Film Review: Cruella (2021); Directed by Craig Gillespie

Cruella (2021); directed by Craig Gillespie

Warning: This review contains plot spoilers. If you have not already seen Cruella and don’t like spoilers, please don’t read any further (but feel free to bookmark this page to read later).

It’s not an easy feat to take a character as iconic as Cruella de Vil and breathe new life into her, but Emma Stone does so with vim and vigor. It also takes a not-insignificant amount of chutzpah to fill shoes (quite stylish shoes, I might add) once worn by Glenn Close. While Emma Stone’s Cruella is sly and sardonic like her celluloid predecessor, she also has this controlled sort of manic energy that just simmers on the screen. Also, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone have so much fun in a role and that alone is probably the highest compliment anyone could pay any actor in any role ever. In my opinion, Emma Stone was born to play Cruella de Vil, and if you disagree with me…well, let’s just say you should make sure I don’t have access to a cliffside balcony and a trio of Dalmatian attack dogs.

While Emma Stone’s Cruella is sly and sardonic like her celluloid predecessor, she also has this controlled sort of manic energy that just simmers on the screen.

When the film begins, we see young Estella Miller struggling to fit in. Her half-white, half-black hair makes her a favorite target of the schoolyard bullies who are always ready to pounce on anyone who deviates from the norm in any way whatsoever. To her credit, she fights back with the same level of passion and fortitude that she will later bring to her work in fashion design. Not everyone appreciates her fighting spirit, though, least of all her school’s headmaster. Once Estella racks up several demerits, her mother Catherine is called in for a conference. The headmaster intends on telling Catherine that Estella is being expelled, but she withdraws her before that can happen (let’s just say it was a horse race).

On their way to London and a fresh start for them both, Catherine stops at a sprawling manse to ask someone (The Baroness, we later learn) for money. Catherine implores Estella to stay inside the car (read: out of trouble), but all of us know what it’s like to be young and boisterous, chomping at the bit to explore. Estella leaves the car and sneaks into the party where she is quickly made the target of The Baroness’s three large Dalmatians. They chase Estella outside and across the grounds, ending by pushing Catherine over the edge of the cliffside balcony to her death.

Alone, motherless, and wracked with guilt over her role (or what she thinks was her role) in her mother’s gruesome death, Estella finishes making her way to London and inadvertently makes friends with two other street kids, Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). The three youngsters, bound together by their mutual hard luck, poverty, and orphan status, become a chosen family for one another. They also become world-class pickpockets. If grifting were a professional sport, Estella, Horace, and Jasper would win Olympic gold.

The three youngsters, bound together by their mutual hard luck, poverty, and orphan status, become a chosen family for one another.

Years later, all grown up, the three lovable vagrants are still making a living together thieving and scheming. Estella, more stylish than ever, hones her craft by designing the group’s disguises. For her birthday, Horace and Jasper secure Estella a job at Liberty’s, an upper crust department store that caters exclusively to wealthy clientele. Their motto may as well be, “If you have to ask the price, darling, you can’t afford it.” Estella is simply bursting with creative energy, but her talents go unseen and she is relegated to doing janitorial work. It’s honest work and someone has to do it, but Estella was born to be a designer. Some might say it’s in her blood.

Estella is simply bursting with creative energy, but her talents go unseen and she is relegated to doing janitorial work. It’s honest work and someone has to do it, but Estella was born to be a designer.

Fed up and surly, Estella stays in Liberty’s overnight after her shift and drunkenly redecorates a window display in punk rock couture. It is avant-garde, edgy, and completely offensive to her manager, who fires her on the spot. However, in a bit of luck for Estella, The Baroness (Emma Thompson) makes a visit to the department store just as she is quite literally being given the boot.

The Baroness informs the manager that she loves the window display and that it’s the first truly innovative bit of merchandising she’s seen from them in some time. Those aren’t her exact words but you get the picture. She finds out that Estella is responsible for the display and offers her a job. The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Estella excels in her new position and manages to impress The Baroness, who is notorious for having impeccable taste and impossibly high standards. If this were a different sort of film and not an origin story for one of Disney’s most iconic villains, Estella might continue impressing The Baroness and making waves in the fashion world. She’d completely disavow a life of crime and vice and move on up the ladder to become one of the most highly-regarded figures in fashion. Perhaps she may even venture over into fashion journalism and enjoy a life and career similar to that of Anna Wintour. Who knows? But things don’t work out quite that way.

