Friday, June 27, 2014

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE DISAPPOINTING SO FAR...(MID-SEASON REVIEW)

Hey guys! Just a quick update…

STRANGER BY THE LAKE / GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL / ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE / BOYHOOD / UNDER THE SKIN
I know I update this blog pretty frequently so you might miss a review or two. We’re half way in to the 2014 movie year, and like always things are just so-so. Please make sure to take some time out to read about the great (Stranger By The Lake & Boyhood), really good (The Unknown Known & Night Moves), good (Only Lovers Left Alive) & the disappointing (Under The Skin & Grand Budapest Hotel) films of 2014 so far (click on the titles of each film to read their individual reviews).



MISC.
NYMPHOMANIAC / IT FELT LIKE LOVE / CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: THE WINTER SOLDIER / RIVER OF FUNDAMENT / RAID 2
The reviews above don’t represent everything I’ve seen this year. I managed to catch a few “blockbusters” (Godzilla & Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier), smaller indies (It Felt Like Love) and other highly talked about films (Nymphomaniac). Before the year is over I plan to give Eliza Hitman’s It Felt Like Love its proper due and write a lengthy review on it because it is a great movie. Both Captain America & Raid sequels served their purpose and entertained me, while Matthew Barney’s latest epic; River Of Fundament, a five hour dedication to fecies & Normal Mailer) really let me down. I don’t know if I have it in me, but I’d like to tackle that debacle before the year is over because it really opened up a new perspective I now have on Barney. As for Nymphomaniac, I think everything has already been said about that film to the point where my review would just be redundant, so I doubt I’ll review it (read what PINNLAND EMPIRE contributor Leanne had to say about it on her site). I will say that I enjoyed the overall experience but was actually kind of let down by the final moments (to be honest, the last 20 minutes kind of dragged along). The problem with that for me is Nymphomaniac is the kind of film that needs to have a solid ending. A movie that's almost five hours (total) needs to go out on a strong note and I felt like Lars partially stumbled in the final minutes and just wrapped things up a little too quickly. But it will probably end up in my end of the year review in more categories than one. Nymphomaniac isnt the first LvT film that needed to grow on me over time. Perhaps I'll give this another watch before the year is over before putting my final stamp on it...


ANTICIPATED...
MOMMY / WINTER SLEEP / THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA / MR. TURNER / MAPS TO THE STARS
Unfortunately I won’t be going to Toronto for a second year, but hopefully between my BAM membership & the NY Film Festival, I’ll be able to catch at least three of the five films (pictured above) that I’m highly anticipating…


In the last half of 2014 we’ll be getting in to more Cassavetes, Reichardt & early Linklater. I’ll be analyzing more modern film scores, making more podcast appearances and I’ll also be doing a review on Spike Lee’s rarest film…

thanks for reading


Friday, June 20, 2014

BOYHOOD: RICHARD LINKLATER'S TREE OF LIFE


Boyhood is kind of like The Tree Of Life for people who didn't really like The Tree Of Life (...kind of). Personally I'm a fan of both films (and I imagine anyone who liked Malick's film will like Richard Linklater's latest) but I can understand why The Tree Of Life turned some people off. Boyhood acts as a nice alternative.
I'm sure some of you reading this right now may be wondering what one film has to do with the other, but there's actually quite a few similarities between the two...
They're both personal, almost plotless, coming-of-age stories about young boys growing up in Texas. Both films look at the mother characters in a more positive light, while the fathers in each story are much more flawed but mean well at the end of the day. Lastly, each filmmaker dedicated large chunks of their lives to each project.
Boyhood is more straightforward in terms of delivery, but it’s just as ambitious as The Tree Of Life (possibly more). While Malick did take many years to complete his opus (with a few starts & stops, do-overs, adjustments to technology & re-casts in between) there was still a huge gap between his initial concept (which came about in the late 70's) and the final product that we now know as The Tree Of Life. Filming didn't actually start until 2009. Terrence Malick took breaks to make stuff like The Thin Red Line (1998) & The New World (2005) before really setting his focus on Tree. Obviously Richard Linklater has been quite active with other projects since he started shooting Boyhood in 2002 (he made 8 films during the 12 year span that it took to complete Boyhood) but he never actually took a traditional break from making it. Linklater had been filming Boyhood on & off since 2002 because he wanted to shoot in sequence using the same actors (Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater & Ellar Coltrane) to show realistic aging over the years, specifically with Coltrane, who ages from 7 to 19 through the course of the story. We also see his own daughter Lorelei age from 9 to 21 (an element of the story that's been downplayed in some early reviews).

