Obvious Child: Q + A

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Grace asked Mia:

1. When and how did you first get interested in this movie? Did you know ofthese actors before this movie?

I watched the trailer for it and recognized Jenny Slate as “Mona Lisa” from
Parks and Recreation. Also, it being billed as an “Abortion Comedy” spiked
my attention despite the filmmakers’ aims to disassociate from that
tagline.

2. How did the movie make you feel? Did it impart any feeling or message
upon you?

I appreciated that there wan an absence of message. The film, in my
opinion, was really about the struggles of a woman in her late twenties and
this “thing” happens to her and we follow this emotionally charged journey on how
she deals with life’s obstacles.

3. Do you feel the movie was trying I send a message?

No.

4. Are you familiar with this screenwriter? What other works of
theirs have you seen?

The filmmakers behind this indie hit are all first time, feature length
writers, directors and producers. Obvious Child was based on a short film
(which most full length films are these days) and collaboration between
these professionals

5. How do you feel about abortion? How do you feel about how NY was
portrayed in the film?

I “feel” that abortion is a choice. New York, or rather, Brooklyn
was fairly represented. I enjoyed the subtle comedy of Brooklyn vs.
Manhattan, rent, independent bookstores, and obscure comedy clubs in
Williamsburg.

Mia asked Grace:

1. Describe the audience where you saw this film.

I viewed the movie at the Tivoli Theater in St. Louis. We walked in right as it was starting so I don’t remember the other movie goers. I think there were 6-8 other people plus us three. My friend Kelsey remembers two older ladies behind us. I remember seeing a young couple in front of us.

2. Was it difficult to find a theater where this film was showing?

Yes! The AMC in KC said they would have it but kept changing the date. The Tivoli here did have it but only offered 3 showings and only one I could make after I got off work at five in the afternoon. Also the Tivoli in KC is pretty far from my house in suburbia so I have to make a serious effort to get out there.

3. What was your initial reaction to the abortion scene?

There was a palpable tension as we were watching. I kept expecting something, I am not sure, more unpleasant but it was so matter of fact and Donna and Max were so cute that it relaxed the whole situation. The scene where she is sitting with all the other women after the procedure is interesting though. I felt ambiguous about it. I think I was waiting for the characters reactions and she didn’t seem to feel strongly any one way.

4. Did your perspective change at all after seeing this film?

About abortion? Not really? Maybe I feel more comfortable about it if I have to have one? I am not sure I will know how I really feel about abortion until I am in that situation where I have to make a decision.

5. What is your biggest praise and complaint on Obvious Child.

OMG! (yes, I just oh my god-ed) Max and Donna were super cute! I love their quirky relationship. She kept doing strange bizarrely hilarious things and he liked her more for them! My biggest complaint was all the awkward jokes in her comedy routine. I am terrible with awkward humor. It makes my chest hurt with awkwardness.

photo credit

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The Grand Budapest Hotel: Q + A

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Grace to Mia:

1. What made you want to see this movie?

I am a fan of Wes Anderson’s films and after the success of Moonrise Kingdom, I wanted to see what next he had up his sleeve. Plus, I’m a huge Saoirse Ronan fan and wanted to see her in something a bit different than what we usually see her in.

2. Why do you think Wes Anderson Movies always have extensive star studded casts?

Always wouldn’t be accurate because even with Rushmore, at the time, Wes Anderson and the Owen brothers were a bunch of no names from Texas. But as their combined careers gained traction and eventually launched them into the Hollywood mainstream, it was only natural for the trio (+ their newly acquired friends in Hollywood) to want to work with each other again. It’s the same with DiCaprio and Scorsese. Why mess with something that works when you can bring along your friends for the fun?

3. What feeling did this movie leave you with?

GBH left me feeling overwhelmed and saddened. I’m used to Wes’ films having simple story lines that are easy to follow that center around the dramatics of relationships and familial bonds at its core. I think while we get a sense of that between the characters of M. Gustave, Zero, Agatha, and Madame D., a bit of that was lost in so much of the plot twists and turns throughout the film.

