Disaster vacation films are a dime dozen. Audiences see a sun-drenched location and they know – something is afoot. Nonetheless, Hulu is looking to join the genre with their newest, The Drop. Directed by Sarah Adina Smith, The Drop follows a group of friends as they gather for a destination wedding, only to have a shocking incident disturb the celebration. The Drop may not reinvent the “trip gone wrong” trope. Still, its stellar cast and sharp director know how to dig deep to find the weird unease hanging around friends on vacation. Continue Reading →
The Handmaid's Tale
In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say this: I’m not a big fan of The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s something about a show that is so unrelentingly grim—without even the occasional glimmers of light—that just makes me feel like I’ve been ground down into a salty meat paste. This is why I checked out of Game of Thrones before I even knew the words “Red Wedding,” because I couldn’t bear to watch Sansa Stark beaten, humiliated, and tortured anymore. So while I can say that Handmaid’s has strong writing and still boasts some of the most gorgeous photography of any show out there, I still don’t enjoy it. Can anyone say they actually enjoy it? And when did the incessant castigation of women become primetime entertainment? Continue Reading →
Gender itself is a societal construct, but in the realm of the Western, it doesn’t just exist but defines the genre. The quintessential Western protagonist is that of The Man with No Name, after all, while John Wayne’s various characters were primarily distinguished by traits largely associated with peak masculinity. Meanwhile, women typically occupy passive roles in these stories reflecting how general society tends to look at ladies. Love interests or workers at a brothel, that’s all women get to do in the majority of Western movies. Continue Reading →
Fran Kranz's debut is an emotional whopper of a drama, a vivid actor's exercise with incredible performances and passionate ruminations on the aftereffects of tragedy.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.)
One would be forgiven for thinking writer-director Fran Kranz's debut feature, Mass, was based on a play: it's a long, claustrophobic affair, set mostly around a folding card table set meticulously in the middle of a church basement by nearly pathologically-Midwestern church staff in the film's opening minutes. We don't see who's going to sit in them for quite a few minutes, but the way the kindly, empathetic Judy (Breeda Wool) talks to their facilitator Kendra (Michelle N. Carter), we know we're in for an emotionally-loaded experience. By the time Mass's two hours are finished, we're as exhausted as Kranz's subjects, but grippingly, cathartically so. Continue Reading →
The Manchurian Candidate
Every month, we at The Spool select a filmmaker to explore in greater depth — their themes, their deeper concerns, how their works chart the history of cinema and the filmmaker’s own biography. For February, we’re celebrating acclaimed genre-bender Jonathan Demme. Read the rest of our coverage here.
Objectively, remaking The Manchurian Candidate seems a wild proposition. The 1962 version was met with strong critical praise and audience support upon its release. Furthermore, Angela Lansbury’s depiction of Eleanor Iselin has only grown to near-mythic standards of appreciation since. On top of it all, the movie was also a deeply faithful adaptation of the novel. How and why does someone re-adapt/remake something that was both universally praised and hewed so close to the source material as to make being less faithful the only option?
The most compelling answer lies in Jonathan Demme’s particular fixation on humanism. As has been well-established, the director has long been considered one of the most humane directors of the late 20th and early 21st Century. Through films like Something Wild, Rachel Getting Married, Beloved, and even Ricki and the Flash, the director has time and time again created empathetic portraits of people struggling through life. Continue Reading →