Some Thoughts on RoboCop

by A. A. Matin

MV5BMTk1MDUzMTQ3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDAwNTk0NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_I was never a big fan of the movie Robocop. That is sacrilege to some.  I saw the movie when I was sixteen.  For a long time I think my distaste was because I expected a straight-ahead action film.  But instead I got “social commentary.” But that never rested well with me.  I usually love films that have a subtext, like how Dawn of the Dead is an allegory for Mass Consumerism.  Or Star Wars is a parallel for the Vietnam War.  But a closer inspection of the film as an adult and I realized why I felt the way I did.  The social commentary isn’t very good.  The car is named the SUX 6000.  I get it!  It sucks!  Is that really funny?  Also the film is outdated.

The original RoboCop was clearly written by adults who were not part of youth culture.  For example,  the first parody commercial we see is for the “Family Heart Center” where a doctor says, “We feature the complete Jarvik line.”  The movie was released in 1987.  Dr. Jarvik and his artificial heart was last news in 1983.  Four years is nothing to an adult.  But to a youngster like I was at the time – that was a quarter of my life!  These relatively recent references would never stand the test of time.

maxresdefaultAnd there’s a later ad for a game called Nukem!  It’s a board game about nuclear war.  But once again it was not new.  In fact it was backwards.  Nukem was a board game version of the video game Missile Command.  A game that was first released back in 1980 (obviously the writers did not spend time in arcades)!  Ironically, one of the film’s taglines is “The Future of Law Enforcement.”  But I guess the filmmakers didn’t know that board games were becoming the past and that video was the future of gaming.  And there was no particularly clever twist on any of the “breaking news” inserts to show the absurdist nature of it: the STI misfires and burns Santa Barbara, a power failure causes the President to experience weightlessness aboard a space station.  Big fucking deal!  

The very first news story says the ruling white military government of South African reveals that they have a French Neutron Bomb and will use it as their last line of defense.  Since the popular idea of a “French Neutron Bomb” is that it kills people and leaves the infrastructure in tact… and this story is set in a technologically advanced future… how about a new Neutron Bomb that only kills black people.  And the South African government detonated it – only to have it not work properly and it obliterated the entire nation.  Now that would be outrageous.

maxresdefault-1When I saw the remake, I liked that they did away with these commercials and attempts at satire.  It was a straight-ahead Science Fiction and action film like I expected back in the eighties.  However the attempted satire, no matter how bad, was one of the things most people remembered about the original.  Removing part of the essential nature of the original turned fans against the remake.  Additionally, the remake suffered from another elemental problem.  It told essentially the same story as the original.  Robocop overcomes his programming, takes his revenge on the people who “killed” him the first time and reaffirms his identity as Alex Murphy and ergo regains his humanity.  The studio wanted a franchise.  But where do you go from there?  

In the original film RoboCop asks his partner, “Murphy had a wife and son.  What happened to them?”  Lewis tells him that she thought he was dead and moved away and started over.  RoboCop replies, “I can feel them.  But I can’t remember them.” So what do they do in the sequel?  RoboCop drives by his former wife’s house and spies on them.  She sues OCP.  One of their lawyers says to RoboCop, “Do you think you could ever be a husband to her?  I mean, what can you offer her?  Companionship?  Love?  A man’s love?”  Murphy realizes the futility of his emotions the lawyer gets him to admit that he is no longer Alex Murphy and not human.  RoboCop then sees his former wife and says to her, “They made this to honor him.  Your husband is dead.  I don’t know you.”  How can you care about him as a character and want to follow his story when he treats his wife that way?  They had to undo the point of the first film in order to have RoboCop keep being a cop and have further adventures.

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In the remake, they made the wife and child a part of the story.  She okays his transformation into RoboCop in order to keep him alive.  She is still married to him.  However OCP keeps her and their son from seeing Alex.  In the climax, Murphy overcomes his programming to protect his wife and child and the movie ends with them finally meeting him for the first time as a cybernetic organism.  And therein lies the rub.  The problem is that the story of RoboCop is essentially a tragedy.  He can regain his identity, but not his life.  He can’t share a bed with his wife.  A mostly robotic father playing catch with his son is more pathetic and sad than heart warming.  Once you tell the story of his regaining his free will and humanity and hunting down the people who originally took his life away – there is no more story to tell.  The logical evolution is Alex getting his life back.  But that can never be.

MV5BMjAyOTUzMTcxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjkyOTc1MDE@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_So how do you keep the franchise going?  Well RoboCop was created to fight street crime by the Omni Corporation.  Like most corporations, they don’t care about right and wrong or doing a public service.  All they care about is profits.  As Dick Jones said in the original film, “I had a guaranteed military sale with Ed-209; renovation program, spare parts for 25 years.  Who cares if it worked or not?”  Not too dissimilar the attitude from GM and their faulty ignition switches.  Malcolm Gladwell gave a great talk once where he talks about how all great entrepreneurs and capitalists have a sense of amorality about them.  All they care about is their business.  They will exploit workers or get into bed with horrible governments if that is what it takes for the business to thrive.  

The next evolution of that is from amoral to immoral.  Dick Jones kills a co-worker who disrespected him.  Why?  Because he could.  To that end, OCP put in a directive that RoboCop cannot arrest an officer of the company.  In the original he never overcomes this immoral piece of programming.  In the remake, he just barely is able to – just barely.  So RoboCop regains his identity, but does he really regain his morality?  His ethics?  The moral compass he had as a human?  And ergo does he regain his humanity without them?  Once again, how can you root for him as a hero?  In an age of income inequality, it is clear that the evil is not the mugger on the street.  It is the corporations that create the economic environment for poverty to thrive.

Joel Kinnaman, left, and Gary Oldman star in Columbia Pictures' "Robocop."

Joel Kinnaman, left, and Gary Oldman star in Columbia Pictures’ “Robocop.”

