Friday, May 31, 2013

Privilege to Drive

Today I started off the second truly summer-feeling morning with my drive to work. As life and dealing with humanity at large would have it, the optimism has been stolen from me and replaced with sorrow and disgust.

Never in my life have I struck a turtle with my vehicle. I have, however, witnessed people blatantly killing these defenseless animals with their trucks (always a truck, since people in Maine need to have them, even though they aren't ever using them for transporting anything; overcompensation runs rampant here). This morning was another one of those occasions.

I will paint a quick picture of the event for you so that you are aware that these things do happen, and people driving vehicles can be - and often are - cruel. I was at the head of a long line of vehicles, five or six, and saw the turtle up ahead, nearly to the other side of the road. I swerved to the breakdown lane to pull over and move it safely out of the way. The cars behind me all moved clear of the animal, and I went to get out of my car. It was then that the last truck in line, a large cream colored beast, decided that since I was getting out to help, it would clip the turtle and speed away, unaccountable.

By the time I made it to the animal, its head had been run over and it was dying, on its back, it had been thrown around so violently. Its blood stained the opening of its shell as well as the asphalt where it tried to travel to the other side, perhaps to start a family, or to make a new home in one of the many local ponds. Alas, its life was taken by a driver who did not deserve the privilege to operate a moving vehicle. All I could say as I laid the creature in the grass on the side was, "I'm so sorry."

If you see a turtle in the road, please don't hit it. These creatures are growing scarce, and they truly do not have the means to get out of the way. They deserve our respect. It is our duty to watch over these animals when technology unbeknownst to them is plowing through their habitats. In closing, if it was you who struck the turtle, I say shame on you. Was wherever you were going in such a hurry worth the life of this creature?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Catch Those Puppies!

You just can’t be mad at those puppies!

They just want to play, and so do you!  And yet, you wish you could make them understand English - that you could tell them simply that you must get to work on your book (if what you’re doing even ends up resembling a book at all!).  You don’t have time to play.

But then they look up at you with those big eyes, so filled with expression, that you can’t help but break down and humor them.

They jump around, trying frantically to lick your hand to death, even as you try to get away for fear that they will overcome you with their drive to play and leave scratch marks on your arms and maybe - if they enjoy jumping at that particular moment - your chest and shoulders.

They can’t help it. They’re just so excited to see you, to know that you’re home for the afternoon and just present!

That is the best kind of welcome, and something that our puppies seem to be the best at putting forward just when you need it the most.

They may not know how to read, but they’re positive that whatever you’re pounding into that keyboard, it’s definitely a masterpiece!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Epic (2013)

Epic surprised me immensely. I went in with low expectations and left uplifted and very entertained. Epic is the rare movie that is advertised for children, yet not insulting to the adults accompanying the kids. I went to see this movie with a group assembled of all ages, and everyone found something to love. Hopefully the beauty of this movie is a sign of things to come from Blue Sky Animation.

The film introduces us to two very different worlds which are both connected, and it is delightful to watch how the two become joined. Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) is an eccentric nature investigator, constantly checking his surveillance equipment for signs of miniature life in the forest surrounding his remote home. Thankfully he is not the main character of the film, because he is quite a bumbler, as his name suggests. It is his daughter, Mary Katherine, (or M.K. as she prefers to be called, voiced by Amanda Seyfried) a well-developed teenage heroine who arrives after the sudden death of her mother that will bring us through the worlds of the film. The painful subject of the loss of a parent is only hinted at and never referenced directly by any of the characters, and appropriately so. This movie is filled with wonder and action, and more than a dose of humor.

In the miniature world of the forest, the keepers of all that is thriving in nature, the Queen Tara (voiced by Beyonce Knowles) is preparing to pass the torch to a new little girl. Everyone has gathered for the pod ceremony during which Tara will send forth the power of growth to bloom during the full moon, yet, all is not as it should be. The nemesis of the film, a surprisingly dark king of decay, Mandrake, voiced by the phenomenal Christoph Waltz, sabotages the ceremony and Tara passes the power onto a very unlikely person - M.K.

From there the audience is whisked away ala Honey I Shrunk The Kids style shrinkage, and we follow M.K. as she meets her new companions for the journey of bringing the pod to bloom. It is now her responsibility to do so, though she doesn't know why she was chosen. Colin Farrell voices Ronin, the stern soldier who had a relationship with Tara and is now mourning her loss. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Nod, voiced brilliantly by Josh Hutcherson of The Hunger Games, who is a rebellious soldier in training, learning how to be responsible and valiant as he accompanies M.K. Also as the comic relief are the slug and the snail, Mub (Aziz Ansari) and Grub (Chris O’Dowd), who provide an abundance of laughs that never feel like they were thrown in just for the sake of a shallow gag.

