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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

For this special edition of I Think You Should Know Thursday, I am doing the "Six Songs of Me" which was recently featured in an NPR article. The article quoted another article from The Guardian where scientists are asking music lovers six questions to try and understand the nature of why we love music and what music defines us. Since music has played such a central part in my blog, I thought I would take part.
1.) What was the first song you ever bought?
I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I am sure many people in my parents generation and older can point to specific albums, but it makes me sad to say I cannot remember mine. I would say it is likely that it was a Britney Spears album, namely Oops...I Did It Again. Hey, I'm a kid of the 90's so you can hardly blame me. I also think my love for the singer had something to do with our shared first name. "Lucky" was my favorite song, I used to sing and act out the lyrics with my sister.
2.) What song always gets you dancing?
I cannot help but dance when I hear the song "Lisztomania" by Phoenix. There is just something I love about the song and the beat and the lyrics that don't quite make sense. It is so fun and happy. Phoenix is one of my favorite bands to listen to in the car because I love to wave my arms about and bop about...while driving.

3.) What song takes you back to your childhood?
My childhood was not that long ago, but the song that can take me back there is "Daughter" by Pearl Jam. I have a memory of singing that song while dancing around my living room table at a very young age. I did not know the real words at the time so I used to sing, "Fisher Price/$1.99" instead of "the picture kept will remind me." I blame my father for my eclectic tastes as a child.

4.) What is your perfect love song?
While I'm partial to "Your Song" by Elton John for a number of reasons, "All the Way" by Ole Blue Eyes himself is the perfect love song to me. I just think there is something so quintessentially romantic about Frank Sinatra's songs. For awhile now I have imagined walking down the aisle to this song which is one of the major reasons I find it so romantic. A honorable mention goes to "You and Me" by Lifehouse which held the spot as my favorite love song for many years. 

5.) What song would you want at your funeral?
This song is morbid, but a song I have always imagined during funeral scenes of films is "Hold My Hand as I'm Lowered" by Noah and the Whale. It has just the right amount of sadness and the lyrics are fitting for such an occasion.

6.) One song that makes you, you. 
I had a lot of trouble picking a song for this one. How can I possible pick a song that defines me? I did know one thing though, it had to be The Smiths. The Smiths are not only my second favorite band of all time, I feel like they define so much of what I feel on a daily basis: loneliness, awkwardness, the desire to be alone despite the loneliness because other people are annoying. One of the songs I have always felt defines me the best or at least explains how I feel a lot of the time is "Ask." The song talks about shyness preventing you from doing the things you want in life, which actually used to be a big problem for me. I used to be terribly shy, but college and some amazing friends have helped me come out of my shell in a big way. Still, I feel like this song is one of those that will always be special to me and remind me who I was. Honorable mention goes to "Just a Girl" by No Doubt for its message of girl power. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where Did the Summer Go?

