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Preview: film, music, philosophy, moral meaning, and storied living

film, music, philosophy, moral meaning, and storied living

Sometimes I worry that I've lost the plot. My twitchin' muscles tease my flippant thoughts. I never really dreamed of heaven much until we put him in the ground, but it's all I'm doing now - listening for patterns in the sound of an endless static sea.

Updated: 2017-08-12T07:39:38.650-04:00


rip! A remix Manifesto - 6


You can watch the entire film here. If is also streaming on Netflix.This film takes its message to heart.  It was made as the first open source documentary because its message is that open source is the future of creativity, even for music and film. The project and film were created by Brett Gaylor, who uses Girl Talk and Disney (and a little Napster) to try to make the point that copyright and intellectual property rights in the 20th century went awry. Gaylor formats the film around the four principles of the remixers manifesto.  1. Culture always builds on the past2. The past always tries to control the future.3. Our future is becoming less free.4. To build free societies, you must limit the control of the past.By setting it up this way he then goes on to talk about how we need a different view of the past and laws that will allow us to be more free, rather than the current laws which constrain creativity. Two of his strongest examples are Lawerence Lessig and Brazil. Lessig is a lawyer who argues for the value of open source technolgy and the founder of the Creative Commons. Brazil is a contemporary example of a country that has moved away from copyright law and works as an example of the creativity that is available to those in poverty when ideas are free floating for anyone's use. Musician and former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil has been influential in trying to make Brazil more open source when it comes to music.While at times the film seems to get distracted or go off track, for the most part this is a very well made film. It is bound to start up interesting conversations about what we think of intellectual property and how best to use it for the betterment of society and the world. [...]

The Examined Life - 6


A series of conversations with famous philosophers about the themes of their work. At times a little slow, but some good quotes about how to start the journey toward a more examined life, which Plato states is the only life worth living.

Departures - 7


A great film about a musician who relocates back home and gets a job getting corpses ready for cremation. This Japanese film shows the stigma attached to dead bodies, but the main character is able to teach those around him about the value of life and death. More on this film soon, it begs to be written about extensively.



Recently I have found Amazon's MP3 store to be a great and inexpensive way to get new music. Last month, I got the new Vampire Weekend and Dave Matthews Band on one day discounts (less than three dollars), as well as Yeasayer's Odd Blood. I really enjoy them and recommend them. More recently, I downloaded four new albums that I recommend in order of awesomeness and life transformation to good, but not great, they are:Midlake - The Courage of OthersMumford & Sons - Sigh No MoreBroken Bells She & Him - Volume 2 [...]

The Dark Knight - 7


Christopher Nolan's resurrection of the Batman in Batman Begins (here and here) and The Dark Knight have made it my favorite comic book adaptation to film...EVER. The complexity of the Joker (played amazingly by Heath Ledger) and the way the film breaks new ground in a genre that seems played out makes me believe again in the power of storytelling. Stop reading this and go watch it!

3 thoughtful films


A Serious Education in Comment. Where I review: An Education, A Serious Man, and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.

This is (not) a Love Story: An Incredulity to Love in Popular Culture


An article in Comment. Rather proud of this one and the many connections I make between a variety of cultural artifacts.

Alice in Wonderland 3D - 4


Fun and playful adventure story. Great sets, costumes. Bland plot. Made me look up the original books and author on Wikipedia.

The Damned United - 7


Great performance by Michael Sheen as 70's era British soccer coach Clough. A character study of the best kind.

Changeling and Standard Operating Procedure


Most of my film writing now appears in Comment.

Here is my latest article on Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure and Eastwood's Changeling.

The Happening - 2


I wanted to give M. Night Shyamalan an other shot to prove his film-making greatness like the films Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village...but he has not delivered. In fact, this film is worse than Lady in the Water which I didn't like all that much, but can see some merit to. This is his first R rated film, which I assume is a marketing ploy by the studio. It makes the film worse by showing gratuitous violence. The film attempts to be a story about nature taking its revenge on humanity for its ill treatment. The main story is actually about a troubled marriage. Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) and Alma (Zooey Deschanel) are drifting apart and this scare and their care for a friends daughter shows them that they really do love each other. While the pieces were in place for a great film: good director, good actor and actress, the film is a flop and a total waste of time and money.

I'm Not There. - 6


This film is a creative take on the life of Bob Dylan. Dylan is played by six different characters throughout the different phases of his life and career. Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Cate Blanchett, each portray Dylan as a iconic figure known for his influence in music and writing lyrics. Overall the film has a sense of the mysteriousness of Dylan as a public figure who both wants to use it, but also is unsure and at times shies away from the spotlight. While the film is beautifully shot and directed by Todd Haynes, it seems aimed at the Dylan fan more than a general audience. What seems like six stories that are interconnected seems to depend on the viewer understanding the intertextuality that makes sense of the narrative and Dylan's historical influences. This narrative complexity is sophisticated, but also at times confusing. The soundtrack can't help but be great with many covers and originals of Dylan's work. [...]

