Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Miles Teller and Other Musings

Back two times in a row? Within the same year? Gee whiz, what a record. I have to remember that some people I know in real life are reading this; therefore, I'll try not to embarrass myself. Probably won't work out. Anyway, I write to-day/night because I feel I was a bit cruel in my last post. I am not a cruel person, you see, so writing all that (valid) toxic waste made me feel rather rotten inside. I still enjoy it, but it makes me feel bad. Not because I fear I've offended those I criticize--in fact, I hope they read what I say about them--but because I fear you have developed some nasty impression of me. Let's face it, I've been a harsh critic the past few years that I actually wrote. When I hate something, I write with seething hatred that stems from the deep recesses of my warm and loving self. But rest assured that I am a warm and loving person, one who happens to express loath towards things she does not necessarily care for. Nicely put. Writing these nonsense introduction really gets me spirited into actually writing something worth something. And Pandora helps too. Howlin' For You by The Black Keys.

The films I have in mind right now are ones that are actually good. I use that word the simplest way possible initially to avoid confusing readers with bloated language, as I tend to do. The reviews I read by established critics (i.e., ones who matter) are often very flowery and archaic. Whether the movie is good or bad escapes the average reader by the unnecessary so-called eloquence they use. For instance: if a critic says "everything is perfectly clear and almost everything is perfectly lifeless", is this a compliment or an insult? By using the word "perfect", you introduce the notion that a film is perfect. Even if you use it as an adverb, how can you pair it with an adjective that contradicts it? I'm sure you're allowed, but it bothers me to no end. That excerpt was taken from a negative review of Labor Day, an excellent film directed by Jason Reitman. Float On by Modest Mouse. I'll mention Jason Reitman frequently in this post, considering his most recent film is a major plot point in this post. As if this post were a movie.... Stop. Positive reviews can be just as puzzling, and I will use the notoriously awful-in-my-book Birdman as an example: "Birdman dares to be ambiguous, but unlike most essays in ambiguity, it is also a hell of a lot of fun." Okay. Well, I understand the ambiguity present in Birdman--since a majority of the time I was wondering what was the point of it--but I wonder whether the critic meant this as flattery or not. It was a positive review, yet the wording is strange and, again, confusing. Much like the movie. This is just a mere example, of course, and I am only criticizing critics. I am not stating that I am superior to experts. Really, I'm not.

Here’s the part of the post where I mention how long I’ve been delaying in actually finishing it. I originally started this post sometime in February, so many of the things I intended to talk about will now be omitted on account of the passing of time. That pesky time seems to really fly by, doesn’t it? Don’t it? Unfortunately, I will not be discussing Jason Reitman’s most recent films—Men, Women, and Children or Labor Day—in as much detail as I had initially planned. I have written some praise for the films already, so before I start a fresh thought, here are some stale February musings. I’ll use a different font to make the distinction.

The (original) spotlight lands on two particularly outstanding films of the past year: one is Jason Reitman's latest film, Men, Women, and Children, the other is by a newcomer called Whiplash. I'm sure the latter is more familiar to the ear, and why shouldn't it be? It was truly amazing, especially considering how I didn't really expect much from it. More of why later. I'd like to concentrate first on Men, Women, and Children solely because many have not heard of it, and I'd like to amend that. Also, for those who have heard of it or perhaps have seen it, the scathing reviews made by "professional" critics may have skewed your opinion of the film. Not that I'm suggesting you cannot make your own opinion of a movie and that the word of so-called experts has a profound influence on your way of thinking. Heavens no. But allow me to make my own impression of the film loud and clear. If you haven't already guessed... I loved it. Although I won't be going in-depth at all with this film, I suggest you watch it for your own benefit and betterment. The use of technology and media in the film is so profound, and I mean it when I say profound. Please please watch this movie, and determine for yourself if it's worth the praise I'm giving it or not. Either way, in the end it's my opinion.

To make this post just a little chunkier, I'll make a brief history of my relationship with Jason Reitman's filmography. The first film I've watched that he's directed was probably Juno, because back then I was a hipster moviegoer and watched only the weird movies no one else watched. Until the Oscars came and made it mainstream, I suppose. Anyway, I wasn't as educated with cinema as I am now, so I didn't comprehend the concept of "directors" and "screenplays". (If you'll look back in my archives, you'll find a post describing my first Oscar experience, which happened to be the year Juno was present in the awards line-up.) Despite my novice status, I watched Juno like I watched any other movie. Sort of the same way I watch movie now, only different. I don't know what I'm saying. I enjoyed the movie, especially (for some twisted reason) the relationship between knocked-up teen Juno and the potential adopted father of her baby. I had a thing for older guys back then...still do truth be told. Anyway, I liked the movie. Period. 

It wasn't until after I watched more of Jason Reitman's films that I found out he directed the highly-acclaimed film about teen pregnancy. I believe Up in the Air was my initial encounter with Mr. Reitman, where I knew he was the director; also, by that time (2009) I was relatively familiar with the Academy Awards and the vicious politics behind it as well. After that, I watched Thank You For Smoking, his debut feature film, which I absolutely loved. Just putting it out there: Aaron Eckhart is a very underrated actor, who deserves more than I, Frankenstein, I mean really. At this point, I was already impressed with Jason Reitman, and this admiration only expanded over time. You remember Young Adult? The fantastic film that went unnoticed by the Oscars, including a glaring snub for Best Actress Charlize Theron. I still maintain she was the best that year. I watched The Iron Lady, and I love Meryl Streep, but I think she's set on Oscars. Until she wins for Best Supporting this year. Just kidding. I need to stop. 
After Young Adult came yet another astounding gem: Labor Day. What makes this film all the more remarkable in my eyes is the fact that critics seemed to despise it. Once again, I do not understand their reasoning as to why they didn't enjoy it. The film was masterful cinema, from the cinematography to the art of capturing emotion and chemistry on the screen. A talent undiscovered in--wait for it--Birdman. I'll say it again and again. Ready, set, terrible. In the film, Jason Reitman grabbed your attention from the very first scene, and harnessed it until the very end. He kept you interested and alert as to what will happen next. Now that's filmmaking. Always a phenomenal actress, Kate Winslet was captivating as a melancholy mother, one who could not be as nurturing because she was a woman in need of love first and foremost. This lack of motherly love was evident in her performance, and once she had a male presence in her life, the change was striking. Such a transformation is the work of a talented actress, who deserved the Golden Globe nod even though many say she didn't. As for the leading man, Josh Brolin exhibited his expected dose of talent, reminding me of how truly underused and under appreciated he is. After seeing him in Oliver Stone's W. (pronounced dub-ya), I just really like him in movies, as a performer and as a man. Beyond his rugged attractiveness, he is absolutely on point as an actor. The dialogue was thoroughly engaging...even if Tobey Maguire is narrating with his agonizingly familiar whiney tone. Let the record show that I still cannot stand him, among many many others. 
One last thing...[SPOILER] At the end of the film, after the characters' family formed and the suspense reached its peak, that's when the sheer tragedy struck. My heart broke when Josh Brolin was arrested, leaving Kate Winslet all alone again. While the movie could have ended there and remained a magnificent film, albeit tragic, it didn't. The ending was both touching, because she waited for him while he spent years in prison, and bittersweet, because they had to wait so long to be together. Their hug was nothing melodramatic, nothing over-the-tope passionate. Just the right amount of warmth and affection. On-screen chemistry at its finest.

