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Friday, 19 October 2012

A Life In A Day

Hi everyone.

"We missed your blogging!" said no one ever. 

So these blog posts have pretty not been on schedule lately but that's only because of all the happenings I have going on in.

Bear. 

With. 

Me. 

(This has probably been the longest I have gone without actually entering a blog post...)

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Most of the last few weeks have been pretty much work, school, birthday parties and stuff. Usual shit, right? Well maybe not the party stuff but sure, whatever. Nearing the end of the semester and I've gotten most of the work out of the way. Good sign, I should think.

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So you've probably already seen it already over on Ellen's blog but I was at a friend's birthday recently which saw me dress up as Marty McFly from Back to the Future. Cool cat, I am. It was a retro themed party but only a small handful were dressed up. Good night though. And then I had another dinner party for another friend on Sunday but burnt a hole into my wallet due to the expensive food! My wallet cries.

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Also been spending a lot of time playing NBA 2K13 and FIFA 13. I can't handle all these games. I still have WWE 13 to wait on as well as a few other games that were released this year that I'm waiting to grab. Also still have another back catalogue of games to play as well. I'll SOMEHOW try to find the time to fit them all in (I finish university study soon so I'll have plenty of time, I suppose... yeah I'll become one of THOSE guys).

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Other things currently burning my money are new comic book acquistions. For those that don't know Marvel Comics have started an initiative called, "Marvel NOW!" which basically gives most their major titles a new creative team (writer/artist), resets every issue to #1 and tells all new stories. Similar to what happened with DC Comics a year ago when the "New 52" initiative kick-started  As a result, I've picked up a few more titles and eagerly await their release. Probably spending $15 - 20 a week now on comics which might not sound like a lot to some people, I suppose but I'm just super stingy with money(just really supporting the stereotype of a money-grubbing Asian though).

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This blog post has been nothing but a nerd-fest so far. But that's my appeal right? I mean that's why pepole like me right? RIGHT?! No? Oh... On to films. GO!
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

Since I haven't blogged in the last few weeks, I've pretty much only seen one film a week cause of my rush to finish all assignments. I did happen to watch Redline HOWEVER I fell asleep through it. Not because the anime was bad (the opening race was exhilarating!) but because after a long day, I was too tired to focus on the film. I woke up when the film was about to finish. Not good. I'll definitely give it a shot again sometime soon but I figure I should probably at least find the time where I am completely awake before I watch something. Spleh.

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Other than a handful of raving reviews and some positive word-of-mouth, Beasts of the Southern Wild, was going to be a miss for me and I was going to catch it when it was given it a home release. I'm extremely glad I didn't though because there's a magical quality about the film that I feel must be experienced in a cinema instead of on a television screen at home.

First time director Benh Zeitlin crafts something that is extraordinarily spectacular and does so with such imagination and whimsy that you'd be fooled into thinking that a film like this was the work of a veteran director. The film provides an absorbing facet of Americana that's rarely exposed on film, let alone celebrated in the way that Beasts of the Southern Wild has. Some critics and commentators note that the rejection of society's rules and the characters' anti-establishment attitude may be interpreted as being some kind of political message. I disagree. I just happen to think that their attitude in the film is reflective of the culture they've grown up in - the melting pot of post-Katrina New Orleans (although if memory serves me correct, the actual location of the film was never actually specified). Their attitudes have been defined by the struggle that they've been through and their determination to survive by natural means in a flood-ridden town.

While it may sound like doom and gloom, at the heart of Beasts of the Southern Wild is the story of a girl and her father. Their relationship is one of the most interesting parent/child relationships I've seen and their story is told almost like a fairy-tale. It's the pulsating beat of this story that imbues the film with life. Hushpuppy (played by the supremely talented and charming Quvenzhane Wells who at the time of filming was only 5 years old and couldn't read her script) is by no means a princess in the traditional sense but she is certainly the princess of the Bathtub. Her father, Wink (played by the excellent Dwight Henry who, before filming Beasts of the Southern Wild, was actually a baker and had zero acting experience) acts as the king of the Bathtub, ensuring the safety of his people - making sure they all stick together and have a means to survive. Wink might not always show his love for Hushpuppy but underneath his half-drunken slurring and shouting, we know that he deeply cares for her.

On the technical side, the score serves as a sweeping celebratory anthem on life, an appropriate muse given how much imagination and vigour the film has. Coupled with the gorgeous handheld cinematography work employed throughout the film, Beasts of the Southern Wild is essentially a more grounded and focused version of Terrence Mallick's The Tree of Life.

All these elements combined, Beasts of the Southern Wild is certainly one of the most unique films I've had the pleasure seen. The ability to draw such raw emotion from first-time actors by Benh Zeitlin is more than impressive. It's damn mind-blowing. Beasts of the Southern Wild is an exquisite picture that I hope gets the recognition it deserves come award season next year. Bold, imaginative and the stuff that dreams are made of, Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the best films of the year. An absolutely magical experience.


