Friday, January 18, 2013

Film Review: Mama

My review of Mama

Like one of the child protagonists in Mama, the movie cannot find its legs, wildly scampering about and moving from a promising premise to a kitchen sink approach in a desperate play to make this a full-length movie. Based on a brilliant, intensely creative 3-minute short by Andres Muschietti, the full-length Guillermo Del Toro-produced film careens from presenting one red herring after another and loses grasp of the crux of Muschietti’s idea, the fairly innovative “Mom is mad at us. But wait… Mom is actually a ghost.”
The movie opens in a straight-out-of-Let The Right One In wintery scene, with a financial-crisis-aggrieved father, having just murdered his estranged wife and business partner, driving on a snowy road with his scared two little girls in the back seat. There is a grim finality to his intentions, undoubtedly, since he’s a broken man on a tortuous road with a dead end. Muschietti’s cinematography is absolutely phenomenal, with a crispness and an enthralling clarity not commonly seen in ghost story flicks. Dad’s plan is thwarted by Mama, who as the little girl points out, “does not walk on the ground.”
Five years pass. The girls, Victoria (Megan Carpenter) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), are discovered, having somehow survived alone in the wilderness, turning feral in the process, crawling and scampering about on all fours, scared at any sound and barely human. They are taken in to live with their Uncle Luke (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his rock-band-playing girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), to whom this all seems like one big nuisance putting a damper on her bon vivant lifestyle. Obvious nod to a familiar trope: when was the last time in a horror film that adopting children was a good idea? This is the first major issue with the film. The very Flowers In The Attic set-up is ripe with psychological material for exploration. At the same time, there is a fine line to tread between queasy voyeurism of the results of child neglect and a compassionate inquiry into it. Most of what we are presented with is through the lens of the girls’ sessions with a therapist, who we later come to realize has some questionable fame-seeking tendencies, and this is the part of the movie where things start to hit the hokey spectrum fast. Speaking of the therapist, Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), displays some typical horror movie inanity. He runs out of the house as soon as he gets a whiff of Mama, but then right away goes in search of her in the abandoned creepy cottage in the middle of the woods, of course. Because we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feature Story: DC Tattoo Expo 2013

My feature story for BYT on The DC Tattoo Expo 2013

The third annual DC Tattoo Expo certainly rivaled last year’s Baltimore Tattoo Convention in scope and substance.
Tattoos have long emerged from their subcultural roots and shed their “freak factor” cloak to boldly display their palettes, telling a story both about their owners and the artists who created them. Intensely public, yet simultaneous deeply personal, tattoos are pushing artistic boundaries in all sorts of strINK ways.
For many, conventions are the best place to get work done by artists they might not normally have access to. For others, it’s an opportunity to show support to their favorite artists by getting tattooed at the convention and showcasing the artists’ work. For others, it’s simply a chance to find some community and colorful camaraderie and enjoy the experience as an art show.