‘We the Animals’ Shows How to Learn and Find an Undiscovered Identity

Some of life’s biggest questions can only be answered within yourself. Sometimes these questions are best left answered through a journey of self discovery that attempts to arrange the chaotic unknown. But, that journey is never easy, from struggles at home to alienating yourself from those that could offer help or support. Jeremiah Zagar’s directorial debut We the Animals offers us a comprehensive—sometimes exhaustive— window into a young boy’s own journey of self discovery, how he navigates these big questions, and how they inhabit his deepest sense of self.

The films opens on three brothers —Manny, Joel, Jonah— looking out their bedroom window. Their existence is the center of the film, captivating the audience with an unrelenting view of their reality. These brothers do everything together: they entertain each other, they look out for each other, they look for food in their house together, they steal food at the mini-market together. The film is initially an outlook of poverty, dysfunctional family, sexuality, and the way they all come together to influence one’s growth. Manny, Joel, and Jonah are the kids of Ma and Pa, played by Sheila Vand and Raúl Castillo, respectively. As we watch their parents unravel, the film shifts to the youngest brother, Jonah; he becomes the heart of We the Animals. In inhabiting Jonah’s perspective, we are able to gain a look into his world, his differences within his own family, and how those differences lead to alienation from his family.

The erraticism of Ma and Pa’s relationship is white noise for all the brothers, especially Jonah; it is a common, yet vicious, cycle where the parents quarrel and then Pa leaves. The constant turbulence between Ma and Pa reaches a point where it instead becomes foundational for the toxic masculinity of Jonah’s other two brothers, Manny and Joel. In a pivotal scene where Pa returns after a prolonged absence, the boy’s play turns violent as they hit and scream at their father. The two older boys have grown to possess a Herculean attitude of harshness and viciousness, much like their Pa. Whereas Jonah, who is the only one attentive to their Ma, is gifted her softness and meek demeanour, keeping his feelings to himself. These contrasting attitudes are shown when the family goes swimming in the lake. Jonah and Ma share the inability to swim, but they are still swayed into the lake by Pa. Despite trusting him, Pa lets them go and teaches them how to swim by leaving them in the middle of the lake. A lesson in survival, one would argue, but not for them. This scene is the culmination of Ma and Pa’s erratic relationship.

Continue reading “‘We the Animals’ Shows How to Learn and Find an Undiscovered Identity”

Now Accepting Guest Pieces

Much Ado About Cinema is currently accepting pitches from guest writers. If you’d like to write for us, now is your chance.

Before you email your pitch to Much Ado’s editors, make sure you read and confirm that it adheres to the following guidelines.

  1. Introduce yourself! You do not have to share any personal information that you’re uncomfortable with, but please tell us your name, age, preferred pronouns, and country/area you’re writing from. What writing experience do you have? Are you a student or a professional? Keep in mind that we don’t publish anyone under the age of 18. We publish writers from all around the world and don’t have any restrictions regarding where you reside.
  2. Tell us your pitch. In one to two paragraphs, please explain what it is you want to write and what your angle is. This should not be as simple as a single subject, e.g. “I want to write about Lady Bird.” Be as specific as you can in terms of scope, length, and themes/ideas explored and we’ll be more likely to vibe with your pitch. Your final article/essay can be anywhere from 500 to about 5000 words.
  3. Please be familiar with the writing that Much Ado publishes. We aren’t very narrow in the type of work we like to publish, but we do have a general brand. If you propose an essay or review about something totally outside our wheelhouse, we likely won’t publish it. We also won’t publish something that is almost identical to something we’ve already done (e.g. don’t ask to review a movie we already reviewed at a festival). Search through our site if you’re not sure whether your pitch is new. If you think you have a new take on something we’ve already covered extensively, let us know!
  4. Show us some writing you’ve already done. This can be work published elsewhere online, or personal writing samples you have. They can be academic, professional, or purely creative in nature, whatever you think shows us you can write well and know and film and TV! Include as a link or attachment. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be published before, we just want to see your writing style.
  5. Understand that, at the moment, Much Ado is not capable of paying writers for their work.We do not turn a profit. We currently have a Patreon and Redbubble shop, and all money raised from those locations goes towards site maintenance, helping our regular writers get to festivals, and charity. We’re just over one year old and mostly run by students and young, working class professionals. We’d like to monetize the site eventually, at which point we’d find a way to pay editors and writers!
  6. Email all of this to muchadoaboutcinema@gmail.com. Make sure to title your e-mail “Guest Pitch”. We’ll then contact you within 5-7 business days. Thank you!

Send your pitches by January 1st. We will not respond to any inquiries sent after that date.

Best,

Dilara Elbir, Editor-In-Chief.

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is a Breathtaking Reminder of Why We Love Spider-Man

When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko released “Amazing Fantasy #15” back in 1962, they created a superhero that truly belonged to the people. In a comic scene full of gods and god-like beings enters Peter Parker, a lower-middle-class, adolescent high school nerd with a big heart and a passion for the same superheroes comic readers know and love, taking on the persona of Spider-Man after getting bit by a radioactive—yeah, you know the story, and for good reason. Spider-Man has essentially been the face of Marvel since comics have entered our mainstream popular culture, and after 16 years of cinematic legacy, he’s in no position of slowing down.

spider_man_into_the_spider_verse_dom_tao410.1033_lm_w6_dgordon_cropped.0

Continue reading “‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is a Breathtaking Reminder of Why We Love Spider-Man”

‘Mamma Mia,’ Motherhood and Female Relationships: A Personal Perspective

This piece is by our guest writer, Julia Blackwell.

