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End-of-the-World Cinema Round-Up                                  Taylor Grieshober


The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky; 2012)

If you’re like me and were unfortunate enough to be born in the late 80s—specifically 1988, a year after the Smiths broke up—you might have learned about them from a little book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, (published by MTV in 1999). I was initially ambivalent when I read that Chbosky was adapting his novel into a movie. How often does that actually work? Would this contain the provocative edge the book had with a Hollywood darling like Emma Watson at the forefront? How was he going to pack all the emotional depth and glimpses of poignancy into a hundred minute feature? Sure, it’s a slim book, but it’s jam packed with an abundance of issues: teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, drugs, love affairs of hetero- and homo- varieties, etc. But Perks… did not disappoint, even if you’ve read the book. It’s a film in love with teenage misanthropy. Unless you count high school as the greatest years of your life, you will revel in its sentimentality and be glad, like Charlie that you survived. Amazing performances by Logan Leman, Watson, and especially Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) bring the kids’ literary origins to wild, dizzying life. Chbosky captured the mood, tunes, and the most important themes of the book perfectly in his stirring adaptation.

Watch with: All those Pittsburgh friends who you speed through tunnels with, and who, no matter how long they’ve lived here, let out a squeal when they see the skyline.



Detropia (Heidi Ewig/Rachel Grady; 2012)     

This moving documentary from the women who brought you Jesus Camp doesn’t take only a look, or death to true documentary, a stance. No, Detropia is a panoramic probing of Detroit in all that is alive in the city, all that has been seemingly obliterated, and the hope for revitalization. The film is a cautionary tale of the continuing collapse of the American dream and its economy, and in no city is the recession more apparent than in Detroit. Once the booming automotive empire, now the city is on the verge of bankruptcy. Grady and Ewig run the gamut of the city‘s sights: from porch-sitting with dissenters of community gardens, men scrapping metal in the dark to make ends meet, an impassioned Union meeting where disgruntled workers will soon lose their jobs to Mexican laborers, to an auto-show complete with a new Chinese car for half the price of Detroit’s luxury cars, to the Raven Lounge, a happening club where the owner is also the sole cook. Ewig and Grady follow Crystall Starr, a young video blogger, as she documents Detroit’s crumbling architecture and town hall meetings. There are images of mass protests against housing foreclosures. And perhaps, most interestingly, there is a look into Detroit’s latest imports: young, hipster artists happy to live in a city where they can own their own loft for only $25K (!), while homes are being demolished and residents are displaced all over town. I’d be hard-pressed to find any documentary that is so varied in viewpoints and that exposes the many problems and future potentials of this once-booming metropolis.

Pair with: Studs Terkel’s American Dreams: Lost and Found, specifically the interview with Coleman Young, former Mayor of Detroit.

Watch with: a resident Detroiter, if possible, who can melt any pitying looks off of your face by her sheer presence (thanks to Anne Rashid!).


Silent House (Chris Kentis/Laura Lau; 2012)

Deemed “horror in real time,” this eighty-six minute quasi-horror/suspense remake should please any fan of close P.O.V. terror, as well as captivate those disillusioned with the continually trite ‘ “found footage” brand of scary. The skeletal story is simple and refreshing in its bare bricks.  Sarah (played by the enigmatic, wide eyed, Elizabeth Olson of Martha Marcy May Marlene) is helping her father to clean out their lakeside retreat, and Sarah’s childhood home, so they can sell it. While in the house, strange things start to happen and Sarah begins to fear that it’s not just her father and her uncle in the house with her.

The remarkable element about Silent House is that it mimics one continuous shot. There isn’t a cut in the entirety of the whole film! We follow Sarah from the lake, into the house, through the halls and rooms for the length of the movie, as she runs, screams, cries, and eventually dissolves into epiphany. The film is shot during daylight hours, but inside the house it is completely dark, with no electricity. When Sarah does leave the house briefly, it’s early evening, so we not only feel like a fly on the wall of this old house, we watch as if it is all happening to her in real time. Perhaps this is a comment on our culture’s voyeuristic obsession with reality T.V. and the need for instant gratification. Here, no time is wasted. Silent House transcends our notion of cinematic time. It feels like this is not a movie, but an artifact. This is not found footage, the characters and the story, they don’t need us, they don’t pander to our wishes or fears. This is a peephole into one girl’s trauma and you won’t look away.  

Come down with: a joint or glass of wine and your go-to comedy or light-hearted TV show.


The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson; 2012)

Scott Silsbe and I were recently conversing about our favorite films. He told me he likes to play Sentimental Favorite vs. Actual Best. When we got to P.T. Anderson, I admitted that Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love will always be my sentimental favorites, while I believe There Will Be Blood and The Master are Anderson’s best films. Now, about Anderson’s sixth mind-blowing feature, The Master: the story centers on an alienated drifter, Freddie and his accidental mentor, the charismatic L. Ron Hubbard-esque charlatan, Lancaster Dodd (played by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, in to-be-expected tour de force performances). The odd-couple plods their way through their mutually co-dependent friendship. At times they enable, hurt, manipulate, humiliate, and revile one another. And at other times they gain greater understanding. In the most revelatory and brilliant scene, Dodd probes Freddie with a series of personal questions over gulps of Freddie’s paint thinner moonshine. When Freddie lies in answer to a question, Dodd makes him start over. Though obviously inspired by L. Ron Hubbard’s method of “auditing” potential converts, this scene is so much more dense than all that.  It’s about finding the raw truth in someone. And that is the first thing viewers should come away with. This is not a movie about Scientology, but a movie playing off of an institution we’re familiar with to reveal deeper truths.

If you’re an Anderson fan, you probably know that as his films get smaller in cast and relationships, they grow monumentally in feeling. The Master seems to pick up where There Will Be Blood left off. Now we’re placed in 1950, forty-eight years after oil barons like Anderson’s Daniel Plainview struck black gold.  The American landscape has been discovered, industrialized, and commercialized. The characters of The Master have no new ground to break but that which is inside them. This allows audiences to connect more deeply with the film’s story and characters. It’s 2012, the age of me, me, ME, and this makes The Master possibly P.T. Anderson’s most relevant film, and one that will surely hold up the best over time.



Taylor Grieshober lives in a lovely home with more cats than people. She is co-director of The New Yinzer Presents. When she isn't slogging hog logs, she's writing and watching movies.