Film

So, after a few interesting events... my old high school made a short film over interim, i went to a play reading at the UU, and quite possibly the craziest dream I have ever had, the artfulness of film has been on my mind. I promised a friend (who manages a a local art movie house) that I would write up my favorite films... It's also one of the few "hobbies" I have had for more than a season (photography is the only other).

And for this love I must thank the Sundance channel (and for Netflix these days). I first discovered it when was 14 years old. I watched it at my parents house over satellite because we were too far away from anything to get cable (they still are). I had no clue what cinema was. Movies were about making people laugh or seeing shit blow up (or occasionally being scared). But whatever the reason it was entertainment, thinking was not involved. It's funny how things change. The only time I watch those films now are on the big screen, usually around Chirstmas or the forth of July when the blockbusters are released. One, they are useless otherwise, and two, I would be doing a disservice to myself to be that out of touch with popular culture. Any film that grosses a few hundred million is worth seeing, particularly if the reviews aren't terrible (Avatar, Inception, ect...)

In my opinion a great film has to have several key characteristics: Innovative cinematography (Requiem for a Dream), a witty and insightful script (Dinner with Andre/Woody Allen Films), well developed characters (Little Miss Sunshine), take me to a place I haven't been before (Lord of the Rings/Dark Days), and a moving soundtrack (Gladiator). Having a quirky sense of humor or peculiar characters is also fun (You and Me and everyone we know/How's Your News). If a film has even one of these I will watch it, if has two or three of these it will be quite moving. If you combine them all, you have the most moving medium known to man. It is theatre, photography, literature, music and philosophy rolled into one. It's as close to life as art gets. I don't know of a higher art form.

It might be because of my ADD. I can't focus on a book because my own thoughts are pounding in my head louder than the words I am reading. It's not uncommon for me to read an entire page and have no clue what I just recited. Music does have this power to grip me, and photography does to, but not for hours on end. I have only stared one painting my entire life. Film is the only medium that has the power to grip me and maintain my focus...

The first film I fell in love with was the Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman and it landed on my face like a block of ice. It's set in the Middle Ages, during plague. It follows a knight who has just returned from some sort of crusade. The film opens with the night sitting on a cold, rocky beach, watching the setting sun. The film is in black and white and the white ball of the sun fades to the pale white face of Death cloaked in a black hooded robe. The knight questions death about chess, and a bit amused, Death (in a calm, bouncy Swedish cadence) agrees to play a game with him. The film follows the knight through the countryside as he seeks to outwit death and then eventually acquiesces he will lose and rather than trying to beat death he just tries to make it happen more slowly, and for the first time in his life, actually enjoys the simple pleasures of life - a sunset and a bowl of wild strawberries and milk. It was visually amazing, emotionally gripping, philosophically challenging and took me to a world I'd never seen before. It was the first time I had ever looked at film as art.

I might write more about this later, but I don't see belaboring each film being useful... BUT... I will say that I really do enjoy Vanilla Sky and I feel like I shouldn't. I know it's cheesy, emotionally gripping (but shallow) pop cinema... yet I still like it. Maybe it's the fact that it has an amazing soundtrack and beautiful women (maybe Penelope Cruz alone is the reason). I would like to know why.

I will also add that as well known as he is, Roger Ebert really is a great critic. I like his reviews and our tastes in film are pretty similar. I also find his writing to be very good. Here is a sample of his work on my aforementioned guilty pleasure.