Booksmart – Rewind/Rewatch

Director: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein
Streaming: Hulu

There is a lot of trash out there when it comes to teen coming-of-age comedies, especially now with every streaming platform producing multiple ones a year. Booksmart stands out amongst its peers like an overachieving A+ student in a crappy public high school. Olivia Wilde nails her directorial debut by capturing all the elements that compose lasting generational teen coming-of-age comedies. Despite the number of terrible movies in the teen comedy genre, there are also some of our favorites. Movies like Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Can’t Hardly Wait, American Pie, are favorited by their respected generation.

Booksmart is the start of a new generation of teen movies embodying the word of the current teenager. Gen-Zers are smart, woke, open-minded, and hyper self-aware to social status both personally and digitally. Social media and the continuous stream of internet coolness standards shape this young generation, and their movies reflect that. The only major flaw with Booksmart is it seems built from the marketing level up. It might be too polished and too cool to accurately depict teens today, but perhaps that is by design. We live in a time where social media posts and filters dictate our personal lives. How often do we go places or do things with the social media post in mind? Booksmart is the TikTok of teen coming-of-age comedies. Older generations might not understand it at first, but the flashy, over the top sarcastic humor style is here to stay.

The stars of the film, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are hilarious and carry the movie well. It’s a breath of fresh air to see female characters navigating the cliche teenage themes of drinking, sex, and anxiety of the future in a flawed way that feels grounded in reality, even if they turn into dolls at one point in the movie. The female teen point-of-view is relatively present in teen movies (John Hughes movies starring Molly Ringwald come to mind), but Booksmart feels more genuine. Neither girl is super popular and, aside from their excellent grades, they are pretty average, just like most of us in high school.

At first watch, Booksmart might seem created only for the “meme generation,” but great teen movies are relatable to everyone, despite your current age. The contemporary setting of these movies ages well, because no matter how many years removed from high school we get, we all remember vividly what it felt like to be in that setting. Years from now, Gen-Z will watch Booksmart and feel the same way I do when I watch Can’t Hardly Wait, or American Pie or the same way others do when they watch The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink.

Rewind, rewatch and please tell me your thoughts.

Bleed For This, the Movie for Quarantine Purgatory – Rewind/Rewatch

Bleed For This
Director: Ben Younger
Starring: Miles Teller & Aaron Eckhart
Streaming: Netflix

*Five minutes read time.
Perhaps, there is no better movie to rewatch to help deal with the COVID-19 quarantine purgatory we currently live in than the comeback boxing movie, Bleed for This. Audience and critics alike bulldozed the film when it came out, giving it a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes but Bleed for This is better now than in 2016. Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, and Ciarán Hinds give incredible performances, and I can’t seem to find the same plot pitfalls critics do, but that is not why you should rewatch this movie. You should rewatch Bleed for This because it will make you feel better about our current pitfalls.

The Basement 

At its core, “Bleed for This” is the comeback story of real-life boxer Vinny Pazienza, played by the talented Miles Teller. After a tragic car accident, Vinny is confined to his family’s home with a severed spine away from the only life he has ever known, boxing. I can’t help but see the correlation between his injury storyline and the quarantine purgatory we currently live in. Perhaps a comparison isn’t fair to the real-life Vinny Pazienza, but watching movies and applying your own emotion and situation is what creates lasting feelings about a film. Our favorite movies aren’t our favorites because they are the best movies ever made; they are favorites because they mean something to us beyond the cinematic quality.

If you’ve ever been an athlete, you understand the loss of self-identity that comes with an injury. The idea of moving forward with life without what you were before (runner, boxer, basketball player, etc.) is crippling to the mind. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has blanketed this feeling to the masses. We are hurt and scared of losing the life we had before this mess. The virus came just like the car wreck that causes Vinny his injury, a tragic boom of a head-on collision. Now, we are injured and stuck at home. The question presented before us is the same one that loomed over Vinny as he laid in the hospital bed in his mother’s living room; do I accept the negative outcome presented to me, or do I work to get back to where I was?

