How It Works

I love movies, but I hate most movie reviews. I hate them for two reasons: First, they always begin with a 3-5 paragraph in-depth description of the film. I don't want to know the entire plot, I want to know if it's good! I may say generally what the movie involves but that's it. Second, most movie reviews are unclear. I've read countless reviews that left me with absolutely no indication as to whether or not I should even see the film. Not here. I developed three methods to rate television and movies:

1. Just your average 10 point scale.
10 is obviously the best and 1 is the worst. Although, Something Borrowed might make below a 1 if I ever get around to reviewing it. I consider myself quite harsh, so if you see anything above a 9, it's probably in my top ten of all time.

2. What's it Worth?
I will tell you if I think it's worth paying for and worth the 2 (and ever more increasingly 3) hours of your time. I also make an educated guess as to whether or not you can multitask during the film.

3. The (not-yet) Patented Clairometer
In honor of my college friend Claire, I developed this rating system in order to display how "appropriate" the film is. It is designed to tell you a more detailed rating system. I find this helpful. Sometimes you want to know ahead of time so you're not stuck watching Black Swan in an empty theater with your mom. The range between PG-13 and R is more vast than the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. I hope to combat this. The scale shows photos and descriptions of a few well-known women in film and television. The rating is the farthest woman to the left of the scale who would approve of the film. For example, June Cleaver would not approve of
Tequila Sunrise. The woman who would is probably Mathilda.





With this blog, I write as though someone will read it and enjoy what I have to say. I am under no false pretense that I have a wide readership. It is mostly for me and for the one other person who accidentally stumbled across this blog. If that is you, I'm glad you are here. With this blog, I send my thoughts about what I watch on a black box into the abyss of the world wide web. I hope you enjoy reading these thoughts as much as I enjoy writing them.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Written by: Derek Ciafrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Directed by: Derek Ciafrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrn

Rating: 9.1
Worth: 2 and a half hours, cost of rental, theater price
Clairometer: Jenny Curran

The first thing to say in describing this movie is: BRACE YOURSELF. I told my best friend to see it because it was fantastic. She called me crying and nauseated and with an hour left to go. Derek Ciafrance is known for the reality of life hitting you in the face and usually upsetting your stomach. Blue Valentine (another one of his films) still gives me bad feelings. But both films (more so The Place Beyond the Pines) are incredible. Yet at the same time, I will be fine to never watch it ever again.

It is difficult to describe what makes this movie so good without giving twists away. It comes full circle. I hate the critic's quote in the center of the poster above. Yes it is riveting, but it is so much more than a crime drama. It's about love, poverty, wealth, politics, and family. It beautifully juxtaposes two families: one with wealth and one in poverty. But how does each father provide for his family? Where are his priorities? How much does a father influence a son in parenting his own son? Are our fates unavoidable in life?

As I said, I did not set my best friend's expectations appropriately, so allow me to not make that mistake twice. Expect to be depressed. Expect to feel ill and thankful you can return to your own monotonous life. Expect to be disappointed. You'll be hoping that plot points are dreams or a figment of the characters' imaginations. But recall what I said, the writer/director deals in extreme reality. The timing is linear. Be mindful of this. Don't miss the essence of the film by hoping things will get better. They don't. Analyze the film in the way your college English professor taught you. Focus on the themes, the metaphors and the tone. Try to think while you're watching, the ways in which those "literary" elements contribute to Ciafrance's dark grasp on reality. But keep in mind, you'll want to eat ice cream and watch something goofy afterwards (I recommend an episode of Community).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Thoughts on Modern Family

Tread Lightly, Even Though You're Carrying a Sack Full of Emmys

1. Explain your talking heads. 
It's one thing to capitalize on the continually trending documentary style of filming sitcoms. But every show that does this style, while also using talking heads, has explained why they are the subject of a documentary. The Office constantly made reference to the film crew and discussed being the subject of an "American Modern Office" documentary. Parks and Recreation never explains it but I can give that show more leeway because it would make sense that Leslie Knope is filmed as part of her governmental career. But why would a family be made into a documentary? I think they are taking a little too much creative liberty with that.

2. Stay true to your characters.
The reason Modern Family is so popular is because America fell in love with the characters and how well their stories and jokes intertwined. In the latest season, the majority of the jokes are insults to the other characters. Putting down family members is what every other lousy sitcom does. (Two and a Half Men, Rules of Engagement, Whitney, Two Broke Girls, etc.) Don't turn into these, please, because if you do, then all you have left is what you've taken from other shows (i.e. numbers 1 and 3).

