The very sight of the word “SPOILERS” to my eyes in an article often results in a slight stomach turn and instantaneous need to scroll away from the following words as if the information contained within could cause some sort of irreversibly traumatizing damage to my fragile soul. The constant lookout for stray spoilers to breach my self imposed spoiler-free life can sometimes be exhausting. It’s a bit like sheltering a child from all the evils of the world. Unfortunately the inevitable will occur. Yet for some, knowing whats going to happen is an imperative element to the experience of consuming stories. What exactly drives people to either avoid or seek out spoilers? SPOILERS: I overanalyze the subject ahead.
It’s human instinct to want knowledge. The old adage “knowledge is power” rings true in most scenarios. Before entering a situation it can often be beneficial to you to know as much as possible before it as to hopefully reduce surprises. Perhaps it makes more sense than we may think to use that same instinct to want to know as much as possible entering into situations involving stories. but it can perhaps be for the same reason that people choose to withhold. Reducing the surprise is only desirable case by case.
More than ever before we have access to any and all information in a massive interlocking encyclopedia that you are currently using – The Internet. From as menial as looking up words to as vast as exploring an entire subject, The Age of Information has birthed out a generation of people who rely on the Internet for…well almost everything. As quickly as you can find out who was IN a movie, you can find out the ending of that same movie. If you google the word “spoilers” the first result is an entire website dedicated to telling you the ending to EVERY movie in theaters. They’ll even give you a iTunes gift certificate for being quick to provide the info.
Today, if you are excited about a major upcoming film you have a smorgasbord of options to tide over your excitement. Watch trailers, TV spots, follow the film on Twitter and/or Facebook for constant ‘sneak peeks’ or fun facts dispersed in your personal news feed, and even watch FULL scenes of the film days before its released. At the stroke of midnight on the eve of its release you can probably find the anticipated film in most theaters, but if you choose to go to bed early and check it out the next day, you could theoretically wake up and google the ending of the film that some midnight goers stayed up extra late typing out. Blogging it out to the masses as if they were reporting a breaking news story. All this pulls the ‘sneak peek’ curtain so far back that you begin to wonder why you still even need to ACTUALLY see the film.
A friend of mine once told me he hadn’t seen Breaking Bad, but was quick to assure me that he had read the first 4 seasons worth of episode summaries on Wikipedia so we could still discuss it if I wanted. “I don’t have time to watch 50 hours of a TV show” he said. and who’s to blame him? In almost every scenario of a modern-day young adults life in our society they are told to attempt to find the fastest and most efficient way to accomplish a task. My friend simply took this framework, saw a 50 hour way to learn the full story of Breaking Bad, and saw an alternative that would clock in around an hour or so of reading. So what exactly is he sacrificing? A whole lot.
It might not always be an easy task to convince someone investing a considerable amount more time in a piece of entertainment will reward them with a richer experience, but it is almost always the case. For example – take an art form that is nearly impossible to spoil – music. SURE you can listen to samples of each track on iTunes, but as far as knowing the ending, it’s basically a non-factor. If a friend tells you “the album ends with a kazoo solo” you at MOST could be moderately bummed that you’ll know what to expect – however it doesn’t really take away from the experience of hearing it and having your own unique feeling and reaction to it. It’s not like the interweaving story of the album reaches an apex with that kazoo solo…and if it does, stop listening to so many progressive kazoo concept albums. But almost unanimously one would agree that the more time you invest into an album, the more certain things may pop out at you as an outstanding portion of that art. Perhaps your least favorite track ends up growing on you and becomes something you appreciate for its not so immediately apparent values. The same can be said for story driven art forms like movies, TV shows, video games, or books. The more time invested in discovering how the story plays out, the deeper the connection to that story you may have.
The biggest problem with spoilers, however, is not just the lack of time you spent getting to the information at the end of any given story. By spoiling a story-driven art form you are intentionally disregarding the artists intentions and slighting yourself a potentially rewarding emotional experience. That may sound heavy-handed, but everyone as some point or another has been moved by a well told story (and if you havent, may I humbly suggest ANY FILM by directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, or Christopher Nolan – for my money, the three best modern-day American storytellers). Perhaps what many don’t realize about a well told story is that it hinges on the element of surprise.
