Film of 2014

Little White Lies recently shared David Ehrlich’s annual movie montage portraying his top 25 films of the year. For his 2014 supercut, Ehrlich has picked his favorites from a wide selection including foreign action flicks, indie dramas and Hollywood blockbusters. The result is pretty fantastic.

An Ode to Netflix

Technology may have shown the true face of humanity in recent years. In the past it was about moving faster, going further, and reaching new heights. We wanted to put a man on the moon, faster transportation so we could travel the world, we wanted the ability to reach out for knowledge of any given subject and find it at the tip of our fingers. Now, as 2014 comes to a close, those finger tips are covered in crumbs, as we reach into the bag of whatever fast food we ordered online and had delivered to our doors. We sigh as we have to crawl across our beds to plug in the charger because our laptop batteries are dying due to hours upon hours of binge use.

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We may have over-reached in our pursuit of happiness and technology, and tipped into glutenous indulgence. My friends have scattered across the globe and when I pick up my phone or open my laptop to chat with them, we do not discuss our educated views on the world and our place in it, instead our conversations mostly consist of what we’ve been compulsively watching that week. I have knowingly sat down to short lived TV shows because “there’s only a few seasons and I can get through it in a day or two”. Youth is wasted on the young.

However, in the perilous years of the quarter-life crisis, Netflix comes as a sweet escape. Technology has seeped into all areas of our lives, meaning that dating now comes in the form of an app in which you swipe to accept or dismiss a prospective partner. The world is large but has somehow gotten smaller and it seems that everyone in it is doing better than you. You keep racking up expensive qualifications and internships but not a single interview has been offered for the many real life jobs you have applied for. Netflix is a sweet, sweet escape and also a unifier. When no one wants to talk about how far they’re falling behind everyone else, it’s nice to have the universally accepted chat of how far along you are into the depths of the coffee fueled Gilmore Girls marathon, a show that you don’t know whether to love or despise. I mean what’s with that mother-daughter relationship? And how can they eat so much?

Netflix is loyal. It knows all your favorite things, your guilty pleasures and those background shows you put on as you apply your morning make-up. It knows about the many intellectual documentaries that you keep meaning to see but haven’t quite gotten around to. It makes you laugh, makes you cry and even suggests new and exciting prospects. It brings drama to your life, keeping you up late into the night, reveling in your inability to beat the countdown clock as you reach for the escape button. It’s in your bed every night without fail. What more can a girl want?

Are these endless hours of laying motionless in front of a screen a waste of time at any age, but especially at a time when life is relatively free of responsibility, debt and complications? Absolutely. Will you live to regret this soul sucking pass time? Most likely. Do you have any immediate plans to change this anti-social lifestyle? God no, it’s December. What can I say, sometimes people just need a vice in their life, an unhealthy relationship to look back upon in later years as a lesson learned. For now, I shall return to the world of binge watching season after season of American TV shows and pretend that I am as proactive and exciting as many of it’s preppy and suspiciously older looking twenty-something characters.

- Sinann Fetherston

New York, New York

I am in love with New York: it’s pretty much the best of the best. If someone from another planet were to visit Earth and wanted to know the epitome of human culture with all it’s quirks, downfalls, triumphs and spirit, I would send them to the city that never sleeps. Chinatown, Little Italy, Midtown, Lower East Side, Upper East Side, Soho, Noho, Korea Town…need I go on? For such a teeny tiny island, it manages to contain an entire world. Want some Korean karaoke? You got it. A little Drag Queen brunch? No problem. Craving some caviar and vodka? Try the Russian Tea Room. New York’s got it all and it’s yours for the taking.

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That hustle and bustle is 24/7 and believe me, it is intense. The stories I’ve heard from inside the offices of Wall Street, the boardrooms of Soho and that bagel place on Broadway would turn your stomach. Chairs have been thrown across rooms at meeting, interns have been sent on green smoothie runs in blistering heat, executives have walked out on jobs before the ink had even dried on their contacts. When you work in Manhattan, there’s a chance that every single one of your stories will sound like a scene from The Devil Wears Prada, but without the Chanel boots. You don’t just hop on a train; you travel through the momentous marble halls of Grand Central. When you walk through any of the city’s parks with your coffee, you get flash backs of just about every rom-com ever made. When you shuffle on to the subway, bleary eyed and smushed up against some strangers, your eyes may fall upon…well, just about anything.

