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I'm a student. I'm currently working on my second degree. My past jobs were working at a gym and Urban Outfitters. I love to play guitar, read, listen to music, and watch films. I'm funny and enjoy the arts. I sometimes can ramble on about literature and films. I'm born and breed in New York. I'm easy going and I love fashion. My favorite system is the DS. I constantly shop at Urban Outfitters and Topshop. I really don't know what else to say. Oh yeah, I'm a cool guy!
I Stand Alone, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Fight Club, Antichrist, Enter The Void, Dogtooth
Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Lhasa De Sela, MC5, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Radiohead, Manu Chao, The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails
The Trial, Notes From Underground, Paris Spleen, Crime And Punishment, Junky, Hunger, Nausea, The Stranger
As most of you know by now, The Tree of Life is by far my favorite film of the year. It was almost beaten by Attack the Block, but I still hold the former close to my heart for its emotional impact it had on me. The music, cinematography, editing are all top notch, but most critics point to the story as the main problem with the film. The story really isn’t the main focus – its about the journey. The film leaves many unanswered questions, so it’s understandable that many viewers leave frustrated. But for me, the problem I have is with the depiction of the father.
The film presents a father filled with love for his children; he embraces, kisses, and whispers in their ear that he loves them. The Tree of Life depicts the most beautiful physical relationship I’ve seen from a father in a movie, but this is where the problem lies – he’s supposed to be the bad guy. The reason why his son kills himself is because of the father. In fact, many of the problems the family goes through are a direct result of the father’s actions. Terrence Malick presents an ebullient father filled with love, but this contradicts the father his child supposedly encounters. In other words, the father is too nice, too emotional, too involved.
I must admit that I’m comparing Terrence Malick version of a “bad” father with my own. Leaving the theater, my friends and I all agreed that the father was the low point of the film. In fact, we started to compare our fathers, which were really bad, to the “bad” father in The Tree of Life.
I guess Terrence Malick didn’t have it in him to portray a realistic neglectful father, or maybe that was his intention – to show a father who loves his children, but also have some bruises. If so, then he is portraying an everyday father and I don’t understand why his son goes so far as to kill himself because he’s from a “broken home.” This is all confusing because their life seemed perfect. Well, better than how I grew up.
I’m not much of a Kevin Smith fan. I’ve always found his films to work best as a short. In other words, there’s always a good 10-15 minute scene in his films that stand out like a sore thumb from the bore and mediocrity that cover all his films. Unfortunately, Red State follows this trend Kevin Smith started since his debut.
The film starts with an artificial opening in a classroom explaining the details of some religious hate group. The film essentially has a typical opening accompanying by typical dialogue about 3 typical teenagers who are looking for some typical sex. These typical teenagers looking for a good time are drugged by the woman they were going to have sex with. After that, a 10 minute speech is given by the pastor of the cult (this is the 10-15 minute scene that would have been better suited as a short). The rest of the film consists of quick shots of people shooting at each other – that’s it.
I am surprised how short the film is. Red State gets straight to the point and doesn’t bother with any romantics; however, this may be its biggest problem -- I have no emotional connection with these characters. I didn’t care who lived or died, nor did I care much for the plot. Everything happened so damn quickly! The film really isn’t bad, but it lacks substance. It needed more meat in its bone. I haven’t seen such a dry and emotionless film like this in a long time. When it ended, I forgot I even watched it. The film is simply there. Why doesn’t it exist? It doesn’t tell us anything new. Actually, the last 10 minutes of There Will Be Blood sums up the message Red State was trying to say better than Red State! It also doesn’t help that the film uses a deus ex machine to save itself. This brings me to a point I want to make. In an interview, Clint Eastwood was asked if he would ever write a film. He’s response: “Directors direct. Writers write. Very few can do both.” Kevin had a great idea and there is a moment of brilliance (the pastor’s speech), but he needed someone to guide him, give him advice, edit his work, tell him the truth. I have the same problems with writers/directors like Gaspar Noe and Lars Von Trier. These are brilliant artist with great ideas, but sometimes they can use some help with the screenplay. If that doesn’t happen then we’re going to have another “chaos reigns” moment in their future films.
