Call Me By Your Name Review: Gorgeous Summer Sensuality in the Depths of Winter

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I still can’t place my finger on when exactly I first heard about “Call Me By Your Name.” There has been buzz surrounding it for nearly a year since its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. All I knew about it was that it was set in Northern Italy and was about two young men who fall in love. What really drew me to it was the lush cinematography of the early promotional clips. My mind was set—I had to watch it as soon as I was able.

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This summer, the “Call Me By Your Name” hype grew and I was bursting at the seams to watch it. Reviewers were describing it as “tantalizing” and “sensual” and “summery.” It promised to be a visual feast with a beguiling love story. It also promised to be raw and heart-wrenching. The wait was excruciating.

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Finally, the time I had basically been waiting for all year arrived. It was November, I was in London and “Call Me By Your Name” had just come out in the UK a couple of weeks before. I was ecstatic. I got tickets to see it at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, a member of a arthouse cinema chain. The environment was relaxed and perfect—cushy seats, chill ambience and a packed theater full of other eager moviegoers.

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It’s hard to put into words how much I adored “Call Me By Your Name.” It’s genteel, refined and intellectually stimulating.

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The cinematography really sold the summer languor of the film, focusing on luscious, verdant pastoral views and casting the characters in an incandescent light. Every scene during the day was aglow with golden natural light, and the mood was somnolent. The night scenes were humming with barely contained energy, softly lit with hallowed coloring. The setting—a small town in Northern Italy in the 1980s—was picture perfect.

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It is set at the home of the Perlmans. The son, Elio Perlman, is home for the summer when he meets Oliver, an American PhD student who is studying the Classics with Elio’s father and residing with the Perlmans for the summer. And so ensues the pas de deux, a clandestine dance between the two love interests as they skirt around their feelings for each other. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) possesses an almost bird-like fragility, prone to sudden spurts of energy and flightiness. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is larger than life, filling up every room enters with his presence.

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Elio is the definition of precocious. He transcribes classical music, performs renditions of classics on the piano and reads and reads and reads. He is graced with intellectual precision. To him, at first, the burly American is uncouth and brusque. They are stark opposites, yet their chemistry is electric. Chalamet’s acting as the lovelorn Elio is magnificent. The sharp interest in his gaze when watching Oliver is palpable.

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This is a film that forces you to feel every single emotion displayed on screen. It holds your feelings hostage. And so, as it seeped with romance, I could feel my own heart spilling over. I felt the dizziness and the grandeur of that summer love. The scenes between Elio and Oliver as they discovered the depths of their feelings for each other had the wispy air of a dream. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll be squealing internally. The sexual chemistry burns fiery hot and their mutual desire is as succulent as the fruits that thematically pop up throughout the film.

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Yet, with the highs come the lows, and Oliver must return to America at the end of the summer. This was the emotional weight of the film, and it wrung my heart out. Chalamet portrays a young man losing his emotional center with a sincerity that is absolutely heartbreaking. Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a truly sagacious monologue to Elio towards the end of the film that touches the soul and which I believe truly encapsulates the weight of first love.

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There were points in the film when I just wanted to bottle up the feelings I had in response to the imagery and keep them close to me forever. The music only heightened those feelings; the soundtrack was blessed with three songs from Sufjan Stevens (my personal favorite being the lugubrious Visions of Gideon), an artist that is able to transmit delicate love in his craft. The final scene was the most poignant and deeply moving of the entire film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it will hit you in waves of emotion that you may have even forgotten how to feel.

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If you love visually, intellectually and emotionally stimulating films, you will find all that and more in “Call Me By Your Name.”

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Side Note: How they make the simple act of biking look so spellbinding?

