All posts by Sam M.

Long-Time Corner Writers Caleb and Kiran Resign Claiming Discrimination

We regret to inform readers of The Corner that Caleb M and Kiran M, two of our long-time senior staff writers, resigned last week. Below is the unedited transcript of the letter submitted by them to the Editorial staff. To provide the reader with some context, the issue at the heart of the controversy was the said writers’ assertion that their voices were not equally represented by the editors and advisors of The Corner due to previous unfocused behavior on their part. Continue reading Long-Time Corner Writers Caleb and Kiran Resign Claiming Discrimination

Sundance 2014: “The Voices”

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to write this review. When I saw this film, it absolutely floored me, and my adoration has grown in the time since I saw it. Yet trying to describe the film feels difficult, because it’s so very different from any film I’ve ever seen. Especially that ending. That was definitely new.

I suppose I should explain. This January, I had the oppurtunity to attend the Sundance film festival. Over six days, I saw 15 new films, some of which were rather horrific, and some of which were spectacular.

Yet there was one film which has stuck with me ever since, in a way I can’t quite shake. It was a film that made me not only remember what it was like to not only ‘really really like’ a movie, but to love one, wholeheartedly, without any reservations.

That film was Marjene Satrapi’s The Voices.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, the film follows a bright-eyed, small-town factory worker named Jerry. What starts off as an almost Disney-esque beginning (There’s no end to neon clothing, cartoonish sets, even an opening theme song) when you meet the cat.

It talks. Not only that, but it also insults, abuses, swears. Not only that, but it also speaks with a Scottish accent. Not only that, but it tells Ryan Reynolds to kill people. And as anyone would do when given a task by a talking animal, he obliges.

The film spins arounds wildly between tones for the rest of the movie, from absurdist comedy to horror to psychological thriller to tragedy. Yet it’s handles with such grace that the tonal switches never feel forced or inappropriate. Every decision made not only feels right, it also feels new.

Every several years or so, we get a movie that is truly unlike anything we’ve seen before. I’m not talking about a film such as The Tree of Life, which, while certainly different from many films, wasn’t exactly anything new in the avant-garde department. I’m talking about Donnie Darko, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Eraserhead, or Synecdoche, New York. All of these are drastically different films, yet they all have made me feel differently than any film I’ve seen before or since. They’re the films that are able to pair down on one true human desire, and depict it in such a manner that we walk out of the film not with a ‘message,’ but with a changed attitude.

The film is hugely entertaining, with a sharp screenplay and a monumentally great performance by Ryan Reynolds, yet it has true horrors within its screen time. Like M*A*S*H, or Harold and Maude, it finds life where others only see fear, sadness, and death. As the late Roger Ebert said, “We laugh so that we may not cry.” We feel sorry for Jerry, and his confused, troubled soul. Yet he figures out how to remain positive, and, as corny as it sounds, we do too.

This is certainly an odd movie, which polarized audiences at the festival, and will continue to polarize them when it’s released by Lionsgate hopefully later this year. Yet I believe those who believe this is somehow lacking aren’t seeing the full picture. They need to understand that the fear, and the horror, and the sadness in the film are all necessary to make the loopily hilarious moments work. It’s a story, nothing more. Yet it’s a story that makes one realize what true happiness is. It’s a miracle of a movie, really.

And that ending. It’s perfect.

(This film will most certainly be rated R, for language, disturbing content, and lots of bloody violence)

10 Best Films of 2013

2013 was a pretty great year for movies. Sure, there were some significant let-downs (Pacific Rim, for all its glorious action sequences, was a disappointment from maestro Guillermo del Toro). Yet the year was also filled plenty of wondrous slices of entertainment (Catching Fire, despite being a big blockbuster, was the biggest surprise of the year when it came to quality), terrific comedies, stirring dramas, and the greatest film to come along in the new millennium. Here’s my list of the best films of 2013. I mean it to be in no way as comprehensive, as there are several upcoming films that I’m anxiously awaiting  (Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle). Yet here is the list of the best films that I have seen. I hope you can find something on here that you enjoy. Continue reading 10 Best Films of 2013

Young Nobel Prize Nominee Serves as Inspiration for All

B_Id_377888_Malala_YousafzaiOn October 19th, 2012, in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for simply advocating women’s education. When the Taliban first came to her town in 2009, Malala was only eleven years old. Even so, she spoke out against them at her school, proclaiming that she wished to be a doctor when she grew up. Continue reading Young Nobel Prize Nominee Serves as Inspiration for All

That’s what I’m doing, right? A film column?

