During the holiday season it seems like the only things on television are Christmas related. Every other channel is running a Christmas movie marathon with all of the classics like Elf, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Home Alone. There are so many Christmas movies that there are genres within the genre of Christmas movie. One of the most popular genre is Christmas rom coms.
Christmas rom coms are very similar to normal rom coms. With a plot consisting of two people meeting, waiting a while to get together, a big twist and they break up, and then a big gesture at the end so they end up together. But Christmas rom coms have their own set of tropes that are different from other rom coms throughout the year. An example of this is that in order for them to be together they both have to be really into Christmas, and if one of them is not they will learn to love it by the end of the movie. Snowstorms keeping someone in a small town in another classic trope that makes the two main characters stay together and then fall in love.
Some classic Christmas rom coms are “Love Actually”, “The Holiday”, and “Four Christmases”. All of these movies are constantly playing on TV. The most popular of the three is “Love Actually”. The movie is different from other rom coms because it follows more than one couple throughout the movie, it has 4 different story lines instead of just one. But each storyline still follows that same general arc as a typical Christmas rom com.
Netflix has been making more rom coms in the past year, and this includes Christmas rom coms. The most popular Netflix rom com is called “The Christmas Prince” and it follows one of the typical rom com stories of a normal girl falling in love with a man who turns out to be a prince. “The Christmas Prince” was such a big hit on Netflix that they have now made a sequel this year. Other Christmas rom coms on Netflix are “The Princess Switch” starring Vanessa Hudgens, and “Christmas Inheritance”. These are only movies that are made by Netflix, you can also watch other Christmas rom coms on Netflix as well.
Christmas rom coms is a feel good movie genre that is meant to put people in the holiday spirit. Everyone in all of the movies are extremely kind and they always give to others, something that not everyone does in the real world.
Despite being about an actual assassin, “The Assassin” nearly put me to sleep. The film is based on a classical Chinese text from the 9th century titled “Nie Yianning”, a notable entry of Chinese fiction’s famed ancient martial artists, and is rendered beautifully with stunning cinematography and gripping premise. Yet its pace leaves a lot to be desired.
The film stars Shu Qi (“Journey to the West”) as the titular assassin Nie Yinniang, who has been trained for years and has become a superb killer sent to murder corrupt government officials. Qi is badass and kind of terrifying in her unwavering resolve as the assassin, appearing just enough in action to illustrate her skills without getting too attached to believe she is a sympathetic character. Yinniang reaches her limit, however, when the next target she is sent to kill is the nun who raised her. She does not complete the task, and as punishment is sent to kill the governor of the far Weibo province, Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). The plot development of the movie, while slow, still manages to establish the premise within the first 30 minutes, which kept my expectations high at the start. The catch? Tian Ji’an is her cousin who she had been arranged to marry. Drama of the stickiest order ensues as Nie Yinniang takes up her next mission.
I can’t stress enough what a feast for the eyes “The Assassin” is. The cinematography of the Chinese landscapes are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. The lighting is exquisite as well, making the gold of the rich main characters shine in a way that adds to the luxurious sets and costumes. The shots of the uninhabited mountains transports the viewer back in time, another stunning element paid careful attention to in order to bring to life this historical drama. Some of the visuals foreshadow the plot as well, like when a blood-red sky at sunset is reflected in a lake, contributing to the mise-en-scène as well.
Unfortunately, the editing does not allow the screenplay to breath, making you feel every minute that passes by while watching this movie. There is far too much exposition, especially at the beginning where the assassin is given her orders to kill, only to then attempt to kill the following shot. Instead of feeling like a detailed chronicle of the assassin’s life, it often feels terribly redundant. Additionally, the shots themselves are way too long. Despite being a martial arts movie, the movie seems more preoccupied with the mundane aspects of daily life than the fighting itself. You literally watch people sit, eat and sleep while stuck with the same forlorn expression for the entire time, making you wait for any plot development (of which there is too little). This adds gravity to the characters, but in an unoriginal way as if they were all in a Western playing mysterious sheriffs who blew into town to restore law and order. To be sure, the editing wasn’t all bad. There was an effective switching from black and white to color in order differentiate the past in flashbacks from the present. But this does nothing to quicken the pace, making important developments feel understated and inconsequential, like when Governor Tian’s interesting origin story is delivered through a boring monologue.
Overall, “The Assassin” is a solid piece of film that feels more like a recorded play than a movie. There is a limited number of sets that the camera stays stationary on the majority of the time as monologues and exposition are dished out like nobody’s business. If you love historical pieces, this will surely delight. But damn, is it boring.
The Vietnam War continues to be fresh in Americans’ conscious as one of the last conflicts of the Cold War, and “Last Days in Vietnam” does a detailed job in preserving the war’s memory by featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese people who lived through it. The film brings history to life, but its lop-sided coverage of the war shows the dangers of documentaries engaging in political issues.
The conflict is a very sensitive matter, which the Vietnamese refer to as the American War since it was a brutal satellite war for America to forward its imperialist interest in maintaining superpower status. The documentary does not get the perspective of the opposition to American forces. All the interviewees have ties to the United States, either as members of the American armed forces or as Vietnamese refugees who escaped to our country.
This does not mean there was no value to the film. To hear the first-hand accounts of the American men who actually fought the war was gripping, especially their very human emotional struggles as they dealt with the impact the conflict had on civilians who lost their homes and lives. The archival film footage of bombings, evacuations, military exercises and the like made vivid the clear descriptions of the Vietnam War I read about in history class. The tragedy became much more comprehensible by showing the individual people and actions it takes to mount a war in the first place. But the lack of perspectives outside of the forces with America makes the documentary a simple and concise history of only the mainstream American narrative of the war. To not have this view counterbalanced with that of the Soviet-allied forces makes the loss American forces hard to understand. There is no focus on the achievements and developments on the Soviet side that led to their success. Only the work of the American forces is then appreciated.
The documentary is very good on a technical level. At the beginning, I was deceived into believing that the incredibly conventional editing of the documentary would contain an incredibly conventional story. Instead, the intricate and chaotic nature of war strategy plays out in the most visually literate manner possible. However, if the viewer does not have a nuanced education on the Vietnam War, this film could do them a disservice by only presenting one flawed view of the conflict, and even then not focusing on the Vietnamese people who were most impacted. While chronicling America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, at no point does the documentary dive into historical analysis, leaving me wanting more. I’m sure the interviewees have strong views on the war that could have been shown in a balanced way to the benefit of the viewer’s knowledge without getting mired in politics.
I don’t consider the limited scope of the documentary a fatal flaw. To include the Soviet side would be to extend the documentary far past its hour-and-a-half running time, and would expect a movie to be as authoritative as a vetted history textbook. However, the lack of self-awareness in its obvious bias is concerning. As the saying goes, history is written by the victors. Those who truly respect history must resist this vantage point.
“What would you wish for?” It is a question that I have asked of others and of myself countless times. Sometimes, it is all finished within a laugh. We blurt out fantastical inventions with barely a thought spent. Sometimes, we treat the question as if a fast-talking genie was awaiting our orders. It is a game that is endlessly fascinating because the answers tend to change every time we ask the question. It is also an endlessly useless game because the things that we wish for are seemingly unattainable. After all, if we believed that we could achieve this wish through hard work, we would have chosen something different. The game doesn’t just reveal what we desire; it reveals what we believe is impossible. So, we wish for piles of cash to rain down upon us or for carefree voyages around the world.
Aladdin, for the most well-known example, wishes to become a prince so he may gain Princess Jasmin’s hand. But even as a child, I knew that Aladdin simply had to present himself as he was to gain the acceptance he desired so desperately. Aladdin knows what he wants. He simply doesn’t know how to gain it. Perhaps he should have wished instead to have infinite knowledge. Yet, the movie posits this, too, as the wrong approach. Infinite cosmic power, after all, comes with an itty-bitty living space. The movie ends with Aladdin relinquishing this power to face the future on his own. I think this speaks to our desire to be challenged even as we want things to be easy. We want to triumph, but only after we feel like we deserve it.
It seems so often, though, that no one gets what they deserve. I look at the world around me and see injustices everywhere. I look at the world around me and want to wish it away. But when I close my eyes to imagine this as a better place, I realize that I would be a cruel and unjust god. For my wishes are arbitrary, subjective, and worst of all, vague. I recognize, like Aladdin, that I am not omniscient, and thus, my wishes will likely cause many unintended consequences. But perhaps, this is the inherent value of wishes. I can pretend at omnipotence, if only for a moment. A wish is not simply an expression of desire. A wish is something deeper, a dream of infinite possibilities that we can use flippantly.
