When Andrew Bujalski released his debut Funny Ha Ha in 2002, it was not evident yet that he would forever change the face of an entire subgenre. The film spawned a movement that is often not particularly adored, but whose spirit is undeniably injected into the majority of modern American independent films – the Mumblecore.
Most films of this genre, heavily shaped by their feeling of structural spontaneity, rejection of conventional storytelling beats and DIY-aesthetic (in the same vein as the Berliner Schule and the Dogma movement), focus on creating a feeling of extreme realism and intimacy. Bujalski, less successfully, repeated that formula two more times with Mutual Appreciation (2005) and Beeswax (2009), until he showed his will to experiment with the Mumblecore form. With his refreshingly weird and insanely original Computer Chess (2013), a niche masterpiece that feels somehow isolated (for the lack of a better word) in its attempt at cinematic storytelling, he created a wholly original subversion of the genre – an absurd period piece about a programming tournament with the goal to create a computer, which is able to beat a human being at chess.
In 2015, Bujalski got a shot at Results, a somewhat bigger project, starring Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce. It was the first step of a departure that aimed to reach a broader audience and which finally hit a climax in the newest project of his rich and inventive filmography. Unfolding over about 24 hours in the life of a working-class woman, Support the Girls is a vital, entertaining and accessible film that fits into the rare bridge between auteur filmmaking and mainstream delight.
From Yorgos Lanthimos’ highly-anticipated The Favourite to Greta Gerwig’s star-studded interpretation of Little Women, 2018 will be the year of period pieces. In anticipation of these films, the Much Ado crew has put our heads together and shared some of our favorite period pieces. They span genres, directors, and countries, but one thing is for sure: We are a group who loves a good period piece.
Atonement (2007) dir. Joe Wright
I’m not here to introduce you to a hidden gem of historical fiction about a marginalized population or oft-ignored perspective – I’m here to talk about Atonement. Yes, the Ian McEwan adaptation starring Keira Knightley and directed by Joe Wright. The combination of those three names yields a period piece so period piece-y, it’s quintessential genre viewing.
This movie’s got everything: war-torn lovers, smoking parlors, sexual tension, an evil chocolatier played by Benedict Cumberbatch, family secrets, precocious Saoirse Ronan, dramatic deaths, and betrayal. Set against the backdrop of the First World War, Atonement follows the sweeping love story of beautiful, snobbish Cecilia and working class Robbie, played by Keira Knightley with a jaw so sharp it could kill a man and boy-next-door James McAvoy, respectively. Saoirse received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Cecilia’s incredibly annoying theater kid sister Briony (or at least that’s how I viewed her when I first saw the film as a preteen). But most of the gooey, decadent drama of the film draws itself from everything but the acting.
This piece is part of a series called Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink. Here we try to bring films, that have been overlooked during their time or were (despite their distinctive and timely nature) somehow forgotten, back onto the radar. It’s an attempt at reaching into the dusty niches of time and fishing some true gems out of there. We hope to peak your interest towards some of these films, so they can be reintroduced into today’s film discussion.
I stumbled over Jean-Claude Brisseau’s Céline per accident on Youtube, soon realizing that its presence online borders on non-existence. The rather small amount of voices that I could find, seemed to show an unusually big admiration for the utterly forgotten 1992 Berlin Film Festival competition entry. Descriptions of the film struck a chord with me and how I felt at the moment, and I took a chance on it.
Cèline (1992) – directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau. All Right Reserved.
There is a rather simple base narrative at play here: A nurse named Geneviéve offers Céline – a young, distraught woman – a drive home. When they arrive there, Céline tries to take the first chance to kill herself. Geneviéve prevents her suicide and starts to take care of Céline. They start a healing process – together, as Geneviéve struggles herself.
We may only be halfway through the year, but there have already been plenty of great movies to sink our teeth into. From slow-burn indie darlings to crowd-pleasing blockbusters, the past six months have provided something for all tastes, proving that we don’t have to be mid-awards season to experience great cinema. Check out the following 15 films that we think are the best of the best:
German film has been suffering from an utter lack of strong genre films during the past years. With the exception from a few, rare surprises like independent filmmaker AKIZ’s brilliant film Der Nachtmahr (which became a flop that ultimately left the director in debt), there is no real courage to delve back into certain narrative patterns, and when they do, they play it incredibly safe, which dampens the hope for possible investors of such films even more. It’s very strange, especially since turning back time reveals that the brightest lights were of German cinema, where genre films such as Metropolis, Vampyr, and M shaped their successors worldwide into what they are today.
While Ulrich Köhler’s In My Room, a film heavily influenced by the filmmaking style of the Berliner Schule–a german filmmaking movement that originated in the 90’s, whose representatives are often formed by a depressive, stakeless atmosphere mirroring both social and humanist grievances–is not a genre film per se, but it shows a surprising amount of flirtation with post-apocalyptic motifs and images. It’s a refreshing change of pace on a visual plane, not only for the Berliner Schule, but the entirety of contemporary german film.
Classic films can be a bit daunting when you don’t know where to start. French New Wave? Italian Neorealism? German Expressionism? What do they all mean? Sometimes you don’t need to jump in the deep end with the 6-hour epics — there are classic films that are just as accessible as those made today, with the added bonus of operating as an easy gateway into the world of classic film. All it takes is that one movie — so we asked our regular writers: What film got you into classics?
