Tag Archive | film

My IAC Dean’s Research Internship

june 1939 coverThis year, I was given the opportunity to do research through the IAC’s Dean Research Internship program! This internship pairs first year liberal arts students with a professor of their major and field of interest in order to learn the ropes of conducting research. In this program each student could either work on their own project with guidance from their professor, or they could help their professor with whatever they were working on. I chose to do the latter.

My professor (Dr. Jay Telotte, an LMC professor and expert in science fiction and animation) and I explored the relationship between science fiction pulp magazines and movies from 1920-1950. We wanted to know if movie companies used print platforms to advertise their films and, if so, how. My only previous experience with the subject was Star Wars, but I was immediately interested by movies and magazines and the way they advertised different subject matter.

tumblr_ooq9bgjk3n1rve49co6_540Both mediums have similar fan bases, so we were surprised to find that there actually were very few traditional movie advertisements present. Instead, there were tons of reviews, pictures of cameras, stories about Hollywood…basically everything but big full-page ads with headlines screaming about War of the Worlds or Star Trek.

So, the separate worlds did converge, and over time, these interactions became more and more frequent, just not in the way we expected. It was really interesting to learn about; it was almost like I was experiencing these shifts over time too.

Last week, we had a research internship exhibition where all of the Dean’s Research Interns shared their work with both faculty and each other. It was exciting to see what everyone else had been working on all year. It was also a really good chance to practice IMG_8649giving presentations to strangers in a more professional setting—something ya girl is not used to or totally comfortable with, but that I was happy to practice.

Thank you so much again to the Dean, Dr. Telotte, and Elizabeth Miller for this amazing opportunity, all of the help you’ve given me, and for the innumerable lessons and skills that I have learned! My freshman year has been wonderful, and I am so grateful for this invaluable experience.

If you are interested in learning more about what we found, the subject matter, my experience and what I learned, or the internship program itself, check out the website I made! ~ https://spacebarinvaders.wordpress.com/

Before I Fall Movie Review

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”

Before I Fall, which comes out in theaters in a couple of weeks, has been one of my favorite books since I read it in ninth grade. It tells the story of a girl named Sam, who is a member of the most popular clique in her high school. She’s sweeter than her three best friends, though; she’s different. (Yeah, yeah, joke about YA I dare you.) It’s set over the course of one day. This happens to be Valentine’s day, but it is also the day that Sam dies, and the day that she relives, seven times, until she can fix what went wrong. Throughout the story, there are mean girls, bullied girls, snubbed boys, popularity contests, and high school parties. It has all the makings of a cheesy YA book to movie adaptation. But it wasn’t one. Aside from some questionable music choices, it was absolutely perfect.

before-i-fall-movie-images-zoey-deutch-halston-sage-21The whole premise of Before I Fall is that you never really know how long you have to live. You don’t know how your actions and choices will impact either your own life or, and sometimes especially, those of the people around you. Sam and her friends do not know how their words and actions impact their peers, until horrible things happen because of them. When Sam keeps waking up, she decides to change things; she is kind, embraces and appreciates what she has had but took advantage of. I love this concept, and when I read the book I thought, holy shit, this is serious, this is real. The movie did the same thing, and in a no less impactful way. Whenever Sam narrates, she is reflecting too, working through all of her thoughts and actions and what they mean. Through her life, we are called to think of our own too, whether they are as glamorous and dramatic as hers or not.

“It amazes me how easy it is for things to change, how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new. Just one false step, one pause, one detour, and you end up with new friends or a bad reputation or a boyfriend or a breakup. It’s never occurred to me before; I’ve never been able to see it. And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.”

For that was definitely one thing that was interesting to see: how exactly Sam’s life was transformed onto a screen. We lost a lot of details, obviously: we never learned what kind of falling out she had with her mother, nor how horribly her relationship her relationship really was. But we did get to see her friends. The dynamic between Lindsay and the others was extremely authentic. They listened to music, made fun of each other, gossiped and laughed. It was accurate, it was fun and funny to watch, and it reminded me of me. It only felt forced when they mentioned Snapchat or said “bae.” Even then, though, they went right back to being believable high schoolers. (I mean, as believable as the twenty-something year olds and their supposed “senior party” could be.) The movie, though, did this really well.

In fact, the acting in and of itself was really good. I was impressed and pleasantly surprised. Not only were the relationships believable, but the characters were too. Sam was just how I imagined her, as were Lindsay and even Skye. Kent was perfect too, though I don’t actually know if they ever said his name.

“I shiver, thinking how easy it is to be totally wrong about peopleto see one tiny part of them and confuse it for the whole, to see the cause and think it’s the effect or vice versa.”

