Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: The Fireman

The Fireman The Fireman by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hill's new novel is a fun joyride into a post-apocalyptic world in which a new fungus has spread across the world. Once infect, the person develops a golden rash, known as dragon scale, which eventually leads them to burst into flames. Unsure about what to do with them, the government begins to quarantine and eventually kill them as they cause increasing hazards, setting entire areas of the country on fire. Enter Harper, a smart, caring, and pregnant nurse who gets the dragon-scale and is unsure what to do. Her husband believes he knows what best, let them both take a bullet to the head, but she wants to live for the child inside her. Along the way to her decisions, she meets the Fireman, a man that seems to get along with his infection and a whole camp of people who also manage to survive despite being infected. Overall, it's a fun novel and while I don't mean this in a diminutive or derivative way, this novel makes clear that Joe Hill is the offspring of Stephen King. Abusive and dominant partner, New England setting (with a fixation on Maine), unforeseen (but foreseeable) betrayal, batshit-crazy preacher, eclectic folks throughout, and several other King hallmarks make their appearance in this book. But Hill does well with it and takes up King's mantle in a way that shows he has the same skills as his father. Additionally, I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who was largely enjoyable with the plot and characters, but occasionally bungled local pronunciations.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alexander delivers a brutal and systematic accounting of the ways in which US culture has continued to disenfranchise, alienate, and marginalize African Americans in the 20th and 21st century. Though she starts with the exploration of slave and post-slave society, she traces a variety of policies, practices, and laws within criminal justice on the local, state, and federal level coupled with explorations of public policy, economic policy, business and employment practices, sociological findings, and many other disciplinary research to paint a vivid tapestry of the legal language of colorblindness in many perpetuates drastic proportional inequalities between whites and African Americans in particular but other minorities as well. It's an eye-opening and excruciating look that can be hard to fully accept, especially for those that have never considered such things. She provides some ideas about how to fix it but just being able to name it so fully is the needed start. For anyone trying to understand the modern cultural landscape, racial politics, and what it means to try to succeed as an African-American in the US, this book is a must-read.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas

Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas by John Pollack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pollack explores the power of and importance of analogies in our personal and professional communication. It's a solid book to help one think about the ways we fall into traps around analogies and how we can construct substantial analogies to get our point across. I appreciated Pollack's ability to provide many examples that help show both the power and problem with analogies as well as the factors that go into making strong analogies. If you plan to do any work wherein you need to convince other people or provide guidance to others to understand an approach actions or ideas in particular ways, this book will provide you with a strong toolset to get it done.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Reframing Academic Leadership

Reframing Academic Leadership Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bolman's work does a good job of highlighting the many different challenges to leading in higher education with accessible prose and good examples or anecdotes to illustrate his points. He succeeds that problematizing the role of leadership in higher education and the many different ways there are to fail. What is provided is not a fool-proof guide, but a general map that shows readers where they are likely to fail and how best to recover. Additionally, a strong value that Bolman addresses that many other texts leave out is how to lead upward. Many texts focus solely on leadership from the top of the hierarchy but he spends a reasonable amount of time, guiding people moving upward.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a cliche to say that everyone should read a book. But I do feel like I'm coming to the game late in reading this book as an educator. I've always heard of hooks and her work with teaching and intersectionality but did not take the time to read her work. I'm quite glad that has changed and Teaching to Transgress is a great book that makes me think so much about my presence, my position, and my interaction in the classroom. Essentially, hooks gets the reader thinking about the nuance of student/faculty relations especially as it is constructed through social constructs such as race and gender. Some of the essays in this collection on face value seem removed from thinking about teaching, but in hindsight, it all fits together as hooks brings together her work as a writer, scholar, and educator along with her experiences as a student, an African-American, and a woman.


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News

Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News by Jeff Jarvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm an admitted fanboy of Jeff Jarvis. His previous book, Public Parts, changed my understand about social media in profound ways and has helped me think differently about the Internet as a whole. Geeks Bearing Gifts follows as the ideological extension of Public Parts in that Jarvis lays out the challenges and the struggles of news media and how they should pivot towards newer strategies for considering what news is, how to deliver it, and how to maintain its legitimacy. He certainly offers many nuggets of wisdom on how news can and should improve while also providing some provocative thoughts on how news media fails and will continue to do so unless we reinvent what it means. People are likely to resist his message but in the face of a failed media landscape, they don't seem to offer other viable options.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review: The News: A User's Manual

The News: A User's Manual The News: A User's Manual by Alain de Botton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

de Botton's work offers up an interesting take on the news. It is both critical and prescriptive about the full potential of news. He identifies many of the shortcomings of news that can be seen across the world. He starts each chapter with a clip from some news source and proceeds to explore just the story is representative or invokes the issues that he is discussing in that chapter. He then moves into explaining how there are certain retrievable elements within the story and solid reasons why the "news" covers certain topics (such as celebrities) but teases out exactly how news should address such subjects for the purpose of serving the public good.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

Of late, I'm feeling a bit wiped.  I know this has a bit to do with the good ole work-life balance, but I'm also struggling with how I continue to engage with the world and the things that I fundamentally know and believe about the world and I would be curious to hear how others grapple meaningfully with these challenges.


