Film Feelings: We Need To Talk About Kevin

So. 1: Tilda Swinton did not need to be in Doctor Strange because she is a damn good actress. I’ve now seen her in Okja (dir. Bong Joon-Ho) and this. And this movie is how I know she’s amazing.

2: This movie leaves a person feeling disturbed. But ever since my first international cinema class, I learned that I love movies that do that to me. Cache (dir. Michael Haneke) is the first film we watched in that course, and I left feeling highly unsettled and not sure about how to articulate why. The movies in the course were not escapist. One didn’t leave feeling ready to take on the next moment of the day. As a film student, you felt energized by the sheer feat that existed on the screen. As a person, you felt exhausted and the world felt…different. Another example is Breaking the Waves (dir. Lars Von Trier). I know the body has physical reactions to emotions from my experience watching this movie. When the main character dies, my heart literally felt as if it was being grabbed from my chest. Those are my kind of movies. This movie was like that. My mom’s verdict: “That was good. It was a little weird too.”

3: The shots, the shots, the shots. The way the director, Lynne Ramsay, composed the frames made each second gorgeous. Beyond that and what really contributed to the film was how she built up tension through the length of time she spent on the character’s faces, mainly Eva (Tilda Swinton). She conveyed extremely well how lonely Eva was, even when she had her whole family together. An image that stood out for me was when she took Kevin to the doctor to check on whether or not he had autism. The doctor was speaking, and then the camera turned itself to Tilda. She was on the far right of the screen and there was doctor equipment that filled the remainder of the screen almost worked to keep her in the corner. The editing too. Ah. Flawless. It was easy to understand the timeline. Tilda’s switch of hairstyle did help with this, but the scenes themselves were sufficient. Granted, it probably would have been more confusing had her hairstyle remained the same the whole time.

4: Motifs and pay-offs. Overall, the film was very quiet. The music came in with lyrics that related to Eva’s situation. A song near the end sings about being an orphan, which fits her new life. The pay-offs for the storyline were always set up. The were set up through introduction of something or a shot. For example, Kevin buys the locks for his school. His mom, dad, and he all have a conversation about the locks. The audience later sees Kevin putting the locks on the door of his school- not selling them as he said he would. And then when Eva is rushing to the school, she looks for Kevin. He’s nowhere to be found and then she reaches the front of the line. From there, she can see Kevin’s locks on the door. She’s still. Another pay-off is her calls to Franklin. He’s not answering, and the audience can attribute it to how their relationship is rocky. Yet, by the time all of the events have transpired and Eva reaches her home and is calling for her family, its clear something is wrong. Its then obvious to the watcher than Franklin probably would not have let the whole day pass without returning his wife’s call. When Franklin and Celia are found outside, the audience expects it because of the previous set-up. Those were done so well. This movie just had an overall sense of meticulousness in its planning and execution.

5: In addition to Tilda Swinton’s performance, the rest of the actors were fabulous as well. Young, middle, and eldest Kevin’s all were believable. What exactly the movie is trying to say about people like Kevin or the whole situation present, I don’t know. Maybe it’s more about the family surrounding him? It’s one of those films that raises the question for you and lets you continue to think about it on your own.

Reviews for the Week: June 24th – July 1st

Holaaaaaaa. Summer Film ’17 kicks into gearrr.

So, the person that takes the tickets at the movie theater told me “nice to see you again” because I have been to the movies four times within the past few days. And two of those times were in the same day.

All Eyez On Me. Baby Driver. Cars 3. Wonder Woman.

Yeah, I’m late to the game on some of these but early on others. Let’s start with the Biopic!

All Eyez On Me

…. 😦

Please watch this video to understand my sadness: 1:00-1:15

and look at this photograph:

well, actually nvm about the photograph. I could not find it, but it was of me dressed as Tupac for my school’s biography day freshmen year of high school.

Note: the video is from 2011. It is 2017. I’m about to be a senior in college, but I have been a fan of Tupac since seventh grade. As a die-hard fan of his music and him as a person, I was really heartbroken to admit that All Eyez On Me was not a good movie. The only part that got me to feel an emotion was when Tupac died because it was a reminder that he is gone. And there’s obviously no coming back from that type of gone.

