Review Capsules: Priest Cops, A Dancing Corazon & Spelling Disaster

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So it was May 28th when I posted the first of the Review Capsules, which means it’s been a full 6 weeks since I said I’d do these regularly and I hope to be better (as I keep promising). However, while these will be all encompasing in films of then and now I’m going to take minute to do some 2014 discussions as I’ve started to hit up my local cinema a lot more these days – since I’m working again — and there’s a lot to talk about, but sadly this edition isn’t that inspiring.

As always if you want to keep up with every film day to day that I’m watching just follow me on Letterboxd.

Here’s this edition of Capsules: Continue reading

Review Capsules: Mental Instability & Futuristic Gladiators

If you’ve listened to my most recent recording of the Movies You Love Podcast, which if you haven’t you should subscribe to, where I talked about all my current feelings about writing and how it tied into me not working and generally feeling a little bit lethargic and distracted in being proactive about this website, then yay you. Wow that’s a long sentence. All those things still remain true, but damn me if I don’t try to keep chugging along nonetheless.

I’ve been doing this weekly update of just listing the films I’ve been watching with a running total of what’s been happening in my film discoveries for the last couple years that I’ve dubbed What I’ve Been Watching – guys… I’m really bad at coming up with names for stuff — which was mainly inspired by Mr. McNeil (or the man that runs movie blogging I believe) and helped suffice for a post to fill in a Saturday while I was trying to remain a post-a-day kind of guy. Well a post-a-day guy I am not any longer. I’ll still be updating the site as time goes by, but with my tenacity at keeping my Letterboxd up to date on a daily basis when I do watch films I find it almost useless to do the weekly update. Continue reading

‘Enemy’ Is As Ambiguous As Doppelgangers Get

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Enemy is a film that I feel is something that requires many viewings in order to walk away from it with more than a feeling. Many people are going to go into this movie hoping for either The Double fun of the doppelganger or Fight Club level of crazed uncertainty that is clearly defined somewhere later down the like; however we are forced to reside somewhere between these two variations of this story and it’ll lose people. It lost me a few times.

I’ve written previously on my evolution of thought on the idea of knowing what the meaning of film is; and here is the movie that starts the mental debate all over again for me. As I sit there entranced by Villeneuve‘s style and focus on Adam and Anthony’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) reaction to this doppelganger, I find myself searching for that meaning and becoming even more interested Enemy -2as it doesn’t appear to me after the credits begin to roll. I start to demand myself to find a meaning for the film, to understand what it wanted to say about how we perceive ourselves or something else.

This has led me to a further point in the discussion of understanding movies that I don’t quite always get. It’s one thing for a film to mean something, and it’s another thing entirely for the film not to care whether you know that or not. Enemy is a film that feels unwilling to share itself with us just as Anthony is unwilling to truly admit anything about himself to Adam that’s anything other than on the surface. He doesn’t walk up to Adam with open arms telling him tales of when he was young looking for meaning, as much as Adam when he finally meets Anthony (what he was pushing to happen) immediately shuts down and walks away from it all. It’s distant in a way that many films can’t quite pull off; but it does.

As the film reaches it’s climax the film throws more than the odd wrench in the middle of it all. The film continues along the line of refusing to stay within one definitely decision as to whether what we’re seeing is true in any sense and asks us to question everything as such. The film however doesn’t truly aide us in asking the correct questions.

If you’re in the mood for some dark moody filmmaking that draws you in regardless of how you’ll feel at the end then Enemy is the film for you. Otherwise stay far and trying not to get addicted to the every lasting Kool-Aid that will be consumed on forums and other places with this latest piece of weird.

What do you think of Enemy?

‘Wadjda’ Discussing Judging Societies and Children’s Dreams

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We are western. We are liberal. We are right; we think.

The thing about film and film understanding is that we can only understand it through our own value system, for the most part. It is truly special when a film allows us to understand it’s story through it’s own value system as opposed to our own, especially when their values are widely different from our own.

Wadjda, as a character and a film, resides in Saudi Arabia. According to Wikipedia, where I get all my knowledge,

Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and its law requires that all citizens be Muslims.

So Wadjda, as a film written and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, becomes the first film to ever be made entirely in Saudi Arabia that was made by a female. The film follows Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), an 11-year old girl, who wants nothing more than to buy herself a bicycle and Wadjda 1listen to her western pop music while racing her friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Algohani) in the streets.

These are desires that as a westerner who grew up with friends on his street and ran in the mud can understand and wish only the easiest of succession for Wadjda in having them come true. Somehow however, she manages to live in a society which tells her that riding a bicycle will break her virginity, that she must cover her face on her way to school and stop listening to that pop music. She is given liberties at home that you can imagine are uncommon in this world.

