Categories
Opinions

The (not so) golden age of rom-coms

Modern romantic comedy movies have made me lose all hope for the genre—but were rom-coms ever that good in the first place?

I have been trying to write this article, but I got distracted rewatching You’ve Got Mail for the hundredth time. You see, romantic comedies have always been my guilty pleasure—with all the corny meet-cutes, the “Will she, won’t she?”, the slow burns and all the tropes, and the inevitable confession of love. Scenes from my all-time favourites live rent free in my mind, and I have long wished to be Meg Ryan, the It-Girl of rom-coms in her time.

This movie genre was a major player in the ‘90s movie-scape, with movies like When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Pretty Woman smashing box offices and providing a decent dose of fluffy escapism. But since then, something seems to have shifted. Modern rom-coms often come off as unmistakably cheap, featuring little personality and an abundance of cringe-worthy dialogue. 

Because of my love for love-based media and my quest for a modern rom-com that’s as satisfying as the classics, I was beyond excited to see Anyone but You, the new rom-com starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell. I had been told that this movie was an exception to the phenomenon of disappointing rom-coms. Well, I was lied to. 

Bad writing, bad acting, bad movie. Was this written by ChatGPT? I wondered many times. We laughed at the movie far more times than with it, and certain moments had me rolling my eyes so far into the back of my head that I’m sure they’re still stuck there. Anyone But You just proved what I’ve been saying—modern rom-coms suck, and the golden age of the genre is over. 

However, this thought led me to a second one: Were rom-coms ever so golden in the first place? 

The closer you look, the more you realize these so-called classic movies were rife with issues. It’s hard to avoid the glaring fact that they all pretty much revolve around thin heterosexual white people. They’re often sexist, play into hetero-normative gender roles, completely wonky on the issue of consent, and feature tokenization or just downright offensive portrayals of minority groups. 

So-called romantic elements, too, can leave viewers scratching their heads. Remember that scene in The Notebook where Noah dangles from the ferris wheel until Allie agrees to go out with him? Super romantic! Male leads are often alarmingly pushy, and rewarded for this behaviour. 

Not even my favourites have aged well. What’s the message of You’ve Got Mail, for example? The big CEO shuts down Kathleen Kelly’s family-owned bookstore, effectively destroying her dreams…and it’s ok because they live happily ever after? 

So, where’s the middle ground? Where are all the well-written, beautifully-made movies that are actually politically progressive and reflect a more open understanding of what love can look like? 

Now is a better time than ever to revitalize the genre. I propose a formula that takes the best elements of classic rom-coms and combines those with a modern lens.

So bring back rom-coms. But not like this. And maybe not like that, either. 

Categories
Arts

A conversation with actress and filmmaker Katharine King So

The Concordia alumna discusses The Voyeurs, Montreal, and representation in film

In 2013, Katharine King So took a blind leap, and decided to move to Montreal to enroll at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. Born and raised in Vancouver, her move to Montreal encouraged her to forge new connections within the film industry. The Concordia alumna’s latest gig, The Voyeurs, granted her the opportunity to play a role in a city that originally ignited her passion for film.

Although acting and filmmaking are her chief passions, she’s equally enthusiastic about advocating for those working in the film industry who identify as marginalized. King So founded the LGBTQ2S+ group at ACTRA Montreal (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and she aspires to create lasting change within the industry.

TC: Can you talk to me about The Voyeurs and what it was like to be able to return to Montreal?

KKS: It was great! I’m excited to see what people think of the film, because there’s genuinely a lot of surprises. The film basically focuses on this couple that moves into an apartment where their window looks directly into the loft across the street from them. As they become more obsessed with this couple, things start to spiral.

So it’s a very rare experience to film in a Canadian city, and have it actually portrayed as a Canadian city. Most of the time [in films] we’re pretending that Montreal is New York or… Paris, but to actually film in Montreal and have it portrayed as Montreal felt really special. It was also special to get to be a voice for the city, as someone who lived in Montreal for eight years.

TC: Can you talk to me about your character Ari? What was it like to step into this role?

KKS: I think Ari just immediately spoke to me. The humour that Michael [Mohan] had written into the character was so evident, so I knew I could have fun. The film is suspenseful and can get quite dark, so my character is kind of like the comic relief. She’s also not afraid of being very blunt and speaking her mind. That, as an actor, gives you so much freedom which you don’t necessarily have in the real world.

Also, my character in the film is queer and Cameo Adele who plays my partner is also queer, so the director really went out of his way to prioritize hiring queer people for these parts. There’s a lot of things about this movie that I think felt very authentic for a big film.

TC: In addition to acting and filmmaking, you also started the LGBTQ2S+ group at ACTRA. Could you tell me more about this group?

KKS: We started the LGBTQ2S+ group at ACTRA Montreal, gosh, almost a year and a half ago. We didn’t really have one before, so it’s been really nice to have a community of people that are all part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. We’re there for each other, we have discussions, and we’re also doing a few actions to try and sort of make some progress in the industry.

