Category: Film & Television

Best Picture Nominations 2018 – Mini Reviews

Posted March 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Film & Television / 2 Comments

Every year my wife, sister-in-law and I try to watch all the Best Picture nominations before the Oscar awards. This is something that never happens, due to the availability of movies in our city but for the first time ever we managed to see all nine nominations this year. I know the Oscars are over and The Shape of Water has already won but I thought I should write a little about each movie. I want to get better at analysing movies and if I do not practise, I will never get any better.  

So why not have a mini review of all the nine movies? I have decided to do this in order of my least favourite to favourite, as a way to show which movies I think were more deserving to win. Do not get me wrong, I think The Shape of Water was a great movie and I am happy to see it win, it just was not my pick. 

Dunkirk (written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolen) 

This is a movie about the hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers trying to retreat out of Dunkirk. The German soldiers have them backed into a corner and leave them as easy targets for some dive-bomber attacks. This film is often been noted for its historical accuracies, even acknowledged by Dunkirk survivors as realistic. For this reason alone, I can see why this film was nominated. However I felt that this was too much of a generic war movie, with very little time to develop characters. In fact most of the characters looked too much alike in their uniforms that I was only able to recognise some actors, namely Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy.  

Action sequences and a deeper understanding of this battle are the two big draws for this movie, but everything else was lacking. Christopher Nolen added his signature style but I tend to disagree with the critics that called this one of the greatest war films of all time. For me that title goes to films like All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Apocalypse Now (1979), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). I was tempted to include Downfall (2004) but I think that maybe that is more a biopic in vein of something like Darkest Hour 

Call Me by Your Name (directed by Luca Guadagnino) 

Based on the coming of age novel written by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is the story of the relationship between a seventeen year old boy named Elio and a 24-year-old graduate student, Oliver. Timothée Chalamet did an excellent job in the role of Elio, learning Italian, piano and guitar for the role, plus some of the best acting I have seen from a new comer in a long time. While Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, just served as eye candy.  

There is a slow burn to this movie that seems to work well with the story they are trying to tell. However I feel like the story was too much like that often seen in young adult novels. Especially the love triangle with Esther Garrel doing an excellent job as Elio’s girlfriend Marzia. The cinematography and actor was amazing, I felt the story was its biggest letdown. Having said that, I do believe they did a respectful job at portraying a same sex couples’ relationship. The highlight of this movie was the final scene of Timothée Chalamet sitting in front of a fireplace with nothing but his facial expressions telling the story.  

The Post (directed by Steven Spielberg) 

This movie is Oscar-bait if I have ever seen it. Based on the events surrounding the leak of the Pentagon Papers, this film was written by Liz Hannah and one of the Spotlight writers, Josh Singer. There is not much I can say about this movie apart from the fact that I enjoyed learning more about the battle between the US president and the press. This was an obvious jab, with references and allusions to the current president, Donald Trump throughout the movie. I expected more from Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Katharine Graham, I was not sure what direction they were taking. I understand this would have been Katharine Graham’s first major decision as The Washington Post’s head publisher but her acting was not convincing.  

The film ends with the break at the Watergate, which seems to connect the movie almost perfectly to All the President’s Men (1976). A classic film my wife and I watched after seeing The Post. A far better movie but I had to appreciate the way these two films connect together. Sadly All the President’s Men only mentions Katharine Graham once and that was a reference to her breasts.   

Darkest Hour (directed by Joe Wright) 

While Dunkirk was about the war raging on in Western Europe, Darkest Hour is about the politics happening back in the United Kingdom. Winston Churchill, appears to be trending in film and television at the moment but Gary Oldman probably did the best depiction. There was something about the way Oldman portrayed this Prime Minster that felt so genuine, it was easy to suspend disbelief and see him as Churchill. That was until there was some awkward dialogue to remind you that this is in fact a film.  

This is an interesting look at the politics that happen behind the scenes. Interesting how they dumped a Prime Minster because they were not happy with how he was handling the war. The scenes in the parliament are the standouts in this film. The use of lighting made these scenes far more dramatic and served to empathise the importance of this decision making process; into darkness or into light.  

