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Entries in Pariah (9)

Wednesday
May022012

Best Shot: "Pariah"

On this season of Hit Me With Your Best Shot we've looked at 80s fantasy (Ladyhawke), 60s zeitgeist drama (Bonnie & Clyde), 40s musical (Easter Parade), 30s gamechanger (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), 00s science fiction western (Serenity), and a 90s Asian masterpiece (Raise the Red Lantern). For this week's film, I chose something up to the minute, Dee Rees' Pariah (2011) just out on DVD. 

I found this film so moving late last year that I cursed Focus Features for letting it be crushed in the December glut where it had no business being in the first place. The coming out story of a shy Brooklyn lesbian was far too small and ethnic and gay and feminine an indie to hook Oscar voters so why make it compete for that attention? This selection was my excuse to promote the film as it enters its second and hopefully warmly embraced life for home viewing; it gets better!


I say that with a wink but without a trace of sarcasm. You see though I didn't have time to rewatch -- I've been struggling lately offblog. Apologies -- my most vivid memory of the film visually, and what I thought I might choose, is either of the bookending shots on the bus. I still remember the curiousity and sympathy I felt near the beginning when watching "Lee" travel home on the bus late at night after visiting a gay bar and the cathartic mix of peace and tears I experienced at the finale when light floods on to our humble heroine. The two shots are like beautifully symmetrical start and end points on her gorgeously executed character arc, a curved frame if you will for Adepero Oduye's breakout performance. Not that this character arc is ending. Lee's journey has only just begun.

I'm thrilled to discover that both of these shots were chosen by one of our 'Hit Me' participants. Since Pariah is as much about Alike trying to find her community as it is about her self-discovery, I think this is an ideal opportunity to say a genuine and loud THANK YOU to the participating blogs that make "Hit Me" such a rewarding communal series I hope you're always clicking and reading them for multiple views on all these fine films! 

 

  • FILM ACTUALLY looks at clothing as a public declaration of sexuality
  • ENCORE'S WORLD finds light from within
  • AWWW, THE MOVIES cocoons you in the moving poetry
  • SKETCHY DETAILS finds Rees use of color masterful and compares it to the work of Dario Argento (!)
  • CINESNATCH loves the performances but can't quite connect with the film
  • THE FILM'S THE THING is disappointed in the acclaimed indie but found Alike's double life reflections interesting. 
  • ANTAGONY & ECSTASY discusses the promise of Dee Rees and the bold recurring choices of artificial and "real" light...

 

...if all indie filmmakers thought about how to communicate visually as much as Rees has, American cinema would be in far better shape."

Next Wednesday on "Hit Me"The Exorcist (1973). Why don't you join in? I'll start early this week and make sure it happens. Nobody can ever believe that I've never seen it!

Monday
Jan022012

Best of Year Pt 2: Sweet 16 from Primordial Ooze to YA Novels

Part One: I Am Thirty Two Flavors 
Other pictures from 2011 that The Film Experience's year wouldn't have been complete without.

Part Two: Honorable Mentions
The year's best movies stretched all the way from the creation to the apocalypse and everywhen in between; time hardly seemed linear in 2011 but immeasurably flexible instead. The year's best films also twisted and shape-shifted in scale and meaning, wrapping big themes around human-sized packages.

THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
Fox Searchlight. May 27th. 
I really didn't know that our Burning Questions columnist Michael C felt so similarly about Terrence Malick's latest so two somewhat agnostic appreciations back-to-back were not intended here at The Film Experience. I greatly admire The Tree of Life's grandiose reach (the creation segment being my favorite chunk) and breathtaking physical beauty but often I felt like I was visiting an impenetrably random museum installation. Still... it's hard to shake the imagery and in a few key sequences -- children playing in poison clouds, brothers crying in tall grass, and especially in the different ways that Mrs O Brien (an ethereal Jessica Chastain) and Mr O'Brien (Brad Pitt's second great performance of the year... can we please give him an Oscar now, people?) touched and taught and looked at their children, the movie was fiercely moving.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Woody Allen)
Sony Pictures Classics. June 10th.
Let's not call it a comeback. Woody Allen has never gone away and his filmography runs the gamut between masterful and mediocre -- sometimes within the very same movie! What sets Midnight in Paris apart from the pack is a conceit so clever and insightful that it works both within the famed auteur's current limitations and as charming cover for them. It's okay that the present feels so tired and one note when hack screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) feels exactly this way about the life he's leading. It's definitely okay that the nostalgic past feels shallow and cartoony since nostalgia is fantasy, a very specific escapist (rear) projection. Quibbling is easy -- it's no Purple Rose of Cairo (an Allen masterwork treading somewhat similar ground) -- but why quibble when Corey Stoll is so funny as Hemingway, Adrien Brody is so amusing as Dali "Rhi-no-ce-ros" and Marion Cotillard's muse complicates the movie so beautifully by rejecting its message entirely and exiting the picture with so little fuss.

