Wednesday, April 15, 2015

White God

Perhaps just like Hagen, the mixed-breed canine headliner of Kornél Mundruczó's thrilling Hungarian parable White God, it's a little difficult to pin down the origins of this ambitiously staged morality play.  The film, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was Hungary's official selection for last years' Academy Awards, wears multiple hats as an animal rights advocacy work, coming-of-age tale and revenge fantasy thriller.  With a title that draws to mind Samuel Fuller's 1982 race wars thriller White Dog and derives from a quote from J. M. Coetzee's post-apartheid novel Disgrace, White God proudly wears a wide range of influences upon its sleeve-- there's a hint of Planet of the Apes, a dash of Charles Bronson grade B-schlock, a peppering of Lassie Comes Home, even perhaps the raw ingredients of the Dardenne Brothers working class naturalism on display.  If all of these elements seems at odds with one another, well, they are.  Yet White God, in its messy and imperfect way is an utterly fascinating and vibrant piece of filmmaking, a difficult film to shake and one of the most unnerving thrillers in recent years.  I should probably mention here that the film is about a pack of dogs revolting in the streets of Budapest.  If that sounds a little ridiculous, well that's kind of true as well.

To Mundruczó's credit, he does stack the deck heavily in the favor of the pooches.  In White God, the majority of the humans are characterized as threats or obstacles to not just dogs but animal-kind in general-- some of the most potent pieces of imagery at the start of the film features freshly slaughtered cow flesh being judged for human consumption.  The inspector, we soon learn, is Dániel (Sándor Zsótér), a former professor turned meat grader who serves as the first obstacle for Hagen, a bulky yet cuddly mutt, the star of White God (played by Luke and Body, twin Labrador-mixes).  The one human grace note in the film is Lili (Zsófia Psotta), Hagen's 13-year-old custodian and bestie.  Early scenes bring to mind the golden nostalgia of children and their beloved pets, something Mundruczó undercuts with the continued tease of tension.  Circumstances bring the two at the door of her estranged father Dániel, a combustible mixture of an ill-attuned parent and a girl on the cusp of womanhood full of resentment-- Hagen gets it the worst in the end.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

MTV Movie Award Winners

MOVIE OF THE YEAR: The Fault in Our Stars
MALE PERFORMANCE: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
FEMALE PERFORMANCE: Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
SCARED-AS-S*** PERFORMANCE: Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
KISS: Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
#WTF MOMENT: Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen, Neighbors
VILLAIN: Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
COMEDIC PERFORMANCE: Channing Tatum, 22 Jump Street
DUO: Zac Efron and Dave Franco, Neighbors
FIGHT: Dylan O'Brien vs. Will Poulter, The Maze Runner
MUSICAL MOMENT: Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
HERO: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), The Maze Runner
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