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The Decline of the DVD and the Rise of the CGI Spectacle

CHINA-US-ENTERTAINMENT-IRON MAN

One of the most provocative commentaries about the landscape of the new Hollywood arrived last month in the form of a Salon article by Lynda Obst entitled “Hollywood’s Completely Broken.” The thrust of Obst’s troubling piece, an excerpt from her forthcoming book Sleepless in Hollywood, is that the near-ubiquity of big-budget CGI-laden spectacle films, almost all of which are sequels, remakes or reboots, is directly attributable to the sharp decline in DVD sales that began about five years ago with the advent of online streaming. Not merely another tired think-piece about the “death of cinema” (which is usually nothing more than a writer’s thinly disguised lament for his or her lost youth — whether that occurred in any decade from the 1960s through the 1990s), Obst, a movie producer by profession, uses actual interviews with a Hollywood studio executive to bolster her argument about the film industry: the major studios, which have long relied on profits generated by the sales of physical media, have had to readjust by making more movies aimed at the international theatrical market. Every studio wants every film they make to earn a billion dollars in ticket sales, especially since the global success of Avatar in 2009, and they’re now willing to routinely spend upwards of 200 million dollars in order to make that happen.

Unfortunately for those of us who care about cinema, this also means that there has been a disheartening uniformity to the most recent spate of Hollywood blockbusters: the “plot” of every movie is now more than ever merely an excuse to blow stuff up, the movies cannot exceed the PG-13 rating (which, of course, means a total absence of sex, nudity and even the word “fuck”), there can be nothing in these movies that might be deemed politically inflammatory, and the movies need to be simple enough, in every conceivable way in terms of form and content, to be understood by teenagers in every country around the world (“Say, how well do you think these one-liners will go over with Malay subtitles?”). And this is to say nothing of Hollywood’s annoying recent trend of “courting” the massive Chinese audience through superfluous scenes set in China or featuring Chinese characters or Mandarin dialogue — examples of which can be found in everything from The Dark Knight to Skyfall to Iron Man 3 to the forthcoming Transformers 4. In short, Hollywood has never been more risk-averse than it is today.

It has also become increasingly common to hear cultural commentators and ordinary folks alike remark that “the best storytelling has migrated to television.” While I’ve greatly enjoyed recent television endeavors by some auteurs more commonly associated with the “big screen” — including Martin Scorsese, Todd Haynes and Jane Campion — I’m alarmed at how many people I know treat this perceived cultural shift as a foregone conclusion. A lot of intelligent adults, the kind who used to go to the theater regularly, have virtually conceded that the movie theater has become a place primarily for teenagers and children (and “children of all ages,” as the saying goes). Even more bizarre, I have more than a couple friends who have attended the latest round of Hollywood blockbusters in the theater but haven’t yet caught up to Richard Linklater’s masterpiece Before Midnight, in spite of the fact that they are acknowledged fans of Linklater’s other work. I’m assuming they figure that, in a world of CGI spectacles, a character-based romantic comedy consisting solely of scenes of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talking to each other can wait to be seen on their small screens at home. And yet it would be a tragedy if films like Before Midnight (which is currently underperforming at the box office, even considering its small budget), are eventually relegated to television entirely. I would argue that the chief pleasures of Linklater’s new movie are exquisitely cinematic and actually do need to be seen on the biggest screen possible in order to be fully appreciated.

