Movies I Saw this Month: April 2016

This month I’ve seen:

Side by Side (2012)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Ex Machina (2015)
Foxcatcher (2014)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Amélie (2001)
Spring Breakers (2012)
Volver (2006)

Side by Side (2012)

Do you prefer digital or analog film? Can you tell the difference when watching?

Side by Side documents current filmmakers views on technology in the film industry, and whether an increase in digital technologies is a positive, or a negative (HA!). Led by Keanu Reeves, notorious directors, cinematographers, and other filmmakers are included in this pressing conversation about the death and birth of techniques, which seems to be accelerated by our increasingly digital lifestyles.

What I found particularly interesting was a comment made by someone, whom I cannot remember, but they said something along the lines that an increase in media creation, brought about by the affordability and accessibility of digital recording devices, destroys any ‘cultural taste-maker’, the gateway by which we decide what is good, and what isn’t. Art has historically been cultured and curated by a higher class, and in a time where 1% of the global population owns about 50% of the wealth, is access to creating art on all levels, and telling stories of varying degree, really a bad thing? I think not, and hope that those who disagree reconsider.

So is film better than digital? To me, that’s a strange question. Would you ask a painter if watercolor is better than oil-based acrylics? Would you take the opinion of what constitutes ‘real art’ based on the works of Picasso versus Renoir? I should hope not. The truth is, whatever medium serves the story best, that is the medium worth using.

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V for Vendetta (2005)

In a time when Donald Drumpf is able to gain national attention (and acceptance, pfft) as a presidential nominee, I feel that V for Vendetta is ever relevant. Also, London. My heart still beats for you 😘

Back on track, V for Vendetta is visually stunning, and narratively it had a staying power that few films achieve. The film gave me chills on more than one occasion, and I wonder if more people were to see it, would the United States be in the same position in which it’s in?

I honestly don’t know what else to comment on on this film, as I don’t wish to spoil it, except for to say go watch it.

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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If nothing else, this film convinced me that I need to see more del Toro films. I loved the way in which storytelling, and by telling the story through the eyes of a child, gave this film a sense of curiosity that would not exist were it told from the view point of an adult. The film was so beautifully done, hauntingly beautiful.

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This was another film that I had been meaning to watch for awhile, and afterwards I again felt silly for waiting so long. The way in which del Toro uses the story to portray the harsh reality of life under regime is fascinating, in my class we asked the question of whether one would consider this a Spanish film, given the story line, or a Mexican film, given del Toro’s nationality. In addition, we asked, why would del Toro make a film about Spain, and particularly about the Franco regime, instead of something focused on Mexico? I argued that, in a way, this film is about Mexico, without being directly about the country. Similarly to Erice’s El espiritu de la colmena, which you can read my thoughts about here, if one understands the film as acting as if it’s being censored, you could understand the film as being a commentary of the life under the thumb of the cartels, in an indirect way. It’s not as possible to make a film about the cartels, or any current authoritarian government, without some back lash, and yet these occurrences in history act as a  (practically) perfect way to explore ideas and events that are happening in our world today.

Ex Machina (2015)

Woah, woah, woah. I used to work at a movie theater, and I did when this movie was theatrically released. A young woman I worked with told me that it was creepy, and she thought only guys liked it.

She was 50% wrong.

I thought this movie was really interesting, and I was also intrigued by the performances. I have always (AND WILL ALWAYS) loved Domhnall Gleeson, and his performance in addition to Oscar Isaac’s was captivating. But that Alicia Vikander, daaaamn. She’s killing it, this film wouldn’t have been anywhere near as powerful as it was without her presence. The plot of the film was truly entrancing, my mind was constantly trying to figure out what was happening, and I had suspicions, but the ending was a total surprise. The subject matter of this film is highly reflective of it’s time, and I’m intrigued by the amount of films that are attempting to explore the implications of A.I., which I feel this one does well. 

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Foxcatcher (2014)

The first thing that comes to mind is, meh. I don’t know if the setting in which I watched the film was a large contributor to my feelings on the film, as my attention was pretty divided, but I felt like it was just okay. This film, to me, is a great example of how a film is made of so many little parts and when one is lack luster, it can effect even the great parts of the film (like Ruffalo’s performance). I felt the pacing was slow, but in a painful way, and the story was kind of going no where. The audience, more than likely, already knows that one of the brothers (and they probably know which one) is going to die. So, the structure of the film, and the way it attempts to build up to that, just didn’t work as well as I was expecting it to.

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I did, however, love the inclusion of ex-gymnasts fighting for cash during the film, and how this tied in to the end of the film. It didn’t save it for me, but I think there are moments of greatness in the film, it’s just that looking at it as a whole, it was lackluster for me. To be fair, I may need to see it again.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

I just don’t get it. This movie was so popular, and I love the filming style, but the story has me at a loss. Please, halp.

