Groundhog Day: The Day Before Tomorrow. Reviewed by Luke Batten

Groundhog Day (Columbia Pictures, 1993)

“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
–Steve Jobs

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) brings a whole new meaning to this carpe diem sentiment in Groundhog Day (1993). Self-centred TV weatherman Phil is tasked with covering the annual February 2nd Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is roused and scrutinized to see if he will perceive his shadow. If he does, that signals another six weeks of winter. Due to inclement weather, Phil gets delayed in Punxsutawney and falls victim to an inexplicable time loop which forces him to relive Groundhog Day: indefinitely. Each iteration of the day is marked by his clock radio striking 6:00 a.m. as he awakens in his Punxsutawney bed-and-breakfast to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” with the radio commentator inevitably announcing “It’s Groundhog Day!” As the only person affected by this anomaly, Phil is compelled to confront his biggest fear: himself.    Continue reading

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Pluralism as Penance: Pablo Larraín’s The Club. Reviewed by Stephen Borunda

The Club (Music Box Films, 2015)

Pablo Larraín’s unorthodox drama The Club (2015) centers on a company of dishonored parochial members that live just outside a small beach community named La Boca (The Mouth) in central Chile. While the setting of the film may be unfamiliar to many Western audiences, the sins of the former members of the clergy are all too recognizable. Reminiscent of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015), these shunned sacerdotal individuals have committed heinous crimes ranging from pedophilia to child kidnapping. Ironically, these former church leaders appear to live in a sort of peaceful exile. Continue reading

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“Harv” Documentary to Screen at Greenwich Village Film Festival

Celebrating the Life of One of the Original “Mad Men”

The Greenwich Village Film Festival will host the world premiere of the documentary, Harv on October 25, 2017.

Shot during the final three months of Harvard Toback’s life, this touching short celebrates the life of one of the original “Mad Men” who made his mark during the Golden Age of Advertising and the art legacy he left.

An artist and creative director, Harv lived in New York City from 1929 until his passing in September of 2017. During his battle with kidney disease, undergoing dialysis treatment, Harv found the miraculous strength to fulfill his lifelong dream of starting, not one, but two art galleries.

Having created legendary advertising campaigns with his firms West, Weir and Bartel and later with his own firm Boyce, Smith & Toback for companies such as American Express, News Radio 88, Houbigant and Steinway & Sons, Harv had a passion, not just for creating art, but for encouraging those around him to express themselves as well.

Through friend’s memories, Harv is a heartwarming look at his efforts to spread love through art; curating a 500-square-foot gallery space in Chelsea for everyone and anyone. His final feat was opening an art gallery at his dialysis center. The Gallery at Fresenius Kidney Care grew to exhibit the work of the patients, doctors, nurses and medical staff on five walls of the dialysis unit’s waiting area.

Harv is produced by his son, Adam Toback and directed by Stephen Tucker.

In keeping Harv’s memory alive, The Harv Toback Scholarship Fund for the Arts (http://www.harvtobackfund.org/) was recently created to provide grants to artists living with life-threatening illnesses and disabilities.

What: Harv screening at Greenwich Village Film Festival
When: October 25, 6:30pm-9:30pm
Where: Renee Weiler Concert Hall at the Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014

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To Choose in La La Land. Reviewed by Elham Shabani

La La Land (Lionsgate, 2016)

How many times have we had to decide between two seemingly equal opportunities? Probably a great many! Such is the case with the life of the two main characters in the Oscar-winning musical La La Land. The movie was released initially on November 9, 2016. It stars Ryan Gosling as Sebastian and Emma Stone as Mia. The soundtrack includes “City of Stars” by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, “Another Day of Sun” by Justin Hurwitz, “Someone in the Crowd” by Emma Stone, etc. Filming took place in 2015 in Los Angeles; and, this year, the movie received fourteen Academy Awards nominations, making the director Chazelle the youngest filmmaker to win the best director award at his age. Continue reading

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The Dissolution of Naivety is the Dissolution of Transformation: Andrés Wood’s Machuca (2004). Reviewed by Stephen Borunda

“My poor, un-white thing! Weep not nor rage. I know, too well, that the curse of God lies heavy on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be brave! Do your work in your lowly sphere, praying the good Lord that into heaven above, where all is love, you may, one day, be born – white!” (Du Bois 18)