Festivals, fashion week and film-sets are just part of the day to day life when you walk through Manhattan so get ready to feel like an actor. Everyone becomes an exaggeration of themselves whether they mean to or not. Bitchier, cooler, funnier, hotter – people instantly become more interesting because they’re in a city of high expectations. You’ll treat yourself to Eataly gelato, and as you pass by the Flatiron building to sit in Madison Square Park, you will instantly up your conversation game with friends because you feel as if TV cameras should be following you. This move-like feeling will not, however, extend to the world of dating.

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Yes, you will have your SATC moments, but less Monolo Blahniks from Mr. Big and more “How about we have a threesome as our second date?” from Mr. Unstable. Online dating will become the norm because although you are constantly surrounded by approximately a million people at any given time, you will speak to none of them, especially while on public transportation. You will give it your best college try; putting on the little black dress, picking a public place and texting your friends throughout each cringe worthy moment. Whats worse? You’ll probably sleep with a few of them. Know now that the ratio of women to men in New York City is soul crushingly unfair, and yes, the good one’s are taken.

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The men of the 21st century have given up on one-liners and have instead decided on listing their attributes (whether they’re true or not) as their opening line. Expect to hear “Hi, I’m Mike. I work on Wall Street and live on the Upper West Side” as an introduction riddled with expectation. He is employed in a place renowned for it’s salary and lives in a desirable area, you as a woman are expected to be impressed. “Can I buy you a drink?” is another favorite. It’s posed as a question but don’t be fooled, if you’re not downright floored that this desirable man is so generous and kind as to offer you a drink, then you are clearly a spoilt bitch who needs to be reprimanded.

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This is not the city of love people. It’s the city of experience! You will live like those crazy kids on TV; dancing on tables with the girls, adding your bra to the wall of lingerie in the Meat Packing districts finest establishments, forcing your eyes to stay open on the 4am subway home desperately trying to keep down the free pizza that came with your beer. You’ll power walk down streets and think about all those who have walked there before you. No matter how crazy and stressful and intense it gets, the city will give you chills in all the right ways, just when you need them. This is a city with heart and soul and it doesn’t give a shit who you are or where you’re from, it just wants to know that you’re down for the ride.

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Wall streeters play the homeless in chess by a Gandhi statue in Union Square. Taylor Swift and Lorde eat at Shake Shack. That super expensive thrift shop on the lower east side is actually a swanky bar. There are numerous secret train platforms beneath your feet. Grand Central’s Whispering Walls. Sleep No More. Please Don’t Tell. This is a city full of hidden gems and secret gardens. It never sleeps, it offers opportunity for anyone willing to take it, and fucking despises anyone who doesn’t think power walking is the only acceptable speed to move at. It’s intense and iconic and living and breathing and it’s hard, and it can be lonely, but it’s probably the best thing you’ll ever do. Whatever relationship you have with it; New York will sustain you, create you, and stay with you no matter how long you spend there. As Thomas Wolfe said “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”.

Can you tell I miss it?

- Sinann Fetheston

Parklife

Earlier this week Russell Brand became the victim of some internet mockery as his conversation on politics and society was turned into a Blur remix. The internet did what it does best by turning the joke into an all-out craze with Vines, Youtube videos and tweets flooding news-feeds everywhere. Brand, being the good sport that he is, turned the mockery on it’s head with the help of Limerick city’s favorite duo The Rubberbandits, giving us all something to think about…once we get that pesky tune out of our heads that is.

