Review: The Lighthouse

Written by Max and Robert Eggers, and directed by Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse” is the second film directed by Eggers after his horror period-piece debut “The Witch” in 2015. Similarly to his first feature, “The Lighthouse” is also a period piece, though it’s more of an abstract thriller than a straight horror film. Don’t fret if you were hoping for a fright fest, as there’s much to be feared here. Between the eerie imagery, the dialogue that perfectly fits the time period (The 1890’s for this unsettling yarn), and the use of sound throughout- “The Lighthouse” is a totally unique film, but especially among the majority of other offerings currently at the box office. This is a film that is unconcerned with popular trends or any proven box office metrics, and it’s all the better for it.

Not only is the film shot in black and white, on 35mm film no less, but it’s also framed in an aspect ratio of 1.19:1, visually connecting it to cinema’s silent era. Early on the film feels evocative of David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” at times, but with more straightforward storytelling. The first twenty minutes or so have little dialogue, with the constant bellow of the foghorn amidst rummaging machinery that becomes rhythmic as the two “Wickies” settle in, and it isn’t long before you can sense that the air is full of potential for inducing madness. The two men in question are Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). Wake’s a seasoned veteran of the job, and a near cruel overseer of his new younger apprentice in Winslow. Winslow’s a man of few words, but unfortunately for him Wake loves a good conversation over dinner and this is one of the many grinding conflicts between the two men. As time goes on the film becomes more and more abstract, the imagery evolving towards something more mystical than a simple tale of two men on a jagged rock, beset by torrential rain and crashing waves. This film does what few can even hope to accomplish, it transcends the form and plays with your expectations, it becomes cinema as Myth.

The film is essentially a power struggle between the two Wickies. Wake covers the night shifts- and he rules the light with an iron fist. No matter the standards and rules of their superiors, Winslow is not permitted to tend the bulb. Of course, all of the worst, most back-breaking, work is relegated to the younger Wickie. Slowly, through madness or some other dark art, Winslow’s grasp on reality becomes slippery, and his trust evaporated. I really don’t want to get mired in over-explaining the machinations at work here, but trust me, this is a film you should definitely see in theaters, we need more weird art like this one!

“The Lighthouse” turns in two excellent performances from both actors here. Willem Dafoe swings big in this one; he playfully dawdles with turn of the century English so delightfully that you may be transfixed enough to have forgotten that you’re watching a movie. While Robert Pattinson plays his slow burn descent into insanity with aplomb and a finality that suggests, perhaps, that he’s finally given a performance so engaging and new that no one even will ever again associate his name with those terribly awful Vampire movies- which in itself is a Christmas gift come early. Go see this one, you don’t want to miss it!

Final Score: 2 Keepers of the Light, 1 Seagull


Old School Review: “Ran” (1985)

Written by Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide, and Akira Kurosawa, and directed by Kurosawa, “Ran” is an adaption of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” set during Japan’s medieval era in which an elder Japanese warlord seeks peace by dividing his kingdom among his three grown sons. Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) awakens from a vision after a hunt with his three sons and subordinate clan representatives, to which he decrees his own abdication from the throne. Stunned by the announcement, Hidetora’s three sons each react differently. Taro (Akira Terao), the eldest garbed in yellow, is set to be given the first castle while Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) in red, and Saburo (Daisuke Ryû) in blue, are to be given the second and third castles in order of age and support Taro as the head of the Ichimonji clan. Taro, doesn’t even want the throne, while Jiro seeks it, and Saburo rejects the whole plan as one destined for failure. For his subversive outburst, Lord Hidetora banishes Saburo, and Tango (Masayuki Yui) the lord’s adviser, when he openly supports Saburo’s frankness.

