Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Think You Should Know Thursday

I'm terrible at remembering Thursdays for some reason, but today I finally did!
Anyway, the artist I think you should know this Thursday is the indie band from Oregon, the Decemberists. I feel like I should be on a old fashioned sailboat while listening to this band. Many of their tunes sound like old sea shanties so they're perfect to listen to on the beach or near any body of water.
However, my favorite song reminds me more of winter for some reason. Perhaps it is because the title is "Red Right Ankle" and for some reason I always picture the "Red Right Ankle" being caused by some sort of winter-sport related industry. Regardless, I think Colin Meloy's voice is melodious and haunting and the lyrics are beautiful. Check it out.

"This is the story of your red right ankle
And how it came to meet your leg
And how the muscle, bone, and sinews tangled
And how the skin was softly shed
And how it whispered, 'Oh, adhere to me
For we are bound by symmetry
And whatever differences our lives have been
We together make a limb'
This is the story of your red right ankle"

"So What's this Movie Even About?"

"A royale with cheese."
The title of this post was a question asked to me by my sister when I told her I was watching Pulp Fiction. I responded that I honestly didn't know. Even now after having seen the film I'm still not really sure. I did like it though. More than anything I think it intrigued me. It was interesting and different. It is most definitely one of those films you need to see more than once.
I loved the non-linear narrative. I love films with non-linear narratives in general because despite the fact that they are less realistic than linear films, they give your brain more to do while watching the film. I love the ahh-haa moment that comes when some of the pieces fall together, like when Vince and Jules were getting hosed off and I remembered them wearing the dorky clothes earlier in the film. I love that feeling because you feel like you're in on the joke, part of this secret club the director is trying to create.
I could draw a timeline and try to figure out the order of everything like I did after Inception, but frankly I don't care. And the film's been out long enough that I'm sure I could find out anything I wanted to know online. Part of me does not want to write it down, to put it together-I don't think that is the point. The film managed to be coherent, entertaining as hell, and funny, all while out of order. That is the point. It does not matter what comes first. It was a definite new step in film making and a bold one at that.
I think what I like about directors like Quentin Tarantino is that they do not underestimate the intelligence of their viewers. So many of my blog posts have lambasted directors and the fact that they do not give their audiences enough credit. That is why I like men like Tarantino and Nolan and Fincher; they give you a film and let you make of it what you will. They don't care if you 'get it' or not. They set out to make films the way they want to make them, end of story.
I want to say that I think I like Reservoir Dogs better (blasphemy, I know), but I also think it is too early to tell. I think there is so much I did not get with only one viewing so for now I will reserve judgement. I'm not even going to give it a rating.
End Notes:
-What ever happened to Uma Thurman? I feel like she dropped off the face of the earth...
-I love Tim Roth. Really I do. He is so good at being crazy and funny and cool all at the same time. I really looked forward to him popping up in the film.
-Why is it called Pulp Fiction? Maybe I missed something, but could someone please explain it to me?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The IMAX Experience

