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Non-Review Review: Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy is a cocktail essentially comprised of three contrasting main ingredients, none of which particularly gel.

Most obviously, it is a traditional performance-driven piece of awards fare designed to showcase the talents of Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell; there is a lot of shouting, a lot of confrontation, a lot of listless staring. On top of that, it is also a more modern piece of awards fare, one younger and hipper than stodgy old dramas about addiction; Beautiful Boy might be a good seventy-percent intercut montage set to music of beloved artists like David Bowie and John Lennon. The remaining third is a fifties moral panic anti-drugs film for the twenty-first century.

This movie is Timothée Chala-meh.

These three styles of film are constantly battling within Beautiful Boy. There must be a way to synthesise these three competing approaches into a holistic and satisfying piece of work, but instead Beautiful Boy bounces frantically from one mode to another, never settling on a single cohesive tone or approach. This is disappointing, as Beautiful Boy is a very earnest and sincere piece of work. There’s a strong sense that the film is trying to articulate something that is both important and profound. However, it just cannot clearly translate that sentiment into speech.

Beautiful Boy is a mess of a film, but a fascinating mess in a number of places.

Yes. Most of the screenshots of this film will be of Timothée Chalamet. Why?

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Non-Review Review: Citizen Lane

Citizen Lane is the latest documentary from director Thaddeus O’Sullivan, following the life and times of Hugh Lane.

Essentially combining documentary discussion of the central character with dramatic reconstructions of moments both key and incidental, Citizen Lane sketches an intriguing portrait of a fascinating figure. Lane is perhaps best known as an art collector and dealer, whose name adorns one of the more prestigious art galleries in the city centre. However, Lane is something of a mysterious figure to all but the most devoted of Irish cultural historians, lurking at the edge of the frame in stories about artists like Yeats or Synge.

Turn of the Century City.

Citizen Lane pulls back the curtain a little bit, illuminating both its subject and the world around him. Citizen Lane closes on an imagined image of Lane wandering through the gallery named in his honour, unassumingly travelling through a series of interlocked rooms, largely unnoticed by those in attendance. This image captures what Citizen Lane suggests is the most compelling facet of its central figure, the manner in which he seems to move through early twentieth-century Dublin intersecting with the grand sweep of Irish (and eventually global) history.

Citizen Lane is an enlightening and entertaining piece of work, and a compelling argument for how works of art (and even those who engage with art) seem to turn a mirror back on the culture around them.

Painting a picture of life in twentieth century Dublin.

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Non-Review Review: The Delinquent Season

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

“You’re a f&!king cliché!” one character screams at another during a particularly heated moment in The Delinquent Season.

That’s a dangerous line to put into a screenplay, particularly in what is supposed to be an intimate character-driven drama. The line skirts the boundaries of self-awareness, inviting the audience to consider it as a statement of authorial intent. It takes genuine courage to force the audience to assess whether the character in question really just “a f&!king cliché”? Obviously, the film believes that its central characters are more than just a collection of familiar tropes repackaged and reheated, but it takes confidence to stare the viewer right in the eye and broach the question.

“Look, it’s this or Infinity War.”

The Delinquent Season certainly has lofty goals. It aspires to be provocative and confrontational, to push the audience a little bit out of their comfort zone by asking them to empathise with characters who are abrasive and awkward. The Delinquent Season seems to genuinely hope that the audience might find its central characters to evoke strong emotions; to feel pity or hatred or anger at their decisions and their actions. There are points watching The Delinquent Season where writer and director Mark O’Rowe is goading the audience to hate these characters.

Unfortunately, The Delinquent Season never even considers that the audience might be bored by these four particular characters.

Table this for later.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Prodigal Daughter (Review)

Prodigal Daughter is an incredibly limp piece of television.

Prodigal Daughter plays more like a first season episode than a final season episode, the result of a creative process where the writing staff are still trying to figure out how best to approach major characters and even how best to structure individual episodes of the series. There is something distractingly amateurish about Prodigal Daughter, which seems to largely consist of one-shot guest characters standing around drab sets talking about things that happened off-screen. It is not so much bad as it is boring.

Painting a pretty picture.

