It’s not hard to understand why Magazine Dreams ended up being one of the most divisive films out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Elijah Bynum’s sophomore effort is relentlessly intense, with an absolute powerhouse performance at its center from Jonathan Majors, and on the positive end the film has garnered critical comparisons to Uncut Gems and Taxi Driver. On the other end, some Sundance critics have lamented the challenge the film presents as exhausting, and perhaps overly familiar to the likes of Taxi Driver. In either instance, Magazine Dreams is a big swing for the fences and a bold character study deserving of attention.
Killian Maddox (Majors) is an amateur bodybuilder, and his obsession with becoming a professional is all-encompassing, negating pretty much any chance of an actual life outside of the sport. He cares for his ailing grandfather and holds down a job as a grocery bagger, but there are no real relationships in Killian’s life. He’s shy and quiet, and the trauma from his past has very clearly impacted his ability to interact with others in a social setting. And the world of bodybuilding only exacerbates Killian’s loneliness, forcing a perennial focus on everything he lacks, his own objectification a required part of the path to glory.
Continue reading Magazine Dreams (2023)
Yesterday morning, after I wrote about Moneyball, I went back and looked up the other films from 2011 in my little Film’s I’ve Seen notebook. I don’t actually have a little Films I’ve Seen notebook, but I do have a computer and an uncanny ability, usually, to read the title of a movie or see the poster and recall if I have recently watched it. Sometimes not. Alex Cross? I watched that? But sometimes I manage to remember something I did without even being reminded by a computer that I did it, and watching The Devil’s Double is one of those things.
I don’t know if that thing is a good thing or not, though. The Devil’s Double is definitely memorable, but it lacks the certain whatever that would make it truly unforgettable. Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark from Captain America: The First Avenger/Agent Carter and soon-to-be-star of AMC’s Preacher adaptation) pulls double duty as Uday Hussein (the eponymous Devil) and Latif Yahia (the eponymous Double) in this highly-fictionalized biopic, and he’s the reason the film sticks in your mind at all. Latif, the man forced to become the body double for the sadistic eldest son of Saddam Hussein, is the heart and soul of The Devil’s Double; Uday, heartless, soulless, is the real force of nature within the film.
Continue reading The Devil’s Double (2011)
I wanted to love Nightingale unconditionally. We’ve written about one-man-show films here before, from Locke to Buried to Redford‘s All Is Lost to Altman‘s Secret Honor, and Nightingale certainly stands with those true one-man-shows rather than with, say, Cast Away or Gravity or 127 Hours or any other single-character flick that actually has a small supporting cast. Nightingale has no supporting cast, no strange premise wherein the hero is trapped underground or trapped on the high seas or trapped in space. Nightingale‘s Peter Snowden is trapped in his mind, and that’s scarier than any of the aforementioned scenarios.
David Oyelowo is the single actor in question here, and to say he delivers a great performance would be a pathetic understatement. Oyelowo is an absolute force of nature from the first frame of Nightingale to the last. The storyline is unsettling, sure, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but shorn of that Oyelowo’s performance is unsettling in and of itself for the sheer velocity of it all. Not only are Peter’s highs and lows very very high and very very low, but they’re backed up into each other and jumbled up in such a way that Peter switches like a lightbulb from on to off, from calm to manic, from contemplative to downright inconsolable. It’s impressive, but before that it’s incredibly disturbing.
Continue reading Nightingale (2015)
How can a movie be made to do justice to the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama, one of the most significant moments in the history of the United States? Ask Ava DuVernay. How can an actor embody such a revered and important historical figure such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a realistic and poignant manner? Ask David Oyelowo.
With Selma, both DuVernay and Oyelowo deliver one of the year’s most powerful films. A rare movie that actually can provide a fresh and powerful look at three months that came to shape this country, Selma follows Dr. Martin Luther King in his attempt to ensure equal voting rights. After talks with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) break down, King takes to Selma where he plans a dangerous, but necessary march to Montgomery, Alabama. Despite roadblocks, trouble at home, and several tragic deaths, King and all those who followed him triumphantly complete the march and alter history by helping to convince LBJ to create legislation to allow for equal voting rights.
Continue reading Selma (2014)