The idea of Boyhood brings to mind other films that have already taken a similar approach. Richard Linklater is responsible for the Before Series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset & Before Midnight) which chronicles the same actors/characters for three films over the span of two decades. The Up series, an on-going documentary that’s been following the same group of people since age 7, began filming in the mid 60’s; and art house cinephiles followed the Antoine Doniel character through five movies. Even smaller works like Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool (1998) and its sequel Fay Grim (2006) showed realistic aging through the years with the "Ned" character played by Liam Aiken in both films (age 7 in Henry Fool and age 15 in Fay Grim).
To me these are more than just standard sequels because they're quite personal and they show drastic changes in not only the characters, but the actors who play them over the years (minus the obvious Up film which is an actual documentary)...

Symon - The Up Series
Jean-Pierre Leaud as "Antoine Doniel" - The 400 Blows / Stolen Kisses
Liam Aiken as "Ned Grim" - Henry Fool / Fay Grim
Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy as "Jesse & Celine" - Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight

And I’m not sure how many of you know this but Lars Von Trier also tried doing a similar project with Udo Kier that he started shooting in the late 80’s, then gave up on it after a while.
Boyhood is the first fiction film, that I know of, to span so many real years in one sitting with the same actors (I'm sure there's some obscure title out there that I don't know about). Obviously you can see a 12 year age change in the face & physique of almost any adult (which we do see with Hawke & Arquette through the course of the film), but it’s way more noticeable in a kid...


In Boyhood we follow Mason (Ellar Coltrane) – a young boy growing up in Texas. His parents aren't together and he lives with his mother (Arquette) & older sister (Linklater), while his father (Hawke) is a slightly immature/"every other weekend" dad who does eventually become a more consistent part of his life later on (I must say that the last three reviews I read on Boyhood don't paint Hawke's father character all that accurately). As the story progresses we see Mason go from a fresh-faced little boy to a college freshman with hair on his face. In between he goes through things like puberty (there's even a section in the film where his voice cracks a little bit), he gets his heart broken, learns a few important life lessons and all the other standard things that come along with growing up. There isn’t much of a “conflict” or "climax" in the film because ultimately it’s about watching a kid grow up in a world that's changing around him (note the subtle advancements in technology as the film moves along in time). However there are still some important bookmarks in the story like Mason's growing interest in art and the temporary presence of his various dysfunctional stepdads.
Throughout Boyhood Linklater expresses his own personal political views through his characters (which is fine with me because I guess we share the same basic beliefs). He also references his older works like Dazed & Confused (let's see if you can catch the two moments) as well as Waking Life (by the time Mason is in his late teens he sometimes talks like a character right out of a scene in Waking Life). And being the cinephile that he is, Linklater also uses movies (and music) as markers in time.

This movie can (and will) be enjoyed by both genders of just about any age but it is a boy’s story for the most part. When you have a film this intimate that touches on subjects like looking through lingerie magazines for half naked women, trying to be macho around other boys or the idea of having an inconsistent male figure/role model, it does become a little gender specific. It’s no different than how Welcome To The Dollhouse, The Virgin Suicides or It Felt Like Love can be (and are) enjoyed by both genders, but they still speak to women at the end of the day.
But the constant presence of Mason's older sister does provide an alternative/feminine perspective.


