Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: "The Rugby Player"



As a new New Yorker, I'm not sure if I'm even allowed to commemorate 9/11 like the people who lived here when the attacks occurred. This was my second 9/11 in town and to say that things feel different would be a lie, there are no mournful faces in the subway, newspaper magazines remembering the tragic date are lost between portraits of Miley Cyrus and a Kardashian sister on the tabloids and traffic never ceases; after all this is the city that never sleeps.

As someone who now lives here, and as a human being who can't help but be moved by insurmountable tragedy, I can't help but be more pensive on a date that reminds me that all of this could just end without a warning. What if someone, somewhere decided to hijack a plane, wear an explosive vest or craft a homemade bomb in his basement and I unexpectedly became a victim? These were the thoughts I, morbidly, kept trying to avoid while watching The Rugby Player, a fantastic documentary that celebrates the short life of Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of United flight 93.

Reflecting on one's mortality in the face of other people's death might be the most natural thing to do as people and watching Bingham's life onscreen constantly reminded me of that quote from The Hours in which Virginia Woolf expresses "someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more." This might not be much solace to the people left behind by the deceased, but on few occasions had I been so touched by the consequences of a life that at first glance seemed so un-extraordinary.

The Bingham we know through the news is the gay martyr who decided he'd rather go down with a plane than to see it destroy lives in Washington D.C., the Bingham we meet in the documentary is so much more than that: he's a man. A man who once dreamed of being rich, who starred in silly spoofs of hard rock videos with his friends, a man who at one point decided every memorable moment in his life would be recorded and saved for posterity (would he have approved of all the "found footage" movies we're subjected to yearly?), a man who chose rugby over drama club, a man who once came out to his mom because he promised himself he would do it before sunset on a random day, a man who loved a man, a man who was loved.

The Mark Bingham we meet onscreen is a man we would've liked to know in real life and that is something rare nowadays. "He's still wiser than me" says hi mom, former airplane stewardess Alice Hoagland - a woman so vibrant and warm that she's a Meryl Streep character in the making - as the documentary shows us how she took on the role of activist after her son passed away. Watching her serene demeanor as she remembers her only child breaks your heart, but watching the sense of purpose with which she works to celebrate his life is utterly inspiring. At the screening I attended tonight where she was present, she tearfully thanked her son for showing her her life's purpose and this is exactly where The Rugby Player succeeds as a film.

It reminds us that yes, life can be horrible, merciless and devastating, but it also implies a sort of mystical energy in how everything leads to where it should lead. Bingham's loss was terrible (as were the hundreds of other victims that day) but director Scott Gracheff makes a wonderful point out of connecting randomness and chaos to create beauty. Would Mark ever have guessed that one day he would be remembered in a field in Pennsylvania? Would he have imagined that one day a rugby championship - made for gay players - would carry his name? Would he ever have pictured his mother as a heroine in a cause which she confesses she only understood after her son's passing? The Rugby Player is a precious little film that transcends the limitations of sexual orientation, biographical conventions and  indiscriminate manipulation to remind us that we all have a reason to be in the world and it inspires us so that we tap into it and use it to share love, because in the end that's the only thing that remains.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

I am such a sucker for famous people playing famous people and the trailer for Saving Mr. Banks hit all the right notes (look it's Tom Hanks with a mustache cavorting with Tinkerbell!). It helps that Mary Poppins is one of my most favorite movies ever of course, which is why this poster seems so cute. That might not be the most professional way to describe something, but who can look at this and not think "OMGZ cutest thing ever", "it's Mickey and Mary!" or "awwww" all the way through the theater lobby after they see it?

Disney marketers, you've once again stolen my heart. Have they stolen yours too?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reason #23876 Why I Love "Frances Ha".


