Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Father Knows Best

After my father telling me to watch American Psycho for years, I finally decided that last night was the night, proving that sometimes the best movie watching comes on a whim. I should have know my dad would be right. He has shown me most of my favorite films including V for Vendetta, all the classic 80's films like Jaws and Jurassic Park, and even Moulin Rouge! 
I think the thing I liked the most about American Psycho was the fact that it was directed by Mary Harron, a woman. Number one, I just like seeing female directors, frankly there needs to be more of them. And number two, I found it surprising for the kind of film it was. For the fact that it was bloody and twisted while still managing to be fun. It is a shame that I have to feel surprised or happy or any emotion like that because I should expect woman to be able to make films that rival the gore of Tarantino's. After doing a bit of reading about the film, I really respect Harron and the choices she made, especially to cast Christian Bale. Seeing the film with the studio's choice of Leonardo DiCaprio would have been interesting and he could no doubt have pulled it off, but it would have been a different film. It is Bale's pure dedication to his characters, if nothing else, that makes him so compelling to watch.
These eyes have seen too much
Bale was incredible, as always. I think the best part of his performance was the fact that you did not necessarily hate Patrick Bateman, but at the same time you feel absolutely no sympathy for him. Bale's meticulous acting style makes him a perfect choice for this role. Personally, no one else really stood out except for maybe Willem Dafoe. He does crazy eyes really well, but not as well as Claire Danes.
We are watching this film in my Comedy in Film class and I believe it fits based on the ideas of social commentary and the actual laughter produced by some of the scenes. I feel like once we talk about it I will have more to say, especially since the ending was one of those that hurt my head. It reminded me a lot about the way I felt after watching A Beautiful Mind. Except for, you know, less teary.
 I love films that create discussion the moment the credits start rolling and the way you go back and question every scene. What does it mean to be crazy? What is real and what is not? The big question I always ask myself is, does it matter? The only thing I do know about American Psycho is that I look forward to watching it again. And calling my dad to thank him once more.
Review: No milk needed 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Beginning of the End

This semester is the beginning of many last firsts for me. Today was my last first day of school since after I graduate I am not going to grad school-at least not yet. It's weird for me, especially being a person who actually enjoys school and looks forward to going to class. I like checking the box marked "student" when asked my profession, it gives me an identity. And soon that will be gone. Who will I be in 4 short months? Hopefully the answer is "happy", but only time will tell. The one thing I do know is that I am going to enjoy every minute of the time I have while I am here. These really have been the best days of my life; I did not believe it would be true when I was told that freshman year, but there is no denying there is no fun like being surrounded by people your own age with limited responsibilities and no parents.
Since I am done with both my major and my minor this semester I decided to take classes that would be applicable for my future career aspirations, yet also looked fun. One is called "Communication & Film." It is about what films teach us and how we communicate through the medium. So far the professor seems great and I am really excited about it. The best part? For homework I have to watch three films a week of my choosing and keep a journal about them. Which is perfect because one of my many goals for myself this semester is to blog more and watch more movies. The catch is the films for this class have to be mostly documentary and/or ones that make you think and step outside your cinematic comfort zone. Any recommendations would be welcome because I think the hardest part for me will be picking films to watch. I have already begun scouring the documentary category in Netflix for movies for this week which is always a good place to start.
My other film related class is "Make em Laugh! Comedy in Film," which consists of watching comedy movies two times a week and talking about them. We are going to be watching a bunch of great films over the semester including Duck Soup, Bringing Up Baby, Fargo, and Rushmore as well as some others. I am excited to expand my comic repertoire. Plus I love the professor who's teaching the class, this is my third time having a class with her. Today we started the class off by watching The Gold Rush directed by Charlie Chaplain. It was the first full length Chaplain film I have watched. I like seeing how a genre evolves and yet remains the same over time like the one scene where the pretty girl waves to Chaplin and he looks around thinking she could not possibly be referring to him. A scene like that is common to the point of over done in films of today, but in 1925 it was new to cinema.
As a second semester senior, I have more than paid my dues so having two fun classes (besides my other class which is yoga) is what I get for killing myself every semester previously. I think I have earned it. Plus, I am going to need all the free time I can get this semester so I can apply for jobs. Which is terrifying. I have already written one cover letter which I am plenty excited about because right now I am all about the small steps. Post-grad life will come soon enough, but  for right now my motto is YOSO: You Only Senior Once.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Playing Catch Up

