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The Linguini Revival: Praising oddity in film

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

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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

Best Movies I’ve seen this year (2)

I love lists, they’re meaningless, but they’re fun to make and fun to read. I don’t go to the cinema much, school takes all my time, there’s usually nothing that interest’s me(like last year),  its expensive and being sixteen means I haven’t got money to spend all the time. I usually wait to see the ones that I missed at home. But this year has been particularly frustrating. I’ve missed so many good movies (Toni Erdman, I, Danial Blake and so many more), it was a great year in general a bit like 2013 with movies like Nebraska, American Hustle (one of my favourite movies, I know it’s not exactly the type of movie we talk about here, but I’m doing a review,I think its slightly underrated)  and 12 years a slave (which was good but not as good as everybody thought it was). With so many great movies out I put an effort to go occasionally and here is my list for my top 5 favourite movies I saw that came out this year: (note that I haven’t seen La La Land yet, which looks great)

Here are first of all a few honourable mentions:

arrival

-First of all Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, a movie you’ve probably already seen so I won’t say much about it, but if you haven’t, it’s an alien invasion movie with cool linguistic theories and a Kurt Vonnegut side to it. Despite tiny issues I have with it, it was thought provoking tale about a woman’s journey and the way we look at time, with Amy Adam’s understated performance moving me to tears (she kills it like she always does).

the-113th

-The next movie I didn’t even have to leave my room to see is The 13th, Eva DuVernay’s Netflix documentary. A bold movie about black incarceration in America, brilliantly made with useful graphic designs. It instructed me on something I knew was a problem but had never really ‘thought’ about.The facts enraged me, making me want to run in the streets and hit some politician in Washington in the face. Oh, and great use of music. If you’re reading this and haven’t already seen it, like… why? (If you don’t have Netflix, just get it for this movie, their best original work).

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Café Society, Woodey Allen narrating a story about a young man’s rise in the 20’s socialite world in both New York and Los Angeles. Honesty it’s not a good movie, the production design is weak and lazy, Kristen Stewart is miscast in her role, and the story is unsatisfying.I’m even surprised I’m even mentioning it, but I have a great memory of going to watch it with my sister and I mean how many times do we get to see the director of a movie like Radio Days make a movie today? Sure he’s not the greatest, but I really loved his movies as a kid.

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-The last mention is just my geeky brain talking, Rogue One. Yes, if you’re going to criticise it properly it’s not perfect, the first half is wonky, the characters aren’t developed enough (except Jyn and Cassian because I love them both) and too much is going on. But I can’t criticise it, because if I made a Star Wars movie, this would be it. I love the concept, I love the fact the heroes are not “special” or “the one”, just ordinary people who sacrifice their lives and that is beautiful.

5. It’s just the end of the world-Xavier Dolan

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Latest movie from wunderkind Xavier Dolan, adapting Jean Luc Lagace’s classic play, about a young men returning home, after years of not having seen his family, to tell them he will die. There’s a lot that bothers me about this movie, probably because I read and studied the original play (Jean Luc Lagarce) at school. The main problem is the extentat which  he changed the original text, (curse words that were never there, and soils it)the text is the play, whiteout it’s brilliance it’s just a banal family story, which is what this film borders on being. However, what I do appreciate about Dolan’s adaptation is how both the play and the movie are slightly autobiographical of their creators, it becomes his story, his work of art, the same way Lagarce’s play was his, which brings me to why I love this movie. I believe that a great director is one where you can see his mark on screen, even see him. This is the case here, Dolan brings the camera so close to the actors faces, as though he were stepping on their feet, they are no longer here, they blur and disappear, and all we see is him, Dolan. It’s a claustrophobic film, the camera is like Dolan’s eye and he looms aver the characters almost sinisterly. Oh, and Gaspard Ulliel is at his usual best of course (frankly out of an absurdly starry cast, Marion Cottiallard, Lea Seydoux et Nathalie Baye, he stands out as the most outstanding).

