Note: This is an essay I submitted for a class entitled “Conceptualizing White Identity in the United States” in the fall of 2011. It is somewhat altered and extended but still mostly a product of three years ago. Because it was written for a sociology, and not a film, course, it primarily focuses on broader racial themes rather than explicit filmic analysis of the film’s storytelling methods and visual composition. Put another way, the film’s story lacks nuance, mostly boiling down to it’s attempt to be cringe-inducingly cutesy and fuzzy, and it is told un-originally and with little film-making investment or passion to boot, and it is thus a badly made film. But this essay is less interested in exploring the “how” of the way the film tells it story, the staple of most film reviews, than in the literal morality of the “what” of the story it is telling. Thus, this is less a film review than a piece on the implications of the film. And it is less interested in exploring how this is a bad film, which it is, than in how it is also a vile and contemptible one. Continue reading
Update (and edited score) 2018, on the eve of Roma’s release: It’s impossible as ever to ignore Cuaron’s signal audio-visual achievements with Gravity, but I find myself even colder on the film’s ability to connect the dots between charting our outer space, which it does so well, and truly destabilizing our inner space, a task on which it essentially punts entirely.
I’ve never seen a film quite like Gravity. On one hand, it’s a thrill ride to end all thrill rides, never letting up in subjecting its characters to situations from bad to worse during its slim but breathless 90 minute running length. Gravity is nerve-wrecking in a purely visual way that few films aim to be. This is a true edge-of-your-seat motion picture. But it’s much more than that too. Gravity is a film which tries to challenge what film can be on a technical level. Moreover, it tries to transform our understanding and appreciation of Earth and its surroundings visually while also playing to populist sensibilities and trying to earn its large budget back by showcasing destruction and visual splendor on a level beyond any other film of 2013. It’s 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Star Wars, and you’d be forgiven for thinking these two goals are incompatible, but more on that later. For now, I will simply say here that, for those simply looking for “the next big thing” in film technology, Gravity has anything else handily beat. This is a visually bold, singular, uncompromising film that will be remembered as a game-changer many years in the future. That it also happens to be quite good is just the icing on the cake. Continue reading