Sometimes I really like when other people publish lists of things because it gives me something to work off of to learn something new. That was the case earlier this year when I saw Arch Daily’s article called The 30 Architecture Docs To Watch In 2013. I haven’t watched anything on the list yet but I came across the bookmark on my computer and got re-interested in working my way through the list. I think it would give me a great foundation in architecture, a design area that interests me but that I don’t know a whole lot about. A lot of them seem to be available online so I’ll start there. Have you seen any of them? Got any suggestions where to start?
As soon as I saw the 3D preview for Gatsby (when I went to go watch Oz the Great and Powerful, which I loved) I knew that it was a movie that I wanted to see. I went and saw it a couple of days ago at the Kabuki theater where I enjoyed the Gatsby Gimlet that they were serving at the bar. I got immersed into the movie and I’ve been mulling it over since. Was it the most amazing movie I’ve ever seen in my life? No, but I did like it a lot and there were many reasons why.
Here are ten things I liked about Gatsby:
1. Stunning 3D Effects
There were so many little details in the 3D effects that I loved. I’m a sucker for 3D movies. I’ll like almost anything in 3D honestly. I just get wrapped right up into the beauty of the imagery. This movie in particular did some cool things with the way trees hung in the foreground, confetti and snow fell into the crowd, curtains billowing and words were written onto the front of the screen.
2. Gorgeous Fashions and Style
They did a great job of showing off modern couture interpretations of the fashions of the Jazz Age in a gorgeous way in this movie. It was a delight to just look at those fashions. The hairstyles, the accessories; all of the details were delightful in every scene in the movie.
3. Movie of Male Friendship
I thought it was a really interesting portrayal of the friendship between the two main male characters. We just don’t see a lot of movies that are about that topic. The movie is about many different types of relationships and they’re all interesting and important but that’s a unique aspect that differs from most other love story movies.
4. Reveals Sad Truths About Human Relationships
There are so many things that the characters in the movie could have done differently to honor, cherish, celebrate and improve their relationships. But we are human and flawed and the different relationships displayed so many of the true ways in which we can be flawed in our relationships. It’s sad, but it’s touching.
5. Music Choices
The film is filled with music. What I loved was how there was this great combination of the influences from the jazz age in which the film is set with influences of totally contemporary 21st century rap and pop music. This could have turned out terribly if it wasn’t done well but I thought it was done great.
6. Terrific Cinematography
Yes, this goes hand-in-hand a bit with point #1 about the great 3D effects but just in general I thought the photographic choices that were made were terrific. There were excellent choices made with the right lighting, the boldness of color in certain spots, the close-up details of faces in some places … It was a visually stunning movie to watch. There were certain times in the film when the Blockbuster Movie style storyline did start to get a little boring for me but the film itself didn’t bore me because it was so pretty to watch.
7. Interconnectedness of the Characters
I loved the way that the stories of the different lives of the characters were woven together throughout the film. Some smart choices there in the storytelling.
8. Glimpse into the Jazz Age
My father is in love with the Jazz Age so I know a little bit about it from what he’s shared. I know a little bit also from research I’ve done at various times. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know a whole ton about it but it’s definitely an interesting time period that I’ll eventually delve into more. I don’t know enough to say how accurately the movie represented New York in the Jazz Age but it seemed like it hit some of the key points in interesting ways, revealing the sensuality and fun of the time along with some of the darker influences that emerged then.
9. The Humor
Gatsby is not a funny movie. It’s a drama, a romance … but there were certain humorous lines that caught me off guard and cracked me up. Humor is always nice.
10. Narrated Story
I’ve always loved movies that are narrated in part by one of the characters. It’s a terrific storytelling technique that always endears a movie to me.
Have you seen Gatsby? Thoughts?
When my sister was here we went to Golden Gate Park and one of the things we saw while we were there was the National AIDS Memorial Grove. I actually hadn’t visited before even though I’ve been to the park many times. It’s a HUGE park and there’s tons to see there. The grove is a really magical space, though, with beautiful plants and water features, so I’m glad I finally checked it out.
About the Memorial Grove
From the National AIDS Memorial Grove website:
“The National AIDS Memorial Grove, located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is a dedicated space in the national landscape where millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to heal, hope, and remember. For all the promising prospects on the horizon, AIDS continues to invade our lives, violate our past, and rob us of our comfortable assumptions about the future. The sacred ground of this living memorial honors all who have confronted this tragic pandemic both those who have died and those who have shared their struggle, kept the vigils, and supported each other during the final hours.”
