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Elizabeth Olsen made her big debut as Martha Marcy May Marlene

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Illustration for article titled Elizabeth Olsen made her big debut as frazzled cult survivor iMartha Marcy May Marlene/i

Screenshot: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: Antonio Campos and Sean Durkin both have new movies coming out, so we’re looking back on other projects released by their production company, Borderline Films.


Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

“Do you ever have that feeling where you can’t tell if something’s a memory or if it’s something you dreamed?” The eponymous protagonist of Martha Marcy May Marlene, played by Elizabeth Olsen, asks this of her older sister following some years apart. Martha is staying with Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), in their plush Connecticut lake house after having made a surreptitious, early-morning escape from another secluded home, a communal farmhouse in the Catskills. But Sean Durkin’s first (and, prior to the upcoming release of The Nest, only) feature is less about memories versus dreams or fact versus fiction than the way traumatic experiences from one’s past can assert themselves in the present.

The film’s neat structure reiterates this idea, often bluntly, by visually blending Martha’s memories of her time upstate with her current stay in Connecticut: She jumps off her brother-in-law’s boat and lands in a creek among splashing members of the commune. She carries a glass of water from her sister’s spotless stainless steel kitchen into a shadowed, unfinished room on the farm. Handfuls of seconds can pass in a new scene before it’s clear just when and where Martha is. Besides being Olsen’s auspicious debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene is perhaps most notable for these formal choices (Durkin would win the Directing Award at Sundance that year), which blur the line between what was and what now is.

Beginning with Martha’s addled call to her sister on a pay phone outside of a diner, we see the effects of her trauma before the trauma itself, creating a palpable sense of foreboding. One morning she pisses herself awake. One night she lies down in Lucy and Ted’s bed while they’re having sex. As Martha’s behavior grows increasingly troubling, the flashbacks to her life in the commune also become more and more disturbing. (The word “cult” did not appear anywhere in Durkin’s script.) The group’s leader, Patrick, is played by John Hawkes, who—one year after Winter’s Boneportrays another charismatic but dangerous man opposite an ingenue in her breakout role. Hawkes’ performance, like the film as a whole, is as striking for what it avoids as for what it contains. The cliché of the wild-eyed, manipulative Svengali is nowhere to be seen here; in its place is a man who smiles as easily as he closes a hand around a woman’s neck.

Martha cannot yet talk about what happened to her, but often parrots Patrick’s language to Lucy. “Why is the house so big?” she asks when she first sees the lake property. The film hints at Martha and Lucy’s childhood—a dead mother, a mean aunt—without becoming didactic about how an unstable upbringing might eventually lead one sister to embrace the security that an architect husband and wild amounts of money afford and the other to join a cult. The world of the commune is specific and detailed—one can almost smell the body odor in the room where everyone sleeps—while its overriding ideology remains vague, its tenets tacit. Upon her arrival at the idyllic farm, Martha is told that it’s as much hers as theirs. She’s later encouraged to let her guard down in order to more fully become a part of the group. It results in a kind of porousness, made literal when Patrick gives her a new name and when the cult members enter nearby residences at night to burgle them. (That her sister’s is the kind they would rob does not need to be said.) The self is as permeable as a house, the film says. You have to be careful who you let in.

Availability: Martha Marcy May Marlene is currently streaming on HBO Max and DirectTV. It is also available to rental or purchase from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Microsoft, Fandango, Redbox, and VUDU.

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Kit Harington Says His Parents Gave Him A ‘Gender Fluid’ Upbringing!

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Years before he swung swords and rode dragons, Kit Harington was apparently playing with Polly Pockets!

In a new interview with The Telegraph, the Game of Thrones star explained that he’s looking to explore different ideas of masculine characters to portray in future projects instead of the strong-and-silent Jon Snow types — a desire he attributed to his “gender fluid” childhood.

During the chat, the Emmy nominee explained that his mother, former playwright Deborah Jane Catesby, introduced him and his brother to gender politics when they were young, sharing:

“I asked for a Mighty Max and she bought me a Polly Pocket. I asked for an Action Man and I got a doll — it was very gender fluid from the word go. And I went with it.”

And look at how great he turned out!

Related: Game Of Thrones Star Diana Rigg Dead At 82

Rose Leslie‘s husband went on to confess that he’s done playing “silent” and “heroic” characters like his Westeros alter-ego because such characters help perpetuate elements of toxic masculinity: specifically, that men are weak when they open up about their feelings.

