$4 Tuesday: Blue Ruin

I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not, you’re weak.

Last night I rallied my friends and we saw Blue Ruin, directed by Jeremy Saulnier. This film has won a bunch of awards and while I enjoyed the film making overall, the movie really dragged. I appreciate when a film builds up the tension and then is able to release it in a huge climax however I never felt like that tension was properly released with this one.

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We meet Dwight (played by a transformative Macon Blair) in the middle of a complex story. The beginning of the film held that same slow pace but with acute attention to detail. Detail was paid to the routine and style with which the main character lived. a homeless man living in a busted up car in a beach town, the filmmaking leaves the impression that Dwight is patiently waiting for something, which allows him to organize his day-to-day life and cope with the present reality. That reality (and the wait) comes crashing down when a double murderer is released from prison and Dwight goes to meet him. Dwight is not a trained killer by any means and struggles to keep a clear head as he deals with the stress of seeking revenge, executing that revenge, messily executing the individual who was newly released from prison, and dealing with the repercussions. 

The film traverses the line between psychological thriller and gory violence and as we dive further into the psychology of the main character, we wonder ourselves how far we would go for vindication. But Dwight is poorly prepared, and is barely able to keep ahead of his antagonists, who are trained in weapons and killing. a strategically violent family, the antagonists of Blue Ruin are well prepared for confrontation, as the final scene indicates (whoops, spoiler!). Dwight is not without skill, though. He thinks ahead, he is quick and nimble, escaping from situations in the nick of time and problem-solving on the spot in times of tension. This allows him to confront the armed and criminal family who has so thoroughly damaged his life. 

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beautifully filmed thriller, Blue Ruin maintains it’s focus on the present events as they unfold. although it offers an explanation for the violence and revenge, the film doesn’t linger on the details. We’re left to imagine the grotesque murder of two lovers (the parents of Dwight) after a love affair goes array that has haunted the two families for decades. However, without offering more details, the film becomes difficult to follow since it fails to provide more concrete and timely explanations of who knows who, who is related to who, and who the families are. Part of this is by design, obviously, in order to provide a psychologically twisting narrative that keeps you engaged. However, the script, with all it’s “our parents, your parents, our aunt, your brother, this grandson, the guy in prison, this woman is your sister but the movie script makes you think they’re married” just ends up getting convoluted to the point that it becomes tedious to follow the plot line.

If the film passes the Bechdel Test, it barely passes. There are multiple female characters but they exchange only a few words between them, which may or may not be words that are about the men in the movie. 

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Despite the dragging narrative at times and the complicated interpersonal relationships, the film is fascinating to watch and cinematically beautiful. I’ll be looking forward to watching this film again at home and further evaluating it in the future. The title, Blue Ruin, apparently alludes to a catastrophe but may also reference the bullet-holed up blue car that Dwight drives everywhere.

I recommend seeing it and making yourself watch the gory parts. Don’t shut your eyes or you’ll miss some great moments and dark humor!

- Hans 

 

$4 Tuesday: Finding Vivian Maier

She had a dark side.

Finding Vivian Maier documents the work and art of a New York nanny born in 1929. By diving into her life through the thousands of photographs and films she kept hidden in her lifetime, this documentary tries to uncover the elusive creature that is Vivian Maier. 

She probably didn’t want all this fame. ‘Oh No’ she’d say, ‘Oh No, now why did he do that?’ 

Vivian Maier became a nanny for the freedom it allowed her after working in an oppressive sewing sweatshop for little pay. In between nanny-ing, She traveled the world extensively, intruding into private and emotional moments of humanity in dozens of countries with her Rollieflex camera. She captured sadness, joy and the weathered effects of poverty in New York City with her camera positioned at her stomach. as the film explains, her photos often have a towering perspective, giving authority to her subjects. although a street photography genuis, Vivian had a dark side.

Self Portrait

In interviews with former charges, it  quickly comes to light that Vivian’s  obsession with disturbing newspaper  headlines, her eye for the grotesque and  off-kilter, point to deeper mental issues.  Not only was Vivian terrified and angry at  men around her, but her grown charges  recount physical abuse, perpetuating a  cycle she no doubt suffered within  herself. One woman recounts how Vivian  force fed and choked her as a child, noting  that Vivian had likely been through  something terrible herself. Vivian  was also a hoarder, keeping piles of newspapers reaching to the ceiling in her small quarters with each family she lived with.

