Thursday, August 26, 2010

Handouts Wanted

When you begin to embrace your passion, you feel this certain energy emanate through your life, because you tell yourself "Everything I do, I do for this!" It's all nice and good when you find your life's calling. Except finding the means to accomplish the end of your passion can be quite the difficult task.

The novelist has the easiest means. The contemporary novelist needs only a word processor and a dictionary and he's ready to write the next masterpiece of our time. For me though, an aspiring filmmaker, I find that I have quite the grocery list of equipment, none you can skimp financially on. Like a musician who wants to make it big, I have to get my instruments, so I can play the best I can. So that means I need, at mininum-

A Camera
A Mic
A Computer
An Editing Suite

There is no way I can get around these four things. As a snob for semi-perfection, these things have to be somewhat professional. So yes, I could film my movies on my decade old camcorder, edit it on my 3 year old laptop, using Windows Movie Maker. But I have made a few films using this equipment, and the films both look and sound atrocious. Now of course I do fault myself with inexperience as a filmmaker which may cause a low quality for these films, but regardless of the content, the presentation is drastically bogged down.

So now I face a toll I faced nine years ago when I needed a drumset. I need filmmaking equipment. But at a pricetage of around 3000 dollars, how can I possibly attain these things? You should let me know if you've got an answer...

Monday, August 9, 2010

My First Time

There is something magical about that first time. I am of course referring to the first time you see a wonderfully inventive and brilliant new film (What did you think I was referring to, perv?)

As my Literature Professor often explained, reading a good piece of literature is always better the second time around, for you know what will happen and therefore will be aware of the little nuances you missed the first read through.
But with Film, I don't think this rule always works. This usually deals with real "Spectacle" films. My newest virgin film experience was with "Inception." I knew little about the film, but was very excited about it (and therefore predisposed to enjoy it, whatever "it" turned out to be) I knew it had to do with dreams, and was made by Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker who has earned my respect already with his two Batman films. But it was the subject of dreams that made me especially excited, for the landscape of the mind is my favorite subject of films, explored by my favorite filmmakers working today, Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry chief among them.
And when I finally saw "Inception," it was love at first viewing. From before the first title card, I could hear the rising blare of that haunting horn section, my eyes and ears became bound to the screen. The film throws you right in the middle of it all, and I was challenged by it's intricate plot and wondrous illusions. What truly worked for me was the quality of suspense it created. The second and third act all take place in one shared dream, and since anything was possible in this world, the suspense was dramatically heightened, because you couldn't predict everything that happens. Gone was the boring Suspense/Action movie formula, and here now was a film where literally anything could happen and true surprises happened.

The second time I watched it, I knew that it just wouldn't be as amazing. It was a very fulfilling experience, which is to be expected for sure. By the middle of my first time I gave up trying to figure out the whole plot. The second time I was putting the pieces together and had a firm grasp of everything. I trusted in Nolan, knowing he wouldn't create a film world that wouldn't ultimately stick. But the wonder if it all did wear off a little bit, and I longed for the mystery and the unknown. But that is the challenge of modern movie going isn't it? To make a film that is truly successful by its mere wonder, and to do it again, again, and again.
Other films eligible for amazing first time viewings: Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dark City

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I Like Too Many Things (And So Do You)

It may be that Time Management is the most underrated and unappreciated facet in anyone's life. Of Course this is doubly true for a college student.

Last week I returned to Whitworth with an epic weight upon my shoulders. Papers were calling out to me, saying "write me!" Books were saying "read me!" and I wasted time. Yes, I got some work done, but not nearly enough which is leaving this next week with 4 papers, two film reviews, a test and a mandatory film screening (but it's for The Godfather so that one doesn't hurt too much.)

How did I get here? I like too many things.

Other books, other movies, and too much music is killing my academic career. Well, sort of.

So yes, I spend twenty minutes of my workday creating the most eclectic of playlists on grooveshark comprised of Philip Glass, Duran Duran, Broken Bells and the Waltz with Bashir Soundtrack.

I watch about three episodes of Scrubs a day (they kinda lie on my eating habits, see my food is in my room, and so is my other tv, where Scrubs is cued to play, and what else am I gonna do when I eat?

I spend other parts of my day dreaming of films I could be making and scripts I could be writing.

I read film reviews of Films I won't be able to see (or afford to see) for months.

I write blog posts to quench my narcissism

I debate the importance of Cinema over Theater (which clearly, is a no-brainer, and should not be condemned for its voyeurism.)

