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Oldboy (2003)

Park Chan-wook’s South Korean revenge thriller Oldboy is overwhelming in every possible way. Watching this movie was such an intense experience that I kind of don’t even know where to begin with this review.

First of all, Oldboy is one of those movies where giving away too many crucial plot points beforehand would ruin the experience for any viewer. The thrill of Oldboy is the gradual release of the truth; the slow reveal of the intricate details behind Oh Dae-Su’s kidnapping and release.

I didn’t really know much about the movie before watching it (other than a lot of people telling me it was amazing), which in hindsight was definitely the best to watch it. Everything was a surprise, and my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time (other than a few moments when, squeamishly, I had to look away). By the end of it, I felt like I had been run over by a train.

Without giving away too much, though, in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen it, the basic premise of the film is that businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped one night and imprisoned for fifteen years, torn away from his life and daughter and all of society. Without any explanation as to why, he is trapped in a room with no human contact, and nothing but a TV to keep him connected to the outside world. It is through his many hours watching this television that Dae-su learns of his wife’s murder, a case in which he is a suspect. After fifteen years, Oh Dae-su emerges from his prison extremely changed, and now must seek answers and revenge. The new Dae-su — who is dark and intense and played beautifully by Choi Min-sik — is taken in by a young woman named Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), who he meets at a sushi restaurant.

Oldboy is raw, gritty, violent, and powerful. It’s shocking and emotional and a complete roller coaster ride of a movie. It’s also filled with a lot of really memorable scenes involving hammers and live octopuses. The famous one-take hallway scene, in which Dae-su single-handedly fights his way through an army of henchmen, is particularly brilliant.

Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) and Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung)

Fun facts from Wikipedia about the octopus scene: “The octopus being eaten alive was not computer-generated; four were used during the making of this scene. Actor Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist, said a prayer for each one. It should also be noted that the eating of live octopuses (called sannakji (산낙지) in Korean) as a delicacy exists in East Asia, although it is usually cut, not eaten whole. When asked in DVD commentary if he felt sorry for the actor Choi Min-sik, director Park Chan-wook stated he felt more sorry for the octopus.”

Now, about that remake. A couple of days ago, the first trailer for the English-language, Spike Lee-directed 2013 remake of Oldboy was released, and I saw a lot of outrage in response to it. Outrage that I think, after viewing the original, is definitely justifiable. Halfway through watching the movie, I found myself asking, “Why are they even remaking this?” To cash in on English-speaking audiences (and close-minded people who refuse to watch movies if they have to read subtitles — I know for a fact that these people exist) who haven’t seen the original, maybe? Remakes are acceptable if the source material can somehow be improved upon or reinterpreted, but I don’t see any way that this remake of Oldboy can do either of those things. And from the looks of the trailer, it’s not going to.

The concept of Oldboy is brilliant, and it is beautifully constructed and executed. I’m not exactly sure how any remake could improve, let alone measure up to, the original’s excellence. I just hope that viewers who go to see Spike Lee’s remake (which is out October 8 of this year) will watch the original first. Or, honestly, I just really hope that, at the very least, viewers know that the original even exists.

I had been meaning to watch this film for ages, and put it off because the version Netflix has available stream is an English-dubbed version (I really, really don’t recommend watching anything — especially this — dubbed unless you have no other option), but the other day I was informed that you can watch Oldboy for free on Hulu, so I ran to it with open arms. And it definitely paid off.

My advice to first-time viewers: prepare yourself. Oldboy is a movie that you should open your mind to and allow yourself to be absorbed into (getting sucked into it isn’t hard). The plot twist(s) and overall intensity will hit you like a freight train. After watching it, I felt dazed and drained — it’s a movie that you really experience. And it’s one hell of an experience. I’m still in shock, and I think I will continue to be for days/weeks more before this film fully sinks in.

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Miranda’s 5 Feel Better Films

Have you ever had those days where you’re in the worst funk but you have no idea why? Or the days that just about everything goes wrong? Expect you don’t know what to do to cheer yourself up? I have had many of those days and I’ve discovered the certain soundtracks/artists and films that help put a smile on my face or just help me out of that funk. I decided it would be fun to create a post of the 5 films that I love to put on whenever I’m ~down in the dumps~ Perhaps you’ll find that some of these films can help your bad day become better!

