Pop Culture

‘Inside,’ a Tense Tale of Survival Set in a Luxury Penthouse, Transforms Blue-Chip Art Into an Unlikely Antagonist of Willem Dafoe

“You’re on your own,” is the fateful line heard over a walkie-talkie in the opening moments of Inside, a new art world thriller that recently had its world premiere at the Berlinale film festival. The simmering plot, directed by the Greek filmmaker Vasilis Katsoupis, sees actor Willem Dafoe play Nemo, a destitute thief who struggles to survive in a luxury Manhattan penthouse after a botched art heist. He’s completely alone, save for a couple of exotic fish in a tank and a few millions of dollars’ worth of art.

Dafoe’s thespian display of suffering in a film that runs just shy of two hours is liable to make anyone squirm, but if you are the kind of person who panics in tight spaces, this may not be the movie for you. Inside is a classical survivor tale, but unlike Gilligan’s Island or Castaway, it is brilliantly transposed into a metropolis, within the backdrop of the icily contemporary home of a cultural one-percenter. Unlike the films of this genre that came before it, nature is not the antagonist—modernity is.

There are few people who can hold the attention of an entire movie theater while being virtually the only actor on-screen—for this, Dafoe is a rare and well-cast talent. And while Nemo bears his soul to us, we learn little-to-nothing about his backstory; all we know is that he was dropped onto the roof of the New York flat by a helicopter to rob an unnamed Pritzer Prize-winning architect of his Egon Schieles. Keeping Nemo as a shadowy archetype is a smart decision, giving the film a symbolic edge that makes it sit outside of time.

Willem Dafoe stars as Nemo in director Vasilis Katsoupis’s Inside, a Focus Features release. Photo: Wolfgang Ennenbach / Focus Features.

Instead, we learn more about the collector who owns the penthouse palace that becomes Nemo’s prison. The owner has a daughter who lives with him, and a dog. He is away in Kazakhstan. Nemo picks over the last of his groceries, which includes organic canned goods and semolina pasta. What we know most about is his formidable art collection, one which includes emerging artists like Joanna Piotrowska (who had work included at the Venice Biennale last year) and Petrit Halilaj. There are also works by Maurizio Cattelan and John Armleder. There is a rare book by William Blake. If our homeowner is buying at fairs, we’d be seeing him at TEFAF New York and Art Basel in Switzerland, and dialing into the odd Christie’s evening sale, I would guess.

With the aim to build out a convincingly realistic art collection, director Katsoupis hired a curator for the set—Leonardo Bigazzi, who is based in Florence at the Fondazione In Between Art Film. Bigazzi’s carefully selected are all authentic, on loan from the artists and their galleries; some are even new commissions, among them an eerie watercolor by Francesco Clemente called After and Before (2021).

The apartment itself exudes an anthropomorphic persona. The fridge, in a welcome comedic moment, sings out “Macarena.” The penthouse is on the whole an antagonist, becoming a torturous microclimate for Nemo. The malfunctioning alarm system begins heating the luxury home, tensing up the plot as the temperature creeps up degree by degree climbing to a deathly 42°C (107.6°F), before starting to drop again so low that Nemo can see his breath. The water system has been turned off, and so Nemo lies between tropical plants in a purpose-built garden to drink and cool his body.

All the while, artist Adrian Paci’s Centro di permanenza temporanea (2007) looms on the wall—depicting migrants standing on an empty gangway, seemingly waiting for a plane that is absent from the picture. The film’s commentary on climate change is sharp and incisive, but thankfully stops short of being preachy.

Egon Schiele Cowering (male nude) (1912). Private collection. Photo: Gerhard Trumler/Imagno/Getty Images.

The emphasis on the art collection, which lingers as a stand-in for the absent homeowner, begs a question: How much can you know about someone if all you can basically see is the art they buy? And what happens to the value of art when the world around us is basically snuffed out? It turns out not much on both counts. The art is rendered absurdly inutile to Nemo; it looks on lovelessly as he suffers.

The preservation of Schiele’s drawings behind glass seem almost violent when compared to the rapidly deteriorating well-being of our protagonist. It recalls the core message behind the climate activists’ attacks on art last year. In another break of humor, Nemo seems to realize the art does not matter whatsoever; he knocks over a few works by Maurizio Cattelan.

Out of this sterility of art in the face of an emergency, however, Nemo’s own artistic creativity comes forward as a savior of sorts. He builds a sculptural stack out of the homeowner’s furniture; he sketches what he sees to pass the time. Within his brutalist architectural cage, the symbolism of the artworks curated into the film begins to finally evolve as Nemo builds up his own symbolic universe with a charcoal wall drawing and an ever-evolving shrine. The symbology of wealth of an art collection fades into the background and the essence of the works finally emerge.

