Frances Ha (2013)

I only came across Frances Ha because the night the Criterion President and Producer visited, they gave away a copy of City Lights and Frances Ha. Obviously, I knew of City Lights but Frances Ha I hadn’t heard of, also the cover intrigued me (yes, I do judge movies by their covers). I added it to my Christmas list because, why not? If I hate it that much then I will sell to Half-Price Books. Later that week, in my Netflix browsing, I found Frances Ha on instant streaming. After debating of whether I should watch that or another ~important~ film on Hulu, I decided to just go ahead and watch it.

I’m not sure what I was excepting, other than it centering around this girl Frances, but I loved it. Frances was wonderful, even though a few times I cringed at her behavior, particularly when she was having dinner with her new roommate’s friends. Being a 19 year old, I’m obviously not at that point of my life yet where everyone around me is growing up and getting married. This film is a great insight on that and what struggles there are for some people. Though I don’t think I will be stuck in Frances’ position once I’m 27.

Perhaps what struck me the most is how quickly Gerwig kills a romantic storyline; right at the beginning of the film she ends her relationship with Dan. Throughout the rest of the film one of her roommates constantly refers to her as “undateable.” Though this story is not void of a love story; the love story is actually between Frances and her best friend Sophie. Honestly, how many films out there are truly about girls’ friendships sans a boyfriend/love interest aspect? None that I can recall.

My favorite part of the film is at the very end, when Frances “finds herself” and can finally afford an apartment of her own. I could not help but smile at Frances’ smile because that is my dream: to be able to get my own apartment someday, live on my own, work at a job that I enjoy, basically be my own person. It’s a very reassuring ending because I know Frances is going to be all right.

I loved Frances Ha and I hope to see Gerwig write more scripts. She is just the writer to create characters that I want to see on the screen. The camera work and editing was refreshing; and the music too now that I think about it. It all fits this young adult state of mind, I think. Frances is still young, energetic, ambitious, and her own person. Frances Ha is going to be a film I will go back to whenever I need a helping hand in my struggle in becoming an adult, or as Frances says, “a real person.”

Below is the trailer for Frances Ha

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The African Queen (1951)

First off, let me start by saying that I apologize I have not been keeping this updated. I’ve been helping my mom with the house and I just started college so I’ve been quite busy lately. However, despite all the busyness, I am determined to watch at least one new-to-me movie every Wednesday night and possibly Friday night (we’ll see about that….)

Anyways, my choice for tonight was The African Queen. I originally planned to watch Night Train to Munich but for some reason I was drawn to The African Queen; probably because it has been on my to-watch list for quite some time and felt it was more ~essential~ than Night Train to Munich (which I’m not downgrading; the main reason I want to see it is because it’s directed by Carol Reed). But I am not, in the least, upset that I watched The African Queen instead of Night Train. In fact, I had no idea what to expect but I absolutely loved it.

The main reason that I loved it so much is because of Rose and Charlie’s relationship; talk about a truly equal relationship. There are almost no arguments about it; each person compliments the other the same number of times and is genuine about it, each puts in the same amount of work, is independent, and takes care of the other when in need. Who stood out to me was Rose. She is equally knowledgeable and has a lot of suggestions and help to offer to Charlie, rather than being as, oh, a damsel in distress? I don’t know. But it’s not what has been portrayed before, at least from what I’ve seen. But then again, Charlie is very different too; he never comes across as a jerk. It’s quite a change for Bogie but I loved it. And Bogie and Katharine together. Never in a million years would I think of putting them together but with their personalities, it works 100% on the mark.

The same relationship would not have been achieved, however, if they were not on a boat traveling up the river through Africa. I kept thinking of Heart of Darkness though out this film but obviously Heart of Darkness goes into a WHOLE different context of Africa, specifically going into the heart of Africa. Here in The African Queen, going up the river, Rose and Charlie find love, a love built from their journey and the life and death obstacles they encounter together. They will not leave one other for anything; an example of this is when the two are talking about who will stay on the boat to shoot the torpedoes. Bogie insists on doing it and does not want Katharine to do it. But Kate being Kate, she refuses to let him order her around and they finally settle on it being a two-man job.

The other thing that struck me about their relationship is their allowance of vulnerability to one other. I feel like in other films, they wouldn’t be as accepting of it, like they have to keep this facade of some sort. But I suppose from all the stuff they’ve been through, it doesn’t matter. At one point Bogie is on the floor of the boat, saying what a poor excuse he is as a man; Kate denies it and says that he has done so much. He doesn’t pretend to act macho 24/7. And neither does Kate. In essence, everything they do is so equal that there is no dominant of the two, but rather just one. One couple, one mind, and one true love.

Meet John Doe (1941)

I celebrated 4th of July movie style four days late with a Frank Capra film, fondly known as Mr. America (who wasn’t American) in my book. I’ve always enjoyed Capra’s films, the popular It’s A Wonderful Life being my favorite. I’ve been craving some Stany lately and Gary Cooper isn’t hard to swallow either. Plus a good friend of mine did a huge project on Capra’s films and highly suggested it so why not?

Barbara Stanwyck plays the fast-talking, determined reporter Anne Mitchell. Fired from her job, she writes a fake letter from a Mr. John Doe who says that he is fed up with society’s wrongs and plans on committing suicide on Christmas Eve in protest. The next day story explodes and soon the newspaper either needs to stop the story and come clean or find a person willing to take on the role of John Doe. Anne talks her boss into finding a John Doe and they soon discover the rugged, handsome, and very American John Willoughby (Gary Cooper). He agrees to everything the letter entails and takes on the role of John Doe. Inspired by her father’s diary, Anne writes John’s speeches and creates the John Doe that America begins to know and admire. Except that is not who John Willoughby is and not exactly what he believes; he would rather take the $5,000 bribed to him and go play baseball again. However he is attracted to Anne and eventually falls in love with her. He stays in the John Doe role for quite some time until he learns that Anne has been bribed by the owner of the newspaper, Mr. Norton, to write a speech about creating a third political party, the John Doe Party, with the rich being the leaders. It is exactly the opposite of what the John Doe movement stands for. By now, John believes in the John Doe movement as he sees what good it is bringing to the workers of America. John tries to tell the truth and expose Mr. Norton’s plan except Mr. Norton gets to the people first. The people learn and the John Doe movement dies and John Willoughby becomes nothing but a laugh. Time passes and soon it is Christmas Eve. John plans on committing suicide but Anne and a few followers still believe in John. Listening to their words and Anne’s speech, he decides against it and carries Anne to the elevator.

I thought this film was brilliant. I’m not sure why it’s not more recognized but I guess it’ll be a gem for those who decide to dive deeper in Capra’s filmography.

John Willoughby plays the Christ-like figure in the film. Even though his philosophy is created by Anne’s father, John is still someone the people can look up to and listen to. They take John seriously and listen to what he has to say. His speeches, containing the basics of Jesus’s teachings, inspire the John Does to get to know their neighbors and help each other out. They refuse to allow politicians in their clubs because it could bring corruption and defeat their purpose. When the truth is exposed, the people don’t know how to react. They placed all their faith and respect in one man and expect him to be a God. But that’s what they miss; they don’t see the idea of the movement but can only see the man and how he hurt them.

It is not fair that John isn’t given the chance to explain. When he tries to talk to the crowd at the convention, Mr. Norton’s police men cut the cords to the microphones. Thus the broken communication causes chaos among the people and they turn against him. The people soon become cynical again and give up their John Doe clubs and return to normal. Though John still hasn’t given up. He plans to follow through with the suicide because he fully believes in the idea, especially now that everyone has turned against him. Anne, the founders of the John Doe club, and Mr. Norton are the only ones who believe John will jump off the building and commit suicide. When Anne finds him up there, she cries, “If it’s worth dying for, it’s worth living for!” The basis of the John Doe movement has been around for 2,000 years and she tells him that it’s people like him who remind others of it. She tells him they can start clean and we can hope that by the end of the movie they do for it’s to great a cause to give up on.

This film is patriotic while also incorporating teachings of Christianity. It claims that America is wonderful because we can do and say what we want and get by with the help of our neighbors (society). We do not need the rich to help us for we have our own who have built the basic blocks of civilization to helps us out.

I’m afraid this review isn’t coming out as I planned (I’m completely tired and am all over the place) but I guess the best thing to say is that this film shows the people of America can become completely one, whole, united if we join together and help one another.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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One of the things I love about Tumblr (and believe me that list is dwindling everyday) are the gifsets that go around. There have been countless gifsets of films I’ve never heard of before that people I follow reblog and I think “That movie looks interesting. I’ll need to add it to my to-watch list.” But then there are some of those films that I just see everywhere and it gets to the point where I say “GOD I NEED TO SEE THAT LIKE RIGHT NOW OKAY RESERVING IT AT THE LIBRARY.” I guess you know by now that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was one of those movies :)

I checked this movie out today and watched it with my mom right when I got home. I’ve always been a fan of Kate Winslet, I guess I feel like I can relate to her somehow, but Jim Carrey is not usually my cup of tea (expect for The Truman Show).  But god, he surprised me! I never knew he could play dramatic roles so well! It took me a few times to remember that he was mainly a comedian, not a dramatic actor. He takes on a completely different look: slumped over posture, unshaven, quiet, unsure, distraught, and desperate. Not usually what comes to mind when I think of Jim Carrey. I’m so glad he played this role; I’m not sure the story behind it but I think this film made me respect his work and ability much more. (However, Carrey does have a few brief moments to bring out his funny side.)

I guess one of the nice things about watching a movie with someone is that you can talk about it as it’s occurring and sharing thoughts and opinions. I was worried my mom wouldn’t like this movie at first (she can classify these films as “weird”) but nonetheless she wanted to see it and was really into it. Talking helped quite a bit throughout the eradication process :).

