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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Life Itself (2014)

Roger Ebert loved movies—except the ones he hated, hated, HATED. But even then he was (usually) honest, fair, and kind. He was a generous champion of films and filmmakers; he treated their triumphs like personal victories, their failures as intimately as if they were his own. Steve James’ richly satisfying, sensitive, stirring biography is many things, and all of them do him justice. Meticulous and moving, Life Itself is about the history of both cinema and criticism, about Roger’s illustrious career, his loving family, friends, and colleagues, his illness and death—tragic because it robbed us of a great writer, a great thinker, and a great man—and the memories he left behind, but most of all it is about life, his and ours, the life of movie lovers everywhere. Because life itself, that loaded two-word phrase, is what Roger really wrote about when he wrote about the movies.

The film has a (pleasantly) rambling, stream-of-consciousness flow to it, underscored by deeper and more serious currents. For anyone familiar with Roger’s writing, as well as anyone who loves film, the movie is a must-see.  It is also surprisingly accessible to those utterly uninterested in film criticism, cutting to the human heart of all this history to tell a raw and riveting life story. The biography almost mimics Roger’s writing style, in which he combined his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema with an approachable, plainspoken prose that could be understood and enjoyed by anybody.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston make the perfect pair of ivory-skinned wraiths in maverick moviemaker Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. These fabulously aloof, effortlessly stylish creatures are the coolest people you could imagine. They were hipsters before it was cool to be a hipster—a few centuries before, actually.  In the film’s hypnotic opening sequence a spinning 45-rpm record fills the screen, and Wanda Jackson’s witchy, bewitching wail fills your soul. The image dissolves into a revolving bird’s eye view of two silent, still figures, she surrounded by countless stacks of books strewn across the floor, he reclined in a couch amid vintage guitars and vinyl records, miles apart yet seemingly in the same room. Round and round they go, the camera circling closer and closer, inviting you to follow down the rabbit hole of this dark, delirious, delicious film. These bloodsuckers might be after your hemoglobin, but their story and style will start seeping into your veins as early as that first shot. Jarmusch’s undead really know how to live.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Safety Last!" and the Most Iconic Image in Silent Comedy

The quintessential Harold Lloyd character is the affable, bespectacled boy next door, anxious to get ahead, not very good at anything, but willing to compensate through sheer energy, bounce, and push; he is the comedic embodiment of the American Dream—what an ordinary man can achieve through a lot of hard work. The filmmaker’s success, as well as that of his characters, is that rare American miracle, the improbable, inspiring accomplishment that couldn’t possibly happen, but did. Safety Last! (1923), Lloyd’s most famous film, tells the story of a small-town young man on the make in the big city, trying to save up enough money so he can marry the woman he loves. Why a story of material betterment and romance should culminate on top of a skyscraper, only Lloyd could tell you. But it is in that juxtaposition of gag and thrill, at the intersection of improbability and idealism, that Lloyd’s specific brand of movie magic transpired. Benefitting from careful plotting, an impeccable sense of timing and tight, functional, unobtrusive editing rhythms, certain sequences of Safety Last!, which follow’s Roach method of accumulation ratherthan Sennett’s madcap speed, can serve as perfect models of how to construct a gag, develop it, twist it, scramble it, then redevelop it, twist it again, and top it.