- Sinann Fetherston

GoldieBlox Strikes Again

Only 11% of engineers in the US are women. Why is that a problem you may ask? Well, engineers are making some of the biggest advancements in society today in just about every field including technology, environment and health. The world is comprised of both men and women but if such amazing advancements are being made without the female perspective then what kind of world are we creating? In her Ted Talk on the next generation of engineers Debbie Sterling says “I don’t fit in, but I believe that our little girls will.”

This is how Sterling’s journey started but despite her qualifications, her research and her innovation she kept coming up against the same problem; she was surrounded by men who told her that girls like pink and boys like blue. By the time girls reach the age of 7 they begin to lose interest in math and science. Is this biology? Surely this is just how the sexes differ and there’s no changing it. Well actually its quite the opposite; studies show that around the world girls not only equal, but out perform boys in these subjects, throughout the world but not in the US. This is not nature it’s nurture. The media tells girls to shop in the pink aisle and become princesses, while it tells boys to become mad scientists and builders.

Despite the many walls Sterling came up against she realized that we live in a pretty cool world where we don’t necessarily need the top industry heads; all we need is the right audience and a Kickstarter campaign. Setting out for $150, 000 in 30 days. She reached her goal in 4 days. Her minimum production went from 5,000 to over 20,000. Parents, store owners and children were waiting for this kind of toy but the toy industry was blind to change. As the GoldieBlox website says:

What we believe is so important in this space are role models — characters that are cool, interesting, smart, and relatable. We’re so glad to have organizations like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, the Society of Women Engineers for their work in providing role models and support for women in STEM. We hope that Goldie and her friends provide a vital way to see all the different things that girls can be, and are inspiring examples for girls and boys alike.

The amazing podcasters at Stuff Mom Never Told You interviewed Sterling about her exciting toy which you can listen to here. In the interview, Sterling wants says that she is not the “anti-princess lady” she just wants to break away from the norm because there’s just so much of the same thing in toy stores. She wants to provide a variety of options especially for girls who have interests outside of dolls. GoldieBlox should be a play experience that challenges kid’s brains, it is more a movement than a toy and it’s trying to make smart cool. Recently, GoldBlox has raged against the princess machine in their latest ad which you can view below!

- Sinann Fetherston

The Horrors of Horror

Halloween appears to be predominantly androcentric with Jack O’ Lanterns, Headless Horsemen and Hitchcockian killers at every turn. Scary movies show us killers like Freddie, Jason, and Leatherface. Literature and folklore bestow us Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula and Werewolves. Even children’s cartoon are filled with devils, ghosts and ghouls that are taken to be male. And yet despite this, it is still the ladies of Hollywood’s horror screen that have my attention. It’s the final girls, the witches and the evil Queens that come to my mind on All Hallows Eve.

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Women have always had an important place in Hollywood’s horror genre, unfortunately it has just never been a particularly progressive one; they are brutally murdered (usually after having sex), psychotically chased down, or graphically tortured. If an actress would like to be in a horror film where her character lives; she has the option of being a daemon she-devil, a rape-revenge psychopath or a mentally unstable mother figure. If the film is more magical than macabre; she can play the part of a witch with worldly power, but only if her focus is set on youth and beauty. If the actress in question would like to take part in a slasher film then she has the option of dying horrifically or playing the survivor who can endure her killer’s attacks with intelligence, spirit and resourcefulness, but only if she is ultimately saved by a man.

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Of course, no one comes out looking good in horror films; it is a genre of blood and gore, but it is the way in which women are portrayed in comparison to men that worries me. It’s difficult to find female characters that are agents of their own destiny in any genre, but with the lack of barriers that the mysticism of horror and sci-fi bring, there should be endless options for women. Buffy Summers is not a victim, an avenger or a final girl; she is a monster hunter. I will forever praise Joss Whedon in all his feminist wisdom for creating not only a character such as Buffy but a team of friends where women outnumber men and no one bats an eyelid. So why must they stand alone? Where are all the other Scooby gangs? Halloween is a time to break boundaries, transform characters and bend the rules; an idea that Hollywood has bought into with aplomb. Films that center around fictitious worlds of monsters and dress up are films where anything is possible. So where are all the women at?

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Final girls are hardly a feminist ideal; they survive and fight and claw their way through unspeakable horrors only to be saved by a man. Magic makes muscle obsolete, and yet even in situations where the spells of the mind beat the muscle of matter,witches can’t go about being heroes? Magic is possible but apparently men and women still can’t be on an equal playing field. TV shows have tried more than films, because God forbid a block buster rest solely on a female protagonist’s shoulder, but it’s mostly missed the mark. I was never truly won over by the sisters of Charmed, Samantha Stephens basically just wiggled her nose about in Bewitched and let’s not get started on I Dream of Jeannie. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was mostly about changing outfits really fast, I mean wasn’t Aunt Zelda supposed to be a brainiac magical scientist? Shouldn’t she have cured cancer by now or something?Don’t get me wrong I’m actually a fan of many of these shows, but there are just too few female characters so well written as Hermione Granger or Buffy Summers and honestly that’s just not good enough for me.

- Sinann Fetherston

NYFF Review: Foxcatcher

Based on the true story of the Shultz brothers and multi-millionaire John Du Pont; Director Bennett Miller uses an all-star cast to tell a tale of drugs, money, professional wrestling and murder in the late 1990’s. Miller studied old footage, interviewed the numerous people involved in the story including the DuPont family, and introduced his actors to their real life counterparts so as to get a well informed view of the incidents that occurred. His dedication to telling true life stories about events, people and their circumstances brings a real sense of authenticity and fidelity to his films.

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Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, an Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling. Tatum may be notoriously known for his blockbuster comedies and stripper moves but he proves his acting chops with fierce intensity as he transforms himself into a cauliflower eared, sensitive souled, professional wrestler with apparent ease. While preparing for the role, Tatum met Shultz for dinner in New York and was taken by how the man moved, saying:

“Look at the way he walks, it’s such a beautiful indication of how he goes into the world. I just started studying everything about his movements and I found that was just the way in for me to such an emotional, physical and tangible person. I didn’t try to get into his intellectual side because he’s just such an emotional person.”

Mark’s brother Dave Shultz is played by the skilled Mark Ruffalo who slips into his fighter’s pose with heartfelt sincerity as he becomes the ultimate hero of this enticing piece. A humble coach, talented athlete and all around family man; Dave steps in as a father figure to the lost souls that surround him. He is a rare character in that his nobility is not marred by a pretentious nature or an overtly sentimental tone; he is quite simply a good man with kind intentions. Next to him his wife Nancy, played by Sienna Miller, is the ultimate American housewife – sweet, loving, and scrunchie wearing. Together, they stand as the stable and loving family that their fellow characters so desperately crave.

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Tatum and Ruffalo are inspired in their performances; they lace their relationship with such candor and authenticity that the audience can’t help but feel won over by them both. Despite this, however, it is Steve Carrell that steals the show. The funny man might best be known for his roles in movies such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin but his role as Du Pont proves that he can morph into any role. Perhaps it is because of his comedic fame that Carrel can hook his audience so efficiently. He manages to delude them into believing that John “Golden Eagle” du Pont is merely an eccentric oddball with a humorous style and super ego. It is the viewer’s familiarity with Carrel’s inherent likability that becomes their ultimate downfall. When Du Pont’s manner seamlessly slides from eccentric to awkward to frightening with unbearable ease, the audience can do nothing but squirm in their chairs, and watch as their protagonist unhinges. Carrel brings drugs, sex, wealth, Hitchcockian mother issues and an air of delusional fantasy to his character that the audience can’t help but become transfixed by. They are left in awe of his looks, his oddity and his terrifying descent into violent madness.

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A morality tale at it’s core, Foxcatcher will enchant and entice it’s viewers from beginning to end. Miller’s insistence that film should imitate life in its ambiguity pays off enormously as he pulls his viewers into another character’s existence. Undetermined sexuality, blatant drug abuse, complicated relationships and the complexities of self-worth are all on the table for Miller. He drags his character’s stories across the screen and into each other so beautifully that you will begin to understand the world through their eyes.

- Sinann Fetherston (A)