I have no excuses for my appalling lack of blogging this semester...well actually I have a million excuses and all of them have to do with me being in my senior year of college and trying to do a ton of work while also having a social life and then coming home for break and having no computer/internet. But onward and upward. It is always my goal to write more in the new year so here is me attempting to reach that aim.
It is a shame too because I have seen so many good films this semester and it is going to be hard to accurately capture my feelings towards all of them. I think in order to preserve my sanity I am going to do a new movie post first aka movies that I have seen recently and more importantly ones that are nominated for awards. Therefore this post will not include Kill Bill Volume 1 & 2 (which I absolutely loved),  The Perks of Being a Wallflower (captured the feeling of the book amazingly), Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kings (by far the most enjoyable of the series), Looper (not what I expected), Skyfall (one word: fun), Stardust (deviated from the book, but plain fun), and lastly The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (good, but long). I am going to focus on Silver Linings Playbook, Les Misérables, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Argo.
1.) Silver Linings Playbook- David O. Russell
I really liked the performances of this film. I had no expectations for Bradley Cooper except what I kept hearing from reviews so I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional dept of his performance. I always love Jennifer Lawrence and I was not disappointed; the more clips I see from her at award shows the more I appreciate her role in the film. However, overall, and compared to the other films I have seen I was not as impressed. Sure I was a bit teary by the end and I rejoiced and felt uplifted, but I was underwhelmed. I think that is the thing for me: it stands up, but not comparatively. If I was not in the theater thinking about Les Misérables playing in the next theater then maybe I would have liked it better.
Review: Needs milk 

2.) Les Misérables- Tom Hooper 
I feel like it is unfair for me to write about any other films right now because I am listening to the soundtrack as I write this. I loved Les Misérables.  It was a long movie especially when my theater played it with 30 minutes of previews (to the point where the audience was groaning with each one), but most every moment of the film was necessary in the creation of the incredible story of Jean Valjean played by Hugh Jackman with more conviction than I could ever imagine. The same can be said for Anne Hathaway and "I Dreamed a Dream" for which I had chills throughout. Each actor was chosen perfectly and the nominations were well deserved for both actors mentioned above. It is definitely Anne's award to lose. One brilliant stroke of casting was Helena "I-am-actually-a-little-bit-crazy" Boham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen as the Thenardiers. I could imagine no one else in those roles and they made every scene they were in while providing welcome comic relief. Also, Eddie Redmayne was wonderful as Marius. He could have been reduced to the lovelorn dope ala Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony in Sweeney Todd, but Redmayne manages to hold his own. His performance of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" thoroughly impressed me while still managing to bring tears. It is one of those films that I cannot wait to see again and for that reason alone it gets a perfect score from me. It makes me feel sorry for all the bad things I said about Tom Hooper for The King's Speech. In my defense, I was team Fincher and The Social Network that year. Sorry about that, Tom.
Review: No milk needed

3.) Beasts of the Southern Wild- Benh Zeitlin 

Beasts was an unconventional film and I still cannot decide if I liked it completely or not. I thought the acting of Quvenzhané Wallis was incredible especially for her young age. It makes me wonder if the choices she made are conscious ones and she is really that good or if she just has a natural talent and likability as a child. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if her career goes anywhere from here. The film itself was rooted halfway between reality and fantasy which I liked, it just sometimes got too fantastical for me. That being said, the story still managed to be moving and beautiful. Zeitlin manages to make a film about an entire state feel small and intimate by showing it through the eyes of a little girl. I also have a soft spot in my heart for films about New Orleans since it remains my favorite city in the United States.
Review: Soggy & 1/2

4.) Argo- Ben Affleck
I have gained so much respect for Ben Affleck through his directing career. He really knows how to make great films-and he can even act in them. Having read the story from the Wired article I knew what was going to happen, but that did not mean I was able to breathe. The pacing and camera angles kept the suspense up and was heightened by Alexandre Desplat's score. I do wish some of the more minor details of the story were included, I felt like the setting up of the fake movie and studio seemed to not have enough background and I wanted more training of the hostages on their covers, but now I am just being nit-picky. The credits were a lot of fun too, I love anything that tricks the majority of the audience to stick around once the movie ends-something I do regularly. I think I liked Argo so much because of the "making a film" aspect; everything about Hollywood and filmmaking fascinates me, even if it was all fake. Add that together with my other favorite thing, history, and I am sold.
Review: No milk needed

