Why I (Unapologetically) Love The TWILIGHT Saga: 11 Years On

It’s 2008. You’re in your cinema seat, waiting in anticipation for the film to begin. It finally does. The room and screen go black. You hear the words, “I’d never given much thought to how I would die. But dying in the place of someone I love, seems like a good way to go,”. You feel the excitement in the room as everyone settles into their seat to watch the beginning of one of the most iconic teen franchises of all time.

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Twilight (2008) source: Summit Entertainment, IMDb

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for basically all of the late 2000s, you might’ve heard of a little film series called The Twilight Saga. If, by some chance, you have been living under a rock, I pity you as you have not experienced the masterpiece that is Twilight. 

Twilight is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the only female director to direct in the series. She paved the way for the remaining films and in my opinion, made the series what it is today. Without her vision captured within the first installment, I don’t think it would’ve been as big as it was and still is to this day.

Cinematography

One of the main things I love so much and is so great about this saga; I can definitely point out flaws within these films, but I think the cinematography is something they got so right. This comes out a lot in the first film and Catherine Hardwicke has her signature blue hue all over it. I think this is what makes the first one stand out from the others so much so that it could be a stand-alone film. It’s sort of misty and mysterious which sets the tone for the rest of the story and I think this is why it adds to the first film possibly being one of my favourites in the saga.

New Moon, the second in the series, was different in every aspect of cinematography. It didn’t have Catherine’s direction, which meant it lacked in the familiar, iconic, blue lens we Twi-hards came to know and love. It was stripped of everything we knew and was more clear, using a mix of dark earthy tones with orange as the main colour palette. These colours complimented each light setting and especially in the dark, depressing scenes in the sequelwhich I thought was a perfect and subtle way to segue us into the coming films and the themes that arise.

Each film clearly as its own flare and main strong points, thanks to the variety of directors and cinematographers.

Soundtrack

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Twilight (2008) source: Summit Entertainment, moviescreencaps.com

One of the main reasons why I love this saga so much is the soundtrack. You can say what you want about the writing, the characters, and the cast, but you have to admit… the soundtrack is good (thank you, godly music supervisors and Carter Burwell).

Twilight’s soundtrack was the epitome of the year 2008: it had Paramore’s hard-hitting Decode and I Caught Myself, Linkin Park’s Leave Out All the Rest, Blue Foundation’s Eyes On Fire and even used some of Robert Pattinson’s songs, namely Never Think and Let Me Sign. 

I think the most iconic song from the Twilight soundtrack has to be Supermassive Black Hole by Muse. I wouldn’t be surprised if whenever a Twilight fan heard it, they had a picture in their head of the sultry Cullens running around playing baseball in a field on a stormy and thunderous day.

The New Moon soundtrack had a completely different feel to it. It is, and always will be my favourite. It has a huge range of different artists and most of the songs have a completely different feel from the others: perfect for the ever-changing mood of the film. The Violet Hour by Sea Wolf is a soft song played at Bella’s birthday at the Cullen house; a feeling that isn’t around for too long in the Twilight films. A Thousand Years by Christina Perri was the perfect song to end the series with. It had such a bittersweet sound to it and clearly showed the happy ending which truly summed up Edward and Bella’s love for each other.

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New Moon (2009) source: Summit Entertainment, moviescreencaps.com

Characters

Most of them are complex, albeit some of them aren’t written very well. The amazing cast brought them to life and gave them dimension. A lot of the people hating on Bella as a character probably never read or watched more than one book or movie to know she was way more than that.

Bella was empathetic and you could tell she was uncomfortable in many situations. She hated being the center of attention and did things she normally wouldn’t choose to do for the happiness of others. She didn’t want to move to Forks, but she did for the happiness of her mother so she could go on the road. She placed herself in danger for the secured safety of her family. She was also stubborn and she fought with Edward to see Jacob, even having the knowledge that Edward had the power to hurt both of them.

Rosalie is one of my favourite characters in the whole series. She was feminine, stood up for what she believed and as much as she didn’t like her, Rosalie never wanted Bella to end up how she ended up – not being able to live her human life to the fullest. She was motherly and protective, but also loved cars and knew how to fight just as well as the boys.

Alice and Esme were the most warm and compassionate. Alice treated Bella like a sister from the moment they met, used her power to check on Bella and used it to help Edward save Bella from other vampires. Esme went above and beyond trying to make Bella feel welcome in their home and treated her like family.

11 Years Later

Twilight paved the way for a new genre of fantasy for young readers and viewers. Vampires and werewolves didn’t have to be super scary and intimidating, they could be however you wanted them to be.

I think truly, the main reason why I still unapologetically love The Twilight Saga eleven years later is that it was so many other people’s childhoods including my own. It allowed fans to have an outlet to write their own things about the characters and to continue the story for themselves. It allowed us to be able to live in a fantasy world that we could add to whenever we wanted, if we wanted, in our own writing. It allowed us to discover new genres of movies and books we may never have heard of before.

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Twilight (2008) source: Summit Entertainment, moviescreencaps.com

The Twilight Saga may not be perfect but it has its great moments. It’s nostalgia. It’s so iconic. It’s fun. Everybody should (unapologetically) love The Twilight Saga. Who cares!

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won the Academy Award for Best Director

Lynne Ramsay’s 2018 United States release of You Were Never Really Here is a masterpiece, a rare instance of what Hitchcock calls ‘pure cinema’ — where very little about the character and plot are explained but understood and felt by the viewer because of its cinematic composition.

This is evident from the beginning as Joe — the anti-hero brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix — leaves a motel room after cleaning up a bloody hammer and discards of personal possessions that are not his. He then takes a taxi home to tuck his elderly mother into bed. It is understood right away that this is a complicated character, one who cannot easily be understood or placed in the simple binary categories of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won Best Director
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – source: Amazon Studios

The point of view of the film stays restricted to Joe’s experience of reality which is completely distorted. His flashbacks to prior painful events that left him scarred and tattered include an abusive father, the Gulf War, and his time as an FBI agent. These horrific memories are never discussed but are shown on screen sporadically as Joe becomes triggered by everyday life.

The audience experiences some of these flashbacks with Joe — which come in no particular order and last for no particular length of time. These symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and his active suicidal ideation, which is shown in many different ways, helps us understand the cinematic experience that has been created.

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won Best Director
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – source: Amazon Studios

As mentioned above, it is hinted in the beginning that Joe is a hitman of some sort but it is found out he is hired to find and kill men who are trafficking young girls. In the film, he is hired by a politician who’s daughter is thought to be at a brothel. Though most of his jobs are understood to go quite smoothly, this particular gig becomes complicated, forcing Joe to look past his own experiences and focus on saving the life of a little girl. This morally blurred job is an attempt to redeem himself for what he sees as past failures and offers the opportunity to find closure for some of his pain.

