Saturday, July 31, 2010

What's in a name? Arthur in Inception

Continuing with a series digging into the names of the characters from Christopher Nolan's film Inception, I have struggled in my research behind the meaning of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Arthur.

I've looked to see if anyone is talking about this character name and have been unimpressed with the one or two analysis' that flippantly throw out the idea that the Arthur character could be referencing King Arthur of the classic legend.

Sure King Arthur was a leader, as the Inception character Arthur also is in many ways, but where the film Arthur leads in subtly as the point man, the King Arthur leads out of title, strength, and clear authority. Additionally, I just have a hard time finding a connection between these two characters.

In fact, as I've researched for some time I've discovered other potential name sakes, such as Arthur Honneger the composer who's steam train musical score, and associated video, Pacific 231, certainly has a connection to a train motif in the film. But like King Arthur, Honneger's score and film are not enough of a connection.
Arthur C. Clarke

Instead, I think the character Arthur pays homage to novelist and scientist Arthur C. Clarke (pictured above).

Clarke's fame stretches from writing sci-fi classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey; non-fiction science writing like The Exploration Of Space; his Nobel Peace Prize nominations; his work influencing the name of space craft; and an Oscar nomination shared with Stanley Kubrick.

Arthur C. Clarke seems just like the type of person that Nolan would want to memorialize in the form a character in the film, largely for his creativity when it came to his writing about the future, technology, consequences and rules associated with the dynamic nature of progress, and a boundless universe.

Beyond general themes there are two of Clarke's works I believe are worth mentioning.

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Clarke alongside their writing of the 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick.
One of the qualities of this film and story is that I find it's vagueness and open ended nature and gaps similar in style in many ways to those we find in the film Inception. Granted, the pacing is quite different the discussions and thoughts are not.

Additionally, there are certain images from 2001 and Inception that I personally find quite similar. One is the hibernation that the characters undergo in 2001 as they travel to their destination seems like a very similar image to the travelers that are sleeping in there dream states.

Similarly, in the dream that takes place in the hotel, which is truly the playground for the Arthur character's best scenes, there is such a similar feeling to me between the floating gravitational feel of 2001. Particularly the way the Kubrick film portrays zero gravity seems very similar, particularly some of the cinematic views in this film (as pictured, right). The famous floating pen scene comes to mind as well from the film with the Blue Danube Waltz playing in the background.

It is these connections, that I feel like make Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character most appropriately named after Arthur C. Clarke.

The Light of Other Days

In the year 2000, Arthur C. Clarke's last novel The Light of Other Days co-authored with Stephen Baxter came out.

I think in sharing some plot details some very strong connections and inspirations for Inception could become clear.

The Light of Other Days deals with worm hole technology that allows light waves to be used to get into other people's minds, spying on people and their most internal and secret thoughts, eliminating privacy and allowing people to get into people's minds to know anything. While the book allows for the space-time continuum to be breached so that time can be explored into the far past, the concept of getting into someones minds and knowing their secrets is obviously a big part of Inception, and Leonardo DiCaprio's character as an extractor. Nolan used dreams instead of worm holes.

The main characters of Clarke's final novel bear some strong similarities to Robert and Maurice Fischer and their relationship. First off, the main character Hiram Patterson is the CEO of an Energy Company who's goal is to monopolize the energy industry by using his light ray technology to find the collective energy history of the world. Remember, Maurice Fischer, like this character Hiram, was also the CEO of an energy company.

The interpersonal relationship in the story largely focuses on his relationship with his son Bobby who in many ways is manipulated (scientifically and socially) in order to form his son into the perfect heir to take over his energy company. This connection with the plot element of Inception is certainly very clear to those who have viewed the film (it may also be another reason for using the name Robert, which could be shortened to Bobby, in the film for Robert Fischer Jr.)
Is Arthur's character in Inception named after Arthur C. Clarke? While I have not seen that theory proposed elsewhere, I can't imagine any better connection. Not only does this seem intentional, it seems particularly relevant to Gordon-Levitt's character and this story.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's in a name? Eames in Inception

Nolan's reach and creativity in creating playful references in the character names in Inception is quite enjoyable. Like the name Ariadne, used for Ellen Page's character, the name Eames seems clearly referencing only one person...or shall we say two? Eames seems to clearly be a reference to husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames.

