Friday, February 18, 2011

Busy Week!!!! FOUR movies :D

I had a mission for this post: an older movie (20+ years) and a newer one that is not well-known (at least to me).

Little did I know that I would add an Oscar winner AND a 1920's silent film that was lost, then found, then restored and then some, to this mission. But it happened :)

First on tonight's lineup: The Sting.

1973 is almost 40 years ago. Think about that for a moment. Then let me tell you about an intriguing, fun ride of a movie that holds your interest in a calm and elegant manner, and then in the last half hour it punches you in the gut multiple times and leaves you staring dumbstruck at the screen. AWESOME. Quick plot cover: a young con man teams up with a retired pro to get revenge for a mutual friend by pulling a big con on a mob boss. What could possibly go wrong?

And may I just say, many, many years too late, that Robert Redford was a hottie. I mean, day-um. It's weird to find out that my grandmother had a crush on him as well...oh the immortal and slightly creepy power of art.

I also noticed while watching this that, to me, it seems like movie makers back then required a little more attention and understanding from their audience. This is an intelligent movie with some complicated dialogue, and if you don't actively watch this movie, you can miss a lot. The important parts still get to you, but you miss some of the better subtleties throughout. So pay attention. It'll be a better experience. Or you can just sit back and stare at Redford. That's cool too.

Final Word: SPOON. Mostly because I need to watch it again to re-absorb all the details, but I can see myself, at some point, craving to see it again. And not just for the eye candy--I also enjoyed the quiet but strong female support, especially Eileen Brennan. So go watch it!

Next on the list: Best in Show

This was one of those Netflix recommendations that caught my eye. Five very different owners of competitive-show dogs head off for the big competition in a mockumentary that pokes at all of us in so many ways. The redneck provided the best laughs. If you're a fan of The Office, British or American, you'll appreciate his awkward monologues that probably killed some brain cells.

There are some other funny moments, but overall the movie is slow. Granted, it's a more subtle comedy, and very realistic in its portrayal of awkward moments in our lives, but it's easy to lose focus. The cast was a B-list line up--Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, and even Jane Lynch (who, as of now, is NOT a B-lister)--but I liked them.

Final Word: Forka-Forka. That is to say, if you love The Office, and you've got some time, go for it. Or if you want a really different kind of comedy, give it a shot. But you don't lose anything by not seeing it.

Now for the fun. Another Netflix recommendation that blew me away and completely changed my view of movies.

The movie that apparently won't die, even after all it's been through:


A silent movie from 1927 Germany that disappeared and then was rediscovered in South America. Some scenes were damaged, which is obvious when you watch it, and some are completely gone, so instead you see title screens telling you what happens. Just that makes it crazy. But then it gets good.

This movie describes a strange world where the working class lives underground, completely separate from the elite class--the "head" is separate from the "hands." The son of the man who rules the city then discovers the horrors underground and joins the aspiring revolution. He meets Maria, a woman advocating a peaceful transfer of power through the "heart" or the mediator (in case you didn't notice, that's our hero).

Then things go insane. Like, w.t.f. insane. A crazy inventor creates a robot that looks like humans and obeys his commands, and the leading couple is about to suffer a terrible trial for their love and their revolution. There are so many things that start going on in this movie, you have to watch it to understand. And because it's silent, you have to WATCH it.

It did run a little long, especially towards the end, and the acting was a little odd at times, but it changes how you understand movies and storytelling. It draws you into a visual roller coaster of a story, and you forget that it's silent--at least in terms of dialogue. We are so used to movies that are completely dialogue-driven that we never think of the ways to tell a story without words. Educational for sure.

Final Word: FORK it GOOD. I do not see myself coming back to this frequently, because I don't have a lot of time, but I'm glad I saw it. By the way, it's on that giant list of 1001 movies to see before you die. So I'm not alone here.

And last but NOT least: The King's Speech.

I'll make this short: It deserved every nomination it got and then some. And, honestly, you can't go wrong with Colin Firth. It's kind of impossible. He's an acting superhero. The rest of the cast, too, was superb--can I just say, Bellatrix Lestrange and Peter Pettigrew here? Did not see that coming. But it was a delightful surprise for sure. Helena Bonham Carter is also an acting superhero. With or without Tim Burton.