 NYC Time Warner Offices 
With less than a month left in my internship at The Next List I have come to the point when I begin to ask myself, “Where did the summer go?” It happens every year like clockwork. We lament the summer’s slow beginnings and then suddenly the summer slips through our fingers like so many grains of sand on the overcrowded beaches.
I feel like I just started at CNN and at the same time like I have been here forever because (most of the time) I actually know what I am doing. I have a gotten into a routine and I am used to things like waking up (and going to sleep) early; things that were once foreign to me. My daily tasks as an intern vary depending on the day, what is going on with the show, and who needs help. I jump around between the show's numerous producers just trying to make all their lives easier and assist with anything that needs to get done. I also work closely with the production assistant (PA) on social media and increasing the show's following. 
 As an intern, one of my main jobs is to research information related to the person we are profiling for the show that week or just cool science/technology/entrepreneurial based things going on in current events all to share through our twitter feed. Scouring the web has become a talent of mine and I enjoy finding articles I think are noteworthy and entertaining. There are so many people doing interesting and innovative things in the world and while we cannot profile them all on our show, we can share the love through social media. I use the articles I find to compose many of the show’s tweets for the week. I like writing the tweets because it gives me practice in trying to see what works (and does not) in terms of attracting attention from followers.
Another task I have become skilled at is logging tape- which is a fancy way of saying transcribing interviews. This is a non-glamorous and intern designated task. However, over the past few days of transcribing I have gotten increasingly better and much faster at typing. Also, I find the people we profile and their subsequent interviews for The Next List fascinating. While the task of logging tape is tedious at times, I see this as a way to be involved in every aspect of producing an episode. I like listening to the interviews and then seeing what each producer chooses to include in the final episode. In some cases, they have even asked my opinion and told me to highlight sections I find interesting or important while transcribing.
Not the real CNN building, but a sign
(I was confused on my first day)
Also, in my down time, I have been watching the editors put together the episodes using Final Cut Pro. If you have read any of my blog, you know the love/hate relationship I have with FCP, but these guys (and gal) are all equally amazing. I love seeing each editor’s different style and just watching them work. Scenes that look good to me they will tweak a dozen times until it is just right. I admire their technical skills, but most of all I am in awe of their patience. Our editors will work tirelessly with the producer to make sure the episode is perfect before it airs. Everything from the image on the screen to the music (which I have had a hand in selecting for certain parts) is examined. I find that watching the editing process is one of the most intriguing parts of my job because it really is where everything comes together.
Even though I am excited to start my senior year of college, I plan on enjoying my last few weeks at CNN. Next week the other intern and I are going to shoot and edit our own digital short for the website (more details to follow). I am also working on an intern project that I have been assigned with a group of six others where we are free to do propose anything we can come up with to improve CNN.  I suddenly feel like there is so much to do and so little time. I also have a whole list of things I want to accomplish outside of work such as going to the MoMA, seeing one of the many outdoor movies around the city, and going to see Into the Woods in Central Park. I plan on making the most of this entire experience because who knows when I will get a chance like this again?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Have My Reasons

I have come to terms with the fact that I will not be seeing The Dark Knight Rises at midnight along with everyone else tonight. And by "come to terms" I really mean "bitterly accepted my fate while secretly loathing everyone watching the finale of what may be one of the best 'superhero' trilogies of all time." (Superhero is quotes because I feel that Nolan's films are so much more, but that is a post for another time.)
There is no real reason why I am missing the movie; I have work in the morning, but not until 10. I am living in New York City which probably has as many movie theaters as Chinese restaurants so there are plenty to choose from. I am an avid fan of Chris Nolan (as I’ve mentioned before he is my 2nd favorite director behind only David Fincher). So what seems to be the problem? I guess the issue is just the company.
I had originally planned on seeing TDKR with my dad. When we went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in IMAX we saw the movie in the afternoon and then went out to eat at the restaurant across from the theater afterwards. We both shared ribs and raved about the movie while I filled him in on the more intricate details of J.K. Rowling’s novels. It was one of the best movie going experiences I have had and we talked about doing the same with this film. But work schedules conflicted and now I am left with no plans except that I will see the film before the weekend is over and sooner rather than later.
My dad and I at DH 7.2. I look icky because I pulled an all nighter in my excitement 
I have many options. Since my dad backed out I could see it with a number of friends scattered throughout the city or even go alone (It would be easier to find a seat). But to me, the experience of seeing a movie for the first time is as important as the film itself. No matter how many times you will watch the movie once it comes out on DVD or Netflix, you can only see a movie for the first time once. Nothing can replace the experience of sitting in a darkened theater with rising anticipation as each preview plays and you get closer to the feature presentation or the almost anxious way your stomach clenches itself as the movie begins with the wonder of "will this movie be everything I hoped?"
Me & my friends at the midnight showing of Deathly Hallows 7.1
To me, going to the movies by myself would be the epitome of loneliness. Sure, I could find a theater and go at midnight or even catch a 6 am showing before work. However, there would be no one next to me to turn to and say, “ooh that movie looks awesome” during every trailer or to look at the minute credits begin to role with either disappointment or awe. These moments many not seem like much, but they can make or break a movie going experience.
Movies are all about the people you share them with. There is just something different about sitting next to your best friend at a movie and a total stranger. It is the reason films like Harry Potter have meant so much to me. Part of it is because of the film itself, but the main reason I have such fond memories is because I have enjoyed going in costume with a group of friends and raving about/bashing the films during the car ride home.
Sure, many could argue that with twitter and other forms of social media, one is never really alone. After a movie, send one tweet and thousands of people have the ability to respond and create a conversation.  Also, midnight showings are usually packed with people all as excited as you to see the film. That is just not good enough for me.
So for now I will wait. I will avoid twitter and Facebook and newsstands. I will try not to be too bitter at anyone for seeing the movie at midnight. I will see the movie at the earliest possible time Friday or Saturday surrounded by people I love because that is what is important to me. I love movies because I see them as a way to connect people and create common experiences and conversation. More than the cinematography or special effects, that is what draws me to films.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer in the City: Recap & the Beginning of my #Lifeofanintern

