I Think We’re Alone Now (10 Cloverfield Lane review)

I may be slighlty biased because I was born in midst the 1980s, but I see it as a time of significance for the arts – The height of excess and post-modernist exploration, combining disparate ideas together seamlessly and sometimes garrishly. If you need a good example, this is often best interpreted in the tradition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least for me.

Probably because I enjoyed it quite heavily as a little boy.

Now, what this has to do with today’s movie review is less obvious, but I’ll give you a hint – the unofficial theme song for this movie was popular in the 1960s, and again in the 1980s, it was featured in the film trailer, at the turn of the plot, and is also one of my heart songs. Conspiracy? I think not.

 

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
released on blu-ray June 14, 2016
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Dan Trachtenberg is an American filmmaker who has also co-hosted a podcast called The Totally Rad Show and another podcast called Geekdrome in previous efforts, both of which were on the Revision3 network. When it comes to directing, Trachtenberg has been involved in a couple of large scale directing roles now, one being Black Mirror, which was made for televsion, and very recently the film 10 Cloverfield Lane.

But don’t let the rap sheet fool you. He has spent a fair amount of time behind the camera already, directing commercials for Lexus, Nike, and Coca Cola, AND he has directed a short film as well as an internet show.

As something of self-proclaimed pop culture expert, Trachtenberg is just one of many examples of young directors being given the helm for big movie projects, and I had to wonder if this trend is incredibly smart or incredibly reckless. Only time will tell, but in the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane the gamble seems to have paid off.

Without going to too great of detail, the story follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she is in the midst of leaving her fiance Ben (Bradley Cooper). In the rush to leave their home she leaves quite a few things behind. At one point while travelling, Ben attempts to contact Michelle, to which she reluctantly answers the phone, but does not speak.

Just as Ben is in the midst of calling a second time, Michelle is hit by a truck and taken off of the road. She wakes up in an underground bunker, chained to the wall and plugged into an IV, with several wounds and a sprained leg. Unfortunately there is no reception and she while she does struggle to escape, she is unsuccessful.

Eventually someone opens the door and we are introduced to Howard (John Goodman), who built the bunker and claims to have saved Michelle from an apocalyptic event. Despite her pleas to be let go, and at least 2 attempts to escape, Michelle eventually realizes that something has happened above Howards farm. Emmett has also stolen sanctuary in Howards bunker and as the story unravels we slowly learn that this is not a typical thriller or horror movie, and it dances the antagonist between roles of villain and anti-hero rather liberally.

If I were to explain too much more, it would absolutely ruin the movie, so I will say this. If Trachtenberg can make a song from the 1980s both humourous and intensely creepy, then franchise films have a bright future.

 

ProsJohn Goodman owns this role and makes the movie fascinating and terrifying simultaneously. If not for his characterization of a conspiracy theorist proven right, it wouldn’t have the same level of atmosphere.

ConsThe ending is definitely tacked on, and of course, serviceable to it’s predecssor. Which is kind of disappointing, because we all had something different in mind as we got to the final act.

Runtime1 hour 44 minutes.

Points of InterestMary Elizabeth Winstead was the first and only choice for Michelle. John Goodman is seen watching Pretty In Pink at one point in the film, and Molly Ringwald’s character also had seamstress aspirations. The cast members weren’t told the title of the movie during production, to help keep the secret.

I know I listed it as a con, but I feel very strongly that I should clarify that the while the ending is somewhat disappointing, upon a subsequent viewing, I think the studio decision to do what they did actually helps with the ambiguity of John Goodman’s Howard. And also I was pretty much on the edge of my seat the whole time, so that should say something at the very least.

Okay, I think we’re alone now – So I’ll fill you in as to why I really enjoyed this movie. It features all of the intimacy and practical effect gloss of a 1980s horror movie, but with the proper sensitivities of a contemporary self-aware thriller. If want to be surprised this year, watch 10 Cloverfield Lane. Otherwise, I’m out of theories for now.

Tim!

