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Non-Review Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale arrives as Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook, and represents a slightly different sort of horror.

The Babadook was one of the best horror films of the decade, a creeping and unsettling look at a mother’s depression as she tried to work through her complicated feelings towards her own son. The Nightingale is something quite different, essentially a frontier western about a woman who sets out to avenge herself upon the British soldiers who inflicted a terrible suffering upon her and her family. As Clare tracks these men through the wilderness with an aboriginal guide named Billy, she finds herself confronted with the true nightmares of colonial Australia.

Eyes frontier.

The Nightingale belongs to a rich tradition of Australian westerns including modern classics like The Proposal, stories that play on the frontier myth and explore the country’s deeply troubled and unsettled history. Kent’s direction is tense and claustrophobic, refusing to ever let the audience look away from the horrors inflicted upon the continent by the European settlers who presumed to claim it as their own. The Nightingale is a bleak and cynical piece of film, one that is occasionally suffocating and dizzying in its portrayal of man’s capacity for inhumanity.

However, perhaps the most striking aspect of The Nightingale is how – for all its unflinching brutality and refusal to offer trite sentimentality – the film advances an argument for intersectionalism. As Clare journeys deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness, she discovers that the suffering inflicted upon her and her family is just one expression of a more primal and insidious violence, and that perhaps she has more in common with Billy than she might originally think.

Not so hot to trot.

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The X-Files (Topps) #25-26 – Be Prepared (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

What’s interesting about Be Prepared is how much it feels like an episode of The X-Files.

A lot Rozum’s earlier scripts felt like Mulder and Scully had wandered into old E.C. horror stories, cautionary supernatural tales about vengeful ghosts and poetic justice. In contrast, Be Prepared feels very much in tune with the aesthetic of the show itself. Mulder and Scully investigate a uniquely American piece of folklore, finding themselves in an isolated location dealing with human monstrosity at least as much as any paranormal element.

If you go down to the woods today...

If you go down to the woods today…

Indeed, Be Prepared feels very much like an episode from the first two seasons of the show, evoking stories like Ice or Darkness Falls or Firewalker. Indeed, Be Prepared arguably sits comfortably alongside Topps’ range of Season One comics – feeling like a lost episode from the show’s early years. Be Prepared feels like the first time that Rozum is constructing a story specifically from tropes associated with The X-Files, rather than from horror tropes in general.

The result is a fun little adventure that feels more like The X-Files than the comic has in quite a while.

The right to bear arms...

The right to bear arms…

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Non-Review Review: Wild

Wild is adapted from Wild: From Lost to Found, Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical account of her spiritual 1,100 mile trek across the California Pacific Trail. The bulk of the movie features Reese Witherspoon carrying a gigantic backpack stuffed with the essentials – described accurately, and perhaps affectionately, by some observers as a “monster.” This image adorns the posters and publicity materials, and feels strangely appropriate. Cheryl may have carried a gigantic back upon her back, but Reese Witherspoon carries the entire movie.

To be fair, Wild is not a bad film on its own merits. It is perfectly functional, if a little familiar in places. However, it is Reese Witherspoon’s performance that sets the film apart. It is a powerful and naked lead performance which counts among the best work in the actress’ career. The plot and character beats may feel like they have been inherited from countless other “find yourself in nature” films, it is Witherspoon who imbues Cheryl (and, by extension, the film) with a warm humanity.

Into the wild...

Into the wild…

Witherspoon a momentous performance, and Wild seems keenly aware of this. The film knows it has a gifted performer at its core giving one of the most memorable performances of the year. So Nick Hornby’s screenplay and Jean-Marc Vallée are clever enough to stand back; the bulk of the film seems built around Witherspoon, a showcase for the performer. That is a lot of weight; even more than the hefty backpack that Strayed carried with her across California. Witherspoon is more than up to the task.

Wild is a movie that lives or dies on the strength of its lead performance. Luckily, Witherspoon is tremendous.

A long walk home...

A long walk home…

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