Monthly Archives: July 2010

Off Topic: Free Night

That is to say “Free Write.”
or, That is to write, “Free Write.”

A rosary for eyelashes, hear their penance in a tall wooden bookcase.  It winds and splinters, gives grief to the high masters.  She has cordoned the railways, I glimpse an even taller wooden parrot.  He counts money in the back room.  The crooks hover like puppet hyenas.  Don’t you smell them?  Don’t you hear them panting in multiples of five? Fifteen acres, twenty sour candies, twenty-five porcelain dollies, thirty cotton pantaloons.

Pass me the vinegar.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  I know I should have asked the point guard to come with me.

AJH

But I Don’t know how!

A friend of mine told me today that her girlfriend doesn’t know how to swim.  I know of people who are afraid of being in or near (large) bodies of water, specifically the ocean, but I hadn’t assumed that these people might also not know how to swim.  I do not like being close to large bodies of water but I know how to swim.  I may not be able to open my eyes while fully submerged but I can float and keep my head above water.   Do you know anyone that doesn’t know how to swim?  Family, friends, coworkers?  If the answer is yes, are you surprised at how many or how few names are on that list?

Speculate more broadly.  In industrialized nations, do you think there are more people who don’t know how to read or more who don’t know how to swim?  Or both?  Compare your estimations of those who can’t swim with those who

~ don’t know how to hit a baseball.
~ cannot reach into their satchel without looking and be able to retrieve an object smaller than their palm.
~ cannot parallel park.
~ don’t know how to operate any musical instrument.
~ don’t know how to ride a bicycle.
~ don’t know how to fly a kite.
~ don’t know how to operate an oven.
~ don’t know how to operate a laundry machine or a dryer.
~ cannot roller skate, ice-skate, or roller blade.
~ have never set foot on a skate board.
~ have never touched a surf board.
~ have never ridden a horse.

Which list would have the most names on it?  If you could combine a minimum of two and maximum of four of those “don’t know how’s,” which combination would have the most names?

Not knowing how to do something in this sense means that while a person can explain the steps involved, that person has never participated in those steps (or has tried at least once and failed miserably).

If you enjoyed reading this entry, may I suggest What’s Worse.

Cinema as Dream Machine

Detour:

Here is Gideon Lewis-Kraus with an amusing re-write of Nolan’s film.  I’d pay to see this one.

All right David Denby.  You score mightily with your New Yorker piece on Inception.

The film “is a stunning-looking film that gets lost in fabulous intricacies, a movie devoted to its own workings and to little else.

Denby also has a review of Salt (August 2, 2010 issue), which I enjoyed very much.  He mentions Angelina Jolie’s character extracting venom from a giant, hairy spider…but in the film, she actually takes it from a small spider, about the size of a big toe nail.  My favorite part of Denby’s article:

The movie has an air of momentousness, yet most of it is conventional, though well-directed, pop mayhem. The director, Phillip Noyce, stages the action with a decent amount of space around the fights, rather than the usual closeups of whirling limbs. I can’t say if this nicely crafted nonsense will sell as a franchise, but I know that I miss the unpretentiousness of the “Bourne” movies. Jason Bourne, after all, is merely trying to defend himself and retrieve his erased identity. In the person of Matt Damon, he’s a sombrely appealing man—tormented and, for all his violence, rather soulful. By contrast, Jolie’s unending stare says that Evelyn Salt is impervious; her cool lies in how little she responds to what happens to her. She’s an advanced fighting machine, an attempt at instant myth. I find her iciness repellent, yet she certainly dominates the movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Liev Schreiber play Salt’s superiors in the C.I.A. Schreiber, saturnine as always, growls a lot, and Ejiofor reacts to everything with openmouthed wonder.

Retour:

“Cinema as dream machine.”

These words appear in the fifth sentence of Amy Taubin’s July/August 2010 Film Comment interview with Christopher Nolan on his film Inception (2010).  While I did not come away from the theatrical viewing experience as entranced as many others, Taubin is a favorite critic.  It’s also always entertaining to read filmmakers talk about their work, from the production nitty-gritty to the aesthetic, thematic intentions and non-intentions.  An artist can have an agenda in mind (or not), an artist can spin flesh and blood into his work desiring to convey one idea over another, but it’s still up to the consumer to decipher the work.  What one person experiences can differ subtly or vastly from what another person sees.  Toh-mae-toh.  Toh-mah-toh.  Magenta, red-violet.  Forgetfulness, carelessness.

The prologue to Taubin’s interview chimes like this:

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is one of those rare movies in which everything is excitingly new and yet tinged with deja vu.  Was that that airport promenade from La Jetee that I saw out of the corner of my eye?  Was that the mountain where Gregory Peck’s mind wipes out in Spellbound?  Not that this is a movie about other movies–or rather, it is, insofar as those movies and the hundreds of others that you may see or imagine you see in this thrillingly kinetic, breakneck-paced psycho-caper-action-adventure are part of our collective dreamscape.  Nolan has taken a premise that has inspired avant-garde filmmakers since movies were invented–cinema as dream machine–and has written it huge” (32).

The first question Amy Taubin asks is from where the idea for the film came.  Nolan’s response includes this bit:

About 10 years go, I started thinking about fusing a film about dreaming with a heist-film structure.  At that time there was a subgenre of film–The Matrix would be one of them–that suggested the world around you isn’t real.  I guess Memento was part of that subgenre.  I wanted to use the heist-film or the con-film structure to turn that idea on its head, so that you could invite someone into someone else’s dream or break into someone else’s dream.  You wouldn’t be stuck inside a single consciousness” (32).

