Monday, March 3, 2014

Heart Films: Children of Men

Alfonso Cuarón just won best director, as well as a slew of other awards for Gravity and while I applaud gravity and its overt style, I can’t help but feel like the academy overlooked a real masterpiece 8 years ago, by the same director. So here it is, not a review, but why I love Children of Men. I’m going to really try to avoid spoilers here, mainly because I think this movie knocks it out of the park on every level of dramatic structure, and really should be seen with little knowledge on its subject matter.
               Children of Men works as a strange conduit for portraying how individuals play their roles in society. It addresses futility in change, consequences of apathy, and maternity. The performances are out of this world (seriously, I’ve never seen Michael Cane in a better role). The “near future” look holds up on a level similar to Blade Runner. And let me just say, if there’s a film in recent memory that utilizes cinematography to hammer in a theme, it’s Children of Men. Emmanuel Lubezki was also just recognized for Gravity and holy hell it’s about time. There are no fancy cuts, oblique angles, and very few shot, reverse shots. Instead, Lubezki rides the line between fluid shots and traditional static shots, equalizing the audience with Theo. Let me explain. As you watch the movie you are given very little information that the main character is not privy to. This gives it a very realistic approach and allows Cuaron to blindside the audience with beat after beat, until Theo’s struggles feel like problems they have to deal with. The cinematography is so important to this approach because you have to immerse the audience in such a way that when you make a point, it’s as to the audience as it is to the affected characters, and Children of Men does this brilliantly. I promised very few spoilers and I’ll keep that promise. In the opening scene of the film, Theo gets coffee from a café, everyone inside is transfixed on the horrific events of that morning and Theo apathetically gets his coffee and leaves, the camera follows him outside and down the block, as Theo adds some alcohol to his brew, the building behind him explodes, there are zero visible cuts during the scene. What’s so well, functional about an opening like this is it manages to introduce the premise (no children born since 2009), the main character, and the central conflict of the film all in the first two minutes, and without cutting (visibly).

               A quick word on fluid shots (aka “tracking shots”). You may be wondering why I keep saying “invisible cuts” or things of that nature. Children of Men fooled me for a very long time into thinking that the fluid shots of the film (there are several of them) were all glorious “tracking shots”. That’s how good these guys are, they are masters of the invisible edit and honestly, the film doesn’t suffer in my mind for knowing that. At the time these shots drew a lot of comparisons with the “tracking shot” in Atonement, and how the latter had the longer shot and was therefore more impressive. Here’s the problem with that sort of thinking. While on a technical scale the Atonement shot was very impressive, it did little to reinforce the conceit of the film. The shot takes place while Robbie is in the army and has little to do with the theme of redemption, or the inciting incident of miscommunication. It is a masterfully executed scene, but watching it alone would give the audience no understanding of the theme of the film. In Children of Men every fluid shot tells us something about Theo, the audience follows him through his journey through hell and in every shot we can see his driving goal, and the constant danger he is in while attempting to achieve that goal. The shots are used to set the tone and define the movie. They don’t stand out from the rest of the movie because each one subtly reinforces the theme and gives the audience a realistic perspective of the consequences of activism.   

               I know I made a promise to stay spoiler free, but I just can’t fully explain my appreciation of this film without touching on one more thing, so if you have not yet seen Children of Men, I recommend you stop reading here. As I said before this is a movie about individualism and how it plays out in changing society. Theo being the audience is subjected to the two extremes and one median of the spectrum through Luke, Julian and Jasper. Luke is 100% activist, leader of the resistance and willing to pay any price to institute political change. Jasper is a pacifist who just want to let the world’s problems play out around him. Julian rides the line between social change at all cost and morality’s absence in the world she lives in. And all paths lead to their deaths. There is a beautiful truth in that no matter what reasoning you align with, the world changes, and every action has its consequences.

<3 p="">

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Zelda, you have my thanks.

These days I run into quite a few people with an obsession of some sort that influenced how they grew up. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Disney ect. For me that obsession was The Legend of Zelda.

