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Pretentious Movie Alert: Gus Van Sant Is Still Great

Qualler here, in for Sean, who is swimming in legal mumbo jumbo as we speak. In true Sean fashion, I will now do a much crappier version of a Cartoon! that he would do...

Whew, okay. That was fun, but I think I'll leave those to Sean from now on.

What I really wanna rap at y'all about on this Friday is Gus Van Sant. Specifically, Gus Van Sant's filmic output in 2008. Yes, you may know that his Oscar-baiting Sean Penn-starring biopic Milk is coming out soon, but did you know that earlier this past March, he released one of the best movies of 2008, Paranoid Park? Seriously. What a film.

Paranoid Park, based on a young adult novel by Blake Nelson (which much of the dialogue is directly lifted from), is Van Sant's most plot-based movie since 2000's Finding Forrester (internet nerds may know it as the movie that spawned this phenomenon). Yet, Park definitely falls into the Van Sant category of poetic, contemplative (read: plotless) films of the past decade. (Time has given me more perspective on the three films I reviewed in 2005, and I've come to love all three movies on a certain level.) The difference is that Park uses its hypnotizing scenes to advance the plot. Without spoiling the meaning of certain scenes, the teenage protagonist burning a manuscript to Elliott Smith's "Angeles" is a crushing, heartbreaking scene beyond the obvious "I love this song plus this is neat cinematography level". In fact, about 50% of the film is people skateboarding or walking around set to ambient music and/or Elliott Smith, but most of those scenes say more words than most other films say with more dialogue. (Kind of like epic instrumental rock music, eh Chris?)

The plot itself revolves around a teenage boy in Portland, Oregon, who, while skateboarding at the park which is the basis of the title of the film, causes a terrible accident. While the mechanics of the incident are what drive the film forward, it works more as a portrait of what it feels like to be fifteen years old in the suburbs in a broken home. Two scenes in particular stick out, one with each of his parents, who the camera never really focuses on. Totally heartbreaking, and totally relatable. (And, Gossip Girl's Taylor Momson is in it!!!)
But I can't really give this movie its full praise without gushing about the amazing cinematography. Shot solely in 35-mm film and Super-8, the look of the film is utterly unique. Many of the ambient sections of the film are shot in the grainy Super-8, showing skateboarding teens going up and down ramps while a Brian Eno-esque score plays in the background. The 35-mm scenes, meanwhile, are amazingly colorful, especially when the film gets a little overexposed and the shadows in the scene look especially ominous.

Clearly, the visual style of the film plus the emotional connection to the characters plus the great music make this one of the best films of 2008. Qualler very highly recommends it! (Watch the first ten minutes below.)

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  1. Blogger Sean | 11:16 AM |  

    that comic is hurtful.

  2. Blogger Brigitte | 12:09 PM |  

    hahahahahahahaha....that's a wonderful cartoon. hahahahaha

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