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Mashiara Sedai

2020 White Ajah Movie Challenge

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Do you watch a lot of movies?  Want to get raising reqs for it?  Look no farther than the White Ajah’s 2020 Movie Challenge!

 

How it works:

Each month will have a different theme.  Anyone who’s interested in participating can watch a film they’ve never seen before that fits the criteria of the month.  For raising reqs, post a report (at least 100 words) about the film—what you liked, what you didn’t, connections to other films or to real life, share what you know about its historical context, let us know any background info on the actors, director, or others involved with the film, etc.


To receive raising credit, you must participate in three out of the twelve monthly challenges.

 

Don’t need raising credits?  Don’t worry!  Anyone can participate!  Want to do more than one report a month?  Post as many times as you’d like!  Watched an amazing movie that doesn’t fit the theme?  Share it with us without hesitation (though it won’t count for raising reqs).

 

If you have more to say about the film you watched, discuss it further in our Discussion Thread.

 

Monthly Themes:

January: Watch a sci-fi/fantasy film

February: Watch a film directed by a person of color

March: Watch a film released before 1950

April: Watch a film about war

May: Watch a film directed by a woman

June: Watch an animated film

July: Watch an Academy Award winning film (in any category)

August: Watch a film with your favorite actor/actress

September: Watch a musical

October: Watch a horror film

November: Watch a film from a foreign country

December: WILD CARD! Pick any movie you’d like to report on!

 

If you have any questions, PM me!

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Looks like I'm first (assuming our movie reviews go in this thread and not in the Discussion thread. I might be misinterpreting your "discuss it further" in the Discussion thread.)

 

On 1/5/2020 at 12:27 PM, Mashiara Sedai said:

January: Watch a sci-fi/fantasy film

 

The Road

Dimension Films, 2009

Directed by John Hillcoat

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Robert Duvall

 

Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, The Road is a bleak look at the struggle of a father to protect his son from ever-present danger and privation. 

 

Set in an undetermined time in the near-future, the earth has undergone an mysterious cataclysm that has completely scorched civilization. The Stone Age would seem modern and hygienic compared to this world. Not one green plant is growing, no bird flies overhead, not a single insect is buzzing nearby. Mortensen plays the unnamed Man who leads his young Boy (Smit-McPhee) down The Road, desperate to reach the coast, where he fervently believes they will reach a kind of safety and warmth. Along the way, he teaches the Boy lessons--how to read, how to scavenge for food, how to avoid roving bands of cannibals, and how to shoot himself should he ever find himself in the clutches of other people who will use him for unspeakable acts.

 

Along the way, the Man dreams of an earlier life, when the sky was blue, when water was clear, and when his beautiful wife (Theron) would lie on the green grass in perfect contentment. He's haunted by the event that ruined the earth, by the horrors he's seen, and by his wife's final act of selfishness that leaves him alone against a fallen world with nothing but a desperate hope, a battered shopping cart, and a frightened little boy.

 

Naturally, this has taken a costly psychic toll on both of them. The story starts with both the Man and the Boy more or less beacons of Good in a world full of Evil. But as time goes on, the Man is forced to compromise his convictions, to engage in actions that ultimately drive a wedge between them.

 

Watching the film, one would be forgiven for thinking that the gray, bleak landscape has to be all CGI, but it isn't. The movie was filmed in parts of Pennsylvania during the winter, where the after-effects of coal-mining have left wide swaths of death and destruction, where nothing green can grow anymore. 

 

I avoided watching this film when it was released. I had read the book and knew the story, but as the father of a young boy myself at the time, I feared that it would pack too powerful a punch. This movie is not for the faint of heart, to be sure. But there is a kernel of hope in the heart of this story. Even in the midst of desperate horror, there is reason to go on, to not give up, to push down the never-ending Road in the search for a kind of peace. 

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On 1/5/2020 at 11:27 AM, Mashiara Sedai said:

January: Watch a sci-fi/fantasy film

 

For those of you who don't know, my husband is a film professor at ASU.  His love for movies runs deep, and it does inspire a little in me.  I've grown to love movies more since meeting him, but I'll never have the same love and appreciation for film as he does.  *shrugs*

 

When he found out I wanted to participate in a film themed challenge, he demanded that he get to pick the movie I watch each month.  So without further adieu, I present my report.

 

Stalker (1979)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Country of origin: Soviet Union

 

In a post-apocalyptic world, there exists a place called the Zone.  It was created when a meteor struck this unnamed city in Russia.  People started disappearing.  Children were born mutated.  Eventually, the government banned entry into the Zone.

 

The main character--who is unnamed as well--is a Stalker, a person who sneaks people across the border into the Zone.  It's said within the Zone is a Room that grants your inner most desires.  The Stalker's been caught before, and just finished up his five year jail sentence.  When his wife realizes he means to go back inside, she's angry at him for abandoning her and their mutated daughter (called Monkey).  The Stalker still continues with his plans.  He meets up with the Writer and the Professor--both having separate reasons for wishing to get into the Zone.

 

Once inside the Zone, the dull browns and grays and oranges of the outside world change into the normal greens and blues of a healthy, thriving place.  The Stalker warns his traveling companions about the dangers of the Zone.  It kills people who don't follow the rules.  You can't leave by the same way you entered.  You can't enter the Room from straight on, you have to circle around from the back.  When the Writer tires to go forward to the Room, he's warned verbally by some unseen voice.  The two travelers frequently refuse to heed the Stalker's advice, and get closer and closer to death--or so he claims.

