Sebastian Silva and Michael Cera Make Magic in 2013

It’s hard enough to imagine producing and filming one movie in a year as an independent filmmaker, but two? Somehow, Sebastian Silva managed to accomplish that in 2013 with his two widely different films Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and Magic Magic. The two films have similarities in that they both are based in Chile – Silva’s country of origin, both star Michael Cera, and both focus on different anxieties of travel and growing up. However theme and tone between the two could not be more polar.

I’ll begin with Magic Magic as I watched this one first. I’ve recently developed a huge girl crush on Juno Temple, as I think she’s an immensely talented if yet still underrated actress on the rise. So while creeping her ouvre I came along this film. And while the rating was low, the cinematography from the trailer alone was enough to entice me into giving it a shot.

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I found the colour composition and symbolism in this film to be extremely beautiful, and possibly the best quality of this film altogether. The film follows Alicia’s first time travels to Chile to visit her cousin. She finds herself at odds however, by loneliness, an inability to connect with the new people she’s meeting and a increasing detachment from reality. At the same time, can you blame her? Cera does an amazing job at being a creepy weirdo in this film. A role I haven’t seen him play before without some kind of comedic undertones. This is just plain creepy. Would you want to be friends with this dude?

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I feel as if the film’s failure commerically came not from a lack of plot or any other significant short-coming on the filmmaker’s part, but rather the classic mis-marketing curse. The film’s trailer displays this as one of those “is she crazy or is there some sadistic cult happening?” thriller-mystery-dichotomy movies. It is anything but. In fact the film is pretty straightforward in it’s approach to Alicia’s mental state: she is not well. But character’s such as Cera’s Brink are not helping the situation, certainly. If you’ve ever known anyone with a delicate mental state, or even just traveled yourself and felt… culture shock, or complete detachment from your surroundings this film will possibly move you.  It also ends on a fairly ambiguous note depending on how you wish to interpret it, which I could see as a sore spot for the more conventional cinema lovers. I, however, revel in a film which is challenging, and especially films in which I may hate the ending. They force you to really think about why the conclusions upset you.

The second film, actually made first (in fact, Magic Magic was being funded while this movie was still filming, Cera also apparently learned Spanish on set), Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus a much more light-hearted and fun move. I had a debate recently with a friend who had also seen the film, and absolutely hated Cera’s character, Jamie, in that they felt he was misplaced. I could see this point of view, I, on the other hand, loved him in this role as well as in Magic Magic in that he seems to be breaking out of his regular awkward shy guy character-archetypes. It seems natural however that viewers will either love him or hate him.

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As mentioned the film follow’s Jamie as he travels through Chile. At a party he meets the overtly hippy American girl who introduces herself as Crystal Fairy. He drunkenly decides to invite this girl along on the road-trip he has planned with his buddies he’s met in Chile: A trip to find and consume the magical cactus peyote. The film quickly becomes a battle of personalities between Jamie and Crystal – One is a wound up impatient dude, the other a laid back “spiritual” girl. I actually found both character’s to be highly unbearable in their own ways: and I think this was the point of the film. Neither of them are “right” and neither of them are “wrong” but they learn how to love and accept one another, thanks in part to the peyote, of course.

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My favourite part of the film is when they finally consume the magical drug. And if anyone has ever done any psychedelics before will be able to relate to the events that unfold: a total breakdown of normal thinking, becoming totally vulnerable, being entertained by the smallest and seemingly most wonderful things, a breakdown in simple cognition, and, naturally, a strong desire to get naked. The film is a wonderful story in which the two character’s learn to appreciate and understand one another when they let go of an overbearing facade, and actually let their vulnerability show, to which they are ultimately both shown love and support.

I found this film to be less striking visually, as well as less shocking, but thematically more approachable and enjoyable. In the end it’s almost a take on the classic road-trip movie, as they’re not the same people who started on the trip to begin with.

Now my only query, or perhaps concern with Silva’s two films is that as a Chilean director, other than locale, the films have essentially nothing to do with Chile. The Chilean characters that are interspersed throughout both films often come off as flat and static. Not a whole lot of culture is engaged with. This doesn’t seem purposeful so much as negligent, as these actors are unable to come out of the shadow of the Hollywood counterpoints. Even Catalina Moreno, in Magic Magic, a very well recognized actress comes off as little more than a background bitch.

Either way, I see Silva as a very promising director. Not perfect, but I am excited to see what else he has to say about our generation, and what other films he wishes to pursue. Because so far based on these two films, he’s willing to take on some pretty interesting topics (travel, insanity, drugs, identity, etc) with surprising restrain and maturity.

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General horror movie drinking game rules

There are 5 general rules for horror movies, and drinking. I’ve tried with many other movie genres but there are 5 general rules that work for every horror movie, and I hope you enjoy following them and getting subsequently drunk.