I think I have a little explaining to do on my absence from the world wide web. Most of it can be explained by the fact that my house has terrible wifi and my computer refuses to connect. The second half of that has to do with the fact that I have an internship with a CNN show called "The Next List" (view the Blog here) that can be seen at 2 pm ET on Sundays (shameless plug).
When I was thinking about my plans for the summer I never imagined I would be here. I thought I would be working as a cashier in my local grocery store again and potentially studying for the GREs. I never imagined I would have this opportunity. For once in my life I consider myself lucky. 
I would not have received this internship without the amazing support from the T. Howard Foundation. T. Howard seeks to place students of diverse backgrounds in internships in the media industry. I have been wanting to blog about my orientation with them since it happened in the beginning of June, but the aforementioned circumstances have kept me busy.  Let me just say that it was two and a half wonderful days where I met some amazing people learned more then I could ever have hoped about the industry, networking, and general business etiquette. It really made me think (and I am still thinking) about the kind of life do want to have when I leave college and what that means in terms of a career. All real life, pretty scary things to think about. There is so much about the media industry that I do not know about, so many jobs I could have that I have never even heard of yet and orientation opened my eyes to the numerous possibilities that are out there. After leaving I feel a bit more prepared to take on the world; although I am still partially in denial that such a thing as the "real world" exists. 
Me in my fancy work clothes
Nevertheless I started my internship about a week and a half ago. Things that were so scary on the first day (like remembering everyone's names) have become easy by now and I am getting the hang of working in an office. CNN is a lot more casual then I expected it to be. I was afraid of this huge corporate environment where I would be a lowly intern sent to fetch coffee in a scene not unlike one from The Devil Wears Prada. However, that is not the case at all here. Everyone in my department knows my name and I have worked with each one individually. On my second day I was calling people and looking for a location where we could shoot -not your typically intern tasks. The other intern and I even get to work on our own project as something that we can take away with us. I have only been here a short time and I have learned so much already. 
I have already started thinking about changing my schedule for next year so I can take more production classes. I want to learn more. I want to take the skills I have learned in the classroom and continue applying them in real life situations. I am not sure yet what I want to do with my life, but I know I am taking steps in the right direction to make my dreams (whatever they may be) come true. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

Since this is the first official Thursday of summer and it has been a scorcher here in New York and because I have been bad and have not blogged in awhile (reason for that upcoming), I give you, not one, not two, but FIVE songs  you should know for what I like to call ITYSKT: Summer Songs.
1.) Summertime Sadness- Lana Del Rey
My friend posted this song on facebook about a month ago and I kept looking for the opportune moment to share it...looks like I missed that moment because the original is no longer on youtube. I did find a live recording that is close to the album recorded one. I love this song because it speaks of goodbyes that inevitably come with the changing of the seasons. When I first heard it I thought it was mournful and yet beautiful at the same time.
"Kiss me hard before you go
Summer time sadness
I just wanted you to know
That baby you're the best
I've got that summertime, summertime sadness"

2.) Summer in the City-Regina Spektor
I know I already shared Regina Spektor recently, but this song is appropriate for a number of reasons. First, I have been spending most of my summer in New York City so it is a song that always comes to mind during my time here (again, more on that later). Second, it is perfect and truthful and for me always brings up memories of hot, sweaty, summer days like today. It also expresses a lot of things I have been feeling lately like how a city can be so big and make you feel so alone.
"Summer in the city, I'm so lonely lonely lonely 
I've been hallucinating you, babe, at the backs of other women 
And I tap on their shoulder and they turn around smiling 
But there's no recognition in their eyes 
Oh summer in the city means cleavage cleavage cleavage 
And don't get me wrong, dear, in general I'm doing quite fine 
It's just when it's summer in the city, and you're so long gone from the city 
I start to miss you, baby, sometimes"

3.) Youth without Youth- Metric 
You may recognize Metric from the soundtrack of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where their song "Black Sheep" was sung by Envy Adams (Brie Larson). They are one of the few bands that can get away with being fronted by a female because Emily Haines is equal parts sweetness and attitude. While this song is not necessarily about summer, it is a song about playing outside and watching your youth slip away- two things I think summer is all about. It also has a feeling of nostalgia in bringing up song titles from the past.
"Hangman we played blind man's
Bluff til they stopped the game Youth without
Youth born without time, Youth without
Youth, can you read my mind?"

