Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Not As Ugly As We Think We Are

October 2, 2009

I think I’ve found my most anticipated film of the fall. I love the tone of the trailer and its Toronto International Film Festival debut has resulted in an abundance of glowing reviews. Regardless of what the critics think, I’ll see any movie with a cast including George Clooney, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis:

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While I agree that relationships are the heaviest components in life, I’d contend that monogamy, allegiance, and loyalty are still possible in a world seemingly filled with sharks. To date, my biggest success in life has been the ability to surround myself with other swans. I would be lost without the close relationships I’ve developed with friends and family over the years. They are the brace and support system for the other facets of life that weigh me down.

Maybe we’re not swans, but we are not as ugly as we think we are. Our fathers gave us features that we didn’t want, but our mothers claim those features made them fall in love. We are flying higher than our counterparts, and we’ve got each other. I’d say that’s enough.

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I Believe There is Justice in Our Hearts

September 22, 2009

To break from the monotony of job hunting, I sometimes take short recesses to dig into something I find a little more enjoyable and I’ve found that Netflix queuing provides one of the best escapes. For some reason probably attributable to my obsessive compulsive tendencies, I hate feeling in the dark on “important” films that have slipped past my radar, so I frequently research different “best of” lists and award winners to add any glaring omissions to my queue.

Much to my pleasure, I recently discovered that I had the majority of the new-found A.F.I.’s Top 10 lists covered. More importantly, I was reminded of the incredibly relevant closing argument in 1982’s The Verdict while investigating the “Courtroom Drama” section:

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If I could be one actor, I think I’d pick the late Paul Newman. In addition to being the proud culinary owner of a tasty line of salad dressings and pasta sauces (with a mission statement centered around charity), the blue-eyed bedazzler has had a field day with memorable leads in such personal favorites as Cat on a Tin Roof, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting.

Most of Newman’s famous roles captured a piece of the underlying theme behind The Verdict‘s final court scene. My parents raised me to always value moral responsibility, and one of my favorite aspects of cinema is that the best performances act as cultural reminders to guide us back on track when we might be losing course.

Sometimes All You Need is a Sign

September 10, 2009

The following beautiful short won big at the 2009 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival with the task of positioning Schweppes as the “adult” soft drink of choice. Gently weaving Schweppes branding throughout, Australian director Patrick Hughes needed to create a film that adults would connect with and want to share with others; considering my grassroots discovery through Christina via her cool older sister, I’d say that Hughes did his job well.

I didn’t even realize that the short was created as a branding project until reading up on its awards afterwards. More than anything soft drink related, the heart of the aptly titled Signs focuses on communication and the art of loving without talking:

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Christina recommended watching because she thought I’d try to make something similar with my friends. She also mentioned that the main character reminded her of me, which I guess I can see considering he comes off as an awkward mute most of the film. Nonetheless, I was grateful for the suggestion and would love nothing more than to have the ability to create powerful little gems like this someday.

While Signs may be no Absolut Vodka promotion, I wanted to do my part in continuing to spread the viral word.

A Fistful of Quarters

September 4, 2009

Last weekend, I wisely finally listened to Netflix’s recommendation and watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.  The critically acclaimed documentary follows everyday family man Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for Donkey Kong from reigning champion/Nick Cave look-a-like/arrogant coward Billy Mitchell:

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Managing to be heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time, this film has the power to move you. Touching on topics ranging from coping with depression to living with integrity and discovering the true meaning of being a winner, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is much more than an easy laugh at super arcade nerds.

The King of Kong reminded me of another classic David vs. Goliath gaming battle currently ensuing, but only this time, it’s among the arcades themselves! Of course, I’m referring to the Help Save the Arcades campaign (presented by none other than Stride gum):

Sadly, many arcades across the country are down to their last quarter and facing closure. It’s time gamers everywhere band together and Save the Arcades! By simply playing the insanely epic Zapataur, you can help one of four amazing arcades score $25,000 and continue to provide gaming goodness to their community. Every point you score will be added to the tally of the arcade you choose to support. So the more you play, the better chance that the arcade you’re rooting for will score $25,000.

As of right now, DeKalb’s Star Worlds Arcade (Christina’s new favorite hometown destination) lacks the fan dedication necessary for achieving victory. Considering how cool owner Pacman Pat was the last time we tried to make an appearance on his turf, I’m willing to turn my back on local Game Galaxy to help his cause and you should too. Next time you’re bored and wasting time online (i.e. right now), consider battling the most formidable manbeast in all the forsaken land via a game of Zapataur and donate the points DeKalb’s way.

As Christina elegantly stated on her Facebook profile, “Do it for Pacman Pat! Show that even the underdog has a chance!” I’m betting that Pat doesn’t believe in the saying, “Life’s a video game — no matter how good you get, you’re always zapped in the end.” Let’s help the man keep the faith, Bon Jovi style.

You’re By No Means Alone On That Score

May 20, 2009

A few weeks ago, a good friend and I planned what was supposed to be a classic movie marathon at a local Nashville theater.  Unfortunately, the marathon only turned out to be a back-to-back showing, but our second feature alone was worth the planning process.

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Although marketed as a comedy in the vein of Superbad, Adventureland turned out to be one of the best movies about growing up I’ve seen in several years.  The funny, intelligent, and well-written script mixed with excellent casting made for a great romantic comedy that felt more like a combination of Say Anything and The Graduate than one of Judd Apatow’s latest.  Set in 1987, the heavy use of 80s indie music as a form of added storytelling obviously didn’t hurt either, considering I’ll always welcome The Cure, Replacements, Big Star, or The Outfield to any movie soundtrack.

In Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg’s character learns that amusement parks aren’t the only place with games rigged for the honest and trusting to always lose.  Upon hire, Eisenberg is deemed a “Games” guy, a group comically reserved to the intellectuals and introverts unworthy of being ride operators.  The main characters running around with “Games Games Games” printed on their chests is the perfect exemplification of Greg Motolla’s well-written, subtle script.

From Squid and the Whale fame, Jesse Eisenberg was spot on for the role of lead character James Brennan.  Riding on the positive vibes from Into the Wild, Kristen Stewart continues to add appeal points after an initial devastating blow from her association with Twilight.  As expected, the interaction between Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s characters was priceless and Martin Starr continued to prove his awesomeness originally showcased in Freaks & Geeks.

I was also impressed to see Ryan Reynolds take on a different kind of role than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him in.  He perfectly captures the duplexity of a character that’s viewed as the coolest guy in town to the younger crowd he works with while a loser to the rest of the “real world.”  In a lesser film, his character would be a portrayed as the bad guy, but instead of taking sides, Adventureland chooses to focus on the richly developed characters’ struggles to get by.

While the movie falls victim of sometimes embodying the inevitable stereotypes associated with every other late teen/twenty-something coming of age relationship movie, Adventureland gets to the heart and deeper underlying truth within those clichés.  Granted, I’m biased considering I fall into the demographic currently experiencing the ups and downs associated with the youthful rites of passage, but regardless, Adventureland should be acknowledged for its ability to restore a piece of humanism to a comedic genre that has lately revolved around trite sophomoric jokes.

All that being said, I still like a good fart joke as much as the next guy.  I can only imagine how pretentious the previous paragraph sounded, so I felt a clarficiation was needed.  Basically, I just want you to go see Adventureland, so please do so as soon as possible.

Switching subjects, I’m also hoping that personal favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and sweetheart Zooey Deschanel come through in this summer’s similarly themed 500 Days of Summer.

The True Essence of Life

May 15, 2009

A good friend sent me a link to the following documentary trailer with a simple declaration: “I bet you will really really really really enjoy this.”

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Recommended for any Girl Talk fan, RiP: A Remix Manifesto focuses on the current struggle of the remix culture against “the man” with everyone’s favorite Pittsburgh mash-up artist as the central protagonist.  Art Threat summarizes best:

The film is a fast-paced, entertaining and informative rave-like rip through the world of copyright, cultural policy and mash-up culture. The film’s form is its strength – a pastiche of interview, director POV, fantastic animation, music video, concert, home movie, and multi-media mix. It is in short, an exemplary mash-up piece, true to the investigation found within. By the end you might feel like you dropped acid and read a cultural policy paper, but chances are you’ll just be stunned that a documentary on copyright could be so damn fun.

One of the coolest aspects of this manifesto is that its first-time filmmaker Brett Gaylor has made every chapter available online for anyone to remix, going as far to even launch a website to act as a centralized hub for said remixers to work their magic.  Similar to the release of Feed the Animals, the film is also available as a pay-what-you-want download.  Hence, you have no excuse for not watching.

As much as I love the “pay what you want” model as a stingy end user, from a career standpoint, if you’re advocating the option to give your craft away for free and expect everyone else to do the same, how is anyone going to have a sustainable career?  This publicity may work for mash-up artists like Girl Talk that utilize samples, but what about musicians that are trying to earn a living by learning how to make their guitar talk?  A popular response is touring, but that may take several years before the handful of fortunate ones finally start to bank.

For better or worse, we are part of a “download generation” and there is no looking back.  Gaylor’s documentary was state funded by the Canadian government.  Is this an untapped viable solution? If everyone paid a few pennies for funding the arts, our cultural society could be much richer in the long term.  We’ve already met our quota for uninspired, packaged trash being force-fed to the masses.

Creativity is still alive.  A bigger question I wished RiP: A Remix Manifesto spent more time on is how we can support that artistic development, whether it be through laws, tax dollars, or simply an increased attentiveness from the general public.

On an important related note, one of my favorite publications needs your help (like so many others in the music and newspaper industry).  Over the past five years, Paste has consistently been one of the few magazines I could always trust and rely on for recommendations.  Unfortunately, the global recession has taken its toll on the magazine’s advertiser’s spending habits.

Check out the Paste family’s sincere letter to the readers for the full scoop.  In return for your donations, Paste is opening their vaults to tons of fantastic rare tracks from the creative career artists alluded to earlier.

If all discussed above continues to go unaddressed, we run the risk of losing several important, yet to be discovered cultural contributors…a danger which, in the tone of David Brent, “I HATE.”

Something I’ve Been Meaning to Get Off My Chest

May 11, 2009

Two things.  First off, Aziz Ansari is funny.  I wish I could say the same about the rest of the Parks and Recreation cast.  I thought he killed this interview and I’m impressed that he made it possible to enjoy watching over 8 minutes of Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show:

As his momentum continues to carry through the rest of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly becomes another household name.  Here are three more reasons to check him out if you haven’t done so already:

  1. His blog is fun to catch up on during slower days in front of the computer, regardless of the frequent self-promotions
  2. He’s the funniest member of the TV show that originally put him and his buddies on the comedic map
  3. His cameo in Observe & Report was easily one of the best scenes from the movie (as much as I also enjoy Anna Faris)

Secondly, Aziz is in good company, considering the last person to make me want to watch Kimmel is now my favorite comedian:

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Please let The Hangover meet its potential.  I feel that it will, as long as the Tyson “jokes” are kept to a minimum.  This needs to happen because Zach deserves his big break, especially now that Will Ferrell has simultaneously decided to stop being funny.