Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Darius Marder. Cast: Riz AhmedOlivia CookePaul Raci 

It’s rare when talking about a film to highlight the sound mix and sound design as its winning features which make it so special, but in this case they really are. Never before the experience of what must be like for a person to go deaf has been so cleverly and successfully rendered in a film. It’s a simple and beautifully judged device, but it’s also very effective. If that didn’t work as well as it does, I believe most of the power of the film would diminish, despite Riz Ahmed’s great performance, which is really the soul of the film. At times we really understand what he’s going through and what he’s feeling because of the way the sound make us understand his predicament. I’m not trying to take anything away from him performance (he may even get the Oscar, snatching it from Anthony Hopkins), but in this case the acting and the sound go together hand in hand.

Beyond all that, the plot itself is actually very simple and the arc of the story rather predictable (It has echoes of another film about deaf people, “Children’s of a lesser God”).

There are various subplots and open-ends which don’t quite fulfil their duties: for example , his friendship with one of the people from the community (plot which seems completely abandoned in the third act), or the whole recovering drug addict side fo the story. None of that plot line is developed and in the end it makes no difference whether he used t one a drug addict or not.

Also the timeframe seemed a bit too contrived and conveniently opaque: I could never quite grasp how much time was passing between scenes: it seemed it could have been weeks or months, but often the film plays it as if it was just days (though clearly one doesn’t just walk into a hospital to have an hearing surgery), while in reality these things probably take years.

But I don’t want to sound down on the film, even if it didn’t quite manage to touch my buttons (surprisingly, because I am usually a cry-baby for this sort of things, which leads me to believe that the film was missing something) there were still plenty of lovely movements in it, particularly in the middle section within the school/community environment, those earlier scenes around the dinner table where Ahmed feels completely alone surrounded by dozens of deaf people (a trick played again later on during a birthday party, that time among people who can actually hear) and every single scene with the scene-stealer Paul Paci (Oscar Nominated too) which I adored for every single frame he was in the film.

This is going to be talked about quite a bit at the Oscars and I’m happy for it, but it’s not quite the masterpiece people are making it to be (my rating is more 3 1/2 stars… than 4, but I don’t give half stars so here’s a 4 for you) 😉

The X-Files (S1.Ep19) – “Shapes”

The X-Files Season 1 – Episode 19 – “Shapes”

Director: David Nutter Writers: Chris CarterMarilyn Osborn Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonTy Miller 

A bit of a derivative episode, with a rather bland lycanthropy storyline which we might have heard so many times before, but eventually it is all saved by some pretty good direction (the ever reliable David Nutter), some of the best lighting in the whole first season (John S, Bartley who shot 64 episodes in all) which created a very tense atmosphere and a solid cast (including the sheriff played Michael Horse, once again another one from Twin Peaks). The score in this one was particularly unmemorable and actually quite bad (few annoying synthetized strings here and there, with no real theme or emotion). Scully and Mulder are both slightly sidetracked (Scully is particularly annoying with her skepticism even the the truth is right in front of her eyes) to give a bit more space to the secondary characters.

The episode is very short on surprises or anything of importance or relevance for the rest of the series.

The X-Files (S1.Ep18) – “Miracle Man”

The X-Files Season 1 – Episode 18 – “Miracle Man”

Director: Michael Lange Writers: Chris CarterHoward GordonChris Carter Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonR.D. Call

Miracle man is one of those middling well-crafted episode which doesn’t advance the main story in any way, but it adds some emotional context to Mulder’s personal history and specifically about the overarching search for the truth regarding his sister’s abduction. Some good acting along the way, especially from the “miracle man” from the title (or rather miracle kid) and a nice little twist at the end regarding the identity of the murderer is rather unexpected. ). Other than that this feels more like a standard twilight zone episodes with a murder mystery twist mixed into it.

A clear example of the X-Files creator still not quite realising what they had on their hands and wasting a perfectly good opportunity. The religion-themed plot would be used to much greater effect in the later season focussing more on Scully battling her skepticism versus her faith. Oh… and by the way, this is where Scully reveals that one of her favourite movies is the Exorcist. haha… Another reason to like her more. 😉

Two Distant Strangers

Two Distant Strangers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directors: Travon FreeMartin Desmond Roe. Cast: Joey Bada$$Andrew HowardZaria 

Find 30 minutes to watch this NOW!!

Nominated for Best short film at the Oscar this year, this wonderful little film uses the “old” Groundhog Day formula to great effect and does something which is not just completely new, within a genre which never ceases to surprise me, but also manages to deliver one of the most important moral lessons and heartbreaking message.

It might not be subtle, but the circumstances are such that subtlety is meaningless at this point. The names over the credits serve as a reminder of how much out of hands this has gone. Just as I am writing this the news of 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed by a policeman who “accidentally discharged a “handgun”.

Yes, it is the real groundhog day.

Beautiful, clever and very effective.

On Netflix

The X-Files (S1.Ep17) – “E.B.E.”

The X-Files Season 1 – Episode 17 – “E.B.E.” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: William A. Graham. Writers:  Chris CarterGlen MorganJames Wong. Cast: David DuchovnyGillian AndersonJerry Hardin 

This is an example of why the X-Files became so big: this is government conspiracy at its best: phone tapping, UFO sightings, secret informants, red herrings and dead ends. “Fallen angel” had givens us a taste and glimpse of all that, but here it feels like Mulder and Scully are getting closer to the truth (isn’t it fun to hear Scully actually saying “the Truth is out there”?). This is when the plot thickened.It gave us just enough to be intriguing and to feel like we were almost catching up with the secrets, while at the same time, adding a few more questions. This is what the X-Files is all about until it probably imploded over the later seasons with its over-convoluted machinations with way too many questions and very few answers.This is also the episodes that introduced us to the “Lone Gunmen”, the trio of weirdos which will become not just a recurrent feature on the X-Files but they will all start a spin-off series of their own (which I have never actually seen, and apparently I wasn’t alone at missing it). The episode is really intriguing, even if now I know what’s behind. There’s a tense sense of paranoia that builds up throughout, reminiscent of great classics like Coppola’s “The conversation”. I loved the detail of Scully’s bag, which she leaves standing before making a cup of coffee and she finds laying on the table on her way back. We as the audience notice the difference, but she doesn’t. Brilliant. It’s great to see her starting to believe a little bit more too. A really strong and essential episode.

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