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KingofverSaIlles: I'm happy that you have found something in her films that speak to your soul. Just like I have found some other films that speak to my soul.
My point about the minor roles in her films is I can't find any soul in the way she is treating them. The lack of humanity really bothers me. The way she portrayed them is very junior in my eyes, and no matter how minor they are, cliches are cliches. And I have a very low tolerance toward so-called cliches, they annoy me. In lost in translation we are guided to look at that actress through charlotte' eyes, and you can't deny her attitude toward her is indeed condescending. And if we choose not tolook at those people and surrounding through charlotte's eyes, instead we form our own opinions about them, like you said, that acterss is also friendly, nothing really wrong with her, then we can,t feel for charlotte's sense of alienation anymore. And that is the point, Sofia is portraying those minor roles in that way to convey that feeling of alienation, but the sense of alienation is built on the shortcomings of other characters, those minor roles. She is not trying to guide viewers to sympathize or feel for them, otherwise the film can't achieve the effect of portraying human alienation and connection anymore. Unless she also show other sides of her main characters, like the shortcomings or if she injects any sense of self-critism, or even self-mockery, instead of letting her leading roles acting like teenagers and thinking the whole world is wrong and nobody understands them so they feel alineatated, until they find someone who is equally grumpy, then there is a connection. I personally find this way of treating characters overtly simple and quite naive. But there is an underlying problem, if she creAtes A more well-rounded story, all the characters have more sides to them, no matter how minor or major they are, more nuisances, instead of cliches and flat characters, we can't feel for Charlotte and bob's sEnse of alienation any more.
Maybe that is just my problem, maybe in the end I don't really understand what the hell are their problems? I mean, it cannot be the whole world is wrong and they are just so misunderstood therefore alineated?

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KingofverSaIlles: I'm happy that you have found something in her films that speak to your soul. Just like I have found some other films that speak to my soul.
My point about the minor roles in her films is I can't find any soul in the way she is treating them. The lack of humanity really bothers me. The way she portrayed them is very junior in my eyes, and no matter how minor they are, cliches are cliches. And I have a very low tolerance toward so-called cliches, they annoy me. In lost in translation we are guided to look at that actress through charlotte' eyes, and you can't deny her attitude toward her is indeed condescending. And if we choose not tolook at those people and surrounding through charlotte's eyes, instead we form our own opinions about them, like you said, that acterss is also friendly, nothing really wrong with her, then we can,t feel for charlotte's sense of alienation anymore. And that is the point, Sofia is portraying those minor roles in that way to convey that feeling of alienation, but the sense of alienation is built on the shortcomings of other characters, those minor roles. She is not trying to guide viewers to sympathize or feel for them, otherwise the film can't achieve the effect of portraying human alienation and connection anymore. Unless she also show other sides of her main characters, like the shortcomings or if she injects any sense of self-critism, or even self-mockery, instead of letting her leading roles acting like teenagers and thinking the whole world is wrong and nobody understands them so they feel alineatated, until they find someone who is equally grumpy, then there is a connection. I personally find this way of treating characters overtly simple and quite naive. But there is an underlying problem, if she creAtes A more well-rounded story, all the characters have more sides to them, no matter how minor or major they are, more nuisances, instead of cliches and flat characters, we can't feel for Charlotte and bob's sEnse of alienation any more.
Maybe that is just my problem, maybe in the end I don't really understand what the hell are their problems? I mean, it cannot be the whole world is wrong and they are just so misunderstood therefore alineated?


I see it differently. And concerning cliches, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a well-known filmmaker who uses them less. Her films, in my opinion, defy expectations pretty much at every turn. Of course you can't have a film where every last character is a complete reversal of expectations. And in films, cliches and stereotypes can actually be helpful is employed discreetly -- you have under two hours to get across everything you want to get across, it pays to take shortcuts by not fleshing out every small side character let's Sofia make her leading characters that much more interesting.

