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The Linguini Revival: Praising oddity in film

Short movie reviews of the week

I’ve been on holiday for two weeks, and in my world, holiday is synonymous to binge watching movies. In this post I will be doing short reviews for of movies I ‘ve seen on Dvd (not all have been released this year) and to spice things up, they’re going to be listed from worst to best (just for the fun of it), :

9. The postman always rings twice (1946) directed by Tay Garnett

postman

Frank, a homeless man of sorts, has an affair with Cora, the wife of his employer of the diner he works at, and like most film noir, with lust and greed comes destruction.This ticks all the boxes when it comes to the classic film noir movie. Unfortunately this movie failed to excite me or make me care for any of the characters, despite the fact that I’m usually a fan of the genre. Lana Turner (who steals every scene she’s in with her iconic monochromatic style, playing a great femme fatale)  complained when she heard that John Garfield would play her male co-star: “Couldn’t they at least hire someone attractive?” I couldn’t agree more, not only did  I not understand why either one of them fell for eachother but I also felt absolutely no chemistry between them, I also found their character motivations to be unclear. If you want to see a classic film noir with scenes that follow the guide book to great editing, watch it. I’d watch The Big Sleep instead.

8. Fish Tank (2009) Andrea Arnold

fishtank

Mia, a young girl in Essex dreams of breaking free from her “fish tank” and falls for her mother’s boyfriend Conor, played by Michael Fassbender. This is a visually arresting movie, it renders the beauty of this world from the perspective of Mia. With recurring visual metaphors (such as the horse) it made a depressing world seam cinematic. Certain shots from the baptismal river scene felt taken out of a romantic painting. However, I was disappointed that this poetic style didn’t change with the development of the character. Furthermore, I didn’t sympathise with any of the characters, even Mia , whose motivation are understandable but the director doesn’t shy away to show her cruel side. However, where this movie fails, is the relationship between Conor and Mia, which was predictable, Arnold doesn’t try to surprise us. Oh and Fassbender is too beautiful for that world, he never fits in, even the camera swoons at his sight.

7. Captain Fantastic (2016) Matt Ross

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Nature/ hippie / intellectual family set off into the civilised world to attend their mother’s funeral. Like there is comfort food in this world, there are also comfort movies.  Re-watchability factor here is 10 out 10 as a result of  all the cool little details of the style and home of the children  the filmmaker has created. Aesthetically pleasing, this makes for a very enjoyable two hours. But this is also a great movie on the subject of raising children, it’s fascinating to watch how different children can be depending on the environment they grew up in. It also explores the theme of morals, is there a difference between giving your trained and experienced child a real knife or  letting him play ultra-violent video games that is ruining his brains? The best part is this movie actually gives an answer: it’s all a question of balance. Why only at 7? It’s fun, but come on, compared to other movies on this list, it remains a fun movie (with interesting questions) but nothing more.

6. Ferris Bueller’s day off (1986) John Hughes

ferris.jpg

A movie about Smart kid skipping  school and having a fun time, whose sub title could actually be entitled: Carpe Diem. If you haven’t seen this, why? This is a re-watch for me and Hughes never fails to please me.

5. Midnight Special (2016) Jeff Nichols

midnight.jpg

Go into this movie only knowing as much as I did: spielbergian road trip movie of sorts with a weird kid. Visually stunning, Michael Shannon killing it but above all the script is near geneious. We are thrown into the plot in medias res and we spend the rest of the film bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together. For a movie that does so such a good job at not telling you anything, unfortunately the last five minutes stumbles on exactly what is trying not to do. Watch this for some stunning shots especially those when they drive at night.

4. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen

anniehall

Woody Allen being Woody Allen  in one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. I watched this movie when I was eight being so impressed by the characters culture, I can now say that eight years later, I now understand them all (not to brag, but it was just surprising for me). This movie is pretty much life goals on how to dress yourself and how to decorate your flat.

3. My name is Joe (1998) Ken Loach

myname

Peter Mullan plays Joe, a once alcoholic trying to get on in life in a run down Glasgow. The most impressive aspect of this movie by far is Peter Mullan’s performance, who physically owns his role. His character is so alive he not only invades the screen but  room you’re watching it in. Joe does things that aren’t morally right, but he is so helplessly human you end up crying.  Oh, and Loach, unlike Andrea Arnold, doesn’t try to embellish this world and yet the images stay with you.

2. The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick

theshinning

There are two places that terrify me 1) Restaurants that I haven’t been to before (the horror of wasting money on food that isn’t good) 2) Mazes (I’m looking at you Labyrinth) so of course when it came to this movie that was what terrified me the most. Other then that I wouldn’t say this movie is scary as much as atmospheric and disturbing. Oh, but the set the design, the editing, the amount of detail are what send thrills through me. The documentary Room 237 only increases the pleasure.

1.  Mon oncle d’Amérique (1980) Alain Resnais

oncle

 Scientist Henri Laborit compares mice and human behavior. Great movies are the ones that after having been watched, make you see the world in a different way. This movie does exactly that. You learn more on human nature, you cry on its condition and above all this is a movie that will stick with you. Do yourself a favor and watch this, it’s both instructive and visually pleasing.

Featured post

Why follow @ThatPoppy – or the art of fiction.

