Lovelace Review By Gabriella Forster

Lovelace
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Screenwriter: Andy Bellin

In the film Lovelace, Amanda Seyfried plays the part of Linda Marchiano, better known by her stage name, Linda Lovelace. Alongside Peter Sarsgaard, who plays her abusive husband, the story revolves around her rise to fame via the pornographic film, Deep Throat, released in 1972. The film seeks to explain exactly who Linda Lovelace was and how she became a porn star, focusing on the abuse Linda experienced at the hands of her husband Chuck Traynor, who forced Linda into using her sexual appeal to make money. In the end, Linda is able to break free from Traynor with the help of other porn producers, later starting a family and seeking to return to normal life by writing a book about her life, with hopes to help other girls who feel trapped in similar situations because they were taught to be obedient to their husbands.
Lovelace does a great job of portraying Linda Lovelace in a way that is accessible to all audiences. Pornography is a taboo subject in American culture and the filmmakers were able to create Linda into a relatable person by looking past the explicitly shocking sexual material to get to the heart of Linda—a kind-hearted individual who only ever wanted to be loved and please those whom she loved. The film flowed in a way that was easy to follow as well, mirroring how the filmmakers learned of Linda’s story. Visually, the film made the audience feel like they too were peering into the seventies, as if it were as tangible as modern today. Perhaps if the movie were made in part or in whole with lenses that would allow the film to look more like film from the 1970s, the film might have transported the audience even more to that time, with a more old school feel.
In terms of myth, the film shows Linda growing up in a Christian household with conservative values, concern for outward image, stemming from her mother, and hard work stemming from her father’s work. Linda goes against the rules that her meta-myth has created when she stays too late at her boyfriend Chuck Traynor’s house one night, and suddenly she is kicked out and able to live her myth free of any of the old constraints of her family’s rules. It seems she is able to make her own happy myth for a time with her husband Chuck Traynor until they begin to lose their money to Traynor’s failed business ventures, of which Linda knows very little, until she becomes the sales pitch. Suddenly, Linda is asked to put the ethics aside that she learned from her parents, by taking on a role in a porn film, at the request of her husband. She believes her husband’s myth, enduring abuse, and even after she asks her own mother for help out of her situation, the meta-myth that raised her, will not keep her safe from Traynor because of the value her mother places in obedience to one’s husband. Thus, Linda must “act” in the porno, Deep Throat, against her own myth, which she is only able to confront and explain to others through an autobiography she writes after leaving her husband, with the help of her admiring porn film producers.
One mainstream American cultural belief that is challenged in the film is the traditional patriarchal belief that women should be obedient and accommodating to their husbands’ demands. In the movie, Linda runs to her mother and father’s home when her husband first beats her, hoping to find help out of her marriage that has taken a turn for the worse. Her mother disregards what Linda says, turning the blame on Linda when she says, “What did you do to make him hit you?” Essentially it was acceptable within their meta-myth for a husband to hit his wife if she did not respect him, and so Linda’s mother told her to go home and do what her husband wanted, in order to be a good wife. Once Linda is able to get away from her husband for good, she challenges the belief that the women in the porn industry always choose to participate in it, and she also challenges domestic violence by sharing her story, being a strong voice for women. In real life, Linda Marchiano really did challenge these perceptions of women in marriage and in pornography with her book, becoming a voice in the feminism movement.
In terms of the content of this film, the subject of pornography and the way in which the filmmakers portray Linda as an individual, rather than a mere pawn in the world of porn, speaks to the film’s independent aspects. Porn is a subject that is not widely accepted in the U.S., despite the fact that it is commonly used with the wide reach of the Internet, so making a movie about a famous porn movie of the 1970s is already a film subject that might understandably be a turn-off for big movie studios, besides the fact that there is quite a bit of nudity. The fact that the filmmakers did not merely leave the film about Linda’s time in pornography, also choosing to include the impact that Linda wanted to make upon women young and old with the message of her autobiography and her work advocating women’s rights.
During the question and answer period, Amanda Seyfried said it was a challenging part for her to play. The filmmakers said that in telling Linda’s story, they wanted to also convey the things she symbolizes in American pop culture history: a moment of sexual revolution and a spur to feminism, just as porn was becoming an exploding success, essentially defining a huge part of American culture today. The directors wanted to portray the fame struggle Linda had before she could gain back a sense of self, having no agenda in telling the story except to start a conversation in acknowledging Linda’s activism. Interestingly enough, the two directors were also gay and they publicly related the struggle of living their own myths with the myth that Linda struggled to live.

