Category Archives: Rants

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – A Personal Game Changer

I remember seeing the first of this epic trilogy the first time in the 7th grade. We were sitting in a classroom after school had been cancelled for the day, I believe due to some storm, and the teachers had brought out the television, we packed into the science room, the largest room in the school other than the gym, and huddled around the TV set sitting on stools, chairs, and tables to watch the beginning of this grand epic. I saw it a year after it had come out, almost if not at least one year, having been told it was alright and something I should see if I wanted to see a good movie. I sat down, barely being able to hear what was going on on the small television set used primarily for showing old science experiments my teacher was not allowed to preform in class or poor film adaptations of books we would read in English class.

Not being able to hear, and barely being able to see, continually interrupted by my teacher announcing the next series of students who were getting picked up by their parents or older siblings, I gave up trying to pay attention.

I next had the chance of seeing the film on television, CBC in lieu of hockey games had unexpectedly chosen to screen this film, breaking it down into bite size components to allow for commercials, and interrupting it for their nightly news updates (which they kept to a lean 10 minutes knowing there were rapid film viewers wanting to get back to their fix). This too wasn’t the best possible viewing, but I did get to hear the film, and watch it in its entirety, for which I was glad. It was quite the story.

What I did not enjoy (or failed to understand) was that the film had no clear ending. Looking back I believe this was one of the first movies I saw that did not have a clear distinct ending. I was dissatisfied with what it offered because I wanted to see more. Much later, I understood that it was a series of films, three in fact, and the film was a longer tale than could or should be told in a single film.

Realizing this, I began to appreciate film as story-telling, I understood what it meant to be an epic, and I had my first glimpse of magic on film. The Fellowship of the Ring is a single but not simple component of an epic and magical tale, which alongside The Two Towers and The Return of the King, tell he story of two of the most glorious character arches told through film, that of Frodo and that of Aragorn.

I will leave my first post about the Lord of the Rings here, as an introductory post, but as I go through these films, I will leave more. Having just finished the first of the trilogy again, I will soon be posting about it, but in the meantime, here are my initial words as they pour out whilst remembering.


Me Myself and that Scene

So I’ve done a few reviews, and tried to get you guys to see some of the movie’s I’ve recently seen. That’s all great, but what is my goal for all of this, all these reviews, all the jargon that spills from my mind onto the screen? What is my endgame? Originally I had intended this to be my liaison into the world of film critiquing. I still feel that is something I want to do in my life, share my passion with the world in the most uninhibited unsheltered way possible. I had wanted this blog to serve as a stepping stone towards a career writing for other online publications, newspapers in my school and everything else imaginable. I have re-evaluated my aim

I am not an expert, in any degree on film and what qualifies a good film. I am not in the film industry that I can leverage my reviews into things beyond them. The thing about reviewing films is that it separates you from the film experience. I do not want that to happen, I don’t want this to feel like a job. Instead of writing like the Eberts and Roepers of the world, I’d rather go about this in a completely different direction.

I am going to write about what I think about while watching a movie. As you go through a movie, things capture your attention. Paying attention to this phenomenon is an experience in itself. It almost feels like a form of meditation. Movie going is such an out of body experience. You basically are transported into a world not your own, and you see this universe through the lens of a digital camera, through the visions of a director and screenplay writer. You physically and metaphysically interact with actors, present and past, who have the ability to represent larger than life concepts though this wonderful medium. When you realize this, and truly understand what it is you are experiencing, and come back to yourself during this event, then you can truly define what it was you were thinking at that point. This is why it takes multiple viewings to gain more detailed descriptions of how you felt at particular points in films. The same reason why watching a movie is a break in your day is the reason why it can be the most thought-provoking exhilarating and mentally fatiguing trip of your day.

Its kind of like a drug. If you’ve ever had the experience of achieving that higher state of being, you’d understand that drugs (alcohol, marijuana, and many others) have the ability to put you outside yourself. Only until you are outside yourself can you look introspectively. Movies have the same power, or can in any case.

