New Series: Why you should Love this Movie

In recent days I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that was posed at a conference I attended. The speakers were debating the merits or demerits of a certain sect of cinema – whether it helps or hurts its cause – and they posed the following quandry:  “how do people who don’t know much about movies, who don’t follow or study film, how do they hear about great films?  How do they become aware of movies that deserve to be seen?”

This struck a chord with me.  I grew up in Northeast Tennessee, about as isolated from Hollywood as possible.  People liked movies a lot – our Cineplex was constantly filled despite its terrible quality (I recognize this in hindsight now).  But even for me, someone who decided that the study of cinema was to be my life’s pursuit, I was not aware of the vast quantities of incredible movies that get a small release and miss the mainstream entirely; films that we simply never hear about because our market is too small and, at that time, the connections of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime had not yet been established.

So then, my thoughts turned to the question.  How could I be a part of the solution – spreading the word about certain films, old and new, that deserve to be seen by broader audiences?  I know that most of the people who read this blog are probably family or friends, either from back home in Tennessee or those I’ve met here in Movie-land, but primarily people who are looking for the good stuff; people who would love to see great movies but just don’t hear about them.

Thus, I got the idea to start a new series of posts entitled

Why you should Love this movie

These will be short posts about a film (a la the Criterion Three Reasons videos), in which I expound on why that movie deserves your attention.  My hope is that this can be a bridge for people who are not connected to the film world to find works that are powerful, uplifting, and potentially life-changing. I hope you’ll come along this journey with me.  Hopefully this will be of some use to you.  Hopefully it will give you a longer Netflix queue or a conversation topic for the workplace.  Hopefully this can start the effort to get the word out and improve our viewership and critical response to a world I care deeply about.  Thanks for stopping by and keep an eye out for this new series coming soon.

Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Supplanting agelessness for teen angst, Only Lovers Left Alive acts as a perfect counterpoint to the myriad mindless vampire flicks of late.

Hiddleston

Timelessness and addiction permeate this well thought out, intelligent vampire film by self-diagnostic hipster Jim Jarmusch.  Grunge movement mentalities blend with a renaissance of High Art references, clashing and melding wonderfully into a sharp critique of the pop art modern world. Moodiness suits this cultured, romantic bloodsucker flick in a way only Jarmusch could provide.

Only Lovers revolves (literally at times) around the hero couple – Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton).  The two ageless lovers – born of a pre-Tudor era and transformed into pleasingly pale, aloof vampires – now reside apart, the former in economicly stricken Detroit, the latter in the back alleys of Tangiers.  Adam’s underground music has sparked a cult following, and though his musical credentials spread throughout history, the tedium of eternal life sets in and leaves him despondent.  His most recent suicidal thoughts reunite the couple and the two seek a purpose for going on, all transpiring in his ramshackle house littered with historied artifacts and mechanical alchemy.

Rarely has such a film produced such a titillating aroma to the scholarly curiosities while avoiding the elitist pratfall of condescending didacticism.  Constantly evoking works of literary and musical masters long sunk in history’s mires – for example, the attention drawn to authors as Eve packs her trunk – the effect is tempered both by the aloofness of characters who would have truly experienced them in their prime, and by the respectful attitude of the writers to reference them without stooping to exposition.  Only Lovers demands intellectual excellence from the audience, rather than permitting them to be sucked dry by countless vacuous sparkly vampires.

Rarer still does one find such fantastic chemistry between romantic leads in this genre of film.  Swinton emits a Galadriel-ian grace of form and movement, whose gaunt face belies the deep craving she embraces for life.  The way she interacts with Adam reveals a researched and carefully nuanced performance that shows Swinton is at the top of her game.  And Hiddleston rises to the occasion, matching her deeply embodied character pound for angsty pound.  This dark and depressed melody master feels earned, as Hiddleston taps into the surely foreign idea of others taking credit for his work.  His sulking Adam feels both immediately relatable and infinitely distant in a beautiful performance by the Thor spotlight-stealer.  Backed by fantastic performances from secondary performers John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, and Anton Yelchin (Mia Wasikowska’s over-eager sister comes off as over-acting a drama-tic role), the cast elevates the film – a staple of Jarmusch’s endeavors.

