(Shoutout to Mindy Kaling’s Things I’ve Bought That I Love.)
J.C. Chandor’s films
Pretty much from the minute I watched Margin Call, I was in. But you know how you completely fall in love with one thing–like, a musician’s album or a director’s first film, but then when they come out with another album or film, it’s just not as good as the first one that you loved?–that was my concern with Chandor.
When I heard he was doing All is Lost with Robert Redford, my expectations were even higher, because I fucking love Robert Redford. Surely Chandor and Redford combined was going to be great, right? Right?
And holy shit, it was. Add on how impressive that there’s barely any dialogue in the film. You’re watching Robert Redford on this boat for an hour and a half and it sounds pretty boring on the surface, but the film held a lot of tension, even without dialogue, and although I don’t have a particular yen to sail, watching all of Redford’s actions around the boat was incredibly compelling.
Chandor has a talent of making me become invested in subjects I didn’t even know I cared about. For example, I wasn’t particularly keen to watch Margin Call, because living in New York, I was pretty tired of hearing about the financial crisis. But once I started it, I was totally sucked into this world and how things fell spectacularly apart. Same for the boating in All Is Lost.
I probably wouldn’t have had much interest in A Most Violent Year, either, except for Jessica Chastain. But the setting also intrigued me. New York, again, but this time, the film unfolds in 1981, the city’s most violent year. However, the trailer made it look like another mafia/gangster film, which is fine if you’re Goodfellas or The Godfather, but it is a type of film that is incredibly hard to pull off well.
Much to my surprise, when I saw an early screening of the film, it was really the opposite of a “gangster” film. While there are certainly shady characters and sketchy deals being made, the boss of Standard Oil, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), tries to remain honorable in the face of his drivers being threatened, his trucks and oil being stolen, and a pile of legal charges brought against him and his company. All of this while he tries to expand his business by buying another property. (P.S. Chastain wasn’t a disappointment. She was fantastic.)
Chandor has a great eye and his films are all beautifully composed. There’s a consistent style, even though he’s had a different cinematographer for each film.
And yet again, I’m excited for his next film, Deepwater Horizon, slated for 2016, but also skeptical. It’s the first feature he hasn’t written himself, instead he joins Matthew Carnahan and Matthew Sand as the credited writers. I’m also holding my reservations about Mark Wahlberg in check.
I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I caught up with the first seven episodes over a two day period and am as curious as everyone else, many who have taken to the Internet to discuss this 15 year old murder case.
In January of 1999, in the suburbs of Baltimore, an 18-year-old Woodlawn High School senior, Hae Min Lee, went missing and was later found, dead from strangulation. The top suspect was her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, also a senior at Woodlawn. This American Life producer Sarah Koenig started researching the case last year and the podcast premiered in October. It takes you through the events of case: the potential alibi, sketchy characters, and the cell phone records, but Koenig allows listeners to see the gaping holes in the case. All the while, she is in touch with Adnan, who is serving a life sentence in the Maryland Correctional Facility.
Although some people have questioned the ethics of the podcast–for example, how does Hae Min Lee’s family feel about it?–I think it’s incredibly well put together, compelling, and addictive. I also find some hope in the interest it has generated. If people are so into the story that they’re discussing it at work or with their friends, spouses, parents, I hope it also gives people an awareness of how ineffectual our legal and justice systems can be. Maybe with a greater awareness, we can do a better job keeping our local police and courts in check. A lofty goal, maybe, but for someone who is an idealist, a nice thought that this podcast can have broader impact than just entertainment.
ETA: A recent Baltimore Sun article on the case.