Written By: Joseph Naguski
Mirai is the latest film from Japanese film director and animator Mamoru Hosoda and his first to be nominated for an Oscar. The film presents to audiences a fantasy-driven tale of a young boy learning about his family through traveling within the past and the future.
The film revolves around a four-year-old boy named Kun who loves trains and the struggles he and his family go through with the introduction of a new baby girl in their lives. On one day unexpected to Kun, his mother presents to him an unwanted new member of the family, his little sister Mirai. This new family member throws the house into chaos as Kun becomes filled with envy as the family’s attention shifts to his new baby sister. One day after throwing a tantrum Kun goes into his family’s garden and encounters a strange man claiming to be the prince of his house. The man whines about the attention he lost when Kun was born in the same way that Kun had been complaining about his sister. Kun realizes that the man is actually his dog. He ends up connecting with the dog and complains to his parents about the way they treat the dog. Throughout the film Kun encounters different versions of his family members in situations, including a version of his sister as a middle schooler from the future. These engagements help him learn more about those members and teaches him how to sympathize with them more. After getting lost at a train station in his fantasy world Kun must find a way back home or risk being lost forever.
The character design of the film distinguishes the film. The way Kun is portrayed is exceptionally realistic to how many boys his age act in real life. His bratty nature is very relatable if you know any kids that age. In some circumstances he is shown to be too violent but he is a great protagonist to follow because of the way his character develops throughout the film. The rest of the family all have their own characteristics explored through Kun’s engagements with them in the fantasy world. This generates emotion from the audience as they invest in the characters. The animation coming from Hosoda is significant. Its combination of CGI and hand painted backgrounds bring the gorgeous world of Mirai to life.
The film score is another proponent which makes its narrative so successful. From whimsical and adventurous melodies to somber and scary tunes the music throughout the movie really helps drive certain emotions into the audience. This is most prevalent in the scenes in which Kun travels from his home to another fantasy land. I watched the film dubbed in English as that was the only option available. I am usually not a fan of English voiceovers in foreign films because I feel like a certain aspect of the original emotion and meaning is lost. However, I think Mirai’s voice actors did a sufficient job of portraying the emotion of the scenes.
Mirai’s heartwarming tale is a great film for both kids and parents alike. Its mixture of realism and fantasy does a good job of keeping viewers engaged in the story. This film can entertain a wide variety of audiences and should definitely be watched by fans of Japanese animated features.
By Bill Friedell
It wasn’t until after my first viewing of the academy award winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) that it dawned on me how few theatrical animated superhero films we have. While there have been some, such as The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004 ), The Lego Batman Movie (Chris McKay ,2017), and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Eric Radomski, Bruce Time, Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur, Dan Riba, 1993), most animated superhero films tend to be based on pre-established animated tv shows or franchises, and most tend to revolve around offshoots of Batman. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showed audiences something that other animated superhero films could potentially employ better than live action films could: replicate the style of comic book storytelling. Not only by adapting this unique storytelling style does this film distinguish itself in the realm of animation, it also serves the very story it tells.
Animation seems to be the perfect genre for incorporating comic book storytelling because like it too is an animation built on the foundation of illustration. The stylized visual elements of comics seem much more at home in a drawn environment because both art forms stem from illustration. To see an example of this style attempted in live action (with very different results) is Hulk (Ang Lee, 2003) and Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Edgar Wright, 2010). Hulk’s use of panel transitions comes off as distracting and overall doesn’t fit the aesthetic set out by the film. It distracts rather than enhances. Scott Pilgrim vs the World establishes a world in which the comic book and videogame aesthetics can coexist. Down below are some examples of how Hulk and Scott Pilgrim vs the World utilized this style.
One of the major techniques used to create this comic book feel in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the frame rate utilized by the animators. The film was shot on “twos.” This means that every other frame of character movements is used. This helps exaggerate the movements and allows actions to pop in the same way a comic book character does on a page. But it can also help sell the story beats in a really subtle way. In the sequence where Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) are running from armed scientists, Miles needs to learn how to web swing. Peter is a master of web swinging, so he is shot on a different frame rate, smoothly swinging. Miles, shot on twos, is out of sync with Peter. As he gets better, he and Peter match frame rates, showing Miles and Peter finally working well together and revealing both character’s progression without any dialogue.
Perhaps the most prominent use of comic book storytelling techniques takes place when Miles goes through school after being bitten by a radioactive spider. For the most part, when following Miles, the comic book flourishes are restricted up until this point (with the exception of when he makes his graffiti art, which will be important later). Once he wakes up after being bitten, it acts as an onslaught. His thoughts are louder, written in thought boxes. His senses are enhanced, which is shown through beautiful multi-panel closeups of people talking about him. This use of the style displays his progression by the very placement of the comic book style storytelling.
This is also seen in the mirrored scenes shown when he tries to swing between buildings. In the beginning of the film, he starts on a small building and falls, nearly dying, with a large “AHHHHH!” graphic following him. Later in the film, now believing in himself and sporting his own Spider-Man suit, he falls from upward (based on the camera position) and succeeds, with a “WHOOOO” graphic rising with him. These choices mean something in the greater context of the film by charting Mile’s growth and overall serving a purpose in the story. Nothing is superfluous.