This is one of those recent films for me like Upstream Color, Post Tenebras Lux or Leviathan where no matter how many minor (or major) issues there may be, it’s still doing something new-ish or somewhat progressive for cinema. Yes this is a fictional story, but there’s also an accidental documentary here because we’re following the same people and watching them change over a real extended period of time (I'm aware there's plenty of fiction/documentary hybrids out there already, but not like Boyhood). 
I will admit that it would have been interesting to see Mason grow-up with both of his parents together, but that's just my opinion. Maybe Boyhood is also a reflection of marriage in today's society (I'm aware the relationship between Arquette & Hawke represents so many real parenting situations). But with so many films that portray fathers as either somewhat absent or one-note, it would have made Boyhood even more progressive if there was a working/healthy relationship between Mason's parents (it's almost become common to have a dysfunctional father character in a family film these days). As some of you can imagine, I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who saw bits of himself in Mason yet came up around two-parent households (even the couple of friends I had while growing up whose parents were separated still split the parenting duties 50/50 as best as they could). But just because this film didn't meet every one of my own specific personal needs doesn't mean it isn't a success. I obviously care enough about it to reference my own personal stuff in this review.
And it's not like Mason's parents are bad. In fact they're parenting style is a bit progressive & laid back to a certain degree. They both have their flaws (one has more than the other) but how many perfect parents do you know of? They actually grow/improve as parents through the course of the film.

Given Linklater’s attachment to certain actors & characters (specifically those in The Before Series), I wouldn’t be surprised if we follow Mason in to adulthood later on down the road (...Manhood?). There was an honest/organic attempt at doing something different with Boyhood. Without gushing over this film too much (plenty of reviews have already done that), it is excellent and will probably end up in my top 10 at the end of the year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE WHOLE HISTORY OF MY LIFE PART 5: STRANGER THAN PARADISE (THE PINK SMOKE)

WOW! We're not even halfway through June and it's been a busy month so far...

I’m back with another entry in the Whole History Of My Life series over at The Pink Smoke. This time I tackle Jim Jarmusch’s sophomore feature Stranger Than Paradise, and all the memories it brings up for me (road trips, video stores, boredom & the 1984 Cannes Film Festival).

Enjoy…


Also be on the lookout in late August for my write-up of Leos Carax’s debut Boy Meets Girl as part of Forgotten Films’ 1984 blog-a-thon…


Monday, June 9, 2014

NIGHT MOVES


Because nature flows throughout almost all of Kelly Reichardt’s films in an organic way (Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy & Meek’s Cutoff) and a lot of her characters seem rather earth-conscious (specifically the characters in Old Joy), I thought Night Moves would be quietly “pro-eco-terrorist”, but that’s not the case here. This story was certainly birthed from someone who does love the earth more than the average human being, but the film really shows the ugly side of extreme environmental activism/eco-terrorism (it should be noted that Reichardt makes numerous attempts to show alternative ways to be a radical environmentalist rather than take to a form of terrorism like our main characters do in Night Moves). It was the label; “eco-terrorism” or ”eco-terrorist” that really bugged me. I’ve never been a fan of the term; “eco-terrorist” (a term that’s been used a lot in most reviews for this film since it premiered at Toronto last year). If you use violence, specifically explosives (like our main characters in this film do) in an effort to get your points or beliefs across - you’re a terrorist. I know I may sound like some conservative jerk, but that's just how I feel. Obviously eco-terrorists aren’t in the same tier/lane as Al-Qaeda or Jim crow-era white supremacists, but they're still terrorists by my definition. There’s no need to hyphenate a term in an effort to soften the negativity behind it.

But it was my fault for putting a lil' too much weight on other critics' reviews and making pre-conceived notions before actually seeing the film myself. Kelly Reichardt didn't soften anything or try to make her characters out to be heroes in Night Moves...

