Sundays – A Short Film

Since I started writing this blog I’ve basically been going in a cycle of documentary, movie, television show and then the cycle continues. I think about now I am on the “film” category and I would usually watch a full length movie and discuss it, but earlier today one of my friends recommended a short film for me to watch, and I thought it would be the perfect thing for me to critique. I don’t know how many people have actually watched stuff based off of what I critique, but this one is roughly fifteen minutes long and I will include a link to the film at the bottom of the page.

My first impression of the movie? WOW. It was visually stunning. I found a good 95% of the film to be beautifully shot and the special effects were done incredibly well. A few elements were obviously computer generated, but some of the graphics blended in flawlessly with the real life elements in the film. Even without the special effects, the movie was shot and edited together extremely well. Both visually and through sound there is a progression through the film that starts crisp and clear but becomes more disjointed later on, and it really helps take the viewer on a journey that reflects what the person is watching. The first few minutes of the film were silent and had the movie remained that way, I think it would have still been as equally enjoyable. The music score that accompanied pretty much the entire film was captivating and really drew me in. Up until the protagonist of the film was introduced, I thought the movie was going to slowly show how the entire world was going to be affected by destruction, and with the sound and visuals, I would have been fine with that and I could probably have sat through a film twice as long if that was the case.

There were a few things that I was not fond of in the film. At one point the narration mentions a line about “every man”, which reminded me of a play I read in college with the same title. It is a morality play from roughly the 1500’s that focuses on the journey of the character Everyman (which quite obviously is meant to reflect every person), and it shows the final stages of life and what he needs to go through before he can finally lay down peacefully. While the film does not entirely go through that same plot, I think the protagonist in the film was meant to portray a character that the viewer could identify with, and for some reason I could not identify with him. Maybe it was the acting or the journey of the character, but it just was not as inclusive as it could have been in reference to the “every man” line. Part of the flaw may have come in the ending. I do not want to spoil any of the story, but I felt like the story made an abrupt shift at the end and it left  me unsatisfied. I had been watching this journey waiting to see what happened and then it just ended. After several science courses and watching a few programs that discuss what would happen if Earth was hit by falling debris, some of the film did not logically make sense. With debris falling from the sky, most of it would get burned up as it was falling through the atmosphere, but what remained after would create a large impact that could potentially demolish entire cities. While it makes sense why the filmmakers did in the film, if they would have made the debris more destructive, it would have added more the realistic feel the film had.

Even though I have a large paragraph describing things that I did not like about the film, I would still rate it a 8/10. If anyone reading this as fifteen minutes to spare and likes things related to a dystopian style future, I think you would enjoy this. Even if you are not a huge fan of that, I would recommend this movie simply for the beauty of the special effects and visuals.

Here is a link: https://player.vimeo.com/video/122325664

Serial Killer Culture – Documentary

First of all, I would not recommend this movie to the faint of heart or easily offended.

From now on, I will no longer follow the structure I set out for myself when I first began writing on here. I feel like a more productive way to review the material I watch is in a more organic manner instead of trying to force myself to comment on each separate element, because movies, documentaries, televisions and plays do not always focus on the areas that I originally wanted to discuss.

While scrolling through the documentaries on Netflix, I was searching for ones that sounded familiar from the ones that were suggested to me both a few weeks ago and last year. That is when I came across one titled Serial Killer Culture.  I have always found serial killers interesting, because I cannot imagine the thought process that a killer possesses that allows them to commit all of these horrific crimes. Based off of the description of the movie that was provided, I thought that it would delve into why people in general get intrigued by serial killers through discussion with the thirteen or so different people that were interviewed. Boy, was I wrong. The overall tone I gleaned from the film was that the majority of the artists and collectors just did what they did, because they found the killers to be interesting. There were a few who had scarring occurrences happen to them at some point in their life, from one person who dealt with the murder of a girlfriend to a grown man discussing finding graphic pictures (his father kept of prisoners he mutilated when he was in a war) as a kid.

Now, I have seen several other documentaries before that discuss serial killers, such as Cropsey, and the people had correspondence with the serial killer, but I was under the impression that most of the time it was strictly for the purpose of creating a film or writing a book to document the case. After seeing this movie, I realized there is a group of people who write to these killers just for the heck of it. Some of the artists and collectors will even write to the killers to gain more pieces for their collection.

