Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sifting Through SIFF and Additional Birdsongs

Today, I did something delightfully indulgent. I treated myself to an afternoon showing of the movie Norman at the Seattle International Film Festival. Worth it? Most definitely.

First off, I had been aching to go to SIFF ever since it started about two weeks ago. It was like what happens every January around Sundance--I feel this inexorable pull, this need to just see one show, to at least experience part of the artsy fartsiness. Every year I don't make it to Sundance I feel depressed, and I think having another film festival in my backyard that I wasn't taking advantage of was getting me down.

But why Norman? Well, that's when the fangirl comes out. Andrew Bird wrote two original songs and did all the scoring for the movie. I LOVE Andrew Bird. Love love love love love love love him. So yes, that was the deciding factor for me to man up and forage into the festival. And by "forage", I mean grab a cheap student ticket and sit in a half-filled theatre at one in the afternoon. Oh yes. I am living on the edge.

Norman was fairly good as far as movies go. It centered around Norman Long, a high school senior whose mother died in a car crash and whose father is dying of cancer. The film deals with themes like run-of-the-mill teen angst about not fitting in and lying to classmates, but with darker edges of self-esteem issues, suicidal impulses, and coping with responsibility. It felt a lot like last year's Easy A, if that movie had been about cancer and suicide and starred a depressed boy instead of a precocious chick. Do I think it will get picked up for distribution? Honestly, no. And if it does, it will undergo some vast changes (unfortunately, I think Bird's score would be one of the casualties). But was it a good movie? Yes. I'm going to say yes. It wasn't great, and needed some more work to tighten up some pretty wide tone shifts, etc., but overall it succeeded.

All the credit for that success goes to Dan Byrd, who played Norman. Byrd is best known for playing light, comedy roles, like the son on Cougar Town or the gay guy in Easy A. He shows off some serious acting chops in this role, making me laugh out loud and almost cry within moments of each other. He brought an intensity to Norman that had me completely caught up in his plight. Despite showing off an ability to emote with scenes of him handling near impossible loads, Byrd still brings his unique humor, with wry line delivery that makes his character surprisingly likeable. This is in addition to some other great performances, especially Richard Jenkins as his dying father and Adam Lambert as the classic profound English teacher. Oh, and the hot chick from Everwood plays a love interest. That's probably important or something.

But on to the score. I first became obsessed with Andrew Bird my freshman year of college. When I say obsessed, I mean obsessed--I completely immersed myself in his music. And I would walk around campus, his songs my own personal soundtrack, and think about how perfect and under-appreciated Andrew Bird was, and how if I ever made a movie it would have Andrew Bird songs. So I made up scenes in my head, small snippets and vignettes, and set them to his melodic voice, dreaming of a day where he would be known (well, that, and of the day that we would meet and he would fall madly in love with me. Naturally).

I think it's important to note that in my freshman imaginings all I thought of were scenes. There was never a whole movie, never a coherent storyline. Andrew Bird's music is incredible, atmospheric, and powerful. And a little much for an entire movie.

I'm willing to make concessions on this point. My love affair with Andrew Bird's music is very intense, and that, coupled with his lack of western touring of late, left me distracted every time the music swelled. The whistles, the strings, the swooping layers of sound--they were classic Bird traits, and I found myself focusing on them rather than the action in the scene.

But, all that fandom aside, there were several moments where the music didn't fit the tone. Most notable among these was a humorous scene where father and son drink some celebratory scotch, but the addition of an insistent violin chorus makes the exchange more unsettling than called for. Once again, it wasn't always that distracting. The opening credits, scored with a whistled introduction, and two new songs (credited as "Night Sky" and "Arcs and Colombs") used during romantic interludes were well-placed. And there was a standout moment with the song "Dark Matter," which was used perfectly in the film. Makes sense, since director Jonathan Segal has cited that song as his inspiration for working with Bird.

Regardless of any missteps, it was nice to spend an afternoon with Andrew Bird. I've missed him. It was also nice to have some time to indulge my inner snob. It doesn't get much more pretentious than seeing a movie at a film festival, all because your favorite indie musician did the music. All I need is a vintage scarf and a hipper-than-thou attitude and I'll be set for life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Must Be This Tall To Ride

Well, I just watched Reality Bites again. Dearie me, what a great movie. Except every time I watch it I wish, with all my heart, that I could find Ethan Hawke even just a little attractive. I mean the character he plays is fantastic, intriguing, and has that whole dirty musician thing that's usually my weakness. But I can't get over his greasy weasel face. Such a shame.

Anyway, watching it inspired me to write. To write candidly, and with very little censor. Well, little censor for me, that is. Going from an emotionless brick wall to a wall with a small crack might not seem like much, but take what you can get.

If you've read this blog at all, you might guess that I'm a little media-obsessed. I'm an escapist in the truest sense of the word. Well, maybe escape isn't quite right. I don't seek to lose myself in the art of the day. Actually, it's the opposite--with every piece of music or TV or movie I watch, I try to use it to figure out my own existence. In fact, this trait has been exhibited several times on the ol' Angst Muffins, and even in a previous post about Reality Bites (found here). But I'm starting to wonder if this isn't the best tactic to take. Possibly, just possibly, stories by others do not carry clues to figuring out my own puzzling situations. What a blow.

That sounded a wee bit crazy. It's not as if I take everything I watch to be some great mystical Ouija Board. I don't think that I should mimic character's actions or anything. But the reason media is fascinating is because it forms connections, and I do believe that the more you examine the connections, the better any viewing/reading/consuming experience will be.

