‘Say Anything’ will make you smile no matter what your relationship status

Okay, so Valentine’s Day is upon us and even though I’m a happily single gal, I’ll take any excuse to talk about my favorite romances. And Say Anything is one of my all-time favorites! I love showing this film to anyone who hasn’t seen it, because, *spoiler alert*, it’s impossible not to love.

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SETTING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS SINCE 1989

If you’re unfamiliar, Say Anything, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, follows Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), a high school graduate atypically comfortable with the uncertainty of his own future. He doesn’t know what he wants to be necessarily and he’s okay with that. On the other hand, valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) thinks she knows exactly what she wants. Everyone tells Lloyd that he could never make it with Diane, but he believes. He asks her out and they fall deeply for each other. Opposites really do attract. But, as with all teen romances, there are complications. DRAAAAMA ENSUES.

Here are a few reasons why you’ll fall deeply in love with Say Anything:

The Cast

I know I always say this, but the cast in this film is incredible. John Cusack had spent the 80’s playing teenagers, so it’s no surprise that by the time this film came along, Cusack wasn’t exactly ecstatic. However, once he read Crowe’s script, he was in…and what a difference his presence makes. He IS Lloyd Dobler. His charm carries the film.

“He [Lloyd Dobler] isn’t a tunnel-versioned urban teen preoccupied with sex, school, and his job. I realized I would never be 20 again so I might as well cap off that phase of my career on a positive note. I’m glad I took the part.” – John Cusack

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And he can sort of play the guitar…<3

Ione Skye is equally important, but unlike Cusack, she was fairly new to acting at the time. This may be a weird thing to point out, but I appreciated that Skye was not perfect. She was obviously gorgeous, but she had a kind of lisp and I don’t know, she just seemed like a real person. She was genuine and natural and you could understand why Lloyd liked her.

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Girl, I FEEL YOU.

Lili Taylor is also fantastic as Lloyd’s friend, Corey. You might know her from Six Feet Under or American Crime or something else entirely. She’s a big character actress. But, to me, she will always be this character. Her saga with Joe is relatable AF.

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YAS QUEEN.

Paul Mahoney cannot be undervalued either. Another great character actor, his portrayal of James Court, Diane’s father, is layered. In a lot of ways, he’s a bad guy. But, you can’t quite hate him. He loves Diane and in his mind, all the immoral things he’s done, have been for her.

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Just trying to be a good dad…

Bonus: Joan Cusack is wonderful AS ALWAYS. She plays the sister to Lloyd, quite a stretch for her. Ha.

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Her hair is so 80’s.

The Script

Cameron Crowe had written the script for another teen movie eight years earlier: Fast Times at Ridgemont High which Clueless‘ Amy Heckerling directed. Though both scripts are well written, tonally they are very different. Strangely, I feel sort of disconnected from that film. I didn’t see myself in it. Say Anything felt more true to my high school experiences. The characters weren’t stereotypes. They were people.

Diane is ambitious and kind. She thinks the world of her father and ultimately, finds that he doesn’t live up to that. We all get to that point, some earlier than others, where we’re forced to see our parents as people. Her father is far from perfect, but he does love her and that’s worth something.

Lloyd is happy within himself. Once he falls in love with Diane, he finds his post-high school purpose. As a society, we tend to judge people who get into serious relationships too early. We say, they’re too young to know what they really want. And perhaps that’s true. Maybe Diane and Lloyd’s love affair doesn’t last, but this is a movie and I want a happy ending, damnit!

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So sweet!

Crowe based the film on his own heartbreak and it shows. The romance as well as its complications feels genuine. Diane and Lloyd fall hard for one another and it’s sweet and awkward and heartbreaking.

Also, the pen thing. Epic.”I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

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I mean, EPIC, amiright?

The Direction

Believe it or not, Lawrence Kasdan was originally going to direct the film. Prolific producer James L. Brooks had met Crowe when he was researching Broadcast News and hired him to write a script about a girl who finds out her father is a criminal. Once the script was complete, Kasdan told Crowe, “You are that main character. You should direct it” (Interview, Cameron Crowe).

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This relationship always makes me smile.

This was Crowe’s directorial debut and he’s been very candid about the fact that he was learning on the job. I think the first film a director makes is always fascinating because it’s the most pure. They’re really trying, they’re excited. They don’t know what the “right” way to do something is. This was certainly true with Reality Bites and Ben Stiller as well as with Time after Time and Nicholas Meyer.

