Category Archives: Alex’s Essays

Not All Movies Should Have Jokes, But All Movies Should Have a Sense of Humor

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There is a moment in Fargo (I’ll never stop talking about Fargo) that makes me die with laughter every single time I watch it. The movie is packed with black comedy and irony and brilliant deadpans (the license plate joke, holy shit) and some basic but perfect physical gags (Jean Lundegaard bursting out of the shower draped in its curtain like a kid in a homemade ghost costume), but I ain’t talking abaout all that stuff. I’m talking about the stills above. This moment seems to be more of an editorial in-joke than an actual written joke, but of course you never can tell with the Coen brothers. After Jean’s dad and Stan Grossman and Jerry discuss the plot’s central ransom over breakfast, Jerry is at the counter. The beaming cashier asks how Jerry’s meal was. After he answers rather shortly, he comes back with an affable “How you doin’” and when it cuts back to her, we see her cock her head to the side before it cuts again. All she does is cock her head to the side. No response, no change in expression, just a slight pitch. It’s hilarious. It’s insanely funny.
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A Blank Stare Is Worth A Thousand Words

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There’s a small moment in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation that’s stuck with me more than the rest of the movie (a movie which is little else besides small memorable moments). It’s the morning when Bill Murray’s character Bob is supposed to leave Tokyo, but he’s all tore up because he’s fallen for the young, idle Charlotte, who’ll stay in Tokyo after he’s gone. Whomever that group of Japanese suits is that’s been hauling from him from job to job wants a picture with him (because he’s a movie star I guess) so they all line up. But when they go to take the photo, Murray’s smile fades and his gaze wanders to watch Charlotte walk to the elevator. The look on his face is packed with enough longing and conflict and anguish to fill a sushi boat—yet his expression is pretty bare. It’s kind of a frown, but not exactly. He looks more tired than anything. It calls to mind the zombie mimicking instructions from Shaun of the Dead: “Vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who’s lost a bet.” It’s also sad as hell. It’s not the realization that they’ll never see each other again that gets to me, it’s that damned stare.
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Not All Anime Is For Shitty Kids

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Only Yesterday, a grown ass man’s anime.

I kinda hate Dragonball Z. And Transformers. And Sailor Moon. And Pokémon. Not because any of them are particularly bad or anything—they’re Saturday morning cartoons, so who cares. But their ubiquity in pop cultural memory has forever colored our impression of anime at large. The great big sparkling eyes and the spiky hair the hyperviolence and the hypersexualized portrayal of girls and the over the top melodrama and the overbearing cuteness are all things seen as inseparable from the medium itself.
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A Smug Film Bonus Post About the 2013 Oscars

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I hate the god damn Oscars. Basically, for all the same reasons everyone hates the Oscars, so I don’t need to get into all that here. However, I still watch every year, because the tree of disgust for Hollywood must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots. (I think Thomas Jefferson said that.)
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When Effects Lose Their Effect

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Unless I’m in the mood for a truly down-to-earth story, I watch movies in order to be transported to places I’ll never go and live moments I never could in real life. In a word, I want escapism. And I get annoyed when I try to escape into an ostensibly escapist movie, only to be jolted out of it because the creators fucked up when it came to immersion. Although aspects such as the story and the characters are undeniably the most important, immersion is also very crucial. Many elements combine to form a truly immersive experience: score, sound design, acting, lighting, camerawork, and, of course, effects.
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