Tag: paris hilton

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan–what do these women have in common? Their homes have been broken into by the so-called Hollywood Hills Burglars, a group of teenagers who are obsessed with the lifestyles of celebrities. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ article, director Sofia Coppola looks at the personalities of those responsible and it is up to us to cast the judgment.

The picture is mostly detached from its subjects–which is entirely appropriate given that it is supposed to be satirical. Instead of focusing on what might be going on inside the subjects’ heads–such as guilt, shame, or fears–the attention is on the need to steal, the gleeful squeals during the act, and the aftermath of the crime as they try on clothes and jewelry that they know belong to someone else. Maybe for them breaking and entering into a celebrity’s private space is the closest they will get to living a similar lifestyle.

The actors portraying the real-life thieves do a wonderful job in portraying emptiness. Katie Chang as the ringleader plays Rebecca with offishness so alluring, you want to get to know her and hate her at the same time. Israel Broussard, on the other hand, plays a more empathetic figure. Marc is the new kid at school and he wants to belong. Though he is the most aware that what they are doing is wrong, he would rather have friends and commit crimes than be lonely and morally right. Most entertaining to watch, however, is Emma Watson. The scenes in which her character, Nicki, trips over her own hypocrisy (and recovers) made me laugh out loud, the execution very similar to Marcos Siega’s underrated dark comedy “Pretty Persuasion.” Plenty of so-called reality shows show us that people like Nicki do exist and that’s scary.

When it comes to pacing, the film might have benefited from showing less burglary because halfway through it starts to get repetitive. Instead, the camera should have taken its time to linger on the objects that have been stolen. This way, the fetishism is highlighted. Or the burglaries should have had a different approach each time. For instance, I wanted to see close-ups of hands grabbing the goods–a way to really communicate to us a sort of thirst or need to “own” whatever “it” is. Underneath it all, what the subjects have is not only an obsession but a compulsion.

“The Bling Ring” feels empty because the subjects are hollow inside. Notice that the teenagers never talk about their interests outside of whatever is on a magazine or some silly gossip website. When a person does talk about her goals for the future, there is a self-mockery to it. However, it does not mean that the film itself is a void. It is occasionally comedic, often unbelievable, and sometimes sad, too.

For some of these “Hollywood Hills Burglars,” this is it. Instead of striving to make something out of their lives, they settle for being privileged, vapid, and accomplishing nothing. What is more tragic than a life laid out to rot?

Teenage Paparazzo

Teenage Paparazzo (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

While out in Los Angeles, Adrian Grenier, who directed the film, noticed a thirteen-year-old paparazzo trying to get his attention in order to get the perfect picture. His name was Austin Visschedyk and it seemed like he had been a pop-stalkerazzi, a term he despised, for quite some time. Intrigued with Visschedyk, Grenier decided to contact the teen and make a movie about him and the fame he tried to capture using his expensive camera. “Teenage Paparazzo” had some interesting tidbits to say, some involving the ethics of paparazzi and privacy, but its vision wasn’t always clear. The first half of the picture was Visschedyk’s almost obsessive nature in capturing images of celebrities. He claimed it was fun, easy, and one great shot could get him a thousand dollars. And while he acknowledged that there were dangers in being a part of the paparazzi (he carried pepper spray), he turned a blind eye most of the time. He wasn’t the only one in denial. His parents allowed him to stay out past 3:00 A.M. (including school nights) to follow celebrities in downtown Hollywood. I’ve been in downtown Hollywood around that time of night and to say that the area is “unsafe” is an extreme understatement. The parents’ defense was they wanted to encourage him to pursue his passion. However, most of us can say that it’s simply a case of bad parenting. The second half, while backed with research about teens and how important fame was to them, it felt unfocused because it moved away from Visschedyk’s story. The documentary eventually became more about young people craving to become famous in any way, shape, or form. There was a survey given to middle school students which showed that they would rather become assistant to celebrities instead of being a CEO of a company, presidents of Ivy League institutions, and other prestigious positions. While it was a shocking result, it did not fit the thesis of the movie. I enjoyed the film best when Grenier and Paris Hilton showed the ridiculousness of trashy gossip magazines and television shows like TMZ. The duo informed Visschedyk and his paparazzi friends that they would be at a certain place and time and the rumors created from the pictures were amusing. It was great to look at things from behind the scenes. All the more disappointing was the fact that there were nice insights from great actors like Matt Damon and Whoopi Goldberg as well as intellectuals like Noam Chomsky. It wouldn’t have been a missed opportunity if the connection between the teenage paparazzo’s story and fame was stronger. Visschedyk’s admission that he wanted to be famous was not enough. I’ve seen his website and I have no doubt that Visschedyk has a gift for photography. In the end, I’m happy there was a glimmer of hope that he could channel his talent to something he could actually be proud of.