I’ve been working through Akira Kurosawa’s filmography lately, and recently the Criterion Channel (The collection’s streaming service) added the legendary filmmaker’s late-in-career masterpiece to their ranks, and I figured I’d give it a shot. Knowing nothing about the film except that it was an adaption of “King Lear” proved to be a bountiful fortune going into the near three hour film. Of the seven, or so, films of Kurosawa’s that I have seen, this may be my favorite of the bunch so far- and that’s saying something with “Ikiru”, “Seven Samurai”, and “Yojimbo/Sanjuro” in that bunch! In doing some (very) light research before writing this review, I was surprised to find that Akira Kurosawa had trouble securing funding for this film for roughly a decade before it was finally released. Apparently Kurosawa had been going through a period akin to (but nowhere near as creatively apocalyptic) what Orson Welles went through after making “Citizen Kane”. After teaming with a French producer in Serge Silberman, the film found it’s foundation, and began winding towards one of the most engaging epics set within medieval Japan.

Having acquired most of his kingdom through brutal and ruthless tactics, this story is almost entirely about the consequences of Lord Hidetora’s actions and the ripple effect throughout his family as a result. After Saburo’s (and Tango’s) banishment things quickly go downhill for Lord Hidetora. As he moves into the smaller keep of the first castle he finds that Taro is being manipulated by his wife, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), into usurping Lord Hidetora after the transition of power to control the whole Ichimonji clan. Considering this an affront and needlessly offensive, Lord Hidetora takes leave of the first castle and heads to Jiro at the second Castle. There he finds himself to be more of a pawn in Jiro’s scheming than anything else. Broken by the betrayal of his sons, Lord Hidetora wanders off with his mercenaries and his fool Kyoami (Pîtâ) with no clear direction. Eventually Tango reappears with provisions to help the wandering party, but when he tells them of Taro’s new decree ‘to kill anyone found helping his father‘, they make a last ditch effort to take Saburo’s castle and fortify themselves there. Saburo’s men happen to be leaving as the group arrives anyways, and it isn’t long before both elder sons come to siege the castle and usurp their father from power through death or submission.

The rest of the film plays out like a season of ‘Game of Thrones’. The siege of the third castle in particular is brutal and impeccably staged. Kurosawa’s use of extras as the armies of Taro and Jiro clash with their father’s skilled warriors is beautifully organized. The chaos and bloodshed feel epic all while Lord Hidetora’s mind is blended, madness ensuing from the shock of all that has come from his abdication of power. The layers of history and karma striking back at the Ichimonji clan from within are glorious and well designed. I won’t divulge all of the details of the plot here, but its just so damn good! The way the story keeps digging at Hidetora’s past and forcing guilt and shame upon him for all that he has done is exemplary- just when you think it can’t get worse, it does! I found everything about this film to be just magnificent. From the score to the pacing, to the scheming and manipulative power moves, and revenge against the entire Ichimonji clan were just perfect in execution!

Seriously, if you enjoy film- this is one of the all time greats and I highly encourage anyone and everyone to give this film a shot. I can’t give this film enough praise, and I honestly need another rewatch to fully indulge in all of the film’s nuances and complexities. It may be a long watch, but it’s more than worth the two hours and forty-two minute runtime.

Final Score: Three sons and countless regrets

*Below is a link to Roger Ebert’s review of “ran” and a video essay by the “Every frame a painting” YouTube channel discussing Akira Kurosawa’s use of movement in his films. Both are simply great and give more depth to the film at hand, enjoy!



The Ten Commandments for Cinephiles.

Some wise words for anyone considering writing about film!

The Vern's Video Vortex.

charlton-heston-10-Commandments-Moses-HornsEvery person who writes for a movie site can agree on one thing.   We all have a undying love for films.  We may not all agree on every one, but we all share a common love and joy of watching them.  It’s doesn’t matter if you prefer the art-house over the multiplex.  Action over drama.  As long as you are honest about what you write.  You are considered to be a cinephiles in my book.  No I don’t have an actual book.  It’s just a figure of speech, but I do have ten guidelines that I follow.

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A Triple Shot of Mystery Blogger Awards.

Many Thanks to The Vern for nominating my film blog! My own response article/post will arrive soon.

The Vern's Video Vortex.


