Staff Favorites

I Called Him Necktie
Milena Michiko Flašar
Reviewed by Danielle

A story of two men at opposite ends of their lives exploring their loves, their losses and the ultimate meaning of it all. Taguchi Hiro and Ohara Tetsu meet in a park and don't speak, lost in their own worlds for different reasons. But, once they decide to reach out, both of their lives, and the lives of all those around them, are changed in ways both large and small.

The work is simply beautiful and beautifully simple. Resonant in the same way a piece of music, caught in passing, or a comforting scent from your childhood can transport you through time. Melancholic poetry and elegiac prose swirling together in a vortex of emotional purity forming shapes, recognizable to all, before losing focus again only to reform into another heartfelt shape spelling out its message of hope to a disconnected world.

 

Sci-Fi, ScarJo and Black Ooze
Reviewed by Danielle

I'll admit, Scarlett Johansson is not my favorite actress. For me, she usually shines with a brightness and luminosity reminiscent of heavily scuffed linoleum on the floor of a decades-­closed mental institution. So, imagine my shock when I found her starring in two of the more original science fiction movies to grace theaters over the last year...Under the Skin and Lucy.

While not masterpieces, both films are thought -provoking, imaginative, interesting and, strangely, involve black ooze. They reside at two ends of a spectrum. One end has an alien seeking out and discovering its inner humanity and evolving in the process while the other end has a human ultimately evolving into a creature only recognizable as alien to the world, if not the universe, it inhabits. Ideas of identity and what makes one human play through both movies in vastly different ways.

In Under the Skin, we follow the alien as it immerses itself in our world and habituates itself to our human (sometimes horribly too human) ways. The movie is definitely not for everyone. It's a slow build with nary an explosion or raygun to be found. It delves, appropriately enough, under the skin of humanity to show us our inner alien - that hidden part, the dark side, the ultimate id. And, in the end, when the skin is pulled away, we finally see the reality of our existence in the countenance of an exposed and vulnerable alien, the shell of what once was and what now can never become.

In Lucy, we envision the evolution of nothing less than the human mind. We enter one vision of what might be possible if humans accessed 100% of the power of the human brain. With a combination of science and philosophy (and a lot of gun-­filled violence), we travel into realms seemingly beyond imagination but, then, is anything actually beyond imagination...beyond the reach of all human possibility? Here we reach for the ends of the universe and into the depths of time to see what humanity might become with Lucy, both modern and australopithecine, as our cyphers.

Both films have their mis-steps. Under the Skin will be the more difficult for many people to enjoy and many will find our projected future evolution in Lucy unbelievable but, for me at least, these films are more than the sum of their parts. Their gifts lie less in the concrete story shown on screen and more in the thoughts they provoke and the fact that those thoughts will be completely and utterly unique to each individual viewer.

Reviewed by Danielle

The Skeleton Twins is a laugh-out-loud, side-splitting comedy...as long as the only thing you watch is the gag reel or outtakes. The actual movie is a funny and heartfelt look at people living lives of loud desperation. Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are twins living a continent apart but still seemingly connected as illustrated through their mirrored actions in the opening scenes of the movie. Milo eventually comes to stay with Maggie and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), to ostensibly straighten out his life but, in reality, the situation forces a reckoning with and a reconciliation of a shared past filled with scarred nostalgia, solitary despair and, most of all, deep and abiding regret that changes both siblings.

The Skeleton Twins is ultimately an effective look at depression and hopelessness. It examines how they can both be tempered and, perhaps, overcome by the indomitable human spirit, as ragged and tattered as it may become over a lifetime of abuse and neglect where change and loss and disappointment are the primary constants. We see that every burden is more easily borne when shared. We see that humor can be found in even the darkest of places. We see that shared misery is, indeed, misery halved...eventually.

The movie finds the joy in living one’s truth because, as harsh and lonely and crazy as that truth may be, at least it’s honest. We begin to see that in that honesty we just might be able to find that one person, that single, enduring connection that makes the ultimate difference. We may finally come to recognize that one person who sees us as we are and says, “You’re crazy and annoying but you’ll be okay because, no matter how many times you say ‘see you later’, I still love you and I won’t ever let go.” 

Sometimes, that’s all anyone needs...well, that and maybe a few goldfish.  

 

Reviewed by Danielle

Interstellar, a beautiful, brain-tingling ballet of time and space that will leave you spinning in more ways than one, reaches into the depths of the universe to show us the heart of humanity.

We begin our dance in the dirt-filled near future, where humanity has devolved back to a sustenance-based existence revolving around the few crops that will still grow on Earth.  We no longer strive for technological advancement, we no longer dream impossible dreams, we no longer look to the stars and reach out our hands with hope, instead “we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”  And, the dirt is where we would stay except for the few that refuse to bend, refuse to allow the despair and desperation to win, refuse to give in to those who believe the improbable is impossible.  Interstellar is the story of those few.

After the mechanics of wormholes and black holes are touched upon and after we are given a quick course in the temporal workings of general relativity, the movie rather quickly moves through time, literally, and we are transported through a wormhole near Saturn into another system that may contain potentially hospitable worlds.  This part of the movie is much more reminiscent of the usual science fiction stories we’ve seen in the past.  Intrepid explorers taking on the elements of new worlds and dealing with each other and those they left behind.  Where Interstellar departs from the usual science fiction tropes is in the entrancing view we get into the universe-spanning connections between human hearts and the power they can wield to shape the destiny of humanity itself.

Hope is tested on both sides of the wormhole as failure, loss and death are encountered to the strains of Dylan Thomas’s most famous poem and Hans Zimmer’s rapturous score.  We ultimately reach a threshold where our sense of reality and time, our sense of connection to those we love, past, future and present, start to interweave themselves into an operatic crescendo that brings together all the vibrating threads of time, fate, love and destiny in a heart-wrenching climax of connectedness, both universal in scope and intimate in depth.  

We can embrace our past, we can hold it dear, but we can't stay there. We are human and it is in our nature to dream, to strive, to connect, to become.  We can see the future and the future is us.  We are the masters of our fate, our hope is the engine of our salvation and love its ultimate catalyst.

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