2014 Year In Review

This is a recap of the movies I saw in theaters in the past year. Living 30 minutes away from a theater that plays indie films has been the best experience of my time as a movie fan.

  • Her
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Frozen
  • Locke
  • Ida
  • Goodbye World
  • Blue Ruin
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Snowpiercer
  • Boyhood
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Tracks
  • 20,000 Days on Earth
  • Fury
  • John Wick
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Gone Girl
  • Interstellar
  • Nightcrawler
  • Whiplash
  • Dear White People
  • The Hobbit: The Five Hours of Boredom

The best (which means my personal, totally biased ranking) being:

  1. Birdman
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. Boyhood

Now for a recap of what I read:

  • Winter’s Heart (Robert Jordan)
  • Crossroads of Twilight (RJ)
  • Knife of Dreams (RJ)
  • The Gathering Storm (RJ and Brandon Sanderson)
  • Towers of Midnight (RJ and BS)
  • The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)
  • A Memory of Light (RJ and BS)
  • Stardust (Gaiman)
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire (Sanderson)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey)
  • Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Sanderson)
  • Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (Sanderson)
  • Watership Down (Adams)

This is a recap of the places I camped at this past year:

  • Pinnacles National Park
    • cold as shit when we went and a little boring unless you rock climb, but the best starry night I’ve seen in CA
  • Big Basin State Park
    • expensive, but one of the cleanest campgrounds (and in freakin’ redwoods)
  • Big Sur Campground
    • it rained, which is good because our campground was empty
  • Yosemite National Park
    • crowded as shit but Yosemite is Yosemite, and its spiritualistic qualities never cease to inspire awe.
  • Kaspian Campground (Lake Tahoe)
    • quiet, right next to a highway but oh well, i heard coyotes one night

Overall not as much camping as I would have liked but without a car there isn’t a whole lot of availability. Oh well. At least I had a good year in film.

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Top x3 lists

4 years ago I made a favorites list. 2 years ago I revisited that list and redid it. For the 3rd list, here it is, in 3’s:
Music:
  1. The National
  2. Arcade Fire
  3. Vampire Weekend
Movies:
  1. The Big Lebowski
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Food:
  1. Oatmeal
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Pancakes
Books:
  1. The Old Man and the Sea
  2. Dune
  3. Watership Down
Smells:
  1. Campfire
  2. Coffee
  3. Pine
Sounds:
  1. Silence
  2. Wind in the trees
  3. Cicadas
Beatles:
  1. John
  2. Paul
  3. George
Misc:
  1. Beards
  2. Mountains
  3. Sweaters
Guilty Pleasures:
Katy Perry
Love, Actually
Cheez-its

Honora

ble Mentions:
Citizen Kane (film)
Breaking Bad (television)
Sufjan Stevens (musician)

The little things

There is not much of a change in seasons here, as compared to most other places in the country. In terms of weather patterns, autumn seems to be much the same as summer seems to be much the same as spring, which for most people seems to be a little depressing since fall is the apparent favorite season, and if there isn’t a sharp drop in temperature and falling of leaves and hot cider to be had, people might feel homesick for whatever part of the country they came from.

But what I noticed one recent Sunday evening when I was walking about in a residential neighbourhood was that there was a pervasive smell of fragrant things being burned, for the most part it seemed to be wood (good smelling wood at that, too), and occasionally I got whiffs of incense and once I think it might have been a scented candle, though since I was outside that seemed to be a little weird. Anyway I often go walking in these neighborhoods and I had never noticed any woodburning smell any time in the summer (and I didn’t walk much before summer). The temperature is almost identical to the summer, maybe it’s foggier more often now but really it’s all just the same thing. But people still were burning woods in their cozy half-million dollar homes.

I appreciated being able to smell the fires, and I think that appreciation was intensified by the fact that if I so much as strike a match in my room and they found out I’d get a ruler to the knuckles and a disapproving glare because I am a 12 year old in a Catholic boarding school.

