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Home and the Horrific: Generational Trauma and Film

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The family sits at the center of much of human society as one of its most fundamental social institutions. The form and shape of families varies from culture to culture and over time – from the traditional large, multigenerational family, to the “nuclear family” which bonds much of the modern social fabric, to our current plethora of vaguely defined and diverse types of families that can include distant relatives, partners, or others that live and care for each other. All of these family types come with a shared experience, a shared life, and, more often than not, shared trauma, trauma that runs down the family tree. Alcoholics beget alcoholics. Abusers beget abusers. Each person carries the weight of decades and centuries of damage from people they may never have known. Horror and the fantastic reflect this trauma in different ways. Things horrifying, fantastical, or abject can either be the product of, or an escape from, families that are oppressive. As we see in movies like Raw, Th…

I, Tonya: Relative Truths, Cycles of Abuse, and the Things We Burn For

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1. Tonya Who?
Oh boy, I, Tonya
So it’s been brought to my attention that literally every other human in the world knew about Tonya Harding previous to this movie, and everyone had their opinions set in stone. Strong opinions about this Olympic figure skater.
But I learned all this after the fact. So many that colored my view of this movie. Am I gonna try to take sides on the entire debate one way or the other? Fuck no. The movie certainly doesn’t try to tell you what’s true. It’s extremely straightforward about that fact. Hell, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) turns toward the camera near the end of the movie and directly says as much: “there’s no such thing as truth! I mean, it’s bullshit! Everyone has their own truth, and life just does whatever the fuck it wants.”
Somehow it’s less important what exactly happened. Did Tonya fire a gun at Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan)? Does it entirely matter? This story is about the cycles of abuse, it’s about passion and trauma and misogyny and the med…

Lady Bird: Trauma, Love, Life, the Universe, and Everything

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You know, of the movies of 2017, the two that surprised me the most were I, Tonya, on which I will likely write next, and, of course, Lady Bird, the coming of age story directed, written, and loosely based on the life of Greta Gerwig.
Lady Bird, despite what people seem to expect, has nothing to do with Lady Bird Johnson. Instead, it follows Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she progresses through her senior year of high school, looking to the future, toward college, and toward some sense of freedom. It’s a story that nearly all of us can relate to, to some extent. A sense of wanderlust, a sense of wanting something bigger and better for ourselves, wanting to at least discover what we want. And all the while trying to figure a bunch of other shit out.
Lady Bird treats its characters and its situations with so much tenderness, showing their flaws and shortcomings just alongside their best aspects. The dialogue is beautifully done, coming across with a genuineness uncommon in film. T…

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Imperfect Lives, Perfect Moments

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1. How Happy is the Blameless Vestal’s Lot?
Eternal Sunshine was one of the first movies that showed me what film could do, and what power it had to inspire feeling and passion.
Even more specifically than that, however, are three things I can point to that drew me to film, and one thing that inspired me to delve into Eternal Sunshine when I did.
The first of these influences, specifically with respect to forcing myself to take the plunge and start this blog, was Film Critic Hulk (@FilmCritHULK). If you’re unfamiliar, Film Critic Hulk is, as the name suggests, a twitter account that offers incredibly insightful and emotion criticism and analysis of film, TV, and the like, in the style of the Hulk (writing in all caps, referring to themselves in the third person, etc.). This style of criticism – insight mixed with an intense vulnerability – informed my approach to film writing.
The second was my best friend growing up. He always seemed drawn to film and screenwriting. I remember hearing a…