Right now, we’re working on a better practices document*. The work takes a while, but it’s nice to have that space that can be accessible for people. I feel like that’s something that’s pretty intrinsic to a lot of the work that I do. It feels very relevant in the time and place where we are now in society, to be pushing for certain representation. I also think that’s why the film is so special to me. As a person, I inherently occupy multiple spaces, whether that’s being a woman, or being queer, or half Asian. Often in film, characters are only allowed to do one (role) at once. It was nice to play a role in The Voyeurs that was all the intersections of what I represent and also confident, goofy, and unapologetic.

*This document’s purpose is to present objectives that will make those who identify as LGBTQ2S+ feel safe and acknowledged in the film industry.

TC: What advice do you have for marginalized individuals who are looking to get into the sphere of film?

KKS: I think that it’s very important to have a support system. Also, the internet is a great resource now that wasn’t always there.

The industry is also a lot harder on queer people and people of colour. They get subjected to a lot more criticism, are expected to represent entire blanket communities, and are not allotted the same respect even now. I think you also have to eventually, in some ways, learn to separate the self from the work. If you do take everything so personally it can really wear you down, and it can be a hard industry to maintain your mental health in. Being able to look at something as just work versus your entire identity is very important. But that’s very hard. The work is in your body, with how you look, and all these things, so it’s definitely easier said than done.

TC: In terms of acting, how has it been with the pandemic? Have you taken on any new projects?

KKS: It’s been very interesting. I actually was very fortunate that I was able to work on a DC video game for almost a year, so I had pretty consistent work. It’s called Gotham Knights, and I play Batgirl. So that was really fun! It was also my first video game, so that style of acting is a little bit different than film. I also got to do motion capture and performance capture as well.

I was also shooting the second season of Transplant, which is shot in Montreal. And then I also got […] development funding from the CBC through the Creative Relief Fund for a sitcom that I pitched. Right now, I’m working with my lit[erary] manager and sort of getting that out to networks.

It’s been a weird year, but I think the film industry has managed to maintain a certain level of safety on set. It’s just been a lot of adapting!

The Voyeurs can be streamed on Amazon Prime. 

 

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Cabrera

Categories
Arts

Your Name Engraved Herein: a never ending love story

The highest-grossing LGBTQ+ movie in Taiwan gives audiences an emotionally charged experience

Directed by Kuang-Hui Liu, Your Name Engraved Herein is a coming of age movie that tells the story of two classmates, A-han (Edward Chen) and Birdy (Tseng Jing-Hua), who fall in love precisely when the martial law is lifted in Taiwan in 1987. Despite this, society doesn’t change overnight, and homophobia, family pressure, and social stigmas remain present.

It’s intimate and sensual, but heartbreaking at the same time.

The martial law lasted in Taiwan for 38 years, from 1949 to 1987. This period of time is known as the White Terror, when the Republic of China took control of Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), decided to impose a martial law, a temporary imposition of military authority and control of civilian rule, on Taiwan to prevent the Communist Party, led by Mao Tse-tung, from winning the Civil War. Freedom of speech and human rights were declined. Civilians who opposed it would either be imprisoned, tortured or even executed.

In the film, Birdy is a new student at a strict all-boys Catholic high school that A-han attends. The two rapidly become friends and their bond grows stronger.

They take part in the school’s band, led by Father Olivier (Fabio Grangeon) from Montreal, who is also the school’s priest. Father Olivier always reminds his students, “Profiter du moment” (live in the moment). During one of their classes, he discusses the concept of youth and love with his students. While everyone is questioning the priest about his love life, A-han and Birdy glimpse at each other.

News of President Chiang Ching-kuo’s death surfaces at school. Students are encouraged to take a trip to Taipei to pay their respects to the deceased. In Taipei, A-han and Birdy take advantage of their stay in the capital to enjoy their time together. Still, they are resistant to their mutual affection.

The arrival of girls shifts the school’s dynamic. Birdy is noticed by Ban-Ban, who represents social acceptance, stability and heterosexual romance. A-han gets jealous as Birdy spends more time with Ban-Ban and A-han won’t let go of his affection towards Birdy. A series of confrontations and reconciliations follow as they part from each other. Finally, life brings them together a few years later, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their past.

Director Liu captures a period of time when many people suffered from discrimination due to social stigma, even after the removal of the martial law. Gradually, society was able to evolve as Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.

The movie pays a tribute to known Taiwanese LGBTQ+ activist, Chi Chia-wei, who was imprisoned during the White Terror. The activist appears in one scene of the movie, where a protest is happening, holding a sign that says “Homosexuality is not a disease.”

At times, it is hard to watch since the story is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. In a particular scene, Birdy is injured in a scooter accident and A-han decides to help him shower. A-han and Birdy get intimate. When Birdy climaxes, he kisses A-han but rapidly apologizes. Then, both cry in each other’s arms, understanding each other’s pain, shame and love.

The title of the movie is in reference to the song “Your Name Engraved Herein” written by Hsu Yuan-Ting, Chia Wang and Chen Wen-Hua, and performed by Crowd Lu. In the film, A-han plays the song on the phone to confess his love to Birdy. By the end of this scene, both start sobbing as they listen carefully to the song, heartbroken.

In a Time interview, Liu mentioned that “The LGBT communities need a movie like this to tell them, ‘You are allowed to love, you are not guilty.’”

The movie sheds light on those who have lived in pain and frustration due to past trauma.