It was funny, sweet, heartbreaking, intense, fun and a great ride. And a great story. I love good storytelling. I will say, however, that, being the daughter of a photographer, I noticed some almost-overwhelming camera angles that seemed overdone. But they were few and far between.

It's still in theaters! Go go go! The verdict: Fork it Good.

And...exhale. And in case I don't see you, Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Black Swan" and the Many Topics In and About It

When Natalie Portman goes crazy, she goes freaking nuts. But she's beautiful when she does.

I love this poster as a supplement
to the mainstream one
That said, Black Swan deserved every nomination and award it got--though it's mildly disappointing that the score couldn't win an Oscar since it's not technically original, just a revamp of the original composition. Oh well, I guess. It's still amazing.

This movie is Gritty, Intense, Dramatic, and Suspenseful. And, above all, Beautiful, in a scary, insane way. One critic had described it as "over the top," giving me weird expectations. And yes, it was a little, but in a good way.  It was...theatrical. I personally squirmed constantly at the violence or the threat of violence in the movie. Every second, I was terrified something painful and disgusting would happen--it started with the bleeding finger that she started to pull apart. Gag. I'm still trying not to remember it. But the violence wasn't overdone, like some movies--aka, Saw III and every single one after that. I mean, I wouldn't say there's a such thing as tasteful violence, but there's violence that fits and violence that's just there.

Besides that, this movie screws with your mind repeatedly. Once you find out that a particular scene didn't actually happen, you look back and remember little things that were out of place. This is one of the few movies that will probably give you more and more to see every time you watch it. Nothing can beat Fight Club, though I think we all know that.

And then did my friends say it..."awkward" parts. I usually call it that as well, but "adult" or "mature" probably works better.

Honestly, I don't mind it--again, probably not a such thing as "tasteful" sex in movies (sometimes the line between movies and porn blurs, especially in R movies)--but there's overdone, and there are things that fit. Here, I think it fits, and ultimately it's up to the creators of the movie and each individual audience member. Here, Nina (Portman) was an uptight, fragile (in soooooooo many ways) childlike girl. You saw her room, right? Stuffed animals and PINK everywhere (not the awesome singer, but the color). And apparently, in order to become the passionate and powerful Black Swan, she has to find "sexual freedom." Not really, just saying.

**Note to all writers out there. Be creative. Break the mold. Next time a character is tightly wound, unwind them without any sex. I DARE YOU. Do something Hollywood hasn't done yet.**

Nina finds her power as the seductive Black Swan, but loses her mind doing it. Leading to an ending that is simultaneously triumphant, terrifying, and tragic. Oh, and insane. Have I said insane enough??? Because that's what this movie is. Wonderfully insane. The ending was just right, and poetic to boot.

The other actors were also perfect--I love to see Mila Kunis, whom I know from "That 70's Show" and "Family Guy," do something that well. She provided most of the funny moments in the movie in an easy, realistic way. It was awesome. And Barbara Hershey, the mom, was scary, as was Winona Ryder. Like really scary.

And after doing a little extra research, I discover (thanks to that Portman suffered some intense injuries on set--like a concussion and dislocated rib. That's dedication.

With that said, I give this movie a rating of!

Drum roll please!

Keep going...

Not there yet

Don't stop now!

Halfway there!

Just kidding.

SPOON! If I could go back to the movies theaters and see it, I would. Unfortunately, money prevents that occurrence. But I would like to see it again, maybe notice something new.

Next post, I am going to find an older (20+ years) movie that's interesting, and maybe a newer one that's really not well known. I want to spice it up!!!!

Live Long and Prosper!

PS--I'm trying to add some more life to the blog, so here's one of my favorite pieces from the movie. It has the classical bit that reflects the ballet and the movie's ties to the ballet, then a darker side that reminds you what Nina's losing in her journey of becoming the Swan Queen:

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Social Network" and a Look Into Something I Really Hate

Who would have thought that Mark Zuckerberg was, in secret, a dry-humored zombie killer? Mind blown.

