Spoiler Series - Pariah

In which Julie makes a journey from liking to really really liking (like like liking, you know) and Tim identifies way too much with fictional characters for his own good.

(Ed. Note: Julie wants me to say something about how this is long and rambling and we promise next time it will be better and amazing and genius and like the first time y’all read fucking Tolstoy or something I dunno. We’ll figure it out.)

T: so you thought it was very good but your dislike of the indie aesthetic keeps you from actually disliking it
J: ok. overall, I liked it but didn’t love it.
J: Adepero was excellent
T: I thought the whole cast was excellent
T: but obviously she had to carry the movie
J: I thought there were some rough acting moments, mostly between the parents
J: they were overall great
J: Laura was excellent
J: really excellent
T: oh see I thought the moments between the parents weren’t rough because of the performances
T: I read them as rough and real because those moments were rough and real
J: agreed, but there were moments when the performance of those rough and real moments did not come through 100%, and it took me out of the scene a little
J: so, you loved this, obviously?
T: I dunno
T: it was a movie about something… ;)
T: it was a movie about a reality that exists
T: I think it’s one of the better coming-of-age stories I’ve seen in a long while

J: yes
J: i think it is exactly why independent films exist
J: voice that are not heard in mainstream media
T: Especially black lesbian culture… Lesbians of Color? that sounds weird
T: but that this perception in black culture that lesbians are just women who want to be men
T: and so that they need to be men, be as stereotypically masculine as possible, and absorb masculine culture
J: i wasn’t aware of that being a thing
T: I mean, I think it’s sort of the same thing that in white media so long ago that lesbians were always portrayed as being butch
T: the whole never growing up out of a Tom Boy phase or something
J: yea
T: and it’s clear that that’s not who Lee is
T: I dunno, it also touches upon the whole bisexual thing too
J: i thought that was really interesting
T: the perception that bisexuals are “just playing” or “aren’t really that way”
T: and why there is a stigma of bisexuals in gay culture
T: because maybe it’s that a lot of people have that experience
J: yea
T: ok but I do really want to talk about the whole indie aesthetic thing, this time without being an asshole (Ed. Note: the conversation picks up well after Tim was being an asshole about Julie’s problems with the movie.)
T: because I think we both have good points
J: yes
J: you are absolutely correct that the limitations of budget and time have an impact on the aesthetics
J: typically resulting in a lot of handheld camera, low lighting, etc. perhaps shots that are kept in because the performance came out great, but maybe it wasn’t perfectly in focus
J: that kind of thing
T: yes
J: i’m talking more about the “artfully out of focus” stuff. it bothers me in still photography as well
J: i know that to a certain extent, it is also meant to mimic the subjective experience
J: but at some point, it stops standing for that, and starts becoming its own animal
J: and i look at this, vs. middle of nowhere, which was shot on an even lower budget, and I just think like, no, these were choices that were made, I just don’t agree with them
T: so you saying Middle of Nowhere does not have this aesthetic?
J: i’m saying that it is common in indie films, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be, using middle of nowhere as just an example, and that it may be easy to fall back on those conventions, but it’s not a look i prefer
T: know what you mean
T: but just to be clear, you mean that middle of nowhere does not fall back on these conventions, yes?
J: i did not remember it doing so, no
T: well I remember you liked it a lot
J: i did, very much
T: unless that had something to do with David Oyelowo
J: ahhh
T: :)
J: i love david oyelowo
J: different convo
T: I was going to say that maybe this might have something to do that Ava Duveray being a more experience filmmaker than Dee Rees but actually Rees has done a bunch.. this is her second feature
T: maybe it’s more about east coast filmmaking versus west coast filmmaking
T: Duvernay comes out of marketing and publicity
J: who knows. i think it’s still a specific choice
J: i think it works here because it’s not just used as shorthand in place of meaning
J: there is also definitely meaning
J: but i don’t like the choice personally, and i think it is something that can be overused
T: whereas Rees is a… uh… acolyte… that’s not the right word… disciple… student… whatever… of Spike Lee, who I think pretty much represents this idea of New York filmmaking.
J: could be
T: see, I dunno, I still think meaning is assigned by the audience, the author is dead and all that.
T: I do agree that it is a choice
T: but I think it’s a choice that comes out of practically
T: and skill
J: yes meaning is what the audience makes of it, but meaning can still be intended from the creator
J: whether those two meet
T: well, so I guess we have to have the uncomfortable conversation of how we watched it, and maybe this is why the aesthetics is a bigger issue for you
T: I watched it on an iPad and you watched it on a cinema display tv or whatever you want to call it
J: yea, that could be part of it
T: and that the size of the screen does matter with these things
J: the incessant close ups, while maybe not as obvious on the ipad, or maybe more effective on the ipad, became too obvious on the bigger screen
T: you hate closeups
J: i do hate close ups!
J: not really
J: but too many
T: you mention it a bunch
T: it’s one of your many salient points
T: at least when it is overused
J: i never realized it until recently
T: I don’t know that it’s overused
T: because I think this is a close and intimate movie
J: yes
J: agreed
J: again i think here is personal preference
J: it’s a choice that means something within the context of this film
T: so ok, I thought this movie felt a lot like fish tank in terms of aesthetic and themes
T: or at least the theme of the relationships between mother and daughter and sister
T: child and parent
T: struggling within class
T: and you liked Fish Tank, yeah? or at least you never mentioned having issues with it along these same lines.
J: i did like fish tank, i didn’t have a problem with the way it was shot, but i don’t remember it being so consistently shot in close up/ out of focus/ shaky handheld
J: it has been a while since i saw it though
J: as far as themes
J: interesting comparison
J: i would have to think about that more
T: I would say it was equivalent
T: maybe a little more still medium shots
T: but I think almost all of it was handheld shots
T: shakey
T: kinetic