Anyway, on to why I did not like it.

It did not have a storyline. If I was someone who did not know Tupac at all, I doubt that I would have cared about all the events that they showed me. And that’s what they did. Event, after event, after event with some random scenery shots in the middle. A lot of fades. I have to give it to the editor though. From what was seen on screen, I don’t believe that Joel Cox had a lot to work with. There’s a quote from Walter Murdoch (I think) about how movies are actually made in the editing room. It might not have been from him tbh. It might have been someone else, so s/o to that someone else just in case. Anyway, the quote hints at how raw footage alone is not a movie. The story arises in the editing bay. But yo, if the screenplay and the resulting film footage isn’t telling you a movie, it’s definitely hard to make that story side with the end product.

The first half of the movie was full of intercuts between a prison interview and Tupac’s upbringing. After his release from prison, the intercut section was no more. The audience did not have enough time to get to know Tupac. I think it was assumed that they already did. And of course they do because it’s Tupac. Yet- this is a movie. There should have been time to really empathize with this character and get to know his dreams, his faults, and what hurts him. There should have been a way to really root for him and his success. It was basically like watching home movies and not being entirely interested in the outcome but hoping beyond hope that it was going to be something good. As is, this movie shouldn’t have been. It’s not even a movie that I would see again, and it’s one that I had been waiting for June 16th for because I wanted to see it so badly. And not really because I thought it looked good but solely because it was Tupac, and he may be dead and gone, but I still wanted to support his legacy. In fact, marketing-wise, I had never thought it looked good. From the first trailer I saw, I thought it looked cheap. I didn’t get the red cross. In the film, the audience also gets the sense that there was not a lot of money for this film, despite it having a 40 million dollar budget. Which I guess must have went towards licensing and re-creating fashion choices. Because it definitely wasn’t for marketing. Some of my friends who are very into hip-hop did not even know this film was coming out.

Anywayanyway, I want to concede. There are a lot of angles from which a Tupac story could have been told; a lot of different versions of the man to present. Personally, since I like poetry Tupac but understand the wildin’ out one, I would’ve probably wanted to see the poetry Tupac. But yes- since there are so many angles, it’s understandable that it would have been difficult to craft a story from what was available. Better luck next time.

My mom enjoyed it, however, and she was also a great fan of Tupac.

My brother didn’t,  but he’s pretty cynical in regards to movies starring POC. He didn’t see Straight Outta Compton, and we all know that film was amaziiiing. And if you need to have the approval of a body, it won an Oscar for its screenwriting.

So grain of salt, ya know? Regardless, I don’t understand why Jada Pink Smith was so upset.

As a side-note, my uncle Jim didn’t want to see this film because he was afraid it would tarnish ‘Pac’s legacy in his eyes. I think it would. I did enjoy when he got into a relationship with Quincy Jones’ daughter though.

———  (I meant to make these reviews a paragraph since there are four of them but aye go figure)

Baby Driver

There was something very fresh about this movie. It did feel like something special. I watched it with my friend Jacob, and he gushed about it afterwards on his Facebook. It’s certified fresh so other people are gushing about it as well. I totally get that. It really did have a super cool feel to it, and I like how it’s an original story. However, the last 1/4th of the movie felt chaotic to me. As an action movie, I guess that it’s fine. Jacob liked how unpredictable it became. I feel that. I get it. Makes sense. But story is tantamount to me and the chaotic-ness of it made me feel as if the screenwriters didn’t know how to wrap up the story of the baby driver. It does work for what it is, and it’s actually probably a movie that I would watch again with someone at their house, chilling on the couch. Popcorn and friends.

Beyond that: people need to go beyond their butt shots and just having women be eye-candy. I didn’t think the relationships were believable, and I didn’t feel it fit baby’s character to go gun happy when he was so resigned to non-violence beforehand. I also remember seeing a piece from Love Life of an Asian Guy about how the black characters usually get killed first in horror movies (baby driver is action) and how that illustrates the unimportance of those characters in the movie and in real life. This actually resonated with me, and I felt as if the succession in which the people died went along with that. Asian guy, black guy, girl, white guy. I really wanted the Asian guy to last longer haha, I thought he was cool.

