#82: Room

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Image via IMDb

I’ve been spending the summer at my aunt’s house in Washington, D.C. and my “room” for these past few months has been the basement. Basements are apparently a normal occurrence on this side of the country, but as a native Californian, I have a distinct repulsion to them. I don’t like the tiny slits for windows, or the way I can hear everyone’s footsteps above my head.

Something I do like is the solitude. That feeling of distinct aloneness – like my own little cave. And it was here, one afternoon, that I splayed across the pull-out bed and took a few hours out of my lazy Monday to watch Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2015), the story of a mother and son – held captive for years in a shed before finally getting their freedom just to realize life isn’t perfect on the outside either.

Yes, Brie Larson is moving and real in this film, but most of my interest came from watching Jacob Tremblay and thinking how exciting it’s going to be to watch his career unfold in the years to come. Telling the story from his child’s perspective gives it an air of wonder and innocence, a particular way of looking at this dark, wrenching story that gives you some lift, a childlike resilience to the things that unfold.

Another thing I appreciated most were those moments of stillness – glances exchanged, characters sitting quietly about their day, seconds of quiet that let us soak in this world – a world we take for granted every day, but a world this child has never seen before.

What else is there to say about this film that critics haven’t already noted? It’s touching and has a lot to say about pain and learning how to heal after a crisis. It’s cathartic in the way films like this are, letting us live through a family’s time of hurt into hope.

Check out Room – and don’t forget your box of tissues.

#48 Gone Girl

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Image via IMDb

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of girl who must read the book before I see the movie. It’s the inherent bookish, literature-loving, would-be novelist in me. Yes, I am of the camp that believes the book is ninety-nine percent of the time better than the movie and I’ve stuck to that over the years.

After I blazed through Gillian Flynn’s suspenseful novel about Nick Dunne helping the police search for his wife Amy when she goes missing on their anniversary, I was thrilled to get a chance to see the filmic representation.

I was a bit hesitant about Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck’s incarnations of Amy and Nick, but they carried the roles flawlessly – Ben infused Nick with all of his naive, clueless nuances, Rosamund made Amy’s crossover from “Cool Girl” to complete psycho feel natural and terrifying with ease. It’s also my personal belief that the supporting characters are the ones who really flesh out the film and make it a truly enjoyable affair. Performances from Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Kim Dickens pushed me into the story, making me a part of the mystery enveloping.

This enveloping of the movie, however, did run a bit long. That feeling from reading the book of hungrily flipping pages to get to what’s next didn’t exactly transfer into the film. Somewhere around the end of the second act, I began to feel how time was stretching on and began to itch for this all to wrap up.

However, the wrap up was far more satisfying than the book’s anti-climactic, somewhat disappointing close. Upon finishing the book, I couldn’t believe that it actually ended like this; it felt like a hurried way to tie up all of the loose ends, but with the film I believed the tragic ending, the way Amy and Nick end up together.

While nowhere near my favorite Fincher film, this was a good one – particularly because of the author’s spectacular writing on the screenplay (for which I thoroughly believe she should have won an Oscar for). Next time you’re looking for a thriller, check out Gone Girl.

Contemplations on Workspace

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I have a growing interest in workspaces – whether its at an actual desk with all of your pens organized precisely how you like them or whether its the way your belongings explode across your section of the table at the local Starbucks.

I pondered workspaces for a while before I decided to take a few snapshots of where I’ve been working for the past couples of weeks – at the dining room table in my aunt’s house.

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I don’t care what anyone says, pink highlighters are the best highlighters.

I’m the kind of girl who likes a lot of space. Cramped desks put me in slight desperation, but with a nice, long table, I can spread out all of my things around me – creating a little fortress for myself out of books and Post-It Notes and the sprawling, tangled earbuds.

And while I can sit at a computer for hours, sometimes I get distracted. OK, I’m very easily distracted. Sometimes, a song on my Spotify playlist invokes ideas for choreography and I have to put it on replay, scribbling down moves and turns and jumps down into the nearest notebook.

