Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spirited Away

     One of my favorite animated movies ever made, Spirited Away, has made tremendous strides in the animation industry while captivating audience with a fantastic plot and characters. Personally, the most amazing thing about this film is the amount of creativity that flows throughout it and makes an everlasting impact on the audience. This film was directed Hayao Miyazaki, a man who has made many masterpieces and in my opinion, his best one to date. Spirited Away has won an Oscar as well as many other notable awards and has been recognized as a masterpiece of animated cinema.

     The story focuses on a young girl named Chihiro and her struggle to survive in a strange new world where creatures and witches live and where humans are turned into beasts. The movie begins with Chihiro and her family driving cross country to their new house in a new town. On the way, they stop near an abandoned park to explore the desolate, but beautiful landscape. Along the way, as the sun gets closer to setting, spirits start to appear and Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs. Scared and alone in an unknown place, Chihiro runs away and encounters Haku, a mysterious boy who is willing to help her return home. Throughout the rest of the movie, Chihiro encounters strange creatures and circumstances that she must overcome to save her parents and return to the peaceful life she was once bored with. On top of the fantastic animation, the character development is amazing and you learn to sympathize with the protagonist in more ways than one.

Overall, Spirited Away is a must see film that can be enjoyed by any age and produces heartfelt moments that are the most memorable and gripping than any other film I've seen.


Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle is an Amazon original series that follows the lives of the members of New York Cities most prestigious symphony. This show, based off of the novel Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, is created by Paul Weitz, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. The plot follows a young new maestro by the name of Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) as he attempts to bring a new sense of wonder into the slowly dying orchestra. Along the way newcomer Hailey (Lola Kirke) is doing her best to make a name for herself in the cut-throat industry.

The first thing that I have to say about this show is that it is unlike any series that I have ever seen before. The style that the show is shot in is eye-catching; however it is not so well shot that the cinematography is a sole factor for the show to rely upon. Where this series truly flourishes is the character developments alongside the dialogue these characters have. The show truly sticks to its tagline "what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what occurs on stage." We follow all of the characters as they spend their time performing with the symphony as well as their individual lives outside. For example we follow the 1st chair Oboist. She is introduced as an uptight, older woman who would do anything to win but the moment we leave the orchestra house her personality is the polar opposite. We realize she is a heavy drug user who enjoys spending her days getting high while listening to music.

Overall I believe that this show is interesting and has a lot of positive traits in it. The actors are all very strong, perfectly portraying and adding depth to their characters. It is shot very well and the story kept me watching for the entire first season. I would definitely recommend everyone give this show a try due to the creative and interesting story.


I had meant to see Frank in theaters. I settled for watching it the day it came out on Netflix. Frank is a film about an odd underground rocker, Frank, who constantly wears a large head shaped mask.

The movie is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and stars Domnhall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Michael Fassbender in the titular role.  While Frank is the masked face of the band, the story follows that of Gleeson's character Jon Burroughs. Jon is a young artist, working a full time job at an office and struggling creatively. The plot gets under way when Jon goes to a beach and sees a man trying to drown himself. He learns that this was the keyboardist of a band called The Soronprfbs. Jon offers himself up and plays a strange, talented, but ultimately short-lived set with the band.

Frank, who is undoubtedly the band's leader, decides he likes Jon and brings him to Ireland to record their next album. The movie meanders in plot for a bit but sets up large scale themes that continue to pay off throughout the film. Frank is obviously eccentric and a bit insane, but where does this insanity end and the genius begin? Can creating art be fundamentally new and still aesthetically pleasing? The viewer, who sees Frank and the Soronprfbs through Jon's outsider eyes, wonders who Frank is under that mask and why is he always wearing it.

The plot picks up again about halfway through the film as the band gets offered a gig at SXSW due to Jon's guerilla social media campaign. A break down is imminent as Frank tries to get more and more "likeable" and Jon starts alienating band members. 

The movie reflects its titular character; it's strange, it's loosely structured, but all together likable and fun. The character is a pseudo homage to Frank Sidebottom, who has a mighty similar head but more of a popular tv look instead of alternative music sound.

Frank is a fun movie with a mysterious center much like the Michael Fassbender's character. The movie denies to be defined. It is complicated and simple. Fun, yet strikingly serious and sad. We end up routing against Jon who was the one who introduced us to this world. As an artist Frank is important movie showing how difficult it is for creative minds to balance themselves, their friends, and the work they so love. I loved this movie. 