Although the film depicts a generation that was denied to celebrate their identities freely and are recognized in Taiwan today, it still demonstrates that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not over.

Your Name Engraved Herein sends a clear universal message that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and everyone deserves it.

Your Name Engraved Herein is available to watch on Netflix.

Categories
Arts

Mank sets out to pay homage to Citizen Kane

David Fincher’s latest film falls flat in revealing Herman J. Mankiewicz’s inner life

Mank was hard to sit through. This is both surprising and disappointing to me, as an avid fan of director David Fincher’s work. But when it comes down to it, Mank simply doesn’t pack the punch it needed to keep me engaged.

The film follows Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he heals his broken leg in a far-away lodge, writing what would become Citizen Kane. Meanwhile, we jump sporadically into various moments of his past, exploring the people who’ve inspired the script and significant events that affected the writer. These flashbacks, which make up most of the film, attempt to reveal Mankiewicz’s inner life.

The problem is that the flashbacks are confusing and feel disconnected from each other. More generally, Mank has a big editing and writing problem — the entire structure is off. The introduction of flashbacks and the end of “present-day” scenes lack motivation; nothing in a previous scene clearly triggers the succeeding flashback. At points, it almost feels random.

And while you’re trying to figure out the connections between scenes, the excruciatingly long dialogue sequences only add insult to injury. Everything seems so convoluted as characters talk a whole lot about nothing, only making me wonder “Why is this here, and what am I supposed to be learning?” It seemed as though the real story of the film was hidden somewhere in these flashbacks, but the confusing back and forths only make it difficult to know what exactly that is.

I believe that Mank’s structure fails itself because it tried too hard to pay homage to Citizen Kane. The black and white cinematography and 1940s sound is done well and works as intended, but it should have been kept at that.

The reason Citizen Kane’s heavy use of flashbacks works is because the story supports that structure. It’s about a journalist interviewing people who knew the titular character after he died. Its structure is what helps make the story so dynamic. The film also makes explicitly clear the connection between the present scene and the flashback. Mank falls flat relying heavily on flashbacks because its story just doesn’t support it, or at least it didn’t need it. There is no doubt that Fincher can direct complex films, he’s made an admirable career out of it. He just lost something with Mank.

Fincher has had an ability to adapt real stories and novels and transform them into thematically rich pieces; The Social Network is about the development of Facebook on the surface, but really, it’s about friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and the fine line between ambition and greed. Zodiac follows journalists’ and detectives’ search for the Zodiac Killer, but it’s really about the consequences of obsession.

Mank just doesn’t have the same spark. Obviously, it would be ridiculous to assume that every film needs to be deeply philosophical, political, or personal, but Mank seemed like it was setting up something more. When I compare Mank to Fincher’s previous work, I don’t see the same strength in his themes.

Ultimately, Mank is confusing and long, which makes it hard to care about. There is no attempt to connect to its characters, to make them likeable, or to make themes and plot clear.  It’s harsh to say this, especially as a fan of David Fincher, but at the end of the day the descriptors “confusing” and “boring” are accurate, and that is just a bad combination to have.

Categories
Arts

The story of the battles and struggles of Iranian women photographers

Online screening of Focus Iran in Montreal: a French documentary about Iran

The International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA), in collaboration with the Maison de la culture de Côte-des-Neiges, presented a free online screening of Focus Iran from Nov. 18 to 19, available to all Canadian residents.

The documentary, Focus Iran (2017), follows the efforts and struggles of five Iranian photographers, including four young women, who have to overcome  many barriers to continue working in their country. It is a story which shows the honest personal narratives of these artists about how they could battle the religious and social taboos to shoot a real image of the invisible folds of current Iranian society.

Directed by French duo Nathalie Masduraud and Valérie Urréa, Focus Iran speaks about the different styles of photography like portraiture, staging, and documentary photography via the personal experiences of their photographers to explore the challenges of being a photographer in Iran.

“After the Islamic revolution in 1979, many artists had to leave Iran. I was lucky to be one of them,” said Montreal-based humanitarian photographer Aydin Matlabi in a phone interview. He was a guest from FIFA for the public screening of this documentary at the McCord Museum two years ago. “The Islamic regime stopped shooting my project because I broke the taboos,” said Matlabi. “This documentary is about these taboos.”

Some photographic subjects are considered taboo by Islamic rules in Iran. For example, it is not possible to shoot a nude body or show women without a veil. If a photo presents a couple, the man is not to be shown beside the woman, and it is forbidden to shoot homosexual people.

Even if photographers could shoot these subjects, they may not be able to display the photos in galleries in Iran.

In this circumstance, it seems impossible to be a photographer, but the documentary tells the story of the photographers who are still working. “They are like the real heroes for me,” said Matlabi. “Despite their chance to leave Iran and despite many social, political and traditional issues, they continue to create the art with their nation.”

These artists use different methods to bypass censorship and limitations. Some of them use metaphor.

“I tried to take the pictures of my subjects in front of my room window where there is a unique background of a grey concrete building. This building was like a metaphor of Iran, whose people suffer the economic and political problems,” said Newsha Tavakolian, one of the women photographers featured in the documentary.

She also discussed another limitation: “The woman artists in Iran are moving in the minefield.”

