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Curfew (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Curfew (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Shawn Christensen).
Watched July 22, 2014.

I adored this short film.  In my opinion, it is everything that a short film should be.  There is symbolism, experimental and artistic cinematography, strong story telling, solid acting, and a cohesive whole that definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject in 2013.

This film does not need to be longer.  It is complete in and of itself.  Sometimes full length features are left too open to sequels, as is all the rage in Hollywood.  Once you find a formula that sells, you just keep selling it.  Curfew stays out of that trap and is phenomenal on its own.  Just the opening shots scream “this is a winner.”

Richie (Shawn Christensen) is in his bathtub, clearly in the middle of committing suicide by razor blade, when his phone rings.  It is Maggie (Kim Allen), and apparently Richie is the last person she would ever call but she needs his help.  Richie gives in, cleans himself up a little, and heads out to meet his niece whom he hasn’t seen in years.  Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) is a force to be reckoned with, just like her mother.  Strong, and independent, she knows how to stick up for herself, which may be because she grew up in New York, or maybe it’s because of her mother’s example.  She thinks very little of her Uncle Richie who supposedly messed up really badly when she was little and has been cut out of their lives since.

He is a mess.  He has huge circles under his eyes, his wrists are bandaged, and a cigarette hangs from his mouth.  He takes Sophia to the only approved place (the bowling alley), where things get a little weird and people start dancing, but it actually works incredibly well with the story line and character arc.  It is night time in new york, therefore the lighting stays pretty dark, but the filmmakers use a strong contrast that works well for the film.  He forms a tentative relationship with Sophia who is slow to let down her guard, but she seems to get the measure of him pretty quickly (which is good since this is a short film).

The short uses the landscape of New York City nightlife very well.  It follows the growth of their one-night relationship and makes you root for everyone, even the mom.  Christensen wrote, directed, and acted in the piece, which surprisingly works out pretty well for him.  Honestly, Curfew is the type of piece I would have adored in my intellectual, artistic filmmaker university days, but at a level that the more consumeristic side of myself can enjoy just as much.  It is a great film.

If you have twenty minutes, or even if you don’t, this is a short I would definitely recommend that you watch.  If you have never really sat down just to watch a short film, I would suggest that you start here.  It is that good.

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Redemption (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Redemption (2013)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject (Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill).
Watched June 30, 2014.

Redemption is a unique view of life in New York.  On the very doorstep of nice homes and large buildings, condominiums and the Empire State Building itself, the impoverished of the city spend endless hours, day in and day out, collecting bottles and cans from trashcans in order to redeem them for five cents a piece.

This documentary short follows a basic premise to tell a sad story.  It follows different people, from veterans and the elderly, to immigrants and single mothers.  Some of them live on the streets and band together from a mutual need of safety.  Others live in a one room apartment with at least six other people.  Some New Yorkers help the collectors, while others turn a blind eye.

The one bedroom apartment is like a scene from hoarders.  It makes the situation more real and brings the message of the film home.  It doesn’t matter where you come from.  There is a woman who worked for Microsoft for years, but now her Social Security benefits don’t cover everything and she has to can all day, fighting with an angry and overly competitive Chinese woman who will steal your cans right from under you.  Each person has a story.

The film is very transparent.  It doesn’t seek to hide its message or motives under artistic camera work or in-studio interview footage.  It is all on the streets.  There is little to no symbolism.  It is simple.  This probably makes it more powerful, and yet from an artistic standpoint it is very blah and unimpressive.  It transitions from character to character well, and it tells their stories even better, but there is nothing else to it.  Perhaps its length limited it, but its rawness was a negative for me.

The documentary is less than half an hour long.  If the story sounds interesting to you, then I would definitely recommend it.  I am a lover of documentaries and don’t consider my time wasted by viewing it.  It did open my eyes a bit more to the poverty around us, which is probably the biggest goal of the film, and therefore it did its job.  However, in my opinion, a film should exceed the bounds of just “doing its job” in order to deserve an Oscar nomination.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Scott Rudin) and Best Supporting Actor (Max Von Sydow).
Watched September 6, 2012.

 

My emotions about this film are so all over the place, I don’t think that I can write a proper review.  Originally I had refused to see it in theaters.  I worked at a Regal at the time and the fact that I wouldn’t see something that I could get into for free was odd for me.  For the purposes of this blog, I had to watch it , but I did in four sittings and cried the entire time.  9/11 is always something that hits me hard, especially on the day of.  I will be the first person to admit that I wear my emotions on my sleeve and am the type to cry at a Hallmark commercial, so my tears are no surprise, no matter what the content is.  However, I will do my best to step away from my own lens and look at the technical side of this interesting interpretation of September 11, 2001.

 

It is about the World Trade Center, and it isn’t.  It is more about life, and death, and how we deal with our humanity.  Most importantly, it is about how children deal with heartbreak and tragedy, and how they heal from it.  How do you make sense of something like a man flying a plane into a building?  You can’t, because it doesn’t make sense, which is something that Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock) says emphatically in the film.  Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is her socially awkward son whose dad (Tom Hanks) was more than his father and more than his friend.  From the opening seconds of the film I was gripped by a stunning sequence of shots showing a man falling, not through dust and smoke and debris, but through blue sky.  Thomas Schell was a jeweler, because being a scientist wouldn’t have made the money to support his family.  He was constantly inventing adventures for his son so that he could step outside of his comfort zone and grow.  He knew how afraid Oskar is of almost everything – trains, planes, smoke, loud noises, strangers.  For a boy who claims he can’t talk to people, he spends a lot of time doing it.

 

When Thomas dies in one of the twin towers, Linda becomes barely a presence in Oskar’s life.  He spends the first year in a sort of daze, knowing that his “eight minutes” with his dad are almost up.  But then, he finds a key that he is sure his dad left for him–another adventure and another clue that he has to follow.  Most of the film follows him as he runs around New York trying to find the lock that the key unlocks, and who the key belongs to.

 

I almost feel as if the film tried too hard.  The sequences where Oskar opens up and reveals his secrets, primarily to The Renter (Max Von Sydow), the mute man renting a room from his Grandmother, are over the top and exaggerated.  The editor used a lot of jump cuts* to emphasize the chaos and disorder of Oskar’s raging mind.  Things do not flow smoothly when you are trying to make sense of your father’s death.  There is a lot of chaos implied by the editing in this film, especially when Oskar reveals his fears to the audience or is overwhelmed by emotion.  The slow quiet moments are when he is with his mother and her hurt is a constant ache that hangs over the entire scene – the ache of her loss and the ache of her son’s loss.  They both wish it had been her in the tower, not him.

 

I’m not sure about my thoughts and feelings on this film.  They are so very clouded by my emotions toward the original event that I cannot separate the two.  I gave it one star because I rarely voluntarily watch something that makes me cry so much.  I cannot make a recommendation that you do or do not watch Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  That is a choice I leave entirely up to you.

 

 

*jump cut
noun Movies .
an abrupt break in the continuity of a scene created by editing out part of a shot or scene.

noun
an immediate transition from one scene to another

 

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