David Lynch is a working journalist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is currently a web producer for KOB-TV in Albuquerque, where he helps to manage the station’s social media feeds, website and digital content, as well as working with reporters on breaking news.
David attended college at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he majored in multimedia journalism, minored in Spanish and received a distinction from the UNM Honor’s College.
Outside of work, David enjoys watching movies (and writing the occasional review), watching baseball, running, reading and seeing new places.
David can be followed on Twitter at @RealDavidLynch, or on his Facebook page.
A large shard of the appeal of recent-year isolated arctic thrillers stems from seeing familiar faces scarred by physical and psychological abuse wrought by the wintry weather. Films like “The Grey” and last year’s “Arctic” are boosted by the presences of Liam Neeson and Mads Mikkelsen, respectively, while providing an avenue for both of those particular actors to achieve something dramatically elemental in their performances as their characters do battle against…well, the elements. At the same time, we take comfort in our warm movie-watching abodes while getting the suspicious itch that these roles cut much closer to showing the actors as their real-life selves than your average complex blockbuster. We all have a survivalist instinct in us to some extent, after all, despite whether or not we’re ever unlucky enough to find out what that limit is.
The unfortunate souls fighting for their survival in “Centigrade,” the newest trapped-in-wintry-hell drama from IFC – and a minimalist work in ways good and bad – aren’t the well-known faces of a Neeson or Mikkelsen type that most can immediately anchor their emotions in. While those who have seen “Boardwalk Empire” or “Jersey Boys” or “Tusk” may still recognize them, the intrigue of “Centigrade” lies not in chiseling to the icy core of an A-lister. It’s in the cruel irony of its real-life story (apparently stemming from a 2002 incident), here dramatized in a way that over-emphasizes inherent terror at the expense of character.
An enigma of a historical biopic eager to burst out of expected genre clichés just when it seems to be wrapping itself up in them, the point of “Tesla” doesn’t seem to be education so much as enlightenment. Oh sure, all the traditional boxes are checked as the air is cleared about one of history’s most important (and, the movie argues, overlooked) scientific minds; the production design seems accurate to the period, the facts seem well-researched, Ethan Hawke’s titular performance seems like appropriate imitation. What you expect to find when you hear the words “historical biopic,” you will mostly get—with all the murkiness of fact and fiction that comes with it.
Until, that is, murkiness becomes the movie’s purpose. What sets writer-director Michael Almereyda’s biopic apart (mostly as strength, occasionally as misstep) is an awareness of the subjective path on which we approach these kinds of historically informed movies; an awareness that he boldly recalibrates into a strange stream-of-consciousness sensibility that is as disorienting as it is alluring. Having worked on his screenplay since the ‘80s, Almereyda is asking us to meet him halfway, to absorb the anecdotes of Nikola Tesla’s journey and also to acknowledge the unspoken quandary of any biopic: When everything can be dramatized, what role does truth really have to play? In considering the question, Almereyda finds a novel approach to the deconstruction of a real-life figure’s myth that hasn’t been this entrancing since Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” odyssey.
A knife, a lighter and a coffee cup are only a few of the objects Russell Crowe uses to exact bloody vengeance in Derrick Borte’s “Unhinged,” a trivially straightforward (and, at 90 minutes, appropriately brief) new thriller that must be the most expensive anti-road rage PSA ever produced.
But make no mistake: While Crowe is the star here, he’s by no means the hero. When he glowers behind the steering wheel of a pickup truck shot to look like an intimidating Cerberus of rubber and metal, it isn’t with the lawful-good virtue of Maximus or Robin Longstride or Jor-El. It’s with the chaotic evil of unbridled macho malice pushed over the edge. The actor becomes the rotten core of 2020 personified.