THE HOUSEMAID (Im Sang-soo)
IFC. January 21st. 
This erotic melodrama, a remake of a Korean classic (which I have yet to see), is either the year's most elegantly trashy soap opera or its most biting political metaphor for the carnivorous and consequence-free behavior of the super wealthy and the impotent dramatics of the working poor. Maybe both. Either way it's uncomfortably steamy, beautifully filmed, and superly acted (South Korea is where it's at for actresses these days. Period.) It's also unusually entertaining once the bad behavior and catfights begin. I watched it twice in one week when I first saw it and if my schedule weren't so tight, I'd do so again right now.

PARIAH (Dee Rees)
Focus Features. December 28th. 
Two important new voices emerged in queer cinema this year, writer/directors Dee Rees and Andrew Haigh (his Weekend up later in the countdown). Both filmmakers previously directed one documentary-style feature so they weren't in the discussions of "best debuts" but what debuts these narrative features were! Coming out stories are a staple of gay cinema but few of them have carved out as much emotional nuance from raw feeling. Pariah has so much feeling for its characters that it occassional gets distracted with tangential subplots but better too much genuine feeling than not enough of it or the poorly manufactured variety. This story of a shy closeted lesbian high school student (Adepere Oduye, just wonderful) in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood just aches with emotion and, best of all, future possibility. You find yourself wondering about Alike's journey after the movie ends. The best characters, gay or otherwise, live beyond the end credits [Best LGBT characters of 2011]

SHAME (Steve McQueen)
Fox Searchlight. December 2nd. 
Brandon only has room for one thing in his life. His apartment and office are as barren as his emotional life. Michael Fassbender enters the picture on a naked loop as he travels from bed to phone to bathroom, one day being any day and every day empty but for bodily functions and the pursuit of the next fix. It's the first of many smart decisions that Steve McQueen, one of the most exciting new cinematic voices to emerge in the past decade (see also: Hunger), makes in this visually spare but daringly operatic take on addiction. Shame isn't perfect -- for every "New York New York" segment -- a telepathic conversation? a sung monologue? --  there's another moment that's too on the nose. The best thing about Shame is McQueen's voyeuristic addiction to the contact high of great actors. His camera stalks them ceaselessly but wisely never gets in their way, freezing in place to watch them work their inimitable magic.

YOUNG ADULT (Jason Reitman)
Paramount. December 9th
The first painful chortle of recognition I experienced watching Young Adult was the ease at which YA writer Mavis Gary (a brilliant Charlize Theron) became distracted from her work. A sentence or two, tops, was all she could manage before she was on to more pressing things like e-mail, Diet Coke, pet care (of sorts), and other absent-minded rituals. Sigh. I know the feeling on all counts. It was the first chortle of many. Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who previously made Juno together, make another compelling case for continued partnership here in this diamond sharp perfectly condensed comedy about prolongued adolescence, untreated mental illness, and terrible cultural values (note how Mavis isn't the only one who worships her skin-deep beauty or encourages her self delusions). 

P.S. It took me half an hour to write that paragraph and it's not even a good one! Thankfully I did not hatch any plan as spectacularly ill conceived as "return to hometown. steal ex-boyfriend away from wife and infant daughter" during the fitful pauses. 

and now... the top ten.

