Who IS Virginia Woolf and Why is She so Scary!?

Summer Film Challenge 2011
Report #4
Date:   28 June 2011
Film:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
My Rating:  8/10

Reasoning:
First of all, this is one of the best written films I have ever seen, and for obvious reasons.  I really enjoyed watching this scene (and it really is one or two scenes) and the George and Mary relationship play out. Really fantastic.

This to me is what every indie film tries to be: a dark, yet honest representation of real life and real people. What makes it stand out (besides the lack of indie music) was that it takes place over the course of 5 hours one night.  Most films try to show so much of life over several months or a solid week, but Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? proves that with excellent writing it can be done in much shorter time.  Beautiful writing that really challenges you to think.

However, I still feel like I missed the “joke”. Going into it I knew that Virginia Woolf was a writer, probably a poet, but that was all I knew. After seeing it, I educated myself on the subject.  And still I don’t know what the point is.  She was a feminist and the parallel can be draw there from the strong woman she was and the strength of Margaret’s character, but I am not sure that is the full extent of the point being made.

Also, I really don’t get the ending.  I mean I understand what happened but I have no idea what happened. All I will say here is that, again, I followed what occured but I am not sure I understand how it got there and where it goes from there.  Below, I am including a section that will go into more detail about this issue, but that includes spoilers.  Check that out to see what I mean.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t get these two things, but I don’t get them sort of like I don’t fully get Inception or The Departed. I don’t understand it but I know that it is deep and amazing.  I just need some time to let it all sink in.  Good stuff that you can’t just accept and move on.

One final note in the spoiler free section about the acting.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton give near flawless performances, really nailing these two incredibly difficult roles. The supporting cast….not so much. Watch and see what Nick (New Bio Teacher) drinks after his wife throws up. It must be 1000% proof because in a matter of seconds he goes from calm and collected, if not a little nervous, to smashed out on the lawn. I know acting drunk is hard but Taylor and Burton nail it (the couple being very used to drinking works well) versus the other two start in control and, after a few drinks, completely fall apart.  That wasn’t great but it was covered well by the phenomenal performances by the every beautiful Elizabeth Taylor and the wonderfully calculating Richard Burton.

In summary, a great movie, a bit tough to watch but on the whole, amazing and well worth the chance to watch it. I look forward to unpacking it over the next few weeks. Btw: 20th post!!! 🙂

Do you fear death?

***Spoilers below***

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What I mean is this: I understand that they don’t have a son. That I can follow, but I don’t really understand it. I guess that the game is that they can’t mention the game (sound familiar?) and they both are in charge of the creation of their son’s life.  I guess it just doesn’t make much sense to me how deeply they are connected, partially through a neurotic fantasy life of their imaginary child, yet are so evil to each other on the surface. Both traits are believable but I am just not sure how well they work together. Really going to need some time to unpack this whole debacle.  That’s it.  Thanks!

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The Art of the Trailer

So this is the big one – the EPIC Post. Something that is quickly becoming a major passion of mine is the creation, construction, stylisms, and impact of a trailer.

........no.

I mean the short video promos that sells to you the product, be it movie or video game.  I have even seen them for books. They are the first impression makers, the only thing that makes me even think about caring about your production.  Trailers are an invaluable part of how a film or game gets big…and yet to most people they are just bothersome fodder between them and the movie they came to see.

For me this is an incredible tragedy.  In the space of 2 minutes or less you have to convey what your story is about AND make it look worth my time AND make it look fun.  This is not a task for the faint of heart, nor for the perfectionist. It’s not easy, and thus we often get junk, but once every long while we get a great one that stands out as the amazing work of art that it really is.

It seems to me to often we end up seeing the whole movie in the short preview.  There is no wonder. There is no mystery. There is no draw. I may be a film major, but it doesn’t take any sort of real brain-power to see the entire plot of the story from the trailer; they give it to you on a silver platter.  Take almost any modern trailer, say….oh…how about…Everything Must Go. Check out the trailer and come back for my thoughts.