Horrific Event Cycle

Breaking News!

Much of this happens as a result of the hyper-narrative of events.  What I mean by this is that for several years I've noticed there is a series of cycles around any major news story--especially those which are controversial or horrific that goes something like this:
  1. Horrible event happens.
  2. Immediately responses to horrific response that mix empathy, anger, and shock.
  3. Quickly followed by responses criticizing those people and how they responded, which often invoke shame, hypocrisy, and ignorance coupled with bigotry (knowing and caring about this group, but being ignorant of other groups--especially marginalized groups).
  4. Shortly followed by responses criticizing the critics and damning their insensitivity to the "real tragedy."
  5. A response by the critics about the insincere responses of the previous responders.  
  6. All of this then gets rolled into critics who provide a meta-commentary, which allows them to comment on larger issues.
  7. The meta-commentary then is reacted to by all the other critics as twisting words, reductive thinking or some other problem.
  8. These continue to spiral until another horrible thing happens at which point said commentaries, meta-commentaries, etc are folded into, evoked, or mocked because of the seriousness of the new thing.
Meanwhile, there is a never-ending round of "gotcha" and "told you so" memes that are generated and circulating are meant to purposely incite or offend various people, all in the name of freedom of expression and minimalizing complex and nuanced issues that require substantial thought and consideration.  All of this unfolds sometimes within hours, though usually days of the original event.

It's hard for me not to engage in various levels of commentary because they are often infused with ideologies or are clearly evoking similar past events.  Whether it's another terrorist attack, a mass-shooting in a public space, or even a manufactured story purposely meant to rile the dominant culture about a supposed threat to their power and prestige, they all come at us in series of articles, news clips, and memes that beg a response; that beg a need to identify inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and misinformation.  


Just Ignore It

IWISH I HAD

This cycle is exhausting to witness and partake in.  The media only enhances it with the outrage cycle to produce stories that aren't stories but still suck us in to discussing it (e.g. the Starbucks cup).    And it is hard to avoid engaging in it to some degree.  To remove one's self from social media doesn't work because it is still likely to be present in news stories, on the television news, and on one's news feeds.  To attempt any level of awareness in the world and to not be blasted by it, seems all but impossible.

I often hear people say, "Just ignore it."  In fact, I've lost several "Facebook friends" due to my failure to ignore the nature of their posts.  But I generally can't ignore it.  If I see something wrong--something that alienates or marginalizes already vulnerable populations, then I am compelled to say something.  I have trouble letting it slide as to me that seems to be a sign of my own bigotry.  That is, if I fundamentally believe in the humanity of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc, then to chose to only speak up for groups that I more closely identify with seems to reject that idea outright.  I can't pick and choose; I'm either vigilant in supporting all groups to the best that I can, or I'm just playing favorites and that means reinforcing or refusing to confront my own innate bigotry.

There's also something about ignoring that I find disconcerting and impossible for me.  I know some of the nicest people can happily and purposely ignore something.  They will even say, "don't tell me about that" so that they can avoid cognitive dissonance around something in their lives (e.g. the horrific and unsanitary conditions of the animals we eat, the environmental and human degradation of the coffee we drink, the human abuse and exploitation of children and adults for other commodity items like clothes, diamonds, and chocolate).  It's very hard to turn off that switch for me and I don't want to turn of the switch per se.  I don't want to numb myself or allow myself to ignore it because so much harm is done in the world by our ability to ignore those things which we are not directly affected by.  


Ignoring Is a Privilege

Racism: The Elephant in the room

If I'm not African American, then I don't have to think about what it means to be black, the inherent inequalities at every step of the criminal justice system for African Americans, the numerous other social and cultural inequalities, and how that will impact me.  Therefore, when people on Facebook, especially police officers, openly mock, blame, or disregard often with inherent racist posts about #BlackLivesMatter, I get the privilege to ignore it, on the assumption that it is not my problem or it doesn't directly effect me.