I have chosen the picture above from the most recent episode of Mad Men, "Public Relations" (season 4, episode 1) where the characters are sitting in the Eames designed Herman Miller Time Life chair designed in 1959 for the American National Exhibit in Moscow (source).

Charles & Ray Eames in many way are most known for their revolutionary design in chairs, but are also famous for a variety of artful endeavors from their iconic home design, graphic work, and their work in the film editing, producing, and directing.

In the film Inception, Tom Hardy plays a character named Eames, who is easily a reference to these artists.

Tom Hardy's character, Eames (pictured directly above), has a unique role in the film as "The Forger." As the forger, Eames' primary role is to take on the form of another person, taking on their look, their mannerisms, style, voice, and overall persona.

In watching a 1956 NBC special where Eames lounge chair was introduced, I was struck by a conversation a couple minutes in where Charles Eames talks about how he considers himself an architect, and how he applies architecture to everything from chairs to dresses.

I found this striking, and particular could see how this concept could relate to the Eames character in Inception. Sure, Eames (Tom Hardy) is not the one who's laying out the cities, but he is designing some of the most important details inside the world.

Also, as a film maker, particularly short films, two Eames films seem worth mentioning, probably his two most famous. The first is Toccata for Toy Trains which takes toy trains and designs a video where these trains and associated toy people and scenes all move along in a fantasy world to a toccata by Elmer Bernstein. There is certainly a playful connection between this short film and the worlds that are created in Inception. Not to mention, like my theory on Saito's character (Ken Watanabe) I don't think we can under estimate illusions to trains in Inception.

Additionally, Eames also made a well known short film called Powers of Ten this video is pretty impressive for it's 1968 creation where it shows the impact of consecutive powers of ten moving out into the galaxy, and then coming back into the tiniest of matter.





To me it is easy to see the playfulness with which this 9 minute video can correlate with the concept of time as it relates to the dreams within dreams.

It's also interesting to note the video Powers of 10 is narrated by Phillip Morrison, the MIT astrophysicist famous for among other things his work on the Manhattan Project as well as ground work for the SETI projects.

Clearly there is so many potential references that I am sure Christopher Nolan is pretty pleased with his use of the name Eames for this character. I'm not sure if Eames would call themselves "forgers" in the traditional sense, but as unique twentieth century artists the reference is artful in itself.

What's in a name? Robert Fischer Jr. in Inception

Bobby Fishcer, Chess Grandmaster


Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer Jr., Energy Heir and 'The Mark'

As I've looked at the names chosen by Christopher Nolan for his characters in Inception, one can't help but see the similarities between the name Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) and chest genius Bobby Fischer.

As I explore this connection, be warned, this post cannot be written without some spoilers.

Now, there is the possibility that Nolan may have chosen this name due to the one of a handful of modern artists named Robert M. Fischer or Rob Fischer, or similar variations, but despite the fact that these men have crafted some impressive modern art, I don't think that the connection between the character of the young energy heir and these modern artists make sense. The connection would only be that these artists create unique worlds, as we also go into the world of Robert Fischer Jr. in Inception.

Bobby Fischer (pictured top) is of course a great chess master, who captivated the world with his game play, logic, and mastery at a young age. The youth element in both of these characters is certainly a similarity.

I'll admit some potential stretches...but I believe there is something here, consider this in part a brainstorming session.

Black & White

The film character is deemed "the mark" the person whom is supposed to have the inception planted. Granted, there's different theories here of what is going on, but assuming that these dreams are all a part of Fischer jr's mind, then it should be interesting to note that perhaps Nolan uses this imagery in the fact that Fischer's subconscious precept ions are first all in black and later all in white. Perhaps when it is black he is fighting off this "white side" and then in the arctic hospital dream he is suddenly joined the side that is accepting the potential inception.

Disconnect from Fathers

Bobby's father story is a little unique, including later discussions and theories about whether the Father on his birth certificate is actually his true father. In the film Inception there is no doubt who the father is, although where film Robert felt isolated from his father, chess Bobby apparently did as well.

