“Only a sensitive guy could write those letters. You’re like part man part woman”
Her begins with a love letter - A love letter written by a man, posing as a woman to a man. The film takes place in a world neither before, during, nor after present day; the world simply exists. There are no cars, belts, or even filth for that matter, just technology. The technology runs the world with every person keeping a plug in their ear. The plug reads emails, chats with you, and virtually connects you to another world. With this connection, her makes the characters trapped inside their own heads with technology while longing to escape into fantasy within that technology. It’s not difficult to relate this film to our modern world. What the film tries to answer like many before it, can love exist in the modern world?
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely man who articulates love through his profession as a writer for BeautifulWrittenLetters.com. He falls in love with his operating system, named “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson). Due to being programmed with “intuition”, Samantha is able to create a growing relationship with Theodore. Their relationship flourishes as Samantha learns about Theodore through the cyber world. As their relationship continues to grow, Samantha becomes more independent in her world, while leaving Theodore behind in reality. His relationships suffer as he fails to communicate his feelings toward his ex-wife (Roony Mara) and his blind date (Olivia Wilde). The only real human connection Theodore has in the film is with his neighbor and college friend Amy (Amy Adams). Amy is just as isolated from the real world as Theodore, claiming love is “socially acceptable insanity”.
Her is satirical and hilarious as it creates unconventional romantic situations that make the audience uncomfortable not because Theodore is having virtual sex with a computer but because we know our world isn’t too far off from doing just that. We have a great dependency on our technology. I personally depend on it being my ticket to the New York social scene and a wonderful travel guide. When we’re sad, lonely, scared, and yes, in love, we depend on our phones to tell us what to do next. Samantha treats Theodore exactly how he wants to be treated, available, without the physical constraints and negativities of a flesh and bone relationship.
“The more I’ve grown the more I’ve learned to love not having a body, I know I can’t grow weaker and die like you”
What makes Jonze such a spectacular filmmaker is his ability to capture the depressing and lost emotions on his characters. They long to be involved in life – to be loved, yet lack the motivation and confidence of real life situations. Earlier this week I was talking to a friend about a dating app. I was confused why he was still using it and he replied “I want to be on to see what’s out there, but not for anyone to see me”. This shows the way technology has voided our ability to interact in real life. The pressure is too high because sitting on the couch gazing with our thumbs in safer. In Her, Jonze portrays a world where operating systems are evolving more rapidly than our own minds, making the nostalgia for simple times even larger.
The world in Her is bright and sunny. Digital blues and illuminating whites capture the screen while the surrealist nature of the set design will make Brooklynite’s drool. The best parts of the film come down to dreamy images set against Arcade Fire guitars that say everything about love. Theodore works for a company that hires people to write love letters for those who can’t find the words. When will our world become completely digital? Is there anything physical anymore? How many times will you accidently delete a photo or will your hard drive crash? All this data and “memories” are disposable. Maybe once we learn to use our minds again, we can learn to love again.
Some horror films are made with only one intention in mind, to scare the audience. Others focus on stories within the characters, revealing their most terrifying thoughts. James Wan’s period horror The Conjuring does both – taking a well-crafted storyline through complex characters, all while boosting as many scares as possible. Acting as an upscale haunted house, the film takes time to build the atmosphere around the disturbed home, before scaring the hell out you. There is a moment halfway through the film when Vera Farmiga’s character is hanging laundry outside in the middle of the day. A gust of wind – or maybe a powerful entity – takes a sheet off the clips taking the form of a human body before floating up to a window to reveal someone staring down. These little moments make the film powerful because of how “cheap” the tricks are.
As the movie opens, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are giving a presentation on ghost hunting to a group of college students. Using both “found footage” and regular storytelling, the opening scenes act as mini films themselves. Using little scares and creepy stories, the Warren’s reveal their work of demonic removal. Moving to the other side of the film, we visit the Perron family as they move into a new home in Harrisville, Rhode Island. As soon as the couple and their five daughters are settled in, supernatural events begin to occur.
The events around the Perron home begin to grow worse as the forces attack each family member during the night, eventually latching onto them. Quickly looking for help, the mother Carolyn hunts down the Warren’s to beg for their skills. Within seconds of entering the Perron home, Lorraine senses the spirits and just how angry they are.
Like most demonic films, religion plays a key role. What was interesting about The Conjuring is the way it was used. In order to have an exorcism you need two things – permission by the church and a priest. The Warren’s are very religious people, using faith to guide their demonologist work. The Perron’s are not religious, making them easier to be controlled by spirits as well as increasing the difficulty to remove those spirits. The Warren’s set out to help the Perron’s, turning their home into a ghost hunting research center; the spirits that lie within the home take offense to this and the paranormal events worsen.