So here’s an idea… Robocop needs to become like Robin Hood.  Alex Murphy’s organic brain is powerful enough to overcome the computer programming and he regains his free will and human sense of morality.  He breaks free from the control of OCP and as a result is forced into the position of a fugitive on the run.  Just like Dr. Richard Kimble in the original TV series of The Fugitive.  He is on the run from the cops, the FBI, and OCP.  But his moral compass forces him to help people in need when and where he can.  All the while he knows that his wife and son are in potential danger while he is out there.  RoboCop re-writes his own program and becomes a Corporate Cop.  CEOs and wealthy people commit crimes and get away.  So RoboCop acts as their judge, jury and executioner where the government won’t.  He hunts down douchebag CEO’s, corporate raiders, and the like.  This is a great way to add back the satire and “social commentary” of the first movie.  For example, lets say RoboCop finds out about a young guy like Martin Shrkeli who buys a drug company and raises the price of a life saving drug by 5000%.  He finds out that this guy is a playboy who likes to sleep with lots of women.  So does RoboCop shoot him in the face?  No.  

3656377-robocop_110616RoboCop corners him and snips off the head of his penis – only the head.  He leaves the testicles alone so his body still produces testosterone and he has normal male sexual desires.  And he leaves the shaft so he can still have coitus.  But without the head of his penis, it will be nearly impossible for him to ever have an orgasm and he is forced to live the rest of his life with Blue Balls.  That is his punishment for being a douchebag.  Lower the price back to a reasonable rate or the next time you see me, you will die.  That’s outrageous!  CEO’s become afraid of getting punished or killed by RoboCop such that many start insourcing jobs, stop trying to break unions, treat customers with more respect.  As a result all these companies see increases in productivity and ultimately gains in profits.  But they don’t care.  It’s not about money.  It’s about being in control.  So they still want RoboCop destroyed.  They buy political will to keep the police and FBI and even hired assassins on his tail and track him down before he makes another One-per center pay in some crazy and tortuous way.  

Call me crazy, but that sounds like something I would want to see.  That sounds like something that could be played out for a few movies before getting stale.  The Fugitive milked this premise for 120 hours of Television.  The tale of Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is over 350 years old.  And isn’t that what we really want the future of law enforcement to be?

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The Hateful 8: A Must See With A Pretty Gimmick

by Erik Harty

hateful-eight-750x410The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film.  With his announcement that he will only be making ten films, each new project has become even more enticing.  This film carries with it a lot of anticipation, and for the most part, it does not disappoint.  Shot on 65mm film stock and, where possible, projected in “glorious 70mm Ultra Panavision,” it is truly a beautiful piece of filmmaking.  But is this film a game changer, or is it just a pretty gimmick?

I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of The Hateful Eight at the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), which was followed by a Q&A session between Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan.  Leading up to the screening, there was some debate about whether or not the film would be shown in its “true” 70mm version.  Fortunately, I got to see it in its full, 70mm Ultra Panavision Roadshow glory.

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Before we even get started, it is important to understand the difference between 35mm and 65mm film.  While there are all sorts of lens differences, depth of field issues, and more that could be discussed, the fundamental difference is the size of the frame. 65mm is almost twice as big as 35mm.  That means that each frame contains more information, literally (as in how much is physically present in the image), but also in terms of the overall resolution of the image.  The detail present in 65mm film could only be matched digitally with a camera capable of capturing 8K images.  That’s huge.  What do you do with that much detail and that massive of a frame?  Well for one, you can begin rethinking your editing process.

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Beyond the magnificence of 70mm Ultra Panavision, the thing that really stuck out to me about The Hateful Eight was its editing.  Now, editing is one of the those things that is usually done best if it’s not noticed at all, and I think that is true with this film.  However, the analytical portion of my brain got the better of me this time, so I was specifically looking for cuts during some parts of the movie, meaning the average Joe may not have noticed what I’m going to talk about at all.

The maKurtRussellSamuelLJacksonHatefulEightin thing that stuck out to me about the editing was the pacing.  I’ve only seen two other Tarantino films, but based on my experience with those and the input of people who have seen all of his films, The Hateful Eight has a different pacing style altogether.  Believe it or not, the first half of the film actually moved kind of slow, which is something I’ve never heard said about a Tarantino film.  I think the main reason for the change of pace was actually the larger frame size.  The amount of detail in each shot requires more time to fully absorb, therefore the shot remains on screen for a longer period of time.  You could argue that the pacing is too slow as a result, but I actually enjoyed it.

Another interesting thing to take a look at is the pacing in the second half of the film because it’s much faster, but there’s no swapping between different frame sizes.  Unlike say, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, if you’re watching part of the movie in 70mm, you’re watching all of it in 70mm.  A good chunk of the first half of the movie is dominated by carriage travel, so there’s not a whole lot else going on.  The second half of the film, which takes place in a relatively small cabin, is where the action ramps up.  However, the increase in pace and activity doesn’t entirely correlate with an increase in the speed and total number of cuts.  One of the advantages of having such a massive frame is that you can see more with it.  Tarantino used this advantage to full effect by using fewer cuts to show the same amount of information.  Since the plot of this film is essentially “one of these things is not like the other,” it’s up to the audience to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s lying.  The only way the audience can do that is by observing each of the characters and how they behave.

cdn.indiewire.psdopsThe problem is, making a good film with that kind of premise isn’t so simple.  It can be very easy to give away too much information, making the answer extremely obvious, or to give away too little information, making the “big reveal” either unbelievable or uninteresting because the audience didn’t have enough information to work with.  In my experience, stories like this tend to lean on the “too obvious” side because they want to make sure that everyone gets it.  However, The Hateful Eight does a great job of staying right in the middle, primarily because of, you guessed it, the frame size.  The big clues in this kind of a story generally happen somewhere away from the main action of the scene, which often necessitates cutting away from the action to a shot of that big clue.  Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to maintain any kind of subtlety in revealing clues this way.  It’s essentially saying to the audience, “Look over here! Look at this clue that we’re giving you!”  That’s where 65mm swoops in to save the day.  Many of the key clues in this film are revealed in the background, behind the main action of a scene, but are still visible because of the massive frame size.  This creates a subtle bread crumb trail for the audience to follow, but only if they’re paying attention.  For the most part, these details are not pointed out explicitly, which I found very refreshing.

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I thoroughly enjoyed The Hateful Eight.  It’s definitely not just a pretty gimmick.  I highly recommend seeing this film in its true 70mm form, but it’s a great watch even if that’s not an option.  The overall pacing is a bit slower than other Tarantino films, but I don’t see that as a bad thing in this case.  If the gorgeous shots aren’t enough to entice you, then hopefully the mystery element will pique your curiosity.  This is not a film to miss.