Iran has a patriarchal society where women encounter many obstacles. The documentary navigates all of the barriers but never talks about them directly. While watching this documentary, the viewer follows the women on their shoots, in their studios, and at different locations to find out how these barriers forced the women to redouble their efforts to reach their goals, despite lacking freedom.

Focus Iran documented the voice of these artists and gave them [the] freedom to express themselves to the world,” explained Matlabi.

From Tehran to Kashan and the lake of Urmia in the northwest of Iran, the documentary gives a new image of Iran that is far from the usually discussed nuclear issues and political negotiations.

Focus Iran tried to avoid the negative aspects of Iran and mostly focused on the artist’s beautiful struggles,” Matlabi said. “It is interesting that the staff could get all the permissions to talk with the interviewees and provide a real image of current Iran for their audiences.”

Categories
Arts

Cinetrii merges computer science and film

Your next movie night is about to get a whole lot more interesting

Movie recommendation websites and generator apps rarely produce satisfying results. For the most part, the films recommended either share the exact same cast or are way too similar to be exciting. Well, most recommendation websites.

Cinetrii is designed to establish connections between films. These connections can be anything from recurring themes, motifs, explicit references, and homages. It’s simple interface is easy to use and each search yields a multitude of results.

“The results range from profound to quite spurious, but for certain films with rich discourse surrounding them it works pretty well,” says Nils Everling, creator and founder of Cinetrii. “For example, I am a fan of Michelangelo Antonioni who made a string of great films in the 60s and 70s. Through Cinetrii I found Burning by Chang-dong Lee since critics had compared it to L’Avventura.”

Everling got the idea for Cinetrii after watching a YouTube video wherein the narrator discussed the importance of understanding the lineage and history of art, in all its different forms.

“The subject of the video was a Rihanna song, but it got me interested in exploring the “lineage” of cinema in some way as I’m more of a film nerd,” says Everling. “I was studying computer science at the time, so I thought to apply natural language processing to movie reviews and see what insights could be gained from it.”

While most film recommendations are based on popularity, likes, and ratings, Cinetrii’s algorithm analyzes written critic reviews for a given film; it can recommend works that have been influenced by it and works that have influenced it.

In regards to traditional recommendations systems, Everling says, “While the results can be more consistent, they usually exhibit a strong bias toward the most popular movies, stuff everyone has already seen.”

Instead of recommending popular box-office films, Cinetrii looks for mentions of other films in reviews of a particular film and tries to evaluate whether the mention is interesting, explains Everling.

For example, a search for Taxi Driver will yield The Assassination of Richard Nixon, among others, both old and new. The recommendation links to a 2004 review stating that “The character [of Richard Nixon] is based on a real person and true events which also may have been the inspiration for the similarly named Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.

“Two films with intersecting casts are unlikely to make up an interesting connection, a connection will score higher if multiple critics establish it, and so on,” says Everling. “Under the hood there are a sequence of technical problems that have to be solved, like finding reviews, determining which parts of a web page constitute a review of a particular film and resolving references to other films.”

Since finishing his studies in computer science, Everling employs data science in other, less artistic, ways. Cinetrii remains his creative pass time.

“There is plenty to do within Cinetrii still, such as improving the coverage of international films and reviews in other languages,” says Everling, adding that he is in the process of updating the Cinetrii algorithm. “I maintain Cinetrii because I use it myself and it may be of interest to others.”

Everling encourages viewers to reach out via Facebook to let him know if their favourite movie is missing.

Categories
Arts

The Concordian staff’s top halloween movies

Bringing you our favorite spooky flicks

Halloween is almost here! But with distancing measures in place, participating in the festivities that many of us usually look forward to is no longer an option. So, cozy-up and grab a few snacks… here are The Concordian staff’s top movie picks to keep you busy on Halloween night.


Lorenza Mezzapelle, Arts Editor

Thriller and horror are my favorite genres, which made choosing a movie difficult. Finally, it came down to gore. I think that if you’re going to watch a movie on Halloween it should sort of be, well … gross. So, my pick is Carrie (1976). Blood! Telekinesis! What more do you want? Also, bullying is central to the plot which always makes for an entertaining film. If bloodshed is not what you’re looking for, then It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) is a good ol’ wholesome, festive classic.

Abigail Candelora, Copy Editor

If you’re like me, a silly little ball of anxiety who is frightened of basically everything, look no further! Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, a Disney Channel Original Movie from 2001, follows young witch Marnie Piper and her grandmother as they race against time to save their beloved Halloweentown – and, in turn, the world! This movie really has it all: early 2000s nostalgia; generations of spunky witches; an engaging, if silly, central plot; “evil” spells that are basically just normal spells but en français; Debbie Reynolds. And for my fellow sapphics: this movie has a special place in my heart (and lesbian awakening) thanks to Gwen Piper and her button-ups. All in all, you can’t go wrong!

