Monday, October 14, 2013

Milwaukee Film Fest 2013: The Perverts Guide to Ideology and Google and the World Brain

I saw these two movies back to back and both are movies that are designed to make you think and ask big philosophical questions so I decided to give them one review.

Lets start with The Perverts Guide to Ideology.  This documentary features Slavoj Zizek and uses movies to explain his theories on ideology.  Google and the World  Brain is very different but asks some big philosophical questions.  When Google attempted to scan every book in the world to make a world library accessible to everyone it sounded like a great idea at first but soon people became suspicious.

Slavoj Zizek is an interesting person.  He has a fun and interesting way of describing his thoughts on what ideology is.  The movie starts with him using the classic horror movie They Live to describe how ideology makes us blind to how things really are.  From there he moves on to other movies like The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Taxi Driver, The Dark Knight, and Titanic.  One of the more interesting connections he made was when he discussed what Jaws had in common with Nazism. That really blew my mind.  The movie is over 2 hours and even though he makes it fun and interesting it does feel like a 2 hour philosophical class.  The other problem with the movie is he has such a strong accent I didn't understand some of the things he was trying to explain.

Google and the World Brain is a fascinating documentary. The movie gets its name from the H.G. Wells concept of a world brain.  Wells concept was a where all the worlds knowledge was in one place and anyone could get access to it.  Well with the internet we are one step closer to the world brain concept then ever before.   When Google decided it would scan every book in the world into Google books they were taking it one step closer. But ethical and legal questions began to arise.  Was it legal to scan books that had active copyrights? Is it ethical for a private for profit company to be able to control access to the worlds books?  Obviously Google didn't think they did anything wrong but several lawsuits were filed and the legal battle began.  The documentary was interesting. At first it sounds like a great idea.  Everyone in the world should have access to whatever information they want but who should be the ones providing that access?

Overall  two documentaries that make you think. One about philosophical questions and the other about legal and ethical questions.
The Perverts Guide to Ideology - 3 out of 5
Google and the World Brain -4 out of 5

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The 100 Most Influential Movies

Let's start with saying that we are not film historians or ever took a class on making movies. But when we were asked what the 100 Most Influential Movies are we combined our knowledge and did research and this is what we came up with.
This is not a list of our favorite movies or best movies but a list of movies we feel influenced the future of film.  Some of them started a genre others were a technical breakthrough and other introduced a new way of story telling that would often be imitated. For one reason or another these are the 100 Most Influential Movies in our opinion.
We are sure people will have lots of opinions and let us know.

100 Influential Movies the Official List 

1. A Trip To the Moon 1902
2. The Great Train Robbery 1903
3. Gertie the Dinosaur 1914
4. Birth of a Nation 1915
5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligarai 1920
6. The Kid 1921
7. Nosferatu 1922
8. Nanook of the North 1922
9. The Ten Commandments 1923
10. Battleship Potemkin 1925
11. Metropolis 1927
12. The Jazz Singer 1927
13. The Broadway Melody 1929
14. M 1931
15. City Lights 1931
16. Little Caesar 1931
17. Dracula/Frankenstein 1931
18. King Kong 1933
19. Duck Soup 1933
20. It Happened One Night 1934
21. Triumph of the Will 1935
22. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves 1937
23. Gone With the Wind 1939
24. Stagecoach 1939
25. The Wizard of Oz 1939
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
27. Fantasia 1940
28. Citizen Kane 1941
29. The Maltese Falcon 1941
30. Casablanca 1942
31. Double Indemnity 1944
32. The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
33. Rashomon 1950
34. The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951
35. The Robe 1953
36. La Strada 1954
37. Rebel Without a Cause 1955
38. The Searchers 1956
39. 12 Angry Men 1957
40. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad 1958
41. Vertigo 1958
42. Some Like it Hot 1959
43. The 400 Blows 1959
44. The Imitation of Life 1959
45. Breathless 1960
46. Psycho 1960
47. L’Avventura 1960
48. Lawrence of Arabia 1962
49. Dr. No 1962
50. 8 ½ - 1963
51. Dr. Strangelove 1964
52. A Fistful of Dollars 1964
53. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 1966
54. Persona 1966
55. Bonnie and Clyde 1967
56. Night of the Living Dead 1968
57. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
58. The Wild Bunch 1969
59. Woodstock 1970
60. Shaft/Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song 1971
61. The Godfather 1972
62. Deep Throat 1972
63. Enter the Dragon 1973
64. Mean Streets 1973
65. Blazing Saddles 1974
66. The Exorcist 1973-
67. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
68. Jaws 1975
69. Star Wars 1977
70. Annie Hall 1977
71. Animal House 1978
72. Days of Heaven 1978
73. Halloween 1978
74. Apocalypse Now 1979
75. Airplane! 1980
76. Tron 1982
77. This is Spinal Tap 1984
78. The Breakfast Club 1985
79. Blue Velvet 1986
80. Top Gun 1986
81. The Thin Blue Line 1988
82. Akira 1988
83. Sex, Lies, and Videotape 1989
84. The Abyss 1989
85. Do the Right Thing 1989
86. Batman 1989
87. Roger and Me 1989
88. Jurassic Park 1993
89. Pulp Fiction 1994
90. Toy Story 1995
91. The Matrix 1999
92. The Blair Witch Project 1999
93. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
94. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy 2001-2003
95. The Harry Potter Series 2001-2011
96. The Bourne Supremacy 2004
97. Brokeback Mountain
98. The Passion of the Christ 2008
99. The Dark Knight 2008
100.Avatar 2009