To be fair, there are reasons for these problems. Ezri Dax was still a new character, and the production team were still getting to grips with her. Although Ezri had been integrated into the ensemble with relative ease, the writers had only given her a single character-focused episode in Afterimage. This was understandable, with everything else going on, but it meant that the character still had to find a unique voice. Beyond that, the structural problems with Prodigal Daughter were largely down to nightmarish disorganisation behind the scenes.

Of course, knowing this does not make it any easier to watch Prodigal Daughter.

Oh, brother!

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Non-Review Review: Joy

Joy is very much a showcase for David O. Russell’s interests, and his excesses.

Russell is a filmmaker with a particular sensibility in style. This is particularly obvious in the way that the director feels continuously drawn to the same performers and themes. As with many of Russell’s films, the cast of Joy is populated by actors who have worked with the director before. This is most apparent in the casting of Russell’s current creative ruse Jennifer Lawrence, who worked with Russell on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. She is joined by Russell veterans like Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.

Could the domestic cleaning industry use a shot in the arm?

Could the domestic cleaning industry use a shot in the arm?

Similarly, the film plays to Russell’s particular fascinations; Joy ties together the director’s engagement with Americana and his exploration of dysfunctional family dynamics. Joy places these two themes front-and-centre, but never quite synthesises them into a convincing whole. All too often, it feels like Joy is far more interested in the discordant home life of its female protagonist than all of the historical details it has to weave into her rags-to-riches tale. This causes problems when her journey takes her away from that home, and the film loses interest.

Joy is somewhat overstuffed, its attention wandering as the run-time goes on. For a story about a self-made millionaire whose rags-to-riches success embodies the ideal of the American Dream, Joy often feels quite rote; luxuriating in its depiction of her family life, the movie’s second half feels over extended as it clocks through all the beat expected in a story like this. Its final third is given over to a crisis that feels as obligatory as its resolution is convenient. For a movie about a woman with an ability to see innovation, Joy is trapped by its conventionality.

Talk about a mop top...

Talk about a mop top…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Canamar (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

The story behind Canamar is much more interesting than the story told in Canamar.

On the surface, Canamar is quite simple – Star Trek does Con Air.” However, it had an interesting journey from original pitch to televised episode. Indeed, Canamar developed from David A. Goodman’s attempts to break out Judgment, trying to figure out what would happen to Archer after he had been found in Klingon court. Originally, the crew would have rescued Archer from a prison transport rather than Rura Penthe. However, producer Brannon Braga took such a liking to the “Archer on a prison transport” concept that he pulled it out of Judgment and assigned it to John Shiban to script.

"Have you seen Con Air?" "No." "Good. Then this'll all seem new to you."

“Have you seen Con Air?”
“No.”
“Good. Then this’ll all seem new to you.”

However, Braga also divorced Canamar completely from Judgment. Archer would no longer be a prisoner on a Klingon prison transport. Instead, he would find himself mistakenly arrested by an entirely new alien species a couple of episodes before he’d find himself arrested by a more recognised alien species. It feels somewhat redundant, with the first act of Canamar rushing through set-up of plot beats that would feel more organic and fluid if they came from an early episode explicitly designed to build to the idea of Archer on the prison transport.

Canamar is a prime example of just how out of touch Star Trek: Enterprise was with the television landscape, reinforcing the sense that the second season of the show was a holdover from some much earlier period of television production.

"It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I've outrun Imperial starships."

“It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I’ve outrun Imperial starships.”

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #19 – Once a Hero… (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Once a Hero… is a notable story for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that it’s Peter David’s last issue of DC’s monthly Star Trek comic, departing the comic book after a pretty bitter disagreement with Richard Arnold, who was overseeing Star Trek licensing at the time. Given that David wrote The Incredible Hulk for twelve years and remains a prolific and well-liked comic book creator among the comic community, as well as a guiding light in Star Trek tie-in fiction, that’s a pretty damning indictment of Richard Arnold right there.

However, Once a Hero… is also notable for being an in-depth exploration and reflection on the “red shirt” narrative convention that the franchise loved so dearly.

A grave adventure...

A grave adventure…

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