Obvious Child

Obvious Child

I’m going to write a bit about Obvious Child, and there are going to be some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and want to go into it not knowing what happens, maybe wait to read this until after you’ve seen it.

You can read the description of the movie here on our website, where you will also find showtimes, and other information.

This is one of those movies that feels like a best friend for me. Do you know what I mean? Some movies I just want to go see again and again, because I want to hang out with the movie, be in the same room with it, feel it’s energy. I want to see it in different moods, by myself, or with friends. I want to memorize scenes and think about them later.

The third word spoken in this movie is “vagina.” After the billions of male-genetalia-themed movies out there, I open my arms to welcomingly embrace the lovely (and hilarious) female body humor of Obvious Child. One of my favorite jokes in the movie is when Donna (Jenny Slate) does her butthole’s voice: “I GOTTA BE MEEEEE!” she belts out (insert fart noises).

Not only is Obvious Child laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also very real. I am so, so grateful for the scene in the Planned Parenthood doctor’s office. I have sat in that office before. I have cried at the price of medical visits that I could not afford due to lack of insurance. This scene, along with the overhead shot of Donna lying on her back during the abortion procedure, are two of the quieter moments of seriousness amongst a lot of jokes. And even in the latter there is a small laugh: when Donna spots the doctor’s shoes (Crocs– an inside joke from earlier), she smirks before turning her face back to us and letting a tear roll down her cheek. The balance of funny/sad is crucial to every story, and Obvious Child gets it just right.

This balance is illustrated in a scene towards the end, when Donna reveals her pregancy and imminent abortion on stage. Jenny Slate performs this excellently, with a vulnerability that makes the audience laugh and nod with understanding. She’s being completely herself. This is partly what makes her boyfriend break up with her at the beginning of the movie, but it’s also what gets her the much better guy later on. Donna’s gotta be herself, like her butthole says (“I GOTTA BE MEEE!” I still can’t stop laughing at that). That’s a great moral, I think: Be who you are, even if it turns some people off, because the right people will welcome you with open arms.

Obvious Child is now playing at Images Cinema thru Thursday 7/10. For more info and showtimes please visit our website: http://www.imagescinema.org

~ Anna

 

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Projectionist Dispatch: The Indie Cinema Experience

Things are changing in the Indie Cinema world. This seems to be a constant lately, that the industry is changing, both in terms of the movies being made and how they are distributed and projected. I read a lot of articles about how this affects filmmakers, and even critics, but I don’t see much out there about what this means for cinemas and the people who work in them.

Commercial blockbusters hit the theaters, and people go see them. They are big, action-packed, in 3D, in IMAX. People line up to see the midnight first show, and it’s playing at every multiplex across the United States. But Independant movies are different. “Independant” is such a broad term these days. The movies that I’m talking about are smaller budget, smaller distribution, maybe starrring actors you haven’t heard of, foreign… basically the movies that we show at Images. Some are more popular, like Woody Allen’s yearly releases, or Wes Andersson’s latest, and others are smaller movies with less of a guaranteed audience. Lately, so many of these indies are released on demand or on Amazon, iTunes, etc. the same day as their theatrical release. What will make someone choose to see these movies in a theater rather than at home?

I’ve written before about this topic of seeing movies in the theater. And I feel the same way now as I did then. The cinema experience is important to me, that’s why I do this work. The only time I opt to see a new release at home on Amazon Instant is when it is not available in a theater nearby. At Images, we can’t get every movie that I want to see (as hard as we try!), and especially with only one screen there are limitations. When I lived in New York City I could see any and every movie I wanted. I often saw three movies a week, at different art house cinemas. Here in Williamstown, there is less available, with Images Cinema being the main place for independant and foreign film. I also attend The Spectrum in Albany and even the Triplex in Great Barrington, but both of those are quite a drive away. So I understand watching movies at home, when you can’t see them elsewhere.

But for me there is no substitute for that cinema experience, no matter how convinient the alternatives are. I know that theatrical releases can be very expensive for filmmakers, and with so many other films out every week, there’s often too much competition for the same audience (check out this article on Indiewire). But I still love it. And I will work hard to keep the experience at Images the best possible– both in how the movie itself looks and sounds, and the aesthetic and communal experience of being at your local movie house with your neighbors, discussing important documentaries like Fed Up or Dam Nation (which drew great crowds the past two Mondays, proving that our community values these movies, as well as seeing and talking about them together), and seeing films that make you feel great, like Chef, which inspired our audiences to clap at the end and dance up the aisle to the credits music.

Thank you for supporting Images Cinema. Thank you for being part of the movie theater experience with us. Keep on coming!