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This book is doing a lot to change how I think of narration and picking a voice in which to tell a story.

Other times, I just need a change of pace. In that case, I keep books nearby. Currently, I’m reading Girl, Interrupted, White is For Witching, and Infinite Jest (this one’s giving me some real trouble. Like, where are your paragraphs??).

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At my school, there’s a cafe where you can get an Earl Grey milkshake and it literally changed my life.

And when the muse strikes me (or, more likely, fails to strike, but I muster up the courage to write anyways), I must always have a mug of something hot to drink while I write. When I’m feeling particularly uninspired, that’s strong coffee with three heaping spoonfuls of sugars at the least. If it’s a foggy day and I’ve got a wealth of stories bursting inside my head, a nice steaming cup of Earl Grey will do.

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I have a terrible track record for earbuds. I bought these in a 2-pack for $5. Still going strong.

And of course, music. Sometimes, I set a playlist up for whatever I’m trying to write. Sometimes, I just let the music play – setting the beat for the speed with which I tap at the laptop keyboard. I can’t work without music. In fact, how can anyone work without music?

So, what does your workspace look like?

#78: Creed

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Image via IMDb

The other day, me, my cousins, and some of their friends, took a trip to an outdoor movie theater where the showing of the evening was Creed. Of course, there are many benefits and drawbacks to outdoor films (one of the drawbacks being the incredibly noisy group of women behind us). I’ll have to watch Creed up close and personal eventually, of course, but here is a post detailing my first impressions anyways. Here’s the trailer:

Now, I haven’t seen Rocky – I know, I know, it’s on the list. I was worried about that until halfway into the movie where I didn’t think you really needed to see Rocky in order to understand the stakes of Creed – which is nice. I loved the appearance of Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed and I’m quite a fan of Tessa Thompson (even though her seemed like a viable Zoe Kravitz rip-off for the entire film). I’m also such a fan of boxing movies. There’s something so pure, straightforward, and motivating about the films and their formula.

But that’s also where part of the problem comes in. It’s a formula. Just like many of the superhero movies studios have been spinning out, this movie was in no ways difficult to follow. Sure, it was enjoyable, but when I left, I didn’t feel as if I was taking anything new with me.

And for some other, sort of minor issues: what was up with Creed’s opponent’s accent? Did he need to have an accent? It didn’t particularly seem vital to the story – just sort of inconvenient. Another issue I had – the graphic stats that popped up maybe twice throughout the entire movie to give you a lot of information you didn’t really need. Who made that decision?

All in all, it was an enjoyable film. Michael B. Jordan is gorgeous, Sylvester Stallone is endearing, and I left the movie ready to join a gym. If you’re looking for that feel-good film to pass an evening with, check out Creed.

#30 Die Hard

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Image via IMDb

Die Hard.

People kept telling me to watch John McTiernan’s 1988 film. You have to see it, they said, with that deep-rooted urgency as if the continuation of my life depended on watching this movie. And I’d glimpse the cover and skim the IMDb profile, listening to the comments that this was The Best Christmas Movie ever.

I’d watch this trailer and think, Sure. Sure, it is.

Then, I watched it.

The setup is flawless. A bunch of highly trained villainous thieves masquerading as terrorists and Bruce Willis – barefoot, scruffy, with a single gun and a whole lot of questions about why he even came to this party.

Alan Rickman is fantastic in this film, Bruce Willis spouts line after line of golden quotables, and the lovely balance between brutality (men getting shot at point blank range with blood spatter everywhere) and humor (the fact that there’s a character named Argyle who spends the entire film solo-partying in the back of a limousine) is masterful and vastly entertaining.

After watching this movie, I wondered – why aren’t all action movies like this? Not following the same formula per se, but constructed with all of the care and fun given this film. Instead of flashy cuts and impossible stunts, why can’t we make more films that are as grippingly suspenseful, hilarious, and beautifully paced just like this one? A question I pose to action film directors and writers everywhere.

And yes. I agree. Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever.

