- The film boasts the debut of the two actors Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele.
- The working title was "We Two Boys Together Clinging," which is the title of a poem by Walt Whitman, which inspired the work of artist David Hockney.
- The film reflects Belgium's linguistic diversity, with French and Flemish spoken due to the country's small size and the presence of Dutch, Flemish, French, English, and German in daily conversation.
- The small Flemish town where the film is shot is called Wetteren in East Flanders.
- I lived in Belgium for over a year as a student at K.U.L. in Leuven.
|Memes We Love to See: © 2023 Stones of Erasmus|
|Film Still from Jacques Rivette's 4-hour long film L'amour Fou|
|Christina Applegate in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead © 1991|
Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is a movie about transformations.
Her boss tells her to say, "I'm right on top of that, Rose!" whenever she is doing a task for her. She says cheerily, "Don't feel overwhelmed, just do one thing at a time." The movie captures the era of big shoulders and women in the workplace trying to make their mark. Sue Ellen works her way up the corporate ladder, getting that Q.E.D. Report done by some cool delegation — to the ire of one of her co-workers, played by Jayne Brook, who is catching on to Sue Ellen's ruse. But Rose thinks Sue Ellen is just the best. "You're a paragon!" she beams! But Sue Ellen, the newest hire at General Apparel West, is really just a kid. The big conceit of the movie is that Christina Applegate is not really a fashion mogul.
"I'm Right On Top Of That, Rose!"
If you don't know the plot, it's ostensibly a story about every teenager's dream — to have the house entirely to yourself, no rules, no boundaries. See. Mom (played by Concetta Tomei) has gone to Australia and left the kids, played by Christina Applegate, Keith Coogan, Robert Hy Gorman, Danielle Harris, and Christopher Pettiet, with an evil-eyed, petty authoritarian (played by Eda Reiss Merin) named Mrs. Sturak. Even the name connotes fear. But the thing is — the movie is not about navigating the conflicts brought on by a mean babysitter. Mrs. Sturak dies twenty minutes into the movie. And Christina Applegate's character suddenly finds herself having to take on the head of the household. In a wild stretch of the imagination, she manages to land a job for a fashion company by stitching together a fake résumé —which hilariously causes her to take on the daily grind, getting up before dawn, to get dressed, prepare breakfast, and beat the downtown Los Angeles traffic to get to work on time. The oldest brother is a deadbeat (Coogan's character) — and the three other kids are treacly sweet, just the way most pre-teen kids are in Hollywood movies from the late 1980s and 1990s. But Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is no John Hughes flick. Directed by Stephen Herek, the same guy who brought us Critters and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the movie takes on a plucky pull-yourself-up-from-the-bootstrap narrative.
Surprisingly Inspiring Movie That Could Otherwise Be Dreck!
The joy of the movie is watching the kids take on adult responsibilities. And the reality is that in the 1990s, many kids were latchkey kids — without parental supervision after school. Like the kids in the movie, learning to take care of yourself, prepping for a meal, setting the alarm on your clock, getting the laundry done, and all of that mundane task that can make life a drudgery were self-taught — this was before "Helicopter Parents." But like I said — the movie is about transformations. The sulky teen girl finds purpose (who isn't rooting for Sue Ellen!). The deadbeat older brother finds purpose in catering! The young kids figure out how to clean the house, take on responsibility, and just be cute in a Hollywood movie. It's been about thirty years since this movie came out — and a lot has changed about everything. The film has aged well, though. The movie is pumped with an optimistic premise — that left to their own devices, kids will take on identities and responsibility and win us over with their aplomb and finesse. Don't underestimate 'em.
What other movies have you seen that show dramatic transformations in teen characters? Let us know in the comments.
|Even unintelligible text scribbled on a wall can be an idea.|
Quote on Beauty and Difference from the Classic Series of Dr. Who — "The Genesis of the Daleks" (1975)
As per the course of a Dr. Who narrative — there is a lot of meaningful talk about what difference (and how humans deal with that which is different) means for the future of humanity. Are we more like the Daleks — whose prime directive is to kill all lifeforms, not like their own? The writers of the show make obvious nods to humanity's own track record for acting like Daleks — think of violence enacted in the name of racial superiority or the banal way in which humans become exterminators under certain conditions — think of the gas chambers that annihilated Jews, homosexuals, people of color, and other so-called dissidents — or the way guards at Guantanamo Bay tortured and debased human beings under their supervision.
