The Sea of Trees (2015)

I seem to remember the buzz surrounding this film’s pre-production. After all, the idea alone of signing Matthew McConaughey almost right after he received his well-deserved Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club would have been enough to excite prospective audiences. Add Naomi Watts to the cast, who was also enjoying some acclaim following her performance in The Impossible, with Ken Watanabe and – don’t forget to mention – Gus Van Sant behind the camera in a drama about a man travelling to Japan’s infamous Aokigahara forest to commit suicide, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince anyone that The Sea of Trees was worth looking forward to.  

Continue reading

The Uncut Gems Podcast – Episode 24 (Duel)

For a bunch of weeks in a row now we have covered on The Uncut Gems Podcast movies that I hold up as bona fide masterpieces. I suppose you could accuse me of some kind of gerrymandering because it is ultimately in my power to decide what we talk about, but it just so happens that movies like Unstoppable, Vanishing Point, Death Proof and this week’s hero – Duel – fit into a theme and also, coincidentally, tend to be overlooked.

Continue reading

Rocky Balboa: An Unlikely Role Model for Men

If you ask any young boy who he wants to be when he grows up, you will hear ‘an astronaut’, ‘a rocket scientist’, ‘a professional footballer’, ‘a pilot’. I suppose a correction for Gen-Alpha should be made by adding ‘a youtuber’ and ‘an influencer’ to the pool of answers, but the general theme surrounding the answers to such a fundamental question is achievement. Boys are told to succeed from the minute they become mobile. “Sure, you can do it”, they hear when they are about to take their first steps. “You’re a real champ. you’re are real pro, Billy”, a boy will hear after kicking a ball, and it doesn’t matter if he’s really showing promise or not. What matters is setting little Billy on a path to success. Now Billy knows he not only wants to be an astronaut or a pro wrestler, but he is convinced it is an achievable goal.

Continue reading

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Immediately after its Sundance premiere, Judas and the Black Messiah attracted considerable attention from festival audiences and – most notably – from the critical community. Sonnets were written about Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield and even Jesse Plemons and at least for a little while it looked as though this Shaka King’s sophomore feature would generate enough momentum to stage an upset at the Oscars.  

Continue reading

The Uncut Gems Podcast – Episode 23 (Death Proof)

If there is ever a reason to start a podcast, it is to force a bunch of people to watch a movie they won’t like. Just kidding. Or am I?

Seriously though, I honestly created The Uncut Gems Podcast with the expressed desire to talk about movies like Death Proof. Even though it has recently gained some appreciation (as evidenced by the improving reviews found on Letterboxd), it is still considered a bit left-handed (to borrow a phrase from Tarantino himself). But at least in my opinion it is an absolute misunderstood masterpiece of action and suspense and – most of all – a love letter to men and women who put their lives on the line to bring the magic of cinema to life. Therefore, I was really looking forward to having this conversation and to see how others (whose tastes in cinema are quite eclectic too) read this movie. Suffice it to say, it almost came to blows… But seriously, I think we dug quite deep trying to interrogate Death Proof as we talked about Tarantino himself, projected a handful of social commentaries on the film, and tried to identify what makes this movie click for some (here!) while it disgusts others.

Continue reading

The Uncut Gems Podcast – Episode 22 (Vanishing Point)

Our high-octane escapade continues as in the last episode we tackled the 1971 cult classic Vanishing Point. In fact, this episode is best seen as a first part of a nested double bill within this series, as it is paired up with a movie that – at least from where I am sitting – is a love letter to Sarafian’s seminal classic, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. But more on that in a few days.

Continue reading

Quentin Tarantino and Recreational Outrage

Although it is completely coincidental, I find it uncanny and extremely interesting to me as a film lover that just after we recorded a new episode of The Uncut Gems Podcast (coming to your ears very soon) on Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the man himself spent a weekend doing the talk show rounds and he ended up appearing on a bunch of podcasts to boot. As a result, our own discussion, which invariably touched on the Weinstein scandal, Uma Thurman’s crash and much more, has been given an interesting new context, ex post facto as it may be.

Continue reading

The Uncut Gems Podcast – Episode 21 (The Cannonball Run)

In this episode of our show we continued our little series of high-octane adrenaline-infused journey through American cinema. In fact, I shall have you know we still have a good handful of episodes to blow through in this series and I can promise you things will get wild. Not that this episode was not wild enough, because it most assuredly was. After all, how can one even discuss The Cannonball Run in a tame way?

Continue reading

Luca (2021)

Although I did mention this in my review of Soul (which I am quite proud of, come to think of it), I think I’d like to reiterate here that since their 1995 debut with Toy Story, Pixar’s filmmaking portfolio has been more or less divided into two distinct modes of operation: movies for kids that adults can enjoy, and movies for adults that kids can enjoy. And even though their numerical record shows a historical preference for the former, ever since Wall-E and Up they’ve been putting increasing emphasis on the latter, where their newest creation, Luca, also happens to fit. 

Continue reading

Is Paddington a Religious Figure?

I didn’t grow up with Paddington. I come from a different cultural background, so nobody ever read these books to me, nor did I have a personal stuffed rendition of this apparent icon to sleep with as a child. And even though I have resided in the UK for long enough to become aware of Paddington’s existence in the cultural sphere, I’d like to say that I was going to watch Paddington and Paddington 2 relatively unbiased.

Continue reading