Passion Project (The Florida Project review)

Not everyone gets a fairytale, but if you will it you can absolutely have a happy ending. And this movie will have you pondering those ideas over and over again.

 

The Florida Project (2017)

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Director: Sean Baker
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 79%
The Guardian: *****/*****

Sean Baker makes movies about topics that he wants to see on the screen. Movies about the lives of illegal immigrants with gambling debts, street hustlers, intergenerational friendships, and trans sex workers. People who are very real, but who have less then glamorous stories to tell.

An American director, cinematographer, producer, writer and editor, Baker’s best known for making independent films about the aforementioned subjects. Notably Starlet, the iPhone filmed Tangerine, and most recently The Florida Project. Fun fact, supporting actor Willem Dafoe has been nominated for an Academy Award in his portrayal of Bobby Hicks. But what’s it about?

Special thanks to IMDB user Huggo for the synopsis.

Halley (Bria Vinaite) lives with her six year old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida. Halley, who survives largely on welfare, has little respect for people, especially those who cross her, it an attitude that she has passed down to Moonee, who curses and gives the finger like her mother. Although the motel’s policy is not to allow long term rentals, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel manager, has made arrangements for people like Halley to live there while not undermining the policy as he realizes that many such tenants have no place to go otherwise. Halley, Moonee and Moonee’s friends, who live in the motel or others like it along the strip and who she often drags into her disruptive pranks, are often the bane of Bobby’s existence, but while dealing with whatever problem arises, Bobby has a soft spot especially for the children and thus, by association, their parents, as he knows that Moonee and others like her are just children acting like a children under whatever guidance they have, Moonee who has less guidance than most. Although there are some lines which he will not tolerate to be crossed, Bobby lets most of the disruptive things that they do go, largely as long as it does not affect the bread and butter of the motel, namely the tourist trade. The summer in this collective is presented, when Moonee and her friends, such as Scooty, are out of school and are left largely to their own devices while self-absorbed Halley does whatever she wants, often just staying in the room watching TV. Halley is supposed to look after Scooty, the son of Halley’s friend Ashley, they who live in the unit immediately underneath Halley and Moonee’s, while Ashley is at work at a local diner. In turn, Ashley pilfers cooked meals from the diner to feed Halley, Moonee and Scooty. Over the course of the summer, Halley systematically begins to alienate one by one the people who are her unofficial support by responding with that disrespect to anything she feels is against her. As such, Halley begins to take more and more extreme measures to maintain the life she leads with Moonee.

I think the director himself said it best when he described the experience he wanted to create in making this film. So many people are concerned with seeing a story in three parts. Setup, confrontation, and resolution. But this is story about summer vacation. It so happens that the summer vacation is set in ghetto motel right beside Disney World, but it is a summer vacation nonetheless. Not everyone has two parents, a house, and food on the table.

And while the subject alone should be enough to hold your interest, what makes it even better is the sheer weight Baker holds up by documenting, studying and paying attention to the details of these peoples lives. Halley is on a road to ruin, and Moonee is likely headed in the same direction, but just right now, for this moment, we get to see her and her friends having fun in the environment they live in.

Pros: There is so much to reflect upon in the way that the movie opens, over a simple act of rebellion, later ending on the same sour notes. There is no bowtie with which we can neatly resolve this story, but where a movie like The Place Beyond The Pines relies heavily on obvious drama to drive home the point of the family ties that bind, The Florida Project is that much wiser in it’s presentation.

ConsIt’s difficult to believe that Halley is so devoid of feeling that she is incapable of wrestling with personal demons. In an era of social media darlings, Bria Vinaite has quite literally been shopped from Instagram.

I know in my hearts of hearts why Willem Dafoe was given a best supporting actor nod, but I can’t help but be enamoured with the characterizations between newcomers Bria Vinaite and her would-be daughter Brooklynn Prince. Perhaps it’s the raw nature of their performances, and perhaps it’s that it reminds me a lot of my favourite director Richard Linklater (and how I wish he had made this movie instead of Last Flag Flying), but either way The Florida Project has captured a moment in time, and quietly asked us to observe the forgotten poor outside a magic kingdom.

Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

Points of Interest: The Florida Project was an early production pet name for Disney World. The motels filmed are true-to-life locations and many of the people seen during the film were actual residents and staff of the buildings. The final scene was shot on an iPhone as Disney World has strict rules about filming without park consent.

I can’t help but vote for a film shot by a guerilla director, and one which sheds light on a group of people often ignored by the greater population. While they live in great poverty, the joy they find in life is encouraging.

theories Summarized

I think I may have found a new hot director to watch, keep your guard up Linklater, the new kid on the block just might supplant you sooner or later. And I’m not sure if it’s obvious you should watch this movie yet, but please do yourself a favour and check it out.

And if you want to see another timotheories cast member who’s super excited to share a film review, just take a look-see at one Chris Murphy. He has a solid Watch Culture video review on Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman, which I can almost assure you will convince even the most stubborn to give it a shot.

What do you think though? Is The Florida Project worthwhile? Did we miss the mark on our Wonder Woman review? Hopefully you have good things to say, but either way… Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

The Vibranium Standard (Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By review)

 

Comic book movie soundtracks are supposed to remind you of the movie, and by and large, most of them do the trick, though my favourites have always been the original Spider-Man trilogy OSTs. And it’s tough to stand up to those Sam Raimi films when we’re talking about thematic music. Nobody does it better then Danny Elfman, except maybe, Kendrick Lamar.

 

Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album, Music from and Inspired By

released February 9, 2018
******** 8/10

Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By (also known as Black Panther: The Album) is a soundtrack album for Marvel Studios latest and greatest, Black Panther. In case that wasn’t obvious to you yet, this is a project with some weight behind it.

Now, to be perfectly honest, this isn’t a Kendrick Lamar album, but it must as well be his love letter to Blaxploitation music of the 1970s and 1990s gangsta rap, with a conscious hip hop flavour of the day.

He pretty much curated the whole thing, and shows up on at least 40% of it’s tracks. His record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, also takes a producers credit. Consequently, each of the featured artists work really well together, and each song adds to the theme of the movie, with Lamar typically sounding the weakest of any of the authors. But if Lamar is one of the worst parts, then why do I say that this is a Kendrick Lamar album? Mainly, because he is all over the record, providing direction to it’s theme, and even Kendrick Lamar at his worst is far more interesting then the majority of commercial artists out there today.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going over each of the individual tracks, but you should know that the themes of blackness as identity, politics, royalty, spirituality, and vulnerability all work together to show off the strengths of the movie, without actually being included in the film score. That’s right, this is a soundtrack inspired by the film, but when you listen to it, there are obvious lyrics which connect us to both protagonist T’Challa, and villain Killmonger.

Pros: There is a lot of amazing cultural influence going on here, from The Weeknd, to Vince Staples. to Khalid, to Schoolboy Q, to Ab-Soul, to Jayrock. It’s A-list hip hop and R&B artists working in concert to send a message about responsiblity.

Cons: If you are hoping for a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 studio album, Damn., then you are going to be disappointed. And as much as this is a Kendrick Lamar influenced soundtrack album, it would have benefited from being a true Kendrick Lamar album with artist features where necessary.

Runtime: 49 minutes

Points of Interest: In it’s first two weeks out, Black Panther: The Album has remained No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. There are a handful of direct references to the movie in certain tracks, rapped by Kendrick Lamar himself.

Getting the support of artists like 2 Chainz and Future is important to a whos-who of contemporary hip hop, but what is even more significant is the message contained therein and the status of the film as it reinforces the voices it needs to be heard. I haven’t seen the movie myself yet, but listening to the soundtrack on repeat of this week is making me even more impatient to check it out.

theories Summarized

It’s not a perfect album, but it is an essential soundtrack collection, and the best representation of a current hip hop to a commercial audience. I’m impressed by the album overall, and while Lamar is a bit subdued in the presentation, his voice continues to stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

And speaking of Kendrick Lamar, my official video review of David Bowie’s Blackstar is now up. In this video Brendon and I tackle the final work of Ziggy Stardust with humour, inspiration, and an extra-special dose of smooth jazz. And if you want to figure out the Lamar/Bowie connection, you’ll just have to watch the video.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about The Florida Project. There’ll be more theories!

Tim!