Author: Aren Bergstrom

Review: Southside With You

In 1989 Chicago, a young lawyer interning at a trademark law firm for the summer took his supervisor on a date through Chicago’s Southside. They admired African American artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago, attended a community meeting, and saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. That young lawyer was Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and his supervisor was his future wife, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter). Richard Tanne’s Southside With You details the first date of America’s first couple, showing the people they were before becoming the most famous people in the world. At its best, Southside With You feels like...

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Review: In Order of Disappearance

Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance follows Stellan Skarsgard’s snow plow driver, Nils, as he executes revenge against the Norwegian mobsters who killed his son and covered up his death as an overdose. As the bodies start piling up, the mobsters start a gang war with their Serbian rivals who they think are responsible for their heavy losses. Certain characters take over their films. For instance, in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker dominates the film, tonally and narratively, even though he only appears for an eighth of the runtime. It’s as if the character has a gravitational pull that...

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The new flesh: the unnatural nudity of David Cronenberg

Nudity is everywhere in the films of David Cronenberg. From his earliest artsy features Stereo and Crimes of the Future to his most popular films, The Fly and A History of Violence, nudity is pervasive. However, David Cronenberg almost never depicts nudity as natural or graceful. He’s neither a pornographer nor an erotic filmmaker. To Cronenberg, nudity is a means to depict the unnatural. Cronenberg is famous for pioneering body horror, a horror subgenre that explores grotesque physical mutation or transformation that parallels mental transformation or devolution. Thus, for a filmmaker with such an obsession with the human body,...

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Review: Anthropoid

In 1938 at the Munich Conference, the Allied powers ceded control of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in hopes of preventing an inevitable European war. The effort soon failed as Germany invaded Poland, starting World War Two, and Czechoslovakia mounted a passionate resistance to German occupation. Hitler stymied the resistance by sending his third-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, to Prague to beat the country into submission. Heydrich’s presence broke the Czechoslovak spirit, but in retaliation, the free-Czechoslovak government in London planned a resistance attack, “Operation Anthropoid,” to buoy national spirits. Anthropoid is the story of Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš...

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Review: Germans & Jews

In 1945, Germany was the scourge of the civilized world. It had started a world war that killed 50 million people and had decimated Europe’s Jewish population through the Holocaust. In 2016, Germany enjoys a reputation as a defender of democracy and progressive politics. Janina Quint’s Germans & Jews bridges the gap between these two identities of Europe’s largest nation. The film explores the uneasy relationship between second-or-third post-war generation Germans and the Jewish people who increasingly call Germany home. Janina Quint’s Germans & Jews is a fascinating documentary examining historical guilt and social reconciliation. It will hold particular...

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Imagination and individuality: youth in the films of Studio Ghibli

It’s common to call Hayao Miyazaki the “Walt Disney of Japan.” His animation company, Studio Ghibli, which he founded alongside director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, has affected children in much the same way as the classic animated films of Walt Disney. Like Disney classics Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the films of Studio Ghibli are simply magical. However, that glorified description doesn’t capture the profundity of the films of Studio Ghibli. Unlike Disney, Studio Ghibli does not have capitalist domination on its mind. For Disney, films, toys, and theme parks are avenues through which...

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Erasing the guilt: defending the films you like

The term “guilty pleasure” has become ubiquitous in modern discussions of art. The term first appeared in the New York Times in 1860 to describe the experience of visiting a brothel, but has since transformed into a catch-all term to describe the enjoyment of anything that isn’t considered worthwhile. For film, this means bad movies. Do you enjoy watching Last Action Hero or the Star Wars prequels or (more recently) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, even though we supposedly all acknowledge these films as bad? Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution to your problems. Merely label the film...

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