Friday, February 20, 2009

Books and Movies

So, inspired by Laura's Post, I decided to organize, categorize and photograph my little collection of things, and as you can see a) I have a tiny shelf and it can't hold much (hence the dual layers of things), and b) I have way more movies than books.

I have nothing against books (in fact I love them the same as movies), I'm just very particular. And for the first many years of my life, the library was where I got most of my stuff, and it's only in recent years that I've been big on buying books. I'm also a big 'know what I like, like what I know' kind of guy, which is why I have so many King and Deaver books. It's far more likely that I'll buy their newest work, than try out someone new.

The photos of things on my bed are either books that are too big to fit anywhere on my shelf, are too new and therefore can't be placed since I'm out of room, or are movies that are too awkwardly sized, or don't fit in with my current setup (sorry music dvds and anime). In the near future, I'll be building a larger DVD shelf, and then there will be more room for books, and the movies you see sitting on my floor will finally have a proper home. (also Dexter Season 2 is on loan, as is my copy of Rules of Attraction by Brett Easton Ellis)

EDIT: Ian, if you're reading this, yes that is your copy of Birthday Girl, you may have it back when we get together.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunset Boulevard

So, I was originally going to make a usual sort of blog post. One where I bitch and complain, as I've got stuff to bitch and complain about, but maybe I'll do that later in the week. Instead I just wish to blab about one of my new favourite movies. It's not so much a review, but more the story of a journey.

Some time ago I was reading reviews, or articles about David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, another of my fave films (probably tied for first with Boogie Nights). In it they referred to a movie I had only heard about in passing, Sunset Boulevard (1950). They claimed MD made allusions to it, or they called MD 'Lynch's Sunset Boulevard'. Whatever the case, my interest was piqued as anything relating to, or having been the inspiration for, one of my favourite movies must be worth checking out.

I also had the distinct pleasure of going in to the film with zero knowledge about its story. I knew it was a classic, and I knew it would be offbeat, and that it was a 'scathing indictment of Hollywood', as I'd heard that somewhere. I immediately became obsessed with finding this movie. I went everywhere, here in Kanata that is, looking for copies and when I asked people to check if they had it, they more likely than not honestly responded with 'really'? Unfortunately no one had it in stock, but I remained steadfast in my desire to see it, without wanting to go too crazy and order in a copy, or something like that.

I think what attracted me to the film was that a) it was a film about films, and b) it promised to be self referential, or at least, it was based in the world we live in, and would poke fun at it. I have, for some reason, a real love for these two things. In fact, a lot of my favourite films/shows (or at least films/shows I enjoy), have to do with these things;
Boogie Nights
Mulholland Drive
Gremlins 2
Scream 3
A Mighty Wind
Arrested Development
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

So anyways, on about my life I went and one day while at CD Warehouse I decided to check out the used section (or rather thoroughly check the used section since I'm there pretty much every weekend...) and lo and behold they had the film for $8. Of course I had to buy it and was actually pretty excited. Coincidentally my tolerance for old films had grown significantly in the last year or two (which I'll contribute to my love for the original King Kong, another 'purchased on a whim film' that became a favourite). I still hate on some of the classics (Gone With the Wind par example, blech), but for the most part there's just something about them I find so intoxicating. Even if it's some random film I just come into halfway through on TCM.

But I digress. When I got home I put the DVD in my player with Chelsea and we watched the trailer. After it was over I was honestly kind of scared. For whatever reason the trailer didn't match my expectations for the film. It seemed, overly romantic, and kind of dopey. However, at some point after that I decided, why the hell not, might as well watch it.

I'm honestly glad I did because it completely blew me away. Nothing about the film was hokey, and while it certainly had plenty of tongue in cheek camp, the film was also greatly humanized by two leads, William Holden and Gloria Swanson.

Sadly the DVD I originally purchased was fairly light on the special features. After watching the film I was kind of reflective, but not really overly pumped about it, and there was nothing to pull me further into the world. I did minimal trivia reading, but wasn't overly jazzed about anything in particular. I carried on with my day to day stuff and only really started thinking about it again a week or so later when Chelsea asked if I had liked/enjoyed it. Of course, I blabbed endlessly for about 10 minutes about how great it was, and realized maybe I kinda liked this movie. It was around this time that I really started wanting to see the film again. While on another trip to CD Warehouse, I figured I'd just browse the new section briefly (I usually don't since why pay $20-30 for something new when you can get it for $5-10 used), and while just casually flipping through stuff I was honestly taken aback when I found a much fancier edition of Sunset Boulevard existed and was sitting on the shelf in front of me.

I barely contained the desire to eagerly snatch it up (as the cover is of a woman wearing a cascading and decadent white dress, descending a golden staircase), and when I saw the wealth of features included on this release I knew the $27 would be well spent. Suffice it to say, to this day it is the only DVD I have ever watched where I don't skip the features on the music, or the costume design. Not that I don't care about these things in other films, but for Sunset, I was honestly very intrigued about every little aspect.

