☆ REVIEWS ☆

Analysis Essays

Brown Bunny (2003) ☆☆☆☆☆

(an essay I wrote for English class)
Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny is a personal and beautiful depiction of loneliness, grief, and denial, and the effects these can have on someone.

Following a lengthy shot of motorcycles, focusing on the main character, Bud Clay, among them, the first of many women named after a flower is introduced. This will come to be a repeated element in the film, and supplants one of its two main metaphors. Every female character having this pattern in names, paired with Bud’s own name, can be interpreted as the women he meets along his trip being supplements to his growth as a person, and perhaps a comparison of his weakness to their fullness and development as individuals. This implies that, while coping with his grief and denial, Bud relies on other women to fill the void that he has since denied recognition.

The second metaphor is the treatment of Daisy, the woman who Bud is searching for, as the titular brown bunny. In a visit to a petstore, Bud is told that bunnies can only live five to six years, never longer; however, in an earlier visit to Daisy’s parents’ house, he finds that her pet rabbit has survived long past her departure from home. This mirrors how Bud is lingering to Daisy’s presence in his life. After claiming that Daisy has “had that rabbit a long time,” her mother remarks that she has not heard from her, and would like to know why. Bud’s lack of a response further signifies that he has either yet to register Daisy’s death, or is fully in denial.

The film is presented in a very bare nature, with music used sparingly during the several long takes through Bud’s windshield. The slightness in camerawork is also used to highlight Bud’s isolation by consistently showing him and those who he is about to interact with as faced away from each other. Additionally, the muted color palette, highlighting browns, blues, and greys, is a reflection of Bud’s own melancholic view of life without the color that had been previously provided by Daisy.

Sacrificing the fact that an intense focus on one character, played by the film’s director, can come off as narcissistic, Brown Bunny thrives off the idea loneliness is in nature a self-centered ordeal. Most scenes either depict Bud driving alone, or his many brief encounters with women during his journey to California. With this strong focus on Bud as an individual, the film highlights his loneliness and inability to find acceptance or even acknowledgement of his grief.

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1995) ☆☆☆☆☆

71 Fragments... offers a powerful commentary on how both international and domestic events are often ignored to provide supercilious distractions for daily life, but also overshadow individual struggles to the point that their potency is misjudged.

Stunning cinematography, as always with Haneke, but it really shines here. He has a talent, especially in films with uniquely sequenced narratives like this and Caché, for focusing on only the most important facets of the setting to bring out the meaning in a shot: whether it’s obvious examples like the silhouetted framing of a door, or positioning the camera at a higher level to mimic the actions of a child and the focus on angling and composition to make architectural features more pronounced and create a sense of dominance.

The narrative positioning of 71 Fragments has always appealed to me, and, much like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, it chooses to show a tragedy not by the event itself, or even the reasoning behind it. Haneke chooses not to give a direct answer, and, unlike Van Sant, his ambiguity is from a more nebulous standpoint. The recurring snippets of news coverage of a foreign war, as well as Michael Jackson’s pedophilia accusations, specifically towards the film’s end, help to pronounce the cynical idea of individual struggle as an unimportant facet of existence, and how people will always want to move onto the next big story.

It’s likely that the Viennese citizens who passed the bank, the foster home, and a beggar child; and who saw the coverage of a lost immigrant child, a war in a faraway place, and a celebrity scandal, paid no mind to these scenes: fragments of their daily lives. Distractions that served to move them from one day to the next. This is a big theme in Haneke’s work, and one of my favourite expressions of it are his simple vignettes portraying characters performing daily tasks. Such a concise way of developing an idea, and one that he practices to the point of perfection throughout his career.

The characters we follow up until the film’s climax are shown over a relatively equal amount of time, including the perpetrator of the film’s final event. The choice to deliver the film in, as the title states, seventy-one fragments, is a way to further imply the insignificance of individual existence. And while this is a nihilistic and, dare I say, pretentious point of view, I love seeing it put to screen, and this is the best execution of it I’ve seen. The lack of character depth or perception provides us with nothing but a vessel to carry us through the plot; and although we only get to know these people through the bare minimum recap of their daily lives, I still find myself getting attached, making the ending all the more desolate and heartbreaking.

The suddenness of the ending is something I loved upon first watch and loved re-experiencing. It’s scary how fast someone can snap and perform such a horrific act, but it’s also scary how objectively Haneke presents it. After an hour and a half of steady buildup that doesn’t seem to be building up to anything, we seem to forget details like a bartered pistol in a cafeteria bathroom; a bank teller’s concern with her co-worker’s distraughtness on the phone; two foster parents struggling to raise a shy, insolent daughter. The choice to layer these scenes in an ever more mundane fashion reflects the distractions we see through the news, and hides an insidious thought: why will he kill?

I can see how many think this is the weakest Haneke, but in my opinion, it really sediments the statement he tried making most in his early work, and shows some of the most potent and excellent filmmaking (especially in his style) that I’ve seen put to screen.

Haunting and harrowing and beautiful.

Brown Bunny (2003) ☆☆☆☆☆

(second review I wrote on this)
Brown Bunny is an expertly crafted depiction of loneliness and the effects it has on someone that to many comes off as simply ‘narcissistic’; when in reality, loneliness is in nature a self-centered ordeal.

The slightness in camerawork and dialogue and mannerism all add to this sense of loneliness that Bud experiences, culminating in the last twenty minutes; and it does this all so well.

Without the strong reliance on Bud’s character, Brown Bunny could not possibly function as well as it does to portray grief and denial. While to many it can seem cliché (the flower names, the shots of the road, the repetition), there’s little denying that it’s accurate: anyone who has experienced a grief such as Bud, even imagined, can understand his choices and the way they’re displayed.

The scenes that break this repetition offer us an insight into Bud’s real reason and destination. Both the visit to the old couple and to the pet store offer direct allusions to Bud’s determination in the face of an unattainable goal. Brown bunnies only live for five to six years, but one has unexpectedly lived longer.

I love the formatting and editing of this film. No matter how redundant what we see is, it’s not a detriment in any way. Brown Bunny uses its slow pace and repetition to build up to those last twenty minutes, where we see the same progression as before play out, only this time it’s with someone we know Bud has had a connection with before — something he has lacked this entire time.

