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Everybody Wants to be Us

Graduate Student at Loyola University Chicago. Check out the blog for what I'm currently obsessed with in film and culture. Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, Christian Bale, Jesse Eisenberg, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and Daniel Radcliffe are regulars here.

#emma watson

BEST FILMS OF 2013
18) THE BLING RING
 Like Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring brings us into the id of young women, showing their deep love and commitment to pop culture and the consequences of their adoration.  Through these thieving teens, we see inside the lives and homes of celebrities, and I was more aghast at the wealth and excess there than the behavior of the kids.  Emma Watson crushes every scene as the vapid Nicki and newcomer Katie Chang excellently captures the boldness and total self-absorption of Bring Ring leader Rebecca. 

BEST FILMS OF 2013

18) THE BLING RING

Like Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring brings us into the id of young women, showing their deep love and commitment to pop culture and the consequences of their adoration.  Through these thieving teens, we see inside the lives and homes of celebrities, and I was more aghast at the wealth and excess there than the behavior of the kids.  Emma Watson crushes every scene as the vapid Nicki and newcomer Katie Chang excellently captures the boldness and total self-absorption of Bring Ring leader Rebecca. 

Emma Watson and Sofia Coppola featured in Vulture’s Best Entertainment Photography

From my review of The Bling Ring

Materialism in both films is a visceral experience.  The objects of desire carry powerful meanings for the characters.  For the women of The Bling Ring, the jewelry, purses, and furs are sacred artifacts of the celebrity lifestyle.  Fashion and celebrity culture imbue them, and us, with preternatural desire and reverence for these things.  The girls handle the dresses and shoes with care, like works of art.  The stealing is a part of the worship experience: to take these items out into the world, feed off their power, and live the good life. 

Check out my essay on The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers here

Look At All My S**t: Materialism, Pop Culture, and Making Fantasies Reality in “The Bling Ring” and “Spring Breakers”

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers would make an excellent double feature.  One, based on a true story, follows a group of girls, with one boy in tow, who break into celebrity mansions and cheerfully lift their excess Chanel, Prada, and cash.  The other dwells on an fictional nightmare of four friends who go from drunken beach revelry to armed robbery and bloody turf wars during spring break.  When arrested, the Bling Ring garners media attention and the kind of flimsy fame that motivated their crimes.  

The women in Spring Breakers emerge unscathed after a neon-light bathed shoot-out so ridiculous you’ll cackle with glee instead of disgust. Both films examine how materialism, the pervasiveness of pop culture, and performativity motivate and escalate the respective criminals.  With so many television shows, movies, and cultural examinations of the morally vacant anti-hero, it seems fair we should also discuss girls and women behaving badly.  

Materialism in both films is a visceral experience.  The objects of desire carry powerful meanings for the characters.  For the women of The Bling Ring, the jewelry, purses, and furs are sacred artifacts of the celebrity lifestyle.  Fashion and celebrity culture imbued them, and us, with preternatural desire and reverence for these things.  The girls handle the dresses and shoes with care, like works of art.  The stealing is a part of the worship experience: to take these items out into the world, feed off their power, and live the good life. 

The women of Spring Breakers have more simple and deadly tastes: guns and money.  Before their crime spree, Brit (Ashley Benson) fiddles around with a toy squirt gun, caressing it adoringly.  In the presence of the real thing, Brit, Candy, and Cotty (Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine) use automatic rifles as batons to play “Ring Around the Rosy.” The guns give the women power, sexual power in particular, as exhibited in a scene too wild to spoil with Benson, Hudgens, and James Franco. Money has a similar effect.  After robbing a chicken shack, they flash their pilfered gains seductively.  The money represents freedom, not only to go to spring break, but to cast off moral constraints on their behavior. The women here are less concerned with what money can buy than with how it makes them feel.  

Both films explore the deep and symbiotic relationships young women have with pop culture.  In The Bling Ring, the girls consider themselves on a first name basis with their marks.  Why shouldn’t they with almost  unlimited access through celebrity gossip sites, magazines, and tweets.  Taking it all in, they want in.  Breaking into celebrity homes is more about participating in the lives of the people who’ve shared everything else with them, crossing that final line between the famous and everyone else.  In Spring Breakers, the young women find inspiration in darker elements of pop culture: our collective fascination with violence.  To fund their vacation, the girls decide to rob a chicken restaurant with fake guns and hammers.  They tell themselves “Pretend it’s a video game” which, like many lines in Breakers gets repeated like a rallying cry fueling their destruction.  Video games, movies, and TV furnished these young women with the steps and passion to commit these crimes. 

