Being Kazakh, Watching Borat 2, and Being Kazakh While Watching Borat 2

Review of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Written by Teen Writer Isabelle Nurzhanov and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

ENTER BORAT MOVIE REVIEW 1 MCT

From the Kazakh paper Karavan, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is "... certainly not anti-Kazakh, anti-Romani or anti-Semitic… It is a cruelly anti-American movie.”

Pardon the melodrama, but Borat has always been a bit of a specter hanging over my head. Thankfully, most people my age have not seen the film, or at least don’t recall it if I say my ethnicity. For a certain section of movie-goers aged around 25 to 50, however, the Kazakhstani character Borat is usually what first comes to their minds when I answer some variation of, “What are you?”

With the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, being released this past October, I was curious to see how exactly the Borat films portrayed Kazakhstan, and what the years of “my wife” jokes were all about. The sequel to the 2006 film, a mockumentary based upon a fictional Kazakhstani reporter visiting America, follows the same titular character as he attempts to give his daughter as a diplomatic gift to Vice President Mike Pence.

The movie is…fine. It fulfills its purpose of satirizing the American culture and, more specifically, a particular strain of American patriotism. But the political satire moments are not surprising, nor do they ever seem to go further than the same kind of humor that has propped up SNL for the past four years. This film isn’t doing anything groundbreaking by documenting bigotry or complacency, even if they are being expressed in absurd ways. Yes, we shouldn’t let ourselves get desensitized to that absurdity, but it’s what we’ve been seeing for a while now. The escalating absurdity of COVID and politics is the set-up and punchline to joke about 2020. And with the election already over and bigger systemic problems still existing and causing harm, the satire here feels insubstantial. Is this it? Do we really need scenes of Borat dressing as President Trump to go to the Republican National Convention, or convincing anti-maskers at a rally to sing a song about the “Wuhan Flu”?

As good as the intentions are in exposing the ugly racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and sexism (and tolerance of that discrimination) beneath the veneer of old-fashioned Americana, these issues seem obvious to anyone who is Jewish, nonwhite, female, LGBTQ+. Of course, it can be cathartic to see your experiences on screen, but it can also just be frustrating to have a movie be what validates your oppression as truthful. It’s exhausting to know that people will believe a movie over what minorities are actually telling them.

The comedy is a toss-up; since the film is so heavily reliant on uncomfortable scenarios, it’s truly dependent on whether you’re a fan of cringe comedy or not. I admittedly had to pause multiple times throughout the movie to catch a break. In addition, the emotional throughline of Borat and his daughter’s relationship falls flat, with the ridiculous and unscripted nature of the premise barring any kind of big character development between the two. Tulebaev Steet, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo by Nurgissa Ussen on Unsplash.

Beyond the content of the film, I question the usage of Kazakhstan, specifically. The screenwriters could’ve easily used a fictional country. But then again, it is darkly humorous to see American’s perceptions of “strange foreigners” from a real, albeit obscure, country. Even funnier is the idea that some people may think the country portrayed does not exist at all. (Note: True story. After I had told someone I was from Kazakhstan, they informed me that they “thought Borat had made it up.”) Despite this, the usage of Cyrillic and vague Slavic accents does make it seem as though Russian culture is all there is and all there ever was in Kazakhstan, which is slightly worrying with the context of Russian imperialism in Central Asia and the knowledge that most Westerners are unaware of the region.

The character of Borat didn’t intend to portray the real-life experiences of being Kazakh, but he has become a part of those real-life experiences. Despite Cohen’s intention of using Kazakhstan as a commentary on American’s ignorance of foreign nations, Borat seems to be the first thing Americans mention to any Central Asian person they meet. From the other Central Asian folks I know, online and in my family, most of them have had Borat references and jokes directed towards them. Do the films’ benefits outweigh those jokes towards Kazakhs and Central Asians? In the age of asking for more representation in American film and television, is it okay that this is what we get? I can’t speak on any kinds of anti-Semitism or anti-Romani sentiment, but I don’t think Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is anti-Kazakh, and I largely agree with the quotation from Karavan above. Despite these concessions, I’m still left wondering: is this the best filmmakers, comedians, and celebrities can do?