Family Legacy

'Chess Fischer' seems to have had a strained or at least unique view of family, particularly in his Anti-American and anti-Jewish comments he made in his lifetime...Bobby's family was American immigrants and his mother was Jewish. While 'Film Fischer' does not critic his family, his relationship with his family is quite strained, and the ultimate goal of the inception is for him to disrupt his Father's entire life's mission by breaking a part the company.

Endgame: Rook, Bishop, Pawn

Possibly going way too far, but worth a head spinning if you're interested. Bobby Fischer's famous endgame strategy often involved a Rook (Castle), bishop, and pawns. Now, Ellen Page's character (Ariadne) used a chess piece, a Bishop, for her totem...is there any high castle and Page's assistance (Bishop) that plays a significant role in an endgame in the film? Yes, indeed.

Iceland

Bobby Fischer died in exile in Iceland. The character Robert Fischer dies in the Ice/Snow dream as well.

Chess: Complexity & Systems

Obviously Chess as a whole serves as a good analogy for some of the action of what is going on. There are rules and order, pieces that move diagonal, straight, or one space at a time. This film creates a system of order as well and to allude to this with a character named Robert Fischer Jr. is simply fun and playful.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's in a name? Saito in Inception

I have a hard time believing that Christopher Nolan would place such an obviously connected name like Ariadne into his film, and not have meanings and connections associated with the other bizarre names chosen in this film. Although, perhaps the connections are not quite as clear.
I do have a theory for the use of name Saito, the character played by Ken Wantanabe. (**note, I also consider Ken Wantanabe to be Suri Cruise's real father...but that's another theory)

Saito is a popular surname, and there are a number of famous Japanese that bare this name, although I think this name choice for Inception comes from a connection to a popular film character.

Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai

In the Oscar winning film, Sessue Hayakawa was nominated for his role as Colonel Saito (pictured above).

Saito plays a very harsh domineering Colonel over a Japanese camp, where he forces American and British prisoner's to aid in building an important bridge for a train during WWII.

Saito shows no regard for the rules established by the Kyoto protocol, requiring all men to provide manual labor on the bridge.

In Saito's mind, it is very clear that there are only two results, success and failure. If you succeed you live, and if you fail, your only choice is to commit ritual suicide.

As just one part of a very exciting climax to the film, Saito is stabbed and killed.

Saito in Inception

If Colonel Saito is the one who is driving the mission and pushing the schedule to make sure that the bridge get's built, Inception's Saito is the same unstoppable driver in this film as well.

Not only is Saito over the mission, not only is he aggressive in his nature, he is also anything but hands off, and makes a point to be a long for the journey, to make sure it goes as planned. (Although, he's initially deemed 'The Tourist' in the mission). This emphasis on being along for the journey and his role through the different levels of dreams certainly plays it's own role, but there is certainly a similarity between the drive of these two men.

Not only that, Saito's set up of having Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the plane to LA sets him up for a succeed or fail situation much as we see in the scenario set up by Colonel Saito in Bridge on the River Kwai.

And if this is Nolan's intention, surely the 1957 British WWII film has two images that seem appropriate to this film. One is the bridge, which we see in this film as part of "the kick" in one dream, and then of course, there is also the train image, which we also see in these two films. Although, not necessarily associated with Saito's character.

Was this connection and naming between these two characters intentional, or perhaps the reference is different? It's a little less clear than the Ariadne connection, but to me this seems like a rational thought in the Inception name game.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's in a name? Ariadne in Mythology & Inception

Ariadne is certainly a unique name for a character, and the choosing of this name for Ellen Page's character is no accident.

As Ellen Page is the architect, praised for her ability to make mazes, her Greek name sack shares such similarities.

Ariadne in Mythology

Ariadne is a part of ancient Greek mythology. The common mythology about Ariadne is that she falls in love with Theseus (the founder-King of Athens), and helps him destroy her half-brother Minotaur.

Minotaur, with the head of a bull and the body of a man, dwelt in the center of a complicated labyrinth, a maze that protected him. Ariadne provided Theseus with a sword and a ball of red fleece to leave a trail for himself so that upon killing the minotaur he could find his way to freedom out of the labyrinth.

