samsara

This film might have been titled Crash: The Documentary, not because it addresses racial tension, but because stylistically it is a similarly annoying-hit you over the head with a hammer-agenda-pushing piece. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times offered an excellent articulation of why I hated Crash in his 2006 review, but I just spent twenty minutes searching for it and it seems to have disappeared. Instead I offer you another good breakdown-A.O. Scott’s review in which he wryly notes that Haggis was “not unduly concerned with subtlety”.

But lest this become a rant about one of the most overrated movies of all time, I shall turn again to Samsara. It started out strong; a whirlwind journey to various parts of the world, scenes replete with breathtaking landscapes, stunning cultural images, and lovely musical scoring. And then suddenly I seemed to be watching a pictorial protest of various issues of the day: overconsumption, factory farming, and skewed beauty standards, to name a few. This isn’t to say I am unmoved by these issues. But I think a cause is ill-served, at least in an artistic setting, by overemphasizing the point. And I understand that many of the beautiful natural and ancient images were used to create contrast and context for the metaphorical ugliness of so much of the world. Still, I felt a bit tricked (particularly by the preview) and a lot annoyed.

It’s hard for me to decide whether I recommend the movie.  On one hand, some of the images to which the viewer is privy are so beautiful and unique that the film’s weaknesses may be worth enduring. Then again, ugh.

celeste and jesse forever

I liked it overall though I found the first half (or maybe third,) irritating. At the beginning, they were trying too hard to inject quirky humor and it didn’t have the immensely relatable and raw quality of the rest of the movie. And that’s not to say that quirky humor was absent from the second half. It was just integrated more naturally.

The acting was good, and Chris Messina’s character (He is everywhere right now! How does that happen?) imparted some of my favorite wisdom about the insidiousness of perpetually needing to be right. Rashida Jones’ character is flailing, deeply unhappy. But “right” (as opposed to her Andy Samberg-played ex), she insists, definitely right. And Messina replies, “Okay, you’re right. Now what?”

I say go see it. It’s worth it to see them deftly portray the pain and awkwardness in navigating a break-up. One of the narrative devices they used for the split irked me a bit, because it’s an unlikely scenario, but I understand how it served them.

So many movies have revelatory moments and epic character transformation, which are the stuff of fantasy and absolutely fun to watch. But sometimes, I like my works of art a little quieter, with the protagonists only slightly the wiser for what they’ve endured.

ruby sparks

I generally enjoyed this movie though I couldn’t help but compare it to Stranger Than Fiction, which I remember as being more consistently funny, moving and relatable.

Chris Messina was undoubtedly my favorite part of the movie. His turn as the moderately unlikable older brother was charming. The sibling relationship (far more than the romantic one) was interesting and gratifying to witness.

My big problem: The protagonist, Calvin, engages in behavior akin to a virtual form of slavery/physical abuse, yet we are asked to sympathize with him. I tried to empathize with the desperation of heartache and how one might do everything in their power to prevent someone from leaving. Glad no one has the magical capabilities in the film, but perhaps it is an understandable comment on the lengths (often crazy and counterproductive) people go to cling to love. Yet there is a scene in the movie when a frenzy of despair and power grip Calvin, and his behavior is just so horribly abusive that I found it hard to move forward in support of the story.

Still, enough sprinkled throughout the movie to recommend it, but not a rush-to-go-see piece.

premium rush

This was a weird movie. Here are a series of my reactions, not necessarily in order of occurrence.

-Whoa, there’s like, a lot of biking in this movie…Jesus, they’re still biking?

-They said the pickup was at Columbia Law School…I went there and that is NOT the law school building…I hate inaccuracies of this kind…ugh, law school

-Why is Joseph Gordon-Levitt so good with whatever material he’s given…and why is he perpetually sexy?…how can someone be that sexy ALL the time?…where does one locate Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

-Oh man, New York…I miss New York so much…they’re biking in my old neighborhood…i’m getting choked up…they’re in central park…now I’m actually tearing…stupid los angeles

Seriously, these were my exact reactions. And even more seriously, the law school building inaccuracy did not leave me for the entire movie. Because I’m really weird. And I was just talking to someone about how I find it bizarre when movies and tv shows have the silliest mess-ups like that. I imagine people have consultants and researchers that work on scripts, and yet mind-boggling mistakes are sprinkled throughout many works.

Still, this movie was fun, and sharply executed for the necessarily limited vehicle it was-a bicycle action movie (ooh-see what I did with vehicle?). Some silly dialogue and acting. And lots of New York! It also kind of makes you feel like you’re exercising…or should exercise-both excellent effects. Definitely not a must-see, but an entertaining time-passer.

mix match dance festival 2012

My sister stumbled upon a flyer for this dance festival whilst at Whole Foods. Upon arriving at the small and dinky venue the prospect of a good program seemed dubious. But my lowered expectations met with a surprisingly decent show. Sure, decent doesn’t seem like much of a plug. The dances certainly were a far cry from Joyce-caliber or the like but my distinctly amateurish eye really enjoyed watching a number of the performances.

And I loved many of the music choices. I was surreptitiously Shazam-ing through the first half of the show until I realized the music was listed on the show’s program. Anyway, some beautiful lines, quirky choreography and dancers who exuded love for what they do-I liked it enough to want to go to another set of performances next weekend. At 14 dollars a ticket, I’d recommend it to any dance lover with perspective untainted by professional critic or dancer status.

hearts like fists

Ahh. I wanted to like this show just a smidge more than I did. It started strong, with cute, kitschy comic-book humor. Also in its favor were really fun costumes and effects; quite impressive for such a cozy staging of a play.

I basically enjoyed it, and there were two standout performances worth mentioning. Keith Allan playing Dr. X was excellently creepy (and regrettably somehow still sexy-I hang my head in shame at this admission) and Grace Eboigbe was quite charismatic as the overwrought nurse. And of course, it’s always relatable when such a universal theme is explored-essentially, “is love worth the pain”- a theme that also lent itself well to this particular narrative and style.

But as the play went on, I found that it dragged somewhat, and there was a fair chunk in the second half that lost my full attention. The jokes were overextended, and I think the play would either have done well to cut some if its length out or to add a bit more sharpness and nuance into its dialogue and humor. (To be fair, I’m obviously inclined to compare anything in the female superhero genre to Buffy and that which is wanting of Whedon will always be deficient.)

Still, an interesting, fun and different theater-going experience. If you are looking for some culture to inject into the first half of your labor day weekend (its last day is on Saturday), I comfortably recommend this show.

“eat and run: my unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness” by Scott Jurek

Well, that was quite the sallies break. Apparently a cross-country move, overwhelming class schedule, tendonitis and various other time-consuming life occurrences do not a prolific blog writer make. (And apparently also render me unable or unwilling to attempt a clever title for this post.)  Nor did this tedious schedule allow me to read a single book for pleasure until the weekend break between my two summer semesters.

I selected this book in part as an attempt to reignite my nascent running hobby that  fell victim to everything going on in the last several weeks.  But mostly because I find ultra running bad ass. Nutty and suspicious as hell. But really bad ass. And this is a book you should really only read if you wholeheartedly concur with that sentiment. The writing is plodding, the tone often irritating.

Scott Jurek doesn’t come across as particularly likable, though there was the occasional moment that gave me a “well…maybe he’s okay” pause. But there are crazy stories of endurance and fortitude a-plenty, which for me made it ultimately worth the read. I also enjoyed the yum-sounding vegan recipes sprinkled throughout.

And fear not a lack of race statistics. Jurek won’t fail to tell you when he beats a record or some such other feat. Dude is not shy about bragging.