Category Archives: VODzilla.co

‘American Gods’ Season 2 (spoilers)

American Gods’ difficult sophomore season concluded better than it began, with its melancholic Mad Sweeney-focused penultimate instalment being the best of the whole eight-episode run. It was also the only episode that was wholly satisfying in terms of atmosphere, direction, story, character development and performance working together towards a coherent vision – or as coherent as American Gods, which now regularly seems to be opaque just for the sake of being opaque, can be…

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Joe Penna on ‘Arctic’, Mads Mikkelsen, polar bears and YouTube

Arctic is a survival thriller in which Mads Mikkelsen plays a man stranded in the Arctic Circle waiting for rescue, only for a helicopter that finds him to crash, killing the pilot and forcing Mikkelsen’s character to have to tend to a severely injured passenger while barely keeping himself alive.

It’s visceral, absorbing stuff. What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that director Joe Penna’s background is as a YouTube content producer for over 12 years – his main channel, as MysteryGuitarMan, has nearly 3 million subscribers and has racked up around 400 million video views.

How does someone goes from the culture of YouTube influencer to making their directorial debut (an on-location survival thriller in harsh terrain, shot in Iceland in under a month) with a major international star in a close to wordless performance? And not only that, but managing to get that debut feature to premiere at Cannes last year? We sit down with Penna to talk Mads, polar bears and more…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

‘American Gods’ Season 2

It’s been almost two full years since the first season of American Gods wrapped up, with major behind-the-scenes overhauls making the news with relative frequency. Firstly, showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green departed after supposed creative disputes, including disagreements with co-executive producer Neil Gaiman, author of the show’s source novel. Then, a couple of key actors from the first season – specifically, two previous Fuller collaborators in Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth – opted not to return in solidarity with the departing showrunner. Thirdly, replacement showrunner Jesse Alexander, who had worked on Fuller’s Hannibal as a writer-producer, was reportedly relieved of duty late in the production of Season 2, not allowed to oversee the show to completion despite not being officially fired.

Fans of the first season, or even fans of the book who didn’t like the first season, would be right to be worried about the end result of this fraught return to the screen. That said, some may find this clash between conflicting visions of the future strangely appropriate for the narrative’s battle of wits and woe between gods of the old ways and deities of the new ones…

Full review for VODzilla.co

1985 (Yen Tan, 1985)

In 1987, a group of gay activists in New York formed the Silence = Death Project, which began with the plastering of posters around the city featuring a pink triangle against a black background with the statement ‘Silence = Death’ below it. The group’s manifesto addressed the ongoing AIDS crisis, declaring that the silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people must be broken as a matter of survival. Their logo would later be offered to the protest group ACT UP, with which it remains closely identified, as recently seen in Robin Campillo’s film, 120 BPM. Alongside the calling out of other institutional forces like the Vatican and the Food and Drug Administration, the Silence = Death Project’s original poster also included the question “Why is Reagan silent about AIDS?”.

Set two years before this project’s launch, 1985’s writer-director Yen Tan uses silence to address both the stigmatisation of the Reagan administration and the growing AIDS epidemic. The words “gay” and “AIDS” are never spoken onscreen, but their significance looms large over this muted, moving drama, where the only real ostentatious quality is the decision to shoot it in black and white and on Super 16mm film…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber on Blumhouse’s ‘Cam’ and being sex-work positive

A multiple prize-winner at this year’s prestigious Fantasia Festival, the Blumhouse-produced Cam, now available on Netflix UK, is one of 2018’s most interesting horror films for numerous reasons.

First of all, the film, set in the world of webcam shows, is among the most sex work-positive fiction features to date from any genre, and a crucial pop culture asset in a time when sex workers worldwide are under threat, thanks to livelihood-threatening legislation from various governments.

