Writing a review on a biopic is never easy, but writing a review on a biopic about a convicted real-life murderer told from the killer’s point of view might be the most difficult task ever (perhaps not “ever”, but pretty much). Phil Spector, the 2013 TV movie directed by David Mamet based on the 2003 murder of the actress Lana Clarkson in hands of one of the most renowned music producers in the world, is, in my opinion, one of the best TV movies made recently by HBO. Is it accurate? Every party will say it is not for different reasons (I myself am not expert on the trial so I’m not going to judge its accuracy), but truth (THE TRUTH) is not its main goal: “This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.’ It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.” Phil Spector is a fiction that goes beyond the actual events and challenges our perception of objectivity, bias and celebrity culture.
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.
One of the indisputable truths in life is that The Beatles never go out of fashion. This was especially proved last year when the documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years grossed over $12 million at the box office worldwide, which means that despite splitting over 40 years ago, people of all generations still love the Fab Four. It would then be no surprise that the 1964 comedy “mockumentary” A Hard Day’s Night is still wildly popular amongst Beatlemaniacs and just about anyone who likes the Beatles (myself included), but has it stood the test of time?
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.
As you may have noticed if you have been checking Even More Cinema every now and then, I am not the best at posting content super often, especially if I’m studying because, as much as I like writing about movies, one needs to have priorities and writing a post is probably not going to change my life, whereas working on a college paper is, at least, going to make me pass. Why am I even telling you this? Why do you care? Because I believe that talking about Money Monster is worth my time and energy. Because it is not just another Hollywood movie that, no surprise, has been trashed by the critics (especially American critics) and that has performed so bad at the box office people are just making fun of it. I’m not going to say that the movie is fantastic, because it’s not, but it is way better than the public opinion has made you believe…because after all, how many of you have you seen it and how many of you have just been discouraged by the reviews and the general buzz?
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.