4.) Escape in the Afternoon- French Films
How could I not love a band with a name like this? I found this band as a result of youtube stumbling (try it, you won't regret it) and I was instantly hooked by their sunny sound. This is one of those songs that should have a music video with teenagers doing fun things like swimming and running and dancing and kissing and just generally making you jealous that your life is not as awesome.
"Oh take me
Anywhere the sun shines
Away the harms of mankind off my shoulders
 'Cause anything that we were meant to be
Was lost but I want to escape in the afternoon
To see the youth run through my hands"

5.) Good Vibrations- Beach Boys 
For me any summer playlist is not complete without the Beach Boys. They are the quintessential summer band; you can feel the sunshine oozing from their every note. Everyone knows their music so they do not really belong on this list, but I could not help myself. I like all their songs. I had trouble just picking one, but for some reason "Good Vibrations" is always the first to pop into my head when I head out to the beach. Plus, it is a classic.
"I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air
I'm pickin' up good vibrations
She's giving me excitations"

Monday, June 4, 2012

You're Either on the Bus...Or Off

I feel like the universe is trying to send me a signal. The other day on my train ride into the city the girl next to me was reading A Game of Thrones. It happened again on the subway. Two of my good friends and my boyfriend are reading the book series as well. My dad is obsessed with the HBO show. And me? I just feel like I am missing out on something.
A Song of Ice and Fire, the series written by George R. R. Martin, and the show "Game of Thrones" have become one of the most talked about series in awhile. Usually I am part of major cultural phenomena. If you have read any of my blog or follow me on twitter you know what a diehard Harry Potter fan I was from the very beginning. I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy. I jumped on the Twilight bandwagon...before jumping right off. I have even perused 50 Shades of Grey before refusing to read it. I do not know what it is about (A) Game of Thrones that has aliened me so.
Girl power all the way.
After everyone could not stop talking about the first season of the show my boyfriend and I watched it. Watching it late left me open to spoilers like the deaths of major characters-but it was my own fault. However, it did take away some of the shock and awe of the series for me. I have seen maybe two episodes of the current season and again I find myself in no hurry to catch up. Do not get me wrong, I really like it, but I am not an avid fan like most others. I love Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen whose character portrays both power and vulnerability in equal measures and the adorable and sometimes identical looking Stark (half) brothers. Even everyone's favorite character, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister I find amusing, but not as rave worthy as everyone else seems to believe. I just cannot seem to agree with the masses on this one.
 I somehow feel like I missed the boat. I know it is never too late to get into a series; if I just picked up a book or started watching I could be caught up in no time, but I hate being so far behind. I despise having friends ask, "what page are you on?" and when you tell them they shake their heads knowingly and say, "oh just wait what happens next." Even if they do not tell you anything it tarnishes the first reading/watching experience which I believe should remain pure.
Yes, I'm talking to you J.K.
Another part of me just does not want to read it solely because everyone else is; maybe it is the hipster in me. I just cannot believe what a big deal Game of Thrones has become. I feel like everyone is either reading or watching it. I know it is not to the same extent, but this is what it must have been like to be a non-Harry Potter fan during the height of Pottermainia. It is like I do not want to give in and let the rest of the world know they are right. Even though I have watched a season of the show and read two chapters of the first book.
I will probably continue to watch the second season and maybe get up to the point where I can actually watch the third season live. Until then I will contemplate why I do not want to be part of another fandom. I have given my heart to authors so many times and it has been exhausting. I have devoted myself to them and in return they have killed some of my favorite characters, made horrible movie adaptations, and then stopped writing the series and moved on. I take it personally. My heart cannot take it any more. I think it is time I sit this round out.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday the artist I think you should know is New York indie darling Regina Spektor. She is one of those artists that you have probably already heard without knowing it. Her songs have been featured in films such as (500) Days of Summer, In Bruges, and (the awful) My Sister's Keeper as well as on shows such as Criminal Minds, Grey's Anatomy, and How I Met Your Mother. And while she is one of the more famous artists I have profiled on a Thursday, I think more people should know about her.
Spektor is one of the many artists that have been introduced to me by my younger sister. At first I was wary, but soon I became hooked on her unique sound. Spektor is known for her vocal aerobatics. She has this way of  adding vocal jumps and stops as well as beatboxing in songs which make her music unlike any you have heard or will hear. Her songs are also upbeat for the most part and extremely catchy.
"Hotel Song" is one of my favorite songs from her 2006 album "Begin to Hope." I chose to show this song rather than others because I found an incredible a capella version of the song on YouTube that was just begging to be shared. I feel like the lyrics to this song are not as deep as some of her others, but I used to sing this song with my sister all of the time so there are good memories associated with it.
"Come in, come in
Come into my world I've got to show
Show show you
Come into my bed
I've got to know
 Know know you"
"Laughing With" from the album "Far" (2009) is one of Spektor's more serious songs and one I really like because of its message. It does not feature her usual vocal stylings, but instead her strong deep vocals provide a backdrop for a thought provoking song.
"No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say 'we've got some bad news, sir'
No one's laughing at God
When there's a famine or fire or flood
But God could be funny
At a cocktail party listening to a God themed joke"

