There Will Be Blood

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So today’s Film Friday features the 2007 film ‘There Will Be Blood.’ Whoa. Hold on to your cowboy hats for this film. The wikipedia synopsis runs as follows:

Silver miner Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) leads a hardscrabble life with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier). When he hears about oil oozing from the ground near the Western town of Little Boston, Daniel takes his son on a mission to find their fortune. Daniel makes his lucky strike and becomes a self-made tycoon but, as his fortune grows, he deviates into moral bankruptcy.

At it’s core, yes, it’s a story of the rise from rags to riches– and that has a real pull for me, as well as most Americans watching it. It’s that American dream that we’re all told to strive for, it’s that thing that will make us great and give us all the happiness in the world. But, with so many drama’s, not everyone gets that happy ending.

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I love this photo of Daniel Plainview and Walter White. Both men who started at the bottom, full of problems, who no one would have rooted for, but the brilliant writing and gorgeous filmmaking suddenly has you rooting for them. And even as they do terrible, awful things, part of you is still rooting for them. I will say, though, that Walter White at least you stay hoping he will make it out okay, Daniel Plainview you end up almost just watching the train wreck. You still have to admire the man, but boy, do you not want to sit down and share a beer.

Besides an incredible story, this film is also breathtaking to watch. As you can see from the above diagram, someone has broken down many of the scenes and shown how beautifully rendered they are. The composition is fantastic. At no point are your eyes not overjoyed with the beauty you’re seeing. It’s really masterfully shot. And the score! Phenomenal. I feel like the score is, in and of itself, almost a character. It helps drive the story forward and reminds you that you are watching a drama– this is not some random happenstance of events. You are watching LIFE unfold, and it is not always pretty. This is not a happily every after story your mother told you at bedtime, this is a Grimms’ brothers fairy tale to warn you of how not to be.

If you haven’t seen this movie, check it out.

Trainwreck Anything But

lebronWhat a treat!  I got to see a sneak peak of Trainwreck at USC yesterday, and I was glad to see my expectations were met– the movie was funny. Yes, some parts felt more like an impromptu stand up by Amy, but not everything was an easy joke.  There was a lot of well-thought-out humor, as well as just some funny one-liners.  The ending was a little cheesy in the lets-not-be-a-trainwreck-moments, but overall it was adorkable and you leave with a lot of warm fuzzies.

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Tilda Swinton was a surprise treat in the film, as was Daniel Radcliffe.  Both were understated running jokes that were absolutely spot on.

LeBron James did a great job, excellent directing for everyone throughout the film.  They did a great job keeping what seemed like his personality, while also trying to dispel stereotypes and show the complexity of athletes– who we often dismiss as just being focused on one thing.

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I liked how this film turned a lot of rom-com tropes on its head.  From our heroine being the commitment-phobe while her boyfriend wants to be the one to cuddle, to the ending (which I won’t spoil) the film did a nice job of touching on what could have been offensive issues without offending anyone. While the film may not 100% pass the Bechtel test– Amy’s conversations with her friend all center around sex (which is what the film is about after all!) seem genuine for the most part.  The only other female in Amy’s life is her boss, and while they discuss work, it is generally focused around the article being written about the doctor. Her conversations with her sister focus on the sisters family and their father– true to family, but sometimes feeling more forced into the story than realistic. All in all, I love the treatment of women, the refusal to judge Amy for being free with her sexuality, and the many many funny (and very true) things that are said and brought up in the film.

Definitely put this film on your go-see list.

Memory and Living

So I’m part way through this wonderful book,Moonwalking with Einstein, and it’s given me a lot to think about. I’ve been toying around with a lot thoughts of life and living lately, but this book is really bringing it home.

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The current portion of the book I’m in is discussing how time is shaped by our memories– like we live more the more we remember. It is like how as young adults and teens our lives are full of new experiences and things that define us, so time seems to slow down, while as we become adults who only do routine things, time starts to speed up and up. So the more we remember, and the more we do things that challenge us and cause us to create lasting memories, the more we are living and the more we will, then, remember.

