Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday comes a band that I am currently obsessed with: The Avett Brothers. While they are an oldish band (they began in 2000), they are new to me. (Introduced to me by my sister, like most good, new bands are). I have been listening to their album Emotionalism pretty much all week and I am loving the folkly sound. The lyrics are great and the vocals are soothing (and great for studying). My favorite song off the album is below and the one I think you should know this Thursday.

Welcome to Avant Garde Land. Population: 1

For the cinema class that I am taking this semester we are watching all avant garde short films from directors I have never heard of. To be honest, I'm slightly disappointed because I wanted to a chance to be introduced to new films like I was last semester, which I am, but I wanted them to be films/directors that I have actually heard of before. However, that being said, I'm trying to keep an open mind. And for class I have to keep a journal analyzing the films/ reflecting/ making connections/asking questions so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and just talk about the films here for my "journal."
In order of preference:
1. "Black Ice," Stan Brakhage (1994)
(Yes, that was the entire movie.)
Brakhage's film seems like a journey down a rabbit hole, with a Wonderland that never comes. The forward momentum created by the moving frames pulls the viewer in and never allowing you to look away. The length of the film is perfect because after the allotted time, your eyes are blurred from the colored frames on the screen. The whiteness that comes abruptly at the end of the film seems jarring because of the drastic change from the previous images.
With "Black Ice," you constantly expect something to happen, almost like actual black ice itself. There is a sense of impending doom that I think is caused especially by the lack of sound. The darkness of it all leads to feelings of foreboding, the same that come from driving on black ice. Out of the four films viewed, I really liked this one because of how much of a response it evoked with so little.
2. "Necrology," Standish Lawder (1969)

 I did not get the premise of this film until halfway through when there was a dissolve of a river over the image of the people riding on the escalator. For some reason, with the upward motion of the people and the juxtaposition of the river over them reminded me of the River Styx. It was the first time I thought about death in relation to the action occurring on the screen (having no knowledge of what "Necrology" actually is). The people seemed like they were being ferried across the screen to a land beyond. This feeling was enforced as they people disappeared on the top of the screen.
I liked how much effort was put into the credits; each character came with their own back story, a life they had lead before ending up on the escalator. As I read, I remembered some of the people that I had seen and wished that I had seen others or paid more close attention. When the film was over I wish that I gotten what was going on from the beginning or just understood more in general because upon the first watching of all these films I was slightly confused as to what I was supposed to be getting out of it. 
3. "A Movie," Bruce Connor (1958)
Before discussing this film in class I was not really sure what was going on. The images seemed disconnected to me, I did not understand that the point of the film was to be incongruous. Having "the end" displayed numerous time throughout the film confused me because I always believed the film was actually ending, except when it did. I think it does comment on the way we watch films because watching a film comes with such high expectations and this film used these expectations to trick the viewer. With "A Movie," Connor breaks traditional film expectations.
4. "The Amateurist," Miranda July (1998)
This is the film I liked the least because I did not understand the point. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to anything that happened. Half of the time the actress (July herself) seemed to be addressing the camera or an omniscient figure that the audience was unaware of and occasionally she addressed the TV she was holding and the girl there. I feel like there was some metaphysical stuff going on that went completely over my head since July played both characters.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"We got us a Taratino virgin!"

