Tag: ezra miller

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
★★ / ★★★★

The highly expository follow-up to the energetic and entertaining “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” may likely force the viewer to wonder if the series has enough fuel to stretch its arms across three more pictures. At its worst, for a story that offers magic, a wealth of imagination, strange-looking creatures, it is talkative but uninformative. For long periods during the middle, nothing much of value happens; I caught myself checking my watch a few times. I considered if author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling ought to have allowed someone else to translate her work through a cinematic medium. What results is a ponderous picture that lacks the power to capture the curiosity of both children and children-at-heart, a quality that seems to come so naturally to the “Harry Potter” movies.

As a sequel that strives to expand its world-building, the material offers a group of new potentially interesting characters. The first that comes to mind is Theseus Scamander, played by Callum Turner, brother of our protagonist who is played by Eddie Redmayne. This character is engaged to be married to Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), former schoolmate of our quirky magizoologist. Newt and Leta seems to share a special, possibly even a romantic connection, and it would have been an interesting avenue to explore had Theseus been a fully developed character. In addition, Newt feeling insecure whenever his “normal” brother is around is hinted at but never explored. Instead, the siblings are reduced to giving each other hugs. Another possible interesting personality that may have been worth looking into is the alchemist Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) whose name should be familiar to fans of the magical series. Instead, there are jokes about him being old.

Delivering top-notch special and visual effects is clearly the film’s forté. Particularly impressive is the sequence involving Newt and Jacob (Dan Fogler), the latter lacking magical ability, attempting to track down the whereabouts of an Auror (Katherine Waterston). A spell is cast to retrace the literal steps of their target in addition to the circumstances surrounding this person. The fact that the scene is executed in a calm manner is solid choice because it builds tension. Another example of ace visuals, but of feverish approach, is the opening scene involving the villainous Grindelwald (Johnny Deep) executing a daring escape in the sky as a storm rages on. It takes place at night and it is hard to see in the rain. And yet—we have a complete idea of the events unfolding. The technical mastery of the action scenes cannot be denied. The camera is so alive and the editing is willing to match the beat of the wild dance exploding on screen.

The problem is, when the action dies down, so does the film to an extent. It comes alive somewhat during flashbacks of young Newt and Leta attending Hogwarts. I loved learning about them, especially in how they felt like outcasts as students. This feeling did not disappear as they became adults. It evolved and, in a way, their experiences in Hogwarts stuck with them and helped to shape who they are. It is these moments that “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” directed by David Yates, manages to capture the essence of Rowling’s excellent Potter series. The human drama creates more intrigue than the politics—just as exploring Harry and his friends’ relationships is more interesting than having to defeat Voldermort.

Despite its shortcomings, I remain interested in what is going to happen. There is a surprising revelation during the closing minutes involving Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) and his quest for discovering his biological connections. It is about time that this character moves to the center because he has been running around since the predecessor with little progress, if any. He is beginning to feel like decoration. This, too, can be attributed to the screenplay: it lacks efficiency and urgency. Things that can be accomplished in five minutes are stretched to fifteen. Clearly, a film is not a novel, vice-versa. Given that this series will only grow larger in scope and ambition, I hope that a more effective screenwriter will be taken aboard.

Justice League

Justice League (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

Although not as polished, lean, and emotionally satisfying as Marvel films that have found strong footing in terms of establishing a specific tone while juggling a team where every member stands out, Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” is a step in the right direction. Perhaps the most important change in this expansion of the DC universe is the decision to make room for moments of levity. What results is a superhero picture that is actually enjoyable rather than one that is drowning in its misery, grim look, and would-be philosophical musings about what it means to be a protector of mankind.

Fans of the genre will likely check in for the action, but I found that one of the film’s strengths is when two characters simply connect either by sharing memories or challenging one another’s ideals. An example of the former involves Lois Lane (Amy Adams) being visited by Martha Kent (Diane Lane) at the Daily Planet and eventually the two women touch upon how Clark Kent’s death (Henry Cavill) has changed their lives. Neither is as strong as she thought she would be or could be, making their grieving process believable and relatable. As for the latter, at one point Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) find themselves at odds in terms of how to use a powerful but dangerous technology. A clash of ethics turns personal real quick and suddenly we see them as Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince rather than their counterparts. It goes to show that with the right script exploring the right themes, this universe has a chance to become compelling.