Wadjda’s mother, played by Reem Abdullah, is at a loss of how to control her child such that she functions within society while at the same time wanting to make her happy. She also has trouble doing the same for herself as she’s trying to keep her husband to herself who’s been courting potential second wives. Wadjda’s mother loves her husband, Wadjda’s father loves Wadjda, or so it seems. We watch as he makes himself more and more distant, leaving messages with Wadjda for her mother about his absence and playing games instead of being with his family. He demands a son in order to not take another wife.

Wadjda - PosterWadjda is a film that I like to categorize as something unique. It compels its audience to feel for the society of these people. The thing about it though is that I doubt it was that hard a task. I wonder what the film’s reaction was in it’s homeland? Enter here all religious jokes based on how the film already treats women in the society. I wonder what effect this film draws from the population of Saudi Arabia other than, “yup that’s right”. I wonder even more how much power I should allow myself in judging this society.

As I said in my short line at the top, we always like to think we’re right and the rest of the world is wrong. We’re taught this in our western worlds that even if something is done one way doesn’t make it “the right way”. What if it is the right way? What if I am the wrong way? Logic states this is possible at all times. So as I sat there watching Wadjda being forced into giving in her dreams up at every turn I wondered if it is any different from someone who has that illusion of being able to make a dream true but never having as clear a ceiling as is shown to the women of this world.

Recently I was listening to someone talking the merits of “The American Way” vs. Jamaica. About the idea of hope and how America uses that to fuel productivity vs. Jamaica where there is very little hope most times in creating success. In Jamaica people have the idea that success is an impossible dream and the best you can hope for is the reach high in stature of a pre-existing company or firm, or the more likely is the just survive and live. I’ve always seen the idea of seeing success as a viable end point in life as the “right” way of thinking, even as someone who lives in Jamaica in a non-success framework.So I remain that audience that judges Wadjda’s social setup and I feel rightly so as I believe the filmmaker intended that judgement. Otherwise we would’ve simply watched the same story from a male character’s point of view with the same goals and watch them be accomplished in short order. We would’ve been given hope as our end goal of the film as opposed to constantly fighting the society that exists and sighing at every moment of Wadjda being given a hard time to attain such a small piece of happiness.

What do you think of Wadjda?

‘Veronica Mars’ Brings Generic TV to VOD

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The Kickstarted film has finally been released on VOD. Check it out on Amazon Instant now.

I like Veronica Mars. I discovered the much beloved UPN/CW airing show a long while after it originally ran on TV. Probably nearing 2010. I binged through that show in under a month, and at the time that seemed impressive – I know you internet nerds (me included) scoff at that sounding impressive. However, we’re in a new era of media this decade removed from the premiere of the series; we’re all adults, we can drink alcohol, tell dumb stuff from very dumb stuff, and choose not to give up dream jobs for simple excuses to bring the gang back together. Or are we?

The television show was simple; a detective procedural about a quick witted teenage girl who isn’t afraid of anything and happens to have a PI/cop for a dad to learn from. We saw a lot of generic murder mysteries with Scooby-Gang – yes you can make Buffy jokes — vibes, but really we hung around for a lot of the weirdly cool movie references and fun wit from what was supposed to be a teenager. It was basically Juno before Ellen Page became hated by the corner of the internet that loves to hate wonderful things.

The question of adaptability from the hour long procedural format of television to a nearing two hour film length runtime depends a lot on how you truly view those two things as being different. If you wished that your episodes of television were just twice as long as normal and didn’t care otherwise then you’re golden and will drop right into the middle of it all without caring that it’s just as good/bad as you thought it all was a decade ago. On the other hand if you watch television shows like Veronica Mars with a passive eye not really caring because “it’s what’s on the TV at this moment, you can’t be bothered to reach for the remote and it happens to not be annoying you too much” and you see movies as a more active viewing that you want to engage with on a more serious note then all you’re going to do is notice all the generic things about the show that doesn’t do much to stimulate an audience.

This is a film where I honestly didn’t believe it was being made when the kickstarter campaign happened. I remembered constantly being reminded by the internet that show is beloved as people kept shouting it out as the film fans wanted to be made. Then when time came for them to swarm up and come to action and put their money where their mouth is they did. I’m happy for you guys. For the deep in love Veronica Mars fanboys and girls that got to see one more episode of the show they loved so much they were willing to shove $5 the way of the Rob Thomas and Warner Bros. so that they’d actually make it. I honestly hope more projects get this treatment because while I could tell from a mile away that this film was going to be this and nothing more, I can see this as the time when a lot of the more ‘riskier’ projects can get produced in a more pristine studio setting and possibly be allowed to be weird. With those studio connections bigger stars can play in the realm of the weird and do great things.

Regardless though, if you’re looking to this to be the film that shows the qualities of the television procedural in films then you will only be left with disappointment. Leave those duties to the Liam Neeson vehicles and such others…

What’d you think of Veronica Mars return?