Category Archives: Film

“Spring Break Forever.”

Spring Breakers is a movie that makes it hard for me to divorce my distaste for the subject matter from the film itself. The ritual of party excess that makes up spring break and the college lifestyle has never appealed to me, and by necessity the film is something that absolutely revels in it. Opening with and repeatedly returning to montages of slow motion debauchery, the movie is undoubtedly aiming to draw in the party crowd that revels in much of the same.

Fine. Whatever. While at a base level I can enjoy the voyeuristic appeal of it, it’s not enough to sustain an entire plot. Enter the main characters, a group of college girls looking to get away from the mundane reality of university and escape to color and life of spring break. Selena Gomez plays a Faith, who, if her name hasn’t tipped you off, is “the good girl”, heavyhandedly shown by her attendance at prayer group and the cross she carries around. Her casting her feels sadly predictable. While she doesn’t seem to be fit for any of the roles of the other girls, the role does little to help her break away from the good girl teen star persona that she inevitably built with her previous roles, particularly the Disney channel ones.

Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine play the rest of the girls, each an interchangeable party girl with a loose sense of morality. These characters are equally as telegraphed, with nearly every shot of them having them engaged in some form of debauchery, and Faith’s peers from the prayer group making ugly comments about them. Nevertheless, Faith is old friends with them, and is heart set on breaking out of the monotony of her life and seeing something different. When they find that they don’t have nearly enough money to make the trip, the three girls put on their “bad bitch” personas and independent of Faith rob a diner with realistic squirt guns to get the money.

Things go south when they reach Florida, and not only in terms of location. After an initial wave of partying and bonding, the girls find themselves in jail and subsequently get bailed out by “Alien”, a local gangster and amateur rapper, played convincingly by James Franco, who then ropes them into the criminal underworld.

Franco’s portrayal of Alien is problematic, as while he convincingly steps into the role of Alien, the character himself isn’t that likeable. Alien comes from a rough background and as he explains it, “your typical story,” and that’s the character in a nutshell. While he later shows off his human side in his own way, Alien is a person obsessed with the gangster lifestyle to the point of becoming a caricature of it. Drugs, money, girls, and guns all present. His speech is also perfectly over the top, with some verses thrown in for his poignant moments which provide a facsimile of the empty lyrical style that gangsta rappers, especially amateur ones, put out.

The criminal underworld itself gives the movie a feeling that brings to mind the atmosphere of Drive, which is further accentuated by the similar Florida location, neon night life, and soundtrack provided in part by Cliff Martinez, who also contributed to Drive. This time however, the underworld is visualized not through a mafia lens, but one of gangsta culture, its worship of excess crossing over naturally with that of spring break. Like Drive, Spring Breakers uses this push into underworld territory to not only raise the stakes but to also push the characters to a state where they must confront their flaws and inner desires. Faith is predictably the first to go, unsettled by the affections of Alien and his foreign world, which leaves a significant part of the movie to focus on the exploits of Alien and the rest of the girls. The further escalation causes one of the other girls to leave as well, while the other two become further absorbed into their bad girl personas.

Like the girls themselves, the film seems to be caught up in a desire to capture and freeze the spring break moments forever. While the repetition of various visuals and sounds provides a contrast between different points in their trip, eventually it begins to wear thin. Constantly flashing back to drug and alcohol hazed party scenes and Alien’s wistful chant of “Spring break. Spring break forever,” this desire becomes almost obsessive and ultimately causes both the characters and the film itself to break down.

Too much time is spent obsessing over the haze of debauchery that it becomes dead space in the movie, empty time in between moments where the plot final begins to move forward. It’s a shame, because underneath the initially shallow premise there are glimpses of what the movie could have become, if only the heavyhanded treatment of the themes and lurid obsession with the subject matter had been dialed back a bit and focused. Spring Breakers brings such a strong visual and aural treatment to what is essentially an empty story.

ricotta and company.

ricotta and company

I’ve begun a new channel with some friends where I’ll be taking on various games topics. I’m hoping to provide a little bit more than the typical perspectives. The channel will be curated and run by myself, teaming up with others to provide more perspectives and additional content. Our intro video is below, so take a look and keep an eye on the channel for more soon.

You may notice that I’m not using my typical moniker of “siegarettes” for the channel. While I’ve been striving recently to remain consistent across various channels by using that name, I felt that for the purposes of the medium I would require a different persona. While still as passionate and serious, I find that it works better if I keep it more lighthearted and give it an extra flair for the performance. The medium demands a sharpness and brevity that works against my typical writing style.

As for the moniker itself, ricotta is a name I’ve used before on my Let’s Play! channel and before in various forms while online. It began as handle for the online portion of Call of Duty 2, where I wanted something brief, and the word was the first that came to mind. It works as a reference to the Ricky Ricotta and His Giant Robot kids books and is a bit offbeat. The name of the channel comes from a play on words from a previous version of the name “ricottango” a combination of the two words I chose simply for the sound. Shortened, the name comes to “ricotta and co.” which is where I derived the name.

Obviously, I am a bit neurotic.

Let’s Dance the Bullet Ballet

“In dreams you can kill someone and not get caught. Tokyo is just one big dream.
A dream.”

And what a dream it is.

Bullet Ballet
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Running time: 87 minutes
Language: Japanese

An odyssey of indelible violence and emotion, Bullet Ballet is not only the name of John Woo’s signature firearm based action choreography, but the title of Shinya Tsukamoto’s 1998 tale of a man’s obsession. Like Woo’s own films, Bullet Ballet explores the conflict and struggles of its characters through a series of visceral and violent scenes. Here Tsukamoto moves his stories at a more considered pace; the scenes of violence lack the poetry and heroism of Woo’s films, and instead act as an immediate expression of the inner conflicts that consume the characters caught in the ensuing bullet ballet.
Continue reading Let’s Dance the Bullet Ballet

Big camera. Strong flash: Thoughts on “A Snake of June”

“Don’t you have to follow your passion?”
A Snake of June begs the question.

A Snake of June
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Running time: 77 minutes
Language: Japanese

Stitched together from the mind of Japanese auteur Shinya Tsukamoto, A Snake of June is a psychosexual drama that roughly shares territory with Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Tsukamoto’s pulsing, excruciating style drives the movie, taking long breaths to draw out the agonizing sequences of tension.
Continue reading Big camera. Strong flash: Thoughts on “A Snake of June”

The Complete Revenge: Thoughts on “I Saw the Devil”

“Revenge is for the movies.” This line, uttered by one of the characters near the midpoint of the film encapsulates the entire movie. It manages to divert your focus to the frame surrounding the story and effectively remind you that, yes, this is a movie. This is a movie about revenge.

I Saw the Devil
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
Written by: Park Hoon-jung
Running time: 144 minutes
Language: Korean
Continue reading The Complete Revenge: Thoughts on “I Saw the Devil”