Sunday, 9 September 2012

West of Memphis

Alright, let me be completely honest with you about how I stumbled upon this documentary.

For most of my life, I had no idea who or what the West Memphis 3 were.  I'm a 23 year old girl, living in Toronto.  When these crimes were committed, I was in kindergarten likely learning how to read.  So the fact I never heard of the crime never exactly surprised me.  And if it wasn't for Johnny Depp, I probably would have never heard of the crimes to begin with.  

I first learned about the West Memphis 3 watching a Johnny Depp interview on David Letterman.  I was intrigued, looked up the case, became slightly disturbed, and unfortunately, forgot about it for a while.  I hadn't actually heard about the case again until TIFF announced the final films in its 2012 program.  West of Memphis sounded familiar, and low and behold, it had been the topic of the discussion in that said interview.  After reading that Depp was attending and discussing the film after, I purchased the tickets.

Now I'll be honest, it may be slightly sad or pathetic, but Johnny Depp was the main reason I decided to see West of Memphis.  I'm a huge fan of his work, and I had the opportunity to see him discuss a film, so of course I was getting the tickets.   I realized after the film, if it wasn't for Depp I'd never even know about the West Memphis 3, and that made me realize how much the media and publicity truly helped their case.  I barely knew a thing about them before I walked into the screening, but coming out, I was glad I blindly followed Depp towards it.

West of Memphis tells a true story that the world needs to hear.  It's a film that I sincerely believe everyone needs to see simply so they can be aware of how cruel the justice system really can be.

he story of the Memphis 3 is eye opening, and disturbing.  It's terrifying to know how badly the justice system can fail somebody.  For nearly two decades Damien Echols, Jason Misskelley and Jason Baldwin sat behind bars for no real reason, while a murderer walked free.  The crimes they were charged with were absolutely horrendous, and they were suspects purely because they fit a stereotype.  That fact alone is just plain wrong.  Facts were ignored, forensics were wrong, and three young men suffered due to the failure and lies of others.  Stuff like this shouldn't happen, but yet it does.  The worst part about it all is that the three men are still 'technically' guilty.  They may be free from imprisonment, but they're not innocent in the eyes of the law.

I'm not normally very big on documentaries, but I think this is an important film to watch purely because it's a crime and trial that shouldn't be forgotten.   The film is over, but the story isn't.  Justice hasn't been served yet, and that's something that needs to change.  

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers is definitely a movie that has gained a lot of hype, largely because of its cast.  This definitely is not the type of movie you'd expect to see Vanessa Hudgens or Selena Gomez in, and it's certainly an attempt to break free of their Disney stereotypes.

Spring Breakers follows Hudgens, Gomez, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine on their spring break in sunny Florida.   In order to get there, the girls rob a local restaurant and the trip that follows is a bit more outrageous than the girls expect.  Yes, it contains your typical 'spring break' parties, but along with the drugs and alcohol, the girls find themselves in the company of a local arms dealer (James Franco).  The path that follows isn't what the girls had planned, and may be a little too much for some of them.

I went into this movie with high hopes.  Hudgens and Gomez fit into a very specific stereotype, and I was curious to see how and if they'd be able to break free from the Disney.  They definitely accomplished that, but I'm left thinking that I couldn't care any more or less if I ever saw this film again.

I will give the film credit in a lot of areas.  Personally, I found Director/Writer Harmony Korine unique and wonderful, however, I wasn't quite sold on the plot.  As the girl's 'adventure' with Franco continues, I lost interest.  It gets a bit ridiculous, but I will give him credit for straying a way from the typical 'film break' plot lines.  The performances in the film are pretty solid.  Franco is surprisingly convincing as gang leader/arms dealer and the girls definitely succeeded in stepping out their 'defined' roles in Hollywood.  There's a few moments worth some laughs, but I was left wondering whether this was intentional humor or just an awkward moment taken too far.  All and all, I'd say see it if you've got nothing better to do.  There's better out there.