Near the midpoint of the diegesis of Andrés Wood’s film entitled Machuca (2004), we witness to an emotive scene between three young Chilean friends in close-up (or what Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 1 fittingly terms the affection-image) — a cinematographic decision typical of the film. In this lust-filled moment, teenagers Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) and Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) share kisses full of condensed milk with their female friend Silvana (Manuela Martelli). Gonzalo – the only fair-skinned and bourgeoisie member in the troika – received the condensed milk as a part of his family’s rations. Such allotments were not even available to his two impoverished friends during Chile’s food shortage. Yet, in this scene, Andrés Wood is showing us more than just three youths exploring their sexuality as their milk and saliva amalgamate. Instead, the talented Chilean director is showing us the raison d’être of his film: economic and social divisions are learned realities; altruistic and caring behaviors are what come naturally. At the fons et origo of the film, these young characters instinctively overcome socioeconomic and color differences. But, instead of encouraging friendship across lattices of class and ethnicity, the Chilean society around them works throughout the film to tear their relationship asunder. Continue reading

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FM 8.1 (2017) Has Been Released!

Film Matters is pleased to usher in our volume 8 year with FM 8.1 (2017) — and with a fabulous cover!

In this issue, you’ll find the following peer-reviewed feature articles:

  • Rethinking Racialized Cinema: A Critical Examination of Representations of Afro-Brazilians in City of God by G. Maris Jones
  • When Can Homophobia Live and Let Die?: An Examination of Sexual Deviance in the James Bond Franchise by Lauren Spungen
  • The First Rule of Genre: Fight Club as a Neo-Gangster Film by Jeremy Zhen

A special dossier on screened violence from Kelli Fuery and students (Chapman University):

  • The Disruption of Femininity Against the Tyrant: Reality and Myth of Sexual Discovery in Breillat’s Fat Girl by Veronica Gonzalez Kompalic
  • “I Am Not Responsible”: The Notion of Gaps in La Societé du Spectacle and the Question of Functionality in Empathetic Responses to Images of Violence and Suffering by Naveed Goudarzi
  • Pleasure in Pain: A Freudian Approach to the Representation of Self-Inflicted Violence in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher by Kayla Hoff
  • The Intersection of Politics and Trauma in the Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul by Jonathan Mackris
  • Acknowledging the Abuse of Others by Caitlin S. Manocchio
  • “Spirit, Genius, or Eloquence”: Sontag, Hume, and the Efficacy of Screened Suffering by Thomas Seraydarian

The latest “Mapping Contemporary Cinema” article:

  • “It’s an anti-Russian, anti-Putin manifesto”: Social Critique and the Politics of Place in Leviathan (2014) by Maria Cristina Garcia

Yet another dossier on film and childhood from Cristina Johnston and students (University of Stirling):

  • From Curls to Color: A Cinematic Evolution of Little Orphan Annie by H. J. Burrell
  • The Age of Truthfulness: The Cases of La Vita è Bella and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by Floriana Guerra
  • “I learned a new word today…atom bomb”: Children and the Destruction of Innocence in Portrayals of the Second World War by Laura Jones
  • Empty Faces and Frightening Silence: Children as the Uncanny in The White Ribbon by Regina Mosch
  • Atonement and Crows: Representations of Girlhood, Fairy Tales, and Reality by Ralitsa Shentova
  • Childhood’s End: Childhood Faith in Science Fiction by Conor Syme
  • Concealed Childhoods in Michael Haneke’s Caché by Lewis Urquhart

A new column, Cinemablography, from Messiah College, featuring the following article:

  • Time Passes: How Neorealism Has Influenced Modern American Independent Filmmakers by Megan Hess 

The following featurettes:

  • Modern Television: An Interview with Christine Becker by Leah Rae Kmosko 
  • Cinematography as a Visual Storyteller in American Horror Story: Asylum by Damien A. Capps 
  • It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane! No, Wait, It’s a Supernatural Fan! by Jessica P. Jackson
  • Bridging the Cultural Gap by Lydia Plantamura
  • The Ultraviolent, Interrelated Tarantino Universe by Megan May McCaw

And capping our issue are book and DVD/Blu-ray reviews by Jen Bircher, Reed Brewer, Raymond Ervin, and Erin Katalinic and Jesse Schlotterbeck.

For more information about issue 8.1, please visit Intellect’s website:  https://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-issue,id=3361/

It’s another big issue, and one we are proud of!  So please get your copy today!

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Announcing the Winner of the 2017 Film Matters Masoud Yazdani Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Film Scholarship

Film Matters is very pleased to announce the winner of the third annual Masoud Yazdani Award, Ouma Amadou, for her FM 7.3 (2016) article, “Constructing (Black) Girlhood: Americanization, Assimilation, and Ambivalence.” Ouma is a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she studies film. Her Film Matters article was the product of her summer 2015 undergraduate research fellowship at New York University. She will be receiving a copy of The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, published by Oxford University Press in 1998.

