July 25, 2014

Film Friday: Director Richard Linklater


In anticipation of seeing his film Boyhood this evening, I wanted a space to ruminate on the work of Director Richard Linklater.

Perhaps best cited for his 90s film, Dazed and Confuzed, Linklater has made his name known in the independent film circles.  I have not seen that film, though, so it's on my to-watch list, along with his animated film Waking Life.  Hopefully that doesn't make me unqualified to talk about how his work has affected me.

Because honestly, if they are anything like his "Before" trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I might just be in for something great.  This series of three films stole my heart this summer.  They effortlessly captured a "truth," that may seem overwrought in some audience members' eyes, but which spoke deeply to me about how random life can be -- and the benefits of being susceptible to said randomness.

The premise of Before Sunrise (1995) intrigued the hopeless romantic in me.  Boy meets girl on a train.  Girl does not go running and screaming in the other direction.  Boy and girl spends day wandering and talking together in a European city.  Throughout its duration (conveniently the time before midnight), I am cheering for the two leads to fully experience their evening together.  The location and glorious settings are merely backdrops for the couple, who for the entire film, remain a pinnacle focus.  Audiences can therefore connect deeply with their dialogue.  This fact proves the skill of Linklater's writing and gall to think that a film like this would be entertaining enough.  All the other elements are spot-on.  The ending was slightly gimmicky, clearly angling for a sequel.

But my complaining stops there, since Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) was an excellent follow-up to the first.  As soon as the two leads share the screen, we are presented with a similar engrossing technique that is just as successful the second time around.  Linklater shows he knows what he's doing. I hungrily listen to the stories that Jesse and Celine tell, trying to fill in the seven-year-long blank that Linklater created between the two installments.  The characters become even more fleshed out through the details they reveal (and those they don't).  This style once again could be perceived as boring and unimportant, seen as having no place in a film.  Yet from my perspective, it was a smart and realistic approach to telling a story about life and two strangers who are pulled together in life's current.  The banter feels authentic, and the steadiness of the camera on Jesse and Celine, both simultaneously engulfing the frame with their ideas, passions and compassion for one another is excellent.  Linklater had a clear vision and his artistic genius cannot be questioned.  But can he do it a third time?

Before Midnight (2013) opened and poured salt in wounds in me that I didn't even know I had.  Picking up nine years later, we get to meet Celine and Jesse as a committed couple.  In the very beginning, they are less of the focus, until the car scene in which their infamous back-and-forth exchanger resume.  The interactions now seem tinged with an even more "this is life, beautiful and messy" tone.  Hmm, that feeling may too intangible to describe.  The last act of the film echoed some of the conversations that my parents have had, and there's almost nothing as surreal as practically seeing someone you know and their habits being portrayed on screen.  Although there are other nitpicky comments I could make about this third film, I disagree with Shelby that it was negative for negativity's sake.  The way it crescendos mirrors life's fluctuations and I think it's a breath of fresh air knowing that not everything is coming up roses, even when you are sharing the journey with someone who understands you, cares for you and longs for you.

Falling in love with these films, with a story that nearly destroyed me and my spirit, makes me unbelievably excited to see what critics are claiming is his masterwork tonight.  I have a strong sense it will get under my skin…in the best way possible.

July 04, 2014

Film Friday: Netflix Picks

Happy Fourth of July, American readers!  Any exciting plans for the long weekend?  Watching Netflix?  When I did a Netflix free trial a few summers ago, I did my best to milk it for all it was worth.  Of course, this was a time before shows like Orange Is The New Black made exclusive releases to the site, and before there were a million OTHER ways to stream thousands of movies.

For this installment of Film Friday, I thought it would be fun to share a few picks of what I've watched and enjoyed on Netflix.  In no particular order:

TELEVISION
Breaking Bad (2008-2012)
So this still makes the top of the list.  Sorry not sorry.  All five seasons are now available to stream.  I might have to marathon the series again.  I may be able to skip the first season, though.  Goodness knows I've seen that alone at least 10 times.