The villain requires more work to be interesting, especially when it is a CGI character. Although the goal of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) is clear, hoping to reduce the planet to its primitive state by acquiring three energy-filled boxes hidden across the planet, it is yet another antagonist who wishes to end the world. It is a oft-tread path and at this day and age, having so many superhero films come and gone, it is not a good enough motivation. The best modern superhero films of the genre offer villains that function within the morally gray. The most recent example is Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) in Jon Watts’ earnest and energetic “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The man simply wishes to provide his family a good life. We relate to his goal; we may or may not relate to the path he chooses to take to get to that goal.

New faces of the team—The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher)—are given moments to shine outside of their specific personalities. Although none of them are fully realized characters yet, they command enough intrigue that I wish know more about them in future installments. Out of the three, Miller is most surprising given my knowledge that the performer specializes in playing extreme characters: people who are psychologically out there, some of them downright disturbed. For Miller to deliver a character that is fun and someone with whom one wants to be friends with, Barry Allen is a most welcome addition to his oeuvre. I can’t wait to see where he will take the character.

“Justice League” offers just enough entertaining action sequences. Although they tend to suffer from diminishing returns, especially because the giant CGI bugs are utilized too often (all of them looking the same with zero personality does not help), these scenes create a steady, accessible rhythm with enough camera acrobatics to create some level of urgency. A fresh perspective is that although Batman is the leader of the pack, he is perhaps the most vulnerable physically since he has zero superpower. The material milks a couple of jokes out of this curious situation.

City Island

City Island (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Vince (Andy Garcia), a corrections officer, gets the surprise of his life when he recognizes the last name of one of the new transfers. Tony (Steven Strait) is the son he had abandoned twenty-four years ago and had since started his own family in City Island, an old fishing village in the Bronx. Although Tony is eligible for temporary release, he has no family member to claim him. So, Vince decides to take responsibility for Tony and welcomes the unsuspecting young man into his home.

Given that the recurring theme in “City Island,” written and directed by Raymond De Felitta, is secrets, big and small, it is only a matter of time until all the dirty laundry is exposed. It is an amazing feat, however, that even though we know what to expect in the third act, the material remains fresh and exciting for two reasons: there are enough small twists in the screenplay to keep a potentially tired material afloat and the performances, especially by Garcia, are surprisingly heartfelt.

The picture does not try too hard to be funny. For instance, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) having a penchant for feeding large women crazy amount of food could have been most sleazy, not to mention mean-spirited, if pushed too much. Instead, the subplot involving the youngest son is executed with a gentleness despite his rather crude—but nonetheless hilarious—personality. In addition, the only daughter, Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido), tries to hide the fact that she had been kicked out of school, lost her scholarship, and since been working as a stripper. Although less amusing and equally underdeveloped as Vince Jr.’s subplot, we still care about her and how her secret will be digested by the parents.

Surprisingly, the heart of the picture comes in the form of the patriarch’s shame of really going for his ambition. That is, Vince so wishes to pursue acting, pretending to attend poker games with his buddies when he is actually taking an acting class, but he thinks his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), would laugh in his face if she knew. Garcia is excellent as someone who seems tough on the outside but is actually emotionally wounded. Each time the camera captures only his face, I could feel Vince’s sadness from having to hide a big part of himself from his family. It is a silly situation, perhaps even sitcom-like, but the writing is able to discern between the reality that we—as the audience—and the characters see versus the reality in someone’s mind. Good comedies work as a drama.

I loved it every time the Rizzo household gets really loud because it reminded me of my family. It didn’t matter if they were trying to annoy each other playfully or yelling out of sheer rage. There is a love that can be felt through the walls and the sharp words. It feels like a real family, not some boring group of automatons where everyone insists on holding it all in until the script forces them to explode. Therefore, when the rather typical third act comes around, it is easy to embrace the reactions incited by awkwardly presented revelations.

“City Island” has a most tender layer involving Vince and a woman he has met in the acting class. Their instructor (Alan Arkin) gives them an assignment about secrets. Vince and Molly (Emily Mortimer) often meet at night and quickly discover that they are attuned to each other’s needs. In a way, she becomes his secret. A lesser screenplay and direction might have turned the whole thing into a dirty affair. What they share proves to be more romantic.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

“The Stanford Prison Experiment,” directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, dramatizes the infamous 1971 simulation led by Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup), a psychologist employed by Stanford University. The goal of the study is to document the effects prisons can have in human behavior. The subjects are male college students, randomly determined by a coin toss to either be a prisoner or a guard, and the experiment is planned to last between seven to fourteen days. The study lasted only five days.

