The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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  • Directed and written for screen by: Marielle Heller
  • Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner
  • Starring: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig
  • Sony Pictures Classics, Caviar Films, Cold Iron Pictures
  • Won best feature film at the Berlin International Film Festival anf Edinburgh International Film Festival

This year, many female artists have been critical of the lack of female stories available and being made in Hollywood. This year’s “Sicario” starring Emily Blunt drew attention prior to production because executives considered making Blunt’s role into one for a man, even though it was written for a woman. I remember hearing one of this years’s leading ladies in an interview on NPR recommending that, as women, when we see films about and by women in the box office, we should go buy tickets for them, especially opening weekend, because that’s when it matters most, even if we don’t see them. While I support that notion, I hardly have the money to go see the movies I do get to see, though I try to make them films with strong female roles.

It seems crazy considering women make up half the population, but  many Hollywood executives are under the impression that women’s stories don’t sell. I can tell you this as not only something I have read about, but because I have been in rooms where those words have been spoken by Hollywood executives. Hollywood lacks female voices as well in the roles of directors and writers. Don’t believe me? According to the Director’s Guild of America, women directed 16% of television episodes in the 2014-15 season. Over 3900 episodes were filmed, which means around 624 episodes were directed by women. They also found only 6.4% of 376 films made between 2013-14 were directed by women.

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Bel Powley in “Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Nonetheless, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” was made this year with two female leads, a female helmer and based on the book by a woman about women. And although it wasn’t a box office success, it garnered attention at film festivals and had some excellent buzz.

The film is about a teenage girl named Minnie (Bel Powley) who has an affair with her mother, Charlotte’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard).

The film takes place in the seventies and we are ushered into it through a first person narration by Minnie who begins recording her thoughts on a tape recorder as a diary after losing her virginity to Monroe. Minnie’s mind is filled with the thoughts every teenager has with explosions of color and doodles. She is an artist and her drawings help the audience to understand her mind.

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Bel Powley in “Diary of a Teenage Girl”

The most interesting thing about this film is that nothing is portrayed as grandiose or ultra-dramatic. The music, lighting and cinematography even through the drugs, alcohol and sex is all portrayed ultra realistically, giving the film an authentic feel. It doesn’t feel like a turbulent whirlwind, but rather a progression through Minnie’s life. When a naked Minnie stands in front of the mirror examining her body, it doesn’t feel sexual, it feels like a teenager looking at her body the way a teenager does- looking for flaws, changes, trying to understand what this body means.

Over the course of the film, Minnie’s peers begin to see her differently and one girl even calls her a “slut” to her face. Minnie’s reaction is subdued and it seems to roll off of her like water from a duck’s back. As the film goes on and Minnie’s sexual exploits continue, I had an interesting thought. It was difficult to see Minnie as any one thing, although one of those things would certainly be confused teenager lacking authority figures in her life, but “slut” was not a simple term that could identify her. Following Minnie’s story gives an understanding and a perspective that is unique to the film world. Knowing her motivations and thoughts as honestly as she could tell them made her a complex and immensely human figure. Seeing a young woman portrayed this way is so rare. It felt raw, honest and real. For that reason alone, I  recommend it. I also recommend it for the unique use of animation throughout the film used as a way to understand Minnie, even when Minnie seems to not quite understand herself.

 

Series Premiere of TOGETHERNESS on HBO

Togetherness

TOGETHERNESS

  • Network: HBO
  • Premiere date: January 11, 2015
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Creators: Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
  • Starring: Mark Duplass, Melanie Lynsky, Amanda Peet and Steve Zississ
  • First episode: “Family Day”: Directed and written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
  • Produced by Duplass Brothers Productions
  • Duration: 30 mins.
Togetherness: from left to right, Melanie Lynskey, Amanda Peet, baby (could not find name), Mark Duplass, Abby Ryder Fortson and Steve Zississ
Togetherness: from left to right, Melanie Lynskey, Amanda Peet, baby (could not find name), Mark Duplass, Abby Ryder Fortson and Steve Zississ

TOGETHERNESS is a new show produced by the Duplass brothers team that premiered Sunday on HBO. The Duplass brothers are known for  projects, on television and the big screen, that bring realism back to film a television. Their characters are often funny and clever and unique, however, they are extremely relatable. Their projects do not make their audience envious of something that can never be, but rather, use a relatable world to entertain. Something else I tend to like about the Duplass projects is that they use relatable actors. By which, I mean, that they aren’t all fashion model beautiful.