Overall, Only Lovers Left Alive presents a wonderful balance of darkness and shadow, eternity and temporary, cultured poise and animalistic impetus. Exhibiting incredible execution of well-written characters by actors proving their talent, combined with haunting cinematography and lighting, and wrapped up in a brooding score to match, this film demonstrates a mastery of narrative and aesthetic cohesion few filmmakers can replicate.

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http://www.sonyclassics.com/onlyloversleftalive/

Triumphant Return

Hello all!  A new year and a new start.  This year I am indeed making a resolution which I pledge to keep throughout the year.  It began with a challenge from my boss at work.  He was leading an meeting for our church’s band members and techies, and compelled us that if we find ourselves at the end of the year at the exact same level of skill – be it in musicianship, technical ability, or in our personal endeavors – that we will have been bad stewards of the talents and lazy in our development.  This message touched me and so I decided to be the gung-ho idealist and set a few goals for myself this year.

A great number of my goals pertain to becoming a better husband.  I have only been married just over a month and yet I think this the most appropriate time to begin working on this burgeoning new relationship.  Some of my new purposes aim at advancing myself as a filmmaker and a technical director, striving to become better at my job and at the jobs I hope to have in the future.

However, the ambition I am putting considerable effort into, which shall see the most accountability here, shall be my endeavor towards advancing myself as a film critic and scholar.  Since leaving University last May, I have not had the same level of opportunity to continually develop my skills in analyzing, studying, and particularly writing about cinematic topics.

Therefore, I am beginning a new project.  With no Summer Film Challenge to occupy my blog life, I am starting into a new project: one that is not yet titled.  The rules of my new Challenge are as follows:

  1. Each month I must write one essay on a subject with in Film.
  2. The essay must be minimum 1200 words.
  3. Subjects must be on a topic specifically in the realm of film; not media, not art, not video games or even television.  My goal is not to develop my skill in writing on any subject, but rather to focus in on making observations about the medium I first became interested in and one day hope to teach.
  4. The essay must be finished within the month.  I may write an article outside of the blog and post it at after the month is up.  I may choose not to post the article at all if I think it has potential for publication elsewhere, but I pledge here to at least post a treatment of the essay here, though again this would not have to be within the month deadline.

Before I embark on the first of these cinematic explorations, some housekeeping is necessary.  On a personal note, as I have already stated, I got married in December to my beautiful and wise wife, Emily.  We have been delightfully happy over this past month and have been wandering that long trodden road of learning to live in such deep personal connection to another.  The honeymoon was great but it is time to get back to real life…which finally has a stove in it.

Second, I want to confirm that one of the upcoming month’s essays will be the very long overdue Firefly and Serenity review.  To be honest and a bit spoiler-y, I wasn’t overly fond of the series and thus have been taking my time crafting a careful response, as I know I face the threat challenge of my close friends who adore the show.  So, most likely in February be looking forward to that final SFC12 review.

To begin this new challenge, I would like to turn attention toward that most classic of holiday movies.  Frank Capra is well known for tugging American heartstrings and tickling our funny bones with such classics as Arsenic & Old Lace, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and You Can’t Take it with You.  But perhaps his most famous work, the film which more people have seen and connected to than all his others, has to be the towering emotional giant of It’s a Wonderful Life.  Shown every year a hundred times around Christmas, this film is far more than the holiday title as it has been pigeon-holed, touching the lives of viewers around the world for 68 years.

So, please join me in just a few days for my exploration of the Central Problem of George Bailey’s wonderful life!

Brokenness & Love

Hey Yall!
It has been a while since the Modern Warfare 3 review and it is good to be back.  I got a chance to see three amazing films over the past few weeks and I wanted to share my thoughts on them.  They really cover the board – Film Noir, Oscar Nominated, Experimental – and yet I found that all of them really deal with the same themes.  I have been really looking forward to these three films and am excited to cross them off my list, but beyond that I am happy to report that each of them was really good!  So, without further ado, please enjoy this review trifecta on stories of Brokenness and Love.