4.Little Men – Ira Sachs

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I’ve never seen any of the director’s movies, but darn it am I impressed. Sweet movie about a friendship between two young boys living in Brooklyn while their parents argue over adulty stuff. Great actors especially Paulina Garcia who builds an anintriguing and complex character.But what will stay with me are the scenes where the two-boy ride on their scooters capturing perfectly the wonder and briefness of the few days left of “childhood”

3.Paterson – Jim Jarmush

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Adam Driver plays a driver called Paterson in Paterson. (Yes, I am quoting Mark Kermode but it’s the best way to describe this movie), and the movie follows his life, day to day, from Monday to Sunday. Adam Driver is one of myfavourite actors (if you haven’t noticed yet I’m a huge Star Wars fan) and despite the fact that he plays brilliantly and fits the role perfectly (I can’t imagine another actor, pitch perfect casting) the dog Marvin out-acts the entire cast (no wonder the movie won the Palm Dog Award at Cannes, no seriously that a thing and deservedly so). Marvin is the of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg of this movie, projecting Paterson’s every emotion. This movie is an observation on the poetry of a town that inspires artist to create. To explain in other words, Paterson is Paterson. He is the poetry of the town. And only the Japanese man at the end understood that. “Aha !”

2.Voyage à travers le cinéma français – Bertrand Tavernier

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Joy- just joy. No other word can describe what I feel about this three-hour long documentary about French cinema. And the time flies by, I gasped as the end credits started rolling: “What it’s already over?”. I could have easily spent another two hours listening to Tavernier talk about Jean Gabin’s greatness and La Grande Illusion (easily my favourite movie). If you haven’t seen any classic French film well, go watch a few then come back and watch this. If you love French cinema, well, this is your perfect movie (when it comes to French cinema, it’s not a question on hating it or liking it, it’s just love, you love or you don’t know.)

1. Frantz – Francois Ozon

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I am guilty of loving movies with symbolism (it’s the same thing with novels), and especially movies with a commentary on the end of a decade, an era, an art form. The death of something. Well, I was in luck here because it has both. A German girl Anna, mourning the death of her fiancée Frantz after the war while falling in love with a French soldier who knew her lover during the war. This is a perfect lasagna movie (layered movie), you can read it in multiple ways and have your own interpretation about the plot. I loved the quasi Hitchcockian style of Ozon in the way he built the suspense and played with our minds. But above all, this movie is not about Anna, it’s not even about Frantz, it’s about France.I’m not going to say more, I rather you enjoy and be surprised by the movie. I believe this is a misunderstood movie by most critics, who consider it to be a simple war love story, oh no, it’s everything BUT a love story. By far my favourite movie  that came out this year.

Reader, I hope you have a great 2017, if its as bad as this one you know where to go to dream. Cheasy? Nah, it’s New Year Eve, cheese day at it’s best.

L.L Wooden

Favourite Films of 2016 (1)

Every cloud has a silver lining… The bright light of 2016 came from a projector in a dark room, shinning upon a silver screen. The 31st of December often marks a turning point, a “point 0”. Resolutions are made, chapter ends and hopes rebuilt at the dawn of the year. Sadly, what has characterised 2016 is the seemingly ever growing list of people far and near dying. I do not wish to linger on the past. Life may not always be a long and peaceful stream, but what we’ve been doesn’t count as much as to where we’re going. The past tends to haunt us and the future frighten us, that is why the present escapes us.

Movie theatres offered places in which we could escape the hustle bustle of daily life. Therefore, I shall reflect on movies that were highlights in 2016.

(No particular order)

Café Society, Woody Allen cafe-society-bandeau

A simple story seen through a subjective camera, reminiscent of Woody Allen’s earlier movies, such as Manhattan and the whimsical escapism of The Purple Rose of Cairo. In an enchanting time travel, we escape in this glitzy world of socialites and aspiring Hollywood movie stars. Set between sunny LA and grey New York, we are truly California Dreaming, and packing up our good vibrations. Numerous portraits of different characters flash before our eyes, shot after shot. The society mentioned in the title is this one composed by humans whose lives take place in this underground café, mirroring the dark matrice of cinemas. Nostalgic and melancholic, this film is truly enchanting. The film ends with a New Year’s party, filled with hope and anxiety.