It just brings to mind all the things I’ve been thinking about as I take a hard look at myself and what it means to be Amanda. One of the challenges from a class was to write an ‘about me’ that allows prospective employers to learn a bit about me, or even when I’m out networking to be able to sum up what it is that makes me a unique person. Only… whenever I’m staring at that blank word doc, I never quite know what to put on it. I don’t feel like I’ve led a boring life, or that I’m a boring person, but when I look at that sheet of paper, all I can feel is that I am, in fact, boring, because I draw a total blank on exciting or fantastical things that would show someone reading my ‘about me’ who I am.

Then, reading this book, I have to wonder if it’s just a memory deficiency– that I don’t catalog things the way other people do. That I lack the bits of memory I need to flush out my own life. Like maybe I spend too much time reading books and listening to other people’s memories instead of creating my own. I was talking with my husband about this, and talking about how he has all these exciting stories, and his response was, “Yeah, and most of them I’ve been lucky to live through!”

But I’ve always struggled with this. This idea of defining myself in a paragraph or a sentence. I hated in school when we all had to introduce ourselves and say one interesting thing about us. How do you pick one? How do you know which one to pick? What if what you pick says the wrong things about you? What if some of the things you are proudest of would make someone laugh? What if you like the small things? Why do these introductions just feel like a pissing contest where everyone tries to one-up each other with their interesting fact?

Does that make for an interesting life? Adventure seeking? Risk taking? Is that what creates memories? That faster heartbeat? The accelerated pulse? Do you have to find a way to do that every day to make the most of life? Is it learning something new every day and just spending your days being curious and explorative?

I also just watched the movie Lucy yesterday, and that is all about how the sum of who we are as humans is basically the sum of everything we have learned and remembered. It is memory that separates us from other creatures.
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Aside: Am I just reading, watching, and musing over memory so I’m seeing it in so many things around me, or is it so around me in the zeitgeist that I’m mulling over it?

I really enjoyed the movie. It had a lot to mull over, and while there were some very obvious plot holes, I would recommend it. Potentially just because it brings to mind all the things I’ve been mulling over recently. But if we don’t wonder what it is that makes us human, and what makes our experience as humans unique, what are we to wonder about?

Declicous Necks

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I just came from SXSW in Austin TX. If you aren’t familiar, it is a film, music, and interactive festival. There were a couple films I worked on in the festival so I was excited to go and see them premier.

One is a short USC thesis doc that premiered at the edu portion of the festival. (SXSWedu is an educational festival that happens before SXSW proper).  The other is a web series MISS MUSTARD GLADE that was sponsored by Subway (the sandwich place) and can be found on My Damn Channel; the mini web series was premiered during the festival.  I confess I ate more Subway pizzas during the fest (they gave them out for free) then I ever plan on eating again in my life!

http://www.mydamnchannel.com/subway/miss_mustard_glade___subway_fresh_artists_2014/missmustardgladeepisode1_11886

But the picture above, and the link below, takes you to the website of my favorite movie from the festival: What We Do In the Shadows. This mockumentary was absolutely fantastic.  I honestly can’t think of any way that the film could have been better. It’s about a bunch of vamps who are flat mates and some of the events they go through.  It’s brilliant.

The director was at the screening and we had a Q&A afterwards with both the director and one of the vamps via skype.  The actor was in character and we were able to ask his vamp self questions.  The director introduced the film as a documentary, and refused to entertain any questions as if it were not factual. It was humorous to watch when certain audience members tried to ask the usual stuffy film questions and were rejected by the director.  If you get a chance to see the film, you really should check it out.  You won’t be disappointed!

http://www.whatwedointheshadows.com/

Learn, Watch a Doc

I just watched a documentary, “The Ivory Tower” and it focused on higher education, the cost of student loans, and alternatives to the traditional four year degree plan. What was really amazing about this doc (besides how well it was produced, shot, and edited) was how many options besides amassing large amounts of student loans there were, and how many schools are looking at other ways to get information to the public besides the typical lecture/student dynamic.
Link to director interview

The Cooper Union was a free art and design school in New York until early this year. The current President just instituted tuition to pay for debts the school took on by overbuilding, and in response the students had a summer long protest and are still fighting to return Cooper Union to a free education.
Students of Cooper Union Website

It is an amazing and powerful story– and one that really begs whether education is a right or a privilege. And if it is a privilege, why is it only for the rich and those able to afford it? Does continuing the class system, and potentially making it more dynamic still make it a privilege? Des a the massive student loan taken on by the poor, middle class, and those unable to fully afford college really make life better? Does the massive student debt actually give you more money in your life when you pay that debt balance until you die? When you are contacted by creditors whether you can afford it or not, and there is no way to declare bankruptcy?