Coatcheck (Kongos, Egomaniac review)

I always hated going to bars where I had to check my coat. Why the hell would I remove my jacket when I was struggling artist/student with minimal funds. Besides that coat check was worth half a pint of beer and I was just teeming with ideas to share with my fellow classmates.

The alcohol was a great way to release those thoughts and flood the room with my all-important vision for the art world and ideation of global citizenship.

I had something of an inflated ego and should’ve just played along with the group dynamic instead.

 

 

 

Kongos – Egomaniac
released June 10, 2016
******** 8/10

Egomaniac

Kongos are a band of brothers, quite literally – Comprised of South-African-Americans Johnny (accordion, keyboards, vocals), Jesse (drums, percussion, vocals), Daniel (guitar, vocals), and Dylan Kongos (bass guitar, lap slide guitar, vocals). Yeah, it’s not just a cool band name, it’s their legitimate surname too.

The brothers grew up in both London and South Africa, but have lived and worked on their art in their established hometown of Arizona since the mid 1990s.

The album starts off quite strong with Take It From Me, already a verifiable single with accompanying music video and that sweet sweet alt rock, hard rock, kwaito combo. You know, the sound that made Kongos a household name throughout Canada a couple of years ago, and which let them taste the Billboard charts of the United States too?

Now if you’ve heard their most popular song Come With Me Now, which came from the preceding album Lunatic, and I seriously doubt you haven’t, you’ll know that there was a very strong kwaito sound back then, that featured accordion and steel guitar, and made that track really cool and adaptive.

Fast forward to today, and first impressions from me were that I really dug the album almost immediately, and a lot of it had to with the lyrics, and harmonies between the brothers shared frontman duties. Autocorrect and Birds Do It stand out quite excellently in the lyrics department.

And Autocorrect reminds me of a July Talk song, which ain’t a bad thing at all.

In the grand scheme of life, it seems to be the case that Kongos are maturing into their strengths and broadening their interests so that they can deliver a more distinguished product. After all, Egomaniac is a concept album about the challenges of egomania. Again they accomplish this and more, drifting between synthesizers, ballads, accordion, bass, and some really sweet hooks. But that might be a byproduct of what happens when you tour with arena rock heroes like AWOLNATION, Imagine Dragons, and Kings of Leon.

It’s odd because I keep struggling with the words to explain how I feel about this album, but I truly do think it’s really cool – that they are capable of producing slower paced songs too, with proper attention given to each track, no matter what the song’s intent and focus, is a demonstration of their staying power.

2 In The Morning opens with what sounds like an edgier version of Brandon Flowers, and while I’m not sure if it’s Danny Kongos voice we hear, it’s quite good and attributed to him. Hey You, Yeah You also has that The Killers vibe to it.

It’s a rare treat when you find a band so self-aware of their strengths and particular voice, and I know I’ve written these words before, but this album is best served as a whole rather than as a sum of its songs.

And that is why Egomaniac won’t receive rave reviews from every critic and his mother – There are no stellar solos or catchy choruses here. But if you’re a fan of the band of brothers, you’ll shred your ego and hope in the trenches with ’em.

 

 

 

If only I had a checked my ego at the door, and had three other brothers with identical talents, I could be part of the Kueflers, an all-Canadian band of visual artists. Wait, I’m doing it again, getting lost in the ego. Gotta stay ground and enjoy the moment.

But that could just be a theory.

Tim!

 

Post-Adolescent Idealism (Formalist Art)

Formalism – what is it? Why does it matter?

Formalism is a philosophy of art.

Let’s consider what formalism espouses then – It is centred around the idea that art should be judged and also created so that value can be derived solely from technical elements. Composition, symmetry, line, colour, and depth are all taken into consideration and then used to understand the work. This of course means that the artists personal pedagogy, beliefs, cultural background, and even technique are not relevant to evaluating the work.

Which is odd, because technique is the application of technical elements, but an argument could be made against theatricality then, so I can see why technique would be omitted.

And if you were to ask one of my professors from the University of Alberta, he would tell you that formalist art is the only TRUE way to look at and enjoy art.

