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Aren Bergstrom

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Everything posted by Aren Bergstrom

  1. It's a lovely movie, even if it's more of a portrait than a story. Which is fine. I don't expect debut films to exhibit a mastery of every part of storytelling, just to be exceptional in a few key ways, which this is. I was listening to a critic discuss Samuel Beckett the other day, shortly after I'd seen the film, and I latched onto a word that the critic used to describe Beckett's view of people's mundane experiences: affirming. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an affirming movie. It seems both deeply in love with the setting in a general sense and the specific house at the film's centre, but also the characters. I look forward to what Talbot does as a director next, and whether Fails uses this as a launchpad for a larger acting career. I was a bit surprised when I found out that Joe Talbot is white.
  2. Hey all, Right after I got out of film school, I used some of my award money to fund this short film about a young woman announcing to her family that she's going to become a nun. It's not a perfect film by any means, but it was personal and it was a way to communicate some conversations about faith to people around me who seemed completely oblivious to the idea of spiritual struggle. Sadly, it didn't gain much traction at film festivals, as it was both too skeptical for faith-based festivals, and too religious for mainstream festivals. Strangely, it seems that after First Reformed came out, festival folks finally became receptive to it and it gained a bit of traction. It's been selected as part of the NSI Online Short Film Festival and Anders mentioned that I should share it here as it might speak to you all more than most online viewers: https://www.nsi-canada.ca/2019/02/a-consecrated-life/?fbclid=IwAR2ck7ZDrWITV8ZrtoI0AhGjkotid3zUDHT114izCEY5Cazkbfi9czYLMmo Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about it. You can critique it as well, but seeing as it's completed, it's not like I can accommodate any suggested edits. haha Thanks.
  3. Aren Bergstrom


    I love Avatar and still love it all these years later. Not going to really dig into all the reasons why I think it's wonderful, but one thing I'll point out is that over the past decade, as franchises have taken over Hollywood to such an insane degree (and Avatar itself is about to become a franchise), Avatar kind of stands as the last classical blockbuster. It wasn't based off any pre-existing media, it wasn't a comic book movie, and it didn't have any big-name stars or obvious reasons why it'd be a hit, aside from James Cameron's unimpeachable track record. It drew on a lot of archetypal storylines, but its worldbuilding and filmmaking technology was anything but redundant. People get giddy in movies nowadays and occasionally a blockbuster gets the entire audience on its side, but more often than not, when I'm watching a big Hollywood spectacle, the people in the theatre around me seem to be reacting to the movie as fans-first, and to the film as a product first and not a movie. Avatar never had that. It seemed to get the entire audience on its side and no one went into the film expecting anything because it was a genuinely new experience, even if the story itself wasn't entirely new. So when it swept them up in its spectacle, it wasn't cynical or a self-fulfilling prophecy of marketing or brand power. It was just people reacting genuinely to a big movie experience. Also, I think the idea that it is almost completely forgotten is more a result of it not spawning a franchise and remaining a movie than actually a comment on the film's quality. And I think that the idea that it's completely forgotten itself is a bit of a lie. Cinephiles might not talk about it much, but for ordinary people who only see a couple movies a year, perhaps at Christmas, I doubt Avatar has faded in their mind more than any other massive film over the past decade. Furthermore, no film has ever been as popular with international audiences. It kind of gave birth to the notion that you should care about the international marketplace as much as a domestic. Just wait: the sequels will be massive hits around the world.
  4. Yeah, I really dug this one, which I wrote about here: https://3brothersfilm.com/blog/2019/1/9/review-aquaman-2018 If we're going to have a movie about a super-powered underwater hero who can talk to whales and fights with a trident, why not be this silly and gleeful about it? I appreciated the film's earnest tone and complete lack of irony, which I've grown to loathe in the Marvel movies (especially the Guardians films). I haven't seen Ant-Man and the Wasp, but I definitely noticed the Black Panther parallels. Especially in how Orm's and Killmonger's motivations kind of mirror each other.
  5. Aren Bergstrom