After recently taking two Film History classes on field trips to see Before Midnight in the theater, I was astonished to hear many of my students say they felt “immersed” in the world of the movie and they felt that it was specifically Linklater’s use of long takes and lack of cutting (in contrast to the rapid editing of contemporary Hollywood action movies) that made them feel as if they were “in the scene” with the characters. There is no doubt in my mind that the relationship of the size of the screen to the audience is precisely what makes Before Midnight such a transformative experience for many viewers. I would also argue that, in a similar vein, the film’s relative dearth of close-ups makes such shots all the more impactful when they do occasionally appear on a large screen. My favorite scene in this talky movie is one without any dialogue at all: after the big blow-out argument in which Delpy’s Celine storms out of their romantic-getaway hotel room, Hawke’s Jesse looks around the room as Linklater cuts between close-ups of Jesse’s face and shots of — in order — a full cup of tea, the hotel room door, a bottle and two full glasses of wine, and their unslept-in hotel-room bed. For me, seeing that close-up of Celine’s undrunk cup of tea on a giant cinema screen feels both momentous and heartbreaking, qualities with which I don’t expect it to register on my home television (even on Blu-ray and with a 42-inch screen).

I recently half-joked to a cinephile friend on facebook that I considered myself “a warrior in a cultural battle” in the act of taking my students to see Before Midnight in the theater. Yet surely everyone who cares about cinema, myself included, could be doing more to put our money where our mouths are by diversifying in terms of the kinds of movies we choose to see in the theater — instead of just staying at home and bitching about how Hollywood is producing garbage. And I’m not by any means calling for a boycott of Hollywood blockbusters (though I do think they were a lot easier to swallow when they weren’t being released every single week, and seeing them felt more like an option rather than an enforced duty); I did, after all, recently enjoy Monsters University and I’m looking forward to catching up soon with Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s robots vs. monsters epic. I’m merely suggesting that movie lovers need to make it a point of going to the theater regularly and that the continued theatrical success of small and medium-budget movies (of independent, foreign and Hollywood origin) will be vital to the overall health of our film culture in the future.

100_2363 Me and my Intro to Film class from Oakton Community College before a recent screening of Before Midnight in Evanston, IL.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

30 responses to “The Decline of the DVD and the Rise of the CGI Spectacle

  • David

    Mike, the situation of cinema is even worse here in China. Native directors are making terrible movies, the sicker thing is most people went to see them because of the low ratings(usually 1-3/10). So the worst movies are making the most money in China, how stupid is that!?

    I think the biggest problem either in the US or China is that people are buying tix to those garbage movies, which encourage directors to make more, it’s like a dead cycle. From a personal view, it doesn’t affect me much because there is always people who make good art films, and i can see them in every possible way. But if we think for cinema’s sake, it’s definitely a terrible thing happening.

    Can we do much to change this? I dont think so. The cinema environment has already been poluted, there is no way back.

    • michaelgloversmith

      You’re right about the “dead cycle,” David. There’s been a lot of commentary here in the U.S. over the past couple days about the fact that GROWN UPS 2 (a critically panned movie that is the sequel to a movie that no one really liked to begin with) made a killing at the box office over the weekend. It made more money than PACIFIC RIM, an original film that got mostly good reviews. The depressing conclusion that some people are drawing is that a lot of viewers would rather see a movie that they know is going to be bad as long as it is a “known quantity,” rather than take a chance on something new.

      As far as whether we can do anything to change this . . . we can always blog about movies that we think are worthwhile! The longer I teach, the more I try to discourage my students from only seeing comic book adaptations, sequels, remakes, reboots, etc. In addition to taking them on field trips, I also give extra credit if they see new indie/foreign movies that I think are relevant to our class. And I frequently begin classes by playing trailers for worthy movies they may not have heard of: so far this year I’ve done that for STOKER, SPRING BREAKERS, THE BLING RING and BEFORE MIDNIGHT but also things like SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

  • drew

    I saw Before Midnight in the theatre on a Saturday night and there was between 20 and 25 people in attendance. In addition to myself and fiance, I think there were only 3 others that were under the age of 60.

