All Over The World, Kids Are Getting Down: The Boys & Girls Guide To Getting Down (2006)

Some films dance around the edge of being genius yet in the end fail to offer anything impressive.  Paul Sapiano's indie comedy The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down is precisely such a film.  It is an "insiders" guide to hipster culture as it relates to Los Angeles and nothing more.  In fact, the film could easily been a blog or book and delivered the same amount of humor or advice.  It has moments of humor, and a few notable tips on bar hopping, but in the end, it simply exists as another teen comedy complete with swearing, nudity and textbook stereotyping.  The film, despite its flashy graphics, has all been done before...much better.

The film is a mockumentary of sorts, focusing on a large cast of characters attempting to obtain everything from free drinks to one-night stands, showing little concern for much beyond this point.  It is apparent that the film is focused on helping individuals maintain one of Maslow's most basic needs and at no time attempts to step up the next block of the pyramid.  The film breaks down every essential to young adult nightlife including house parties, drug deals, and even promotes drunk driving.  In the end, it leaves little to be learned beyond the simple fact that a bunch of young rich kids can act irrationally with no real repercussions. 

I have no in depth commentary for this film, as it provides nothing but basic advice, which is completely idiotic and on more than one occasion life threatening.  It is a mockumentary that attempts to be brilliant, yet looses itself in the humor so much that its message is tragically uninspired.  Unless you really desire to see young adults going at it for sport, I would recommend avoiding this film.


Some Say That It's A Code Sent To Us From God: Pi (1998)

Daren Aronofsky is a visionary when it comes to the character study, whether it be a group of drug addicts or a aging professional wrestler.  His 1998 offering Pi is certainly no exception, and manages to offer the same high end experience of his later films, without the budget or grandiosity.  It is a simple story of madness told in a thrilling, cerebral and fast-paced manner.  Aronofsky use of editing offers a reflection of the characters psychology, and each montage, jump cut or handheld pan furthers the story, as opposed to simply adding artistic elements as so many films attempt to do.  What makes the film even greater is the incorporation of philosophical, theological and societal commentaries which while blatantly present manage to add to the film without drowning out its enjoyability.  It is well made and obviously thought out and offers a vision into Aronofsky's future works in the process.

Pi follows Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette) as he attempts to find a mathematical formula for predicting the ebb and flow of the stock market.  Through the combination of drugs, number theory and advanced computer technology Max creeps closer to exacting this formula.  However, on the brink of discovering the formula Max's mainframe crashes due to a literal bug entering into his hard drive. What Max is left with is a series of 216 random numbers.  In steps a Cabal quoting Jew named Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman) who claims that like Max's stock market  theory, the Torah also consists of formulaic numerical patterns that when understood could allow the chosen people to speak directly to God.  With this information, Max obsesses with rediscovering this set of numbers and using them to apply to the natural world.  However, as a former mentor warns him, he begins to find the numbers in everything.  Through a nightmare of hallucinations and drug induced stupors Max manages to destroy his apartment and his own body.  In the end Max realizes that his attempts to find the answers to nature are not only impossible, but life threatening.

The philosophy of this film is genius, as one should expect from Aronofsky.  It delves into the question of how much knowledge one individual can possess, and at what costs come of pursuing difficult and, at times, problematic issues.  Furthermore, it also focuses on tedious effort and physical exhaustion associated scientific pursuits, as is evidenced through multiple characters in the film, as well as references to scientists of the past.  Yet it is careful to note that, as is the case with Max's initial discovery, accidents often provide the best answers to questions.  In essence, the film takes something similar to Newton's discovery of gravity and adds the element of psychological disorder to the situation.  Perhaps the best part of the film is the incorporation of multiple religious ideals to the situation, including Judaism, Buddhism and brief moments of Christianity.  Aronofsky draws upon each to show that the universe is broad and incomprehensible, as well as detailed and interconnected, and when one attempts to seek the broader picture by "staring into the sun" they will only "go blind."

Do not hesitate to see this film if you are an Aronofsky fan, it is a great example of his early work and helps to show his evolution as an auteur. A copy for your collection is a must.


This Song is True, This Song is You: The Saddest Music In the World (2003)

I love moments of cinematic perfection, which is precisely what Guy Maddin delivers with his experimental musical The Saddest Music in the World.  A frenzied mash-up of silent era film making techniques, ambient music and self aware over the top acting this film delivers an idea directly from the mind of an auteur.   It is a movie of moments collected into a generalized idea that questions what one must experience to truly feel sad.  Through an unconventional use of the melodramatic Maddin offers a psychological escape from sadness, while simultaneously forcing viewers to acknowledge the truly degrading existences of those oppressed.  In essence, the film is a formulaic guilt trip masterfully embedded in a black comedy.  The film exudes brilliance while also pouring over with the film makers own personal tragedies, particularly those of loss and existential malaise.
The movie's plot is as abnormal as its filming style.  Existing primarily as a dialogue on depression the film follows beer baroness Lady Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) as she creates a global competition to find the sole song that could be described as the saddest music in the world.  This act is done in the midst of the Great Depression and is solely done for the baroness's own financial gain.  However, this portion of the story serves as an arch to cover an actual narrative of a family's falling out.  A Canadian father Fyodor Kent (David Fox) holds a undying infatuation for the baroness, despite losing her to his "American Song" Chester Kent (Mark McKinnley) after a fatal accident which caused the baroness to lose her legs.  However, this triangle is made all the more problematic by another "Serbian" brother Roderick (Ross McMillan) who seeks out his wife to play her a song in honor of their lost child, only to discover that his wife Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) is actually with Chester.  The feud is hectic, heartbreaking and at times violent ending with all three realizing levels of despair they thought impossible, particularly Chester who is shown accepting sadness, despite claiming to be immune to such emotions.  Even the conniving baroness experiences loss when she realizes that no form of prosthetic, including the beer that she literally stands on, can serve as a mental replication to her physical loss.

The social commentary with the film is vast and varied covering categories from psychological issues of pain to theoretical issues of what persons are justified in their claims of sadness.   The American music team relies heavily on their roots of exploitation, particularly in regards to African-Americans and Native Americans, yet the individuals singing the songs are all white creating a lingering divide between sadness and guilt, which emerges frequently in the film.  Similarly, it questions the psychological aspects of warfare, using The Great War as its point of reference.  It reminds viewers that millions of individuals die as a result of warfare, yet little is made of the suffering of the family and friends left behind.  It also acknowledges physical suffering in the way of the baroness who is a cripple and Roderick who is victim to various physical and psychological disorders.  Finally, it deals with the evolution of suffering through the character of Chester a person who begins by claiming such stoicism that he lacked an ability to cry at his own mothers' funeral.  Yet, as the story progresses and Chester is made to realize his own loneliness and bitterness it is him who truly, and irreversibly, sings the saddest song in the world.

