Friday, January 30, 2009

Waking Life

Waking Life is a boring test of patience in many scenes (mostly in the beginning). But then you're suddenly hit with its brilliance. Most scenes are lectures on life and existentialism and they're hard to get through. But you're rewarded with piece of mind. It takes you out of day to day life and places you in a dream.
The entire film is following one character as he treks through his subconscious dream life. The rotoscoping animation was beautiful but sometimes left me a little weary. Sometimes I wished I could watch the film un-animated. But for the most part, it works.
Of Linklater's work, this is more along the lines of a Slacker 2. Waking Life improves on the concepts of Slacker in that the ideas are expressed more clearly.
I still don't quite know how I feel about the film as a whole. It definitely makes you think. But I feel like there was just A LOT of talking. I was tempted to skip ahead on the DVD, but thankfully it picks up speed towards the middle.
Here are two of the best scenes...

Linklater remains one of my favorite directors because of projects like these. Even if they don't end up being my favorite films, they're still so innovative and experimental.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speeding Tickets are Terrible Reminders of How Little Money You Have to Your Name

I don't care what belief, non-belief, denomination, theory you have. I just don't understand how some people believe there is no higher power.

I was walking through campus today and just the simple beauty of lightly falling snow was enough to push any doubt of God's nonexistence out of my mind. I find myself experiencing these humbling reminders throughout the day. Sometimes I go a few days without thinking about it, too wrapped up in my own head to appreciate anything or anyone's beauty. But it always happens eventually. And it's one of my favorite parts of being alive.
Whether you're Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, or any other spiritual view, I think we as human beings can all appreciate it the same way, under God. I consider myself a Christian-Catholic, but it's a universal recognition.

There has to be a creator. How else could the human race be able to internalize and recognize such simple splendor as dying leaves on trees (fall) or in creating a friendship or relationship with someone. There is some other power at work. I love this quote I heard recently:
"I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt."

I've been viewing the world in a new mindset recently, trying to get in touch with my naive side. I want to experience some things for the first time again. I've seen a person laugh hundreds of thousands of times before. But when was the last time I really appreciated it. That exuberant outburst of joy. It's so great.
I know, I probably sound ridiculous right now, but I don't care. We get too wrapped up in our lives to appreciate the raw beauty of the world we live in. I can't imagine what it would be like if I was never able to see someone laugh again. Or cry, or fall, or dance, or sing, or make awkward small talk. I just realized how much I take it all for granted.
Call this some incandescent youthful realization, call it whatever you like. Just remember the simple things you take for granted.
It's too easy to be cynical and discerning in this world. That's how I am most of the time. Lately, I've been trying to make sure there is an equal amount of positivity in my viewing of the world.

...or, this all could just be result of the new Andrew Bird album I've been listening to constantly. Go. Listen to it now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Notes on a Scandal

The acting...GOD the acting. It was SO good. Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy are incredible in Notes on a Scandal. The film itself is great, and deserves all the acclaim it received last year, but the acting is really what makes the film great. The direction is very typical of a stage director directing film, very minimal. Richard Eyre takes a very strong piece of writing, finds great actors, and lets them go wild without dazzling with too much detail in direction. I've found that it works pretty well. Because these directors put so much emphasis on the story and acting, the films are dramatic triumphs.
Mega-Bitch Barbara Covett, played masterfully by Judi Dench is one of the most original characters I've ever seen. She the perfect villain, menacing, while at the same time human and forgivable. There's a softness to her character, Barbara, that never quite lets you dislike her. That is, until you witness her plotting her next scheme against Sheba. I don't want to take away from the screenwriter, but the character is only as good as she is because of the subtle brilliance of Dench's acting. I was blown away. This is the first time I think I've ever seen Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, out-acted by her co-actor (Dench).
I have to be a little indulgent here and talk about one of her scenes. It's the part where Richard and Sheba are fighting about the affair, Barbara sits above watching from the stairs as her internal voice releshes in the scenario she's created. Not only are all three of the actors in top form, but the scene is a perfect culmination of the film (and it wasn't the climax, persay). It had me all at once scared for Sheba, sorry for Richard, and ladened with Barabara's sick enjoyment. It was wonderful.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ughhhhh I love film and a review of Before Sunset and Panic Room

I know I love film to the extent that I do when it's rare for me to find a movie I really hate. Sometimes I feel like every other film I watch I love, 10/10, perfect. I can see through it and understand what the director was going for, even if the film itself is by no means perfect. I build it up too much in my head, the second viewing of the film a disappointment because it doesn't live up to expectation.
I just love the moving image (and still image for that matter) with such a passion that I can find something, one thing about a film that I take away with me.

I do, however, have a critical eye. I watched Panic Room last night and was horribly disappointed. I really find it hard to believe that a film connoisseur like David Fincher directed it. I mean I guess you have to give it props from a technical stand point. There was some incredible cinematography and special effects. But at its base, one of the worst scripts I've ever seen failed to hold the film together. I really don't even want to talk about it. It was stupid.