Photos from National AIDS Memorial Grove
In sort-of-related news, I’ve seen a couple of good documentaries lately about HIV/ AIDS. I already told you about When We Were Here, which I definitely recommend. The other one I saw recently was called How to Survive a Plague and is a documentary about ACT UP, the grassroots organization that strived to get medical care for people with HIV/AIDS starting in the 1980s. Powerful stuff!
“Dreams of the Last Butterflies is a mini-epic, live-action “Dark Faerie Tale” short film, with a unique environmental message.”
I recently watched When We Were Here, which is a documentary available on Netflix that chronciles the experience of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco in the early 1980s. It was touching, informative and interesting. There were many things that I kinda-sorta-knew about that time period but this film really tied them all together and gave a clearer picture of what it was like to live through that time.
Basics of the Film
The film interviews five people. They come from various backgrounds and experiences … some were very involved in the health politics of the crisis and others were not … but what they have in common is that they all lived through the AIDS crisis in the Castro in the 1980′s and were intimately touched by the experience in one way or another.
It Was the Numbers that Shocked Me
The film reveals many touching stories and details that could wrench your heart out but for some reason it was the numbers and statitsics revealed in the movie that really got my attention. Some of the things I learned from the film:
- It is believed that AIDS came to San Francisco around 1976 but there wasn’t an AIDS test until about five years later. By the time there was a test, approximately 50% of the gay men in San Francisco tested positive.
- In the ~10 year time span between the first real awareness of AIDS and the time when real treatment became available more than 15,000 people in San Francisco (mostly gay men, many living in the small Castro neighborhood) died from the disease.
The film also has these really poignant images where it shows the obituaries of person after person after person. The Bay Area Reporter would just have pages of pages of headshots of those who were killed by the disease. While this is an image, it’s also about the numbers because of the way it’s laid out.
Things I Knew But Saw a Different Way
For some reason I know a lot of secondhand information about this period of time even though I never set out to learn about it. Even before moving here I’d read a number of memoirs/ anthologies of stories from that time. And maybe it’s just part of growing up as a teen in the 90′s that we learned about AIDS. Once I moved here I met a lot of people who had lived through it. One of the things that I’ve heard again and again from people is that during the early days they had friends dying literally every week. This is reiterated again in the film – one man in particular talks about losing his partner and then his best friend in a two week span. But for some reason I had never really thought about exactly what this meant until I watched the movie. I can’t imagine if all of the friends I have here in the city were dead next year. I just can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like and this was happening to so many people here at this time. I had heard people compare it to going through a war, a reference also made in the film, and after watching the documentary I kind of understand why they would say that.
Another thing I knew but really understood better after watching the film was that the community here really had to come together around this crisis. For a long time AIDS was considered a “gay disease” and this didn’t just bring stigma but also a host of problems related to that stigma. For one thing, the larger medical and political community wasn’t necessarily in a rush to solve a problem that they didn’t see as being related to them. People were dying these horrific deaths that had no cure and it was up to those same people to come together to find a cure because no one else was doing it. A related point made in the film was that it was during this time that the lesbian and gay communities really began to come together for the first time in a big way in part because with so many gay men dying around them the lesbian community stepped up and helped care for these guys.
Of course, things weren’t just hunky dory … even while the community came together there was obviously some dissent between people with differing beliefs. One example that the film brings up is that once the larger world decided to respond to the AIDS crisis they did some things that posed a risk to civil rights. This was easily a time when a backlash could occur against gay rights. So one of the things they wanted to do was shut down all of the bathhouses, which they saw as a breeding ground for the disease. Some members of the gay community were fine with this and others felt like this was a civil rights issue. So the community had to find ways to come together and fight for rights related to AIDS, health care, etc. even though there were aspects of the developing situation that not all members of the community agreed upon. (Of course, this was the case in many different areas of civil rights, not just around the AIDS crisis … such as in issues where women had to find their place in a larger civil rights movement and then minority women had to figure out their place in all of that … but it was intensified by the fact that it was happening around this huge health crisis.
Some Random Fun Facts
I am one of those San Franciscans who always gets a little thrill when I see my city in movies of any kind. And I always like learning new facts that are more “insider information”. So there were random things in this film that I liked for that. For example, I learned that Under One Roof was almost named AIDSmart. Under One Roof is an organization that sells retail items with proceeds going to AIDS organizations. I know about it (and have shopped there during the holiday season) because a friend volunteers there. So it’s one of those local things that I now know this random tidbit about that I didn’t know before.
