Andrew, Author at Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Changing Reels Episode 29 – Under the Shadow

Living in post-revolutionary Tehran in the 1980s has not been easy for Shideh. With her dreams of becoming a doctor fading away due to her political activism during the war, she spends most of her time taking care of her daughter Dorsa while her husband pursues his medical career on the front lines. As the dangers of missile strike inch closer to her home, Shideh’s sanity is tested when Dorsa starts claiming that there is a spirit lurking in their home. This week we turn up the chills with Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow. We also discuss our short film picks of the week: Paul Trillo’s At the End of the Cul-de-Sac and Steve McCarthy O Negative.

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Patreon Post: 13 Reasons Why the Netflix series “Tape 3, Side A”

The fifth episode of 13 Reasons Why is less interesting visually than the previous, but excels at character analysis. Clay's plan to play "gotcha" on Courtney backfires and Courtney gets nuanced reasons for her sin against Hannah.

Mental health warning: this episode involves discussing my history with suicide, so please proceed with caution.

This podcast is only available for contributors to the Can't Stop the Movies Patreon.  You can reach the post by clicking the above image or this link.

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It Comes at Night (2017)

A disease has spread across the world, leaving few survivors.  Those that remain cling to small superstitions in the hopes they might avoid the contagion.  A dwindling family, faced with the prospect of adding more to their home, questions what steps they need to take if they want to survive in this world.  Trey Edward Shults wrote the screenplay for and directs It Comes at Night, and stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Joel Edgerton, and Carmen Ejogo.

I spent the first fifteen minutes of It Comes at Night wondering if film-makers have reached the breaking point of slow horror.  I'm thinking of films like The Lords of Salem, It Follows, The Witch, The Blackcoat's Daughter.  Films where molasses-slow camera movements pair up with ominous droning on the soundtrack and sparse dialogue explains little about the predicament of the plot.  It Comes at Night starts with a slow conversation with a dying man whose daughter has to speak through a gas mask and protective gear, then nudges the audience into the rhythm of life in this world one second at a time.

The turning point came not from Paul (Joel Edgerton), who rules the house with a cautious pragmatism and deep suspicion, or Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), who is better at thinking about the long-term consequences for their actions.  It comes from Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), caught in the middle of an argument between Paul and Sarah while not saying a word, and writer/director Trey Edward Shults does not shift the camera between Paul or Sarah.  Instead, when the camera starts to move toward Sarah, it stops on Travis.  We watch Travis, passive in action but deep in thought, listening as his parents argue, and gradually wondering what the point is in survival.


Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

After society nearly collapsed following the great blackout, an entrepreneur refines the previously outlawed process of creating human slaves known as replicants.  The older models are hunted down by newer replicants given the title "blade runner" and created to obey orders.  K, one of these new blade runners, stumbles onto a mystery that throws his existence into question and suggests the replicants are more than their masters envision.  Denis Villeneuve directs Blade Runner 2049, with the screenplay written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, and stars Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Sylvia Hoeks.

And how came Jesus into the world?
Through God who created him and the woman who bore him.
Man, where was your part?
-Sojourner Truth-

Sleep hasn't been easy after watching Blade Runner 2049.  My mental film reel keeps going back to the "birth" of a new replicant under the watchful eye of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto.)  That might seem a tasteless turn of phrase on my part as Wallace is blind.  But he leans his neck to his custom-made assistant, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), to attach a chip that allows him sight.  Nearly a dozen black phallic cylinders, previously haunting the corridor, begin circling the terrified woman whose introduction to this world was a five foot drop from a sac of fluid into a hostile environment.  Wallace tenderly caresses the replicant before slicing her abdomen open and leaving the remains for someone else to clean up.

Denis Villeneuve's latest turn as director has few scenes as directly menacing as the slaughter of that replicant, but barely a moment went by without my emotions playing chicken with my mind trying to process what I was seeing.  Blade Runner 2049 is the logical cinematic end-point for what feminist scholar bell hooks calls, "imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy."  It is a whole, with no separation, as each part plays its role in the subjugation and destruction of the world.  We don't need to look further than Wallace's commodification of black penises, in our world where black sexuality is often weaponized, as the ultimate signifier for a system of oppression as he nakedly sizes up the flesh of a woman for slaughter using sexuality he has no claim to.


Kuroneko (1968)

Yone and Shige live in a peaceful bamboo grotto, both waiting for the return of Hachi.  A band of soldiers descends on their home, devouring their food before raping and murdering the two.  In the cinders of their once-peaceful home, a black cat perches itself on the two, and soon a mysterious force begins murdering the local samurai.  Kaneto Shindo wrote the screenplay for and directed Kuroneko, which stars Nobuko Otowa, Kiwako Taichi, and Kichiemon Nakamura.

A thought experiment.  In the United States, we have a system of justice that's built on the bones of racist and sexist oppression.  I snap my fingers and, tomorrow, this system is gone.  No police, no militarized zones for patrolling, no drug raids - nothing that resembles the system of justice we have.  What does society look like?  Has it collapsed with the disappearance of our system of justice and enforcement, or have those who lived under those conditions continued to live their lives in a freer state?

Kuroneko, in ways both unsettling and revolutionary, suggests that any system that thrives on the pain of those it's supposed to protect needs to be eliminated.  All at once is impossible barring some total societal collapse, but one at a time the weeds can be plucked from the spring of human existence until we come to a place where a measure of peace might be obtained.  There is no peace in Kuroneko, not in the terrifying opening moments or the tragic conclusion.  Yet there's some part of me that can't help but think maybe, just maybe, these women who were once innocent and alive are onto something by destroying the system that was supposed to protect them one samurai at a time.