~ Anna

Ida is now playing at Images thru Thursday 7/3. Obvious Child starts Friday 7/4. For more info and showtimes, please visit http://www.imagescinema.org

 

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Under the Skin

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As I walked out of the theater after watching Under The Skin (the third feature film from director Jonathan Glazer, who also made Sexy Beast and Birth), I had to remind myself that I am indeed human and live in a society with other people. I had to check my skin to see if it was on tight. I had to eat dumplings and a Twix bar and go see The Other Woman (another review for another time) in order to bring myself back to reality. But as my swirling thoughts sank in I realized how amazing this movie is.

As humans, the instruments through which we process and experience the world are our bodies, the outermost layer being our skin. It seems like so many philosophers, etc. are always talking about how we should leave the body behind and focus on the mind, but really, what makes us human is our physical form. Otherwise we’d be a different species. This idea keeps coming back to me as I think about Under The Skin. Scarlett Johansson’s character (an alien disguised as a human, luring men into her van in cold, foggy Scotland) observes the humans and their environment with a perplexed look on her face. It’s this expression (perplexed doesn’t do the depth of it justice) that impresses me most about her excellent performance. Johansson speaks very few words in the movie, and yet these complex ideas about who we are and what it means to be a person in a body flooded my brain. She examines her human skin in the mirror, stares at the reflection of her face with horror and confusion,  feels the touch of a stranger’s hand on her neck.

With such a physical performance in this film, I can’t help but mention Johansson’s completely verbal performance in Her. In both movies she plays characters that are “beyond human,” and makes us observe our own species through the eyes of an outsider. I am blown away by her work in both these movies– one with just her voice, the other with almost exclusively her physical presence.

Under the Skin is a weird movie, to be sure. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s probably not what you’re expecting. But I hope that won’t put you off from seeing it. It’s these daring films that challenge us, make us think, and push the boundaries of cinema. Come dream in the dark with us.

See you at the movies,

Anna

Under the Skin is now playing at Images Cinema through Thursday May 8. For our full schedule, please visit: www.imagescinema.org

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The Wind Rises

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The Wind Rises, the most recent and perhaps final film from animation master Hayao Miyazaki, opens with this Paul Valéry quote: “The wind rises… You must attempt to live.”

Also, characters in the film quote Christina Rossetti’s poem:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Jiro Horikoshi has dream meetings with the famous Italian aeronautical engineer Caproni, and in each dream he is asked, “Is the wind rising?” I interpret this repeated question to be asking, “are you living?” For a creative person, this is the same as, “are you creating?” The Rossetti poem provides the urgency, we have limited time, we face mortality. We don’t know what life is, but we can see its effects. Caproni also states that an artist or engineer will work at peak for ten years. That time is precious.

This film, it should be noted, is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of Horikoshi’s life. Miyazaki uses plenty of creative license in order to tell that story that he is interested in telling. What is creative inspiration? What is life? What to do when creative inspiration and life are at odds? These as the questions the film asks, the main character grapples with, and Miyazaki seems to be mulling over himself.

Jiro’s dreams seem to be synonymous with his creativity, and his desire to fly. Flying in dreams indicates personal fulfillment. His dream to create a beautiful airplane is representative of each person’s desire to find their own fulfillment. But what if the only way to realize his dream is to design a machine of war and death? Caproni posits this question directly, and essentially says he prefers a world with the beautiful creation, even if the result is suffering. Jiro doesn’t give a verbal response, but does continue designing airplanes, knowing their ultimate use.

Meanwhile he falls in love with Naoko. The brevity of life and love is highlighted by this relationship. By the time he declares his love, she is already dying of tuberculosis.  His love might even have been inspired by the knowledge that her time here is brief.  He doesn’t sacrifice his work for her, he doesn’t need to, and he perhaps is inspired by his love for her to be a better designer (as is suggested earlier in the film by the sardonic Honjo).

Jiro’s relationship with Naoko is paralleled with the development of the Zero Fighter, from the paper airplane that cements their relationship, to the the test flight, that takes him away from home, and provides Naoko with an opportunity to leave, before her illness gets worse, so he can remember her the way she was.

Miyazaki wisely balances the Naoko character, a victim of illness, with the invented character of Jiro’s sister, Kayo. Kayo is a strong and independent female character, who at an early age decides to become a doctor. Instead of dying, it is her vocation to help people live.

Hayao Miyazaki cites declining eye sight for his retirement from animation. But also, he has “retired” before, after Princess Mononoke (1997). Ever since Mononoke, he’s been on a streak, maintaining the high bar he set with that film. He is still creating manga, though. The wind still rises.