If this were a different sort of film and not an origin story for one of Disney’s most iconic villains, Estella might continue impressing The Baroness and making waves in the fashion world. She’d completely disavow a life of crime and vice and move on up the ladder to become one of the most highly-regarded figures in fashion…But things don’t work out quite that way.

One day while Estella is acting in the capacity of The Baroness’s gopher, she notices her wearing a necklace that she distinctly remembers as having belonged to her mother, Catherine. When Estella inquires about it, The Baroness claims that a former employee had previously stolen it. Knowing better and incensed at The Baroness, Estella enlists Horace and Jasper to help her steal it back, for in all honesty it does rightfully belong to her. Estella makes plans to steal it back at The Baroness’s Black and White Ball. To conceal her true identity from The Baroness, Estella creates an alter-ego: Cruella. And thus a star is born.

To conceal her true identity from The Baroness, Estella creates an alter-ego: Cruella. And thus a star is born.

She wears a vintage design (in red, so subversive!) of The Baroness’s that she purchases from a vintage clothing store and upstages The Baroness at her own event. While she’s wowing the crowd and intimidating The Baroness, Horace and Jasper are playing their parts to retrieve Catherine’s necklace from the vault. What they didn’t plan for, but the audience should have guessed, is that The Baroness is wearing the necklace at the Ball.

[A brief aside: Artie (John McCrea), the proprietor of the vintage clothing store where Estella buys her outfit for the Black and White Ball, is gayer than a picnic basket and I am holding my breath for Disney to make it canon.]

Jasper, thinking quickly on his feet, sets free a mischief of rats which throw the crowd into a state of pandemonium. Amidst the confusion, Estella/Cruella swipes the necklace from The Baroness’s throat. When The Baroness notices her necklace is gone, she summons her Dalmatians with a dog whistle. This triggers a memory for Estella, and the revelation that follows changes everything she thought she knew about her life, her deceased mother, and The Baroness. This is the part of the movie where the lines between Estella and Cruella really begin to blur. Originally, Cruella was just a costume, an assumed identity. Estella never meant for Cruella to become all that she became. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

When The Baroness notices her necklace is gone, she summons her Dalmatians with a dog whistle. This triggers a memory for Estella, and the revelation that follows changes everything she thought she knew about her life, her deceased mother, and The Baroness.

Needless to say, The Baroness is upset by Cruella’s stunt at her Ball and even more upset that some nubile neophyte would be audacious enough to try to claim her throne. No industry veteran likes to have their position threatened by a talented young upstart, and in this regard The Baroness is no exception. She is vicious, conniving, and glamorous, and she will do anything to maintain her place at the top. As I was watching Cruella, Emma Thompson’s Baroness kept giving me Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada vibes. Not for nothing, since I later did some research and saw that Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada, also wrote the original screenplay for Cruella. Cruella’s script went through a couple rounds of revisions and the final screenplay is credited to Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, but at least some of that Prada energy infused by McKenna made it into the shooting script because Emma Thompson is like Meryl Streep’s equally ruthless and disdainful cousin.

No industry veteran likes to have their position threatened by a talented young upstart, and in this regard The Baroness is no exception. She is vicious, conniving, and glamorous, and she will do anything to maintain her place at the top.

It’s really fun to watch the power play between Estella and The Baroness unfold. The more Estella-as-Cruella is able to get away with without being detected, the more emboldened and powerful she feels. This power manifests itself in her stunning creations, and with each new piece she gets better and better. There’s something about losing your fears and shedding your inhibitions that makes your wildest dreams possible. When you aren’t afraid, nothing can really hurt you. The deeper in she gets, though, the more Estella starts to figure out. And there’s one revelation in particular that will break her open, and may even cost her life.

There’s something about losing your fears and shedding your inhibitions that makes your wildest dreams possible. When you aren’t afraid, nothing can really hurt you.

