By Will Ashton || @thewillofash
Nymphomaniac: Vol. II
| Directed by Lars von Trier | Not Rated

Nymphomaniac-Volume-II-PosterIn my assessment of Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, I highlighted my misunderstanding of how to approach the film. As in, whether it should be looked at as one half of one overarching film, or just as its own individual film?

Well, I still cannot give an answer to that question. But, having now seen Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, I can at least assertively put my foot down on what I feel about writer/director Lars von Trier’s latest “treat” for the cinema.

In a way, then, this should serve as both a review of Vol. II and a new review of Vol. I. While my opinion on the first volume hasn’t really changed, I at least have a stronger understanding now of what I feel about it.

So, with that in mind, let’s dissect what Trier has accomplished here.

Like I noted before, this is the second part of Trier’s look at a woman’s sexuality from a child to her near fifties. It is a rollercoaster ride of sex, romance and a lot in-between. It makes for an individually perverse and yet occasionally engaging film series.

My biggest problem with the last movie was that I believed it walked a very fine line between being sexual fantasy and character study. Whenever it was directly the later, it made for an interesting, if at times repetitive, film. When it was stepping into the former’s territory, though, it was as if the audience was sitting inside an overlong, extended porno.

This was something I had even more of a problem with in Vol. II. But, as it eventually wrapped itself up, I felt like Trier’s finally decided to showcase his overarching point. Which, it would seem, would be a feminists piece based on one’s own sexuality. Which I figured was the case, but it was never directly stated until the movie’s final flickering moments.

This movie provides its actors more availability to showcase their performances, even more so than in Vol. I. In particular, as the titular sex addict, Charlotte Gainsbourg gives a more subtlety versatile performance this time around. Especially as the weight of her sexuality becomes an even greater factor to her motivations in life and, therefore, the story.

The same can also be said of Stellan Skarsgard. His purpose in the film is much more centralized here, and it makes his scenes with Gainsbourg even weightier, especially considering that they are the best-written sections in both volumes.

Although this installment is much more decidedly dramatic and darker, there are still occasional segments of dry comedy spilled lightly throughout the film. This film is not quite as darkly humorous as the former film, but it does have its quiet moments of comic levity, and they are much more spread out than they were in the first movie.

Compared to his other movies—at least, those that I have seen—I don’t think Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II carries the same headiest that the director has given to the other movies on his resume. There are many times that the director seems to be trying to shock his audiences, but, without much of a point, these scenes always seem rather morally bankrupt.

They are well done, which is what ultimately makes these two films worth the time put into them, but compared to what he was trying to communicate creatively with his last two movies, Antichrist and Melancholia, Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II too often feels a bloated attempt for the filmmaker to try to push the audience’s sense of moral decency.

I guess he did this in Antichrist too. But, again, I feel like that movie had more of a purpose throughout. Speaking of which, there seems to be a little nod in this movie to that film here, but I can’t say that for certain. It may have just been a plot point similarity.

The biggest feather in Nymphomaniac Vol. II’s cap is that it is more entertaining than the past volume. That’s not so much to say that this is going to get audiences as excited as they would be in Captain America: The Winter Solider, but the stakes this time are much more realized and the plot has a stronger understanding of what it is trying to communicate to its audience.

If I had to choose, I would say that I preferred Vol. II a little more than I did Vol. I. Neither are perfect by any stretch of the imagination (I should also note, without getting into spoilers, that I found at least one part of this movie’s climax—narrative climax, that is—to be rather far-fetched and another example of the film’s attempt to push the envelope too much), but this movie seems to be more level-headed in what it wants to say.

In the end, I don’t plan to revisit this movie like I never plan to revisit any Trier movie—although, I have seen Melancholia twice, but not by choice. But I can at least somewhat understand and continue to respect Trier for what he was able to accomplish here.

It may be too stuffy and overlong for its own good. But it is still a well-crafted semi-feminist film with a strong lead performance, as always, from Gainsbourg. If anything, these movies are great at showcasing her talents like no other.