My Latest Obsession: Sunglasses

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If you live somewhere where the sun is out all the time (cough cough, where I live), then you need a rocking pair of sunnies to be the icing on the cake of your already fabulous. And if you’re having one of those days where you just roll out of bed and throw on your super-comfy-and-acceptable-for-public outfits, a pair of sunglasses is the only real accessory you need as you’re running out the door. Thanks again Polyvore for the wonderful collage-building website.

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#69: Amadeus

movies, Uncategorized
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Image via IMDb

This film that shows the last ten years of Mozart’s life told years later by his rival Salieri won eight Oscar awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Makeup.

And I was … well, sort of underwhelmed. But before I dig into what I did and didn’t like about the film, here’s the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7kWQj9FCGY

First, with what I did like, because there was definitely a lot to love about this movie. The music, for one. The music was gorgeous. And more than just the music – the performances accompanying the music was fantastic. Regardless of the length, I couldn’t look away. I wanted to sink into the opera and relish all of it. The characters, I adored: Wolfgang, Salieri, and Constanza were all brilliantly played. The costumes were rich and gorgeous and the sets magnificent.

And now, for what I didn’t particularly like. It was long. Three aching hours long. And it felt like five hours to me. I kept glancing at my clock – which I rarely ever do while watching movies – wondering, when is this going to end? You’d think that with so much time, every last scene, every little performance would need to be absolutely necessary to conveying the story, but for many of the scenes, I didn’t see why they needed to be so long or be there at all.

Furthermore, there was nothing particularly clever in the shooting of the film that captured me either. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve been watching certain films that do so many pleasant things with composition and camera movement (Drive. I mean, that film is gorgeous), I was getting so bored with the cut here, cut there, cut to this person, cut back to that person …

Will I watch it again? No. Most likely not. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I rather did. Would I recommend it to someone else? If you like period pieces, music, and are willing to carve out a big chunk of time for an Academy Award winning film, then by all means, yes.

#1: Drive

movies, Uncategorized
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Image via IMDb

In Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive, written by Hossein Amini, a nameless Hollywood stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night (Ryan Gosling) strikes up a friendship with the girl next door – Irene (Carey Mulligan): taking her and her young son out on drives while the woman’s husband sits locked up in prison. When her husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home, the Driver helps him pull a job to keep Irene and her son safe. When the job goes wrong, what follows is nothing but violence. And I mean real bloody violence.

There’s so much to talk about in this film, from the music to the composition, but what I really want to focus on is the use of color. Spoilers coming up, so just be prepared. Check out the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe6eOqheva8

In a film full of cool colors, the presence of red represents an invasion on the Driver’s self-contained lifestyle, leading him to violence and eventually his own destruction. Let’s look at this proven by places, people, and the Driver himself.

The film is full of places splashed in red: from Nino’s Pizzeria (Nino being the guy behind the bloody mess the Driver’s in), the hallway between Irene and the Driver’s apartments, the restaurant where the Driver and Bernie have their last conversation before their deaths, and the Driver’s own bed sheets. But, I want to take a look at my favorite shot. Irene’s kitchen.

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This is the first place Irene and the Driver have a real discussion, but before their relationship can even begin to form, there’s a massive obstacle in the way – shown by the massive tiled red wall. In the center of this wall is a picture of Benicio and his father – Irene’s husband – Standard. You can interpret the entire progression of the film from this one scene. The Driver will never be able to hold a place in Irene’s life – symbolized by her home – because of the violent events following the Driver’s involvement with Standard.

This involvement with Standard is also my favorite visual representation of red and a person, but before I look at Standard and the color red, let’s take a moment to acknowledge Irene is always in red. In fact, the very first time we see her, before she and the Driver even interact, she’s wearing a red shirt. Although it’s Standard that eventually leads the Driver into a world of violence, Irene is the only reason he got involved. She’s the catalyst that allows violence to enter into the Driver’s life.