Their new project does just that. Makes the everyday world and everyday problems interesting. TOGETHERNESS is a comedy about a family that doesn’t necessarily have it all “together”. While dealing with the typical marital problems, the central couple has taken on a bit more stress than they can maybe handle with the wife’s sister unexpectedly moving in and the husband’s best friend doing the same. Add a baby and a small child to that equation and let the chaos ensue.

Still of Melanie Lynskey with baby
Still of Melanie Lynskey with baby

This comedy, like other Duplass work, tends to emphasize the importance of the real world and real issues faced by people over the course of their lives. It focuses on the importance of knowing and understanding the self, while not being selfish. Most importantly, it tends to focus on the family (although that may not be strictly-blood related family) and the connections people make and how they’re maintained.

The first episode of TOGETHERNESS holds promise without being too flashy. My suggestion, give the first episode a shot if you like the Duplass brothers or if you’re ready to see something real. I certainly am.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014) R                                                                                                    

  • Directed by: Wes Anderson
  • Screenplay by: Wes Anderson
  • Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan and Edward Norton, among many, many others.
  • Scott Rudin Productions, Indian Paintbrush and Studio Babelsberg.
  • Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig with story by Hugo Guiness and Wes Anderson.
  • Now a Golden Globe 2014 winner for Best Film, comedy or musical.
    From left to right: Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes.
    From left to right: Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes.

    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the story of a grand hotel and the adventure of its  famous concierge.

The story is told many years after the events took place, during the beginnings of World War II by the former hotel Lobby Boy and sidekick, Zero (played by Revolori) of the great M. Gustave (played by Fiennes). As is characteristic of Anderson’s other films, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a vibrantly colorful adventure with a strong ensemble cast. When I say colorful, I am not simply referring to the characters, although they are all rich and vibrant, I am also referring to the color used in the film by the director of photography and director. Anderson’s films are easily identifiable by his unique style, which includes a vibrant use of color, whimsical music, and a rather unique sense of absurdity. Absurdity is Anderson’s way of constructing satire.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

The absurdity is emphasized by often dead-pan and genuine acting that emphasizes the grandiose and exciting plot. Sharp cuts and exaggerated details also help to create a unique auteurism in Anderson’s films.

Unlike Anderson’s other films however, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL also confronts the contemporaneous World War II. Strangely, Anderson does not explicitly call out or name Nazis, however through his creation of a symbol worshipping, rising power in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire , it is evident that he is dealing with the Nazis. The Nazi power is not Anderson’s focus in the film, but simply an environment for his plot to take place in.

This film had a long list of wonderfully funny and tender moments brought about by an extremely talented and remarkable ensemble cast. Anyone who enjoys Anderson’s work will find a particular gem in his latest film.

For those of you who would like a more thorough overview of the plot that contains spoilers but id absolutely wonderfully written, I would to direct you to the review in The New Yorker written by David Denby entitled “Lost Time- THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and THE WIND RISES”.

Another photo of Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Another photo of Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

IMDBPro: The Industry Tool

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Hello! So, before I get any deeper in this whole blog thing, I wanted to let you all know how I get my information on the people who are behind and in front of the camera for film and television projects. No, I am not fortunate enough to have a photographic memory and simply memorize all the credits and production details, instead I, like my film and television industry compatriots and fans alike, use IMDBPro. Now you may think, “oh, I’ve used that before, that’s no big deal.” And while most people have been on IMDB, which is a free internet database of released films and television shows and some films and television shows that are still in production, IMDBPro is a subscription service that has more in-depth details about productions. For example, you can see productions that are still “in development”, meaning they are not even being shot yet, but are still in the beginning stages. You can also see greater in depth details about production companies and projects that aren’t off the ground yet, or are very hush hush.

IMDBPro is great because it has all of the information you could possibly get, without being on the project yourself.

You can get a free 30 day trial of IMDBPro if you want to find out what all the hullabaloo is about yourself, but after there is a monthly fee. If you have any other questions, let me know!

First Post: The Gambler

The Gambler Poster

This blog is essentially what it purports to be: my critiques on film, television, books, and whatever else I like, perhaps a little music, whether you want it or not. If you don’t want my opinion, I really don’t know what you’re doing here… Maybe you’re just curious or want to judge my judgement of these things, which I suppose is fine, too.

