All posts tagged: Film Criticism

On America, Mobility, & Freedom in “Easy Rider”

“A man went looking for America, but he couldn’t find it anywhere.” Few taglines remain relevant long after a film’s release, but Easy Rider’s ominous warning (“he couldn’t find it anywhere”) maintains its potency nearly 50 years after its debut. In David Laderman’s Driving Visions, he situates the road film genre within an explicitly American context and characterizes Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) as “arguably the quintessential, genre-defining road movie.”[1] Following the cult popularity of low-budget biker exploitation films, Easy Rider seems to have borrowed from the aesthetic and tonal vigor of these works, but extended itself to a broader cultural critique that was relevant for a wider spectrum of Americans falling under the banner of “the counterculture.” While the influence of cinema imported from Europe and Asia facilitated the rise of the American auteur, the explosive socio-political context of late 1960’s could also be credited for cultivating unique works which explored social tensions and questions of identity, and more specifically, what it means to be an American. Easy Rider – in addition to preceding …

I’ll Blog For You, Too!

This summer, I’m looking to spread my freelance wings and fly! If you’re searching for an experienced writer to produce high-quality articles for your blog, contact me so we can discuss your site’s needs! I have experience with formal academic writing, as well as short-form blogging. If you’re interested in reading a writing sample of my scholarly work, please let me know. Otherwise, here’s a taste of what I’ve written for the web, both on my own blog and elsewhere: ‘Boyhood: In Defense of My Dissenting Opinion’ for Catch-all ‘A Response to Michael Eisner’s Comment That Beautiful, Funny Women Are Hard to Come By’ for Catch-all Jobs review for Critics Associated  Fruitvale Station review for Critics Associated Magnolia Character Analysis for Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings Topics I’m especially interested in writing about include, but aren’t limited to: General film and television criticism and analysis Gender and diversity in Hollywood General pop culture criticism and analysis Feminism and women’s issues Veganism and the environment Various social and political movements Lifestyle and self-care Please email me at vanvalkenburgj@gmail.com or fill out a …

“Boyhood” – In Defense of My Dissenting Opinion

I’m very opinionated about what I like and dislike, but I’m also keenly aware that my opinion is simply that – an opinion. Just because I don’t like a film does not mean it’s objectively bad. Art is subjective. Filmmaking is art. There was a point after graduating from film school that I considered becoming a critic. Criticism of any medium creates a platform for individuals to examine and analyze media – a practice that I believe is an essential part of any thriving society. What we create, whether it is music, film, or literature, is a direct reflection of our culture. By examining creative forms of expression within our society, we are better suited to understand who we are as a people. Film criticism not only allows critics to respectfully discuss what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about a film or television show, but the practice provides the opportunity for all audience members to engage and critically evaluate media. After graduating from college I was (and still am) willing to give anything a shot, …

Roger Ebert Reviews – A Few of My Favorites

I may not agree with Roger Ebert’s ratings of all of the following movies, but I thoroughly enjoy reading his analyses none-the-less. Be sure to click the titles of each film to read the full reviews! Citizen Kane “Rosebud is the emblem of the security, hope and innocence of childhood, which a man can spend his life seeking to regain. It is the green light at the end of Gatsby’s pier; the leopard atop Kilimanjaro, seeking nobody knows what; the bone tossed into the air in “2001.” It is that yearning after transience that adults learn to suppress. “Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost,” says Thompson, the reporter assigned to the puzzle of Kane’s dying word. “Anyway, it wouldn’t have explained anything.” True, it explains nothing, but it is remarkably satisfactory as a demonstration that nothing can be explained. “Citizen Kane” likes playful paradoxes like that. Its surface is as much fun as any movie ever made. Its depths surpass understanding. I have analyzed it a shot at a time with more than 30 …