EVERYONE WANTS TO BE POPPY

The first time I heard about that Poppy was through a conspiracy website analysing the illuminati, MK slave imagery behind this creepy and strange YouTuber. After the first video, I found myself, an hour latter, having watched half of her channel. It’s easy to notice that all her videos carry through a similar style, mood and message, drowned over by some hypnotic music. In some videos she lists all the things that make her happy, in others, she expressed worrying doubt on who she is, being loved, whether God exists and the scary but all the while pleasing idea of having numbers climbing higher and higher after her name. Her videos seem to be creepy versions of all the other you tube videos such as “how too…”, “Get ready with me…”, “I apologise…”. She has conspiracies haunting her with symbols such as 3:36 referring to Mars Argo’s video.

Everything is in the name. Poppy’s name is a reference to the fact that she is a Pop singer. Pop being a diminutive of «popular» reminds us of the You Tuber’s main focalisations: being popular, being liked. When she repeats «I’m Poppy» she defines herself by the music she produces. Furthermore, we can see a link between poppy and opium, the hallucinogenic drug. A dream-like atmosphere is emphasised by a hypnotic background sound, engulfing Poppy’s monotonous, sweet voice as she recites mantra-like phrases such as «pink dress» or «I love the internet». This gives an idea of Poppy’s cryptic videos, in no way short of symbolism. Poppy’s videos are directed by a seemingly omnipresent figure called Titanic Sinclair, who has a aesthetically similar You Tube channel. Titanic Sinclair is another pseudonym. His name bears symbolism as well. We can remark the paronomasia between Titanic and Satanic, but also the reference to the gigantic Titans, a name almost describing their most apparent characteristic. Some videos on You Tube analyse it as meaning Giant source of light (Sinclair), being the sun. He would therefore be the omnipresent deity or, consequently the narrator. Titanic Sinclair also directs Poppy’s music videos found on her official Vevo channel as she is signed to Island Records and has released an EP titled Bubblebath. Many articles waste too many lines trying to explain – and therefore describe That Poppy’s videos and channel. Her videos seem random, devoid of any consistent story line throughout the channel. However, recurring themes such as celebrity obsession, voyeurism and fame will begin to surface. The theme I will try to delve into is the underlying question of the alienation of reality and therefore, offering a wider reflection on fiction through the means of the internet.
Poppy loves the internet

The internet is the new scroll. Before the codex – also known as the book – we read and wrote on a scroll. We scroll and swipe through infinite internet pages. The internet is a matrice, a new from of canvas, a it interweaves streams of information, worlds. In the same way that Umberto Eco analyses the text in relation with its etymological root: textus, meaning textile, we can add that videos, even though they are not black letters imprinted on a white page sown along with other pages to form a book, videos are analogical codes forming a structure, a series of codes, transmissions and information, forming a web within a web, contributing to the collection of scrolls forming the internet. This enables us to see where Poppy is situated within this world wide web, which we can liken to a form of universe where galaxies, solar systems create points of gravity, organising units in which people are drawn to. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair have created a form of meta-fictional reflection on how new webs are created, meaning that they have created a world, its space is the internet and it lives within the minutes the pastel pink colours appear on our screens. We can identify this as being meta not simply because some of Poppy’s videos include mise-en-abime, but also because they include references to the narrator (in this case, the director) as Poppy is his subject, she refers to «them» and in one video, we see «the maker», Titanic, in her glasses’ reflection and in another video she asks «what do I say?» while holding a T-Shirt with her brand on it. Poppy also refers to the medium through which she is brought to life, the camera, the internet, You Tube. Poppy’s bio stated that she was trapped within this box, the screen. She only lives within the internet, through her fans, that is why she has a worrying fear of not being loved by her fans.

From this, we can develop one of Titanic Sinclair’s underlying themes: reality and internet being an alienation of reality. It is a virtual reality, being a man made reality imposing itself as a reality. This is why Poppy pushes the possibilities of reality to the absurd, neglecting the codes of reality television feeding the audience’s desire to know more about the celebrity in a need to be reassured that the celebrity is like them, normal and relatable (see Poppy’s video «I like being relatable»). Hence by creating absurd, almost surrealist performance pieces, it is as though Poppy were telling us that this virtual world she is talking to us from is as real than these videos of celebrities filmed candidly. Poppy’s scheme is the opposite of the Kardashian’s, whose lives we can lear into, unabashed, and everything is given to us. An expression that is often used to express this is «we have seen <insert Kardashian> grow before our eyes», in the same way scientists watch lab rats. In this present society where fighting fake news is one of our main concerns, this blurring of lines between what we see as information on the web and what is in reality allows us to reconsider where real life is. Titanic Sinclair, reproached for his arrogant bluntness, reminds his twitter followers that they have lost touch with reality and that is why they pay so much attention to their on-screen personae. By creating these pseudonyms, Titanic Sinclair and Poppy disassociate themselves, creating a dual persona. An alienation occurs when Poppy’s videos are handed to her «Poppy Seeds», her fans, as the videos are no longer hers but are subject to the viewer’s perception. This, in many ways reflects what we duo ourselves on an everyday basis. As social platforms are multiplication of space of reality, we double our lives, create legends (from latin: legenda, meaning what must be read) as we pick and choose what we want to show of our lives. However, who says filters says illusion and disillusion as we see the world through an alternative, artificial light, and who says frame says excluding what we want to hide and creating a keyhole as we guide a viewer through one microsecond of apparent perfection. When I create my Facebook page, I create a new thread within the web, I upload my information creating a profile, an online entity – my virtual self.