Also, I don't think in most cases Sofia is wanting us to feel bad for her characters, I think she just wants us to understand them and find common ground with them. Bob and Charlotte don't have the worst lives ever. but they're both in marriages with people they're not head-over-heels in love with and generally neither feel satisfied in their lives. Creatively, Bob seems embarrassed of his past films and even chides himself for doing a stupid advertisement when he "could be doing a play somewhere" and Charlotte hasn't found a career yet, even though she went to college. There are ALOT of young American who can relate to that. My life doesn't resemble theirs in alot of ways, but I still empathize with how they feel. And studies show that as long as you're not having trouble making ends meet, economic circumstances don't effect happiness as much as people thought they would. Sofia's films don't invite our pity for the main characters and I certainly don't think she means to present them as having terrible woes (in the grand scheme of things). I'm honestly curious why people make that assumption.

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I think Charlotte and Bob's situations are quite widely relatable:

Charlotte: thinking you know someone close to you, and finding you don't truly know them; thinking you have a deep connection to someone and realizing it's actually kind of superficial. This is common in mid-20s I think, when people begin to mature more.

Bob: a classic midlife crisis: reassessing a marriage, a career, and so forth when you know you're moving towards the end of life. Feeling like maybe the money isn't all that, when you've lost connection with your wife, when your career isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's sad. It's common.

These seem to me like classic existential crises that make us wonder who we are and what we really want out of life.

And then I love the way to film adds to all this the defamiliarization of being in a new and different place - that makes the characters see the world through new eyes. That's how we recognize that things aren't so great. Travel does that - it opens up new horizons literally and figuratively.

As far as side characters, it seems like so MANY filmmakers present them as "flat" rather than "round". I don't get why this matters. Woody Allen does this all the time! Or look at mafia films by Scorcese; they are loaded with flat side characters.

It's also common that we see these side characters through the p.o.v of the protagonist. So Charlotte sees the Farris character as superficial. Well, she is that way in some ways; and Charlotte is disillusioned with her husband's lifestyle and she's a philosophy major. Of course she sees that character in that way; it makes sense. I can see both sides of it.

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^ Well said

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I think Sofia is the only director where I so often hear complaints about VERY small supporting characters not being fleshed out. Why on earth should Anna Farris' character or Bob's wife in LiT be given a complete arc? She's merely there to enhance our understanding of Bob and Charlotte. And I also think it's funny how quick people are to bash Sofia for making Farris' character so despicable/nothing but a ditz. Isn't that more a reflection of our own judgement towards the character? She doesn't do anything wrong, she's friendly, she's successful, she's kind of funny, and the "ditz" thing is probably at least partially an act anyway. Because people see Sofia as basing her female leads off herself at times, I suppose they also assume Sofia means to present them as above reproach? I completely disagree. LiT is my favorite film and Marie Antoinette isn't far behind it and although I love the three leading characters in the two films in some respects, they've also got some annoying, sometimes even despicable traits.

Anyway, Sofia is my favorite working film director. I don't really know if I'd call her a storyteller. Her films aren't about getting from A to B. And I know this is a cop-out but I could sit her all night and not know quite how to explain why I love them so much. She just takes the time to put in things other directors overlook. Smaller moments, little character details. I really get immersed in her films and I think she makes only perfect choices most of the time. I consider her films almost as art pieces. Cheesy as it sounds, they speak to my soul. They just evoke alot more thought and emotion from me than other films and I find them kinda therapeutic.
I don't believe supporting characters need to be given arcs, but I don't think they need to as severely underdeveloped as they are in her films. They are just there in her films to prop the main character(s) who we're supposed to sympathize with. (Which, for me, makes me feel the opposite. I felt more sorry for Bob's wife than for Bob. I felt more sorry for the Charlotte's hubby than for Charlotte, even though the only traits Sofia gave us about the supporting characters was stuff that was supposed to make us feel how special and amazing and so unique Charlotte and Bob were.)

To answer the part I bolded. No, it is not a reflection of my judgment because I wanted to smack Charlotte every time she rolled her eyes at Farris, and ceased liking the character altogether she laughed when Farris was singing. I have nothing against ditzy characters. Sofia does, and Sofia made it perfectly clearly she didn't think Farris was good enough company for Charlotte. Charlotte made that perfectly clear herself through her dismissive behavior towards Farris. It has nothing to do with me.

Also, plenty of other films, from various decades and different countries, have challenged the negative connotations associated with the 'ditz.' Like Daisies. Like Legally Blonde. So, I don't think it's fair to blame the audience for the way Sofia projected Farris's character towards us. Which was very judgmental.