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won Best Director
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – source: Amazon Studios

The joining link of the three instances that are constantly replayed in Joe’s mind is a sense of failure —as a child he failed to protect his mother from her husband, in the Gulf War he failed to protect a young Afghan who died at his expense, and as an FBI agent he failed to save a group of Asian girls who were forced into prostitution. Though failure seems to be staring him in the face and growling, hoping to force him into complete insanity, Joe is dedicated to saving the life of the politician’s young daughter. This hired killer has intense compassion which is ultimately his fatal flaw.

There is a fantastic scene where Joe is walking down a crowded Manhattan street — it is a beautiful sunny day and people are enjoying the city in their spring attire. Joe looks out of place in his dark hooded jacket and baseball cap but still, a young Asian girl feels comfortable coming up to him to ask if he would take a picture of her and some friends.

Once Joe agrees the group puts their arms around each other and start to fake laugh in order to capture the moment. The screen is then filled with an uncomfortable Joe as he holds up the phone, ready to snap a picture. A slight dolly in on the main character signals certain social anxiety that is evident. The reverse shot is an extreme close up that shows the girls laughing — an intense focus on their open mouths. The distorted shots of just certain parts of their faces appear painful, almost like they are crying for help. Joe’s heavy and loud breathing can be heard as the camera pans across the group and ends on the initial girl who had asked for this interaction in the first place. The camera frames her face right in the middle; her eyes are watering and she looks like she is ready to cry.

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won Best Director
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – source: Amazon Studios

Joe’s voice can be heard mumbling, “What the fuck are we doing?” and a two-second flashback, which is thought to be from the final experience as an FBI agent, is the transition to the next element in the film. An extremely great example of Ramsay’s ability to produce pure cinema.

Though this film sounds to be horribly graphic and deals with dark subject matter, Ramsay is known for her ability to show just what is needed in order to force the viewer’s imaginations to be used. This technique is seen in her past projects, including her 2011 feature We Need to Talk About Kevin, which also deals with psychological themes. A good director is able to use the idea of pure cinema to build complex characters and plot but a great director is able to use the idea of not seeing to create every element. Lynne Ramsay is a fantastic director and arguably one of the best filmmakers of our time.

Lynne Ramsay Should Have Won Best Director
Ramsay and Phoenix behind the scenes

You Were Never Really Here is an intense film that understands trauma and is merciful to the correct characters. Joe is complex and complicated but not problematic which is common in tough man-led thrillers like this one. Ramsay successfully dissects Joe layer by layer. He wants to do good and make the world a better place but he has experienced too much dark reality to do it in the simple ways of volunteering at a local pet shelter or donating to a charity.

None of what I’ve talked about is explicitly outlined in the film as there is very little dialogue and no voice-over to explain. The film is completed in just 89 minutes which is only the result of a skilled artist. This is why Lynne Ramsay should have won the Academy Award for Best Director, yet she wasn’t even nominated.

OSCARS 2019: Who’s Going to Win and Who Should Win Instead

I don’t work for a legacy media company, so I can’t call up twenty Academy voters and ask them what they think about Black Panther. But predicting Oscar winners isn’t just about access or tracking the guild winners. It’s also about considering our cultural moment, watching public response to the nominees, and a fair bit of guesswork. I once guessed every multiple choice question on an AP Calculus exam, so this should be easy! I guess I did bomb the calc test, but I care a lot more about film awards than derivatives.

I’ll also offer my own thoughts on which nominee would be the most deserving winner as well as a film that I think should’ve been in contention. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen every nominated film, which I try to note where it’s relevant. I’ll also be avoiding the short categories and best documentary feature award altogether, not because short and documentary filmmakers aren’t doing incredible work, but because I haven’t had a chance to see any of the nominees.

And if you think I’m wrong, come argue on Twitter.

Best Picture:

WILL WIN: Roma
SHOULD WIN: Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Vox Lux

The top race is maybe the most wide-open in recent years, but there’s a clear top tier of possible winners. I considered Black Panther and Green Book, either of which could pull it off due to the ranked ballot, but I think Alfonso Cuarón’s widely-acclaimed Roma is heading for a big night. Choosing it for the top prize allows Academy voters to nod towards multiculturalism, feminism, and craftsmanship without picking a politically contentious nominee like BlackKklansman or Vice. It’s undeniable that Roma was one of the year’s best made films; I’ll be picking it in several craft categories.

As for wishing Vox Lux was nominated…I am willing to be alone on this. Brady Corbet’s film spoke to me like no other 2018 release and while it likely never had a chance at the Oscars, I wish awards season had been kinder to this strange, beautiful little film.

Best Director:

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here

While I could easily see Roma missing the top prize, Cuarón feels like a lock in this category. As deserving as Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, and Pawel Pawlikowski are of this award, Cuarón’s well-received campaign and status as one of the world’s greatest working auteurs looks destined to continue Mexican directors’ run of success in this category.

It wasn’t surprising, but the Academy’s continued snubbing of female directors is even more absurd in the wake of the #MeToo movement. So many female directors did Oscar-worthy work this year, including Josephine Decker, Debra Granik, Marielle Heller, Tamara Jenkins, and Chloé Zhao. But my pick for a nomination is Lynne Ramsay, whose masterfully made You Were Never Really Here has been deeply neglected by the Academy.

Best Actress:

WILL WIN: Glenn Close, The Wife
SHOULD WIN: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Toni Collette, Hereditary

I feel for Glenn Close. She’s a phenomenal actress who deserves recognition for her incredible body of work. But even her staunchest supporters admit that The Wife is not her most memorable or best performed role and I believe the trophy should go to the year’s best performance regardless of that actor’s awards record. This year, that means Yalitza Aparicio’s jaw-dropping talent.

This was a banner year for female leads. Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga, and Melissa McCarthy are all certainly worthy, as are Toni Collette, Elsie Fisher, Regina Hall, Joanna Kulig, and yes, Vox Lux‘s Natalie Portman. But Yalitza Aparicio’s turn in Roma was the best performance of the year, period.

Best Actor:

WILL WIN: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born 
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Okay, I’ll admit it. A Star Is Born is the only film I’ve seen in this category. But I also don’t regret skipping Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice, and Willem Dafoe’s film, At Eternity’s Gate, flew way under the radar. I’m going with Malek because of the Academy’s inexplicable support for alleged pedophile Byran Singer’s film. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Bale notches a win: the Academy loves biopics even if I usually don’t.

