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godzilla: king of the monsters (michael dougherty, 2019)

sound of metal (darius marder, 2019)

Let's get this out of the way. Whatever they are calling the Oscar for sound now, this movie should win in a runaway. Darius Marder and the rest of the film-making team prepared meticulously for the construction of sound in the movie. This short is very informative ... there's a spoiler warning near the end:

It's interesting to see how technical aspects of a film are used, not in the service of gargantuan special effects, but to help convey the experiences of the central character. It's not about showing off what the film makers can do, and is all the more effective for that being the case.

This wouldn't matter much if Riz Ahmed wasn't so good. Stories are told of his intense preparation for the role, including learning to drum and learning to use sign language. But, as with the sound design, Ahmed isn't trying to show off ... he wants to be as good at those achievements as his character is, so we no longer think about the actor behind the actions.

Much of the transition over time is both quick and gradual. Ahmed's face expresses the perplexing way his life is changing, but Sound of Metal doesn't waste time ... one minute he doesn't know sign language, the next scene he's getting the hang of it, the next scene he's proficient. This is occasionally jarring, but isn't any more than that.

Darius Marder, directing his first fictional feature, and his brother Abraham, wrote a screenplay that never feels like an After School Movie. There aren't a lot of touching moments, and the ones we do get are earned. Olivia Cooke is getting some Oscar talk for her work here in a supporting role, and Marder makes good use of the deaf community in his overall casting.

Pretty much everything comes together in Sound of Metal. It is true, though, that Riz Ahmed is the one who takes thinks to another level. #695 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.


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