Vague Visages Writers' Room

Vague Visages Writers’ Room: Weekend Vibes 4.20.18

Weekend Vibes is a Friday column about streaming recommendations, new release hype and entertainment events. 

Colin Biggs (@wordsbycbiggs)

HBO’s Westworld, featuring a resort where the mega-rich let off steam, is back in business for a second season, but Delos is no longer in control. We’re living in the midst of a society grasping the dangers that unregulated corporations pose, but it’s easier to process when the immediate danger is an android rebellion. With Season One, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy updated Michael Crichton’s kitschy critique of an all-powerful corporation giving customers the chance to play God for the 21st century, and proved, in the process, just how unamusing an amusement park could be. The maze conceit that the first season was based around is divisive: some love the Lost-level meta game playing that the show provides, while others find it merely pedantic, but Westworld’s real value lies in the existential horror. The nightmares are just beginning for the Man in Black (Ed Harris) as the aberrant “hosts” decide to stop being so polite and make their own narratives. Robert Ford’s insane stranglehold on burgeoning artificial intelligence is over. Hosts aren’t trapped in their loops anymore, and, humans, well, they’re quite vulnerable in Season Two. Now it’s time for Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Teddy (James Marsden) to shine.

Westworld’s second season premieres April 22 on HBO.

Alasdair Bayman (@alasdairbayman)

Frames of Representation returns this weekend at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Embracing complex cinema that challenges audiences through inventive modes of narrative, this year’s festival thematically bases itself in the landscape. As outlined the festival brief, the focus (“New Visions for Cinema 2018”) examines political borders, changing environments and new geographies of sound. Twelve full-length feature works, six shorts and various workshops support Frames of Representation’s ethos to “provoke reflection on the ethical and political implications of representation through distinctive cinematic languages and emerging new voices.” Providing the perfect excuse to escape the glorious spring sunshine in London, the ICA’s sleek interiors and Frames of Representation programme will prove the perfect respite from the heat.

Stefen Styrsky (@stefen_styrsky)

For all the complaints about the hard push of algorithms determining what we read, what we watch and what we see on the internet, who wants to admit that sometimes they’re grateful for the suggestions? I will. Case in point: The Two Faces of January, a film that popped up in my Hulu queue a little while ago. The 2016 movie by Hossein Amini (screenwriter of Drive) is an adaptation of the eponymous Patricia Highsmith novel and stars Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst as familiar Highsmith characters: shady, dissolute Americans making, and getting into, trouble amid sun-soaked European scenery. Without the auto-recommendation, I probably wouldn’t have watched The Two Faces of January much less known about it. But what a pleasant surprise. Mortensen and Dunst play con-artist Chester MacFarland and wife Colette on holiday in Greece. Rydal (Isaac), a small-time grifter and aspiring poet, finds himself drawn into an intense Oedipal-romantic bond with the couple just as an agent sent by MacFarland’s “investors” catches up with him. The novel focuses much more heavily on this psychosexual triangle than the film. It favors the screen-friendlier crime and double-cross angle. No matter, The Two Faces of January is a gorgeous, accomplished thriller. Dunst ably holds her own against the male leads. Mortensen is truly unctuous, but wields cigarettes and a lighter with the vivacious charm of a stage illusionist.

The Two Faces of January is available on Hulu.

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