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Owen Wilson Plays a Soothing TV Art Instructor in His Upcoming Film ‘Paint.’ But, No, He’s Not Bob Ross. (Well… Maybe a Little)

You might think you know Owen Wilson’s next role. But the soft-spoken television painter, with his perfectly coiffed perm, is not playing Bob Ross. Instead, the forthcoming comedy, Paint, tells the story of Carl Nargle, a television art instructor who specializes in tranquil landscapes clearly meant to evoke Ross’s oeuvre.

But the film, written and directed by Brit McAdams, takes a dramatic turn when Nargle’s flourishing TV-hosting career is threatened by an artistic rival, Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), host of Paint With Ambrosia, who “takes paint to a whole new place.”

“Vermont’s #1 public television painter… is convinced he has it all: a signature perm, custom van, and fans hanging on his every stroke… until a younger, better artist steals everything (and everyone) Carl loves,” the description of the official trailer said.

The promo for the film falls short of referencing “happy little trees,” but Wilson is clearly channeling Ross in a major way, speaking to his viewers in soothing tones.

Nargle admits he feels “a little lost as we begin,” and signs off an episode by saying “thanks for going to a special place with me.” Later, he loses his cool, hurling green paint at his finished canvases in frustration.

Bob Ross was the star of the PBS’s The Joy of Painting from 1983 to 1994. He died at age 52 in 1995, but has enjoyed enduring popularity. The artist became a Twitch star in 2015, and was added to the Calm sleep and meditation app in 2018. He also entered the collection of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., got his own interactive museum, the “Bob Ross Experience,” and was the subject of a controversial Netflix documentary.

The movie poster for <em>Paint</em> starring Owen Wilson. Courtesy of IFC Films.

The movie poster for Paint starring Owen Wilson. Courtesy of IFC Films.

Paint is slated for an April 7 release date. But it’s been in the works since at least 2010, when it was included on that year’s Black List of the best scripts not yet slated for release. It was filmed in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, reports the local NBC affiliate.

The movie costars Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lusia Strus, and Stephen Root. It is being released by IFC Films, which has previously spoofed artists Marina Abramović and Ulay in its parody series Documentary Now.

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Explained: What Is Corecore, the Dada-esque ‘Artistic Movement’ Now Trending on TikTok?

From witchcore to cottagecore to Barbiecore—TikTok has been the birthing canal for a whole slew of aesthetic trends. Now, here’s one more: Corecore, dubbed an “artistic movement that captures the post-2020 sentiment and sensibilities of the short-video platform’s young users. No one here is getting togged up in Salem-inspired gear or waxing nostalgic about the agricultural life; instead, producers of corecore content are tapping a vein of contemporary ennui and digital overload in ways that are rooted in artistic practices.

For the uninitiated, we’ve put together a handy explainer of corecore, a genre that, judging from the moniker bestowed on this class of content, might just be the TikTok trend to top all TikTok trends.


What even is corecore?

Formally, corecore content on TikTok stitches together seemingly unrelated clips—whether culled from news footage, social media, films, livestreams, memes, or whatever else in the media ether—set to often somber music, to convey new meaning and emotion through juxtaposition.

Other similar terms to know include nichetok, a precursor and counterpart to corecore, and chaos edit, a self-evident style of video edit.

@sebastianvalencia.mp4 Wake up. #corecore #nichetok ♬ original sound – Sebastian V

While a number of early corecore videos could claim some political or philosophical underpinnings, most have been viewed as more of an aesthetic experience offering catharsis as much as profundity. Consider it meaning-making via doom-scrolling, perhaps—an attempt to locate a center amid a disorienting, algorithm-powered digital existence. 

In the words of one user, corecore is “life changing because it makes you see the visual of your sad and meaningless life.”

@shmomp♬ What Falling in Love Feels Like by Jacob Hoover – jake


Sounds depressing.

Maybe it is, or maybe the times are. Corecore, enmeshed as it is in the disenchantment of 21-century life and media (clips from American Psycho, Blade Runner 2049, and Breaking Bad make regular appearances in these videos), probably can’t help but serve nihilism. As people who engage with corecore are wont to say: “Real.”


Where did it come from?

According to Know Your Meme, #corecore had roots in Tumblr as early as 2020, before making its way to TikTok, where such videos were first deemed “nichetok.”

