30-Day Movie Challenge: Week 4
You've seen it on Facebook! You've seen it on Twitter! Heck, you might have even seen it on Instagram! Now you can join along with us as Kino Club 313 shares our own choices and thoughts each week in June(ish?). Check out our picks for week 1 (days 1-7) HERE, week 2 (days 8-14) HERE, and week 3 (days 15-21) HERE.
Day 22: a film that made you angry
Director: Ava DuVernay
Blurb: I thought I knew about the problems of racist policing and the prison industrial complex before I watched this documentary, but I wasn’t at all prepared for what I saw. DuVernay makes a clear, cogent argument about the unbreakable ties between slavery and the modern-day “justice” system, but the film’s greatest strength is how much of an emotional punch it packs. I cannot remember another documentary that made me shake and cry with anger.
Director: Spike Lee
Blurb: From the early scene at the Stokely Carmichael event to the real-world footage of Heather Heyer's murder in Charlottesville, I don't know that I've ever had a more visceral emotional response to a film. The only thing that might be close is a screening of Ava Duvernay's 13th, which was only mitigated by the documentary format and knowing what was coming. BlacKkKsman caught me completely off-guard and left me shaking in the theater.
Day 23: a film made by a director that is dead
Title: The Last Boy Scout
Director: Tony Scott
Blurb: Scott definitely directed some rad films in his day, but The Last Boy Scout is an under-appreciated gem. This was back when Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans as leads in a buddy action-comedy was a selling point (rather than something that would make you run the opposite direction). Occasionally when I get really pissed at Ridley (like when I paid $12 to see Prometheus in theaters), I’ll angrily mutter “the wrong brother died” but I’m mostly joking... mostly.
Title: Summer School Year: 1987 Director: Carl Reiner Blurb: Among the several decades of great comedy provided by the late Carl Reiner, Summer School is the one that I have the most connection with. It's one of my "HBO movies" (films I watched repeatedly on HBO when I was a kid) and it's probably one of my (unfortunate) teaching touchstones.
Day 24: a film you wish you saw in theaters
Title: Planet of the Apes
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Blurb: Okay, so I wasn’t even alive until twenty years after this film was released in theaters, but I’m assuming for the purpose of this entry that I have some sort of time travel powers (although maybe that’s not such a good thing – just look what happened in the movie!). Of course I knew the “twist” ending of Planet of the Apes before I watched it for the first time, but I can imagine that seeing it on a big screen in the spring of 1968 had to be an amazing experience for a young nerd.
Title: Interstellar Year: 2008 Director: Christopher Nolan Blurb: Nolan's sci-fi epic, starring film professor Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain was the first movie I actively avoided trailers for. I knew I was going to see it, so I didn't need to be sold. And, obviously, the visuals and sound design were going to be incredible in a theater. And then I...didn't? I don't even remember why, but I didn't catch up with it until it showed up on streaming a couple of years later. And, while I understand the complaints that everyone has with it, it completely worked for me, and I would love to revisit it on the big screen.
Day 25: a film you like that is not set in the current era
Title: The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Blurb: This one might be a bit of a cheat, as it is set in an alternate history (one where humanoid fish creatures exist, apparently), but I do love this film at least in part because of the early 1960’s aesthetic. The clothing, props, and sets are perfectly selected and arranged to make The Shape of Water as visually stunning as it is beautifully written, scored, and filmed. I’ve read before that Guillermo del Toro has described his films as anti-fascist fairy tales, and the 1960's setting of this film is a perfect backdrop for critiquing the racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and nationalism that would typically be woven into the very fabric of a less-thoughtful film.
Title: Inside Llewyn Davis Year: 2013 Director: The Coen Bros. Blurb: I like a lot of Coen Bros. movies, and I would have a hard time committing to a favorite, but Inside Llewyn Davis would definitely be in contention. Set in the height of the folk era in Greenwich Village, the film creates a fictional Dylan-esque singer-songwriter (played by Oscar Isaac) who just can't quite seem to make it. The film also does some interesting things with structure and time - which will almost always pique my interest - but it's the performances (including Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake - and a fantastic cameo by Adam Driver) that carry the story. It flew under the radar, coming out shortly before Isaac blew up, but it's definitely worth seeking out.