After having analysed the medium through which Poppy is diffused to her fans, we shall analyse the matter, the story that seems to sneer us into wanting to believe that this is reality, therefore leading us to reflect upon fiction and the pact that occurs between the narrator and the viewer.

Poppy and the spiders from Mars (Argo)

Titanic Sinclair and Poppy, through their videos, develop a similar story line to David Bowie’s Ziggy and the Spiders from Mars: the overworked famous rock/pop star played by a new comer who gains a cult following by doing so. We never see Poppy trying to be famous, she already is, as she thanks her fans and replies to strange questions diverting from the subject in itself: the music. Miranda Sings, another You Tuber plays with the idea of the regular girl who is under the illusion she is famous, fills her room with portraits of herself. Ricky Gervais’, through David Brent’s character, equally explores a regular guy’s pursuit of happiness as he awaits a public’s approval. These cases are shown as a sort of side effect of reality television shows, who often advertise the lives of relatable people, going from rags to riches, they seem to tell us: this could be you too. What also gives life to Poppy’s world and storyline is the the vast array of conspiracy theorists on You Tube, making videos trying to explain the symbolism found in Poppy’s cryptic video. The very cryptic aspect of Poppy’s videos creates a sense of discovery, finding easter eggs in the vast field of the internet. The fact that both Poppy and Titanic Sinclair’s identities and personal lives are hidden, the viewers are drawn to do the very thing that they seem to criticise: spending hours to find more information about a celebrity.

All of Poppy’s videos are signed in the description with Titanic Sinclair, and upon researching this first clue, you find Mars Argo who seems to be Poppy’s prototype, her original. Most of the videos Titanic Sinclair made with Mars Argo, called «The computer show», have been deleted except for a select few, such as «Delete your Facebook» and a strange, dark video starring Mars Argo on her own. This dark video shows an anxious Mars Argo, threatening to kill herself, and towards the end of the video, blood spurts out of her mouth. Mars Argo’s video can be qualified as being more «hipster» and arty with a whimsical atmosphere than Poppy’s aesthetic reminiscent of Tumblr’s pastel coloured world and obsessively organised pictures, their music is also more interesting then Poppy’s Kawaii infused Pop. Unlike Mars Argo who wishes she were a dumb pop star so the words wouldn’t matter to us, Poppy sings simpler, more repetitive lyrics than those found in Mars Argo’s videos. This enables us to see one aspect of fiction: destroying a world to build another. Fiction, fingere in latin, means to fabricate, it gave fingendi, meaning to sculpt. Fiction is therefore the act of sculpting reality, letting some parts go to make a shape. In Poppy’s video Lowlife, the video opens with her sitting in the same position as Baphomet, you can see more of this sinister creature in conspiracy videos, but the logic found is relevant to our point: solve et coagula: to break apart and reconstruct. This is the very logic behind fiction: break apart the world ans representing it by putting the pieces you (the hubristic narrator) want back together, making the new substance artificial. They break the previous world (Mars Argo) to create a new one, in order to make a new, whole one.

You Tubers such as Yoel Rekt ! describe Titanic Sinclair as a marketing genius, a self generating marketing plan alternating between Mars Argo and That Poppy. He might as well be, and if he is, we fell in his trap.
I’m going to stop my article here, because I’m falling into their game, the very game they criticise in their videos.

J.J Wooden

Not my Diary of a Wimpy Kid

 

WARNING: This article is hyperbolical

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are many idiots on this planet, and when I say “many” I mean an enormous amount. But none greater than the person in Hollywood, evidently starving from the apparent lack of money, who one sunny day said:

“Hey! Why don’t we reboot a beloved franchise that defined the childhood of an entire generation of kids, by taking out all the charm the original ones had, and even better let’s recast all the actors! Why? That’s perfect”

No, no, this is all but perfect.

You know what would have been perfect? Leaving this MASTERPIECE of a series alone!!!

Now, you’re thinking: “Masterpiece? Really? They’re funny, but not great”

Oh, but they truly are. Those three movies are The Godfather series of my childhood. Think about it: the first ones are the basis, the second are the classics, and the last ones are kind of disappointment compared to the other two but are saved by great moment.

Now reader you must understand one thing, if we want it or not, we are all WIMPY, and I, in primary school, was the greatest wimp of all. You could say I was a combination of Greg, Rowley and above all Fregley. One great rule of comedy this series understood was that the movie mustn’t laugh at you but with you. It was a moment of relief, to watch kids like me who also got into embarrassing situations, but showing that they are not dramatic but hilarious helped me alot. However, the life lesson that must be taken away from these movies is that: “Kids, don’t give a damn what people think of you”. At the age of nine, I needed to hear that.

I feel that the show Freaks and Geeks was the main source of inspiration for the series of books, except the later has more of a naïve touch compared to Apatow’s cringe worth realism, and yet they both share a love for the outcast while always keeping the ironic look.

What brings the series to the level of a masterpiece are the set pieces, ask any one if they will ever forget the sleep over at Fregley’s, or the church scene with poop, or Rodrick singing Baby.

