‘Bao’: A Brutally Meaningful Showstarter

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Julia Wilson

If you like movies and aren’t completely ignorant, you’ve definitely heard of the seamless Incredibles 2. But we aren’t here to talk about that movie – we are here to talk about what comes before it.

Prior to the Disney Pixar sequel, a short film titled Bao was featured. It was a short with no talking and very minimal sound, but brilliant animation. This, of course, can be expected of the mega animation company behind it.

The creator was a woman by the name of Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the entirety of it. This was the only produced piece on her filmography, but still made her the first woman to direct and create a Pixar short.

The story itself revolves around a woman who is making dinner for her husband – dumplings, specifically – and as her husband leaves for work, the woman is left alone. That is, except for one dumpling that sprouts arms and legs. Don’t worry, it’s not creepy, it’s cute.

It zooms through the life of the woman and her dumpling as he grows up into a bigger dumpling and eventually wants to leave home. This leads to the tragedy of the woman *SPOILER ALERT* eating her child dumpling. Once again, it’s not creepy. Seconds after, it’s revealed that, all along, the dumpling was her son. A son that abandoned her and distanced himself, creating tension when he comes back. It all ends happily when the love of a mother overpowers the fear of him leaving again.

This short film had me in tears before the main attraction even started. I was left shook and half-tempted to leave the theatre to call my own mom. Shi knew how to tug at the heart strings with a self-understood passion that she clearly demonstrated, telling a story with a moral that can only be described as undebatable and astounding. Family is around for a reason, and you shouldn’t cut that unless it’s necessary and healthier.

Even leaving Incredibles 2, I was thinking about this short. The story, the metaphors within, and all the thought that Shi must’ve put into the – for a lack of a better word – incredible journey of a mother and her child.


My Rating: 97.5%

Animation: 3.9/4

Direction: 3.9/4

Story: 3.9/4

Enjoyability: 3.9/4

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‘Black Swan’: When the Pretty Became the Paranoid

By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Julia Wilson

Remember when Natalie Portman won an Oscar for playing a deranged ballerina? It was for the Darren Aronofsky film, Black Swan, that may or may not should’ve won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the 83rd Academy Awards. But we’re not here to talk about The Academy, we’re here to give this unique and insane story the attention it deserves.

Based in the hustle of a New York ballet company, the fragile Nina (Natalie Portman) strives to prove that she is the best dancer to be the new Swan Queen in their upcoming production of Swan Lake. She soon finds out that envy and wrath comes with the territory of the role. In her journey to achieving her dream, she feels the pressures of being perfect and develops paranoia in the scariest of ways.

The plot is interesting, but what really made this film special was its cinematography, colors, and overall art direction. They’re the aspects that draw a viewer in and make them appreciate its beauty. In Black Swan’s case, the cinematography was done in a cinema veritè style, the colors were pinks, whites, grays and blacks, and the art direction was light contrasting the dark.

Not only is it ‘light vs. dark’ but it’s also ‘innocence vs. temptation’ and ‘perfection vs. imperfection’. Nina represents purity and she rejects anything with impurities. Her life is pretty, pink, and childlike whereas her environment is cutthroat, edgy, and adult. Without making stark contrasts, the cinematography blends the two to allude to Nina’s transformation from White Swan to Black Swan.

But its prettiness doesn’t cloud the horror aspect. It’s still dark and sticks to the theme of paranoia and the hallucinations that Nina experiences. Her competition is her own inner darkness and it’s shown as her alter ego tries to kill her and actual black feathers start to grow out of her skin.

Its scare factor lies in the horrors of mental illness and the fact that all of these nightmarish events are happening inside of her head. The pressures of her passion result in her own madness. Nina is no longer in her right mind and ultimately gives into the dark side of herself.

Black Swan is not a modern retelling of Swan Lake. Instead, it utilizes the themes of the play to create a story about a woman who loses herself and her mind in the midst of maintaining perfection.

