Tag Archives: cinema

Get Out, Get Out, Get Out

It is a daunting endeavor to speak in depth about the brilliance of Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut Get Out (2017) without major spoilers, thus, this post will focus less on plot and more on mise-en-scene and tone.  The trailer sets up the premise quite well, leaving no doubt as to the escalating tension that the audience can expect (but it also includes moments that didn’t make it to the final cut):

When I’d initially read about this film and watched a trailer, I thought it would be scary-and-funny the way the Scary Movies are scary and funny.  I also anticipated a “final girl” motif … except that it would be “final black guy.”  After watching the film today, I realized my assessment wasn’t inaccurate but needed some adjustment.  The events in Get Out take place over a weekend where Rose (Allison Williams) takes her boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her family.  It quickly becomes apparent that something is amiss with the atmosphere around the house and Chris is uncomfortable.

The film is both humorous and horrifying but not due to crude jokes, paranormal activity or extreme body trauma.  The foreboding and psychological terror reminds me of Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968) — things appear normal on the surface but something is clearly wrong.


Tragedy and comedy are frequently cited as two sides of the same coin, and as Get Out suggests, horror is a substantial player in that relationship.  If you’ve seen any of Key and Peele‘s skits or Keanu (Peter Atencio, 2016), you’ll be familiar with the sinister-meets-silly quality of Jordan Peele’s humor.  The laughs come because of genuine comedy as well as the dynamic between horror and comedy.  Within the story world, the actions and beliefs of certain characters is the source of terror.  If read ideologically, one can find a reflection or criticism of society.  It’s not the monsters and the ghosts that are scary — real life is scary.  Ostensibly normal situations with just the right amount of distortion or anachronism generates a sense of dread that no long-haired Asian girl or exploding light fixtures can.

As a cinematic experience, the music and sound design create a visceral reaction akin to watching a monster film or slasher film.  Audible jump scares, dissonant juxtapositions between sight and sound.

Because I don’t want to get into even minor spoilers, I’ll leave you with a list of observations and miscellany:

~ Microsoft and Bing branding.  We got lots of close-ups.
~ So, not all TSA agents are misguided?
~ Jordan Peele wrote the screenplay as well and there was only one close-up that made me think what we see would be important later on…and it wasn’t.  Deleted scene maybe.  Many other visual elements come back together for the big reveal.
~ The film shapes very specifically the viewer’s perception of the characters along the way until such time that the narrative unveils true motives.  You don’t get to “figure things out” necessarily before the characters do.

NFC Divisional: Falcons pluck the Seahawks with Elle

The Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons NFC divisional game started twenty minutes after the 4:10 pm showing of Paul Verhoeven‘s award-winning psychological drama Elle (2016).*  And why would I opt to watch the film over seeing the entire game between Seattle and Atlanta?  Well, I’ve been wanting to watch Elle for several months and I knew the fourth quarter would still be happening after the movie and I could get myself to a TV.


I have loved Isabelle Huppert since the moment I watched Hal Hartley‘s Amateur (1994).  She played a woman who went from being a nun to writing erotica.  Something about that premise fascinated me.

Likewise, the premise of Elle intrigued me too.  Huppert portrays a woman who is raped in her house while her grey cat watches (and then leaves before the crime is completed), but instead of turning into a shriveling, paranoid victim, she metabolizes the trauma with subversive rationale and emotional/psychological deviance.

Beyond the basic story-line, I was pleasantly surprised to see that her character was  co-owner of a video game publishing company.  She wasn’t a housewife or a teacher or a high end fashion consultant.  Any more discussion will lead to minor spoilers, so highlight the relevant words at your own discretion.  Verhoeven’s adaptation of  Phillipe Dijan‘s novel Oh… could be interpreted to suggest that a rape fantasy is something that women in general would grow to want if she is willing to sleep with her friend and business partner’s husband because he was there and she wanted to get laid.  Or that just because a woman doesn’t become a broken, ruined creature, that physical violation isn’t that big of a deal.  It is tempting to make such an assertion…or to focus on her character’s inability to have a “normal” reaction to being raped (depression, anger, fear, vulnerability) on account of what her dad did when she was ten years-old that got him locked up in prison.

These interpretations are easy to make, but misses the mark of the character’s narrative and thematic arc.  She colors outside the lines and doesn’t behave as expected and whatever motivates her to act as she does or to think as she does throughout the film, she is purposeful and consequential.  Moreover, her reactions present a perspective on how to make sense of (or pervert) the offender-victim dynamic, especially when the film reveals the identity of her rapist.   Either you, the viewer, knew it all along or figured it out based on formal and plot elements.