Secondly, Cam is one of the few films with sex work at its centre that’s actually written by a former sex worker. Debut screenwriter and producer Isa Mazzei had a similar camming career to that of the film’s protagonist, Alice (online alias Lola, played by the spellbinding Madeline Brewer of The Handmaid’s Tale).

Thirdly, although the film is directed by Daniel Goldhaber (his debut feature), it is credited as ‘A film by Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber’. Despite taking on specific roles (Mazzei is the sole screenwriter), the pair are adamant Cam is a 100 per cent joint vision, making it a particularly fascinating case study in a climate where who gets to tell what stories is under more scrutiny than ever.

Cam follows Alice, who makes a living as a camgirl on a popular chatroom site, but withholds sharing the details of her career with her mother (Melora Walters) – until she cracks the top 50 ranking of the platform’s performers. Around the time she does, she suddenly finds she’s been locked out of her account. Someone else is broadcasting from it, though: a doppelgänger of Alice/Lola, who veers into content that goes beyond the rules Alice had set for herself. In a bitter twist, the imposter Lola’s shows help her channel become one of the most popular on the site. With the exception of a fan who seems strangely attuned to what’s going on, no one seems able to help Alice stop Lola, forcing her down a path of creative and eventually violent improvisations.

While they were in London for the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, we sat down with Mazzei and Goldhaber for a fascinating, extensive conversation concerning, among other things, what their film says about our relationship to technology, making such a sex work-positive movie, working with Blumhouse and their thoughts on Jason Blum’s recent comments about women in horror filmmaking, the curious influence of documentarian Frederick Wiseman on the film’s storytelling, working with star Madeline Brewer and how to successfully collaborate with people to empower underrepresented voices, creating a new cinematic language to tell their horror tale, and their unique partnership that dismisses traditional notions of auteur theory…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Samantha Robinson on Netflix’s ‘Cam’, ‘The Love Witch’, social media, and ‘Paris, Texas’

Set in the world of a specific type of sex work, Netflix’s Blumhouse-produced horror Cam offers plenty of food for thought alongside its unsettling thrills. Written by former camgirl Isa Mazzei and directed by Daniel Goldhaber, the film sees a rising star camgirl, Lola (real name Alice, played by Madeline Brewer), locked out of her account, after it has been taken over by a mysterious entity that looks exactly like her and is near-constantly broadcasting. No one can tell the difference and it seems nothing can be done about this supernatural occurrence. In its portrayal of an identity theft nightmare, the film taps into and escalates real fears for the social media generation.

Although Alice is the centrepiece of the film – one of two, if you count her digital doppelgänger – there are plenty of memorable supporting characters. One of these is a young woman we only get to know as PrincessX, a camgirl rival of sorts to Lola, played by Samantha Robinson, currently best known for her breakthrough lead role in Anna Biller’s The Love Witch.

We met Robinson in London for a discussion of what drew her to the film’s material, the lack of a male gaze in the film thanks to its unique co-vision, what Cam says about our relationship to technology, how her career’s changed since The Love Witch, and her love of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas informing a new creative project.

We also tried to get any information at all about her experience working on Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. Tried…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Adina Pintilie, Tómas Lemarquis and Laura Benson talk MUBI’s ‘Touch Me Not’

An unexpected winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Romanian director Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not is an eye-opening look at human sexuality and intimacy that’s not quite documentary, not quite fiction in its incorporation of recognisable actors alongside non-professional stars sharing stories and acts of intimacy. Pintilie also ‘stars’ in the film herself as a director reflecting on the drama unfolding, lending proceedings the feel of a therapy session.

With the film now available exclusively on MUBI in the UK after a brief theatrical run, we speak to Pintilie and actors Laura Benson (Dangerous Liaisons, I Want to Go Home) and Tómas Lemarquis (Blade Runner 2049, Nói Albinói, Snowpiercer) about the unique project, how it changed their own views on intimacy, achieving trust, and what winning the Golden Bear means to them…

Full interview for VODzilla.co