Archive for Film

Town & Out

In The Town, Ben Affleck successfully breaks into vaults and out of Matt Damon’s shadow. I’ve never been a big Affleck fan, but his latest directorial/starring role is a triumph. While most of Affleck’s previous acting work is quite forgettable (with the exception of his parts in Good Will Hunting and Boiler Room), he is quickly becoming Boston’s answer to New York directors Spike Lee and Marty Scorsese.

While The Town takes place near the setting of Gone Baby Gone (Affleck’s critically-acclaimed directorial debut), it  stays exciting and original throughout. An excellent supporting cast (with standouts Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, & Pete Postlethwaite) keeps the acting pressure off of the film’s lead, while giving audiences a dramatic view into a small breeding ground for many big-time criminals.

As a writer/director, Affleck has never shied away from his Boston roots. The Town takes this to another level. With a climactic heist scene in none other than Fenway Park (an instant classic rivaling the final bank job in Heat), the movie literally swings for the fences. It’s a homerun.

While Ben Affleck has frequently been mocked for not having as much cinematic credibility as Matt Damon (his former writing partner), it appears he’s found his niche. Ben Affleck…auteur? How do you like Dem apples?

Dream ONondaga

In one week, I’ll be returning to the Inception-like dream world that is college. Although I’m eager to be back at my second home, thinking about the upcoming year has put my mind in a Leo DiCaprio-like limbo.

While I’m stoked for what’s coming, it’s hard to remain in the moment. There’s no escaping the reality that this is my Syracuse University Farewell Tour, and no science fiction subplot can hide the fact that my future has never been closer to the now.

College is essentially one enormous “pre-game” that helps make your cultural, intellectual, and social integration into the real world less awkward. I still feel like an incoming freshman at heart, but no college kegger can compare to the wild party I’m about to join – a true “rager” called life.

Nevertheless, with only two semesters until graduation, I’ll strive to work and play harder than ever. Balancing academic responsibilities with the freedom from other demands is the best way to make these last months as exciting and memorable as my first days (back when I was a naive, orange lanyard-wearing neophyte in Brewster Hall).

College is also a place for students to pursue their life’s dreams in a dream-like atmosphere. The idea that “anything is possible” applies more here than anywhere else (except for maybe inside Christopher Nolan’s head).  While there are differences between dreaming while awake and asleep, our conscious goals and subconscious fantasies have much in common. We all want to visualize our happy dreams coming to fruition without interruption or nightmare. We also want to make discoveries along the way.

With this in mind, I’m excited to embrace new challenges, relationships, and ideas before my Syracuse dream comes to an end. I plan on “Carpe Diem-ing” my way through new experiences, while also making time for familiar friends and routines (as well as few Keystone Lights).

Although I’m starting the year with a positive outlook, I’m concerned that I won’t be able to accomplish everything I’ve set out to do in (and after) college. Dreaming big could ultimately set you up for big disappointments. I also realize that my determination alone may not be enough. While hard work can get you an A (at least in “Living Writersclass), it cannot guarantee success and fulfillment down the road. Still, there is no better time to explore the depths of our own curiosities and desires.

While my childhood dreams were shaped in Long Island’s Nassau County, my hopes for adulthood have been molded here in Onondaga. Syracuse University has provided me with liberation from adolescence, as well as a bridge to my life’s true journey. While a Magellan GPS can’t help anyone  arrive at a rewarding personal destination, maybe dreams can.

Inception, Hollywood’s biggest summer hit, teaches us the importance of adapting to life’s changes. With big changes on my horizon, I was moved by the idea that we are better served confronting our realities than looking for more convenient (or in the movie’s case, imaginative) escapes. Still, it’s beneficial to note how the blockbuster film also shows us that dreaming is often breathtaking, confusing, emotionally charged, and unpredictable. Sounds a lot like real life to me.

To Mel With It!

Mel Gibson may be a raging fool, but he also happens to be a genius. While the American Australian actor, director, and producer is feeling the heat this week for his starring role in the most career-damaging tape recordings since  Nixon’s Watergate scandal, one can abhor the man without abstaining from enjoying his work.

Heaven and Mel

Sure, Gibson’s phone recordings are alarming, but they certainly shouldn’t be surprising. For years, we’ve known this man is batshit, and while he may now appear crazier than his character in Lethal Weapon, there’s nothing wrong with still being a fan of this artist’s art.

While Gibson’s vulgar ranting makes Alec Baldwin’s infamous 2007 voicemail sound like a Joel Osteen sermon, this wouldn’t stop me from watching a film with Mad Max’s name in the credits. I don’t believe there’s anything shameful about exploring the work of a shameful individual. Of course, most filmgoers don’t share my position, as Gibson’s career and reputation are now dead (or at best, on life support).

The Joely One

Sure, I’m angered by this former icon’s arrogance, ignorance, alleged violent tendencies, and overt racism/sexism/anti-semitism, but I’m also disappointed that Gibson has blown his opportunity for future professional triumphs. Some troubled celebrities have continued to succeed after overcoming seemingly insurmountable personal woes (including the resilient, public-relations nightmare Charlie Sheen), but I can’t foresee another Braveheart or Apocalypto (two of the most ambitious and awe-inspiring films ever produced) hitting theaters anytime soon. Heck, the only thing less likely than another studio-financed Gibson epic would be a sequel to What Women Want.

Where Have You Gone, Helen Hunt?

I’ve frequently written about the “power of celebrity” and how America should hold its stars to higher standards. Still, I think the line between entertainers’ public and private lives needs to be stretched. We often confuse actors with the larger-than-life characters they portray, distorting our cultural values. TMZ may be entertaining, but it certainly isn’t interesting, and our obsession with stars’ “everyday” lives only sets us up for disappointment when we realize they are as flawed and fragile as the rest of us.