The Music

Crowe started as music reporter for Rolling Stone, so I think it’s safe to say, the music he chose was important. Beyond the seminal boom box scene which blasted Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”, the soundtrack for the film also had hits by Depeche Mode, Cheap Trick and Nancy Wilson. The 80’s, man. You’ve gotta love it.

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Honestly, aren’t we all?

The Romance

Again, just, YES. The romance is everything. I have a running joke. I’ve never been on a plane and I keep telling my friends, I’m just waiting for my Lloyd Dobler. When they actually understand the reference (which happens maybe 50 percent of the time), I make them laugh.

But, back to the romance. Just look at these gifs and feel ALL THE FEELS.

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The first time you talk to your crush…the awkwardness!
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PICTURE FUCKING PERFECTION.
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This is her “I’m so messed up” look
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I always watched this scene and was like, “Maybe he should shower first.” Just a thought!
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You just described every great success story. ❤ ❤ ❤

It’s a seminal, heartfelt, old-school, yet modern romance!

Seminal is the key word. If you haven’t seen it, you need to ASAP. Your life will just be better for it. Plus, if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, IMHO, this is a good way to spend your time because it gives us all hope that there is a Lloyd Dobler out there for each and every one of us, or a Diane Court!

Plus, the Peter Gabriel song is just really good.

Vintage trailer below:

Photos and Gifs property of 20th Century Fox Films.

 

 

Why ‘Other People’ is more than just another Cancer drama

As the new year was approaching, I saw numerous ‘Best Movies of 2016’ lists by friends on Facebook. The usual suspects were there: La La Land, Edge of Seventeen, Manchester By the Sea, Twentieth Century Women (well, it was on my list. I don’t think many people have seen it yet.). However, there was one movie that kept getting mentioned which I had never heard of, which of course was very distressing. I pride myself on knowing all good movies. So, I did my research and found that the film was on Netflix. I suggested watching the film to my brother, we watched the trailer, and thought, eh, looks a bit depressing.

I watched the film yesterday on a lark and…was a COMPLETE MESS. Some people out there who know me well are reading this and thinking, Lindsay, you cried at the trailer for This Is Us, how can we trust you? And okay, you’d be right. I am a bit emotional…or a lot, whatever. However, what Other People did to me wasn’t like, a sniffle. This was me on the floor of my room balling uncontrollably. Thank god I was alone – it wasn’t pretty.

If you’re unfamiliar, Other People, written and directed by Chris Kelly, is the semi-autobiographical story of David (Jesse Plemons), a NY-based comedy writer who comes home to Sacramento to take care of his dying mother (Molly Shannon). In addition to his grief, he deals with the uncertainty in his own life: his dating life, his work life, and his own mortality.

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LITERALLY SOBBING

I think it’s pretty safe to say the Cancer genre is a bit tired, filled with cliches and manipulative outbursts. However, I think Other People sidesteps those issues for the following reasons:

The Cast

I was familiar with Jesse Plemons from watching Breaking Bad and of course, Friday Night Lights. I always liked him but this was a very different role for him, one in which he was really allowed to show everything he’s got. When he breaks down in the middle of the grocery store, I was a goddamn mess.

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I think we’ve all had a meltdown in a grocery store, right?

But, really, the real shining star of this film is the wonderful Molly Shannon. I was only familiar with her from early 2000’s SNL and I always thought she was funny. Similarly to Plemons, this was a different kind of role than what Shannon has played before. I was impressed at how understated she was, how quickly she could go from comedy to intense drama. Her standout scene for me was when she visits the school she used to work at.

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Molly Shannon deserves an Oscar nod for real.

The supporting cast is made up of some very funny people including Bradley Whitford, (who I discussed in my post on The West Wing), Maude Apatow, Paul Dooley, who I discussed in my post on Breaking Away) and Zach Woods. Sprinkling the cast with such funny people allow a reprieve from the heaviness of the subject matter.

The Script/Direction

I had never heard of Chris Kelly prior to this. He’s worked as a writer/producer for both Broad City and Saturday Night Live, which is a pretty impressive resume, especially considering he’s only thirty-three years old.

I’ve been lucky in my life in so far as I haven’t dealt with these issues yet (KNOCK ON WOOD). However, there were eerie similarities to my life. I grew up in Sacramento, just as Kelly did and my mom is also an elementary school teacher. I’m now living in Los Angeles trying to pursue tv writing.

