phil nolan

MODEST REVIEWS: House of Cards (Beau Willimon, 2013)

Times are tough for dramatic television. AMC is about to lose their best show, leaving it with an aging Mad Men and a degenerating Walking Dead. When Game of Thrones isn’t on, HBO’s biggest hit is riding solely on the controversial tits of an overweight twenty-something. Who would have thought the savior would be Netflix? Apparently, a lot of talented directors. 

House of Cards dropped as a full season immediately available on the streaming platform this month, a game changer tuned for the modern viewer’s lazy-weekend, season-long, binge-viewing experience. This show happens to be perfect for the venue because of its intoxicating and addicting nature. 

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MODEST REVIEWS: Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013)

I was rigid with fear and bewilderment when I found out that Mr. Cuaron, who hasn’t touched a feature since the masterful Children of Men, had cast Sandra Bullock as the lead for his next: a simultaneously claustrophobic and open-spaced thriller in which we’re stuck watching two people for at least 90 minutes straight. I imagined all the ways a director could fuck this up, but found comfort in the fact that if anyone could take such a concept and make it work, it was him.

Cuaron teams up with god-tier DP Emmanuel Lubezki once again to deliver one of the most unique and spectacular films I have ever seen. The viewer is thrust into a desperate situation from which there is no diversion and no escape, only the struggle to survive. Cuaron avoids flashbacks and nonlinear events, techniques that distinguish Gravity from other small-cast survival films like Cast Away and 127 Hours. He doesn’t take you off the narrative rails because he wants it all to feel real. 

The great thing about Gravity is that it is an achievement on every single level. The writing, performances, sound design, cinematography, and special effects all jump out in their own brilliant ways. This film showcases the very best production professionals at their very best.

Cuaron employs much of his trademark long-take and hidden-cut scenes in order to make action feel fluid and sink the viewers into suspended disbelief on a deeper level. The delicate dance between CGI and live action is so seamless at times that it leaves even the most savvy audience perplexed. The mixture of all of these elements controls and accentuates the rise and fall of tension. Gravity isa physically and mentally immersive experience, evidenced by the sold-out crowd’s jumps, sighs, and visible cringes. 

There has been a curious bit of backlash regarding its scientific accuracy and overall premise. It is this writer’s opinion that these critics are nagging on very unimportant and peripheral details of a very well thought-out and executed thematic structure. Perhaps they would have found the film enjoyable if they weren’t sopping wet blankets of pessimism and facetiousness.  

Phil Nolan is a video editor for NowThis News. He loves pizza and genius. You can follow his Tumblr blog here.