Jump to content

DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Mashiara Sedai

2020 White Ajah Movie Challenge

Recommended Posts

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!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
Quote

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/5/2020 at 12:27 PM, Mashiara Sedai said:

April: Watch a film about war

 

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
20th Century Fox, Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Directed by Peter Weir

 

Master and Command: The Far Side of the World, is a rousing war drama set during the Napoleonic Wars. Based on a series of naval novels by Patrick O'Brian, the film stars Russel Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin. 

 

The action takes place in the Southern Hemisphere on both sides of the South American continent. A French privateer, Acheron, has been sent to harass and destroy British merchant ships. Captain Aubrey of the H.M.S. Surprise has been sent away from the main theater of battle in European waters to find the Acheron, to sink or capture her. The Surpise is a smaller ship, out-manned and outgunned, and to fulfill his mission Aubrey will need to marshal all his courage, cunning, and skill to win the day.

 

Partly filmed on a full-scale replica of an 18th-century post ship, Master and Commander is a thrilling adventure from start to finish. But it's not only the roars of the cannons that speak of drama. On board is rich human conflict that would make for a great drama even in peacetime, both above and below decks. A midshipman struggles to earn the respect of the crew that he's ordered to lead. A surgeon's mate overcomes his queasiness at the sight of blood. And best of all are the two central figures, Aubrey and Maturin, the Captain and the Doctor. The two long-time friends bicker with each other, argue, tease each other, endure each other's foibles and interests. Most of all, they care deeply for each other as only friends can, each man's soul is sharpened by the other's humanity.

 

Director Peter Weir interleaves edge-of-your-seat action pieces with small tidbits of humor and delight. In one scene, Captain Aubrey teaches his young midshipmen some small bit of nautical superstition like the 'cool uncle' that every boy wishes to have. But it's not all fun and games. In another scene, Aubrey is forced to abandon one of his loyal crew members in order to save the entire ship, and the weight of such decisions nearly breaks him.

 

The film was highly regarded and won some technical awards, but in the end it wasn't successful enough to launch the franchise that was hoped for. To me, that's fine, as I wouldn't have wanted such a perfect film to become spoiled by the weight of five or six sequels, each one more disappointing then the previous. Master and Commander is one of my favorite films, a movie that I've seen perhaps ten or twelve times. I highly recommend it for for war movie buffs.

 

Sharp's the word and quick's the action. Surprise is on our side.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

May: Watch a film directed by a woman

 

Zero Dark Thirty

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Katherine Bigelow

 

Katherine Bigelow directed Zero Dark Thirty, a fictionalized account of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the devastating attack of 9/11, culminating in the raid on his compound in Pakistan. Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a fictional CIA analyst who puts the pieces together to track down the elusive terrorist. 

 

The film was both highly acclaimed and highly controversial after the release. Bigelow shows CIA agents engaging in "enhanced interrogation". But it can be argued that she took a straddled stance towards torture. The scenes are hard to watch, and usually result in worthless intel. But in one case a waterboarded man reveals the name of a personal courier of bin Laden's, a tiny thread which when gently pulled leads to the discovery of bin Laden's compound. So is torture just a dehumanizing action that only creates more enemies? Or is it a necessary evil when dealing with extremists? 

 

Much of the movie also shows the mind-numbing drudgery of gathering intelligence. Agents sit on the side of a road for hours waiting for a white SUV to drive by. Technicians sift through countless text messages looking for clues. What might be worst of all, when Maya uncovers enough evidence to follow a lead, she has to fight her own bureaucracy to get enough resources to track the lead down. Everyone says they want to help capture or kill the terrorist, but few want to commit themselves to what might be an embarrassing dead end. 

 

The last fourth of the movie follows the Delta Force team that helicopters into Pakistan and lands at the bin Laden compound. They storm the building to subdue the residents and hopefully to capture or kill bin Laden, assuming that the intel is accurate. Otherwise they will create an international incident that could result in the loss of civilian life. 

 

Throughout the movie, "Maya" (reportedly a composite of a number of analysts) is a fierce, confident, intelligent woman, and yet she's also a caricature. We're given not one thing about her background, her personal life, her interests. She's just a machine that pushes through all barriers to achieve her goal. In the end, when her job is finally done, she's asked where she wants to go, and all she can do it cry in silence. What exactly does one do when the world's number one terrorist is finally eliminated? She can't say, because she doesn't know.

 

In that, Maya's story could be an analogy for the United States itself. What precisely did the U.S. accomplish by killing bin Laden and dumping his body into the ocean? Is the War on Terror™ over? Can the troops come home to their ticker-tape parades? Have the good guys won? The answers seem both obvious and frustrating, much like Maya's life. Having scaled a cliff that begged to be mounted, at the top all we can say is, "Now what?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed that movie!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Selma 2014
Directed by Ave DuVernay
 

Can you imagine trying to bring Martin Luther King Jr to the screen? The setting is the march from Selma to Montgomery. To me, the setting fades somewhat into the background at times, when the movie focuses  on a character study of the man. 
 