 

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The Barkley Marathons: A Doc Not Just for Trail Runners, but Extremists Who Must Succeed

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The Barkley Marathons; I bet you’ve never heard of the long distance trail run competition. Neither had I before I saw the poster for this new documentary with its intriguing tag line: The race that eats its young.  Sounds more like a horror film than a sports doc.  And the poster’s artwork is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film.  With all that going for it, I just had to check it out.  And surprisingly, I was kind of right on both my initial impressions, which is a good thing in the most interesting ways.

Having had no idea about the Barkley, or the sport of Trail Running I didn’t know what to expect from a film on the subject.  After all, how interesting can it possibly be to anyone outside the realm of athletes dedicated to that specific niche sport?  But it seems the directors; Annika Iltis and Timothy James Kane (two long time professional camera assistants working in TV) didn’t know anything about this intriguing little world either before they decided to make the film.  According to Kane (Iltis was unfortunately unavailable for my interview) the two started out wanting to make a movie that would allow them to branch out and showcase their own abilities as filmmakers.  And they accomplish that quite well with a documentary that really draws the viewer in through the most basic human trait: curiosity.

barkley1-videoLarge-v2Inspired by a magazine article on the subject the two decided to find out more about something they knew absolutely nothing about, beyond the realms of Hollywood and the Los Angeles lifestyle in general.  Because of their own perspective their approach to the topic does not assume any knowledge on the audience’s part (a pitfall for the average documentary).  Instead the film is a logical presentation of the who, what, where, why and how of the subject, complete with on site coverage of the annual event.  This refreshing and mindful approach serves its subject well, and keeps the viewer in tandem with the camera, as if everything is presented from the audience’s point of view rather than that of being along for the ride with an insider.  There is a distinct difference in those two approaches, and one that really makes The Barkley Marathons a fun and compelling experience regardless if one has any interest in the sport or not.

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I’m not one for spoilers, so I won’t be going into much detail.  What I can tell you is that you’ll find yourself being drawn in deeper and deeper as the story builds, virtually hanging on the edge of your seat as the surprisingly dramatic tale takes it’s twists and turns.  There’s plenty of humor and lighter moments with the colorful inhabitants of the base camp where runners check in after every completed circuit, but you’ll be particularly impressed with the bodily damage the participants inflict upon their selves in the pursuit of a personal best against the elements.  You’ll route for odd ball characters who range from first time “virgins”, to repeat competitors who enter knowing they will never complete the run but migrate annually to a remote part of Tennessee for the camaraderie that comes with the physical and mental challenge unique to the Barkley.  Front-runners will fail; defeated by the elements, and an unknown up and comer will emerge to challenge the existing champion.  The final moments are exciting as we wait to see if a new record will be made in a twenty five year old competition that has seen only ten finalists.

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Winning all sorts of accolades at festivals that feature “Trail” films (who knew?), The Barkley Marathons may just be spearheading widespread acceptance with a cult genre, much like that of the surf films of the 1960s and 70s.  Like co-director Kane noted, with the abundant beauty inherent in shots featuring such rich topography these films inspire rabid fans.  Although The Barkley Marathons is far short of what is known as “trail porn” due to its inclusion of the gritty reality of the competition.  And as Kane went on to say, if the film were glossier it would come off as false, lacking the reality of the harsh extremes of the race.  That is an observation to which I couldn’t agree with more.

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A particularly notable aspect of the movie is the abundant number of cameras utilized through out the filming process.  Fortunately, the two camera savvy directors recognized ahead of time the need for coverage and employed as many independent camera operators as they could entice to the remote hills of Tennessee.  Although the most sophisticated camera is a 5D and the others down grade from there, there is no image within the film that is less than professional – a true testament to the skills of the operators.  And one of the race participants graciously allowed the use of the footage he shot from his own chest mounted GoPro.  Remarkable footage indeed, considering each shooter was out in the field for twelve or more hours at a time across a sixty hour time period, while keeping out of site of the competitors.  One wannabe crew member actually showed up only to quake at the reality of the situation in which he would be shooting and quickly left (quitter).

Wade-Payne-AP-USA-TodayWith this remarkable first film under their belts it will be exciting to see what these two young filmmakers will come up with next.  So-called sophomore films can be disappointing, but I do not fore see such a problem in the case of Annika Iltis and Timothy James Kane.  Whether it is a narrative feature or another documentary film I’m sure the two directors will have plenty of offers to assist them and guide them through that awkward stage.  Perhaps then we will have the satisfaction of seeing them justifiably in contention for an Oscar.  Sadly it won’t happen with The Barkley Marathons.  Iltis and Kane were unaware of the appeal the film would ultimately have and lacked the finances to open the film where necessary in order to qualify the film.  In fact, you’re only going to able to see this film via VOD, which I think is particularly fitting since you’re going to want to be as comfortable as you can be while watching such an exhausting race.

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I encourage you to see it now, perhaps as a break from all the holiday, Oscar vying films that are out there now.  See it, and tell your friends about it.  Then you’ll see and they’ll see that The Barkley Marathons is about people who won’t give up even when facing insurmountable odds made by people of the same ilk, made to inspire others who live the same way.  Who knows, maybe The Barkley Marathons will be the next inspirational film shown to sales people, executives and small business owners alike.  After all, it’s about those with the will to succeed no matter the cost.  That’s just about as entrepreneurial as it gets, and speaks to the core of American values.  That’s a lot for a little documentary.  But then again, that’s exactly what documentaries are supposed to do – inspire greatness.  The Barkley Marathons achieves this goal beautifully.

 

 

 

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Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back

by Jeffery Bui  

imagesAround twenty years ago, almost every child’s dream was to become a Pokémon Master. The fantasy created by the Pokémon franchise acted as a safe haven for children—allowing them to both catch a break from the hectic life of long division as well as catch Pokémon while they were at it. When the franchise finally announced the 1998 release of their first feature-film Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, the Y2K scare was put on hold as Pokémon fanatics could not contain their excitement to see a ten-year old boy and his furry yellow mouse at their local movie theater.

