Archive for July, 2008

My Review of ‘The Dark Knight’

I can never watch another movie without being disappointed that it’s not ‘The Dark Knight’.

Never.

My god, that was fantastic.

Advertisements

July 22, 2008 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

In Lieu of Regular Blog Posts, I’m Just Doing it All at Once

A few things of note:

-My life has been really weird of late. Weird in ways that would be difficult to convey over what I view as largely a public-interest blog. For a brief period I was weighing options in case I could never return home again (not so much a serious possibility as a result of me overreacting). This is why I haven’t been posting lately.

-Joss Whedon’s latest project, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, is available for now for a limited time on the internets. I suspect all of you have seen it by now, but just in case; watch it. It’s fantastic.

-The guy from this post is still contacting me with cryptic poems, which is kinda weird. I remain too anti-social to actually respond.

-I’m going to see ‘The Dark Knight’ at an IMAX tomorrow. IMAX! I’m ridiculously excited.

-Finished both The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli and Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I’m still working my way through Steal This Book and have started on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

-Awhile ago I pitched my filmmaker friend Jeff a movie called ‘Rhythm & Blues’, which had itself been pitched to me by Jon and Stephen. Jeff has excited about doing it, and I was glad to have a crew, but later I found out Jon was (quite reasonably, in retrospect) upset that I was moving ahead on his project when he couldn’t be involved, on account of living on the opposite side of the continent.

However, before Jon told me this, Jeff and I shot an (incredibly brief) test for a theoretical opening sequence; basically it was only meant to experiment with some freeze-frame and opening credit stuff we thought of doing. You can see the result on Jeff’s Youtube page here. Hopefully Jon won’t be too pissed off at me about it.

*****

I never gave WALL-E a proper review after I saw it, namely because I tend only to review movies that are fundamentally flawed. ‘WALL-E’, on the other hand, is a work of such great beauty that it would be ridiculous of me to criticize it. Afterward I explained to Jeff that the cinematography was so beautiful that it actually hurt, knowing it would be beyond our skill to ever produce something so incredible.

In lieu of a full review, I just want to talk about one moment I found fantastic (Spoiler Alert from here on out). One thing you see in a lot of CGI films is references for the sake of references; ‘Shrek’, for example, includes a bizarre ‘Matrix’ parody. It’s a really cheap, easy technique, simply pointing out something the audience has already liked for cheap recognition and humour points.

Pixar, on the other hand, tends to do references differently. Through-out ‘WALL-E’ other films are referenced not so much to cash in on their popularity put to incorporate their themes. This is seen most successfully in the scene where the Captain, trying to regain control of his ship from the auto-pilot, stands up to the strains of ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. This is of course a reference to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, where the song was most famously used. But it’s also more than this.

When the song was used in ‘2001’, it was set to a scene in which an alien monolith teaches our early ape ancestors how to use tools, thus separating them from the mere animals and making them the first proto-men. The song becomes symbolic of the Dawn of Man, taking it’s first uncertain steps from the animal kingdom.

In ‘WALL-E’, the humanity of the ship’s inhabitants has long been lost. They do not communicate with other humans directly, they do what advertising tells them and fail to think for themselves, and they have even lost the ability to walk from over-reliance on hoverchairs.When the Captain stands up to his machine rulers by literally standing up, it becomes symbolic of him reclaiming his humanity. It is a new ‘Dawn of Man’ where the inhabitants of the Axiom begin asserting their status as human beings, a point underscored by the use of ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. It’s not simply a means of cheap referencing; it’s a way of underscoring the monumental scale and importance of the Captain’s simple actions.

I just wrote a five-paragraph essay on a scene with lasts probably less than two minutes. Were I to dissect the entire movie, I’d need to write a full paper. It’s a testament to the incredible skill of Pixar that they can create a movie so instantly accessible and yet expertly crafted and layered with meaning. If you haven’t seen it, do so now.

July 19, 2008 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

Summer Reading, Part II

A quick ‘Summer Reading List’ update for you all:

Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond (Finished)
Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman (In Progress)
The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli (In Progress

“Guns, Germs and Steel” was incredibly captivating. I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in history or human development.