Cruella was released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on May 28th, 2021 and is available to own, stream, or rent from various platforms and retailers.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

120 Nominations. 23 Categories. 53 Films. One Big Night.

Did I really go through all of the nominations for this year’s Oscars to figure out which films received the most nominations? I did. This year, 53 different films have been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their cinematic excellence.

One question I ponder quite often when it comes to film is, “What separates a good film from a great film? A great film from an epic film?”

One question I ponder quite often when it comes to film is, “What separates a good film from a great film? A great film from an epic film?” Some of it boils down to personal taste, yes, but most cinephiles (yours truly included) would argue there are certain elements which comprise any film worth its stock, pun very much intended. The first and most important of these elements is cohesiveness. All the parts of a film must work in conjunction with one another to tell a certain story. You can have a great script but it’s worthless if you have mediocre actors reciting lines from it. You can have GOATs like Meryl Streep acting in your movie but if your script is subpar, no amount of Streeping will save it.

For me, a great film is a film where everything is not only in balance but complementary. There’s subtlety, nuance, and most important of all—craft.

For me, a great film is a film where everything is not only in balance but complementary. There’s subtlety, nuance, and most important of all—craft. A great actor can make you experience several different emotions in the same scene. A great set can transport you back through time. A great cinematographer can transcend time and space to make you see things in ways you’ve never seen them before. A score, crafted just so to ebb and flow within a film’s narrative, can emphasize elements that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

An epic film not only has all of the elements of a great film, but a certain je ne sais quoi that elevates it above the pack, that makes it timeless. An epic film is larger than life even when the story it’s telling is small in scope.

And an epic film? An epic film not only has all of the elements of a great film, but a certain je ne sais quoi that elevates it above the pack, that makes it timeless. An epic film is larger than life even when the story it’s telling is small in scope. It has a universality that makes it resonate with people from all walks of life, from all places and all times. When I think of epic films, I think of The Godfather. The Wizard of Oz. Gone with the Wind. Sunset Boulevard. Titanic. All of these have elements working in conjunction with one another, and all have not a small amount of magic cooked in for good measure. They quite possibly will outlast time, and rightfully so.

See below for a list of all the films nominated for an Academy Award this year. The number in parentheses beside each film indicates how many nominations it has received this Oscars season.

  • The Power of the Dog (12)
  • Dune (10)
  • Belfast (7)
  • West Side Story (7)
  • King Richard (6)
  • Don’t Look Up (4)
  • Drive My Car (4)
  • Nightmare Alley (4)
  • Being the Ricardos (3)
  • CODA (3)
  • Encanto (3)
  • Flee (3)
  • Licorice Pizza (3)
  • The Lost Daughter (3)
  • No Time to Die (3)
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth (3)
  • Cruella (2)
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2)
  • Parallel Mothers (2)
  • tick, tick…Boom! (2)
  • The Worst Person in the World (2)
  • Affairs of the Art (1)
  • Ala Kachuu – Take and Run (1)
  • Ascension (1)
  • Attica (1)
  • Audible (1)
  • Bestia (1)
  • Boxballet (1)
  • Coming 2 America (1)
  • Cyrano (1)
  • The Dress (1)
  • Four Good Days (1)
  • Free Guy (1)
  • The Hand of God (1)
  • House of Gucci (1)
  • Lead Me Home (1)
  • The Long Goodbye (1)
  • Luca (1)
  • Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (1)
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines (1)
  • On My Mind (1)
  • Please Hold (1)
  • The Queen of Basketball (1)
  • Raya and the Last Dragon (1)
  • Robin Robin (1)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (1)
  • Spencer (1)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (1)
  • Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (1)
  • Three Songs for Benazir (1)
  • When We Were Bullies (1)
  • The Windshield Wiper (1)
  • Writing with Fire (1)

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, on March 27th, 2022.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Going for the Gold(en Man): My Thoughts on This Year’s Oscar Nominations

I hope you’ll forgive me for a while as this blog transforms from The Voracious Bibliophile to The Voracious Cinephile. Although, to be fair, this blog has always had more than its fair share of film-related posts, so forgiveness is probably not needed. At any rate, tomorrow (which is also my BIRTHDAY!) we will find out this year’s Oscar nominees in all 23 categories. The contendahs (Marlon Brando, anyone?) will be announced live starting at 8:18 AM EST by Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan. What a delightful birthday present!