If I'm not transgender, then I can ignore the various memes posted by typically hereotsexual men and women that mock Caitlyn Jenner or any transperson of any variety for that matter.  I can enjoy the mockery taking place.  I don't have to think about what it means to be trans in a culture that regularly kills people because they don't fit into a simplistic gender, sex, or sexuality system.  I get to laugh at the post; it doesn't increase my internalized fear for my safety every time I use a public bathroom.

If I'm not Muslim, I don't have to think about what it means to belong to a world religion that like so many other religions, have people who are practicing some bastardized form of it and committing horrific acts in its name.  I don't have to constantly walk a line between faith but also communicating that "I'm not 'them', I swear" because people and news media's reductive thinking can't or chooses not to distinguish between terrorist organization and world religion.   I don't have to tattoo the American flag on my forehead to avoid questions being raised about whether I should be here, what kind of threat I represent, or what am I doing personally to prevent other Muslims from becoming terrorists, like I'm personally responsible and representative of all Muslims.   Instead, I can talk about deporting "them," torturing "them," or even nuking "them" like they are an infestation because I belong to a culture and government that has committed genocide on other peoples, so what's one more. 

Ignoring is a privilege afforded to those whose lives are not directly effected by whatever is being ignored (In truth, it does effect all of us as bigotry, injustice, and violence perpetrated upon one group opens up the opportunity for it to happen to all of us).  I don't sit well with knowing I have privilege based upon factors that society has deemed more valuable despite such privileges being entirely a matter of birth (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, sexuality, etc) and therefore, when there are ways I can address my own innate privilege, I do my best to do so.

But How to Engage?


That is the question I grapple with.  I don't want to dissent into a Bug's Bunny "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" debate but of course, it so often does happen.  I see a post or comment that is troubling, inaccurate, or misrepresents peoples or beliefs and I find it important to respond.  In truth, I'm trying to respond to the person, but often the nature of the post makes it clear, they are being purposefully incendiary; it's their American right, of course (insert commentary about who and when "Americans" get to assert such a right).  

I often respond often knowing the person who posted it will not listen, respond, or hear what I have to say and if they do, it's from a position of snark or just disregard.  I often try to be respectful in my tone (though I do fail at this).  Sometimes, I am met with the same respect or the person can identify with the concerns I raise.  However, even if this never happened, I'm still compelled to do it because others need to see it. 

I provide whatever response I do because I see the need for others who see that post to know that there is a different way; that there are alternatives.  I know it's important to voice a counter-view because, it has helped others seeing the same post better understand their own issues with the post or just to know there is an ally out there.  I regularly hear from people that appreciate me speaking up to something they were afraid to or unable to comment upon.  That this happens by being networked to the person posting the offensive content makes it all the more important because it means that post, regardless of its problematic content has actually helped others become more understanding and aware.  


There's Always Housekeeping


Friend Options on Facebook
The desire to delete "friends" or unfollow people who post such content is strong and I know many will do this or simply unfollow or block posts.  I am often tempted with these options, but I feel it is just another form of ignoring.  I don't have to see the bad stuff--I can block the content and not the person so I don't have to engage with it.  Inevitably, I will know it's still there, but I can continue with my blissful feed of posts filled with health advice, pop culture interests, and cute cat pics.  That just doesn't sit well with me.  It seems to me that if I don't have the tolerance to hear what they have to say at all, then I need to consider why be friends with them at all and why do I expect tolerance but do not give tolerance.

Deleting friends doesn't seem like an option either and it's not because I don't want to offend those people or fear that I will eventually end up with no friends.  Rather it's that I make conscious decisions to be "friends" with people and I recognize that they will definitely not like everything I post, I should not expect any less from them.  More important, these are good people.  Yes, they may post things that are problematic, but on the whole they are good people with family and friends, often doing many good things in the world (caring for loved ones, donating to charity, volunteering, etc).  That is, the issue I have with them is singular but they are multi-faceted.  Deleting them seems to be another form of reductive thinking that I don't want to participate in.  


Butttt....How Do YOU Deal?  

suggestion box

I've shared the above to give people a sense of what I'm doing and why, because I'm hoping there are others out there who have similar views and approaches.  I'm curious to hear about your tactics, ideas, and ways of negotiating being a compassionate human in all its forms while being challenged by the problematic and often vitriolic rhetoric in the form of posts, memes, and articles on your social networks. 

I certainly will continue to engage in the ways I find are best to do so.  I will also find a means of reconciling the need for breaks for mental care with the concern of my privilege to be able to break away from it.  But I am curious to know how others negotiate these challenges.  What tactics do you employ?  How do you often do you engage with content that you find problematic?  How do you engage with it?  How do you avoid burnout?  How do you survive burnout?  



