An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (UK release 2014 dir. Terence Nance)

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Sandra’s Verdict

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is the debut film of young African-American filmmaker Terence Nance. The experimental film is semi-animated and difficult to place into a genre, it is a drama, a romance and as it claims ‘educational’, and although described as non-fiction often extends into ‘what if’ fantasy scenarios.

The film explores Terence’s feelings after his beautiful friend, and object of his desire, Namik Minter, calls to cancel plans she had made to visit his apartment one night in 2006. The narrator explains that the film is really two films, one about his feelings that night called How would you feel? made in 2006 and the other made much later after Terence shows his film to Minter called An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.

As well as exploring his feelings for Minter, Terence also recalls numerous past loves through animation, photography and film; all the while with his own academic narration.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is an ambitious and refreshing film that will not be to everyone’s taste due to the narrative and artistic risks it takes. However I enjoyed it and would definitely see it again for its honesty and the beautiful images it paints and would urge you to give it a go. I think Nance is a refreshing new talent and cannot wait to see what he will create next.

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Django Unchained (2013 dir. Quentin Tarantino)

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Andrew’s Verdict

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Actually I had high hopes for this film before I walked into the cinema coupled with a slight thought that ‘Tarantino’s films have been ok but not as good as Jackie Brown/ Pulp Fiction’. Well I would put Django up there as one of his best. The script is fantastic and I believe Christophe Waltz should be treated like a gem. He was great in Inglorious Bastards and his performance in this film is even better. That goes for all the cast: I thought Jamie Fox, DiCaprio, Jackson and really the entire cast delivered an ensemble that I have to praise. Blaxploitation abounds and there are hilarious moments and also graphic scences that bring to the fore the rawness of slavery and racism. The first part of the film sees Waltz and Fox and as Waltz takes Fox under his wing and teaches him the art of bounty hunting. In fact its the force of Walt’s character and the sharp wit that we come to love. Fox in contrast blossoms towards the end of the film as the journey to save his wife takes the bounty hunts into the home of southern slavery and its peculiar white/ black, master/ slave relationship which will probably surprise audience who aren’t familiar with the exploitation of blacks outside of the work field. It seems interesting that this film and Lincoln are out at the same time and might point to something about the current zeitgeist.

Really Tarantino is back to his best. He’s taken his love of spagetthi westerns, Blacksploitation and the music of that era and created an unbelievable referenced film that is enjoyable, cringe worthy, thought provoking and manly. What I really like about this film is the balance, and what I mean by that is how often do you sit through a 2:45 hrs and not notice day turn to night?

Something Wild (1961 dir. Jack Garfen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attended a small screening of Something Wild with the director, Jack Garfen, at the Renoir in Bloomsbury last week and was fortunate enough to listen to him introduce the film and be able to question him about the film’s themes and depictions after the feature.

Carroll Baker, Garfen’s wife at the time of filming, plays the 17-year-old protagonist Mary Anne in this formerly banned film with delicacy and agression. Although her character is raped early on in the film she remains immaculate and sophisticated (not a hair out-of-place) as she then goes through poverty, self-destruction and captivity. Having kept ‘what has happened’ a secret she leaves her parental home and prematurely moves into the adult world of Manhattan’s rougher quarter. During the course of the film she seems to tumble-down a rabbit hole, marching, floating and stumbling, she passes through various locations without finding peace and leads herself to the edge of Manhattan Bridge where she is pulled, ‘saved’ and captured by Mike (Ralph Meeker).

We are then taken through a series of scenes where Mike having failed to win her over with milk, bread and steak keeps her locked in his one-roomed basement flat. After a series of fracases, during which Mary Ann kicks out at her strangle holds and Mike attempts to show his admiration, though flawed and dependent, she is finally to reach an equilibrium again via Broadway and Central Park. It is unfortunate then that she returns to Mike’s needy embrace.

The craftsmanship of Something Wild is excellent from the script to set design to lighting. Nevertheless I could not understand why after being freed Mary Ann would return to wed her captor and I posed this question to Garfen at the end of the screening. Garfen of course defended his ending and talked of the praise that the film had got from some feminists because of the strong female protagonist. His interviewer pointed out that feminists, who argued that she was not truly liberated because she returned to her captor and thus suffered Stockholm syndrome, were missing the point.

The film according to Garfen dealt with a lot of issues that were in his subconscious at the time of making it, such as his having survived a Dachau concentration camp in Nazi Germany whilst his Jewish family were killed, his relationships and his emigration to New York. Garfen identied with Mary Ann having also been in captivity and consequentially unable to accept love from the women he had been involved with. This is an interesting comparison but I think it is important to accept that although Garfen attempts to give the film a romantic ending with Mary Ann being married and reunited with her mother, this seems hurried and unconvincing as she seems to have resolved everything over the course of a few months.

I enjoyed this film and accept that in its context it was a challenging film for audiences to watch; however I cannot help but feel disappointed by the backtracking at the end. I would have preferred it if May Ann had liberated herself and moved forward toward an alternative future rather than meet the expectations of marriage, children, and bondage.