Sunset Boulevard

I know – not what first comes to mind when you think of a love story but I assure you it is there.  The Hollywood classic about Hollywood itself, Sunset Boulevard was an incredible homage to the film world of yester-year as told from the 1950’s.  It centers around fading Silent-era star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her decline into madness as her need for love is slowly denied.  She clings desperately to hope that failing writer Joe Gillis might be able to revive her broken career and her broken self – falls for him.

The film is a beautiful example of Film Noir used outside of the standard, gritty detective story.  It is about how fallen we are, pointing to every flaw and trouble that a star in the spotlight (or out of it) faces and reveals exactly how cut-throat the movie world really is. Because no love is shared by either of the protagonists, the film depicts the tragedy of a world without love and the terrible affects love and lack of it can have on people.  It is a beautifully dark film that shows us how fallen we really are.

I really enjoyed the film for what it was.  Noir isn’t my typical style, so I always have a bit of trouble getting into it, but Sunset Boulevard really captured my attention and was absolutely amazing to watch.  I recommend it as a classic that any true fan of film should see and as an interesting look at a world without true (dare I say, Christian) love.

Rating:  9//10

The Artist

That is Right!  I got a chance to see the front-runner for the Best Picture Academy Award before the ceremony in February and I have to say that I absolutely fell in love with this film. It was beautiful, it was respectful, it captured my heart and reminded me why I make and study Film.  And it perfectly fits into the themes of brokenness and love.

In case you haven’t heard about this phenomenal picture, The Artist is, like Sunset Boulevard, an homage to Hollywood’s glorious birth during the silent era.  The film is shot in black and white, in the classic 4:3 picture aspect ratio (Standard instead of Widescreen), and the story is told with absolutely no audible dialogue.  The do break a few of the original Silent Era filming techniques (for example – complex moving camera shots) but the overall feel is not that it should be a silent film but that it is paying it’s respects to the origins of Hollywood cinema and the stars that made it big.

What captured me most was the beautifully archaic story it told and how it made use of modern techniques and sensibilities to recreate that style while allowing the medium of the visual motif to tell the story.  In essence it is a good old-fashioned love story about a man and woman who grow closer to each other from a chance encounter.  Yet, the filmmakers were able to work in a fantastic plot element of role-reversal and they wonderfully chose to up the stakes by making the man extremely broken.  Jean Dujardin’s character slips further and further into pride which leads him deeper into depression and the only thing able to break him out of it is the redemptive and forgiving power of love.

Not saying more on the story to avoid spoilers, I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to find a theater showing it around you and see what I, for one, hope will be the Best Picture of 2011.

Rating:  10//10

Paris Je T’aime

No, it’s not Black & White and no, it isn’t Noir.  In fact, in almost all ways it isn’t like either of the two previous films.  I had seen parts of it before and had left it with a faulty memory of it being…I shall call it “morally questionable”.  However, upon revisiting the film, I found it to be absolutely gorgeous snapshot of Humanity – capturing as many sides of the amalgamous thing we call love.

Beautifully orchestrated, the series of short vignettes directed by and starring famous individuals gives the viewer at once a broad overview of the desire we all have for personal connection and individual case studies into small aspects of it.  I love that we get the traditional romance stories mixed with tales of what we are willing to do, sacrifice, and fight for love.  My personal favorites are  “Loin du 16o”, “Parc Monceau” – directed by Alfonso Cuaron, “Tour Eiffel”, and “Place des Fetes”.  Each segment is stunning in its own way and truly beautiful.  I adore this film as I adore the city which I only yet dreamed about and I recommend it to you if you want to be reminded that their is some good still out there in the world.

Rating:  10//10

Ah! L'amour.

