Shame

Shame is the second directorial effort by Hunger director Steve Mcqueen and it is his finest effort to date.  Shame stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a New Yorker who lives a comfortable life working for a company in advertising or selling a product.  Brandon seems like a nice guy on the surface but the reality of his life is that he has an addiction to sex.  Brandon’s sex addiction causes him to be a very cold and distant person.  Brandon’s addiction is what he spends most of his money and energy on.  It’s his shame so to speak.  Brandon’s addiction is interrupted when his sister Sissy comes into town.  How Brandon interacts with the world around him and the consequences of the severity of his addiction are explored throughout the film.

Shame is an uneasy film.  The subject matter of how someone struggles with sex addiction is something I had never seen in a film.  I knew that sex addiction existed purely because it was covered on a specific season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.  Having prior knowledge of how sex addiction can affect human beings, I was interested to see where director Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender would take such a taboo subject.  Both Fassbender and McQueen handle the idea of sexual addiction in a frank manner.  Fassbender’s Brandon can’t break his need for sex as it is the one thing in his life I feel he thinks he can control.  He has guilt and shame about his actions but it never stops him from continually have sex with people or masturbating.  I have a very strong feeling that Brandon would love to have a normal relationship with someone he’s interested in, he just feels he isn’t capable of being able to love like a normal person.  Shame is both a commentary looking how society treats sex addiction and how someone experiences it on a daily basis. 

Throughout Shame I never found myself feeling sympathy for Brandon, instead I found myself doing the best I possibly could to understand why he would do it.  Sissy played by Carey Mulligan is just as unhinged and lost in the world as Brandon is and you get the feeling that those two siblings shared some sort of painful past, but to McQueen’s credit as a director and co-writer of this film he does not reveal what tragedy may have fallen upon them.  Sissy addiction has nothing to do with sex.  Sissy’s addiction is her need to be noticed and cared about.  Her world falls apart if someone isn’t actively seeking to care about her.  Sissy’s need for attention takes a toll on Brandon throughout most of the film because she takes him away from his addiction.  I love the dynamic between Fassbender and Mulligan as it seems their characters understand each other but can’t save each other from their respective addictions.

Shame appeals to me because Steve McQueen uses long takes to allow the audience to really get to know Brandon as a character.  In one specific scene, in an effort to rid himself of his sexual addiction Brandon goes on a date with a co-worker.  He is clearly uncomfortable on a genuine date but he enjoys himself.  We get to explore almost every moment of Brandon’s struggle on this date and his complex emotions shine through because he isn’t in control of this situation he is in.  Fassbender shows more in facial expressions than he does in conversational dialogue as Brandon and that’s because the audience can see his anguish.  Shame is one of those films where the character doesn’t need a journey and watching them live their life is enough of a fulfilling experience than having something affect them and change who they are.

Shame is a complex film that provides no easy answers to why sex addiction exists and whether there is a cure for it.  After watching this film I found out that the explanation isn’t as important as giving this addiction a voice.  Steve McQueen has done just done that.

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The Adventures of TinTin

The Adventures of Tin Tin is a film directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The film revolves around a young intrepid reporter named Tin Tin and his dog Snowy.  In this adventure, Tin Tin and Snowy discover a small scroll of paper inside a model ship Tin Tin purchases.  This piece of paper leads Tin Tin and Snowy on a journey to discover the treasure of Sir Francis Haddock.  TinTin is helped on this adventure by Captain Haddock and the Thompson brothers who are Interpol policemen.

The Adventures of TinTin has the tone and scope of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I liked TinTin because regardless of how much trouble he gets in, he always has hope he’ll reach his goal and he usually does.  TinTin is in his heart an explorer of truth and he has an unbelievable amount of faith in people.  For instance, Captain Haddock, a descendant of Sir Francis Haddock, is one of the first people TinTin befriends and despite the fact that Haddock is clearly an alcoholic, TinTin supports Haddock while they venture on the journey to find the treasure.  The CGI in this film is absolutely spectacular.  Characters and objects in the film move realistically and look human.  I found myself getting lost in the beauty of all the images I was seeing rather than being completely engrossed by the characters and their story.  The detail of the Unicorn ship that Tintin and Captain Haddock are chasing after is astounding and watching the action scenes in this film took my breath away. 

Spielberg works very hard to continually put the audience at the center of the action.  I never had to wonder where the story was going it was easy to follow and interesting.  This film took me to the earliest parts of my childhood and I loved watching this boy adventurer.  I thoroughly enjoyed TinTIn and if I had one complaint it would be that the pacing of the film felt slightly off to me.  The film was constantly packed with some form of adventure and I felt like it was difficult to keep up in specific scenes throughout the film.  Some scenes felt entirely too brisk for me.  I wanted the characters and their respective journeys to happen just a bit slower.

For the beginning of an animated franchise The Adventures of TinTin is a fine example of how to properly introduce a popular and beloved literary character.  Move over Indiana Jones, it looks like adventure has a new name.

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Young Adult

Young Adult stars Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a ghostwriter of young adult novels.  Mavis lacking in inspiration makes a decision to travel back to her hometown after receiving an invitation to the naming ceremony of her high school sweetheart’s newborn baby.   Mavis decides that she must win back her sweetheart Buddy Slade played by Patrick Wilson.  Mavis’s attempts to win back Buddy are laughed at by a fellow classmate from her high school Matt Freehauf played with sincerity and class by Patton Oswalt.  Matt was the victim of a hate crime that rendered him physically disabled.  Mavis will go to any lengths to succeed at her goal and her self-centered attitude is what provides this film with most of its charm.

The self-centered personality of Mavis Gary drives this entire film.  I was annoyed in the beginning by Mavis because she is so enamored by the idea of winning her love back.  She is foolish and fool hearty and Charlize Theron does a great job at communicating the character’s desperation to have love and acceptance from Buddy.  The other dynamic that works surprisingly well is Mavis’s relationship with Matt.  Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron have great chemistry.  Patton has this dark humor that basically just states what the audience is thinking about Mavis throughout the film.  Throughout the film, Matt becomes increasingly annoyed with the pity party Mavis is throwing for herself and attacks her with a series of verbal jabs.  It is in those moments of conversation that I realized Mavis and Matt need each other to balance the issues they have.  Matt, though completely independent, uses his disability as crutch for not doing more with his life.  I like the idea that both characters have flaws and that one of them can see and acknowledge their flaws while the other fails miserably at doing so and is unapologetic about it as well.  This film isn’t as much about growing up as it is a person’s inability to do so.

Young Adult works not because of snappy dialogue and likeable characters, it works for the opposite reason.  This film is purposefully bleak and unhappy.  Young Adult is the slow motion car crash of the life of Mavis Gary and I couldn’t turn away.  I don’t think anyone who sees the film will be able to either.

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