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10/10 Stars

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Movie Review: The Scorch Trials: Running Nowhere

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The Scorch Trials

Directed by Wes Ball

Released September 18th, 2015

Genre: Dystopian, Action, Adventure, Young Adult

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee

Synopsis

Transported to a remote fortified outpost, Thomas and his fellow teenage Gladers find themselves in trouble after uncovering a diabolical plot from the mysterious and powerful organization WCKD. With help from a new ally, the Gladers stage a daring escape into the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles and crawling with the virus-infected Cranks. The Gladers only hope may be to find the Right Hand, a group of resistance fighters who can help them battle WCKD.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

My Thoughts

I was super excited to watch the Scorch Trials this weekend it opens because I’d watched the Maze Runner last year and absolutely loved it. It had been a thrill ride from start to finish and I thought that the action/adventure was fascinating and ethereal. Naturally, I was highly anticipating the sequel, expecting it to be bigger and bolder than the last movie.

What I Liked

The cinematography was stellar. I felt like the entire movie fit an overall aesthetic of poignant desolation. The camera focus was sharp as knives and the silhouettes made on the desert landscape were outstandingly artsy. I got chills whenever more than one character turned their heads at the same time, because it was done with such synchronicity and meaning. I felt that the visuals were excellent and I was overall blown away by them.n It certainly had a darker atmosphere than the first movie.

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Game of Thrones’ own Nathalie Emmanuel played such a BAMF (bad ass mother fucker) character, Harriet, in the movie. She was fierce, audacious, and exuded impassioned leadership. It was a delight to watch her instill awe in Thomas’s group and commandeer an army. It was such a far cry from her more gentle character on GoT, and I really enjoyed it.

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My heart leaped with a multitude of intense emotion, from terror to despair to elation. I actually got teary eyed when that tragic event occurred, and I could feel my heart leaping out of my chest with a surge of horror as Thomas’s crew was attacked by zombies. I like movies that make me feel greatly, and The Scorch Trials did succeed in that way.

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Brenda was pretty boss! She was totally self-assured and plucky, and I like her impetus. Her cool demeanor intrigued me. I think that she held her own very well and was very daring and dauntless.

What I Didn’t Like

So. Much. Running. I feel like the whole movie was just about Thomas, Newt, Teresa, Minho, and the rest of the gang just running away from the “bad guys” and being chased and shot at and attacked. Running from WCKD, running from zombies (too many zombies!), running from what ever attacker was there. It became ingratiating. Like Thomas said “I’m tired of running.” I’m tired of you running too, Thomas.

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I didn’t feel like there was any real point to this movie. I left the movie theater not even sure if I knew if there was a plot to it. A lot of random crap just happened to Thomas et al and I didn’t understand the premise of it. The first movie very clearly showed that the objective was to find the way out of the maze, and the objective was reached by them leaving the maze at the end of the movie. It seemed like for the sequel, horrible stuff was just thrown at our heroes and we were left with more questions than answers. It was more a of an awkward in-between movie, and I hope the mystery will be truly solved in the third (and final) movie.

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I didn’t like how Newt didn’t talk that much in this movie. I adore the actor, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Nanny McPhee, Phineas and Ferb, Game of Thrones) and I wanted his character to be more important in the Scorch Trials, like he was in the Maze Runner. He kind of faded to the wayside in this movie, even though he was still Thomas’s right hand man. Plus, I really love his British accent, so I sorely missed hearing it a lot in the movie. I have a soft spot for Newt, which the Scorch Trials didn’t really deliver on.

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Teresa was just kind of there. Her character didn’t add any value to the plot until the horrific twist at the end, which appeared to have come out of nowhere. She was more of just an accessory to Thomas.

Verdict

The Scorch Trials was very aesthetically pleasing and showcased brazen female characters. It was fun to watch three Game of Thrones actors in one movie (Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Sangster, and Aidan Gillen). I think it was really thrilling to watch and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought that was excellent direction by Wes Ball in terms of visuals. Yet, it seemed pointless and meaningless, and I was left dissatisfied and disappointed.

7.5/10

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Film Review: Girl in Progress: A Coming of Age Story

This is my coming-of-age blog post.