One scene in particular is a miniature of the grand themes Terrance Dicks is hashing out in the show. In a brief episode of capture, Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor's classic companions, is considered for extermination. But a voice cries out. And asks a question: Why destroy beauty? Why destroy another creature because it does fit into one's own image?
(Sarah is out cold as a muto strokes her face.)SEVRIN: She's beautiful. No deformities, no imperfections.GERRILL: She is a norm. All norms are our enemies. Kill her now for what she's done to our kind.SEVRIN: No, why? Why must we always destroy beauty? Why kill another creature because it is not in our image?GERRILL: Kill her! It is the law. All norms must die. They are our enemies. And if you won't, I will.
People suggested Beauty and the Beast, The Neverending Story, The Hours, Henry Fool, and the Book Thief. A good start. But the post got me thinking.
The movies are haunting, disturbing, and beautiful. They're also hard to follow if Russian is not your native language — so I recommend you snag a copy of the synopsis before watching it. The opening scene of the trilogy, Zvenigora, is a hallucinatory, slow-motion shot of men on horseback moving across the screen. Perhaps today it is not a significant effect that a filmmaker would use slow-motion — it is easy enough to do on an iPhone! But seeing it on the silver screen — and in such a glorious presentation — I fell in love with cinema's basic ability to simulate motion. Movies simulate motion by projecting a series of individual images on the screen at a rapid rate. If you take a look at a movie reel you can see each individual frame. Each frame is essentially a photographic image. Now, of course, movies made today, for the most part, are filmed on digital cameras so looking at a movie reel is not possible — but the idea is similar. Thousands of images strung together in a line. Each one is slightly different from the next. Have you ever played with a flipbook — that is what it is like. Most movies are intended to make you forget that what you are seeing on the screen is a series of spliced together individual photographs. But Alexander Dovzhenko's movies, particularly his Ukraine Trilogy, made me aware of the cinema as a series of individual photos. Dovzhenko was a Soviet filmmaker. He made Zvenigora in 1928 — and on the surface, it tells a story about the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and between technology and nature, superstition and belief, protest and allegiance, father and son. It's a propaganda film. But Dovzhenko was able to use those limitations to make something really incredible. I am not going to dwell too much on the narrative aspects of the film; rather, I want to focus on one aspect of the movie that struck me. The movie has a series of long shots that feature figures of people. Not exactly close-ups but more like photographs — but in a movie.
Creating the On-Screen Cinematic Portrait
Not all of the movies' shots are slow and extended — actually, the movie combines lots of different cinematic effects, close editing, shots looking up at a person from below, to give the effect of being dominated — images layered on another to create dream sequences and quite a few action shots.
Also, the movie plays with parallel images — a mother beating her son contrasted with scenes from war. And there are quite a few close-ups — in one sequence a man is gassed, reminiscent of the trench warfare that plagued the first World War (which is the movie's thematic launching point). For several takes, we see his garish expression, his horror, and his elongated response to the visceral horror of biological warfare. Dovzhenko’s faces reminded me of Carl Dreyer's faces of Joan in the movie The Passion of Joan of Arc — but not as intense a close-up. What I call portraits shots in the Ukraine Trilogy last about five to six seconds — so they are long enough to notice the figure in the frame. And in these shots the figures do not move much, but rather, they stand as if posing for a portrait. I don't think I have ever seen a movie capture portraiture in a moving image quite as Dovzhenko does in Zvenigora.
