Junior becomes junior cinephile

Junior Cecil Abbott, like the great director Cecil B. DeMille is ready for his closeup. While some students spend their free time playing video games and viewing social media, Abbott has found his passion in watching and reviewing movies.

Junior Cecil Abbott watches a movie while enjoying his favorite movie snacks. (Photo by Austin Flamm)

Abbott said that he has always loved movies ever since the swashbuckling tales of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo sparked his interest at a young age.

“Since I was 2 or 3, I’ve always loved Star Wars, he said. “That was probably the first film that I loved.”

Over the past month, Abbott has viewed and critiqued over 30 films. Abbott watches when he has any free time.

Abbott explained that the pandemic was instrumental in his newfound love of cinema. During quarantine, he viewed more movies than he ever had before. Abbott said he often chose to watch movies while simultaneously participating in Zoom classes.

“I was just constantly trying to watch things as much as possible,” he said. “Not being able to go anywhere, that was the best thing I could find to do, and then it became my favorite thing to do.”

Abbott explained that he often changes his list of top films. His current favorites range from American drama (“Requiem for a Dream”) to Brazilian gang film (“City of God”) to traditional Japanese kabuki theater (“Ran”).

“Requiem for a Dream ” follows four characters as they descend into drug addiction. It’s horror lies not in fake gore, but in it’s extreme realism.

“It was really hard to watch,” he said. “There were parts toward the end where I was shaking.”

Abbott loved “Ran” for its grand and epic scenery along with its use of color. He also liked “Ran” for it’s employment of yellow and red against the ashen Japanese soil, creating a stark and beautiful contrast.

Abbott’s third and final film on his current favorites list is “City of God.” “City of God” recounts stories of young men’s divergent paths in the favelas of Rio as a local turf war ensues.

“It’s so distant from my own from my life and reality,” he said. “It’s difficult to comprehend that kids are running around with guns at six.”

Abbott also mentioned most of South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s filmography as his favorites. He particularly loves Ho’s “Parasite” and “Snowpiercer.”

Although Abbott prefers foreign films, he does not let it dictate what he watches.

“Since I started getting more into film, I definitely lean more towards foreign, especially Korean and Japanese,” he said.

Abbott is an avid fan of Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation film studio famous for films such as “Spirited Away” and “Whisper of the Heart.”

“Most of them are very whimsical and uplifting, but also very mature,” he noted. “They’re kids movies that contain nuanced and interesting themes.”

Abbott particularly loves “Whisper of the Heart” because he relates to it deeply. The main character worries heavily that they will write something and it will suck.

“I struggle with that too,” he said. “I don’t write very often, but when I do I fear that it won’t be good, and then I will just give up.

Abbott’s favorite actors are J.K. Simmons, whom he loved in ”Whiplash,” and Song Kang-Ho, he said. Right now, he added, his favorite directors are Akira Kurosawa, Bong Joon-Ho and Ingmar Bergman.

“There’s always a face shot of Song Kang-Ho at the climax of any Bong Joon-Ho movie, and that’s just the best part,” he stated.

“The best actors are the ones who don’t need to be saying anything and you can just see their emotions from their face and mannerisms,” he also noted.

Abbott also prefers newer movies to older films because of the faster pace and better graphics. He further explained that advances in special effects and computer generated-images (CGI) promote his preference for newer films.

“A lot of older films can get boring at times,” he said. “Black and white is fine, but color is just simply better.”

Abbott particularly values dynamic and snappy dialogue, citing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin of “The Social Network” as a personal favorite because of his entertaining scripts and effectively-delivered lines.

Abbott also named Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” as an example of a movie with fantastic dialogue.

“At one moment the main character switched from Swedish to English, and I didn’t even notice,” he said. “It was just mind blowing to me.”

Abbott also believes in the importance of world-building, explaining that much of that can be tied to his love for “Star Wars.”

“I just love the lore and the world itself, ” he described. “I’m big into universes and how they’re planned out.”

To navigate the vast sea of the world’s movies, Abbott explained that he uses the app Letterboxd, where one can log and review movies to make lists and rank films. Abbott’s watchlist now contains more than 250 films. He credits Letterboxd for expanding his taste.

“It’s also a great way of discovering new movies and adding them to your watchlist,” Abbott said. “It has probably quadrupled the amount of movies that I know and want to watch.”

For those looking to get into cinema, Abbott strongly suggests getting Letterboxd and exploring the world of film. Abbott also believes that HBO Max is the best streaming service to find new material.

“HBO Max has the biggest variety of different films like blockbusters, franchises, to old like Citizen Kane or even auteur movies,” he said.

Abbot believes that it is impossible to completely understand and appreciate the beauty of cinema on the small screen. He thinks that it is essential to see great movies in the theatre.

Abbott is very excited for the upcoming October release of “Dune,” a sci-fi thriller starring Timothée Chalamet.

As Abbott has been looking at colleges, he has been exploring the idea of a future in the film industry.

“My hope is to go into writing,” he said. “Ideally it would be doing screenplay or possibly directing.”

Abbott added that he would try to pursue sci-fi and fantasy, citing his passion for world-building.

“Movies let me take a break from things happening in my life, and let me immerse myself in these other worlds that don’t exist,” he added.