Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: “Jacob’s Ladder”

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Next up on the horror docket are the sub-genres of psychological and surrealist horror. These are some of my personal favorites in horror, which made them inevitable for dissection this month. With that said, I had to choose a film that incorporated both of these two sub-genres to discuss them. So I searched through my memory and had an immediate revelation that Jacob’s Ladder (1990), directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Tim Robbins, was the film to display such genres. The reason was simple: I had a fond memory of this film and was stricken by its elements the moment I saw it. So this made me not only want to review it, but I wanted to understand the film. I wanted to understand why the film had such a powerful effect on me and the average viewer in general.

To define these genres briefly: psychological horror is a film that deals with the psyche of characters in order to horrify (ex. A person devolving into madness). Surrealism is a genre that relies more on imagery or experiences that are out of this world (ex. Creature being cared for as if an ordinary child).   

*Spoilers ahead*

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “She’s Gonna Leave You” by The Walters

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If you have spent any of the last three years paying attention to the Chicago indie rock scene, then you’ve heard of The Walters. The band presents a unique spin on oldies music that sounds tremendously fresh among the mainstream alternative rock that you might hear on the radio today.

Their witty Bandcamp bio sums them up perfectly: just “5 hunks from Chicago.” Between 2014 and now, The Walters have celebrated the overwhelmingly positive reception of their only two LPs, Songs for Dads and Young Men. Earlier this year, they released their first ever stand-alone single, “She’s Gonna Leave You.” The song fares well among the band’s other most awesome jams, and it possesses that signature Walters flair that fans like me know and love. Although, I was not able to soak in the excitement of the release of a new Walters song for long before the band tweeted that they “have some unfortunate news to deliver.”

Last month — not long after “She’s Gonna Leave You” came out — this beloved Chicago indie rock band posted on all of their social media pages, “it saddens us to make this announcement, but the magic and inspiration that once drove us to collaborate as a group has left, and we feel it would be dishonest to continue forward with dynamic that doesn’t feel genuine.” Confusion. Shock. Heartbreak. These are a few of the emotions that I felt after reading this. It was like I was transported to high school and I was going through a bad breakup all over again.

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Words an’ Pictures: Blot Out the Lights!

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Greetings! After the discussion of Jacques Tardi’s West Coast Blues in my last post, I wanted to turn to another gritty crime-thriller, Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot from 1939.

Now, if “Mickey Mouse” and “gritty crime thriller” don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, I would encourage you to think again. While nowadays, Mickey Mouse is essentially a mascot for the Disney corporation, in the 1930s and ’40s, he took down crime syndicates, solved mysteries, fought the Nazis, and more, all under the pencil of Floyd Gottfredson. If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion of Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic work, you can feel free to read my earlier post here.

At its core, Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot is a classic Gottfredson caper, beginning with Mickey being called in by police chief O’Hara (by 1939, Mickey had already helped the police several times) to assist in an investigation into a series of robberies. All the police have to go on is the fact that the sole target of all of the crimes is one particular type of camera, and a series of enigmatic notes signed “The Blot.”

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The Weirdest Horror Film Ever Made: A Review of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House”

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I honestly dare you to try and find a film more bizarre than Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 haunted-house horror-comedy — and adequately titled Japanese production — House. While the synopsis of the plot is rather straight-forward, what transpires in this absolutely bonkers 88-minute roller coaster of gores and goofs is anything but ordinary, and barely even comprehensible. However, this is what makes House such a one-of-a-kind experience that deserves to be seen and (hopefully) adored by a larger audience. Merely describing the overview of House does it no favors, nor would it necessarily make you want to watch it. It’s a fairly simple set-up, after all. What makes House so watchable, so unique, and ultimately so great, is its unbelievably kooky execution and intentional surrealism.

I truly have never seen a film as weird as this one.

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: “The Fly”

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”I’m saying I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over and the insect is awake.”

For the second review of horror month, I have decided to look upon a variation of the horror genre, exploring the sub-genre of “body horror.” Body horror deals with bodily change, being of transformation, destruction, etc. Body horror focuses more on the physical being of the character to create horror rather than, for example, the use of shadows.

Perhaps the most famous body horror director is David Cronenberg, who directed Naked Lunch, Scanners, and Videodrome, all of which are a part of the genre. He also directed The Fly (1986), which may very well be his quintessential work, with the incredible practical effects displaying a maturation of technique. The film does not play the body horror genre with extremity. Rather, it uses pacing and subtly to truly introduce its horrific events.  

*Spoilers ahead*

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Meet the Editors: Christian Mietus

Christian Mietus

Welcome to our final “Meet the Editors” post for this semester, and happy Friday the 13th! This week’s highlighted editor is Christian Mietus, who is a new film blogger for us.

Christian is a freshman at Lewis University who is currently an undecided major, but he is leaning toward English and film. His main priority is to develop himself as an individual and film connoisseur. He spends his time appreciating and dissecting cinema. Some of his favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavettes, Ingmar Bergman, Kenji Mitzoguchi, Bela Tar, Carl Th. Dreyer, Wim Wenders, Andrzej Wajda, and Yasujiro Ozu. He also appreciates different art forms, such as music and literature. Christian hopes to expand his skills as a writer and to encourage others to do so as well. He writes about film for the JFR blog, so check out Christian’s Cinematic Syntax.

Below is our Q&A with Christian:

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Spidey Comes Home: A Review of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

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While there has been a bit of fatigue for superhero movies in recent years — especially seen in 2016 with the releases of the downright bad-to-mediocre entries Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse — I’d argue that 2017 has not only been a wonderful return to form for the highest-grossing genre in film, but also the absolute best year for comic book-based movies maybe ever. We’ve seen the release of the exquisite, mold-breaking Logan; as well as the unexpectedly good, DCEU-saving Wonder Woman; and, of course, the incredibly fun Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Also, I don’t know about you, but I’d include the hilarious Lego Batman Movie in this list as well…and as a guilty pleasure and total nostalgia trip, let’s put Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie on there, too — cause why not?

But while I’ve enjoyed my time with each of these previously mentioned films, my favorite of all this year’s contenders is the latest, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which sees its home release next week. Being a part of what is perhaps the most tired superhero film franchise since the turn of the century — following 2007’s unloved Spider-Man 3 and the underperforming two entries in the Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012 and 2014 — Homecoming had a lot to prove. It seems Sony understood this, as they finally struck a contract with the hugely successful Marvel Studios following Amazing Spider-Man 2 in order to include a new iteration of the character in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While this deal allowed for a glorified cameo and introduction for the new Spidey in last year’s Captain America: Civil War — and his part was awesome — it almost felt too good to be true. However, after seeing his first solo film for myself, I can say with certainty that Homecoming is the best movie the character has been at the center of since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

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