But seriously, Jesse Eisenberg (look it's the Berg twins!) is great. He's like a slightly-more mainstream Michael Cera. And a little more diverse, at that. I love the dry humor of these two actors. It's a refreshing change to Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey. I love them both, but there needs to be diversity in the comedic world. And thank God we have it.

Now, the Social Network. Problem Numero Uno: Contrary to popular belief, (note hint of sarcasm here) computer programmers aren't exactly the party crowd that get lots of groupies. Rich programmers, however, are a different story. Being a girl aspiring in a career in this field, I can say that the stereotypes are true and untrue. They're true because someone who dedicates their life to programming that much tends to have a different social life than a business man. That said, everyone is different. And this field is changing. Not to mention, people who work in computers tend to be more logical and straightforward, and those who do well are intelligent and fun to hang out with. We're not socially awkward, I promise!

Back to the story: I liked it a lot. It was funny, intriguing, and witty. I wonder: was there really a chicken involved??? That bit was great. The characters were complex and realistic, no matter how close to reality they are or are not. Eisenberg was amazing.

Beyond a well-executed idea, the movie had a subtle point that sticks out the more you think about it. Just for a second, let's go through some names: Mary Kay. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Simon Cowell. Michael Dell. Steve Jobs. What two things do they have in common? 1. They're successful entrepreneurs. 2. They don't have degrees.

This is what I see in that fact, which Social Network brought to light: true success comes from something beyond education. Something that breaks the mold. You don't have to have a business degree to have a great idea and make it work. The people who work for you probably do--ie accountants. In Social Network, you see a character who takes the leap with his idea and lives his life according to his rules. College wasn't necessary. How cool is that? Food for thought.

Before I go into Problem 2, I shall give the bottom line, because Problem 2 is a bigger part of something that needs to be fixed.

Social Network: Spoon, but kind of a rusty spoon. At first, I put it into upper Forking, but as I thought about the deeper implications of the movie, I decided it deserved the little push into Spoon status. Kind of like a teacher looking at a student who's tried really hard in class so s/he bumps the student from an 89.3 to an A-.

Now, the hissy fit. Sound mixing. Music. Dialogue. They are so %*$@! off sometimes. You've seen at least one movie where the music interferes with the dialogue, I know you have. You sit there, listening to the conversation, and suddenly, "Wait, what did they say? I didn't hear that."

I despise answering that question. It's not the viewer's fault, though. You know what I think? Some guy, at some point, in the editing room, got laid off, and on his last project, he screwed with the sound, but no one fixed it. Then lazy editors starting copying that to make their movies. And now we have this. #?*!

Another problem: Dialogue is really quiet, so you turn it up to hear, then the music or sound effects come in, and your ears bleed. And imagine when you're watching TV right below someone who's sleeping, and you have to constantly change the volume because you can't hear the words, but everything else is shattering the room. True, personal story.

Here is my petition to the world of sound mixers: Make your sounds level. Boost the dialogue if you have to. Make sure we hear every word we're supposed to!!!! PLEASE! And you know, you don't really need music all the time. Be diverse. Mix it up. Be picky.

That said, that was my biggest problem in Social Network. The main score of the movie was amazing. It won an award, and rightfully so. If I remember right, it was like three notes, la, la, then LA. This low, resonating note hits you in the face, building suspense for a movie that doesn't need suspense, but once you have it, you're excited. So cool. But...I couldn't hear the words. Okay, the club scene doesn't count. But in other places, the music was distracting. And the movie is about the characters! It's not an action film. Dialogue (and by transitive property, understanding the dialogue) is so insanely important.

On that note, TV is worse. The actual show is roughly tens of decibels below the commercials, as in, your ears bleed the minute commercials start. I'm not alone in this observation, and it does not make me want your laxative product more because it's loud. Let me rephrase that: It doesn't make me want it at all because it's loud. I don't want or need laxatives.

Ahem. To summarize, loud commercials don't change my mind.