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Girl In Progress

Released: August 2012

Watched: July 2015

IMDB Rating: 5.6/10

Synopsis

Grace (Eva Mendes) is a single mom who is often too busy juggling her job, bills and two love interests (Matthew Modine, Eugenio Derbez) to pay much attention to her daughter, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez). Inspired by the coming-of-age stories her English teacher (Patricia Arquette) introduces in class, Ansiedad decides to skip adolescence and jump-start her life without her mother. But, when the misguided plan unravels, Ansiedad and Grace must both learn that growing up means acting your age.

My Thoughts

I had the enlightening experience of watching Girl in Progress with my mother, as the film itself is very much a mother-daughter tale.

It tells the “coming-of-age” story of Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez), a Latina girl who is in a hurry to grow up so that she can leave her oft neglectful mother, Grace (Eva Mendez). She learns about coming of age stories in her English class, in which she reads about how teenagers “grow up” and become “mature” through life experiences, hardships, and life lessons. In an entirely impressionable and naive move, Ansiedad proceeds to manufacture her own real-life coming of age story through sheer will and planning.

Meanwhile, her mother, Grace, is a waitress and a maid, who is involved with a married-with-kids white man. With all her work and her affair-ing, mother Grace simply fails to pay attention to Ansiedad and her needs as a child. As a result, Ansiedad’s behavior becomes a cry for help.

Ansiedad grows through a whole plan of becoming a good-girl-gone-bad, with her end goal of leaving via bus to New York. It was all very silly and childish. She ends up alienating her best friend and getting bad grades (on purpose!) while hanging out with the so-called “bad girls” and seeking a “bad boy” to lose her virginity to, which she planned to be her final step towards coming of age.

Ansiedad goes off the rails, losing her best friend and only stopping her deflowering at the last minute, when she realizes how much she doesn’t really want to. Meanwhile, her mother deals with being let go by her lover’s shrewd wife and said lover’s claims that he would leave his life for her. That was obviously a lie, he was never going to leave his wife for her, my mother and I both agreed.

Everything rights itself in the end as Ansiedad and Grace get to hash things out when Grace dumps her duplicious lover and stops Ansiedad from leaving at the nick of time. Ansiedad lets out her suppressed emotions of rage and abandonment at her mother, and they finally make up in a touching mother-daughter moment. Ansiedad also patches things up with her best friend movingly.

This movie was often times over the top, over dramatic, and even downright ridiculous, but I took away a very essential message from it in the importance of family, and appreciating your loved ones, the people who are really there for you no matter what.

Rating: 7/10

On that note, I’m ready to give myself up to adulthood. If you’re reading this, it’s too late for adolescent me because she’s a grown up now. This is scheduled to be published the moment I turn 18. So long, childhood. It’s been real.

Teaser Tuesday: Paper Towns by John Green

With the movie coming up, I figured that I would finally read Paper Towns by John Green.

It’s a coming of age book that serves to contrast the personalities of the anxious thinkers, like the protagonist Quentin Jacobsen, and the capricious doers, like his object of affection Margo Roth Spiegelman.

I’m about two-thirds through, and I’m really enjoying the mystery surrounding Margo’s disappearance and the various reactions from the different characters towards the enigma that is her character. I also noticed how John Green uses literature in the form of poetry by Walt Whitman as the backbone of his novel, similarly to the use of a made-up novel in The Fault in Our Stars.

Here’s a teaser, extracting an excerpt from a mini-speech by Margo that includes the title of the book itself:

“It’s a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm.”

What she’s talking about? Well, you’ll have to read Paper Towns to find out.

Movie Review: Divergent

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Release Date: March 21, 2014 (USA)

Watched: March 23, 2014

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So, I just watched Divergent yesterday with my friend Christine. I didn’t exactly have super high expectations for the film, because even though I really loved the book (it’s one of my top ten favorites), book-to-movie adaptations tend to disappoint.

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I was pleasantly surprised! The movie far surpassed my expectations. I was on a thrill-ride from start to finish, just like when I was reading the book over a year ago.

