Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scene in '15: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

The hammer 1.13.15
Let me tell you guys, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night may just be my new favorite film. I had the pleasure of seeing a screening at the Hammer Museum as part of their The Contenders series and there was a Q&A with director Ana Lily Amirpour following.  For those who haven't heard about it yet, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an Iranian vampire western set in "Bad City." The story focuses on Arash, a young guy living with his heroin addicted father, and the Girl, a vampire.

The one image that stuck with me, just from seeing the trailer before I even saw the film, is of the Girl in a chador skateboarding down the street. In the Q&A Amirpour said that the idea for the film came to her when she put on the chador and immediately felt like a badass, and that the first thing she wanted was to be on a skateboard and feel it billowing out around her. She said that her next thought was the Iranian vampire idea, that obviously it would be this way because the Girl would be the last person anyone expected.

At several points in the Q&A Amirpour referred to the film as a fairytale, and I felt like the black & white coloring really adds to that element and makes the film timeless in a way. (Also, as a sidenote black and white was such a cool stylistic choice for the movie. Eliminating the color turns the focus towards the lighting, and I loved the way the film played with light and shadow.) Even though Arash drives a classic car and dresses almost rockabilly in a white tee and jeans, there are cds in the characters rooms and at one point Arash and the Girl dance to a New Wave song. That combination of dated elements come together to make the film feel almost removed from time, like a fairytale. The landscape also adds to the fairytale feel. Bad City is almost a ghost town, in the shadow of the oil rigs. It carries this intense loneliness that you can feel in every character.

I'm enamored with this film. I think when you hear "Iranian vampire spaghetti western" it feels like maybe the film is going to get lost in all those genres but it doesn't at all. They all come together so organically to tell this story, and the end result is amazing. Also, if anyone knows how I can get a still of the image of the Girl skating away please email me because I need that hanging on my wall.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Scene in '15: Selma

This past weekend I saw Selma and absolutely loved it. Quick synopsis: the movie focuses on the Selma to Montgomery marches that took place during the Civil Rights movement. I remember reading somewhere online before I saw the film that Ava DuVernay wanted to capture the essence of the town and the time period, and I think she pulls it off beautifully. It's such an evocative film, there were several moments that made me squirm in my seat and want to look away. I think the one element that really stands out is the way that the film and David Oyelowo's performance in particular highlight the frustration that comes with non-violent activism.

I also really liked the way the costumes functioned in the film. As I was watching it, the moments when the characters were in suits versus more casual clothing stood out for the different messages the outfits were conveying. If you're also intrigued by this, this article that goes a little further into wardrobe choices and the Civil Rights movement.

I highly recommend checking this film out; it's especially poignant in light of the civil rights issues going on today, and if you want something to follow it up with I'd check out Fruitvale Station next. Selma shines a light on the struggle that took place to get us where we are, and Fruitvale Station highlights how much further we have to go.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Scene in '15: Nightcrawler

I'm rolling out another 2015 challenge today! I'm going to review every film I see in the theater this year. I go to the movies a lot (seriously. a lot.) so this should be a cool way to keep track of exactly how many movies I see. I'm calling the series "Scene in '15."

Let's get started with the first film of 2015, Nightcrawler! Quick synopsis: Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a guy who falls into the world of freelance film crews that catch gorey nighttime stories to sell to the morning news stations.  I didn't love it. The first thing I wrote in my notebook is "Who is Lou Bloom?" There isn't a lot of character development; Lou displays a psychopathic lack of empathy and there's an obvious tension in his demeanor that had me waiting for a dramatic outburst that never really happens. Nightcrawler drew a lot of parallels to Drive for me, as much for the lack of background on the main character as for the LA setting. It works in Drive, mainly I think because there is that dramatic climax that gives the audience just enough insight into the Kid's character to piece together the rest. The climax in Nightcrawler took too much of the responsibility off of Lou. Also, what we do see of his personality is incredible (albeit creepy) ambition, which didn't add up with his unemployment at the beginning of the film. 