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Narco Cultura Review By Gabriella Forster

Narco Cultura
Director: Shaul Schwartz

In the documentary, Narco Cultura, the affects of Mexican cartel culture are examined through the eyes of a Mexican forensics officer of Juarez, juxtaposed with a Mexican-American narco corrida singer who praises the lives and the lifestyle of the same hunted cartel leaders. The documentary follows their daily lives and interactions, acting as a fly on the wall, throughout it all. The film is shown in a way that simply displays the feelings and lives of each person, without the audience ever seeing or hearing the documentary makers. There is no bias or government opinion inserted into the film at any given point, making the film as honest and real as possible, by cutting out any shots of the camera crew and others involved in the film, as well as by using the footage they collected to simply recreate the ideas of those involved in the project, rather than trying to create a new view point as a result of the information gathered.
The film quality was very polished and clean looking, for the most part. At times, the end of the scenes would blur, as a transition to the next scene, leaving just enough time in between one viewpoint and the next to show a stark difference of opinion about the same criminals or legends of power—as each sees them in their own minds. It was extremely effective to use this approach in the filming of Narco Cultura because metaphorically, the difference in opinion between the Mexican forensics officer and the narco corrida singer, tend to blend together into the overarching power that Mexican drug cartels have over both, and the groups of people they represent in society. The fact that the director, or any other member of the crew, was not shown or heard in the film, added to the feeling that the audience was hearing the opinions and the stories of the cop and the singer firsthand.
As far as myth is concerned, it was interesting to see how the forensics officer’s myth was consumed with doing justice and what he felt was right, even if it meant putting himself in danger, because his job was what he could contribute to the world and what he was good at. In contrast, the myth of the narco corrida singer seemed to be split between the same traditional family values that the officer in Mexico believed in, however the singer also believed fervently in the power of the cartel leaders. To honor these leaders, he and his band members slung bazookas and other weapons over their shoulders at live performances, imitating the same type of tough-guy attitude, and seemed to pay respects to the Sinaloa cartel at a gravesite in Mexico. It appears strange to the audience that the singer cannot see how he is promoting a culture and a type of power, that however admirable and exciting it may seem, is the same type of demented and dark power that could ruin the beautiful family he has been blessed with.
The content of the film is certainly independent because this issue, no matter how prevalent a part of American culture it has been over the last few years, the reactions in the audience make me think it safe to assume that most Americans are oblivious to what is actually going on. Mainstream media tells people that Mexico is dangerous and it has been made clear with the Mexican government’s declaration of war that drug cartels are a problem that is far from over. Narco Cultura offers audiences a perspective that has not been considered, made public, or explored much further than the newsworthy headlines. I do not know if mainstream studios and general media would feel comfortable airing the perspective that a Mexican-American believes the only way to gain respect is by being one of these criminal cartel members. At the end of the film, a sense of submissiveness was brought to the attention of the audience by the police officer on screen; something that really makes audiences think if they are the ones being submissive about the issue and how it affects their lives.
During the question and answer period, the director stated that they had tried to portray the stories of the two men in the film in an honest way without government thoughts. He also pointed out that the United States is very much involved with the issue, as much as it may want to brush it under the rug, specifically saying that this is our war as Americans, our money, and our weapons. In making the film, they wanted to how endless the cycle is and how people are drawn to war. Despite the sometimes disturbing narco corridas that have been banned from Mexico, the director told the audience that he still believes in freedom of speech and that he sees no reason why the songs should not continue to be made available in U.S. Target and Walmart stores, in order to educate people about is happening.
For me, the most powerful moment of the film happened near the end of the film when the narco corrida singers went to Mexico and visited a private cemetery where many drug cartel members were buried in lavish tombs that looked like colorful cities. Something that looked so beautiful, painted in bright happy colors, and celebrating the lives of the dead, was actually celebrating criminal lives that were the cause of so many innocent deaths. It was simply shocking to see the glory these destructive cartel members had gained, when it was clear the people they had killed were scarcely left a tomb stone, sometimes being buried in mass graves that left no trace behind for their families—not even an explanation as to why. It appalled me that the singer seemed near tears at the end of his visit, pouring out some of his beer on the dirt beside a grave, as a payment of respect to a man whom I can only imagine was never worthy of such respect, and rather punishment for his deeds.

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Milkshake Review

Patrick Betti

2/3/12

Sundance

Milkshake

Director: David Andalman

Writers: David Andalman, Mariko Munro    

              In Milkshake a teenage boy sees his life change and his dreams come true as he becomes more popular and accepted with the cool kids in his school, although in the process he struggles to maintain his relationships with some of his best friends from his childhood. The character essentially has good intentions at heart and wants the best for his friends, but he sometimes has unrealistic expectations of his own talents and importance that get in the way of him viewing his situation logically.

