Monday, September 7, 2009

Ah, the life.

I think I'm socially inept.

I have three extra weeks of summer, and all I want to do is go back to school. I've stopped bringing this up around the house because I get some very odd looks when I vocalize the feeling. Today, on a Monday afternoon, I sat in my kitchen and read the first chapters of all my textbooks for the fall quarter. I now know what labor, load, and capital mean in the economic world, I know how to sign the alphabet and the numbers 1-10, and I know that my pop culture class is going to be badass because the book is all about how video games, movies and the internet are good for our brains. That's right, I'm taking a class that is going to justify sitting on the internet blogging and /filming all day.

C'est la vie.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Long time no blog

So I guess you could say that I took the summer off from blogging. I don't really know why, because this summer I did a lot of very interesting things that would have made for primo blogging entertainment. Like... I took a very long road trip with my mom through the southwest US. Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. I toured a few colleges and saw my grandparents and some really fucking amazing rocks.

I developed some new TV show obsessions... Heroes, True Blood, Dexter...

I changed my entire view of my future, including my college of choice and intended major... Western Washington University and PoliSci/Philosophy/Economics... Yes that's all combined into one major.

I saw a crapton of really cool movies. I mean really cool. Star Trek is win, Inglourious Basterds was crazy awesome. 500 Days of Summer made me itch a little, in a bad way. Harry Potter, as always, left me in my own little corner of heaven.

I also developed some new podcast love. Primarily Diggnation, the /Filmcast, and the Totally Rad Show. Diggnation is awesome and Kevin Rose is... attractive. We'll leave it at that.

So really, all that's going on right now is college application prep. I've made a goal to get all my applications (WWU, Evergreen, and the University of BC) in by October 1st. There is quite a bit of essay writing write now, including scholarships.

I'm going full time to Clark this year, so while the rest of my senior class is in school I've been at home with my wonderful extended summer. Although I'm starting to get a little bored.. I'm excited for school to start.

So I guess I'm restarting this blog approximately a year after I started it. It's my senior year so big changes are afoot.

I can't promise that I'll get back into this blogging thing, but I'm going to try. I'll leave you with this cuteface picture of Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Time and Space: The Illusion of Editing and Filming Techniques

Time and Space: The Illusion of Editing and Filming Technique

There is a magic about the film Donnie Darko that cannot be fully comprehended upon the first viewing, not the second, nor even fully on the third. In fact, I think it would take all the time in the world to dissect every subtle plot key and timing device used in this viciously intellectual movie. I also believe that that was exactly what the director and writer, Richard Kelly, had in mind when crafting the time drama. The film portrays time in a way that is uncommon in conventional cinema, it chooses to see time as not a certainty, but as something malleable and inconstant. Donnie Darko is trapped in the middle of a true time warp, one that exists only inside of his own head. How then, could the director possibly convey this unsettling truth through the medium of film? The answer is editing, genius, radical, and complex editing. Throughout the film you believe that you know exactly what is real and what is not, what is hallucination and what is fact. What this movie strives to do is disrupt our rational thinking process, awaken us to the possibility that everything we know to be truth may be a fallacy. What are the laws of physics if a not device invented by humans meant to ease our conscious mind about phenomena that are ultimately inexplicable? The complicated editing of Donnie Darko excellently illustrates the complex nature of time and space referenced within the film.

Donnie Darko is a peculiar movie in a few ways; one of the most notably different characteristics is the pacing of the film. Shot in just twenty-eight days (the same length of time spanned throughout the film itself), the film meanders and sprints through the 4 weeks simultaneously. On minute we are seeing a Donnie with hunched shoulders and a sinister smile on his face, seemingly cool, calculated, and knowledgeable all in one expression. We are then bombarded with a fast paced montage of what exactly Donnie is seeing at the moment, or what Frank (Donnie’s hallucination that transcends time, space and all explainable existence) is showing him. This type of editing is meant to juxtapose time and matter. We are seeing a short shot of Donnie thinking, and are then given access to the lengthy but fast ideas bouncing around in his mind. The montage is longer than the shot we were previously seeing of Donnie, therefore illustrating the concept that time is not a constant thing, nor is it confined to our human perception of it. By pacing the movie in such a random and nonsensical way, the director manages to skew our visual perception. Although the film does move forward in time as expected, we are still unsure of the message and the purpose of Frank’s existence, which seems to be the entire point of the movie, therefore forcing us to think, forcing us to try and rationalize what is happening within Donnie’s brain. This is made even more confusing by the fact that the movie is from Donnie’s point of view, and by not knowing the purpose or the meaning behind the main character, we are thrown into a completely new spectrum of viewing. This is Kelly’s point; his editing and story force us to comprehend the meaning in a new way.

