Hi, it is so nice to meet you all! My name is Emma and I’m going to be taking over The Female Gaze column here at the newspaper! Now you might be asking why her? Well, the answer is I’m planning on pursuing filmmaking in the future and that I have a lot of thoughts on films. But from an academic perspective: I’m an English Major, French minor, Honor Scholar, and Media Fellow, and one of the best things about being all four of those is that I have developed a deep passion for film through classes in each program. And I’ve always been a movie-going girl.
Now you might be asking, what can I, as a reader, expect out of this biweekly column? Well, I love films with compelling plot lines, impressive color schemes, minority representation, political themes, good acting, and really good cinematography. Full disclosure: I especially love dramas, rom coms, and surrealism (weird combo I know but they’re my favorites) so you’ll be reading a lot about those. I’m not a huge action movie fan, so I’m pretty critical of those films, except for superhero films, which I really like. So now that you know a bit about me and my film taste: let’s get started.
The summer always ushers in the release of several new (hopeful) blockbuster films, and this summer was nothing different. So here are some of movies I saw this summer!
Sorry to Bother You: Set in an alternative universe in Oakland, Los Angeles, Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” focuses on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) a twenty-something black male trying to navigate his way through a capitalistic society. Cassius, or Cash, begins working at a telemarketing company, excels there due to the use of his white voice, and climbs up the corporate ladder. “Sorry to Bother You” is innovative and even when you think you know what is coming up next — I promise, you do not. Boots Riley’s use of surrealism and magical realism make the film a standout and unique. It really isn’t like anything you’ve seen before. But the characters are so well written it is easy to fall into Cash’s world and care deeply about him, Detroit, his significant other and all the other characters. And even though the script was written years ago (the final draft finished in 2012), the film works perfectly with our current political climate by providing a narrative of workers organizing for better wages and treatment. This pro-labor film is beautifully shot, with vibrant colors- like bright purples, crisp whites, and dark blues becoming the background to Cash’s life and reflecting his internal monologue. Another strong point of the film is incredible costuming, makeup, and props. Detroit (Tessa Thompson), has what I consider to be the best wardrobe, makeup, and jewelry of any character I’ve ever seen. In fact, I now own a pair of Detroit’s Murder/Kill earrings. If you want some of your own head over to the website, where you can also buy and iconic Mr. Bobo plate, Cash’s car, or t-shirts that say “I got the s*#t kicked out of me.” But even if you don’t buy merch, I can’t stress this enough you need to go see “Sorry to Bother You” whenever you get a chance.
Eighth Grade: Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is not what you might be expecting if you have ever seen the young comedian’s stand up. “Eighth Grade,” starring Elsie Fisher as Kayla Day, who truly makes the movie what it is, focuses on the last week of middle school for a young girl struggling with anxiety and self esteem. We join Kayla on her search for more confidence, more YouTube followers and more friends, as she looks anywhere she can. Trying her best to be cool and still make it to high school in one piece, Kayla finds herself, sometimes willingly while other times reluctantly, compromising on who she is, all while she learns more about herself— which is what generally happens when one is growing up. Historically, critically acclaimed coming of age stories focus on men growing up, so a coming of age story about a teenage girl, who doesn’t lose an unrealistic amount of weight or become stunning overnight, but rather who is awkward, is learning about adulthood slowly, and is actually played by a girl who is making the transition from eighth grade to high school, is refreshing to watch. The film is heart-wrenching and honest and provides a glimpse into the reality of growing up in the digital age as a young woman. Personally, I can relate to Kayla and many (if not all) of her experiences, which made the film incredibly emotional for me. What made it even more emotional was that I watched it with my mom who watched me go through everything Kayla did, who related to Kayla’s father (Josh Hamilton) immensely, and who laughed, shuddered and cried with me. And all of this made the film matter even more to me. Whenever I see myself in a piece of art, I am reminded again how important representation is. Sometimes feeling seen is the best thing a film can do for you. And it’s beautifully shot and well written, too. Thank you, Bo Burnham.