Now Before Sunset on the other hand, was incredible. Simply put, it was two people with a romantic past walking and talking for 80 minutes. But it completely worked. It was so raw and believable that you were sucked into their lives for the films duration. To be able to keep the audiences attention for 80 minutes while only walking and talking is a feat and both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do so masterfully. Director, Richard Linklater does a great job of standing on the side letting the actors do their thing. I was just so impressed by the pacing of the film. It's a big risk for the film to have its climax near its ending, especially with the given circumstances. There's no time for the viewer to anticipate what will be said next because they are constantly talking. That's what makes the climax and pacing work so well.
Not only that, but the improvised script is a beautiful testament to "love". It's a realistic story you can't help relating to. The film stays with you in the hours (and most likely days) after the initial viewing. I loved it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Film and Frost/Nixon

I have about 70+ pages of movie reviews that I have written over the past year and a half. I haven't sat down to write one in about 6 months. I guess I just kept putting it off as more and more movies piled up on the "to review" list. I also lost a lot of faith in myself as a writer. But I'd like to try again. I miss doing it. And I think it really made me a stronger writer in the long run.
I saw Frost/Nixon tonight. I had been wanting to see it since I'd heard about it but wasn't really expecting all that much. I thought it would be good. But what I wasn't ready for was the suspense-ridden character piece I ended up seeing. True, the film could be filed in with all of the other historic dramas about politics, but at the core, Frost/Nixon is a story of two unlikely people crossing paths and the impression they leave on one another. The two people are Richard M. Nixon and British TV personality, David Frost. Nixon and Frost are brought together by an interview; Frost hoping to expose Nixon's secrets while relaunching his TV career and Nixon trying to uphold whats left of his pubic image and ego. When in the same room, the two clash. Nixon has the upper hand in the beginning of the interviews, huffing out formulated sentence after formulated sentence, all Frost can do it sit back and anxiously try to throw in questions that will provoke Nixon into shedding light on Watergate.
Frank Langella is incredible as Nixon, completely inhabiting his character. He doesn't look much like Nixon but the caliber of his acting forces the audience to look past that. He turns the character of Nixon into a knifing, pathetic, yet human representation. It's a shame he's up for an Oscar the same year Sean Penn gave the performance of his career in "Milk", otherwise he would be locked in for Best Actor. Michael Sheen is just as impressive. His style of acting is the complete opposite of Langella's. It's a subtle realism that you don't appreciate until the credits role.
Ron Howard has always been ripped apart by critics for being too formulaic in his direction. I've always had a soft spot for him because of his directing credit on classics such as Cinderella Man and Apollo 13. But his films still leave you wanting more. He's not much of a risk taker. He appeases all of these claims with Frost/Nixon. The direction is actually one of the films greatest strengths. Fluid tracking shots and extreme depth of focus shots give scenes a crisp superficial feel. But then when it comes to scenes when Frost or Nixon are alone, static low lit shots effectively create a feeling of isolation. He handles the way the interview is shot masterfully, resorting to fast cuts and more DOF shots.
The film does have its weaknesses. The beginning is a bit slow, and more of Howards formulaic side kicks in. But once the interviews start, your stomach is in knots. It's incredible the amount of suspense the scenes carry.

The 2008 movie season has really been a year of historical dramas and stage plays. Films like Doubt and Frost/Nixon which were both originally on stage, have proven that many stage plays translate well to cinema-not the case for Mamma Mia which is bad both on stage and as a movie. Both Doubt and Frost/Nixon are also among the many historical dramas released this season; Milk, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Valkyrie, Revolutionary Road, The Changeling, among many others.
It's a good year for movies.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I've been trying to think of something I could write passionately about for the longest time, hence the lack of writing in here. I realize now what it is I have to write about: Beauty.
I've been noticing "beauty" in just about everything for the past two weeks. Maybe someone slipped something in my drink, or maybe the hormones are raging, or maybe I'm just learning to appreciate life more and more.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I couldn't agree more. Beauty is a child. Beauty is happy. Beauty is sad. Beauty is God. Beauty is life.

Beauty is meeting new people and instantly feeling connected to them as human beings. Beauty thrives in the wee hours of the night. Beauty is the waitress at waffle house. Beauty roots itself in long conversation about faith and love under the stars on a cold night. Beauty is felt in long aimless car drives through neon cities with significant others. Beauty is chance meetings with someone you haven't seen in a while. Beauty is the company of beautiful girls-on the inside and outside. Beauty is an enduring friendship. Beauty is wine and sloppy crazed dancing. Beauty is a child compromising their wants for someone elses. Beauty is hugging a friend for the first time in months.

I'm not sure exactly where any of this is going. It's more or less just a stream of consciousness on some things that have been on my mind lately.

Tonight I worked from 6-close (12 am). Now when you work with Aaron, you have to expect to do two times the work you would normally do on your shift. He's just so into his job, he wants everything done perfect, every customer made aware of every sale/deal/promotion we have to offer, every midshift deposit counted 5 times. And its ANNOYING. It's so annoying. He rings up a customer and then talks to them about the pros and cons of widescreen and full screen formated DVDs (without them asking) while I handle the massive throngs of people waiting in line to check out, the phone ringing off the hook, and the kid trying to grab games that haven't been checked in yet. Tonight it hit a whole new level. He always cracks these really lame jokes and he's always WAY too happy to be at work. We were 5 minutes past closing when he decided it would be a good idea to reface all of the new release movie racks (50% of the movies in the store). On top of that, a guy called in after we were clearly closed and asked if he could run in to grab a movie. Aaron: "Of course buddy! Come on down! We'll be here for a while!". I mean why not.
I got out of work an hour later than I should have and only got paid for 30 minutes of it. But as Aaron was jovially tallying up the percentages of how many movies we rented from each section that night (not part of closing procedures, or any procedure for that matter), it hit me.
How could I be mad at this guy. He's getting excited about how many "Nearly New" movies we rented this shift. He genuinely loves the people who come in here. Aaron works full time, supports a family, and goes to school at NKU full time. And he's always happy. He never drops the trademark enthusiasm or smile. I looked at him with admiration for the first time. Not in a patronizing way. For the first time I appreciated him. I saw the beauty in him. I just looked at him and smiled.

I know these rose-colored glasses won't last forever, but I can hope and pray they will.