Friday, November 20, 2009

On FlashForward, TV this season, New Moon, The Blind Side, Film Class, and Precious (granted, Precious got one sentence...)

Last night's FlashForward was quite good, wasn't it? And I am really liking V as well as it progresses. Although I started off the season more focused on the new comedies (Modern Family, Community, and Glee), I find myself slinking more toward the sci-fi dramas because, well, they're awesome (nothing against the other shows; they're quite good as well). Although I am loathe to admit that I am not as passionately crazy about Glee as I was in the beginning, I still am a big Gleek at heart, downloading the music and episodes as soon as I can. But last night's character-driven FlashForward? So freakin' GOOD. I am really excited to see more of Keiko; she seems like such a great character.

In other news, you may all have heard of a little movie coming out today called New Moon (which, if I even bother to pay money to see, won't be for another month when the fangirl numbers coming en masse to theatres have dropped considerably), which I am psyched to see being critically smashed to pieces. The funny thing is, the worse the reviews are, the more I want to see the movie. If it was just a snooze-fest of "eh, blegh" I would be disappointed. But hearing about the poor effects, the funny camera angles, and the hilarity of it all (thank you TWoP) just makes me interested in having a few laughs. Twilight made me crack up consistently, for example, so I have a feeling New Moon can entertain appropriately as well. Unfortunately, New Moon will kick ass at the box office. Blargh.

I am seeing Precious a week from tomorrow. I am excited!

And I have finally discovered the art of editing. I mean, my editing may be shit for all I know, but hey! I have now edited three approx. three minute projects. Booyah. This weekend is "get shit done for film class" weekend, which also means I need to shoot my fifth project. Fun fun times! Next weekend is internship weekend, the first weekend of December is jazz class weekend, and the last weekend of the semester is "oh hay, final paper for lit class!" weekend. Yeah. Fun fun times.

And on a final note, you have no idea how glad I am that The Blind Side has been getting reasonably good reviews. It makes me feel like less of a total loser for genuinely wanting to see that movie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

BTWs... about Heroes... + Why FlashForward Is Better Than You Give It Credit For

Pretty sure I changed my mind from before; I haven't bothered watching Heroes since like the third episode and probably won't bother to continue. I just hope it dies soon. NBC seems to be fizzling out all its other dramas too, so why not this tired and never-going-to-improve one?

My ulterior motivation in doing this is to eventually remake the series better. I doubt I would ever actually do that because there are other things I'd rather do, but I would totally blow up New York and hire some better writers.

And... House. I feel bad because I actually do want to keep watching House, but there are just so many other shows I'd rather be watching these days so I am not up to date on that show either. I'll try to catch up one day... but not now.

Oh and Dexter too. I still haven't finished the third season. Oops! >.>

On another note, although most people don't seem to be in love with FlashForward, I have a couple things to say in its favor. The reason I think that I personally am getting so invested in this show has to do with a literature class I am taking right now called Narratives of Suffering. In fact, FlashForward and my class overlap in ways enough that I wrote it into the conclusion of my midterm paper for the class (my professor actually quite liked it and thanked me for bringing the show to his attention; I had a paper conference with him earlier this week, just after (**SPOILERS**) Al offed himself and I told him about that and how interesting it was).

My paper was about the idea of suffering and human agency in regards to it. In many ways, we do not have control over the suffering that is given to us. Depending on who you ask or your source material, it might be that suffering is randomly assigned to people who undergo tragic experiences that plague them or cause suffering due to a complete removal or one from one's comfortable life. We've talked about this in class in relation to an identity within a frame that we create for ourselves. And then something comes along and while we suffer, we are removed from our frames and all that we felt we could control before is taken away from us and we are left in the infinite space of the universe, the wall we built up around ourselves as a symbol of who we are is suddenly taken away from us and we are lost. It could also be said that this natural, part of being human (something that can be taken away in particular from the poetry of Emily Dickinson or that seems to be implied in Samuel Beckett's play, Endgame). Or a condition of our being in a certain state (the focus of my paper was primarily on Harriet Jacobs' narrative of her life in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl). Either way, when we suffer and we are removed from our place, there is a sense of nothing we can do, that we have to give into our eventual fate and let suffering take us where it will.