I think this film resonated because of all those things, but on a deeper level, the script was ultimately about the human experience. It’s a slice-of-life film. We get the sense that we’re not seeing the most important conversations. Instead, we’re experiencing the realness of the situation, the drama and the comedy, the heartbreak, the whole gamet of emotions.

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So sweet! 

Additionally, it’s not directed in a melodramatic way. You don’t feel that you’re being manipulated. After all, we will all ultimately deal with this situation. Maybe not in this way, but still, the character’s journey is universal.

The film is personal, powerful and extremely poignant.

Small films are worth recognizing. And while some could argue that this is far from being a small film (just look at the producers and the CAST!), it obviously wasn’t big budget. It was a quiet film, a personal story, and that’s why it hits in such a big way.

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All about the small moments.

As an aspiring writer, I was inspired by the film. As a filmgoer, I was unbelievably moved. You should all check it out on Netflix, one of the most underrated films of 2016.

Trailer Below:

Other People Gifs property of Park Pictures.

The Whimsical Magic of “The Purple Rose of Cairo”

So, this one may be a stretch in regards to my Halloween theme, but it is fantastical so I’m gonna go ahead and say it works. I first saw this movie back in my early teen years and initially, I wasn’t a big fan of it. I had already been introduced to Woody Allen by this point, but most of the films I had seen were his “early, funny ones.”

The Purple Rose of Cairo is something entirely different. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still very much a comedy, but it’s rooted in a real, emotional story. As I’ve gotten older, the film has grown on me more and more and I now consider it one of my favorite Woody Allen films.

If you’re unfamiliar, The Purple Rose of Cairo, made in 1985, follows Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a poor young woman in the depression. Her husband, Monk (Danny Aiello) is out of work. He has very little interest in finding any work or treating Cecilia with any sort of basic level of respect. The only joy in Cecilia’s life comes from her consistent trips to the movies. She has more interest in those fictional worlds than she does in her real one. One day, in the midst of watching a film she’s already watched multiple times, one of the characters notices and walks out of the screen. Thus, drama ensues!

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If only fictional characters could talk to us. Le sigh.

Here are just a few reasons you should add The Purple Rose of Cairo to your queue:

The Cast

Even though, of course, there’s been drama between the film’s leading lady and Woody Allen, I’d say this film is probably Mia Farrow’s best performance, certainly of the films she made with Allen. You automatically relate to Cecilia’s situation and understand why she loses herself in the movies. That’s partly due to great writing, but the credit should also be given to Farrow’s performance which is shiningly sincere and sweet.

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Kinda gives you Waitress/Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Vibes, right?

The dual role of Gil Sheperd and Tom Baxter was a bit more difficult. Allen had originally cast Michael Keaton in the role. Keaton took a major pay cut to be in the film, but ten days into shooting, Keaton and Allen both agreed that something wasn’t working. Apparently, though Allen though Keaton was giving a strong performance, he felt that Keaton was just too modern for the audience suspend its disbelief.

The part was recast – Jeff Daniels took over. When I think of Daniels, my mind can’t NOT go to Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant HBO show The Newsroom. He will always be Will McAvoy to me. But, of course, at the time, Daniels had only two film credits to his name, Ragtime and a little film called Terms of Endearment. Watching the film, it’s difficult to imagine someone else in the role, especially Keaton. There’s a naivete that Daniels had that made Tom Baxter (the character in the movie she loves) completely lovable. He’s almost like a puppy, excited by everything and idealistic enough to think that if you love someone, every other problem can be fixed. Conversely, Daniels brought a completely different sensibility to Gil Sheperd (the actor who plays Tom Baxter). He’s pompous, confident, and he has a tough exterior. He looks out for himself over everyone else.

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It’d be really nice if Tom Baxter was real…

Danny Aiello is also notable as Cecilia’s awful husband. Now, it’s true, he’s a bit of a stereotype. However, he’s more there for comedic effect and as a contrast for the loveliness that is Tom Baxter. A brilliant character actor, Aiello is best known for his roles in The Godfather: Part II, Do the Right Thing, and Once Upon a Time in America. Even though he’s despicable, Aiello makes it so you can’t completely hate him.

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That look THOUGH…

Also, special mention: Gilmore Girls fans may not know much of Edward Herrmann’s roles outside of patriarch Richard Gilmore. He actually had an extensive film career and by the time this film was made, he had already had roles in The Great Gatsby, The Paper Chase and Reds. Of the film, Herrmann said, “…it was a great cast, all these very clever people, and we were having a hell of a good time acting ’30s (Herrmann, The AV Club Article).”

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I spy Richard Gilmore!