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1) The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Yes, this movie is absolutely absurd, ridiculous, idiotic, random, nonsensical, etc. But that’s just why I love it, especially on these sort of days. It’s impossible to think about anything else going on in real life because you’re wondering just what the heck is even going on. You’ll find yourself laughing, perhaps even more so if you have the Midnight Experience option on and read the call-backs. Plus it’s impossible not to like these songs; seriously, just admit it now. We’ve all sang along to at least one song or have a favorite (mine being “Over at the Frankenstein Place”). So the soundtrack is also a great fix as well. I don’t care what anyone says; it’s the perfect medicine for a crappy day.

*Oh, and Tim Curry. That’s all.

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2) Some Like it Hot

Yeah, you get Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag, Marilyn Monroe, and a Billy Wilder script and direction, you’ve got a fabulously and ridiculously funny film. Before I watched this movie, I expected it to be overrated because so many people loved it (think Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Expect I forgot that just about any Billy Wilder film is flawless. This one is no exception. After I watched it, it quickly became one of my favorite films. I’ve watched it so many times that unfortunately I’ve picked up on almost all the jokes :'( But nonetheless it’s great for these sort of days because Wilder’s jokes never get old. This is one of the films I recommend to newbies to Old Hollywood films because it’s still hysterical. So if you haven’t seen it, then it might be best to save this film for one of those days :)

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3) Harvey

It’s impossible to not be charmed by Jimmy Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd and, of course, his best friend Harvey, the six foot, three and one half inch tall invisible rabbit. For me, Stewart plays his character so beautifully that you’re captivated by Elwood and that could be enough. But his sister is deeply concerned about Elwood and wants to put him in an institution. The film is unlike anything else and has the power to make you forget reality and focus into the world of Elwood and Harvey. And the question is: is Harvey real?

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4) Nights of Cabiria

If you know me, you know that right after Annie Hall my favorite film is Nights of Cabiria. Part of the reason is because of Cabiria. Giulietta Masina gave one of the greatest performances of all film history in that role. She brings her to life; there is no fake, Hollywood setup. Instead, she takes the neo-realist era approach and makes Cabiria one of the most genuine and real characters of cinema. Cabiria has been wounded in the past but still manages to keep going through. She puts on a tough facade so she doesn’t get hurt but she is still very naïve. It is impossible to not like Cabiria. While at the beginning of the film you might think her rude or ungrateful, as the film gradually unfolds you see why the way she is and you begin to understand. And if you have no feelings towards the end then I don’t know what to say. But anyways, Cabiria is stubborn, spunky, determined, her own and I absolutely love her. And that’s why I watch Cabiria. She’s like a best friend to me, and I mean, who doesn’t need his or her best friend on a bad day.

lionel barrymore, james stewart, jean arthur & edward arnold - you can't take it with you 1938

5) You Can’t Take It With You

This was one of the first Old Hollywood films I watched and I loved it to pieces. I laughed throughout the entire time, I shipped Jean and Jimmy, I wanted to be a part of Jean’s family; the whole deal. And I just realized that it was a Capra film, but that shouldn’t surprise me. I love it for these days because it gives me hope and sends the message to do what you love to do and what you want to do. Have fun. Don’t be quick to judge others. Make time for your family. And most importantly, be yourself. Take advantage of the options given to you and live your life the way you want to live it, not how others say you should. I don’t think it can be more optimistic than that :)


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The 400 Blows (1959)

On Friday, TCM honored French filmmaker François Truffaut in their Friday Night Spotlight lineup, so I camped out on the couch with a frozen pizza and some blankets to watch Les quatre cent coups (The 400 Blows), Truffaut’s first feature.

The 400 Blows is the first of Truffaut’s films centering around Antoine Doinel, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, whose life in this film mirrors the real life struggles of François Truffaut. Like Doinel, Truffaut was born out of wedlock but accepted as a son by the man his mother soon married. His childhood was troubled, as shown by the life of Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows. So brutally honest that his parents were hurt by the film (Truffaut defended his portrayal of his childhood, which he told them really was that unhappy), The 400 Blows is a touching story about growing up, touched with incredible insight and personal experience.