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The manic pixie dream girl: a female archetype in film who spontaneously appears only to help further the goals/needs of the male protagonist while feeling little to no care about her own goals/needs. She simply is there to help the male protagonist grow as a character and that's it really. She doesn't have much of an arc but he does. She's often quirky and seemingly unrealistic - probably has what some may consider "sensibly mature taste" in film, literature, music, art or whatever hobbies the male protagonist enjoys. Why am I trying to define the manic pixie dream girl? Because she, most likely, does not exist. And if she does, you'd probably think she was a crazy loon.

Zoe Kazan, who wrote the screenplay for Ruby Sparks and also played the titular character, described the idea of the manic pixie dream girl as being misogynistic, and that her film is about "how dangerous it is to reduce a person down to an idea of a person." Ruby, essentially a manic pixie dream girl come to life, is the creation of Calvin Weir-Fields (played by Kazan's real life boyfriend, Paul Dano), a successful writer struggling to come up with an idea for his follow-up novel. Enter Ruby. Her presence in Calvin's dreams provides him with the inspiration he needs to write. However the more he writes about her, the more he begins to question his sanity as he admits to wanting to spend time with the fictitious character. He gets his wish when one day she inexplicably appears in his life.

With a premise that seems familiar to that of most generic romantic comedies, bubbling underneath the cute exterior of Ruby Sparks is a smart and inventive screenplay that's been fully realised by the directorial team of Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris (previously responsible for handling Little Miss Sunshine). The film never explains how or why Ruby appears so suddenly but it doesn't necessarily need to be explained. Ruby Sparks isn't necessarily concerned with how Calvin was able to make the idea of Ruby manifest into a physical being. Instead it uses the concept as a way  to deconstruct the idea of the manic pixie dream girl by providing a literal interpretation of this female construct. Calvin can write up anything to enhance Ruby's qualities, essentially playing God to her without her knowing that she is essentially dictating how she should behave. It all goes well but leading up to the finale of the film, everything seems to go horribly awry. When Ruby asks for independence, Calvin denies it from her and writes that she sticks around more often. This doesn't result too well for Calvin. In the end, Ruby essentially becomes Calvin's property - he isn't so much in love with her as a person. How could he? After all, she is just an idea of a girl he'd ideally want.

Ruby Sparks is a smart and charming film but there are a few inconsistencies with Kazan's script that, while not necessarily causing huge problems to the narrative, does fault some of the logic involved in it. Ambiguities aside, the cast is great from head to toe. Also Chris Messina is in everything now (just look at his IMDB page). The most comparable film to put against Ruby Sparks is the Will Ferrell dramedy, Stranger Than Fiction. If you're a fan of that film, do give Ruby Sparks a try. I may just surprise you.


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I almost didn't see Lore and was about to head into something else entirely. Killing Them Softly and Lawless came out last week and I really wanted to watch both of them but I figured since Lore might be finishing it's season soon and that I ought to catch it before it finished up. Prior to seeing Lore, I will say that I had zero interest in the film and that I admittedly only went out of my way to see it because of the buzz it was generating (some even saying that it would definitely be a contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars).

Lore begins with the downfall of Hitler's regime and essentially places us right after the Allies take control of Germany. News of Germany's loss reaches a family living in the German countryside. The mother, a Nazi sympathiser, orders Lore, the eldest child in the family to run away with the rest of the children and to seek help from their grandmother as she is sent to a prison with her husband, a Nazi soldier. The children trek across the countryside avoiding any American troops and surviving with the most bare essentials. Along the way, the meet a suspicious young man who journeys with them.

The film offers a very interesting inversion of the war film and places us in the perspective of children. But not just any children, children of a Nazi family. As the story unfolds, we see just how much the children have to take on and it's a dark and perilous path that they must undertake. At one point in the film, the twin boys seem like they are forced to sing a German  propaganda song just to entertain one of their caretakers who repeatedly reminds the children that Germany had failed Hitler. It's a pitiable scene. All the while, a portrait of the German leader looms in the background like a haunting spectre. And it's in this image alone that, in a lot of ways, encapsulates the very essence of Lore and the struggle that the titular character endures.

The character of Lore is clearly at odds with herself and much of it has to do with the Nazi ideology and the values that she has learned. As the eldest child, she has more of an informed knowledge about how things work in the world, more so than her younger siblings. The conflict that she fights is psychologically damaging to her and by the end of the film, she can't separate lies from truth; fact from fiction. It's a recurring motif all throughout (at one point, Germans are huddled over images of Holocaust victims and are convinced that they're actors hired by Americans) which builds the basis for much of Lore's turmoil.

The cinematography work in Lore is exceptionally beautiful and I can't help but notice that a lot of films that I have seen lately have really utilised the handheld approach in such an elegant manner.  It's an aesthetic that I certainly enjoy and I don't think I'll grow too tired of it any time soon.

Lore is certainly an impressive piece of work but I'm not too sure about whether or not it stands a chance as a Best Foreign Language Picture contender. It has a big challenger in Amour, Haneke's latest which doesn't pull back any punches.

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Once again leaving out Tidbits of Film News. Sorry. I just... don't have the time. And I really wanted to get this blog post out so yeah. Anyways, enjoy a track from the soundtrack of Looper (if you haven't seen the film go see it now because I loved it and you should too maybe, I dunno). Have fun, goodbye.


End post.

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