John Wood, the man next to Edward Herrmann above, is also very good. Recognize the name? He was also in WarGames, which I discussed a few weeks back.

Dianne Wiest is also hilarious. So many great character actors in this one!

The Script/Direction

Much can be said about Woody Allen as a person. There are people who I’m sure are probably annoyed that I would even discuss one of his films. But, I’m a firm believer in separating the artist from the person. And, as a writer, Woody Allen is one of the best!

This film is said to be one of his favorites of his own work. The fantastical nature never bothered me because I felt like the film was grounded in real emotions. And, as all of you know from reading my posts, I love the 1930’s. So, for me, it seems like a no brainer that I’d fall in love with it. After rewatching it this last time, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this film and a film much later in Allen’s oeuvre, Midnight in Paris.

Both films are really about the difference between reality and fiction, between our idealistic notions and the hard cold facts. Whereas Midnight in Paris  was about how we idealize a time period, The Purple Rose of Cairo ponders the way we idealize the characters we see in movies. Every fangirl (and guy) out there understands this true dilemma. The characters we see in movie are just too amazing. How can real people live up to that?

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Literally my favorite line ever. Or at least…it’s pretty close!

Also, interesting to note that Allen had to fight to keep the film’s melancholy ending. “Orion executives asked Allen to change the painful conclusion, which punctured the escapist fantasy of the rest of the film, but Allen refused (Feaster, TCM Article).” I can’t imagine the film ending any other way.

The Cinematography

You may not know Gordon Willis by name, but you’ve certainly seen his work. In addition to the Godfather trilogy, he also shot All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, and The Paper Chase. In other words, he served as DP on more than a few classics. Oh, and did I mention he was nominated for some Oscars?

I love the color in this film, the dreariness makes you believe in the time period completely. Also, when Tom Baxter walks out of the screen…EPIC.

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AMAZINNNNG, amiright?

The Music

As with all Woody Allen movies, the music is incredible. The first scene of the film is Cecilia watching Astaire and Rogers. Literally warms your heart. No, really, it does!

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When we’re dancing cheek to cheek…

It’s fanciful, intriguing and makes you feel ALL THE FEELS…

To me, The Purple Rose of Cairo has a little bit of something for everyone. If you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll be taken on a magical adventure and find yourself both laughing AND crying along the way.

Woody Allen doesn’t attend any award ceremonies with the exception of the 2002 Oscars (he talked about NYC after 9/11). He’s written and directed almost fifty feature films. Some are fantastic and some are…not so fantastic. But, he keeps plugging away. Some hit the mark exactly and this film is certainly one of them.

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Anyone else wish movie theaters still looked like this?

Vintage trailer below:

Images and Gifs property of Orion Pictures

#FatherDaughterGoals: ‘Contact’

Re-watching a movie from your childhood is weird. Every moment is wrapped up in nostalgia. This is definitely the case for me with Robert Zemeckis’s 1997 film Contact. In my youth, I, of course, liked the film, but didn’t quite understand it. Honestly, I had a weird fear of any movie that dealt with space, so I think that definitely affected my opinion on it.

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Scary stuff, amiright? 

This was, like most films, something I was introduced to by my father. My dad had shown me episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos prior to my first viewing of the film. I’ve seen the film so many times it’s difficult to remember what my initial responses were the first time I watched it. However, I do remember having a talk with my dad afterwards where he explained to me the science behind the film…wormholes and the theory of relativity. This film was such a special one to see as a child because it’s smart, thought-provoking and centered around a tough heroine (we still need to see more of those!).

For those not in the know, Contact follows Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), a scientist who, despite judgement from others in her field, decides to devote her life’s work to SETI, a real organization, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. She meets Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), a religious author, a “man of the cloth, without the cloth.” When she discovers a signal not in the neighborhood, Ellie gets swept along the what-if scenario of contacting intelligent life, with all the politics, the ethical questions, and the danger that comes with it.

Here are just a few reasons you need to watch or re-watch Contact ASAP:

The Cast

The casting is everything in this film. I can’t imagine this story without Jodie Foster at its helm. I’ve spoken about Jodie once before when I discussed Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which she made when she was just a child. When she was considering taking the lead in Contact, Jodie was in a different position. For one thing, she was an Oscar winner for her role in The Silence of the Lambs, probably the scariest film I’ve ever seen!