Right off the bat the tone is set by the music – this is a comedy. This is confirmed by the opening image of Will Ferrell as Nick. However they quickly show us that it is a bit more serious than most of his other stuff….until 0:25 in, when he falls right back into his old schtick.  The next thirty seconds details the entire Act 1 – he gets kicked out and decides to live on his lawn, trying to hold onto his old life.  The First Turn is at 1:08 when he finds out that he can’t stay this way for much longer.  His struggle is between letting his past go and moving forward versus keeping his old life.  MAJOR CONFLICT DEFINED.
Immediately following that we get “the sidekick” (and a bit more confirmation of Ferrell’s humor).  Then, comes my friend Ryan‘s favorite part – THE INDIE MUSIC!!! (that tells us that it’s going to be a “quirky, yet serious drama about ‘real’ people and ‘real’ life”. Yippie.)
***1:42 – Blatant stating of the moral of the story by female friend/mentor. (Then the music gets hopeful…).  We get a nice little montage and at 1:51 we see the Second Turn – he gets rid of his stuff, thus proving he is learning the lesson.
And you might be saying “wait! that seems more like the ending than the end of Act II.”  And you’d be right, because at 2:17 we see the hero’s low point (the real Turn 2). Clearly he falls into depression towards the end of his borrowed time and is lifted out of it by what really matters – his friends. Aww.

End on some jokes to remind us that it’s funny and that’s it. The story mostly laid out in the trailer.  Why should I pay $11.50 to see in 2 and a half hours what I got in 2 minutes and paid nothing for? Seriously.

To be honest, what really sparked this dissertation was the recent slew of trailers and news from the E3 conference.  Video Game trailers have inspired me far more than most of those for movies.  What I truly love about video game trailers is that they understand that they can create something totally off-story to sell it.  Doesn’t make much sense when I say it but check out the announcement trailer for Dead Island and I think you’ll see what I mean.

I LOVE THIS TRAILER!!!  The music fits so well to what they are doing there, and this is exactly what I mean.  It shows absolutely zero gameplay, zero story, and honestly zero characters from the video game.  Yet, this alone enticed me enough back in February for me to have followed it all the way here into June.  I love how it focuses on the emotional impact of the zombie invasion, something often left out in favor of “killin’ them damn zambies!” But the true beauty of the promo is the mixing of the story, both forwards and in reverse, so that at the end he leaves his daughter behind.  That was a beautifully tragic moment that incredibly re-imagined a classic scene into something new and amazing!  This is far more interesting than them telling me the whole story and hoping I’ll buy it anyway.

Ultimately I could go on forever about this (and I probably will do a follow-up post sometime) but this post is epicly long enough already.  However, as promised to my friends on Facebook, below I am posting a list of great trailers along with my comments on each.  They are broken up into three sections – Classics, Friend Recommendations, and My Own Personal Favorites. Enjoy, Comment, Subscribe, and please let me know what you think about my opinions.  I am passionate about this and would love to hear your comments. If this is your first time here, thanks for checking me out (yeah!) and please feel free to comment below! A-Dios!

CLASSICS:

–>Psycho
[All-time classic; Hitchcock creates a neat documentary style which makes the film seem all the scarier because of the potential reality of it; though his acting sucks, the audiences of the 1960’s would have been totally freaked out by this sort of gimmick]

–>Cloverfield
[A more recent classic, it really sells the major feature of the movie – the handy-cam-esque style of the film; Also note: they don’t even name the film in this preview…fascinating J.J. Fascinating]

–>Wall•E
[Surely you remember this one, a classic that focuses on it being the last Pixar original (early) idea; really works well for selling it to older audiences who will in turn excite the younger generations; Cool way of marketing this]

–>Scary Mary
[I am putting this under Classics because this really shows how important a trailer is and how much impact it can have on the expectations of a movie or game. Also because it is bleeping scary!]

