I often wondered what it …

I often wondered what it would be like to spend the rest of my life with the world on pause. To live out the rest of my life in two fractions of a second. To die of old age and then have time continue. The young me gone, and a dead, old man in my place.

from the film Cashback (2006)

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Cashback (2006), Weekend (2011), Race You To The Bottom (2005), Summerstorm (2004)

Onslaught of movie reviews. Er, not really reviews. Just my vanilla thoughts on them.

Cashback (2006) is about getting past your first Love. Ben is an art student who suffers from insomnia after being dumped by his first girlfriend. To pass the time, he takes a night-shift job at a local supermarket where he discovers he has the ability to stop time. And, being an art student with a particular fascination in the female form, he undresses the time-frozen women in the supermarket and sketches them.

…Okay. That sounds a bit creepy. But I promise, this movie is actually pretty good. For one, the scene transitions are wonderfully shot; the director really knows how to seamlessly weave together location changes and flashbacks. But there’s a certain…artistic flavor to these shots, and I suppose it goes hand in hand with the Ben, the art student character. As the audience, you get to hear Ben’s inner monologue quite a bit, his speculations on his current situations and how he got there, and his obsession with the evident beauty of the female body. Oh right. Needless to say, there’s gratuitous amounts of nudity in this film – they do not skimp on that. But, the nudity in the film isn’t intended to excite. Ben doesn’t draw these women because he’s a pervert; he simply finds the the female body beautiful with all its curves and shapes. The female form has been a celebrated subject throughout much of art history, although with this film, I think it is just somewhat unrealistic that Ben finds a number of attractively shaped women in one aisle of a supermarket. Like that’s ever gonna happen. 

And so, Weekend (2011). REALLY great film. Russell and Glen have a one night stand with no further intentions than that, but they quickly realize they’ve stumbled upon something with so much potential for more. Now, this is a film that I feel might accurately portray a gay relationship. Too often you’ll find gay characters in television and film to be extremely campy and cliche – not to say those people don’t exist, because stereotypes exist for a reason. But in Weekend, you realize Russell and Glen are just like any other normal guy you might cross on the street. Their sexual preferences are just different from the majority of men across the world. But that aside, this film is wonderfully written. The story only occurs over the span of a weekend (hence the title) so I’m slightly reminded of a Romeo and Juliet scenario, but there’s so much story built into this movie. Russell and Glen are genuinely intrigued by each other. They come to realize what the other wants and fears, and though their time together is short, there’s no doubt they took away something vastly meaningful from the experience. I truly recommend this movie to anyone, but as a note, there is nudity/sex in the film, so if that throws you off…then maybe you might pass this one over.

I decided to watch Race You To The Bottom (2005) because of its bisexual lead character as I feel you just don’t see bisexuals portrayed in the media very often, if at all, and in a favorable light. Sexuality in general has become a somewhat new study of interest for me, and I’m finding that bisexuals aren’t very accepted in either the straight or gay communities. Bisexuals are often considered greedy and promiscuous, the logic being that since they’re attracted to both genders, they must want to sleep with ALL the people – not just a woman or a man. Often, they’re thought of as confused, that bisexuality is simply a stepping stone to homosexuality (which is actually a line briefly stated in this movie). And some people simply refuse to believe that bisexuality is a real thing. “Oh, you’re a guy and you’re bisexual? That means you like other guys right? Well then obviously you’re gay!” and vice versa for females. These are stereotypes and of course stereotypes exist for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that all bisexuals are non-monogamous, sex-hungry fiends. Sexuality is something fluid and it doesn’t have to restrict you to just purely heterosexual or purely homosexual. Not to say those types of people exist, because they do, and that’s fine. But not everyone is like that.