We would also like to celebrate, again, this year’s fantastic panel of judges, whose work in reviewing an entire volume year of FM articles on our behalf was much appreciated:

Kelli Fuery is assistant professor of Film and Media Studies at Chapman University’s Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. She did her BA (Hons) at Macquarie University in Critical and Cultural Studies, graduating in 1995 with a First. Her first graduate teaching appointment was at Royal Holloway, University of London in the Media Arts department teaching Film Theory and Analysis, Film History, and Television Studies, where she enjoyed teaching with a focus that balanced practice and theory. Since then, Fuery has held posts in contemporary Film, Media and Cultural Studies at Monash University, the University of Newcastle, Australia, and in the (now) School of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London. She completed her PhD (2005) at Murdoch University in Critical Theory, Film and Visual Culture. She is the author of Visual Cultures and Critical Theory (2003), and New Media: Culture and Image (2009), and has published in such journals as The American Journal of PsychoanalysisArts & Health: An International Journal of Research, Policy and Practice, and Conradiana.

Travis Merchant is an adjunct instructor of Writing, Film, and Communications at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, NC. He completed his BA degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Film Studies and English, where he also produced an Honors thesis in Film Studies. He has published in Film Matters and presented at the 2016 and 2017 Visions Film Festival and Conference.

David Resha is assistant professor of Film Studies at Emory University’s Oxford College. He completed his PhD in Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2010). Prior to joining the faculty at Emory, Resha held a position at Birmingham-Southern College. Resha’s primary scholarly focus is documentary film history and aesthetics. He has authored the book, The Cinema of Errol Morris, and his articles have been published in a number of leading journals including Screening the Past and Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

Each year, Film Matters honors Masoud Yazdani, founding chairman of Intellect and all-around visionary who is very much missed, by recognizing an emerging undergraduate film scholar who has published a feature article in Film Matters the previous volume year. The winning author, selected by three individual academics based at institutions of higher education worldwide, receives a book from the field of film studies, in recognition of his/her achievement.

Upon the release of Film Matters issue 8.3 (2017), judging for the 2018 award will begin. All volume 8 (2017) feature article authors will automatically be considered for this distinction.

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Call for Undergraduate Reviewers

Film Matters is seeking current undergraduate students to review a few Criterion releases for us.  The available items are listed below:

Criterions (if a title has TAKEN by it, it has already been claimed):

  • The Breaking Point Blu-ray (Curtiz, 1950) — TAKEN
  • Meantime Blu-ray (Leigh, 1984) — TAKEN
  • La Poison Blu-ray (Guitry, 1951) — TAKEN

Students interested in this opportunity should email a brief statement of interest to Liza (futurefilmscholars AT gmail.com), indicating your preferred selection, as well as your name, affiliation, and any relevant qualifications for reviewing a specific title (like past coursework, etc.).

Priority will be given to emails received before October 1, 2017.

Students who are selected for this opportunity will receive a review copy of the item in exchange for the completed review.

Deadlines for reviews to be submitted to Liza will be December 1, 2017.

This is an excellent way to build experience and CVs and we look forward to hearing from you!

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I Am Jane Doe (2017). Reviewed by Ariana Aboulafia

Every once in a while, a film – in this case,  a documentary – comes along on a particular topic that is so eye-opening that it makes you stop and ask yourself how in the hell you didn’t know about it earlier.

I Am Jane Doe (2017) is one of these films.

I Am Jane Doe is a documentary, currently available on Netflix Instant, that exposes the human trafficking industry in the United States and analyzes the ways that Backpage.com, the country’s second-largest classifieds website, facilitates it. It tells the story of three teenaged girls who were trafficked on the website and who are all now fighting alongside their mothers to bring Backpage down through the courts of their respective states. More importantly, it brings an issue that most people would prefer to pretend does not exist into sharp, and disturbingly clear, light. Continue reading

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Lost in Translation (2003). Reviewed by Niko Pajkovic

Lost in Translation (Focus Features, 2003)

“I just don’t know what I am supposed to be,” explains Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) to the washed-up movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) as both characters quietly contemplate their lives. It is a question steeped in naïve uncertainty and existential longing, as well as one that serves as the emotional and philosophical underpinning of Lost in Translation (2003) – an atmospheric, melancholy, and at times hilarious romantic comedy from director Sofia Coppola. Lost in Translation manages to avoid the trappings of other indie films with a similar feel by offering an exploration of the complexity of human relationships, depicting an unlikely couple that bond through shared feelings of being lost. Continue reading

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