The Oscars are a bigger deal for me than Christmas.

The Oscars are a bigger deal for me than Christmas. I make a special punch. I have my own Oscar my father made for me several years ago sitting proudly atop my movie shelf. I buy all the magazines. I read all the articles. I look at the odds much like an itchy gambler at a racetrack. I stalk the Twitter feeds of the hopefuls. I attempt to watch all of the films themselves before the big night but sometimes availability is an issue. For example, I feel like chances are slim I’ll get to see Licorice Pizza before the big night. I am more caught up this year than in most of the past several years, probably because many of the hopeful nominees are streaming natives. There’s been loads of buzz for streaming films this year, a trend which seems to be going nowhere but up. Don’t Look Up, The Lost Daughter, The Power of the Dog, and tick, tick… Boom! all hail from Netflix. Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth and CODA are both denizens of Apple TV+. Being the Ricardos is the baby of Amazon Prime Video. As you can see, the field of Oscar hopefuls is simply verdant with streaming darlings.

He [Denzel Washington] somehow takes the Bard’s words and amplifies them from their original context into something even more powerful. He is expressive, multi-layered, and haunting in his portrayal of Macbeth, and the Academy would be remiss to not reward his work with a nomination for Best Actor.

I’m going to start with my strongest opinions and then work my way down. First of all, it will be an absolute tragedy if Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth isn’t nominated for Best Picture. It is incredibly difficult to transform such a familiar work of art into something that is both classic and contemporary. Let me just say here that this is some of Denzel Washington’s best work. He somehow takes the Bard’s words and amplifies them from their original context into something even more powerful. He is expressive, multi-layered, and haunting in his portrayal of Macbeth, and the Academy would be remiss to not reward his work with a nomination for Best Actor. Frances McDormand is no slouch as Lady Macbeth, either, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see her name on the list of nominees for Best Actress, I am much more invested in Denzel.

While the Academy doesn’t always go along with them [the New York Film Critics Circle] in this category, the winners for both awards were the same for three of the past eleven years: Laura Dern for Marriage Story in 2019; Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk in 2018; and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood in 2014.

Likewise, I will personally send a letter of complaint to the Academy (the disposition of which I will leave up to their discretion) if Kathryn Hunter isn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as the Witches and the Old Man. She is delightfully creepy and otherworldly and I hope the Academy takes notice. In her favor is the fact that she was awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress. While the Academy doesn’t always go along with them in this category, the winners for both awards were the same for three of the past eleven years: Laura Dern for Marriage Story in 2019; Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk in 2018; and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood in 2014. Note: Laura Dern was awarded by the New York Film Critics Circle for her performances in both Little Women and Marriage Story.

Kristen Stewart was considered the front-runner for the longest time for her performance as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, but now there is talk that she may not even be nominated.

For me and it seems a lot of other critics and movie lovers, the Best Actress race is the most fraught right now. Kristen Stewart was considered the front-runner for the longest time for her performance as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, but now there is talk that she may not even be nominated. Talk about a dramatic turnaround. It’s somewhat annoying for the simple fact that this wouldn’t be Stewart’s first time being snubbed by the Academy. She was the first American actress to win the César Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Clouds of Sils Maria, and what did she get from the Academy? Crickets. For the past decade, she’s been churning out stellar performances in films one right after the other. See: Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), mentioned above, Still Alice (2014), Certain Women (2016), Personal Shopper (2016), Seberg (2019), and now Spencer (2021). When will the Academy stand up and take notice? This year should be the year, and shame on them if it’s not.

I don’t know many actresses with the chutzpah to take on Lucille Ball, especially since we have so much of Ball’s own screen work to use for comparison and judgment. Kidman isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, however, and she sinks her teeth into the life and work of the Queen of Comedy with aplomb and panache.

