A light criticism of “desktop films”

searching.jpgSearching is the directorial debut by Aneesh Chaganty and tells its story almost entirely through a computer screen. While there’s nothing new there it’s certainly an interesting choice, especially for someones very first feature-length film. However, that begs the question. With this inherent stipulation cinematically, does the film still manage to be entertaining? Surprisingly, yes.

I went into this film without knowing a single thing about it. In passing, I may have seen a few promotional videos here and there but none of it seems to stick in my mind. So when the first thing I saw was a computer screen I was more than just skeptical of the film’s fidelity. The main issue with choosing to make a film that takes place entirely on a computer screen is the inherent lack of visual stimulation. When the majority of the screen is simply white space the audience is practically inclined to get bored. However, I think Chaganty uses this to his advantage. There’s always a logical reason for why the audience is able to see what’s happening, whether it’s on security cameras or newscasts. Chaganty also isn’t afraid to make computers do things they normally can’t. A risk I think was well worth the slight loss of immersion. Often times, the point of view will begin to zoom in on a specific detail or element on the screen, which makes for some incredibly tense moments.

All in all, I was satisfied. While the film’s storytelling is formulaic at times, the overall mystery albeit thrilling is a bit predictable in some moments, and it sometimes gets confused about what its overall purpose is; the one thing the film consistently manages to be is entertaining. At this point, I’m just searching for a movie that takes place entirely on a PlayStation party chat.

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Reviewing 7 movies in about a hundred-fifty words or less

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Se7en (1995)

A great reflection on human morality. As you watch the film unfold you begin to question the true intentions of the police force and perhaps even mankind itself. The ending makes you consider the perspective of the murderer and whether you should feel remorse for him or people he’s hurt. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play off of each other well. I find their duo to be very appropriate and entertaining to watch. It’s like a dark buddy cop movie, except David Fincher made it so it’s perfect. You can see the way the two men bond and get close to one another until it all culminates into a thrilling climax. Watch out for the number seven, it appears a lot and I can’t even begin to divulge its thematic importance. Go watch it if you haven’t already, Fincher continues to impress with his unbridled knowledge of filmmaking.

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Obvious Child (2014)

A nice little coming of age story about a woman going through real-life struggles we all must often face in society. In its simplest terms, a comedian is essentially paid to never grow up and keep a facade that basically equates to a constant lark. Yet when that fact is juxtaposed with real situations the main character must learn to overcome, it really develops into a beautiful relatable story I think anyone can get behind. Jenny Slate plays her character very well because it essentially is her, but she’s able to make it not as contrived as that may sound. I think we’ve all been in her shoes at one point or another and I would be lying if I said I couldn’t relate to her myself. The story is sweet and something to watch if you just wanna have a good time.

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Kill Your Darlings (2013)

A pretentious film that documents the intertwined lives of 3 poets from the forties. I picked this film up on a whim because I thought it would be another crime film, and it also had Michael C. Hall in it but instead, I got this incredibly ostentatious film about 3 idiots attempting to induce a modern renaissance. The presentation is all over the place, the editing (primarily the audio) is rather shotty, and the acting, especially from Daniel Radcliffe, leaves much to be desired. An overall unenjoyable experience. I wouldn’t waste any time on this if I were you.

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

The eighth film from Quentin Tarantino manifests itself in the form of a historical film that grapples with morality and consequence. It follows the experiences of bounty hunters and captures how they all end up clashing with each other when forced together into a single room. The whole atmosphere leaves the viewer on edge for most of the film and the twists and turns it takes are especially intriguing. Samuel L. Jackson, as always, steals the show and for once Walton Goggins doesn’t play a terrible villain like he does in the next movie. Anway, it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie there’s a lot of odd nuances you aren’t going to get with anyone else directing it, have fun and watch the flick.