The Shallows, Jaume Collet-Serra 

Surprising, I know… It IS a B movie in a list of artsy-farsty shananigans… I entered the cinema not expecting much, and got out not thinking much about anything at all. Not only is it a story about holding onto life and fighting, it is a movie about a mother-daughter relationship.

Juste la fin du monde, Xavier Dolanjlfdm

In Juste la fin du monde, silence screams louder than words, and seems to suffocate the characters. Based on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play, Xavier Dolan adds breath to this stifled and claustrophobic environment. While Xavier Dolan attempts to render an intimate family portrait, Juste la fin du monde demonstrates the struggle to know one’s neighbour through a series of shots focussing  on the character’s backs. A personal “coming of age” movie, the end of the world is one’s individual death. Xavier Dolan asserts his author-ity, questioning the closeness between the narrator/author (visually interpreted by the camera’s stalking nature) with the character. Xavier Dolan is ever present, yet presents this universally themed movie, cathartic in its emotional density.

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch

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This film, centered around poetry and the arts, has the meter, rhythm and beat of a poem. The days of the week mark the change of verse, and the repetitions resemble anaphores and the abnormalities are the stylistic changes in a poem. Paterson (Adam Driver), the central character who lives in Paterson (NJ) and considers William Carlos Williams to be his hero, and treasures his collection of poems “Paterson”. Paterson, the character, is a mirage. His name, blazoned on the front of the bus, appears and disappears flickeringly. He moves unseen in his bus, listening to the sounds and movements around him. A cleverly filmed movie. Jarmusch plays with suspense as tension is built by holding things on the edge.

The 13th, Ava DuVernay 

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In these times, this documentary feels like something we need to make statement and help spread awareness on the matter. Ava DuVernay demonstrates the links between slavery and the US penal system. Expertly constructed and the Selma director delivered a clear message. She highlights the “mythology of black criminality”. Toni Morrison writes in Beloved, these sticking words: “White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way . . . they were right. . . . But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place. . . . It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread . . . until it invaded the whites who had made it. . . . Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.”

Honourable mentions: Everybody wants to get some, Rogue One…

Movies I want to watch, that haven’t come out in France:

1. Moonlight

2. LA LA Land

3. Jackie

Send us your suggestions for the year to come.

Best wishes.

JJ. Wooden

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sassy Princess: A hero for the ages

Have you ever met a princess as sassy as Leia? I certainly hadn’t when I watched Star Wars for the first time at the age of six, when I officially met her with this iconic line: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”. The way she’s lying there, her arm on her hip, she oozes nonchalance and debonairness. She may as well be saying “What took you so long?”.  Let’s be honest, out of all three from the first trilogy, Leia stood out as the most original and refreshing (even at six I could tell her role was subversive). Sure, Han Solo is… Han Solo, but he still fits in our image of the “cowboy”, the all-American rascal. Thanks to Harrison Ford we have a three-dimensional character with so much wit he is almost real, and ripped out of the canvas bag of his architype, but he is still, essentially, a “Cowboy”. As for Luke, now I must make it clear, I have never been a fan of the character, to be honest I couldn’t give a damn about him (Mark Hamill is a different story, he’s terrific). Stories about the “special-one” always make me want to role my eyes. They just don’t make any sense to me. I won’t deny, he does have a nice arc and by Return of the Jedi he had become a proper hero. And that’s exactly my point, Luke is the archetypical Hero in every sense of the term (just look at The Hero with A Thousand Faces (1947) by Joseph Campbell). But Leia? Had history of cinema ever really seen anything like her? Sure, she does look like some space medieval person or whatnot and she is a “princess”, but is she really? To even call her a princess is subversive, her attitude and wit is everything that we don’t expect from that architype. In Force Awakens, she was called General, which is her actual role, however her older title had that touch of irony which befitted the character so perfectly. Oh, I could start a whole ode on her utmost bravery and general awesomeness, but I won’t bore you too much with that, you’ve seen the movies, you know she’s great. But there is one scene that always made me love her more (and snob Luke more). After having seen her home planet blasted to oblivion which essentially represents everything she ever knew, her friends and family, her childhood, her memories, her home, not to mention that it was her own father who commanded the explosion genocide (yes, I am aware that Leia is a fictional character and that her planet Alderan doesn’t exist but that traumatised me as a kid). And yet, after having gone through all of that she was the one who had to comfort Mr. Special Jedi over here, sure he had just seen his master/father figure die before his eyes, but come on, surely, watching your home planet be blown up must be more distressing? Nope, she carries on.20-luke-and-leia

