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.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Marilyn: The Woman and the Icon

“I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else,” writes Marilyn Monroe in her unfinished autobiography (Steinem 9). Indeed, her short, tumultuous life was not her own. She belonged to her audiences and to the studios, perhaps the last of the larger-than-life movie-movie stars whose images depended on, were shaped and shattered by the public. A fiction of the fifties, she became the ghost of the sixties, and, in her death and the poignancy of her incompleteness, secured her enduring power. She was a myth, a fantasy, a hypothesis, a radiating image of the American Dream, and the image had little to do with reality. The shy little girl who was never allowed to mature into a woman, Norma Jeane, was what set her apart from all the other sex goddesses. She was not a goddess, but an angel of sex. Her wistfulness, yearning, innocence, and childish naiveté lent a soft edge of sadness to her performances. The true auteur of her films, she infused every corner of them and invested sex with sweetness; she was a vulnerable, virgin-like vamp. Her best films, among them Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), Joshua Logan’s Bus Stop (1956) and John Huston’s The Misfits(1961), suggest the discrepancy between the reality of the woman (and little girl) represented by Norma Jeane and the illusion of the sexpot represented by Marilyn Monroe. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion’s The Piano, released in 1993, is a haunting, strange, strikingly beautiful and bold film unlike any other I have ever seen. It plunges headlong into the cold, desolate New Zealand beaches and the enchanting, intimate, and claustrophobic bush made up of brilliant blues and greens so vibrant it looks unearthly. The surreal quality and otherworldly nature captured in the underwater scene, which is not quite in slow motion, but not shot in real time either, invests the entire film. The movie might seem minimalistic and even sparse, but the universe it creates is one fervid with feeling and images of a dreamlike, unreal, mysterious lyricism.

The petite, black and white clad Ada (Holly Hunter in an Academy Award wining performance), with her pale skin, large dark eyes and hair parted severely in the middle and constrained twofold by a bun and a bonnet, is as out of place and incongruous in this environment as her English Broadwood piano is on the grey beach in the wind and rain. But just as Ada seems reserved, restrained, and remote, the film, too, is only deceptively small and quiet; like its main character, The Piano hides, under a discreet exterior, surprising strength and sexual passion. Nothing is quite what it appears in Jane Campion’s romantic, unique movie.

***This essay contains only mild spoilers, probably not much more than any review of the film.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

"I have tweezers in my bag,” one of the stock female characters of the new Evil Dead cheerfully chirps at some point in the movie. The line perfectly captures the relative intelligence level of the film. Her boyfriend has got a shotgun shell in his arm, begotten from his demon-voiced, black-ooze-spouting, projectile-vomiting baby sister, whom the characters now lock in the bloody basement next to a book of evil curses and the dozens of strung-up cat carcasses. Well, I don’t know what they would’ve done without those tweezers!

Fede Alvarez’ remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic might not be much to think about, but it’s definitely a lot to watch. A lot of gore, that is. Viscera and limbs fly as the blood splashes, spatters, and spurts; it even rains from the sky. Chainsaws, electric meat cutters and nail guns are involved.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Definitely "Better Than Nothing": Debra Granik's Winter's Bone (2010)

An icy chill runs through Debra Granik’s raw, riveting Winter’s Bone, released in 2010. The film offers a tough, unflinching look at an impoverished Missouri community steeped in an insidious, feral, gender-segregated culture of illegal drug trade. Inflexible notions of obligation, honor, and shame, rigid obedience, and barely sublimated violence rule these rural hills and hollows. Granik creates an atmosphere of suspicion, foreboding, and everyday misery, turning Winter’s Bone into a stark, forceful, breathless thriller. Her movie is a realistic, gritty documentary portrait of a time and a place, a crime family melodrama, a Gothic Southern tale, a country noir, an ancient odyssey, and, most importantly of all, a powerful and poignant coming of age story of a young girl forced to mature into a strong, self-reliant, proud young woman. Ree Dolly (a nineteen year old Jennifer Lawrence in what is perhaps her greatest performance), provides the fierce, still center of the film, an ordinary, plain-spoken girl who becomes extraordinary through her unwavering resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable physical and emotional obstacles. Like a modern-day Antigone, she depends on a dogged, unshakable faith that people will do the right thing, her stubborn sense of justice coming into sharp and dangerous conflict with the deep, intractable customs of the Ozarks.

***This is an in-depth analysis of Winter's Bone, and therefore contains spoilers.