Note that I did not—and will not—use the word “experiment.” This is because I do not consider Zimbardo’s study to be one given that it is flawed from a scientific perspective. For instance, as one character keenly points out in the film, there seems to be a lack of a control group, a requisite element in most experiments because it determines whether the dependent variable, an effect (or effects) that can be observed, truly arise due to the introduction of an independent variable—a factor (or factors) that can be added, removed, or manipulated by the persons conducting the study.

The film is wonderfully acted by everyone involved. The collective performance is strong and so it is relatively easy to invest into each group’s realities—those participating in the study, those conducting the study, and those outside of it—even though the entire situation is far from pleasant. Particular standouts are Michael Angarano, embodying a guard who tries to personify John Wayne’s toughness, and Ezra Miller, embodying a prisoner consistently pushed to the edge of breakdown. There is confidence in their performances that it is near impossible to look away when they are on screen together.

There is great control from behind the camera. The director utilizes close-ups as a way to invade someone’s personal space. Pay close attention to scenes when a guard verbally assaults a prisoner to the point where we begin to suspect that physical violence can erupt at any second. As the intensity of the confrontation increases, the distance between the camera and its subjects decreases. We are literally in the moment as a guard strips away a prisoner’s remaining humanity and what is put inside that prisoner is fear, a heavy sense of powerlessness, and shame.

But the picture is not without areas that need improvement. For example, although it is obvious why the Crudup and Olivia Thirlby scenes are necessary to the material, both playing a couple with varying degrees of empathy and ethics, their exchanges do not mean more than what they are supposed to symbolize or represent as scholars. I wanted to know more about their personal lives. At the end of the film, a subtitle notes that the two married a year after the so-called experiment and are still together today. But I ask why we should care since the material does not provide enough details outside of their professional lives. More specifically, how can Thirlby’s character, who is a psychologist herself, still choose to be with Zimbardo after seeing what he is capable of?

Nevertheless, “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” written by Tim Talbott, is absorbing and at times thought-provoking. Viewers who have taken psychology courses, like myself, will be very familiar with the study but there are enough details here that are specific and surprising. On the other hand, audiences not familiar with the “experiment” are likely to gape in awe, wondering if such a study was really allowed to happen.

Another Happy Day

Another Happy Day (2011)
★ / ★★★★

Lynn (Ellen Barkin) and her two sons, Elliot (Ezra Miller) and Ben (Daniel Yelsky), come to stay at their family’s estate for Dylan’s wedding (Michael Nardelli), the son that Lynn and Paul (Thomas Haden Church) had before separating. Meanwhile, Lynn’s mother (Ellen Burstyn) and sisters (Siobhan Fallon, Diana Scarwid) worry about Joe (George Kennedy), the eldest member of the clan, because his pacemaker has malfunctioned. There is also some stress about Alice (Kate Bosworth), Lynn and Paul’s daughter currently in therapy for cutting herself, possibly not making it to the wedding.

“Another Happy Day,” written and directed by Sam Levison, is extremely frustrating to watch unfold because every drop of emotion comes off fake. There is a lot of yelling around the house about physical, emotional, and psychological abuse and is almost always paired with either someone walking into the frame and doing something completely idiotic or someone saying something completely insensitive in the scene that comes right after. This approach softens the majority of the material’s dramatic weight and so the picture never has a chance to make us feel involved.

We never get the sense that these people are a real family; they are dogs that have gone unfed for weeks and all they wish to do is take a bite out of each other. Now, I have been around other family gatherings whose members tend to argue a lot. They just cannot help themselves. Yet it is obvious that there is still love there. While they yell and release all sorts of unpleasantries, they are not afraid to joke around one another even if negative emotions have not yet diffused. It may be out of embarrassment, I don’t know, but at least it is real. Here, it seems like all loyalties are thrown out the window. It feels too movie-like.

For example, I did not understand why Doris, Lynn’s mother, treats her daughter like she is a nobody. Though it is true that everyone is in charge of his or her happiness (and unhappiness), the picture offers no reason why Doris is so cold. The writer-director’s decision to not offer an answer–or a hint–to one of the most curious questions is, in a way, an act of cheating us out of a possible rewarding emotional arc.

The singular person that may be worth our time is Alice. Although she is still in danger of relapsing into cutting herself when things get tough, I felt a strength from her when she speaks to drug-addicted Elliot, whose fourth time in rehab is for naught. It made me wonder if Elliot and Ben, the latter very attached to his video camera, an obvious symbol of a character’s detachment from reality, would have been happier young people if their sister were around more because she has such a positive energy.