  • Susan Doll

    Audiences in Sarasota, FL, where I live, are a lot more diverse in terms of age. Of course, there are senior citizens because of the retirees, but there are also middle aged people and families with kids. The older audiences do tend to frequent the art cinema in town more than other ages. However, this city is an exception to the notion that only young folks go to the movies. I fear that potential movie-goers will not go to the theaters because they think their experience will be ruined by texting, chatty teens. They don’t realize that the fewer people who support non-blockbusters results in fewer non-blockbusters getting made.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I understand that people in movie theaters texting, talking, etc. can be annoying but I think a lot of people are overreacting to these phenomena. It’s almost like they’re looking for a reason to be offended so they don’t have to go the theater. A buddy of mine and I were told to be quiet because we were talking before a screening of Zero Dark Thirty and this was before the PREVIEWS had even started.

  • Daniel Nava

    Great piece. “Before Midnight” struggling is a particularly bitter pill, given that the film really did feel like it was going to be an overwhelming success in its opening two weeks. I saw the film in a packed house over at Landmark Century and thought it to be a foregone conclusion that it would make bank.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Daniel, it’s doing well in city centers but when I took a class to see it in Gurnee, we were the only ones in the theater. In fact, it closed there after only one week. It’s actually the lowest grossing film in the trilogy if you adjust ticket prices for inflation. Sony Pictures Classics definitely expected it to do more.

  • Top Ten Films of 2013 | White City Cinema

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  • Ivona Jesic

    “Before Midnight” amazing movie that really kept my attention. I can’t skip mentioning that scenes from this movie look so realistic and look like is happening right now in this moment. Even if the entire play was written and acted out it really seems spontaneous and improvised but not in a bad way actually in the great way which really gives this movie this natural and realistic look and as I said look like is happening in this moment.The third and last part we watched about lovely couple Jesse and Celine and their life together. The entire play is happening in Greece and they are there on vacation with their twin daughters. From their behavior and talk almost throughout the entire movie, we saw that they are very happy and lovely couple but also shows that lovely couple can also fight like the worst enemies. Something that is really specific in this movie is that some scenes are really long for example scene in car where they have long conversation, also when they are walking through beautiful nature and having conversation, their conversation is not stopped by next scene it is kept for a while or actually up to the point when conversation is over. Last that I can’t skip mentioning is that I really agree that cinemas are not very visited as they should be and as they were before and that’s very sad fact especially because at cinema for example when I watch movie, screen is so big and tone is seated correctly and gives me some specific feeling that I don’t have while I’m watching the same movie at home on my phone because none of those great effects are not very striking and impressive while I’m watching on small screen.

  • Quin Siegel

    Before Midnight is a very captivating film directed by Richard Linklater. The film is extremely character focused and does not focus on an overarching plot much like Another Year. Most of the scenes consist of the main two characters, Jesse and Celine, as well as other minor characters. These conversations usually take place in long, drawn out scenes that never break while the actors perform the entire duration. This along with the topics of conversations give the film a sense of realism that most films do not. The viewer really starts to feel like they are part of the film.
    Before Midnight has a lot to say about time, existentialism, gender, and love. Jesse’s and Celine’s approaches to situations are very different seemingly because of their sex. Jesse approaches the issues very pragmatically and logically, whereas Celine approaches the issues with a lot of emotion and consequential thought. The two seem to clash over this giving the audience a real sense of the battle of the sexes.
    I really liked the scene where they are all having dinner and Jesse brings up the idea of self and how it relates to only a small percentage of our body’s power. I found it extremely interesting and very philosophical. He is also very concerned about time as a subject of reality. The book he was going write was about perception in respect to self and how time seems to affect these perceptions. This is as far as the conversation gets, but it seems the director has something to say about the subject, or at least ask.
    The scene where the two are arguing in the hotel room was an excellent representation of a long term relationship and the battle of the sexes. I think the scene really personified the differences between men and women with their argument. The insecurities of both genders came flying out from one another as they continued their very heated argument.

  • brad fagan

    We are not quite sure whether Jesse catches his flight back to the United States or stays in Paris with his true love in the film Before Sunset. In Before Midnight, we come to the realization that Jesse has met his match— as we see the Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke nine year latter on vacation in Greece having a philosophical conversion with two other couples. They spend a little time discussing the meaning of life, love, and the theory of time and space. These conversations allow us to get to really get to know the characters. Jesse and Celine are over forty and married with children. They include Jesse’s son, Hank, and their twin girls having a wonderful time on a six week summer vacation. However, Jesse and Celine’s relationship begins to simmer right after Jesse says good bye to Hank at the airport. Hank is being sent back to Chicago—and Jesse is guilt stricken. He thinks that he must spend more quality time with his son and that his ex is off the wall.
    We begin to understand the characters—hearing them talk about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Their conversations focus on the past as they start arguing more and more about the future. They have lengthy conversations about the role of men and women, and the meaning of love. Eventually the discussions turn into arguments. Celine refers to Jesse as a “closet macho.” She is jealous about her husband’s successful career as an author, and she is resentful about “the responsibilities” that were forced upon her. Most of all Celine does not want to spend the rest of her life in Chicago. We are not quite sure if Jesse and Celine can reconcile their differences and rekindle their relationship. Maybe we’ll find out nine years from now.

  • Davis Negrillo (@DNEGRILLO)

    Before Midnight was a delightful love film that I would not mind at all watching the films in this series. I thought it was funny though, being that Ethan Hawke was a main character, I found myself looking for the gun fire or attacking terrorists around every corner. The way Richard Linklater and his camera crew never let the camera expand too far past the characters was pretty cool. I feel that in a lot of films you are shown a lot of scenery as if it were a way to fill time. Instead, they talked about how beautiful Greece was and had the camera focus more on the beauty of a star struck relationship. When they talked about the ruins, I thought that was a sort of insight into their relationship as well. It was a place of once amazing beautiful structures that couldn’t hold up with time and nature and lack of maintenance. It sort of looks into a segment of their relationship, as beautiful as it was that they were star crossed lovers time could tear them apart without them trying to maintain their individual relationship w/o the kids. My favorite scene from this film was the fight. I almost blew up holding my laughing in. It reminded me of, well, me and my girlfriend of 10 years. It was so on point with the way we argue, and I know my girlfriend would just stare me down with dagger if she watched this. Overall I enjoyed the film and the endings for the previous films as well. It sort of reminded me of the film series of Romancing the Stone without the action aspect.

  • Ivana Jesic

    The film “Before Midnight” produced by Richard Linklater is the romantic film about husband and wife Jesse and Celine. Their story how they meet and fall in love are unique. They meet in Paris and fell in love but after their trip was over they had to separate at the train station. After nine years they saw each other again on the publication of his book that he wrote about his and Celine’s love and night that they spent together. Finally, after few years they married each other and start their life together. This whole movie is about husband and wife their relationship, problems and disagreements. This film is recorded in Greece and has really beautiful scenes at the beach and nature. In this film, those two main actors are on vacation with their twins while Jesse’s son Hank is in America. I would really like that this film had more scenes of nature and Jesse and Celine with their children. During the ninety percent of this film, we were seeing Jesse and Celine argue which shows husband and wife in the real world. Even tho I was thinking that after their big argue they are done and their marriage is done they made the compromise and continue life together again. I am really glad that I watched this film because it taught me that perfect marriage must have at least a little bit of argue.

  • Jowayne Calma

    Before Midnight is a movie about a couple named Jesse and Celine. The story was about Jesse and Celine just having a conversation, talking about life, love life, kids,family problems etc. while having a vacation in Greece. It’s like having a glimpse on the lives of Jesse and Celine. I wasn’t able to understand some parts of their conversation because I’m still not used to listening to people speak English fast. I noticed after every time Celine talks to Jesse’s son that’s when they start arguing. Maybe Celine is jealous of Jesse’s son? I don’t know why. I also liked the part where Jesse went to where Celine was after they argued at the hotel. That’s the sweetest part of the film and it’s really cute and funny, I was smiling the whole time watching that scene. Regarding the idea of waiting years before following a sequel I think that was very awesome. Imagine being a fan of Before Sunrise then 9 years later a sequel was out? That would be every exciting! I like how these trilogy took so many years to make. It’s like I witnessed how the couple grow and it made me felt like I became a part of their lives because of it. Oftentimes characters in the movies are covered with makeup/prosthetics or sometimes done through CGI to make them look old, but in this movie the aging is real and they aged gracefully! There’s something lovely about witnessing how someone grow, and because of that I am looking forward to watch Linklater’s Boyhood.