 

I was always impressed in episode 6, how she was the one to save Han, I don’t know, I just thought it was cool. I loved how roguish she looked holding a shaken and vulnerable Han (THE Rogue) in her arms. About Episode 6, as a child on my first viewing of that movie, I was disappointed by the gold bikini, I regarded it as inappropriate and overtly sexual, and considered her to be above that, especially after having seen her save Han. However, later I watched with glee as she strangled that brut of a slug with the same chains he had enslaved her with, which left me with a sense of triumph. Jabba the Hut always repulsed me (like everyone, I believe, unless you’re Diego Luna). His sleaziness terrorised me more than Darth Vader ever did.

She’s the real hero here, well the one I looked up too as a kid anyway, the one I inspired me the most. Her wit, her attitude, her unabashed personality, the way in which she never even seemed to question her actions, and her confidence that transcends all stereotypes. Which is thanks to Carrie Fisher’s undeniable talent and real life personality.  She redefined my image of a (space) monarch as a child. She is probably closer to the great historic female monarchs then any stupid Disney movie (I’m sorry they just bore me, never liked the songs). Just think of Isabelle of France who was named the She-Wolf or Margaret of Valois who had to deal with the French Religious wars (she had a good life but you know having St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre a few days after your wedding doesn’t make the honeymoon any livelier), and so many more. But in my geeky brain, you say princess, I say Leia. She was my childhood hero and formed my vision of what a hero could be, which is why Carrie Fisher’s recent death has touched me to the same extent Robin William’s did a few years back. People die, it’s a part of life. So, it’s not like I’m mourning exactly, but it’s this strange morbid mixture of the death of a human being and this symbol that her character represented (hope and bravery), not to mention the level at which she took place in our psyche is what perturbs me. I will always associate Carrie Fisher to Leia despite her other wonderful work, the character will always be my childhood hero; and now she is gone.  Star wars is the place you could escape as a child in a galaxy far, far away, away from the worries of this world and watch as the light side (life, hope)  vanquished the dark side (doom and death ). Her passing brings Star Wars back down to earth. I would like to leave this page with Fisher’s own beautiful and poetic words:

 

“So, I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

 

LL.Wooden

PRAISING ODDITY: WHY THE LINGUINI INCIDENT IS IN NEED OF A REVIVAL.

IF you have heard of this film, you may be a David Bowie fan, looking out of your window for the smallest sparkle the Starman left behind. This was, I must confess, my case. This
is not meant to be a straight-foward review but an explanation of why this film is, according to my sister and I, the worthy mascot of our blog and what it stands for. It is the film that inspired us to go on a mission that consists of praising neglected and shunned films.blog-1