Brown Bunny is a heartbreakingly accurate rendering of the feelings of grief, guilt, denial, and, ultimately, acceptance, as we see Bud once again return to the road; bringing the familiar chain events to a complete close.

Doctor Sleep (2019) ☆☆☆☆½

I never read Doctor Sleep but I did read The Shining, and I can see so much of the tone and other aspects that Kubrick sacrificed here.

Ewan as Danny Torrance is an angel sent straight from heaven and so many scenes in this are lifted to their best potential by his performance. I love the color grading in this, it reminds me of Zodiac with that haunting softness of growing familiar with an originally threatening force.

The callbacks to The Shining were of course obvious but invited and enjoyed nonetheless, and my wacky obsessive ass was reminded constantly of how much I loved the story two years ago. The last thirty minutes is a self-indulgent homage to the original and it uses the set as a fitting final showdown against a force bigger than the overlook, while feeding into it.

The director’s cut, if I’m correct, added more scenes touching upon Danny’s relationship with Jack, and although it wasn’t an absolutely needed addition it really did elevate the film by reflecting the richness taken from King’s descriptive writing style. I especially liked how this was implemented in the scenes with Danny in the Overlook’s bar and bathroom.

It still has its flaws, though. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy at times, and Rebecca Ferguson’s performance pissed me off (sorry). Again, I haven’t read the book so I can’t really comment on aspects like this but I wish we could’ve seen more of Danny’s shine apart from the last act and when he was talking to Abra through the wall. But it was portrayed in a subtle way that I still liked very much.

It was a bit long, and that’s one of my complaints, but I started this reasonably late on a school night and didn’t really feel bored or tired. It does an excellent job of creating tension at the best moments while still delivering the story and without the use of any attention-grabbing: it trusts the viewer.

Adding to that, Doctor Sleep is not really a horror — perhaps in the objective sense at times, but not in itself, and not as the current paradigm applies. Once again, it’s super faithful to King’s storytelling, and it knows that, by bringing out the best aspects that it can. At heart, it’s refreshing to the genre, but not in the way that Creep and the Lighthouse were. It’s an extension of the legacy that genre thrillers in the 80s held, one of making a film and knowing what you want to do with it — knowing your message.

Doctor Sleep was the best sequel it could possibly be to The Shining, precisely for the reason that it holds almost no similarities to it apart from the characters and callbacks. Doctor Sleep is its own film, an exploration into the psyche of a grown man and the mystique behind why he’s the way he is.

the Seventh Continent (1989)

Despite lacking the deeper concepts that really dictate a Haneke work, the Seventh Continent was a great directorial debut and it foreshadows the unique and fully developed career that he would soon explore afterward.

This has a lot of those technical aspects specific to Haneke’s work — the long takes, closeups, coloration, sound design, placement of dialogue/monologue — but none of them really build up to their best usage. I can really see how Haneke built on all of those skills in his later films and they’ve become his staples, alongside his shocking and sorrowful subject matters.

There isn’t much in terms of character, and it’s a slow-burning plot that takes all the way to the end to flesh itself out; I found this to be a slight issue in Benny’s Video as well, but the performances and subject matter balanced it out. Additionally, what 71 Fragments did to solve this problem was leap between scenes of our different main characters, helping both the pacing and to develop the identities of each person (this is, however, unique to Fragments). They all, nevertheless, retain that special shock factor at the very end that’s consistent in Haneke’s subsequent work.

Although this is the first in the Glaciation Trilogy (Benny's Video, 71 Fragments...), I didn’t really see the theme of violence in media that really shines in his other work, specifically in this trilogy. This is, however, made up for by a unique exploration of the profound emptiness that is experienced every day by families then and now.

Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) ☆☆☆☆☆

Performances by Herzog and Bremner are astounding; Korine wrote the role specifically for Herzog, and he does not disappoint. Now, Korine himself was to play the role of Julien, and as much as I love him I don’t think anyone could’ve pulled it off better than Ewan Bremner himself. He performs tastefully and exceptionally, portraying a devoutly religious schizophrenic man living in a chaotic and abusive household with little to no touch with the outside, in what is a sensitive and personal look into his life. Chloë Sevigny as always delivers strongly, offering what little support Julien receives throughout the ‘story’ that we are presented through bleary eyes.

Most of the film’s dialogue was unscripted, with the actors only being offered short descriptions of each scene (e.g. ‘scene 58 — Julien tries again to kill the swan’); this further pushes Korine’s unique vignette-like filmmaking experience that encapsulates the notion that, in his own terms, “every film needs a beginning, middle, and end, not necessarily in that order.”

Korine is a master in filmmaking; whether it comes from insanity or auteurism, it’s undoubted that the work he delivers is captivating, hypnotic, whatever you call it — it’s great, and it hasn’t been done before. Kids had the reality and rawness that Korine continues to capture in every film of his — but Julien is the core truth to be found in Korine’s work.

However disgusting it may be, he works to show reality. He delivers it in such a wholly fascinating way. His work takes the dirty truth of Hollywood and surrealist spins on reality, it takes the wonderfully written and developed characters (and, may I add, he does it in such a … different way — the frank, sudden, gone-in-an-instant narratives of Korine are such a revolutionary way to build a world and the people in it; Gummo did it so, so well, and with so many characters too. But god, Julien, and its more personal nature… chef’s kiss), okay I digressed there but STILL…

Dead Man (1995) ☆☆☆☆☆

Exploring a maintained tone of isolation and the human self, and the ambience of industrial-era America, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man holds its own as a depiction of the changes faced physically and spiritually by the nation as a whole. Depp’s protagonist, William Blake, is thrust into the desolation and vapidity of the American wilderness, experiencing transformations of his beliefs and being. Masterfully, Jarmusch works to develop a tangible yet fleetingly desolate journey and an equally immersive experience, joined by an optimal score by the late Neil Young.

Moving between vignettes of Blake and Nobody, and the three men hunting the former, Dead Man strives to tell a tale of lost identity and newly found spirituality. Being mistaken for the late Romantic poet of his same name and on the brink of death himself, Depp’s character is awoken by a native named Nobody, similarly rejected from his tribe; this removal of identity faced by Blake in his delirium only begins to develop the film’s themes of discovery and self-exploration. The contrast between objective consistency in life, as seen in Blake’s arrival, and the individual fend-for-yourself nature of the wilderness further serves to develop an isolated tone that highlights the situational depravity of the time, as well as Blake’s increasing spirituality.

