Stephen King – Dollar Baby: The Book (BearManor Media). Reviewed by Constantine Frangos

Book cover

One evening after a full day of work, with four tables pushed together at a café in 2013, I first heard of the Stephen King Dollar Babies program during a precursory meeting which would lead to a film festival that friends and I would put together. One of the local filmmakers in the group simply asked if we had heard of Dollar Babies. They would go on to become my favorite programming block for our short-lived festival. At the same time, over a thousand miles away at the Crypticon Horror Con in Minnesota, Anthony Northrup was hosting his First Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Film Fest (15). For the uninitiated, “Dollar Babies” are short films where King officially grants adaptation rights to student and promising young filmmakers for a single dollar. 

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Ron Ma, Author of FM 11.3 (2020) Article “In Defense of What? The Battle Between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival”

Roma (Netflix, 2018) won the Golden Lion at Venice and is distributed on Netflix, but are people watching the film due to ease of access or due to something else?

Film Matters: Please tell us about your article that is being published in Film Matters.

RM: My article examines the controversy between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, Cannes announced that it would ban films not released in French theaters, such as Netflix films, from competing at the festival. My article situates Cannes’s decision in the context of French politics, the death of cinema, and film festival studies. Ultimately, I try to understand what compelled Cannes to make this decision and what its implications are.

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Red Balloon Motif Analysis. By Logan Wells

Tag (Broken Road Production/New Line Cinema, 2018).

The red balloon has found its way into films of different styles, genres, and eras. It is an image that evokes feelings of hope, imagination, and childlike wonder. Innocent and free from concern, it has been notably present ever since Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon (1956), in which a young Parisian boy finds and befriends a sentient balloon. Royce Marcus addresses the symbolism in the film: “The balloon as well as the children embody all that is pure and free; while the suburbs and the adults represent the harshness of reality, the prison and authority of the everyday – that which limits freedom and creativity” (15). The balloon is a fantastical yet simple symbol that is inevitably opposed by the realism of the world around it. The image has reappeared several times in varying degrees of relevance. It appears in major roles, such as in It (2017), or simple moments that pass by in a moment’s notice, such as Tag (2018) or Wonder Woman 1984 (2020). Despite the obvious differences between these films, the balloon’s role remains the same: to remind the characters and the audience of the profound impact that hope, wonder, and imagination has had on all children.

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The Rock (1996). Reviewed by Yaakov “Jacob” Smith

The Rock (Buena Vista Pictures, 1996).

It would be an understatement to call Michael Bay a punching bag for film critics around the world. Mention of his name has become code, even among the casual moviegoing public, for “bad movie.” This reputation, however, is unfounded. In point of fact, Michael Bay is one of the most visually interesting directors working in the industry, and constantly creates incredible sequences no other filmmaker can replicate. For the best example of his gleefully manic, beautifully destructive style one needs only to see the director’s second film, The Rock (Bay, 1996).

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ALERT: Call for Video Essays

To all our video essay authors submitting to our recent call for video essays that closed on August 15, 2021: A major miscommunication — compounded by the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic — has led to a misprint in the submission email address for video essays. VideographicFM@gmail.com, unfortunately, is a dead, inaccessible email account. We take our submission process very seriously and sincerely apologize for the attendant confusion, delays, and frustration. We do, very much, still want to receive your submissions, however. For those of you still seeking a publication opportunity with Film Matters, please forward any submissions to our new email account — video.filmmatters@gmail.com — which we assure you is now active. Please see below for updated guidelines in English. And we thank you for your patience, grace, and attention in this matter. We promise to work harder to deserve them!

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Eligibility: submissions are accepted from scholars worldwide who are either (1) currently enrolled in an undergraduate program (regardless of discipline) or (2) recent graduates from one. Recent graduates must have received their bachelor’s degrees no earlier than a year from the deadline and must not be currently enrolled in a graduate program.

What to submit: submissions must include three items. (1) An original and unpublished piece of videographic scholarship, authored solely by undergraduates/recent graduates. Video essays must be between 5 and 20 minutes and feature English subtitles (hard-coded), regardless of what languages are spoken in the video. To be considered for publication, video essays must make an identifiable argument and substantially transform the original audiovisual material (i.e., through editing, commentary, etc.). Resources regarding videographic criticism, including information on Fair Use, may be found at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/intransition/resources. Video essays must be uploaded to Vimeo in private mode; link and password must be provided in the accompanying written statement. (2) A written statement of no less than 300 and no more than 600 words. These statements should not be a transcript of the video, but rather an explanation of the author’s intentions. Statements must be written in English, and bilingual statements are especially welcome. (3) A 150-word, English-language bio of the author.

How to submit: please direct your submission and eventual questions to Film Matters Magazine’s Video Essays Editor Pedro Branco (University of Brasília) at VideographicFM@gmail.com video.filmmatters@gmail.com. Feel free to write in English, Portuguese, Spanish, or French.

Deadline: submissions must be received by August 15, 2021 November 1, 2021, to be considered for publication in issue 13.1 13.2 (2022) of Film Matters Magazine.

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Mise-en-Scene Scrapbook: But I’m a Cheerleader. By Tessa Throneburg

Figure 1. Cast in Edward Scissorhands (20th Century Fox, 1990).