Another major part of the comic book storytelling aesthetic is the celebration of artistic diversity. Just as the various Spider heroes come from various backgrounds, genders, races, and universes, the art styles in which they are drawn are distinct and diverse from each other. Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) represents an anime/manga art style with exaggerated movements and poses. Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) is drawn in black and white, reflecting film noir. Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) resembles the slapstick simplicity of the Looney Tunes. Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) has an elegance movement style and comes from a water colored world, reflecting her own hit comic book.
By showcasing the various Spider-Men and Women in different art styles, it serves two purposes. One, it reflects Miles’ journey of self-discovery, seeing as he spray paints a Spider-Man costume to reflect his own style, mirroring his earlier graffiti art. Miles adopts a hip hop graffiti aesthetic, finally coming into his own as Spider-Man of his universe. But this diverse mixing pot of styles reflects the diverse art styles and stories that comic books, animation, and film can accomplish. Very few comic books in the market look alike, ranging from cartoony, to realistic, to impressionistic, to retro, and so much more. By each of these styles being put in a mixing pot, it celebrates the diversity and potential refreshment that new styles can bring.
When you look at Spider-Man movies of the past, many share similar stories, particularly, the retelling of Spider-Man’s origin, which is a constant joke throughout the film. Mile’s story is an origin, sharing similar traits to the Spider-Man origin: being bitten by a radioactive spider, losing an uncle, making up for a past failure, etc. But the film tells the story in such a unique and artistic way that it feels like hearing the story for the very first time.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a love letter to comic book storytelling, superheroes, and Spider-Man. It represents the possibilities of looking at things through a different perspective. Superhero stories must allow for stylistic experimentation, just like how any other medium or genre must develop and grow in order to stay alive in the moviegoers mind and heart. By bringing in comic book storytelling that allows for diverse design, and characters that serves those characters and these stories, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse brilliantly marries animation and comic book storytelling to create a Spider-Man film unlike any other. And when there have already been so many Spider-Mans in live action and animated shows, that’s saying something.
WIRED, director. YouTube. YouTube, YouTube, 22 Mar. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-wUKu_V2Lk.
17 years go by, and Earl’s business has been stolen by the Internet, causing his house to get evicted. Living out of his truck, Earl visits his granddaughter, who is holding her bridal shower. One of her friends there approaches Earl, and gives him a business card. He states that he knows someone who is hiring drivers for good money. Earl, being naive and innocent looking, seems to be unaware that this is related to drug smuggling.
It should be said that this film is based off of the true story of Leo Sharp, who was a real WWII veteran, and engaged in similar actions. People have been critical of this film due to the large amount of racism that Earl exerts on everyone. He constantly makes derogatory remarks towards almost every race other than his own. Some have associated that with Eastwood himself, given his political stances in reality, but it is most likely irrelevant.
Family is the central theme of this film. Eastwood plays a veteran who becomes a drug mule to make some extra money. This is in an attempt to restore his reputation with his community, and more importantly, his family. There is clear tension between him and his family, especially his ex-wife. This could potentially be correlated to real life as well, giving off the impression that the film could be an apology to his kids for working too much, and not spending enough quality time with them. He actually invited all of his children to the premiere of the film.
It’s interesting to see just how disrespectful people are to Earl simply based off of the fact that he is elderly. Eastwood’s character is also critical of technology, specifically smartphones throughout the film, which is ironic because Eastwood himself holds that same belief in reality.
It is truly remarkable to see Eastwood, almost 89, direct and star in yet another film which is both entertaining and touching to watch. This is his second film in the past year, the other being The 15:17 to Paris (2018). It is inspiring to witness Eastwood take on another role, because he has not acted since Gran Torino (2008).
In general, this film touches upon an important note about work ethic and how that relates to family, but it also tells a true story. If you love Eastwood’s many other films, then you sure won’t be disappointed by this one.
Written by: Dylan Delaney
Written By: Joseph Naguski
Unnerving music accompanies the haunting black fluid that oozes onto the screen twists and turns into terrifying images that are sure to be nightmare fuel. This is just the beginning of the stunning visuals which plague the disturbing yet gorgeous title sequence for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In my last analysis for Enter the Void there was a heavy focus on the typography of the sequence. This week we will take a look into how amazing visuals can create a compelling narrative through title sequences.