Or, we can make a choice. Even if there is nothing physically that we can do to overcome our suffering, we can make a mental choice that we want to survive. In Owen Chase's narrative Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale, although he and his companions are starving on a boat far away from land, unable to even move at points because they have been so physically reduced, it really it the mental state that each man takes on that controls whether or not they will survive. Chase writes, "all was dark [Isaac Cole] said in his mind, not a single ray of hope was left for him to dwell upon; and it was folly and madness to be struggling against what appeared so palpably to be our fixed and settled destiny. I remonstrated with him as effectually as the weakness both of my body and understanding would allow of" (pg. 67). Although Chase fails to convince Cole that his destiny was not fixed as a dead man, here is the beautiful demonstration of human agency even when it seems we have none left. So many of the characters that we explore in this class make a conscious choice that, despite their state, they will fight it somehow. Mary Rowlandson in The Sovereignty and Goodness of God stands by her bible even while in the hands of the Indians, keeping her faith strong as she suffers, choosing to believe that God will deliver her from it, and he does. Chase eventually survives to tell the tale (although it is rumoured that he went crazy from the cannibalism they had to employ to survive and the long-term starvation and suffering each survivor endured). Jacobs manages to escape to the north after several years in a tiny space where she hid before she could leave the south.

But then, at the same time, none of the characters truly finds happiness in the end. As I said, Chase goes crazy, and when Jacobs goes up to the north, she finds that the world up there isn't a whole lot better to black women than the south was. We also watched a couple films in the class, The Sweet Hereafter and Leaving Las Vegas (which is why I was more than a little pissed off when Owen Gleiberman describes Nicolas Cage's character as someone who is "full of longing and regret" neither of which ever seems to cross the character from the perspective I watched the film). But I want to focus on the former film. In the closing narration, Nicole, the only child who survives the tragic bus accident, comments that in the process of moving past the grief and coming out of suffering that the town didn't exactly return to happiness, rather, they were now in a "strange and new" world, as she describes it. One of Dickinson's poems goes as follows:

"I shall know why-when Time is over-
And I have ceased to wonder why-
Christ will explain each separate anguish
In the fair schoolroom of the sky-

He will tell me what “Peter” promised-
And I-for wonder at his woe-
I shall forget the drop of Anguish
That scalds me now-that scalds me now!"

No matter what comes later, anguish will leave its mark. Suffering will leave its mark. There is a chance of removing yourself from suffering, but you will never reenter the world you had before it came.

And here is where FlashForward comes in. FlashForward has characters who see firsthand the suffering they will go through, or their flashforwards cause suffering upon their sight. Olivia is terrified of her eventual adultery. Mark is scared of returning to his alcoholism and losing his family. Nicole is frightened of a world where she finds herself deserving of being drowned to death. Demetri is, unsurprisingly, unpleased by the prospect of being murdered. Aaron is fraught by all kinds of despair when he sees his supposedly dead daughter alive. And Al, poor Al, wants to stop himself from being the cause of death for a single mother.

Yet, the agency that these characters employ? It's pitiful! The show seems to endorse the nonsensical concept of determinism, which Lloyd calls Simon out for using in yesterday's episode. But there are little things that characters do. Mark burns the friendship bracelet his daughter makes for him... all while constructing the board he sees in his future. Olivia throws away the lingerie she sees in her flashforward. Nicole tries to be the best person in the world, one who hardly deserves her death. And Al... kills himself.

I give Al two gigantic thumbs up, as well as the writers of FlashForward, for that game-changing decision. I cried, not only because it was so sad, but also because it was a much-needed remonstration of how the future is not set in stone (didn't we learn this lesson in Terminator all those years ago?). I had been waiting since the beginning for someone to jump off a building or take a gun to their head. It seems such a depression alternative, but in this case, it is a form of agency, better than the efforts the other characters have been making. They obsess over their futures rather than trying to live their lives as if their futures are still within their control. They are thrown out of whack, out of their comfortable little frames of lives, and forget that they have any control whatsoever. They are acting like Chase's companions and admitting defeat, that there's nothing to be done, the destiny has already been prescribed, there's no way out.

