January 31, 2014

Film Friday: January Reviews

1. Manhattan (1979)
This was only my second Woody Allen movie so I was still not used to his style and mannerisms.  Yet by the end of this film, I felt wholly acclimated to, not to mention entranced by, his quirky dialogue and charming characters.  In short, it was gorgeous, intellectual and witty.
3.5/5 stars

2. Amélie (2001)
After hearing many people talk about it, this was one of those films that I thought was horribly overrated.  And for this reason, I thought I'd dislike this film.  But no.  I really, really loved it.  Paired with the humorous narration, the eccentric personalities of Amélie appeared relatable and real.
4/5 stars

3. Father of My Children (2009)
There's something particular about the way the French move that was brilliantly captured here.  The ambling walking, the playfulness of the younger sisters and the apartment they lived in all pleased me in a purely aesthetic way, distracting me from the not-so entertaining plot.
3/5 stars

4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Undoubtedly, this trumps the first. This video eloquently sums up the majority of my thoughts.
4/5 stars

5. Drinking Buddies (2013)
Perfect for a lethargic day, the slow chronicling of a friendship on the verge of being something more intrigued me.  Sadly, it wasn't the most original nor inspiring film so I'm rating it quite low.  It appears my love of Olivia Wilde as an actress (and human being) proves not enough to boost it into 3-star territory.
2.5/5 stars

6. Everything You Want (2005)
Once I realized it was a made-for-TV-movie, I simply embraced most of the hokeyness.  Took me a while, too, in order to understand exactly what constituted the conflict.  Decent enough for watching in bed on a break yet unlikely to change your views on life.
2/5 stars

7. American Psycho (2000)
Throughout this violent tale, I was simultaneously engrossed and revolted.  I think I need to watch this film again to fully appreciate it.   I missed a large portion of the dialogue as he was *SPOILER* murdering various victims.
3.5/5 stars

8. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
These ensemble drama/comedies have a special place in my heart, rooting back to my unconditional love for the TV classic 7th Heaven.  In this movie, life and families were captured as complicated and ever-changing.  Who can't find some humanity in that?  P.S. Younger Josh Hutcherson was a cutie.
4/5 stars

9. Noah (2013)
If you're spending any time on the internet, you have 17 minutes to spare to watch this student-made short film that takes place entirely on a computer screen.  You can read my full review here.
4/5 stars

10. Don Jon (2013)
Joseph Gordan-Levitt proves to be an even more accomplished and remarkable actor, creator, director, everything.  Interviews he did to promote this film helped framed his satirical statements about the objectification of women and the media-produced illusions of love, relationships and anything in between.  Well acted and tightly edited, I became invested in the title character, even though he was still kind of a jerk.
3.5/5 stars

11. Fruitvale Station (2013)
This film details the events leading up to the unjust death of a young man trying to do right by his family.  Portrayed as neither fully a hero or fully a villain, the real-life story of protagonist Oscar brings greater awareness to police brutality and racism in America.
3.5/5 stars

12. Penelope (2006)*
Self love, my friends.  Self love.  Practice that and just maybe someone like James McAvoy will come along!  In all seriousness, if you like modern-day fairytales with good twists, this film is for you.
3/5 stars

13. A Movie (1958)
Watched in my Oppositional Cinemas class as an example of montage film.  Not worth watching unless you're very into bizarre, theoretical short films.
3/5 stars

14. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)*
Wes Anderson's incomparable directing style makes films like these a great joy to watch.  If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
4.5/5 stars


January 28, 2014

In my element.

Hello from frigid Minnesota! The whole state was cancelled yesterday, but classes weren't -- in case that gives you any indication of what I'm dealing with here.  I could complain about the cold except I mostly have been voluntarily trekking out into the -45 degree weather.

You see, my classmates envy me because I've managed not to have any classes Mondays and Fridays this semester.  Yes, I will rejoice in a my four-day weekend every weekend, but the bulk of my work study hours are allotted to those "free" days and c'mon, I'll still have plenty of homework!  If you're wondering how I managed this, I have two T/TH classes and two 3-hour film classes on Wednesday.  I've always thought "Wednesday hump day" was a poor description of this particular day in the week week.  Now I'm thinking it's just about right.

I have absolutely loved being back.  I am truly in my element here.  Already, this is the fourth time for buying books, scheduling advisor meetings, etc so I can't help feeling like a pro.  I realize I've also established such a tremendous network of friends with all sorts of majors and interests that walking across campus, I usually see four to five friends.  And while some people may doubt my general ability to genuinely care about so many friends, I can only say its their loss.  It wasn't until college that I truly understand the capacity for friendship.

I'm off to read seven chapters for tomorrow's class, assigned only just a few hours ago.

College: the struggle is real.

January 24, 2014

Film Friday: Review of Noah

Noah, a 17-minute short film created by Canadian film students Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The mildly NSFW film begins from the moment the protagonist logs into his laptop and then proceeds to chronicle the hazards of technology, relationships, and jumping to conclusions.  Oh, did I mention everything takes place on one teenager's computer screen?  Now before you think this creates the most boring premise ever, let me explain!

