contemporary-cinema

Director of Photography Breakdown - Roger Deakins

Roger Deakins. A man who has developed the irrefutablereputation of a cinematographer with unmatched consistency. If he works on amovie, it looks good. His style is often referenced for what we have come toexpect in aesthetically pleasing contemporary cinema. In this post I willattempt to break down constant techniques he uses and develop through linesbetween films.

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Wide Shot

Deakins is a master of the extreme wide shot.Perfect lens choice and composition allow him to establish space like no other.Often these shots are used at the beginning or end of a scene to lead us intoor ease us out of a moment. I find that when I experience shots like thisviscerally, with the character, it provides a perfect entrance into the headspace of the characters within the scene. The shot from Skyfall (upper middle shot) is not only incredible to look at, but it is used as an opener to establish the emotional turmoil he is experiencing by returning to the harsh and unrelenting landscape of his childhood. In the top shot from True Grit, the shot is used to establish the isolation and privacy Mattie hops to experience when visiting the grave of Rooster.

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Establishing Shots

I think these are my personal favourites when it comes to Deakins work. Every establishing shot is on point. Not only are they all composed to perfection, but the slight tweaks in variety keep them interesting. I found 4 examples in which the subjects are never in the same part of the frame. On top of that, he uses leading lines and lens choice to create depth and completely establishes colour palette for every scene with these awesome shots.

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Mid Shots

Although there are only two examples here, they are the perfect ones to represent the strength in Deakins’ mid shots. For the first shot, both the vertical and horizontal thirds are filled with interesting material. It creates immediate depth with the shallower depth of field, with the closer out of focus grass, the subject and then finally the fence trees and sky outside the focal plane. In the second shot from Prisoners it demonstrates Deakins’ excellent use of the leading lines in the desk to draw our eye to the subject in the center of the frame. It is also a perfect representation of his use of practical’s to light a subject in low light.

Close Ups

Finally the close ups, the bread and butter of most DP’s. Deakin’s is definitely a fan of unconventional these types of shots. These frames scream unconventional, from a close up with no light on the subject, to the side view of the parked car, they are trying to break the mold of what we expect from an average close up shot. Why follow the textbook when you can create your own.

SKAM S4: abrupt plot lines, cryptic carrots and the ultimate finale

The third season of Norwegian series SKAM ended with a bang: Isak‘s true to life story combined with an inventive approach to storytelling completely captivated the youth all around the world. The ecstatic, thought-provoking trailer for the upcoming Sana season lived up to viewers‘ expectations, but is season 4 a worthy ending to such influential series?

From season 1 to season 3, both main plots and sub-plots are coherent and well-structured. In contrast, season four seems to be a hamfisted attempt to tie all loose ends, while introducing new, but unnecessary drama solely for subpar shock value. To begin with, the love story between a religious person an a non-believer was never properly addressed or explored in the series and ended up with Yousef in Turkey, which qualifies as lazy writing. Sana‘s and Yousef‘s story had the potential to become another grand love story, but ended up being thrown in a nonsensical void. Additionally, season 4 contains a plethora of other flimsy plot lines, that make no sense on the large scale: the anticlimactic Balloon Squad versus Boys Squad drama that ultimately had no significant effect on the story; pre-hiatus Russ Bus conundrum; not to mention Los Losers scene that was both marvelous and illogical. What is more, Julie Andem continuously shows excessive love for Baz Luhrmann throughout the seasons: Noora‘s trailer was clearly inspired by „The Great Gatsby“; season 3 contains an abundance of visual parallels with „Romeo + Juliet“; in season 4, William‘s quasi-magical appearance is accompanied with „Who gon stop me“  from the above-mentioned „The Great Gatsby“. A borderline offensive „This is something like the Holocaust“ line paired with arguably the most notorious character coming back to the screen is a dystopia rolling before the viewers eyes. Another example of distasteful music choice in season 4 is „That bitch is crazy“, while the camera is focused on Even, without any further explanation.

