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The Sky Is Not Falling: Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System // submit a post -- nelson@nelsoncarvajal.com

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

VIDEO ESSAY: Breaking The Fourth Wall: Jonathan Demme's "Real Cinema" -- In Memoriam


Jonathan Demme, the marvelous director of films like Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, Something Wild and The Silence of the Lambs, passed away this past Wednesday April 26, 2017.

An enduring quality of his films was his ability to skillfully break the fourth wall with his subjective camera (and frequent collaborator and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto) in such a way that felt natural and non-distracting. It was also effective in tapping into the emotions and psyches of the viewers; in the pop culture, for example, most moviegoers can only picture Hannibal Lecter intensely staring through the screen, as if his eyes were set to literally come out of the canvas. Essentially, there is a sense of urgency to these artistic choices that Demme has made with these point-of-view shots. They give his films an extra layer of life and vitality.

Most importantly, these shots help create an all-around empathy for the players on screen. When we see them, they see us.

There's magic in that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

VIDEO: Top 25 Films of 2016


While many were quick to dismiss 2016 as an altogether terrible year--largely due to the year rounding out with TV celeb Donald Trump as the President Elect--it wasn't a throwaway year for the movies. During a time of national unrest and uncertainty, the narratives that graced the silver screen beamed with characters, ideas and themes of unfettered hope...for better or for worse.

Whether it was the harsh lesson of growing up and having your heart broken (Café Society) or choosing to live a lie in exchange for short-term happiness (The Light Between Oceans), the individuals we followed in the cinema were the silver screen embodiment of our unabashed urges to make that jump, to take a leap of faith and step away from our secure existence and reach out to the unknown.

The most striking image of the year came in Denis Villeneuve's Arrival, when linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) approached a white void in the form of an alien wall inside of a UFO vessel -- an almost perfect double for the movie screen itself. The fact that her character ultimately chooses love above all knowledge and certainty of what lies ahead is the grandest gesture of romanticism. It's no wonder Villeneuve has directed some of the recent best films of the year, Prisoners in 2013 and Sicario in 2015. This guy is the real deal.

But the best film of 2016 was made by one of the all-time masters of cinema: the inimitable Martin Scorsese. His long-gestating passion project Silence is big, magnificent, moving, messy at times, quieter than usual and finally unforgettable. This is Scorsese's Heaven's Gate. And running with the theme of unfettered hope, the film's protagonist Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) is put through one of the ultimate tests of hope--one of his faith being challenged. This isn't so much an anthropological film about religion as it is a searing exploration of human will and resilience. The fact that it finds horror and grace on the same wavelength is something that has stuck with me since the days of watching it. It is an unexpected stunner of personal agony and yet it is gloriously presented on a wide scale, from the art direction to the sweeping cinematography, to jaw dropping technical bravado. It's fitting that the best film of the year is called Silence; it is in silence that we have a common thread when watching films, and more importantly, when observing and listening to ourselves, to our hearts.

25. Café Society - Directed by Woody Allen
24. Nocturnal Animals
- Directed by Tom Ford
23. Florence Foster Jenkins
- Directed by Stephen Frears
22. The Conjuring 2
- Directed by James Wan
21. Fences
- Directed by Denzel Washington
20. Hacksaw Ridge
- Directed by Mel Gibson
19. 20th Century Women
- Directed by Mike Mills


18. The Light Between Oceans - Directed by Derek Cianfrance
17. The Nice Guys
- Directed by Shane Black
16. Loving
- Directed by Jeff Nichols
15. Sausage Party
- Directed by  Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
14. Midnight Special
- Directed by Jeff Nichols 
13. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Directed by Gareth Edwards
12. The Neon Demon -
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn


11. 10 Cloverfield Lane - Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
10. Moonlight
- Directed by Barry Jenkins
9. Jackie
- Directed by Pablo Larraín
8. The Lobster
- Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
7. Voyage of Time
- Directed by Terrence Malick 
6. Hell Or High Water - Directed by David Mackenzie
5. La La Land
- Directed by Damien Chazelle


4. Arrival - Directed by Denis Villeneuve
3. Knight of Cups
- Directed by Terrence Malick
2. Manchester by the Sea
- Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
1. Silence
- Directed by Martin Scorsese