…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “James Franco

Hot Docs: Sex Saves World

I’ve written about this year’s Hot Docs selections. Two of them are about the future in their own way – I Am Breathing and Future My Love, both of which I’ve written about in Entertainment Maven. The Other two are about how their subjects are trying to save the world. The first in the latter group is James Franco and Travis Mathews’ Interior: Leather Bar, which I wrote about for The Film Experience (link below).


The second is Michal Marczak’s Fuck For Forest. I totally forgot that doc’s third Canadian connection. In the movie we see the titular group’s clashes against some of the people during the Berlin SlutWalk, a global movement that started when two Toronto police officers held a seminar in York University telling the co-eds not to dress slutty to avoid rape. Some of SlutWalk’s 2.5th feminist movement marchers sees FFF’s aggressively pro-sexual recruitment tendencies as anti-women, which is a totally understandable angle in seeing the former group. Click here to read my post on Entertainment Maven and judge for yourself if the doc – or my writing :S – gives these misunderstood idealists any justice.


Spring Breakers

While talking Josh Brunsting on Twitter, who compared Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers to Jean-Luc Godard and Terrence Malick’s work, I had to chime in that it also reminded me of the work of two opposing Germans – Leni Riefenstahl (as I said in my REVIEW) and Rainier Werner Fassbinder. The reason I brought up Fassbinder is because of his début in Love is Colder than Death where, SPOILER, a couple drives off after killing a man or more. To a lesser extent, his work like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and Berlin Alexanderplatz are about people who aren’t perfectly redeemable but struggle with the consequences of their amoral actions.

I figured that the character arcs in Love is Colder than Death would have shocked a world that’s still trying to recover from the Hays code’s repealing, and that thankfully us Millenials have gotten over this sort of moral conservatism. The polarizing reaction towards this movie might bring up two questions about its contemporary audience’s viewpoints – do we still have the ethical hangups like we did forty or so years ago, or is it because Korine can’t/won’t sell this characters with any absolution?

Scary, Funny, Sweaty, Hot Docs

I’m linking and recommending you to two websites that have Hot Docs coverage, because I write for both. The first is Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience (link below), where I write my first impressions on the Hot Docs line-up, intimidated by a few stand out movies that have too serious of subjects. Or at least that is true with some of the festivals’ opening movies such as The Invisible War and Outing. The former captures talking heads who have firsthand experience of the rape within the military while the latter is about a man who, at fifteen, discovers his sexual attraction to children. But there is a silver lining to the festival’s programs as I’ve discovered other, fringe-y subjects who look at the bright side of their imperfect circumstances.

The second is Entertainment Maven, where our friend Kirk Haviland has written a preview of the festival. He starts his coverage by reviewing Brett Whitcomb’s Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I share reviewing duties with him, starting with the Ross Brothers’ Tchoupitoulas, a movie sharing a name with a bustling street in New Orleans’ French Quartier. I’ve also seen Najeeb Mirza’s Buzkashi, about a traditional Tajik sport that’s raising Western eyebrows. I also have pending tickets about Tajikistan’s powerful neighbours in The Boxing Girls of Kabul. I’m sensing that my coverage is more international than I previously thought. I’m also looking forward to our co-reviewer Nadia Sue Sandhu who is bravely facing the James Franco doc, among others. This week will be tiring, as most scary fun things are.

Dear Sam Raimi, I forgot…

ph. Columbia

…how cringe-inducing Spider-Man 3 was, as Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) strut around the streets of Gotham City looking like Hipster Hitler. The girls he hits on know better, but the fictional superhero has still become less human. Peter becomes his own super villain,  less sympathetic than the son (James Franco) avenging his father’s (Willem Dafoe) death or a new journalistic photographer (Topher Grace) younger than Peter. Why are all these people dudes?