If you’re familiar with the content on this site then you know it is sometimes difficult for me to separate my personal experiences from some films, and this is another one of those write-ups. Although Night Moves takes place in Portland, a place I've never been to and know nothing about, I feel like I know some of the characters in this film. I grew up in the old hippy town of Amherst, Massachusetts where I’m sure a few hardcore environmentalists were brewing while studying _______ at Hampshire College. Growing up, I was used to the tie-dye & sandals earth-conscious folk who handcuffed themselves to trees so they wouldn’t be cut down. Those types of environmentalists aren’t a myth. They exist. Some of ‘em were my counselors at summer camp when I was a kid. The crying, unintimidating hippie handcuffed to a tree is the general stereotype that average movie-goers have about environmentalists when it comes to their portrayal on film. Some people have no clue of the more serious “eco-terrorism” that has been around for decades. I say this because I almost never hear people in my circle talking about it, and I rarely see the news covering it. In fact, Night Moves seems to draw a lot of inspiration from Edward Abbey's The Monkey wrench Gang (a book from the mid-70's about a group of radical environmentalists who use the same violent tactics as our characters in Night Moves). This is another recent film, along with the earth liberation front documentary; If A Tree Falls, that dispells the cinematic myth/portrayal of environmental activists.


Night Moves is the story of “Josh” (Jesse Eisenberg) & “Dena” (Dakota Fanning) – two passionate environmentalists that are fed up with just talking about saving the planet. With the help of a like-minded ex-marine; "Harmon" (Peter Sarsgaard), they set out to blow up a local hydroelectric dam (one dam in a series of dams) that they feel is a harmful entity. Of course things don't all go according to plan and a huge rift grows between our three main characters and the story takes a dark turn in the second half...

In Josh & Dena's defense, hydroelectric dams are pretty disruptive to the earth. But where does it stop? First a hydroelectric dam (which is a pretty ambitious start), and the next thing you know, environmentalists/eco-terrorists are bombing anything they feel is harmful to the earth when they don't get their way. I understand that a lot of people are doing some serious damage to the planet but who decides that we should start blowing shit up to send a message? Like Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, you could say I have the same basic beliefs as an environmentalist/eco-terrorists (probably due to my "green" Amherst, Mass upbringing) but I don’t really want to be associated with them and I definitely wouldn’t go to the lengths that some of them do. I get genuinely ticked off when I see someone blatantly littering (sometimes I’ll even say something or at least scowl); I appreciate people choosing bicycles over cars more these days; I really don’t understand the point of making/wearing a fur coat; I feel there’s very few things that are as unforgivable as animal abuse; and with so much food offered in grocery stores, I don’t see the need to hunt for sport, especially with machine guns (I’m sure I pissed someone off with that statement). But at the same time, I’m very much a carnivore, I wear a leather belt, I’d much rather drive somewhere than take a bike (that’s just me being lazy) and I think that splashing red paint on someone to make a statement (like some environmentalists have in fact done in the past) is absolutely stupid.


Speaking of stupid, I don’t know how much Josh & Dena actually thought out their plan - setting off a massive explosion would not only destroy more land (in addition to the land already disrupted by the dam) but I’m pretty sure a lot of innocent animals & humans would be killed or at least put in danger. Didn’t they think that was a lil' hypocritical to their cause? But this isn’t the first example of blaring hypocrisy to come out of this kind of activism – for those that don’t know, former PeTA vice president; Marybeth Sweetland is an insulin-dependent diabetic, yet was the VP of an organization that terrorized medical facilities that tested insulin (...you know - the medicine she uses to stay alive) on animals. This is the kind of bullshit that brings out my cynicism and makes me not care about certain causes. 

But I feel that's part of what this movie brings up. Perhaps Josh & Dena were young & irrational with unchecked anger and didn't really know what they were doing from the get-go. At no point in Night Moves do we get an actual antagonist/villain who acts as the human "face" for this harmful dam (this is a good thing). It's like Josh, Dena & Harmon are fighting a giant faceless "thing" that's way bigger than them and they don't see that or see how pointless their mission is. It won't really make any kind of a dent in the grand scheme of things. It's almost like Wendy's somewhat hopeless plan in Wendy & Lucy (Reichardt's 2008 film) to move to Alaska to try and find work. The intentions in both films are noble but ultimately hopeless (in my opinion).