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YOURS:

–>Green Lantern
[Never been crazy about this; It shows way to much of the movie; I like the motto at the end except that Batman does the final line]

–>Star Wars: The Old Republic
[1:11 is the teaser; 2:02 is the second teaser; the rest is the trailer; It is super long but works I guess.  More of a short than a trailer]

–>Girl with Dragon Tattoo
[I have no idea what this is about; the only reason it works is because most people have read the books or seen the foriegn movie and know sort of what is going on; an insider’s trailer – not good for outsiders like me]

–>Battle: Los Angeles
[I like the ramp from the metallic somber song to the near-scream; also this one doesn’t say title just like Cloverfield; However, they are still showing us a lot of the movie]

–>Transformers: Dark of the Moon
[I remember I really loved this the first time I saw it; great mixing of past and future; I am looking forward to it; doesn’t tell us much but just enough to make me interested]

–>Another Earth
[Perfect example of a trailer that shows too much; I know most of the story and am left with only a little mystery left. Also they don’t clarify the mood – it starts as a dark sci-fi then becomes a typical indie depressed drama; I am interested in the story but the only thing the trailer did for that was tell me the name]

–>Green With Envy
[Please watch it first then read the rest of this! ||  Love it!  Great misdirect and beautiful parody of every RomCom trailer ever 🙂 Segel is really making me believe that this won’t suck! In fact I am really looking forward to this!]

–>Gears of War 3
[Really just “meh”; good use of song but really doesn’t make itself stand out; Only really good part was the “Let’s finish it” line and the “Brothers to the End” – that seems interesting but otherwise really a letdown from GW3]

–>X-Men: First Class
[Great trailer; starts off with emotional build up of the music which really invites you in; Great blending of the old and new (in many ways); Doesn’t show to much and still enough to make me think this might be worth my time; Good use of a different title scheme rather than typical text]

–>Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
[Should have ended right after 0:56; we see far too much; just like the movie you keep thinking “when is this going to be over?”; Again a trailer that really only works because the audience has already seen movies 1 and 2 and is chomping at the bit for the final installment; really not that good of a stand-alone trailer]

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MINE:

–>Assassin’s Creed Revelations
[By far my favorite trailer right now; sick song that hits deeply and emotionally – amazing graphics in the cinematic – tells me everything I need to know (protag, setting, style, and part of plot) – and is FREAKING SICK!!! Please check this one out now and see what I mean]

–>Halo 4
[Very cool reintroduction of the series; I like that it takes only 20 secs to figure out what we are seeing, yet the payoff still is really fantastic]

–>Inception
[Almost put this in classics, but I want you to try to watch this how you first saw it – see everything new and remember what it was like to not understand it then (not like how you don’t understand it now 🙂 ]

–>Sly Cooper 4
[I have always been a fan of the series, and the trailer plays right into what I love about it with a great payoff at the end]

–>Dead Island
[Worthy of being mentioned again; great re-engineering of a scene to make an intended mood]

–>Legend of the Guardians
[This is the trailer that got me into studying trailers; PLEASE watch in HD; really showcases the visuals which are phenomenal (and totally Snyder-esque) and the song was well selected and used to drive in the emotional impact]

–>Ghost Recon Future Soldier
[I like the “carousel”-esque effect that really works to make itself standout from Battlefield or COD, which is what this needed to do to muster any support]

–>Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
[Just to prove that books get trailers 🙂 but really this is a great promo for what looks to be an awesome book]

–>10 Things I Hate About Commandments
[I end on another parody that again showcases how important a trailer can be in making the mood, tone, and direction of film (or game) go and how well it can reach the target audience]

NO...DAMN IT!!!! Gah........

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Midweek NEWS FLASH!

We interrupt your weekly schedule to bring you this news flash:

J.K. Rowling just announced Pottermore – a new site which will allow fans to do far more than just purchase the long anticipated audio and e-Book versions of the beloved Harry Potter series!  We will be able to access her own writings and insights into the world of Harry Potter (I am a HUGE FAN in case you couldn’t tell).

The site is set to open to everyone in October but they are taking emails to be some of the first people in around July 15th.

Click this link to get her announcement video — Pottermore
Click this link to get the introduction site — Pottermore.com
Click this link to get Mugglenet’s report — Mugglenet.com 

Thanks everyone!  I am pumped to see where this goes and I hope you’ll join me in that!  Have a splendiforific day and check back tomorrow for the massive “Art of the Trailer” post!

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SCREENING!!!

Hey!  Big announcement!  If you are in or around Johnson City, TN today and have nothing better to do tonight at 6pm, come on down and see my film “solitude”.  And if you have better things to do tonight then SKIP THEM AND COME SEE IT ANYWAY!!!!