Me rocking the IMAX 3D glasses during round 2
 Last night was an emotional one for me. Not only was it the end of an era, it was the end of my childhood. I felt so many emotions I could not explain. I wanted everything to be perfect. I hyped it up so much in my mind that anything I would have seen would have been a let down. So after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at midnight and pulling an all-nighter, I went to work with my dad and saw the movie again 12 hours later, this time in IMAX.
What a difference a day makes. For some reason this time something everything clicked. The crowd was better (no more annoying guy sitting next to me, although the guy next to me this time did eat popcorn rather loudly). I saw it with my dad who at the end declared it his favorite movie of the summer.
I think a mix of factors came into play that caused me to love my second time around. I was more relaxed. I knew what to expect. I think I was just more ready, mentally and emotionally. It was time to say goodbye. It was time to look past the book narrative and see a film. To forget all the little things they changed and just enjoy it for the last time.
And enjoy it I did. From the very beginning I was more excited and absorbed. I was able to appreciate the intricacies of performances like Helena Bonham-Carter's turn as Emma Watson early on in the film. She completely nails the scene which I found rather enjoyable the second time around, but frivolous the first. The all-star British cast was phenomenal as always and of course the main man here that needs to be mentioned is Alan Rickman as Snape. I hated Snape until I saw the films. Alan Rickman humanizes this character and brings to life all of the best of his qualities. His performance in Deathly Hallows was beautiful and intricate; you could tell that he understood Snape's character and motives completely.
I also thought Daniel Radcliffe was rather good in this film upon my second viewing. While he's not the perfect Harry, at this point in time, I could never picture anyone else doing what he has done. The look on his face when he comes out of Snape's memory was breathtaking and his walk into the Forbidden Forest one of his strongest acting moments to date.
Also, Dame Maggie Smith gives an amazing performance as Professor McGonagall who will stop at nothing from defending the castle and her students. Her duel with Alan Rickman, and the entire scene in the Great Hall with Harry confronting Snape was one of my favorite moments of the entire film. From the moment the Order of the Phoenix walks in until the end of the film, the waterworks began and pretty much did not cease.
Besides paying more attention to the performances of the cast, I was also able to appreciate the score which I hardly noticed the first time. Alexandre Desplat created a wonderful mix of the old and familiar with the new.  One of my favorite musical moments was the crescendo that builds into silence as Harry and Voldemort face off in the forest. It really added another dimension to the film which I was able to fully grasp upon my second viewing.
 The IMAX viewing I also think helped a lot. 3D made the movie too dark and difficult to make out, especially during the Battle of Hogwarts. IMAX added another dimension to the film and the large screen really drew the viewer into the action. I enjoyed the Battle scene much more I believe mainly due to this factor.  The first time around I thought it was too long and drawn out, but this time I thought it was perfect. The destruction terrific, but at the same time devastating to behold. I think my dad put it best when he said that it was heartbreaking seeing all the familiar movie haunts that we had grown to love over the last ten years being destroyed in front of our eyes. It really did feel like a war film, especially as the trio walked amongst the rubble of the beloved Hogwarts Castle.
It is honestly still hard to sum up all of my feelings about the film. I still want to see it one more time so I can write in the theater and really compose my feelings. But seeing it a second time definitely helped. I laughed some, cried a lot, and reveled in the magic. And after my second viewing, I left the theater with a sort of cathartic feeling. It was over and somehow I was much more satisfied than the last time. Was it perfect? No, but I think it came damn near close. I don't know how I turned a complete 180, but so is life. If Draco can do it (his was not complete but still...), why not me? I'm allowed to change my mind. I think the more reviews I read and the more I see it (I plan on going at least once more), the more I will like it. Yes it is over, but as the books and films constantly remind us, those we love us never really leave us, they remain in our hearts. "Always."
Rating (take 2): No Milk Required

The Midnight Experience

My sister and I rocking our HP 3D glasses at midnight
So I just got back from seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 3D at midnight. I went with my sister who is in no means a Potter fan. She goes to these things because I drag her; she has never read the books and barely made it through the last two films. She is still confused about what the Deathly Hallows actually are and why it is so important that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince.
Herein lies problem number one. My friends who are as obsessed as I am are spread throughout the country and world. Most of them are in NY, but one is in Nevada, one in Wisconsin, and the other, France. So while mass texting in our separate theaters was fun, it wasn't the same as sitting in the same theater holding hands during Part One and crying on each others' shoulders about Dobby's death.
Problem number two was the moron I was sitting next to. He kept checking the time on his phone throughout the film. While the theater echoed with sobs upon seeing Fred and then Lupin and Tonks' bodies, he turned to his girlfriend and laughed. When I started making choking sobbing sounds as Harry walked into the Forbidden Forest, he scoffed. His girlfriend made him sit through the credits and he complained the entire time. Then he said that Will Dunn (Albus Potter) was the boy from Super 8. No. Just because he is young and has brown, curly hair, does not make him the same actor. I feel like more than anything, he hindered my enjoyment of the film because I felt like I had to stifle my emotions. 
So much of a film comes from the audience reaction. That's why I like going to midnight films so much; all the uber fans go to the midnight premieres so usually you get a good crowd. My theater was very tame. There was a smattering of clapping and some cheering at the expected places, but not what I expected.
However, the main problem I think I had was that I hyped the movie up so much in my mind. I imagined it was going to be exactly how I pictured it when I was reading the books and that is never the case. Yes, I liked the film. It was really good. Yes, I cried, numerous times. But was it everything I hoped for? I'm not sure. I am an extremely hopeful person. So much so that it gets me in trouble because my expectations are always too high. And I had Great Expectations for this film.
I'm not saying I hated it, I just don't have the same end of movie euphoria as everyone else right now. Honestly, I feel kind of empty inside, the same way I felt two years ago when the final book came out. I also think I haven't really had time to process the whole thing. That's why I'm going to see it later today with my Dad in IMAX. I also plan on seeing it eventually in its regular format with my mom (I live with a bunch of muggles, no one in my family has read the books). I am hoping that seeing it a second and third time, with a new crowd will give me a different perspective.
Also,one last note, this is just a quick post to get my initial feelings out. I promise to be more eloquent with my next post and more explicit on what I did and did not like. I just hit the 24th hour of me being awake so I'm surprised that my fingers can still find the right keys.
Rating: Needs Milk