While the film is a flawed entertaining ride, I feel its distribution is giving off the wrong impression. The way Kevin is handling this film is giving the illusion that the film is much grander than it is. He’s making it seem like the film is important, which it’s not. Red State, unfortunately, feels like a rush job. There’s barely any story to speak of, the characters are not interesting with the exception of the pastor, but that’s only because of his 10 minute speech, after that he becomes another incomplete character in this incomplete film. There are some shaky cam stuff in here and quick cuts of SnorriCam, but visually it still has a lot to be desired. Red State is an entertaining series of moving pictures, but there's nothing deep or profound here. It's a silly, entertaining movie. I’m having such a hard time making this review longer because I have nothing else to say. The film is entertaining, but after being entertained by it; you will forget about it
Before I start, I would like to let my readers know that I have no problem with pornography or sex in films. The problem I have is the use of real sex over simulation in films. In recent years films have been using real sex to get some vague point across. The inspiration for this blog post was when I started to watch the film Sex and Lucia. Actually, I have the film on pause as I write this. Judging by the title it’s pretty obvious the subject in hand will be about sex, but why did it have to use actual penetration? What confuses me is that a simulated scene could have gotten the point across in the same manner as an actual penetration scene – in short, there is no need for real sex when simulation is a perfect substitute.
I find most directors who use real sex are doing it for their own pleasure and not for the sake of the story they’re trying to tell. For instance, take the opening scene of Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Many will agree that the opening scene is one of the best in recent cinema. We have two lovers bathing together, shot in beautiful black and white, with a slow opera piece being used in the soundtrack. This opening scene is used as an affective prologue to the film, but one thing bothered me: the quick shot of insertion. Why? Why was this needed? What did it add to the scene? I’ll tell what it added: nothing! It was nothing, but a gimmick being used covered as “art.” Is there a line between films and pornography? Is there a difference between an actor and an “adult” actor? What we have here are pornographic scenes wearing a mask and calling itself art. Funny enough, Lars Von Trier admitted that he would be mad if his daughter were to do that in a film.
.... But daddy, it's art.
I do have to admit that some of my favorite films use actual sex like Dogtooth and Enter the Void, but is it needed? No, it’s not. Gaspar Noe, director of Enter the Void, said he likes to film sex because it’s fun. I can at least respect that the man doesn’t try to intellectualize the sex scenes in his films, unlike a director like Vincent Gallo who shot himself getting fellatio in a film for five minutes and then has the audacity to call it art.
The film Shortbus (written and directed by James Cameron Mitchell) prided itself in using actual sex in its scenes. I was convinced to go to the theaters and see the movie by my ex-girlfriend. She, being a big fan of his debut feature, was left disappointed and expressed how simple minded and mundane the whole film was. Everything the film said could have been said without the use of actual sex – so what was the reason in priding itself using real sex? Its used as a gimmick. It was all for shock value and added nothing to the story.
What I find sad is that if you express your dislike for certain scene in these so called “art” films then you’re considered closed-minded and simple. Or worse: an American who can’t take sex in films. I say this is all nonsense. I say real sex has no place in films. I paused the film Sex and Lucia to write this and I fear the film will continue to use the unnecessary acts of real sex to get whatever vague meaning it’s trying to say. I have yet to hear someone defend this type of film-making, and I doubt I ever will.
People are strange, no? Humans love to act superior; it’s a practice that’s been done with race, class, religion, sex, music, and films. I think you know what I’m talking about here: the film goer that lacks the intellect to enjoy both high and low art.
Many of my friends question some of the films I like. For instance, they made fun of me for loving Superbad and Jackass, yet, they have no problem when I talk about some indie or “art” film, as if that was better than any of the “mainstream” films I like. I like what I like, it’s simple as that.
The one comment that always annoy me is the: “oh, there weren’t any explosions? I guess that’s why you didn’t like it,” or the dreaded “go watch Transformers.” This, my friends, shows me someone who wants to be accepted by some high standard, some imaginary elitism; some vague notion of intellectualism.
Why is it so hard to love Superbad and The 400 Blows? Why can’t I like Zoolander and C'est arrivé près de chez vous? Why are you judging me by the films I like?
It is true that a persons interest can define themselves, but not to such an extreme that you insult their intelligence for it. For instance, as many of you know by now, I absolutely adore The Tree of Life, but I’m sure many of you might be surprised that I also adore the Twilight movies. Yes, I like Twilight -- they’re fun little films. I don’t take it seriously, but in actuality they’re not suppose to be taken seriously, it’s the same with the Fast and Furious films.
Now, I also can’t ignore the “artsy-fartsy” haters out there, they’re also put into this category, but the “artsy” film goer seem to be the more vocal of the two.