Okay, /endrant, back to the film. In Race, Nathan is a travel writer that is assigned to tour a bit of California wine country with his best friend Maggie. Both are in their own committed relationships with their respective boyfriends, but when they go out and travel together, they engage in their own FWB affair. Of course, shit starts to hit the fan when Maggie realizes she’s developing feelings for Nathan while Nathan tries to make it apparent that he doesn’t feel the same way. And the rest of the story revolves around this conflict. Now, the fact that Nathan has a boyfriend and wants to keep sleeping with Maggie definitely perpetuates the stereotype that bisexuals are non-monogamous, that they’re unhappy with just one partner. Since they bisexual, they must have a partner from both genders, right? Not always the case, but in this movie, they definitely play Nathan out to be that way, which I wish they didn’t. But, it does set up for an interesting conflict. And, Nathan isn’t the only one being unfaithful to his partner – Maggie is just as guilty, seeing as she cheats on her boyfriend as well. In this sense, I appreciate that dynamic because it might be an attempt to dispel the whole “bisexuals are so promiscuous!” argument. Um, straight people can be just as promiscuous and unfaithful as well. So take that. Anyways, Race You To the Bottom is just…okay. Besides the fact that one of the lead characters is bisexual, the rest of the story is a seemingly typical romance-FWB-drama shebang.

Now, Summerstorm (2004) is another excellent film. It’s a coming of age story about Tobi and Achim, two best friends on a youth rowing team. Tensions arise though when Tobi starts developing feelings for Achim as the team goes to training camp for the summer. Achim can’t reciprocate as he’s interested in his developing relationship with teammate Sandra, which makes Tobi rather jealous and frustrated, and it doesn’t that Sandra’s friend Anke is quite interested in Tobi as well. The movie is all about the awkward hormone-infused sexual tensions while growing up, and it’s captured quite nicely. It also does well in its addressing themes of homophobia, and the stress/pressure gay individuals might have with trying to come out. Summerstorm is a film about first loves and sexuality, and it’s all done very well.

 

So what can I say. These days I have an interest in films that explore themes of homosexuality/bisexuality; it’s just interesting to see how each film might tackle the topic.


Bloomington (2010)

In short terms, Bloomington (2010) is a romantic/drama movie. A former television actress goes to college and starts a romantic relationship with a professor. Typical taboo/scandalous love affair-story, no?

Oh, the professor is a woman.

The focus of the film is a lesbian relationship between Katherine, a psychology professor  with an intimidating reputation, known for seducing female students, and Jackie, a young woman who starred in a popular television show in her early years but struggles with her popularity/fame outcast label.

But…if you remove the fact that both romantic partners are women, the story is suddenly…typical. Because, say you keep Jackie but change the professor into an alluring male character. Then it seems like the story loses its “shock factor,” so to speak.  Instead it’s just another tale of an older male preying on the younger, innocent female. Switch the roles: the professor is a female and the student is male and now you’ve got something kinda-sorta like The Graduate (1967) (which I’m just assuming. I’ve yet the see The Graduate but I’m familiar with its premise. So I could be wrong with this analogy, but whatevs). The novelty of Bloomington (if “novelty” is the right term) is seeing the span of Jackie and Katherine’s lesbian relationship, from when they meet, to when they break up.

However, I must say their relationship is portrayed rather tastefully. Speaking from a straight male perspective, I feel like when one thinks of a lesbian relationship, the tendency is to immediately picture the sex-appeal of the scenario. But Bloomington depicts the intimate moments between Jackie and Katherine appropriately/non-sleazily, despite its NR rating (because when I see NR my mind jumps to scenes of extreme violence/strong language/gratuitous nudity – none of which were present in the film. Sorry fellas, no boob-age). Also when you think of professor-student relationships, the assumption might be that of a one-sided relationship, that the professor preys and exploits the students naivety to his/her own advantage when in this film, that’s hardly the case.

I can’t say for certain whether or not Bloomington is respectful towards the portrayal of a lesbian relationship as I haven’t viewed any other films with a focus on homosexuality. Then again, I’ve heard from a friend who took a gay/queer  topics in theatre and film class that most works with a clear focus on the struggles of homosexuality usually have a depressing ending where someone tries to kill himself/herself. Bloomington seems more focused on the romance-story aspect of such a relationship. So, it’s entertaining, but I don’t know if it qualifies as a great example of portraying LGBT themes in  film media.


