Archive for drama

Screened In Sundays: Let Me In

Posted in Drama, Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

It’s incredibly rare that an American remake ends up being better than its foreign original, but with Let Me In, that’s the case. 2008’s Swedish Let The Right One In was and is a near-masterpiece, and fans understandably cried foul when the American remake was announced, as well as the filmmakers’ intentions to make the two leads older.

The story revolves around a young boy named Oscar who is a loner and on the verge of violently lashing back at his bullies. A young girl and older man move in next door from his apartment, but Oscar starts to notice strange things about the two neighbors. The windows are completely covered in cardboard, and the girl, named Abby, only comes out at night and smells weird. She’s also an ace at completing a Rubik’s Cube.  Yes…Abby is a vampire.

The American remake keeps everything that was so great about the original (the innocence of young love, spooky atmosphere, brutal bullying), and even brings more to the plate thanks to the talents of director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). There is one sequence involving a car crash that may be one of the best filmed sequences in any movie of all time, and that’s no exaggeration.

The kids are played here by Kodi-Smit McPhee (The Road) and Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) to perfection. It’s amazing that so much emotion can come out of such young people, but you really end up caring for these characters. Richard Jenkins was perfectly cast and is heartbreaking as Abby’s caretaker/father/who knows.

I love Let The Right One In…it’s one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years. But if I ever decide to experience this story again, I will almost always pop in its American remake.

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When TV is better than movies: Six Feet Under

Posted in Drama, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by judsonw

I recently finished my second go around with arguably the greatest American television show of all time, HBO’s Six Feet Under. The shown ran from 2001-2005, but it still holds up today as an emotionally resonant, instantly relatable piece of art. Before True Blood, Alan Ball was the creator behind this show. His dark humor from “American Beauty” (which he wrote) is very prevelent in SFU’s characters and situations. However, Ball tapped into something all of us experience but are afraid to confront head on: death. It’s been 10 years since the series premiered, but I will always remember the show as a lifelong friend who died far too young.

The blunt realness of the series has all to do with the perfectly acted, deeply written character work. The show focuses on a semi-dysfunctional family called the Fishers who live in and run a funeral home. All their lives are turned upside down when the man of the house, Nathaniel Fisher, dies in a car crash. There’s Nate, the intellectual idealist son who is unsatisfied with his life but very relatable. There’s David, Nate’s gay brother who must deal with his insecurities as well as with running a business his father left to him. Sister Claire is the youngest and manages to be equal measures of sweet, emo, artsy, and insane during the course of show. And lastly we have the matriarch of the house, Ruth, probably the best acted character of them all. The characters are so real and deep that at some point during the course of the series, you will both hate and love every one of them.

The series’ final episode (especially the last 10 minutes or so) have been widely praised as the best conclusion to any series. That’s hard to argue with, as the finality of the show really hits you like a ton of bricks as you permanently say goodbye to this family you’ve come to love. The initial feeling of devestation is quickly replaced by a feeling of thanks that a TV show this good exists. Six Feet Under was much more than a TV show, however. It made me look at a part of myself I always hid from and those experiences in life (and death) that are simply unavoidable. To put it simply, it changed my life. How many movies can you say that about?

Movie Review: This is one “Blue Valentine” I wish was red

Posted in Drama, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by judsonw

Is it possible to fall out of love? This is a question that is both asked and seemingly answered in the heartbreaking romance “Blue Valentine.” The film, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple at the end of their destructive marriage, is finally being released across the country after its extremely well-received debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Gosling is Dean, a charming but dim high school drop out who meets the girl of his dreams while helping out at a moving company. That girl is Cindy (Williams), a pre-med college student stuck living with her dysfunctional parents, all the while trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Love doesn’t strike instantly, but the two form a deep connection once certain solemn events bring them closer together. Their love is contagious, which makes the eventual dissolution of their relationship all the more painful.

What makes director Derek Cianfrance’s feature debut so unique and memorable is the way it is conveyed. Instead of portraying Dean and Cindy’s growing apart chronologically, the film shifts back and forth in time during the several years they are together. In one scene, Cindy can’t stand to look at Dean as he carries their young daughter. In the next, the two blissfully perform a song and dance number with a ukulele in the early morning hours outside a bridal shop in Brooklyn. The juxtaposition of the different stages of the relationship is so startling that it is hard to believe the same couple is being depicted on screen. While the film flashes back to happier times, the present day married Dean and Cindy try to convalesce their relationship on a weekend night in a sex motel. The scenes that ensue in this setting are almost unbearable to watch as something that is so rarely presented in mainstream movies is on display: raw human emotion. The flashbacks to the couple’s happier moments offer glimmers of hope to an otherwise disheartening story.

This concurrence of the characters’ pre-marital courtship and post-marriage doldrums is evidenced even more so from Cianfrance’s use of different cameras for each stage of the relationship. All the pre-marriage scenes were filmed using Super 16mm cameras while all the post-marriage scenes were filmed using Red One digital cameras. While this change in style shifts the mood of each scene, it also gives off the impression of two different movies occurring concurrently.

“Blue Valentine” would not be nearly as successful without the captivating and deep performances from Gosling and Williams. The two make up the film’s emotional core, and their unusual veracity makes it easy to forget that these are actors depicting characters. The believability of the couple may be thanks to Gosling and Williams’ utter dedication to their roles. Before filming took place, the actors staged out arguments in a shared home, living on the budgets that their respective characters would encompass. These transformations led to a chemistry between the two, while not always positive, that was further strengthened by improvised dialogue during the majority of the movie’s runtime.

“Blue Valentine” is by no means an enjoyable or easy film to watch. It portrays something many of us are familiar with: the complex and sometimes heartrending process of falling in and out of love. But it also shows the pure delight and blissful times that process brings.

A-