    The film uses a lot of humor to tell this coming-of-age story in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way, the style of humor it uses makes it stand out as an independent comedy. One example of this sort of tongue-in-cheek humor is that the main character is Al Jolson’s great-great grandson, yet he strives above all else to fit in with the African-American community. The character makes politically incorrect stereotypes about black people in ridiculous ways and shows a total insensitivity towards the issues of race, but in a generally harmless and innocent way. The movie essentially pokes fun at some of the racial taboos that we have in America and talks about how influential black culture has been on youth, especially in the 90’s when the movie takes place. The character listens to Tupac and idolizes him, yet idolizes him for all of the wrong reasons such as his violence against police. The movie really takes an honest look at the myth of black culture on America, but its brutal honesty means it makes risky jokes that put it out of the mainstream category. I would rate this movie as an 8 on a scale of how independent it is.

    The film talks mostly about the myth of black culture in America. The film basically takes a rarely seen honest look at the reasons behind the myth and the somewhat politically incorrect reasons this myth exists among white people. It shows how the existence of rap culture and other largely black art forms have grown to include some less than flattering views of black people. For example the character worships many negative aspects of the culture and thinks highly of it for comically misguided reasons. It is implied in the movie that the culture he worships has many positive aspects and the many artists he finds fascinating actually have contributed significantly to their art form and social awareness. The character never fully realizes why his views on the matter are somewhat misguided, and at the end he is left wondering why his whole philosophy has come into question by his friends and family. This leaves it up to the viewer to think about why he was wrong and the whole myth of black culture in America.

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Open Bars and Movie Stars

After experiencing the cool world of independent film at the Sundance Film Festival and studying it at St. Mary’s I feel refreshed and eager to learn more. The taboos of mainstream content and the constraints of big budgets and box office numbers don’t concern independent film, allowing them to talk about everything mainstream films cannot. The topics in independent films range from ideological clashes and the experience of living in different cultures to videogames and internet culture. Everything about independent films involves risk and danger, and without knowing about this world that exists outside the mainstream you might think movies have become boring. Everything from comedies to horror movies becomes heightened in extremity and gnarlier in independent movies; I saw dozens of people walking out of SVHS because it proved too gruesome for some of the audience to stomach. Seeing that kind of reaction in a movie doesn’t happen even in the scariest of movies in any of the major theatres, but it seems clear that independent film is all about making you think. Independent films can have discussions about film as an art form; these discussions don’t exist in the mainstream culture. As we move into independent films we can move beyond the mythology of movie stars and pop culture and into discussions about psychology and sociology, urgent issues that need to be discussed. I have now seen independent movies that devote an hour and a half to simply question what the purpose of watching a movie is through the use of surreal images and absurd humor. After watching a movie like that you can sometimes just sit there in shock, it might take you a few days to really absorb the lessons of the movie. Writing about the movies helps too, seeing a movie that you might not understand the first time happens in independent films. But all of these strange quirks and oddities that occur in independent films exist because there is a community of artists who love to watch movies and to make films. This community accepts new ideas with open arms and keeps an eye on the horizon for the next big thing. After seeing this community of Independent film and how powerful it is, I now understand where the major players in movie business get their ideas.

                Sundance acts like a giant testing ground for new movies; everything that I experienced was geared towards welcoming anybody and everybody to participate in the discussion. The festival made it easy to get movie tickets, free to get around to anywhere in the festival, and fun to talk to all the people who showed up. By having such an open and welcoming atmosphere I hoped to contribute and become a part of the filmmaker’s career, I imagined where each director would go next and how far each movie would go. I enjoyed every movie I saw for different reasons; I respected all of the movies for being so different. I could tell how the filmmakers had the chance to inspire many people at this festival. This makes it a deep feeling of community; the people there come for the opportunity to become famous and successful but also know that just having the chance to be there also pushes the art form and might inspire others.  The festival provided a great market for films and I could see that even some of the more obscure films have a better chance of getting some money with new technologies such as Netflix and Fandor, websites have the power to distribute films that otherwise would not get released. The ability for Sundance to showcase movies now has grown to become more effective than ever and I am sure the competition to show your work at Sundance has only increased. The variation in work from the very mainstream to the very independent gives the festival a sense of incredible depth and makes it an amazing place to market films. I think just seeing this variation at Sundance made me see how much more I have to explore within the world of independent film.