Phantom Thread (written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) 

This period piece stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a couturier (a high-end dressmaker) who is so devoted to his art that finds little time for relationships. Living with his sister (Lesley Manville) he falls in love with a young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps). Aesthetically this is a visually pleasing film and combining that with Daniel Day-Lewis’ masterful acting there is so much to like about this movie. The power struggle of the relationship between this renowned fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock and Alma quickly turns this into something far darker than expected.  

The sound editing in one breakfast scene alone, was enough to showcase just good this film is. With these sounds, the viewer was able to experience the same irritations as Daniel Day-Lewis. While this was a disturbing tale, the beauty of the film is what stuck out to me the most. The story was weird and never sat right with me but I think plot took a back seat to the visuals, sound and acting in this one.  

The Shape of Water (directed by Guillermo del Toro) 

We have come to expect an aesthetically pleasing film from Guillermo del Toro and he did not disappoint. The Shape of Water has a gritty Cold War vibe to it that reminded me very much of Rapture in the BioShock game. I appreciate the set design, it was so good that it is like the background is telling a story. This is a film about misfits finding each other more than a love story between a mute woman and a fish man.  

Sally Hawkins is an extraordinary actress and I do think I have even seen her in a role where her performance let down the movie. Her role in Maudie (2016), along with this one will serve as evidence of her great ability. People often talk about how great Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting is, but I think Sally Hawkins can give him a run for his money. It was nice to see Michael Shannon doing what he does best, and that is antagonising everyone. Finally, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer were outstanding in their supporting roles.  

Get Out (written and directed by Jordan Peele) 

I would have been very happy if this film won the Best Picture Oscar. This satirical horror film deals with many relevant race issues in such a unique way. Get Out is a power look at the racial problem in America, in particular taking shots at liberals who consider themselves ‘allies’ in the movement against racism. The people that go out of their way to demonstrate they are no racist to the point that is just uncomfortable. There is so much going on in this film it is hard to cover it all in a mini review.  

This is a must see film, filled with so many hard hitting truths that Jordan Peele decided to change the ending just to make it happier. For me this is the biggest let down, because the tone change at the end is so jarring. I think the original intended ending would have had a far bigger impact to the message Peele was trying to say. Get Out did win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars making Jordan Peele the first black person to win this award.  

Lady Bird (written and directed by Greta Gerwig) 

Lady Bird is the coming of age story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson living in Sacramento, who cannot wait to leave for college to a city with culture. This is probably the most indie ‘arthouse’ of the movies to make the list but I loved this movie because it was just full of teenage angst. There were so many interesting characters and both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf had standout performances.  

I loved this movie partly because I think Saoirse Ronan is amazing and partly because I identified with the angst of growing up in a town like that. It was a film of such rich characters, and I would love to see a movie about Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, played by Beanie Feldstein. This is another movie to star Timothée Chalamet and his role was very different to that of Call Me by Your Name. Both Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet are destined for greatness.  

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (written, produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh) 

There is something very unique about Three Billboards, it was so fresh and original. We left the cinema with such joy (despite the dark themes) similarly because it is so rare to see something so different. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell both had outstanding performances and they were rewarded at the Oscars for that. However it was hard to believe Woody Harrelson and Abbie Cornish as a married couple. Three Billboards is the story of a grieving mother trying to find closure for the brutal rape and murder of her teenage daughter. To put pressure on the police she rents three billboards to remind them that this case is still unsolved.  

This is a very polarising movie, that people either love or hate, and I can understand the criticism. Despite the themes of grief and hatred, this film seems to be more about people putting aside their differences in order to heal. The film has also inspired activist groups to adopt similar methods to get their message across, with over five different groups hiring billboards and bus advertisement to spread their message.  

