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.