Spring Breakdown #7: FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (dir by Chris Smith)


So, last night, I finally watched FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the Netflix documentary about the infamous Fyre Festial.

As you may remember, the Fyre Festival was supposed to be the greatest party of 2017.  Influencers played it up on Instagram.  A commercial for it, one that featured the world’s top models on a beautiful island, was pretty much inescapable on Facebook.  It was going to be the greatest musical festival of all time, with luxury villas and yachts and private chefs and …. Blink-182?  Even before the entire festival was revealed to be a massive fraud, I have to admit that I was kind of like, “All this for Blink-182?”

Anyway, the festival did turn out to be a disaster.  A lot of people paid a lot of money to end up on the beach, staying in rain-soaked FEMA tents and eating pre-packaged sandwiches.  The bands cancelled so there wasn’t even any music.  After the festival was officially canceled, several people found themselves stranded on the island.  Those of us who weren’t there followed the drama on twitter.  We joked about the Lord of the of Flies.  One of my favorite tweets about the whole mess compared it to an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.  “The Gang Puts On A Music Festival.”

At the time, very few people had much sympathy for anyone involved in the Fyre Festival.  Not only did the organizers seem to be a group of insufferable douchebags but so did the people who paid thousands for dollars for a FEMA tent, a cheese sandwich, and Blink-182.  Having now watched the Netflix documentary …. well, I still don’t have much sympathy for the organizers or the participants.

I do have sympathy for the people who actually lived in the island.  They were taken advantage of and most of them received no financial compensation for the work that they put into the festival.  While we were all laughing on twitter, one poor restaurant owner lost a fortune feeding all of the people who were stranded in the Bahamas.  While we were making jokes, the people who actually did all the work went unpaid.

The documentary starts with festival organizer Billy McFarland and celebrity co-sponsor Ja Rule annoying Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajowski, and Hailey Baldwin on an island that once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar and it ends with McFarland heading for federal prison.  Billy McFarland emerges as a professional con man who built his success by exploiting people’s desire to be a part of an “exclusive” club.  Before Fyre, McFarland ran a credit card company.  Even after the disaster of the Fyre Festival, McFarland continued to use the Fyre e-mail list to try to sell VIP access that he couldn’t actually provide.  Even when under indictment, McFarland allows himself to be filmed while he brags about “hustling.”  He really can’t help himself.

Ultimately, this documentary works best as a portrait of the power of fame.  From the start, it’s obvious that the festival is going to be a disaster.  Everyone who is interviewed states that, at no point, did they think Fyre would be a success.  (One person explains that it takes at least a year to set up a successful music festival.  Fyre tried to do it in a matter of weeks.)  But, because Billy McFarland paid Kendall Jenner and a bunch of other social media superstars to promote the festival, people who should have known better paid a lot of money for a tent and a stale sandwich.  McFarland may not have known how to put on a music festival but he definitely knew how to exploit our celebrity-obsessed culture.

During the documentary, one of the festival’s organizers — Andy — tells a story about how he was prepared to give a customs official oral sex in order to get him to release a delivery of Evian water.  Reportedly, due to the success of the documentary and the popularity of that anecdote, Andy will be getting his own reality show.  That seems like a fitting coda for the whole thing.

Here’s The Super Bowl Spot for Our Planet!


This might be nice!

Our Planet is a new Netflix series where Sir David Attenbourgh explores never-before-seen habitats.  I always get a little bit worried about nature documentaries because they always seem to lead up to a bunch of tigers eating a gazelle but, judging from this Super Bowl spot, it looks like the show features some really impressive footage.

Plus, I can’t resist anything that feature animals looking quizzically at a camera.

Here’s the Super Bowl spot for Our Planet!

