Animation has always held a distinct position within the realm of film, enchanting viewers with its unique advantages. One of its most powerful capabilities is its ability to infuse fantastical elements into otherwise totally realistic settings. Before the advent of CGI, animation was pretty much the only way to create convincing epic fantasy worlds such as those we see in contemporary blockbusters like Avengers or Lord of the Rings. When it comes to the history of western animation, Disney towers above almost everyone else. Virtually every American child in the 20th century has come into contact with the ideals expressed in films like The Lion King.
If you are a film buff, a film major or a filmmaker, the work of Hitchcock should be running on a 24 hour loop inside your head. If you are any of the above and haven’t seen the man’s work, a self-respecting film buff would cry, “What the MacGuffin is wrong with you?” and prescribe you a steady diet of Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho and others. I’m afraid I am not one of said film buffs who would do such a thing. Yes, I am a PMA major and aspiring filmmaker, but I have never been overtly enamored with the classic films of the great director. Personally, I’m more partial to his earlier work — The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps — and I even wrote a paper in Global I about the perceived lapse in quality — apparently noticed only by myself and Pauline Kael — as Hitch entered Hollywood.
Based on the debut novel of writer Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is endearing with its painfully suburban but quirky setting, wide range of eccentric characters and first-person narration by our main character, Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann). From the get go, his character is swiftly established with his first line: “This is the story of my senior year of high school. How I almost destroyed my life and made a film so bad it literally killed someone.”
Following the high-school filmmaking duo Greg and Earl (RJ Cyler) through their “doomed” friendship with Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke), a classmate who’s been recently diagnosed with leukemia, the movie seems to contain the makings of a perfectly mawkish tale, set to induce tears and follow every cliché that might spring from such a relationship. It is very clearly a coming of age film, generally filled with the suburban strife of coming to grips with life and responsibility. As such, its plot isn’t so innovative or fascinating: A white boy in suburbs grows up (or makes a butchered attempt to).
It is perhaps the underlying ambition of any artist to depict a part of the human condition through his or her work. In doing so, the artist may choose to include complex, reflective, embellishing sentiments, thereby offering a number of personal interpretations of the subject under scrutiny. This is reminiscent of most 19th century Romantic composers, authors and painters who left much of themselves in their elaborate works. However, there also exist individuals who possess a much simpler approach to their creativity, preferring to portray a given theme with bleak and sometimes caustic honesty. It is this latter method that Albert and David Maysles took in creating their 1975 documentary Grey Gardens.
After World War II, many things changed in American culture. There was a chain reaction, from soldiers returning home to their families, to the baby boomer generation being born. Thanks to the highway systems built in the 1950s under the Eisenhower administration, families were able to move to the suburbs in order to live more comfortably. This suburbanization became the hallmark of the post-World War II period. On weekends and workweek evenings, families with smaller children would stay home and gather around their television as the primary source of entertainment.
Crashing the charts last summer, the most recent rendition of our nation’s favorite song arrived in the form of a landmark SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. That song dominated every medium, as dissenters found themselves drowned out by millions of approving, celebratory voices. In fact, one could argue that Americans hadn’t sung so loudly and proudly since the election of Barack Obama, a moment which was also accompanied by the requisite fanfare and aplomb. Of course, the truth is that being a person of color in 2016 is not a radically different experience from being a person of color in 2007, and identifying as LGBTQ in 2016 still leaves you considerably more susceptible to verbal harassment and economic inequality. Along the same vein, I have reason to believe that the women of 2017, were Hillary to be elected this year, will not be free from the grip of sexism.
In his novel What Maisie Knew, Henry James instructs us that “small children have many more perceptions than they have terms to translate them; their vision is at any moment much richer, their apprehension even constantly stronger than their at all producible vocabulary.” Perhaps this is why our protagonist is clamped silent; he can’t possibly describe his adventures traveling from familial, rural hills to a bustling metropolis in Brazil. From the cotton fields in the country through the cranes and construction of the city, not a single word is uttered. To be sure, Boy and the World is not a silent film, but rather a film that uses unconventional, non-linguistic methods to characterize. Directed, animated and written by Alê Abreu, this 80 minute movie astounds viewers with its ability to communicate a young boy’s feelings about his father’s departure from their family home without featuring any coherent language system.
The Cornell Cinema has crafted a program of fascinating and diverse films for its Spring 2016 season. In addition to its selection of Hollywood blockbusters from the past year (Missed Creed the first time around? Don’t worry), Cornell Cinema is running curated series on a breadth of topics. Cornell Cinema’s series excel in their wide-ranging perspective, and appeal to Cornellians with a variety of interests, from the cat-lover to the sci-fi aficionado to the up-and-coming Oscars pundit. I talked with Cornell Cinema director Mary Fessenden about her planning process, the Cinema’s collaboration with campus organizations and the Cinema’s role in the Ithaca community.
I should begin this review with a disclaimer: I am a sucker for gangster films. I think The Godfather: Part III is actually a pretty good movie. Maybe it’s because to me the gangster film is part of the American film mythology (I love Westerns too). Or maybe the films just give me a vicarious thrill because I couldn’t raise a fist even if I wanted to. So when I say that Black Mass, a film written and directed by Scott Cooper and starring Johnny Depp as the infamous Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, does not do much more beyond effectively execute every cliché of the genre, I sort of mean that as a compliment. But to people who aren’t predisposed to wanting to see a ton of whackings, that may be a “stay away” sign.
Over 150 attendees watched the pre-screening of the independent feature film, Collegetown, at Cornell Cinema Tuesday. Hugo Genes ’10, the film’s director, said the creative nonfiction film “depicts the modern college student’s experience with student debt and heavy campus recruitment from the financial industry.”
Genes, who is a former arts and entertainment editor for The Sun, said he was inspired to write the film four years ago when he revisited Ithaca as an alumus. “The idea for the film sort of sparked when I visited Cornell as an alumn[us] for the first time … I was walking around Collegetown during orientation week this time as an outsider,” he said. According to Genes, the film encapsulates his college experience in a nutshell.