Ariadne would then go to marry Theseus. Most accounts, for various reasons have Theseus abandoning Ariadne while she was sleeping, leaving her to be swept away and wed by Dionysus (the popular god of wine, theater, fertility, and celebration).

Ariadne in Inception
The story of Inception has it's own mazes and paradoxical questions, but it is clear that this character naming was a excellent play on mythology to give one of my favorite character's in the film a name with fantastic allusions.

There's blinding allusions to this story in the puzzle solving, mazes, and even the sleep story, but I think those connections only go so far.

Although it is striking that like Ariadne, she is not the one who kills the minotaur, but rather provides him the tools to kill the beast as well as provide a way out. Perhaps there in lies the deepest meaning as it relates to this story.

Where I think you'd wish these illusions would provide some even deeper inner clues to the story, you only get a nugget here. At the same time, reflecting on this naming further demonstrates the art and care that went into this story.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ranking the Performances in Inception

Inception is sure to be one of the leading film at this years Oscars with a high nomination tally, but I wouldn't expect it to garner any attention for it's performances.

And it's not so much that the performances are weak, but...it's not quite that type of film.

I recall when the cast was being announced, and just that thought of some of these actors and actresses being in a film together was pretty crazy...when else would Ellen Page be in a movie with Marion Cottilard?

I think the magic of these characters in the great casting, that some how just fits just right and the character are supporting the film, as opposed to stealing attention for themselves. This is fantastic.

With that in mind...I thought I would rank my favorite performances in Inception. Feel free to share your own favorites.

1. Ellen Page, Ariande - I love the scene where she is in architect for the first time. She has that brave genius trouble-maker thing going for her that works so well. The only draw back here is some sappy emotional lines with Leo, but I'm not blaming her.

2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Arthur - Maybe it's his fight scenes in the hotel that just seem so amazing, that it's not really Joey's acting at all that leaves you in awe, but rather some scenes that are shot so wonderfully and stylized. How could Gordon-Levitt not also seem great in these scenes?

3. Marion Cotillard, Mal - She might not get awards for this film, but that scene of her on the landing of the hotel will be shown again and again. People will say, who's Cotillard and they will not remind you of her Oscar win for La Vie en Rose, they will remind you of her performance as "Mal."

4. Tom Hardy, Eames - Hardy as the "forger" is really quite entertaining, provides enough comical relief to relieve the pressure and provides what turns out to be a surprisingly good performance.

5. Dileep Rao, Yusef - Who is this guy? A role in Avatar and now Inception? Clearly carries so important scenes himself and I can't picture anyone else.

6. Ken Wantanabe, Saito - And to think Gordon-Levitt got the Crouching Tiger moves? Wantanabe is consistent and makes much of what is an important but somewhat limited role.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio, Cobb - He gets the job done. And seems like respectable casting for the role. Some of the suppressed emotion came across kind of weird, but it was what it was, I suppose.

8. Cillian Murphy, Robert Fischer Jr. - Convincingly gullible.

9. Tom Berenger, Browning - Could definitely play more roles like this in the future, I feel like this part is definitely one that's out there, and he could do it again.

10. Michael Caine, Miles - His performance isn't poor, just way too limited to trump any of these others.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pepper...Ned Pepper...Barry Pepper

So with Angelina Jolie's film Salt debuting and my recent post on the 1969 version of True Grit. It's only appropriate to talk about it's long standing table-side companion...Pepper...that gritty black deeply flavorful stuff that is often associated with salt.

Actually I wanted to talk about the role of Ned Pepper in True Grit. The role of this most dangerous outlaw rebel-gang leader in the original film was played by Robert Duvall...an under 40 pre-Godfather, pre-Apocalypse Now, pre-Anything he's known for Duvall.

Interestingly bizarre in the Coen Brother's remake of True Grit due out later this year...the role of Ned Pepper is going to be played Barry Pepper (most known for ensemble roles alongside Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile, also the TV movie *61).

And this is really what I want to say...how strange is it that Barry Pepper is playing Ned Pepper?

I don't know about you but this could be distracting. That is a lot of Pepper.


Pictured: Pepper & Salt; Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper (1969); Barry Pepper in his Saving Private Ryan, he will be Ned Pepper (2010).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

True Grit (1969) - Highs & Lows

My experience with the American Western film is very limited, so my John Wayne viewing is as well.