Act two continues many of the film’s broader themes, as well as exploring Blake’s growing dissent towards the industrial world and his individual discovery. We encounter a set of three men, all of whom insist on ‘having’ Blake; he and Nobody then kill the men and take their guns and their food, continuing to move deeper into the wild. This brief introduction of new characters then gone within minutes, leaving us to follow the previous stories once again, is exemplative of the film’s continued tone of isolation and individuality. Following the altercation, staples of Blake’s previous presentation, such as his suit and glasses, are taken away, leaving him with native face paint and wearing furs. This, as well as Blake’s conflicting views with that of Nobody and his remaining urban life, lead him to both consciously and without realization succumb fully to the continual journey into his metaphysical form.

Continuing onto the film’s conclusion, the deeper running theme of Blake’s integration into nature is wholly explored to an end. Blake and Nobody reach the latter’s tribe, who proceed to take Blake into their own hands and complete his journey into full manifestation of his unbodied form. Drawing back onto the film’s very start, with Crispin Glover’s unnamed fireman’s monologue, Blake is sent out on a canoe into the Pacific; thus is found his completed entry into the spiritual world, away from material gains as seen by the one remaining bounty hunter in his foiled attempts to find this very man. Fully departed from his worldly self, Blake is now one with the sky, one with the sea, one with the landscape. Blake has become a dead man.

the Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Man Who Laughs is a tragic film whose gripping imagery warns against humanity’s innate reaction to laugh at those who suffer, when not confronted with suffering itself.

Conrad Veidt’s chillingly beautiful performance as the title character highlights Paul Leni’s powerfully anguished adaptation of the romantic novel by Victor Hugo: blending the aspects of romanticism that directly inspired German expressionism with the new medium of film, The Man offers a perspective towards the tragedy of being unloved. This notion pairs those of isolation leading to madness in expressionism and the high emotional reactions explored in romantic art. The suffering of Veidt’s Gwynplaine is explored throughout the film, with the final act leaving the viewer with a sense of despair and longing.

Romanticists often focused on tales of man vs. nature or society, the latter taking place in this specific work. Shocking, gripping imagery was used to detail darker subjects of social injustice, often leading to abstracted, heavily emotional portrayals of events. These are all seen in The Man, paired with expressionist tendencies of high contrast and the development of an isolated, withdrawn experience and mood.

Exploring themes of heartbreak, dejection, and desolation, The Man Who Laughs is a heart-wrenching approach to a romantic novel, whose starkly unnerving imagery leaves behind both apprehensive curiosity and the lingering disconsolance of unachievable desire.

Nosferatu (1922) ☆☆☆☆

The first cinematic retelling of Bram Stoker's ‘Dracula,’ I wasn’t expecting much new in terms of plot that I haven’t seen in Bela Lugosi’s 1931 version; I chose this one to see the differences between Tod Browning’s 30s American horror and F. W. Marnau’s 20s German expressionist interpretation.

There are certainly many differences in the versions. This one is a masterfully crafted experience of the horrors of the unknown, excelling in both maintaining the novel’s gothic origins and in developing a uniquely expressionist mood in how it handles the madness of isolation. This version sees our protagonist discovering the existence of vampyres in the “land of thieves and spectres” he visits - he soon grows frightened of his new landlord, seemingly a vampyre himself. The film holds a mood of tension and anxiety regarding the uncertainty of the situation, exemplative of German expressionism.

Masterful performances from Max Shreck as the Count and Gustav von Wangenheim as his unfortunate tenant: Shreck develops a unique image of the Count, that, unlike Lugosi’s iconic Dracula image, serves to instigate pure terror and apprehensiveness throughout the entire film. While I’m sure the set score would’ve worked to the benefit of the film, being subtitled “a Symphony of Horror” and all, I feel my replacement of it with Philip Glass truly added to the tone of discovery and general unknown, especially with the third act of Glass’ score lining up with the sequences depicting Ellen’s growing despair and Hutter’s slow discoveries of his companion’s unusual customs.

The large looming figure of Shreck’s Count is a truly terrifying image, and one truly indicative of the nightmarish aspects of expressionism that are drawn from symbolism. Hutter and Ellen’s dichotomous descent into madness while isolated from each other is also exemplative of the movement’s common themes.

Various aspects of Nosferatu make it paradigmal of the anti-realist shift experienced in cinema in the 1920s, showing the shift from representational storytelling to the abstraction of ideas. Themes explored in the film include desolation, madness, despair, and the uncontrollableness of life; all applicable to the German expressionist movement, but the latter also strikingly significant of the gothic and baroque that came prior.

Nosferatu is a must-watch to anyone interested in the development of ideals in art during wartime, and how art reflected the conscious state of a populus during times of tribulation.

the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) ☆☆☆☆½

A work of German expressionist Robert Viene, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari explores the dark and mysterious story of a man’s death and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his possible murderer.

Dr. Caligari, a strange man at a fair, presents our protagonist Francis and his late friend Alan with the spectacle of a man who, upon waking from his supposed twenty-three year sleep, is able to tell the future; Alan is presented with the stark message that he will die at the coming dawn. A simple enough plot, Viene utilizes aspects of the expressionist movement in early 20th century Germany to apply deeper meaning and its common themes of betrayal, madness, and the horrors of war.

In the wake of World War I, German expressionism rose in popularity as a form of portraying the negative effects war had on the psychological state of the whole German populus. Drawing from the earlier movement of symbolism (Münch) and the large aspects of isolation and rejection experienced by the country during the war, expressionism offered an outlet for the darker emotions creatives had gone through in attempts to provide comfort in times of tension. This need for comfort resulted in expressionism’s focus on portraying pure feeling in art versus the real world images in the preceding movements of impressionism and realism that dominated the mid-late 1800s.

Cinema had also begun to gain a more personal sense during this period, as methods of recording film had developed from Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope to more practical cameras; this allowed for a wider range of possible patrons, and, with the war, demand for entertainment inflated massively. Thus came the works of Viene, Lang (Metropolis), and Wegener (Golem), all of whom explored the possibilities of both film and other growing technological advances in lieu of Europe’s Industrial boom.