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Post Oscar Movie Lull

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From November to February there’s almost too many films. With awards season in full swing there are plenty of good movies that people are interested in seeing. It’s also the holidays, people are going out to movies with family, it’s school vacation. It’s our busiest time of the year. And then, in like a lamb, comes March.

March begins the Post Oscar Movie Lull. From now until the summer there are fewer movies to choose from (since movies released during this time are rarely nominated for awards), and often they are movies no one has ever heard of. The multiplexes are playing Ride Along and 300: Rise of an Empire, or re-runs of the Oscar winners.

Here’s what we’re doing in the Images Cinema office: reading about exciting new films premiering at SXSW which won’t be available to us until late summer at the earliest, scouring Metacritic, IMDB, and Indie Wire, watching endless streams of trailers, listening to our booking agent sigh at the low-grossing options, waiting anxiously for the wide-release date of Grand Budapest Hotel.

Sometimes this slower period gives indie gems a chance to rise to the surface– movies that would get lost in the sea of Oscar hopefuls and other big name projects. And sometimes there’s just nothing out there. How do we get people to come to the movies during this slow season?

We do our very best to bring you quality films. And that’s what we’re doing this March with The Past, Gloria, and The Wind Rises. These are movies that might not get shown in many theaters, or get much attention outside of art house circles. They probably won’t make much money. We might not get large crowds for them, but these are three movies I am really looking forward to sharing with our community. All three are international films, very different from each other, and you probably won’t see them playing anywhere else in the area.

So, I hope you’ll join us this spring for some challanging, beautiful, international, and rare cinematic experiences. Try something new and unexpected. Treat yourself.

See you at the movies,

Anna

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Nebraska

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My grandpa usually hates movies. He has said to me on more than one occasion, “The only movie ever worth making was The African Queen.” But as we walked out of Nebraska he said, “Anna, I LOVED that movie.”

It’s rare that a movie like Nebraska comes along. It’s a gorgeous black-and-white gem with humor and emotion that many people can relate to. It’s about family, parent-child relationships, dying, living, making choices. It’s about those bleak little run-down towns in the Midwest. It’s about the past and the future. It’s about wanting a truck. I laughed– hard and out loud. I cried quietly behind my glasses. I looked at my dad sitting next to me and thought about my mom who passed away last April. I watched my grandpa smile with recognition, and my grandma jump out of her seat each time June Squibb yelled the F word.

It’s a knockout ensemble cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, and Stacy Keach, all with outstanding performances.

I’ve seen the movie 3 times so far, and can’t wait to see it again. Bring your family, your friends, everyone you know.

There will be an After Images discussion of the film after the 7pm show on Tuesday Feb. 11th. 

NEBRASKA is now playing at Images Cinema through Thursday February 13th. For more info and showtimes, please visit www.imagescinema.org.

 

~ Anna

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Inside Llewyn Davis

inside llewynMusic, like cinema, can be tricky because it is both art and a commercial product. Things can become stuck between the two areas, or lost in limbo. This seems to be where the title character of Inside Llewyn Davis resides, trying to support himself financially, while not wanting to compromise his art. There is a pattern in the film of a moving musical performance being followed by what feels like an inappropriate response.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the film garnered so few Oscar nominations. It’s a beautifully made film that takes place in an unglamorous time, about a largely interior journey. The Coens deserve an Oscar nomination for Best Direction, and the film deserves a Best Picture nomination, but it will have to settle for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing.

Llewyn is an idealist, an artist in a world where most have alternate motives. After a moving private performance by Llewyn, a potential manager states, “I don’t see a lot of money in this.” During a performance by Jean and others at the famed Gaslight, the venue manager crudely states, “I want to fuck Jean.” Meanwhile the fun, kitchy, but emotionally empty song, Please Mr. Kennedy, is expected to be a big hit.

The film effectively charts Llewyn’s emotional journey by showing only external interactions. He says very little about he feels, so we know only how he interacts with other people and the Gorfein’s cat, and how it reflects his inner state.  The music also powerfully conveys a lot.

The film begins with the last scene of the film. It isn’t clear that this is so until we come to that scene again, this time extended. We know that in some ways Llewyn has come to terms with his singing partner’s death, and with his place in the world as well. This bookending also conveys the idea of patterns in our lives that bring us back to the same metaphoric spot again and again, not so much circles as spirals. We don’t end up exactly where we’ve been before, but close enough that we can gauge our inner growth by the similarity of external circumstances.

We can see how far Llewyn has come despite being in exactly the same place. Also, that repeated scene acts like the chorus to a song, the part we return to and yet understand better as the song progresses.

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