Unsolicited Review – It Follows

It follows indeed. I now have Movie Pass (a card that allows you to see unlimited movies for $30/month – http://movi.ps/1NrO3yq). I love it. I’ve seen loads of movies this year. It Follows is the most recent. These micro reviews of the films’ storytelling are a way to catalog what I’ve seen and what I think about story. I dash them off. If you want to talk about the film, feel free to comment.

It Follows Review

It Follows was absolutely boring and a complete waste of a wonderful concept. There’s so little actual conflict. There is a lot of driving away. How terrifying is a monster that you can hop on a plane and fly away from? There’s no escalation of the stakes because there’s no logical plan to stop “the entity” because the entity is vaguely setup and few “rules” are ever established for how it functions. Sure, it follows you and it kills you. Is it punishment for sleeping with the wrong mate? Maybe. The first victim’s leg is broken and her neck snapped. The guy who gives it to Jay (protagonist) says “don’t let it touch you.” Yet, it grabs Jay no less than three times and she is fine. The second guy, Greg, was incestuously raped to death. It follows you only by walking. Maybe it can even walk into the water or over an ocean. Who knows? At the climax of It Follows, we learn that the entity is sentient and can form plans. Yes, that’s correct; we learn a critical ability of the man antagonist only near the end. The rest of the film it mindlessly shuffles. Oh, and it throws rocks in windows when it can’t open a door. Sometimes it takes on the appearance of people you know or love. Note: There is absolutely no emotional resonance for the appearance it takes during the climax. Why? We hadn’t learned anything previously about that person. That’s poor storytelling.

it-follows-review

Never enter a place with one exit

Interpreting It Follows

What if it wasn’t about the entity, and what follows is supposed to serve as a larger metaphor. Well, it’s a poorly articulated metaphor. Sex Follows: Don’t have casual sex because it follows you everywhere you go. Eventually it destroys you. It will destroy your sexual partners along the way. Poor Decisions Follow: Don’t make decisions in the moment. Important decisions will follow you your entire life. They will hurt people along the way. Maybe it’s just social commentary: In our culture, decisions are made too casually. These decisions, like sex, have implications beyond the present. We also hurt the ones closest to us. I would get into the possible romantic metaphors, but I’ll leave that to a Red Pill / Alpha Male blogger. I wouldn’t bet money on any of those interpretations because of the fatalistic ending. Most reviewers stretch the vague rhetorical implications of the film to fit their own agenda or lens.

it-follows-review

We’ve never seen a woman punished for her sexual choices before in film, so that was a great twist

Learning from It Follows

I don’t want this to be merely a rant of why I didn’t like It Follows. It could’ve improved by crafting sequences that actually had conflict. One solution is to take away driving or biking away as an option. It was fine for that to happen the first time, but you want conflict to escalate. Imagine if the car had broken down. Then Jay would’ve been stuck running, which is way more dream-like. It also would’ve forced her to come up with more creative ways to stop the entity. I’m sorry, but trying to shoot it? On three separate occasions?!?! It didn’t work the first time! It’s not going to work the second or third times!! Insanity. Also, running upstairs to escape is never a good idea. Another thing that would’ve improved the story is clear rules for the entity. Let’s go back to the car issue. This is a trickster ghoul. It’s intelligent enough to appear as people you may know. It knows not to fall for the idiotic trap they set at the climax. It can break through windows and attack people that don’t see it. Apparently, it’s not smart enough to flatten tires. Imagine Jay getting into a car and trying to drive off, but the tires are flat, so she has to slowly drive in car on flat tires while it follows in the rearview. There weren’t enough well-crafted obstacles in the film. Imagine a policeman pulling Jay over. The entity approaches as she talks to the officer. She freaks out. He can’t see it. He handcuffs her to restrain her and it is approaching during this entire sequence. It’s nerve-wracking! Why? because she has two antagonists agitating the scene from two different worlds. There’s an immediate threat and a larger one more present. This story only dealt with the larger threat and gave easy outs. There’s nothing suspenseful about being able to drive away from your threat. You could even bike away, or run, or jog, or skip. The first victim we see die, died only because she gave up. I suppose I should say something nice about it. Coming of age is important It was wise to use characters at the end of their teenage years. It was interesting visually. The rig used in Jay’s introduction was good. The 360 spin in the school and the choice to use lots of wide shots was a good one. The naked man standing on the roof scene was also creepy. The attempt to set the film in an indiscriminate era was good, but it just looked like the early 1990’s with cheap eReaders to me. The color grading was a good choice, though. I hope Unfriended doesn’t disappoint me as much as It Follows.

This film has become a sort of critical indie horror darling. It’s praised for its originality and intelligence. I guess the horror genre is so piss poor these days that most people are easily impressed, especially when Dostoyevsky and T.S. Eliot are referenced. I wish Roger Ebert was still alive.

it-follows-review

Wouldn’t locking the doors of the car and explaining the rules to her have sufficed?