Unlike most hardcore gamers I did not grow up in a household of games. My first system I received was a Gameboy color for Christmas when I was 11. The following birthday came around and I was given two games that year: Super Mario Land, which I was (and forever will be) terrible at, and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. This was the game that changed things for me. I found that I had a knack for Zelda's puzzles and non-linear game play. I loved the different weapons and gadgets you could wield. The characters and settings were fresh and original. I must have gone through 50 AA batteries playing that game alone, but my relationship with Zelda was just beginning...

I'll always remember my 13th birthday, because a youtube video of a screaming kid opening an N64 is a constant reminder of my reaction, only it's cute when you're seven. As you can probably imagine the first game I went out and picked up was Ocarina of Time. Until that moment I had only heard of this legendary game from the local school kids. They would sit hours on end discussing bosses, temples, and the best way to find all the pieces of heart. So as I blew some air into the cartridge and flicked on the power, a wave of excitement overcame me. Now any fan of the series can probably beat Ocarina of Time in about 10 hours or so (without all the collectibles), but everyone (weather they admit it or not) takes about 30 the first time they play it. I spent my entire summer vacation playing that game to perfection.

Ocarina of Time was more than one of my favorite game expiriences, it was an amazing story to watch. My siblings would sit down next to me and watch me play for hours. They would ask me questions and even wake me up early to plug in. At first I didn't think much of it, I thought maybe they wanted to play but every time I offered the controller (not often I'll admit) they would turn it down. I didn't fully understand why until one day my Dad came down to my room and asked if he could start a game. I was shocked. My dad hadn't really been a gamer but something about Zelda intrigued him enough to pick up the controller. I found myself in my sibling's spot, right beside him and I finally understood the appeal. I found my self cheering aloud for my dad when he bested enemies, cringing when he dropped below three hearts of life and laughing along with him when he encountered an outrageous character. In those moments I saw the kid my dad used to be, my mom would call us for dinner and we'd pretend not to hear just to squeeze a few more minutes out of the game. When I went away to summer camp for a week, my dad wrote me a letter about how he had finally beaten "Morpha" the water temple boss. I couldn't wait to go home to talk to him about it.

Most die hard Zelda fans agree that Ocarina of Time was and always will be the best Zelda game...not this guy. I prefer the two that follow: Majora's Mask and Windwaker. I wont go into why because I would rant for far too long, but I will say that like Ocarina of Time my siblings and my father were with me the whole way.

2006 rolled around and Nintendo announced their new system the Wii, I was working at the time and I knew it was going to be tough to get the opening weekend of Happy Feet off but I had a plan, a stupid crazy plan that backfired, but a plan non the less. I told my boss that I had a Speech meet to go to on Saturday and that it would take all day. It is true I did have a speech meet, but I only went for a few hours before meeting up with my friends in Line at Best Buy. I should mention that this Best Buy was pretty much next door to my work and when a fellow employee stopped by on his way, I didn't think much about it. The wait was cold snowy and long, but at 6 am I went home the proud new owner of a Wii and Zelda: Twilight Princess. Once again my childhood came rushing back and for about two hours I was pretty pleased with myself. Then Jed called to give me a heads up; apparently that employee who passed our best buy line told my boss that yours truly was in it. I felt terrible and promised him that it wouldn't happen again. He told me that he had done the same thing when the PS2 came out so he sorta understood.

And now here I sit five years later, on the eve of yet another amazing adventure, and the most stunning revelation just hit me. Could it all be a coincidence that once again a Zelda game is releasing the same weekend as a Happy Feet movie? Or that It's releasing on my Father's birthday? Probably, but I like to think that there's more magic to the game that I can honestly say changed my life, as nerdy as that sounds.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Town

Really the only choice for an enjoyable weekend at the movies.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Takers and Going the Distance

Sorry These are late, Takers may be my favorite review to date. Please listen in.
As always thanks to everyone who tunes in. We love you!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Piranha 3D

Blood and Boobs