So there you have it!  Three films fitting by happenstance into one glorious pattern.  As Blaise Pascal said, which I love to quote, “Greatness, wretchedness. The more enlightened we are, the more greatness and vileness we discover in man…”.  In our search for truth and understanding, we find ourselves drawn to how utterly broken, alone, and terrified we are — blind people flailing about in a dark forest, trying to find a path.  Yet, as each of these films points out, there exists a great, glowing, wonderful thing by which we can all find hope.  And that thing is love: pure, uncomplicated, and entirely unfathomable love which unites all people.  From the world without in Sunset Boulevard, we see how desperately we seek out the light emanating from another person’s heart.  The Artist reminds us that even though the twilight is upon us and things only seem to be getting darker, that if we are willing to reach out a hand and grasp another’s things can only be bright.  And finally, the City of Love itself shows us how wonderfully complex, infinitely deep, and impossibly joyful is the simple soul-touching of love.  Perhaps I am just a Romantic by pen but deep in my heart I know I long for this sort of connection to my friends, my family, and my God.  That is what keeps me going in the hard times, gives me joy in the days of ease, and drives me onward in my study of the magical bonding found by storytelling.

That felt really good to gush like that. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed my reviews of the three films and, as always, I invite you to leave your thoughts down below on any of the three films or my analysis of them.  As the weeks roll on and I am able to catch a few more of the Oscar contending films, I will try to post my full reviews of each in comparison to each other and then make my predictions for who will win each category.  Maybe.

Also, I am busy working on a Quickee post for Art of the Trailer so be looking for that soon. Thanks for sticking around and I look forward to bringing you more reviews soon!

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Welcome back!  To me…really…it’s been a while since I have posted.
But now, I am extremely proud to present to you my review of the biggest (though maybe not the best) video game ever.  Whether you liked it or not, Modern Warfare 3 is the most financially successful video game of all time.  It is the realization of how culturally relevant and significant the video game industry and fanbase have become in our society today, and so it has come under close scrutiny by the entire gaming community.  Did it live up to the incredible hype that it had going or was it the best selling piece of junk since Transformers 3? I will be breaking it down piece by piece to find out, so join me in looking at the end of the beginning of the new age of videogames.

Here’s how this is going to work.  I want to first talk about the Marketing for this game (or perhaps how everything else marketed for it).  Then, I will turn my gaze to the Campaign – both story and gameplay in mind.  After that, I will speak briefly about the new Spec Ops options and the Multiplayer modes new to this installment.  Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Marketing

As I mentioned before, MW3 was the greatest commercial success the gaming industry has ever seen.  In fact, the franchise has been breaking sales records since its first iteration back in 2007, which sold 2 million copies in its first week. The second installment in 2009 did far better than that:  selling 4.7 million units in the first 24 hours, which was biggest release up to that time.

Modern Warfare 3 shattered any and all sales records for any entertainment venture thus far. It sold 6.5 million copies for $400,000,000 in the first 24 hours, $775,000,000 after 5 days, and a mere 16 days after it was released, it hit the $1,000,000,000 mark.
I left in the zero’s to show exactly how big those numbers are. 🙂

MW3 benefited from a great series of unintended marketing gambits, starting with the countdown to and release of “Find Makarov“.  The indie film was a realization of the fans’ growing interest in the conclusion to the franchise (WeCanPretend would go on to make another fantastic promo for MW3: “Operation Kingfish“).  Then, the very public, legal trench-warfare that ensued between creator Infinity Ward and distributor Activision drew plenty of press (good and ill) to the future of the third installment.  

What happened next is something that every game developer fears.  On May 13 2011, just six months prior to release, gaming news site Kotaku published an article which leaked an incredible amount of details about the upcoming game.  Similar leaks had seriously hurt games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Gears of War 3.  Yet, this turned out to be a great boom for the MW3 marketing team, as they handled it perfectly.  Rather than try to stifle the leak as most companies do, Activision simply released four teaser trailers later that day.  Turning the bad press into good, the gaming world was a-buzz about the upcoming epic title.

And finally, Battlefield 3 launched it’s finally push to topple the FPS king with the slogan “Above and Beyond the Call” (a wonderfully subtle attack on an impossible foe).
MW3’s response:  “Yes, we are still coming out!”
Not even phased by it, Activision continued to promote their game as normal and while Battlefield 3 did sell incredibly well and receive generally good reviews, it still was no match for the juggernaut that is Call of Duty.

