Month: March, 2013

Perks of Taking Shelter

It been a couple of weeks since my last update. It is the beginning of term and so my focus has shifted towards my thesis and the cinema of Aronofsky. Things might be a little sporadic this year. To that end, I have recently revisited Aronofsky’s Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain. I had forgotten just how good The Fountain is. Perhaps the end is a little overworked, but other than that, it is a masterpiece. I’m starting to snuggle my thoughts into the idea that Aronofsky’s films are examples of “cinema of absent presence”. A concept that I was introduced to in Dillon’s book The Solaris Effect. He examines how Tarkovsky, in his film Solaris, explored the relationship the viewer has with the screen fiction being observed; experiencing a reality, but in fact only observing celluloid. Woody Allen more directly explored similar ideas in The Purple Rose of Cairo and I believe Aronofsky is, perhaps unintentionally, stepping on similar grounds. Four of his five films appear to explore the haves and have-nots of cinema, and this is the direction I seem to be currently heading.

Of other films I have recently seen …

Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter; I have heard a lot about Jeff Nichols but this is the first film of his that I’ve seen. Michael Shannon does an impressive job playing Curtis, a blue-collar worker who starts to suffer panic attacks resulting in visions and paranoia. The ensuing strained relationship with his wife is equally impressively played by Jessica Chastain. Perhaps a little overdrawn, this film is for the most part a superb and unique portrayal of a very real mental illness. Rating here.

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Take Shelter

The Perks of Being a Wallflower; “I feel … infinite”, a sentiment expressed by Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), which so aptly describes that feeling of youth. A kind of invincibility that we all felt when we were in that limbo period between child and adult. My brother described Perks as being a current day The Breakfast Club (despite being set in roughly the same era), which tonally describes this film well. There is, however, a lot more going on in this film. Directed and written (both book and screenplay) by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, centers around Charlie. An awkward freshman desperate to fit in, he falls in with a group of empowering but quirky seniors. The film beautifully develops its characters and unfolds Charlie’s darker mysteries with good consideration. I found Perks to be well balanced, really well acted, and for me will probably be the surprise of the year … but to be fair I wasn’t expecting much. Rating here.

perks

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Thoughts on Argo

Argo; an interesting, tense, and humourous film that is let down a little by its saccharin ending. Built on a tension/release structure Argo superbly ratchets up tension, but unfortunately the release was an overly engineered emotive response. I’m sorry for my sweeping generalisation, but why do so many American movies needlessly go in for the “high five” ending. No such thing in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Different film, I know, but you get the impression that had it been made by the Argo crew … well, you know where I’m going with this.

I’m nitpicking, on the whole Argo is another solid piece of film making by Affleck, well acted, a tight script, and looked beautiful. It had me googling events afterwards. Not sure it should’ve won the best picture Oscar though, but I’m beating my head against a wall there.

Trailer and my rating here.

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Django Unchained

One thing about watching a Tarantino film is that you know what you’re in for. Sometimes he surprises, but more often than not it is an over-the-top ultra stylistic violent romp through a scape dripping with cool tunes. This is no different. It’s an incredibly attractive film with charismatic performances from Waltz (I can’t fault this Oscar nod), Jackson, DiCaprio, and Foxx. Above all this is a commentary on the struggle for freedom. Specifically the black struggle for freedom, but can be applied to any of the oppressed in our world. Despite its obvious inaccuracies, the narrative can only be interpreted as empowering for blacks … I cannot understand any argument to the contrary.

Technically a little disjointed and aimless in parts, I still found Django Unchained entertaining, disturbing, and enlightening. Although I still have to question if the gratuitous violence is necessary; it has become such a trademark of Tarantino that its inclusion seems necessitated by audience expectations and thus risks obscuring of the film’s message.

See the trailer and my rating here.

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Django Unchained