T: I have a few questions about the characters/plot/arc
T: I appreciated the lack of judgement, though you are supposed to side with Lee because it is obviously her story at its heart, but respecting that there is no clear antagonist/protagonist relationship between her or another characters. Everyone is working on their own story
T: And other than I think Laura’s mother I don’t think it makes out any specific character to be a monster.
T: and there is a feeling that everything gets better, even though Laura I suppose is meant to be a shadow of Lee’s future.
T: you know, estranged from her parents
J: first of all, i really thought Laura was awesome, loved the actor and the character
J: really great
T: so yeah, I mean, the overall theme of the movie is that you have to live your life for yourself
T: that you can’t base your life around the expectation or happiness of others
J: or, you can’t expect others to make you happy
T: which I think Laura gets, that scene where her mother ultimately shuts her out
T: I think that in some ways, it’s set up so that Audrey and Laura and Arthur all think to a certain extent that if Alike is a different way, they will all be happier
T: and Laura gets that in the end, Arthur gets that in the end, Audrey does not
T: anyway, I was going someplace different with Audrey
T: but it’s not really interesting any more
T: so but I think it’s all about community perception
T: so there’s that scene where Audrey is in the breakroom
T: eating alone
T: I wasn’t exactly sure why she was alone, why she was distant from everyone else
T: is it because she is trying to make her family middle class?
J: yea, i think that was a big part of it. that middle class aspiration, both wanting to connect with people but only wanting to connect with the “right” people
J: not knowing how to connect with “other” people
T: but there’s still that awkwardness between her and Bina’s mother in the beginning like, Bina’s mother seems to be the one that tries to bridge that gap
T: I dunno, it seemed like that was the flattest part of all the characters, Audrey seems to be only motivated by feeling different or not fitting in, but it’s never clear to me where those feelings come from
J: really? isn’t that enough on its own? class aspirations + marriage trouble
T: yeah I suppose.
T: I mean, yes it is enough, since the whole movie is a melodrama and we are just supposed to accept the character motivations because they are all types
J: hm
T: but for whatever reason that aspect felt weakest to me like, to me the pressure all comes from within
T: so it’s up to the actor to carry all that, which Kim Wayans does do
T: and this may just be my reading of it
T: because I am a stupid white boy
J: hm, i don’t know
J: the character rang pretty true to me
T: well I guess it’s the juxtaposition against Arthur, the dad, who suddenly accepts Alike for herself in the end… which I didn’t entirely buy. That felt kind of empty to me
J: but i think the thing is, that really worked for me,
J: Alike is Alike. She’s not who Laura wants her to be, she’s not who Audrey or Arthur want her to be. When they can forget about that, they can enjoy Alike for who she is, and I think it’s key that we see those moments, particularly the scene when Alike is playing with Audrey’s hair, or when she is playing basketball with her dad. Alike is fine with who she is, it’s trying to fit within a box of “lesbian” that’s the problem. And everyone around her does actually know who she is, it’s trying to fit her into a box that’s the problem. And I think at the end Alike is saying that she’s not going to fit into a box, and her dad and Laura are good enough to see that. Audrey is not, she can’t get beyond that box.
T: yeah absolutely, but I guess my problem is that is ultimately about Love, right, when Alike brings Bina to the rooftop after party or whatever
T: Laura tells her she just wants her to be happy because she loves her. That she just wanted to try to help her figure out who she was, that’s why she was trying to force the bunch lesbian thing
T: bringing her to strip clubs
J: yup
T: I buy that
J: when Alike already had it figured, i thought that was one of the most interesting parts of the film.
T: and I guess I buy it with her father because he doesn’t get the whole class thing
T: like, he doesn’t care, he just wants a happy family
J: yup. and he still has connections to people who aren’t the picture perfect middle class
T: and part of that to him is making concessions to Audrey, trying to find her happiness
J: the scene at the bodega
T: so I guess he’s able to easily concede and accept Alike because to him it’s more about Audrey’s happiness and how Alike will fit in
J:  didn’t read it like that, not sure i understand that
J: but yea, i thought it was interesting that it opens at the strip club. You hear a story about search for sexual identity, and you think that she is trying to accept her sexuality, but she already accepts it
T: it’s more about trying to figure out how her sexuality fits in within the community
J: hm
T: like, she knows she is gay
T: but the problem that doesn’t really mean anything. being gay doesn’t automatically mean you fit in to some other community, because she doesn’t fit into the gay community that Laura is a part of
J: right
T: I think the movie is about how there isn’t some kind of magic divide between masculinity and femininity

