.
The film, which is divided into chapters, establishes brother, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), trying valiantly to keep the family ranch from going under. Once thriving under their father’s management, the ranch would supply horses to the Hollywood conveyor belt of A-list and B-movie Westerns. With such work now in short supply, OJ is forced to sell horses to local theme park owner, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), however, he vows to get them back when business improves. But a bigger threat is soon looming over the ranch.
Kaluuya’s performance as OJ is laconic, invoking pure Robert Mitchum. Did I like and root for OJ? Sort of. Keke Palmer as Emerald brought the energy to the screen, but I never felt the two characters really gelled with the themes successfully. Peele’s intellectual leaps, while thought-provoking, barriered an emotional connection within Nope (2022). Likewise, Yuen’s Jupe is given a tremendously imaginative and powerful backstory which brings us into his character, but ultimately fails to pay off dramatically. In fact, these scenes felt like they were from a different film altogether. Indeed, Peele uses the sci-fi monster genre to hang his view of the world on, not always to maximum impact.
While the characterisations and themes arguably fail to gel within the screenplay, it is visually where Nope (2022) really soars. Hoyte van Hoytema should sweep he board come awards time. Further, Peele creates an optical banquet by juxtaposing the majestic vistas of the Californian landscape with modern camera and surveillance equipment, plus those colourful inflatable dummies. Then there’s the thing that is “Not Of Planet Earth”. What is it and what does it represent? Who is watching and controlling and feeding on us? Peele’s challenging concepts are to be applauded within the genre blockbuster, but I just wanted to be scared and care a bit more. On additional viewings, Nope (2022), may be considered a masterpiece, but at the moment it could be one of those great films which I kind of didn’t like. As discussed previously here.