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - 5


This sequel had quite a bit to live up to. The first film (again directed by Andrew Adamson), not only had a great story to work from, but was able to keep all the essential elements and let the Christian allegory not come off as manipulative. This film has what I think is a somewhat harder story to tell, and the allegory is not completely but almost lost in the cheap shots to integrate CGI battle scenes and cheesy romance. The characters of the Pevensie children are under-developed. What is great about this book and film series is that it is suitable to a younger audience while also showing and speaking of real evil. While the books obviously focus on the development of the reader's imagination, these film adaptations show some great visuals to hopefully jump start those lacking a grand an imagination (I include myself in this latter group). For me, the film was somewhat of a disappointment. What all the books in this series do well is tell a story that relies ultimately on grace: that humans alone cannot somehow earn or work their way to their own selfish good. Rather we are in need of help and rescue from beyond that really is better for human beings in community and relationship.What might be the ultimate surprise though is the ending ballad entitled "The Call" by Regina Spektor. Unexpected, but a welcome surprise. [...]

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - 7


(image) It took some time but I was finally able to see this much anticipated film. While 2007 seems to be the year for unexpected pregnancy films, this film takes the audience on a much more heart wrenching ride than the many others that seem to work out despite the challenges. This film is Romanian and is set in the 80's when abortion there was illegal and severely punished. The story follows two friends who live together in a crowded apartment building. When scared and naive Gabriela reveals that she is pregnant, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) arranges for the abortion. The film shows the dedication and sacrifice that friendship involves and the difficult choices that begin to define what friendship and being in a relationship mean. The film both shows the harsh reality of the situation, as well as showing Otilia's existential questioning of what her life means and where it is headed. This is probably the one film about unwanted pregnancy this year that takes it deadly serious.

Ronin - 4


This is a standard covert operations film. Made in 1998 it looks older somehow. A small team of strangers are hired for a task to get a package. The package of course turns out to be a MacGuffin, and the story revolves around the issues of trust and who is conning who. A decent action film, and less formulaic than a James Bond film, but not anything to go out of your way to see. I would have liked for there to be a greater connection to the background that gives the film its title. The main stars are Robert De Niro and Jean Reno.

Eagle vs Shark - 7


This is the Napolean Dynamite of romantic comedies. It has awkward characters who are just trying to make a connection in a fragmented and broken world. Made in New Zealand by artist-turned-director Taika Waititi and staring Loren Horsley as ex-Meaty Boy employee and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) as eccentric Jarrod, it also features plenty the indie music of The Phoenix Foundation. It also features a few illustrated portions reminiscent of Michael Gondry films. The basic story is that Lily is in love with Jarrod who hooks up with her at a Fight Man video game party. He then asks her brother for a ride back to his hometown to beat up a former bully from when he was in grade school. All the characters are weird including Jarrod's family, but the lesson here is that human beings have a need to connect, and no matter how rotten we or others are, better to attempt love and relationship than waste away on a deserted island. [...]

Lust, Caution - 6


Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and screen-writer James Schamus (The Ice Storm, The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman) team up once again to adapt this short story by Chinese author Eileen Chang. To over simplify, or rather to make an unnuanced comparison, this film is similar to Verhoeven's 2006 film Black Book. This film is also set during WWII, but in Japanese occupied Shanghai, rather than German occupied Holland. A young university student, Wang (Wei Tang), uses her beauty to get close to the enemy as a part of a resistance movement. After a failed attempt early on with some of her young theater friends, she later is recruited to once again get close to Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). As lust turns into love, it becomes harder to tell who is deceiving whom, or even if it is deception anymore. And after all the build up of developing an intimate relationship it all comes down to the crucial decision of what they love more: the causes they work for, or each other. [...]

Dial M for Murder - 7


(image) In this Hitchcock film, the perfect murder is planned and put into motion. Anymore information about the plot would take away from the excitement of trying to follow it as it zigs and zags. It is an intricate story with plenty of twists and turns as the plan is fouled up but always being covered by Tony (Ray Milland) as he controls the situation through control of the story that people hear and believe. Grace Kelly plays Margot, Tony's wife and the victim of his scheming. This film is a great suspense film, as the audience is in the know, but is still guessing and waiting for the police to solve the case. Hitchcock's excellence at his art once again comes through, no scene, dialogue, or shot is by accident.