In Cabinet specifically, the expressionist values of inner turmoil are heavily shown in the fifth and sixth acts, developing a sense of madness and loss of touch with reality. This feeling of the unknown causes a deep mood of anxiety, confusion, and general dissonance (especially when paired with the atonal jazz score the version I watched had) that is exemplative of the German expressionist movement.

The heavy development of tone and mood as well as themes of unknown technologies and complete uncertainty make The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari a classic exemplar of the expressionist movement in early 1900s Germany, and explores the aspects of the darkness that is encountered in the mind following periods of war or general despair.

American Psycho (2000) ☆☆☆☆☆

The second film on my Hooptober list directed by a woman, American Psycho is a hilarious take on hypermasculinity and a marvelous study of the sociopath.

Ironically, Bret Easton Ellis, author of the 1991 novel the film adapts, claimed that women cannot direct due to their lack of the male gaze, a notion explored heavily in the plot; Mary Harron’s interpretation of the novel offers a comedic and well-rounded approach to the narcissistic character of Patrick Bateman, developing the iconic image known today as the “American Psycho”.

With a passionate and strongly developed performance by Christian Bale, we follow Patrick, said “psycho,” as he partakes in multiple uncontrollable killings; his success proves to be too unstoppable, as following an ironic full confession, the man still runs free. Fully exploring the “American” part of the title, the film presents the environment of early 90s New York. Patrick’s obsession with Huey Lewis & the News, as well as his image partially being representative of the average American businessman, are comparable to the irony of the kitsch movement: popularized in the late 80s, kitsch explored garish items being seen as admirable, often observed in a way likened to the male gaze - fully objectifying something in a way that can be interpreted as commendable or, usually, depersonalizing.

Containing a multitude of memorable scenes and dialogues and a wonderful appearance by Willem Dafoe, American Psycho is enjoyable both in terms of a moviegoer’s perspective and by analyzing the ego of a homicidal businessman with no concern apart from that of his own position and beliefs.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) ☆☆☆☆½

Meshes of the Afternoon is director Maya Deren’s portrayal of a dream, in the form of a surrealist film.

The wave of surrealist art in America during World War II included common themes, to list: creating with chance, using as little consciousness as possible while working; and attempts to jolt both the viewer and the more conscious artist out of their usual perception. The latter was achieved by using shocking or unsettling imagery, or simply developing a uniquely subconscious mood through a lack of the quotidian aspects of art, such as form, plot, reasoning, and tonality when discussing different formats.

Meshes utilizes non-verbal storytelling to create an uncanny dreamlike environment, drawing from this surrealist movement, by repeating both sequences and singular imagery (motifs such as the knife, the flower, the key, and the faceless mirror) to highlight the non-linear, aethereal mood being established.

Deren employs various techniques, namely slow-motion; unusual positioning, angling, and shot composition; reflections; and sweeping shots (both establishing and to imply movement in space) to further develop the dreamlike sensibilities and plot, or lack thereof, consequently adding to surrealist film’s tendencies to stray from conventions of stabilization in the art, while also exploring the possibilities of it.

A staple film from 30s-40s surrealist America, Meshes of the Afternoon is exemplificative of the characteristics that served to represent the era and its artists. Maya Deren’s unique development of dreamlike elements and usage of various filmmaking techniques cement both her and the piece as comparative to the likes of David Lynch and Charlie Kaufman, extending their influence to the modern day.

First Reformed (2017) ☆☆☆☆☆

(second review I wrote for this)
Beautiful. Every aspect of this film is beautiful.

From the lingering shots to the slightest implications of color to the messages displayed; First Reformed is not about a church. Or its reverend. Tt’s not about the instigation of environmental care that comes with religious piety. It’s about the weight and toll that a spiritual man faces when those who are careless begin impacting him.

This film barely shifts tones in the slightest of manners, consistently resting on one that provides itself with the undertones of an all-transcending universe and its god: god being a form of coping who some use as a way to understand the hopelessness that they cannot seem to surpass.

The entire experience that this film brings is so evocative of the feelings that one faces when presented with philosophical thought. Toller’s many conflicts, internal and external, provide a vision that the viewer can relate to, regardless of religion. Any believer has faced times of doubt, times of such despair that they can no longer rely on what they once depended on for meaning. First Reformed is absolutely redolent of this sentiment and its core meaning can extend beyond religion and beyong the images of a suffering earth; its meaning can be extended to any form of sorrow faced by those dealing with life.

First Reformed is a film for those who choose to see life through a philosophical lense, no matter how impactful they choose to have this lense be. It is a film that truly offers a deeper connection to those experiencing it.

First Reformed (2017) ☆☆☆☆☆

(first review I wrote for this)
This is more beautifully shot and written than anything else I've seen that's come out in the past 2 years besides maybe Phantom Thread.

Different from the latter, however, is the use of music: in that, there is none. Phantom Thread utilizes its score to reinforce the setting and it honestly made the experience more encapsulating for me; what First Reformed does is draw you in without needing music or any additional circumstances that aren't happening in the real world as we and Reverend Toller experience it.

The portrayal of such a seemingly ordinary life and occurrence makes for such an interesting concept that can be manipulated to be something as enthralling as First Reformed. The life of a historical church’s reverend should be nothing more than monotonous and standardized, but the story that is woven by Paul Schrader shows the ability that some people have to use the paradigmatic events of everyday life and incorporate a story involving death and the mysteries surrounding it.

A comparison that comes to my mind is of this film and the ‘vanitas’ style of painting popular in the northern early Renaissance (Denmark, the Netherlands); during a period of art marked by images of secular worship directed towards noble and religious patronage, the ‘vanitas’ artists portrayed still lifes and other images of everyday life (genre painting), but also included a darker message of memento mori -- a message of the brevity of life the beauty of our surroundings, and no matter how we may use religious piety to form meaning in life, it is important to remember that death comes to all.

Reverend Toller comes to realize this around the second act of the film, where the man we encountered near the beginning of the film has been found dead of suicide. His journey to acceptance, both of his own death and realization of those around him, is exemplified by the multiple scenes of Toller in the church’s cemetery.