The Good Place and Ethics

Posted January 13, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Film & Television, Philosophy / 2 Comments

I discussed the moral dilemma in the HBO television show Westworld, and I have since discovered a show that looks at ethics. The Good Place is the story of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) who dies and finds herself in the afterlife, designated into ‘the Good Place’. Only problem is that she is not a good person and does not belong. In fact it is another Eleanor Shellstrop that should be in ‘the Good Place’, but she does not want to end up in ‘the Bad Place’ so she sets out to learn how to be a better person, in essence, to earn her place.

‘The Good Place’ is basically heaven, but the show is written to be as neutral as possible when it comes to religion. To do this, the architect of this ‘Good Place’ neighbourhood Michael (Ted Danson) states that all religions only guessed 10% of what the afterlife is like. Joking some random guy from the 1970’s managed to guess 91% of what happens after you die in a inebriated rant. While this might be considered a mockery towards religion it does allow the show to explore ethics in a stripped back way. Without getting bogged down with the religious aspect, the show explores different schools of thought when it comes to ethics.Beneath the low-brow humour the show is almost like an introduction to moral philosophy, exploring ideas from people like Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Jeremy Bentham and of course the obvious Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. These ideas are explored thanks to Eleanor’s soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper) who was a professor of ethics when he was alive. One of the major ideas that is explored is that of utilitarianism, I expect as a critique to society’s pleasure seeking ways.

The idea of utilitarianism is the idea that an action is considered right if it promotes happiness. The show focuses on the paradoxical nature of utilitarianism, mainly the idea of punishing an innocent person for the greater good. Eleanor’s presence in ‘the Good Place’ has a negative effect on the neighbourhood, where actions that are not inherently good manifest in terrifying ways. There is also the conundrum of Eleanor staying in ‘the Good Place’ may promote her happiness but it is at the cost of the other Eleanor who is suffering in ‘the Bad Place’.

“He who would criticise all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch.” – Karl Marx (Das Kapital)

While this show does more than name drop philosophical ideas of ethics, but rather try to explain them, I still find the show too simplistic. It is as if The Good Place is attempting to introduce the idea of moral philosophy to the viewers but a show like Westworld wants you to work for it. I do enjoy the philosophy and the way it explores ethics but I much prefer having to work towards understanding; then again, I am just pretentious like that. We started watching this show because my wife and I are big fans of Kristen Bell and I will continue to watch because of the philosophy, even if it is overly simplified.

Violent Delights: My Thoughts on Westworld

Posted December 12, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Film & Television / 2 Comments

One of the age-old questions that gets asked in science fiction revolves around artificial intelligence (AI). In particular, the existential risk from artificial intelligence that might result in human extinction or some global catastrophe. One of the most noticeable examples of an AI rebellion in pop-culture can be found in The Terminator series with Skynet, when it becomes self-aware and ultimately decides that humans are irrelevant. A more recent example is the HBO show Westworld created by husband and wife combo Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest) and Lisa Joy (Pushing Daisies). The show is based on a 1973 film of the same name (written and directed by Michael Crichton) set in the future where people can visit this western themed amusement park populated by synthetic android, referred to as hosts.

Westworld is one of the most exciting TV shows I have seen in a very long time, and while at its core it explores the idea of artificial intelligence becoming self-aware, I feel like there is something much more interesting going on. To understand this, you need to be aware of the criticism towards HBO shows (in particular Game of Thrones) which often revolve around the over exposure of nudity and violence, claiming that it is just low-brow entertainment. However, I am of the opinion that this show, Westworld can be seen more as a social criticism.

“These violent delights have violent ends.” Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene VI by William Shakespeare

The patrons come to this amusement park to fully immerse themselves into an adventure without fear of consequences. Whether they are seeking their thrills with sex or violence, the show is questioning if this is healthy behaviour. While there are no physical consequences, what are the moral implications of these violent delights? The hosts in Westworld are so realistic, they have memories, thoughts and feel pain – this brings so many questions to mind. For example; where is the line between harmless fun and dangerous behaviour?

