A Story Of A Boy Every Young Artist Wants To Be Or Already Thinks They Are Like
These essays are specifically for reading after ones personal viewing.
There's this feeling I get when a moment of warmth and manipulation happens in a film cliche. As tears swell in my eyes and I fight back the tears that come with my natural sensitive manner, I want to smash the screen. Those perfect moments, in the perfect kiss, with the perfect person and for the humble loner who deserves so much. I've trained myself to recognize my sensitive habits so I can see things from an unbiased, observant eye. Maybe sometimes I wish I hadn't, because where most people are filled with warmth and wade inside it, I scream for imperfection and honesty. Maddened after my viewing, I carry this weight with me and rant inside myself, questioning what is and why it is wrong.
If a film is fictional then why do I have to analyze its dishonesty when it deserves to be anything but. Why does it frustrate me. Because through the fictionalization, it's also perpetuating similar experience and familiar surroundings within its narrative to relate to each viewers same life experience. In Wallflower's case: High School. And through this relation of atmosphere, turns on its ostensibility, and makes us crave this dramatization of perfectly structured (yes, even through its hardships) world we'll never experience. And of course through a manipulative score as well, coating this visual with musicalities which mean nothing more than what we've already seen on screen: music having if not the most emotional pull on people of all the arts. I feel cornered, and I want to hit things, and throw this feeling off from me, cursing it and crying to it.
We start with a deconstruction of this boy, Charlie, played by Logan Lerman. It's not his fault, he was written this way. His perfection: he is an artist, has the talent, is a loner, with a troubled past, insecure but always humble, liked by his teachers, and is secretly a badass and able to beat people up if they hurt his friends. There have been others like him: Donnie Darko, loner artist who teachers talk about when he's not around. A martyr. Has problems which are sympathized by the obvious female crush. Every dark boy from my high school in the mid 2000s wished he was him. Another could even be Will of Good Will Hunting. These characters have their differences in each story, but their conventionalism of character is evident. And where are the female characters of this cliche? Female characterizations are few and most are derogatorily presented of a societally accepted "girl" stature. Juno could be a good example. I use to think girls and woman or members of the LGBTQI community would have the capability of associating themselves with this male character, because of his seeming femininity, so, it wouldn't be a problem for this community, but I am wrong. There are issues attached to the themes of taboo in the Wallflower high school experience; hidden homosexuality and incest, which are trying to be just in there representation, but ultimately are hidden by the conniving presentation of the main character who seems to be a scapegoat for these themes, also involved in them simultaneously, giving him yet another seeming level of depth. The writer (of the book as well) and director Stephen Chbosky is trying to portray the underbelly of High School life, but doesn't leave any room for your disappointment or rumination of his main character. And if you are ever slightly questioning his actions, it's played off as comical and endearing. Charlie portrays a doglike innocence which entails a false anthropormphism, which does not exist because of his human body. Why is all of this wrong? Because in the end, it's fantastique coated in an atmosphere of seemingly real situations. A storyteller has all the right to create his own world, but when he uses bits and pieces from my own world, and manipulates around imperfection to create a world where everything fits and falls into place for this one character, I am offended for the human experience of all people. But who's to say this hasn't happened in someones life? Maybe it has and maybe there is someone like Charlie. Then we have to question the storytelling. Why is this bad storytelling? The Wallflower story is quite conventional in a tradition sense of dramatic structure. And in this dramatic structure, the conflict is diminished because of the closed construction of this character. In the eyes of a young artist (Jr High and High School ages or people looking back on nostalgia), they want to be Charlie, so any interest of conflict does not feel threatening. It's just another check mark on the, things I want to be wrong with me for artistic integrity, box. An immature thought, without true progression or growth, like this story.
These essays are specifically for reading after ones personal viewing.
What strikes me first is the religion. As the head nurse makes her rounds, the undertone of her questions are a rhetorical utterance of how they should know God is with them. And that this – their pain and suffering – is "part of a bigger picture." None of them seem to believe her, which made me wonder, do you enter the hospital knowingly of this preaching? It’s called Grace Hospital, but nobody except one, who seems to be in a vegetable-like consciousness, is wanting or acceptingly a part of these religious feedings. This made me feel uncomfortable in her presence, and also juxtaposed my preconceived notions of how I thought the human mind worked close to death; instead of reaching out to God in their last hours, calling his name for the fear of the unknown, they threw Him away. But I'm able to understand – as most of their lives have been filled with pain, cancer not being the first spell – at times it seems or perhaps it is, that God has left, or was never there.
Having watched most of Allan King's Actuality Dramas, it helps to be an experienced viewer of vérité, to be able to break-into this new sense of viewing. Having the ability to openly interpret his films, one can then experience these new emotions, undistributed disturbed by a period of confused watching.
