Jan 152014

Man of Tai Chi (wide)

Keanu Reeves directed this film, but what exactly was his role? (Call this a note to self: the answer will take some research.) The movie is in Chinese. The genre is Asian, as are the actors and settings. Reeves is working with collaborators from previous movies. The fight choreography is familiar. What is not familiar are the odd (and often oddly beautiful) moments like:

  1. The flicker effect that opens the film; several slow cuts through black; a dramatic time-lapse sequence; the weird  and self-conscious white-screen transition to a dot.
  2. The beautifully ordinary cityscapes. Their muted warm colors contrast with the garish, vivid colors of the fight scenes in the show-within-a-show and with the dull greys and blacks of the the security firm. The changing color palettes suggest a carefully controlled visual style.
  3. The slow beautiful 360-degree pan from a rooftop that the final credits roll over.

Do these moments belong to Reeves? Are they a directorial signature? And if they do and they are, then what about the plotting, which is complex, tight and rapid? Does the tale well-told belong to Reeves as well? And if the visual flourishes, the colour and the plot all do belong to Reeves, then has he made a strong movie?

Reeves’s carefully cultivated star persona makes the answer an obvious (and obviously wrong) “no.”


Jan 142014

The Beav heard about an exhibit of engraving and paintings by Maurice Le Bel at the Bibliothèque du Boisé in Ville St. Laurent. He’s more-or-less unknown but he had some connections with members of the Monté Saint Michel. This exhibit was small but interesting. I liked the engravings and a few of the early paintings. Le Bel struck me as a talented painter without any strong ideas of what to do with his talent, and so his paintings tended to look like other people’s work.

The gallery space in the library was really quite beautiful. I like that Montreal is putting money into renovating their libraries. The new spaces are packed with people.

Jan 132014

My mom sat down with me and had a very serious conversation and explained things to me. She wants to get back together with my Dad. So we talked with him and explained everything and he’s thinking about it. What makes it hard is his wife. And I feel bad for my mom’s boyfriend. But my dad and his wife don’t have kids so it’s manageable…

Jan 122014

The following is a quotation from For PC Makers, the Good News on 2013 Is That It Is Over on The New York Times‘s site:

People everywhere are buying tablets and smartphones instead of PCs. … the market is still capturing a lot of people who just need to get on the Internet and do simple tasks,” Mr. Chou said. “From a strictly consumer, couch potato view, the Internet takes care of an awful lot.

This description of people accessing the internet without needing or wanting a computer got me thinking: “Using a computer” to me means using an open-ended tool to do a variety tasks in ways that imply some consciousness of the machine-medium. But the alternative described in the Times is a less about using a tool than riding a vehicle. And this oddly enough, got me thinking about students.

We don’t say of someone who takes a car to go to the mall, “They are interested in cars”; or of someone who takes a bus to go to the movies, “they are interested in public transportation.” We certainly don’t assume that, if we build a road to the dentist, these people (because they can take their car or the bus to the dentist’s office) will like getting their teeth drilled.

And yet, we see teenagers using their phone to look at their friend’s photos on Facebook or to tweet about their best friend’s latest epic fail, and we say “If we teach using phones or computers students will engage with education and learn more.” But aren’t they really just interested in their friends? Aren’t they, like the people described in the quotation,  just looking to get onto the internet in order to be social?

This is about metaphors: computer as tool, as vehicle, as window, as terminal. Which applies? Because each imply meaningfully different interpretations of students’ fascination with their cellphones.

Jan 112014

The story space of this film came alive for me as I watched because of the actors (not the subject, not the characters).

Matthew McConaughey isn’t someone I find interesting or like watching, but this really is his best work. Jared Leto’s performance is uncanny but deeply moving, a difficult combination to pull off.

Jan 102014

I remember watching horror films when I was young and enjoying them. Sharing a Lazy-Boy with my sisters, hiding behind a pillow when something was about to happen, jumping, screaming, and all of this in the afternoon because at night these movies were just too scary. But I can’t stand the genre now, especially the blunt mix of sex and violence. When the first girl was hacked up, I turned it off.

On a side note, I was drawn to Cabin in the Woods because I thought it would be fun to see Joss Whedon do an odd take on a horror film. I was wrong. I’m curious how much of this film he actually wrote.

Jan 052014

the long tomorrowThe Long Tomorrow is a sci-fi novel from 1955 by Leigh Brackett. After a nuclear holocaust, Americans decide high population cities invite attack and outlaw large settlements. So post-apocalyptic America becomes a world of Amish and Mennonite communities. Obviously, there a people who resist and children who want more than farm life. What follows is a story of boys finding a radio and using it to connect with an illegal technological community deemed heretical by their family and friends. Stoning or bonfires or simply beatings are meted out by religious mobs the boys keep escaping. Ultimately, I didn’t find this future-as-early-19th century storyline very appealing.

One thing: Brackett worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter and collaborated with Faulkner on the screenplay for The Big Sleep. According to her memoires, they adapted alternating chapters without consulting with each other and without ever seeing each other’s work. (Or at least, without her ever seeing Faulkner’s.)