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Aren Bergstrom

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Everything posted by Aren Bergstrom

  1. That's a nice little blurb. I think Weir is perpetually under-appreciated. I'm always down for more discussion of his work. Hopefully I can knock off the rest of my blindspots of his work in the next few weeks.
  2. I didn't have the energy to watch The Last Wave last night, so instead put on The Cars That Ate Paris, which left me baffled. It's a strange mix between a kind of kitchen-sink drama and Ozspoiltation. There are some interesting ideas bubbling beneath the surface of this film, but I'm not sure any of it comes together in a satisfying manner. Aside from the one (accidentally?) striking image of the police officer brandishing the door of his car with the word "pig" spray painted across it and wielding a bloody makeshift spear, I didn't find the film particularly invigorating. Anyone feel passionately about this film, either good or bad? I'm curious to hear what people's thoughts are. (Apologies if this thread already exists somewhere. I searched, but couldn't find one.)
  3. Just caught up with this film last night as I've had Peter Weir's early Australian films on my Criterion Channel list for a while. What a mysterious film. It seems to channel some of those quintessential 1970s movies techniques—superimposition of images, inserts shots of nature, elliptical editing patterns—but it doesn't use them simply to create horror, as say, The Wicker Man does, or to play into any kind of New Age textual elements (although I did get a sense that Ari Aster's Midsommar may have been inspired by this film in some respects). The girls that disappear certainly inhabit the idea of "liberated individuals" within the film, (which would normally be embodied by New Age characters in these sorts of films) but they don't belong to a different world than the others characters here. They're simply the individuals drawn beyond their rigid lives, and they're seemingly swallowed by the landscape because of it. Repression seems to be a big part of the film's subtext, but I don't think a simple reading of sexual repression/liberation works without also taking into account all the colonial implications of the film's use of geography. Despite there being no Aboriginal characters in the film, I find it impossible not to see Hanging Rock as somewhat emblematic of true Australia here. As well, the upper class English seem so clearly out of place in that specific landscape. It's as if the landscape itself makes the girls disappear in a bid to disrupt the colonial presence and go back to nature. The whole experience left me with a lot to think about. I look forward to catching up with The Last Wave in the next few days, hopefully.
  4. I took advantage of the recent long weekend in Canada to finally watch A Brighter Summer Day after having recently caught up with Taipei Story, The Terrorizers, and his segment in In Our Time. Add my voice to the chorus of praise. I was pretty wowed by it, not only by how dense it is, but by the amount of care that went into every composition and character interaction. What struck me most about it is that it never achieves an epic scale, despite being three minutes shy of four hours, which means that the length of the film is there to help us understand these characters and this world in great detail, not to blow up the interpersonal conflicts into a struggle for the ages. But at the same time, Xiao S'ir and the many other characters in the film do stand in as kind of heroes of a historical romance, set at the turning of a society and representing the greater social movements as a whole. It's hard to think of another movie off the top of my head that does a better job of having characters act as historical and social symbols while also investing in these characters as human beings. Thus, A Brighter Summer Day and Wang's other works like Taipei Story do an incredible job of using character and conflict as a means of exploring the overarching changes of a society, but without reducing the characters to mere ciphers. It's a neat balance and a good indicator of how special this movie is.
  5. Aren Bergstrom

    The Matrix

    Was going to comment here and link back to my review from 2019 about how to perceive the significance of the film, but I see that Anders has already done so. So... carry on, gentlemen.
  6. I am not on the voting committee so have no say in the Top 100, but your breakdown of the power of Blue Velvet, Darren, is amazing. Blue Velvet is my favourite "dramatic film" (the only movies I like more are Return of the Jedi, Spirited Away, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which are all fantasies of various sorts) and so if I was voting on this Top 100, it'd sit at or near the top. You beautifully capture two things that are absolutely critical to understanding Blue Velvet: 1. We are meant to be implicated in the sadism on display. We are Jeffrey in the closet. 2. The robins are not satire or a cute symbol of innocence. They are profound love. In this current pandemic, I often find myself remarking to my wife (who admires Lynch and loves Twin Peaks especially, but isn't a big moviegoer) that "there is trouble 'til the robins come", using it as the shorthand for hoping for the moment when the pandemic ends and fear leaves us. Sandy talking about her dream is such a profound moment in the film and has become a shorthand for my own way of expressing goodness in the world. If that's not spiritual power in cinema, I don't know what is. Me too, although in a much more condensed manner than you describe (I'm not even 30, so obviously that is the case). First time, in high school, I was cautiously admiring but more than a little disturbed. Second time in university made me reconsider just how formally audacious the movie is. Then when I finally started living on my own and went off to film school, I watched it again and it basically clicked that Jeffrey Beaumont is probably the character I most connect with in all of cinema. Understanding myself in Jeffrey was one of those "Aha!" moviegoing moments and the film went from being something I greatly respected and thought was brilliantly constructed to something I love and see the world through. I love many other David Lynch works, most notably Twin Peaks, but I don't think anything else he has done captures the essence of his art in such a complete manner. It's the combination of genre and avant-garde, evil and love, camp and nostalgia, that defines him, but all in one perfect two-hour package. So, whoever is voting, please put this at the top of your Lynch works. It's his best.
  7. I did the predictable and binged Tiger King not long after the pandemic started. The absurdity is appalling and undeniably entertaining, but it's also little more than a freak show. More recently, I finished up season two of Narcos: Mexico and season five of Better Call Saul, both of which were excellent, especially the latter. Now, I find myself with no active show to watch aside from the weekly episodes of The Last Dance to give me my sports fix. I'm tempted to delve back into Star Trek: The Next Generation as I find the Star Trek series among the most comforting (and best) series ever made. And if there's one thing that is comforting right now, it's watching excellent leadership react in the face of crisis on an episodic basis.
  8. Aren Bergstrom