This is a project I made with my new friends Kacy Tiller and Charles Smith as a part of the 2011 ETSU Film Boot Camp.  We had two weeks to script, plan, shoot, and edit a 5 minute movie (which is crazy!!!) and we got it done!  It is about Jerry, a man with no life, who suddenly finds himself to be the last person on Earth alive.  The Rapture has come and the world is his playground! But exactly how fun is a world where there’s no one around to ride the slide with? Come find out tonight!

Also premiering tonight is “Bare Essentials” – a film about zombies, friendship and toilet paper.  It’s going to be awesome!

Creepy? Yes. Yes it is.

The Premiere is tonight at 6pm in Warf-Pickel (yes I know it’s funny) at ETSU. Come on down and check out some two great films!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Solitude/169042799827216

The Town: A Meh Title for a Meh Film

Summer Film Challenge 2011
REPORT #3
Date: 15 June 2011
Film: The Town
My Rating: 6/10

First of all I need to clarify the reason for this film being on my Summer Film Challenge List.  It is not because this film is widely heralded as an amazing bit of cinema, a modern classic.  It is not one of Ryan’s favorite movies that I needed to see in order to understand the real him.  I watched The Town because I don’t like the title. Ryan pointed out that I was judging a book by it’s cover (ie – title) and made me actually read it before passing full judgement.  Unfortunately for the axiom, it seems I was right all along – the title isn’t that great (which I will get into) and the film is only just above “meh”.

Basic overview: It was okay.  The production value was good, story was pretty decent with a few nice tweaks, and the acting was definitely above average.  Particularly, I thought that Blake Lively destroyed her small role as the drugged-up whore girlfriend of Ben Affleck.  I thought she did an amazing job.  Otherwise, it was just okay. Followed the typical “last job” pattern with a bit more grit and a lot less “wow! this is totally new and amazing!”

My biggest issue with the movie is that, while there was more “Town” in it than I expected, it still isn’t the focus of the film, and thus I don’t know why it is called that.  I went in expecting the focus to be entirely on the characters and not the setting but there were a few references Charlestown, especially the beginning, which did give some validity to the name but not nearly enough.

A title tells me what your film is about.  It is the last profound punch of the film.  It focuses me one what the artist is trying to convey – be it answer or question.  If you call something THE something, you had better be right.  “The” implies not just an individual but a singularity, an importance, a point that this above all else stands out.  Let me give you some examples:

  • THE Godfather
  • THE Lord of the Rings
  • THE Silence of the Lambs
  • THE Bible
  • THE Once and Future King (read it!)

“The” has dropped from its truly royal position in the kingdom of words to that of a lowly article, simply the filler between the important nouns and verbs.  That really doesn’t jive with me. When I see a “the” I think “Singular” and “Important” (it is not called a murder weapon; it is called THE murder weapon.)

Having said that, I really don’t think that this film is about the town of Charlestown or it’s effects on the characters.  There is the influence but the filmmakers chose to stick with who the characters are more than how the community has ruined them.  I do like the parallelism that occurs at the end with the scene from before (no spoilers). That was a nice touch. However it isn’t about the locations of the people but the connections between them.
Another thing I wasn’t crazy about was the long monologues detailing backstory. Affleck had at least two spots I can think of where he just laid his whole past on the table.  While I get that he is reaching out for acceptance and understanding in a female figure, I doubt that someone having come from a tough-as-nails, fight-to-live environment like Charlestown would just totally go teenmo (teen emo) on their first real girlfriend.  Just saying.

So there you go.  You just got my rant about movie titles with “The _____” and my third Summer Film Challenge 2011 review!  Freebie!  Thanks and I’ll leave you with the only face of Ben Affleck:

Yup…That’s it!

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Quickee Indie Spotlight

Hey all!  Just wanted to share this webseries I found today – 8 Bit Strange.  I really like the simplicity of the idea and the animation is pretty great.  Check them out and if you want, they are trying to raise money on Kickstarter.com for the season finale.  Check out both links below and enjoy!

SNAAAAAAAKE!!!
Yes. Gordon "The" Freeman

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