But there is, and that is what is so interesting and frustrating and beautiful about FlashForward. It provides us with this amazing study of how we all can react to a loss of control. It's not the same as being lost on a tropical island, not about finding that you have super powers, not about supernatural beings and powers. But all of these scenarios, they show new potential by being removed. But this... FlashForward, is so unique. It's not a change of what's already happened that leads this people to make their new choices and to arrange their new lives. There was a big dramatic event, the blackout, yes, but that's not all. Not only is there that bookend with the deaths of millions and the destruction of many places, but there's a future seen too. The potential is lost when people see the future and find themselves bound to a destiny, lost from their control, not just from the life they've already had, but the life they wanted or planned to have.

FlashForward isn't perfect. But I am so tired of hearing it labeled as a Lost knock-off, as too slow-moving or whatever else people find bad about it. FlashForward raises some of the most interesting questions and observations about human nature in regards to this loss of control, in regards to suffering, both of which I believe to be so important and central to human life, than I have seen in a while.

I will close this lengthy argument with the closing paragraph of the paper I wrote for my class. It was written before the latest two episodes of FlashForward were aired and therefore before Al's suicide. It may be repetitive of what I've already said, it may not be as articulate or clear or as in favor of the show as I am trying to be here. But it is an example of how truly fascinating this is:

"As an extension of this particular concept of human defiance versus submission to the fate’s commandment of suffering, there has been something tugging at my brain for some time now. This subject consistently reminds me of a new television series by the name of FlashForward. In the series, each of the characters is privy to a two minute and seventeen second “flashforward” (a vision with the clarity of a memory but of something that hasn’t yet happened) to a point approximately six months in the future. What people see brings them to do many things they may not have done had they not seen their future, especially those who see negative things in their flashforward (reverting to alcoholism after seven years of sobriety, having been murdered prior to that date, being in an extramarital affair with an unknown man, etc.) But what really surprises me is how some of the characters follow the strings, allow themselves to be drawn into the web of destiny or fate or whatever leads them to that place in the future, to that place where they would rather not go. Of course, the solution is not to simply kill oneself, although that would surely defy what is seen in the future. But when the woman avoids the man she will supposedly have an affair with, when the girl who sees herself as being “deservedly” murdered resolves to do absolutely no wrong in her life that would allow her such a fate, it reminds me of the strength of humanity to fight against what is to come. Here’s to hoping that some of them are actually capable of defying fate. Otherwise, the argument for humanity’s ability to use our small portion of agency to fight back will have been smacked down as completely false. If we can’t even stop the things we have been forewarned of, what hope is there when we don’t get that opportunity to see where the road goes?"

...the only thing I'm worried about? I'm only worried that FlashForward won't realize how smart it is (Heroes style... but I think FlashForward is already a lot stronger than Heroes was in the beginning) and ruin the beautiful study is has presented to us. Maybe I can even hope some of the dudes involved read this and realize what I'm getting out of it! ...but I doubt that. So the end.

Oh Movies! How I Long to See You! Let Me Count You...

Up in the Air
...because I love that who seems to be the most successful Twilight actor played an annoying human and I am rooting a hundred percent for Anna Kendrick even though I have only seen the previews. Oh and George Clooney and Jason Reitman are fabulous too. I liked Thank You for Smoking far more than I liked Juno (I liked Juno plenty; but it was way overrated) and the previews just look stunning and I've only heard good things.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
...because, although sometimes I am not that into Wes Anderson, this looks wonderful. I didn't really pay it much attention until I finally saw the preview before Where the Wild Things Are and then thought to myself how wonderful that film would be. Meryl Streep and George Clooney hardly hurt my desire to see what looks like a very clever and quality animated film. Also, good reviews encourage me.

The Road
...because, although I've been back and forth on my expectations for this film ever since I heard about it, if Cormac McCarthy thinks it's a good adaptation of his magnificent novel, I might end up genuinely liking it. Plus, Viggo Mortensen does no wrong.

...because I like crying during movies. I'm a little apprehensive that it'll be overhyped and a replay of the whole Slumdog Millionaire craze (good, tear-jerking indie movie sweeps the awards... not that the two are the same movie because I've gotten the impression that Precious is no holds-barrel depressing and horrific as opposed to Slumdog Millionaire's general cheeriness despite the slums), but it's also been beloved by many, even if not by all. I can understand the fatigue, but I still liked Slumdog Millionaire too.