1) drink for death
2) drink for excessive blood
3) drink for horror movie cliches (faux-scares and other fare)
4) drink for anytime you laugh
5) drink for sex (or heavy making out and petting also counts)

Follow these 5 rules and a guaranteed drunk you will be!

In review: Mama

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So I went and saw Mama directed by Andres Mucshietti, the newest production by Guillermo Del Toro. Based on the other films I’ve seen in this kind of relationship, for example The Orphanage or Julia’s Eyes I was expecting creepy creepy creepy! And yes that’s what I got.

However, that being said, I also didn’t expect this film to be so cheesy in parts. The audience was laughing in multiple scenes. As was I. My friend who I saw it with even pointed out that there were several parts where he fully expected “Thriller” to come on and for the actors to break out into Michael Jackson dancing. That would actually make a great rule to the whole drinking game thing I love to do in horror movies, so add that to the general list of rules for this particular film.

The film has no gore, so to speak, and lots of creepy “ahhhh!” moments, which I am happy about as, although I love gore, we all know its not particularly frightening.

I also appreciated the fact that this film didn’t strive for a 100% happy ending, but I wont say anything other than that as that would give away too many spoilers.

My only problem with this film is that there was no REAL mystery. We see the “ghost” straight off the bat, so we basically know her deal before it even begins. There’s no contest that this is a ghost we are dealing with. The whole exploration and delving into old files, that are obligatory, with any horror movie seems forced and unnecessary. The entire back-story was forced and definitely nothing new. And to be real for a moment the ghosts “portal” into our world looked like a bloody vagina on the wall. Not scary, just funny.

To be honest, the trailer for this film was more terrifying than the film itself.

In conclusion, while this film brought some good spooks it was still dealing with an old genre, a tired one that has been played out now. I think it’s time for something fresh and new, outside of children and ghosts. I don’t know what that is, but when I see it we’ll all know from a stellar review. Although it may be a while yet as it seems we are still dealing with the 3D craze and old genres. 2o12 was a seriously disappointing year for horror, if this is a glimpse of things to come in 2013, then I’m not hopeful. Oh well, if we all play by my drinking games it will be a drunk year at the very least.

Listmania: 10 Epic Death Scenes

Who doesn’t love a really good death scene? I tried to pick here less of the mindless gore that I’m accustomed to, but scenes which had a lasting impression because they were so shocking. I call them epic because they surprised us in some way, we honestly did NOT see that coming, and maybe uttered a “DAMN” when it happened.

Definitely contains spoilers.

Okay let’s begin! In no particular order:

1) Billy, The Departed

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Things never go quite right for poor Billy do they? Just when it seems like things are finally wrapped up and going his way an unfortunate elevator ride has to happen…

2) Marvin, Pulp Fiction

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Did anyone see this coming? No way! Due to the nonlinear nature of the film, any hints were hidden, the fact that Marvin survived the first massacre seemed a miracle, and then this.

3) Oscar, Enter the Void

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Unless you read the synopsis before watching the film, this is a pretty unexpected death. I mean, killing off the main character 30 minutes in who we’ve essentially had first person POV privileges with? Not your most conventional approach.

4) Anonymous, Cube 

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The movie opens, a man moves through a creepy cube hesitantly, what is he so afraid of? We soon find out.

5)Russell Franklin, Deep Blue Sea

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After an inspiring speech, it’s Samuel L. to save the day! Or not.

6) Palmer, The Thing

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What is the Thing? A horrible alien monster from outer-space that grotesquely mutates its victims. How do you find out who is infected by the thing? The Infamous blood-testing scene – made me jump the first time I saw it!

7) Bill Murray, Zombieland

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Both hilarious and tragic. Who really thought that he’d get shot in the film after a heroic cameo? I mean it’s Bill Fucking Murray after all!

8) Blanche, Drive

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There’s a lot of love, and a lot of hate for this film. But what’s never disputed is how unexpected this death is. Christina Hendricks getting her face blown off in slow motion, yeah! I had a “BUH” moment. It’s this death, amongst many, that really straps you in and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

9) Julian, Children of Men

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Just when they’re getting their lives back together, an unexpected attack on the car which then turns into a thrilling and one of the most brilliantly filmed tracking shots I’ve ever seen.

10) Glen, A Nightmare on Elm Street

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One of my personal favorite deaths in a film ever, Glen has waltzed through the film without any trouble from Freddy, but I guess no one is safe. Blood Smoothie anyone?

2013 Horror Movies: To Watch List

I was going to write a review of the newest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Franchise, this time in 3D Yeegads! But it was so terrible I don’t think even I can review it. Plus I was pretty drunk so I don’t remember any of the details anyways. Probably a good thing.

Instead, I’d like to list the horror movies I’m really looking forward to! The first and second are the only ones I’m really likely to see in theaters, the others are just a general mumble of interesting titles both possibly good and probably terrible.

