Insecure: A Cultural Milestone

Since its debut last October, the HBO series Insecure has been a hit. Following the dating adventures, work fiascos, and overall personal struggles (and successes!) of LA-native Issa Dee, played by co-creater of the show Issa Rae, it is hilarious and dynamic, with a talented cast and a seamless music selection to support its complex plotline. However, what makes the show so hard-hitting is how authentic it is in its depiction and support of black American culture and black womanhood, in particular. Continue reading “Insecure: A Cultural Milestone”

How “It” Reinvigorates The Horror Genre

The horror genre is one that catches a lot of negativity for it’s inherently evil subject matter and it’s necessity to adhere to traditions that are often written off as clichés, but I’m here to discuss why horror movies are on the rise and how It (2017) may just reinvent the entire genre… Continue reading “How “It” Reinvigorates The Horror Genre”

Only with the Heart

The Little Prince, otherwise known as Le Petite Prince is a novella published in 1943 by the late author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The French novella is known as one of the most successful books in history, and is the origin of one of the most popular French quotes: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The book introduces heart tugging themes such as loss, love, and growing up… Continue reading “Only with the Heart”

ALA VRT Notable Videos for Adults 2017 Winners

The American Library Association (ALA) Video Round Table Notable Videos for Adults Committee has compiled its 2017 list of Notable Videos for Adults, a list of 15 outstanding films released on video within the past two years and suitable for all libraries serving adults.  Its purpose is to call attention to recent video releases that make a significant contribution to the world of video.  The list is compiled for use by librarians and the general adult populace.

The Notable Videos for Adults Committee selected 15 outstanding titles from among 67 nominees for this year’s list of Notable Videos for Adults.  The availability of closed captions (CC) and/or subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) is preferred; inclusion and exclusion of the same is indicated below.

3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets (2015) 98 minutes. HBO Documentary Films. DVD.  Ro*Co Films.  Subtitles.  Invoking the controversial “Stand Your Ground” defense, a Florida man opens fire on unarmed African-American teenagers, killing Jordan Davis. [Available for checkout from Media Services]

Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016) 120 minutes; Firelight Films. DVD. PBS.  CC & SDH.  An historical overview of the rise and fall of a radical social movement that sought to empower African Americans and change the capitalist system.

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare(2016) 114 minutes. Sternal Entertainment. DVD. Kino Lorber. Subtitles.  Desperate African and Middle Eastern refugees arrive by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa and residents respond.

The First Monday in May (2016) 91 minutes. Relativity Media. DVD. Magnolia Home Entertainment. SDH.  A fundraiser for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s fashion wing makes multicultural connections between East and West.

Heart of a Dog (2016) 76 minutes. Abramorama. DVD. Criterion Collection. SDH.  Experimental artist Laurie Anderson projects the canine perspective in this non-linear meditation on fear, loss, and love.

How to Change the World  (2016) 110 minutes. Sky Films. DVD. Kino Lorber. CC.This history of the developmental phases of Greenpeace serves as a primer for environmental activism and political organizing for social change.

Last Day of Freedom (2016) 32 minutes. Grasshopper Film. DVD. CC.  His image altered by the animation technique of rotoscoping, the sibling of a death row inmate recounts the military service and PTSD leading up to his brother’s crime and punishment.

Long Story Short (2016) 45 minutes. Icarus Films. DVD. CC.  Based on interviews with residents of California homeless shelters, the filmmaker uses creative audio and visual techniques to distill hundreds of stories of poverty into a single message.

Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine (2015) 89 minutes. Logo Documentary Films. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC.  Friends of the Wyoming student and hate crime victim remember his life while also revealing the depth and longevity of their grief. [Available for checkout from Media Services]

OJ: Made in America (2016) 520 minutes. ESPN Films. DVD. CC.  An encyclopedic analysis of the sociological impact of the murder trial of OJ Simpson, as seen through the lens of race, celebrity, and class. [Available at IUB Law Library]

Sembene! (2016) 89 minutes. Impact Partners. DVD. Kino Lorber. CC.  Ousmane Sembène, a laborer and son of a fisherman, becomes a pioneering and controversial African filmmaker.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry  (2016) 93 minutes.  Music Box Films. DVD. Cinema Guild. SDH.  The women who raised consciousness, organized, and demonstrated for equal rights, tell the history of second wave feminism. [Available from IUPUI Library]

Under the Sun  (2016) 110 minutes. Icarus Films. DVD. Subtitles.  Officially sanctioned footage demonstrates the mesmerizing, pervasive power of rhetoric, repetition, and propaganda in North Korean life. 

