“I Like Things That Look Like Mistakes”: The Perfect Imperfection of Frances Ha

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A young woman in her late twenties pirouettes, jumps, and spins through the streets of New York City as David Bowie’s “Modern Love” pounds in her head, on the screen, and in our hearts. It is not only the city that sparkles in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, but Frances herself. Energetic, prone to folly, and warmly sincere, Frances is perhaps the best illustrated character to come out of film in ages, both a perfect fit for the contemporary environment she inhabits and yet timeless in how human she is. Read the rest of this entry »

The Conversation Starters and Other Things: What I’ve Been Writing – 7/2/14

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Here are my new writerly offerings, because I am unemployed and I live a very exciting life.

SB17

Over at Movie Mezzanine, I wrote about one of the best scenes in film last year.

There were snickers in the audience when James Franco began warbling on screen, three balaclava-sporting young women surrounding him at the ivory piano. Such derisive, incredulous laughter is only justified if one hasn’t been investing their attention in what Harmony Korine’s madcap nightmare Spring Breakers has to say. When Britney Spears’s “Everytime” floods the speakers, it’s so gorgeous and alluring, the inherent sadness of the song subverted by playing it over horrific, dreamlike images of empowerment. It’s ironic and cynical and strangely powerful, and certainly one of the most captivating things about Korine’s hallucinatory treatise on youthful indulgence.

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- Korine’s Angels: The Ironic Harmony of “Everytime” in Spring Breakers

dogville

I tackled Lars von Trier and Rape Culture.

Lars von Trier wants to hold us accountable. His films sear and contain a rawness that’s rare in cinema. He shows a small town community protecting people who abuse a fugitive, sexually and emotionally, and a religious culture that allows its elders to be dispassionate towards a woman who expresses her sexuality in an unconventional fashion for the love of her husband, subsequently deeming it unworthy of being saved. His fictional congregations do not respect women. They do not abide by the idea that a woman owns her body. They allow men to get away with sexual assault and violence, allowing the women to be dehumanized. They perpetuate this dehumanization through subtle ways, feeling entitled to these women’s bodies. The seemingly meek female protagonists subject to this abuse, though, transcend the very culture that takes advantage of them, revealing its rotten core. The Danish auteur isn’t just being sadistic for his own sake; he confronts it. Lars von Trier is attacking Rape Culture.

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- “I Call Them Dogs”: Lars von Trier Calls Out Rape Culture 

CMJTEST

I’ve started writing some review over at Under the Radar Magazine, first off with an AIDS drama…

As Pina Bausch once said, “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” Set against the exponentially growing AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in 1985, Chris Mason Johnson settles his eye on the intimacy of dance, the irony of the body and its treatment in dance versus sex, and the gradual paranoia of the era in his film Test.

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- Review for Chris Mason Johnson’s Test

Premature

…and secondly with a cliched, but clever teen sex comedy.

The vague pleasures of Premature are intermittent and inconsistent and fairly conventional, and yet they are there. The story of a young man who gets stuck in a time loop that is only ever reset when he orgasms, the film will probably be tiresomely described as “Groundhog Day meets American Pie”, though this only slightly eclipses the latter for the sheer fact that it seems kind of sincere, despite its vulgarities.

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- Review for Dan Beers’s Premature

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And I’m really happy to announce I’ll be doing a bi-weekly column at SoundOnSight.org about music videos and film. I’m kicking it off with OK GO and a call to conversation.

Just over a week ago, OK GO premiered the video for their new single “The Writing’s on the Wall”. Appropriately, the Internet responded with the expected “oohs” and “ahhs”. But, of the dozen or so articles I checked out regarding the video, said articles were no longer than a couple hundred word blurbs that briefly mentioned that OK Go makes cool videos and this was another one of them. I would not call myself a music connoisseur by any means, but I do adore music and I adore music videos. I think we should talk about them with more respect. Let’s talk about their relationship to film, both formally and textually. Let’s talk about how film informed music video aesthetic and how, subsequently, music video informed film aesthetic. Let’s talk about how directors have jumped back and for between the medium and how that’s affected their overall style. Let’s talk about how music videos are just as interesting a short form cinematic medium as the short film, with a wealth of possibilities to experiment with narrative and style. So, I have this is statement: We Need to Talk About Music Videos and Their Relationship to Film.

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- OK GO: We Need to Talk About Music Videos and Their Relationship to Film.

Have a good week, folks!

Gazed At and Confused: The Transformation of the Male Gaze in Contemporary Cinema

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(Author’s Note: Once upon a time, I made a shitty video essay for my Sex on TV class. And here it is. There are moments where it’s hard to understand what I’m saying because I messed up the sound levels of the music, so below is a complete transcript.)

Cinema is everything. Whether we know it or not, it’s how we filter what we know about the world. And cinema is constantly changing. Not only technologically, but critically and ethically. The thing is, we are not the only ones who view films. Films view us as well. Films can look at something, which we in turn view in a voyeuristic way.

Although Laura Mulvey’s iconic essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” posits that any film that anyone saw was inherently from the perspective from a heterosexual male, time has changed since that essay was published in 1975. We are no longer living in a limited world where heterosexual white males are the only audience and the only ones looking.