Also on my radar for the Best Actress race are Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos). Actually, I was all but certain the award was Stewart’s until I watched Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter. In my review of the film, which you can read here, I said that Colman (along with Gyllenhaal) had gifted us with “one of the most honest depictions of motherhood ever seen in any medium”, and I stand by that assessment. Kidman is a darker horse. We know from her past work that she is quite adept at playing historical figures and real-life individuals. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours (2002). I don’t know many actresses with the chutzpah to take on Lucille Ball, especially since we have so much of Ball’s own screen work to use for comparison and judgment. Kidman isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, however, and she sinks her teeth into the life and work of the Queen of Comedy with aplomb and panache.

A more streamlined script [for Being the Ricardos] could have catapulted Kidman all the way to the stage to accept her second Oscar.

On the other hand, I was not a fan of Sorkin’s script and Javier Bardem’s turn as Desi Arnaz. Both have received mostly positive reviews from critics but I have to diverge from the pack here. Sorkin’s script is clunky and cluttered. A more streamlined script could have catapulted Kidman all the way to the stage to accept her second Oscar. Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz is not believable at all. I knew I was watching Javier Bardem the whole time. It’s a delicate balance when you’re playing a real-life figure to not veer into caricature, and with Bardem that’s what I felt like I was watching. Not so with Kidman. Because they’re in so many scenes together, naturally, his lackluster performance distracts from hers. I honestly don’t see her winning, but I hope she is at least nominated.

Considering the race for Best Director this year, it is possible (and only right) that there are two women on the ballot: Jane Campion and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Maggie Gyllenhaal displayed an incredible amount of directorial talent with The Lost Daughter, and it’s safe to say that this won’t be the last film where she’s in the director’s chair. But I’m going to have to say that if there is any justice in the world, Jane Campion will take home the Oscar for Best Director for The Power of the Dog. Campion was previously recognized for her 1993 period drama The Piano, for which she was nominated for Best Director and won for Best Original Screenplay.

No matter what happens, I think this is going to be one of the most interesting Oscars we’ve had in a long time. Without further ado, here are my personal picks for the following eight races: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Picture

  • Belfast
  • CODA
  • Drive My Car
  • Dune
  • King Richard
  • Licorice Pizza
  • The Lost Daughter
  • The Power of the Dog
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • West Side Story

Best Director

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
  • Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
  • Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
  • Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

Best Actor

  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
  • Peter Dinklage, Cyrano
  • Andrew Garfield, tick, tick… Boom!
  • Will Smith, King Richard
  • Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Supporting Actor

  • Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza
  • Ciarán Hinds, Belfast
  • Troy Kotsur, CODA
  • Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Best Actress

  • Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
  • Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
  • Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
  • Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • Kristen Stewart, Spencer

Best Supporting Actress

  • Caitríona Balfe, Belfast
  • Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter
  • Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
  • Ann Dowd, Mass
  • Kathryn Hunter, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Original Screenplay

  • Belfast
  • Don’t Look Up
  • The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun
  • King Richard
  • Licorice Pizza

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • CODA
  • Dune
  • The Lost Daughter
  • The Power of the Dog
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Film Review: Spencer (2021); Directed by Pablo Larraín

Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales in Spencer (2021); directed by Pablo Larraín. Copyright 2021 Neon.

When we first meet Kristen Stewart’s Princess Diana, she is running late to spend the Christmas holiday with other members of the royal family at Sandringham House, one of Queen Elizabeth’s sprawling country estates. She is desperate and harried as she drives aimlessly through the countryside, her frustration mounting when she can’t seem to find her destination. Discordant notes and flourishes, which characterize the film’s score, heighten the moment’s anxiety, thereby drawing the viewer into concert with Diana’s inner turmoil.

Discordant notes and flourishes, which characterize the film’s score, heighten the moment’s anxiety, thereby drawing the viewer into concert with Diana’s inner turmoil.

