Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good Bye Mr. Bennet +Taking of Peldham 123

Just because class is over, doesn't mean all the blogs have to be long pieces of sentiment to the retiring Mr. Bennet. That's not to say I didn't appreciate the class, it was the height of my day during school. I will miss Bennet greatly, and if I wasn't so lazy from my day and a half of summer vacation, I'd steal a few quotes from Danny White's and Mr. Bennet's latest posts.

Now then...on to the movie. The first thing I noticed about this film after I finished watching it was that all the details of NYC were 100% dead on. The 6 train went to Peldham, they explained the heirarchy of the subway workers system exactly as is. They even got the Dow stuff right (except for the figure, it hasn't been 12,000 in like 2 years)I also noticed that the music was energetic, full of guitar heavy rock. The best of the soundtrack was in the opening credits when we hear a Jay-Z, Linkn Park combo (they are the Run DMC/Aerosmith of their day)

This film has a poorly lit mis-en-scene, to portray the relatively cynical view of New York that drives the plot. Denzel Washigton, though largely out of shape and bald, puts on a fine performance. It seems somewhat acting 101 with the long pauses and seemingly cliche lines, but it was satisfying. His marriage seems to be based more on his love for his children than his wife. He takes a bride to pay for his kid's tuition. When he tells his wife that he must go negotiate with a terrorist his wife tells him "we need milk", he does not call to warn her that the house will be searched by the police, she has to call him after they show up, when he explains why he took the bride Travolta says "that's love", Denzel responds "No that's marriage, that's completely different."

John Travolta's nut job character puts on a delightful "I'm black and I'm crazy" type of persona. A lot of street like cursing, probably to show his reeducation in prison. He won't win an Oscar for best original character, but it is a good fit for the heist genre. There is even some anti-New Jersey propaganda, turns out Travolta's character is from across the Hudson. He is also a devout Catholic, ironically as he kidnaps and holds ransom 19 New York subway users. This is meant to add cynicism to the film. Everybody is dirty, even Denzel who we learn took a $35,000 bribe.

As the film progresses, we learn that there is a recovering drug addict on the train and he is the only one willing to be a martyr. Travolta shoots him when he is holding an 8 year old (I assume) boy at gunpoint. This nails the point in, the scum of the earth are the best of us. There's so little unity among us that something like this could happen. On an unrelated note, there are shout outs to Bloomberg. James Gandolfini, who plays mayor, says that he only receives $1 per year for his service, and that as soon as he ends his term, he'll never ride a subway again (if you recall the whole "Even I ride the subway" bs)

Though its not a great film, it is an exciting one. I recommend it to forget about life for two hours. Farewell SIT film class of 2009, I'll miss some of you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

30 Days

If you loved Super Size Me, you'll like Morgan Spurlock's other major project: TV show 30 Days. A show where an average shmow steps into the shoes of a certain subculture for as many days as the title implies.

The episode I saw most recently had to do with a stressed out, overweight middle aged working man, Brian, trying the "new age" lifestyle. From the first day, Brian is optimistic, but his girlfriend, Lindsay, acts as hostile as Nazi Germany over the fact that he won't be up to his usual routine.

The show goes through a very similar structure as Spurlock's attention-grabbing feature film. It goes deeply into the situation, defining every stray term and explaining the persepctive as well as an "objective" human can. There are numerous interviews, cartoon executions, and Morgan's quirky sense of humor.

Brain tries a number of holistic approaches to stress relief and life in general. He recieves a life coach, who is calm and helpful enough from the very beginning to win over everyone (even Lindsay around Day 15). As he moves into a new house in suburban New Jersey, services like reike, yoga, some odd form of dancing and a few quasi medical treatments help transform Brian from an angry, sweaty bafoon into a calm, reasonable, and all around pleasant human being.

As far as this experiment goes, it proves that anyone of us can benefit from some new age know-how, as long as we are open minded enough to give it a try. Spurlock creates similar caliber episodes for just about any walk of life that come sto mind: illegal immigrants, minimum wage workers, coal miners, homosexuality, Arabic Americans, outsourced jobs, prison, off-the-grid living, pro-choice fundamentalists, animal rights activists, etc. I recommend anyone of these episodes as they are stimulating to the mind and very informative. Without stepping out of your shell, you can experience a path through life that just might interest you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Hangover

When I first heard the plot for this film, I was not to impressed. It sounded cliche: Four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party, they get wasted on drugs and alcohol, wake up after an insane night and don't remember a thing. The only twist is that the husband-to-be is missing in the morning. The execution, on the other hand, is phenomenal.

