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Taylor Gaines and a rotating cast of co-hosts talk "Survivor," Television, Movies, Podcasts, and the Latest in Pop Culture.

Tag: Arrival

Denis 2049: Link Roundup

If you missed any of our series on Denis Villeneuve, you can find links to all of our podcasts and writings in this post.

Without further ado:

Podcast Episodes

1) Director Deliberations (52:39)

2) August 32nd On Earth (38:55)

3) Maelstrom (27:13) 

4) Polytechnique (44:22)

5) Incendies (42:24)

6) Prisoners (54:06)

7) Enemy (52:50)

8) Sicario (49:55)

9) Arrival (1:02:35)

10) Bonus: Blade Runner (30:06)

 

11) Blade Runner 2049 (1:01:02)

Fireside Chats

1) August 32nd On Earth

Taylor: I’ve never seen a premise quite like this before. Does this happen often? Have any of your friends ever approached you asking to help them conceive a child in the desert? Would you do this for any of your friends?

Sam: The short answer is yes, of course I would take my friend to the desert to impregnate her. But only if we were married … (Keep reading here…)

2) Maelstrom

Taylor: Um, Sam? This movie was in French. I don’t speak French.

Sam: I speak French just fine, but remember, Taylor, this movie is French-Canadian. And in that field I can only speculate. (Keep reading here…)

3) Polytechnique

Taylor: I felt like I was witnessing something impossible, the act of witnessing it ensuring that I couldn’t deny what was happening right in front of me. A contradiction that I can’t justify but won’t back down from. It was surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so compelled and disturbed and haunted by a movie all at once.

Sam: “Polytechnique” is one of those movies – “Schindler’s List,” “Manchester by the Sea,” Villeneuve’s own “Prisoners” – that gladly asks you to pay money to get punched in the throat. It hurts to watch this movie. It’s gut-wrenching and brutal and the longest 80-minute movie I’ve ever seen.

I loved it. (Keep reading here…)

4) Incendies

Sam: It represents what he thinks about what he’s portraying. He believes, I think, that the world is dark and terrible, but not without hope, love and people fighting break cycles of anger and the systems that oppress them. Or, I don’t know, maybe he’s just into incest.

Taylor: I think this is a really good point. He often presents worlds that make no sense, that would make anyone question their existence and purpose and whether anything really matters. By the end, though, nearly without fail, he presents them with a way forward. A way to keep going. It may not be definitive or solve everything (or anything!), but it shows some optimism. And that gives me some hope, too. (Keep reading here…)

5) Prisoners

Taylor: This is such an obnoxiously bad opinion that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe he just wanted people to think, “Wow, what a bold take! He must know something I don’t!” If I was younger, I might have fallen for this, but facts are facts. If you think “Prisoners” is Denis’ seventh-best movie, you should not be allowed into the theater for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Sam: If Melissa Leo and her whack-ass husband kidnapped me, pumped me with some psychedelic Welch’s grape juice, put me in a basement, and said, “Here you go, finish this book of puzzles and you can go home,” and the last page said, “Explain how ‘Prisoners’ is Denis’ seventh-best movie,” I’d happily rot under that 1972 Chevy Vega.

And that’s really what “Prisoners” is about, isn’t it? (Keep reading here…)

6) Enemy

Sam: …let’s try on a couple:

  • Spider Number One: The spider on the plate. At the beginning of the movie, Actor Gyllenhaal goes to the strangest speakeasy in Toronto, in which women step on spiders served on stainless-steel, beautifully-crafted serving dishes. If this isn’t symbolic of the existential threat posed by women taking over the culinary industry, I don’t know what is.
  • Spider Number Two: The spider with long legs walking slowly over the city, careful not to step on any of the sharp buildings. This is clearly Denis’ ode to waking up in the middle of the night and gingerly walking to the bathroom when you can’t see what’s on the floor.

What spiders am I missing?

Taylor: You left out a hugely important spider.

Wife Spider. (Keep reading here…)

7) Sicario

You won’t believe who we got to write this one for us. Go read it.

8) Arrival 

Taylor: Tell me I’m wrong.

