April 04, 2014

Film Friday: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" review

One of my highly anticipated films of 2014, Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, did not disappoint.  I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into, but before going I did best to keep my expectations undefined.  We had discussed it briefly in my film class and my professor described it as "candy".  I would agree.  Not only was the film's color palette was delectable -- and I am sure that was intentional, given the focus on the treats at Mendl's -- but the symmetrical shots were ultimately pleasing to the eye, like most other Wes Anderson films.  (Don't believe me?  Watch this video.)

The friends I went with noted a darker and more gruesome tone overall, yet without a "dark" or morose character.  Adrien Brody's character may be the closest to that trope.  Generally speaking, though, the actors were phenomenal.  Most critics have acknowledged Ralph Fiennes standout performance as Gustave H., but I really thought Tony Revolori as Zero the lobby boy was the real star.  Each men had great expressions and the scenes with them together were superb.  To me, Saoirse Ronan's character Agatha didn't seem fully fleshed out, and I think I would've wanted other strong female characters represented.

Bottom line, if you like Wes Anderson and his quirky filmmaking style as I do, you will not regret spending the money to go see it as soon as possible.  Here, I will definitely say that watching it in the theater on the big screen was a delightful experience and I highly recommend it.

4/5 stars

March 30, 2014

Happiness.

I've neglected to follow up on a number of things, including The Dalai Lama's visit to my college campus.  His talk was actually kind of…underwhelming?  Not to discredit His Holiness, but I found there was little he said that I hadn't already taken to heart.  I think it's because I've already embraced 'happiness' in the simplest terms as he discussed.  And don't get me wrong, I definitely teared up.  As I wrote in my journal, it was important for me to experience it.  That meant I kept my phone in my pocket and my mouth shut though.  If you're interested in a more detailed account, a senior at my college blogged about the experience, too.

This semester marks one of my best academically.  My midterm grades impressed me and I am proud to be where I am.  So proud, that I desperately want to continue that trend.  Unfortunately, there is so much to do and so little time to do it.  I am already beginning to work on my final projects…ahh.

As you may have seen in my spring break video, last Saturday Andy and I finally went to the Walker Sculpture Garden.  We had been meaning to go since last summer when he still had a (functioning) car in the Cities.  It worked out that we were both free, though, so we braved the cold and made our way over there, relying on buses the best we could and walking the rest.

After taking the typical photos with the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and generally wandering about, Andy suggested we go to a place called Uncommon Grounds for "the best chai."  The chai was very good indeed.  My only regret was not getting a larger glass.

Spring break felt other worldly.  Everything about it made me really happy, though.  Since spring break, there have been assignments due non-stop and busy work to finish every day.  Not to mention other events out the wahoo.  Seriously, there were so many events this past Friday alone that I ended up not going to any…

Yesterday I saw senators Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren speak on campus.  They stressed the importance of young voters actually coming out to the polls.  Their speeches made me excited for the possibilities of the future if we all become more active in politics.

In other news:
  • I broke down and got Spotify Premium today because they're doing a half-price student discount.
  • In an hour's time, I will be calling to congratulate admitted students.  Has it really been two years since it was me on the other end of the line?
  • I'll be seeing Dan Croll in concert soon.  He and his family are criminally adorable.
  • My study abroad proposal was approved!  I just have to finish my application for the actual university.  And figure out my visa.  And have pre-departure orientation.  (In essence, this is just the beginning.)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel was great.  Full review coming Friday.
Stay cool, everybody.

March 28, 2014

Film Friday: "Weekend" Review

French auteur and director Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film Weekend is a remarkable commentary on bourgeois society.  I will do my best to explain the general plot of this film, but fair warning: the reason Jean-Luc Godard is an avant-garde auteur stems from his counter-cinema stance, where he twists classic filmic techniques to the extreme.

For instance, from the very first sequence we see an inter-title that says "this film was found in a dump."  Clearly this denotes the quality of the film as sub-par, but as a self-aware inter title, it begins to foreground the processes of creating the film rather than providing a transparent story with a seamless production.  At other points, the film is also self-referential.  And that's what adds to the absurdity and hilarity of the entire film.

Generally, the film follows the story of a married couple as they travel to meet their father.  We soon learn, though, that the two are only interested in his inheritance and wish him to die quickly.  Cruel, right?  Even crueler acts of violence are committed by them or in their precense, making for a very interesting film that chooses moments of extreme violence to comment on society.  The images are extremely powerful and I already know I will never forget the eight minute-long continuous shot of the two driving through a traffic jam.  That's right, that involves cars honking for eight. consecutive. minutes.

One scene that was particularly amusing was the one pictured above.  The main characters got into a car crash and yet all the woman can shriek about is her Herm├Ęs handbag.  Forget about her husband lying on the ground in distress. My classmate told me that a similar instance happened with Kim Kardashian and her losing an earring in the ocean.  Apparently one of Kim's sister tried to reason with her and say, "Kim, there are children starving in Africa."  For this reason, I would argue this film remains completely culturally relevant and worthy of your time!

I'm glad we watched this for my Oppositional Cinemas course, though to be honest I haven't seen the very ending yet.  But as we also discussed, Wes Anderson's film style was heavily influenced by Godard.  The portraits of characters, the titling of "chapters" and other elements are particularly reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

4/5 stars

P.S. I'm seeing Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel tonight!  Should I review that for next week?