Dr King is portrayed as a change agent and how he went about change. He pressured and used his media savvy skills. He availed himself of the skills of those around him. He would bend but never break.

 

The movie provides both a close up of the greatness of Dr. King but also that he was a flawed man. I felt there was an excellent balance in walking this tightrope. I would hope that history would focus on his greatness while acknowledging his faults. There are those that would attempt to discredit Dr. King for his flaws but we all have them in one form or another. Surely, his accomplishments outweigh them.
 

The movie also visits a time of history for which we should be shamed. 

Edited by Ryrin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/5/2020 at 12:27 PM, Mashiara Sedai said:

June: Watch an animated film

 

Mary and Max

Melodrama Pictures, 2009

Directed by Adam Elliot

Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana.

 

 

For this month, I rewatched (for probably the sixth or seventh time) the stop-motion animated picture Mary and Max, produced and filmed in Australia. The story tells of two social outcasts separated by half the world who manage to forge a lifelong friendship as pen pals.

 

The late and lamented Phillip Seymour Hoffman voices the character of Max, an obese Jewish man suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, living alone in New York City. This is a man who struggles, all day every day. He doesn't understand facial expressions, he's bothered by loud noises and strong smells (and remember--he lives in New York where it's noisy and smelly all the time.) And he's perpetually baffled by the odd characters that surround him.

 

Mary is a young girl living in Mount Waverly, Australia. She's raised by a pair of inattentive and neglectful parents. She's teased by her classmates because the birthmark on her forehead is "the color of poo." She is desperately lonely for anyone to be her friend. On a random whim, she writes a letter to Max in New York, and to their mutual surprise, he writes back.

 

One wouldn't think that a middle-aged man and a eight-year-old girl living in different hemispheres would have much to talk about. Mary asks Max questions about adult matters that she cannot understand. Meanwhile, she gives him advice on how to deal with his struggles with emotions, with rude neighbors, and with that odd woman who flirts with him to his mortification. 

 

Max is imbued with a spiritual weariness that Hoffman was so gifted at portraying. At times Mary's questions send him into a kind of emotional seizure of anxiety. But other times, he relates his thoughts on things that confuse him. He asks her questions and tells her bon mots that must have been incomprehensible to an pre-teen Australian girl but tell us more about his character. Such as:

 

Do you have a favourite-sounding word? My top-five are "ointment," "bumblebee," "Vladivostok," "banana," and "testicle."

 

Have you ever been a communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?

 

Cigarette butts are bad because they wash out to sea, and fish smoke them and become nicotine-dependent. I am just joking, because of course it is impossible for a cigarette to remain lit underwater. Also, fish do not have pockets to keep cigarette lighters in.

 

Over time, Mary and Max form a bond that would be the envy of most of us. Though they never meet in person, they become . . . well, I'll let Max say it:

 

You are my best friend. You are my only friend.

 

I can't recommend this movie highly enough. This one is definitely in my top ten movies, one I watch every couple of years. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/5/2020 at 12:27 PM, Mashiara Sedai said:

September: Watch a musical

 

My Fair Lady

Warner Brothers, 1964

Directed by George Cukor

Starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn

 

My favorite musical, one with a rich pedigree: released in 1964, based on the Lerner and Lowe stage musical from 1956, which itself was based on George Bernard Shaw's stage play Pygmalion released in 1913.

 

Given that long history, the story is no-doubt a familiar one. A poor Cockney flower girl is lifted up out of the streets by a phonetics professor on a challenge: take this brash, loud-mouthed gutter snipe and, by elevating her language skills, pass her off as high society. What follows is a contentious, charming, and miraculous transformation.

 

The film was a huge gamble for Warner Brothers, then the most expensive movie the studio had ever produced. But the payoff was huge. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, and Actor, and it was the second-highest grossing film of 1964. Critics praised the performances of Harrison and Hepburn, and were swept away by the big production values--old Hollywood at its best.

 

The film's musical numbers were a near-perfect match for the stage musical from which it sprang. Nevertheless, it's an open secret that Hepburn didn't have the vocal chops to sing her own songs. Most of her numbers were dubbed by the uncredited Marni Nixon (not Julie Andrews as is commonly thought.)  Also, Harrison's numbers were partly-spoken, an expressionist vocal technique called Sprechgesang, a style that descends from operatic recitation.

 

On a personal note, this movie was a favorite for my son to watch when he was home sick from school. While medicated up, he would lay on the couch and zone out in front of the nearly-three-hour movie. Days later, after he recovered, we'd catch him singing the familiar show tunes, Cockney-accents and all. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...