Archives For film

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As much as I love all horror with reckless abandon, women in the genre often fall into clear-cut tropes: the whore, the virgin, the Final Girl. However, we’re starting to see women slip into more sophisticated and complex horror roles. Do yourself a favor and add these films to your Halloween watch list, and be in awe of some of horror’s best badass women.

1. Green Room

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While most horror films spark frustration towards characters’ dumb decisions, Green Room leaves you in awe of the characters’ thoughtfulness and resilience. Among a small cast, two of the main characters are mouthy, smart women, who strike fear in the hearts of neo-Nazis everywhere. I’m not sure what more you could want. I guess you could toss in some punk rock and call it a day.

2. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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If you haven’t seen 10 Cloverfield Lane, you’re missing out on one of the best films of the year. Lightyears beyond the first Cloverfield, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance will blow you away, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout this intense ride. I recommend watching with snacks to keep you from biting your nails.

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guillermo del toro

Guillermo del Toro is a master filmmaker, whose films explore the unknown, the fantastical, and the supernatural. Many of his films defend the outcasts and the bizarre, undermining commonly-held expectations of good vs. evil and appearances vs. reality, ultimately deconstructing binaries and playing with genre tropes. Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak share similar themes, both in terms of writing and visual cues, imparting the same moral at the end of each story.

Pan’s Labyrinth

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One of my all-time favorite films, Pan’s Labyrinth, complicates popular fairy tale tropes—specifically, undermining characters’ face-value. In Marvelous Geometry: Narrative and Metafiction in Modern Fairy Tale, scholar Jessica Tiffin notes, “Lack of physical or circumstantial detail in the fairy tale thus goes hand-in-hand with a more profound effect, the simplification of morals and principles to the point where any conflict is dealt with in terms of absolutes—the hero, heroine, magical helper opposed to the villain, monster, or competing hero” (14).

Because fairy tales simplify people, the tales can then simplify morals. Tiffin says, “Unlike other forms of prose narrative, the fairy tale has no real interest in human subjectivity or psychological characterization of the individual. Like the events of fairy-tale narrative, characters are rendered down to essentials, described in terms of one or two defining characteristics” (14). By essentializing characters in terms of good and evil, fairy tale characters (and by extension, readers of fairy tales) know who’s good and who’s evil. The heroes and villains are readily apparent as such in both description of their attributes and appearance. Typically, good characters are beautiful, charming, and charismatic, while villains often have physical flaws, sometimes driven by jealousy of the more “beautiful” hero/heroine. It is this pattern within the fairy tale genre that del Toro critiques. While del Toro heavily prescribes to a good/evil binary, the good and evil characters are not readily identifiable by appearance.

One instance in which Pan’s Labyrinth overtly places itself in conversation with fairy tales is when Ofelia tries to determine if she has, in fact, encountered a fairy. A strange-looking insect follows Ofelia home and Ofelia asks it, “Are you a fairy?” Skeptical, she holds up one of her fairy tale books that showcases a dainty, humanoid fairy with wings, wearing delicate clothes made out of leaves. Ofelia points to the picture she says, “Look. This is a fairy.” Upon viewing the illustration, the brown, strange-looking insect transforms into a traditional-looking fairy, like the one in Ofelia’s book. When Ofelia first sees the insect, she’s frightened, but once she sees the fairy transform she realizes that the fairy’s form, whether humanoid or insect-like, is arbitrary. Ofelia decides to trust the fairy based on its actions instead of its appearances, seeing the value in withholding judgments based on physical cues.

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spiderman thinks about cash

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Sony finally decided to split custody of Spider-Man, and it looks like he’ll be visiting mom on some very important weekends in the future. After a few personal conversations, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are pretty excited. I feel that.

A few people are worried, though. Or maybe tired is a better word. News of another “Spider-Man reboot” induces cringing for these peeps, and this is my response to them. There are certain detractors that I’m not going to convince, and to those people I say that perhaps the next decade of big-budget movies should be something that they avoid, because franchising and multi-part plots aren’t going away. That’s great news, though!

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favorite movies of 2014

I have the kind of “special” brain that loves compiling lists. As we dive into 2015, I’m giddily filling out the blank lines in my new planner (I think I’m one of the five people on the planet who still uses one of those)– making lists for goals, work, errands, events, and things I want to eat. So, it’s no surprise that I’m jumping on the bandwagon (the horse of which has already been beaten to death) and making a list of my favorite movies of 2014. You’ll notice it does not say “Best Movies of 2014” because I don’t think I’m qualified to make that assertion, but I’m sure going to share my opinion until we’re all sick of it, because that’s another charming aspect of my personality. So, here we go:

1. Gone Girl

I loved this book and was nervous for an adaptation, but David Fincher has proven his evil genius yet again. Every detail  of Gone Girl demands attention: the framing, transitions, coloring, cinematography, writing, and visual puns are all beautiful and satisfying. Man, and the casting is spot-on. The book describes Nick as having a face you want to punch, and doesn’t Ben Affleck perfectly fit the bill? For my very spoilery review go here.