Lead photo credit: Sascha Baron Cohen in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Amazon Studios/TNS

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

Read More

Exploring the Italian Identity Through Food and Film

Review of Bread, Love, and Cinema: Italian History Through Film and Food presented by SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Lily Parker and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

Bread

When someone says Italy, most people think of things like the Roman Empire, pizza, Catholicism, Mussolini, spaghetti, gelato, and pizza. Maybe I'm just hungry, but food is certainly a defining element of Italy. And so, argues Dr. Antonio Iannotta, is film, though that is an area fewer people consider. In his virtual SIFF class Bread, Love, and Cinema: Italian History Through Film and Food, Iannotta explores food scenes from nine Italian movies and connects them to the broad historical context in which they were created. Having visited Italy before, I have experience with Italian food and culture, but I have also seen exactly zero of these movies. With that said, looking at food through film was an eye-opening way to understand the Italian identity. I was especially impacted by the scenes from the films Bicycle Thieves, Rocco and His Brothers, and Big Night.

Ladri di biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves, is a 1948 movie that tells the story of Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), a father who embarks on a wild goose chase with his son Bruno to find his stolen bike and save his job. The scene Iannotta played from this movie follows the pair at a restaurant. The dichotomy between Bruno and a rich girl at the other table is especially striking, as she continues getting dish after dish while the boy eats fried bread and mozzarella (a cheap peasant dish made from leftovers). After WWII, Italy was wracked by divisions and debt, as well as an unstable government and weak law enforcement. This made security uncertain, with life easy for thieves and difficult for decent people like Antonio as well as filmmakers. Director Vittorio De Sica funded the film out of his friends' pockets, shooting only on location and using amateur actors (Maggiorani was a factory worker). Despite this, the film was a huge success worldwide, and it had special meaning to Italians who saw Antonio's struggles mirrored in their own lives. Its appeal to all audiences comes through the compelling relationship between father and son who, like bread and mozzarella, are much better together.

Made and set in the sixties, Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and his Brothers) follows a family from southern Italy that moves to newly industrialized Milan. The story of moving North for opportunity related to many Italians at that time, as the country quickly gained economic power in the North while the agrarian South remained almost as poor as it had been during WWII. The core of this movie, however, is family. The selected scene focuses on their mother, clearly the glue of the household, feeding her boys coffee and bread before shoving them out the door to find work. Despite poor food and little means, the family works together to make life better, revealing the deep ties and perseverance of the Italian spirit.

Big Night is actually a 1996 American film starring Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci, but Iannotta included it because it accurately represents the experiences of Italian immigrants. The stars play two brothers, Primo and Secondo, who open a restaurant in New Jersey in the fifties. The problem? Americans have a very different idea of Italian food than Italians. One scene shows a customer who asks for spaghetti and is appalled when no meatballs come with it. This is because southern Italy was much poorer—meat was almost never available, and diets consisted mostly of breads and vegetables. Spaghetti and meatballs is an authentic Italian dish, but one that originated in America, where meat was much more commonly accessible. It is here Iannotta emphasizes the diversity in Italian food, both within Italy and throughout the world. From city to city you will find different dishes, but each is grounded in a strong Italian identity.

I have never truly looked at Italy from an Italian point of view, only from textbooks and tour guides. Iannotta’s depth of knowledge and passion for the subject area revealed a side to Italian culture I had not seen before. The flow of the class worked well for an online setting. Iannotta would briefly introduce the movie, play a clip, and then dissect it, allowing people to first draw their own conclusions before adding his take. Though the films weren't played in exact chronological order, it was still easy to grasp the general arch of the stories and how they fit with one another. Zoom’s chat and Q&A functions are no replacement for in-person relations between teacher and student, but Iannotta made the content accessible and answered every question posed with grace and depth. Through this class, my eyes were opened to the Italian identity, capturing perfectly how food is inexplicably tied to culture, and to family. One thing is for certain. I am going to buy a vat of gelato and watch every single one of those movies.

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) | 1948, dir. Vittorio De Sica

Poverty and Nobility (Miseria e nobiltà) | 1954, dir. Mario Mattoli

An American in Rome (Un americano a Roma) | 1954, dir. Steno

The Gold of Naples (L’oro di Napoli) | 1954, dir. Vittorio De Sica

Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli) | 1960, dir. Luchino Visconti

The Big Feast (La grande abbuffata) | 1973, dir. Marco Ferreri

We All Loved Each Other So Much (C’eravamo tanto amati) | 1974, dir. Ettore Scola

Big Night | 1996, dir. Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Facing Windows (La finestra di fronte) | 2003, dir. Ferzan ÖzpetekLead photo credit: Courtesy of SIFF

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

Read More

NEWCOMER: The Best Thing

Review of NEWCOMER at NWFF

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

NEWCOMER Film Still 3

The week before we officially went into lockdown, I had one last hurrah at a Saint Motel concert. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was in an enclosed space with so many people as a pandemic loomed on the horizon. Nine months in, loud throbs of music, air-sharing with strangers, and general feelings of exuberance are nowhere to be found, at least not in person. Enter NEWCOMER: A Seattle Hip-Hop Mixtape: a virtual look at Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop scene.