3. Be original.
While the amazing success of the show has created some copycats, the show tends to steal from other shows in obvious ways. We notice. 

Arrested Development (2003)                                                               Modern Family (2010)

5 Romantic Movies That You Might Have Missed (that are actually good)

1. Love Story (1970)
Starring: Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal
Written by: Erich Segal
Directed by: Arthur Hiller

My Rating: 7.5
Worth: 2 hours, Netflix streaming, cost of rental
Clairometer: Holly Golightly

 Jenny: You look stupid and  rich. 
Oliver: What if I'm smart and poor?
Jenny: I'm smart and poor. 
Oliver: Well what makes you so smart?
Jenny: I wouldn't go out for coffee with you that's what. 
Oliver: Well what if I wasn't even gonna ask you to go out for coffee with me?
Jenny: Well that's what makes you stupid.

If you haven't seen Love Story you should, and if you have, I'm betting that you haven't seen it in a long time - I'm here to say you should revisit it. If Erich Segal were still writing today, Nicholas Sparks would be shaking in his boots. But he is no longer with us and we are stuck with films like Safe Haven to show us what romance is. Unrealistic men, damsels in distress, scenes with canoes drifting through birds, and unexplained million dollar beach houses. Jenny and Oliver are cultured and witnessing their witty banter makes me feel smarter. Watch it. If you don't laugh and cry, you will certainly realize that no scene in any modern romance movie is as inventive as you thought.

2. Heartbreaker (French, 2010)
Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens
Written by: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yoann Gromb
Directed by: Pascal Chaulmeil

My Rating: 6.8
Worth: 2 hours, Netflix streaming, cost of rental
Clairometer: Mathilda

I've mentioned my love of the French language before and perhaps that influenced my perception of the caliber of this movie. It's a great premise that is beautifully executed. We all have a couple we want to breakup, and wouldn't it be interesting if we could pay someone to do it? 

3. The Jane Austen Book Club
Starring: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy
Written by: Robin Swicord, Karen Joy Fowler
Directed by: Robin Swicord

My Rating: 6.6
Worth: 2 hours, cost of rental
Clairometer:  Holly Golightly

Bernadette: All Jane Austen, all the time. It's the perfect antidote.
Prudie: To what?
Bernadette: To life. 

I couldn't agree more. This film does a fantastic job of paying tribute to Jane Austen's fantastic works while criticizing them intelligently and applying their themes to modern feminism. However, ignore the cheesy ending. It seems ad libbed in an awkwardly cut way, completely out of tune with the rest of the film. It's worth watching the entire movie to overlook the last 2 minutes. 

4. Dan in Real Life (2007)
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette Binochet, Dan Cook, Emily Blunt
Written by: Pierce Gardner, Peter Hedges 
Directed by: Peter Hedges
My Rating: 6.9
Worth: 2 hours, can probably multitask, cost of a rental
Clairometer: Scout  

Don't be fooled by Dane Cook being in the cast. While he is type cast, his personality does not take away from the quality of the film. Dan in Real Life shows an idyllic family that somehow seems attainable. Pay attention to the music in the film. Sondre Lerche (music by) said in an interview that he thought the film was so real with such raw emotions that he didn't want to use music to overpower scenes that were already so powerful. Many movies use music to supply something that just isn't there. Dan in Real Life is aptly named and, as cheesy as it sounds, it leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. 

5. Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden
Written by: Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, George Alexrod
Directed by: Richard Quine

My Rating: 7.0
Worth: 2 hours, cost of rental
Clairometer: Scout

Richard: ... if we are to have a happy and harmonious relationship, I beg of you, never answer a question with a question. Is that clear?
Gabrielle: Did I?
Richard: There you go again, answering a question with a question. My original yes when you opened the door was a question, question mark implied of course. You do know the difference between implied and inferred?
Gabrielle: Isn't that a question?
 Richard: Yes.
Gabrielle: Well, you just answered my question with a question. To imply to indicate without saying openly or directly, to infer is to conclude from something known or assumed. 

 Audrey Hepburn's character is an assistant to a screenwriter, and in order to write a good script, she helps him by acting out the potential plot.  Full disclosure, this is another film where my biases might affect my judgment. I would love Audrey in an infomercial, I have a soft spot for writers (typically under-appreciated), and once again it incorporates the French language. Out of all of Audrey Hepburn's films I would say that this is one of the greatest, and one in which she and her costar have the most chemistry.