Tag Archives: Letterboxd

Synecdoche, New York, 2008 – ★★★★

From the insanely creative mind of Charlie Kaufman comes a film that I’ve seen labeled as the saddest of all time. This utterly unique filmmaker has given us Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Anomalisa. He is creative in a way that most filmmakers can only imagine and all of his stories are so deep and personal.

Synecdoche is not exception to that rule. This movie defies explanation, but it is the story of the life and love of a theater director. He is so absorbed in his own story that he keeps missing the stores of everyone else around him. Upon recieving a grant he decides to create a huge stage play upon which he attempts to tell the twisted story of his own sad life.

There are glimpses of genius on the part of Kaufman, the character which seems to be playing a version of him, and the actor playing that character (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). He was such a sad loss for Hollywood as you could feel the emotion dripping off of him in this film.

This is not a movie that you will be able to “explain” or tie up in a neat little bow, it is beautifully melancholic, and emotionally rich. You don’t see movies like this everyday and it is amazing that we have one here.

There are nearly 13 million people in the world, none of them are an extra. They all play the leads in their own story.

Kaufman is here telling his own sad story and the only hope is that the play goes on and someone else takes the lead. That is a very dark silver lining. This film reminded me of the depths of sadness of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes who spoke of the futility of life under the sun, specifically life without God.

Kaufman is known for this bleak hopeless storytelling. It will force you to look for hope if you can find it or into despair if you can’t. Either way, it is a great film from a master of the medium.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302

Good Night, and Good Luck – 2005 – ★★★★

“Good Night, and Good Luck” feels almost like a documentary of real events from the 1950s. How stunning it must have been to watch TV journalist Edward Murrow and his confrontation with Senator Joseph McCarthy. It is a political film, but it doesn’t feel preachy. It is a spectacular movie about television and the role of media in the communication of the news. It should stand side by side with other classics like “All the President’s Men”, and “Network”.

Murrow, played chillingly by David Strathairn, was there at the dawn of television journalism and he cast a mold that all serious news reporters have tried to fill ever since. This film was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, and received five other nominations but criminally went home with nothing. George Clooney was Oscar nominated for his co-writing and direction, his portrayal of the CBS studio is made even more realistic by the film being entirely in black and white.

I am a skeptic by nature and I agree with the film’s premise that we must learn to question things. Television can be a tool in this cultural skepticism when real journalism is taking place, but everything from advertising to our own shrinking attention spans has turned television into just another entertainment device. As Murrow says at the end of the film, “There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. The instrument can teach, it can illuminate. Yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely lights and wires in a box.” The same could be said of the silver screen and the films that are produced by Hollywood. I’m glad that movies like “Good Night and Good Luck” still exist to do more than entertain but educate and enlighten.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302

Edward Scissorhands, 1990 – ★★★★½

This is such a great movie with its stark contrasts and dark themes. It is perfect Tim Burton. This was Johnny Depp before his downward slide. I hadn’t seen this film in years and thought it would be a good watch for a family movie night. I had forgotten quite how dark it is.

I’m not sure how he did it, but Burton managed to make a beautiful allegory of an autistic man and his attempts to integrate into a harsh society. This was before anyone had published any works on or formally studied autism. I can only think that Tim Burton either is or is very close to someone who suffers on the spectrum. Let’s think about it…

He is very mechanical and somewhat cold in his interactions with people. The inventor teaches him social etiquette and encourages him to smile. He shows particular skill which astounds others similar to a savant. Despite his best efforts he hurts others and those mistakes haunt him like scars. He has an amazing capacity to love but society pushes him away because of his differences.

It really is an amazing story, but I’ve always felt like the characters are overly exaggerated and with this allegory in mind it makes sense. The characters are as Edward sees them, brightly colored symbols of the things that he cannot be. He expresses the desire several times through the film to be introduced to this absent doctor whom people are sure could help him. He wants to be a part of society but like the dark castle on top of the hill all he can do is sit in his childlike state and look out over the world wishing he could join them but forever trapped by the society them at the same time.

We are encouraged to be like the Boggs who loved Edward for who he was. They embraced his differences and loved him for who he was, and their world was forever changed because of him.

I’m sure I’m stretching this a bit, but I can’t help but think of Tim Burton placing himself in Edward’s shoes as he makes this film as a brilliant creative man who would be misunderstood.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302

The Witch, 2015 – ★★★

I have mixed feelings about The Witch, directed by newcomer Robert Eggers.  It is an extremely well made 17th century period piece, with dialogue pulled directly from period documents, there is a sense of realism to the film. I don’t know where they found these child actors, but they absolutely nailed the dialogue. It seems as if they had been speaking old English their entire lives. The cinematography is quite good as well. The atmosphere was so natural and creepy.

Despite the technical proficiency and the rich atmosphere of the film, there were some problems that plagued the film for me. First, the mother is in hysterics throughout the film and berates every member of the family, including her husband. At one point, I wanted it to be her that made the deal with the devil? It didn’t seem natural for a wife in the Puritan setting to treat her husband like she does. Secondly, I think the witch was revealed to early in the film (even for a movie called The Witch). It could have built so much suspicion and tension as they begin to turn on one another. Finally, the last ten minutes was far too on the nose. I would have preferred a more ambiguous ending. instead, we got cheesy special effects and an interaction that was completely unnecessary. I have heard  lots of good reviews but I’m just not seeing how it is that special.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302

Kubo and the Two Strings, 2016 – ★★★★½

Laika studios has brought us the best animated film of the year, and easily one of the best films of the summer. The stop motion and CGI animation is technical and beautiful. It’s easy to get lost in just the spectacle of the technical achievement. Never mind the characters, story and action which are also so great, this film feels like a wealth of riches. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to see the film.

If Laika continues to produce films of this quality, they could give Pixar a run for their money at being the best animation house. Kubo is definitely worth seeing this in the theater. I hate that it’s probably going to be overlooked for garbage like an unwanted Ben Hur remake and a movie about those rainbow haired trolls.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302