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Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in one of Joel’s memories

On the topic of the removal of Clementine from Joel’s memory, I thought that was all thought out and shot so well. My favorite being the way they portrayed the paths of the memory: unadorned, grey hallways with just enough light to lead Joel and Clementine to his next memory. It’s so fitting with the idea of memory and even more so with Joel because of his personality.

The shooting of this movie, the use of close-ups and the hand-held camera feel, was perfect for achieving the idea of reality and human emotion. Jim Carrey definitely benefitted from this whereas otherwise I don’t think his performance would have been as powerful or moving.

The story is completely unique and touching. The idea of clearing a person from your memory sounded perfect to me, that is until I saw Joel’s idea. It’s more of a whim, as Clementine says that’s what it was for her, and that the full realization doesn’t come until after it’s completely gone. There are the goods and bads of a relationship and sometimes the bads overpower the goods to the point that we want nothing to do with it. Clearly there were real reasons that Clementine wanted to forget Joel; loosing your identity and being changed by someone is very unsettling. But as the movie points out, there are and will always be problems and it takes work.

What I loved was that through this horrid thing, Clementine finally gets to see who Joel is and learn about his early life. Joel is able to appreciate the things that he didn’t before. He sees just what sentimental value they held and the quirks of Clementine’s personality that he loves . And to see them crumble and disappear. Memories are the one thing that no one can take from us; that is expect for the dancing naked and stoned Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Mary (Kristen Dunst).

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Kate Winslet when Joel and Clementine listen to the tapes.

I’m still not sure what to think about the ending. After seeing the potential of a brand new relationship, it about killed me when Clementine got Mary’s letter. But then again, it was bound to happen. If you look closely, their two meetings are fairly similar expect for the pieces of Joel’s now destroyed memories. At some point they were going to realize their problems and difficulties. But they’re still a clean slate, and aware of the past, and perhaps they can do things to better amend it.

Memories of people shouldn’t be zapped away by the click of a button. Not only can the bad ones go away, but also some of the good ones. But really the bad ones don’t go away; they’ll find a way back and haunt you even more than before. What you’re left with is still that yearning for a certain someone, which cannot be destroyed.  Life is reality and reality isn’t perfect. It’s just one of the few things that I have to keep reminding myself. This movie opened my eyes to a different point of view and a way of analyzing the good and the bad of memories. Follows is the quote that the movie’s title comes from:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d

Rating: ♚♚♚♚♚

Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

On January 1st, a large number of Netflix instant streaming films were going to expire so I did my best in trying to watch all the ones I wanted to see. One of those films was Broadway Danny Rose. I had been acquainted with Woody Allen’s films before this one, including Midnight in Paris, Manhattan, Sleeper, and Annie Hall. Regardless of those small numbers, I absolutely love Woody Allen and he is one of my favorite directors (I mean, my favorite movie is Annie Hall). I got about 30 minutes into the film when my Internet decided to stop working and by the time it did start working it was already the 1st.

I came across a post on Tumblr that someone made of their favorite Woody Allen movies. I realized I had only seen 3 of the 10 films and knew that had to change. So began my shopping spree on the library site. I am proud to say that I have 7 Woody Allen films on reserve and when they come in I will be having a Woody Allen week (so expect a lot posts that week!)

I decided to double-check Netflix and see if there were any Allen films and to my surprise Broadway Danny Rose was back on instant stream! I didn’t even mind that it was 1 in the morning: I was going to finish that movie.

I remember thinking when I watched it before that Allen’s character was softer, kinder, and perhaps a tad more vulnerable than his other characters. He isn’t quick to judge and doesn’t condemn other people as he does in his previous films. He doesn’t hold himself higher than others in Broadway Danny Rose. He is a simple guy trying to help his clients succeed. He does whatever he can to help them and is genuinely loves them.

I love the structure of this film; I think that’s what I love about a lot of Allen’s films: the structure. In this one, a group of guys who know Danny (Allen) are out to lunch and one of them is telling a story of Danny, thus the beginning of the film’s plot. Throughout the film, we cut back to the guy telling his friends the story. It is reminding us that this film is  being told in that perspective rather than real time and that we are also one of the listeners at the table.

Mia Farrow reminded me a lot of Diane Keaton for some reason in this film, or I suppose I should say in some places she did. Though I’m not sure that I could see Diane fulfilling that role. But either way I loved Mia in this movie. She played her character so well and she looked fabulous in those glasses.

The ending was so touching and, for me, it was because of his Allen’s personality. It’s just a side that I haven’t seen in his other films. I’ve always pictured Allen as only being able to play the witty-judgmental type but I was wrong. There is this one shot, when Mia comes over on Thanksgiving, that only has Allen in it and the look in his eyes and his woebegone face, ugh it just killed me :(

I wouldn’t say that this film has any really outstanding qualities that separate it like Annie Hall. Perhaps the only one being, for me, Allen’s character. But don’t let that turn you away. Really this film was so sweet, touching, and quietly perfect in a sense. The use of black and white also empathized the quality of romance and tenderness that I think wouldn’t have been achieved if Allen had used color.

I definitely recommend this film especially if you are like me and are just beginning to explore Allen’s filmography.