As well as the more literal explications of death are the implicit: the church’s impending 250th anniversary brings Toller and the viewer to realize that the monotonous life he has lived is only further demonstrated by his surroundings. The aging church is in already dwindling condition as is shown by the broken organ, and Toller will soon no longer be able to maintain the church, leaving its future uncertain. Toller has done what he may and was incited to do by God, and accepts what he has done in his ability. Another implicit example of the impending end is Toller’s insistence to only write in his journal for one hundred days, entailing that he not die before this imposed frame of time.

Short Profiles

Mandy (2018) ☆☆☆☆½

The rock candy psychadelia of Mandy takes 1980s UFO death cults and combines it with a murderous revenge story that’s propelled by an amazing performance by Nicolas Cage.

Fields of color obscure our perspective as we struggle to follow Red on his mission to avenge his wife after she’s fallen to the goals of a religious cult. The beautifully framed landscapes and close-ups alike are washed in unnatural neon color-grading that elevates Mandy’s unique atmospheric trip.

The usage of layered sound and visual effects creates waves of nonstop sensory bombardment while also acting as a hypnotic representation of a bad trip. Johan Johansson’s score expands on this, building synths to create an ambient yet insidious presence that carries us throughout the film.

The writing is excellent and constructs an ambiguous tone of violence, devotion, and insanity as both the moral and literal perspectives of the film remain a consequence of every layered technique.

Mandy is a unique sensory experience that shows influence of both contemporary horror (a la Creep, Ari Aster) and the state of cultish behavior in 80s America.

Mystery Train (1989) ☆☆☆☆½

Great example of nonlinear storytelling. I loved noticing the little similarities within each story and how they converged. the usage of the radio was one of my favorites -- especially with Tom Waits’ gravelly voice coming on to announce Elvis.

All the characters were super charming, with standouts from Mitsuko and Jun, the Bellboy, and Charlie of course.

The muted palette and dim lighting paired with the sound design made for a massive atmospheric experience that I loved about the other Jarmusch work I’ve seen (including Dead Man, one of my all-time favorites!). Comedy is integrated perfectly and used only when needed. Writing was great too; the dialogue shaped the characters which I always love to see.

Overall this was super charming and engaging and I was hooked until the end.

In the Mood for Love (2000) ☆☆☆☆☆

A film about nuance.

This was stunning. Shot beautifully, with a score driven by dramatic violins that reminded me of Phantom Thread; as did the costume design, which really did make me feel like I was in 1962 Hong Kong.

Maggie Cheung in her own is gorgeous, and I loved all the slight mannerisms that she and Tony Leung kept throughout. The progression of their relationship was played delightfully on screen, and I was so captivated during the entire thing; it doesn’t drag a second. Writing was immaculate.

Midnight Cowboy (1969) ☆☆☆☆

The dubbing was bad but I’ll let it slide. Nothing special in terms of camerawork, but the writing and development was pretty good.

I liked seeing Ratso and Joe’s friendship throughout but I was kinda disinterested in the characters themselves (if anything, we saw some deeper parts of Joe, but Ratso was just the same greasy dude the whole time). In a story about a relationship it’s important to pay equal attention to characters themselves and their bond, and I feel like we only got to see the surface characteristics of each character in their interactions.

Overall it was a good example of New Hollywood but I like the other films I’ve seen from the period (the Graduate, Dirty Harry, a Clockwork Orange, Mean Streets etc.) more.

Nevertheless, I admire the way it handled themes of homosexuality, prostitution, and other ‘taboos’ that started to come into light during the late 60s.

Phantom Thread (2017) ☆☆☆☆☆

Paul Thomas Anderson is the master (no pun intended) of portrait shots and framing in general. Every shot perfectly matches the tone and action that he’s trying to convey. The score is absolutely beautiful and fits with the mood of the entire film.

I love the worldbuilding and characters and the meet-cute with Reynolds and Alma was actually sweet and I loved it. I’ve always loved the 1950s but I’ve never before seen the general aesthetic and feeling of the decade conveyed so well in a non-American setting. Reynolds' feelings toward his mother and how sentimental he becomes when talking about her are such a good way of portraying his ideals and values as a character.

Alma and Reynolds have such a wonderful and unexpected synthesis and chemistry and the evolution of Alma’s feelings towards herself and Reynolds are shown beautifully; the fact that her modulating feelings are shown and she’s comfortable with sharing them and speaking out is an aspect that I truly admire.

Ramblings

Delta Force (1986)

Love American pro-capitalist media from the 80s which took a real-life terrorist incident and somehow twisted it into an anti-“socialist”/fascist ( somehow the same thing in their eyes ) propaganda starring Chuck Norris.

One of the highlights was when the terrorists made a German stewardess call out the names of all Jewish passengers on the plane (referred to as dirty anti-socialist zionists), including a holocaust survivor; she asked the terrorists if they wanted to sympathize with nazis, to which they replied “six million Jews was not enough”.

I know.

Aside from all that, the pacing in this was egregiously bad. They included the entire bit that was “inspired” by the real life tragedy in the first 40 minutes of the film, with I think a total of 4 scenes involving the titular ‘delta force’ that would come to the rescue.

Following this recollection, we rarely hear or see again of the hostages that survived the hijacking — who we’ve gotten to know during the entire film so far — and instead follow Chuck Norris on his escapades throughout Beirut, which seems to be occupied in its totality by members of the terrorist organization, until the very end.

It truly feels like two very different, very disjointed films. It saddens me that they chose to portray this tragic event in as much horrid detail as they could, only to fill the rest of the runtime with as much macho-man military badassery with a shiny label as possible. But that’s the 80s for ya!

Girl, Interrupted (1999) ½☆

I watched this film two or three years ago when I found out I had BPD. When the credits rolled, I thought to myself, “was I supposed to sympathise with her? Her underdeveloped, inaccurate, extremely surface-level ‘representation’ of my illness?” I thought that I had found something to help me explain how I think. But I didn’t. And I still don’t.

I will never know why this film receives the acclaim it does. Why Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for portraying an unbelievably stereotypical “hot psychopath”. There is nothing special about this film. Not for the late 90s, not for films depicting mental illness, nothing. But it does do something that no film depicting a real-world subject should do.

This film both romanticises and vilifies BPD so much, and tones down the actual debilitating social and emotional aspects to present something so ... fake. This practice of turning a mental illness into a skeletal portrayal of a ‘character’ that can honestly just be attributed to simple personality traits instead of a disorder is so extremely harmful to the illness’ public image. It’s like the girls in middle school (and in some cases high school) who said they had depression because they cried at the end of Grey’s Anatomy. I hate it so much.

