coming of age drama

“Call Me By Your Name and I’ll Call You By Mine”

Several months ago while watching movie previews before a picture I was seeing, I saw the preview for a film that really piqued my interest. When that movie, Call Me By Your Name, came out on November 24th, I anticipated the time when I’d finally be able to see it in theaters. It was only released in major cities initially before making its way to this armpit of a place that I live in. I saw it about two weeks ago and it was one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a while.

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, an artfully precocious 17 year old and Armie Hammer as Oliver, a 24 year old doctoral student who joins Elio’s family at their summer home in Italy for a 6 week period. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman. It depicts the love affair that develops that summer between Elio and Oliver. The screenplay was adapted by James Ivory and the film was directed by Luca Guadagnino.

The film begins at Elio’s family’s Italian countryside home in the summer of 1983 where Elio, his mother (Amira Casar), and father (Michael Stuhlbarg) anticipate the arrival of their summer guest, Oliver. Since Oliver is new in town, Elio takes Oliver on a tour of the area later that day. Elio also explains how he spends his summers. It’s not long before Oliver begins to partake in the summer activities of swimming in the river, hanging out with friends, and going out at night, and their love for each other begins to blossom.

Since being released in November, the film has received an assortment of critical acclaim and accolades. It was recently nominated for 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ivory), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens). It received nominations at the British Academy Film Awards (4), the Critics’ Choice Awards (8), the Independent Spirit Awards (6), the Golden Globe Awards (3), and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (1). James Ivory received a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Chalamet received Breakout Actor Awards from the National Board of Review, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the Hollywood Film Awards.

Like I said, I saw the film two weeks ago after anticipating seeing it for about two months. I was captivated by its beauty. Being set and filmed in Italy definitely adds to that. The story itself is special though. It’s almost a coming of age type of love for Elio as a teenager. He has such a strong infatuated love for Oliver throughout the film. Oliver subtly shows his interest for Elio as well, when finally they take the next step. Plus I wasn’t sure how that peach scene would play out, but now I totally get it! Since seeing the film, I’ve also begun to read the novel. My friend told me that there are many parts in the novel that were cut out of the film so I’m eager to compare them.

I highly recommend checking out this film. It’s such a great and powerful love story that isn’t a cliché romantic film or romantic comedy love story. It’s been in and out of theaters all over the country for the last 2 months. I’m sure it won’t be long before the film is released on streaming and DVD/Blu-ray too. If you wanted to see if before the Academy Awards airs though, I would make plans to see it as soon as possible because it seems to only stay in theaters for a few short weeks.

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Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

The Film Playlist: Sing Street

Last week was the first time in a few months that I added a new film to The Film Playlist. Last week was also the first time in a while that I looked at what movies were playing in theaters. There were no films out that interested me for months. With the start of the summer season approaching though, I figured plenty of new films will be out in theaters so I checked to see if anything new and interesting was out yet. What caught my eye was the film Sing Street. I saw the trailer for it as a preview at some point in the fall or winter and I totally forgot about it. I also knew it would make a perfect addition to The Film Playlist. I saw it Tuesday. It was excellent. Much better than Begin Again. Why is the film I wrote about last week even relevant? Let me explain.

Sing Street is the creation of writer and director John Carney. Yes, the same John Carney who also wrote and directed Begin Again. His film Once is another of his claims to fame. All three films involve music. If each film on the playlist was like a song and like a song had an artist who performed it or in this case produced/wrote/directed it, John Carney would be the artist listed for two films on the list so far. I haven’t seen Once, but I probably should. Then John Carney would be on the playlist three times.

Sing Street is the latest of John Carney’s music films. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released in theaters in the U.S. on April 15th. It stars newcomers, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Ben Carolan, and Mark McKenna, fresh faces, Jack Reynor and Lucy Boynton, and TV vets, Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy. This film is partially based on Carney’s life as a student at Synge Street, a Christian Brothers school, in Dublin, Ireland. The film is set during the 80’s and has plenty of references to 80’s rock bands such as Duran Duran, The Cure, Genesis, Hall & Oates, and more. It’s a coming of age film that tells the story of Conor “Cosmo” Lalor (Walsh-Peelo), a teenage boy who gets transferred to the Synge Street School after his family (Gillen as his Dad and Doyle Kennedy as his Mom) can no longer afford to send him to private school. The atmosphere at Conor’s new school is much more rough than normal between his classmates, school bullies, and the head Brother of the school. He befriends a boy named Darren (Carolan) who helps to show him the ropes. Shortly after this occurs, Conor decides to start a band that makes music videos to impress a girl named Raphina (Boynton) who lives near the school and watches the boys as they travel to class each day. Conor and Darren recruit a few of their other classmates to join the band in which Conor is the lead singer and Darren is the band manager. With the guidance of Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Reynor), Conor and his bandmate, Eamon (McKenna), write a song impressive enough to garner the attention of Raphina who agrees to star in a music video for the song. From then on, their band, Sing Street (a pun off of Synge Street), and Conor’s interest in music takes off. The band becomes more than just a way to win a girl. It becomes a way out of Ireland and in the midst of it all, Conor experiences more personal growth than he could have ever imagined.