Several weeks later.... Wow, I am really awful at committing to a task all in one shot. The good news is that it allows me to write about a film that resembles the indie-feel of Jason Retiman. I'll probably end up giving a brief summary of my sentiments concerning Men, Women, and Children, which does not diminish the film's profound excellence whatsoever. The fact that I won't be delving too into that film is solely due to my laziness. I highly recommend you enjoy it for yourself. What I will say about Reitman's direction of the film is that if he can transform Adam Sandler into a normal person, as opposed to his usual moronic donkey persona, he is a truly talented director. Watch the movie, I can't stress it enough. I could if I wrote about it.... Note: I am currently in an excruciatingly dull statistics course in a college I plan on withdrawing from next semester. Never fear, for I am transferring to a school closer to home--so close that I will be moving back in with my mother. You can't begin to know how thrilled I am with this development! I hate Baltimore.

Well, look at that. It seems I've written more than I thought! Typical, considering I make more work for myself in school-like atmospheres, turning a six-page requirement into a twelve-page monster of a (fantastic) paper. Rest assured I do not carry on with eccentricities in academic writing, nor do I use personal pronouns. That's just unprofessional.... Now that we've shamefully skimmed through two truly extraordinary films--films which, I repeat, you should make the time to enjoy for yourselves--let's segue into a variety of topics that I have been on my mind the past few weeks. Dare I use boldface titles to separate paragraphs? I'm feeling pretty daring today. For those of you who know me reading this, please don't mock my weird style of writing. I know how corny I sound.

It was hard to pick just one image, but...
I just think he's adorable here.
Miles Teller. Plain and simple, my mind has been consumed by thoughts of Miles Teller. I think there is a particular reason why I'm so interested and attracted to him, but I won't get into that. I have been infatuated with this charming and good-looking actor for months, ever since I saw him in the phenomenal Whiplash, which I will get into shortly. Something about him is so intoxicating that whenever he's on the screen, well, I become overwhelmed with how likable he is. (There's a word I can use to describe the feeling more accurately, but it's a tad inappropriate, and I am a lady.) Aside from his sarcastic wit and dashing good looks, Miles Teller is a great actor. Personally, as somewhat of a self-proclaimed film savant, I enjoy seeing potential in young actors. It's a well-known tragic fact that the magnificent actors of Hollywood, such as Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson, will not be around to amaze audiences forever. So when a budding young talent--who happens to be immensely attractive as well--comes to the surface, it's reassuring to know that cinema is not completely doomed. Then again, for every Miles Teller, there is a Peeta (Josh Hutchinson in The Hunger Games). For every Jennifer Lawrence, there is a Kate Mara (monkey-looking girl who's going to play Susan Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot). It's a balance to be sure.

Whiplash. I'll start here since it's been a while since I've seen it. I don't know why that's a valid reason, but I said since twice in that sentence. I included the poster because I really like it. Anyway, there's so much that can be said of this movie, and therefore so many adjectives one can use to describe it. Electrifying. Exhilarating. Rhythmic. Magnificent. And I just realized that the movie's poster boasts some of these adjectives. It's widely agreed among critics and average viewers everywhere that Whiplash is one of the greatest films of the year--which says something's rotten in the state of the Academy. Why was Birdman, that steaming pile of filth, honored above Whiplash? The reviews were far more positive for the film worthy of such praise, and it was a much more uniquely-made film. A borderline-schizo actor who's suffering some demented midlife crisis in a loud New York-jazz-fueled atmosphere? I've said it again and again over the course of this year: That film was not good. Whiplash, on the other hand, was a surprising cinematic feat from an amateur director, Damien Chazelle. I say amateur because he hasn't made many on-screen works, but his achievement in directing this year was beyond amazing. As a director, one must demand the utmost excellence from their performers without exerting tyranny. According to various interviews, Damien Chazelle is an ideal (therefore promising) director. The script, written by Chazelle, was originally posited as a short film. Not sure if posited is the right word there. Fortunately, the script transformed into an adapted screenplay for a feature-length film. The film is accurately described as building up to a "cathartic crescendo" by John Bleasdale from CineVue. (It's good to cite sources.) What's incredible about the film is how the setting and content of it translate into how the film moves on the screen. In other words, while the movie is about a jazz drummer in a cutthroat music school, the film itself moves as rhythmically and thrilling as actual fast-paced jazz. 
The fact that Miles Teller plays a jazz drummer further stimulates the film's liveliness and energy. Drumming has always been an interest of mine, when it comes to musical performance, because of how fast and difficult it seems compared to other instruments. Jazz and heavy rock drumming, to me, look like the hardest tasks one can undertake, and to see this on the screen is absolutely stunning. And to know that that's actually Miles Teller playing? Well, it just makes me love him even more. Again, I could use a word like euphoric or explosive to describe how he makes me feel, but it's not very ladylike. But I did just use those words, didn't I? The acting performances were utterly phenomenal. Both Miles Teller and the dreadfully underused J.K. Simmons were intense in their roles, making them a captivating pair to watch on the screen. When it comes to breakout performances, or whatever you want to call them, this is the calling role for Miles Teller. While his past films were impressive, this is the one performance that captures viewers' attention that they want more of him. Also, the fact that he had genuine award buzz for his role in Whiplash doesn't hurt in this industry. Though that buzz was definitely deserved, and it's a shame he didn't get more recognition. Miles Teller plays an ambitious, vivacious jazz drummer who is thoroughly eager to please his new prestigious teacher. His passion in the role is most apparent while he feverishly plays the drums, literally sweating and bleeding before our eyes. Given that it's really him playing, the performance becomes that more authentic and, subsequently, more astounding. 
The star of the film is J.K. Simmons, in a career-best performance (according to critics) that granted him the honor of Oscar this year. Now, not to say that I'm a better person for it, but I've admired J.K. Simmons as an actor for years now, way before Whiplash. It doesn't make me special, but it does make me a dedicated student of film, one who is able to spot potential in any case of acting. I'm amazing for other reasons. To prove my point, I've enjoyed appearances by Simmons in many of Jason Reitman's films, most notably as Juno's stern but caring father; as the venerable J. Jonah Jameson in the first Spider-Man series, by far the best part of the films; and finally as the chilling, cruel Vern Schillinger in HBO's undervalued series Oz. Now, in Whiplash, Simmons takes on the role of a demanding, abrasive jazz instructor who constantly berates his students, highlighting on Miles Teller's character in the film. Before I even watched the film, I knew he would "nail" that role "spot-on" because I've seen what he can do with an aggressive role like that in Oz. I mention Oz again in the hopes that you might watch it. It's a heck of a show, really. J.K. Simmons has a natural intimidating quality about him when he assumes a certain role, so even without speaking he's giving an incredible performance based on silent brutality and vicious expressions. As he attacks and abuses Miles Teller in the film, you can feel the sting of each slap and hear the boom in each put-down. Much like the intensity of Teller's white-hot performance on the drums, Simmons's rage fuels his student with the passion to improve while it both terrifies and astonishes viewers. The performance truly was overwhelming and incredible, which makes his ultimate Oscar win a genuine triumph.
And here are two scenes capturing the immense talent of each actor:


And finally, the famous rushing-dragging scene put in for good measure:





The Spectacular Now. Again, I liked the poster. Fortunately, two blossoming actors with lots of promise starred together in a 2013 film called The Spectacular Now. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, on-screen couple extraordinaire. I really really enjoyed this movie. It was an atypical teen romance that is unusual for Hollywood because it felt so realistic. And the leading actors certainly improved the quality of the film. This is one of those movies that you just enjoy watching. There's no hidden meaning or pseudo-intellectual complexities--it's a wholesome yet deep movie that isn't out to be pretentious. I think this has a lot to do with the actors as well, which brings me back to how I hope the promise I see in them means something. To be more specific: Shailene Woodley is really a beautiful actress who doesn't depend solely on her looks to be a success in film. While that sounds horribly feminist, I mean it in a more cinematic perspective. She is very demure in this film, playing the role of a shy average girl facing the confident popular guy in school; yet she asserts herself in the relationship in times when it's needed. She doesn't play a ditzy girlfriend who's in the relationship to post on social media how happy she is, but she plays an active role that gives Miles Teller's character a genuine person to be with. As for the male lead: Miles Teller, as previously stated, is a terrific actor and just as attractive as his female costar (maybe a little more, in my eyes). Throughout the film, I feel so sorry for his character--how in the end, when the party's over, he isn't as respected and liked as he thinks. He's essentially a slacker who doesn't seem to have ambition in life, which allows him to surrender to the brief bliss of alcohol. Once he gets close to Shailene Woodley's character, it's clear how he's becoming happier, yet for some reason he doesn't feel worthy of such love, so he throws it back at her. Hence the accident and justifiable (spoiler) break-up. 
Through all their hardships, the film ends on an ambiguous note: Will they or won't they get back together? It's a satisfying ending for people on all sides of the argument (if there is one) because it provides hope for people like me rooting for them and uncertainty for those who felt their relationship was unhealthy. I actually didn't realize how toxic their relationship was while I was watching because I kept rooting for them to stay together. Sure, he gets her into alcoholism and nearly causes her to die in a car accident (oh yeah, spoilers), but something about their relationship, their chemistry, made me want them to overcome the obstacles and be together. Part of me watching this movie was reminded of something personal about their relationship. I don't mean to be annoyingly vague, it's just I'd rather not say exactly what. Reading that now, it sounds very annoying, but that is all I'll say! A little mystery is good for the mind. 
And here's an adorable clip that makes me blush and smile like an idiot every time I watch it:

Boyhood. For the remaining space of this post, I'd like to talk about another indie-like film. I'm probably not the only person who was surprised to see what little love Boyhood received at the Oscars this past year. Part of me was surprised because of how critically-acclaimed it is--a perfect 100/100 score on Metacritic, ladies and gents--and another part was surprised because of how unconventional the Oscars gets a kick out of being. "Let's give the highest possible cinematic honor to a movie that took thirteen years to make, because how original and innovative is that? Plus, it's so unaware of itself, so genuine in its sentiment and filmmaking process. How awe-inspiring." Which is only what I can guess goes through the minds of Academy execs. I am a very skeptical, nasty bugger of a person. As far as pretentious goes in the film, there wasn't as much as I had dreaded. The movie started off with a tranquil scene of a blue sky and the beautiful song "Yellow" by Coldplay. Shoot, I'm listening to it right now as I write this segment of the post. I really think that song is what gave me an instant sense of "I like this movie". Anytime I hear that song now, I have the urge to sit through this monstrosity of a long movie again. Despite my tone, if you can sense one that is, I truly enjoyed the movie. Getting used to the time shifts was unsettling and difficult, considering that the same actors were used so they actually aged. However, the shifts could have been executed more gracefully than it was. It was like watching the first Harry Potter, when they were little munchkins, then the second Harry Potter, when they've already gone through puberty. It was just like that throughout the childhood portion of the movie. The kids aged way too fast, and the time-jump scenes transitioned way too jerkily, as if I skipped past a major chunk of the movie. After a while, though, the time-jumps became habitual and I accustomed to them, especially once the kids have passed into the teen years. I really liked the whole idea of the movie: following the pre-adult life of a boy as he experiences things and grows with his family. I've always enjoyed family movies, and I consider this one to be sort of an epic, based on the length of it. Boyhood is an atypical drama that is unusual yet interesting to me because I haven't seen many films like it. Watching family dynamics stimulates my mind and all those psychological interests that fester within me. As for the acting, let's see. The kids were nothing special nor nothing terrible, so I won't really comment on them. They were okay is all I can say. 
Ethan Hawke really impressed me in this film. Prior to this, I haven't experience much of his work and all I knew was that my dad didn't really care for him and I didn't really care for his creepy, lanky demeanor. I really can't describe what throws me off about his appearance, I just know that I don't care much for it. In Boyhood, Ethan Hawke plays the kids' father who visits them and acts, from where I'm sitting, like a wonderful father--because he is a wonderful father, in the movie that is. He explains things to them in a way they can understand, depending on their age, and he has no filter in a way that makes him genuine but not a profane asshole. I really liked his character in the film, which is due to his great performance I'm assuming. His Oscar nomination was surely deserved, but nothing to compete against the fiery J.K. Simmons this year. 
As for the supporting actress in the film, who garnered the only Oscar for Boyhood, Patricia Arquette was nothing special. But not in the same way the kids were nothing special. Patricia Arquette was sort of awful in the film, performance-wise. As a mother, I didn't really care for her techniques nor did I wish she was my mother. Maybe it's because she was the sole guardian of the kids and the stress of being a single mom prevented her from being the best, I really can't say. The fact that she subjected her kids to an alcoholic step-father for as long as she did is surely questionable. Character flaws aside, her acting was just not good. In many of the "bravo" scenes, she is screaming in a whiney and weak voice that prevents her from truly yelling. Slow talkers and low talkers alike cannot afford to shout without looking ridiculous, and she is a slow, low talker. It wasn't Michael Keaton-bad, but it certainly wasn't Oscar-amazing. That's all I have to say about that. No video clip.

Well, that was a fine night of writing, if I do say so myself! Exclamation point, indeed. Some additional follow-up information if you care to read on: yes, I am still in college and have found an opportune time to write where no pertinent homework was on the agenda; yes, I am still watching Desperate Housewives because I have a severe mental imbalance and I like the pain; yes, I like the pain in a variety of situations; no, I am not a feminist, I am a humanist (comedy drum beat); yes, I am moving back home to commute to a new college as a transfer student who will be pursuing accounting; yes, I want to be an accountant, preferably one who works for Disney World; yes, I have a drinking problem, and no you shouldn't worry because I really don't have a drinking problem. I'm going to call it a day. 'Til the next time I have the sudden burst of inspiration to write! Fare thee well.

Since this is a Miles Teller post, I'll put some more pictures that I really love... Sorry if the captions are very typical white girl comments, but I am, inevitably, not the adult I put myself out to be.

This is just really sweet, I can't explain it.

This is just adorable and perfect.

Obvious why I included this.
The movie was actually a decent romantic comedy too.
 
Last one, and might I say: Gorgeous.
Goodnight.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Unimpressive Year for the Oscars

I am going to fight the urge to write a long, extensive, exaggerated introduction about how it's been such a long time since I've written on here. I used "long" twice in that sentence. Still easily distracted by such things. Two weeks later....

ANYWAY, I am here to discuss awards season. My absolute "preferred" time of year--still cannot type down "favorite" and be able to live with myself--is still awards season, despite my appalling absence last year. And Oscar Season 2014 was really the time to shine, creatively speaking, for there were numerous films to applaud. I'll do some praising right now for some of the films that should have been honored last year with physical statuettes, but were not. I'll do so, briefly, with pictures of those who were unforgivably ignored last year.