I feel like I've spent the entire time getting to the point where I actually watched the film, and now you've probably gotten bored, or maybe not made it to this point, but I really can't say enough good things about the film. It's perfectly acted, cast, written and filmed. It's funny, scary, sad, and haunting. There's romance, suspense, a ton of amazingly dark comedy, some hammy performances and even a song or two. It's part film-noir, part comedy, and part drama. It's partly based in the real world (with many famous silent actors playing themselves in bit parts, as well as a meaty role for Cecil B. DeMille playing himself) and partly based in a heightened fantasy world.

I don't want to get too much into why I loved the movie, as it might spoil things, and I'm sure you can read reviews by more literate individuals if you want. I mostly just wanted to relate to you, or maybe to myself, my little journey with this once unknown (to me) film, and how it, for some reason, consumed my waking thoughts pre-purchase and then quietly became a favourite of mine.

Here's a trailer for you to enjoy if you're interested;

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rock Me Sexy Jesus

So my first official University midterm went well.

It was at 8:30am and it was my Intro to Psych one. By the way there is a particularly unnerving banging sound coming from outside my window...

Anyways, it went well, took me no time at all, in a good way since it was easy mind you, and my next/last one is on Thursday which is my politics class.

Also in politics class we watched the most awful documentary on Frantz Fanon. It was almost Bergmanesque and Lynchian in its approach. It started as a really cool documentary, but then quickly devolved in to an interview film/melodramatic retelling of Fanon's life and times. Often times, ones persons face would be in the foreground of the shot, taking up about half the screen in a side profile, and then the second character whom they were speaking to would be about 5-10 feet away from them on the other half the screen, and they would carry on conversations this way. Then at other times there would be random images flashing in black and white. The dialogue was often stilted and disjointed for apparently no reason at all. It was beyond bizarre. And not in a positive way like the artists I mentioned would do it, but in a painfully tragic way.

My next exam is a little more stressful leading up to it since it involves actual work and the writing of an essay and short answers. I'm going to go to the PASS group during the week, so hopefully that will make things a little easier (peer assisted study session is what it stands for).

Our yearly trip to Florida is also coming up and I'll probably be taking a pass. Mike has decided not to go, and so it would again just be me and the old folks in Florida, plus we'd be driving there. That wouldn't be so awful but Mike has decided to come back to Ottawa and stay here for the week, so I'll probably have more fun hanging out with him here.

Also just finished Hamlet 2 which was hilarious. Reminded me so much of my high school drama days, and mostly in a 'man were most of the kids in that class a joke' kind of way.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Movies and School

I think I'm going to try updating this thing more often. While large life changing things don't happen everyday, I'll try and find other things to share, especially in an attempt to brighten this place up.

So Chelsea and I went to see Underworld 3 the other night. We both knew it wasn't going to be great, given the other two weren't exactly masterpieces, but they were fun in their own right. But holy crap was this one awful. The dramatic scenes (while unnecessary since the story was already told in flashbacks in the other films) were well done, and it was fun to see Michael Sheen running around shirtless fighting monsters and chewing the scenery with an over the top dramatic intensity not seen since Christopher Lee took on the Sarumon role in LOTR, the fight scenes were some of the worst I've ever seen.

I'm going to go on record here and say that I'm one of the few who hates (ok maybe just 'kind of dislikes') the Bourne films for their awful approach to editing fight scenes. It wasn't so awful in the Bourne films because at least there was light, in in UW3 however, the fight scenes took place exclusively at night in dark interiors. You literally couldn't tell what was happening the entire time. There would be swishes of swords, some close ups of fake blood flying from peoples necks, and that was it. It was so brutal.

What ever happened to wide angles, and long, continuous shots?

Anyways, I've got a midterm of Wednesday I forgot about until last night, which isn't so bad, since it's only a pysch midterm and it's all multiple choice.

Also, I'm trying to think of ideas for my politics paper, which needs a rough outline by March 12. The ideas given were 'compare and contrast two different political thinkers' or 'are so-and-so's ideas (ie. Marx) still relevant in todays time, and how so, or why not'.

While that's all well and good, and I could do that for marks, I want to do something I'll really get jazzed about, so I'm thinking something along the lines of totalitarianism in films, and relating it to Orwell, Marx and some of the other thinkers we'll talk about in class.

Things that easily came to mind while I was in the shower yesterday were; Metropolis, V for Vendetta, Dark City (I think, it's been a while since I've seen it), Minority Report, Clockwork Orange (to a degree), Blade Runner, The Wall (mmm music too), Gattaca, The Island, Equilibrium, Brazil, Soylent Green.

Clearly some work better than others, but it's good to draw from a large pool, especially if I don't know if I'll be picking 1 film, or 5 films, or 12 films to discuss.

I might go back to original source material for some works, like V, MR and Do Androids Dream... if they're used, just to get the full picture.

So if anyone has any ideas on films with oppressive societies/governments, pass 'em along.