Even the casting means something! That's Greta Gerwig as Frances (Woody Allen surrogate figure) with Grace Gummer looking exactly like her famous mother did at her age:


#swoon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Help a Filmmaker: "Shape of Day"


I recently got in touch with Bosco Kim, a young filmmaker currently working on Shape of Day, a short film inspired by true events. Bosco has set up a crowdfunding campaign for his movie and told me about what makes his film special, some of his influences and the story's fascinating source.

What is your story about?

Shape of Day is inspired by a true event that happened in Pakistan. The story is about a Doctor who neglects to help a young victim hit by a car. The driver asks the doctor to provide the girl with immediate medical attention. However, the doctor is reluctant to help him because of the driver’s poor appearance. Finally, the doctor agrees upon following the driver and goes out. When the doctor sees the girl victim, he realizes that she is his own daughter. The doctor was given the last chance to save his loved one but he did not realize it. His daughter is dead. The event not only shocked me, but also inspired me a lot. In my version, I as a writer twisted the ending and changed the structure with the idea of a Mobius strip. I treated this story as a moral lesson which is hugely missed out in this materialistic society. This story urges the audience to reflect on their daily life and challenge people’s conscious mind.

You say the story is inspired by a real life event that happened in Pakistan, how do you think the situation would be handled by a Pakistani filmmaker?

I would answer in a different perspective. First of all, I am not from Pakistan. The difference of cultural background is a huge benefit for me because I will not be constricted by Pakistani tradition or culture. I am able to appreciate the beauty of Pakistani culture in a neutral but the artistic perspective. This situation would be similar to how Ang Lee handled the film Brokeback Mountain (2005). An Asian director who directed a movie happened in ........... If this film were handled by a Pakistani filmmaker, he might not be able to deal with the subject matter in a truthful way. However, I might have bring an objective perspective. Or at least I am trying.

How important do you think film schools is for future filmmakers?

This is still ongoing issue whether filmmakers should or have to go to film schools. For my own personal experience, however, it is such a privilege to attend a film school like the Art Center College of Design. Not only you connect with the future filmmakers as your peers, but also the school has invaluable access which helps you to find your specific path in your future career. To me, I will give a huge YES for film schools.

What inspired you to make movies?

Filmmaking is a childhood reflection, sum of all memories, and moments in filmmaker’s life. When I was 8 years or so, I started watching movies and immediately fell in love with it. Filmmaking itself is my passion, devotion, and vocation. It is not only a series of moving pictures, but also a mirror of the director’s soul who wants to make a change in people’s life. Hopefully I can be somebody who can inspire people the way I got inspired by watching different genres of movies.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

These are hard questions to answer. I will try to accommodate. For the inspirational filmmakers; Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Jean Cocteau, Christopher Nolan and many others. For the literary inspirational writers; William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Albert Camus and many others.

What movies should we seek out this summer? 

I would say to moviegoers they should watch out for Elysium directed by Neill Blomkamp and Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro

Why should people invest in your movie?

This is an important question. The moviegoers in these days are getting smarter and becoming more critical viewers. For Shape of Day and my filmmaking career, my film world give the audience a different kind of journey where they thoroughly engage in the moment and afterwards they discuss about my film. Creating my own unique visual look with moral story is a major part that the audience should invest in my movie.

Intrigued? Check out Bosco's campaign right here. If you're interested in submitting your project, don't hesitate to email me.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Game of Dump "The Host".


Head over to PopMatters and read my reviews for Upside Down and The Host, which sadly happened to be terrible, but hey...we can't have winners all the time, right?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.



If there is one kind of film Naomi Watts has yet to perfect, it's the biopic (yes, yes, but The Impossible doesn't really count, now does it?) yet judging from her flawless makeup, demeanor (that pose!) and the grace with with she presented herself in the teaser, it seems like she'll be stunning as the late Princess Diana. It's good that the film allows us to look at her and be lost in the resemblance, something that never happened with Michelle Williams as Marilyn for example...

What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Writing Roundup.

Head to PopMatters where I review Harold Lloyd's iconic comedy Safety Last! and the endlessly disappointing Quartet.