At the beginning of season one, I found myself wondering if it takes a certain type of person to visit Westworld. Are the patrons visiting to act out their more depraved fantasies? However, I slowly began to view Westworld as a highly advanced video game (similar to virtual reality). If you compare this amusement park with popular games like Grand Theft Auto, it opens up a whole different thought process, one of game theory. A player of Grand Theft Auto might shoot up the street, visit a prostitute or something similar to test out the boundaries of the game. Not out of morbid curiosity but rather to see if the game is a really an open world. While some players may take delight in these actions rather than following the narrative, there is no real evidence that these actions have any links to criminal behaviour (although there is evidence of an increase of aggressive behaviour).

White Hats vs. Black Hats

Although when the ‘game’ is so realistic that you cannot tell the difference between host and human, the experience becomes more complicated. This show explores the idea of what happens when realism becomes too real, and while some patrons may test out the boundaries of this world, ultimately they get sucked into a narrative, what about the others? One of the taglines for Westworld is, “the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin”. With this tagline in mind, we know the show wants to pay particular attention to what they call ‘the future of sin’, so it is asking the audience to think about the moral implications of these violent delights.

As you watch through season one of Westworld, you will discover that actions without consequences are just a myth. Starting with the discovery of lasting memories of the hosts and also the wounds. While these hosts are not humans, they show signs of emotions and pain. If they feel pain, do we not have a moral obligation to help them?

There are multiple scenes in the show depicting some close ups of a host’s eye, and if the eyes are the windows to the soul, what are they trying to say? I am inclined to think that this might actually be an exploration into how people treat each other. If you look at the history of the world, in particular colonialism, you will see that the first people are often treated as if they were different. Since this amusement park has a western theme, I would suspect we could make parallels between the treatment of hosts and the treatment of Native Americans.

The use of nudity in Westworld is very different to most TV shows. While nudity on television and movies is often used to sexualise a character, this show takes a very different approach. Often when you see nudity in this show, it is a host sitting in front of a scientist getting reprogrammed. The nudity has the effect of dehumanising the hosts – yet another example of the show trying to show you the difference between artificial intelligence and humans. Yet time and time again in the show it demonstrates that they these host are self-aware and conscious.

I have to say, I was completely immersed in the story being told in season one of Westworld and I really cannot wait for a new season. However, it was the philosophical questions that the show presented that really thrilled me. It was because I spent so much time thinking about what makes us human, the existential risk of artificial intelligence and game theory that I would consider Westworld one of the best TV shows of recent time. I feel like there is so much to say about this series, but I do not think I have the skill set to dive deeper. I wanted to get as many of my thoughts on Westworld down, and who knows I may even do more posts like this in the future.

Movie Review: The Ten Commandments (1956)

Posted December 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Drama / 0 Comments

the ten commandmentsTitle: The Ten Commandments
Released: 1956 
Cecil B. DeMille
StarsCharlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter
Genre: Epic Drama

I am sure many people have seen the religious epic The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and stars Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter (with a small role given to Vincent Price). It tells the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, found in the Bible (the book of Exodus to be exact). A remake of his 1923 silent movie but extended out to an epic three and a half hour run time. You probably know that it was nominated for multiple awards and considered a classic, but rewatching this recently I found it nothing but American propaganda.

From the very start of the movie, Cecil B. DeMille comes out and introduces the movie, but a few things stood out to me. Firstly Ramses is referred to as a dictator as well as mentioning if men should be ruled by God or man. He also mentions that the slaves were the property of the State, making the connection to communism clear from the very start of the movie.

“The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they ought to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Ramses. Are men the property of the State or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today.”

the ten commandments eygptArtistically the scenes depicting Egypt are often shot with a red filter, in an attempt to help draw a connection to the Soviet Union. In fact, the actor who plays Rameses II, Yul Brynner, is a Russian born actor. While his heritage is more complicated than calling Brynner a Russian, he was born in Vladivostok and he even adopted a Russian accent for The Ten Commandments. This feels like a deliberate and obvious attempt to push DeMille’s agenda.

While “Rameses personifies Communist totalitarianism” according to Adele Reinhartz in her book Bible and Cinema: An Introduction, then Moses is the picture of the American ideal. In fact all the major roles of Hebrews in the movie are cast to blue eyed American actors. This pushes the agenda of America being God’s chosen people. If you think of the history America escaping religious persecution, it can be easily compared to that of the Hebrews.

