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Tag: Denis 2049 (Page 2 of 4)

Fireside Chats: ‘Enemy’

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: “Enemy.”

Sam: The plot of this movie is … strange. To a level that I’m sure I don’t understand. But I’ll try to sum things up as best as I can in one sentence: A professor sees his doppelganger in a movie so he decides to find out who the actor is, only to find that said actor wants to steal his girlfriend from him and by doing so he leaves the aforementioned professor alone with a very pregnant, very confused, uh, spider.

What do you say? Is Gyllenhaal one person with a strong case of multiple personality disorder, or is this universe blessed with two Jakes?

Taylor: Hmm. We’ll talk about this extensively on the podcast, I’m sure, but I believe there can only be one Jake. The wife’s shocked reactions, the scar, the mom’s dialogue, the fact that there have been zero reported real-world instances of Jake Gyllenhaal being in two places at the same time, it all seems to obvious. Plus, the story of a man who can’t resist his philandering ways seems to make a lot more sense than the story of two men who look alike and happen to meet and have a weird tendency to wind up in situations involving blondes and spiders. It makes sense on both a storytelling/sensibility level and a “there is some serious spider symbolism in this movie” level.

That being said, I’m not super interested in litigating all the different theories and possibilities at this moment as much as I am in talking about the spiders. I have so many thoughts about the spiders.

What do you think they mean? Are they real? Imaginary? Subconscious? Has your life irrevocably been changed since watching “Enemy” because you can’t stop thinking about spiders?

Sam: I’m glad we’re talking about this. These spiders are most definitely imaginary, but that does not make them any less real. They are a regular part of my day now. Every empty room I walk into could be the one to have a Volkswagen-sized tarantula cowering in the corner. Every time I see a grouping of wires it looks like a spiderweb. I feel like I can’t even get into a normal car accident anymore without seeing a web in the broken glass.

Honestly, I barely understood this movie outside the “don’t cheat on your pregnant wife or you and your mistress will die in a car crash” subplot, so it would be irresponsible to speculate about what each spider in this movie could mean.

Ah, what the hell, 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.

But more on that in a second.

I think Spider Number One has more to do with spiders becoming a delicacy as a way for us to exert dominance over our own fears. Villeneuve clearly just wanted to show that if we are afraid of something, we should just eat it. As for Spider Number Two, you totally nailed it.

So let’s talk about Wife Spider.

Wife Spider is clearly meant to be taken literally. As many people know, spiders have been waging a war against humanity since the dawn of time. For instance, many people mistakenly believe rats helped to spread the Black Plague. It was actually spiders. Like the Illuminati, though, spiders are something people don’t often talk about.

Villeneuve, however, being a man of the people, knew it was to time to bring the truth into the light for the masses. The way this movie is meant to be read is simple: This is a movie about a spider spy trying to trap a nice man who just wants to live his life. The spider spy nearly draws him into its web enough to lull him to sleep. At the point of sleep, he would be summarily eliminated. (Important note: The spider was successful in eliminating one of the Jake Gyllenhaals.) However, he realizes something is wrong just in the nick of time.

As the screen prepares to cut to black, the spider shows its true self and Gyllenhaal stands to show he knows what’s what, prepared to fight.

It is my belief that as the credits roll, there is a fight to the death raging on between Gyllenhaal and the spider. The winner determines the fate of humanity.

Sam: See, I resent this trope that spiders are the bad guys. It’s 2017, Taylor, turn off Fox News.

Look at “Charlotte’s Web,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “A Bug’s Life.” These movies and “Enemy” – and I would argue every movie in which a spider is trapped inside of a pregnant woman – are really about the imprisonment of literal spiders within the confines of our outdated moral constructs.

Gyllenhaal is an agent for change in human-spider relations. He dreams about them. He grimaces at women stepping on them. He saw his wife shed her pregnant exoskeleton and reveal herself as a big, beautiful spider, and he beamed with pride at her self-actualization. He is also a historian, and he doesn’t preach that vitriol about spiders causing the Black Plague. They suffered with us! If anything, they were the victims! If a human gets bit by a rat, it hurts. And maybe you get sick. If a spider gets bit by a rat, they instantly die.

The good news, Taylor, is that Gyllenhaal’s efforts pay off. His wife – the biggest spider in the apartment complex – reveals her true self and he basks in her glow. Sure, his literal twin had to die in a car accident for this to work out the way it did, but you know what?

Not a bad trade for spider peace.

Taylor: God damn it.

Sam: I win.

Denis 2049 Power Rankings after six:

  1. “Prisoners”
  2. “Enemy”
  3. “Polytechnique”
  4. “Incendies”
  5. “Aug. 32nd”
  6. “Maelstrom”

Next up: “Sicario.”

Denis 2049: ‘Enemy’

The end is closer than the beginning as Taylor Gaines and Sam Hensel break down Denis Villeneuve’s film “Enemy.” Does 1 + 1 = 1? Who is Jake Gyllenhaal? And what’s with all the spiders? All those questions and more, answered on this episode.