Symbolism was at its peak in season 3, creating extensive dialogues between various medias such as classical literature, state-of-the-art music and contemporary cinema. Furthermore, prominent biblical allusions tied together a realistic tale and an ethereal love story, providing the viewers with a groundbreaking view on a same-sex relationship. The romance line of season 4 appeared to be quite promising at first, but fell flat after the first episode. For the majority of the season, the viewers are forced to engage in a dragged-out love triangle, filled with a sideline story of out-of-the-blue soulmates and perpetual appearances of a moody eye candy that is Noora alongside obscure carrots. Obviously, bright orange carrots are supposed to have a symbolic value, although the true meaning is open to interpretation. At first, a lot of questions arise: do carrots signify a faulty approach to relationships, are they a purely phallic object or a symbol for seduction and uncontrollable desire, but the puzzle gets mundane way too quickly. Moreover, recurring appearance of carrots comes off as overdone and forced, without sparking any interest amongst the spectators, who might experience plain confusion and even unfounded anger.

Finally, after a fair share of clips featuring various characters as main focuses, the last part of episode 10 was revealed, marking the end of SKAM with an inspiring speech by Jonas, meaning that the series came full circle, and an unexpected spectators point of view. What is more, complete obliteration of the fourth wall gives a sense of ultimate reality, although blurring the lines between fictional and real worlds was one of the principal ideas of SKAM throughout the whole series. The tastefully executed final speech, targeted towards a wider audience than only Sana, does not come off as useless preaching, but more as a tap on the shoulder and a friendly: „hey, would you mind listening to my thoughts?“. In conclusion, SKAM gave each and every individual the ability to pick and choose: live now or think of the future; spread fear or love and so on.

All in all, despite obvious imperfections, SKAM dignifiedly represented the reality, which is also heavily flawed and oftentimes unbearably chaotic. To my mind, it is only the beginning: the beginning of the viewers’ own SKAM.

Jiang Wen: Violence, Representation, & Rescuing Suffering

More Jiang Wen! I got quite a lot out of “Violence, Sixth Generation Filmmaking, and Devils on the Doorstep” in Gary G. Xu’s book Sinascape: Contemporary Chinese Cinema. Once again, a scholar points out why what Jiang Wen accomplishes in Devils on the Doorstep is different, important, and subversive.

Here is Gary G. Xu’s central argument in this chapter (emphasis mine):

None… has gone as far as Jiang Wen’s Devils on the Doorstep has in representing violence and in exposing the violence of representation. Situated in the most traumatic event to hit twentieth-century China, World War II, Devils on the Doorstep portrays people’s mental state in the middle of violence. In this film, Jiang Wen is able to relate his thinking on the nature of violence to the discourse on modernity… The dominance of the Great Wall in the background of the filmic images draws our attention to issues of “national character” and Chinese nation-building, the most fundamental “myth-making” of Chinese socialist ideology. All these are done through Jiang Wen’s bold filmic experiments, such as the black-and-white cinematography, the claustrophobic aura, the fanatical acts, and the pastiche of motifs from old films of the 1950s and 1960s. These experiments… not only provide the most suitable form for Jiang Wen’s examination of violence and national trauma but also call attention to the violence of representation through questioning the viewing pleasure based on masculinist aesthetics. What Jiang Wen’s project ultimately suggests is that we cannot truly understand violence without considering trauma and vice versa. When understood together, trauma and violence provide a powerful tool for disrupting the notion of grand history, which, in its typically linear fashion, constructs a myth of revolutionary progression and provides legitimacy for the Chinese nation-state. While people’s actual suffering and struggles are drowned in the linear history of the Chinese revolution, the history ruptured by trauma and violence rescues their suffering and shows it through the imaging power of cinema.

8

List of Favorite Movies ▻ [1/1] Old movies or contemporary movies?

Classical Hollywood cinema, or the classical Hollywood narrative, are terms used in film history which designate both a visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production used in the American film industry between 1927 and 1963. This period is often referred to as the “golden age of Hollywood”. An identifiable cinematic form emerged during this period called classical Hollywood style. [x]

anonymous asked:

What is your opinion on contemporary American cinema? Do you find it as dull and derivative as I do (very much so)? And which living and working directors (American or not) do you find to be the most exciting and inventive right now?