A.I. Artificial Intelligence

She loves what you do for her, as my customers love what it is I do for them. But she does not love you David, she cannot love you. You are neither flesh, nor blood. You are not a dog, a cat, or a canary. You were designed and built specific, like the rest of us. And you are alone now only because they tired of you, or replaced you with a younger model, or were displeased with something you said, or broke. They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left is us. That’s why they hate us, and that is why you must stay here, with me.

~Gigolo Joe

A.I. Artificial Intelligence was on TV last night. It’s been forever since I’d seen the entire thing, so I settled down with two gin and tonics and watched the movie. I have to say, I’m sure my former 11/12 year old self didn’t comprehend most of the major themes in this film. There’s some heavy stuff.

Where do I begin. On the surface, the film presents the age-old wonder and dilema of artificial intelligence, how we, as humans, seemingly strive to duplicate the human being. We want to be God, we want to create life and give it the ability to live and function on its own without supervision. However the key thing that is missing from these robots, or “mechas” as they’re called in the film, is the capacity to love. Or, in a more general sense, we can’t give the robots a soul. But this is where David comes in and why he’s so important. David is a child robot, and was designed so that he would learn to love unconditionally.

After a rocky start, life seems to be going great for David and his “parents,” but when the parents’ real son Martin comes home, having been hospitalized for some really long extended period of time for some unnamed condition, Martin grows jealous of the fact that his parents have seemingly adopted another child during his absence. More complications arise, a sort of competition between David and Martin, because one is “real” and the other is not. Ultimately, the mother abandons David, and David, programmed to love his mommy unconditionally, decides that if he were to be turned into a real boy a la the tale Pinocchio, his mother will love him again. So this robot child, driven by his programmed love, sets out to find the Blue Fairy and ask her to turn him into a real boy. Along the way, the film’s plot presents several obstacles and insights on this theme. The first being when David is captured by a Flesh Fair, an arena style event where mechas are destroyed in creative and heartless ways for the crowds of humans’ entertainment, a scene that is akin to the days of gladiators and death matches. Here though, humans despise the mechas because they fear them, and as a result seek to destroy and dehumanize them. But suddenly David is brought out and the crowd hushes, unable to cry for his death. There had never been a child mecha before, so the people are convinced David is just some boy caught up in the chaos.

But here’s where I started thinking: so even if David were proven to be a mecha to the crowd of humans, would they have still wanted his destruction? Does the fact that David is a “child” justify his innocence and separates him from the other mechas? At one point, David cries out in fear and begs for the people not to hurt him, something unheard of from a mecha because mechas apparently don’t have the conscious to beg for their life. So just because David demonstrates a semblance of human emotion, it pardons him from his demise. But what if that were something all the other mechas were able to do? Mimic human emotion, would that change the game somehow? Probably not; the humans would only further their lust for mecha destruction. I think this means that because David is a child, he’s deemed innocent and should be saved from the violence.

Young children are often the image of innocence, aren’t they? They don’t know how ugly the world can be, with its violence, hatred, sin.

Which is why I feel that to destroy a child’s innocence in the worst way possible, to subject a child to unbelievable horror is just…evil.

My mind’s been rather consumed the last few days with the idea of Evil. I’ll come around and address it at a later time.


Guilty Pleasures

This first one isn’t a guilty pleasure, but I thought I’d say a few things about Prometheus before I get started. So yeah, the sci-fi horror movie: it’s pretty good. It’s exciting, visually pleasing, and has just the right amount of creatures making sudden, unexpected movements that cause you to flinch in your seat. Because I knew it’s a prequel of the Alien franchise, I expected to see the critters make their appearance in some fashion, and I was not disappointed. Face-grabber/sucker thingies: check. Acidic blood death: check. Alien bursting out of someone’s chest: well…yes. The scene with Shaw in the self-surgery-capsule/pod thing? Easily the creepiest and most tense scene in the film.

