Mediocre, Mediocre, Mediocre, Mediocre, Whoa… that was awesome

26 09 2009

I haven’t felt this convinced about the goodness of a film while leaving a theater since… maybe ever. It’s one of those indescribable things. It had reached that level of goodness where I no longer care about plot holes. I no longer care about suspension of disbelief with regard to CGI. In my mind, District 9 was perfect.

I have never been able to pinpoint the characteristics that make movies click with me. If I had to make a list of my top ten movies right now (of which District 9 would be one), three would be animated, two would be sci-fi, three would have a major element of romance, four would have major elements of fantasy, two would be action-packed, two take place in the modern world. Really, the only thing similar between all of them is that when I’m watching them, the rest of the world disappears in a way that no other movies can achieve. There are good reasons why I should never be a movie reviewer.

district9

District 9 finally reminded me what it’s supposed to be like when you watch a movie for the first time. It reminded me that it’s actually worth sitting through all those mediocre movies while waiting for the one to come along. Eventually, it will come.

I don’t know if I want to see District 9 again. All of my favorite movies also have the characteristic of me being able to watch them multiple times without losing any splendor. But I’m afraid to find out that isn’t the case with District 9. It was such a wonderful journey the first time, I can’t say if the second runthrough would live up to such high expectations. I’m neutral on District 10. People can complain all they want, but I always withhold judgment until it is released and at least the movie critics get a grasp of it.

I think my favorite movies are a great insight into myself as a person, eclectic as I am, and I find they usually are for other people as well. What movies just clicked with you?

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This is your brain on anime

19 04 2008

In the last decade, Pixar has all but taken over the animated movie scene with their state of the art graphics and captivating stories. Leave in some room for Dreamworks and their couple successes, and there’s not much for anyone else. However, the surge in popularity of anime in America over the last decade has helped to detract some attention from the CGI studios.

The two biggest names to start becoming more familiar with are Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. Both are masters at showing why 2D animation still remains, in many ways superior to 3D. If we examine all 3D movies every released, we’ll notice something very peculiar. Nearly every movie is light-hearted, comedic, and directed primarily at children. That isn’t to say they’re bad; Pixar has all but mastered their genre. It just means that any attempts at serious CGI movies will be incredibly awkward to watch.

The only way to alleviate the problem is to make the quality of graphics so amazing that the audience can’t tell if it’s real or not. At that point, the movie may as well be live action anyway.

2D animation, however, has proven once and again that it can succeed in any genre. In this year’s Academy Awards, there were two light-hearted CGI films, Ratatouille and Surf’s Up, and an extremely serious 2D film, Persepolis. However, there is one other 2D film that should have been nominated had the Academy not continued to be so stuck-up. That movie is Paprika.

It’s innovative, enjoyable, mind-blowing, captivating, and beautiful in every way. The 3D effects are also seamlessly combined into the animation unlike any movie I’ve ever seen.  While this movie didn’t get to enjoy a wide-release – R-rated animated foreign films usually don’t – I recommend that everyone see it. Keep an open mind and let the anime flood your brain as it was meant to.

The character Paprika also reminded me of Amelie from the movie of the same name. Their likeness is uncanny considering one is a real person and one is animated. The two movies share a certain weirdness, but it’s that weirdness that sets them apart from the hundreds of other films released each year.





300 ways to to cause controversy

28 03 2008

PlugsI finally got around to watching the movie 300 in all its glory. No, it wasn’t one of my favorite movies. Yes, it was one of the most visually spectacular films I have ever seen. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable journey into a fantasy world of crazed and battle-hungry men.

300

I emphasize that it was a fantasy world because it seems that way too many people took the movie completely seriously. The movie is based on a graphic novel, the same medium that portrays people as a superheros and all kinds of wondrous and villainous monsters for them to face. It just so happens that the ancient Persians were portrayed as the antagonists in the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

While there is significant historical backing for the occurrence of the Battle of Thermopylae, upon which 300 is based, there is very little conclusive evidence surrounding the various causes and effects of the battle. We have just as much reason to believe that the Spartans were, in fact, the antagonists, and the Persians were the protagonists, hence the controversy.

