The Obamas produce a Netflix documentary about globalization

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Michael Moore praised American Factory at a recent Museum of Modern Art showing. (Image Courtesy: The New Yorker).

Netflix will upload Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory (2019) on Wednesday, with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions picking up the documentary after its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, according to The New Yorker. The subject of the film is a General Motors plant in Ohio that closed in 2008 and reopened as Fuyao Glass America under a Chinese investor, and the culture clash between management and the employees. It marks the first release for the Obamas’ newly minted production company, which has also scheduled a Frederick Douglass biopic, a drama about women and people of color set in post-World War II New York, and an educational series teaching nutrition to preschoolers.

Netflix review: Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

Once upon a time… in Nazi-occupied France…

If you don’t know what to watch next, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) is available to stream on Netflix. The war film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of SS Colonel Hans Landa.

The movie strings three storylines like Christmas lights around the premiere of a fictitious National Socialist propaganda piece in World War II Paris.

A Jewish American paramilitary group called “the Basterds,” led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), scalps German soldiers.

British Royal Marine Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) rendezvouses with the Basterds as part of his government’s plan to assassinate the Nazi leadership in attendance at the showing of Doctor Joseph Goebbels’s (Sylvester Groth) Stolz der Nation (1944).

And Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a French Jew whose family was massacred by Hans, masquerades in Paris as the gentile theater owner hosting the Nation’s Pride debut, plotting her own justice against the Third Reich.

If Kill Bill (2003-2004) is a revenge fantasy for women and Django Unchained (2012) is the same for Black Americans, then Inglourious Basterds and its alternate history of Jewish vengeance makes up something of a trilogy with these two companion pieces.

Tarantino is a master of this subgenre, and the grand finale of Inglourious Basterds exhibits his genius for this niche at its most cathartic.

There is something to be said, however, about his attempt at empowerment through aestheticized violence. Such exploitative filmmaking can horrify the audience with images of fascists getting burned alive, when the narrative is intended to dramatize a triumph over their ideology.

It’s not that they don’t deserve it – it’s that the wrong crowd could sympathize with them.

Furthermore, the twice-nominated auteur (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) indulges in some of his more infamous weaknesses as a filmmaker and screenwriter, such as inconsistent pacing and self-gratifying dialogue.

Notwithstanding, Tarantino inspires in Waltz a star-making performance, which, together with his other Oscar-winning turn in Django Unchained, testifies to his range as an actor, from unlikable characterizations to the likable.

But the star who shines brightest in Inglourious Basterds is Laurent. Shosanna is one of the director’s finest creations, and though her screen time runs brief relative to her castmates, she steals the show.

She is a tragic figure who deserves better, an intersectional survivor of racism and misogyny (which go hand in glove in far-right zeitgeists like Nazi Germany) who wins in the end anyway.

Her arc towers at the center of Tarantino’s theme of reclaiming cinema to literally destroy the Nazis after they appropriated and perverted the art form to construct Nazism through their propaganda machinery.

Shosanna speaks to the hearts of Tarantino’s fellow cinephiles with a power unlike any other monologist throughout his filmography, and even though she doesn’t get her happily ever after in this quirky fairytale of Hitler’s France, she still gets the last laugh.

Martin Scorsese’s new movie to premiere at New York Film Festival

Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-produced The Irishman (2019) will premiere as the opening-night picture September 27 for the New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, according to Deadline Hollywood. The crime drama reunites Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for the first time since Casino (1995), and stars De Niro as Frank Sheeran, who admitted to killing twenty-five men – including Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – for Pennsylvania Mafia boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci). The movie cost Netflix more than a hundred million dollars, and the streaming service anticipates a theatrical release (like they did with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018)) later this fall.

Netflix review: AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013)

With the (now controversial) Academy Awards sweep for Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999), Hollywood made the bed for its love affair with the mid-life crisis.

If it’s because there’s something to be said about straight, white men of a certain age running the industry, then the fate of Walter White is what they deserve.

If you don’t know what to watch next, AMC’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is available to stream on Netflix. Showrunner Vince Gilligan saw the series win sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards.

Leading man Bryan Cranston took home four of them, co-star Aaron Paul earned three, and leading lady Anna Gunn won two.

The neo-Western crime drama, set and shot on location in Albuquerque, spins the yarn of Walter White (Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer who produces and distributes meth with former student Jesse Pinkman (Paul) to provide for his family.

Simultaneously, Walt finds himself trapped in a violent criminal underworld that threatens not only himself, but also the lives of his wife, Skyler Lambert (Gunn), and his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), who he’s desperate to keep in the dark about his business.

Through it all, Walt becomes an increasingly powerful (and dangerous) drug lord.

The theme of Breaking Bad is addiction, and the key to addiction is escalation. Walt, the “average,” domesticated suburbanite, grows to be as addicted to his dark alter ego, “Heisenberg,” as users are addicted to his meth, and as addicted as the binge watcher is to his downfall.