“Our masculinity shall not be infringed!” So proclaims a teenaged, blonde-haired boy to roaring applause in “Boys State,” and you’d be forgiven if the moment gives you whiplash, along with tinges of awe, amazement and uneasy skepticism. We can imagine another much more well-known blonde-haired politician a few decades his senior saying the same thing as he walks through the White House
For an annual conference of passionate junior politicos which can call prominent bureaucrats like Dick Cheney and Cory Booker alums, there’s little explicit talk of future aspirations in “Boys State,” a marvelous Sundance award-winning documentary that hits Apple TV+ Friday. The opening minutes see a Ronald Reagan action figure being proudly shown off, but Donald Trump’s name is mentioned two, maybe three times. “Washington” is heard even more scarcely.
That’s all by design in this enthralling and thoroughly engaging documentary, about a group of high school Texas boys who converge on Austin into create their own mock government. The film, shot in the summer of 2018 by co-directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, is a masterclass of implication, and bursts with relevant dot-connecting about the flaws in our modern democratic systems—even when the doc begins to suggest that they’re not flaws so much as tenets. The teenagers’ week-long crash course in gubernatorial process becomes our microscope into backdoor political maneuvering and front-stage bickering.
I bet I can tell what’s going through your mind as you take in the poster for the upcoming sci-fi thriller “Sputnik,” with all its space-aesthetic-meets-ominous-silhouetted-alien glory:
This looks familiar.
Don’t we already know exactly what we’re getting with this?
What’s to stop me from just rewatching “Life” or “Underwater” or “Cloverfield” or “Alien,” the mother of all space-stalker tales?
I get it. I really do get it. They’re all valid impressions, and the same ones I had too! Which makes me happy to report that “Sputnik,” a tantalizing feature debut from Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko, is at the very least more ambitious than its minimalist one-sheet would suggest. It would be futile to predict the pivots “Sputnik” takes over nearly two hours, and even if it doesn’t fully balance the thematic weight it sets on the scales for itself, there’s certainly more than enough here to prevent calling it yet another mere “Alien” clone.
Opening where most space-faring spookfests end – on descent back to terra firma – two Soviet cosmonauts in a cramped tin can are singing songs and ruminating on where they’ll go upon their return when (right on cue) there’s a bang from outside. And, wait…was that a tentacle that just flashed by the window? Perhaps these adventurers won’t make it home after all.
To tell others’ stories, we must first listen to others’ stories—that has been a maxim, the maxim, for as long as there have been stories to pass down. And it seems to have served both as very personal motivation and inquisitive destination for Shawn Kelly in his filmmaking debut, “My Father’s Brothers”—a simple Vietnam War documentary that tells a valiant story without fuss or frills, without marvelous revelation or impossible-to-recapture observation. Just an intent to listen.
We hear from Shawn Kelly directly, but first from his father, Jack Kelly Sr., who thrusts us into the uncertainty of being a soldier in Vietnam before reaching legal U.S. drinking age over stitched-together archival footage. Things are a bit disorienting at first; you may find yourself struggling to stay afloat amid the barrage of military jargon being thrown our way. Shawn interjects before long with a preamble of sorts, explaining that while he always knew his father was in Vietnam, he was never privy to the particulars. In fact, he thought his father’s military role extended to a desk job.
Not so—Jack Kelly Sr. didn’t have a pencil in his hands but a rifle. “My Father’s Brothers” is the result of Shawn learning the details of his dad’s Vietnam War experience – more specifically a harrowing and bloody ambush that killed many of his friends – as it was initially divulged over a family vacation, when the director finally decided to ask. “You took your parents for granted,” Shawn says, using his own perspective to give voice to a universal attribute of youth. “My Father’s Brothers” seems, more than anything, like one person’s attempts to fill that blind spot. But intimate motivation ends up being buried under recitation of history. A story is told here, but I’m not convinced that a story is explored.
For a drama about looking inward, “The Good Wolf” doesn’t successfully encourage any meaningful reflection. For a movie that’s fairly brisk, it persists with the subtlety of an insurance commercial. For a story that insists on finding the good in people, its violent flashes of nihilism are more indicative of a narrative mired in existential crisis.
But at least it’s only 90 minutes long?
“The Good Wolf” is the feature debut for Texas filmmaker Will Shipley, part of the lineup for this month’s San Antonio Film Festival and doesn’t try to hide what kind of movie it’s going to be. Its opening shots consist of forest grounds and bits of security tape while, in the background, a news anchor broadcasts a warning of an escaped convict on the loose in Texas. The setup is one we’ve seen dozens, hundreds, thousands of times before in fiction, but the stakes are nonetheless set in stone on arrival.
