Month: June 2014

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

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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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Dolan Out the Charm: What I’ve Been Writing

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In a feeble effort to make this the one stop place for my writing, I’ve come here to update you on some of my stuffs.

Firstly, I’ve been writing a lot about my new favorite filmmaker Xavier Dolan of late.

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Over at IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I wrote about the roles of mothers in his films.

The pet preoccupation of young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is not, at first glance, particularly interesting. Mothers. Alright, someone says, he has mommy issues. But the issue runs far deeper than writing it off so dismissively. For Dolan, as a queer filmmaker, uses his experience, position, and talent to explore mothers with atypical approaches. The divide between a mother and their queer child is also nothing particularly new, but, for at least I Killed My Mother and Laurence Anyways, his maternal characters transcend the roles given to them to become much more.

[…]

– All About His Mothers: The Role of Mothers in the Films of Xavier Dolan

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Over at Movie Mezzanine, I examine obsessive love in Dolan’s Heartbeats via Dalida’s “Bang Bang” and The Knife’s “Pass This On”.

It’s intoxicating. It has the power to the make someone do things out of the ordinary. It augments and manipulates the experience of living. Deep infatuation. Few films are able to pin that experience so accurately as Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, a hyper stylistic, elegant piece of filmmaking about two friends who fall in “love” with the same guy. Dolan is able to articulate the spellbinding effect that infatuation has on the two characters through the use of two songs, “Bang Bang”, describing the competition between Francis and Marie, and “Pass This On”, depicting the obsessive nature of their infatuation. Carefully utilized in the film and played nearly consecutively, Dolan nails what it’s like to be obsessively enamored.

[…]

Love, Ostentatiously: The Obsessive Infatuation of “Bang Bang” and “Pass This On” in Heartbeats

And recently, I just had the fortune to see Dolan’s fourth film, Tom at the Farm. And I’m seeing it again this week, because that’s how I roll. And he’ll be there in person. (Yes, I realize I’m linking to a post that was already on this blog, but, I thought it made sense regardless.)

It’s hard to describe 25 year old Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan as anything but a wunderkind, even if you dislike his work. The rate of output, for one, is impressive, but the products themselves are astonishing. But what happens when an art house enfant terrible steps away from his comfort zone to deliver a straight (or, rather, queer) psychological thriller? Certainly one of the most outstanding, heart racing experiences I’ve had at the theater in ages.

[…]

– Our Town: Tom at the Farm

 

I’ve also been doing other work, such as…

At IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I watched queer romcoms and came up with the best and the worst.

Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.

Here are the Best 5 LGBT Romcoms on Netflix. 

And here are the Worst LGBT Romcoms on Netflix

Will be back later to add more stuff I’ve written lately.