The Films of 2020: The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie)

The Outpost, which is currently streaming on Netflix and which deserves far more attention than it’s been given, is a film that left me breathless.  Seriously, as the film came to its conclusion, I realized that I was so emotionally overwhelmed by what I had just seen that I actually had to stop for a few minutes and catch my breath.  Once I was breathing again, I started to cry.  I cried all the way through the end credits.  That’s the sign of a powerful film.

Based on a true story, The Outpost takes place in 2009.  PRT Kamdesh is an American military outpost in Northern Afghanistan.  The post is located in a valley.  The mountains, which rise high up into the sky, are not only beautiful but they also provide the perfect cover for the Taliban.  The outpost is attacked on a nearly daily basis.  At the start of the film, we’re told that one military strategist said that the base should have been named after George Custer because it was impossible to defend and that, should a big attack ever truly come, all 53 of the man on the base would essentially be sitting ducks.

The Outpost follows those 53 men as they go about their daily lives on the base.  Commanders die and are replaced.  The soldiers try to hold onto their sanity, even though they know that the “big attack” is inevitable.  Though more than a few of the men have families back home, they try not to think about them.  They can’t risk the distractions.  Even the act of adopting a dog is seen as being a potentially dangerous move.  The humor is dark, to the extent that the base’s theme song is “Everybody Dies.”  While dealing with daily attacks, the base’s commanders try to win the support of the local villagers.  One of the local elders asks if the Americans are the same invaders who have been in Afghanistan for the last 40 years.  “No,” the flummoxed commander tries to explain, “those were the Russians.”  It quickly becomes apparent that the soldiers and the villagers have at least one thing in common: no one is quite sure why the Americans are there or if they’ll ever able to leave.  Orders are sent down by faceless generals and the men of PRT Kamdesh wait for the attacks that they all know are coming,

When the attack does come, it leads to one of the most visceral battle scenes that I’ve ever seen.  There’s nothing glamorous about the way that The Outpost portrays war.  Instead, it’s a confusing, loud, and terrifying nightmare.  The Outpost establishes early on that anyone can die, an important lesson when you consider how many action movies have been made about heroes who are mythically impervious to even the slightest of injuries.

For roughly the final hour of the film, The Outpost puts us into the middle of the Battle of Kamdesh.  The film pays tribute to the soldiers who fought in the battle, showcasing their bravery and the quick thinking that kept the battle from being even more of a disaster than it was.  At the same time, it also reminds us that war is not fun and that the scars of combat are not just physical.  When a soldier breaks down into tears while trying to talk about the battle, the film treats his feelings with the respect that they deserve.  It’s been said that few people are as anti-war as the people who have actually experienced combat and The Outpost shows us why that is.

The Outpost is an important film.  It’s especially important now that we have a new president and the national media is probably going to go back to ignoring whatever happens in Afghanistan for at least the next four years.  For far too many people, it’s become the forgotten war, even though it’s still ongoing.  The Outpost is a film that reminds us that no war and no soldier should ever be forgotten.

I’ve been pretty critical of director Rod Lurie in the past but, with The Outpost, he’s given us one of the best films of 2020.

Here Are The Nominations of the Online Film Critics Society!

The Online Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2020 yesterday!  They pretty much nominated all the usual suspects, along with I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  Personally, I’m glad that they nominated I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  As films go, it’s probably going to be too weird for the Academy so I’m glad to see Charlie Kaufman’s surreal little masterpiece get some respect from the critics groups.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same old same old.  There’s Nomadland!  There’s First Cow!  There’s Da 5 Bloods!  There’s …. wait a minute, they didn’t nominate Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Best Picture?  Well, that’s a little bit different.  Personally, I’m just hoping that one of these critics groups will have the courage necessary to nominate Money Plane.  Seriously, that was a fun movie and it featured Kelsey Grammer saying things like, “I’m the Rumble!”  That is a moment that future film students will definitely study.

Anyway, the OFCS winners will be announced on January 25th!

(OFCS sounds like the acronym of some sort of secret government agency.  “We’re from the OFCS.  We need you to vacate the office immediately.”)