I understand you were trying to be zeitgeist-y, with references to emo culture or the The Pick-Up Artist or to more serious, generational anxieties. Two of the villains’ names are Venom and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), both names could be read as Middle Eastern references. Or that there were many buildings falling down in this movie. Six years after 9/11, it didn’t seem too shocking or too soon, but I already mentioned this bloated, rough film’s other flaws.

127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle uses his new film 127 Hours to show off what he can do with the camera. Here he assembles some of the crew who have also been in the Slumdog team like Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle as well as less familiar names like cinematographer Enrique Chediak and editor Jon Harris. Three way split screens! Footage of subway platforms or sports arenas, encapsulating the 21st century crowd syndrome. Then there’s Aron Ralston (James Franco), not answering his mother’s phone calls and packing up for a trek by himself, and in a way he’s the antithesis to the crowd. We’ll understand his solitary adventures because of where he’s going – to the canyons in Moab, Utah. The vast landscape is enticing, beautifully captured in the film. Aron is at one in this kind of environment.

The audience knows what’s eventually going to happen to Aron, since the press and other reviews have given it away. Aron Ralston is a real person whose hand got stuck in a boulder and has to cut it off to save his life. Thus, every little detail and event shown in the film becomes noticeable and is a source of dread. We’re anxious when he puts his hand on the cupboard and just misses a useful Swiss Army knife, a few inches out of reach. But the trailer shows him meeting lost two girls (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) before everything else happens, so we don’t have to worry yet. When he does fall off his bike into some shrubs he, we’re scared but he laughs it off. He drives into the canyons, and guides Kristin and Megan into as deep as they wanna go.

ph. OutNow

These minor characters add to Boyle’s even-handed portrayal of the empty landscape, showing both the beauty even within the danger. Falling between deep crevices of rock can mean diving into a reservoir of clean water. Even when he’s stuck, the film pulls away from his predicament to other visuals within Aron’s line of sight. The sunlight in the early morning that he can feel on his right foot. A raven that passes by at a certain time. A silver lining in Aron’s situation is being able not just to see this part of the canyon but to contemplate it, a legitimate viewpoint adding complexity to his character. He’s also aware of the mythology of the land and reminds us of it before and during Aron’s difficult five days. He also thinks in a transcendent pattern, believing the inevitability of his predicament. Boyle emulates all of that and accomplishes to share those different perspectives within one character in this film. Seeing both the sublime beauty in this situation thankfully doesn’t make this film a cautionary tale, telling its audience both to become daring and be smart.

Boyle captures Franco’s performance through the split screens and different pixel resolutions of digital cinematography. Franco more than does his part, evincing dread not through words but through his eyes in the first few seconds of Aron getting stuck. There’s little moments of regret and self-flagellation, and his moments of calm, control, and intelligent problem solving stand out. He gets photographed in unflattering angles, letting go at visceral time, eating like a wild man, showing Aron’s exhaustion.

Those things said, it’s probably more helpful to read the source material, Ralston’s book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” before watching the film. The movie is just about the man’s state of mind as anything else, as the film takes us into flashback scenes of past loves, him thinking about alternate scenarios of the present and future. That also means that a lot of distracting scenes are within the film. It could have done better without the interior shots of Aron’s blue camel bag, the Lovely Day sequence and the Scooby Doo sequence. But then those scenes probably broke us into other leaps of fantasy, like the Good Morning Boulder sequence – simpler and thus better than I imagined or was led to believe, thankfully. The film also makes the mistake of casting the genius of a wordsmith Lizzy Caplan as Aron’s sister and not giving her any lines.

Ralston was stuck in that boulder in May 2003 and I was in Grade 10 and have no recollection of hearing this news item. Despite of the film’s distracting editing flaws, I was giggling like a giddy little school girl in the film’s adventurous first half hour. The ‘last’ scene is visceral and long enough for me to change my mind, taking my hands away from my eyes and deciding that I have to witness the reenactment of that moment. That kind of engagement that a film offers is enough for me.