Author: Tara Zdancewicz

August 30, 2018 / / Scene Analysis
April 20, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Have you ever had a complete breakdown in public; blurring the line between public and private spheres? In Her, Theodore faces this exact experience when his operating system lover, Samantha, breaks his heart. Samantha is not just in love with Theodore, but also 641 other users.

December 4, 2017 / / Main Slate

One of the most inspirational rituals for athletes to partake in before a big game is turning on one of their favorite sports films. Hockey players turn on Miracle. Football athletes watch as Rudy overcomes all of his unimaginable obstacles. If basketball is the sport of choice, the options are limitless—Coach Carter, Hoosiers, Space Jam, White Men Can’t Jump, and He Got Game barely scratch the surface of the holy category of basketball movies that athletes of the same sport can watch. All of these films have huge stars at the helm—Samuel L. Jackson, Gene Hackman, Michael Jordan, Wesley Snipes, and Denzel Washington, respectively. As a ceremonious occasion, athletes turn on their favorite film the night before the championship and put themselves in Jordan or Snipes’s shoes. As Jordan defeats the Monstars in his intergalactic game of basketball, a blossoming basketball star dreams of slamming the ball through the hoop just like Mike. But what is a female basketball player to do? One film that holds a special place in many female basketball players’ hearts is the 2000 film Love & Basketball. Director-writer Gina Prince-Bythewood tells the story of Monica, a girl who loves two things equally: basketball and her childhood neighbor (and fellow basketball star) Quincy. A basketball player herself, Prince-Bythewood somehow manages to do the unfathomable: create a basketball movie not only about a female athlete, but also one who is black.

September 8, 2017 / / Scene Analysis

While critically panned, The Beach (2000) is not as horrid as contemporary collective wisdom such as its Rotten Tomatoes score would make you believe. DiCaprio plays Richard, a young man on a quest for meaning who comes across an off-the-grid island in Thailand that is inhabited simultaneously by marijuana farmers and a cult-like community run by Sal (Tilda Swinton) – with both parties keeping to their respective side of the island. Richard thinks he has found paradise in this community and soon succumbs to madness while trying to protect his utopia from intruders from his past. In this scene of Richard’s hallucination, his perspective is transformed to that of Daffy, a character whom the audience – and Richard – meets at the start of the film and who also happens to be the insane man that started the island cult. Throughout this scene, Richard increasingly loses his subjectivity until his and Daffy’s are one in the same.

August 22, 2017 / / Special Pages

Editor’s note: Musical in cinema is generally considered an American genre. The very first feature “talkie” The Jazz Singer (1927) is indeed a musical, selling sound as a novelty on the big screen. While musical directors from countries other than the U.S. often admit to being influenced by big Hollywoodian spectacles, the impulse to employ the emotional agency of music in cinema as soon as sound became accessible is not unique to the Americans, as demonstrated by French director René Clair who made Under the Roofs of Paris in 1930. Throughout the history of cinema, non-American musicals have greatly contributed to the sophistication and nuance of the genre. To accompany our Elements of Cinema screening of Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, we picked 6 French musical movies that we think you should know, and watch.

Yangqiao Lu
Editor of Film Notes

Under the Roofs of Paris (Sous les toits de Paris) (1930) dir. René Clair

One of France’s first musicals was not very typical of the genre. With a somber tone, René Clair created a dismal representation of lower-class Paris that was very disparate from the cheerful, operatic musicals that were popular in France during the 30s. French moviegoers expected to be transported away from their problems at the movies, not reminded of them. The film follows a street singer named Albert that falls for Pola, a beautiful Romanian immigrant. However, two other men are also in love with Pola: Albert’s best friend Louis and the incredibly dangerous gangster Fred.

August 8, 2017 / / Special Pages

Martha Coolidge
~ Valley Girl & Real Genius

Armed with an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Martha Coolidge studied acting before entering the filmmaking world in Los Angeles. Her first feature length film, Not a Pretty Picture (1976), told the semi-autobiographical incident of a date rape. Coolidge found her most commercial success with a variety of comedies in the 80s; most notably, for the Romeo and Juliet inspired Valley Girl (1983), which sparked the career of Nicolas Cage. Coolidge also helped to launch the career of Val Kilmer, in the science fiction comedy Real Genius (1985).

Coolidge was lauded for her 1991 film Rambling Rose, a family drama set during the Great Depression, which earned two Oscar nominations. From 2002-2003, the director held the honor of being the Director Guild of America’s first female president. Coolidge continues to direct films and many episodes of television shows such as Weeds, Psych, Madam Secretary, and Angie Tribeca.

June 18, 2017 / / Main Slate

With a simple Google search of the film Once Upon a Time in the West thousands of results pop up detailing the Western’s magnificence. Coming in at #5 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top Westerns List and #30 on IMDB’s Top Rated Movies list, this film has indisputably made an impact on cinema. However, along with those glowing marks comes a multitude of blogs where viewers vent their frustrations about the blatant misogyny found in the film. Despite being distinguished, as a Western, Once Upon a Time in the West inherently has some problematic connotations.

June 17, 2017 / / Main Slate

“There are two types of people: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” – the Man with No Name

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly might seem like a straightforward Spaghetti Western; Within the first half hour of the three hour-long epic, the representative characters of the titular good, bad, and ugly are introduced. While director Sergio Leone presents three types of people in the West, the ugly Tuco consistently reminds the audience that “there are two types of people in this world…” giving a new opposing binary every time. Black and white oppositions of morality are constantly being made throughout the film. This clear moral dichotomy harkens back to the uniform moral lines of earlier Westerns that showed the egregiously bad antagonist overcome by the incorruptible and scrupulous protagonist. However, the ethical certainty of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and the rest of the Dollars trilogy) is not as incontrovertible as the Westerns that preceded it. This film is not straightforward or simple, rather it is a highly complex and reflective film that changed the landscape of the western genre inspiring the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers.

March 29, 2017 / / Main Slate

Many people read George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in their high school or college literature classes, possibly making Big Brother jokes about the teachers who assigned the reading. Among the countless minds touched by the book, one very keen imagination was that of filmmaker Michael Radford. Out of a personal passion, Radford acquired the rights to the novel and directed his own adaptation under the same title.

February 25, 2017 / / Main Slate

“I’m just my natural, simple self.” – Lola Burns

Move over Beyonce and Sasha Fierce! Victor Fleming’s 1933 Bombshell showcases the original star/alter ego combo: Jean Harlow and Lola Burns. This pre-code film is a search for an authentic self, both for the main character, Lola, and for the actress playing her. Viewers follow Lola, the current “it” girl of the Hollywood scene as she tries to navigate a hunt for her identity. Every man wants her and every woman wants to be her, but the starlet doesn’t even know who Lola Burns is. Amongst an ensemble of family members and industry workers that are all trying to gain from her, Lola starts to question if a life in show business is truly the route for her and debates finding her calling in motherhood or fulfilling her destiny as a wife. However, her publicist, Space (played by Lee Tracy), would go to outer space in order to keep Lola at arms’ length for both personal and business reasons. Lola’s authenticity becomes further complicated when the man who controls how the public views her is also in love with her.