This phenomenon is what I will be trying to convey in my future posts. I have done bits a pieces of this through some of my recent posts, describing moments while watching a movie where I came back to myself, collected my thoughts, analysed where I was, and then immersed myself back in. It’s kind of like taking notes in a lecture, except you’re not writing down what the professor is saying, rather you are doodling and then looking back after the lecture to see what you ended up generating. Obviously, there are lectures where doodling results in nothing but gibberish and garbage, but those things have meaning as well, as do films that do very little to flow your creative juices.

There are movies that don’t allow you to follow this tactic for pseudo-reviewing. Certain films can be narrow and mundane, while others might not give you the time to collect your thoughts because of intense action and special effects that leave your mind desiring the 30 second break to re-gather itself. Those movies are difficult to review. But it takes practise to be able to balance the introspectiveness with the innate film going reaction of immersion. This is my goal, and I will try to represent this through all future posts.

What this means for me is that I am changing the form and function of the blog. Rather than it being purely about technical aspects of the film, which I am qualified to judge as a viewer, I may not have the skills to determine whether or not it is a masterpiece or an imitation. I simply haven’t schooled in it…yet. For those of you who don’t know, I am currently at a cross-road in my life. I am and have been balancing technical Engineering with less technical Social Sciences for a long time now. I am in transition mode as we speak. These next few months will be the defining months for the next few years. I am travelling to Ghana to work with Engineers Without Borders as a Junior Fellow, and will be volunteering in a district level government working with officials and other Engineers Without Borders Overseas staff in the development sector. It will allow me to evaluate what it is that I want to do in my life. In doing so, I feel, and have been feeling for a very long time, that I need to focus on my evaluation skills a lot more. Decisions are big, but the method of taking them is what is really important.

Instead of focusing on the technical side of film, I will instead by focussing on the side all of you have been a part of. I will try to explain what goes through my head when watching a movie, and will hopefully recreate some of the conversations you’ve had with yourself when watching movies as well. Let’s face it, some of our most intricate and intelligent conversations are with our minds, and exploring those ideas and elements allow you to better define what it was about something that makes it special for you. Movies are that for me. They provide a certain je ne sais quoi that transcends pretty much anything. It might have to do with the fact that a good film scene requires intelligent writing, amazing costumes, intricate music, intense acting all tied together by directors that are able to fuse themselves into the media. Films are the accumulation of an insane number of styles and mannerisms that manage to create a life out of an inorganic celluloid strip of pictures. This sensation is where fantasy, adventure, grandeur, romance, and mystery occur, and this is what I will talk about.

Apparently Size Doesn’t Matter

So there has been a lot of commotion about whether or not Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” should have taken away the big prize at this Sunday’s 82nd Annual Academy Awards. People have come out guns blazing claiming “Avatar” was robbed of the trophy, while others have lamented about the whole process altogether. Here is my take on why the film won, and why I think it deserved the much coveted golden statue.

First, let it be noted that “The Hurt Locker” was by no means the blockbuster that “Avatar” was. It accumulated pennies compared to how much the green giant of a movie made, but there is a reason for this. “Avatar” was made to make money. With about (from what I’ve read through various media outlets and sources on the internet) $230 Million invested in the film making, and even more invested in marketing and advertising, “Avatar” was designed to bring in the big bucks. Its was constructed big, so it draws money in, while on the other hand, the “The Hurt Locker” had a production of about $15 Million I believe. Considering the scope of the budget, the Hurt Locker did fine for a movie that wasn’t designed as a cash crop. So for all you naysayers out there who use the argument that “Avatar” should have won because it made the most money, apparently size does not matter.