And there ya go. Exhausted yet? I am.

Stay classy, San Diego. And the rest of the world, too.


cout<<"Hello world.";

Okay, sorry. Had to.

Try #2:

Well, hello world! My name is Bry. I am a freshman college student majoring in Business and Computer Engineering. Sounds crazy, I know. But I'm a logical person--aka, I like math. And I'm good at it, so I'm making a career with it. I'm realizing, however, that my creative side is being slightly repressed and needs an outlet. One of the things I also discovered is that I LOVE movies. Not a particularly unique trait, but hey, can you blame me? Another thing I noticed is that I like to think about movies, kinda analyze them, and I have some strong opinions that I'd like to talk about. I'd like to be a movie critic on the side. Maybe even a book critic, as I also love to read, but movies are a bigger medium and are more accessible.

So, here we are. And to make this review/discussion system work, I decided to make this interesting by making my rating system a little different: instead of stars, thumbs up, etc., I like to call my system Spoon, Fork, or Knife. Where did this come from? I'll tell you:

Have you ever played the game Marry, Shag, or Kill? You pick three people (friends or strangers) and decide which one you would marry, which one you would kill, and which one you would shag (aka, one night stand). Pretty straight forward. Well, I played that with my friends a few times, and it's kinda obvious. When you look at a person and say, "Marry," or, "Kill," there's a chance they'll figure it out. Awkward. So, after numerous transgressions, we translated Marry to Spoon, because you "spoon with" someone you love and probably marry; Kill to Knife, for hopefully obvious reasons; and Fork to Shag, because apparently, forking==shagging.

How does this translate to movies? I have decided there are generally three categories to rate movies. First, there are those that no one should ever see and you waste your time seeing them. Second, there are "one night stand" movies (see where this is going yet?) that you watch once, are entertained, and may or may not ever watch again. Then, there are long-term relationship movies, that you love and will watch again and again, even over years and years, because they are just that amazing.

Do you see? (Red Dragon, anyone?)

Spoon==long term movies. Great pieces that emotionally affect you and make you think. Ones you will come back to often. Make up the top...16% or so.

Fork==one night stand. Entertaining but there is no lasting impression.
*Now I'll deviate and concede that there are, in fact, four categories total. Within forking, there are good forks and bad forks.
Bad forks==okay, so-so, but you'll watch it to say you watched it.
Good forks==good, not great, definitely see them.
About 68% of movies fall into Forking. It's a pretty general category, but doesn't it make sense? Not many pieces of art or entertainment really affect you passionately towards hate or love. Most are average. After all, you can't be above average if someone isn't average. It's not bad, I promise. It's not that great, though. Anyway....

Okay, and last:

Knife==do not see this movie. The CIA uses it to torture potential terrorists. The bottom 16% of the world's movies hit this category. Getting it is embarrassing for everyone.

**See Disclaimer at bottom

By the way, the percentages are statistical references. Again, math nerd here. If you know statistics, think -1 to +1 standard deviations from the mean create the Forkers. +1 std. dev. and up create the Spooners, and -1 std. dev. and down create the Knifers.

To those unfortunate souls who happen across here, and to the determined or bored souls who have reached this point, I hope you agree with my system, or at least get it.

Now, on to the good stuff. To remind you, I am a college student. Resources are iffy for me. Bringing me to another point: Netflix is the greatest invention next to TiVo/DVR. My Instant Queue has 100+ items, and will continue to grow. I may never get to some of these things, but I try. And is the greatest website ever made. So, that said, I am open to suggestions of movies to watch and review. But if I can't get to it, I can't get to it. Nothing personal, it just happens. If you want to send me the movie via some sort of file (cough cough, *legally*) I'm game. Also, I want to hear your own input on movies. I like that as well.

I will go in depth on more movies, and I will bounce around the timeline to review whatever I feel like doing. Here's an idea of what I like and do. This is a random, off-the-top-of-my-head list of movies:

Tangled: SPOON SPOON SPOON. Seen it four times, and would still watch it again willingly. Funny, sweet, exciting, beautiful, not too girly, modern, and overall just awesome. Then again, Disney Movies generally amount to Spooning. After all, if I say, "Let's get down to business," what do you think? If it's something along the lines of "Huns," then you're good. Otherwise, I'm sorry, you're out of the cultural loop. In a bad way.