On January 1, 2021 Mason Noel, the “OG corecore,” posted one of the genre’s earliest artifacts. In it, he spliced together clips showing melting sea ice, Youtuber Charli D’Amelio, a Black Friday sale, and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho—seemingly passing comment on media saturation, if not the state of the union. “Welcome to the land of the free and broken,” wrote one commenter.

@masonoelle send me tiktoks u think i would like #capitalism #decay #fyp #Bye2020 ♬ original sound – Ok_felicity

Another TikToker, John Rising, was also an early corecore creator, whose account, stocked with cinematic collages, has amassed upwards of 175,000 followers and 3.9 million likes. As the genre has coalesced into a thing, other exclusively corecore accounts have also lately sprouted across the platform, with #corecore having received 664 million views and counting.


But is it art?

In form and intention, corecore’s video collages, which invite the viewer’s own emotions and interpretations, have an immediate kin in the work of Adam Curtis.

In his documentaries—from Hypernormalisation (2016) to Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2021) to the five-part TraumaZone (2022)—the British filmmaker conjoins archival footage to present ominous yet alert commentary on the threat of political and social systems to personhood.

Speaking to Film Comment in 2012, Curtis named Robert Rauschenberg, known for his innovative “combines,” a key influence on his filmmaking style. He added, “art and content are indivisible.”

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain (1950 version of 1917 original). © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Estate of Marcel Duchamp.

And then there’s the Dada of it all. As pointed out by TikToker Aamir in a January 14 video and expanded on by Hyperallergic, corecore could likely claim a spot alongside the 20th-century movement, whose artists wielded collage, cut up text, sculpture, and multimedia to inveigh against the logic and aesthetics beloved by the bourgeoisie. “Dada was born of a need for independence,” German author Hugo Ball wrote in “Dada Manifesto 1918,” “of a distrust toward unity.”

Pointing to Duchamp’s 1917 readymade Fountain, Aamir argued, corecore is similarly elevating the meaninglessness of an everyday experience—the endless and random media scroll—by “the sole act of representing it.” 

@aamirazh #corecore #postmodernism #dada #art ♬ original sound – aamir

How very meta.

Yes, unlike the many TikTok-birthed trends, corecore does stand out for its meta-output and critique that throws into relief all the “-core”s that have come before it—hence the label “corecore.” Its content is chaotic and absurd, but in the view of creators like Aamir, it’s this Dada-esque nature—making sense out of the nonsense of being online—that levels up the genre.

“What does art do,” he said, “if not attach meaning to the meaningless and arbitrary experiences we have as humans.”

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Did Snoop Dogg Really Buy Crypto Artworks Worth $17 Million Under the Moniker ‘Cozomo de’ Medici’?

About a month ago, a new Twitter profile was created under the name Cozomo de’ Medici, an apparent reference to Cosimo de’ Medici, the Renaissance-era patriarch of the dynastic Italian banking family. Like his namesake, the Twitter user billed themselves as a patron of the arts, but rather than trafficking in Donatellos, their passion was NFTs.

Almost overnight, Cozomo established themselves as a real player in the market, amassing a collection of CryptoPunks, Art Blocks, and other NFTs worth an estimated total value of more than $17 million. The Twitter admirers came too: thousands followed the account, where they found updates about new acquisitions peppered with nuggets of investment advice, such as: “For there is a strange, cultural ‘ponzi-nomics’ to NFTs, [where] much like contemporary art, no one wants to sell for less than the previous high price.” 

The myth grew, and quickly, as others online came to wonder about Cozomo’s real identity. Surely this was somebody of note, right?

Speculators soon got their answer. On September 20, Cozomo announced a contest to reveal who was behind the account. A celebrity, the anonymous figure explained, would publicly claim the Cozomo name on Twitter, and the first person to spot the tweet would be gifted 1 ETH, worth roughly $3,000. 

“I am @CozomoMedici,” rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted later that day, ending the mystery and sending the crypto-community into a tizzy.

In a way, it made sense: the seemingly bottomless supply of cash, the Medici bit, the bizarre courtly air of the tweets. Snoop—given name Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.—is predictably unpredictable, and belovedly so. He’s also proven to be a hungry investor, backing tech businesses, plant-based food companies, and ​​cannabis startups through his venture capital firm Casa Verde.

But then again, maybe it makes too much sense—an elaborate troll job neatly packaged in a little Twitter flimflam?

At least that’s the theory some online are now pursuing. VICE recently broke down all the holes in the Snoop story, comparing the geo-tags of the rapper’s social media photos to those of Cozomo, who appears to spend a lot of time in Italy. The NFT influencer also once tweeted out a photo of himself with fellow collector Jason Derulo on the shores of Lake Como. Both of their faces were covered with avatars, but it’s clear which one was Derulo and which one was not, and the one who was not was…well, it wasn’t Snoop.