In a tour around Seattle’s small venues, NEWCOMER guides the viewer through black-and-white footage of various hip-hop concerts. Artists rap, sing, DJ, and in the case of Chong the Nomad, play the harmonica while beatboxing. Each clip is both fully immersive and beautifully shot; if it weren’t for the lack of sweaty crowds in my room, I’d believe I was actually there. The footage feels like a concert clip on your phone, but better, and the black-and-white cinematography serves to both clearly contrast the artist and audience as well as evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The past nine months have felt like a lifetime, and indeed, the cinematography emphasizes the fact that these events happened in the past. The presence of crowds is a shocking reminder of our pre-pandemic memories, when seeing live music wasn’t dangerous. Seeing people be able to be together and share an artistic experience is sad, yes, but a thought-provoking time capsule into the lives we once lived. In this sense, NEWCOMER is a perfect film for our time in that it allows us to immerse ourselves in the one thing there is no good online alternative for: the live concert experience. Film still from NEWCOMER. Shot and edited by filmmaker Gary Campbell.

Read More

December, a Time For Expression

Teen Editorial Staff December 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lucia McLaren and Mila Borowski

Elena mozhvilo C Tukx4jf Wac unsplash

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s the best time of the year to curl up with a hot drink and watch some socially-distanced entertainment! This December, we hope this wide variety of arts programs will have a treat for just about anyone.

To explore the realms of dance, Written in Water by the Ragamala Dance Company and presented by Meany Center for the Performing Arts, takes a refreshing, multimedia take on one’s journey to connect themself with their emotions and spirituality. If you’ve been craving a more comedic escape, take a look at Jet City Improv’s Twisted Flicks. Their improv-dialogue over classic movies of the past is sure to give you the laughter you need. When it comes to missing the experience of your favorite local restaurant, SIFF presents Bread, Love, and Cinema, a class on Italian food and how it’s interconnected with Italian film history.

Read More

Is LGBTQ+ A Genre?

Written by Teen Writers Kyle Gerstel and Adrian Martin and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

Everything sucks cred scott natrick green netflix

Well, what makes a film a western: the tone, or the cowboys? There is a specific procedure followed by most cowboy movies to effectively portray the (glorified) joys and hardships of cowboy life, with subject and style aligning to form the western genre. However, LGBTQ+ cinema has much broader potential, since a character’s gender and sexuality can be explored in multitudes of ways and don’t dictate every aspect of a story. This suggests that LGBTQ+ should not be considered a genre, but rather a categorization.

However, is that useful to queer people? Due to the inaccessibility of arthouse films, many young LGBTQ+ folks are forced to navigate mainstream entertainment giants like Netflix for crumbs of representation, which can be exhausting. According to GLAAD, a media organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ coverage, less than 20% of films from major studios in 2019 had a character that explicitly identified as LGBTQ+. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented in popular media, so streaming platforms having a category to make finding such stories easier can make the experience much less isolating. One Day at a Time cast. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer - © 2018 Getty Images

Read More

Spontaneous Starts Off With a Bang and Ends With A Letdown

Review of Spontaneous

Written by Teen Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

Spontaneous2

Paramount Pictures’ Spontaneous (2020), directed by Brian Duffield, starts off with a bang. Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford), a high school senior, is in class when the girl sitting in front of her explodes. Not like a bomb, but “like a balloon,” Mara explains later to her friend Tess McNulty (Hayley Law). Soon, more and more students begin exploding out of nowhere and the phenomenon is dubbed, after the high school where it occurred, “the Covington curse.”

Only a few days after the explosion, a boy named Dylan Hovemeyer (Charlie Plummer) suddenly confesses that he has a crush on Mara, and just as spontaneously as children began exploding, the movie takes a jarring shift from a blend of dark comedy, horror, and mystery into coming-of-age rom-com territory. This isn’t the first shift in genres, as the movie swings between horror movie, science fiction, action, and teen drama in a truly bizarre mashup that doesn’t work with the plot.