My personal favorite male lead this year was Charlie Plummer in Lean On Pete, but I’m not surprised his largely-unacknowledged performance failed to garner a nomination. However, it did surprise me that Ethan Hawke was snubbed for his widely acclaimed role in First Reformed. Hawke is an industry figure and this was probably his career-best; make it make sense!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

WILL WIN: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD WIN: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Claire Foy, First Man

This is arguably the year’s strongest category. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz delivered titanic performances in The Favourite, Marina de Tavira excelled in Roma, and Amy Adams is a routine fixture in this category. But someone has to come out on top and I think Regina King is that someone. I wouldn’t rule out Adams snagging a career win at the same time as Glenn Close does the same, but King’s turn in Beale Street was my favorite part of the film. With Barry Jenkins’s film left out of the rest of the top categories, I suspect voters will break for King and recognize Adams some other time.

I’m picking Claire Foy as the snub to recognize largely because “a bunch of boys” was the year’s best line read. But I also understand why she was left off the list. First Man‘s script largely kept her off the screen and with so few demonstrations of her incredible talent she just didn’t make the cut.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
SHOULD WIN: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite

Yawn.

This category is so boring. While all of the nominated performances were competent, none measure up to any of the supporting actress nominees. I’m picking Mahershala Ali to bring home a second trophy. While he’s a great actor, my heart certainly isn’t in it for Green Book to win anything. Given the choice I would toss most of this category for Brian Tyree Henry, Nicholas Hoult, Daniel Kaluuya, and Alex Wolff.

Best Original Screenplay:

WILL WIN: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Curry, & Peter Farrelly, Green Book
SHOULD WIN: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

I like when she puts her tongue in me.

I wouldn’t surprised if The Favourite walks away empty-handed like Lady Bird did last year. The film’s centering of queer female romance and Yorgos Lanthimos’s wacky sensibilities probably doomed this film’s chances for the top trophy, but I’m hoping its alternately wild and heart-wrenching script takes down my expected victor, Green Book, whose screenplay stinks like a ninety-six year old French whore’s vajuju.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

WILL WIN: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
SHOULD WIN: Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This category is much stronger than its original screenplay counterpart, which makes my choices that much tougher. My pick to win is largely dependent on two things being true: that Spike Lee won’t win best director and that A Star Is Born has a dismal night. Voters know that Lee deserves a competitive Oscar and might hand him this one to make up for past snubs. I’m also counting on A Star Is Born flopping outside of best original song; if it manages to notch a win here, watch out for a possible best picture upset.

The Academy doesn’t show much love to animated films, as evidenced by Spider-Verse missing every category except best animated film. It’s a shame every year, but especially this time: Spider-Verse‘s screenplay is the tightest, most creative superhero script of all time. I tend to lean towards recognizing art or independent film over studio blockbusters, but Spider-Verse has the range.

Best Animated Feature Film:

WILL WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
SHOULD WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: ???

Speaking of Spider-Verse, it’s the runaway favorite in this category. Disney and Pixar’s entries Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet could pull off an upset, but this is simply one of the best animated movies ever made. It should’ve received a slew of other nominations and the least the Academy can do is give the film this award.

I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for what else could’ve been nominated; I only saw three animated films in 2018 and all were nominated. Please let me know what I’m missing!

Best Foreign Language Film:

WILL WIN: Roma, Mexico
SHOULD WIN: Cold War, Poland
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Burning, South Korea

This category is another gap in my knowledge. I live in rural Ohio where it’s difficult to find screenings of foreign films until they’re released on digital. I haven’t yet seen Japan’s widely-acclaimed entry, Shoplifters, nor have I caught my suggestion for an alternate nominee, Burning. Film criticism is impossible without access; limited releases make it difficult to write about global films without receiving screeners. If anyone wants to toss me some DVD’s of next year’s nominees I’ll happily write a review of each of them.

Roma seems the prohibitive favorite here. I might even vote for it if my vote actually counted just to make sure that the film receives recognition. But, assuming Roma does indeed win best picture, I would love to see this award go to Cold War, a deeply moving drama also nominated for direction and cinematography. Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot’s performances have haunted me every day since I watched this film.

Best Original Score:

WILL WIN: Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD WIN: Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Justin Hurwitz, First Man

I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Panther takes this award, especially if it ends up sneaking in for best picture. Voters ranking the Marvel film as their second or third choice for the top prize might worry if it wins without taking some other trophies and vote for Ludwig Göransson’s excellent work here.

But the award should go to Beale Street for its unparalleled use of score in storytelling. No other film except perhaps Annihilation hit such a pitch-perfect match between the screen and the score.

Best Original Song:

WILL WIN: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
SHOULD WIN: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: “I’ll Never Love Again,” A Star Is Born

Yes, it’s a meme. Yes, it’s over the top. Yes, it’s the only category this film is going to win.

But if A Star Is Born only wins one award it needs to be this one. Not only is “Shallow” a banger in its own right, its narrative and thematic incorporation into the film make it stand out from the pack.

(Maybe you thought I’d sneak in another Vox Lux shout-out, but even I can’t justify wanting an Oscar nod for “Wrapped Up“.)

Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing

WILL WIN: Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: First Man
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Annihilation 

My picks are the same for both categories and I’m writing this the night before the ceremony so I’m only doing one write-up.

I’m not surprised that the Academy completely snubbed Alex Garland’s sophomore feature, Annihilation, but I am disappointed. The fact that it didn’t even get any craft nominations is especially sad; those last thirty minutes, right?

Unfortunately, I bet the Academy is going to toss a couple awards to Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe his name won’t be on the trophies, but no concert scene is worth passing up more deserving nominee First Man, which was also not directed by an alleged pedophile.

Best Production Design:

WILL WIN: Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton, The Favourite
SHOULD WIN: Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Jason Kisvardy & Stephen Dudro, Sorry to Bother You

For me, this one comes down to a technicality. I’m confident that The Favourite‘s period accoutrements will tickle the Academy’s fancy, but my endorsement is tight between that film and Black Panther. Ultimately, the latter film’s extensive use of CGI limits my willingness to award it for production design, although it’s curious to see how the field’s definitions change as the use of CGI in live-action films becomes more commonplace.

Best Cinematography:

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Ashley Connor, Madeline’s Madeline

This is a tight race for me between Roma and Robbie Ryan’s exquisite work on The Favourite. I’m ultimately inclined to award Cuarón’s beautifully crafted images that more fully explore the affective capacities of black-and-white filmmaking than any other film this decade. I’m also inclined to believe that Academy voters have been sufficiently charmed by his auteur sensibilities to give him a personal clean sweep of picture/director/foreign language/cinematography.

