Hello! Every week, our internet culture staff will discuss the world of streaming entertainment in this newsletter. In this week’s edition:
- Returning to in-person film festivals with NYFF
- Lamb updates the Icelandic folktale—but fails to answer its own question
- Cowboy Bebop credits inspire debate about anime versus live-action
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Live from New York, it’s NYFF
Whenever I’m about to start a movie lately, I can’t help but think of an early scene in The Mitchells vs. the Machines: A young Katie Mitchell stands next to a TV cart in front of her classmates, proclaiming, “Behold, cinema!” before showing them the rudimentary film she made. Everything I’ve watched—popcorn fanfare such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, cult favorites like Jennifer’s Body, exercises in mood and sexual tension like In the Mood for Love, and beloved Shakespeare adaptations like Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing—over the past few months was all, at its core, simply cinema.
The New York Film Festival, now in its 59th year and my first in-person film festival in nearly two years, has essentially been that feeling on steroids. Over the past week, I’ve spent several days traveling halfway across the city on four separate subway cars to hop in the queue, sometimes waiting up to an hour, to get into the theater (all of which require masks and proof of full vaccination). So far, nobody’s made a fuss about the mask rules, the staff and volunteers working at NYFF have been a godsend, and the festival has been a spoil of riches.
To kick off NYFF, Joel Coen debuted his first solo outing, The Tragedy of Macbeth, which distills the famed tragedy into a bleak and minimalist landscape that puts the onus on its actors. It’s a triumph, one centered by powerhouse performances from Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. I’ve also had a chance to watch Julia Ducournau’s Titane, a marvel of a film you should go into knowing as little as possible (and arrives in theaters this Friday); Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, which managed to capture a lot of how I’ve been feeling about getting older while still being outrageously funny; and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, an animated documentary that pushes the limits of what both mediums can accomplish to an astounding and empathetic effect.
Recently, I’ve been asked multiple times about what film I’ve been looking forward to seeing the most. I’m not able to get to everything—Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta wasn’t originally on my list, but those Catholic protests outside of the film’s premiere Sunday afternoon kicked off the Streisand Effect and made me instantly add it to my Watchlist—but I’m really excited to catch films like Passing, The Power of the Dog, The French Dispatch, Petite Maman, and Parallel Mothers in the next couple of weeks. But one of my most-anticipated movies of NYFF is a very on-brand choice: Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel, which I finally had a chance to read this summer. Sometimes, you just have to seek out the weird sci-fi epic with a giant sandworm because, after all, Dune is cinema, too.
—Michelle Jaworski, staff writer
Introducing Presser: a deep dive into the changemakers reshaping athletics
At the Daily Dot, the crosshairs of race, social media, and sports are always on our radar. In our new content series, Presser, a part of the ESPN+ Black History Always Collection, we’re going deeper than viral meltdowns. We’re profiling the creators, amateurs, and pros affecting positive changes in the world of sports.
Lamb updates the Icelandic folktale—but fails to answer its own question
The found family genre gets an odd little addition with Lamb, the debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson. It’s one of those films people are going to take pains to “explain” or “solve,” mostly because of its central conceit. But this isn’t that kind of movie.
Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) live on an isolated sheep farm in Iceland, along with a dutiful sheepdog and pensive cat. In early scenes, we see them go about their daily routine, the silence between them appearing first as a byproduct of the physical work, but then as something deeper. Their routine is upended after one sheep gives birth to what we eventually see is a lamb-human hybrid. Maria and Ingvar are not fazed by this reveal; it’s inferred that they lost a child named Ada, so they give this anomaly the same name, to the dismay of an increasingly distressed ewe.
Around the time Maria places a flower crown on Ada, I wondered if we’re supposed to be cracking up over this child, which is an impressive feat of practical and special effects. It seems like we’re given permission when Ingvar’s wayward brother, Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), shows up at the farm and, upon seeing Ada, says: “What the fuck is this?” Lamb debuts in theaters on Oct. 8.
—Audra Schroeder, senior writer
Cowboy Bebop credits inspire debate about anime versus live-action
With an ensemble cast led by John Cho as the bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop involves the original show’s director Shinichirō Watanabe as a consultant and will feature new music by Yoko Kanno—an iconic element of the anime. Netflix is keen to promote this as a faithful adaptation, replicating the tone and aesthetic of the original. But when Netflix released the new title sequence—almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original—it opened up another side to the remake debate. Namely, what’s the point in making such a direct adaptation? And does it invite unflattering comparisons between live-action and the unique qualities of animation?
Essentially, some live-action remakes try to make a realistic copy of something that is not, in fact, “real.” This is usually a bad idea. Animated media tends to rely upon stylized imagery, simplified lighting, exaggerated facial expressions, and action that defies the laws of physics. That’s why films like Hollywood’s Ghost in the Shell (and Disney’s live-action remakes) look flat and boring compared to their source material. You literally can’t recreate something like Spike Spiegel’s run in live-action.
—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, staff writer
Now Playing: “Good Girls (John Carpenter Remix)” by CHVRCHES
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