With the prevalence of the internet and over-saturation of information available at us, the element of mystery and surprise has been sucked out of a lot of art in favor of instant gratification. Anticipation has become a feeling people prefer to avoid and combat by fulfilling a brief but easily gained urge to have what they want now in a truncated form over waiting for the full experience later.
The mixed messages of our societal functions are partly to blame for the decline of appreciation for patience and surprise-driven storytelling. We are told in many aspects of our lives that finding faster and more efficient ways to gain information is just…better. It can be hard to turn off that function when it comes to preserving the artistic merits of stories – but rest assured It’s worth it. The gratification of a well crafted and presented story is something that can never be replicated by a brief summary of events.
When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought to myself “looks sorta like that TV show ‘Skins‘” (of which I mean the original British version…don’t even get me started on the American MTV bullshit remake) and I wasn’t entirely off base. This film is sex, drugs, and rock and roll – plain and simple; but it does so with heart and searing visual flair. It all made sense in the Q&A after the screening when writer/director Alexandra McGuinness explained that she had a background as a stylist and a large interest in fashion, because the way this film is photographed is a bit reminiscent of classic fashion photography. “Lotus Eaters” follows a group of young upper class brits living their life in that aimless cycle that we all at some point or another fell into in our teenage years. At the center is a blooming yet turbulent relationship between two of the main characters Alice and Charlie, the latter of which has a bit of a drug problem.
The movie spirals around their lives as if a fly on the wall taking you from one situation to the next, whether it be a wild party with vodka-baths, or buying ridiculous clothing accessories. The movie is lean at just 78min, and is pretty light on plot but heavy on character. It was the last act of the film that really just had me hooked. Once the wave finally crashes down on the never-ending party these lads live, it begins to take a more pensive route. One that ultimately ends up making this film a wild ride. Top that off with Alexandra’s seriously kick-ass taste in music (I’m talking best soundtrack of the year) and seemingly instinctual mastery of blending visuals with music and you end up with a fascinating gem of a feature debut.
I would just as quickly warn people to never watch this film almost as much as I would plead others to. Its glacial pacing, stream-of-consciousness structure, over two-hour runtime, and minimalistic story will probably have unsuspecting filmgoers instinctually reach in their pockets for a quick few rounds of Angry Birds as they pan it for being too artsy. I often wonder if films of this nature will slowly become extinct as our collective attention spans dwindle into the length of adorable-kitten videos on YouTube.
At any rate, this film propelled me into a rather pensive funk for the proceeding few days after seeing it. What ended up being so note-worthy was its unbelievably accurate depiction of how we remember our lives, and more specifically our childhood. Textures, smells, inconsequential moments, or snapshots of seeing the world when you were two feet tall. These moments bubble to the surface, often without too much context of what came before or after it, or even what age you were. ‘The Tree of Life’ plays out much in the same way. After the introduction of a 1950′s family grieving a loss, we are transported back in time…you know to the big bang. Upon witnessing the very formation of life itself, we eventually catch back up to what most would consider the main ‘plot line’ of this freeform existential journey. The film is visually astounding. I mean serious eye candy. Captured images of profound greatness. Do you get what I’m saying? Pop this one in after a nice bubble bath, or perhaps a few hours of meditation because this isn’t a film that’s gonna quiet a restless mind.
It’s not often phenomenal filmmakers have turn around time between films as quickly as Fincher. After releasing “The Social Network” in October 2010, he’s already back with his next project which slides snuggly in next to other Fincher classics like “Se7en“, “Fight Club“, “Zodiac“, and “Curious Case of Benjamin Button“. Yeah, this guy has certainly been busy making some of the greatest films of the last 10 years. It’s well known that ‘Dragon Tattoo’ is a remake of a 2009 Swedish film, leaving many to wonder just why the film is so necessary. While I more often than not join the rally of ‘leave great foreign films alone!’ (as I did when they remade the brilliant Swedish film “Let The Right One In“) I can’t help but make an exception if the film is helmed by a visionary director such as Fincher.
