S E S S I O N S

On-going comment blog, mainly focussed on film with the intention to aid my critical development. I abide by two rules - (1) Muse, don't review. (2) Write what I think first, then write informed by what others think.

Excerpt 1.

(dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)
I’m often hesitant in liking this genre of twee indie cinema; I’m not a Wes Anderson fan and I only just managed to sit through Martha Marcy May Marlene, despite it’s rather good quality.
I was pretty embarrassed, then, when I started welling up at several points during Short Term 12, due to some incredibly heart-breaking performances from the lead, Brie Larson, and supporting actor Keith Stanfield.
However, I’m slightly wary of the ease with which sentiment can push my waterworks buttons, and the too-clean, verging on unrealistic conclusion of this film almost nullifies the impact of the (very real, very well written) issues raised throughout.
Nevertheless, the originality of the dialogue and likeable characters contribute to the pervasive tenderness of the feature; it certainly captures moments, however contrived they may be. Short Term 12 captures your attention, your empathy, and probably your heart as well, for a short term moment.
I’d say it falls into a particular category shared with a worrying amount of films I’ve seen recently: the “enjoyable to watch but once ended, feels vacuous” category.

Excerpt 2.

Something has always stopped me from getting into jazz and blues, perhaps because every time I’ve put on an album I feel like I’m expected to conjure up hackneyed images of solitary evening strolls through crowded cities in which I feel so alone yet so invigorated thanks to Coltrane on sax.
Or I associate the sounds with some sourceless image I have of a smoky, red-velveted, low-ceilinged club where people grin at each other through clouds of cigarette smoke and I am nightmarishly forced to talk about art I don’t like, literature I haven’t read and politics I don’t care about.
Of course this reaction of mine is a result of a tired stereotype propagated by unimaginative films and vacant stories told by acquaintances who I think are really quite full of shit.
But alas! This listening experience is far from dreadful. The album opens with a saxophone that feels like a torch shining hyperactively around the inside of my brain, removing all this dusty cynicism, all this social anxiety, all this inherent need to conform.
It’s like all the canals and corridors between my right ear and my left ear have been burst open and my head is now filled with aural nectar instead of everyday neuroticism.
I’m greedy for the addictive pulsating of “Blue in Green” that captures the delicacy of escapism. I focus on the way the instruments fit together harder than I ever focussed on any exam, and it’s a concentration that is pure, that I enjoy and that doesn’t burn me out and drain my soul like those long hours of concentrated exam revision.
I meditate on my wallowing enjoyment of solitude, and savour the way I feel so comforted by this escape from the grief and stress of real life, because in this moment, everything is just right. I’m so immersed that it only really occurs to me about 35 minutes in that there are human hands behind this perfection.
So I guess you could say I understand what all the fuss is about. A very selfish review I seem to have written, but I think there’s something very selfish about listening to music. And so be it.
Excerpt 3.

(dir. Dan Gilroy)
Jake Gyllenhaal has a face that suits ‘crazy’. By no means does his unsettling character mark cinema’s next Clockwork Orange/Taxi Driver/American Psychopath protagonist, perhaps because his heartless attitude towards US crime journalism is nothing new – just turn on Fox News.
His character, Lou Bloom, rings more familiar with Scarlett Johansson’s Under the Skin alien brute. It’s as if a bunch of data and pixels figured out how to assemble themselves as a human body and thus spawned this walking Business Studies textbook, spouting clichéd half-jargon with the swagger of a (more) sociopathic Apprentice contestant.
Most of the crap that comes out of his mouth sounds like those video pop-ups that interrupt your illegal movie streaming – “I didn’t think it was possible to make this much $$$, then I started understanding the power of believing in the sermons of my own anus”. Honestly. If WebMD did business diplomas…
Robert Elswit unsurprisingly excels as director of photography, perfecting the look of this neon moral apocalypse that is the gory, hyper younger sibling of 1976’s Network. Kavinsky wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking the haunting night-time LA roads, but James Newton Howard does a great job at setting the scene of Lou’s detached, irreverent mind, often sounding other-worldly.
His grey morality takes him far; he wins all the showdowns with other characters in the film, most of the time quite unsubtly. Goes to show that (as we’ve seen recently…) outright obstinacy will take you far, purely because by arguing with reason means you’ve lost from the start.
Most of his contenders back down out of sheer confusion and fear, which Lou refers to as standing for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. Very nice – this comment perfectly describes the darkness and comedy that forms the twisted flax backbone of this unsettling film.
I wonder why then, like Rene Russo’s character, I find him quite inspiring. His failure at being hired in a more conventional role early on in the film means he forges his own path, makes his own rules and throws himself full throttle at it – the kind of behaviour lauded in today’s job market.
The film’s close seems to put emphasis of the ephemerality of it all; despite Lou’s mapped out career path and clear goals, you get the sense he is just winging it day by day, a freelance psychopath. Nightcrawler is a gruesome visualisation of modern day ambition, in all its crass morbidity.

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Lara Baxter
Production Assistant