And let’s talk about the cast, whatever they do there will ever only be ONE Greg, ONE Rowley and ONE Patty Ferris (oh, the Dad! Remember the Dad?) and … One Roderick. Yes, I’m sorry but Roderick is not Lord Farquaad in Shrek, no, he’s this dirty dweeby idiot with a heart of gold, pathetic and yet… kind of cool.

Look, Hollywood, I know you’re desperate so you go in the garbage trash of the past to regurgitate everyone’s childhood memories in some deformed and flawed way (Power Rangers? Seriously? Have you nothing better to do?). But this? This is too soon, to fresh in my memory, I just left childhood, couldn’t your bank account wait another ten years (not like this one will make any money). At the end of the day, I don’t care, I’m not going to see this one, but please have respect for the movies you make, because this Roderick … is not respectful for the viewers, for the actor who used to play him and even for the actor playing his now.

Overall, #notmyrodrick.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually feel this intensely for the series, this article is meant to be hyperbolic, I just think it’s underrated.

 

Neon lights in movies

The picture I used as my feature image is from Taxi Driver, this image  encapsulates perfectly the sense of isolation, wonder and confusion of the neon lights blaring in the night. In this post I will be analysing their meaning in our culture today. To give you a taste of what I will be writing here is a verse from The sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel that was at the origin of my reflexion:

“And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made”

Neon lights were created in the early 1900’s and were used for publicity, shining at night, to attract people to a theater, to a cinema or a motel. In the pit of a desolate night, here comes entertainment and rest. Neon signs either have a sinister aspect to them, they’re like a lure in the darkness for the lost souls, or morbid, our beloved depart us in hospital beds beneath white neon light, the world of manufacture, not imbedded in candle light or the sun of before, the world of nature. But above all there is something melancholic and felliniesque about them , they give joy to those who are depressed. Just look at this screen shot from Fellini’s The Night of Cabiria (1957), ghostly and essentially sad.

fellini

The fact that they are publicity is befitting in our consumerist society where we turn to superficial delights to give us “happiness”. In the verse above “the neon” is a sort of metonymy for this entertainment and publicity, and in the “Narrow streets of cobblestone” we turn these signs into “gods”.  Hollywood has become a church for those without spirituality, look at The Neon Demon this year, which explored the occultist and emptiness of that industry. Before people turned to saints for enlightenment, now we walk “‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp” to sit in a dingy seat waiting for the screen to light up. What is important  is the fact that neon lights are artificial, they are made chemically. Paul was blinded (for a couple of days) by the sight of Jesus in heaven, is this modern, urban light is that of a false god? Don’t we venerate old hollywood stars who now live on our screens like ghosts? The fake glory of the city of “stars”. Think La La Land whose colour scheme is primary  neon lights. This movie is the fairy tale of dreamers who have fallen in love with these lights that represent the success they aspire to. “City of stars / Are you shining just for me? / City of stars / You never shined so brightly”. It’s just what “everybody wants”.

Here’s an idea: we need this false light because there is no god in today’s society? Are humans always inclined to be pulled to the light by something spiritual? La Dolce Vita is the perfect example. In the Trevi fountain, Marcello, the poster boy of the post war generation looking for meaning in superficiality, venerates the star, the new goddess, instead of those ancient ones behind him. I could go on forever about this movie, but the question it asks is: in a world that has gone through such an inhuman war and religion had lost all validity, where do we place our need for spirituality? In intellectualism or in entertainment?

ladolcevita

This is what “the neon light” represents, the call to a spiritual satisfaction that will give us “happiness” that religion can no longer give, in a world destroyed by human cruelty.

Are these lights even beautiful? Now the question of beauty is a complicated one, but let’s site Montaigne for the hell of it:

« Chacun appelle barbarie ce qui n’est pas de son usage »

What this means is that we call barbarism what we do not know, this can be applied to beauty.We consider something beautiful according to what we know to be beautiful, we reject anything that we are not used to, or do not confine in what are society considers to be beautiful. Do we believe the “neon lights” to be beautiful because it is all we know? Are we like Seb and Mia who have grown up watching musicals, and consider those bright lights to be symbols of success? Look at these stills from Singing in the Rain ,  the ultimate movie of joy, you have to be a psychopath not to like, is the story of dreamers who are also blinded by the god of the entertainment industry:

It’s beautiful, it’s enticing, it’s brilliant, it’s aesthetic, but isn’t it all fake? Will we obtain joy and happiness with this “light”? Some movies play on that aspect of that artificial light, in particular Nicolas Winding Refn who uses this neon colour scheme (particularly in Only god forgives) to visually describe the emptiness of his characters. With The Neon Demon, he asks if our illusion of “stars” in this city of “angels” are actually demons, a lure in this false religion. The still demonstrates the appeal of the brightness contrasted with the danger and the morbidity.

theneondemon

Let’s end with another citation from Simon and Garfunkel’s prophetic song ( “The words of the prophets/Are written on the subway walls”)  The sound of silence which has come to describe today’s society.

“When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence”

All this light and brightness that lures us , only to be greeted in despair by “the sound of silence”.

Write what you think below.

  • L.L.Wooden

Special credit to J J, who inspired me to write this, thanks.

Silence:touched by Scorsese’s grace.

As the lights of the movie theatre dims, and as voices fade, the word “Silence” appears on the black screen. And as the film ends in flames, the cathartic process is compassed: the blood that has been shed throughout the movie is now purified by the fire. Upon leaving the theatre, I felt quite satisfied, even though the vast array of questions posited throughout the movie aren’t fully answered.

This is not an odd film, but the reviews seem to be quite mixed and it is “only” rewarded for its cinematography at the Oscars (which is the driving force of the movie). A lot of reviews criticise it for its Manichaeism and for being painfully slow, making the spectator the real martyr. Therefore, I would like to show that Silence is in fact a Platonic dialogue, leaving the spectator in the Silence of doubt. As to the second point, it is part of the game.

What is the the film about? The plot is quite simple as the fog exposes the situation in Nagasaki, Japan where Christians are being persecuted along with the Portuguese missionaries by the local authorities, commanded by Inoue Sama, the inquisitor. Two young priests, father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and father Garupe (Adam Driver), take it upon themselves to leave Macao and go to Japan to find their mentor, father Ferreira (Liam Neeson, in all his Jedi wisdom). Aware of the cruelties the Catholic Church committed, I begun watching the film with a sceptical eye. However, Silence is tormented by the difficulty of grasping faith and conversion in their representation.

silence-martin-scorsese-andrew-garfield-adam-driver-liam-neeson1-22-at-10-30-46-pm-1131x520

The Sound of Silence 

The word “silence” itself becomes a litany throughout the film as it is reiterated obsessively, making the film a long prayer… but who is it for? “I pray but I am lost, am I just praying to silence?” asks Garfield’s doubt stricken priest, Rodrigues. Silence becomes the very matter that makes our protagonist anxious. Therefore, the film is about the monologic dialogue one entertains with God. Andrew Garfield was not only well casted for his Christ-like beauty highlighted by his leonine long locks, but also for his boyish naivety and tenderness. Father Rodrigues, is shown as a less absolutist and dogmatic priest than Father Garupe as he emphasises on his flock’s faith and love for God rather than knowledge. We follow the young priest as he is on a quest to follow Jesus and what it is to love. (*spoiler*)”You are about to preform the greatest act of love” says Father Ferreira as he guides Father Rodrigues to renouncing the Catholic Church by stepping on an image of Christ. Is one’s personal glory in an institution more important than the effectuation of one’s beliefs and values in order to save others?  In the end, faith is the assured expectation  of the demonstration of things unseen, which makes for a complexe metaphysical question for a movie. I wonder how its 1966 source novel by Shusaku Endo displays it.

Can there be one truth when there seems to be many truths? 

This question is articulated is one central scene in the movie, held between the Inquisitor Inoue (played by the impressive Issei Ogata) and Rodrigues. This entails a reflection on the link between nature and culture. Can a culture replace another culture when their nature is so different? Cinematographically speaking, nature is an omnipresent force in the movie as it seems to beat up and reject the Christians. The Japanese country side, (filmed in Taiwan) is gracefully filmed producing a sublime emotion when faced with the immensity of nature.  Inoue-sama, says that the dark Japanese soil does not welcome the infertile christian seeds planted by the Portuguese missionaries. Rodrigues retorts that the soil has been poisoned. Father Ferreira quotes a Japanese proverbe along the lines of: “mountains and streams can be moved, but not Japanese human nature”. These two thesis battle each other and allow Scorsese to find a certain peace in the praise of personal faith and of a personal relationship with God, as opposed to an invasive, colonial religion. It is also a movie that tackles with guilt and forgiveness as it Kichijiro follows our main protagonist like a shadow in order to confess, he is like Peter who denounces Jesus three times and is still forgiven.

Martin Scorsese has said that making films have been his way of exercising his faith. This is clear as he attempts to show that apostasy is an adaptation of religious faith in a place where institution cannot grow, INtuition is more valuable than simple tuition. Cross-fertilisation, the creation of a new plant through the synthesis or synesthesia of different cultures. This is clearly something close to Scorsese’s heart as he says the following of his faith: “The connection is that it has never been interrupted. It’s continuous. I never left. In my mind, I am here every day.”

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The first thing to criticise, is the use of language. From time to time, Portuguese words are inserted, such as “Deus”(also latin) and “paraiso” and the fact they call the priests “padres”. It just makes some details as wobbly as their accents, completely forgotten by Liam Neeson. Being half Portuguese I appreciated the representation of Portuguese history.

In this movie, Catholicism’s claim to be a universal truth is questioned and relativism is seen as a unfulfilling answer. The movie itself does not seem to give answers, but is the first instalment of a Platonic dialogue.

JJ. Wooden

America’s original sin as exposed in Manchester by the Sea

This movie does not qualify as being either good or bad, it’s neither one or the other. It is simply unenjoyable. Which isn’t a weakness, but it’s strength. This is definitely not La La Land, impossible to dislike (did you hear me? IMPOSSIBLE). Neither is it Moonlight, the ultimate catharsis for the heart that will spin you around and drop you feeling sick about humanity on the pavement outside of the cinema. This is (the word that is destined to be used in every review of this movie) in every sense of the term: depressing.  No, not depressing in the way that most critics see it, no it’s the condition that Americans are living in that is depressing. This is not a “linguini” movie, it’s lauded by critics with who knows how many awards under its belt, so what’s it doing on this blog? Well, I believe that it deserves to be reassessed. On one hand it is most certainly over- rated, on the other it’s message is completely misunderstood (in my humble opinion). Warning: major spoilers ahead, no really, big spoilers, don’t tell yourself “oh, it’s fine, I don’t care about spoilers”, it’s part of the experience of the movie, so don’t ruin it for yourself. You were warned.

