The emotional climax and the breaking point of Spike Jonze’s 2013 romantic science-fiction drama film Her, is a rather silent, smaller one: there are no fights, no raised voices, no unexpected car accidents. Its visual and audial qualities provide two very different realities: the former is muted in its similar world of addiction and isolation — maybe not even that different from our society, while the latter literally explodes in itself with emotional connection and sensuality. In what can only be described as the portrayal of the weirdest, yet still purest for some, form of human connection; the male protagonist Theodore Twombly, who is played by Joaquin Phoenix in a remarkable performance, sits on the stairs of the subway of the futuristic Los Angeles that the movie is set in, asking simple, yes-or-no type questions to the voice planted in his ears. On the other side of the picture is Samantha, a talking operating system with artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johansson, answering slowly. Johansson’s signature tone is soothing, an invisible yet undeniable veil between what is designed and what is felt within the code-based existence of her character. Continue reading “Throwback Review: “Her” & The Mechanics of Human Condition”
On December 13, 2013, American singer Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth body of work, along with visuals dedicated to each song, was released in the early hours of the morning without any prior announcement or promotion, exclusively on the iTunes Store — in a move following the footsteps of David Bowie, who himself had launched his comeback single, Where Are We Now, without any prior warning during the January of the same year. “I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” she commented on her unexpected business technique. “I am bored with that.” The album went on the sale 617,000 copies in the United States in its first three days of availability, becoming the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store up to that point.
More than four years later, popular American film director Ava DuVernay tweeted that, quote, “#FilmTwitter is going to explode tonight. Something is coming that I can hardly believe. Lawd. History in the making.” Just hours later, Netflix announced during the Super Bowl LII that it would be dropping the latest entry to the J. J. Abrams’ science-fiction horror series Cloverfield, titled “Cloverfield Paradox” immediately after the game.
DuVernay commented on that “something”, now revealed to be the movie, again after the announcement on her Twitter account: “No advance press, ads, trailer. Straight to the people. Gamechanger.”
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is not your typical horror movie. It is not your typical movie in any sense, to be completely honest, but regardless — it is a great one.
Directed and written by Ana Lily Amirpour as her first feautre-lenght film, the 2014 made A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Dokhtari dar šab tanhâ be xâne miravad in its original language, Persian) can be described as a thrilling romance as much as it can be described as an arthouse horror flick. A movie comprised of extremely familiar beats matched up in a completely alienating form, it is shot entirely in black and white, has few lines — that are all spoken in Farsi — in it, and is powered by the performances of a practically unknown cast. As an “Iranian vampire Western”, it is first of its kind, and thus exist on an uncharted territory of filmmaking that makes it extremely hard to be defined or placed within borders. It is also metatextual take upon voyeurism and surveillance thanks to its use of a single cat, but that is an absolutely different perspective of criticism that belongs to an absolutely different piece.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is also a movie that creates space for important conversations on issues such as conservatism, patriarchy, female rage, sexuality and cultural isolation.
* This piece contains spoilers on the endings of Del Toro’s 2006 work Pan’s Labyrinth, 2015 work Crimson Peak and 2017 work Shape of Water.
My relationship with literature long before I knew how to read, with my mother taking at least half an hour of her night before my bedtime to read me stories. There was never a single night lacking the sound of turning pages and her raspy yet sweet voice; no matter how tired or sad she was, my mother would knock on my door exacly at nine thirthy, and we would spend our little quality time together until I fell asleep in her arms. And if there’s one reason that I became an avid reader, a maybe-future writer, a literature student: it is because of her, and her efforts.