Read More

This November, Let’s Give Thanks to Art

Teen Editorial Staff November 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Eleanor Cenname and Mila Borowski

Hans eiskonen Pot G Jds W06k unsplash

We’ve made it to November, and we’ll need thirty more chicken scratches drawn on the wall before we can say we’ve made it to December. Between now and then, our calendar is full of activities—all of which will be happening in the confines of our own homes. If you, like us, need an escape from the same, familiar backdrop of wherever you Zoom from, we suggest going on some audio adventures.

This month, as we brace ourselves for the election, check out It Can't Happen Here, a satirical audio drama written in 1935 about a president promising to return the country to greatness; can it get any more relevant than that? Mustard Seeds, part of Pork Filled Production’s Unleashed Festival of pulp stories, explores the Underground Railroad through a staged reading. Explore a different underground phenomenon through Northwest Film Forum’s Newcomer, described as “A Seattle Hip-Hop Mixtape.” Newcomer packs in hundreds of local performances from Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground into 82 minutes.

Read More

Art as Activism Fall Workshop Lineup

Join TeenTix for a series of workshops on how art can be an act of activism.

Art as activism general workshop ad

Join us for a series of FREE online TeenTix workshops exploring how art is a powerful tool for activism and the fight for racial justice. Each workshop will focus on a different genre of art including film, music, visual and performing arts. You’ll learn about the history of social justice movements and how art has played a role in both the past and present movements.

Use the links below to sign up for individual workshops, or all three! Arts Collaboration For Social Change: Using The Visual & Performing Arts as Tools For Cultural Resistance with David Rue

Read More

Getting Into Good Trouble

Review of John Lewis: Good Trouble at SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Carolyn Davis and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

Rsz dereksmith

The documentary Good Trouble, hosted by SIFF, is a skillfully told biography of the iconic civil and human rights activist John Lewis. With a heart of gold and the courage to stand up for his nation, Lewis urges us not to stay quiet, but to get in “good trouble, necessary trouble,” which he says will “redeem the soul of America.” The cinematography in this documentary is unique in that it shows both footage from the current day and the 1960s. Lewis himself said he was seeing footage he had never seen before. The film was an excellent representation of the Civil Rights era, as well as the heroes of that time. It was focused on Lewis’ life, but also incorporated the lives of others who impacted him and the change we see today.

The way the film highlights non-violence is very impactful to me because it is about getting into “good trouble.” The fact that peaceful marches and sit-ins get the most screen-time shows how the movement for the lives and rights of Black people has always been peaceful—whether it was the March on Washington in 1963 or the Black Lives Matter marches today. Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Read More

Welcome to the Moulin Rouge!

Review of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Disha Cattamanchi and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

Moulin Rouge 2

It’s a dark night—so dark that the clouds seem to eat the stars. Yet, you stumble forward until you are in front of a scarlet windmill and a towering elephant. It’s a place where the bohemians revel in their ways of truth, beauty, freedom and love. Where men gaze upon the layers of frills and ruffles that dress the can-can dancers. You can hear the singing of “Sparkling Diamonds” and a heartfelt love ballad echoing throughout the night. Welcome to the glamorous Moulin Rouge!, a romantic drama that follows the poet Christian (Ewan McGregor) and Moulin Rouge courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) in their attempt to conceal their love from Satine’s suitor, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh). Directed and written by Baz Luhrmann, this jukebox musical exceeded expectations when it came to the production of movie musicals.

Those who have watched Moulin Rouge! fall into one of two groups; they either love it or hate it. Ever since I first watched this whimsical drama, I fell in love with the costumes and characters. But above all, this movie’s use of editing and cinematography is what makes it great. Jump cuts and fast panning shots are frequent throughout the first act. These shots feel psychedelic with their haphazard movement through velvet curtains, waves of ornate dresses, and drunk men. The cinematography captures the Moulin Rouge’s eccentricity, an aspect that contrasts with newcomer Christian’s lifestyle; the Moulin Rouge is truly unlike anything the aspiring poet from England has ever seen. During his arrival, we see the Moulin Rouge as Christian sees it: a flamboyant dreamland of vivid colors. The jarring cuts that capture his experience ease up as the film progresses and Christian gets used to the Moulin Rouge’s outlandishness, though the eccentricity does not lessen. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! (2001) Photo by Sue Adler, 2001 - 20th Century Fox - All Rights Reserved

