In Theaters Now: The Lighthouse (2019)

In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive with SPOILERS behind the cut.

Lighthouse_Poster
Teeny Poster

To paraphrase someone paraphrasing Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… unless it’s an 80 foot phallus symbolizing man’s hubristic attempt to navigate the tempestuous deeps of the sea and therefore also the human subconscious.

Let’s dive in!

The Lighthouse (2019) is a historical thriller/horror film by the writer/director team of Robert and Max Eggers, fresh off their success of 2016’s jolly lighthearted romp, The VVitch. If you haven’t seen The VVItch please know I just made a joke and with the exception of Black Phillip, it is neither lighthearted nor jolly. The Eggerses have already cemented their reputation as masters of subverting horror tropes with The VVitch, and The Lighthouse delivers more of the same, yet different. Magnificent costumes, an eerie score, and some soon-to-be legendary performances all combine to make an instant classic.

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“More o’ the same, says ye?” 

From the very opening scene, the film establishes itself with an aspect ratio of 1:19.1, which means the image is square. Filmed with a variety of cameras and lenses, including 35mm and some antique equipment dating back to 1918, the resultant effect is distinctive. There was even a little sign on the way into the theater stating, more or less, ‘Yes it is supposed to be that way please don’t tell us there’s something wrong with it.’ Between the peculiar aspect ratio, the black and white photography, stark compositions, and claustrophobic but vivid angles, it feels almost as if you’re watching some brilliant throwback from the dawn of cinema, the age where so many cinematic horror traditions were founded. Another reason I was reminded of that age was Pattinson’s performance, as his wide eyes and shaggy hair reminded me of Conrad Veidt in the immortal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Lighthouse_Veidt
Fun fact: Cesar the Sleepwalker’s resemblance to Edward Scissorhands started me on my journey to being a film critic. 

The story is fairly straightforward: Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson, sporting a more than passing 19th century Maine accent) has found work for the United States Lighthouse Service and is being dropped off to join Tom Wake (Willem Dafoe, genetically engineered to play this role; if he doesn’t go full Hemingway in the next 10 years we will have failed as a civilization).

The Lighthouse stands on a godforsaken, storm-washed rock infested with stroppy seabirds. The remote environment has already claimed one life, as Winslow is replacing a young man who went mad, claiming mermaids were singing to him. From the moment he arrives, Wake rides Winslow to get to work, quickly establishing a nautically flavored pecking order. Winslow is soon given almost more work than he can humanly do, and resentment blooms between the two men. The sonorous blast of a foghorn, noticeable early on and which should be jarring, inures itself and becomes no more remarkable than gulls crying or waves crashing. Wake gives Winslow task after task and insists they be done to his exacting standard, but the one thing Winslow is forbidden from servicing is The Light.

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Seriously, this movie still looks like a photo from that time period. SO PERFECTLY DONE. 

As the story winds out, it challenges the audience to read between the obvious threads: Is Wake real? Is Winslow? What really happened to the previous employee? How much of Wake’s Old Salt routine is an act, if any? What the hell is up between him and The Light?

Although Winslow manages the punishing routine well enough during his month-long assignment, a bad storm strands him on the island and he, already starting to unravel, comes straight off the spool. But anyone who’s watched the trailer knows that; the real treat is seeing it happen, how, and why. Viewers quickly realize that mysteries abound within Winslow, too.

Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and the other voices of early 20th century Weird fiction will find plenty to love, as well as the dialogue, which was inspired by both Shakespeare and Herman Mellville. I will say that when the film comes out for home release I will appreciate the subtitles, as I sometimes couldn’t understand the dialogue and certainly missed crucial plot info. Fans of season 1 of The Terror, would also greatly appreciate the film and its depiction of 19th century nautical life.

And now… To the Spoilers!

Continue reading “In Theaters Now: The Lighthouse (2019)”

More of the Britishiest Brits: The BBC’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Skip today’s entry if you find any of the following boring: British period pieces full of tricorn hats, pantaloons, masked balls, comedies of manners, compelling characters, dry British humor, magical imagery, and battles. If you are down with any or all of those things, please, read on! 

 

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Awkward stances and moody lighting! 