Nor has a movie made me stop and reflect on the photographic nature of cinema — especially in its early days. By definition, a portrait is a still image. Portraits were done by painters, often of important people, or commissioned by patrons — such as the portraits one can see in a place like The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Or if you were to look through a family's photo album. The characters in Dovshenko's movie are portraits of peasants. They are portraits of soldiers. Of villagers. Of the proletariat. Of a mother and child. Of father and son. I am not sure how Dvoshenko arranged for his casting; but, I would not be surprised if he just took people off the street and filmed them — the movie, despite its flights of fantastic fantasy - has an air of the documentary to it. As if I were perusing the photographs of an anthropologist's field study. The figures in the film are costumed in folk dress; often mustached or bearded, for the men, and dressed in traditional thick woven garments for the women. Some of the facial expressions are exaggerated — for effect. The horror of war. The anger and jeer of a crowd. A startled glance. A loving look. A man without a nose. It's all there. But the more striking portraits are the ones of just looking on, of reflection. I imagine in the age of the GIF I could take any one of Dvoshenko's portraits, pluck it out of the film and make a five-second animated photograph. Or, I could pluck out some of the portraits (in the few I selected for this post one can hopefully see what I mean).
Norwegian Filmmakers Make Another Short Film About Something Not Quite Right in Norway’s Affluent Suburbs
Here is my review of Broke:
Broke is a story of how a rather well-to-do upper-middle-class family deals with the prospect of going bankrupt. That is how the movie has been packaged — and it is the expectation I had going into watching it. Full disclosure: I was able to view the film by way of the filmmakers (since the movie has not yet been made available for full release). Mr. Philman sent me a screener (for which I am very grateful). Broke is still making its presence known at festivals and in special screenings around the world; It will debut in New York at Cinema Village and run from August 16-22. As many independently funded projects go — the movie is hoping to get picked up for a wider release.
The Anticipation that Something Bad is Going to Happen
Sometimes a movie wants desperately for you to think something awful is about to happen. And Broke is a movie just like that. Someone puts a weapon in a backpack. But it is not revealed who. A married couple fight in their bedroom thinly keeping their row secret from the kids who are supposedly sleeping down the hall. I expected violence to ensue in just the first few minutes of watching this movie. It begins taut and on edge. And I must say the movie freaked me out because for the majority of its storytelling it hugs close to a school shooting narrative (a horrifying series of hells Americans have been facing since Columbine).I had this sense of foreboding since a large chunk of the story follows young adolescent Pia (Sofie Albertine Foss) as she goes about her school day — a little uneasily. In fact, everyone in this movie seems very much ill at ease. No one is enjoying their current dispensation. Pia is enormously bright but chooses to hide her gifts and gives off the appearance of a wallflower. She is an observer, watching Daniel (Marcus Rix), a hunky boy, a bully who taunts a smaller boy, Jonas (Arthur Hakalahti). Daniel belittles Jonas with impunity, and in one unsettling moment physically harasses him in the school swimming pool. The film presents us with long shots of Pia, Daniel, and Jonas — and other kids and adults who inhabit this school. I did not pick up much joy; the blasé nature of adolescent Je ne sais quoi seemed grossly disproportionate here. The kids in this film are candidates for something very bad about to happen. But we don’t know what. Or how. The film teases us a bit; the Checkhov gun is literally a gun but we don’t know how it will turn up and what character will possess it or use it or whether someone will cause harm with it.
An Aggressive Sexual Encounter Holds the Middle of the Film
Pia joins Daniel after school; first, berating him for being a bully, and actively standing up for Jonas. But Pia takes the bait and follows Daniel to his house, and we and the camera are made witness to an awkward sexual detente between the two characters. But is it really? When Pia tries to put a stop to Daniel’s advances, he turns on her. And Pia leaves, angry and frustrated. Daniel cannot stand to be rebuffed; his retaliation is to call Pia “a slut.” Watching this interaction between the two characters I was taken aback. Where is the story taking me (us)? Daniel is aggressive and he outrightly makes a move on Pia; he is physical and rough and he exposes his body to Pia and to the camera, wanting her to perform oral sex on him. The camera does not turn away. I was relieved when Pia, deciding not to have sex, leaves Daniel’s bedroom. She makes a choice — and then the movie changes directions again. Hints are dropped throughout the movie that it is Pia’s family who has been hit with a financial blow. Her father has lost a significant amount of money (presumably through bad investments) and is forced to have to shed his assets and move his family to a different city to survive. Pia is shattered by this revelation and she is processing what this means for her. I do not want to reveal the ending because I think this is a film that deserves to be watched from beginning to end. I will tell you that I found the climax to be teeth-grinding; I had to turn my head away from the camera. Something awful does happen in this movie, but something is also restored. But it takes a lot of pain and pent-up frustration to get there. Checkhov’s gun is revealed in the end — but the gun does not end up being quite what one thought it would be. The movie ends with deep sadness.
