Lifeless trees, dry grass, and gray skies. Dreary houses on hills with confined cluttered interiors. Children’s toys strewn over yards and trampolines without covers. A rusty rocking horse covered icicles that are slowly melting. A young girl, on the search for her missing father through a barren landscape. This is Winters Bone. A film from writer/director Debra Gratnick that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this past year and for good reason.
Taking place in the Ozark Mountains, Winters Bones tells the tale of 17 year of Ree. Ree takes care of her mentally ill mother, her younger sister, and her little brother. One day however she gets a visit from the Sheriff who comes bearing bad news. Her drug-dealing father is missing and if he doesn’t show up for court Ree loses the house and the property. Her and her family will be rendered homeless. Therefore Ree sets out on a journey to find her father.
The ads describe Winters Bone as an intense crime saga, yet that is misleading. It is a crime story albeit an unconventional one. It never picks up speed, our heroine is often left hopeless, and the climax turns our heroine into more of a puppet than someone with power. Yet throughout all this Ree never looses her strength even in moments of emotional drainage.
The film may seem frustrating in this aspect yet these are the same emotions Ree feels. Both the audience and Ree desperately want clues to come together, we want people to open up, and we want Ree to save the day. We feel this way because Jennifer Lawrence’s performance convinces us this is a real girl we can root for.
In the end Winters Bone is a great film for its striking imagery and its vision of a decaying America. Where buildings, cars, and drug labs are tattered. Where human beings are physically and emotionally run down. Where there are rules that one does not dare mess with. It’s a poetic crime story of a desperate young woman on a bleak journey and one of the best films of the summer.
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The first film I’ll be looking at David Lynch’s surrealist nightmare Eraserhead. When released in 1977 critics didn’t know what to make of it. It was avant-garde and thoroughly disturbing. However strange it might be Eraserhead makes sense, not in a literal way, but in a metaphorical one. Plain and simple it is a story of a man dealing with manhood a.k.a Lynch’s own fears of what comes with growing up and “becoming a man”.
The protagonist of the story, Henry, is on vacation from his job. He lives not in a world we know, but one of industrialization, shadows, and small shabby spaces. Throughout the film this strange man deals with meeting the parents of his girlfriend, becoming a father, commitment, and being given major responsibility. All of these are what society equates with man hood. So how does Lynch address his fears?
He addresses them by creating a horrifying nightmare where the normal events listed above are twisted into abnormal creations. For example the baby his girlfriend gives birth to is no ordinary baby. It is a hideous monster, it’s body covered in mummy wraps. Its wails permeate ones eardrums all throughout the night, yet Henry has to take care of it. He has to make sure it is safe even when it gets sick (a truly nasty scene). The fear of meeting the in-laws is no normal dinner, the chicken spews black ozze, the Dad is beyond strange, and the unhealthy mother tries to seduce him. The fear of Henry losing his individual identity because he is a father is beautifully illustrated in a dream sequence where Henry’s own head pops off and the monster baby head replaces his.
It all seems truly hopeless except for the woman in the radiator singing “in heaven everything is fine” as sperm drops onto to stage. This strange woman with enlarged cheeks squishes the sperm. What does this mean? And who is the disfigured man pulling the gears? And what happens in the end? I’m not exactly sure, but that is the beauty of most Lynch films; there are layers to be discovered.
Eraserhead is important because it was Lynch’s first film, a cult film, and it is still a unique viewing experience. Without a doubt one of the creepiest films I have ever watched, the third act will have one squirming in their seat. Yes it’s disgusting, yes it’s dreamlike. However it rings true with every man’s fears and displays them through a twisted yet engaging narrative making Eraserhead unforgettable.
Filed under: Film, News | Tags: Acts of Violence, Eyes Wide Shut, Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy, Il Lim, Indie, Leelee Sobieski, martial arts, Ron Perlman, Stanley Kubrick, Tony Jaa
I’ve never been much of a martial arts film fan (outside of the great Tony Jaa). Today in class, Il Lim, the writer-director-star of the upcoming martial arts flick Acts of Violence paid us a visit. He showed a trailer, and I am intrigued. It has some great martial arts action. Hopefully it has a story to back it up. It stars Leelee Sobieski (who got her start in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), Lim, and Hellboy himself Ron Perlman.
