The Spark

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I generally attribute my love and appreciation for film to my decision to minor in film during my college years, since I got to experience a broad spectrum of different genres and styles from a multitude of different directors and eras.

Prior to that, I didn’t go to the movies all that much – at least, not as often as I would have liked. Now, I try to go once a week or every couple of weeks, and sometimes I go three times in one week, it all depends on what’s showing at the two theaters in my tiny backwoods town. I also get my friends saying things like, “Please tell me you didn’t go to see Pete’s Dragon by yourself,” like it’s a bad thing to take in a 10AM Saturday show solo to enjoy a nice Disney flick with some gummy bears.

But there is one film that I consider to be my “aha!” moment – the one that opened my eyes to how beautiful, compelling, and powerful cinema can be. And that film is Chris Nolan’s 2008 genre-breaking superhero flick, The Dark Knight.

MV5BMTMxNTMwODM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyMTk2Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_This was before the days of assigned (and reclining) movie theater seating, so my parents and my best friend and I showed up an hour early in order to ensure we got the best seats in the house. As a massive Batman fan, I was psyched to see the Caped Crusader take on the newest iteration of his arch-nemesis, the menacing Joker. As the film unfurled onscreen, I was totally blown away. The music, Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance, and the more grounded version of Gotham and Batman that Nolan crafted quickly became one of my all-time favorites, and I left the theater already yearning to see it again… which I did. Twice more, including a one hour trip to see it in IMAX with my dad. To this day, I have a huge movie poster of the Joker hanging over my bed; the first film poster I ever bought for myself. Now, many others have joined the ranks. I will still see any film that Christian Bale is in, regardless of ratings, will always spy a bit of Commissioner Gordon in any Gary Oldman performance, and will forever contend that The Dark Knight was robbed of a Best Picture nom at the Oscars.

As such, I consider The Dark Knight to be “the spark” that ignited my adoration of the cinema, the first film that made me think about how movies work and how all the parts come together to make one solid, functional piece of art capable of wowing and moving audiences. It opened the door to a whole new world, for me – and it didn’t even require a death-defying magic carpet ride to get there. Sure, I loved other movies before that, but The Dark Knight is special for me, and it always will be. Now, I’m one of those obnoxious people who love to talk about mise-en-scene and cinema verite and the male gaze and all that jazz, and I have a comic book movie to thank for that.

If any one else reading this has had a similar experience, what was your “spark?”

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Sneaky Sunday Post: OSCAR SNUBS!

I’ve been spending the past week or so discussing my personal views on the Best Picture nominees for tonight’s Oscars, so for today, I thought I’d do a little post about the movies/actors/directors who I personally feel got snubbed for this year’s awards. LET’S GO!

1.) Hostiles / Christian Bale / Max Richter
Okay, I’m biased, and I’ll own up to it. I love Christian Bale. But man, his performance in this film was phenomenal – his transformation over the course of the film from vengeful and hate-filled to less hate-filled and somewhat softer is done with exceptional face-acting. As in, you watch his face, you get an entire story and see the full scope of his emotions without any spoken dialogue at all. I love Denzel Washington too, but I would have nominated Bale over him this year. The score by Max Richter is also great, as is the cinematography. Hostiles is an above average film with above average performances (not only from Bale, but Rosamund Pike too) and I’m stunned that this film didn’t get so much as a single nomination in any category. It’s better than a lot of other recent westerns, but maybe it just slipped through the cracks this year…

2.) Wind River / Jeremy Renner (kinda) / Ben Richardson / Taylor Sheridan
The fact that this film was not nominated for ANYTHING is probably the biggest Oscar snub since Daft Punk didn’t even get nominated for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It’s a CRIME, I TELL YOU. It’s easily Jeremy Renner’s best performance to date (would have given the 5th nom to Bale over him, but Renner over Washington… regardless, none would beat Oldman, DDL, Kaluuya or Chalamet) and the cinematography is stellar. The opening sequence of the girl running in the snow is hauntingly beautiful, yet also conveys the terror of her situation. Sheridan would have been a dark horse in the directorial race, but I would have liked to see him get a nod. I suppose this film being snubbed is unfortunatelyappropriate, given the source material and the stats given at the end of the film… but for real, my friends. If you haven’t seen Wind River, or it fell off your radar because it isn’t getting the same buzz as the award-nominated films, TRUST ME – give it a chance. I was unexpectedly blown away by how powerful this film and its message are.

3.) Wonder Woman / Patty Jenkins
It was a long-shot, but Patty Jenkins delivered the best DCEU movie to date (the TDK films don’t count, as they are in a different universe) and has gotten a lot of much-deserved praise for it, but I would have loved to see her get a directing nod. Wonder Woman would not have been as great a success as it was without her vision, and would have loved a Best Picture nod too, as unlikely as it was to happen.

4.) Murder on the Orient Express / Kenneth Branagh’s mustache
I mean… this film deserved at least a costuming nod, right? Or production design. Say what you want about the film itself, it was gorgeous to watch. And that mustache turned in one of the finest follicle performances of the last decade, at least!

5.) Logan / Hugh Jackman
Yeah, sure… Logan got the adapted screenplay nod. That’s all well and good, and a positive step forward for comic book films in the awards race, which have stalled considerably since the era of Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight Trilogy. But damn, this movie might not only be be Jackman’s best turn as Logan/Wolverine, I’d say it’s his best performance ever. He was phenomenal. I would have given the 5th Best Actor nom to him over Bale, which means a lot coming from me…

6.) The Big Sick
I was elated to see this film garner a Best Original Screenplay nod, but surprised that it didn’t get any other nominations. I honestly think it deserved a Best Picture nomination – we could have had 10 nominees! That would have been a nice even number!

And there we have it! Any snubs you feel like I missed? Feel free to share! And stay tuned tomorrow afternoon (it might not be at 1PM due to my work schedule, but we’ll see) for my Oscar Recap / Reaction!