Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm seeing something that was always hidden. I'm in the middle of a mystery and it's all secret.

Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Year: 2010

Not too long ago, I learned something shocking and upsetting about a friend of mine who I'd met on internet. I've belonged to a community of bloggers that review movies for quite a number of years now, and many times found myself talking to members of the group, and occasionally, this said individual.

Around the time the trailer for Catfish came out, I was given the details from another close friend of mine(also from the community) that this person had not only lied about getting into a car accident, but also about a tumor, among other things, all the while evoking sympathy from all of her friends and the people who found her charming and very fun. The fact that they needed to lie to people who had a) already forged close friendships with her and b)just genuinely liked this person, internet or not was both sad and unfortunate. Her friend list on Facebook is dwindling as a result, but she is still actively online.

I thought directly of this individual when I left my screening of Catfish, tying together both the film that I had just seen and the strange fact that the events of the film connected so deeply to my own life and the people who I've met online. Needless to say, it didn't spur a reevaluation of my internet life, nor did it make me second guess the people I've met through the internet, many of whom are wonderful, beautiful people I've had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with over the years. But what stuck out from Catfish is that, for every normal person we meet on the internet, on Facebook, there is always someone who is not who they appear to be, and sometimes, our realization of this simple truth occurs one step too late.

Not to spoil any details, many of which seeped out from the misleading trailer, but what you need to know about Catfish is that it's a documentary that is stranger than fiction, or is the story too perfect to be true? Needless to say, the film could not have been released at a better time, because the film says so much about the internet and its dark undercurrents, and in the end, we are given a disturbing, but also a comical, poignant and even moving film about how easy it is to be duped and how isolating it can be for someone to live entirely online.

A final note, and this is of key importance: No matter how spooky and hype driven the trailer appears to be, do not under any circumstances see it unless you expect to be gravely disappointed. The PR campaign for this film is quite atrocious, considering the actual content of this film, and for some reason, the mystery that lurks within the crevices of the film are now overblown to Saw like proportions. Catfish is truly a film you need to go in and see without knowing too much about the key points of the movie, and even more important, that you do not go in expecting a horrifying and disturbing horror movie. Yes, it's unsettling in parts, and sometimes it's disquieting how frank the film can get, but going in and expecting a horror show just ruins an aspect of the film. While I will say that I enjoyed the film I saw, it was nothing at all like I had expected, which is a disappointment in itself. But alas, the filmmakers clearly wanted their film to be seen, I just believe that their approach to marketing their documentary is going to leave a large number of film goers unhappy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Flicks Are All Right: Determining the Best Films of 2010 (So Far)

I'm going to have to admit something:

I don't take pleasure out of the conventional summer blockbuster.

And it's not like I'm such a funsucker that I can't enjoy mind candy every now and then. But summer movies...well, let's just say I'm the kind of film goer who doesn't mind sitting in art house movie theaters and watching good old fashioned indies where people are complicated and sad and things work out the way they do in real life.

But every now and again, I love gazing at Joseph Gordon-Levitt fighting baddies without adhering to the laws of gravity.

We can all agree that until September, October at the latest, the truly noteworthy films of the year are not released. But look deeply into the films that have been released thus far in 2010, and you'll find some stellar films to take note of. Here is a rough list of my personal favorites from the past nine months:

1) Dogtooth(Pictured Above)
I was lucky to see Dogtooth at a horror movie film festival this summer, and having seen the film, I refuse to disclose any information other than the bare bones knowledge one must be aware of before seeing the film and messing with their head. The film centers around a nameless family, controlled by a mother and father who have raised their two daughters and son solely in the comfort of their own home, without any contact from the outside world. The parents give their children incorrect grammar lessons, and create different nightmares that lurk outside of their little house. The end result is an almost documentary-like film that is so full of questions and mystery that are thankfully left to the viewer to decide. Certain scenes will have you laughing out of discomfort, while others will have you recoiling in horror. And the final shot is one of the best I've seen in years.

