Comrade Kim Goes Flying was possibly the most charming piece of Communist propaganda ever. Seriously. Western-financed but shot entirely in North Korea, this film shows a good-natured workers paradise where even the coal miners are rosy-cheeked and excited about their work. (I found myself wistfully thinking, "If only this were true.")
The film centers around the eponymous Kim, a pretty and agile young coal miner with dreams of joining the circus as a trapeze artist. Her work sends her to Pyongyang were hijinks ensue and her work comrades (including her avuncular boss) help her to make her dreams come true. Along the way, she also has a classic romantic comedy "feuding their way into love" match-up with the circus' star performer.
Cheesy and silly and fun, it was reminiscent of classic Hollywood musicals and screwball comedies. North Korea in Comrade Kim is candy-colored and entirely good-natured. The movie isn't deep and the herione has pretty much everyone routing for her, but the lack of reality and weight make it is an escapist delight, much like cotton-candy.
So, Dear Mr. Watterson was the second and possibly the most consistently delightful of our Sunday films. It was basically a love letter to Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes, with a variety of folks (including a lot of comic creators) talking about their experiences with the comic strip, and the influence that it had on their lives.
The documentary was beautifully filmed and well-edited. Unsurprisingly, Watterson himself did not make an appearance in the film, but the strips themselves were featured, along with footage of Chagrin Falls, OH, Watterson's home town and the basis for the landscape of the strips.
One of the main ideas of the film is that, even thought the strip ran for ten years and then ended almost twenty years ago, children today can still be found reading and enjoying the collected Calvin and Hobbes. The filmaker, Joel Allen Schroeder, posits that some of the credit for this may be due to the fact that Watterson never agreed to licensing of the characters, which prevented over-saturation and allowed the strips to stand on their own, rather than getting lost in the noise of plushes and coffee mugs.
Taking this into consideration, I started reading the comic to my 6-year-old nephew, via comics.com. While he does need some things explained to him, he really, really loves them and specifically asks me to read them to him. (We usually cover about a month in a sitting.) At some point, I will likely get him on of the collection books, so that he can read them on his own. However, for now I enjoy the time together, sharing the comic I remember from my childhood. (He is also very much like Calvin, in looks, age, and personality, and has his own ever-present stuffed companion animal in the form of Bucky Badger.)
I was 9 was the strip debuted and at the start of college when it concluded. I'm glad that it can be a part of his childhood, too. (It really hold up well. Only a very few things are dated, mostly having to do with telephones.) I am grateful for having been able to watch this film, without which, it might have taken me much longer to decide to do this.
The cast seemed like it was full of vaguely familiar faces, yet on perusal I discovered that Wiley Wiggins was the only actual familiar face.
Overall, I really loved this movie. It was awkward and hilarious and both surreal and very real. That it, I really loved it until the last twenty minutes or so, at which point it felt like it totally went off the rails. As has been my opinion on a number of other films, I think a bit more editing throughout would have made for a much stronger film. There were a few scenes that went on too long, or could have been eliminated entirely. Yet, even with it's flaws, I was happy to have seen it, and might watch it again if the opportunity came around. (I wouldn't necessarily seek it out.)
Mighty Girl is one of the blogs I have been reading since shortly after I discovered blogs, over a decade ago. I love the writing, I love the photos, I love the ideas. Today's post really made me think.
Playing the video and thinking about what it says, this has an awful lot of merit. At the same time, I think there is a lot of privilege in the idea of "just do what you love and the money will follow." It may be true that the money will follow, but life doesn't stop costing money just because you are starting to follow your passion. The "DWYLATMWF" premise assumes that you have a support system to keep you going in the meantime: parents, a significant other, savings, a patron, a government grant... Otherwise what do you eat? Where do you live? How do you pay your medical bills? For anyone who isn't starting out from a position of privilege, Do What You Love is going to be a hell of a lot harder. There are a lot of people for which "Do What You Gotta and Maybe You Can Pay the Bills" feels like an aspiration.
What are your thoughts? How do we make DWYLATMWF realistic for more people? I'd certainly love to make it work in my own life. Is passion enough to build the bridge from that point A to point B, or does it also require circumstances that may be beyond your control.
In my own life, in my own family, I look at how to make this work. What does it take to make this work? What does it mean if you can't?
This afternoon was like a long game of bad news/good news.
First I went to my light keelboat lesson (yay!), but then I slipped and put my foot down wrong my second step onto the boat, hurting my ankle (boo!). After the initial pain died down, it really wasn't hurting at all (yay!)) unless I tried to put my whole weight on the foot (boo!). Being able to put my weight on either foot as needed was pretty vital to being useful on a keelboat, so I went left the lesson within a half hour of the start (boo!). Fortunately, I was able to pedal my bike without putting the wrong kind of weight on my foot, so getting home wouldn't be a problem (yay!).