Friday Night Lights (2006-2010)
Full disclosure, I have not finished watching this entire series.  However, I am convinced the first two seasons are most worth watching anyway.  Written by an alum from my college, I think this does a good job with character development.  Plus there are actors that it's hard not to love, like Connie Britton.

Parks and Recreation (2009-current)
Need I blather on about how fantastic this show is?  I am probably preaching to the choir.

Rita (2012)
I had no idea what exactly I was getting myself into with this foreign drama series from Denmark.  The gorgeous title sequence exuded promise.  I immediately liked how sassy the protagonist is, even though I'm not sure I would've liked her as my schoolteacher.


MOVIES
American Psycho (2000)
This was a movie I had always heard about, perhaps even had seen a few stills from, and yet still never quite understood what it was all about.  After viewing this grotesque 2-hour character case study, I still don't know how to coherently explain it.  Yet if you're looking to go on a terrifying ride, look no further.

C.O.G. (2013)
Jonathan Groff surprised me in this.  Although the story wasn't particularly new -- and I'm not sure how I felt about the ending -- this thoroughly sucked me in for its duration.

Tabloid (2011)
I stumbled upon this earlier this summer purely by chance.  This tells the story of a woman who was arrested in Britain for kidnapping and raping the love of her life who had been sent there for mission work with the Mormon church.  The entire movie seems nearly unreal and -- without spoiling anything -- shocking.  This made me think more critically about who is telling what story and for what reason.

Frances Ha (2013)
This film and I have a very special relationship.  It's filmed in black-and-white with the backdrop of NYC.  The main character, Frances (Greta Gerwig), is a 27-year-old aspiring dancer still figuring out her life.  Filled with comedy, drama, genuine emotion, captivating dialogue and entirely relatable moments, the movie oozed life.  I swear it is part of my soul now.  Just go watch it already.  If you don't think you'd like it, then at least watch this scene.


SPECIALS
Bo Burnham: what.
I can see why some might find Bo's brand of comedy offensive.  I would go so far as to say he is one of the best comedians of our generation.  He understands the way we operate nowadays and mocks it brilliantly.

Let me know what you've watched!

June 21, 2014

It's a small world after all.

I am officially convinced that the world is not as vast as humanity typically paints it out to be.  It has to be.  Otherwise explain to me why my good friend from middle school, Zack*, and a classmate from my college, ended up working the same summer job in San Francisco.  Mind blown.  Faith shifted.

I'd be lying if I didn't say my past week has been exhausting.  Fortunately, one can often find solace in the little things.  This morning at my office job in the library I felt very zen.  I realized that the majority of my mornings in 2014 had started in the college's library.  Then I thought, "Dang.  I must love it that much."  And I do.  Even the basement with its flickering light above a certain computer I have vowed never to use for that reason--the flicker is too distracting.

My exhaustion may be linked to when I watched Before Sunrise (1995) last night.  Devastingly good.  I teared up, of course.  I was glad I had also rented the sequel, Before Sunset (2005), because I watched it immediately, hungry to see how the story continued.  I swear an hour and a half movie never felt so short.  The characters are so charming and incredibly human.  I am planning to rent the third movie in the trilogy from the library soon.  After watching those films and reading this collaborate blog, 40 days of dating, chronically an experiment two NYC designer friends underwent in dating (read the 'about' page first), I am emotionally spent.

Watch out, no real segue here...

I wonder if my friends and I will plan a barbecue for the 4th of July.  We already have one successful potluck under our belts.  Here's the photographic evidence:

Mmm, check out that strawberry nectarine crumble.

Tomorrow, er, today, the majority of classmates around the Cities this summer are having a picnic at a nearby lake.  At the beginning of the week, I was stoked to go.  However, my mindset and health have changed drastically since Monday.  I shall remain in bed to rest until this cold is over.

Currently taking any song or movie recommendations to take my mind off feeling miserable!

I hope everyone is having a fun summer.  The common theme I've been seeing, though, is mostly surrounding adulthood?  Yeah, that's only mildly terrifying.

*He's also, strangely enough, responsible for the title of this blog.  I've mentioned this before, haven't I?