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A review: The Craftsman

 

The Craftsman is a short film that encompasses a deep storyline covering themes of loss, grief, and finally peace. Directed by Cody Wareham and written by Daniel Newton, the film resonates with anyone struggling in life, but also with anyone who enjoys a happy ending.

Set in the depression era, it follows the story of a toymaker who has lost his wife and son to an unnamed illness. And with that loss, he has also lost his passion for his craft. Beside the characters and dialogue, the director makes ample use of lighting and background music to dictate the tone of the story.

The movie opens and the atmosphere is dark and intense. The craftsman sits listlessly next to a rocking horse he’s struggling to work on, sorrow oozing out from him. He has been drinking and passes out. The mood changes and the whole atmosphere brightens. The progression of his memories takes the viewers from family man to the man he is today.  He wakes back up to reality still broken and bitter.

A climactic point in the film follows when his wife Anna appears to him in his dream and speaks to him gently, encouraging him to bring ‘a little beauty to this ugly world’ which is also a good way to describe this short film.

When he wakes up, the craftsman is a changed man, wanting to make things right, he follows his wife’s words. So, he sets out to do just that, moving onto a better and more hopeful chapter of his life. Peace is achieved at last. Even when all feels lost with no reason to go on, there is always something that is worth living for. It’s just a matter to look for it.

The short film played at the Toronto Independent Film Festival where it premiered on September 13, 2018. Prior to that, it was also screened at the New Filmmakers New York Film Festival where it was semi-finalist, and at the Creation International Film Festival as part of its official selection. The director and the writer, both in their twenties, seem to have a very promising road ahead of them if this short film is any indication.

Review: Me Before You

Based on the best selling novel, Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clarke, a recently unemployed, self proclaimed ‘fashionista’ whose family relies on her having an income. After taking on a job of a companion to the wealthy Will Traynor, who is paralyzed from the waist down, Clarke finds her priorities change.

At first glance, the film is what it is marketed to be; a romantic flick meant to be enjoyed on a girls night out or with a significant other; a box of tissues on one side and a tub of ice cream on the other. Yes, it is a tear jerker. And although Emilia Clarke’s bright smile and over active eyebrows will keep you preoccupied for most of the film, what lies underneath is a problem most audiences will be unaware of. Let me break it down for you:

It’s no doubt that Me Before You is a film about disability and assisted suicide. This is troubling enough but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor (Sam Claflin) in the role of a quadriplegic. Claflin’s studly posture, even if on a wheelchair, and swoon-worthy smile may make him an obvious choice for the part, however, many are criticizing the decision. Thus, similar to the #OscarsSoWhite movement, a non-disabled actor playing the role of a quadriplegic is causing a stir on social media.

Here’s the thing: there is a big difference between actual human people having feelings about their actual lives and experiences of disability and a fictionalized account written by someone who isn’t disabled. The problem is the film heavily romanticizes very problematic stereotypes about disability. It’s important to criticize and be aware of the fact that the non-disabled media heavily over-represents disability discourses that fit into ableist stereotypes, which makes it harder for the viewer to differentiate between the feelings of individuals and the experiences and feelings of all disabled people.

And while some may argue that the purpose of the movie was to give fans a treat by bringing the best selling novel to life, the depth and meaning was evidently lost in the making. The conversation on paralysis was overshadowed by more marketable things such as unconventional relationships, bucket lists, and awkward love triangles. It’s still a pleasure to watch, no doubt, but expect no more than some eye candy and lines you wish your significant other would say to you, but never will.

Rating: 6.5/10

Did you watch Me Before You? Tell us what you thought in the comments below! 

The Intern: A Review

What do you get when a millennial hires a baby boomer as her intern? The feel good comedy film of the year.

Anne Hathaway shines as a stylish and successful business woman alongside Robert Di Nero, who is so natural in his role, you’ll forget he’s acting. Whether their poking fun at Generation Y’s deteriorating fashion sense or the fact that Generation X still have love lives, The Intern has something for everyone. The generation gap was strongly depicted and the message was plain and simple;  women have the ability to have a career and control a family at the same time just as retired people have the ability to be successful in the tech world.