Although marketing to the hearts of eight-year olds, the movie did not disappoint. The plot begins with the backstory of a laboratory experiment gone wrong, Mewtwo. What Mewtwo does is exactly what you would expect in a children’s movie that explicitly includes “Mewtwo Strikes Back” in its title: it strikes back—getting revenge on the dastardly group of scientists at the expense of the entire Pokémon world. As a result, the stars somehow align and the naïve yet courageous protagonist, Ash Ketchum, is put in the position to save the Pokémon world from devastation and prevent Mewtwo from obliterating everything the Pokémon world knows and loves.

MV5BMjE3OTcxNDA1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDI2MDE3._V1_SX640_SY720_Of course, being a children’s movie, it is suited for the resolution to be nothing less than rainbows and butterflies. However, the beauty of Pokémon: The First Movie is not found in the “what happens,” but the “how it happens.” The idea of how Ash is able to be the underdog and halt what seems to be the most powerful being exposed to the Pokémon world seems almost impossible; Yet, it happens—and in quite tear-jerking fashion. Pokémon: The First Movie takes the juvenile concept of Pokémon and alters it into something a little more tenderhearted. Shinji Miyazaki’s choice in music paired with the cinematography of Hisao Shirai caused for elicited emotions that one would expect watching something along the lines of Titanic or Marley & Me, not Pokémon.  

Pokemon.The.First.Movie.1998.DVDR.NTSC.R4.LATiNO-18-20130128-18211911The most notable aspect to the movie that sets it apart from being an ordinary animation is Takeshi Shudo’s creation of multiple layers within the characters. In just 96 minutes, Shudo is able to develop the character of Mewtwo as a hostile psychopath while still causing the audience to sympathize for it and almost justify its actions. Intended to simply empower and glorify the scientists who made it, Mewtwo is tasked with issues everyone faces, whether it be during confusing teenage years or a mid-life crisis: self-worth and self-identity. As a result, Mewtwo, just like many of us, channels the confusion into frustration towards those around it.  

There are only two plausible reasons that come to mind as to why I would not recommend this movie to anyone: I either strongly dislike them or they saw it right before I could recommend it to them. It may be the nostalgic toddler in me speaking, but the movie was a masterpiece. The fact that I have such firm support in Pokémon: The First Movie 17 years after its release means that the Pokémon franchise did its job. Even at a box office standpoint, the Pokémon franchise’s ability to net a revenue of $130 million in a 1998-valued economy speaks for itself.  

pokemon1sub_4The positive message entailed in Pokémon: The First Movie is both universal and eternal as it contributes to the progressive world we live in today. Regardless of the Pokémon’s origin, purebred or artificial, they come to an understanding that we can use in our daily lives: “Maybe if we start looking at what’s the same instead of always looking at what’s different, well, who knows?”

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Birdman: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is Phenomenal

by Erik Harty

Birdman-1Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a phenomenal film.  Written and directed by the lesser-known Alejandro González Iñárittu, it finds its life very much in the technical magic behind the scenes.  It is made to look like it is one continuous shot until the end of the movie, where some obvious hard cuts take place. But was it actually one continuous shot?  Absolutely not.  There are dramatic shifts in setting and time, not to mention the insanity of trying to choreograph every single moving part for nearly two straight hours.  So no, the film is not one single shot. Rather, it is a magical tapestry, woven together by the magic of clever cinematography, solid editing, and polished visual effects.

As an aspiring editor, I thoroughly enjoy learning about the inner-workings of the post-production process.  I love hearing editors, colorists, sound mixers, and visual effects artists discuss their work and the very specific decisions they made during their time with a particular film.  In the case of Birdman, the editors have actually kept a lot of their “secrets” to themselves, but that doesn’t mean their work can’t be dissected from the outside.  

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When examining the film to find its edits, one of the things that immediately struck me were the interior/exterior transitions.  At many places throughout the film, a character will be moving from indoors to outdoors, or from one room to another through a doorway.  Often times, the camera pushes in to fill the frame with the character’s back or the area around the doorway is so dark that the frame is briefly entirely dark.  Assuming that lighting and color are consistent, a cut can be placed unnoticeably at the point where the frame is completely dark.  This particular method is very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), where he attempted to make a continuously shot film, but was limited by the amount of film that a camera could hold.  To hide the cuts, he had the camera push in to fill the frame with someone’s back.  Fortunately for Iñárittu, technology has progressed enormously since Hitchcock’s time.  The other two methods of hiding Birdman’s cuts require a little more post-production magic.

birdman_movie_stillThe first of these two methods is dramatically simpler than the second.  Known as “whip” or “swish” pans, these cuts find their strength in movement.  They work by cutting on the action, where the action is blurred because of fast camera movement.  The effect is further improved by using a frame rate near the cinematic standard of 24 frames per second.  Often times, a well-executed whip pan can even provide an unnoticeable transition between two completely different settings, so a discreet transition between two shots in the same setting is very feasible.  Birdman utilizes this technique all over the place, which actually helps add some energy to the film, in addition to its function as a transition.

birdman-emma-stone-changing-room-xlargeThe final technique used to mask transitions in Birdman is really more of a category than it is a specific technique.  “Visual effects” is a broad term than can mean a whole lot of things, but in the context of the cuts in this film, it refers to a method of smoothing transitions.  In some cases, such as the small number of exterior shots that showcase the transition from night to day, the effects are more akin to a very complex dissolve.  In other cases, they may add some extra blur to a whip pan to make it more believable.  Depending on the situation, they may even be a reanimation of some aspect of a cut that makes it almost unnoticeable.  Some might consider this category cheating, since it wasn’t how the film was originally shot, but it certainly rounds out the continuous feel of the movie.

Birdman-5Ultimately, I love Birdman because the unique way that it was shot and edited contributes significantly to the film.  It isn’t made to look like a continuous shot just for the sake of being different.  Rather, the continuous, almost dreamlike flow of the framing assists in characterizing this chapter of Riggan Thomson’s life as confused, dazed, and lost.  Birdman is a film worth viewing for its success in accomplishing a technical feat, but more importantly, for how its technical feat contributes to the overall character of the movie.

 

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A Red Letter Film – A Review of The Martian

by Jonathan Davidson

97-frontHow to transfer vast amounts of information in the smallest package—that’s the holy grail of communication.  Several weeks before hearing about The Martian film, I was buying books on Amazon and saw a suggestion for a book called The Martian.  I’d never heard of the book, but it had nearly 10,000 five-star reviews.  John Grisham, James Patterson, and even Stephen King rarely command such a mass of raving reviewers on one of their novels.

