Monday, April 1, 2013

@MoviePass Reviews: "Disabled but Able to Rock" and "Spring Breakers"

Since the MoviePass blog is being phased out in favor of a Tumblr page (where my reviews will be shared), I decided it might be a good idea to post, in full, two exclusive reviews from that old site:

Disabled but Able to Rock

I mention this quite a bit, but when watching a movie, the thing that stays with me most is not necessarily the story or characters, but the framing and meaning of certain shots. The films of Stanley Kubrick are classic examples of photography with purpose (there’s even conspiracy theories surrounding the hidden messages in “The Shining”). The placement of characters in relation to one another, items in the background and foreground, lighting and color – all enhance the story beyond what’s being said.

But meaningful cinematography isn’t exclusive to narrative features.

Disabled but Able to Rock is a look at the larger than life Danger Woman AKA Betsy Goodrich – part comic book character, part performance artist, part singer and part activist. The fact that she is an autistic super heroine with the power of karaoke might be what draws attention, but it’s her moxie, incredibly infectious positivity and independent spirit that makes her memorable. The crew that followed her life for a number of years captured some wonderful moments and asked fine questions during interviews with friends and family, but what provided the most insight – for me anyways – was what they captured in two scenes.

The first moment comes during an interview conducted by a reporter. At a DragonCon event, Betsy as Danger Woman is being interviewed by a reporter (not a member of the documentary crew). When his camera is on him, he perks up and begins a line of questioning. When Betsy answers, and the cameraman is off of him, his face goes sour. It’s almost as if he has a problem interviewing someone like her. You know, someone “like that”.

This is a perfect representation of Danger Woman’s key function; exposing ignorance. Betsy certainly enjoys singing and performing for the fun of it, but she also says many times that she fights against what she calls Disable-Phobia. Her performances force what she calls normals to give a reaction. These reactions range from delight to annoyance, from joy to mocking. All genuine and raw. It’s almost like what Sacha Baron Cohen has done in his movies – getting real emotions out of others and making them public. The costume Betsy wears and the songs she sings are loud as hell, and impossible to turn away from. What she does is like a creative version of shouting into a megaphone while standing on a soap box. Activism-tainment, folks. It’s in your face and challenging.

The second moment takes place in a more personal setting. We get to see Betsy’s home life, where she lives with her mother and also disabled brother. The camera pans across the living room, cluttered like a house from Hoarders. The kitchen is cruddy and the bathroom is disgusting. But then, down a very dark hallway, there is a brightly lit room. They stay on this view for a good while.

The meaning of that should be obvious. Betsy faces obstacles such as a depressing home life, the passing of a guardian, loneliness and restrictions put on her by others. Despite all of that, she remains cheery. Her attitude never dips. Optimism about what the next day will bring and courage to live the life she wants just radiates from her… like a brightly lit room at the end of a dark hallway. After presenting a legal challenge against her relatives in an effort to maintain her rights, one of her cousins remarks that he wishes his regular ed. kids were as brave as her. The path might be dark and creepy, but the destination is glowing and rewarding.

I pulled all of that from just two shots. Aren’t wonderfully framed scenes great?

5/5 *s

Below is the movie, in full. Watch, enjoy and be sure to leave a tip via the Vimeo page.

Disabled But Able To Rock! The Danger Woman Story from Blake Myers on Vimeo.

Spring Breakers

In my opinion, few movies can reach the greatness that is Alec Baldwin’s “motivational” speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. His character stripping down the other salesmen while shoving his own greatness in their faces is what is known, among my circle of friends, as a “walk out like a hero” moment; you walk in, give someone the business, and walk out as if nothing happened.

Scenes like that are what I live for.

In Spring Breakers, we get a roughly 90 minute long musical montage that has the spirit of someone who has taken that scene to heart. It is amazing that it exists.

Four young women want a spring break experience like nobody has ever had. To break out of their college monotony, they rob a diner with toy guns and raise the funds needed. Upon arrival, the revelling becomes an insightful journey of self discovery – one that they never want to end.

After partying a bit too hard, they are bailed from jail by a drug dealer / rapper named Alien (James Franco in a memorable performance), who acts as a sort of guru, showing them how he doesn’t just experience spring break, but lives it 24/7. He is the dark embodiment of their wantings, and introduces them into a world of guns, drugs, thievery and sex. Everything is for the taking, if you want it. But, do the girls really have it in them to go all the way?

David Mamet’s epic story of balls on the table manliness exposes the twisted nature of Darwin style capitalism, showing truly how nice guys (or the desperate ones) finish last. Harmony Korine’s tale of youthful debauchery at any cost shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, maybe get worse… The girls who reach their limits are weeded out and sent home for comforting, while the girls who stick around are rewarded with unlimited excess, and go forth with all they have learned.

Pop songs contrasted against young adults indulging in anything and everything, from booze to violence. Alien enjoying showing off his cache of weapons and styling products, suggesting that he only has these things for the purpose of showing off. The words spring break are repeated, over and over, as not only like a haunting mantra, but as a reminder of all these characters want, and feel they need. This IS America. Yesterday, today and maybe even tomorrow.

Spring Breakers is Glengarry Glen Ross’ soul mate, and that speech by Alec Baldwin is its philosophy. While its non linear structure might not be for everyone, those who do give it a shot will get an experience that will stay for a while. Are you willing to go all the way?

Movies like that are what I live for.

5/5 *s

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