When I think about the films I’ve watched, all the blockbusters, all the tacky rom-coms, all the lowbrow comedies, all the overacted melodramas, I realize that when it comes to finding masterpieces, it can be difficult. Obviously there are the classics –Citizen Kane, Vertigo, The Rules of the Game – but what else? How many films aren’t just expertly crafted, but also stunningly original? Even thoroughly entertaining fare such as Argo and The Artist stick strictly to Hollywood formula. Then there are films like The Tree of Life, which are so utterly overrated it seems as though film critics are desperately trying to force a new classic onto us. Ultimately, although there are plenty of decent – or even very good – films being made these days, rarely do we see a great one. Continue reading That’s what I’m doing, right? A film column?

‘Random Access Memories’ and the Last Great EDM Record

On Tuesday, May 14th, I went onto iTunes to buy the new Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of the City. It’s a very good new album from yet another Indie Pop-Rock group. In other words, nothing entirely out of the ordinary. Now, as I was downloading the album to my computer, I saw that the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, was streaming for free on iTunes a week before its scheduled release. I decided to put it on, just to see if it was any good. Within five minutes, I was sitting back, my eyes closed, listening to my earbuds intently. I’ve listened to the entire thing two times since then (and various songs more so), and I’m convinced that this is the best album of 2013, or at least the most important. Continue reading ‘Random Access Memories’ and the Last Great EDM Record

My Incessant Frustration with YA Novels

Ah, Twilight. The phenomenon changed the world in most ways than many realize, and in more ways than it should have. The book, for those who have been hiding under a rock since the iPod came out, centers around a sulky teenager who must choose between an emotionless vampire and a strange, slimy werewolf, creating one of the worst love triangles ever. The books have no redeeming value, whatsoever, yet over a million people still bought every book. Now, while Twilight started the now-dying Vampire craze, it also started a certain trend, that, while more prevalent in our lives, we don’t think about. Continue reading My Incessant Frustration with YA Novels

The Death of the Network Sitcom

2-Broke-Girls-Season-1First, let me take a brief poll. When’s the last time you laughed out loud at something on network television? I’m not talking a chuckle. I’m talking about a full-on guffaw, a laugh that makes you pause the show just to catch your breath. And when’s the last time you were able to walk into your school or workplace the next day and talk about that same joke with your friends? Oh, it hasn’t happened very recently, has it? Of course not. That’s because there isn’t a popular network sitcom that’s actually funny. Continue reading The Death of the Network Sitcom

A Brief History of Teen Film

Unknown-1On October 27, 1955, Rebel Without a Cause was released across America. With rave reviews and a huge box office, Rebel Without a Cause became an instant success. The film, starring James Dean, was most recognized for the way it spoke to teens. Suddenly, many studios realized that making movies marketed to teens, who had lots of free time to go see films, could be a huge moneymaker. This marked a beginning of an era in Hollywood, “Teenpics.” Continue reading A Brief History of Teen Film

Why I Hate “Les Mis”

I love the Oscars. I know, usually they choose the conventional choice, and although the “Best Picture” of the year is rarely the actual best picture, it’s never terrible. Well, I have a fight to pick with the Academy this year. When “Les Miserables” was nominated this year for eight awards, I cried blasphemy. This was not unexpected (It was directed by Oscar favorite Tom Hooper, and has a huge, prestigious cast), but awful all the same. The film was loud, bloated, messy, and ugly.

Now, it’s clear from the moment you begin watching the film, with its sweeping shot of a ship pulled by hundreds of prisoners, that this film is big. The other thing you notice is that while you stare at that big ship, you don’t feel anything. There’s no desire to give yourself over to the film, let it sweep you away, mainly because in the process of making “Les Mis” huge, Tom Hooper has forgotten to make the film mean anything. The large musical numbers carry no grandeur, the love stories aren’t touching or romantic, the deaths meaningless. The entire film ends up being just plain unpleasant. It’s all big and shameless, with every actor crying and singing over countless dead bodies. The camera work is filled with relentless close-ups, just so you can see just how hard the actors are pursuing awards.