  • Brian Stern

    The 2013 “Before Midnight” is the third film of a trilogy directed by Richard Linklater. This is the only film in the trilogy that I can say for certainty that I watched in its entirety. Prior to watching it I think I may have seen pieces of “Before Sunrise” years ago, but not enough to string together what was going on. Only watching one and a fraction of the trilogy the major themes shown in them is the arc of a relationship between Jesse and Celine. Only knowing the basic synopsis of the other two films from what I read about them my conclusion is that their relationship is like a day. In Sunrise they are young exploring what the world has to offer and having fun doing it. The story in Sunset showed more of a what if kind of feel. The reintroduction of the two lead characters showed that even after the failure of their 6 month meet up the feelings are still there after 9 years. In Midnight the feeling has changed. The solo couple time is gone due to children and life. There is question to is there still love and how can it be sparked up again. It was discussed after the screening if it was left open to have yet another sequel. In my opinion I don’t feel there is room for it. Like I mentioned the trilogy is broken love into a day, morning, evening and night. Careers and family changes the dynamic of their relationship, so if a new film were to be made it would be the start of a new revolution or day.

    I did not really enjoy the film as I should have. I think probably watching the trilogy from beginning to end may aide in better understanding of the characters. As directors go I have seen only a couple of Linklater’s films before this one and by far “Dazed and Confuzed” is my favorite. To better understand the director I watched two of his films that are currently available streaming on Netflix, “Bernie” and “The Newton Boys”. These are both films based on real life people and they both make the crimes depicted seem righteously done and you root for the people that are depicted in them. After watching these it is very clear his films are very character and dialogue based. As well as the two movies on Netflix I also watched a documentary on Showtime called “21 Years: Richard Linklater” which goes through Linklater’s career and also has the actor/actresses interviewed telling their experiences before and after filming. One of the interviews was of Julie Delpy and she monologues about the acclaim she and her fellow peers got after the production of “Before Sunset” and she says the fan follower’s question of a sequel and the memory of how much fun they had during production was the deciding factor of her, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater meeting together and collaborating the two sequels. I liked hearing how she described the first film as not a wide success and that the sequel was just an excuse to have another fun production.

  • Irfan Makani

    Before Midnight is a good film that portrays the image of a classic couple. It is the third installment on the Jesse and Celine love story. The movie starts out by showing a long car scene when Jesse and Celine are discussing some things. This scene does a good job showcasing what the entire movie will be about – Jesse and Celine’s different viewpoints. I really thought that the story revolving Jesse’s kid Hank was good, however, the movie failed to follow up on this story rather focus on the main attraction of the 3 films – Jesse and Celine’s long lasting relationship. I haven’t seen many films that show an older couple’s life and not 2 youngsters falling in love. However, this was perfectly shown in Before Sunrise back in 1995. The director does a good on focusing primarily on his two premier characters and not blending in other storylines. This is apart from the average love story we see on the big screens.