I would feel pretentious for suggesting that Ashley Connor be nominated for her work on arthouse film Madeline’s Madeline, but the Academy one-upped me by tapping Caleb Deschanel for Never Look Away. I’m sure his work is lovely, but I had never even heard of his film before it was nominated. Connor could have received the same out-of-nowhere recognition.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

WILL WIN: Vice
SHOULD WIN: Mary Queen of Scots
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Suspiria

I unfortunately missed watching all of this category’s nominees, but I am confident of a few things. First, I think the Academy will be continue to be enamoured with biopic makeup departments, especially of recent figures such as Dick Cheney. Second, I think that the trailer for Mary Queen of Scots showcases better hair and makeup work than Christian Bale’s fake face. Third, if the Academy is going to fall for prosthetics, why the hell wasn’t Suspiria nominated for the triple-Tilda?

Best Costume Design:

WILL WIN: Ruth Carter, Black Panther
SHOULD WIN: Ruth Carter, Black Panther
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Caroline Eselin, If Beale Street Could Talk

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy goes for the period stylings of The Favourite or Mary Queen of Scots, but this is a category where Black Panther‘s excellent craftsmanship can and should secure a win. Ruth Carter’s work is astounding in cinematic and cultural scope just like the film she worked on, continuing to prove why the Academy needs to televise all of its awards.

Best Film Editing:

WILL WIN: Hank Corwin, Vice
SHOULD WIN: Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here not even being nominated in an editing category that includes Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and Green Book is absolutely absurd. I think the upper-class liberal Academy voters will go for Vice‘s juvenile dunking on George W. Bush instead of the far more capable nominees BlackKklansman or The Favourite, but I’m still just pissed that Lynne Ramsay’s films get treated like dirt.

Best Visual Effects:

WILL WIN: First Man
SHOULD WIN: First Man
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Annihilation

This category is full of CGI-packed blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story that could sneak in on behalf of their studios. But I consider these films to be cinematic duds, leaving the gorgeously made First Man as the deserving frontrunner. I would’ve liked to see Annihilation offer more cerebral sci-fi CGI than Disney usually puts out, but I’ll be happy if First Man can bring it home.

And that’s the ballgame! We’ll know soon if my predictions are spot-on or completely off base, but I’m hoping for at least a few upsets to keep things exciting. Maybe Vox Lux can snag best picture on write-ins.

The Parallels Between Kevin Spacey and AMERICAN BEAUTY’s Lester Burnham: 20 Years Later

For the past two years, Kevin Spacey’s name has switched from one of the most acclaimed actors of this generation to one of the most prominent names on what could be considered a modern-day blacklist. Since accusations arose two years ago of him being sexually involved with young men, we have bore witness to last-minute film replacements, the ending of one of Netflix’s most iconic shows, and one of the worst times to come out of the closet. But were the signs always there and we just weren’t paying attention?

Coincidentally enough, one of his most iconic movies that could point to evidence about his behaviours is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It’s also fitting that the tagline of the poster to that film, American Beauty, is “Look closer”.

What is American Beauty?

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American Beauty (1999) – source: DreamWorks Pictures

For those who are unfamiliar, American Beauty is a drama film released in 1999 directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. It’s release was not only met with critical praise, but also praise from audiences. It made over $350 million against a $15 million budget, holds a spot in IMDb’s Top 100 films (#68 as of this date), and would go on to win five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Many movies and TV shows today have made references to the film over the last 20 years, so it’s safe to say it has a solid spot in pop culture.

The movie follows Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham, as a stir crazy suburban father in an undisclosed part of America (aerial shots were filmed in Sacramento, there are shots of Lester driving through Burbank, and phone numbers have a Chicago area code, so take your pick where it is) struggling to keep his act together. He goes through a midlife crisis as he lusts after his teenage daughter’s friend Angela and changes various aspects of his own life around so he could be more appealing to her.

While other threads of the movie focus on other members of the Burnham family and how they’re affected by Lester’s midlife crisis, the movie is always sure to keep him at the center of it all. To go into detail on this article would mean to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it. It’s the double-edged sword of film criticism, but spoiling the movie, I believe, will help get the point across about Spacey’s real life behaviors.

Kevin in Real Life

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Spacey in 2017

In October 2017, Hollywood experienced something of a watershed moment that shook up the game like never before. Starting with prominent producer Harvey Weinstein, a series of misconduct accusations spread across the nation affecting the work of many producers, directors and actors. Among the accused was two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey. His crimes were of a slightly different nature than Weinstein’s. A young actor named Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of drunken sexual advances when the former was 14 and the latter was 26. Spacey apologized, but it didn’t stop dozens more from coming forward with accusations of varying degrees (including the son of actor Richard Dreyfuss).

To say that Spacey’s career went up in flames would be an understatement. Netflix severed all ties with him, axing a Gore Vidal biopic and canning him from House of Cards (the show would go on to air for one more season without him). He was cut out of Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World after it was completed and replaced with Christopher Plummer (which would get him an Oscar nomination for the movie, which I still assert is for the last-minute work). He even posted a disturbing video in character as Frank Underwood, denying any and all allegations towards him, that got very mixed reactions.

So with all that said, can we still enjoy his work?

In the Case of American Beauty

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American Beauty (1999) – source: DreamWorks Pictures

While any of his films could be discussed about separating art from artist, I decided that American Beauty was the most appropriate, given the nature of the movie’s plot and the accusations against Spacey. In American Beauty, his character of Lester Burnham makes several changes to his life in an attempt to pursue his own sense of happiness. Early on in the film, Lester says: “Both my wife and daughter think that I’m this gigantic loser and they’re right, I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.”

He loses that sedation when he meets his daughter’s friend Angela. Throughout the movie, including at the first sight of her, he has fantasies of her that involve rose petals. It could serve as an allusion to the title, which is a type of rose that can look pretty and appealing but is prone to rotting underneath its appearance, much like Lester’s suburban lifestyle. He starts working out more, smokes weed with the neighbour kid Ricky Fitts (who forms a bond with Lester’s daughter), sells one of his cars for a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, and even quits his job in a way that millions of people could only dream of doing. While these crazy changes are taking place in his own life, he feels indifference to his wife’s eventual infidelity.

Towards the end of the film, he finally makes a move on Angela, who throughout the movie has been sexually promiscuous in how she talks and presents herself. But as Lester shows her love, she confesses to him that she is, in reality, a virgin. This revelation leads to a total change of heart in Lester. He gives up his lustful ambitions and reflects on his family life.

What Could It All Mean?