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Where Have all the Good Films Gone?

So Johnny Depp is thinking of signing up for yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film. This is not surprising in the least seeing as the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. It is just disheartening as a film fan to see the constant barrage of remakes and sequels coming from Hollywood lately. Don't get me wrong, the first Pirates was one of my all time favorite films. It had everything a film like that needs: adventure, sword-fighting, a stellar cast, and lots of great lines. I even dug the second one, especially the ending. But as the series wore on, it got tiring. There are only so many times that I can watch Johnny sauntering drunkenly around trading one-lines with Geoffrey Rush.
I know the purpose of making a film is to make money. Working in Hollywood is the same as having any other job; film studios are making a product and they want someone to buy it. At the same time, movies are much different than anything else. While films are commodities, they are also art forms; they are experiences that transport the viewer, engage the senses, and inspire the mind. The problem becomes one of constantly having to balance the desire to make a profit with the need to be creators. See the Pixar/Disney Cars 2 debacle for proof. The New York Times had a great article about this issue called "A Collision of Creativity and Cash" which discussed Disney's desire to create a franchise vs. Pixar's need for great story telling.
It is so frustrating. Why does it have to be one or the other: a film that makes a ton of money or a film that tells a good story? Why do movie-goers shell out $13 to see Transformers 3 in 3D and neglect Tree of Life?  I know in my case it was availability. Tree of Life, Submarine, and Beginners (all films I want to see) are playing no where near me. I also know that once I get involved with characters in a series, I want to see what happens to them; I become invested in their stories and so I go to see each sequel that comes out. And like I've stated in numerous reviews so far this summer, sometimes I do not like to think, sometimes I just want to see things explode. However, that is not all the time. I loved Midnight in Paris because it was thoughtful and beautiful and so different from everything I've seen so far this summer.
I feel that more and more directors are discouraged to put out new, original films because it is safer to make films that audiences already know. We have so few Inceptions, films that are willing to be totally original and at the same time become top box office winners. Pixar proved that one can only be successful for so long before the desire to make money outweighs that of the need to create something new. Hopefully with Brave they can get back on track.
So, what about for the rest of the film industry? It seems that for awhile at least we will be stuck in this never ending cycle of remakes and sequels. Film industries will still look for ways to make money that they know will be guaranteed successes. The thing is, we do not have to take it. Another reason why the film industry is so unique is because it relies on us, the viewers to decide what they produce. If we refuse to watch another Pirates sequel or the Spiderman reboot, they will stop making them. But that will never happen. There will always be those people who like the familiar, who like the comfortable, who go to the theater to have fun and nothing more. At the same time, there will also always be people who go to the theater for a new experience, to think, to be drawn in. 
As I have said, I am conflicted because I belong to both worlds. I love films that are beautiful and thought provoking, but at the same time I am guilty of seeing all of the Pirates and Transformers that come out. I'm not saying we have to chose just one type of film to watch. What I am saying is that I wish studios could find a way to make both kinds of films more often and to trust that those are the kinds of films viewers want to see: funny, smart, and also packing some punch.