Overall, everything went perfectly for Activision and Infinity Ward in marketing this game. The few negative element that usually derail a developer’s strategy actually ended up working for them. Because of the success of the previous two games and the incredible hype built up over the summer, it is no wonder that Modern Warfare 3 has become the best selling video game of all time.

2.  Campaign

Alright!  Let’s look at the game itself and see how it holds up.  First, let me say a few things about the narrative story of the game and then I will talk a bit about the new developments to the gameplay.

Basically, MW3 is a greatest hits compilation of the massive and surprising plot twists that made the franchise famous in the first place.  Everyone loved the crazy plot twists in the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare including an execution from the executed’s Point Of View, a nuclear explosion, and the heart-stopping ending that had us all on the edges of our seats. Then, Modern Warfare 2 kicked it up to the next level, including being in a nuclear explosion, Russian forces invading the US, and the most unexpected ending in gaming that I can remember.  Thus, all eyes were on MW3 to see how it would take what was already an adrenaline-laced action thriller and ramp it up to the nth degree.

And so that is what they did:  every aspect of the story is designed to blow the previous two games out of the water (somewhat literally – see “Battle for New York”)  Every mission is centered around what the industry calls “big action set pieces” – sections designed to highlight the grand epicness of what happens in the environment.  For example, when you shoot down a helicopter and it crashes into a building below you or you wake up from having been knocked out by an explosion – the cinematography and new perspective are the focus of the moment.  And while these set pieces are intense and amazing, they do not a well-thought plot make.

Basically each mission in of itself is very cool and awe-inspiring, seeing innovations in POV storytelling and in how a character’s environment interacts with them.  It is bigger and wackier than ever.  🙂  Some of the crazy stuff you do in this game includes, but is not limited to:

  • Plant C4 on the tail of a submerged submarine
  • Fight in zero G’s as your plane falls out of the sky
  • Command an mini-gun toting UGV (Ummanned Ground Vehicle)
  • Save a President or two
  • Wear a juggernaut suit (finally!)

I don’t want to spoil any of the story because I think you should play through for yourself, but despite the Kick-A missions along the way, I really felt disappointed at the ending of the story.  Again, not trying to give anything away, but it felt very rushed.  All of a sudden you realize that you are at what appears to be the last mission and it just blows right by you.  I didn’t get the emotional catharsis I wanted from what has been a very emotionally riveting storyline.

It started well, calling back everything from games 1 & 2, but from there it just gets muddled and lost in its own craziness.  Overall, the story is just as confusing and undeveloped as most of us feared.  At least it was epic….right?  No. A real disappointment for video game storytelling. 😦

Story:  2//5

Now gameplay is a different matter all together.  While the over-the-top explosions and close-to-death moments aren’t very good for the cohesiveness of the story, they are really fun to play in. 🙂  First, it is very clear that a gap occurred between the making of games 2 and 3, mostly in the different stylistic look (rustic reds/greens to sharp, crisp blues/greys) which enhanced the visual appeal of the very visual game.

The real growth was in perfecting what was already very good.  Infinity Ward and newcomer Sledgehammer Games did a great job of analyzing what made Modern Warfare’s 1 and 2 good and enhancing it to the next level as far as gameplay is concerned.  The actions are tighter and more refined, the levels better mapped for different styles of gameplay.  I, personally, am the “Slow and Steady” player, while others prefer the “Run & Gun” method – and the game panders to both crowds. I was pleased at how slowly I could work my way through the levels and really enjoyed the few times when a timer was put on the mission; it pushed me to develop skills while letting me work in my own way.

The AI are better suited for the more experienced players and the new weapons and strategies really make the game very fun to play and a joy to watch unfold.  And that really is why the game was made in the first place.  People enjoyed the campaign, I am sure, but the true reason 6.5 million gamers bought MW3 is for the next two sections (this is my roommates game and he hasn’t even touched the campaign yet).