However, I believe that the politicians far and wide who have publicly denounced the film are only insulting themselves. They are using fiction to fuel political controversy, something that should be avoided at all costs. While Frank Miller certainly wasn’t honoring the memory of the Persians when he drew his novel, his goal was only to create a stark contrast, to make his fictional Spartans 100% for honor and glory. The goal was not to be historically accurate, since that is impossible anyway. Isn’t it a bit below these political figures to also be the national fantasy media reviewer? Shouldn’t they be spending their time trying to improve living conditions or creating beneficial laws?

Many people have touched on this topic before, but it’s worth reiterating. People often choose to be offended just for the sake of being angry. No one in the ex-Persian regions of the Middle-East can swear, “My fifty-times-great grandfather, assuming he lived in the the Persian Empire, was nothing like the Persians portrayed in that movie,” but they will anyway. It might be true, it might almost definitely be true, but we still won’t ever know. So how about we just forget about being offended and see the movie for its amazing visuals and for the Spartans who fought for glory and honor, no matter how stupid or evil they might have really been.





Think Responsibly

21 03 2008

PlugsIt seems that I have been subconsciously watching dreams of similar natures recently. Among them are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento, both of which deal with memory loss.  The implications of not knowing what happened this morning, yesterday, of ten years ago give rise to a great deal of controversy, mostly because people choose to dream of only the advantages and not the disadvantages.

Both movies suggest that memory is an integral part of living.  Without it, we can never move forward from experiences.  We just get stuck in repeat, making the same mistakes over and over again.  However, this brings in to question what everyone who presently has their memories fully intact are doing.

People are constantly making repeated mistakes: diplomatic mistakes, relational mistakes, physical mistakes.  These two movies show us how embarassing it can be to not know the same reality as another.  You don’t think you’ve met this person before, but others know you have, and you are left being forced to laugh at yourself because you look ridiculous.  But occurrences like these aren’t reserved for those with broken memories.  Since we are lucky enough to have more or less complete knowledge of the things we do and the choices we make, shouldn’t we feel compelled to not follow in the footsteps of these people?  Don’t we have a responsibility to use correctly the only thing that allows us to know who we are and what we’re doing?

I believe too many people take memory for granted.  They throw it away with drugs or simply choose to make choices based on instinct or irrational thoughts.   With alcohol, people often throw around sayings like “Drink responsibly.”  How about a new one, “Think responsibly.”

Both movies are absolutely fantastic and definitely worth seeing once, if not multiple times.





Keeping an open mind

3 03 2008

PlugsMany movies based on books come out each year. However, few and far between ever achieve recognition for actually improving upon the original. And regardless, there will always be many who prefer the book versions for a multitude of reasons.

Terabithia

This year, some of the best movies were based on books, among them Best Picture Oscar nominees, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and No Country For Old Men. However, I would like to endorse a less acclaimed movie from 2007: Bridge to Terabithia.

Walden Media has gone from an unknown to prominent film production company since its inception in 2002, helping to create more mature and sophisticated movies in a family genre that has been riddled with horrid slapstick comedies and poorly-acted wastes of time and money. Among Walden Media’s films are the acclaimed books-to-movies, Holes and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While they aren’t all perfect or even extraordinary, Walden Media’ films have at least made the choice to produce meaningful tales as opposed to garbage.

I believe the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia conveys all the meaning of the book and then some. The original trailers for the movie were awful and misleading, causing some to believe that the beloved book had been turned into another sloppy kids movie. Why they chose the tactic they did I’ll never know. Fortunately, the movie plays nothing like the previews did, and the heart of the book is left intact.

This blog has always been about viewing the world differently, about not taking things for granted, and about creating one’s own identity. Somehow, I managed to find a movie that combines many of my beliefs into one. I’ll be the first to admit that some of the production values were less than perfect, and some of the soundtrack was a bit awkward, but the message got through more successfully than in some of the best movies I’ve seen.

