I’m Not There – TOPLIS, James

I’m Not There was my favorite movie the entire summer and I think it was the perfect movie to be used as the class finale. It was very fun to watch, with the presence of the music world connecting into each of the characters. From what I can gather from the characters, I can see Bob Dylan as a very complex, troubled, talented and iconic man. His life was just so amazing that he pretty much filled up six lifetimes.

I’m not really a Bob Dylan fan, which is I knew nothing about him, his life and even his music (except for “The times they are a-changin’” which I heard in the movie Watchmen). Despite this though, it was still very interesting to watch all the different stories of the characters and how they represent parts of his life. The character of Woody was very inspiring for me, to see a little talented kid travel out into the world to make name for himself. Jack Rollins was also a very interesting character. I thought it was pretty cool that the way his life was presented was through a documentary, complete with interviews. I saw his story as something very realistic, with his drunkenness and misogynistic attitude. Even though his wife got custody of their children, I found it touching that he still made it a point to be a good father to them. Seeing him find peace through faith, although a bit cliché, was a touching image for me.

The character of Quinn was probably the one that stood out the most in the film. He showed to me the typical image of a rockstar, one that did not care about anyone else but their music, saying whatever they wanted to say and doing whatever they wanted to do. This attitude of his was pretty funny though, especially in the scene where he was asked for a word for his fans and he just said “astronaut”. Another memorable scene for me would be the one where he was rolling around in the grass with four other men. At first I did not get what it was about, until I heard one of the men say “John” and I immediately thought of The Beatles, and the five of them must have been getting high. This was a very funny image, seeing such an iconic group coming together with “Bob Dylan” and doing what they’ve been known to do.

Despite how awesome Quinn was though, my favorite character had to be Billy the Kid. I don’t know why, but seeing an old Richard Gere, minding his own business and taking care of dog was a relaxing image for me. The fact that he was a former outlaw in retirement sort of made him look better in my opinion, as if he was reformed or retired. The way he defended the town and spoke out against the people that planned on demolishing it was a good scene for me. I think the reason I like him most though would be when he was riding the train and we see his lost dog running across the film. The entire time I was praying for his dog to jump in the train and be reunited with his master. Although it didn’t happen, the feeling I had about it was still there.

Overall the movie was very entertaining. It gave us a look at the life of Bob Dylan through many different characters and storylines and I think this should be a movie that anybody looking for info on Bob Dylan should watch. I plan on watching this film again sometime in the future, after learning a bit more about Bob’s life to understand more of what the movie has to offer.

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8 1/2 – TOPLIS, James

8½ was actually rather intriguing and a bit fun to watch, despite being really old. The pacing of the film wasn’t too slow and the plot wasn’t that hard to grasp. The movie presented the director Guido and his attempt to shoot a movie even if he has no idea on how to start it.

The plot of the movie seemed to me the plot of a cartoon where a character makes a ton of promises he can’t keep. I found it very funny how Guido kept telling his actors and producers about how he was going to make the movie and all the things he wanted in it and yet had no idea what he was doing. He just seemed to be making things up as he spoke. The entire movie seemed to me, completely about Guido and his lies. He continuously lies to people about his upcoming film, and he continuously lies to his wife about his affair with another woman. Guido seems to compound lies on top of each other, which was already evident with how he dealt with his film. The way he lied to his wife was taken to an extreme point. It was pretty obvious that she knew of Guido’s infidelity and yet he would always deny it. Even up to the point when they were eating outside and the mistress was sitting on another table, Guido still lied to her wife even though she made it abundantly clear that she was aware of everything. The appearance of religion was also interesting with the scenes of Guido’s life in a Catholic school and how controlling and stifling it was. It seemed to be a part of Guido’s life that maybe influenced his lying attitude. The way the strict priests seemed to control his life could have showed him that the only way to live freely was to control one’s own life, and he was able to do this through lying. Because of his lies, he was able to do anything he wanted and make up excuses for everything he did.

The presence of dreams seemed weird to me though. While Guido had dreams throughout the film, what was really strange was the harem Guido had. While I’m not sure if it was really a dream, I can find no explanation for it not to be. I am not really sure what the harem scene was about, maybe of Guido’s desires to be loved or worshiped, but then again, I never saw any instances that would support such desires.