J: i don’t understand that part you said about Arthur accepting Alike to make Audrey happy though
T: well right, there’s the scene where they are getting ready to go to church
J: ok
J: yea
T: and Arthur keeps saying she looks fine, she looks beautiful (to Alike)
T: because he thinks that’s all Audrey really wants of Alike
T: as if someone is assuring Audrey of Alike’s femininity, that’s all Audrey needs

T: I guess what I was trying to say with Audrey is that I think she sort of comes off the worst but I don’t think that has to do with the character or acting, but is a weakness in the choices the filmmaker made
T: everything can’t be perfect
T: there has to be some loss
T: something at stake that doesn’t work out
T: but there’s still some hope that Audrey will get it eventually
T: and I guess the ultimate weakness is that it’s never clear to me (from the movie) that ultimately Audrey is reacting to social and cultural pressure
T: that yes, ultimately she is responsible for her own self or own actions, but that is molded by society at large
J: ok, and I guess I’m just thinking that yes, she comes off the worst, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ring true. because to me it absolutely did seem like she is reacting to social and cultural pressure. she probably wouldn’t have a problem with Alike being Alike, but she is constantly fearing how others, including god, see her
T: in the end I don’t blame her for her choices
J: i didn’t see it as being weak filmmaking or storytelling though
T: but to me that’s an audience v. author thing
T: me and you are bringing that with us
T: and I think also we both identify with Audrey
T: I mean ok, we’ve both admitted we identify with Audrey
T: and I think if the filmmaker had made stronger choices we could have read Audrey as an absolute, rather than somewhere between an antagonist or someone we are meant to sympathize with.
T: but I guess I don’t know that that’s something I really want ;)
T: which is why I loved the movie
T: I think it was perfect
J:  don’t know that i agree with you on this. i’m still not sure what you’re seeing as weak filmmaking or storytelling here re: Audrey’s character. But ok, let’s leave it, ha.

J: and i’m coming around on the cinematography, for this film
T:  so what has changed with how you feel about the cinematography, obviously nothing I said.
J:i liked the symmetry of the bus
J: i think we already beat it to death in other ways, but I liked how the concept of passing was used
J: OK. yea, i really liked it. pretty damn near perfect indie film

T: yeah and I suppose I am making up my problems with how Audrey’s character was presented and written
T: I guess mostly it has to do with that scene of her in the breakroom at the beginning, clashing with my expectations of the character but I get it now.

  1. oneeightydegrees posted this