...because I adore Morgan Freeman and am excited to see a movie that looks perfect for him. Not to mention that the trailer looks very strong, the plot is interesting, and Matt Damon is also a really fantastic actor. Clint Eastwood directing doesn't hurt it either.

The Lovely Bones
...because I fell in love with the book when I was required to read it the summer before my freshman year of high school, staying up until 9am finishing it, crying like a baby. Saioirse Ronan is a wonderful actress (one of the actually quite good parts of Atonement, as the Academy recognized her before), Peter Jackson is certainly a capable director, and although Mark Wahlberg can be kind of questionable, he did kick major ass in The Departed (Oscar nom!) and the rest of the cast looks solid. Oh and the trailer makes me cry every time I see it.

The Hurt Locker
...because I'm behind on the game and missed it over the summer and my feminine power side is just so excited that Kathryn Bigelow is being talked up as a Best Director possibility because it is still so sad how old-fashioned the film industry is. I love me some old white guy movies, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see alternatives succeed! Not to mention that I've only heard the best things about this movie and I enjoy quality action-centric films.

The Princess and the Frog
...because for all that Disney has done wrong, they made some awesome movies in the '90s and this seems like a good return to form. Maybe it won't be quite Pixar-level, but I still think it'll be an enjoyable ride.

...because I am so curious as to see what happens after the world implodes.

...because I want to be convinced that it is actually worth the hype (I doubt I will be). Alternatively, I look forward to telling everyone how it isn't good enough. But I love Sam Worthington, so I'd also like for it to succeed. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see. I'm really wary of this movie.

Sherlock Holmes
...because it looks badass and Robert Downey Jr. is beyond amazing (not to mention that the rest of the cast is also quite strong and Guy Ritchie does make some good films... let's all forget that he remade the already nutty Swept Away...). I love action flicks too, if I didn't already make that part clear.

An Education
...because the critics told me to for Carey Mulligan and I am their slave (I wish I were lying).

A Serious Man
...because I've heard it is good. And I do like me some Coen brothers. And I went to my first bar mitzvah this year so now I'll all kinds of curious about the whole premise of this film.

A Single Man
...because I do quite like Colin Firth and want to see how he does in this (supposedly, fabulously).

...because I remember when I saw the trailer before I even heard most of the awards prediction possibilities about it and thought to myself "well this looks AWESOME" and watched the trailer about ten more times that evening. Also, just LOOK at that cast. And it's directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago... and I went back and rewatched Chicago for the first time in a while recently and remembered just how actually good it was. And those visuals? Oh god, I am exciting myself all over again for this movie.

The Blind Side
...because although it could easily be cheesy and lame and eh, I still find myself attracted to it in all its tear-jerking glory.

And god I hope that's all the movies I plan to see (there will be more, especially when the award nominations start rolling in and I realize which ones I'll need to see... fuck the Oscars for naming the nominees so late this year; I'll already be back at school with absolutely no time or a Netflix account... bizznatches). I also hope that most of these movies are worth seeing.

PS: Fuck tag limits. I also intended to tag: 2012, The Princess and the Frog, and Other Awards, but the stupid character max stopped me. >.<

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Filmic Weekend: Filming Wal-Mart and Seeing Some Movies.

Saw Where the Wild Things Are and The Damned United. After/before, yes, filming inside and outside of the local Wal-Mart for my film class. Yeah. I'm that cool.

I wanted to like Where the Wild Things Are more than I did. Not to say that I didn't like it; I actually quite liked the movie. But not as much as I wanted to. I'll admit it: I've never read the book. But I was still a bit disappointed at times. I was glad that there was no enormous annoying plot going on because it wasn't that kind of movie, more importantly relying on the relationships and on growing up and being a kid at the same time. And Max Records is the most adorable child I have ever seen, hands down. He's incredibly charming and sweet and playful and was perfect in the movie. And the beginning and end and most of the in-between really struck within me. But the movie was a whole... it's hard for me to say I loved the whole thing. It feels a lot like Across the Universe in some ways, in that it has so many great moments but overall, I can't say I was in love. But, no doubt, I did really enjoy it.

