Short and Sweet #7 – “Back to Solitude”

This afternoon in my producing class, we covered a LOT. It was my third and final class of the day and I took at least four pages worth of barely legible notes on budgeting, treatments, loglines, and some other stuff I’ve yet to make out. My brain feels a bit mushy right now, so what better way to cure a mushy brain than watch a film that forces it to think?

“Back to Solitude” is a 2011 short film written and directed by Joschka Laukeninks. You’ll have to figure out the “secret” yourself, but I will tell you that the film has some very nice tones, cinematography, and moving narration. Definitely a well-executed film that’s worth a viewing or two.

Short and Sweet #6 – “Don’t Stop”

For those who don’t know, I am a machinima nerd. I watch it, critique it, drool over it, and actually make it myself. “But what the heck is machinima?” you ask. In short, machinima (a combination of the words machine + animation) is the use of a video game engine to create a film. People have made machinima with games like Halo, The Sims, Second Life, and machinima-specific programs such as Moviestorm. This Short and Sweet features one of my favorite machinima films, Don’t Stop, by overdramaticsss on YouTube.

Don’t Stop is a music video set to Innerpartysystem’s song of the same title. It centers around a young celebrity who has money, adoring fans, women, everything.

Everything but happiness.

Read this part after you’ve seen the video:  After watching Don’t Stop many times since its release, I found it significant that not only does the protagonist jump from the building in the end, but he jumps from the top of the apartment building that his celebrity lifestyle paid for. Such an awesome, yet sad, metaphor for true self-destruction.

More Thoughts on “Upstream Color”

Note: This post contains spoilers and is intended for those who have seen Upstream Color. This is not a review of the film, but rather, some of my thoughts on it as well a place for discussion. If you’re looking for my actual review of  Upstream Color, you can read it here.

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I’m going to be completely honest. I’m putting myself under feeling the pressure to make this post amazing. I’m still amazed by the response to my first review and I’m not sure this post will be anywhere near as articulate. Still, I hope you’re able to find some sort of meaning in these words. I didn’t plan this post beforehand so I’m just listening to the soundtrack and typing as I think of things. I need friends. Please buckle your seatbelt and prepare for a long series of thoughts and a few Biblical references. It’s okay if you don’t agree with anything I write. I’m just grateful that you took time to read it. Shall we begin?

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What’s Next?

Hello all, here’s what to expect next on Take Three:

  1. HUGE thanks to everyone who read my first Upstream Color review. I mainly wrote it as a way to sift through my thoughts and had no idea so many people would find beauty in it. So thank you. It means so much to me that people would take the time to read this unknown little film student’s blog. I will write 1 or 2 more reviews on the film, hopefully this weekend when I have some time!
  2. Yesterday, I got a new DSLR! :-D I haven’t yet decided what my next project will be, but when I know, you will know.
  3. I have started every film student’s worst nightmare – the annual summer internship hunt. If you know anyone in the film world who would like having me on their set or in their office and can pass along their information, that’d be awesomesauce.
  4. Yesterday also marked the start of a new semester. Let’s just say I have officially kissed my social life goodbye until May.
  5. I have a few ideas for the next few Short and Sweet posts. I just need time to write the blogs.

Stay tuned for more blogs in the very near future!

With hugs and love (especially to the Upstream Color family who keep finding ways to make my day over the interwebs),

Tori

“Upstream Color” is a Masterpiece. Period.

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Whew. Where do I start with the masterpiece that is Upstream Color? *cue run-on sentence* This has to be my favorite film of Sundance 2013, and spontaneously deciding to stand 87th in the waitlist line for this film in the Library Center Theatre on a snowy Saturday afternoon in Park City, Utah will forever be recorded in my personal history books as one of the best decisions I have ever made, second to accepting Christ. *mouthful over*

Directed and written by Shane Carruth, and starring Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, and Andrew Sensenig, this film shows the aftermath of Kris’ (Amy Seimetz) life and psychological state after she is kidnapped and drugged by a thief. While trying to make sense of it all, a subway ride introduces her to Jeff (Shane Carruth), a banker with whom she shares a mysterious bond. They fall in love and try to figure out the supernatural force that is ruling their lives. It’s not entirely clear who, or what, this force is, but the pig farmer, played by Andrew Senseniglooks a little suspicious, and I’m still not 100% sure of his role. However, his performance is captivating and downright wonderful, as are the performances of Carruth and Seimetz.