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Ant-man and the Wasp (2018)

The very definition of a passable superhero film. It’s got action, and it has a decent narrative and resolves cleanly at the end. The villans are rather dull and have such clear weaknesses that it’s almost laughable. The film is played off as more comedic but not at all in the same vein as Thor: Ragnarok which is undoubtedly the best way to do it, at least in terms of films from the MCU. There’s a guy whose main role was to spout exposition at the beginning of the film, and a sub-par unnatural romantic ark that felt rushed and unnecessary. It’s not a bad movie per say just unapologetically average. I would recommend you go in with low expectations and leave with even lower ones.

Enemy (2013)

A surreal vignette about internal struggle. I really liked this one, there’s a lot of subtle themes and motifs at play that I think all types of viewers can appreciate. The film is essentially about dealing with an internal struggle and self-image, how it can ultimately break you and cause you to do things you didn’t think you would. All the while, the movie is coated in a dim yellow finish making it look more retro which is a stylistic choice I was ultimately on board with. Denis Villeneuve is responsible for films like Sicario and the recent Blade Runner reboot and I’m honestly really starting to enjoy his manner of filmmaking. Jake Gyllenhaal has the challenge of playing two characters who are so radically different I started to think they were played by different people. A must see for anyone who likes Villeneuve’s work.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

Another Tarantino movie, because why not. This is one of the most interesting Christian films I’ve ever watched. The whole movie is about salvation, living a life of sin and ultimately choosing a path of righteousness. You get to see the lives of a few bad people play out and how they react when given a second chance. It’s an interesting departure from Tarantino’s standard character types because while they’re still corrupt people they actually have the possibility to make things right. It’s honestly a near perfect film and I recommend everyone give it a watch. I say near perfect because for some reason Tarantino thought it was a good idea to insert himself into the movie as a character who says the word “nigger” at awkward times. I suppose we are all our own hamartia.

This was originally supposed to be ten films, all of which I would watch in a consecutive ten-day time span, but since I’m bad at keeping my own promises I fell just short. Some of these I watched in theaters, others I watched with friends, and some I watched alone. I suppose that could have an effect on judgment but if I’m being honest I think most of these films are worth a watch. Most of them.

Pierrot le Fou and the appeal of arthouse

the foolArthouse is a genre of film that is made to circumvent the traditional style of filmmaking omnipresent within the current scope of contemporary cinema. They are meant to be an experimental and serious artistic work not aimed at a commercial audience. They are often very confusing, strange, yet simultaneously charming films that transcend and challenge the tedious approach many of us take to the theater regular basis. The biggest appeal of arthouse to me is that you really feel like you’re watching a film made by real people. People who want you to accurately see their vision. People who want to communicate a complex story and present you with something you’ve never considered before.

If you want something different. If you want something engaging. If you want something that isn’t boring. If you want to truly be entertained, then I cannot recommend arthouse films enough.

The film I’m talking about today is undoubtedly arthouse but was also apart of the new wave movement. New wave refers to a period in cinema that stretched from the late 50’s to the late 60’s localized entirely in France where some of the best and most influential films were released. Pierrot le Fou is unmistakably no different.

The film follows the misadventures of disgruntled Ferdinand “Pierrot” Griffon and Marianne Renoir, portrayed by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina respectively, as they run away to take on a life of crime together. It’s a rather meager backdrop to compliment the true meaning behind the enigmatic narrative and themes present throughout the film.

At the beginning of the film, Ferdinand, who I’ll be referring to as Pierrot from now on, speaks to an American Film director at a dull party and meekly says, “I’ve always wanted to know exactly what cinema is.” The response he gets from the man, who is an actual American director; Samuel Fuller is the best starting point for this article and is the simplest way I can explain the film as far as motifs are concerned.

A film is like a battleground. There’s love, hate, action, violence, death…in one word: emotions.

Pierrot le Fou is all of these things condensed into 110 minutes and it’s exhibited in such an enthralling style it’s hard to even catch all of it unless you force yourself to examine it thoroughly, which I did. There’s love in the way Pierrot and Marianne are unable to understand it. There’s hate in the way that Jean-Luc Godard decided to depict Anna’s character because they were going through a divorce, which I’ll get into later. There’s action and death following Pierrot everywhere he goes because Marianne craves it. Putting it in its most straightforward form; it’s all just emotions. The emotions of Godard told cinematically. They say to write what you know and Godard certainly did; when he decided to adapt the 1962 novel Obsession into a film.