I am very fond of this film and am considering making room for it on my mental top ten list.  It is black comedy done right, and even uses a former Kids in the Hall member in its cast.  Simply put it is how a film should be made and a copy is a must for any burgeoning cinephile.


Is This You????: Blue Valentine (2010)

Some films are uncomfortable not because they are graphic or insensitive, but instead because they are heartbreaking.  Derek Cianfrance's recent film Blue Valentine is unyielding it is depressing, sober, and tragic imagery.  It is a film that is brutally honest and at no point provides an image of positivity or hopefulness.  Yet the film in its tragedy still provides moments of sheer emotion inducing beauty, as occurs in the ukulele scene. It serves as a spotlight for the uncomfortable truths about fleeting love, lust which leads to both the physical and emotional decay of all those involved.  It exists to poetically question the validity of sacrificial love and if giving oneself to a family ever proves fruitful.

The film in a non-linear fashion follows the building and tumbling of a couples marriage.  The husband Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a semi-employed painter who strives to love his daughter, despite not being her biological father.  He also seeks the affection of his wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) who, as the film makes apparent is growing more and more distance from Dean who she feels is doing nothing with his life.  What makes the situation more tragic, are the flashbacks, which make it brutally apparent that Dean sacrificed his potential to marry Cindy and raise her daughter in a normal family.  Nonetheless, the film ends on a bitter note as Dean leaves Cindy, per her request, accepting that she no longer desires his nurture.  Dean his left to stare in disbelief as the rhythm of children's laughter and fireworks linger in the background.  Fireworks whose brief captivation mirrors the couple's tragic relationship.

This film is undeniably artistic, particularly in its use of color.  The flashbacks shot in grainy soft focus are paired with light blues and reds, while the present is much more dreary often incorporating heavy lighting and browns and blacks causing the couples flaws to come forward in a rather unflattering manner.  Furthermore, the film borrows heavily from both the French New Wave and the American Counter Culture film era.  Through jump cuts and scenes of public intimacy it is obvious that Cianfrance holds the works of Godard and Hopper in high regards.  Yet, as any good piece of artwork does, the film exists as its own unique offering combining skilled handheld cinematography, fine-tuned acting and a banshee-like soundtrack to create a story of loss and self-reflection that is simultaneously ridden with despair and promise.

This is a must see in my opinion, and while I enjoyed it on Blu-ray it is certainly not a must, I would say snag up a DVD version to add to your collection as soon as possible.


White Walls, Bloody Knives, and Self-Voyeurism: Aftermath (1994)

There exists a realm of cinema particularly for the disturbing and morbid.  Sometimes this is executed brilliantly, as in Audition, while in other cases it is simply glossy big budget gore with no purposes like in The Human Centipede. Nacho Cerda's short film Aftermath is something in between.  It is disturbing and bizarre, yet in it's drawn out cinematography and lack of dialogue the film manages to be something grotesquely beautiful.  It exists as a social commentary set amidst a horror film and the beauty is that the viewer is only made aware of this in the closing scenes.  It tempts its viewers to stop watching, only to remind them that in even the most degrading visual culture exists in a society that actually subjects living humans on a daily basis.

The film is short, but packs a punch.  It follows two pathologists partaking in what appear to be normal autopsies.  However, it is quickly made clear that they are not performing their jobs with any regards to ethics or respect for the corpses.  The two men destroy the corpses, mangle organs and remove organs for their own edification.  It seems as though this will constitute the entire film, until one of the pathologists is shown carrying the corpse of a woman into the autopsy room.   What follows is a series of profane acts between the man and the woman's corpse, which end with an act of necrophilia.  As if to add finality to the act, the pathologist takes the woman's heart home and feeds it to his dog.

From the onset I found the film problematic, it involves acts of dominance that theoretically constitute rape.  However, it is apparent as an entire piece that it serves as a metaphor.  The pathologists being patriarchy, capitalists or whatever power structure one finds themselves a victim.  With their phallic knives, possession of crucifix and unquestioned control over inanimate bodies they are a force which literally cannot be challenged.  What separates this film from others of the nature is the element of voyeurism throughout.  In one rather notable scene, the pathologist photographs his act of necrophilia, allowing himself to not only subjugate the dead woman, but to later revisit the pictures and reaffirm his actions, an interesting premise in a society that provides visual, literary and audio reaffirmation of corrupt acts by those in power.

The film is an interesting endeavor.  I cannot outright recommend this movie though, but those who enjoy the grotesque films will find this one refreshing in the midst of some rather terrible movies with similar plots.


Crickets, Drums, and Frantic Relationships: Sex Machine (2005)

Independent Asian romance films often dance a very fine line between soft-core porn and run of the mill romantic comedies.  Yuji Tajiri's Japanese film  The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine, or simply Sex Machine exists in this divide.  At an hour long, a third of which involves drawn out acts of sexual intercourse, the film is undeniably pornographic.  While it is by no means In the Realm of the Senses or even Nine Songs it does unabashedly display full frontal female nudity and images of male ejaculation.  However, as any legitimate film does, it takes time to clearly differentiate the portrayals of sexuality from the narrative of relationship evolution, thus separating it from the lower form of art that is pornography.  Sex Machine is a story first and a depiction of the intimacies second, not the other way around.

The film opens with a young Hiroshi (Mutsuo Yoshioka) gazing upon his girlfriend Haruka (Rinako Hirasawa) as they head to live together in suburban Japan.  This is almost immediately followed by their sexual relationship, one that is so intense that it causes a minor earthquake in the surrounding neighborhood.  Hiroshi can find little wrong with his situation and seems quite content...that is until Haruka's former lovers and her son's father appear.  Each demands her back, her former Anzai (Kazuhiro Sano) going so far as to force himself upon Haruka who eventually submits to his demands.  Hiroshi even proves unfaithful and cheats on Haruka with her son playing in the background.  The two have a falling out which is only solved with a series of cricket fights, underwater tunnels and lesbian contact between Haruka and Hiroshi's recent affair.  Ultimately, the two realize their relationship is strong only through a moment of loss.  It ends with Haruka playing the drums of monotony and safety, which while uninteresting prove far less stressful than the wilds of their previous activities, sex included.

