Category: movies


I don’t really like this song, but it works well as a title for this post.

Today I had an excellent conversation. It was me and John and Kathy and we were talking about things I love to talk about (the power of literature and an intelligent discussion of religion) in a really cool way. It was purely intellectual and that is something I don’t experience often. But this isn’t about that.

Ever since I have known John I knew he didn’t have the same interests as I did. Nothing is more different about us than what pop-art we appreciate most. He is a music man and I am at my best watching a great movie. I always got the impression that he didn’t take my interest in film as seriously as I took his appreciation for music. If we disagreed on who we though was a good band or what kind of music we listened to, I always felt like I deferred to him because it was his thing. I didn’t feel the reciprocation, though, and that kinda sucked. Whenever I would try to talk about movies he would groan and roll his eyes. Tonight I confronted him about it and he said that he would groan because I said he should see Tropic Thunder and other such films and then he did and he hated them. After I explained how instead of saying he should see these films I was only trying to convey how I felt watching them (AKA I laughed a lot), he began to see that I wasn’t quite getting the respect for my chosen art that I felt I deserved. He vowed to try to understand that I was coming from the same place he was coming from but in a different mode of transportation. Then we both cut our thumbs and we signed our names in our own blood. It was great.

So, in conclusion, Tropic Thunder is a movie that everybody will love and enjoy 100%.

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As many of you know, I am an amateur photographer. I have another blog where I post one picture every day and these next ten shots are my favorites from this year. I’ll go into a little more depth than normal on these because I like them so much.

10.

This is a sculpture that my mom got for some holiday (I think). It was taken towards the beginning of the year. I really like what goes on with the shadow and the character looking out of the frame. I think the grayscale works, too.

9.

Taken at the Hartford Auto show a month or two ago, this color was great. The black stripes just add to the awesome, I think.  I’m really happy with the focus that I got on this one.

8.

This is from Horsebarn Hill at the very highest open point on the UConn campus. It was a kind of crappy rainy day earlier and I thought I would take the chance to go up to the hill and see if I could get some wide shots of the campus. As the light was fading I saw this line of clouds move in and then I realized that the sun would be setting right as they were passing over me. I only touched this up to recreate the colors that I saw that afternoon.

7.

I love the depth of focus on this one. It really captures the crunchiness of the leaves. Also, it looks cool. This was taken on one of my many photowalks around campus.

6.

From this Sunday, this is the only picture on the list that was taken with my new Canon XSi. It is also my new desktop background. I love it so much.

5.

From the same day as the cloud picture above. I had recently watched The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and I wanted to see if I could recreate the look of that film. I think I got pretty close. I also love the focus on this one.

4.

I think this one was taken towards the end of fall, even though it looks a lot like a spring picture. This is perhaps the best color I have gotten in a picture. I think it is beautiful.

3.

This isn’t the technically best shot but I think the beauty of it balances the so-so technical work. It was raining one afternoon after work at my summer job. We had just pulled into the driveway and I saw the sun shining while the rain was still falling. I crouched pretty low to the ground (I didn’t want to lay down for obvious reasons) to get as much sky as I could. I wish the background trees and house weren’t there, but I think the reflection works just as well even though the top half could have been better.

2.

Two days before my birthday I captured this on my way back from one of my classes. I enjoy shadows and how they are a version but not exactly the same as the real thing. I thought getting the very bottom of the actual tree and having the rest be in shadows was pretty great. I think I did it by accident, though. Which is lucky for me.

1.

As you can see, I like pictures of trees and nature and stuff. This is about two weeks after the previous shot and I think it is kind of amazing. I feel weird talking about my pictures like this, but there it is. Fromt this picture you would never be able to tell that the lake was actually a gross, duck crap filled pond. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, I think. All of these pictures are even better in a bigger size which you can see if you click on the pictures.

So that’s it. See you later for other Top Ten lists!

Your TV at home is not as good as a cinema screen. It isn’t. No matter how big it is it isn’t a multi-story screen. And no matter how good your sound system is it isn’t as good as the sound systems in the theater. Yes, it may be more convenient and pleasant sometimes to watch a movie in your house rather than go to a theater but you have to admit that it is no comparison. A filmmaker intends for his or her movies to be seen in a certain way and, like it or not, they usually know best. You can’t say you saw a picture of the Mona Lisa or Saturn Devouring His Son on the internet and say you saw what the artist intended. You can get a feeling, an impression, but nothing compares to the real deal. Yes, movies are for entertainment but they are also an art form and it is important to recognize this. So, when you feel like boasting about your great home setup, just stop and remember that you are an idiot and go out to your local cinema to support the arts.

