By Anne Brodie
Jordan Peele proved he was a unique and gifted filmmaker and thinker in the groundbreaking Get Out and Us; here he comes in full flower with Nope an eerie outing about events on a Black-owned horse ranch in inland California. Peele defies nature’s laws scripting an oncoming weather threat, not related to climate change, and the living beings caught in it. It opens indoors, on a TV sitcom set in the aftermath of a catastrophe. The series’ loveable chimp star Gordy rebels and slaughters cast and crew, sparing the young boy. Cut to the horse farm decades later. Daniel Kaluuya (those soulful eyes) and Keke Palmer ( kinetic, take charge energy) are OJ and Emmy, estranged brother and sister left to run a horse-for-hire for the movie industry when their father dies in a freak windstorm, fatally pierced by flying debris. OJ and Em are alarmed by increasingly bizarre cloud events and one that doesn’t move over their isolated gulch, events that cause the horses to run from or to it, before vanishing. Steven Yeun is the man version of the boy, famous for being spared in the chimp attack; he owns a Wild West amusement park complete with a Gordy-themed display. He too notices the clouds and monetizes them for his daily shows, real crowdpleasers. OJ and Emmy install gear to scan the skies; the tech guy (Brandon Perea) is terrified by what he senses in the sky and joins their search for answers, with a jaded filmmaker (Michael Wincott) who finally finds something to care about. The force knows it’s being surveilled and fights back – it must attack without warning. Peele’s exceptional script and direction, the story’s density, intelligence, and thrilling creativity are so strong the experience becomes visceral. The climate, invasion, and bad miracles may keep us up at night because it’s strong stuff – hardcore brainy, poetic trauma horror / old-fashioned spectacle that also manages to address social and cultural issues.
Sara Dosa’s documentary Fire of Love tells the story of husband and wife celebrity volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft whose love couldn’t have been more Shakespearan. Twenty years dedicated to investigating – and watching – volcanos erupt yielded a life’s work of a massive legacy of photos and film and invaluable samples of earth, rock, and hardened magma. The two admit to a kind of addiction to volcanos and live on them, away from people, at one with one of the earth’s most powerful forces. They say a volcano gives hints when it’s about to blow – it shudders, smells putrid and the skies shift. Thanks to their footage are fortunate to see sights few people in the world get to, and survive. They met in 1966, studied, talked, lectured, and made the media rounds; their humour and energy are contagious and their passion for eruptions bold considering their constant proximity. They show the tragic aftermath of volcanic explosions as communities and populations are buried under 2000 degrees Fahrenheit molten rock. “Human power is absurd against the power of the earth” in Plate Tectonic revolution, continental drift, and other elements that create extreme surface chaos like volcanic activity. Martin says “Katia, me and volcanoes – a love story. I can’t imagine living any other way”. Their journey ended side by side under Japan’s Mount Unzen on June 3 1991 as the volcano broke 300 years of inactivity and lava swallowed them up. In theatres.
Ethan Hawke’s wonderfully inventive six-part doc The Last Movie Stars on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward may overstate the “last stars” concept but it’s hella fun to watch. A goldmine of archival footage and interviews, and new interviews – most notably with daughter Stephanie Newman from his first ill-fated marriage – is a decidedly modern take as the actors Hawke rounds up stars to voice Newman and his circle (George Clooney, Laura Linney, Vincent D’onofrio, Karen Allen, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell, Billy Crudup, etc. ). The project takes place over video calls in which Hawk’s excitement shines through. Produced by Martin Scorsese and featuring Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack, Gore Vidal, first wife Jacqueline Witte, Sally Feild, Melanie Griffith, etc., its a no holds barred doc that Newman himself set in motion years ago. He’d asked screenwriter Stewart Stern to write a film but ultimately decided not to go forward. Hawke collected the material and discovered why Newman’s marriage ended just as their third child was born, the enduring electricity between Woodward and Newman, their work, philanthropy, and relationships. Newman was close to James Dean but “jealous” of Marlon Brando, his wife’s co-star. While the doc looks at their burdens and tragedies (his son Scott overdosed as a young man) it is a hagiography. Hey, I don’t mind – it’s great fun with insight into how a man as famous as Newman handled his life. Many fascinating facts – Gore Vidal thought Woodward’s voice was flat and uninflected but “it suits her”, adding he liked Newman but loved Woodward. As for Newman, he said, “I am a creature of her invention”. The CNN production begins on Crave on July 21.
It all begins on Sunday. National Geographic takes its annual swim down shark alley, visiting pods in the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Australia, Hawaii, South Africa, the Maldives, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, and more. SharkFest 2022 is on now till July 31st, in its tenth year of shark myths, lore, new footage, and all you need to see over fifteen species.
So, why are we so obsessed with sharks? Jaws made it ok for us to demonize them, but they have their place in nature, and they aren’t normally threats. Note to self: watch Jaws for the umpteenth time.
Listen to Candace Sampson and I ponder that headscratcher on the show tomorrow at 12 on @105.9 The Region and raise a jimmy of boat fuel to the six Sharknado specials, for laughs.