Posts Tagged ‘eckerd college’

Sundance: The Experience

Monday, January 27th, 2014

A view on the plane home.

A view on the plane home.

Sundance has been a strange and interesting experience. Though it was only a week long, it feels like I have been gone for months. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have fun, I enjoyed every minute of the festival, but the early to start and late to end days really takes a tole on the mind, as does watching so many movies a day. As someone who had never been to a film festival before, it was certainly a shock to the system. Now, sitting in the afterglow, exhausted from the flight home, I can only bemoan the fact that it is over.

I can’t say this without sounding like a huge hipster, but my taste in media tends to fall outside of the popular consciousness. Rarely do I see movies in theatres anymore, and when I do they generally do not impress me. But Sundance was different, it’s demographic sharing more of my sensibilities, with movies that had not yet needed to go through the ratings board and needed to appeal to less people to turn a profit. Its documentaries were about people or subjects that would make many people uncomfortable. Films like Wetlands and R100’s graphic and unapologetic sex acts would have been uncomfortably discarded from the desks of a mainstream publisher. Cooties, which features graphic violence inflicted on children, would have been asked to tone it down for a wide release. Not to mention the numerous foreign films that would not have been palatable without an English dub. Overall it was just refreshing to be somewhere where my tastes were more popular for once.

My eating situation eventually became better. Strangely I found Mexican and Asian restaurants to be safe havens, which I usually have to avoid. I also eat the best gluten-free pizza that I’ve ever had, strangely enough. My luck with theaters also continued to be not great, with a few drunken shouters and one old man who absolutely reeked of urine. I was lucky, however, as I enjoyed all the movies I saw. The documentaries continued to be the highlights, though Web Junky Made me experience an anger I had not felt because of a film since I watched Jesus Camp.

This trip was profoundly incredible. It scratched my itch to finally go to a film festival, but has replaced it with the desire to go back. One of my trip mates disunited it best when he said that his life would now be thought of as pre- and post-Sundance, it’s an experience that I would not give back for the world.

The Oculus Rift

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The Oculus Rift headset

The Oculus Rift headset

The Oculus Rift has been on my radar since the original kickstarter, which I did not donate too because of the laughable success rate for hardware funded through that site. As the months went on, however, it became more and more clear that the people behind it knew what they were doing, and my passive interest turned into excitement. The list of supported games grew ever greater, and people in the gaming and technology press had almost universally good things to say about it. I was not yet convinced, as it seems to me that allowing oneself to get excited about an expensive and unfinished product without trying it yourself is foolish. Still, I was itching to give one a try, so imagine my surprise when, while flipping through the Sundance brochure, I came across a page saying that it would be there to try for free.

For those who do not know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality visor that contains two screens that are viewed through two curved lenses that trick the eye into perceiving the image as 3-D. There are also a series of sensors that detect the movement of of the wearer, which can then be interpreted to allow the user to look around a virtual environment. Similar devices have existed in the past, but because of recent advancements in technology coupled with the wide range of games that are working to support it makes this device possibly the biggest leap in the field of personal virtual reality that has ever happened.

The day I got there, I went to the vibrantly red New Frontier lounge, and got in line for the demos. After experiencing what the device has to offer, I have to say I am very impressed. The first I saw was Clouds, which was a smaller version of another instillation in the lounge. As far as an introduction to the device, it works well but is unimpressive overall. It is essentially a series of interviews about various technological advancements set to abstract landscapes that the viewer can look around in. There were also some demos using a Beck concert and a clip from The Girl From Nagasaki that were interesting. The real show stealer, however, was Eve: Valkyrie. made using assets from the MMO RPG Eve Online, Valkyrie is a spaceship combat simulator that is set to be a launch title for the device. Although the demo is fairly simple, the ability to look around the cockpit while flying in real time feels absolutely incredible. It is sometimes hard to keep track of everything that is going on, but the feeling of craning your neck to find enemy spaceships is honestly unprecedented.

I was lucky enough to have gotten an interview with a representative from CCP games, developers of Eve Online. There was also a representative from Oculus present, but unfortunately he was unable to comment.

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No No and To Be Takei: The Heart of Sundance

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Near the beginning of the festival, I overheard a conversation between two people in the box office. One man, obviously a veterin of the festival, said that all the indie films were nice, but that the real heart of Sundance is in the documentaries. That the festival gives voices to so many amazing stories that would have otherwise been lost is why he kept coming back every year. I have not yet seen all the films I Want to at this festival yet, but juding by the two documentaries I have seen so far, I am already inclined to agree with that sentiment.

The first, To Be Takei, tells the life story of George Takei, an actor and human rights activist, whose most remembered role is that of private Sulu on the original run of Star Trek. It’s an amazing story, as the man has been through so many struggles in his life, from his families internment during World War II to having to hide his sexuality from the public in fear of ruining his carrear. That this film is about someone who faced the things he did and come out as cheerful and full of life as he is now would be enough to carry a documentaryby itself. Luckily, director Jennifer M. Kroot went above and beyond, as the film is beautifully shot and edited. Even with the heavy subject matter, George’s quick whit and the well timed editing also make the film absolutely hilarious.

