Last year I asked ten goodly bloggers to hop on board with me in celebrating 2011 in cinema with a twist (link). Genre based discussion of movies sometimes feels reductive because all films in one genre do not examine the same issues. So I considered – why not have some conversations on the year in cinema through themes and motifs? So, “Motifs in Cinema: 2011” was formed. This year I increased the number of motifs to 12 and invited a dozen more bloggers to discuss twelve varying motifs/themes which various films had examined over the year.
This was my mission-statement, so to speak:
Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea - Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.My task was discussing the Parent/Child dynamic.
I kept vacillating on whether or not I’d include parents and children as a discussion point for 2012 in cinema. In 2011 there were more options - at least on the surface - Beginners, A Separation, We Need To Talk About Kevin were just a few of the many observations on the relationship between parent and child, 2012 didn’t have that many to offer, at least not as the main draws to their films. But, it was in noting that dearth of many true examinations on the parent/child dynamic that I realised that the ostensible absence WAS the story in 2012 cinema. True, not many films were as emphatically interested in examining the issues which emanate from parent/child rapport but many of them were nodding towards them in some implicit ways as if to say parent/child machinations had become secondary to larger themes in life.
“I heard y'all talking about killing mama. I think it's a good idea.”
Slightly dotty Dottie’s line somewhere at the beginning of Killer Joe is not even the most depraved thing happening in the scene in appears in, much less the entire of Killer Joe. And, yet in that incredibly flip way the Smiths are standing about discussing matricide (about a woman who never even appears on screen, she has zero agency) the relationship between 2012 children parents and their children reveals itself as unusually dubious. Friedkin and Letts’ exploitation film has a subversive outlook on everything but it’s especially striking how what it portends to family dynamics, specifically those between parents and children. Killer Joe might be deliberately pushing the envelope but its suggestions aren’t less chilling because of that. It’s why the striking absence of mother Adele from the narrative is so significant. She’s so removed from the lives of her children that she doesn’t even warrant screen-time.
It all reminds me of that William Finn song from Falsettos – “Everyone hates his parents”. And, perhaps, the 2012 conversation on parenthood is not as consistently nasty as everything in Killer Joe and it’s probably one shade removed from the defeatist title of Finn’s song but the consistent message seems to be a pronounced between parent and child.
Take, Moonrise Kingdom. It’s another example of the theme being on the back-burner but not less effective for it. Suzy’s conflict with her mother is my favourite of the film’s subplots. Anderson does not give it much attention, at least not in the way you would anticipate but it makes that scene mid-film between McDormand and Hayward work so well. Hayward is doing good work in her line reading of “I hate you,” but it’s McDormand (my tentative MVP) who after the briefest of hesitation responds… “Don’t say hate.” It’s a conversation that’s remarkable for a number of reasons. How many films are as earnestly honest about observing their child characters as Moonrise Kingdom? Further, how many honest conversations do we have about children confronting their parents infidelity? That scene is one of the reasons why, even amidst the charming whimsy, Moonrise Kingdom feels so increasingly sad. Moreover, it’s interesting in how the scene’s “I hate you” seems to be uncannily be taken from another film.
“You’re not my mom! You’re a liar! Liar! I hate you because you’re lying!”
Lili Loofbourow in her peerless piece on the goodness of Brave (for a myriad of reasons) touches on one of its beacons – the attention to a parent and child relationship in an animated film where the parent is a mother, and not a father. It’s not often that we get a film geared at children which observes the machination of a mother / daughter relationship which is why is the presence of Moonrise Kingdom AND Brave in 2012 make me pleased even if the relationships themselves are contentious. Brave is able to use its magic as something more than a deux-es-machina because when those essential changes in character ideologies come it feels earned. After all, the main conflict in Brave between mother and daughter is the awful ways in which communication has been stymied. “Why won’t you listen to me?” both mother and child seem to be saying to each other.
Ceylan’s use of parenthood seems doomed. The potential for communication is absent and with no communication comes no relationship. Even in 2012 films with more palatable ideas of parent/child relationships the danger which emanates from miscommunication between parents and their children is stark (Silver Linings Playbook, Les Misérables, Hello, I Must Be Going). 2012 might not have been as parent-centric as 2011 if you took a cursory glance, but beneath the surface it remains something of incessant important. And maybe Finn’s song title of “Everyone hates their parents” is the wrong one – in the good and bad relationships the suggestion which seems most significant was probably more Sondheim-ish “Children can only grow from something you love…to something you lose.” No wonder so many 2012 films were only discussing the theme in secondary ways…
And now, for more motif consideration:
The initial 2 bloggers per motif group fo 24 turned into 22 and now sits at 20 due to some bloggers having to bow-out, but here's the class of 2012. Some of the articles are still being completed, so check back over the next hour or so at the various writers for some more great reading material.
Jessica of The Velvet Café LINK
Bob of Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind LINK
On Appreciation of Life
Candice of Reel Talk LINK
Brittani of Rambling Film LINK
On The Dichotomy between Reality and Fantasy
Tim of Antagony and Ecstasy LINK
Amir of Amiresque LINK
On Disappointment and Disillusionment
Michael of Serious Film LINK
On Economics and Money
Andreas of Pussy Goes Grr LINK
On The Inevitability of Death
Andrew of The Film Emporium LINK
Jose of Movies Kick Ass LINK
On Love and Marriage
Alex of And So It Begins LINK
Ruth of FlixChatter LINK
On Luck and Fate
Paolo of Okinawa Assault Incident LINK
On Man Against Society
CS of Big Thoughts of a Small Mind LINK
David of Victim of the Time LINK
On Parents and Children
Joanna of For Cinephiles by a Cinefille LINK
On Revenge and Justice
Nicholas of Cinema Romantico LINK
On Work and the Workplace
Craig of Dark Eye Socket LINK
Manuel of A Blog Next Door LINK
Thanks to my fellow bloggers for participating, and now go read and join into the conversation. What were your thoughts on the workplaces in 2012 cinema? Were you moved by the romances? Moved by the dissertations on appreciating life?
Go. Read. Talk