Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gravity-It’s Not the Best Movie in the World, But It’s Pretty Darn Good

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If you’re like me and follow movies even in the slightest bit, you’ll know that Gravity has pulled off an impressive feat at the box office the last couple weeks and currently retains a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Suffice it to say the movie has been received very well by critics and audiences alike.                    

            Now when I first saw the trailer, my first thought was “Hmm, that could be interesting.” Then the film began to receive all sorts of insane praise and my next thought was, “That movie? The one where two people are flung around in space by some sort of space shuttle crash?” How could it be that good?

            Well, it is good. The obvious problem with highly rated movies is the amount of expectation one can bring with them into the film. This is why it seems the Best Picture winner every year always seems to disappoint if you’ve seen it after the fact.

But director Alfonso Cuarón, who also did Children of Men and The Prisoner of Azakaban (in my opinion the most well directed Harry Potter film), pulls off a stunning visual feat that keeps us enthralled with wonder for the entire 100 minutes.

            It follows the story of medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) who is attempting to install a new “prototype” on the hubble telescope. It’s her first mission to space and she shares it with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney).  Inevitably though the mission does not go according to plan. “Houston, I’ve got a bad feeling about this mission,” say Kowalsky and we’re never quite sure if he’s joking or not.

            Beyond this the film cannot be explained other than you need to go see it. Words do in fact fall short of this film as it lends itself almost entirely to visual hypnosis. The camera work hangs and floats like being, I want to say “underwater” but in fact it’s just the opposite, in space. This lack of gravity upon the camera both disorients and enchants the viewer (I almost found myself getting slightly nauseous and dizzy at one point). Stunning visual after stunning visual makes up the central framework for the movie, as the action speeds up and slows down in fascinating terror.    

The only complaint I can muster is that parts get slightly sentimental, dare I say sappy, and almost cause me to disengage. Then again I am a cynical bastard, and, (Spoiler) though not really a surprise, it’s not like everyone lives.

 

People who should watch this movie: People who can never leave earth.

People who shouldn’t watch this movie: People who get carsick.

 

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He Always Felt Like Fall Was Too Short

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He always felt like fall was too short. It was the best season he thought, and yet the shortest. He liked to watch the leaves turn slowly from green to yellow. He liked it when they fell from the branches like a beautiful golden death. He had always hoped that death was something like the fall, where everything got increasingly more beautiful until all that was left were skeletons.

 

Fall was elusive. Every year he tried to go to corn mazes and pumpkin patches and make apple cider and carve jack-o-lanterns. He liked to remove the seeds from inside the pumpkin, wash them, put them on a tray and bake them. It was tradition. Why, he was never sure, for even with the salt they never tasted exceptionally good, and it was really just a lot of work. But every year, he only managed to do one of these things, if that. He was always busy. Something always came up. Sometimes he had no one to do these things with. Most times. As an adult, he felt one could miss certain holidays, even whole seasons, with barely a second thought. As an adult, things got more practical. Rather than focusing on the way the smoke from the chimneys mixed with the cold grey air, he would think of how much firewood he would need for the winter. He would wonder how much it would snow. Would it be more or less than last year? Would he need another shovel? He would. He would need two shovels.

 

Fall was also intemperate. Some days it would be eighty degrees and sunny and green and then it would hit thirty and snow and all the leaves would drop in less than an hour. There was not enough time to enjoy it he thought. All he wanted was for a solid two weeks of fifty degree weather, yellow leaves on all the trees, and tiny bit of snow to top off the mountains. But this usually never happened. It would swing from eighty and summer to winter, to spring and back again during these two weeks. It should be noted that he lived in a mountain climate where things change fast.

 

He tried to think of a way to enjoy the fall more this year. Really soak it up. He asked friends if they wanted to go to corn mazes and they either said no, I have to work, or I already went with my daughter last week. He realized calling his adult friends would not work. He decided to call his adult friends who had children. He was not a creeper, but he did know that children knew better than adults how to enjoy holidays and seasons. As a child, he had always spent two weeks prepping for each holiday. For Christmas there were the rings to tear off for the forty days of Christmas and stories about the real history of St. Nick. For thanksgiving they colored pictures of Sacajawea and learned about pilgrims and the Mayflower. Now he had none of this.

 

He lived alone, on Forty-second Street. He lived alone by choice. But it was not his choice, it was fates choice he thought, fates choice that he should be living alone when he wanted to live with someone else, a wife, or even a good friend, to do things with on holidays.

 

Just to carve a pumpkin or take a stroll through aspen trees with golden leaves. That would be enough he thought. That would be enough.

 

 

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Life Without Filter Part II

I had one simple goal in mind when taking these pictures: to present life as ordinary as possible. To take pictures of all the things that consume our day but are not particularly interesting. To look at computer screens, office spaces, roads, cooking, T.V. screens etc. When I took the first picture my photographer friends Mike and Cole told me that the picture was crooked, saying something about “horizons.” I told them that I didn’t care. But they told me, out of either injury to their particular field of work or to simply give me advice, that you could still take bland pictures that weren’t crooked. So after the first one I tried harder to hold the camera upright. However, I did not manipulate the lighting, filter, or placement of such photos. I wanted them to exist in stark representation to the manipulation of appearance, because the manipulation of appearance was the essential point, i.e. how we manipulate and alter our appearance and image through technology.

The photo’s you’ll see are awful and not interesting in the least bit, or at the very least not very interesting.  My friends Mike and Cole could have done a photo project where they take pictures of bland or ordinary or mundane things, but since they’re awesome photographers they could still make them look “cool” in the gritty and low-fi sort of way. I wanted to represent life in its most ordinary and uninteresting state.