 

The movie was WEIRD.  Very artsy.  I don't have a damn clue what the point of the movie was, or what the director's ultimate message was.  These things go way over my head.  But I was able to see there were themes of faith, and lack of it.  Themes of perseverance, and giving up.  The ending was confusing and even my husband couldn't explain it to my satisfaction.  Still, it was interesting to see the muted, dull colors of their "normal" world change to the beautiful scenery with the Zone.  A really interesting way to show the division between the two spaces.  I think the ending was happy, and I guess that's what I look for most in the movie.  It was interesting and kept my interest, but I don't think I'd ever want to watch it again.

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Mashi, can your husband suggest movies for us each month?

 

Book Riot’s reading challenge has different categories of books. They make suggestions but you can find your own if you want.

Edited by Ryrin

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On 1/5/2020 at 12:27 PM, Mashiara Sedai said:

February: Watch a film directed by a person of color

 

Do The Right Thing

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1989.

Directed by Spike Lee

Starring Spike Lee, Dannie Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee

 

Do The Right Thing was written, produced, directed by, and featured Spike Lee, received numerous awards, and was selected by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."

 

Set in a neighborhood in Brooklyn, the story features a wide cast of characters during a summer heat wave. Racial tensions are always high, and only exacerbated by the humid heat. Lee plays the role of "Mookie", a pizza delivery man with little ambition, working for the pizzeria's owner, an Italian-American named Sal (Dannie Aiello) and Sal's two grown sons. A friend of Mookie's named Buggin Out doesn't like that Sal's restaurant features a wall of Italian-American celebrities but doesn't have any African-Americans, especially since the neighborhood is mostly black. Sal refuses to change his wall of photos, and Buggin Out tries to foment a protest and boycott.

 

Tensions continue to rise, until a young black man named Radio Raheem, who is known for blasting Public Enemy on his boombox, gets into a heated argument with Sal. The police are called, and in the scuffle, Radio Raheem is accidentally killed by the arresting cops. The neighborhood residents are outraged at the police brutality and start to riot, directing their anger toward Sal and his sons. Mookie throws a trash can through Sal's window, and the crowd surges inside, looting the restaurant and eventually setting it on fire.

 

In the aftermath, one young man is dead, Sal's restaurant is destroyed, and everyone is simmering with anger. The film ends with two opposing quotes about racial violence, one by Martin Luther King Jr who advocated non-violence, and the other by Malcolm X who argued for armed resistance to oppression. In the end credits, Lee dedicates the film to six families who have suffered racial violence or police brutality.

 

Critical reception of Do The Right Thing was high from the beginning, making many Top Movie Lists for 1989. However, some were critical of the film's content, concerned that it would encourage black rioting. One unanswered question is whether Mookie did in fact Do the Right Thing by throwing a trash can through Sal's window. It seemed clear to me that it was the lesser of two evils--had the crowd not been distracted by the chance to loot and burn the restaurant, they likely would have turned their violence against Sal, against his sons, against the Korean grocery store across the street. Mookie chose to channel and diffuse the mob violence into a safer, non-lethal avenue. 

 

I found this film difficult to watch. The set is designed with bright reds and oranges, suggesting the summer's heat that had so many characters on edge. It was hard to watch so many angry people shouting at each other. But as a white man growing up in tame, suburban America, I have no reference to the inner-city challenges that Lee portrayed on screen. It's easy to dismiss characters like Mookie and Buggin Out for suffering deprivation due to their own lack of ambition. But what use is working hard if the end result is systemic oppression? 

 

I don't have the answers to such questions, but I support Spike Lee's effort to raise them.

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Posted (edited)
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March: Watch a film released before 1950

 

Paisan

Metro, Goldwyn-Mayer, 1946

Directed by Roberto Rosellini

 

Paisan is a 1946 war film directed by Roberto Rosellini. It's a critical film in the history of Italian neorealism, which is a snooty term to mean that Rosselini filmed on location rather than staged sets, and he used non-professional actors in many of his roles. Viewers unaccustomed to the genre could be forgiven for thinking that much of the movie was meant to be filmed as a documentary. Reportedly Martin Scorsese regards it as one of his favorite films.

 

The film is told in six vignettes, taking place during the Allied invasion of Italy of World War II as they marched up the peninsula of Italy to sweep out the Fascists that had taken over. That it was filmed in 1946 meant that many of the ruins and bombed-out buildings were authentic, living testimony that Italy hadn't recovered yet from the horrors of the war.

 

In the copy I viewed, most of the dialogue was Italian, but the sub-titles were incomplete and inconsistent. In one scene an American GI refers to his 'C-ration' while the subtitle called it a 'sea ration'. Other scenes featured short bits of dialogue with no subtitles at all, forcing the viewer to puzzle out the dialogue. But these challenges could be seen as a subtle nod to the film itself, as many of the themes in the vignettes deal with the communication problems due to language barriers.

 

Also, by modern standards, the use of non-professional actors can make much of the dialogue seem wooden. Presumably some of the actors couldn't even read or write. Without scripts to prepare by, they were simply told their motivations and instructed to wing it. How well they did depends on the viewer's taste in movies, whether they prefer their dramas to be realistic vs. scripted. It was the most popular Italian film in that day, and won BAFTA's Best Picture. Rossellini's work has been a major influence on cinematic history, and in that light the film is a must-watch.

Edited by JamesBrown

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