Welcome to Leith  (2015) 86 minutes. First Run Features. DVD. SDH.  Residents of Leith, North Dakota, struggle with democratic principles when a white supremacist buys property and moves to their small town. [Available via online streaming]

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2016) 116 minutes. Netflix. DVD. Eagle Vision. Subtitles.  The complex and emotionally charged life of legendary musician and activist Nina Simone is chronicled. [Being cataloged, ask staff]

Be sure to check with Media Services for availability of titles.  “We Like to Watch!” (an old ALA VRT motto!)

~ Monique Threatt

Shameless: A TV Show for Everyone

Recently, the show Shameless has become a household name recently as its popularity has skyrocketed. The story is set in Chicago and follows a dysfunctional family who runs into trouble wherever they go. The plot will keep you guessing and always has you on your toes as the surprises are endless…

Continue reading “Shameless: A TV Show for Everyone”

Zootopia Analyzed: Disney’s Timely New Classic

When many people think of Disney movies, their minds might go towards the token Princess movies, maybe the classics such as The Jungle Book and The Lion King, or perhaps the many wonderful Disney/Pixar collaborations. Just last year, however, Disney brought us a film that not only rivals the quality of the classics with the same heartwarming story and lovable characters but also goes to infinity and beyond in just about every way that we expect from their live-action films as well. Because of that, Zootopia is not just a kid’s film, but a family film that every viewer can enjoy and relate to; this one improves upon that notion by allowing kids to have fun while provoking adults to think more so than most other animated films will warrant. In my opinion, this film is a great example of how movies can balance not only just a relevant and relatable narrative but also subtle and smart comedy that allows the story to thrive as what it’s meant to be at heart: fun!… Continue reading “Zootopia Analyzed: Disney’s Timely New Classic”

A Spotlight on DreamWorks Animated Films

5Media Beat Blog HeaderDreamWorks Animation is a popular and continuously growing competitor of Pixar, Blue Sky, Disney Animation, etc. at the forefront of modern animated films. With iconic films such as Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks have turned box office hits into massive franchises totaling over 1 Billion Dollars in box office gross… each.With those films stealing the spotlight, however, it’s also important to remember the smaller films that DreamWorks Animation has made- and even though these films might not be remembered to be the “classics” that Shrek or Madagascar are in the animated films world, they are still important to watch and enjoy as they’re responsible for helping earn DreamWorks the status that they have…

Continue reading “A Spotlight on DreamWorks Animated Films”

Classic Films in the Age of Blockbusters

the-avengers-battle-in-cool-concept-art-for-captain-america-civil-warWith the releases of major blockbusters such as “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “X-Men: Apocalypse,” etc., I thought it would be fitting to take a step back into some old school cinema. Over Christmas break, I picked up the Steve McQueen collection on Blu-ray at Best Buy on sale, and I watched them all to try to appreciate some “classic” films. Admittedly, they don’t all hold up to my spoiled, CGI-ridden expectations, but I could definitely find things to enjoy in them. One of these films we have at IU Media & Reserve Services, and the most recent film I watched from this collection was called “Bullitt,” which IMDb describes as “an all guts, no glory San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness in his protection.” Here are my thoughts on the film…

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I watched this movie about 3 days ago, but wasn’t sure exactly what to think of it for the first few days. Recently, I’ve thought about this film a lot and many aspects of it have now been made clear to me. I won’t lie to you, I was slightly disappointed while watching it because I was told this is “one of the best car-chase films ever” (thanks, Dad). That statement could not have been more misleading. Don’t go into this film expecting a car chase movie; actually, don’t go into this movie expecting anything at all. In this little review, I will discuss the film in-depth without spoilers, and talk about why this film may just be a masterpiece. As I mentioned, I was initially disappointed with this film because it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I wasn’t really able to follow the story and I’m still wondering exactly what all happened; I also asked myself at the end “what was the point of that?” After watching it, I knew that there were things that I was missing (not just in regards to the story itself, but the film as a whole) and I wouldn’t feel right writing an “okay” review for this. The more that I think about this film, the better it gets and now I want to talk about why. “What was the point of that?” Like I did, you may also ask yourself after watching the film… and the point is that there really isn’t a point; more specifically, the point is just to show what police officers do on a daily basis. This film isn’t meant to be an action-packed extravaganza, but rather just to show a day in the life of a cop with extreme realism (I suppose… I’m not a cop so I can’t assume it’s super realistic but I definitely got that vibe). This wasn’t obvious to me until I thought about it a lot and even did some research online. To make this film seem real, the doctors and other extras in the movie weren’t actors but real people. There is a scene in an Operating Room, which feels very real and not like your average film because they hired real doctors to perform here to emphasize the realism.