Jodie had also had her directorial debut a few years before, so I think it’s safe to say she had her pick of roles. Initially, she didn’t sign on to the film due to script issues. But, with Zemeckis’s passion and an extensive re-write, Foster came aboard. Jodie said of her role, “The idea of someone searching for some kind of purity, searching for something she can’t find, was something that was very close to myself. I process everything through my head first. I cope through my head (Foster, TCM Article).” IMHO, she brought intelligence, levity and earnestness to Ellie.

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Got her game face on…#TimeToMeetAliens

Matthew McConaughey got his major break in 1993 when he played Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. He was just 28 in this film although he seems older. He’s not doing his standard “Alright, alright, alright…,” but he’s about one step away. He’s very charming and serves his purpose. You can see why Ellie is smitten.

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That smile though…

James Woods plays the villain of the story, if there is one. He’s smarmy and corporate and perfect in this part.

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James Woods yells A LOT.

John Hurt is terrifying as the Howard Hughes-esque billionaire S.R. Hadden. I used to hear him say this line in my nightmares.

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THOSE glasses might be the most terrifying part.

I have to say though, no one terrified me more than Jake Busey who played a terrorist named Joseph. My brother said he looks like Carrot Top. Regardless, every time I saw him in this film, my stomach dropped.

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TERRIFYING.

Oh, and Jena Malone is cute as Young Ellie. This was only her second film.

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This long shot is fantastic.

The Script

The film was, of course, based on the novel of the same name by Carl Sagan. Strangely though, it originated as a screen project with then-production executive Lynda Obst. When it looked as though there would be no film, Carl went and wrote the novel, only to have the studio then become interested in adapting it.

James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg penned the script, with help from Sagan and his wife. I’ve already discussed James V. Hart once before when I wrote about Tuck Everlasting, which he also wrote the script for. Ann Druyan, Sagan’s wife and collaborator said, “Carl’s and my dream was to write something that would be a fictional representation of what contact would be like. But it would also have the tension inherent between religion and science, which was an area of philosophical and intellectual interest that riveted both of us (Druyan, TCM Article).” Truly, this is what makes the film so fascinating. The relationship between Palmer and Ellie is really about the relationship between science and religion. It asked the question, ‘Can these two fiercely defensive sides find common ground?’

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Science and Religion are pretty good looking, no?

I also really loved the idealism of the film. There’s a line when Ellie is talking to Tom Skerrit’s character, Dr. Drumlin, another scientist. He tells her that the world isn’t fair. She responds, “Funny, I always thought the world is what we make it.”

The Score

This cannot be understated. Alan Silvestri, known for his scores for Back to The Future and Forest Gump, was the composer for Contact. To me, the score is inextricably linked to the film and its ideas. I just can’t separate them. It almost sounds like a lullaby.

The Direction

Robert Zemeckis had already established himself as a great sci-fi director when he made the Back to the Future films, but at this point, he was riding high from his Oscar winner from 1994, Forrest Gump. Another director was already attached to Contact, George Miller, but weeks before shooting, the studio decided to fire him. Zemeckis came on board with the understanding that he would be able to interject his own ideas into the script, including a new ending.

Zemeckis’s love for characters and humor are what make Contact really work. The relationships feel real and so, there’s weight to the events that take place. The only thing I would say is that I don’t agree with Zemeckis’s choice to use real reporters in the film. Larry King, Jay Leno, and even President Bill Clinton make appearances. While he was going for a sense of verisimilitude, those moments took me out of the film.

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Really important to grab that cracker jack compass right now…

The Cinematography

Don Burgess, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Forrest Gump, shot the film artistically and added a level of intensity. The scene where Ellie goes through the wormholes, you’ll literally be on the edge of your seat!

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So beautiful…

The Film IS #FatherDaughterGoals

This really gets to the crux of this film for me. The relationship Ellie has with her father is sweet, based on him teaching her about astronomy. It’s a perfect film to watch with your dad. When you see the scene where Ellie meets the alien and they’ve taken the form of her father, you WILL BE CRYING.

Contact, to me, is about (as corny as it sounds) not being afraid to reach for the stars. The message the film sends is that we should stick to our convictions and keep asking questions. This movie doesn’t insult the intelligence of its audience. It wasn’t aimed towards four year-olds as many films are today.  There was real love put into making this film and you can tell.

Carl Sagan unfortunately didn’t live long enough to see the film released, but no doubt, Contact is a tribute to him.

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#RealTalk

Trailer Below. The film is available to stream on Netflix. If you’re looking for something to fill the sci-fi shaped hole Stranger Things left, try Contact. You won’t be disappointed.

 

All images and gifs are property of Warner Bros.