I find contemporary American cinema to be fractured. Aimless. And yes, most certainly derivative. The lifeblood and originality of filmmaking has been sucked from American cinema, leaving it desiccated and caricaturistic of what cinema ‘ought’ to be. I suspect much of this has to do with the dominance of studios and marketing and other such forces which make me wretch at the thought. A handful of directors and actors/actresses are spread thinly across mediocre projects that continue to be financed regardless of quality. I confess, American cinema was never a favourite of mine to begin with; I always tended to find it overly self-aware and self-conscious (even Allen at his best was overly concerned with pageantry disguised as self-deprecation; Kubrick alone remains superior and immutable). American cinema needs a vigorous dose of new voices, it seems – the Scorseses and Allens and Spielbergs (and new ‘cinemaaaa’ darlings Andersons and Finchers and Tarantinos and Nolans) have been churning out the same derivative twaddle for far too long. It is critical to hear more voices from the margins, from people who are undaunted and unconventional . The vitality of everyday life is missing from modern American cinema, too wrapped up in mannering and posturing for awards season and pretense rather than illustrations of the human experience.

That being said, I do see some hope in one area of American film, and that is in the horror genre. (Independent) American horror has never been better than it is now, moving beyond the slasher absurdity of the 1970s and 80s, and being actually, well, interesting. Film like House of the Devil, It Follows, You’re Next, The Witch, Spring, and The Guest are subverting genres and expectations of classic horror cinema in a feverishly exciting way, recalling the nascent dread like much of the British rural horror catalogue from the 1960s and 70s.

As for current directors? I’ve appended but a fraction of an ever-expanding list (not even including those who are dead) to capture those filmmakers of whom I have seen every film and without hesitation will see the next one (no Americans, incidentally). The crispness and clarity of their work leave me invigorated and suffused in wonder at their understanding of psychocinema. I await with bated breath their next masterwork. I would entirely recommend each one’s entire filmography (but have suggested my personal favourites in parentheses; some are, distressingly, exhaustive).

  • Abbas Kiarostami (Ta’m e guilass [Taste of Cherry]; Nema-ye Nazdik [Close-up]; Copie conforme [Certified Copy])
  • Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank; Wuthering Heights; Red Road)
  • Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man; The American; Control)
  • Aparna Sen (15 Park Avenue; Mr. and Mrs. Iyer; 36 Chowringee Lane)
  • Béla Tarr (A torinói ló [The Turin Horse]; A londoni férfi [The Man from London]; Sátántangó [Satantango])
  • Catherine Breillat (Une vieille maîtresse [The Last Mistress]; Anatomie de l'enfer [Anatomy of Hell]; À ma soeur! [Fat Girl])
  • Christian Petzold (Jerichow; Barbara; Phoenix)
  • Claire Denis (Trouble Everyday; White Material; L'intrus [The Intruder])
  • Denys Arcand (Les invasions barbares [The Barbarian Invasions]; Love & Human Remains; Jésus de Montréal [Jesus of Montréal])
  • Götz Spielmann (Revanche; Oktober November; Antares)
  • Joachim Trier (Oslo, Aug 31; Reprise)
  • Joanna Hogg (Archipelago; Unrelated; Exhibition)
  • Michael Haneke (Caché; La pianiste [The Piano Teacher]; Das weiße Band [The White Ribbon])
  • Nicolas Windig Refn (Valhalla Rising; Drive; Bronson)
  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak [Distant]; Kasaba [The Town]; Kis uykusu [Winter Sleep])
  • Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; A Zed & Two Noughts; Prospero’s Books)
  • Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga; Berberian Sound Studio; The Duke of Burgundy)
  • Sally Potter (Orlando; The Tango Lesson; Yes)
  • Susanne Bier (Elsker dig for evigt [Open Hearts]; Brødre [Brothers];  Efter brylluppet [After the Wedding])
  • Steve McQueen (Hunger; Shame; 12 Years a Slave)
  • Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Cloud Atlas; Drei [3])
  • Tomas Alfredson (Fyra nyanser av brunt [Four Shades of Brown]; Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In]; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Xavier Dolan (J'ai tué ma mère [I Killed My Mother]; Les amours imaginaires [Heartbeats]; Lawrence Anyways)

when i’m a rich+famous director i’m making a romeo and juliet movie where all the kids are gay girls. romeo? gay girl. juliet? gay girl. tybalt? angry protective gay girl. benvolio? small and soft gay girl. mercutio? the gayest girl to ever grace contemporary cinema 

anonymous asked:

hi charlie. i was wondering if you have any recommendations for books or essays on the topic of lesbian film history? i'd like to read up on it but i have no idea where to start