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1) Mama – I have high hopes for this one and hopefully it delivers. I’ve generally enjoyed most of the horrors Guillermo Del Toro produces, so at the very least I’m expecting to be thoroughly creeped out.

2) John Dies at the End – This looks seriously awesome. I think it will be a lot of fun. Drugs, traveling through space and time, non-humans…directed by the guy who did Bubba Ho-Tep what more do you need people!?

3) Carrie – I actually think this will be an awesome remake. I really like Chloe Moretz, and Julianne Moore is always good, I can see them making a really twisted mother-daughter team. At the very least it will hopefully be better than that sequel they made in the 90’s, I was only 10 when that shit came out and I still knew it was garbage.

4) The Call – Looks like more of a thriller than anything else, but still creepy and disturbing. Plus I’m a total sucker for some Halle Berry in a horror movie.

5) Dark Skies – Looks like the usual  Insidious-esque plot line. Formulaic but bound to have some creepy moments and maybe a few “eeeeks!”

6) The Last Exorcism Part II – I really thought I’d hate the first film when I originally went to see it, but you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t mind it, and I liked the “twist” ending which left me feeling seriously gross. Part II looks ridiculous and at the very least probably has some great jumpy moments.

7) The Green Inferno – Not even finished yet, but an Eli Roth film about travelers in Peru with Cannibals. Can’t wait! Seems like this is his kick these days, Aftershock is also coming out soon, but for some reason it failed to really grab my interest.

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Winter Music Time: Tune of the Week VII

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, but I’ve been in Thailand for the past while. Oh woe is me, I know!

But I wanted to share Com Truise. I downloaded this a long time ago actually, but I took me a while to get into him. Yes most of the songs off the album are remarkably similar to one another, but after a while I decided that was a good thing. It’s his style. and if you like his style, then you want more of it.

I’ve been really enjoying this album though, Galactic Melt, as it reminds me of Tangerine Dream and Risky Business (I think the name Com Truise should be indicative that this is no coincidence).

Think blue lights under cars, the city scape at night, girls riding motor cycles, and warm summer evenings (or as it happens, winter evenings in a tropical country). Anything dark with a bit of light. Shade with joy.

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Kill Your Idols: A Lesson in Elitism

Strolling through Netflix I came across this documentary and decided to give it a quick look considering it spouts Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the poster, and I happen to love them.

I was pretty disappointed in the film, honestly, and I should have known better as I’m usually disappointed with almost every single music documentary I’ve ever seen. I think the clip from Futurama adequately sums up the vibe of the film very well.

Basically, it was a film in which old rock-n-rollers, who don’t want to be called rock-n-rollers, bash bands because they have more talent than they did; Insult them for being sell outs in being successful; criticize our generation for being less original than they were; and have the bands inter-insult one another: “Yeah yeah who?” Says one burnout who utters “fuck” every second word.

But don’t they see the irony in these kinds of statements? Every single generation feels they are the ultimate culmination of all that came before them and that could ever come after them. Hence the old stereotype of parents wanting their children to “turn down that racket”. These old “originals” can’t seem to understand that they’ve essentially turned into the thing they were initially rebelling against. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s hypocrisy.

These are people, from bands essentially wiped from human memory because of their anit-everything stance, including how to actually PLAY instruments. From where I stand, these 1970’s no-wave pioneers have absolutely no say in their criticism of music. Sure their stance was undoubtably original, and it hasn’t been done since, because now people actually take the time to learn how to play music, for enjoyment and entertainment. This kind of political-socio-eco-cultural art wave of music can only go so far. It literally has a limit before it even starts. It’s like those movies you see in art galleries: Where you only need to see about 30 seconds before you get the gist and understand the general message.

They problem with music documentaries is that they’re always from a moment, a small wave of people and a scene in which “you had to have been there to understand”. Its a veiled elitism. And they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

The critisim from both past and present performers was on a general restlessness of society. But what I find insulting is this idea of the masses as a faceless, social blob of zombies that have absolutely no thoughts for themselves. I don’t listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or any music for that fact because an advertisement, or a magazine told me to. I listen to music based on an aesthetic quality. Is that so bad?

Even for people who listen to Lady Gaga, Rhiana and other pop music performers, what is the problem? Sure much mainstream culture is spoon-fed consumerism which I think is where their argument should have been aimed at rather than neo-art-punks, but at the same time, that music is still designed to be aesthetically and widely pleasing.

What this documentary did was essentially destroy the idea of music for enjoyment. Music for escapism. Music for fun and dance. Because aparently such engagement with music is wrong.

I think Gogol Bordello said it best though in the film in that, the new generation is going towards a new nihilism, a happy nihilism. I prefer that vision a lot more than just assuming everyone is a zombie, eating the brains of corporate manipulation.