The title sequence begins with an evocative rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” by Karen O with Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose. As the score plays black oozing fluid begins to run down the screen, images flash before the viewer until the title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reveals itself. The title is flooded by the black fluid until the audience is quickly taken to a horrifying image of someone being tied up and gagged. This lasts only for a second before it cuts to the ooze drooping down a keyboard. Different images start to appear, a lighter and HDMI cables are abstractly displayed as they come together to show someone being burned alive. Viewers then encounter a flaming bird, flowers, someone drowning, a back with a dragon tattoo, climaxing with a dragon emerging from the liquid. The images then shift to wasps and faces being punched. The scene of the sequence switches again and eerie spectacles of flowers are intertwined with images of a girl, peaking with hands pulling back the girl’s face which morphs into a flower in bloom. At the conclusion of the sequence all the different images start to become more chaotically intertwined as the music fills listeners with tremendous anxiety before entering the mouth of someone screaming as they arise from the fluid.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s title sequence gives audiences a sense of the motifs and the brutality that embodies this film and its nonexistent sequels which were intended to follow. Based on the novel by Steig Larsson, this psychological crime thriller from David Fincher follows journalist Mikael Blomkvist and unhinged computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Mikael had just suffered legal and professional ruin after a being sued for libel by a billionaire conman named Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is given a chance to redeem himself by another wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger. Vanger offers a great amount of money and information that could destroy Wennerström. The job Vanger presents to Mikael is to try and solve the 40-year mystery of the disappearance and assumed murder of his grandniece Harriet. The only solid clue is that it must have been a member of his family who lives on their private island. As Mikael begins to research this we are shown the life of Lisbeth, who is deemed mentally unstable by the government and must be placed with a guardian. After her original guardian suffers from a stroke, she is placed with an atrocious man who forces her into sexual acts for money and ultimately rapes her. She captured the rape on a hidden camera and through her own twisted acts was able to escape his control over her. As Mikael continues to investigate he finds that needs an assistant and after learning of Lisbeth’s skills he convinces her to join him. The two discover that the situation at hand is much bigger than they first thought. They uncover a series of murders leading to the realization that a serial killer is in their midst and is still at large.
The terrifying cyberpunk imagery in this title sequence was designed as a representation of the main heroine Lisbeth Salander. The director David Fincher “wanted it to be like a fever dream, with a lot of abstract imagery.” (Tim Miller, artofthetitle) Some of these images we can trace back to information from the film. The black liquid that connects the whole sequence together symbolizes the motif of liquid aesthetic present throughout the film. (The drowning, the river separating the island from the rest of the world.) The keyboard represents Lisbeth’s exceptional hacking abilities. This aspect of technological privacy in the film is interesting as Fincher also directed The Social Network which released just a year prior. The image of the person being burned alive is call to her trying to burn her father alive which was mentioned briefly in the film. Flowers were an illustrative nod to the flowers Henrik Vanger was given every year on his birthday by Harriet and then her supposed killer. As I stated earlier, this film was based off a novel and intended to be a trilogy. Some of the images were supposed to represent events weren’t going to take place until second and third movies (like the wasps), so we are unable to analyze them.
A slight note on the typography of the sequence: the type is very simple yet demands the viewer’s attention as parts of the letters stretch out on the screen or begin to warp together before quick cuts are thrown to another image. The typographic design of the title itself was created by Neil Kellerhouse, as well as the design for the film’s posters.
The implementation of “Immigrant Song” as the score for the sequence was a major decision to Fincher and Blur Studio. “Huge, to have that in place right at the beginning, because the music really drives the editorial process in such a huge way. If you don't have that giant piece of the puzzle in place, everything can shift around a lot more.” (Tim Miller, gizmodo) The use of a Led Zepplin cover was chosen to be implemented by Fincher after listening to a big collection of Led Zepplin music. "It’s a little bit crazy, but it might be just the right kind of crazy." (Fincher, artofthetitle) The use of a strikingly eerie rock cover meshes well with the heavy metal theme of the sequence that displays Lisbeth's personality. The song's themes also are faithful to the setting and plot of the film, which is set in Scandinavia. It additionally is most likely a callback to the James Bond series which this sequence shares many similarities with, not to mention Daniel Craig's roles in the franchise. Fincher also stated that there was an intentionality to switching genders in the song because of the gender roles in the film. “Mikael is the damsel in distress in this.” (Fincher, gizmodo)
The title sequence is created by Blur Studio, a distinguished company which focuses on visual effects, animation, and design. Recent ventures of theirs include the opening sequence for Deadpool, the daunting opening credits for the Netflix series Mindhunter, and most recently Tim Miller has collaborated with Fincher for the animated Netflix series Love, Death, and Robots. For The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Blur Studio used RealFlow with the help of other CGI companies to create the CGI fluid. The viscosity and density of the fluid was created through a lot of simulations to get the perfect look. The studio also used 3ds Max, Softimage, and RayFire for effects and edited the sequence in Sony Vegas along with Digital Fusion and After Effects. (artofthetitle) For the people in the sequence they used digital scans of the actors portraying Mikael and Lisbeth (Daniel Crag and Rooney Mara) as well as other scans of people used to portray Harriet, a young Lisbeth, and her parents.
The visual effects in this title sequence help bring alive a narrative more sinister than even the film's content itself. The amazing black design which encompasses the piece coupled with “Immigrant Song” blaring into the audience’s ears really drives Lisbeth’s character through this technological night terror.
By Bill Friedell
Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2019) is the twenty first Film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is also the first MCU film to feature a female superhero as the lead. The story follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a superpowered soldier in the army of the alien race called the Kree with no memory of her past, begins to learn that she may be from Earth as she learns from the Kree’s enemies the Skrulls. After being separated from her team of Kree elite soldiers and gets stranded on earth, she teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to uncover the Skrulls who followed her, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and uncover who she truly is.