This, of course, also meant that as I grew older and older, our libraries merged into one, too. Of course, there wwere my populist fantasy series — looking at you Harry Potter and Twilight —, which I would read even on my way to home from school while walking, and there were her thick, old looking books from Turkish novelists. Somewhere in the middle, just after I became a highschool student and started one of the hardest periods of my teenage years, I started picking up books from her side of the shelves. Then came Paul Coelho and Isabel Allende, Camus and Christie, Le Guin and Kafka, but most important of them all, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He was the favorite writer of my mother, and he quickly became mine too. His writing style, even when translated, had the power to carry me from my reality to another one; one that still seemed so close yet so far away, a purgatory between reality and dream. As I learned later later, this was called magical realism, a very popular type of fiction from Latin American literature that was known for its merging of fantasy elements with otherwise “normal” settings.
From its first moments, The Assassination Of Gianni Versace proudly declares what kind of a show that is going to be: a silent storm of destruction, a captivating journey of demise and a battlefield of identity and fear, in all honesty, without any second guesses about its purpose of existence on the land of television in 2018. After a title card quickly reads the date “July 15, 1997” and gives the location information of “Miami Beach, Florida”, the camera starts to follow two very opposite lives two very different men, as a familiar tune of classical music; Adagio in G Minor, as arranged by show composer Mac Quayle; plays on the background, creating a sense of connection between their stories — but even more importantly an atmosphere of tragedy. One of them is Gianni Versace, the renowned creative director of that world famous brand; and the other is Andrew Cunanan, the serial killer who has killed at least five people during a three-month period in mid-1997. Versace clothes himself in expensive silk and salutes his many servants, while Cunanan sits by the beach, a gun in his bag. The former’s daily routine of taking medicine overlaps with the latter’s screams into the ocean, and Gianni buys magazines while Andrew pukes into a public toilet, his eyes gazing on a single sentence written on the bathroom stall. Their geographical closeness plays into this too, as the viewers are met with how much can change in just minutes apart of each other.
Most relationships have expiry dates written on them. Some you see right away, and others reveal themselves over time.
It is a weird and sometimes alienating concept you get yourself into in your twenties — where you learn that the hyper-real world of happy endings and lucky coincidences you’ve been showered by television series and movies might not be all that true, and that people break: sometimes with a mature talk, sometimes in the messiest way possible; sometimes they are one sided, and in other times no conversation is needed. After a little time, you start to think of the probable outcome that you’re going to be alone all your life, but you keep hanging in there, in hopes of meeting the one that will make all those that came before just a worn out memory. You go on Tinder, you go on Grindr, you go on Bumble; you meet people in bars, via friends-of-friends, you answer quick quizzes on dating sites and write about youself, link your social media accounts. One reason behind this is that, along with wanting to expand your chances of finding that one — you also want to speed up the process. In the end, nobody is that in favour of going to a blind date and find out the person you’re meeting with is just not your type: we are busy people, living in a busy world.
* This piece is written as the first part of an ongoing series, “The New Age of 21st Century Television: The Good, The Bad & The Weird”, which will talk about the ongoing transition happening on both little & big screens, and the various factors causing that said transition.
* This piece involves spoilers for the series Lost, Gossip Girl, Glee, Game of Thrones; speculations for Game of Thrones & A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series.
The television — not the actual product that is television, but rather the television as in the programs and series presented in a way known for that said product, of course — is living its golden moment right now. Sure, the viewing percentages might be much lower than what they used to be during the nineties, where there was nothing else to do during a week-night if you weren’t living the lifes shown in, you guessed it, the television: even Game of Thrones, which is undoubtedly today’s biggest TV series when it comes to popularity, isn’t able get the numbers that is needed to crack into the top ten list of the most watched television episodes, which finds its lowest point in Home Improvement’s 35.5 million in 1999 and highest in M*A*S*H’s reported 105.9 million viewers of 1983. The newest entry to that list is 2004’s Friends finale episode “The Last One”, which earned its place in number four thanks to 52.5 million people gathering up to watch it. Game of Thrones, with its ever-expanding viewership on each new episode, has the chance of rise above The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (19.9 million) or maybe Full House (24.3 million) one day, but even that seems like a stretch. But this doesn’t mean that people are not watching television anymore, it just means that they’re not watching it on the actual television.