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Sundance Awards Party

ImageI was grateful to be able to go to the Awards Party on the last Saturday night of the Sundance Film Festival. Erik, Patrick, and I went to see if we could bump into any filmmakers or actors, only to find that many of them had either skipped out on such a public event or else, 

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Fruitvale Review

Patrick Betti 2/3/13 Sundance

Fruitvale

Director: Ryan Coogler Writer: Ryan Coogler

    The film Fruitvale took me on a journey through a typical day in Oscar Grant’s life. The movie told the story of how Oscar Grant led a difficult adult life but took the opportunity to change and make a better life for his family. The tragedy of his story being cut short by a police officer evoked incredible emotion from as I truly felt for the loss of Oscar Grant.   

        The film took place in the Bay Area around Oakland and told the story of a black and Latino family who tried to overcome some of their past problems and provide a good life for each other. Their story of innocent youth and their general goodwill towards their community and each other made it a very independent movie. It did not try to exaggerate the lives of these people, rather it told their story in a reserved and careful way which we do not often see in movies today. This made the movie an 8 on the Independent scale to me. The use of small events throughout the day and a limited set of locations made the movie feel as though it took place in a tiny microcosm of space. The movie relied on the actors to bring the stories to life and Michael B. Jordan had a great performance as Oscar Grant, he became a dynamic character which seemed comfortable living the life of Oscar. The film didn’t use tons of special effects but did take exquisite shots of the Bay Area and utilized the local scenery in a way that really gave the feel of the Bay Area to the movie. The movie also took a stance against police brutality and violence, showing the perspective of the emotional damage that violence causes as well as the physical aspect to shed a new light on the subject. By handling this subject matter it brought into question some of the power that police officers have, which shows an independent vision and an artistic way of protesting against this issue.    

        The film examines the mythology of the police’s view of criminals and especially of black people and other non-white ethnicities. Because of the mythology surrounding areas like Oakland where police consider a lot of black people as threats and violent, they begin to deprive these people of their humanity and show disregard for the value of their lives. The movie tried to show how this mythology needs to change, and by showing the beautiful fragility of life in Oscar Grant and his family it told the dire consequences of this myth and its impact on our lives. Oscar Grant died needlessly and this film challenges the myth for police officers that an accident like this is “acceptable” in places where police might deal with rougher characters. The fact that the police officer who killed Oscar Grant received only two years in jail shows the incredible disconnect in justice for many people in America. This reality of the stories of people who are affected by police brutality might change the minds of those who hold to the myth that force is the only method to police people in areas such as Oakland.

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See you later, Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is definitely an experience I will never forget. I made so many lifelong memories and had so much fun. From the first day we arrived, I was not sure how everything was going to turn out with how many movies I needed to see, but once the tenth day finally came about, I realized I should never have worried! 

Before attending the festival, I felt like I was well prepared to see any sort of movie. After watching and reviewing 12 films before class started, I was exposed to many different genres and types of films. I definitely think that this was necessary in order to be ready for Sundance. Since I knew that all of the 12 films came from previous Sundance festivals, it gave me an idea of what I should expect out of my ten day excursion into the crazy world of films. If anyone wants to attend Sundance, I would be sure to tell them to see a few Sundance movies to become acquainted with the independent world of movies.

Actually being at Sundance was such an amazing experience. Although I did endure some things that I would rather not ever go through again, each and every one of them are what made my experience unique. It is important to be prepared to wait for anything…and maybe even everything. Words cannot even describe the amount of emotions I was feeling as I waited in the line to see Spectacular Now. After being told three times to have the money ready to pay and waiting so close to the theater you could see the seats, I knew I was going to be completely devastated if I did not get in. When the volunteers announced they would take us, I literally jumped for joy. I do not think I have ever been so happy to see a movie! Needless to say, be prepared for a multitude of emotions.

The emotions, of course, do not only come from waiting to see movies or actually getting in from the waitlist line to see them. I saw so many different movies here. Some of them left me with sore abs afterwards from how hard I was laughing the entire time. Others left me with puffy eyes from crying. And some even left me with both. I will have to say that mainstream films definitely do not leave me feeling the way any of the 16 movies I saw at Sundance did. 

I think that Sundance is an extremely valuable part of the film industry. Without it, there would be no way to see such a wide variety of beautifully made independent films. WIth some independent films having budgets as low as $1500, Sundance is a necessity for them. Independent films are also an excellent way to express different opinions that mainstream films simply cannot. Sundance is also where many of these small budget films make their big break. Most of the movies had already been picked up by major production companies before I even saw them! 

Sundance definitely appeals to many different types of people as well. Many of the people in attendance are students, those from the film industry, people who simply just enjoy watching movies and are not trying to see a multitude of films, people who are only there to see celebrities, and even those who are there to enjoy the beautiful winter landscape and maybe ski a little. For whatever reason you choose to go to Sundance for, it truly has something to offer to everyone. I cannot wait to visit Park City again for Sundance! I definitely had the time of my life!

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