While Captain Marvel is an origin story, showing how she got her powers and become a hero, the structure in which it is told separates itself from other superhero origins. Since Carol Danvers doesn’t remember her past, her origin is pieced together throughout the film. While this structure creates a different structure for the film is unique compared to Marvel’s other origin stories, it also hinders the character from being able to truly convey herself. It becomes difficult to show Carol’s personality. She’s supposed to be an emotional, maverick based on the way the Kree soldiers see her. Consequently, it forces Brie Larson to deliberately hold back the character’s personality for almost half the film, sporadically allowing her to show this side of the character, such as when a Skrull soldier growls at her and she growls right back. Any time the character was allowed to be quirky and human was when Brie Larson and the character shines most.
This also sets Captain Marvel apart from Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017), which immerses you in Diana’s story, making you understand who this character is and getting the audience to root for her. Captain Marvel takes a wider distance and works inward. Whenever Carol’s humanity is displayed, the character shines, especially within two montages in the beginning and towards the final act, showing her progression in regaining her humanity.
One of the best aspects of the film is the dynamic shared with Nick Fury. Seeing a younger Nick Fury before he’s become world weary and carrying the weight of defending the earth as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives a new perspective on the character that allows the audience to better relate to them and creates an interesting new relationship for future movies to explore. His partnership with Carol is a lot more intimate (without being romantic) than his relationships with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers because of what each character experiences with each other, learning more about themselves and the universe around them. It’s also worth noting that the de-aging effect on Samuel L. Jackson is very impressive, never taking you out of the film
Another major positive towards the film was the handling of the Skrull/Kree conflict. While the conflict starts out black and white in terms of morality: the Kree are good, the Skrulls are bad, the film slowly begins to show that the Skrulls may be more sympathetic than Carol or the audience initially realized. Ben Mendelsohn's performance as the Skrull leader Talos is a wonderful surprise as he crafts a quirkier villain performance than his usual villain performances seen in films such as Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards, 2016).
From a directorial and visual level, Captain Marvel is one of the weaker films of the MCU. A lot of the scenes in space seem underlit and makes the image harder to see, but not in a stylized way. This is especially disappointing considering the other MCU films that take place primarily in space happen to be some of the best looking, such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (James Gunn, 2017) and Thor Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017), using vibrant colors and Jack Kirby inspired design. While the style of humor isn’t typical, appearing more genuine and from the characters as opposed to the Guardians, Avengers, or Iron Man’s self-deprecating humor, Captain Marvel contains probably among the least laughs of any MCU film. However, the film doesn’t seem to be reaching as much for jokes so that it doesn’t become the whole appeal of the film, letting the characters and plot take center stage.
Overall, Captain Marvel meets the standards of most MCU films before it, introducing and reexamining characters and ideas with a few twists to it. While it may not have the most distinctive style and visuals, Captain Marvel introduces another character to enjoy for years to come. And based on the film’s worldwide gross of $812,251,537, audiences are making it clear that they desire to see wider representation on the big screen. Audiences want more perspectives to view the world and the success of this film alongside smash hits like Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018) Wonder Woman, Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017), and Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, 2018), audiences are getting good stories and characters that better reflect the world around us and the challenges they face.
“Captain Marvel (2019).” Box Office Mojo, www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=marvel2018a.htm
By Megan Hess
“Where have all the good men gone?/And where are all the gods?/Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?/ Isn’t there a white knight/ Upon a fiery steed?/ Late at night, I toss and I turn/ And I dream of what I need….”
Bonnie Tyler, “Holding Out For a Hero”
“I’ll have what she's having:” The genre's golden years (1920 - 2009)
Inspired by Italian commedia dell'arte and classic Shakespearean and Wildean comedies, filmmakers have taken the “boy meets girl” plot device and added humor - creating what we call “romantic comedies” - since the Silent Era. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, 1924) and Girl Shy (Newmeyer & Taylor, 1924) kicked off the genre in American cinema, and it continued to build on itself ever since, taking slightly different forms each decade. (Yehlen 1) In the post-World-War era, for example, MGM made millions off of musical romantic comedies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Donen, 1954). Romantic comedies were a resume staple for actors. Garry Marshall and Nora Ephron built their careers on rom-coms, and careers of many of today’s biggest stars, including Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Reynolds, got their start with them as well.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a financial success, ranking in over 9.4 million dollars at the box office, and also becoming a romantic comedy classic since its debut in 1954.
Today, the romantic comedy has been banished from the big screen and can primarily be found one of two places: banished to the Hallmark Channel, a content factory churning out laughably predictable movies targeted to middle-aged and older white women, or played out on ABC’s The Bachelor (Fleiss, 2002 -) through cut-together meet-cutes. In the words of the Talking Heads...how did we get here? What changed? Is there hope for the rom-com’s survival or will it go the way of the dinosaurs? This article will identify the potential causes of the romantic comedy’s disappearance, as well as what it might take to revitalize the genre.
“How far the mighty fall:” The rise of superhero movies (2000 -)
Technically, the superhero movie has been around since Richard Donner’s Superman in 1978. However, the cinematic “superheroissance” began with X-Men (Singer, 2000). Instead of an individual hero, X-Men focused on a team of superheroes - a predecessor to Marvel’s Avengers movies. Spider-Man (Rami, 2002) was released soon after and is also notable to the history of superhero movies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began with Iron Man (Favreau, 2008). The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) was the first of its kind. Similar to Godzilla movies or the ever-popular TV crossover event, it brought different heroes/villains together. These films created a successful formula that we’ve seen replicated multiple times annually ever since.
