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Visual Metaphors, Flat Characters, And Unfinished Thoughts

american-beauty

It’s been a slow week. Mostly spent watching movies and pacing back and forth while music plays in the background, attempting to dream up story ideas.

I finally got around to watching American Beauty, and loved it. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed well done visual metaphors; especially when the movie isn’t ALL visual metaphors. I am referring of course to the red rose petals that appear in the fantasy sequences during the film, which (I can only assume) symbolized sexual desire. And let us not forget the quirky characters; there is no substitute for a expertly written one. I really am a sucker for characters like that, which might also explain my love of Breaking Bad, Sleepy Hollow, and House (sure, Sleepy Hollow’s characters may not be “quirky” in the traditional sense, but they DO have a certain flair to them that I love).

I also ended up watching Zero Dark Thirty. I’ll say this for it; at least it didn’t portray every soldier as Captain America. You know, the sort of upstanding, patriotic hero that many people would have you believe soldiers are. That first scene had some good weight to it, and assuming you view the Americans as “the good guys” and everyone else as “the bad guys”, it gives a refreshing release from stereotypes. Hey, it’s not just the bad guys that do terrible things like torture.

Aside from that, however, Zero Dark Thirty sort of fell flat on its face for me. The main character felt like a cartoon, especially when she gets incredibly “hero on a quest” about one-third through the movie, making passionate speeches about how they need to be going after Bin Laden when everyone else has given up. I got this vibe that she was some hero from a small village who had risen up to battle the giant evil dark lord in his castle of doom, and it was hard to take the movie seriously after that. And honestly, whoever this person ACTUALLY was, I’m sure she had a bit more on her mind than Bin Laden 24/7. That was the entirety of her character. There’s a scene where she goes out to a restaurant with a co-worker (who felt like a stereotypical “girl” character, which was a bit annoying) who tells her to relax a bit and asks “do you have any friends at all?” And what does she do? She stares downward and doesn’t answer till the phone rings. If she was an introverted loner, that would be one thing, but this character didn’t seem that way at all. She was just far too single-minded.

In short, she felt more like a plot device than an actual character.

But enough of that. As far as dreaming up story ideas goes, I have accomplished a bit this week. Nothing too extravagant. I’ve been working on plotting a novel I’m writing, and have been occasionally writing bits of short fiction which were discarded very quickly after their creation. I’m horrible at sticking to stuff like that.

To give a few examples, let me show you a piece.

This is something I wrote late one night, not entirely sure what on Earth I was trying to achieve:

Is everyone like me?
Sam’s thoughts were often plagued with such frivolities. For it was frivolous to reflect on such things. It was the sort of statement pretentious morons thought up when they were being “deep”.
Deep into shit, maybe.
But he always did end up reflecting on that ever-persistent question, standing idly in his uniform with that one inconveniently placed mustard stain on his groin, the headset that didn’t work very well affixed to his head, the plastic so warm from the insufferable sun shining in through the drive-thru window that it stuck to his cheek, the microphone always seeming to tilt upward in just the right way so as to obscure his vision. Not to mention the way the headset seemed to turn people’s voices into unintelligible crackles.
Sam took another look around the restaurant, wondering if these people did the same things he did. Spend their whole day with this indifferent, superfluous attitude, then going home to turn on music really loud, dancing around their living rooms pretending they were the star of their own music video, imagining for a moment that they could actually sing, and didn’t look just a little too fat for television. Dreaming of a life where you were always happy and everyone respected you just for the sole reason that you were something good to look at. You’d stand out. You wouldn’t be a drone.
Sam hated being associated with these people. The ordinary, everyday street people. He’d had this moment, all the way back in elementary school, where he realized he was special. A cut above the rest. They were all going to be accountants and engineers and doctors. He, on the other hand, was going to be famous. He was going to make it big. He would prove all the others wrong when they doubted him. Even when they encouraged him, but sarcastically. Everyone was so very sarcastic. Sam could see right through them. They didn’t think he was hard-working enough to make it big in Hollywood, or publish some overnight success novel. He’d make it to stardom, and they’d all look at him and say “well, I have to admit it Sam, you were right all along!”

Sometimes I’ll start with a single line I want to include, or a feeling, a mood, even a title, but often I won’t know where I want to end up, and I’ll leave it partway through. Most of that last piece was taken from my previous experiences with working in fast-food, my high-school-era attitude toward life, and that feeling I actually had when I was younger, the idea that “I’m special, and destined for great things”.

I think I’m one of those people that needs to know the ending before I can begin to create the beginning and middle. I need a direction to head.

For now, I want to continue work on my novel, as I would love to have a completed manuscript on my hands instead of half-fleshed out scraps.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “occasional cinephile” Regier

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Vibrant Surrealism

Just a short penny for your thoughts:

I promised myself I wouldn’t post any more K-pop music videos. I’m fairly sure that most people that read this blog have quickly grown tired of them.

But then I found this one.

I’ve never fallen in love with a music video this fast! Allow me to elaborate:

I love surreal settings. Something that either takes you out of this world or portrays it in a more interesting light. I’m a total sucker for them.

And 2ne1, the K-pop group? They nailed that with this song.

The way colors in each scene pop out at you, the way the light dances across the various sets, the stormy night outside contrasted with the vibrant color palette inside? Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

The music itself, while still pop-y as anything (just as one should assume when watching these things) has a certain otherworldly, haunting quality to it that perfectly fits the images being presented. The moody aspect of the song combined with the sets sort of reminded me of Blade Runner, actually.

Yes, I just compared a k-pop music video to Blade Runner. I’m sure the cinema gods will forgive my blasphemy just this once!

Honestly, music video cinematography beats out movie cinematography, every time. That or it’s just more blatant; take your pick.

The flow, the pacing works so well with the camera’s movements. In that scene with the umbrellas, just watch where the camera is precisely as the lyrics are being delivered.

The light and color is probably the video’s strongest point. Everything is just so saturated! I once edited a dance video for a project when I was in media school in grade eleven, and I spent way too much time tweaking the colors, boosting the saturation and contrast, and fiddling with the lights. It was just too much fun, and it adds so much ambiance and mood to a scene!

And fine, cards on the table here. The other reason I enjoy this music video so much is probably because Park Bom is in it. If you remember from this post, I said that she, “really knows how to look at the camera”.

Well, she still does, and she’s still extraordinarily pretty.

I’m still quite smitten, I admit. That’s her just below.

Well, I just saw this video a good ten times (I know, I’m lame, but it’s just that cool!). That’s enough awesome imagery for now; I’m going to make a sandwich.

Pop on some headphones, turn up the volume, and prepare for a visual dinner party; complete with stormy skies, imaginative hairstyles, and beautiful costumes.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “stupid schoolboy crush” Regier

P.S. I’ll try to keep the niche Asian music out of my posts from now on. But this one couldn’t be helped!

Hairstyles And Space Guns

Whatever happened to bows? I mean the kind girls wear in their hair. I never see them anymore! Ribbons too, though I’d say that fits into the same category. Why throw such a wonderful idea by the wayside?
The same applies to skirts, but I’d better clarify; I mean neither the really short, tight skirts (those just look terrible), nor the really long ones (those are quite obviously old-fashioned, and went out of style for a reason). We’re talking about a nice, health median between the two.
Both bows and skirts are basically unicorns now; mystical things I always want to see, but never do.
In short, women’s fashion these days sucks; at least where I’m from, and I aknowledge that I could be totally off the mark and I’m just looking in the wrong places.
So women, why not take this opportunity and put a ribbon in your hair when you go out next? It looks so cute! I probably sound really stupid saying this, but I’m sticking to my guns here; both these things need a comeback.

Today I’m in a reviewing mood. Probably because I just saw these movies and want to talk about them; you know that feeling you get when you see something that you find interesting and you just want to share? Don’t get me wrong, it usually happens in a “HOLY CRAP THIS IS AMAZING I HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE” sort of way, but this is just something that tickled my fancy.

So there’s this manga in Japan called Gantz. If by some happenstance there is someone reading this who doesn’t know what a manga is, it’s a Japanese comic. I read what there was of it, and I was intrigued. Does it have an intricate plot or some fresh new story mechanic? Well, no. But I liked it anyway, and was thrilled when I saw this movie adaption. So here’s the basic synopsis:
It’s about two childhood friends, Kei and Kato, who get run over by a subway car while trying to save a homeless person and suddenly find themselves in an ordinary apartment room. It’s completely unfurnished, the only thing in it being a giant black ball and several other people, all who also “died” in some fashion. The black ball (named Gantz) starts playing old radio calisthenics music, and words appear on the surface, telling them their old lives are over and their new lives are his to control. It then shows them a picture of an alien, tells them to go kill it, and BOOM! Out of the ball pops several drawers of guns.

Oh come on, admit you’re at least a LITTLE interested by this point. Alright, here’s a few more details. One of the drawers holds a bunch of cases with black suits in them; eerily all tailor-made for each one of the people stuck in the room (though few of them even bother to put on such a ridiculous-looking thing). What they figure out later is that the suits give you super-human powers.

Oh yeah, and that girl above? She’s another main character. Her name is also Kei, but for the sake of distinction, I’ll use her surname, Kishimoto. She slit her wrists in a bathtub, but instead wound up in the room.

And the final detail: the guns. They look like crazy space guns, and when fired, they operate on a time-delay; after a few seconds, whatever they were fired at explodes (I know, cool, right?).

So anyway, these people are thrown out into the world and are forced to kill aliens. Some of the people don’t have much of a problem going about this (there are a fair amount of people in the room, and some of them are huge assholes), but some have a sort of moral dilemma. First off, are they dead? How’d they wind up in that room, why are they being told to go kill aliens, and is it alright to? Are the aliens invading? Do they NEED to be dealt with? Or are they just trying to live their lives, and is Gantz some kind of evil overlord who is making them kill the aliens for its own twisted ends?