Despite involving a rather large amount of sex scenes, the film is extremely cinematic, incorporating the obvious influences of Ozu, particularly his comedic work Good Morning.  Many of the scenes, both sexual and nonsexual, are filmed in a first person style, implying a sense of voyeurism to the entire scene.  Viewers are drawn in not only by the insane sexual acts, but by the tension of couples's relationship as well and the handheld camera and close-ups only serves as a point of fixation.  Furthermore, the film raises questions of whether or not differences exist between humans and insects, particularly in the power dynamic of males and females.  It is apparent that the only weakness to male crickets is a female cricket in heat.  Similarly, Haruka's own sexual promescuity proves problematic to many men within the film who either see her as an object to conquer or to gaze at for sexual gratification.  In fact, the only man oblivious to the sexuality of Haruka is her own son.  Arguably, it is only through genderless interactions that harmony may exist, a rather bold statement for a film that focuses so heavily on the role that intercourse plays in a heterosexual relationship.  The film is by no means void of problematic images, but its philosophical leanings lead me to believe that it might just transcend notions of male dominance as a positive thing.  One can only hope that the drum heard at the films end is not a call for that tradition as well.

I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat, but with that being said I should not that it does have imagery that some may find offensive.  While I am quite liberal in my notion of cinema, I know some may not enjoy it, but for those who do care to see it either view it on Netflix or get the DVD.


Glass Objects, Objects Still Intact, Empty Glasses: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Avant-garde film has never been so haunting, as it is in Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad.  This film seeps of the screen with its lavish excess, repetitive symmetry and oneiric shadow play.  The dialogue occurs as a narrative that simultaneously builds coherence while deteriorating in logic.  The film is experiential as opposed to methodical, emotional as opposed to rational and somehow dangerously walks the line between expressionist grandiosity and modernist minimalism.  It is a film like no other from beginning to end, the viewer is witnessing art as it flows and is left not to comprehend, but instead to contemplate.

While the films plot is incoherent and arguably nonexistent, it is apparent that the films main character, and man simply named X (Giorgio Albertazzi), desires to convince a woman A (Delphine Seyrig) that they both shared in a fleeting romance exactly one year ago at the estate of Marienbad.  However, the film is not simply showing his rekindling of their relationship, but more tragically, how memories of love and lust can become vague and in many instances harsh when left unattended.  The film repeats motifs of vanity, games of skill and physical silence all as methods to separate past tragedies with contemporary actuality.  The film ends in a moment of shadows as lights fade away noting that no matter how ardently a person strives to recreate the past or experience the present the end is inevitably the cold and existential nothingness of death.

I cannot sing the praises of this film enough! The film is expertly made and soundly paced.  Each panning shot, jump cut, removal of sound and repetition of dialogue enhances the delirious, dreary nature of the film.  It is not so much a film about fond memories as it is one of haunting nightmares.  The angular bushes, overbearing statues and incessant reflection of mirrors become things of disdain for the films characters and the viewers, because no amount of denial or disbelief allow either to escape from their own reflection, reminding them that by simply acknowledging the past they also accept is memories, both those that are grand and those that are terrifying.  It shows that in severe instances nostalgia is not only unhealthy, but also crippling.

I can say without a doubt that this is the best Blu-ray I have seen to date and I applaud Criterion for bringing this film to a wider audience.


Production Value!: Super 8 (2011)

Let me just get it out of the way now...this movie was awesome!  Not as a brilliant cinematic statement, or a dialogue driven masterpiece, but as a edge of your seat, emotion stirring action film.  I recently reviewed J.J. Abram's Star Trek, and while that is theoretically the more sound film, Super 8 is hands down the more enjoyable film of the two.  For just under two hours I was transported to 1979 and experienced the thrill of a few kids letting their imaginations run wild in the name of film making, and of course saving their town from an alien attack.  I wish every summer blockbuster were this good, because maybe then I would understand why Tree of Life has yet to show up at my local theater. 

Despite keeping the plot of his film relatively quiet, it is apparent from the onset that this film will involve some sort of disaster.  It begins with an accident at a local factory that is used to foreshadow the catastrophe, which will ensue in the film's small town..  A group of young awkward boys, and a popular girl, witness a train wreck that happens after a truck inexplicably runs into it.  This wreck is quickly followed by a government cover-up and military takeover of the town. The films plot advancement is predicated on Cold War fears and small town traditionalism, which ignores an obvious alien invasion as a Soviet attack.  Inevitably, the film is about the kids' film making and advancing as friends who understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, much like the production crew of a film would.  Similar to the Korean film The Host it is a film not about monsters, but about how people react in the face of tragedy instead.

This film is a textbook homage.  J.J. Abrams is obviously bowing down the the film's producer Steven Spielberg.  Abrams incorporates all the action, dialogue and cinematic elements of his predecessor and adds his own stylistic notations to the process.  This is most evident in his use of solar flare on his film, a technique that occurred quite frequently in Star Trek as well.  He also incorporated his capitalized Helvetica font made famous from lost into the films moments of text.  Beyond being an homage it is also a film about making a film.  It is apparent that Abrams is attempting to show the evolution of himself as a child filmmaker to a big budget high profile producer.  The closing credits, which I will not spoil for others, remind people that film making takes practice and advancement only comes through the inspiration of other film makers.  It promotes a give and take approach to film making, which I feel lacks greatly in individualistic contemporary cinema.

This film is a necessary for theaters.  Excluding The Tree of Life, this is the film to see this summer.  Also, to better understand Abrams' approach to film making I suggest watching this TED video.


You Have To Compare All The Time: My Life as a Dog (1985)

Swedish cinema has an uncanny knack for sentimentality.  Lasse Halstrom's My Life as aDog certainly exemplifies this argument.  In his coming of age tale Halstrom successfully captures the beauty, tragedy, and at times absurdity of growing up.  The film exists as a series of memories and as such, flows quite nostalgically often relying on heavy lighting and slow dialogue to drive home the experience.  Furthermore, like any good memory film it requires certain forms of repetition, which center around specific moments, particularly repeated playings of the song "What A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" which serves as the focal point for the past for a young boy.