Marvel's The Avengers (2012) was a smashing hit, generating over 1 billion dollars in ticket sales.
At the time of this writing, the MCU has over 20 films. With Captain Marvel (Boden and Fleck, 2019), Avengers: Endgame (Russo & Russo, 2019) - the first Avengers movie in a year as opposed to two or three years” (Sandwell 1) - and Spider-Man: Far From Home (Watts, 2019) being released this year, the volume of films coming down the pipeline isn’t decreasing. DC Comics has also seen success with its film releases - even ones that were critically panned, like Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016). The competition between DC and Marvel Comics is akin to the feud between 1890s’ media barons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst but the rise of superhero movies has taken it to another level. Considering Disney, Marvel Studios’ parent company, just made a $70+-million merger deal with 20th Century Fox (which gets the rights to certain Marvel properties, like X-Men and the Fantastic Four, back in Marvel’s hands) (Krawcyzk 1) and two superhero movies made it to the Academy Awards in 2019 - Black Panther (Coogler, 2018), the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature winner Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Ramsey, Perschetti and Rothman, 2018), that war is only likely to escalate over the next several decades.
So, why are superhero movies so profitable right now? What drives the demand? In a tense political climate, the idea of rescuing has more appeal than ever. With the average person’s trust in the media and government declining, according to 2018 findings from the Pew Research Center, we can no longer count on politicians and major media outlets to save us, if we ever could. Romantic comedies are often critiqued for falling into genre conventions, but superhero movies have them, too. These films play on our emotions and require the same “suspension of disbelief” as rom-coms. They even feature some of the same actors. The Proposal’s (Fletcher, 2009) pretty boy, Ryan Reynolds, starred in Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) before his star turn as Deadpool, “The Merc With a Mouth” in the eponymous Tim Miller film and its 2018 sequel, and Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Batman villain Joker was one of his last roles before his death. However, unlike romantic comedies, which create one-off situations, most superhero movies are threads in an overarching narrative. The highly detailed storylines and intense parasocial relationships they create drive fans to the box office and to purchase merchandise and create buzz on social media and online in a way that romantic comedies haven’t been able to sustain in the past. Hollywood gives the people what they want, and right now, that's superhero movies.But it isn't just superhero movies’ superior marketability that is killing off the rom-com….
Ryan Reynolds has starred in various films, ranging from action movies to rom coms.
Part of what makes classic, pre- or early-Internet rom-coms like Harry Met Sally (Reiner, 1989) still fun to watch for modern viewers is their datedness. The technology - and their outfits - are laughable. However, there are some places rom-coms show their age that aren’t so funny…. The typical rom-com reflects traditional attitudes about gender, sexuality, race, class, beauty and more...attitudes that the culture at large has moved on from. For example, same-sex marriage has only been legal in the US for less than five years, but LGBT+ individuals and their rights are being more recognized and accepted...but still not represented in romantic comedies as more than the “gay best friend.” Furthermore, the typical romantic comedy man feels less believable in the days of #MeToo, which revealed that Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and other figures who seemed like trustworthy paragons of male virtue, had really been preying on women for decades. Like in the days of second-wave feminism, women find themselves saying “Do I really need a man?” Even the new What Women Want (Meyers, 2000) remake What Men Want (Shankman, 2019) featuring Taraji P. Henson doesn’t deliver what 2019 audiences want. According to Entertainment Weekly critic Dana Schwartz, “...the film’s approach to gender dynamics is about the same as a beer commercial where a lazy husband on the couch can’t watch football in peace because his wife keeps trying to take him antiquing. Whereas this movie could easily have been fresh and nuanced — and funnier! — it resorts instead to tropes as lazy as that beer-wanting couch husband. ”
Romantic subplots are also being integrated into other genres. The aforementioned Deadpool is a “superhero romantic comedy;” even children’s films like Mary Poppins Returns (Marshall, 2018) have romantic subplots. The grand romantic gestures that used to belong to rom-coms are happening outside of films where romance is the driving force. We’re getting our humor elsewhere, too. The romantic comedy has been replaced with raunch comedies like The Hangover (Phillips, 2009), Blockers (Cannon, 2018) and their woman-centered counterparts like Girls’ Trip (Lee, 2017).
“I want to know what love is:” What are we missing with a lack of rom-coms?As discussed previously earlier, romantic comedies are critiqued for portraying sex and gender in ways that some consider outdated, or even offensive. However, superhero movies can't escape scrutiny. Black Widow was the only female Avenger for many years, and only the most recent films have started giving her the common decency of character development. Her first appearances (like Tony Stark ogling her while boxing in Iron Man 2, or escaping from her Avengers captors doing high kicks in a little black dress) emphasize her sexuality over her spy-dentity. It took Marvel 10 years to make an African-American led superhero film despite having several black Avengers who they could have featured, and dragged their feet even longer with putting out a female-centered flick: 2019’s Captain Marvel (Boden & Fleck, 2019). (For once, DC cinema had the upper hand; they released Wonder Woman (Jenkins) in 2017). Superheroines might be more empowering than their rom-com sisters, but both genres still have a long way to go. Technology and shifting cultural norms have changed the pursuit of love, sex and romance, but none of those things are dead, and the romantic comedy shouldn't be either.