Frustratingly, so is everything else. Successful dramas can ensnare an inquisitive moviegoer with a one-sentence elevator pitch; “The Good Wolf” does the opposite. A gold-hearted inmate befriends a fatherless boy playing in the woods—that one sentence of plot is all that’s needed for your mind to instantaneously map out where the movie probably will go and (unless this is the first film you’ve seen in 10 years) it will absolutely hit every single one of those beats, hoping we don’t notice the lack of originality on the way.
The first words uttered in “Higher Love” come from an unseen radio or podcast host proclaiming that “Camden is, for the rest of the country, a shithole.” The statement zeroes us in on what cityscape we’re gracefully observing from the night sky and will explore over the next 80 minutes. But the truth is the dingy street corners, haggard lots of overgrown weeds and cramped apartments that this solid (if slightly aimless) documentary on the drug overdose epidemic invites us into could belong to any American city—specifically, the parts of them left behind to corrode away under ever-widening socioeconomic gaps and consequences of negligence.
Hasan Oswald’s first movie – part of the 2020 San Antonio Film Festival’s lineup – is a dependable and narrowly focused diorama of drug addiction in urban America. “Dependable” is an adjective that doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting here; the stories Oswald captures don’t garner groundbreaking insight so much as the dreadfully familiar cycles of surrender to the needle, vocalizations of self-defeat and false starts on self-improvement that we’ve seen played out in all manner of storytelling from “60 Minutes” special to awards-bait Hollywood production (Remember “Beautiful Boy”?). We, of course, can’t hold that against Oswald—if there’s one thing the filmmaker gets across with his occasionally devastating observations in “Higher Love” (yes, he makes good use of the title’s double entendre) it’s that the possibility we’ll become numb to headlines of lower-class families destroyed by the influence of drugs is exactly the reason we need to continue seeing these stories, getting to know these people, sympathize with their struggles.
The struggles we see in Oswald’s movie are largely endured by Daryl and Nani, two Black residents of Camden, New Jersey for whom the latter’s need to throw her heroine dependence has never been more urgent—she’s expecting a child. They’ve been dealing with the effects of drugs on their relationship for so long that when we meet Daryl while searching for Nani in Camden’s run-down neighborhoods early on, it’s obvious it’s not the first time (and perhaps not the tenth) they’ve been through this. Oswald cuts from Daryl’s here-we-go-again eyes scoping out every alley to Nani barely able to keep her eyes open while she gets high and vents about her partner’s constant surveillance; it’s an engrossing way to start the movie, one whose structure is otherwise formal from here on out.
“If I wasn’t getting high, I’d probably be living it up right now,” the pregnant Nani confesses in tired croaks to the camera, to herself or to both. That serves well enough as the thesis of this sleekly shot and intimately rendered documentary, one that’s more interested in personal and interpersonal reckonings on self-control than in doing any exploring of the institutional causes of a drug crisis that killed 702,000 Americans between 1999 and 2017.
The film oscillates between spending individual time with Daryl and Nani as well as observing them interact with each other over the course of their journey. Promises of change are exchanged and thoughts wondered out loud about whether or not they’re taken seriously. We at times find ourselves thinking the same thing about the images that Oswald captures, and whether or not they cross a line into exploitation. Nani makes for a tormented subject – the kind of central figure these documentaries require – and more than once there’s nothing to do but watch her proclaim one intent while acting out another.
Daryl is by no means a saint either; his vice – at first alluded to before we see it for ourselves – is the bottle. And when we watch him work through the last drops of alcohol in one scene, just as disengaged and prone to slurring his words as Nani is when she gets high, “Higher Love” cuts to a familiar message with candor and clarity: Substance abuse is just a drop that leads to ripples of harm for the ones we care about the most.