4. How did this compare to other Wes Anderson films? What is your fave and why?

After seeing GBH, The Royal Tenenbaums remains my favorite Wes Anderson film with Moonrise Kingdom as a close second. In comparison to those films, GBH, in my opinion, was too over the top per my usual Wes Anderson tastes.

5. Would you call Tony or M. Gustave the hero? Did you like M. Gustave?

I did indeed like M. Gustave and believe that he, Zero and Agatha are the heroes of this film. They remained true and loyal to their friends in life and after death and “truly,” fought for what they believed in.

Mia to Grace:

1. Why did you choose to see The Grand Budapest Hotel?

You wanted to do a review on it and when I looked at the trailer I liked a lot of the actors. Also Wes Anderson is always a good time.

2. What is your favorite Wes Anderson film and how did GBH compare?

I love The Darjeeling Limited and I loved it for the the complex relationships between the brothers and their parents. The emotional drama of each brother was made more poignant due to the death of their father and the search of their mother. GBH was complicated but not in its relationships but rather in its events. The story was a crazy adventure and I enjoyed myself but it didn’t linger with you like many of Anderson’s other films.

3. Did you have a favorite character?

If I had to choose, it would be Zero. He is super adorable and lovable. He is incredibly endearing with his unfailing loyalty to Gustave. In addition, I liked how protective of Agatha he is, even against his own hero and role model, Gustave. I will say it is hard to choose between Zero, Gustave and Agatha. All three were adorable in their own way. Gustave is narcissist but shows his human side to us in his interactions with Zero. There is also his quirky obsession with his cologne and poetry. The poetry thing gets progressively more winsome which each recitation. Agatha is stoic but fearless. Her quiet actions, love of Zero and kitchen genius are all understated. Few of the characters were truly despised, even Adrien Brody’s Dimitri was amusing to me in his static and consistent outrage. Something about his facial expression was hilarious.

4. Did you find the well known stars jammed packed into the film distracting or fun?

I thought it was a lot of fun. It was like they were “Wes Anderson-ized”. The stars are not playing ground breaking roles but seeing them dotted along Anderson’s whimsical tale is charming and interesting. Seeing so many stars in one movie is almost like going to the neighborhood bar, “where everybody knows your name.” I feel as a viewer you have a bond with each actor and having that bond with so many in the cast provides the overall film with an air of familiarity. They all did a wonderful job. I can only imagine this film was incredibly fun to make.

5. Would you or would you not recommend this film to a friend or family member? Why or why not?

I would definitely recommend this film but with the disclaimer that this film may not change your life. It was a visually pleasing murder mystery adventure. If they like Wes Anderson they should definitely see it. He does a wonderful job in the staging and cinematography in this film. It has a story book quality that is appealing and delightful. And along the lines of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, there are even some darker events.

Grand Budapest cast

 

Dallas Buyers Club: Q+A

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Grace to Mia:

1. Did you know much about the history behind the story before you saw the movie?

I did not. I saw that it takes place in Dallas and I’m from Dallas so I thought why not.

2. Though we know the events were dramatized, how true do you feel the portrayal of doctors at the time and the CDC were?

From talking with my friends who are actually in the medical profession, I hear that the attitudes expressed in the film were very similar to how doctors felt and the CDC felt at the time. Plus, we have to realize that we’re seeing this film with a retrospective eye. At the time, they didn’t know what we know now and so they’re caution and attitudes were warranted. Justified, no, but warranted.

3. Did you know the history behind the script? (IE: its passage for almost 20 years from Actor/Directer to Actor/Director)

I did not but that’s not uncommon. Scripts normally take years to write and develop and then there’s the process of shopping it around. Studio vs. Independent. And once the film is greenlit, there’s always the struggles of pre-production, production, post, and so on and so forth.

4. How did you feel about McConaughey and Leto’s Performance?

They were amazing. I’ve never seen McConaughey outside his usual, cowboy-slick role before (even though he played a cowboy in DBC) and Jared Leto deserves an Oscar. Can we give Jennifer Garner some love too? She’s one of my favorite actresses and it was nice seeing her on the big screen again.