Dr. Gregory House: a morphing character

Starting in December, I began the journey of watching the complete series of House M.D. At first, the show was a little off-putting because Dr. Gregory House (played by Hugh Laurie) is SUCH an unlikeable character. The man is extremely sarcastic, manipulative, and is known as "the doctor who everyone hates". But since he's a genius diagnostician, Dean of Medicine Lisa Cuddy, (played by Lisa Edelstein) the head of the hospital (and a constant love interest) keeps him around.

House is a troubled man--he has a chronic pain problem (from a leg muscle injury), he pops Vicodin pills like they're candy, he has past issues with his father that still linger, and he believes that "everybody lies". He also neglects a huge role of being a doctor--actually interacting with the patients. He usually delegates doing the patient history, procedures, breaking into patients' houses (weird??!!) and general patient care to his "team" of 3-4 doctors.

House is the epitome of the benign violation theory---his jokes are insulting, but the benign aspect is that he is always in a position of power over those he insults, so there are no repercussions. Therefore the situation becomes "acceptable", so to speak. I emit a small chuckle for these jokes to combat some the uncomfortable feelings I get from the jokes made.

When I reflect on the nature of the show, I think "why on earth do I watch this?" The medical cases are often gross and the main character is a pill-popping jerk, but I stick with the show because the characters are so interesting. Even though (in early seasons) House is really unlikable, as a person he is very intriguing and the way his character is developed always makes the viewer hungry to know more.

I am now well into season seven (out of eight), and the has been a dramatic change of character from the first few seasons to this one. As previously mentioned, he doesn't interact with patients because he just doesn't like them. But an event in season six was the turning point for House--he finally went to rehab for his Vicodin addiction. After he left rehab (a whole two episodes!) he was still sarcastic, manipulative, and generally disliked; but now he's more considerate of others and actually interacts with the patients and cares about them.

I am interested to see how the writers end the series, and especially how they tie up the loose ends of Greg House's story.

The Dolly Zoom

While watching Season 1 Episode 3 of The Wire this week, I noticed a camera movement that made me feel slightly uneasy. The scene shows a group of drug dealers sitting around in the projects, and one of them is telling a story.

In order to capture the perspective of each person listening to the story, the camera was trucked right while panning left to make the audience feel like they are rotating around the scene’s main character. However, as the story progressed and the situation he was describing got worse, a slow dolly zoom was introduced. This camera movement stood out to me for two reasons: first, it stood out to me because I can appreciate how difficult it must have been to accomplish this. Trucking right and panning left while dollying out and zooming in is not something that just anyone can pick up a camera and do. I was really impressed with the shot and the work of cinematographer Uta Briesewitz. As impressive as the shot was though, I felt it stood out to me because it wasn’t really necessary. The dolly zoom is a very dramatic effect, and can be great for communicating disorder or chaos when used correctly. But while simply telling a story like this scene in The Wire, it struck me as odd and out of place.

With my interests regarding dolly zooms piqued, I took to the internet to find more examples of times that dolly zooms were used effectively. I ended up finding this video on Vimeo that takes a look at the history of dolly zooms in movies, starting with Vertigo in 1958 and continuing to a couple films from 2005. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo was one of the first times, if not the first time, that a dolly zoom was used in a widely popular movie. Because of this, the combination of dollying in/out and zooming the opposite way was was given the nickname “The Vertigo Effect”. The dolly zoom’s second most famous appearance come in 1975 with Jaws, giving it another nickname: “The Jaws Effect”.

After seeing all these cool examples of dolly zooms, I decided to take out my camera and try it for myself. Seven takes later, I came to a conclusion: a dolly zoom is tough to pull off (without tracks to smoothly dolly on). And although it might not have fit very well in the scene I first saw it in on The Wire, it made me appreciate the experimental camera work that past cinematographers have done to get the dolly zoom to where it is today.

Playmakers and their 1 season

Playmakers is an American television series that aired on ESPN from August 26, 2003 to November 11, 2003. It illustrated the lives of the Cougars, a fictional professional football team in an unidentified city. The show starred Omar Gooding, Marcello Thedford, Christopher Wiehl, Jason Matthew Smith, Russell Hornsby, and Tony Denison. The show, which ran eleven episodes, one season, was the first original drama series created by ESPN.  Playmakers ended up becoming the highest-rated show on the network other than its Sunday Nigh NFL and Saturday college football games.  Unfortunately for the network, ESPN eventually canceled the series under pressure from the National Football League, who disliked the portrayal of the negative aspects of its players' lives off the field.