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Standard’s character holds an interesting color study. The first time we meet him, he’s framed against an orange wall with a red balloon to his left and a red carpet to his right. He’s wearing cool colors – hinting at his attempt to go straight this time around after his release from prison. However, his background tells a different story – that his life is and will always be awash in violence. The next time we see Standard, he’s beaten up and covered in blood – confirming what the previous scene set up. After this, Standard is only seen wearing cool colors. However, there are still traces of blood on his face, in his hair. He can’t escape it. When he finally dies a bloody death, it’s the ultimate payoff for the use of red and his character.

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Image via Pinterest

For the Driver, he spends half of the movie in cool colors: blue shirts, jeans, and of course his silvery bomber jacket with the yellow scorpion patch on the back. The turning point comes after the attack in the motel room. After everyone in the room is dead, the Driver’s face appears covered in fresh blood. From this point on, the rest of his life is nothing but violence and blood.

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To illustrate this, the very next scene takes place in a room with red walls and a red carpet as the Driver violently threatens Cook – the man who double-crossed him and got Standard killed. This threatening encounter is followed by the Driver violently kicking a man’s face in – as Irene looks on. This scene, ending with blood splattered on the Driver’s previously pristine jacket – locks in his fate. He’s inextricably tied into this mess. Irene is no longer an option for his future. The only way out now is through violence.

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However, this way out isn’t achieved by the Driver inflicted violence on others, but by being stabbed himself. It’s only when everyone else is dead that Irene and Benicio can be safe; this includes the Driver’s death. His peace, and the film’s end, only comes about after he’s been stabbed and he sits in his car, driving down the road, slowly bleeding to death.

What I’m Listening to This Week

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I promise, even though I haven’t been making these posts super regularly, I have been listening to music. So here’s what I’ve been jamming out to lately:

Song: Bad Love

Artist: Caitlyn Scarlett

Best Lines: She won’t stop till she figures out what is fate, because she wants one/The loneliness drives her to the wrong one

Why You Should Listen: This song is about engaging in toxic relationships – whether they be romantic or friendship.So, why should you listen? Well for one, we’ve all been here. Or maybe that’s just me. Nope, it’s all of us. Caitlyn Scarlett’s song is like the best friend – the good friend – who gives you all the right advice. Maybe you’ll listen since it’s to a killer beat. Also, this video is gorgeous, right?

 

Song: River

Artist: Bishop Briggs

Best Lines: Shut your mouth/Baby stand and deliver

Why You Should Listen: The first time I listened to this song, I immediately listened to it twenty more times – no joke. It’s my perfect mix of eerie, raw, and epic. Between the heavy beats, her gorgeous vocals, and that bass in the back gets me every time. This video is weird AF, but I sort of love it.

 

Song: Young & Stupid

Artist: Travis Mills ft. T.I.

Best Lines: Don’t need money when you got good weather (Amen to that)

Why You Should Listen: I do not advocate for stupidity, nor am I the biggest fan of hot girls dancing around in their bras (welcome to every video ever). But this song has a great groove and reminds me not to take myself so seriously. Also, this video is making me real homesick for LA.

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong

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Image via IMDb

Written and directed by Emily Ting (shoutout to my female directors!), Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong follows two nights spent between Ruby, a Chinese American visiting Hong Kong and Josh, an American expat now living in the city. It’s available on Netflix and you can check out the trailer here:

I thought this moving was absolutely wonderful. It’s fun, the chemistry here is real and not some forced Hollywood nonsense. The pair – Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg – are incredibly engaging; they’ve got to be since they’re essentially the only characters in the movie. Their conversations flowed from silly to social commentary effortlessly juxtaposed against gorgeous shots of the city, making you feel as if Hong Kong was it’s own character entirely. But more than all of this, this movie captured that feeling of meeting the right someone at the wrong time and attempting to navigate that territory while staying true to yourself. Plus, the ending was fantastic!

Some people may attribute to this film nothing more than an excellent, fun rom-com for a girls’ night in, but I think it’s an important step in changing the industry of filmmaking. Writer and director Emily Ting’s brings us characters who are unabashedly steeped in their culture. Jamie Chung’s characters isn’t just some girl whose ethnicity serves to diversify the film and that’s important and so valuable. I look forward to seeing more film like this in the future!