From what we gather on his desktop, web browsing history and Facebook profile, our protagonist, high school senior Noah, enjoys porn -- yet has a girlfriend -- and chats with his friend about playing 'cod' (Call of Duty).  Still, I can see why if you haven't seen it, this could be mind-numbingly boring.  Except it's not.  We see a potential breakup, an actual breakup, and the potential rebound all in a matter of minutes.  The whole film's soundtrack was cleverly supplied by Noah's own iTunes playlist and made expert use of the 'ding' noise we can associate with Facebook.

I thought this was a relatable yet original and inventive look at how we've become increasingly more reliant on technology, and moreover, how this can adversely affect our relationships.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts!

4/5 stars

January 17, 2014

Film Friday: Films I'm Looking Forward To in 2014

Overall, I thought 2013 marked a fairly decent year for film releases.  Finally no more Twilight installments!  Dozens of quality movies hit cinemas, several of which I've yet to see -- The Wolf of Wall Street, FrozenInside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Her -- and some I did see -- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity, Monsters University, The Great Gatsby, Frances Ha, The Kings of Summer.  I'm always curious what will be named Best Picture, but I'm not sure I can pick from this year's nominees.  Anyway, 2013 is already behind us so here are the films I'm eagerly awaiting in 2014.

  • dir. Wes Anderson, starring everyone amazing ever Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, William Dafoe
  • IMDb synopsis: "The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend."
  • Why I'm excited:  C'mon, it's Wes Anderson.  Need I say more?  I will add, though, that unlike any of his other films, I'm determined to see this one in theaters with my really good friends.
  • release date: March 7, 2014

  • dir. Neil Burger, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Zoē Kravitz, Jai Courtney
  • IMDb synopsis: "Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society."
  • Why I'm excited:  I have quite the girl crush on Shailene Woodley and I enjoyed the book enough to see its screen adaptation.
  • release date: March 21, 2014

  • dir. Marc Webb, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Denis Leary
  • IMDb synopsis: "Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillians against him, impacting on his life."
  • Why I'm excited:  The first one in this series wowed me.  I expect good performances, fantastic chemistry and a killer soundtrack.
  • release date: May 2, 2014

  • dir. Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage
  • IMDb synopsis: "The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants."
  • Why I'm excited: Umm...JAMES 'EFFIN MCAVOY! Plus the excellent ensemble cast.  I suspect an enjoyable superhero flick.
  • release date: May 23, 2014

  • dir. Josh Boone, starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, William Dafoe
  • IMDb synopsis as if we don't already know: "Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey.  Their relationships is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group."
  • Why I'm excited:  Like everyone, the book has a special place in my heart and I'm proud that I've been with the book since the beginning.  This film will just be icing on the cake.  
  • release date: June 6, 2014

  • dir. Francis Lawrence, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Natalie Dormer, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • IMDb synposis: Katniss Everdeen reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the autocratic Capitol." 
  • Why I'm excited: Catching Fire made me interested in what Francis Lawrence can do to bring the books to life.  I anticipate this film will be better than the third book.  Besides, I will probably always go pay to see Jennifer Lawrence. 
  • release date: November 21, 2014

  • dir. Rob Marshall, starring Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Lucy Punch, Christine Baranski
  • IMDb synopsis: "A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children's stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel."
  • Why I'm excited: This is one of my favorite musicals, and once again, the cast looks incredible.
  • release date: December 25, 2014

January 10, 2014

Film Friday: Why Films Are Important To Me

My introduction to film analysis class invigorated my passion for film.  Without being too melodramatic, this class' syllabus of films and readings expanded my knowledge of film in a deeply satisfying way.  I have fallen head over heels in love with the craft and art of filmmaking.  Moreover, its nuanced ability to influence culture and in some instances affect real social change thrills me to the core.

All the cells in my body were completely mesmerized as I watched the beauty of Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood for Love.  After only ever reading about or seeing references to Psycho, Rear Window properly introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock and his directorial prowess.  I've never contemplated the serious corrosive nature of capitalism until being fully immersed in the alternate reality of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia.

Beyond the films we saw and the corresponding analyses we read, the class discussions we had illuminated greater truths and provoked deeper questions for me.  I understand the importance of scientific research, but the discoveries I made in this class felt equally important.  With each powerful, brilliant scene that plagued my thoughts, I uncovered a newer understanding of the universe.  I saw the world we inhabit a little bit better.  I saw…humanity.

For the average moviegoer, I would wager elements like camera angles and costume design do not factor into their critiques.  Rather, their focus may be on character identification and believability.  For example, I know one reason I did not enjoy Gravity (2013) was for its depiction of an unrealistic voyage home.  And I think there's nothing wrong with fluffier yet stunning films like this.  I just personally want to challenge myself to think more critically about what I watch: the good, the bad and the ugly.

So I've decided to talk about films on here every Friday.  I hope to span a variety of topics -- from your standard reviews, to (abbreviated) in-depth analyses, to monthly recaps of what I've watched (inspired by Amy) and my thoughts.  I will probably also compile lists of films befitting certain holidays or current events a la mass movie reviewing sites.

In 2013 I saw 127 films.  That's nearly two films per week!  I just can't get enough.  In 2014, I want to beat that record and I think I'm already off to a great start.

January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!
I'm ready for adventure.

What are you looking forward to most in 2014?