I loved Cloverfield. As an avid monster movie fan and gamer—I liken the feel of Cloverfield to a mix of Call of Duty and Resident Evil—this is not the type of sequel I anticipated. When the marketing for 10 Cloverfield Lane came out, I was baffled that what looked like a psychological thriller bore the Cloverfield title and was the supposed next entry in a giant alien monster movie franchise. All these things left my expectations low but hopeful.
The beginning starts cautiously, establishing the mood with a strong and foreboding score at the forefront. You are given details and character hints without any dialogue. Then, once you’ve been established in the world and you settle in for what you expect to be a slow build to the first tension of a slow psychological thriller, everything explodes on screen in full audio and visual. I think this opening epitomizes the shock that I felt throughout the entire film. This movie is an odd but pleasant surprise throughout, and definitely nothing I was expecting.
The thing that stands out first is the score and the sound mixing. The mechanical noise of the door opening and shutting, the clatter of objects, the jostling of a car shaking and rolling; all the sound in the film feels like it’s turned up to 11 and it presents a visceral world that keeps you braced for something terrible yet to come. At some points I thought the sound and the score might’ve tried a little too hard to push the drama of a scene, but they played a big part in shaping it as well. Ultimately, as the film rises to its peaks the sound really stands out in delivering the drama of each scene. Continue reading
When countless individuals sat down to read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life with some chardonnay and oversized Snuggies, they likely did so with a sense of cautious enthusiasm and understandable desperation. Who, honestly, would not want to discover how to make his or her life as meaningful as possible? Secular or not, human beings search for meaning. Laurence Fishburne’s vague philosophizing in The Matrix taught me that, on some level, everyone searches for truth. And, from what I’ve learned from Community‘s Jeff Winger about the search for truth, personal introspection seems like a good place to start. If I can’t know the truth about life, I can at least know the truth about myself, right?
Equipped with that half-baked logic, I propose that the following question can effectively serve as a lens through which to peer deep into your soul:
Which film director would direct your life?
Observant readers will note that I used “would” instead of other possible auxiliary verbs. This diction suggests, among other things, that your life harmonizes with the style of a particular director so well that that director would have no choice but to direct your life. That director is your soul mate, your spirit animal, your emotional doppelganger. To pick your director, you must know yourself. This is where the introspection begins.
Some matches may be obvious. If you appreciate calculated violence, targeted monologues (mostly about violence), and looking in car trunks (or out of them), then Quentin Tarantino would direct your life. Wes Anderson would direct the lives of those who prefer quirky symmetry (meaning lives that feature chaotic naïveté over backdrops of security and comfort). And Ang Lee would direct your life if it is filled with frustrating beauty—an aesthetically pleasing pain, as if the beauty highlights the acuteness of your angst.
Some directors are difficult to categorize. The following paragraphs explain several brilliant directors and their ideal matches.
Should Win: The Big Short
Disappointment: Bridge of Spies
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Honorable Mention: Adam McKay, The Big Short
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Brie Larson, Room
Honorable Mention: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Honorable Mention: Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Should Not Have Been Nominated: Christian Bale, The Big Short
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
When modern pop cinema replaced heart-of-gold rebel archetypes with more multifaceted characters, where did the archetypes go? When Disney seemed to shift their focus from High School Musical-style films to more elaborate plots, where did the teen soap opera storylines go? When tween, teen, and young adult films began to offer more ethnically and economically diverse characters, where did the old racially stereotypical ensembles go?
They went to Prom.
Prom is a collection of all the outdated elements of popular teen film. Star-crossed lovers without depth. Random bursts of hormonal emotion. Smug, out-of-context attempts at wit. A disheartening lack of interracial couples. This repository of outcast archetypes boldly attempts to unravel years of social and cinematic progress.
In fact, the only somewhat unique character in Prom is Rolo, a curly-haired stoner who may or may not have a career in adult film. After spending the majority of the film casually responding to accusations that Athena, his Greek girlfriend from Canada, is not real, Rolo steals the show when he enters the prom-filled auditorium with a supermodel at his side. This spectacular entrance fascinates the other Prom characters and adds fuel to the idea that the Prom Committee may not be Rolo’s only extracurricular activity.
Sydney White, 17 Again, and even Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (yes, the sequel) have more inherent entertainment value than the visually pleasing, regurgitated drama-slush of Prom.
Thank goodness for Rolo.
Joe Nussbaum: Director
Katie Wech: Writer
Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon: Stars
When I watch a movie for the first time, I try to experience it. I allow the colors and sounds to guide my thoughts. I set my brain to autopilot and repress the part of my mind that prides itself on analysis and critical thought. I forget about financial woes, annoying friends, and other daily stresses and immerse myself in whatever world is on the screen. My goal is to create memories, not brain wrinkles.
But that is the first time. If I watch the movie again, the gloves are off. My brain cracks its knuckles and prepares to pick apart the film. No scene, motif, or character escapes my analysis. My mind becomes a warrior of intellect, attacking ignorance and feeding on subtlety and nuance.
Some friends have told me that they don’t appreciate casual film analysis. “Chicago is not a social commentary.” “I don’t like to think of Aslan as Jesus.” “I don’t care if WALL-E wants me to save the planet.” But these friends are missing a crucial element of movie-watching. There is nothing wrong with intelligent responses to film.
Many films offer viewers guided tours through various philosophical musings and sociopolitical statements, and those messages demand critical thought. Like literature, music, and other forms of art, the burden of interpretation falls to the viewer. Films cannot easily be divided into groups based on the existence of a moral or social statement—those with messages and those without—and moviegoers who are only willing to analyze films that advertise as social commentaries (like FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Sicko) hide themselves from deeper understandings of their favorite movies. Analyzing film does not somehow ruin the simple pleasures of movie-watching, and thinking about the more profound aspects of a specific movie does not lessen the movie’s initial impact. Instead, injecting critical thought into the movie-watching experience enhances the adventure. The Lord of the Rings is better when considering Tolkien’s background. 30 Rock is funnier with an understanding of the show’s social commentary. And appreciating Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical as social satire brings the music to life.
So, the next time a friends tells you to stop analyzing movies, just remember that critical thought is film’s best friend. Feel free to tell your friend something like, “I’ll stop analyzing movies when you start paying for my movie tickets. Until then, I pay for these experiences, and I’m going to make the most of them.”
Posted in Musings
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