Lost in Translation: Visual Appreciation

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“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”

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In her sophomore smash hit, Sofia Coppola introduces us to a familiar world within the realms of loneliness and isolation.

Lost in Translation revolves around Bob Harris (Bill Murray) who’s experiencing a mid-life crisis in Tokyo while filming a commercial advertising a whiskey for $2 million when he “could be doing a play”. Bob encounters philosophy college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who’s undergoing her own psychological breakdown while her fashion photographer husband is noticeably absent while working on location. Bob and Charlotte are two people at opposite ends of life with a comparable connection, and the two form one of the most unique bonds between two individuals struggling with various components of being lost. While Charlotte is grappling with the 20s crisis of ‘what am I doing with my life?’, Bob is struggling with the same complex issues from an older perspective. The two share a rare camaraderie that is seldom accomplished well on screen without feeling complicated, unnatural or creepy.

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Lost in Translation received critical acclaim in 2003 and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director for Sofia Coppola; Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson each won a BAFTA award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role respectively. The film was also a commercial success, grossing $119 million from a budget of only $4 million.

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This is a film I explored early in college, and I couldn’t get into it. I consider this a blind spot movie for me, because I re-watched it for the first time in a decade and fell completely in love with the characters, ambiance, cinematography and storyline. It’s a story and message that transcends time and resonates greatly with anyone who’s ever felt alone or isolated, which is something I’ve struggled with significantly in my late 20s like Charlotte.

One of my favorite aspects of the film is the cinematography and the fine work of director of photography Lance Acord. There are many shots in shadows and dimly lit locations that visually represent and convey isolation. Tokyo is constantly lit and booming with color, while the main characters are more concealed in the shadows symbolizing their loneliness and detachment from the outside world. Under the cut are some of my favorite stills from the movie.

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Aliens (1986) & the Future of the Franchise

The making of Aliens

It’s been nearly 20 years since the ill-received Alien Resurrection, and Sigourney Weaver is finally ready to give the Alien franchise a proper ending.

While attending this year’s Sheffield Film and Comic Con, actor Michael Biehn (Corporal Hicks, Aliens) opened up about the upcoming installment to the Alien franchise. The Internet went nuts when director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) posted concept art on his Instagram page depicting an aged Ripley alongside Corporal Hicks, a ship bearing resemblance to The Derelict from the 1979 Alien, and a concept Xenomorph. Biehn revealed that while he has spoken to Blomkamp about the upcoming film, he hasn’t been offered to reprise his iconic role in the franchise. Yet.

Neill Blomkamp Alien Art

In an interview with Sky Movies, Blomkamp revealed that the fifth movie will pick up where the second movie left off.

“I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens. So it’s Alien, Aliens, this movie,” he explains.

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While everyone has been tight-lipped about the project, there has been speculation that the project will be pushed back to make room for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel; Scott will be producing the Blomkamp project. This means a lengthy development process for Blomkamp’s Alien, and a potential release in 2018.

Many fans are asking though if we really need another reboot or have we already dragged this franchise through the mud enough?

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Jurassic World: A Blockbuster Success, Cinematic Disappointment

Jurassic World
“Corporate felt genetic modification would up the ‘wow’ factor…”

Jurassic World is a solid summer blockbuster–turn off your brain and just enjoy it.” That’s what I was told prior to my 3D dino disaster experience.

But Jurassic World isn’t a commercial disaster; it unquestionably delivers and is a bona fide box office success. Jurassic World opened to $511.8 million worldwide — the highest global bow of all time at the box office opening weekend, and this movie titan will likely reign supreme for the weeks to come. But Jurassic World is exactly what it’s criticizing; people aren’t just ‘wow-ed” by dinosaurs anymore nor do animatronics uphold the scare-factor that 1993’s Jurassic Park created. The dinosaurs have to be bigger, badder and scarier, because no one’s scared of “clever girl” velociraptor anymore.