Sam: You’re wrong.

Taylor: Okay. Good talk.

Sam: No, listen. Renner is…(Keep reading here…)

9) Blade Runner 2049

Taylor: Your well-founded concerns about the LAPD looking the other way on serious child labor crimes while also sending officers to other states notwithstanding (though, trust me, I also find this deeply concerning), I think it’s time we get to the nitty-gritty: Tell me your thoughts on Jared Leto, and give me your guess for what planet his character is from in this movie.

*dives into bunker, covers ears*

Sam: I don’t want to guess irresponsibly about the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to casting Leto as the titular villain (maybe Denis was trying to impress his 14-year-old stepdaughter?), so I won’t get into the why on Earth was this decision made discussion but will try to only discuss his on-field performance.

I’ll start by trying to answer your question: I have no idea what planet Wallace is from, but I’m guessing it’s a world a lot like Earth except that it is inhabited by blind humanoids who are deeply philosophical, malicious, and don’t read scripts. Leto for sure showed up on set without having seen the original “Blade Runner” or having read anything but his own lines.

He definitely thinks…(Keep reading here…)

Fireside Chats: ‘Arrival’

For each movie in the “Denis 2049” series, Taylor and Sam will sit down and bounce some thoughts off each other, off-mic. Their brilliant minds will unleash many words. Make of them what you will. This time: “Arrival.”

Taylor: Alright, good job, everybody. Let’s pack it up. We found it. This is the best Denis Villeneuve movie.

Sam. What if I told you there was a movie that’s literally about the fact that written and spoken language is inadequate and that that same movie uses its visual and emotional language to make you want to cry and also watch it over and over again and also hug your parents and also hug everyone you ever meet? And what if I told you this movie happened to be the most well-shot movie of the decade and also tells a fascinating story regardless and also somehow gets better and better every time you watch it?

Would you go see that movie?

Sam: Well, I have some things to tell you, Taylor. That movie does exist. It’s directed by our friend Dilly, and it’s the best movie he’s ever made. It’s called “Arrival,” and if you’ve been living under an egg-shaped rock for two years, it’s a movie about what happens when aliens come to earth and just want to talk. Imagine “Independence Day” (aliens) meets “Lost in Translation” (talking) meets “Bourne Legacy” (Renner). It’s incredible. It’s really, really good. It should have won Best Picture in 2016, and the fact that it didn’t will live in infamy.

So let’s get into it. From the ‘beginning,’ if that’s what you want to call it.

Let me throw a Hepta-thetical at you: Say you’re an adjunct (whatever that means) professor with a steady attendance of 8 semi-eager students. You are yet to have any cancer-stricken daughters or “funny” scientist husbands. You’re reading about some bull crap language no one’s ever cared about when the general of the United States Something Armed Forces walks into your office and tells you that despite the giant ‘No Soliciting’ sign that is our depleted o-zone, giant 7-legged extra-terrestrial oxygen-dependent-or-tolerant walking squids are here and they want to either destroy the earth or ask for its help in 3,000 years and we don’t know which. How quickly do you say, “Why is Forest Whitaker in this movie?”

Taylor: Let me answer your question with a question: Was Forest Whitaker in “Rogue One,” or did we all just collectively imagine that? Another question: What’s the opposite of the “Silence of the Lambs” thing where Anthony Hopkins is in the movie for like 15 seconds but it feels like he’s in it for two hours? In this case, it would be more of a situation where someone was either in the movie or we all collectively imagined it, but in our collective memory, he was only in the movie for 2.5 seconds.

Those questions are unrelated.

Anyway, I think what I’m really here to do is to try to stir things up. Here’s my take: This is the best career Renner performance outside of his cameo on “Flip That House,” and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. He’s perfectly in awe of everything that’s happening, smart, able to talk to aliens (put that on his Tinder profile), and adds a crucial bit of levity that no other Denis movie has ever had. Without light, there is no darkness. Everyone in this movie should have won Oscars. (Just give Forest one for being there.)

Tell me I’m wrong.

Sam: You’re wrong.

Taylor: Okay. Good talk.