By Meryl Gottlieb | | @buzzlightmeryl

meg ryanThere hasn’t been much big news about the How I Met Your Mother spinoff, How I Met Your Dad, except for the casting of its star Greta Gerwig. Other than that, there’s only been the disappointing news that Krysta Rodriguez wouldn’t actually play the bff.

But now there’s something to talk about. Meg Ryan has landed the role of “future Sally,” aka the unseen narrator. Essentially, she’ll be the Bob Saget of HIMYD.

I’m still very much on the fence about how I feel about the spinoff. Do we really need another HIMYM that isn’t actually HIMYM? It will be great to mix in Gerwig’s female voice with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ already known style, but will it work when you are playing to the stereotypical woman searching for love instead of the unusual male lead who is desperately searching for his one true love? Can you really take the same structure and dynamic of an already loved show and make it fresh by simply putting in new faces and storylines?

Regardless, I am very excited Ryan is joining the show. If you’ve seen Anastasia — and if you haven’t, you’re doing something wrong — then you know she has a great voice for narration. Maybe they can even get Liz Callaway to come in and sing for her again. Ba Dum Cha.

However, How I Met Your Dad has yet to receive its series order, but CBS is announcing its pickups at its Upfront presentation in May and HIMYD is a likely pick for the fall lineup.

What are your thoughts on the HIMYM spinoff? What would you like to see? How much do you love Anastasia? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
Poor Bob by Anthony Ellison runs 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday
Rust on Bone by Bianca Sams runs 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday
Both shows are in the Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater in Kantner Hall
Readings will be done Thursday-Saturday
Free for OU students; $5 non-students
Rating: Poor Bob: 4/5
              Rust on Bone: 5/5

Junior Shambrion Treadwell (left) and graduate student Thomas Daniels (right) perform a scene in Rust on Bone.  (Alayna Steele | For The Post)

Junior Shambrion Treadwell (left) and graduate student Thomas Daniels (right) perform a scene in Rust on Bone. (Alayna Steele | For The Post)

I absolutely adore going to see the mainstage productions the Division of Theater produces each year. The actors, though they are simply students, perform at a professional level, the sets are mind-blowingly beautiful and it’s all for free! What’s not to like? But it’s one thing to see a revered play be put on by a renowned theater school. It’s another to see this same group produce an entirely new play that was written by one of their own.

And that’s what happens with the Seabury Quinn Jr. Playwrights’ Festival every year for the past two decades.

All of the graduate playwrights write an original piece as a final exam of sorts for a particular class. This year, two were chosen to be fully produced and the other seven are readings.

The two fully produced plays are Rust On Bone by Bianca Sams and Poor Bob by Anthony Ellison. Rust On Bone analyzes the effects of war and society’s perception of mental illness by following a therapist who is trapped in her office and must use her wit and skills to get out. Poor Bob is a comedy about a family struggling to properly grieve the death of a family member who was also a pillar in the community.

The plays are very different. There’s the obvious sense in which one is a comedy — Poor Bob — and the other is a drama, Rust on Bone. Then there’s also the sense in how each play functions. Poor Bob pulls you in with its frequent punchlines and comedy; Rust on Bone keeps your interests peaked with lasting moments of suspense. Both are great in their own right, but if you choose to only see one, I would suggest choosing Rust on Bone.

Rust on Bone manages to make every second count. I was enthralled in the storyline the entire time. It is just good drama. And it helps when you have an outstanding cast elevating the words. Thomas Daniels captivated me as Jim Daniels, the antagonist of sorts. The arc of that character is captivating and Daniels is a master at his craft. Shambrion Treadwell is a masterful lead; Sophie Mitchem’s performance as a tortured soul was chilling and was extraordinarily delivered; and Jessica Savitz was great as the sometimes much needed comedic relief.