BOY, DO I

this was my pet topic when i was studying film (in fact, i wrote my dissertation on it lmao) so i have… a lot of bookmarks on this haha let me just dig ‘em out

this will unfortunately be mostly centered around hollywood because that’s what my focus of study was

books about lesbians specifically:

immortal, invisible: lesbians and the moving image by tamsin wilton
vampires and violets by andrea weiss
uninvited: classic hollywood cinema and lesbian representability by patricia white
insane passions: lesbianism and psychosis in literature and film by christine coffman
daring to dissent: lesbian culture from margin to mainstream by liz gibbs
deviant eyes, deviant bodies: sexual re-orientation in film and video by chris straayer
the good, the bad and the gorgeous: popular culture’s romance with lesbianism by belinda budge and diane hamer
sapphism on screen: lesbian desire in french and francophone cinema by lucille cairns

essays about lesbians specifically:
(unfortunately these are only accessible if you have access to these archives via your education institution’s shibboleth account, i’m sorry. academia sucks. also wow, you can really tell how much lesbians (rightly) hated ‘the kids are alright’ lmao)

ghosted images: old lesbians on screen by eva krainitzki
the kids are all right but the lesbians aren’t: queer kinship in us culture by suzan danuta walters
potential lesbians at two o'clock: the heterosexualization of lesbianism in the recent teen film by tara jenkins
hard to swallow: indigestible narratives of lesbian sexuality by renee c. hoogland
theorizing mainstream female spectatorship: the case of the popular lesbian film by karen hollinger
the kids are alright but the lesbians aren’t: the illusion of progress in popular film by vicki l. eaklor
teen lesbian desires and international cinema: 1931 - 2007 by rebecca beirne
towards a transnational lesbian cinema by rachel lewis

books about LGBT film history and interpretation in general:

the celluloid closet: homosexuality in the movies by vito russo
now you see it by richard dyer
screened out: playing gay in hollywood from edison to stonewall by richard barrios
monsters in the closet: homosexuality and the horror film by harry m. benshoff
queer images: a history of gay and lesbian film in america by harry m. benshoff
in the name of national security: hitchcock, homophobia and the political construction of gender in postwar america by robert j. corber
the view from here: conversations with gay & lesbian filmmakers by matthew hays
queer issues in contemporary latin american cinema by david william foster
a queer romance: lesbians, gay men and popular culture by paul burston
out takes: essays on queer theory and film by ellis hanson
queer looks: perspectives on lesbian and gay film and video by martha gever, prathiba parmar and john greyson
queer cinema in europe by robin griffiths
the bent lens: a world guide to gay & lesbian film by lisa daniel and claire jackson
queer asian cinema: shadows in the shade by andrew grossman

I’ve been putting it off but I’m finally going to bite the bullet and talk about Saturday Night Fever. Robert Berens inserting a reference to the film into the car scene of his first episode Heaven Can’t Wait has bothered me for a long time, because it’s such a dark film and none of the scenes that take place in the Impala in the film are… good. And there are several pivotal scenes in the film that do take place inside an Impala, just like there are in the episode.

The most uplifting of the scenes of Tony Manero inside the Impala deal with his friendship with a woman. In fact, the film is in a way an inversed romance. An anti-romance. The main character and the female lead do not end up together, they end up beginning a friendship. So I’ve chewed on the subtext. Because in the episode, there were clear indicators of romance. The episode was literally coated in pink.

In the scene, Dean calls Castiel ‘Tony Manero’ as he unbuttons his shirt. On the surface, he’s telling Castiel not to open so many buttons, as it’s not the 70s anymore. Showing off one’s chest isn’t in vogue anymore.

But on the subtextual level, knowing Dean’s default position of projection, there are two ways of interpreting the scene. Either Dean feels as though Castiel is the Tony to his Stephanie (and it would not be the first time that Dean is associated with the feminine), or that he is straight up projecting and feels as though he himself embodies Tony Manero in this moment. Not Tony Manero to Castiel’s Stephanie, but Tony Manero to any hot guy in his fucking car.