Tuesday
Dec272011

#TeamLink

Anne Helen Petersen has 5 crotchety excellent questions about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Bad Ass Digest a terrific piece on Margaret & #TeamMargaret, the time between Christmas & New Years and the space between Mess & Masterpiece
Daily Mail Christina Hendricks returning to the 1960s for Bomb a political period piece from sporadic director Sally Potter. The film is about two teens who get involved in the "Ban the Bomb" movement. The film will star Elle Fanning and Alice Englert. Englert is actually the daughter of the great filmmaker Jane Campion though most sites are missing this info since people keep spelling her last name wrong. 

Movie|Line interviews Dee Rees on her feature Pariah which is about to open at long last. Go see it!
Black Book interviews the incomparable Sandra Bernhard before her New Year's Eve shows.
Awards Daily Sasha looks back on box office versus Oscar and how drastically things have changed over the years from when Terms of Endearment could end the year at #2 just behind a Star Wars movie. We covered this topic in great detail a few years ago but it's always worth contemplating if crazy depressing. Basically what it boils down to is adults started watching pay cable and left the movie theaters and the industry got really good at making films exactly like television: i.e. your favorite series returns on ____ . Stay tuned!

Oh look! It's one of our first official stills from Soderbergh's stripper drama Magic Mike (2012) with all of the boys four of the boys accounted for: Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, and Mike's leading man Channing Tatum. 

top ten bonanza! 
Beiber fever caps the Top Grossing Documentaries of 2011 according to IndieWire -- It's interesting to note that the list contains only two of the movies from Oscar's 15-wide finalist listBuck and Bill Cunningham New York | Our friend Katey Rich delivers her top ten for Cinema Blend and boy has she stayed loyal to Meek's Cutoff  | Acid Cinema has a fun snarky preface and an individualistic top ten | Paste Magazine offers up a bizarre top 50 (Happythankyoumoreplease???? Really?) | Guy Lodge at In Contention doubles up for a top twenty with high marks for Weekend and Drive, of course, which he famously offered to have sex with at Cannes last summer |  Now Toronto's list reminds us that release dates differ greatly from country to country. 

Thursday
Dec222011

The Year in Gay Characters

Year in Review... more to come, too.

Though you know I am unfond of J. Edgar, it was super easy to make a list of the best gay characters without the noisiest ones: ol' Hoover and his much abused man Clyde. For my weekly column at Towleroad, I thought I'd wrap the year with a list on the Best LGBT movie characters of the year so click away if you'd like a few notes on Pariah, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Potiche, and even Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Okay, the latter I only imagined but I like to engage with the movies in unexpected ways. Don't let filmmakers box you in; practice freeform movie watching!

Because the holidays are all about spreading oneself thin, I'm also a guest today at AfterElton. I met AfterElton's Brian Juergens at a Madonna event -- it's true, I met the Queen herself (M, not Brian!) but more on that in February when the embargo breaks -- and he was cracking me up with his insane Oscar predictions like "Best Supporting Actor Jim Parsons as Charlotte Phelan in The Help". Hee.

So I had to bring him back to reality, set him... uh... straight. Such a killjoy I am! An Oscar man's work is never done.

 

Wednesday
Dec212011

Utah Picks "Drive", Black Film Critics Love "Pariah", And More...

Well, look at that!

Critics group finally veered off the three well paved roads of Best Picture honors (The Artist, The Descendants and The Tree of Life were the only previous films named "Best Picture" by a US critics group. No, the NBR is not a critics group). Utah named Drive the Best Picture of 2011 and the Black Film Critics Circle went for The Help

Their love for the film which earned two additional prizes also broke up the clean sweep by The Tree of Life in cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki's god like talents are truly majestic (and have been jaw dropping for a long time prior to The Tree of Life) but it's nice to see another artistic photographic achievement honored, in this case Newton Thomas Sigel's evocative night time cityscapes and theatrically dreamy interiors. Sigel has done rich work before, particularly on X2: X-Men United and Three Kings, but nothing as fine as his work on Drive. He's never been honored by his own guild or Oscar so hopefully that'll happen for him this year since he's done his best work ever.

Consider this prize a wee detour as there are more honors to come for Lubezki, though, surely. Lubezki might actually win the Oscar this year... though I'm trying not to hope for it too emphatically as Oscar has a way of ignoring his genius.