Read More

An Ode to Childhood, Memory, and Fatherhood

Review of Our Time Machine at NW Film Forum

Written by TeenTix Newsroom writer Yoon Lee and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

Rsz our time machine 02 1080

The first scenes when watching Our Time Machine are of shadow puppets, held up to a light against a translucent screen. The warm, gentle light filtering through the yellowing paper; the lifelike, flowing movements of the son puppet pedalling on a bicycle as his aging father chases after him; the soft glow highlighting the son in bed; the tinkling of toys and bikes; this whole opening oozes of nostalgia, the memories of being a child. Much like Papa’s Time Machine, the play this scene is taken from, this movie is an ode to a child’s memories of his father.

Directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang, and Shuang Liang, (and produced by Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang), Our Time Machine follows an artistic photographer, Ma Liang (Maleonn) on a journey to create, fund, and ultimately perform his play Papa’s Time Machine, a tribute to his father who is ailing from Alzheimer’s disease. Our Time Machine is a phenomenal movie. Most documentaries are built on going from one idea or fact to the next. In the context of the genre this is not a bad thing, documentaries are meant to convey information in an understandable manner to an audience. However, Our Time Machine is unique in how it is built like a true movie. It has unique pacing and plot points that keep you interested in the story of Maleonn as he struggles to create and fund his project as a tribute to his father. The sampling of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage are deliberate and well-used. Not a single scene is unnecessary. For example, there is a scene in the latter half of the movie where Maleonn's parents are moving to a retirement home. This is payoff to an earlier scene with Maleonn wishing to buy a house for them, but his mother expressing how she is being overwhelmed by his father’s deteriorating state. There is a scene where the mother and father are in a car, and the mother is declaring their moving to the home. Although short and without explicit dialogue, one can feel the emotion behind the scene. In addition, there are many scenes without explicit emotional reconciliation, and are upsetting emotionally; these examples demonstrate how reality is unkind, and oftentimes unforgiving. Maleonn with bird puppet. Photo credit: Maleonn Studio

Read More

Don’t F**k With Cats Is a Brilliant Documentary That Never Should Have Been Made

Review of the Netflix documentary Don't F**k With Cats

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Valentine Wulf, and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

CATS2

Content Warning: This review contains description of murder and animal violence. Not recommended for younger readers.

2010. A video appears on Youtube titled “1 boy 2 kittens.” In the video, a man in a blue jacket, the hood obscuring his face, places two kittens on the ugliest wolf blanket you ever did see. He pets them briefly, before placing them in a vacuum bag. He attaches the vacuum to the bag. He turns the vacuum on. The internet loses its mind. After all, as internet sleuth Baudi Moovan said herself, “There’s one unwritten rule on the internet. Don’t f**k with cats.” The Netflix documentary, aptly named Don’t F**k With Cats, covers the story of the kitten killer and the scramble to catch him before he makes the leap from killing cats to killing humans.

Read More

A NFFTY Artist Feature

Interview with filmmakers from the 2020 NFFTY Film Festival

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

What We See In The Clouds NFFTY Pic

Barb Hoffman just wanted to draw on clouds. Now, her film, What We See in the Clouds, is up for a jury nomination at NFFTY, the largest youth film festival in the world. This week, I had the privilege to speak with her (virtually) as well as the young artistes behind God is a Lobster, another film debuting at the festival, to discuss their experience making films safely in the age of COVID-19. Let’s see what they’ve been up to:

In Hoffman’s What We See in the Clouds, she has her friends describe what they see in various pictures of—you guessed it—clouds. Then, Hoffman expresses the descriptions visually by drawing on top of the images, blurring the line between reality and imagination. Essentially, she crafted a cloud-centric Rorschach Test and conveyed her results through mixed-media animation. She chose this technique because “telling stories with actual imagery that we’re used to, plus images on top of it gives [the film] a sense of magical realism that I’m very intrigued in seeing.”

Read More

A Socially Distant September

Teen Editorial Staff September 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shukla and Triona Suiter

Elijah o donnell umbrella

This is a strange time for the arts world. Art is a community effort, a group-bonding experience… yet right now, we’re all watching these pieces in separate locations, isolated and alone. We hope our reviews provide the connective tissue between your viewing experiences and someone else’s—a chance for you to reflect on artwork alongside our writers. If nothing else, we’ll offer you arts recommendations to brighten your socially distant September.