A key to the movie’s inner logic, I will say this as a closing, comes earlier in the film — when the kids are in class and the teacher is proceeding to dole out an ostensibly boring lesson on the fall of the Roman Empire. The teacher asks his class, “What would you do if you had no money?”. His question falls on deaf ears because the kids in his class do not know what it means to be truly broke. They are blithe in their privilege and I get the sense, watching the film, there is a lost ability to deeply care. I am a teacher so I get bored high school students. And suffice it to say — the teacher doe not try hard to entertain his classroom. But that is the point. He plays the part of the Cassandra of the film; he lays bare what happens when a society has a fiscal collapse. It turns in on itself. And it is then, watching the movie a second time, I realized what the final scene is meant to explore. What happens when society itself “runs out”?
- Pia’s relationship with her little sister is similar to Mads’s relationship with his sister in Reckless.
- I leave out considerable plot points in my review because I feel like it is best to let the reader make the narrative connections. The movie has a twist and I do not want to reveal it.
- Both Broke and Reckless are beautifully shot works of art. I liked the aesthetics of Reckless better - because I noticed the use of bright color was effective against the backdrop of the dram. The color scheme in Broke is much more muted and somber.
- Both short films serve as a kind of “Public Service Announcement”; and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
- The classroom scene was notable for me. As I mentioned in the review the students are incredibly bored. However, I don’t think the lack of affect in the teenagers is a direct criticism of Norway’s educational system; I think it is a conceit drawn up by the filmmakers to heighten the sense of dread the film is meant to evoke.
- One of Pia’s classmates, Mikkel, reads like the most emotionally distant character in the film; his performance in Pia’s history class is very characteristic of teenager crying out for help.
- Guns are a controversial topic; unchecked violence in society has attempted to unmoor the stability of our cities and people are on edge. This movie plays on that uncertainty and looks at it from a unique perspective.
The 2013 Norwegian short film "Reckless" is the work of director Bjørn Erik Pihlmann Sørensen and writer Einar Sverdrup. I saw the film in 2013 and passed it off as a public service announcement about the need to rein in irresponsible teenagers. But as you will notice as I write about the movie, my views have changed a bit since I last saw it. To give you a brief rundown, the movie is about a teenage girl who has to babysit her younger child-age brother - and through a series of related events tragedy strikes. I thought maybe the movie was funded by parents who want their adolescent-aged kids to take better care of their siblings. However, I recently watched it again and the short made me think more about what message it is trying to convey. I haven't read much about the movie online nor have I talked to anyone else I know who has seen it. I am going to take a critical plunge and articulate in a flat-footed way what I think the movie might be suggesting about adolescence, sexuality, and responsibility. It's also a movie about the absence of authority.
|A scene from Charlize Theron's movie Tully|
"Don't Dream it. Be it."
|Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Nell Campbell in The Rocky Horror Picture Show © 1975|
Review of Frederick Wiseman's "High School" (1969) and Jean-François Caissy's La Marche à Suivre (2014)
|La Marche à Suivre (2014)|
|High School (1969)|
|I read Little Monsters as a tween same-sex love story|
In the 1990s, the movie gained wider distribution on American cable television which is how I most likely saw it for the first time. The movie stars the boyish actor Fred Savage. He plays Brian, a sixth grader who discovers that there are really monsters under his bed. As a kid, I liked the juxtaposition between a monster world and the real world - and I was transfixed by the way in which the film jumped back and forth between a staid Middle America suburban landscape and the carnivalesque world of the monsters.
|Brian has a thing for peanut butter and onion sandwiches|
White Middle-Class America
I'm fixated on race in American movies older than twenty years. If I am not mistaken, the only character of color in Little Monsters is a short cameo by Magbee, a black actor, who plays Brian's school bus driver. Brian's classmates are typically middle class, his school is fairly caucasian, and the film's adult characters seem to inhabit the mostly yuppie world the late 80s and early 90s seemed to project - material wealth and strategic brand placement. For example, don't you want to eat a bag of Doritos after watching this movie?