Personally, I don't have any real sympathy for the characters in Night Moves but I know for a fact that others do. At the Q&A after the screening I was at, with Kelly Reichardt in attendance, the person leading the Q&A asked the audience members to raise their hands if they felt some kind of sympathy or understanding for what Josh, Dena & Harmon did, and surprisingly quite a few people raised their hands.

I don't know how I feel about that...


Much like how Kelly Reichardt challenged the western genre with her last film (Meek’s Cutoff), Night Moves challenges the thriller genre. She showed realistic tension & action instead bullshit sensationalism. We see more about the planning & perperation of the bombing than the actual explosion itself. 

The subject matter in Night Moves is pretty different from everything else Reichardt has done but it still doesn’t stick out that much from the rest of her filmography. Night Moves definitely takes place in the same cinematic world as Old Joy & Wendy & Lucy (it should be noted that both of those films are connected by the same dog “Lucy”). I definitely see a character like Kurt (Old Joy) or Wendy (Wendy & Lucy) crossing paths with people like Josh & Dena.
But that's not to say Kelly Reichardt didn't stretch as a filmmaker or step outside of the comfort zone that I, and others, sometimes put her in. Besides things like explosions & violent deaths, she really utilizes her score unlike any of her other movies and the cinematography just adds an extra layer of tension & creepiness. 

This is definitely Reichardt’s darkest film (there's technically a "body count") and she draws some influence from her debut; River Of Grass. Both films are minimalist stories (with minimal dialogue) that deal with "couples" who take to violence by the end of the film. The difference between the two is that the main characters in River Of Grass are motivated by boredom whereas the characters in Night Moves are motivated by what they feel is an important cause.
There's also strands of Meek (Meek's Cutoff)'s DNA in the Harmon character as they're both the defacto leaders in each movie yet they are both, as Reichardt put it at the Q&A, "full of shit".
I’m going to need some time to mull this film over (I’ll probably see it again), but I definitely recommend you all check this out. It's just as contemplative & frustrating (in a good way) as it is rewarding.
If you’re able to see Night Moves, please check it out then tune in to my next appearance on the Syndromes And A Cinema podcast where we’ll be discussing Reichardt’s filmography.

THIS LONG CENTURY...

Lodge Kerrigan & Peter Greene on set during the filming of Clean, Shaven

I genuinely feel like I’ve found PINNLAND EMPIRE’s long lost spiritual sibling (or maybe a first cousin) in the form of This Long Century (thislongcentury.com) – a collection of personal memoirs shared by various artists, musicians, writers & filmmakers in their own words and/or images. Among the many talented people to contribute to the site are PINNLAND EMPIRE favorite’s like; Lodge Kerrigan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kelly Reichardt & Rick Alverson. What are the odds that another site would feature a similar collection of the same random filmmakers that I love and regularly write about?

Rick Alverson
Albert Maysles
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Andy Sweet (photo Courtesy of Kelly Reichardt)

Outside of cinema, This Long Century also features personal images & memoirs from quite a few of my favorite musicians like Mike Watt & Alan Vega (Suicide)…

photo courtesy of Alan Vega
Mike Watt

Set aside some time during your day and get lost on this wonderful website…

Andy sweet

Monday, June 2, 2014

THE CINEMA OF TODD SOLONDZ TOLD THROUGH IMAGES & STILLS...



I admit there's an element of brutality in all my work. It's part of the truth about human existence I always want to explore. But the last thing I'm trying to do is put on some kind of freak show, inviting people to get off on other people's pain and humiliation. - Todd Solondz


Todd Solondz hails from New Jersey, as I do, a state the size of a shoebox stuffed to the gills with nearly 9 million people. Todd grew up in Livingston, I grew up Nutley less than ten miles to the east of that town. Nutley became known to the world through the television show The Sopranos, which I can attest to being a very accurate portrayal of that small area. The Garden State does hold much natural beauty, as is evident from the famous "Pine Barrens" episode of The Sopranos, but also possesses much strife. The HBO series used NJ as a setting for both tragedy and small triumphs; Todd Solondz has parlayed his experiences growing up in Jersey to offer an alternate view of the state which is decidedly less complimentary.

