You Were Never Really Here: Deconstructing a Traditional Masculine Hero

On the surface, you’ve definitely seen stories similar to You Were Never Really Here before. It follows Joe, an ex-veteran/FBI agent turned vigilante hero. His stoic masculine character trope has been explored in genre thrillers of this kind, such as Drive and most comparatively to Taxi Driver. The former a tired, male fantasy with regressive messages of masculinity and chivalric romance, the latter being an interesting study of masculinity, the main character played by De Niro going on a path to self-destruction to cope with his isolation. These movies both show a celebratory and a critical side to a masculine hero, perspectives both painted by white male directors.

What makes You Were Never Really Here a valuable addition to this canon of masculine genre thrillers, is that it becomes a character study to reveal a new kind of masculinity offered by a female director (Lynne Ramsay) that these previously mentioned films do not offer. But rather than showing a toxic male character on screen and showing his path of destruction like Scorsese did, Ramsay shows a new kind of masculine character under her own perspective. Portrayed with a career best performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joe is a unique character to this genre because while he rescues girls sold off in human trafficking through methods of violence, but he doesn’t revel or indulge in violence. Joe suffers with a life of trauma and seeks heroism to cope with his psychological wounds, and learns what greater responsibility means through his experiences.

SPOILER WARNING

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Coming of Age to Coming Full Circle: An Essay

This essay is by our guest writer, Maddy Lovelace. 

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Amira Casar and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (2017) © Sony Pictures Classics

It is evident in the way Elio Perlman’s entire psyche is altered by mature graduate student Oliver within the summer of 1983 that there is a new funk hidden in this archetype we’ve seen before, possibly a homage to film in previous times that mirrored life and love and sensuality. Director of 2017’s Call me by your name Luca Guadagnino’s direct view of these themes can be attributed to similar work such as James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice, revealing just how impactful an insightful reception of a cinematic journey can be upon a wandering eye. There is a direct link between the lovers in the two films, how they carry their heavy consciousness regarding love around like a summer coat. Coming of age continues to carry this magnified burden of life through the generations, consequently allowing itself to unfold through emerging artist’s diverse and retrospective lenses. In Guadagnino’s usage of Elio’s ambiguous yet direct understanding of his sexuality, he plays to this new medium that audiences of cinema have come to love because they parallel the undertones of the self that linger within the events at hand. Elio is not shocked by the way his love for Oliver takes place so hauntingly because he knew, as audiences come to feel in the film’s soft essence, Elio knows of his truth long before Oliver arrives. Oliver in this sense serves as the catalyst for Elio’s subconscious desires that have been there since the beginning yet remained dormant. Guadagnino captures the fire and flame of Coming of age cinema in his perceptive parallelism to reality. Could this be the new standard for films based on
a shifting point in life?

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Netflix v. Theatrical Release: An Essay

Recently, legendary director Steven Spielberg went on record stating that he believes that films premiered on streaming services like Netflix should be considered TV movies eligible for Emmys rather than Oscars. This topic isn’t new as the Cannes Film Festival has had issues with Netflix Originals. Attempting to differentiate films by their distribution, however, will lead to a dangerous, elitist territory in Hollywood.

 

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The Incredible Jessica James ©Netflix

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The Florida Project: Don’t Let Moonee’s Fortress Deceive You

This essay is by our guest writer, Nina Liang.

As a dweller of this hellhole state, I can assure you that The Florida Project is the only saving grace to come out of Florida since Publix’s BOGO deals. This film truly sets you up for a party-of-one crying fest and leaves you feeling so frustrated, heartbroken, and helpless. At least for me, those were the three most profound emotions I felt during the movie, which is one of the reasons why this film stood out to me. As filmmakers and storytellers like to say, there’s always a truth in every story; however, in a much deeper sense, The Florida Project is more real than you could say about most films because of the subject the film tackles. Many of us can’t say we know what it’s like to really empathize with Moonee’s childhood and yet, somehow it feels as if we’ve lived through it; the struggles of  poverty, an unstable home life, young motherhood – themes that are strongly prevalent in today’s society.

