shadowkat: (Default)
Been reading reviews of Darren Aronofsky's allegorical film mother!, including finally the director's explanation of his intent behind it. Aronofsky - "Requiem for a A Dream, Black Swan, Pi" is sort of similar to David Lynch in that he's an acquired taste. People either like his movies or really hate them. I actually always found them to be rather interesting, nightmarish, but interesting. Like Lynch, Aronofsky delves into a sort of psychological/allegorical sense of horror or notion of it.

Cinemascore and the mainstream critics, such as Owen Glieberman with Entertainment Weekly despised the film. Cinemascore gave it an F, but Cinemascore also gives things like Batman vs. Superman high, you can't really go by them. And film like all art or so I'm finding is in the eye of the beholder. For example? Some people love the Kevin Costner film Wyatt Earp, others despise it. I've had friends rank on me for loving Pretty Woman and LadyHawk. We are a culture that has a tendency, like it or not, to foist our opinions onto others as if they are gospel. Which may be why we're in the culture wars?

On one site, people were ranking on the actress Jennifer Lawrence, stating she was a horrible actress in everything but one movie -- I'm guessing Winter's Bone. (Having seen her in just about everything but Passengers, which I skipped, I strongly disagree and wonder what drugs they've been imbibing or what they consider good acting? See, there I go flinging my opinion at you.) While one respondent to the site stated that the film had made them scream laugh with absolute delight...and they felt it was a marvel to behold. What turned everyone else off turned on this guy, for some reason.

And well here's the most recent, and rather fascinating review I read about the film

his film is also not for everyone.

As I said, it’s not a horror film, but horrific things happen, which are harrowing to watch. There are two scenes in particular toward the end that are immensely disturbing. If you don’t do well with violence (specifically against a woman, or against children), this is not the movie for you, and you should know that.

However, you should also know that the violence I’m talking about very much has a purpose that is integral to the film, especially if looked at through a particular lens. If you can stomach filmed violence at all, so long as it isn’t oppressive in nature (ie: against marginalized people), gritting your teeth through it might be worth it to you for the greater overall experience with the story.

That said, it’s also not for people that don’t want to have any kind of thinky-thoughts when they go to movies. This film isn’t escapism. There’s nothing wrong with escapism; I’m a huge fan of escapism, but I don’t believe that every film has to be, or should be, escapist. While very often, something being “confusing” is indicative of faulty storytelling, it’s equally the case that sometimes people don’t want to have to think that hard when watching something, and get angry when they’re required to look past a surface and don’t know what they’re looking for.

Then they provide a link to Aronfsky's explanation of the film, which wasn't exactly what they saw in it. But close.

As for the writing, that’s where I found it less successful. I saw mother! before reading Aronofsky’s explanation of what it’s about, and came up with what felt like an air-tight explanation for the goings-on in the film … that was not what Aronofsky set out to convey. While the film certainly can be read his way, there are a couple of things that muddy the water just enough to seem like failures in execution.

THIS is what Aronfsky explained. Which I found rather interesting. The whole film is an allergorical essay on our relationship with Mother Earth. Jennifer Lawrence's character sort of represents mother earth and is relentlessly tortured throughout the film in her octagonal house that she lovingly built.

Aronofsky considers Mother!’s final 25-minute sequence—a deeply disturbing crescendo of violence—“one of my best accomplishments, just because it’s a nightmare. It just builds and builds on top of documenting the horrors of our world, and throws a pregnant woman into it.”

Lawrence herself said that after seeing the images unspool on the big screen at the Venice Film Festival, she was “shaking” and wondered whether they had “gone too far.” Though Lawrence has said she is proud of the film, and hopes that it will inspire audiences to exhibit more empathy, Lawrence also told Toronto International Film Festival moviegoers, “I don’t know that I would make a film that made me feel that way again.”

As for Aronofsky, he clarified: “I think it’s important for people to recognize I am not condoning the violence in the movie. Some people might think, ‘Hey, it’s messed up.’ But we wanted to show the story of the world and how it feels to be her. And what we as a species do to her . . . We also wanted to make something that would floor people.”

Aronofsky said that he edited out a few scenes that “went a little too far,” but did not make any major changes in post-production. Because the film is such a carefully engineered climactic build, taking out one on-screen atrocity would have been like upsetting a game of Jenga.

Some critics have called the final sequence—particularly what is done to Lawrence—misogynistic. Entertainment Weekly even titled its review “Jennifer Lawrence Gets Put Through the Torture-Porn Wringer.”

