a beautiful anonymous question

a follower on my tumblr asked :Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 6.09.42 PM

wow what a beautiful question, which definitely requires some thoughtful consideration so thank you for asking me 💕💕

in my humble opinion the most significant value of cinema is its ability to connect. whether that’s with individuals, couples, families, etc. building a community that transcends centuries, borders, religion and culture is a wonderful attribute within movies. you can say this with many art forms (i.e. poetry, music) but in this case cinema is a marriage of moving image and sound – which touches so many human senses.
also a film can represent something larger than its maker and in doing so produce a larger engagement, create social and intellectual capital that might not have been readily available.

as for cinemas contributions that goes without saying! since it can and historically has abided by the template i stated (building a community, provide a unique experience) film has showcased itself as a vehicle for bridging a gap in a otherwise divided world and unfortunately has also been an agent in stratifying populations due to labor exploitation and blatant discrimination. but cinema and its makers permeating culture is fascinating to me… sometimes with iconoclast movies it can be what a case of what came first the chicken or the egg lol? with the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey and John Williams score for Jaws literally becoming the music that’s synonymous with a shark attack and even the bountiful curiosity of the outer space! with The Godfather, the dialogue has literally become the language of the mafia, which is a bit terrifying, but some fictional characters doing fictional things providing the lingo for the actual people is completely wild. cinema living within pop culture and informing people’s language, style, career, etc  is a totally fascinating aspect about the power of film (and also the power of audiences to allow a space for something like that to occur).

what are cinemas values? what can it do? answer? help? what about  cinema as a vehicle for social change! legendary director Frank Capra once said “if you want to send a message, use Western Union” many believe you should use extreme caution if you want to send a political message through film. but others such as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy lamented in her Oscar win that because of her doc, A Girl in the River, the Pakistani prime minister changed the law surrounding honor killings. now the film itself wasn’t the primary force of change, it would be heinous to disregard years of struggle, grassroots organizing, and general ache for revolution to simply sing a film its highest praises but there is a necessary connection between art and struggle and in my opinion true art should be made by the people for the people, which speaks to crucial need for democratization of cinemas resources if we can achieve this goal. Capra’s quote disregards the nature of art’s main duty IMO ✊

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a beautiful anonymous question

GOAT (2016) and white psychopathy at school

goat

Call it is misguided homesickness but my favorite film of Berlinale was not a European slow burner that I was expecting, nay, it was a film shot in my home state of Ohio and parallels that match the academic playground I was so happy to flee from.

Goat takes an unflinching look at the dangerous methods of hazing unique to American college fraternities in brutally tight shots and relatable character archs that beg for acceptance from the collegiate status quo.

Beyond the surface level structure of the film, there is something particularly sinister about the dialogue attached to Goat, but one that’s necessary to showcase the lengths young men will go to be included in __ transpire post high school. The importance of protecting brotherhood reigns supreme, and as the film progresses we see hazing as a historical tradition to weed out the future community members from the average guy on campus.

Goat does a wonderful job at taking a snapshot of a hot button topic, in a country were white male fraternities are compared to the likes of the infamous SEA Oklahoma chants. Andrew Neel’s film deletes all aspects of race relations, which helps cement particular frat bros from immediately being labeled racist.

They’re assholes not because of their prejudices but because of their actions. While the goal for most filmmakers is to move audiences based on what they’re experiencing on screen, great films utilize social commentary that speaks beyond their film to diagnose a problem or provide a solution to a otherwise misinterpreted subject. Neel’s goal with Goat is still unknown to me but its greater impact still has me reeling days after my first viewing. What Goat does well is provide an elementary analysis of how American fraternities are academic institutionalized structures of white sociopathy. Hazing is just a watered down version of the immense pain white men have historically embodied to erect their position of power against those who wish to become equals (as the case of fraternity brotherhood) or continue their supremacy against bodies they deem inhumane (Africans: cattle slavery).

It’s in these Greek ordained houses that torture can be disguised as hazing, and Hell Week as the continued protected violence white men can participate in without consequences. Goat doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but the interpretations remain.

