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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

LIMAX: What the theaters don't want you to know.

The two new things in movie going today is 3-D and IMAX. Today I will be talking about the latter.

IMAX is a format that has been around for awhile now. Films that come out in the format are usually documentaries because of it's ability to magnify the subject matter to a gigantic degree. What an IMAX screen generally is is a 70 MM film print (the widest film possible) flipped on it's axis so it's as tall as a screen is wide. So the experience is an immersive one. Lately, blockbusters have been released in IMAX. The latest releases have been Transformers 2 and the new Harry Potter film. IMAX has been making a lot of money off of these blockbusters and is expanding their theaters as quickly as possible. Except there is one problem with these new screens: It's not IMAX.

What IMAX is doing is installing screens in multiplexes. This is intrinsically impossible, for no multiplex has the capability of adding a screen of such gargantuan proportions. So, they improvise. For example, at Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue, the IMAX screen there is 40X65 Feet. A standard IMAX screen is 76X97 feet. So Lincoln Square clearly falls short here. Nonetheless, the theater is still charging a four dollar surcharge. The most ironic part about this is that you can get the size of the Lincoln Square IMAX at another conventional theater: The Seattle Cinerama. Granted, the Cinerama is a giant theater to begin with. But the point of an IMAX is to be huge. And if it's the size of the Cinerama, then to call it an IMAX is an insult to its audience.

The numbers don't lie. The width of the Lincoln Square IMAX is 65 ft. The width of the Cinerama conventional theater screen is 65 ft. Save your money, if you want to see a BIG movie, go to the Seattle Center IMAX where it's the original dimensions of an IMAX, or just see it at the Cinerama.

If you think I'm a doofus, I'm not alone. See what famed critic Roger Ebert says here

(DISCLAIMER: Lincoln Square is still an awesome theater with 15 digital screens projecting film at 4k high definition. You will not get a better film experience anywhere else but there. However, its IMAX along with other newly installed IMAX theaters is a joke, and I feel the need to inform others of its, ahem, shortcomings.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Welcome to the party pal!"

It's the summertime, and do you know what that means? It's time for the summer schlock film slate to grace us with their presence. The next "big" film to come is 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' directed by Michael Bay. Ah, Michael Bay, what beautiful work have you churned out for us this time? I have seen the first Transformers and I didn't care for it. I could write a book on why. But I'm interested in what the buzz has been for this film. In my research, this is by far the best quote about the film, if not a quote about any film.

"[it] is the pretentious, nonsensical, sexist, jingoistic, militaristic, CGI-dependent, product-placement-packed, hectically edited, punishingly loud, wearyingly long, eye-wateringly expensive, and, I predict, phenomenally profitable exemplar of everything that is most repulsive about Hollywood today."

-Critic Nicholas Barber

I don't think anyone could have said it better. The funny thing is that this quote can be applied to virtually any Michael Bay film. I think another post is worthy of Michael Bay and his attention to detail (by detail I mean the amount of cleavage Bay can get Megan Fox to reveal without crossing 'R' rated territories.) But all that for another time. All I want to say is this: Everyone's a critic, and there are certain things that movies do that get people excited.

But people are easily impressed, if you have the money. I was talking to a highschooler the other day who was praising 'Night at the Museum 2.' I asked her why it was such a good movie. She sat and pondered, and then said: "The animals and statues came to life!" I said O.K. if that is what impresses you then good for you.

But for me, I can't tell you what makes a good movie good. There is too much to tell, any number of things can make a film good. But I can tell you what I think makes a bad movie bad. The only thing you need to read is the quote above, and I think you will get a glimpse of where I stand.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Changing Face of Comedy

In honor of my new favorite comedy, 'I Love You, Man' I would like to take a look at the past 20 years of comedy. I won't be looking at all the trends but just the most popular.

Looking back, the 90's most successful comedies were because of SNL. Thanks to SNL we were given comic geniuses: Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Farley and David Spade, and Will Ferrell (who flourished in the 2000's) Let's break it down further. In the 90's we saw

Wayne's World
Austin Powers
Tommy Boy
Black Sheep
Billy Madison
Happy Gilmore
The Waterboy
Big Daddy
There's Something About Mary
Dumb and Dumber

You can see what the tones of these comedies tend to be. They are your typical, dumb but loveable lead character fighting for something good. The humor tends to be a bit on the crude side and dim-witted. But it's not over the top. This will change.