There's a whole tone and voice any director/writer is trying to communicate with you. They're trying to immerse you in this new sense of feeling. Just like a novel. And like novels, we watch films one after another, experiencing different emotions and themes, which are personal to each creator. Sometimes (most of the time) when I read a new book, it takes time for me to escape the tone and voice of the last book I read, and pull myself into this new world, so fluidity may compliment my reading as I understand this new writer's sense of tone and voice. For films, I feel we plague our first viewings either by the last films we watched, or mostly by our own sense of personality, instead of watching with an open eye for the filmmaker's voice. Not that the films we love can't also be important to us personally, but that's not the only reason to love or enjoy a film. Now, it also depends on the filmmaker to have the ability to immerse his/her viewer's in his voice, but, I truly think a film should be a combined effort of both filmmaker and viewer. So even when you don't love a film, after viewing it with an openness of both the makers voice and personal undertones, you may be able to respect and enjoy the film for the vision and talent if it is genuine.
During my viewing, I developed a new filmic sense of emotion: I wanted to throw up from my sadness. I know it sounds terrible, and it was, but when dealing with death, I don't believe it could be any other way. I was then met with an odd aftertaste. When it was done and over, I felt....fine. I was able to lay down and sleep without the worry and anxiety which usually takes over my scattered mind before sleep. It was a sense of peace. Did King somehow instill in me a small sense of hope or acceptance within the walls of the Grace Hospital. That is the true gift of an artist: To instill a new sense of emotion and in turn, feel the relation of man through art. It is wholly inspiring to experience, and I hope to someday be on the side of its creation.
The Not-So Abby Normal Brain and Santa With Muscles
If a repetitious groundhog day allows time for cultivation of a plethora of existential and neighboring philosophies, then Hulk Hogan believing he’s Santa Clause undoubtedly narrows down the spectrum. “Absurdity of conventions” is a phrase that can extend beyond philosophical thinking and describe a film itself. A questionable man goes through an ordeal where he discovers the error of his ways and gains redemption in the end. Why does the formula continue to be used and capture the imagination of children and adults alike?
The answer extends deeper beyond the acting ability behind Hogan’s facial hair. Existentialism follows the method of thinking that “we and things in general exist, but that these things have no meaning (essence) for us except as we through acting upon them can create meaning." Hogan’s character, a self-involved millionaire, lives life according to a lengthy list of rules he’s designed for himself. It is the very convention of these rules that lands Hogan on his head and into an amnesia-driven journey through an orphanage believing he’s Santa Clause. Standard kid’s movie antics ensue and Hogan winds up remembering the millionaire he is and returning to his mansion, now dejected. A theistic existentialist believes that “recognizing and experiencing absurdity leads to possibility of various kinds of redemption." It is not the absurdity of becoming Santa (with muscles) that allows Hogan his redemption, but the absurdity of the rituals in his ordinary life. The meaning that Hogan creates for himself is within the fabric walls of the Santa suit, helping the orphans he has come across.
These essays are specifically for reading after ones personal viewing.
Maybe it's odd I find it positively intriguing, but through the longing monologues and the subtle hard cuts into past experiences, I look at their teeth. They are as they should be. Away from the judgment of an insecure American society, which I was brought up in and live with today. They gleam with the natural tinge of age and proper preservation. They are human and are not afraid of the faults they show. Can a natural process be a fault? No, but I guess that's how we've come to recognize it, as an unhygienic disfigurement if it is not treated by perfection.
I make some social commentary about the differences of society as if they live a purer life, but this is also not true. The same amount of problems occur, but in a different way I am only just able to peek and begin to relate through the cultural differences as I continue my viewing. I can barely make out the dogma that surrounds it and only because I read the essay in my Criterion copy; which was read only before I started this paragraph. It's like reading a book you know is foreign and can feel the language barrier flowing past the top of your head. If only you could read it in its native tongue and feel the cultural microcosms.
But I can feel the beats and am moved by the emotion. Met also by a nice direction; crisp and wistful, into the light of Autumn.
Words by: Henry Melville Compiled by: The Seafairy
Chronologically, in an unimportant chronological order
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940): What glorious sets! What beautiful camera movement! What elegant use of the close-up! What humor! The genius of his work is that he uses the very humor and thrills he is known for to undermine (and, in an odd way, accentuate) the themes. And oh boy does he tackle themes in this one. They may not all be entirely fleshed out as fully as in others, but here's a small sample of themes I noticed in order from most explored, to less: Identity, loss of innocence, solitude, alienation (sort of, it's not the word I'm looking for, but I can't seem to find the right one), doubling (A Hitchcockian staple). Not to mention the ubiquitous bird motifs. Clocking in at two hours, this of Hitchcock's filmography is constantly in motion and perfectly paced. A rather under-recognized of Hitchcock. Should be put right up there with THE 39 STEPS.
