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, May 30, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Three years ago, Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn reinvigorated the Marvel franchise with the clever historical revisionism of 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which boasted a superb new cast, cool retro style, globetrotting intrigue, and a refreshing emphasis on character. Bryan Singer, the series’ original creator on board as director for the first time since 2003’s X2: X-Men United, confidently carries that same momentum, combining the gravitas of the early films with the playfulness of Vaughn’s follow-up. Making for exceptional pacing and relentless drive, Singer pulls together an ambitious, suspenseful film and secures a future for the franchise at the same time he continues to reinvent it.

The X-Men series has always been somewhat unique among its kind because it wears its allegorical heart on its sleeve. By chronicling the adventures of a despised minority, it pokes around some interesting social and political issues. The theme of ostracized, oppressed outsiders empowered to fight against their social stigma in ways both good and evil runs throughout the seven films to date. The central conflict is the endless moral argument between Professor X and Magneto, between the idea that mutants should fight for the redemption of mankind and the insistence that they should defend themselves by any means necessary. This time around, their misunderstood humanity is amplified by extreme physical vulnerability, their struggle framed by a genocidal battle in the near future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nebraska (2013): One for the Money, Two for the Road

After making side trips to California’s Central Coast and Hawaii for Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011), Alexander Payne takes to the road yet again, this time in his home state, for Nebraska (2013), a wistful ode to small-town Midwestern life and the quixotic dreams of stubborn old men. Payne’s prairie-based old-age odyssey begins, appropriately, on a busy stretch of highway. 

A small, solitary figure shuffles along the side of the snow-fringed road, stooped and scowling in the wind. His determined trudging is interrupted by a police officer, who asks where he’s coming from and where he’s headed. Wordlessly, the old man points back and then forward. This is a man who, like his surroundings, seems to have outlived his usefulness; he has that self-involvement the way someone does when he’s staring death in the face, bobbing and weaving along that highway to avoid his inevitable mortality. His journey is a last, valedictory gesture designed to give meaning to a life. He seems confused, but there’s a heartbreaking purity, a blankness to him, as well as a hunger and a ferocity, that feel terrifyingly real. Without saying a word, he has hit upon a deep and eloquent truth: like the character, that’s all we really know in life—that we came from back there and we’re going forward on the road, regardless of where it might lead, because we have no idea what the end destination is or where we’ll end up anyway. 

NEW: PAYNE'S About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants Analysis HERE

In surprising ways, his odyssey resembles those of Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity, DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Walter Salles’ Motorcycle Diaries (2004). The protagonists of these works are all younger than Payne’s character; they have had different life experiences; they travel different lands. But, through each of their journeys, they seek the same meaningfulness, defining their own identities in relation to others and to their environments, looking for a place they belong, and trying to establish a human connection.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quelle Girl: "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," Film and Book

A stylish, simply yet elegantly dressed young woman steps in front of Tiffany’s on an empty New York street. Large, dark glasses cover her eyes, a tiara sits upon her frosted beehive, she is dripping pearls, and her slim, long black evening dress perfectly matches her black sandals. A soft, sweet song evokes a mood of melancholy yearning as the golden light of dawn washes over the scene. When Audrey Hepburn watched her reflection in that shop window in 1961, she set the entire tone and look of a movie and created a character that would come to inhabit the minds and hearts of the public for decades to come.

Truman Capote’s novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” first published in the November 1958 issue of Esquire, was adapted by director Blake Edwards and writer George Axelrod with a light touch. Dealing with comedy, romance, and poignancy in a swanky Upper East Side setting, the movie follows Holly Golightly, a charming, carefree, independent New York party girl, and her upstairs neighbor, writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard). While the film hews closely to its source material for the most part, maintaining much of the pungent, comical, racy dialogue (with some lines tuned down to Production Code standards), the few liberties it does take are not insignificant. The tone of Capote’s story was harder and more cynical; Edwards makes it soft and sentimental, bestowing upon it a Hollywoodized happy ending, dropping some characters and adding others, and turning the subjective point of view of the novella objective, and its narrator, a dispassionate admirer and friend, into a romantic interest.

***This is not a review of the film, but a comparative analysis of the Capote’s novella and its screen adaptation, and it contains spoilers.