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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Big Sleep (1946) Analysis

Howard Hawks’ classic The Big Sleep, written by Leigh Brackett, might not have a regular femme fatale, but the women in it, all of them different, complex, and absolutely fascinating, more than make up for it. A film about process more than results, it chronicles private eye Philip Marlowe’s journey into the heart of crime, gambling, murder, and blackmail often masked by genteel manners in the world of rich urbanites. Although we have little more of an idea of what just happened and who killed whom and why at the end than we did in the beginning, the movie is a pleasure to watch, a black and white symphony conducted in the rich and smoky atmosphere of the post-WWII noir. With its moody, expressionistic chiaroscuro lighting, long and heavy shadows cast by the ubiquitous Venetian blinds, its classic, hardboiled romantic hero and the shady, powerful, beautiful women around him, The Big Sleep submerges us into darkness but, surprisingly, helps us see the light as well. While Bogart gave up everything in Casablanca for the greater good, here he might be even braver; instead of seeking redemption in a corrupt, chaotic world through self-sacrifice, he finds redemption and stability in an adult relationship of equals with the woman he loves.

***Spoilers ahead (although I can't really give away the plot; like both the film's director and writer, I have no idea what the solution to the murders is)! This is an analysis of Vivian's character as a noir woman and her relationship with Bogart's Marlowe.

"I Can’t Remember to Forget You": The Nolan Brothers’ “Memento Mori” and Memento

Time is an absurdity. An abstraction. The only thing that matters is this moment. This moment a million times over. You have to trust me. If this moment is repeated enough, if you keep trying—and you have to keep trying—eventually you will come across the next item on your list.                      Jonathan Nolan, “Memento Mori”

Jonathan Nolan’s short story “Memento Mori,” published in Esquire in 2001, and Christopher Nolan’s Memento, released in 2000, blend a black, jagged sense of humor with sobering thematic meditations on time, memory, knowledge, and grief. Focusing on a man suffering from short term memory loss, or anterograde amnesia, they present a character adrift in space, time, and experience, whose life is a waking kaleidoscopic nightmare of conflicting details, an endless repetition of first encounters and first impressions. He describes it as waking up, experiencing the same confusion and disorientation we all do when we get out of bed in the morning, but for him it happens roughly every ten minutes. While “Memento Mori” is all internal, capturing Earl’s setting, thoughts and actions without the introduction of any other characters or dialogue, the movie Memento, an aggressively nonlinear riddle tangled up in a dizzying, elegant spiral structure that moves backwards, forwards, and sideways, sometimes at the same time, takes the basic idea of the story and develops it into a feature length film, expanding and changing it to fit the requirements of the medium while maintaining the same darkly comic tone and general idea and backstory.

***This is a comparative essay and it contains spoilers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ghost World (2001) Analysis

In Ghost World, director Terry Zwigoff brings Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel characters to vivid, vibrant life. The movie captures the same ironic, bittersweet tone of Clowes’ writing, tracking Enid’s dogged search for authenticity in a world populated with Holden Caulfield-spite-worthy stupid, shallow phonies and creating a powerful adaptation which, although straying from its source material, remains serious and sad without ever losing its sense of humor. A loving and level gaze at the tedium and mystery of teenage life in contemporary America, Ghost World also approximates the author’s clean, quiet drawing style through its unhurried editing, unobtrusive, subtle compositions, and general unremarkability of the camerawork. In this universe, the characters and not the cinematics carry the story, and the form reflects the simplicity of their lives, helping to portray a realistic lonely and misunderstood (not least of all by herself) young girl  who has just graduated high school, but, unlike her best friend, hasn’t quite entered the real world yet.

 ***This is an analysis, not a review, and it contains spoilers 

Blonde Venus (1932) Analysis

Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus, released in 1932, was decidedly of the pre-code sensibility. Starring the incomparable, irrepressible, incandescent Marlene Dietrich, a sex goddess of elusive and earthly beauty and sensuality, the film, already compromising in its family-upholding ending, would have been impossible to make only a year later. The title refers to main character Helen Faraday, a strong, independent, sexual and sexualized woman torn between her family and her career. The use of her stage name suggests the importance of her image, her façade, beneath which lies an enigma. Helen’s transformation throughout the movie is effortlessly expressed through the visuals; the shot selection, editing, lighting, costuming, and the position of the actors within the frame help reflect as well as create the changes in her role and identity. Helen’s choice is not between the two men in her life, but between her child and her independence, two sides of herself that stand in opposition, manifestations of her fundamental natures as mother and professional woman.

***This is an analysis, not a review, and it contains spoilers