As an adult, it is unsettling for me to watch a movie like Little Monsters, because when I watched it as a kid I was not looking at the film with a critical view. However, looking at it now, I must have been influenced in the way the film shapes a narrative about masculinity. I think it matters to think critically about movies we watched as children because as adults or nostalgia for the films of our youth can cloud our judgment. I'm amazed by how many of my peers who have children love having their kids watch the same movies we grew up with as kids. It's funny how the passage of time makes a Hollywood sacred. What's so great, for example, about Brian? I certainly was not the same as Brian. But I knew kids like Brian and privately I wanted to be like the Brians of the world. They were not especially academically minded but the Brians of my youth had a masculine charm that Fred Savage was certainly able to market - which is why he has become a teen star icon.
|Robin the Boy Wonder Made His Debut in Action Comics On this Day in 1940|
So, I am a Robin the Boy Wonder fan. Who doesn't like the Boy Wonder? I especially like him in his yellow-cape costume get-up from the 1968 animated television series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder.
The show aired on CBS and was produced by Filmation Studios. I have no idea which episode from the series this particular GIF originates but maybe one of you knows?
Let me know in the comments section.
|A Woman's Secret (1992)|
|Swing Bridge in Madisonville © 2016 Kim Chatelain|
|Holy Shit! That's Madisonville, Louisiana on the silver screen!|
|I'm almost certain that's a real Madisonville cop!|
|Scout Finch isn't talking to Boo Radley in this scene. She's just saying, “Hey, Boo!|
|A boy learns to face his fears (© Focus Features)|
In the book Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim lays out a psychological argument that fairy tales are useful in helping young children understand adult fears. Fairy tales are couched in childlike verse, but beneath the surface lies deeper, troubling psychological truths.
For example, why is every stepmother in fairy tales evil? Well, according to Bettelheim it is because it is all about the fear children have that our parents don't love us. But. This is too much to bear for the children, so the storyteller replaces this fear with a substitute - the stepmother.
In J.A. Bayona's fantasy flick, A Monster Calls, the logic works similarly. However, the metaphor is not as thickly veiled. There are no evil stepmothers; but, there is a strident grandmother (Sigourney Weaver).
The story, based on a novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, centers on a young boy named Conor (played sensitively by Louis MacDougall), a waifish boy attuned to the visual arts but prone to being bullied at school. He is dealing with the impending tragedy of his mother's death.
While his family seemingly falls apart all around him, Conor falls deeper and deeper into a sullen depression. In one scene, he destroys his grandmother's sitting room, tearing the furniture apart. The boy is distraught and anger is an easy anodyne.
In order to help Conor deal with the reality of his grief, every night around midnight an anthropomorphic yew tree monster voiced by Liam Neeson) uproots itself from a nearby cemetery to dole out three fairy tales to the lad. The tales - à la Bettelheim - are meant to help the young boy deal with the very real fear of his mother's death.
That's all fine and dandy. There are lots of films and books that help children deal with the reality of death - take My Girl and Bridge to Terabithia as potent examples.
A Monster Calls is a little different because the plots rend open a deeper and more destructive fear. The inevitable death of Conor's mother also triggers within Conor a kind of death drive. The yew tree monster's stories are meant to help the boy realize his own wish to die and to counteract this drive with a life-giving "yes" living.
So it's intense material. I won't go into the content of the tales - but suffice it to say the film's visuals are stunning and I think the movie succeeds in driving home its central psychological thesis.
I am not one to censor films; however, I would caution against viewing this film with young children. I think the deeper themes of destruction and not-so-subtle hints about suicidal ideation should give parents pause. However, if parents know the content of the film deals with these themes, it could prove to be an enriching experience for both child and adult.
If Bettelheim is right, then fairy tales are meant to ease the more horrific facts of life - death, murder, suicide, decay, entropy, and estimated taxes - and, thus; films just may be our twenty-first-century version of sixteenth-century Grimm's fairy tales.