I was slowly coming up the home stretch, on the hill into my neighborhood when I spotted a quarter at the side of the road (yay!). I stopped to pick it up, but when I started pedaling again, my chain wouldn't move and I couldn't turn the pedals (boo!). Just at the moment, I looked up and saw a friend of mine biking up the hill. He stopped to say hello and lent me a hand with the bike (yay!). After a bit of looking, I discovered that the one of the screws that holds the bike rack to the bottom of the frame had come out and the support post and fallen down into the gears, jamming up the whole thing (boo!). But I was only about two blocks past a bike shop, so I could easily go get that fixed (yay!).
At this point, my hands were black with grease from my chain (boo!), but I remembered that I had two hand sanitizer wipes in my purse, which took off the worst of it. A gent at the bike shop was able to fix it for with right away, and didn't charge me anything for it (yay!).
When I got home, I found that my ankle was felling much better (yay!) unless I out pressure on it at a specific angel, at which point it *really* freaking hurts (boo!). I do think it will be fine with a bit of rest, though. So I made pizza and chilled out, and a friend linked me to a video from a really enjoyable vocal group, which I will share with you below.
One worry I had going into the screening was that, as can often be the case with documentaries of this kind, at least some of the subject would be the cringe-inducing type of obsessive, which I find uncomfortable to watch. This was not the case. To be sure, all of the Tetris players had a degree of obsessiveness, which is required to be really good at any skill. You cannot achieve mastery without practice, and you won't get that much practice without at least a little obsession.
But beyond that, all of main folk getting screen time were, for the most part, personable and people with whom I'd happily hang out. I'm not a computer gamer, but they were still my kind of folks. None of them came off as "poorly-socialized gamer geek" or "crazy obsessive". It certainly helped that the filmmaker was not some outsider looking in, but someone who had a love and understanding of the subject.
As a film, it told it's story in a fun and compelling way, and it held my attention and interest for the full time. I'm usually pretty tired by the last film of the weekend, but I was not afflicted by drooping eyes and a nodding head. I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other children of the 80's who came of age with Super Nintendo.
I had to be talked into getting tickets for this one. I am not a fan of the monster movie/horror genre, and usually don't even really enjoy the loving send-ups. (Ask me how much I hated Scream. Shaun of the Dead was always the one, notable exception.) But compromise is part of the process in picking out films, so when my longtime film buddy, M. was really excited about The Amateur Monster Movie, I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad that I did.
(Warning: the trailer kind of has spoiler. At the same time, really? It's The Amateur Monster Movie, not Inception. Are you really worried about spoilers? I thought not.)
Hilarious. I laughed harder during this than at any film I've seen in a while. There were a couple of sequences that really didn't work at all, but over all it was spot on. As you can guess from the trailer, it has some...language. I left the theater saying "muther feckin' wer-wolf" at the drop of a hat.
If you are a fan of monster movies or B-movies in general, you ought to get a kick out of this one. And I can attest that you might enjoy it even if you usually can't stand that genre. The Amateur Monster Movie is a winner.
I don't know exactly why, but I find this video strangely mesmerizing.
It could be because I am lousy at ironing and avoid it whenever I can. It could be the blueish lighting, the steady camera angles, and the lack of soundtrack beyond the quiet, incidental noise of the activity. But seriously, watch that man iron and tell me you wouldn't want to wear that shirt. (Or maybe not *that* shirt, but it's equivalent in your size and style.) Even mundane chores can be beautiful when practiced with skill.
My. God. I have never, in all my 36 years on this earth, undertaken a project even half so grand as what these kids did over the course of their teenage years. Certainly never did anything like it when I was actually a teen. The movie was a love letter to Raiders of the Lost Ark and a love letter to cinema. I was amazed at what they were able to pull off, and was rather bummed that we weren't able to stay for the Q&A after the film.
If you grew up on Indiana Jones and you get a chance to see this film, you should not pass up the opportunity.
I didn't see any films on Friday night, since I was at the Overture Center singing in Verdi's Requiem for most of the evening. But first thing Saturday morning, we were off to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Orpheum.
During the pre-show announcements, they mentioned how many sushi restaurants there were within a five minutes walk of the theater. Good thing they did, because I'm pretty sure everyone left the theater dreaming of sushi as well.
While the film wasn't quite as meditative as The Meaning of Tea, it was very peaceful and refreshing. I have an admiration for people like Jiro Ono, who thrive on simplicity and order, and who can do the repetitive work needed to achieve excellence at something. I don't work that way myself: I like the idea of simplicity, but I tend towards complexity, variety, and a wee bit of chaos. But the contrast between my way of life and Jiro's made it particularly pleasant to watch.
The visuals were great. If you didn't want sushi by the end of the film, you probably never liked sushi to begin with. Piece after piece of perfect nigiri was lovingly filmed in lingering close-up shots. Mouth watering. Trips to the fish market were slightly less mouthwatering, but far from disgusting. It is easy to forget how crazy huge tuna are. It's rather a shame how divorced we get from what and where the food we eat comes from.