Best Picture
Da 5 Bloods
First Cow
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Animated Feature
Over the Moon
The Wolf House

Best Director
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Steven Yeun – Minari

Best Actress
Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Bill Murray – On the Rocks
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Olivia Colman – The Father
Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

Best Original Screenplay
Da 5 Bloods – Danny Bilson, Paul Demeo, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Minari – Lee Isaac Chung
Never Rarely Sometimes Always – Eliza Hittman
Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin

Best Adapted Screenplay
First Cow – Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Charlie Kaufman
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
One Night in Miami – Kemp Powers

Best Editing
Da 5 Bloods – Adam Gough
Mank – Kirk Baxter
Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
Tenet – Jennifer Lame
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Alan Baumgarten

Best Cinematography
Da 5 Bloods – Newton Thomas Sigel
First Cow – Christopher Blauvelt
Mank – Erik Messerschmidt
Nomadland – Joshua James Richards
Tenet – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score
Da 5 Bloods – Terence Blanchard
Mank – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Minari – Emile Mosseri
Soul – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Tenet – Ludwig Goransson

Best Debut Feature
Radha Blank – The Forty-Year-Old Version
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Regina King – One Night in Miami
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Andrew Patterson – The Vast of Night

Best Film Not in the English Language
Another Round (Denmark)
Bacurau (Brazil)
Collective (Romania)
La Llorona (Guatemala)
Minari (United States)

Best Documentary
Boys State
Dick Johnson Is Dead
The Painter and the Thief

14 Shots From 13 Films: Special David Lynch Edition

4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a very special 75th birthday to the one and only David Lynch.  As should be evident by now, we’re big fans of David Lynch around here.  Not only is he a wonderfully unique filmmaker but he’s also literally the only person who can do what he does.  Trust me — I’ve seen hundreds of films that were made by people who obviously thought they were going to be the next David Lynch and none of them even come close.  David Lynch is a filmmaker who can make the most surreal images seem like the most natural thing in the world.

Speaking of images, it’s time for….

14 Shots From 13 David Lynch Films

Eraserhead (1977, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes, Herbert Cardwell)

The Elephant Man (1980, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Dune (1984, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Blue Velvet (1986, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes)

Twin Peaks 1.3 “Zen or the Skill To Catch a Killer” (1990, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frank Byers)

Wild At Heart (1990, dir by Frederick Elmes)

Twin Peaks 2.22 “Beyond Life and Death” (1991, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frank Byers)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch, DP: Ron Garcia)

Lost Highway (1997, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

The Straight Story (1999, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Mulholland Drive (2001, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Inland Empire (2006, dir by David Lynch, DP: David Lynch)

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 15 (dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 18 (2017, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Happy birthday, David Lynch!

Artwork of the Day: The Insiders (by Verne Tossey)

by Verne Tossey

This novel about Washington insiders and corruption was first published in 1958.  Washington corruption has obviously been a popular topic for a very long time.  It was written by Booth Money, which I’m assuming was a pseudonym.  Whether it’s real or not, it’s a great name for a writer.

The cover art is by Verne Tossey, who I profiled back in 2017.  It features a stereotypical corrupt pol (they’re always overweight and bald) and a woman who I assume is meant to be his mistress.  While talking on the phone, she’s holding a newspaper that features headline about the Senate investigating a lobbyist.  Influence is definitely about to be peddled in the shadow of the Capitol Dome!


Music Video of the Day: It’s A Mistake by Men At Work (1983, directed by Tony Stevens)

Like yesterday’s music video of the day, today’s entry is an anti-war song from 1983.  This time, it’s from Australia’s Men at Work and, as opposed to yesterday’s earnest video from Europe, the video for It’s A Mistake takes a darkly satirical approach to the song’s themes.

After starting out with toy soldiers and stop motion animation, the video segues into the members of the band portraying children who go from playing war to being invited into a tent by an American officer, where they discover a bunch of other officers having a party.  War is all fun and games when you’re not the one doing the fighting.  When the children grow up and all pursue different careers (businessman, activist, doctor, and road workers), they’re still drafted to serve in the military.  Whilst the soldiers fight, the generals gather in an underground bunker and one of them accidentally launches the nukes while trying to stub out a cigar.

Despite or maybe because of it’s anti-American sentiments (even Ronald Reagan gets a satiric shout-out in the song), It’s A Mistake actually charted higher in the States than in the band’s native Australia.  In Australia, it peaked at 34 while in the States, it hit 6.

The video was directed by Tony Stevens, whose entire directorial output pretty much consisted of music videos for Men at Work and Midnight Oil.