I believe that this show was an accurate description of the hardships of professional athletes, especially professional football players.  The show played on the emotion side of the athletes and what is going through their heads.  In the big leagues, when you get injured, it could cost you your career, and in turn, your dream.  The first episode hooks the viewers with real-life script, and touching stories that people can relate to.  The first story of the whole season they show involves an accident that occurred during a game that paralyzed a man from the waist down.  Even though the player went to visit the fellow athlete he paralyzed, it will never change the fact that the player's career is over and that he can no longer do the simple things, like playing football, that came as first nature to him.  The line that probably hooks most viewers is how the player responds to the athlete when he says he is sorry.  The player says, with no remorse or sympathy for the athlete, "I can't even feel my own dick." The show goes on to other characters and their stories throughout the season and how they handle what comes at them.  I believe that the show should have had more seasons, but it negatively impacted the NFL, so they requested it be taken down.  Obviously the big man of the business must be obeyed.  I definitely encourage watching the show, I think it could have been better produced, but all in all I enjoyed it.  

Don't Get Married #Bridezilla

Having watched the entirety of the first season of Bridezillas, I feel qualified to say I know what true bat sh*t crazy behavior looks like--excuse my french here, but if you've watched it you know I'm putting it mildly! 

To those underprivileged humans out there who haven't had the pleasure to binge on the undeniably entertaining nonsense this show provides for the world, I will take the next couple lines to quickly summarize what you've been missing.

Essentially, the brides are unbearable and insane, and their husbands-to-be are typically a hybrid between a defenseless baby bird and a neutered cat. You know, real studs. And though you may think I'm being a little too harsh on these men...allow me to get my Lawyer on and present you with some evidence:

I hope to dear God you chose not to watch that whole thing. Really, ten seconds are enough to get the point! Bridezillas are insane and somehow they're still getting married. 

"Survival isn't who you are. It's who you become." -'The 100'

One of my favorite TV Series at the moment is The 100, which is one of the new popular shows that runs on The CW. This show first premiered on March 19, 2014; I didn't even know about it until I was looking through Netflix back in October and saw that a show called The 100, was recently added and nearly had a 5/5 star rating, so naturally I thought I would give the show a try and soon after starting it I was HOOKED!
"The Ark"
This series starts with one of the main characters, Clarke explaining what has happened and where she is. She states:

"It's been 97 years since a nuclear apocalypse killed everyone on Earth, leaving the planet simmering in radiation. Fortunately, there were survivors at the time of the bombs. There is now only The Ark, one station forged from the many. We're told the Earth needs another 100 years to become survivable again and man can go home, back to the ground. The ground, that's the dream."

Clarke, played by
Eliza Taylor

We soon find out that Clarke and many other minors are in "prison"!  Since they have been up in space for nearly a hundred years, all of their food, supplies and oxygen are low at The Ark. They believe they are the only humans left in the universe so to keep the human race alive; no matter what crime they commit they are sentenced to death. They shoot you out in space, they call it "getting floated". The only way you don't get "floated" from committing a crime is if you are under the age of 18. The reason why this show is called The 100, is because the people that are in charge of the Ark decide to send 100 prisoners down to earth to see if it is livable once again. 

I love the character development that happens once they are on earth, from the start of the season to the end. It starts out with the 100, acting like normal teenagers, partying, not thinking/planing how to survive and where to sleep. They mature into warriors, when they need to start fighting for their lives when they realize that some humans have been living on earth all this time and they aren't happy that they are living on their land. I also like how we learn more about how these teenagers used to live on The Ark through flashbacks, and how much their characters had to change to survive. 

I recommend this series to anyone that likes Action, Drama, and their minds being BLOWN multiple times throughout a season.  

I would rate Season 1 of The 100, 9.3/10.  The only reason why I didn't give it a perfect score is because the series starts out a little slow but by the third episode it picks up pace and keeps getting better with every episode. 

Once Upon A TIme

Though it might not be my favorite television show, Once Upon A Time is definitely on my top 10. Once Upon A Time is a drama, center around the lives of fairytale characters, who crash-landed in a small present day town called Storybrook, because of a curse by the evil queen. The show premiered in 2011 on ABC, and is now on it's fourth season.

One of the pieces of the show that never fails to amaze me and draw me in, is the costuming. The costumes are extremely intricate and detail oriented. The costumes are also almost always recognizable in comparison to the traditional fairytale characters they are based off of. The costumes for new episodes usually take between 5 days and two weeks to make, depending on the difficulty of the design and the time that was budgeted in the schedule for the costume department.

