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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gangster Squad (2013)


Shot in bright, shiny cartoon colors rather than noir shadows, Reuben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad takes us back to the darkest days of Los Angeles that never were, circa 1949, when cops, judges and politicians were up for sale. The highest bidder is real-life gangster Mickey Cohen, who turned the postwar City of Angels into a city of sex, money, power, and vice.

An (over)dramatization of actual events recorded in Paul Lieberman’s book, the movie features an all-star cast (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Nick Nolte to name a few), playing clichéd characters trying to dodge the constant blaze of bullets and bad dialogue. Gangster Squad is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is a taut, tough, tart film that brims with tension and suspense. Promoting it as a thriller has been a bold move, considering we all know the conclusion. But the movie does thrill, because few are familiar with the ins and outs of the ten-year manhunt for al-Qaeda’s leader in this much detail.

Penned by Mark Boal, the reporter-turned-screenwriter who won an Academy Award for Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, the movie is a seamless weave of truth (allegedly based on “first-hand accounts of actual events”) and drama that hews closely to real-life but takes some poetic license. Much of the fascination of watching it comes from the gradual unveiling of facts, the meticulous and comprehensive chronicling of every step forward, every setback, dead-end and disappointment on the long, slow, arduous road to bin Laden’s capture on May 2, 2011 at zero dark thirty (military-speak for half past midnight).

More than anything else, the film celebrates process, professionalism, and the perfect mix of deduction, intuition, supposition, screaming matches, and luck main character Maya (the versatile, ubiquitous, incredible Jessica Chastain) uses. Like Spielberg’s Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty takes us behind the scenes of one of the most important events in American history, showcasing the messy, ethically complicated, strenuous means by which progress is oftentimes achieved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Les Misérables (2012)

Based on the musical written by Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg (with English-language lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer), Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables opens up the teeming fresco of squalor and upheaval beyond the limitations of the theater. This story of oppression, liberation, and redemption produces a swooping, splashy cinematic panorama of an unjust, compassionless, unfeeling world, in which the innocent and the idealistic pay for crimes they have not committed, and plants a seed of barely flickering hope.

A work of audacious ambition, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo’s 19th century 1,400-page historical novel of rebellion and romance ran the emotional gamut, and the film, as well, sweeps viewers on a stirring, swelling wave of feeling that will leave few eyes dry. Mixing gritty, grimy realism with the artifice of stage production, Hooper brings Hugo’s characters to celluloid life with gusto and grace.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Life of Pi (2012)

 Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s allegorical meditation on survival, struggle, the nature of storytelling and spirituality, is a delicate, dazzling, devastatingly gorgeous, but disappointing film in terms of its dramatic thrust. Visually stunning and completely immersive, the world Lee creates is one of lyrical, haunting beauty, but the movie falls a bit short in terms of emotional involvement, long-lasting impact, and narrative complexity.

The fantastical fairytale, adapted by screenwriter David Magee from Yann Martel's award-winning, bestselling novel, drifts for much of its duration, centering on the title character’s staggering two hundred plus days at sea, stranded on a life boat with an adult Bengal tiger incongruously named Richard Parker.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

  David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is a delightful film about rampant dysfunction, desperation, obsession, isolation, hope, and the healing power of love. The writer/director taps into deep recesses of darkness, dealing with such touchy subjects as mental illness, only to make us see the light. Unabashedly positive, this small, intimate movie has a big heart as well as brains, making you think even as you’re overcome by its insanity and finally give in to its life-affirming, uplifting message.

Adapted by Russell from Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name, Silver Linings makes us buy into the philosophy of its title and assures us that “everything is under control,” as the characters keep repeating with varying degrees of faith.