Serial Killer Culture did have some great moments. One thing brought up towards the end of the film is the use of the term “monsters” to discuss serial killers. The man who discussed this brought up how even though they did these heinous crimes, they are still in fact humans. Quite often people will write killers off as subhuman and vile things, but at the end of the day, they are still real people that just had something snap or happen in their brain that allowed them to commit all of these horrible crimes, and I think that is where the fascination comes from for “normal” people. A “normal” person just wants to understand the inner working of the brain that allows them to pursue these unjust and unlawful actions. It was also brought up earlier in the film that some of the collectors and artists in the film idolize and put the killers on a pedestal, but at the same time news outlets often popularize and make serial killers a household name. People would not even be aware of half of these people if it wasn’t for media sources constant reporting on them.

Despite some good messages here and there, the movie was poorly executed. Every time someone new was introduced the person would get a few lines out and then the frame would freeze and their name with whether they were an artist or a collector would appear accompanied by the same cheesy riff. This got annoying and boring very quickly. The first few clips of the film might make the viewer seasick, because the the camera will constantly zoom in and out and shake as it pans across the collections. This does not happen as frequently later in the film, but that does not mean the cinematography got any better. Lastly, I wish they should have found a wider range of collectors/artists to interview. The film primarily focused on musicians, artists, and collectors. Within each of the categories, the people all seemed like the same type of person. It came across to me that some of the people in the film tried to play up a shock value or tried intentionally to be creepy (the first musician duo has a member that could give Suzanne Warren (played by Uzo Aduba) a run for her money for the title of “Crazy Eyes”). There was one group interviewed that discussed Dahmer tours in Milwaukee, but that was the only stand out as being relatively unique because they were not necessarily artists or collectors, but more like “historians” trying to share his tale and the back story of the places he was active.

I’d give this documentary a 4 out of 10. As someone who does find the topic of serial killers interesting, this film did not keep me that captivated. I kept watching in hopes that it would eventually get better, and some people were more interesting than others, but I felt the order of the interviews was sloppy and some people could have been cut. I actually went to bed before finishing the nearly two hour documentary. The most redeeming moment probably was someone mentioning that they do not want to profit off of the deaths or the sorrow of the family of the victims. The collectors/artists (mostly) want to just share the story and let people know these things have happened. If you’re interested in serial killers, you’ll see some oddities you may not have seen before, but nothing too new or exciting is ever discussed.

American Horror Story: Hotel

Well, this is not entirely a review, but my general thoughts on American Horror Story: Hotel and what I think about the series (and the spin-off) as well.

So, I binge watched the entirety of American Horror Story last summer and I was so glad that I did. Here are my brief thoughts on each season:

*Note: All of the titles are bold, so if you just want to skip to my thoughts on Hotel, it will be easier

American Horror Story [Murder House]: Probably my favorite season of the four that have aired so far. I think the concept of one location and essentially one plot with all the subplots interconnected definitely made this the most cohesive of all of the seasons. I loved all of the casting. I think for the overall series, this season had some of the best scenes, one of my favorite being the “I want to be a pretty girl” scene with Jessica Lange & Jamie Brewer. I think the other great success of this season was the believable aspect of it. While not everyone believes in the supernatural, I think this season had just enough of it that made it horror. I think what scares and creeps people out the most is the feeling of “this could actually happen” and while I didn’t find this season scary, I think it tapped into that fine line.

American Horror Story – Asylum: Where the last season tread closer to reality, this season went further into the realm of supernatural and definitely tapped into more fears of the viewers. From possession to aliens to experiments gone awry, there is definitely something scary here for everyone (even if it is that dreadful song playing on repeat). While they may have gone overboard of plots, ideas, and supernatural elements, this season had several gems. I was ecstatic that Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto had much larger roles and I think they both did a fantastic job with this season. However, my favorite scene from this season, hands down, was “The Name Game”.

American Horror Story – Coven: Now, a lot of people I talk to do not like this season and say that it is campy. While it may not really be scary or “horror” inspired, I think it was a fun break from all of the other seasons. I felt like this season got more on track with a cohesive plot, but the progression did not seem as fluid as the first season. I felt like the first three quarters of the show was all “Who’s the next supreme?” and the last quarter was actually spent trying to figure it out. I was sad to hear that Lily Rabe originally wanted to leave the show after this season, because I felt like her character arc and ending in this season was one my favorites she had in the series. Since I’ve been picking favorite scenes for the other seasons, my favorite scene in Coven is with Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange, when  they try to convince the devil to take their deal.

Side note: I love covers of songs, and I loved the “House of the Rising Sun” cover by Lauren O’Connell.