Captain Marvel (2019) is the first female centered movie Marvel has ever released.
In closing, a brief non-sequitur: In 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s Company - “a shockingly modern...still remarkably insightful...view of late-twentieth-century relationships [that]...explores the games, the angst, the loneliness and the badinage in an alternatingly brittle and heartfelt manner” - (Bloom and Vlastin, 71) premiered on Broadway. Besides being “the first ‘real’ Sondheim score” and launching a career that would shape the next half-century of American musical theater, Company was revolutionary - and relatable - because it bucked the trends of the day that had been set down by the musicals of the 1940s and 50s’. As Sophie Gilbert says in her 2016 article “An Updated Company for Single Women:”“Before the Broadway premiere of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company in April 1970, American musicals mostly had a single purpose: to bring a man and a woman together in romantic (and melodic) harmony. But Company upended this tradition, offering instead a collection of vignettes featuring marriages in different states of (un)happiness, seen from the perspective of Bobby, a flaky 35-year-old bachelor. Bobby’s ambivalence toward marriage frustrated his friends and shocked early audiences, as did the fact that he ended the show still single… so much so that Company, Rob Kendt wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 2004, “represented a full-scale assault on two venerable institutions, marriage and the musical theater.” (1). Perhaps the romantic comedy genre needs a Company (which could be considered a romantic comedy, albeit a dark one) of its own. Isn’t It Romantic (Strauss-Schulson, 2019), a send-up of romantic comedies, and, of course, the countless scholarship on the genre prove that we can deconstruct the genre….and if, we can deconstruct the genre, we can build it back up.
Gilbert, Sophie. “An Updated ‘Company’ For Single Women” The Atlantic. 29 November 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/11/company-sondheim-sexual-politics/508895/ Accessed 25 February 2019.
Krawczyk, Kathryn. “Disney Buys Fox for $71.3 Billion” The Week. https://theweek.com/speedreads/780191/disney-buys-21st-century-fox-713-billion 20 June 2018. Accessed 3 March 2019.
Sandwell, Ian. “Will Avengers: Endgame Be The Biggest Movie Of All Time?” Men’s Health. 11 February 2019. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/avengers-endgame-biggest-movie-time-142200462.html Accessed 25 February 2019.
Schwartz, Dana .“What Men Want Delivers Some Fun, But Leaves Us Wanting: EW Review” Entertainment Weekly. https://ew.com/movie-reviews/2019/02/07/what-men-want-review-taraji-p-henson/ Accessed 3 March 2019.
Yehlen, Shanna “A Brief History of Romantic Comedies.” Glamour. https://www.glamour.com/story/a-brief-history-of-romantic-co Accesssed 3 March 2019.
A Thrilling Conclusion to a Beloved Franchise: DreamWorks and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Written by: Joseph Naguski
The ending to the final installment of the animated film trilogy How to Train Your Dragon will leave audiences on the edge of their seats until the credits roll.
The Hidden World takes place a year after the events of the second film, with the island of Berk becoming comparable to a utopia to its human and dragon citizens. As the people of Berk continue to rescue and bring back more dragons, Hiccup faces his first real challenge being chief. The overpopulation of the island is becoming more evident and he must find a way solve it. He finds his resolution through multiple flashbacks of the late Chief Stoick informing a young Hiccup of a legendary dragon safe haven which he dubs “The Hidden World”. To the rejection of his mother and many others, Hiccup becomes determined to find this mythical world. He is hindered by Grimmel the Grisly, an infamous dragon slayer who is determined to capture toothless and uses a female “Light Fury” as bait to lure Toothless into his hands. The two dragons fall in love and Hiccup must find a way to save them and the rest of his friends while finding a new home for the dragons.
While the overall plot of this film does not quite stand up to its predecessors, the series' finale is still noteworthy. A major theme in this film is learning to “fly on your own”. What arose from this was a change in The Hidden World’s plot formula from the previous movies. While the first two films focused heavily on trying to outmatch unbelievably colossal dragons as enemies, there is a much more human battle between good and evil. Hiccup and the rest of the humans learn to become less reliant on their dragon companions while Toothless has his own little adventure with the female Light Fury. They do come together to try and defeat the antagonist but the way this happens is very much unique to this film. The antagonist himself is pretty mundane, but that is lost through the exhilarating moments of the characters’ journey.
Much like this film DreamWorks itself has grappled with the concept of flying on its own. DreamWorks continues to be a 3D-animation beast that can rival Pixar, but still struggles to be the superior animation studio. The How to Train Your Dragon series is certainty a standout trilogy that has elevated the success of DreamWorks. The film maintains themes of thrilling fantasy atmospheres that takes them past even the level of their previous pictures. The Hidden World continues to bring stunning visuals to the franchise through the new technology that has been developed since the original’s release in 2010. In an interview with cartoonbrew.com, the series director Dean DeBlois noted some of these technological advances. He mentioned some simple things like displacement of clouds and characters walking through grass. Adding greater amounts of characters in the frame and increasingly complex camera movements have also developed over the duration of the series. These things may seem trivial to some but in the grand scheme they make for much more aesthetically pleasing and interactive film. As DeBlois says “Now that we have the technology, I wanted to make sure that we used it. Our environments are very alive.”