2) Exit Through the Gift Shop
On the flip side of the film spectrum is the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film that feels like a mad cap comedy that is too good to be true. Originally started as a documentary about prominent street artists, including figures like Shepard Fairey and the illusive Banksy, the film takes a 180 degree turn and has Banksy himself telling the story of a man with a camera who wanted to honor the underground art movement/public vandalism project of graffiti art, but ultimately bastardized the artists he so looked up to. Narrated with the crass seriousness of Rhys Ifans, Exit feels larger than life, and we aren't sure if some of the art stunts are truly told as they happened, but that's no matter, because it's a joy to watch them get pulled off. More than a film about graffiti art, it is also an excellent film that debates what good art is, and whether something as shady as street art is truly masterful.

3) Inception
Okay, so maybe the film lacks an emotional core, but whatever, Nolan has hit another film out of the park, and beyond anyone's wildest imaginations. The scenes in this film are breathtakingly beautiful, and quite fantastic to say the least. The action is exciting, full of fight scenes that keep your blood boiling and your heart pounding. Conceptually, it's hair brained: a future where information is extracted from our dreams by dream thieves and used for their benefit. So it's all the more intriguing when the thieves are commissioned to plant information into their subjects heads. Is it perfect? Nope. But this film is just so much damn fun, I can forgive it for all of its flaws and take it for what it is, a popcorn flick that deserves the buzz it receives.

4) Winter's Bone
Ree Dolly is a wise beyond her years seventeen year old girl who lives in the dark and unforgiving Ozarks. Due to her father's complete lack of regard for his family, Ree finds herself raising her two younger siblings while her mother wastes away in their modest cottage. However, Ree's role in her family is made all the more important, when the police tell her that her father is on the run and has put their house on collateral. Simply put, she must find her father before her house gets taken away. The film is dark, and instead of creating a convoluted mystery, the filmmakers decide to dive deeper into the life of the people in this town, and their roles in society. Meth is what ties these sick, sad humans together, and makes Ree's quest even more difficult. Fostered by an unflinching realism, and Oscar caliber roles for Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, as Ree's methed out uncle, Winter's Bone is a taut, frightening, and surprisingly feminist film.

5) Toy Story 3
I'll admit: I sobbed for the last fifteen minutes of this film. The raw emotions, the importance these characters had in my childhood, and the natural and perfectly handled transitioning of the story made this final film in the trilogy a triumphant and captivating film. The story surrounds the toys from the previous installments faced with a strong problem, their owner, Andy, has lost interest in them. It's not hard stuff people, yet the film takes a mature and wonderfully poignant route that leads the toys on a dangerous journey, but in the end, everything feels neatly put together, which is what the films deserve. And I could not have asked for anything more.

6) The Kids are All Right
Take that, homophobes! One of the best and most honest films of the summer centers around a closely united lesbian couple who break their backs to give their children a happy and fulfilling life. Only their sense of normalcy is rocked by the appearance of the man who technically fathered the two kids by way of his sperm. Needless to say, it's a touching film that is easy to relate to, and feels more than appropriate for modern day America to tackle. And you just feel so warm when you leave the theater, it's impossible not to adore.

7) The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
I loved the book when I read it last summer, so naturally, I was shaky as to whether or not the film would be smoothly adapted for the big screen. Thankfully, the Swedes hit the nail right on the head and produced an authentic, taut, frightening, and faithful adaptation of Larsson's novel, making edits where edits are due and casting the right actors for the roles. The crowning joy is Noomi Rapace, whose portrayal of Salander is dead on and full of enough spark and anger to have anyone quake in their boots. It's tough to watch, but thankfully, at least this adaptation doesn't skimp out on the brutality that made the source material so compulsory.

And the Rest of the Films I've Seen: Greenberg(3.5/5), Iron Man 2 (3/5), Howl (4/5), The Girl Who Played with Fire (4.5/5)

Films I'm Looking Forward To (In Order): Catfish, Somewhere, The Social Network, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, True Grit, Hereafte, The Town, Never Let Me Go, and Jack Goes Boating.