Poor Bob was very good. It is told in a way that you have to pay attention because explanations are contained in several reveals throughout the show. It was a very interesting structure. However, there were some scenes that weren’t as interesting as others and some lull moments — moments I didn’t feel when I saw Rust on Bone. Poor Bob’s cast was very good, as I’ve found to be the norm in Division of Theater productions, but only one actor stood out: Emily Auwaerter as Sharna, the funeral home director. Her performance was zany, expressive and simply hilarious. She was my favorite to watch throughout the night.

So go check out the last week of the Playwrights’ Festival and see these shows for themselves! Just because they aren’t mainstage, it doesn’t mean they are well-written or amazingly produced.

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox
Rating: 3.5/5

Opening_night_bts_(2)It seems like the minds at Glee are finally working again. All I asked for was some decent episodes and I’ve managed to find them in tonight’s episode and in “New New York.” The dialogue leans more toward the sassy, funny end than the annoying, cliché end, and the musical numbers are not only tolerable, they’re good. It only took them 17 episodes to get it right this season.

It’s “Opening Night” and Rachel (Lea Michele) is panicking, so much so that she hallucinates a rather frightening dream. She sings “Lovefool” on the McKinley stage in her famed reindeer sweater and plaid, pleated skir; is accompanied by William Shakespeare on drums and a girl who dressed up as Rose from Titanic on keyboard. I’m sorry; did David Lynch direct this opening?

To help calm her down, Kurt (Chris Colfer) imposes an Internet lockdown, so she won’t continue to read any negative comments from random bloggers, and suggests the gang only surround her with calm, encouraging thoughts. Despite their initial efforts, Rachel binges the comments section, forcing them to do individual “therapy.” My personal favorite of these is when Kurt delivers a basket with a note signed by the original Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand. However, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) forgot Barbra dropped the “A” in her name as an act of defiance, so the charade was ruined. Michele’s divaness and obsession for Streisand worked flawlessly here.



Michele was fantastic tonight. I’m a little disenchanted with this rollercoaster each week of when I like and then dislike Rachel. She used to easily be my favorite, and I’d like to be able to say that with confidence again. Lea Michele is so talented; please just let her be her and everything will be OK.

santanaThe best return of all goes to Santana (Naya Rivera), sorry not sorry Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Just as Tina asks how things could get worse, the camera cuts to Santana getting out of a cab slow-mo style. Of course, our favorite Lima Heights gal knows what to say, by referencing the negative reviews Babs got herself, and gets Rachel excited again.

Sue (Jane Lynch) is going to go with Will (Matthew Morrison) to New York because she needs to affirm her hatred of the city. Overall, it was a better episode, but this was a week storyline. They sing “NYC” from Annie — we get it, Lynch was in the Annie revival; we know already! They sang this mostly in the auditorium, and I must say I enjoyed it. Everyone knows I’m not the biggest fan of Annie, but they performed well and I’m glad they didn’t just plop them in the middle of Times Square; I’ve already had enough of them singing in the big city streets.

I have to contest this now. Why does every TV series or film that shows people visiting New York for the first time show them appearing from the subway station, smiling ear-to-ear?! These characters are from Ohio. Most likely they flew in or took a bus, meaning they definitely would have seen the city and some of its massive buildings by then.

Whoever handled the camera for this episode really knew what he or she was doing. There were a lot of scenes in which I was impressed with the way they framed or simply filmed things. In showing us those interesting filming choices, the camera slowly follows Rachel to the stage. The curtain goes up, and all we see from the first act is “I’m the Greatest Star.” I loved Kurt’s rendition of this, but I can always use another Lea Michele cover of a Babs song.

Very randomly, Sue locks eyes with Mario (Chris Parnell) across a crowd of people going into Funny Girl. When he leaves in the middle of the first act, so does Sue. The two hit it off, go on a date to his restaurant and hook up. She likes him so much that she even imagines herself up on stage next to Rachel singing “Who Are You Now?,” one of the closing numbers in Funny Girl, because he said she would have made the show more interesting. This was really just a very weird choice. It’s supposed to highlight how anyone can find love in NYC, but it was too random for me to accept. There was zero chemistry between these two actors and the scenes themselves just weren’t written very well. Let’s just not talk about it. Ever again.

