Tag Archives: movies

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.

NFL 2016: Falcons peck the Saints and some Hidden Figures for ya

The first film I watched at the theatre this year was Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2017).  It is in my list of favorite films of 2016 (it opened in select theatres on Christmas Day and nationwide on January 6).*  The sports inspirational can be a sub-genre of the biopic, can the science inspirational be one too?  I don’t remember the last time I watched a movie where the audience clapped when the ending credits began.


It’s obvious that the film wants to inspire and bring to light a part of history that many of us may otherwise not have known about, but Hidden Figures also reminds the viewers about the social norms of the times without being too cynical or overly tense.  Archival footage and newsreels serve to ground the film in its historical context while the wardrobe, the set design and the acting highlight the vibrancy and tenacity of smart women who weren’t timid.

A more sobering message, though, is that talent and genius still requires advocates and guides to flourish.  In a Subject-Other/Dominant-Subordinate dynamic, without the support of those with the authority or clout, all the hard work and good manners of the Other wouldn’t get a chance to prove its value.  Even when you’re confident without being arrogant and absolutely deserving of an opportunity (or reward), when was the last time you succeeded in your goal or reached the next outpost without assistance?

Theodore Melfi’s film is based on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s book of the same name.  Read more about it in this NPR article.


In other news, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons had a roll around the gridiron at the Georgia Dome today (the 199th and final regular season game here).  I started watching the game a minute into the fourth quarter — the Falcons were way up with points to the Saints’ 13.  By the bottom of the quarter with less than a minute left in the game, the Saints had decreased that score difference substantially.  Falcons 38 and Saints 32.  Final score.  Get game summary, stats and play-by-play here.


*The others are The Magnificent Seven, Moonlight,  Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, Certain Women, Hell or High Water, Things to Come, and Lion.

NFL 2014: Spending time with Laggies and the Falcons feed it to the Buccaneers

Today’s festivities included a matinee of Laggies (Lynn Shelton, 2014), some pulled pork with sweet potato tots and collard greens, and knowing that the Atlanta Falcons still have some stardust in their eyes.

I had a great cinema-going experience today, partly because I like Keira Knightley and partly because it has been quite a while since the last time I’ve been able to have a movie on a Sunday afternoon.  Sam Rockwell was a scene-stealer; he and Keira produce a kind of screen chemistry I hadn’t thought would be convincing.  Yet, it was quite believable.  Keira’s lip may pout and her nose may scrunch up often — these things she may not consciously be able to stop from doing when delivering lines.  What I like the most about her gestures and expressions is the way she can look at her costar and the viewer knows how much her character has been affected by the person standing before her.

As a film itself, though, there was something missing in the tension and other intangible qualities between the characters.  Laggies is more of a daydream that became some flesh and some blood than a film that germinated from blood and bone from the beginning.

I watched the Atlanta Falcons try to do their thing last season but haven’t done so yet this season until today.  Granted, the last five or so minutes were on one of the flatscreens while I was eating an early dinner, but I did watch them keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from having a chance to win or score again.  The Falcons 21 and the Buccaneers 17.  Final score.

I put up some Christmas decorations tonight.  The little snow children and tree are on display the whole year round, but I put up lights for the first time this year.

Amy Elliot Dunne – Full Tidal

I liked instantly Rosamund Pike when I saw her in Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2004).  An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009), Johnny English (Oliver Parker, 2011), The World’s End (Edgar Wright, 2013), and Hector and the Search for Happiness (Peter Chelsom, 2014) have only reinforced my admiration of her mise-en-scene and talent.

Upon discovering that she would portray Amy Elliot Dunne in David Fincher‘s adaptation of Gillian Flynn‘s novel of the same name, I was determined not to see it.  Why?  I listened to the audio book a few years ago and absolutely despised the character of Amy.  I didn’t want to see Rosamund Pike’s acting abilities make me hate her.  Even though Nick isn’t entirely sympathetic throughout the entire narrative, he is supposed to be the less villainous of the pair.

Nevertheless, I changed my mind and saw it today.  Surprisingly, I did not hate Rosamund Pike afterwards.  I actually found the film more enjoyable than the audio book as it leveled the playing field of character (non)likeability.

For those of you who’ve seen the film, I recommend this article about the concept of “irrelationship,” something that breathes much better in the film than in the book.

While listening to Fiona Apple‘s Tidal album on the way home, the lyrics to every song struck me as quite fitting for the motivations and themes of this story.

The track list:
1.  Sleep to Dream
2.  Sullen Girl
3.  Shadowboxer
4.  Criminal
5.  Slow like Honey
6.  The First Taste
7.  Never Is a Promise
8.  The Child is Gone
9.  Pale September
10.  Carrion

The titles alone correspond to the plot development (though not necessarily in that order).  Observe the lyrics:

I tell you how I feel, but you don’t care
I say tell me the truth, but you don’t dare
You say love is a hell you cannot bear
And I say gimme mine back and then go there – for all I care

I got my feet on the ground
And I don’t go to sleep to dream
You got your head in the clouds
And you’re not at all what you seem
This mind, this body
And this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways
So don’t forget what I told you
Don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise
– Sleep to Dream


Once my lover, now my friend
What a cruel thing to pretend
What a cunning way to condescend
Once my lover, and now my friend

Oh, you creep up like the clouds
And you set my soul at ease
Then you let your love abound
And you bring me to my knees
– Shadowboxer


I’ve been a bad, bad girl
I’ve been careless with a delicate man
And it’s a sad, sad world
When a girl would break a boy
just because she can

Don’t you tell me to deny it,
I’ve done wrong and I wanna suffer for my sins
I’ve come to you
‘Cause I need guidance to be true
And I just don’t know where I can begin
– Criminal


The song that made me do a mental double-take was “Slow like Honey” :

You moved like honey in my dream last night
Yeah, some old fires were burning
You came near to me and you endeared to me
But you couldn’t quite discern me

Does that scare you?
I’ll let you run away
But your heart will not oblige you
You’ll remember me like a melody
Yeah, I’ll haunt the world inside you

And my big secret gonna win you over
Slow like honey, heavy with mood

I’ll let you see me
I’ll covet your regard
I’ll invade your demeanor
And you’ll yield to me like a scent in the breeze
And you’ll wonder what it is about me

It’s my big secret
Keeping you coming
Slow like honey, heavy with mood

Though dreams can be deceiving
Like faces are to hearts
They serve for sweet relieving
When fantasy and reality lie too far apart

So I stretch myself across like a bridge
And I pull you to the edge
And stand there waiting, trying to attain
The end to satisfy the story
Shall I release you? Must I release you?
As I rise to meet my glory

But my big secret
Gonna hover over your life
Gonna keep you reaching
When I’m gone like yesterday
When I’m high like heaven
When I’m strong like music
‘Cause I’m slow like honey, and
Heavy with mood


Pic creds: google image search; movie poster reinterpreted by me.

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.