The young boy mentioned is Ingemar (Anton Glanzeilus), who through reflective narrative recalls the times up to and briefly after his mothers death.  It is apparent that his life is quite tragic, in that he has no constant father figure, a sick mother and indifferent relatives.  Fortunately, for Ingemar he has family friends in rural Sweden who agree to take care of the wandering child.  These people belong to a village of eccentric persons, which include a androgynous girl, a boy with green hair and a voluptuous woman who takes a particular liking to the young Ingemar.  It is with this bizarre cast of characters that Ingemar finds a home, because they like him are unconventional in their existence.  The film ends with Ingemar's fond memories of the past using his time spent with these relatives as a high point in his life, especially in relation to the space dog Laika who the Russians left to starve in the great unknown.

The beauty of this film exists in its simplicity.  The film is undeniably intended to be seen through the eyes of Ingemar who is indifferent to female sexuality, assumes his mothers sickness to be fleeting and fails to understand that his father will never return.  As such the film often focuses solely on eye-line shots of Ingemar as he overlooks a young girls nudity as nothing more than helping a friend, or as he reads lingerie adds to an ailing and perverse elderly man.  Even the films humor exists in a realm of childishness, often using acts of absurdism as comedy, whether it be toilet humor or crazy old men swimming in rivers the film is meant for the mind of a child.  Despite this, it exists as a very adult film.  The problems shown represent those emerging in the world of the eighties, particularly single parent households and an increasing gap between the poor and the rich.  Halstrom's ability to expertly navigate between the dueling worlds of youthful innocence and worldly experience is an obvious explanation for the unwavering praise the film received upon released.  It exists in its own realm and remains steadfastly a work of affection remembrance and achingly blissful disenchantment.

The best version of this film is the Criterion release of course, and while I have not made it through the supplements I imagine they are quite good and look forward to the essays which are included.


Going to the Fourth World: Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Opening scenes often make movies and Heavenly Creatures has one of the most intense ones I have seen to date.  A young Kate Winslett and Melanie Lynskey are shown running through a forest with blood stained faces screaming at the top of their lungs.  Given this introduction, it appears as though Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures shares little in common with its cherubic title.  The film is intense, emotional and full of fantastical imagery and for a brief moment, viewers are invited into the 1950's world of a ever-changing New Zealand.  It is a cinematic film in every sense of the world forcing those watching to exercise multiple senses simultaneously. 

The film follows Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey), as she becomes increasingly infatuated with a fellow schoolmate Juliet Hume (Kate Winslett).  Based on the real life Parker's own diaries it is an intimate look into how a homosexual relationship formed amidst oppressive traditionalism and rigid morality guidelines.  The two girls create a world of their own complete with full of clay sculptures, purple skies, and orange fauna.  The world they create serves as a place for them to harvest their growing love as it slowly evolves from a friendship to something far more physical.  Ultimately, however, their love conflicts with the ideals of those around them and in order to prevent its continuation both girls' parents separate them to deter their "sickness."  Uncertain of their future the girls take part in a brutal act of rebellion intending to run away and spend their lives together.  As the closing statements explain this never became the case.

The film is great for two reasons.   The first is that, in my opinion, it shows how truly fragile not only young love is, but homosexual love as well.  Both girls display an instant affection for one another, yet cannot express it under the surveillance of their schools formality.  As a result, much of their time spent together is in a world of fantasy, one in which they set their relationship within hetero-normative standards.  It reflects practices of that period which involved one person passing as the opposite sex in order to make their relationship seem heterosexual, a practice that unfortunately still occurs today.  While the girls' relationship is centered in fantasy, it reflects these behaviors regardless.  The second great thing about this film is its dedication to Parker's diary entries.  The film seems to flow between events sporadically, often portraying moments in an order that leads the viewer to question the chronological order of narrative.  Furthermore, Parker's real-world experiences often infiltrate into her fantasy realm, as shown beautifully in the opera/dance scene in the Fourth World village.  This only heightens the notion that it is a film about inner experiences, as opposed to outward observation.

Besides being an excellent film, Heavenly Creatures provides an early glimpse into the cinematic style of Peter Jackson.  His use of make-up and prosthetic work within this film display faint glimmerings of what he would do with the Lord of the Rings series and, ideally, show what we can expect from him in the future.  It is a great watch and a film well worth owning.


Surely it's the Things We Do Beforehand That Count: An Education (2009)

9 out of 10 times British movies are cooler than their American counterparts, and Lone Scherfig's 2009 drama An Education is certainly prove of this.  With a cast that includes the enigmatic Carey Mulligan and the suave Peter Sarsgaard it is difficult not to enjoy the movie.  The fine tuned visuals and consistent acting throughout make for an intense movie about love and loss of innocence that is only made more unyielding in the well-delivered performances throughout.  It shows the pain of lost love and the discomforts maturing without offering the unnecessary sugarcoating of most Hollywood offerings.

An Education follows the life of Jenny (Carey Mulligan) as she strives to outshine her classmates at an all girls school in the UK.  Her father, brilliantly played by Alfred Molina, who has his eyes set on her daughter attending Oxford, reinforces her desires.    Jenny appears to be on track to obtain these goals, until she is offered a ride to escape the rain from the much older David (Peter Sarsgaard).  What ensues is Jenny's infatuation with the well traveled and care free David, going on trips to Oxford and Paris with him all the while ignoring her school work and confronting her teachers about their own failed lives.  Even Jenny's father consents to her time with David, because as he sees it this is precisely the man he'd hoped she would meet while at Oxford.  Unfortunately, as it becomes quickly evident David is not exactly the brilliant man he claimed to be; instead he steals items, preys on the elderly and exploits the system to make money, and in his own stupidity hides a very big secret from Jenny, one that ultimately decides the couples fate.  It is a film about growing up that reminds its viewers that sometimes the experience can be quite tumultuous.

The film catches a very unique moment in history, by displaying London in the 1960's.  It plays nicely on the division between old world tradition and the burgeoning revolutionaries that would rule ideology well into the seventies.  Each bit of dialogue exists to further this divide, often using the relationship between Jenny and her father to portray this.  However, the film's soundtrack, scenery and costuming further this notion.  The world of Jenny's father is ruled by the traditional ideals of C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen, while Jenny and David thrive on the literature of existentialists and the films of French New Wave directors.  It is a film that shows the troubles of changing ideals, using Jenny as the metaphor for the loss of innocence that would occur with the onset of Vietnam.

An Education may not have received universal acclaim upon its release, but it is how one should make a movie.  While the film certainly stands heavy on its acting, it is well nshot nonetheless and would be done just if viewed in Bluray format.