I haven’t been with you for a week. I should be posting more because I have no school work to do. Anyways, here are some things I have been thinking about, if it interests you.

There seems to be a general feeling on the internet that advertising in any way is bad. And, while I agree that if we could just get a stat sheet or something for every competing product and chose what we want to buy from the information on the sheet it would make for an easier and less stressful time for everybody, I don’t think the advertising business is going anywhere. I do not believe that all advertisments are evil or the cause of the fall of man or a sign of the apocalypse or a mark of the general stupidity of human beings because I don’t think that human beings are stupid. I seem to be the only person on the internet with an optimistic outlook on life and humanity. The fact that we fall for a viral ad or that the Twilight movie was number 1 at the box office doesn’t mean the whole race of human beings is condemnable. It just means that some of us are stupider than others and we will have to deal with this. There have always been stupid people and there always will be stupid people. And I don’t necessarily think that people who laugh at ads are stupid because I am one of them. I will applaud a great ad instead of jumping straight to a “what does this mean about humanity as a whole” angle. Who gives a crap? It’s 30 seconds of fun or cornyness featuring a certain product.

That went on for too long. Sorry. I don’t blame you if you didn’t read it all.

In the immortal words of that one song, “Christmas time is here.” This, of course, means lots of Christmas music and merriness. If you would like a definitive list of all that is good and Christmasy, here you go:

  • Movies:

A Muppet Christmas Carol

Brazil

Die Hard (NSFW video)

  • Music:

Get Behind Me, Santa! – Sufjan Stevens

Christmas in Hollis – Run D.M.C.

Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie and Bing Crosby

Ok, that’s enough.

Oh, one more thing! The new camera is pretty darn awesome. Check out my other website for awesome pictures!

This is my final paper for my Modern English Literature class. I got an A- on the paper. I hope you enjoy it.

Opening lines are important. They can be exciting (“It was a pleasure to burn.”) or boring (“Opening lines are important.”) Sometimes the author just wants to set up where the rest of the book will take place and sometimes the author uses the opening line to set up the tone and actions of the rest of the book (“All this happened, more or less.”) A. S. Byatt’s opening line to “The Thing in the Forrest” goes like this: “There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest.” From this we get our two main characters (the girls) and what happens to them (they see a thing in the forest) but we get the most important piece of information from what is set off in commas: “or believed they saw”. Byatt never clarifies if they actually saw the thing in the forest or if they imagined it or if it was something in between but she does imply that it doesn’t matter if they saw it or not. They believed they saw it and that is all that matters. There is a line from the 1994 classic film The Santa Clause which says, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing,” I think that this sentiment is what Byatt is trying to convey, and I agree with her.

There is nothing in any book that matters that says there is a difference between perception and reality. The reality of reality is that reality is relative. We see what we want to see and discard everything else. The NBA might as well not exist since I never watch it. For all I know Alice really traveled down the rabbit hole and Jonas could really receive all of the memories of the past and hold on to them for everybody else. All it takes for one thing to be real is to believe it is so and it only takes a closed mind to deny all of the different realities provide by literature and our imaginations. The thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom isn’t language or prehensile thumbs; it’s the ability to think of things that can never exist. As long as we continue to dream of and write new worlds and scenarios and most importantly believe in these scenarios we will be a prosperous species.

When I was an engineering student I would get dirty looks for reading a work of fiction instead of an instruction manual or blueprint because the fiction didn’t really exist and instruction manuals are useful and real. My fellow students were going to make the world a better place through sheer force. They would perfect everything and make everything easier, faster, stronger, better. They knew they could build the best mousetrap ever because they understand the world and how it works. There would be no need for fiction or stories of the future and the past and the never-going-to-happen because reality would be perfect. I yelled at them about their shortsightedness and arrogance in my head. They were being taught that only what was real mattered to their studies and I became afraid of our future. I overheard and took part in many discussions about how stupid and boring the Freshman English classes were because the world of fiction had no bearing on what was actually happening and that they were wasting precious time they could be spending learning about stress tests and load bearing beams reading stupid stories about things that couldn’t even happen! These are the kids that would get a LEGO set and build a giant box instead of an arctic base or a moon rover. A lack of imagination as a child led to the future of our society being doomed. Luckily I got out of there as fast as possible and retreaded to the happier reality of fiction.