Winona Ryder’s character is one of the blandest, most underdeveloped and underwritten characters I’ve come to know in film. I genuinely struggle to think how this is possible, given that this film is based off a fucking novel, but they accomplished it. Thank you!!! Not to mention fucking Jared Leto. I want to punch him in the face. It just sucks that I relate more to Anakin Skywalker, one of the most widely renowned and known villains in cinema, than I do to a supposed accurate portrayal of BPD. Are you literally kidding me.

Natural Born Killers (1994) ☆☆☆☆☆

I know lots of people don’t like this because it’s headache inducing and overly stylised and too over the top and ... honestly I don’t know what the complaints are but everything that could be considered bad about this film clearly works in its favor! All the crazy composition and editing and dutch angles and eye-straining colors and shitty music and screen projections and archive footage and general extraness — I love it. It's perfect.

I can’t help but smile during quite literally every scene. It adds an edge to the story of Bonnie and Clyde and absolutely owns every second of it. Mickey and Mallory are fucking crazy and I loveeeee itttt I don’t know how you couldn’t love them because that’s the point !! We shouldn’t like these insane assholes but we do anyways because they act out the shit that we wanna do but can’t.

That’s exactly the state that pop culture was at in the 90s: it took all the drugs and rock-star idolisation from the 70s paired with the gaudiness and superfluous everything from the 80s and just made it EDGIER. And NBK exemplifies this to a tee, all while making an overall mockery of the American dream.

I think this is best shown by the first act — especially the café scene and the credit sequence. We’re introduced to the couple as Mickey is ordering a slice of pie from a pissed-off barista, and Mallory is dancing by a jukebox: that’s all flipped on its head when they start beating the everliving shit out of two truckers and leaving all three for dead. It takes these familiar symbols of classic American culture and twists it into this grotesque caricature and it’s amazing.

The credits show the couple driving through overlaid scenes of the Las Vegas strip, the American old west, 1920s New York, and headlines describing their acts. It's the amalgamation of all the sensory-laid, overpowering, constant stream of information that’s deemed ‘popular culture’. It’s an introduction that displays the film’s seminal themes in the same fashion that we see all the information it lays out: a distortion of the American dream.

This is further satirised in the ‘I Love Mallory’ segment, a repulsive dramatisation of the sitcom (hint hint, another staple in 20th century America). It shows an all-too realistic depiction of childhood abuse delivered in a comical way and however gross it is, it’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the film. It’s just so definitive of what Stone was trying to accomplish and it adds so much to the film by setting the place for not only a large theme but the plot itself.

A bit later we literally see Mickey riding into a tornado, and the screen is overlaid with static resembling old film. NBK knows what it’s doing. There’s all these little moments, especially in the editing, that make this so well-done. The overlays of an angel and devil and unicorn while Mallory is talking that tie to the short clips we see of Mickey and, later, Wayne, to signify their corruption upon killing; the Coca-Cola polar bear clips; Mallory’s brother wears KISS makeup and makeup resembling Alex from a Clockwork Orange; down to the scenes we see on TVs throughout !! the Nixon clip at the very beginning, the wrestling Mallory’s father is watching, Scarface and Stalin within seconds of each other, the literal premise of Wayne making a fucking TV documentary that went too far, like !!!

GOD can you ever do satire better than this ?? and I know that people are like ‘oh it’s all way too obvious, satire should be subtle’ GIRL THAT'S THE POINT it’s making a satire on extraness while being extra — it’s the best thing ever.

the Wedding Party (1969)

I understand what it was trying? to do, with the silent-film-like sped-up footage and dubbing and title cards but it really just made it so so messy. These stylistic choices aren’t consistent, which makes their use really interruptive and unfitting. Weird on de Palma’s part but it was his first feature so ... okay?

I wish I cared about what anyone was saying in order to actually comment on performances, but it was a hot mess in every aspect so all I could focus on was the visual acting, which, again, was in line with slapstick comedy and old romances, and the awkwardly delivered dialogue spread around by weird camera cuts.

Speaking of the weird camera cuts: what the fuck was the cinematography in this??? Every shot is framed extremely awkwardly and there were some comedic quick cuts building up to important dialogue and it was just so ... weird. Like I think I see the vision but every time the angle changes I have to recenter myself and be like “where am I” because none of the changes make logical sense.

I get that this was an homage to silent films and French new-wave but bro ... de Palma ... please make it make sense at least ... sad.

Forever grateful that this was only 90 minutes because if I had to endure a minute longer than needed I think I would’ve spontaneously combusted.

Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) ☆☆☆☆☆

I went into the prequels as a blank slate; I grew up as a Star Trek kid (thanks dad) so I never had any emotional connection to Star Wars, apart from watching the new films in theatres and the old ones once each. I would think such a connection contributes to everyone’s recent re-appreciation of the prequels upon revisit, but even with no childhood influence, I loved the prequels as films in and of themselves.

I really can’t understand how people don’t like this movie! The writing isn’t bad at all, the visuals are much much less outdated, all the battle scenes look incredible and are well-choreographed, the characters are super well written, it looks beautiful in general, and this is all enhanced by the score.

Also, as someone with BPD, Anakin is literally the only accurate depiction of it that I’ve seen in media. Anakin really does show a lot of the symptoms that I myself suffer and I really liked having a character I can resonate with, even if they are exaggerated and it kinda sucks that he’s, like, the number one villain ever, but it makes sense.

I love how his story is built upon in all the prequels, even the podracing, and it all contributes to our iconic image of him as Darth Vader. Also, a lot of people think the podracing storyline in Phantom Menace is unnecessary and weakens the film, but I enjoyed it, as it opens up further exploration into the world and its characters; the prequels are an excellent example of how to world-build, and this is expanded in both episode II and III.

Episode III’s story was easily the most engaging and the buildup for Palpatine and Anakin’s changes in both the previous two films and the course of III itself was extremely well done. The two simultaneous final battles are so captivating and exciting; Star Wars is definitely one of the best series to do action sequences. We’ve followed these characters over fifteen years, and seeing Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship come to a climax as well as the order in the senate become tense was so satisfying and entertaining to watch.