My experience with the Coen Brother's on the other hand is the opposite. Me and the Coen's have spent a fair amount of time together.

With that in mind, I made sure to get my hands on the John Wayne classic film, True Grit (based on the Charles Portis novel with the same name).

I must say I entered my viewing of this film with some high expectations and left...with, well...a muddled feeling.

Here's some highs & lows of this 40+ year old film. (some light spoilers may be included...but hey...it's 40 years old...so...there you go)

HIGH - John Wayne as Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn. I don't know who else could have played this role, it's hard to imagine that this film is adapted because it seems pretty clear that the role was made for Wayne.

MIXED - John Wayne wins Oscar for role as Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn. Wayne does a good job but in a way his win here seems like one of those wins we see today for "America's Sweethearts." Wayne's certainly not a sweet heart, but perhaps this nomination and film seemed like his chance to be considered an Oscar winner.

LOW - Kim Darby as Mattie Ross - Okay so she's probably the right person for this part, and she pulled it off I suppose, but either her or the character she plays is so annoying that with the exception of those couple perfectly comical lines, she's absolutely painful to watch as John Wayne's co-star.

MIXED - On Location Filming - The film's scenes and sets are quite beautiful, with diverse Colorado backdrops of snow capped mountains and Aspen trees yellowing in the fall. The only problem...the film references locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma as the setting...can't quite say the Ouray, Colorado looks like Oklahoma's Native territories.

LOW - Bad 1969 Music - Music should compliment the film, not distract from the film. I don't think it's Elmer Bernstein's fault that the score for this film seems so out of place, or even that the Oscar nominated song "True Grit" (singer Glen Campbell, lyrics Don Black) is so out of place in this Western. This song "True Grit" is honestly not that far off in sound (or awkwardness) to it's Oscar winning rival from the same year: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Who ever thought that songs like these belonged in a Western cowboy flick?

HIGH -Duvall & Hopper as supporting players - You always enjoy watching older films when big name stars have smaller roles before they were recognized for top billing. This film has a bizarre performance by Dennis Hopper and a great Robert Duvall role that certainly make this film enjoyable as a surprise delight.

OVERALL - Glad I watched it, but watched mostly keenly interested to see how the Joel and Ethan Coen Brother's have reimagined this story. Jeff Bridges seems like a great choice for the role iconicly played by John Wayne and there are certain scenes in this film that I can easily see having that "Fargo/No Country feel." I'm weary of remakes, but can see this being a fresh reinterpretation rather than just a copy of a copy of a copy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 as a film (the 1966 version & the maybe-some-day version)

Talking about Frank Darabont and his potential project The Long Walk, inspired me to dig deeper into another project Frank Darabont has long been attached with...that is an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451.

Like most projects Hollywood's involved with (copies of copies of copies), this book has already been adapted to the screen before by the famous French director Fran├žois Truffaut.

I've seen a few Truffaut films (the standards like The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim), and so was surprised to see this Truffaut film not only in English, but in color as well.

This film had a number of very creative elements, for example, the spoken opening title credits or the use of Julie Christie in the same role of two very different characters. While at the same time, I have to be honest, it was a little bit...I guess, I'll say, inaccessible. It wasn't quite an entertaining film, rather an artful adaptation.

All that to say, I can see why Frank Darabont has been trying to cast Tom Hanks in the title role (a role that when a remake was discussed over 15 years was associated with Mel Gibson). But I think it would take some fantastic writing and visual story telling to make this story really succeed in a film form...which may be way this classic has taken so long for it's potential studio green light.

All that to say, I have to imagine a new film imagining of this work will come to life...whether it will be by Darabont and any time soon, now that is another question.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

500,000,000

The other day when I wrote about Mark Zuckerberg and the film The Social Network, I was reluctant in my description of the Facebook's number of users, and reluctantly wrote "over 400 million active users."

My hesitance was because I figured the 500 million figure sited on posters wasn't quite true, but soon-to-be true.

Today is the day it was announced that Facebook has 500 million active users.

That's pretty insane...I've posted the population of the world's 5 most populous countries to give an idea of how much is 500 million. It's pretty crazy that the active users on Facebook is equal to all people in the United States and Brazil combined.

