Month: January 2014

The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2013)

My immediate reaction to Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring was that it was a silly and superficial film. Underneath its stylish veneer – the absence of sound during some scenes, the use of slow motion during others – the movie was nothing more than an amalgam of  party scenes, nightclub scenes, beach scenes, closet scenes, and celebrity home break-in scenes. Designer names made up a good 1/3 of the dialogue, celebrity names another 1/3, and “Marc, chill out” the final third, while the images were dominated by racks of clothes, shoes, and jewelry, garish furniture, shiny cars, and cocaine. Basically, the film pandered to today’s viewers’ attraction to the glitzy and glamorous LA lifestyle, a thought which is only further supported by the addition of Emma Watson to the otherwise little-known cast. Aside from Ms. Watson’s ability to attract a large, young audience for the film, and her ability to look gorgeous in a range of designer duds, the choice of Ms. Watson for the role of Nicki Moore, one of the principal characters in the film, seems inexplicable because of Ms. Watson’s struggle in reproducing an American accent. Now I’m not saying that I’m any better at assuming an English accent than Ms. Watson is at an American one, but I’m not the one who has been cast as an American several times now.

But in retrospect, I realize I dismissed Ms. Coppola’s film as shallow without considering that the superficiality of the Bling Ring, the real-life gang of celebrity-obsessed teens who burglarized celebrity homes for designer clothes, cash, and drugs, was exactly what Ms. Coppola sought to capture in her film. The heavy sensation of grossness I felt after watching the movie – the same feeling I get after cooping up on the couch all day watching reruns of Friends while tearing through containers of Christmas cookies, or from watching a bad rom-com on Oxygen channel on a lazy Saturday afternoon – basically, the feeling of purely hedonistic indulgence – was, perhaps, intentional: Coppola’s reminder to her youthful audience that the superficiality, the greed, the celebrity obsession demonstrated by the beautiful youths on the screen is utterly unproductive and frankly pathetic. And while Ms. Watson’s American accent was kind of distractingly exaggerated, it actually ultimately worked. The overly-girlish, self-conscious softness in Watson’s accent accentuated the self-absorption and ignorance existing in the Nicki character, completing the picture of just how shallow these teenagers really were, though I still prefer the less exaggerated (but definitely not understated) performances of Claire Julien as the edgy Chloe and Taissa Farmiga as Nicki’s giggly sidekick Sam.

I originally dismissed The Bling Ring because it failed to explain the likely troubled home lives of many of these teens, but I see now that I was missing the point. While these kids may (or may not) have come from troubled backgrounds, The Bling Ring explains that ultimately, they were produced by today’s avaricious, attention-seeking, celebrity-worshipping society. The saddest testament to this valueless and unproductive society that Coppola identifies is that the member of the Bling Ring on whom Watson’s character is based got her own reality TV show as her criminal trial was unfolding. Instead of punishing an individual who broke into homes and stole in order to fuel her hedonistic lifestyle, this moral-less society rewarded her with attention, further blurring the lines between right and wrong.

Advertisements

Cranford (BBC, UK, 2007)

Cranford (BBC, UK, 2007)

I’m currently watching Cranford, which aired on BBC One back in 2007. It’s a fantastically funny miniseries about a small English village resistant to change, even in the face of the Industrial Revolution. Brilliantly cast, Cranford derives the bulk of its heart and humor from its band of outspoken spinsters, led by the formidable Eileen Atkins as Miss Deborah Jenkyns and including Imelda Staunton, pictured here, as the silly and energetic gossip with the floppiest of bonnets and a tendency toward misunderstandings. Her one liners are perfection, as are Ms. Atkins’s more sternly delivered ones. A personal favorite moment in this five-episode series is when Atkins’s Deborah discusses the consumption of oranges with her sister Miss Matty Jenkyns (a particularly adorable Judi Dench) and house guest Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon).

Top Fives

Like I said in post numero uno, I love making top five lists. I fantasize about journalists interviewing me and asking me what my top five favorite films or actors are so often, that should this dream (big dream right there) come true, I would be able to rattle them off at a very impressive rate. So without further ado, here are my current lists:

MOVIES

  1. Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni, Italy, 1998)
  2. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, USA, 1990)
  3. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, USA, 1998)
  4. Memento (Christopher Nolan, USA, 2000)
  5. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)

TV SHOWS

  1. Sherlock (BBC/PBS)
  2. Veep (HBO)
  3. Modern Family (ABC) OR The Mindy Project (FOX)
  4. Friends (off air)
  5. Freaks and Geeks (off air)

I’m a huge fan of UK imports, but aside from Sherlock, there isn’t really one that sticks out to me as top five worthy. Maybe because many of them are so short-lived, that when I’m done watching them, they fade into the back of my mind as a longer running show in which I invested more time would not. I actually quite prefer snappy one-two seasoners though, even if I miss them dreadfully when they’re over. At least with these shows there’s quality control – something which American TV shows, especially ones on the major networks, severely lack. Most American TV shows which start off strong end up overstaying their welcome, dragging on and on until everybody hates them. Like The Office (which actually had a pretty good final season though), and especially How I Met Your Mother (which admittedly was never that good. I have no idea why I still watch it). Anyways, some notable UK imports I love include Cranford, Downton Abbey, Moone Boy, Endeavor, Fresh Meat, and The Inbetweeners among others.