That last scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan is just beautifully tragic. You’ve seen them grow together and the influence that Obi-Wan had on Anakin and how he finally succumbs to the dark side and it’s just such an intense moment in the entire series. The acting in it is beautiful from both ends and it’s perfectly dramatic for the exact moment that Anakin becomes Darth Vader.

I could keep going and write a whole ass analysis essay on the prequels as a trilogy, but I wouldn’t do justice to my friend Sonny's amazing recount of Revenge of the Sith. Read it!

I loved (re)visiting the prequels, and look forward to rewatching them with my newly gained appreciation.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) ☆☆☆☆☆

This is a masterpiece, if you don’t like this movie please don’t speak to me.

The editing is PERFECT like oh my god this is one of the best exhibits of comedic editing that consistently works because no matter how many times I’ve seen:
- “I can assure you, he’s a very sick boy!”
(cuts to him playing the clarinet)
- “I’ll bet Cameron’s sitting in his car right now debating whether or not to leave”
(cuts to Cameron doing exactly that)
- “Ed! Ferris Bueller’s on line two!”
(dramatic ass music playing over the phone)
I always laugh. This is the one movie that can ensure laughs from me after however many watches I’ve had.

Also — not even just the editing. The writing is great, it moves through one school day spent in downtown Chicago with such a smooth assuredness where you KNOW it knows what it’s doing. There are so many memorable lines that I’m not even gonna name because if you’ve seen the film even once you know which ones they are. Ferris is an asshole of a character, but that’s believable for a movie about 80s highschoolers !!! No matter how “one-dimensional” the other characters may be that’s literally the point !!!

It’s shot so effectively too ! like ! you don’t notice the camerawork at all because you wouldn’t have to in a film like this but omfg it just adds to the entire sense that’s being built up and the scene with Ferris running through the backyards is Per Fec Tion.

That brings me to music … the music in this is used so well like . when you hear “Oh Yeah” you immediately think of Ferris Bueller and to me that’s what marks good usage of music. And the mid credit scene too ! bringing back the rest of the song over Rooney being a dumbass like that’s literally the essence of the movie on periodt. The repeated usage of “Danke Schön” as well like ! the parade sequence lordddd just the purest example of careless 80s fun times :).

The fourth wall breaks — just tears. Tears. What a work of art. That’s how you do it.

THE SET DESIGN ! THE COSTUME DESIGN ! WHAT THE FUCK ! literally another incredible and amazing part of this. The set design especially for Ferris’ room is fucking crazy and the usage of the house and the backyards and the school and it’s just epitome 80s comedy and I fucking live for it. The costumes only add to this and I love Ferris’ outfit changes and Cameron’s iconic jersey and Rooney’s clothes slowly falling apart throughout.

I legitimately cannot think of a single complaint I have with this besides Ferris being an asshole and even then that’s minuscule bc it’s the foundation of the plot lmfao. Besides that it’s absolutely perfect in every way and still holds up after a million rewatches. My childhood.

Greetings (1968)

Any film that opens with a shot of a TV has my attention; so did Greetings! I went into this with average expectations, mostly just excited to finally be watching it.

The credit sequence was so sweet too! Everything about this movie screams the late sixties: draft-dodging twenty year-olds set to an upbeat Graduate-type soundtrack, the visuals, the costumes, the title cards, the comedy, it’s just so evocative of the era.

You can really tell that out of these three, Rob would become the one with the best career. The performances were ... decent? I’ll be honest, Rob was lacking at times. But it is quite well-directed for de Palma’s debut. The script was ... okay ... and I did have a lot of issues with editing: there’s a lot of awkward cuts but you do get used to it after a while. The shots themselves are framed well and the camera is worked very nicely for an ‘amateur’.

There was a long take made to seem like it was shot vertically on super-8 (or maybe it was :D) and it reminded me of Buffalo ‘66. Thought that was interesting.

It really didn’t do that much for me, apart from what I expected. It’s a nice first picture, for both de Niro and de Palma, and it’s interesting to look back on this knowing how successful they were later on.

Buffalo '66 (1998) ☆☆☆☆☆

Absolute masterpiece and I really do mean that. I don’t know how someone couldn’t consider this film perfect and it genuinely has such a powerful feeling to it that moves me so much.

Billy Brown is such a deep character that at first glance looks so superficial and selfish and I see how many people think his sudden arc at the end is cheap and makes no sense, but I feel that he keeps those underlying moments of who he really is throughout the whole piece. He genuinely does care about Layla and it’s the first person he’s shown affection to his entire life and she brings a meaning to his life that was absent beforehand. The ‘sudden’ change at the end isn’t at all sudden if you think about how Layla’s spirit and caring attitude towards him brought out his best. From letting her bowl with his ball to getting her the hot chocolate to staying in a room with her, his moment of humanity had been built up over time. His character has such a heartbreaking past and it’s just so good to see him find some kind of peace in life and let his heart show for once.

Not only that but it’s aesthetically beautiful too. The super-8 film it’s shot on adds such a warmth and such a signature and unique look to it that really highlights its most touching moments. The lighting and music and settings like the family lunch, bowling alley, and a diner all reflect what Gallo considers the film to be, a ‘fifties romance.’

Buffalo '66 embodies the notion that there’s always someone who can bring out the best in you and it’s such a genuine and human theme to explore.

Brown Bunny (2003) ☆☆☆☆☆

(first review I wrote on this)
Shot absolutely beautifully, usage of music is wonderful, super personal performance by Vincent Gallo and I appreciate how it took the feeling I got from Buffalo ‘66 and built on it to a fuller maturity.

I don’t even know what to say because it just has such a specific feeling to it that you’ll only know once you watch it. You really can feel the runtime and that’s not a bad thing in this case. It uses every second appropriately and it doesn’t need a second more. Bud is a surprisingly (at least to me) complex character and god, once the last five minutes play out it’s so fucking heartwrenching.

Reflecting back on the entire film once the credits start rolling made me realize why people do love this film; all the hate it gets deterred me at first, but now I struggle to find why it does get it. I already know this is massively deserving of a rewatch and although it doesn’t have a lasting effect on me now, who knows if it will when I revisit it. I might end up hating it, even. For now that’s all in the air, and all I can be sure of is that Brown Bunny is significant in the realm of film; whether the impact it has is positive or negative is a personal choice.

