This week, I sat down with a charismatic, energetic Hope College student who is always filled with opinions about art. Matt Severino (’21) is active within the Communications Department, specifically the film and production sect. He is always willing to help a peer with their camera troubles, help them perfect a shot or recommend a movie. In the spirit of sharing art by starting a dialogue, I let Matt go as deep as he wanted.
You’re a communication minor with a focus in film studies. What drew you to production?
I really think what drew me to production was just my love for film. I really enjoyed taking all of the production classes I have taken here at Hope, but what drew me in originally was how much I loved the study of movies.
How will a background in film production help you in your future career?
I hope to one day do something in film, whether that be making something or teaching cinema one day. No matter what, I know that I want film to be a part of my life and career at some point.
Be honest with us: What’s it like being in film studies in Michigan? (Do you wish Hope’s program was bigger, do you feel prepared for what you want to do, etc.)
I think it definitely has its pros and cons. I have thoroughly loved the courses I have been able to take and the professors and peers I have met through them, but I definitely wish Hope had a formal film program. It definitely is tough to try to study film when the amount of courses are pretty limited in terms of quantity. I really do think it would be beneficial for Hope to start up a real film major, and if it was available when I went here I for sure would’ve done it!
In classes, you seem to hold a reputation of being “The Known Cinephile.” When did this love of movies come about?
I’ve really loved movies for as long as I can remember. I always used to love going to the theater with my family and friends, and renting movies from Blockbuster was my favorite thing in the world. When it really became something I felt extremely passionate about was my high school cinema class. That was probably the time when I knew it was something that I really cared about more than just a fun activity.
We’re all wondering: what’s your favorite movie?
Although that’s an impossible question to answer, I’ll try to list off 10 of my all-time favorites in no particular order. “Before Sunrise” by Richard Linklater. “Inside Llewyn Davis” by the Coen Brothers. “Mulholland Drive” by David Lynch. “Blow Out” by Brian De Palma. “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” by Jim Jarmusch. “Marriage Story” by Noah Baumbach. “Do the Right Thing” by Spike Lee. “Kiki’s Delivery Service” by Hayao Miyazaki. “Midsommar” by Ari Aster. “Magnolia” by Paul Thomas Anderson. Okay, one more, “Memories of Murder” by Bong Joon Ho.
When deciding on your favorite movie, what’s the main kicker: aesthetic, acting, editing, music, plot, etc?
Honestly, when I think of my favorites they tend to not just be movies that I think excel in technical/specific areas. My favorite movies are the ones that emotionally resonate with me or stick with me for one reason or another. An example of this for me is “Mid90s.” The movie is far from perfect, and if you went through each individual area of the film, you could certainly find some flaws or room for improvement. That being said, it’s one of my favorite movies ever. Something about it just constantly sticks with me and impacts me personally, and I think the movies that leave me with the most are the ones that are my favorites, not just the technically “best” movies.
Who’s your favorite director or actor? What makes them so special?
Both are very difficult questions, and I have lots of favorites. If I had to choose one actor, I’d say Phillip Seymour Hoffman is very important and inspirational to me. I love all his work with Paul Thomas Anderson, who I would also name as one of my favorite directors. A few of my other favorite directors are Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Hayao Miyazaki, Brian De Palma, the Safdie Brothers. I could go on and on, there are so many exciting directors working today. Some other more important directors to film history that I’d recommend checking out are Claire Denis, Agnes Varda, Jacques Demy, Ingmar Bergman, and Stanley Kubrick (of course).
Is there a scene, sequence, montage, etc. that stands out to you as a particularly incredible piece of art? What’s the scene that plays in your mind and gives you the memory catharsis only movies can?
That’s a great question and there are so many sequences that mean a lot to me. I love the alternate ending sequence in “La La Land,” the introduction of “Magnolia” and the peach fuzz montage in “Parasite” just to name a few. One scene that has really stuck with me lately is from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love”: the scene where Barry is at the phone booth in Hawaii and the lights turn on right when Lena answers. That scene has been constantly in my head recently.
When you’re studying in the library for hours on end… What film soundtrack or score is your go-to?
A couple of my best friends and I have an emotional attachment to the “Inside Llewyn Davis” soundtrack, so I listen to that very frequently. In terms of studying and getting things done, I love the soundtrack to “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.”
Go as snobby as you want. Tell us about your least favorite film and, in your eyes, what makes it fail?
My least favorite film of all time is definitely “God’s Not Dead.” To me, the movie essentially panders to one very specific group of people, and if you don’t fall into that exact category then you are not only going to dislike the movie, but be put down and belittled by the themes portrayed. On top of that, the movie is just technically not done well at all, and the people who directed it even admit to “not being filmmakers.” Oh, and the movie ends with a band telling everybody to text 10 of their friends the title of the movie. Seems a little pyramid scheme-y to me.
What upcoming flick are you the most excited for?
I have a list on my phone of a ton that I can’t wait for, so I’ll just list ’em off: “Titane,” “Lamb” (if you haven’t, please go watch the trailer, it’s nuts), “Dune,” “The French Dispatch,” “Last Night in Soho,” “House of Gucci,” “The Humans,” “Cmon Cmon.” There are also some releases that aren’t coming very soon but that I’m very excited for (new releases from Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Paul Thomas Anderson to name a few).
If there’s any movie you could see in an IMAX theatre with a full bucket of fresh popcorn and those awesome comfy chairs, what would it be?
I think my ideal movie-going experience would have to be seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. They have a series where they play classics in 35mm, and they showed “2001” over the summer and I regret not going. I have a friend who went who said it was an ethereal experience, so if Music Box ever shows “2001” again I’m there.
Any 2021 Oscars predictions?
Honestly, I don’t keep up with the Oscars nearly as much as I would like, so I’ll give some hopes that I have: I really wanna see Adam Driver get some recognition for “Annette” or “House of Gucci.” I haven’t seen either yet, but I think he’s gotten snubbed in recent years (specifically not winning for “Marriage Story”). I also hope (and expect) Wes Anderson to get some recognition for “The French Dispatch.” I wanna see Anya Taylor Joy get some love for “Last Night in Soho,” and expect Edgar Wright will also receive recognition for that as well. I think lastly I’d just be elated to see some A24 movies get recognition at the Oscars, I think they typically get left out even though they surpass most nominations in quality (i.e. “Midsommar,” “Uncut Gems,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” in 2019).
LIGHTNING ROUND (Movie Recommendations Edition!) How this works: I’ll give you a genre and you tell me your favorite film of that genre.
- “Burn After Reading”
- “Full Metal Jacket”
- “Wild at Heart”
- “Memories of Murder”
- “The Green Knight”
- “2001: A Space Odyssey”
- “The Royal Tenenbaums” (It counts as a Christmas movie in my heart!)
- “Midsommar” or… “House” or… “The Wailing”.
And, just for fun, John Hughes movie
- “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
Overall, to take us home, why is film important to the broader culture?
Honestly, I think film is so important to this world because of its unique ability to open peoples’ minds to different perspectives. The way I see it, every film has something to say about a different form of the human experience. Great films have the power to change the way we see the world. Without movies, I would be a completely different person than I am today.