2005- “Crash”

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Director: Paul Haggis

Release Date: May 6th, 2005

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon

From IMDB: Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.

When I first saw this film, it made me so incredibly uncomfortable that I never wanted to watch it again. However, at the time, I thought I simply had the wrong impression of the film. After all, it won Best Picture and so of course it was supposed to be this amazingly powerful production. But I still didn’t like it and I found myself not wanting to like. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized something Crash movie posterincredible.

I took a step back and really thought about why it made me uncomfortable and why I wasn’t able to appreciate the “genius” behind the film. This film shows blatant racism, a crooked justice system, gun violence and prejudice in almost every form. There were vivid scenes of sexism and sexual assault interlaced with racism and the horrible feeling of not having the power to stop it. It was scenes like those that haunted me and caused me to want to push it down and as far away in my subconscious as possible. However, the more I thought about it, the more my reaction to the film seem justified but my wanting to push it to the side did not.

Racism, violence, sexual abuse and prejudice should always make people feel uncomfortable. We should never be okay with those types of things happening to ourselves or to others. We should never find ourselves in a situation where we think that those things just happen and that they’re a part of life. We should never be in this mindset that “life just isn’t fair. So why should we do anything about it?” That being said, I realized that I can’t just ignore this film because of how much it twisted my insides. This film is important for that exact reason. It shows an ugly and heartbreaking depiction of the world and yet it is showing reality. A reality that we cannot choose to forget or pretend does not exist. The only way to overcome these harsh realities is to admit that they happen and then find a way to make a change. For you cannot change what you do not see.

Crash is powerful and heartbreaking and shows us that we should never be comfortable with racism, prejudice and violence.

Verdict: 12/12

1997- “Titanic”

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Director: James Cameron

Release Date: December 19th, 1997

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

The first thought that comes to my mind during Award Season is “will this finally be Leo’s year?” and since this award season has a very strong likelihood that our Leo will finally get that golden trophy of a naked man to put on his mantle piece, a second thought always follows the first and that is “why was Leo snubbed for a best actor nomination for Titanic?”

17 years after the fact and I finally understand why. And although Leo probably drowned all over again in those icy pacific waters when he found out he wasn’t even nominated, may not actually be such an outrageous oversight (from one of the many award shows that values actors more than the actual stories being told) as I originally thought. However, all eleven of the Oscar’s that this film won, none of them were actually won by people in the film. I find this to be, in the grand scheme of things, absolutely fantastic. titanic

Titanic is, in fact, a film based off history. The story between Jack and Rose is just there to make us forget for a moment the tragedy that took place where hundreds upon hundreds of people lost their lives. Yes, Kate Winslet was young and beautiful and portrayed Rose, the rich girl who doesn’t want to live the life that has been shoved down her throat, in a way that makes us want to believe that not all rich people are snobs. And yes, Leo portrayed the poor boy who ran into bit of luck and found himself on a grand ship with the grandest people in the world, and he still kept his wits about him and didn’t pretend to be anyone but himself. Yes, those characters were a delight to watch and they make you root for them until that very last bone chilling scene with Rose lying on that door as Jack slowly dies in front of her. That was all beautiful and perfect but that’s not what got this film 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.

This film won all of those awards for the way this tragic piece of history was portrayed. That being said, we are reminded even more that this event took place and that we should never forget it. The film is about the people who were lost that day. It shows that even those who live the life of luxury cannot escape fate and they cannot escape the world. Bad things happen everyday and we must be reminded of that in order to appreciate the good things. We remember the intense love shared between Jack and Rose and at the exact same time we remember the fate of Titanic’s maiden voyage.

James Cameron made it so both of these major plot points intersect with each other but masterfully never overshadowed each other. With that being said, it doesn’t really matter that Leo wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for that role or that Kate didn’t win. They added to the beauty of the film, but they weren’t the only things that made it beautiful.

However, I’m a person who gives into these awards shows despite their many flaws and I will always root for Mr. DiCaprio. Like Jack Dawson, I know Leo is just bidding his time until that lucky draw comes along and that statue is his, and like Rose, I will never let go of the hope that Leo finally gets to get up on that stage and make a speech before the music so rudely interrupts him. Maybe they’ll even play “My Heart Will Go On” as a send off.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Verdict: 12/12

Allen Ginsberg- Howl (1956)

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It’s been a while. I’ve been busy overseas for the past 2 weeks and have returned to right where I left off in my semi-satisfying world of the workplace. I may have neglected this blog, but I have not neglected my brain. Ginsberg was on the brain and the brain was on the Beat Generation.