Then, visit The Film Experience and read my short take on Rooney Mara and David Fincher's new collaboration and my need for the Dragon Tattoo sequel.

Happy weekend y'all!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

While Watching "A Child is Waiting"...

...it became apparently obvious where Matthew Weiner found all the inspiration for Betty Draper Francis: in Gena Rowlands' character.



Have you seen this film yet? Where do you think Betty sprung from?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love “2001”


I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with 2001: A Space Odyssey. For starters I am not a fan of Stanley Kubrick: I see why people deeply worship him and I understand why he’s so revered, but I have never connected to his clinical take on cinema in the way I have with Michael Haneke and David Fincher for example. I love his perfectionism and admire his dedication to his craft, but his movies never click with me. Whenever I find myself in conversations about his work, people are baffled when I tell them my two favorite movies of his are Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut.

Besides my lack of excitement for its maker, my relationship with 2001: A Space Odyssey has very Oedipal undertones. Growing up I always tried to learn how to love my dad’s two favorite movies: Patton and 2001. I still remember that first time when he announced we’d be watching his favorite movie and recall being enraptured by the scenes with the monkeys and thought this would be an adventure movie in the vein of The Jungle Book which I loved. Things got strange due to a grammatical confusion; the Spanish word for “monkey” is “mono” so when the word monolith came up I assumed he’d be a king of the chimps, a King Kong figure. Next thing I know “The Blue Danube” is playing and there’s a lady with a weird hat walking upside down. No more monkeys fighting? The whole thing became so boring that I don’t think I made it all the way through the end.

As a teenager in love with cinema I approached it once more and finally finished the whole thing. It was my first time watching the murderous HAL, developing a crush on Keir Dullea and realizing that visual effects had once existed without the aid of computers. However, this time around I found myself being as bored as I’d been as a six year old. I just didn’t get it! Why did I love Citizen Kane, 8 1/2 and freaking Tarkovsky and still saw nothing of value in what most people regard as Kubrick’s masterpiece?

Two day ago I saw the BAM Cinematek in Brooklyn would be playing 2001: A Space Odyssey as part of its “Big Epic Screen” Series and said to myself it’s now or never. Those who know me know that going to the movies is my absolute fave thing in the world and I thought that maybe if I saw 2001 on the big screen it’d finally click with me. I feared that it wouldn’t and that I’d still be out of the Kubrick loop and I also feared that I’d be ecstatic about it, making my younger self feel like a shallow dumbass (but hey, isn’t that what all the classics are supposed to do when we approach them as grown ups?).

Watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen was unlike any other movie experience I’ve ever had. For once, I was immediately absorbed into its world. The way in which Kubrick plays with sound before we’ve seen a single image reminded me of the way in which we sing a hymn before mass begins. The movie is preceded by a pitch black limbo in which we listen to György Ligeti’s “Atmospheres”, this was especially interesting to feel as part of an audience. Watching it at home it’s impossible to control external sounds (dogs barking, younger siblings nagging, bells ringing...) but in a movie theater people seem to know they need to be quiet. Sitting in a dark room surrounded by strangers sharing this same experience was almost mystical. For those who think the movie is about the history of humanity, this small moment of darkness was like conveying non-existence. We are born until we listen to Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and see light for the first time.

This feeling is repeated during each of the film’s four chapters, in which we are convinced we are being reborn as more complex creatures. The scenes with the monkeys and the first appearance of the monolith once again filled me with childlike wonder and joy, but this time around by the time I got to space with the characters, I felt a strange sense of accomplishment - as if I’d helped them get there. The last part of the Moon mission chapter also conveyed something I’d never detected in the film before: that final high pitched sound we hear as the astronauts approach the monolith seems to be a desperate cry towards the universe, as if asking why the hell are we here?