 

Full list of Utah's prizes and two more critics groups after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov282011

Gotham Award Winners

The Gotham Awards are going on at Cipriani's even as I type this. As you know Charlize Theron, Gary Oldman, David Cronenberg, and Tom Rothman are being honored with career tributes but competitive prizes are also being handed out.  

Tilda, Charlize, and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) glam up the event

Awards...
Breakthrough Actor Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)  
Breakthrough Director Dee Rees (Pariah
Ensemble Performance Beginners 

So it hasn't been a good night for Martha Marcy May Marlene which was nominated for all three of those prizes despite no Best Feature nomination.

Best Film Not Playing in a Theater Near You Scenes of a Crime directed by Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock
Audience Choice Girlfriend directed by Justin Lerner 
Best Documentary Better This World

Best Feature ***TIE*** BEGINNERS and THE TREE OF LIFE
The tie between Beginners and Tree of Life is a strange development. According to IndieWire the jury debated for 2½ hours. Though I am against ties on a fundamental level, it couldn't have happened to nicer movies ;) and it's kind of a great tense way to kick off the season. Let more strange "we can't decide!" developments follow. Total agreement for 3 consecutive months is B-O-R-I-N-G.

Eeep, we're here. It's happening again. Awards season has begun. Tomorrow morning the New York Film Critics Circle announces their honorees.

Saturday
Oct292011

Best of London: Weekend, Snowtown, Martha, and More...

[Editor's Note: Thank you to Craig and David for their reporting from this year's London Film Festival which concluded two days ago. Here they are with a final chat about their treasures and pleasures. -Nathaniel]

Craig: So, David, I guess it's time to mull it over and decide on our "Best of the Fest". Top tens, top fives? More, less? I wonder what we'll agree and disagree on...

David: It's always sad to say goodbye. It might not be the most glamorous or revelatory event on the festival circuit, but it has such a nice atmosphere strewn across Central London, flirting with megastars every so often, but giving equal red carpet steps to the little gems you speak of. A top five definitely isn't enough for me, but I'll give restraining myself my best shot. I've been there most days, and often packed in four in a day (my eyes are paying the price!), so I'd wager I have seen more than you - quality over quantity, though! 

Dendera

In my stringently ordered, agonisingly compiled list that I just came up with, my number five slot would go to Oslo, August 31st, which I offered up some thoughts on just the other day - so I'll give conversation space to a glorious runner-up instead. Dendera – one of the most enjoyable experiences of the fest – is a gloriously demented twist on a Japanese myth invented in Imamura's The Ballad of Naramaya; in this new film, his son Daisuke Tengan explores the afterlife of the elderly who've been put out to pasture. One old woman decided she didn't want to die, thank you, and set up a community on the other side of the hill from the village that cast her out. In short: it's the sort of bloody batshit horror movie you'd have seen in 1980s Britain, not least because of hilariously dreadful bear puppetry that's very similar to Attack the Block.

Craig: I’ve heard variable things on Dendera, but your description makes it sound like great fun. Sad I missed it now. And due to timing I had to choose another film over Oslo, sadly. Quite unintentionally I saw a lot of  rather grim confrontational dramas although the lighter titles were a delight, so I should first give credit to three not at all violent films which won me over immensely. Weekend was a beautifully played affair that grabbed me from the first frame. Loved its naturalistic dialogue, likeable performances and wistfully hopeful (would you agree?) overall tone. How sweet to finally have a gay take on the Before Sunset/Sunrise 'will they or won't they?' film! Pariah, another excellent gay-themed romance, was moving and featured a great central turn from Adepero Oduye. The photography stood out as some of the fest’s best, too. (I wrote about both earlier) Terri, a cheering and good-natured film about an overweight high school loner made, was made with easy style and without sentimental cliché. It snuck up on me in a big way; its emotional impact worked during the film and later, on my way to the tube, it made me smile in the way that obviously quirky indie films of its ilk rarely do. John C. Reilly gave one of his best performances and the humour was well-timed. What gems delighted you, David? I ask this now, before we get to the inevitably gloomier stuff...

David: Weekend is so good it deserves repeating. [MORE AFTER THE JUMP ON SEVERAL TITLES...]

Click to read more ...