What we are looking at in the cinema now can be taken from multiple perspectives. The Heterosexual Male Gaze. The Female Gaze. The Queer Gaze. All of these ways of looking at film are relevant. Audiences are more diverse and, what is more important, that diversity is now more visible to the public eye. Read the rest of this entry »

To Half and Half Not: The 2014 Mid-Year Favorites

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As I mentioned once before, ages ago, I don’t get out to the movies often, so I’m relegated to watching stuff on Netflix and the library and such. And we have reached the halfway point. So, here, I have compiled my fifteen favorite new-to-mew films, in alphabetical order,  I’ve seen so far (running count, 217).

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Girl on Fire: Goldinger’s Best Shot

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I was asked quite graciously by Nathaniel R. over at The Film Experience to contribute to his series Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And here is my rambly, weird contribution. 

Bond likes to have his way with women, and often, much to contemporary viewers’ dismay, at any cost. So, with a feminist slant, it’s interesting to take note how very odd Goldfinger is in Bond’s oeuvre in that it’snot od or even atypical at all. Bond’s rather misogynistic attitude is present in the books and such an attitude more than seeps into the films. In the pre-credits sequence, Bond uses the woman he is romancing as a shield from an attacker.  But, more heinously, Bond forces himself upon Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), when he is well aware of her sexual orientation.

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That Goldfinger is hardly an anomaly in terms of Bond’s attitudes towards women, particularly his violent ones, feels kind of gross. (Remember Roger Moore slapping Maude Adams in The Man with the Golden Gun?) But perhaps the fact that, thinking retrospectively about the films at least, they do seem so dated in their gender politics (I guess not necessarily their fault given the time period they were made in) is why I find the image of an explosion projected onto the back of a golden girl in the main titles sequence so resonant. The image, created by Robert Brownjohn (who did the titles for this and From Russia with Love while Maurice Binder was on leave), is nearly prophetic and totally inadvertently so. Yet its unintentional subtext about the women of the Bond franchise makes it seem more powerful. It’s emblematic of pain.

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Personal interpretation, yes. It does not let Goldfinger off the hook at all, but it’s an image that’s striking nonetheless, carefully saturated and gilded, with model Margaret Nolan in a position of vulnerability, revealing her back to the audience, as Shirley Bassey’s harrowing vocals give the impression of a house up in flames. Natalya in GoldenEye remarks, “How can you be so cold?” While Bond remains frigid towards the women he beds (and occasionally loves), the women are on fire.

Runner Up: Odd Job

 

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I am also quite fond of Odd Job. Just in general. I always enjoyed his hat trick, and, rewatching the film recently, his giant, menacing silhouette is still worthy of a shiver. John Barry has a penchant for slightly melodramatic scoring (I honestly never saw the need to introduce Bond with Monty Norman’s theme every. single. time.), but the ringing of the bells is kind of reminiscent of a horror movie. It’s foreboding. It’s iconic. Just like Bond.

 

Grandeur Delusions: The Male Protagonists of the Films of Charlie Kaufman

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A mild mannered NBC page goes from zero to hero, making hit shows and makings hits at the same time. A slightly schlubby puppeteer struggles both with his art, his lust for an elusive female co-worker, and his fascination with the portal into the head of another man. A self-aware introvert travels back through his most recent relationship and starts to understand the fallacy of his own romantic mind. These three characters do not share the actors who played them or even the directors who guided them, but they do share two things: a writer, named Charlie Kaufman, and a unique sense of delusion. As Freud would put it, a delusion of grandeur, to the extent where such delusions affect the way that each characters’ story is told, in terms of aesthetics and structure. In George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) leads a double life where, by day, he’s producing shows like The Newlywed Game and by night he’s making hits for the CIA; but Barris’s story, told from his perspective, is so bizarre the audience is thrust into a hyper-stylized fantasy where one is not quite able to tell if he is telling the truth. Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich presents “objectivity” as a deliberately absurdist comedy, playing the concept itself and deconstructing the romanticized “genius” in the form of Craig Schwartz (John Cusack). Lastly, in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is so deep set in his introversion, that when he finally is given the opportunity to explore his own memories, he is able to see them for what they are. These are tied together by Kaufman’s singular ability to tap into the cult of the genius and deconstruct what that entails through storytelling, as well as each respective director’s ability to channel those ideas through a visual format.

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We Both Reached for the Gun: Avicii’s “Addicted to You”

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Kyle Turner:

Hey y’all, I wrote about editing, riffing on cinema, and romance in Avicii’s “Addicted to You”.

Originally posted on ecstasymusicreviews:

In some snowy mountainous region, an old Model T drives past as rose red text fades in, playing on the trend of loosely reminiscing to a time when such bombastic fonts were used for movies. A young woman in a bar cleans a table, looking meek. Soon, fitted with a flesh colored beret and a blonde bob to boot, another young woman strides in, and the two catch each other’s eyes if ever so briefly. And then they hold up the bar.

And thus begins the music video for Swedish house producer Avicii’s track “Addicted to You”, a surprisingly competent video that seems less bent on exploiting the lesbian twist on Bonnie and Clyde than one  might think. True to the tone of the music, the video is both soulful and cinematic, taking advantage of the Audra Mae’s vocals and an editing style that walks the line between conventional music…

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