Archive | October, 2011

GAME 7…

28 Oct

David Fresse jumped into the arms of his frolicking teammates knowing one thing, tomorrow his team would play one more game and not just any game. A game 7 in the World Series.

After arguably the greatest World Series game ever played the Cardinals and the Rangers will play one more game to determine the Championship. This is the first time the World Series has been played to its max alotted games since 2002, when the Angels and the Giants played  7 games. Game 6 of that World Series was similar to last nights game, because just like the Rangers this year, the Giants of 2002 had a late lead only to lose in a crushing way forcing a game 7.  That being said the Rangers may be in trouble. Recent history suggests that on the biggest stage in baseball, losses like this translate to discouragement which leads to defeat. The last three such instances of this happening in the World Series has ended poorly for the team losing in crushing fashion.

If the Rangers did not already have enough going against them, the last 8 game 7’s have been won by the home team. Essentially the Ranger’s will have an up hill battle if they want to win their first World Series title in franchise history.

However these Rangers are relentless, so it will come as no surprise if tomorrow they come out of the gate roaring. Taking the lead early and perhaps winning one final game on the road. At the same time though, these Cardinals are used to the feeling of being so close to elimination. They faced it on the last day of the regular season. Then again in game 5 of the NLDS against the Phillies and then again in Game 6 of the World Series and now will be faced with it one more time tonight in Game 7.  So it would come as no surprise if the Cardinals stave off elimination one more time. Stealing the World Series and stealing the spotlight of a show they were never suppose to be the star of back in August.

A Swan Soars

27 Oct

I finally did it. I finally buckled down and watched Black Swan. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not that I didn’t think I would enjoy the movie. I did. It’s just I didn’t know what to expect. In the back of my mind there was a part of me that thought I wouldn’t like it. Perhaps just like the main character of the film Nina. I was suffering from a certain amount of doubt. It’s odd because the film received such praise during it’s 2010 Oscar run. But just like Nina. Black Swan dazzles turning this innocent doubter into a hardcore believer.

This transformation that I  found in myself, in many ways parallels the main character of the movie.

The story follows the production and selection of a new lead ballerina for Swan Lake ballet by the prestigious New York City Company after the companies director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassell) needs to replace his long standing mainstay Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) who is forced into retirement. The production requires an exceptionally talented dancer who can not only encompass the light and innocent White Swan but also the almost divine like dark and sensual Black Swan. In a company bursting with talent, two members of the group stand out.

There is the Innocent Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, who on the strength of her stand out performance won the 2010 Academy award for best acting and the Dark and Vuluptous Lily (Mila Kunis) who plays antagonist to Nina’s Pysche.

Nina is chosen to be the principle ballerina but not without struggle. Thomas informs her that she is perfect as the White Swan but lacks the passion and sensuality of the Black Swan. A trait that her counterpart Lily is exceptionally gifted with. This idea begins to eat at Nina, compounding her paranoia into fits of anger and deadly hallucinations.

A key element of the film is the relationship between Nina and Lily. What appears to be Lily helping Nina loosen into her new role and embrace her more sensual side turns into Nina starting to believe that Lily has alterior motives. She thinks that Lily is out to get her role and she might be right?

With Black Swan Director Darren Aronofsky is hitting on all cylinders, creating his most psychological entrancing film since requiem for a dream. It’s terrifying. It’s beautiful. It’s sexy and above all it’s a work of art.

Rating: 9/10

Instant Reaction: M83-“Midnight City”

25 Oct

Some songs just stick with you. M83’s recent single “Midnight City” accomplishes this by ingraining it’s rhythmic beats into your head. There is no build up to the song it just immediately kicks in utilizing synthesizers to create an atmospheric explosion of pure emotion. Simply put it intrinsically captures you. The sounds are wild and unknown as if the band  trained two birds to harmonize their caws into a steady rhythmic motion which then briefly settles down for the beautiful whispers of lead singer Anthony Gonzales dreamy tale of  a rousing night on the town.

