Argosy Media Reviews: February 5, 2015

‘Maps to the Stars’Dir. David Cronenberg (eOne, 2014)

‘Welcome to Night Vale’ Commonplace Books (bi-monthly)

‘Maps to the Stars’ Dir. David Cronenberg (eOne, 2014)

From the twisted mind of David Cronenberg comes an unsettling satire of the Hollywood world. It might be Cronenberg’s idea of a comedy, but Maps to the Stars is far from cheerful. The Canadian director serves up a handful of horrible human monsters, including ghosts, incest, child abuse, drug addictions and misplaced violent tendencies.

The film focuses on the Weiss family as its members navigate the troubled psychological waters that permeate the household. Julianne Moore in particular gives a haunting performance: a portrait of an aging, washed-up actress unable to let go of what remains of her former youthful glamour.

As ever, Cronenberg’s work is filled with crisp images and scathing social commentary. The whole plot is filled with name-drops and a critique the film industry. Cronenberg pulls back the curtain of the magical “Tinseltown” to reveal the disturbed nature of the Hollywood machine. However, he seems to get a little carried away with the clichés and self-references, to the point where the film’s criticism can be turned against itself. As one of the characters dismissively points out, “at the end of the day, it’s an art film,” which is an effective summary of Cronenberg’s latest work.

– Lily Mackie

‘Welcome to Night Vale’ Commonplace Books (bi-monthly)

Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast series framed as a weekly news broadcast by the local radio station in the fictional town of Night Vale, a community where impossibilities and abnormalities are a daily routine. Welcome to Night Vale revolves around strangeness: the fictional news reports in the podcast are contingent of dark, unnatural happenings being described in a calm, ‘business-as-usual’ manner. This creates a creepy and absurd atmosphere that is relayed by the smooth-voiced narrator and the music accompanying each episode.

The casual tone in which they are told inspires an atmosphere alternating between unsettling strangeness and absurd humour. In the face of bizarre events that face Night Vale, its denizens choose to ignore those terrors rather than confronting or escaping them.

While the mysteries of Night Vale may sometimes lose their ability to surprise as the series continues, the podcast is usually able to keep the “broadcasts” fresh and interesting. If you are a fan of surrealism and comedy, I would highly recommend giving this series a listen.​

– Gabriel Christie

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