Let My Lady Drive: Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors” as Feminist Critique of the American Film Industry

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large_holy_motors_blu-ray_01(Author’s Note: I wrote this for my spring semester class Film Analysis freshman year. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell.)

Oscar (the chameleonic Denis Lavant) is the consummate thespian, inhabiting his roles so thoroughly that he seems to disappear entirely into them. It seems notable and perhaps problematic that a film like Holy Motors which is so defined by the search for identity, both with regard to the Actor as well as cinema as an art form, that it be so focused on a man and on what that man does, and that it be directed by a man. A larger issue within the film world in general is the lack of female representation behind the scenes, and such a problem would resonate with this film… unless one chooses to read the film as Edith Scob’s driver as the director. Leos Carax may have cleverly and subversively addressed a very serious issue within the film industry with the inclusion of a seemingly innocuous and unnoticeable character. The argument will be made that the entire film exists as a self-aware critique of those industry problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Where the Truth Lies: David Fincher and Digital Cinematography

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fincher(Author’s Note: This half-assed essay was written for my Intro to Computers, so it’s not as great as it could be, but I thought it my be fun to post anyways.)

Beginning with 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher would plunge himself into the world of digital filmmaking, utilizing it to his advantage and augmenting his already outstanding body of work. By using this (relatively) new form of filmmaking, he would delve into an artificiality which, ironically, would be able to parse out the truth and lies in our everyday lives. Read the rest of this entry »

If I Had My Way: On the Awards

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Hey, I don’t know why I’m bothering with this either. We all have our faults. But for picky cinephiles  like myself, the Oscars are more of a burden than a joy, and doing all those predictions and watching the telecast are in direct opposition to the order your doctor gave to you to lower your blood pressure. They are that way because we do care about film and about the recognition our favorites do or do not get. But, hey, I wanted to shine a light on some of my favorite things from the past year that, were I Oscar omnipotent, would get recognition. Oh, but I changed the rules, and everyone gets a placard and win win for all y’all imaginary winners, woo! Read the rest of this entry »

The Masochist List: Everything from 2014

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Another year gone and another several hundred films watched. And, as per usual, with much effort I made my goal of watching at least 365 in the year. But this, I think, will be the last time I do it. I think I’ve done it for three years, and this will be the last one. My actual New Year’s Resolution (yes, yes, I know it’s late January) will be to watch movies at my own pace without some self-imposed quote or anything. To really enjoy it. (Also, get to some TV shows I’ve been meaning to watch; I’ve been exploring Mad Men lately.) Anyways, here are all the new-to-me movies I watched in 2014, complete with arbitrary grades. (Links are provided if I wrote about the film.) If you want to see my favorites of those from 2014, check them out here. Read the rest of this entry »

I Do, But I Don’t: Caring About the Oscars

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“I don’t know whether I want to write about the Oscars on my blog, because I would hate to give the impression that I care.”

I tweeted this about a minute before I started writing this, and it made me realize something. I do care, at least a part of me does. I think we all do, whether we want to admit it or not. I think that there were so many vocal and vehement reactions to the nominees is indicative of that. For as much attention as I’ve been paying to the race the last few years, and that’s been almost none besides early scrolls through nomination lists and peripheral chatter about the nominees, I still care about the Oscars. I’ve certainly, at this point, come to terms with the fact that the Academy Awards are, by no means, the sole metric of worth or quality on which to judge any movie, but at the same time, there’s something that aches in me about the Oscars. It sounds kind of silly, I know, but at the core of where my heart should be, I’m a tried and true cinephile, someone who wants to share this art with the world and everyone I meet (I’m great at parties!). And the Oscars have been, for as long as I’ve been paying attention to them (since Crash won Best Picture), always extremely frustrating. Awards by their very nature, I suppose, are meant to be that way.

This year, on the one hand, it seems to have been an extremely conservative list of nominations, filled with white people and very few women. On the other hand, I’m kind of vaguely impressed that smaller and/or artier films like Foxcatcher, Boyhood, and Whiplash are getting recognition, as well as cinema like Two Days, One Night, Mr. Turner (hey dad!), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. But, nonetheless, there’s still the issue of representation. Such a blisteringly white year, and so male.

So, I care about the Oscars because I care about movies. It’s not the other way around. I know, the tedious methods by which people nominate and vote for the Academy Awards is a complicated affair (fun fact: we studied a bunch of voting methods in one of my university math classes; I thought one particular method was beyond ridiculous, only to discover that AMPAS uses it), and that old white people dominate the Academy. But, that won’t make me stop caring, at least partially.

So paradoxical is our, or rather my, relationship with awards: we dismiss them as worthless when the things that we love and admire don’t get support or recognition, but we root for the things we do care about or use things that have won as proof of greatness (sometimes). It’s a form of validation, to some degree, and there’s little reconciliation between the two.

As my friend David Neary said, to observe the Oscars is interesting to gauge what kind of taste the industry has and therefore what they’ll lean towards making in the future. But, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want the Oscars to be better. More flexible and open and open-minded. And if the Oscars are somehow indicative of Hollywood as a whole, I want the industry to be more open and diverse. That many important works seemed to be overlooked, seemingly, is disconcerting, but I want those works to be elevated by other people (hey ho, critics!) and for audiences to pay attention to them a little bit. I want great filmmaking to be championed regardless of its Oscar chances and for audiences to recognize that the Oscars are not the sole metric of worth. I want audiences to expand their entertainment palettes.

I know I’m asking for a lot, something nary impossible. But, I just want the Oscars and viewers and the industry to be better. Because I love movies. Who doesn’t?

My 14 Favorite Films of 2014

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2014 in filmAs I said in another list, this year was slightly different, not only in that I wrote a heck of a lot more, but also in that I just saw more, at least as far as new releases went. My journey to making these lists was a fun one. Finals were already happening and I thought, oh, I have a couple of weeks to finish the seven or so lists I had to make, I have plenty of time. And then I realized I had just over a week. So I crammed in as many 2014 films as I could, and voila!

So, here it is, folks, my final, locked in list of my favorite 14 films that I saw in 2014 (I’m not worrying about US release date or anything, just counting what I saw.)

You can also find my ranked 2014 list on Letterboxd, my top 20 performances at Under the Radar, some capsules I contributed to Under the Radar’s best films of 2014, and to Sound on Sight (my individual ballot here), and my favorite musical moments in film from 2014. And, also, my superlative year in film. And also, my complete list of all the new releases I saw in 2014. Yes, I made a lot of lists this year.

Thanks for taking this cinematic journey with me! I hope 2015 to be as fruitful and fun! Have a safe and very Happy New Year, folks! Read the rest of this entry »

Writer’s Regret: My Favorite Articles from 2014

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My writing really took off this year, for which I thank so many people (Justine Smith, Sam Fragoso, Austin Trunick, Scott Beggs, Jill Blake, Peter Knegt, et al.). I’m very excited for the year to come.

In the meantime, here are some things that I wrote that I didn’t hate.  Read the rest of this entry »