His rationale for this belief is that feelings and emotions about art are difficult to assess, while technical aspects of a work can be very easily addressed and help to identify the strengths of a work against other works as well as determine if said artist/art is worthy of a place in art history.

Or if I were to put it another way, he was very quotable and one of his favourite sayings in response to the statement, “but I don’t like that kind of art”, was always the exact same one – “it’s not about what you like, [insert student’s name].”

For a twenty-something going through his post-adolescent idealistic phase, that statement bothered me very deeply at the time. W teh F.

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I mean, how could I possibly deal with that? Liking things had proved to be useful in other areas of life, and when it came to what was popular in culture as it related to music, movies, and comic books, what I liked (or rather what youth liked) did matter, because it led to new and significant ideas and interests. Also, I was told that formalist was an aspect of modernism, and we were well into post-modernist thought. It was stupid, to put it bluntly, and seemed regressive.

At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

But like anything in life, looking at a subject with black and white ideals, is a non-answer.

On the other side of the coin was post-modernism, and while I don’t want to get into details of post-modern thought versus modernist thought, I was fortunate to be at a university where there were effectively two tenured heads of the fine art program. One a formalist, and the other a conceptualist.

So what does that have to do with defining formalism? Well, I am getting to the point dear readers.

The idea that art should be purely formal is an absurd notion in an age when we have ease of access to both images and video. And interestingly enough, art that is purely conceptual is also impractical because as the playing field levels in a globalist economy, we are all responsible for our share of entertainment, politics, and environment.

Conveniently for us, that means that a moderate approach is likely the best solution for the time being. A transition from aesthetics or ideology to moderate formalism or as I prefer to call it modern craft is definitely the sandbox we should be playing in right now.

According to Nick Zangwill, who wrote a book called The Metaphysics of Beauty in favour of moderate formalism, all art has aesthetic properties, but not all art is defined by its context.

I can buy that for 5 bucks. There is inflation after all.

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What that means for artists is simply this, you should create art that is well made and which you dedicate considerable time in constructing, whether for volume, quality or a combination of both. Ultimately, it will provide you with expertise and ability. If you choose to seek formal education or not, your art will improve over time, and supply you with the aesthetic needed. As to the contextual claims of personal or cultural narrative, you can decide how important that is to your work.

No one has to be defined by their environment. That is the beauty of modern craft. A theory to support the current generation of artists, but not one to define them with. Though it is only a theory at the moment.

But what do you think? Would you rather your work be purely formalist in nature, purely conceptual? Share this with your peers and join the conversation. Otherwise, I’m out of theories for now. I’ll see you tomorrow with a music review about a band of brothers.

Tim!

I #Love My #Dad (Father’s Day)

That’s right, we’re doing my first-ever reaction post to my own post. I’m sure it’s been done before, but this is exciting for me, because I get to refresh you memory about my Mother’s Day post, all while celebrating the fathers in our lives.

Even better for me, because Father’s Day is a very short 3 days away, so there is still time for you to reflect on this holiday before it happens, and hopefully do something meaningful for all the dads you know.

In anticipation of writing this post, I did basically nothing for research, and at first I thought maybe it was because I was tired from the work day, or maybe it was because my girlfriend is working out of town for the summer or maybe it’s because I was scared to write about Father’s Day because we don’t communicate with our dads very easily anymore.

I’m going to share a commercial with you dear readers. This time it won’t be a satire of Mother’s Day, because all of the comedy channels seem just as ill-prepared as I am for this holiday.

See, I promised something of a mirror post, and so far so good.

The ad we just watched explicitly pointed out how disconnected we are from our families, how little time we all appear to be spending on communication and teachable moments.

Dads have always been shown to be the solid figures in our lives, whether they are there for us or not, they are stoic in their presence and reliable. But this Gillette ad uses emotions to prove that all over the world children are leaning more and more on the internet for sage wisdom and less on one of their best real-world teachers, their dads.

I have a theory that the reason why the first few things that come up when you type “Father’s Day” into Google are gift ideas is that we don’t give our dads the real gifts that they would like communication and intimacy. When you go and ask your dad for advice, your giving him an opportunity to share knowledge with you and impart some of his own personality.