For those of you who didn’t major in English or who just weren’t taught anything about the Poets of the Beat Generation, then here’s a little nugget of knowledge for you. The Beat Generation consisted of a group of Post World War II American writers who became huge icons around the 1950’s. Elements of this “Beat” culture included rejecting imposed standards, creating new innovations in style, drug experimentation, alternative sexualities, rejection of materialism and portraying the human condition in an more explicit fashion.

The best known examples of this generation included William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch (1959), Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956). But other writers such as Lucian Carr, Carl Soloman, Neal Cassidy, David Kammerer, and others, were also very prominent figures of this generation.

History lesson behind us, let’s talk about Howl. Keep in mind that most poems have meaning that comes from not only the words but also from the form in which the poem is written. My quotations are not done in the original form and I have no intention of squandering Ginsberg’s vision in any way. These quotes are also only from part I of the poem. HowlAllenGinsberg

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro street at dawn looking for an angry fix,

What’s interesting about Howl is the complete rawness that comes off the page. This poem talks about a filthy, disgusting world full of drugs, exploitation and uncertainty. Of how one simple thing, something that you thought would help lift you up out of your own poverty and shame, is the very thing that will drive you mad. Ginsberg saw a world that was so strong and so impregnated with grime and pain that there was no way for anyone to escape their own fate.

Who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall, who got busted in their public beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York

Every image in this poem is so deeply graphic that you cannot help but envision it. You cannot help but see the seedy underbelly of a city that in reality hides nothing. Ginsberg portrays a world that has no secrets. One that is completely open and honest about its grotesque desires. One that has taken so many victims before this and will continue to long after. Howl depicts the world seen through the looking glass but reminds us that what we see is real. It is not an alternate universe, it is ours and we have been kidnapped, pulled down by it, forced to watch as the world and everyone in it destroys themselves. It shows us that no one is safe.

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in an animal soup of time—and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane,

Howl, in my opinion, is a visionary. A vision of a world we must try to destroy but one we must never forget existed.

Verdict: 12/12

If you’re looking for a film about the Beat Generation, go ahead and take a look at Kill Your Darlings. It surrounds Ginsberg, Lucian Carr and William Burroughs and a murder investigation.

The Sound of Music (1965)

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As part of the Musicals Challenge

Director: Robert Wise

Release Date: March 2, 1965

Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

Most people are shocked when I tell them that I have never seen The Sound of Music. They act as if I am missing out on something spectacular, something life affirming. And I have to say there were right. The Sound of Music

This musical is terrifyingly beautiful. It is a vision of an Austria on the verge of being taken over by the 3rd Reich. A country that no longer rules on its own, but instead is under the thumb of those whose ideals are clouded and twisted. But even underneath the smoke and cloud cover, love can be found and ultimately…music. After all, the hills are alive with it.

When I first say Mary Poppins as a child, I fell in love with Julie Andrews and have continued our love affair ever since. Seeing her in this musical, with the grand Christopher Plummer, made me love and adore her so much more. Her character, Maria, has so much heart and so many convictions that it is almost impossible to not only root for her, but to get up and sing along with her.

I am so glad that I can finally say: I love The Sound of Music

Verdict: 12/12

1995- “Braveheart”

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Director: Mel Gibson

Release Date: May 24, 1995

Starring: Mel Gibson

They may take our lives, but they may never take our freedom!

In short, this film isn’t just about a free Scotland. It’s not about being free from oppressive English rule. It’s a story, to put it simply, about the one thing we all want, each and every day. It’s about having the ability to live and die as we choose and on our own terms. Mel Gibson’s William Wallace chooses to die on his feet instead of living on his knees.

I know you can [fight]. But it is our wits that make us men.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered less aversion to war films. I always used to think they were only about spilling bloBraveheartod and taking lives. But through the years I’ve come to realize that all war films about about something more than blood shed. They are not about brute strength and the ability to kill. They are about fighting for something bigger than ourselves. They about believing in something so strongly that you are willing to die defending that belief.

