Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Category: films

Best Films of 2013

I’m terrible at rankings so I just decided to categorize my favorite films of 2013.  Check back later for a review of each category.Image

Best Documentary: Stories We Tell
Best Foreign Film: The Past; Wadjda; No; Fill The Void
Best Acting Film: American Hustle
Best Quiet Film: To The Wonder
Best Zeitgeist Film: The Bling Ring
Best New Filmmaker: Short Term 12; Fruitvale Station
Best Blockbuster: Gravity
Best Summer Film: The Way, Way Back
Some films I haven’t seen yet that I know are on other best lists:
Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Upstream Color, The Act of Killing

A Wide View

Sometimes I wonder why I chose to study film and not something more practical.  Well, yesterday I had an insight into why I made that decision. I was talking with a pathologist about her job when she made an observation that took me completely by surprise.  She told me the most difficult thing about her job is keeping an open mind.  She explained that she has seen her pathologist friends over the years go from being very “wide-minded” people to very narrow-minded people.

“It’s all about the job,” she said.  “All day, every day, we look into a microscope.  We intentionally narrow our vision.  We must ignore everything else except this microscopic thing right in front of our eyes.  I am not looking at a whole person to find their disease.  I am only looking at a small piece of his kidney or her lung to find the disease.  It begins to affect your outlook on life too.”

She went on to explain how she saw her pathologist friends narrow their views of morality, religion, politics, family life, etc. until they could no longer contextually evaluate anything.  She finds she must be very intentional about keeping an open mind to not fall into the same rut as her colleagues.

As she was talking, the light bulb clicked on for me.  “That’s why I chose to study mass communications!”  I love gathering information from a variety of sources.  I feel stifled if I am stuck with the same thing for too long.  I feel the most fulfilled when I am in situations where I am encouraged to have an open mind.  I want to live with a wide view.

Making the Most of a Commercial’s Budget

This is a beautiful ad for Chanel No. 5.   I really like the director took the time to actually craft a short story for this commercial.  And then followed through with great directing, acting, cinematography, and locations.  Trains.  Istanbul.  And the lovely Audrey Tautou.  What more could you ask for?

Sound and Fury

My mom heard about this film somewhere so she ordered it since we can rarely find documentaries in Turkey.  (I know.  My last posts were about a documentary film FESTIVAL in Turkey, but I think that’s fairly rare.)  Anyway, we watched it as a family on Friday evening and it was really fascinating!

Sound and Fury follows the decisions of two families of whether or not to give their deaf children cochlear implants.  I never realized that there would even be a decision involved in whether or not to give your child hearing.  Apparently there is a very big debate though among the deaf community because many are concerned that cochlear implants will destroy deaf culture.  (No, I had never heard of deaf culture either.)

My family has still been talking about this film.  It was really, really thought-provoking.  It also lead to a lot of questions about the issue of extracting any person from his/her own culture.  Is it ever a good idea?

After a short internet search I found that a follow-up film has been made.  http://soundandfuryfilm.com/sixyears/  I’ll have to see about getting a copy of that too!

Documentarist

Today I went to check out the Istanbul documentary film festival.  I saw 2 feature-length documentaries and about 6 shorts.  The atmosphere was different from the American film festivals that I’ve been to.  My experience with film festivals is that people are really chatty and mingling and discussing the films and such.  I was there for over four hours today and didn’t hear anyone say anything aside from the occasional whispering to a neighbor.  No filmmakers for Q&A either.  I was a little disappointed about that.  The two features that I saw were really interesting though. 

“Please Vote for Me!” was excellent!  It has no narrator and simply documents an experiment in democracy at a Chinese primary school.  For the first time, a class of third graders is given the opportunity to vote for their class monitor.  The three canidates are chosen by the teacher and embark on a week of campaigning.  Classmates, friends, and parents all get involved in the process.  The way the election process progresses is really fascinating (and often funny).  And it was eye-opening about the way democracy is perceived in China.  I highly recommend it!  I really like documentaries that are both informative and entertaining.  You can check out the trailer here:

Trailer for “Please Vote for Me!”

“Who Am I?” was the other documentary I saw.  This one was about the 500 Argentinian children that disappeared during the 1977-1983 military coup.  Apparently 30,000 adults and 500 children disappeared during this period.  Most of the adults were killed but many of the children were given or sold to Argentinian families.  Most of these children have no idea that they were adopted or that some of their adoptive parents are actually the people who murdered their biological parents.  (I never even knew that Argentina had this violent history!)  Truly eye-opening and surprisingly moving.  You can read a news article about it here:

Article from The Guardian

Most of the shorts that I saw were from a project called “Why Democracy?”.  You can check it out here.