The storyline just didn't come together for me, but Gyllenhaal's performance is great. The film is worth seeing just for the incredible way he conveys the tension in Lou with body language alone. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas 2014

When you work in retail and have been forced to listen to Christmas carols on repeat since Black Friday, and every day you feel the mounting pressure to make the holiday season special and have the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER, by the time Christmas actually rolls around escaping to the desert sounds pretty awesome.

So that's what I did. Me and my mom took off to Palm Springs for the holiday, and it was lovely. In trying to escape all the pressure of the holi-daze, I actually ended up having one of the nicest Christmases I can remember. Shout out to Isabel for reminding me to take my Instax on the trip!

Christmas 2014
Christmas Eve in my festive jammies
Christmas 2014
Me and my Momma Bear
Christmas 2014
Christmas 2014
Christmas Morning
Christmas 2014

And we still had tamales, which is basically all you need.


Monday, January 5, 2015

What Happened to December?

What happened to December?
Saw Rx Bandits yet again!
What happened to December?
Anja came to visit! 
What happened to December?
Had a good time at Davey Wayne's with these ladies
What happened to December?
Dub Club!
What happened to December?
Late night ramen from Daikokuya
What happened to December?
The last selfie of 2014
What happened to December?
Peach tea and a vanilla latte from Yellow House Cafe

And that's a wrap on 2014! I may not have gotten each month out on time but I am satisfied that I saw this segment through to completion. Now here's to 2015!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Fifty Book Challenge 2014

A few years ago I heard about the 50 Book Challenge, where you challenge yourself to read 50 books in one year, and my first thought was that I could easily beat that number. My second thought was the realization that I actually had no idea how many books I could get through in a year because I had never kept track, so in 2011 I started keeping a list of every book I read. 2011 has coincidentally also been the only year that I've managed to read over 50 books; the grand total that year was 82. I chalk that up to the fact that it was the year I took the survey courses for my English major, and a couple other courses that were pretty paperback-heavy (45 of the books I read in 2011 were for school). Since that golden year my list tends to hover around the high 30s-low 40s. In 2012 I read 37 books, 45 in 2013, and my total for 2014 is 38.

I really like keeping track of my reading this way, it helps me remember what was going on/where I was when I read each book. I've decided that for 2015 I'm also going to write a review of each book I read here on the blog as a way to hold myself accountable to my list and my blogging schedule. If you have any book recommendations, send 'em my way!

Here's the list for 2014:

1. Hardboiled Wonderland And the End of The World- Haruki Murakami*
2. The Fault in Our Stars- John Green*
3. Ready Player One- Ernest Cline
4. Fly on the Wall- E. Lockhart
5. Call the Midwife- Jennifer Worth
6. Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card
7. One of Us- Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal- Alice Domurat Dreger
8. The Unspeakable Thoughts of Jacob Green- Joshua Braff
9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle- Haruki Murakami*
10. What Every Body is Saying- Joe Navarro
11. Kindred- Octavia Butler*
12. Divergent- Veronica Roth
13. Insurgent- Veronica Roth
14. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison- Piper Kerman
15. Allegiant- Veronica Roth
16. The Ocean At the End of the Lane- Neil Gaiman
17. Summer Sisters- Judy Blume
18. White Oleander- Janet Fitch*
19. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone- J.K. Rowling*
20. Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling*
21. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling*
22. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire- J.K. Rowling*
23. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix- J.K. Rowling*
24. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling*
25. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows- J.K. Rowling*
26. Veinte Poemas de Amor y un Cancion Desesperada- Pablo Neruda
27. Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America- John Waters
28. The Bean Trees- Barbara Kingsolver*
29. Pigs in Heaven- Barbara Kingsolver*
30. Wasteland- Francesca Lia Block*
31. A Tale for the Time Being- Ruth Ozeki
32. Eleanor & Park- Rainbow Rowell
33. The Leftovers- Tom Perrotta
34. Rant- Chuck Palahniuk*
35. Columbine- Dave Cullen
36. It- Stephen King
37. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks- E. Lockhart
38. Like Water for Chocolate- Laura Esquivel*