I revise my favorite movies section on my Facebook profile just to show my supreme film knowledge (Oh yeah, there's some Truffaut and Godard with Spielberg in there)

I socialize, watch movies, listen to music, and endlessly debate petty things with my very patient friends.

Are these things wrong? No. Should I be managing these activities better? Yes. Was my professor right about using questions to make an argument? Maybe, it's questionable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Business or Pleasure?

My Sony Vaio VGN FZ-140E Mainstream Laptop has been broken for two months now.

First I brought it to my school's technical support. They couldn't fix it.

Then I got a recovery disc sent to me from Sony themselves. After 2 weeks of mis-communication and deliberation, the disc finally got to me.

That didn't fix it either.

I have one last thing I can do, wipe the hard drive clear and replace the OS. If this fails me (which, luck tells me it will) I plan on switching.

Oh yes, I'm considering a move to Apple

"WHAAAAAAAAAA!" you must be saying. "Ryan Graves on a Mac?! It's unheard of!"

And it is. But lately, I've been getting so fed up with what PC's have been doing to me lately. First of all the laptop situation. Then windows machines in general do not accommodate digital art very well. And one thing is for sure, Literacy is now evolving into a digital, multi-modal medium that is fast becoming the norm. The need for a good tool for both composing and enjoying this needs to be the best that it can. Therefore, I am thinking of giving Apple a shot.

And it's not Windows alone that let me down. It's the combination of machines and software that did. I still love you Microsoft, but it's time for some discipline to get up to par.

But, remember this dear readers. I'm only giving Apple a shot, not the crown.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Atonement With The Father

There comes a time in every person's life that they consider who God is to them, if they even believe in God. I think this comes when you realize that life seems illogical to you. When certain things play out and you think to yourself, "Well, if this is what life looks like, what's the point of doing any of it?" Not to sound melodramatically suicidal there, but everyone has asked that question.

The beginning of that answers starts with the question of God. Because at the end of the day, being an atheist and say: "It's science, you just gotta accept it." is one step to close to manic-depressive nihilism which I will never subscribe to.

It seems almost illogical to live in a universe where there is no God. As you've seen on the movie posters of prequel films, we all know that "Everything must have a beginning." Of course, in this line of thought you have to accept that God technically never had a beginning because of his being infinite. But the world that WE live in, is one with beginning and end, and damn you if you don't bother to ask the question of why before you get to the end. Which is when you have that line of questioning of what the hell is going on here?

So, we have the world, created by some sort of agent, The Big Bang (Just as I wrote "The Big Bang" Geddy Lee from Rush just sang that same line, embematic huh?) can be a good explanation. That argument goes that all the matter of the universe was packed into one tiny ball. You have to ask then, where did that little ball, a ball of fate, come from? God seems to be a good answer. It's almost a cop-out answer, but scientists have nothing better and I still adamantly deny and sort of nihilistic answer.

OK, so you acknowledge the existence of God, but what does he mean to YOU? The devout Christian will cram a Bible down your throat and exclaim they won the debate. But it would be foolish of both parties to say that the bible today is exactly as God intended. The devout Christian must show a faith in the Word as the answer to the tough questions but also be honest enough to say that the Bible is not called the "Perfect" book, but merely the "Good" book.

For me, I've always been a Christian, but, never had I took a step back and asked "Do you REALLY believe all of this?" And I realized that maybe I've been pushed into it by my surroundings. By my parents, my teachers, peers, friends, culture, school, films, television, music, food. You're influenced by your surroundings much more than you realize.

So I took a step back, purged all beliefs. The majority of them are correct, which I realized later, but I didn't want any bullshit beliefs. It had to be real, true, and honest. To do that, I had to start from square one.

Which brings me to now. I'm in the process of rebuilding and I've hit a significant point in this construction. It's a huge epiphany that everyone should hear.

Truth transcends the mediums in which we trap them. Truth is not just found in the bible, but also the world.

Why is it like this? I don't know, the innatist and existentialists will have their reasoning. But it was in the study of myth and story that I discovered this fact.

The book is called "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. The book is a study of the thousands of years of stories that have accumulated. Campbell realizes that it's all the same story being retold over and over again. The constant in the story is the journey of the hero. He tracks the hero's journey and shows us what he must do. But then I came across the chapter entitled: "Atonement With The Father"

Basically, the hero must come to terms with the father, who is the doorkeeper of the vastness of the world. You must go through him to get to the world, the unconscious, the unknown. You must realize that the Father of Justice and Malice really is the Father of Mercy. Campbell lists several example including Christianity.