So which film will win a Golden Globe? I would like to see Ben walk away with some hardware since he does not have a chance at the Oscar and since Hooper already has an Oscar (although I would not mind him winning). And even though I have yet to see Django Unchained improbable as it is, I would love for Leo to win something. Anything to make up for the Academy's disregard for him. Anne should win for Les Misérables and do not even get me started on all the awards I believe Homeland should win for acting because that should be another post all together. The second the red carpet begins I will be live tweeting so if you want more of my opinions and are not sick of me yet, read more there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday, I think you should know: Mumford and Sons. Actually, I am assuming you already know the Grammy playing, banjo strumming, English folk troubadours, but what I want you to know is their new album Babel. Since its release on Tuesday here in the United States I have listened to the full album at least 10 times. I even wrote a review for my university's paper on it (which will be up shortly).
I may have judged the album too quickly though. Upon my first couple of listens, as you will see in the review, I found to be a little slow and repetitive. However, now that I have heard it a few more times-even enough to remember some lyrics-I think that each song is different in its own small way. As an album they all really come together to tell a beautiful story about love, loss, and religion.
The whole album is great and I recommend listening/buying the entire thing, but the songs I think you should know are "Whispers in the Dark" and "Broken Crown."
"Whispers in the Dark" is the second song on the album and a great fit right after the opening song, "Babel." Since the album is so new it is hard to find a good version online. The one below is good, but the album version is chills worthy.
"Whispers in the darkSteal a kiss and you'll break a heartPick up your clothes and curl your toesLearn your lesson, lead me homeSpare my sins for the ark, I was too slow to departI'm a cad, but I'm not a fraud, I've set out to serve the Lord"

"Broken Crown" is a haunting song that seems fitting with all the political turmoil happening around the world and even in this country with the approaching elections. Marcus Mumford's voice is particularly raw and emotive on this track. Some of the lyrics from this song were previously attached to the song "To Darkness" which the band sang on tour. (You can also find it on YouTube.)
"Crawl on my belly til the sun goes down
I'll never wear your broken crown
I took the rope and I fucked it all the way
In this twilight, how dare you speak of grace"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adventures in Curating: Narrowing the Field

I have come to the point in my semester where it is time to work on my first project for my curating film and video class. That means making my own "festival" using a list of over 200 video links my professor has provided for us. We have to pick at least three videos and the time of the festival cannot run over 45 minutes. 
It is a lot harder than it sounds. First of all, I have to watch all the films which range from the very experimental and abstract to the more narrative based. I actually have enjoyed watching most of them and seeing some familiar names on the list such as Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger. I admit, I did not watch them all because there were just too many. I watched a group in order and then skipped around the rest of this list picking the ones that had interesting titles.   
The problem I found was picking a theme to go with the ones I liked. My professor kept stressing that he did not want us to just pick the ones we like because in a real film festival you have to consider the audience and what you want them to experience, whether it is introducing them to a new artist or style but I would have trouble curating a festival with films I did not like myself. I tried to find something that connected them, a thread running through that would make for an interesting title and provide some structure for my film festival. 
The first video that I watched that I knew I had to find a way to include in my fictional film festival was Tad's Nest directed by Petra Freeman. I thought it was beautiful and so different from many of the works I had previously seen with its creative transitions and unique style. Plus it is animated and I rarely find good, or any, animated avant garde/experimental pieces. My first thought was to make a festival around the idea of animation, but I thought that could be too simple and I wanted to use a mix of media. 
After skipping around for a bit the title We Have Decided Not to Die caught my eye. I think this is one of the most beautiful works I have yet to see in one of my classes. The visuals of rising and falling bodies are amazing. They are so simple, but done in such an elegant manner. The idea of the rituals as presented in the video speak to the phases in life and the changing of identity. 
I knew that those two videos would make the foundation for my project. I struggled with finding connections between the two. I wanted to do something about the body as a spectacle before I saw We Have Decided Not to Die, but I ended up scrapping that idea too. 
Finally, I came upon the idea of identity formation and how our identity changes throughout our lives and even daily. It's something I have discussed in many of my English classes and it seemed to fit the films I had been watching. Other films I added to my fake festival were Anger's Mouse Heaven, a film about Mickey Mouse and consumer culture, Willard Maas' Geography of the Body which objectifies bodies both the male and female form in geographic terms, and James Broughton's This Is It which is an innocent and poetic creation myth.
Honestly, I am just excited to be done with my first project. (If you actually care to read what I wrote, it follows after the break and it's mine so don't go getting any ideas about stealing it and such even if it is the highest form of flattery.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday I think you should know Anais Mitchell, an artist I did not know until Monday, when I saw her open for Bon Iver. Mitchell, with her soft vocal harmonies reminds one of St. Vincent with a touch flower child-she did grow up on a farm in Vermont after all.
Mitchell owes a lot of her success to Bon Iver; not only is she touring with them, but front man Justin Vernon was featured extensively on her 2010 album Hadestown. Described as a "folk opera," Veron plays the part of Orpheus, appropriately named after the poet and musician from Greek mythology with the enchanting voice. Mitchell plays Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus. There are also other singers playing parts on the album including Ani Franco, Greg Brown, and Ben Knox Miller.
Mitchell just released her new album called Young Man in America this year and said in concert that it was named after her father (as well as the song by the same title).
"Wedding Song" is the first song from the album Hadestown. It is one of the many that features Justin Vernon. I had to include a song with him because their voices work so well together. Both singers have a lovelorn, folksy sound that evokes imagery of the forest and the beginning of the myth. "Wedding Song" is one of those songs that brings you some place else when you listen to it; somewhere not very far away, but also unfamiliar and enchanting. 
"EURYDICE/Mitchell: Lover, tell me if you can

