Art, Film

Movie Review – “The Act of Killing”

Go see this film. You will be changed after seeing this film.

Recounting the atrocities of the Indonesian mass genocide, this documentary focuses on those who committed the horrible events. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer gives the killers a chance to recreate the events in the style of their favorite films and art pieces. The story is horrifying, tragic and incredibly important. I don’t want to focus too deeply on the plot as I think an audience needs to experience the events that transpire in the film as they happen.

This is the only film I can think of that has made me cry and feel nauseous during the closing credits. It makes you feel complicit and connected to these monsters. It is hard to watch because it is so real, and so frightening. More than that, film strikes a connection between the audience and the characters. With fiction, through this connection there is also disconnect following the credits because you have managed to freely escape to a world of dreams and nightmares, but wake up in your own reality–away from the characters, story and consequences of fiction. This film, real on every account, forces the audience to take in the atrocity, the malice, the sick joy these murderers managed to get out of their crimes. There is no escape after the credits roll. This is what really happened and is happening all over the planet. I listened to an episode of This American Life where a man is called a heretic for not believing in hell–because hell is on earth. We humans create hell and push it onto others, and that is the “gnashing of teeth” so commonly connected to hell in the New Testament. This world brought to the public eye shows that hell in full force.

The fact that these monsters are told to recount their actions through art is spectacular. Art, as I’ve touched on, should be an escape or a way to work through emotions to help us better deal, appreciate and enjoy the reality we must return to. However, art in this film, does the opposite.  Art shows these monsters (maybe not all, but at least one) just what he did. He cannot escape his crimes. Yet, like great art, in his country, the monster is still lauded by the government, the media and his comrades. The man tries to purge his demons in his own, very public “gnashing of teeth,” yet he is unable. No amount of art can give this man escape for his crimes.



Game Review – “Gone Home”



I am very much a casual gamer. I’ve always enjoyed playing video games, but I get bored easily and I am just not very good at the majority of them. My husband is an avid gamer, and he got me interested in discovering games that were more my style on Steam. If you aren’t familiar with Steam, it is a great place to buy and discover video games for many platforms (PC, Mac, etc). The neatest thing is that you can not only purchase popular games, but you get access to tons of indie games as well. 

Gone Home is a neat little game developed by the Fullbright Company. The game dynamic is pretty simple: you come home from studying abroad only to find your family’s new house completed empty. The object of the game is to explore the house and ultimately figure out what happened to your family. There are no fights or puzzles, just walking around, opening closets and drawers and trying to make sense of a situation. 

The game succeeds in creating a world very easy to get lost in. The game has a distinct ending, but getting there is a very personal experience. As you explore the house, the player’s own experiences and memories start trying to piece together a logical solution. I’ve heard and read multiple accounts of how different players believed the game was going to end, and while spoilers are rampant, I would suggest reading some of these accounts following your play-through. 

My only concern is the length of the game. I found it very short. However, despite that, the game was immensely satisfying and a really unique experience.


Movie Review – Inside Llewyn Davis (minor spoilers)

Inside Llewyn Davis is the latest release from the always unique Coen brothers. I went in expecting more of a travel/road movie akin to O Brother, Where Art Thou?  Instead, this film follows just a couple days in the life of a struggling folk singer in Greenwich (although there is a brief sojourn to Chicago with a very personality-driven performance by John Goodman and a Peter Stormare-styled Garret Hedlund). I really love the acting choices Oscar Isaac makes as the titular Llewyn. A lesser actor would try and create constant excuses or create a more emotional character, but Isaac makes Llewyn almost too secure in his disinterest. He is often a hard character to like, and his motivations are so selfish and frustrating that sympathies for his struggle are difficult. And then, by God, he starts to sing.

I have listened to a great deal of folk music. It is hands down my favorite kind of music. Isaac has easily one of the best voices out there. And, because he is such a solid actor, he is able to convey his disinterest in what he is singing about and how much of an act the whole business is to him. He only sings because it is what he is good at and thus thinks it is what he should do. It is the only thing he knows how to do. 

As the poster shows, there is a cat. Llewyn, through a series of truly unfortunate circumstances, is stuck traipsing around lower Manhattan with a cat. The cat keeps getting loose and just keeps doing whatever it is that cats do. That is Llewyn–he just keeps getting loose and doing whatever it is that Llewyn does. 


Other Thoughts

Cultural Devastation

Warning: This post will spoil the season 4 finale of Boardwalk Empire.

The past few Sunday nights have been tough. It is always rough when a show that I love and respect as much as Boardwalk Empire comes to a screeching halt without any new episodes for a year. However, while each season tends to grip me and cause me undue anxiety, rarely has an hour of television emotionally devastated me to the extent the season 4 finale managed to.

When asked by other fans of the show to name my favorite character, I never miss a beat: Eli. Nucky’s complicated, broken and completely amazing brother has always been the most compelling character on the show in my opinion. I went into the finale completely confident we would lose him. To my surprise, Eli faced the threat of death strong-willed and ready–he was completely broken, everything he found important in the world was gone or to some degree of warped and unintelligible, and yet, Eli survived the finale. That isn’t to say he is safe. The scene in which he brutally kills a federal agent was one of the most violent and agonizing things I’ve ever seen put to screen. The loss of his dignity, family and safety net (Nuck) started my whirlwind of devastation, but, little did I realize what was just around the corner.

We knew. I just want to say that. My husband and I both knew what was going to happen. However, as with the infamous “Red Wedding” on Game of Thrones there was just nothing we could do to stop the inevitable. Even though we knew, there was no way we could ever imagine how horrible the death of Richard Harrow would be. He finally got everything: Tommy, a loving wife, a fellow soldier who forced him to choose between family and war. And yet, in order to protect all of that, he had one last job. Of course, being a killer with a heart will never end well. As Richard missed and hit Maybelle, I cringed and yelped. Chalky was now broken. But, it was watching one of the most compelling, captivating and entertaining characters in the history of television stagger to the boardwalk; seeing his last images of hope and joy and a world where he doesn’t have to hide behind a mask–where he can be who he needs and wants to be juxtaposed with the bloody mask falling into the sand. Devastating.

Why? Why did Richard’s death devastate me? Certainly he was a great, beautifully broken character, but, as I’ve mentioned before–I’m an Eli girl. Why did this death stick with me and cut at me? Why do any fictional deaths destroy us? We watch fiction to forget reality. Even though fiction can be brutal, violent, terrifying–it is about worlds we aren’t a part of but are morbidly curious about. However, Richard was always so perfectly human. He was pure and real–he cared deeply and loved fully. He was the humanity in this violent, horrible world ruled over by worse men. So when he died, he reminded the viewer of the loss of humanity, the threat of mortality, and the devastation of purity. His death, though beautiful, was tragic because it was so perfect.

Has a fictional death ever cut you deeply? (Please add spoiler tags if you reveal).