At some point, the young women in both films take their pop culture obsessions to a higher level, making themselves the stars of their fantasies of choice.  Taking their cues from reality TV stars with no discernible talent, the girls in The Bling Ring kick their narcissism into high gear.  This especially applies to Nicki, played wonderfully by Emma Watson, who uses her infamy to launch her own vapid celebrity career. Always ready for the press, Nicki refers to her legal prosecution as a “learning lesson” for her future of running charities or a country.  

Bling Ring leader Rebecca, played by Katie Chung (a Chicago native and amazing new talent) meets her arrest with complete calm.  Using the language of every legal show and film ever made, Rebecca guilelessly proposes a deal to exchange all the stolen merchandise for her freedom.  Self-deception, image control, and constant promotion of the brand come second nature to these young women because those are the core talents of their admired reality TV celebrities.  They know the game and play it like stars. 

The women in ‘Spring Breakers’ up the ante as well.  After getting bailed out by a colorful drug dealer and amateur rapper, Alien (James Franco), the girls make themselves at home with his massive collection of firearms.  In a scene  that would be shocking if it wasn’t set to Brittany Spears’ ‘Everytime,” the girls and Alien return to the party hotels in pink ski masks and assault rifles to rob everyone.  It’s not about the money though, the girls thrive from dominating others.  You can glimpse their darker impulses before Alien appears when they relate their chicken shack robbery tale, aggressively threatening their friend to get down on the ground and pointing a gun-shaped finger at her with a convincing intent to kill.  These women quickly go from consumers of pop culture violence to expert purveyors of it. 

Materialism and pop culture looms large in both The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers, but the young women in both film aren’t merely empty disciples to fashion or violence.  Each film depicts the importance of the desired items in the character’s psychology and traces how the women move from admirers to experts, taking the items and creating their own world of beauty or horror.  

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Perks perfectly balances sweet, effervescent scenes like this dance with darker, serious moments that moved me.  It comes to DVD on February 12th. 

Game Changers 2012

Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller 

These three performers may not get Oscar attention, but they made a huge impression on me in Perks of Being a Wallflower.  This was my introduction to Lerman and he is so endearing and wonderful.  His character Charlie is quiet and shy, but Lerman has such presence on screen you cannot take your eyes off of him.  Ezra Miller impressed and terrified me in We Need to Talk About Kevin.  It was delightful to see him as the charismatic, funny, and witty Patrick- a complete opposite of the vacant and maniacal Kevin.  Emma Watson is wonderful as Sam.  She nails the American accent and gives a nuanced and mature performance.  

There are inchoate glints here of a future Hollywood mover and shaker, but, speaking to Watson, they were offset by an impression of someone still looking for nurture in each new temporary family she encounters — whether it be the Potter circus, the cast of “Wallflower” or at Brown. I suspect it may be this emotional connection she seeks quite as much as fulfillment through acting. She certainly has no desire for the glitzy lifestyle her wealth could afford her, this she made perfectly clear — and I believe her. 

"The Graduate" NYT Style Profile of Emma Watson

"Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Must see of 2012

"Perks Of Being a Wallflower" Trailer

Due for a September release, I cannot wait to see this film.  Emma Watson going full manic pixie and I LOVE IT.  Ezra Miller has incredible range, he’s so full of life and happiness here- as opposed to his dark, psychopathic turn in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

I wish Paul Rudd was my English teacher. 

Variety reports Emma Watson will star in Sofia Coppola’s new film “Bling Ring” about a group of LA youths who break into the houses of celebrities.  Knowing Coppola’s dreamlike visual style and obsession with the burdens of the wealthy, this should be an interesting take.  Watson will also be reuniting with David Yates for “Your Voice in My Head” - based on a memoir about a woman battling personal demons with the help of a psychiatrist- and heading Guillermo del Toro’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Watson has already has filmed “Perks of Being a Wallflower” (awaiting a release date) and added grace to her small part in “My Week With Marilyn.” It looks like Watson will be a prominent presence on screen in the coming year or so. She’s also choosing directors well; partnering with proved talents with distinct visual styles.  

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