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There is one scene in which Bullitt’s wife sees a murder victim in a house and freaks out about it, confronting Bullitt, commenting on if seeing this everyday is making him numb to everything else. One of the things that stood out to me here is the camera angle. Simple over-the-shoulder shots are common in films; they allow you to see one person’s face while recognizing the position of the other. In this scene, an over-the-shoulder shot was used, but the camera was so low that Steve McQueen’s shoulder blocked the mouth of his character’s wife. As I watched this, I was bothered because the cinematography/directing here seemed so lazy and misplaced, but as I thought about it I realized how brilliant it was. During that whole scene, the actress’ eyes (and voice) were the only things that showed us her emotion. We couldn’t see her mouth, so like Tom Hardy’s Bane, the emotion in her eyes is all we could perceive. This is actually a recurring “theme” throughout the film; Steve McQueen didn’t have much dialogue in the film at all, thus he had to use body language and facial expressions (especially with eyes) to convey emotion. The character of Bullitt is a stone-cold, tough-as-nails cop because he deals with these hard cases every day, like his wife mentions. He has become accustomed to seeing death and dealing with it like any other thing in life without making a big deal out of it, which makes this day not stand out to him at all, even though his wife is beside herself at what she saw. Remember what I mentioned about the eyes when we didn’t see the mouth? There is a saying in writing and in film to “show, don’t tell.” The scene with the wife and the strange but brilliant camera angle exemplifies this saying- literally in the fact that we can see her eyes but not her mouth. The whole film is a “show, don’t tell” example because we see so much more than we hear, as far as dialogue goes.

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There is very little talking, but a lot to be seen (not even to mention the absolutely gorgeous cinematography and directing which far surpasses many films these days), which immediately reminds me of “Drive.” If you’ve seen Drive, you know what I’m talking about. There is hardly any talking in Drive, and everything that you can take from the movie is what you see. Many people also went into that movie with the wrong expectations: wanting a “car chase” movie as well only to end up receiving a movie that was smarter than they were (but no offense if you didn’t like it. I’m mainly talking about the lady who tried to sue for her lack of enjoyment…). Also like Drive, the emphasis on character and not just story gives this film a very intimate feel to it, which allows the audience to feel for the main character on a more personal level. By common definition, this may not be the most “entertaining” or “enjoyable” film to watch; it’s one of the few that I’ll sit down and expect not to be merely “entertained” while watching it, but will be amazed while thinking about how well-made it was afterwards. Not comparing the film with this other material (as to not offend anybody), but like Holy scripture, many people don’t just sit down and read it for light reading or entertainment. They read to be able to take something away afterwards and I think there’s a lot to be taken away from this film- more so than what just meets the eye for sure.

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Many may pass this film off as a simple cop drama, but it’s so much more than that. This is one of the best cop dramas I’ve seen- not for the story, but for the filmmaking genius. The part of the film that really drove the main idea of realism home for me was one of the last shots of the movie, of a bumper sticker that read simply “Support Your Local Police.” This reemphasizes the idea of realism in the film, that the people in the film *are* your local police in what they do every day- which is what this film represents. To me, the story was good, and the acting was great but the directing was incredible. Now go watch this film and come back and read this again and think about the movie and I hope it grows on you as much as it did for me. I hope you can have as great of an epiphany as I did! Thanks for reading and be sure to check this film out at IU Media & Reserve Services. /BS

Can “Terminator” be Great Again?

The Terminator

Over the past 32 years, the world has received five different Terminator films, vastly ranging in quality. The first film, known simply as The Terminator was released in 1984, written and directed by the legendary James Cameron and is hailed today as one of the greatest science fiction films anybody has every seen. It had thrills, romance, action, story, and actually make the audience think rather than serving all plot points to them on a platter. The Terminator was a genius piece of cinema and stands as one of the greatest films, period. Terminator_2_posterSeven years later, the second film came out. Titled Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this project marked the return for writer/director James Cameron in one of the best received and successful sequels of all time. As the highest grossing movie of 1991 (and my favorite movie of all time), T2 followed in the spiritual footsteps of The Godfather Part II or The Empire Strikes Back in showing how to be a great sequel: deepen the characters, expand the story, and improve on all aspects of the original and NOT just rehash what made the original good (ahem, all horror sequels ever). Terminator 2 isn’t just a run-and-gun, loud-and-dumb, smoking-barrel and empty-shell of a movie at all; it’s smart, romantic, heartfelt, profound, and inspiring in just about every way. That’s how you make a good sequel, or a good movie in general.Terminator_3_posterIn 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines happened- I mean, was “released.” Honestly, T3 is one of my least favorite movies of all time right next to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Alien: Resurrection and is the textbook example of how NOT to make a great sequel. Lead by an annoying cast, penned by lazy writers, and directed with such bland taste, Terminator 3 would be a pointless movie even if it was a good one- which it was far from. All timeline contradictions with the other films aside, this movie can’t even stand on it’s own as a smart movie because of it’s own plot holes. This film tried to up the ante of villainy by combining the two villains from the first two movies into one, so instead of a terminator with just a metal endoskeleton OR an entirely shape-shifting body, this one had shape shifting metal over a metal endoskeleton…which was actually an embarrassing downgrade all-in-all, topped off with a supermodel body, for the appeal, I guess. Terminator 3 is a mess of a film, but somehow, the franchise kept moving.

