My friends and I went through a phase a month back where had run out of DvD’s we owned that one or two of us had yet to see. In response to this terrifying lack of entertainment, we decided to watch some television. Sean, fellow host of the “Film Feed” suggested we watch Firefly as it was only on the air for a single season. And what a glorious season that was.
The show chronicles the crew of a space freighter, which is subtley named ‘Serenity’. The crew is comprised of a complexly caring and ruthless captain, a badass chick who acts as his first mate, a total babe of a mechanic, two fugitives, a priest, the comic relief in the form of a pilot, a prostitute (a glamorous proffesion in this universe) and two fugitives. Of course, with this motley bunch, hilarity and calamity ensue.
Stylistically, the show acts as a Western set in space. The dialouge is quick and witty while being smart and poignant simultaneously. Each character is a unique individual that you feel very attached to. The show’s quirky nature and odd style meant it only lasted for a mere 14 episodes on Fox. However, fans hadn’t had enough. They begged the studio for a film that would cap off the major unresolved plot lines. This film, which I just finished watching, is Serenity.
Serenity picks up 6 months after Firefly ends, with some notable changes. Shepard Booke is no longer on board and neither is Inaara, the classy whore. However, little has changed save for these departures as the film jumps right into the action. Little time is spared for exposition, as the filmmakers expect the viewers to be caught up on the story so far.
On its own, it’s a superb Sci-Fi film with excellent special effects and doesn’t stray from the original premise of the series. The characters have changed little, if at all which is a great thing in my book. Cinematically, it is also brilliant as it toys with light in ways I’ve yet to see in a science fiction film. There are times when we see a side to Mal (the pilot) that we’ve never seen before and his rapid change in personality is complimented by a beautiful change in lighting. The plot evolves in such a way that any fan of the series will be more than satisfied, as it resolves River’s (one of the fugitives) story quite well while utilizing something I deemed as a mere plot device from the series as a key element in the film’s story.
All in all, Serenity was a fantastic film though I would never recommend it to anyone who has yet to watch the series. If you haven’t seen the series, I’d get a jump on it now so you can see Serenity in all it’s wonderous glory.
I’m not really sure. The team leading this year’s Academy Awards have promised a spectacle grander than anything else before it, with a new style, no monologue, and Hugh Jackman. However, I feel that this year’s Oscars may be another record low for the Academy Awards telecast. Average movie goers are rather miffed as to the nominations, with Milk, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon being some of the lowest grossing “Best Picture” nominees in recent history. The lack of viewership of these films can only help to dissuade viewers from this year’s Oscars, which are in desperate need for a revitalization.
However, I intend to tune in. One such reason is the short film created by Judd Apatow, the mind behind comedies such as Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/cxvbge). That reason alone should encourage some naysayers to at least watch a portion of the telecast. Acording to /Film, “Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann has also created a production number featuring Oscar host Hugh Jackman, and Capote director Bennett Miller will also be contributing a short film sequence. There is even a hint that other big filmmakers will also be participating in the show, although the producers refuse to divulge any further details.”
One thing missing is the suspense for the Best Picture winner. Slumdog Millionaire is a near shoo-in for the award, as it’s won nearly every Best Picture award at nearly every Award Show. The tightest races are both Best Actor and Supporting Actor in my opinion, as either Rourke or Penn could win the Actor award and the race between Hoffman/Ledger/Shannon is a near dead heat.
We’ll just have to wait and see for the awards it seems. Will you be watchin’?
Well, I just got home from the International Film Series’ screening of a film that debuted back in 2008. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona stars the lovely Rebecca Hall and Scarlet Johansson as two American tourists who decide to spend the summer in the beautiful Spanish town of Barcelona. While visiting, the two run into a charming local whose suave manner and dashing good looks charmed even myself. The man, portrayed by Javier Bardem whose face you may recognize as the stone faced killer from No Country for Old Men, invites them to a small town for a weekend of sights, romance, and love.
Vicky, Rebecca Hall, and Christina, Scarlett Johansson, could not be more opposite from each other. Vicky is the cool, collected, and down to earth girl who is in Barcelona to study for her Masters degree. She’s e
nganged to be married and isn’t looking for love, though that’s exactly what she finds. Christina is flighty and passionate, who isn’t quite sure why she’s in Barcelona.
Now that the beauracracy of syopsis is behind us, I’d like to talk of the film’s glaring flaws. Above all else, narration shold be avoided in films. Of all the things than can drive avid movie lovers wild, narration is one that is sure to inspire rage and pure hatred of the film. It tends to insult the viewer’s intelligence, as though they can’t figure out each character’s personality from just watching or keep up with the plot on their own. Granted, the narration is only apparent for a few scenes it’s far to much uneeded synopsis. Utilizing narration for stylistic purposes is sometimes possible, though it’s not exactly simple to pull off. I feel that Woody Allen was attempting for this sort of feel, but his narration falls into the brand of mere synopsis that the viewer can pick up from just watching the film.