Of course editing alone cannot convey the complex attitudes of the film. The type of motion, the choice of music, and the acting all assist the overall effects of the editing. For example, the first scene we are privy too at the school is not just a remarkable piece of cinematography because of the continuous long shots, but also because of the subtle and not so subtle slow motion accompanied by introductions to the most influential characters of the story. All this is happening while a nostalgic song plays in the background, transporting the viewer to another time, just like the rest of the film. The camera work itself is also different than the norm, unexpected and fresh. The beginning of the scene begins with the shot upside down and in slow motion it rights itself, just in time to see Donnie’s feet touch the ground after jumping out of a school bus. The camera then flits back and forth throughout the school, smoothly introducing all of the key characters. The next scene that integrates the mediums of sound, editing and camera work appears much later in the film during a school talent show. The shots switch back and forth from Donnie’s sister and her dance team to Donnie burning down the antagonist’s million-dollar home. The scene is set to a rousing eighties Duran Duran song, which juxtaposes the criminal act that Donnie is committing with the happiness of the rest of his family. Slow motion is again utilized to slow the perception of time during this scene. We are supposed to believe that these two acts are happening simultaneously.

Being such an unusual film, Donnie Darko had some barriers it needed to cross. Time and space are inconstant in the universe of the film, and Richard Kelly had to find some way to portray that in the most realistic way possible. Through editing, camera work, and music he was able to convey the principles of the film. Time is not the neat little package we as humans have summed it up to be. There is more to the philosophy of time than we are aware of. The way the movie was edited gave the viewer a taste of the unknown and made them think outside the box that has been drawn around us. Somehow, the film had to illustrate that it took place in an alternate reality where time and space were interconnected and not tangible. Whether you believe that the fabric of time is as fragile as it is in the world of Donnie Darko is up to you, but there is no denying that the way the film is put together makes you forget, if just for a moment, that we think we know how the universe works.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Social Commentary Within There Will Be Blood

I wrote this essay for my film class, what do you think? Format is a little strange because of Blogger, sorry!

Social Commentary Within There Will Be Blood

When viewing Paul Thomas Anderson’s tour de force There Will Be Blood it is beyond the bounds of possibility to ignore the blatant messages about humanity buried not so far under the surface. The first time we hear Daniel Plainview speak, the swift, prideful manner in which he introduces himself, not to mention his staccato method of speaking, automatically alerts us that this is a man not to be reckoned with. Paul Thomas Anderson has been criticized for directing Day-Lewis to speak in this manner, critics claiming that no one spoke like Plainview one hundred years ago. These critics are missing the message hidden underneath the speech. Plainview represents power and intellect, a fact that will be proven multiple times over the course of the film. This is the first time we are alerted to Paul Thomas Anderson’s multi-layered character approach, for at first we do not know what to make of Daniel Plainview. His plain speaking partnered with the blank stare of his composed and silent son H.W. Plainview unsettles us, but we’re not sure why. From the first moment we heard Daniel Plainview open his mouth, we grasp that he is not an ordinary man and the film will not take us in an ordinary direction. Paul Thomas Anderson pens and directs this film beautifully, horrifically, disturbingly, and tragically. His personal opinions are shoved so forcefully in our faces that we are shocked into submission, waiting eagerly for the next action of the complicated Mr. Plainview. Daniel Plainview is an allegory for everything Paul Thomas Anderson sees as inhuman in humanity.

The theme that is repeated time and time again throughout this film is the consequences of power, greed and ambition. Every struggle that Daniel must endure is sprung from his own need to be the best and to make the most profit. With every action Daniel takes, Paul Thomas Anderson is creating a twisted web of wrongs that represent the harm that humans do to themselves. When Daniel discovers oil in the sleepy, hyper religious town of Little Boston, California, he buys everything. He knows, however, that he is not dealing with economic scholars, he is dealing with uneducated country people who do not know the going rate of oil or land or anything in between. This is illustrated when Daniel tells his son "Well, we won’t pay them oil prices. We’ll pay them quail prices". While this may be an overtly obvious sign of greed and deception on Plainview’s part, the movie’s poignancy does not always lie in its subtlety. Anderson has a habit of setting the more perturbing aspects of humanity right under our nose and letting us smell it for ourselves with no perfumes or deodorants. At the root of Daniel’s money obsession is his insecurities. One can only infer that growing up, Daniel had a sense of inferiority and now as an adult has a fierce need to prove himself. Of course, this is only speculation, but what other reason could a man have for being so callously ambitious? He is an unhappy man with no family, no trust, and nothing but his money for love.