On Rotten Tomatoes, the “tomatometer” is not available for the critic’s score. Furthermore, The Guardian wrote an article entitled: “The Linguini Incident: a Bowie re-release nobody needs to see” and Variety calls it an “uninspired, poverty row production”. On the contrary, even though The Linguini Incident shines with quirkiness and energy and is to me, in the heritage of endearing rom-coms that Audrey Hepburn is known for. It also made me think of a more recent movie in a similar style, with somewhat echoing characters: She’s funny That Way with Imogen Poots. We basically think that more people should watch this gem of a film. Aside from the film in itself, it is quite interesting to note that its director, Richard Shepard was 25 when he made the film, and had the guts to send David Bowie his script. I am in no way saying that Mr. Shepard is an unrecognised genius or that his script was bad and not to be seen or an excuse for the film’s low ratings. But, kudos to him. Set in a surrealist themed restaurant, Rosanna Arquette plays Lucy, a quirky aspiring escape artist. The fact that she lives in the shadow of her past achievements as a child prodigy and her grand farther’s ties to the great Houdini as his booking agent, constructs her as a sweet, loveable character. Her plans to rob the surrealist themed restaurant she works at (appropriately named Dali) are intertwined with Monte’s (David Bowie) own plans to rid himself of huge amounts of debt. Respectful of the rom-com tradition, the film begins with the leads being bitter with one another, and the movie ends with a kiss.
Enough with the plain stuff… Lets get to what we really want to talk about: why the linguini movie is the worthy mascot of our blog.

The Linguini Incident doesn’t actually have a linguini incident. I expected it to have a
scene reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch,”Mr Creosote blows up” from The Meaning of Life, where the characters are submerged in a sea of pasta. The poster suggests this as it presents the character’s faces intertwined in the linguini, recalling the detail from Klaus Voorman’s cover art for “Revolver”. Yet, there are no “tart à la crème” gags. Or in this case, “pate à la tomate” gag. The mention of linguini acts as a metaphor for the film’s haphazard story line, truffled with equally wacky characters. The poster’s design deserves a special mention. It pretty much says what the movie is on the tin: unexpected, topsy-turvy turns of events, bondage jokes related to Lucy’s escapology pursuits and it states simply, that all is not what it seems in this film.

We believe that the criticism this movie has received is not fair. Sure, the script is wonky at times but it is quotable, funny, lighthearted and brought to the screen by energetic actors. While the film follows the rom-com recipe, it ends up subverting it, hence making an original, and cringe-free movie. The movie is as strangely cosy as Lucy’s apartment, filled with Houdini memorabilia.

I don’t quite know where to start listing what we love so much about this movie, because it is a true exemple of the devil being in the detail: from the the liquid watch, being a reference to Dali, to Thomas Newman’s (American Beauty) charming and nostalgic score. Other details such as the long breadsticks, the restaurant’s eclectic style, the waitresses’ 1960s silver dresses make this movie stand out. Lucy’s escapologist 1920 costumes reminded me of Barbara Streisand’s skater costumes in Funny Girl, therefore placing the movie in the “awkward and relatable girl finds love” tradition. Moreover, the film is set in a gritty looking New York city Some of the shots are nicely composed and convey the film’s ambiance grappled between the strange dream-like, underground world in which the characters work, and a gloomier, greyer version of daylight’s reality: arti

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If we were to analyse the first frame, I’d point out the empty fair, contrasted with the character’s childish candy floss. The film introduces Lucy’s character trough a dirty mirror. Mirrors are often used to contrast reality and fiction, therefore this enables us to see that the movie distorts reality. Just as Lucy aspires to be an escape artist, the film attemps to escape reality.

Eszter Balint as Vivian, the eccentric clothes designer, is the funny third wheel (if I may say), providing laughs as the robber or “East Village performance artist”. Other minor characters such as Jeanette (Marlee Matlin), the sassy cashier and the unexpected yet sly villains, Cecil and Dante (Buck Henry and Andre Gregory), are underlying ingredients to this linguini.

The Linguini Incident, too chthonic to be called a cult classic, is a pleasure to discover, it almost feels like one’s own (Chthonic: the word alone is chthonic). It has what I look for in rom-coms and its edge makes it satisfying to watch. This film begins our journey: praising neglected or disregarded films. To do so, we will highlight the films we consider to be cult classics in the edgy world.

The Linguini Incident, is what we want to call: a linguini movie: twisty plots, strange, full of quirks (I’m sure we’re all going to beg that the word quirk and its derivatives should no longer be used), yet like a trusted dish of linguini, we are satisfied.

Fact: the film is also known as Shag-a-rama, Austin Powers would add: “Shag-a-licious, baby”.

JJ. Wooden

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