GOAT (2016) and white psychopathy at school

Master list of Film Theory/ History and Screenwriting

Screenwriting

  • How to Write a Movie in 21 Days by Viki King
  • Syd Field Screenplay the Foundations of Screenwriting
  • Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434
  • Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing by Richard Walter

 Production/// Financing

  • Filmmakers and Financing: Business Plans for independents Fourth Edition by Louise Levison
  • Introduction to Media Production Third Edition
  • What I really want to do on set in Hollywood by Brian Dzyak
  • Hollywood 101 by Fredrick Levy

 Theory// History

  • The Intervals of Cinema by Jacques Rancière
  • Film History: An Introduction by Kristin Thomas and David Bordwell
  • Film after Film: Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema? By J. Hoberman
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut by François Truffaut
  • On Photography by Susan Sontag
  • Understanding Film: Marxist Perspectives by Mike Wayne
  • Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema by Mike Wayne
  • Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
  • Life Itself by Roger Ebert
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin
  • Orientalism by Edward Said
  • Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey
  • Third Cinemas by Teshome H. Gabriel
  • One, Two, … Third Cinema by Jonathan Buchsbaum
  • Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris
  • Gender, Ethnicity and Sexuality in Contemporary American Film by Jude Davies and Carol Smith

Film Criticism 

  • The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin
  • Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique 10 year edition by Marilyn Fabe
  • A Century of Cinema by Susan Sontag
  • A Short History of Cahiers du Cinema by Emilie Bickerton
  • For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies by Paulene Kael

 Coffee Table Books

  • Great Movies by Andrew Heritage
  • Acting for the Camera by Tony Barr
Master list of Film Theory/ History and Screenwriting

cléo vol. 4, issue 1 ­ RISK

For the tenth issue of cléo,we’re marking this milestone by thinking about leaps of faith, great failures and huge gains. We’re talking about what motivates us to take a chance on potentially losing it all in order to reap future rewards, or perhaps just a fleeting moment of pleasure or glory. Then there’s the fact that risk isn’t always a choice, as certain communities face danger daily based on racial, gender and economic inequality; what does risk look (and feel) like when it’s beyond our control?

 

 

Duality of Motherhood

 

 

Some women don’t take leaps of faith due to goals they’ve set according to their aspirations in life, but rather due to dire circumstances that jeopardize their existing condition. These risks permeate from the intersections of inequality that damage women’s autonomy, which include but not limited too: sexual violence, war and/or gender injustice. While male dismissal of female sovereignty is a common method of eliminating a women’s power, there is a way to counteract this gendered imbalance.

 

After watching Room (2015), the recently adapted novel of the same name, I couldn’t help but sense the phenomenal performance put on by Brie Larson mimics that of Sophia Loren in Two Women (1960), the first Academy Award given to a foreign actress. Fifty-five years separate the two performances and yet the similarities are uncanny. They are mothers. Mothers who take risks: whether in wartime or under great confinement.

 

Thousands of years of socialization has produced a mentality that women must not only bear the children, but also love and cherish the virtue of motherhood. What about the girls who are forced into adulthood due to sexual violence? Whether it’s navigating fascism in WWII Italy with Loren and her adolescent daughter or melting into the physical restrictions of living in a box with Larson raising her five-year-old son. It displays young mothers making sacrifices hoping to guarantee the safety of themselves and more importantly, their children. The duality that motherhood entails includes making choices that affect both mother and child.

 

My piece will focus on the unplanned risks that equate to the only exercise of agency for the characters of Ma in Room and Cesira in Two Women. The on going pressures from patriarchal forces of conflict and imprisonment that motivates these women to make drastic decisions that not only alter their livelihood but that of their children as well. That’s a sacrifice that is just as powerful and imperative as any prearranged leap of faith.

Tina Fey’s brand of ironic racism is still racism

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(Photo: Frank Masi)

 

Over the Star Wars dominated weekend we got the first look at Tina Fey’s new war-comedy, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, based on the memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker; Fey follows Baker’s experiences as a war correspondent in the hotbed of America’s War on Terror is enough to make anybody cringe given her history of racism and internalized misogyny.

