Tag Archives: Film

Everything is Alright

16 Aug

Film: Little Miss Sunshine

Director: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton

Year Released: 2006

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin

Available on Netflix Streaming: No

Available on Cuevana: Yes

Rating: 9.3/10

She’s Kickin’ Ass!

Say Hello to the Hoovers! They are unhappy.

That line remains the culmination of emotion, frustration, elation and eventually acceptance in the film, Little Miss Sunshine. It does not seem like a particularly important line; in fact, at first appearance, it merely serves as comic relief from character Richard Hoover, played by Greg Kinnear. However, taken in relation and context with respect to the entire film, one can truly begin to appreciate the magnitude of this simple statement. Quite appropriately the entire beauty pageant at the end of the film serves as a sort of mechanism  to take all the problems of each character and place them in context with respect to the entire film.

Husband and wife director duo Valerie Faris and Johnathan Dayton bring to life Micheal Arndt’s cleverly written screenplay, for which he won an Academy Award. Arndt has woven such familial intricacy into the script, which ranges from the good moments to the equally occurring painful and devastating moments, that we feel a deep connection with the characters. The film begins with a wonderfully made opening sequence, which introduces us to the family members and all their respective characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Already at the beginning of the film, it is easy to tell that not all is well with this family.

Little Miss Sunshine recounts the journey of a dysfunctional family as they attempt to get their young, innocent daughter, Olive, to a children’s beauty pageant in California. Throughout this journey, all the characters face obstacles and personal dilemmas that threaten to disintegrate the family even further. It is only through time spent together that the family begins to realize that they can only stay connected as a family if they learn to accept each other for who they are and not who they want each other to be. This is especially the case for Greg Kinnear’s character, Richard Hoover.

Throughout all the mayhem, it is clear that Arndt has painted an accurate picture of modern America and the contemporary issues that people contend with on a daily basis. Notions of obesity, suicide, the definition of success, drugs and of course dysfunction pop up in various scenes and though these motifs never take the center stage, they create an astonishingly desperate background in which all these characters operate. Moreover, all these motifs connect to the central theme of the film of learning to realize that despite all the hardships and the struggles and the judgments, everything will be alright.

In order to convey this message, Arndt relied upon dark and witty serio-humor while directors duo Faris and Dayton contrasted the dark problems of the family with the bright, yellow van they drive as well as the bright, visual motifs of the film. Sunshine is beaming in nearly every shot. Even when the family faces drawbacks, they maintain their resolve to get Olive to this beauty pageant. Why is there such an effort by all characters to make this happen? Perhaps because they feel that this pageant, this one last chance for something good, is the only thing that can bring their family back together. In any case, the realism portrayed by each character bolsters the theme exceptionally.

Life is referred to as one, big beauty pageant by one of the characters and this seems central to the theme as well. The disparity between Olive’s physique and the attitudes of the far more serious and disturbingly sexed-up little girl contestants mirrors this concept. People will tell us who to be, people will tell us how to act and people will judge us if we do not conform to these standards; they will call us losers. But this film teaches us to acknowledge that there is no silly pair-wise classification of winners and losers. We are who we are (yeah Ke$ha) and we should fully embrace that image in order to truly be happy.

The doll-like appearance of the contestants is quite scary.

Like I stated in the film intro post, the score was produced by Mychael Danna and Devotchka. It contains some very touching music in addition to some very inspirational tracks. The opening sequence that I referenced earlier would not have made such an impression without the The Winner Is playing in the background. Again, the power of music in film is unmistakable. The soundtrack does comprise many tracks that do sound like reworkings of their famous song How it Ends but the different instrumental work in each piece defines a different dimension of the plot. And it creates a wonderful gamut of sounds and emotions in the soundtrack.

In addition, the soundtrack features Sufjan Stevens and the wonderful Rick James and his incredible classic Superfreak. All I can say is that this film utilizes the song superbly and if you do not crack even a smile during that scene, well you must not have a heart I’d say. As one of the purer moments of comedy and the film’s climax, this scene brings the film back to its narrative core. A story about family.

Indeed, Little Miss Sunshine demonstrates that life is rarely ever easy and that overcoming life’s hurdles is not any easier. But how could we ever truly enjoy the good without knowing the bad? As long as you stay true to yourself and you have people who love you for who you are, you can tell yourself that everything is alright.