5. Was this hard to watch for you?

Given my love for all things “ER” (the TV show), it wasn’t hard for me to watch. I’ve seen countless stories like this come across the screen, and while I’m well removed from the situation, you couldn’t help but be drawn into the interpersonal dramas that played between the two characters. That for me was far more interesting than the outward struggles they were facing with the various medical administrations.

Mia to Grace:

1. What got you in the cinema seats to see this film?

I actually adore Matthew McConaughey in all his glory. I know he was pretty static for a while and I think he was hearing that too. I wanted to see him in Mud but missed it. I am waiting for Amazon to let me rent it. I had heard McConaughey really broke his mold for Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. There was a lot of Oscar buzz right at the get go when the movie opened. So I went.

2. Did you learn anything from the experience?

Even though the historical events are probably influenced by the cinemagraphic art and the hand cut drama, I was not really aware of how bad the HIV situation was during the 80s. I found the judging nature of doctors and the CDC apalling, probable and normal.

3. What did you think of Woodroof’s entrepreneurial approach to solve the medicine problem?

I think this is yet another case of a man trying to survive. At least in the movie he wasn’t living the good life off the sick members money. It seemed like he saw a way to survive and it was a way that also seemed to help those the medical professionals let suffer or had forsaken.

4. Do you think patient’s should be able to control what medicines go into their bodies or do you think that is solely their prescribing physician’s discretion?

I think if you don’t feel well the doctor should listen to you, try something else. However the US doctors in the movie were running a trial. My limited science background tells me that to get good results in a trial you have to follow the guidelines, that may mean some deaths to help provide results to better the medicine as it develops. In this case the deaths are humans with lives and families and loved ones. It is a tough situation.

5. As the credits rolled, what were your initial thoughts on the film?

The movie would have been an emotional roller coaster to film. It was mostly dark but the actors all did a fantastic job in their roles and telling the story. At the end of the movie I was sad. Really truly sad. It seemed as though in this case the law was wrong. A dying person should have access to whatever would make them feel better or live longer, approved or not. The law seemed over strict and down right cruel. Though, if we started making special concessions to laws it would be a slippery slope.

Gravity: Q+A

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Grace to Mia:

1. Why did you see this movie?

I saw this movie because I’m both a fan of Alfonso Cuarón and Sandra Bullock. Plus, the idea of outer space freaks me out and with one beer in for the night, I decided to go on a whim.

2. Had you seen this director before?

Yes! Love him. I’ve seen five of his films so far including Gravity. My first exposure to this filmmaker was with his 1995 remake of A Little Princess. It’s one of my favorite films.

3. Given the vague trailers, what did you expect from the movie?

My first thought that it would be something along the lines of Cast Away (Tom Hanks) but in space. I heard that George Clooney was barely in the film and that every other character aside from Bullock was just well crafted VO / Sound Design work, so going into the film, I knew we’d be dealing solely with Bullock on screen. Like I said, outer space randomly freaks me out, so I was also expecting to be anxious the entire time…which I was.

4. How realistic was this?

There are plenty of scientific-minded blog posts and articles out their debunking the many “facts” that were presented in Gravity, but as a non-scientific minded individual, Gravity was well-crafted enough for me to get lost in this “world.” I never once questioned it.

5. What do you think about the plot?

It was a classic film plot: man’s journey home. The writing and directing team threw in just enough roadblocks to challenge our leading lady that kept the audience interested and invested. Perhaps they could have been a little bit more creative with her back story because while it did its job as insight into Bullock’s character, I found it quite lacking. Otherwise, I found the writing to be solid.

Mia to Grace:

1. This marks Sandra Bullock’s second chance at Oscar Gold. Do you think her performance here in Gravity is better than her performance in The Blind Side?

This is a hard question to answer. The roles and characters she plays differ from each other in almost every way. I will say in The Blind Side, as Leigh Anne Tuohy, she was not in the least “Sandra Bullock-y”. At least in my opinion she became that character. Gravity is pretty much a one women show, which puts a lot of pressure on that single actress to be the movie. Space is also a pretty big and scary co-star but it is Ryan Stone who connects and emotionally propels the audience. Space is really just standing there being scary and big. I do feel she put more work into this role and I feel she did phenomenal, but the competition is very steep this year.