Lim is a first time filmmaker, but produced every aspect of this film and is now self distributing it. It is having a very limited release at a few Southern California theaters this weekend:
- AMC 30 at The Block in Orange
- AMC 20 Rolling Hills in Torrance
- Bevery Center 13 Cinemas in Beverly Hills
- AMC Puente Hills 20 in Puente Hills
Check it out. Ron Perlman committed to the film after a first reading of the script and told Lim “A first time director once changed my life.” That director, of course, was Guillermo del Toro.
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60. Ray Sinclair (Something Wild) played by Ray Liotta
“I’m glad to see you finally made it to the suburbs, B–TCH!”
59. Christian Szell (Marathon Man) played by Laurence Olivier
“Thus far I find you rather detestable, may I say that without hurting your feelings?”
58. Charlie Meadows (Barton Fink) played by John Goodman
“Sometimes it gets so hot I just want to crawl right out of my skin.”
57. Commodus (Gladiator) played by Joaquin Phoenix
“Am I not merciful?”
56. Kitano Sensai (Battle Royale) played by Takeshi Kitano
“Don’t you forget. Fight for survival and find out if you are worth it.”
55. Judge Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) voiced by Tony Jay
“And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!”
54. Arthur Jenson (Network) played by Ned Beatty
“We no longer live in a world of nations and idealogies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale.”
53. Lt. Hirim Coffey (The Abyss) played by Michael Biehn
“Sniff something? Did ya, rat boy?”
52. Harry Waters (In Bruges) played by Ralph Fiennes
“Did I ask you to be his psychiatrist? No. I asked you to f–king kill him.”
51. Warden Norton (The Shawshank Redemption) played by Bob Gunton
“Salvation lies within.”
Filed under: Film, Reviews, Thoughts | Tags: Haneke, Masterpiece, Oscars, The White Ribbon
The final moments were near. I could feel the film coming to a close, yet I was still on the edge of my seat. What I had seen and what I hadn’t seen left me disturbed and unsettled. Then, there it was, the last shot of The White Ribbon, so powerful, meaningful, and stunning. After two and a half hours I had become immersed in Haneke’s world, his characters, and the layers he reveals along the way. Simply put, The White Ribbon is a masterpiece.
The story of a small German village in 1913 and the strange disturbing events that happen to its citizens may not sound like a film that covers the themes of sin, secrets, innocence, fascism, religion, evil, sexism, and apathy, but it is. It is a story of about festering evil. It is a story about purity amidst evil. Yet with all of it is cleverly portrayed, none of it preachy. The film actually raises a lot more questions than it gives answers to. herein lies the brilliance and beauty of the film. It is such a breath of fresh air, and it is a full on movie experience that will pull you in and shock you.
The film is in black and white, giving it more power. Haneke lets his continuous shots linger just enough to build tension and terror, but not to the point of tedium. An important aspect of The White Ribbon is what we see and what is implied. At times we only see the aftermath of the crimes, at others we see it happening on camera. There is a shot of a boy walking into a room, he shuts the door, and the camera lingers outside the door. We the audience knows what is going to happen, but it is never shown, leaving us to our imagination. This film constantly makes you think about what is going on in the story and on the screen.
I cannot recommend this challenging film enough. It will create a lot of discussion and people will come away with different opinions than your own. So much to talk about and discuss. So much to analyze and ponder. The White Ribbon is a film I could write about for pages, but the best thing to do is to experience it for yourself.
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Everyone knows Christoph Waltz is a lock for Best Supporting Actor. But what about the other big awards? Here is YOUR chance to chime in. Ready. Set. Go.
Filed under: Film, Thoughts | Tags: An Education, Anna Kendrick, Best Actress, Crazy Heart, Helen Mirren, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Monique, Nine, Oscars, Penelope Cruz, Precious, Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side, Up in the air, Vera Farmiga
So the moment I’ve been waiting a long time for is just a few days away. That’s right, the Oscars are here this Sunday. Over the next coupel days, we want your thoughts on who YOU think should win statues come Sunday night.
First Up: Best Actress Categories!