The Coens Take Hollywood: Hail, Caesar!

The abundance of non-sequiturs and throwaway scenes in Hail, Caesar! is not unusual as these are the trademark characteristics of the Coen brothers’ work. As A.O. Scott put it, a Coen brothers movie is “a brilliant magpie’s nest of surrealism, period detail and pop-culture scholarship.” While this is true, you must understand before going to Hail, Caesar! that you are basically paying to watch the Coens lovingly recreate all the different styles of Hollywood product from the 1950s — westerns, noirs, swimsuit musicals and melodramas. Their new film is merely a vehicle for them to outright mimic all the films they have paid homage to previously — the Busby Berkeley dance number from The Big Lebowski, the non-self conscious roving landscapes of True Grit, the musical numbers from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Reverence for The Revenant

I really, really wanted to love Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant — and I did to an extent — but it does not have the emotional heft to match the operatic grandeur of its settings and cinematography. Rumors drifted back all throughout last year about the painstaking shoot in subzero Canadian wilderness, Leo DiCaprio’s flea-bitten beard (not true) and Iñárritu’s insistence on photographing the film strictly with natural light, the last of which lends the film a magical glow perhaps only seen in the films of Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick. The master director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki has shot several films for Malick, won the Oscar the past two years for Birdman and Gravity and will win again this year: bet on it. Thus, the primary star of The Revenant is the film’s stark natural beauty. It overwhelms the senses with images and experiences as disgusting as consumption of a raw buffalo liver, refuge taken inside the innards of a hollowed-out horse and, of course, a gruesome, ferocious bear mauling.

A Creed of Humanity and Heart

Man, oh man, do I love Ryan Coogler’s approach to filmmaking. Plugging in the small-scale indie director behind 2013’s searing Fruitvale Station to reinvigorate the Rocky franchise was a brilliant decision. This method has been tried many times before with disastrous results (Josh Trank, Neill Blomkamp), but this time it is a rare and immediately apparent success. Creed shrewdly lands its hardest punches outside the ring, within the boxer’s friendships. It is proof that in Coogler, we are witnessing the emergence of a true auteur who has a knack for effortless intimacy no matter the budget or scale.

Bond 24: Quite the Spectre-cal

Put it away, naysayers. I’m sick of people telling me there’s something wrong with liking pop entertainment. It doesn’t have to have a fabulously deep agenda like Mad Max: Fury Road or dispense with traditional narrative or even refuse to follow formula to be entertaining. Quit pointing out the plot holes in Interstellar and the corny dialogue in Gravity and just shut up and watch the movie, because you might have fun. A Bond movie, fans should know, requires strict suspension of disbelief, so check your intellect at the door and get ready to enjoy a long, lavish extravaganza that has everything you could possibly want from 007.

Cornell Takes Hollywood: Perspectives on the Cornell in Hollywood program

Cornell grads make it in Hollywood? And how! The Sun had the chance to chat with recent graduates, Casey Minella ’14,  Jesse Turk ’14 and Carol Bass ’14, all of whom were active in the Performing and Media Arts department and are alums of the Cornell in Hollywood internship program, a Cornell Club of Los Angeles program program that places students in Hollywood internships in the film and entertainment industries. Minella, Turk and Bass have all now started their LA-based careers in the entertainment industry and had much to say about how Cornell in Hollywood helped them do it. The Sun: What was your experience in Cornell in Hollywood?

A Haunted House Oozing Excess: Crimson Peak

Guillermo Del Toro is a talented and visionary filmmaker. There is an earnestness and an excitement to his imagination which comes across clearly on screen — his films are like pages straight out of a sketchbook. But his Achilles’ heel has always been his interest in his production design, fantastical sets and beloved monsters — to the point of sacrificing emotion and character development. There is often an abundance of weird creatures in his work which always threaten to overwhelm his provocative ideas, however, Crimson Peak, surprisingly, contains none of them. A few ghouls and skeletons aside, this film is devoid of any fauns, demons, kaijus or aliens.

Bridge of Spies: A Victory for Spielberg and Hanks


What is interesting about Bridge of Spies is that it’s somewhat of a slight film, which is, needless to say, unusual for Steven Spielberg. Most of his films tackle weighty issues (Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan) while this one tells a microcosmic but nonetheless fascinating story with some meaty undertones and implications. It’s truly a courtroom procedural that takes place on different continents instead of in courthouses; about men in suits debating and discussing. If I’m starting to bore you, fear not. With a lead actor as good as Tom Hanks, a movie is well worth watching.

iGenius: Steve Jobs Biopic

In his book Creativity Inc., which details the founding of Pixar, Ed Catmull likens the presence of fellow co-founder Steve Jobs to the famous 1980s Maxwell tape commercial, with the dude in the suit being blown back full force — tie, cocktail, lampshade and all— by the sheer power of his stereo system. According to Catmull, everyone else was always the dude in the suit, and the stereo system was always Jobs. Steve Jobs does nothing to disprove Catmull’s analogy of Jobs as an intense, driven, borderline psychotic individual whose life had controversy, ambivalence and intrigue to spare. Written by Aaron Sorkin, one of the few auteurist screenwriters of today, the film invites much comparison to his masterful script for The Social Network five years back, which likewise focused on an ambivalent, controversial, intensely driven individual who ended up forever changing the world as we know it. Social Network was helmed by David Fincher, a director of notoriously misanthropic and exquisitely dark films, who was originally slated to do Jobs before Danny Boyle stepped in.

The Martian: Rocket Science as Comedy


Fall movie season is officially here, which means that even after a summer of particularly good popcorn fare, Hollywood starts craving some respect and puts out all its prestige films. Generally, around this weekend there is one high-quality film released by a major studio and helmed by a heavyweight director. I’m pleased to report that The Martian is this year’s movie. Directed by Ridley Scott and running two and a half never-boring hours, it is a pleasurable and sometimes awe-inspiring ride. It contains some moments of genuine amazement, many that are laugh-out loud funny, and fits neatly into the tradition of recent space-set blockbusters by big-name directors like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. The film plays like a comedic fantasy version of Apollo 13 with its good-natured characters, not a one of them evil or out for sabotage, striving to bring home a lone marooned space explorer on cinema’s favorite alternative planet.