Category: cinema

All docs all the time

During the second year of CreComm, students are required to complete an Independent Professional Project (IPP). Some students write and publish books, others host events, some do radio shows — I have chosen to film a documentary.

It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, regardless of my zero experience behind a camera.

As a student who just chose journalism as her major, naturally I enjoy telling a good story. The fact that I get to try my hand at telling a story visually really excites me. And, if you checked out my personal branding assignment, you would have noticed that filming a documentary was on my bucket list. Awesome.

So, a goal  I have set for myself this reading week — besides completing my long list of assignments — is to watch as many documentaries as I can (at least six). So far, I have watched:

1. West of Memphis (2012)

2. Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

3. The Act of Killing (2012)

4. Mansome (2012)

As you can see I have at least two more to watch. If you have any suggestions on some interesting/different/thought-provoking/visually-appealing or must-see documentaries, please tell me in the comments section below!

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My take: Portrait of Jason

jasonCinematheque’s first showing of director Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason was interesting, to say the least. The documentary, which was filmed in 1967 and readapted this year, shines a spotlight on Jason Holliday, a gay, African-American hustler, houseboy and wannabe cabaret performer. Holliday is the one-and-only star of the show, which is essentially one hour and 46 minutes of him sharing stories. If you don’t pay close enough attention you might assume that the film stars a drunk laughing at himself for 106 minutes, but watch closely and you will see how Holliday magnificently illustrates the struggles and the injustices he faced during his lifetime.

My date and I arrived about 15 minutes before show time, just as a crowd of moviegoers were piling out of the theatre. We paid the $8 to the nice box office attendant and waited. Upon visiting the ladies room, two elderly women waiting in line complained that there were only two stalls; one warned me that the theatre would be chilly.

We entered the empty theatre, which smelled of popcorn, removed our jackets and took our seats. Kernels littered the floor and it was obvious that Cinematheque didn’t have a bustling Saturday night staff. There were nine of us in total in the theatre; my date and I by far the youngest.

The film began with a blurred close up of Holliday’s face, his eyes half-closed, beginning with a story of how he was formerly named Aaron Payne. Five minutes in, two 20-somethings joined our intimate party of nine.

The film was old school—black and white with cracks in the footage. It was set in Shirley Clarke’s New York apartment, decorated with a bed to the left, a fireplace against the back wall and a high back chair with a fur throw to the right. Jason Holliday sported round, thick-rimmed glasses, a button-up shirt unbuttoned at the top, trousers and a single-breasted jacket. Throughout the film Holliday held either a glass or a cigarette.

His stories were entertaining – he wore a boa and snapped his fingers while telling us he was a sexy baller – and they usually ended in his own infectious laughter. He had the 11 of us chuckling on multiple occasions. However, as the film progressed, the stories grew darker in content, ending in fits of laughter that now garnered feelings of guilt for laughing along. And as the stories grew darker, the theatre felt colder and colder. Audience members began putting their coats back on; one woman even got up to check the thermostat on the wall.

portrait-of-jason-adToward the end, Holliday lay down on the floor, lit a joint and drank from a 26 oz. bottle of alcohol. He shared stories of his dangerous lifestyle as a hustler, his father beating him for being different and his substance abuse issues. He exposed the social corruption that plagued America pre-1967 by acting the part of high-class white women, explaining his arrest for being homosexual and sharing the racial inequalities he experienced as a houseboy.

Portrait of Jason ended in similar fashion, with a close up of Holliday’s face, this time tears streaking his cheeks. It was an eye opening, close-to-two hours of drunken confessions.

Unfortunately as the credits began to roll I noticed all 11 of us were bundled up; a woman in the back row was asleep. Perhaps turning the heat up a few notches would have made for a more comfortable viewing of this interesting film.

ON REPEAT: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack

On repeat these days is the ever diverse Great Gatsby soundtrack album. Created by director Baz Luhrmann, executive music producer Anton Monsted and rapper Jay-z, this album has an all-star line up of artists. Featuring songs by Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Fergie, Jack White and Gotye, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. The best part of the album is everything flows. Certainly these artists music genres are quite different from one to the next, yet these songs all have this cool, jazzy, big band-y music style with some songs incorporating techno and rap from this generation. Some of my favorite tracks are “Back to Black” – Andre 3000 and Beyonce, “Over the Love” – Florence + the Machine, and “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock, but all songs are definitely great. No skipping being done while this album is playing.

The director for this film, Baz Luhrmann, wanted the soundtrack to consist of music that “blends the Jazz Age with a modern spin”. Having read the novel in high school, as well as seen the 1974 film adaptation, I am certainly intrigued to see the film with this particular soundtrack. This music will definitely put a different spin on the film, making Gatsby more of the Great Gatsby of today.

Here is the official track list:

1.   100$ Bill – JAY Z

2.   Back To Black – Beyoncé x André 3000

3.   Bang Bang – will.i.am

4.   A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock

5.   Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey

6.   Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra

7.   Over The Love – Florence + The Machine

8.   Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron

9.   Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra

10.  Together – The xx

11.  Hearts A Mess – Gotye

12.  Love Is Blindness – Jack White

13.  Into the Past – Nero

14.  Kill and Run – Sia

Now have a listen! ENJOY

My take: “The Impossible”

Indeed there have been more-than-enough natural disaster flicks to have graced our screens in the past few years than perhaps necessary. “The Impossible” being one of them, stands a cut above the rest. A ‘based on true events’ film about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, it seems bringing these painfully real events to life in the most honest way possible was the director Juan Antonio Bayona’s most challenging task. However, he does just that in directing this beautiful story of hope and loss; of strength and perseverance.

We follow the tragic but also incredible journey of the Belon family as they vacation on the coast of Thailand for Christmas. As the massive unexpected wave hits their ocean-side resort on Boxing Day, the family of five get violently thrown around in the turbulent waters. This particular scene is one of the best of the film. It captured a horrific moment and made it seem incredibly realistic. Once afloat, the first part of the film focuses on Maria Belon (Naomi Watts), the wife and mother of three. She is quickly reunited with her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland), and while trying to remain fearless for him, the realization of the catastrophe at hand begins to set in. With her husband and two younger sons nowhere to be found, her and Lucas head to higher ground. Suffering from incredible injuries, Maria is taken to hospital by locals where it seems her life is slipping, and fast. Under the impression that his two brothers and father had perished, Lucas remains by his mother’s side, knowing that she is all he has left.

The latter half of the film focuses more on Henry Belon’s (Ewan McGregor) struggle. Henry had found his two youngest sons and was now in search of his wife and eldest boy. It seemed like a task comparable to finding a needle in a haystack; bodies in the streets, overcrowded hospitals and resorts reduced to rubble. Regardless of how impossible it seemed, Henry persisted knowing he could not give up.

The acting in this film was what really set it apart from other films of the same genre. For sixteen year old Tom Holland, “The Impossible” was his feature film debut, and by far the best performance. He was magnetic to watch. It’s easy to feel everything that boy felt; fear, pain, joy. You become drawn to his character as he portrays such strength for his family and for those around him. Naomi Watts received an Academy Award nomination for her performance and there’s no doubt why. For such a personal and physically demanding role, Naomi executed it with such grace and strength.

Perhaps the most beautiful part of the film was the raw portrayal of human nature—hopelessness, greediness, kindness. “The Impossible” gives us wonderful insight into the events that occurred that fateful day. The grippingly true storyline, talented actors and insanely good imagery makes it a definite must-see movie.