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Top 101 Films Part 10 (of 10) (Finally!!!)

And we finally get to the end!  It only took a year or two.  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Stand by Me (1986)

The wild and coming-of-age adventures of four boys as they travel to discover a dead body is pure Americana.  It may seem a little morbid by today's standards and yet for many I grew up with this was a powerful and moving story--still is.  The childhood antics (debating who is better, Superman or Mighty Mouse) contrast with the flashbacks of a lost brother and disconnected parents and comes to a head when confronting the dead body and the older gang.  Filled with an impressive cast of people who have gone on to other fascinating projects and a great sound track, it's a great film to watch again and again.     
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Swing Kids (1993)

It's like a quasi-musical.  No really signing, but plenty of music and plenty of dancing.  This paired with Newsies and you have a early Christian Bale singing and dancing mini-marathon that is delightful.  Coupled with Newsies is and interesting dialogue because one offers a criticism of unbridled fascism and the other critiques unbridled capitalism (which is also present within Rent--ok, who's surprised by that pattern in my movie selections?).  But Swing Kids was the first film to introduce me to ideas about popular culture and it as a form of cultural resistance.  That is, the film fixates on how music was a focus point and means of resistance.  It's strange but I never entirely realized how much this film has in common in parts with Footloose--another film that I am fond of (though it did not make the list).  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Station Agent (2003)

DVD Cover - Station Agent
I implore you to watch this film.  If you watch Game of Thrones or just want to see an amazing performance by Peter Dinklage, this is an essential film.  He is amazing and when I first saw this film, I fell in love with Dinklage as an actor.  Though he speaks so very little, there is so much complexity in his body language and performance.  If you want to understand why he was chosen for Game of Thrones, it's worth looking at, but if you just want to see a powerful performance, you still need to see it.  The film focuses on three lost-souls.  The main character is a short person who inherits a station from his close and recently-departed friend.  There is also Patricia Clarkson who plays a mother who has lost her child, and Bobby Cannavale, a young guy operating a food truck whose father is sick.  The three make the oddest grouping possible, but it works so amazingly well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


The Thing (1982)

DVD Cover - The Thing - Carpenter
I generally like John Carpenter's works, but I never really watched The Thing until I was an adult and teaching a horror course.  Then, it became one of my favorite horror films.  Since then, I have read and appreciated the novella it is based upon, John Campbell's Who Goes There.  So much of the drama and horror focuses on the idea of not knowing who is the alien or not.  A narrative clearly evocative of a communist regime, the film works in numerous ways to make views feel claustrophobic, distrustful of everyone, and anxious about what it might mean to not resolve the question of who goes there.  The film has some great features to it including point-of-view camera shots that prove frustrating to the viewer because you know there are things beyond your vision.  The sound track also proves to provide an oppressive and haunting heartbeat that lingers throughout the film--it almost makes one wonder if it is the film or their own heartbeat.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trainspotting (1996)

DVD Cover - Trainspotting
Beyond the Scottish dialect and the mayhem that makes up the film, the film goes down in my own personal history for the first film that I watched that included a full frontal shot of a male.  I applaud Ewan McGregor (who does this again in another film years later) for this (and for Danny Boyle for including it).  I found this an impressive statement given how rare such shots are.  But the film itself is such a fascinating pastishe of the hardcore drug life and McGregor's character gives us the full tour from the highs to the lows.  In some of its more funky scenes, it reminds me a great deal of A Clockwork Orange--there is a hyperactivity about both films which seems present.  There is also moments that are genuinely strange and freaky--such as the baby on the ceiling scene (you'll have to see it to get it).  I believe there is going to be a sequel to this that will include most of the main actors and Danny Boyle as director as well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trollhunter (2010)

DVD Cover - Troll Hunter
If you are looking for another great Scandanavian horror film on this list (the first being the Swedish Let The Right One In), then Trollhunter is you rnext option.  This film follows a group of documentarians as they stumble upon real trolls and a whole network for trollhunters wardens who are meant to keep them frome ever being made known to the public.  Lots of great scenery is coupled with tense and terse moments throughout the film in the Norweigan woodlands as the characters continue to record their own demise.  It is largely invocative of The Blair Witch Project in its execution but still feels it has something unique to offer.  The trolls--which are largely kept in the dark--do make several direct appearances and the films makes them reasonably troll-like without feeling entirely ridiculous.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Unbreakable (2000)