Rating: 9.3/10


Some of the great music from the movie:

I love how they use this track. It’s perfectly done.

and of course:




This is How it Ends

15 Aug

Alright next on the horizon: a pretty recent, quirky independent film known as Little Miss Sunshine. Interestingly enough, the first time I watched this film, I actually did not like it all that much. However, I watched the film about a couple years later and it hit home much stronger. One of the best things about film is that you can come back to films upon repeated viewings and gain different perspectives. Your opinion of the film could even change drastically, as mine did for Little Miss Sunshine. The film is easily one of my favorite films of the past decade and does an incredible job of mixing humor, warmth, melancholy, desperation and fulfillment in the most unlikely of places. The film tells the story of quite a dysfunctional family as they attempt to get their young daughter, Olive, to a child beauty pageant.The cast is awesome and includes Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear as well as Alan Arkin for which he received a well deserved Best Supporting Actor award from the Academy.

The soundtrack in this film mirrors the story very well as it combines cheery and light tracks with deeper, more pensive strings that is best summed up by the best track on the soundtrack in my opinion, The Winner Is. The score was composed by Mychael Danna and Denver band Devotchka, whose most famous song remains How It Ends and The Winner Is actually sounds much like an instrumental reworking of the original song. It is a great, emotional song and I love the instrumental work. Review of Little Miss Sunshine to come very soon. In the meantime, please listen to How It Ends by Devotchka.


The Difference Between Great and Favorite

2 Aug

Imagine a hypothetical situation:

“Mrs. Doubtfire?!! I love that movie!!” you loudly react as you overhear a film buff speaking to his friends. He looks at you grotesquely and says, “Uhhh no we’re talking about Man on Wire… (see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/)” as they scoff and turn their backs on you. You look at them and raise your eyebrow, turning away and muttering under your breath, “Douchebag.”

You’ve just been victimized by what most individuals (and myself) like to call a “pretentious film douche bag.” In fact, most cinephiles get a bad rep for the commonly held perception that most of us are arrogant, self-absorbed jerks who love telling you how bad your taste in film is. Indeed, some cinephiles do commit this rather nasty crime by ignoring a key distinction that makes taste in film purely subjective all the time: the distinction between a great film and a favorite film.

Often, these so called pretentious film buffs believe that in order for an individual to have great taste in film, one’s favorite films must belong to some master class of technically wondrous cinema. In my opinion, this is simply false. You can truly love watching a film without it being a masterpiece of cinema or some radically voyeuristic experiment. Take myself for example: I absolutely love the film 10 Things I Hate About You and if I see it on TV, unless there’s something I prefer even more, I’ll change the channel and watch it. It’s one of those films that I can’t watch enough times: that holds true for all my favorite films! Now I would not consider 10 Things I Hate About You a technical or narrative masterpiece; in fact, I wouldn’t even consider it a great film. Nonetheless, I still enjoy watching the film and it still connects to me on some level to the point where it is one of my favorite films; does that make my taste in film any worse than any other person? Absolutely not and that’s just the point I’m trying to make. There is no almighty, set-in-stone standard for liking films; either you liked the film or not. Maybe you even liked it to the point that you could watch it multiple times and never get bored. Whether that film is The Godfather or The Mighty Ducks does not matter. Just because one is (in terms of film aspects) clearly superior to the other, does not mean you cannot prefer The Mighty Ducks or furthermore, possibly not even like The Godfather (though I do find that highly doubtful). Whether you like a film or not is purely subjective no matter what any critic may try to tell you.

Moreover, it works the other way too. There exists a multitude of movies that I respect and admire as astonishingly well made films, yet they are not my favorites nor do I care for them particularly. This is okay too. Even if a film has the best reviews of all time does not mean that you have to unconditionally love it. Why even watch the movie in the first place then?? On the other hand, there are plenty of technically masterful films that are my favorites. It works in every way!

So I guess I’m just trying to tell you, as film viewers, to think for yourself and if someone tells you you’re stupid for liking or not liking a film, just ignore it. If someone says you just didn’t get it or you’re not intelligent enough, ignore it. Maybe the film spoke to them on some deep level, but not to you. You and you alone judge a film’s merits! Even here on this blog you can disagree with my assessment of films. In fact, I encourage it. It’s a great way to learn about other people and demonstrate your alternative preferences. So go ahead and love Mrs. Doubtfire! Just always remember that there is a difference between great films and your favorite films, and they do not always have to be mutually inclusive.


Choose Life

1 Aug

I’d like to introduce you all to one of my favorite films of all time: Trainspotting. My current background on the blog is an image from the film. Now Danny Boyle is actually one of my favorite contemporary directors and this is easily still his best film in my opinion. Review to come very soon. I do hope you all check it out though. In the meantime, this is a song I think everybody in the world should listen to at least once in their lifetime. It plays over the intro monologue to Trainspotting. It’s hard to imagine the beginning of the film without this song; it just fits the dialogue so well. This is in essence the power of music in films at its pinnacle. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The video has clips from Trainspotting in fact. So after you’re done listening to this magical track (the song on its own is amazing), I’d say go ahead and try and watch Trainspotting. If that beginning doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what else will.