Friday, October 11, 2013

Milwaukee Film Fest 2013: Maidentrip

One of the great things about The Milwaukee Film Festival is that they give teachers the opportunity to bring their class to a movie for free. This year one of the films that was part of the education screenings was Maidentrip.  A friend of mine brought her class and one of her students wrote a review. 
So I am happy to present our first guest blogger 7th Grader Takayla.

Maidentrip is about an amazing 14-year-old girl named Laura Dekker from Holland. Laura had an amazing life-long dream to sail around the world. She spent practically her whole life on boats. Her father loved boats and her mother didn’t because she’d always get sick. 
      She got her first boat when she was 8 years old. Laura got a new boat when she was 10 year old. By this time she had sailed by herself and her parents had separated. When she was 14 years old, she got a boat and she named it Guppy. When Laura told people she wanted to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone, child welfare tried to take her from her dad. They went to court, and she and her dad won. 

         In 2010 Laura sailed out from Holland to start her two-year voyage around the world. She recorded her voyage by herself. Speaking French, Dutch, and English, she traveled 27,000 miles over 519 days and she had crossed the finish line. Laura had stopped at a lot of places, like: South America, the Canary Islands, and St. Martin, filming all of the beautiful scenery. Laura Dekker is the youngest person to sail around the world alone. 

I thought the movie was amazing, but kind of boring. There were a few people falling asleep. There was no action, but there was a little bit of comedy. If you’re not mature and well rested, don’t go see this movie. There’s a lot of cursing involved, but overall I give this movie a 4 out of 10.

-Takayla, 7th Grade 
Westside Academy II

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Milwaukee Film Fest 2013: Blancanieves

As the Milwaukee Film Fest moves along I realize that my I am writing my reviews quicker and the quality might be decreasing.  Sorry about that but I do hope I give these movies the credit they deserve.  

Blancanieves is a retelling of the classic Grimm fairy tale Snow White. The movie takes place in 1920's Spain and is filmed as a movie from that era. It is a black and white silent film. The story follows Carmen whose mother dies giving birth to her.  Her father is a famous bull fighter and he is horribly hurt the same day she is born.  He is not able to even look at his daughter so she is raised by a nurse.  But at the same time another nurse takes care of him and uses him for his money.  Eventually Carmen is forced to live in the same house as her dad and step mother and this is where the movie starts following the classic Snow White tale.  Eventually she meets up with The 7 Bull Fighting Dwarves which does bring some comedy.  

The movie is beautifully shot and well acted. It really feels like a classic.  Unlike The Artist which was a comedy and had the essence of a Chaplin film, Blancanieves is more of a drama and feels more like the 20's classic The Passion of Joan of Arc. I loved that it was the familiar story but with a distinct Spanish feel. The bull fighting aspect really makes it stand out from the typical Snow White story.  

Overall: 5 out of 5.  I really loved this movie and hope like The Artist more people see it and realize how powerful silent films can be and it motivates people to seek out some other classic silent films.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Milwaukee Film Festival 2013: Short Term 12

Every year during the Milwaukee Film Festival they have one screening that is just for members and they don't tell you what it is until right before the movie starts.   This super secret screening is usually one of the best movie of the festival.  This year they amazed us with the great film Short Term 12.

Short Term 12 refers to a group home for troubled teenagers.  The daily activities are overseen by Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.).  Every day is an adventure for them as they never know what to expect.  But when a new girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) joins the home it stirs up emotions from Grace's past.   To make  things more complicated Grace is pregnant and other ghosts from her past are coming back to haunt her.