Louis Pavlakos, Music Editor

Out of all the places to find a gory, gut-wrenching horror series, NBC is not what I had in mind — until I started watching the disgustingly beautiful Hannibal series from Bryan Fuller. If you’ve seen The Silence of the Lambs, then you know how disturbed the cannibal Hannibal Lecter can be, and this new iteration of the beloved maniac is a whole new level of insane. Mads Mikkelsen playing the titular character is one of the finest casting choices of the 2010s and Hannibal’s chemistry with opposite Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, is engrossing. Hannibal lasted three amazing seasons, but was ultimately cancelled due to low viewership. That started my on-going beef with NBC since it was arguably the last time they created a good hour-long series. Thankfully, it’s available on Netflix now, so no excuses! It truly is one of the best horror series ever.

Wesley McLean, Assistant Music Editor

With so many run-of-the-mill slasher and found-footage horror movies out there, I’ve always loved the original A Nightmare on Elm Street for how truly unique it is. Having a villain that exists only in peoples’ dreams opens the movie up for a lot of creative scenes and makes Freddy Krueger completely unavoidable. Just a quick power nap on Elm Street can lead to a character’s demise. The movie also has a chilling score, and Robert Englund perfectly captures the role of Freddy Krueger. Sure, the film is pretty dated by today’s standards, but the well-balanced mix of visual horror and campy humour makes it the perfect spooky season movie.

Juliette Palin, News Editor 

Recently, I struggled to find a horror movie that was able to make my skin crawl. As a horror movie junkie in the spooky season, I have watched many horrible films that immunized me to jump scares and the typical scary stuff. But then came The Shining, which kept me up for days. The scary, gloomy scenes are beautifully shot, and the soundtrack will stick to the inside of your ears, making your whole life sound eerie for days to come. I can always appreciate a slow-paced horror film. It may take longer to get to the climax, but the anticipation just makes it a whole lot better.

Aviva Majerczyk, Commentary Editor

I am completely incapable of watching scary movies. Just a trailer or DVD cover art for a horror film can keep me awake at night. So, my Halloween film pick is less spooky and more campy: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I first saw this movie musical at a Halloween party when I was 13, and I’ve been watching it every October since. Typically on Halloween, Rocky Horror fans would get dressed up and go to a theatre to watch a screening, complete with audience participation, but I think it’s just as fun to watch at home with friends. There is nothing more exciting than initiating a first-time viewer (or so-called “Rocky virgin”) into this cult-favourite film and watching them be simultaneously entertained and completely confused. The songs are super catchy, the characters are bizarre and iconic, and the plot is gloriously raunchy. It’s an absolute kitschy fantasy distraction, but that’s sort of what we need right now.

Chloë Lalonde, Creative Director 

I had to think about this for a while. I am a big fan of thrillers, true crime and hauntings, but not horror and gore (unless it’s oldschool). I decided to go with the first, the OG, the underrated, Interview with the Vampire, starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, and Kirsten Dunst. The movie is based on a novel by Anne Rice, and is absolutely iconic. It’s incredibly dramatic, features both zombies and vampires, provokes social and racial discussions, and has amazing outfits. Oh, and it’s set during the plague, so its relevance ensues. To add some more umph to this, I wanted to include a moment from the film that my best friend and I think is hilarious, but I couldn’t quite remember it, so I sent her a text, begging her to remind me: “Do you mean the part when Brad Pitt is chopping everyone?” she wrote, or maybe, “the gasoline in the coffins?” or this: *sends me a picture of Brad Pitt kissing Antonio Banderas* … Need I say more?

Katerina Barberio, Revenue Manager 

Halloween is my least favorite holiday — except for all the Kit Kats and Tootsie Rolls, of course. The thought of bats, black cats, and jack-o’-lanterns is not something that brings me much joy. I love movies but seldom do I watch scary ones. I remember one Halloween night in high school, my girlfriends wanted to watch a scary movie because it was an “excellent night for an exorcism.” Regan’s eyes in The Exorcist still haunt me to this day. I refuse to watch it again years later. I will stick to the type of scary movies I admire like Ghostbusters and pretend I love Halloween while eating Kit Kats.

Lily Cowper, Production Assistant

Because I need to get my yearly dose of Christopher Walken and refuse to watch Hairspray for the 50th time, The Dead Zone is my go-to spooky flick, about a psychic man who can predict tragedy using the power of touch. The film, based in wintery New Hampshire, has all the markers of a 1980s classic (eerie soundtrack, dramatic one-liners, and oversaturated colors), and is also incredibly picturesque. Another Stephen King adaptation, Children of the Corn, casts a similar vibe. The movie features stunning vistas of the American Midwest, where a couple driving cross-country happen upon a rural town where all of the children have been corralled by a demon to revolt by murdering all the adults. If you like corn, and you’re uncomfortable around children, you should find this film sufficient. While you’re at it, why not throw The Happening into the mix? Zooey Deschanel stars in this modern classic with ol’ Marky Mark himself. The plot follows a group of people bonded together in an apocolyptic world where all the plants have begun to release gas that triggers a person to commit suicide. Seriously, these are three of the most unsettling, cringiest films I have ever watched — make it a movie marathon if you’re in the mood for some bleak nightmaring.