I often wonder if celebrities themselves lose track of their surroundings and remain in character when they’re away from their set. After all, wasn’t 24′s Kiefer Sutherland recently arrested for headbutting/”Jack Bauering” a fashion designer? Didn’t Christian Bale verbally “terminate” a crew member during a 2008 T:4 shoot?

Even Kiefer Sutherland wears Jack Bauer pajamas

If you listen closely to the Mel Gibson tapes, you’ll hear that he sounds a lot like a cross between his roles in Hamlet, Conspiracy Theory, and The Patriot (with a little Darth Vader added in). Essentially, Mel was just being who we knew him to be- the intense renegade we always loved to watch fight back on-screen. Only this time, unbenownonst to Gibson, it was real.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not defending Mel Gibson’s actions. I’m only trying to understand how an individual with so much to lose can throw it all away. For someone who once brought people so much joy, the fallen star has truly earned the masses’ animosity  (while NBA icon Lebron James has taken fair criticism for his egotistical “Decision,” Gibson’s actions were significantly more offensive and help put things in perspective).

While I could care less about Gibson’s image, I do want to protect his artistic legacy. Like the auteur himself, Gibson’s projects have often been controversial, unconventional, and uncompromising. Society may deserve better public influences, but cinema certainly needs more like Mel Gibson.

Throwback to the Future

Remember when it was cool to be retro? I sure do. Growing up on the Beatles, Converse, Nick at Nite, and Larry Bird highlight tapes made me feel generations ahead of my time. As a kid, I used to love chatting with my friends’ parents (perhaps even more than with my friends themselves) because it was exciting to bridge our age gaps through nostalgic dialogue. Referencing Lennon-McCartney and Lenny-Squiggy set me apart from others my age who were more familiar with Evan & Jaron and Keenan & Kel. Sporting “Dr. J’s” and a #33 Celtics jersey gave me character, and made me feel like a man among boys wearing Sambas and the Bulls # 23.

The only reason worth watching "Laverne & Shirley"

Nowadays, being old-school paradoxically means being with the times. Retro style isn’t truly “retro” anymore, and it often feels painfully uncool. When everyone including your eighth grade sister rocks several colors of low-top Chuck Taylor’s, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our age’s love of all things past. Throwback jersey-filled stadiums, Journey sing-alongs, and high school chicks in Ramones’ t-shirts all make me want to vomit and immediately torch my vinyl record and baseball card collections.

I (REALLY) Wanna Be Sedated!!!

My generation is relatively apolitical, non confrontational, and cleanly, so why is it that we all want to dress like punks and hippies!  Why do we play “Beatles Rock Band” and quote  Across the Universe, when many of us would likely confuse George Harrison with the guy who played Han Solo (I’m right now picturing a future YouTube video called “I am the Wookie”).

"George" Harrison Ford

Perhaps we love what once was because we fear the uncertainties of what’s coming. Or maybe we find security with past styles in order to mask our age’s apparent lack of substance. I fervently doubt most of today’s music, TV, films, clothing, and automobiles will possess similar staying power as those we celebrate from prior times.

It’s scary to think that my generation isn’t contributing much worthwhile and long-lasting culture to the future. Still, it is probably more frightening to believe we are doing so! If my children grow up listening to the Dave Matthews Band, watching Gossip Girl, and wearing corny rubber bracelets around their wrists, I’ll feel partially responsible for cheating them of the sheer retro awesomeness my parents’ generation passed on to my peers and I.

Maybe throwing things back a bit has its perks, however. By continuing to follow trends of the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s, my generation can make history forget that we’ve never really had a distinctive cultural identity of our own.

Perhaps it’s impossible to establish a unifying, representational image for a generation so absorbed in the past. Our identity crisis is also complex due to addictive social networking and new media allowing individuals to strategically manipulate the ways they are viewed by others (as a blogger, “Tweeter”, and Facebook user, I’m as guilty as anyone). True individuality is hard to notice within collective networks, making it even more difficult for unique people to stand out and inspire positive cultural reform. Consequently, many revert back to older forms of expression (classic rock music, iconic images) to share how they truly feel.

As much as it sometimes pains me to see retro become so commonplace, I’ll have to bite my tongue and continue donning my “Larry Legend” attire quietly. After all, I believe John Lennon inspired many throwback t-shirts that boldly read “Give Peace a Chance.”

Imagine...all the t-shirts!

Avatar Feeling “The Hurt”

The Hurt Locker is a great film. Is it the best movie of 2009? No.

Avatar fell victim to its own enormity and success Sunday night. Sometimes things can be so popular that it’s unpopular to support them.

People have called “Locker” one of the greatest war films ever produced. While it may be the most intense and provocative drama of its type, the movie doesn’t match up with several similar films that didn’t take home Best Picture, including Steven Spielberg’s timeless classic Saving Private Ryan (1999 Oscars). Ironically, The Hurt Locker may not have even been the best war movie nominated this year! My vote goes to Inglourious Basterds, which I believe is writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s 3rd masterpiece film (after Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill).

Even if the Academy didn’t choose Avatar as the year’s finest, James Cameron should have been honored as Best Director for his latest sci-fi love child. Hollywood’s most innovative mind has changed the future of global cinema by pushing the boundaries of the medium. Avatar, simply for its groundbreaking visual advancements, may go down as the Citizen Kane of the 21st century.

Looking back at 2009, Avatar is the one movie that will always stand out. Unfortunately, it didn’t last night.

AVATAR left feelin' blue

AVATAR left feelin' blue