Crazy!

How big will the number of active Facebook users get?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reel People: Jesse Eisenberg is Mark Zuckerberg

The film is The Social Network, directed by David Fincher (after his Academy Award attention for the Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The film about the founding of Facebook and it's subsequent challenges is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich. The screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin.

Mark Zuckerberg

As the youngest billionaire in the world (currently 26), Zuckerberg's rise to fame and fortune came from a popular social network site he created at Harvard in February of 2004.

Prior to the launch of what became far bigger than surely Zuckerberg ever imagined, the Jewish student was born in White Plains, New York (May 14, 1984).

In school, Zuckerberg not only excelled in computer programming at an early age, but also classics and the study of Latin. It was this interest in classics that led to Zuckerbeg's ability to be transfered to Phillips Exeter Academy where he finished out his pre-college education.

Zuckerberg did create during this time a music program called Synapse which led to AOL's attempted purchase as well as the offer for Zuckerberg to work at AOL, this offer was declined so that he could attend college at Harvard.

While at Harvard, decided to take the idea of the Exeter "Facebook" and apply the concept as a web-based program to be used by students at Harvard. Zuckerberg designed this program alongside fellow students Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin.

Upon the success he allowed it to spread to other Universities (first other Ivy League universities like Stanford, Columbia, Brown & Yale).

Zuckerberg would then move out to Palo Alto with friends, including Maskovitz. After the Summer in Palo Alto, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to continue to pursue Facebook.

Sean Parker, who was a cofounder of Napster became the president of Facebook when the company was incorporated in 2004 after being an informal adviser for the team launching the website.

With the sucess of Facebook, lawsuits and claims followed, the most famous that of a group of Harvard Students (Nishita Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss) claiming that Zuckerberg was to help them build a website called HarvardConnection.com. This case filed in 2004 was settled in 2008 with a $65 million settlement.

Zuckerberg today continues to work with Facebook, and retains 24% ownership of the powerful and influential website with over 400 million active users and a growing revenue base.

The Social Network

The film The Social Network not only stars Eisenberg and Zuckerberg, but also features roles for the other Facebook co-founders. Andrew Garfield will play Eduardo Severin and Joseph Mazzello plays Dustin Moskovitz.

Justin Timberlake plays the role of entrepenuer and Facebook Inc. President, Sean Parker.

The film distributed by Columbia Pictures is set to be distributed October of this year.

Will Jesse Eisenberg earn critical attention and maybe even an Oscar nomination/win for playing this Reel (Real) Person?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inception & Anticipation

If there is an anticipated Summer film that I'm excited about, it's definitely Christopher Nolan's Inception.

One of the things that I find interesting about this film is that generally many of the details and information about this film are unknown.

Sure, it makes sense for people to get excited about a popular book adaptation (Twilight) if they've already loved the books, or the 3rd film in a consistently magical animated series (Toy Story 3).

But a live action film without pre-existing source material. These films are the gems of creativity and new mythology and story-telling.

So it's with the high level of anticipation I'm very interested to see where the crumbs fall.

I imagine there will be a variety of thoughts spilling into the Internet and among conversations of film goers. I expect the following responses from those with the highest level of anticipation.
  • I loved, loved, loved, and have seen it three times this weekend (this person was going to love it no matter what there anticipation had psyched them up so much for this film).
  • It was okay, I was hoping for more (this person had some much anticipation that this film really didn't have a prayer to live up to the expectations).
As for the rest of film goers (aka the ones who maybe got dragged along by a friend, or saw it having little information or interest in the project)...those will be the one's I'm most interested in seeing how they respond.

As for me...I was sharing tonight with some friends that I am proceeding cautiously as to avoid falling into the two camps above. I'm dying to see it in the theaters but I'm going in as if I'm watching a firework display...going for the spectacle, the entertainment, and the experience. Not trying to determine where it falls in the history of film making, or even whether it's a "shoe-in for Oscar."

Nah...I'm just hoping to see something fresh, original, and unique in a film season that hasn't given me too much anticipation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Generally Respected, Rarely a Favorite, Hardly Entertaining

I recently got around to watching the film Becket. A film which I classify as a "respected film."