Solondz’s work is dripping with contempt for New Jersey, which is not entirely unwarranted. To grow up and survive in such a densely populated area is to morph your personality to fit into the prevailing model of what is viewed as successful or you will perish. There is a joke NJ slogan which goes “New Jersey: Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten” and Solondz’s cinema is not far off from that mark. I rarely look people in the eye when I speak to them and am abrupt and stand-offish. In general I do not trust people for you never really know what they are hiding. Solondz exemplifies this feeling by displaying the fa├žade of his characters and then ripping the mask off to expose the putrid center of their true selves. The character of Dr. Maplewood in Happiness is a brilliant example of a man trying to “pass” as normal and then committing hideous acts. His name is a symbol of his rotten core. Maplewood is a town right near Livingston bordered by many blighted cities. Maplewood looks nice, but drive out of town and you find poverty and dismal forgotten communities on its borders. This has been Solondz’s calling card; wipe away the artifice of the portrayed self and expose the Other. Navigating through Otherness is what cripples people’s psyches in a state where appearance and inauthenticity is praised over genuine expressions of personality. Brutal and yet darkly humorous, Todd Solondz has produced a body of work which depicts the unique brutality of Jersey.

- Leanne Kubicz


MODERN FAMILY
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Palindromes
Just beneath the surface of every happy family photo and nice family dinner in a Todd Solondz film are layers of dysfunction (Welcome To The Dollhouse, Happiness, Palindromes, Life During Wartime & Dark Horse) emotional abuse & neglect (Welcome To the Dollhouse), bullying (Welcome To The Dollhouse & Storytelling) and plenty of deep dark secrets & lies (Happiness Palindromes). As Leanne mentions in the intro - these characters try to pass for something that they aren't...
Happiness
Life During Wartime
Palindromes
Storytelling
Welcome To The Dollhouse


SIBLINGS
A sub-category under Solondz' exploration of the modern american family is the sometimes strained & complicated relationship between siblings. In Happiness, we get sisters who are either quietly competing with one another or looking down on each other. In Storytelling, we have a younger brother worried about his reputation in school because his older brother may be gay (he even goes so far as to confront him about it). And there's tons of extra resentment and disconnect between Dawn and her older brother in Welcome To The Dollhouse...
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Happiness
Storytelling
Life During Wartime



DARK HUMOR

There`s good laughter and bad laughter. As long as they`re not laughing at the expense of any of these characters, it`s OK. My films are comedies, but they`re sad comedies - Todd Solondz

Dark, twisted & quirky humor is probably what Solondz is most known for over everything else (that and twisted sexual perversions, which we'll get in to later). I've said it on here before and I'll say it again - it takes a special kind of talent to find humor in subjects like pedophilia, abortion & suicide.
Unfortunately that's what draws people to his work, and it's usually for the wrong reasons. Be honest - how often have you spoken to someone about Happiness and the conversation never really goes beyond "oh man, that movie is so fucked up, maaaan"?
To me that's insulting because there's a lot more to his work (especially his work from '96-'01) beyond totally "fucked up" humor. Its similar to people who enjoy stuff like A Clockwork Orange or Taxi Driver (my personal favorite film) just because those films are violent.
Solondz' "humor" is also quite challenging because we're not necessarily supposed to be laughing at what he presents us all the time. Sometimes we find ourselves laughing at something for the wrong reasons in his films.

To be honest, I am often unsettled by the responses some people have had to my movies, and that includes many people who like them. - Todd Solondz

Happiness
Palindromes
Storytelling
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Wiener Dog