Jacob Carey, Managing Editor

As a kid, I always loved going to watch horror movies in theatres. Of all the flicks I have seen, I always remember being most frightened by The Grudge and The Amityville Horror. There are some jump scares that were so perfectly executed and petrifying that I still remember them to this day (the under-the-covers scene in The Grudge and the mirror scene in Amityville, to be specific). Admittedly, nothing that’s been released in recent years stands out to me as much as these two do. Getting older has made me appreciate creepiness over a temporary jump scare in horrors. Midsommar is the most recent movie that stands out to me as a truly great horror movie, although it’s definitely more eerie than scary. In retrospect, I don’t know why my parents allowed their nine-year-old kid to watch all these terrifying and brutal slasher movies…

Maggie Morris, Head Copy Editor

I was somewhat of an adrenaline junky as a 12-year-old, and spent the summer between grades seven and eight becoming well-versed in horror movies. My girlfriends and I spent many evenings huddled up on each others’ basement couches, forcing ourselves to sit through the fear. While my love for horror films has dwindled, I still catch the occasional new fear flick in theatres. To this day, though, nothing has spooked me quite like Paranormal Activity did. I was probably one of few people on earth who actually bothered to watch the sequels — all the way up to Paranormal Activity 4, and honestly, they did get worse, but some of those jump scares have stuck with me to this day.

Lillian Roy, Editor-in-Chief 

For someone who really, really, really loves Halloween, I sure hate horror movies — too many jump scares for my frail heart to stand. While my movie pick isn’t a classic Halloween movie, it certainly has Halloween energy: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Wizards and witches? Check. Werewolves? Check. Crazed mass-murderers on the loose? Check. Freaking dementors??? Check. Teen angst? Check. Crookshanks? Check.


 

Graphic by Lily Cowper.

Categories
Arts

Last and First Men: a warning to humankind

Not your usual sci-fi movie

“Listen patiently.” Tilda Swinton’s voice reverberates against an orchestral score while the camera pans out on a sculptural installation. Then, the screen goes black.

Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson and originally released in 2017 prior to his passing, Last and First Men, presented by the Festival du nouveau cinéma, is not your average sci-fi movie.

Based on Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 science-fiction novel Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future, the film tells a message from billions of years into the future. The message is an alert to humanity, warning them of their inevitable extinction.

If you’re looking for an action-packed sci-fi movie, this is not it.

The experience resembled that of watching a nature documentary (Swinton might just be David Attenborough’s female counterpart). Her narration, which is similar to a dramatic audiobook reading, spans the length of the film and can be heard over the liturgical-style instrumental music composed by Jóhannsson himself.

The film offers an abstract anecdote of a post-apocalyptic world; there is no acting, there are no characters. Throughout the film, the camera pans over grayscale futuristic architectural details and archaeological sites. The stark architectural elements, which are socialist-era monuments and can be recognized as Spomeniks from the former Yugoslavia, contrast Swinton’s smooth voice. Her narration is at once compelling and deadpan.

Like watching a documentary or walking through an exhibition gallery, Last and First Men requires full and undivided attention. Jóhannsson’s film captures what it means for a film to be considered art.

Categories
Arts

Nuestras Madres: an untold tale of resilient Guatemalan women

The film depicts the unheard voices of Guatemalan women that were victims of the civil war

Nuestras Madres, directed by César Díaz, a Belgian-Guatemalan film director who’s worked on multiple documentary films, takes place in Guatemala in 2018 during the trial of soldiers who started the civil war. Nuestras Madres won the Caméra d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

The Guatemalan Civil War, which spanned from 1960 to 1996, was a war between the Guatemalan government and leftist groups due to unfair land distribution. The war led to the killing and disappearances of many civilians, but also the genocide of Mayan communities.

Ernesto (Armando Espitia) is a young anthropologist from the Medical-Legal Foundation in Guatemala City working on the massacre of civilians and guerrilleros from the country’s civil war. One day, he is acquainted with a Q’eqchi’ woman named Nicolasa (Aurelia Caal) seeking his help to exhume the body of her husband, Mateo, who was tortured and shot by soldiers.

In one scene, Nicolasa shows Ernesto a picture of guerrilleros. Ernesto is shocked as he recognizes the face of his father, who disappeared during the war. He goes to his desk and comes back to her with a picture of his father as he tries to compare both faces from the photographs.

This leads Ernesto to embark on the search for his father and strikes a need to understand his disappearance. In the end, Ernesto will be surprised to know the untold story of his mother Cristina (Emma Dib) who kept her experience during the war secret from him.

Díaz did a remarkable job in illustrating stories that depict realities that many Guatemalans lived throughout the civil war. The movie is a testimonial to the many Indigenous women who suffered during the civil war as they were the main target during the early 80s.

The movie is filled with sincerity. Through the characters, one can feel the pain and the suffering that has lived inside the victims for so long.

A poignant scene from the film occurs when several Mayan women from Nicolasa’s village decide to give their testimony about the war to Ernesto, while he visits to dig up Mateo’s body. A series of women’s faces are then shown on the screen, each of them having a different portrait but sharing the same pain for several years. They were once living in silence; now, they are heard.

Their faces represent the many people who endured the atrocities of the war. They allow people from around the world, who’ve experienced similar events, to have the possibility of connecting with this community.

Díaz’s work is a recognition of the people who lived through the war and who are still healing from it. The movie serves as an opportunity for the audience to understand the way in which these events can be traumatizing.