Another strand that should have been explored further is Lynn’s relationship with Patty (Demi Moore), Paul’s wife. The two do nothing but get on each other’s nerves. Is it really that difficult for them to find a commonality in one another, even if it is superficial, especially if their son is about to have one of the most important days of his life?

“Another Happy Day” is far from a happy experience, not even in a darkly comic manner. It is a such a vortex of unpleasant commotion that I wondered what I would have done if they were my family. If I had to be around these people, I would probably pretend to die in a car accident while on my way to see them.

Beware the Gonzo

Beware the Gonzo (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

It has always been Eddie’s (Ezra Miller) dream to attend Columbia University. In order for him to have a chance of even being considered, he needs an extracurricular activity on his transcript. It is the beginning of senior year and Gavin (Jesse McCartney), the editor of the school paper, is handing out assignments for the first issue. Eddie wants to write about something extreme like the unhappiness of the students in their prep school, but Gavin simply wants a nice “Welcome back!” message. Eddie insists that fire is what the newspaper needs. Due to his insubordination, Eddie is kicked out of the paper. Passionate about writing and telling his readers the truth, he decides to team up with fellow outcasts (Edward Gelbinovich, Griffin Newman, Stefanie Y. Hong) to create “The Gonzo Files,” an underground newspaper that functions as direct competition to Gavin’s “The Courier.”

Written and directed by Bryan Goluboff, “Beware the Gonzo” starts off as a sharp and witty satire about high school students, faculties, and the bureaucracies that shape the frustration and desperation within a social ecosystem. There is a sense of excitement as the characters clandestinely hold meetings in a local diner, discuss the newspaper’s purposes, and how it should look. With the help of Elvie (Zoë Kravitz), a girl with a reputation of being wanton, they are able to create a website as a supplement to the paper. Meanwhile, Eddie takes on the role of the leader.

As the success of their project spread around the school like wildfire, the picture reaches a creative zenith. The reactions of the students that are featured, directly through pictures or indirectly through text, are absolutely hilarious to watch. The videos posted on the website push the revelations that much further. We can almost feel the students’ insecurities leaking through their pores. With such polemical issues brought up by the paper, the majority compliment Eddie and his team for their boldness and honesty while some are, to say the least, threatened.

This is the point where the material should have gone for the jugular. Instead of going for the easy romance between Eddie and Evie, which, by the way, softens the satirical jab, why not explore Gavin’s reaction to his rival’s success? While Gavin is eventually given the chance to express how he really feels, it is pushed toward the back half of the movie. There is no good reason for this. It is most inopportune because not only is Gavin’s delayed reaction unrealistic, it obstructs the film’s brisk pacing.

The writer-director’s decision to sandwich the romance between the release of the paper and Gavin’s desperation to come out on top is to actively look away from serious issues like bullying, plagiarism, and apathy. Also, I would like to have seen more of Eddie’s parents (Campbell Scott, Amy Sedaris). The father seems to understand what his son is fighting for, while the mother focuses on her son getting into college. For the latter, if it means being a harpy while at the dinner table so that Eddie will understand her point of view, then so be it. I enjoyed their scenes because I know a lot of parents like Eddie’s mom, some exponentially scarier. Thankfully, my parents are more like Eddie’s dad: understanding but assertive.

“Beware the Gonzo” shows wit and intelligence when it focuses on the satire. However, when it turns its attention to the unnecessary romance, it feels forced and second rate.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Over the summer, Charlie (Logan Lerman) is hospitalized due to what sounds like a suicide attempt. He writes a letter to a friend and claims that he is very anxious about his first day as a high school freshman because he does not want people think of him as “that weird kid who spent time in a hospital.” His situation isn’t helped by the fact that he has an introverted personality and he finds it difficult to make friends. For a while, Charlie struggles to find a connection with his peers until he meets outgoing Patrick (Ezra Miller) and empathic Sam (Emma Watson), seniors, at a football game.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” based on the novel, screenplay, and directed by Stephen Chbosky, is one of the reasons why I believe that coming-of-age movies are immortal. Although the story attempts to tackle familiar elements, like teenagers feeling alienation and isolation, such are expanded upon in ways that are refreshing and exciting. Furthermore, it is executed with a genuine love for its characters and it challenges us to deconstruct our notions about convenient labeling.

