Sometimes in our lives, there’s nothing sadder than looking down at the toilet paper roll in a bathroom stall and seeing only the empty cardboard ring. There’s no moment more lonely, no feeling so isolating, no issue equally pressing. Nitzan Gilday’s film, Wedding Doll, showing at Cornell Cinema this Wednesday, puts things in perspective. Because, there is something sadder than looking at that hopeless cardboard ring: A paperless roll in a toilet paper factory’s solitary bathroom. And, believe it or not, there are moments more desperate than that.
Marty Gross is a man of many hats in the film world. Coming to Japanese cinema in the ’70s after spending years studying pottery, Marty has written and directed documentaries, restored and licensed films and archival footage with his company Marty Gross Film Productions, conducted interviews and served as consulting producer on many projects, including Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams. All the while, Marty has continued to teach art classes in Toronto, teaching creativity to future generations of students (including myself). More recently, Marty has worked as a freelance consulting producer with the legendary arthouse distributor Janus Films, the parent company of the Criterion collection. If you pick up a Criterion release of a Japanese film, there’s a good chance you’ll see Marty’s name in the credits. In 2005, Marty’s work for Janus brought him into contact with Seijun Suzuki, one of the most eccentric figures of Japanese film.
There’s a scene early on in The Light Between Oceans where Alicia Vikander’s character speaks of a mother and father still being referred to as such even after they no longer have a child, and she states that she feels like a sister even after losing siblings of her own. Moments such as these tease the potential for interesting themes and ideas to be played out in the film. Unfortunately the film becomes lost in a heap of overwrought melodrama that ends up squandering an extremely high amount of potential. Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by M.L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans revolves around a lighthouse keeper named Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander). They live on an island off the coast of post-World War I Western Australia, and who one day discover a newborn baby that has washed ashore on a boat.
Homo Sapiens, showing at Cornell Cinema on September 6, opens with a drenching view of what Ithaca lacks: rain. Not the misty sort of showers that ironically serve to heighten the humidity but the real wet drops of purifying, sustaining rain. From this point, director Nikolaus Geyrhalter spans from one scene to another, each averaging about 26 seconds with a different naturalistic soundtrack of birds, bees, breezes, blizzards and beaches. Intermittent power outages — in which Geyrhalter cuts to black — provide the only pauses from one still life to the next. In its human-free view of the world, Homo Sapiens presents a powerful glimpse of our ethereal human legacy.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s most well-known film, Drive, was rapturously received by critics at its Cannes premiere in 2011. Writing for The Guardian, Xan Brooks lightheartedly observed how after “witness[ing] great art and potent social commentary; the birth of the cosmos and the end of the world,” – referring to other films such as The Tree of Life and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which also competed at Cannes that year – “all we really wanted all along was a scene in which a man gets his head stomped in a lift.” Indeed, one could assume from how Refn won the festival’s award for Best Director that year that Drive’s hyper-stylized violence resonated with many. However, for a director who has made a name for himself by realizing physical brutality beneath sordid neon lights, his latest film, The Neon Demon, is so restrained in its depiction of sexuality that by the time it unleashes a torrent of sexual imagery, we can’t help but be horrified. Jesse (Elle Fanning) is an aspiring model and recent arrival in Los Angeles. Living out of a motel in Pasadena, she initially roams the town in search of agency representation; her doe-eyed, adolescent features betray the beguiling innocence of someone new to town.
It’s been a journey. There’ve been ups and downs and many exciting moments for me as a staff writer in the Arts & Entertainment section of The Sun — ranked #1 among college papers by Princeton Review — and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything. For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my thoughts and opinions on my favorite art form in the world, cinema, with a community of intelligent, media-savvy people who actually enjoy art. There’s no finer school in which to have a dialogue about artwork with your fellow writers, professors and peers. I made some of my best friends while covering the movie beat (still trying to match you for prolificness, Zach Zahos ’15, and you for enthusiasm, Sean Doolittle ’16) and got to participate in something very special.
It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge my initial cynicism upon being told that The Jungle Book was being remade yet again. Not only by Disney, but also by Warner Brothers now that the copyright protections which safeguarded Rudyard Kipling’s novel have lapsed. While Warner Brothers has postponed the release of its own film until 2018, Disney’s latest effort has landed in theaters with notable aplomb. I openly admit that my original cynicism was unfounded: Jon Favreau’s direction has imbued what could have been an otherwise cold exhibition of studio machinery with an invigorating earnestness. Here we have a film that passionately encourages us to embrace our core essence while simultaneously recognizing it as an accidental feature that doesn’t reflect our true character.
David Lawrence is a film and television composer, songwriter and producer whose score and song credits include the American Pie films, the High School Musical series, and the forthcoming HBO documentary, Becoming Mike Nichols. The Sun spoke with Lawrence in anticipation of his visit this Friday about movie music, the process of scoring and Frank Sinatra. The Sun: There are so many people who write music to be a pop hit or for the radio. Was it your goal to write television theme music or soundtrack music? David Lawrence: I went to conservatory in New York.
It’s funny: both this article and its subject matter arrived far later than they should have. The Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival ran last weekend, from April 15 to 17. I’m just now giving it the attention it so completely deserves. Likewise, the festival — which began just last year — sheds long-overdue light on a major problem in the American film industry: a lack of Asian American representation, especially onscreen. The event was inspired by Katie Quan, an alumna of Ithaca College and current grad student at San Francisco State University.