The 90's was easily the decade of the SNL star. But the 2000's is certainly the decade of Judd Apatow, his filmogoraphy of Writer/Director/Producer credit should be convincing enough.

The 40 Year Old Virgin
Talladega Nights
Knocked Up
Walk Hard
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Drillbit Taylor
Step Brothers
Pineapple Express

And that's just Apatow, there have been many more comedies that were very successful in the past few years. But this is the trend of comedies in this decade. Raunchy and Vulgar. Apatow will stop at nothing and he will raise the bar to get a laugh.

But in my review of 'I Love You, Man' a film with no creative input from Apatow, we are given a film that goes against the norm. While still an R rated comedy, this film treats its audience with decency and respect, making it genuinely funny. It's my hope that this can be the new trend for the next decade.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goodbye Film, Hello Digital, We Were Expecting You

I had the most amazing theater experience yesterday, it will be unrivaled for a while I think.

Yesterday, I went to Lincoln Square Cinemas, a very good theater in Bellevue, Washington. I was with my friend Cam and we had some time to kill, so we decided to go to the movies. 3 of them, to be exact. Now the first two weren't cinematic masterpieces, but they were still good, they were 'Sunshine Cleaning and 'Taken'. The last one, 'I Love You, Man' was a masterpiece though. I thought it was great and if you want a review from me you can find it at, it will be up in about a week or so.

The movies were great, but I was hit with a cinematic twist: Lincoln Square has gone High-Def. That's right, there are no longer film projectors there, it's all digital, high definition. This is a huge improvement to the movie going experience. The cinematic experience now once again trumps any home theater, thanks to its crystal clear, high definition projections on giant screens. This means that there will be minimal projection problems at all. It will be consistently clean and clear of any sort of film deterioration. It also means that you won't see any "Cigarette Burns" in the corner of frames before a reel needs to be changed. I'm a little sad that it doesn’t feel like Film any more, we really can't even say we're going out for a film any more, really we're going out for a Digital High Definition Presentation. Doesn't really roll of the tongue any more. But either way it does look amazing, and hopefully people can find the shekels to participate in the film community and enjoy a good film.

On that note I would like to say that seeing a movie is really best in a room crammed with people. 'I Love You, Man' was in a sold out screen, it was packed full of people ready for a good film. And boy did they have a good time. The movie was hilarious and tasteful, the audience truly appreciated it. There was an energy in the room that really made the night memorable. I felt a connection between all of us, with the sole intention of seeing a great comedy. And it was easily a successful night, for the film, the theater, and us, the audience.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh Life...

It's funny, how your perspective on life can change quickly.

This blog post is about how I might change my major, and how my outlook on my future has drastically changed in a about a week's time.

I was having a nice conversation with one of my friends at the gloriousness that is Diddiers about a week ago and we were talking about what I was passionate about. For awhile now I have been concentrating my studies on theology because it is something that I have been curious and interested in for quite some time now. I have definitely learned a lot since I started college but that night I really pondered about what I was going to do with what I was learning. And I realized, I don't want to do anything that comes with a theology major. I don't want to be a pastor of any flavor, I don't want to go into any ministry. Not that I don't think it's important, I just don't feel like being an evangelistic, fellowship leading person. I discovered the theology I was learning was really for my own sake, things that I wanted to learn, just for my own satisfaction. And I saw that I really have gotten a good fill of theology. So I took a critical look at what I was doing here at Whitworth, and I did a course correction, literally.

First of all, I dropped Hebrew. Were at the point now in class where we are really criticizing the text and being very technical about the translation of the Biblical Hebrew, which for me was too much and was something I did not want. I've found that in my studies that Theology was turning into something technical, something that it should never be.

Now, I am looking into what other things I have a passion for. And something I have a day in, day out passion for is the arts. I love books, movies, music and art. So I'm looking into pursuing a major in English now. I'm still not sure if I will, but it looks promising. I never thought I would be a person who would change their major, but here I am. I don't know exactly how this is all going to pan out for me, but I think that is the exciting part. I think my favorite part about all of this is that there is something new in my life that I know God will guide me through. I have something huge in my life that I can only get through sanely with my faith in God. The times certainly are exciting, here in good ol' Spokane.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ultimate Showdown: iTunes VS. Zune

Ok, the gloves are off, I'm going after iTunes once and for all. Too many people think that it is the bee's knees and it is my duty as a pseudo-audiophile and overall Windows defender to proclaim that the Zune software is much better. Get over iTunes, come to Zune. Lose the zero and get with the hero.

iTunes is an inefficient music manager in comparison to the Zune software. If your using a Mac then this entire argument is irrelevant because your not on an OS with the capability for Zune. But to all of you Windows users, I want to educate you.