The phrase “modern classic” gets tossed around a lot, and isn’t always accurate. In the case of the BBC’s adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, it is possibly the only description that fits. I’ve already watched it twice, once with one eye on my knitting, and a second time just so I could soak up all the magnificent production and performances. There’s not a wasted moment of the show, and one season really just wasn’t enough, even though it perfectly captured the entire 600-page book.

Today’s post is all about the glorious adaptation, with some light, inconsequential spoilers.

If you aren’t already familiar with the story from reading the book, here is a quick summary:

Continue reading “More of the Britishiest Brits: The BBC’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”

Brief Post on the Oscar Wilde-Janelle Monae Connection

Perhaps other people have already identified the meaning behind this hat tip and I just missed it. Googling has found nothing about it, and so maybe it’s just my imagination, but I’d like to think that the hat tip is referencing another famous hat tip.

Because I am scum, I have still not written the Eddie Murphy post. I just can’t seem to get it together to work on it, and put the appropriate amount of energy and fun into it. But I shall persevere! Probably next week, as this week is going to be busy between work deadlines and writing stuff.

In the meantime, I would like to throw this out there. I am SURE someone has already talked about the connection between Oscar Wilde and Janelle Monae, but in case not…

Continue reading “Brief Post on the Oscar Wilde-Janelle Monae Connection”

Update!

The business of life has been more wearying than usual lately. I’m doing my best to keep productive and upbeat, but daily horrors on the news are making it an uphill slog.

Currently I’m working on a nice big post about Eddie Murphy and how I miss his creative output (yes, I know he’s still alive). Lots of fun rehashes of some of his best work, both old and … well, mostly old because I haven’t seen much of his work lately. But anyway, stay tuned for that! I’m also three episodes into Stranger Things, the Netflix series that basically has distilled American 80s film culture into a potent brew. I’m loving it so far! When I’m done I’ll do a write-up on that, too.

In the meantime, please enjoy this charming little song, The Unquiet Grave. It’s a folk song about a man in love with a ghost, and dates back to 14th century England. A version of it appeared on Penny Dreadful, sung first by Evelyn Poole and then refrained by her daughter, which is where I first heard of it. After a little digging I found the whole song, sung by a woman with a lovely plaintive voice in a slightly faster tempo than it appeared in the show. I’ll post the lyrics below, with some additional punctuation to make the speakers  more clear.

The Unquiet Grave

Cold blows the wind to my true love
and gently drops the rain
I only had but one true love
and in Greenwood she lies slain.

I’ll do as much for my true love
as any young girl may.
I’ll sit and mourn upon her grave
for twelve month and a day.

When the twelve months and one day had passed
her ghost began to speak,
“Why sittest thou all on my grave
and will not let me sleep?”

There is one thing that I want sweetheart,
there is one thing that I crave.
And that is a kiss from your lily white lips,
then I’ll go from your grave.

“My lips they are as cold as clay,
my breath smells earthy strong
And if you kiss my cold clay lips,
your days they won’t be long.

Go fetch me water from the desert
and blood from out of stone,
Go fetch me milk from a fair maid’s breast
that a young man never has known.”

T’was down in Cupid’s garden
where you and I would walk.
The finest flower that ever I saw
is withered to a stalk.

“The stalk is withered and dry sweetheart,
the flower will never return.”
And since I lost my one true love,
what can I do but mourn?

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,
when shall me meet again?
“When the old dead leaves that fall from the trees
are green and spring up again.”

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,
when shall me meet again?
“When the old dead leaves that fall from the trees
are green and spring up again.”

I hope your week is going well!

 

 

Welcome! Please, Let Me Show You Around!

Welcome to the big ‘Getting to Know Me’ post. I’ve noticed a lot of new folks reading my rambles, so I thought I would introduce myself and explain what kinds of things you’ll find here. Below the cut are some samples of the over 200 posts I’ve written that should help introduce you to me and my writing a little better.

Hi there!

Welcome to the big ‘Getting to Know Me’ post. I’ve noticed a lot of new folks reading my rambles, so I thought I would introduce myself and explain what kinds of things you’ll find here. Below the cut are some samples of the over 200 posts I’ve written that should help introduce you to me and my writing a little better.

Continue reading “Welcome! Please, Let Me Show You Around!”