On the cinematic allusions in the film, Nolan remarks that Inceptionis a story about people sharing a dream, so you want to be limitless in your references.  I bring in the language of action films because it’s made on that scale.  But once you start tracking the language of movies, you find how cinematic tropes trickle down.  A few weeks ago, I watched the Criterion DVD of Last Year at Marienbad.  I’d never seen that film before, and yet there are moments in Inception that are similar to Marienbad because I’d seen movies by filmmakers who had seen it” (32).

It took Nolan a decade to complete the script for Inception because he struggled with getting past the “glamorous and fun” and “gamemanship” of heist films; “…when you look at the world of dreams, you’re looking to dig deeper into emotional states and into the human psyche” (33).

The director did not do any research on dreams.  “…it’s all stuff I made up,” he told Taubin.  “I tend not to research because you either confirm what you want to do, or you realize something isn’t true but you want to do it anyway” (34).

I’m sure if he were doing a period piece he’d at least make sure anachronisms that are avoidable would be prevented from popping up in wardrobe or props.

Taubin asks him about time and space.  Nolan’s answer indicates that he employs slow-motion very rarely if ever (prior to Inception) but is a die-hard fan of crosscutting and parallel editing and movement.  Events happening at the same time.  He notes, “The audience doesn’t know what [slow-motion] means but it gives something a visceral resonance” (35).  I find this comment odd because in what way does a viewer not comprehend what slow-motion expresses?  A slow-motion instant replay isn’t a mystery.  Does Nolan suggest that the significance, the function of a certain slow-motioned action is often lost because it is firstly perceived too literally?  T he  s l o w i n g  d o w n  o f  t i me r a t h e r  t h a n  s o m e t h i n g  r e l a t e d  t o  t h e  c h a r a c t e r s ?

Nolan filmed on film.  …”.35mm anamorphic and a little bit of VistaVision, and a few dialogue scenes were shot in 65mm” (35).

Another satisfying read.

Jonathan Romney‘s article about the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and his film Valhalla Rising is a good read too.  Romney’s voice is informative (“The film demands a leap of faith: either you go with it or you don’t, which itself suggest that Valhalla stands to attract a devoted cult following” [29]).  It doesn’t come across as a news bulletin or a book report, but I don’t connect with it as much as I do with the prose of Taubin and David Denby.

When, oh when will it open in Atlanta? or be available to purchase on DVD? Click here for a trailer.

If you want to read the rest of the Taubin interview with Nolan or Romney’s piece, go to your local bookstore or newsstand (or university library) and buy a  copy.  The July/August issue also has the first installment of an essay about film criticism in print vs. in web/blogs by Paul Brunick, which you can read here.

Read more about La Jetee, Spellbound, and Last Year at Marienbad.

Yes, I did re-interpret the Inception poster.
Click here for more pictures from the film.

I like eggplant again

I never disliked eggplant, but I did go through several months in the last couple of years where I had little to no appetite for the purple plant.  I heard through the cubicle vine this morning about a restaurant called Loving Hut.  I went to the establishment’s web site, and based solely on the landing page, I decided I had to go try this place for dinner.  I’m not a vegan.

For anyone who is reading this entry, lives in Atlanta, and has ever been outside of 285, Loving Hut is located at the intersection of Spalding and Holcomb Bridge.  The front door actually faces Holcomb Bridge and is to the right of the Chevron gas station.

Here’s the walkway to the entrance.

~!~

Here’s a view of the “foyer” looking back to the front door (which is to the left in this picture).

~!~
It looks and tastes like shrimp, but it’s made from yams.

~!~
The eggplant dish.  Scoop of brown rice, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms.  So yummy.


Between Love Hut and Fuego, I’ve got healthy covered.  All that Atlanta needs now is a gluten and wheat-free bakery or coffee shop.

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To see more pictures, click here and navigate to the middle of the third page.

What’s Worse?

Perhaps “worse” isn’t the best word to use; perhaps “more frustrating” is more accurate.  What frustrates you more about experiencing or observing the irrationality of other people’s behavior in your day-to-day life?

When People Do:

~ Turn on red when a sign tells them they cannot.
~ Stand too close to the person in front of them in line at a cash register.
~ Use their blackberries in the restroom (in the stall next door) so that you can hear the tap-tap of keys.
~ Place their order at the register of a coffee house and do not move to the side to wait for their beverage (or to put their change/credit card in their wallet).
~ Use their turn signal to change lanes and forget to switch off the signal.
~ Drive to the very edge of a parking lot and the road assuming that if they stick the hood of their car far out enough, the car to the immediate left of the entrance/exit area will let them into traffic.
~ Tell you the truth without considering what words to use or even if you need to hear the truth.
~ Give you options you never knew you had, thus putting you into a disoriented state because you don’t know what to choose.*

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When People Do Not:

~ Turn on red when they are legally allowed to do turn (there is no sign indicating they cannot).
~ Scoot up in line when the person(s) in front of them in line have moved at least six inches.
~ End their phone call prior to stepping inside of the stall next door.
~ Remain near enough to the counter to hear their drinks being called out when ready.
~ Use their signal when intending to change lanes until the very last instant.
~ Allow cars into traffic when the light ahead is red or has just turned green and there is both time and space for that car.
~ Apprise you of a situation for fear of upsetting you when in fact telling you earlier would’ve given you more options with how to respond to the situation.
~ Give you options you had the last time, forcing you to inquire if the options are still available.

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* I suppose if you didn’t care, you could say, “It doesn’t matter.”  If you don’t care, be arbitrary.

If you enjoyed reading this post, may I suggest you hop over to the email forward?