Though “Higher Love” leaves empty some psychological crevices for deeper probing, it’s able to convey how users’ loved ones grapple with their roles in recovery—and the fallout of if they choose to leave when the burden’s become too much to bear. If the movie’s first half is about confrontation, it’s more interesting second half is about recognition, and finally action. Yet the parts of “Higher Love” that most immediately demand our attention are when Oswald captures the firestorms of curses and accusations and suppressed turmoil that erupt between boyfriend and girlfriend, father and son, brother and sister. The implosions are subtle.
And sometimes, regrettably, they’re not. One no-holds-barred moment is suppressed of its raw discomfort when, as Nani inserts a needle into her vein, “Higher Love” awkwardly overlays background audio of her child’s screams despite him being nowhere nearby. It’s a strange decision, as if Oswald was uncertain we’d understand the stakes. Elsewhere, the director employs a pair of kaleidoscopic montages that flash through images of law enforcement, funeral services, community sights and passionate spoken word, briefly pulling the lens much further back than Oswald has signaled he intends to. The sojourns are exhilarating, but last perhaps less than two minutes of screen time—so the emotion that lingers is confusion at how out of place they are in this version of a real-life drug addiction story. The sequences certainly indicate a bolder form of the genre than Oswald otherwise molds “Higher Love” into.
In one of the doc’s most transfixing moments, one of Nani’s so-called “get-high buddies” unleashes a monologue about togetherness, her words bordering on the philosophical. Documentaries naturally force us to consider the extent to which words and decision are informed by the presence of the camera that may turn a private space into a stage; here, that debate feels moot. As she outwardly laments the idea of getting high without Nani by her side, I was overtaken by an evergreen sentiment that rings clear despite the movie’s eventual untidy ending: Everyone is worthy of redemption. But they need to realize that for themselves.
A violent struggle is unfolding in Peru, and has been for four decades. Pitting military rulers against guerrilla fighters knowing as the “Shining Path,” the conflict destroyed dozens of rural villages, took 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more in its bloodiest stages before the turn of the century. In the years since, scattered Shining Path fragments have remained active, occasionally reappearing to ambush soldiers. The contemporary Peru government has branded Shining Path a terrorist faction. As recently as 2017, journalists have walked the country’s landscapes and found, as reporter David Gonzalez wrote for the New York Times, “silent clues to a violent past”—tattered clothes, bones, mass graves.
I start off this way is because that’s vital context for “Canción Sin Nombre” (“Song Without a Name”), a blunt-as-a-shotgun-blast new movie that walks a fine line between sociopolitical thriller and pure dystopian drama, occasionally stumbling onto either side of it. The film – gauzily photographed, as if we’re looking back on history with half-open eyes – is a piece of fact-informed fiction that attempts to examine a country’s conscience through the personal crises of two people maneuvering one of the most volatile moments in its history.
An unnerving film with a small cast unfolding in an even smaller number of close-quartered locations, there will be some who watch “She Dies Tomorrow” and think it to be a small movie. It may even be true. What isn’t true is that “She Dies Tomorrow” is a small movie about small things—in reality, it’s about very big things. The most consequential of things: The ends of things.
That’s an important distinction to make right off the bat—the plurality of “ends.” While parallels can be drawn between writer-director Amy Seimetz’s second feature and Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” – both psychological studies set against the backdrop of suggested looming cataclysm – “She Dies Tomorrow” is tuned to an even more intimate key, locking its precisely imprecise gaze not on planet-sized apocalypse but on self-confrontation of the most ancient kind.
Seimetz’s movie understands that in a society growing more polarized with every headline, the notion that everyone will someday breathe their last breath is ubiquitous. It’s not a topic for conversation over brunch, so the director is breaking the ice for us. She’s clearly enamored with the idea of an expiration date being humanity’s lowest common denominator, and in watching her new movie – which makes no assumptions and is as restrained as it is forthcoming – we become enamored as well. When the thought of our last hours, minutes, seconds is considered not as notion but what it actually is – inevitability – it’s impossible to think of very much else. “She Dies Tomorrow” explores that narrow canyon between fixation and compulsion with dread curiosity. It’s casual, but deeply serious; abstract, but strangely legible.