Archive for December, 2009

The Best of 2009: Movies

December 31, 2009

2009 was a very good year for movies, and there was definitely something for everybody.  If you loved comedy, you were pleasantly surprised by the originality in hits such as The Hangover, and I Love You Man, and of course Funny People(not necessarily a comedy, but pretty funny, if a bit long.)  Harry Potter die hards such as myself were a mixed bag in regards to the new movie, but were glad enough that it finally came out, if a bit disappointed that we have to wait two more years to see all of it, due to the last book breaking into two movies.  And how can we forget Disney’s return to hand-drawn glory with The Princess And The Frog?   This was a very big year in movies in regard to Sci-Fi, beginning with J.J Abrams’ re-imagined Star Trek flick, bringing us into the somewhat terrifying scenario put forth in Moon, and the surprising humor found therein, to the surprisingly emotionally charged District 9, and its terrificly scathing, if not hard to find commentary on the way humanity treats it’s own kind, as well as anything they deem “different,” to the question of what makes a person a person explored within Terminator Salvation or Surrogates.  If you want me to talk about Transformers Two you’ve come to the wrong blog my friend.  I could care less that it’s the highest grossing movie of the year,(if only that was a pun: gross, get it?) if we’re talking about the best of anything, I shouldn’t have even mentioned it, but it’s too bad to forget.  I’m glad it didn’t make me gouge my eyes out, for then I wouldn’t be able to talk about my pick for movie of the year.    And surprise, surprise the winner is………..James Cameron’s Avatar.  As I was watching it in the theatre this afternoon,  I realized that everything I had seen this year had been preparing me for it.  The fact that two of the actors were in their own big movies of the Summer(Terminator Salvation and Star Trek respectably) or that Sci-Fi’s toughest woman makes an appearance,(Sigourney Weaver of course) helped push it in the right direction.  The visuals themselves were stunning enough for me to give this movie of the year, but it goes so beyond that.  District 9 made us question our concepts on what is good for everyone is not always the same thing, and brought up the whole issue of property rights, and our refusal to work through our language barriers for the betterment of society.  The corporation at work on Pandora doesn’t care how many people it kills as long as they clear a certain profit margin.  They know the best way to get their job done is to use hardened soldiers that will potentially do anything that is within their orders.  The environmentalist, and anti-war stances that James Cameron publicly champions are so readily evidenced in this his greatest of movies and hopefully they will help us see what we need to do to fix past mistakes in colonialism and corporate greed, before it is too late, and we kill our mother, the Earth, as the humans in the future displayed have done.  Superb acting is found here along with the astonishing visuals, which I’ll have to see a second time to even believe in what I witnessed.  The writing seems a little ugh in places, but there’s enough in the movie, that even the harshest critics will be able to forgive.  I would say more, but don’t wanna spoil it for those yet to see it, hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

In a final note, I will bring up a movie I said I wouldn’t be talking about, but find the need to talk about it.  Worst Movie of the year: Transformers 2.  Expecting to at least be entertained by the explosions or some of the bits that made the first movie at least bearable, I sat there the entire time wondering, when does this get good?  Sure I don’t expect much depth from a movie about robots that turn into cars, but the first movie, although a bit ridiculous, at least had some substance, and less whining.  That’s a wrap on movies for this year, but stay tuned for my picks of album of the year, and other surprises.

The Dreamer

December 27, 2009

The priest(Father Tom) at the Christmas mass I attended brought up a question at the end of his homily.  Who is a dreamer?  The question was prompted by that evening’s gospel reading, which had an angel coming to Joseph in a dream, telling him to stay with Mary, and protect her even though the child was not his.  The dream moved his faith, at least the way the story has been told.  Of course his namesake in the old testament was all about dreams, as the priest also mentioned.  Joseph of the many colored coat, who had a gift for interpreting dreams and visions, with a knack for prophecy.  To go back to the Christmas story, this whole idea of experiencing faith through the suggestions of dream, to coming to a “logical” course of action through said dream, a choice that is right for him, or right for Mary, as opposed to what is right or wrong in the collective society, is based in no physical constraints.  Don’t dreams have a power that dictates other great life decisions?  Thoughts are not manifest by something physical a lot of the time.  Many cultures throughout history hold their dreams and visions in such a high regard that they supercede the power of the physical, of the material.  All that is worldly is seen as not lasting from a spiritual/religious standpoint, and the reliance on such a world can be at times crippling, and limit our true human potential.  A prime example to use for this is the old and unfortunately by now very cliche phrase, “I think therefore I am.”  It’s silly for something to be so cliche without even taking into account the truth of what it means.  Sartre had said in Being and Nothingness, “There is no consciousness that exists that is not consciousness of being.”  And so much of this consciousness lacks a physical affirmation.  Morals, ethics, judgments, even emotions such as love, often have little physical grounding.  We define our lives, our beings, with concepts that don’t often have physical characteristics, and often have definitions that are unique to us as individuals.  Is this not the stuff of dreams?