So where should one start critiquing the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” trailer? Perhaps at it’s blatant use of brown face? Utilizing Italian-American actors such as Alfred Molina and “Girls” alumni, Christopher Abbot to don beards and Taliban-esque attire to complete their monolithic Brown™ aesthetic. Simultaneously withdrawing the labor and talent of actors of Pakistani and Afghan descent and promoting the racist caricatures that brownface projects. Molina’s character goes as far to make public sexual advances toward Baker continuing the pervasive stereotype that Muslim men are savage beasts. How original!

Or maybe I could talk about how Fey has miraculously climbed a couple of notches on the hotness scale since landing in Kabul! Margot Robbie, playing a fellow journalist explains that in New York she was a six or seven but Fey is now “a borderline ten” since being surrounded by Afghan women who clearly can’t compete with how white supremacy has bestowed beauty on their lily-white heads.

In a familiar joke, Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon on the classic NYC based show “30 Rock” is continuously ridiculed for her messy appearance, but discovers she’s a stunner in the Rust Belt. “We’re all models west of the Alleghany,” proclaims character Jenna Maroney. Who knew levels of perceived beauty can be adjusted depending on geographical location! Especially when the women in these areas are black or brown and lack economic stability given the exploitation of their land’s resources.

I guess one could critique just about everything from the March anticipated release without discrediting Kim Baker’s real life experience as a female reporter, but understanding the dynamics of xenophobia at play within the celluloid images of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”. The film encapsulates the picture perfect form of ironic racism, engaging in racist conduct and defending it under the guise of comedy. You have a star-studded Hollywood cast who voted for President Obama and is Ready for Hilary in 2016, all points they’re eager to check off in their multicultural agenda but dissolving them of the everyday realities of how racism and sexism manifests itself against women of color and how Paramount Pictures is profiting off violent prejudices that have historically and sadly continuously reign supreme.

In a time where Donald Trump’s agenda to ban all Muslims from entering the United States is met with higher poll ratings, releasing a movie that adds fuel to the anti-Muslim fire is completely unprogressive especially coming from a bunch of liberals who swear their “Lean-in”, colorblind rhetoric is the key to emancipation.

In what is quite possibly the best synopsis of the movie so far, a local woman jokes upon hearing Baker’s reasoning to work in the conflict zone, “… the most American white lady story I ever heard”. Capitalizing off the “Eat, Pray, Love” self-discovery trope that points fingers at Fey/Baker but has sinister motives intended to weaken criticisms that is justified in calling the film problematic. The planned jab is meant to detract negative feedback in an ironic sentimentality that modern day white comics thrive on. This neoliberal framework is dangerous to its very core because it disguises itself as enlightened whilst demoralizing an oppressed community and worst of all: has the gall to say you can’t take a joke.

In a recent interview with Net-a-Porter, Fey was on the defensive when questioned about racist allegations on her Netflix hit, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s, where a white passing character surprisingly reveals she’s Native American in a subplot that leads many to believe it’s mocking Native culture: “Steer clear of the internet and you’ll live forever. We did an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode and the Internet was in a whirlwind, calling it ‘racist,’ but my new goal is not to explain jokes. I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves. There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”

Is there really a “culture of demanding apologies” or a culture demanding creatives and people in power to do better in representing minorities? End of the day, Fey may opt-out of debates but the problem still remains, and more importantly the Internet will still be here to fill in the blanks.

 

Tina Fey’s brand of ironic racism is still racism

On Coppola, Longevity, and Contemporary Classics

The Chutzpah Kid

Featured image

Recently my Podcast partner and myself covered the acclaimed “quadrilogy” of films directed by Francis Ford Coppola during the 1970s. These, of course, being Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather II, and Apocalypse Now. What struck us quite profoundly is the degree to which these films still hold up some forty-odd years later. Each has found a place in the high pantheon of American cinema. Their legacies defy comparison, and frankly, remain the greatest accomplishments of Coppola’s career. Now, the question that remains is: why?

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On Coppola, Longevity, and Contemporary Classics