The scenery used in the film to create the 1970’s look may be what makes the film so wonderful. The costumes, set pieces, and character actions take the audience deep within the world of the families – pushing the case files onto the screen. The film is based off of true events and that is what makes it so terrifying. After all, those are the best horror films, right? Immediately after my screening someone in the audience said, “there’s no way that actually happened”. Those words will be spoken too much during the films theatrical run.
The team that brought you Insidious is behind this wonderfully crafted horror film. Director James Wan and director of photography John R. Leonetti use their skills to take complete control of the films environment and steal every horror film’s trick. The camera is always moving through the home, putting the audience into eyes of the spirits in a way. The only aspect that would have made the camera work more effective would have been to use more long takes, letting the camera linger and the audience shake. Stealing is never a bad thing when it comes to film. Attempt to copy a feeling created by a film and you will fail. Steal the way a film created an environment and you will come away with something that takes old and makes it new. Lighting and sound are perfectly executed; using classic modes of both to build tension and only reveal what is needed to create a scare. Throughout the film you will find yourself attempting to peek into the darkness that is created, wishing something would pop out already. Anyone can make an audience jump and feel on edge, but Wan understand the oldest trick in the book: jumps don’t scare an audience, the environment does.
The films released this year have been both bold and utterly ridiculous. Are we becoming more self-aware or are we just sick of our out of control culture? The top 4 films on my list are brilliant works of American cinema. Not because of their American directors, but because of their power to each capture a different version of the American Dream. The first two both deal with status and style while the bottom two deal with self-discovery and breaking free (impressively from two different age groups). Social commentary and moments lost in translation create the settings for the brilliant roles women are playing in these films. The most impressive of these roles is by Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha. She captivates the audience and draws them into her world of happy NYC, until her best friend decides to fall in love. What’s so important about these female roles simply isn’t the fact that they exist, it’s that they empower the screen and set the bar high for femininity. You may think I’m being a pretentious asshole for saying that (especially when it comes to Spring Breakers), but the way these characters act is not important, it’s the way they are in control of their surroundings and aware of the way society treats them.
1. Spring Breakers, directed by Harmony Korine
Harmony Korine takes the college spring break dream and adds excessive amounts of cocaine in order to create a film that is not only completely emotional and endearing, but is the horror that every mother prays about while their daughter travels to southern Florida. The film is the perfect social commentary of our time. Everyone is obsessed with YOLO and “Dying Young”. The attitudes and movements of our time are filled with false hope and ridiculous acronyms that result in inartistic moments of pure idiocy. Spring Breakers attempts to show how terrible our youth actually are, sweet, innocent, 20-something beauties that may have heart, if you give them a gun. An avant-garde version of Girls Gone Wild, truly birthing the “Beach Noir” genre.
2. Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach
Throughout Noah Baumbach’s excellent new film all that came to mind was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Manhattan. The three films have just one thing in common, being lost in the busiest city. It may have just been the setting or maybe it was the absolute perfect charm of Frances (Greta Gerwig), but Frances Ha is just as special as the heartbreak of Annie Hall. The moment this is immanent is during a moment when Frances is running down the sidewalks of Manhattan to the sounds of David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. This moment is liberating and hopeful, marking just one of the many moments in the film that made me tear up. What makes Frances Ha so special is not the performances or the steady story structure; it is the exploitation of the quarter life crisis. Maybe I am just a hopeless romantic. Maybe I am just expecting the worse from my twenties, but I am terrified of the day I realize I am 25 and have hit rock bottom.
3. The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola
Two words sum up The Bling Ring: selfies and louboutin. Sofia Coppola is known for her lush colors and stories about fame and female self-loathing. Her new film captures those elements while transitioning her gazy style into the digital age with Facebook posts and in-depth text conversations. America is obsessed with itself and this film exposes exactly that. The teenagers take their fantasies to a new extreme all with the help of tabloid magazines and Google Maps. While wanting nothing but to become famous, a group of teenagers begin to rob celebrities homes for the rush and a new pair of heels. All of this slang and name dropping may become exhausting for some audiences, but it becomes horror more than anything. The superficial characters are actually what make the film so brilliant because they are actually 100% exactly like most of the teenage population (now there is the horror). Their confusing class rank and lack of back story may be a weakness of the film, but an important aspect is that it doesn’t matter. The teens live in an extremely wealthy part of California and spend their days on the internet while gossiping about each other. My favorite part of the film is when the main character Marc smokes a bowl of weed while singing into a webcam; too close to home?