IO, Review By Case Wright


io 1

New beginnings and adventure versus intimacy and connection is the theme of Netflix’s latest straight to stream scifi think piece- IO.  It makes sense that human connection is the main theme because this movie was written by a team.  Rule of thumb: if you see Writer 1 and Writer 2 that was rewritten because writer 1 kinda sucked, BUT, if you see Writer 1 & Writer 2, this was written as a creative team.  In this case, there were three writers working together: Clay Jeter, Charles Spano, & Will Basanta.  I can’t imagine how challenging that would be for a film script mostly because I’m very solitary as a writer.  I’m an extrovert in every other way, but my ideal writing space is a well-lit isolation cave.  What is impressive to me  is that Netflix took a chance on these writers because it was their first real feature.  Normally, I would make a parenthesis next to the writers’ names, but here they haven’t really done anything prior.    The director, Jonathan Helpert, has done short films, never a feature. Despite this being everyone’s first feature, they executed well and attracted some real talent to their piece: Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Winter Soldier).

The film takes place in just two locations, has two principles, and essentially just a cameo by a third actor.  The special effects were so minimalist that it made Another Earth (Lisa’s Review) look like Star Wars.  90% of the film takes place on a campsite, 5% in an empty neighborhood, and 5% in a museum. This film really ratchets up the intimacy and nothing can make two people closer than not having any other human beings around to distract them.

At first, I thought I was in for some Al Gore environmentalist porn because the film begins with a mass exodus of humanity from earth to an outpost to IO because runaway pollution changed our air to ammonia.  Obviously, there’s not enough fabreeze in the world to get rid of that smell.  Our heroine, Sam (Margaret Qualley) is up on a mountain campsite where the air is still breathable.  She is working alone to further her father’s research to adapt bees and plants to the new atmosphere in order to make the world habitable for humans again.  She makes trips down to the city below to scavenge for parts and to finally get decent tickets to see Hamilton.  This sounds like it would be dull, but it’s totally engaging because Margaret Qualley is such a talent that she plays the claustophic loneliness so you can feel it yourself.

Sam has a REALLY long distance relationship with Elon her engineer boyfriend who is determined to find humanity a new home.  His life is in the unknown and the stars; whereas, Sam’s is one earthbound and lonely.  Her loneliness is ended with the arrival of Micah (Anthony Mackie) a much older man than she, but there are obvious sparks.  They share an interest in the humanities and mourn our lost paradise.  Micah followed Sam’s father’s advice and attempted to stay on earth and survive and adapt, but doing so cost him his wife’s life and anyone else’s who listened to him.  He spent years floating around earth on a hot air balloon, seeing humanity’s fall from above.  When Micah met Sam, their age difference, the poisoned earth, or the uncertain future didn’t matter because they made a connection and developed concern for one another.

A lot has been discussed about the quasi-ambiguous ending because I suppose people are really good at missing the point.  It never was about whether humanity retook the earth or colonized a new home beyond the stars; it was about humans rediscovering their humanity.  In fact, the last lines of the film discussed exploration, coming to where you began, and re-discovering your starting point as if it were new because it is: you have changed, you have grown, the meaning has evolved.  By the end of the film, Sam and Micah had learned that they were still human.  These connections are why we fight a Trojan War to bring our loved ones home because we are connected to them, they matter, and because we are human.  The end was not about whether she survived and lived on earth on not; it was heartbreaking because alive or dead, we knew that the roads Micah and Sam would walk would not be together.

 

Trailer: Velvet Buzzsaw


A few years ago, Dan Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rene Russo excited film viewers everywhere when they collaborated on Nightcrawler, a portrait of a psychologically damaged man who proves to be quite adept at playing the media game.  The combination of Gillroy’s atmospheric direction and satirical script with Gyllenhaal’s wonderfully unhinged lead performance made for an incendiary and prophetic film.  Just why exactly Nightcrawler was totally snubbed by the Academy continues to be one of the most perplexing mysteries in recent Oscar history.  Despite strong support from the critics, not even Gyllenhaal picked up a nomination.

Dan Gilroy followed Nightcrawler up with Roman Israel, Esq., which was as forgettable as Nightcrawler was memorable but which still managed to accomplish what Nightcrawler didn’t.  It received an Oscar nomination for its leading man.  One gets the feeling that nomination had more to do with Denzel Washington’s reputation for award-worthy work than for anything that actually happened in the movie.  Gyllenhaal went on to give award-worthy performances in films like Southpaw and Stronger but the Academy has continued to snub him.  As for Russo, she’s only appeared in three films post-Nightcrawler and none of them were worthy of her talents.