I’ve found that not being able to live the way I want to live has made me think of the ways that I want to live. I’ve already started thinking of things I want to have in my apartment/house and the way I want it to be set up. But the real question: when I’m finally allowed to live on my own, will I appreciate it? And how long will that appreciation last?

What Lies Subepidermal – A review

under-the-skin.27563

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A MOVIE CRITIC. 

That Scarlett Johansson, she’s so hot right now!

Under the Skin (2014) is a science fiction movie, starring Scarlett Johansson and set in Scotland (of all places). She plays an alien. The movie is about her, and why she’s on Earth isn’t really explained, unless you’re able to conjure up some inference from the “underwater” scene. This film is definitely in my top ten favorites of the last decade, and certainly top 3 in all science fiction. It seems to be very polarizing due to its style, which is very Kubrickian at times, both in feel and how it doesn’t explain everything because you aren’t entitled to know everything, so it’s understandable if some people don’t like it or don’t understand it. That said, you should watch it.

What I liked:

This movie is very engrossing. I watched this with noise cancelling headphones. I waited until it was dark so there’d be no glare on the computer screen. I went pee beforehand. I wore dark clothing so there’d be no reflection on the screen. Even if I hadn’t went to such geeky levels of fanatic preparation this film still would have made it difficult to turn off or turn away.

As stated above, this film shows its influence from Kubrick’s 2001. Especially in the beginning. I like Kubrick films a lot, my most favorite being 2001, so more than likely I’ll enjoy any film that is influenced heavily by it.

At times the feeling is tangible. I can think of two scenes (the man with Elephant Man’s syndrome and the baby with the sweater) where I actually had empathetic feelings (loneliness and dread/tragedy, respectively). It’s difficult for me to feel empathy or sympathy for movie characters, so movies that can do so are all right with me.

This movie is weird and I like weird movies.

We aren’t given all the answers. We don’t deserve all the answers. Who’s the biker dude? It ultimately doesn’t matter. You’re an adult, you can figure it out. Or you can make up your own story. It’s science fiction. This isn’t a pander-to-the-lowest-common-denominator film. The people who didn’t like this film probably didn’t like the ending in 2001, they probably didn’t like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, they probably didn’t like the origami unicorn in the director’s cut of Blade Runner, they probably didn’t like the spinning top at the end of Inception.

There is little dialogue. I appreciate that.

In quite a lot of shots the shadows are pitch black, and I love darkness. There are also a lot of sulfur-yellow street light scenes. Also, cool shots. All around, cinematography was killer.

I dislike it when music is used as a filler between scenes, and instead appreciate it when movies use music as a motif that stays throughout the scene and recurs throughout the movie, as this movie did. Also the music was good.

 

What I disliked:

The beginning is a little too heavy handed in its Kubrekianism, but I’ll take it. The rest of the film felt unique to me.

And the winner for best foreign language film goes to………Under the Skin! Apparently some of the actors weren’t actually actors, just random people who then later signed non-disclosures. And apparently not everyone in Scotland speaks English. However, what they actually say isn’t relevant to the film story, so I’ll take it.

There wasn’t enough about the film that I disliked, so now my critique list is too short. What is this, 2001? I’ll take it.

 

Final verdict: 

I liked it. You should see it and decide for yourself whether you like it. I give this movie one de-sexualized Scarlett Johanson and one HAL9000.

Not Another Buddy/Roadtrip Comedy – A Review

Trip-to-Italy

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A CRITIC.

“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

If you haven’t yet seen the movie The Trip (2011), in brief it is a movie about nothing that follows two comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as they play themselves in a loosely fictional movie where they are going on a week-long trip acting as food critics in the north of England. Or some such thing. That wasn’t the point of the movie. The point of the movie was to have two comedians have largely improvised banter scenes take up the bulk of a movie, the food critic trip thing acting as a far-and-away backdrop as to why. It’s a movie about nothing, and much like Seinfeld it is hilarious.

The Trip to Italy (2014) is its sequel that uses the same pretense; two comedians playing themselves on a fictional trip for a magazine. If you liked the first one, the second is much of the same. If you didn’t see the first one, it doesn’t matter. There are only a few things that might cause confusion but they end up being of no consequence anyway.