MUSICIANS

  1. Coldplay
  2. Philip Glass
  3. Radiohead
  4. Oasis
  5. Queen

BOOKS

  1. Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin, Biography, 2005)
  2. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt, Memoir, 1996)
  3. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens, Fiction, 1859)
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling, YA Fiction, 1999)
  5. Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh, Fiction, 1945)

Actually, not really sure about this entire list, though Team of Rivals is definitely my favorite book. And Angela’s Ashes has to be on there too. The rest are kind of questionable. Especially Brideshead.

Some other lists, just because I feel like making more:

2013 MOVIES

  1. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, USA)
  2. Her (Spike Jonze, USA)
  3. Crystal Fairy (Sebastian Silva, Chile)
  4. This is the End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, USA)
  5. Star Trek: Into Darkness (JJ Abrams, USA)

I admittedly didn’t watch too many movies in theaters this year. I wanted to watch Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, among others, but never got the chance. Other movies on this list that I remember watching include David O’Russell’s American Hustle and Francis Lawrence’s Catching Fire. While American Hustle is probably rated in my mind above This is the End and Star Trek: Into Darkness, in terms of expectations, it was a letdown, whereas the other two were not. I honestly don’t see how American Hustle won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical over Her (those were the only two on that list that I actually watched, so I can’t speak for the others). It was good, but not that good.

PEOPLE IN MOVIES/TV

  1. Spike Jonze (Director/Writer)
  2. Jim Carrey (Actor)
  3. Wes Anderson (Director/Writer)

This short list does not represent a list of my favorite directors and actors – though they are three of my favorites – but just people I am randomly obsessed with right now (well, my Spike Jonze obsession isn’t that random, considering Her only recently came out and is currently making its way through the awards circuit).

Her (Spike Jonze, USA, 2013)

Spike Jonze’s Her is a damn fine movie. The basic premise sounds quite gimmicky – a man with a delightfully fuzzy mustache falls in love with his operating system – but Jonze manages to transcend the gimmick with aplomb. While the film made me uncomfortable at times, not just during the entirely auditory man-operating system sex scenes, but also during some of the tenderer moments between the man Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), largely due to my disgust with the idea that a person could fall in love with an inanimate object, Her is, more often than not, sweet and actually quite charming because, at its core, it is a film exploring the dynamic nature of real, human relationships, and it portrays these relationships in a deeply true and honest way.

The aspect of relationships that Jonze is interested in is its dynamism: how a relationship between two people can never stay the same because with every experience each of the two people have, they grow. Jonze makes his point primarily by illustrating the arc of Theodore and Samantha’s relationship, though the same idea is deftly expressed through Theodore’s relationships with his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) and friend Amy (Amy Adams) as well. I don’t know why I’ve never thought about relationships this way, but this was a strikingly new idea for me. An undeniable idea, but novel no less. This is one reason why Her stands out to me as one of the best films I’ve seen this past year.

But beyond Jonze’s ability to make me think about relationships in an entirely new way, Her also strikes me as an extraordinary film because of the complex secondary themes it brings up. The relationship between man and man, and man and technology in this increasingly technologically-dependent age. The possibilities of technology and whether its full potential should be unlocked, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Our tolerance to difference and whether just because we cannot understand something, that means that it is wrong. Jonze impressively not only broaches all these diverse questions while maintaining a charming, easy-to-follow narrative, but also explores them in such a way that he offers forth compelling arguments but ultimately leaves the questions unanswered, forcing the viewer to think about them him or herself.  Her, in other words, is not a dumb movie that spoon feeds ideas into the heads of its viewers, but instead asks them to think about how they feel about the topics approached.

Her is an exceedingly complex film that offers a new way of seeing the world, a new way of seeing your relationships, and a new way of seeing yourself, while simultaneously being a simple and sincere love story. Aside from all that man-on-operating-system weirdness going on there, it’s easy to watch, but leaves you thinking about love and relationships and technology long after you walk out of the theater.

Hello, world!

NOTE (7/15/16): I started this blog in the summer of 2012, fresh out of my first year of college. But junior year me was embarrassed of freshman me’s writing and wanted to start afresh, so I hid all my previous entries and pretended like this new one was my first. Well now one-year-out-of-college me wants to use this blog as a record of my musings on movies and books and other things over time, and, more importantly, of my writing, so I’ve made my former entries public again. Just wanted to explain why there are two Hello, world’s in here, if only for my own memories. Also wanted to note for my own records that I will most likely be pasting in entries written on my private journal into this blog, to plump up the number of entries I have on here. Toodles.

Says the computer science major in me. Hi, my name is Meena. I am a junior in college double majoring in economics and computer science. My surprise interest in computer science, spawned after I took a few courses during my sophomore year just for my own general knowledge, has left me with an unfortunately small amount of time to pursue my other interests in English, film, creative writing, history, and chemistry, but I manage either by taking one non-major and non-requirement class per semester, or else by developing these interests during my own free time. Like through this blog. ticketstubsanddvds will consist largely of my reflections on movies, and occasionally top five lists (my friends only know how much I love making those. They don’t have to exclusively pertain to film, television, plays, music, books, and publications – I’ve been known to demand friends and family to name their top five favorite fruits, vegetables, international cuisines, presidents as well, though annoyingly oftentimes they answer and never ask me what mine are), though I won’t promise not to go off on long, awful tangents. In case you haven’t noticed already, I am wont to do that when I write non-academic and non-journalistic opinionated pieces for my own pleasure. Anyways, ticketstubsnanddvds will provide me a space to voice my opinions on movies I’ve recently watched, document the many movies I’ve seen, and develop my writing style. First up? Spike Jonze’s Her.