 

A couple thoughts: my house looks very yellow in all the pictures. It might have something to do with the yellow walls or the poor lighting, who knows. I debated about whether or not to take pictures of colorful trees wondering if they were too “pretty.” But then I decided that it would be dishonest to not take a picture of them since they were a part of my day while going for a run and I wasn’t going out of my way per say to try and find beautiful images of fall. The one time I took a picture of myself I immediately noticed a reflex in which my hands jumped up to straighten my hair. I had to forcefully shake off the desire to comb my hair and I also had to consciously think about how my face would look as it does throughout most of the day, not particularly sad, but not particularly happy either.

Part of me wishes the images were grittier or more low-fi but that would have required a certain amount of manipulation. In fact, another thing I noticed while scrolling through the images is that as much as they are ordinary and uninteresting I still feel a particular since of gratitude while viewing the photos. My life, I found myself thinking, is pretty good. But then it caused me to question whether the act of taking photo’s itself isn’t manipulation. Because photo’s (even mundane ones) like movies or ad’s still present a “compression” of life that is not accurate in a time/experience sort of way. Although all the photo’s were literally things I was either doing or noticed throughout the day with no going out of my way to capture certain images, I wondered if the recording of life itself causes one to view life unrealistically. In the best possible sense photo’s capture memories. Memories than can give us nostalgia or feelings of warmth and happiness. Some of the photo’s I took did this—such as pictures of nature or my wife or dog—but others warranted no emotional reaction at all—such as images of computer screens. Which cause me to think that technology can exist in the best possible way—such as to provide us with memories of past or meaningful events—or, in the case of movies, to present us with an inspiring or challenging narrative that cause us to engage with life. And yet, technology can also exist in the worst possible way providing unrealistic images and worldviews that damage our souls. Much of this thought process was based on a troubling Vanity Fair article entitled “Friends With Benefits,” where Nancy Jo Sales explores how social media and sex are influencing young women. Check out the article here: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/09/social-media-internet-porn-teenage-girls.

 

Once again, the point is not the pictures, they’re remarkably bland. But rather questioning in what ways we live a life with filter. 

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Life Without Filter-Photo’s

T.V.

T.V.

Wife

Wife

Driving

Driving

Mountains

Mountains

2013-10-16 17.35.13

Run

Run

Dinner

Dinner

Tree 3:30 p.m.

Tree 3:30 p.m.

three of clock at 3:00

three of clock at 3:00

Keyboard

Keyboard

Bookshelf 2:31 pm

Bookshelf 2:31 pm

Lunch

Lunch

Dishes

Dishes

Pee

Pee

Sink

Sink

Computer Screen

Computer Screen

Leftovers

Leftovers

Dog

Dog

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2013-10-16 10.17.29

Car/Office

Car/Office

Bagging

Bagging

Office

Office

Bedroom

Bedroom

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Life Without Filter Part I

800px-Instagram_Filters_2011-partialLife Without Filter
Part I

On Wednesday October 16th I woke up groggy—not motivated to go to work or put on pants or do anything that involved the concept of motion. I turned the alarm off my phone and unconsciously opened Facebook and began to flip through status updates and pictures. I hated this unchecked instinct that always seemed to be a huge waste of time, but it kept me in the warm sheets covering my body for a few seconds longer so I allowed my mind to glaze over and not think about the evils of such technology. I saw all the usual—political rants, memes, photos of summer trips to Europe, vacations in Cancun, personal updates, selfies, etc. And it was all incredibly exciting looking and at the same time, incredibly strange.

It’s no secret that Facebook exists as a sort of alternative universe where one can present an idealized (or even fictionalized) version of oneself to a broad community of “friends.” We all know that people only really want to post photos of themselves when they are eating the best, looking the best, and living the best.

I have no problem with this. It’s human nature. And we definitely don’t need another article about how Facebook is ruining the world or how it is redefining our concept of community, or the psychological damage done to thousands of kids everywhere by online bullies—though to be fair, all of those things are probably true. It’s a bit dreary and tiresome to hear criticisms of Facebook (I’ve heard enough slam poems criticizing it to last ten lifetimes). But I do have a “beef” if you will, if the kids of F book still use that term, with the social media outlet and technology in general.

Technology in general has allowed the possibility of an alternative universe, not just through social media outlets but through our experience of space and time as presented to us through movies, ad’s, and “invisible” online platforms. A nerdy example please: I love Lord of the Rings. LOTR all the way. I grew up reading the books and watching the movies and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. However, whilst watching movies like this and Braveheart and Gladiator in high school, I began to develop a view of life that was something like unhealthy. I wanted all of my life to be epic like it was in the movies, but alas it was not so I got very depressed. I blamed myself at first and I wasn’t totally off. But eventually I came to realize that all movies, even arty, dark, indie ones, are unrealistic representations of life because they compress days or even years into a two to possibly four hour viewing. They provide a narrative structure (however loose) that ninety percent of the time wraps up life in tidy ways, or at least gives meaning to chaos.

In some ways we as the modern viewer can attempt to translate this to our life. Thus, we want our life to be like a movie and so we take photos and post statuses to complete this image. Thanks to Instagram we can slap a funky filter on any image we take and make a toilet look like something we’d like to eat. We highlight the good and downplay the bad. There are obviously those “friends” who complain a whole lot on Facebook. But it never seems to be true and honest communication, merely commiseration about traffic or the weather or the many daily things that frustrate us.

In essence, we put filters on everything. We filter our life through mediums of social media to present a movie version of ourselves. Once again, it’s not evil, it’s human. But just for a day I wanted to present a picture of real everyday life photos. So I did. I am very obviously not a photographer and care about it more as a sort of writing exercise. So, you can check them out below with featured commentary by yours truly. (or above since this will be an older post).

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