Tag Archives: film

See Foggy San Francisco Like Never Before

I found this video by Simon Christen a while back and have been mesmerized by it ever since. The Oakland photographer and filmmaker transforms the day-in-day-out beauty and mystique of the Bay Area’s weather patterns into rolling landscapes and water-like motions.

Adrift is a beautiful film that illustrates the magical effect time lapse work can have in making something ordinary into something otherworldly.

His other amazing work: Unseen Sea   Photography 


MTV at my university


The Tragic, Grotesque World of Ballet

It’s not surprising that the director of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler would bring another shockingly brilliant film to the theaters. Black Swan is a very moving, intense experience and plays with many perplexing ideas as it tells the story of a ballerina gone mad.

The storyline follows Nina, a young ballerina played by Natalie Portman who is striving for the lead roll in her prestigious company’s production of Swan Lake. Their version of the classic ballet is marginalized; the lead roll of the Swan Queen will play both the white and black swans. In short, the ballet is a story of a love triangle, ending in a tragic suicide. This storyline coupled with some foreshadowing of ballerinas past sets Nina up for a spiraling performance that is incredibly believable.

Darren Aronofsky’s directing gives the movie what it needs to seamlessly blend the worlds of dancing and acting – choreography and cinematography. Immediately, the camera work takes the audience up in a whirlwind, and you almost feel like you’re swaying right along with the dancers.

While Nina’s delicate persona fits that of the White Swan, throughout the movie, she is harshly and abusively encouraged by her ballet director, Thomas Leroy, played by Vincent Cassel. While his accent leaves him sounding like a French Christopher Walken, his role in the movie is crucial to Nina’s development and descent into the persona of the Black Swan.

Mila Kunis plays a fellow competing ballerina in Nina’s company, and the story of Swan Lake becomes a parallel to the plot of the movie, again highlighting the likeness of the worlds of acting and dancing.

Nina’s mother, played by Barbara Hershey, is just as taxing on the young ballerina. She keeps Nina in a room fitting for a twelve-year-old and keeps a constant, corrective eye on her.

From the dance studios to the home interiors, many of the scenes in Black Swan involve mirrors. The shots are all very well composed, enhancing the symbolism of the mirror in the film. Concepts of reflections and ability to see others within yourself are played with both abstractly and literally as Nina’s psychotic behavior intensifies throughout the film. Her hallucinations keep the viewer on the edge of the seat, constantly questioning the reality of the moment they are being shown. Portman’s character also struggles with her own reality, giving the viewer an amazing performance and a brilliantly questionable validity.

Body image is another running theme in Black Swan. Surely anyone can guess that being a professional dancer would come with a spotlight on one’s physical appearance, but the film highlights these issues, making them both grotesque and fascinating. Sounds of body movements, breathing, and dancing are all amplified, creating even more intensity. Backs, feet, and skin are emphasized, and the rail-thin bodies of the dancers border between graceful and disconcerting. Bulimia and self-mutilation are also addressed.

Sexuality is also very important as both liberation for Nina and a as facet of her new dark identity that needs to be explored. Like nearly every other part of Black Swan, nothing good happens without the bad, and vice versa.

As Nina becomes more entangled in her role for the ballet, she definitely loses herself and her mind. A psychotic alter-ego develops, setting up the classic dichotomy of good verses evil – the black and white swans. This internal struggle that manifests itself physically and mentally in Nina’s life ties the movie’s themes together very well. The two plotlines of the ballet and the film are also excellent; though similar, the likeness is not redundant or simplistic.

The actors all did an incredible job with this one, and I left the theater with a similar feeling as I had after watching Aronofsky’s other films – awestruck, a little disturbed, and amazed. If you’re in the mood to be impressed… but possibly grossed out, definitely go see Black Swan before it’s gone.

Low Brow Little Fockers: Why are the sequels still going?

If the previous movies in the Focker series seemed pointless, Little Fockers only plunges this story deeper into the abyss of embarrassingly low brow humor.

The main topic of jest: erectile dysfunction. So, if you’re looking for a movie to create tons of awkward moments for you and whoever agreed to be dragged into the theater with you, you’ve hit your gold mine. Every other scene had some ridiculous moment involving someone’s penis. No, thanks.

The new characters thrown into the family mix to spice things up can’t save the film. Jessica Alba plays a young, hip pharmaceutical salesperson whose primary role in the movie is to annoy and aggravate everyone with whom she comes into contact. She’s the stereotypical teenybopper airhead, greeting Ben Stiller’s character with “Hey, superstar!” and a series of annoyingly affectionate gestures. The sexual tension and stupid persona get old very quickly.

Robert De Niro has some parts that just left me either scratching my head or sighing, wondering just how much they had to pay him to do all the embarrassing things in Little Fockers. His character maintains the skeptical, CIA-trained exterior, keeping all eyes on Ben Stiller. Add in some more ED humor, and you’ve got yourself a horrible movie.

Stiller’s family was the expected hippie, happy-go-lucky, trying-to-stay-cool couple. The mother runs a talk show about sex, and the father has taken a crazy adventure to learn Flamenco-style dancing. You’d think names like Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand would have added better things to this movie, but it’s still lacking a lot.

Owen Wilson’s appearance didn’t help any. I’m already not a huge fan considering his characters have little variability from movie to movie (although the same can be said for many actors). If you didn’t guess it already, Wilson’s role is the character that upstages Stiller in every way, all the while remaining calm, cool, and collected… and rich. Stiller’s two five-year-old kids are having a birthday party, and during Wilson’s free time between volunteering at the local soup kitchen, his character takes part in throwing them the most lavish birthday party of the century complete with acrobatics, huge statues of the twins’ faces, and a setting that could have been filmed at Jacko’s Neverland Ranch.