The song is the epitome of beautiful. It has memorable lyrics, danceable rhythms and more 80’s nostalgia than is healthy for a person and just as you think the song has reached it’s peak it climaxes with the most mesmerizing saxophone solo.

\”Midnight City\” takes M83 to new heights. It’s the bands greatest accomplishment yet. I can’t get this song out of my head and you probably won’t be able to either.

A View from P.T. Anderson’s Perspective

23 Oct

Paul Thomas Anderson has made five movies in an illustrious career in filmmaking that spans over 3 decades. It’s a low number considering how most directors produce movies at a breakneck pace. However just like one of the greatest directors of all-time Stanley Kubrick (The Shining, A Clock Work Orange, Dr. Strangelove) who was notorious for his infrequent productions, once waiting as long as 12 years between Full Metal Jacket and his last film Eyes Wide Shut he shares Kubrick’s meticulous approach to the art form which is what makes his resume so sparse and his productions so slow-paced. It’s also what makes him one of the most brilliant filmmakers actively working. Each one counts, as he finds new ways of innovating cinema, prepping a blank canvas each time to reinvent his style while keeping his past in perspective and layering it into something new and exciting. He is the modern-day definition of a master Auteur.

The first film I ever watched from Anderson was the 2002 quirky romantic love story titled Punch Drunk Love. I admit I was too young when I first saw it to fully appreciate the pure genius and ingenuity of the film but after countless revisits of the film I have learned to recognize it as my favorite of his many masterpieces.

He takes a new approach to romantic, treading new territory. With his main character Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), Anderson seamlessly melds together the realities and hardships of living under a constant microscope of depreciating family members bent on making Barry’s life a living hell, all while claiming to want what’s best for him.  Anderson blends this concept into one incorrigible state that mixes love, fantasy and plenty of drama. In the end your affection for Barry Egan is unprovoked. Anderson’s selection of overt goofball Adam Sandler in the lead role was unexpected but turns out to be pure genius as Sandler turns in the performance of his career, in a role that was meant for him.

As with all of Anderson’s  films what stands out the most is his visual style. In Punch Drunk Love,  Anderson pays strict attention to colors. We see plenty of white mixed with splashes of blue and red that highlight the importance of the unfolding relationship of the couple. This detailed blending of colors makes the cinematic experience feel animated. At one point during the film when Barry Egan is running from scammers who are chasing him as a form of intimidation, he runs through an alley and on the wall behind him his silhouette appears. Something about this shot has always stuck with me. It takes the drama of the moment to unprecedented heights.

In Anderson’s most recent theatrical release 2007’s There Will Be Blood, he opens the film with 20 engrossing minutes of  Daniel Plainview’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) ascension into becoming a self-loathing oil man as he chips away at the walls of a mine in search of silver. The scene is mesmerizing despite not even a single word of dialogue being uttered. Only the sounds of Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood’s eerie and unrelenting soundtrack plays over Plainview’s work. The scene is nothing less than gritty. The dark color schemes lend itself  perfectly to the harrowing scene which serves to introduce the story and sets the tone of the film. This opening sequence is a testament to Anderson’s unparalleled vision.

In many ways this film is Anderson’s first horror film despite not fitting the prototypical mold of what the horror genre is. Instead  the film relies on psychological tension to instill fear in the audience.  Plainview’s desire to mix passion and greed leads to his insatiable thirst for material wealth and oil, stopping at nothing to get what he craves. It’s Anderson’s Citizen Kane.

There Will Be Blood sticks in your psyche like a leach sucking human flesh. One scene in particular sticks out as the absolute epitome of horror that Daniel Plainview is capable of. In the final scene in which Plainview’s antagonist Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) confesses he has run out of money due to poor budgeting Daniel bludgeons the boy to death with a bowling pin. The mis-en-scene has the essence of  Kubrick’s The Shining as the bowling alley has a unique scheme of colors that forebodes the conclusion of the film. There Will Be Blood is Anderson’s visual masterpiece.

