Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Kind of a Funny Story

I started writing this review about a week ago, and even now I have no idea what to say about this film, or rather how to express my feelings in words that people would understand.

But I could still try.

So the movie is about a high school kid who has anxiety induced suicidal thoughts. He decides to remedy this by checking himself into a psychiatric ward for a few days. He spends most of his time in the movie narrating backstory like he's Ned Bigby reading from the Declassified Psych Ward Survival Guide. Now that I think of it, it's sort of like Ferris Bueller, except where Ferris just addressed the audience and nothing much further, Craig narrates quick flashbacks whenever some important information needs to be dropped in.

And this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that the film itself has a very pseudo-indie sort of feel, ridiculous fantasy scene set to Queen's "Under Pressure" not withstanding.

On the one hand, its quirkiness is very endearing, but on the other, that may be why it feels so empty and heartless. Relying on and reveling in its quirkiness in order to not work on anything else.

That's probably where the problem lies. This film is marketed toward troubled teens, so it tries desperately to appeal to troubled teens by way of its subject matter, the way information is conveyed, and its recognizable cast (Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakis, Jim Gaffigan, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham, Aasif Mandvi for about two minutes).

To clarify, my problem isn't the subject matter or the fact that it markets itself to its audience. My problem is that it expends so much energy on trying to be a noteworthy teen movie and not enough energy on being genuine, almost as if the movie itself is an uncertain teenager......well, there you have it.

The film isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it's cute for what it is and what it's trying to be. Give it a watch and see what you get out of it. And if it becomes one of your favorites, fantastic.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Me and Orson Welles

One of my problems when it comes to watching movies and writing reviews is that I have difficulty putting down exactly how I feel about a film. Sure, in the video reviews I hide this under generic critical adjectives and mountains of referencial humor, but when doing a straight "what-do-I-think-of-this" sort of review, I at times struggle for words to describe my experience, unless of course the film gives me material to work with, even if the material is just me pointing out idiotic little moments and not  looking at the big picture.

That's the sort of feeling I have with Me and Orson Welles, it is not terrible (far from it) enough for me to point out flaws so obvious even an inexperienced moviegoer would find them laughable, and not life-changing enough for me to whip out every clich├ęd positive adjective imaginable.

The main selling point for Me and Orson Welles, aside from the dramatization of Welles' 1937 production of Julies Caesar, as well as one of the only reasons I was even remotely interested in it, was Disney Channel survivor Zac Efron in the lead role. I have always been interested in actors and actresses who break from their initial successes and branch out to other works. I like watching them evolve in their craft. While I still haven't seen much of Efron's work outside of High School Musical (Charlie St. Cloud, The Lucky One, 17 Again, to name a few), I can say that he gives a believable performance as young high schooler Richard, who easily works his way into a role in Orson's (Christian McKay) play.

Most of the film is Richard's experience in working with the controlling and arrogent Welles, conversing with fellow actors in the production, and smoothly operating with nearly all of the young females in the cast. Admittedly, that last bit is slight exaggeration, but really, the 'plot' is eighteen-year-old Richard's relationship with Clair Danes' character, as well as with a young writer named Greta. We meet with Greta three times in the movie, once in the beginning, once in the middle, and once in the end. Basically, she's the checkpoint.

Perhaps this film is the story of an ambitious young man who makes his way into the world of glamor and fame, even for just a moment, but realizes the hard way how harsh that world can be, so at the end he decides that a simpler reality is for him, not this dictatorship under Welles. He had his fling with the production assistant who spent most of her time trying to get in touch with the director of Gone With the Wind (Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film), and he is ready to try a more naturalistic relationship with the young writer.

Whether or not I will return to Me and Orson Welles has yet to be seen, but if you're interested in seeing Zac Efron in a role not entitled 'Troy Bolton', or Christian Mckay's impeccable Orson Welles impression, I'd suggest, at the very least, a rental.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

One hobby that seems fairly easy but isn't (at least in my experience) is writing, specifically fictional writing. I have come up with a few ideas for fanfics, and I play them in my head like a cerebral cinema, but it's difficult to put it all down in words. One of my current problems with my presently unfinished fanfic is how to connect one scene with another, what should happen, what should be said, how into detail should I go, those sort of things. As a result, I haven't updated said fanfic in about five months or so.

As for Stephen King, I have definitely seen more movies based on his work than read any of his actual work. I started reading Carrie at one point, but never finished. So really, On Writing is the first Stephen King book I've read so far.

In a nutshell, On Writing is one-part memoir and other-part writing handbook. The first half covers certain moments from King's life that he wishes to share with the reader in order to give them an idea of how he formed as a writer. King then transitions into the writing advisory section, with advice about how to form a story (he often refers to the story as a fossil the writer must uncover with the right tools), how to get in touch with agents and publishers, and how to get rid of unnecessary adverbs, among other things.

This book was published in 2000, meaning that he had been working on the first draft for sometime before his near-fatal car accident (rather, he was hit by one) in 1999, so there is a part of the book that deals with this experience.

While I don't have much to say about King's fiction, I can say that he himself seems like an interesting character, from his witty observations to his precise use of the f-bomb. On Writing was a fun read, and hopefully I can figure out how to finish my stories with its help.

Up next: The Perk of Being a Wallflower. Oh joy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Giving Myself a Reading List

I have so many books that I've bought, but never read. Hell, I'm pretty sure I have more books that I haven't finished than books I haven't started. The main reason for this is that I am not much of a reader. Never really was. In school, reading was a mandated assignment that came with rewards if you over-achieved. In elementary school, I mostly stuck with the Berenstain Bears "big chapter" books. I did try to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, however, as I recall, it took me three days to finish reading the first chapter.

In middle school, we had a reading pyramid. The assignment was to read 5 books per trimester, a total of 15 per school-year (math is hard). Simple enough. However, the next year, they switched from trimesters to 6-week terms, so students then had to read 3 books per term and write short summaries of each book. It almost seemed as if the school system was trying to make me hate reading.

It wasn't until junior high and high school that I started to warm up to reading. We had a half-hour class called 'Advisory'. It was focused on helping us figure out our post-high school life, but most of the time, it was just a study hall period, and they encouraged us to have something to read. It was at this point in my life when I got into watching The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. So for recreational reading, I read Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You), Lewis Black's Me of Little Faith and Nothing's Sacred, Alan Moore's Watchmen and V For Vendetta, H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, H.P. Lovercraft's At the Mountains of Madness, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland series, and Sakurako Kimino's Strawberry Panic series (don't look at me like that).

As of now, I have many books spanning various genres that I would like to read sometime in my nearest future, given that I actually give myself time to read.

Here's is the list (some of these books I had started but haven't yet finished):

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Watership Down by Richard Adams
On Writing by Stephen King
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Dune by Frank Herbert
Looking For Alaska by John Green

Let the games begin.