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Archive for February, 2011

The Social Network (2010)

2011/02/21 1 comment

The Social Network is a remarkable film. Directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin the film is worth all the hyperbolic phrases that can be thrown at it. It is the first film of my adult life which has an importance now, but over time will become an even more critical work of American cinema. My initial reaction was that the film could be read as a hybrid of The Paper Chase and Network. Both are strong films which have only gotten better over time. Whatever weaknesses the film may have, after a second viewing I am even more certain that this film will obtain a special place in cinema history.

Focusing on three character’s, Mark Zuckerburg, Eduardo Saverin, and Sean Parker, during the creation of facebook the film provides a tangential connection to the millions who use the site and see the film. Personally, I was an undergraduate during the inception of facebook and clearly remember setting up a profile in my tiny University Commons apartment. While I did not attend Harvard or any of the Ivy league schools, I was privy to the site in the days when a user had to have a registered university email account to access the site. Even for people who were not a part of facebook’s initial stages or care little for social networking can connect with this story.

Aaron Sorkin has repeatedly described that the film is less about the experience of facebook and more about greed, power, friendship, lust, love and betrayal. However, with this ‘good-ol’ storytelling style it simplistically and problematically places women into the category of groupie slut or angelic voice of reason. Essentially, The Madonna or The Whore. Even with this issue the strength of the actors, storytelling, and editing remain so focused it is a challenge not to heap praise on the film.

In addition to these elements, I feel a significant amount of credit must be given to the film’s score, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Similar to the compelling score of Sneakers the music of the film enhances each scene and makes programing lines of code a real adrenaline rush. In particular the tracks, In Motion and A Familiar Taste which play during the brainstorming, creation, and launch of Zukerburg’s initial attempt of facemash create a frenzy of image and sound. The melodic themes combing electronic and traditional compositions propel the scene while never overtaking the characters. I would argue the opposite is true of the similarly composed TRON:Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk which essentially turns the film into a two-hour music video.

Shot on, The Red One digital camera, the cinematography is gorgeous and filled with the lush dark reds and golds that run through any Fincher film. Even though the frame is dark the colors feel deep and probing. Viewers are guided to specific spots on the frame, but the darkness around the edges hints at something more tempting if you choose to explore the space. Absolutely wonderful.

In one of the most dynamic scenes Fincher and crew cut between Zuckerburg’s dorm room, the Phoenix Final Club party and various locations around campus to balance tension with humor as facemash spreads throughout the campus community. The use of slow motion effectively raises the drama while the score hints at the sinister nature of the game all the while punctured by humor as each student makes their selection. Each of these elements is well balanced and helps a scene which would fall flat in lesser hands.

If there is any weakness to the film it would have to be the ending, which is the tragic element for so many Hollywood pictures. The conversation with Rashida Jones character echoing the themes set up in the opening scene feel forced. I compare this scene to the moment on a carnival ride or roller coaster when the action stops and the passengers coast back to the starting gate. You are still in the ride and you know it is coming to an end, but these last few moments feel like boring compared to the controlled insanity just experienced. During each viewing when the final scene arrived, I felt cheated by the machine operator and wanted just one more time around the bend. That is the best compliment for any movie, when after two hours you still want more, you still want to be with these characters and you just want the ride to continue. The Social Network is one of those rare films that makes going to the cinema some kind of wonderful.

Until next time, Cheers!

PS

I do enjoy watching the Academy Awards every year and even mark a ballot. However, I rarely voice an opinion about which film should ‘win’ as it seems rather meaningless. I do hope this film wins the lot though, if only for placing it on a list that will guarantee future generations access. On that same coin, some of my favorite films are those that have lost (There Will be Blood) or were never even nominated (El Dorado). So you know, whatever.

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Work

Once again it is 1:45 am and I am staring at the screen. I have stared at it for so long that I thought it inventive to change my wall paper to an image of the HAL 9000. Now I have the friendly red stare of an outdated sci-fi pop reference to keep me company. Hopefully I will not get locked out of the apartment.

Also, helping pass the time is the mindless house keeping of converting and labeling movie files. Over the past few weeks I have easily added seventy titles to my research pile. The quest of getting materials never ends, but steadily I am amassing a collection that is quite enviable to any aspiring film scholar. Especially in the age of torrent all the time instant access, Japanese films have for whatever reason stayed relatively out of reach. That is to say the majority of films not made within the last fifteen years or those not directed by Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi.

I know this will change over time and in a few years the majority of work I have done will probably become irrelevant, but for the time being I am contented with my hard drive and the files I have amassed. Now the much more important part of watching and dissecting them. Just want for this show to continue.

