In Review!: “Blade Runner 2049”

Much has changed in the futuristic world of replicants and blade runners, but as ever in the real world, destructive forces remain the same. Blade Runner 2049 takes up decades after Ridley Scott’s influential vision and gives us something glossier and just as morally intricate. Ryan Gosling’s Officer K discovers a mystery than ultimately puts him on the search for Harrison Ford’s Deckard, with the potential for earth-shattering consequences. This time, in the hands of director Denis Villeneuve, the epic elements are also a bit glacial.

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In Review!: “Arrival”

Denis Villeneuve returns after the genius Sicario for another highwire balance act of theme, genre, and entertainment with science fiction wonder Arrival. As much as Villeneuve is proving to be a master of assembling precise craftspeople to create a harmonious experience with his films, Arrival also proves him to be one of the deepest empathy. If Sicario and Prisoners gave his worlds actual brutality, this time there is an agony of the soul to which he finds our greater natures – this is ultimately his most optimistic film, but the emotional triumph is also the most hard won. In a bravura feat of cinema, science, and language, Arrival will deceive you with its modesty and surprise you in its ideas.

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From the film’s mysterious outset, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is brought in as a language expert to facilitate contact with one of twelve alien vessels that have dropped across the globe. The intent of the visitation is unclear, the alien heptapods frightening but not obviously dangerous. As Banks develops vocabulary and communication with the visitors, the limits of language on her own planet escalates the sense of paranoia. Without spoiling too much, the film becomes about the very nature of language to alter our perceptions, our ability to think and feel.

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filmmixtape’s Best Director of 2015

One of the reasons that helped 2015 be such a strong year for film is the strength of vision from a large number of directors. This was truly a director’s year and that was reflected both inside and outside of the studio system, with big gambles in approach being taken from The Revenant to Room, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Tangerine. Here are my choices for the directors crafting the strongest point of view:

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

  • Crafted without sensationalism and with a distanced respect to moments of privacy, Abrahamson approaches Room with stunning emotional and visual intuition. The film’s two halves are distinct and different in style, yet the whole film remains cohesive. He makes the unbearable subject palatable without sacrificing honesty.

Todd Haynes – Carol

  • The film is fascinated with the unspoken and Haynes loads every frame with subtext that informs both character and circumstance. Crafting the film to a gradual swell of emotion, he turns Carol into an invigorating and cathartic experience not unlike falling in love. No one makes period look as natural as he does.

Spike Lee – Chi-Raq

  • A swift reminder that the filmmaker is one of the shrewdest at blending tones and finding hilarious humanity within larger social conflicts. The whole thing shouldn’t work but it does glouriously, as much a transplant of ancient Greek theatre as a music video. Welcome back, Spike.

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Not since Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge has such a distinct directorial vision been given such a large scale to run amok. Miller throws so much on the screen visually and thematically, but has a refined sense of when to draw us in and when to hold back. That the film isn’t a complete mess is due to his complete control of his art.

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

  • He corals every element behind and in front of the camera to serve his point of view and finds ambiguous depth in an already strong procedural script. His control of what’s happening on screen and to the audience borders on the fascistic. He’s becoming one of the best at challenging audiences in genre packages.

See the winner after the jump!

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