The women empowerment agenda in this film was shown from the beginning. Jules Ostin (Hathaway) is a boss that has is not like any other. While she’s rather absent from her family life, her significant other seems to have full control over it. The challenges of working women is still alive and strong, and Hathaway gives a solid performance on behalf of them. More commendable is Meyer’s attempt to bring forth ”menimist” issues. The concept of ”a house husband” was addressed and the fact that men need to start being called men and not ”boys.” Yes, Meyer, yes!

The film is a quick one, and not too much thinking is involved. But beware audiences, this is definitely a hipster film. Briefcases are shown as stylish and the boss riding her bike around the office is seen as cool. Also, shout out to the South Asian character who had dialogue for 30 seconds in the film as well as an addition 30 seconds of screen time. Progress!

Nancy Meyer’s effort to end the stigma that women can’t be workaholics have to be applauded. But there were definitely some flaws. The film wastes a lot of time around Di Nero’s character trying to find a place in the office under is ”senior internship program”, pretty much diminishing the point of his retirement. Go do some charity work! Still, Hathaway and De Niro have some real chemistry, and by the end of the film, they have developed something you rarely see represented in films: a male-female friendship that’s raw and authentic – and doesn’t involve sex.

So sit back and relax, The Intern is a film you’ll definitely want to watch again.

Rating: 8.5/10

Still Alice (2014) : A Review

Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland in a moving performance as a happily married linguistics professor with three beautiful, grown children. Respected and successful, Alice finds her life in shambles when she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, forcing her and her family to find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her journey through her quickly deteriorating memory is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Still Alice is the perfect film for a rainy day in without the sappiness of a Nicolas Spark’s movie. But don’t tune in looking for tips of how to deal with Alzheimer’s patients. Julianne Moore may have bagged an Academy Award for her performance, but the story is a little too Hollywood to be real.The plot twist begins as Alice stumbles over the a word, which as a linguistics professor – is bound to cause some panic. Moore’s performance demonstrates the battle of dementia and the attack it has on her intelligence and independence- in the most Julianne Moore’s way possible.

Even with her inability to remember her daughters’ names, the location of her phone, or where the bathroom is, she always seems to have her loving, patient husband (Alec Baldwin) by her side at all times. Whether he’s taking her out for ice-cream, going for morning runs, or comforting her during late night panic attacks – he never seems to lose his patience. He’s the Prince Charming for any Alzheimer’s patience.

The only family problem she seems to have is her daughter’s (Kristen Stewart) decision to skip college to become a struggling actress. Meanwhile, Alice’s MacBook and iPhone are used to play memory games and puzzles while her two other beautiful children lead perfect lives. I mean, having twins – one boy and one girl – just seems too good to be true, right?

Visually, the film, shot on a lowish budget and with the look of a Lifetime Movie, is underwhelming. At times slow, other times too smooth to be about dementia, Still Alice falls a little flat and conventional given its subject matter and Moore’s searing performance. Rather lack luster, it’s predictable and ambiguous at the same time.

It’s Julianne Moore that steals the spotlight. She will have you at the edge of your seat at times, reminiscent of a psychological thriller. Other times, she will have you on the verge of tears, as you feel for her desire to have a that little extra time during the peak of her career.

Overall, this is the perfect film for a night in by yourself. There’s not much depth to the film as there is only one plot line – allowing you to tune in and out of the film. Besides, the actors and actresses are all very aesthetically pleasing.

Rating: 7/10

Pitch Perfect 2 chimes its way to #1 at the box office

A little more product placement and lot more sass are two words to describe the sequel to 2012’s cultural phenomenon, Pitch Perfect.  Leading the box office in its opening weekend, Pitch Perfect 2 does not miss a beat. As the Bella’s take the stage once again, this time aiming to win the world championships, audiences can look forward to bigger and better mash-ups as well as a refreshing change with original songs. However, what struck a chord is Writer Kay Cannon’s ability to portray the persona of Generation Y through the real and accurate dialogue.