American Horror Story – Freak Show: Oh, how I hoped I would have loved this season. When I watch this season again, and I can watch it all at once, I might like it more, but of the four so far, I thought this was one of my least favorite season. I was incredibly happy that all of the sideshow performers in this season (other than the recurring actors and actresses) were authentically who they were playing. I feel some of the characters didn’t get as much airtime as the others, which I find kind of sad, because you would catch glimpses of them but not really know their story. I think the downfall of this season came to two things: no progression and not utilizing elements to their fullest. I’ve talked to several people and a lot of us agree, we have no clue what the plot progression was supposed to be. Sure Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) wants to become famous, but that plot line isn’t enough to motivate an entire season. As I mentioned before, I did not like how little they used certain elements. For example, Ima Wiggles pretty much was used for one or two scenes and was not seen again much until the finale. If they would have utilized Twisty more, this season could have taken an entirely different turn, but I did love his back story and it allowed Dandy (Finn Wittrock) to take center stage and do more (which was some phenomenal acting). Despite all the rough parts of this season, I did love the cast and side show performers, and it gave me one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, “Orphans”. From beginning to end I loved the tale of Pepper’s back story and I think this episode jump started the series to have a stronger ending.

American Horror Story – Hotel: So, I have seen a few things about the upcoming season and here are the rumors/things I know:

– Lady Gaga has been confirmed to join the cast

– Jessica Lange will be playing an older Lady Gaga in the first and last episode

– The main setting will be present day with flash backs to the 70’s/80’s

– I saw a list of descriptions for the characters and it appears that Lady Gaga will be the lead, but also the descriptions of the other roles available made it seem like a few new cast members might join the show

– Sarah Paulson may not return for this season

– A slew of the series regulars should be returning but more than likely not everyone will be confirmed until closer to the airing.

So, I clearly don’t know too much more than anyone else. I know the biggest debate that people are facing is whether Lady Gaga will be good or not. I haven’t seen her in the few movies she has a theatre background, so I think viewers don’t have much to worry about. I personally am hoping that this upcoming season will strip away a lot of what it has done in the past and is going to go back to how it was in the first season.

Either way, American Crime Story is set to come out either later this year or next year, and it will be interesting to see how similar the two shows will be and if that show will share the same success as its companion series. So far the actors I know that I have seen cast are Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, and John Travolta. Most of them I have not seen act in a while, so it’ll be refreshing to see them on the screen once again. Only time will tell how will go.

How to Get Away with Murder

By far, this is one of my favorite shows, if not favorite show I have watched over the past couple of years. When I first started this blog a week or so ago, I wanted to review this show, but I wanted to wait until after I watched the season finale, because I think it’d be smarter to assess it as a whole instead of episode by episode.

The main story of the series revolves around the main characters trying to figure out who killed a sorority girl by the name of Lila Stangard and by the end of the first episode another plot arises dealing with the murder of Sam Keating. The progression through the fifteen episodes is decently paced. Each episode typically includes flashback scenes, present scenes, a case Annalise Keating is working on, and a plot twist is usually left at the end of the episode as a cliff hanger. With all of the jumping around in time and the plot twists, it can be confusing to keep up. One of the best elements of the show is that each character has their own subplot that gets explored in different episodes and most of the outlying loose threads are tied up at the end of finale. One of the few things that I do not like about the show is how much all of the characters sleep around. While some of the sex scenes advanced the plot, others seem a little unnecessary. One episode seemed like each character had a sex scene, one right after the other. There’s nothing wrong with having these type of scenes in the show but at times it was overkill (pun intended).

The standout actress of the series is the lead, Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, who engages the audience in powerful performances in nearly every episode. She provides a strong front for most of the characters, but allows certain characters to see more of an intimate and vulnerable side of her, which is great to see all the different layers Viola can bring. While all of the characters create a great ensemble, the four main students Wes (Alford Enoch), Connor (Jack Falahaee), Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Laurel (Karla Souza), definitely make the show more enjoyable. Each actor and actress does a brilliant job of creating a character that goes through a journey, and all four characters go through a smooth transition from seeming one way to being almost completely opposite in their characteristics by the end of the season. Also, I love being able to see Matt McGorry take on a completely different character. He is well known as playing the lovable officer Bennett on Orange is the New Black and portrays more of a playboy on this show. It’s great seeing how diverse and versatile some performers can be.

Overall, the show is visually appealing and the different scenes in time are generally spliced together well to show an interesting story and progression. The different locations made most of the scenes seem realistic and it created a pretty cohesive world that the characters live in. A good portion of the show takes place at night (the scenes depicting the night of the two separate murders both take place at night), so the lighting is dark and it’s hard to see some action that takes place.

I’d give this show a 9/10. I would recommend this to anyone that likes crime/law dramas. Compared to other shows of a similar style, I think this show goes about it in a different style. Nowadays it seems like a lot of shows that deal with murder, crime, law and all of those elements seem to follow a similar pattern. One of the refreshing elements of this series is that you know the people that Annalise defends are guilty, and you get to see how her and the team of students try to tackle the case to hopefully win it.