The editor of the “Why Democracy?” project, Nick Fraser, is quoted as comparing the documentary film movement to the rock ‘n’ roll movement and that documentaries are “one of the few truly distinctive cultural innovations of our time”. 

What do you think?

Documentaries in Istanbul

I just found out that there is an international documentary film festival called Documentarist going on right now in Istanbul. I’m hoping to make it to a few screenings.

When I looked at the schedule this morning I found out that “The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nuns” played last night. I’m disappointed to have missed it. This was my favorite documentary of the ones that I saw at Sundance 2007.

It’s a very unlikely story for a documentary. No history changing events or great world problems. It’s just the quiet little tale of a Danish man who invites Russian Orthodox nuns to set up a convent in his dilapidated castle. The old man’s quiet way of life and the busy nuns’ expectations clash in humorous and sometimes insightful ways.

I’m sorry I missed the screening. I’ll have to rent the DVD when I get back to the States and my Netflix account.

Summer Movies

Blockbusters that I’ve seen so far this summer

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Movies that I’ve seen that I’ve liked so far this summer:

The Fall

dir. Tarsem Singh

The Willow Tree

dir. Majid Majidi

Am I film snob so I am just drawn to the more obscure titles? Or is there something really better about these independent films over the big money-makers?  Would most people like “The Fall” and “The Willow Tree” better than action/adventure/superhero-movie-of-the-summer if they had a chance to see them?

Prince Caspian the film: Not quite Lewis

So the film has been only been out for three days but it is already being highly debated. Some are saying that it is much better than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, while others say it is even further from Lewis’ original vision. Here are my two cents:

Warning: Spoilers

I think that it is a better film than LWW. The special/visual effects were MUCH better. The mythical creatures were more interesting. The land of Narnia felt…bigger. I believed in the magic a little more. And it was more fun to watch.

But I think the story was severely lacking. The characters (which I think is Lewis’ strength in storytelling) were lacking motivation. I didn’t really believe that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were once Kings and Queens of Narnia (even though we were reminded of the fact, often). The introduced conflict between Peter and Caspian felt petty. Much too petty for kings. More like two school boys fighting over the alpha male position. Susan spent a lot of the movie scowling rather than living up to her reputation of gentleness. I liked Edmund and Lucy though. They were the only ones who seemed to have grown from their years of reigning. I just didn’t believe that the characters were really fighting for the name of Aslan and restoring Old Narnia. Peter and Caspian, especially, seemed to just be fighting to prove something to themselves (or maybe each other).

There were too many battle scenes (esp. for a PG movie!) and most just felt like excuses to show off cool CGI (which was definitely cool). I want a pet Griffin now! But I don’t think that’s the point of Lewis’ writing. The whole movie was really interesting to see but it wasn’t Lewis. And I really like Lewis. I wanted to feel like he was telling me the story. Instead I felt like Hollywood was telling me a story (which they were). And they tell me a lot of stories. I wanted to hear from someone else for once.

Oh, well. Here’s to hoping maybe Michael Apted (director of the upcoming Dawn Treader) will let Lewis tell his story!

What I think about American movies

I never do these things but I thought this one was fun because it is based on the AFI’s top 100 list.

1) Your favorite 5 movies that are on the list:

– It’s a Wonderful Life

– Rear Window

– Casablanca

– Amadeus

– Forrest Gump
2) 5 Movies on the list that you didn’t like at all:

– Dr. Strangelove

– Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

– Some Like It Hot

– Chinatown

– The Birth of a Nation

3) 5 Movies on the List You haven’t seen but want to:

– A Street Car Named Desire

– Treasure of the Sierra Madre

-The African Queen

-The Bridge on the River Kwai

-Sunset Boulevard

4) 5 Movies on the List that you haven’t seen and have no interest in seeing:

– Bonnie & Clyde

– Goodfellas

– The Deer Hunter

– A Clockwork Orange

– M*A*S*H
5) Your Favorite 5 Movies That Aren’t On the List:

(I’m restricting it to American made films since that is what the AFI list is about.)

– Finding Neverland

– Hotel Rwanda

– Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

– Little Miss Sunshine

– Everything is Illuminated

I hereby meme any writer who is needing something else to do while procrastinating.

The Color of Paradise

Anyone reading this blog who knows me will know that I am a huge admirer of Majid Majidi’s work. He can tell stories in a way that very few people can. And he coaches incredible performances out of very young actors. In honor of springtime, you really should check out his film, Range Khoda (literally “The Color of God” but released as “The Color of Paradise”).

Here’s the trailer: