Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Singular Documentary Series

Shot over 42 years, the documentary series that began with 7 Up returned to follow the lives of people in England every seven years. I first saw 28 Up and have watched the other films since then, which means that I’ve been following the series for 21 years now. By seeing how a group of people age and change over a period of time provides a unique perspective on their lives and how things have changed for them. It also provides a parallel with my own life, which has changed a lot over the past 21 years. While the context outside of the documentary has changed with the contrived situations of reality television, the latest instalment is a bit more self-reflexive with most of the participants much more settled and content than in earlier instalments. Director Michael Apted has been with the series since the beginning and took over the directorial duties beginning with 14 Up. It’s a fascinating and somewhat voyeuristic look into how things change over time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


John and I went for a walk downtown today and I pointed the phone down while I walked.

The Story of a Troubled Artist

by Jeff Feuerzeig

I heard someone talking about The Devil and Daniel Johnston on the radio and they played a bit of one of his early songs. It was haunting and I mentally added it to the list of films that I wanted to see. When I started watching the film it was fascinating and as it progresses it becomes an amazing journey with a person who has a unique, difficult and different life. A distinctive visual artist as well as a songwriter, Daniel Johnston is quite singular and my attempts at describing this film and the man to people usually consists of recounting many of the events that are described in the film. So I won’t do that here. It’s fascinating music and a compelling story that is surprising and told through tape recordings, music, short films, archival footage and interviews. While Johnston’s range of songs can be uneven, the best are great and unforgettable.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dreamlike Story of Love and Myth

I rented _Tropical Malady” knowing very little about it and it is a remarkable film in how it follows distinct and different rhythms. With a simple plot the film slowly unfolds as a simple love story, but then shifts into a version of a folk tale. As things progress it becomes gradually stranger and more dreamlike. It’s a haunting film from Thailand that is difficult to describe as it feels more like music or poetry than a narrative film.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Deliberate Film About Chance and Choices (rated 4 stars)

by Woody Allen

Match Point is a simple, beautifully shot film that intellectually examines chance and how that affects the choices that we make. While covering a lot of the same ground as Louis Malle’s Damage and Allen’s own Crimes and Misdemeanors, this time Allen has a more focused and concise story that is deliberately paced as one thing logically leads to another with an element of chance thrown in. I liked it on a intellectual level and admired the control as it unfolded.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Fascinating Look at Design Without Thinking

by Jane Fulton Suri

I heard about Thoughtless Acts when I read about one of the images in the book, which shows how you can wrap the string of a tea bag around the handle of a mug to stop it from falling in to the cup when water is poured in. I started doing that with tea bags and then bought the book. It’s a beautiful and small hardcover book that is made up of a series of photos without captions, but each image speaks volumes about the design of things and how people interact with the environment that they are within. At the end of the book you can read descriptions of the photos, but it’s not necessary. It’s great to browse through it or to randomly look at the images and think about how things work and how we adapt to our environment or how we change it to suit our own needs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Music

by The Boy Least Likely To

Another musical suggestion from one of my coffee shop pals and another hit. I don’t know if I’d have discovered this on my own, but The Boy Least Likely To have a relentlessly happy tone that instantly cheers me up. From the xylophone at the beginning of The Best Party Ever it is catchy pop music with clever lyrics and a hint of 70 nostalgia. I don’t know why it feels like that to me, but it does and I love it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A New Look at Mr. Bond

by Martin Campbell

I’m a lapsed James Bond fan who stopped watching the films after Timothy Dalton left, so I wasn’t really that interested in the latest 007 until I started reading some of the reviews and then I decided to see it after talking with a few people who saw it and loved it. Right from the opening sequence I loved it and the way it was faithful to Ian Fleming’s Bond while following and undermining the conventions of the films. It skillfully weaves through the plot with Daniel Craig as a fantastic Bond. In the opening credit sequence we only see men (with the one exception being the Queen on playing cards) and in an odd way Craig almost performs the function of the “Bond Girl” with the lovingly photographed shots of him in various states of undress.
It brings fun and danger back to Bond and somehow manages to capture the spirit and feeling of the early Connery Bond films while also being contemporary and bold.