The commonalities among Charlie, Patrick, and Sam are rendered beautifully but never obvious. As young adults still trying to figure out who they are, we watch them get into situations that are out of their control and their forthcoming struggles. Charlie remains to grieve over his best friend’s death, Patrick falls for a boy who isn’t out of the closet (Johnny Simmons), and Sam strives to put her life back on track despite a reputation that followed her throughout high school. Because Chbosky takes the time for us to understand the trio’s messy pasts, their current but constantly evolving wants and needs, and what they wish to accomplish in the future, we eventually grow to want what is best for them. By the end, it feels like we know these characters as people who live and breathe instead of cardboard caricatures that happen to be in a movie with a light yellow glow wrapped in a melancholy tone.

In theory, the material at times should have collapsed under its own earnestness. Too much narration and the screenplay might have told more than shown; too much soundtrack and it might have come off as syrupy or serve as padding when the characters ought to be talking to one another. Instead, the aforementioned techniques are used only during the right moments as to highlight an insight or trend in order to enhance our experience toward familiarizing ourselves with what is at stake for each respective character. Since the material has the necessary focus to tell its story, there is a rhythm in the small and critical revelations sans ostentatiousness that distracts.

Despite having a main character that has thoughts about ending his life, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” aims to instill hope and live one’s life no matter what one’s age. It isn’t without genuine moments of comedy. The late night reenactments of Jim Sharman’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at a local theatre quickly comes to mind as well as Patrick’s brutally honest remarks toward his friends. With so many children and teens who decide that their life is somehow not worth living, whether it is because of bullies that make attending school feel like walking barefoot through the embers of hell or living with a secret that cannot be shared out of fear that no one can be trusted, this film is a beacon for it shows alternatives on how one can regain control of his or her life and changing it for the better. It makes the case that the foolish twiddle with their thumbs and wait for change to happen while those who choose to participate and try to implement the changes that they want to see happen are the ones who come out on top.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), a once popular author, woke up and found the front of her home covered in red paint. After an interview with a traveling agency, a woman came up to Eva and smacked her across the face, leaving her a bloody nose. A man came to help and asked if he should call 911, but Eva insisted it was completely her fault. We learned that Eva’s son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), murdered some of his classmates back when he was only fifteen. Most of the community held Eva responsible for raising such a morally deficient child. Based on a novel by Lionel Shriver, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” posed very interesting questions about parenting and its role in raising a child who could function in society. Specifically, are there some people who are born evil? The picture explored this question with succinctly maneuvered flashbacks. Eva and her husband (John C. Reilly) enjoyed traveling, learning about other cultures, and having fun together. When Eva learned that she was pregnant, she equated this as the end of her independence. I admired that the film left her feelings toward the being in her womb to be quite ambiguous. Her emotions weren’t as clear as black and white as most would readily jump into. We saw her examining her figure in front of a mirror. Maybe she was concerned what the pregnancy was doing to her body. After all, it was her first time. We watched her looking listless around other pregnant women who seemed very social and excited about being with child. Maybe Eva feared the idea of giving birth and didn’t feel like sharing her feelings with strangers. And that’s alright. There was not one definite clue convincing enough for us to say, without a doubt, that she hated her unborn child. While she could have put more energy or enthusiasm in being pregnant, the fact is that women react to pregnancy in different ways. When the child was born, it was an entirely different matter. I loved that the film was able to switch gears so effortlessly without sacrificing an ounce of subtlety. From what I observed, Eva wanted to love her son but Kevin was a very difficult baby and an impossible toddler. I didn’t always agree with Eva’s methods and I certainly don’t think we were supposed to. I thought the material was ingenious because by providing us a series of meticulously crafted scenes of Eva’s bad parenting, it was like putting us in the shoes of that woman who hit her in the beginning of the film. The issue was our judgment of Eva although for entirely different reasons. Even I have to admit that there were times when I wanted to shake or yell at her. One of those times involved Eva putting her baby near an active jackhammer in order to drown his inconsolable crying. While I felt bad for Eva for feeling that she was an ineffective parent, she could’ve handled the stress much better than putting her child near a construction zone and endangered him of turning deaf. “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” directed by Lynne Ramsay, was smart because, although relevant, it was not about the killings that happened in the school. Notice that the violence was not shown, only the aftermath. By focusing on Eva and her feelings of inadequacy, anger, and depression, the film put a face on a tragedy that permanently changed people’s lives. I certainly didn’t feel for Kevin as a teenager. He was so wrapped up in his hatred toward his mother that eventually I began seeing him as a bomb just waiting to go off. I believe that there are some people who are beyond help. They can’t help it because of the chemical imbalance in their brains. I believe Kevin was one of them and his unpredictability was a great source of suspense.