We can sit in our homes asphyxiating in self-loathing waiting for this to end, and when it does, venture out to the world accepting the change in life we wish not to live, or we can get ourselves down to the basement and grind. Vinny knew life without boxing is no life at all. Each of us has our own “boxing” that we will lose if we don’t work to keep it; it might be your job, friendships, school, whatever. If we are to get back to what we had, we must do what we can in the basements of our minds. It is in the basement that we find our strength, power, and endurance. It is in the basement where we find ourselves. 

In the film, Vinny walks down into that basement less than a week after his surgery, where they inserted a “halo” to fix his neck, and he tries to do the benchpress; he failed. He was too weak and injured to lift the bar. It took time, help from his trainer, and perseverance, but ultimately, he got in shape, fixed his neck, and went on to win another world championship. We shall do the same because life sometimes feels like a boxing movie. We need to fight to get out of this.

Some of the best movies ever produced are stories with the boxing world as the backdrop, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, The Fighter, Rocky, Cinderella Man, On the Waterfront, to name a few. What is the profound commonality of great boxing movies is they often have little to do with boxing. It’s the struggle and perseverance we find so compelling because they come at times when we need a great comeback story. There’s never been a better time for Bleed for This.

Rewind, rewatch and please tell me your thoughts.

The Place Beyond The Pines -Rewind/Rewatch

Back in 2012, I felt like many film critics did about The Place Beyond The Pines, “ambitious to a fault.” Something was amiss seeing the crime epic in the theaters, but I gave it another watch after noticing it is available on Netflix. I am blown away after rewatching the movie. It has slid into my top ten favorite neo-noirs of all time, so if you felt like I did in 2012, I highly recommend a rewatch. Here are four reasons to rewatch The Place Beyond The Pines, now streaming on Netflix.

*Spoilers ahead, Duh*

Point of View Pivot  

A pivot in perspective is a gamble for any filmmaker. The Place Beyond The Pines doesn’t pivot just once but three times. The movie shifts from Luke Glanton, Ryan Gosling’s character to Avery Cross, Bradley Cooper’s character, to their two sons in the final act. We have a single character conditioning from watching countless films that follow that formula. Part of the reason for that is we want to see our movie stars the entire duration of a movie. 2012 is arguably the peak of Ryan Gosling’s popularity, so it did not resonate with audiences to see him killed off in the first act of the movie. However, whatever flaws I saw back in 2012 were gone this time around, and I was able to appreciate the beauty of the change in point of view. Although we follow a different character through each act, there is a consistency of storylines and themes that transcend all four points-of-view creating a more compelling point of view structure. All great films break formulas and test our conditioning as viewers. This movie does it well.

Visual Parallelism 

Derek Cianfrance visual parallels between Luke Glanton and his son, Jason, creates a striking reflection of how children are often a reflection of their parents’ past. The ripple effect of history caused by the decisions we make echo generations. This thought is the centerpiece of the film displayed through Cianfrance’s beautiful long follow shots and the use of identical settings and blocking. The color of the film is grainy, dark and saturated, adding to the neo-noir grittiness of Northeastern town that feels somewhat left behind in history. The story takes place in two different eras separated by fifteen years, yet both feel like the same place in time. The parallels in the story are complemented by stunning visuals. 

The Performances 

I believe audiences didn’t appreciate the exceptional performances because of costume and makeup design decisions. People had a hard time accepting Ryan Gosling’s tattoos, including one on his face or Eva Mendes’s white hair and wrinkly face in the third act when Bradley Cooper somehow didn’t seem to age a day. Once you let go of these innocent discrepancies, you appreciate how great the acting is. All three stars give solid performances, supported by knock-out performances by Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan, Ray Liotta, and Mahershala Ali, to name a few. 

Noir AF

I read a recent GQ nod to the film that states, “the movie about two bad dad’s is on Netflix now.” Many critics similarly view the film focusing on the consequence of the fathers. Yes, the two dads are not the best of people, but neither one is inherently bad nor good; this is what makes noir a compelling genre. At its core, the movie is a crime story with all the elements of a great noir. A criminal living on the edge of society committing crimes for a worthy reason, check. Corrupt police exposed in a corruption scandal, check. Complicated romances destroyed by violence, check. To focus on just the “bad dad’s” storyline is to miss how exceptional of a genre film The Place Beyond The Pines is. 

Rewind, rewatch and please tell me your thoughts.