If There Will Be Blood is Anderson’s most visually masterful film than Boogie Nights is his most ambitious. It’s the story of a porn star named Dirk Diggler’s rise and fall from the industry. The film has one of the most impressive long takes in film history. The long take is a somewhat regular part of many directors repertoire but having the ability to produce a moving long take that lasts nearly 3 minutes and be capable of doing it well is a rarity. Yet in the opening moments of Boogie Nights that’s exactly what Anderson does once again creating movie magic pushing the limits on what a single take can be.  It is one of the most mesmerizing opening sequences of any film period. In creating this shot Anderson introduces a series of main characters to the films story line while cleverly laying the groundwork for the rest of the film. Boogie Nights is by far one of the most easily accessible films that Anderson has made to date and perhaps his best overall work.

All of these things I have highlighted illustrate only a taste of what P.T. Anderson is. He is a living legend. A director whose films are likely to be analyzed far into the future. He is the definition of filmmaking at it’s best.

In 2013 Anderson’s highly anticipated sixth film ‘The Master’ starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman is due to come out. It’s been six years since his last film. You can guarantee that this film will be just as inventive as the previous five.

A Fountain of Metaphors

23 Oct

Why are we alive? Why are we born? What Happens when we die?  The movie The Fountain doesn’t explicitly ask these questions. However  it implicitly does through the films fantastic use of numerous metaphors and motifs.

If you haven’t seen the film from acclaimed director Darren Arnofsky, which is likely considering the critical divide and box office failure that this film had back in 2006 then a little background might be useful.

It follows the story of a man and a woman through three different dimensions in time with three completely non-linear story lines. However in each dimension the goal remains the same. Immortality.

The main character of focus in each dimension is the male figure of the film played by Hugh Jackman. In the first dimension we encounter Tomas the Spanish Conquistador on an expedition seeking the mythical fountain of youth.  He has been sent on this expedition by Queen Isabel played by Rachel Weisz who also plays the female character in each dimension. Isabel sent them to find this fountain, so that she could gain power over the inquisitor who is trying to enact a coup on her regime by killing her. The fountain symbolizes the queen’s desire for immortality and her fear of death.

In each dimension it is the female character whose life is in danger.  The 2nd story follows Tommy the neurosurgeons quest for the cure of a degenerative brain disease that is ailing his wife Izzi. Notice the correlation in names between the characters of each dimension. Izzi and Isabel. Tomas and Tommy. In creating a correlation with the characters names Aronofsky is symbolizing the ongoing cycle of life.  Once we live we die and once we die we live. This motif appears several times over specifically we see it again with the appearance of rings which also symbolizes a cycle of life.

In the third dimension we find Tom as a space traveler on a golden nebula. Here he seeks answers to the cure for his wife Izzi from the metaphorical tree of life. This is part of the ongoing continuity of symbols representing the quest for immortality and the fear of death.

This movie is a film of great interest. It is Aronofsky producing pure genius once again. Critics were very divided by this film but perhaps that comes from the convoluted nature of the film. It is a film that requires at least two views to fully understand, but at the same time it was made with such meticulous precision that it would almost be a disservice not to revisit this film after an initial watch.

You have plenty of time after all because as this movie suggests, even after death we still keep coming back for more.

Trailer

Walking Dead Season 2: Will it Flop?

21 Oct

This past Sunday night ended a year-long wait for the much-anticipated renewal of one of the most popular television show in history. It’s a statement I can make without hesitation as the numbers speak for themselves. On sunday night the Walking Dead premiered to an unprecedented 7.3 million viewers. That is a number that now sits in the record books as the highest rated telecast in cable history.

This is great news for AMC who is hoping to make the Walking Dead their personal project. However in the process of doing so they have alienated one of the greatest hollywood screen writers actively working in Frank Darabont. The choice to cut ties with Darabont was made half way through the production of the second season. This action, although it’s too soon to say may have negative long-term effects on the popularity of the show as Darabont was in many way consider the major creative force behind the Walking Dead, making AMC decision to part ways with Darabont curious.