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American Beauty (1999) – source: DreamWorks Pictures

With all that said, I want to remind everyone that this is purely opinion, and everyone will come to their own conclusions. As for me, I’m able to separate art from artist in certain cases. American Beauty has some themes and ideas that I think people can learn from in the wake of the Weinstein accusations. It’s a shame that Spacey did what he did and I think the punishment is perfectly fitting for him. If he had done what Lester had done, and not gone through with it, maybe we could’ve seen him in All the Money in the World. Maybe he could’ve ended House of Cards on his own terms. We’ll never know.

What I am sure of is that American Beauty will never be looked at the same way again. I’ll personally watch it again if I want to, because there is a lot to like about the film. I understand if others may not be able to look at Spacey’s face again knowing what we now know about him, but we’ll always have that big debate about art vs. artist to fall back on.

PADDINGTON 2 Was Robbed and I’m Still Mad About It

I think everyone can agree that it’s been a strange and awkward awards season, to say the very least. So many noteworthy films have been snubbed by the industry’s biggest televised award ceremonies: 50% of the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. There were so many films last year that deserved recognition, from Eighth Grade to Suspiria, but one stood out to me amongst the crowd: Paddington 2.

Now, yes, it was my favorite film of 2018, so maybe I’m approaching this with a slight tinge of bias. But there’s a reason that Paddington 2 broke the Rotten Tomatoes record for best-reviewed film, and the fact that it’s gotten basically zero recognition this award season is equivalent to that of a war crime.

Paddington 2 (2017) – source: StudioCanal

Paddington: A Good Boy, and A Good Movie Too

The first Paddington, released in 2014, was a wonderful story of a young Peruvian bear travelling to London and becoming part of a new family. But it barely scratched the surface of what this cast and crew were truly capable of – because the sequel enhances every single aspect of its predecessor. While it may not look like your traditional ‘Best Picture’ nominee, Paddington 2 is a surprisingly well-crafted piece of cinema. The screenplay, written by Paul King (who is also the director) and Simon Farnaby, is especially tight and intricate.

The story finds Paddington looking for a job, so that he can afford the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday (a wonderful pop-up book of London). Without giving too much away, Paddington and his adopted family (The Browns) end up going through many trials and tribulations. Every single main character gets some sort of arc, and the script is packed with setups and payoffs left and right. Not to mention that there’s also an inclusive, anti-Brexit theme flowing throughout as we see Paddington’s London for the melting pot it truly is.

Paddington 2 (2017) – source: StudioCanal

Paul King returned to his director’s chair for the sequel and his direction is vibrant, fresh, and aesthetically pleasing. The impressive cinematography and cozy color palette help amplify the warmth given off by Paddington himself. Speaking of my son, the visual effects done to bring the lovable bear to life are incredible. And it’s not just with Paddington – there are several outstanding sequences throughout the film that were mainly created by Framestore, a British VFX company. Two standout scenes that come to mind involve a life-size pop-up book, and steam trains.

Ben Whishaw completes Paddington by lending his naïve yet loveable, youthful voice to the role. The rest of main cast returns from the first film as well, including Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and Peter Capaldi. New cast members include Brendan Gleeson, Jessica Hynes, Noah Taylor, and many more. They all give excellent performances with great comedic timing. But oh my god, I haven’t even mentioned Hugh Grant yet.

Paddington 2 (2017) – source: StudioCanal

Grant plays Phoenix Buchanan, Paddington 2’s delightful antagonist. A narcissistic and washed-up actor best known for shooting dog food commercials, Buchanan clashes with Paddington when it turns out that they both want the same pop-up book. I’ve always been a fan of Hugh Grant, from Notting Hill to Music and Lyrics, but he’s an absolute scene-stealer here. As Buchanan, Grant gets to chew the scenery with a variety of personas. Also, he gets to do a song and dance number at one point, and that should be more than enough to sell you on this film, if nothing else has already.

Daylight Robbery

Upon release, Paddington 2 was understandably critically acclaimed. On Rotten Tomatoes, there are 222 reviews for the film, and none of them – not a single one – are negative. It holds the site’s record for best-reviewed movie, and that’s not going away any time soon. Paddington’s still the King, baby, now and forever.

Paddington 2 (2017) – source: StudioCanal

With all the critical praise, I went into this awards season filled with hope and optimism – which my cynical self probably got from watching Paddington 2 in the first place. When it came to Oscar nominations, I thought, okay, maybe Best Picture is a long shot even if it really deserves it. But surely, it would be a guaranteed lock for Best Visual Effects? And then the Oscars released their shortlist. Tragically, I was wrong.

But I still held hope. I began wishing a little harder for Best Picture, and I thought that there was no way Hugh Grant wouldn’t get a nod for Best Supporting Actor. I woke up bright and early for when they announced the nominees. But I never saw Paddington 2. All I could see was… Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody? I was heartbroken, trapped in what felt like a nightmare, but was very much a cold and cruel reality. A plot was surely afoot.

As I adjusted to the new, bleak world that I found myself in, Boots Riley posted a thread on twitter explaining why his own film, Sorry to Bother You, wasn’t nominated either. And it’s, at the very least, because they didn’t run an ad campaign. Simple as. I looked at Paddington 2 and realized that they hadn’t ran a campaign either, so maybe I was the fool for going in believing that they would get nominations. However, due to my bias, I still consider this an injustice and will continue to demand reparations from the Academy.

Paddington 2 (2017) – source: StudioCanal

If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”

Paddington

Paddington 2 isn’t just a well-made film for the whole family: It’s the ultimate feel good movie. Pure and good escapism. It’s an aesthetic for when I’m feeling down. And so, it can be disappointing to not see something you love be gratified like you know it deserves to be. But I think that Paddington himself probably wouldn’t mind and would just be happy to know that he made others feel good.

If you haven’t seen it already, I obviously recommend Paddington 2. There’s also a cartoon coming soon on Nickelodeon for children, which I will of course be watching. I should also note now, in advance, that I’ll be personally overseeing the show’s campaign for a Daytime Emmy. Be sure to RSVP.

HARRY POTTER and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Crown Jewel Of Its Series

The Harry Potter series has left an indelible mark on my life. A gilded, glowing fantasy world that swept me away when I picked up the first book in third grade, and has lingered with me ever since. This declaration of love is highly common, as the series itself quickly became a pop culture landmark and a household name, and remains one to this day.