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Willem Dafoe and Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project (2017) © A24

Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), a precocious six-year-old, is a court jester disguised as the princess of the Magic Castle Motel. During her summer break, she and her little groupie go out of their way to cause mayhem for the residents and even manage to light an entire house on fire. However, while Moonee and her friends are off on their crazy adventures, the adults are left to pick up the pieces. At first glance, Moonee seems to only be a force of destruction but we soon realize that she’s learned to mirror this behavior from her young troubled mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). Bobby (Willem Dafoe) the overseer and protector of his royal pink castle acts as a faux guardian to Moonee. He tries to keep everyone in check, but more importantly plays the main father figure role not only to Moonee but to Halley as well. While Moonee seems to be oblivious of the hardships around her, we see the adults dealing with unstable finances, implied drug use, and prostitution.

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Sculpting in Time with Andrei Tarkovsky

This essay is by our guest writer, Vikram Zutshi.

When people first encounter the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, it can feel akin to a religious experience. Time seems to stand still and one beholds the world as if through new eyes. “My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease“ rhapsodized Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. “I felt encountered and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how” he said, adding that “Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

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Andrei Tarkovsky on the set of ‘Stalker’ © Sergey Bessmertniy

Born on April 4th, 1932 in the Yuryevetsky district of Russia, Tarkovsky made only seven films over the course of his career, cut short by terminal cancer on 29th December, 1986. Tarkovsky’s works Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Mirror, and Stalker are regularly listed among the greatest films of all time. After his death, some former KGB agents testified that the director did not die of natural causes but was poisoned to curtail what the Soviet authorities saw as production of anti-Soviet propaganda. The allegations were backed up his doctor.

Tarkovsky came of age as a filmmaker in 1950’s Russia, during a period referred to as the Khrushchev Thaw, during which Soviet society grew more accepting of foreign films, literature and music. He was able to see films of European, American and Japanese directors, an experience which influenced his own ouevre. He soaked up the films of the Italian neo-realists, French New Wave, and of directors such as Kurosawa, Buñuel, Bergman, Bresson, Andrzej Wajda and Mizoguchi.

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Filmmakers Should Learn From Music Videos

I am standing in front of a large screen. Projected on it is David Lynch’s face in a Skype window. I’m at a Q&A. I ask him about dreams.

“I don’t go in so much for dreams,” he tells me. “The thing I love about dreams is dream logic. And by that I mean, in dreams, they can be completely abstract, but you know what they mean. And cinema can say those kind of things. Where it’s a combination of things – pictures and sounds – that conjure something that’s difficult to say with words, but you still can understand it.”

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Why was ‘Ghostwatch’ so successful?

This essay is by our guest writer, Toni Stanger.

Arguably the most fascinating phenomenon within television history is BBC’s Ghostwatch. It first aired on Halloween night in 1992 and never aired again on British television. The BBC kept it buried deep until they released it on VHS ten years later, with the DVD release in 2011. Ghostwatch was a programme with a very simple premise. It was broadcast as live television as its hosts explored the haunting of a very ordinary British family in Greater London. The story was based on the famous Enfield Poltergeist case which also loosely inspired the plot of The Conjuring 2, though was perhaps not as effective. The hosts themselves were real life television personalities Michael Parkinson (host of talk show Parkinson) and Sarah Greene (of Blue Peter fame), as well as Greene’s husband Mike Smith. It was written as a drama by Stephen Volk who eventually pitched to the BBC that they do a The War of the Worlds type of thing. Even though it aired under Screen One – the BBC’s drama department – its documentary on-air investigation style, in addition to real-life hosts, led the majority of its 11 million viewers to believe that what they were witnessing was in fact real.

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Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Mike Smith, presenters of ‘Ghostwatch’ © BFI

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