Spling reviews Cabin Fever, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind and Rams as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a lockdown mystery drama thriller, a celebrity documentary and a contemplative drama.
Starting off with a film opening on Box Office…
A family separated by lockdown seek understanding and forgiveness.
Writer-Director: Tim Greene
Stars: Jenna Upton, James Cuningham and Keenan Arrison
– Innovative writer-director Tim Greene led a campaign to create a movie in which actors would have to film their own performances, often acting alone.
– While ambitious, the idea was not inconceivable in light of the industry shutdown with more feature films being shot on cellphone and via a tapestry of social media simulations in films such as Unsane and Searching…
– Created on a shoestring budget without any specialised camera equipment or crew during lockdown and shot guerilla style in just as many days as it took to write the screenplay, the film does have its challenges.
– Blending aspects from the lockdown and creating a low-hanging tension over the characters, the film grapples with a dysfunctional family trying to find certainty in a time of chaos.
– Using camera footage to replicate video conference phone calls and computer sessions, Cabin Fever pieces together the interactions between a family, their friends and even colleagues.
– While the lack of spoonfeeding adds to the mystery, it’s difficult to compel the storytelling format without much action.
– Video call dialogues give us a semblance of the characters and their unique predicament, but it would have been more effective to focus on one of their stories rather than splintering them into an ensemble effort.
– While the performances are good under the circumstances with footage edited mid-call, the characters are too self-involved to be accessible.
– It’s difficult to care for and while there are some great moments where it truly finds its stride, the camera movement is limited and silence is underutilised.
– Cabin Fever shifts gear in the third act as things come to a head, but it’s mostly a voyeuristic experience.
– The film’s experimental nature and unique context make it easier to appreciate, but it would have benefited from more development time, a stronger story concept and higher stakes.
– While newsworthy, commendable and intrepid as a world first, it’s existence is more of a testament and curious pilot study than a full-fledged entertainment.
A flimsy 4 on the splingometer
Moving on to a documentary now on Showmax…
NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND
An exploration of Natalie Wood’s life and career through those who knew her best.
Director: Laurent Bouzereau
Stars: Natalie Wood, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Robert Wagner
– This HBO documentary is a tribute to the actress who was nominated for three Academy Awards.
– Having started as a child star much like Judy Garland, her decades of on-screen achievements were overshadowed by her mysterious death.
– Having drowned just off the island of Catalina over a regular yacht getaway with her then husband Richard Wagner, tabloids love revisiting the murder mystery each year.
– In an effort to set the record straight as well as give her mother a proper sendoff, her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner spearheads this comprehensive documentary.
– Reconnecting with Wood’s friends, ex-husbands, co-stars and admirers, she gets an opportunity to piece the puzzle together.
– From her highly publicised relationships to her best performances, we get a portrait of Natalie Wood over the years from her breakthrough role in Miracle on 34th Street to her Oscar-nominated roles in Rebel Without A Cause, Splendour in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger.
– Having departed this world when her youngest was only seven, the documentary chronicles the highs and lows by stringing fuzzy memories into a compilation of interviews, photographs, film clips and personal commentaries in a way for her daughters to try and make peace with their famous mother.
– This is an infotaining and emotional walk down memory lane, revisiting a very different age and style of performance in Hollywood.
– Clearing the air, celebrating her amazing film career and unpacking who Natalie Wood was, it’s a rose-tinted, long-awaited and fitting obituary to one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a movie now on Labia Home Screen…
In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years try to save their sheep.
Writer-Director: Grímur Hákonarson
Stars: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson and Charlotte Bøving
– Rams is a wry drama about two brothers who do their best to maintain a long-running feud
– Both sheep farmers, who compete in the annual best ram competition, they come to blows after the prizewinner is deemed to be a carrier of a devastating livestock virus.
– Nominated for best foreign film at the Academy Awards in 2015, Rams is an unusual drama that functions much like a documentary.
– Naturalistic performances underscore the realistic element to the film, which tends to hold shots a bit longer than a documentary giving it a more wistful, poetic edge.
– The symbol of Rams carries through as a metaphor in the film as they struggle to make peace, trying to cope with the authorities who are doing a sweep on the area.
– Sparsely scripted, the on-location shooting takes you into their world, quirky lifestyles and niche sheep farming community.
– The icy landscapes and understated humour is reminiscent of Fargo, yet it’s much more grounded, contemplative and haunting.
– Rams is a fairly slow-moving film, which will make it difficult for everyone to appreciate but it’s also surprisingly moving and immersive thanks to its realistic storytelling and unpredictable nature.
– Naturally geared towards comedy… allowing its sense of humour more space to roam would’ve enriched the experience and perhaps this is what fuelled the Australian remake with Sam Neill.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
CABIN FEVER… an ambitious, experimental and timely concept fuels this underdeveloped and low budget fly-on-the-screen mystery thriller ensemble drama… A flimsy 4!
NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND… a comprehensive, eclectic and emotional celebrity portrait of an actress whose life was clouded by her mysterious death… A solid 7!
RAMS… a defiant lead performance and a poetic documentary style treatment compel this slow-moving and tender drama… A solid 7!
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