I could write a novel about what I think of this film, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll write about one thing that really stood out to me: the romance. In some ways, Upstream Color is an unorthodox love story. Despite Kris’ psychological state, Jeff never leaves her side. When Kris feels paranoid, Jeff goes the extra mile to let her know that she’s okay and that nothing’s out to get her. He resolves to marry her and loves her for who she is, and who she has become because of her circumstances. Even when Kris initially wants nothing to do with Jeff, he pursues her and ultimately wins her heart. I consider Upstream Color a great model for romantic relationships. It’s what we all want – someone who pursues us, loves us unconditionally, imperfections and all, regardless of our past. It’s also the way God pursues our hearts and loves us. Let that marinate.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Carruth after Saturday’s screening. I was only able to speak with him for about thirty seconds, but it made my life week. It was mainly me thanking him for making the film and talking about how it inspired me to get out and shoot more footage (which will happen very soon). And Mr. Carruth, if you happen to stumble across this blog, I didn’t say this on Saturday, but I am really happy that you and Upstream Color exist and I will be the happiest human being on the planet if you would teach me everything you know. I can’t wait to watch Primer and I hope everything works in your favor for A Topiary.

In addition to writing, directing, and starring in the film, Carruth also scored it and was the cinematographer (how the heck did he do all that?!). Told with minimal dialogue, Upstream Color is a visual treat with captivating cinematography and brilliant sound design that are just surreal. The entire film put me on sensory overload. When the credits rolled, I wasn’t even sure if I liked or understood anything I’d just seen. This film was still on my mind as I drifted off to sleep that night, and I realized how long it’d been since I’d watched a film that had such a profound impact on me. In some strange way, Upstream Color is the film I didn’t know I needed. Now, I’m in love.

I can’t wait until I get to see this film a second time.

Music Speaks Volumes in “I Used to be Darker”

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Director Matthew Porterfield explores a troubled family’s relationships in I Used to be Darker. Written by Porterfield and Amy Belk, the film stars Deragh Campbell as Irish runaway Taryn, Hannah Gross as her cousin, Abby, and John Belanger and Kim Taylor as Ben and Kim, Abby’s parents/Taryn’s aunt and uncle. Musicians Ben and Kim are in the process of separating, which has caused Abby to become rebellious and short-tempered. The family’s dynamic is shaken up even more when Taryn shows up, having run away from her mother’s home in Ireland and in need of a place to stay. The story is raw and honestly told, without regard to the perfect Hollywood ending. The film’s strongest stories are told through careful one-shot takes in which Ben and Kim sing woeful folk songs to an audience and an empty room. The characters’ relationships are downright messy. But in the end, they are family and they will stick together in some kind of way, even if they don’t fit together so nicely.

Darker marks the first film roles for Campbell and Gross, both of whom attend (or attended) theatre school. Their performances in this film are captivating, and I hope to see more from them in the near future. I stayed for the Q & A session of this film and was surprised, along with most of the audience, that Deragh Campbell doesn’t actually have an Irish accent. Her accent in the film is so convincing and natural; she had me fooled! When asked how she managed to pull off the accent, she stated that her mother is from Belfast and that she also worked with a voice coach.

I also found it interesting that nothing in this film seemed to be related to the title. Porterfield addressed this in the Q & A, saying that the title was taken from song lyrics. I still haven’t quite found the relation, but maybe that’s something I’ll uncover the next time I watch this film.

 

“The Spectacular Now” Lives Up to its Name

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“The Spectacular Now,” directed by James Ponsoldt, is a refreshing coming-of-age story about two high school seniors – the carefree Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) and the shy Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley). Throughout the story, Sutter inspires Aimee to break out of her shell and live life a little more, while Aimee shows Sutter that you can’t always live for the “now” – sometimes you need a plan for the future because the unexpected can happen at any moment. Miles and Shailene give standout performances in this film, and both have vulnerable moments where nothing but raw emotion shines through. The lighting and cinematography are also noteworthy in this film. Cinematographer Jess Hall utilizes natural light (and darkness) that put the audience in the same room with the characters. The Spectacular Now approaches teenage life from a very honest perspective, complete with a surprising twist near the end, making it a standout from the average coming-of-age story.

“Cutie and the Boxer” Steals the Show

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This past Saturday, Zachary Heinzerling won the directing award for his work on Cutie and the Boxer, the story of struggling artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. The pair met in New York City in the 1970s and married soon after. Both working artists, they have endured years of financial struggles as Ushio and Noriko have not achieved the success they have hoped for on a commercial level. Ushio is known for his boxing paintings, which he makes by dipping his boxing gloves in paint and punching designs on a canvas. Noriko is also a visual artist. Though quiet and more reserved, Noriko steals the entire film through her moving story of a woman named Cutie that shockingly parallels her life with Ushio and feeling overshadowed by him. After 40+ years together, Ushio and Noriko still get on each other’s nerves and poke fun at each other, yet they are still so much in love, which is refreshing to see in a time when so many marriages don’t make it past five or six years.