D-O-Double G or not, this modern-day Medici is sitting on an impressive hoard of crypto artworks. In addition to Punks and Art Blocks, they own a Cai Guo-Qiang NFT and recently acquired a character piece by artist XCOPY for 1,300 ETH, or about $3.9 million—which should ensure the fickle art world’s continued attention.

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Legendary Cinematographer Roger Deakins on Getting Rejected from Film School and Releasing His First Book of Photographs at 72

Shortly before Roger Deakins sat down for this interview about his new book of photographs, Byways, the cinematographer received an email from director Denis Villeneuve, with whom he’d worked on Blade Runner 2049.

“I can see it’s you,” Deakins recalled Villeneuve saying about the book, meaning that he recognized the eye behind the images. 

I can too. Embedded throughout Byways, published this month by Damiani, are many of the Deakins hallmarks made famous by his lens work for directors including Sam Mendes and the Coen brothers, and in such acclaimed films as The Shawshank Redemption and Skyfall. In the book, the yawning highways and wind-whipped hills from a set of shots taken outside Albuquerque seem to recall the landscapes of No Country for Old Men, for instance, while a handful of bleached-out Norwegian vistas put Fargo front of mind. Occasionally, the connections are more overt: here, the tree from the parting shot of Mendes’s 1917 makes a more permanent cameo on the page.  

As a cinematographer, Deakins looms large: he is, for many movie peoples’ money, the greatest person doing the job today (witness his 15 Oscar nominations, with two wins). But his reputation as a fine-art photographer is far less developed. Not only is Byways his first monograph, it’s also the first place many of these pictures have ever been shared publicly. 

It’s for this reason that, as satisfying as the similarities between his films and these pictures are, the differences are just as revealing. Comparing the two bodies of work is an exercise in comparing the essences of film and photography, and an uncommon opportunity at that: rare are the practitioners who are equally accomplished in both formats.

The central difference between Deakins’s two bodies of work makes spending time with Byways a special pleasure. Whereas a film is a collaborative endeavor, one routed through the mind of its director, this collection of still images represents a wholly personal project. It may be the purest distillation of Deakins’s vision—stark, plaintive, and reverent of land and light—we ever get.

Roger Deakins. Courtesy of the artist.

Roger Deakins. Courtesy of the artist.

There are 150-some photographs in the book, representing roughly five decades of work. How many pictures did you go through to come up with that selection? In other words, how big is your archive?

Not very big—I don’t really keep much, you see. I mean, I take a lot of photographs when I’m working on a movie, but they’re just a reference for the film. The photographs that I take for my own pleasure are quite few, really. I don’t have the time when I’m working, and thankfully I’ve had quite a productive career.

So you’re not somebody who carries a camera with you at all times? 

I’m not that obsessed by it, I must say. I do have a camera with me most of the time when I’m shooting a film, but I think it’s a very different thing to spend your own time with a stills camera, looking for something that grabs you.

Roger Deakins, <i>Albuquerque Cemetary Rainbow</i> (2014). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Albuquerque Cemetery Rainbow (2014). © Roger A. Deakins.

Do you use the camera to record memories, or is it more of an aesthetic instrument for you, a tool to make art?

I don’t like the word ‘art,’ really. [Laughs] I’ve obviously been on holiday and taken snapshots of a memory, but the photographs that are in the book, they just grabbed my attention. I liked the frame or I liked the light. Often I liked the slightly surreal quality of the image, a juxtaposition of things in the frame. It’s not art; I’m not a photographer and they’re not memory aids. I don’t sketch with a pencil. I sketch through the camera, I suppose.


In the foreword to the book, you write, ‘The choice of when to take a picture, and which of the resultant images has a future, reveals something of us as individuals. Each of us see differently.’ Do you think someone who knows your film work could see these images and know they were made by you? What are the ‘Deakins-isms’ we might see here? 

I think there’s definitely a sensibility. That’s true even when I work on a film. I’m not the author of the film, obviously—I’m working for a director and with anywhere up to a couple of hundred people—but I do think you stamp your point of view, your taste, on the work you do. When I shoot films, you can see there’s a continuity, that there’s an individual behind the camera. I look at some other people’s work in film and that’s true, too. I could always recognize a film that was shot by Conrad Hall, for instance; there’s a certain sensibility that he had. That’s the case for still photographers as well. 