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To be fair, I also watched this one when my time was meant to be focused on something else… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Amélie (2012)

As noted by others, as in critics and general movie goers, this film is extremely sugar-y sweet.  Amélie’s expert use of color (squeee), narrative, and characters, all work to add to the storybook qualities of the film. It extends beyond reality, in somewhat childish way.

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This movie is interesting to discuss with Side by Side in mind, I think, given the amount of digital enhancement that the film undergoes. It wouldn’t be possible to get that coloring, not exactly, without DI-ing, and the blue lamp in the gif above was apparently added in in post.

One criticism that was discussed in my class was the lack of inclusion of real problems in Paris. The film acts as if Paris has no homeless, and even no people of color (save Lucien). This film is the sight of Paris through a visitor’s eyes, everything is picturesque, and there are no serious problems. In fact, even things that are troubling — Amélie’s mother’s death, the somewhat unhealthy/abusive relationships Joseph has with women — are portrayed in a ‘harmless’ or insignificant way. But the film isn’t about these things, as much as it is about nostalgia, and the power it has over us. Nostalgia can be beautiful, but it can also be immobilizing, in that we stop living our lives in pursuit of the past. Or, in pursuit of a perfect future, which is partially the case for Amélie, she is so afraid to make a decision, or choice, because what if it doesn’t pan out?

With this in mind, could this film be about nostalgia and tackle more serious issues? Originally, I thought no. There is no way that one could make this film and include more serious aspects in the story line, however I have recently (due to my ever-growing love of Lee Pace, and Amazon’s amazing used DVD prices) begun watching Pushing Daisies, and I think that series acts in opposition to the idea that a piece of film cannot be both nostalgic or sugary sweet, and tackle serious or darker issues. Mind you, I haven’t seen a whole lot of it, yet, but I think that it’s definitely comparable to this film.

In any case, I look forward to seeing this film again, with or without the social commentary.

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Spring Breakers (2012)

Spriiiiiing Breaaaaaaaaak

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I will never get over this movie. And I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The film is tantalizing, seductive and sickening (not in the drag sense)(but also in the drag sense)***.

Sex and violence are meticulously linked in this film, by Harmony Korine. The seduction of the two, then, is what we can draw in comparison of each other. One of the more notable events of the film, when Alien (Franco) performs fellatio on a gun while Bri (Benson) and Candy (Hudgens) are holding them, as if to be giving them head. This scene is pivotal both in understanding the way sex and violence are linked in the film, but also in the way that gender plays out. Brit and Candy are assigned male in this scene, in a way, as any pleasure they received would be a consequence of the male bodies that they have assumed (the gun being representational of a phallus). Women are meant to be consumed in the film, and as soon as they no longer wish to be apart of the consumption cycle, they board a bus and leave.

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Race also plays a huge role in the film, in particular the way Alien is treated by the girls and the other characters of the film. He himself is a mystery, one which will probably never be understood, but as a white man who identifies more with black culture than that of white culture, he provides an interesting look into two very different areas of Florida, spheres which he is able to meander between as he chooses—this is something important to note given the girls’ reaction to the black men in the pool hall. Their reaction is fear, and Faith (Gomez) even breaks into tears, whereas on the beaches they allow the same, if not more intrusive, consumption of their bodies by other (mostly white) male strangers. Of course, it’s appropriate for someone to be afraid in instances of danger, but the argument here is that both occurrences were dangerous but were understood in very different ways by the girls, in fact the only harm they ever undergo is when they’re in the presence of the ‘safe’ white male characters (their arrest, the shooting), not in the pool hall.

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THE COLORS. I loved it. I know many of my classmates, whom I viewed this with, didn’t like the film, and the fact that it resembled so many different films through the aesthetic choices, but I felt like it was interesting in a way that was unpredictable, something I’ve learned to appreciate in this day of Hollywood remakes, spinoffs, and adaptations. Jesus, the colors. Ha

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***Ru Paul’s drag lingo: sick’ning

Volver (2006)

Meaning to return, Volver is a mysterious story of a group of women from one family, one of whom is thought to be a ghost.

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Oh, and there’s a murder. Attempted rape. A body in a freezer.

It’s super chill.

Volver acts as a great example of a melodrama, in that there seems to be a never ending series of high-emotion, and unbelievable events. The colors (THE COLORS) are so bold, and as such act as a reflection of the high emotion in the film. The film never seems to lose any excitement, and as such the viewer’s eye never strays.  Somehow,Almodóvar captures the emotion of the wind, which drives a town crazy in the film, and carries it throughout his piece. 🎬

 

(Pro-tip, the titles are linked to IMDb pages for quick reference, you’re welcome, buttercup)

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