But enough about all that, this movie is badass. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, the damaged and strong anti-heroine, glues your eyes to the screen and demands your attention in one of the years best performances. As far as tone goes, this mystery thriller focuses much of its drama on the slow unraveling of the murder mystery at its core and refrains from loud set-piece-destroying action sequences. It’s very much akin to Fincher’s more recent work of “Zodiac” and “The Social Network” where he has been seriously flexing his ‘make long dialogue scenes way more gripping then any standard action scene would be’. To top it off, his frequent cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth paints stunning visuals into each frame with his uncanny eye for visual perfection. Trent Reznor’s score is yet again a perfect pairing to the visuals, and keeps the sense of menace and dread up even when really all we’re watching is our main characters flip through old news articles and investigating every corner of a photograph. That is what filmmaking is all about.
OK, I can’t argue it. We’ve all seen a quirky coming-of-age love story before, however ‘Submarine’ manages to rise above its own framework to offer a comedy with outstanding characters, emotional depth, and a so-british-it-hurts style humor for the 2011 generation. The film sinks its teeth deep into the visual medium its presented in with a fresh and lively style. Consistent across the writing, cinematography, directing, and editing the film hits its tone so perfectly on all ends it becomes hard to not be swept away in its heightened reality. 15-year-old Oliver Tate is wise beyond his years, and his hilarious introspective internal rants give us a great sense of the depth of his character. Character is something this film packs in by the tons. Each player in this tale has a perfect array of flaws, quirks, and oddities that make each scene a joy to watch as more layers are peeled back. A classic love story told in an unconventional way. Its odds and ends make this an addicting watch.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about this depraved dark comedy I found just so outrageously hilarious. In many ways, it’s the sum of its parts, but truly the comedy orbits the hysterically straight-faced performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the aimless stoner metal-head deadbeat Hesher. His unapologetically don’t-give-a-flying-fuck attitude accidentally finds its way into a grieving family of three mourning the loss of mama-bear. It’s dark tone is played for laughs on just about every turn of the story, and does so without shame. Despite its mostly bleak tone, Hesher keeps things energetic and entertaining with seriously fantastic performances, killer writing, and well-rounded characters. Hesher is filmmaking turned up to 11. In fear of over-complicating things, it’s easiest to say: this film fucking rocks.
Don’t call it a cult film. OK, you can if you want, but interestingly director Sean Durkin prefers that the misguided and reclusive group that begins molding Martha’s mind to do the ‘right’ thing unconditionally not be so attached to the classical definition of a ‘cult’. I think really what he’s getting at here is that “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a ‘cult’ film without the over the top cheesy elements involved. Don’t expect any sacrificial lambs, speaking in tongues, and velvet robes in this one. This is a group that could very well exist in our modern world, and is unnervingly easy to see how someone in a vulnerable state of mind (i.e. Martha) could find solace and a sense of community among her new-found brothers and sisters. This is crucial in understanding just what makes “MMMM” so powerful and truly chilling. Powerhouse performances from Elizabeth Olsen as Martha as well as John Hawkes as Patrick, the ‘cult’ leader, make this a serious knockout of a feature-length directorial debut. The film is firmly grounded in reality, while Martha struggles to understand her own. smoothly transitioning between her life since escaping the cult and the deep-rooted memories from when she was still a part of it make you as the audience sometimes question what is a dream, memory, or is really happening. The audience is constantly trying to make sense of the events and what it will mean for Martha’s transition to life in our normal society. You never really know more than Martha, down to this brilliant film’s final frame.