When Phil, Stu, and Allan wake up, they find a destroyed hotel room which includes a hospital tag, a baby in the closet, and a tiger in the bathroom. But wait, there's more, turns out one of them married a stripper and lost a tooth, and they apparently stole a cop car. The trio go on a journey to find not only their friend, but also to get to the bottom of these bizarre results. Along the way, they get stunned by tazers, attacked by chinese gangsters, must cheat a casino to make $80 grand, are involved in a kidnapping of a drug dealer and even meet Mike Tyson. This is only part of the action, see the movie to learn the rest.

The entire film, I was bothered by the characters. Of the four, Phil is only one that is remotely cool or normal, he holds the idiocy together. Allan is just plain strange. Though there is some rhyme to his reason, he does not appear to have much in the way of guiding principals or steady logic (even on his level). The character that is supposed to be the "normal guy", Doug, comes of as too much of a pansy and has virtually no depth. More importantly, Doug seems like a carbon copy of a different character, Stu, just a few years earlier. Stu is also less than respectable, he remains with a cold and hating girlfriend, even though she has cheated on him. The only character that I actually liked in this film was the drug dealer that was kidnapped, also named Doug, even though he was in the film for a grand total of ten minutes.

Character flaws aside, the rest of the film was well made. The cinematography makes the viewers appreciate Vegas' aesthetic qualities, both man made and natural. Like in The Seventh Seal, a number of shots could have been excellent still photos. The plot runs smoothly, but has enough unexpected turn of events to keep the audience confused, but begging for more. The jokes range from low brow to high brow, they are often hard to foresee, and produced by quality writers. Though the soundtrack consists mostly of popular music, it is selected well and placed in the best parts for any given song. The producers of he film have already received a grant to make a sequel, and if this is the result of their work, it is the only reasonable step to take.

Inside the Special Forces

Though there has been much criticism of the United States armed forces due to the unpopular war, most would learn a new respect when they saw this National Geographic hour long documentary.

This special presentation is styled like an article from National Geographic magazine. It begins with a scene in the middle of Iraq, beautiful mountain vistas that parallel the pictures in the magazine as well. A story is developed, we meet several sergeants, commanders, etc. As a disembodied voice narrates the extraordinary events that these soldiers must go through on a daily basis. A 360 degree overview of the U.S. Army Special Forces is presented. History, protocol, a day in the life of..., etc.

As the documentary goes on, more and more information is presented from numerous interviews and fact statements by the absent-bodied narrator. We meet people inside and out of this advanced branch of the military. It becomes somewhat of a pro-Iraq showcase as these individuals are presented in a positive light. Calling it bias, however, would be going too far. As always, Nat Geo proves to be bipartisan, presenting only what is objective.

National Geographic once again pulls off a good showing. Though there is room for improvement (slightly dragged out, and therefore slightly boring), the viewer leaves his/her seat at the end much more informed on this nation's military elite.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quotes from the bomb

An argument I have heard in the past, but only occasionally agree with, is that a movie is only as good as its quotes. Though Dr. Strangelove is more than the sum of its parts, one can't ignore the dialogue when searching for the soul of the movie.

A fine quote for the era of the film's setting is "deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy...the FEAR to attack." Perhaps if we applied this philosophy, Hitler would not have run such a muck. Fear, as we all know, is one of the most powerful weapons an army can possess. It is the only real reason that the final scene was not ours. Strangelove later argues that the Doomsday machine should have been announced to the world.

For all the polygamists at heart, there is "the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship." As Mr. Bennet mentioned, this movie is all about sex. The point of sex is to reproduce, which is the point of life, from an evolutionary stand point. Perhaps this is Stanley Kubrick's philosophy on love (With eccentric films like "A Clockwork Orange", "The Shinning", and "2001: A Space Odyssey", it would not surprise me).

The capitalist can appreciate this one: "Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?"
Like much of the film, this is a satire. Fluoridation is one of the most harmless communist concepts that exists. Because it is a public project that would influence everyone in a given nation. It is merely the level of control that would frighten the die hard anti-red person. The fear discussed in the first quote is responsible for both the inability to attack and the desire to do the opposite.

Finally, the historian gets a bone too: "[C]ome over here, the Red Coats are coming!" Ironically, the color of the enemy that began and ends our existence is red. The director chooses this line, probably to show how our roles as the victim, and now the bully, has changed over the centuries. We are the ones attacking the Russians and we have the nerve to call them red coats, though we technically did that to them too, but we had better reasons.

What I can gather from these quotes is that "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb" is a satirical, yet deep film. Though it pokes fun at the military institution of the 1960s, it also puts it in perspective.