Love is an elusive topic explored often by many artists but something I really enjoy about Pierrot le Fou is how its weaved between the narrative and its other themes. The two leads are supposedly in love and yet have no idea what it is or what they’re even talking about. They ruthlessly jump into compulsive situations without considering the bigger picture and call it love. Their tender moments are always colored with a lack of sincerity that makes them seem so ingenuine. As their perception of love changes so does their clothes to reflect the period of time they’re in. In the middle of the film when they settle on the French Riviera Marianne grows bored of the mundanity and exclaims “I’m tired of wearing the same dress every day!” This reflects the side of her that so desperately wants to “live.” Yet Pierrot had already considered that living.

Both of them see living as completely different things and the audience gets to see how they clash. Sometimes quite humorously as they both break the fourth wall several times, further engrossing the audience into their chaotic ventures. Its a rather risky move to break the fourth wall in a film such as this but I believe it creates a more immersive experience. During Marianne’s speech to Pierrot where she tells him she want’s to go dancing she stares directly into the camera and repeats “I just want to live.” Marianne is trying to gain sympathy from the audience here, but the manner in which she delivers her words and her cold stare into the camera ends up having the opposite effect.

Godard continues to deconstruct the unhealthy relationship between the two characters by portraying their relationship as a criminal partnership. I think that’s the most salient motif displayed in the film. Pierrot leaves behind his stable life with a wealthy Italian woman to go into the great unknown with someone he hasn’t seen in years. Perhaps that’s the reason why the film title translates to “Crazy Pete.” In all the confusion he changes his perception of love to coincide with Marianne except she was never in love in the first place.

Godard is attempting to piece together his feelings within the film and show the audience the true grandeur of his emotions while also creating this cinematic marvel. The film is a portrait. A portrait of himself and if that isn’t something special that adds a layer of depth to this already profound from then I don’t know what will. In a way, it’s saddening to see Godard unravel himself in front of the audience because it means throughout this film he was entirely vulnerable.

The cuts are sometimes jarring, the music begins and then ends abruptly at seemingly random times, but the cinematography is beautiful and the language is pretty. It’s all reminiscent of someone who is in bewildered anguish, desperately trying to decipher their own emotions they have no hope of ever comprehending. It’s even more tragic when you see the fate of our hero Pierrot. A fate I won’t spoil in this article because its one thing to read about it, but it’s another to see and feel it. Life is so different from novels.

To experience Pierrot le Fou is to experience something truly remarkable. It’s opened my eyes to a boundless ocean of new possibilities in film I hadn’t yet explored. I know I call it an arthouse piece but in all honesty, this is a film that excels that simple label. It’s an amalgamation of so many ideas and themes its hard to confine it to one description, but perhaps that’s the essence of art house cinema. It houses all the “weird” things deemed unacceptable for a general commercial audience. You cant market arthouse films they aren’t meant to be just a film. Its vitality comes from the fact it’s the most authentic version of art there is.

I would say that the appeal of arthouse is whatever you get out of it. I certainly gained a lot out of Pierrot le Fou. Go watch it if you’re not afraid to read subtitles and even if you are I still recommend you do anyway. There’s a lot I didn’t talk about in this feeble little article I’m sure you can find out for yourself and if you don’t want to, oh well c’est la vie!

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2 movie reviews, that have to do with love, by a person who is single.

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A review of 500 Days Of Summer (originally written March 11th, 2018 when I was single)

It’s rare that I give any independent films a chance. Typically, I find them too amateur or artsy for my pretentious sixteen-year-old mind to appreciate. Be that as it may, whenever I do end up giving them a chance; I always find myself astonished by the levels of quality and passion within each one of them. There is nothing quite like watching a well made independent film. They possess the same allure of a big blockbuster, but the charm you can only find in old home movies from your family basement.