4. Mud, directed by Jeff Nichols
Matthew McConaughey is by far the most underrated actor of our time. All it takes for him to be wonderful is a great director. Last year he soared in Magic Mike and this year he takes a different angle and becomes a complete mess of love. McConaughey isn’t the star or even the best actor in the film, it’s Tye Sheridan who plays Ellis, a fourteen year old boy who lives in a small Arkansas town. Ellis and his friend, Neckbone discover Mud (McConaughey) living in a small boat stuck in a tree on an island the boys hang out at. After learning Mud’s story, the boys agree to help him escape from the town with the love of his life, a hopelessly beautiful Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). A film that plays as a coming of age adventure ends up being entirely about love and all the terrible things that come along with it.
5. Before Midnight, directed by Richard Linklater
The third in a trilogy of films that started in 1995, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles as a couple who met on a train and spent the night walking, talking, and falling in love. Set-up exactly like the first two, Before Midnight uses the same heavy dialogue style and long tracking shots. The characters have aged and burdened the heaviness of love and life changes. The film is a perfect conclusion to one of the most powerful love stories ever captured on film. What makes the film so magical is the in-depth conversations, the heartbreaking fight, and the impressive long takes that make up the film.
6. The Place Beyond the Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance
This is the best written film of the bunch with a perfect beginning, middle, and end; the way a powerful story should be written. While Ryan Gosling’s character is a little shallow and confusing, the performances of the two kids make up for the weaknesses. The long take at the beginning of the film is impressive and too well constructed. The most compelling film of the year.
7. Behind the Candelabra, directed by Steven Soderbergh
Finally a gay film that’s fun and doesn’t come down to simple stereotypes. This is a character film and gosh does it soar with its performances. Matt Damon is the true star here, capturing the lifestyle of being trapped in an elegantly constructed relationship. An HBO film that has more cinematic qualities than most theatrically released films.
8. To the Wonder, directed by Terrance Malick
Is there anything left to say about Terrance Malick’s films? To the Wonder is beautiful, bold, and captivating. It leaves the audience in awe, if they can stand the non-narrative structure.
9. The Lords of Salem, directed by Rob Zombie
Visually, the most impressive film of the year. Rob Zombie uses brilliant imagery to create the smartest horror film in years.
10. V/H/S/2, directed by Simon Barrett, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tiahianto, Gregg Hale, Jason Eisener, Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans
Last year film festivals were shaken by V/H/S, which has plenty of grossed out scared and well constructed stories. This year, they’re crying from how terrifying it’s sequel is. Created in the same structure, V/H/S/2 shows two private instigators looking for a missing person as they stumble upon a collection of VHS tapes. These tapes contain the horror that is the short films each directed by masters of horror. More complex, ambitious, and terrifying, the shorts make up for an excellent anthology film.
Worst Film: The Great Gatsby, attempted by Baz Luhrmann
Disney style editing and CG camera shots make the iconic 20’s NYC disorienting and fake while the music choices make the audience laugh; a true mess of a film.
When Spring Breakers opens, everyone in the audience begins to believe they are in for a real treat. There are college age kids pouring alcohol all over themselves, followed by boobs, dubstep, and boobs. The beginning is probably the most insulting moment in the film; it killed me to watch it. Everyone in the audience did not get the treat they were expecting. The film is not 21 & Over, it is not The Hangover (with college girls, of course), and it is not Project X. If that is all you wanted out of the movie, please stop reading.
Harmony Korine takes the college spring break dream and adds excessive amounts of cocaine in order to create a film that is not only completely emotional and endearing, but is the horror that every mother prays about while their daughter travels to southern Florida. The film is the perfect social commentary of our time. Everyone is obsessed with YOLO and “Dying Young”. The attitudes and movements of our time are filled with false hope and ridiculous acronyms that result in inartistic moments of pure idiocy. Spring Breakers attempts to show how terrible our youth actually are, sweet, innocent, 20-something beauties that may have heart, if you give them a gun.
The film tells the story of four college aged girls who are tired of staying in their boring Kentucky town and want nothing more than to go on spring break. The characters are not very developed and that’s because they don’t need to be. Faith (Selena Gomez) is the youngest and the most reserved of the four girls. She is shown in a prayer circle at the beginning of the film. She is religious, but feels it’s not what she really wants to feel in life; she wants to feel free and alive. The other three girls, Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are all similar to each other. They are wild, rebellious, and sex crazed. They have heart, but they will shoot you in a second. The four girls cry in the bathroom when they discover they don’t have enough money to get to Florida. Convincing themselves that they deserve this more than anything, Brit, Candy, and Cotty decide to rob a fast food restaurant. “Pretend it’s a videogame” they say to each other, “it will be fun”. Once getting the sufficient funds, the four girls travel to Florida to find themselves. What ensues is an intrusive spring break experience that the girls will never forget.