Back in the day, when M. Night Shyamalan made some interesting movies--until we all realized that his gimmick was to keep everyone in suspense and confusion until the last ten minutes of the film when he unlocked it all.  Regardless of the fact that this is how he has done nearly every movie, I still have an appreciated of Unbreakable as a modern-day (and mayhaps post-modern) telling of a superhero story.  I also like that there is not entirely an origin story--dead parents, magic-bestowing elder, power-granting rays from a moonrock, etc--but rather the story focuses on the character's discovery of his powers, more so than why he must fight crime (we get this by proxy--protecting his family, but it's not so explicit).  The final reveal of the villain proves to be just the start of the journey and in some ways, one could argue takes away from the development because the villain appears to be just a villain for villain's sake--not necessarily as full formed as the hero.  Regardless, it proves one of the better narratives about a superhero coming into his own.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


United States of Leland (2003)

DVD Cover - United States of Leland
For all those Ryan Gosling fans, all I can say is that I saw him first--in this film and you really should too.  Like the above mentioned Station Agent, this was a film I saw early on that secured my respect and interest in all things Ryan Gosling.  His role in this film is fascinating and his acting is amazing.  He plays the titular, Leland who has killed his girlfriend's little brother without reason.  He is now in juvenile detention and everyone wants to know why he did it.  Other performances are strong in this film, but it's Gosling who commands every scene he is through his poise and body language.  The desire to get inside of his head drives everyone--even the viewer to keep eyes focused on a young man who is clearly intelligent and sensitive but has committed a most-heinous act. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Watchmen (2009)

DVD Cover - Watchmen
For some, I may have lost all disrespect, but as I've said before in this blog, I'm a fan of adaptation and I do not expect tit for tat.  I'm curious in the ways a narrative will evolve in another medium and I rather like what they did with Watchmen.  I think to fully appreciate it, it's probably useful to rely on all three elements of Watchmen--the film itself, The Tale of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood, as these films provide the full richness that is the original comic, Watchmen.  I found the adaptation with its use of music, updated technology, and chosen actors to be rather well chosen.  I think for many people, the film doesn't feel as powerful as the comic, but again, that often has to do with two things.  One is that they have already read the comic and using it as a comparision.  The other is that Watchmen is a powerful narrative, but we have to remember it was written in the 1980s and has been influential enough in our narratives that many of its core ideas are already mainstream ideas in television and film.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Whale Rider (2002)

This proves both a beautiful and heart-warming film.  Set in New Zealand and focused on a Maori tribe as it reconciles an aging chief and no apparent male heir.  The protagonist, Paikea Apiran (Pai), is the grand-daughter but the grandfather refuses to believe that  a woman could lead the tribe.  What follows is Pai's constant challenges to show she is worthy while her grandfather grows increasingly angry and distant.  The contrast between the adorable and stubborn Pai is met with an equally adorable and stubborn grandfather.  The film's power lay in the clear love between these characters and their refusual to accept each other in their ways.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Wizard of Oz (1939)

It feels quite right to end with this one.  The Wizard of Oz is still a favorite of mine in all its technicolor glory.  As fantasy films go, it still holds up decades later.  And to those who hate remakes, you should know that Wizard of Oz is indeed a remake.  But the film is just a fantastic trip to another world and of course, down memory lane since it's one of the earliest films (besides Star Wars) that I can remember watching regularly when growing up.  Despite the hokey outfits--today I imagine they would all be CGI characters--the film and its atmosphere works and easily transports the view to Oz and all its majesty.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


So that's all 101 films...finally!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Top 101 Films Part 8 (of 10)

So I'm finally honing in on the final three entries of this series.  It only took a year, right?  But hey, it's not like I haven't been doing lots of stuff or posting much!  
For those just joining in, here's the running list of previous entries!

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

DVD Cover - Pans Labyrinth
What a visually fascinating film!  To me, it fits into the fantasy dream films like Never-Ending Story, Labyrinth and MirrorMask.  Films that bleed the line between the real and the fantastic.  However, unlike Labyrinth and Never-Ending Story (and MirrorMask to a lesser degree), the backdrop of this film is powerful and draws strong parallels to the fantasy world that Ofelia finds herself in and they eventually meet in a way that reminds me of Never-Ending Story.  It's a darker film though as a fairy tale that makes a certain amount of sense.  Writer and director, Guillermo del Toro typically captures the dark world that is evocative of Dante's Inferno or Odysseus's venture into the Underworld.  It's not outright hell, but damn close!
The trailer for this film can be found here.