Andrei Rublev (1966) ☆☆☆☆☆

I’ve always loved history, I really have, and for the past year I’ve been focusing more on the study of how beliefs (religious, societal, political) affect art and philosophy, and how changes in this were reflected in the states of art.

Andrei Rublev was a powerful study on the state of both art and society that Russia had remained in for centuries, up until the eras of Peter and Catherine the Great. Russian artwork has almost always been vastly religious, with icons and portraiture made solely for a patronage of the clergy and pious boyars. Rublev offered a snapshot into the life and struggles of such an artist living in a period of diminishing Mongol control as Russia shifted culturally.

Everything about Rublev was beautiful; Tarkovsky’s shot composition drew me in heavily with Ivan's Childhood and has continued to here. The score, used only when needed, adds an extra undertone to tenser or more emotional scenes during the epic. Anatoly Solonitsyn plays the titular character with mastery, transforming into the humble monk himself. The cinematography and direction are all around astounding, which is expected from a master as Tarkovsky.

I find that it’s always the films with either heavy religious or spiritual symbolism that resonate with me and move me to write fully fledged reviews, which is weird because i’ve truly never been a pious person to any faith. I always find these kinds of films to spark a sort of creative push in me and I love it because y’all know I love writing analytical essays !

Marriage Story (2019) ☆☆☆☆☆

The entire time I couldn’t stop seeing my parents in Nicole and Charlie; what’s worse, I couldn’t stop seeing my brother in Henry. My parents have been divorced for six years and it still feels like they’re ’figuring things out’ over and over and over and over it never fucking ends and it’s just so painful to go through — Marriage Story made me remember how painful it is for both of them, something I constantly think about and makes me feel horrible horrible horrible.

Marriage Story is such such such a scarily realistic film. The impact that it’s had on me says it all, I could not stop crying during ‘that’ scene because it was literally like seeing my parents. Nicole and Charlie weren’t characters played on a screen; they became people. the last ten minutes were some of the most beautiful and melancholy and heartwrenching and meaningful and moving and just TRUE moments that I’ve seen in a film.

I know that divorce isn’t some rare experience — that’s the important part. that’s why we need films like Marriage Story, because while cinema is to some an escape from reality, it’s so important to think about the things that happen during our lives. It’s important to see them realized on a screen so that we know we aren’t alone. I feel like if I saw this with either of my parents it would legitimately change my relationship with them by leaps and bounds. I’m not ready for that yet, but when I am, I hope Marriage Story will have the same impact on them as it did on me.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

How did Harry and Marv end up in New York? Were they imprisoned there? Did they go there after escaping prison in Chicago? Why did John Hughes bother making them the main villains again if they’re only really in the movie for the last act? A lot of time was spent developing Tim Curry as the “villain” (a comical one at least), so why bother with Harry and Marv? Was it just to generate some more revenue at the sight of familiar faces? Also — what was the point of having the Christmas spirit revelation with the pigeon lady halfway through the movie? It’s significantly longer than the first and the revelation doesn’t really have anything to do with the story unlike the first film’s.

It just feels really disjointed and long and nothing is accomplished. I know I shouldn’t be reading so deep into a cash-grab sequel of a children’s holiday movie but like — what? Then again there’s nothing much to expect from post-Planes, Trains John Hughes.

Side note: why did John Hhughes settle for cheap Christmas movies after Planes, Trains, & Automobiles? Did he think that he’d only get success from holiday movies after it? (I mean, it’s kinda true. you don’t see people talking about anything he made post-‘88 besides the holiday movies. Sad, really).

Tall Girl (2019)

- the shot composition is so fucking weird they do these weird reverse shots where the character is situated on one side of the shot from a lower angle looking out past the frame????????
- the music choice is really weird and random
- fake pewdiepie called her “a really smart fun unique beautiful girl” when did they establish her as being exceptionally smart???? literally not mentioned at all in the movie and shes not overly fun either like she laughs and enjoys things like a normal human but most of the time shes like depressed and the only unqiue things abt her are her height and how she plays fucking piano maybe and yeah shes pretty but.
- fake ian telling pewdiepie not to lead her on is a dick fucking move like obviously kimmy is only dating him to elevate her status let the poor man date the tall girl i swear... but like why is tall girl so mean to fake ian all he does is support her as both a friend and bc he likes her but bruh just ACCEPT THE COMPLIMENTS i cannot IF YOURE GONNA MOPE AROUND ABOUT NO GUYS LIKING YOU FOR BEING TALL ACCEPT THAT ONE GUY DOES LIKE YOU??? THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD CHANCE WITH??? then again hes fucking annoying
- also the black girl basically disappeared after the first act like HUH??????
- the ending was fucking stupid idc if youre gonna make a predictable high school movie dont try to write an original ending

the Florida Project (2017) ☆☆☆☆½

Everything about this is so honestly beautiful.

It’s childhood wonder in its purest form and a portrayal of how both kids and their slightly incapable parents can have fun in any situation.

Orlando really isn't the wonderland that people make it out to be: its motels and condos and the suburbs of Kissimee among the tourism are such an interesting setting for a film and give it a sense of truly looking into the lives of these families and kids.

The vibrancy of the colors give this such an undeniable sense of summer and how we all see it as children. The cinematography and shot composition are extremely well done alongside the smooth editing and amazing performances by Willem Defoe and the plethora of capable child actors that truly make this feel like a glimpse into reality.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) ☆☆☆☆☆

It hurts even more the second time around when you know what's gonna happen to Joel and Clementine and everything they go through with Elijah Wood messing with Clem’s head and Joel trying to piece everything together and just ... experiencing it again knowing the outcome makes it such a different experience and I love it.

The way it's shot and written and everything is so astounding. The way their dialogue with each other got so much more natural as it went on, and how comfortable they were, and how they realized each other’s imperfections ... and knowing that even they themselves understand that their relationship is doomed to fail, and the hopelessness, and the fact that at the end of it all, knowing what'll happen, they still try again ...

Also -- in the scenes where Joel and Clem were running through the B&N/Lacuna office and trying to find a memory to hide in, the lighting was like a single light shining on them in the pitch black and it's a callback to when Joel and Clem first met inside the beach house and Clem’s flashlight lit the scene ...

WWE - Jeffrey Nero Hardy Aka Jeff Hardy