09 April 2017

At the movies: SEQUENCE BREAK.



Kinky, ghoulish, serrated, trippy as fuck, and kind of sweet, Sequence Break is yet another in 2017’s remarkable array of debut features. Imagine the narrative mechanics of The Last Starfighter, but told with the visceral grace of one of David Lynch’s psychogenic fugues.




You wouldn’t think a film this expert in the particulars of nonconsensual melting would elicit such an emotional catharsis, but here we are... Written and directed by Graham Skipper, whom you may know as the moral center of the Begoverse, or from his leading turn in last year’s haunted VHS board game epic Beyond The Gates, Sequence Break is like something distilled from the hippocampus (the part of the brain where nightmares and fever dreams live). It’s rooted in situations that even those poor souls with no affection for classic arcade games can relate to- in a way, the film’s transformative horror/hope could insinuate itself into a near infinite number of situations with creative people and the fields in which they hone their craft.




But arcade tech places us in a visual space where we understand the capabilities of The Now and The Then. And then it takes us further. Into The Beyond, which is a phrase I use both in its literal sense, completing the triplet, and as a shout-out to Lucio Fulci’s 1981 apocalypse of mortified flesh and inescapable dread. Skipper knows his shit when it comes to horror and SciFi, and he never goes for ‘spot the reference’ jukeboxery. But he’s also aiming wider than one might expect- Sequence Break is also one of the best weirdo romances since The Lobster, and it’s not inconceivable that we might see its title popping up as dating app profile slang in the not too distant future.




Oz (Chase Williamson, who could have stopped making movies after John Dies At the End and would still be a damn treasure) is the guy who fixes arcade games. It’s neither social worker nor 24-hour veterinarian, but it’s a job that is necessary. He’s a little weird, and routine-based, but that’s how the world is when you’re not working the traditional 9-to-5. He may well never meet the folk he brings joy to a quarter at a time, but he’s doing honest work that’s nothing to be ashamed about. And unfortunately, in a situation that’s becoming all too familiar to folk who have those small-scale artisan jobs, the economy just isn’t as supportive to peripheral artists. So at this moment, into the middle of this crisis, comes Tess (Fabianne Therese, who eschews quirkiness for a pragmatism grounded equally in agency and fun). She’s a writer, though that’s currently taken a backseat to tempcraft. So she’s also biding her time, cultivating an appreciation for gin and for lanky, scruffy dudes – like Oz.




The two have a casual, unforced chemistry, and they’re as cute together as they are funny. Also, Tess introduces the color blue to Oz’s life. When they first really talk to one another, her presence brings the blue light of a bar, a shade that was always there, into sharp contrast in the redscape of how we (and Oz) have been seeing things. Williamson delivers a deeply sensitive performance, bringing a lot across without ever telegraphing the journey he’s on. His Oz is the kind of guy who keeps his cost of living down. He’s not trying to rock the boat, or make a big score, or fuck anybody over. “You’re an antique,” she says to him, and he confirms that others have said the same thing. But he’s not an idiot manchild. He’s not anybody’s stereotype. But then there’s the matter of the mysterious circuit board that shows up at the arcade. It’s when Oz hooks it up to one of the nonfunctioning cabinets at the office that things start changing.




Sequence Break shares certain of its fundamental elements with Cronenberg’s Videodrome, but its New Flesh rejects the linear hierarchy of Dr. O’Blivion’s mutagenic signal. Its White Eye is the Vajrayana of body horror, using technology as a means of transformation that philosophically feels like a biochemical remix. We repeat, we revise, we reorient. As videogame movies go, Sequence Break sits right up there near the top with Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. It gets at the aspirational nature and expansive possibilities of games, but rather than text-block backstorying the viewer into oblivion right after the opening credits, it goes immersive. Its edges don’t fit in neat spaces, conveying the audience from point A to B and so forth.