The first thing everyone will notice when watching Spring Breakers is that it lets moments linger. This is probably due to the fact that it feels like a giant music video. Director Harmony Korine wants the viewer to know everything that is happening to these girls, from them getting drunk outside liquor stores to riding around on mopeds. Many scenes are often repeated in a dream like way with whispers of voice-overs. Yes, the film is slow at parts, but it is not boring. The lack of dialogue is covered up by the ridiculous actions by all the characters. The style of the film makes you feel like you shouldn’t be watching it. I felt so uncomfortable the entire time all I could do is smile. I feel that is the key to the film. Korine wants the audience to think about the way these girls are acting. Are they being overly promiscuous because they are simply sluts or are they taking charge of their femininity and acting like any 22-year-old heterosexual boy would do? I feel it is the latter. There is a scene where Cotty is getting alcohol poured all over her body by several guys while Faith is talking to her grandmother on the phone. A guy tells Cotty, “I’m totally going to fuck you”, she responds to this by repeating, “you’re never gonna get this pussy”. This is the moment in the film that I smiled the most (besides the kiss at the end, of course). This is the moment the film began to have spirit and presented the best commentary. Cotty’s character is telling the drunken idiots around her that she is in control. I was so scared that they were going to rape her, but if that had happened, she would have simply shot them.
In a way, Spring Breakers is an avant-garde version of “Girls Gone Wild”; the colors will simple make you melt, they are just too dreamy. The most impressive aspect of the film is the way it was edited. The shots are fast and often times that makes the film disorienting, but the possible iPhone shot footage mixed in made the film feel more real and “home video”esque than anything else. The gunshot transitions work better than you could imagine, and the repetition of phrases and words make the film feel like a beach nightmare.
James Franco’s character, Alien, enters the picture when the girls get arrested. He bails them out and exposes them to an underground scene of drugs and guns. His character is over the top and goofy, but that’s because it’s supposed to be. By far the moments where people would laugh the most were when Alien was on screen. If the character weren’t James Franco, no one would have laughed. He was brilliant and perfect. He’s a rapper, has two henchmen, and appears to sell a lot of drugs. Alien is perfect gangster, but he falls in love with the four girls, resulting in his downfall. “One little chicky got shot in the arm”
If you think this movie will change your life, you’re right. But there is one secret to that, be open minded, you may surprise yourself. Harmony Korine is notorious for making very strange haunting films, but this seems to be his masterpiece. The plotline isn’t the actual story because the story is on the beaches of Florida during the month of March. This film is a representation of where our culture is with pop culture and teenage fun. Halfway through the film, the girls are seen wearing shorts that say “DTF” on the butt cheeks. Little moments like that make the film more relevant than a gay rights speech. The most compelling and greatest part of the film is when James Franco plays Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on the piano while the girls dance in a circle with machine guns before going into a montage of crime. I felt like crying because it was the most beautiful recent moment in cinematic history. The people behind me laughed the entire time. This movie is not for them. This movie is made to make fun of them. According to them, this is the “worst movie” they’ve ever seen. The film laughs at how stupid they are. Spring Break 4 ever, bitches.
Far too often do I hear people say, “That reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino movie.” I feel this statement has become something said whenever there are witty lines, outbursts of violence, and of course, blood. Directors are very lucky when they are 1. Well known, and 2. Have a distinct and recognizable style. Approaching Django Unchained fresh out of his first “period piece” and also his masterpiece, Inglourious Basterds, Quentin could go anywhere with his films. With Inglourious being a massive hit, the most logical thing is to take the same formula and simply move time periods. The problem with Django Unchained is that it suffers from a massive amount of “Yeses” because no one had the power to tell Quentin “NO”, so naturally he ran with every dumb joke and bloody motif as possible.
Django opens with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) finding Django (Jamie Foxx) getting transported with a couple slave owners. After discovering that Django knows the 3 men Schultz is looking for, he purchases him (well, sort of) and makes him a free man and also his loyal companion. For the next part of the film, Django and Schultz hunt men for a bounty and enjoy everyone staring at them because, “they never seen no n***** on a horse before.” Once the duo discover that Django’s wife, Brunhilda Von Shaft, is owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), they set off to “purchase” her from the evil plantation owner.