FEAR, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION & SUICIDE
Although Solondz's films will always be categorized as "comedy", things arent always a total laugh-fest. There's always some kind of a suicide or suicide attempt in almost all of his work (Fear Anxiety & Depression, Happiness, Life During Wartime & Dark Horse) and if not that, there's always at least two characters who suffer from depression in every single one of his films. There's even some serious moments in his filmography that may choke you up (the scene at the end of Life During Wartime where Bill confronts his son is pretty sad).
But the biggest blow to Todd Solondz fans (and proof of his darker side) had to be the death of Dawn Weiner (Welcome To The Dollhouse) who was not only the poster child for his work, but was a symbol of hope to a certain degree. At the end of Welcome To The Dollhouse, Solondz gave us hope as we saw Dawn essentially grow & rise above all the shit she had slung at her by life. But 8 years later, that same character ended up killing herself in Palindromes which kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Watching Welcome To The Dollhouse now knowing that the main character will killer herself a few years later makes the viewing experience a little more tough. 
Fear, Anxiety & Depression
Happiness
Happiness
Life During Wartime
Life During Wartime
Life During Wartime
Storytelling
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Dark Horse
Wiener Dog



So far, at least, I haven`t found a way to tell my kind of stories without making them both sad and funny - Todd Solondz



THE SOLONDZ COLOR PALETTE...
What throws a lot of people off about his work (and almost always goes unnoticed yet has been copied by so many young up & coming American indie filmmakers without even realizing it) is the combination of bright & subconsciously happy colors mixed with the dark material from the previous category. Its more than obvious that when it comes to issues like depression & death, the average mind cant help but think about colors like black, grey and other typically dreary colors. But the color pallet that Solondz uses is often associated with children's books and daytime nickelodeon programming which makes his films extra creepy.
Pink, Yellow, Bright Red & Sky Blue seem to be his regular colors of choice... 
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Happiness
Palindromes
Palindromes
Life During Wartime
Life During Wartime
Dark Horse
Dark Horse
Fear, Anxiety & Depression
Wiener Dog
Wiener Dog
Wiener Dog




THE WORLD ACCORDING TO TODD SOLONDZ
Much like Claire Denis, David Lynch, Abel Ferrara and a few other filmmakers I've explored before, its more than obvious that Todd puts himself in his own films either literally (Fear, Anxiety & Depression) or through characters that look exactly like him (Dollhouse, Storytelling, Palindromes & Life During Wartime).
Fear, Anxiety Of Depression
Happiness
Storytelling
Palindromes
Life During Wartime
Wiener Dog




PERVERTS, PREDATORS & PEDOPHILES...
The darkest side of Solondz' work is probably sexual perversion (specifically Pedophilia). In Storytelling, we have a black male college professor who not only fetishizes about his young white female students, but he also gets off on having them yell out racial slurs at him during sex. In Welcome To The Dollhouse, not only is Dawn (age 12) threatened and almost raped by a classmate, but her sister is later kidnapped by a pedophile. We all know the twisted characters in Happiness, played by Dylan Baker (pedophile) & Philip Seymour Hoffman (repressed perverted who calls women anonymously and talks dirty to them) and pedophilia runs all throughout Palindromes as well...
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Happiness
Happiness
Palindromes



DREAMS &HALLUCINATIONS
Technically this could be absorbed in to the dark humor category but I felt that it needed its own. With the exception of Palindromes (which feels like one giant dream at certain moments in the film) there's always a moment in every one of Solondz' films where a character has a dream sequence that comes out of nowhere and throws us off...
Life During Wartime
Life During Wartime
Storytelling
Storytelling
Welcome To The Dollhouse



YOUTH & COMING OF AGE
Welcome To The Dollhouse
In American films, this period of life is not treated seriously. You have either the cute and cuddly Disney kid or the evil devil monster. For me it`s fertile territory - middle class kids growing up in the suburbs - Todd Solondz

Some may disagree, but I feel like Solondz is one of the few American filmmakers to really explore youth and take them seriously (even in comedy films). Welcome To The Dollhouse alone solidified this for me. For some reason, Jr. high is the most overlooked period among youth in film. Filmmakers almost always jump from elementary school, where kids are cute & innocent, to high school, which is technically the stage just before adulthood. But Welcome To The Dollhouse is one of the few films that explores that awkward/intermediate period of growing up.
Happiness
Storytelling
Life During Wartime
Welcome To The Dollhouse
Palindromes
Wiener Dog