My fondest childhood memories(a lot of them anyway) are found in the pages of many a book.  When reading first becomes part of your life, your imagination works on you based on what you hear, and often what you see in pictures, but as we learn to read on our own, they become much more the substance of dreams.  Without that oral/aural element, what we imagine is based truly on our individual perception of the words within our minds, and no outside sounds or voices that we were once accustomed to, so it can be said, that even some of my fondest memories are in fact of dream events.

What I do in my life constantly ties me back to dreams.  We begin exploring our own personal realities the more independent we become.  Going off to college we find freedoms that did not even exist in the years of teenage rebellion many of us found in high school.  But the decisions we make at that stage of the game are dictated by something that had happened to us before.  In a writing class I was asked to write a paper, an I Come From. It’s exactly what it sounds like.  It is more or less an autobiography, which serves two purposes, for us to truly see who we are as individuals, and helps the teacher get a good glimpse about what moves us, strengths and weaknesses, and potentially even why we took the class.  I started a few times, trying to hit my deep origins, but  found myself beginning instead with a memory of the first time I ever auditoned for a play.  My desires to be involved with theatre were begin in dreams, having written in sixth grade that I would study acting.  And the more I became part of the theatre, the more I got to act, the more I learned about the craft, the bigger and brighter my dreams got. My burning passion for those things which I loved to do and the dreams of what they could potentially bring me became one in a way.  And the dreams became not only where I came from, but where I was going.  Thus my entire life is dictated by dreams.

Here is a bit of rhyme to close out this entry:

Dreaming of a peaceful world, I bring love and kindness wherever I go.

In the rain and in the snow.

Dreaming of Rock and Roll bands,

I shake my ass and clap my hands.

Dreaming of a fulfilling life,

I throw off the shackles of pain and strife.

Dreaming of changing the world,

I find myself confined by words.

Dreams will set us free,

As long as monkeys like to climb trees.

What about muppets?

December 18, 2009

Last weekend at the Campus Ministry, we took a vote for our movie nights, and ended up settling on a Muppet movie, the third we would be showing this semester. Titus, (to use his favorite literary expression) cackled like a mad whore and asked, “What is it with Muppets?” And I found myself wondering with Titus’ words, why do we like them so much? As a self-proclaimed Muppet lover for life, it is very hard for me to come up with any comments to fittingly answer a question like that of my friend, but for the sake of an entertaining blog entry I will at least try. I’ll try to avoid things like: well have you seen them, they’re Muppets!! or The thing about Muppets is, they’re freakin’ awesome! or even the more acceptable response When else have you ever seen scraps of cloth sing and dance so well? Instead I will focus on the deeper, personal meaning behind my fixation on Muppets, which will be easier than explaining why everyone likes Muppets, since let’s face 90% of the people you know like Muppets. The Muppets have been there for me through the entirety of my short life thus far, and in all those years, they remain constant, staying the same age, having the same(or at least similar) voices, singing the same songs, Hell even Disney World has the same Muppets 3D show they had I don’t even know how many years ago. The story begins with a very battered VHS tape featuring among other things, Muppets Take Manhattan, recorded back when VCR’s still weighed like 50 pounds, not to mention how much of a hassle it already was to hook two of them together to record movies. I can’t remember how many times I watched that movie as a small child. I grew older and saw every Muppet movie made following, and although I watched that tape much less often as the years passed, it still meant and continues to mean just as much to me. It’s funny watching such a movie, made in the 80’s and just seeing what the human characters are wearing. The beautiful thing about these movies is that elements like that don’t jump out at you as a child, not to mention the inside jokes that kids don’t get, or the appearance of Gonzo’s nose(need I say more). It’s enough as a little kid, that they’re colorful, have funny voices, and sing and dance. What else does a kid want? But there are so many films and shows, and loving homages(Avenue Q) that incorporate Muppets or Muppet style puppets, that it ripples through our culture in such broad circles that it is near impossible for something to escape completely the Muppet influence.(Don’t make me bring up Gonzo’s nose again.) The fact that many of the characters act as if they are part of a major family unit, and how our initial meetings with them are brought upon based around some sort of family interaction. The sheer ridiculousness of some of their antics are themselves enough to draw many an adult into the Muppet watching fold. Even if the Muppets mean less to us who were raised on them later on in our lives, it is inevitable that your nephews, nieces, little cousins, future potential children will be introduced to these cats, and dogs and frogs and whatevers because of you. Think about it, Muppets aren’t going anywhere, because the thing about Muppets is, as crazy as they are, they have become the constant element in our lives, in a world that won’t stop changing for a second.