Until, next time Cheers!

Categories: Life

soro soro

In the next few weeks I will be wrapping up my second time studying abroad in Japan. Both times I was in Tokyo and connected with a prestigious university. Both times I learned a lot about myself and believe I have grown in many ways. At the same time I am a bit melancholy about leaving. There is this greater feeling that I did not accomplish all I set out to do. It is not necessarily a bad thing, just a realization that no one can accomplish every goal or idea they set out for themselves. Also, not living as a tourist here it is easy to get into the daily swing of life and not seek out a new opportunity everyday. Now with my return so close I am conflicted with enjoying myself while at the same time focusing on the larger responsibilities I have.

Like I just said I was unable to do everything I set out to, but this year has provided a wealth of memories and experience that will hopefully propel me to the next stage of my studies and life. I find in these little pockets of time just before a big move or change I tend to reflect on my choices and make an assessment of where I have been going vs. where I want to be going. For the most part I am on track, but there are a few adjustments that must be made. Especially over the coming months. I look forward to writing more and seeing what the next few months will bring.

Until next time, Cheers!

Categories: Japan, Life

Real Folk Drink Chu-hai

One of the earliest experiences I can remember from the start of my study abroad at Waseda University was bonding with friends over a delicious road-brew can of Chu-hai! Like many who travel to Tokyo will discover, Japan has it’s own variety of the B&J’s, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, fruity alcoholic beverages. The general term chu-hai is applied a variety of brands. The term chu-hai is shortened from the longer Shochu-Highball (焼酎ハイボール). Shochu is an alcohol distilled from corn, grain or potatoes that usually has a pretty high alcohol level. (Usually around 25%)

The drink itself is a carbonated beverage mixed with shochu and a fruit flavor. The flavors change from season to season, with Lemon and Grapefruit seeming to be a constant throughout the year. Keeping your eyes open though, it is easy to find grape, watermelon, apple, plum, peach, grape and (drum roll please) Strawberry!!

After almost a year of waiting the Strawberry Chu-hai has arrived and I have made it a personal goal to drink every variation I could get my hands on. So far there are three varieties I can review.

1. Asahi kajitsu no shunkan (果実の瞬間:苺)

As it says on the can it is a winter variety and has 0.2% Fruit Juice and a 4% Alcohol level, which is pretty standard. I remember enjoying the melon and grape flavors of this brand during the summer.

It is sweet with a slightly rough alcohol aftertaste which I am not completely in love with. Carbonation of the beverage provides a nice bit of fizz which tickles the tongue. A burst of strawberry flavor hits at first, but subsides in favor of previously stated.

Rating: 3/5

148yen

 

 

 

2.  Rifure Taimu (リフレタイム:チューハイイチゴ)

This one is the best of the bunch and usually sold at your local Family Mart convenience store. It is also 4% alcohol, but boasts a whopping 1% fruit juice combo. It is also the least expensive by at least 30 yen. Unlike the others the alcohol aftertaste is at a minimum and there is a burst of strawberry flavor. Like a friggin’ Starburst candy. The flavor is smooth, but not overpowering and easily my favorite.

Rating: 5/5

120yen

 

 

 

 

3. Calpis Sour (カルピスサワーミルク仕立てのもろやか苺)

Similar to the rifure and the Asahi before it this chu-hai has a 4% alcohol level and a 1% fruit juice infusion. The major difference from this one and the other two is the added mix of milk with the strawberry. Calpis in general is like a sweet milky substance which really isn’t my favorite. However, when it comes to strawberry I am willing to give it a try. This one combines a bit of sweetness with a lot of sour. Not really my style, but I imagine people who love sour skittles and the like will be in heaven with this one. Really did not like the milk action though. Just something didn’t mix right. Usually I am a big fan of smoothies and whatnot, but this was just lacking big time. The final insult was also a bit of a rough alcohol aftertaste, which just sucked. Again, not my taste, but it could appeal to the sour milk loving variety. I do enjoy the taglines though. “We use Strawberry, Milk, and the refreshing Vodka” (I will have THE Vodka) “Refreshing Taste, Enjoy It’s Crisp” (whatever the heck that means)

Rating: 2/5

185yen

Categories: Japan, Life

Entrance exam

Today arriving at Meiji I was greeted with the sight of thousands of young high school students taking their entrance exam for the university.

In all the years I have read about studied or known that this existed it is the first time I have seen it up close. it was quite a sight. Apparently it will be going on for the next few weeks so I plan on taking a few pictures as it is quite a production.

Categories: Japan, Life Tags: ,