I believe “The Hurt Locker” won because of the way it told the story. All too often, war films tend to demonize their subject, portraying war as the root of all of society’s problems. This film doesn’t take that approach, but rather sheds light in the characters that war creates. Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” ‘s subtitle was that “The first casualty of war is innocence”. This films message questions why people do the things that they do. Now I understand that people view films differently, and often people have come up to me and said that what I thought the film was about was completely different from what they experienced, so I am just sharing my perspective. I think the film tries to show how Jeremy Renner’s character deals with his life, both within and without the institution of war. Throughout the entire movie, it shows how he reacts to the situations he is faced, and in the end attempts to explain why he is where he is.

War movies don’t often win Best Pictures. Now classics like “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line” were snubbed the same year for “Shakespeare In Love” in 1998. This year it is interesting to note that the war movie managed to win, and the reason why it separated itself from those other war movies is simple; it was a neutral film. It did not glorify war, it did not judge the act, nor did it sit in one camp, instead, the film decided to objectively explore something missing in war movies, a single character.

It has been shown from previous winners that character development wins Oscars. From all the previous 5-6 winners, the major theme between them all was character focused drama. Even the “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” focused on the life of Aragorn in the last picture, although that film won because of other reasons (it was “due” to win). “The Hurt Locker” focused on the life of Staff Sergeant William James and his story drove the film. It helps to have a strong actor playing the lead.

The ingredients to a Best Picture win are simple on paper, very rare on screen, and almost always those very movies are left out of the race to begin with. In my opinion, 4 things contribute to a Best Picture win: Interesting Characters, A Thought-Provoking Story, Layered Messages, and Amazing Writing. Few films can meet those very high demands. Slumdog did last year, and the Locker does this year. Its that simple.

I think there’s hope yet though for Avatar fans though. I myself am an Avatar fan. James Cameron is going back to the books to begin to pen a sequel to the Koolaid man of blockbusters. If all goes well, and if Cameron understands why he won Best Picture with “Titanic” way back when I was a wee child, we might see some more of those lacking elements. Then, Jimmy will be nearly 15 years off from his previous win, and considering his stature in the film industry and what he will have eventually contributed, he will be “due” to win another. Let’s hope, for Oscar’s, film-goers, the world’s collective eyeballs’ sake, its completely worth the wait and deserving. Plus it wont hurt that if it does follow the simple regiment, it will probably smash its own record. Here’s hoping.

Oscar Nomination Schpeel

So Academy Award nominations came out today, and although I have not seen all the films yet, I will by the time the statues are awarded, so I will provide my predictions on who will win and who will be left at the alter so to speak.

Today, I would like to briefly explain whats going through my head reading the list of nominations on IMDB, and one notable exception I see from the list. This movie I am think about was one of my favourites of the year and really opened up some great movies form the past for me to watch. It exemplified a genre and brought a fresh approach to it after a really long time. The film I am referring to is Duncan Jones’ “Moon” starring most notably Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, or by shear luck : Space-Rock (aren’t I brilliant?).

“Moon” was a throwback sci-fi film in its true element; which is facilitating great moral and ethical debates through the medium of film. After watching “Moon”, I, very unexpectedly, had the desire to watch “2001 a Space Odyssey” which I did, but am still uncertain what I think.

Its absence from the nomination list is a testament to Sony Pictures’ unwillingness to support two films for Academy Award promotion, and their reason for this I found ridiculous. They basically said it would cost too much, but seriously, what is sending DVD screeners to the nomination committee members with watermarks over the video. It really doesn’t make any sense to me.

I think its important to know however that Oscars don’t represent the best movies of the year. The true representation of the best movies of year are whether or not they can withstand the test of time. This quality is what separates films like Citizen Kane, Scarface, and my all-time favourite, which you can read about in another blog post, Once Upon a Time in the West. Films that resonate with generations, and are not just Oscar bait materials are great films.

I guess my reaction to the 2010 Academy Award nomination list is that I wasn’t really too surprised. I knew Sony wasn’t supporting one of their best movies from the past year. I knew this had happened before in terms of great actors and great films. I will still follow this race to the golden statue, but will pause before declaring my favourite of the year because I don’t think I can really know that now. That will take a while.