But Aronofsky has a response for those people: “They are missing the whole point. It’s misogyny if it says that this is good . . . I think [any spit-take revulsion is] just like an initial reaction to being punched. We are telling the story of Mother Nature turning into a female energy, and we defile the earth. We call her dirt. We don’t clean up after our mess. We drill in her. We cut down her forests. We take without giving back. That’s what the movie is.”

The reason I felt the need to post about well it touches upon various things that I have been discussing lately online, often with a great deal of aggravation as if we are circling around the elephant in the room, but from another angle.

I think art, regardless of how well it is done or how well we like it, is a reflection of our society and world. Sort of the shadow we cast in the mirror. I don't like mirrors. Never have. They unnerve me. In part because the reflection is never the same, it always shifts and changes depending on the light and the angle of the cast. Similar to photographs, which are similar to mirrors. They capture an image inside them via light. But unlike mirrors hold on to it. Art, painting, television, film acts like a mirror -- it takes on and often distorts the images thrown at it, depicting what lies beneath the surface.

Oscar Wilde's brilliant book, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, is a psychological horror tale about a man who stays beautiful while his portrait ages and becomes ugly, taking on all the ravages in his soul, depicting the true man beneath the surface. Instead of being a beautiful portrait, it's actually
ugly and gross and horrifying. Aronsfsky's films like the portrait of Dorian Gray, show us the bits we don't want to see.

Mirrors also lie to us, they show us what we wish to see. Just as art can lie and show false truths.

The artist's intent may not come off as intended, it may get lost in translation or be misinterpreted by the viewer. Many viewers and critics saw "mother!" as either torture porn or misogyny. And I read similar reactions to Black Swan.

While the artist intended an allegorical tale of what we're doing to mother earth. The gut-wrenching pain of it. Yet, oblivious to it, blind. Until faced with the consequences.

I find the interactions between the audience with the art and the artist with the audience and work to be fascinating. I remember my brother, a conceptual artist, telling me once that all art regardless of the medium was interactive, or risked being self-indulgent. That people interact with the art, and the art is representative of our culture, ourselves and society at large. If we hate a work of art, we should dig deeper and ask what it is reflecting of our society...and what is our relationship to that.

I haven't seen the movie "mother!" and from what I've just read about it? I don't think I'll be able to watch it. Not a huge fan of allegory, and graphic torture isn't something I can watch easily. But, knowing and overall being fascinated by Aronfsky's work...I'm admittedly curious and might rent it on On Demand or Netflix.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. Just finished watching the highly praised film Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan, which had been nominated for multiple awards, but I knew little about outside of the fact that it concerned profound grief and took place after the death of the protagonist's brother. The plot I was told -- follows a man who looks after his teenage nephew after his brother dies. So, of course, I was convinced that the story revolves around the loss of the brother, and their grief over that loss.

Not quite. Or rather, it does and it doesn't. The protagonist isn't really mourning that loss, or rather he is, but that's not the grief that the film is really about.

This is what Wiki had to say about it:

The film is a treatment of profound grief from which it is difficult or impossible to recover. In an essay by Colin Fleming for Cineaste magazine, he says that "the question Lonergan invites us to ask ourselves is how on earth would we be able to carry on after an event so tragically full of loss and guilt."[5] Speaking to the persistence of grief, Film Comment magazine says that "Lonergan is telling us that Lee's grief cannot be contained or subdued because his past lives on wherever he goes."[6] Remarking on the way flashbacks appear suddenly in the movie, critic Anthony Lane says that Lonergan "proceeds on the assumption that things are hard, some irreparably so, and that it's the job of a film not to smooth them over."However, one critic noted that juxtaposed to the tragedy is "the harsh comedy that colors much of the dialogue, and the near-farcical frequency with which things go wrong."Along those same lines, critic Steven Mears called the film "a study of grief and reticence that finds droll humor in those very sources," and Richard Alleva says the loving but tense relationship between Lee and Patrick "keeps the story nicely balanced between rough hewn comedy and delicate pathos." Explaining his objective, Lonergan said, "I don't like the fact that, nowadays, it feels like it's not permissible to leave something unresolved... Some people live with their trauma for years. I'm not interested in rubbing people's faces in suffering... But I don't like this lie that everybody gets over things that easily. Some people can't get over something major that's happened to them at all; why can’t they have a movie too?"