“Steal This Book” is entertaining in that hyper-energetic, rebellious way Hoffman has, though I’m a little disappointed that it recycles some material from his book “Fuck the System”. On a side-note, how many badass points does it earn me that I read a book called “Fuck the System”?

“The Prince” is tedious, but short. I’ll probably slog through it in the end. As far as ‘historically significant treatise on conflict’ go, I much prefer “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.

Also, I picked up “Freakonomics” at the School of Business Library today. I was pretty sure they were going to realize that I was an Arts student and then tear the flesh from my bones. Luckily that didn’t happen. Disaster averted?

July 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm 2 comments

Old Homes, Old Friends, and Comic Books

In a lot of ways, the mere act of living is strange. Human beings have an incredible knack for avoiding the important things, for approaching problems the wrong way, for failing to say the things we mean.

For the longest time, most of my conversations were couched in comic book terms. Given how big of a geek I am, it was easy (at least for me) to convey what I thought solely in terms of superheroes and villains. As I’ve discussed before, there’s a beautiful sort of allegory to the better works of comics, where characters can simultaneously be complex, living people and still represent basic ideas about good and evil.

But of course most people don’t read comics, and so the reference was lost on them. Eventually I grew out of this habit and started conversing like a normal person (well, relatively normal). Nonetheless, I can’t help recalling a time and friendship defined largely by a mutual love of comics.

*****

I moved away from Amherst over four years ago. At the time I was leaving behind some of the best friends I’d ever had. But of course I went back to visit when I could, staying at Jon’s house when I did.

Jon is a huge geek; far moreso than me. The kind of geek that reads Star Wars Extended Universe novels and worships on the altar of Bruce Campbell. The kind of friend with whom you have long arguments about whether Harry Osbourne became the Green Goblin II or the Hobgoblin (he won that one) and if J. Jonah Jameson’s son became the Spider-Man villain ‘Man-Wolf’ (it turns out I was right, and he did).

The last time I stayed at Jon’s house we rented (or maybe someone bought?) a copy of X-Men Legends II and me, Stephen and Jon played through a campaign. I played Iceman, while Jon and Stephen were Wolverine and Colossus (of course). I managed to deck out my character early on and make him an unstoppable fighting force, leading to arguments about how, canonically, Iceman cannot be stronger than Wolverine and Colossus; it just doesn’t make sense given their depictions in the comics. It was, perhaps, the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever been drawn into.

*****

We spent most of the stay watching movies and TV; everything from Clone High to the absolutely wretched “Alien VS Predator” movie. After one late night of media, Jon and I began a long discussion of the Justice League. I made the point that really, the only superheroes you need to solve any problem are Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash.

“Okay,” says Jon, “prove it.” And so I do, launching into a detailed explanation of how, working together, the three heroes could defeat God himself. Jon looked at me with a mixture of shock and respect.

“You’ve thought this through, haven’t you?” I had. “I need you to write this down for me.”

I can only hope that, all this time later, Jon still has that piece of paper describing Batman’s valiant assault on God.

*****

The visit ended awkwardly, sitting in a airport lobby waiting for my flight to board. The silence cut through my head like an axe, exposing thoughts and worries I had been suppressing the entire trip. This was the last time I’d be seeing Jon in a long time. Maybe for years. Maybe forever. I needed to come up with something, anything to say that would convey how much I valued his friendship, how fantastic it was knowing someone like him, how much it had all meant to me.

Instead, I said this: “You know, Bullseye was the best part of the Daredevil movie.”

Beside me, Jon nodded slowly. “Yeah, he was.” I can only hope he understands.

*****

Not long after that I boarded my flight and went home to Winnipeg. That was all there was to it, I guess. I was right to worry in the airport; I haven’t been back to Amherst since that trip. I haven’t seen Jon in over two years, and though we remain friends the chances I have to actually talk to him are rare.

So far as I know, his life is going well. He still has the same job as when I left (in fact, the same job as he’s had for the entire time I’ve known him), but he’s going to school and working to something better. He remains one of the geekiest people I know. If I’m lucky, he’ll send long e-mails about movie ideas him and Stephen have cooked up that we can all do together one day when I finally come home.