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It’s been 22 years since Jurassic Park opened in 1993, and times have certainly changed for the summer blockbuster. My expectations weren’t high going into Jurassic World, but, nevertheless, I was enthusiastic about the resurrection of one of my childhood favorites. What I got instead of a saving grace sequel (The Lost World and Jurassic Park III are both forgettable) was a half-baked, over-saturated blockbuster of manufactured entertainment. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to expect from summer blockbusters in the 21st century? All flash and little substance? The bigger the boom the higher the dollar intake? I refuse to believe that a reboot doesn’t have the potential for both commercial success and cinematic greatness, but not even Star Lord could save this one.

In the past summer blockbusters have included Jaws (the original summer blockbuster), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Dark Knight. And I’m supposed to lower my standards for a franchise reboot, because it’s a summer blockbuster? When did we start dumbing down our standards?


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Iris – A Fashion Icon

Iris Apfel

“I’m not a minimalist as I’m sure you’ve noticed!”

Less is not more when it comes to 93-year-old fashion eccentric Iris Apfel. The more the merrier and the greater amount of garb the more layers of creativity to inspire.

Iris follows the fashion maverick Iris Apfel—iconic for bold lenses and a neckline adorned with more costume jewelry than Coco Chanel would ever wear out her front door. But while the topic of fashion may appear superficial, Iris proves that beauty may be evoked at any age with any style.

She and her husband Carl — who turns tumblr_mdtpravDLv1r6sxjfo1_500100 in the film — started out as interior designers, traveling the world every year collecting fabrics, knick-knacks and furniture that they used in refurbishing all sorts of grand manors, including the White House. Then they started their own fabric company, while Iris cultivated her fashion style.

I found looking through the lens of documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (“Grey Gardens”), who passed away in March, was equivalent to a backstage pass at a historical fashion show featuring the icon of costume jewelry excess.

From fashion editors to socialites to bloggers, Iris is one whom many have come to admire throughout the years and look toward for fashion forward inspiration. She’s a unique bird who would rather be the most overdressed to the party and couldn’t care less how outlandish she looks in the process.


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Top 5 Reasons to See Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road
“I live…I die…I live again!”

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Nearly 30 years after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and three years after it began filming, Mad Max: Fury Road has finally been unveiled to a new generation of movie-goers…and the wait has been worth it!

Mad Max: Fury Road is the 2015 post-apocalyptic action film directed, produced and co-written by George Miller. It’s the fourth film in the Mad Max franchise, and it’s being deemed not only the best of the franchise but one of the best action films to date. Fury Road stars Tom Hardy as “Mad” Max Rockatansky, replacing Mel Gibson for the title role. Gibson initially signed on to the project back in the early 2000s, but lost interest when the project was dropped due to filming complications in the Middle East; Miller admit that the actor change was preferable as he wanted Max to remain a younger character as the same “contemporary warrior”.

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The action-heavy flick is set in the distant future where water and fuel are scarce, and civilization is ruled by the malevolent dictator Immortan Joe. Immortan Joe’s tranquility is interrupted when Furiosa (Charlize Theron) helps a handful of his sex slaves escape the Citadel to gain their freedom. On their way to the matriarchal promised land, the women encounter Max on the road, who becomes involved in the search for the promised land with Immortan Joe’s road warrior minions in hot pursuit.

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On the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “Certified Fresh” with a 98% approval rating and an average score of 8.7/10 based on 258 reviews. The site’s consensus reads, “With exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life.”

Anyone familiar with the Mad Max franchise knows certain components of this post-apocalypic world are guaranteed: over-the-top car chases, daring stunts, macho cars and the patriarch behind it all–Max Rockatansky. As someone unfamiliar with the Mad Max movies, I wanted to compose my top reasons to see this film from an outsiders perspective.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 5star
“I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like hamburgers”
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As if the vampire genre hasn’t exhausted the cinema, the self-described “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a fright flick worth experiencing. Ana Lily Amirpour is an Iranian-American film director, screenwriter, producer and actor known for her first feature film “the first Iranian vampire western.” The film made it’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, and it’s based on the short film she wrote and directed by the same title which won “Best Short Film” at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival; she describes the film as more John Hughes than horror. Think Only Lovers Left Alive or Let the Right One In to add to the stylistic library of vampire moderns.