Regardless, I do get the case people are making for why they really loved this film. I did like it as well, but like I said, I had my issues. However, it did feel super fresh and as if there was something special about it. It was also cut together super well. Good stuff. I think I’ll read some other reviews to see if anyone else felt the way I did about the second half.

Maybe it felt so fresh because it isn’t a typical American movie as the director is British and apparently has a very distinct filmmaking style for his other films as well. (Edgar Wright)

Cars 3

I saw this with Kyleeee. It was v. cute. I liked it. I loved how Cruz ended up being Latina. And I thought the conclusion was wonderful with how McQueen is going to keep racing but he ended up training Cruz as well. They set the conclusion up well, as one could tell where it was going after he raced with her at the beach. At least, I could. Kyle couldn’t. I didn’t see Cars 2, so I’m unsure if there’s something I should have seen from that one, but I feel like I didn’t miss anything.

It almost felt as if this one was supposed to be speaking to an older audience, with all of the commentary about getting older and the new generation and all of that. I liked it though. Another movie that I would watch with friends on a couch.

Wonder Woman

We have made it to the end! yay! Also seen with Kyle.

My friend Yi Ning was the first person to gush to me about Wonder Woman. I actually had no interest in it. I don’t remember who showed me the original trailer way back when (maybe my brother?), but I remember that as being the reason why I was uninterested.

Buuuut. I’ll give it to Patty Jenkins. I really like her style of filmmaking. The blue and green colors that were present throughout gave it a nice feel and a cohesiveness to it. The large amount of clean close-ups was also an interesting choice that I really enjoyed. And the pacing too. It was different from the typical action/superhero movies. It took its time and moved along slowly.

Of course, in addition to the praise, I have also seen different criticisms of the film and of casting choices, and I actually do like reading over those and wondering about what they say as well. One thing that I think is important with any movie in regards to human relations outside of the movie is for people to ask themselves if they could see the white character as another race. Could Wonder Woman be Asian? Black? Latina? Sans comic aside, why not? I just think that’s important for people to ask themselves. It’s very easy to see white people in any role and to let them maintain their humanity, but POC don’t always have that going for them, and if we can’t picture POC in different roles, then I think we don’t see POC as fully human.

Anyway, mini diversion over.

My favorite part of the movie was simply the style of filmmaking. Yi Ning said that she thinks it’s great for the next generation growing up to see this and to feel empowered from it. And I agree. Gina Rodriguez just posted an Instagram of her acting like Wonder Woman, so hey. It is empowering. #RepresentationMatters and going off that, praise be that there were no butt shots. Yes. Thank you. And that’s probably because it was a woman director helming the seat. Not that woman can’t be equally as objectifying of other women as men (patriarchy runs deep), but overall, I think it makes a different. Women are three-dimensional and women like those in Baby Driver or all of the women splayed out in All Eyez On Me don’t get to showcase that. We smile all the time (which Wonder Woman did too, so it’s interesting to wonder if it would have resonated so deeply with people if she smiled less), we have any number of tropes you can name, but we don’t really get to be real people. So, that’s nice to see.

Kyle’s favorite part was when she was fighting the person she thought was Aries, and it ended up not being Aries. I enjoyed how there was actually an Aries after. Despite the other person telling her that there wasn’t one and thinking she was just kind of out there for that. I thought their relationship was unnecessary though. But it’s chill. I like romance. Would also re-watch on a couch with some snacks and a friend.

Peace out! Until later ❤

Paige P.

 

Summer Film ’17 – Kira’s Reason: A Love Story

Film Movement: Dogme 95

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVNpVbMU5HQ

Director: Ole Christian Madsen (but per Dogme 95, his name doesn’t appear in the actual credits)

The first Dogme 95 movie that I watched was Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier. Because of that movie, I thought that I looooved Dogme 95. I guess I just loved the movie instead.

For this film, I really did not like it. The found footage technique is my least favorite camera technique in film- maybe because it’s been popularized so much recently. It probably wasn’t as prevalent back then, so maybe this film really stood out. Anyway, the found footage style of filming took me around twenty minutes to get into.  Once I got over it, then I could pay attention to the story.