I also found it interesting how the film seemed to be talking about itself.  After reading a few online resources, I learned how the things Guido said about his film turned out to be true about . This, added with the fact that the film’s title refers to the number of films the director had made, created a unique film, the kind I’ve never seen before. This I think was a very bold move for Fellini to take in directing his movie. By taking a risk and creating something never done before, he showed something that Guido never had, balls.

Inland Empire – TOPLIS, James

Inland Empire is the weirdest movie I have ever seen. After the introduction of the film given in class, I was already expecting the movie to be extremely difficult to digest, but no amount of warning could have prepared me for what was about to watch. The entire film was filled with scenes and images where I had no idea what was going on. I tried to follow the advice given in class to concentrate on the images rather than the dialogue, but I had no luck.

From the beginning of the movie, we get bombarded with all these strange scenes and happenings that just set the stage for what we were about to experience. The bunny sitcom, the crying girl and the foreign people all introduce us into the whimsical world of Inland Empire. When the movie’s plot started rolling though, I thought that the film wasn’t that bad. I could get that Nikki wanted to get the part in an upcoming film. But suddenly the movie becomes strange again with the old lady talking to Nikki and how there’s a sudden shift in time and we see Nikki sitting in the couch across the room. This sort of starts the blurred line between reality and fantasy, which only escalates further as the movie progresses. I remember how surprised I was at the scene where Nikki says that the way she was flirting with Devon sounded like a line in their movie, and the we find out that they were filming the movie. Later on we see the sex scene between Nikki and Devon and the way Nikki talked, it was as if she was Sue. She thought they were filming a scene, or worse, she actually believed that she was Sue. This eventually drives her insane and through a series of strange events where I had no idea what was going on, she gets stabbed by a screwdriver and left dying on the sidewalk in what is probably my favorite scene in the entire film. Then suddenly, a camera appears and we find out that it was just a scene in the movie. Further on, the scene suddenly cuts to Nikki sitting in her couch at her home, possibly implying that everything had been a premonition or maybe a dream that Nikki had after her conversation with the old lady.

By the time the movie ended, my mind was left blank and tired. Despite my efforts of just turning off my brain and trying to enjoy the movie for what it was, I still felt a need to try and understand the inner workings of the film. The shift from fantasy to reality, the girl watching the tv and even the bunny show. From beginning to end I had no explanation for the strangeness that accompanied the film, aside from a simple interpretation of a possible dream.

Watching Inland Empire was very tiring and even a bit stressful. It is definitely a movie I will not watch ever again unless if I wanted to annoy any friends of mine. Despite that though, I still do not regret watching it because it was an experience like no other, similar to Brazil but on crack and steroids.

Eyes Wide Shut – TOPLIS, James

Eyes Wide Shut was a very unique and interesting movie to watch. Knowing that it was starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, I got a bit excited to see a somewhat mainstream movie in our “weird movie” collection for class.

The movie started out a bit slow and seemed to devote a lot of time to the party where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise flirt with other people. At this point, I thought that both Bill and his wife were ready to cheat and that the rest of the movie would be a thriller based on infidelity. But the film takes a sudden shift when Dr. Bill is called to Zeigler’s office to examine the hooker. This further emphasizes the sexual theme of the movie and also brings in a more serious tone. After the party, the film takes off with the story. It also becomes even darker with the revelation of the sexual urges of Bill’s wife. I felt a bit sorry for him, knowing that he loves his wife more than she loved him.

The rest of the film consists of Bill going through the various insane events of that night. Once again sex is continuously thrown into the screen with the daughter of Bill’s patient and of Domino and even the costume owner’s daughter and her promiscuity. The entire movie seemed very surreal to me and extremely disturbing. The secret cult was something that really hit me. From their creepy appearance to the chanting music and even the orgy were all disturbing.