The film's events takes place through the cultural filter of a blue-collar, New England community. John Krasinski and Matt Damon initially approached Lonergan about developing the story in New England.[12] As Lonergan researched the areas surrounding Manchester-by-the-Sea, he sought to include details specific to the area, for example its distance from Quincy, the delayed burial because of the frozen ground in a historical cemetery, and the realities of fishing life.[12] Critic Sam Lansky remarked that his New England roots make the lead character "disinclined to emote,"[13] and Tom Shone said that Lonergan's dialog forces "the story’s heartbreak to peep from behind these tough, flinty New England exteriors."

I'd agree with that assessment. It's a compelling film, and weirdly reassuring in a way...because it shows that grief affects people in separate ways and for separate reasons. It's also quite funny in places, I laughed more than I cried, which surprised me.

My only quibble is how they did the sound editing...the director seems to have a fondness for violin music. Very loud violin music. During a flashback sequence that depicts the tragedy that destroyed the protagonist...the dialogue, all sound, is blocked out by very loud violin music. It's an interesting choice on the part of the film makers...where we are shown the images in a memory reel of sorts, with scant dialogue and increasingly loud violin concerto playing over it. But the violin music gave me a headache and took me out of the story. I would have preferred it taken down a notch and just put everything on mute.

As an aside, you wouldn't think sound editing is a big deal, until you see someone do it the wrong way -- then well, you have a whole new appreciation for the process. Grey's Anatomy has the worst sound editors on the planet, for example. They overlay voice over narration, music, and dialogue. (Ugh). This wasn't quite as bad as that...but, I'd have dialed it back a notch.

There's also a lot of talking over each other. But ...I think dialogue is used in the film to get across the pain of the protagonist and the fact that just carrying on a conversation with another person is painful. We are in two points of view throughout, Lee Chandler and his nephew, Patrick. When Patrick's pov is front and center, there's a bit more humor, the lighting is less glum, and sound isn't dulled. People can talk. When Lee's pov is front and center, everything is either really loud or dulled down. We don't hear conversations, just violins or music, when he speaks it's in mono-syllables or strained.

The film is a compelling character study and portrait of profound and all-consuming grief. major spoiler )

In some respects the handling of grief in this film reminded me of Joss Whedon's "The Body", an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, premiering in Season 5 of the series, in which Buffy's mother dies. It did the opposite regarding sound...and in some respects I preferred how Whedon handled sound editing to Lonergan...where he mutes the sound. There is no music. And Whedon highlights the sense of negative space. Also like Lonergan, Whedon highlights how one doesn't just get over losing someone who filled their lives in this manner. Whether that person be a parent, sibling, children, or spouse.

I've seen a couple of films handle profound grief in various ways..."Ghost" with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze...showed it as a haunting. Nashville which also depicts the hole that one character left behind them.

Anyhow, the film is worth watching but I'm not sure it's worth the hype. I find it irritating in places and jarring in others. In some respects I prefer how Whedon handled grief on Buffy. Odd, I know, but there it is.

2. Americanah -- this novel delves into the cultural differences from a black perspective on Nigeria or Africa and America. In particular being black or dark skinned in both countries, among fellow persons of color and white people.

It also depicts the collateral damage or consequences of the white European imperialism in Africa in regards to race, immigration, and how people interact with each other.

But mainly it is a fish out of water tale or what it is like to belong and the struggle to do so.

The cultural differences between the two countries that have been cited include:

Hot dogs. The protagonist, Ifelmeu, thinks they are the same as sausages and attempts to fry them with oil.

Dressing Nigeria, people are more formal, they dress up for parties, which have dancing. But in America, which is what she calls the US, they do not have dancing and wear whatever to hang around and drink.

When she goes to register for classes. The registrar acts as if she isn't speaking English, because her accent is thick and British. So shamed by the registrar, she attempts to adopt an American accent.

She's told that they do not use the words black or white to describe people here, and avoid it, since it is considered offensive. Also the word half-caste is offensive, you use bi-racial. The racism seems somehow more pronounced yet also repressed. It is present also in Nigeria, where lighter colored skin is valued over darker. The protagonist has darker skin. (Honestly this perplexes me, I think people with darker skin are more attractive. It perplexes the protagonist as well.)

America she notes beats people down. And the news is constant the extent she gets worried about things.

Also there seems to be hidden code language or lingo that is easier to adopt when young and less when older.

What I found interesting was the differences in language and cultural miscommunications depicted throughout the novel. Early on they show the differences between American English and British or Nigerian English. The Nigerians, having been colonized or invaded at some point by the Brits, have been educated to speak British English. But they have received American media imports, such as the Cosby Show, Tom and Jerry, Fresh Prince of Belaire, A Different World...and their view of the US is through that lense. They somewhat romanticize it. They are less deluded about Britain. Possibly because it is closer and people have been there and back more frequently. Anyhow, one of the big differences mentioned is trunk vs. boot. (A trunk is a tree not a car trunk, one of the characters states.)