What I liked:

Despite the jokes not really being as funny as in the first movie, it is still rather humorous.

The accents and impersonations. They are quite amusing, especially since I also enjoy throwing my voice.

The plot holes can be overlooked because the point of the story is not the plot, but rather, the conversations between Steve and Rob. Why is the character doing that? Oh it doesn’t matter, look! He’s doing another funny accent! Haha!

The scenery in Italy is much more spectacular than in the north of England. The scenery in the end of the movie is my favorite (mountains, fog, mountain villages), but that which is in the beginning (seaside beaches and fishing villages) is equally breathtaking. I wanna go to a italia right now-ah.

What I disliked:

There are a lot of inconsistencies. As I mentioned above, the plot matters not since that’s not the point of the comedy, but it’s the simple things, like one of the characters saying he isn’t going to drink, he hasn’t had a drink in about nine months, and then a few scenes later starting to have a drink with dinner (they never get drunk), with not much more of an explanation than “when in Rome.” And that in and of itself is not bothersome, but the accumulation of these little quirks irks me.

At times the characters laughing in the conversations are a little overwhelming, almost like they’re bashing you in the face, screaming, “OK NOW IT’S TIME TO LAUGH YOU WANKERS!”

The ending is abrupt.

 

——————

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the first, but only slightly less so. I still recommend it (to the 4 readers of this cobby-wobby relic blog). I give it 4 Michael Caines, 2 Sean Connerys, and a Small Man Trapped in a Box.

英語之福

因今是星期五而用母語來表達。

Took a test Friday (and by Friday I mean two weeks ago Friday). Do these tests measure language, or do they test test taking ability? Or ability to guess? Does the speaking test test speaking ability, or compositional skills? If I don’t have a composition similar to the pattern they want, I could be limited in how high of a level I could reach. I understand that as you reach higher you have to be able to create paragraphs, but if you’re fluent but with sloppy paragraph construction you could be at the same level as someone who still hasn’t learned the word for fence or universe.

I had this discussion with my friend yesterday. It was in the context of Starbuck’s. We’d started into the conversation because one of the coffee shops we frequent recently (earlier this year) went through some renovations, it was closed for a couple of months, and when it reopened all of the staff had changed. At first it was no big deal, but the more we went there the more it became apparent that their outlook on coffee had also changed. They have some pour over coffee making devices (nice, porcelain, probably a $200 set) collecting dust and acting as a sugar packet holder. (Pour over coffee is typically liked by coffee snobs). The baristas seem uninterested and are probably just finding some job to make some cash on the side. Anyway the experience has changed and the coffee has changed. Eventually we talked about Starbuck’s and how so many people like it, despite it having a burnt taste, and I asked, what if we were the ones who’re weird? If so many people like the burnt taste of coffee, if the majority like it that way, isn’t that the standard? What if we’re the ones who are weird in liking small-batch coffee, with roasting in-house or near-house and a short time between the grind and the pour?

I can’t help but keep the disdain and pretentiousness out of my tone, but really why drink starbuck’s? Somewhere along the way, because most people like commercial coffee, and because there is the vocal minority who loudly stick their noses up at Starbuck’s and the like, if I come out and say that I don’t like Starbuck’s I’m branded as either a hipster or elitist or something of that nature. It’s not that I dislike Starbuck’s because of their monopoly. It’s not like I think everyone should share my tastes and preferences and those who don’t are wrong. It’s just that I have a standard for quality and I appreciate people putting effort into what their making. Why buy something if it isn’t even trying to be the best that it can be?

Naturally this let to us noting on how Americans like consistency in certain things. Like produce. And hotels. “New city? Oh let’s just stay at the best western because I know what it’ll be like.” It’s weird how we Americans value pioneers and pride ourselves on having a sense of adventure, but apparently that sense of adventure doesn’t extend to everything.

 

P.S. I guess after a week and a half I can finally publish this.