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) is a satirical rom-com directed by Jamie Babbit and starring Natasha Lyonne as the film’s protagonist Megan, a closeted cheerleader. Megan is sent to a conversion therapy camp by her friends, family, and boyfriend after they suspect her of being a lesbian due to feminine and vulva-esque motifs in her decorations — all of the posters in her room and locker are of women — and the fact that she does not enjoy kissing her boyfriend. After her family, friends, and boyfriend suspect her of being a homosexual, Megan is sent to a conversion therapy camp run by Mary Brown (Cathy Moriarty), who is in charge of the girls at the camp, and Mike (RuPaul), who is in charge of the boys. Megan and the other youth at the camp have to perform and pass a series of exercises and tests throughout the film in order to “correct” their sexual desires, including cooking, cleaning, and dressing feminine for the girls, and yard work and learning how to fix cars for the boys. At first, Megan is open to changing herself and her sexuality through the program, but as she gains more confidence in her sexuality and falls for one of her peers, Graham (Clea DuVall), she rejects the camp and strives for the freedom to be herself.

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Nolan Crawford, Author of FM 11.3 (2020) Article “’He’s Fictional, But You Can’t Have Everything’: Screwball Comedy and the Viewer’s Reality”

In the signature dance of Top Hat (RKO Radio Pictures, 1935), Dale and Jerry falls in love on the dance floor in one of Astaire and Rogers’s most elegant dances.

Film Matters: Please tell us about your article that is being published in Film Matters.

Nolan Crawford: My article is a comparative analysis of three films, two of which are classic screwball comedies from the 1930s and the third of which is a film from the 1980s whose surrealist plot relies and comments on the screwball comedy genre.  My original hope was to focus solely on the brilliant subversion of the genre and its voyeuristic tendencies which Woody Allen brings to his 1980s film, The Purple Rose of Cairo.  But, in actually writing the essay, the article got to a bigger message.  This bigger message was one on class and the predatory nature of Hollywood studios in the Great Depression, coopting working-class desires through film.  It was a huge pleasure to see this article evolve as I wrote it.

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Mise-en-Scène Scrapbook: Hugo (2011) by Dan Verley

Figure 1 – Setting – 1931 Paris. Hugo (Paramount Pictures, 2011).

After his father dies in a fire, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is taken in by his Uncle Claude (Ray Winston), who takes care of the clocks at a train station. Claude is a drunk and eventually disappears, leaving Hugo to fend for himself. The only things that Hugo has from his previous life are an automaton that his father found in the attic at the museum where he worked and the notebook that his father kept as they were trying to repair the automaton. To prevent losing his home, Hugo continues working on the clocks on his own. He also continues trying to repair the automaton using parts that he pilfers and steals. It’s while stealing parts from a toy booth at the station that he meets the other main character, Georges (Ben Kingsley). Georges has caught Hugo in the act of stealing and, during the subsequent shakedown, discovers the aforementioned notebook. Georges is shocked by the drawings found within and, after Hugo refuses to say who drew them, takes the notebook, saying that he will burn it. Hugo follows Georges home to get the notebook back and meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who lives with Georges and his wife Jeanne (Helen McCrory). The two become friends and bond over a shared love of the movies. At one point, Hugo discovers a key that Isabelle has around her neck in the shape of a heart. He realizes that the key would fit in a slot on the automaton. Hugo and Isabelle use the key, and the automaton comes to life. Hugo believes that the automaton will write a message from his father. Instead, it draws the famous image from Georges Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon, 1902) and signs the image Georges Méliès. Isabelle explains that Georges’s full name is Georges Méliès. This eventually leads them to Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg), a historian and fan of Georges Méliès’s films. He travels to Georges’s home and plays one of his films for Jeanne, Hugo, and Isabelle. Georges returns home at this time and, after encouragement from his wife and the others, tells the story of how his career as a filmmaker ended. He also mentions that he believed the automaton he created had been destroyed in the fire that killed Hugo’s father. Hugo leaves to get the automaton but is captured by the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). The inspector is getting ready to take Hugo to jail when Georges shows up and tells the inspector that Hugo is his boy. The film ends with a public presentation of Georges’s films and an after-party where all the various characters celebrate Georges’s accomplishments.

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Vanessa Zarm, Author of FM 11.3 (2020) Article “The Significance of Ingrid Goes West’s Obsession with Social Media”

Ingrid Goes West. NEON, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbvoNz387K0 [Screengrab from the Official Red Band Teaser].

Film Matters: Please tell us about your article that is being published in Film Matters.

Vanessa Zarm: My article centers around Matt Spicer’s 2017 dark comedy Ingrid Goes West and discusses its contemporary representation of social media, which shares a rare, behind-the-scenes insight into the world of influencers and their famed lifestyle in Los Angeles. In particular, my article focuses on the journey of the film’s protagonist, Ingrid Thorburn, whose obsession with Instagram, alongside her mental instability, dives into the psychological ramifications of using such apps on a day-to-day basis and how heavily it influences today’s generation. 

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Qingyang Zhou, Author of FM 11.3 (2020) Article “Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson”

Frame from Paterson.
The poetic use of dissolves (Paterson, Amazon Studios and K5 International, 2016).

Film Matters: Please tell us about your article that is being published in Film Matters.

Qingyang Zhou: My article uses the theory of flâneur, developed by Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin, to analyze the relationship between poetry, the urban landscape, and driving in American independent film director Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson (2016).

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