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, March 29, 2013

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Analysis

About halfway through the brilliant One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, director Milos Foreman presents us with an image whose delicate paradox underlines the dichotomies of themes that govern the film. In a still, lengthy, almost monochrome closeup, a squirrel daringly but carefully walks across a chain link fence. In this one moment the ideas behind the movie and its source material, Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name, crystallize: nature against the machine, freedom versus imprisonment, inside and outside. The small animal stops on the fence and looks towards the other side. Like McMurphy, it sticks out because of its incongruity and, also like the main character, is too small a force, no matter how powerful, to leave its mark on the establishment.

Cuckoo’s Nest, both film and book, captures McMurphy’s struggle against authority, the heartrending victories of a classic outsider, a free spirit in a closed system, and his eventual, tragic descent. But while the novel is a celebration of how one man, making a near-spiritual sacrifice, can make a difference, awakening from their drugged lethargy an entire community of the defeated, the movie presents us with his ultimate failure. Judging the film as a separate entity from the novel, it is an emotionally compelling masterpiece, but, after having read the source material, it’s clear a lot is lost in translation from page to screen.

***This is a comparative analysis of Foreman's film and Kesey's novel, and it contains spoilers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Overscaled and underwhelming, Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful traffics in big bucks, big bangs, and small ideas. Unlike recent eye-popping spectacles like James Cameron’s Avatar or Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the simplistic, emotionally empty origin story is neither magical nor dreamlike. Oz has no brains, no heart, no courage and, perhaps even sadder, no imagination.

The film, written by Mitchel Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, hews faithfully close to its flashy forbearer, Victor Fleming’s lavish The Wizard of Oz, but the comparison is not in Raimi’s favor. For all of the director’s energy and exuberance, the frenzied marketing and promotion of the movie are more enthusiastic and original that its clichéd plot, and one might suspect more thoughtful as well. The film repeats all the mistakes of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, only does so without the redeeming qualities of Johnny Depp or Tim Burton.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Like It Hot (1959) Analysis

Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot is an enduring cinematic treasure. Mixing cheer and cynicism, snappy, sophisticated dialogue and slapstick, the movie veers between low and high comedy, incorporating elements of other genres as well, with quite a few winks in the direction of the gangster film. Exuberant, explosive, and exhilarating, it is decidedly ahead of its time in playing with images of male and female sexuality, conventions, and stereotypes. The film is a study in deception, disguise, and Darwinian drives, as the two male characters take on a number of different identities of both genders and everything in between, blurring the boundaries between the sexes. Marilyn Monroe, as Sugar Kane, is both virgin and vamp, blending, like she has throughout her career, the threatening sexuality of the femme fatale with the innocence, naïveté, and sweetness of a child. She infuses every corner of the film, turning an improbable farce into a vehicle for hope and tenderness, making the film rise above its existence as a Hollywood comedy into a buoyant look at the larger human comedy.

***Spoiler Alert! This is an analysis of the film, not a review, and it contains spoilers. That being said, enjoy...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Amour (2012)

In Amour, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke points his characteristic brilliant formal tact and penchant for thematic brutality and unemotional candor to the last days of an octogenarian couple. A paean to love, loss, illness, and decline, the film, without a trace of uplift or warm humanism, is as much about life as the as it is about the stark, inexorable truth of death. The movie is unsentimental, unconsoling, unflinchingly serious, and superbly crafted, and, for the first time in his career (The White Ribbon, Funny Games), Haneke manages to turn his chilly pessimism, intellectual grimness and detachment into something resembling empathy, tenderness, and compassion.

The opening credits roll over ascetic silence, and almost immediately we see the dead body of a woman lying on a bed, surrounded by wilted flowers. Life and beauty have faded, and throughout the film we see them diminish, wither away, and finally disappear. This kind of cold realism can hit close to home, reminding us of our grandparents, parents, even ourselves.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Belated Oscar Comments

It seems like only yesterday I was throwing a half-eaten apple at the screen when Meryl Streep won the best actress Oscar over Viola Davis, but yet another year of movie-going and relentless, mostly misguided predicting finally came to a close with the 85th Academy Awards ceremony held on Feb. 24.

Hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Oscar night was filled with surprises. MacFarlane opened the ceremony with a hilarious, irreverent, edgy monologue taking the usual jabs at the academy, the industry and its stars. William Shatner joined the host, appearing on a giant screen as Star Trek’s Capt. Kirk to warn MacFarlane from the future, “Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate, and everyone ends up hating you.”