Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Barbarella (1968)

If you haven't seen this film, it is my highest recommendation that you change that.

Barbarella is such a fun romp of a movie. A SciFi playground of sex and adventure, featuring Jane Fonda looking hella good in every one of the many outfits that Barbarella wears. I've been meaning to be her for Halloween, because if it were up to me I'd be dressing like her every day, but the rest of the world wouldn't approve.

The aesthetics of this movie are wonderful. The set, the costumes, the camera--it is all really bright and engaging. Barbarella's/Jane Fonda's sex appeal is certainly a huge part of the movie, but it isn't the kind of thing that upsets me. Sure, she is a traditionally beautiful woman being objectified and ogled, but it is very tongue-in-cheek. I mean, come on, she doesn't know how Earthly sex works, and when she learns (because she is so willing to learn!) she finds that it is damn fun. She doesn't have all of the negativity associated with female sexuality drilled into her brain, so she is happily open with her love of sex and eager to explore. I mean, come on, she is supposed to die in that orgasm-inducing machine, but her larger-than-life orgasm breaks it, and she escapes! This is definitely the premise of a bad porno, I know, but I think it is more silly and positive than icky and uncomfortable. Aside from sex, she's also on a mission to take down a bad guy.

Screen shot from trailer
The world needs more movies that are as fun as this one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Amreeka (2009)

Screenshot from trailer
Oh wow. I just watched the trailer to get a few screenshots and had to hold back tears. I hadn't expected that.

Amreeka tells the story of one Palestinian woman's immigration, with her teenage son, to the United States, in hopes of  leaving behind an unsteady life and embrace one of opportunity. The film is a comedy, and it will make you laugh. It is also a drama, and it will make you feel, feel hopeful, feel angry, feel warmth.

Muna (Nisreen Faour), is absolutely lovable. She is easy to root for, and it makes her many faux pas empathy-inducing and her struggle to be accepted in her new country painful. The story is primarily about her, but also follows her son's adjustment and the life of her sister's family, who has been living in the U.S. for awhile now.

Screenshot from trailer
The film is not perfect, but it is overall very well done. The acting is generally very good, the script is solid, the camera work is great. Cherien Dabis wrote and directed the film, her first, and did a phenomenal job at making a heart-warming comedy (even a bit of a romantic comedy) that is distinctly American in style, covering a topic and a life that is not the traditional American idea. This proves to be a beautiful combination. The style alone begs the question of what is American, and who is American? Questions that reverberate throughout the film. With a tone balancing between amusement at cultural discrepancies and heaviness at hardships of immigrating to the US.
Screenshot from trailer

Also, if you're an Arrested Development (2003-2013) fan, the film also features Alia Shawkat aka Maeby.

Watch the trailer here

Books You Should Like

Below is a list of wonderful books. I really like looking at lists of things that other people enjoy, and when I love something I want to share it with anyone who will listen. If you are similar, then enjoy the below.

Much like the film list, a lot of these are lit major obvi, but that doesn't mean they aren't great. They are listed in no particular order, and there are so many other books that I could talk all day about why they are great and worth reading. These are just the ones I have read that I consider the most wonderful.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Americanah, Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
Cane, Jean Toomer
Drown, Junot Diaz
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Keesey
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
Jazz, Toni Morrison
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving
We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
Cereus Blooms at Night, Shani Mootoo
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami 
Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tangerine (2015)

Screenshot from trailer 
This is one of my absolute favorite movies. I say this upfront to prepare for a mostly excited, positive review.

What's so great about this movie? That's a question that, from my experience, would come from someone who hasn't seen it. Though today, IMDb has it rated just barely above a 7 our of 10.

First of all, this plot is unique. A woman gets out of jail, finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and goes on a flying rage down the L.A. streets to find him. To get into her demographic deets, the woman is a black, transgender prostitute. To get into his, he is a white pimp. Surely this is not the norm we have grown to know in films! This plot is woven into a plot about a taxi driver who, though married to a woman, has an extra curricular interest in some of the nontraditional prostitutes.

The camera---oooh am I a sucker for good camerawork. You give me good camerawork filmed on an iPhone? Well, shoot, should we just go to bed together now? Seriously. The whole iPhone thing is a big hit to viewers and critics alike. The camera on recent iPhones is pretty great, especially for a phone, sure, but this type of cinematography takes skill to capture on a camera made for this work. We won't even go into how the toggles and tools on an iPhone are certainly not made for easy filmmaking.
Screenshot from trailer

The acting/script combo? So good. This is a comedy, mind you, but not the kind of comedy that makes fun of the out-of-norm characters. It watches like an in-joke, not an out-joke. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is especially hilarious, but if I were going to go through everyone's acting, I would end up just listing names and saying "ugh so GOOD". I'm also pretty certain that Kitana isn't a professional actor, either.

This is actually a terrible review because all I want to do is say "ugh, so good" to every bullet point I have on it. It's like the opposite of  my MEDG review.

I really enjoy this movie for its sharp acting, writing, and cinematography. I enjoy the roller coaster of events. The realness that is not diminished by its exaggerated comedy. The first time I watched it, I was with friends. I had plans to hang with my boyfriend when it was finished, and immediately went to his house and told him that we have to watch this movie, now. So I watched the same movie twice in one night, back-to-back.
Screenshot from trailer

A man temporarily teaching a recitation for one of my intro film courses (the husband of the woman who normally taught, a man who I found to be an annoying try-hard who was a little too proud of his Ivy League education, though kind and amiable) asked if films ever shocked us anymore; had we not seen it all? This question made me immediately think of this movie--sure, a lot of violence doesn't shock us, but this movie shocked me. It is unexpected because its story is not like the countless romcoms, fart-joke comedies, superhero films, quirky indie flicks, or intense action movies. It is a welcome digression from these norms.

Watch the trailer here