And then I saw the cover of the book: An astronaut wearing the brilliant white of a modern American spacesuit, his feet ripped from the Martian soil by fierce wind, his body—twisted in an odd, helpless angle—obscured by reddish-brown dust.  That’s all I needed to see.  Indeed, some graphic designer sitting in some cubical at Broadway Books had stumbled upon the holy grail of communication, marrying simplicity to enormous meaning.  The faceless fear of that astronaut reached out and gripped my science-fiction-loving heart with icy talons.  I clicked, “Buy Now with One-Click®,” and started reading the book the moment it arrived. Every page exceeded my expectations.

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And then I heard they were making a movie. Since movies always have a hard time living up to great books, I tried to approach this one as a standalone piece of art, something wholly separate from its paperback father.  Yet I found it impossible to prevent myself from making comparisons.  The movie promised disappointment in the first nano-second I heard about it.  Instead of the terrifying and moving image of an astronaut fighting against the elements of Mars (a battle even more symbolic when one remembers that, in Roman mythology, Mars was the god of war), the movie poster showed an extreme close-up of Matt Damon’s spacesuit-protected face, one eyebrow slightly raised, his lips pursed as if he’s trying to look suave. Apparently the graphic designer in some cubical at Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t know his trade like the designer in some cubical at Broadway Books. Thus, even on Sol 1 (a Martian day) it appeared that the movie might not live up to the book.

The-Martian-TrailerTrying to keep an open mind, I went to see the film.  As I had suspected, it was very hard to live up to such a gripping masterpiece of science fiction literature.  However, viewed as a separate piece of art, The Martian does what any good film should—carry the viewer into a new and spectacular world where an immersive and emotional experience awaits. This new and spectacular world attracted considerable talent.  Ridley Scott, director of dozens of projects including Blade Runner, Gladiator, and American Gangster, directed.  Drew Goddard, writer of Cloverfield, The Cabin in the Woods, and many episodes for shows such as Lost, Alias, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, adapted the screenplay.  Matt Damon, who needs no introduction unless you haven’t been to the theater since the 1980s, played the role of the protagonist Mark Watney.  Other prominent actors such as Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, and Sean Bean, played roles as other astronauts or administrators and staff at NASA and JPL.

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The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut whose sub-specialty happens to be botany who travels to Mars with several crew mates on the third manned mission to the red planet.  On Sol 6, a storm blows into the landing zone with such intensity that the mission must be aborted.  In the scramble to reach the evacuation shuttle, Mark Watney gets hit by flying debris.  Unable to delay the launch any longer and getting no readings from Watney’s bio-monitor, the crew decides to blast off.  Hours later, Watney awakes to discover that not only is he alive, but he’s profoundly alone, unable to communicate with NASA or his crew mates, and completely undersupplied to live until the next manned mission to mars which will arrive more than two years later.  Determined to live, Watney sets out to use every scrap of his training and creativity to survive, unaware of exactly how inhospitable Mars will turn out to be.

martian-gallery5-gallery-imageTo Goddard’s credit, he did a great job adapting the screenplay.  The book, written mostly in the form of Mark Watney’s journal entries, derives most of its charms from what’s in the head of the hilariously inappropriate yet scientifically genius protagonist.  By having Watney record a video journal and overlapping his recordings with b-roll of the events described, Goddard managed to tell the story in the same manner of the book while making use of the visual storytelling techniques that makes film so compelling.  Also, Goddard must be commended for sticking to the storyline of the book.  While he had to drop dozens of events in order to keep the film under two and a half hours, those he did portray were lifted almost verbatim from the novel.

Another strength of this film is in the cinematography, beautifully captured by Dariusz Wolski.  Sweeping panoramas of the Martian landscape and lots of aerial shots revealed just how alone Mark Watney was on the treacherous planet.  Such long shots were balanced out with lots of extreme close-ups, allowing Damon to convey Watney’s unique personality.  What’s more, I noticed a tasteful number of unconventional shots, with the camera attached to odd objects or from Dutch angles.  Wolski also effectively used lighting to convey the inherent themes of the film.  The sun hardly dimmed by the thin Martian atmosphere, casts stark shadows, accentuating the planet’s unfeeling harshness.  Dark lighting at JPL underscored how the technicians felt as they labored under the heavy burden of knowing that Mark Watney’s survival depended on them.  My only major criticism of the cinematography deals with the aerial shots.  Apparently their perspective algorithms weren’t finally turned, leading to slight distortions in reality when objects slide past each other.  For instance, as distant mountains changed position relative to close objects, they didn’t seem to interact realistically. Perhaps this is nitpicking, but it bothered me enough that I noticed exactly what was happening.

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My greatest criticism of the film in general is aimed at Ridley Scott.  With a cast that lesser directors would sacrifice their children for, one would assume that Scott would command an incredible symphony of acting.  Yet with the possible exception of Damon, all the actors seemed somewhat listless and sedate.  Even in the most critical moments of the film, the actors were fairly reserved, hardly ever raising their voices or acting as if people’s lives and billions of dollars were on the line.  I have to assume that Scott directed the actors to behave this way on purpose.  Perhaps NASA trains their people to behave with great restraint even in the most dire of circumstances.  Even still, I felt a palpable lack of enthusiasm from most of the cast.  The same could be said for the pacing in general.  It lacked an energy and immediateness that I expected.  The novel was a very gripping read, so perhaps it set up unfair expectations.  Other films such as Gravity might have also set an unrealistically high bar for excitement in space stories, or perhaps Scott directed the film in a slightly lower-key manner in order to avoid the appearance that he copied Gravity.

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Despite these objections, The Martian was a great experience. Matt Damon followed well in Tom Hanks’s shoes as a cast away, his strong acting allowing me to feel with Watney the steep and alternating peaks of desperation, fear, and hope. The desolate yet beautiful Martian world transported me to a new and raw place where anything could happen. Watney’s humor and intelligence made him a pleasure to spend almost two and a half hours observing. Perhaps this film didn’t live up to the book, but it made a very enjoyable movie.

