A large component of our melancholy moods is a sadness and horror over how fragile we are. Our bodies, always betrayers in the end, are surprisingly strong, but vulnerable to any number of unforeseeable events that could attack us from without or within. Our emotional states, too, are susceptible to hurt and trauma. A way to describe heartbreak or shock from a devastating event is that we feel “shattered.”
Shannon Whisnant has always had a thirst for the spotlight, and the spotlight loves him right back. He’s a natural for reality shows; charismatic and hungry. When he bought a grill at a storage locker auction that happened to have somebody’s misplaced amputated calf and foot inside it, he thought he’d finally found his ticket to fame. He was right, and his obsession took him and the foot’s original owner on a stressful, dizzying, and somewhat redemptive ride. Independent documentary Finders Keepers, which is out in select theaters and available to be rented or bought on Amazon (which is what I did,) tells this strange, funny, and emotional tale with dignity and candor. Usually a leg is just a leg, but for these two men, it’s so much more.
The Bobby Fischer biopic Pawn Sacrifice implies that a brilliant mind obsessed with chess is at risk for madness: the threat is that closed system of logic with a massive amount of possibilities can bring you close to some kind of edge of sanity, a rabbit hole towards a maddening peak at the true vastness of the universe. Peter Sarsgaard’s Fr. William Lombardy ominously predicts Bobby’s unraveling by recounting a story about 19th century American chess legend Paul Morphy, who also had a short and illustrious chess career followed by a life of personal failures and mental illness. But, while Bobby Fischer’s antics were highly documented, extreme and political, Paul Morphy’s supposed madness is a bit more of a myth grown larger in the shadow of Bobby Fischer’s rocky life.
The trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s latest horror film Crimson Peak pulses like a dreaded heartbeat. The setting is a giant gothic house in Victorian-era northern England where everything is dark and nothing feels safe. Mia Wasikowska stars as writer Edith Cushing who falls in love with Tom Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharpe, and then has to move into his creepy secluded mansion with her new husband and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain.) The film’s color is lushly dark, with the exception of red, which is only associated with the ghosts that terrorize the young Ms. Cushing. This crimson stylistic decision isn’t just aesthetically interesting, it has a deep significance for Del Toro.
During the days of the Black Death the medical community believed the horrifying plague sweeping through Europe could be caught through the air. Not just through the air in the way we understand how some bugs spread today, they thought the deadly ailment moved in a gaseous “miasma” that you could protect yourself against with the right combo of pleasant scents.
Goodnight, Mommy is a visual thriller, if nothing else. The cinematography combined with the psychological gouging of child/mother relationships will leave you squirming.
People who wish to control people absolutely must also control all the information. When Warren Jeffs went to prison four years ago to start his life sentence, the only way he could continue his immaculate reign over his religious group was to lock everything down. Marriages stopped, and people he found threatening were sent away to the outside, where they presumably could do no harm to the closed-in community.
Our planet, for all it’s troubles and harsh realities, is pretty kind to us. As long as our lungs are working okay, taking a breath seems like a sure thing. Space stories like The Martian put our reliance on our perfectly balanced air in perspective, and help us feel grateful that, for most of us, the stresses of our lives don’t involve second-to-second survival decisions. We’re also lucky we don’t have to nearly blow ourselves in an attempt to grow calories for sustenance.
The Visit, a solid, winking return for M. Night Shymalan, wrestles with fears about aging, uses the documentary-footage horror device in a fresh way, and plays with fairytale and supernatural tropes. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that 15-year-old Rebecca, a prococious aspiring filmmaker, is hoping to fix things in her family and offer her mother the “elixir” of forgiveness via her footage. Rebecca’s family-uniting ambitions get derailed as their grandparents behavior turns from odd to frightening, but even when they start to fear for their lives she refuses to give up her emotionally-charged mission.
“Don’t run. Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody dies. Now, come watch TV,” Morty tells his sister Summer, who’s having a bitter teenage meltdown over news that her birth was a mistake. Summer’s going through a world-shattering event, but thanks to Grandpa Rick’s universe-bending, Morty has seen some things that put everything into perspective. What he’s saying is stark, but comforting.