The comedy is woven throughout the narrative, and when it takes you by surprise, it’s a breath of fresh air that counters the character’s inner wounds and family issues. One laugh in particular involved Mub and Grub at a party where they ask a fruit fly what it’s like to have such a short life span. The fly, starting as a child, ages within ten seconds, ending as an elderly fly and then falls over, succumbing to the circle of life. I grew up in the woods, and still live there because of its beauty - and I saw many naturally occurring events in Epic that morph into the unseen acts of the little people. It was fascinating, and a world I wanted to spend more time in. The film's creators even find a good usage for video-chatting by the end of the story that had me chuckling.

If you have children, or are a child at heart, Epic is the movie for you. It reminds us to appreciate the rejuvenating power of nature and that if we fight for it and team up together, no darkness can overtake the world’s natural beauty. We are responsible for protecting the natural world, even though sometimes we don't know why we were chosen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Arrested Development Season 4

Of course, right after I post a blog about not binging on media, what do I do?

The fourth season of Arrested Development premiered on Netflix on Sunday, May 26th, and I couldn't help but join in with my brothers and watch four episodes. True, they are only about 25mins each, but that was a lot of television for me in one sitting! Thankfully it was worth it, and the time spent revisiting the Bluths and Funkes was a welcome addition to my Memorial Day weekend. The jokes had us all laughing until we cried, especially for anything involving Portia de Rossi!

Is this the next step in new-media television? In the past five months alone we have seen canceled television shows given new hope in the form of wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns, (Veronica Mars), and also a constant debate about whether or not HBO should cut the cord and allow a subscription service for viewers who prefer what I call "tablet television" - streaming of content from the web on an iPad or Kindle Fire. I won't lie - I am one of the tablet television dreamers, grabbing bits of programming when I have a down moment, which is rarely in the living room. However, this new wave of original streaming content available for subscribers only makes me wonder what else we will see in the near future as far as television is concerned?

I've watched a few festival movies on demand via iTunes, most memorably Lars von Trier's Melancholia, which didn't have a wide release anywhere near my home. It was nice to be able to have access to festival films when the hype was at a high for them, since it gave me a chance to be part of the discussion surrounding them. Hopefully there will be more of this sort of  direct, non-hassle access to exclusive programming coming our way again soon.  I can get used to this!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Essential Quiet

These days it seems like we as people are being shoehorned more and more into being blatant consumers. I'm not even referring to just spending money on possessions and things we don't really need. I can stop buying vanity products with a little self control (or a lot - who am I kidding?) I'm mostly concerned about the type of consumerism being thrust upon us in the form of video images. It is not uncommon to be sucked into the great chain of turning to YouTube to watch a single video and end up viewing fifty. In my opinion, an hour in front of YouTube is a horrible waste, especially when things like reading for entertainment and the ability to write well are becoming so neglected by the younger generation.

If it's not YouTube, it's Netflix, where we are encouraged to "binge" on seasons of television programming in a single sitting. There was a time in my life when I could happily sit and watch two or three episodes of Smallville or Lost in one sitting, but after that I would definitely need a break to do something else. In my house, an entire season of a show can be watched in a few days. The concern for me personally is that the old way of having to wait a week to watch a new episode of something gave me a chance to digest the content and also gave me something to look forward to. Sadly, with television programming so readily available, I cannot commit to watching a show the way I used to. The magic is lost, and the quiet time of reflection on what I watched is being cut down until it threatens to be nonexistent. Add to that the constant fear of having all my time invested in a program spoiled by someone who has already raced ahead and simplified the journey into a few sentences and it shouldn't be hard to understand my problem with the entire framework of our media consumption.

The quiet time for reflection is essential to harnessing the deeper themes that much of our visual media is trying to leave us with. If the programming doesn't have a deeper theme, I may decide to avoid that program entirely. There isn't enough time to see and experience everything, so why should we succumb to the tragedy of willfully being constant consumers and miss the chance of telling our own stories, or miss out on the ones that could change our perspective of the way we are living our lives? The downtime gives us a chance to decide what we'll watch next, and that is a power that no video provider is going to take away from me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Gatsby has come under a lot of critical scrutiny, most of it unjustified. Directed by Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge fame, this film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as the legendary Jay Gatsby in his pursuit of rekindling a past romance with his old love, the gorgeous Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). Gatsby, a self-made man masquerading as a member of Manhattan’s wealthy elite, turns to his next-door neighbor, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), for help in recapturing the romantic interest of Daisy. However, things aren’t as clean-cut as Gatsby would like, when Daisy’s husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton), slowly catches on to the plot and leads all the characters of this dazzling film down the path to disaster.

The critical scrutiny I mention comes from Warner Bros. decision to push the release date from December of 2012, a crowded holiday month, to the first month of the busy summer season, May of 2013. Since the film has been in release for a few weeks prior to this writing, the gamble on the studio’s part paid off financially, as the film provided the explosion-heavy summer months with some high-quality drama, a nice denouement for the more discerning moviegoer. Yet, the delay wasn’t just for a chance at a better release date; it was also for a post-conversion of the film into 3-D.

