Author: Tessa Mediano

July 31, 2018 / / Film Notes

There are few films that I’ve seen that epitomize classic Hollywood as well as 1944’s musical hit Cover Girl. Starring an effervescent Rita Hayworth as Rusty Parker, a vaudeville-style dancer, and a typically earnest Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire, her manager/boyfriend, Cover Girl thrives on the pair’s dynamic charisma. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine this film being enjoyable without either of its principal actors.

The main issue with the film is that its plot is rather cliché – a discerning viewer will be able to map out the story within the first ten minutes of the movie. Hayworth gets a bit of a raw deal with Rusty, who is written as a humble but beautiful dancer who is easily swayed by others. Fortunately, her lively presence alone is enough to keep the audience invested in the film. Kelly’s McGuire isn’t an especially original character either, but like Hayworth, he has the talent to transcend the film’s uninspiring writing and gives the audience a treat of a scene near the film’s end. Despite Cover Girl’s flaws, the star power and unforgettable dance numbers make it a must-see film for viewers looking for a classic Hollywood experience.

December 16, 2017 / / Main Slate

I was first introduced to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in my junior year of high school, when it was required viewing for my American Studies class. Despite my initial aversion to watching it, an old-timey hokey western to my 16-year-old mind, I grew to appreciate this film’s stature as an analogy and representation of American history, for this film grapples with two American archetypes that have immensely influenced how Americans are culturally perceived: the rugged cowboy and the idealistic reformer. These two figures, portrayed by John Wayne and James Stewart, respectively, clash repeatedly in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and the film convincingly challenges the viewer through the complexity of their dynamic. While the film clearly endorses the reformer’s stress on education and law as positive agents of change in the West, ultimately it is through an act of violence and deceit that progress comes to the western town of Shinbone, suggesting that the path forward is not always straight and narrow.

June 12, 2015 / / Main Slate

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In the annals of film history, few pictures command as extensive a body of interpretation as Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, THE SHINING. There is essentially nothing new one can say about it. Critics, Kubrick aficionados and conspiracy theorists alike have pored over the film in vain attempts to decode the enigmatic scenes, and while many compelling analyses exist, THE SHINING, much like the Overlook Hotel eternally absorbs the souls of its numerous guests, defies expectation by entertaining the diverse pluralism of ideas surrounding the film’s overarching significance.

May 20, 2015 / / Main Slate

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What does one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century, who witnessed a devastating earthquake, several world and regional wars and the use of the world’s first atomic bomb, dream about? Perhaps unsurprisingly, devastation–in its most absolute and anxiety-ridden forms. AKIRA KUROSAWA’S DREAMS imagines the existential questions humans must face as a consequence of their capacity for annihilation, and the answers are remorselessly pessimistic. Though the oneiric segments of DREAMS may contain glimmers of beauty, particularly in the earlier episodes, ultimately, they leave the viewer as unsettled as the mind of Kurosawa.

February 23, 2015 / / Main Slate

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By Tessa Mediano

If we take our x-axis to represent time and our y-axis to represent accessibility, it can be said that David Lynch’s cinematic career is a bell curve. The origins and the final works of his oeuvre are uncanny in their shared moods, themes and influences. Naturally, the director’s artistic development throughout the years casts a rather primitive shadow on his first forays into the world of film, but regardless, shorts such as SIX MEN GETTING SICK, THE ALPHABET, and THE GRANDMOTHER offer valuable insight into the ideological motivations behind Lynch’s filmic productions.

February 20, 2015 / / Main Slate

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David Lynch, for all that he is said to be (and he is said to be a lot of things), is first and foremost an American director. His films are often cited as surrealistic and dark, to be sure, but Lynch’s bizarre prism is arguably the best lens through which one can perceive the schizophrenic psyche of American mythology. This concept is at its most accessible in Twin Peaks, the short-lived yet much-hyped television series he co-created with Mark Frost.

October 21, 2014 / / Main Slate

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There is something to be said about timing when considering the merit of a documentary. To claim that the Maysles brothers were in the right place at the right moment in history when shooting the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour would undoubtedly be true, but it would also belie the potency of their camera to dissect both the band and the cultural movement they were filming. There are very few gratuitous shots in GIMME SHELTER, and contrary to what one may find in other rock documentaries, concert footage is never used as filler or a mere treat for the viewer. Rather, the live performances included here are essential to the Maysles brothers’ deconstruction of rock and roll in the sixties. They are masterfully interwoven throughout the film to expose the movement’s charisma, contradictions and violent undercurrents, which inevitably converge into disaster.

August 22, 2014 / / Main Slate

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In many ways, Robert Wise’s 1971 thriller THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is cut from the same cloth as the dozens of other sci-fi films dealing with the potential end of the human race due to some alien virus. Its plot, adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, is not terribly original, but the film still makes for an intelligent and visually engaging watch. For better or worse, the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY essentially hits the viewer over the head throughout the movie, both in its stylistic and thematic elements. Wise’s film similarly strives to depict man’s progression towards abstraction and away from humanism, so that the result is an emotionally unaffecting work.

July 28, 2014 / / Main Slate

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It is very rare, and nothing short of tragic, really, that a filmmaker’s earliest work is his greatest. When auteurs are invariably asked the question of which film they would like to be remembered by, very few select their initial pictures, and with good reason: the beginning of one’s artistic career is an experimental phase, in which ideas are often expressed with little regard (or capability) for nuance or complexity. Age and experience naturally play a factor in this, but I would argue that a truly brilliant filmmaker has a coherent vision that can be identified even in his formative movies.

May 30, 2014 / / Main Slate

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There is a word for those who try to control their surroundings beyond the capacity of a single human being: neurotic. This adjective is commonly associated with psychoanalytic theory, and particularly Freud, who believed that neuroses developed as a result of the repression of psychosexual urges. I would suggest, not unreasonably, that it is this same word that lurks in both the latent and manifest content of Steven Soderbergh’s debut feature, SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE. There is no doubt in my mind that Freud would have fawned over this 1989 film. With a budget of less than $2 million, Soderbergh managed to create a powerful study of sexuality that masterfully utilizes dialogue and set design to convey the film’s central themes. In particular, I found that the director’s emphasis on recurring visual and aural motifs lends SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE much of its subliminal impact.