MV5BODE1MTM1MzA2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ5MTA2Mg@@._V1_SX640_SY720_In 2009, the franchise made yet another unnecessary return with Terminator: Salvation, which isn’t a “bad” movie- but it doesn’t feel like a Terminator movie at any point in the film which makes it bad for the franchise. And the plot-twist in the middle of the movie really just didn’t make sense as far as the plot of the saga goes; nothing in the movie adds anything to the series. This one can be skipped.

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And then, the return of the series to its roots: Terminator Genisys. For some background information: in order to make The Terminator back in the ‘84, James Cameron had to sell the rights to the movie and all of it’s characters for just $1 to a producer who allowed Cameron to make his pet project. After T2, the rights to the franchise bounced from studio to studio, which explains the varying cast, tone and plot holes that the third and fourth films had. However, Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the franchise and decided to make a trilogy, before the rights return back to James Cameron in 2019. James Cameron has devoted himself to his Avatar series, but the amount of time he needs to allow for the special effects he requires to advance is enough to make another Terminator film if he desired after getting the rights back. So, back to Terminator Genisys; this film was the beginning of Paramount’s new Terminator trilogy- which they decided to make in a hurry before losing the rights to the franchise. Paramount’s film completely ignored Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Terminator Salvation, which made fans (including myself) extremely happy; the fact that this film would respect the roots of the franchise. Before release, James Cameron got to see the movie and told the press that fans would “love this movie!” I thought the film highly respected the originals and was a very fun movie in itself, but critics and audiences didn’t love it, and the film didn’t make as much money as was projected, so the other two films in the trilogy were cancelled. Now, the Terminator franchise has no fate.
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How can the franchise be made to be great again? Well, by learning from the mistakes of the most recent 3 films. A few things that Genisys did well was the villain which- like the second film- was “bigger, badder, and better” than the first. This film paid astounding homage to the original and even expanded the story in surprising ways- which the third and fourth films failed to do. However, the film lacked conviction and was all-around forgettable, mostly because of the confused tone… and the fact that now it’s a cliffhanger without any resolution. So, the best thing a studio could do to make the franchise great again is to hire people who care about the project, even if the last three films in the series have not been loved by audiences- and all three of them aren’t official Terminator films anymore. A studio doesn’t need to pick up where the second movie left off in order to continue the franchise, but the biggest thing to make sure of is that the crew behind it is trustworthy and passionate. Like Predator or Alien, the franchise could be returned to after a few bad movies and still be great (I’m referencing the upcoming The Predator movie written and directed by Shane Black who was in the original, and Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, both directed by Ridley Scott who directed the first). I just hope James Cameron is the next person who says “I’ll be back.”

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However, that is unlikely since he is filming Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4 back to back… to back. So, my dream Terminator 3 would actually be directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity) since he can make great, original films like Children of Men, but also direct great sequels which respect the source material as he did with Azkaban (a movie also involving time travel like Terminator). The best reason I have for Cuaron is Gravity, which swept the technical awards at the 2014 Academy Awards, was nominated for Best Picture, and impressed James Cameron who raved about how much he loved the film. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) or Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) would also be good choices. I would pick Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Sunshine) and Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: Episode VIII) for the screenwriters since they have penned some genius and entirely original scripts which have amazed audiences and critics alike. As far as the story goes, I think it’s been too long since T2 to try to continue that plot with those characters, but rebooting and recasting would be absolute sins, so a new team of characters should be introduced for a soft sequel but with a heart of it’s own like Mad Max: Fury Road or Creed last year. As far as the rest goes, I think I’ll leave that to the professionals! Come to IU Media Services in Wells Library to check out The Terminator, Terminator 2, and Terminator Genisys (or many of the other films I’ve mentioned) to see what you think can be done to save the iconic series!

 

Thank you for reading!

-Blake Schwarz

Two or Three thoughts on “Gay Film”

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The English language abducted the word “queer” from the Germans around the time English became an entity of large scale language abduction in the 16th century. It was a word that meant some Derridian amalgamation of strange, odd, peculiar, and eccentric as well as referring to something suspicious or “not quite right” and a person with a “mild derangement” exhibiting “socially inappropriate behavior.”

As a verb it meant to spoil or ruin. Continue reading “Two or Three thoughts on “Gay Film””