By the time we got to the HAL chapter I was completely enthralled, watching the images on the big screen added one more quality I’d never found in previous viewings, as Stanley Kubrick directs a literal ballet of machines. The way every piece of equipment moves and the way every note of the score accompanies these moves, is akin to watching Fantasia; the images and the sounds in perfect unison reminding us why we go to the movies. Needless to say so, the grandeur and majesty of the special effects - which despite their age are more impressive than CGI - had a surreal quality as I half expected the spaceships and pods to burst out of the screen.

In the HAL sequences I also noticed the way in which Kubrick humorously suggests we are being brainwashed by the system. There are several moments where his camera is fixated on the red light that represents HAL and it’s as if it could see into the souls of the audience. We know it can’t, but at the same time it instills a very primal kind of fear in us. These sequences also added a new dimension brought on by silence. Kubrick accurately depicts outer space as a place of complete soundlessness, so the image of an astronaut cut loose from his ship and floating/sinking away into darkness was more terrifying because we couldn’t listen to his screams of despair.

There was also another moment that struck me as inventively wicked: the scene where HAL stops life support on the dormant astronauts and we see their life stats go from natural peaks and valleys to the fatal straight lines. Because we can't look away from it, we're confronted right and there with the idea that there might come a time when we'll need to be saved from our very creations. This doesn't necessarily mean that we should be scared of machines, but that we need to be conscious of even the art around us. In his whole movie as machine dichotomy, Kubrick is reminding us that we are being shown truth by a device that might turn its back against us. This is repeated once again during the last chapter where we see Keir Dullea's character age in a matter of seconds. The fact that Kubrick represented this time advance within a room is an obvious nod to how we as an audience are also aging within the four walls of the theater we're sitting in...

By the time the movie ended, I was completely blown away. The famous light-tunnel sequence almost gave me a seizure, the flight over the canyons of Jupiter was more exciting than anything in Avatar and the eventual birth of the star-child, once again accompanied by Strauss’s ode to Zarathustra, was truly rapturous. Within seconds it felt like a movie and a symphony. The lights went on and I was sent out into the world with a myriad of questions: are all movies meant to be seen on the big screen? If so, does that mean that I haven’t seen many movies because I’ve only seen them at home? Kubrick proved to me that cinema is the ultimate hybrid of spiritual/human connection, but now I also fear that I’ve been spoiled, because I've been once again reassured that truly great movies aren't about story but about sensorial experience.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

J.Law Continues Her Fabulous Streak.

Anyone who can pull off palazzo pants and a lace cami and still look badass, gets all the points in my book.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Va Va Voom!


Here's Nicole Kidman forever shutting up my accusations of frigidity. Just WOW!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sarah and Plummer and Gays, Oh My!

Here's a quick roundup of what I've been up to this week:

- A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be in the presence of his holiness Pedro Almodóvar who was in town doing press for his newest film I'm So Excited. Being the huge Almodóvar nerd I am, I have to confess I was largely disappointed when I first saw the film; however as the days began to pass and I thought more and more about the specific times during the screening when I had chuckled and no one else had noticed it became obvious to me that this wasn't his most accessible movie to date. While American audiences will look at it through the comedic lens, I realized this was his love song to a Spain in economic and political ruins. I talked to him about this. Read the feature here.

- I interviewed the divine Sarah Brightman who talked about space travel and how she's not one of those "hocus pocus girls". Read the interview here.

- DVD review: Barrymore. Read it here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Style Sunday

As I stated earlier this week, I will never get over having touched Kylie Minogue last Monday, so it's fitting that I get back to this weekly column by discussing what she wore that day...right?
As part of her book tour, Kylie showed up in a sheer Emilio Pucci mini dress that redefines sexy classiness. The intricateness of the dress is stunning, especially because it looks as if it is showing off more than it did...

Just take a look at the back!

Isn't she breathtaking? 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Lore

Saskia Rosendahl gives a magnificent performance in Cate Shortland's Lore, out on Blu-ray now. Here's my review for PopMatters.