As to the other bolded bit, that is a very narrow(-minded) and very traditional definition of storytelling. By that definition, N Scott Momaday, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, and Virginia Woolf aren't storytellers. Which they are. Modern, post-modern and non-canonical literature often ignores conventions. Same with films. You don't need to get from "point A to point B" to tell a story. Other filmmakers before Sofia who have ignored traditional storytelling conventions: Robert Downey Sr, Steven Soderburgh, Robert Altman, Luis Bunuel. She's far from the first, and she's certainly won't be the last.

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I don't believe supporting characters need to be given arcs, but I don't think they need to as severely underdeveloped as they are in her films. They are just there in her films to prop the main character(s) who we're supposed to sympathize with. (Which, for me, makes me feel the opposite. I felt more sorry for Bob's wife than for Bob. I felt more sorry for the Charlotte's hubby than for Charlotte, even though the only traits Sofia gave us about the supporting characters was stuff that was supposed to make us feel how special and amazing and so unique Charlotte and Bob were.)

I completely disagree. I also though less of Charlotte for the way she makes so obvious her feelings for Kelly. However, I do think the reason she does so is because she clearly sees how interested her husband is in Kelly (and the fact that although Kelly and John seem to be pretty good friends -possibly more than just friends- she didn't know he was married.) Bob and Charlotte certainly aren't perfect and they're not depicted as such. They are selfish, judgement, Bob cheats on his wife, etc. Sofia deliberately put those aspects of the characters in the film, so why would she have done that if she intends for us to see the characters are these amazingly wonderful people? I still like them, but I certainly don't think they're perfect.



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To answer the part I bolded. No, it is not a reflection of my judgment because I wanted to smack Charlotte every time she rolled her eyes at Farris, and ceased liking the character altogether she laughed when Farris was singing. I have nothing against ditzy characters. Sofia does, and Sofia made it perfectly clearly she didn't think Farris was good enough company for Charlotte. Charlotte made that perfectly clear herself through her dismissive behavior towards Farris. It has nothing to do with me.

Then you're clearly not who I was referring to with my comment. But generally speaking, how dies it have nothing to do with you? Art is a mirror, as they say. How we interpret characters and the intentions of the filmmakers has everything to do with us. Half the population rolls their eyes at ditzy hollywood types, like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardiashian or whatever. It isn't charitable, but it's common and there are certainly worse offenses. Charlotte was threatened by Kelly (and probably for good reason) and reacted by taking the snobby cold-shoulder approach to Kelly, a fairly easy target. Again, certainly not the most perfect reaction, but to me it was more than understandable.


Quote:
Also, plenty of other films, from various decades and different countries, have challenged the negative connotations associated with the 'ditz.' Like Daisies. Like Legally Blonde. So, I don't think it's fair to blame the audience for the way Sofia projected Farris's character towards us. Which was very judgmental.

I haven't seen Daisies, but the whole premise of Legally Blonde plays off the audiences perception of the "pretty blonde ditz" and the fact that she's *actually* smart is kind of like a running gag in the film. The message the filmmakers seemed to be trying to leave us with was that it was an exception that proves the rule. And I actually liked Kelly in LiT so for me at least, Sofia's alleged projection of the character as worthy of disdain didn't work.


Quote:
As to the other bolded bit, that is a very narrow(-minded) and very traditional definition of storytelling. By that definition, N Scott Momaday, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, and Virginia Woolf aren't storytellers. Which they are. Modern, post-modern and non-canonical literature often ignores conventions. Same with films. You don't need to get from "point A to point B" to tell a story. Other filmmakers before Sofia who have ignored traditional storytelling conventions: Robert Downey Sr, Steven Soderburgh, Robert Altman, Luis Bunuel. She's far from the first, and she's certainly won't be the last.
I'm sticking to what I said. In the process of making her films, a story is told. But I don't think Sofia sets out with the mindset "I have a story to tell" like most filmmakers or writers. I never claimed she was the only one, only that that wouldn't be how I'd classify her. I haven't read any Momaday or Morrison (I know, I know) but If someone asked me to describe James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, I certainly wouldn't say "oh, they're such good storytellers". To me, there's a difference between a writer like J.R.R. Tolkien (who clearly is interested in telling A to B stories) and a writer like Virginia Woolf, whose writing is really not "about" that. Same with filmmakers. And I don't think I'm being narrow-minded for wanting to make a distinction. Again, I certainly didn't claim Sofia was the first person to do something non-traditional.