In fact it is said that Cecil B. DeMille and the screenwriters consulted the works of Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, the Jewish Midrash and even the Qu’ran while writing the screenplay. The idea was to unite three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) together in a battle against a common enemy. The Soviet Union was an atheist state and DeMille thought keeping religion on the side of good will help spread his anti-communist propaganda.

My wife recently had to do an assignment on this movie for university, so I would like to thank her for doing most of the research for this one. During our many discussions on this film we have discovered this film works as a political allegory against communism as well as portraying America as God’s chosen people. Rather than discuss the theological elements and exploring DeMille’s own religious beliefs that he projected on the audience, I wanted to focus my review on the propaganda, I think it is an interesting topic and will change the way you view this movie in the future.ten_commandments-moses

I remember thinking this was a pretty average and overly blotted movie but I had not seen it for a very long time. Rewatching The Ten Commandments now was a very different experience. I could not help but notice the allegory and felt like Cecil B. DeMille was blatantly beating me over the head with his own agenda. I am starting to watch movies with a more critical mind and it is interesting to see the symbolism and motifs that show up in films. The more I learn the more I fell manipulated by films; in particular Hollywood. There is more worth talking about with this movie but for now I think I have said enough.

Movie Review: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Posted December 20, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Comedy, Movie-Neo-Noir / 0 Comments

the big lebowskiTitle: The Big Lebowski
Released: 1998
Joel CoenEthan Coen
StarsJeff BridgesJohn GoodmanJulianne MooreSteve BuscemiDavid HuddlestonTara Reid and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Genre: Neo-Noir/Black Comedy

One of my favourite movies of all time is the Coen Brothers 1998 black comedy The Big Lebowski. Most people have seen this film, but if you have not, it tells the story of Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), an LA slacker who finds himself being mistaken for millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston). Thugs break into his house demanding money and urinate on his rug before leaving. Since the rug “really tied the room together” The Dude confronts the millionaire Lebowski seeking compensation. This leads to events that have The Dude searching for Jeffrey Lebowski’s kidnapped wife Bunny (Tara Reid).

This is a complex story to try explain, I did not even mention The Dude’s friends Walter (John Goodman), a unpredictable Vietnam veteran and Timid Donny (Steve Buscemi). Not to mention Jeffery Lebowski’s personal assistant Brandt, played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. There is a lot going on within the film and so much of this is worth talking about. I was drawn to The Big Lebowski at a young age for its humour and quotable lines, but now I see the movie in a completely different light.


The Big Lebowski is loosely based on The Big Sleep, a great film noir movie which is in turn based on the Raymond Chandler novel with the same name. In a 1998 interview with Indiewire, Joel Coen said, “We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story – how it moves episodically, and deals with the characters trying to unravel a mystery, as well as having a hopelessly complex plot that’s ultimately unimportant.” I know there are even scenes that pay homage to The Big Sleep (which starred Humphrey Bogart) found in this film but I need to do a rewatch of the classic film to compare. However there are also references to the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland in the movie.

First of all, both The Dude and Alice has similar carefree lives, and they both take a drug that makes them smaller. The similarities do not stop there, Jeffery Lebowski wife’s name is Bunny and the numberplate on her car reads ‘Lapin’ which is the French word for rabbit. You could even compare Walter and Donny to The Walrus and the Carpenter, maybe Maude Lebowski is The Red Queen and Jackie Treehorn is The Mad Hatter, you probably can go on and on making comparisons to the two movies.

However the comparison to The Big Sleep is what interests me the most. Despite the comedy and the colourful aesthetic, The Big Lebowski pays homage to film noir in multiple occasions. The movie makes multiple references to tropes often found in film noir, such as a fall guy, a double cross, a ringer and so on. Do I even have to mention the fact that this film is even set in Los Angeles? Film noir was the result of America’s post-war (World War II) affection for morbid drama, having The Big Lebowski set in post-gulf war time as a similar effect; although America’s involvements in the Middle East were far from over.