For some reason I am having an exceedingly difficult time deciding what songs to share because she has so many great ones. All the artists I have shared do too, but for some reason this one is trickier than the others. If you like what I have posted I also recommend listening to "Us," one of her most popular songs and "All the Rowboats," the single off her new album "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shut Up & 'Drive'

I have finally seen the most talked about movie...of last year. I always seem to come to the party a bit late. I try to see every movie in theaters, but being a college student I have to pick and choose my battles. So when I saw the "why wasn't it nominated for any Oscars" film Drive (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn) on Netflix, I knew I had to watch it.
There's no Miss Daisy in this film
The best words I can use to describe Drive are sleek and sexy, two words that could also be used to describe the film's star Ryan Gosling. There was something very modern about the film which mostly comes from the editing style and the music. The overlaying of images and dissolves from one scene to another gave the film a fluid movement that helped transition from one scene to the next. The editing style set the pacing for the movie; even though it was an action film, it moved at a slow and steady pace creating a great build up and delivering the violence when necessary. Drive just felt different from many films I have seen before.
And while it feels different, between the pink lipstick-esq credit font and music, there is something old school about Drive as well. The music was for me the best part of the film. The songs were so different from the rest of the film, soft, melodic, but with a powerful beat. The beat is what made each song work so well, there was something driving (see what I did there?) each scene, directing the unrelenting motion. With the music there was a feeling that the scenes, especially the ones of Gosling driving on L.A. highways alone at night, had gone on forever and would continue to go on. They created a great sense of contrast,  between the scenes and the images. As diverse as the song choices were they all seemed to work well in adding to the mood; through the music L.A. became a place that seemed like it came from a mix of a city from a Japanese video game and a film noir.
I loved Gosling who made a seamless transition from pretty boy love interest to dark antihero. His portrayal of the Driver, though one that required little actual speaking, was strong. His ability to portray his feelings through grunts and glances was powerful and despite the relatively strong cast he carried the film. I still really cannot decide how I feel about Carey Mulligan. I want to like her, really I do, but there is something about her that I cannot place that I just do not like. I feel like she is too stiff sometimes, maybe not believable enough. It is why I worry so much about her playing Daisy Buchanan. She too had few lines, but I felt that her performance was more one note than Gosling's. 
Overall I really liked Drive as a complete film. The one thing that marred my experience was my internet connection. Being away from school and unlimited wifi is difficult. At home there always seems to be a problem with the connection. And it was like my internet seemed to know when the best and most suspenseful parts of the film were coming. Opening scene with Gosling driving while listening to basketball? Buffering. Waiting for Standard outside of the Pawn Shop? Buffering. Hotel room with Blanche and the phone rings? Well, you get the idea. It made the viewing experience very frustrating because I had to keep refreshing the page and then had to put myself back into the action. I feel like watching the film in a theater would have been a much better experience, not just because of the lack of loading time, but also because the sound and picture would have been much bigger and better. 
I am definitely glad I watched Drive though and can now count myself among the legions of the outraged that this film did not get nominated for more awards. 
Review: Needs milk  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Great Gatsby!: Trailer Time

The trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby was released tonight-on Entertainment Tonight of all places -and I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed. I know airing the trailer on television probably gained it more attention than just solely putting it online and hoping the word got out, but did Nancy O'Dell really have to feel the need to talk over some parts? I am more of an Access Hollywood girl myself anyway.
I wanted chills. I wanted squeals. Instead I got contemplation and nervousness. Will this movie be as good as I want it to be? I have seen the trailer five times and I still cannot say.
Check out the trailer on Cinemablend (one of my go to movie sites) below:
The problem I had with the trailer is just one: Tobey Maguire. His voice over narration reminded me too much of Spider-Man (2002). What he is saying is different, but the inflection is all the same. Don't believe me? Watch the other trailer and compare.
Personally, I think Tom Hiddleson would make a fantastic Nick Carraway especially after his turn as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. I always saw Carraway as Fitzgerald himself, a man on the outside, always looking in and wanting to be a part of a world he did not quite understand. It is part of the reason why I could not take Hiddleson seriously in The Avengers; he seems too much like a snide English gentleman than a real villain.
Another problem I have with the trailer is the music. It's so modern. I hear auto-tune. The 1920's were all about jazz. How can you make a movie about the 1920's and not use jazz music? The second song snippet I liked a bit better because of the lyrics about love being madness, but the opening song I did not feel fit at all. Someone on twitter said it seems a bit modern and I tend to agree. At least for now.
The best part of the trailer is Leonardo DiCaprio. I could think of no one better than him to play the infamous Gatsby, a man of infinite charm, wealth, and loneliness. Sounds a bit like Leo himself. Leo is shown in the trailer as an almost Kane-esq figure: looming above the party, but not joining in on the action. A man everyone seems to know about, but no one actually seems to know. He even looks a little bit like Orson Wells.
For me the jury is still out on Carey Mulligan. I wanted Michelle Williams to play Daisy because I think she encompasses the vulnerably and passion that makes up that character. Although, I do love Mulligan so I think once I see more of her performance I will grow to like her more. I am not sure what other female character is in the trailer, I believe it was Jordan, but I really liked her energy and look.
The 1920's is one of my favorite decades so I hope the costumes and sets will be as fantastic as the little the trailer showed. I want it to be like Boardwalk Empire, but better. No one does over-the-top quite like Baz so I think it will be good. I hope he pulls out all the stops, just like in Moulin Rogue! 
This is one of my favorite books of all time so I just hope that it comes out right. Only time will tell. I cannot wait until Christmas, for more than one reason now.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday I think you should know a song, but for many it is a song that you already know: "Hallelujah." Many may know it, but do you know the original? Or have you only heard one of the numerous cover versions?
The song was first written and performed by Leonard Cohen for his album "Various Positions" (1984). I first heard the song in the movie Shrek where it was performed by Rufus Wainwright. "Hallelujah" seems to be one of the most covered songs, performed by everyone from Bob Dylan to Paramore in their live album and almost everyone from any reality singing show ever.
It is understandable why singers would want to cover this song. It is beautiful and evocative, with imagery of both love and the Bible. Depending on the emotion of the singer it can sound equally romantic or desperate, like a cry for help. Depending on the instrumentation the preference of the singer the song can have a simple piano (like the well known Jeff Buckley version) or a more widely ranging set of instruments.
Here are a couple of versions to compare and contrast:
1.) Leonard Cohen
You cannot compare covers without listening to the original. This is not my favorite version of the song, it seems too spoken and choppy. Not to knock on the original, the man did write the song, but I believe others  have performed it better.
"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"

"Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah"
2.) Rufus Wainwright
I had a really hard time deciding if I should share this version or Jeff Buckley's. Both are very emotional and have the potential to make you cry, but Rufus is the one that made me fall in love with song in the first place. I think the song fit into Shrek perfectly (the soundtrack was great overall in that film). Definitely check out Buckley's version too. Just not if you are feeling sad.
3). Imogen Heap
I like this version of the song because it is so different from the others. Besides the fact that it is sung by a female, the yearning of the lyrics comes through most clearly in this song. Without the background instruments Heap's voice shines. I think this version is simple, but beautiful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Adventures in Filmmaking: A Little More Personal