It Follows Rating: 2.5 out of 10

 

1-3: Horrible. I regret subjecting myself to this

4-5: Just below average, but not a complete waste of time

6: I didn’t waste my time, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again

7-8: Accomplished what it set out to do and I’d watch it again

9-10: Nearly perfect. Highly recommend it as art

Unsolicited Review – Project Almanac

I now have Movie Pass (a card that allows you to see unlimited movies for $30/month – http://movi.ps/1NrO3yq). I love it. I’ve seen loads of movies in the last month. Project Almanac is the most recent. These micro reviews of the films’ storytelling are a way to catalog what I’ve seen and think about story. I dash them off. If you want to talk about the film, feel free to comment.

Project Almanac Review

Aside from a rocky beginning with a ridiculously long first act, Project Almanac was successful. More laughs in the beginning of the 2nd act would’ve made the fun and games more exciting. There was also barely any conflict for the majority of the movie. I would’ve liked to see more shaved from the first act and more time spent in Project Almanac’s rich area of potential conflict. The third act was rushed and barely existed. The ending was well done, though. Project Almanac will inevitably draw comparisons to earlier MTV Films teen sci-fi film Chronicle. But Chronicle gave its actors a stronger script that focused on conflict, so the drama was more compelling. Project Almanac could’ve easily had that drama, but it might’ve pandered too much to its teenage crowd. Oh, and that Microsoft product placement. I assume we will see more of that in the future. Overall, I’d recommend the film as a teen sci-fi popcorn flick for those who just want to have fun. There is a particularly touching scene in the third act.

 

Why did they…

  • Choose found footage as the way to tell this story? It might’ve worked better and avoided some of the comparisons without that choice.
  • Not use the father/son element as a way to drive the protagonist’s goal?
  • Not explore the title “Project Almanac” more in the film? It’s the title of the project, but “second chances” wasn’t enough to make sense.
  • Avoid ALL conflict for the first two-thirds of the film? Would’ve been stronger if “the rule” was broken earlier with smaller consequences building.

 

Project Almanac Rating: 6 out of 10

 

1-3: Horrible. I regret subjecting myself to this

4-5: Just below average, but not a complete waste of time

6: I didn’t waste my time, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again

7-8: Accomplished what it set out to do and I’d watch it again

9-10: Nearly perfect. Highly recommend it as art

 

project-almanac-review

Cast of Project Almanac

 

Free Crunchyroll Guest Pass

Remember: first come, first serve.

January: http://www.crunchyroll.com/guest_pass?code=3MXGJ8RY3HW

February: http://www.crunchyroll.com/guest_pass?code=D7RECEDDB4R

It’s a free Crunchyroll guest pass. You can watch licensed anime (legally) for free. Enjoy!

I’d highly recommend Kids on the Slope, Attack on Titan, and Skip Beat.

I super recommend Kids on the Slope if you like Jazz music or Murakami’s Norwegian Wood.

If you claim the code, please comment so people know that it’s taken. Also be sure to follow me on Twitter @parteverything.

(Note: I update the above link each time I get a free crunchyroll guest pass. This usually occurs every 30 days, but sometimes I get multiple passes. In which case, I post one here and share the other via my Twitter: @parteverything. Again, I highly recommend Kids on the Slope. It’s so understated and great!)

free crunchyroll guest pass

free crunchyroll guest pass

One Art | Elizabeth Bishop

One Art | Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

I think it’s fitting that I post this on Mother’s Day. Loss is the most universal, prevalent, primal feeling human’s experience. Some might say it is love, but I would argue that we’re keenly aware when we lose something and may not be aware when we love something (or someone). Combine that with a masterful, seamless poetic display in one of the most difficult verse forms to master in English (that isn’t redundant game-playing– I’m looking at you sestina) and you will have what I might consider the best poem I’ve ever read, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” It’s so unassuming, so simple, yet so complex. Hearing this poem read aloud for the first time in a Forms of Poetry classroom read wonderfully by Poet/Professor Michael White changed my life. Not in one of those hyperbolic, 21st century teenager ways either. Before that class I was more interested in poetry as expression, poetry as philosophy, and, mostly, poetry as performance. I wanted to cry after he finished reading it. It was a release. Later, re-reading it, I did cry. I became obsessed with Bishop afterwards; I fell in love with the dead lesbian who shook me into wanting to become the poet that I want to be. I devoured everything: her poems, prose, biography, art, and letters. I saved bits of each, so that I might one day discover something “new.” So I may be a bit bias. To the point, “One Art” is a villanelle. If you think about Bishop’s biography, then this poem is usually connected to her time abroad in Brazil, her mother’s insanity and later death, her return to America from Brazil, an ex-lover’s (Lota de Macedo Soares’) suicide, and an estrangement from a young lover, Alice Methfessel. I believe the poem is about all of these things and none of them. It’s a writing through, universal sort of poem that requires no context, but becomes even richer once you have it. “One Art” is from Bishop’s final collection, Geography III.