Roger Ebert: Movies, Life, and Empathy

Today I decided to read/re-read a few of Roger Ebert’s reviews and I was reminded just how brilliant a writer and thinker he was. As a critic he always stuck to his guns, a trait which I respect immensely. Ebert never seemed to be swayed by popular opinion, yet always welcomed a discussion. Above all his love for film is evident in every review he wrote, no matter how brash or complimentary. Here are a few quotes from Roger Ebert that I especially adore. Enjoy! “In my reviews, I feel it’s good to make it clear that I’m not proposing objective truth, but subjective reactions; a review should reflect the immediate experience.” “Movies that encourage empathy are more effective than those that objectify problems.” “By going to the movies, and because of other things too, going to college, making a wide variety of friends, moving around and traveling, I became a lot more open-minded than the heritage I was born into might have suggested.” “Every great film should seem new every time you see it.” “It …

All This Mayhem

Like many 10-year-old boys in the early years following Y2K, skateboarding got into my blood. Halcyon days spent outside sliding on curbs and flying off ramps were what awaited me and my friends after school. We all wanted to be the next Tony Hawk. The dream of two young Australian skateboarders, Tass and Ben Pappas, was to beat ‘Hawk’. All This Mayhem encapsulates the youthful ambitions of the infamous Pappas brothers, whose dreams of becoming the most iconic skateboarders in the world were torn asunder. When competing at the highest level, the brothers became disillusioned, alienated, and eventually exiled due to the corporate sponsored underworld of skateboarding, and a few youthful mistakes sprinkled in for good measure. Consequently, the audience is hurled with great alacrity into the cyclonic lives of the ill-fated brothers. Both invigorated by the possibilities of what the passion of their lives might bring about for them, their love of skateboarding is at first brimming with promise, but ultimately leads them to corners darker than comprehensible. The story descends into an adrenaline and drug-fueled …

Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’

Negative criticism is fun to write. It leaves us with an air of self-satisfaction, and from the safety our position accords, it allows us to poke fun at someone else’s vision; an opportunity we grasp at as critics. But to fall in love with a film is the greatest treasure offered by cinema. It’s the mesmerizing and enchanting feeling that leaves us spellbound and in awe, and is what drives us to continue to watch films. No such negative criticism should be embellished upon Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age drama, for it’s a peerless effort that stands alone. Boyhood follows the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age five to eighteen, where we live and breathe his experiences from boyhood through adolescence. We see him bicker often with his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and join him right through his relatable teenage episodes that seem as real as the grooves in the palms of your hands. Filmed over twelve years, and lovingly sutured together, Richard Linklater’s vision transforms into reality. It’s almost as if we are offered snippets of Ellar Coltrane’s life …

Roger Ebert & ‘Life Itself’

I don’t want to review a film when I know I won’t do it justice. I particularly don’t want to review a film when I know I won’t do it justice and it’s about the most well known film critic in American history. So just heed my advice and go see Life Itself. Somehow, being the emotional individual that I am, I found myself teary eyed within the first 30 seconds. It’s truly a wonderful viewing experience. Go. If Life Itself isn’t playing at a theater near you, it’s now available on iTunes.

Thoughts on Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’

If you spend any time on the internet (and you obviously do) you’ve probably heard all about Alfonso Cuarón’s visual masterpiece, Gravity. At one point over the weekend ‘Gravity’ was the top trending hashtag on Twitter. It premiered on Friday and earned over 55.5 million in theaters, taking the number one spot at the box office. I opted to see it in XD & 3-D, but if there was an IMAX nearby I would have gone in a heartbeat. After a few days to think about the movie separate from the overwhelmingly positive opinions of others, I’ve determined that Gravity is not a typical film but rather an engrossing visceral experience. Co-written, co-produced, co-edited and directed by Oscar nominee Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity stars Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski, astronauts who are left drifting in space after a massive accident and must work together in order to survive. In a large, dark, and chilly theater, it’s nearly impossible not to find find yourself completely immersed in the story – free from any ounce …