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Charlotte was threatened by Kelly (and probably for good reason) and reacted by taking the snobby cold-shoulder approach to Kelly, a fairly easy target. Again, certainly not the most perfect reaction, but to me it was more than understandable.
Very good point - about her being jealous. That was obvious, but I had forgotten how Kelly says "You're married!" and "You're my favourite photographer", etc. Hence Charlotte's reaction was probably less than charitable. But it's quite common for people who are lonely and/or insecure to react out of judgement. Not only was her reaction to the Kelly character understandable, imo, it was also very human. I tend to liked flawed characters as they're more relatable.

Also agree with your take on "Legally Blonde" - exception/rule, etc.

Interesting on-going discussion Sofia's films have generated, that's for sure!

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Interesting. If she is not set to tell an a to b story, why would she name her film "somewhere"? Not a to b, but c? Like nothing is really in any state of transition? As long as the answer is "no", I think it is set to be an a to b story, well, kind of. Depends on how strict you are with the definition "a to b story".

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Bob and Charlotte are not perfectly amazing people as I see, and I also don't see that is the intention of Sofia. What i see is they feel higher than others, cause they don't laugh at themselves or have much self-reflection when they feel kind of troubled, they just laugh at others and put it on external factors to blame. They don't really look in for internal revelations, and that makes them kind of self-indulgent. I want to know who they really are, but all I see is their mockery toward their surroundings. And that makes the film vapid ann lack real depth.

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About cliched minor roles: again, cliches are cliches, no matter the film is made by woody Allen or Sofia Coppola, I just can't stand them. I have no excuses for cliches, sorry. And plus, lots of caricature minor roles in those gangster movies, at least I see the humor in the over-the-topness, it paves the tone for the film. And when it comes to understanding human emotions on a psychological level, to have a caricature supporting role certainly doesn't help to serve the purpose. It makes the whole scene flat and severely one-sided, like the film maker is so obviously trying to lead us to pick side. It lacks nuiances in understanding human psychology.

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Interesting. If she is not set to tell an a to b story, why would she name her film "somewhere"? Not a to b, but c? Like nothing is really in any state of transition? As long as the answer is "no", I think it is set to be an a to b story, well, kind of. Depends on how strict you are with the definition "a to b story".

Sofia herself has said, in regards to Somewhere, the entire film came about from more of a feeling about this actor's life. There is VERY little plot and alot of extended seemingly non-related scenes of people doing not much of anything at all.c I guess I'm more strict when it comes to how I define "a to b" stories.


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Bob and Charlotte are not perfectly amazing people as I see, and I also don't see that is the intention of Sofia. What i see is they feel higher than others, cause they don't laugh at themselves or have much self-reflection when they feel kind of troubled, they just laugh at others and put it on external factors to blame. They don't really look in for internal revelations, and that makes them kind of self-indulgent. I want to know who they really are, but all I see is their mockery toward their surroundings. And that makes the film vapid ann lack real depth.
How do Bob and Charlotte mock their surroundings? Sure, they're amused by some of the people around them, but Charlotte at least takes the time to try and explore/appreciate a different culture, Bob talks to his wife about how he wants to borrow things from Japan and use them in making changes in his own life. They go out and have fun, hang out with locals, etc. The characters in it aren't quite as vapid in my eyes as they are in yours, I guess. And Bob pokes fun at himself as well and in my opinion never displays that he thinks he's above others. Charlotte really only does that with one person and another person calls her out for it in the film, so it's not only addressed, but it's also an exception, not a rule when it comes to her behavior in the film.