Anna Kendrick’s performance as an aspiring music producer was, shall we say, perfect. Whether she was grabbing coffee as a new intern at Residual Heat or attempting to win at comebacks with her German revivals, Kendrick managed to  bring forth the socially awkward and professionally struggling traits that all millennials can relate to. Of course, one cannot forget about Rebel Wilson, who stole the show with her brilliant, unexpected solo performance and hilarious portrayal of a confident, overweight Australian.

The diversity of the Bella’s must also be noted as audiences are introduced to new faces, including that of Spanish migrant, Flo, played by Chrissie Fit. Ester Dean’s and Hana Mae Lee’s reprisal as Cynthia Rose and Lilly completed the racial spectrum as a gay, black woman and a quiet Asian take the screen. Audiences can except instances that will leave them pleasantly surprised as Pitch Perfect 2 is what most sequels are not; fearless. Whether it was through the misogyny of ICCA commentator, John or racist and homophobic one-liners, it was clear that showcasing social issues and breaking cultural stereotypes was an ongoing, rather overt theme in the film.

As audiences follow the group on their road to redemption after an embarrassing scandal, they are likely to see what its predecessor was; an empowering film packed under a layer of song, dance, and comedy. Mix those elements up with several cameos from your favourite music personalities and a big, Hollywood budget- and thus, you’ll have the number 1 movie at the box office.

Miss Representation: A Misrepresentation In Itself

With a society that’s always plugged in, its difficult to get away from the media. Our lives revolve around TV, music, video games, and movies. However, it is only recently that audiences are starting to realize what the content of the media is doing to society– especially women. Although powerful campaigns and initiatives are being launched in order to showcase and prevent the misogyny present in society, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Miss Representation is a documentary recently released on Netflix that brings forth what most of us are slowly becoming desensitized to; women in the media.

Consisting of interviews from a group of experts, the hour and a half film dissected the various aspects of the media that sexualize, dehumanize, and objectify women. Pat Mitchell (MA, President and CEO for the Paley Center for Media, former President and CEO of PBS); Jennifer Pozner (Executive Director of Women in Media & News); Caroline Heldman (PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College); Marie Wilson (founding President of the White House Project); and Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State) are just some of the personalities that sat down to talk about the representation of women in the media. Montages of Reality TV stars in bikinis, journalists in low-cut tops, and pictures taken between Sarah Palin’s legs demonstrated the problem overtly and effectively. However, Miss Representation also indirectly brought forth other problems present in the media. Problems hardly spoken about by the line of experts and celebrities. But problems that are still there.

Women of colour (WOC), women with disabilities (WWD), and the LGBT community also should have been addressed. WWD are essentially non-exsistent while women of colour and LGBTs are also significantly underrepresented. Although Devanshi Patel, a young, WOC aspiring to have a career in public service, was briefly profiled in the documentary– she was essentially what WOC are in the media; ‘the token brown girl’ of the documentary. It would have been nice to see a discussion of the misrepresentation of celebrities such as Mindy Kahling or Sofia Vergara, who are known solely for their skin colour and foreign accent, respectively. The montages in Miss Representation showcased a series of privileged, white women who steal the spotlight time and time again. But it should be known, problems of sexualization, age discrimination, and objectification also apply to WOC and the LGBT community as well. Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and yes, even Queen Bey always leave little to the imagination. Now whether their anacondas are actually empowering or objectifying is a conversation we all need to have. In addition, Mitch and Cam of Modern Family and Ellen DeGeneres are essentially the only representatives of the LGBT community and that too, from a comedic standpoint.

Essentially, the documentary didn’t consist of anything we didn’t already know. Women are no longer wear as much clothes as they used to, and the Kardashians are, whether we like it or not, plotting to take over the world. A powerful film would’ve been one that consisted of briefly showcasing the problems women face in the media followed by actual solutions to resolve said problems. Women need to stop victimizing themselves and need to start helping themselves- and most importantly each other.  All in all, Miss Representation kind of, well, missed the spot.

 

Rating: 6/10