Here’s the story:

The wife of the film has just been released from a mental hospital. However, it is clear that she is still very, very depressed. She is not able to effectively face large groups of people without wanting to cry or feeling anxious about it. She also suspects her husband of cheating on her while she was away (which does end up being correct, despite his initial denial). For a while, it seems as if husband cares quite a bit for his wife. He seems patient, and when he says, “I love you”, it comes across as believable. During one of her episodes, the wife ends up cheating on the husband with a random man from a bar. In the morning, she even calls him to come and pick her up from the location that she is in. He does, but this represents a spiraling of their relationship.  He hits her, for the first time that we see on screen. He also rapes her and admits that he cheated on her with her sister. Yet, they continue to try and be together. However, the sweet element from earlier is now removed thanks to the violence. The film ends with the wife having planned a business party for her husband and his colleagues. The party seemed to be going well, but no one wanted to dance with the wife. When the husband’s boss does dance with her, it is to tell her that she should leave the party before she spoils it. She does and goes to write a letter to her husband letting him know that she is leaving him. He comes back during the writing of the letter, and after listening to her read it to him, he kicks her out of the room and throws her belongings out into the hall. She calls her father to come and pick her up. Apparently, while she does that, her husband also calls the sister to come with the children. Both of them show up- but when the sister arrives, she sees that husband and wife have reconciled and she cries. The father consoles  her, and the film ends.

I can recognize that there is a message to this film, maybe about how difficult it is for the wife to leave her abusive husband, especially in her current depressive state. Also, it explores how the wife’s depression really effects each aspect of her life and tends to make her unreliable to those around her. She can’t deal with other people and also deal with herself. Despite recognizing a message, I couldn’t stand how abusive the husband was. It was obvious when he was about to explode for the first time and hit her. There was just too much of it. It was actually one of my male professors who pointed out to me how much violence there is against women in films. It makes you wonder. So, anyway, the film also seemed to attempt to humanize the husband, but I despised that considering everything he had done beforehand, especially the rape.

What I did like about the film was the relationship between the wife and her father. It was very sweet, and it was clear that the father cares about her deeply as his daughter. Also, the actress is fantastic. Her facial expressions usually look quite reserved when she is trying to smile, and the audience gets the feeling that it would be a long journey for her smile to be able to reach her eyes.

I watched this on FilmStruck as part of their Dogme 95 collection. Before it, there was an introduction to what that movement was, and it also talked about how sometimes, the manifesto did not always benefit the films. They came to the conclusion that this film is one that did happen to execute it correctly. I disagree. I hated it so much haha. I guess it’s just not my type of film.

But Breaking the Waves will always have my heart.

RT score: 67%.

 

Summer Film ’17: The Best Intentions (1992)

Directed by: Bille August

Written by: Ingmar Bergman

Watched on: FilmStruck, part of the Palm D’or winners series

Summary: HENRIK and ANNA are from two separate class positions. Anna is a wealthy girl, and Henrik is studying to be a pastor and has seen much misery in his life. He is currently engaged to a woman, but it does not seem that he loves her as much as he should. He promises her that they will get married, but even she does not seem to believe this anymore. Henrik is friends with Anna’s brother, Ernst, and he comes to visit them at their home. There is a spark between Henrik and Anna. They enter into a relationship. Anna, however, is unaware that Henrik has another person in his life. This is until Anna declares that Henrik and her are engaged. Henrik has to go quickly, and that is when Anna knows that there is someone else in his life.

Henrik and Anna reconcile, and all seems to be well. However, Anna’s mother is wholly disapproving of the relationship. She believes it is a match not to be made. Instead of petty trifles however, one reason that Anna’s mother does not believe that Henrik and Anna are a good match for one another is that Henrik is still living with and engaged to a woman. Anna does not know this. Henrik is sent away by her mother, and Anna does not wish to see him either.

However, after Frida (Henrik’s other woman) asks Anna to take him back, she eventually does. They enter into a whirlwind relationship and do get married, after having a few squabbles about how and where. They move up north, and Henrik takes on a position as a pastor of a small chapel. All is well until it is not.


 

There is more to the story/summary, but I would rather just say my response to the movie now.