It rewards repeat viewings in the way that ‘70s and ‘80s sagas did, letting the viewer determine where the parts fit after spending some time with the story. In its vibrant color schemes and moody electronic score (imagine Vangelis and Tangerine Dream getting all pilled out in 1983 and having a no holds barred synth fight), it’s a versatile beast of a film, acquainted with the worlds of the analogue and the digital. And while Sequence Break isn’t necessarily the film you’d throw on at a party (it’s a measured, moody, meaningful film, not made for casual or indifferent viewing), it’s the horror/SciFi film you share with the ones who matter. If I had to program it in the center of a Triple Feature, I would put it between Lord of Illusions and Beyond The Black Rainbow. You know, for when you have to tear off that scab that we call reality every now and then.

Catching Up with Jason Shawhan.

Some of what I've been up to since the beginning of 2017...

A review of PERSONAL SHOPPER.

A review of PREVENGE.

A review of KONG: SKULL ISLAND.

A review of GET OUT.

A review of XX.

A review of FIFTY SHADES DARKER.

A review of JULIETA.

A review of SPLIT.

My interview with PAUL VERHOEVEN, which was lifechangingly awesome.

02 January 2017

THE VERY BEST OF 2016

Consumed with worry.”
An epitaph for 2016. A prophecy for 2017.






BEST SONGS:
01 Prince – Moonbeam Levels
02 All Hail The Silence – The Alarm
03 Carly Rae Jepsen – Cry
04 Beyonce – Sorry
05 Ladyhawke – Wild Things
06 Sia – Waving Goodbye
07 Rihanna – Love on the Brain
08 Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
09 Kevin Abstract – Runner
10 Solange – Don’t Wish Me Well
11 Kelly Clarkson – It’s Quiet Uptown
12 Brendan MacLean – Never Enough
13 Childish Gambino – Redbone
14 Shooter Jennings – Love Kills
15 Beyonce & The Dixie Chicks – Daddy Lessons (Live)
16 Plumb – Smoke (Dave Aude Remix)
17 Celine Dion – Encore un Soir
18 Tan – Telephone Tan
19 S.W.I.M. featuring Natasha Giannaraki – Anazatisi (Never Find It)
20 Puro Instinct – Peccavi
21 Britney Spears – Make Me
22 Kanye West – Fade
23 The Weeknd – I Feel It Coming
24 Lady Gaga – Diamond Heart
25 Julian Winding – The Demon Dance
26 Giorgio Moroder featuring Karen Harding – Good For Me
27 Brendan MacLean – Tectonic
28 The Lonely Island featuring Emma Stone – Turn Up The Beef
29 Book of Love – All Girl Band
30 Kiiara - Gold



BEST ALBUMS:



01 Beyonce/Lemonade
02 Solange/A Seat at the Table
03 Ladyhawke/Wild Things
04 Carly Rae Jepsen/E Mo Tion Side B
05 Brendan MacLean/Funbang1
06 Childish Gambino/“Awaken, My Love”
07 Shooter Jennings/Countach (For Giorgio)
08 Kevin Abstract/American Boyfriend
09 Pet Shop Boys/Super
10 Tan/Musik City
11 Jean-Michel Jarre/Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
12 Celine Dion/Encore un Soir
13 The Weeknd/Starboy
14 Tegan and Sara/Love You to Death
15 Azealia Banks/Slay-Z






BEST TV:
Channel Zero: Candle Cove, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Lady Dynamite, Not Safe, Other Space, Search Party, Stranger Things, Yuri on Ice



WORST FILMS:



01 PATRIOT'S DAY
02 INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
03 DON'T BREATHE
04 SUICIDE SQUAD
05 EYES OF MY MOTHER
06 INCARNATE
07 SHUT IN
08 YOGA HOSERS
09 THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM
10 RATCHET AND CLANK






BEST DIRECTOR



Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendor)
Anna Biller (The Love Witch)
Robert Eggers (The VVitch)
Karyn Kusama (The Invitation)
Lucile Hadzihalilovic (Evolution)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster)
Oz Perkins (I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House)
Joel Potrykus (The Alchemist Cookbook)
Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room)
Athina Rachel Tsangari (Chevalier)
Paul Verhoeven (Elle)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)






BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY



David Birke (Elle)
Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Jeong Seo-kyung and Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden)
Whit Stillman (Love and Friendship)



BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY



Anthony Bagarozzi and Shane Black (The Nice Guys)
Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (The Invitation)
Yorgos Lanthimos and Ephthymis Philippou (The Lobster)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Ephthymis Philippou and Athina Rachel Tsangari (Chevalier)
Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias (Little Men)



BEST COSTUME DESIGN



Colleen Atwood (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Erin Benach (The Neon Demon)
Anna Biller (The Love Witch)
Sarah Blenkinsop (The Lobster)
Sonia Grande (Julieta)
Linda Muir (The VVitch)









BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN



Anna Biller (The Love Witch)
Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont (Rogue One)
Thomas S. Hammock (Blair Witch)
Craig Lathrop (The VVitch)
Lisa Soper (Clown)
Patrice Vermette (Arrival)



BEST 3D



Doctor Strange
Ghostbusters
Kung Fu Panda 3
The Legend of Tarzan
The Mermaid
The Secret Life of Pets



BEST EDITING



John Axelrad and Kayla Emter (Miles Ahead)
Christopher Barwell (Under The Shadow)
Julia Bloch (Green Room)
Job ter Burg (Elle)
Joan Sobel (Nocturnal Animals)
Joe Walker (Arrival)



BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY



Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon)
Manuel Dacosse (Evolution)
Greig Fraser (Rogue One)
M. David Mullen (The Love Witch)
Jack Pettibone Riccobono and Shane Slattery-Quintanilla (The Seventh Fire)
Linus Sandgren (La-La Land)






BEST ORIGINAL SCORE



Mark Korven (The VVitch)
Mica Levi (Jackie)
Cliff Martinez (The Neon Demon)
Max Richter (Morgan)
Suzuki Keiichi (For The Plasma)
Adam Wingard (Blair Witch)



BEST ORIGINAL SONG



Equal Rights (Popstar)
The Great Beyond (Sausage Party)
The Riddle of The Model (Sing Street)
Waving Goodbye (The Neon Demon)
Wiener-Dog (Wiener-Dog)
You’re Welcome (Moana)



BEST VISUAL EFFECTS



Arrival
Beyond The Gates
Blair Witch
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
The Mind’s Eye



BEST DOCUMENTARY



I Am Not Your Negro
No Home Movie
The Seventh Fire
13th
Tickled
Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present



BEST FILM WITHOUT A U.S. DISTRIBUTOR



All The Cities of The North
The Death of Louis XIV
Found Footage 3D
The Lure
Nocturama
What’s The Matter With Gerald?



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR



Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Tom Bennett (Love and Friendship)
Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!)
Joe Mangianello (Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday)
Kyle Mooney (Zoolander No. 2)
Makis Papadimitriou (Chevalier)






BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS



Olivia Colman (The Lobster)
Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
Lily Gladstone (Certain Women)
Dakota Johnson (A Bigger Splash)
Janelle Monae (Moonlight)
Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)



BEST ACTOR



Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
Colin Farrell (The Lobster)
Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys)
Ty Hickson (The Alchemist Cookbook)
Aharon Traitel (Tikkun)
Anton Yelchin (Green Room)



BEST ACTRESS



Sonia Braga (Aquarius)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Sandra Huller (Toni Erdmann)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Narges Rashidi (Under The Shadow)
Emma Stone (La-La Land)
Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch)






