November 30, 2014

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Birdman

Just got back from seeing Birdman, a film that I hadn't planned on seeing at all, but then I heard the reviews talking about how great it was, and then because my mom was in town, I got a ride to the theatre and there ya go! So I had heard that this was like some cinematic crazy thing because of the camera work, and I was like "yeah, sure". But no, this thing really is just an amazing and immersive experience just in the camera work alone! It is filmed to seem like one long take and it does a pretty solid job of it; cuts are there (obviously), but they're done unobtrusively and not abruptly. Because the movie feels like it's one shot, you feel more invested in it! You feel like you're really there, and that's really cool to me. I love seeing what filmmakers and directors are able to do with the camera and Birdman really impressed the hell out of me on that front.

The plot here uses the idea of having a play reflect what's actually going on in the main character's life in that Michael Keaton's character used to be the superhero Birdman, but he quit to focus on acting and on trying to be a better more personal actor. And so he's trying to put on this play and it's having a million problems, and basically everyone is saying to him that he's not relevant anymore, that Birdman had his day and now Keaton's character is just some old dude trying to feel relevant again. And the play that he puts on is a reflection of that, and in that this movie just really soars! The characters are in-depth as all hell, and the movie has some great commentary about what's going on in Hollywood today.

The inflation of the superhero genre has been something of a mixed bag for me personally, and Birdman really makes you think about art versus entertainment and how the two subjects intermix. As an art film itself, this movie does a good job of not being totally biased; you don't feel like it's bashing superhero films just for spite, at least I didn't feel that way. It's a nice balance of the two. Keaton's character also has one of the greatest "fuck you" monologues to a critic that I've ever seen! It's great! Like, that's the speech I just want to hurl at some snobby, self-absorbed dick-biscuit bastard and be like "this", because most of the stuff Keaton says is just spot on! It's great!

Basically, see Birdman. It's got a great atmosphere, engaging characters, gorgeous cinematography and camerawork, and above all, fantastic commentary on the modern blockbuster and its relation to art! This is an art film, but it's a grounded art film, and those are the best kind for me personally. I like films with messages that are relevant to today's culture, and this one delivers on that front in spades. Great movie, just excellent!

November 27, 2014

Ten Things For Which I Am Thankful

#10- Halestorm- As much as Lindsey Stirling threw me into the world of not-classical music, Halestorm was the first hard rock band that I ever discovered, and it’s still a favorite of mine to this day. I love their sound, and Lzzy Hale is just such a great powerhouse of a vocalist! Their music has really propelled me through some otherwise crappy days, and the energy that they bring to all their songs is just inspiring. My introduction to Halestorm got me hooked on the rock genre in general, and now I’m a huge rock fan!

#9- A Song of Ice and Fire- Okay, so it’s mid-2011 or thereabouts, and my cousin and I are just chilling in the guest room of our grandparents because I’m up there visiting and that’s pretty much what we do, and somehow we get on the subject of this book series that my cousin has started and he’s really into it. And I’m like “that’s cool. I picked up the first book and wasn’t really into it”. And he was like “yeah, but later on there’s this huge battle!” And that peaked my interest because I love reading in detail about giant battles, so I said “whoa! With like giant armies in a huge field? Is it like a multi-pronged attack on this army on land?” And my cousin’s eyes got all smiley and he just said very calmly but smugly “it’s actually a naval battle.” And right there, I was hooked! Like, I didn’t even care about anything else that the books might be about; I had to read about this naval battle. So I picked up the first book about half a year later, and from there began my long, long, reading journey through this fantasy world. And it turns out that the naval battle was every bit as glorious as I had thought it would be, better even, because I cared about so many other things by that point! This series is probably the best example world-building I’ve ever read, and just talking about the many many theories and characters and story structures with people has been as much a part of the fun I’ve had with this series as reading the books has. Just a fantastic series so far! Oh, and GRRM, please give us a release date for Winds of Winter! Please!

#8- Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Mom, you’re a great mother! My love for this show is, for those of you who know me well, obvious, but I really must thank my mom, because after sitting me down and being like “okay, we’re watching Firefly,” I was like, “okay.” So we finish that, and I’m just sitting there in awe at the masterpiece of television that has just graced my screen, and I just said, “so did Joss Whedon do more stuff?” And she just got this great gleam in her eye and said, “Let’s watch Buffy!” …Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but Firefly did come first and that led me to watching Buffy with my mom which got me through ninth grade. And yeah, I did a whole paper on this show for my thesis, but even before that, I loved this show! Certainly not to the degree I do now, but even on first viewing, the humor and the story and the universe was just so engaging! And this show gets better upon each rewatch of it; new insights, new thematic strings,! It truly is a masterpiece of a show, and I’m so thankful for having this in my life and to my mom who introduced me to it!

#7- Transformers- I’m not gonna point out specifics with this one; I’m not talking about Transformers Prime, or the IDW comics (both of which are fantastic, and yes, are my favorite representations of the Transformers universe), or any other specific portion of the franchise. I’m talking about the brand, from the toys to the fiction and everything in between. This brand is just so important to me; it’s a part of my childhood, and it’s given me such emotional stability during tough times- plus the concept is just fuckin’ cool- big larger-than-life-robots that transform into cars or jets or… well, okay, there was that disco ball, but you get the point! High in testosterone and (usually) low on common sense? Absolutely! But it’s a concept and a franchise that I still admire for many many reasons to this day and was a big influence on me as a kid, and that’s the kind of stuff that sticks with you!