If you want to get dressed up, grab some snacks, and make the most of your at-home viewing with pieces that would have been shown physically in any other year, then sit down to watch Pacific Science Center’s online footage of Laser Dome 360, Whim Whim’s XALT, or NFFTY 2020. Extra points if you bring $5 and your TeenTix pass!

Read More

Am I Totally Buggin’?

Review of Clueless

Written collectively by the Teen Editorial Staff

Clueless 4

This year's Teen Editorial Staff spent an evening watching the film Clueless, and brushing up on their review writing as they prepared for the launch of the 2020/2021 TeenTix Newsroom. Read on to hear what today's teens think of the '90's teen classic! ANYA

One could argue that the film’s haphazard plot structure serves to emulate Cher’s ditziness. Unfortunately, her character also confuses me. Near the beginning of the movie, Cher holds up a test to a picture of her mother, who died during a routine liposuction, and cheerfully says, “98 in geometry; pretty groovy, huh?” Cher is smart enough to get 98% of her answers correct… and she uses words like “impotent” and “capricious” in her everyday speech. But, at the same time, her logic leaves much to be desired in her other classes; she thinks her El Salvadorian housekeeper speaks Mexican. There’s a distinct disconnect here that is left unexplained. How can Cher be a brainiac but at the same time be so utterly clueless? How can she be logical enough to write proofs in geometry, but fail to structure a coherent argument in debate??

Read More

Tangerine: A Powerful Picture of Black Trans Lives

Review of Tangerine at Northwest Film Forum

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Taylar Christianson and edited by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras

Tangerine 2

The world of Tangerine starts in a donut shop. It’s Christmas Eve in L.A., and Sin-Dee Rella has just been released from a month in prison, only to discover her boyfriend, Chester, has been cheating on her in the short time she’s been gone. Sin-Dee and her best friend, Alexandra, set off on a vibrant and emotional journey through West Hollywood, looking for revenge on Chester and his side piece—if they can find them.

Directed by Sean Baker (most recently known for The Florida Project), Tangerine is a hilarious and emotionally resonant buddy comedy about the lives of two Black transgender sex workers. Famously filmed on an iPhone 5S, the film creates a beautiful, saturated world populated by an authentic and talented cast, including first-time actors Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor as Sin-Dee and Alexandra. Both Rodriguez and Taylor contributed hugely to the story and tone of Tangerine, informing the film with their experiences as Black trans women and their knowledge of L.A.’s sex work community. Tangerine’s main plot is inspired by a conversation overheard by Rodriguez about a trans woman whose boyfriend cheated on her with a cisgender woman, or a “fish”, while she was in prison. During the movie’s development, Rodriguez made a particular request of Baker: to “show the harsh reality of what goes on out here… I want you to make it hilarious and entertaining for us and the women who are actually working the corner.” Baker credited Rodriguez for changing his original vision of a bleak drama into something “that would present these characters to mainstream audiences in a pop culture way, so that they could identify with them.” Mickey O’Hagan and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Read More

2040: An Accessible and Hopeful Look Into the Future

Review of 2040 screened virtually by The Grand Cinema
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes

2040

Climate change is scary. There’s no way to mince words with this one. We’re constantly being bludgeoned with articles and news headlines and cynical documentaries about how the end is nigh. It’s overwhelming—but there’s still hope.

Award winning Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau shares his hope with us in the optimistic, but not unrealistic documentary 2040. It’s rare to find climate-focused films that aren’t completely devoid of hope, but those that do often propose hypothetical solutions that would cost billions of dollars and require outlandish inventions. What sets 2040 apart from the myriad of other doomsday documentaries is that Gameau’s proposed solutions are ideas and inventions that already exist in the world today. No false promises or far fetched ideas. He calls it “fact-based dreaming.”

Read More

Celebrate and Graduate!

Teen Editorial Staff June 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Joshua Fernandes and Tova Gaster

Photo 1462536943532 57a629f6cc60

It has been a very long year. Or at least a very long six months. The events that need no introduction have completely changed our way of life, our mindsets, and our perspectives. Despite this monumentally terrible year, we all made it to the summer and now is the time to move forward and celebrate! While maintaining social distancing regulations, of course. To help ease those social summer urges, we here on the Teen Editorial Staff have picked some truly wonderful online art for your viewing and our reviewing pleasure.