I have not seen the film in 3-D. I have become burned out by the effect, much like most of the audience in my part of the globe. Yet, this film should not be judged on its stereoscopic effects. The world of 1920’s New York is dazzling, and everything is bright, flashy, and new. The decision to enlist Jay-Z to provide a re-tooling of R&B hits from modern day as jazz era music fit perfectly, and the songs even got a few intended laughs from me, most notably during a breathtaking car ride into the city with DiCaprio and Maguire, where another car is passed with the riders dancing in their seats to “Izzo (H.O.V.A)”. All the parties at Gatsby’s are beating with this life force of music, and it is very welcome. For the more emotional and touching character scenes, Luhrmann once again teams up with long-time collaborator Craig Armstrong. There isn’t a full score CD release yet, but I sincerely hope there is. “Daisy’s Theme” brought back a lost era of true romances on screen for me, and I found myself entranced by every scene that DiCaprio and Mulligan lived in.

DiCaprio is at the top of his game as Gatsby. I never doubted that he was this character for a moment. He seemed to live and breathe the man written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. DiCaprio has played his fair share of mentally disturbed individuals in the recent past, most notably in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, where he chases after dreams to find the answers he is seeking. In Gatsby, DiCaprio continues on with the dreams motif, creating a world out of his own imagination in the hopes of capturing the attention of Daisy. To no surprise on the audience’s part, it works, though only for a little while. Reality sets in, and the characters are left having to face the consequences of their actions. Mulligan is to be commended for bringing such dimension to Daisy. Every glance at DiCaprio is filled with emotion, and the chemistry between all four of the lead actors is electric.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who has not seen the film, or read the novel, but it left me sitting stunned in my seat until halfway through the credits. This film captured me and took me on a ride into a world not unlike the one we are living in today. People are rich, and they seem to be getting richer with each passing day. But, how long can this be sustained? In Gatsby’s case, he uses his riches in the pursuit of Daisy, yet he fails to realize that a relationship involves two people, both with free will. In order for his dreams to work, Daisy must also share a mutual affection for him. Though she admits that she loves him, tearfully so, it is clear to everyone but Gatsby that Daisy is not the same girl he fell in love with five years earlier. She is just a memory.

I highly recommend seeing this film in the cinema, the way it was designed to be experienced. The sights, the sounds, and the music blend together into an emotional journey - the likes of which I haven’t experienced for a few years at the movies. Gatsby is a film that teaches you that to desire someone is perfectly natural, yet, when that fascination is replaced with action, anything can happen, for good or ill.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Your Baby

I had a small revelation today. I was awoken multiple times by my infant foster sister crying, begging for things she had no words for, but needed (or felt she did). All she could do was get my attention using any means possible, in this case, her voice. It was then up to me to figure out what she needed in order to be satisfied. Then, once she was settled, hopefully I would be as well.

First drafts, or even the beginnings of writing in general, are a lot like infants, are they not? We don't know what they want until they get our attention and manage to drag us away from what was occupying our minds before. Only then, sitting down and looking at the blank screen or the empty notebook page, do we actually try to figure out what the book, article, or whatever type of writing we are doing, is trying to say.

Once you give the draft the attention that it wants, it will leave you alone for a while to do other things. Yet, one thing is for certain - a blank page will always come back to call for you again, most times during the least opportune time! What does it want? What is it trying to tell you? Only you can figure that out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Brief Introduction

Hello! If you've found your way here, I hope you find something entertaining. I've always wanted to try blogging, but never actually got the guts to begin. I go!

I am a self-professed nerd, and can be seen wearing a Superman t-shirt regularly. I love comics, movies, television, books - basically any form of media out there. I am also a huge Lego fan and have more bricks and minifigs than anyone should possibly try to shelter under one roof, so you may see some posts about that hobby in the future. I love collecting things.

I hope to post some movie reviews here as well, since I am very opinionated when it comes to the cinema (and I also went to school for Video Production). With the summer just ramping up, there should be plenty for me to feast my eyes on at the local theater. I might also review films that didn't make it to my neck of the woods that are now on Netflix or DVD. I have eclectic tastes and like to try some things that run the festival circuit besides the blockbusters (or wannabe blockbusters, which are more fun to write about!).

I am also working on a novel...the infamous novel that gets brought up at dinner parties and social gatherings. It's always lingering over my head, and it will probably haunt my dreams until I finish it and finally get it off my chest! Novels love to do that, especially when you neglect them to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

So, that is that. As a famous man once said, "There's so little to do, and so much time!" Er - strike that. Reverse it. Thanks for reading and embarking on this journey with me!