Starting this September, every month A Place for Film will bring you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series will reflect the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema, as well as demonstrating the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
Michaela Owens, editor | The Pink Panther (1964)
This month didn’t give me a chance to watch as many new-to-me movies as I would have liked, but I was able to rewatch one of my favorite comedies: the original Pink Panther. Surprisingly, this film isn’t just one screwball moment after another. There is romance, gorgeous scenery and sets, marvelous costumes, a terrifically top-notch cast, and a dash of intrigue. The skill with which director and co-writer Blake Edwards balances everything is masterful, no question. And that Henry Mancini score! Listening to any part of this score immediately takes me to a cozy Italian villa, where I’m wearing a big knitted sweater and drinking champagne cocktails with David Niven.
Katherine Johnson, contributor | Ingrid Goes West (2017)
I’m cheating a little with this month’s film…I saw it at the very end of last month, right before it left theaters in Bloomington. It had a short run in town, as well as in Indy if I’m correct. This comes as no surprise, however; the film is odd, dark, and also a bit charming—not a recipe for wide-spread success. Having premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, it is certainly clear that Ingrid Goes West was made for the younger generation. In an IndieWire piece from January of this year, the film’s director, Matt Spicer, said of his very first feature: “It leads to a larger conversation about Instagram and the effect it has had on our culture;” taking a perspective one wouldn’t typically expect (that of the pseudo-cyber stalker) it also, according to Spicer, makes us question our own social media habits: “We all have a little voyeurism in us, and the film sort of asks the question, ‘What if you take it too far?’” (You can find the IndieWire article here.)
Aubrey Plaza (yes, April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation!) plays a social media-addicted (and otherwise troubled) young woman who goes west in order to “befriend” one of the social media figures she runs across in an Instagram binge-session back home. The film, although funny in many ways, is as Spicer said, relevant and a bit sad. Yet, in my opinion, it is very easy to identify with these characters, even when you find almost all of them a bit (or very much) troubling; there are no excuses here for strange, disturbing behavior, simply a perspective on it which we don’t typically see.
David Carter, contributor | The Loveless (1981) and Near Dark (1987)
First movie round-up and I’m already gonna break the rules! Not too much though. I’m picking two movies from the same director. Kathryn Bigelow to be exact. I listen to a podcast called Blank Check with Griffin and David in which the hosts cover whole filmographies from successful mainstream auteur directors. They’re currently combing through Kathryn Bigelow’s filmography, which gave me a cool excuse to finally watch her pre-The Hurt Locker films. And let me tell ya, Bigelow’s first two feature films The Loveless and Near Dark are doozies. They’re both these great mood pieces that subvert their respective genres (biker/youth in rebellion and vampire). Both sport stellar performances from actors pretty early in their careers, with The Loveless being Willem Dafoe’s first credited role. Near Dark features a wild performance from the late great Bill Paxton and stellar score from the band Tangerine Dream. The Loveless is this great subtle deconstruction of the biker genre and feels almost like a proto-Blue Velvet.
I think as Bigelow became this director mostly known for super intense character procedurals based on true events, it’s been a lot of fun to go back to when she would play around in different genre sandboxes. As of right now you can find The Loveless streaming on Amazon Prime. Unfortunately Near Dark is a little harder to track down due to some rights issues but if you can find it, it’s well worth the money.
Warning: contains violence.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | Friday the 13th (1980)
I had to watch this for a class, but it dovetailed nicely into my efforts to watch as many horror movies, thrillers, and just plain spooky films to get psyched for Halloween. One of my favorite things about this movie was that it was much more shocking than I expected. Some of the murders are still gory by 2017 standards. Annie’s death kind of reminded me of Marion Crane’s murder in Psycho. There’s a lot of Hitchcock’s influence on this movie, including composer Harry Manfredini making the score sound like his best Bernard Herrmann impression. You could say that it’s got over-the-top moments or that it’s got a bit of a conservative subtext (one of the scantily clad, soon-to-be brutally murdered camp counselors makes a joke about Nixon), but it mostly works like a well-oiled machine and the final twist literally made me jump out of my seat.
Warning: spoilers abound in this trailer.
Laura Ivins, contributor | Columbus (2017)
Koganada’s mesmerizing debut film, Columbus (2017), is one of those films you keep thinking about after you’ve left the theater. Although the architectural uniqueness of Columbus, Indiana anchors the film, Columbus broadens its scope through characters dealing with universal human questions. Managing the complexities of caregiving and grief for a parent that you’re not sure even loved you. Finding the courage to let someone succeed or fail without you, because it’s time to start your own journey. The guilt of reluctant responsibility. The guilt of independence.
Columbus is a symphony where all the pieces fit together: the elegant structure of the story, the casting, the authentic and skilled performances, the graphic compositions, and the selectively poignant sound design. I can’t wait to see it again.
Nathaniel Sexton, contributor | Dogfight (1991)
Conformity can drown feeling and feeling can tear, with a beating heart, at conformity, selfishness, meanness, ignorance. Nancy Savoca’s 1991 Vietnam-era, coming-of-age romance about a boorish marine (River Phoenix), an idealist diner waitress (Lili Taylor), and the cruel eponymous competition that surprisingly brings them together is heartbreaking and cautiously hopeful. Savoca shows us the failures of masculinity, the tenderness it suffocates, and the ruin it lends itself to, spreading hurt across our relationships and out into the world. She shows us forgiveness, the innocence of first love and beauty shared between two very different people. She shows us a society changing, and how people also change, and how painful it can be, even if, in the end, it’s the thing that saves us. Featuring a beautiful performance from Taylor, a poppy period soundtrack, and maybe the best hand tattoo since Robert Mitchum’s “love and hate” script from The Night of the Hunter.