Sam: No, listen. Renner is only good in two things: “The Town” and that “Louie” flashback episode where he plays a drug dealer. In those, he plays a dangerous antagonist with a shade of crazy that makes for a really volatile and highly entertaining character. He is neither of those things in most performances and sucks in most performances. But that’s not the hill I want to die on.

What really bothers me is the fact that Denis used him as a crutch. There were parts of this movie that were so beautiful and brilliant that standing on their own would have been captivating and amazing enough. Instead, Renner was shoehorned in with jokes and forced levity and talking. I am generally of the opinion that movies can be improved just by getting rid of a lot of their dialogue. Many movies don’t give the audience enough credit and feel the need to provide unnecessary clarity or exposition. In “Arrival, Renner provides unnecessary lightness as the audience proxy.

Look at when they go up into the ship for the first time. It’s the best scene of the movie and probably the year and maybe ever. At the beginning of the scene, they go right up to the egg-rock and are rubbing their hands over it in wonder. Renner laughs, and that part is actually good. It’s sincere, amazed laughter. It’s part of the wonderment of the scene because it’s a totally natural reaction. After about a minute of this first interaction with the ship, they slowly move up into it, interspersing cuts from directly above that show the paled-out ground below with views of the dark tunnel above, their orange suits in stark contrast with the desaturated world around them. It’s quiet other than the lift machine’s whine. (It’s obvious how influenced by “2001” Denis is and in all the best ways.) It’s pure and beautiful science fiction because it feels like – truly – anything can happen.

Then, someone cracks a glowstick and throws it up into the air without saying anything because – and this is important – they don’t have to say anything. It’s okay to not have dialogue in a scene like this! Let what’s happening tell you what’s happening. Trust the process. You’ll know what’s going on when you see it happen. The glowstick flies up into the air and starts bouncing upward along the wall as if that vertical wall perpendicular to the ground is actually the ground itself in a truly “oh shi-” type moment that is simple and wonderful and impossible to accomplish with words.

It’s perfect.

And then Jeremy ‘I can play Jason Bourne, too’ Renner says, “Yeah, that just happened.” This is clearly supposed to be funny. WHY?? Is it supposed to be comedic relief? From what exactly? Does Denis think we’re bored? Does he think we’re confused? It’s a freakin’ awesome moment, and it’s dampened by Renner unnecessarily trying to be funny. Renner goes on to infect the rest of the scene with his ‘oops, I’m goofy and out of place’ unprofessionalism and almost ruins it. His character serves no purpose other than to create the child that needs to die of cancer.

Renner sucks.

Taylor: Welp. I guess we’ll have to fight next time I see you (remind me).

I will admit readily that Renner is the central figure in the worst part of the movie, namely when he whispers in Amy Adams’ ear, “Do you wanna make a baby?” Boy, could I talk about how awkward and poorly written that bit was. Who asked for THAT is my real question. But I stand by my original overall argument (despite serving up evidence to the contrary).

Really, I just find myself overwhelmed by this movie. The score, the cinematography, the production design, the performances, it’s got it all. What else can we even say besides, “Hey dummy, go see this movie”?

Sam: There’s nothing more to say. Go see “Arrival,” dummy. Hurry up! Aliens are gonna need our help in 3,000 years and we may be busy!

Penultimate Denis Rankings:

  1. “Arrival”
  2. “Prisoners”
  3. “Enemy”
  4. “Sicario”
  5. “Polytechnique”
  6. “Incendies”
  7. “August 32nd”
  8. “Maelstrom”

Next up: “Blade Runner 2049

Denis 2049: ‘Arrival’

The end of the line. (Or maybe the beginning?)

On this episode of Denis 2049, Taylor Gaines and Sam Hensel unpack the awe-inspiring 2016 Denis film, “Arrival.” They talk about Amy Adams, aliens, philosophy and what it looks like when a movie is clicking on all cylinders.

Next time: We’ve arrived. “Blade Runner 2049.”

(BONUS episode in between now and then!)

You can find all of our previous podcasts on our website, OnTheIslandPodcast.com and on iTunes. Subscribe, rate, and review!

