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Movie Review: Ida

One of the Oscar categories that Americans routinely do not “get” is the Foreign Language film. Mainstream audiences typically hate subtitles, and they really hate stories they can’t relate to. The cinema sensibilities of Europe, South America, and Asia don’t always cleanly translate to those of us used to Hollywood structure, and Ida is sadly just the latest film fitting the trend. Ida is black and white, slow, takes place in Poland, and has very little music. For all those reasons, it was destined to be a movie not many people saw. But it is a beautiful film nonetheless, and one worth watching mainly because of its cinematography.

To be honest, I found it a little hard to watch Ida all the way through. At one hour and 22 minutes run-time it’s not even a long movie, but its slow pace makes it feel like it’s dragging along. Much of that is due to the film’s remarkable lack of sound. There’s little dialogue, and hardly any music. But this is not the kind of movie you watch for thrills and excitement.

Where Ida really shines is in its visual storytelling, but it doesn’t use expensive CGI or rich colorful landscapes. Director Pawel Pawlikowski pulls off the amazing feat of making the ordinary look stunning. He takes simple, drab settings that most of us would not pay any attention to and he puts them in a different perspective that finds astonishing beauty in mundane surroundings.

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I like directors who try to make their movies so beautiful that each shot is a work of art, and Ida is that kind of movie. From beginning to end, you can take a random moment in the film, print it, stick on the wall of an art exhibit, and pass it off as the work of a master photographer. That’s what makes this film truly special. The story isn’t much, and it’s certainly not going to leave you with any good feelings when the end credits roll, but you will definitely remember the images which tell a story far behind the sparse words in the script.

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This post is part of my Oscars 2015 series, where I review/discuss movies up for that coveted golden trophy. Check out the first post in the series, my review of Birdman

Writers, appreciate all things art

I’m an author, so I’m an artist by default. But I’m a very specific type of artist; not a painter or a sculptor or a singer or a poet. My creativity is expressed through sentences stitched together to make paragraphs which make chapters which make novels. Words are my tools. But that doesn’t mean I can only look to other authors to enhance my art.

I say this because I’ve noticed many artists tend to lean on art from their own “sphere” of creativity. I am finding this to be especially true among young authors just staring out; they tend to just read the works of their favorites and the “greats” to surround themselves with the spirit of creativity. Reading is great, of course, but it’s not the only way to get your muse going. As authors, we tell stories of life, and life itself is an art composed of many other arts. To write, you must live, and to live well you must experience much.

So if you’re a writer, go to a museum. Take a course on painting. Play a musical instrument. Sing, dance, sculpt. It doesn’t matter if you don’t end up good at these things; the important thing is to come to fully understand and appreciate them. Enjoy the art of life. Imbue your life with art of all forms, and your work will be better for it.