“Les Miserables” centers around Jean Valjean, a French prisoner released after nineteen years. After he’s released, a preacher takes him in. Jean then steals from him, but instead of punishing him, the preacher gives Jean a chance to redeem himself. Eventually, he becomes the mayor of a town, and becomes a good man. The film then dissolves into a mess, with characters floating in and out without much purpose except to be killed.

Oh, yeah. All but one or two characters dies at some point in the film. Not that it really matters, since you won’t really like any of them. The actors’ performances mostly fall flat. Literally. Every single song is out of tune and fragile, like a five year-old singing along to the radio. To be fair, Anne Hathaway does a pretty good job with “I Dreamed a Dream,” and Hugh Jackman shouldn’t be accused of not trying, but mostly, the filmmakers have performed the unspeakable act of finding actors with the most Oscar potential instead of actual, um, singing ability. Just listen to Russell Crowe belt out “Javert’s Suicide,” and I swear, you’ll think you’re hearing Jabba the Hut attempt to sing.

There will be people who love the film, saying that it’s a beautiful epic. I think they’re just confusing the musical and the movie. The musical “Les Miserables” is incredible, and a great introduction into musical theater. For me, though, a movie musical  should not just be based on the quality of its source material, but the way it is performed. And the adaptation plays like the worst elementary-school level productions of “Les Mis” I’ve ever seen.

Alright, I know I’ve been pretty harsh on this film, but I want you to know that my hatred of “Les Mis” is not entirely the film’s fault. I’m just as angry with the Oscars for actually nominating this piece of crap. Did you actually watch the film, or did you just latch onto the film’s desperately obvious Oscar campaign?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A Review

Making a good movie about high school is hard. For every great, timeless John Hughes film, there’s a helplessly outdated movie like Clueless. It’s also incredibly hard to adapt a novel into a good movie (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games). So as you can imagine, I was incredibly skeptical of The Perks of Being a Wallflower being made into a movie. The 1999 novel was incredible, and I was expecting to walk out of the theater utterly disgusted. Instead, The Perks of Being a Wallflower became one of my favorite films of 2012, and I now consider it one of the few film adaptations to surpass the novel on which it is based.

The film centers around Charlie, a freshman who befriends two seniors. The film wanders through their daily life, from the lunchroom to class periods to midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture show. Logan Lerman stars in the title role, and while he does not do a spectacular job, he certainly pulls his weight, hitting all the right notes along the way. Emma Watson breaks free from Harry Potter with the role of Sam, one of Charlie’s best friends. Her performance is good, especially her spot-on American accent, but Ezra Miller is truly the stunner here. His performance as Sam’s gay stepbrother Patrick is at once hilarious and heartbreaking, giving the film a sense of vulnerability that, even with all of the tears that are shed throughout the film, would be nonexistent without Miller’s performance.

The film was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also penned the novel. This means that not only is the movie fairly faithful to the novel, but also has the same spirit. It’s set in 1991 Pittsburgh, and is filmed with the glow of a memory. While the film is confident in its time and place, it avoids the problems that befalls so many teenpics of becoming obsessed with its time and place. In fact, the setting is almost irrelevant. The emotions are universal, the situations are timeless, the characters are real, and the film is true to life.

For those who have read the book, it is worth noting that many of the traumatic events that occur throughout the book have clearly been sanitized to fit a more mainstream audience, and a more joyous ending has been supplied. This would usually hold an adaption back from achieving the greatness of its source. Instead, the film takes full advantage of being a softer story, treating the material almost like a soap opera. As devastating as the film can be, there’s always the little voice in the background reminding you that what you’re watching isn’t that big of a deal, and that these things happen all the time. Yet, at the same time, the film makes it clear that what you’re watching is very important. As a direct result of seemingly ordinary occurrences such as a party, or a kiss, the characters in this story are changed. It might not affect where they go to college, or whom they marry, but there is no doubt that the characters are different people when the film is over.

The movie, of course, isn’t perfect. The dialogue falls flat on more than one occasion, and sometimes the film becomes too self-absorbed to see what it’s trying to accomplish, wandering aimlessly without any charm. Yet that’s what high school is about; asking the wrong questions, doing the wrong thing, being a jerk sometimes. It’s about figuring out who you want to be, what you want to accomplish in life. It’s about anxiety, sadness, and laughter. The film’s ability to perfectly encapsulate all of these emotions is what makes it so incredibly, undeniably human.