Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Experiment: Swing Time

Swing Time (1936)
Director: George Stevens

"When you see anyone -- an athlete, a musician, a dancer, a craftsperson -- doing something difficult and making it look easy and a joy, you feel enhanced. It is a victory for the human side, over the enemies of clumsiness, timidity, and exhaustion." - Roger Ebert

My favorite critic, Roger Ebert, wrote this is his Great Movies essay on "Swing Time," and he is definitively correct in that statement. When you watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance in this movie, it's like watching two titans go at it. Their faces are not full of intense focus and determination, but a sense of exhilaration, as if it just came to them in a moment of passion. That's the true reason to watch Astaire/Rogers films.

See for yourself:

P.S. The "Bojangles of Harlem" number with the dancing shadow reflections are worth the price of admission alone.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Experiment: Red River

Red River (1948)
Director: Howard Hawks

What will be our mark on this world?

As I watched this film, I kept wondering of what the mindset of John Wayne's character, Tom Dunson, truly was. It felt to me as if he wanted to prove himself more than his surrogate son, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift) did. Here was a man who never had a true biological heir because his sweetheart was killed in an Indian raid, he's broke and his ranch is failing due to the aftermath of the Civil War. So this cattle drive of aggressive proportion is actually his final stab at proving his life was worth something. Even if he was only proving himself or to God (as he was reading the Bible so much). That's why he becomes dictatorial and cruel toward everyone. And when his herd was taken away by Matt (the more sensible one), two big blows were dealt. His chance was stolen from him by his "son" and the "son" never truly embraced Tom's mindset. So he became vengeful and wanted to kill him. But thankfully, Matt's rational yet driven nature ends up making the cattle drive a success.

For all the epic western sweep, the movie just shows two people who finally prove something to each other. I think in the end we all want to prove something to someone before we leave this earth.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The "U2 3D" Experience (Mind Officially Blown)

There's a moment that I'll never forget as I was watching this film. As the opening for the song "One" started, Bono began singing, "Oh... shine a light." Slowly, little digital lights from cell phones all across the massive stadium began lighting up. As he keeps singing that simple phrase, the crowd became a sea of illumination -- an entire group of people who had come together, if just for this time and space. At I sat there, I felt something that rarely comes to me. Serenity. I felt at peace with the universe and myself. I had been lifted higher. It had been a while since that has occurred, the last time being when I was watching the film "Spirited Away." But that divine moment, like an angel, came back to hold me in its arms.

That's what "U2 3D" is like. This is not a concert film, this is a holy rock and roll experience. You ethereally float around the stage and stadium and watch everyone with pure elation. The detailed 3D itself does not inhibit the performance, but enhances it greatly. The intense bouncing of the enthusiastic South American crowd during "Where the Streets Have No Name" makes you feel energized, while the effect of the words flying toward you in "The Fly" makes you feel like you're in the Star Gate in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The film also gives a very appreciated display for each band member who individually show their own passion for the music that they play as a whole. These men have a fire when they play these songs, even when they are more calming, including the personal "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" or the gently operatic "Miss Sarajevo." Most importantly, the film showcases U2's desire to reach out to an audience, like a restless spirit trying to get to you and only you. No moment shows that more than when Bono asks you to "wipe your tears away" during "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and extends his arm for yours. At that second you want to take his hand and hold on to him forever.

I have to tell you. Besides that, it would be an epic essay to accurately describe what I felt about the film. I will say this, though:

In the Cinematical article "The Exhibitionist: You Too Need to See 'U2 3D'," the author, Christopher Campbell, mentions how the film could have the same effect on HD Digital 3D as "The Jazz Singer" had for sound. Personally, I hope it does come to pass.

(The Edge, Bono and Adam Clayton rockin' out)

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Cloverfield" and Character

I saw “Cloverfield” on Friday. I thought I should see it, just because it looked very interesting as well as pacify my wait for another film, which I will be posting on in a few days.

What I think is fascinating about the film is how influenced it is by the work of great docu-drama. The movie puts you into a situation where the entire scope of the events are fully explained to you. We never see any presidents on TV, worried relatives outside the situation or military officials behaving like chickens with their heads cut off. Even when they have a scene with military, they don’t know everything about what’s going on either. The only official outside words given on the situation are only heard in brief glimpses of the news on TV or snatches of transmissions from army radios. This type of narrative is not akin to most sci-fi/monster films, and frankly, I find it refreshing and exciting.

Instead, all the movie wants to focus on is on this small group of people who are trying to survive the attack from the monster. What impresses me about J.J. Abrams (producer) as a storyteller is how, above everything else, he wants you to care for the characters that you see in front of you. Even if it’s for a short period of 84 minutes. Some of the movie’s most affecting scenes are when the action pauses and the characters were allowed to ease each other’s shattered psyches. The most prime example is after Rob (Michael Stahl-David) had to tell his mother that his brother, Jason (Mike Vogel) was killed, Rob and Jason’s devoted girlfriend, Lily (Jessica Lucas) take quiet comfort in each other’s grief. While the camera operator Hud (T.J. Miller) talks to Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) about what they could’ve done or couldn’t do. It’s a simply played scene like this that I look for in a film, a gentle expression of emotion.

Overall, the film is an impressively entertaining one. What more could you want?


The movie also illustrates one of my ultimate theories about film and TV. One of the most important things to me when I watch anything is character. Character, character, character. If I have at least some emotional connection with one character, even one I hate, then I don’t get a feeling of borrowed interest. Even when I’m watching something with a plot I don’t fully understand, there is still a mystifying bond with the person on the screen that keeps me transfixed.

We are forever drawn to the mystery of who we are…

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Formal Introduction

Hi, my name is Sam and I'm an autistic arts lover; though what I just said is kind of contradictory. In a lot of ways, I shouldn't be a arts lover. I become uneasy during long continuous stimulation, I'm impatient, my thoughts drift, my mind goes a thousand miles a minute and I don't like to go out unless I feel like it. But, I'm bonded deeply with the art of film and music because they (as well as TV in a smaller way) have literally saved my life.

When I was young, many experts thought that I would not be able to communicate properly outside my own world, like many autistics. But I was also blessed with an innate sense of memory and imitation. Through the films that I watched and the music that I listened to, I began to build a knowledge of phrasing. Miraculously, I found that I could use quotes and song lyrics to communicate how I felt or thought. Also, films and songs gave me a window to the typical world, a world I couldn't grasp. Then, using quotes and lyrics as a basis, I began forming my own style of speech and connection. Which all lead me to where I am today; I'm a sound, happy and proud cinephile and audiophile.

Now, I may not see or listen to everything that comes my way, which may alienate some people. But as I said earlier, I can't handle continuous mounting stimulation, so I will miss out on some cool things until much later. Though I assure you this passion I have means the world to me and it never diminishes for any reason, including myself.

I hope you all enjoy my blog and continue reading my thought on the things I care about.