It will not escape the notice of the attentive viewer that the story of Diana chosen to be told by the filmmakers is that of the events surrounding the royals’ Christmas holiday in 1991. Sandringham House lies in close proximity to Park House, the abandoned neighboring estate which was Diana’s childhood home. Periodic flashbacks return Diana to that idyllic past, one which remains for her devastatingly out of reach.
Stewart’s Diana is a luminous and haunted creature, much like she was in real life. She is surrounded by the ghosts of all the lives she is not allowed to live and constrained by a future she can predict with startling accuracy. Throughout the course of the film, she is made at every turn to feel like she’s dancing on the knife edge of sanity, but to the working class viewer Diana appears to be the only sane one in the group of royals. I mean, how hard should it be to get someone to turn the heat on? And is it really asking too much to not want to be weighed before entering the hallowed premises like some Holstein cow at a livestock auction?

She is surrounded by the ghosts of all the lives she is not allowed to live and constrained by a future she can predict with startling accuracy.

To a far lesser degree, I feel as if I understand Diana’s plight. I know what it’s like to have seemingly everyone in the world wanting something from you that you feel ill-equipped to give, wanting nothing more for yourself than to be left alone. During one scene from the film, Diana is secretly eating when one of the Sandringham House caretakers accosts her and tells her that because of the recent media attention she’s attracted, she would do well to close her blinds while she changes clothes. It’s a little early to speculate, but if (and this is a big if) Stewart wins the Oscar for Best Actress, it will be in large part because of her retort, which I’m including below:

Their lenses are more like microscopes, really. And I’m the insect in the dish. See, they’re pulling my wings and my legs off one by one — making notes on how I react.

At every turn she is weighed and found wanting until there is nothing left of her but the image and the simulacrum of the person she wants to be.

Princess Diana was one of the first women castigated on a truly global scale by the mass media. Every grain of her private life was excavated and inspected for its potential value. The scales at Sandringham House become a metaphor for Diana’s entire existence: At every turn she is weighed and found wanting until there is nothing left of her but the image and the simulacrum of the person she wants to be.

It [Spencer] is a snapshot, a few pages torn from the diary of a life. It’s a deeply-felt character study of a woman flirting with the darkness in her own mind.

Whatever you want to call Spencer, it is not a biopic. It is a snapshot, a few pages torn from the diary of a life. It’s a deeply-felt character study of a woman flirting with the darkness in her own mind. There are parts of the film I wouldn’t hesitate to call Hitchcockian, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Stewart watched Kim Novak’s performance in Vertigo before filming a pivotal scene at the ruins of Park House.

All in all, Spencer is a delightfully stylish, if unsettling portrait of one of the most beloved, misunderstood, and mercurial figures of the twentieth century. Just give Stewart the freaking Oscar already.

Spencer was released on November 5th, 2021 and is now available to stream on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Vudu.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: November 22nd, 2021

Xavier Dolan as Maxime (left) and Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas as Matthias (right) in a scene from Matthias & Maxime (2019); directed by Xavier Dolan

Sometimes, you spend your life doing one thing, and in the end, it wasn’t your thing.

Matthias & Maxime (2019); directed by Xavier Dolan

Is this primarily a book blog? Yes. Have I been posting a lot of quotes from films? Also yes. Well, this is my blog, and I’ll post whatever I want whenever I want for as long as I want. I am also of the opinion that film, as much as literature, is text. Don’t take my word for it, though—Thomas C. Foster’s Reading the Silver Screen: A Film Lover’s Guide to Decoding the Art Form That Moves is the perfect place to start for any would-be cinephile or for that matter, anyone who appreciates the movies and wants to learn more about them.

There are hints of Bergman, of course. Some Truffaut and Fellini. Van Sant is flickering always in the background. But there’s something else there too, something which belongs wholly and exclusively to Dolan.

I love Xavier Dolan. Some of you may remember my review of his film J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) (2009), which I called a “semi-autobiographical, near-perfect evocation of the vagaries of queer adolescence”. You can tell that the young auteur is well-read when it comes to great films from the way he sets up his mises en scène to the way he is able to harness every drop of emotional resonance in each frame. There are hints of Bergman, of course. Some Truffaut and Fellini. Van Sant is flickering always in the background. But there’s something else there too, something which belongs wholly and exclusively to Dolan.

The fact that Dolan is only 32 years old means that we’re hopefully only seeing him at the depth of his powers. I only hope the planet holds out long enough for us to see him at his height.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: November 21st, 2021

Sound of Metal (2019); directed by Darius Marder

…so disconcerting the things that your memory holds onto without you knowing.