My plot description is very dry and seems somewhat short, but actually, the film is very exciting and tells the story very well. The biggest problem with the film is that they story goes on for far too long, dragging its heels, attempting to get as much blood as possible. It’s strange though, the film never actually feels slow because Quentin never lets the camera linger. The most impressive scenes of his previous films are the ones that last over 15 minutes with just intense dialogue moving the scene. This never happens in Django and for that, it suffers greatly. Audiences are getting harder to keep because of their great lack of attention. What’s the best way to keep an audience for 3 hours without making them bored? Make a million cuts and throw some intense zooms in. With this technique, Django is not the “art” film Tarantino’s previous films had the honor of being labeled with. Instead of making a scene around beautiful desert like settings, each shot is focused around the characters, which other than Christoph Waltz and Leo (Oscar nod please), are a little flat and gimmicky. Although he is the lead of the film, Django’s character is used to provide snappy one-liners and campy glances. The most annoying of the characters is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Stephen, Mr. Candie’s caretaker. I literally think the only reason he was casted, was so that he could say, “What you say boy?” and “You motherfucker”. His make-up is over the top and his self-racism is strange. I think that Quentin’s characters are always the fun point of his films (Death Proof being the best example), but they just aren’t there in Django.
What was really wonderful about the film was the first half. I was having a great time, there were a few laughs, some great action sequences (love the first time Django kills), and it actually didn’t feel like a Tarantino film. The finale is where the film falls apart and begins to really drag. There is a scene in the beginning where the action is edited showing what was happening, split with the discussion dialogue before the action. I thought this was kind of strange because although the film is over the top and not supposed to be taken literally, it made the sequence disjointed and confusing. The sad part is that this technique of editing happened again later in the film, to which made me even more frustrated. The music in the film was also an odd choice. Like many filmmakers before him, the use of contemporary music in a period piece is always an odd one. Some can make it work brilliantly (Marie Antoinette) while others have a difficult time. I think many scenes worked well with the music that was made for the film. The best example is when the unlikely duo was riding across the desert to Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton singing “Freedom”. An unfortunate example is a gunfight with Rick Ross booming over the shots. When this happened, someone in my screening put their hands up in the air, moving them to the beat, that’s when I lost all faith in the film. Maybe that scrapped Frank Ocean song should have made the bill.
The most enjoyable part of the film for me was the use of bodily markings as a motif. The scars on the backs of the slaves were brilliantly done, and if they were the sole focus, maybe the film would have been better. The reference to the Three-Fifth Compromise also made me chuckle and want to high five Tarantino. While there were some very memorable moments of the film, and also some very impressive, Django is an overall disappointment. The cherry on top of the cringe worthy embarrassment, was the KKK scene and the director’s cameo scene. I just wanted to push skip to spare Quentin from more awkward laughs and baffled looks.
How many films are there about black slaves? Not many, unfortunately. I feel that is a reason why it was so difficult for Tarantino to make this film; all he had to reference was old westerns. As one critic put it, “There aren’t many slavepoitation films”. Django Unchained is not a bad film. In fact, it’s a very good one; it’s just not a very good Quentin Tarantino film. It may seem sad and childish to some that I define it that way, but the art of film is suffering and we need to hold on to the good ones. One thing that can be said though, no one can tackle history’s most embarrassing moments quite like Tarantino.
V/H/S (David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, and Adam Wingard, 2012) 3/4
I have always been a huge fan of “found footage” films. That are so exciting because they attempt to make people believe that what they are seeing is real; that is in-fact cinema, right? People write off this genre as gimmicky and a money grabber, but I feel it holds artistic value with a ability to convince the brain it seeing something real. V/H/S doesn’t ever try to convince the audience that the events on film are real, but they sure make it feel that way. The film uses 8 different directors to combine 5 different stories of the most creative horror I’ve ever seen.
A group of guys break into a home that is supposed to have a VHS tape inside. They are rebellious and disturbed, spending their spare time videotaping women getting abducted by masked men. While moving through the house, they find a dead man in a room filled with TV’s. Searching for the tape they find a large amount in the basement. They begin to watch them to discover which is the tape they are supposed to steal. The audience gets to witness what is recorded on the videotapes. I don’t want to give away too much about what they find on the tapes, but each story is different, disturbing, and violent. There are psycho girlfriends, vampires (sorta…), paranormal activity, and satanic rituals. Each story provides a reason for the subject to be videotaping the story.
An experimental and chaotic style of editing is prominent throughout the film, making the audience feel they are in-fact watching a VHS tape. Most people find the hand-held style of filming to be distracting and headache inducing, but I feel I’ve always had an easy time adjusting to it and that it’s a great aid in the storytelling.
