Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Film Philosophy of B.e. Kerian

February 23, 2014

I started this blog in March 2012. Prior to this, I have reviewed and/or rated between 700 and 800-plus movies on Facebook's Movie Flixter app. (My final reviews on that app were posted two months before I started this blog.) Ever since I was a kid, movies have always been a passion of mine. I believe they are meant to be more than just watched (as this blog's mission statement mentions), though there are exceptions. They are to be understood, thought about, shared with, and examined.

Since the fall of 2012, I started developing a new philosophy and outlook on film, in terms of not letting the opinions of others (especially that of critics, as well as the general public via box-office) determine what I should think and feel and say about movies. More recently, I've come to the conclusion that trying to see a lot of movies--not every movie--is overwhelming. I'm inspired by the words of the late Roger Ebert, who stated in his final piece titled "A Leave of Presence" last spring that he wanted to review "only the films I want to review." As a result, I only want to focus on the movies I'm interested in. (For the record, such interests include animation, comic-book movies, dramas, adaptations of certain books, certain biographies, some science-fiction, and research and examining of the history of "successful" films--not necessarily in that order.)

At the same time, I need to be discerning about the films I choose to view and examine. As said viewing and examining can be an engaging tool, it can also be a damaging one. In other words, there are certain movies that seem interesting on the surface, but they can leave you either desensitized or embracing immoral values or so forth. Take some of this year's Oscar-nominated films, for instance. Granted, these films are undeniably congratulated for their artistic merits and achievements in filmmaking. And why it's also commendable that certain films have been brought to the public's attention through the Oscars (and through critical reviews, such as those of the late critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert), we cannot base our decisions for what to watch and what not to watch on these aspects alone. There needs to be a discerning resource or more, as well as a legitimate reason for what we choose to watch. What is the film's message? It the overall impact inspiring or damaging? Moral or immoral? Condoning or criticizing? (I recommend the resource "PluggedIn," a media discernment website for families and everybody in general.) 

Lastly, I have also learned that you can't be too quick to judge. A movie may make a lot of money on opening weekend or in the year it was released. A lot of people may be talking about the latest phenomenon of their generation. But what really matters is how a movie stands the test of time, how it's talked about years from now and introduced to the next generation of moviegoers thereon, and how it brings people together universally and emotionally. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

REVIEW: "All Is Lost" (2013)

February 17, 2014

"All Is Lost" opens in the middle of the action: Robert Redford's character (referred to in the credits as "Our Man") is on a sailboat in the middle of (possibly) the Atlantic Ocean. He is interrupted in his sleep by what turns out to be a collision with a shipping container. A hole is gauged in the boat, causing massive flooding.

The action that follows occurs over the course of apparently eight days. The location is primarily the sea, along with various storms, although the two predominant set pieces against this primary backdrop are a sailboat and a life raft.

Yet what makes this unlike other films with stories that feature a lone (human) survivor lost at sea (e.g., "Cast Away," "Life of Pi"), "Our Man" is quite literally the only character we spend the whole movie with. Rare is it for a story to feature and center on one central character, and yet be so compelling. You really get the sense that this is an experienced sailor, as well as an experienced man, a patient man, and a persevering man, against all odds. This is a tour-de-force performance in the actor-director's half-century career. 

And while the aforementioned films comparatively look like fantasies, this is the real thing. I refer specifically to the experience aspect. The experience of being at sea. The experience of being alone. And the experience of fighting the physical, natural and emotional elements of life to survive. 

I'll be honest, I had just about given up hope on this film (like "Our Man" may appear to at times), considering its potentially existential and secular worldview. Then, the unexpected happened. This is a film that sneaks up on you. It's a story that reminds us of humanity, and encourages us to rise to the occasion. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

REVIEW: "Gravity" (2013)

February 9, 2014

Gravity--a haunting and breathtaking science-fiction drama from director Alfonso Cauron (Children of Men)--immerses the audience into a photo-realistic view of space with thematic structure that is universal and enhances the technological wonderment onscreen. The result is poetic and visceral.

The story is simple. Two astronauts are stranded in space after an asteroid-like collision from another shuttle, and do everything they can to get back to earth. Sandra Bullock plays NASA mission specialist Ryan Stone, whose life seems to have been drifting after the sudden loss of her four-year-old daughter. George Clooney plays veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, on the verge of retirement. ("You're the real genius up here. I'm the bus driver," says Matt.)

It's easy to spot key visual elements in this film (especially in 3-D), such as reflections in helmets, images of shuttles and objects, the depth of space, and color palettes around earth and in the stars. The length of certain shots add a level of authenticity (the opening shot practically runs for about four minutes). Sound is also key during moments of peril, such as when Bullock's Ryan begins losing oxygen and gasping for breath.

But it's the film's thematic and universal structure that makes the imagery (and the story) work. Cauron has stated in interviews that using visual metaphors in space was key in telling this story. It's intriguing that a majority of the film's action features characters floating above the earth, yet echoes adversities no different than what everybody experiences, is weighed down by, or lives through everyday. Along with the aforementioned theme of drifting, the roles of fear and death come up as well, particularly through the imagery of floating teardrops during a breaking and (literally) cold moment of hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. 

Yet, hope is expressed in remembering what it means to live, why we should live and what we live for, even when it seems as if said hope is out of reach. This can start with the theme of rebirth, such as during a striking moment when Ryan is hanging in a fettle position inside a ship (much like a baby in a mother's womb). But it's Clooney's Matt who represents a trusted source of accountability and encouragement for Bullock's Ryan, especially in the theme of letting go of such adversities that weigh us down, and in choosing to live. Now there's a message that defies gravity.