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, September 27, 2013

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) Analysis

Calling Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love a romantic comedy seems inappropriate; although it utilizes many of the conventions of the genre, it does so self-consciously, and subverts more conventions than it embraces, casting a knowing gaze on the lighthearted, predictable, and frequently mindless Hollywood fare and twisting it into this surreal, darkly funny, completely surprising and truly original movie of often fearsome beauty. In traditional romantic comedies, as in P.T. Anderson’s film, boy meets girl and has to overcome substantial obstacles strewn across the path to true love; if only more movies could incorporate the use of crowbars, novelty toilet plungers, hundreds of cups of Healthy Choice pudding, harmonium abandonment, and phone sex extortionists into their love stories, a trip to the multiplex would be ever so much more exciting. From the first scenes of Punch-Drunk Love, it is clear we have left the world as we know it and entered the writer/director’s universe, in which the earth seems to rotate and revolve much as it does in real life, only at a rather skewed angle, and everything stands suspended a few degrees away from logic and reality.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Annie Hall (1977) Analysis

Woody Allen’s Annie Hall captures the full development of the director’s carefully constructed persona. Like Chaplin’s Tramp, Woody is also the eternal underdog; his story is undeniably funny, but also poignantly sad. Under the comedy lies a barely concealed truth, a healthy amount of the tragic. Over the years, Allen has become predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He has us laughing before we ever hear the punchline, because we know exactly what it’s going to be. Allen, like Chaplin, draws on his own life for inspiration, and always puts feeling into his movies, whether they are dramas or the usual romantic comedy. Alvy Singer is self-consciously a New Yorker, an egocentric intellectual, and an overly anxious, death-fearing paranoid comedian made in the director’s own image.

The film starts and ends with jokes, but we’re decidedly less likely to laugh by the end, because we recognize the truth behind the punchline. Alvy warns us in the beginning that life is “full of loneliness and misery and suffering and it’s all over way too quickly.” He also spells out his belief on relationships: he’d “never want to belong to any club that would have [him] as a member.” About an hour and a half later, he concludes that relationships are “totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but we need the eggs.” What Alvy wants is something unattainable, and he’s an expert at making it unattainable. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jason Reitman, Movie Maverick

“I don’t really know what kind of a girl I am,” the title character reluctantly admits in Jason Reitman’s Juno. Like her, all of the director’s other protagonists are not as sure of themselves as they would like to appear. Just as under the laugh track of Reitman’s movies lie serious social themes, beneath the seemingly secure, brashly self-confident shell his characters build lie fundamentally flawed, lost, damaged, or insecure human beings. Thank You for Smoking (2005), Juno (2007), Up in the Air (2009), and Young Adult (2011) all center on very complex, realistic, deglamorized characters that find themselves in less than ideal situations. The filmmaker’s refusal to shy away from difficult characters, unconventional subject matter and ambiguity is one of the reasons he is a maverick filmmaker. Reitman’s movies are deeply personal, experimental in both content and form, blending light humor with dark undertones of social satire, and perfectly capture the nation’s anxieties and culture of resilience. Most of all, they are the movies he wants to make. While his father, Ivan Reitman, of Ghostbusters (1984), Stripes (1981), and Meatballs (1979) fame, “wants to take your favorite song and play it better than you’ve ever heard,” Jason “want[s] to take a song you hate and play it so well that you’ll learn to like it” (Jacobson 20).