BlacKkKlansman: As a Spike Lee fan, I was so excited to go see this film and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. “BlacKkKlansman” tells the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. While working undercover, Stallworth starts an investigation into the Ku Klux Klan by calling them on the phone. With the help of a white, Jewish officer, Flip (Adam Driver), who goes undercover to the meetings, they create another Ron Stallworth who becomes an initiated member to the KKK and close friends with David Duke (Topher Grace), the grand wizard of the KKK. The film focuses on Stallworth’s pursuit of justice as well as his battle with his own identity. Ron struggles with being a black cop and seeing police violence inflicted on black people across the country and in his community, particularly his friend Patrice (Laura Harrier) who is sexually assaulted by one of Ron’s co-police officers. Lee focuses on Ron’s desire to change the police system from within and to use his own power as a policeman to take down the Ku Klux Klan. One of the films most impressive moments is a double dolly shot at the end of the film– where Patrice and Ron hear a knock at the door and pull out guns. The pair float in towards the camera with a powerful ethereal effect. There is something about the shot that stays with the viewer and never lets them forget Patrice and Ron. In addition to beautiful shooting, the film features some beyond incredible acting performances. John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington, portrays Ron Stallworth with care and seems to do the real man justice. Each character has a strong, clear identity in the film that is well developed and explored. This film is poignant and incredibly relevant, which Lee points out to the audience during the end of the film. BlacKkKlansman will make you laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between. Be sure to see it whenever you get the chance.
Mama Mia 2: Here we go Again: As both an avid musical theatre fan and an avid ABBA fan (I spent my entire 8th grade listening to the ABBA Gold album), this movie was perfect. This film functions as a sequel and a prequel all in one. The audience gets to learn what happens to Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sky’s (Dominic Cooper) relationship, as well as getting an explanation about how Donna (Lily James and Meryl Streep) met Sophie’s three possible fathers and how she ended up owning an incredible property in Greece. However, if you are worried about not having seen the original film- don’t be- this movie is super accessible and doesn’t really require any prior knowledge of the Mama Mia universe (although, the first films is very cute- so you should watch it). This movie brings you gorgeous sets and camera work that make you feel like you’re singing with Donna in Greece or Paris. And in addition to the new cast mates we meet during the story of Young Donna’s life- we are also blessed with the original cast-mates from the first film. The original cast does less singing than the new kids, and maybe that’s for the best because I’m not a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan’s voice. And then the true highlight- Cher appears playing Donna’s mother. If you’re an avid fan of the first movie- you might be a little bit upset that there are some inconsistencies between the original and the newer one. But this feel good movie is the perfect summer romp to watch with your friends, while eating enormous amounts of cookie dough and wishing you’re in Greece cliff jumping or something.
Solo: If you’re a Star Wars fan- you should probably see this movie. Even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan- you’d probably like this one. Full of action and adventure, “Solo,” follows the iconic Han Solo’s (Alden Ehrenreich) early adventures before he encounters any Death stars or owns any Millennium Falcons. In this film we get to explore how Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) meet, witness Han’s first love, and most importantly meet a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino) and his incredible cape collection. With a well developed storyline- that leads into Han and Chewy’s passion for helping the resistance, “Solo” is compelling love letter to Harrison Ford’s Star Wars character. This movie is still easily accessible if you haven’t seen the original or new Star Wars movies too. And I would be absolutely remise if I didn’t spend a large amount of my time in this column just saying that Donald Glover is a great reason to go see this movie- he’s that good in it. So check it out if you’re looking for a light-hearted action film.
Mission Impossible: Fallout: So I gotta start out by telling you that I don’t like Tom Cruise. Okay, glad that’s out of the way. This movie is your typical summer action flick— which is not to say it’s bad it’s actually way more clever than a lot of action movies I’ve seen. It follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he embarks on a quest to save the world from a nuclear attack and terrorists who believe that peace can only come from mass suffering. He works with his team to find plutonium in order keep it out of the hands of a terrorist cell leader named John Lark. This movie features skydiving into Paris nightclubs, car chase scenes in both Paris and London, a few bombs, and one wild helicopter fight. I left the theatre mostly feeling like I wanted to jump on a plane immediately and head over to Paris and London to spend the rest of my life riding around on a motorcycle in search of plutonium, but that could just be the Sagittarius in me. The plot was compelling and the stunts were pretty amazing (especially considering that Tom Cruise does a lot of his own stunts). Overall, this is somewhat nostalgic action flick is worth seeing if you’re a fan of the Mission Impossible series or if you like action movies!
And here is a quick list of films I missed that I really wish I didn’t: “Blindspotting,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Three Identical Strangers,” “Heredity,” “Won’t You be My Neighbor,” “Hot Summer Nights,” “Skate Kitchen” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” The inherent tragedy of living in a small Indiana town with only one movie theatre is that often the movies I want to see don’t come to me. But thanks for reading, nice to meet you, and see you at the movies soon!