Not to go all Read It and Weep here, but I also knew a Lindsay in high school. I was the Sam in a friend group, and could relate very strongly to everything that that happened on screen. This realization about some of my back-stabbing high school girlfriends probably made the movie even more meaningful and realistic to me, to be honest. Since reading the book, I have seen and experienced firsthand just how mean and two-faced girls who claim to be your friends can be. It’s horrible. I didn’t go all Kickass Black Eyeshadow Day Five or Six Sam, which would have been awesome, but I did get the hell out of there after being involved for far too long, like Sam did. I too learned from being around the wrong people, though fortunately no one suffered this much from anything that happened. (That I know of…) I should have thought about this book at the time, but I guess life is funny and unfortunate like that.

“So many things become beautiful when you really look.”

before-i-fall-hd-trailer-stillsAnother thing that I really liked about this movie though, dark serious life thoughts aside, actually has nothing to do with the characters or story per se. And yeah, this is huge media me nerding out. But I absolutely loved how the film’s shots were set up, how the lighting felt, and how time and days passed. The transitions were seamless. I was curious as to how they would repeat one day over and over, reuse the same scenes, and still keep it interesting and new. And they did it so, so well. They picked significant things to focus on, made it just tense and funny enough. Whenever they ran through the woods, I pointed out how hard the light must have been to get perfectly. And the scene where Sam repeatedly wakes up? SO GOOD.

Lauren Oliver and Before I Fall were and are perfect. I highly recommend both the book and movie to any and everyone who likes contemplative stories with surprising, occasionally funny or dark, and thought-provoking twists. Sure, they may seem and feel a little fluffy at times, but the messages certainly are not.

“I realized that time doesn’t matter. Certain moments go on forever. Even after they’re over they still go on, even after you’re dead and buried, those moments are lasting still, backward and forward, on into infinity. They are everything and everywhere all at once. They are the meaning.”

Book: 5/5 stars

Movie: 9/10 stars

La La Land Movie Review

“You say ‘romantic’ like it’s a bad thing.”

Let me just say one thing: I absolutely adored La La Land. Everyone told me, “no don’t get your hopes up, it’s disappointing, I don’t get the hype.” But did ya girl listen? No! I mean, the last time that I looked forward to a movie this much, so far in advance, and so crazy strongly was back when Begin Again came out. And was ya girl disappointed either time? Nope!

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I loved everything, from the storyline and romance to the acting to the cinematography to the dancing to the music… I love the nostalgia for classic Hollywood movies, and I flipped out every time Casablanca was referenced. Emma and Ryan were brilliant. It could have been so cheesy (and okay, maybe the planetarium scene was), but them, their chemistry and humor and dreaminess—they made it work.

Another thing I noticed (while crying and scouting Tumblr listening to the soundtrack a mere five minutes after the closing credits) was that literally every scene was beautiful. Beautiful. The colors, the movements, the balance on screen, every detail was meticulously planned so as to appear completely and effortlessly magical. The score made it even better; I already liked jazz (thanks Mum!) but if I hadn’t, I still would have loved every single song.

Ok, spoiler zone. 

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Throughout the beginning seasons I knew that Mia and Seb would fall in love, be adorable, yada yada yada. But I didn’t know how long they would last, if they would end up happy and together, if they would fight but make up…etcetera. When the movie was only halfway through and they did start fighting, though, I thought “oh god, this does not bode well.” And I was right.

I definitely was not expecting the time jump. When I found out they weren’t together after that period of time, and that she instead had a whole other, new family, I screamed. When she walked into his club, though, I was sobbing.

“In all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Sound familiar? Anyway, that’s why I cried, and then kept crying because of the montage. (Which was also gorgeous, and definitely an ode to the art.)

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People were unhappy, I think, because Mia and Seb didn’t end up together. That would have been happier and, well, better, obviously, but it was still extremely satisfying. They chose to pursue their dreams apart from one another—and they were successful. They had helped each other realize that they could do it, motivated and pushed and encouraged one another to not give up chase their passions. They were like a team, and we can’t know whether or not they would have been able to do so had they have been together.

The montage shows is the future that they could have had together, both successful and married and in love, but the question of its plausibility remains. Simply, they chose to stay true to themselves, chose the dream and blind hope of Hollywood and LA. Both together and apart, they helped each other embrace the magic of La La Land.

“Here’s to the fools who dream.”

Rating: 10/10

Jackie Movie Review

Last Wednesday, I went to a screening of Jackie.

