Derek

It’s been a while since my last post. I’d blame it on laziness except that I’ve actually had a lot going on lately. Between moving to Chicago, starting school, and attempting to have a social life I really haven’t even thought about my silly little blog. Before I get into Derek I’ll give you guys a little update on my life.

Everything feels like it has come together too perfectly since I got here. Well, besides the actual move in process which was basically a circus act. But, first and foremost, I LOVE my roommate. She is the yin to my yang and we function perfectly together. Oh and today is our one month anniversary of living together! I’ve also made a lot of friends from school. I pretty much immediately bonded with a group of girls and it feels like we do everything together. A few of them are television majors as well which is absolutely perfect.

Also, I feel like I am surrounded by greatness when I am at school. Pretty much the same group of 14 people are in all of my classes and each and every one of them amazes me. Many of them took the time to look at my blog and talk to me about it– I just think that is so cool. I can’t wait to work with them on projects this semester and hopefully in the future as well.

What else….

My neighborhood is the bomb. There has been a different festival here every weekend since I moved in. Plus a weekly farmers market, awesome coffee shops and really lively bars. It’s the perfect 20-something neighborhood.

Okay now on to Derek,

So far a Netflix original series hasn’t done me wrong (unless you count season 4 if Arrested Development) so it only seemed right to give their newest addition a try. I will admit, I’m not usually a Ricky Gervais fan. It’s nothing in particular about him, I just don’t think he’s funny and sometimes he gets too preachy atheist for me.

Now I’m not sure exactly what the situation with Derek is in this show. They hint on him being autistic but never really diagnose him with any problem. To avoid sounding ignorant or offensive we’ll just say that Derek is different. Oddly, the thing that makes him really stand out is just how he is completely selfless. Every action he makes is an act of kindness.

I will mention that a comedy about a mentally challenged man is not something I would generally be okay with; But Gervais portrays Derek very tastefully.

The series is based around Derek’s life working at a small nursing home. It’s an interesting concept because you have this guy who is a little off but never fails to be pleasant and cheerful, and he’s working in an environment that most of us find at least a little bit depressing.

Every episode has this perfect contrast of funny enough to laugh out loud but real enough to make you cry. I found this to be very inspiring, as it is the kind of balance I try to achieve in my own writing. It is reminiscent of Gervais’ other work, The Office, with the idea of showing beauty within ordinary things. The two main characters, Derek and his coworker Hannah (played by Kerry Godliman), are both purely sympathetic characters. Their whole lives revolve around caring for the residents of the nursing home. And, as Kerry points out, caring for the residents doesn’t just mean giving them room and board… It means actually caring about them, sometimes maybe too much. Throughout the series we see Derek and Kerry touch the lives of many people, not just the elderly. There is a quote in the show that I absolutely love and it went something like, “you make a living from what you earn, you make a life from what you give” (I probably butchered it but you get then gist). Kerry then says that Derek earns nothing and gives everything. In the bigger picture, Derek becomes this symbol of absolute kindness. Personally, this forced me to look in the mirror and compare myself to Derek. As he would say, kindness is more important than being clever or good looking.

Derek and I have the same taste in Youtube videos.

There are so many great quotable lines in this show, I may rewatch it just to write them all down. I think there are a lot of great universal messages in Derek. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… You’ll probably watch the whole series in one sitting (only seven episodes). But you will surely come out if it with a new perspective. Maybe it’ll even encourage a few people to volunteer at a nursing home now and then.

Simply beautiful. Thank you Ricky Gervais.

-Sarah

Orange is the New Black

I am constantly searching for a new television series to get irrationally attached to and work into as many conversations as possible… so it’s probably a good thing that I am majoring in television, right?

Well, as a big fan of House of Cards I thought it was only appropriate to give another Netflix original series a shot at my love and affection. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for Orange is the New Black. Reasons? Mostly just because the title sounds stupid. Upon further inspection (aka wikipedia search) I discovered that Orange is the New Black is the title of a memoir by Piper Kerman, a woman who spent a year in a women’s prison. Suddenly I’m not so irritated by the seemingly cliche title of the series.

I just have to say… Piper only wears orange for like one day before they give her a beige uniform so I still think the title is a little off BUT, I can look past this.

For those of you who are not familiar with the series it is centered around a seemingly level headed woman, Piper Chapman, and her life behind bars. It was created by Jenji Kohan, also the creator of Weeds. You may recognize some of the actresses such as Laura Prepon (Donna from That 70s Show), Kate Mulgrew (Star trek), and ladies you’ve probably seen Taylor Schilling in The Lucky One.