There are few film series as iconic as George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’. It has spanned generations and shows no signs of stopping, with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ coming out in just a few weeks. This franchise has given us heroes, villains, an iconic film score, and JarJar Binks. To celebrate May the Fourth, Much Ado is looking back at our favorite ‘Star Wars’ moments and why they resonant with us.
Llewyn – Binary Sunset, ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’
‘Star Wars’, for me, has always been about the spectacle of adventure and discovery first and foremost. These movies, like the serialized “Flash Gordon” entertainment they are inspired by, are an escape from mundane reality and into a world of whimsical beauty. When we first meet our hero, Luke Skywalker, he is a moisture farmer on Tatooine searching for a higher purpose. This iconic moment, closing off the first act of the film, shows Luke looking off into the setting dual sunsets of his home planet. The iconic John Williams score kicks in as we close up on Luke’s face. What awaits him out there in the galaxy, past these burning stars? Will he ever get the opportunity to rise up? Is that in his destiny? This is a true defining moment for this franchise, one that represents empathy, hope, curiosity, and ambition. Regardless of where we come from in life, maybe we are destined for more.
Mary Beth – Fight Above the Sarlacc Pit, ‘Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’
Whenever I think of Star Wars, this is the first scene that comes to my mind. Just thinking about those quick, deep notes that play as the camera cuts to each character right before Luke jumps gives me goosebumps. Then, he jumps, R2D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber, and all hell breaks loose. Chaos reigns as Luke, Lando, Han, and Chewie all push their guards into the Sarlacc’s gaping maw. And who could forget Princess Leia? While the men are brawling, she single handedly strangles Jabba the Hutt with the chains used to imprison her, all while in a bikini. Talk about iconic. Even in the face of tentacled pit monster, the Force will always win.
Kareem – Luke confronts Vader, ‘Episode VI: The Empire Strikes Back’
‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is a brilliant film, which gradually builds and builds in terms of world building, excitement and narrative tension. All of that climaxes in the arguably most well-known moment in modern pop-culture. But the impact of the infamous twist doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is some truly masterful filmmaking that leads up it – especially in terms of sound design.
Kershner decided to show an, for the franchise, extremely rare degree of restraint in terms of score. Instead; we get a audial texture consistent of Vader’s breathing, the humming of machinery and the sounds of colliding lightsabers. While there is dialogue too, there are moments, where human silence reigns, and we see these characters being subjected to the mystery of their surroundings, and perhaps to the circumstances, that brought them, a father and a son, into a situation that poses them as enemies to each other.
Mary Beth – Snokes’ Throne Room, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’
I’m weak for monochromatic set design, so you can imagine how Snokes’ throne brought me to my metaphorical knees. Rick Heinrichs, production designer for ‘The Last Jedi’, said that the idea behind the design was “to make anybody looking at it, whether they’re Resistance or anybody else, go weak in the knees.” I would say that goal was achieved. Besides the production value, this scene is a turning point for Rey. Her struggles throughout ‘The Last Jedi’ challenge what we’ve seen throughout the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, where good and evil, Jedi and Sith, were binaristic ways of thinking; we always knew who to cheer for. But now, it isn’t so clear. As Kylo Ren raises his hand and asks her to join him, there is doubt about what she will do. But she won’t succumb to his manipulation, knowing that despite coming from nothing, she still has an important part to play in this story.
Llewyn – The Boy and the Broom, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’
George Lucas, as infamous as he was for creating the prequels, once said that “[‘Star Wars’] is like a poetry, it rhymes.” Lucas’s Star Wars was about the Skywalkers, he centered an entire galaxy of characters on one specific family and their generational impact. Rian Johnson’s ‘The Last Jedi’ challenges all of those previous notions of legacy and patriarchy the prequels explored. In doing so, Rian gave the force back to the fans. Rey learns, same as we do, that you don’t need to come from a lineage of Jedi to become a hero. The ending scene to this subversive chapter in the ‘Star Wars‘ saga shows the abused child laborers we were introduced to back on Canto Bight, telling stories of the mythical Luke Skywalker before getting yelled at to continue cleaning. A boy, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, grabs a broom using the force while no one was looking. The force theme plays as he looks into the sky. Sound familiar? This moment is a perfect encapsulation of everything ‘The Last Jedi‘ means. But as subversive as it was, it maintains the rhythm Lucas created.
Kareem – Holdo’s Sacrifice, ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi‘
Rian Johnson’s franchise-redefining masterpiece ‘The Last Jedi’ has an overarching refocus of the narrative towards the purpose, goals and the urgency of the rebellion. Since the prequels barely had a narrative of systematic rebellion, and the original trilogy tried to rather use it as a set-up for it’s grand, character-focused adventure arc, this might be only the second time (after ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, which sadly didn’t quite hit the mark), that the rebellion as a concept is pulled into the spotlight. Johnson tries to grasp, what rebellion against a system means. It’s a fight that is very slight in terms of perspective. But exactly that last spark of perspective turns out to be the essence, and the task of the rebellion. When Admiral Holdo, wonderfully played by Laura Dern, crashes the commanding ship of the rebellion as the last remaining person onboard, into the First Order’s Star Destroyer, she unleashes the biggest spark imaginable. It’s a major breaking point in the narrative, and it reshapes the story arc of every other character in the film completely. Her altruism during that moment is specifically what keeps the rebellion alive.