Red Like Our Room Used to Feel

So first off, the website went down during April. I was in the process of moving hosts and screwed up. I wasn’t able to take the time to get it back up until now. Meaning, the NPM posts I had planned never happened. I think I’ll just randomly post some of the choices. In the meantime, here’s a spoken word album that’s inspired me to do something similar (hopefully) in the next few weeks and post it online:

Enjoy. Learn more about Ryan Van Winkle.

Second Glance at a Jaguar – Ted Hughes

Second Glance at Jaguar | Ted Hughes

Skinful of bowls, he bowls them,
The hip going in and out of joint, dropping the spine
With the urgency of his hurry
Like a cat going along under thrown stones, under cover,
Glancing sideways, running
Under his spine. A terrible, stump-legged waddle
Like a thick Aztec disemboweller,
Club-swinging, trying to grind some square
Socket between his hind legs round,
Carrying his head like a brazier of spilling embers,
And the black bit of his mouth, he takes it
Between his back teeth, he has to wear his skin out,
He swipes a lap at the water-trough as he turns,
Swiveling the ball of his heel on the polished spot,
Showing his belly like a butterfly
At every stride he has to turn a corner
In himself and correct it. His head
Is like the worn down stump of another whole jaguar,
His body is just the engine shoving it forward,
Lifting the air up and shoving on under,
The weight of his fangs hanging the mouth open,
Bottom jaw combing the ground. A gorged look,
Gangster, club-tail lumped along behind gracelessly,
He’s wearing himself to heavy ovals,
Muttering some mantra, some drum-song of murder
To keep his rage brightening, making his skin
Intolerable, spurred by the rosettes, the cain-brands,
Wearing the spots from the inside,
Rounding some revenge. Going like a prayer-wheel,
The head dragging forward, the body keeping up,
The hind legs lagging. He coils, he flourishes
The blackjack tail as if looking for a target,
Hurrying through the underworld, soundless.

This is probably my favorite Ted Hughes poem. It captures the raw, animal rhythms of his poetry. It has great imagery. “Second Glance at a Jaguar” revisits a poem, “Jaguar,” from his first collection The Hawk in the Rain. The first jaguar poem is about how animals in a zoo are so depressed, caged in slots and separated, but content with it except the Jaguar who “… hurrying enraged / Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes // On a short fierce fuse.” Hughes is almost certainly making a connection to humanity in that poem. This second jaguar poem is all about those moments, those movements. He’s pacing as if he’s plotting, as if his refusal to grow weary is an act of rebellion. Hughes said that poems are like animals; he addresses this in another poem. He wrote a lot about animals and usually as a way to talk about humanity.

Also, as a bonus, here’s Hughes reading the poem:

Spring – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring ——
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,

   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

#Modern Monday #National Poetry Month

So Gerard Manley Hopkins might technically be considered a late Victorian poet, but formally he was so innovative that Ramazani, editor of (the amazing) Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry included him as a Modernist. I’d definitely agree, especially since his sprung rhythm, alliteration, and rhyming is more similar to rap lyrics than poetry. It’s like Rakim said on his track “Follow the Leader:”

RAP is Rhythm And Poetry, cuts create sound effects /
You might catch up if you follow the records he wrecks /
Until then keep eating and swallowing /
You better take a deep breath and keep following– the leader. /

Rakim was just following Hopkins’ tradition, and so are all the rappers (nearly every contemporary rapper) who followed him.

Gear up for National Poetry Month

I’m going to attempt to blog each day of April with a poem from poets that I like following these  themes:

#ModernMonday

#TedHughesTuesday

#WomenPoetsWednesday

#Pre-ModernThursday

#CaveCanemFriday

#InternationalSaturday

#ElizabethBishopSunday

I’m hoping to have each blog contain an audio or visual element as well. Let’s see if I can be dedicated. Follow me on Twitter to keep updated.

See Me on a Panel at the University of Southern California

I will be on a panel with two lovely and brilliant writers (Christopher Pendergraft and Dillon Scalzo) at the University of Southern California’s Cruelty conference in Los Angeles, CA on April 12-13, 2013. We’re hosting a creative panel featuring readings, a discussion, and Q&A. Here’s a copy of the proposal. Hope to see you there!

Speleology

More video poetry. This time by the poet Duriel E. Harris and filmmaker Scott Rankin. A blog recapping AWP and an essay on “What I Learned from the TV Show ‘Girls'” coming soon-ish.