Posted in First Take

[1978] Midnight Express

With the sound switched off cinema becomes a visceral and visual experience. Without audio clues to connect readers to narrative, a film becomes unhinged; and yet without visuals, an aural experience treats a reader to an era bygone when radio transmissions told history and the wondrous human brain filled in the appropriate imagery. It was a familial experience but a deeply personal one as well: only the individual reader can ever know the deep hues of dusk or staccato contours of landscape. It will vary from person to person but the amorphous nature of memory renders sharing this experience subjective, wrong, and boring. Knowingly watching a movie with the sound off is bizarre in a different way. This method allows for shared experiences; families huddled around a coffee table talking over the television as if it were furniture; waiting rooms with broken speakers; a neighbor’s airplane seat. If the reader has seen the film before, her memory will fill in gaps with enough internal dialogue to render the experience manageable or pleasant, even. It can be a new head for an old hat.

Midnight Express offers an experience situated somewhere in the middle. The visual is full and common to the reader, but the language is intermittent: Midnight Express is written in English but set in Turkish for all intents and purposes. A reader will learn facts and frames of mind from the language spoken among native English speakers (assuming that the reader’s native or learned tongue is English!), but the sparseness among the Turkish manifests in uncanny glares and pure contempt. Later, the team responsible for this movie would apologize for how Midnight Express portrayed native Turkish people – which is telling in embedded globalization that film would have an impact on international relations. This fact surrounds its lore, but the key point, and the middle-driver is that the production team deliberately omitted the Turkish subtitles, and with them the tacit understanding that language is merely a driver for understanding and not the sole purpose of language and meaning ipso facto. Continue reading “[1978] Midnight Express”

Posted in First Take

[2015] Spotlight

Against some odds, Spotlight took home Best Picture honors at the 88th Awards ceremony. Among the eight films nominated, Spotlight blended into the fold perhaps a little too cleanly and emerged victorious as, a manner of speaking, default. In a series of films marked by quasi-historical narrative (well, not Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian), Spotlight dug its roots into what makes us feel uncomfortable the most and asked the audience to respond in kind most visceral. So: perhaps different from past winners, which all follow this idea of narrative gestalt to one of emotional response because Spotlight did not respond to anything in particular from the year; it did not wrap its gravitas around a suite of ideas that moved the nation. It worked, though, as a powerful inductive technique to bring a narrative into the public, well, spotlight, that had been simmering for many years. Does this abrupt shift signify a trend for the future?

The future should be somewhat obvious (and surely looking back will prove this sentence one hundred per cent incorrect) to those with a finger on the pulse of an increasingly globalized political miasma. And yet, with all the uncertainty encircling coming national and international events, 2016’s winner this year will not feel like a coup of sorts. As of yet, though, the uncertainty of what awaits is pervasive and head-scratching. Navigating the movies slated for a 2016 release (in mid-May), nothing quite stands out as reflective of insurgence, political defiance, or identity politics. Nothing seems to spin off-center or unsafe. We must be cautiously frivolous, then, when guessing aberration or trend for Spotlight. Either way, this conversation has shifted for the better and its win brings a fresh sense of thematic ignorance (bliss) and polishes the jade so deeply ingrained. Continue reading “[2015] Spotlight”