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Top 10 Movies of 2014

Academy Awards

The 2015 Academy Awards have nominated some of the weakest films in recent history. Composing a top 10 of my personal favorite films of the year was partially a struggle with the lack of exceptional movies coupled with a vast majority of mediocre films. One of the most widely positively and negatively talked about films of the year, and the potential Oscar favorite to win, is Boyhood. While I reviewed the film as the most overrated movie of the year, it represents the year as a whole…good, but not great. The Academy appears to be resting on some of the safest films that can be considered important and groundbreaking cinema, but fall on the cusp of mediocrity. There were a lot of great films that got ignored this year that may or may not have made my list like Inherent Vice or Guardians of the Galaxy, but are some great movies that shouldn’t be overlooked by viewers.

This is my third year composing a top ten list, and while I’m satisfied with these 10 films, I’m disappointed in the year as a whole. These are what I consider my personal favorites (not a top 10 of what I consider to be the best in well-rounded cinema). Here’s hoping 2015 has more to offer with greater competition and greater risks in the filmmaking industry.

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Boyhood is the Most Overrated Film of 2014

Boyhood Movie gif2star“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

“It’s been months since I left Boyhood feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with nearly a three-hour viewing, and while I’ve let the film digest, I still don’t get the over-hyped appeal.

With a nearly perfect 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (only five critics out of 258 dared to negatively review) and a 100% ranking at Metacritic (ranks as the highest scored new release for at least this century at Metacritic),  New York Times film critic A.O. Scott hails Boyhood as “one of the most extraordinary movies of the 21st century.” And I’m left here wondering…why?

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The film was recently awarded best picture at the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globes, and it’s the frontrunner for best picture at the Oscars. Director Richard Linklater explains “I wanted the whole film to feel like a memory–how you might feel if you looked back on your life.” But, the memory isn’t compelling. A straight, white boy grows up in a middle-class family to become an arts student. Groundbreaking, no?

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Only Lovers Left Alive Revisits Vampire Genre

Only Lovers Left Alive5star“How can you’ve live for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living.”

If any genre of as been over-explored in our culture, it’s the blood-sucking, vampire genre. But indie director Jim Jarmusch offers a melancholy, hipster-driven film that pushes the boundaries of love for centuries between two outsiders living in the shadows.

The lovers are underground rockstar Adam (played perfectly by a cooly morose Tom Hiddleston) who lives in Detroit and Eve (played by Tilda Swinton, worldly and knowledgeable) who lives in Tangier. The couple lives apart, but remain deeply in love after being married for centuries; their love remains timeless as the world around them constantly changes. After reuniting in Detroit, their lowkey lifestyle is transformed to chaos with the visit of Eve’s wild-child sister Eva (a careless freespirit played by Mia Wasikowska).  Her senselessness and greed is a reckless endangerment to the family, and to the crimson supply of “good stuff” Adam and Eve survive off of.

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The Beauty in The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything fireworks gif5star“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is part biographical part love story based on the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking dealing with her relationship with her ex-husband, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and his success in physics.

The Theory of Everything has received praise for its acting (particularly for Redmayne and Jones), James Marsh’s direction, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s musical score and its overall production. Catherine Shoard of The Guardian praised the film and particularly Redmayne, writing, “Redmayne towers: this is an astonishing, genuinely visceral performance which bears comparison with Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot.

The film balances both beauty and fact with an elegance seldom seen in theaters. If I were to have it my way, both leads would be taking home golden statues for their challenging portrayals executed so effortlessly on screen.

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“I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything Movie. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me. Seeing the film has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successsful in my scientific work. I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Eastr Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero gravity flight. One day I hope to go into space. I’ve been priviledged to gain some understanding of the way the universes oprates through my work. But it would be an empty univere indeed without the people that I love.”  Stephen Hawking via Facebook

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What appears to be one of the most challenging stories to execute has produced some of the most picturesque scenes in film this year. Here are a few scenes that I consider to be some of the film’s most beautiful shots.
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