Each story builds off the vibes of the previous one, concluding with the best short of them all. The film is chaotic and gross, sometimes going too far with it’s graphic content. There are parts where things get scary and end up looking awesome, then the filmmaker goes to far and begins to have the characters play with someone’s insides. I just feel that horror films shouldn’t be made to gross people out, they should be made to give people a ride. While leaving the theatre, everyone said, “that was stupid, it wasn’t scary”, people don’t take the time to appreciate horror films any more. They expect the film to do all the work and apply all the scares, the audience needs to give to the horror film and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the film. If everyone in the audience did this, people would stop complaining about horror films.
Bill Cunningham New York (Richard Press, 2011) 4/4
“I used to tell people that I get dressed for Bill”
Would you like to watch a documentary about the cutest man in the world? If so, please, please watch Bill Cunningham New York. As one of New York’s biggest fashion photographers, Bill Cunningham has highlighted the fashion on the streets for the last 4 decades. He doesn’t photograph just the rich and the celebrated, he shows the working class people and the pieces of magic they create with their outfits. This documentary explores the work Bill creates, the legacy he created, and his relationship with New York and its people.
Bill loves fashion; he lives to photograph the clothes people call art. When he was younger he found something he loved to do and has done that every day since then. Bill pedals around New York on a little, pathetic bike searching out the latest and greatest fashions. He runs a fashion column in the Sunday paper of the New York Times, and has become the most influential trendsetter for the young and the old. People may call him a paparazzi but the biggest difference between Bill and the pap. is that Bill only cares about the clothes. When he takes photos on the streets he doesn’t even look at the faces of his specimen, just the garments. Taking dozens of photographs of every brilliance he finds, Bill finds the magic in an outfit and does his best to expose it.
The most interesting part of the documentary is when the film explores Bill’s personal life, because he doesn’t really have one. Bill lives in a tiny, tiny apartment that is stuffed full of file cabinets (filled with negatives), and fashion magazines. The only “livable” space is a tiny self-made bed placed on top of a stack of magazines. He is very vague when it comes to the relationships he has with people and his “love” life. The most important part of Bill though is laugh and smile. For being over 80 years old and completely married to his profession, Bill is the happiest person in the world. He gets so excited about anything that has to do with fashion and his photographs. When it comes to aesthetically pleasing photos, Bill isn’t the master of the profession, but he sure can capture the beauty in fashion and the people who wear it.
I have a secret love for documentary film, so I spend time pondering the different styles and formats of doc. films. I love films that don’t have much of an agenda and just capture real life. Bill Cunningham New York doesn’t exactly do that, but it explores the real life of an amazing man and the way he got to where he is today. More importantly, all of this is done with zero interference from the filmmakers because no one can tell Bill’s story better than himself, and boy has he had the most incredible life. He moves and breaths for fashion, capturing the latest and greatest of the people of New York. The people who have been photographed by him are legendary, as is the beautiful spirit of Bill himself. There is a moment in the film where Bill is attempting to get into a fashion show to photograph. The woman at the door is being difficult until a man comes up, grabs Bill, and says, “Please, he’s the most important person on earth.” People love Bill because of his persona and his photographs; in return, Bill loves everyone he has ever taken a picture of.
The Dark Knight Rises(Christopher Nolan, 2012) 3.5/4
Ever since I was young, Batman has always been my favorite. I would spend every day after school watching the animated series and wore out the VHS copies of the first 3 (never touched Batman & Robin). The films were a spectacle because my idol was glamourized on a large scale causing me to dream and dream about gliding through Gotham. My favorite episode of the animated series is the Christmas episode with the Joker. This of course caused the Joker to become my favorite villain. It was his pure evil that drew me in, making him mysterious and mystical. When Batman Begins was released in June of 2005, I was thrown back into fandom, becoming obsessed and reliving my childhood all over again.
The film was fresh, real, and a new approach to Batman on film. Christopher Nolan showed the film world that action/superhero films could be used as an art form. The anticipation leading up to The Dark Knight in the summer of 2008 was higher than any film released before. It was destined to be captivating and beyond brilliant, and it was. I remember sitting in the movie theatre two nights before its release loving the fact that I worked at a movie theatre being able to see the film in an empty theatre. I then saw it again the next day and again at the midnight show and again six more times after that. The film was perfect and gave me the single greatest theatre experience I ever had. The Dark Knight was the best sequel since The Empire Strikes Back and surpassed its emotion and cinematic power.
Four years later the same anticipation from the sequel is created for “the epic conclusion”. Going into the screening I had only watched two trailers for the film and read that it has a “powerhouse ending”. The Dark Knight Rises is a film of cinematic beauty and powerful storytelling, but is harmed by its overuse of new characters and muddled first half.