2. How does this Alfonso Cuarón film compare to the others you’ve seen?

I have to be honest, Alfonso Cuarón is not a name that I recognize. I literally just looked up what other movies he directed and went, “Oh!”. I liked his artsy version of Harry Potter but like many HP movies I was left wanting because so much was missing in comparison to the books. Children of Men was really dark and that 20 min scene was really cool. I adore A Little Princess. I remember dreaming and playing out that movie as a child. I believe I even saved up my pennies and nickels to buy the book with complimentary locket from Scholastic. He does gracefully dark well. I would say career-wise he has gotten progressively darker and more action packed, but all his movies are very different from one another. I don’t feel like you can compare them evenly. He is definitely a versatile director. Gravity surprised me immensely. I really could not think how this movie would last as long as it did. It had me on the edge of my seat repeatedly and repeatedly slammed me back into my seat in fear and trepidation for poor Ryan Stone. My heart was in my mouth and I have never sweated so much in my life. My mom and I saw it together and she expressed concern that maybe she was too old and delicate for this wild ride of a movie. Both of us enjoyed it and were very impressed.

3. Did you connect at all with any of the characters?

As always George Clooney is a charmer. I would like to see a movie where we all hated George Clooney’s character. I don’t think it is possible. I was definitely interested and rooting for Ryan Stone. I felt bad for all the characters that met untimely ends. There wasn’t really a “bad guy” in this movie. This movie was simply a bad situation in which an underdog is singled out and happens to have personal growth. It also had this theme of human endurance which I think anyone can relate to, the need as a human being to survive. That is a very attractive theme for people because it links us all together.

4. Given the location of the film (outer space), do you think the setting served its purpose?

Yes, to make it poignant, dark, and alone, where better than space!

5. Would you recommend Gravity to potential viewers? Why or why not?

I would definitely recommend it. It is a wild ride. I would especially recommend it to people who enjoy thrillers. 🙂

12 Years a Slave: Q+A

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With the Oscars just a few days away, Grace and I have decided to tackle a few of the Oscar nominated films.

Today, 12 Years a Slave.

Grace to Mia:

1. Did you know this was based off of book? Have you read the book and is the story true?

I did know this was based off of a book but I have yet to read this first hand account of kidnap and survival.

2. How do you feel about the actor choices? Chiwetel Ejiofor? Michael Fassbender? Lupita Nyong’o? Do you like the director, Steve McQueen?

The first two actors you’ve mentioned I’ve witnessed before in varying roles and have enjoyed their performances. At first, I was a bit skeptical whether or not these Brits could handle such a hard and truly American tale but they carried their performances with such grace and complexity that I don’t think an American counterpart would have garnered such praise. As for Nyong’o, the girl can act. She was by far one of the most captivating characters in this film and in my opinion stole the show. I’m rooting for a Best Supporting Actress win for her at this upcoming Oscars ceremony. This is the first Steve McQueen film I’ve experienced and because of the beautiful imagery in this film, I plan to check out his previous two (Hunger, Shame) in the near future.

3. What scenes spoke to you the most? and why?

There were a number a scenes that stick out to me, but if I have to narrow it down, I’d say any scene in which a long take was captured and the ending scene. The former because the cinematography was just brilliant and the latter because that’s when it really hit home for me. **SPOILER** Watching him return home after all those years and seeing, with him, his grown children, aged wife, and new grandson had me bursting into tears. Here was his family and he hardly knew them. Where was the seven year old girl we saw only hours before? Instead we were subjected to this new, altered reality of time gone by only in span of hours.

4.Did the cinematography and music strike you enough for you to notice, the way it did with me?

Yes. The cinematography was GORGEOUS. I could look at that film for days.

5. How do you feel whenever they make African American-centric movies? Do you feel obligated to watch them? Is historical accuracy important to you? How does it make you feel emotionally? 

Such a big question that I could write multiple essays about! Ok, let’s see…I’m glad there’s been a recent renaissance of black film in mainstream cinema. I’m also glad that they aren’t being helmed by Tyler Perry. No, I don’t feel obligated to go see ALL African-American centric films but I will support those filmmakers who are making films that don’t stereotype the race. So while I steer clear of anything Tyler Perry (98% of the time), I will however go see such films as Black Nativity, Best Man Holiday, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Pariah, etc.