Frank Darabont

The reason or reasons that AMC let Darabont go are unspecific.  It is known that AMC intended to cut the budget of each episode down from 3.4 million to 2.7 Million. That is a $650,000 cut. Darabont saw this cut as having a conflicting approach to a creative team flowing with talent. In Darbont’s words. “If you have an asset, why would you punish it? Common Sense would say that he is right The Walking Dead is AMC’s highest rated show and Darabont is a big component of that. Then why the parting of ways?

This is not the first time AMC has had disputes with successful shows. Since it made the switch from airing old movies to original content it has happened with each of it’s top 3 shows. Walking Dead along with Breaking Bad and Mad Men were all put through potential budget cuts as well but the main difference is that those two shows are owned by outside studios. This gave those shows more leverage in discussions to work out any issues.  In the case of Sony Television Breaking Bad who was being told that their 4th season would be cut from 13 episodes to 6 or 8 simply decided to pitch their show to other networks such as FX.  AMC took the bait unwilling to risk the loss of the highly popular show.

The Walking Dead did not have this kind of leverage because AMC never gave up the rights to any outside studio and thus still own it and control it. For better or worse that’s just how it’s gonna be. I can’t predict how this will turn out in the end but from what I saw in the first episode of season 2 and maybe I am still a little mad about the 30 minutes of commercial I had to sit through, in what was supposed to be a 90 minute season premiere. I was less than enthusiastic, the episode was somewhat boring. Usually you want to start the 2nd season of a television series with a bang. They failed to do so.

With Darabont now a outsider looking in, I am interested to see if this ends up as just another flop.

Take a sneak peek of the 2nd season with this teaser trailer.

Who Will Win the 2011 World Series?

20 Oct

So we have come to this. The decisive 7 game series that ultimately determines who gets bragging rights in the baseball world. It’s the World Series. The Ranger Vs The Cardinals.

The Rangers are the new beast of the American League. They proved that last year by knocking off the then defending World Champion New York Yankees in route to their first AL pennant in franchise history and now having deja vu as they find themselves making their 2nd consecutive World Series trip. A feat they accomplished with astonishing ease.

 VS. 

This is quite a contrast to the season of their opponent the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were the team that nobody saw coming and why would you? In Mid August they were in a seemingly insurmountable hole. 10 1/2 games to be exact. In baseball terms that means you essentially need a miracle to get into the playoffs. Their prayers were answered. The Atlanta Braves who led by 8 1/2 games on September 1st experienced an epic collapse while the Cardinals had their best month of the season finishing the season on a scorching 18-8 pace and winning the Wild Card on the final day of the season.

Their reward for their comeback had them facing the World Series favorite Philadelphia Phillies in the opening round of the postseason. That was okay with them. They were just happy to be in that position. They were relaxed as the expectations to win had been lifted. However their will to win was unchanged as they eliminated the Phillies and their trio of nearly unstoppable Aces in 5 games. Next came Milwaukee and their prolific offense. No problem as they eliminated them in 6 games and with that the unthinkable as they found themselves on their way to their 18th World Series in franchise history. That no pressure attitude may have just been the key to their success.

Today as the World Series  starts in St. Louis the Cardinals are once again the underdog. Everyone has picked the Rangers, which is to be expected seeing as they were in this position last year and are even more hungry to win after their bitter defeat at  the hands of the scrappy San Francisco Giants.  As seemingly unstoppable as the Rangers seem right now it does appear that they have one significant flaw. They seem to struggle against NL opponents. They were 9-9 against National League opponents and while that is a 500 winning percentage it’s still not as good in comparison to the way most of the perennial powers of the American League knocked around their National League opponents.

That being said, I put my money on the Cardinals to win the World Series. They have nothing to lose and they have exceeded every expectation thus far. This is just one more hurdle to overcome in their dream of a season. The Cardinals win this in 6. You heard it here first.