The best parts of this film are some that are most important to film in general. The characters are very well portrayed, as the acting is some of the best work of 2008. Penelope Cruz really shines in her role as Juan Antonio’s (The aforementioned seductive dream machine) ex wife. She pulls off her role as a deranged and jealous woman, as her instability really adds to the plot in a few key scenes. Bardem’s role as Juan Antonio was essential to his Hollywood career, as this helps to keep the typecasting as a mass murdering psychopath to a minimum. Instead, Bardem comes off as a charming Spanish version of Gerard Butler. Both Johansson and Hall do well in their roles, and benefit from being well cast. The plot is very well paced, something that’s difficult for most films to achieve. The story, while slightly predictable, does it’s job and leaves the viewer with uncertain feelings about love and happiness.
On the whole, I’d say that this film isn’t your typical romance movie, nor is it a run of the mill drama. Woody Allen maintains his status as an A-list director, though this isn’t his best work. If you’re lookin’ to catch up on relatively decent films from ‘08, I’d recommend picking this one up only if you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Milk and the other big ones. Otherwise, try to catch those few while they’re still in theaters and add this one to a rent list or Netflix Queue.
Kagemusha, considered one of Kurosawa’s most notable epics, is best described as a samurai film that chronicles the conflicts, rises, demises, and resolutions between several clans in medieval Japan. Watching this film is a dauting task in its duration alone, as it spans 3 hours.
The plot is centered around the Takeda clan and it’s vie for dominance over the rest of Japan. However, the conflict arises from the other two clans who are also in the heated contest for domination over Kyoto. The film’s central plot revolves around Shingen, the leader of the Takeda clan who is mortally injured in battle. In order to maintain the safety and power of his clan, Shingen concocts a plan to keep his death a secret by enlisting a double who would play his part for three years after his death. That double just happens to be Kagemusha, a common theif who was listed to be crucified.
The opening scene is a stunning 7 minutes long, comprised of a single shot. The length of the scene is the primary method of conveying the tension in the room, if it wasn’t apparent enough through the dialogue. Because Kagemusha is a foreign film, it can be difficult to seperate the cultural differences from what I just couldn’t understand. The film really expects the viewer to be well versed in Japanese culture and history, as it can be difficult to differentiate between the different locations, characters, and plot lines. However, I expect that this gap was due to my own disconnect with Japanese culture and my unfamiliararity with foreign films in general.
The acting is superb, especially on the part of Tatsuya Nakadai who plays both Shingen and his double. The transformation that Kagemusha undergoes as he takes the place as leader of the Takeda clan is absolutely beautiful. In public he takes on the role of the noble leader, while he is a friendly grandfather to the late leader’s grandson. However, we are constantly reminded that he is not in fact the stoic leader they are accoustomed to specifically in battle and in regards to the lord’s mistresses. Yet these transitions between common theif and emporer are seamless and beautiful.
Seamless and beautiful are the two words I can think of spontaneously that describe Kagemusha. Kurosawa pulls together the beautiful elements of color, scope, and character development into a great film that I’d definitely recommend it to nearly any film lover.
A Discourse on the Perversion of Argument, Draft 1.
Immanuel Kant, a child of the enlightenment, notably stated- “Sapere Aude”. This latin phrase has origins tracing back to Horace who used it to describe the pursuit of knowledge in “Epistularum liber primus” which was published in 20BC. However, Kant took the phrase and transformed it into the motto of the enlightenment. In Kant’s piece titled “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment”, he used the term in order to describe the Enlightenment as a period of transition, a radical change in course for the human race. However, Kant described the Enlightenment as I would describe our post-modern society; “An age of enlightenment rather than an enlightened age.” However, enlightenment is not an impossible phenomenon of reality as Kant thought. Instead, it is the achieveable end result of humanity which is driven by the simple phrase- “Sapere Aude”, or “Dare to Know”.
Therefore, in order to acheive complete enlightenment we must first answer the question, “What constitutes Enlightenment?” Englightenment is a free man becoming self actualized through the complete and total development of his faculties. As Madison put forth in “Federalist 10”, all people are born with unique faculties. Each person is born with an individual set of prospective abilities, or a tendency for success in a given field. Some individuals imply aptitude for labour while others display skill in intellectual ability. Instead of attempting to mask these differences, society must encourage them and allow each citizen to achieve to their fullest potential. An enlightened nation-state allows its citizens to fully develop their abilities and to utilize them in the progression towards the pinnacle of human capabilities. However, a nation’s state is only fractionally responsible for the advancement of humanity. The bulk of that duty lies upon the body of society, specifically among individuals.