Daniel Plainview is without a doubt one of the most complex characters to grace the silver screen. His exterior is hard, brash and unforgiving. He commits heinous moral crimes, such as abandoning his son because of his disability and threatening to slit a man’s throat for making a general statement. These are the events that stick out in a movie goers mind, the events that create the character profile inside of our heads. We see Daniel Plainview as a greedy, manipulative, and uncaring person lost in the hustle of the empire he has created. However, this is merely the surface characterization of a subject like Daniel Plainview. Throughout the film we are presented with some subtle and not so subtle examples of a less terrifying Daniel, someone who is trapped without being fully aware of their bindings. Firstly, there is the question of why Daniel adopts H.W. if he is only out for himself? There were many other men at the oil well he worked on, and any one of them could have taken the child. Why then did Daniel volunteer to devote the next two decades of his life to fatherhood? We also see other moments of tenderness between H.W. and Daniel, the occasional light pat on the head, the immediate concern when the well explodes, the affectionate caress to ease the pain of deftness, and the prolonged embrace when they are reunited. These are the subtleties of Daniel Plainview’s character. These are the things that let you know that somewhere, maybe buried deep, is some form of love and compassion for H.W.. We also see a shade of Daniel’s less monstrous side show up in his conversations with his so called brother, Henry Brands. In a most likely slightly drunken conversation, Plainview actually voices his need for a relationship with another human. "I see the worst in people. I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need" Daniel states. "Henry... to have you here gives me a second breath. I can't keep doing this on my own with these... people. [laughs]". This is one of the first times we see a true vulnerability within Daniel. The desperate tone of sorrow in his voice and eyes give away the true depth of his hatred he has for himself. Paul Thomas Anderson does a wonderful job creating such a multi dimensional character with so many layers. This is how people are, people are not just single-faceted, they are complex and confusing and horrifying, and this is what Paul Thomas Anderson wants us to understand.

The most blatantly obvious parallel Paul Thomas Anderson seems to draw to society is concerning religion. The religious undertones, or more aptly called overtones, in this movie are staggering. First and foremost there is Eli Sunday, who seems to be a representative of everything Anderson sees wrong with religion. Even to the most untrained religious eye, Eli Sunday appears crazy. You watch him and his calm, reserved demeanor is uncomfortable. Everything he says is uncomfortable, forced, and a little unsettling. From the first moment they meet, Daniel and Eli begin a battle of control over the other. When Daniel offers the aforementioned "quail prices" for the Sunday Ranch, Eli demands a greater sum, claiming to know about the oil on the land and wanting funding for his church. We are then introduced to the skeptic side of Daniel Plainview. In response to his request for church funding, Daniel replies, with a smirk on his face that juxtaposes the calm and soothing tone of his voice, "That’s good, Eli. That’s a good one." This of course can be taken as "yes, that’s a very good thing for you to want money for, Eli" or, the more likely meaning, "That’s a funny joke, Eli. That’s a good one." Daniel, being the man that he is, is not religious. He sees religion as a sign of weakness. Depending on a "higher power" to bring you happiness and success just discredits your own ability to bring yourself success and happiness, and Daniel Plainview will let nothing discredit him. Another example of Daniel’s agnosticism is the iconic scene of his baptism. We as the audience know that Daniel is only going through with the baptism as a condition to purchase some necessary land for his pipeline. Eli, who has had a less then righteous battle with Daniel over the last few years, is fully aware of Daniel’s scorn for the church and uses this as just another way to torment him. There are a few interesting ways to interpret this scene. First, and probably the most obvious, is the mental anguish and humiliation Eli Sunday inflicts on Daniel. He is forcing Daniel to confess he has sinned, confess that he has done wrong, and to Daniel, he is never wrong. He is stubborn and never admits his mistakes. The most moving section of this scene is when Eli forces Daniel to repeatedly scream "I’ve abandoned my son! I’ve abandoned my boy!" One can tell that not only is Daniel overcome with a powerful guilt over sending H.W. away, he is also consumed with a rage at Eli for demoralizing and embarrassing him in front of the people he has deceived for the last few years. Eli, in an act that would surely not be considered Christ-like, proceeds to slap Daniel several times across the face, dehumanizing and emasculating him even further. These revenge driven actions that Eli takes part in represent the hypocrisy that is so prevalent in today’s religious society. Eli can sin six ways to Sunday, but to him, at the end of the day, he is the preacher and all is forgiven.

