Author: Brandi Blahnik

30 Days of Night: Surviving Will Cost Your Humanity

Revisiting director David Slade’s 30 Days of Night is an arresting experience. Ten years later, the violent terror wrought by writer Steve Niles’ vampires is still shocking and somewhat unexpected within a genre that proffered lusty, beautiful vampires for so many decades. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) provided a rebirth of sorts for the monster, grossing a surprising $215 million and winning three Academy Awards. But with the tag line “Love never dies,” Coppola’s film was a decidedly romantic take on the Count, rendered further irresistible by Gary Oldman. Director Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s popular vampire series followed...

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Gerald’s Game: How Women Survive the Men Who Love Them

Overview: Jessie and Gerald Burlingame’s romantic weekend turns suddenly horrific when Jessie finds herself alone, handcuffed to a bed, with no one around for miles. Netflix; 2017; Rated TV-MA; 103 minutes. A Story Within a Story: Gerald’s Game premise is simple: A weekend getaway designed to reignite the flame that years of marriage have dulled. Its tools, almost cliché: a new slip for her, those ever-recognizable little blue pills for him, and handcuffs for a bit of excitement. But the intrinsic power of Gerald’s Game is not in its clever setup, but rather the underlying tension wrought by every...

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How a Thinking Filmmaker Films Thinking: The Shot-by-Shot Slow Burn of David Fincher

One of the most challenging aspects of storytelling is showing a character thinking. It might sound like a straightforward task, but think about what you look like while studying. Ever watched someone complete a puzzle? It’s a quiet, meditative task marked by trial and error. In reality, there’s remarkably little head-scratching or furrowed brows. Visually, it’s rather unimpressive. So how does a creator reveal thinking—poring over material, investigative work, head-buried-in-clues research—without absolutely boring the audience? How does a director reinvent frustration, the false lead, the maddening search, particularly over a two-hour film? David Fincher has made a career of...

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Redefining Representation: A Love Letter to Ava DuVernay

“If you are a woman in Hollywood, if you are of color, particularly if you’re black, the founding images of cinema are adverse to your very humanity. And if the images of the medium you work in are adverse to your very humanity, then every action is a reaction. So everything I do tries to provide contrast. I try and pivot from the characterization of what women should be, what black people should be, what black women should be. I try to counter the presentation of black life—within Hollywood, within the studio system, within what makes it to theaters.”...

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Minority Report 15 Years Later

Dystopian. Orwellian. After 15 years, Minority Report is still a both beautiful and gritty depiction of our future. Alternating between technological eye candy and the crumbling realism of urbanization, the film has a remarkable authenticity—a kind of futuristic setting that is still just familiar enough to remain plausible. Director Steven Spielberg’s vision of 2054 was surprisingly optimistic, given the warning at the heart of the story. Like many dystopias, the film weighs the costs of a safe, orderly society against the price of the freedoms it inhibits. At its center remains the complex, theoretical question of whether we are...

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Figuring Out What to Do With Women 30 Years After The Witches of Eastwick

“Do you think God knew what He was doing when He created woman?….Or do you think it was just another one of His minor mistakes like tidal waves, earthquakes, floods! You think women are like that?” Thus roars Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) in the center of a scandalized church audience, in his wind blown pink overcoat, covered in dirt and feathers, vomiting cherry stones between punctuated lines of a raging monologue, begging us to consider: just what are we to do about women? Witches of Eastwick (1987) remains (maybe disconcertingly) relevant after 30 years, unapologetic for its own...

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Ellen Ripley: A Corrective History of a Feminist Icon

In Alien (1979), a seven-member crew of the Nostromo sets down on LV-426 where they encounter an unidentified alien life form. Lieutenant Ellen Ripley is amongst that crew. Spoiler alert: she will be the sole survivor. Since dubbed by many to be the “first action heroine,” Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) went on to be the central figure in four three (that we care about) major sci-fi films and spawned a franchise that has spanned nearly four decades now. Authoritative, collected, quick-witted, maternal—she is perpetually multi-dimensional. Her portrayal inarguably changed the landscape for female leads, particularly in both sci-fi and horror...

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