  • Dakota D

    I think the reason a lot of your students felt so immersed in Before Midnight was because of the director’s dedication to using cuts only when he absolutely needed to. If we look at some of the highest grossing films recently we see Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool etc. All of these films are relatively heavily action focused. Most films nowadays that have big action scenes use jump cuts endlessly. The human eyes are some of the greatest biological feats of all time, they can recognize and understand movement at lightning speed. Unfortunately, our brains sometimes can not. What we are left with is seeing the action, and understanding, “Wow, Captain America just spun around and drop kicked a guy all they way to Asgard,” but our brains don’t really understand what has happened. Action movies such as Bunraku and John Wick, and even Jackie Chan take time to use long takes so that we are able to understand what is happening. The long cuts give our brains time to catch up with our eyes. In a non action movie sense, a great director is Stanly Kubrick and 2001 a Space Odyssey. You would be hard pressed to find a scene that lasted less that a few seconds. He draws you into the world and makes you become aware of the scene, the characters and their surrounding. The same could be said about Before Midnight. The use of long takes allows us to be drawn into the scene and totally understand everything that is happening. Because of this, we are given a new perspective and I think it gives us a much greater appreciation to what is happening.

  • Derek Colon

    The age of theateical cinema is not dying but it is degrading in quality. I must give a congradulations to you professor,m; for when i watched Transformers 4 with my family the other night on netflix i began to get annoyed with how rapid the samera switched angles and how many explosions were occuring. It bothered me to the point where I just didnt enjoy the film….which was much longer than it needed to be anyway. Watching before midnight reminded me of how good movies could actually be, then depressed me that the age of cinema IS shifting to the seuel/reboot/superhero hungry times that is currently swallowing Hollywood. I was incredibly immersed in Before Midnight and am actually very curious as to how the other two films before it panned out…i probably wont watch them simply because i know what happens now, but, eh, still curious about it. The acting was sharp, the realism was astonishing (im not sure i have ever seen an argument quite as real as the one in this film), but beneath the fighting the love was there between the two main actors. This movie was so simplistic at its core plot, but raised so many deep questions along the way. Is this what is in store for me with marriage? Is that how i will be when I’m thier age? Will there be another movie?!?! On that note, it is coincidental that the sequel crazy Hollywood times we live in today, that were being complained about in both the article above and this response, got Linklater to produce not one, but two sequels to these movies and people questioning for a third. Of course I dont mind considering all of his sequels (as far as I can tell) did extradinarily well and got the audience to want more. Anyway, Before Midnight is a perfect example of why theater movies are not dying anytime soon….changing sure, but not dying. Iwish more films like this were being produced rather than the “explosions for dummies” films brought to you by Michael Bay. Even though i doubt i will ever have my wish come true, I can dream…Before Midnight recieves a 4.6 out of 5 for me. Loved this film and how much I got caught in the moment watching these two lovable characters arguing with each other, me wondering what will happen next.

  • Omar Mohammed

    In the film Before Midnight, director Richard Linklater tries to portray how the typical marriage operates today. Most couples at Jesse and Celine’s point in life are typically married, have kids and a job that consumes much of their time. When the couple does get free time they don’t know what to do with it because they have become so accustomed to having their children around them. They are trying to keep the spark in their marriage alive by doing whatever they can but it seems outside forces such as Jesse’s son Hank, whom Jesse only sees in the summer, and Celine’s career dilemma have both taken center stage. The film is based on a couple that are both in their forties, so I believe this could be the depiction of a couple going through a midlife crisis together. Jesse and Celine are both unhappy about something in their life and the comfort they once found in each other has started to diminish after years of raising a family. Another issue that arises is that each solution to their midlife crisis does not work for the other person and that seems to be the major conflict throughout the film. Jesse wishes to be around his son and the only way he can do that is by moving to Chicago, much to Celine’s dismay and Celine’s career dilemma has left Jesse unsettled. This goes to show that no relationship is perfect but if two people love each other, they can overcome any obstacle that life throws at them.

  • Prat Moshy

    Before midnight was a great romantic movie. I enjoyed this movie because it was a lot more personal than any film I’ve watched. I liked how it was a movie about just one day and how much dialogue it had. I think it is important to realize that there aren’t that many scenes in this movie. Each scene is all about the dialogue that is happening between each character. From the scene where everyone is eating at the dinner table to the walk to the hotel and the actual hotel as well. There were no action scenes and things blowing up. To me though the action scene would be the two arguing at the hotel and trying to resolve their issues. Sounded and looked pretty action filled to me. I loved how the movie built a personal relationship with Jesse and Celine. You can tell even from the past two movies that they have created this bond that is inseparable regardless of the petty fights they wind up in. the intense argument and their passion for their family makes it probably one of the best romance films I have watched to date.