BEST PICTURE
01 The Alchemist Cookbook/The Lobster
Deeply profound meditations on identity in the face of a society that just doesn’t make any sense. Rebellion from opposite ends. To win is a concept inevitably defined by those from whom power derives.
02 Arrival/La-La Land
As always, genre fare tells us exactly where the heart and soul wants to live. Better ways, sprung from the humanity that so often limits us.
03 Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
The kindest, sweetest, most versatile love story of the year.
04 I Am Not Your Negro
One of the greatest American thinkers and critics speaking across time; visceral and wrenching and deeply painful. We haven’t learned a thing.
05 Aquarius/Cemetery of Splendour/The Nice Guys/The VVitch
The act of excavation. Inspecting the foundation. The places where conspiracies build, and restless spirits are drawn in. Every space is a mystery.
06 Clown/Tikkun
The social contract cannot abide monsters. Whether by grotesque action or mere contrary existence, a being which pushes out from within makes that which is established nervous and uneasy; ideology can never be a supportive caress. Deeply upsetting and uncompromising, political visions.
07 Elle/Lemonade/The Love Witch
We think we know a woman’s story by its trappings. By its means of presentation. But women’s stories are not so easily bound by facile first impressions. Further investigation is warranted. Multiple viewings yield untold rewards. There is so much more than a cursory glance can reveal.
08 Chevalier/Everybody Wants Some!!
Exceptional and kind films which deal with male socialization and patterns of interaction while never descending into macho foolishness.
09 Green Room
Human decency in an all-night battle to the death with highly-bureaucratized and weaponized racist bullshit. A business plan does not make an abhorrent ideology any more palatable or acceptable.
10 The Neon Demon
Sleek abstractions that careen the Grimmest fairy tale tropes, cautionary Hollywood excesses, and videogame structure off of one another. Playful and portentous, with a militant chromatic philosophy; when the color blue finally showed up for its close-up in the final scene, I gasped.









2017 FILMS I ANXIOUSLY AWAIT
ALIEN: COVENANT
THE BEGUILED
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
COLOSSAL
DARK NIGHT
GET OUT
A GHOST STORY
HIGH LIFE
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE
KEDI
LIFE
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
PREVENGE
(Re) ASSIGNMENT
ROXANNE ROXANNE
SEQUENCE BREAK
SILENCE
SUSPIRIA
WONDER WOMAN
XX







Thank you for reading this far.

Subsequent Catching Up with Jason Shawhan

What all have I done since the last big update? Well...

A review of PASSENGERS.

A review of SING.

A review of LA-LA LAND.

A review of ROGUE ONE.

A review of EVOLUTION.

A review of AQUARIUS.

Excerpts from the Press Conference for BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK.

A piece on the PET SHOP BOYS, as well as a review of their concert.

My write-up of the 2016 New York Film Festival.

Oh yeah, and the piece about BEYONCE, LEMONADE, and THE FORMATION TOUR.

And my ballot for the 2016 Indiewire Critics Poll.

09 September 2016

Catching Up with Jason Shawhan.



I've been away from my website for awhile, and for that I bear a significant degree of shame. Here's what all I've been writing in the past few months.



An interview with Jack Pettibone Riccobono, director of the devastating and amazing documentary The Seventh Fire.

A review of the tragically underseen horror/SciFi film Morgan.

A review of the grotesquely nasty and surprisingly successful Don't Breathe.

A review of the new Ben-Hur, which is not what I expected. The best thing about it is the script, and that's not something I say very often about spectacles.

A review of Sausage Party, which is surprisingly subversive and affecting.

Oh God, Suicide Squad.

A review of Dressed to Kill, still infamous, still famous.

A profile on Bryan Ferry.

Not so much a review, but an assessment of Star Trek Beyond that also gets into the previous two films in the Kelvin timeline Trek films.

A review of Wiener-Dog wherein I get meta about the work of Todd Solondz.

A talk with comedian and impresario Seth Pomeroy about his new comedy endeavor.

A preview of the RuPaul's Drag Race Battle of The Seasons.

20 May 2016

At the movies: The Nice Guys.

"How do you like my car, big boy?"

The Trump vs Bernie Experience.

I got to talk to both sides of the Trump vs Bernie debate that's currently traveling the world. It was amazing across the board, and gets at a lot of the subtext of the modern American experience. I will go to the ends of the earth for James Adomian, and Tony Atamanuik kicks just as much ass.