Yet for all my endless speculations and formulations, I have not answered the most important question of all. “What would YOU wish for, Corrina?”. I could wish for world peace. But peace can be achieved easily under a dictatorship. I could wish for personal happiness. But one happiness can come at the cost of many others. Perhaps I will wish for something simpler: a beautiful, turbulent life and some good people to enjoy it with.
Since the late 1980’s romantic comedies (romcoms) have been a staple genre. It was popular all the way until the late 2000’s when the genre feel out of popularity. Now Netflix is bringing it back.
There seems to be a gigantic list of romantic comedies that came and are now classics from the 80’s. There is “When Harry Met Sally”, “16 Candles”, “Pretty In Pink”and “Can’t buy Me Love”. These romcoms are now classics and must watches for all romcom lovers. The 80’s also had several romcom stars. The most notable being Molly Ringwald who starred in “Pretty In Pink” and “16 Candles”. The theme of female romcom stars continued all the way to the present.
The 90’s was the arguably the golden age of the romcom. Movies from “Notting Hill” to “10 Things I Hate About You” were somewhat popular while some of the biggest hits that every person still knows are “Sleepless In Seattle” and “Clueless”. “Clueless” was the “Mean Girls” of the 90’s and became a quotable icon very quickly. “Sleepless In Seattle” is one of the most iconic romcoms that everyone knows and loves. It is one of the most must see romcoms and movies in general. Some of the stars from the 90’s romcoms are Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Not only were the two popular romcom stars but they also starred opposite of each other in two of the biggest romcoms of the 90s (“Sleepless In Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail”).
The 2000’s were the downhill slope of the romcom. The theater and tv were getting so saturated that not that many stood out to the general public. Some of the big romcoms were “27 Dresses”, “Bridget Jones Diary”, “The Proposal”, and “13 Going On 30”. The 2000s split romcoms into several categories because there were so many movies. Romcoms were split into teen movie romcoms, made for tv romcoms and then hit romcoms. Some of the teen romcoms were “She’s The Man”, “What A Girl Wants” and “A Cinderalla Story”. The star of the teen romcom category was Amanda Bynes who starred in over 5 romcom movies. There were many stars of the popular romcoms, One of the stars of the popular romcoms was Sandra Bullock who starred in “Two Weeks Notice”, and “The Proposal”. Two others were Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lopez.
After the early 2000s were over saturated with romcoms the genre died down for a little bit. There was only made for tv romcoms, with most of them coming out of the Hallmark Channel. Over the past year Netflix has tried to redeem the genre and have been creating a large amount. There most recent movies have gotten a lot of attention and they are bringing new romcom stars. The most popular Netflix romcoms are “The Kissing Booth”, “Set It Up”, and “To All The Boys I Loved Before”. With these movies the biggest star that has risen is Noah Centineo who starred in “To All The Boys I Loved Before”. With all of these new Netflix romcoms the genre is coming back into the lime light and is being revived.
In my experience, black comedy is edgy by nature. Since the most common theme I’ve seen explored in the genre is death, I’m not surprised what makes black comedies so unique for me is how they force me to laugh at things I wouldn’t laugh at otherwise while still being in good taste. I watched the films “Heathers” (1988) and “The Truman Show” (1998) back-to-back in order to catch up on some highlights of the genre, and found another element it experiments with to great effect: the expectations we have of a film based on the age of the main characters. I only knew the basics about the protagonists of both of these films, so the dissonance between its subject matter and its treatment of said subject blindsided me so much I had to write about it.
All I knew about “Heathers” was that it was about the most popular (and mean) girls at school. This is a a well-trodden premise, and I was worried at the beginning when the basic high school stock characters were established that the film would be a straight-forward high school drama. And yet something feels off; the characters of the movie are more cruel and crass when dealing with sensitive issues than I can ever remember seeing when I was in high school. I found it hard to believe that even in the 1980s young people could be so nasty. Then, the film hits a turning point when the least-mean popular girl Veronica (Winona Ryder, “Stranger Things”) tries to do the Heathers’ bidding by talking to the mysterious JD (Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”), who has been watching and smiling at her from a corner of the cafeteria while the Heathers wreak havoc all of lunch. At this point I got worried. Another high school romance? But then the movie shows its true colors.