Antoine grows up in a cramped apartment with his mother (who really doesn’t seem to like her son very much) and stepfather, where he always seems to be unwanted and in the way, or else left completely alone. Misunderstood and mistreated by his callous and largely uncaring parents, Antoine engages in a life of petty crime and juvenile delinquency, eventually leading to his arrest for the theft of a typewriter. He is sent to an observation center for troubled youth, where, at the end of the film, he escapes and runs to the nearby sea.

Director François Truffaut

Director François Truffaut

In the famous final scene of The 400 Blows, we see Antoine Doinel standing on the shore and seeing the ocean–something he dreamed of all his life–for the first time. In literature, art, film and elsewhere, the ocean can often be a symbol of hope and renewal. As the final frame freezes on young Antoine, at the brink of the sea, my thoughts were that there is hope for him. Children are in the vulnerable position to be molded–for better or for worse–by their environment (which includes parents, who probably have more power than anyone in shaping the adults that we become). But as they mature, they have the opportunity to free themselves from their past, or from oppressive environments. That hope seems to exist for tender, movie-loving Antoine, who, as a maturing boy, has choices he can make to determine his own future.

Antoine’s real-life counterpart François Truffaut did just that, becoming one of Europe’s most celebrated filmmakers and a huge influence on the New Wave movement through his passion for and dedication to film. Movies became a kind of schooling for the future filmmaker, who, as a young’un, set goals for himself to watch more movies and to read more books. The 400 Blows, with its depth, sincerity, and honesty, shows that Truffaut’s dedication to cinema paid off. Henri Decae’s cinematography and the young talent of Jean-Pierre Léaud add to the impact of Truffaut’s touching debut feature.

After finishing The 400 Blows, I was already deeply attached to the character of Antoine Doinel, and wanted to see more of him, as well as learn more about the life of François Truffaut. I can’t wait to watch Truffaut’s other movies about Antoine (Antoine and Colette, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run), as well as more of Truffaut’s films in general. Shoutout to my fellow Moviefellas writer Miranda for letting me know this was on TCM!

The final shot of ‘The 400 Blows’


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The Searchers (1956)

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“We’ll find them in the end, I promise you…We’ll find them.” This line is my first recollection of The Searchers. I was about seven years old and we were in Disney for our family vacation. Back then at Christmas, all the rides would have two hours+ waits, including The Great Movie Ride; but that didn’t bother me. Instead, I was in awe of the larger than life movie screen in the faux-Gruman’s Chinese Theatre, playing trailers of various classic films featured in The Great Movie Ride, such as Footlight Parade, Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, etc. and, of course, The Searchers. I can’t tell you why that particular line stuck out to me; perhaps it was the determination and grit in John Wayne’s voice or the composition of the shot. Whatever the case, it did and it made an impression on me.

I’ve never been a fan of the Western genre, mostly because its setting doesn’t appeal to me but also due to its treatment and view of Native Americans. I pushed this film off for quite some time because of those reasons; but once I began watching the films of the 1970’s (ex. Taxi Driver), I knew that it was probably time to watch The Searchers. Brushing aside my bias for Western films, I sat down and began the film.

Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns to his brother’s home three years after the Civil War. Still bitter about the Confederate’s

An example of framing the shot from inside the cave.

An example of framing the shot from inside the cave.

loss, Ethan comes off very cynical, somewhat cocky, and hard-edged but also very alone. Ethan is pleased to see his brother, Aaron, and his family again but takes an instant dislike to Martin (Jeffery Hunter) because of his part-Indian blood. Right off the bat we learn that Ethan is racist towards the neighboring Indians. The next day, a neighbor’s cattle are stolen and Ethan and Martin go along to help find the culprit. When the men find the cattle dead, they realize it was all a trick by the Comanche Indians to lead them away from their homes and families. Ethan and Martin come back to find that Aaron, his wife, and his son were killed and their two daughters kidnapped. Ethan and Martin go on a search for both daughters Debbie (played by Lana Wood and Natalie Wood) and Lucy. Ethan eventually finds Lucy dead near the Comanche camp but does not find Debbie. The rest of the film covers the next five years of their search for Debbie and ‘rescuing’ her.