Readers were captivated by J.K. Rowling’s beautifully illustrative writing, and dually enraptured when director Chris Columbus adapted the first Harry Potter book into film in 2001. It’s the books that were the highlight of my childhood, but as I grow older, I find my appreciation of the films almost on par with my appreciation of the books. But it’s only one of the 8 films in particular that has enchanted me throughout both my childhood and current adolescence, and that I consider to be my favorite film of all time: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Family Ties In Voldemort’s Absence

The third installment in the Harry Potter series sets itself apart with one major detail: it’s the only installment where the series’s overarching main antagonist, Voldemort, doesn’t appear. The core conflict, instead, is based around Sirius Black. An ‘antagonist’ shrouded in mythology revealed to be Harry’s kin by the end of the story turns out to be a compassionate man whose violence was spurred on by revenge.

It’s the only installment, apart from the final one, that doesn’t end on a heavily dubious note. It’s a full circle, and could even work loosely as a standalone film (in terms of conclusiveness). This time, we’re not dealing with some snake-like, slightly supernatural being. The ‘villain’ is an ordinary man who is directly connected to Harry, and by the end of the story, you end up deeply trusting him. 

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

The familial bond between Harry and Sirius is translated to the general intimate atmosphere of the film adaptation itself, an atmosphere unique to the third film only. Director Alfonso Cuarón took some liberties when adapting the book to screen (i.e. Harry doing magic over the summer and not getting expelled, along with many more discrepancies), leaving some fans up in arms. However, as he trimmed away some of the more obscure aspects of the wizarding world, he magnified everything about it that has made the story feel so accessible to audiences across the globe.

Camerawork and Costuming: Unsung Heroes

Cinematography is the key to immersing audiences into a film, and cinematographer Michael Seresin’s work in this film is outstanding. It seems as if the camera is never still throughout the entirety of the film, whether slowly closing in on its subject, or darting quickly back and forth. It highlights the humor, heartbreak, and joy within each respective scene. It’s the supporting actor, as well as the star.

Where most of the Harry Potter films choose to use long shots to highlight the expansiveness of the magical world, the camera in this one doesn’t shy away from close-ups. These close-up shots intensify the emotion in each scene, and create some of the most memorable moments of the entire film series (the infamous Aunt Marge scene, Lupin’s transformation, the Boggart scene, etc.). This fantasy world feels so much more real, casual, and even plausible, thanks to the camerawork in this film.

Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Costume design is also a major, and highly underrated factor, contributing to the uniquely casual atmosphere of this film. For the first time, our core three protagonists are clad in clothes normal teens in the 2000s would wear, and not in starchy school uniforms 24/7 (a switch in costume conceptualized by costume designer Jany Temime). The outfits are so casual, yet memorable in their own right, and wonderfully reflect the personalities of the golden trio. It’s revolutionary in its own subtle little way.

This casual nature extends to their school uniforms too. We have unbuttoned collars, rumpled robes, loose ties, and genuine variation in clothing from every extra to every key character in the film. Something as seemingly insignificant as costume design plays a huge role in breathing life and personality into the characters we see.

Key Symbols

Motifs serve as a grounding factor among the highly turbulent emotions of the film, and the Womping Willow is a major one. There are 3-4 shots highlighting the vicious tree, each one signalling the coming of a new season, and a new shift in the trajectory of the story. There’s a shot of the willow gently shaking off dead leaves in the fall, another of it shaking the snow off itself so violently that it splatters the camera, and a tracking shot of a blue bird flitting through the tree’s branches before getting flicked away by one of its tendrils.

This motif also doubles as foreshadowing, considering how big of a role the willow plays later into the film. Harry and Hermione end up battling their way through the tree’s frenzied branches to reach the secret passage beneath the trunk, which leads them to Sirius Black.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Possibly the most important motif, however, is the wooden bridge. It was a completely new addition for the series, absent from the books and from the preceding two films, and ended up carrying importance throughout all of the Harry Potter films after this third installment.

In this film, it serves as a safe and emotional confessional ground between Harry and Lupin, as well as a landmark in Harry and Hermione’s time-turner adventure. In the films following this one, there have been endless scenes featuring it (most notably, its significance in the Battle of Hogwarts). The charmingly crooked bridge remained a staple throughout all 8 Harry Potter films, and all thanks to the introduction of it in this third installment.

The Ultimate Coming-Of-Age Film

Almost everything in this film, from color grading to thematic elements, is significantly darker, and this is used to segue into Harry’s first year as a teenager. Harry has started to come into his own now, as we see in the beginning of the film when he storms down the gloomy street of Privet Drive after yelling at and accidentally blowing up his aunt (as any normal teen does). It’s classic teenage rebellion, but wizard-style. And still, within the storm of emotions clouding Harry’s thirteenth year, there is joy.

Giggling with his friends as the snow floats down around them, eating candy late at night with his dorm-mates in their room, sneaking out of the school to join his friends in Hogsmeade. There’s a classic, childish joy that everyone has known at some point in their life. This joy is integral in making the wizarding world feel real, and cutting away any cold boundaries between the audience and the film. Because no matter how far-fetched the story gets, at the end of the day – they’re just thirteen. They think and act and talk like any normal thirteen year old would.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

This is what has continually enthralled me in my many years of watching and loving this film, from elementary school to my current high school years. I see so much of myself in Harry, and I’m sure most young audiences do as well. In his jubilant scream when riding Buckbeak to the tender look in his eyes when speaking with his godfather. This film is the most reflective of him as a character, and does him the most justice out of all the other Harry Potter films (and not just because his hair looks the best in this one).

The full spectrum of emotion is captured here in the most beautiful way, in a fantasy world that should feel outlandish and distant, but never does. I will be forever grateful for the existence of this film and how deftly it toes the line between escapist fantasy and comforting reality. It enthralls and consoles. Excites me and puts me at ease. Its magic will never grow old, and I’m inexpressibly excited for all coming generations to experience this film and fall in love with it the same way I have.

My Top 5 Films of the 21st Century

I love films. Films are the ultimate art form. The result of thousands of years of cultural development encapsulated into two hours of heart-bursting joy, life-altering insight, overwhelming sadness or any one of the millions of feelings and emotions that are felt by human beings every day.

Films reflect our best and worst qualities. They touch something inside us in a way that no other medium can. Brilliant films translate literature into screenwriting, art into cinematography and music into soundtracks, resulting in a sum much greater than its individual parts.

Although I hold many films from the 20th century very close to my heart, films of the 21st century have a special significance for me as they are the films that have shaped my cinema going experiences, from seeing Finding Nemo as a young child right the way through to recently watching the Oscar-nominated crowd-pleaser Green Book. With this in mind, I have set to work compiling a list of what I believe to be the top five best films released since 2000, along with a short description of why I rate them so highly.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (d. Wes Anderson)

One of my favourite directors, The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Anderson at his most whimsical and colourful, telling the story of a concierge and his trainee who find themselves on the wrong side of the authorities in the fictional but realistic Republic of Zubrowka.