Take this Christmas Break for instance. Things you need to know about my Christmas Break: A- Fall semester was absolute Hell.
B-Over Christmas Break, I watched the series My So-Called Life in it's entirety.

I am not proud of this statement. Mostly because, all nostalgia aside, My So-Called Life is a terrible show. No, really. There is not a single likeable character in the mix.

* RANT* Except for Ricky. Ricky is pretty great. I never really understood why he hung out with Rayanne, except for the whole momma-bear 'no one will look out for her if I don't' spiel. She's a bad seed Ricky! You are better than that. *END RANT*

But back to MSCL, as the cool kids say. Really, just an irksome show. Like I said, bad characters, sophomoric, irritating dialogue ("It was, like, so totally elemental. Like my soul was, like, all, exposed or something." I don't think this is a direct quote, but it might as well be), and episodes that seemed to jump around and were over-dramatic, over-acted, and straight up annoying.

And yet I loved it. And what's more, I identified with it. Go figure.

There were times when I would finish an episode and just sit and squirm, I identified with Angela Chase so much. You see, back then, I had my Jordan Catalano, a guy I was oh-so-into, but like Jordan, all he wanted to do was make out in the high school furnace room and ignore me in front of his bandmates (not literally, that's referencing a story arc from the show for emphasis). And that Christmas, I had my Brian Krakow, the childhood friend, the boy next door who just wanted a shot, but circled my street on his bike one too many times (once again, a show reference, not reality).

And I thought, 'hey, MSCL. These can't be the only options, right?'

So I would sit a fume and vow to find the third character. An escape route. And all this time I would sit and have internal monologues that were undoubtedly in Angela's voice, and then I would get frustrated because my subconscious sounded like a fifteen year old girl. I didn't ever want that, even when I was fifteen.

See, I think that was the part that bothered me the most about finding myself in Angela Chase. She was a sophomore in high school. And I was twenty-one and finishing up college. There should not have been any comparison, right? I should not be sympathizing with the struggles of teenagers.

Sometimes I seriously worry that I have stunted growth. That is not to say that I am immature. In fact, I've usually considered myself more rational than other people my age (she said ever so smugly). That sounded condescending, and I apologize. It's not intellectually, or physically, but emotionally. I joke that I am an emotionless brick wall, but for a long time, I think that was true. I didn't start letting people in--whether it's friends or relationships or whatever--until college. So I guess it makes sense that I'm a little behind, desperately trying to catch up to the high school sophomores of the world, to figure out how interacting with others is supposed to work. I'm working on it, but sometimes progress is slow. Sometimes, I still think it's easier to just shut everything and everyone out. But alas, as I'm discovering, I'm an unexpectedly social creature, and I don't think the arms-length method of living would be worth it in the end.

So I'll progress. Slow but steady. And who knows, maybe I'll hit where I'm supposed to be one of these days.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Ya Doin' Bernie?

You guys. You guys!

I just went to a three hour informational business meeting. I'm so totally jazzed.

There we were, a smattering of people in nice dress, crammed into a living room with a white board set up. Not quite what I was expecting, but hey, intimate grassroots firms are all the rage, right? And then came the speaker. To be honest, his suit looked shabby and his tie seemed askew, but rest assured. This fellow was financially independent! He "retired" at thirty-five! Sure, he's still giving these meetings and making money off of them, but he's retired! Made/making six figures a year! That's the dream, and it could be ours!

At least that's what he told us. Talking straight for the first two and a half hours. Money, just ours for the taking. Finally, we can be living the high life. Finally, everything lacking in life will be corrected. We'll be successful. Confident. Able to rub our fancy falutin' lifestyle in the faces of every person who ever doubted us. I mean, I didn't ever think that there was anyone out there that doubted me or my ability to be happy, but at last I can take those people, my family and friends, and say HA HA! I am rich! Richity rich rich rich!

But wait, what exactly are we doing to make all that sweet, sweet cash (which is, after all, the only thing I want)?

The man assured us he'd get there, but first, think about what you could do with the opportunities being in The Business (that's how he said it, "The Business", an entity sacred and wholly unto itself). I mean, this economy is taking a toll on everyone, and we could be free from it. Involvement in The Business meant that you could finally take your gutter-fied, shameful excuse of a life and pick it up off the ground. It will magically turn around any and all addiction problems, save your marriage, and cure your cancer. If you already have money, this will give you some extra cash so that you can give back, helping battered women or something. That feels good, right? Charity? Yes?

And there went another half hour.

Finally, once everyone was slavering at the bit, once he'd gotten verbal confirmations from all the new meat about HOW EXCITED THEY WERE to be a part of this, finally, then he revealed how to make these millions. We would be the next Mark Zuckerberg. We'd be making more money than we could handle. And it's not sales, and it's not illegal. It's just capitalizing on a trend, making it big as a part of something that is oh-so-current and yet somehow existed in the early 80's when he got involved. Silly semantics.

Anyway, what I gleaned from those last five minutes, is that for just one investment of $150 I can buy into a plan to advertise other products. I just have to get people to buy from certain companies. And I'm practically guaranteed to make $68 dollars the first few months. Plus, if I get more people involved, I make more money. All I need is twelve people, and I could be making thousands of dollars a month! Hot diggety!

Wait a second. You don't think this is some kind of scheme, is it? Nah, it couldn't be.