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The Empathy Machine

June 11, 2015 Leave a comment

There was another version of this article that actually went on quite a bit of a rant, but I had to scrap it. I scrapped it not just for you, my reader, but also for myself, as I was writing more out of impassioned irritation than I was to make a coherent article about my relationship with film, as I had originally set out to do. I think this is a bit more focused, and a bit more biographical than that lecture, which I am honestly glad I had second thoughts about – and I do mean lecture as in “scold,” not “educational speech.” Part of what I almost lost sight of was an expression of my love for the medium of film, which, let’s face it, is the main topic of this blog is, after all!

Wall-E - Watching Hello Dolly

Wall-E

I do love film, though. I even admittedly sometimes love watching bad films, when the mood strikes, despite the fact that I usually end up griping about how awful they are by the time the credits begin – oftentimes earlier. I guess I’m a part time hate-watcher. That being said, however, I am admittedly an amateur when it comes to film appreciation. I’m rarely driven by more than gut instinct when it comes to analyzing the individual parts of a film, so I’m often left feeling quite inadequate to judge things like the composition of shots, the quality of the score, and the inventiveness of certain other techniques unless they really stand out to me. And, honestly, so long as those elements are either so well done that they either don’t call attention to themselves or are so transcendently novel that I can’t help but notice, I’m largely okay with that. For me, film has always been more than just the sum of its parts and more about what it’s actually saying on behalf of the artists involved and the subject it’s covering. (And, sometimes, films are mostly just entertaining, and that’s honestly okay, too!) Read more…

Special Review: “Psycho” (1960) – Analysis Through Freewrite

October 4, 2012 3 comments
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Joseph Stefano (screenplay)
Cinematography by: John L. Russell
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh
Based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch
Year: 1960

 

Here’s something I’m going to have to admit, up front: Psycho is going to be hard for me to review. That I’m even writing this review is kind of intimidating to me, as I’ve always recognized it as a good film, but never really could pin down what it was that made me think this. I don’t find it all that terrifying, and the symbolism that others find laced throughout the film is not all that obvious to me. I’m not even all that impressed with the once-visceral nature of the violence. It’s hard to really analyze a film that I don’t fully comprehend my feelings for, and yet I feel oddly drawn to it, nonetheless. It’s not like the film digs into the inner depths of who I am and touches some emotional nerve with me, and yet I know that I’m relating to something in the film that still seems compelling, all the same. Because of this, please consider this “review” an exercise in exploring my own feelings towards this classic in what is basically a formalized freewrite. (I will avoid retreading over all the same important plot points that so many more qualified people have, as a result.) Read more…

The Michel Gondry/M. Night Shyamalan Parallel, feat. KIDS SWEDE MOVIES presents: ALIEN – CHEST BURSTER SCENE

June 30, 2012 Leave a comment

You know, despite the presence of children in the scene, this is still pretty horrific. But also kinda cute.

I need to rewatch Be Kind Rewind, as I enjoyed it the first time, but it’s also kinda like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs in that it was the third major feature film from a director whose first made me love them, but made me also realize that they were losing their creative edge, followed by a fourth film that was a huge disappointment.

Necessary Explanation:

Michel Gondry / M. Night Shyamalan:

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / The Sixth Sense* —  Visually stunning masterpieces with wonderful ideas and brilliantly moving performances.

2)The Science of Sleep** /Unbreakable — A welcome, enjoyable, and visually stunning shake up of a familiar genre (rom-com / superhero) that’s not quite up to par as their predecessor, but still pretty awesome.

3) Be Kind Rewind / Signs — Halfway good films that start to show that the director is fallible and is starting to trip up and they’re making some bad decisions with their creative freedoms. Enjoyable for what they are, but you kind of expect more, and the films leave you hoping for a return to the breathtaking form that made you fall for the directors in the first place.

4) The Green Hornet / The Village — The law of diminishing returns takes effect, and you begin to think that maybe it was all a fluke. They may redeem themselves some day, but, man, did this really suck!

And, so, yeah, there’s where my mind went when I saw this video. Alien parody -> “sweded” -> Be Kind Rewind -> Michel Gondry -> parallel with M. Night Shyamalan. That’s my random morning post and a little example of how my mind works. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m going to go enjoy my day off now!

