Holy Motors (2012)

A man wakes up with a dog in a strange room where silvery trees line the wallpaper. He finds a keyhole, fortunately he is uniquely gifted to open the door with the key which is grafted into his hand like a middle finger. Exiting, the walls flicker and walking down the corridor a movie is playing, an audience below watches with blank expressions. As the key-fingered man (who seems to have woken up in the projection booth) watches, a girl stares back at him from the silver screen, fading away on a space-age boat. Suddenly, the porthole becomes a window and a whole new narrative begins. It is unclear, deliberately, which movie we are in and indeed which audience we are. Are we the ones watching Holy Motors or have we become the mindless audience watching the silver screen within the film? Certainly it matters little except to show we cannot be sure of our perspective anymore, nor will it be the last time we feel this way. Continue reading

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Selma (2014)

Selma (2014) is one masterful movie. Stirring, patient, and relevant, Selma manages to resurrect a small, yet vital, sliver of the Civil Rights Movement and make it feel like it happened only yesterday. Then again, in many ways, it did—yet somehow amidst all the recent doubt, outrage, and controversy this film shines, capitalizing on its moment in the sun and leaving me deeply impacted. Selma is a hard film to criticize, but an easy one to be inspired by. So, given what today is, I think I’ll depart from precise analysis and go right where my mind has been since viewing the piece (often a dangerous thing).

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Timbuktu (2014)

Here is a film I can’t shake. On the surface, Timbuktu plays like a textbook foreign film: the style is largely invisible, there are failed moments where Western techniques are copied and forced (like the musical climax as the cow G.P.S. heads for the fisherman’s nets), and the film communicates clearly until its final notes which make (of course) an open ending. Much like A Separation (2011) or The Lives of Others (2006), it’s the perfect entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. At the same time it, like many of the best films from other shores, powerfully tells a story that comes from worlds away. Continue reading

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St. Vincent (2014)

Imagine Gran Torino (2008) with Bill Murry in for Clint Eastwood and NYC in for Detroit.

Need I say more? Continue reading

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Bronson (2008)

But violence does not consist so much in injuring and annihilating persons as in interrupting their continuity, making them play roles in which they no longer recognize themselves…

Emmanual Levinas, Preface to Totality and Infinity (trans. Alphonso Lingis, Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1969).

For the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, the foundation of violence is the reduction of the Other to the Self. In other words, violence turns another person into what you make of them; it is the exercise of power to subjugate another’s freedom to your wishes. And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen violence so eloquently portrayed as the final scene of Bronson.

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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

These desires come out in the sort of private moments that movies hesitate to show but that are the essential province of art.

-Richard Brody, “The Accurate Erotics of Fifty Shades of Grey” 

Fifty Shades of Grey is, for everything else it represents, a film. As a film, I was surprised to find it compelling and coherent; certainly the plot isn’t too intricate but the characters are—indeed they are far from the one-dimensional physiques one would expect of erotic fare. Further, while attractive, our leads are no porn-stars. Against it’s critics, Fifty Shades of Grey is not a pornography, a visualization of fantasy. It is, instead, a film about two people exploring their fantasies. This makes a world of difference. Continue reading

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Samson & Delilah (2009)

There’s something about the Australian landscape that just feels right. A warm-hued blend of mystery, danger, and possibility, the “bush” is at the heart of myriad Australian films. As Samson & Delilah begins, the desert serves as an eerily picturesque backdrop for a broken-down town. It is natural, yet the natural is boring, the familiar repetitious, and the everyday suffocating—even debilitating. Our first protagonist, Samson, is an aimless teen who meanders the streets in a wheelchair, alone. To cope, he inhales fumes, keeping a can of gasoline or paint by his bed roll. Delilah, conversely, is a caregiver to her aging Nana, who needs medication and, unlike Samson, can’t move without a wheelchair. Nana, however, is a remarkable painter of traditional geometric forms, her income just enough for food and fire but little else. Continue reading

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Force Majeure (2014)

Hear: electric toothbrushes drone—cleaning teeth—barely enough to drown out underpinning fears.

See: loose clothing, bare skin—despite the frigid clime basic needs are met.

Taste: the fluoride paste, eager to be spit.

 

Brushing teeth is a motif in Force Majeure and it is easy to see why. First, the industrial hum evokes a subjective torment cemented in the cinema psyche by the horror genre. Second, the familiarity and comfort of the scene bring to light insulating technologies: heat, light, warm clothes, water. Needing nothing, the family nevertheless appears hollowed in a sense, isolated from one another as well as their surroundings. Third, each character sees his or herself reflected as both one and as a group. Identity is the main concern of this film, particularly the challenge of self-identification in the face of chaos (“force majeure”) and a pastiche of family scripts (patriarchy, feminism, etc.).

More on each of these considerations.

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The Purge (or) How to Throttle “The Noise” Until It Hurts You Pt. I

Today I had to make lunch. Call me whatever you like, but making lunch for me is usually a stressful endeavor. Right in the thick of things, often when I’m busiest, I have to carve out time to not only eat lunch (which could be a nice break) but invent a lunch, which bears far too much resemblance to what I do in the rest of my life (despite my hope that my other efforts are longer-lasting). Sometimes, I plan ahead, but this kind of planning is also required (of course) right when I don’t want to plan any more. So, I generally rely on pre-made components: microwaveable soup, lunchmeat and bread, etc.

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Poesy: A Poem

 

I stare at fog in the valley.

The air is crisp without

but I’m all haze within. Continue reading

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