The second, No No: A Dockumentary, tells the life story of Dock Ellis, who is now famous for pitching a no hitter while under the influence of LSD. After seeing this film, however, I now know that remembering him only for that is an absolute tragedy. Dock was an unrelenting force, both on and off the field. He was a surprisingly significant force in shaping race relations in America, and was the spark that lead to the first all black starting line-up in the major league. By virtue of his character this film too has a comedic bent, and is also wonderfully directed and edited. Hopefully film will be a driving force for remembering Dock for his better years, and not for the time that he forgot a day in a drug fueled haze.

Being Gluten Free at Sundance

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Those who have been to Park City, Utah during the Sundance film festival will most likely tell you about the totally insane food situation. It is not exactly surprising, with the cities population suddenly exploding by at least ten thousand people crowded restaurants are a given. If you do find a restaurant that looks like it has room to spare, it is most likely hosting some sort of private event. There are the occasional free samples to be found, but those are too small and inconsistent to rely on for sustenance. That said, it’s not impossible to find someplace if you’re willing to wait a few minutes. That is, of course, assuming you do not suffer from food allergies.

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Documentary Shorts Program 2

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Redstone Theater - Sundance 2014

Redstone Theater - Sundance 2014

There is a lot of excitement floating around here at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The streets are full of talk about all the films that are playing and people are lining up to get their hands on tickets before they sell out. Although getting tickets for the film of your choice is proving to be quite difficult, I am so glad I was able to register for some short films before arriving. The short films here at Sundance are sometimes forgotten about, but deserve much more attention. I’ve seen a total of 3 shorts programs and have enjoyed all of them for different reasons, but the shorts documentary program 2 that I saw today has been my favorite so far, and it wasn’t just because I got to see Robert De Niro. The documentary shorts program 2 had a total of three films. The first, I Think this is the Closest to How the Footage Looked, directed by Yuval Hameiri and Michal Vaknin was a touching and creative film about a personal experience of Yuval Hameiri. Yuval’s mother was very ill and his father had spent some time filming her the day before she passed away. The day after Yuval’s mother had passed, his father picked up the camera again to film the empty space where she had once been, but had not known that Yuval had rewound the tape in the camera so his father was unknowingly recording over the footage of his wife’s last day alive. (more…)

The Babadook

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is an interesting take on the “haunting” sub-genre of horror. It tells the story of Amelia, who was widowed by a horrible car crash on their way to the hospital to have their son. Seven years later, her son Samuel is a social outcast who suffers from night terrors, and she is haunted by images of her dead husband and her desire for companionship. After finding a disturbing book in their house, a presence begins to haunt their every waking moment.

Like the best horror, this film is deliberate and slow. The disturbing tone is established early on, but not overtly so. In the beginning, their house has the creepy feel that many old homes share, with it’s creaking doors and a sinister basement. It is made clear that Amelia ignores Samuels many developmental issues, choosing to take him out of school when the headmaster suggests he be given a personal aid after bringing a homemade crossbow to campus. We also find that she chooses to have his birthday two weeks early with his cousin because she doesn’t want to celebrate anything on the day her husband died. In fact, Amelia’s obvious failings as a parent before the haunting are the part that personally unsettled me the most, and work well within the overarching narrative.

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Do The Right Thing Review

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Radio Raheem explains love and hate.

Radio Raheem explains love and hate.

After the relative success of his first two joints, She’s Gotta Have It and School Daze, Spike Lee was finally able to produce films on a grander scale. The first of these that he directed, Do The Right Thing, stands as one of the most remarkable films of its era. The story is simple, following the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood as they try to make it through the hottest day their street had ever seen as long standing racial tensions finally reach their breaking point.

Lee’s bold style comes through in full in force. The street used in the film was painted with reds and oranges in order to emphasize the heat, which when combined with the vibrant costume design makes the film look similar to graffiti of the time. One of the most prominent songs featured on the soundtrack is “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, the full track even played over the opening credits. Almost all of Lee’s early movies deal with race and the perceptions of black people in American culture, and in that regard this my be his magnum opus.

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what indie film is to me

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Here’s my video on what independent film means to me. Help me get more than 1 view on this bad boy. Hope you enjoy it.

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The Evil Dead (1981) Review

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Theater Release Poster, Evil Dead (1981)

Theater Release Poster, Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy are some of the most successful cult films of the 80’s, and launched the cinematic careers of both Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell. When most discuss the series, they will often talk about the manic style, or the downright silly tone of as a catchphrase spewing Campbell eviscerates demons with his chainsaw arm and sawed-off shotgun. Though that is what the series is known for, those were all aspects of the sequel, Evil Dead II, a horror comedy that begins with a redacted remake of the original film. Because of this, many people either ignore or forget the first film, despite its unique execution and dramatically different tone.

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Metropolitan - an Indie Film Review

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Whit Stillmans Metropolitan

Whit Stillman's Metropolitan

“Manhattan, Christmas vacation, Not so long ago.” This is the text that appears when Whit Stillman’s film “Metropolitan” starts. I immediately start going over memories of the break I have just come back from myself, and from those past. I would find out that my memories would differ drastically. None of my memories held conversations of the validity of deb parties or glasses of fine Scotch. They held a lot more mediocre beer next to campfires on the river.

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