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, May 30, 2013

Sex, Shadows, and Sin on Celluloid: The Femme Fatale and Silent Vamp as Threats to the Social Order

“The dark lady, the spider woman, the evil seductress who tempts man and brings about his destruction is among the oldest themes of art, literature, and mythology in Western culture. She is as old as Eve, and as current as today’s movies…” (Place 35). It is the movies that have given us some of the most memorable images of these women, modern Circes who trap men, use and ultimately destroy them. The beautiful and treacherous woman of classic film noir, the femme fatale, and the equally dangerous and deadly silent vamps are creations of threatened men’s imaginations; they are fantasies of destructive female sexuality as seen through male eyes, but they also become figures of female empowerment. They are strong, independent, self-serving and deceptive women removed from their “proper place” and submissive role in a patriarchal society, and thus challenge the social order. But while the silent film seductress, played most famously by Theda Bara, was a type, her cinematic descendant, the femme fatale, developed a fuller, sometimes ambivalent, more clearly drawn and individualistic personality. The women of films like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice or The Lady from Shanghai were not caricatures of male fear projected unto the collective consciousness of the screen like the vamps, but fully blown, empowered women.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Antonia's Line (1995) Analysis

“In her tongue is the law of kindness,” one sermon says referring to the title character of Marleen Gorris’ Antonia’s Line. And, indeed, the thriving, cheerful matriarchy Antonia creates is ruled by her own kind of law, removed from formal institutions, a form of justice that is not blind, and which knows only kindness, compassion, acceptance, and love. The film is a zany, fantastical story of warm humanism, forceful feminism, the everyday realities of rural life mixed with the magic realism of Latin America and the dour European philosophies on death and nothingness, all in a lyrical, beautiful, bucolic pastoral fantasy filled with colorful, unforgettable characters. As played by Willeke van Ammelrooy, Antonia is a strong, sturdy, robust woman with a sincere smile, far removed from Hollywood standards of beauty but infused with a natural glow and warmth that make her truly beautiful. The legacy she leaves her daughter Danielle (Els Dottermans), her granddaughter Therese (played at six by Carolien Spoor, at thirteen by Esther Vriesendorp, and as an adult by Veerle van Overloop), and her great-granddaughter Sarah (Thyrza Ravesteijn) will live on long after she has died, carried on from woman to woman down the title’s line.

***This is a brief analysis of some of the film's themes, not a review. It contains only mild spoilers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…  And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

Baz Luhrnman’s The Great Gatsby is an audacious, fascinating technological and aesthetic experiment in expressionism, a “kaleidoscopic carnival,” to borrow Fitzgerald’s phrase, as bursting with bejeweled excess as its title character’s boozy parties, the cinematic equivalent of the biggest, craziest, loudest guest at a gathering where the confetti falls and the champagne flows like monsoon rain, and the twenties really roar their golden roar. Everything shines in baroque, brilliant, beautiful fakeness.

A lavish, splashy celebration of the extravagance of the Jazz Age, Gatsby is filled to the brim with the sort of stylistic gambits Luhrman fans have come to expect—epic, classic melodrama that blends old world theatrics with the newest in postmodernist subjective filmmaking, CGI cityscapes, anachronistic soundtrack mashups of period music and modern pop, psychological drama and speedy slapstick. But through the brightly-hued haze of acrobatic camera movements, opulent flowers, flappers, fringes, and frills, Luhrman’s reverence for his source material shines through like the blinking green beacon of light at the end of Daisy’s peer.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Oversized, overstuffed, and occasionally overwhelming, Iron Man 3 plays out like a collage of impressive, explosive set pieces, special effects, and sardonic one-liners. The third installment of the series, this is a mega blockbuster at the crossroads of two hugely successful franchises of the Disney-Marvel massive entertainment empire. Already a hulking box-office behemoth, Shane Black’s movie is unique in an often sullen summer superhero-packed cinematic climate for its brilliant, self-aware, self-effacing humor.

Iron Man 3 offers an astute study of a relationship, wrapped up in images of red hot fire people and armies of iron knights, molten steel and heaps of burning rubble in a computer-generated fantasy in which the laws of physics are merely theoretical. The film at times seems like a screwball comedy trapped in the body of a superhero action movie. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) trades barbs with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his former assistant turned girlfriend and CEO of his company, with a kind of old-school Hollywood wise-cracking chemistry.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jim Jarmusch: Coffe, Cabs, and Cigarettes

According to Jim Jarmusch, Nikola Tesla saw the Earth as a musical instrument, “a conductor of acoustical resonance.” Everything reverberates and resonates, forming echoes of ideas, conversations, and stray thoughts that recur like musical motifs refracted and reflected in an infinite number of variations throughout the world at different places in space and time. Everything, then, is universal and interconnected, and this stands at the core of Jarmusch’s work in general, and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) and Night on Earth (1991) in particular.

Through chronicling how people interact with each other and the unexpected relationships that they form, the writer/director creates a worldwide feeling of kinship and community. These simple moments between characters are unhurried and sometimes clumsy, celebrating the little things that bring us together. Like Jun in the director’s Mystery Train (1989)—who took pictures of hotel rooms and train stations because those are the things he would forget—Jarmusch records the seemingly insignificant details of everyday life that generally go unnoticed and reminds us of their importance and meaning. He finds beauty in odd places at unlikely moments and transforms the visual commonplace into something haunting, mysterious, and new.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"But It Did Happen": Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia

“This is not just something that happened,” the narrator says in voice over narration during the prologue to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999). “This cannot be ‘one of those things.’ This, please, cannot be that… this was not just a matter of chance. These strange things happen all the time.” In P.T. Anderson’s world, strange things do happen all the time. Human life is seemingly accidental, suspended in a state of organized chaos, but, try as we might, we have no bearing on that organization. Every action has a consequence, unfortunately not always an equal and opposite reaction. In Magnolia, Anderson’s operatic, multi-stranded meditation on fate, coincidence, life, death, family, loss, and love, over a dozen characters have their existence interrupted by the hectic, arbitrary forces of the universe as they embark on a moral odyssey through their past, present, and future. The writer/director interweaves the stories of these disparate, desperate people over a twenty-four hour period in the San Fernando Valley, creating a haunting mosaic of American life through a series of interposed comic-tragic vignettes, each one a poignant portrait of human and urban malaise.

***This is an in-depth analysis of Magnolia, and it contains spoilers.