He mused:

“I feel that emotionally men have a problem, a blockage, and that blockage has come from the Second World War, passed down from grandfather to father to son. We do not speak about how we feel because it shows weakness, because it is not masculine. Having portrayed a man who was silent, who was heroic, I feel going forward that is a role I don’t want to play any more… It is not a masculine role that the world needs to see much more of.”

Progressive!

Of course, playing the traditional brooding hero for a decade also took a toll on the 33-year-old personally.

In 2019, the actor admitted that he grew “f**king sick” of the HBO fantasy series by the final season because filming was so intense. He told GQ Australia:

“The last season of Thrones, seemed to be designed to break us. Everyone was broken at the end. I don’t know if we were crying because we were sad it was ending or if we were crying because it was so f**king tiring… We were sleep deprived. It was like it was designed to make you think, ‘Right, I’m f**king sick of this.’ I remember everyone walking around towards the end going, ‘I’ve had enough now. I love this, it’s been the best thing in my life, I’ll miss it one day — but I’m done.’”

Fans can see the actor next in the second season of the Netflix drama Criminal, in which he plays an estate agent who is accused of rape by a junior member of his team. Talk about a complete 180 from Jon Snow!

And next year he’s set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in The Eternals, playing… a hero who swings a legendary sword. Hey, maybe he’ll also be really emotionally available??

What do U think of Kit’s comments?

[Image via Avalon/WENN/Polly Pocket/YouTube]

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Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas-Led ‘Official Competition’ Restarts Filming in Spain

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Headlined by Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, The Mediapro Studio’s “Official Competition,” one of the year’s highest-profile international Spanish productions lensing in Spain, has resumed shooting.

Compounding the difficulty of going into production for a second time, the film features an international cast including Argentine heavyweight Oscar Martínez, a former San Sebastian, Venice and Argentine Academy best actor award-winner, plus two Argentina-based directors, Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat.

They will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this time around. Eight days after production started in March of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down filming when it became unsafe to continue. Ominously, as shooting resumes this week, parts of Spain, led by Madrid, are reintroducing stricter lockdown conditions once again, as the daily number of new cases is rising.

“Official Competition” features Banderas and Martínez as renowned actors of large talent but even bigger egos, set on a collision course on the set of film directed by a celebrated auteur cineaste, played by Cruz.

Banderas, Martinez ‘Official Competition’
Manolo Pavon

In the months since shooting was suspended, the filmmakers continued working as best they could, tweaking the script based on what had already been filmed.

“Within all the negatives of interrupting a shoot, there was something positive: We had an unusually large amount of time to study the already-shot material, and to put under a microscope the screenplay for what is left to film,” Duprat said in a press release.

“The material we already have is wonderful: Penélope, Antonio and Oscar are extraordinary. The scenes have what we wanted, an uncomfortable mix of tension and sarcasm in an aesthetic framework of great conceptual strength. We restarted filming with the certainty that we have something really powerful on our hands,” he added.

Cohn went on, “In this film are the experiences and knowledge gained after so many years of shooting. The film has our DNA as directors, but also that of Penélope, Antonio and Oscar, as they generously contributed their own experiences. In this film, you will see an intense distillation of the universe that we know best: that of directors and actors trying to do one of the most unnatural and complex things, for me, in the world: Shooting a film.”

Sold by Protagonist Pictures, “Official Competition” is a pillar of The Mediapro Studio’s push into movie production. Regular collaborator Andrés Duprat co-wrote the screenplay. Josep Amorós, a production manager on TMS’ drama series “Side Games,” as head of production. Arnau Valls (“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”) serves as DP, Alain Bainée (“Mindscape”) heads up production design, and Alberto del Campo (“The Realm”) oversees editing.

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Cruz, Banderas, Martinez ‘Official Competition’
Credit: The Mediapro Studio

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See Jennifer Aniston and More Stars Celebrate the Emmys in Pajamas

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Dressed to impress…and then go to sleep.

It’s not every year that celebrities get to celebrate one of the biggest nights in their career while sitting on the couch. While some big stars decided to still rock the chic clothing and beautiful gowns, some opted for a comfier look.

Celebrities had a lot of fun while wearing their PJs and being super comfy casual. We’re not mad at it. Earlier this month, fashion designer Christian Siriano shared with E! his Emmy’s predictions and why pajamas were all the rage for Hollywood’s biggest stars.

“I think it’s a mix of classy, fabulous pajamas, or elevated suits that are comfortable. Maybe a few slippers,” he explained of how the stars would turn out for the virtual award show. “I think actors and actresses right now, they want to be themselves, and a little more who they are. I think that’s really nice to see.”

He was right! The stars didn’t shy away from choosing comfort over luxury.

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