Friday, May 29, 2015

Bay of Blood: The Birth of the Slasher

Before Freddy Krueger, before Jason Voorhees, and before Michael Myers, Mario Bava and a small group of Italian filmmakers were experimenting with the horror genre and constructing the coordinates of what would eventually become the slasher. These sexualized thrillers would go on to become a popular phenomenon in America and develop a new cultural dialogue surrounding the consumption of images and particularly of the female body.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Torso: Feminist Politics in the Slasher Genre

Torso is a colorful and sexy murder mystery with elements of horror which helped continue the ongoing development of the giallo in Italy and inspire the creation of the slasher in America.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Un Chien Andalou: Experiments in Cinematic Storytelling

One of the most well known (and notorious) short films of all time, Un Chien Andalou is a surrealist experiment with the structure of cinema and its ability to deliver a unique type of imagery.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Notes on Fargo: Shooting in the Snow

"How was Fargo?"
"Ya, real good."

For me, Fargo is a perfect movie. I had some free time, so I put the film on with commentary from cinematographer Roger Deakins. Here are a few points I found interesting (basically my screening notes converted to full sentences):

Monday, May 18, 2015

Notes on Zodiac: Exposition & Detective Stories

"Whoever this is, you owe me another lamp."

I had this on in the background while I worked from home today (living the dream) so I won't be doing a full-fledged review as I wasn't able to spare as much attention as I usually like to. So yes, I owe you all another review; although, with an intricately designed film like this, you're much more likely just to get another lamp. Instead, here's a peek behind the scenes at some of my raw, unorganized thoughts on the film (edited into complete sentences from my nonsensical scribblings):

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Man from Earth: Narrative vs. Narration

The Man from Earth is a lo-fi science fiction movie that compensates for its low budget with its high concept. It's hard to say anything about the plot without getting into spoilers (the synopsis and poster and even its genre feel a bit like spoilers, even if for plot points which are revealed fairly early on), so if you're a fan of hard sci-fi or stuff like Primer then do yourself a favor and see this before reading anything else. Written by Jerome Bixby, a contributor to both Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, it concerns a group of scholars debating the possibility of a man living from prehistoric times into the present and what he might be like today, and it all takes place in and around the house where they're meeting to say goodbye to one of their fellow professors.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Security, Surveillance, and Morality in Minority Report

Minority Report's PreCrime division may be a science fiction concept in the sense that it relies on three characters with genetic mutations that allow them to magically see the future, but the idea of arresting people for something they intend to do but have not yet done feels less and less like a futuristic concept.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ex Machina: Humanity & Sexuality through Science Fiction

While Ex Machina opens on the eyes of Domhnall Gleeson's aspiring programmer as he wins a trip to join tech genius Oscar Isaac on his reclusive estate and test out his new artificially intelligent robot Alicia Vikander, the strength of the narrative rests in its ability to be seen through the perspective of any of its three central characters. Gleeson's Caleb is the obvious audience surrogate, but the characters are all strong enough to support their own points of view, and by the end of the story I found myself gravitating most toward Vikander's Ava.

In fact, the most telling detail of the film's production is writer/director Alex Garland's statement that he wrote the script from Ava's perspective. Not only is her performance impressively subtle (particularly for something which could be as gimmicky as a human pretending to be a robot pretending to be a human), she also strikes me as the most sympathetic character—ironic, considering she's the only one of the three who isn't human.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Learning to Drift in Ryan Gosling's Lost River

Much has been made of Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, which opened to harsh reception at Cannes last year. Critics seem determined to undermine the intent behind the picture rather than its contents: attacks have been leveled at its supposedly self-indulgent nature on the one hand and its debt to stronger directors on the other. When criticism is leveled at its subject matter, it attacks the film's supposed pretentiousness or flamboyance—attacks which again seem poke under the surface at Gosling rather than the film itself.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Genre Conventions & Kim Jee-woon's A Bittersweet Life

If Kim Jee-woon has told us anything with his eclectic and varied filmography it's that he loves working within genre conventions. With each of his movies, he picks a genre and gives us an epitome of its tropes taken to their logical extreme. His filmography offers not only entertainment, but also insight into genre conventions through his playful fidelity. He also tends to blend genres together, so with A Bittersweet Life he grabs hold of the gangster drama by the horns and turns everything up to eleven to create an experience which is as mixed as that metaphor (except, you know, in a good way).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: Sexual Anxiety Inverted

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes our modern anxieties about female sexuality and turns them on their head by making the lone girl (the subject of fear) into the predator. But far from making this into the male fear-fantasy you might expect (i.e. women are evil and want to drain our precious bodily fluids) or the opposite puritanical revenge-fantasy you might want (i.e. people are evil so we should drain their precious bodily fluids), it instead gives her agency and offers a complex morality play with no easy answers or safe solutions.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Marvel's Reflection of Social Ideology with Age of Ultron

I'm beginning to see how The Avengers will be the Star Wars of the next generation, and not just because of the many ways in which this is the Empire Strikes Back of the series (the team is falling apart, the enemy and the hero are directly related). Even if it doesn't succeed for me on the same level, what strikes me as the series's greatest success is the way it balances character and plot. This is also its biggest potential weakness, since the screen time and potential development for each character shrinks as the cast grows, but if this is a failure than it's one of execution rather than ambition. The Avengers's world is enormous, and even if this is partially due to the historically unprecedented cinematic universe (I know the internet doesn't need more people to say how cool this is, but really, this is so cool), it's undeniably impressive how Joss Whedon pulls so many characters together under one roof and still gives them each time to shine.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Hero's (Puppet) Journey in The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a fantasy adventure film directed by Kermit the Frog and Yoda, a simple fact which never ceases to amaze me (and an image which never ceases to make me chuckle). It goes without saying that the puppetry is absolutely astonishing (truly giving life to inanimate objects), and along with the incredible production design and special effects the whole thing looks quite lovely (especially in 35mm on the big screen).