When a good reader reads they learn as much about how the world works as an engineering student learns from a lecture. They learn about how people interact with people and how they deal with situations and how to be a good human being, even though all of the events and people and reactions are made up by the author. They can take the make-believe and believe it can be made. The unwavering belief that anything is possible as long as the believer keeps on believing is the most important aspect of life. If we can perceive anything as reality we can change reality to whatever we want. If we apply this concept to everybody on the planet and everybody that will ever be on the planet we can truly perfect the human race. We can create the best of all possible worlds through imagination and belief. We can use fiction to change reality for the better and we can use reality to create even more fantastical fiction. We can spread all ideas everywhere and give everybody the option to think about how they think things should be and we can change things.

Alright, enough of this changing the world business. That can’t really happen anyways. It’s just a pie-in-the-sky idea, taken from an idealist’s brain and translated into lofty ideas about reality and fiction. Everybody knows that only the real things matter. How much money do I really have in the bank, how much does an education really mean, how much does this essay really matter. None of it is going to change much of anything. We shouldn’t get our hopes up for a better future. In all likelihood the world will be just about the same when I die as it was when I was born. Sure, the technologies will change and there’ll be more people in the world but none of it will make much of a difference. I certainly can’t change much for myself, much less anybody else. I might as well go read an instruction book and learn how to make things work better than they do now. It’s not like a believing something can be better will actually make the thing better. Unless. Unless everybody believes in the power of belief. If everybody fully understood the power of belief and the effect it has on reality they would truly become wholly realized as human beings. We would appreciate every possible reality presented in fiction and non-fiction as being possible and we would be better for it. Even our engineers, misguided though they may be right now, could become better at what they do if they dared to dream about things that nobody dreamt of before. If they just got past the idea of “impossible” they would realize that impossible doesn’t exist. They would recognize that the only the impossible is impossible, everything else will work if you believe you can find a way to make it so.

The Movies of 2008 (so far)

So, this is a weird time to write this (the winter season is usually the best for movies), but I made a list of what I’ve seen so far and I’m gonna use it. I’ll give you the name of the movie, a one sentence review and a letter grade. Here we go (in order of release)…

  • Cloverfield. Scary as hell, espeically in the theater. A-.
  • Rambo. Rambo is old and shoots things, good times. C+.
  • In Bruges. Better than it should have been. A-.
  • Jumper. Not so hot, but it has Sam Jackson. D.
  • Diary of the Dead. Just stop with the social messages, George. D.
  • Be Kind, Rewind. I seem to be the only person who really liked this one. B+.
  • Charlie Bartlett. Better than Rushmore. B.
  • 10,000 B.C. Just bad, except the mammoths. D.
  • The Bank Job. Jason Statham needs to do more serious stuff. B-.
  • Doomsday. Only the end was any good. C.
  • Funny Games. Anything but, yet well made and effective. B.
  • 21. Really formulaic. C.
  • Run Fatboy Run. A waste of talent. C.
  • The Ruins. The German guy was awesome, everything else ok. C+.
  • Young@Heart. Moving and funny doc about singing old people. A-.
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Better than Knocked Up and Superbad. B.
  • Iron Man. A whole lotta fun. A.
  • Son of Rambow. Cute and inventive. A-.
  • The Fall. Beautiful and touching. A+.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) is the best part. C+.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Not the best but not bad at all. B.
  • The Strangers. Straightforward scares. B.
  • Kung Fu Panda. Pretty great, the prison scene is amazing. B+.
  • The Happening. Hilarious in all the worst ways. D+.
  • The Incredible Hulk. I hate Ed Norton, but this was ok. C+.
  • Get Smart. Fun but formulaic. C+.
  • Wall-E. Every superlative I could throw at this wouldn’t be enough. A+.
  • Wanted. Like The Happening, hilarious in all the worst ways (the ending was pretty great, though). C.
  • Hancock. Could have been great, but is just good as is. B.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors and this is as good as anything else he has done. A+.
  • The Dark Knight. A great movie. A+.
  • Step Brothers. The two leads have great chemistry that carries the movie through the slow parts. B-.
  • Pineapple Express. My favorite Seth Rogen movie (mostly because of James Franco). B.
  • Tropic Thunder. RDJ is great again. B+.
  • Burn After Reading. Hilarious and dark. B+.
  • How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. Simon Pegg gets a role that is worthy of his greatness. B.
  • Changeling. I cried once or twice (mostly because of Jolie’s great acting). B+.
  • Synecdoche, New York. Confusing but great. B+/A-.