First, let’s start with few of the flaws of this movie: this is purely subjective, but I found the camera work to be uninteresting. Please take on to account that my favourite directors when it comes to camera work are Fellini and Almodovar, everything is in place and everything is aesthetically pleasing. Which is not say that I don’t like social realism cinema, but Lonergan is no Ken Loach. The images in Loach’s films stay with you, the camera movements are used to enhance the narrative. Here, I just shrugged. Now, of course, it’s not the films strong point and neither is the music. Now don’t get me wrong I love classical music but here it’s overbearing, distracting and overused, furthermore would these characters even listen to that type of music? I don’t think so. Worst of all, it even ruins one of the most fundamental scenes, the burning of his home with Albinoni’s Adagio in g minor, a decision Lonergan apparently was originally not going to do, putting it as a temporary track, until finally keeping it. It made this scene irritating instead of tragic. It’s so blatantly manipulative, that it fails to be engaging. Instead of weeping I sat there waiting for it to be over, wanting to shout “Would you tone down the music! I’m trying to read Affleck’s face here!”.

I can forgive all these things, I never thought this would be an aesthetically pleasing film, what I can’t forgive is the script. It was the reason why I went to watch this movie in the first place, but even here I found myself to be disappointed. I was anticipating a well written script after hearing so many good things about it, and considering Lonergan is a playwright, could you blame me for having high expectation? I’m not saying it’s bad, I just sat there wondering, “so?” Lee’s ex-wife Randi, only knows two words to express herself, words that clearly demonstrate anger, but this anger is never explained (another problem, we never learn more about this character that could have potentially been very interesting, but is reduced to the role of the ex-wife). They live in a safe and decent area, honestly nothing miserable, why does she have to swear like a fishmonger? (get it they’re by the sea) To be fair, there are little details to enjoy beneath the vulgarity of their tongue, revealed unconsciously by the characters, most notably in the scene in the car with Patrick.  Lee refuses to put the heat on, and if you know the tragedy ,you know why he has such a problem with “turning the heat on”. It was a brief moment but extremely effective.

My last point is a bit contrary to popular opinion: Cassey Affleck is simply not that good. I’m sorry but there is no nuance whatsoever in that performance, he has one expression, I just simply didn’t believe and all I saw was the younger Affleck acting. I was actually more impressed with Lucas Hedges’, every time he appeared on screen I sighed in relief. The kid’s reaction to his father’s death puzzled me, after seeing his corps he returns home and orders pizza to later have sex with a (obnoxious) girl.  Not to mention that his obsession to sleep with these girls is a way to satisfy the maternal absence in his life. Freudian much, ‘amma right’? However, the main issue is that I didn’t see a difference between Lee’s character before and after his tragedy. It doesn’t mean he drank and took cocaine that he was happy. People don’t take cocaine because they’re happy, they take it because they’re depressed (someone put that on a T-shirt). Why is he depressed? Why does he have to force himself with substance abuse to be happy? Now maybe Lonergan didn’t want there to be a difference, maybe the real difference is that before he wasn’t aware that he was miserable, and his tragedy (and how he was at the origin of it) woke him up, made him realise the condition in which he was living in and of all Americans.

The fact that what he committed is taken lightly by the police is horrifying. “It happens all the time”. Why is it that this type of behaviour is considered ordinary? The problem with the movie, it’s main problem, is the fact that it treats Lee’s character as though he were acting abnormally. The message I received from the first (very un-even) ten minutes was that we must be concerned that he isn’t jumping on every crazy woman hitting on him. What does Lonergan want to tell us? The movie seems confused in what it was trying to tell us but here is what I took away from it:

Lee is the only lucid one around him, he committed something unforgivable and horrific, and his “mal-étre” is not his alone but that of all Americans. He discovers that they are all pretending to be happy because they are essentially not. Why? They carry a deep internal guilt of having taken away the land from the native Americans. Unintentionally burning down his house is possibly a metaphor for the colonist burning down the “house” i.e. the land, of the Indians. A burning house in the woods by the sea sounds a bit like a re-enactment of the colonist arriving and raping America. A stretch? Let me demonstrate:

First, you’re thinking where’s the reference? Where are the Indians? Exactly, where are they? Is their absence the void around them, the emptiness in their lives? Because there is this emptiness, this futility, is it me or aren’t they SO DAMN SLOW? They don’t do anything! Their passivity drove me crazy. When Lee tells Randi that “there’s nothing there”, exactly no more emotion, no more life. The colonist stole the land, the original sin of this nation, “Thou shalt not steal”, and now their ancestors are condemned…to boredom. Second of all, this land does not want them (‘them’ being the white colonist’s ancestors), brought to light by the fact that it won’t even bury the brother’s body in the ground. Instead, while waiting for spring they must freeze it, like their food.  Not only does it not want them, they don’t know what to do it with it. After having purged the land from the native Americans , they find themselves bored. They don’t take advantage of it and eat garbage instead: pizza and artificial sauce. When Patrick returns to see his mother, it is a form of thanksgiving, but they’re not eating turkey, they’re eating meatloaf. That’s just depressing, meatloaf is not only gross but miserable, sorry meatloaf lovers but it just is. Not to mention the single handily greatest scene in the entire movie, where Patrick has a breakdown staring at frozen chicken, i.e. his father in his mind who is being frozen until spring. This scene demonstrates that Americans have become essentially their food, you are what you eat, but also that this is  their life, to be disposed, detached from “their” land if it is theirs at all. An artificial death instead of returning to nature, to be kept at cold in metallic boxes. To sum up: the majority of Americans have an issue with food.