    Free Solo

    I don't think you can't factor that into your interpretation (I overstated things in my initial post), but I just wouldn't give it the same weight as other things that came earlier in the film. The fact that the song comes in the end credits makes me automatically take it as less essential to the film's message than everything that came before, especially considering that the vast majority of audiences do not stay for the credits, and thus, would not actually listen intently to the film's lyrics and try to weigh their meaning against what they'd seen. It's not a matter of whether it's valid (most everything that is present in a film is valid for criticism, and a lot of stuff that is implied or extra-textual as well, for that matter), but just the weight that's applied to it. Thus, I can understand that you see the lyrics as a final validation of what you've come to interpret the film's message as being. It hits the nail on the head on its wrongheaded approach to Alex's climb (I'm summarizing some of your thoughts, so I hope I'm not mischaracterizing them), in your estimation. But for me, I wasn't struck by the film being overly uncritical of Alex's emotional detachment, so the song didn't sway me one way or the other. I didn't even pay it much attention as I don't like Tim McGraw and I find the closing song of documentaries as kind of a lame cliche. I actually think that the filmmakers behind Free Solo are marketing it very aggressively, and it's totally valid to take a cynical approach to how they formulated aspects of the film to get Oscar buzz and make money. The fact that the film is a bonafide hit for a documentary (around $10 million and counting) and a likely Oscar nominee for Best Documentary shows that aspects of their approach has worked, too. Although the song being left off the Oscar shortlist is clearly a case of the song not working the way they wanted it to. Or perhaps they're simply fans of McGraw and so they're happy to have his song on their work. Yup, Chazelle's other films are the other main examples I'm thinking of, since he's really making this a theme in his work. Personal sacrifice in order to achieve some other form of "greatness," where that means jazz drumming, becoming an actress/pianist, or landing on the Moon.
  6. Aren Bergstrom

    Free Solo

    Thanks for the responses, Ken and Joel. I understand the hesitation towards Free Solo's depiction of Alex, but I don't really want to re-litigate whether it's a good movie or not. Suffice it to say, I think it's an exceptional work of cinematography, at least, and I think the film does dig into the prickly aspect of its own culpability in Alex's careless, and even cruel, behaviour. Like another very well made documentary this year, When Lambs Become Lions, by Jon Kasbe, the film be used in a case study of documentarians overstepping their bounds with regards to their ethical responsibility. But that's a whole other conversation. Anyway, what I was throwing out there is that I found both films zeroing in on these men's emotional disconnection and linking that to their extreme feats, as if the accomplishment of what they did couldn't have happened if they weren't divorced from the world around them. I don't think this is an aberration within humans or a misreading of why some people do extraordinary things (I'll leave out the term "great" here, as I agree, there are debatable aspects about whether Alex's climb is actually great), because when you meet people who do rock climbing or climb Mt. Everest or become astronauts, or any other extreme vocations, these people often have an emotional disconnection that's almost essential for them sacrificing their personal lives and relationships in service of whatever it is they do. You even get this is less extreme versions with athletes or anyone who is exceptional at their job and places it above all other things. It brings them success, but at the sacrifice of stability and emotional connection. What I think makes First Man so interesting is how it doesn't automatically show this sacrifice to be a good thing, even if it clearly shows the Moon landing as a great feat. I agree that Neil wants to grow in this aspect, but I also think his detachment is clearly an advantage as it makes him dedicated to the program and able to withstand the rigours of its training in ways some other individuals aren't. BTW, I agree that the Tim McGraw song isn't good. But I also don't think you can read the lyrics as a completely valid summation of what Alex has accomplished. I'm sure much of the reason the song is there is that they simply wanted to have a famous musician do a song for their film with the hope that it'd qualify for the category at the Oscars and garner some more attention to the film, so I don't want to assume they vetted the message the song was delivering line for line.
  7. Aren Bergstrom