PeeWee's Big Adventure (1985)

Though I didn't know it, PeeWee's Big Adventure was probably my first real introduction to camp and I was entirely mesmerized by it.  Mostly, because I didn't know what to make of it but still found it fascinating to watch.  I remember the first time I went to watch this film--I thought it was about PeeWee from the Smurfs (one of the two human characters).  I was initially disappointed but found myself watching the movie time and again.  The film has some great lines and great moments--both funny and for a young kid, scary at times.  Large Marge still haunts me and when PeeWee hisses; it's definitely uncomfortable.  Yet these are counterbalanced by other mesmerizing scenes such as his morning routine, his fetishistic obsession with his bike (something as a kid I could relate to), of course, the Tequilla dance scene at the biker bar.  It's such a crazy mix and works so well.  It is a shame that Burton's work feels largely less original and engaging with each passing movie, because this was definitely one of his best!

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

DVD Cover - Perks of Being a Wallflower
I connected with this film in some profound way (and followed up with reading the book--the film is a pretty faithful adaptation).  Charlie's life and experience are in many ways distinctly different, but there is certainly overlap that I recognize, particularly in the films final-third.  What I liked about the movie and the book is that it captures so well that idea of being both insider and outsider simultaneously: that weird sense of alienation while amongst friends that can be a hallmark of people battling depression or other emotional challenges.  In a way, it does its best to capture the outsider experience that so many feel while going through high school and though at times is celebratory, also captures some of the harsher realities and limitations that come with it. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Persepolis (2007)

DVD Cover - Persepolis
This adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel is one of the best adaptations out there.  Granted, this makes some sense given that the adaptation from comic to cartoon seems like an easier transition than to live-action film, but the film goes beyond just that.  The film captures so well Satrapi's juxtaposition of being a child in a world that is slowly becoming anything but a child's world.  The loss of innocence, privilege, and freedom comes in waves and realizations and the film communicates this well with its motion, sound effects, and soundtrack.  It feels a perfect compliment to the graphic novel.  I remember the first time watching it with trepidation as the film starts in color but then moves into black and white as the character, Marjane begins to reflect on the past.  Mayhaps it was because Satrapi worked on the film herself or just that the directors had a good sense of how to capture the narrative.  Regardless, it's a powerful but light film in the vein of Life Is Beautiful.
This film can be found here.

Pinocchio (2002)

DVD Cover - Pinocchio
I've always been a fan of Pinocchio.  I think it might have to do with the fact that Pinocchio and Pinocchio in Outer Space were two of the earliest films I owned as a kid and would watch them ceaselessly.  I always appreciated the idea of the puppet who aspired to be a boy.  Therefore, I grew ecstatic of the idea of a live-action Pinocchio being made, especially by Robert Benigni (as I had just seen him in Life Is Beautiful).  It seemed if someone could make it happen, it would be him.  And despite being a full adult male, he made it work with him as the titular character.  The film didn't get as much attention as I thought it might but I love this film.  It is quirky and magical and sometimes, utterly ridiculous.  But that is Pinocchio!  I remember first watching this film and feeling a little put off.  The film is dubbed rather than subtitled.  I thought they did this to attempt larger appeal but later on, I discovered it was because the dialogue moved so fast (and it does), that doing subtitles would have been next to impossible at times.  What was also questionable initially but eventually made sense and added to the film's quirkiness is that the film used famous actors for the voices.  So Jiminy Cricket appears as a dark olive-skinned bald man in the voice of John Cleese.  Disorienting for sure, but then again, a talking cricket should be disorienting! 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Pom Poko (1994)

DVD Cover - Pom Poko
The film will always be known as "the ball sack movie" because that was the moniker my friend bestowed upon it after watching it.  But it is a curious tale from Japan.  The film focuses on a group of woodland creatures, mainly raccoons who come up against humans building houses on their land.  They must figure out how or if they can stop it and what to do about it.  However, raccoons are considered magical creatures with special powers in Japan, so their tools and resources means they are more creative in their assaults.  It's a powerful tale about environment, conflict, and shared resources that doesn't necessarily end happily.  That the film is over twenty years old and largely focused on children is pretty interesting given that films like this have only become popular in the last ten years.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

DVD Cover - Postman Always Rings Twice
Another great noir film from the mind of James Cain.  Because I saw them together, it always feels like the sister film to Double Indemnity.  But the film has its own unique rhythm and challenge for its characters  It has a bit more ironic justice than we see with Double Indemnity and we even believe at one point that these characters may indeed make it, but justice (and the Hayes Code) won't allow it.  The chemistry between Frank and Cora is pithy and passionate but one doomed to fail.  A part of you roots for them in the beginning but then as the story progresses, you realize they deserve each other--as punishment. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Princess Bride (1987)