Breaking Bad is the once-in-a-lifetime show that improves with each season until it reaches that even rarer “perfect” finale, intensifying its mythos to such a transcendent crescendo, it feels as though the writers had the entire series charted from the beginning.

It is a slow burn from an intoxicating initial hit to a dizzying high with nowhere to go but down, which is why Gilligan led the noble maneuver to bow out gracefully at the production’s peak, rather than beat a dead horse.

His ethos, on the other hand, lands a somewhat more discordant note. In the Breaking Bad universe, actions have consequences, and crime doesn’t pay.

Still, many fans fail to see Walt’s abusive, narcissistic behavior for what it is, instead demonizing one of his longest-suffering victims: his own wife, Skyler.

Skyler White is something of a lovechild between Patty Hearst and Lady Macbeth, a housewife who wakes up one day to find her American Dream perverted into her worst nightmare.

The home she made is now a prison, the family she raised is now in jeopardy, and the man she married is the monster who started it all.

As she is forced to launder his blood money to protect her children from the truth about their father, Skyler cannot scrub her own hands clean. It’s a life she never asked for, and it’s a cross she’ll have to bear forever.

She is hypocritical and manipulative, but her flaws are what help her survive in Heisenberg’s unforgiving empire.

Overall, she’s a contradictorily-faceted, nuanced, tragic character, played to pitch perfection by Gunn. She is hardly the megalomaniac Walt is – where Heisenberg says family is his motivation to rationalize his deadly lifestyle, for Skyler, it’s the truth.

Regardless, the fanbase turned against her with such vitriol, the actress herself was the recipient of death threats.

Most likely, it’s because Walt’s role as the “antihero” at the focal point of the narrative seduces the audience into sympathizing with him, falling for the “meek,” “mild-mannered” persona which turns out to be just another lie.

It’s a masterfully verisimilitudinous character study, but it unfairly cuts Skyler into an antagonistic figure – in the end, she is right to condemn Walt’s choices, even if he ostensibly made them for the sake of her, because he is ultimately what destroys everything they have together.

For the objective, ethical consumer, with enough critical remove to see behind Walt’s mask,  Breaking Bad is a work of art that will be studied centuries from now like we study Shakespeare today.

Sir Anthony Hopkins penned an open letter to the cast praising their performances as the greatest of all time, and Cranston and Paul deliver, as protagonist and deuteragonist, respectively.

Even though Cranston isn’t the sociopath Walt is (or, at least, one would hope), this turn in his career is still a deeply personal one for him. Before Breaking Bad, he was a comedic staple on NBC’s Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006).

Heisenberg is as miraculous a transformation for Cranston as it is for Walt, a chameleonic alchemy of dynamism further tempting us onto Walt’s side at the beginning, when he’s at his most harmless, only to find ourselves, much like Skyler, bedfellows with a villain by the end.

Toxic masculinity and heterosexual, Caucasian, male egocentrism stand trial in American Beauty on meth, for the crime of vampiric selfishness, with five seasons of evidence to convict the accused.

Gilligan’s verdict ought to serve as a cautionary tale for all the other Walter Whites out there who seek empowerment through oppression.

UK independent filmmakers could be casualty of US streaming wars

Insiders say the United Kingdom could lose its independent film industry in the war between American streaming services like Netflix, Disney, and other competing studios launching their own subscription platforms, according to The Guardian. Indeed, Netflix is opening a permanent production base in Shepperton Studios worth more than ten billion pounds, compared to the eleven million-pound budget at BBC Films and the British Film Institute’s fifteen million pounds. Andy Paterson, co-producer of Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man (2013), predicts that the streamers will act as something of a new classical Hollywood studio system, conquering world cinema from the United States.

Disney recruits top Netflix executive for new streaming service

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Disney+, which is scheduled to launch November 12, will be a commercial-free monthly subscription at seventy dollars a year, offering up new and old series and films from beloved franchises. (Image Courtesy: CNBC).

Walt Disney announced Tuesday they had hired Matt Brodlie, the director of the original film division at Netflix, to lead international content development for their forthcoming family-friendly steaming service, Disney+, according to CNBC. Under Brodlie’s leadership, Netflix released Susan Johnson’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) as well as Alex Richanbach’s Ibiza (2018), and it also picked up Academy Award darlings like Dee Rees’s Mudbound (2017) and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018). As part of his new position with Disney, Brodlie will arbitrate which properties need to be produced or acquired for Disney+ customers outside the United States.

Thom Yorke to post a short film on Netflix the same day as new album

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(Image Courtesy: Engadget).

Director Paul Thomas Anderson will release a short musical film on Netflix and in select Imax theaters June 27, the same day long-time collaborator Thom Yorke is to drop his next album, ANIMA, according to Engadget. The one-reeler will feature three ANIMA songs, with Yorke both starring in as well as scoring the movie, and Netflix put out the trailer today, saying the “mind-bending visual piece” is best played loudly. Indeed, Yorke once uploaded an album online exclusively as a BitTorrent Bundle, and together with Radiohead, published a record through a hidden app that only worked on computers from the 1980s.