I think it’s time for more people to ask questions and look at solutions when we have 1 trillion dollars of student loan debt, and over half of the students loans are in deferment or default.

The Lunch Box

I just watched a heart-wretching film entitled the Lunch Box that centered around (can you guess it?) a lunch box. Set in India, but possibly created in by the French, this film follows two strangers lives and watches them come together through this lunch box. It’s extremely gripping and compelling throughout the film as they exchange notes via the lunch box.

It really is amazing how much writing down one’s feelings frees you up to say what you really mean. I feel that blogs are much the same, you are able to say the things that you ordinarily wouldn’t dare, or don’t want to say. Many people use them as a quasi diary, while others use them to share who they are to a world that might never see them otherwise.

I loved how the film took a common place occurrence in India, that of the lunch box service, something foreign to people who don’t live there, and used it to craft a film about emotion and love. The film really makes the point that the simple kindness’s we can do for one another come back to us and can make such a difference in people’s lives.

I highly recommend this film.

Theater Thursday

So I’ve decided to start a segment on my blog called Theater Thursday where I discuss a movie, movie logistics, a beautiful theater, something along those lines. (You know, give my 3 readers something to actually read every week.)

I am on USC’s campus almost every Wednesday night and they play an open to the public film and I like to check them out. I’ve see some really great films and docs… And I’ve seen some really terrible ones.

The one I went to tonight, and left after 30 minutes, was Romania’s selection to submit to Cannes, the Toronto film festival, and had a bunch of other things listed in the “why to see this movie” bit of the description.

I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it’s because I’m married to a cinematographer or because I script supervise for a living, but it don’t have patience for shoddy camera work. It’s not artsy to me, it’s just poor craft, and I have no desire to watch it. At all. So you will not be getting a review of Child’s Pose from me. I’ll have something better next week (hopefully).

Milius

On Wednesday night I had the privilege to watch a documentary about John Milius- it was a fascinating look at this influential man’s life that not only entertained throughout the film, but had emotional depth and heart.

I had heard of almost all Milius’s work, but did not know he was the man behind the scripts. A classmate of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Milius’s writing ability is in many of their movies, and they all often worked together. Having a husband at USC it makes me wonder if someday there will be docs made about him or his classmates!

I highly recommend Milius for the production value, fascinating interviews, and pieces of history.

Hollywood Reporter Review

Viewed: Don Jon

So I watched Don Jon last night and I was struck by a couple of things.
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1: This would have made a horrible date night movie. Five minutes in and there would have been no way you were holding hands.

2: I don’t understand Jersey.

3: Don Jon took pride in his apartment and car and kept them clean; to the point that he defended his right to clean by saying he enjoyed it. One thing I have always wanted is someone to clean my apartment, notably to do my dishes. It is the most mundane task and I rather hate it. But I’m going to try to adopt the idea that I’m not just doing boring dishes, I’m taking pride in my home. I don’t think that will extend to my car since it’s old and I refuse to pay to wash it every week.

4: The sister is fantastic. They did a great job of during her throughout the movie never talking. Then, at the very end, she talks and it’s great. It isn’t overdone, it isn’t too long, and the delivery is excellent.

5: GTL or gym, tan, laundry is still my favorite Jersey thing. I love that Bones introduced this to me. I don’t know why, but it cracks me up. Visiting certain LA spots really shows how, for some people, gtl is a legit thing. Maybe it’s because I’d rather read a book but Bones is spot on when she says it’s like another culture.

Watching parts of this were like watching Blue Valentine, amazing movies, but tricks going in because you don’t quite realize what they’re about. Even the posters act like it’s a rom com, and while there are definite elements like that, it doesn’t end the way it’s supposed to.
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