While I do not understand much about what the film is trying to say, I can sort of get that it might be something to do with fidelity. Bill’s misadventures in the film all presented a chance for him to cheat on his wife. And while at times he did come close, he never did anything. However, when we see the mask make a sudden appearance on the bed, the reality of the night came into question. I had no idea if what happened was real or if he just imagined it all. Maybe he just got drunk or maybe he did sleep with the prostitute and formed some strange event out of his guilt. The way that the rest of the night could have been a dream could be supported with the strange coincidences in the film such as the girls at the part telling Bill they were going to the end of the rainbow and the name of the costume store containing the word “rainbow” as well as the headline of the newspaper stating “lucky to be alive” and even the man that was following Dr. Bill.

The ending seems to resolve the issues of the film, even if they did not show the big confrontation between Bill and Alice. Even the last lines of the film seem strange and just further the sexual theme present all throughout.

All in all, Eyes Wide Shut was a very strange and creepy film. While I did not get what the film was all about, it was still an interesting experience as a movie watcher. I would not watch the film a second time though.

Masculin feminin – TOPLIS, James

I found Masculin Feminin to be a difficult movie to watch. It isn’t really the kind of movie that I would choose to watch. Being a black and white foreign film, I usually would not be bothered with the film. Despite my prejudice however, I found the film alright, while not amazing, it certainly wasn’t rubbish.

Although the basic plot and story was pretty easy to understand, I felt that the movie was a bit slow and dragging with the dialogue. The film tells the story of Paul and Madeleine and how their relationship develops. The movie seems to explore the interaction between the youth of their time and how they view life. The movie tackles several issues relevant or should be relevant to the youth such as sex and politics. The subject of sex is something that recurs all throughout the film, even in the beginning when Madeleine asked Paul if he wanted to go to bed with her, all the way to the youth taking contraceptives and even in the end when Madeleine decides to have her baby aborted. Politics is something more harshly and explicitly discussed in the film. Throughout the film, we see Paul and other characters spray paint on walls to display their opinions on current world issues such as the war in Vietnam. A scene I found interesting was when a man burned himself off screen and Paul says that the man was motivated by anti-war thoughts. For me, the reason why this happened off screen was because the man just burned himself and when he died, Paul wrote anti-war note and placed it on the man’s chest. The topic of the war goes to the extreme when the girl gets interviewed about politics and current issues and was shown to know next to nothing about it and yet knew a great deal about pop culture. I believe that this shows a realistic view of youth who know more about showbiz news than they do about wars, politics and other issues plaguing society. Also this scene shows the film’s theme of male superiority.

The film starts off with Paul smoking and seems to focus a great deal of good attention on men, showing how they are intellectual and talk about politics and wars while the women are mostly concerned with shopping and pop music. This is even evident in the title sequence when they show “Masculin” first and in parts and then showing “Feminin” with the subtitle together, showing how men are larger or more important than women. However, this seems to change in the movie when we get to see the characters of Paul and Madeleine. At first we see Paul as an activist and an intellectual while Madeleine is bubbly and delicate and mostly concerned with her possible career as a pop star. As the movie goes on, we see Paul as a passive person that just floats throughout the movie while Madeleine is continuously developing and follows her ambitious goals. Even in parts when Paul tries to impress Madeleine or make her happy and she just pushes him aside for her female roommate. Even in the end, when Paul dies and Madeleine is the last person seen and heard in the movie with “feminin” turning into “fin”. The film’s duality continues with how the first person we see is masculine Paul and the last was feminine Madeleine. Even the way “feminin” is shown in the end and how it gets cut into letters reflects the beginning where “masculin” is cut into letters.

Repo Man – TOPLIS, James

 

Repo Man was a very fun film to watch. Having been told that it was an 80’s cult classic, I was immediately prepared for something that was outrageous. I found the film very entertaining and funny, mostly with the dialogue between the characters as well as the poor visual effects.

