What makes the film industry different from any other industry? Its power to change people’s lives and shape generations. Every so often a movie comes out that defies the odds – and our preconceived notions – and becomes a cultural phenomenon that goes beyond the screen. This is the case of La Llamada (Holy Camp), which, after becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year in Spain, gets it international release today on Netflix. I’m going to make my point right away, la Llamada needs to become a global phenomenon that goes beyond borders, languages and cultures, as it captures the voice of a new generation of storytellers and moviegoers.
Awards Season is a complicated time of the year, and as much as we love it, we couldn’t do it all year round. And as a matter of fact, we all have mixed feelings about it, as it is impossible to come to an agreement on whether nominations and awards are fair, especially in an industry where publicity and studio power seem to have more weight than actual talent. With Oscar nominations just a few days away, it is a good time to remember one of this year’s biggest snubs: The Big Sick.
Ebbing, Missouri. Foggy morning. Three billboards stand abandoned by the side of a small road. Like a ghost. Martin McDonagh wastes no time setting up the scene of his third feature. After her daughter’s brutal raped and murder remains unresolved for over seven months, Mildred Hayes, a mid-western single mother rents three billboards to call the village’s police force out for their inefficiency: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, “How come Chief Willoughby?”. It is not hard to imagine that we are facing a tale of revenge, outrage and rage. But Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is far from being your typical revenge drama. This is not a story of a heroic mother courage, corrupt police officers and mean villains, you should know that ahead. This is a story that shows what we would be capable of doing in such a terrible situation. This could have been – and probably is – a real story we can all identify with.
I am a firm believer that movies (especially American movies) portraying teenagers and high schools and these sorts of things are usually terribly wrong on so many levels: first of all, most of the actors are not even teenagers (Rachel McAdams was 26 when she played Regina George in Mean Girls), every high school looks the same and relies on the same stereotypes (maybe it’s my European point of view, who knows. Please, don’t take me wrong, I still love Mean Girls (the screenplay is simply brilliant) and I grew up obsessed with High School Musical, but the way these types of films depict high school is simply stereotypical and in a way it makes me feel that whomever wrote or directed them is out of touch with the youth and with the real topic of social anxiety among teenagers. Even movies such as The Duff, which criticizes the way teens who do not fit the mold are simply cast aside by popular teens, ends up being a stereotype blown out of proportions. The idea may be realistic but the “mise en scène” is plain wrong. Which is why The Edge of Seventeen is such an important movie and has simply moved me: it is the most relatable movie that I have ever seen, probably in my whole life.
Films have the power to change people’s perception of life. Cinema is considered a way to see life through somebody else’s eyes and experience things that we would not be able to experience firsthand. Short films have the same power, with the added difficulty that they have to make us feel and experience life in just a few minutes, with just a few shots, and yet they can move us and make us understand characters we hadn’t even met some 10 minutes before. They can teach us invaluable lessons so that even though we may have not lived that experience, we can relate it to our own lives, our own experiences. Stutterer, the first film by Irish writer director Benjamin Cleary and winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, tells a story that goes beyond the screen to tackle a theme at the core of our society: communication.
Short films are the most underrated art form there is: people don’t usually watch them (let it be live action, animation or documentary) and when they are interested in a particular one, it can be extremely difficult to find it on the Internet. As a matter of fact, since I’ve been a film student, the only people I’ve met who are interested in shorts are scholars, cinephiles and students, and even they are turning their backs on this format and try to make feature films in college (as undergraduates, can you believe it??!!). Why is that? I believe it is because short films never get the attention and appreciation they deserve, people don’t want to pay to watch them and it is very unlikely to recover the investment made to produce it. They are seen as a “lesser” production, as something reserved for festivals, but not for the mainstream public. It is like something that students made to learn their craft while hoping to eventually make movies, “real” movies. Well, I disagree: short films are made with extreme precision and craft to make you understand a story, empathize with the characters and, most importantly, make you feel something, in just a few minutes, with a limited number of scenes, characters and means. It’s all about getting to the point in a simple yet complex way, telling a story in the best way possible, without the fare and unnecessary decoration. I’m not saying in any way that making a feature film is easy, not at all, but a longer format gives storytellers more time and more scenes to make you feel everything a short film does in just a few minutes. Timecode, the winner of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film and Oscar nominee, is the perfect example.
“I believe the characters we read on the page become more real than the men who stand beside us”.
If I could sum up Jackie in a quote that would be it. A lot has been said about Jackie, mostly (not to say almost exclusively) about Natalie Portman’s flawless performance. I think Jackie is much more than that, it is an extraordinary biopic (“biopic”) about perception, image creation and the thin line between reality and fiction at a time when most of our contact with reality comes from preconstructed images from the Internet and the media.
With the Oscars just a few days away, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight has garnered unanimous critical acclaim and 8 Academy Award nominations, and though predicted to lose Best Picture Oscar to La La Land (an Academy’s favorite), it is nonetheless a must-see that would have easily won the major award any other year. Jenkins’ exquisite triptych on masculinity, sexuality, love and family is quite the perfect movie.
Kenneth Lonergan’s return to the big screen as both writer and director after a hiatus of five years has come in the form of this independent realistic film called Manchester by the Sea. Reminiscent of his previous works revolving around family drama and complex characters (themes also present in his directorial debut You Can Count On Me), Manchester by the Sea tells the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a janitor who leads a meaningless life, who has to go back to his seaside hometown when his brother Joe dies of a heart disease, making him the legal tutor of his teenage son Patrick.
Following my recently discovered passionate love for Tilda Swinton (after seeing A Bigger Splash), last week I decided to watch one of the films that was on top of my bucket list, We Need to Talk Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011).
I was familiar with it due to my obsession for awards show and the fact that despite being up for all the other awards, Tilda Swinton “lost” her Academy Awards nomination to Rooney Mara (for her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). But, to be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with the film’s plot, except for the brief logline on Netflix (if you are interested in the film, you can find it on Netflix US, and probably in other countries). I have to admit, I am glad I didn’t know much about the film, and, to make sure I do not spoil it for you, at least not too much, I will copy the brief synopsis from Netflix: When her 15-year-old son’s cruel streak erupts into violence, his mother wonders how much blame she deserves for his actions.