The first time I watched Toy Story 2 with my dad, he rose from the couch abruptly to get a glass of water. Jessie, the cowgirl doll, was singing “When She Loved Me,” the bittersweet backstory of her previous owner’s love and the memories they shared, ending with the child outgrowing her and ultimately giving Jessie away to charity in a cardboard box. As I fumbled to pause it so my dad wouldn’t miss anything, I heard a quiet sob from the kitchen. Silence. Then another. I set the remote down; not fully understanding, I let the film keep playing.
While the past few years have helped bring complex and dizzying portraits of women and mothers to the forefront, I am simultaneously and inevitably drawn to the softness and generosity of onscreen father-daughter relationships in 2018. Whether in a tensely-plotted thriller like Searching or A Quiet Place, or a tender, thoughtful character study like Eighth Grade or Leave No Trace, the bond between father and daughter not only helps drive plot, but allows viewers to understand the characters and the ways they acknowledge one another more richly. After all, aren’t love, and paying attention the same thing?
Greek life is a quintessential part of the American college experience. Fraternities and sororities are known for their cult-like behavior, wild parties, and questionable hazing rituals. But rather than questioning this strange societal obsession, it has been widely accepted, and even encouraged because these groups encourage close friendships and offer the promise of potential professional connections. Fraternities are central to teen comedies, from Animal House to Neighbors— they are familiar sight and are the epitome of being a cool guy. But behind closed frat house doors, horrors can unfold. David Robbins’ Pledge captures those horrors, taking what is seen as a normal part of growing up, and pushes it to its gory, terrifying extreme — toxic masculinity is on the chopping block in Pledge. Bordering on torture porn, it questions the forms of masculinity we covet and what that means for anyone that does not fall into that very specific category.
Pledge begins with three awkward college freshmen who, in varying degrees, want nothing more than to rush a fraternity. Rushing means they will be accepted into a sacred brotherhood of booze and hot women. But unfortunately, these boys don’t fit the typical fraternity bill. They aren’t tall or muscular with perfectly-gelled blonde hair, their jokes fall flat, they have no rhythm, and they can’t stomach shots of liquor in rapid succession. They are mercilessly mocked and kicked out of every frat house they enter. Just when they are about to give up hope and resign themselves to a lonely college experience, they’re invited to another kind of rush party. It’s for a social club, which is believed to be much more elite. This all sounds like a setup in a Judd Apatow movie, where the boys will run into a series of hilarious sexual exploits. But then, the sinister undertones start rolling in.
It feels as something has been missing from big studio films in recent memory, at least when you ask general audiences. The kind of archaic, action-heavy and pathos-ridden blockbusters that usually draw many to the theatre, seem to have lost their appeal. In the exact moment where the cinema as an institution has gained a major rival in the form of streaming services, the films that usually gel so well on the big screen, with their opulent production design and their often CG-supported visual grandeur, seem have lost contact to their potential audiences, no matter how visually inventive or audacious they are. Some of these films get a push in the case of a positive critical reception or massive marketing campaigns, but in general, new franchises are hit hard at the box office. Recent examples are plenty and to be fair, many of these films are forgettable. But even films that truly stand out have to take major losses in their cinema runs.
One example is Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow (2014), an action film with a star-studded cast, a talented crew and stellar reviews. It concisely mixed genre conventions into big entertainment — but despite the quality on display and the accessibility in the film’s storytelling, the general public wasn’t interested in seeing it. And while they didn’t get away with a positive critic’s consensus, flopped films such as the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending (2015) and Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) have gained a community of fans, who admire them for their courage to be original in their vision of spectacle and who prevent their names from being forgotten in the flash flood of the contemporary blockbuster landscape. It’s a slightly different story with Mortal Engines — but not all too different.
The base setup of the film is one that seems to be, in theory, a safe bet: produced and co-written by Peter Jackson, who used to be the biggest name of the industry in relation to the type of filmmaking in question, Mortal Engines somehow managed to completely bomb at the box office. It is actually quite a shame, because the film keeps its promise of – big – and manages to possess much more vigor and excitement than the average blockbuster film.
On our Patreon page we set a goal of $75 to start working on our podcast and two months ago we hit that goal, thanks to your help! Every time we gain a new Patron, we come one step closer to saving enough money to pay to our writers. You can help us with as little as $1.
In our third episode podcast host Charlie Dykstal talks with our editor-in-chief Dilara Elbir, editor Mary Beth McAndrews and staff writer Mia Vİcino about their favourite films and performances of 2018 and what they are looking forward to in 2019. Available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher.
2018 has finally come to an end. Despite the political hellfire it raged for its 365-day duration, 2018 brought us films like Shoplifters, Roma, Cold War, The Rider, and Revenge (you can check out all of our favorites of 2018 here). It was a year for badass women on screen. It was a year for horses. But, it was also a year that brought us disappointments and tragedies, such as Green Book and BohemianRhapsody, who both won Golden Globes.
Despite that tragedy, 2019 still holds a treasure trove of cinema, from Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Star Wars: Episode IX to High Life and Jojo Rabbit. Jordan Peele is releasing another horror movie, Edward Cullen is going to space, Isabelle Huppert is going to try and kidnap Chloe Grace Moretz. That’s just a taste of what this year will bring to the big (and sometimes small) screens.
Without further ado, here are our most anticipated films of 2019.
Here it is, the season we all hate to love and love to hate, the Awards Season! Predictions, staying up to watch awards, fighting our favourites until the Oscars when our exhaustion reaches its peak and we all go “I never want to live through another season again!” until the festivals hit and Here We Go Again! Critics circles already started naming their winners but the fun officially starts tonight with Golden Globes. Here at Much Ado we love our predictions so please enjoy reading the winners our hearts desire, and those we think will snatch the award!
In a time of what seems to be around one lesbian film release a month, (bless my little, queer heart) I wanted to draw people’s attention to The Children’s Hour (1961), an American drama based on a 1934 play of the same title by Lilian Hellman. I was first introduced to the film through The Celluloid Closet (1995), a documentary detailing the way LGBTQ+ characters have been represented across cinema, especially Hollywood, up to that point. The protagonists of the story, Martha and Karen, are played by Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn and personally, I couldn’t understand how a queer film starring both actresses had gone over my head. Opinion is divided over whether it counts as a queer film at all but either way, I immediately sought it out. Overall, I must agree with MacLaine’s comment that there would be a “outcry” if the film were released today. As The Celluloid Closet explains, The Children’s Hour comes from a time when the taboos of the Motion Picture Production Code, otherwise known as The Hays Code, were being “whittled away”. Although homosexuality was being talked about on screen, it was only as “something that nice people didn’t talk about”, which clearly positions it as something immoral. Yet I hope to shed some light on why I still have a fondness for the film and view it as an important staple in queer cinema.