Edward Castro, the costume designer, woks with a team of 8 to 20 people, depending on the difficulty of the costumes being made for the episode. Not only do they take pride in the difficulty of the costumes they make, but also the durability of the costumes. The costumes have to be able to last multiple seasons, incase later episodes call for flashbacks. Castro told (2012) that some of the most difficult costumes they've done are designing a fireproof cape, building armor out of 500 metal conchas, and the numerous amount of wedding dressing and ballgowns they've created.

Want to learn more about some of the costumes they've designed and built? Check out this tour of the Once Upon A Time costume department!

Ideas on how to fund your film

The other day I was contemplating how I would fund a movie or a short film I wanted to make in my college career. Now being someone who wants to produce I should know such things. I decided to look up ways to do so and decided to share this with you all. 

Something I feel like would be a necessity would believing in your film and making others believe in it to. Going to local business's and asking for sponsorship is a great idea. Finding sponsors may be hard, but completely necessary. You need away to provide things for crew and actors to keep them happy. They are the ones helping your vision come to life. Obviously, you wouldn't be funding it all yourself so anything will help. 

Another way to get money for your film, which I have seen first hand is raise money from doing various things and events. 

Last semester students that I knew threw a party and people paid to get in. All the proceeds went to their film. I feel like this would be a great way to get money for a student film, everyone likes parties! If people know you are trying to raise money, they might even give more to help your cause. 

Have spare change you never use? Get a change jar and start building change or even bills and raise money yourself. Have a friend who needs to stop swearing or saying inappropriate things? Make a jar  for that too and all the proceeds go to your film. 
Another thing you could do, is make a page where people can go and help fund it. There is a site called"Go fund me" and you can set up a page and post it on Facebook for your friends and family to visit to help your cause! Have your friends share and like it and maybe you could even get their friends or family to see and help.

There are many ways you could go about to funding your film, and I just scratched the surface. I feel as though the pre-production is one of the most important things because if you have a bad foundation your ending product will be shaky. Having options to work with will make your life easier and your final product better.

Real events turned into money makers.

I don’t know what it is about a movie saying that it is based on “real events” but it draws me in. I like the fact that movies are realistic and relatable. A scary movie is 100x more scary to me when it is based on real events. Even if only half those events are what actually happened and the other half is stretched, it can still be labeled "based on a true story" and that is what draws people, including myself, in. I feel as though more people would feel the same way as I do, because a scary movie can be laughed at or dismissed of being unrealistic. Sometimes the scenarios are ridiculous, however,  if those ridiculous events were based on something that actually happened, then it completely changes the playing field. Even in dramas like The Blind Side, it has a different impact on someone then it would have if it was not based on real events. People have a tendency to feel for the character more because it’s true, its real. Some people may even envy a character. 

Wolf of Wall Street is a popular movie that came out in 2013, it is based on a true story. Even though Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) was caught up in shanagins, it could be inspirational to some people. 

Just like Michael Oher in the Blindside, both characters came up from nothing and became something.

These characters are completely different in many aspects but one thing they do have in common is the drive to succeed and be successful. In life that is one thing people are drawn to and envy.

 I find it very interesting when a movie is based on true events, it always makes me wonder what events actually happened and what events were made up. If you don’t know the actual story behind a movie, then you may never know what actually happened. Could your life be a money maker someday? Just something to think about. 

How I Met My Deep, Wallowing Sadness

This post is going to talk a lot about How I Met Your Mother and it's ending, so if you don't know how it ends, I would advise not reading it. That's especially if you're actively watching it on Netflix, like I did for two straight months.
If you don't care, please read on. I'm basically going to talk about how this show RUINED MY LIFE. I think you might understand if you just hear me out here. 
If you've never seen the show or never heard of it, it's a tale of Ted Mosby, portrayed by Josh Radnor, telling the story of how he met his children's mother through a series of flashbacks. The series pilot starts off with him sitting down his kids and asking them if they ever heard the story of how he met their mother. But, the flashbacks, however, start with him meeting a woman, Robin Scherbatsky portrayed by Cobie Smulders, who he finds amazing, that he goes on a date with, but is ultimately not the mother of his children. He deliberately tells them that that's how he met their Aunt Robin. But, she still plays one of the most important parts in the entire show. I would've never guessed why. You know, especially seeing how she just held Ted by a string for almost the ENTIRE SERIES.

