2000's Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
6Jun/180

TSPDT 999: Oasis (2002)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the bottom of the list, Lee Chang-dong's 2002 drama Oasis.

There's a turn of phrase I've gradually phased out of my writing repertoire when it comes to criticism, when the piece of art "makes a mistake it can't recover from".  This implies I know more than the makers of the piece of art, and also posits the mistake as some kind of disease or injury that the art merely needs to take some bed rest to overcome.  When I accepted the good and the bad aspects of all works of art are more intentional than not, I started to appreciate more films, songs, books, and so on.

That also means when a film takes as dreadful a turn as Oasis does, I have to take that as intentional.  What begins as a depressingly realistic depiction of mental illness and how sufferers are ostracized from friends and family becomes a terrible fantasy.  Oasis is the film where its protagonist rapes a woman with cerebral palsy.  This is the start of their romance.  That rape begets romance is one of the many ethical travesties committed in Lee Chang-dong's film.

14Mar/180

The Messenger (2009)

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Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, barely out of the emergency room, is reassigned to a "sacred" duty - informing the next of kin of the deaths of those in the service.  SSgt. Montgomery is mentored by Captain Tony Stone, a brash soldier with rigid protocol for delivering the news, and starts to wonder if there's a better way.  Oren Moverman directs The Messenger, from a screenplay written by Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, and stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, and Jena Malone.

Interrupting himself during one of his many macho rants, Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) loudly exclaims how the news should run footage of every body lost to America's wars.  In the context of The Messenger, he's talking about the dead and wounded.  Taken within the larger empathetic focus of Oren Moverman's film, Capt. Stone's talking about the pain of the survivors - not just the friends and family left behind.  Capt. Stone knows better than anyone the importance of showing respect to those bodies, but doesn't have a full grasp on what it means for the traumatized people he gives the worst news of their lives to.

Enter SSgt. Will Montgomery, played by Ben Foster in one of those performances that hooked my heart in 2009 and still bleeds fresh nearly a decade later.  Moverman and cowriter Alessandro Camon wrote the conventionally "juicy" bits of storytelling for Harrelson's Capt. Stone, but it's Foster's quietly tumultuous empathy that gives The Messenger its lasting affect.  In scene after scene, Moverman's camera will sit - barely stirring - and just watches SSgt. Montgomery trying to process the role he's been given.  The question that seems to be flickering through his mind with every flinch, barely held back tear, or as his rage builds to near breaking points is, "How?"

16Feb/180

Changing Reels S2 Episode 3 – Antwone Fisher

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We celebrate Black History Month with the 2002 film Antwone Fisher directed by Denzel Washington.  The film tells the true story of a young naval officer who, through the help of a determined psychiatrist, comes to terms with his painful past.  For our short film spotlight, we discuss Speak It!: From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia by Sylvia Hamilton.

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12Dec/170

Changing Reels Episode 33 – Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner

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We are keeping things loose this episode as we are still recovering from the holidays and dealing with family related issues. So while there is no short film discussions this week, special guest Seth Gorden, the talent to artist who does all of our artwork, joins us to discuss Zacharias Kunuk’s stirring epic Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Hailed as one of the greatest Canadian films of all time, and inspired by an Inuit legend, the film is a captivating look at how community, mysticism and the sins of the past impact a family in unexpected ways.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes! If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email (Changing.Reels.AC@gmail.com). You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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1Nov/170

Lake Mungo (2008)

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Alice Palmer, sixteen years old and seemingly happy with her life, drowns under mysterious circumstances.  Dissatisfied with official reports, her family begins taking unusual steps to find out what happened to their daughter.  A documentary crew follows, records, and leads the Palmers to revelations they might not want to know.  Joel Anderson wrote the screenplay for and directs Lake Mungo, and stars David Pledger, Rosie Traynor, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, and Steve Jodrell.

Lake Mungo, in concept and execution, may be the most perfectly realized found footage film in existence.  Found footage is fascinating as a mode of cinematic expression because of the implications of its existence.  There's a fictional editor at the wheel, taking bits of people's lives and crafting a narrative for an audience to serve a purpose we can only speculate about.  Writer/director Joel Anderson understands this on an almost preternatural level, witnessing a family torn apart by the loss of their daughter, having those wounds freshly reopened because of technology, and creating a film where its existence relies on wounding the Palmer family one more time for our entertainment.

The affect of Lake Mungo is in its gaps.  Other found footage horror has played with our expectations of empty spaces, that anxiety that something needs to be in shots of empty halls or static bedrooms, then confirming that anxiety with horror.  The gap at the center of Lake Mungo contains no scares - at least not in the way other horror films have used them.  The absence of Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) isn't some distraction so her ghost might pop out of the corners.  The absence is the horror, the realization that she is dead and never coming back, and that our constant need for entertainment and intrigue has put the Palmer family on a traumatic cycle where they'll be forced to relive the loss of their daughter for the rest of their lives.