Interestingly enough The Big Lebowski was a commercial failure, it only become a cult classic after 9/11. I do believe that the anti-war messages found in this film might have something to do with this. Especially the rants that Walter says about defending his country and what it means to be a Vietnam veteran. This film talks a lot about war almost predicting the state America would be in with their involvement in the Middle East. Something about the way deals with this real issue and the humour seems to speak to fans.

war - the big lewbowski

This movie even sparked its own religion, Dudeism, which is actually a registered religion in America; the official name is The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. It is a modern day interpretation of Taoism based on the philosopher of The Dude. Though considered more of a philosophical and lifestyle movement about going with the flow, or remaining cool headed. Rewatching The Big Lebowski reminded me why I love this movie, plus gave me a whole new appreciation for this cult classic.

Movie Review: A Serious Man (2009)

Posted December 13, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Comedy / 0 Comments

a serious manTitle: A Serious Man
Released: 2009
Joel CoenEthan Coen
StarsMichael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Fred Melamed
Genre: Black Comedy

I have been a fan of the Coen brothers for a long time (Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski probably sit on my favourites list). Joel and Ethan Coen know how to tell an interesting story and I especially enjoy their dark humour. One of their weirdest films is A Serious Man starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Fred Melamed. The film tells the story of Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor on the verge of possibly losing everything.

This is the type of movie that even the critics were calling “Enigmatic to the point of inscrutability” ( One possible analysis of the film compares it to the book of Job in the Bible. While the Coen brothers deny the connection it is not hard to see. The viewers are introduced to Larry as a successful man living the great American dream in 1960s Midwestern suburb. Much like Job, Larry’s faith is challenged as things start to fall apart, starting with his wife wanting a divorce to the possibility of losing his job security. At the end of the book of Job, God talks to Job in the form of a whirlwind, while A Serious Man ends in a tornado.

In the book of Job, he seeks out the advice from three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, while Larry seeks out help from three rabbis. Larry wanted answers to a question that he asks multiple times throughout the film, “What’s going on?” A question that might seem stupid, but it could also be reflective, philosophical or even theological. The three rabbis all give completely different answers to his question. It is either God’s will,  answering the question in the form of a riddle suggests even the rabbi is seeking he same answer or refusing to see him completely, proposes that the question will always go unanswered.

a serious man lead

Much like the book of Job, each different situation in A Serious Man seems to compound and unfold into each other in such a way to make Larry’s life feel like it is falling apart. Larry is constantly trying to seek out the answers to life and found out what he might have done to deserve all of this. Although it is pretty clear to the audience that it is Larry’s inactions that have caused the majority of problems. However there is still space in the movie to allow for the reflection on life’s big question; what is going on?

It is possible that the Coen brothers are trying to portray the usefulness (or lack of) of religion in the modern age. There is also the likelihood that the movie thinks that life is meaningless and trying to understand the world around you only leads to more confusion. No matter what your perspective of A Serious Man is, it will leave you with more questions than answers. The first time you watched that ending, I am sure you were asking yourself the very same question, “What is going on?”

Film Review: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)

Posted November 13, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Documentary / 0 Comments

The Eye Has to TravelTitle: The Eye Has to Travel
Released: 2011
Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Frédéric Tcheng, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Genre: Documentary

I am not one for fashion but at a recent event, I might have been convinced otherwise. My wife and I attended an art/fashion show that was also attended by fashion photographer Lance Balchin from 27 Photographs who is best known for working with Vogue. Balchin has a fine arts background, with a focus on painting, and his interest in art really translates into his photography. Lance works with an Art Director (Ali Rigney) which he claims to be a vital element to his art. Rather than projectiong his masculine opinions of beauty into his photos his work with a female art director allows for a balance and unique photographs. Lance also introduced me to Russian fashion photography duo Andrey and Lili.

The night ended with a screening of the documentary of Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has to Travel. I will admit I knew nothing about Diana Vreeland or fashion but I found it fascinating to learn a little more. I do not care about the clothing, modelling, makeup, but I am interesting in fashion as an art form. There is a negative perception of photoshopping (manipulation) and projecting unrealistic body image but there is also a very artistic side to the fashion world. Diana Vreeland’s work for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and later in life, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art really shows fashion as art.