For my final film project my professor asked us to create a work that answered the question: what is the truth? Upon seeing this question at the beginning of the semester I actually had a lot of ideas. I was excited. It was so open ended, I could do anything.
As the semester went on I wanted to do something more. I really wanted to push myself to step out of my comfort zone as many others in my class have done this semester. For me, this means making films actually involving people, specifically my friends. The majority of the films I have made over my past few years in cinema have involved shots of nature or sneaky shots of people I have taken on campus while they were not looking (that is really not as weird as it sounds).
For this film, I wanted to do something very personal. I wanted to involve my friends. The thing is, I hate filming people I know. Or people I don't know. Which is weird seeing as I have always imagined myself to be a cross between Ryan Seacrest and Roger Ebert (or at least have a combination of their jobs, Ebert's movie critiquing and Ryan's event going to and general schmoozing abilities). I do not know why, but as soon as get a camera in my hand I get nervous and self conscious. I feel like everyone is looking at me because, let's be real, as soon as a camera comes out people are bound to notice you.
For this project however, I wanted things to be different. A lot of people, myself included, have been worrying about life after college. I wanted my film to reflect the fears that come with graduation, but I also wanted to contrast that with people's dream jobs. My professor wanted us to ask a question to start the film's conversation so the question I asked people was: if you could have any job regardless of how much money you would make from the job what job would you want to have? It is a question my friends and I have talked about  before so I actually knew the answers for some of them.
The video below is the result. The people in the video, for the most part, are my close friends. People I finally put my shyness aside for and let into my world. I like this video because it is so personal both in the actual people in the video and the topic itself. It is not as emotional or sobering as I hoped it would be (or maybe that's me since I spent so much time editing it), but I am proud of how it turned out because I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and made a film starring the people who are most important to me.
My professor said my film only scratched the surface on telling the truth and I agree. If I had more time to really delve into this maybe it woud have come out differently. Nevertheless, I am happy about my accomplishments and the fact that I tried something new.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Letter to the Doctor: Part 2

Dear David,
After reeling from the loss of Chris, it was hard to figure out how I felt about you. I mean, you are David Tennant, you are (almost) everyone's favorite Doctor. At the beginning of season two I only knew you as Hamlet and Barty Crouch Jr.
I never knew how hard I would fall. I thought I would love Rose and Nine forever, until Ten showed me she could be so much more. With you, Rose grew. She became smarter and braver-you seem to have that effect on people. You did the same with Donna and Martha too; almost everyone you meet changed for the better.
I loved your adventures, since we had more time together there were so many more places to go: 1700's France, meeting Agatha Christie, fake Time Lords and forgetful Time Lords and Time Lords coming back to life, and alternative universes. Every adventure something new to learn, some new planet to save.
" That was the worst thing —
the fury of the Time Lord. And then we discovered why...
why he had run away from us and hidden... he was being kind."
-Son of Mine The Family of Blood)
There was something more to you however. While Chris was grizzled and lonely, a true solider of the war, you were the civilian-the man trying to re-enter the world. Sometimes you had so much energy and excitement about the everything around you. You wanted to explore the universe and meet new people. But then there were those times where you had so much anger. And power. Like when you first met Donna and the end of season four when you were trying to escape death and changed time just because you could. Those were the moments you scared me, the moments that I knew that the Time Lords were not all good. The moment I knew you could never be alone with all that power because someone needed to be there to tell you when to stop, when to reign in your power, and just let go. You wanted to save everyone and that anger happened because you could not and deep down that was the truth you would always know. I thank you for trying even though it literally killed you and even though sometimes you lost the people you loved.
This is one thing I do not understand. When I think of Eleven, I think goofy. Granted I only saw two episodes and that was before I met you, but how do you become him? You are so multidimensional, I do not think anyone can encompass all that you are.
I am going to miss you David. I still cannot be sure if you are my favorite Doctor, but I know I will never forget you. I will defend you to the haters who inexplicably say that you cannot act and who say Matt has better hair (to that I say: never). Nevertheless, Geronimo. Onto the next Doctor.
That is the best part about Doctor Who. It never ends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday I think you should know a band that is (geographically) close to me, the Syracuse, NY indie rockers Ra Ra Riot. The band formed in 2006 on the Syracuse University campus and started out by playing at house parties. They, like many of the other bands I have been profiling on Thursdays, have been gaining some recent popularity with songs on television shows, but for the most part they remain under appreciated.
I found Ra Ra Riot on Pandora and it was another one of those moments where a song came on and I froze because the lyrics completely described my life at that time. I love the upbeat, multi-instrumental sound I'm and sucker for string instruments.
"Call You Tell" from the 2008 album "The Rhumb Line" is the fateful song that got me into the band. I feel like it is one of those songs that everyone can relate to. Also, the video is really cute.
"Oh what am I supposed to do?
It's hard to stay cool
Oh , when you smile at me
And I get nervous every time you speak."
"Too Dramatic" from "The Orchard" (2009) has been getting more play recently. It has a very different sound than "Can You Tell" and shows off the band's versatility. It is one of those songs that constantly gets stuck in my head. 
"You know I couldn't live here that way
You said it before
He left Cincinnati, just sixteen
Had his fill, boy
And though I guess
There's nothing honest