It's a film that many people enjoyed after the fact.  Somehow, it arose from it's measly film release and became a cult-classic.  What's not to like in this film--it has a bit of everything for everyone.  Adventure, action, romance, and silly and inane humor.  Like other films (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), it a highly quotable movie that people regularly invoke at the most appropriate and inappropriate moments.  It's also a film that is steeped in the fantastic but not necessarily in special effects, which is rather impressive.  It's clear that some fantasy needs to rely on CGI and heavy special effect to tell its narrative.  But Princess Bride is fantasy without needed much of the fantastic that special effects deliver.   It makes me wonder what it would look like today if they tried to remake it.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Monoke was the first animated film I saw by Hayao Miyazaki and from Japan in my adult life and have left its impression.  It a well-told tale with a strong female lead and mixing history with fantasy in a beautifully animated film that is impressive to watch even now, nearly twenty years later.  I was amazed at the complexity of the plot, the length of the film (over two hours) and the culture within the film.  That is, I realize it is derived in part from Japanese folklore but having never been much exposed, it was intriguing to see the ideas of demons, gods, magic, nature, and technology all intermingling in the film.  It definitely left me with a great interest in Miyazaki and Japanese animation.
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Psycho (1960)

I grew up somewhat obsessed with this film--mostly because the two sequels had come out and there was supposedly (and eventually was) a fourth film coming.  It was the 1980s and slasher films were all the rage.  I didn't quite realize that Psycho was a bit different, but that's what being a kid is--no knowing the difference.  But Hitchcock's classic is still a powerful film that lingers.  It has all the markings of a noir film but goes sideways when one least expects it.  Anthony Perkins' performance still remains haunting to audiences over fifty years later and everyone's ears prick when they hear someone has mommy issues nowadays.  The most lingering image of this film is of course the final scene where we see Norman Bates sitting by himself with the voices of himself and his mother in his head.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 9 (of 10)

We're getting so close to the final post.  It's about time, right?  So here we go with more of my favorites.  And for those not paying attention, here are the previous entries!

Rent (2005)

DVD Cover - Rent
To some who have read through my previous movies, may come to this one and decide that I am committing some kind of sin by putting a film that is an adaptation of a musical as one of my favorites.  Damn me as you must, but I do like this film--in part, because I have never seen Rent as a musical.  Mayhaps I would feel different, but as a fan of musical movies (there are clearly several on this list), I enjoyed the rock opera approach to Rent, the characters, the storylines and the music.  Having seen the movie, I can understand why people like and find this as an important musical of the 1990s.  I also like that they were able to bring in most of the original cast to make the movie.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I remember Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes getting a lot of flack for this film.  In part, the critique that adapting Shakespeare into a modern tale of gang violence seemed somehow outrageous, even though it fit quite well.  I also know that they were teen heartthrobs and thus, their status discredited their potential.  But the reality is, the film still holds up almost twenty years later and it's telling that both actors have gone on to do additionally great work.   I think that the film is more accessible to a modern audience because of its setting and cast make it a more important film than previous renders.  Unlike others, I find that remakes are in fact necessary and useful.  They are not signs of a lack of imagination but rather informative of how we imagine and experience things differently.  The film is visually spectacular and well-constructed with its scenery.  I also love the soundtrack and it was one of the early films to which I found the movie powerfully (and consciously) enhanced through the music. 

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Run Lola Run (1999)

Another film with another great soundtrack--that seems to be the theme in the previous film, this one, and the next.  But beyond the soundtrack, Run Lola Run is a fascinating "What If" film, that reminds me of the TV show Sliders to a certain degree--but done much better.  The film retells the tale of two lovers and the choices they do and don't make three times, exploring how choices can entirely redirect our future.  It's a fascinating film to watch because as a viewer, we often try to imagine what would happen if the character turned left instead of right.  It doesn't matter how many times we see a film, we often still try to will the character away from his or her demise.  This film captures and we as viewer no longer need to will the characters to their survival but rather wait and see which decisions can lead to their salvation.  It's also an interesting film that engages with the ideas of action and inaction and when do you chose which (or if inaction is actually inaction for that matter but willing other forces to happen). 