I am sure that many of you will be well aware of the phenomenon that is Mamma Mia (2008), and its recent sequel Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018), the latter of which I have now watched at least five times. The first film has also had multiple viewings over the years and contains one of my most beloved scenes from cinema. Predictably, I was in tears when Donna (Meryl Streep) sings “Slipping Through My Fingers” to her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). The song expresses a mother’s realisation that her daughter is now growing up and that she has been unable to spend as much time with her as she had planned. In the film, Donna sings it to Sophie as she helps her dress for her wedding, preparing to give her away. Despite her potential fathers telling Sophie they will give her away during a previous scene, Sophie chooses to reach out to her mum. After all, her mum is the person who has supported her throughout her life so far. “Slipping Through My Fingers” plays over Donna and Sophie not just getting dressed, but laughing together and enjoying their time away from the chaos of the rest of the wedding planning.

My mum passed away when I was ten, four years before the release of Mamma Mia and, as I’m sure others who have lost someone close to them will agree, the full impact of that person’s absence rarely hits you right away. For some it can take years to sink in as you gradually adapt to going through your life stages without them and encounter moments when you wish that, at the very least, you could talk to them. This is how I listened to and watched the “Slipping Through My Fingers” scene. For me it awakened moments I will never have with my mum. I don’t have any burning ambition for a wedding day, but I did find myself wanting to curl up next to her and have her paint my nails.

In the years that followed my first viewing of Mamma Mia, important events began happening for me and even though my mum was not around, I was by no means alone as I went through them. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible group of supportive women around me, especially in the wake of other losses. My dad is a wonderful person, but there are certain topics I would never discuss with him. He’s not very good at painting nails either! In Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, it is revealed very early on that Donna has passed away and that Sophie now lives with one of her dads, Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Yet Sam is not the character we see Sophie confide in regarding subjects such as her relationship with her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper). Instead she turns to her mum’s old friends, Tanya and Rosie (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters), who have travelled to Greece to visit her. While there may be men in her life that Sophie can turn to for advice and support, I for one have no interest in listening to Pierce Brosnan wail “Angel Eyes.”

47106548_262618534423182_6458241086321065984_n.jpg

Continue reading “‘Mamma Mia,’ Motherhood and Female Relationships: A Personal Perspective”

VIDEO: Give Your Soul to the Dance – A Tribute to Dance in Film

What better way to send off November than to give your soul to the dance? As you know, we’re big fans of Suspiria here at Much Ado, so I decided to make a compilation dedicated to the beauty of dance throughout cinema. Thom Yorke’s hypnotic song always brings up these images in my head of big ensembles, lavish costumes, and thrilling body movements, so it was simply wonderful to portray that in one of my edits.

Follow us on @muchadocinema on twitter for more content like this!

Female Director Spotlight: Dorothy Arzner and Making Films for Women in the 1930s

Hollywood of the 1920s and 1930s was a male-dominated space, with men like Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir, and countless others receiving credit for their illustrious place in film history. But, one person that film history largely forgets is Dorothy Arzner, who has the largest oeuvre of any woman filmmaker. She was the only female director working during this time and the only female filmmaker whose work moved from the silent era into sound, showing her strength in filmmaking as well as her creativity. But it isn’t just her technical prowess that deserves praise; it is also her desire to portray nuanced and complicated women, rather than the stereotypical women-as-objects seen in that era of cinema. Her films explore women, how they’re represented in classic Hollywood narratives, and how supportive friendships between women flourish, which can be seen in Dance, Girl, Dance. She made films about women for women, and addressed the many facets of being a woman, from societal standing to romantic relationships to what it means to work. Arzner was also a lesbian filmmaker, which can be seen in her critiques of heteronormative relationships and their consequences, particularly in her 1933 film, Christopher Strong.

Despite a prolific career, Arzner is not commonly mentioned with this era of Hollywood cinema and she is rarely studied. I was lucky enough to be introduced to her work by a TA in grad school, who told me only one book has been written on Arzner and how difficult is to find many of her films — only a few of them are available to stream or even purchase. I believe Arzner deserves a larger place in the canon, and more recognition for the types of films she was creating, particularly with her focus on catering to a female spectator. The films I detail below are some of her more easily found work and exemplify Arzner’s key themes around social class, work, friendship, and critiques of heteronormativity.

Continue reading “Female Director Spotlight: Dorothy Arzner and Making Films for Women in the 1930s”

In His Most Self Aware Film Yet, Lars Von Trier Proves He Still Doesn’t Care About Women

It started with laughter and ended with a round of applause. No, this was not a comedy show, but it sure felt like one. This was the screening for the director’s cut of Lars Von Trier’s newest piece of controversy, The House That Jack Built. For two-and-a-half hours, von Trier showcased his latest experiment in misogyny, violence, and stroking his own ego.

The House That Jack Built marks von Trier’s return to filmmaking after being banned from Cannes in 2011 for making comments about sympathizing with Hitler. His newest film documents 12 years in the life of Jack, played by Matt Dillon, and the five incidents that he believes have defined him as a serial killer, as recounted to Verge (Bruno Ganz). These five incidents involve the brutal murder and mutilation of female bodies, save for the last incident. To Jack, these murders are an act of high art, markers of his own intelligence — what he’s doing is not wrong because it is in the name of art. The film follows a Dante-like structure as we traverse through the different incidents like the circles of hell, and perhaps even wander into hell itself.

Continue reading “In His Most Self Aware Film Yet, Lars Von Trier Proves He Still Doesn’t Care About Women”