The documentary glosses over the life of Diana Vreeland quickly, trying to compress her life down to a mere 86 minutes. The art direction of this documentary really stood out to me; trying to mimic a fashion magazine, The Eye Has to Travel is a stylish and artistic production. The documentary attempted to give a balanced view on Vreeland’s life but as most of the interviews were from people who worked with and enjoyed success because of her, it tended to be a little biased. Having said that, Vreeland has a huge career, so I understand sacrifices needed to be made. For a more balanced portrayal I might need to pick up a biography (suggestions welcome) of Diana Vreeland.

Did this Artgaze event shift my perspective on the world of Fashion; will this mean that I will blog more about this topic? It is hard to say. I was fascinated about what Lance Balchin had to say, especially when it comes to the Russians. I am interested in learning a little more about Diana Vreeland; she seemed to revolutionise fashion magazines. I recommend The Eye Has to Travel, there is a lot to learn and Vreeland is quite a character.

The UnREAL Reality of Reality TV

Posted September 10, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Film & Television / 0 Comments

unreal_tv_series_posterA new TV show discovery for me is the Lifetime show UnREAL, which chronicles a dating reality show (similar to The Bachelor) called “Everlasting”. This is told mostly from the perspective of Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), a producer of the show who was brought back by the executive producer (Constance Zimmer) after an epic breakdown during the previous season. Rachel has to find the balance between rebuilding her reputation, the high demands of producing the show and her own mental health.

Let’s face it, Shiri Appleby will always be Liz Parker (Roswell) in my eyes, but it was good to see her back acting. I had a quick look and it seems like she never stopped acting, with a main role in Life Unexpected and in a few episodes of Girls. Also does anyone remember her web series Dating Rules from My Future Self? Anyway, despite the lack of alien love interests, UnREAL is a dark comedy that really dives into the psychological manipulation of reality TV.

I can honestly say I have never thought about reality TV as much as I had while watching UnREAL. I have never watched The Bachelor but from what I have seen in advertising, it seems to be a horrible distorted concept of romance and love. Essentially you have one bachelor dating twelve woman at once, and the show documents all the melodrama that happens between the contestants. However if you think about it, there is a lot of manipulation and distortion of people’s lives all in the name of trying to make good (this work is subjective) TV. UnREAL plays a lot with this behind the scenes look at a show called Everlasting and the way producers force these intense displays of emotions in the hope to capture it on screen.

However the show focuses on producer Rachel Goldberg, who had an emotional breakdown in the last season of Everlasting. The show starts at this new season of Everlasting and Rachel has been brought back because she is very good at her job. Despite the fact she is good at her job, it becomes quickly evident that the show is not good for her and UnREAL documents this struggle between career and mental stability.

I am excited that UnREAL will be returning for a second season; I was not sure if it was possible but I hope that it will be another satirical look at the state of reality TV. I do not know how I discovered this show, I think it was because of Shiri Appleby but my wife and I binge-watched this too quickly. Binge-watching is a lot of fun but when it is over it leaves you wanting more. Have you seen UnREAL, and if so what do you think it says about the Television industry? Let me know in the comments below.

Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Posted August 25, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Drama / 0 Comments

Cinema ParadisoTitle: Cinema Paradiso
Released: 1988
Giuseppe Tornatore
StarsJacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi
Genre: Drama

Italian masterpiece Cinema Paradiso tells the story of the life of fictional film director Salvatore Di Vita. This is often seen as an example of nostalgic post-modernism, exploring the evolution of cinema in the form of a coming of age story. Writer and Director Giuseppe Tornatore has spoken out as saying that Cinema Paradiso was his eulogy to the death of cinema, however after the success of the movie he never mentioned this again.