American Hustle: One of the best films of the year, and it got a total of zero awards at the Oscars. The direction was near-perfection; David O. Russell can really direct his actors into seamless collaboration and allow them to execute their full talents. The acting ensemble was just phenomenal, they just played off each other's performances so remarkably well. That's the marking of a truly talented director. I feel I've repeated some adjectives just then, oh well. Each and every one of these beautiful people should have received recognition, particularly that beautiful lady on the far right. Seriously? Lupita beat her? Now that pissed me off, and it still does now that I simmer over it a little more. 12 Years a Slave altogether was a dull dull picture, only receiving recognition for a striking reason. I enjoy period pieces, but that one was uneventful--and I wanted to like it. Let the disparaging comments commence. If only I had written last year...
This picture seems to define the movie, from the many I've seen in magazines. And why shouldn't it? He's just flawless. Leonardo DiCaprio gave yet another magnificent performance and was shunned by the Oscars yet again. Sure, he was nominated, but come on. How long are they going to wait, until he makes his own version of The Reader? (If you comprehend the meaning of that reference, I want to give you a hug.) Martin Scorsese, also, directed something worthy of merit, yet the award went to the spaceman director. Even Jonah Hill--who accepted a mere sixty grand to be in the movie--deserved something! However, I really can't complain about who did receive the Leading and Supporting awards...
Dallas Buyers Club. I am thrilled to say I actually enjoyed this one. Being that it had to do with AIDS, I feared that it would be another Philadelphia, out to make the audience cry and make them feel bad if they didn't. This film, however, focused on the health insurance issues, reminding people that AIDS is a serious medical ailment, not some sort of social stamp used to define certain groups. It was an issues movie, but the kind I like: one that exposes crooked practices set against the average (i.e. not rich) people of the country. Anyway, enough soapboxing. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto gave exceptional performances as HIV-positive patients victimized by unfair medical practices. Each of them deserved the gold last year...even though Leo really deserves one sometime soon.

That felt good. Those recaps really reminded me of how much I love to write about movies. Awards season specifically, which brings me to the motive behind why I decided to return to this here blog. Italics just felt right. You may have noticed how I extolled last year's cinematic feats, and this was for good reason. One was to point out the films I enjoyed immensely and give them their overdue praise. Another is to show a stark contrast to this year's awards season. Stark contrast. And I will give you several examples of this utterly inadequate Oscar year. Also, I watched the Golden Globes. Thought I should mention, even though it's an obvious given knowing me. It gives me the edge I need to make Oscar predictions, which I will do at the end, though this year seems to be predictable by anyone. I'll be discussing some nominees--for the Oscars have announced their list--including a major criticism of one movie that happens to be the front-runner.... Birdman.

Birdman. Writing a negative review requires so much more precision and attention than writing a positive one. You really need to refine your skills of cruelty, especially when the dislike is so strong and especially when the consensus defies the dislike. I must implore what is so exceptional about Birdman that has Hollywood all aflutter with admiration, that has the Academy tossing a total of nine potential accolades at it. This is a genuine question, am I just missing something? I watched Birdman from beginning to end, forcing my dad to sit and endure until it was over. Throughout the film, I sat in futile anticipation that the conclusion of the movie would be so outstanding that both our cringes would disappear. Unfortunately, the ending just made it all worse, if possible. I actually walked away from the projector screen. Quite a gesture I know because usually I'm pressed up against it. I don't know why I'm attempting humor right now. Allow now to elaborate on these pessimistic feelings I have toward the film. I must stress that I truly wanted to watch this movie, therefore I wanted to like it. I like Michael Keaton, who I refer to as "Gene" in honor of The Other Guys. Where was that movie at the Golden Globes? Funniest thing of the second decade, I reckon. Anyway, I like Gene, and I like Edward Norton and Emma Stone (despite my dad's intense dislike of her and her abnormal eyes). The plot sounded pleasant enough: "A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play" [taken from IMDb]. Nothing remarkable, but enjoyable-sounding nevertheless. Actually, the plot sounded rather familiar, played-out you might say; as the film progressed, the cliches and familiarity were utterly impossible not to notice. The cinematography itself was jarring in an unsettling, not artistic, way. Following Michael Keaton (for the majority of the time since he is the lead) around the whole movie is not at all as artistic as I am sure the director thought it was. I got the feeling he was trying to do "a play within a play" kind of movie, and the fact that there is such a kind of production proves its lack of originality. There are films made like plays, such as Carnage and most Woody Allen films, and there are movies about plays, like All About Eve, which was actually a successful endeavor at making such a film seem like "a play within a play". What Birdman accomplished was pseudo-intellectual chaos that is the opposite of aesthetic. The score was aggravating as well. The jazzy noise and rat-a-tat drum beats sounded as if I was walking through the odd-Broadway districts inhabited by pretentious, artsy quasi-intellectuals. Considering the quality of the film, it was well-chosen. Acting, or lack thereof. As I've said, I like the actors in the movie themselves, just not their acting in the movie. And I don't see it as their fault whatsoever--it's the director's responsibility to muster each player's full potential to attain great performances (see American Hustle). Nonetheless, let's look at the acting. 
Michael Keaton--who is the definite Best Actor this year, according to the Academy--is not the best actor. I like him and all, but he doesn't possess the skills akin to actors like Edward Norton. He's a funny guy, known for zany roles such as Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom. There's nothing wrong with that, but why feel the need to just give him an Oscar? His career hasn't shown much quality to deserve recognition. Golden Globe at most, just not for Birdman. There was never a year where people felt he was snubbed, unlike Leonardo DiCaprio on many occasions. So why? In Birdman, especially, he was absolutely unexceptional, at times he even exhibited bad acting. Maybe his character demanded it, but Keaton was just too jumpy and agitated throughout the movie. The whole time, whenever I saw him on the screen, I thought "Wanna get nuts?" which is from Batman. I'd like to note that I appreciate the obvious comparison of Michael Keaton as Batman and his character as Birdman. It's funny, they're both washed-up actors. What a hilarious coincidence. Sense the tone. Maybe he was trying too hard--definitely trying too hard actually--but I just didn't see a comeback, as so many people have been saying. In quality that is, for this is surely a comeback in Hollywood since everyone loved the movie. I'm guessing when he walked through Times Square in his underwear, that was the moment people thought, "Yes. He's back." I just saw a sixty-three year-old man half-naked, that's what I saw. Petty, I know. If he doesn't give an incredible, show-stopping performance, I'll ask again: why does Mr. Mom need an Oscar? 
Moving on to other performances, we arrive at Edward Norton. Here is the one impressive aspect of the movie, though he always gives a spot-on performance even without the director's guidance. That has to say something, the fact that his acting was unharmed by the director, yet everyone else (aside from Naomi Watts, also, though she isn't nominated so I'll skip over her) dwindled in their ability. Indeed, Edward Norton deserves any acclaim he gets, wonderfully portraying a Method actor. Another coincidence it seems. Emma Stone, an actress I like very much, was nothing special in Birdman, certainly unworthy of an Oscar let alone being nominated for one. While I like Emma Stone, I don't feel she has developed her acting craft enough to earn award recognition. She's still young and I can't accept her as Oscar material just yet, unlike Jennifer Lawrence who is just innately talented it appears. Her performance in Birdman--Emma Stone not Jennifer Lawrence, if that needed clarification and I hope it wasn't needed--does not mark her entrance into the prestigious world of Oscar, nor does the movie itself deserve a place among the award stratosphere. As I write this, I am also scrolling through user reviews on IMDb. It's amazing how much praise this film is getting, I can't understand it. Of course, for those who gave praise, you might be reading this with your eyes rolling and scoffing at my ignorance. And what another coincidence that the subtitle of the film is "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance". What the fuck does that even mean? Apologies for my first swearing in the new year. Surely, you who adored the film can explain it to me. Please do, and try not to be pretentious in your condescending enlightenment. There are many comments of praise for Birdman but one in particular really stunned me: "It's borderline miraculous" [said by Jessica Kiang from The Playlist]. Really? That quote just floored me, both out of disbelief and sheer hilarity. How can this be said of a film that is so bland, so painfully familiar that "original" is the furthest adjective that can be used to describe it, let alone miraculous? It's unbelievable. I feel like I'm an outsider and those who loved the film are part of some cult. I'm aware that a cult consists of smaller groups within a larger society, but it seems that the majority of people are under the spell of Birdman. Maybe I'm the sole cult member then, that seems plausible. To wrap this up, I'll talk about the one glaring flaw in the film, one that composes a large part of the movie and its assumed charm. Michael Keaton portrays a washed-up actor who is known for a superhero called Birdman, and throughout the movie the voice of Birdman haunts him. The bird tells the man how he is worthless and all that--again, very familiar. Near the end of the movie, the actual Birdman appears in Keaton's imagination of course. The costume is very silly, by the way, but that is a petty insult to the film. All of a sudden, at the moment Birdman appears, blockbuster, superhero effects surround Michael Keaton. Think Transformers in terms of explosions and action. If this scene were included in the trailer, there must have been many confused moviegoers expecting to see a new superhero called Birdman in action, explaining more than half the box office I'm sure. As this action-packed scene proceeds, I assume that these fantasies are products of Keaton's past and his desire to be famous again and all that. However, from this point, it appears that his character actually thinks he is Birdman, not just the actor who played him. This is proven by his attempt to "fly"...and the director's decision to have an extended sequence of Michael Keaton flying through the city. Insert cringe and confusion here. This whole thing is a metaphor or serves as symbolism of some sort, considering the artistic aspect attributed to the movie, but I do not appreciate ridiculous "art". Get it? The grand finale of the movie shows the play of Keaton's character on stage. At the end of the play, his character's character kills himself...only this time, Keaton's character actually killed himself. Predictable ending, or so I hoped. Instead, Keaton's character shot off his nose. What the fuck. This ending, as I mentioned earlier, makes Birdman far worse than I had already realized. Then, if this weren't enough, Keaton's character jumps out the window (of a hospital? really?) and Emma Stone looks up smiling, happy to see her father finally flying. Applause? No. This final act was just preposterous, culminating in my own impression of the movie--that it was a piece of garbage. And not the garbage art found in modern art museums. Was my review seething enough for you? Because I feel great right now. So much writing at once.

