Lev Akabas is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He believes that any food can be improved by adding chocolate or cheese, that Christopher Nolan has been robbed of no fewer than four Best Director nominations, and that LeBron James is the second greatest player in NBA history but will never pass Michael Jordan. His blog appears whenever he stops feeling lazy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you send him questions, he will answer them in a blog post.
Damien Chazelle is rapidly cementing himself as one of the most talented young filmmakers working today. Although it would be fair to accuse “First Man” of being a vehicle for director Damien Chazelle to show off with a somewhat thin screenplay underneath, I’m very much down to watch Chazelle flexing for the next 50 years. He brought me back to my childhood and made me feel like I wanted to be an astronaut again.
BlacKkKlansman is oozing with 70s vibes, from the afros to the costumes to Terence Blanchard’s rich, R&B-based score. And yet director Spike Lee is hyper-aware of the history that preceded the film’s central story as well as the time period in which it is being told. The first character to appear on screen is a right-wing propagandist bumbling through his lines, played by none other than Alec Baldwin, who impersonated President Trump himself on Saturday Night Live. Like the film as a whole, the casting choice is more than a little bit on the nose, but it is also suitable for a 2018 political climate that doesn’t exactly call for subtlety. In that same vein, an opening title card tells us that “Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit” — the story is so nuts that we probably wouldn’t believe it were true otherwise.
Art Garfunkel, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is performing at the Ithaca State Theatre tonight at 8:00p.m. Through his solo work and collaborations with Paul Simon in the famous folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, he has earned eight Grammys over the course of his career. Garfunkel is also an author, recently publishing What Is It All But Luminous, a book of poems, memoirs and stories. In advance of his concert, I had the pleasure of talking to Garfunkel about his love for performing, his relationship with Paul Simon and the list of artists he has on his iPod. The Sun: What made you decide to come to Ithaca on this tour? AG: I’m really interested in making a mark with campus kids.
Ithaca is often considered to be in the middle of nowhere, but the work of student filmmakers from across the Northeast were on display at the fifth Centrally Isolated Film Festival at the Schwartz Performing Arts Center last weekend. A wide variety of short films ranging from documentary to animation to live-action narrative by students from more than a half-dozen schools were screened. “In this area, there aren’t a lot of film festivals, especially for student filmmakers, which is the entire idea of the Centrally Isolated Film Festival,” student organizer Isabel Pottinger ’19 said in an interview. “This year we made a very concerted effort to be in contact with a lot of different schools to try to get as much diversity in terms of the people involved in the film festival as possible, and we really reaped the rewards of that.”
The student organizers from the Film Festival Production Lab course, which focuses on running the film festival, including learning how to objectively judge films, pared down a list of over 100 submissions. “We talk about things like: is the sound good, is the cinematography good, does the director accomplish their artistic vision, do we know what their artistic vision is?” Pottinger explained.
Blockers, starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena, is showing at Cornell Cinema tonight at 9pm for an exclusive prescreening. The film, a comedy about a group of parents who try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night, premiered at the South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this month and “did extremely well down there in front of a really enthusiastic audience,” according to producer Chris Fenton ‘93, a Cornell alumnus. In advance of his movie being screened on his alma mater’s campus, I had the pleasure of talking to Fenton about Blockers, his time at Cornell and his career as a whole:
The Sun: Is there anything about Blockers that you think works particularly well with a college audience? CF: Well it’s a rated-R comedy, and rated-R comedies aren’t made as much as they used to be, so it’s exciting to have one that actually seems to be resonating and testing well with audiences, and in particular this movie has two generations that it focuses on. One is our parents that are essentially my age, mid 40s, and then the kids in the movie, who I think really steal the show, are high school age.