I’m really not sure what to say about this film. I’ll admit that if it wasn’t for Martin, I don’t think I would have been able to stand it. Ethan came off very strong and almost dislikable to me. Martin didn’t allow Ethan to keep pushing him around and stood his ground; plus his story line offered comic relief in a few scenes. It was hard to put aside my contempt for the representation of Native Americans in this film but that was where Martin helped.

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Notice Debbie in the far back, almost like a black dot. Gradually gets larger as she runs towards Ethan and Martin.

Let’s establish the fact that John Ford is an absolute genius with the camera and Winton C. Hoch’s cinematography fully captures the tone of the film. Ford frames as many of his shots as he can through some sort of opening, such as a cave or a door. I love this idea as it helps focus the attention and emphasize the landscape of the shot. Ford also utilizes depth very well. Perhaps the most obvious is the shot of Debbie running down the sand towards Martin and Ethan. Overall, Ford is a master at making a Western a GREAT Western by going above and beyond.

I’m going to have to watch The Searchers again just to appreciate Ford. I think it will be better because I won’t focus so much on “what happens” but rather the directing and acting. For me, watching a movie a second time is very beneficial because I know the story so I can focus on the little things that I missed before. Even as I was going through the film to take screencaps after I finished it, I was stunned by the composure and set-up of his shots. Perhaps I will add more Ford films to my list but I think it’ll still take me awhile to warm up to John Wayne and the Western genre.

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It’s very clear to see why this film was such an influence on films in the 1970’s; there were so many aspects of The Searchers that I saw in Taxi Driver. But perhaps the one most similar to it is their disconnect from the world. We meet Ethan and he is alone and by the end of the film, after five years of searching and riding with Martin, he is alone. I love the last shot; Wayne standing in the doorway and to me, he almost seems unsure of himself. No one is there is to say thank you to him for bringing Debbie home as they’ve already gone inside with her. But the inside is black and empty and Ethan stands outside of it. It’s foreign to him; then the door closes. We don’t see what happens to Ethan. So what does happen to him? What is his purpose now? What will he do? The answer: we don’t know.


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À bout de souffle (1960)

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À bout de souffle (Breathless), directed by Jean-Luc Godard, is a hard film to review. On one hand, I love it: it’s fluffy, fun, jazzy, and set in Paris. On the other hand, it’s only so-so: jump cuts distract from the almost nonexistent plot, faux-improvised dialogue adds nothing to the story, and there are many pointless scenes. Yet it’s such an iconic film – and the leads are so charismatic – that even though it is a bit overhyped I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Godard is a very polarizing director, his personality aside – I’ve found that most people either love him or hate him. Personally, I have yet to form an opinion. He’s a groundbreaking director, there’s no doubt about that, but he almost oozes pretention. À bout de souffle was his first full length feature film, and it’s obvious (my first Godard film was Pierrot le fou, a much more polished film and one of his best). There are hundreds of unprofessional jump cuts in the film, and yes, I know they’re meant to be artsy, but they really distract from the flow of the film and the viewing experience.

À bout de souffle is the story of car thief Michel (think Grand Theft Auto: Paris) who steals a car and accidentally kills a policeman in the act. He travels back to Paris to meet up with Patricia, an American student he met in Nice, and ask her to go to Italy with him. They spend a lot of time talking as he convinces her to go with him, and afterwards, they are confronted by the police.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

The strength and the enjoyment of the film lies with the two leads, Jean-Paul Belmondo (whose abs also play a supporting role) and the American Jean Seberg. While it takes a while to warm up to Belmondo’s Bogart-obsessed, misogynistic Michel, there’s no doubt that Belmondo’s presence keeps the viewers engaged in Michel’s story. And then there’s Seberg as Patricia. She’s dazzling, charming, and cute. I wanted to be Seberg as I watched À bout de souffle. Everything about her was effortless and cool – her hair, her striped ensembles, her voice…really, I could go on and on. It isn’t hard to see why Michel is so captivated by her and why he almost literally orbits around her.

At times, À bout de souffle is ironic and paradoxical. It’s almost overtly sexist with Michel’s treatment of women, yet Patricia is undoubtedly a modern women. She works, lives on her own, seeks out an education,  sleeps with other men, and speaks her mind. She’s a free women on the edge of second-wave feminism. I’m not sure if Patricia’s freedom (and her ability to make her own choices, despite Michel’s wishes) was purposely juxtaposed with Michel’s sexism, but it does add an interesting element to the film.