Soulpower

December 12, 2009

Hot on the heels of my birthday came a storm full of just the amount of fury I would expect in connection to that storm that birthed me, creating a snow day out of wednesday.  Next week is finals, and it was very odd to get a snow day so close to that.  Given only one of my finals is due on actual finals week.  This terrifies me to no end, not because the paper might not be good, which to be quite honest, it may not be that great.  This final terrifies me more than all others for being the last thing I need to get out of school with a degree.  Have you seen the job market?  Neither have I, and I have a suspicion that he’s hiding in an old fall out shelter somewhere that was built in the 50’s.  I like school, and what’s more I’m comfortable with it, I understand it.  This world is scary.  As I said in the last post, the worry I feel is not the most heavy thing on my mind, for I like life throwing surprises my way, I just feel that being a student is what college has trained me for, and it  just seems to effect me whether I want it to or not.   Amidst the hubbub of finals, the grand hullabaloo of my birthday, and the general chaotic nature of  reality, my grandfather passed away last night.  My family has gone through so many changes in the past few years, my parents’ divorce, and the birth of my nephews immediately coming to mind.  And change is what life is about isn’t it?  I’m just glad he passed in a state of peace.  He had been suffering a lot lately, and I still have this picture in my mind of a physically strong man, who loved his garden, and would never hesitate to go on a bike ride or a hike.  To go from that to  seeing him over the last year or so growing weaker and weaker due to something he could not control was very heart-wrenching.  At Thanksgiving, the last time I saw him, he said to me, “Craig, when you visited me at the hospital you gave me a hug and told me you loved me.”  Obviously that’s what I did immediately following that statement, because I have always loved him and appreciated everything he has ever done for me over the years, but it was very powerful just to hear the man ask for a spoken affirmation of my love, which was always known but never quite needed to be said.  He was the only person in my family who would play chess with me, and he was always undefeated. He will always be my Pop, and in everything I do, I feel his spirit always.  Maybe I should hold a chess tournament in his honor.

I also have a poem for him:

Conversations

When my nephew was born, you told me you were now a great grandfather,

But in my mind, you were always great.

I sit at this computer and type these words, thinking it incredible that

You were born in a time without Rock and Roll, without computers

And how you actually assimilated into the technology age,

Never missing the chance to send me any random thing

That you found on the web.

You taught me what you thought about God and of nature,

And the nature of God.

You taught me your history, all following an oral tradition,

Making me feel like I knew you before I was even a thought.

I grew older and your same stories were always there,

Time never stops changing, your history constantly happening

Again and again.

Out of anyone in my family,

I confided in you the most.

On the issues we didn’t exactly see eye to eye,

But I always figured we understood each other,     

Never realizing just how much.

I went off to college, not far away,

But far enough.

I didn’t see you as much,

Taking boring class after boring class,

But still I trudged on,

Thinking how I made you proud.

I came back to a niche I always had,

Literature and History,

The two things we had the most to say about.

You were always the family historian,

Looking at otherwise forgotten links to the fatherland,

Telling yet more stories on stories on stories.

You first took ill as I was approaching Grad,

Always so strong, so tough, so wise,

Now in a body I could hardly recognize.

And I found myself reflecting back on every trip we ever took,

In a canoe or on a bike, everything we would talk about,

The chess games I could never win.

As a writer, I found day by day,

That I was more like you than you would ever say,

I was growing into your role,

Becoming more what I had always been.

And now you’re gone,

But I feel traces of your spirit everywhere.

Let’s not end this with goodbye,

Because everyday,

I continue to walk with you.

Snowchild

December 7, 2009

Is it a coincidence that I decide to create a blog on this day “which will live in infamy,” or the fact that it is also the eve of my birthday? I think it’s just very ironic. But where today tends to be overshadowed by the Pearl Harbor attack, the day of my birth is also overshadowed by another kind of tragedy. That being the death of John Lennon in 1980 at the hands of some fanatic. Where some historians can argue that something like Pearl Harbor could have been prevented(not necessarily my point of view, it may be important to add) but the death of Lennon was a complete shock, the tremors echoing across the world still. It seems a little bit funny, as one of the biggest Beatlemaniacs I know, to have been born on such a momentous day in regard to at least one of them. Also there are the circumstances of my birth six years after this sad event, amidst a raging blizzard, or at least that’s how my mother makes it out to be. The weather couldn’t help but make a scene, connecting the drama of the assassination with the somewhat ordinary circumstances of my birth. 23 years ago tomorrow night, I came into this world like any other, from the womb. As a child I would always take great pride in the story my mother would tell me of the snowstorm, and if it didn’t snow on the week of my birthday I thought there was something quite wrong with the world. And here I sit, a couple days after the first snow, and the world is preparing to change. I have reached the end of my college career(at least in a full time sense) and whatever faces me now is unknown. It’s a bit scary, but the friends I have made here, and the adventures that I have had, give me more strength to face this mystery. I can’t say I’m not worried a little bit about jobs, or being able to focus my time around those things which I love to a full extent, but generally speaking, I live for the spontaneous, much like the “freak storm” that kept my family from seeing me until I had been out for a whole day, and as I say when asked for gift ideas, my response to my future is the same, “surprise me.” Obviously I am gonna have some responsibility in ordering it, 100% chaos is not my style. All I really mean is, as many things as I wanna do and as many places there are for me to see, those things which I stumble upon by chance can sometimes be the greatest things. And in this blog, prepare yourself to expect the unexpected, as we explore unknown waters together. To break the sky, is to test the limits of humanity. In this place, who knows what may be found?