“I want to run, I want to run” screeches the girl. And so do we, from the cinema. What Lonergan achieved was to recreate the claustrophobia and the suffocation of Massachusetts. I would know, I spent a summer there at my grandmother’s, and I found the same slowness, the same mushiness, the same self-contentment in the banal, captured perfectly in this movie. The screen held my breath in discomfort, this is done most successfully in the car, American symbol of freedom, is as dreary as a coffin. The only place that both the characters and the audience feel free and at home is at sea. The camera feels lighter, it sweeps above the waves and we feel like we can finally breath. A notable scene is when Lee breaks his window screen looking out at the sea. It’s pretty self-explanatory, you can see a shot of it above. The movie comes full circle at sea. It starts by Lee asking his nephew on their boat, who he would rather stay with on an island, him or his father and the movie ends with these two, Lee and Patrick on the same boat. The island is not only a metaphor for the island of isolation and grief that they will find themselves in but also a literal island: that of England and Ireland, the land of their ancestors, where they belong. They do not belong in America therefore they feel at home at sea. The title says it all. When we say Manchester we most likely think of England first before the United States, that is the paradox. Foreigners by the sea, clueless on the reason of their unhappiness, who long for an “island” they do not know. I see the ending as a suicide for both characters, there is no horizon, there is no hope for either one of them. No way back to England, no way back for him to return to his “happy” life. I can also prove this point with a scene earlier in the movie, when Lee listens to an old man telling him  how he once had a father who went out to sea and never returned. Why would Lonergan add this scene if it weren’t to tell us that Lee won’t return either.

I’m not saying my interpretation is the right way to see it. I don’t know if Lonergan had any of this in mind while making it or if it came out of him unconsciously. I find its two main issues are its music and it’s unclear message, in particular with Lee’s character, but in  no way is it a “masterpiece” or a heart-breaking movie. I’m even more perplexed by how lauded it is. One French critic even said that Patrick was “smart”, no, seriously, I’m not kidding, that kid’s a jerk (with a capacity to be sometimes decent like most humans can be). I simply came to the conclusion that the critics related to that life, but I don’t think that they understood (the majority, from what I read) that all Americans are miserable, they just pretend not to be. I’m not judging saying that all Americans as individuals are unhappy, but this culture shares this collective guilt, this “mal-étre”, it’s just a thing that I noticed about people in that area from experience, brought to light by this movie. This movie reveals this guilt that Lee alone is aware, he is the walking-dead, he can no longer pretend to be happy like they all do. Write below if you agree, disagree, don’t care etc. Thank you for reading.

L.L. Wooden

Your Name: a love story that escapes time

Japanesse animation (or simply manga) is a genre I’m slowly being converted into liking. I have always been picky about them, Howl’s moving castle,  was so different to the children’s tales I had grown up with, but to my liking it was too magical, too out of this world that I was never able to find anything to care about. Another thing I find difficult is the cultural differnences, which can be a bit distracting and  ennervating. However there have been times I’ve been absolutly bowled over by them, especially by The Wind Also Rises in 2013 or From Up on Poppy Hill in 2011, more grounded and sentimental stories with a touch of magical realism. Your Name fits in exactly in the type that I prefere.

Your Name is about a city boy swapping bodies with a country girl. I’m not going to say anything more, because that’s all I knew when I went to see it last weekend and was suprised to find the real story to be something so much more beautiful. That is only a sub plot for what it actiually is: a tale about love, time, death and above all finding yourelf through others. The director was a litterature student and it shows, the themes he presents on screen are universal ones that all can understand and feel a deep connection too. That is probably at the heart it’s sucess , no matter what culture you come from, you perfectly understand the growth that both characters are going through and the tragedy that they endure. Something it also does perfectly  is mixing the genres, this is not just a weepy love story, it’s also very funny. Likewise, the film has a perfect combination of enough realism and enough magic, which is perfect for me, when it comes to animation.

Oh but above all, the animation is something to feast the eyes with. The detail of the city is mind-boggling, personally  I prefer Miyazaki’s style, it’s more  lush and poetic, you feel as though you were in a water colour painting, here you feel as though you were in reality. Despite the beuaty on screen, it doesn’t distract you from  the engaing  story .

Forget what ever is at your cinema (yes even Rogue One, but you’ve already seen it) and watch this. Put away all the Osacary movies and  take the time to see this.To convince you, the last thing I will say, without giving anything away is that this is above all an  animist spiritual quest, finding yourself through others and coping with death: people don’t dissapeare they’ll  always be  there within you. The ironic thing is that I wrote a review last week of Before Sunrise, questioning if love stories where  time is the vilain can still exist today. Well, this movie trenscends that in a mystical and spiritual way: love is stronger then time.