But besides the armrest-gripping action, the themes of creation that lie beneath the story’s surface were also rather intriguing. If humans were created by something else, then who created them? So you get a very brief glimpse of a science vs faith in story, which is somewhat thought-provoking.

Now, the real guilty pleasure…

I recently finished reading the 50 Shades trilogy, which encompasses the titles 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker, 50 Shades Freed. It’s…a romance series. And uh. Oh, hell, if I’m gonna talk about it, I might as well be unashamed about the whole thing.

I started hearing about the first book, 50 Shades of Grey, through very brief mentionings in other friends’ conversations, and jokes on the internet made at the book’s expense. People were comparing it to the Twilight books,  clearly not a favorable match. But, intrigued, I wanted to know what the fuss was about. So I started reading the first book, and then I was hopelessly hooked; I barreled through the entire trilogy in maybe 4 days. It’s your  usual situation of awkward, bookish girl (who is deceptively pretty but isn’t aware of it) meets rich, powerful, and extremely handsome/attractive guy  (but who is also cold and harbors some terrible secret about his past) and they ultimately fall in love with each other (of course). In this case, Anastasia/Ana Steele (the girl) falls head over heels for Christian Grey (the guy). She’s still a virgin, has never had a boyfriend before, but goshdarnit, she just knows this man is the one for her. And him, well, he’s been through his fair share of women, but gollygee, there’s just something different about this girl! So they’re drawn to each other and she’s slowly exposed to his power, his wealth, and his lifestyle…his rather kinky, sexual lifestyle. Yeah, he’s into BDSM, big time, but the reasons why are connected to his tormented past, duh.

Honestly, the setting and context of the story and its characters are extremely shallow and horrendously naive. The pace at which these characters fall in love and progress in their relationship is just so damn fast, that I nearly threw my kindle against the wall in frustration. You fools, this isn’t love; it’s lust and infatuation. That’s my biggest gripe about the story. My second issue is that I can definitely see the appeal/trap the story poses to most female readers. The story presents the scenario that your seemingly plain-Jane gal has the power to change this monster of a man, to be “the one” who finally warms his heart and reveals the compassionate human being behind it. And it’s just so damn unrealistic, not to mention nearly all of their affectionate I’ll-always-love-you dialogues, or the gist of them, is so cheesy and something you’d probably experience in your early teens. Yes, that’s exactly what reading this book is like for the most part, like reading the diary of a very young, teenage girl in the throes of her first, hormone-fueled romance.

That being said, with half the story being about the conflict of these characters’ love, the other half is about all the sex they have. And they have a lot of sex. Like I swear, once they get into it, they really get into it, and it seems like they have sex at least twice in every chapter. And being an erotic fiction series, of course the scenes are written with intimate detail. Although…I’m not exactly complaining about this. It’s actually kinda hot. Okay, it’s really hot. And so damn kinky. Hmmmm…I’m interested to hear my friends’ opinions on the stories’ sex scenes and see what they think, haha.

…Ahem! But still, even the sex seems just a touch unrealistic. I mean, how many times can this guy come in a day before he starts firing blanks?! And same with her. I get that the book is just as much about the girl’s sexual awakening, but damn girl…looks like you’ve discovered you have one hell of a sex drive. These characters are practically insatiable, and they’re constantly bumpin’ uglies for half of the story. But like I said, I’m not completely against the sex…but it does come across as rather unrealistic as well.

So why did I get sucked into this series then? Well what can I say, disgusted as a I am with myself, I am ultimately a sucker for romance…apparently the trashy, vacuous, type of romance as well. But that’s why I got hooked. If I’m being honest with myself, I started reading for the kinky sex. There I said it. Haters gonna hate.

Like the title says…guilty pleasures.


First Position

So First Position was showing this week at Cine, the local independent/foreign film theatre here in Athens. So of course I seized the opportunity to watch it with some friends. So of course we all really enjoyed it.