This film can be found here.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

DVD Cover - Scott Pilgrim vs the World
For me, the film is so much more than the graphic novel.  I read some of the comic series and though it is enjoyable, it is nothing in contrast to the auditory and visual delight that I find when watching the film.  Michael Cera as the titular Scott Pilgrim embodies the mixture of quirky and awkward (quirkward?) and the mixture of music, 1980s video game sound effects, fantastic color schemes, and outrageous (yet appropriate) special effects come together for a fantastic experience.  The film feels like its two parts video game, two parts fantastic aural voyage, and one part plot--but that's ok.  The plot is present but plays second fiddle to the energy that is overflowing with this film.  It's a popcorn flick that hits the highwater mark of exciting and amusing.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Secretary (2002)

DVD Cover - Secretary
I'm not sure that this film succeeds in any good way in  terms of exploring and illustrating BDSM as an acceptable practice.  Those within the community are of varying opinions.  As an outsider, I do think it provides some potential positive elements and takes away from some of the misunderstandings (though it creates others).  But I do appreciate the film as a whole and the fantastic chemistry between Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader--it's quite palpable.  I also find that the film teaches much about the nature of power and agency in ways that other films can sometimes miss, especially relational power.  There's a part of me that can never watch The Office without thinking that Spader is the same character in the show as he is in this film, which makes so much of what he does in The Office, that much funnier.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Series 7:  The Contenders (2001)

This probably stands as one of my favorite films of all time (it would definitely be on my top 5 if I was ranking these).  The premise of the film is that it is the seventh season of a show called, The Contenders--a reality TV show, wherein they go to a town and five people are selected by lottery--the sixth person is the winner from the previous season.  Each person is given a gun and a filming crew and the last person standing is the winner.  The person from the 6th season is an 8-month pregnant woman named Dawn, who they decide to bring her to her home town for this season.  The premise of the show seems rather plain--after all, there is subgenre of films that are supposed to be reality-TV shows (often gone wrong).  But this film was made in 2000, just at the birth of reality TV.  However, the show nails the concept and this "best clips" film is so well composed with its commercial segues and musical backdrop to self-reflective moments with the camera that it's hard not to be impressed with how well the film captures and comments upon the the nature of reality TV.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

DVD Cover - Shaun of the Dead
It's a beautiful satirical work that can both embody and critique a genre and Shaun of the Dead nails it.  But what's great about the film is that it's amusing and entertaining not just for your standard zombie-film junkie but for everyone.  There are many inner jokes and references but they are slipped in so smoothly, the newcomer doesn't realize it and doesn't need to in order to enjoy the film.  Simon Pegg as your every-man asshat proves that civilization can't keep a good man down, especially when the zombie apocalypse comes to town.  It's a film that often gets better with rewatching as you pick up on different details that realized were built into the film to offer the more dedicated viewer a wink and a nod.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Singin in the Rain (1952)

I had the titular song of this film stuck in my head for about six months.  No lie--every time my mind went background music, it was Singin' in the Rain.  It happened long enough that I finally succumbed to seeing the movie and enjoyed it.  I've often been a fan of films or stories that are about the emergence of media--whether it be film, television, comics, the internet, it's always curious and fascinating how we try to retell the stories of our creations.  Beyond the plot, the music was also seductive and enjoyable with its light melodies and accompanying dancing.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Spaceballs (1987)

DVD Cover - Spaceballs
I've talked about Spaceballs elsewhere on this blog.  It is a film that I know by heart and can still repeat lines from--probably at one point, every line.  Many consider other films classic Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles) and much of Brooks is always high in my book, but Spaceballs is one of my earlier adventures into parody and I completely fell in love with it.  It's interesting that years later, I realize that this film along with The Never-Ending Story were essential for introducing me into meta-fiction and other post-modern ideas, many of which made shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy so funny.  It was also such a great collection of actors and actresses coming together to make this mockery fo Star Wars that it was hard not to enjoy seeing them on screen--including one of my favorites, John Candy.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Star Wars (1977-)

DVD Cover - Star Wars Saga
Here, I am referencing the entire series--films 1-6.  I grew up loving Episodes 4-6 and have learned to love Episodes 1-3.  I get why people don't like them and there are times when I curse the casting of Hayden Christiansen as Anakin because he seems whiny beyond all comprehension, but then again, I can't stand Boba Fett and people like to think he's cool (world's best bounty hunter; done in by a blind Han Solo).  But I grew up with watching the original trilogy ibn VHS and watched the prequel trilogy on the big screen.  Between the two series, I read at least a hundred novels and graphic novels about the Star Wars universe known as the Expanded Universe.  It's not for everyone but it was as fantastical adventure as were many of the other films mentioned in this list (e.g. Dark Crystal, The Hobbit, Never-Ending Story).  It's not that I think the films are great in some kind of higher aesthetic assessment, but they are merely great to me.  I enjoy them.  I know I can pop in any one of the films and get lost in the universe presented before me.  It was one of the earlier films to introduce me to grand concepts of good and evil as well as sacrifice, surprises, and tragedy.  Star Wars is to me, what great epics were to previous generations.

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.