Foxcatcher. True story. This one I really liked. Not in a Top Ten of All-Time sense, or even the "I'll watch this again" sense. Perhaps I say really liked because I was somewhat surprised, considering the year we've had thus far. What was most surprising of all was neither acting nominee, but the man I actually couldn't stand until this movie: Channing Tatum. Up until now, I really disliked him in every way when it comes to actors. His performances are awkward and just plain awful, particularly his feats in comedy. The fact that girls and women just fawn all over him is an eye-rolling experience--he's nothing special, and the fact that everyone thinks he's gorgeous just makes him less attractive in my eyes. Aren't I bitter? However, this movie demonstrated Channing Tatum in a habitat where he is acceptable and even good at acting. As insecure Olympic champion, Mark Schultz, Tatum displays such intensity in the role as he strives to win the next Olympics. The ferocity he shows in the movie is shocking at times, it's just the concept of him being a good actor is incredible. Maybe he finally found his niche in the acting world? Maybe the direction was terrific (earning its director nomination)? Whatever the case, Channing Tatum is now labelled as decent in my book. Until he makes another Jump Street or Magic Mike that is. 
Steve Carell was another shocking element of the film, transforming into this ominous creep. The make-up helped to distance himself from Michael Scott from Dunder Mifflin, but an actor with true talent can transform himself no matter what. And that's what Steve Carell proved himself to be, earning his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of John Du Pont, the millionaire who sponsors Mark Schultz to be an Olympic wrestling champion. Every time Steve Carell creeped onto the screen--literally creeped, a soundless and eerily quiet entrance--he oozed a sort of talent unbeknownst to audiences. (Word of the day: can you guess which one?) He was able to execute a dramatic role without resorting to awkward jokes, as he is used to, and prove that he is more than just a funny face. With a bird nose. I love Steve Carell. The next nominee is Mark Ruffalo, who portrayed Tatum's brother in the film. A fellow Olympian, Dave Schultz is a down-to-earth, honest family man who truly cares for his brother Mark, seeking out his best interests. Once Mark becomes involved with John Du Pont, however, his fraternal instincts kick into gear (what an old school catchphrase) and he looks into their odd relationship. Eventually, Dave is a part of the Du Pont team--as a result of Du Pont's insistence that he joins. I see that I am giving a synopsis of the film instead of critiquing it, I apologize. 
Performance-wise, Mark Ruffalo did a stand-up job (another catchphrase), filling the role of a humble guy who means no harm very well. As he normally does. Truth be told, he plays nearly the same character in every movie, with some variation depending on the film. In Foxcatcher, however, he actually deserves the acclaim, in my opinion. From here on, let's assume that everything "I" says is in "my" opinion. With Kids Are All Right a few years ago--remember that? Of course you don't--he provided a lackluster performance (along with the rest of the cast of that one); but here, with the right direction, Mark Ruffalo was able to act in the confines of a well-made picture, allowing him to be very decent indeed. The fact that the director of this film--Bennett Miller--was able to guide Channing Tatum into a performance that can be called "very good"? Now that is some masterwork. I would like to see Steve Carell win the Oscar this year because he accomplished something rather incredible for a man of his talents. Though we know he won't...damn Birdman.