    Free Solo

    Anyone have any thoughts on Free Solo in comparison to First Man? I saw them on back-to-back nights and couldn't help but see similarities in how Alex Honnold and Neil Armstrong are both portrayed as emotionally-distant, almost delusional figures that are nevertheless capable of extreme greatness, perhaps in part because of their disconnection from family and the world.
  8. It's an utterly bizarre film. I actually prefer it to Favreau's The Jungle Book, which played as empty retread of the animated version and franchise-bait, while also managing to misunderstand Kipling's fundamental lessons from the original book. This one has a very strong throughline of Mowgli existing between worlds, and it leans hard into the idea that both the jungle and the world of men have their own rules, but that death is the ultimate operating principle of both realms. It's not a seamless work by any means, but I'm fascinated by it mostly for how bold a vision it is. I'm not surprised WB dumped it, as I don't see any kids taking to this one strongly, considering its general lack of humour and grisly violence. There's a moment two-thirds of the way through that I could see as a traumatic episode for kids that watch it.
  9. I didn't know it was filmed in Winnipeg. Huh. Well, wherever they filmed it, it looked very nice. I think it's the mere fact that it wasn't shot/reverse-shot like a sitcom that surprised me. I really didn't think that this film would have any consideration behind the camera work, so when it seemed to be lit nicely and have reasons behind shot choices (even overwrought reasons), it did a lot to undo some of my annoyance. The film's themes and theology may have been watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator, I was glad to see that the camerawork wasn't of the same indistinct blandness. But yes, the Spider-man falling was terrible. And Colton really creeped me out. I'm thinking of the scene where Todd is looking for a photo of his grandfather and Colton comes down the hall like Nosferatu creeping on his victim. After the movie I mentioned that Colton would make a very good horror film villain.
  10. I hate this movie. More thoughts to come, but what a monstrous film that is so familiar to me in so many ways. I'm glad that non-Christians will not see it so they can be spared the indignity of seeing it. It almost makes me ashamed to call myself a Christian, and then explain to people that I don't represent the various viewpoints and vitriolic hatred on non-Christians that this film seems to have. People are just numbers waiting to go up on the big board of conversions in heaven's gaming hall. Whoever gets the most conversions gets a shout-out at the Newboys concert in heaven.
  11. Saw this film on Monday with my girlfriend. Wasn't expecting to like it. Came out of it thinking it a mostly benign "nice story" the kind of which I'd hear from people at the MB church I used to go to. The things that bothered me about it were how non-Christian the descriptions of heaven were, how it's depiction of a near-death experience with an overwhelming sense of calm and images of heaven that our populate culture has beaten into our minds speaks to any generalized new-age views of the afterlife. No one goes to hell. Heaven is all vanilla and smiles. There is nothing in this film that speaks to Christian theology. None of the descriptions of heaven or why people go there has anything to do with the Bible. It's all just people wanting to feel nice about things being alright in the afterlife. But then I saw GOD'S NOT DEAD today, and boy oh boy, do I like this more in retrospect. While I totally agree that that film at least has the authenticity of how evangelicals speak and the references/arguments they make, it was so hateful, I wanted to walk out of the film multiple times. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL at least is well made and well acted. It's watered down to an indistinct blandness to be sure, but Greg Kinnear is earnest as Todd Burpo and the scene in the hospital where Todd and his wife are trying to maintain control while Colton is in surgery is affecting. And it's a very well shot film too. I was expecting Lifetime movie over-the-shoulder coverage for the whole film, but instead the shots seemed to have weight behind them and it made Nebraska gorgeous. It's a weird thing to focus on, but having a movie like this be genuinely beautiful in its imagery (aside from any views of heaven) and actually show some artistry in the shot composition was a nice surprise.
  12. This is an extremely late posting of my Top Ten but the usual prestige flicks didn't show up in Saskatoon until just around a week ago. Now, here is my Top Ten Films of 2008. 1. The Dark Knight 2. Revolutionary Road 3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 4. Gran Torino 5. The Wrestler 6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 7. The Visitor 8. Doubt 9. Slumdog Millionaire 10. Iron Man
  13. I recently viewed the trailer, and I have to agree that, from the trailer, Langella's voice seems very forced. There are bits that seem very natural, but overall it seems quite distant from the real Nixon's voice. That said, I still have hopes for the film. I believe that it may just be a case of the trailer containing questionable segments and not the film itself. I'm very curious to see whether this film becomes the big award's season contender that so many critics believe it will be. Only time will tell.
  14. Spirited Away IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245429/ Arts and Faith: http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?showtopi...=Hayao+Miyazaki The beauty of childhood is captured perfectly in Hayao Miyazaki's viscerally inticing masterpiece. Chihiro is the epitamy of childhood: naive, self-centred but ultimately, innocent and kind. Miyazaki's film is a testament to the imagination of children and the innocence of youth. This generation's Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away grabs you with its loveable characters, awe-inspiring hand-drawn visuals and wonderful story. This is a film that ignites the child within every person and is arguably the greatest animated film of the new millenium. Spirited Away is a window into the mind of a child, and the beautiful ideas that lay dormant within. Netflix: http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Spirited_Away...=1677353978_0_0 Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirited_Away Amazon (DVD): http://www.amazon.com/Spirited-Away-Hayao-...3390&sr=1-1 YouTube (Trailer):
  15. Aren Bergstrom