#6- Writing- Right now I’m reading Gone Girl, and it’s super awesome, but one of the things I’m really loving about it is the style of writing Gillian uses to just fully engage the reader. It’s making me think a lot about my work-in-progress novel and how I want to sound in there and what the characters want to sound like. These are the kinds of things I love to have keep me up at night. When you’re just staring at the ceiling and you’re thinking about just WRITING and you’re brain keeps churning out ideas! And then of course you fall asleep, wake up the next day and forget everything… except on those rare occasions that you don’t, and you wake up, get out of bed, sit down and just fucking write your heart out because dammit there’s no stopping you! It’s a great feeling and it’s awesome when it happens! I love to write; I love to play around with words and language and all the other cliché writerly things, but most of all I love to just create a world and do stuff in it with some colorful characters! That’s just amazing to me, being able to whip up a fully-realized universe and deep characters, like how is that not awesome! And the people who have helped me in my writing endeavors are numerous and contribute so much to my material that they might as well be given a writing credit on everything I do! You all are super fantastic people who deserve such creative adjectives to describe you!

#5- Lindsey Stirling- While she doesn’t play nearly as big a part in my life now as she did back in 2011-2012 when I first discovered her and then met her, what she meant to me then has stuck with me and probably will continue to stick with me for a good time to come. She helped me get reinvested in the violin, in music, in composition, and in just being happy about the world, and that’s a powerful thing to be able to do to a person. And being able to meet her and shake her hand and say thank you and stupidly stand there grinning as she looked at me expectantly, I mean, God! Just incredible! It’s so awesome to be able to meet one of your idols face to face, and I’m so thankful that I was able to see her. She is such a powerful figure to me, and while her playing and dancing may not jive with everyone (and yeah, I too am thrown by it more often than not now), her story of success is just so meaningful and personal to me.
#4- Violin- Obviously this is going on here, because while my relationship with the violin and especially orchestra has been kinda all over the place, I do still love the instrument. I love playing it, I love composing for it, and it provides me with something to do when I have to think or just work through anger or whatever. It’s a great outlet for me. Also, I have to thank everyone who has contributed to my continued learning regarding this instrument. My violin teacher and orchestra teacher are chief among those who taught me and nurtured my growth as a musician, and of course my mom for being a total badass and buying me an amp and a pickup so I can totally rock out!

#3- Star Trek- I can remember a time when I was very little, almost as a kind of a dream memory, when I was so unwilling to watch Star Trek with my father. I mean, I was like legit not gonna sit down and watch this; I must have thought this was some kind of trap, that if I gave in and watched an episode with him that he would win and I would lose something. Well, I finally gave in and we watched several episodes of DS9 and then TNG, and after that, I was hooked! This franchise and what it represents is just fascinating to me! I will always have fond memories of me and my dad just plunking ourselves down in the living room and watching an episode (this was back when the concept of watching an entire show in a week was foreign to me). And I know my dad really loved it, and I know I loved spending that time with him because he was just so happy about this show, and those are some great memories to have!

#2- Bosque School- So, I’m one of those people who had a pretty kick-ass high school career. Maybe not in grades (sorry, Latin; I still love the subject!), but just in the community and the friends I made there. This place and the people in it really helped make me into the person I am today. The classes I took were outstanding (for the most part), and both the students and the teachers there were engaged and caring and awesome. I have such fond memories of just hanging out with friends and laughing about something that happened like a month ago and oh my god why won’t we just drop it already. Except we can’t, because whatever it is is special to us, and Bosque’s special to me and basically if you decide to fail a plant quiz, make up for it by doing your extra credit project the night before it’s due and turning it in and getting an A+! It works, trust me! ;)

#1- Willamette University- It’s been a hella rocky first semester. Homesickness, loneliness, briefly thinking about dropping out because I was so sad at one point. But something would always make me wake up the next day, haul myself out of bed and get some (really excellent) breakfast… or more recently, lunch, because I’ve been waking up later. The classes I’ve taken thus far have been great and I’ve made a good couple of close friends here who are super great. I’ve been able to write two papers about Lindsey Stirling, give a powerpoint presentation on Brian Tyler’s amazing music to Transformers Prime, and I even got to write about Buffy in my Women in the Arts class! Next semester is looking to be pretty fun, and I do so love the rain!

November 23, 2014

Blog Post- What's Going On

As I said in my Age of Ultron Initial Thoughts post, I'm really just trying to get through this semester. At this point though, things have settled down a bit; classes are pretty much done in terms of heavy work load, so that's good. If you follow my personal account on Facebook, starting today and going all the way to Thanksgiving will be my Top Ten Things For Which I Am Thankful posts (two per day; the first two are already posted, so that's cool). And for this site, I'll be rounding all those posts up and putting them in a single post here just to get something out; I really hate saying that, because it makes it seem like this is becoming a chore when I assure you it's not. I love doing this! But things have been kinda crazy busy here in the real world, so that's eaten up much of my time of late.

For December, I have a few ideas kicking around about what I want my end-of-the-year post to be. As with the last three years, I've generally ended the year or have begun the next year with an Overview. Not really sure if I'm gonna do that this year or not; since Prime is done for that category, I'd need to move to something else, but I don't have anything solid in my mind right now, and I don't want Overviews to read like Mini-Views where it's just thoughts off the top of my head; I like having the Overviews structured and like little papers if that makes sense. I do have a post in the works regarding Lindsey Stirling; that might be the thing to go up to finish off the year, I don't know. And of course there's the annual Top Ten Movies of [Insert Year Here] post that I've done, and this year should be quite good for that!

So yeah, things are kinda in limbo right now. I just wanted to let you all know what's going on with me and what the supposed plan is for December and such. To say that I have a grand plan would be a lie; I have ideas in my head that coalesce into something of a mushy soup of a blueprint for the beginnings of a plan. Anyway, there that is. Hopefully I'll get to post something soon after Thanksgiving!