The soundtrack by Martial Solal is also worth noting. It’s airy and jazzy and really adds to the ambiance of the film. I’ve heard that some people have watched À bout de souffle solely for that soundtrack, and I can see why. It practically embodies the French New Wave and the free, youthful style of 1960s cinema.

À bout de souffle is simply a film that every film lover needs to watch. It’s significant, it’s iconic, it kicked off the French New Wave. Seberg and Belmondo sizzle against the Parisian backdrop. It has one of the best soundtracks of any film I’ve ever seen. It’s not The Best Film Ever. Hell, it’s not even Godard’s best film. But it’s enjoyable and interesting and worth a watch.


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10 America Movies to watch on July 4th

Happy 4th of July from Moviefellas! Here are ten great movies about America to watch between barbeque and fireworks and shedding a tear to the tune of Proud To Be An American.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein in ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976)

All The President’s Men
Three cheers for exposing political corruption!

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump unknowingly wanders into some of the biggest events in 20th century American history.

Born On the Fourth of July
It has ‘Fourth of July’ in the title. Also, Tom Cruise stars as Ron Kovic, a gung-ho marine whose view on war quickly changes when he experiences it and is left paralyzed and scarred.

Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis received basically every award available for his portrayal of the 16th President in Steven Spielberg’s historical drama about the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.

National Treasure
Nic Cage is going to steal the Declaration of Independence.

Jimmy Stewart and Claude Rains in Frank Capra's 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939)

Jimmy Stewart and Claude Rains in Frank Capra’s ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
An idealistic young Jimmy Stewart goes to Washington and learns a few things about the reality of politics.

American Beauty
The Burnhams are living the American Dream! Only not really. Look closer and everything is not as it appears to be.

Flags Of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood’s counterpart to Letters from Iwo Jima is based on the book Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, which tells the story of the famous flag-raising photo taken by Joe Rosenthal atop Mount Suribachi during the horrifying Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Flags of Our Fathers examines war and heroism through the stories of the men pictured in the photograph.

Frost/Nixon
The story behind the historic Nixon interviews in 1977, conducted by British journalist David Frost.

HBO’s John Adams Mini-series
An incredibly well-made series about John Adams’ role in the founding of the United States, starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams. Just set aside like eight and a half hours to watch it.

*BONUS* The West Wing
Not a movie, but if you feel like watching a television show about politics in the White House, your best bet is to stay inside and watch ten episodes of The West Wing.


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Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Jean-Pierre Melville’s cool, stylish French crime drama Le Cercle Rouge (1970) is the slow-paced but brilliant story of an escaped murderer (Gian Maria Volonté), a high-class moustachioed thief (Alain Delon), and a police superintendent who really loves his cats (Andre Bourvil).

All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.

Corey (Delon) is released from prison the same day Vogel (Volonté) escapes from police commissaire Mattei (Bourvil) while being transported on a train. Road blocks are set up all throughout the area, but Vogel manages to elude capture and ends up stowing away in the trunk of Corey’s car. The two inevitably meet and, along with alcoholic ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand), set up an intricate plot for a multi-million dollar jewel heist. They carry out the heist, but Mattei, a former colleague of Jandsen who is still searching for the murderer Vogel, is on their trail.

Melville’s deliberately paced thriller unfolds slowly, set to impressive cinematography and a bleak atmosphere that make it well worth the watch. Alain Delon is probably the smoothest criminal in town — everything he does looks super cool. Maybe it’s just the moustache. I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that the whole film is super cool. Criminals, police commissioners, and potential informants rendezvous in Santi’s nightclub, where cigarettes are inevitably lighted and girls are always there to entertain audiences and provide a glittering backdrop.

Overall, I was deeply impressed by Le Cercle Rouge, and thrilled by every second of it. I couldn’t help but take two hundred screencaps, some of which I put to use in this photoset on tumblr. Also, shoutout to our Star of the Month Alain Delon, who is one kool kat as Corey. Full disclosure: I watched this because I found out Alain Delon has a moustache in it. But whether or not you are a fan of Alain Delon/facial hair, I definitely recommend it. It’s worth the 140 minute running time if you want to watch a moody crime thriller.