Many viewers may be unaware of the Guatemalan Civil War. Nuestras Madres gives people the opportunity to find out how a war that is little spoken about can leave a country with disturbing memories and many suffering in silence.

Nuestras Madres  is playing at Cinéma Moderne on 5150 St-Laurent Blvd. The next viewing will be on Oct. 3. Tickets are available online

Categories
Arts

The Broken Hearts Gallery: The art of holding on (and letting go)

The Concordian staff discuss what items they’d include in the Broken Hearts Gallery

Lucy is, to be quite frank, a hoarder. Every imaginable surface of her room is covered with a bauble or an ornament. She sees everything as a piece of art: her bookshelf is lined with trinkets — so much so that you cannot really see her books — and a selection of random items are taped and pinned to her walls. These items, however, are not as random as they may seem upon first glance. They all have one thing in common: each item is a souvenir from a past relationship.

I guess you could say Lucy has some trouble letting go.

Directed by Natalie Krinsky, The Broken Hearts Gallery follows a New York City gallery assistant, Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan), as she curates an exhibition consisting exclusively of mementos, souvenirs, and knick knacks from past relationships.

While by no means a cinematographic masterpiece, and despite its ending being obvious within the first 15 minutes of the movie, it’s predictability lent itself to being a somewhat comforting, feel-good film — in the same way that most cheesy rom-coms are.

That being said, its exaggerated attempt at creating a romantically-inclined protagonist, alongside the incredibly loose and ill-defined use of the word “relationship,” led many questions to cross my mind throughout the duration of the film.

Among them, how is Lucy able to fill her room with mementos from all the people she has dated? And why is she heartbroken after seeing someone for a little over a month? Ultimately, leading my cynical self to think: No wonder she is miserable and if she is always that devastated after only a few weeks … maybe she shouldn’t be dating.

Despite these shortcomings, the film did yield many relatable moments which offered opportunities for a good laugh. Subsequently, this made me forget the apathetic questions I’d been asking myself throughout its duration, and the irritation I often felt towards Lucy’s overt optimism.

One question, however, did remain at the back of my mind: What item would I include in the Broken Hearts Gallery?

Here is The Concordian staff’s very own Broken Hearts Gallery:

Lorenza Mezzapelle, Arts Editor

I only have one item remaining from past relationships: a stuffed toy duck. My two dogs use it as a toy now. Do with that information what you will. Depending on how loosely we are applying the term “relationship,” I have a roll of unused black and white film that was gifted to me over a year ago… it’s probably expired. I guess the toy duck is what I’d exhibit, chew marks, drool, and all.

Elyette Levy, Assistant Commentary Editor

Maybe the matching phone case I got us on a whim one day. We were both very spontaneous people, and I think that’s a bit what that represents to me: having fun by doing things on impulse. I also really like to tell people I got it for $8 at Lionel-Groulx metro.

Chloë Lalonde, Creative Director

I’ve been in a relationship for the past seven years. But from before that, I’m pretty sure I have a stuffed Spider-Man somewhere in my parents house (too iconic to get rid of). And if deep, ex-friendships count, I have a pink flowery mug and a little wooden tray that goes along with it, which still hurts to look at. There used to be a spoon and a little teapot-shaped infuser, but the spoon broke and I lost the infuser. That would be what I’d exhibit, I think.

Michelle Lam, Social Media Manager

My partner and I recently separated. For my birthday last year, he gave me a necklace that I’ve been wearing ever since. Maybe one day, if I have it in my heart to take it off, I will include it in the Broken Hearts Gallery.

Hadassah Alencar, News Editor

I’ve been with my partner now for 10 years, married for eight of those years, so I really had to dig around my house to find something for this gallery. After all my Marie Kondoing last year the only memorabilia I can find is a hard cover, comic book version of The Little Prince, given to me by an ex in the beginning of a relationship that just wasn’t meant to be.

Christine Beaudoin, Photo Editor

I’ve been in a relationship for the past three years. Before that, I spent several years as a single lady. During that time, I moved a lot, so all I have left from my past relationships are Facebook photos taken with Mac’s photo booth application. Applying rainbow-coloured filters, we made weird faces and kissed in front of the screen. For this gallery, I think I would have one of those printed and framed.

Lillian Roy, Editor-in-Chief 

I have a USB-key full of pictures from my first serious relationship that I couldn’t bring myself to permanently delete. While I could care less about looking through it now, I hope to stumble upon it one day as an old lady. I’ll spend a lovely afternoon getting tipsy and looking back on old memories.

Rose-Marie Dion, Graphics Editor

Last semester, I was in Melbourne, Australia for a student exchange and sadly had to come back earlier than expected due to the current situation. While I was over there, I went on a date to see a movie at this cute movie theater down the street from where I was living. I kept the movie ticket and put it in my travel journal. Everytime I see it, the first thing that comes to my mind is: aahh, what could have been.

Maggie Morris, Head Copy Editor

I ended a three-year-long relationship a couple years ago when I went back home to Ottawa for Christmas. When I got back to my apartment in Montreal a month later, I got wine drunk and took down all the photos I had framed and hung around my apartment of the two of us. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, and wanted to keep the memories (just, not on display to look at every day) so I bought a pretty box and filled it with the photos. I keep it on a bookshelf; there if I ever need to reminisce.

