Our Favourite Directors (Cross Talk EP 34)

Chris and I decided long ago that if we were going to do a panel show where we talked about pop culture (focusing primarily on movies) that we would never shy away from a topic, but more importantly, that we wouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable about our feelings when it came to stuff we cared about on a personal level.

When you admit that you care about a person, an object, a place or whatever, you’re offering up an opportunity to another party to challenge you and to consider your point of view. It can be scary when you find out you are the only individual in a room who identifies with a certain board game which basically has no theme or strategy, or that you really like a pop song which is simplistic (primarily due to the musicians ability) or heck, when you like a movie full of even plot holes that it would pair well with some bologna.

But on the other side of the fence, rests those who are so excited about a fandom that they invest far more energy than the average enthusiast, alienating themselves from the vast majority.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure where most of you dear readers will fall when it comes to Darren Aronofsky and Richard Linklater, but these are two of our favourite directors of all time. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which of the two of us identifies with which director. But I will say, that no matter what the case, these are creative professionals who are making interesting films.

Challenging films which just might make you think about the world in a new way. And if timotheories is about digital curating at heart, what better way for me to give you some great insights into quality filmmaking, then to give a strong recommendation for a couple of catalogues to peruse through – no harm, no foul, if you end up walking away. But my gut tells me that you’ll come to appreciate their unique visions. And after you watch this episode, you’ll learn why these are our favourite directors.

This is episode thirty four of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

Were you surprised to learn why we love Aronofsky and Linklater? Do you identify with one director more then the other? And more importantly, have you seen some of their movies, not knowing much about the men behind the camera?

I really hope that you investigate these guys more closely, and that you drew something from their wells of ideas.

That mentioned, creative cuties, you should totally like the video if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you have some thoughts, and subscribe if you want to see more from us! Your support lets us know what we are doing right.

And yes, I have an album review from Vance Joy on the block for tomorrow, so y’all come back to learn a theory about Nation of Two is lovely.

Tim!

You Learn From Your Brothers (Last Flag Flying review)

I think you can learn a lot about an institution from how it’s offspring take off into the world and live their adult lives. This week’s movie review addresses that idea with warmth, drama and humour.

And just like real life, is simultaneously messed and unresolved.

 

Last Flag Flying (2017)

Cast: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 30, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Audience Score 70%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Richard Stuart Linklater is my all-time favourite director. And he’s been my favourite ever since I first watched Waking Life back in 2003 (even though the movie released in 2001). I was barely an adult then, so you might have to cut me some slack on the the time it took me to discover him. Point of fact, Chris and I will be sharing a Cross Talk in coming weeks about our favourite directors, so rather then dig into why I think he’s so amazing as I normally preface these posts, I’ll just share a couple of quick anecdotes now. I’ve reviewed two of Richard Linklater’s films before – Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some. And I recorded that upcoming Cross Talk episode before I watched this movie.

I’ve included the distributors synopsis below and modified it slightly to provide some context…

Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.

Naturalism is one of the major tools in Linklaters belt. He always manages to bring out the best and brightest of mundane aspects of life. Probably my favourite scene from the whole movie is the experience Carell’s character Doc has upon seeing his dead son when he demands that the military personal open the casket up for him. The camera pans out perfectly and we experience the secondhand emotion a third party would have normally by watching the very real and vulnerable grief someone extremely close to the recently deceased emote. I also enjoyed the interactions between Bryan Cranston’s Sal and the Colonel, that desire to challenge authority is common in many of Linklater’s characters.

And finally, the character of Doc appears very grounded in reality, though we never see him fully open up about his feelings, it is obvious how much he struggles with this unexpected turn of events.

Where the movie becomes a problem for me is in the interactions between the three main characters. They have spent a lot of time apart, and by circumstance are suddenly thrown back into each others lives, but it’s difficult to see why they ever got along or supported each other in the first place. This might be a failing on my part in not fully absorbing the awkward tension these men generate attempting to relate to each other after so much time apart. But I hope with subsequent viewings I can get to the bottom of the tone being explored here.

Pros: Linklater always manages to tell a real story, and stir up a ton of emotions running the gamet of the topic at hand. Never fully committing to one viewpoint or arc, he leaves the viewer with the choice to take something from the film or leave it. It’s difficult to swallow during a film about politics, death, and war.

