Movies

Open Projector Night

hammer museum open projector night

Yesterday, I went to the Hammer Museum’s Open Projector Night for the first time, and it was pretty awesome.

The event is basically like an open mic night, except for short films. Anyone can submit work–no longer than 10 minutes, in any format–right before the screenings start. Two minutes of each submission are shown, and then the audience raucously decides whether to keep watching or not.

I have to say, after spending over two hours watching short film after short film, the overwhelming feeling I came away with is, well, making films is hard.

Okay, I know that’s obvious, but when you let amateur filmmakers show their work to an auditorium full of people who have no idea what they’re about to see and have no reason to be invested in anything…suddenly, it becomes obvious in a really intense way. Every time a film falters, you feel it. And sadly, nothing makes you appreciate good filmmaking like watching bad filmmaking.

But at the same time, here’s the amazing thing…what is bad filmmaking, anyway? This whole experience reminded me of just how precariously a film can perch between horrifically bad and weirdly good. Sometimes a film can be poorly or bizarrely edited, or totally incomprehensible, or disgusting, and yet…still kind of awesome. That’s the beautiful thing. In the first few minutes of every film (or play or story), the audience is totally game to engage with just about anything you throw at them. (The best description I’ve found of this phenomenon is in Act I of the This American Life episode, “Fiasco.” If you haven’t heard it, you need to stop reading this and go listen to it now.) And the point at which the audience gives up on you is surprisingly far removed–provided, of course, that you don’t bore them. A bad film still has potential; a boring one is dead in the water.

But enough about bad films! The three audience-approved films that “won” last night were in fact quite good:

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yesterday, I saw that Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was being advertised on the NYTimes website. Being a gargantuan Wes Anderson fan, I had heard of the movie but not what it was about and when it was coming out. I’d carefully refrained from learning these details because once I know even a small amount of information about a Wes Anderson movie, I need to watch it right away.

Since the movies advertised on the NYTimes article pages are normally imminent releases, I thought it was safe to rush over to YouTube and watch the trailer:

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In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love

I finally watched In the Mood for Love this week, and I have no idea how I put off seeing it for so long. This movie is drop-dead gorgeous. I am obsessed.

Set in 1960s Hong Kong, In the Mood for Love tells the story of next-door neighbors (played by my new idols, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who start a platonic affair after discovering their spouses are cheating together.

The film is directed by Wong Kar-Wai, whose artistic, evocative style is just…sublime. Aesthetically, everything about the movie–the elegant dresses, the peeling apartment walls, the curling cigarette smoke–feels just so. The color palette, lovely and lived-in, is moodily mid-century.

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How I Feel About Coming-of-Age Stories

spectacular-now-final-poster

I have a love-hate relationship with coming-of-age stories.

On the one hand, I feel like I’m getting a little too old for them. Most of the time, they feature characters in high school, and let’s just say it’s been a couple years since I’ve been in that age group. When the stories get overly saccharine or earnest about things like prom, I just can’t really handle it anymore.

On the other hand, despite being a 20-something, I sometimes still feel like I’m not done “coming of age.” I’m still interested in stories about formative experiences because, well, I’m still looking for and/or processing mine. (Okay, go ahead and cue the societal hand-wringing about our generation’s extended adolescence.)

But anyway. All of this is to explain why I was really excited about–but also wary of–the movie The Spectacular Now. I loved the poster, but the trailer was a little eye roll-worthy. Sutter Keely, charming and troubled, inadvertently falls in love with Aimee Finecky, nerdy and socially awkward. Haven’t we heard this story before?

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