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Netfix: Casting JonBenét

casting_jonbenetThe murder of JonBenét Ramsey will probably go down in as one of the saddest, strangest unsolved murders in American history. Despite all that science can give us, 20 years later we still don’t know who killed JonBenét. The Netflix original documentary, Casting JonBenét, takes an original look at one of our nation’s most speculated upon murders.

What makes this documentary so interesting is that it’s not so much a documentary as it is a deconstruction. No actual associated parties are involved – it’s all reenactment. This method  is incredibly appropriate, considering that this case is pure speculation.

From the moment they made their public appearance, Patsy and John Ramsey were judged unscrupulously by the public, and would be judged for the rest of their lives. Additionally, there would be little to no personal time to grieve, let alone process this atrocity, while being prime suspects for the police.The beauty of this documentary is everything we witness is that spectacle.

On the whole, this is an exploration of mass perception and how it shapes our views of others, while reflecting on our own inner troubles. During a powerful point in the story, when John and Patsy are meant to be making their statements to the police, the actors spill their guts about their darker character manifests. The finale is an emotional cacophony, which renders the viewer overwhelmed, and ultimately very sad.

The Good
In the end, I found this film to be haunting. The spectrum at the end – every possibility played out to its fullest – cements that this was a real tragedy that actually occurred to real people.

The Bad-ish?
As much as I appreciate the idea of a speculative documentary about a news spectacle, it’s really an anti-documentary. Though an exploration of emotional gravitas, one can’t help but feel it hides behind the Ramsey’s limelight to create an art piece. …Not that there’s anything wrong with that, is there?

After all, art is inspired in the strangest or bleakest of places, and there’s hardly any exploitation to be had – the performers are of their own bias and the filmmakers do not portray any opinions on the matter. It’s less about the Ramseys themselves and more about reflecting on theoreticals. So in a sense, the film is false advertising. An additional ironic cherry on top is that JonBenét is hardly even in the film at all – after all, the parents are the real stars of the show.

The Bizarre
…Does that sex-ed guy just carry those flails around with him everywhere?

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Hail, Caesar!

It’s 1951 and the world of entertainment is on fire: the studio system is falling apart, television is on the rise, and the second Red Scare is running full-tilt. But during these times of great duress, Americans still turn to the silver screen for an escape – dramas, musicals, and of course, epics.

 

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Clooney-meets-Clancy epic.

It’s no secret that Hollywood itself is a hot mess of internal drama, and during a time when actors a literally owned by studios, it is of utmost importance that everything’s up to status-quo. Enter Capital Pictures’ key producer and “fixer,” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). When Hollywood’s biggest star (George Clooney) goes missing, it’s up to Mannix to step in before the tabloids catch on.

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Tilda Swinton as a pair of twins with rival columns, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Thessaly pictured).

 

Hail, Caesar! is a delightful mix of Lebowski/Burn After Reading hijinks met with the some bizarre meta qualities reminiscent of Barton Fink (not to mention the Fink references in themselves). There is also an underlying solemness to this film, especially considering our hero deals with personal dilemmas of both future and faith. After all, he’s a man who takes his sometimes dubious orders from a faceless voice, but also charmed by a future of nuclear proportions.

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Lady top, fish bottom, sailor’s mouth.

Of course, when things begin to get dour, we lighten up with a water ballet or a musical number – as I mentioned, this was a time of spectacle, so naturally as an audience we get to take part as well.

In all, Hail, Caesar! is a cynical love letter to old Hollywood. It’s a weird sort of folly with socio-eco-idiological ties. It’s masterfully shot, wonderfully designed, and the performances are fantastic (just the exchange between Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich is worth it alone).

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the nature of god is portrayed with a sort of heavy-handed whimsy: we never see their face, but will still blindly follow their orders, no matter how questionable they are. Sometimes things work out – alas, would that it ’twere so simple.

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I’m not even the biggest Tatum fan, but I desperately want this to be a real thing.