Everything is resting on what the critics say, but there’s like six hours to kill so let’s go clubbing and dance until we die. Blaine (Darren Criss) suggests this bar in Greenwich Village that they could never realistically get into. It resembles a gay bar, but it’s New York so I’m not going to limit what it is or isn’t. However, everyone there loves Rachel already and begs her to perform, so she does. She sings “Pumpin Blood” and is #flawless. She looks amazing and does a really good job with the song. While the choreography doesn’t seem to reflect that they are a bunch of 19- and 20-year-olds, it is really interesting and fits the scene very well. It was odd and unrealistic, but I liked it. And I have to ask, was that a sex swing Michele was on? Gross.

With what looks like no hangovers, the group runs to the newsstand to pick up the latest New York Times to find that Rachel was the only thing praised in the show. Huzzah! What an unsurprising turn of events.

Will calls shortly after to say congratulations while congratulations are in order for him as well. He would have seen the premiere had Emma not gone into labor like five minutes before the show started. He was already in New York. That’s a nine-hour drive. I highly doubt you would have actually made it for the birth of your son, so just stay for the show. Do these people really have some underground super-jet that gets them back and forth between these locations? Anyway, Wemma has decided to name their son Daniel Finn Schuester. I really liked that decision. I think this is a great way to wrap up Will’s storyline. That was a perfect bow to place on top of the nicely wrapped package. Now, if only Sue had gotten the same. Sure, she made the closing speech about how anyone can find love, but I didn’t believe in her love so it meant nothing to me.

Did you even notice Artie (Kevin McHale) was abset? I can’t see how him simply wheeling around in the background would have done anything of importance, so please take this as notice that he is not needed in the future of the show. Cut the cord. Say your goodbyes.

But let’s look on the bright side. Lea Michele was fantastic; Santana was just as witty as ever and made an excellent return; a majority of the musical numbers were great and download-worthy; Sue’s biting comments were as free-flowing as ever; and there was a quick, but important tribute to Cory Monteith’s Finn. This is all I’m asking from a show that is still climbing its way out of the low troughs it dug itself into in the later fourth and majority of the fifth seasons. Looking at this episode among the context of the rest of the episodes in season five, it was one of the best. Here’s hoping the show can manage to put out tolerable content for the last three episodes.

By Will Ashton || @thewillofash
Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1
| Directed by Lars von Trier | Not Rated

large_3lVe9Os8FjpX1VgtdT9VFnbqs5fI must confess: I’m not quite sure how to confront my review of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. I.

It’s not that I don’t know what I feel towards the film—I do. I just don’t know how exactly to assess it. Should I view it as its own individual film, or the first part of one long movie?

Considering that this version is the first film on Trier’s filmography not to get the official green slip of approval from the director himself, I guess it doesn’t completely matter how I grade the movie. I mean, it is still his film, and he will still get the blame or praise of the movie. But I shouldn’t have to guilt myself too much over whether I am being as liberal to the filmmaker’s work as I should be.

As the first of two “volumes,” this first chapter of the life of a self-professed nymphomaniac named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as she professes her life story to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) after he finds her beaten and passed out in an alley. As they discuss her life and her naughty deeds, they discuss the worth of her character.

Based on the slivers of footage that was shown during the credits from the second part of this film series, it would seem that all the really crazy shit is going to go down in the next movie. As a result, this one, while certainly good at establishing character, is a bit dry and sluggish in its delivery.

The primary reason for this is because, throughout the movie, Trier never really answers the question that is in the viewer’s mindset, which is: why he is devoting four hours of film to tell this girl’s story? I mean, there are certain segments here that are interesting, but there is nothing especially notable in this movie that explains why this was not brought down to a two hour—or even three hour—movie.