Every Day

Every Day (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Ned (Liev Schreiber) no longer found his job as a writer for a television show rewarding. His boss (Eddie Izzard) wanted creative, mostly sexually-driven, ideas from him but he couldn’t seem to deliver because his mind was, to say the last, preoccupied. His wife (Helen Hunt) who invited her short-tempered father (Brian Dennehy) to live with them became increasingly unhappy, he worried about his older son (Ezra Miller), who recently admitted that he was gay, and felt guilty for not being there for his youngest son’s (Skyler Fortgang) violin recital. A fellow script writer named Robin (Carla Gugino), mysterious and seductive, being attracted to Ned certainly didn’t help his situation. Written and directed by Richard Levine, “Every Day” had a few scenes that worked on an emotional level. However, it ultimately lacked the bravado to look deeply at the family’s growing unhappiness. Too much of its running time was dedicated on the flirtation between Ned and Robin as they supposedly worked together on a script at her fancy New York loft. I understood that Ned wanted an escape from his worries and grab the fantasy he felt like he deserved. It would have worked if the execution wasn’t so cheap where it felt like watching a bad soap opera. It was painfully obvious that Robin was the bad influence because she wore typical dark clothing and intense gazes. The way she was presented was one dimensional, insulting and uninteresting. The real drama was between Hunt and Dennehy’s characters. A daughter who didn’t feel loved by her father cared for him regardless. She felt like she owed him something but the reason, it seemed to her, failed to go deeper than the fact that they were biologically connected. When Hunt was on screen, my attention magnetized toward her because there was a sadness in her inability to define her motivations. There was complexity between the daughter and her father unlike what was between Ned and Robin. In a way, their relationship explained why she gave certain freedoms to her gay son who wanted to attend a gay prom with people much older than him. If I was a parent and my underage gay son (or daughter) wanted to go somewhere he or she could be taken advantaged of, I wouldn’t think twice about not giving him permission. But I understood why she felt the need to do it. She wanted approval from her children because she never got it from her father. Lastly, there was something curious about the younger son’s struggle to understand the idea of dying. It scared him but he tried not to let it show. Perhaps he didn’t have the words to express his fears. “Every Day” successfully established that the characters were distant from one another. Unfortunately, it lost focus and power in its saccharine attempt to bring them together.


Afterschool (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

Robert (Ezra Miller) was a sophomore in a private high school where kids were isolated from their parents so they were free to experiment with whatever they wanted. The high school made it a requirement for their students to take up sports or after school activities so Robert, having no interest in anything physical other than being intimate with another, chose to join the Video and Audio Club. While shooting at a hallway for an assignment, Robert accidentally captured two girls overdosing on cocaine. The event triggered a series of new rules as the students struggled to adapt to the death and their new environment. This film was good in some parts but it was mostly frustrating. I hated the scenes that reminded me of Michael Haneke’s “Caché,” where absolutely nothing would happen as the camera would linger at something random person or object. I think that is one of the main problems of movies adapting a style of faux-documentary or faux-realism: the filmmakers just don’t know when to cut certain scenes when the important element had been delivered. At times, nothing important would appear on screen at all. It then becomes an utter waste of time. The two main emotions I felt while watching this picture were anger and apathy. Anger because of the increasing frustration regarding dragged out scenes for no good reason. Apathy because of the subject matter. I felt like I was back in high school. One of my biggest disappointments with the film was it didn’t feature one healthy, clear-minded student with goals that go far beyond their current institution. When the two students died, honestly, I didn’t care. For me, they were just twins who happened to be addicted to drugs. Yes, they were young but that was no excuse. I was their age once but I chose not to make highly stupid decisions. It was ultimately their choice to be involved in drugs. No amount of excuse such as the classic, “My parents don’t give me enough attention” would make me feel more sympathetic toward them–dead or alive. Then my feeling turned to anger again because the very same students who called them “cokeheads” behind their backs suddenly changed their minds, claiming that they would miss the twins and “nothing would ever be the same.” Give me a break. But then I wondered whether that was the director’s purpose: to expose the drug culture of schools today and to reveal the hypocrisy of both the students and the faculties. “Afterschool,” written and directed by Antonio Campos, is a challenging film but sometimes it was just plain wooden. I wouldn’t be surprised if one decided to stop watching the movie just thirty minutes into it. However, I liked the fact that it made me curious with what would happen and to see whether my hypothesis involving the main character’s psychological state was correct. And I was.