The Grand Budapest Hotel. Not a true story. Wes Anderson strikes again with this masterful film about a renowned fictional hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka, following the adventures of a quirky concierge and his trusted protege. My adoration for Wes Anderson is a fairly recent development, beginning with this film now that I think back. It was because of this strange yet phenomenal piece of cinema that I explored his other films. The one I thoroughly enjoyed was The Royal Tenenbaums, for I am a sucker for dysfunctional family dark comedies. There's a genre for you. With Budapest Hotel, Anderson demonstrates his unusual craft once more as he dazzles the eye with aesthetic screenshots and quirky plot twists.A review in a nutshell, you could say. Each shot, literally, can be taken and displayed as artwork of actual value. Set during World War II, the film immediately peaked my interest, even more so as events unfolded within that framework. Let me just insert a teensy tangent: I was scrolling through the user review boards on IMDb and found one titled "So now we're saying Grand Budapest is better than Birdman?" Umm, yes we are... And I'm glad to see a few amusing comments agreeing with me on that point. Anyway, back to the show. Beyond the visual pleasures with production design, the acting was absolutely superb. Another great acting ensemble, helmed by a director who knows how to direct his talented cast and summon their utter best. 
Ralph Fiennes is the centerpiece of this quirky comedy. As the legendary concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, he is as accommodating to his guests as he is to the audience watching the film. He is hilarious--literally making me laugh out loud--and slides into the role like the glass slipper fit on Cinderella. I went to Disney World a few weeks ago. It was nice. Like all skilled actors worthy of praise, Ralph Fiennes becomes the character he portrays quite believably as well as splendidly. His eloquence certainly suits the incomparable concierge, as each phrase out of his mouth is a fancy for the ears. Why he received no Oscar nomination this year is beyond me. It also infuriates me, especially knowing Michael Keaton was for such an inadequate picture. Anyway. Other colorful characters, played by Wes Anderson's usual band of actors, include: a decrepit wealthy widow and her diabolical son (Tilda Swinton and Adrien Brody), a peculiar assassin (Willem Dafoe), a humorous inspector (another great performance by Edward Norton this year), and a secret society of concierge (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman). I already said this, but here I go repeating it: Wes Anderson can direct his actors beautifully to the golden sun. Little metaphorical lingo for your fancy. The wonderful screenplay provides characters with whimsical dialogue, bringing to life a gratifying rapport between the actors and pleasing audiences with an interesting storyline. Every aspect, practically, is impeccable. The film never lost its pacing, unlike a certain frontrunner I trashed earlier, and it remained entertaining all throughout. It was a true cinematic delight, and as I reflect on how marvelous it was I have the urge to watch it again. Quoting my dear dad, that is the definition of a good movie--one you want to watch again and again. As I said, discussing an excellent film takes much less time and passion than discussing an awful film.

Gone Girl. Here we have perhaps the greatest dramatic--for comedic, see the previous entry--film of the year. The mystery behind why this film wasn't nominated, nor was it director, for an Academy Award astounds me. The critics adored the film, complimenting its hypnotic allure and twisted (in a good, psychologically thrilling way) execution. David Fincher, especially, was at the top of the Best Director prediction list, from what I recall, and rightfully so. And no nomination. In fact, the only nods worth mentioning is Rosamund Pike for Best Actress and for Best Adapted Screenplay. Enough lamentation, let's examine the evidence. Gone Girl is a bestselling novel, so I'll assume you've either read it, heard about it, or have seen the film. The film goes through several phases (i.e. segments that each feel like their own film yet combine to make a fantastic whole picture) which increases the enjoyment of the viewer. For me it did anyway. Sparing the details, focusing on the quality. Rosamund Pike, first and foremost, deserves that goddamn Oscar. Why speak so crudely? Well, the award is beginning to lose its value, and I feel it should be redeemed with cinematic excellence. That begins here by bestowing the honor upon the lovely Rosamund Pike for her performance as the lovely yet haunting Amazing Amy Dunne. 
How she shifts from persona to persona is mesmerizing, but above anything she is always devious and calculating. She would have to be, to execute such a scheme. Again, watch the movie so you'll know exactly what excellence I'm talking about. It is impossible to deny the value of her performance. By denying her value, the Academy would be propelling itself further down the downward spiral that began when Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture. Call me cruel and unforgiving, I'll say you're probably right. In reality, I may be the sweetest girl ever. Ask anyone. Anyway. Ben Affleck does it again, and by "it" I mean acting rather well and not at all cheesy or awful. This year, he will be the recipient of the Redeemer Award at the Razzies, for his transformation from Gigli to Argo. Well deserved, as would be the Oscar for Best Director he failed to receive for Argo. Interesting, how long and far a grudge against the Academy can go. Another honorable mention in Gone Girl goes to Tyler Perry, who was actually decent acting-wise. Again, remarkable direction. Neil Patrick Harris--known for playing a womanizer on television, and hosting the Oscars this year wouldn't you know it--is also good in the film, which is all I can say considering I'm still in the process of warming up to him. I don't like How I Met Your Mother, so liking him is a stretch too. But A Million Ways to Die in the West helped a great deal. You know, the film that's nominated for a bunch of fucking Razzies. Seriously? As fucking Birdman is collecting accolades? What in God's name.... I say after swearing twice. Every player in this acting ensemble served their part in making a phenomenal (used that word already) picture, and major credit is due to the director of the film who guided them to being exceptional. Making Madea act well is a feat worthy of at least a fucking Best Director nomination, yes? Crude language for a deteriorating Academy of so-called cinematic excellence. What makes Gone Girl a truly unique and magnificent cinematic experience is the daunting suspense, executed with finesse by director David Fincher and perfected by both the chilling screenplay/story and the actors. Enough said. For you consideration. Let's revive the golden age of Academy Award history.

Well, I wrote way more than I intended, which is a fantastic feeling I must say. Feeling great right now, damn. I'm not through yet though--now for the Oscar predictions. Pretty obvious, the way I see it, but I'll go ahead and use pictures to illustrate my points again.

The Oscar for Best Picture will go to... Birdman. Why this for my prediction? That caption on the poster says it all, am I right?

The Oscar for Best Actor will go to... Michael Keaton for Birdman. This image expresses how I feel toward this inevitably accurate prediction.
The Oscar for Best Actress will go to... Julianne Moore for Still Alice. She looks about as confused as I am as to why she's even nominated, let alone a potential winner.
The Oscar for Best Supporting Actor will go to... J.K. Simmons for Whiplash. I haven't seen the movie, but I am glad that he's finally getting some recognition for his strong acting skills. Want more proof? Watch Oz from beginning to end.
The Oscar for Best Supporting Actress will go to... Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Couldn't care less, not much competition anyway.
The Oscars for Best Picture and Best Directing should go to... Gone Girl and David Fincher for directing. If only they were nominated...
The Oscar for Best Actress should go to... Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl. I think I made my point earlier.
The Oscar for Best Actor should go to... Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Academy already snubbed him for Schindler's List. Now they don't even give him a chance. Goddamn Academy.
Edward Norton should just get an Oscar for something he did this year. Even Birdman would be okay.
This is her nineteenth nomination. Of course she deserves each and every one because she is the actress of this lifetime. Just wanted to say: wow.
Goodness gracious. I am quite the Productive Penelope today. Or rather Busy Betsy. Vigorous Veronica, there we go. It has been a sincere pleasure writing today, all day long. I really miss writing how I think because, up until this point, my thoughts have been scattered around my head. In addition to heavy college coursework, my brain is befuddled with my passions and my responsibilities. It's good to have a bit of mental release. Here's hoping that the urge to write will hit me more often. As I've said, it feels amazing. Have a productive and merry new year! Until next time.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ted Bundy: Monster of the Century

I'd like to start off by saying: Yes, I am back. Granted, this may be an isolated post, as I am still as busy as I have been for the past several months. Busy with what, I'll let you wonder. I still aspire to become a forensic psychologist/psychiatrist (whichever comes easier to achieve), so writing film reviews is merely a waste of my talent--I just choked on those words! How dare I say writing about film is a waste! And what nerve I have to call my writing ability a "talent". How utterly vain of me. Didn't you miss me?