Her not being the mother was very predictable. Why give away the whole point of the show in the first episode? But, it plagued me, there was a reason why she started the story. There was a reason for almost everything in this show. The continuity was practically spotless and if our narrator told us we'd get back to something, we most definitely would. It was just a matter of time. So, of course there had to be a specific reason for Ted to meet Robin in the first episode, why he started off a story about his wife with her. Are you piecing things together yet? I certainly didn't. 
So I could give you a run down of the entire series, how I grew so attached to all of the characters, no matter their little quirks, and how I was so attached to Ted finding "the one" he was going to spend the rest of his life and have a family with. But I won't. I'll just let you know that when I say attached, I mean I feel like this show was MY CHILD, and it just grew up and tore me apart. By season nine, I was on the edge of my seat to find out who the mother was. And, you do, she's this tiny, pretty woman who is basically the female version of Ted, named Tracy (referred to commonly among fans as "The Mother") The idea of her and Ted together to me was the cutest thing in the world, they worked so well. However, we did not see much of her, just a few flashbacks, most of which she was meeting other members of Ted's gang and not actually Ted. I wanted so desperately to see the two of them together more. But I didn't.
Instead, the final episode revealed that the Mother has actually passed away a few years prior to Ted telling this story to his kids. And, that the reason for the entire story was to warm them up to the idea of him and Robin (what no way!!!) finally becoming a perma-couple. The kids are okay with it, and so he and Robin ultimately end up together. This ties everything together, and I should feel closure over it, but I CAN'T. I'm pretty late to the party, but this show flawlessly and deeply hurt me. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Parks and Recs' Mocumentary Style

My favorite comedy show by far is the sitcom, "Parks and Recreation" starring Amy Poehler and many other hilarious actors. The style that is used in Parks and Rec is "mockumentary" and the cinematographer, Michael Trim, conducts it in such a way that is so entertaining and flows beautifully. Many people compare the style of the show to "The Office," but I believe that "Parks and Recreation" exceeds the cinematography of "The Office" and makes it smoother and funnier.
The shots are sometimes rough and shaky, but that is an aspect of the mockumentary style that really makes it come to life. Throughout every episode there are several times where characters break the fourth wall and stare straight at the camera. The actress who stands out the most when doing this is Aubrey Plaza who plays the character of April Ludgate. In many scenes she makes hilarious faces and reacts to things that other characters say by breaking the fourth wall and it adds to the humor of the show perfectly.
The excellent zooms, pans, and various other camera movements follow the characters in a way that is intriguing and entertaining. There is never a dull moment because the camera is basically always moving. "Parks and Rec" has come a long way since its pilot episode, which was not the strongest, to their seventh and final season where I'm going to bawl my eyes out because this show became a television phenomenon. The mockumentary style was a perfect way to go about filming this series, and it really makes it easier not only to connect with characters but to be involved with the various different plots. The writing for this show is absolutely hysterical and the style of it keeps viewers entertained for hours on end. I highly recommend that everyone take some time out of their days and watch this show.


Nebraska is a 2013 comedy-drama, starring Saturday Night Live alum, Will Forte, alongside Bruce Dern and June Squibb. The film originates in Billings Montana, where Woody Grant (Dern) lives with his wife, Kate (Squibb). Woody, a 70+ year-old man, is a well-intentioned and gullible character who, in the beginning of the film has just embarked on a journey to Nebraska by foot, and only gets about a mile before he is picked up by his son, David (Forte).  Woody, who is frazzled by this roadblock in his progress, insists that he must continue on to Nebraska to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize that he has won. David, knowing that this is a scam, tries to explain this to no avail. After much deliberation, David finally agrees to let Woody go on with his journey, as long as they go together. The remainder of the movie consists of their travels to Nebraska, as well as some roadblocks along the way, and ultimately an unfortunate yet predictable ending, one that is laden with disappointment.

One aspect of this film that made it so unique was that it was entirely in black and white. This was an interesting choice, due to the fact that it lent a sort of grim, deadening feeling to the story. The colors black and white tend to be thought of as very ordinary, dull and even depressing. Perhaps the use of black and white in the film was working to foreshadow the fact that David and Woody’s journey would ultimately be a waste. Since the audience could infer the outcome (that the contest would be a scam) even before David and Woody traveled to Nebraska, the dull coloring acted in a way that caused us to take pity on Woody and the gullibility he has in his old age. It definitely foreshadows the huge disappointment that he is bound to come to terms with once he reaches Nebraska with his son.