The music in the film is 80’s pop rock style. The original songs in the movie take inspiration from songs by the 80’s bands featured in the film. The songs in the film were actually written and composed by Carney and Gary Clark. After hearing the first few original songs in the film, I could tell they sounded a lot like Carney’s style. He also wrote and composed songs for Begin Again. Although the music genres in each film are different, the style in Sing Street is very Carney-esque and has a slightly similar sound to the songs in Begin Again. It’s almost like a band coming out with another album. The songs are different and stylistically, a band may progress, but it still has their signature sound.

I really liked this movie. I liked the story (maybe because I’m a bit biased towards a good coming of age tale). I liked that many actors in this movie aren’t well known and that the movie was a first for a large portion of the cast. I liked the original music. In fact, I really liked/like the song “Drive It Like You Stole It”. I liked so much about this film. I liked it much more than Begin Again and I liked it overall. Since it was released back in April (probably only limited release then), I’m sure it won’t be in theaters much longer. Luckily I checked the movie showings and times last week and was able to catch it while it was still in theaters near me. I recommend it to any music fan, but especially if you were a child of the 80’s and loved 80’s rock or even if you still love 80’s rock. It’s a great throwback music film, but also a great music film in general.

Here are some of my favorite original songs from the movie:

  1. Drive It Like You Stole It
  2. The Riddle of the Model
  3. Brown Shoes
  4. A Beautiful Sea
  5. Girls

The Film Playlist: Bandslam

So far, every movie that has been a part of The Film Playlist has been an adult movie. By adult movie, I mean a movie that has a PG-13 or an R rating. The latest addition to the playlist is a drug, sex, curse word free coming of age film though. It’s rated PG. The first time I saw this movie was in the summer of 2010. I think I rented it from Blockbuster before all the Blockbusters closed. I decided on the flick because I occasionally enjoy the simple family style movie and this one looked pretty cool. It did have to do with music after all. To my surprise, after seeing it, I can say it’s the most underrated movie I’ve seen in the past 10 years. So if there are any surprises on the playlist, it’s this one, Bandslam.

Bandslam was released in 2009 and stars Aly Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lisa Kudrow. It was written by Josh A. Cagan and Todd Graff and directed by Todd Graff. The movie also contains one of the final film appearances by the late great David Bowie. Yes, if you read my blog about David Bowie a few weeks ago, this is the film I was talking about. Bowie has a cameo appearance but plays a small role in the story line since the main character frequently writes e-mails to the legendary music artist and claims himself to be Bowie’s biggest fan. The first line of the film is actually “Dear David Bowie,” and then proceeds with a reading of one of the main character’s e-mails with “Rebel, Rebel” playing in the background.

In the film, the main character, Will Burton (Connell) is a new student at his high school after he and his mother (Kudrow) move because of his mother’s new job. Will welcomes the fresh start since he was teased and bullied at his old school. On his first day, he meets a girl named, Sa5m (the 5 is silent) (Hudgens) and discovers the importance of a local Battle of the Bands competition called Bandslam. He also meets a senior named Charlotte (Michalka) who takes him under her wing once she find out about Will’s love and knowledge of music. As a former member of the most popular band at school and Bandslam competitor, Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs, Charlotte convinces Will to be the manager of her new band. Charlotte plans on competing with her new band against Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs at Bandslam, since she wants to stick it to her ex-boyfriend and Glory Dog’s frontman, Ben Wheatley.

Despite the simple plot line, both Will and Charlotte have more history and depth to them than you initially realize. When I first saw the film, I was impressed at the turns the story takes throughout the film. It goes even deeper than School of Rock‘s plot, which is similar in the fact that it also involves a Battle of the Bands competition. To be honest, I feel like Bandslam is sex, drugs, and language short of what could be a PG-13 film. The movie even received positive critical reception, despite under-performing at the box office. Supposedly, Summit Entertainment, the production company who released the film was criticized for the poor marketing efforts compared to that of the Twilight Saga, which was also released by Summit around the same time as Bandslam.

The music selection featured in the film is also impressive. After I saw the movie, I looked up songs from it and downloaded several of them. The soundtrack/movie features David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, Wilco, Peter, Bjorn, & John, and several other great indie bands, along with covers of “I Want You To Want Me” and “Everything I Own” by Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens that were featured in the film, respectively.

Much like a hidden gem of a song you find in the middle of a playlist, mixtape, or an album, Bandslam is the hidden gem of The Film Playlist. It’s that movie you may not have heard of but is so essential for any music fan to see. I mean, there’s even a scene where Will and Sa5m visit the closed down version of CBGB’s before the legendary punk rock music club was transformed to a clothing store. Bandslam is more than meets the eye whether you’re looking for a good movie to check out or underrated music movie masterpiece. I would recommend it to huge music fans and casual music listeners alike.