Looking back through these photos, I wondered if my eye had changed, and I don’t think it has, really. The photographs I took back then are really quite simple; they’re pared down in terms of what’s in the frame. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. [Laughs]

Roger Deakins, <i>Teignmouth Dog Jumping</i> (2000). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Teignmouth Dog Jumping (2000). © Roger A. Deakins.

Why haven’t you shared these pictures before now? 

I don’t know, really. The earliest photographs I took in North Devon, and they’re part of a public archive. But the other images are just things I’ve shot over the years. Some of them were taken in Berlin, for instance. When we were over there working on a movie, I’d go out and explore the city on the weekend. I had my camera and would snap the odd shot. There’s probably three or four in the book from Berlin; maybe I only ever took a dozen total. I don’t take many photographs. It has to be something that grabs me, and then obviously you have to be able to get it at that moment. There are a lot of things that grab your attention but you miss the shot.

These are just photographs from here, there, and everywhere. There’s not really any structure to the book. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, other than the fact that they’re all shots that I like. Some people had asked, ‘Well, why don’t you do a book?’ And eventually I just thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’

One of the first jobs you had out of art school was as a photographer. Can you take me back to that gig? How did it impact the way you saw the world?

Originally I wanted to be a painter, a bohemian! [Laughs] Then, while I was at art college, I discovered photography. My paintings were fairly naturalistic, just based on things that I’d seen, so it made sense to have a camera and photograph the things I saw. A great photographer, Roger Mayne, was teaching at the school; he would come in for a few days every now and again. He was quite an inspiration, him and his work. So I thought I would become a photographer. But then I was talking to a friend who was applying to the National Film School, which was just opening the year that we were finishing at art college. I had always been interested in film, especially documentary filmmaking, and so it seemed like that might be a great opportunity.

Well, I didn’t get in the first time I applied. But in the interim, I was offered this job recording country life in North Devon. I was really hired as a recorder, not necessarily a photographer. I didn’t do a very good job, I don’t think, because I’m not very skilled at recording. I took a lot of photographs, but they weren’t great in terms of documenting a historical moment. Nevertheless, it was a great learning experience for me. I just spent all day every day with my camera, experimenting with framing and other things. It was a great time to play. 

Roger Deakins, <i>Weston - Super - Mare, Looking for Summer</i> (2004). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Weston-Super-Mare, Looking for Summer (2004). © Roger A. Deakins.

I was going to ask you about your relationship to painting. I know that you’ve always had a love of the medium. Does it influence your work behind the lens?

It’s funny, when somebody asks, ‘What are your influences?’ I don’t know what to say. Surely your influences are every experience you’ve had. There’s so many painters whose work I love and know quite well, whether it’s Francis Bacon or Edvard Munch or Giorgio de Chirico. I studied many of them in college. But to say how much they’ve influenced me, that’s hard. There’s a couple of photographs in the book that remind me of de Chirico, maybe, but is it an influence or just a coincidence? I’m just as influenced by growing up in South Devon and spending my childhood out at sea, fishing. These things accumulate.

All of the photos in the book are black and white, which might come as a mild surprise to people familiar with your work in film, where you have displayed such a mastery of color. What is it about black and white that interests you when it comes to still photography?

I’ve been trying to work in color and I just can’t do it. I just find it uninteresting! [Laughs] Black and white is much more about the content, the frame, and the light. Color can be so distracting. There are very few photographers that really work in color and use it well. Alex Webb is a great example of someone who can use color to his advantage.

Maybe it’s just because I grew up in love with the work of Brassaï and Bill Brandt and Alfred Stieglitz, all these great photographers that worked in black and white. Maybe I’m a bit of a dinosaur.


Roger Deakins, <i>Paignton Lion and the Gull</i> (2015). © Roger A. Deakins.

Roger Deakins, Paignton Lion and the Gull (2015). © Roger A. Deakins.

The relationship between film and photography is something I think about often. It’s a question I’ve asked many photographers in interviews like this one: ‘How has film informed your pictures?’ Every time, without fail, they play it down. 

I believe it.

Why do you think that is? Do you feel that there’s a line to be drawn between the work you do as a cinematographer and your experiences taking photographs?

Obviously, there are things that you learn in one that help you in the other, technically speaking. But I do think capturing a still photograph is very different.

I say at the beginning of the book that I’m not a photographer, and I’m really not; I’ve just taken some pictures. But I think with great photographers, you look at their photographs and there’s a story within them. You can’t really do that in a movie because those frames keep moving. You can’t make the frames too complex, because you’re telling the story as a composite. It’s a different way of communicating, you know? 

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