Monday, June 28, 2010

Christopher Nolan and his use of Time

I thought about doing separate reviews for each of the movies here, but while viewing them I found the common link was time. Nolan uses flashbacks, reverse storytelling, and unspecified sequences to increase tension in his films and create a better experience. Film-by-film, here's how I saw his use of time.
Goes without saying: spoilers

Following is really very dark and examines the danger of our own human curiosity. But the dramatic tension in the film largely comes from the flashback sequencing. Throughout the film, I empathized with the Young Man. Sure, he was creepy and had problems. But he seemed essentially good, and I was hoping he would realize his errors. The beginning sequence made this seem possible; the Young Man could turn himself in and repent and send Cobb to jail. So when we see that it's all been a conspiracy to blame the Young Man for the murder of the Blonde, it hits much harder.

Memento is a very heavily discussed film, so I'll try to not delve into it too much. The non-sequential story-telling in Memento is perfect. While the timeline goes A to B to C, the story is told in alternating sequences from C to B and A to B, with the ending of the film taking place in the middle of the timeline. The temporal games make the viewer just as confused as the amnesiac Leonard. It also stresses that the climax and turning point of the film is the point where Leonard begins his own hunt for who should be his last John G: Teddy. This takes place at the middle, but is the height of excitement in the film, and a fitting end to the movie.

Insomnia really only plays with time through lighting and delusion. The perpetual light of the North throws off the viewer and the characters. The delusions of Dormer are non-sequential, but they don't leave us questioning too much. All in all, the two up the tension, but not as much as the interactions between the characters.

Batman Begins and Dark Knight
I'm not going to talk about these right now, as I don't think time matters as much in these. Another viewing of Begins (I've seen TDK enough) might change that though.

The Prestige
The Prestige has a sequencing nearly as complex as Memento, yet I don't find it as tense. Still, it helps to make the movie a thrill ride. Like Memento, While we have the A to B to C sequencing, we begin at both B and C, see part of C and the beginning of B, and then flash back to A. The slow unveiling of the entire illusion allows us to see the full moral stakes at the climax of the film, which impacts us more.

Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and his use of time is a reason why. I hope this helps explain why I have a man-crush on him.

"Party Down" goes down (?)

This isn't going to be long one at all (not that any of mine are, my attention span sucks) because critics like Sepinwall and Memles have already dissected every episode of Party Down very well.
If you haven't seen the show, it's all up on Netflix. Go watch it now, before I spoil you.

But I wanted to express how much I love this show. Party Down, for all of it's 20 episode run, has been incredibly honest and funny. It's a pitch-perfect combination of awkward social situational comedy and overarching themes of fame and fulfillment. It contains such earnest examination of our parameters for failure and success, our approach to relationships, and the fact that life really does just go on. The partially rotating cast of characters coupled with the setting really had me thinking about what counts as completion in life and about how people depend so very much on others. Add to that the comedic elements of amazing writing that manages to create some of the best situations in a sitcom in years and the weekly guest stars and the show had me busting a gut every episode.
And while this may be the end for Party Down, I don't think it's a failure. The run of the show itself is very reflective of the lesson of the show: while we may fail in many areas of life and while we may separate from those around us, life does go on and we can find happiness eventually. Just as Henry tried another audition and kept his relationship with Casey in a prime example of pursuing happiness and moving on, Adam Scott and much of the Party Down cast have landed huge roles on other television shows. Good luck to them.

Pacing in the films of Quentin Tarantino

I'll preface this by saying I haven't seen every Tarantino movie. I've enjoyed the ones I have seen, though. I'll update the post once I've seen all of his films. Just want to put out my thoughtz

In movies by Quentin Tarantino, a common complaint seems to be that sequences can be drawn-out. Keeping that complaint in mind, I watched Reservoir Dogs for the first time yesterday (yeah the first time).
I see where the critical group is coming from, but I find the extended sequences very important to Tarantino's films. For instance, in Reservoir Dogs, the movie begins with a long sequence of the men at a diner discussing tips and Madonna and ribbing one another. Now, some might find this sequence unimportant to the rest of the film, but I feel (as do many other much smarter people, I'm sure) that it gives a cultural context to these psychopaths. These men, as is shown more and more in the film, are, to put it bluntly, fucking crazy. Yet, they can discuss the social conventions of tipping and the meaning behind "Like a Virgin." By beginning with such mundane yet society-defining discussion, we can better view the twisted nature of the focal characters and better understand the convoluted moral codes these men carry.
Kill Bill works in a similar way. For instance, the quiet and slow scene of the Bride having coffee with Vernita provides context to the rest of the movie. The Bride maintains a level or morality, though it is twisted, even when consumed by revenge. It's also a contrast to the lengthly fights in the rest of the movie. From there we can see how the brutality of this violence and comprehend the depth of the anger in the Bride.
So while this pacing may be tiring to some, I find it extremely useful towards communicating Tarantino's message in each of his films.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm too lazy to write good

I have ideas on stuff to write, but I haven't. I've been super lazy lately, and for no reason.
I mean, I finished high school a month ago. It felt great. But I waste so much time doing...nothing. Not watching TV or movies or listening to music, or reading, or doing anything responsible like researching classes to register for or taking placement exams. I just don't do anything. And I think I've found the problem.
I wasn't really into any true pop culture until about age 15. And then, my first show was 24. Now, 24 was never a truly deep drama. It was a gripping action thrill ride. It was plain damn fun. And that's why I loved it.
From there, shows I got into were fun, and that's why I got into them. Lost was right up my alley with the sci-fi, epic music, and great characters. The Office and Scrubs were wacky, earnest, and hilarious. Arrested Development was original, extremely quotable, and had amazing acting. How I Met Your Mother had amazing continuity and some good characters. Firefly and Dollhouse created compelling worlds that were previously unexplored in such a manner. Films like Memento, King of Kong, Garden State, and Primer drew me in immensely. All of those shows and movies were so easy to watch for me because of how much fun I had watching them.
But as I realized how much I loved TV and movies, and how I would like to learn to analyze them intelligently, I started approaching some material in purely a critical fashion. And that really ended up hurting me. I couldn't get into Twin Peaks at all. I didn't enjoy Kill Bill as much as I should have. Zombieland was disappointing.
I enjoy dissecting a film I take it. So, a prerequisite to dissecting it is just taking it in. When I think too much while viewing or listening to something, I can't enjoy or hate it. I can only understand it.
That's why this blog is changing format. Reviews aren't going to be formal. I'm just going to talk about whatever the hell I want in whatever way I want. It'll be easier to write, and no one will care because nobody has seen this blog yet.
This way, I'll stop over-thinking shit and just write.

So...yeah. Adios.