Film Review: The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

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I went into this film, much how I often do with indie dramas, without much information about the movie itself other than knowing that Elle Fanning was in the cast (and I’ll watch any movie she’s cast in). When I read the plot summary of the film stating that it was about a former writer who after his ascent to stardom, decides to throw a disappearing act ala J.D. Salinger and travels across America’s libraries and bookstores so that he can burn his Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, Suburban Tragedy, I decided to give this movie a go instead of my default horror film selection.

The film is directed by former frontman of the rock band Stellastarr, Shawn Christensen, who also helped co-write the script with Jason Dolan. Christensen proved to be a competent storyteller and director a couple of years ago when he won an Academy Award for the short film, Curfew in 2012.

We’re first introduced to the precocious Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) whilst he’s reading an essay for his English class where he describes a girl he used to fantasize about and masturbate to. Some of the students giggle, while others are appalled, namely the English teacher who wants to report him to the principal. Honestly, I had to suspend belief there for a moment, cause I can’t see anyone in my high school getting away with reading an essay about masturbation in class (the teacher never would’ve allowed a student to read it all the way through without truncating it before it went into NSFW realm). However, I can see why the director opened with that scene, we, the audience are supposed to believe that Sidney Hall isn’t your typical teenager. He’s got talent and talented people can get away with being blunt as long they’re being creative about it.

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Sidney isn’t particularly likable at first, but Christensen provides a “save the cat!” scene, where Sidney agrees to help jock and bully Brett Newport (Blake Jenner) with a favor if Brett in return promises to no longer bully the nerdy outcast at their school. Suddenly, we’re thought to believe that maybe Sidney isn’t such a jerk after all, but merely a misunderstood genius. Which is why we won’t bat an eye when he cheats on his wife (Elle Fanning) later on in life, because after all he can’t be too awful if he did that one act of kindness so many years ago!

The story is told in three parts, teenage Sidney, twenty-something successful Sidney, and thirty-year-old Sidney. Throughout the film we get scenes from all those three-time frames as we try to piece together exactly what happened that inspired Sidney’s debut novel, and also wish to know what caused him to become a hobo-looking book-burning nomad later on in life.

After viewing the film, I noticed that the reviews for it weren’t so positive. However, I loved the movie (maybe it’s because it’s about a writer who strikes it big but then has a major fall from grace moment, coincidentally that’s what made love Words too). Adult Sidney sees himself being stalked by “The Seeker,” (Kyle Chandler) which we don’t exactly know why he’s being pursued by him (if he the authorities or someone he wronged?). I thought the reveal of Chandler’s character was rather clever.

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I found the film to be compelling, emotional, and at times too raw and visceral but you can’t help but keep on watching and hoping that your hero will find some peace.

I recommend this to anyone who loves their indie movies to amp the tragedy and downplay cliché happy endings because if you’re looking for one you won’t find one here.

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Review: Lancôme DRAMA LIQUI-PENCIL Longwear Eyeliner

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If there’s one makeup product that’s a staple in my makeup bag, it’s eyeliner. I’m always changing it up between pencil and liquid, and this new one from Lancome promises to combine the intensity and precision of a liquid eyeliner, but with the fool-proofness of a pencil liner (which is more forgiving especially if you’re in a hurry or putting on makeup early in the morning whilst being in a hurry as I do when getting ready for work).

What It Is: A long-wear highly pigmented liquid pencil eyeliner.

What It Does: 24-hour wear, blendable formula, no smudging!

Verdict: This liqui-pencil is absolutely phenomenal! I LOVE how pigmented the eyeliner is, and the fact that it’s very forgiving and fool-proof to apply when you’re strapped for time. It is precise and doesn’t budge all day. Even when I swatched it, it was difficult to remove (I had to use both makeup remover AND cleanser to get it off). So you’re assured that this eyeliner will stay on your lid and not migrate half way down your eyes by the end of the day. It’s also sweat-proof (no running eyeliner when you’re hitting the dance floor or gym!), and even if you forget about wearing liner and rub your eye, this liner isn’t going anywhere! This liner comes in various vibrant colours ranging from blue, black, brown, and purple, but I got the blue and find it such a fun way to have a pop of colour on your lids whilst wearing nude eyeshadow.

Price: $23

Where To Buy It: Sephora

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By: Azzurra Nox

(Please don’t let me be) Misunderstood: Movie Review

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Incompresa debuted at Cannes in 2014 and it’s Asia Argento’s third directorial effort. The movie is loosely based on Argento’s own childhood, particularly the time frame when her parents, actress Daria Nicolodi and master of horror director, Dario Argento, split up after ten years of being together. In the movie, the protagonist Aria (Argento’s real name) played by a remarkable Giulia Salerno, gets shuffled between her concert pianist mother (played by a moody Charlotte Gainsbourg and styled to resemble Nicolodi) and international movie star father (played by Italy’s heartthrob Gabriel Garko).

The movie opens with an instrumental by Brian Molko as Aria writes in her diary. Fun fact: for those of us who have read Asia Argento’s book I Love You Kirk (published back in 1999 and out of print now), will readily recognize the opening sequence is an excerpt from Argento’s very own childhood diary.

One of the first scenes in the movie depicts Aria getting hit hard by her mother to the point of spilling blood. Moments later though, her mother washes her bloodied lip and tells her, “Don’t play the victim card.” The following morning, after a violent fight with her spouse, Aria’s mother is washing the blood from her hair and tells her, “Look at what your father did to me. He’s a monster,” just as Aria touches her bruised lip, reminding her of her mother’s violent act.

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The fact that Aria comes from an affluent family, would usually make the audience unsympathetic towards her. But since she’s so clearly invisible in her family, just as she is in school, the protagonist becomes very relatable and likable. Nothing in Aria’s life ever goes right. At school she is taunted, her crush doesn’t like her, her mother seems bothered by her presence readily shipping her off to her dad, while her dad is just as neglectful and ordering her to go back to her mother whenever she upsets him or his daughter Lucrezia, and the only person who seems to care about her is her best friend Angelica (who later betrays her too).

The movie is bittersweet and dark, but the colour palette used in the scenes is vibrant and hopeful. The soundtrack is superb, as are the outlandish outfits worn by Aria throughout the movie. Every scene pulls at your heartstrings, bringing the audience closer to the grand finale. And like any tragic movie, for any moment of happiness, there are four scenes of sorrow. My favourite scene in the movie is the epic party scene that soon shifts from exciting and fun, to shame and disaster. After the ultimate betrayal (that’s almost reminiscent of Carrie’s Prom scene, sans the pig’s blood, but with the same amount of embarrassment and hurt), the audience doesn’t even bat an eye when Aria ultimately does the most horrific of gestures. Because we’re kind of expecting things to go <I>that</I> bad. We can understand her motives. We actually feel sorry that a nine-year-old girl has to feel so unloved. This movie is almost a cautionary tale for parents to be more attentive to their kids before it’s too late. Because the end result could be tragic, as it was in the movie, or they could just grow up to become moody artists who’ll capture your wrongdoings in a movie for the whole world to see.

But like Aria says at the end, “I didn’t tell you this so that you could feel sorry for me. I shared this with you, so that maybe if you meet me, you’ll be nicer.” This certainly has left me wanting to give Asia a hug albeit that may be a bit too sappy so maybe just a punk salute will do, “Revolution, baby!”

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This movie is raw, intense, and just overall beautiful. It’s the spawn of Charles Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath in images. Don’t miss it. Because once you watch it, you’ll be left enthralled and disarmed.

Incompresa (Misunderstood) is currently available on Netflix, Amazon, Itunes, and Youtube.

By: Azzurra Nox