The movie began by explaining the faction system, and I was really happy about how they were presented. They were just how I imagined them! It was really interesting seeing them in just distinctly different modes and colors of dress, as well as environments.

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Shailene Woodley as Tris didn’t disappoint. She portrayed her character so accurately, with her transformation from the beginning as a ‘weak’ Abnegation girl at the beginning to a ‘strong’ Dauntless girl at the end.

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Her family was on point, and Ansel Elgort as Caleb was pretty good at being a conflicted Abnegation-turned-Erudite.Maggie Q as Tori was perfect. She was flawlessly tough and unwilling to get involved at the beginning, to Tris’s adviser on concealing her divergence later. Zoe Kravitz was brilliant at being the quick-tongued Christina, her first friend in Dauntless.

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Theo James was the perfect Four. He played him better than I could have ever imagined. He oozed strength, leadership, mysteriousness, and enigma from every pore. He was also ridiculously hot and incurably swoon-able.

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I was incredibly delighted by the initiation. It was just so accurate to the books, and I really enjoyed following Tris on the roller coaster that was the dauntless initiation experience, as well as watch her start off as the ‘weakest link’ to grow into a ‘fearless’, brave person of her own right. There were so many intense moments that I got such a thrill from watching, as I remembered from reading the book.

I think that Tris and Four’s romance developed as well as it was in the book, and I fangirled watching him slowly fall for her. I think that that was really well done.

I am so ecstatic that every single character  was portrayed to the core. Christina was both wonderfully and infuriatingly honest and candid, Will was humorously intelligent, Jeanine was creepily cold and logical, Eric was downright hateable, Peter was simply a douchebag, and so on.

I thoroughly relished Tris’ badassness in the fear sequences, as well as her bravery and intelligence that was revealed by her running after the train even when Eric said that she was done, and climbing up the top of the ferris wheel, and capturing the flag during capture the flag.

The last part was hard to watch, and I was amazed by how emotionally profound it was. It was extremely cool watching Tris and her mom fight side by side as a strong mother-daughter duo. I was hit deeply with emotion when Tris killed Will, when her mom died, when her dad died, and when Four almost killed Tris under the serum. I was blown away by Shailene’s incredible acting in all those scenes that were so tough for her character.

I relished in Tris and Four’s defeat of Jeanine’s serum even more than in the books. Just a million thumbs up for Shailene and Theo!!!

The ending was perectly just like in the book, so I was intensely glad about that. It started well and it ended better.

Now my only complaints about the movie:

They didn’t show Will and Christina being a couple!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the flying !@#$%? How is Tris going to be racked with guilt in the next movie for not only killing her friend, but her good friend’s love? How is Christina supposed to fall out with Tris in the next movie? Will and Christina being a couple was IMPORTANT!!!

Ansel Elgort as Caleb. It was really hard to properly watch him be Tris’s brother because all I was thinking was, “Ewwwww. You two are going to be making out in your next movie, The Fault in Our Stars. Just, no.” *shudder*

No Edward and Myra. What were they thinking??????? Peter was supposed to stab Edward in the eye and make him become factionless for two reasons: We could see how horrible Peter really was, instead of just a harmless douchebag, and because it would be pivotal in the second book with Edward’s character and his involvement with the revolution.

The absence of Four’s advice to Tris after Al and the others almost threw down the ravine along the lines of this: “Keep safe, but when you get the chance, destroy them.” I was waiting for that. That was one of my best lines by Four in the book.

But all in all, I was so enthralled by the Divergent Movie that I’ll still give it a 9/10. I adored the ordinary and extraordinary acts of bravery that Tris exhibited, from being the first to jump, to speaking out against Eric’s cruelty with the knife throwing. I also fell completely in love with the landscape. The Chicago wasteland was the perfect scenery. My favorite scene was the ‘flying scene’. It was waaaaay better than I imagined it, and it was such an amazing joyride for Tris. I felt Tris’s charge of adrenaline. It was exhilarating and entrancing, and kept me (figuratively) at the edge of my seat!!!

Favorite Quotes

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