  • Nick Weimer

    (Spoilers)

    It was smart to ‘isolate’ Celine and Jesse the way they did. The kids and friends are there, they exist and they’re important, but they’re also largely left ‘out of focus’ in some clever ways. The girls are asleep during their fifteen-minute car ride conversation. They are, once again, on a vacation in a beautiful place, and are eventually sent off on their own. I love the long takes; particularly the walk through the narrow streets on the way to the hotel, a medium shot(s) with fairly shallow focus—as it often is in Before Midnight**—only really showing the details of the environment when the characters themselves take special notice. You only really see what they ‘See’; the things that are important to them, the things that they point out that mean something for them. Through this I think it gives you a great sense of place without necessarily shoving landscapes in your face—and since this sounds sort of negative I might mention that I am really sort of an avid fan of landscapery, I just think that Linklater makes clever choices regarding the relationship between the environment and the characters who are the intense focus of the film.

    I also really love the tracking shot at the end of the first scene where Jesse, after seeing his son off to the US, walks out of the airport and we are shown, only visually, that he and Celine now have two daughters. This is such a great transition of tone; very bittersweet. The amazing hotel fight had a similarly smooth tonal-transition. It’s also pretty great how all the bits that boil over in the argument are shown earlier in the film as something bugging them just under the surface without making it obvious that everything will erupt and crumble the way it does.

    I like how the tone of the trilogy matures alongside it’s characters. While they are all examples of realism, the first film is certainly the most fantastic—as in fantasy, which you probably just assumed from context, but I’ll provide pedantic clarification on clarification for clarification’s sake anyway; though now that my clarifying has brought up the idea of quality, I actually think that the third film is, pretty definitively, the best of the trilogy (which makes it’s being “the lowest grossing film in the trilogy if you adjust ticket prices for inflation,” pretty terrible and sad)—and the second film, while still pretty fantastic, starts with a punch of reality (they didn’t end up meeting as they’d intended in their best-laid, hyper-romantic plans), and the third film follows suit with the sending-off of Jesse’s son to Jesse’s Ex-Wife, and then Celine and Jesse have that terrific argument, which feels really different from the first two films (not that it doesn’t totally fit the series).

    ** I almost acronymed Before Midnight before deciding that it didn’t deserve it’s terrible initials. The whole series has terrible initials: BS, BS, and BM.

  • whalen207

    I’d heard about “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” before, and although I knew they were decent films I still had mentally written them off as “chick flicks.” I needed films with intrigue, suspense, and a touch of action. I suppose saying that “Tarantino is my favorite director” sums up what I look for in a film quite succinctly. In summary, I would not have seen “Before Midnight” (2013) unless it was screened in class. Having seen it? I’m glad I did.

    I was pleasantly surprised by how self-aware Jessie’s son Hank was at the beginning of the movie. When Jessie asks him why he’s worried about him coming to the recital, Hank replies “It’s because Mom hates you so much.” Plain and simple. This short line establishes many things right off the bat — Jessie’s naivete towards how emotion affects judgement, for instance. The entire film is quite obviously advanced via dialogue, but whereas in something like Another Year (2010) Mike Leigh sat me right down watching these people’s all-too-real problems, Linklater handles the final big argument in the hotel room so expertly that I feel like not only am I there, but that I’m a part of the argument. It’s almost personal. The entire film, one way or another, really does just lead up to that big hotel room argument. Celine’s buried feelings first let loose in the car ride with the kids, bringing up a clear issue — Jessie wanting to be with his son in America — that is buried yet again until it finally explodes in the hotel room.