The movie reminded me a bit of Brazil with its depiction of a society and those that rebel against it. I found it very interesting that the main character was a punk that turned into a man in a suit. Otto got tired of throwing his life away doing nothing and decided to ditch his old punk life for one that was more exciting and had money. His transformation was evident in his clothes as he would slowly change his appearance until he was wearing a coat and was driving around repossessing people’s cars. I liked the relationship he had with Bud as it was a sort of mentor-apprentice arrangement with how Bud was telling him about the Repo Code and mentioned how most people don’t live by a code anymore. I found that conversation interesting and a bit moving with how Bud displayed his philosophy on life and on being a repo man. Another conversation I found interesting was the one between Otto and Miller when they talked about the plate of shrimp. I related to this very much because I have experienced the plate of shrimp phenomena several times already. The conversation between them was pretty funny as well when Miller when on about people being from the future and that UFOs were also time machines and then Otto asks him if he did a lot of acid in his younger days.

The character of Miller was pretty interesting as well, because despite the fact that he was obviously nuts, in the end, he seemed to be the only one that wasn’t “crazy” with how calm he was about the whole situation. He was even able to get into the car and fly away with Otto. I read somewhere on the internet that they likened Miller’s use of the car to Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and that was something I found both funny and interesting. Just like the unlikely Arthur, Miller was able to do something significant that no one else could.

The movie seems to speak out against consumerism and our media-based society. For me, the movie portrayed Otto as someone who was against the consumerist society depicted in the movie. As a repo man, he had the job of taking other people’s cars because they fell late on their payments. When I thought about it, a person who falls behind on their payments is someone who buys too much, a consumer. In this way Otto fights back against consumerism. The same can be said for Miller who refuses to drive (take part in consumerist culture) because he said that the longer someone would drive, the dumber they get. In the end Otto and Miller “defeat” consumerism by getting into a highly-desired car and flying away, leaving everyone else behind.

Overall, Repo Man was a pretty fun movie, despite how strange it was. I would watch it again if I had time, just to experience more of what it has to offer.

Barton Fink – TOPLIS, James

I thought Barton Fink was a very interesting movie. Given the introduction it had of being difficult and hated, I was surprised that I didn’t feel all that angry at the film. It was very confusing and had all these deep underlying messages that I have no way of understanding, but the way the characters acted intrigued me. I probably feel this way because of John Turturro and John Goodman, whom I will forever associate as the butler from Mr. Deeds and Fred Flinstone, respectively.

 

Despite how interesting Barton Fink was as a character, I have mixed opinions about him. I thought he was pretty cool in the beginning of the movie with how passionate he seemed to be about telling a story about the common man. I even felt a bit happy for him when his work about the fishmongers garnered so much attention that he was offered a job to write for movies. The way I felt about Barton changed though during his first interaction with Charlie. I felt a bit annoyed that he seemed to blabber on about himself and how important the common man was to his work and yet he continuously ignored Charlie. Later on I felt pity for him when he had writer’s block about the wrestling movie, and even more so when he found the dead body in his bed. I was confused and didn’t know what happened and wondered if Barton was going crazy. Later on I started cheering him on when he finally started writing the movie because of the revelation he had about who Charlie really was. By the end of the movie, I had no idea what to make of Barton regarding all the events that transpired. I wasn’t even sure if Barton was alive.

 

I both like and hate how I barely understand anything about the movie. I understand the basic plot and storyline, until the end with Barton going into the picture of the woman in the beach. By the end, I started wondering if Barton died in the fire, if the fire was even real to begin with. At that point in the film, everything that happened prior seemed to shatter in front of me because I was no longer sure how much of it was real. If Barton was really able to step into the picture, how would I know that the rest of the film was another “picture” somewhere that he stepped into? For me, Barton escaped his predicament by going into a paradise. Throughout the movie, Barton would always stare deeply into the photo and hear waves, until the end where he finally got into the movie. In a way, this could mean that he uses the relaxing image to escape from his problems, and in the end when everything went to hell, he just had to completely jump into the picture to get away. Or maybe he died in the fire and the beach was a sort of representation of heaven.

 

While the film is subject to different interpretations, all of which I probably have no chance of understanding, it was still a very interesting movie. The characterization of Barton and Charlie was very interesting. The scene with Charlie running down the burning hallway will always be a memorable scene for me, as well as the realization that box pretty much contained the head. This is the kind of movie I would definitely recommend to a friend, but I would make sure he was the kind of person that enjoyed deep and complicated movies.

 

P.S.

“Look upon me, I’ll show you the life of the mind” is one of the most memorable movie quotes for me 😀

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