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Why the New Star Wars Trilogy Might Not Suck

by A. A. Matin

SW-E7-TFAWhat was the most mind blowing moment in the original Star Wars Trilogy?  Was it the first time we saw a light saber  Was it Vader killing the Emperor?  Was it Luke training with Yoda?  Was it Leia in a metal bikini?  No, it was none of these.  When I tell you what I think – I doubt you will disagree.  But first let me give a little backstory.  Star Wars was inspired by Saturday Morning Serials.  These would be a short feature, typically about 20 minutes, that was a chapter of a longer story.  They screened once a week on Saturday mornings in a local movie theater.  The entire story would be about 10-15 Chapters.
 
Lucas said that you would inevitably come in the middle of a serial and not know what happened before.  That is part of the reason why the first movie is “Episode IV.”  When thinking about serials, he remembered two types.  One was the space opera type – which became Star Wars.  The other was the swashbuckler adventure type.  This became the Indiana Jones films.  Now I will go on a slight diversion about Indiana Jones (don’t worry, it is all pertinent).  I have always been a film geek.  Even in elementary school I had consciously thought, “You know Spielberg and Lucas make similar films.  They should work together.”  I didn’t know that they were already friends.
 
11875118_1007880092596925_2204135516599208531_oThen one day I was watching TV.  White text over black saying “Jaws. 1975” appeared on screen and grows.  Then “Star Wars. 1977”.  Followed by “Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977”, and “Empire Strikes Back 1980”.  The narrator says that the two biggest names in Motion Pictures are teaming up. I thought, “Awesome!”  What followed was a lot of fast cutting of the action beats in Raiders.  At one point I thought, “Hey, is that Harrison Ford?” but it was moving so fast I couldn’t tell.  Then the trailer ended with a classic shot from the Truck Chase.  Looking down the hood of the truck, Indy is holding on to the Mercedes Benz hood ornament.  It slowly bends backwards and then breaks off and Indy falls out of frame.  At that point the commercial cut to black and was over.
 
At that moment my mind exploded.  Grey matter was splattered all over my parents’ living room.  I squealed, “OH MY GOD!  I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW!”  I had to see how Indiana Jones got out of that predicament.  It was a perfect example of the Cliffhanger that was the lifeblood of the serials that inspired the film.  Each chapter of a Serial would end with a Cliffhanger.  We all know what they are. But think about the term.  The hero would be hanging off the edge a Cliff about to die (or some other similar peril).  And you had to come back next week to see how he would get out of it.
 
rp5z2dwjyl7utj8wdphqAnd that was the greatest moment in the original Star Wars Trilogy.  The end of The Empire Strikes Back when Vader says, “No, I am your father!”  That is when collectively all of our minds exploded all over movie theaters around the world.  It was and still is one of the greatest shocks and twists in movie history.  The great part of that age was that people were respectful of it.  No one was blogging about the secrets the next day.  I saw Empire Strikes Back after it had been in theaters for a month.  No one told me about the end or even hinted at it.  And the question of whether Vader was being honest was buffeted by the fact that Han Solo was frozen in Carbonite.  You just knew that his friends were going to have to rescue him. But how?
 
To me that was the reason why the prequel trilogy sucked. It wasn’t the wooden acting. It wasn’t the digital sets.  We all would have forgiven them if we had that one moment where our minds were truly blown away and we were given a reason to want to come back and see the continuation of the story.  The last set of films forgot their roots in the serials. Episode I ended in a neat little bow.  Episode II did have some questions.  Like who was Master Sipho-Dyas that commissioned the Kaminoans to create the Clone Army and where did he get the money.  But this felt more like bad screenwriting than a question that demanded an answer. (and ultimately was never answered).  George got lazy because he knew he had a built in audience who would come back for Parts II and III.
 
luke_skywalkerThe reason I have hope is because J.J. Abrams comes from Television.  TV is the evolution of the Saturday Morning Serials.  Most TV shows are a serialized dramatic story told in 12-23 episodes.  Usually, the end of an episode will dangle a carrot or end on a cliffhanger moment to get you to tune in next week.  I hope Abrams brought some of this mentality to the movie.  Business decisions are often made from a place of fear.  It feels less risky to spend money on a concept or formula that has already shown itself to be successful.  Movies that truly shock and surprise us are few and far between. We are so used to seeing the same tropes recycled time and again that when a film really pulls the rug out from under us – people always enjoy it.  Citizen Kane, Psycho, The Empire Strikes Back, Pulp Fiction, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were all films that shocked us out of complacency.  There is a reason they are considered classics. And if we are lucky we will be able to say the same about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
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2015 Portland Film Festival – a Fun Place to Be and to See

by Carrie Specht

130827-205234-0514The third annual Portland Film Festival starts Tuesday, September 1 and runs through Monday, September 7.  By all accounts the festival has established itself (within just a few short years) as a strong national presence, known for eclectic films and unique events.  Even the esteemed Moviemaker Magazine recently named the festival “one of the coolest film festivals in the world.”  This is strong praise indeed when you consider how many festivals are out there each vying to establish some kind of relevant international profile.  And this year’s lineup is stronger than ever.

DSC_0395It may surprise some that Portland is celebrating just its third year as host to a film fest.  I mean, it is a pretty mighty metropolis on the Pacific seaboard, and doesn’t just about every major city have a film festival in its gazilliunth year?  Well, it may be late to the party, but Portland is going strong and doing things right as a leader in the celebration of cinema and those who make it.  Fans of the fledgling event will find plenty to feast on with a variety of screenings and events including the highly anticipated ZOMBIE DAY.  This will be a free live (mostly – get it?) event that will be attempting to make a new Guinness Book World Record.  The goal is to utilize two thousand festival-goers as extras in the short film, “Zombie Day Apocalypse”.  I have to say that’s a pretty unique lure that promises to be entertaining even of they don’t make the record.  After all, when will you ever get another chance to play a zombie in a movie?

Culture_Film_FilmFest_PIFF_hollywood_courtesy_PIFFAlso on the schedule is a tribute to WILL VINTON, Portland’s Academy Award-winning stop motion pioneer.  He’ll receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation in Filmmaking.  WENDY FROUD, the acclaimed creature sculptor and puppet maker will also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as a fabricator on Yoda for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (awesome!).  In the same week there will be over seventy workshops led by top industry pros, the obligatory After Parties with live musical performance, and a chance to meet and network with over three hundred and fifty visiting filmmakers (assuming everyone makes their flights).