The purpose of this post is to share an insight. This might be an idea scattered across Internet forums from eclectic, unknown sources, but I figured I should join in the crowd, if there is indeed a crowd to follow. In my typical weekend occupation of studying crime and notorious killers, I found a documentary about Ted Bundy on YouTube called "Serial Killer ~ Ted Bundy (Documentary)". It is a very interesting video, though not thoroughly thorough. The one impression it left with me--so far, at least, for I am watching it as I type--was who Ted Bundy resembled. Not only did he resemble a certain someone, I see an uncanny look-a-like actor. This implies an opportunity to make a real Hollywood film about the most infamous serial killer in American history, since the actor in question is very much prevalent and at the ripe age to portray Ted Bundy. Enough beating around the bush…

Ted Bundy

Michael Fassbender

Need I say more? Of course, I may have exaggerated when I said "uncanny", as I tend to do, but this is still a pretty good resemblance. Rarely do actors look exactly like another person. (See: Jim Morrison and Val Kilmer; Lee Harvey Oswald and Gary Oldman.) Because Bundy often changed his appearance on various whims, Michael Fassbender could have fun as a chameleon in this role, which helps him pull off the look-a-like scale all the more. Aside from the resemblance, Michael Fassbender can, for lack of a better phrase, play the shit out of this role. Actually, there is a more appropriate way of arranging that statement: Michael Fassbender can give a remarkable performance as the sadistic psychopath. He would extend upon his performance in 12 Years a Slave, most definitely, because he would, hopefully, be directed by a more adept filmmaker. (Steve McQueen is no such filmmaker. Dreadful.) There are plenty of fine directors out there who could make a phenomenal biopic about Ted Bundy, one that is not straight-to-DVD (i.e., watched by no one) but one that is released internationally in theaters.

Ted Bundy is an individual whose story, originally, shocked the nation; however, the story only reaches those interested enough to browse Wikipedia for pertinent information, such as myself and other freaks out there. If you don't already know, Ted Bundy was a serial killer who terrified the Pacific Northwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. His victims were young women and even young girls. His youngest known victims were each twelve years old, one of which, named Kimberly Leach, is the one that sentenced him to death in 1980. In 1978, he was sentenced to death, also, for the brutal murders of two Florida college students. Three death sentences! He finally died by electric chair on January 24, 1989--an astonishing ten years later. I say "astonishing" because such a horrific monster should be killed on the spot. Such people, if you can call them that, do not deserve lifetime rehabilitation because they are unable to be mentally reformed. Nevertheless, he was indeed executed, albeit much later than wanted. Beyond the twenty identified victims, Bundy is suspected of murdering countless other women. Also, he has claimed that after burying his victims in scattered wooded spots, he would visit their corpses and perform sexual acts on the decomposing bodies. If that isn't incentive for the sick freaks of Hollywood to make a profit on the public's equally sick obsession of crimes, I don't know what is. This picture depicting America's most lurid serial killer has to be made. Period.

As I said, this post might be one of very few in the year. We are nearly halfway into 2014, and this is my first post since August of last year. Shoot, I sure made those who actually read this wait a heck of a long time, huh? In case you were wondering just how I am doing, I'd say fantastic. I committed to a university a couple of weeks ago, and given the fact that Ted Bundy murdered many college girls, I'll keep quiet on where I'll be going. Just in case. What I will say is that I was given a full ride there, as well as accepted into the Honors program that will send me studying abroad for free also. Boom. In recent news, I was given a black eye two days ago during an unnecessarily violent game of Frisbee. As I was reaching to catch the flying disc of doom, a player on the opposing team whacked it away from me, ricocheting into my eye somehow. It hurt, to say the least, and now people ask what my boyfriend did to me. Only thing is, I don't have a boyfriend, so the joke is on them! I'm so lonely. Prom is less than a month away, and I have my dress from Macy's and, again, no date. Not an invitation by the way.

For the time being, farewell. I hope to frequent this blog of mine more often! So long!

For your consideration...



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Psychopathy: A New Ambition

Greetings and salutations. Yes, my writing frequency has dreadfully declined to a major low. Logging into my Google account, I saw the viewership line-graph go from high to low. That was not easy to see, but I am not too bothered by it. Please do not consider this my retirement--boy, shouldn't have opened with that--but as a disclosure of my new calling. Rather than becoming a film critic as previously planned, I have a new career path in mind: criminal psychology. Compelling change of pace, I realize that, but it is something that I am undoubtedly passionate about. I came upon this stunning revelation after watching one of the most renowned films of all-time The Silence of the Lambs. Shocking that I am watching it for the first time, isn't it? Well, I've been told by my dad that it did not live up to the hype. While he was partially correct, in that it certainly does not live up to the hype, the film did push me towards accepting my fate in the world, as well as helping me settle on a major for college. For old times sakes, I think I'll critique the lauded picture.

The Silence of the Lambs, as many are already aware, has been deemed the greatest suspense of all time, trumping such marvelous films as The Shining and a little unknown gem called Running Scared, starring Paul Walker and Vera Farmiga. (Seriously, look that baby up. Yeah, baby.) It has won numerous accolades, including Best Picture (stealing from Bugsy) and Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins (again, stealing from Warren Beatty for Bugsy). The film holds the prestigious honor for the top villain in film by the American Film Institute, the recipient being Anthony Hopkins for his mediocre portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. More on that later. The film itself was nothing extraordinary, in today's terms at least. Considering the time in which it was released, I suppose that it was pretty ground-breaking, since the last major thriller to get Oscar prestige was The Exorcist. Gag. Other thrillers of that geeky 1970s era include Jaws (another Oscar nominee), The Omen (which does have a truly frightening premise, I'll admit), Carrie, and Halloween. Beyond that, more of these gory, sensationalistic "slasher fests" terrified audiences with their red-paint blood and creepy mascots of fear, such as Michael Myers and Leatherface. These were, in no way, truly haunting, for they did not really leave a mark on the minds of viewers. The only Master of Horror prior to 1991 was Sir Alfred Hitchcock, but even his films have an element of fantasy that viewers realize and therefore do not dread. (Aside from Psycho, the absolute top film on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills list. That shower scene....) Indeed, until the release of The Silence of the Lambs, ordinary moviegoers did not shiver in genuine fear as they beheld the silver screen.
The film introduced a new brand of villainy and suspense to the world, that of the psyches of serial killers. Ah, the serial killer. Here is where my newfound path begins. I am absolutely mesmerized by these ghoulish fiends to humanity and to society. Criminals who take pleasure in mutilating their victims; who prey on innocent people that are just living through their day-to-day routines; and those who show no remorse for their awful deeds. It's a chilling, twisted experience to read about these people on Wikipedia, every detail of their spree engaging me more and more into this field of the human psyche. Hence, psychology. Hence, my desire to pursue this interest in the form of a career and a way to make money. Ka-ching, if you know what I mean. Anyway, the serial killer is the most sadistic, horrifying villains to be depicted on the screen, in my opinion, and when I heard that Hannibal Lecter was the villain of that sort, well, I became intrigued. Aroused, even. (Not really. That would be weird.)

Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. Renowned doctor of psychiatry and intellectual extraordinaire. He induces fear and uncomfortable ecstasy into those who stimulates him. Uncomfortable ecstasy is my way of describing the inherent interest in the serial killer; that strange curiosity into their manner that is challenged when being in their presence. Sure, I find Charles Manson interesting, but I wouldn't be too keen on sitting in front of him, even if there is glass between us. (He is currently serving a life sentence in California State Prison in Corcoran, if you want to visit him.) Interviewing serial killers is not a breezy feat--that is, a feat you can breeze through without mental and emotional difficulty--though Special Agent Clarice Starling seems up to the challenge.
Portrayed by Jodie Foster, an actress I've come to respect on account of her sweet devotion to Mel Gibson who is a great actor despite ongoing denunciations, Clarice Starling is the typical "woman in a man's world", that world being the dangerous one of crime and the FBI. Female body inspector? Get out of town, that's outrageous. As a suspected member of the homosexual community, Jodie Foster applies a serious, sex-less demeanor to the role quite well, remaining completely professional in every instance of her investigation. Unlike most feministic characters, I am not annoyed by Clarice, in fact I am inspired by her. (New career path? She's my role model.) Her performance is one of solemn competence, giving off the persona of a federal agent, with a disturbing agenda, determined to uncover every aspect of every detail to catch her criminal. The criminal, as I once thought, is not Hannibal Lecter. He is already apprehended, interestingly enough, and he is the subject of Clarice's research into the actual killer-at-large. His name is Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb. And he is truly terrifying. Back to the "real" villain here, Hannibal Lecter did not appear as perverse and demented as I had expected. Eating people, albeit demented, is not as gruesome as, say, skinning people and wearing them, which is what--spoiler alert--Buffalo Bill does.
As for the personality and behavior of Hannibal Lecter, all I can say for flattery is that Anthony Hopkins did a good job. That isn't much flattery, mind you. Sure, he pulls off that creepy vibe honed by serial killers of his breed, but to be named the greatest cinematic villain and receive immense praise is uncalled for. I found Warren Beatty's insane portrayal of Bugsy far more compelling. Also, relating to the Oscars, Anthony Hopkins received the statuette for a mere [blank] minutes in the movie--a disappointing, in terms of expectations, few minutes. If anything, he should have been Best Supporting. There should be a rule for what constitutes a leading role and supporting role, like a time limit. Why is there no such rule? I'd also like to mention that, while Anthony Hopkins's performance may have been captivating and brilliant twenty years ago, it no longer has that impressive gleam to it now; Warren Beatty's performance, however, remains the fantastic performance it was then. That, my dear, is the director's commitment to the audience: to make a film that endures throughout time, unaffected by changes in society or general viewpoints.

My, I am just jumping from one factor to another. As for the true villain of Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill clearly surpasses the Cannibal in terms of psychosis and modus operandi. He is played by Ted Levine, who is singularly well-known for this role, and the relatively unknown actor is superb. Since I am so intrigued by the methods and executions of serial killers, I'll describe them. Like the infamous Ted Bundy, he pretends to be handicapped in order to lure his victims into his ominous van. These victims are, generally, overweight and female. Once he captures them, he imprisons them in his cavernous basement, trapped in a deep pit with negligible care. He keeps them there for several days before skinning them alive, which, obviously, kills them. His reason for murdering these overweight girls is to create a human-flesh body suit that he would wear, and, ultimately, to become a woman. Most serial killers suffer from severe mental disorders, so what Buffalo Bill clearly has a problem with is his identity, who he is. Unhappy with his male persona, he believes he can be happy as a woman. To carry out this mission to joy, he skins women with extra skin. In the film, he does actually fashion his flesh suit-in-progress, which is, truly, a scene to behold and abhor. That is the work of adept horror filmmaking. Not only does this disturb on a physical level, but on a psychological level as well. Ted Levine portrays Buffalo Bill flawlessly, emitting a certain redneck "charm" that is common among deeply troubled criminals and murderers. I consider him the true villain of the movie because of what he does, in reality, on the screen--rarely have I seen such twisted horror in a film. With Hannibal Lecter, on the other hand, what he does is only hinted at, for the most part. Of course, there is the scene where he attacks two guards, beginning his feast of flesh. Although it is startling, I find Buffalo Bill to be a tad more sadistic and more worthy of the acclaim. (Not even a Supporting nod? Come on, Academy.) Also, it seems that Hannibal Lecter chooses his victims based on their manners and etiquette. He kills only those who are openly rude and disrespectful, such as the prisoner who makes lewd gestures to his beloved Clarice. This judgement, as always, is a matter of opinion. Though I must admit that, when Hannibal hisses Clarice's name, I do get chills.

Unrealized triumph--a Best Actor, robbed.
Warren Beatty in Bugsy


Completely unrelated note: Anthony Hopkins once said, regarding Shirley MacLaine, that she is "the most obnoxious actress I've ever worked with". Interesting, yes?

As much of a success Silence of the Lambs was, it is only customary that there be a sequel, and perhaps even a prequel, to further explore the mind of Hannibal Lecter. In the sequel, Hannibal, Clarice and he meet again. Only this time, instead of Jodie Foster, it's Julianne Moore. Strange and disconcerting as it is, the film immediately lost some appeal. To change such an iconic character is very frustrating, especially to the many admirers of Silence of the Lambs. I wasn't that impressed by it, but even I found it difficult to watch Hannibal. The plot is not as engrossing as with Buffalo Bill, but it is, nevertheless, adequate. Hannibal Lecter, escaped from the confines of prison, is residing in Italy, where he continues to satisfy his appetite for human flesh, I assume. The main idea revolve around Mason Verger (played by an unrecognizable Gary Oldman) who once encountered Dr. Lecter, and, as a result, he no longer has a face. Hannibal forced him to cut off his face and feed it to his dogs. Allow me to reiterate: He cut off his own face and fed it to his dogs. Does this make Hannibal Lecter the greatest villain, you may ask? It does not because Mason Verger was a pedophile, which I consider to be one of the worst crimes to be guilty of. Therefore, Hannibal was doing justice, making him, not a villain, but some sort of anti-hero. Once again, Hannibal is trumped by a supporting maniac.

What's different in this film, in addition to everything else, is the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. While in Silence of the Lambs the two shared an eerie bond that formed out of each of their own mutual curiosities, Hannibal depicts them as being star-crossed lovers, in a way. It's as if Hannibal is actually in love with her, not sadistically, but affectionately so. They even share a kiss on screen. Eww. It was an unusual, and unwelcome, twist in the story, one that I was not fond of. Ray Liotta co-stars in the film--whatever happened to him?--as Clarice's colleague who "has 'it' in for her" but really looks down on her because she is a "woman in a man's world". I thought I should bring up his appearance in the film, for he is the center of one of the most gruesome, graphic displays I've ever seen on the screen. Warning for spoilers: Hannibal sedates him, allowing him to cut open his head and cook pieces of his brain. And feeds those cooked pieces to Ray Liotta himself. Even retelling this triggers acid reflux and head pains. The horror.


I prefer Silence of the Lambs, as many definitely do, because it is more subtle and tasteful when it comes to the macabre genre. Hannibal Lecter is more eloquent, refined, and sadistic there. Clarice Starling is Jodie Foster. Buffalo Bill is unquestionably superior to Mason Verger, as great a villain Gary Oldman is. And the entire films as a concept is more appealing to me in terms of psychology. Because of Silence of the Lambs, I have the motivation and desire to fulfill the possibility of becoming a criminal psychologist/psychiatrist.

I certainly hope I brightened your evenings with this post. Mine sure was. Even though I have a new ambition for the future, I will continue to write on this here blog. And although I seem to be writing only once or twice a month, I do enjoy it when I do. Write. With my final year in high school approaching, I only hope that I can write as often as I possibly can. College application time is stressful. I should have worked on that rather than share my plans with you, but it was refreshing to write about movies. I still watch several movies a week. When I'm not watching movies or planning for the future? Previously on Desperate Housewives....