Tony Manero, you see, was bisexual. This is heavily implied in the subtext of the film. And the subtext of the film is very similar to the kind of subtext that Supernatural has been doing all the decade long. Gazes, close friendships with men. Composition. Set design and direction. One of the most blatant indicators is, in fact, in set design: Tony has three prominent posters in his room. Two are very erotic posters of Sylvester Stallone and Al Pacino (and Dog Day Afternoon, in which Al Pacino’s character is married to Chris Sarandon’s pre-op transsexual character, had come out two years previously, it might be added). One is a very sexy and famous poster of Farrah Fawcett.

But the posters in Tony’s room are positioned so that while he’s preparing himself, it’s the two male posters that he sees. The female poster is by the door, so that when ever his father comes into his room, that is the poster he sees. And in fact we see on two separate occasions his father ogling over the Farrah poster, perched at Tony’s door. The Farrah poster is also the last thing Tony sees when ever he leaves his room for the outside world.

To remember what he’s supposed to project to the world, you see. To remember what a guy like him is supposed to want.

But alone in his room? That’s not what he wants. What he wants is this:

But this is subtext. It’s well-known subtext, but still subtext. Why should this film be important regarding the topic of Dean Winchester’s bisexuality?

Saturday Night Fever is, to my knowledge, the first major motion picture to explicitly use the word 'bisexual’ in it. There may have been a few others preceding it, but they were not nearly as famous as this film that came out at the tail-end of the era of 'bisexual chic’ of the 70s. And in the film, it is used following a scene of Tony’s friends making fun of him in front of Stephanie for his crass manners.

Tony: “Tell them about the people come into the office. that’s what they wanna hear, tell them that.”
Stephanie: “Oh, you know who came in today? this guy, David Bowie. he comes in, has this Astrakhan…”
Joey: “He’s a faggot.”
Double J: “He’s a half-faggot, man.”
Tony: “Hey, relax! come on. sit down.”
Stephanie: “You mean he’s a bisexual.”
Double J: “Yeah, he swings both ways. men and boys. (we hear a couple girls in the background laugh) What’s so funny?”

You’ll notice that Tony does not participate in the ribbing, but is very quiet during the exchange. Tony is caught between two worlds in more ways than one. His is a world torn apart by duality.

What the episode establishes is that Dean Winchester has seen the film Saturday Night Fever, and it left profound enough of an impression on him that his subconscious recalled a reference to it while he was under all kinds of duress in his life. This is not a reference he dropped with intent, but one that slipped out – not unlike the one on the 'toe-shoes full of crazy’ reference he dropped while distracted in Out With The Old, before he recognized his slip-up and rebuilt his facade for his brother with ‘hot tutu-on-tutu action’. This is something that bubbled out of Dean’s subconscious in that moment.

It is the upsetting nature of the Impala-scenes in the film that have bothered me in trying to figure out Berens’ motivation for the reference. But the conclusion I have to make is that he was not paralleling the scenes in the episode and in the film so much as inverting them. He was inverting the scenes because Castiel is not Stephanie. He is not someone Dean pretends to desire in his perfunctory heterosexual masculinity, but deep down inside wants as a friend. But although Castiel is not Stephanie, Dean and Tony have a lot in common.

Dean has seen Saturday Night Fever and it left an impression on him. The question we must ask ourselves is what about it in particular affected him.


Here’s an excerpt from K. P. R. Hart’s Queer Males in Contemporary Cinema: Becoming Visible:

You can count on Mark Ruffalo - Actor makes impression in indie film

Washington Times, The (DC) - November 8, 2000                             Author/Byline: Joey Berlin and Don McLaughlin

Mark Ruffalo is the exact opposite of a household name, but this 32-year-old actor has created one of the few indelible characters in the current crop of films. Mr. Ruffalo plays an irresponsible, footloose young man who suddenly reappears in the life of his sister and her young son in “You Can Count on Me.” Martin Scorsese produced this acclaimed independent feature, which tied with “Girlfight” for the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance 2000 film festival.

“You Can Count on Me” is unique in contemporary cinema insofar as it centers on the intimate and often testy relationship between adult siblings. Mr. Ruffalo and Laura Linney co-star as a brother and sister who were orphaned at a young age. Mr. Ruffalo’s aimless character ambles back into the life of his sister, a single mother who is juggling romantic and job-related headaches in upstate New York. (The film is scheduled to open in area theaters Nov. 17.)

“Laura and I had a special chemistry,” the Kenosha, Wis.-born actor recalls. “She asked me to be her brother during the four weeks of the shoot, and she was my sister. You can’t help but open yourself up to feelings for a person in that situation. It was very easy to fall into a sense of family.”

As the film proceeds, brother and sister swap personality quirks in small but noticeable ways. She learns to relax a bit. He becomes fractionally more accountable. Mr. Ruffalo appreciates the subtle, realistic evolution of the pair.

“There is some change that happens between them, but what’s nice about this movie is that people really don’t have these epiphanies that happen overnight,” he says. “Realizations happen, and people change slowly, sometimes over years.”

Also starring is Rory Culkin, younger brother of Macauley and Kieran. Mr. Ruffalo’s character forges a special bond with his nephew, which was echoed off screen as well.

“Rory is a great kid,” Mr. Ruffalo says. “We hung out a lot. When we weren’t shooting on this 150-acre resort, we’d just play and run around in the woods. We found a baby deer together. We fished. He’s very shy, and it takes a while for him to break out, but now we’re very close. I bought him a rocket for his birthday and launched it in Central Park. I love that kid.”

“You Can Count on Me” is a low-budget character study that has won over audiences and critics. The film was written and helmed by a fledgling director, Ken Lonergan, who also wrote “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” and “Analyze This.”

Mr. Lonergan and Mr. Ruffalo share a long history of theater work together, but this time around, Mr. Ruffalo turned the tables on his friend when Mr. Lonergan needed to step from behind the camera to play a priest in the film.

“Yeah,” Mr. Ruffalo says, laughing at the recollection, “I got to co-direct that scene with Laura. We were whispering to each other and then giving Ken his direction. I mean, what director lets actors direct a scene? They’d rather give it to a producer. But that’s the kind of guy Kenny is.”

For Mr. Ruffalo, “You Can Count on Me” represents a turning point in a career marked by few significant parts in too many movies nobody saw. His biggest films to date have been “Committed” and “Ride With the Devil.”

He walked off with the award for best actor for “You Can Count on Me” at the last Montreal World Film Festival.

Now Mr. Ruffalo thinks his Midwestern upbringing gives him an advantage over other actors from the coasts.

“I know what it is to grow up in a place where there’s no outlet for creativity,” he asserts. “That creative energy can easily turn into negative energy. When I first read my character in this movie, I knew who that was.

"He grew up with motorcycles and that whole thing. I thought that when I moved out to L.A., that it was very insular and isolating, that you lose touch with real people and their lives. I moved to New York to be near all that humanity. That’s fertile ground for me.”

Up next for Mr. Ruffalo is a featured role in “Windtalkers,” director John Woo’s World War II story about Navajo military translators who communicated to each other in codes that the Axis powers could not decipher.

“Navajo was the only language that the Japanese couldn’t crack,” Mr. Ruffalo says. There were men assigned to protect the Indians but also to kill them if it looked like they might be captured. It’s a good part, an interesting character and a big departure for John Woo.

“It’s also a nod to the powers that be in the Hollywood studios that I’m willing to move into that arena as well,” he says with a growing faith that bigger credits and accolades are around the corner.

For all the “Jews Own Hollywood” BS people like to spew around, portrayal of Jews in movies has not been great. If you ask me to list major films with heroic explicitly Jewish characters in prominent roles over the last 20 years I could give you one example. This guy:


David Levinson from Independence Day. Sure you could head canon any Jeff Goldblum role as Jewish until proven otherwise but outside of the Independence Day Films we have a Chanukiah in the background of the Grimm house in the awful Fantastic Four movie from last summer to signify that Ben Grimm is Jewish if you know to look. Kitty Pryde has been given short shrift in the X-Men films. 

Magneto is an anti-villain and the most prominent Jewish character in contemporary cinema. 

There is no shortage of Jewish actors, but when Jewish characters show up in movies they tend to be weak, nerdy, criminals, neurotic and, self-loathing and tend to be leads in comedies as far as mainstream films with major Jewish characters are concerned. Because as far as the movie going world is concerned we’re all nebbishes, schlubs and Holocaust victims.

So J.K. Rowling is doing us a solid here by making two of the lead characters of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Jewish. 

We now have Queenie and Porpentina Goldstein.

I don’t know if the movie will be any good. I heard horrible things about Rowling’s portrayal of magic in North America in that thing I didn’t read. But the fact of the matter is that, for better or worse, this is the first major international blockbuster film to feature heroic Jewish protagonists that aren’t David Levinson in what feels like forever. And there will be three of these movies. 

What will we get from this? We’ll have Jewish and gentile kids buying action figures of Jewish characters, dressing up like them for Halloween, possibly controlling them in Video Games (where Jewish representation is even WORSE than movies), role-playing as them with friends, and even *gasp* admiring them. That matters. 

We’re not getting coded Jews, or head canon Jews or Jewish stand-ins. We are getting genuine Jewish characters at the center of a movie that will be seen by millions of people around the world. 

I wish this weren’t a big deal, but it is. I’d prefer an X-Men film where Kitty Pryde has a major role but given the direction that franchise has gone in that won’t happen any time soon. I would’ve preferred if they were played by Jewish actresses, but they’re not.  They’re what we’ve got. They’re real. And with all the Jews in Hollywood it was a goyische writer who gave them to us..

Director To Know: Naomi Kawase

A new, hopefully regular feature in which I discuss my favorite filmmakers.

Why You Might Not Know Her: For one, her films are impossible to purchase in the US. Unless you can catch a screening (fingers crossed for any theatrical release of An), the only means of seeing her films are through torrents or youtube, as far as I know. Here for example, are the Amazon results when you search for her, which include zero of her films, and no books in English written about her.

This begs the question: despite being a well-known filmmaker internationally, a regular at Cannes and elsewhere (much to the chagrin of some), why is it so hard to watch her films? 

Her treatment of content could be one barrier to wider acceptance. The standard Kawase film explores interpersonal family dynamics, which is not, in itself, anything unusual. Contemporaries like Hirokazu Koreeda deal with very similar stories, but where Koreeda’s lead the viewer along a story, Kawase tends to linger (and just to put that contrast into perspective, not only are Koreeda’s films, which are also wonderful, readily available to watch, Steven Spielberg even purchased the rights to remake Like Father, Like Son). In her first narrative film, Suzaku (1997), Kawase focuses on an unrealizable yearnings a young girl has for a cousin; a film that relies more on feelings and moments than on any particular story. Sunbathed kitchens, mountain trees moving in a breeze, long roads and bridges used for daily commuting are as much at the center of the film as are the lead actors. Several shots pan away from silent characters to the landscape, both beautiful and suffocating. 

Akira Kurosawa refers to Mikio Naruse’s films in Something Like An Autobiography as “a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths“. Much the same could be said about Kawase. In Hanezu (2011), easily Kawase’s most violent film, meal preparation and bike rides on picturesque mountain roads take center stage, but the film’s haunting undercurrents, always just beyond the limits of communication, lead to its grizzly finale. Similarly, her personal documentaries are often playful, but between smiling shots of Kawase and her grandmother are ruminations on death and Kawase’s parentless upbringing. 

Would she have an easier time finding an audience if her films were more direct? Not necessarily, of course. However, the claim that her films have no stakes (as in the article linked above) is a lazy reading that her style allows. It’s not hard to imagine reading her indifference to plot as an indifference to characters. But it is precisely her indifference to plot that allows her to make such moving films. Seeing the main character in Suzaku waiting for the bus, gives her a dimension that, while of no narrative concern, helps establish her as a real person who has an existence beyond a the simple machinations of plot.

Why You Should Know Her: Her films are wonderful. Shara (2003) is a movie that doesn’t sound too interesting: a standard coming-of-age drama, complete with climactic dance sequence, but in Kawase’s hands, the movie feels as warm as a hug. Even at her worst (which still is very good), last year’s overly-dramatic Still The Water, Kawase is able to realize personal yearnings better than any other contemporary filmmakers. Her cinema is wonderfully human, without the dull baggage of being “humanist”.

What You Should Watch: Again, her films are hard to find, which is a shame, but if you have a chance:

-Katatsumori (1994): A portrait of Naomi Kawase’s grandmother (a frequent figure in her documentaries).

-Hanezu (1997): Her debut feature, and possibly the strongest of her narrative films.

-Shara (2003): Naomi Kawase stars as the main character’s mother in her most joyful film.

-The Mourning Forest (2007): The story of a woman and an elderly man in a forest, made shortly after Kawase’s own grandmother died.