500 Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, offers a realistic take on contemporary relationships that hits close to home for anyone who’s ever been a part of one. It subverts the tired trope of romanticizing unhealthy relationships, and instead, plays the main character, Tom, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for a callow fool due to the fact he believes in such unrealistic and contrived ideas about romance.

I have a feeling everyone has some type of interpretation about the love they put forth for the world to hear, but what I think many of us don’t understand is that we really don’t know exactly what love is. Love is intangible. It’s an enigma. I don’t believe anyone in this world is able to pinpoint exactly what it is, and what it does to our feeble minds. The way we view love is often manipulated by how it makes us feel at the time. It’s an ever-evolving concept.

For a period in my life I was convinced love didn’t exist; much like Tom’s love interest Summer, who is played by Zooey Deschanel. At this point in my life, however, I see so many happy people together it’s almost impossible to deny its existence. It makes me feel so inadequate, but just a few months ago the thought of being tied down repulsed me. Tom is the exact same way, he’s just like me and just like you too. I think that’s the true beauty of 500 Days of Summer. When you look back at your past failed relationships you often laugh at the silliness of it all, at least that’s what I do. You can make fun of all the weird things you said and did because, while at the time it certainly felt real to you; once you look back. It doesn’t. Time passes, people change, and in time, everything you think you know about love will have altered itself in the blink of an eye.

I watched 500 Days of Summer to feel upset. I watched it to feel some sort of superiority over the field of love. I watched it to feel bitter. Instead, what I got made me change my mind and question the ways in which I perceive it. It provided me a thought-provoking introspection into the world that we think we know all too well. Heartbreak.

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A review of The Lobster (originally written March 17th, 2018 when I was single)

I’ve seen a lot of movies that take place in a dystopia. In fact, within the last few years, there has been a huge surge of films that have taken place in a dystopian world. The only purpose being for the author to criticize the grander scope of the world rather than a particular facet of it they find flawed. I don’t think it’s enough to find the whole world flawed without being able to divulge the specific forces making you feel such convictions. This is the problem I seem to find with most dystopian films I watch. However, The Lobster is able to breathe life into this over-saturated genre by properly using a creative dystopian setting for the purpose of evaluating what we perceive love should be.

The film takes place in a world which is entirely dictated by love; everyone must have a partner. If you don’t you’re sent to a hotel and tasked with finding a suitable mate in 45 days. If you fail to do so you are transformed into any animal of your choosing so you may start anew. The concept itself warrants a closer look, but what it reveals about society is much more fascinating.

We often worry about finding “the one” thinking perhaps we never will and as a result, we recklessly leap into commitment not realizing we had a choice the whole time. The Lobster, however, depicts what it would be like if that choice of commitment was revoked. The film trivializes love making it more of an obligation than something we normally perceive as special. In their world love should be something everyone should partake in.

Characters are able to find out if they’re compatible if they share a defining trait. For example; two characters are both short-sighted. It’s a connection sure, but it’s one that’s purely on a physical level that has nothing to do with the way they actually feel about each other. This makes the worlds current obsession with vanity more salient and shallow.

Further on in the narrative, there’s an alternative view cleverly juxtaposed that acts as a counter-argument for what society thinks love should be. The “loners” as they’re called in the film are comparatively not allowed to engage in any sort of relationship and instead emphasize the importance of individuality rather than partnership. In the loner’s world; love should be nonexistent.

The issue that’s coupled with the loners perspective on love is ironically exactly the same as the former. It revokes the person’s ability to choose; limiting society to two ideologically constrictive ideas. The film humors both viewpoints equally, however, encouraging a debate between both sentiments, and tailoring the film’s events and ending to how each different audience member may perceive it as such. The director stays neutral opting to emphasize the fact that we as the audience do have a choice. We can dictate if the main characters end up living a happy ending or a sad one. We can choose to live our own lives depending on how we perceive love.

It’s a choice I don’t think we should waste.