Who’s gonna buy the wedding bands?
Times being what they are
Hard and getting harder all the time
ORPHEUS/Vernon: Lover, when I sing my song
All the rivers sing along
And they’re gonna break their banks for me
To lay their gold around my feet
All a-flashing in the pan, all to fashion for your hand
The rivers gonna give us the wedding bands"

"Coming Down" is from Mitchell's new album, Young Man in America. Here, her soft, clear voice is featured more prominently against only a piano. Both the song and the video that accompany it seem to represent a desire to grow up, but at the same time a nostalgia for the past and a fear of loneliness.
Please don't leave
Easy feeling
Don't leave me like that
Not yet
Don't set me
Free, free, free, free, free"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventures in Filmmaking: The Start of Something New

To say school has kept me busy is an understatement. My senior year has been crazy as I finish both my English major and cinema minor, continue my job as a resident assistant, lead Habitat for Humanity as the president of the club, write for the school paper occasionally, and also try to have a social life. Plus, it is my last year in college so I am trying to fit everything in that I have ever wanted to do. Which is my way of saying that I am going to try and blog as much as I can this year, but that I am also not making any promises.
This semester I am taking two cinema classes, both of which are different than any of the production classes I have take previously. The first one is my Intro to Sound class, which I decided to take after my summer at CNN. The PA did a lot of sound recording for the show and I realized that I did not really know anything about sound or microphones. Also, I have realized, that in recording my own films I am a person who usually focuses on image more than sound. I am excited because I feel like this class is going to challenge me to think in new ways while I am filming. Already having to analyze a film (Touch the Sound directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer) solely based on sound is different than anything I have done before. It made me realize that while I may pay attention to the soundtrack or score of a film, the sound in general, is not something I usually notice.
Wednesday we got to build our own contact microphones to use on our first project. We had to solder the wires together from the microphone onto the cable that plugs into the recorder. (I wish I could get more technical, but that's about all I got.) It was fun and hands on and the best part is, it actually works. The contact mic picks up vibrations; I can tape the mic onto any object and it will record. I am not sure what our first project entails, but I am excited to play around with it. I hope it rains because I really want to record the sound of the rain on the window.
The second class I am taking is a class called Curating Film and Video where we plan and run our own film festival. I am really excited for this class. We are all assigned different positions, from fundraisers to designers. I am the blogmaster which means I am responsible for promoting the festival online through the multiple channels of social media. It is something that I feel like I am skilled at because unlike most people I understand twitter, I have my own blog, and I know how to get people's attention. I find social media almost a game where you have to use things like hashtags, trending topics, and current trends to win. Plus, I figured it would be a good way to force myself to blog, even if it is not on my own blog.
At first I had really wanted to be the festival curator, the person who watched all the films and decided which ones made it into the show, but I decided to be a team player and take the job of the blogmaster since no one else wanted to do that. Plus, I was not sure if I would have the time to watch all the film submissions that we received. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a curator was because I wanted to introduce the program and the guest filmmakers at the festival because that is one of the curator responsibilities. At first I was really disappointed, but I have gotten over that fact and now I am just excited to be a part of the planning in general.
I think my senior year is going to be a good one. It has to be, it's the only year I have left so I plan on making the most of it and learning all I can while I have the chance.