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, February 21, 2014

The Monuments Men (2014)

Just as the motley crew of art historians, curators, restorers and archivists—most of ages and girths that seem misplaced on the battlefield—fights to preserve the veritable treasure-troves of cultural artifacts looted by Nazis in George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, the writer-director-star of the film seems bent on preserving a certain kind of classical, even old-fashioned American movie that Hollywood just doesn’t make anymore. After vigorously investing vivid life into the best of his five retro-fun films, Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March, Clooney’s latest once again looks back towards a rich tradition of filmmaking that springs its morally astute ideas from history, politics and civic ideals, its noble intentions worn proudly on its sleeve.

The—very loosely—based-on-a-true-story wartime drama, co-written by Clooney with his producing partner Grant Heslov, draws on the WWII thriller, caper comedy, straight-faced procedural, sentimentally uplifting melodrama and buddy film, and includes just enough why-we-fight speeches to keep the patriotism practical (“They tell us no one cares about art, but they’re wrong. It’s the exact reason that we’re fighting, for a culture, for a way of life. If you destroy their achievements, their history, then it’s as if they never existed.”) The director seems unsure whether he’s trying to make a stylish wartime drama or a jaunty, jocular lark—Ocean’s Seven, WWII edition?—and what he ends up with tries to be funny, thoughtful, touching and true all at the same time but hones a little too closely to a dutiful, dry art-appreciation seminar.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thelma and Louise (1991) Opening Clip Analysis

The opening of any film is rife with visual and thematic information and clues that anticipate and inform the rest of the movie. With Thelma & Louise (1991), director Ridley Scott puts a new and gendered spin on both the expansive road movie and the intimate buddy film. Teeming with thrilling, life-affirming energy, exuberant comedy, warmth, and wit, the movie focuses on the two title characters, utterly ordinary, working-class women fleeing the monotony of their lives and discovering unexpected, untapped wells of feeling and strength. Not unlike the Western hero of Hollywood classics, these ordinary women encounter situations and conditions that make them extraordinary. The Western is also invoked through Hans Zimmer’s mournful, tough, galvanizing country tinged score. Even before the first scene, over the opening credits, the music creates a poignant mood that is at once earthly and ethereal, like Thelma & Louise itself—or should it be “themselves”?

Friday, February 7, 2014

August: Osage County (2013)

“Life is very long,” T.S. Elliot’s immortal maxim, opens August: Osage County, a pulsing panorama of unfulfilled lives. It must certainly seem so to Beverly (a wonderful, grizzly Sam Shepard), the melancholic poet patriarch of the quarrelsome Weston clan, because before long he decides to take matters into his own hands. In the first scene of the film, he is hiring a live-in caretaker (a thankfully reserved Misty Upham) for his ailing wife, Violet (Meryl Streep in a role that should garner her an Oscar if she didn’t already have a truckload). Beverly’s bristly voice betrays a history of bitter disappointment, a lifetime spent among a few good books and a few more bottles of booze. “Facts are my wife takes pills, and I drink. That’s the bargain we’ve struck, a little paragraph in our marriage contract.” This is only a small part of the family pathology that director John Wells (The Company Men) brings to the screen in August: Osage County. When Shepard’s character takes his leave, you will miss him; you might also envy him.

His family will soon gather to the faded farmhouse to pay their last respects to Bev—and their disrespects to each other, in a scalding, stormy symphony of sarcastic insults, sneaky insinuations, shouted accusations, smashed plates, and slammed doors. Adapted from the acid-tongued, Pulitzer-winning play by Tracy Letts, the movie’s raw, blistering, bitterly funny dialogue lets loose a barrage of nasty recriminations, mocking taunts and hurtful revelations, all hurled with corrosive aplomb by an electrifying ensemble cast. Long-hidden secrets are unearthed, lessons learned, tears shed, and award nominations eagerly besought.