Monday, January 28, 2008

Film Snobs, Unite!

If you're the kind of person who considers a good date one that ends in an spirited argument about whether or not Otto Preminger is an auteur, then, boy, have I gotta deal for you!

Alternatively, if you're the kind of person whose idea of great movie is one in which there are more fireballs/exploding cars than lines of dialogue, BUT who would see a movie at the Angelika IF given a free ticket... I also have a deal for you!

Here's the beef: if you join FilmCatcher, a new website dedicated to indie movies, you can request a free movie ticket redeemable at the Angelika (and a few other theaters, if you're not a Gotham-dweller). All you have to do is sign up and post something on your profile (could be something as simple as a top-10 list of your favorite movies), and then you can request a ticket. You have to sign into your profile and request it, though-- they don't just automatically send it to you. I joined last week and already have my ticket in hand.

The website is pretty interesting and has some decent interviews. They also seem to be hocking a movie purchasing system that I wasn't too interested in. The only downside is that you have to stomach their exceedingly-snobby tagline: "Smart films for smart people" (stupid post-grad would-be critics). But if you can tolerate that, in no time you'll find yourself clutching a ticket (that's right, a real paper ticket) in your hand and triumphantly declaring, "Take that sucker-nerds-- I'm reaping the benefits of your snooty system while mocking it!!".

Sunday, January 20, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Watch There Will Be Blood NOW. I finally went to see it Friday night (after anxiously awaiting its opening in a fever of anticipation, and then getting my attempts to see it shut down 4 times... long story...), and it was everything I'd hoped it would be-- powerful, moving, crushing, completely devastating... amazing. Daniel Day-Lewis was incredible, the score was excellent, it was beautifully shot, and I can't stop thinking about it. Watch it NOW.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #91

Title: Tobacco Road
Author: Erskine Caldwell
Judgin' the Book by its Cover: Hmm, I can't really answer this one according to the guidelines I've set up, since I can't find an image of the cover for the version that I read. I'll just post a different cover for the same book. This whole section is a pretty stupid idea-- what's so fun about critiquing a book's cover?

Thoughts: This was a very difficult book to read. The prose was straightforward and simple, and I finished it in only a couple of days, but as a whole, it was very unpleasant to get to know the characters and witness the decisions they made. The book outlines the decline and disintegration of the Lester family, a group of sharecroppers in rural Georgia who haven't planted cotton for seven years. They survive by stealing food, occasionally selling firewood, and starving, all of which seem like better alternatives to them than relocating and/or finding jobs.

I was totally shocked by the absolute callousness that was the modus operandi of the Lester family. Each character's disregard for the needs, feelings, and even lives of the others was total. One character is so thoroughly consumed by his passion for cars that when he hits and kills a man while driving, he doesn't give the man's death more than a brief afterthought (nor does he stop the car and try to aid him). Examples of this attitude abound in the book, as do examples of religious hypocrisy, racism, elder abuse, statutory rape, and all other kinds of fun/great things. The book ends on a somber note, suggesting that the situations that strip uneducated people of their resources and means of survival are impossible to break free from, and that the foolish mindsets of the parents are passed down to their children down through the generations.

Something that really struck me in this book was the characters' unwavering belief that God would magically solve their problems with no effort on their part-- money will fall down from the sky, and they will be able to do what they've always done. To me, it seems crystal clear what the family should do-- abandon the farm that has failed to produce for years, move a few miles away, and work in a textile mill or factory. It's not an ideal situation, but it sure beats starving to death. Instead, they obstinately cling to the land and refuse to work or to try to find creative solutions, thinking that God will pave the way for them. This challenges me to look at my own perspective and attitude-- are there situations in life where God has opened a door for me, but I've refused to walk through it, instead choosing to push against a brick wall (all the while begging Him for a solution)? I'm inspired to make sure that I'm listening and obeying God instead of just assuming that He is on my side, regardless of what decisions I make.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #92

Title: Ironweed
Author: William Kennedy
Judgin' The Book By Its Cover: Not bad-- I can dig the retro feel of the b&w photo.

Thoughts: This was a very moving story, set in the working-class Irish neighborhoods of Albany during a two-day span (Halloween and All Saints' Day). Francis, a bum, is haunted by the ghosts of his bloody and strange past as he struggles to understand the choices that he's made and the life that he's living. A recent encounter with the son he abandoned decades earlier causes him to reevaluate his history and try to understand who he is and what has made him the person that he is, a violent man who abandoned a family that he loved dearly. I particulary love when Francis realizes that his estranged wife has been quietly extending grace to him for years, and how that knowledge motivates him to reexamine himself-- it's pretty amazing. I also liked Kennedy's use of magical realism-- it's really cool to see the characters from Francis' past reappear to guide him and help him make sense of the past, but the device isn't used in an abrasive or unnatural way. I definitely recommend this book-- it is a very warm and humanizing portrait of a man and a subculture that are difficult to understand and connect with. Good stuff!