Next time: “Sicario

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.

You can find the written companion piece here.

(Now On The Island!)

Fireside Chats: ‘Prisoners’

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: “Prisoners.”

Taylor: Okay, let’s think about this. How could we possibly describe what it’s like to go through the physically, mentally, emotionally and existentially draining experience that is watching “Prisoners”?


So, imagine you’re lying on a cold tile floor. You’re basically naked. It’s wintertime. Every minute seems colder than the one before. Then, someone begins placing ice cubes on your body. One on a toe, one on an arm, one on your face. On and on until you feel like your body may never be able to warm back up ever again.

That’s what “Prisoners” feels like to me. With each scene, I get colder and colder and wonder whether I’ll be able to love or feel anything ever again.

And yet.

There is something very compelling and human about “Prisoners.” Something that keeps me glued to my seat and makes me want to revisit the movie time and again. What the hell is that something, Sam? I can’t figure it out.

Sam: I took an ice bath once to break a fever. I realize now that I could’ve just watched “Prisoners.” It’s chilling and stressful and bleak and depressing and ice-mother-freakin’ cold, but you know what, Taylor?

It’s Denis’ most fun movie. That’s why I keep going back to it.

Sure, if you go into this movie expecting a feel-good romp with Paul Dano driving around in an RV and hanging out with some kids, you’re gonna be disappointed. But Dillenueve’s ethical rollercoaster ends up making me more excited from the ride than sick from it.

This movie could have gone in a couple directions with a premise this dark when you think about it. It could have taken kidnapping and put it in its cold realism that it’s inexplicable and often unsolved, but instead, it added resolution and twists and drama. It hit the same fork in the road that “Polytechnique” did and took the direction of snakes and puzzles instead of harsh reality. I’m grateful for that because I don’t think I could sit through a black-and-white docudrama about Hugh Jackman never finding his kid. It would be too much.

I like the imagery you present about how chilling this movie is, but my question is this. What’s the coldest part?

Some nominations (feel free to add your own):

  • The climate in upstate Pennsylvania
  • The sudden realization that your child is missing
  • Gyllenhaal’s haircut
  • Terrence Howard on the trumpet

Taylor: Yeah, you forgot a few.

  • The kids going outside without their jacket (pretty cold)
  • Gyllenhaal outside (looked cold)
  • The window left open while Mom tries to sleep (probably cold)
  • Drinking Holly Hunter’s poison juice as your kid slowly dies somewhere nearby (the coldest)

For real, though, Terrence Howard is rough on the trumpet. It really shattered my “Empire”-based reality to see Lucius Lyon hop on the trumpet and sound terrible. My whole world makes no sense now. I don’t know what to believe.

The thing I keep thinking about after watching this movie again – this was the second time I’ve seen it – is how well-calibrated it is. The whole thing holds together so perfectly while also opening up so many doors in such compelling, thoughtful ways. It gives you so much to think about thematically that I find myself wanting to go back and revisit it again for some reason. (Am I crazy?)

At this point in our series, I’m pretty comfortable saying this is Villeneuve’s best movie. Everything peaked here. And I’m excited for what’s next. I feel like it’s just getting better and better.

I guess you could say I’m … a prisoner to Denis.

Sam: This was Denis’ best and biggest. The gang came out to play. Sure, Terrence Howard might have learned how to hold a trumpet seconds before walking on to the set, but Melissa Leo made me believe that “raging a war against God” is a legitimate character motivation and Maria Bello showed that she could lie on a bed and be sad!

Seriously, this whole thing is so well-calibrated. It knows what to do with its best characters and is able to be puzzling without being too Nolan-y. It squeezes in a mystery thriller and an after-school special into a small two-and-a-half-hour window. Even Denis’ on-the-nose tendencies worked this time. Jackman talking to his kid about being prepared for anything minutes before “anything” happens felt more chilling and ominous than obvious and annoying. Gyllenhaal’s character sitting alone in a Chinese restaurant when it is clearly Christmas talking about how he needs a personal life was overt but felt expedient and necessary to the story.

I’m a fan of this one.

Who won this movie, Taylor? Is it one of the heavyweights? Is it the police chief who never leaves his desk or stands up? Is it actually just a three-horse race between Jackman, Gyllenhaal and Dano?

Taylor: There’s no such thing as winning in a movie like “Prisoners” really. I’d say simply surviving is winning.

So…. I guess everybody other than Melissa Leo and that creepy guy who painted the interrogation room walls with his brains won? I don’t know. Who knows?

Here’s what I know: This movie is super good. That’s a fact.

However, I recently saw a clickbaiter (I fell for it, obviously) who put out a ranking of all of Denis Villeneuve’s movies. This “critic” had “Prisoners” ranked seventh. Seventh! I won’t dignify these rankings or this author with a name or a link, but SEVENTH! THEY HAD “PRISONERS” SEVENTH!!!

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.”

/end of rant

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?

Taylor: Look, this movie is about as hard to talk about as it is to watch. So I’m done here. Be nice to your puppies, and don’t steal children’s clothing.

