Bo Burnham understands better than most what it’s like to be a lonely kid trying to find the joys of online invisibility in the real world, and with Eighth Grade, has taken a sledgehammer to the outdated myth that high school is the worst part of growing up. High school is confusing, sure, but it’s nothing compared to the three year caravan of misery through halls of kids carrying SpongeBob USB drives and horny teens begging for Snapchats.
Brattle Theatre Film Notes Posts
Thanks, Ned, for that introduction. It’s so great to see so many people here, willing to show up for 90 minutes of free air conditioning on a Monday night.
My name is Ezra Glenn, and as Ned said, I teach in the urban planning program at MIT. My background is on the applied side of the field – I worked for over a decade in municipal government, including stints as the director of planning for the city of Somerville and director of community development for the city of Lawrence. So I came to MIT having worked a lot in the actual making of cities.
Some iconic L.A. films – Rebel Without a Cause, Zabriskie Point, Chinatown, Annie Hall – relish the city. A sprawling urban metropolis built up of drastically different neighborhoods, a skyline defined downtown and dozens of notable landmarks; Los Angeles is inherently cinematic. Perhaps best unpacked in Thom Anderson’s equally sprawling documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, the city didn’t just give us movies, it became them. Which makes William Friedkin’s depiction of the city in the 1985 neo-noir To Live and Die in L.A. that much more enigmatic.
Bloody, senseless fights between main character Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke) and Eddie, a macho bartender, (Frank Stallone) frame the film Barfly, Charles Bukowski’s powerful and unrelenting journey into the Los Angeles bar scene. However, the setting for the film, the Golden Horn, is no ordinary bar and its drunken adversaries are engaged in no ordinary brawl.
In horror and sci-fi films, female characters are too often the victim of the male gaze. Some might offer Ripley’s disrobing scene in Alien as a classic example. However, the mise-en-scene and cinematography of the scene disrupt the sexualizing possibility of the male gaze, and instead highlight the vulnerability of the human form.
Seeing things in black and white often means denying room for any nuance and detail. And yet, it is in black and white that Marjane Satrapi chose to illustrate her vision of the Iranian Revolution and the role it played in her life in her autobiographical graphic novel and its 2007 film adaptation, Persepolis.
In 1999, as the country was gearing up for the potential catastrophe of Y2K, Hollywood was spending its spring season in cyberspace with three months of high profile genre films set within some concept of virtual reality. This started with The Matrix in March, which gave way to eXistenZ in April, and ended with The Thirteenth Floor in May. All three films traffic in the paranoia that comes with technology, particularly that related to computers and how reliant we were becoming on them.
Often, in films, we see a character stand up for an underdog or the losing side in battle. Other times we get to see a character advocate for herself against a powerful foe. That can be tough when the enemy turns out to be Mom.
There’s no shortage of villainous mothers in films. The ones who send shivers down your spine, like Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate, and Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, rule by intimidation and cruelty. In the world of classic films, Gladys Cooper has the mean mom thing down pat. Two films showcase Cooper’s ability to play horrible mothers, Now Voyager (1942) and Separate Tables (1958).
Pop culture is currently enjoying a thriving fascination with the potential humanity of artificial intelligence and androids. Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) and Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina (2014) both explored the capacity for romance between humans and human-made creations. Even TV shows like Black Mirror and HBO’s Westworld meditate on potential humanity of AI. Although technological advancement has certainly fueled this current interest, we should also recognize the lasting influence of a film that was truly ahead of its time: Blade Runner (1982).
Questions of humanity and authenticity have always been at the heart of the Blade Runner universe. In Ridley Scott’s original film, Rick Deckard a “blade runner,” administers an “empathy test” meant to distinguish humans from realistic androids known as replicants, and fans have spent well over three decades debating whether Deckard himself is a replicant. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), deftly maintains a sense of ambiguity regarding Deckard’s origins, and also finds new ways to wrestle with the question of what it means to be “real.”