First Position is a documentary that follows a handful of young dancers as they compete in the Youth American Grand Prix, this massive, really prominent, international ballet competition where the dancers can be awarded scholarships and job contracts in companies.

I don’t have a lot to say about this film, mainly because I feel somewhat under qualified to provide a decent comment as I don’t know much about ballet. The specific dancers the documentary follows all come from very different backgrounds, but what it goes to show is that these dancers’ passion for the art exceeds any and all limitations thrust upon them. The skill they all possess – some of them at such a young age – is truly astounding. These young adults practically eat, sleep, and breathe ballet, and their hard work and sacrifice pays off, with their rewards well deserving.

If you appreciate dance in any sort of fashion, then you will definitely enjoy First Position. 


That just wrinkled my brain…

Ah.

A new blog.

Isn’t it exciting? New blogging platform, new appearance, new beginnings…well not really. I’ve only decided to start a new one since I feel I’ve completed a certain chapter of life, a chapter that is my time as an undergraduate student. I had a blog that basically chronicled my thoughts and interests which lasted through my time at college, but now, I’ve graduated and currently find myself in limbo, this purgatory called a gap year where I scramble to get my shit together and be productive as possible as I spend this year applying to dental school.

And so far, I’ve clearly demonstrated my productivity by watching television shows and movies.

I watched Blue Mountain State. It’s a pretty funny show if you’re into crude, vulgar, and sexual humor. You know, if you’re a guy. Or, you know, girls can enjoy this show too, but this show was obviously marketed with stereotypical guy interests in mind. College frat-life. Sports. Girls. Sex. Partying. Thad was easily my favorite character; he takes macho-jock to an extreme, to the point where I was pretty sure the big reveal later on would be that he’s homosexual. But no. He’s just Thad. BMS was only 3 seasons long before it got benched. It makes sense I guess, because I feel you can only do so much with that type of synopsis.

Now I’ve started watching Community. Before, I’d only known about this show from its title, otherwise, I knew nothing about it. Then I when I started redditing, I noticed it was referenced a number of times via gifs or a youtube link. Granted, these two examples really only feature the character Troy Barnes, played by Donald Glover, whom you might know from his presence in Derrick Comedy, or as Childish Gambino, his rapper stage name. (That track is actually really good, but honestly, the only track by him I like). So really, I started watching Community because of Donald Glover, but dang, everyone in this show is great! Each character is so fleshed out and unique, with his/her own quirks and oddities, and it’s such a riot watching them try to coexist in community college. It’s great. Ken Jeong also co stars in some of the episodes. He’s great.

I finally got around to watching DriveWhoa. This movie is all sorts of incredible. I expected it to be something along the lines of a Jason Statham film with lots of action and car chases, since, you know, the movie is about a car stuntman. But it’s not. I think there are only two major car chase scenes in the entire film; the rest of the story is dedicated to the Driver and his relationships with the people around him. I also thought the movie overall was excellently shot. I later looked it up and the genre was described as “neo-noir.” It fits, I guess. The movie is gritty, dark, and some of the scenes are clearly framed with that certain artistic grimness. I like.

Also, Ryan Gosling: damn. He is all sorts of cool, mysterious, brooding, bad-assery in this movie. New guy-crush? Yes.

And continuing with this new thing I have for Gosling, I also finally watched Blue Valentine.  Good. Lord. If I were watching it by myself, I probably would’ve cried. Luckily I was watching it with a friend. Who’s a guy. Uh. Not awkward at all, right? Anyways, watching Blue Valentine is to experience a roller coaster of emotions. In the present time, you have this married couple, and they’re figuring out how to fix things between them, if there’s anything worth fixing at all anymore. But then throughout the film, we see them years earlier, when they first met, and all the good moments they had in love with each other. And watching those moments makes you so happy, but at the same time, absolutely miserable, because you know where they are in the present and…and….and it’s just not fair! Ugh. Good movie though. If I ever want to feel depressed, I’ll just watch this movie.

I’m gonna close with this song. It’s used in the opening credits of Drive. It’s pretty groovy.