Directed by Isiah Medina
88:88 (or –:–) appears if you cannot afford to pay your bills, demonstrating that people who live in poverty live in suspended time.
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★★★★½ review by Willow Maclay on Letterboxd
We had 11 dollars in our bank account when we finally checked to see if we could actually go watch "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" at the local cineplex so we ended up staying home. We've been fretting over money ever since my boyfriend lost the extra pay afforded to night shift workers after he had decided he'd had enough of being exhausted. We're scraping by, making it and loving each other, but it's a lie that money doesn't buy happiness. I can't get a job yet, because my immigration paperwork hasn't been cleared by the government so we're a one income household with two mouths to feed. We're doing better than a lot of people, but I can't help but think one of these days we'll look back on this time in our lives as some of the most difficult, even if they are some of our happiest.
A good friend of my boyfriend's just moved in with us when he lost housing. He has a little girl, and he's engaged. We're helping out the best we can, but I'm nervous about our money. We just got our heads above water again and I'm about to have some added financial costs every month relating to healthcare. I know that we're going to make it work, but we're hustling and conserving every single day. The Canadian dollar continues to go down the tubes as an election is on the horizon--some sense of hope in Trudeau fills our household-- because something has to give and something has to change. Canadians can't keep struggling as hard as they do.
88:88 is about that struggle. It is at once cinema of the people, a snapshot of overlaying imagery on the beauty of human relationships, and a reflection of poverty. I look into the eyes of the 2 year old girl that is staying with us and feel something resonant. She's unburdened by this world and innocent. Isiah Medina does something here with faces that reminds me of that purity of this little girl. It's reminiscent of "As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty" but it's more level, and on the ground than Mekas' film. There's a warmth that penetrates all the overlaying images.
For as much as we've talked about the formal ingenuity of 88:88 in every review, and we should, I'm more struck by Medina's humanism. His need to make a movie with his friends about a struggle that is all too real and affecting all of us is what makes this special. The name of the title-88:88- represents the time-lapse of digital alarm clocks when electricity is cut from a home. It's stasis. My boyfriend and I haven't done anything superfluous that would mean spending money on ourselves in a month. If that isn't stasis then I have the wrong definition. We're gliding by, but stuck at the same time. Days go by, and we love each other dearly. I often think to myself watching a torrented movie and cuddling in bed with him is better than going to the movies anyway, but it'd be nice if the second option was available. We'll get there. Christmas is coming up, and I don't know how that's going to work. I covet dresses and make-up and action movies, but I know in this life you can only have so much. The greatest gift is that I have someone, much like 88:88's characters have each other. Hopefully some day we'll have a little bit more.
★★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
A densely beautiful encapsulation of the paralysis in overthinking life and modern reality...eponymous eights as signs of life, of restoration, of infinities that form a grid, a chain, a prison of possibility...a brain addled by Neo-Platonism and Godard, the soul of Hip-Hop and Winnipeg, a heart belonging to friends and family and community and youth...the cinema as a living, thinking vitality.
★★★★★ review by Neil Bahadur on Letterboxd
"...it was like the universe being broken down into molecules.."
For me, a work so utterly inspiring and so TRUE, so informed by philosophy yet so far from theoretical. Everything is informed entirely by experience. It's political yes, but unlike so many other films this is built from the ground up; the politics are just a consequence. Broken down to pieces, this is a movie about a person, his friends, and how much he loves them. And yet watching this intensely emotional experience again, I realized that no other film to my mind, from beginning to end, treats cinema as a language itself. It is important to realize that in 2015, cinema is a language, and the predominant one the world over.
Is is a documentary? Is it a feature? Both and neither: it is cinematic. IT's a term but a necessary one, one that seemingly has no meaning because it always has to be justified, which is why it is a good term. Like this film and like this 120 old medium itself, it is finding and breaking new ground.
"But aren't these political questions? Not being able to have a home?"
They are, but these are never reached through theoretical means. We are always on "ground-zero," we are always "effects," not causes. Repercussions wouldn't fit either, because again causes are nowhere to be found. Just the effects on a community, and on a "moral" level, the effects should alert us to the causes regardless. It's important to mention the lack of spacial geography in this picture. Nothing "connects" in the classical narrative sense. This is because we are with the people 100%. The spaces do not fully matter, this is a movie about a persons friends. What does connect: every shot. I haven't seen a film where I've sensed so much excitement over what happens when one shot is juxtaposed with another. Everything is a association, everything is for a new idea. And yet the film addresses when new ideas or forms are not necessary! It's one of the most beautiful moments in the film. The narration gives us something approximating that question, followed with a shot of Myles staring up at a treebranch.
The movie is dominated by the idea, mentioned by some already, that those living in poverty live in suspended time. We end up with some images I've never even seen, probably created on a computer, one of which is the seeming digital creation of a space on a grid, and a sound follows the addition of each block. We hear that sound again when we see his brother Avery walking in the snow, and with this sonic association in this suspended time we infer that we ourselves are stuck on a grid, moving but every move seemingly predetermined. And this repeats itself within the eventual repetition of shots near the end of shots we had seen near the beginning. Birds and dust for example, initally they had seemed a juxtaposition made for sheer grace and aesthetic beauty, but as the images repeat, the meaning is changed: these birds and dust are free in a way that we currently are not. These reveals, these shifting of meanings, this is a sophistication extremely rare in contemporary cinema. But at the same time saying what is "for cinema and not" is reductive for a work like this. This was not intended to express sophistication, this is a work from the heart, for loved ones. The sounds of the grid follow Avery even as he sits in a car. Yet it's hopeful. We see old structures, left behind to rot by capitalism..but who's to say these structures can not be re-made, re-thought, re-constructed because it went through cinema? For me, they look like pieces of a Roman Coliseum. This was a film that was thought of frame by frame, and sound by sound.
"There's no justice, just-us.
★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
I don't even wanna know how long it took to edit this.
★★★★ review by Brendan Michaels on Letterboxd
I can't even wrap my mind around this film. I've seen some experimental films but this is truly the most experimental film I've seen. I'm debating whether or not to even rate this. It's an interesting allegory on modern people and societal norms and difficulties. I can't compare this to anything else. This is breath taking in many ways. While the beginning and end were a bit weak I enjoyed my time with 88:88. Definitely check it out of you have a chance.
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