I will show all the features that Zune triumphs in over iTunes.

1. Album info retrieval

iTunes will only grab full details of an Album if it has an Internet connection at the same time it is ripping a CD for you. If you don't have a connection during a rip, you can only manually update the album info. The album art it grabs might be very low resolution and could look terrible on your computer. Zune will grab the album info any time it sees that the album info is insufficient. For all the albums I have ripped, I have never manually typed any info, or personally looked on the Internet for album art. iTunes sometimes doesn't even have the album art so you will be stuck to look for it on your own. It is a very painful and boring process.

2. Zune Social

A part of Zune's software is Social, where you can have other friends, and see what music they listen to. You can also make new friends that have similar music interests as you. When you play a popular band it will give you an artistic display of the band as a screensaver and show you statistics of how popular it is among the Zune community, it will show you most popular song, how many times the band has been played that day and so on. If you have a Windows Live ID (The same one you use for Xbox Live, Windows Messenger or Hotmail) then any other Zune users that are your friends in that list of programs are automatically added to your friends list in Social. If you use Windows Live Messenger, when playing a song it can show to everyone on Messenger what you are listening to. iTunes literally has nothing that can do this.


Mixview allows you to view an Artist, and it will show you in an ascetically pleasing manner the bands that have influenced that band, or bands that have been influenced. It will show you the top listener of that artist in that Zune community. iTunes has a similar feature called Genius, but it isn't as comprehensive as Zune, and when I tried to test it, iTunes kept on crashing on me.


The organization on the Zune software is streamlined for complete efficiency. By comparison, iTunes is a clunkier jukebox. Zune will organize your music by Artist, Album, and Song, just like iTunes. But when you go to a certain artist, it will show all the albums for that artists, using the cover art to organize it, something iTunes can't do. When you are looking at a particular artist, you can see in your social what other friends of yours that also listens to that artist, something iTunes is incapable of doing.

There are weaknesses of the Zune in comparison to iTunes, but these weaknesses are irrelevant due to what they are.


iTunes has a much stronger market for digital downloading. However, both stores pale in comparison to a CD's quality AND versatility.


Zune offers no Internet radio stations, where iTunes does. But if you enjoy good quality music, listening to these stations will not satisfy you because they are not at a lossless quality like CDs are.

There you have it, Zune is by far the better music jukebox and if anyone thinks other wise I encourage them to show me why.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Steven Sigberg

I just watched Schindler's List for the first time tonight. So in honor of a wonderful movie, I would like to point out, once again that

Steven Spielberg is the greatest director of all time.

And let me just make an addendum as to why I think that.

He makes films that become the mother of all films that are in that categorical class of movie. For example, I am willing to say that Schindler's List is the mother of all Holocaust movies. Not to say that all Holocaust films stem from this one, but this is the best Holocaust movie that has been made. Now granted that is arguable. But from what I've seen, this is by far the best one that has been made.

Let's go through his career and see what else he has done.

1. Jaws

Mother of all Shark movies. Considering the competition (Deep Blue Sea, Jaws sequels) this should be a no brainer.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Ok, not quite the mother of all Sci-Fi films, but you have to admit that this film really goes against the curve of most films, and at the end you know you liked it but you just can't say what about it you liked, which is the beauty of a sci-fi.

3. Indiana Jones Trilogy (4th one too if your not the most picky moviegoer in history)

These movies are just pure fun. They are adventurous and thrilling and at the end you always want more, making them the best adventure films.

4. E.T.

The mother of all family films. I believe this to be the best example of Spielberg's genre defining films. I don't think any other movie can pose a threat to this one, easily the greatest family film of all time.

5. Saving Private Ryan

There are a lot of war films out there. But if you tell me that after the first 15 minutes that you aren't impressed then, I don't really know what I would say back to you. Because I believe it to be the best war sequence out there. And as for best War film ever? I don't know if I can say that I've found it because there are A LOT of war movies out there. But this one definitely gives the others a run for their money.

Another thing I like about Spielberg is his coverage of a subject or genre. He's covered man eating creatures several times (Jaws, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, those ants in Indy 4) He's done POW films (Schindler's List in the west, Empire of the Sun in the East) He's done sci-fi (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. Minority Report, AI, War of the Worlds)

I just can't get over saying it. I love the work of Steven Spielberg and his work will always impress me