Film Emotion Blogathon

Inside Out Pixar

This terrific blogathon is hosted by Conman at the Movies:

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JOY: First of all, you want to pick a movie that makes you happy … as long as there’s a smile on your face by the end credits, it should be fair game.

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The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Memory — and the myriad ways it guides or deceives us — is endlessly fascinating to me. So it’s not surprising that The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films of all time. The wacky humor, the playful sense of whimsy, and — above all — the heart at the core of the story make me smile.

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SADNESS: Now for the movie that made you cry the most. From Bambi to Titanic, there are plenty of tear-jerker movies out there … your eyes should be pretty watery by the film’s end.

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Oranges and Sunshine

Based on a true story, this movie delves into a heinous large-scale case of children being stolen from their families, sold into virtual slavery, and abused. I cried like a little kid throughout the film.

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ANGER: This is a movie that you flat out hated … It could also be a movie where your anger isn’t directed at the movie, but at the characters. Ever wanted to scream at movie characters for making such incredibly stupid decisions?

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Breaking the Waves

Anger is the flip side of sadness, and this is another heart-wrenching film. I didn’t hate Breaking the Waves. In fact Emily Watson gave a gorgeous, unforgettable performance in the first role of her career. And Bess is a compelling character. The way she is judged for not shielding her emotions and the downward spiral her life takes seem gratuitously cruel.

Bess’s community is a cheerless lot. It starts with their funerals. We see the village elders proclaiming, with grim satisfaction,”You have earned your place in Hell” at a person’s graveside. That is definitely in the running for the worst eulogy of all time.

While I am not religious, I have plenty of respect and admiration — on the whole — for religious people. However, we have all known those “faithful” folks for whom the greatest joy is usurping God’s role and condemning others to eternal damnation. People like that are infuriating. And in Breaking the Waves, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Why does Bess’ husband, Jan, convince her to offer herself relentlessly to other men? All the facets of her character that make her lovable — her intense, unfiltered emotions, her selflessness, and her innocence — also make her vulnerable. Jan has seen firsthand just how emotionally vulnerable she is. Is he simply too brain damaged — or drug-addled — after his accident to think coherently? Or does he have a cruel streak? Either way, I wanted to pound him. Yes, I wanted to beat the crap out of him right there in his hospital bed. And while I am glad I didn’t miss Watson’s performance in this film, I will never subject myself to it again.

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FEAR: “This is the movie that gave you the most nightmares …Whether blunt or subtle, this is the movie that scares the **** out of you.”

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We Need to Talk About Kevin

For some reason, horror movies tend not to scare me. I enjoy them if they are well crafted, creative, or just craptastically campy. But demons, ghosts, malevolent aliens, and other horrors don’t really frighten me.

You know what scares the bejeezus out of me? Psychopaths. I’ve had the dubious privilege of knowing some people with antisocial personality disorder. Their lack of compassion and conscience combined with their propensity to get bored when no one is frightened, upset, or angry. Not to mention the unpredictability and penchant for violence.

My deepest fear is — and has always been — of failing my children in some fundamental way or having them reach a point where they’re beyond my help. We Need to Talk About Kevin artfully combines both these fears, and it creates such an unsettling sense of dread.

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DISGUST: This last one is a bit tricky, I’ll let you interpret it the way you want … Either way, this film should make you cringe.

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Compliance

You know what else is terrifying? Human stupidity. Again and again, throughout my life, I’ve stated, with tremendous conviction, “No one can possibly be that stupid.” And again and again, I’ve been proven wrong.

The scenario created in Compliance is so ludicrous, so rife with idiocy, that I wouldn’t have believed it was plausible. But it happened. In real life. People’s actions in this film are so absurd and so casually and stupidly cruel that I quickly went beyond anger. I was left with sheer speechless disgust.

I wish we could dismiss this as an isolated incident. But history is full of examples of “normal” people doing incomprehensibly cruel, senseless things because they thought they were “supposed” to.

On the upside, I got a lot of mileage out of the homeschool unit I created around Compliance. We discussed psychological, philosophical, and historical aspects of “compliance,” including the famous Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, certain acts of war, and much more. I’m proudly raising noncompliant kids who stubbornly, persistently think for themselves. And based on what I’ve seen, many other families are doing the same. I find a sense of hope in that.