The movies go into this a lot more than the manga, which in my opinion really got drowned underneath all the fan-service. Seriously, that comic basically seeps naked girls and pointless sex scenes out of it’s every pore (yeah, that’s a hell of a bizarre image I just gave you). The movies really lift the otherwise interesting story out of this mire, and go interesting places with it. There are two movies in this series by the way, Gantz and Gantz: Perfect Answer.

Once they kill the aliens, they get teleported back to the room where they get points based on their performance. When they get one hundred points, they… well, just go watch the movie, I’m not going to tell you EVERYTHING!
They get released back to their old lives after the scoring, but get teleported back again and again periodically to fight more aliens and gain more points, each time wondering if they’ll get killed or be forced to kill.

The movie has got some interesting things to say, it’s got kickass action sequences (all of which operate in a very manga/anime-like way, which is pretty cool. That scene on the train at the beginning of Perfect Answer? WHOA that was awesome!), and it’s got some nice characters; Kei, the morally-ambiguous selfish guy (less pronounced in the movies than the manga, but still there), Kato, the selfless hero who is desperately trying to provide for his little brother, and Kishimoto… the girl. Seriously, she’s basically just there as a love interest. She’s got a nice back-story and her character is certainly well-rounded, but she doesn’t serve much purpose in the Gantz arena. Not to say she’s useless in the plot, they just could have done more with her.

If you’ve got a spare evening or two, give these movies a shot. I watched them subtitled in Japanese (because the idea of watching an English dubbed live-action movie is DUMB) and I quite enjoyed the ride. Don’t expect anything too deep, but I’ll say this; this movie beats the crap out of a lot of blockbusters released here.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “wants one of those suits” Regier

Musicial Inclinations

First off, I wake up this morning and lo and behold, my blog has had some views! I got to check out some other posters today, and I must say, wordpress has quite the interesting community. It’s always reassuring to know you are being seen; after all, isn’t that part of the reason we are all posting? We just want to share, to understand and be understood, and it’s great to do that.

Alright, back on the topic that the title pertains to. Music. So this video above is from a Korean pop group called 2ne1 (I can only assume that’s pronounced twenty-one), and while it’s not by any stretch “good” music, meaning music that is inspiring or thought provoking or well composed, it IS a very… endearing song. This sort of music, you must realize, isn’t about the quality of the composition or the lyrical aptitude, but rather solely focused on the spectacle. It just gets in your face and throws cool images at you (at least in the context of this music video). You needn’t bother looking up the lyrics to this song, aside from the main phrase being tossed around (which is the same as the title of the song, “I Am The Best”) it’s pretty much all posturing about how amazing they all are. And hell, why not? Are you seeing them? They are all wearing the most bizarre outfits, but that’s part of what makes this so interesting and awesome. I mean, YOU’D feel really cool wearing a chainmail hood wouldn’t you? Come on, admit it. No, don’t ask me to explain the weird hat that looks like it has ice cream cones sticking out of it, or the wrestling belt she’s holding in the first shot. It’s just spectacle.
Then again, maybe it’s something more… maybe there’s a subtle message here that’s subversively affecting how we view the world. The belt? A symbol of accomplishment, obviously. The fact that her face is shadowed indicates that she is enigmatic and dangerous; not someone to be trifled with. And later on, the straight-jacket clearly means that she’s trapped. She’s so great, but the world is holding her down; for what right does the world have to get in her way? She’s the best. The pyramid in the background near the end? Well, that’s a reference to ancient, powerful civilizations, and the drums likewise a nod to tribal ceremony, the pinnacle of strength in ancient times. Combine that with the metallic, brushed look of their outfits indicating their ascent into the modern era, and no one can question the powerful imagery that is present here… BAHAHAHAHAH. No. Ignore that last paragraph. I’m joking. It’s just spectacle.

I suppose the one thing you could have drawn from that bogus paragraph is that if nothing else, this video is presented well. It draws you in (well, if you let it, anyway) and holds your attention. Not to mention that the girls are quite attractive. Go to 1:34 in the video; you’re looking for the girl who has her hair dyed blonde about a second or so later, turning the chair away from you. I won’t pretend to know her name, but her stage name is Park Bom. WHOA; she REALLY knows how to look at the camera. That look nearly renders me speechless every time I see it.
And yes, I fully admit, I’m a little smitten with her. But can you blame me?

Anyway, enjoy the video. Some days, you just have to kick back and accept a little mediocrity. It’s not the greatest music ever composed, but it’s sure as hell entertaining enough to give it a shot!
This post was about my musical inclination, and this is FAR from a comprehensive view on the subject. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and most of it depends on the headspace I wish to enter (usually related to writing, honestly). I’ll switch from haunting Celtic melodies to the progressive rock of Dream Theater to this all in a single listening. I’ll share some other varieties of stuff I listen to later on, but for now, let 2ne1 tell you how awesome they are.

Because they are.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “has a crush on a k-pop singer” Regier