A Postcard Never To Forget: A Look On ‘Brokeback Mountain’

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Julia Wilson

It’s rare that a movie can make me so sad just by thinking about it. A movie that breaks my heart over and over again to the point where I know I’ll never be the same.

That movie is the 2005 Oscar-nominated classic Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee.

This movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the lovable cowboy Jack Twist and Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar, the quiet – but still absolutely lovable – cowboy. They embark on a summer job on Brokeback, a mountain in Wyoming. What starts out as an innocent job for the season turns into something much more romantic and erotic.

That’s only a fraction of what the plot actually is, which involves moving on from Brokeback while still trying to stay together. It’s a heartwarming tale that has moments of sadness, purity, love, and everything that makes a romance what it should be. The only catch was that it was two men.

Well, at least by 2005 standards it was a “catch”. Nowadays it’s significantly more common with movies like Love, Simon, God’s Own Country, and Call Me By Your Name. But at this time is was near-unheard of. Luckily, it was powerful enough to make a statement for the entire LGBT community with a community entering the cinema that rarely did so before.

Lee did an incredible job directing a masterpiece that was based on a completely unique story – by Annie Proulx – that touched so many bases. Lee absolutely deserved the Academy Award he received for Best Director that year.

If you ask me, it was practically an abomination that Brokeback Mountain didn’t win Best Picture. We definitely aren’t going to make a habit of talking about Crash, which won instead.

Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Linda Cardellini all starred in the film, each doing as an actor should do. In fact, they went to extreme measures to be the best they could be. They developed relationships in the movie that impacted future collaborations and real life relationships that sparked afterwards.

Brokeback Mountain will always be in the top 5 of my LGBT cinema list because of everything it does. Starting such a crazy impact that would last for years and years, up even to the movies we see on a daily basis today, being constantly compared to the astonishment that was Brokeback Mountain.

Film Forecast Friday: June 29th

On June 29th we have…

1. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

2. Uncle Drew

3. Escape Plan 2

4. Black Water

5. Woman Walks Ahead

6. Leave No Trace

Julia’s Prediction:

This week there aren’t really any big blockbuster movies coming out.

The movie I have seen the most marketing for is definitely Uncle Drew, and it has a lot of big names in it like Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, and more. So based on that I think this could be the biggest movie out of those coming out this week.

However, there have been so many big releases this month I doubt any of these movies will make a big impression at the box office. Between Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom these movies will have a hard time coming anywhere near the top of ticket sales.

Anthony’s Prediction:

I’ll start with Uncle Drew, which will make the most at the box office this weekend due entirely to its insane marketing and constant advertising on every platform.

Then we have Sicario: Day of the Soldado which is a sequel, so it’ll make nearly as much as Uncle Drew, even if it’s horrible.

Those two are going to be pretty much the only relevant ones this week, given that there hasn’t been much advertising or anticipation for the sequel to Escape Plan or whatever the heck the other movies are.

Unraveling ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

By Therese Gardner, Edited by Julia Wilson

Prison. Not a likely movie I would typically write about, but The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all-time favorites. It is simply a classic adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982). The film itself, released in 1994, was written and directed by Frank Darabont.

The story, narrated by Red, follows a banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), sentenced to life in the Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her other lover. While Dufresne does his time over the course of twenty years, he becomes friends with another prisoner, Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman). Although Dufresne denies guilt and Red continues to go up in front of the parole board, the two form an unlikely bond and begin a money laundering operation led by the warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). Eventually, Red and Andy become friends with another inmate, known as Tommy Williams, who reveals that another prisoner has claimed responsibility for the crime Andy has been convicted for.

Andy then tells Norton of this information who refuses to listen and instead places Andy in solitary confinement. Norton has Williams murdered and Andy threatens to discontinue the laundering. After two months in confinement, Andy is released and the next day his cell is found empty. Norton finds a tunnel Andy had dug with a rock hammer that he had escaped through revealing details of the laundering. When the police arrive at the prison, Norton commits suicide to avoid arrest, and Red is paroled. Red and Andy are reunited in a town in Mexico.