And, I was right.  The fourth quarter had just begun when I got to a TV after the movie ended.   I started watching the game (broadcast on Fox and narrated by John Lynch and Kevin Burkhardt) about halfway into the fourth quarter and the Falcons had 29 points to the Seahawks’ 13.  Over the next nine minutes, though not in this exact order, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted twice (the first time directly into the arms of Falcons safety Allen Ricardo, the second time indirectly into the hands of Falcons linebacker Deion Jones) and threw a touchdown pass (caught by wide receiver Doug Baldwin); Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and two 1st and goal complete passes (one of them caught by wide receiver Julio Jones).

The Falcons beat the Seahawks.  36 to 20. Final score.  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

*It isn’t drama quite in the way American dramas are drama — 98% seriousness with maybe a laugh or two.  Elle is quite comical throughout the film in dialogue and reality-of-the-situation tone.  I watched the film with at least twenty other people and everyone chuckled and laughed at the intended moments.  The more I think about it, the more I detect a satirical angle.

Cinema 2017

I came across this link to Playlist.net’s 100 anticipated films of 2017.

Here are the films I want to watch next year:

The Dark Tower
In The Fade (so I can hear Diane Kruger speak German)
Alien: Covenant
Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets
Wonder Woman
The Dinner
The Book of Henry
Paddington 2
Dark River
It Comes at Night
The Discovery
Wind River
Guardians of the Galazy Vol. 2
John Wick: Chapter 2
Ismael’s Ghosts
The LEGO Batman Movie
Vox Lux
Thor: Ragnarok
Get Out
T2: Trainspotting
Lean on Pete
The Shape of Water
Logan Lucky
The Snowman
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The Beguiled
Star Wars: Episode VIII
Blade Runner 2049

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Be Safe and Wild

But not so safe that you fear the wild or so wild that you become averse to the need to feel safe.

Carol White is sick.  Too much milk, too much fruit, chemicals in the air, fumes from large trucks.  Carol White is stressed.  And tired all of the time.  Does she know why?  Does anyone know why?  Self-estrangement calls for self-love and distance from the asphalt/plastic/toxic things that have come to surround us.

In another time, Cheryl is desiccated.  Too much mood, too much truth, memories spring up like musical numbers, bruises from a monster backpack.  Cheryl is stressed.  And frustrated all of the time.  She knows why.  For anyone would know why.  Self-destruction is borne out of self-delusion and calls for impermanence and distance from the ego/blame/toxic things that have come to surround us.
Todd Haynes‘s 1995 film Safe has received the Criterion Collection treatment.

Wild (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2014) is out in theatres.

Posters reinterpreted by yours truly, sourced from Amazon and google image search.

The Cinematic Response

The textbook answer for what impact cinema has on humankind is that of guru, lover, muse, family, friend, nurturer, mentor, philosopher, scapegoat, cheerleader, historian, entertainer, and inquisitor.  Movies teach, inspire, document, provoke, terrify, amuse, comfort, distract, and hypothesize.

I studied film in college and graduate school because movies did all of these to me and more.  They enraptured me when no non-celluloid (or non-literary) person could; they planted tapestries of experiences that my own mind could not conjure.  I wanted to acquire the tools to deconstruct and demythologize the mind and body of this technological, cultural creature.

Five years of proper schooling and many years of movie-going and reflection have brought me to this moment.  Today.  Whereupon a late afternoon screening of Hector and the Search for Happiness (Peter Chelsom, 2014) has helped me realize that cinema for me has always been about the access point to the ways in which other people think about, see, and taste reality.

Even taking into account my bias towards any of the cast members or that I still enjoy watching movies for amusement, it’s cinema’s role as portal to another person’s perspectives that reach into my innards and push and pull at sinews and mitochondrial DNA.*  Cue my favorite filmmakers: Whit Stillman, Hal Hartley, Stanley Donen, Ang Lee, Dario Argento, Wong Kar-Wai, Claire Denis, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Tarsem Singh, and Mira Nair among others.

I’m becoming keenly aware as well that this response that I have is not limited to audiovisual media experienced via theatre, television, or disc.  People who publish/distribute their creative works online taps into the same pool.  Enter: Beckie0, MayBaby, the Fung Brothers, QworterLifeCrisis, Daniela Andrade, Marie Digby, admiral potato, and pascal campion among others.

The premise of Hector and the Search for Happiness is literally in the title.  It’s based on Francois LeLord’s book (Le voyage d’Hector ou la recherche de bonheur) and achieves a clever pinch of profound introspection, anxiety, and humor.

As for how I see and taste reality?
On a bad day:

On a good day:

In the most authentic way, my child self, who stands in front of flamingos and proclaims, “What’s the big deal? Que sera sera.”  I loved this jacket.  So comfortable, so many pockets.


* Music and literature produce analogous effects.