Ajami

It was probably inevitable that a film like Ajami would come along—an Israeli/Palestinian collaboration, directed by a Christian Israeli Arab (Scandar Copti) and a Jewish Israeli (Yaron Shani) about a group of Christians and Muslims in a small Arab neighborhood, the titular Ajami, in one of the oldest port cities in the world, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Everything in the film itself, from the setting and characters to the plot, to all of the meta-aspects including the directors and production, feels like the cinematic culmination of the conflict that’s been raging in that part of the world for so long. It produces a melting pot of socio-cultural conflict that, in true artistic fashion, manages to boil everything down to the all-too-human people caught up in it all. Read more of this post

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Alternate Perspective: Summer Wars by JH

“Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!” or “Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons full of sex and violence?” are probably the two most common responses by “normal” people when they find out that someone watches anime; I can’t help but find the polar opposite associations rather hilarious. Nobody would ever say “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about flowers?” or “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about wars?” The Association stem from the confusion that anime is a genre rather than simply animation from Japan; it’s no more a genre than French films are a genre. Once I’ve explained that to people unfamiliar with anime the next question is inevitably “why do you watch cartoons?”.  Indeed, the stigma against animation has something only suited for kids or outrageous satirical comedy is pervasive in most of the West. The simple answer behind why I watch it is that the creative freedom inherent in animation, and frequently expressed through animation, far outweighs that in the vast majority of live-action films, and Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars is a prime example of that imaginative explosion. Read more of this post

Stefan’s R&A: Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

Also known as "Evangelion, New Theatrical Edition: Break"

[Due to the pre-existing nature of the film’s source material, this article has been split into two separate groups. The first half of the article is a traditionally written movie review for Evangelion 2.22 free of important spoilers that might ruin the experience for first-time viewers. The second half of the article is a in-depth comparative analysis between Evangelion 2.22 and the television show it was based upon: Neon Genesis Evangelion, and even a look as to how art can sometimes imitate life, and is targeted for those who have watched both the film and the original television show.] Read more of this post

The Fighter

Micky: “Everyone said I could beat him.”

Charlene: “Who’s everyone?”

Micky: “My brother, my mother.”

Between the ultimate stand-up-and-cheer-for-the-underdog Rocky, and one of the most brutally visceral character studies ever in fiction in Raging Bull, one wonders if there’s anything left in the field of the boxing sub-genre to cull. All those since have added precious little to the formula, except Million Dollar Baby, which substituted a female boxer and became a film about the most unusual of friendships. Really, the best boxing films all have one thing in common, and that’s that they’re about character infinitely more than boxing. Even Rocky would be nothing without Stalone’s iconic performance, and who can imagine Raging Bull without DeNiro’s ferocious Jake LaMotta? At its core, The Fighter is another such character study. Read more of this post

Never Let Me Go

Very early on while watching Never Let Me Go I was struck with the realization that I must be watching an adaptation of a novel. There’s simply a certain quality that such adaptations have that original screenplays don’t. They’re marked by a certain stately elegance, a temporal broadness (for whatever reason, feature film screenplays tend to stay rooted in one time period), and, most of all, a feeling that the visuals are struggling to capture the original prose and say more about the characters than are possible through a camera lens. Other such films in the past decade that also had these qualities were Chocolat, The Hours, Atonement, The Reader, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Perceptive readers might note all of these films were nominated for Oscars as well, and there’s a part of me that’s surprised Never Let Me Go wasn’t. Read more of this post

Dirty Pictures

Dirty Pictures is not a good film. The pacing and focus is scattershot, like a series of half-finished sentences. The editing is to blame here as the insistence on mixing documentary interviews and footage with a courtroom, jury-room, family, political, social, etc. drama never allows the film an identity. It’s dramatically and emotionally stilted. The characters are bland, with the worst being one-dimensional caricatures that make the film feel more like propaganda than it was probably intended to be. The acting is amateurish, and even James Woods can’t add any vitality

But what exactly is it that allows me to pass such judgment on the film to begin with? Is it actually something in the film? Is it just something inside me as a viewer? Is it a mixture? Where do these standards come from, how do they form, and how do we decide what standard to apply to what art and whether or not it falls within any notions of good, bad, or any other categorical adjective you might use? More importantly, as you might be asking, what the hell does that have to do with this film? Read more of this post

Cashback

Cashback began life as a 15 min. short film that struck a chord with audiences enough that it won an Oscar nomination. The writer/director/producer Sean Ellis decided it would be worth it to expand it into a feature that incorporated the short, saving time and money. It reportedly only took him a few weeks to write the script and get the entire cast onboard, including the lead, Sean Biggerstaff who plays Ben Willis, a young art student suffering from insomnia (two weeks worth, at least) after a traumatizing breakup with his girlfriend, Suzy (Michelle Ryan). To pass the extra 8-hours of day, Ben takes a job at a local supermarket where he meets his egomaniacal boss named Jenkins (Stuart Goodwin), two loafers named Barry (Michael Dixon) and Matt (Michael Lambourne), and a pretty checkout girl named Sharon (Emilia Fox). Because of his insomnia, Ben finds himself able to manipulate time, eventually being able to pause the present whenever he wants. Read more of this post