Tag Archives: coming of age

Stake Land the great American vampire tale

It’s not often that a genre film doesn’t realize that it’s a genre film.  A comedy plays within the conventions of its niche and most horror films do the same.  Daybreakers is one of the best vampire films since the 1980’s unleashed Fright Night and The Lost Boys because, like its forerunners, it knows how to play to the genre trappings as intelligent entertainment.  That’s usually the best horror fans can expect from the genre. But films like The Blair Witch Project, Let the Right One In or Stake Land treat a horror tale like a drama and not a creature feature – which makes it all the more frightening. Continue reading

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Super 8 and the way we remember

Titles have always interested me. Some are succinct and convey the basic idea of the film immediately (Se7en, Another Earth), while others manage to almost lazily describe some basic plot device or aspect of the film (Horrible Bosses, Larry Crowne). The truly astounding titles are few and far between (Adaptation., There Will Be Blood), and their power only comes from being coupled with a suitably brilliant film. But the titles I like most of all, the ones that crop up all the time, are the microcosmic ones. They aren’t particularly witty, but they do involve a deft sleight of hand, as if the goal is to make you believe you already know what the title means. Inglorious Basterds, Rebel Without a Cause, and many other classics fit into this mold, but so does the recent summer blockbuster Super 8. Earlier this year, we reviewed Super 8, finding it to be one of the very best movies to come out this summer. It is certainly that, in spite of the criticisms it has garnered for its fantastical second half. But what’s also interesting is how its title connects to our memories and the process of making them.

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DVD Tuesday: Kes (1970)

Kes, a British film from 1970 about a boy and the kestrel he befriends, is available for the first time in the US on DVD and Bluray today, courtesy of the Criterion Collection. Their restoration and re-release ressurrects a film that always ranks highly on British film polls, certainly with good reason. Kes  is a British film with a focus on rebellious, disaffected, and even angry youth, and the turmoil of the lower classes. But it sets itself apart from the genre it works within by the sublime beauty that director Ken Loach (Wind That Shakes the Barley) offers us. He gives us an oppressive world, filled with despair and alienation, but with the unrelenting hope for freedom, and the refusal to fall prey to those who push you down. Continue reading

Fish Tank: The Best Film of 2010

Try as we might as film critics to present an objective review of a film, one filled with points of evidence and fancy adjectives, ultimately cinema-going remains a subjective experience.  The darkness of a cinema is not the equivalent of a blank canvas; rather, the film ends up in dialogue with that in which we carry into the cinema–life experiences and even our knowledge of other stories.  I mention such subjectivity because I do not have the hubris to believe that any “Best of” proclamations should be universal.  Keeping that subjectivity in mind, I found Fish Tank to be the best film of 2010.

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Coming of Age: Vampires, Altar Boys, and Bob Dylan

It just so happened today that I watched three coming of age stories: Let the Right One In, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and Kisses.  The films made me curious–what elements make a coming of age story?

One of the most common elements is the discovery of sexuality, which is, most of the time, depicted from the male perspective.  Oskar from Let the Right One In is in ambiguous territory with his vampire girlfriend Eli; Francis Doyle from Altar Boys fawns over Margie Flynn from on hormonal high; and Dylan in Kisses is too poor to offer anything  but a smooch for his dear Kylie.

On a related note, the ways in which girls are handled in each of these films (and other coming of age films), tend to follow some worn paths.  Margie Flynn does not receive great development, just like Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot (is it sad or funny I didn’t have to look up her name?). Both are little more than breasted idols to the males who have just discovered the opposite sex. Continue reading

Let Me In: “A dirge for American goodness.”

Let the Right One In was the recent horror phenomenon usually known as “the Swedish vampire flick.”  A combination of excellent actors, in-depth character development, and mature execution made it a top notch vampire film that blew other blood-sucker tales out of the water.  Hence, when Hollywood announced that a re-make was in the works, the original film’s fan base made their consternation known.    Even I went in with the most cynical of sentiments (“Did they just make it into an English language film for those too illiterate to struggle with subtitles?”).  Surprisingly, I left the cinema sunk deep in stunned reflection. Continue reading

“Soul Boy” a great ride

Films that don’t come from traditionally Western nations rarely get cinema attention.  However, with films like City of God (Brazil) and Slumdog Millionaire (India) seizing the spotlight, Soul Boy could bring the rest of the world to Kibera, Nairobi. Continue reading