30 Day Film Challenge: Day 27

Your Favorite Independent Film

Oh look, another opportunity for me to shamelessly promote my thesis on American Independent Cinema! My love for Goodbye Solo is well-documented at this point.

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Thesis Redux: The Filmography

As promised, here is the filmography for my Thesis Redux blogging project. It is a bit abridged – there are more than 100 movies I could/should revisit – but these are the core ones I intend on watching in the coming weeks.

The three main films:

Frozen River (dir. Courtney Hunt, 2008)
In Between Days (dir. So Yong Kim, 2006)
Goodbye Solo (dir. Ramin Bahrani, 2008)

And all the rest worth considering:

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Thesis Redux: A Blogging Project

What I looked like April 27, 2010

April 29 marks the one year anniversary of when I handed in my senior thesis at Mount Holyoke, ending a year-long research project on post-9/11 independent cinema. The entire thesis process was an emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining experience. I never wanted to hear the words “Neorealism,” “American Dream,” “immigrant,” or “identity” ever again.

Something has changed in the past few weeks. My post-college life hasn’t been exactly thrilling. As boredom continues to settle in, I find myself wanting to revisit my former academic life. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the conclusions I reached and because of that I find that my thesis is on my mind more than ever. How can I improve on it now? I am going to take this stage of my life as opportunity to fix what I was never content with.

One thing I never did while writing my thesis was blog about it. I always intended to in hopes of getting feedback from others about the films and theoretical concepts I was exploring. So that is what I am going to do now — really dive into this project in a way I was not afforded to before. Maybe it will help me get some real satisfaction from the project.

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A Moment from Goodbye Solo

One of the frustrating downsides of living in Boston is when the public transportation stops running and you are forced to take a cab. Last night was one of those nights when I missed the last T by a millisecond, had to put my stubbornness aside and take a taxi. This cab ride ended up making my night because of the resemblance it had to Goodbye Solo, Ramin Bahrani’s 2008 film about a Senegalese cab driver in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Goodbye Solo is one of the three independent films my senior thesis examined and this film has a very special place in my understanding of American film. I have spent hours, days, weeks analyzing scenes from this movie, only learning to love it more the more often I watched it.

Solo, the protagonist in Goodbye Solo, is a Senegalese immigrant searching for his American dream. He is married with a sassy stepdaughter and a baby on the way. (His son’s birth cements Solo’s status as an American citizen.) He dreams of leaving his taxi behind and becoming a flight attendant, an aspiration dripping in symbolism. Solo’s life is turned upside down when he meets William, a cantankerous elderly man who asks Solo to drive him one way to Blowing Rock, a place entrenched in North Carolina legend.

Solo suspects that William wants to commit suicide and decides to show William kindness and the greatest aspects of life in an attempt to prevent his decision. Solo introduces William to his family and his friends. The two men develop an odd-couple relationship that builds from contempt to a mutual respect that is so touching that the final sequence, set at Blowing Rock, is absolutely heartbreaking in what it does and doesn’t reveal to us about what will happen to these two characters we come adore.

Solo is in infallible character and, in my opinion, he is one the best to emerge from American cinema in the past decade. His spirit and passion for life is contagious. This is how director Bahrani intended Solo to be read and appreciated by viewers. When he began production on Goodbye Solo, Bahrani saw an overwhelming number of depressing films and documentaries about the Iraq War and the general state of the country. He saw the need for a character who could inspire audiences and remind them of the goodness of the human spirit.

For me, having watched Goodbye Solo more times than you can even imagine, just thinking about Solo or being reminded of him in any capacity makes me beyond happy. That is why when I set foot in a cab where the driver was a real-life Solo, exuding the same charisma as this fictional character, my night was made and my bitterness over having to take a taxi in the first place washed away.

It is moments like this one reinforce that why I love the cinema more than anything else and why, if I am lucky, I can find my way back to studying it one day. Movies have this unparalleled way of finding their way into your life. Stories, characters, performances, scenes – everything on the screen – has a way of only enhancing the banality of the real world. A seemingly mundane cab ride, meant to take me from point A to point B, become something special. That’s the magic of cinema and why movies are just wonderful.

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.
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