Conclusion: This is a film that tells some really great personal stories while sharing great educational information about the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Totally worth a watch.
I didn’t do too well with my plan to watch classic romance films in February. I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time and loved it and then didn’t really watch any others. That’s okay. For March I decided to go with a film category that it is one of my favorites: documentaries.
So far I’ve watched:
Grizzly Man is the true story of Timothy Treadwell who went and lived up close and personal with Alaska’s wild bears for thirteen summers in a row but that ended tragically when he and his girlfriend were eaten alive. It’s a traditional documentary that combines Treadwell’s own footage with narration of the story and interviews with those people who were involved in some way.
Awful Normal reminds me a bit more of some of the experimental documentaries I watched a little of in January. It’s the true story of two adult women who were molested as girls by a family friend and their journey to go confront him to get closure. There are some odd film moments such as when they turn the camera off at the man’s request but keep the audio rolling so you only see a black screen. All in all, I felt like it was a powerful documentary with truth at the heart of it.
Although I do watch a lot of TV I’m trying to see more movies instead of just shows. Last month I delved into experimental films a little bit. I have to say that although it was an interesting genre, it was a little too odd for me to get really wrapped up in it. This month, since it’s Valentine’s and all, I’ve decided to go with romance. More specifically, classic romance. I’m going to watch all of those love stories that everyone else has seen but I haven’t ranging from truly classic (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) to modern classics (When Harry Met Sally). We’ll see how this adventure goes.
Recapping the Experimental Films
I watched at least part of each of these films:
- The Eyes of Me. A documentary of students at a school for the blind. I actually didn’t see what was so experimental about this. It had a little animation in it but nothing too strange. It was a decent movie.
- Santa Sangre. A weird film I mentioned here before.
- Alice. Based on the characters of Alice in Wonderland.
- Queer as F**K. Which I didn’t get far into.
- Poison. Which I reviewed here earlier.
- Room. Couldn’t get into this either.
Starting in on Romance
I’m about to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s now. We’ll see how this goes. Any classic romances movies you want to recommend for me this month?
Last night my sister and I decided to walk up the street to Clay Theater. It’s a one-movie theater and the film playing was My Week with Marilyn. I ended up really enjoying the movie.
Michelle Williams as Marilyn
My sister with the movie poster
I have to confess that I’ve had a soft spot for Michelle Williams ever since her role in Dawson’s Creek. Her character was more complex, interesting and likable than Katie Holmes and I’ve kind of adored her ever since. She plays a lovely Marilyn Monroe. She gets her voice and flirtatiousness down pat and is a joy to watch on screen as an actress playing an actress.
Marilyn’s Tortured Side
The film does a terrific job of looking at Marilyn Monroe’s tortured side, focusing almost entirely on her insecurities and her neediness of the men in her life. To be honest, I guess I don’t know all that much about Marilyn Monroe. I have some general knowledge that somehow seeped in through basic pop culture awareness and I definitely knew about these insecurities but I haven’t seen her movies or read long biographies of her so my knowledge is a little limited. This portrayal of her made me more interested in reading up on her in the future.
The Love Story
Ultimately this film is a story of young love. It’s about a twenty three year old man who gets lured in by the combination of Marilyn’s stunning beauty and her apparent need to be saved by a man. Their affair (reportedly a true story) lasted only a few days and was a really juvenile, innocent affair. However, the man’s feelings were certainly strong and it gives great insight into that intensity and wonder and passion that accompanies young love, the kind of time in life when it’s totally okay to feel completely consumed by another person and want to change your entire world for them.
Conclusion: Definitely a film worth watching. Lovely acting. Lovely story. Honest, touching without being melodramatic.
I decided on a theme for January’s at-home movie watching. I’m going with indie films, emphasizing experimental films. I’ve pretty much never watched experimental films in my life so this will jumpstart me on the goal of exposing myself to new types of movies. Experimental films are really different, though, so I didn’t want to limit myself only to that genre. That’s why I opened it up to the broader category of indie films. I use to really enjoy watching indie films but have kind of gotten away from that in recent years and wanted to see what I’ve been missing.
Yesterday, I watched two films on Netflix, one of which was experimental.
Poison, Experimental Film
Poison is a 1991 drama that consists of three entirely separate stories that are played together throughout the film, moving back and forth between the three different stories. The three stories are called Hero, Horror and Homo. What ties them together is the fact that they are each about a main male character and have a theme of exploring the border between sexuality and violence. Each short film within the film is set in a different time period and has a different style of photography.