Categories
Arts

I’m Thinking of Ending Things: A bizarre time-bending ride disguised as a break-up movie

Charlie Kaufman’s Netflix Original is odd, complex, and thoughtful — in the weirdest way possible

Charlie Kaufman doesn’t want to spoon-feed us. If you’ve seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, or Adaptation, then you know that most of his films are open to different interpretations. If you haven’t seen any of these, then you’ll maybe be weirded out (or turned off) by the director’s newest Netflix movie, I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Kaufman’s latest work, an adaptation of Canadian author Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, is a puzzling one to review. I don’t want to dive into deep plot details because that would pretty much ruin most of the enjoyment that comes from his off-kilter storytelling, but essentially, the movie is about a nameless young woman (Jessie Buckley) who’s been thinking about — you guessed it — ending things with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons). Before committing to this decision, the couple decides to go visit Jake’s parents, in the middle of nowhere, during a blizzard. From here, the only thing I can say that won’t spoil anything is that it gets weird.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things then takes a turn as the movie diverges from its more-or-less linear story and jumps from scene to scene, forward and backward in time, detailing key moments in both the young woman and Jake’s lives. At times, the main story branches out in so many different directions, it becomes difficult to figure out what’s real and what isn’t.

There’s no one true answer as to what happens in the movie. It’s important to keep in mind that you really should be paying attention to what each character says. Sometimes, a keyword from dialogue earlier in the film will be an essential piece in understanding moments that happen later. I’m Thinking of Ending Things demands to be rewatched. Kaufman’s storytelling is so open-ended that it begs the viewer to come up with their own interpretation — a task that may not be viable to complete upon a single viewing.

Every character in this otherwise small cast is fully fleshed out. You could not cast a more awkward couple than Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley. Both were fully invested in the oddities of their characters, such as the bleak intensity of the young woman’s recital of a rather morbid poem to Jake on the way to his parents’ house.  Jake’s parents, played by the wonderful Toni Collette (Hereditary, Knives Out) and the absolutely creepy David Thewlis (Big Mouth, Fargo), elevate the movie to surreal heights. The main cast feels at home in Kaufman’s film, but they aren’t weird for the sake of being weird. Every line of dialogue is essential, perhaps not to the story, but to the character development and overall understanding of the film.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is yet another winning entry in Charlie Kaufman’s labyrinthine filmography. It requires patience, deep observation, and critical thinking, but at no point is it a slog or boring, despite its hefty length. The good thing is, it’s a Netflix original, perhaps the best platform for a movie like this to exist since it allows the viewer to watch the movie over again and pause it at critical moments to reflect on scenes they wouldn’t have thought about upon their first viewing.

There are multiple moments in Kaufman’s movie that call back single lines of dialogue mentioned earlier in the film. Some of which might be apparent, others, less so. All these idiosyncrasies are precisely what makes Charlie Kaufman a standout director.

Categories
Arts

Tenet: it won’t let you breathe, but it’s beautiful to look at

Christopher Nolan’s love affair with time continues, with mostly confusing results

Christopher Nolan is infatuated with time. Many of his films have manipulated time in different ways to try to show his audience that it’s not as linear as we understand it to be. While some have delivered greater results than others, like Inception and Memento, it’s clear that Nolan has no interest in telling a straightforward story. Tenet continues this theme and it ends up being Nolan’s most ambitious, but also his safest, movie in years.

Tenet doesn’t let you breathe. From the beginning of the 150-minute film, Nolan showcases his characters in exposition-heavy dialogue scenes that try to advance the plot without spoon-feeding its deeper elements. Meanwhile, Nolan is throwing John David Washington’s character, literally called The Protagonist, in various scenes across the world as he searches for answers regarding his mission.

But even when Nolan does try to clear up the convoluted plot, you can barely understand what the characters are saying because of poor audio mixing, whispered dialogue, and Kenneth Branagh’s sometimes-incomprehensible Russian accent as the oligarch antagonist, Andrei Sator. When all you hear is bass mixed with murmurs, it may be a sign that the movie is too loud.

Without giving too much away, The Protagonist and Neil (Robert Pattinson) team up to stop a potentially catastrophic disaster that could end human life on Earth. That’s all I’ll say. But even with a central plot so simple, Nolan manages to make it convoluted while rarely offering a slower pace to absorb what’s actually going down.

Nolan directly implicates his love affair with time in Tenet as well,, but his interpretation of it isn’t as intriguing as it was in many of his previous films. In fact, his storytelling is so obscure that it’s easier to just accept the banality of the plot than to try and decipher it.

Yet, even with these story-telling plunders, Tenet remains captivating, largely thanks to a great performance from Washington and excellent action sequences that make the audience feel like they’re watching a scene out of some futuristic Call of Duty game. Yes, the action doesn’t stop, but because of that, it makes the two-and-a-half-hour movie seem shorter than it actually is. It’s a fun experience, but shallow.

Tenet is Nolan at his safest. He knows all he has to do is come up with an ambitious plot and expensive action sequences to get the masses flocking to the theatres (despite a pandemic). It’s by no means Nolan’s greatest film — in fact, it probably ranks among his worst — but it’s still a visual feat and a fairly good time.

Exit mobile version