Eight years after The Dark Knight, Batman (Christian Bale) is known as a murderer and has not been seen since the night Harvey Dent died; he is no longer just a vigilante he is a criminal. The film spends a good amount of time dwelling on this sadness and isolation Bruce Wayne has put himself in while quickly throwing us into the plotlines of Bane (Tom Hardy) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), whom is never actually identified as Catwoman. We also meet John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Gotham cop that is from an orphanage funded by Bruce Wayne. The final new character introduced in the story is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) an environmental businesswoman who is attempting to set up a partnership with Wayne Enterprises. The beginning is informing and enjoyable, but lacks the natural gaze and utter awe that the films predecessor created.
Tom Hardy is excellent as Bane, doing creative and expressive work with his body language in order to bring across emotion. He has a mask over his face that is essential for his survival. He has a dark and haunting voice that is produced because of this mask. Although the voice is sometimes difficult to understand, I feel it was used efficiently and effectively. Bane is scary as hell and a powerful, restless villain. There were rumors back almost a year ago that Nolan was going to be shooting at Occupy Wall Street. The actual movement never shows up in the film, but its message sure does. One of the first attacks that Bane makes against Gotham and Batman is attacking the stock market and destroying Wayne Enterprises profits. The people of Gotham are hurting and struggling, all they need is a push and chaos ensues. Bane brings that chaos and charges it with a revolution to “take back the city”. There is a very clear message throughout the film that the rich need to be brought down, as the people rise up. Rising is a massive theme throughout the film that is developed in almost every character. Everyone has something to overcome, something to rise up from. “Why do we fall down? So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
The only great thing to take out of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is the performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. “I am Catwoman, hear me roar” Yes, that line is ridiculously cheesy but it made the film wonderful and enjoyable. I feel that role was the perfect rendition of Catwoman and what the character stands for. She’s seductive, tough, and incorruptible. The only aspect of the film I was worried about prior to my viewing was the performance by Anne Hathaway. Luckily, she doesn’t disappoint and is wonderful in the role. Hathaway does not do as good a job as Pfeiffer in my opinion, but the two films are completely different in their presentation. Burton’s Batman’s were campy and comic book like, while Nolan’s are realistic and evil. That said, Hathaway brings across the tough and seductive mannerisms well and efficiently, while only lacking chemistry between her and Christian Bale. I also really enjoyed the short cameo of Holly Robinson, I love her in Batman: Year One.
The lack of Batman in the film is probably the most disappointing aspect about it. I understand that the film is called The Dark Knight Rises, but he could have risen a little quicker. Nolan’s Batman’s haven’t been so much about Batman himself, but more about what he stands for. In all three there is a frequent amount of time where Batman is out of costume and has relationships with people as Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises has a little too much of the Bruce Wayne story. The first 2 hours of the film are enjoyable and great, but feel loose and drug out due to the ever growing plot of Bane and the “missing” Batman. Now, the conclusion to this film is, to say the least, brilliant. I promise, you will be on the edge of your seat and constantly saying, “oh my god, no, no, no, YES, YES, YES, oh gosh!” The climax is nothing short of wonderful and will please any fan of the caped crusader.
Like Return of the Jedi, its groundbreaking and ultimately legendary predecessor clouds The Dark Knight Rises. But what it lacks in powerful performances and incredible writing, it thrives in emotion and intensity which ultimately makes it a wonderful conclusion. I hope that years from now the expectations between the two films dwindle, making both to be equally as loved. Although it seems I spent a lot of time pointing out the negative aspects of the film, they were all due to the intense anticipation I created all by my self. The film is strong, powerful, and emotional, making it a great ending to a great trilogy.
I found myself crying my eyes out at the end of the film because it truly is the end. The one person that I have looked up to and idolized for over twenty years finally broke my heart. I’ve never cried in an action film let alone a Batman movie, but the emotions were just too high. The film took time to remind us all why we are watching the Batman save Gotham. We believe in him, we trust him, we want nothing but for him to save the streets of Gotham city every single night. Batman is more than just a man with expensive gadgets and an impressive suit; he is the symbol we believe in, he makes us stronger. He is our silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark knight.
Ignorance may be the force in the story, but the outcome is pleasure; Hysteria is a wonderful mix of period piece, sexual escapade, and stage comedy. Many of you may know that the film is about the first electric vibrator, but it is really so much more, being a commentary on women’s sexual desires of the late 1800’s. Hysteria in women was a very common prognosis given to women who were “hysteric” in their daily life. These actions were usually brought on by a lack of sexual pleasure. Some could blame this on men’s lack of power or simply their lack of knowledge of the female anatomy. Doctors discovered that manual genital massage of the vagina was a great remedy to relax and calm women. What doctors failed to discover was that they were only acting as agents in pleasure, nothing less and nothing more. This film takes place in a time where the mystery of the female orgasm was unknown, even the word was not yet created.