Sound of Metal (2019); directed by Darius Marder

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: July 26th, 2021

I survived because I was tougher than anybody else.

Bette Davis

Bette Davis was and remains one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the silver screen. In every performance she gave, she crackled with electricity, eliciting laughter as well as fury, and beauty as well as pain. Her career spanned more than fifty years and during that time, she took home two Academy Awards for Best Actress and racked up credits in more than one hundred films.

In every performance she gave, she crackled with electricity, eliciting laughter as well as fury, and beauty as well as pain.

Her work ethic was unparalleled and her wit unmatched. She was one of those rare beings on earth who are aware of their power and own it, wielding it to their advantage. It is my hope for my own life that I can live with the same level of courage, tenacity, and fearlessness that Bette Davis did. I feel like that would be a good start.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: July 21st, 2021

BY EMILY BERL/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX.
MYLES PHOTOGRAPHED IN WEST HOLLYWOOD IN 2016.

Movies have caused me to become / an artist. I guess I simply / believe that life is not / enough. I spin dreams / of the quotidian out of words I / could not help but choose.

I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems by Eileen Myles

Myles has always, ever since they first came on the scene, been a master of language. I love the way the artist’s prerogative is characterized here, as something that cannot be chosen, that some other force outside one’s consciousness does the choosing for them.

I love the way the artist’s prerogative is characterized here, as something that cannot be chosen, that some other force outside one’s consciousness does the choosing for them.

I remember reading years ago about someone asking Stephen King why he wrote such horrific stories, and his reply being something along the lines of questioning them as to why they thought he would be able to choose what he wrote.

There is something magical about writing, about any creative outlet really, and also something grueling—fierce and terrible and insistent. Sometimes there’s something you just have to get on paper or you know you’ll combust. A character or a line or an image, something fleeting yet enormous, that demands to be made flesh. So you obey. You commit to memory the thing that lives inside you and hope that eventually it will be sated.

Sometimes there’s something you just have to get on paper or you know you’ll combust. A character or a line or an image, something fleeting yet enormous, that demands to be made flesh. So you obey. You commit to memory the thing that lives inside you and hope that eventually it will be sated.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Favorite Films 🎥: La Strada (1954)

One of these days, I’ll take a match and set fire to everything.

La Strada

Year: 1954

Director: Federico Fellini

Country: Italy

Cast: Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Basehart

Score: Nino Rota

Cinematography: Otello Martelli and Carlo Carlini

Streaming: Criterion Channel and HBO Max

Why I Love It: Giulietta Masina, who stars as the simple-minded and tender-hearted Gelsomina, was one of those rare performers who make you forget that the worlds they create are fiction. At the beginning of the film, Gelsomina learns that her sister Rosa has died while traveling with Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), a coarse and somewhat thuggish sideshow performer. Because her mother has other young children to feed and they all appear to be on the brink of starvation, she sells Gelsomina to Zampanò for 10,000 lire, and so begins her journey on the road.

Giulietta Masina, who stars as the simple-minded and tender-hearted Gelsomina, was one of those rare performers who make you forget that the worlds they create are fiction.

La Strada is not your typical Bildungsroman. Gelsomina’s narrative arc is not centered around some destination or goal that she spends the film pursuing. Instead, we see her find tenderness and beauty everywhere, no matter how cruelly Zampanò treats her or how desolate the landscape becomes.

I won’t spoil anything by telling you how the film ends, but I will warn you to make sure you have plenty of tissues handy. La Strada is indeed a journey, and it reveals much about the human condition to those patient enough to sit with it.

La Strada is indeed a journey, and it reveals much about the human condition to those patient enough to sit with it.

Also noteworthy is the gorgeous score by Nino Rita. Usually, cinematography is something I like to discuss more so than scores, but I have a deep and abiding passion for Nino Rota. In addition to La Strada, Rota collaborated with Federico Fellini on several other films, as well as with Fellini’s rival, Luchino Visconti. Other works of his include scores for Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1967) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), the latter of which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score (shared with Carmine Coppola).

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.