Another bit is hair, and how in America one relaxes their hair for job interviews and doesn't braid it. (Not at my work place, women have it braided as do men all the time. Some just shave close to their heads, like my friend MD does. I remember my freshman roommate, Jameel, would oil her hair at night and put it under a hair net. She was constantly adding oil to it. She didn't braid it and never relaxed it. She cut it close, but not too close to her head and wore it as an afro. While Casey would
relax hers, and have it in a bob, nice and neat. Tanya at work, braids hers in long beautiful multicolored braids, while my stylist Rachel, just grows hers down to her waist, where is is long and silken and black. But Daphne keeps hers close shaven to her head. And Lodze lets it be an afro. Their hair in a way, for more than mine ever has, expresses their personality and preferences. It's hard to manage, I know, because I have wandered around more than one store with Marquetta hunting hair products...she makes her own shampoo or hunts for one that doesn't have certain things in it.)

Movie Meme

Jun. 13th, 2017 08:49 pm
shadowkat: (Calm)
I swiped this Movie Meme from selenak. Actually saw it last night and got stumped by the first question and thought about it off and on today, and yep, still stumped. Frigging movie meme is harder than it looks.

movie meme, which is harder than it looks )
shadowkat: (rainbow strength)
So, I saw the Wonder Woman movie with cjlasky today. It exceeded expectations.

Granted my expectations after trying to read Whedon's stab at it, were fairly low.
But, this surprised me. My only quibble, is well, the same quibble I have regarding all Zack Snyder films...and that's basically the man has problems with pacing. Patty Jenkins was the director and quite good, but it felt like a Snyder film, pacing issues and focus on cinematic paintings. Lots of pausing for the beautiful F/X painting. Snyder is a great visual artist, and excellent at F/X paintings...but, his pacing can slow down a film.

That said, I still love the movie. It did the opposite of what Whedon's script did -- it put us in Diana's point of view from the beginning. Just like Steve Rodgers, Clark Kent, et al, we got to be in Diana's perspective throughout. Not Steve Trevors. The movie also much like Captain America has a framing device -- she is in present day, and flashes back on her past. The story is told in flashback. And it starts when she was a child on the Amazon island, and who she is.

It's not campy. Yes, there is Greek mythology, but they treat it respectfully, and Ares, the villain..was a pleasant surprise. Not at all what I expected. Completely unpredictable, I had no idea where they were headed with it.

In many respects it is an anti-war film, and it ...slyly references what is happening politically at the moment. Uplifting and with a strong message about war and love.

Gail Gadot is perfect as Wonder Woman, building on her nuanced performance in Batman vs. Superman. And the other actors, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, and Robin Wright are excellent as well.

Highly recommended. Best DC film I've seen since...Dark Knight Rises. Except this was a bit more up-lifting.

Only downside, besides the pacing here and there, was the woman next to me, for some odd reason, felt the need to keep checking her cell phone every 20 minutes. I finally nudged her and said in a half-whisper, please stop doing that, it's irritating.

People? You cannot use your cellphones in a darkened theater without people noticing. It's like turning on a flashlight. Turn the frigging things off. Some places will fine you or confiscate it. They do in rural and suburban movie theaters. I think they are afraid to do it in the city.

I haven't finished reading the Wonder Woman script by Whedon yet, but so far, very happy they passed on it, and waited to get this one made. Actually I don't think I'll change my mind regarding that.
shadowkat: (Default)
I haven't seen the film The Artist yet, but every film review I've read sounds like a run-down of what happened to silent film star John Gilbert, and his great and doomed romance with Greta Garbo.

I am a bit bemused by the fact that none of the reviewers seem to know about Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, the silent film stars that the film appears to be based on. Instead they keep talking about Charlie Chaplin. And as far as I can tell from the reviews? The film has zip to do with Chaplin. Chaplin wasn't the only silent film star, just the most translatable to modern times. And he didn't do these types of romances nor was his life tragic in that way. According to one professional reviewer they borrowed from Rudolph Valentino, Chaplin and Gilbert. But...the plot provided in each of the reviews is however, very similar to the real life events of John Gilbert's life not really Chaplin. I think I saw a made for tv miniseries in the 70s about it as well? Can't remember, but I can swear I've seen the story before. And certainly both A Star is Born and Singing in the Rain referenced it.