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This year’s film slate includes a diverse selection of competition films, world premieres, spotlights on music themed documentaries and local filmmakers.  The talent appearing in films being shown includes James Franco in Yosemite, Jane Seymour in Bereave, Cloris Leachman and Judd Nelson in This is Happening, wrestler Jake The Snake in The Resurrection of Jake The Snake, Patton Oswald in Dude Bro Party Massacre III (the title entices me to check out I and II), and docs on rock the bands Morphine and Twisted Sister.  And that’s just a smattering of what’s in store.  Full the full festival lineup and info to purchase passes and tickets go to: www.portlandfilmfestival. com

The nonprofit Portland Film Festival was founded by filmmaker and Executive Director Josh Leake in 2013, and is made possible by the generous donation of time and skills by over 300 volunteers each year. Last year the festival drew 23,000 ticket holders (no way of counting the crashers), 240 visiting filmmakers (many from outside the U.S.) and more than a thousand industry members, making it one of Oregon’s most popular cultural events. That’s actually saying a lot considering Portland still stands as one of the meccas of the music industry. With credentials like that, there’s no doubt the Portland Film Festival will continue to raise among the “must” festivals for filmmakers and attendees alike. I encourage going now while the event is still young and playful. It may always remain so, but why take a chance?

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Cartel Land

by Timothy Kennelly

maxresdefaultThe recent recipient of the Sundance Jury Prize for Documentary Directing is one of the most powerful and gripping docs I’ve seen in many years. Director Matthew Heineman’s up-close look at the drug cartel’s impact on Mexico opens with a nighttime scene of masked men offloading chemicals from a truck and doing a large-scale meth cook in a secret location in the Michocoan mountains.  Is that up-close enough for you? The movie follows parallel stories of citizen vigilantes, militias formed in the absence of government support, or in the presence of government corruption.

Cartel-LandA pickup truck drives along a dusty road bordering the fence between Arizona and Mexico, with both the road and the fence fading into the infinity of the desert.  A voiceover says, “There’s a line between good and evil—maybe imaginary, but I believe it’s real—and I see myself as guardian of that line, protecting the good people from evil.”  The words spoken by Arizona resident Timothy Nailer, leader of a self-organized militia trying to keep Mexican meth smugglers from bringing drugs into the U.S.  Like many big city liberals, I tend to associate border-guarding militiamen with gun-happy racists.  Yet Nailer is empathetic and earnest as a local man whose life was almost ruined by drugs, and turned his near-ruin into redemption, organizing patrols to capture drug smugglers and turning them over to Border Police.  He makes it clear he’s not after innocent migrant families who pose no security threat.  He and his fellow militiamen (most from the region, and ex-military) are dedicated to capturing criminals and staunching the flow of poison into the US, and money back to Mexico.  The filmmaker is smart to focus on Nailer, as when the camera picks up the chatter of some of his cohorts, a bit more unfocused racism seeps through the cracks of their casual conversation.  Still, Nailer is an inspiring and eloquent leader, glad to have the help from others, whatever their political views, and he puts his life on the line for the cause he believes in.  After hearing the body count of the cartel wars (80,000 killed and 20,000 missing since 2007,) it’s impossible to not reevaluate my own preconceptions about these militiamen, who are in their own way “Watchers on the Wall, Guardians of the realms of Men.”

#3 - Dr. Jose Mireles (center), in CARTEL LAND, a film by Matthew HeinemanAcross the border, we’re dropped in middle of a small Mexican town’s funeral for victims of a massacre by the local drug gang—including many children.  There’s no short supply of harrowing tales in Cartel Land.  I had to close my eyes for some scenes, not wanting to read any more subtitles of survivors’ tales, and they were the lucky ones.  Terrorized by the biggest gang, sickeningly ironically named “Knights Templar” (an ancient Catholic order), and abandoned by their corrupt government, the citizens finally declare a war against the cartel.  Men old and young respond to the call, and are given T-shirts, training and weaponry, and a true “folk militia” is born.  In an early scene, they move into a neighboring town, taking over the central square and declare it “liberated”. Soon the army shows up (any government body as we soon learn is completely in the pocket of drug gangs).  The way the small town citizens surround the military and make them back downis one of the high points of this film.  A bullied population suddenly sensing and seizing their moment of power is electric and unforgettable.  One wonders how many small towns around the globe are only one spark away from similar explosion of repressed righteous anger.

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During the rise of the vigilante defense force, we see the predictable stages such as the government minister calling them “hoodlums with no respect for the proper authorities”, an assassination attempt on the leader, the jockeying between power-seeking lieutenants, and of course the government’s attempt to eventually co-opt them by offering to make them an official government militia.  We also witness the ethical transgressions of its leader, almost inevitable in a man of such charisma and hubris.  There are more external factors behind the transfiguration of the Civilian Defense Force (Autodefensas), but I won’t ruin it because you should see it yourself unfolding in the movie.

The “no man’s land” of Timothy Nailer’s Arizona/ Mexico desert is a physical metaphor of the moral landscape.  Proactive self-defense is survival, where lines of morality disappear in the desert sand, and traditional authorities are nowhere on the horizon.  Justice is often a mirage that disappears as one approaches.  Perhaps the saddest manifestation of this, is the slow change of the Mexican Autodefensas from liberators to harassers to oppressors. We have a front row seat to this including a car chase and firefight so intense the filmmakers have to leap out of the SUV and run down an alley for their lives, still filming. Citizen Defenders capture what they believe to be a member of a drug gang, who may have just been an innocent man driving down the wrong street.  They pull him away from his screaming child and wife to interrogate him in the back of their SUV.  The temptation to bully the handcuffed man is too great, and the camera, inside the claustrophobic car, captures all this intimately, as if to remind us indelibly, “This is the way of the world—the devil hands the victim the whip and whispers to him use it on his tormentor.”  In the next scene he’s at the “questioning/processing center” in a line of handcuffed, fearful men, hearing the screams of the current interviewee behind the wall.  No overt statement is needed to conjure the image of Abu Gharib and America losing its moral compass down the blind alley of the War on Terror.