It can be found on FilmStruck or purchased on iTunes or other services.

First off, it’s wonderful that Ingmar Bergman wrote this story about his parent’s courtship. This film won the award for Cannes’ Palm D’or, and one reason is probably because when you write things that you know, they ring with more truth.

I chose the picture of the father from the film because I enjoyed him the most as a character. He was caring for his daughter, and when he passed away, his wife and Anna were both very distraught. It is actually one of my favorite scenes when the mother is having racking sobs over the loss of her husband.  Up until then, she’s been more reserved with her emotions towards others. There are parts where it is very easy to feel for her as a person. She reaches out to Anna in her own way, but Anna is usually distant from her. Understandably so in parts.

But- even though I appreciate the existence of this movie and the color palette of it, I did not really like it.

This story would have resonated with me more that there not been that element of cheating. It resulted in me being more interested in Frida’s aftermath story. How she was to deal with the loss of someone she cared about, was engaged to. How she could face the person he cheated with and pass him off. Her monologue was great and that too rang very true. So, yeah, for most of the film, I cared about Frida, and she was not even on the screen for that much time.

I did not empathize with Henrik. He was a jerk, really. He got to act however he pleased and still managed to win in various instances throughout the film. I really did not enjoy him.

I did not enjoy Anna that much either. However, I appreciated how strong she was as a person.

Both actors were fabulous though. Each actor in this movie brought their A-game to the role that they were playing. They all really complemented the pace of the movie. Even though I wasn’t enjoying it, I still wanted to watch it and see where it went.

So, yes, maybe if the cheating did not bother me, I could have really been invested in Henrik and Anna as a relationship and a story, but it did bother me, and so I could not.

I felt similar to Anna’s mother and to Henrik’s aunt/mother. They both did not believe that Henrik and Anna should be together. With Henrik’s temper, I thought the same thing. He was controlling and hot-headed.

There are scenes that I really enjoyed however.

  1. The scene with Papa and Henrik, talking about the inevitable.
  2. The scene where Mama breaks down in Anna’s arms.
  3. The scene with Papa and Mama going to sleep together “good night, my dear.”
  4. The sequences where Anna wants to send Petrus away, Petrus hears her, and tries to kill Dag. That was all so interesting.
  5. The ending Christmas scene where its apparent that Mama still has grief over the loss of her husband and admits that there were times that she felt like crying.
  6. And as well, the scene between Anna and Frida.

And all of these scenes belie how I don’t care too much about Anna and Henrik as a couple.

However, there is something about this movie that makes me feel as if I would return to it someday. In the meantime though, I’d prefer to watch romance movies that don’t begin with cheating.

Despite that, technically, this movie is great. I love the pacing. I love the colors. I loved how much of the time Henrik was centered on screen with no one else in frame (which goes with him claiming to be a loner in the final scenes). I liked the musical motif. And I really liked the dad. If I had a favorite character, it would be him. Also- even though I care not about Henrik&Anna, I did appreciate how August/Bergman chose to represent the flaws of both characters and the flaws in the relationship. It was nice that it wasn’t just romanticized.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it 100%.

Summer Film Series: Our Song (2000)

Coming back at ya with the Summer Film Series, 2017 version.

I’ve already seen some films this summer, but I felt like writing now so here we go.

I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Circle, and now Our Song.

Our Song is a movie that has popped up on my Netflix and intrigued me from the description and the thumbnail. However, I’ve never managed to click on it until today because I have a better attention span for TV shows right now. I mean the 20 minutes ones (s/o Fresh Off The Boat).

Anyway, I don’t have much to say about Our Song. I just wanted to write.

It was the kind of movie that I always enjoy. Understated. Handheld. Aesthetically indie. Understated. Focused on its characters. I felt as if something was maybe missing, but it is a still a movie that I would remember. It was also interesting to watch a young Kerry Washington knowing where she is now.

The film moved in realism.  It was very ordinary, which I appreciated. The sounds of gunshots and the death of a woman by suicide stop the world for a second but the world continues on the next. It’s just a day in the life.

Also, one of the main characters has the name of one of my best friends, Melissa Martinez, so I enjoyed that too haha.

I gave it the new Netflix thumbs up.