Paranormal Activity: Hm..........I want to say Spoon, because it's amazing, but once you've seen it, it's not so scary anymore. Well, surprise-scary. I'm still hiding and crying every time there's an usual sound in my house. Especially when I'm alone. That's genius right there: Take the normal sounds of a house (bangs, creaks, and so on) and make you scream and cry when you hear them. And make a single low note the most suspenseful thing ever. The second one is scarier, but not as genius. It's a one night stand deal for both, but more like Super-Duper Awesome Forking!!!!!! The one night stand of a movie you'll never forget.

Avatar (the blue version): Fork it Good. As in, great visuals, great music, terrible story, terrible execution, boring characters who are flatter than Flatty McFlattyton. But I appreciate the work it took to make it. If only they'd made a good movie....

Saw: Spoon. The first one only, though. The second wasn't bad, more of a forky kind. Brutal, clever, dark, heavy, intriguing and just fantastic. Gotta be in the mood, though, of course.

Classics: Spoon; they're classics for a reason. Gone With the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca. There are more, and they have a very high average of Spooners.

The Last Airbender: Do I need to say it? KNIFE KNIFE KNIFE. For the greatest TV show ever made, it takes a lot of talent to make a bad movie. Apparently M Knight Shamy...Shamalyn...Shamoo(sp) has it (I'm really sorry, I forgot how to spell the name. My bad). And this is the guy who made Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable! Those are all Spooners! Then again, lately he's lost his touch. I haven't seen Lady in the Water or The Happening, but I've heard enough to know they're not doing what the others did. I will watch them, though, to make an honest judgment. Please, sir, get it back. And stop putting yourself in movies so much.

Let's see...........OH I know: Slasher Movies that feature stupid high school/college kids who party, get naked and drunk, then die: Fork it Bad. They're fun on Halloween, but there's not an attempt to make it good or even scary. Come on! Step it up!

Now for movies that I recommend that may or may not be known to you:

Session 9: Fork it Good. I found it on Netflix randomly and went for it. It's about a team of asbestos removers working on an insane asylum. It's really weird, but creepy creepy creepy. And kinda fun. If you're looking for a new horror that's a little fresh, go for it.

Mary and Max: SPOON. Oh my goodness, Spoon this movie. Eat it up. It's claymation, but not a kid's movie. It deals with the harsh realities of life in the form of a child's storybook. Which, I think, is fantastic and magical storytelling. Death, alcoholism, depression, and everything like that are described in a way that doesn't actually hurt when it happens. It's dealt with in a more innocent, frank way. Childlike. And then, it hits you, and you bawl your eyes out. Or cheer. Or both. This movie, about a lonely girl in Australia accidentally becoming pen pals with a middle-aged autistic man in New York made me cry, cheer, and almost scream in fear. And I don't do that. Tearjerkers don't really work on me. This is real in an unreal way. Watch it.

Amelie: Spoon. Gorgeous soundtrack, wonderful story, great characters. It's told like a child's story, kinda like a fairytale, which makes it magical. An imaginative woman in France ends up trying to help others, like playing matchmaker, and finds herself possibly finding true love. Amazing classical tale. Beautiful.

Elling: Spooooooon. I watched this in Psychology and fell in love. It's about two men who are trying to adapt to life after being in a mental hospital for years. It's sweet, funny, touching and Norwegian. Wonderful tale.

Okay, not a bad start. Reviews will be more in depth for sure, but this is a good taste.

As my favorite professor says, Stay Crispy.

*****DISCLAIMER. #1. (to reference my favorite RHPS show, Forget Disclaimer #1!!!) I am not associated with any movie company or any company of any  kind. These ideas are my own.
#2. (Forget Disclaimer #2!!!) I don't approve of one night stands, or for that matter killing anyone. The metaphors are just metaphors that seem to fit :)