Day 26: a film you like that is adapted from somewhere
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Blurb: Based on a French graphic novel (Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette), Bong Joon-ho's 2013 sci-fi rebellion story is one of the rare instances where I can say that the movie is better than the book. Although I loved the graphic novel in its own right, the film expands the original story into something with much more texture and life. And even though the ambiguous ending of the movie may be read as pessimistic, the end to the graphic novel is downright dismal.
Title: Dune Year: 1984 Director: David Lynch Blurb: Okay, so after discovering that I hardly ever watch adaptations where I've seen both the film and the source material, I've decided, somewhat defiantly, to go with Dune. I had to force my way through the book, and one of the ways I tried to do it was by watching the film. I would not recommend that approach, because I probably understood each of them less than I would have, otherwise. Ultimately, the book is probably better than I remember, and the film is probably worse, but, well, here we are.
Day 27: a film that is visually striking to you
Title: But I’m a Cheerleader
Director: Jamie Babbit
Blurb: Equal parts queer love story and satirical look at compulsory heterosexuality, But I’m a Cheerleader is probably my favorite indie film of the nineties (a decade with its fair share of great low-budget filmmaking). The sets, props, costumes, hair, and make-up in this film are gloriously campy...think Malibu Barbie on steroids. It is the rare film where it feels like every single frame is a visual bonanza – especially when we get to the True Directions camp, where protagonist Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is sent to “pray away the gay” when her friends and family decide she is secretly a lesbian.
Title: Suspiria Year: 1977 Director: Dario Argento Blurb: A couple of years ago I spent an afternoon laying on my couch watching movies. After scrolling for a bit, I decided to pull the trigger on Suspiria. I don't think I could summarize the plot if I had a gun to my head, but the visuals were stunning. I followed it with David Lynch's Blue Velvet, and I can honestly say it's one of my favorite back-to-back film experiences.
Day 28: A film that made you feel uncomfortable
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Blurb: Dogtooth is a film that I simultaneously want to share with others while feeling like I cannot in good conscience ask others to experience how disturbing it is. In a film with sexual assault, incest, self-mutilation, and straight-up animal murder, somehow the most upsetting element to me personally is the extent of the brainwashing the 'children' experience, to the point that “brainwashing” doesn’t even really cover it. Imagine that every element of your existence was created for the purpose of keeping you imprisoned – from the words you know to the songs you sing to the games you play – from the moment you are born to the moment you die. Dogtooth takes the existential crises portrayed in films like The Matrix and Dark City and twist the knife by making the wardens a father and mother and the prisoners their adult children who have been manipulated into a form of endless adolescence.
Title: 10 Cloverfield Lane Year: 2016 Director: Dan Trachtenberg Blurb: This is Trachtenberg's first feature film, and it does tension better than almost any movie I can think of. The way he uses the claustrophobic space of the bunker, and the shifting dynamics between Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr. left me off-balance and not knowing what to expect for the entire film.
Day 29: A film that makes you want to fall in love
Title: Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Blurb: I’ll admit that I’m not much of a romantic, despite being overly sentimental and emotional about most things. Straight up romances don’t do much for me, typically – I mean, how many skinny white couples do I need to care about to enjoy this genre of film? Too many, in my opinion. But I do unabashedly love Before Sunrise. It’s the sort of film that reminds me that love does exist – even if it may be fleeting (can you tell that I haven't watched the two sequels?).
Title: Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Blurb: I saw this when I was 21 and at the height of my naive, romantic-ness, which is either the best or worst time to see it. It's a film that is effectively plot-less, instead focusing on two people meeting by chance and spending an entire evening falling in love with each other. Given my inherent cynicism, it's probably films like this that allowed me to believe in love long enough to actually find it.
Day 30: A film with your favorite ending
Title: Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Blurb: It seems weird to call this my “favorite” film ending but is certainly one that I find very effective. To have your central character – who has this whole time remained measured, protective, and capable in the face of the zombie horde – lynched by the local lawmen the instant he steps outdoors... I can still remember that moment of shock and despair from the first time I saw the film, and I feel it as strongly (or more so) with each rewatch.
Title: Quigley Down Under
Director: Simon Wincer
Blurb: As I was telling Shelby after choosing this movie, I only ever think about Quigley Down Under (an Australian western starring Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, and Alan Rickman) when I'm thinking about amazing endings. I can't really talk about why without spoiling it, and it's the best part of the film, so I'm not going to. But if you're ever sitting at home looking for something to put on, and you come across this, watch it to the end. It's awesome.