Right now I am feeling extremely humble because I have received, not one but three Mystery Blogger Awards.  They come from three very talented sites whose links will be listed below.  They are Rhyme and Reason, DB Movies Blog, and Plain Simple Tom’s Reviews.   I am very thankful that they each nominated me, and I do apologize for the lateness of this post.

A big shout out goes  to Okoto Enigma for creating this award in the first place.  It’s damn good thing that this exists so we can help support each other.

The rules of the tag/award are:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10 – 20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any…

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Side-Quest: My journey to watch more movies in my free time

Over the past few years now I’ve come to the realization that no matter how many movies I see, I’ll always have more to discover. Or, on the flip side- I’ll never get past the horde of suggestions and “must-see” films. Those that have swept past you can serve to undercut your film cred instantly for some. Whether viewed as cinematic homework or film archaeology and study, I’ve got some viewing to do. However, simply recalling the last few years, or even the whole of the twenty-first century so far, isn’t enough. There’s another eighty years (roughly) of film to explore! So what have I missed?

Plenty. An awfully large amount. Too many. How many movies can one person digest? I recently finished Patton Oswalt’s book “Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film” and while I too have an addiction to viewing films, Oswalt took the concept of going to the movies to a whole new level. The comedian/author/actor meticulously planned out his fervent viewings from “Sunset Boulevard” and “Ace in the Hole” to “Casablanca” and “The Bicycle Thief” and everything inbetween. During this period of time Oswalt frequented the New Beverly Cinema ran by Sherman Torgan for thirty years before his death in 2007, Quentin Tarantino bought the legendary theater afterwards and still currently owns it. The book divulges his addiction’s highs and lows as he struggles to learn the comedy scene of late 1990’s LA while also consuming as much cinema as possible, a learning experience if you will. However nearing the book’s end he points out that while film is a wonderful experience, it should be comparable to wine. A portion of life that is to be enjoyed and beloved in a moderate sense. So, in order to curate a sense of balance in life I’ve come to the conclusion that when I can fit in a film or two to widen my breadth of film knowledge, I will.

The first admission I have to acknowledge is that I will never see every movie. That’s simply impossible. Every day another film is securing the greenlight and heading into or out of production. So what I can do is dig out the genres that I have neglected or the top essentials that most cite as being either necessary or noteworthy at the very least. There are an embarrassing amount of the classics that I haven’t gotten to yet. For while my father and I have marathon-ed the entirety of “The planet of the apes” (There are five of the original films from the 1970’s) movies over a weekend, I still have yet to see “The Godfather”. I know, I know. I’ll get to it eventually. It’s not out of any malice towards the classics mind you, it’s mostly that life takes time and sometimes you wanna see the Oscar nominations before the awards show, or that new mindless action flick just to pass a rainy day by.

Netflix makes this sense of filmic education much easier. In fact, modern technology in general makes the search and accumulation of hard to find films a thing of the past. “Kagemusha” for example, is the only film from the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa that’s currently available on Netflix. A Samurai epic doused in color and action that Kurosawa was only able to create with funding help from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola in 1980 at the age of seventy. I will be checking that film out soon, as should you- the impact Kurosawa had on the film industry is massive and a study on his works is almost obligatory for all would-be cinephiles. In fact, foreign films in general should be consumed with just as much intensity and fervor as our own motion pictures. It can be hard to get past our obsession with our own creations, but those of other nations have a perspective that you won’t find in our own art. A difference of opinion and priorities in life is important to encounter, even if only in film (Although travel is a far more immersive and immediate way to do this if you have the means).

So you may see more “old school” reviews coming from this blog in the future. As I step into the past to learn something new I suggest joining me on this voyage of sorts. See something new and challenge yourself to embrace the variety of art that is available to us all. Just remember that life is out there waiting to be experienced-don’t stay behind that screen too long! If you have any suggestions, by all means comment below and list your favorites, or simply films that you believe to be important. Thanks, and see you at the movies!