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About cliched minor roles: again, cliches are cliches, no matter the film is made by woody Allen or Sofia Coppola, I just can't stand them. I have no excuses for cliches, sorry. And plus, lots of caricature minor roles in those gangster movies, at least I see the humor in the over-the-topness, it paves the tone for the film. And when it comes to understanding human emotions on a psychological level, to have a caricature supporting role certainly doesn't help to serve the purpose. It makes the whole scene flat and severely one-sided, like the film maker is so obviously trying to lead us to pick side. It lacks nuiances in understanding human psychology.
I don't know if there's a way for ANY filmmaker to make a film completely filled with non-cliche characters. I've certainly never seen one. And ultimately, most people do fit into a "type" at least inasmuch as that's how they're seen by those around them. So to make a film from the perspective of a few characters and have the viewers see, through their eyes, every supporting character as cliche-free would just be inaccurate. Showing the lead character's reactions to supporting characters or a foreign culture, etc., cliched or not, is what brings more depth to the characters and adds nuance to the film. I think Sofia's films show a very good understanding of human psychology without feeling like lesson or study in how people behave and think.

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To me, there's a difference between a writer like J.R.R. Tolkien (who clearly is interested in telling A to B stories) and a writer like Virginia Woolf, whose writing is really not "about" that.
You may make the distinction but non-western, women and people of colour author don't. The canon used to be very narrowly defined, and determined by rich white men. When women and POC began breaking the glass ceilings in academia, they redefined what literature was and how expansive it could be (they also did this, are still doing this, in art and film). The same process happened in the publishing world. Many women and POC who now considered canonical are there because largely due to how the glass ceiling was broken in academia. There are tons of articles about the history on it. As well as lots of theory within various degree courses about why high art vs popcorn/potboilers is an artificial distinction used to prop certain types of people.

I actually don't think Sofia is that un-traditional in her storytelling methods. She deviates, but she doesn't actually completely ignore the traditional storytelling rules.

Everything you said greengrassia!!!!!

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You may make the distinction but non-western, women and people of colour author don't. The canon used to be very narrowly defined, and determined by rich white men. When women and POC began breaking the glass ceilings in academia, they redefined what literature was and how expansive it could be (they also did this, are still doing this, in art and film). The same process happened in the publishing world. Many women and POC who now considered canonical are there because largely due to how the glass ceiling was broken in academia. There are tons of articles about the history on it. As well as lots of theory within various degree courses about why high art vs popcorn/potboilers is an artificial distinction used to prop certain types of people.

I actually don't think Sofia is that un-traditional in her storytelling methods. She deviates, but she doesn't actually completely ignore the traditional storytelling rules.

Everything you said greengrassia!!!!!

I think you're completely overlooking the bulk of what I'm saying and deviating (in a rather holier-than-thou way, I might add. And apparently you speak for the majority of the world - women, POC, and non-western people? Oh, okay...) from what we're actually discussing here. Bickering about whether or not I'm wrong for saying I personally wouldn't classify her as a storyteller (she tells stories, obviously, but that's just not how I see her, since I see her films are more about moods and feelings than about plot.) What that has to do with women and POC breaking glass ceilings, I'm sure I don't know. I don't know why literature is even being brought into this. I'm talking about Sofia within the context of well-known film directors.

And no, her films aren't off-the-wall ignore-all-conventions extravaganzas. They're about as far in that direction as you can go while still being mainstream, though.

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And Bob pokes fun at himself as well
- definitely, lots of times he does. One example is when he is wearing that silly orange/yellow/black camo t-shirt and Charlotte says "you really ARE having a midlife crisis," after which point they laugh together (presuming he wore the t-shirt kind of knowing it was "too much") and he flips the t-shirt inside out.

Also, in the disgruntled scene at the sushi restaurant, towards the end of the film, after Bob has slept with the lounge singer, both Bob and Charlotte call each other out for their flaws: she for needing someone to lavish attention on her, and he for sleeping with someone "closer to his age" though obviously not his wife. They are angry but honest. And they forgive each other too, ultimately. So I guess I like that while they can be self-deprecating, in a humorous way, they can also be critical of themselves and each other. It rings pretty true for me; I don't see them as idealized at all. Sofia seems quite willing to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of her protagonists as far as I can tell.

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^ Absolutely how I see it as well. I do not think Sofia puts her characters on a pedestal. Consider Johnny Marco in Somewhere, who clearly does not have it together, who we see is an mostly absent father, who admits "I'm f*cking nothing", who seems ultimately VERY shallow.

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