Overall, this movie is a fantastic ending filled with the adventure, friendship, romance, and ageless humor which makes the series so special. I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of animated films and/or has watched the previous two films in the franchise.
Searching is a 2018 mystery/thriller film about a father who goes through his missing teenage daughter’s laptop in search of her whereabouts. The unique aspect of this film is that the entire experience is presented from the perspective of a computer screen, whether it is that of the father’s computer, his daughter’s laptop, their smartphones, a television, or even security cameras. It takes a strictly digital approach to convey the story. If it had to be related to any existing genre, it could be considered a form of found footage. This analysis is going to contain spoilers, so if you have not seen the film, watch it before continuing.
David Kim is a single father to Margot, his teenage daughter. Together, nothing really seems to be out of the ordinary, until she goes missing one night. She leaves behind one very important piece of evidence: her laptop. David hires a private investigator to look into the case but grows suspicious when she is not found after forty-eight hours. This is when something sinister becomes revealed. Due to a lack of progress, he investigates himself.
Upon initially hearing the concept, it may seem as though an audience would lose interest fairly quickly while viewing a man interact with several computer windows for around two hours, but it surprisingly keeps you on the edge of your seat. Similar to the panic that the main character is going through while rummaging through a technological nightmare, we as the viewer get to witness this from the same point of view, which is something that audiences rarely get to experience.
From a script writing perspective, this must have been a very complex undertaking to write considering the unusual medium of the film. While it can be restricting, it also opens doors for news ways to tell the story. The screenplay allows for some touching emotion and quite elaborate character development between the father and his daughter without the use of that much dialogue. Instead of silence, we get a more deliberate visual cue: text in the context of the devices that we all use on a daily basis. This is mostly surrounding the relationship they had with David’s deceased spouse. This in a sense connects the two of them, because you can notice an apparent absence in their lives.
Without hearing any dialogue, much of the communication is done through text messaging and emails. While being quite literal in its presentation, it sheds light on the lack of emotion that exists between two people communicating digitally. We cannot necessarily interpret the distinction between happiness and sadness, or identify sarcasm as easily. Of course, emojis can be used to supplement basic text, but the principle generally applies. Knowing this about digital communication, and how difficult it must be to incorporate the essential emotion necessary to drive the characters, what are the advantages to using this approach to tell this story? Well, seeing the actual conversation take place from one side allows for the viewer to recognize the specific nuances of how the messages are typed, and what is deleted. We get a glimpse into the mind of the father while he is writing and get to see what is going through his mind as he revises his messages before sending them. This would not be possible in a traditional medium.
Besides focusing on the relationship between a father and daughter, this film also ends up revealing deceit and selfishness from certain characters whom we thought had good intentions. The story tends to be a bit of a roller coaster, containing many unexpected plot twists, further adding suspense and incentive to keep watching. To add structure and simultaneously incorporate the computer's user interface, the film uses the start up, login, logout, and shut down actions as a method to help keep the audience on track, and add structure to the beginning, middle, and end.
Additional conflict is introduced when David becomes a suspect in his own daughter’s disappearance. As the audience, we find ourselves on David’s side, constantly searching for answers to this devastating problem. We witness extreme denial happening with David’s character, as he repeatedly claims that Margot is not dead. One can only imagine the mental trauma that comes from going through a situation like this.
Upon reaching the resolution of the story, when Margot is found barely alive in the bottom of a cliff, the satisfaction comes from realizing that if it were not for David’s perseverance and unconditional love for his daughter, he would not have found her in time to be alive. The film also ends on a very positive and heartwarming note, relating to the tension shown at the beginning between David and Margot, and how her mother would have been proud of her. It is also interesting to see that even though we suspected Margot’s supposed misbehavior resulted in her disappearance, we see that it was because she had good intentions for another person, and that the situation unfolded due to an irrelevant and unrelated pursuit. Creatively speaking, changing the desktop wallpaper to a photo of them in the hospital after she was rescued, and then shutting down the computer really ties everything together nicely.
It is interesting to consider the versatility of this format, and whether or not it will be obsolete in the future. Because technology is changing so rapidly, it seems impossible to predict the future of this method of filmmaking. However, it is a breath of fresh air to bring a different approach to the thriller genre and inspire other directors to possibly rethink their own ideas. It is by no means an easy task to tell a story this way, which is probably why we have not seen as many.
In general, the risk taken by the filmmakers to think outside of the box and utilize this method of storytelling really paid off for this film. It adds an additional dimension not only to the intensity of the genre, but also has the potential to be applicable to many other script formats.
Written by: Dylan Delaney
By Lindsey Horner
Picture this: Tom Cruise and Nazis.
If that combo has got your history nerd side excited (because admit it, we all have one), then director Bryan Singer's Valkyrie (2008) is just the movie for you.
In Valkyrie, Tom Cruse plays Claus von Stauffenberg, a main conspirator in an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.