Against the backdrop of the rising tensions of interwar Europe, the film tenderly explores the developing relationship between M. Gustave and Zero Moustafa as they lurch from one escapade to another, whilst also painting a tragic image of a golden age of European culture and lifestyle destroyed by the brute force of warmongering fascists. In particular, the genius of The Grand Budapest Hotel stems from its achievement of being able to completely encapsulate this feeling of an age of sensitivity and civility that produced cultural wonders such as the (also fictional) Renaissance masterpiece Boy With Apple. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman fills the space around the perfectly centered shots with eye-popping colour, rendering the film’s whip pans and alternating aspect ratios a joy to behold. Wes Anderson at his very best.

4. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (d. Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

The standout film in a year of standout films, Birdman soars to the heights of brilliance both in its technical mastery (Birdman was famously shot as if it were one take) and in its absorbing subject matter concerning washed-up actor Riggan Thomson and his struggle to rediscover his past relevance.

The film makes use of extended takes often lasting more than ten minutes alongside subtle cuts hidden in whip pans and shots with overwhelming levels of light or dark imagery, all of which is spliced together into a seamless exploration of Riggan’s crumbling mental state as the stress of writing, directing and starring in his play meets visions of his earlier stardom as the eponymous superhero Birdman.

It is a film cloaked in ambiguity throughout its two-hour run-time, from its very first scene – Riggan floating in a meditative state in his dressing room – right through to its ending in Riggan’s hospital room following his attempted on-stage suicide; as his daughter, Sam, gazes blissfully into the New York sky, we can only speculate as to the ultimate fate of the man once known to the world as a superhero. Or perhaps that should be the superhero once known to the world as a man?

3. Wall·E (d. Andrew Stanton)

Pixar’s ninth feature film and the studio’s finest to date, the sublime Wall·E is simultaneously a considered critique of humankind’s penchant for consumerism, environmental impact and greed. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful exploration of love and human emotions told through the lens of non-human robots, and a highly entertaining adventure through space for both kids and adults.

Stanton’s film is a triumph of ‘show, don’t tell’ film making, relying on its stunning visuals and the body language of its two principle characters, the titular Wall·E and EVE, to allow the story to unfold. The on-screen action is backed up by a futuristic blend of orchestral and electronic harmonies in its Oscar-nominated score by Thomas Newman, creating an understated sci-fi ambiance which echoes the narrative as it journeys from earth into deep space. A masterpiece of animated story-telling.

2. Roma (d. Alfonso Cuarón)

Directed, written, produced and shot by Alfonso Cuarón and based on his childhood experiences in Mexico City, Roma is a masterwork of quiet intimacy told at the slow pace of domestic life, punctuated by the sporadic bursts of violence and upheaval typical of the volatile circumstances of 1970s Mexico.

The film meanders through the life of its main characters as if we were seeing it through Cuarón’s own eyes, each frame tinted with the reminiscence of experiences alien to us, yet still somehow nostalgic, with the monochrome imagery of the city and the family home intensifying these emotions.

The black and white cinematography is also emblematic of the societal partition between the predominantly indigenous maids (who count the film’s protagonist “Cleo” among their numbers), and the white middle-class family who employ them. Race and its relation to social class continue to play a significant role throughout the film, demonstrated most clearly in the climactic beach scene during which Cleo’s maternal instincts urge her into the churning waters of the Gulf of Mexico to rescue them despite her inability to swim; for her efforts, she is rewarded only with more chores once the family returns to the city. If there were any doubts at Cuarón’s command of cinematic technique before, this is surely the film to dispel them.

1. The Social Network (d. David Fincher)

A film I still believe was robbed of best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards, The Social Network is essentially a flawless film mapping the sordid development of one of the most popular websites in existence, as well as providing a character study of the cast of hyper-ambitious, Machiavellian personalities who played a role in its conception.

Fincher is unerring in his meticulous portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg and his motivations, painting a picture of a man driven by a cold desire to lead humanity into the digital age and characterized by a borderline-sociopathic disregard for those he deems incompetent. The film features Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield acting at the peak of their powers, with a razor-sharp script from Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, all set to one of the finest scores in recent film history – a chilling, distant collection of electronic melodies. A score (and indeed a film) in many ways eerily reminiscent of Zuckerberg’s creation itself.

The Marvelous World of Studio Ghibli

Hayao Miyazaki has the genius mind behind the insanely talented animated films such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. Those are only just a few of the marvelous creations, but strap in as we are ready to explore many more!

Kiki’s Delivery Service

The Marvelous World of Studio Ghibli
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) source: iMDB

I’ve been a Studio Ghibli fan for as long as I can remember but for some strange, unknown reason I had never watched Kiki’s Delivery Service up until last year. I remember the viewing experience clearly as I had just found my favourite Ghibli film out of them all. I was in my usual film watching spot (my bed) with my usual film watching snacks (pop tarts, the Oreo ones to be precise). I pressed play around 1 AM as I hadn’t been able to sleep much that week. I don’t know about you, but when I watch a film in complete darkness, it enhances my viewing massively and is my favourite way to watch new films now.

I took a lot away from my first viewing, mainly I aspire to have the same aspirations and values as Kiki. The way she treats people with such kindness and how effortlessly selfless she becomes made me want to be her best friend instantly. I wanted to know how she could be so like-able to every person she meets and I truly wish there were more people like her character in this world. But not just more Kiki’s, I want more Gigi’s as well. Gigi is Kiki’s humorous sidekick but otherwise known as her cat. Kiki became the role model I never knew I needed, which leads me to my favourite quote of Hayao Miyazaki:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Hayao Miyazaki

Spirited Away

My first memory of this Academy Award winning film is very vague and blurry, but I would like to give a shout-out to my brother who introduced me to this magical masterpiece. I knew I didn’t quite understand the full meaning and concept of this film when I was first watching it because I was too young to understand. A few years later after a re-watch, boy did I catch all the feels I missed!

The Marvelous World of Studio Ghibli
Spirited Away (2001) source: iMDB

I am constantly blown away by the originality of the characters and set designs and I view this as a practically perfect film. I feel sucked into the bath house whenever I re-watch and that’s mainly because I am someone who views set designs such as houses and hotels as their own character that plays one of the main roles in a film. The plot is so thick and leaves you with many unsolved questions but those things are almost too hard to focus on when the cinematography is THAT good. I am the type of person to notice small delicate details involving animation and the cinematography. I remember always being captivated by Haku transfiguring into a Dragon and the way he would climb onto walls. The animation made it so lifelike even though we are supposed to be in a magical world.