    My only complaint is a nitpick about pacing. The film felt quick and to-the-point in a good way, mostly, but one scene I didn’t enjoy was the beginning of them talking their walk after the big dinner. The dinner is full of heartful, deep insight on life.

    “Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.”
    (spoken by Natalia, the grandmother)

    Yet just after the dinner they start walking and talking about their lives. They reveal that they’d never actually gotten married. Jessie’s grandmother died long ago, and she requested her ashes be intermingled with that of her late husband. More heavy stuff like that coming so soon after that absolutely philosophical dinner is just too much and left me reeling rather than paying attention.

    Some part of me has been spoiled by this film, though. I’m sure that if I went back now and watched “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” separately, the dialogue and drama would not be nearly as satisfying… especially now that I know where they end up. As you said yourself, Professor Smith, Linklater has gotten better with age.

  • Jimmy Nellamattathil

    Before Midnight is about the flowering of a mood over a period of less than a day between two characters: an American, Jesse, and a Frenchwoman, Celine. As mentioned in the article, many moviegoers now a days are there to watch films with either great animation or special effects, and i do fall into this category. I have said to myself if the film is more effectively seen on a big screen with unbelievable sound, it should be done so. I watched this film on my laptop at home and i didnt find the need for this to be viewed on the big screen. However, after reading the article i think there may have been a plus to watching the film on a larger screen than a 15 in computer screen. Other bloggers mentioned that the film was almost lifelike and people felt they were a part of the story when seeing it on a large screen. Unfortunately i missed out on that opportunity, but knowing this information i will make more of an effort to see films in theater that are not huge hollywood hits, because they can also be a moving and impactful experience.

  • Esho Youkana

    The film “Before Midnight” reminds me of or Italian neo-realism because there is so much talking, realism and everything is shot outside. The directors idea of using Greece as the film location is clever because it is filled with rich history and culture. The Greeks were the philosophical people of the time and philosophy is what they talk about a lot ij the film. They talked about life overall and got deep into conversation about every aspect of life. The dialogue is very strong in the film and it is well acted out because you can feel the emotion in the film. For example, in the end of the film where she tells him “i don’t love you anymore” it is an emotional scene due to their facial expressions. I give the actors major props for being able to talk all that long with no cuts. I believe the director does not cut scenes because he wants the scenes to be realistic as possible. Everything from the dialogue, acting, environment and the flow of the shot.

  • Mouaz Zabadneh

    Before Midnight
    The movie was the totally different than other movies that we saw this year especially because its focus in certain places and focus the most on the characters and how they are talking the camera forward stuck into the faces of the characters and doesn’t show it was going around them.
    The movie seems unrealistic to me because I think it gives a bad picture about marriage since my parent has been married for 20 years and they never Hat an argument the ends with my mother leaving the house or she saying I don’t like you anymore.

    In the end of the movie I had to question is there going to be a fourth part of it and what is going to be the name of it because it seems that they got that each other and they try to make their relationship better

  • Esam Mohammed

    In Richard Linklater’s film, Before Midnight, Jesse, who is played by Ethan hawke and Celine, played by Julie Delpy portray a married couple who decide to take a vacation in Greece. Throughout the vacation the characters in the film engage in really raw conversations about love, life and friendships. The great acting and charm these characters give off make the conversations even more intriguing. Before Midnight was unlike any other movie I had seen. The movie contained no special effects or crazy camera movement, yet the dialogue the characters have causes you to have an adrenaline rush. Both Jesse and Celine do a good job at portraying an honest and real couple. Near the end of the movie both Jesse and Celine go on a small vacation away from the kids. This is the first time away from the kids in eight years. At first it seems as if the couple is going to have a romantic getaway and everything is going to end happily. Instead the Jesse and Celine engage in an argument about the state of their marriage. During this scene I tried my hardest to take sides, but just when one character brought up a good point, the other responded with something better. Overall this film did a great job at capturing my attention and emotions.

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