[Video found via io9.com]
* The Sixth Sense technically came after Shyamalan’s Praying with Anger and Wide Awake, but those didn’t really put him on the map, so  they don’t count as “major” films in my eyes, regardless of their quality.
** Dave Chappelle’s Block Party also isn’t counted here because it’s a documentary, rather than a story-driven film. Again, regardless of its quality, I’ve disqualified it.

Fifteen Minute Freewrite #2… in 3D

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

So, Disney has just announced that they’re going to be releasing even more 3D conversions of classic films in the coming years, thanks in large part to the success of The Lion King in 3D the past few weeks. As of this writing, the film is still in the #3 spot at the box office, though for two weeks or more it held the top spot, and it’s likely to set the home market on fire again thanks to today’s Blu-Ray release.

What’s particularly astounding is that this is both good news for animated films of the 2D nature and also, possibly, a good sign for 3D films. While Sony has announced plans to charge audiences yet another premium for using the glasses starting in February, Disney has found another way to convert 3D film tickets into money by converting their older films. Re-releasing movies in theatres is hardly a new thing, especially for Disney, but charging a premium probably seems counterproductive. The Lion King would beg to differ.

Sony must be nuts if it thinks charging more for unproven films that are made in 3D. Disney’s re-releases of Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, Monsters, Inc., and  Beauty and the Beast (already on Blu-Ray and about to be released in 3D on the home market, too!) have already proven to be classics that everyone loves, so it makes sense that Disney would follow the success of The Lion King with these four films.

Then again, the first two Toy Story films didn’t do so hot when re-released in 3D, and that was building up to the surefire hit Toy Story 3, which was simultaneously released in 3D and performed under expectations. That the first two films’ performances convinced Disney to hold off on re-releasing Beauty and the Beast in 3D around the same time just confuses me, though it’s plausible that the apparently poor translation into 3D that they did on those films has been updated using the newer conversion tech they used on The Lion King, and I’ve already heard good things about it at a test screening.

I write all this to say… I have no idea what’s going on. I do have to clock back in, however…

Fifteen Minute Break Freewrites #1

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

So, this is going to be a recurring feature to help me write in a shorter format within a shorter period of time. I am writing this, currently, on my last fifteen minute break of the day, Friday, 9/23/11, which you could tell if you looked at the date on this note.

Currently, there are many things on my mind regarding movies. Namely, I’ve been very behind in the recent goings on in theatrical releases. I cannot afford to go to the theatres very often, so most of the reviews on this site will be of films that are available on the home market. However, I am seeing Contagion tonight, which I am  really excited about.

As stated, however, I am very behind on recent movies that are out. The last movie I saw in theatres was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I was somewhat late to that. I was unable to catch Cowboys & Aliens in wide release, thanks to time and money just not allowing it, but I’ll be sure to review it once it releases on Blu-Ray for you guys!

I hope that you all (few of you, at this point, but hopefully my readership grows with my writing skills) are enjoying the site. It is my hope that these reviews will not just provide you with recommendations for movies, but also insights into the movie experience.

It is my belief that art speaks for the artist, and while film and its ilk (television, music) are highly collaborative efforts, they still provide a great deal of insight into our own and others’ cultures and the state of the human condition. Which is why I’m so adamant that, even if we do not agree with the filmmakers, we will be open to hearing from them through their craft, through which we can gain a lot of insight on those we may not agree with. “Know thy enemy” as the saying goes … only I hope you don’t think of these people as your enemies, but rather as an audience for your own viewpoints.

If you knew me in person, you’ll know that I’m personally pretty conservative with my values. I am a Christian, and I was raised in a heavily Republican household. Though I do not declare myself as a Republican now that I’m an adult, I do hold much of the same values I did when I was raised as one, with a few caveats. If I had to place any label on my beliefs, it would be some form of Libertarian — at least socially. I do not believe that we can preserve our own rights if we are not providing for the protection of the rights of others. I do not believe we have a right to restrict worldviews  that we may not agree with, provided the actions do not inflict malicious harm on others. I know this might seem vague, as it does to me at times, but, then again, sometimes we just have to call the shots as the targets come at us, I guess.

How does this relate to film, then? I am a strong proponent of non-censorship. To me, art is a testimonial on the part of the artist(s), and I do not believe that, especially as a Christian, I have a right to censor that testimonial. It may be wrong, but it’s also the person’s true story, and we should be able to speak to that without hiding it because we are somehow offended.

And now it looks as though I have to clock back in. Tune in to Fifteen Minute Break Freewrites again, wherein I’ll talk about… whatever is on my mind at the time!

Thank you!

Categories: Freewrite
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