georges melies

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.

[…]

– 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.

[…]

– “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.

[…]

– 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.

[…]

– Review for Dan Beers’s Premature

maxresdefault-1024x683

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.

[…]

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

Have a good week, folks!

For the Love of Film: Review for Hugo

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It is often difficult for lovers of film to really articulate why they love film. They will sometimes do this, but it’ll come out as a a half coherent ramble. Even directors who harbor a passion for film can sometimes barely get it out. And this is where they use their medium to tell us why film is magical. Such is the case of Martin Scorsese’s delightful, interesting, but flawed film Hugo. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Scorsese’s film is nothing but a love letter to the art of film and the masters who perfected the craft.

Young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives within the walls of the Paris Trainstation, inconspicuously keeping the clocks of the station running. Somewhere towards the outskirts of the station is a small toyshop, disregarded by many, and run by an old, curmudgeon man. He, however, holds the key to what Hugo needs. Hugo has been assembling an automaton since his father’s (Jude Law) untimely death. And now he is an orphan living within the walls.

In Hugo’s quest for fufillment, he is joined by the articulate biblioophile Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), the goddaughter of the mysterious shop keeper. This is perhaps where the film falters most. Too much importance is given to this strange, fascinating device when the payoiff is barely what one expected. However, the reason being is that the automaton is just another MacGuffin in itself.

It turns out that Hugo loved going to the movies with his father and exposes dear Isabelle to the great pictures. They go to see Buster Keaton’s Safety Last! And the pure ecstacy of going to the theater, the same kind of wonderment I feel when I go, is perfectly drawn across the actors’ faces. The two soon learn that Isabelle’s godfather, who had previously been known as “Papa Georges”, the same shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley), is actually the French filmmaker and pioneer of film Georges Melies. The man who made A Trip to the Moon, Melies has seemingly forgotten about his past. The two head to the library to research the history of film. A gorgeous montage if ever I saw one passes before the audience’s eyes, filled with clips from Chaplin, Keaton, Einstein, Griffiths, and others light up the screen. It’s an intoxicating amalgom of film history.

While the film is certainly delightful in many of its facets, one does question why the film was marketed to a younger demographic. Not everyone is a cinephile and silents are extremely dated. The subject of the film, which eventuallyleads into film restoration, is somewhat esoteric. To what extent will kids buy into the idea of restoring and preserving film? I shouldn’t underestimate kids, considering that the last time I did that, it was with the smash hit from Pixar Ratatouille. I remember thinking, “Really? A cooking rat?” Though, you have to admit, cooking is far less obscure and esoteric than film restoration. It’s not a surprise Scorsese would make that the subject of his film, considering he is one of the leading directors to support film preservation. This is pure fodder for him.

Generally, this film is filme. It’s even magical to an extent. But sometimes its overwraught performances lead into a kind of melodrama which I personally find intolerable. This is usually the product of Asa Butterfied, who, it should be noted, is a fine actor. He juust doesn’t do that well when he’s crying or making a big deal about his father. Kingsley himself is fine. Everyone is fine. But no one really stands out against the rest. Even the comical Sacha Baron Cohen barely leaves an impression. Chloe Moretz may be the best of them, actually. Her English accent is quite effortless. It’s not the acting that makes the film memorable, it is the subject of film that does.

Generally, I find the use of 3D abhorrent. But more and more, auteurs and grand directors have taken to the sets with 3D cameras. Scorsese is one of them, and his use of 3D walks the fine line between immersions (a la James Cameron) and hokey (a la everyone else). The 3D does create an immersive environment and actually does add to the experience. It’s a leap in technology, just as moving pictures was a leap in technology. Melding the two make sense, and the end product is quite pleasing.

Martin Scorsese, who is better known for his gritty, realistic gangster dramas, injects his newest film, a kid’s film, with perfection. The visual effects are top notch and the storyline is great. Only in the acting does it sometimes falter. But you can tell all throughout the film that this was Scorsese’s passion project. It’s filled with his heart and soul. And that’s what film should be filled with: passion.

Grade: B+