ConsThat said, It does feel kind of superficial at times, and you don’t really believe the relationships these guys had could endure enough to take the road trip. Yes, they are professional actors, and they are all talented enough to sell their individual roles, but somehow it just doesn’t work thematically at all times.

Linklater has proven he can make any kind of movie, but all the elements of the film manage to conflict in such a negative way, it’s tough to accept this as film with his typical calibre of intent. It never feels especially revelatory, only sad and shallow.

And to sound even more contradictory, while I actually think the themes of patriotism, military service, and political ideologies are dealt with in a mature way, I wish at least one of the protagonists had chosen a side and let the film respond to it.

Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Points of Interest: The film is supposed to be a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail. Laurence Fishburne was Richard Linklater’s only choice for the character of Mueller. Principal photography took only 32 days to complete.

The concept is strong, and I can see what Linklater would have been drawn to it in the first place, but in the end it’s not strong enough in each of it’s parts to overcome the challenges presented and commit to a real anti-war message, instead choosing comedy and drama outbursts to convey the consequences.

theories Summarized

Taken together, each of the three protagonists add their own layer to this film about enduring after war-times. Brotherhood is strong, and I am reminded of the film The Deer Hunter, if only because the challenges of psychology, disruption, and resolution echo throughout both films consistently. Showcasing how two or three men raised in the same household (so to speak) could take different paths. It’s a profound statement to make, and as I mentioned earlier, a lesser director would have definitely missed all of the subtleties and disparate viewpoints within the issue. But ultimately, Last Flag Flying falls short for me, and is only a good film, not a great one. And that’s my theory.

That said, I have a really solid Watch Culture video that directly addresses the effects of war on the soul, and it serves as an excellent metaphor for impotence and decay. Surprise, surprise, a comic book movie was able to get an R rating and tell an engaging story. Can’t you tell how excited Mike and Chris are to discuss Logan? I can!

Logan will likely make you cry, but in a good way. And better still, it resolves so many threads of The Wolverine, while paying tribute to Hugh Jackman’s tenure. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

Time Moves Slowly (Boyhood review)

It can be tough to overcome a traumatic childhood. We are slow to realize when things have gone wrong and can even normalize recurring behaviour that we shouldn’t. Closure can be difficult, especially when we have to remember the past and our brains can easily alter our chemistry in order to “protect” us.

That said, the human brain and soul is resilient, and when we consider matters concerning love and emotion, those tragedies of life can become lessons and turn the ugly into something far more beautiful.

 

 

 

Boyhood (2014)

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 6, 2015
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: *****/*****

 

I’ve already told you about Richard Linklater once before. He’s one of the greatest directors of all-time in my personal opinion and he has inspired my imagination in more than one instance. I had originally planned on writing about this new movie Don’t Think Twice this week, but then I found out that it wasn’t available on blu-ray, and I was super bummed. So I decided to pick up Boyhood instead, because I still hadn’t seen it, and boy am I glad that I did. I’ve yet to be disappointed by Linklater, and this movie is no exception.

I’m going to go over the plot as best I can, just to give you a taste for it, but please, please, please do me a solid dear readers, and check this movie out for yourselves. This is a unique movie in the scope of movies in that it takes place over a twelve year period inside the film and was literally filmed with the same actors over a twelve year period in oder to demonstrate the rate of change as one grows up.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited somewhat…

In 2002, eight-year-old Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) live with their single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and watch her fight with her boyfriend. In 2003, Olivia moves the family to Houston, to get a degree and better job. Mason’s father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), visits them and promises to be more involved in their lives. Mason Sr. and Olivia argue about the kids. Olivia takes Mason to class, where Mason sees her flirt with professor Bill.

In 2004, Olivia and Bill have married and blended their two families, including Bill’s children from a previous marriage. They share experiences and learn to get along. In 2005, Mason and Samantha bond with their father. Olivia continues school and is initially supportive of Bill’s strict parenting style, up until the forced cutting of Mason’s long hair. Bill becomes an abusive alcoholic. In 2006, Bill assaults Olivia and endangers the kids, Olivia leaves him and takes her kids.