Historical accuracy is really important to me; it truly bugs me when filmmakers take creative license when it comes to their historical dramas.

Bonus Q: Do you feel an specific connections to a story like this culturally? Do you feel connections between the historical story and the present?

“Connection” is a broad and vague term but when it comes to such historical films depicting African American diaspora in the US, I can’t help but feel connected in a familial sense.

Let me explain: Given that my family migrated from Louisiana to Oklahoma on the brink of the Great Depression and then expanded further to the likes of California and Texas, there’s this sense of identity that my family has grappled with especially when “our people” are represented in the media. As a 5th grader I was subjected to all seven ROOTS VHS tapes one summer instead of spending those months outdoors. I was required to read the Autobiography Malcolm X and memorize parts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech not by my teaches but my family who didn’t want me to lose, what they call, my “sense of identity.” My family, and probably others like mine, didn’t want me to forget where our race came from and how far we’ve progressed and how far there’s still left to go.

So when films like Red Tails, Best Man Holiday and 12 Years a Slave hit the theaters, one can’t help but feel and “connect” to something. It’s refreshing to see your race, the people you identify with, up on the big screen in a non-Tyler Perry sort of way. And with 12 Years a Slave, I was surprised to learn that most of my relatives over the age of 65 refused to go see the film on the basis that they were “still mad.”

For some, still, the horrors of American slavery still haunt our verbal narrative and they can’t bring themselves to see it unfold on the big screen. Now, as creative individual myself, I don’t agree with such things. After all, it’s a film, and a well crafted and beautiful film at that. This isn’t the Spaghetti Western that was Django Unchained or even Roots for that matter, 12 Years a Slave, for me, was finally a film that did its best objectively to tell the story of a slave. So in a way, yes, I connected with the story. Slavery was the way of life for my ancestors and there’s no sense of me to try to ignore that. Some relatives think our generation is too far removed from history while others feel like this film is a hand, pulling us back in time to remind us of what was…so in a word, yes. There is definitely a connection with this film between the past and present that all humanity can appreciate; especially in the grand ‘ol US of A.

Mia to Grace:

1. Why did you see 12 Years a Slave?

I had heard a lot of good things about the performances and the movie itself. I liked Chiwetel from Serenity, Michael from Jane Eyre, Benedict from Sherlock and everyone on the internet was raving about Nyong’o. Given the epic proportions of the story, I knew I wanted to watch it on the big screen. I was really kinda worried because Steve McQueen’s Shame made me super uncomfortable and Hunger was also brutal to watch and experience.

2. Did you think Steve McQueen objectively portrayed slavery in the US or do you think he favored one side over the other?

I think it was a delicate balance and he did it well. Obviously the story was about a man who was kidnapped and enslaved and it wasn’t going to look good for the white folks. I’m not sure if it was true to the book and the real account but I think knowing the audience Steve tempered the story with William Ford the compassionate first owner who attempts to buy the children and the women. He also gives Soloman the violin. He seemed to know that Soloman was more than a slave and recognized Solomon for his work. It is a pity he does not do more. Also they added the gentleman from Canada, Samuel Bass, he also lightened the dark disgust that was building upon most of the white characters in this movie. I think it was artfully done and in just the right tone to drive a message home.

3. Did you ever close your eyes? If yes, when and why? If no, why not do you think?

I can’t distinctly remember closing my eyes. While I remember an emotional pressure none of the scenes were gory or excessively violent. McQueen really pushed the level of discomfit with the length and pace of his scenes not with the amount of gore or violence.

4. What was the most powerful scene for you and why?

The scene where Solomon is in the noose and just barely keeping from choking was evocative. It really lingered with me. It still makes me feel the horrible sadness just thinking about it.

5. Given past attempts in cinema to accurately capture the slave narrative, how do you think McQueen did?

I can’t recall other slave narratives but I thought this movie had a terrible beauty and if there was a way to put some beauty in with the horrible events that unfold Steve McQueen did it. This was definitely a cinematic event.