This films shows the audience the one thing that I had always known about this world and the one thing that I will always choose to believe in. It shows me how the world works. How the world has always worked. There will always be those who strive for power through the means of oppression and force. Those who believe that standing on top of others is the only way to show the world who is in charge. But there will always be those who strike back with the sheer force of will. Those who refuse to be ruled or controlled by anything other than their own heart and soul.

If we win, we will have something that no one has ever had before. A country of our own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s one of the few Mel Gibson movies that I have seen in its entirety. But even with my lack of experience with his films, Gibson always makes an impression on me. I am impressed by his courage as a director and by his valor as an actor. This film is, in short, magnificent.

Verdict: 11/12

J.M. Barrie- Peter Pan and Wendy (1911)

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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease to be able to do it”- Peter Pan

With every fairy tale told to us as children, we develop our own perception of what these characters are like. We seem to always believe that unless a character is directly deemed “evil”, then they are inherently good. I always thought that about the fairy tale world and believed that there was a simple divide between good and evil. The Evil Queen was on one side while Snow White was on the other. The queen only did bad things and made things worse for other people, while Snow White did everything Peter Pan Wendy 03good and only wanted to help others. However, I do not think this is always the case.

For example, I do not trust Peter Pan. I may have when I was a child but I don’t anymore. His first appearance to the Darlings is not one that is particularly nice or friendly. The only reason he was at their window in the first place was to listen to the stories that their mother told them as the 3 siblings fell asleep. He also rummaged around their room, throwing things about at will, while looking for his shadow. He even tricked the Darling siblings into coming with him to Neverland and all the while he did not even seem to care about them. He thought himself to be the greatest, had the best flying ability, and was the only one who really knew what was going on. He never told them what was going to happen to them when they got to the island and he also made games out of their misery. He makes jokes at their expense and does not try to help them in anyway unless it is of benefit to himself.

My view of Peter Pan may have also come from the amazing portrayal of him on the show Once Upon a Time (airing Sundays on ABC) by 18 year old British actor Robbie Kay. He did such an amazing job portraying Pan as a conniving, cunning and downright evil person. But Kay did it in such a way that you couldn’t help but love to hate him. What I loved most about this portrayal of Pan, and Kay’s superb acting ability, was that you found yourself loving Pan despite his flaws. He didn’t try to be anyone but himself. He didn’t try and pretend that he was a good person. He tricked and trifled wRobbieKayPanith you and as an audience member, I couldn’t help but be on his side. I was always on his side, no matter what.

I found this portrayal of Pan to completely accurate, especially learning about his true nature when reading this story. Although I do not trust Peter Pan, I respect him. I understand why he is the way he is. He is a child who has never had to grow up. He has never learned the difference between right and wrong and so he simply does what he wants. He thinks he does things for the right reasons. If he even knows what “right” means. Peter Pan is many things and like many of us wish to be, always a child at heart.

Verdict: 10/12

2011- “The Artist”

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Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Release Date: January 20, 2012

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo

As a child born of the 90’s, I’m not usually prone to watching a black and white film without a little push. However, The Artist, needs no pushing. I watched this film about a year after it came out and I immediately felt as though I had wasted all those months by not experiencing this beauty sooner.

For those of you who do not know what The Artist is about, it follows the story of a silent film star who meets a yThe-Artist-posteroung dancer, but soon “talking” pictures take their careers in opposite directions.

First off, this film took me by surprise. I didn’t know what I was expecting going in. All I knew was that I was going to be watching a silent film featuring the actor who won “Best Picture” for this role. That being said, there were a lot of expectations that I wanted this film to live up to. I figured it would be good but I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The story was done beautifully and the plot twists were unexpected. Again, being a child of the 90’s I didn’t know much about the transition from silent film to talking pictures. I had honestly never really thought about the process or just how big of an impact this new take on film had. Seeing this on screen is what really struck me as interesting. It’s not just a silent film about the silent film era. It’s about change. It’s about what happens what the world continues to transform and move forward. There will always be those who are afraid of change, those who try and stop it. But change is inevitable and sometimes you just have to let it happen.

Another highlight of the film is, of course, the adorable dog that plays Dujardin’s best friend. I am always impressed by animals in movies. They have so much skill and are just too precious to pass up.

Verdict: 12/12