I think I’m going to lie down for a while.

Sam: Denis 2049 Power Rankings after five:

  1. “Prisoners”
  2. “Polytechnique”
  3. “Incendies”
  4. “Aug. 32nd
  5. “Maelstrom”

Next up: “Enemy.”

Denis 2049: ‘Prisoners’

Taylor Gaines is joined by Sam Hensel for Part Five of the official Denis Villeneuve podcast. On this episode, they break down Villeneuve’s most well-known film, “Prisoners,” and talk about its complexity, morality, and where it fits in the Villenouvre.

Next time: “Enemy

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 companion written piece here.

(Now On The Island!)

Fireside Chats: ‘Incendies’

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: “Incendies.”

Taylor: This is a movie about math.

I have questions about this movie’s math.

How could the mother have had a son that could be old enough by the time she was in prison to be her torturer and also her son? How many years pass during this movie? This is confusing and unclear (and I think I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about it because it’s disgusting).

Also, can 1 + 1 = 1? Can it??

We both studied majors in college – journalism, telecommunications – that dealt with math super often, so I feel like we should be experts on this subject.

What say you? How do you even begin to unpack this?

Sam: I have only one theory about how one plus one could equal one.

Theory One:

In a situation in which the word “half” is presupposed or is unnecessary to clarify. For instance, if I wake up and there’s half of a dead fish in my bedroom and he’s narrating a movie to me, I’m gonna run out of the room screaming, “Help! Help! Someone help me, there is a fish in my room!” I don’t think it would add to anyone’s understanding if I said, “There’s half a fish in my room.” That would be more information than necessary. Then suppose that later on in this same scenario, let’s say the next day, I awoke and the other half of the fish was sitting on my desk. I would be like, “WHAT IS GOING ON, another fish??” when in reality, it comes from the same fish. It would be a fish in my room, then a fish in my room, with the total equaling one fish.

Then there’s Theory One:

If I sit down for dinner and eat an entire meal’s worth of food, decide I’m still hungry, and eat another meal’s worth of food, I’m not gonna say I had supper twice. It’ll just be one big meal. One meal plus one meal is just one meal.

So take Theory One and add it to Theory One, and you’re left with just one conclusion:

Math is a fantastic tapestry of mystery in which nothing is definite and almost everything is subjective.

What’s not fantastic – and pretty illegal – is incest. I feel like if you squint, you can actually see a hint of incest in this movie. Did you catch a little interfamilial relation in this?

Taylor: If by squint you mean, “become faced with the hard, cold reality of a horrifying world in which a war-torn country leaves outspoken women behind bars and young boys as hardened war criminals, forcing you to shield your eyes from the horror because nothing makes sense and everything you thought you knew was wrong” then yeah. I noticed.

Unless you’re referring to the brother and sister being incestual in their own way. Does the chain actually remain unbroken? Is the cycle undefeated? Evidence!

  1. They fight at the beginning. (I hear couples do that.)
  2. They sit on a bed together at one point. (I was always taught you should never be in the same room as a girl, so.)
  3. It runs in the family. (Is that how this works?)
  4. I don’t feel like doing this anymore and it makes me feel gross, and if it makes me feel gross, it must be true.

What were we talking about?

Oh, Villeneuve. I wanted to bring up something during this chat: The way that he ends his movies.

It seems to me that, contrary to the majority of the running time in his movies, Villy is actually an optimist. Each movie so far (outside of maybe “August 32nd”) is crushingly depressing and horrifying in one way or another up until pretty much the last second. I’m sure we’ll talk more about this is we continue working through his IMDb page, but I find this fascinating.

Is this an insight into his mind? What do you think Villeneuve’s worldview is?

Sam: He is rather dour, I have to say. So far, we’ve seen:

  1. A movie in which a man is friend-zoned literally to death
  2. A woman murdering not just a fish but a fisherman
  3. A school shooting
  4. Incest, child killing, tattoos

But you’re right! Somehow, he brings it around each time. I do believe this is an insight into Dilly’s mind.

You can see it visually in every movie. Just look at the way he colors his films. The first, “August 32nd,” is his lightest movie. It pops with greens and bright yellows, while “Polytechnique,” his most serious, is bleak and colorless. Everything in between uses deep blacks and dark darks that show how low the lows are going to be and how much the tragedy is going to really hurt. He mixes all of that with solid, rich, light, warm colors that feel hopeful and comfortable.

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.

You know what else gives me hope? That the rest of Villy’s movies are in my native tongue! It’s time for all English, all the time (except for Sicario probably)! Speak American, baby!

Sam: Yooooo, we’re done with French movies! I hate to say it, but I think I’m ready to return to the English language and the big-budget, shallow American works it spawns. Time for big explosions and blockbusters. What light, raunchy 88-minute American film is our reward for wallowing through 10 hours of these painful and taxing stories?



Villeneuve 2049 Power Rankings:

1. “Polytechnique”

2. “Incendies”

— Gap —

3. “August 32nd”

4. “Maelstrom”

Next up: “Prisoners.”

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