Now, my definition as a "respected film" is not quite a complimentary as it may sound.

To me the "respected films" are the films that have tons of Oscar nominations, but some how end up with very few or no wins.

Becket is one of these films, of it's 11 Academy Award nominations it received for the 1965 Oscar ceremony it only went home with one award.

There are films like Becket, some of which I will name later in this post, that in addition to receiving nominations for best picture, seem obligated to receive other nominations. Honestly, how could Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole not receive nominations for their work in this film?

But best? Perhaps internal competition played a role, but maybe they just wanted to award Rex Harrison for his performance in My Fair Lady.

It seems like epic films, often period pieces fall into this respected category where maybe people aren't in love with the film, but how can you argue with the quality of it's production. But at over two hours in length (as most of these "respected" films are), you may not love it enough to even think about watching it more than once.

Additionally, by my definition, "respected films" in addition to a slew of nominations of course receive non-winning best picture nominations as well.

Here's a list of some more recent films I consider in this class of "respected films" alongside Becket. (Remember, this doesn't mean I don't like the film, I just think it tips more to the respect side of the scale while missing out on some of the entertainment we love in film. Granted of few of these are personal favorites,)
  • Reds (1981) - 12 nominations, 3 wins
  • A Passage to India (1984) - 11 nominations, 2 wins
  • The Color Purple (1985) - 11 nominations, 0 wins
  • The Mission (1986) - 7 nominations, 1 win
  • Bugsy (1991) - 10 nominations, 2 wins
  • The Remains of the Day (1993) - 8 nominations, 0 wins
  • In the Name of the Father (1993) - 7 nominations, 0 wins
  • The Thin Red Line (1998) - 7 nominations, 0 wins
  • The Insider (1999) - 7 nominations, 0 wins
  • The Hours (2002) - 9 nominations, 1 win
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) - 10 nominations, 2 wins
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) - 13 nominations, 3 wins

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Cost of Live Music

It's kind of been a music themed week on StrangeCulture talking about Music Residencies, and then Justin Bieber.

But I thought I would gripe a bit about the high cost of live music concerts.

There's certainly concerts and artists whom I would be interested in seeing, but at a certain cost I quickly become interested.

Maybe I'm cheap, but if the cost for a live concert gets much more expensive then the cost of buying the live album, I'm out. That pretty much makes me not a candidate for the live concert market.

I wouldn't be surprised to get a comment or two that brings up the fact that artists don't make there money from the albums, it's from the concerts, and more specifically the merchandise, which has lead to high cost concerts, with $40 t-shirts, making a trip to see a live concert for a big name artist comparable with the cost of taking a family on a trip to Disney World or a cruise.

Is this really the right cost for live music, or are these artist getting greedy?

I've been looking at PollStars midyear review of the biggest North American Tours, and thought I would share some of the top 100 tours, which artist have the highest average ticket price.

Are there any of these you'd fork over the dough this much dough to see?

Here's the top 10 average prices from the top 100 Tours so far in 2010:

1. Berry Manilow $145.24
2. Paul McCartney $129.55
3. Cher $127.04
4. Elton John/Billy Joel $119.27
5. Eagles $119.18
6. Bette Midler $110.32
7. Van Morrison $110.01
8. Mariah Carey $102.00
9. Peter Gabriel $100.87
10. Eric Clapton $97.44

Highest Grossing Tour...
And the highest grossing tour for the first half of the year (01/01/10-06/30/10) was Bon Jovi with 52.8 million dollar tour (average ticket price $94.12 per ticket)

Data from PollStar; Bon Jovi image from Your Ticket Market; Barry Manilow image from Get Me In.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Justin Bieber - is this for real?

So, Justin Bieber's stardom seems to me a little out of control.

I'm mean were talking world wide celebrity status for a 16 year old kid who has only released a limited catalogue of music (My World, My World 2.0).

Yet his early popularity is more than viral, it's an epidemic. Even while most people aren't bopping around to his beats, you know his name, and how could you not. With a music industry that seems sort of dull, acts like Bieber and Lady Gaga seem to be scoring all the attention.

