Annie Hall

Annie Hall (1977) – A Review

My father always speaks of his love for Woody Allen movies, especially Annie Hall. I had no particular drive to watch this film until my professor showed us a clip in class where Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) sneezes away $2000 dollars worth of cocaine. I sat there in awe knowing that this is one of father’s favorite movies. A couple of weeks later, I sat down to watch the film.

I don’t know many Woody Allen films, which means I’m not too familiar with his formula. I watched Annie Hall without stopping because I was trying to figure out why this movie was so widely adored by my friends, family, and now my professors. I understood that visually it was intriguing, and according to Walter Metz, Woody Allen was significant in making New York City the booming place it is today. However, I watch movies for the plot. I love a good story, and I did not think Annie Hall had a very intriguing story, until the end.

Love is my favorite subject, and knowing that the film was about a failed relationship wasn’t particularly intriguing, initially. Things happen, and we as an audience can see the relationship between Alvy and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) is doomed from the beginning due to a lack of communication: they’d rather talk to their therapists than each other. Alvy can’t see it even after the relationship is over, and this is the cruel irony of this film. Yet, we love it anyway, and I believe that is because the end of the film is too relatable.

Annie Hall ends with a montage of Annie and Alvy’s ‘best’ relationship moments, where they are visually the most happy. Over it plays Annie singing the same song she sang in the night club earlier in the film: “It Seems Like Old Times (1945). It is a song full of nostalgia, which succeeded in bringing me close to tears. I spent most of the movie focused on the failed parts of relationship to realize the beauty in it, which is the opposite of what Alvy has been doing throughout the film. By the end he and I were at opposite mindsets, I view relationships as wonderful and amazing; he views them as “totally irrational and crazy and absurd”. His final words explain our overlapping thoughts “most of us need the eggs”. We keep going back to relationships because we need to even though there is no logical reasoning.

9/10

pulp fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994) – A Review

Despite this being a film that my fellow classmates rave about constantly, it took me about a week to finish Pulp Fiction. I kept opening it up and falling asleep due to exhaustion, thus my thoughts may be a little sporadic. That being said, most people won’t fall asleep during a Quentin Tarantino film because there’s too much going on to put you to sleep, which is not a bad thing.

Normally I am not drawn to action movies, but there is something about Tarantino’s films that fascinates me. I love his abstract story telling, and in this case he put a snippet of the end at the beginning. He doesn’t ever finish a story line until near the end of the film, and somehow he managed to bring back a character to the screen just as I was wondering where they’d gone. Pulp Fiction manages to have enough action to keep those who want the gore interested while keeping people like me, who get bored by blood interested by the themes and ideas it brings up.

The entirety of the main plot is based on a suitcase with a side plot focused a watch, but those aren’t really the interesting parts for me. Religion and masculinity are the true questions of the film, for me, and it took until the end for the film to captivate me. Up until near the end of The Gold Watch plot, I was watching because I knew there had to be something that drew people to the film other than Samuel L. Jackson, and I was right. The various storylines all came together in a way that I can only describe as a feeling I rarely get when watching a movie: I need to see this again. Knowing how everything plays out only makes the film that much better the second time. Pulp Fiction is not the most brilliant film, but it is an action movie that has something for everyone.

8/10

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American Beauty (1999) – A Review

American Beauty is a good movie. The five Oscars it won in 2000 will tell you that, but I am not smart enough to tell you why it is a good movie. This is the kind of movie that when you watch it, you know you aren’t getting everything. There were blatant metaphors and feelings that come with being older and wiser. As a nineteen year old, I am neither old enough or wise enough to tell you in detail everything that this movie has to say.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a middle aged man going through his mid-life crisis right before he dies. Unlike most stereotypical mid-life crises, Lester develops a crush on his teenage daughter’s best friend, and she is the driving force in his quest to become someone she’d want to have sex with. For months Lester is throwing away all of his adult responsibilities and reverting back to who he was as a teenager, which includes smoking pot and flipping burgers, leaving his wife to take care of all the house and the family.

Most of the subplots in the film involve Lester’s wife and daughter starting new relationships with people they probably shouldn’t be with. This strongly mirrors how Lester views his life has been for years: something is out of place. His newfound drive to win over his daughter’s friend Angela, (Mena Suvari) causes the audience to have emotional conflicts because Angela is underage, but Lester is happier than he has been in a long time.

American Beauty is a movie that is very enjoyable to watch the first time, but to truly understand all of the film’s complicated messages about love and finding yourself, it requires multiple watches. The movie absolutely deserves all the Oscars it won in 2000.

9/10

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Mary and Max (2009) – A Review

I haven’t watched many films from Australia. I think the only other one I’ve watched, besides Mary and Max, was about the sons of two best friends dating the others mom. I was wrong to even try to compare Mary and Max to that somewhat incestuous romantic comedy.

For the most part, this story is told through a narrator (Barry Humphries), which works surprisingly well. He tells the viewer about how Mary (Toni Collette) , a young Australian girl, writes a letter to an address she found in an American phonebook asking where babies come from. Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is an obese, middle-aged man living in New York, and he receives Mary’s letter. They become pen pals as well as each other’s first real friend, and the film shows their correspondences for many years.