The friendship between Red (Morgan Freeman) and Andy (Tim Robbins) is essential to the way the story is told. It is a beautiful story detailing how two men sentenced to life in prison become friends and find a way to remain hopeful in the midst of so much despair and heartbreak.

The title itself is almost an oxymoron, as typically prison and redemption would not be in the same line. It is another aspect of the film that makes the story worth telling and goes against the convention of what a prison drama is. Redemption, defined as being saved, signifies the realization that the two men the story follows have been caught in a predictable, mundane daily routine of prison life. Thus, the two form a friendship in which they push each other to maintain hope and deviate away from remaining cogs in the machine.

A timeless film that’s seemingly depressing is rather brilliant and graceful in the way it presents life, humor, and the power of friendship to encourage those to hold onto a sense of self worth and value, despite the system working to strip that away. The unraveling of time and life within this film is a marvel to me that many others should appreciate as well.

‘Brain on Fire’: Drowning in Your Own Insanity

For this week of Netflix content, we have Brain on Fire. This is the true story of a woman named Susannah (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) as she goes through her self-proclaimed “month of insanity”.

Let me just start out by emphasizing how much I despised all the characters in this. Not that I hated the people who played them, I just hated the characters because of how they treated Susannah. This poor girl was losing her damn mind and they were all assholes. Her dad was yelling at her about stupid things like plumbing and her boss completely ignored her obvious sickness. Her best coworker friend was a sassy journalist who also ignored the sickness. Each character was cleverly written, but they were all just so mean and it frustrated me.

If I’ll say anything negative about this movie – that’s not about the characters – it’s that it’s incredibly slow. It takes the first twenty minutes for her to feel any symptoms, another thirty to go to the hospital, and fifteen after that to make her go entirely catatonic.

This was based on a book of the same name by the real Susannah Cahalan and her accounts of her month of insanity. Obviously they had to follow the events, even if that meant the movie was slug-paced.

Moretz was brilliant. She couldn’t have done better as she was so believable as this mental patient that so quickly became dark. Of course she looks very young, but she still gave off a believable performance as a mature adult who works for the New York Post.

For the most part, this was a good movie. It was intriguing to watch someone’s mental sanity deteriorate so fast. Granted, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 17% which I completely don’t understand. That just goes to show that you can’t always trust a score.


My Rating: 78%

Acting: 3.2/4

Cinematography: 2.9/4

Story: 3.4/4

Enjoyability: 3/4

‘The Ritual’: Weird Horror is Just Getting Weirder

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Julia Wilson

The Ritual came out on Netflix earlier on in 2018, but I wanted to see what it had to offer. And oh boy, did it offer.

It tells the story of four friends going on a hike in Sweden after one of their other friends dies in a horrible tragedy. Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Rob James-Collier), Phil (Archer Ali), and Dom (Sam Troughton) are the four friends who get lost in the woods during a hike on a very rainy night.

They find an abandoned wooden hut – as every horror movie does – and then they go in and explore. You can pretty much assume that this was a stupid decision.

The plot builds onto this throughout the rest of the movie as well as encountering a God-like beast who throws people into trees.

Overall, it had a very The Blair Witch Project, Hereditary, and The Endless vibes. It’s not that it set a bad example, but it just wasn’t anything new.

The acting was as fine as the character development, which wasn’t much.

I will give it props though for showing me the weirdest cinematic creature I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t much to the scenery, but that may have been the point. I got as exhausted as them looking at tree after tree.

In the end, The Ritual was not a knockout but more of the ordinary weirdness that we are constantly seeing today in the horror genre.


My Rating: 78%

Acting: 3.2/4

Cinematography: 3/4

Story: 3.2/4

Enjoyability: 3.1/4