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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

High School Confidential

Roger Ebert opens his review of Rian Johnson’s debut feature Brick (2005) with the following quote from Elaine May’s A New Leaf: “You have preserved in your own lifetime, sir, a way of life that was dead before you were born.” The line is more than appropriate, considering Brick is, in a surprisingly straightfaced manner, carrying on in its own lifetime a style of film that was dead long before it was born. At the same time, the depth of feeling and sincerity that runs through the film makes it seem utterly, breathlessly alive. In part nostalgic for a time and a style long passed, in part playing with and updating the conventions of the classic noir, Johnson’s film transposes the snaking plots and sneaky moods of gritty detective fiction to a contemporary high school—90210 goes noir, or what we would imagine a David Lynch or Coen brothers reimagining of Heathers might look like.

The movie, which hums with constant menace and sparks with hipster slang, was awarded the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision in 2005—and, whether or not you can take its premise seriously, there is no denying it is a work of originality and vision. Brick is an intriguing experiment in determination that unashamedly demands your attention, “one of those movies than seems not made but born—a small masterpiece that’s perfectly strange and strangely perfect” (Patterson). The combination is surprising, but what is even more surprising is the extent to which it works. The question begs to be raised, why is the Hammet-Chandler school so readily compatible with actual school?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ATLFF'15: What I'm Excited About (Part II)

I’ve made it through the opening weekend of this year’s festival, and, true to my first post about the Atlanta Film Fest, I went to a lot of screenings. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned.

In case anyone was wondering, The Dickumentary informs us that cock worship is alive and well in North America, in the small but dedicated following of the St. Priapus Church of Montreal—located mainly in the (sacred?) basement of the order’s high priest and founder, D.F. Cassidy. While it is admittedly hard—no pun intended—to top that piece of information, the other screenings were also more than worth the time, if only to find out how much of a pain in the ass, according to filmmaker Jonathan Kesselman, John Heard is. My favorite event so far has to be the “Other Worlds” short block, a surprisingly diverse and impressive collection of eight horror and sci-fi films, by turns hilarious and terrifying, that truly made me happy about the future of the film industry. What I take away from it all? Don’t ever pick up a crow totem off the ground.

But the festival is less than halfway through, and there are more exciting events in the coming days. This is what I’m looking forward to.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ATLFF'15: What I'm Excited About (Part I)

The 39th Atlanta Film Festival kicked off tonight with the overwhelmingly overcrowded and (possibly) overhyped opening night presentation of Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael, the true story of gay activist-turned-Christian pastor Michael Glatze. Star and producer James Franco unfortunately couldn’t make it, due to “unforeseen circumstances,” but the film was received amongst predominantly positive buzz, and I dare call the first day of the festival a success—but maybe that’s just Happy Hour talking (5 p.m. every night at the Highland Inn Ballroom for anyone interested).

So what else has people excited about this Georgia peach of a celebration of filmmakers and filmlovers? From a record number of 3,761 submissions from over 100 countries, the organizers have chosen the strongest and most radical lineup of narrative, documentary and experimental feature-length and short films, and what awaits audiences and guests at the Plaza and 7 Stages Theatres, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Rialto is indeed an interesting roster of screenings, events, panels, workshops, discussions, and experiences.

In the order they’re scheduled, here are the movies that I’m most looking forward to this weekend:

The Sideways Light (Saturday 3/21 9:30 p.m. upstairs at the Plaza)

This atmospheric indie thriller from first-time writer-director Jennifer Harlow follows a young woman named Lily (Lindsay Burdges) who cares for her ailing mother (Annalee Jefferies) when she starts to notice strange occurrences in the house her family has owned for generations. The daughter is haunted by memories as the mother starts losing hers the question raised is whether or not there’s anything else haunting them as well or if every odd incident is just a byproduct of the older woman’s unraveling mind.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bazin and Cinematic Realism(s)

“The faithful reproduction of reality is not art. We are constantly told that it consists in selection and interpretation….That it why up to now the ‘realist’ trends in cinema, as in other arts, consisted simply in introducing a greater measure of reality into the work: but this additional measure of reality was still only an effective way of serving an abstract purpose, whether dramatic, moral, or ideological…. Realism subordinates what it borrows from reality to its transcendent needs. Neorealism knows only immanence. It is from appearance only, the simple appearance of beings and of the world, that it knows how to deduce the ideas that it unearths. It is a phenomenology”
– Andre Bazin, “Vittorio De Sica: Metteur en Scene” (64-65)

In “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” Andre Bazin points out the indexical nature of the cinema, the objective character of photography which provides it with a quality of credibility absent in the other arts. We are forced to accept the reality of the object presented, or “re-presented,” by the camera because the image it creates, like a fingerprint of reality, “shares, by virtue of the process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it is the reproduction; it is the model” (13-14, emphasis in original). Bazin’s essay ends, however, on a note that seems to contradict most of what has come before: “On the other hand, of course, cinema is also a language.” If we are to understand that film is not only indexical, but, like language, then, also symbolic, constructed through an arbitrary connection to the object represented, how can we speak of cinematic realism,  “an integral realism, a recreation of the world in its own image” (“The Myth of Total Cinema” 20)? In order to answer that question, we must first distinguish between the different types of realism that Bazin discusses.