Chihiro and Haku have an emotional and magical, but real relationship that has captured the hearts of many Studio Ghibli lovers. Not to sound too cheesy, but Chihiro was a character I also needed to take notes from to use in my daily life such as being more open with my emotions and learning to cope without my parents surrounding me all the time. Even though it’s known that Miyazaki wanted this film to be targeted towards a younger demographic, this film’s audience has a variety of ages.

Whisper Of The Heart

The Marvelous World of Studio Ghibli
Whisper of The Heart (1995) source: iMDB

Ever had that moment where every time you go to your local library to check out books, you see the same boy’s name who is checking them out also? Well that was the mystery that Shizuku Tsukishima was determined to find out. However when discovering who the signature on the books belonged to, she ended up finding him extremely irritating – can’t say I relate much. However like almost every romantic story, they end up growing closer and she later discovers he only read all them books to get to know more about Shizuku. Romantic right?

Princess Mononoke (1997) source: IMDB
Princess Mononoke (1997) source: iMDB

I feel as if Whisper of The Heart isn’t as appreciated as it should be in this day and age. It opens with a rendition of one of the most popular country songs, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads‘, which won me over straight away. Shizuku ends up writing her first book about a statue of a cat she found alone in an antiques shop – this was a way of testing her writing abilities in which she lacked confidence in. Again, the concept of this story is original but also a very comfortable film to be able to watch as the plot isn’t too deep that you need to re-watch about four times just to be able to understand it.

I could honestly ramble on about my admiration and love for the Studio Ghibli universe, but I wouldn’t want to bore you all and keep you from doing the job you were meant to be focused on at this moment in time. If this hasn’t made you want to take a day off and treat yourself to a Studio Ghibli marathon then I haven’t done my job correctly.

The Recurring Acceptance of Abuse in HARRY POTTER

The Harry Potter series teaches its readers many beautiful lessons, such as the idea that you can choose your own family, doing what’s right is never wrong, and that the guy who stalked your mom and called her slurs deserves love, too.

Unfair Treatment

Severus Snape’s character is constantly described as “morally grey” and “redeemable” by readers and author, J.K. Rowling. Alike, characters such as the young and frightened Draco Malfoy is painted as a gay-coded villain who deserves the unhappy ending he gets. Not only is this mindset excusing abuse in the name of so-called love, but it also tells kids that your mistakes as a teenager define you for life.

Draco was raised by a racist, abusive father who lived to serve the series’ big bad, Lord Voldemort. When the audience is first introduced to Draco, he insults lovable loser Ron Weasley before offering to be Harry’s friend. Though this might be – excuse my language – a dick move, there are facts you have to remember. This is an 11-year-old kid who has been taught his whole young life that the Weasley family is disgusting because they’re poor, but Harry Potter is powerful and they need him to bring back Lord Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

When I was 11, I used words I wouldn’t use today and I wasn’t always nice to everyone I met – and my parents weren’t abusive, racist or ‘classist’. Additionally, throughout the series, Draco has tremendous growth. He chooses to throw Harry his wand so Harry can defeat Voldemort, he lies to the villains to their faces to protect Harry’s life, and he can’t kill Harry’s mentor… I don’t know about you all, but I’m sensing a trend here.

Draco Malfoy: The LGBT Hero We Deserve

It’s surely not a coincidence that thousands of young gay people see themselves in Draco. Lonely outsiders, pining for someone they can’t have… All while they are tropes for gay characters, can also be true for gay kids. Thousands of fan-fictions (non-canon stories written about characters, often romantic) have been written about Harry and Draco, all because gay audiences responded to who Draco was, and saw something that even J.K. Rowling didn’t seem to see – despite writing it. Rowling ultimately decided that Draco didn’t deserve a happy ending.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (200) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

The last shot we see of Draco in the movies is him staring longingly at Harry as an adult – next to his wife and son, looking miserable. That scene shows that Rowling, at that point, was aware of what Draco was to her LGBT audience, but why give them hope?

Undeserved Vindication

Severus Snape got the redemption arc that Draco deserved. Though he works as a double agent among Dumbledore and Voldemort, he uses his dying moments to help Harry understand why he was so rude to him all these years. Sounds sweet, right? The only problem is that it still doesn’t explain why Snape was even more cruel to Harry’s classmate, Neville, even to the point that his biggest fear is Snape himself. Not, for example, the woman who murdered his parents right in front of him – Bellatrix Lestrange. That is the exact same abuse that Draco receives from his father – not always fearing for his life, but fear of slipping up, of not pleasing just by giving a wrong answer to a simple question.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – source: Warner Bros. Pictures

So much harm is done by excusing the slurs Snape hurled at Harry’s mother, the strange possessiveness he thought he had over her, or the abuse Snape brought down onto the kids whom he thought deserved it. What does that show young kids in abusive homes? That their abusers might have a good reason? That abuse is love? Or better yet, what does Draco’s unhappy ending demonstrate, other than that abused kids deserve their abuse, and that they will grow up unhappy?

The Richest Woman in Britain is Fake Woke

J.K. Rowling continues to prove that she has no idea what she wrote. She so clearly doesn’t understand her audience or why they like these beloved novels. In an attempt to appear relatable, she tweets what she considers “canon”, like that Albus Dumbledore was gay the whole time (despite never putting that in the books or movies), or that yes, there was, in fact one Jewish kid at Hogwarts. Yes, I said one, and no, he was not mentioned in the series even once. Rowling shouldn’t get “woke points” for deciding to tweet that, oh yeah, Hermione Granger was black, Hagrid’s dog Fang was transgender, and Dobby reproduced asexually (yep, one of those is actually true). And I don’t mean it to sound like I wouldn’t want, for example, Hermione to be a black girl – in fact, that would be amazing. But, authors don’t deserve credit for representation when they don’t include it in the source material. It’s just tailing it on the end so that your story isn’t full of white cisgender straight men. That is not representation.

Draco Malfoy deserved better and Severus Snape deserved worse. Both characters were technically affiliated with Voldemort, yet one was a scared, impressionable kid who had no honest friends and was probably gay. The other was a grown man who thought abusing kids was validated because he did it for love. If Rowling is going to tweet any more nonsense about the series, at least let it be an apology to Draco Malfoy personally. Or, hey – just let the series die a peaceful death.

 

  

Welcome!

Hello everybody! Welcome to The Simple Cinephile. The creation of this website has come out of the pure inspiration and passion we all feel towards the film community. Starting something like this has been on my mind for a long time: a platform and outlet where young, aspiring writers can have a safe space to convey their thoughts and feelings towards the thing we all share a passion for without judgement or fear of rejection due to lack of experience.

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— Bethany

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