Prometheus (2012 dir. Ridley Scott)

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Sandra’s Verdict
Having been too young to fully appreciate the Alien movies first time around I was able to watch Prometheus without making constant caparisons to the first four films. So when the plot diverted slightly from the first film I didn’t feel cheated or that sacred ground was being trampled on. Although Prometheus has not been billed as a prequel to Alien many have been viewing it as such.

It is 2093 and a group of unconventional scientists and archeologists are sent to investigate the origins of humankind on a distant planet in their ship Prometheus, by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the aged CEO of Weyland Corporations. When they get there they find a large construction made by what they think may be extra terrestrial. As they explore the structure they come across snake-like beings and begin to realise that the true purpose of their visit has not been fully disclosed to them.

The film is both Sci-Fi and Horror, with the characters making dubious decisions which isolate them and put them in vulnerable situations. There is also comedy to break the tension and Idris Elba’s one liners are brilliant as he taunts an uptight Meredith Vickers, played by Charlize Theron. There is some excellent acting in the film with Noomi Repace playing the invincible powerhouse Elizabeth Shaw with passion and grit. Michael Fassbender is also superb as the complicated android David.

As is expected the visuals are excellent and with CGI effects and imaginative set design the world on board Prometheus and in space are mesmerising. A lot happens during the film but the action is fast paced enough so that the 124 minute running time is barely noticeable.

As Hollywood blockbusters go this is probably one of the year’s best, having already made $147.7 million at the box office I think that this film will go on to smash records and draw a whole new generation of fans to the other Alien films. Prometheus is a definite hit which should not be missed!

Men in Black III (2012 dir. Barry Sonnenfeld)

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Sandra’s Verdict

My last memory of the MiB is linked with Will Smith’s accompanying 1997 single and dad-dancing, so I was glad that this new instalment would provide for a less embarrassing picture to add to my memories of the franchise. Now I can replay the amusing moment when a usually super-chilled  Smith looses his cool and smacks a Russian reporter around the face for trying to snog him on the red carpet!

MiB III is all it promises to be, its funny, it has great special effects and an entertaining story. In this instalment Agent J travels back in time to the colourful 1960s to save his partner, Agent K, from being murdered by alien villain Boris the Animal at the NASA Moon Launch.

A fun Friday night movie with great performances by Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson and Nicole Scherzinger!

Red Tails (2012 dir Anthony Hemingway/ George Lucas)

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Sandra’s Verdict

I was lucky enough to take my Year 7 Filmmaking Club to a special preview of Red Tails in June with leading man Cuba Gooding Junior. Cuba was on form as usual during the Q&A that followed the film and it is a pity that we do not get more dialogue from him in the actual film, instead we get lots of shots of him as Major Emanuelle Stance staring over an airfield smoking a pipe which is a great shame considering his acting potential. The more important role of Colonel Bullard is played by Terrence Howard, who lacks the charisma and worn wisdom that Cuba would have brought to the character, a poor casting judgement.

ImageWith support from George Lucas and a $58 million budget the production values in this film are excellent and the audience is utterly convinced that we are watching scenes unfold in 1940s Italy whilst watching the Tuskegee Airmen (the first African American squadron of fighter pilots) navigate through the high-definition skies as they escort the first American bombers attack over Berlin. The film covers the institutional racism endured by the pilots by the American military who saw them as a social and intellectual inferiors; but it also explores that camaraderie that was present amongst the men.

Both Neyo and British actor David Oyelowo are excellent as ‘Smokey’ and Lighting’ bringing comedy to this action film.

I enjoyed the film, not simply because it celebrated the influence and contribution of black people towards the Allied victory in WWII, but because of the charming characters depicted. I also feel that the film could benefit from tighter editing, at over 2 hours long my film kids were beginning to waver toward the end!

Trishna (2012 dir. Michael Winterbottom)

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Sandra’s Verdict
Pinto is mesmerising as the naive and delicate Trishna, in this loose adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and even though I hadn’t read the book I was still throughly impressed with the universal issues within this film.

A key line from the film, which also features in the trailer, has Jay, the wealthy son of a businessman, saying to Trishna that The Karma Sutra
says there are three types of heroines that you’re allowed to make love to, the maid, the single lady and the courtesan. So which one are you?’ Themes of unfairness, social expectation and male dominance are explored when Jay embarks on a passionate affair with Trishna. As they travel from Jaipur to modern Mumbai their relationship seems to transcend that of master and servant, and at times it looks as though Jay wants to elevate Trishna to his equal. However as the film develops we see both characters struggle with their feelings and social position.

The film has received mixed reviews with some critics claiming that the film fails to make a big enough impact on the audience. I disagree, I found this to be both an intricate and compelling film. The film also boasts an excellent musical score by Shigeru Umebayashi and Bollywood composer Amit Trivedi that creates a perfect bed on which to navigate through the narrative’s complex themes.