“Black Panther” and “Isle of Dogs”: The Limits of My Criticism

By Alan Mattli

NOTE: This is a translation of my own article, originally published in German.

Black Panther 1What do Ryan Coogler’s Marvel blockbuster Black Panther and Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adventure Isle of Dogs have in common? Well, there’s the fact that both titles feature animals. Oh, and both are American films that, crucially, are set outside the United States. But the two most important similarities are about reception: not only are both movies among the year’s best so far; few other releases generated as much discussion in the media. You’d think that this fact, along with my opinion of the two films, would be more than cogent reasons for me to review them.

However, since February, when I saw both works for the first – and not the last – time, I’ve been putting off writing about them, even though I’m less than enthusiastic about the thought of letting two five-star movies pass me by without comment. The reason for this is not a lack of intriguing talking points or stylistic choices but the knowledge of not being able to add anything meaningful to the existing discourse.

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The Great and Terrible Beauty of “Annihilation”

By Alan Mattli

AnnihilationWarning: This review contains major spoilers.

An ambitious and overwhelming tale of biological hybrids and a cinematic hybrid itself, a curious case of Apocalypse Now-meets-Under the Skin, Alex Garland’s sci-fi horror film Annihilation, a Netflix exclusive outside of North America and China, is something of a masterpiece. Based on the eponymous novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Garland’s sophomore directing effort expands upon the subdued, slow-burning intensity of his 2015 debut, the brilliant Ex Machina, and fully commits to the idea that in some stories, suggestiveness, abstraction, and open questions trump neat resolutions.

Plenty of commentators take issue with what Garland has attempted here (just take a look at the IMDb reviews), with some criticising the film for its supposed failings as an adaptation while others dwell on what they perceive to be immersion-breaking plot holes. Some also make more valid points, mainly highlighting issues with the script, which is fair enough: its language is functional, steely and stylised, which works a treat in some instances but jars in others.

But here’s what strikes me after three viewings of this extraordinary movie: I don’t care. Continue reading

Untitled

The weight of words thus impassed
on streams of sounds made him aware
of all the empty strings that lie
on a full and surely scriptable web.
Then spiders roam between the flying
lines, catching now and then
flies that thought not well enough
that they perhaps are not the most
important creatures in the air.
Hence they die, with tasteful flair.

A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies

By Raph al Guul

IMG_3248Tender feet on stony ground, a scarlet moon in the sky. She had woken to the sound of passing time or perhaps just the shadow of a dream. Something had been calling her. And though she didn’t know what it was, she felt it best to find the call’s origin.

For too long she had been looking inward and found nothing but unrest. Years, perhaps ages she spent searching for her own genuine soul. And all that was there were burning questions born out of sheer self-doubt. Soon it would be too late for questions.

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Chasing the Sun: Metalhead Releases Pop Album

By Raph al Guul

v600_Chris_Bay_Chasing_The_Sun_web

Chris Bay may be the frontman of a highly successful German metal band, but no one ever really doubted that he is a child at heart. If anything, his PG-rated metal act is living proof that this kind of music is not just for angsty teenagers and middle-aged bikers, but, as Freedom Call proudly proclaims, “for everyone”. But what happens when you take the shredding dress away and dig down to a more barebone sound? Bay’s first solo effort Chasing the Sun gives us a glimpse. Continue reading

No, Switzerland Is Not a Gun Paradise

By Fabia Morger

In the light of recent events, I occasionally hear voices in the murky corners of the Internet referring to Switzerland as a country where everybody is “armed to the teeth” and, yet, we’ve never had a school shooting and everyone’s leading a perfectly happy, gun-loving life. It’s usually accompanied with this photo, although, to be honest, I haven’t been able to find out whether the landscape and the people in the picture are actually Swiss. The weapons they’re carrying look like the standard weapon of the Swiss army (SG550), so it might be authentic:

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Review: “The Disaster Artist”

By Alan Mattli

The Disaster Artist_PosterIf, for whatever reason, you have managed to elude the pop-cultural phenomenon known as The Room, here is the short version: in 2003, Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious and inexplicably rich eccentric of possibly Eastern European descent, poured millions of dollars into the making of a romantic drama film called The Room. Written, directed, and produced by, and starring Wiseau, it made less than $2,000 during its two-week run but later gained an international cult following for being hilariously awful in every respect.

Naturally, such an artefact, whose release and subsequent rise in popularity coincided with the dawn of Web 2.0, is ripe for mythologizing. People wondered how such an atrocity could ever get made. Continue reading