For a Spoonful of Bortsch: The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Propaganda can be a good thing.  Casablanca is the shining example of this.  However, other countries also pushed propaganda through the medium of film, and Sergei Eisenstein was one such example.  Eisenstein's 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin doubles as propaganda and unfiltered artistic imagery.  The film is over the top, but such is expected of a silent film that uses theater actors as its source for characters.  Regardless of this it is enjoyable, well executed and at times awe-inspiring.

The film focuses on the revolutionary efforts of  a group of beleaguered sailors who have been subjugated to degrading living standards that range from cramped living spaces to being served rotten food.  Their lack of respect from higher-ups drives them to kill their superiors in a fit of revolution, which is shot with the same vigor and eye for intensity of the most contemporary action films.  The revolt results in the loss of their leader Vakulinchuk (Aleksandr Antonov) who is used to exalt the proletariat ideals, by serving as a martyred signifier for the effort.  In classic propagandistic fashion, the film not only focuses on the ideals of a group, but how they relate to an entire country.  As such, the film focuses on a revolt in Odessa, which involves images of unending peasants standing against militaristic oppression, using mothers and their children in sacrifice to the cause.  Ultimately, the members of the Potemkin and Odessa unite in a brotherhood of the working class desires as the film fades out into a Marxist driven future.

The film promotes classless ideals, but not genderless ones.  It promotes a notion that revolution is a masculine thing, despite involving blatant and literal sacrifices of women.  I have to accept that the film is set in 1925 ideology, yet I cannot dissuade the sexist rhetoric that ensues.  It serves as a serious reminder to how problematic even the most liberal of government plans can be.  It proves that even notions of classlessness do not by default ensure equality.

Sure, the film have problems and sure it is silent, but it is damn good and one of the best films ever made.  I recommend this as a must see film, as do so many scholars.  Not including a choice to add some color to some scenes, Kino Film has done a great job with the most recent restoration.


Universe-ending Paradoxes Would Ensue Should He Break His Promise: Star Trek (2009)

I rarely watch films in regards to directors' previous attachments with television.  However, given my particular affinity for LOST, I find myself drawn to the work of J.J. Abrams.  I was, however, severely concerned with him choosing to take on the project of making a new Star Trek film based directly off the original serious.  Fortunately, my concerns were quickly dismissed as Abrams with his penchant for CGI-laden action, intense orchestral music and unabashed overacting delivers everything one could ask for in a new vision of a nearly 50 year old show.  It is precisely what a scif-fi film should be, over-the-top, but careful to place critical commentary on society along the way.

I am not versed in the world of Star Trek and will not attempt to repeat the plot as it relates to the franchises entirety.  I can, however, safely say that the film focuses on the experiences of the original members of Enterprise which included Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty as well as others, each being recreated by some of today's most well established actors...and a few lesser-knowns as well.  It is a movie that does not rely heavily on plot twists (surprising for an Abrams piece) yet paces itself to keep the viewer attentive.  The use of CGI to create black holes, exploding ships and various aliens in magical and promotes a notion that if CGI is used it should be done with care, and not as some half-assed attempt to make something sparkle or a creature move...(think Twilight or the last Lord of the Rings film).  Finally, the film involves a cameo by Leonard Nemoy, which is a great use of the still living actor as homage to the original, sadly the great William Shatner apparently could not make it away from Travelocity commercials to reprise his role.

The film is perhaps so good because despite being released in 2009 it still manages to keep the Cold War mentality of its original.  The movie's characters and plot focus on fears of uncertainty and change as shown through promotion of logic over emotion and even the issue of undisputed authority and its unyielding power in the face of bureaucracy.  The film also keeps the diversity of the original show, choosing to add even more ethnic groups to the film, as well as calling up Tyler Perry to play the role of the commanding officer for the entirety of Star Fleet.  The move , like its predecessor, demands change in the face of continued fear of foreign power and looks to cross-species/cultural unity as a harbinger of peace.  The film exists as a call for change that happens to be brilliantly disguised as a damn good popcorn movie.

Watch the movie in a theater-like setting.  Get a HD copy and bring some friends, you will be rooting along with the crew of the Enterprise as they were no "one" has gone before.


Maybe We Don't Have to Find It, Maybe We Are the Pieces: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)

Sometimes for a film, soundtracks are everything, especially when said film implies music in its title.  Like Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, Peter Sollett's 2008 film shows an equal, if not greater, concern for what is heard, as well as what is seen.  From the ambient echoes of Band of Horses to the harmonious upbeat tunes of Vampire Weekend, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist uses its musical pretentiousness to tell its story, and does so with great success.  It is a movie about, for, and in all likelihood by a music geek and in creating such a film, Sollett easily reflects his passion onto the screen for ninety minutes.

The film is seemingly simple in its plot.  It is the classic John Hughes movie, awkward guy loses girlfriend is a wreck and hopes to win her back.  Another girl secretly desires the awkward guy...they magically end up stuck together for a night and suddenly they realize they are soul mates.  It is really that simple, of course that goes to say that as a movie this takes many obstacles and ex's interference before occurring.

What makes the film distinctly different is the cast of characters.  With the exception of Micheal Cera...playing Micheal Cera, the group of actors are delightfully unconventional.  It is particularly nice to see a film where the main character's friends are openly gay and yet completely accepted.  The film does make note of their homosexuality in jest, but each occasion is quickly countered with them possessing their sexual identity without shame, going so far as to name their band A Fistful of Assholes.  The characters accept themselves, and those shown to be unhappy end up alone (as do Nick's Ex and Norah's belligerent friend), or without the record contract (as do a group of faux-Jewish rockers who use their heritage in an exploitative manner).  The film promotes honesty and self-esteem and certainly reflects these ideals throughout.

The filming relies heavily on artificial lighting to create a glossy feel, as the characters seem to pass through a dreary New York City which is full of rain drenched streets, off-yellow Yugo's and all male revues involving Jesus and bottomless altar boys.  The film is a stroke of genius that can easily be enjoyed.  If you have a significant other, I would suggest watching it with them, it certainly made my own viewing experience more pleasurable.  Also, check out the soundtrack, it is for all intensive purposes glorious.


This Place is Meant for the Younger Generation: Tokyo Story (1953)

Yasujiro Ozu is a master of cinema.  Late Spring is one of the most mesmerizing films I have seen to date, and should not have been surprised to watch his film Tokyo Story surpass it.  He is perhaps the only director who can take the most tragic and heart wrenching parts of modernity and show it so poetically.  Furthermore, Ozu calls upon his ethereal muse Setsuko Hara to deliver a brilliantly acted performance.  It is a Japanese epic that rivals Kurosawa head-on.

