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Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Family I Had

Katie Green and Carlye Rubin’s film documents the transferrable perversities inherent in familial life.

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Tribeca Film Festival Review: The Family I Had
Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

Charity Lee occupies the center of one of those true-crime stories that’s so operatically atrocious it’s impossible to comprehend. In 2007, Charity’s 13-year-old son, Paris, savagely murdered her four-year-old daughter and his half-sister, Ella, strangling and beating the girl, stabbing her 17 times with a kitchen knife. Katie Green and Carlye Rubin’s documentary The Family I Had opens with Charity’s recollection of hearing of Ella’s death, which is initially presented as a terrifyingly arbitrary incident. We hear the recording of Paris’s call to 911, in which he sounds remorseful and panicked, as if he’s snapped out of a slumber and is describing an act committed by another person.

Green and Rubin begin with this incident so that we can process the shock of it, before doubling back to events that preceded the murder. Things aren’t as arbitrary as they seem, of course, and a shadow of ambiguity is cast upon that 911 call. The filmmakers have been granted considerable access to Charity and Paris, who’s incarcerated in a variety of Texas prisons over the course of the film. Charity is a memorable and poignant camera subject: Broad-shouldered and heavily tatted, with close-cropped hair and intelligent and tired eyes, she looks every bit like the warrior and survivor that she is. She’s a woman who’s struggled with a bad parent, bad men, a drug addiction, and the death of a daughter at the hands of a prodigiously intelligent son who meets the textbook definition of a psychopath.

Charity’s descriptions of her own life profoundly avert nihilistic and religious platitudes, illustrating the knack that humans have for acclimating to the most unmooring of circumstances, evolving, by necessity of survival, to find such events nearly ordinary as life grinds on. At one point, Charity makes a despairing and macabre joke about Ella’s murder to her mother, Kyla, who’s part of an overlapping murder controversy of her own. But this humor is a testament of strength rather than callousness, as Charity is weathering something that would break many people; she’s an advocate of prison reform, as Paris’s interviews offer chilling evidence of how incarceration warps, exacerbates, and rewards the antisocial behavior of its captors.

The Family I Had isn’t slick: Revelations are sprung messily, almost randomly, as they often are in life. The film alternates intimate home-movie recordings, which show that Paris was a bomb waiting to detonate, with contemporary footage of Charity working with people affected by severe crimes, taking care of her new child, resonantly named Phoenix, and maintaining some semblance of a relationship with Paris, whom she resents and fears but has, remarkably, appeared to have forgiven. The Family I Had documents the transferrable perversities inherent in familial life, offering evidence to both sides of the debate of nature versus nurture, while exploring the awesome durability of love, which can become its own kind of prison.

The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 19—30.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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