–  L.L. Wooden

Interview with The Linguini Incident’s Richard Shepard (part 1)

Since our blog was inspired by Richard Sherpard’s Linguini Incident, it only seemed logical to attempt to get an interview. My sister scoffed at the idea, how could a small, beginner’s film blog get an interview with a director? But, Richard Shepard kindly accepted and here we are with, what I hope will be, the first instalment of our interview.

While watching the movie,  few questions came to mind, but which ones could I ask… Here are my first questions:

JJ. Wooden: What was your inspiration for the Linguini Incident and what films influenced your style? Did you have a precise idea of where you wanted to go with the film?

R. Shepard:It’s been about 27 years since Tamar Brott and I wrote THE LINGUINI INCIDENT. I actually don’t remember what the inspiration was. We were both into magic. Tamar had been a NYC waitress. I do remember we went to Reno a few times and stayed in cheap hotels and wrote the script. In Vegas Tamar saw a ghost in the old Sands hotel. I do remember that. As for the title we both wrote ten words and put them in a hat. We then pulled two. Linguini and Incident.
We wanted to write a female driven film. And we wrote it without concern for financing or casting. Just to write something odd and unique and for us. We wanted Richard E. grant for Monte (I later worked with him on my Jude Law film DOM HEMINGWAY) and wanted Madonna to play Lucy . We sent Bowie and Jagger the script on a lark to play the Andre Gregory/Buck Henry roles. We never heard from Jagger, but Bowie got back to to us and said he wanted to play the lead (!). that was crazy. I remember flying to Philly to meet him as he was on tour. I was unconvinced as only a stupid bratty 24 year old could be about Bowie starring, so i flew there to meet with him,and of course was completely convinced he would be amazing. Rosanna read the script in her agents office and contacted us out of the blue. Marlee matlin also contacted us out of the blue and we changed the role to make Jeannete deaf. The script had a weird traction in Hollywood. The movie, unfortunately never quite found the zeitgeist . You should read my filmmaker magazine article ESCAPE FROM MOVIE JAIL http://filmmakermagazine.com/archives/issues/fall2005/line_items/movie_jail.php#.WG0ywlcldAY
to fully understand the original reaction to the movie…

JJ. Wooden

(Thanks again !)

Before Sunrise: love before the rise of the internet

I always thought Linklater’s films were either a hit or a miss. Fast Food Nation was a poorly made, and Bernie was just unsatisfying with a terrible performance by Shirley MacLaine (Jack Black is barely able to save the movie). On the other hand, I consider Boyhood to be a masterpiece. Well, now I can  forgot all of that because Before Sunrise is likewise… a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen yet, which you should, it’s basically a what if story. What if a dashing young man (Ethan hawk here isn’t exactly what I would call dashing, just a question of taste, but he is charming) asked you to get off the train at Vienna and spend the day with him, after only having known you for a couple of minutes. It’s the type of story you entertain your mind with, you imagine all the philosophical and deep conversations you would have, how you would meander around town meeting strange new people on the way. Of course, in real life, that never happens, it’s only in our imagination. Which is why this movie is so enthralling and delightful. I couldn’t stop grinning while watching it. The movie is framed between two lonely travellers, this out of time surreal fantasy and back again. This movie hops over the kitsch and the cheesy, thanks to three things: First of all, the characters are fully aware in which situation they are in, referring their experience as “out of time” and alluding to fairy tales. They themselves look like XVth century characters in 90’s clothes, Jesse (Hawks character) even tells her at one point that she (Céline, Delpie character) looks like a Botticelli portrait. The movie itself feels like a back in time story, Vienna looks like it could be in any period of history.At the night ends, they seem to descend into this timeless space. The camera, at first cold  and akward ascends to this bubble of magic, it becomes accustomed to the two heroes  the same way the viewer does too.The posters and modern elements contrast with the classic scenery, the same way their love clashes with the time they’re living in.  Of course, referring to the infinity of art and youthfull love.

before-sunrise-3

Second of all, out everything, I was the most impressed by the script. Let me explain: both characters have very “deep” and cringe worthy conversations, but what saves us from suffocation is the fact that all that they say is true, we understand what they’re saying, we’ve thought of them all before. When we think of them in our minds, our thoughts sound so profound and well-articulated, and we can hear that in their sincerity, but when we say it aloud, it sounds phony and pretentious. But this makes it even more realistic and … sorry… relatable.

before-sunrise-4

What surprised me the most was how human relations has changed since the 90’s: there was no social media, they talk about writing letters to each other. Which is normal because, well, it didn’t exist, and maybe for the better. The choice of either keeping in touch with letters/calling each other or never seeing each other, is no longer a choice today. The beauty of the movie, that the characters also recognise, is the how brief their moment together, the finite of their love, they  refer to the moment where they will have to part as “death”. Today, all they have to do is go on Instagram and every day you will see what the other is doing. It makes the present seam irrelevant, being physically with your loved one doesn’t really matter anymore, there’s facetime and snapshot. The tragedy that they impose upon themselves is characteristic of youth love, but can it still exist today? Can there be the same type of tragedy in a contemporary film? I’m not saying there can’t, there has been of course, but I found it moving to watch a romantic movie at the cusp of an ancient world, and it is this mix of this pure timeless love and time constraint as the enemy that makes this movie so special.

L.L . Wooden

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