The worst part is that the ending definitely alludes to a sequel. Expect more low brow comedy in the future.

I only laughed a couple times during the movie, and none of the jokes were anything you had to put much thought into. It was either slapstick or just based on sex, neither of which take much outside information to get. Maybe I was just expecting too much, but Little Fockers was just a waste of money. I wouldn’t have watched it for free on TV, and I regret potentially funding another Focker-related film. Enough with the regurgitated theme! I think it’s time this series bowed out semi-gracefully and ended.

Sowing Seeds of Environmental Awareness: Local Filmmaker Presents Documentary

Clark University’s Razzo Hall was filled to capacity Friday November 12th for the East Coast premier of Ciclovida: Lifecycle, a documentary by local filmmaker Matt Feinstein. The documentary follows the daunting trek of a group of landless peasant farmers in Brazil as they bike over 6,000 miles across South America to Argentina. Their mission: combating the takeover of genetically modified seeds and reclaiming a sense of tradition and solidarity with each other and the environment.

The Worcester/Clark community chosen for the film’s East Coast debut was fitting. “Worcester has more going on than we often give it credit for. There’s an awareness of ecological issues and a similar approach that’s more about the people building connections to achieve change,” Feinstein said. “The whole room was full of people with projects that are doing that. Personally, it was great to share this with friends, family and collogues whom I’ve been working with for the last 10 years in Worcester, many of whom were in some way involved with the project.”

Director Matt Feinstein introduced the film with hopes that the screening would, “give this documentary a chance to affect other communities.” Ciclovida is an inspiring narrative of one group’s specific example, but it is also captivating due to its world-wide sentiment.

Ciclovida focuses on two of the cyclists in particular, Inacio and Ivania. They are friends, lovers, and comrades who band together on the amazing journey despite having to leave loving families, endure harsh conditions, and face the odds against them.

The primary metaphor in the documentary is the natural process of cycles. Throughout the film Inacio and Ivania explain their part in the connection of life’s cycles. Their journey propels the natural and traditional cultivation of seeds, their bicycles allowing them to carry on this time-honored practice. Births and life’s events carry on around them as they continue their mission of growing natural plants, and their group links together to make their trek possible.

As the team narrates throughout the film, while on the road, they are always able to find communities who share the same worry for South America’s state of agriculture and who also share the same respect for natural processes being compromised.

Despite harsh conditions and intense heat and altitude changes, Feinstein traveled with the group for over 400 miles of the journey. “I was expecting some good connections down there, and the richness of every encounter on the road was really uplifting and inspiring,” he said. “I’m a planner, and they were more of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants travelers, so that difference was interesting.”

Ciclovida: Lifecycle

The rainforests, fishing spots, crops, and livestock that the group encounters on their way are all facing an alarming and threatening change from industrial agriculture popping up across the country. Metal factories, herbicides, and bio-diesel are becoming a constant threat. One elder woman they meet on their way explains the changes in her children’s health. She says that prior to these new pressures on the environment, she was able to raise healthy offspring without the need to visit the doctor. Now, she says, it has become impossible to raise children without it. In many cases, people living in poor, rural areas of South America cannot get to the doctor or cannot afford the visit. Other deaths have happened due to herbicide poisoning and other contaminants. Sadly, death is also a part of Ciclovida’s metaphor of cycles.

Another hardship the cyclists must face is the separation from their families. As Inacio and Ivania tell in the documentary, it is because of the love they have for their families that they are doing what they do. This, however, does not ease the pain that they feel leaving their children, relatives, and community members for months on end.

Ivania, mother of three boys, seems to feel it the hardest. She talks about the sexist undertones in her culture that bring her such guilt. Leaving one’s family for a social and environmental cause has no place in a culture where Ivania is expected to stay home and care for her children and be wholly obedient.

While the documentary focuses on a very heart-wrenching tale of injustice, ecological degradation, and emotional and physical pain, Feinstein does a good job of balancing these themes with some uplifting scenes. It’s clear throughout Ciclovia that these individuals are held together with love, selflessness, and compassion. The mindset behind their epic journey is truly heartfelt.

“It was so great to see the audience react to the humor, to the successes in the arrival, and have thoughtful questions and comments afterwards,” Feinstein said. “This was our first large screening of the documentary, and grassroots shows like this are really important.” The event raised $1,200 which will be used to fund windmills for Ciclovida’s seed garden and Brazilian film distribution.

So what’s next? Thanks to the refunding from the screening, the groups in Brazil will begin receiving copies of the DVD to spread the word. “The documentary’s protagonists and groups there will be connecting with other ecological groups, festivals, student groups, and other events,” Feinstein said. “There are also other groups in Brazil working on distribution at regional events and in cities. We’re working towards accessible and inexpensive DVDs to reach rural points and as many people as possible.”

Feinstein is hoping to organize further movements across the East Coast including a cycling journey of his own in the spring to spread production and awareness. “We want to go city to city, farm to farm,” he said. “We’ve got great hopes that this will be one seed, one connection in a sea of movements and organizations to bring about social and environmental justice.”

Feinstein’s other endeavors include  the Stone Soup Community Resource Center, the Worcester Roots Project / Toxic Soil Busters Co-op, and the Worcester Immigrant Coalition. To find out more about Ciclovida: Lifecycle, visit ciclovida.org.