Originally Published on Elements of Madness
One of film’s unique narrative strengths is the camera’s ability to manipulate perspective. A movie can put us behind the mask of a serial killer on Halloween or on the tip of a shark’s nose just before it attacks. Point-of-view shots are both riveting and revolting. They force us to confront stomach-turning visuals, and yet, as we share the perspective of a character who we care about, we can’t turn away. In the case of Patrick, a selection from this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, cinematographer Frank van den Eeden capitalizes on the power of perspective to create a detailed and accessible portrait of the emotionally unavailable title character. Patrick is a stylized, darkly comedic thriller that hones in on the anxiety of its antisocial protagonist, exposing (in more ways than one) the ridiculousness of the world around him.
Among the list of things that you might expect to save your life one day, perhaps one of the least likely is a night with an escort and a headfirst dive into the world of feminist pornography production. For middle-aged housewife Morgana Muses, who had silently suffered through a loveless, sexless marriage for years, it just so happened that the simple act of holding hands with an escort while on a date to the theatre was exactly what she needed to start fighting back against overpowering suicidal thoughts. In a fantastical documentary about her life, which is simply titled, Morgana, this housewife turned porn-star shares the story of how she left behind a hollow, meaningless life to pursue a career in adult films, embarking on a healing journey that would give her the identity and community she had always craved. Directed by the feminist dynamite duo of Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, Morgana is not just a documentary about porn and sex-work, but an invitation to flourishing self-love. As an official selection of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Morgana gives women of all shapes, sizes, and ages permission to seek out people and communities that can meet their basic human needs, sexual or otherwise.
Anyone familiar with rape-revenge films knows that the formula for this horror sub-genre can be particularly tricky. While the genre continually offers up new ways for audiences to process and discuss trauma, rape-revenge films can be quite problematic when not handled correctly. Writer/director Teddy Grennan’s latest film, Ravage, thankfully avoids one of the most common and offensive clichés of the genre: sexualizing the protagonist as a victim of violence and trauma. Unfortunately, however, Ravage also manages to create new problems of its own.
The 2020 American presidential election is well underway, one that may prove to be the most interesting (or frustrating) elections of the past few decades as the candidates navigate campaign strategies in the midst of a global pandemic. As voters tune in to the presidential debates and our social media accounts flood with political ads and memes, it may seem like the next chapter in our country’s history all depends on the winner of this next big election. It can be easy to forget about the smaller, local elections and the changes we can make in our communities by researching and voting for local officials. As Marc Levin’s new documentary, Stockton On My Mind, shows, local elections can be a catalyst for social justice and meaningful changes in our own backyards. In 2016, on the same day that Donald Trump won the presidential election, 26-year-old Michael Tubbs became the first black mayor, not to mention the youngest, of Stockton, California. Stockton On My Mind highlights not only Tubbs’s journey and the positive impact he has had on his hometown, but the strength of local communities and the power of reform from within. It’s a thought-provoking film that seeks to tell a different narrative about low-income, high-crime communities and to inspire audiences to pursue lasting changes in their own towns.
Originally published on Elements of Madness
If you spend time with kids on a regular basis, then at some point you’ve probably been asked to play a confusing game with vague rules and unclear objectives that the kids invented themselves. It might be a live-action-role-playing-game that ineffectively combines mythology from a smorgasbord of fairy tales and video games, or perhaps a board game where the rules change every five minutes depending on whether the young game-maker is in the lead. Of course, we don’t expect children to meticulously plan out alternate worlds with consistent themes, and their creativity is endearing, even if we are subjected to hours of games that make absolutely no sense. But now, imagine that the neighborhood kids made a documentary explaining a game that they invented together. They haven’t quite agreed on the rules yet, and each kid has a totally different vision for the game, yet they have decided to make a film explaining it. If you can imagine this sort of film, filled with interviews from people who all have different ideas about the same game, then you’ll know what to expect from In Bright Axiom. Directed by Spencer McCall, this ambitious documentary explores the strange and experimental Latitude Society, an artistic project that was part spiritual group and part live-action-role-playing-game. If you don’t have background knowledge about the project, however, In Bright Axiom will send you into a hole of internet research as you try to make sense of its absurd details.
For those who enjoy the soft whispering, feather-like brushing, and light tapping of ASMR videos, the idea of “ASMR horror” may be especially unsettling. Horror works extremely well when it invades our safe spaces, and directors often succeed by setting their horror films in places where we don’t expect to be scared. However, for those who find ASMR annoying or even anger-inducing, this popular internet sensation may create horror all by itself. If you’re in this second category, you may find yourself yanking off your headphones or muting your device while watching Alexandra Serio’s new short, Tingle Monsters, an ASMR horror film. Shot like a livestream, the 10-minute film is a creative and original piece that speaks to both online sexual terror and the dangers of the internet in general.
From Rebel Without a Cause (1955) to The Breakfast Club (1985) to Lady Bird (2017), each generation has its special coming-of-age films that it can claim as its own. These are the movies grounded in a cultural milieu that take us back to a certain time and place with a nostalgic soundtrack, dated fashion trends, and short-lived catchphrases. As new generations emerge with their own lingo, music, technology, and psychological baggage, filmmakers always seem to find fresh new soil for exploring timeless themes about growing up. Writer and director Emily Cohn has certainly created an exciting new take on those themes with her feature debut, CRSHD, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. In CRSHD, Cohn dives headfirst into the world of social media to reexamine the troubles and triumphs of the young adult years.
From writer/director Lara Jean Gallagher, Clementine is a psychological drama and emotional think-piece that deals with the consequences of a breakup and the rocky, unstable journey from one stage of life to the next. Aspiring artist Karen (Otmara Marrero) is depressed and disillusioned after an intense breakup. In search of both closure and revenge, she drives to her ex’s picturesque lake house in Oregon, breaks in, and makes herself at home. She soon meets teenage Lana (Sydney Sweeney), who lives across the lake and starts wandering around the property one evening in search of her runaway dog. Flighty and carefree, Lana captivates Karen with her innocent spirit. As Karen teaches Lana about things like record players and abstract art, attraction and desire begin to bubble beneath the surface of their relationship. However, Karen isn’t finished getting over her ex, and Lana has troubles and secrets of her own.
If Céline Sciamma’s recently released Portrait of a Lady on Fire paints a picture of female community and camaraderie at its best, honing in on the lives of women as they create space for each other outside of patriarchal society, then Malgorzata Szumowska’s The Other Lamb illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum. With a fervent religious cult as the vehicle for its nightmarish story, The Other Lamb spins a haunting tale about the limitations of female friendship and identity under patriarchal influence. This “tale” is, of course, still an everyday reality for many women, and the horrors of the story will no doubt resonate with a large audience. It’s cathartic and angry, but before releasing its rage, it sympathetically explores touchy subjects like desire, Stockholm syndrome, and the confusing web of signification that fights for control over the female body.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."
Film Lover | Writer |
Cat Mom | Member, North Carolina Film Critics Association | Contributor, Elements of Madness | MA Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago '19 | BA English, Gardner-Webb University '18