Empathy: In the increasingly polarized and hostile world we seem to live in, it’s easy to believe that it’s a lost art. We are so used to reducing others into tools and ideas, or even enemies, rather than seeing them as the human beings that they are. We write people off as misguided or troubled without thinking about where these troubles came from, or how they strayed away from their path. Or, perhaps even worse, we ignore issues and injustices simply because we are not personally affected by them.

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“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Eliza Hittman, 2020

Art has the power to heal. Even if some may scoff at such an assertion (though I wouldn’t like to believe that there are people who feel that they’ve never been changed or affected by a piece of art), it’s a mistake to underestimate this power and the effect it can have on the people who will listen. Art can show people things that cannot be conveyed in any other way. If anything can ease the lack of empathy felt in the world right now, it’s art, whether that be poetry or prose, music or illustrations. …


“The difference between film and memory is that films are always false. They are composed of a series of scenes. But memories mix truth and lies. They appear and vanish before our eyes.”

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“Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” Bi Gan, 2018

How is one supposed to convey the subjectivity of memory through a medium such as film? How is one meant to convey the indescribable feeling of being in a dream? An unspoken truth about film is that it’s not reality, and it never will be. …


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The end of the US election is approaching terrifyingly quickly. While it may be tempting to stay up the night of November 3rd and absorb every anxiety-inducing moment, what good would that do? The implications of tomorrow’s results will be dealt with when they’re dealt with, but no amount of election night doom-scrolling will help.

But I get it, it’s hard to avoid staring at social media, fretting about every tweet and status. A distraction is necessary. This is not about ignorance — you’ve done your part. So why not watch a film instead? This list is for when you need a movie that doesn’t have very much action nor much intellectual involvement, but rather allows you to dissolve into the world and emotions created by the film. …


Classifying films as “horror” is a more difficult task than one might think. There are films that leave no doubt about whether or not they fit within the genre. Typical slasher films like “Halloween” or jumpscare-filled haunted house fare like “The Conjuring” are plainly horror, with much of their value being derived from their indulgence in the genre. But there’s such a large spectrum of films that fit the broad definition of what could possibly be considered “horror” that the inclusion of some films is bound to draw some ire from those who proclaim themselves horror fans.

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“The Ring,” Gore Verbinski, 2002

Horror films have the tendency to score low with audiences in a manner unlike any other genre. Beyond the classics, if you flip to any horror movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page and look at the audience score, it’s generally lower than one might expect. It’s a similar case with CinemaScore, a metric of gauging audience reactions through exit surveys. While most movies hover around the B+ to A+ range, horror films have a tendency to score much lower even if several other metrics have it doing well. The reason I mention this is to explain something about the horror fanbase in a general sense. Consider the typical horror fan theater-goer. This person will go see every movie that markets itself as a horror film. Their favorite movie is “The Ring,” but they went to go see “Hereditary,” “mother!,” “Get Out,” and “It” because these films were all marketed in quite similar ways. Will they like all of these films if they expect something close to their favorite movie? If you think about the average comedy fan, this isn’t really the case. They know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they watch the latest goofball comedy in theaters. …


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As a child, I was deeply, deeply disturbed by “Coraline.” It got under my skin in an existential way that no piece of media that I had been exposed to up to that point had achieved. I read the book and watched the film a multitude of times over the course of my childhood, transfixed by the terrifying tone that both the original and the adaptation were able to achieve. In my mind, memories of the novella and memories of the film mesh together. …


It’s no secret that 2020 has not been a great year for the film industry, with the coronavirus significantly impacting theaters, film distributors, and film producers. Without theaters to open in or audiences to show to, films were forced to flee from their release dates, either being significantly pushed back or pulled from the release schedule completely. Some distributors experimented with PVOD solutions, charging a premium price for digital rentals of their films, a tactic that had varying success. Others are still patiently waiting for the pandemic to end so they can release their films properly in cinemas. Either way, it’s easy to believe that because 2020 has been a poor year for the film industry in general that the films of 2020 are also poor. But this is not the appropriate mindset. While this has been a year relatively free of blockbusters (there hasn’t been a Marvel movie released this year), and there seem to be fewer traditional Oscar contenders, there have been a lot of great movies released this year. So to help combat that mentality, I will recommend a few movies that I believe have been overlooked this year. …


While the events of Ari Aster’s 2018 horror film may have ultimately been orchestrated by a mysterious, malevolent cult, it’s in the tangibility of the grief and trauma infecting the film that the true horror of “Hereditary” lies.

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Perhaps the most (in)famous scene in “Hereditary” is a scene that many are innately familiar with, regardless of whether they have seen the film. Not because the particular events in that scene are likely to have occurred in any given person’s life, but because of the universal fear evoked by the cruel escalation of an argument that had become inevitable after a gruelingly tense first act and the bottling up of true emotions within a family that is falling apart. For many, this scene represents a worst case scenario in terms of broken people handling their shared grief. …


In October of 2017, Hu Bo finished working on his first feature film, An Elephant Sitting Still. Shortly after, the author and director (the film was in fact an adaptation of a story he had written) killed himself, adding greater context to the nearly 4 hour long melodrama that many are inclined to refer to as a miserable, cynical, hopeless suicide note, a final message full of anger and sadness and overwhelming hate for the world he left behind. …


This essay will not actively attempt to be spoiler-free, and you should avoid reading it if you have not seen the show and care about spoilers.

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“Nothing really happens!” a critic might declare, frustrated that they have been tricked into watching a piece of media that is more of a meditative and thoughtful experiment than the science-fiction adventure that they thought the marketing had promised them.

And, in a way, it’s true. From Tales from the Loop’s trailer, one might believe that it’s the kind of show where characters seek out answers, and the universe answers in such a way that cleanly explains the phenomena and occurrences that the show centers around. …


On March 15, 2019, Netflix released the first season of an anthology series called Love, Death & Robots. The series, originally envisioned to be a spiritual reboot of the 1981 film Heavy Metal, prided itself in marketing to be edgy and not-safe-for-work — certainly not for the children. This sensibility is made very clear through Netflix’s frantic, scattered, loud trailer for the anthology which proclaims in its opening slide: “THE FOLLOWING PREVIEW HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.”

The series ultimately received moderate praise from critics, earning 33 positive reviews on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, and 10 negative reviews. The criticisms among those sour toward the series were fairly consistent: the series has too strong a focus on gore and sex, and even the great animation (handled by a great variety of creatives and studios) can’t save it from a lack of compelling stories. …

About

H.R. Starzec

Opinions about movies, television, and whatever else might come to my mind.

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