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In a movie full of moments tearing away the veil, I found this unmasking to be the most haunting, that the victimized can turn into hero, only to be seduced by power into becoming the victimizer.  In many ways it’s the oldest and saddest tale of human history. It’s the journey from 9/11 Ground Zero to Rumsfeld’s Gitmo, it’s Israel walling Palestinians inside a West Bank ghetto, it’s Tamora of the Goths in “Titus Andronicus” turning from Titus’ prisoner to Titus’ destroyer after she becomes Roman queen. Shakespeare 400 years ago, casting his lens back 1600 years further, vividly showing us that the seductive siren song of Retribution is the force pulls all Progress inexorably back down into the History’s whirlpool of perpetual violence.  “I do believe the cycles can be broken”….said the filmmaker Heinemann in his Q&A. “The population is approaching the tipping point of tolerance.. The recent murder of 43 university students inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets and demand an end to this catastrophe.”  Let’s hope that this documentary can open even more eyes and help bring real-world changes.

 

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About Time and Meaning

abouttimeby Jonathan Davidson

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably not an eagle.  So when my wife said that she wanted to see the romantic comedy About Time, I agreed to go, expecting a shallow yet cute film that would hopefully make me laugh.  Later, I saw the trailer and profoundly regretted my decision.  Not only was it a romantic comedy—which real men can handle, enjoy even—but a time traveling romantic comedy. What at first appeared to be a noble, healthy duck from a good bloodline now looked like a crippled duck with laryngitis, quacking into the void of Hollywood creativity.

Faced with watching Ender’s Game by myself or a potential train wreck of genre mixing with my gorgeous wife, I capitulated.  And far from cringing at a train wreck, I smiled often, laughed frequently, learned a life lesson that I still think about every day, and to my complete astonishment, cried more than at any other time in my life.

Richard Curtis, responsible for Love Actually, Notting Hill, and many other successful stories, wrote and directed About Time.  Such a record of success has allowed him to join the privileged ranks of filmmakers who are able to write and direct their own work. Thankfully, there seems to be a trend toward allowing talented writers to oversee the entire creative development of their stories.  Richard Curtis, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón, James Cameron, and select others have gained this level of trust from the studios and have released a string of runaway successes.  Perhaps this single-author control leads to better stories, preventing the mission creep and mangling that can occur when producers, directors, lead actors and executives tinker with the material.  Indeed, About Time feels as if it were crafted by someone who cared deeply about every detail of the story, no matter how inconsequential.

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About Time starts by establishing the flat-line life of twenty-one-year-old, gangly, redheaded Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson).  Shortly after a New Year’s Eve party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) pulls him aside and explains that men in the family have always had the ability to travel through time. Of course, Tim thinks his father has gone mad.  Yet after successfully time traveling, Tim wants to learn more.  The film quickly distinguishes itself from lesser time traveling stories by building unique restraints around Tim’s ability.  This avoids so many of the clichés that could have swiftly ruined the film.  For instance, Tim’s father explains that he can only travel back through his own lifetime.  Thus, Tim can’t go back and marry Helen of Troy or assassinate Hitler or do any of the other neat yet predictable things that come to mind.  Naturally, Tim wants to use the power for money, but his father quickly dispels this notion by pointing out how fabulous wealth ruined various ancestors.  Clichés dealt with, Tim’s father shares his advice: use this power to do what truly makes you happy.  And what would make an average, gangly, redhead truly happy?  Love, of course.

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Pleasantly awkward and insecure, yet emboldened by his ability to step back in time and try a different tact, Tim thoroughly embarrasses himself in pursuit of a girlfriend, leading to a lot of the comedy one might expect from the premise. At first, I feared the film would fall apart at this juncture, descending into a ridiculous parade of sexual exploits. Yet in the same way that this film distinguishes itself from other time traveling stories by striving for originality, it surprised me with Tim’s gentlemanly attempts to charm women.  Tim finally meets his equal in Mary (Rachel McAdams), a shy, geeky yet beautiful woman who hates parties and shares Tim’s discomfort when dealing with strangers. Immediately smitten and thoroughly determined to win her affection, Tim uses the fullness of his time travel ability to make sure everything goes just right. Together they fall into a truly authentic, humorous and touching romance.

abouttime01About Time further distinguishes its originality by celebrating normal introverts. Most movies have a “hero,” which by definition suggests one who passes through the world with a charming, skillful ease. Such stories often portray introverts as boring hermits to be pitied and laughed at, or at best for their geeky usefulness when the world is at stake and the only person who can save the day is a quirky programmer. About Time accurately depicts introverts as those who tire of crowds, parties and strangers, but who come alive as creative, humorous, kind and thoughtful people when together with close friends, family, or one on one.  While all these qualities make About Time an unusually good film, what makes it truly soar is Richard Curtis’s grasp of a very undervalued storytelling technique. Of all the advice given to aspiring writers, perhaps the most frequent is, “Good stories arise from conflict.” Thus, novice storytellers detail epic battles, chase scenes and constant arguments, chasing down as much conflict and as high of stakes as possible in an attempt to craft exciting stories. Yet veteran storytellers know that there’s another story element that’s equally if not more important than conflict: connection. We certainly deal with conflict in our lives and we’re wired to be fascinated by watching others fight through its ravages. Yet we feel even stronger vicarious emotions when characters connect to each other in surprising and inspiring ways. Consider Les Misérables. Certainly, it has its share of conflict, but its most memorable moments arise from connection, such as when Bishop Myriel forgives Jean Valjean for stealing his silverware, a gesture that has more impact on Jean Valjean than the vastly disproportionate amount of conflict he has endured.

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In the same way, About Time has several such startlingly poignant moments of connection. The quality of one such moment—the one that reduced me to crying harder than I ever have in my life—shocked me with its tenderness and made me long for the ability to step back in time. I experienced in real life the tragedy that befalls Tim, yet here I am, drawn along by the unstoppable pull of time, vibrantly unable to do anything about it. But even if loss has largely passed you by, there’s little doubt this moment of profound human connection will leave you unaffected.  The film ends by imparting a lesson so simple yet profound that I have thought about it almost every day since seeing the film. I can’t tell you what it is, for that would ruin the experience of realizing it for yourself. But don’t worry. You won’t miss it. And if applied, every day of your life will be significantly richer.  Obviously, I was completely taken by this film. And, as always, my wife was right (why do I ever question her?) Sometime when your heart is open and you want to enjoy a thoughtful journey through love, time, and meaning, watch this film.

 

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