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adventures in Filmmaking: I Think I've Gotten the Hang of This

Every time I want to give up on my production class, I manage to surprise myself. After fretting for weeks about what I was going to do with my second film project, I finally came up with an idea. The second project had to be an installation, something that was simple, but involved more than one monitor or screen. My professor stressed simplicity and the importance of the image and sound and how it all looked as one piece.
As always, I over thought it. I really wanted to make a "chose your own adventure" type film with the screens starting off in one place and then ending up in different directions, but I could not figure out how to begin or what I would film. Then I thought of another idea: using the films as two different directions, I could make a film about choices and following different paths. On the weekend I shot footage in my University's Nature Preserve, an area of protected land where students can go to hike, run, or just hang out. I positioned my camera at every trail junction and filmed the world of choice as seen in nature. For the first time, I was shooting with a purpose, not just pointing my camera and hoping for something lucky like last time.
As I was filming the paths in the woods, I kept thinking about the nature of choice itself. It is all around us. Everyday, everything we do comes down to making choices. I wanted to incorporate that into my film as well and being a person so in tune with popular culture I decided to represent choices not only through nature, but through media as well. The more I thought about my project, the more I wanted to add. If I had more time I could have kept going; the more I thought, the more ideas I got.
The installation aspect of the film was something I also had to consider. I had to think about what was occurring on multiple screens and how to make sure the right image appeared on the right screen. It required a lot of close time spent with my friend Final Cut Pro. We've actually been getting along much better lately and developing what I would like to call a working relationship. I hope to one day actually be able to call it a friend.
Also, the actual projection aspect was difficult. I wanted to have three different screens of the same sizes and set them up with one on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle. I wanted to force the viewer to turn their head and make a conscious choice over which screen to watch. However, with the equipment that my university's cinema department has this was difficult. I could not find three televisions of the same size so I had to settle for one flat screen and two TVs probably from the 80's with really fuzzy pictures. Then I had to connect them all to power, make sure they all had sound, and connect them each to the correct DVD player all while trying to sort out where everything was and what we actually had in the classroom closet. Needless to say it took me almost 50 minutes to set the instillation up. Then, when I finally went to show it to the class, the sound was very faint.
My professor was complaining that he could not hear it and was so busy worrying about the sound that he did not really get a chance to fully enjoy it so I did not get too much feedback this time. However, the first edit (the one below) got great feedback from the entire class. My teacher really liked the opening, as do I and found the playfulness, even if snobby film guy didn't. They all seemed really impressed and actually got the concept which was nice for once. The only critique they had is to remove the shots of the people in the paths scenes and to make the focus on nature so there is a contrast between my shots and the found footage. I personally liked having the people in the shots, but in my final edit I ended up taking them out because it was the only major criticism I received.
This is one of the first times in a cinema class that I have actually enjoyed myself and felt that my project was one of the better ones. I like being proud of my work and as much as I joke around about it, I really am getting the hang of Final Cut Pro. I feel like I am gaining experience and confidence in myself and my new abilities. It makes me believe that one day, it might be possible for me to get some sort of job in cinema. Maybe. One day.