Home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Longer still since I lived there. Increasingly, I find myself not referring to it as home at all. But I still hope to go back one day. To see old friends and have new adventures. To see what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same. Maybe I’ll be able to go next year. Maybe this time I’ll be able to say what matters. Maybe this time I won’t have to rely on comics.

Maybe.

July 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm 1 comment

New and Exciting Holidays

As an atheist, one of the more unusual problems I have is in celebrating holidays. Everyone enjoys time off, being with friends and family, and general merriment, but there is a certain level of hypocrisy in celebrating a holiday the religious basis of which you do not recognize. For example, though Christmas has been largely secularized over the years it retains a strong religious background (see the “War on Christmas”), and it can make things a bit awkward for me as a result.

Given this, I’ve decided to experiment with making my own list of holidays to celebrate; ones which would be completely non-secular yet still involve togetherness and time with loved ones. My two options here are to adopt a mishmash of holidays from around the world or simply make my own, and at the moment I’m leading towards the former.

Here’s a list of holidays I’m considering recognizing in the future; it’s very tentative at the moment, and I’d welcome input and suggestions. Please note that this list does not take into account government holidays (like Canada Day) or minor holiday’s (like St. Patrick’s Day):

Burns Night
When: January 25
About: Burns Night is a celebration of the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns. They generally include readings of his work and more general examples of Scottish culture, as well as tradition Scottish foods.
Pros: I find the idea of a holiday dedicated to an artist incredibly appealing. Ideally this world involve a bunch of friends sitting around, reading poetry, listening to Scottish music, drinking Scotch and generally being incredibly classy gentlemen. It’s something I can really get behind.
Cons: It’s very difficult to find haggis in North America, and without it Burns Night would just be missing something.

Bonfire Night
When: November 5
About: On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the English Parliament. Over 400 years later, they’re still burning him in effigy. Nowadays it mostly involves bonfires and fireworks, which is something I’m all for. My friends and I actually tried to celebrate Bonfire Night this year, but couldn’t find anywhere willing to let us light a large fire.
Pros: Bonfires are fun, and everyone loves running around with sparklers. It’s a nice chance to be outside with friends.
Cons: Can be ruined by weather. Also, burning someone in effigy is really creepy.

Thanksgiving
When: Second Monday of October
About: Get the family and/or friends together, hang out all day, eat turkey and lot’s of other food, and (if there’s time) reflect on what you’re thankful for in your life. It’s pretty well known.
Pros: Since it’s a well-established holiday, there’s no problems getting other people to celebrate it with me. It’s also one of the few major holidays to have no religious grounding.
Cons: None, really.

Halloween
When: October 31
About: Halloween is about the dark things at the edge of your imagination. All the anxieties, unstated fears and worries of the world burst out in an explosion of candy and costumes.
Pros: I am a huge fan of Halloween; since childhood, it’s always been my favourite holiday.
Cons: This slightly bends my ‘non-secular’ rule, given Halloween’s pagan roots. However, I consider this minor enough not to matter.

Some other options:

Day of the Dead, which is interesting yet runs prohibitively close to Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Yule; I like the idea of celebrating an astronomical event (in this case, the Winter Solstice), and it makes a decent replacement for the Christmas holiday, but it does seriously stretch my ‘non-secular’ rule. Also, I’d probably start recognizing Litha, the Summer Solstice, if I did decide to go with this.

Pi Day; the only ‘Geek Holiday’ on the list. Every March 14 (3/14) you celebrate the number Pi by eating pie. It’s something to consider.

Bloomsday, another holiday celebrating an artist (this time Irish author James Joyce), particularly his work Ulysses. Accord to Wikipedia “the day involves a range of cultural activities including Ulysses readings and dramatizations, pub crawls and general merriment”. Traditional Irish food and drink is served. Also, because it takes place on June 16th, it helps fills in the holiday-lean summer months. The only major issue is that I have not actually read Ulysses, so I’d probably have to do that beforehand.

So those are the holidays I’m currently considering. However, the list seems very lacking at the moment, and some of the suggestions probably won’t make the final cut. If anyone would like to suggest awesome holidays for me to celebrate, I welcome the help.

July 4, 2008 at 11:18 am Leave a comment


July 2008
M T W T F S S
« Jun   Aug »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031