This was the third free screening that I had attended at various theaters around Atlanta in less than three weeks. I had also just finished my very last final of the semester at ten o’clock that morning. I was completely packed and ready to go home the next day. All in all, I was giddy from good luck, excitement, and relief. Going to see the movie was my only plan for the evening, and it was a good and welcome one.

I went with Sam, my friend and cohort in many an interesting Uber excursion. She too had survived the biology exam with me hours before, and I thought it would be a perfect thing to do together before the holiday.

img_2486It was. We were a bit rushed and had very little time to take in the surroundings of the Tara Cinemas, however. We arrived inside right at seven o’clock, the movie’s schedule start time, and were directed to the last remaining seats. And where were these seats, you ask?

Why do you ask. They were in the very front row.

Fortunately, there was a distance between the front row and the screen that is unique, I think, to smaller, less commercial movie theaters. Also fortunately, we at least got to sit in the very middle of the row, so it was more of an IMAX experience than a sideways, off-kilter one.

When the movie began, the magic happened, as they say. I was first struck by how well-framed everything was. Media studies nerd-alert, I know. But Natalie Portman is completely and perfectly positioned throughout the entire film. Her face is balanced in each shot, the cars are centered or not, the buildings, etcetera. The lighting, the eerie music, you name it. It felt appropriately complex and calculated. The cinematography felt as heavy but significant as the material it conveyed. It alone was exquisite.

Then, of course, there was the way that the story was told. I had no idea how they were going to approach it beforehand. Would it chronicle JFK’s assassination from the eyes of Jackie in order of the events as they occurred? Would the movie’s plot take place years later? Where would it begin? These questions are answered almost as quickly as they are asked; a reporter on screen immediately knocks on Jackie’s door. He is interviewing her after JFK’s funeral. Later, of course, time is further skewed by the presence of a priest, but for the most part the movie progresses through a series of flashbacks and storytelling through the eyes of Natalie Portman as Jackie herself. I thought that this was a very compelling way to tell the story, as it allowed viewers to go back and forth from the impact of the assassination on both the United States and mental state of Jackie O, as well as the time in the White House before, when everything was beautiful and lovely and there was no danger of losing everything. This contrast was clear, emphasized, and horribly sad.

t-natalie-portman-jackie-kennedy-first-lookApart from the manner in which the story was told, there was the actual acting, the talent, that brought everything lovely and terrible to life. Natalie Portman was perfect. Like, Oscar-worthy perfect. She perfectly embodied Jackie’s grace, elegance, strength. At times it was unclear if she knew what she wanted, or what her relationship with JFK was really like, but I will attribute this to my admittedly scant knowledge of the Kennedys. Portman, however, became Jackie, completely exposing the psychological impacts that such a trauma would have on one’s self, life, family, and desires. She was luminary.

By the end of the film, it was as though I had been punched in the gut, without actually knowing why. It was such a strong film, perhaps. Or maybe the performance and final messages were just dumbfounding. In any case, I wanted to sit in the dark and quiet theater for as long as possible, not ready for the experience to be over.

When Sam finally dragged me up, though, I looked around and realized, for the first time, that we were the youngest people in the theater. Everyone was in their late thirties at least, and most seemed even older. A lady with white hair who had been sitting beside me, I realized, had actually been sniffling and trying not to cry. As we walked up the aisle, I heard discussions about the film begin to pick up all around us. They were debating the portrayal of Jackie, admiring or disputing the choice in actors, questioning how they found such a spot-on JFK look-alike, pondering the merits of that manner of storytelling.

There was a line to the bathroom, which was small and cramped and almost welcomed not only jokes about how cramped it was, but discussions about the film we had all just seen as well. One woman asked us what we thought of the movie, and we talked for a bit before learning that she was six years old at the time of JFK’s funeral, and remembered watching every detail on TV. “It was really a spectacle,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she said this reverently or not before it was time to wash my hands.

img_2489After leaving the tiny space, we were left to a nearly empty lobby. Nearly empty, accepting the sitting area complete with armchairs and a coffee table with a chess set, where several individuals were continuing their film debates at greater length. Critics! I thought excitedly, even though I have no idea if they actually were.

All around was an air of creativity, a feeling of philosophy and thought, complex analysis of film and art. There were movie posters for upcoming indie movies that I have been longing to see for ages scattered about the walls, and as we waited for our Uber back to reality, I walked around slowly, breathing it all in. I loved it—Jackie, the experience, everything. I loved discussing the story with the stranger in the line to the bathroom; I gained a new perspective. I loved watching an amazing performance from what probably wasn’t even a flattering angle. And I loved going to a new place, full of exciting, artistic, forward and critical thinking. I was in my element. And I can’t wait to go back. Very, very soon.

Rating: 9/10