‘Grey Gardens’ 1975

The Maysles brothers pay visits to Edith Bouvier Beale, nearing 80, and her daughter Edie. Reclusive, the pair live with cats and raccoons in Grey Gardens, a crumbling mansion in East Hampton. Edith is dry and quick-witted – a singer, married but later separated, a member of high society. Edie is voluble, dresses – as she puts it – for combat in tight ensembles that include scarves wrapped around her head. There are hints that Edie came home 24 years before to be cared for rather than to care for her mother. The women address the camera, talking over each other, moving from the present to events years before. They’re odd, with flinty affection for each other.

Grey Gardens is a 1975 American documentary film by Albert and David Maysles. The film depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive, formerly upper class women, a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, who lived in poverty at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion at 3 West End Road in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton, New York. The film was screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival but was not entered into the main competition.

Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer also directed, and Susan Froemke was the associate producer. The film’s editors are credited as Hovde (who also edited Gimme Shelter and Salesman), Meyer and Froemke.

In 2010 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted Grey Gardens the joint ninth best documentary film of all time.

Background

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as “Big Edie”, and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (1917–2002), known as “Little Edie”, were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at the Grey Gardens estate for decades with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation.

The house was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe and purchased in 1923 by “Big Edie” and her husband Phelan Beale. After Phelan left his wife, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” lived there for more than 50 years. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist.

Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their living conditions—their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay—were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine after a series of inspections (which the Beales called “raids”) by the Suffolk County Health Department. With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories.

Original Trailer

‘Paris is Burning’ 1990

This is a documentary of ‘drag nights’ among New York’s underclass. Queens are interviewed and observed preparing for and competing in many ‘balls’. The people, the clothes, and the whole environment are outlandish.

Paris Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Some critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America.[2][3]

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Critical Reception

Upon release, the documentary received rave reviews from critics and won several awards including a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, a Berlin International Film Festival Teddy Bear, an audience award from the Toronto International Film Festival, a GLAAD Media Award, a Women in Film Crystal Award, a Best Documentary award from the Los Angeles, New York, and National Film Critics’ Circles, and it also was named as one of 1991’s best films by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Time magazine, and others.

Paris Is Burning failed to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature that year, adding to a growing perception that certain subjects and treatments were excluded from consideration for Oscars, and leading, in part, to a change in how documentaries are nominated for the Academy Awards.

More than two decades later, Paris Is Burning remains an organizing tool for gay and trans youth; a way for scholars and students to examine issues of race, class, and gender; a way for younger ball participants to meet their ancestors; and a portrait of several remarkable Americans, most of whom have died since the film’s production.

Some people have criticized Paris Is Burning. In Is Paris Burning?, bell hooks questioned Livingston’s depiction of the drag balls, arguing that it reduces them to mere spectacle: “Much of the film’s focus on pageantry takes the ritual of the black drag ball and makes it spectacle. Ritual is that ceremonial act that carries with it meaning and significance beyond what appears, while spectacle functions primarily as entertaining dramatic display… Hence it is easy for white observers to depict black rituals as spectacle.” hooks, a feminist writer who is not LGBT-identified, also questioned the political efficacy of the drag balls themselves, citing her own experimentations with drag, and suggesting that the balls themselves lack political, artistic, and social significance. Judith Butler based some of her book, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, on this film.

 

‘Great Expectations’ 1998

Based on Charles Dickens’ timeless tale, this is a story of the love of a man for an unreachable woman. Updated to modern day New York City, the story concerns a man of modest background who falls in love with a rich girl. But when a mysterious benefactor greenlights the man to make his dreams come true, everything done has the ultimate goal of making Estella fall in love with him…

‘Nocturnal Animals’ 2016

A “story inside a story,” in which the first part follows a woman named Susan who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, a man whom she left 20 years earlier, asking for her opinion. The second element follows the actual manuscript, called “Nocturnal Animals,” which revolves around a man whose family vacation turns violent and deadly. It also continues to follow the story of Susan, who finds herself recalling her first marriage and confronting some dark truths about herself.

Critical Response

Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised the film, stating “Tom Ford’s first film since A Single Man is another winner”, and complimenting the performances of Gyllenhaal, Adams, Shannon and Taylor-Johnson. Steve Pulaski of Influx Magazine gave the film a perfect A+, saying, “Nocturnal Animals is one of the best films of the year. A layered, masterful work of interwoven storylines mixed with crime-drama craft, infused with the same kind of pulsating, West Texas-vibes we saw so beautifully in Hell or High Water, and multilayered storytelling at its finest, the film features gifted actors throwing themselves into performances that require massive versatility between scenes.”

‘American Psycho’ 2000

Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated and intelligent. He is twenty-seven and living his own American dream. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. At night he descends into madness, as he experiments with fear and violence.

Reception

American Psycho debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it polarized audiences and critics; some showered the film with praise, others with scorn. Upon its theatrical release, however, the film received positive reviews in crucial publications, including The New York Times which called it a “mean and lean horror comedy classic”. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and praised Christian Bale’s performance as being “heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor”. In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, “The difficult truth is that the more viewers can model themselves after protagonist Bateman, the more they can distance themselves from the human reality of the slick violence that fills the screen and take it all as some kind of a cool joke, the more they are likely to enjoy this stillborn, pointless piece of work”. Newsweek magazine’s David Ansen wrote, “But after an hour of dissecting the ’80s culture of materialism, narcissism and greed, the movie begins to repeat itself. It becomes more grisly and surreal, but not more interesting”. In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, “If anything, Bale is too knowing. He eagerly works within the constraints of the quotation marks Harron puts around his performance”.

‘Room’ 2015

ROOM tells the extraordinary story of Jack, a spirited 5-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted mother. Like any good mother, Ma dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him with warmth and love and doing typical things like playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical–they are trapped–confined to a 10-by-10-foot space that Ma has euphemistically named Room. Ma has created a whole universe for Jack within Room, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that, even in this treacherous environment, Jack is able to live a complete and fulfilling life. But as Jack’s curiosity about their situation grows, and Ma’s resilience reaches its breaking point, they enact a risky plan to escape, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.

One of the best things about “Room” is how such an intimate film manages to raise some big questions. What defines us as a person? What do we really need to live? Why are kids so astonishingly resilient when under duress? What happens when all your troubles disappear yet contentment persists in being an illusion? And what does a parent do when their child begins to outgrow their need for them?

 

‘Animal House’ 1978

Faber College has one frat house so disreputable it will take anyone. It has a second one full of white, anglo-saxon, rich young men who are so sanctimonious no one can stand them except Dean Wormer. The dean enlists the help of the second frat to get the boys of Delta House off campus. The dean’s plan comes into play just before the homecoming parade to end all parades for all time.