But, don’t underestimate this show. By the second episode you will realize that this isn’t the sob story of a pretty white girl who goes to prison. At the beginning of the series I felt bad for Piper– how awful would it be to be the only sane chick locked up with a bunch of junkie murderers! As I followed her story, I started to like Piper less and less. Now I even regard her as one of the least down to Earth inmates.

Piper’s ex-girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon), is the almost too obvious antagonist in the first few episodes. In fact, many of the inmates are set up as antagonists including Red and Crazy Eyes. These episodes aimed to show things through Piper’s eyes. As it progresses, the show gives a more full spectrum view of all the relevant inmates. The women who were thought to be bullies, bitches, or just plain crazies are almost always the exact opposite. Every character has so much depth and authenticity… there seemed to be a surprise around every corner in this series.

By the time you’re done with this series not only are you afraid of prison, you are even worried about the inmates (and maybe your tax dollars). Assuming this is an accurate depiction of a women’s prison, it seems that most of the women have accepted their fate a criminals. Since prison operates differently than the real world, different people thrive. Some of them do so well in there that they don’t even have a life outside of prison. The character Taystee was a perfect example of this. Once released, she had no where to go and the government still ruled her life. It’s obvious that it was easier for Taystee to just get in trouble and come back to prison with her friends.

While some of the women seem too comfortable, others like Piper drive themselves insane with the desire to go back to their real life. It is obvious that the prison does not help or encourage these women to better themselves, it’s just a place intended to keep them out of trouble… and they don’t do a very good job at it.

I think there is a lot to learn from this show, like the many uses of tampons and, more seriously, that not all criminals are bad (but, some of them DEFINITELY are).  So, if you want a pleasant surprise and to maybe fall in love with a character named “Crazy Eyes”, give this show a watch.

-Sarah

Promised Land

Last fall I took an intro to documentary film class and we viewed a film titled Gasland. It was basically a normal dude with his camera who set out to investigate the affects that fracking has had on farmlands. I really enjoyed this film because it brought to light a problem that I would have otherwise never known about. I already had plenty of knowledge of the benefits of using natural gas, but had never known the dirty process behind it.

When I saw the trailer for Promised Land I immediately thought of Gasland. Most people would rather watch a narrative than a documentary, so I was pleased that this issue would be brought to light in a more mainstream way. But, Promised Land was so much more than I expected.

From what I know, Matt Damon and John Krasinski wrote this screenplay together. They are also the stars of the film with Damon as the big corporation man and Krasinski as the small eco-activist.

The beautiful part of this movie is how conflicted I felt the entire time. Damon comes into this small town with an opportunity for them– loads of money in return for the rights to perform natural gas fracking on their farmlands. The community is hesitant, knowing the dangers of natural gas fracking. But, when it comes down to it, their small farm town lifestyle is dying. Then, Krasinski jumps in and tells his story– He sold his farm to this corporation and all of his cows and crops died out of no where. The movie takes place over a few weeks and at the end the town is scheduled to vote on the issue.

The story is seen mostly through Damon’s eyes, who we would generally expect to be the corporate bad guy. But throughout the film he seems just as conflicted as the people of this town. He wishes they could see the opportunity he has presented them with, but they are enchanted with Krasinski and wish to hold on to their simple lifestyle.

The film is made very simply, with an indie feel that gives you the illusion that you are watching real life unravel on the screen. I also really enjoyed the music selection.

I can’t say a single bad thing about this film because I honestly enjoyed every second of it. I will not give away spoilers but the ending of this film is above and beyond incredible. This is a MUST SEE.

To put it into perspective, my mom actually stayed awake and alert for this entire movie… That never happens!

-Sarah

Man of Steel

Trailer

This summer has been more hectic than anticipated. Not only have I been back and forth between my house in Tallahassee and my parent’s place in Tampa, I also just got back from Bonnaroo and a trip to Chicago. During all this craziness I managed to find some time to see Man of Steel with my father.

I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of super hero movies, especially the underrated ones. Man of Steel definitely fits within this category.

It’s true that other Superman films have busted, but being a big fan of Sucker Punch and Watchmen, I knew Zack Snyder would do a great job with this concept. The film ended up having more sci-fi elements than I expected. All the scenes that take place on Krypton (Superman’s home planet) are pretty over the top with the futuristic/technologically advanced elements. At times it felt a little too showy but I can forgive this.

