A Binary Day Top 10

Since it is October 10, 2010, I feel inspired to write some sort of top ten list. About what though, I’m wasn’t quite sure at first. I could, as my friend Kim, write about the top ten worst sequels. But that would require me to have seen certain sequels. I even considered writing about movies that have something to do with numbers. Of course, that means I would have to include A Beautiful Mind, a film I detest so that list just was not happening.

Then it dawned on me. This past week, I began going through my first blog posts and editing them. I’ve noticed, among other things, that my writing skills were horrible, my proofreading skills were lacking, and every movie was one of my favorites. I had a severe inability to dislike or critique anything. Today things are different. At least I hope four years of college and a Film Studies degree have noticeably improved the quality of this blog.

In the over five years since I have been a blogger, I have never written a definitive top ten list of my favorite movies. I’ve posted and commented on plenty of other movie lists but never my own. I have my reasons. “Joanna, what are your ten favorite movies?” is a question I hate to answer because it puts me on the spot to think of something creative and insightful. On top of that, my cinematic interests and thus my list is are always changing. What I loved years ago, I could rewatch and hate today. With all of this in mind, here it is. My top ten favorite movies and why I love them.
Continue reading “A Binary Day Top 10”

Arthur Penn and the Lasting Influence of Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn, the Academy Award nominated director of Bonnie and Clyde and Alice’s Restaurant, died last night at the age of 88.

Bonnie and Clyde is considered to be one of the greatest American films, at the forefront of the New Hollywood Cinema. The film’s bloody and violent closing sequence shocked audiences and marked a definitive end of the studio system.

As one article puts it: “In Mr. Penn’s hands, [Bonnie and Clyde] became something even more dangerous and innovative — a sympathetic portrait of two barely articulate criminals, played by Mr. Beatty and a newcomer, Faye Dunaway, that disconcertingly mixed sex, violence and hayseed comedy, set to a bouncy bluegrass score by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Not only was the film sexually explicit in ways unseen in Hollywood since the imposition of the Production Code in 1934 — when Bonnie stroked Clyde’s gun, the symbolism was unmistakable — it was violent in ways that had never been seen before. Audiences gasped when a comic bank robbery climaxed with Clyde’s shooting a bank teller in the face, and were stunned when this attractive outlaw couple died in a torrent of bullets, their bodies twitching in slow motion as their clothes turned red with blood.”

Bonnie and Clyde is without a doubt Penn’s greatest contribution to American cinema and its influence is constantly felt to this day.

Bonnie and Clyde is a film I addressed frequently throughout the course of my research on post-9/11 American independent cinema last year. Bonnie and Clyde, as well as The Searchers and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, influenced director Courtney Hunt throughout her inception of Frozen River.

Knowing this, the relationship between Ray Eddy and Lila Littlewolf, the female protagonists and unlikely illegal immigrant smuggling duo carries a greater depth as it develops throughout the film. Like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, these women are outlaws united by and for a greater cause. While Bonnie and Clyde were outlaws mostly out of boredom, Ray and Lila were united by their maternal suffering. They smuggle illegal immigrants to provide for their children after being abandoned by their husbands and patriarchal society. Their actions play out like a wild west showdown, complete with gun fights, chases in the woods, and the ultimate maternal sacrifice by one of the women. The frozen tundra of upstate New York-Canadian border region contributes to the film’s frequent wild west characteristics.

Frozen River was nominated for two Academy Awards and it is by far one of the best independent films released in recent years. It is films such as Frozen River, which are relevant to today’s current political issues and have a level of unmatched artistry, where we see the unparalleled legacy of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde.

Bahrani and Herzog: My Favorite Things

Having just completed my thesis (!), it is time that I shared this short film. Directed by Ramin  Bahrani, Plastic Bag features Werner Herzog as the voice of a plastic bag that goes on a journey. I know. It sounds ridiculous. But if there is one thing I have learned about Bahrani during my research on Goodbye Solo, he is brilliant. In this film he has taken one of the most recognizable voices in cinema and create a beautiful and poignant work.

Plastic Bag has been circulating on the internet for a few weeks now. It is a great short. Check it out here:

Here I Go: Thesis Away

Months ago I posted that I was writing a senior honors thesis on film. At the time, I didn’t know what it would be on. But after months of deliberation I finally figured out, more or less, what I am researching: American Identity in post-9/11 American Independent Cinema. (Sometimes I wonder if this topic makes me sound way more intelligent than I really am, but I digress.)

I am focusing on three films: Frozen River (2008), In Between Days (2006), and Goodbye Solo (2008). On the surface, these three films seem completely unrelated but what I have found that they are linked by a foremost a common character and narrative: the immigrant. This films question how American identity and the American Creed are changing in the twenty first century as a result of immigration. Or at least, that is what I am trying to show.

Here are the trailers for Frozen River and Goodbye Solo:

And here is an interview with filmmakers So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray. The more I research their work, the more I admire their dedication to independent filmmaking as a way to produce quality and exceptional stories and works of art.

It’s Thesis Time

Now that I’m back from Cannes, I am going to let you in on my grand plan for the remainder of the summer. I am officially a senior at Mount Holyoke, I can start work on my senior thesis. So this summer I will be doing nothing but academic research…and maybe I’ll find a job.

My tentative plan is write about post 9/11 American film. I will be using my free time this summer to narrow down that broad category into something worth writing about. I plan on blogging about the films I see and articles I read, so be prepared for that. For Cinephiles by a Cinefille is about to become the most non-academic academic blog on the web.

Maybe.