Well, this year, Gyllenhaal, Russo, Gilroy, and Nightcrawler‘s cinematographer, Robert Elswit, have reunited for Velvet Buzzsaw!  That’s right, they’ve got the band together again!  The film appears to be a mix of horror film and an art world satire.  As the film’s plot description puts it: After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.  The trailer would seem to suggest that paintings themselves are coming to life to enact revenge on sell-outs, everywhere.  The idea of haunted paintings has been explored by everyone from Oscar Wilde to H.P. Lovecraft to Lucio Fulci and I look forward to seeing what type of spin Gilroy puts on it.

Along with Russo and Gyllenhaal, this film also features John Malkovich.  Honestly, I don’t think you can do an art world satire without finding a role for Malkovich.  Much as how Bill Paxton simply belonged in Nightcrawler, it seems that Malkovich would just belong in Velvet Buzzsaw.

Velvet Buzzsaw will be playing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it will be officially released by Netflix on February 1st!  I get the feeling that we’re either going to love it or we’re going to hate it.  I don’t think there’s going to be much in-between.

Check out the trailer below!

Trailer: The Punisher – Season 2


the punisher

The first season of The Punisher on Netflix ended up being better than what had been advertised. The series and it’s ultraviolent tone became a divisive factor in how the show was scene.

Some saw it as the true adaptation of the titular character and his anti-hero status within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Others saw it as poor taste considering the rash of mass shootings and gun violence that’s plagued the country the last couple of years.

There was no disagreement in that Jon Bernthal owned and seemed born to play the role of vengeance-fueled and grief-stricken Marine veteran Frank Castle. His portrayal not just of Frank Castle but his vigilante alter-ego, The Punisher, was like watching a force of nature on screen.

It was a no-brainer that a second season of the series would be set into production and Netflix didn’t hesitate. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing that no matter how good season 2 turns out there’s a high probability that this will be the final season of The Punisher on Netflix as every Netflix-produced Marvel show has been cancelled the past year with only the upcoming seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones left.

Season 2 is set of a January 18, 2019 release date on Netflix worldwide.

Trailer: Netflix’s Kingdom


kingdom

Yes, I know it’s another trailer for a zombie series. Even with my love for all things zombie fiction, I must admit that we’ve reached beyond the point of oversaturation. There’s more and more bad zombie fiction (in TV, film, books, etc.) than there are good ones. Once in awhile we will get something that puts a new spin or adds something new to the zombie genre.

We saw this with 2016’s The Girl with All the Gifts and South Korea’s Train to Busan. Even the darling of all things zombie fiction, AMC’s The Walking Dead has hit a new low in ratings (yet still continues to be the highest rated cable series).

Netflix is now jumping into the zombie pool to take it’s pound of flesh with it’s South Korean production of a zombie series set during Korea’s medieval Joseon dynastic period. It’s a blend of court intrigue and survival horror.

The series is called Kingdom and from all promotional materials released since it was first announced, the series looks to bring the zombie genre into a time period we rarely see the genre appear. Rarely do we see zombie fiction on the big or small screen set in a time period other than modern times.

Netflix will release Kingdom worldwide on January 25, 2019 with a second season already set for production early 2019.

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Netflix 2018)


cracked rear viewer

The day has finally arrived. November 2, 2018. I ordered a free trial of Netflix specifically so I could watch the completed version of Orson Welles’ final film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND . Welles worked on this project for over a decade, and the footage sat for decades more before finally being restored and re-edited. A film buff’s dream come true – perhaps. There were questions I needed answered. Was there enough salvageable material to make a coherent movie? Does it follow Welles’ vision? Would it live up to the hype? Was it worth the wait?

The answer: OH, HELL YEAH!!

Welles shot over ten hours of film, utilizing different film stocks (Super 8, 16mm, 35mm), switching back and forth from color to classic black and white, to create his movie, which is a documentary about the movie-within-the-movie’s director – a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. It took six years (from 1970-76)…

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