So Here's What I've Been Up To:

My beloved Movies Kick Ass is turning ten this year and I've been such a neglectful parent lately...but it's not like I've not been doing movie things or anything...I've been cheating for the right reasons:

I was among the lucky few who got to interview Mr. Ken Loach about The Angels' Share. Talking to him was like listening to a film class. Here's the interview.

I talked to, and fell in love with, the sultry Patricia Clarkson, who seduced me by saying she loved my outfit during a week when I had a serious throat infection and was high on cold meds. She was a dream and the best thing in The East.

I interviewed Sarah Polley about her stunning documentary Stories We Tell. My absolute fave movie of this year so far.

And here are a few of my favorite reviews I've done:

Upstream Color one of 2013's most magnificent films got an early Blu-ray release and it's out on Netflix too, which means everyone should see it ASAP.

The Impossible you all know how much I loved this film and I will never stop getting pissed at people who think it's "white folk suffer in a tsunami" kind of movie. It might've been the most unjustly misunderstood film of last year.

Zero Dark Thirty It lost the Oscar, but its legacy will once again prove oh how wrong AMPAS gets it time after time.

Holy Motors two days ago I told Kylie Minogue how much I loved her in this movie. She smiled, touched my hand and said "thank you so much!". And no, I did not dream this...

So, what have y'all been up to?

Judith Hill: Closer to Stardom?

I interviewed Judith Hill for PopMatters. Have you seen her in 20 Feet from Stardom yet?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Teaser: The Earth the Way I Left It


The Earth, the way I left it (Trailer) from Jeff Pinilla on Vimeo.

Few things are as pleasing as seeing someone complete a movie. Late last year I spoke to young filmmaker Jeff Pinilla about his newest project and now here's the first teaser. Go check it out, I personally think it looks pretty good, so congrats Jeff. Keep us posted on how it goes!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Help a Filmmaker: "Lay in Wait"

Recently I got in touch with filmmaker Jonathan Ade, who's currently working on a new short film called Lay in Wait. I would go into more detail and make a longer intro about Jonathan's work, but I can't wait for you to read the plot:

"A married woman in an extramarital affair must find her wedding ring in the woods before the sun sets."

Right? I honestly can't wait to see how that unfolds. I spoke to Jonathan about his movie, his career and his crowd funding campaign.

The story sounds thrilling! What inspired you to write it?
I always think that the simplest stories based on the most primal of concerns tend to be the most universal of stories. After seeing Wendy and Lucy, I realized that you could make a feature-length film based on someone looking for something and it could be narratively compelling and emotionally impactful. Soon after, I came up with the idea for the very simple, yet very significant symbol of matrimony, the wedding ring.

Was it easy to find the right actors for these characters?

I actually wrote the main character with an actress already in mind. That helps the writing process, of course! The other two roles we are currently pinning down as we speak.

How important do you think film schools are for future filmmakers?
It depends. I think the most important thing for filmmakers to do is to work on their artistic perspective. What do they have to say? Why is it important to be said? This perspective can be cultivated in the field, and it can also be cultivated in schools, where you're a little more shielded from reality and have the opportunity to cultivate your mindset with some freedom. Simply put, you need an atmosphere of critical thought, and film school can certainly provide this, but it doesn't necessarily have to. Also, it can't be emphasized enough that if you go to film school, it's crucially important to meet people and grow relationships. Think of it as one big, long networking session, because filmmaking flat out requires collaboration for success.

Who are some of your influences?

They include (but are not limited to) Charles Burnett (filmmaker), Matsuo Basho (poet), JD Salinger (writer), Orson Welles (filmmaker/actor), Walter Murch (editor), Billy Collins (poet), Charles Chaplin (filmmaker/actor), Walt Whitman (poet), the Maysles Brothers (documentarians), Andrei Tarkovsky (filmmaker), Stan Brakhage (filmmaker) and George Orwell (writer).