Gameplay:  4.5//5

3.  Spec Ops

This is the element that I was most looking forward to, because I really enjoyed the Spec Ops from Modern Warfare 2.  They are great because they require teamwork and cooperative play rather than individual greatness.  My now-roommate and I started tackling MW2’s Spec Ops when we were freshman and only just managed to beat them before the sequel released and I have to say that one of my best memories from college thus far is finally beating “Big Brother” on Vetern.  So, when I heard that the Spec Ops for this game were even better, I had to see for myself.

Infinity Ward truly succeeded in their Specs Ops campaign:  they are very well designed and incredibly fun to play.  Basically, they allow you to play parts of the story in reverse. For example, during the campaign you stop a terrorist group from hijacking your plane – in the Spec Op misison, you act as the hijackers working your way forward.  It is a fascinating way of exploring the story and letting gamers play parts of the it that before they could only imagine.  It also allows us to connect more deeply to what otherwise would be a challenging sidequest of the game.  Really well done on that end.

But the true innovation of MW3’s Spec Ops collection is the new Survival Mode.  An excellent response to the Zombies/Horde mode craze, Infinity Ward created an engaging and spectacular series of co-op survival maps where, as the title says, one and his/her partner must fend off wave after wave of increasingly difficult adversaries.  It is absolutely a blast to hold up somewhere and basically play king of the hill with juggernauts.  My only qualm with it is that one of the enemies that you face as the levels get harder is a group of dogs with C4 strapped to them…which might be a good strategy for the bad guys but really doesn’t jive with me.  Other than that, this has easily become my new favorite way to play Call of Duty now.

Spec Ops:  5//5

4.  Multiplayer

This is REALLY why the game was made.  From everything I hear, everyone loves MW3 for the understanding Infinity Ward has of what worked and what didn’t in the first two games and for using that knowledge to make the best multiplayer experience possible (as I haven’t played Battlefield 3 yet, no comment on that argument).  I really haven’t played a lot of it myself – I am more of a campaign man myself – but the little bit I have played was really good.

What I enjoy about the new multiplayer is the new game types introduced in MW3.  Gun Game is incredibly fun and the Juggernaut “Smear the Queer” game is absolutely awesome too. They allow me to take my infamous “Pistols at Rust” game type and recreate it with the Gun Game mode (much to the chagrin of my roommates).  The maps were clearly well designed to promote many different styles of gameplay and it is very apparent that, in at least this one area of the game, Modern Warfare 3 comes through with shining colors.

Multiplayer:  5//5

Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 isn’t the most well told story or the most brilliant and innovative thing on the market, but it is extremely fun and can we really ask more of it than that?  Yes, the plot doesn’t make sense.  Yes, you will very likely rage quit when you realize that everyone else is better at multiplayer.  Yes, Battlefield 3 has more lens flares.  But really, when you look at what was expected from MW3 and what we all hoped it would be, you realize that it is exactly what we wanted:  an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat, scream at your television rollercoaster ride of intense, jaw-dropping set pieces that are more fun than your schedule has room for.  Modern Warfare 3 delivered exactly what the fans asked for and, again while I am not a fan of the story, it gave us an ending we can be happy with to our favorite soldiers and to a franchise that will go down in the history books as one of the most important and most successful gaming franchises of all time.

Overall:  4//5

BOOM!  Kicking off a year of big video game reviews with easily the biggest video game release of all time feels pretty good!  Let me know what you thought of the Modern Warfare 3 in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the campaign story and particularly about how it ended.

As I have hinted at quite a lot during this post, I have several big games I know I am going to get to review over the course of this year.  Coming up next in the VG Review list is a game I had started a while ago and haven’t been able to finish yet.  You might remember that it came up near the start of this blog on a post called “A Ramble Across Worlds” and I look forward to finally answering some of those questions that came up because of that post.  So, be looking forward to my review of 2K’s Bioshock sometime this year.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back occasionally for my next review, here on the Soontobeangel Blog!

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And some things….that have not yet come to pass…

Hey all.
This post is basically to apologize for having missed 3 scheduled posts in a row.  I took a spectacular holiday last weekend and I simply haven’t had time to get a new post made yet. School has obviously kicked into session and I am just trying to get in the rhythm of things again.  More will come of that later, but for now I am announcing that the Tuesday post on Soontobeangel is dead – posts will come as I am able to get them up.  Art of the Trailer will still be on Friday’s as best as I am able and you can still expect the trailer for Thin Ice to be up soon.