Aesthetically, I loved this movie. Although any movie starring Henry Cavill is going to be beautiful, am I right? I didn’t see the film in 3D but I can imagine that would have been a great experience. None of the CGI was noticeably unnatural which I can appreciate with a film of this nature.

There was one scene where Clark and his father (the human one) were talking (I think he was sitting on the back of a truck or something?) that the camera shaking was heavily overdone. I found it very hard to look at… not sure if that would look better or worse in 3D. But, that was the only scene where I was unhappy with the camera work.

I did not agree with Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Amy is adorable and soft spoken but it felt like she was scripted as somewhat of a badass… I mean, she basically scaled the side of a glacier and walked down a spooky cave. Amy and Henry lacked on screen chemistry as well. She was just all around a bad fit for this part which is unfortunate considering there will probably be a sequel with her character.

The beginning moved to fast and the end was too drawn out. It is definitely flawed, but overall a good film depiction of Superman.

As far as my life,

Bonnaroo was a fantastically good time. I actually have an odd Bonnaroo story… two days before the festival I had no intention of going to the festival. I knew some of my friends were going but it just didn’t seem to fit in my budget. And then I decided to forget about being responsible and picked up a ticket off Craigslist (at a heavily discounted price) and immediately drove to Tennessee. It was hectic and amazing. Alt-j was incredible. My love for Empire of the Sun was renewed. And I have a new appreciation for Macklemore.

Oh AND I saw Ed Helms perform with a Bluegrass band and it was incredible… like watching Andy live his dream.

About a week later I flew to Chicago for orientation at Columbia College Chicago. Yup, I go to art school now! I was pretty over the big university thing, and ready for something more hands on. I’ve already met some of my classmates and they are all great. The first thing one of my professors asked me was, “So, fourth season of Arrested Development, what’d you think?”.

BUT

Finding an apartment in a decent neighborhood is next to impossible.

I’d say things are going pretty well for me. In a few days my whole family is heading over to St. Pete to spend a few days at the beach. Shortly after I am going to Key West with one of my good friends and her family. So, I’m keeping busy which is what I need.

Detention

It stormed this afternoon, as it usually does during summer in Florida.

When we can’t go to the beach or the pool of a neighboring apartment complex, us Tallahassians don’t really know what to do with ourselves. I deal with this by picking out a new film from my list. Today, I was in the mood for something weird, and Detention seemed to fit that bill.

Detention is a fast paced film made for our ADHD society. Although it didn’t seem to go anywhere at times, it was constantly progressing. And despite it’s pace, the narrative was not hard to follow… even though it was very bizarre.

Most summaries I read of this film were very off putting, and did not prepare the viewer for what they would experience while watching this film. So, I hope I can do it some justice.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 8.45.20 PM

To summarize, Detention is set in a city named Grizzly Lake which seems to be it’s own little world. A character described it as a city where you grow up, maybe you go off to college, but you always end up back in Grizzly Lake, just like your parents. But, don’t we all feel that way about our hometowns? Anyways, The story follows a group of kids and a series of murders in the town based on the fictional horror film “Cinderhella”.

The violence in the film is very satirical, and I would not personally classify Detention as a horror film. In fact, it’s pretty humorous at times… but it’s an odd quirky type of humor. The main character, Riley, has a Juno-esque personality right down to the bizarre witty comebacks. This film definitely requires an open mind.

The first scene sets the tone for the film. An excruciatingly annoying superficial high school girl gets ready for school and explains her rules on how not to be a loser. I’ve never been so pleased with a movie than when she gets violently murdered by a zombie-like cinderella.

Something I really enjoyed about this film is it’s use of titles to advance the plot. Our society is now very technologically advanced and we don’t always communicate face to face. Detention did a great job of incorporating text messages onto the screen. There was one specific scene where Riley and one of the boys were talking at lunch and they decide to stop talking and start texting each other. It was brief but very funny and unfortunately realistic.

I will say, this film definitely had it’s flaws. Some of the narrative wasn’t captivating and certain parts were very uncomfortable. There were many plot holes, as is the case with most sci-fi movies, especially ones that deal with time travel, but I can forgive that. Also, the film gets it’s namesake because the teens spend some time in Saturday detention. But this was no Breakfast Club… They were only in detention for probably 10 minutes of the entire film.

I can definitely praise this movie for it’s casting… the acting wasn’t exceptional but the actors actually looked like high school students which is so refreshing! And, even though people like to hate on him, I enjoy Dane Cook’s acting… just not his stand up.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 8.38.30 PM

Overall, I enjoyed this film for what it was. A modern, I’d even jump to say post-modern, depiction of the way a high school student views high school. The last line of the film was very appropriate, “It’s not the end of the world, it’s just high school.” Because, haven’t we all said that to our high school selves before?