Inspired by true events, Valkyrie follows the story of Wehrmacht Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) as he joins, and then leads, a conspiracy to rid Germany of Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler through a well-organized and calculated assassination plot. The film depicts real-life events that transpired before, during, and after July 20, 1944, the day the conspirators led their coup on main leaders of the Reich. Their conspiracy involved using the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to shift powers and take control of the country.
Stauffenberg (Cruise) prepares his men to fight the Royal Air Force during a raid in Northern Africa.
After being badly injured during a Royal Air Force Raid in Tunisia and losing his right hand, two fingers on his left hand, and his left eye, the colonel is sent home to Nazi Germany. Now sporting an eye patch, survivor's guilt, and questioning the trajectory of the war, the German officer comes to the heavy realization that in order for Germany to truly survive, major changes must take place within the Motherland's inner structure, starting with the ruling authority.
You never know who you can trust: While Major General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) was one of the conspirators against Hitler, Colonel Heinz Brandt (Tom Hollander) was one of Hitler's loyal aids.
Along for the ride are other German officers such as Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy), General Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), Dr. Carl Goerdeler (Kevin McNally), and Erwin von Witzleben (David Schofield) who agree that in order to save their country, they must destroy it from the inside first.
Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (left) and actor Tom Cruise (right). The resemblance was one of the main reasons Cruise decided to take the role.
One of the reasons why I was so pleased with this movie was Singer's extreme attention to historical detail. Actors were hired who closely resembled their roles, and Cruise especially poured over Stauffenberg's story, wanting to honor the man's true patriotism and sacrifice through this adaptation. Much of the filming took place in Germany on the same pieces of land where the events actually occurred decades earlier. All those involved with the making of the movie wanted it to be as historically accurate as possible, and the end result is gorgeous and thought-provoking; a movie that is stunningly real.
Stauffenberg (Cruise) and the other consirators are well aware of the personal sacrifices they'll be making if for some reason their plan doesn't work.
While Valkyrie isn't a well-known movie, it's still an important film to watch. It depicts a painful past while offering a glimmer of hope. Despite the movie ending with a firing squad, Stauffenberg's last words - "Long live sacred Germany!" - give the audience a sense of optimism even after his figure falls. Even in the midst of genocide and corruption, there will always be individuals who rise up to take action against oppression, no matter the personal cost. Claus von Stauffenberg was one of them, and his legacy now serves as an example for future generations.
By Liz Steeves
Good news, it’s not another Hallmark movie! And better news, Instant Family (2018) manages to be comical without making fun of the foster care system!
These were my two fears going into the film, but in the end, I was very pleased with the way director Sean Anders presented such an important topic. Anders is able to give the audience a taste of the heartache of fostering and adopting kids in a such a reflective and comical way. While still managing to fight for the importance of family, without going too far into chick flick territory. In fact, there was at least one satisfying punch in the film (by the jacked Mark Wahlberg), officially clearing it from such a label.
The film follows the decision of a husband and wife, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), to adopt not just one teenager but her two younger siblings as well. This kind of story is so important to share on the silver screen, because so many people are unaware of the heartbreaking numbers and statistics that children in foster care face. With this, I was extremely pleased to see that the film contained real data, regarding the number of children in foster care as well as the devastating situation that follows aging out of the system. While I would have liked to see more statistics worked into the dialogue, I think Anders did a good job pulling at the audience’s heartstrings without making them so overwhelmed that they left with a bad taste in their mouth.
This story was actually inspired by Sean Anders and his wife Beth’s decision to adopt three siblings out of foster care years before. Anders was therefore able to tell his story in such a way that sheds a true and positive light on the decision to adopt, particularly older kids. Furthermore, Maraide Green, a former foster child, was hired on to the film as a consultant, she was essential in how a lot of the sensitive information was communicated, particularly the attitude toward the children’s birth mother. Anders’ others films however, are not known to be this… respectful. Films like Daddy’s Home, We’re the Millers, and Horrible Bosses 2, are known for being screwball comedies, but Anders and his crew’s representation of his story and the stories of others definitely hit a home run.
Casting Mark Wahlberg as the Pete, the dad in training, was an amazing and vital choice that added a lot to the film. Everyone views Mark as a man’s man, but they also recognize that he isn’t afraid to care about the important things in life, like family. As Mark runs a restaurant chain Wahlburgers with his family. Furthermore, he is a devout Christian and father of four, and is always willing to stand up for his values and morals.
One of the many important messages in the film, is portrayed in that the audience is able to see the struggle of the couple, without them throwing in the towel, no matter how appealing that may sound to them. This is very relevant especially concerning foster children, because a lot of children are toasted from house to house and learn not to trust people. As a result, they will always test the supposed ‘love’ of the people taking care of them, but it is when you pass the test that their love and family will knock your socks off.
Pete and Elle in the film worried that they had to be a special kind of people to do something as extraordinary as adopting kids, but they soon discover that all you need is love. The film doesn’t aim to send you out of the theater and right to the adoption agency, but it aims to get rid of a lot of the negative connotations that have grown around the idea of adoption, particularly of a teenager. Instant Family is an honest, and heartfelt story that is sure to bring you and your family closer this holiday season.