    Agreed. I don't understand the logic behind making this an R-rated film. The f-words added nothing and could have easily been dropped. It would have made much more sense, from a marketing stand-point and just from a logical stand-point.
  16. Aren Bergstrom


    That's good to hear. From the Lynch films that I have seen, The Elephant Man is by far his best.
  17. Aren Bergstrom


    I have been warned against viewing Eraserhead by my brother and although I know that I will have to view it someday to complete the Lynch filmography, it's not prioty. I am very hesitant to watch films that others have described as "nauseating" or "vile". Still, your belief that Eraserhead is Lynch's best makes me want to visit it, regardless of the warning. Lynch is such a strange director, and one of the few whose films are physically exhausting. After seeing INLAND EMPIRE, which I appreciated for the "experience" more-so than the film, I was in a cold-sweat and feeling drained. Unfortunately, I was going to a Midnight show of A Clockwork Orange directly after, so I had more shenanigans in store. If Eraserhead ever comes as a Midnight show, I will definitely fork over some money to experience it on the big sceen. But until then, I hesitate.
  18. Is this referring to in theatres or at home, or both? Me being quite young (17) and relatively new into being a hardcore cinephile (2 years maybe), I average around a film a day throughout the year (In theatres and at home). I try to go the theatre once a week so my year-end average for theatres is probably around 50, not including repeated viewings. Unfortunately I don't have the advantage of being a critic and getting into films for free, so the cost of film-going does come into play. I'm curious as to how many classics people watch on average. There are a lot of films I need to see, and so I take every opportunity I can to watch an "important" film. So I'm wondering, if you're surfing the television and Stalag 17, for example, comes up on TCM, do you take the time to watch it (If you haven't already)?
  19. I am skeptical about a Watchmen film because the graphic novel is so good but a part of me is really excited for it. It is similar to the upcoming Dune adaptation with Peter Berg directing: I don't think that he movie can match the original material but the mere prospect of having a theatrical version is something to look forward to. The casting of Synder can be a plus minus. I know that the visuals will be true to the novel but I'm not sure about the themes. But consider when Peter Jackson was chosen to direct The Lord of the Rings. That seemed odd at the time but turned out to great. Basically, we will see in due time if Synder can pull it off and I will look forward to it, win or lose.
  20. Here's my top ten. My city has yet to get There Will Be Blood and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, two films that would probably rank high on my list. Still, here's my list: 1. Juno 2. No Country for Old Men 3. In the Valley of Elah 4. Atonement 5. Michael Clayton 6. 3:10 to Yuma 7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 8. Ratatouille 9. Eastern Promises 10. The Darjeeling Limited Honourable Mentions: 300 American Gangster Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Hot Fuzz The Simpsons Movie Zodiac
  21. Apparently the film Vantage Point also uses a Rashomon style narrative but this film seems to be in better taste. It's not new to be remaking Rashomon, it's been done many times as The Outrage, a 1961 television version by Sidney Lumet also called Rashomon, Iron Maze, Misty and even Hoodwinked! is a Rashomon rehash in a way.
  22. Yeah, I was just thinking about the naming yesterday. Although I do feel that splitting the book into two films may make it easier to film, I feel that they are doing this too late. They should keep with one-movie per book. It seems like a last effort for them to pick our pockets.
  23. I agree that this film raised some really tough questions at the end but it seemed to confuse me in the way it did it. Certain major plot points seemed to manifest out of the slightest details earlier in the film. Still, it is an admirable film and it seems that Ben Affleck is more slated for directing than acting, except for in the occasional Kevin Smith cameo. After this and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I am really beginning to like Casey Affleck.
  24. I feel like I am going to be the only person in this forum who likes Eastern Promises more than A History of Violence. I felt that everything in EP was tight and that although it may not be the most original film ever, it doesn't suffer because of it. Mortensen is amazing as Nikolai and that "bath-house fight scene" is very intense although I don't feel that it is as revolutionary as many critics do. I saw the film twice in a row to try to completely make sense of it and I have to say that I enjoyed the second viewing more. I was not shocked as much and was then more able to view the story and the performances as opposed to the throat slashings and other horrors. Overall, one of my favourite films of the year but not quite as good as 3:10 to Yuma.
  25. That short film is quite funny. It parodies Bergman perfectly. Still, it is no comparisson to the things it parodies.
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