    Dune

    The images of stillsuits hew pretty closely to what I imagined. Of course, I'm most excited for when they finally reveal what the sandworms look like.
  9. You say it much better than I could. Yes, this is what the film captures.
  10. I really loved Beau travail when I saw it on the big screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto at a rep screening. I've been pretty mixed on Denis' other films that I've seen. That being said, I don't know if "spiritual" is the first word that would come to mind when describing the film. I feel like there is definitely something elemental to the film's allegorical storytelling, and Lavant's performance is especially primal. That final scene is transporting, but I feel like it's more of an emotional eruption than a some spiritual transcendence, but I'm open to the film operating on a higher wavelength than the pure repression of the flesh that drives so much of the plot. In my review from last spring, I mention that the ending is a "furious sequence of emotional expression, both beautiful and violent." Perhaps such an emotional outburst would necessarily be coupled with something spiritually uplifting, as if for once in his life, Galoup can finally be himself. I'm sure a revisit of the film with this question in mind would reveal more answers, or at least thoughts to ponder.
  11. Eh, it works for me emotionally. I totally get it not working for others. It's clear that it's not obvious whether it's sunrise or sunset on first (or second, or third) viewing, so I'm not going to defend the framing. But it's not actually the same horizon. The ridge where Luke watches sunset is to the right of the Lars Homestead entrance. In the final scene in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey is standing in front of that entrance when talking with the woman, and then proceeds to continue forward and to the right, so she's actually looking the opposite direction. The homestead is in the left of one frame of Rey watching the sunset, out of focus, and you can tell it's the backside of the homestead, because it doesn't have the entrancing jutting out, which would be there if it was the same ridge as Luke. Again, not defending the framing (it takes investigating it frame by frame to figure this out, which is itself an issue), but just pedantically pointing out that it's not the same horizon, cause I feel like I went this far, might as well go further. Clearly, I'm a little too invested. haha
  12. My list. No audiobooks (which I just can't get into). All finished in the month listed, but not necessary started. I've included an (*) for books I've read before. January Prisoners of the Sun, Hergé* February Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson Whatever, Michel Houellebecq Before Watchmen: Nite Owl & Dr. Manhattan, J. Michael Straczynski Killshot, Elmore Leonard March Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis May The Stand, Stephen King The Dragon in the Sea, Frank Herbert Son of a Smaller Hero, Mordecai Richler June Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Ernest Hemingway (ed. Larry W. Phillips)
  13. I'm not sure whether there's a better spot to continue a discussion about Dekalog, but in the absence of being pointed to a more appropriate home for this, I'm sharing my recent article about "Lenten Reflections from Dekalog" in which I explore each episode in the series in relation to the Gospels and specifically the parables: https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2020/4/10/lenten-reflections-from-dekalog-1989 I'm sure there are a lot of reflections and perhaps corrections of my interpretations that you all here could bring to a discussion of the films, so I'm sharing here in hopes that some more thoughtful interpretation is brought to light. From my intro: Hope you all find something meaningful in it.
  14. Update now that it's on Blu-ray: it's definitely a sunrise, Joel. There are even articles being written about that exact moment now, e.g. https://screenrant.com/star-wars-rise-skywalker-tatooine-suns-not-set-reason/
  15. Yup. I'm excited for Pattinson as Batman and I'm fine with tinkering with the suit (even if I think the Batfleck version is as good as the Batman suit has ever looked on screen), but this barely even counts as a screen test. Just visually incomprehensible without maxing brightness.
  16. I'm not a David Lowery fan, but I am excited for a feverish adaptation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Let's hope that's what we get. Dev Patel and Joel Edgerton being in it only add to my excitement. Ho boy, I'm not sure any film can be worse than Sword of the Valiant. haha
  17. I actually searched for that thread before making this one, but could not find it with the search function! Sorry.
  18. My Top 10 write-up can be found here: https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2020/1/6/arens-top-10-films-of-2019 1. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood 2. Parasite 3. The Irishman 4. Sunset 5. A Hidden Life 6. Little Women 7. Deadwood: The Movie 8. The Lighthouse 9. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 10. Apollo 11 Yes, I put The Rise of Skywalker on my Top 10....
  19. I did not expect the third film in the famously trashy Bad Boys series to feature so much talk of God and such an earnest engagement with trying to follow God's commands, but Bad Boys For Life does just that. Sure, it treats prayer largely as a bargain with God and is still hyper violent, but it also features a scene where a character literally has to turn the other cheek after the main characters had earlier discussed the morality of doing just that. Apparently a lot of this is inspired by Martin Lawrence's real-life faith journey, and yes, it's still a superficial action film and no Scorsese or Schrader joint. But I couldn't help but get a kick out of its engagement with faith and found a lot of truth in Blake I. Collier's blurb on Letterboxd: "It had more theological depth than all of the Kendrick Bros. films combined. And I'm not even being remotely snarky or ironic." Anyone else see this?
  20. I saw Sam Mendes' 1917 a couple nights ago. I was struck by its visual beauty and the technical accomplishment of filming and choreographing the film. But I also cannot get over the idea that it may have been a better film if it wasn't presented as one-take, since the one-take conceit always reminds you that there's an artistic present manipulating your presentation of what's happening on screen. Ideally, a war movie should shrink the distance between viewer and character and make us appreciate the experience of war. Did anyone else see 1917 and have a different take?
  21. I just saw the film last night and was pretty struck with it. It's a beautiful film and I'm stunned at how Gerwig went from Lady Bird to this. I don't mean this as a slight against Lady Bird, which is a lovely film, but this movie operates on a visual scale that film does not. Gerwig is the real deal when it comes to visual construction and narrative structure. I had those exact same thoughts. That shot is lovely and is indicative of what Evan said in this thread about Gerwig showing her love for the characters in the attention-to-detail. Also, Pugh may steal the film away from Ronan, who is very impressive, but not as surprising. I'm glad to see that Pugh has a register beyond the anguish that all 150 minutes of Midsommar displayed.
  22. See Joel, I think you're correct that it's the same spot that Luke is on, so the suns would've been setting from that spot, so I'm not sure this actually makes any sense within the storyworld itself. But the third time I saw the film, I went in specifically wanting to pay attention to this ending to answer this question and I remember the wide shot of the farm with no sun and then the sun only appears for the final two shots, so no sun to sun makes me think it's a sunrise, that combined with the aforementioned red sun rising in the final frame and the title of the film "Rise." Again, I could be wrong and my memory may be constructing something that's not there. If I see it a fourth time (which is likely), I'll report back with further updates.
  23. Aren Bergstrom