Do you think crowd-funding is the way of the future for films?

They certainly are for some. I think the future will be a mix of crowd-sourced and traditionally financed projects, or even a combination of the two. Independent filmmakers were already piecing together financing from various sources for years; this is just the digitization of a process that independents have always worked with. And I think although there's a lot of power in expanding the network of contributors, you don't start at the top. Let's not forget that Veronica Mars and Zach Braff have built-in audiences because of traditional, break-into-the-industry success. For us little guys, it's going to be a slow climb to build our own audiences through this process. And it's something that has little precedent.

Why should people invest in your project?

Because a strong narrative voice is an important contribution to the arts. With all of the exciting, digital innovations happening these days, we can't forget that the best tool in a filmmaker's tool kit is their perspective. And it's been there all along.

------

I urge you all to visit Jonathan's Kickstarter page (heck, it even made me blog again!) especially now that he's more than halfway there. I'm sure you want to find out how the story ends too!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Help a Filmmaker: The Crystal Crypt

A couple of days ago I was contacted by young filmmaker Shahab Zargari, who has recently started a fundraising campaign to shoot is dream project; an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Crystal Crypt. Few things warm my heart and get me as excited as the idea of new voices arriving to shake the film world, so I decided to let Shahab tell us a bit more about his movie in order to capture your imagination and maybe get you to help out in this interesting project.

What attracted you to this story? Have you always been a fan of the author?

I've been a Sci-fi nerd my entire life. I gravitated toward Philip K. Dick early on. He’s one of my favorite authors in the genre. I hadn't read this story until 2012, and was amazed at the execution.

You mention Hitchcock among your references. Elaborate a bit, what are some of your favorite Hitchcock movies and how has his work inspired you?

I love Vertigo and The Birds. But in relation to The Crystal Crypt, the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show really resonates. Those were all 20+ minute short films, many with unforeseen twists at the end. Not quite as out there as The Twilight Zone, but still very intriguing "stories with holes". The way He would direct each piece was amazing because he would keep the audience in a shroud of mystery before the big reveal. Amazing stuff.

How has the process been? Has it been easy to pre-produce sci-fi?

It's definitely a long and hard road to create a film of any genre, but sci fi is tricky in that there is a fine line between super cheesy and super alienating (pun intended).

How do you expect people to react to this short movie?
I hope it allows them to escape the issues and comforts of their own lives in order to analyze the real-world issues from an arms length. But mostly, I want sci fi fans to enjoy it completely.

Why should people invest in your project?

Something I just found out about today: Section 181 deductions have been extended through the end of 2013 to help keep filming within the United States. Section 181 basically allows up to 100% of the money
invested to be deducted from one's taxes. That should be reason enough! Become a movie producer and have the IRS pay you back! The rewards you get for your pledge will be icing on the cake! More info
can be found on Google or here: http://besttaxbreak.net/

You can donate money for The Crystal Crypt by visiting this site.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ten Reasons Why I Love This Shot:

  • It's always the first thing I remember from this movie, going all the way back to when I first saw it as a child.
  • Judy conveys such precise emotions in it: longing, sadness about leaving Oz, something that recalls pure ecstasy too.
  • The superimposition is so symbolic! You have shoes within her head, as if to warn us that everything involving the shoes, hence this journey, was always inside Dorothy's mind. She's also divided, as if her two sides are fighting to stay here (lose her mind in the process?)
  • The spirals remind me of Vertigo. Was Hitch a fan of this?
  • The sound that accompanies this scene seems to have inspired endless movies afterwards. The jingling became synonymous with thought processes.
  • Judy's hair looks fabulous!
  • Coming from one of the most moving moments in the film, it's surprising to see how as a director Fleming made it possible for us to switch from emotion to emotion so easily. Sadness, fear and hope are contained in a few frames.
  • I often find myself reenacting it while waiting for the subway.
  • It allows the movie to shine on a technical level and shows how groundbreaking it was in terms of special effects and color cinematography.
  • It's awesome when you're high (or so I've heard...)