"You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize."- Mr. White
So after the other day's tweet heard 'round the world ("I honestly can say I've never seen a Tarantino film"), I decided it was time to lose my Tarantino virginity. After putting it to a vote it was decided that my first film should also be the first directed by the man himself, 1992's Reservoir Dogs (to put this in perspective, I was one when this movie was in theaters).
The film was nothing like I expected, but at the same time I had no expectations. This was the first time I walked into a film knowing literally nothing about it-not even the plot. From the very beginning, I enjoyed every minute of it. With the first scene, I felt like I had walked in on a private conversation taking place between the cast members. It was so random, yet so funny and I feel telling of the way the film was going to go; it was Quentin saying "this film is going to be different than anything you've ever seen."
And it was. Throughout the early stages of the film I kept wondering "are we ever going to see what happened with the heist?" but by the end it didn't matter any more. We get all that we need to know with the dialogue of the characters and flashbacks. The action was unnecessary. I was especially glad the "action" was taken out of the torture scene because honestly, I don't know if I could have handled it (I forgot that sometimes gore is synonymous with Tarantino). The imagination is (usually) always better than what is shown on screen.
One of the reviews I read said the film was "an action movie comprised almost entirely of words" ( I completely agree. Reservoir Dogs is about the characters, their relationships, and the banter between them. I loved all the actors, especially Tim Roth who was the only one I had heard of going into the film. My favorite character in the beginning was Mr. Blonde for his charisma until he went all Picasso and then it switched to Mr. Pink for his acting and Mr. White for his calm head and compassion. Overall, all of the acting was great, I love when directors are in the films themselves. Before it was reveled what character was which color, I knew he was Mr. Brown, the only confirmed dead character, thereby inciting the death of the director and allowing the film to flow in a non-linear direction.
All and all, I feel like my first Tarantino was a success (I will say that the ending surprised me and made me laugh at the same time). I was shocked, I was amused, I was on the edge of my seat. His aestheticized portrayal of violence and the criminal world made the film extremely watchable despite the gruesome subject matter. I can't wait to see more, I think I may continue to go in order to see the progression of his career. I feel like this is "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fact or Fiction? Who Cares?

"Live sober and live free. It's gonna be hard and scary and brutal, but if you just hold on, you'll be okay. Just hold on." -Leonard, A Million Little Pieces

Also, I think the cover work is brilliant
Eye catching and playful 

So I'm a little late to this game. In 2003, the world was buzzing about the James Frey novel A Million Little Pieces (AMLP from here on out) and the controversy that surrounded the work. Now eight years later, I'm throwing my two cents in. I'm not going to go too much into the whole debate because its been hashed and rehashed so many times already (can something even be hashed besides potatoes?). All I will say is that I don't care whether the novel is fiction or non-fiction, that he expanded the truth in some areas or may have lied a bit. I would like you to show me an author who doesn't stretch the truth. The thing is, you can tell that this guy went through some serious issues with drugs and alcohol throughout his life through his writing. The point of the story is not whether Frey went to jail or who he met there/ didn't; the book is about survival and the will of the human spirit and overcoming adversity. I cannot believe that Oprah would demean a man for trying to get this message across just because he fabricated some things in a effort to look "tougher or more daring or more agressive than (he) really is or was." (From Frey's note to readers in 2nd edition copies of AMLP)
So, regardless of what Oprah says, I loved this book and its 2005 follow up My Friend Leonard (MFL). Both books were frank, honest, and emotional. Frey holds nothing back and hides nothing about his horrid past and addictions. I was surprised at how much I came to care about these damaged, real people.
One of the things I like the best about these books was the writing style. The reader is privy to every one of  Frey's thoughts, desires, and addictions. He captures these emotions through stream of consciousness technique that allows the reader inside his drug and alocol addled mind. Despite the fact that I have no experience with drugs or alcohol I felt that I was able to better understand his life as an "alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal," because of the way he wrote.
Despite some of the reviews I've read, I think Frey's "character" was very likable. He is not one who asks you to like him or not, he is merely showing his recovery and his life on his own terms; something I respected very much. The other colorful characters that fill AMLP and MFL, whether real or made up, all evoked emotional responses because of their suffering and desire to overcome their addictions. Leonard (who I hope is real) was by far one of the most complex, wonderful "characters" (I honestly don't know what else to call it). What touched me about him was not his reality, but how he helped Frey, their relationship, and how they saved each others lives. As I finshed the book on a crowded train, I found myself blinking back tears because of the emotional response evoked by the lives of these extraordinary men drawn together by terrible circumstances, not because I felt duped by Frey.
"I forgot to give you the secret to kicking ass in bold. But not bold, be fucking confident and calm, be fucking bold."-Leonard, My Friend Leonard

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Think You Should Know Thursday