2. The One I Love

One of the most underrated films of the year, The One I Love left me thoughtful, introspective, and eager to discuss. It’s a film that I finished and immediately wanted to see again– a film that took care to explain enough, but left things a little untidy and open to interpretation. Also, I can’t get over the performances of Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss. The film hinges on their subtlety and they deliver with cherries on top. For my spoiler-free review of the film, go here.

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gone girl poster

Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne is one of those rare characters who leaves your mouth agape with equal parts disgust and weird admiration. Despite her deep narcissism and psychopathy, you find yourself in awe of her guts and sharp brain. She’s a complicated and more interesting successor to flat female villains, such as the femme fatale, Bond Girl, and Evil Stepmother. Finally, women get a smart, albeit crazy, evil antagonist. But Amy Dunne is no Disney villain and she’s no Madwoman in the Attic, either. She can’t be categorized as the go-to female tropes because she fits another mold: she’s a psychopath, one who uses her gender but is not defined by it.

Many have reacted to the film Gone Girl with angry exclamations that Amy Dunne’s character is an anti-feminist trope of the Bitch Wife. In fact, The Guardian said, “Women, some seem to believe, are self-serving, venomous and deceitful but can get away with whatever they want. It’s this outlook that Amy’s adventures could foster.” Whoa. Slow down, there. This isn’t the wife in some Judd Apatow movie—this is a disturbed murderer. Personally, I think it’s a bit condescending to the audience—to both men and women—to say that people are going to hold up a clearly broken person as representative of an entire gender.

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the one i love film

When I’d seen posters for The One I Love, I wasn’t sold. It was only after I’d found myself near a movie theater, looking for something to do and a screening of the film starting in 10 minutes that I decided to jump on board—and I’m so glad I did.

From what I’d previously seen, I worried that the film would be sappy. I don’t gravitate toward romantic comedies, and even when I’m assured it’s not a “typical” one, I usually still want the two hours of my life back. So, in an effort to avoid revealing the twists and turns of this film—I highly recommend avoiding trailers and reviews—let me just get the cliché over with and say: this is not a typical romantic comedy. I don’t even know if I would classify it as such, but there you go.

Rest assured, while the slow reveals in The One I Love keep you attentive, the film does not solely rely on the element of surprise. It’s the film’s impressive acting, honest writing, and beautiful cinematography that make it stand out as one of the best films of the year, and the practical details ring true to anyone who has asked themselves: how do you figure yourself out enough to be happy?

Rather than simply being about romantic scuffles and humorous miscommunication, the film tackles more complex ideas about how to develop meaningful relationships with people—not in the abstract, not solely in the romantic arena, and not without messiness. It’s no easy feat, and yet the film pulls it off, where lesser writing and acting would come off as too preachy or neatly-packaged.

I have to stop myself before I say too much, but please do yourself a favor and go see this film.

the one i love film 2

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If you haven’t heard of Snowpiercer, I recommend steering clear of trailers and going to see it blind. That’s how I saw it—and afterwards I watched a trailer that spoiled lots of things, and I’m glad I didn’t watch it beforehand. All you need to know is that this is a high-concept, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi (ish), fantasy wherein the world’s last survivors live on a train, with each car acting as a literal reinforcement of class structure. I know. It sounds weird. If you have seen the trailer, I don’t think it does the film justice. So, there.

Every once in a while, you see a film that you can’t get out of your head. We saw Snowpiercer over the weekend, and we keep bringing it up like it’s an ongoing conversation without an end in sight. And the more I think about it, the more I want to discuss. It’s a film that stays with you. Here’s why:

1. Stunning visuals.

Because I avoided spoiler-y trailers, I was able to enjoy surprises that await as you see what’s inside each train car. It’s amazing, terrifying, and fun.

2. Good writing and pacing.

I want to watch this film again, just to plot out its beats because it was one of the best-paced films I’ve seen in a long time. I was on the edge of my seat, and the film flew by.

3. Marxist treats.

When you see a film that leaves you in self-reflection about your own life, your own decisions, and your own societal expectations, I take that as a good sign.

4. Great plot.

As I mentioned, the pacing of this film was spot-on, but something that really struck me is that there were no romantic relationships pushing the plot forward. None. Do you know how rare that is?

Above all, Snowpiercer is different—it’s interesting. It’s the type of film that I like to support with my heart and wallet. And because of its beautiful visuals, it’s definitely worth seeing in theaters. In fact, I think I’ll turn around and see it again soon.