    The Two Popes

    Jonathan Pryce is inspired casting for Francis. Hopkins as Benedict is also good, although less startlingly spot-on. I think as a drama, The Two Popes is fine. It's a very Hollywood simplification and the actual original dynamic of the film (Benedict as conservative, Francis as progressive) isn't really challenged, but merely softened by film's end. The entire movie reminded me of something like Green Book, where the characters do not so much change over the course of the film, but instead display a broader humanization that makes their politics incidental to the actual friendship developing at the film's core. This is par for the course for Hollywood, so I didn't mind this approach so much. It just didn't make me appreciate these two historical men any more than I already did. As history, the film is absurdly reductive. As well, despite it being ostensibly about both men, it's really the Pope Francis movie (he gets the flashbacks, he gets the arc, Benedict is simply the foil). Also, it's simply annoying to have a film about two enormously influential religious figures refuse to dig into actual theology, or, rather, come to the conclusion that the finer details of religion aren't all that important when compared to the capacity to bond over soccer and music and shared experiences. Don't get me wrong: all those things are important, but I would've preferred the film dig into the actual theological issues at hand in addition to focusing on the burgeoning friendship. I'm especially interested in individual Catholics' takes on this film, so I sought out both Evan and SDG's reviews immediately after seeing it. My Protestant viewpoint is admittedly distanced from the stakes of the film.
  24. I very much liked it, but I'm a big Star Wars fan, so that's not all that surprising. You can read my brothers and I discuss the film at length in our two roundtable conversations at 3 Brothers Film: https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2019/12/26/roundtable-star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-part-1 https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2019/12/31/roundtable-star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-part-2 Just wanted to share a couple brief thoughts, responding to some of comments here. 1. I believe the ending is a sunrise, not a sunset. I've seen the film three times and there is no sun in the sky during Rey's initial appearance at the Lars Homestead. But when she says her name is "Rey Skywalker," it appears over the horizon, and in the silhouette shot, we can see the redder of the suns rising slightly. It's another example of J.J. Abrams taking something familiar (the Luke Binary Sunset scene) and adding something new to it: a sunrise, not sunset, a fulfillment, not a yearning. It's pure nostalgia, but it worked for me. 2. I very much like John Williams' music for these films. His Rey theme in particular, with the flute ("The Scavenger" on The Force Awakens soundtrack), is great. 3. I liked the Disney Trilogy a fair bit, but these films are miles away from the quality of the other Star Wars films (I-VI). And if the unevenness of this new trilogy makes people reconsider the depth of the Prequel Trilogy, all the better.
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