I love movies. I have loved movies all my life. I grew up on them. When I was eight years old, I managed to convince myself I would make movies when I grew up. Now I am in the process of getting a degree in Film Studies. I write about film more than ever before, partly because I have to for my classes, mostly because I enjoy it, because I have something to write about. Sometimes it helps me understand the film better; sometimes it helps me understand myself better.
I created this blog as a place to showcase my work, and also as an incentive to keep writing reviews, analyses, and essays over breaks, when there’s no one here to grade me.
I have tried many times, and failed, to explain in a coherent manner why it is that I love films. Here is my best—and most coherent—guess.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Django Unchained (2012)

If it wasn’t over the top, it wouldn’t be Tarantino. Django Unchained, the filmmaker’s nearly three-hour long tale of antebellum empowerment set in the Deep South, reaches the screen in bounds of unbridled joy and leaps of feeling. As desperately entertaining as it is dark, this movie explodes and exhilarates. It’s pulpy, profane, giddily violent and gleefully gory, but some scenes stand at the borderline between farce and tragedy. Although brutally funny, Django Unchained is also an important—if not too serious—movie about slavery and racism in pre-Civil War America.

Steeped in the director’s distinct brand of movie love, which sometimes makes him tread the thin line between homage and plagiarism, the film marks another of Tarantino’s tributes to the more outlaw, outsider, and less well-regarded genres: the spaghetti western and blaxploitation pictures of the seventies. The highly stylized movie, however, is notable as the filmmaker’s first real love story, its comparatively straightforward narrative centering on freed slave Django’s  (Jamie Foxx) journey to reconnect with his wife Hildi (Kerri Washington).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hitchcock (2012)

Sascha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, written by John J. McLaughlin, is a thoroughly entertaining, but ultimately uneven film about the Master of Suspense’s professional struggles to finance, make, and promote Psycho, and his personal problems with his long suffering wife, Alma Reville. The best thing the film does is treat its title character not as a legend, but as a person. Half behind the scenes look at the inner workings of Hollywood during its last decade of innocence and half family drama, the movie’s different segments, however, vary greatly in quality and tone.

Opening on a quiet prologue taking place in 1940s rural Wisconsin, the casual tone is firmly set when the peaceful tableau turns into a gruesome family murder, and the camera pans to reveal the title character’s portly presence, calmly sipping a cup of tea while directly addressing the audience, as he did in his famous “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” show. Brother has been killing brother since Cain and Abel, Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) croons is his incomparable British drawl; who is he to deprive us of the pleasure of watching it happen on the silver screen?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012)

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future” – Sonmi-351, Cloud Atlas.

In Cloud Atlas, the infinitely ambitious, ingenious sprawling epic made by German director Tom Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (the creators of The Matrix), characters’ lives that transpire at different places in space and time are indelibly linked. A film about migratory souls and wayward civilizations, the movie intertwines not only the different narrative threads but the characters themselves; everything is connected. All human life is universalized through a thirst for freedom and a hunger (“Hunger? For what?” asks one of Tom Hanks’ many characters at some point) “for more.”

To begin to explain the plot(s) of Tykwer and the Wachowskis’ film would add up to nothing more than an enumeration of names, places, and times, and although the sheer scope of the film is worth describing, the complexly woven narrative doesn’t make for neat unpacking. Spanning a period of just under 500 years, this daring, daunting, dreamlike film is actually made up of six different, interlaced stories.

Based on David Mitchell’s visionary novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas begins in 1849 on a voyage in the Pacific Islands and ends some 200 years into our future, in a post-apocalyptic, neo-tribal Hawaii, linking the characters through life, death, triumph, defeat, art, fate, and above all, love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo had me at the first shot—one of the director’s signature bravado tracks that swoops from an aerial view of early 1930s’ Paris down into the teeming cinematic fresco that is the Gare Montparnasse. We are plunged into the middle of the action, from the train tracks with their narrow platforms amid happy shoppers and hurried travellers, to a pair of Dickensian bright blue eyes peering out of a hole in a clock face above the station’s entrance.

The big eyes belong to Hugo Cabret (played by Asa Butterfield), a lonely twelve year old boy who has a gift with gears, screws, springs, knobs, wrenches, and levers and makes sure every clock in the station is wound and ticking away just the right time. His true occupation, however, is trying to fix his automaton, a mechanical man that is all he has left from a happy past with his clockmaking father (Jude Law). Those times seem like another lifetime; now when Hugo gazes longingly at the dreamlike cityscape and its Eiffel Tower, his expression betrays a sadness too deep for someone so young.

The Artist (2011)

Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist is a lavish love letter to old Hollywood cinema, but it is so much more. It speaks volumes without ever saying a word. Shot in luscious black and white and (mostly) silent, it harkens back to a time when film was a purely visual medium, proves that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a second of film is worth that times every one of its twenty-four frames, and assures us that louder isn’t always better. At their simplest and quietest, movies are sometimes the most magical.

Steeped in a bold, unapologetic and unashamed nostalgia, the film chronicles the movie industry’s often painful transition to sound in the late 1920s, and what happened to so many silent film stars when audiences demanded they be heard as well as seen.

The Artist, which spans a five year period, opens in 1927, when the sign in the hills still said HOLLYWOODLAND, and dashing movie star George Valentin was on top of the world. The public adored him and his arsenal of arched eyebrows and dazzling smiles almost as much as he adored himself.