Here's what Wiki says about John Gilbert:

Known as "the great lover," he rivaled even Rudolph Valentino as a box office draw. Though he was often cited as one of the high profile examples of an actor who was unsuccessful in making the transition to talkies, there was speculation that his decline as a star had to do with studio politics and money and not the sound of his screen voice.
Read more... )
shadowkat: (Ayra in shadow)
Allergies are driving me crazy (really wish the downstairs neighbors would get rid of the moldy pumpkins on the front stoop. On top of the leaves...the mold is driving me nuts. Eyes itchy, nose itchy, coughing at night...ugh. I love fall but it hates me.) Also dreading work more than usual, for reasons won't bore you with.

I'm in the mood for lists and since it is October, and nearing Halloween - am doing top horror films. May do books and tv shows in another post, since my mind drew a blank before I began those lists. Need to think on it a bit, methinks.

* My Top Horror Films (I'm a bit of a snob and most of these predate the 21st Century because I don't like modern day horror films that much and have veered away.) In no particular order just off the top of my head.

Read more... )
shadowkat: (Default)
[The problem with reading reviews, whether they are book, movie, music, or television is you have to figure out if you and the reviewer share the same tastes, attitudes, or interests. If you don't, chances are you will not agree with the reviewer. A good reviewer gives you enough information about the movie, book, what-have-you without giving away the story and enough to let you know whether or not you will agree with the reviewer's opinion on the work. Many professional reviewers, I've discovered, make the mistake of coming across too arrogant and appear to think their opinion matters far more than it does, much like the critic, M. Night Shyalaman successfully skewers in Lady in the Water. This review is no more or less than my perception of V for Vendetta and in some respects is more of an analysis than a critique. Take from it what you will.]

V for Vendetta is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and is directed/produced by the Wachwoski Brothers, the same guys who did the Matrix films. If you are familar with either creator and do not like their works, chances are you won't like this film. Moore's comics, including The Swamp Thing, The Killing Joke, Promethea, Watchman, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman tend to be like most comics and fantasy novels written by men, a tad like a male romance novel - violent, the woman controlled or subordinated by the male (Swamp Thing/Watchman), or taught by him to be what she can be as if she were a child and he the adult (Promothea/League), or if she is an educated, powerful female in her own right, crippled (The Killing Joke) or seen as only powerful because she is "beautiful" (the beautiful but not overly intelligent woman with ugly man is a trend in the male centric romance novel). It's not necessarily misogynistic, no more so than most Westerns were and are, or for that matter Raymond Chandler detective novels. Frank Miller's novels do the same thing - violent, male centric novels, where the women are fantasy figures little more.

I tend to be more tolerant of these type of stories than many women are, since I adore Westerns and noir films -two genres that are not necessarily favorable in their depictions of women or depict strong women. In college, more than one female student or professor berated me for my love of the art form. How can you stand something that depicts women, people of your own sex, in such a derogatory fashion? Where women have almost no roles and are treated as merely sidekicks or romanticized objects? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Ah, but I've read romance novels written by women and they are guilty of the same things, sometimes in reverse. I'm interested in the story, the evolution of the characters, the mythology or thematic meaning - I tend to not care that much about, since there are times that it is less clear and often up to the viewer/reader to interpret based on their own background and experience. That is not to say, I don't see it nor are not disturbed by it at times. Just that it doesn't always bother me. It depends. An example is Sin City, a film that can best be described as a hyper-realized male romance novel. I liked it for what it was. I did not bother reading the disturbing metaphors, but let it rest as just a fun cinematic ride. Did the same thing with the tv show M*A*SH*, which got better regarding the female roles as it moved forward, but much less fun and snarky. At any rate, I knew when I rented the film V for Vendetta that I would be disturbed by how Evie was handled, that comes with the territory when you read or see films based on noirish graphic novels written by Frank Miller or Alan Moore.

As mentioned above V for Vendetta is a film based on Alan Moore's complex political/noir/science fiction graphic novel that takes place during the Margret Thatcher/Regan era, which has been condensed and abridged for the screen as well as updated. It now takes place in the not too distance future, a future that could be a possible outcome of the Bush/Tony Blair era. The film pays homage to three works: The Counte of Monte Cristo, which it even refers to, 1984 (John Hurt who plays the dictator in V, plays the political prisoner in 1984), and Pgymallion.

review for V for Vendetta cut for plot spoilers, since this film is impossible to analyse or discuss without them. )
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