Tagged: Arts

Five Film Clichés We Blindly Believe or Stuff We Simply Absorb From Cinema

cabin in the woods
What better time to discover the philosopher within yourself than the holidays? Increased alcohol consumption, a relaxed atmosphere, lot of time to think about your life. In that spirit I found myself thinking about ideologies or philosophies that filmmakers knowingly or subconsciously work into the stories they tell. A lot of these world views have become so popular, that they almost became staples of storytelling itself, genre tropes, clichés even. Some of those are easy to detect and unmask, like the famous happy ending. Some are more subtle and insinuate themselves into the film through the back door if you will.  Continue reading

What makes a great movie?


Being a business student, I’ve learned that most people like to simplify. They also like to make figures and diagrams and list thing that start with the same letter, like the 4 Ps in marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotions).

In a similar vein I thought long and hard about what it is that constitutes a great movie, and if it could be narrowed down to a few simple catch phrases. What I came up with is what I like to call the 4 Ms of Movie Magic.

Totally cheesy, I know. Here it goes:

Mise en scène
It already feels like cheating, because it’s not really one word and not all of the words start with an M, but bear with me.
Basically what I mean with mise en scène are all the technical aspects of filmmaking. Thinking in terms of Oscars these would be the so called “technical awards”. Even a ‘bad film can distinguish itself for a superb mise en scène. In other words everything from cinematography, to editing, sound design/mixing, costumes, art direction and direction in general certainly have something to do with it.

Mood? “What does that have to do with anything?” You might ask. Well, the mood of a film comprises everything from the performance to the score, the color palette and the camera angles. It’s usually what we are not able to put our fingers on, but made us fall in love with a picture. Great acting, writing and directing are of course highly influential in how a film will make you feel. This is also very closely connected to another of the 4 Ms namely meaning.

What is the filmmaker trying to say? That’s irrelevant. How you perceive a film is ultimately what counts. It will also determine whether you like a movie or not. If the message seems to speak against personal convictions or beliefs you hold highly the film can be really good in all other departments, but that won’t help much. For example if a film is racist or too “self-righteous” it will never be able to win me over.

A film can be incredibly well crafted and have the most important message, but if there is no personal connection to the film how can one relate? Here’s again where the script comes in: Are the characters real? And the acting: Is it believable? We assign meaning to a film depending where we are in life, what we’ve experienced or even how we feel on that particular day. A film can take on different ‘meanings’ depending on the context it is viewed in.

As you’ve seen this was a bit of an over-simplification, but that’s the definition of schematic thinking.
When all the four Ms work together perfectly you should have a personal favorite film. Critics might consider it best movie of all time, but if you get something out of it and find yourself re-visiting it every so often, that is certainly worth more than what others think of it.

Michael Cera’s Short Film ‘Failure’

Did you know Michael Cera was a director too? I didn’t. Here is his creepy/awkward four minute short film Failure, directed and starring Michael Cera himself and a drop dead gorgeous Aubrey Plaza as a stalker invading his home.

I really liked it. The Woody Allen-esque music, composed by Cera; Tobias Datum’s (SmashedKiss of the Damned) dark, but warm cinematography and a completely strange atmosphere, conveyed by two solid performances. Reminded me of a Kim Ki-duk film in it’s themes and of Alex Pardee’s genius video where he “invades” Shia LaBeouf’s house. Cera even says a similar line “Why are you in my house?” echoing Shia asking San Francisco illustrator “What are you doing in my house?”.

Looks like this is the year where the home invasion sub-genre really came back between The Purge being a Fsmash hit at the box office and You’re Next coming out at the end of August.

Lukas Moodysson’s Lilja 4-Ever (2002)

Lilja 4-Ever
Lilja (Oksana Akinshina) is a sixteen-year-old girl living in a depressing, rural small town in Estonia with her mother (Lyubov Agapova). One happy day her mother tells her that they’re moving to the US. Lilja is overjoyed. It finally looks like her dreams of leaving Paldiski are coming true, but then her mother leaves without her. Abandoned with her mean, greedy aunt, left with no money and living the shittiest apartment imaginable things aren’t looking to good for Lilja. As if it couldn’t get any worse her BFF spreads false rumors about her in school, so she turns to the only person that consistently had her back: a little kid named Volodya (Artyom Bogucharskiy). Lilja quits school, occasionally prostituting herself just to get by, not to starve and pay the bills. One night she meets a dark, not so tall, stranger that offers her a ride. Once again it finally looks like things are turning around for her, but they’re just about to get a lot worse.  Continue reading