Do you know why we care about story? Because it's us. It's the progression of who we are on paper or screen. We see our fears and desires exhibited and the experience of story allows us to realize our identity. So why always the same story? Because we're human, we all function the same, with a brain that operates always the same way, for years and years.

What I realized then, is that I'm the hero. But so are you. We must all go on the journey of the hero. In my journey today, I atone with the Father and begin my path of understanding who he is. That path will be directed by the father from there on out, and I will continue my journey forevermore.

If I had to give you a moral to this story though, I would say don't be afraid to search for Truth outside of the Christian conglomeration. God's bigger than religion, and you've been designed to decipher truth properly, and this fearless search will bring you to Him, ready and able to follow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Junk Food Art

I think one of the biggest problems in film criticism is recognizing the dichotomy between Low art vs. High art. To give you an extremely polarized example, I'll use Michael Bay's "Transformers" vs. Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal"

I think both film's represent a richness to the art of film, although Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" is without a doubt a much better film. This is not my admittance to the thought that Michael Bay makes good movies, all I'm saying is that he makes movies that people, for whatever reason, enjoy.

If I had to liken this dichotomy to something equally analogous I would say this is like a food diet. Michael Bay is the CEO of Junk Food Film. His movies are like a pepperoni Pizza filled with cream cheese, served with chocolate sauce and extra nacho cheese. These things are all tasty, but when combined, they make for an extremely unhealthy meal.

Ingmar Bergman is the CEO of Healthy Food Film. Unfortunately I can't think of a meal that is analogous to the Tranformers serving because I myself am more of a junk food enthusiast. But I can say this. When you consume "The Seventh Seal" you'll be feeling the health effects for a week after you consume it. It will turn your brain into an intellectual and philosophical powerhouse.

Two sides to the equation, we need to balance this out. There are a lot of people who are health food freaks and won't touch a single dorito. On the other end there are people who detest the site of broccoli. This makes for an unbalanced diet. Who can balance this equation? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Steven Spielberg.

Not only does Spielberg make pure junk food films-"Indiana Jones" but he also makes pure healthy films-"Schindler's List" The best thing that he does though, is he combines the two wonderfully.

Take for example, "Jurassic Park" In it, we have our heroes who are constantly being chased by dinosaurs driven by an unquenchable blood lust. Sounds like a low art premise, almost to the point of a B-Movie. Except Spielberg works harder than that. The film is a philosophical powerhouse. The character of John Hammond is a man who thinks he can play God. Through the course of the film he constantly tries to stay in control of every situation, and also prove his effectiveness. "Spared no expense" he assures his fellow guests.

The film teaches that no matter what, Life will find a way, because Life is powerful, much more powerful than any one man.

Now, did you think you could learn that from a low art adventure movie?

I think Hollywood needs to return to this cinematic worldview. One where you can entertain the senses with wild imagery, but also inspire the intellect of humanity. I would implore Michael Bay to start thinking about films in terms of ideas about life instead of ideas about what most 15 year old boys like-which is explosions and cleavage.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Favorite Movie

I think it's safe to say that everyone has at least a few favorite movies. What I wonder is, how often do we change our minds and replace our all time favorite with a new one. I think that is a rare occurence. For me, The Empire Strikes Back will always be my all time favorite, but my runner up top five probably changes every few years. For now lets say the top five is-

1. Blade Runner
2. E.T.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums
4. Donnie Darko
5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

In a few years, the list will probably be all different. But I think my point here is, we gotta keep up our search for our new favorites. Film has such a broad canon that it takes a long time to survey the entire 100 plus year history, but thats the fun. In my academic studies of film I've come across some new favorites such as "The General" (Buster Keaton) "Modern Times" (Charlie Chaplin) "Citizen Kane" (Orson Welles) "Sunset Boulevard" (Billy Wilder) and a few others. But I had to sift through a lot more movies to get to those. I had to stand "Sullivan's Travels" (Preston Sturges) and "Meet John Doe" (Frank Capra) I really did not like those films. But the good part is I know where to stay away and where I can pursue the films I do enjoy. I will watch more Wilder, Welles, Keaton and Chaplin, and I'm going to enjoy it. That's the fun of my new academic film studies, I get to find new favorites every day.