See, unlike last year’s Blue is the Warmest Color, this movie’s decision to go beyond the 140-minute mark isn’t necessarily earned. Although both are intimate in their portrayals through studying their female character’s sexuality—very explicitly, for the record—Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 feels padded and excessive to a fault.

For the record, before this, I only have seen two of Trier’s movies, which were his last two: Antichrist and Melancholia. Even though neither was perfect in my opinion, for different reasons, I respected and appreciated both in particular for their opening minded looks at heavy topics like depression and lost.

With this movie, though, I’m not quite sure what the writer/director’s point here is. I can’t completely judge yet, because I have only seen the first part of this two-part story, but I don’t quite see what the point is of this story. Are we studying the depravity of sexuality in our culture, or the over-fixation we have towards sex? Is he trying to test the endurance of how much sex we can willing watch on the big screen? Or is he just interested in telling the story of a girl who has sex—a lot?

Truthfully, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem, at least so far, that he really has a point. Which, in turn, makes for a rather dull movie at times, especially considering how stretched the story is already.

But, there is no mistaking that Trier’s is a talent director with a particular warped vision. For all my criticisms, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I is a well-made movie. The acting is strong, the direction is tight and the writing, while a bit all over the place, is well-written in a thoughtful way that I was not expecting from a movie with such a title.

However, what truly makes the movie passable, at least so far, is its dark sense of humor. Through this, Trier is able to not take himself or his subject matter too seriously, which, in turn, makes for a more enjoyable film. There is always the risk that this movie will get too far up its own ass. But through this dry sense of comedy, most notably in the scene with Uma Thurman, the movie works particularly in its twisted, demented little way.

If I have to give credit to Trier in one regard, at least, it will be that he certainly knows how to give his movies unique and memorable opening sequences. This movie is no different. Although this one is quite as beautifully disturbing as Antichrist or as just plain gorgeous as Melancholia, this movie certainly knows how to throw its audience for a loop and get them invested in the story.

As I said, I am essentially reviewing half a movie, so this is weird for me to write. I can’t promise I will like the second half of this story, because I barely enjoyed the first one, but I will say that Trier’s has crafted another distinct and well-made film. Even if this one doesn’t quite have as much of a point, at least so far.

By Will Ashton || @thewillofash


With that, the Athens International Film + Video Festival comes to an end. It was a dynamic week of ups-and-downs, and that can be said for the last film that I saw this week.

It’s All So Quiet | Directed by Nanouk Leopold| Not Rated
RATING: 3.5/5

If there is one thing that I can say about Nanouk Leopold’s It’s All So Quiet, it’s that it lives up to its title.

Filmed with a grounded, minimalistic mentality, Leopold’s film is all about the little details. Whether it is the emotions hidden in one’s eyes, or the mundane burdens we go through in our daily existence, everything is filmed with an ear close to the ground, and an eye always watching for the authenticity to whisper (not shout) into the viewer’s attention.

That said, however, It’s All So Quiet is a slow-burn of a movie, and I like slow-burn movies. For, as much fascinating detail is paid attention to character, Leopold can’t help but make the film drag due to a lack of swift pacing. Don’t go expecting any high-speed car chases, and don’t go watching this movie after a busy day, if you know what I mean.

But, even through its duller moments, the movie is always at the height of its potential dramatic tension thanks to the commanding yet subtle lead performances from the late Jeroen Willems and Henri Garcin. They quietly (how appropriate) take the viewer’s attention through their remorseful looks of doubt and self-conflict. Even when dry, the film always has a command of the audience’s attention.

In studying the lack of emotional physicality and the hidden emotions of the burdened middle-aged man, Leopold’s movie has a lot to say in small doses. It’s a movie that may not immediately and permanently win you over. But once it grabs you, it’s hard not to be swept away in its silent beauty.

