Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” is Ambitious and Gorgeous Science Fiction Storytelling

In Annihilation, a band of women set off to investigate a bizarre natural phenomenon that has resulted from a fallen meteorite. Alex Garland directs the film and wrote the screenplay (based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, which is part of a trilogy). The mysterious event has been named “The Shimmer” in deference to the prismatic bubble that surrounds a lighthouse at the epicenter – a bubble that is growing. No previous expeditions have returned. Like Garland’s previous directorial work Ex Machina, Annihilation dazzles with its visuals, sports an intriguing and tight plot, and ultimately leaves the audience with few explicit answers about what exactly has been going on. There has always been power in subtext, especially in science fiction, and Annihilation is an impressive and intelligent new entry to the genre.

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Pablo Larraín’s “Jackie” Hinges on Natalie Portman’s Stellar Performance

No film in recent memory lionizes a performance quite like Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.  The entire film embraces Natalie Portman’s expert depiction of the iconic first lady.  Portman’s performance has a imitative style to it, complete with specific elocution, affect, and emotion – all of which she delivers with a quiet and confident ferocity.  Larraín takes full advantage of Portman’s talent by framing most of the film in close ups, a stylistic choice that instills the spectator with a deep empathy.  Even the structure of the narrative reflects Portman’s performance:  thoroughly non-linear, the disjointed organization conveys and cements the confusion that Jackie is experiencing.  Portman’s nonesuch portrayal completely fuels Larraín’s film, and is responsible for the heights it reaches.

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