I have a lot in the works right now, not least of which are 4 reviews for recently released trailers, and I am happy to say, my first video game review of 2012:

So stay tuned, thanks for being patient and I look forward to bringing you some great reviews and rambles soon!

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Nostalgic Memory from My Cartoon-Filled Childhood

Welcome back for another day here on Soontobeangel.  This is the first instance of a new era here on the blog, as I will be trying to keep up a posting schedule of one post every Tuesday.  So, today I am taking a trip down memory lane back to a show that made a big impression on my childhood and I want to share the three most impactful and hilarious episodes I remembered.  And, without further ado, I turn the clock back to look back at that classic 90’s Cartoon show – Recess.

I absolutely LOVED this show!  It was a hilarious compilation of rag-tag characters that fully encompassed the chaos of everyone’s elementary school memories.  I loved how every episode utilized each person’s own unique characteristics and let them be their self.  It was the most tolerant show I have ever seen and I was very excited to find some of the my favorite episodes on Youtube.  Thus, I have posted a few of those below so you can see each one and then read my thoughts on it just under that.

This episode demonstrates an incredible sense of understanding how children deal with serious, adult issues and how they go about learning to navigate them.  I distinctly remembered this episode because it shaped my understanding of language for much of my teen years.  I love the reversal of roles that transpires here – seeing the kids acting like adults and the adults bickering like the children they are trying to protect.  Just a great example of a kids show revealing that it isn’t just a fun, happy little romp for children but an educational tool used to raise big questions.  This episode in no way whomps. 🙂

“Gretchen and the Secret of Yo” really demonstrates exactly what I mean in saying that Recess covered every angle of our youngest years as this story very clearly translates on up into Junior High and High School.  Kids want to feel accomplishment and society (particularly early school life) pushes recreational and sports victories as the ultimate achievement a kid can obtain.  What is so spectacular about this episode is its negotiation of the Talent versus Determination argument – whether or not a person can learn and earn triumph in any field with or without natural skill. Gretchen, being the quintessential geek, obviously lacks any talent in the area of sports but still has the desire to succeed. I love how she tries to reason and will herself to do many things but all of them fail.  Then, when she finds something which she has some talent at, she is able to learn from her coach and work hard to turn that skill into mastery.  It is a great story of overcoming perceived flaws and achieved the goals you set for yourself.  All I can really say about the episode is this:  Yo. 

“Dodgeball City” is by far my favorite episode of a cartoon series of all time.
I love how this episode plays on every western ever made and turns a schoolyard game of dodgeball into a Quick and the Dead  style shootout.  One can clearly see the references made to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Shane (that last joke is one of my all-time favorites). Yes, the whip sound effect is overused but overall the story arc is fantastic as is the general western feel that the animators are able to capture.  The bars growing to form the widescreen shot is hilarious and I give mad props to the wonderful person who wrote this episode.  It has made a lasting impression on me all these years later and I thank them for a great laugh and a great memory of my childhood days.

If you haven’t taken the time prior, I highly recommend this fantastic show from our past.  It was well written, cleverly poignant and way ahead of its time for dealing so openly with tough issues kids face (bullying, clicks, etc).  It is a really fun take on some of the best years of our lives and so I hope you take some time to go back and check out Recess – the stories of our childhood.

Just try to forget this image 🙂

Thanks for sticking around!  I hope you enjoyed each of these episodes and I would love to hear what you think of them.  Were you a fan of Recess or did you prefer the Nickelodeon classics better?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

This Friday on Art of the Trailer I am going to take a look at the first trailer for Thin Ice — a new film starring Greg Kinnear that appears to be trying to mix Fargo with the recent raunchy comedy genre. And I think I can already say that I am not particularly psyched about this film thanks to the trailer.  So, join me next Friday for that review and check back next Tuesday for another post here on Soontobeangel.  Thanks!

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