The film follows an aging couple as they visit their children and their widowed daughter-in-law in hopes of reconnecting with them after years of geographic separation.  What unfolds is a reflection of the divisions between a traditional Japan and the new modern, capitalist world of Japan following World War II.  The children see their parents as a burden passing them off between each other in hopes that they can continue prospering economically.  The grandchildren are so indifferent to tradition that they flat out ignore their grandparents running out of the room at the earliest convenience.  Tragically, it is only their daughter-in-law Norkio (Setsuko Hara) who helps the elderly couple because she proves to be not only faithful to her deceased husband, but to tradition as well.  Even in the face of their mothers death the children avoid staying to console their father, and instead concern themselves with accruing the belongings of their now gone mother.  In the end the film leaves the viewers to accept the tragedies of modern Japan and in a spout of nihilism posits that the elderly of Japan will die lonely and ignored by progressive technologies.

The key to Ozu's beauty is his composition.  Ozu, along with cinematographer Yuhara Atsuta, create a world of symmetry and voyeurism.  Each shot is carefully composed to be long, often showing the intimate workings of daily Japanese life.  At times the film feels more like a theater piece than cinema, given that each shot is clearly staged and actors often deliver their lines directly into the camera.  Despite the very controlled filming style, the film's beauty is inescapable.  Shadows often appear in moments of sadness, and when the scene involving the grandmother confiding in her grandson about her own despair is shot in a soft-focus that adds to is already wrenching feel.  It is a story about breaking stalwart traditions with modern technology and Ozu carefully films in a way to remind viewers that the two worlds can theoretically exist, it just involves many more Noriko's to prove successful.

I should note that this is my first of what I hope to be many Criterion reviews.  I suggest checking this film out along with many of Ozu's other films in the collection.  Here is a direct link for Tokyo Story, which is also available to watch instantly on Netflix.


The Key Fits, But It Won't Turn: The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008)

Low-budget independent cinema has lead to the emergence of a genre known as mumblecorp.  This film style is synonymous with faint dialogue, choppy editing and super obscure indie music.  Joshua Safdie's 16 mm independent film The Pleasure of Being Robbed is a mumblecorp film in everything but name.  The editing is an amalgamation of famous moments from other movies and obviously borrows quite heavily from Woody Allen and Richard Linklater.  It clocks in at just over an hour and leaves the viewer feeling as though they have watched nothing more than an experimental student film.  The film was enjoyable, but everything shown has been done before and with much better results.

The film purposefully avoids a plot, in order to allow for the character of Eleonore (Eleonore Hendricks) to move freely throughout New York and Boston partaking in kleptomania.  She meets everything from an amateur ping-pong player to a seemingly jobless friend who helps teach her to drive a stolen car.  Beyond this very little occurs and Eleonore is left to realize that her criminal ways will result in her own entrapment, a scene which occurs quite beautifully in the Central Park Zoo.

Sadly, this film reeks of trust-fund hipster pretension, as all of the characters seem to exist in a world where their actions have no financial or legal consequence.  Eleonore steals simply for the fix and attempts to explain to one woman that she only wants to look through her purse.  The film appears to be making a statement about poverty and desire, yet the people shown all drive a Volvo and afford large collections of music for their apartments.  I can only feel that this film falls into the "Stuff That White People Like" category, but fails to show that those same individuals understand poverty or the true experiences of a troubled life.

This film is not awful by any means, but simply does not deliver.  Its biggest redemption comes in the cinematography, but most of that can be directly linked to the use of 16mm as a medium.  I cannot recommend this movie; instead, I would suggest checking out  Gus Van Sant's Mala Noche for a brilliant independent student film, it is leaps and bounds more enjoyable.


Yes, But First You Will Have To Catch Him: White Mane (1953)

In only forty minutes, Albert Lamorisse manages to take control of nature from the Gods to create a stunning children's film about losing innocence and succumbing to a technologically induced death. White Mane is a black and white masterpiece that uses an oneiric grey world that causes viewers to lose their breath at moments of stunning cinematography that is only made the more sentimental by additional string based music.  In essence, White Mane makes a movie equally, if not more, gorgeous to the recent works of Pixar and other CGI-based film companies.  What is more impressive is that this occurred roughly forty years earlier.

White Mane follows the experiences of a young boy named Folco (Alain Emery) who longingly destines to tame a white horse, sharing the name of the film.  Folco, however, must do so with the constant ridicule of other adult cowboys who find White Mane to be a burden to capturing other wild horses.  The group goes to great lengths to prevent Folco from successfully capturing and training White Mane, using their whips and prods to separate the boy and his equine companion.  Ultimately, Folco, as any coming of age story does, realizes that he too must change his approach to life to assure his success.  He must acquiesce to nature's way in order to tame White Mane, and any attempts to reign him in with man made tools only result in the horses rebellion.  Folco becomes so devoted to existing as one with the horse that he literally rides off into the ocean with the horse, assuming that the child will die, the cowboys accept that their ways were harsh and beg the child to reconsider.  Unfortunately, their pleas are too late and they, like the viewer, are left to decide if they will choose to live in harmony with nature or continue to use force to rule the world, a force that inevitably results in unnecessary death and, more importantly, the removal of child hood innocence.

This film is stunning. I cannot emphasize that enough.  However, this film also portrays rather unconventional imagery in regards to familial relationships.  Folco appears to exist simultaneously as a parental and child figure.  He must take care of his ailing grandfather and his own sister, because the film never shows his parents, nor does it offer an explanation to their whereabouts. As a dual figure, Folco finds peace with White Mane who is also the leader of the band of wild horses.  White Mane too appears to have no elders.  I cannot help but think about this film in relation to other films that use animals or anthropomorphic beings as devices for maturation.  I plan to look at this in the future as it relates to more contemporary films with similar themes such as How to Train Your Dragon.  If you have any ideas on other films to include that would be very much appreciated.

With that being said, I am considering marketing for White Mane to be the first "required viewing" film in classrooms, because it is that good.


I Can Lie Very Well, and I'm Used to Improvising: All About My Mother (1999)

I am a huge fan of Pedro Almódovar.  I particularly enjoy his newer works and their critical focus on contemporary Spanish familial relations.  However, I only began watching his works in the recent years and have yet to make it through much of his older work, All About My Mother being one such film.  All About My Mother is, in many critics' eyes, his masterwork.  From the onset of the movie it is apparent why such opinions exist, the film is perfectly executed and provides the viewer with great acting, breathtaking visuals and more than a fair amount of laughs, not to mention one of the most somber death scenes I have seen in quite some time.  It also reflects all of the elements that cement Almódovar's auteur status: a cast full of sexually ambiguous characters, a vibrant and diverse color pallet and references to both Spanish and world culture.