So I'm declaring Thursdays "I Think You Should Know" Thursdays here on my blog. Basically this means I'm going to share a song/ artist with you that got it think you should know.
For my first Thursday in honor of the snow/ the plain just cold weather I'm sharing with you Swedish singer Jens Lekman's (pronounced Yens Lickman) "Cold Swedish Winter." This song warrants more than one listen because when my sister first showed it to me it I thought it was too weird/mellow/folkly. But there is something so incredibly sweet about the lyrics. Jens' voice is beautiful and haunting as well. This song is pretty much perfect for sitting inside and watching the snow fall.
(Also, check out "Postcards to Nina," my favorite Yens song about falling in love with a lesbian. Trust me, its funny.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

True Life: I'm Addicted to Celebrity Culture (It's not what you think)

Not Them

I admit, the title to this post may be misleading. I do not deny that I am obsessed with celebrity culture. But make no mistake, I do not worship at the alter of the vapid. I respect celebrities for the projects they pick, the integrity they retain outside of their films, and the quality of their work. To me, movie making is art and actors are artists. So in my mind, being obsessed with Fincher or Burton is akin to someone liking Van Gogh or da Vinci; its all art, just in different mediums.
So what form does my obsession come in? The normal, obnoxious, movie snob variety. I can rattle off Oscar nominees, directors' past projects, and even composers with relative ease. After ever watching every film I read every single thing there is to know about the movie via and then repeat them to anyone who will listen.
However, at the same time, my obsession goes a bit further than average. I don’t just follow casting and production news, I also follow the private lives of celebrities as well. I follow the hook-ups/ break-ups/ marriages/ arguments of stars like brokers follow the stock market. I pride myself on being able to give the name and ages of all of Angelina's children and their countries of origin. To me, knowing about the lives of the people in the film enhances the viewing experience. I find it fun to say, “can you believe how well so-and-so did in this film despite the break-up he/she was going through” or “the chemistry these two have is so easy to see, it’s no wonder they got together shortly after the film was released.”
It is a hobby of mine, the same way guys collect stats from their favorite teams, I collect information from my favorite celebrities. I was giddy with excitement over the news of Natalie's pregnancy/engagement and titter with excitement over the potential Sandra/Ryan romance. People find it odd that in conversation I refer to celebrities by their first names like we're old friends. And to me, we are. I've followed so many of these people's lives from an early age (I'm looking at you Dan, Emma, and Rupert) that I feel a connection to them. This makes me enjoy films even more. Plus, I love being that girl who's a know it all when it comes to films. My friends sometimes wait to watch movies with me because they want to know my reactions and opinions.
 I want to know if its the same for all you movie fans out there. Do you care what actors are married (or married to directors, one of my favorite combinations) or is something that you find boring? Do you think actors' personal lives affect their films? Comment below!

Friday, January 7, 2011

New's Year's Resolution? We'll See...

I'm going to try to make a promise here to write more because really I have no excuse. I love movies. I love talking about them and debating them, and writing about them, I just don't always have the time. So I'm going to try and make the time because It's something that's important to me. Especially seeing as I've seen some amazing movies during my winter break from college including Black Swan, The Fighter, Amelie, and Wristcutters: A Love Story. I wont go back a reblog about all of those because I feel like its time to move on. New year, new movies. (I will say though that Black Swan was trippy, beautiful, and amazing, The Fighter was good but not quite what I expected performance-wise, Amelie was cute and very French, and Wristcutters was amazing, sad, beautiful, and great. Definitely one of my new favorites. Also, I wish I saw Black Swan sooner because I feel like too much was ruined for me.)
But onto the New Year. I still would like to see 127 Hours, The King's Speech, and True Grit so I can really make my Oscar predictions correctly. For the most part I usually follow what other critics think and my gut (which served me right last year in my prediction of my girl Bigelow's win over my friend who thought James Cameron was a lock).
But 2011 looks like a year of incredible and numerous movies. My wallet will not be happy, but the rest of me will be.
So here's to 2011. A year of great movies and hopefully more blogging/ twitter debating (which I would like to get more into as well).