Vivian’s mental health and accusations against her of child abuse beg the relevant debate: Can we or should we respect the artistic work of a person who knowingly used their power to sexual or physically abuse others? Does great art require a deranged mind? am I even asking the right questions?

In the case of Woody Allen, Hollywood refuses to acknowledge the victim’s perspective, a 7 year old Dylan Farrow who has had to live with the trauma of her molestation and also the problematic reaction of Hollywood- one which denied Dylan’s voice while lauding Woody for his work, as though his artistic work that can determine his entire character.

What if (dare I ask it) great art and being propelled towards abusively dominant and completely inappropriate behavior just go together. What if one enables the other and vice versa? What if this is the price we pay for great art?

These are not easy questions and I am without answers. The feminist side of me (and the side that has to live in a world all too accepting of perpetrators of violence) says, “No, we must not accept or condone sexual, physical or mental abuse of anyone, going so far as to deny the perpetrator an artistic voice in the world because they do not deserve artistic recognition unless they can make a valuable artistic contribution to society without perpetuating cycles of violence.” 

But then again, what if great art can and does emerge from the grotesque depths of our beings? The world must not shy away from these difficult dialogues and shun artists, but instead must engage with the art while not forgetting the darker sides of humanity and the real human lives that were negatively affected by abuse.

Surprisingly amusing at times and disturbingly dark, Finding Vivian Maier wove a complex portrait of an elusive photographer and disturbed person who is quickly becoming one of the most respected photographers of our century postmortem.


 

Bechtel Test Score: Passes on all accounts. There are multiple women who talk to each other about Vivian and a variety of related topics.

 

-  Hans

Summer in Athens, Ohio

A place where the students retreat for months, the Union is full of good people, the coffee shop is relaxing, Strouds Run becomes a daily outing, there’s never a wait at Casa and the sun is hot hot hot on these Appalachian hills, this is Athens, Ohio.

And! I am back on the movie review train for my last summer here. $4 Tuesdays and her sister day, Free Pop Corn Wednesdays at The Athena Cinema on Court Street will once again be my movie viewing days, followed by my review.

I believe that we should experience a reflection of aspects of our own unique lives in movies. I watch movies by searching for the commentary on my own journey, because a great movie will reveal lessons to me. If I can’t learn a thoughtful idea on humanity than an important element is likely missing. Above all, this is the key element in a movie for me.

I also evaluate my films from the Betchel Test perspective. As cinema should reflect realities from our lives, the Betchel Test determines this accuracy from the feminist perspective. This test was designed to score the representation of reality for the female gender. Unfortunately many movies miss this mark, which is a pity because passing The betchel Test would enhance a lot of movies’ plot, acting, directing, and script writing.

The Test is as follows:

1) Are there more than 2 females in the movie? (Yes = potentially feminist, continue to question 2)

2) Do the 3 + female characters talk to each other? (Yes = THANK GOD. How many movies have you seen in which the female characters only talk to men? Consider. It’s a surprisingly high number, isn’t it?)

3) Do these 3 + female characters who talk to each other talk about anything (literally ANYTHING) other than men?

Answer yes to all these questions and congratulations, your movie may be feminist and conscious of the real lives of women the world over. Women who interact with each other.

Now let’s dig deeper. Why would women be portrayed in movies only in terms of men? Well because patriarchy. Fuck the patriarchy!

No, but really. Men run the film industry and therefore don’t often consider the female perspective. My own theory is that when we portray women in movies as having independent lives from men it threatens the sexist power dynamic.

Women who interact with each other, talk. Women who talk to each other inevitably start revolutions and stir shit up. Feminists of the 60s and 70s knew this when they began conciousness raising groups. Any female rock band knows this is true. Women are killing it in politics today.

So why are a large number of films failing to show women as they are- thinking, communicating, thought provoking and plot driving beings? Mysteries of the universe.

This speaks to my privilege but I’ve heard of a race version of the Betchel Test, which I’m assuming are very similar questions but with race instead of gender. I will look those up and use that analysis in my movie review.

Ah so summer, we meet again. I’ve waited all year for $4 Tuesdays to happen again. Sometimes we have to go through a year long depression before being able to pick a hobby like this back up. Or is that just me?

Another story for another time,
Hans SG

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