Searching for a place to practice “new” medicine, Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) applies at a doctor’s office specializing in women’s health. What he discovers is that there is an outbreak of hysteria in the women, making them minimally insane. Dr. Robert Dalrymple has found that massaging the vagina of patients momentarily calms them. As Granville gets trained in the procedures, he discovers that his fingers are a sort of drug that works extremely well on the women. The demand increases as more women clam to be hysteric. When a patient in unhappy, Granville is fired, going to his electronic savvy friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe to help with the demand of massages.
The film is really a great amount of fun, mixing charm with laughter and drama. The mix of the love story is minimalized, which is nice especially because it is a film about women. The set pieces and costume design really bring the viewer into the story world and actually make it feel very stagy. This stage presence I felt was actually something I really enjoyed. The performances didn’t feel stagy but rather the presentation of the story and it’s surroundings. There aren’t very many exterior shots of landscapes, instead the outside of buildings and inside of bland rooms. The film felt like a fun sex comedy you would go and see the local theatre group perform, except they do their best performance every time.
Hysteria is a sex comedy about female masturbation, but it doesn’t feel dirty or scandalous; Ok, maybe a little scandalous. The film is fun and filled with great performances by Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal. What I enjoyed about it so much was that none of the actions or dialogue felt forced, the story is just too true to be fake. Vibrators are the leading sex toys in the world and this film tells the story of their birth and the natural feelings that are brought by sexual wishes. Masturbation is natural and can be beautiful, it’s not women’s fault that men usually suck at fulfilling wishes.
Who is Bernie? Richard Linklater’s semi-mockumentary attempts to answer that question while showcasing Jack Black’s greatest performance. The film is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article titled, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas”. The article chronicles the 1996 murder of 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent by her 39-year-old, companion, Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Jack Black plays Bernie, a polite, courteous, and heartwarming funeral director. Bernie took his profession extremely seriously and liked to look after the widows a few days after the funeral for their spouse. When Marjorie Nugent’s husband dies, Bernie takes it upon himself to look after her and make sure she is doing all right. The unfortunate thing is that Mrs. Nugent is mean, real mean. She treats Bernie like dirt until finally letting him in and the two create a beautiful relationship together. They go on vacations around the world and Bernie spends her money on whatever he pleases. After a while, Mrs. Nugent becomes obsessive and controlling over Bernie, making him do anything she asks. After months of this going on, Bernie snaps and murders Mrs. Nugent with a BB Gun. What happens after is the trial to determine whether or not Bernie is guilty.
The film begins with questions appearing on the screen followed by testimonials by local people who knew Bernie. I’m not sure if these people were real people or actors but damn, they were hilarious. The documentary part of the film breaks up the story and adds the perfect amount of commentary. It also works as a way to let the audience know more about Bernie that wouldn’t be very apparent in the normal storyline. The film tries to answer questions such as, “Was Bernie just trying to get Mrs. Nugent’s Money?” or “Was Bernie Gay?” The locals interviewed attempt to answer these questions but end up defending Bernie on any occasion. The way that Black brings across the character fully represents the testimonials given by the locals; Bernie truly was an angel.
The only person not convinced that Bernie was innocent and a kind person was Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey). Davidson arrests Bernie after the murder and does anything in his power to put him behind bars. I would like to take this time to say that Matthew McConaughey is an extremely underrated actor and seems to have gotten a bad reputation over the years because of his romcoms. I think he’s really great and this year he’s brought out two brilliant performances, the other being in Magic Mike. He fit the part perfectly and always brings fun to his films.
Bernie is a sad story, but feels heartwarming and comedic throughout. Jack Black found his perfect character and delivered his greatest performance. Bernie has a round body type, perfectly combed hair, a kick in his step, and of course, a beautiful singing voice; all of these attributes are why Black was the perfect choice. There is nothing shocking in the film and honestly, I’ve told you the entire plot, but Bernie is a joy to watch and Linklater brings his charm into the film. This charm of course is his perfection of capturing human emotion and dialogue on screen. All of Linklater’s films are different from Bernie, but they are happy while pulling at your heartstrings throughout. Bernie is sometimes hard to believe because honestly, how can anyone be so nice? But that is where the magic happens, the laugher of a comedy with the shock of a drama.