This post was part of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, hosted by the wonderful wizard Nat.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Motifs in Cinema: The Inevitability of Death

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea - Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilized by different artists.

"I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen

Death has fascinated the human kind since the moment of its creation. It has always been said that art was in fact invented as a way for us to defy mortality. What we create, ideally, remains forever. While movies have had a special fixation on what happens after we're gone (perhaps because filmmakers believe they can interpret the idea of an afterlife or earthly purgatory visually) 2012 gave us a roster of films in which death went beyond the limitations of our bodily existence and filmmakers realized that death might also threaten things that were once thought of as immortal.


In the remarkable Holy Motors, Leos Carax brings up the eternal question: is cinema about to die? This question has plagued the art form even before it was thought of as an actual art form. Film, more than any other art, has always been plagued by accusations of fugacity. Why has literature or sculpture never faced such fate? What does paper - which is arguably as spoilable as celluloid - have that film doesn't? Carax observes this through the eyes of someone who's perhaps worried that the digitalization of our world might put an end to the photographic tradition, and as such the movie does a marvelous job in reminding us there is true pleasure in the idea of film, but it fails in achieving a sense of doom. Perhaps Carax wasn't attempting to discourage hope, he was just welcoming the beginning of a new era.


The death of tradition and old world culture is seen palpably in Michael Haneke's Amour, a film that deals with actual physical death, but isn't really about people, but about the passing of generations and the ideas carried by generations. The film's central premise wonders what happens to us when we stop thinking rationally, when nature deems us incapable of fulfilling the promise of immortality we've made ourselves and we are back to being basic creatures with animal needs who care only about survival. The film's "cruelty" is that it reminds us that not only are our bodies deemed to vanish, but also our creations. There is no enough culture, refinement or education that can save the movie's characters from vanishing, not knowing where they're headed and what was everything really about.



The death of love and traditional romance are studied by the wonderful Joe Wright, an uncompromising aesthete who has no trouble removing "emotion" when it serves a higher purpose. While I wasn't a fan of his Anna Karenina perhaps because I'm used to the more traditional readings of it which highlight the fiery passion and romance of Tolstoy's novel, I admired the way with which Wright reminds us that romance might only be a series of plays we put on to convince ourselves we are not cruel and wicked. His interpretation of Anna Karenina - as played by the incredible Keira Knightley - takes love to a level of intellectualism that punches us in the gut. By the time Anna jumps in front of the train we are convinced it wasn't an easy escape, it was her only one.

Like in Amour and Holy Motors, Miguel Gomes' Tabu explores the death of an era. The film could easily form a trilogy with the other two, each one envisioning the end of traditional aesthetic systems through a distinctive eye. In his gorgeous black and white movie, Gomes sees movie history played out in reverse: his film opens with a talkie and ends with a silent movie. We travel back in time as Gomes takes us to a state of "primal existence" where we go beyond the narrowness of "life" and are forced to become one with art. Can movies faithfully interpret lives? Are movies for that matter alive? Tabu easily convinces us that a movie too is a breathing organism subject to whims and emotional changes. Perhaps more significant is to realize that European filmmakers were observing art through similar lenses. Haneke, Carax and Gomes, all creators from different countries, contemplate the end through their own idiosyncrasies, all of them see life and art through the undeniable eye of post-colonialism. When across the ocean we were watching new filmmakers, like Chile's Pablo Larraín, explore life through the refreshing eye of new media (for what is No, if not a hopeful love song to modern life?) back in Europe, artists were obsessed with the end, trying to salvage the pieces they could before everything was just lost...have all these people been watching Melancholia too much?