In 2007, Mason Sr. learns that Samantha has a boyfriend and talks to her and Mason about contraception. He and Mason go camping at Pedernales Falls State Park. In 2008, Mason is bullied by other students at school and teased on a camping trip but starts receiving attention from girls. Olivia teaches psychology at college and moves in with Jim, a student and Bosnian/Iraq War veteran.

By 2009, 15-year-old Mason has experimented with marijuana and alcohol. Mason Sr., who has remarried and now has a baby, takes Mason and Samantha to visit his wife’s parents. In 2010, Mason is lectured by his photography teacher, who sees his potential but a lack of ambition. Mason meets Sheena, who becomes his girlfriend. After a late night, a drunk Jim confronts Mason about partying. Olivia and Jim eventually split up.

In 2011, Mason and Sheena visit Samantha at the UofT, where they share their hopes and fears about college. Samantha’s roommate discovers them asleep together in her dorm room.

In 2012, Mason breaks up with Sheena, wins the silver medal in a state photography contest, and is awarded college scholarship money. Mason Sr. gives him advice about his breakup. In 2013, as Mason prepares to leave his mother’s new apartment for college, Olivia breaks down, disillusioned by how fast life’s milestones seem to have passed by.

At Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Mason moves into his dorm room and meets his new roommate Dalton, Dalton’s girlfriend Barb, and Barb’s roommate Nicole. Mason eats a marijuana brownie given to him by Barb and the group goes hiking at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Nicole shares with Mason her belief that, rather than people seizing moments, moments seize us, to which Mason agrees.

Pros: It is amazing to think that something which is a series of footage taken over a twelve year period has the ability to tell a cohesive story and resonate so strongly what it feels like to grow up. It is ambitious and successful in its aspirations.

Cons: You may struggle to find a tight narrative, and on that account you’d be right. Overall it functions as a series of reflective experiences, it’s only in the credits that we begin to see the connections. The runtime could also potentially take you out of it.

Runtime:  2 hours 45 minutes

Points of Interest: If Richard Linklater died at any point during the shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties. The film was shot over 45 days but because it happened between May 2002 and August 2013, it works out to over 4000 days. Each year of Mason’s life gets approximately 14 minutes of screen time.

It manages to capture several intersecting ideas all at once, the moments in time from the perspective of an estranged father, the string of stepfathers and odd relationships the children and mother endure as she struggles with her responsibilities, the half-remembered experiences of a youth looking back on his life, the highlights of childhood. The time-lapse method is incredibly well served here and could easily be applied to another other member of the family if you seriously spend the time with each character.

Boyhood is experienced predominantly from the perspective of Mason Jr. but I found myself observing MJ’s relationship with his mother and how they interacted with each other quite often as the film progressed. Suffice to say, I think that is intentional on the part of Linklater, asking us to consider the effect that we have on others in our lives no just our own impact upon the world at large. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

I See A Friday, And I Want To Paint It Black (Black Friday pt. 2)

It’s here once again… The most wonderful time of the year.  Another year almost over and a new one about to begin – A new sales year that is.

I see the end of November dear readers, and I get excited. Excited about the prospect of making good buying decisions that will positively impact your personal business as a creative professional, and at this stage of the game, I really don’t think you can afford not to consider Black Friday as part of your business strategy. Whether you are just getting started making and selling your form of art or well into the thick of it, there are peak sales periods where retailers are offering massive savings in order to make enough business for the fiscal year and stay afloat.

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I would say its a rather symbiotic relationship in fact. You get items that you’ve been putting off buying because of the expense, and businesses make enough money so that they can continue to keep the lights on for another year or two.

I wrote another post about this day last year, a more in-depth overview of what Black Friday represents historically and from a cultural standpoint, but this year I wanted to spend a little time on the significance for you, and to give a timely update from my own perspective.

Black Is The New Black

I’ve always been tight fisted with my money. But there have been occasions here and there, where I decided against my impulse to spend money on myself. It’s the paradox of thrift, a theory of economics.

The idea states that an increase in autonomous saving leads to a decrease in aggregate demand and thus a decrease in gross output which will in turn lower total saving. The paradox is, narrowly speaking, that total saving may fall because of individuals’ attempts to increase their saving, and, broadly speaking, that increase in saving may be harmful to an economy.

To put it simply and rather gravely – saving for a rainy day is prudent, but penny pinching breeds a lifetime of poverty. Learning the difference between always living within your means versus always spending more than you have is a difficult lesson, but I will give you this advice, he who never takes risks is guaranteed to stay within his comfort zone.