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Binge Watching and Alain Delon Movies: A Love Story

Summertime is a time to binge watch tv shows on Netflix and catch up on one’s movie watching. Last week, I decided to banish the various preoccupations keeping me from my one true love (movies) and returned to a rigorous schedule of film consumption. And a bit of crack tv watching.

Le Samouraï (1967)

After realizing that I hadn’t been watching movies regularly for quite awhile (and had been watching far too much Gossip Girl), I decided it was time to begin anew. I’ve seen a disappointingly small amount of foreign films, so I took to twitter and asked the lovely people there for recommendations. Le Samouraï was one of the fifty or more recs I got in return–thanks Monica!
Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film follows French assassin Jef Costello (Alain Delon), whose latest job doesn’t go as smoothly as it should have: Jef is pulled into the police station for questioning, leading to various complications that endanger his safety (naturally, Jef’s boss isn’t happy when he is questioned by the police). Le Samourai is thrilling and iconic. I loved it a whole lot, and also ended up falling in love with Alain Delon, who is memorably cool as the killer in the beige raincoat and hat.


Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Nights of Cabiria, directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina, was recommended to me by the lovely Miranda, who cherishes this film (as I cherish her). Anyway, it was a really great recommendation, because I absolutely loved it.
Cabiria (Masina) is a spunky prostitute who endures misfortune after misfortune, but manages to keep her head up in spite of being screwed over by a series of men. Played beautifully by Giulietta Masina, Cabiria is lovable and easy to feel sympathetic for as she endures humiliation and heartbreak, yet remains resilient. In spite of the many wrongs inflicted upon her, Cabiria ends the film with a smile.

Gossip Girl
I didn’t anticipate getting so thoroughly sucked into this show, but then, what’s summer without a show to binge watch? I started watching Gossip Girl  by accident when I happened to be in the room while my twelve-year-old sister was watching it, and though I poked fun at its melodrama and generally aggravating characters, I found myself going back to watch the show from the beginning.
Set in the landscape of Upper East Side New York City, Gossip Girl is pretty much a show about secrets and backstabbers and a host of characters who seem to have nothing better to do than tear each other down. Unhealthy friendships, relationships, and families abound in this sometimes laughable series. And yet, it’s addicting as hell, and from time to time illustrates a touch of humanity that, speaking completely honestly, has brought tears to my eyes more than a few times. Twisted webs of complicated drama, various takedowns and schemes, a couple of surprisingly dynamic characters that show depth on occasion (Blair Waldorf is my personal favorite), and some kind of a party every episode make this show extremely entertaining and extremely addicting. You know you love me xoxo.


This Is The End (2013)
I’d be lying to myself and everyone else if I tried to hide my genuine enjoyment of this movie. I went into it thinking it was going to be pretty stupid, but This is the End is brilliantly funny, I’m pretty sure I was in hysterics for at least 75% of it. Everyone else in the theater seemed to be having a great time too. Except for the middle-aged couple sitting in front of me and Lauren who got up and left twenty minutes in. This Is the End is probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it’s brand of crass-yet-well-written, laugh-out-loud-inducing humor. Stars like Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and James Franco play versions of themselves, trapped at James Franco’s house while the world is engulfed in hellfire. Shenanigans and casualties ensue. Go see it if you like to laugh.

La Piscine (1969)
Like the title might suggest, Jacques Deray’s drama centers around a swimming pool. The significance of this fact is that stars Alain Delon and Romy Schneider spend most of the movie in their swimsuits (A++). Oh yeah, and someone gets drowned in said swimming pool at a lavish villa. When lovers Jean-Paul and Marianne (real life ex-lovers Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) are paid a visit by Marianne’s former lover Harry (Maurice Ronet) and his teenage daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin), a love rhombus ensues, leading to drama and tension that explodes in the second half of the film when murder happens. This movie is mostly worth watching for Alain and Romy.


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Is It Really All That Fun?: A Comparison and Contrast of the Beginning and Ending of “Cabaret”

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It has been at least three months since I first watched Cabaret and the ending of that film still haunts me. It’s such a contrast compared to the opening of the film: light, cheery, carefree, exciting, dazzling, exhilarating. How it got from point A to point B is the rest of the film. I’m so intrigued by the beginning and end of the film that I decided it would be a perfect choice for my first post in my series: A Close Look at a Scene.