I apologetically love BATMAN FOREVER. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey are great. Val Kilmer is Val Kilmer. Nicole Kidman is pretty/ pretty adorable. The over-the-top style and art direction is only matched by the genuinely funny script and dialogue. This is the Batman movie I could watch over and over and would be my favorite if BATMAN RETURNS wasn't so freaking perfect. ---
In response to Criterion November 2012 new releases:
RASHOMON is pretty huge for Criterion, it's like getting a new Chaplin for Kurosawa fans.
Trilogy of Life - Just what we needed. More films from the guy that did SALO...
WEEKEND - YES, they've teased me with being able to buy the poster,
KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER is like the 70s version of Supernatural mixed with some good 'ol Don Knotts' THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN with a healthy dose of noir. Starring Darren McGavin, you can't go wrong.
I want to go back in time to 2005 when relatively no one was excited for a new Batman movie.
Normally when watching THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, I connect with the Richie, Margot (and, more or less, Eli) storyline. Personally, the Chas/Royal relationship seem to fall into the cracks with my focus on the (arguably) more main characters. Stiller always seemed more over-the-top than his character's siblings so I felt this odd personal and emotional disconnect, but his portrayal of the character dealing with death (in light of recent events) really struck me.
"I've had a rough year, Dad." Nothing immediately comes to mind that so encapsulates a single, emotional, profound moment in a character's life that's played so subtly and without intense focus. It's almost a throw away line that isn't lingered on, yet the lingering feeling it causes is immense.
Oh Wes, we love you!
Hitchcock's SABOTAGE (1936) is incredibly, shockingly, disturbingly grim. As far as I'm concerned, this employs Hitchcock's greatest use of close-ups and camera movement (not to mention special effects) in his British films. He's famous for mixing humor with suspense, but when he utilizes humor first then all-out horrific suspense, it is heightened ten times over. Then you realize the movie is just entering the third act.
Side note: I take for granted watching 30s Hitchcock via Criterion transfers. The DVD I received...well, I suppose it wasn't the worst visual transfer I've ever seen, but the audio is horrendous. Muffled mumbles on top of poorly balanced score/dialogue tracks made the film a chore to follow (totally worth it, but it shouldn't have been so impossible).
Hitchcock's SECRET AGENT (1936) is unrelentingly grim. Still experimenting with sound elements, some sequences stand out against the others (such as the church scene and the first murder scene [one of the finer in Hitchcock's early British films]). The character of Elsa Carrington is an amazing Hitchcock female dealing with her innocence and fetishization of sex and death in relation to each other.
Her character flips when the innocence is lost in a superbly subtle, yet oddly obvious character development. While SECRET AGENT may not be the best early Hitchcock, or the easiest to swallow and get through (correlation: THE WRONG MAN), it is essential to the development of Hitchcock's style and an introduction to themes he would be exploring for the rest of his fifty year career.
Alfred Hitchcock's MURDER! (1930) is like watching a artist first come into his craft. Experimenting with audio (the first film to have a person's thoughts in the soundtrack of a film) and economizing every camera movement and edit. While the story is a slow-burn and drags at bits (if not paying attention to the brilliant camerawork), it's a great example of how Hitchcock deals with (and later deals with a lot more) this idea of "real vs. appearance" in regards to the actions on screen and how the film exists in reality. You don't need to take film classes when you can just watch Hitchcock all day/ everyday to possibly learn more than any professor can ever teach you.
THE LADY EVE. Every aspect of this movie is ridiculous except the chemistry between Stanwyck (pre-feminist movement awesomeness found in this role) and (a very young) Fonda, making it somehow all meld together into a highly re-watchable, fun; funny film.
Maybe it's because of the mood I'm in, the time of night, or possibly just the haunting score and shot, but the ending of Solaris has creeped me out to the very core. Chills don't even begin...
After watching Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES, I remembered something about movies that needs to be recognized more often: Stop taking your craft so seriously when it doesn't have to be. Hitchcock's work is cinematic genius, everyone agrees, and his movies always have a tinge of humor and a certain sprezzatura about them. THE LADY VANISHES is one of the most fun psychological thrillers while still maintaining the suspense and mystery of any other thriller. So, Chris Nolan, there's no need to make a, and I emphasize strongly on the absurdity of the word, BATMAN movie that isn't fun. You're not directing THE GODFATHER (which also has this element of fun that's serious), it's BATMAN.