It’s your responsibility as a creative professional to at least try for your dreams. You’ll never regret trying. To quote one of my favourite movies of all time, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, “things have been tough lately for dreamers. They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It’s not dead it’s just that it’s been forgotten, removed from our language. Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. The dreamer is banished to obscurity. Well, I’m trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day.”

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So dream big and dream often, you creative cuties. I might not be doing much tonight because I’ll be up at the crack of dawn for this sale, but I’m truly living my dreams, so I don’t sleep as much as I used to. But that could just be a theory.

Tim!

Jockstrap-on (Everybody Wants Some!! review)

I kind of hated dating when I was a younger buck. Mostly because of all the hormones, the uncertainty of identity, and dealing with the scores of other impressionable youth who were in the same boat as I.

It was messy and unclear, but giving myself and others roles made it easier to navigate, and in hindsight it probably was the most mature way to deal with the situation.

But hey, I wanted some, and everybody else did too.

 

 

 

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Cast: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Juston Street, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Temple Baker
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray July 12, 2016
******** 8/10

everybodysmall

IMDB: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Audience Score 76%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Richard Linklater is an American filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. He is also one of my favourite directors of all-time. To quote Wikipedia:

Linklater is mostly known for his natural humanist films which mainly revolve around personal relationships, suburban culture, and the effects of the passage of time.

Linklater is responsible for Dazed and Confused (the spiritual predecessor to Everybody Wants Some!!), Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, Waking Life, Boyhood, A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation, School of Rock, and Bernie.

And those are just the movies of his that I’ve seen. I STILL haven’t seen Slacker, SubUrbia, The Newton Boys, Tape, nor Me and Orson Welles. But let’s not talk about The Bad News Bears remake. *shudders*

Influenced by the film Raging Bull, Linklater has always made movies about travelling, whether literal or a metaphor. Never focusing in on one theme or end goal, his movies resolve themselves in a loose way, much like life itself.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a perfect example of this play on suburbia, timing, and relationships. Set in Texas in the fall semester of 1980 and taking place over the first few days of college, we meet freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) as he moves into the house he’ll share with college baseball teammates over the period of his college education.

Sharing the screen time with Jake are his roommate Billy AKA “Beuter” (Will Brittain), teammates Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Dale (Quinton Johnson), Plummer (Temple Baker) and several others.

Over the course of the movie Jake and his new friends cruise the streets to meet women, get competitive over ping pong, basketball, drinking, and other games, and host a couple of parties. Not to mention attending a disco, a country bar, a punk show, AND a theatre house party.

We watch the group dynamic quickly evolves over the weekend, and Jake develops a relationship with Beverly (Zoey Deutch) (one of the women he met while cruising the streets at the outset of the film), it isn’t long before the film closes out with Jake and Plummer in their first class, sound asleep.

ProsLinklater has a delicate touch, and he’s able to inject us into the lives of his characters without giving us a villain to best or a heart to win. He manages to articulate brotherhood and time in such a venerable way, that becomes quite sad when you see the credits roll and realize it’s time to go.

Cons: You do feel tested at times in this experience, wondering if all of this competition really is necessary and if the characters wouldn’t benefit from some breaks in their self-imposed roles.

Runtime1 hour 57 minutes

Points of Interest: Linklater has said that Everybody Wants Some!! is a continuation of Boyhood as it picks up right where that movie left off, conceptually. The original title of the film “That’s What I’m Talking About” is a line from Dazed and Confused, and often quote in this film.

The major takeaway of this movie is that dialogue is at the centre of it. It’s a coming of age tale in a time when masculinity was overtly tied to direct competition. And it demonstrates rather well the challenges that young men face in their conquest of meeting young women, whether that means putting on bell bottoms, adorning a cowboy hat, ripping up a white t-shirt with blood and ash or ultimately (and cleverly on Linklater’s part) putting on a costume to cozy up to the artistic. And he manages to make interest in sports way more nuanced than it’s ever been on film before.

The attitudes these young men hold for themselves, their peers, and women are rather basic at the root, but underneath the costume of jock wearing costume to get a woman, they reveal they are complex and just as lost as the rest of us dumb nerds.

Tim!