In some tiny way, I was reminded of Great, a webcomic by Ryan Armand (KIWIS BY BEAT!). Jiro doesn't seem to have much in common with Lyle Phipps (who is often an angry sad sack) but I found myself thinking of Lyle's drive to create the greatest ramen in the world. (I also found myself wanting ramen.)
Later in the day we stopped at T. Sushi, to give the newest sushi restaurant a try. It was good, but definitely no Sukiyabashi. I might go there again, but it won't be at the top of my list of Madison sushi restaurants. (I have a hard time taking a sushi restaurant seriously if you order tea and are given a cup of hot water and a generic food-service tea packet.)
Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) was the second stop on our festival journey. It was also at Sundance Cinema, so we got to take a brief intermission at the Great Dane Hilldale.
(The trailer lack subtitles, but the subtitled version I found also featured a terrible American movie trailer voice over. Too awful to link.)
The festival write-up describes this as "a thriller with all the boring parts cut out" and they were not lying. My adrenaline was elevated from the first scene to the last, and even though it was very late when I left the movie, I was very keyed up.
There are some very important details that would be spoilers for the very first scene, but I can say that the majority of the film is a tense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse in a loud, crowded nightclub. They skip right over many of the usual cliches that make up the slow moments in action movies and keep you right in the midst of the actual action. I'm sure that they inevitable American remake will have some sort of goofy comic relief and a love interest. I'd recommend seeing this, and not bothering with any Hollywood follow-up.
I'd seen Wisconsin when it was first uploaded to YouTube in March of last year, but it was great to see it again. So much has happened since then. Cold, snow, crowds, mud, pizza... Show me what democracy looks like: petitions, boxes and boxes of petitions.
It isn't the best of the little films that came out of the protests (the uncertain focus and camera angles was a bit maddening) but it was great to see and hear a variety of faces and voices.
We're Not Broke was well made, and if there was a person in the theater who didn't find themselves getting furious while watching it, I think they might have been asleep. It detailed the lengths to which American multinational corporations will go to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. and the ways in which they do so. They are literally willing to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions, lawyers, and accountants in order to reduce or eliminate their tax bills. The things they do *may* be legal at this time, but they are in no way right or ethical.
As is often the case in documentaries like this, there were occasional moments where the protesters came off looking a bit silly, but that was mostly due to the fact that they are not professionals. But it was corporate America that came off looking like jackasses at best.
I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Lee Shephard., who was incredibly droll with a dry and acerbic wit.
I ended up sitting next to two older women, whose sotte voce comments I could overhear during the course of the film. If I was seething internally at the nefarious practices of the corps, they were visibly (and audibly) bristling with indignation.
It was rather a good thing for me that it wasn't the last film of the night, because if it had been, I'd probably have seethed all night long. As it was, I had about an hour after the end to glower about corporate tax dodgers, after which I was plunged into French action sequences, and it was my adrenaline being raised, rather than my blood pressure. It has stayed with me, though, and I will definitely recommend it to other people, if they get the opportunity. This is something we should be made about.
First off, if you ever have the opportunity to try the cheesy pub fries at Laz Bistro and Bar in Stoughton, WI, do not let the moment pass you by. Those are some amazing, tasty chips. However, unless you plan on making a meal of nothing but them, plan to split them with at least one friend. While it may be found in the "tapas" section of the menu, there was nothing "small" about this plate.
Secondly, the Stoughon Opera House is remarkable beautiful venue, both in terms of looks and in sound quality. Even though it was a bit of a drive to get there, I will gladly go again. (And now I am extra sad that the Carolina Chocolate Drops show there last fall sold out before I got tickets. It must have been an astonishing show in that space.)
Finally, even with a hint of laryngitis roughening up her voice, Dar Williams remains as luminous and buoyant as ever. It was an intimate show, just Dar with her guitar and a piano accompanist on some songs. The last few times I'd seen her she had a band along. As nice as the bands were, I definitely prefer her solo (or almost solo) sound. I have always been fond of the way she interacts with the audience and introduces the songs with little stories. It's that kind of thing that gets me to live shows.
She also looked fantastic, and gave me a great idea for what to do with my hair when it gets a bit longer. I think I've always had a tiny girl-crush on her unassuming hippy-goddess rockstar style. She never goes over to top in any direction, but nails it with confidence. Considering her severe stage fright in her early career, it really inspires me.
Japan's Wrecking Crew Orchestra performs an amazing routine with the help of a darkened stage and costuming that features electroluminescent wire. It's like watching something from a video game or a sci-fi film.
Kirby Ferguson, a New York-based filmmaker, created an interesting and engaging 4-part short video series called Everything is a Remix, in which he discusses the process of creativity in which we build on the work of others to make something new, and in turn have our work built upon by others. He also talks about the original intentions of both copyright and patent, and the effect that the modern ideas of intellectual property are having on the process of creativity.
It is well worth a watch. He also has a new project in the works, called This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, which is going to be about politics. I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes with it.