This movie was clearly directed towards children, as was the book, but the idea of keeping an open mind and utilizing your imagination is often much more effective directed at an older age group. That’s why this movie makes a perfect family film. Too often people forget as they’re growing up what it’s like to dream. They’ve already accepted reality and whatever life seems to be laying directly in front of them. Those are the people who should watch this film.

By the way, I think AnnaSophia Robb made a fantastic Leslie Burke. It’s not an easy task to create someone that leaves such an impact near the movie’s end.

Keep an open mind. Find beauty even in the things you don’t believe. And for the love of all, we should invite Leslie next time. She’d like that.





The oft sought after guide to melancholy

19 02 2008

PlugsLast month, Eric G. Wilson released his book, “Against Happiness,” as an alternative to the recent trend in “secrets of finding happiness” books. In the book, Wilson says happy people “are apt to be bland, superficial, static, hollow, one-sided, bovine, acquisitive, deluded and foolish. Sold on the ideal of the happy smile and the cheerful salutation, they patrol the malls in dull uniformity, zombie-like, searching for contentment and pleasure, locked inside their own dreams of a secure and unblemished world, oblivious to objective reality, cocooned in a protective layer of bemused well-being.”

That should about do it for anyone who was feeling happy before reading this. But that’s not all. Wilson further advocates the importance of “dejection, questioning, restlessness, honesty, depth, pessimism, tragedy, complexity, vitality and a grasp of reality.” He argues that instead of constantly trying to find happiness, we should live through and experience both the suffering and the joy to be able to reach our lives’ potentials.

HappinessOf course, the point of “Against Happiness” is not to completely devalue the search for happiness. Instead, it hopes to show that dedicating your life to finding something that can’t simply be grabbed out of the sky won’t lead you to it. You have to take the difficult route through life’s trenches first and discover what happiness means to you. Some of the most productive, profound, and prodigious people to walk this planet used their suffering as a platform to take risks and create change.

“This book will change your mind, and maybe your life, with its pitiless account of the value of happiness and the price we Americans pay for pursuing it so compulsively. Almost every American claims to be happy, and yet we are a nation increasingly benumbed by drugs, opiated by messianic religion and buffed smooth by surgery, as we chase the illusions of perpetual youth, of life without death and joy without pain. This movingly written book may help us stand up before it’s too late and face our demons, by learning to love the melancholy realism and the creative powers that arise out of the darkness in our hearts.” — Richard Klein

All of these writers, of course, are being a bit over-dramatic, but I guess sometimes that is what it takes to make a point anymore.





Lost and found

1 02 2008

PlugsI admit it: I’m still addicted to Lost. Maybe I am not quite as enthusiastic about it as I was when I first saw it, but I certainly can’t stop watching it now. I managed to miss the show entirely for the first season and still haven’t watched it, but there are so many flashbacks, I think I have a good understanding of what’s going on. Actually, I should clarify. I have absolutely no clue what is going on, but I have as good an understanding as the other people who watch it.

Lost

I really wish there were more shows like Lost, shows that require a little brain usage. I think the correct word to describe the majority of the shows on TV today is “amusing.” They aren’t hilarious or suspenseful or sophisticated, just amusing. No one would disagree that many people prefer their shows simple and amusing, but Lost is the polar opposite, and it still maintains a crowd.

There have been some comparisons between Lost and Heroes (which I also watch regularly). Both contain enormous casts of characters, whose lives are all mysteriously interconnected. There is always another person behind another curtain pulling even more strings than previously thought. The episodes traverse the past and the future, both of which have a great effect on what is happening in the present. The biggest difference, though, is the style of characters created for each show. As hinted by the title, Heroes is made up of heroes and villains. Peter, Hiro, Claire, Mohinder, Micah (and so on) are all extremely likeable, while Sylar, Adam, and Bob, are clearly unlikeable.

Lost’s characters, on the other hand, are not clearly separated into black and white. Every character wavers around the gray area, with their good qualities always lying in the shadows of character flaws. Thus, Lost is still on a different plane from most other TV shows, unlike Heroes. Lost still manages to appeal to viewers without force-feeding appealing characters, intense action, and pop culture references. If only more shows like this could be “found.”