By Will Ashton || @thewillofash


Things are finally starting to wind down, as I am about to write two of my last reviews from this year’s film festival. Thankfully, as things slow down, the quality is not being brought down with it, as these two movies were among the best that I saw so far this week. They also connect in that they fall somewhere in line between good and really good, neither of them quite making that needed leap into greatness thanks to their own individual problems in their third acts.

In Bloom | Directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß | Not Rated
RATING: 3.5/5

After a while, coming-of-age films start to become a dime a dozen. It’s not such much that they are getting worst, it’s just that there are —seemingly—so little things you can really say about the teenage experience that hasn’t been seen and felt on the screen before.

It is with that that the ones that do actually take you off-guard, that make you feel something that you rarely experienced in a movie theater before, that are more enticing to watch. In Bloom is one of those types of movies.

Much like last year’s great The Spectacular Now, directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß are able to express a sense of identity in their film-making that is distinctive yet familiar that, no matter what country sees it, they are able to relate and feel for these characters. There is a distance they create that feels like we are always watching from afar, but we are always close enough that we are able to connect and care about what is being seen.

Through beautifully crafted long-standing tracking shots, there is a sense of observance that is all-encompassing of the bitter struggles towards coming into the reality of one’s environment. This masterful sense of craftsmanship, in addition to its natural writing and performances, helps the audience get through some of the film’s muddled story elements. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, the story only gets more misguided and melodramatic. While the performances and direction keep it all watchable, they can’t save the movie from slipping in quality towards the movie’s final reels.

The movie’s decidedly indecisive ending unfortunately makes me drop this movie down a peg, but there is no mistaking the fact that this is an extremely well-made film that, whether you speak their language or not, one should be able to connect to these characters and their pathos. The situations are realistic and grounded, which makes even the more over-the-top elements of the movie’s ending moments worth the watch. As the characters grow into maturity, we grow to love and care for them even more.


Omar | Directed by Hany Abu-Assad | Not Rated
RATING: 3.5/5

Action-thrillers can become so generic these days that it is hard to forget why we watch them in the first place. Thankfully, Academy Award-nominee Omar is here to remind us loud and clear why we come to these movies in the first place.

There is an American influence to this film that is hard to shake. Its sense of heightened thriller storytelling seems to be inspired mainly by the mid-level blockbusters created here in the States. In its attempt to recreate, the film usually runs into its own problems. The plot, as it progresses, becomes more silly as it stretches out its rather basic storyline material, and some of its emotionally-driven moments come across cheesier than they should. Particularly, in how they are written, as Hany Abu-Assad, the film’s director, also penned the script.

But, while its peers’ mentality is its occasional downfall, it is also the provider of some of its saving graces. The most notable of these factors include the movie’s sense of humor and its pacing. What should be accounted for in the movie’s success is its extremely good editing by Martin Brinkler and Eyas Salman. Although one of the films I saw this week is edited by one of the biggest names in editing today, Walter Murch, this is easily the best edited movie I have seen so far at the festival.

What is most notable about the movie is its lack of score. In the same vein as No Country for Old Men, the movie is able to keep the pulse of the audience moving without playing one note of heightened pathos-driven music. And this is most notable in the movie’s incredibly executed chase scenes. Although we are not driven the music playing, we are there; we are on the edge of our seats. In fact, these music-less scenes actually add to the movie’s sense of intimacy, in my opinion.

Also worth noting is its very good lighting from Alexey Antonovsky. That work is also forgotten about, and it shouldn’t. Especially when it is as well-done as it is here. The same can be said for its sound mixing and editing. Which is appreciated more because of the film’s score-less nature.

Much like In Bloom, the ending of Omar is just as abrupt. But, thankfully, it is more satisfying in its conclusion. But, through its strong execution and its tightly put together film-making, Abu-Assad’s film is a fast-paced and highly engaging. It should be to appeal to American audiences as it worked for audiences in its original language.