The film follows the experiences and interactions of Manuela who is searching for her recently deceased son's father Lola...who happens to be a transvestite.  Along the way Manuela meets another transvestite Agrado (known for being agreeable), Sister Rosa (a nun who was also impregnated by Lola, played by Penelope Cruz) and Huma Rojo (an aging actress who as is befitting of her name always wears red).  Along the way Manuela learns to come to grips with her own sexual confusion and also the untimely death of her son.  In the films closing moments she reconciles with Lola, takes on Rosa's baby named Esteban, in honor of Manuela's own lost child and even has an opportunity to rekindle her previous dreams as an actress.

The beauty of this film comes not only in its vibrancy and its open-mindedness, but in that it is complete subversion of traditional melodrama.  Framing itself directly in relation to All About Eve, the film sets up every trope in the melodrama tradition only to break it down shortly after.  Almódovar inserts heavy string music into scenes of raunchy sexual debauchery and even plays on the visual elements of melodrama, taking the image of a train tunnel to not be a metaphor for Manuela's own dark past, but as a return to the vaginal role of mother, given her matriarchal nature to the childish people in her own life.  In fact, at no point does a male character provide a source of guidance.  Rosa's father is senile and easily confused and as mentioned earlier Esteban's father is now a woman, failing to assert his masculinity prior to his/her son's death.  The film is ultimately about motherhood, an idea that is reiterated in Almódovar's closing statement of thanks to all people like his own mother.  It is a far cry from a film about patriarchy, because in the world Almodóvar has created the notion simply does not exist.

If you are unfamiliar with Almódovar, I would recommend visiting Volver first, and then one of his earlier works such as Tie Me Up, Time Me Down or What Have I Done to Deserve This?  If you are versed in these films, but have yet to give this one a shot I cannot urge you more to watch it immediately.


Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Godfather (1972)

Some movies are made even more epic by pairing them with a thematic dinner and beverage.  I had the pleasure of enjoying The Godfather with friends over spaghetti and wine, which made the experience all the better.  This was not my first time viewing The Godfather by a long shot, however, it was the first time in quite a few years and my pallet for film is certainly more distinguished.  With that being said, I love this movie!  It is flawless from the opening scene to the intense, yet operatic, baptism scene and provides several awe-inspiring moments in between.  It is rare to see a movie and not feel as though it could have done without a certain scene, or chosen a better way to approach a portion of the narrative.  I at no point felt this with The Godfather, which is surprising given that it clocks in at just under three hours.  It may have been the Blu-Ray transfer or the glasses of wine in me, but I felt transcendent watching this film, as though I had entered into the most intimate realms of World War II era mafia life.

I can now come to appreciate why the film is often listed in Top Ten of All Time lists so often.  As one of my friends, who is lesser versed in film, noted, he could tell it was a better film than most Hollywood garbage, yet was incapable of placing a specific reason as to why.  I posited that it might be the harmonious working of all the right elements to make a masterpiece, whether it be Brando's impeccable acting or Coppola's chiaroscuro lighting.  Plain and simple, the film is perfection and all that can be said has, and I won't attempt to offer anything profoundly new.

I do want to note, as I am sure others have, the overbearing sense of patriarchy in the film.  It is made apparent through verbal cues and the structural nature of the mise-en-scene that Coppola's world, as is the case for many of his other films, is one for men.  I do not feel as though this deters from the enjoyability of the film, particularly because it is a period piece, however, I would be remiss not to mention it.  With that being said, I encourage a revisiting of this movie and I promise you that if you choose not to eat Italian food while doing so a craving for some will surely follow.


These Aren't Drawings, These Are Pictures: Summer of '42 (1971)

HD is glorious.  I especially fancy this development as it relates to the grainy, soft-focus, Technicolor films of the 60's and 70's, Badlands being the best example I have seen to date.  Robert Mulligan, better know for To Kill a Mockingbird, provides such a film with his adaptation of Herman Raucher's memoirs of his own Summer of '42.  The film is not perfect.  The acting leaves much to be desired and often relies heavily on melodramatic elements to advance the plot, yet this coming of age tale offers moments of beauty, heartbreak and even an occasional laugh. I would call Summer of '42 one of those pleasant surprises that you stumble upon by accident.  It is certainly not The Graduate, but at times comes pretty damn close.

As is to be expected, the film follows the experiences of Hermie Raucher (Gary Grimes) as he spends a summer on an island with his "friends" Oscy (Jerry Houser) and Benjie (Oliver Conant).  I use the term friends lightly, because as the narrative progresses it is apparent that the Oscy and Benjie exist as barriers to Hermie's own maturity.  Hermie, as most young boys do, obsesses with an older girl from the town named Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) whose lover is shown leaving to fight in WW2.  As the film advances, Hermie grows distant from his immature friends obsessions with fondling breasts and playing at the beach to discover the pain and beauty of a first love.  In a moment of cinematic perfection Hermie visits a sullen Dorothy, at the recent discovery of her boyfriends death, and consoles her with a slow dance that completely changes the lightheartedness of the film up to this point.  The film ends with the narrator discussing his own loss that summer an experience that aging inevitably brings.

In regards to critical analysis, I have nothing to offer, but I do want to note the aesthetic brilliance of the film.  As noted earlier, it is done in a soft-focus with natural lighting.  The film employs jump cuts, fade-ins, fade-outs, and match cuts to create the impression of nostalgia.  You are not only hearing the ramblings of an aging man, you are also witnessing the flashes of fading memories.  This existence is only heightened by the film beginning with still images, implying that such fluid remembrance come from the glossy pictures of years gone by.  If you enjoyed The Graduate, The Outsiders or early Terrance Mallick than I highly suggest this film.  It is currently offered in HD for those with On-Demand, but for the time being, the DVD version will have to do, because, sadly, no Blu-Ray copy exists.


A Skeleton with Iron Legs: A Zed & Two Noughts (1986)

I love absurdist film making, especially when done correctly.  Peter Greenaway's 1986 is film about a Zed & Two Noughts, or a zoo for those not versed in British vernacular.  However, the aforementioned zoo plays very little into the existentially driven plot of the film, which combines subtle acting, experimental cinematography and wry dialogue to create an unforgettable experience. The film combines the coherence of a T.S. Eliot poem, the avant-garde scientific filming of Jean Painleve and the artistic symmetry of Johannes Vermeer.