My wife and I picked up the CD from the library and well...I can't say I really get it...but I do get how stardom works and how Bieber seems to have the favor of the niche crowd that loves the Disney artists like The Jonas Brothers.

So the question I've been pondering today is...will Bieber's celebrity status last?

Probably 4 months ago, I would have said, "no way" and made a joke about Bieber hitting puberty, his voice cracking and him falling off the celebrity golden star bus.

But, I think I'm changing my tune...even if Beiber's tunes change too, and have to get a little deeper with voice changes.

I think there's no turning back.

As for how his celebrity status tracks, it's hard to say if he'll be a long lasting musical power house...there certainly needs to be a longer trail of successful discography.

Then again, Bieber could go the way of Lindsey Lohan too, but unless I'm underestimating his clean-cut status, that doesn't seem the pathway.

Regardless, Bieber seems like the stuff People magazine is made for, and with world wide celebrity status, I imagine this kid, talented or not, is here to stay.

A Note to Justin Bieber's mom: I know, I seem to not buy Justin's talent. I'm not saying he's talentless...just that maybe some of this is a snowball effect of good marketing and teen obsession. Obviously who am I too judge the 16 year old with a platinum albums, yada, yada, yada.

Photos from last night's world tour concert stop in Denver, Colorado posted on Popstar! Online.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

No Cover Mondays: Rock Residencies...how about Movie Residencies?

NPR had a story about something new I've been hearing about which I think is pretty genius if you ask me.

The story is about how concert venues are allowing bands to have a "residency." Basicly, the relatively unknown bands are given the opportunity to have free concerts with no cover charge multi-weeks in a row, usually on Monday (an unpopular night for concerts). The idea is that the venue would be foolish to pay out for a big name and have a low crowd, and with a free concert they can potentially make up their losses in the drinks at the concerts.

The benefit for the bands is pretty clear -- they are given the opportunity to not only gain experience, but develop a following. There's definitely a word of mouth opportunity, and a little word of mouth combined with "free" can go a long way.

Could This Trend Work For Films Too?
This newer concept has made me wonder if the same could be transitioned to film. What if films had "residencies" with multiple Monday's in a row where a small low-budget film would show for free at the multiplexes. If it's good, you tell other people and maybe they'll go for free the next week (why not, what do they have to loose) and if the film gets enough buzz, maybe then it picks up legitimate distribution or expands at a standard costs.

Mondays at movie theaters can be pretty dull too - and maybe if the film was free you might be more willing to shell out the dough for a $6 popcorn, and the theater could benefit too.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Thinking about "Yes Man" as a Uniquely 2008 Film

Here's the premise of my thought, you're probably thinking why is this guy blogging about this film that came out almost two years ago. I've actually seen it a couple times and today suddenly have something to say about the film.

So...I hear a news story today, something or other about banks being careful about what loans they are approving. Kind of a no-brainer story since we all know about the current financial condition, credit crunch, and so forth, but whatever. It was what it was. The story compared now to a time when far more was approved.

But for some reason, I got a picture in my head of Jim Carrey in the film "Yes Man" saying "yes" to every loan application that came across his desk and that his fulfillment of people's dreams with small loans got Jim Carrey a promotion.

This film which came out December 2008, was almost irrelevant in some of it's messages before it even came out. I was thinking when I heard this news story about how a Jim Carrey "yes man" probably wouldn't do very well in the current financial climate. In fact, even if he did a good job, probably not a whole lot of "bank bonuses" for Carrey.

I've talked before about how certain modern film capture a time in a way that really, in my assessment is praiseworthy as a time capsule to "the way things were." A recent post I did on this concept of a contemporary film as a unique time capsule is the 1938 film Ninochtka which has interesting jokes about Nazi's and Russians that certainly wouldn't have been appropriate, or fit into a story 5 years later.

Granted, hard to say where "Yes Man" will fall in the future perspective of film, but even a couple years after it's release, I see how this film is uniquely 2008, and couldn't have come out much later.

You have the post-college 20 and 30 somethings having Harry Potter parties. And you have Jim Carrey making a trip to a Blockbuster that hasn't shut down yet.

And of course, you have Carrey approving those loans at the bank. Yes...yes...yes. With no worry for the bankruptcy's that these individuals will be filing in 2009 and 2010.
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