The Mixed Tape

Winter’s Bone
August 3, 2010, 6:55 pm
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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.

-Andy Motz


Fears in Film, Pt. 1: Eraserhead
July 2, 2010, 2:05 am
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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.

The White Ribbon
March 19, 2010, 12:27 am
Filed under: Film, Reviews, Thoughts | Tags: , , ,

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. Therein 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.

Andy’s Best Films of 2009

Here is my Best films of 2009 list – Andy

1.Munyurangabo- a film that is not manipulative with its emotions, but truly organic in every sense of the word. It is a masterpiece about Rwanda and the affects that the genocide still have on the people to this day. Made by Rwandans and Missionaries this art contributes to the healing process. A thoughtful film that is very powerful and is the years best, it needs to be seen.

2. 500 days of summer- (500) is a delight to watch. It tackles the theme of love with such insight and originality. The split screens, the dance numbers, and the perfect chemistry between the two leads help complete a joyous film that gets better with repeated viewings.

3. A Serious Man- A film about God and bad things happening to good people. Thought-provoking and very funny A Serious Man is the Coen brothers at their peak.

4. Precious- An R rated version of an after school special is elevated to greatness by powerful performances and good direction. It is a harrowing journey, one that everyone should take this year.

5. Up- What do you know Pixar has done it again. They have created an original cinematic story with great characters and themes that address the harsh realities of life with insight and hope

6. Where the Wild Things Are- Just beautiful and emotionally compelling. Not a movie for children, but about childhood. It deeply connected with me and brought back memories/ emotions of my own childhood.

7. The Girlfriend Experience- It’s a sad movie about empty people. Looking in through doors or edges of seat Soderbergh, accompanied by Oscar worthy cinematography, makes us observers in a world I’ve never seen before.

8. Summer Hours- A subtle meditation on life and art, that asks the questions why art is important and how it carries on after death.  Touching story and acting.

9. The Road- There are some striking images in this film and a strong emotional attachment as well. A really good movie and adaptation.

Up in the Air and Antichrist both fought for number ten. Both were good, but had their cons.  Since I can’t decide between the award winner and provocative art house film. Guess what? There is no number ten slot!