The plot, in a rather roundabout way, follows two twins, Oswald (Brian Deacon) and Oliver (Eric Deacon) Deuce, as they come to grips with the untimely death of their wives from a car-on-swan collision.  Furthermore, their deaths are made more confusing by the survival of Alba (Andrea Ferreol) who now possesses a single leg and delusions of giving birth to a child for every letter in the alphabet.  Along with a slew of other bizarre characters, including a prostitute named Venus De Milo and a man with a vendetta for black and white animals, the twins set out to observe decay.  The brothers' morbid obsession with death is played against a dry documentary on the evolution of man, ultimately raising the question of mans own futile existence in relation to the inescapable burden of time.  It is easy to see the influence such works had on directors like Harmony Korine, Wes Anderson and Ken Russell.  The film ends with nature literally consuming man, making the absurdist manifesto all the more existential, all while playing The Teddy Bears Have a Picnic.

I should note that the film could be considered graphic by some individuals.  It involves large amounts of nudity and drawn out images of rotting animals.  The jarring nature of these images only draws in the viewer, with hopes of answering their own insecurities of death.  The film does not offer an answer, but instead ends with darkness.  The film offers questions, but no answers, as only great films can.

This is the first film I can recommend without reservations.  Either rent it from Netflix, or purchase a copy.  A true cinephile will instantly become enamored with this movie.  In the mean time, I look forward to discovering more work by Peter Greenaway myself.


Make Those Seconds Count: Source Code (2011)

I rarely take it upon myself to venture out to the theater, however, when I do it is for a film that I know will benefit from a big screen and surround sound.  Given this, Duncan Jones' Source Code provided precisely such an experience.  Clocking it at a little over an hour and a half the film is not a burden to watch and passes through quite nicely; more so, not including Jake Gyllenhaal the film is full of lesser-known actors.  As a result, no performance is over the top and the characters work together as opposed to vying for the spotlight.

The film's plot centers on time travel, so I will avoid to much explanation as to avoid spoilers.  Simply put, the film follows one Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), as he attempts to discover the source of a Chicago train bombing.  However, it is made blatantly clear that Stevens in doing so in the body of a deceased train victim...as the terrorist attack has already occurred.  What ensues is a cinematic feast of quantum physics and time travel all leading up to a heart-wrenching phone call between two parallel times.  The film is not flawless in its portrayal of time, but does a decent enough job for a big budget film.  For an excellent time travel movie, visit the 2004 indie film Primer.

The film is political in its nature, focusing on the disconnect between bureaucratically driven warfare and the actual soldiers fighting.  It comes at a time when the War on Terror lingers, despite a liberal government in office that promised its imminent end.  Furthermore, the film deals with issues of the body and mind and how the two interact in a rather direct manner.  I appreciate this, as it is one of the few philosophical issues of which I possess knowledge.

In essence, this is a great theater movie, and it should be in your dollar theater for a few more days.  Watch it, love it and hope more Hollywood films put this effort into being enjoyable.


I Can't Help But Love You Jim Carrey! -- I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

One of the benefits of the internet is discovering that your local library shows free movies every week, what is even better is that they generally show pretty good films.  One such film was I Love You Phillip Morris, the joint offering from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, perhaps better know for Bad Santa.  Disregarding the constant chatter of some old guys behind me, I genuinely enjoyed the film.  It is rare that great acting, cinematography and writing work together, however, Phillip Morris did just this and at no point faltered in its brilliant delivery.

The film follows Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) as he explains to viewers of his own life of lies starting with hiding his own homosexuality from his wife to large scale credit fraud.  It seems as though Steven finds his life of "secrets within a lie" to suit him even in jail, because he is willing to backhandedly deal with prison, assuring his safety through a variety of cons.  This all changes upon his discovery of another inmate, one Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) who is also blatantly and irreversibly gay.  To win over his new soul mate Steven continues his conniving habits to woo Phillip to the point of absurdity, ultimately loosing his trust.  In the films closing scenes Steven uses his persistent trickery to win back Phillip in what is perhaps the films only sobering portion.  It is important at this point to note that the film is based on a true story and is set in the most unlikely of places...Texas.  The film is obvoiusly critiquing Texas in relation to the Bush family and the liberalism couldn't be more blatant, not that I mind.  However, this liberal bashing of conservatism is not the best part of the film, it is instead how frankly the idea of homosexuality is discussed.

The film is unapologetic in is portrayal of homosexuality, scenes of intimacy between Steven and Phillip occur frequently, even involving an on screen kiss between Carrey and McGregor.  Furthermore, with the exception of Steven's ex-wife, a devout Christian, no characters directly chastise their sexuality.  While passing mention made of their gayness it is never intending in a debasing manner, in fact, their homosexuality is in some sense exalted as liberating and transcendent in relation to the heteronormative.  The film also deals head on with AIDS, using it as a central theme to the plot, showing characters suffering from its crippling effects.  I find this portrayal of homosexuality notable, because it is so openly shown.  I know that films like Brokeback Mountain provided this commentary, but it is important to note how unacceptable it was in their social context to display intimacy.  It is a big step in film making fora star-driven film to show gay characters without compromising.  I can only hope that it will be a knock on the door for the MPAA to pump the breaks on rating of other films choosing to focus heavily on sexuality.

Whatever the case may be I highly recommend checking out I Love You Phillip Morris, if only to see Jim Carrey deliver yet another surprising performance.  Even if you find the movie a bit over the top, I am certain it will have you laughing.

More info here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1045772/


So this is the inaugural post for my blog devoted to film.  I should not first and foremost that I am not a filmmaker, nor do I have a desire to make films.  While I appreciate the art of film making, I am directly concerned with the study of film.  I hope, with this blog, to show that film as a form of media serves as perhaps the most poignant of social commentaries. 

This reflection that film provides for society is the inspiration for the blogs name combining the words cinema and simulacrum (meaning a close, but not exact, replica of something).  I will use the blog to review, discuss, revisit and analyze film.  As it evolves I hope for days to become devoted to certain film genres, fields of study or DVD companies (I am looking at you Criterion).  I will incorporate my own learning in regards to film studies, which include feminist theory, critical race theory, historical analysis and a very minimal understanding of psychoanalysis. 

I welcome anyone with a inkling of interest for film to read and discuss this blog.  I hope to provide a rather liberal overview of films from various eras, countries and genres each proving to be relevant to their contemporary society.