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WALL·E (2008)

” Just needed someone to look after you, that’s all. “

Left alone on a planet, a trash compacting robot searches for meaning in an endless loop.  In a sea of meaningless nostalgia, Wall-E fantasizes about companionship and a sense of belonging.  His adventure leads him on a quest for love and to preserve hope that Earth will once again be inhabitable.  Wall-E provides a vision of a post-consumerist world, neglected and void of any responsibility.  It does this through vivid dystopian landscapes and social commentary that, at times, seems closer to reality than fiction.

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Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

When I picked up Once Upon a Time in America I had no idea what it was about and certainly no idea how long it was.  I put off starting the film for a few days and then settled in.  The film is set between the 1920’s to the 1960’s and follows the life of David “Noodles” Aaronson, a Jewish gangster who grew up during prohibition, played by De Niro.  Noodles reluctantly returns to his childhood neighborhood and reflects on a life of excitement, passion, and betrayal.  Sergio Leone’s final film features a well-crafted and driving story line, masterfully executed suspense sequences, and elegant editing and camera work.

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Man With a Movie Camera (Человек с кино-аппаратом) (1929)

Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera captures a day in the life of the Russian proletariat in 1920’s Soviet Union.  The quick sequences and endless jump cuts depict several soviet union cities, including: Odessa, Kharkov and Kiev.1  The structure is experimental for its time by incorporating a wide range of shots and avant-garde film techniques as well as veering from the standard ‘stage’ plot.  Man With a Movie Camera simultaneously shows a broad day in the life of the proletariat while providing a glimpse behind the scenes of the making of the film.  At times the film even stops to show the editor, his wife Elizaveta Svilova, and begins again once she has completed her edit.  This film was aimed to expand and challenge the contemporary structure of film that was driven by staging, plot, and intertitles.  Man With a Movie Camera is the culmination of Vertov’s kinok movement to expand the artistic bounds of film.2  This legendary film stands the test of time with its creativity, juxtaposition, and challenge to the contemporary norm.
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Founder, The (2016)

“The Founder” follows Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton, as he transitions from a milk shake maker salesman to ‘founding’ the biggest name in fast food.  His duplicitous behavior helped bring him riches beyond his wildest imagination, but at the cost of both business and personal relationships.  The director, John Lee Hancock, straddles the benevolent nature of big business by showcasing Kroc’s success through self-fulfilling perseverance and blatant disregard for anyone else.  His desire to maintain forward momentum left many behind him in his wake in order for one the best business models to date to flourish.  Good, wholesome, intentions overpowered by greed and pride is at the heart of this film.  Did Richard and Maurice McDonald lack the follow-through to execute a venture on this magnitude or were they just steamrolled by an ambitious cutthroat?

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Babel (2006)

“I’m not bad I just did something stupid.”

Babel‘s immersive story sends us on a trip to Morocco, Japan, Mexico, and The United States.  The plot follows four main story lines that are all linked by a .270 Winchester M70 rifle.  A husband and wife, played by Pitt and Blanchett, on vacation in Morocco, a small family in the Moroccan desert, two children and their nanny in San Diego and Mexico, and a young deaf woman in Japan.  The screenplay is seamlessly spliced between these story arcs and tracks a non-linear timeline.  Through times of violence and regret, each character is learning how to grow from their mistakes.

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The First Movie: From Antiquity – 1906

 

The short answer for the question, “What is the first movie?”, depends on your definition of a movie.  Are you looking for the earliest projected image?  Then the answer would be  images that were projected through Magic Lanterns, a centuries old device comprised of a light source and glass.  The first projection using film would be the 1887 film Man Walking Around the Corner by Le Prince.  The first commercial release of motion capture would be seconds long short films designed for the Zoetrope.  The first feature film was The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight in 1897 at over an hour long.  The first motion picture that had a story arc is considered to be The Story of the Kelly Gang, a 1906 Australian film with a run time of 60 minutes that played in several countries.  What can be pinpointed as the “first movie” is subjective and up for individual interpretation.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life and love are crafted through choices and sacrifices.  Tom Ford’s adaptation of Susan and Tony, by Austin Wright, clearly shows how choice and sacrifice have an unequivocal role in determining one’s path in life.  Merriam-Webster defines sacrifice as “an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially :  the killing of a victim on an altar.” The choice and sacrifice made on the part of Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams, meets these criteria and dictates both her life and that of Edward Sheffield, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Get Out (2017)

In an attempt to not spoil this movie I have my review in two sections.  The top section is more of a general response to the film and below that is a section where I dig into more specifics about the film that I want to unwind.  So do not read the whole thing if you want to avoid spoilers.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes and unsure of where the characters stand the whole way through.  The story follows Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, and his girlfriend Rose, played by Allison Williams, as they visit her family in upstate New York.  No more information is needed.  Peele succeeds in taking the viewer on a comedic, thrilling, and satisfying ride.

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Toni Erdmann (2016)

Toni Erdmann is triumphant in its use of socially uncomfortable situations to pursue a relaxed and less serious take on life.  The film follows uptight and determined business woman, Ines Conradi, played by Sandra Hüller, and her jester father, Winifred, a.k.a Toni Erdmann, played by Peter Simonischek.  Their characters could not be more polar when it comes to self-confidence in terms of social acceptance. In other words, he doesn’t care what people think about him and she is obsessed with self-image and self-preservation. Ines is making a name for herself as a consultant in the oil industry in Bucharest, Romania.  Winifred is a teacher in Germany who spontaneously decides to visit his daughter after the death of his dog.  Her somber and humorless demeanor mixed with her fierce determination to move up in her company puts her in a highly stressful state throughout the movie.  This, coupled with her father’s outrageous and eccentric persona that is embellished by his live-in-the-moment attitude and absence of shame, makes him push his daughter to her limits. Continue reading “Toni Erdmann (2016)”

Transition, Race, Death, and Drama in 2016

The year 2016 was a dramatic and transitional year in the States; marked by numerous shootings in America and acts of extreme violence world wide.  The deaths of many influential people who helped transform the 20th century was more impactful in 2016 than previous years.  Some notable deaths include: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Harper Lee, Garry Shandling, George Martin, Prince, Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali, Garry Marshall, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Fidel Castro, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. The political landscape saw some major shifts, including the inauguration of Donald Trump, Brexit, the impeachment of the Presidents of Brazil and South Korea, major turmoil and civil war in Aleppo, Syria.  That is not to say the year was all bad: scientific breakthroughs such as the detection of gravitational waves 100 years after Albert Einstein’s prediction, the Cubs winning the World Series, and a decrease in the unemployment rate provided positive relief from the tragic aspects of the year.  All in all, there did seem to be an overwhelming desire to “start fresh” in 2017.

Many of the films last year encapsulated the struggles of 2016 in powerful and engaging ways, others succeeded in distracting people from the real world.  Racial tensions were highly publicized throughout the year in local and national news.  This ever-present and compelling issue found its way into many commercial and less-commercial motion picture vehicles.  Many films conveyed impactful and engaging messages that reach a wide audience. Continue reading “Transition, Race, Death, and Drama in 2016”