So that’s it so far. Upcoming movies that look great:

  • Milk
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Wrestler
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Doubt
  • The Brothers Bloom
  • Waltz With Bashir

Alright, it’s that time again. I choose to make up a new rating device for my (Thursday)Friday writing. Here it is:

I’d like to talk with you today about something that is very dear to my heart. Ever since I saw Aladdin in the rinky-dink old theater near my house when I was four, I have been fascinated by the art of movies. The gen-pop thinks of movies only as entertainment and the people who are way into film think of them as art. I know both of these factions are wrong. Obviously, film is both art and entertainment. Every movie lies somewhere on the spectrum between the Mona Lisa and Dogs Playing Poker. No, that’s not right either. Let’s use the “horizontal” and “vertical” ideas from class to classify movies better. If entertainment value can be seen as a horizontal scale and the artistic nature as the vertical scale, every movie has a distinct x and y value (this is what happens when you take a former engineering major and turn him into an English major). If the x value is negative, the movie is no fun to watch, but if it’s positive you are gonna get some kind of pleasure out of it. If the y value is negative there is no art to be found, but if it’s positive you’ll see something original or perfectly executed. Allow me to give you some examples.

Recently, there has been a stint of what some people call “comedies” but I like to call “crap”. These are the Date Movie, Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie endless stream of ______ Movie “spoofs”. If I were to assign these films a coordinate on our art/film graph, they would have something like a (-100, -10000). Please take my word for it. I have seen them so you don’t have to.

Let’s now examine a good movie. Last year a French(ish) film called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was released. It’s the story of the then editor-in-chief of Elle magazine who becomes paralyzed and can only move one of his eyeballs. The first fifteen or so minutes are shot from the point of view of that eye and it is breathtaking. There is a scene where his other eye must be stitched up and we see that from the POV of that eye and it is nerve-wracking. This movie is the perfect example of art and entertainment because not only is it technically marvelous, it is also a touching, funny story. There is a flashback to the main character shaving his father’s beard that made me cry. I would give The Diving Bell and The Butterfly a (80, 99) coordinate on my newly created scale.

Of course, there are films that are extremely well made but horrible to watch. The recently remade Funny Games is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It’s a story about a family on vacation who are basically kidnapped and tortured in their own house by two seemingly nice young men. This isn’t torture-porn of the Saw or Hostel variety, though. None of the violence is onscreen and the movie breaks the fourth wall several times. It is incredibly well made, but made to make you feel bad about wanting to watch movies that are entertaining because of their violence. There is no joy from watching the perfectly executed treatise on violence in movies, but you cannot deny that it is precisely planned to be that way. It would get about a (-50, 80) on the scale ‘o’ artertainment (I made that word up. I’m a regular Dr. Seuss).
I hope you have enjoyed your education. Now you know how to properly view films, or at least how to properly think about a film afterward.


We’re 1/4th of the way there!

Blade Runner

I’m going to confess something that may shame me for forever and a day. I only saw Blade Runner this year. I know, I’m a 20 year old movie nerd who enjoys sci-fi and I haven’t seen what is considered to be one of the best of the genre until I was 20. But I got the four disc DVD at Christmas and it is amazing.

Blade Runner is a noir-ish detective story focusing on a Blade Runner (the ever-awesome Harrison-get off my plane-Ford) who hunts down robots that look and act like humans. It’s an age old story. Director Ridley Scott has made a sci-fi movie that still looks good today, a feat not so easy to accomplish. So watch it.

Here is the trailer for those who have not seen it:

and one of the best monologues of all time for those who have (SPOILER)

First of three films from this director to make my list, it’s

Punch-Drunk Love

I watched Boogie Nights first, then Magnolia, then this, all in anticipation of There Will Be Blood in the second half of last year. Needless to say, Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA from now on) rocketed into my must-follow list. He is the best director working today.

This movie is like an Adam Sandler film brought down to earth, then spun around a bit and painted by a three year old. It’s amazing. Take your typical Sandler character and make him a real person. He is child-like but not immature, at least not in the fart joke way. There is a girl and a harpsichord-thingie and a Phillip Seymour Hoffman. What more could you need. And it’s beautiful.

Watch these two if you haven’t seen it:

And this one if you have seen it to remember how amazing it is:

Go See It