The movie manages to balance all the drama with comedy.  It is heartbreaking at times but lighthearted at other times.  The main focus is on Grace and her struggles but everyone in the movie has a complicated back story. We learn about some of the kids and their stories all feel real and never slow the movie down.  As Grace heads to her breaking point we wonder what she will do but as dark as the movie gets it never gets too dark.  And that is all thanks writer and director Destin Cretton.  In  his second feature film he has proven he is a force in the future of film.

The other credit for how good this movie is goes to the incredible cast. Brie Larson does such an amazing job of keeping the character grounded. While we don't know her history at first we understand that there is something going on in her head. As we learn more we begin to empathize with her.  Look for her to get an Oscar nomination come award season. She is surrounded by a great supporting cast. John Gallagher Jr. Plays her loving goofball boyfriend to perfection and Rami Malek has some of the funniest scenes as newcomer Nate who is way over his head. Of course the movie wouldn't be what it is without the talented child cast lead by Kaitlyn Deever as the troubled Jayden and Keith Stanfield as Marcus who is about to turn 18 and be released on his own.

Overall: 5 out of 5. Great cast and great story. The balance of drama and comedy is just right and it never lets you get too depressed and treats each character with respect.   

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Milwaukee Film Festival: Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington

Restrepo was one of my favorite documentaries in recent years so when I heard that one of the co-directors Tim Hetherington had died it was a sad occasion.  Sebastian Junger the other co-director of Restrepo made a moving portrait about the life of his friend Tim Hetherington.

The movie uses archival footage and interviews with Tim's parents and friends to trace his life and how he it led him to become a photojournalist.  Luckily for everyone Tim did a few interviews before his death so we get to hear  him talk about how he approaches his work.  What set Tim apart from other photojournalists that covered war was he wanted to show normal people and the quiet moments.  While I don't understand all that photography mumbo jumbo you can tell that Tim had a different way of taking his pictures.  He also had a different philosophy.  While some photojournalist likes to remove themselves from their subjects Tim always interacted with them to make them more at ease.  Whatever he did it is apparent that he was able to get some great pictures.

This is such a moving portrait of a great man.  It is obvious that Sebastian Junger and Tim became great friends and Sebastian wanted to make a movie tribute to him.  I think he succeeded.  You get the feeling that Tim's career was just taking off.  He just started dabbling in movies and I can't help to think that he would have made some more great documentaries in the future.  His love of the people affected by the war was so immense and he wasn't that adrenaline junkie you get the feeling some war photojournalists are.

This is the second movie I have seen during the festival that deals with photojournalists.  The first one was during the documentary short Eddie Adams: Saigon '68.  It would have been amazing to see these two sit down and discuss what it means to be a photojournalist because I think they had different philosophies.  In the Eddie Adams documentary the big question is can a single picture tell the whole story? While this doc doesn't get into that much there is a clip of Tim saying that no a single picture can not. It is interesting going to a film festival and watching movies about photographs.  But a single shot can convey so much emotion and tell at least part of a story.  I feel I have a new appreciation for photojournalists and will be recommending both movies to my photography loving friends.

Overall:  5 out of 5.  Loved learning more about the man and how he approached his profession.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Milwaukee Film Festival 2013: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

I will have to admit I didn't know much about Elaine Stritch before hand.  All I knew of her was she played Alec Baldwin's mom on 30 Rock which turns out is just a small blip in her storied career.

The documentary follows the 87 year old through the highs and lows of what it means to be an aging performer.  There is archival footage of her past to give those of us who know little about her career at little background but the majority of the film is a candid look at her life now.  From struggles with alcoholism and diabetes to the joys of performing on stage.

What made this movie truly great was the openness and unfiltered access we get to her.  The film does not shy away from showing the non glamorous side.  We see her as she gets frustrated with forgetting song lyrics and as she becomes confused when her blood sugar drops.  The most touching real moment in the movie is when we see her being discharged from the hospital after being there a few days for her diabetes. But then we also get to see her talking and hanging out with other celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, and John Turturro. Elaine is blunt and calls it like she sees it and creates some funny moments.  One of the sadder moments was when she was hanging out with the late James Gandolfini.  He seemed to have such great admiration for her and it is sad that he is no longer with us.

Overall: 5 out of 5.  It feels refreshing to see a movie about a celebrity as raw and unfiltered as this.  It was great to have Elaine at the film and do a Q&A afterward.  She was exactly how you would expect her to be, gracious and funny.