If you find your film recommendation list running low, then Tangerine at Northwest Film Forum might scratch that itch. Following the story of a transgender sex worker and her best friend tracking down the pimp that cheated on her, this drama-comedy is sure to be a wild ride. If you’re looking for something a little more grounded, then you should’ve already seen Blackfish by now. Playing in SIFF’s Virtual Cinema, Blackfish is a 2013 documentary exposing the dark underbelly of Seaworld and their treatment of orcas. If you’re interested in helping out more local populations, there’s always MOHAI’s History at Home website. Sharing new highlights from their museum each week, this is a great way to stay connected and maintain a sense of community while staying apart. If you like your community to be more musical, there’s always Kirkland Performance Center at Home’s weekly throwback videos. Throwing it back to some of KPC’s best performances, this series offers live performances, interviews, and sing-alongs serving as a glowing reminder of the uplifting nature of the rock community. If you want a little more groove out of your music, you have to check out Duende Libre at Earshot Jazz Fest. The self proclaimed “power trio” of Alex Chadsey on piano, Jeff Busch on percussion, and Farko Dosumov on bass is sure to deliver “musical medicine” right to your soul. Finally, if you want something a little more classic, there’s no better option than Also sprach Zarathustra at Seattle Symphony. Inspired by the philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, this score is perhaps most well known for its use in Stanley Kubrick's iconic film: 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Read More

Texas High School SXSW Shorts: Heart à la Carte!

Review of the SXSW 2020 Official Short Film Selections, Texas High School category

Written by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Kathy Fennessy

Sxsw 1

Making films is really really hard. Making films with borrowed equipment and a budget of $0 is even harder. And making films with borrowed equipment and a budget of $0 while still learning the ins and outs of filmmaking is probably the hardest. Having made films myself for four years in high school, I can attest to this. There are so many ways a film shoot can go wrong, and a lot of a film’s success isn’t about how skilled a filmmaker you are, but rather how well you can solve problems. That’s why I have so much respect for these Texas high school students, not only for making movies, but for making good movies. So anything critical said about these films comes with a heaping helping of respect for the filmmakers behind them. God knows I have made so, so, so much worse.

The first short I watched was Miu Nakata’s Wish Upon a Snowman. It’s a stop-motion piece about a girl eagerly awaiting Christmas, only for spooky happenings to occur. The animation is very commendable, but more than that, I was quite impressed with the set design. I’ve seen a lot of amateur stop-motion where the background is nothing more than a poorly-printed photo of a city street or someone’s mom doing the dishes, but here there are well-constructed and convincing sets, giving the production a sense of professionalism. However, the short lost me towards the middle, when everything became “creepy.” The issue is that I found the original doll way creepier than the generic skeleton. Additionally, it’s a nice touch that the whole short revolves around a literal “nightmare before Christmas” complete with skeleton dog, like the Henry Selick film, and the short wears this influence on its sleeve in a very charming way.

Read More

An Artificial Killer (Whale)

Review of BLACKFISH, screened by Virtual SIFF Cinema
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Eleanor Cenname and edited by Teen Editor Olivia Sun

Blackfish 1

Sometimes, we ignore the truth in favor of a more digestible alternative. After all, no one wanted to see the intense pain that turned a captive killer whale, Tilikum, into a violent being. For SeaWorld’s Tilikum, his pain was not only felt physically by a tiny cell that restricted him from swimming 40 miles a day, but also emotionally from unbearable loneliness. With Tilikum’s story as the focal point in a multifaceted depiction of the brutal sea-circus industry, Gabriela Cowperwaite’s documentary BLACKFISH leaves no room for ignorance.

Cowperwaite weaves a cohesive story from interviews, SeaWorld advertisements, archival footage, and 9-1-1 call recordings. This stark combination makes the SeaWorld advertisements more akin to propaganda. Coupled with the interviews, the advertisements are morose and gaudy. But of this footage, the most compelling is an interview with John Crowe, one of the men who captured young orcas and shipped them to sea-parks around the world. Crowe describes his participation in a brutal 1970 capture in the Salish Sea. While Tilikum was captured near Reykjavik, not in the Salish Sea, the message is the same. Crowe regretted his participation in the capture of the orcas because he saw their profound emotional connection to one another as well as grief from mothers who were taken from their young. A scene from BLACKFISH, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo courtesy of Christopher Towey.

Read More

TeenTix Logo
Login
Sign Up

Login

Create an account | Reset your password