My roommate saw Paranormal Activity while I was in WTWTA, and I am surprised to hear that she was really disappointed and disliked it. Granted, I never really intended to see the movie, but it' surprising hearing people being disappointed by it. But whatevs, I doubt it's the best movie ever, and that's fine by me.

Then yesterday we went out and saw The Damned United. Now, believe me, my knowledge of British football relies on friends of mine who actually give a crap, most of whom are Manchester United fans. So I knew next to nothing going in, but that worked out fine. I wasn't as confused as I expected I might be. The movie itself was really, really good. I really enjoyed the bromance at the core of the movie and realizing how much I really adore Timothy Spall and Michael Sheen. I'm always sad when I see these awesome little films and think to myself, "eh, nobody's going to remember them in a couple months." But hey, the Academy surprised me last year with a nom for Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, so we'll see about Michael Sheen, eh? After being over-shadowed by Helen Mirren and then Frank Langella, I just feel like it's his turn to get noticed for being the awesome actor he is.

Also, saw previews for Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I've decided I'd really like to see (it looks so gooood. And George Clooney is just so smooooth). So many movies! And I'd also like to see A Serious Man before the weekend's out (but we'll see how that goes). In the meantime, lots of homework to do. 40 days.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Hate Feeling So Behind Even Though There Is Still So Much To Arrive...

Being a full time student + part time employee + college students who enjoys socializing in her spare time when she isn't doing a shitload of homework = less time to see movies. As it is, I am far behind both on Oscar movies and regular enjoyment movies (helloooo, Zombieland). I haven't been to the theatre in nearly three weeks when I saw a few new films, including Bright Star. So there have been movies I have missed and hopefully they will remain in theatres until next weekend when I take a short detour home for a couple days to catch up on TV, movies, and good food.

Movies I Would Like To See This Month: Where the Wild Things Are, Zombieland, Good Hair, An Education, The Road, The Damned United, A Serious Man.

The Road and An Education come out in time for Thanksgiving break, while I'm going to have to hurry up to see Zombieland and Where the Wild Things Are before they disappear from theatres. I'd also like to see Clive Owen in The Boys Are Back, but, come on, I'm already assigning myself the task of seeing 7 movies during a three day weekend plus a four and a half day break, which also involves crossing the state to visit family for half of that.

But winter break will be a lot more interesting. The past two winters have seen me watch movies like a crazy woman between Netflix and the theatre. It is quite a bit of fun to see me and try to equate to yourself how many movie tickets I buy each year. Next to food, it's probably my biggest outlet for spending money. And this doesn't include the scenarios where I ask my friends to go with me, they say they don't have the money, and I just pay for them because I've already seen like 5 movies by myself that season.

Which leads me to the hard part about these two short breaks: I'm not going home alone. My roommate has decided that she wants to tag along next weekend (but I can just drop her off at Paranormal Activity, which she really wants to see), and then another of my friends, who, as an international student, lives across the world, isn't going home for Thanksgiving break, will be accompanying me then. But this will happen! I must see these movies. Not only do I really have a vested interest in seeing them and, as a film student, I should be watching lots and lots of movies, but I am a NERD when it comes to awards season. For reals, yo.

And we're not even into the major season yet. Like I said, I'll have more time come winter break (approx. six weeks of laziness... and a day or two of meeting my brother's Brazilian girlfriend), but there will also be more movies. Invictus. Nine. The Lovely Bones. Sherlock Holmes. Precious. Avatar. Up in the Air. Any other of a host of last minute surprises and things that suddenly occur to me "oh hey, that looks awesome, I should see that." Not to mention the netflixing of movies I missed earlier, like The Hurt Locker. But anyways, the more I think about this, the crazier I go, and I can't go crazy just yet; still got a month and a half left of classes. Blegh on that. I would much rather just watch movies.

I did finally see Waltz with Bashir (one year later). How that did not win Best Foreign Film is beyond me.

On another note, considering how The Road is being reacted to so far, maybe I was too quick in my judgment to assume that it could never match up to the book. I have become more interested in seeing it as of late. Viggo Mortensen looks like he gives a fantastic performance (I was close to saying that he looks fantastic, but he doesn't, which is the point), and so I will go see The Road when it comes out. So color me excited (in a minimal way).