A poorly kept secret is that most everyone you and I know will admit that dads are hard to shop for, but while it’s true that many of them don’t want a gift, it’s because they would much rather have an experience with you.

Another reason why I personally think Father’s Day takes a backseat is because it was invented to complement Mother’s Day. And on top of that when Father’s Day initially took off, it only received attention through the promotion of it’s founder Sonora Smart Dodd. When she left to study at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1920s, the holiday faded away.

When Dodd returned to her home town of Spoke in the 1930s, she began to promote the holiday again, this time focusing her efforts and raising awareness at a national level, so that it finally stuck in the United States.

Because we never gave fathers a holiday that was uniquely theirs we assumed that they would figure out how the want to celebrate it. The problem with this logic is that both mothers and fathers are wired to give more than receive after they have children, assuming they are healthy. If we want to celebrate our fathers properly we might need to turn inward and focus on them as individuals, rather than as symbols.

But that’s just a theory.

What do you think? Have I finally gone over the edge? Leave some comments below!  Share! Subscribe! Otherwise, I’m out of theories for the week, I think I’ll take a break and wind down for my own fathers Father’s Day celebrations.

Tim!

 

 

 

Reading Is Hard (Hemingway to Orwell)

Reading is cathartic, or so I’ve heard. You get a psychological release because your mind is allowed to focus on something other than whatever it is that you had decided to be afraid of in life.

To be true to yourself, you have to uncover yourself from all that you thought you should be and finally become that which you truly are. To be courageous and graceful, under pressure. Never fearing death, but living for moments of love and greatness.

Clean and simple prose, that’s what I learned from Ernest Hemingway. He was a declarative writer and one that could turn a phrase without risk of excess.

I’m not sure if you read the first post in The Reading List series, but about a month ago I decided to meta-read The Sun Also Rises, and I learned a thing or two about Ernest Hemingway along the way.

The first thing I learned was that he had a very direct style of writing, and that style had a name – That his Iceberg Theory of writing is a beautiful metaphor for omission. If you know something, and are a strong writer, you can admit parts of a story and be assured that the reader will pick upon what you omitted because the story elements are implicit. To put it another way, icebergs only show a small portion of themselves on the surface of the water, which allows us to understand the whole of them all the better. Unless we are ignorant.

The second thing I learned is that a life half lived is not much of a life at all. Whatever Hemingway’s critics and fans would have us believe about his adventures in journalism, tragedies of war, foray’s into other countries, and personal struggles, Hemingway stood grounded in whatever activities held his attention throughout his life – And writing was the cement that held his house together. This further demonstrates the importance of focus, as an artist, but also enrichment as a human being.

And that is all I have to share on Hemingway for the moment.

Now, I turn back to the reading list for another book to read and another artist to consider. In case you forget, my goal is to read one book a month from 5 particular groupings. The 5 L’s of Language.

  • LIFE – Biographies/Art/Music
  • LOVE – Classic Fiction/Non-Fiction/Graphic Novels
  • LEARN – Business/Leadership/Self-Help
  • LABEL – Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology
  • LEET -The Internet

The author I’m going after this time around is George Orwell, and the novel is 1984. I was born in 1985, and have been influenced greatly by post-modern ideologies and post-apocalyptic stories for as long as I can remember, so I’ve decided to read a story by someone best known for a novel of dystopian life.

His influence on film is of particular note, with Orwellian ideas being explored to varying degrees in several critically acclaimed movies. Fahrenheit 451, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, Soylent Green, Blade Runner, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brazil, They Live, The Matrix, Minority Report, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, and Land of the Blind are all excellent examples.

Whatever you opinion of George Orwell, I’ll spend some time with him so see what I can glean and then share with you, dear readers. After all, reading is cathartic and exercise for the mind.

 

Regardless, I STILL think it’s a pretty neat way to keep myself accountable. But what do you think? I’m out of theories for today, but I hope this wisdom finds you well. Please share, subscribe and comment. Facebook and Twitter are good starting points. Otherwise, I’ll see you tomorrow with something timely.

Tim!