At the end of the film, after Daniel has lost his son, his companions, and his sanity, the most poignant moment is revealed. When Eli comes to visit, begging for Daniel’s help economically, Daniel sees this as the final showdown. Eli is begging him, Eli needs his help, and damn it if Daniel isn’t going to take full advantage of the situation and humiliate, dehumanize and emasculate him as much as he can in return. Eli begs him for a lease on the Bandy track, a piece of land he believe to be undeveloped. Daniel knows very well that this land has already been dried out, but chooses not to share this information with Eli. Daniel may be a cold, heartless man by now, but he is still fiercely intelligent and a great reader of people. He knows exactly what Eli’s largest insecurity is, and takes full advantage of it. "It was Paul who told me about you. He's the prophet. He's the smart one. He knew what was there and he found me to take it out of the ground!" Daniel taunts mercilessly, his crouching, defensive stance ominous against the fluorescent lights of the bowling alley. Eli is crying and sniffling now, clearly upset by the turn the conversation has taken. He cries that they were friends, old friend, why would Daniel do this to him? This whole sequence of events, from the mockery of Eli’s importance, to the forced admission that "[Eli] is a false prophet, God is a superstition", to Daniel’s eventual pummeling of Eli’s skull with a bowling pin, drives in fast-motion through every message leaked out in this film. We see Daniel’s greed, we see Eli’s hypocrisy and insanity, we see Daniel’s hate for himself, and we see all of these characteristics kill, metaphorically and literally, these two characters. This is a film about the dangers of being human and submitting to the overwhelming desire for power and money. This is a film about the necessity of human relationships, and this is a film warning against blind worship. Paul Thomas Anderson has succeeded in creating one of the most glaring allegories of the human condition ever captured on film, whether he meant to or not.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pretty good week, followed by a second pretty good week.

So this was the last week of school before Camas goes on Spring Break. Clark's break started last week, so it's been pretty relaxing. I've been able to watch a lot of movies. This week it's been a pantheon of crazy good Coen brothers movies, cementing them in place as my favorite directors. The week started out with The Big Lebowski. Then went on to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and then proceeded on with Raising Arizona. I've still got Miller's Crossing, Baton Fink, and Blood Simple to cross off my list. Then maybe a bit of The Man Who Wasn't There.

Who knows?

Today I watched There Will Be Blood for the 4th (ish?) time. I love that movie. It's been my #1 and will stay there till I see something better.

And right now I'm watching Zodiac. For some reason this movie is good not great, but I love watching it. It's probably something to do with David Fincher and Robert Downey Jr. Maybe Jake Gyllenhaal. Damnit, now I want to watch Donnie Darko.

This has been a really weird post, ha. My brain doesn't seem to be functioning on any other plane than movies right now. Mush head!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Post!

This is a post that is telling you that in exacty... 48 hours I am going to be very happy. Much happier than I am at this exact moment. Why is that, you ask? Because I will have written my two very long history papers for the final, I will have completed the history final, and this quarter will be done!

When this has happened, I will start writing my normally chipper, cheery and all around good natured posts! My posts will not longer be down in the dumps! No more random apathetic lists! Soon I will be as happy as that little fishstick who has successfully rowed his boat all the way out to sea.

Yes, once again the time for stress free days is near.

*This post is mainly directed at Jamie. Yes, I did reference Fishsticks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I'm getting really really impatient... I bought two volumes of Jonah Hex last Sunday and I got one in the mail two days ago... But not the first one, no, I got the second volume in the mail and I'm really sad. I have to read them in order!

I have a really bad cough. It's killing me. My lungs feel like death.

This post is very boring so I'm just going to list off some things that I love in no particular order.

Evegreen State
30 Rock
It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia
In Bruges
Sean Penn
Jack Kerouac
Emile Hirsch
The Beat Generation
The 1960's
My parents
Sammie's Mom
Rainn Wilson
The Academy Awards
Foot rubs
Bella and Booger
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild
Bob Dylan
The Kinks
Cty & Colour

I love other things also.