‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This month’s theme is ‘dedication’.
If there’s any art form that requires dedication, it’s ballet. High trained ballerinas rehearse for hours upon hours under the regime of strict teachers. They need incredible strength; feet pointed, arms up, for not one muscle must be out of place. The ambitious ballerina Nina Sayers in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan puts the meaning of dedication to the test. Her technique is impeccable, commitment unshakeable. Nina’s whole life revolves around ballet, broken toenails, late nights and early mornings always at rehearsal. But there is a dark side to dedication. Nina Sayers tells her director that she wants to achieve “perfection”, after all, isn’t that what all of her dedication is going to lead up to? Dedication to technique = perfection in art? Nina goes nearly insane trying to achieve that elusive perfection. Hard work is very important and rewarding, but work hard because you love what you do, not to be perfect. Because perfection is unattainable. Black Swan shows that while dedication is important for being an artist, or anyone committed to a craft, there is still a dark side to it. –Caroline
When it comes to Tarantino, minds are often divided. Some criticise his extensive use of violence, others the complexity of his plots but I have always viewed him as something of a modern visionary, partly due to his refusal to hold back when it comes to creating movies and partly because the dialogue that he gives us is so subtly compelling. Some argue that as he progresses with age, Tarantino’s films have reached their pinnacle and that he will never be able to reach the dizzying heights of ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ again. I, however, argue that he will. To give evidence for this point, let’s look at ‘Django Unchained’, Tarantino’s take on slavery, racism and sexism, all of which are synonymous with American history, including an ashamedly underrated performance from Jamie Foxx and a setting that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Western feature of the 1950’s. Many themes appear throughout ‘Django’, ranging from discrimination to love lost and found, but the one that I want to shed light upon is dedication, as it presents itself in several varying forms throughout the movie. The most obvious manner in which this is conveyed to us is through Foxx’s Django and his dogged devotion to his wife, as he travels across the West to find and free her from slavery at the hands of a surprisingly chilling Leonardo DiCaprio. Furthermore, the commitment with which Dr Schultz (Christoph Waltz) treats his work as an unrelenting bounty hunter also provides another example of dedication, a type which may be entirely different to that shared between Django himself and his wife, but is just as important when expressing this continuous theme. Dedication, as Tarantino has proved repeatedly, can often muster itself into many walks of life and is not always necessarily romantic. –Hannah
Somebody Up There Likes Me is a 1956 film that is based off of Rocky Graziano’s tumultuous life and career. Paul Newman plays Rocky, the son of a washed up boxer who lives in the crowded Italian ghettos of New York City. Throughout his childhood he is either getting abused by his father or getting into trouble. As he gets older he joins a two-bit gang and steals goods for cash, and it’s not too long until he is sent to prison and then into the army to serve during WWII. Throughout his time in the army (and in prison as well) the audience gets to see Rocky’s rebelliousness as he dismisses his authority figures and challenges his mates to do the same. He eventually escapes the army by punching out his superior and fleeing from the window. When he returns to his home he finds out he has been dishonourably discharged; his supportive mother abandons him. Needing money he begins to box and discovers his impeccable talent for it. Rocky also falls in love with his sister’s friend Norma and because of her he decides to clean up his act. As he rises in the ranks he struggles to keep his past wrongs a secret, but it proves to be difficult, as his dishonourable discharge falls into the wrong hands and forces him to work with the mafia. I chose this film for this month’s Writer’s Choice because Rocky’s motivation and dedication to his sport changes throughout the film. When the movie begins and he in prison or in the army base he fights because he wants to express his rebellion and display his power even in a place where rank overpowers strength. Rocky then begins to fight to earn money, to afford a loaf of bread and to show his mother that he can make it out in the world on his own. Once he meets Norma he fights to support her and their daughter. And ultimately, he fights to prove his fans that he isn’t crooked, that his past was his past and he truly is the best fighter out there. This film is a powerful tale of dedication and maturity. –Monica
As a shy, insecure and uninspired 11 year old, Whip It meant the world to me when I saw it in the cinema five years ago and found a relatable character who discovers what she really wants to do. The film tells the tale of an outcast in the form of Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), who turns up to beauty pageants with blue hair and has no real goals in life. It’s a typical coming-of-age story that’s been told a thousand times, but what makes Whip It unique is that the goals Bliss eventually aim for come in the form of women’s Roller Derby, making it one of the few films out there about the sport. It also provides us with an outstanding female cast that, as well as Page, includes Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and Zoë Bell playing tough as hell characters. The film is heavily realistic, but also incredibly inspiring, and provided me with some life advice that I continued to quote for months after watching – “Be your own hero”. If you need any more reasons to watch this film, it has a pretty great soundtrack that includes Peaches and Ramones, and watching Ellen Page endearingly fall over in Barbie roller-skates should be enough. –Georgia
Cherie Currie is one of my heroes, and in 2010 her autobiography (and my favourite book)Neon Angel: Memoirs of a Runaway, was adapted into a biographical film detailing the highs and lows of the first all-girl rock band, The Runaways. So, a film about an all-girl 70s band starring all girls and directed by a woman who has done music videos for Marilyn Manson and David Bowie? Already onto a winner. Add Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning into the mix as leads Joan Jett & Cherie Currie, and I’ve already started to have a complete meltdown. To top this wondrous vision off there’s platform boots, glitter, sex, drugs and large sprinkling of Bowie.
In relation to the theme of dedication, The Runaways were against all odds. Cherie Currie had to deal with troubles with her home life while Joan Jett was relentlessly scouring the streets for other chicks to make up her rock band and a manager to get them signed. After initially scouting Cherie in a bar they were disappointed with her singing but pushed through to find the tough girl image she was capable of. The band also had to deal with Kim Fowley, their crazed manager who pushed them in rehearsals until breaking point. The dedication to being the best, and some of the only ones doing what they do whilst continually battling the ins and outs of love, drug and alcohol issues, the male gaze and growing media attention (all at the age of 16) helped pave the way for many girl bands to come. –Chloe