immersed in understanding

BCM241 class of 2019, we are an odd bunch.

We all, it seems, are very particular about our cinema tastes. We have a favourite seat. A favourite snack. And a devotion to whatever it is we’re watching.

We hate talkers. We’re afraid to crunch on food out loud. And we have no qualms with getting up and leaving mid-movie should the situation call for it.

After a closer ethnographic examination of our cinema rituals through participant observation, we now also are more aware of how Torsten Hagerstrand’s (1969) constraints of coupling, capability, and authority unconsciously impact our cinematic experiences.

When Mikayla Stott of Generally Unimpressed tried to see ‘The Lion King’, her experience was ruined by unexpected capability problems, culminating in her taking early leave of the movie.

It took Taylah Ide-Miller of TayTay’s Blog three attempts to have an ideal experience when she tried to see the much-anticipated ‘Avengers Endgame’ movie. Mostly thanks to a series of authority and capability issues.

Such deep understandings would not be possible had these researchers not observed these experiences from the inside-out through participation. 

This immersive approach distinguishes itself from anthropology in accordance with Erik Lassiter’s reflections in his article ‘A Brief Guide to Collaborative Ethnography’ (2005).

He notes that ethnography avoids the harmful phenomenon of ‘othering’; of portraying the observed culture as separate, merely a shallow curiosity. When applied to the ethnography of the cinema, this form of research places ourselves in the context of viewer/experiencer-culture and our understandings are enriched.

I hope to use these insights about the power of participant observation in my capstone research project. 

One of my ideas revolves around the retail space; how different the discourse surrounding retail employment is between ‘real-life’ and online spheres, such as the subreddit titled ‘Retail Hell’.

Another concept I believe will be interesting is the interaction between the built environment and the digital world; how one prompts action in another and vice versa.

Whatever I choose to explore, I know that I must dive deep into the experience because adventure awaits.

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my top three rom-coms of the post-2010 era

 

Romcoms lived their golden era in the 90s and 00s. Loved for their idealistic yet relatable plots, these movies are cult favourites. But in a world where our screens are dominated by the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Games of Thrones and Stranger Things, postmodern romcoms need to keep up with the big guns, or risk being left behind.

Admittedly, rom-com isn’t my favourite genre, but I like to believe that just means I’m more critical about what makes one good. Heres my top 3 romcoms (in no particular order), perfect for your next night in:

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu; based on the book by Kevin Kwan

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Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) finds herself a fish-out-of-water when she visits her boyfriend Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) family home in Singapore for a friend’s wedding. Surrounded by unexpected affluence Rachel must navigate a viper’s nest of jealous socialites and controlling family if she wants to keep her relationship intact.

The epitome of contemporary rom-com, this movie is steeped in culture in a way that elevates the story beyond the simplicity of the typical American romance feature. It is enriched by nuances of family, tradition, duty and familial love which all play significant roles in Rachel and Nick’s relationship, as well as the other key romances in the story. This movie also has a lot of sass, and some great comedic moments—its impossible not to love.

Me Before You (2016)

Director: Thea Sharrock; based on the book by Jojo Moyes

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The effervescent Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) becomes the caregiver for the paralysed and rightly cynical Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). The pair grow together as they learn about what makes life beautiful.

This movie takes your standard B+ romcom to the next level. The love, the heartache and the laughs are crafted in together seamlessly in a story I could watch again and again. Lou’s quirky charm and Will’s sardonic wiles make for a couple the audience can’t help but cheer for. Its an all-round take on the classic rom-com. Keep tissues on hand for this one.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Director: Susan Johnson; based on the book by Jenny Han

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Lara Jean Covey’s (Lana Condor) private letters to all the boys she’s ever loved are exposed to them without her knowledge. Havoc ensues as her love life spirals beyond her control.

Possibly the greatest high-school set rom-com of all time (big claim, I know), this movie is literal crack. Everyone loves a rom-com with tension, where the main couple are so perfect for each other and they don’t even realise it until things start to get in their way. This movie has that in spades, but its also so much more. It breaks the stereotypes of teen romance, friendship and family relationships in cinema. It’s worth noting that this also has the most stunning cinematography of any movie on this list.


Honourable mentions:

Blended (2014)

Director: Frank Coraci

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Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and Jim (Adam Sandler) never want to see each other again after a failed blind date. But when the opportunity for a holiday in South Africa arises for them and their families, fate unwittingly brings their paths together once more.

A bit of a dark horse on this list, Blended is a good time with its fun family antics and adorable second chance at love story. Its underlying sweetness and it’s family perspective make it both loveable and timeless.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

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Cal Weaver’s (Steve Carrell) life is turned upside down when he is left suddenly single in his 40s. Player Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) shows Cal how to re-invent himself while experiencing a transformation of his own. A volatile network of relationships develops, but what happens when everything implodes?

This movie harkens back to the tropes of its 90s and 00s forbears with a twist. It plays on the classic plot devices of the one-night-stand, the bar pick-up and the baby-sitter fantasy amongst others, giving some of them a last new life in a comic and unexpected way.

The DUFF (2015)

Director: Ari Sandell

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High-schooler, Bianca (Mae Whitman), tries to reinvent herself with the help of the popular Wesley (Robbie Amell) after discovering that her school has dubbed her the DUFF (‘designated ugly fat friend’). 

A more typical take on the high-school set romcoms, this movie takes the classic trope of overthrowing the teenage social hierarchy and modernises it in a fun and addicting way—if a little crude at times.

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