The 1988 movie is set in the small Sicilian town of Giancaldo where Salvatore (Toto) Di Vita grows up. He befriends the local film projectionist Alfredo and the movie follows this development through the ages of cinema. The theme of censorship plays a big part of the movie, often depicting scenes where the local priest would watch the movies prior to release in order to remove all kissing scenes or anything else that is considered inappropriate. This is in a time where the whole town came together to watch a movie and get the latest news. So there was not much choice in what to see and with the whole family there it needed to be appropriate for all ages. However this does spark many debates on the necessity of censorship and one day I hope to do a blog post on the Hays Code that nearly destroyed America cinema as well as the Legion of Decency, an organisation that would boycott any movie they deemed inappropriate.

While Cinema Paradiso likes to take a hard look at the censorship, it does not take itself too seriously. Stand out scene for this was when a kissing scene finally makes the screen and the priest in an outrage says he would not watch this pornographic movie. Despite the fact that he has spent many hours watching all these movies in the past. As well as looking at censorship I could not over look the nostalgic value of this movie. Depicting scenes from many great movies including; The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Carmela (1942), The Outlaw (1943), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and so much more. I am no expert in classic cinema but I really enjoyed the nostalgic approach found within the movie.

I have never seen this movie before and I feel a little shame to admit this. In the future I plan to watch more of the movies found on the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die list and blog about them all. Who knows, I might actually get a chance to watch them all. I know I am just a beginner when it comes to critically analysing movies but I am looking forward to seeing the progress I make in the future. I have not talked about the acting or the dramatic use of lighting in the review, I may revisit this film in the future. If you have never seen Cinema Paradiso and are a fan of cinema I highly recommend getting a copy as soon as possible.

Movie Review: Trainwreck (2015)

Posted August 22, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Comedy / 2 Comments

Trainwreck-posterTitle: Trainwreck
Released: 2015
 Judd Apatow
Stars: Amy SchumerBill HaderTilda Swinton
Genre: Comedy

The latest romantic comedy from Judd Apatow is something completely different and will hopefully shake up Hollywood a little. In his last movie. Apatow took on the story of life after 40, in the movie This Is 40, which starred Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. While Judd Apatow’s movies are problematic when he directs a movie, I often get the sense he wants to take on some real issues. Both The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up had some positives messages hidden behind all the cheap gags and as for Funny People, well it was a little forgettable so I could not tell you what the message was with that movie.

Trainwreck was the first movie that Judd Apatow directed that he did not write, with the exception on The 40-Year-Old Virgin which he co-wrote with Steve Carrell. This time the screenplay was written by the lead Amy Schumer. Schumer has been taking the comedy world by storm, after first appearing on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in its fifth season; where she placed fourth. Now she has her own hit show, Inside Amy Schumer as well as being a critically acclaimed stand-up comedian.

In Trainwreck Amy Schumer plays a journalist named Amy working for a men’s magazine S’Nuff. She was brought up to believe that monogamy was not realistic and now Amy spends most nights getting drunk, stoned and getting laid, despite the fact that she is dating a gym junkie (played by pro-wrestler John Cena). She is assigned by her boss (Tilda Swinton) to write an article on a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader) despite the fact the fact she believes sports is not intellectual enough to be interesting. The film continues on the very formulaic romantic comedy path after this.

What I loved about this movie is the way Amy Schumer took the same formula and reversed the gender roles. While this is a boring plot line, the idea of taking the outdated clichés of the dating world and shaking it on its head is very refreshing. The movie does not stop there; there are even slight nods to penicil movies in this genre, including a blowjob scene in shot in the famous location found in the Woody Allen movie Manhattan. If I was a better film critic I would be able to pick up on all the homages made within the movie; one day I hope to be able to do so.

I had a lot of fun watching this movie and I think the stand out performance should go to John Cena for his portrayal of a homoerotic meathead. I did see was more of John Cena than I would like but thankfully his penis was still able to say his catch phrase “You can’t see me”. Even though the formula to Trainwreck is the same old plot, there is still something very true about the movie. I cannot criticise the plot because I have been in the same boat as Amy. Hopefully this is one step closer to a change in Hollywood; Trainwreck has been positively received but only time will tell.