Citizens of their nation state bear the burden of responsibility for progress. Humanity is not moved by societies or individuals alone. Rather, it is both classes of humanity assisted or hampered by great and notable individuals that influence the course of history instead of exclusively one or the other. How then, does enlightenment spring up amoung individuals as if it were a sprout from a seed? Enlightenment springs from the development of faculties, specifically in one’s knowledge and the fostering of said knowledge. By cultivating one’s self through the pursuit of knowledge, that individual travels along the near asymtotic curve toward enlightenment and self actualization. The critical component of the expansion of knowledge is through that of argument. Informed and intelligent debate among men is neccessary to the development of society, as it generates additional perspectives upon an issue as well as reaffirming and reassuring the viewpoint of the defendant. Therefore, argument is the imiptus of all progress for humanity.
Regardless of how vital intelligent discussion is to a society, the current perception of debate has largely become negative. Dinner tables are void of all talk regarding politics or religion, which are two of the most available topics for argument. Public debate is seen as illmannered or rude, as it embarrases or places bystanders at ease. Private debate between two individuals is avoided just as confrontation is avoided, simply because many fear losing the bond they’ve developed with that other individual similar to the Freudian fear of group dissolution. Emotional ties to specific issues cause heated arguments to become a personal vendetta rather than an exchange of intellectual ideals and the cultivation of one’s knowledge. This personal attachment to opinions and feelings are a direct result of decreasing civic participation and a dilution of negative attitudes toward individuals. With regard to the latter, public schooling has devolved from institutions of personal growth and acheivement to a babysitting service akin to weak parents pampering a child. Students aren’t made aware of their failures, aren’t exposed to violence, and aren’t shown reality. When the youth are exposed to the modern environment in which our society exists, they are suddenly exposed to their shortcomings sans relief. Such a citizen will be exponentially less likely to participate in civic life, which leads to the endless perpetuation societal perversion of argument.
What, then, are the effects of the dissolution of this perversion? Above all else, the progress toward complete and total enlightenment for humanity. By encouraging, rather than preventing, public debate we are therefore encouraging progress and enlightenment of the human race.
Today, while purusing some of my favorite blogs, I came across an article (http://twurl.nl/1movig). The article presents a judicial issue that I thought to be resolved more than a hundred years ago. Reynolds v. United States was a case brought against George Reynolds on charges of bigamy, or having more than one spouse simultaneously. Reynolds defended his case using religious grounds, stating that because he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints he was entitled to the right to commit bigamy.
However, the Supreme Court decided against the defendant stating that the law did not violate his First Amendment rights. This effectively stated that religious duty was irrelevent to a judicial defense. In other words, one could not commit larceny and use the defense, “My religion says I have to steal from others.” Therefore, wouldn’t this defense of 1st Amendment rights be near null and void as previously stated by the Supreme Court?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge supporter of civil rights. In fact, I rarely will side with the government when freedom of speech or religion comes into play. To get this out in the open, I’m a card carrying member of the ACLU (A full blog post on this later on). However, if we were to open up the First Amendment that far we would be inviting near anarchy into our justice system. Just thought I’d share the case with ya. Comments and emails are welcome as always.
Push: Based on the Novel by Saphire as well as Whatever Works were picked up by distribution companies Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Classic respectively. I’m still waiting on a few I’m excited for, most notably Worlds Greatest Dad, Adam, Humpday, and Paper Heart.
Well, it appears as though Twitter is down and has been for the whole day. I know it sounds odd that I’d be this dependent on a social networking tool, but I feel really outta the loop with it gone. I can’t how frantic I’d be if I lost Google Reader for a day…
You can always follow me on Twitter (when its back up of course) at twitter.com/willschiff
As an avid movie lover, I find myself at odds with how Hollywood releases great films in cycles. Of course, the biggest movies of the year tend to come out between May and July as the Summer season kicks off while the Oscar/Award Winners tend to release in November and December in order to be fresh in voter’s minds. Well, what’s left in between those gaps? January through April is rather bleak this year, with Watchmen as it’s only saving grace. Sure, you’ve got some potential blockbusters with comedies like Adventureland and I Love You, Man in the latter part of March with The Fast and the Furious in April, but we’re lookin’ at a good 4 months where 3-4 decent movies will release. Then, all of a sudden comes May where every weekend has a major blockbuster. Wolverine on the 1st, Star Trek the next weekend with Angels and Demons following that. To finish off May, the Terminator reboot as well as Pixar’s Up are released. That’s 5 films with great potential in the span of a single month!
I’m not one to complain, but it’s just unfortunate for movie lovers such as myself out there who are looking for a few great films to occupy themselves with until May. Looks like I’ll be goin’ through my Netflix queue at a faster rate than usual. Any suggestions for the queue?