Hating of the mainstream is something that is popular in every medium. As someone who spent a lot of my childhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and have witness how the neighborhood has changed from a lower working class neighborhood to the a Hipster mecca that it is now. The inhabitant of this area; these "people" despise anything and everything mainstream, I'm sorry but this is a turn off; however, it would be silly of me to ignore the "art," indie films, or the music that comes out of there. If it were not for the indie movement, some of my favorite films would have never been made.
I embrace my indie brethren, but I’m not going to accept you, or treat you different simply because you are indie or “artsy”. I’m sorry, but Mutual Appreciation is a horrible film, but you will never see me make fun of you simply because you like the film and I don’t.
How can you explain a film that tells most of its story using visuals? Films are first and foremost a visual format. Some films have tested the waters of visual story telling: Enter the Void and 2001: A Space Odyssey are perfect examples of that.
Visual poetry is something that can easily be seen as pretentious, or even lazy, but when done right, it can hit you hard like a baseball being thrown at your face.
Cinéma vérité is all about letting the camera become the pen. It is not a tool to simply record a story. Edgar Morin, a French philosopher, wrote:"There are two ways to conceive of the cinema of the Real: the first is to pretend that you can present reality to be seen; the second is to pose the problem of reality. In the same way, there were two ways to conceive cinéma vérité. The first was to pretend that you brought truth. The second was to pose the problem of truth.” In other words, It’s a stylized way of interaction between the filmmaker and the subject; it’s letting the viewer into the world of these characters -- it’s immersion, something The Tree of Life pulls off exquisitely well.
I feel I would be doing my readers a disservice if I didn’t mention Enter the Void. The Tree of Life and Enter the Void are films that have a lot in common. I personally think the former is better than the latter, but what these film achieve is a sense of immersion; a sense of forgetting you’re in a theater. Films like The Tree of Life are uncommon, so it is a duty for any film fan to go out and see these films, not at home, but in the theaters. I have tried many times to watch Enter the Void at home, but it isn’t the same. Viewing both films, it’s easy to see that they were both influence by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Actually, there are scenes in The tree of Life that mirrors that of 2001.
What Enter the Void lacks is a good “story”. In reality both films don’t have a story; it’s more of a series of events, but Terrence Malick is a far better writer than Gaspar Noé. The tree of Life is not just a film filled with pretty colors, but something grander than that; something more personal. The film is visual poetry at its best. Enter the void is all visuals, and nothing else. Gaspar Noé seems more focus in disturbing his viewers and filming orgies than trying to portray some kind of meaning in his simple film about a simple drug dealer.
Like I said before, visual poetry can be looked down upon, but sometimes a simple shot of a waterfall or a child's fingers are enough to trigger an emotion, and that's exactly what this film did; to the point that I was in tears. The way Brad Pitt's character examines the toes of his child is a shot of beauty; it's amazing how something so simple can have a wealth of emotions. Does it need to have meaning? No. Sometimes staring at something is all you need to bring out emotions. How many people stare at a fire? How many people stare at their hands? How many people stare at a tree being blown back and forth? This film is filled with quick cuts of the ordinary.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, this film is not slow or uses any sort of “pillow shots” (a still shot of nothing happening). The Tree of Life actually has an MTV style of editing. For instance, you see a shot of a mask floating around the ocean, not for a minute, but for 3 seconds. You see explosions and a bird flying in the bright blue sky all quickly cut together as if a child with attention deficit disorder was in charge of the editing process.
It’s easy to dismiss this film as some artsy-fartsy mess, but by doing so you’re forgetting the true essence of film: telling a story using pictures, sound, and music. The pictures and music is what gives the film its personality; it’s what drives you in.
I was amazed at the “creation” sequence in this film. In realty, it’s nothing special, in the sense that it isn’t some acid trip like 2001 or Enter the Void. The visuals use nature; the nature that is sitting right next to us: trees, water, grass, mountains, etc. Terrence shows us the violence and wonder the world has to offer. It’s scary how he presents to us something we all seem to forget: nature can be beautifully and horrific, it can bring life and death.
In reality it doesn’t matter what the film is about, but how you felt when watching the film. I felt a sense of regret in my life. I felt regret for not spending more time with my brother. I felt shame for treating my parents badly. I left the theater seriously questioning my life. The film gave me an avenue to look at my life and examine it. How can anyone call this film pretentious when it cares more about the viewer than itself.