The way the film shines is through watching as Mary grows up with the full intention to help Max grow to fully understand who he is, but he is offended by her help, which leads him to cutting off contact with her. This shows that even with the best intentions, it is possible for things to go poorly without a solid method of communication. This shows how out of date letter writing is in our day and age because some of the relationship problems Mary and Max have could be solved through an incredibly expensive, long distance phone call from New York to Australia. Despite this, Mary’s dream to help Max live with his disability is rather naive. It is based on a childhood need to protect and keep her one friend. This blinds her from thinking about how Max might feel when she treats him like a problem that can be fixed.

Mary and Max is a film that made me rethink the possibilities of stop motion animation. Rather than looking for something to be musical and entertaining, Adam Elliot, the director, shows that through animation, filmmakers are able to explore the depths of human emotion with figurines. It is not so much a film for children, but for adults who ought to learn there is always more to people than what you see at first glance.

9.5/10

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Jesus Camp (2006) – A Review

Jesus Camp is an incredibly well done documentary about a very sensitive issue for many people. Cinematic wise, it wasn’t anything special, but the crew managed to put together an unbiased film about religion. Personally, I could not imagine living this lifestyle, but it was interesting to be able to view the lives of those who I am like in a very limited amount of ways.

The film centers around a camp run by Becky Fischer who is an evangelical preacher. The camp is called “Kids on Fire”, and throughout the documentary, how children can latch onto religion at such a young age is clear. Their parents don’t support government education or basic science so why would their eight year old think any differently? The most intriguing part of the film was seeing kids just as passionate about Jesus and God as other children are about cartoons and pizza.

For those who have an open mind about religion, Jesus Camp is an incredibly well done documentary that will truly make you think.

8.5/10

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One Day (2011) – A Review

Let me start this review by saying that I am a sucker for a good romantic comedy, and One Day is a romcom that I have been wanting to see for the past three years. Finally I sat down to watch it, and I loved it. The film took my emotions and played with them in the same way it plays with time. After I thought there could not possibly be a satisfying ending, Lone Scherfig (director) brought me back from the depths of sadness to a level of content that I did not think was possible. In short, I highly recommend One Day.

The clever idea for the plot of this film comes from the writer David Nicholls who decided to only show us the lives of Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) on one day every year, July 15th (St. Swithin’s Day). Yes the plot is somewhat predictable; nerdy girl falls and extroverted boy decide they should remain friends rather than pursue a relationship. However, I argue this is not a bad thing because the film allows us to see the parallels between chasing impossible dreams.

Emma and Dexter graduate from college in 1988 with big dreams. One wants nothing more than to be famous, Dex, and the other wants to publish her writings, Em. Without a booming writing career, Em, has to resort to other methods to make her way in the world while Dex uses his charisma to skyrocket to the top. Hathaway demonstrates the frustration most feel when striving for what they want more than anything in the world with little proof that it could happen, and Sturgess shows the struggles of living the easy life.

Does One Day have problems? Absolutely. Some of the dialogue is cheesy, and Emma’s obnoxious, stand-up comedian boyfriend is nothing but a way to show the audience how great Dexter is. But I was swept away by this film, and the ending is a lesson, I didn’t expect to learn from a romcom.

8/10

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Camp Takota (2014) – A Review

If you’re looking for a movie with Youtube stars babysitting little girls at a summer camp with romance, Camp Takota will satisfy your oddly specific needs. However in my opinion, this is clearly a first time working on a movie for several people on the film, and with that in mind, the movie is decent.

Essentially, everything has gone wrong for Elise Miller (Grace Helbig) in what is a predictable string of events. She’s fired from her job, the book she has been working on is garbage, and she catches her emotionless husband (Chester See) cheating on her. Then she gets drunk and decides to work as a counselor at her old summer camp. There she meets up with her camp friends, Max and Allison (played by Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart respectively) who are still dedicatedly working at worn-down Camp Takota eight years after they were all together. Also camp stuff and drunken shenanigans ensue.

One of the main issues I had with the film were the various cinematic elements that took me out of the action. For instance, there was one romantic(ish) scene on the lake at night in which you can barely see what is going on. It wasn’t an issue with my television, I checked. It was a combination of poor lighting, editing, and set design choices. The scene relies heavily on close up shots of the actors’ faces, and what is supposed to be a cutesy first date is creepy and difficult to see without squinting. This, as well as lack of shot variation in some parts of the film, ruined the mood that the film almost captured.

I wanted this film to be good because I will admit to being a fan of the three main actresses Youtube channels, but if I didn’t know what their Youtube personalities were like, I may have been even more turned off by their on-screen characters. Both Hart girls are notorious for their food puns, which did not need to be carried into the film to the extent it was. Yes, Mamrie Hart was one of the writers for Camp Takota, and I believe this may be one of the contributing factors to why the film felt like the female Youtubers were just being themselves pretending to run a summer camp. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but the fact that the characters had different names than the actresses, left me a little confused. I can say that this film does not stand on its own outside of the Youtube community who have supported it wholeHARTedly.

6/10