When you consider what the Oscars are about — ranking our favorite movies of the year — they should really be a lot more fun. So let’s drop some boring categories (I’m sure everyone would be absolutely devastated if we got rid of Best Song and Best Makeup and Hairstyling) and add some fun ones, like Best Practical Effects, Best Ensemble Cast and Is Your Picture A Wildly Entertaining Horror/Thriller/Comedy That Doubles As A Nuanced, Thought-Provoking Metaphor For The Hardships Faced By Minorities In America? Another such fun award would be Best Scene. It’s the perfect way to both reflect on the standout sequences from some of the Best Picture front-runners as well as reward moments of brilliance in flawed films that would otherwise go unacknowledged at the Oscars. For reference, here are the scenes I would have picked each year for the past decade:
2016 – Moonlight – “What’s a Faggot?”
2015 – Furious 7 – Double Skyscraper Jump
2014 – Whiplash – Final Concert
2013 – Gravity – Opening Debris Sequence
2012 – Django Unchained – Dinner Monologue
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Tom Cruise Scales the Burj Khalifa
2010 – Inception – Rotating Hallway Fight
2009 – Up – Married Life Montage
2008 – The Dark Knight – Literally Any Scene
2007 – No Country For Old Men – Coin Toss
We’re looking for instantly memorable scenes that are essential to their film’s success and have the chance to become iconic years down the road.
The elevator pitch for The Shape of Water is “a fairytale for adults,” and the movie doubles down on this concept from the very beginning. The opening shot, a graceful long take, sweeps through an underwater home as if the viewer is swimming in it. The image is surreal, especially combined with Alexandre Desplat’s enchanting score and Richard Jenkins’ narration about the “princess without a voice.” Within the first minute, we’ve been transported into director Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy. Del Toro’s vivid imagination brings to life the story of a mute woman, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), in the 1960s who works as a janitor in a secret government laboratory in Baltimore. The science facility has captured an aquatic, humanoid amphibian, referred to as The Asset.
It’s not often that a recently released movie can possibly be considered a “masterpiece.” The term carries a lot of weight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCcx85zbxz4
Yet, many have already declared Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner, a masterpiece. 2049 extends Scott’s visionary world, in which near-human robots called “replicants” are second-class citizens, and those who stray from their slave status are hunted down by cops called blade runners (don’t ask why they’re called “blade runners”… it sounds cool). The original film followed a blade runner named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and this installment continues Deckard’s story but focuses on another blade runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), whose job is to kill outdated, less obedient models of replicants, as he uncovers a puzzle that could alter the division between humans and replicants.
The Oscars: an award show that expanded the number of Best Picture nominees after it snubbed a well-made, entertaining action movie, and yet still refuses to nominate well-made, entertaining action movies. I understand The Academy’s struggle, though. There are a lot of great films each year that simply need to get nominated, such as… The Flashily-Directed Movie About Actors Pursuing Their Dreams (La La Land)
The Uplifting Movie About Black People (Hidden Figures)
The Nuanced Movie About Black People (Moonlight)
The Movie That’s Not Nearly Pretentious Enough To Even Have A Chance (Hell or High Water)
The Movie About Everyday White People Wallowing In Their Own Despair (Manchester By The Sea)
The Movie Nobody Has Heard Of And Even Fewer People Have Actually Seen (Lion)
The Acting Showcase (Fences)
The War Movie (Hacksaw Ridge)
The Beautiful, Thought-Provoking Movie About Giant Squids Spraying Ink At The Actress From Enchanted Inside a 1000-Foot-Tall Hovering Black Potato (Arrival)
The Oscars could use a shake-up. At this time last year, I wrote an article introducing a hypothetical Oscar for Best Scene, which would allow The Academy to nominate movies that don’t exactly fit the Best Picture mold, but still have entertaining, technically impressive or inspired sequences.
Director M. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of crap, and rightfully so. Until his most recent outing, Split, he hadn’t made a good movie in more than a decade. After Earth was bad. The Happening was so bad that it was funny. The Last Airbender was so far down the scale of badness that it was no longer eligible to be funny.