Miranda July is odd. If you haven’t seen her video blog, watched her interviews, listened to her audio-stories/spoken word albums, or seen her debut feature “Me and You and Everyone We Know” (which along with ‘The Future’ she wrote, directed, and starred in) then it may be a bit hard to judge whether “The Future” is going to be your thing or not, but suffice to say it’s another addition perfectly in line with her off-kilter humor mixed with child-like wonder. In other words it’s brilliant. Describing the plot of the film actually doesn’t do much good in enhancing your understanding of what this film is truly about. Sure it involves love, modern-day dilemmas of technology, existential mid-life thoughts, and a talking cat – but really this film is more about then that. Absorbing the film into your mind offers you a rather insightful tale of…well…life. despite its abstracted fun-house mirror presentation, this film at its core is a grounded and relatable human story. Miranda July has often been discredited to just being ‘weird for weird’s sake’ but in truth what makes ‘The Future’ just so inciting is wondering just how it is that Miranda July is going to present the next scene. Her unique penchant for storytelling makes her work less about trying to figure out WHAT will happen next, but more so HOW it will happen. Call it weird, but I call it transcendent.
‘A beautiful film about the end of the world’ is this films tagline, and there truly isn’t a better way to sum it up. When was the last time you saw a film about the end of the world that doesn’t show people rushing into stores to stock up on supplies, frantic newscasters warning people to stay inside, the Golden Gate Bridge being destroyed, impossible scientific experiments like lasers that can destroy asteroids without any debris entering earths atmosphere, or Bruce Willis. In Lars Von Trier’s (Antichrist, Dogville) latest film, he explores the real emotions of a handful of characters as they begin to come to terms with the fact that their lives, and the lives of all human beings on earth might soon be coming to an end. The uncertainty of the situation and the wide personalities of the four main characters here cast a relatable shadow in the audiences direction. Would you be the one to doubt it until the last minute? Accept it and enjoy your final moments? Panic and convince yourself there must be a way to stop it? Fantastic performances from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg blended with the unmistakable cinema-verite style of Lars Von Trier’s eye as well as his latest obsession with super-slo-mo imagery make this film remarkably powerful and existential.
It’s always refreshing when films are able to take you beyond the simple presentation of a story, and Life in a Day does just that while still remaining captivating and interesting. ‘Life in a Day’ essentially boils down to being a 95min video time capsule of what life was like for humans around the world on June 24th 2010. The result is both fascinating and deeply thought-provoking. Pieced together from thousands of clips that were submitted by people from around the world filming their day, this is a project unlike any other before it. By eliminating the arguably invasive film crew from this documentary, and handing the camera over to the subjects themselves (i.e. everyone on earth) we get undeniably candid and personal moments that would otherwise be stifled by a bunch of film dudes making sure the shot looks good on the other side of the room. When I say this film is beautiful, I’m not talking about the camerawork, lighting, or visual effects – I’m talking about the deep undercurrent of human feeling this film has sewn throughout its running time. In watching this film, you’re sure to find connections to your own life and raise some questions about how you’re living it. It’s an experience that will happen for those willing to open themselves up to it. This film rewards audience members who allow this film to absorb into their minds. It turns out it’s one of the most rewarding experiences that film has provided this year.
This film is impossibly twisted, unmistakably unsettling, and far beyond just ‘dark’. Often picking my ‘favorite’ films just comes down to the visceral feeling a film gives me. After all, a truly effective film is the kind of film that literally gives you chills, or overwhelming emotion that lingers hours, days, sometimes weeks upon seeing it. So it was a no-brainer for me to place “We Need to Talk About Kevin” firmly at the top after experiencing what can only be described as a ‘my skin is crawling’ moment during the closing credits. This film is NOT for everyone. For example: children, people interested in seeing movies to escape/feel good, or people who would not like to be aware of the irreversibly fucked-up scenario of raising a child that has serious psychological problems. So its audience is a little limited.
The deranged insanity of the demon-child in question ‘Kevin’ is actually played by three actors at different stages of his life. toddler, adolescent, and teen. While the adolescent Kevin does have the most screen time, it will undoubtedly be the teen Kevin (played by Ezra Miller) who will give you death-stares in your nightmares. In fact it’s not just his performance that stands out as exceptional, but his mother Eva (played by Tilda Swinton) as well. The complex emotions of Eva that drive the fractured narrative through its depraved story of the constant search for a normal life catapult this film into territory of universal fear and doubt of ones abilities as a human. It’s a rough ride for your psychological state, but this film is dementedly visceral and unmissable for anyone willing to stomach it.