JD gets harassed and called a “fag” by jocks because one of the most popular girls in school just talked to him, a prime example of the absurd logic bullies use to target others. He in turn brandishes a gun out of nowhere and shoots them (with what we later learn are blanks). What?
This scene is a prime example of the unique power of black comedy by being subservive on two levels. For one, suburbia is known for having low crime-rates, which makes them appealing to move to in the first place. This establishes the magnitude of how dangerous JD is to this community from the very first time we see him, and it is both fricking hilarious and fricking horrifying at the same time. But on a broader level, this disrupts our expectations of what a high school movie is like. It is a good introduction of the very dark and twisted view of high school presented in “Heathers”. I had zero idea the film is rated R, but I wish I had.
I had the complete opposite emotional reaction when watching “The Truman Show”. It is unexpectedly sweet and tender at its core, following 30 year-old Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey, “Bruce Almighty”) on a quest to find his high school crush who he loved but had whisked away, as he realizes something is very off about his hometown. I did not expect such a touching driving force for a movie about a man who is the star of a crazy successful reality TV show with everyone knowing it but him.
One of the darkest aspects to the film, in my opinion, is the idea that we do not really know the intentions of other people because we do not know what we do not know. It made me sad to think that Truman, who is kind, has intimate relationships with those he considers loved ones that are actually all actors. A notable example is when his closest friend Marlon (Noah Emmerich, “The Americans”) holds back tears after Truman says he is his best friend. I felt that.
After seeing that Jim Carrey was the lead and that the film was about a 24/7 reality TV show, I was concerned that “The Truman Show” would take a turn for the grotesque regarding sexuality and violence. Yet surprisingly, there is not any sex or violence. When Truman’s sexuality is addressed, it is to show how artificial his marriage to his wife Meryl (Laura Linney, “Sully”) is. When Truman is shown to have a habit of buying ambiguous magazines “for the wife”, I assumed it was porn. But instead, the magazines are shown to be full of close-ups of women’s faces, which he uses to construct a portrait of his love interest in high school whom he still misses dearly after so many years. It is sweet and shows a pure and romantic side to Truman that makes him a very sympathetic hero.
In contrast, his relationship with his wife Meryl is dull and full of repetition, with scenes of them together focused on mundane daily marital life like saying goodbye before going to work or uniting at the end of the day. The fact Meryl is only acting like his wife is palpable, but she never misses a beat despite her regular advertising of sponsors’ products. But the injustice that Truman faces by having everything he knows be fiction is brought to the forefront when he finally confronts Meryl that something is very fake about their city and that he must go follow his dreams of travelling. She becomes visibly panicked, no doubt well-aware of all the anti-travel messaging he received to keep him on set, and tries to dismiss his ideas. And out of nowhere she pulls out hot cocoa and offers to make him some as she advertises the specific brand. While it is funny that she would stick to the script at such an inopportune time, it is also very depressing to see how she and all the other actors on the show value their professional relationships with Truman over their personal relationships with him. This makes his genuine, albeit short-lived connection with his love interest Lauren (Natascha McElhone, “Californication”) so charming. They are able to recognize their chemistry in spite of all the obstacles between them, making the movie a lot more heart-warming and fairytale-like than I anticipated.
When I found out the film was rated PG, everything clicked into place. The 1950s-inspired clothes and decor lent a sense of authenticity to the sanitized world that is supported by sponsors and the average Joe watching. I’m glad I didn’t know that, however, so I could feel firsthand how disarming it was for Truman to take to heart the idyllic artificial life his show’s creator Christof (Ed Harris, “Mother!”) made in an effort to shield him from the real world’s horrors. I would have expected the family-friendly PG rating to detract, not enhance the movie centered on the unfiltered human experience. And yet by showing how unnatural it would be to live in a world that is monitored and approved by the masses, the plot rises from science fiction thought experiment to social commentary, with a lot of heart added to the mix.
In conclusion, I found it very refreshing to see age groups redefined in “Heathers” and “The Truman Show” through the use of comedy. The movies take the stereotypes of the teenage bad boy and the wholesome adult everyman to extremes, which lends itself perfectly to critique the societal norms that allow these figures to emerge in the first place in an original and memorable way.