In the United States, a country which unarguably has mastered the commercial aspects of cinema more than the artistic ones, we got a devastating look at the end of an era as well, only this one wasn't marked by culture or art, but by economic and political power (2012 might've been the one year in recent memory where countries evoked their entire history through key films) In her glorious Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow wonders what happens to a country when a collective ideal has been fulfilled. What happens when you destroy the enemy? Where do you go from there? Wisely Bigelow acknowledges that she has no answers, but what she does with this isn't going against the American idea of patriotism as defending your country without being critical of its shortcomings, instead Bigelow might be one of the most important thinkers of her time. Her movie has been accused of many things, all of which have to do with peripheral details that really amount to nothing. No one in Europe accused Haneke of using torture, even if he has a manipulative record much more prominent than Bigelow's for example. With her ambiguous take on America as a nation on what might be its most significant threshold, it's a shame that Bigelow's ideas are received with torches and pitchforks instead of with open minds. In a society where ignorance and bliss have become one the death she announces in her movie might be more of an eulogy delivered a little bit too late.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Style Sunday (SAG Edition)

Julianne Moore seems to do no wrong. Her choice of Chanel for the SAG seems to be doing her usual love of white and black (the Emmys last year were the rare exception) but adding a little something extra. The playfulness of the flowers and the sideswept hair might make it one of her best looks yet.

The lovely J.Law looks like a real grown woman in this sensational Dior gown. The color is marvelous and the classic hair and makeup are perfection. Can you believe she was recovering from pneumonia?

I love that Marion and J.Law seem to be doing the same Dior show, this maritime beauty recalls something Catherine Deneuve or Grace Kelly would've worn.

Any Jennifer Garner sighting is a good thing in my very humble opinion, even if nowadays it merely means she's supporting her husband. I don't know who she was wearing yet, but I believe she decided to dress as the Oscar her husband was snubbed for. God I adore this woman.

I am over Anne Hathaway this season, but I love the Audrey Hepburn feel of this Giambattista Valli. Her pixie cut and red lips are to die for.

Va-va-wow! Jessica Chastain is delicious in this fiery Alexander McQueen. Don't you think based on these looks, she and J.Law could be cast as 1940's noir vixens?

Tina Fey is the cutest and her sense of style has grown beautifully in the past few years. This Oscar de la Renta might not be far from what she usually does, but the simple belt adds a touch of class we'd never expect from Liz Lemon. Brava.

Nicole Kidman is a queen and this Vivienne Westwood gown makes her look absolutely magnificent.

Oh my dear January Jones, people will probably never understand that you are a magnificent creature sent to us from a distant future where fashion reigns. Your looks will be forever misunderstood and where wicked creatures saw you doing a Grace Jones parody in this stunning Prabal Gurung, time will reveal you were playing with structures and shapes in a way no one else would dare to. Soon, they too, will bow to you.

Who were your favorite ladies?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Style Sunday.

Amy Adams was a revelation in Vionnet at the Critics Choice Awards ten days ago. The lovely actress was able to convey an elegant sexiness she never has displayed before.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sheet-y Saturday (Fave Posters of 2012)

In no particular order (both because I'm lazy and because I really like them all)

Portrayed the exuberance and joi de vivre the film teasd about having but ended up lacking. It's an image of pure joy captured in a single moment.

Merida gives her back to the world proving just how she's setting herself apart from all other Disney princesses. Brave move indeed.

After reading Pattinson and then Cronenber, you're like "wait, what?" but the matinee idol's look of quiet despair hooks you.

If ever a movie's visual idiosyncrasy was captured by its poster, it's this. 

You can not look at this and not giggle. If only the rest of the marketing campaign had been this Hitchcockian...

Saul Bass brilliance for a noble cause. 

It's like a flyer from an actual strip club. You just wanna do jello shots after looking at it.

Like the cover of a 70s exploitation movie or a bad paperback. 

Promises a mystery larger than what the movie actually contained. 

This redacted title with no movie star names, no "from Oscar winning director" and no release date might be the greatest movie poster of the year (maybe I did have a favorite). Simple, effective and haunting.

What were your faves this year?