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13 thoughts on “Film Emotion Blogathon

  1. Oh, yay! So, Breaking the Waves is probably, upon reflection, Lars Von Trier’s strongest and most complex and poignant film. He tackles so many themes here, from love, faith, loyalty and grief, and does so in such an impassioned way, and yet he never loses himself in his ideas. He grounds them rather strongly and emphatically. It doesn’t always feel that way, especially if one isn’t prepared for the brutality of Von Trier’s directing style, but when one looks back and reflects on everything Von Trier is saying here, one can’t help but be engulfed by it. Von Trier etches out a character portrait of an entire town and way of thinking with such sharpness here. From Bess’s blind devotion to not only her husband by to a God she feels she knows but doesn’t understand to her husband’s selfish commanding of her mixed rather seamlessly in with his tender affections for her (especially upon her eventualities) to the townspeople’s inability to ‘help’ because of their rigid stance on circumstance, Von Trier’s allegory of blind faith and religious fanaticism is so profound. Many will criticism it because it’s relentless in it’s depictions of violence and sex, but it’s so richly woven into the fabric of the film. Without the blunt force trauma of the film’s pacing, the message here wouldn’t be as strongly heard. Jan is such an interesting character, for the reasons you question in your comment above. He seems so confusing as a person because of what he knows of Bess and yet demands of her and yet it feels like an exaggerated (or maybe not so exaggerated) depiction of how we at times can zap others of their free-choice in an attempt to feel whole ourselves. Jan lost something, something that he lived for…and in place of that was left with someone who didn’t understand it enough to live for it herself, and so in his way of coping with his situation, he lived through her, made her live for him, and in the process ruined her. Oh, this film cuts so deep.

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    1. Wow! Such an intelligent and intensely emotional comment. So much we could discuss here. For now, just a few thoughts:

      1. I am not particularly familiar with von Trier’s work, as I’ve only watched a couple of his films. And it is clear that he’s a difficult director for people to appreciate. But it is to his credit that this movie made me as angry as it did.

      2. My 21-year-old daughter is a fan of von Trier’s work, particularly this movie. She read that Breaking the Waves was inspired by a folktale. It sounds like the folktale had a The Giving Tree vibe — it was about a girl who gave away everything she had to the forest animals and, because of her love, wouldn’t stop giving. It could be argued that it takes a particularly depraved mind to adapt that story in this particular way. Ha ha!

      3. I’m pondering what you said here: “Jan is such an interesting character … it feels like an exaggerated (or maybe not so exaggerated) depiction of how we at times can zap others of their free-choice in an attempt to feel whole ourselves.” There is plenty of food for thought there. It speaks volumes about relationships, doesn’t it? Particularly how easy it is for a loving relationship to become sick — almost vampiric — when we’re in a place where we diminish a loved one to — as you aptly put it — feel whole ourselves.And how do we recover from that and rebuild a balanced, healthy, loving relationship?

      O.K., that’s all for now. 😉

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      1. LOVE THIS!

        I love the point your daughter brings up, about the Giving Tree. That makes complete sense here, and I can completely see that influence in the fleshing out of this story. You’re right, it takes a depraved mind, but Von Trier has that, as can be seen from most of his works. He’s a messed up man. He’s openly admitted to being a functioning (if you can call it that) alcoholic who hates his life and can only cope by drinking nearly a bottle of Vodka a day. He had a pretty awful childhood, from what I recall, and his works almost always express misogyny in a very brutal way, but as many have tried to analyze, his misogyny almost feels explorative, as if he’s trying to understand, not hate.

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      2. “His misogyny almost feels explorative, as if he’s trying to understand, not hate” — that’s a thought-provoking point.

        I have read about von Trier’s addiction and depression, along with his bizarre film festival meltdown. Very sad. 😦

        For the most part, von Trier’s work seems like it would be too extreme for me. I’m afraid I’d need a whole bottle of vodka to get through Antichrist. :-/ To be fair, though, one of myriad reasons I don’t want to see Antichrist is that it sounds like it hits the parental guilt theme on a primal level, and that’s a dark road I choose not to go down. (Does that make sense to you?) So I have to give von Trier a little bit of credit there, I guess.

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      3. Makes a ton of sense. Antichrist is also a muddled mess at points (although still much better than Nymphomaniac, which is just pointless and gross). Gainsbourg is brilliant though (in Antichrist). Like, she goes there…chilling…terrifying.

        Watch Dogville. It’s tamer (and yet still rather abrasive) and Dancer in the Dark. Those are top tier Von Trier, and reasons why he should never be discarded as a force in cinema, even if he’s hard to stomach at times.

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  2. I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s just a wonderful film from start to finish. Gives me joy, too. We Need to Talk About Kevin and Compliance are both perfect picks. No those are horror flicks. The fact they ring true is far scarier than any boogeyman could ever be. As a dad, WNtTAK tore me apart and I was so infuriated watching Compliance, it was all I could do not to kick in my own TV screen. Awesome job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wendell! I am glad you many of us find joy in Eternal Sunshine.

      Watching We Need to Talk About Kevin is so devastating for a parent. That’s a movie and book I could discuss for hours. And I suspect many of us almost kicked our television sets watching Compliance. Few things are more infuriating that contemplating human stupidity and exactly how far down that rabbit hole goes. :-/

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  3. “Breaking the Waves” is my favorite of the five featured here. When I think of the single most powerful film performance of all time, Emily Watson in this movie comes to mind. “Compliance” just pissed me the fuck off, no redeeming qualities there. Just pure GD stupidity. Good picks!

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