Hero is about a 7-year-old boy who has killed his father and then apparently “flown away” according to reports by his mother. It is set in the 1980′s and has the kind of grainy color that movies of that time sometimes have. This fictional story is set up consisting just of interviews with the boy’s mother and various other family members who reveal more and more about the boy so that we can learn what happened.
Horror is about a scientist who is researching sex hormones and accidentally ends up ingesting something in his lab. It turns him into a leprous sex fiend. Despite this, a female doctor falls in love with him the way that he is. The film is basically about him going crazy and her trying to love him anyway and the tragedy that occurs as a result. This film is done in black and white with lots of shadows and close-up shots. There’s not too much dialogue but what exists is mostly between them. I’m sure that there’s a name for this style of film but I’m not sure what it is. Film noir comes to mind but I don’t know if that’s right. Hopefully as this year continues I’ll learn more about different styles of film and be able to explain this stuff better!
Homo is about two men in prison who had known each other previously in a boys’ school. We learn about their shared past through various scenes. The other scenes are the two of them in prison developing a relationship of sorts. It’s set in the 1940′s and has muted coloring. There is dialogue between the two characters as well as some supporting characters and we can also sometimes hear the main character’s thoughts.
It took me awhile to get into the film. I’m used to the fast-paced dramas of television and mainstream movies. I tend to strongly prefer dialogue-rich movies (don’t watch much action) so it took me some time to slow my pace and really pay attention to the wordless details on the screen. Once I got into it, though, I ended up kind of liking the film so I’m looking forward to learning more about experimental films as the month continues.
Sabah: A Love Story
The other film I watched was a much more straightforward indie romance called Sabah: A Love Story. It’s a Canadian film about a traditional Muslim family. The main character, Sabah, is a forty-year-old unmarried woman whose role it is to take care of her mother. She ends up meeting a non-Muslim Canadian man and falling in love with him. Fairly predictable family drama ensues and there’s a happy ending. I was kind of indifferent to this movie. It’s cute enough. There were parts that were enjoyable. Mostly I found the guy that she falls in love with to be terribly unlikeable and couldn’t get into it because of that but that’s just a personal preference thing. It’s worth seeing if you like movies with this type of plot.
Do you watch indie films? Experimental films?
The first week of my +EW42W- project has kicked off with a goal of not watching TV for two weeks. I have discovered that this is even more challenging than I expected. In fact, I think I may have an actual addiction to television watching.
The first day of the challenge was Sunday. I had decided that the rule would be that I could watch one movie and nothing else and I knew that needed to be at the end of the day or I’d get sucked in and not be able to stop watching. The morning part wasn’t too challenging. I do sometimes work in the mornings without the TV on. I put on my Pandora radio while I worked and that was fine. By the afternoon, however, my mind was totally reeling. I’m going through a bunch of stuff right now and my mind just felt nutty with thoughts that weren’t drowned out by the background noise of the television.
But this is the point – to get to a healthier emotional place in life by working through the tough stuff. So P did persevere through. Made some phone calls to family for distraction. Did some other online work that I could get engrossed in. And eventually it was about nine pm and I went to go crochet while watching my movie. I learned that I have a terrible time trying to pick a movie. I basically watch the same types of TV shows over and over so no major decisions need to be made to find new ones. But movies are different. What type of movies do I like? It’s time to learn!
I put on “On the Outs” because it was a Netflix recommendation. As soon as I did, though, I realized that I think I’ve seen it before or seen part of it before. And I didn’t want to watch something I might have seen before. So I tried to find something else and ended up defaulting to a common favorite of mine, which is biographical documentaries or docudramas about artists. I chose Kurt & Courtney. I’m not a huge Nirvana or Hole fan (not that I don’t like them, I’m just kind of indifferent, really) and I was slightly young to feel the impact of Cobain’s death that many felt when it happened. Nevertheless, I am totally drawn to stories about people’s relationships as well as stories about the tortured artist genius so this fit the bill.
The documentary, honestly, is kind of weird. It poses some possible theories about Kobain’s death (namely that some people believe Love murdered him) and then basically concludes that the theories are not correct but that leaves you with the sense that the storyline itself is kind of pointless. And two things irked me about following the documentarian along on his journey:
- Almost everyone he interviewed looked completely stoned and out of it and did not make a good interviewee.
- His questions seemed incredibly leading.