THE OPENING SCENE

Let me begin by saying first and foremost: I absolutely love Bob Fosse. Granted the only other film I have seen of his is All That Jazz but personally I think if you’ve seen one film and you love it, that director is for you. That is the case for me with Bob Fosse and Carol Reed. The film opens to a black screen with white font, sans music, introducing the players. Once “CABARET” appears, there is the faint sound of chatter. Eventually the black begins to lighten up to establish the setting of the movie. Even as it lightens it is very disoriented but we can assume from the chatter, the clinking classes, and the reflection of well-dressed people that we are in a bar or a restaurant. The pace of the people’s reflections is very slow, almost dreamlike, blurry, indistinguishable. But then a band starts to warm up; we hear a piano, a saxophone, a trumpet, and drums. The disoriented reflection starts to turn from black to color, fittingly right after the mention of Technicolor. Then a drumroll begins. It starts low but gets louder and louder, hitting its peak once the title: “Berlin 1931” appears. *CLASH!* Popping out from the bottom of the frame in normal speed, our Master of Ceremonies (played by Joel Grey) appears. It is pretty startling if you’re not expecting it.

Slowly smiling, he begins to turn his head away from the reflection and starts to sing right at us. After a few lines he then steers his direction to the audience in the cabaret. We are now spectators of this show and from what we saw it is not all going to be crystal-clear. Fosse further clarifies us being a member of the audience by tilting the camera upward, looking up at the Master of Ceremonies, and by placing the camera in the back of the room. The Master of Ceremonies gives us a very elaborate welcome with flashing lights, a wonderful catchy song, and beautiful girls but asks us to “leave [our] troubles outside.” He establishes the basics of the film, telling us that he will be “our host” and ultimately will guide us throughout with film with a series of skits and songs that will coincide with the happenings in Sally and Brain’s lives. Even this song parallels with Brian’s life as we see through cuts that he is arriving in Berlin.

This world in the cabaret contrasts very much with the real world as Fosse shows with shots of heavily make-up’d people verus the ordinary people on the street. It is only concerned with fun and laughs, and that is about it. The crowd is very interactive with the Master of Ceremonies and seems to enjoy his sense of humor. The rhythm of the cuts and the music creates a very elated mood. The camera quickly pans back and forth while the Master of Ceremonies is introducing all of actors of the cabaret as if it is trying to grasp all the excitement and wonderful chaos of the cabaret. Especially at the end of the opening number, you can’t help feel intoxicated by the dancing and showy glamour of the cabaret. I would say that our host did an excellent job at welcoming us into the world and cabaret of this wonderful film.

THE ENDING SCENE

It begins right after Liza gives her fabulous performance of “Cabaret.” Again, we are greeted by the Master of Ceremonies through the reflection of the wall expect this time there is a bold, blood red reflecting in the background rather than people in the cabaret. He asks, “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten! I told you so.” and so on with his usual clamor. Expect that our troubles are not forgotten. The Master of Ceremonies voices lacks that quality of excitement that made us so elated in the beginning. The drum is dull and the band sounds like it can’t keep the same bounce as before. There are no flashy lights this time, no shots from the crowd; it’s like we’ve woken up from a bad hangover and now are just surveying the reality. But we realize that even the girls are moving slowly, just like the beginning. The music begins to dim and we hear the ping of a tinny piano while recapping different performances from the film. Then it stops and we see the Master of Ceremonies once again. He says goodbye in two different languages, each time sneaking closer and closer to the curtained door. Then he quickly bows and runs through the door. The bright lights instantly dim and then we are left with a dim light left on the curtain. The light and camera begin to glide to the right and a drumroll begins, however its meaning is completely opposite from that of the beginning. The spotlight dies once it hits the reflecting wall, leaving us with the reflection. There is no more flashy, showy fun; we must face reality. And our Master of Ceremonies, the one who said he would guide us, skipped out on us as if saying, “Well this is your problem; see ya.” What we see in the reflection is reality: the inescapability of Nazi Germany. The drumroll continues until the camera ends at a space on the wall where it isn’t completely warped. We see more than clearly a Nazi solider and even more so the red Nazi armband on his shoulder. *CLASH!* Freeze frame. Credits begin to role. No exit music. The end.