REVIEW: Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs has Quentin Tarantino’s fingerprints all over it— or, rather, it is Tarantino’s fingerprint. The plot revolves around a group of laughably dysfunctional thieves that encounter trouble when an undercover cop joins their diamond heist. Obscenity-heavy dialogue bounces between twisted characters in a landscape so grim and hopeless that it borders on absurd. Morality is skewed in Tarantino’s world— one minute, the group is discussing the necessity of tipping waitresses, and the next minute a wailing bloodbath is dismissed as a careless blunder. As his writing and directing debut, Reservoir Dogs not-so-gracefully showcases Tarantino’s filmmaking and character-building style; he invalidates the idea that his characters can be redeemed but retains their humanity through witty conversations and vulnerable relationships. There are no villains, heroes, or even a plot structure that feels rewarding; everything is justified and so everything is disappointing. It’s a caricature of the consequences and tragedy of the real world, just framed in a more shocking and theatrical context, and with a lot more blood for a dramatic flourish.

Watching this movie in the Michigan Theatre felt like committing a sin. Reservoir Dogs felt too gritty and grotesque for the ornate and gilded antiquity of the theatre, creating this visceral irony. The experience itself was an oxymoron. Watching the film in such a comfortable space reminded me of the experience of watching Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, a similarly gruesome tale of bloody stand-offs and unredeemable acts. There is no fitting place to watch these movies without feeling strangely guilty and disturbed, which I’m beginning to think is exactly the feeling Tarantino is trying to evoke. Reservoir Dogs is intended to make you squirm in your seat and want to avert your eyes but the magnetism of the characters won’t let you. This is bound to be a memorable experience regardless of whether you like the movie or not.

Being his directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs isn’t without its flaws. I had predicted that there would be close-ups of some feminine feet in this film— a weird fetish of Tarantino’s— but there were not. I attribute this to the fact that there were zero women in this movie for more than a brief second. Whether or not this is a flaw is a complicated question, because Reservoir Dogs is mostly set in a claustrophobic space with just a few key characters and the film makes a point of subtly ridiculing the hypermasculinity of the group. Constantly screaming at each other, the group of thieves is everything but emotional apt and professional. The explicit racism in the dialogue also felt a bit too far at times, although it also functioned to deepen the immorality of the characters. The script’s edginess felt a little forceful and phony but retained its entertainment value overall.

The consensus is that Reservoir Dogs is a staple Tarantino, but that also means it isn’t for everyone. If you’re in the mood to laugh a little while feeling thoroughly disturbed, check it out at your own risk. Catch another movie at the Michigan Theatre before the year ends. Don’t miss out on the cheap student tickets!

PREVIEW: Reservoir Dogs

This Friday night, the Michigan Theatre is screening yet another cult classic— the grotesquely dramatic Reservoir Dogs, a 1992 Tarantino-directed tale of men committing bloody crimes in an experienced manner and turning on each other with machismo flair. I’ve never seen Reservoir Dogs, but judging from Quentin Tarantino’s typical style of writing and directing, I’m expecting dialogue ridden with deadpan jokes, bloody spurts of gunfire, and maybe a few close-up shots of manicured feet.

Reservoir Dogs is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, so it comes as no surprise that the cult-classic-obsessed Michigan Theatre is giving the film a night to shine. The plot of Reservoir Dogs entails a diamond heist attempted by a group of thieves. One of the thieves tips off the police, unraveling a group investigation into which member of the group is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. My opinions on Tarantino’s works fall all across the spectrum— Kill Bill entranced me with its memorable characters and enthralling journey; Django: Unchained exhibited the thrill of revenge with beautiful violence; Pulp Fiction, however, fell short as an incohesive mess that tried to make up for its lack of plot with good chemistry and fresh edginess. Will Reservoir Dogs drone on aimlessly or reward itself with character arcs and a cleanly wrapped ending? My intuition leans toward the latter, taking the quiet cultural appreciation for the film as a positive sign. Regardless, it’s bound to be an adventure! I can’t say enough that student tickets are $8.50, so grab a ticket to a classic before the school year ends!

PREVIEW: The Worst Person in the World

Firstly– it’s great to be back reviewing for [art]seen! I’m looking forward to wrapping up my final semester chatting about some great art.

 

The Worst Person in the World is a Norwegian drama about understanding love and growing into one’s own self. It was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is now up for multiple Oscars. Besides that, the trailer looks equal parts genuine and hilarious. As our local theaters show nominees for award show season over the next month, I highly recommend taking advantage of so many showings of quality work!

 

The film is now showing at the State– if anything, you’ll be able to make plenty of absolutely awful jokes with a play on words of the title.

PREVIEW: Disfluency

A film written and directed by U of M Alum(U-M Dept of Film, Television, and Media Alum ’15), Anna Baumgarten, is coming to the Michigan theater on March 8th, 7:30 pm. ‘Disfluency'(2021, 95 minutes, drama) is about a senior, Jane, who failed her final college class and returned home and her trauma. This film won the Jury Award for Narrative Feature in Austin Film Festival 2021 and was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Indiana Film Journalists Association, US 2021.

I am looking forward to this film for two reasons: first, there’s a power of seeing art that talks about Trauma and how to overcome them. The spring break just ended a while ago but I’m sure that a lot of people were feeling that they need a break, maybe a bit longer one than a week. Won’t it be nice to see a story where someone copes with their own trouble, learns, and muster the energy to fight the conflict, and use it to fights one’s own trouble? I feel like this would be a good time for me to get that sort of empowerment. Second, this was filmed in Southeastern Michigan. Yay for local production!

Finally, for all the creative people/film fans out there, this event will be even more special because the writer/director Anna Baumgarten and Producer Danny Mooney will be at the post-film discussion. Hearing from the production team is a rare and exciting chance, especially because you can not only understand the film better but also because you can get a glimpse of what it’s really like to be the person actually making the art, not bound to the audience seat which sometimes limits the scope of appreciation for the artwork.

 

Free tickets can be purchased from the Michigan theater website.

REVIEW: Fight Club

On yet another numbingly cold night in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Theatre stood dazzlingly bright amongst the empty streets, promising warmth and the excitement of another cult classic in its Late Nights at the Michigan series. If you have a pulse and live in America, you either know about Fight Club or you’ve seen it. Regarded as David Fincher’s directorial masterpiece, or at least undeniably his most popular film, the 1999 dramatic thriller offers everything that other films don’t: a seemingly insane and ripped Brad Pitt, a smoker who attends meetings for cancer patients, and a plot twist that leaves you analyzing every scene of the film for days on end. The plot can’t be explained without ruining the fun, but be aware that every scene packs a punch and leaves you breathless.

Also revered for Gone Girl and The Social Network, David Fincher’s distinct style is what makes Fight Club a masterpiece. Sharp monologues and witty dialogue inject life into the characters, somehow sculpting believable people that are so bizarre and morally corrupt that the concept of hero versus villain goes out the window. Once you become fully invested in the unpredictable lives of these troubled people, Fincher draws you in with clever shots and action sequences, balancing bloody fists with genius cinematography and a bold anti-capitalist war cry. The plot never stays in one place, constantly escalating and spinning, but the ride is exhilarating and somewhat relieved by clever deadpan humor. Each shot is a stunning puzzle that offers perfectly placed hints.  Fight Club is a total psychological riddle garnished with tasteful edginess and outright fury— a dangerous recipe that Fincher does best.

My admiration grows with each movie screening I attend at the Michigan Theatre. Historic and timelessly elegant, the theatre somehow still feels cozy, offering a sense of community through the collective anticipation that all moviegoers feel. There is something especially magical about an energized group experience in the midst of a lonesome pandemic. Throngs of students chatting and munching popcorn on a weekend night is an almost forgotten spectacle. The Michigan Theatre’s elaborate COVID-19 precautions ensure that the experience is free of anxiety, allowing a couple of hours of carefree escapism into a world untainted by COVID numbers and homework deadlines. If you find yourself longing for a temporary vacation from the burdens of college life, or you’re noticing that your Friday nights could use more excitement, check out the Late Nights at the Michigan series. Upcoming screenings include Princess Mononoke, Star Wars: Episode II, and The Princess Bride. Student tickets are only $8.50, so get them while you can!

REVIEW: You Will Die At 20

Recently I’ve been thinking more about mortality; I guess I’m not old, but everything these days feels like a crossroads. They are each so definite, a fixed point in time that demands a decision, either by me or whatever fate or force controls me. For Muzamil, all other paths have been eliminated; it’s just a short, straight path to a certain end. It feels like there are a million hidden stops along the way; they come out of nowhere, they hinder, they allow you to pass. I don’t know what that is, but in the context of You Will Die at 20, I guess it’s the townspeople, everyone preventing Muzamil from living without severe restrictions on where he goes, what he does.

Having only a little time on Earth is supposed to increase the value of life. Knowing that it will end, likely before we want it to (or more precisely, before we’re adequately prepared for it to), should free us from monotony, allow us to respect each day as something special. But thinking about the ending inserts countless checkpoints, countless worries: are you eating healthy, exercising, getting your teeth cleaned regularly, had your flu shot, checking that your car mirrors are positioned correctly, getting your oil changed often, making enough money, making enough money to retire before you die, making enough money in case of an emergency? The stops expand a life, drawing out its borders infinitely. Now it’s too long, too much. Sakina numbers the days in chalk on the walls of a sunlight-slashed room, waiting for her child to die. The main difference in opposing views of mortality is the degree to which one accepts their end, no matter how untimely. There is mourning, and there is apathy. With each there is some ratio of fear to happy passiveness, the very worst kind of Punnett square. There’s not necessarily one option that’s the best, or least likely to ruin the psyche, but when something forces you into extremes, like a sheikh prophesizing your early demise, it can seriously alter your mental state for a startling amount of time.

 

The village, much like its residents, is almost totally austere: rather neutral tones but harsh surfaces, little life able to grow, stark. The amount of calm, steadiness, in the characters and their surroundings was unsettling, but of course that’s where the movie’s power is.Where there are richer colors, the contrast with their surroundings hurts to look at, makes you feel like crying no matter the subject of the scene. Excitement was always paired with doom, at some point down the line; there was always worry behind the beautiful points.

Most of the movie covers Muzamil’s 19th year, his last-ditch efforts at individualism, or just proving he’s alive. Early-onset death throes, the last dregs. If we lived more like that, tried to feel more, all of the time, would we be better or worse? As people, friends. Citizens, leaders. I’ll invite you to watch this movie and try to think about that. You can access it for free until March 17th.

You can find both in-person and at-home showtimes for the Michigan and State theaters here.