I’m going to start this venture with the most recent film I saw: THE GAMBLER.

THE GAMBLER (2014) R                                                                                                    

Let me preface this review with the fact that half of the reason I went to go see this film is because I’m a big fan of the lead actors.

If you know nothing about this film other than what you saw in the preview, you’re going into a film that you weren’t expecting to see. If you’re familiar with Mark Wahlberg’s work in the past, you probably think you’re going to see an exciting, heart-racing film about a good guy who owes a lot of gambling debts to some pretty nasty sharks. Well, honey, you’d be correct about the part that you’re seeing a film about a man who owes gambling debts to some nasty sharks. Unfortunately, it’s not packed with the action you expect from a Mark Wahlberg film.

In the film, Wahlberg plays a clever literature professor who gets in over his head gambling in illegal casinos. Wahlberg’s character has taken on a massive amount of debt to a few very unfriendly people in order to help repay his debts, but even when it seems like he could repay his debts, he runs into a new problem. His character is a bit of an egotistical maniac and is the cause of his own problems; not one of which is seducing a supposedly genius student (Brie Larson).

The is almost a retelling of Albert Camus’ The Stranger originally published in 1942, which, not so coincidentally, Wahlberg’s class is reading. The Stranger is a novel that utilizes an existential philosophy in its narrative. Existentialism is a philosophy which emphasizes the individual above all else. The individual is responsible for their own past, present and future. One must wonder if Wahlberg actually understood this concept or read the book this film was modeled after, as it doesn’t seem as though he knows what he’s talking about throughout the film or what his real purpose is. He get’s the egotistical part correct, but he does not seem to connect the meaning of his words with how he is saying them. During parts of the film, I actually had trouble following what Wahlberg was saying, not because I did not understand the words he said, but because the cadence of his words did not make sense with what was actually being said. It was as if he were speaking a different language that he did not understand, but knew how to read. Put another way, it seemed very possible that the director told Wahlberg exactly how to say the words, but because he did not understand them, he was unable to emote the feelings behind the words. Although this film was a clear hope at trying to get awards nominations for Wahlberg, this particular film did not garner the desired attention for Wahlberg’s abilities.

The other casting choices did not feel as disconnected and the performances were better than Wahlberg’s, but did not redeem the film. John Goodman has worked on several Coen Brothers’ films and demonstrated his ability to perform complex characters in supporting roles, stealing the show. He has also demonstrated an understanding of complex literary characters and themes through these performances, which is why he was likely attracted to this project to begin with. Brie Larson, a gifted and talented actress, plays an undeveloped female who is developed exclusively by what the audience is told about her and not by what she actually does and says. This is a tragedy for many characters in films, but it is extremely evident in this one, where the audience has to go off of Wahlberg’s word when he says she is a genius. Jessica Lange plays Wahlberg’s mother, and although her performance is short, it is extremely well done. She is able to convey so much emotion and power through her countenance, speech and expression. Michael Kenneth Williams, although I haven’t seen him in anything else, also has a memorable performance. At his entrance, most of his speech is some gambler language, which I profess, I did not fully understand, but he made it intelligible to the non-gamblers amongst us through his body language and slight manners.

The film, on the whole, embodied the existential philosophy and narrative form very exactly, until the end, which I won’t spoil. For me, however, the existential philosophy is extremely egotistical and selfish, thereby making the protagonist a very unsympathetic character.   Since the film is a character driven story as opposed to an action driven story, this is very important. The focus of the director, camera movement, and the situations which are characteristic of an existential piece, were all very in line with the film’s content, and interesting to watch, however, in big part because of the actor, they didn’t carry the weight they should have. In one scene, Larson and Wahlberg go to the desert; they are small in frame compared to the vast expanse of rock and sand and land, but the acting and script don not do anything to emphasize the smallness of the characters in this scene. There is another scene, where Wahlberg lies in a bathtub under the water, presumably contemplating himself, the situation he is in and how to get out of it, but none of this comes across in his performance. It is only to be assumed by the situation, which we have all seen before.

In all, the film is lackluster and not what I had bargained for. Although some of the performances are worthwhile, they do not outshine a rather unfortunate performance by an unsympathetic protagonist. And while the director, Rupert Wyatt, seems to take all the traditional steps to try and portray his vision, the film felt like it was doing just that: going through the motions of what an existential film is supposed to be and not what it could be.