As always, thanks to Levi Bradford for the theme song. You can find his music at poblano.bandcamp.com.

Find the written companion piece here!

(Now On The Island.)

Vote Villeneuve 2049

On Tuesday, Taylor and Sam argued over which movie director should be the subject of their upcoming podcast series. In the series, they will examine each movie in the filmography of a prominent director. When the dust settled, two men remained: Guillermo del Toro and Denis Villeneuve. Next Tuesday, we’ll be holding a live Twitter vote to determine the winner and subject of the series. Today, we are publishing Taylor’s and Sam’s arguments for why you should vote for their chosen director. First up: Taylor on Villeneuve. (Update: Sam’s is here.)

The argument for Denis Villeneuve is two minutes and 22 seconds long.

Sure, I could spend my time telling you why watching the movies of a man who decided to make two “Hellboy” movies is a bad idea. Or I could tell you why we’d be wasting our time with a filmmaker who saw “Pinocchio” and thought, “You know what? That story should be darker.” I could even tell you why you should never trust the judgment of a man who thinks “The Strain” is good television.

But I won’t do that.

I could also spend my time telling you why Villeneuve is the right choice. For many reasons. I could tell you that “Arrival” is secretly the best movie of the last year. I could tell you that watching “Prisoners” will make you feel things you never thought a movie could make you feel. I could point out that you’d actually be doing Sam a favor by picking Villeneuve because his all-time favorite actor Jake Gyllenhaal is in two of his movies.

But I won’t do that either.

For now, I will simply show you a video that is two minutes and 22 seconds long and highlight some of the moments within.

Please begin.

This is the trailer for Villeneuve’s upcoming film, “Blade Runner 2049.” It comes out October 6.

This is Ryan Gosling. He plays Sebastian. Years after the world has fallen into complete disarray due to a nuclear apocalypse, he still likes to visit the piano bar he used to own. He doggedly holds out hope that he will run into his old flame, Mia, again, and that they can rekindle their romance. “Blade Runner 2049” takes place several years after the events of the first movie, but fans hope it will provide all the answers to their burning questions. Will John Legend make an appearance? It’s too soon to say.

The trailer also reveals that “Blade Runner 2049” takes place in the same expanded universe as “The Prestige,” a theory many had been bandying about online for years.

That’s enough about the plot for now, though. I’d like to talk about wonder.

Denis Villeneuve is the kind of director that makes you audibly gasp when you’re watching his movies in the theater. The world his camera captures is more beautiful than the one we actually inhabit. Even when it’s eye is trained on a post-apocalyptic society. Every shot in this trailer is magnificent, and I would like to build a home inside each of them and live out the rest of my days traveling between each one. That’s wonder.

I mean, c’mon.

That feeling you get when Mackenzie Davis struts onto the screen like she owns the god damn world is called joy. One of our best television actors (“Halt and Catch Fire”, “Black Mirror”) is getting her chance to rule the big screen, and she is not taking that lightly.

If you aren’t sold yet, think about this.

Harrison Ford is 75 years old. When he moves around on screen, he looks every bit his age. But when Villeneuve, in his infinite wisdom, saw Harrison Ford on set, he said, “You know what, I know what this movie’s missing. We need a man who looks like he hasn’t run in 25 years to run from a collapsing building or something.”

This moment in the trailer is funny, and if you don’t want to see Harrison Ford trying to run in a movie, I’m not sure what I can do for you.

There are so many questions. Why is Ryan Gosling so angry? Whose blood is that? Is he a robot? Is Harrison Ford a robot? Will any of Guillermo del Toro’s movies be half as good as this single second of the “Blade Runner 2049” trailer? Will that guy from “Suicide Squad” completely ruin the movie? Am I contractually obligated to mention him by name *cough* Jared Leto? Is Tom Hardy in this movie? Is Denis Villeneuve the best filmmaker currently working in Hollywood?

If you want answers, you know what to do.

Vote Villeneuve.

Follow us @fauxworthypod, and check in on Tuesday for the live vote. The winner will be the subject for the podcast series. “Blade Runner 2049” comes out October 6. “The Shape of Water” comes out December 8. 

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