As far as my life goes,

I attended Bonnaroo this year. Now I have the Bonnablues. I’ll write about it in my next post!

-Sarah

The Five-Year Engagement

Before last week I hadn’t heard many positive reviews of The Five-Year Engagement. Most of the comments I heard were along the lines of “it was too long” or “it wasn’t as funny as I expected”. I’m not exactly one to listen to the crowd so I decided to watch it anyway.

I had a hunch that I’d feel differently than my friends. I was attracted to this movie because of the cast… Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Alison Brie, Christ Pratt… and the list goes on. How can a movie with this many awesome people be bad, right?

Thankfully, my hunch was right. I really loved this film!

The title pretty much says all that you need to know about the story. The couple faces various bumps in the road that lead them to postpone their wedding multiple times. While this is happening, Violet’s (Blunt) younger sister (Brie) gets married, has children, and basically rubs it in Violets face at any opportunity (or at least it feels that way).

It was a bit long, and it wasn’t the type of humor that makes you pee your pants. It was still very funny, in my opinion, but in a subtle way. The hard part about this film is that it spans over multiple years and Tom (Segel) and Violet don’t make any progress as a couple. After so many years of standing still, they begin to regress. It is a very real depiction of a relationship that doesn’t aim to please the audience the entire time. Although the ending was to die for!

Movies like The Five-Year Engagement are disliked because they are mislabeled as romantic comedies. The typical romantic comedy lover wants to see two people fall madly in love and end up perfectly happy with some laughs along the way. The Five-Year Engagement had the vibe of an indie film, but you wouldn’t expect that from the way it was marketed. So, people who would enjoy this film won’t see it because they probably don’t like rom coms, and the people who did see this film expected it to be funnier and more romantic. There needs to be a separate genre for this type of film… This is 40 would also fall into this category.

Ultimately, what I got from this film is that there is always a million excuses to avoid doing something. I think people make excuses like this all the time. We’ve all had a dream that we perpetually blow off with minor excuses yet we admire the few who actually chase their dreams. All along, Violet and Tom wanted to get married, but somewhere along the line they lost sight of that and let it tear them apart.

Also, props to Alison Brie

I already loved her but she was amazing in this film. I was dying when she gave the wedding toast at the beginning of the film. Look it up.

-Sarah

Bachelorette

Trailer

Bachelorette is a recent addition to Netflix Instant play which I’ve been avoiding for the past few weeks, assuming it would just be another version of the very successful film Bridesmaids. To clarify, I DO NOT like Bridesmaids. It’s like the female version of The Hangover and I don’t even like The Hangover very much. I guess I’m a little picky about my comedies…

BUT

I’ve been missing the television series Party Down lately and I saw that Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott play lovers in this film (or he’s her ex boyfriend but whatever, you know they’re going to end up together). If Adam and Lizzy could just get married in real life and then have a reality show, that would be lovely. They’re on screen chemistry makes for a perfect goofy, quirky, hardly romantic relationship. In fact, when I see Lizzy with another man in a film I feel like she’s cheating on Adam.

This movie really didn’t have a Bridesmaids feel to it. It was much more… pessimistic?

It’s centered around three highly attractive best friends who’s fourth, much less attractive, best friend is getting married. All three girls (Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, and Kirsten Dunst) are terribly selfish human beings who, in real life, probably wouldn’t have many friends. It also appears that they all peaked in high school and now resent their friend who is betrothed to a man who seems far out of her league.

Fisher and Caplan are both drug addicted party girls who are going to the wedding to have a good time. Dunst is the perfectionist party planner who desperately wishes a ring was on her own finger. After accidentally destroying the brides wedding gown, the three desperately attempt to have it fixed before morning. Although, they seem to keep making the situation worse with all of their antics.

Overall, the film had a lot of laughs… I laughed out loud and I was by myself, a rare occurrence. I actually liked it more than I expected, and I think that can be attributed to the great cast. Lets be real, James Marsden and Adam Scott in one movie… I can’t not enjoy that! (Are double negatives still forbidden?)

In the end, all the characters had a very real story… Fisher is depressed, Dunst is a bit insane, and Caplan really just wants to be loved. I think I relate to Lizzy Caplan a little too much in almost every role she plays, so, this also added to my enjoyment of the film.

It’s not necessarily a movie I would put on my shelf, but it was a pleasant surprise for a random Netflix flick.

As far as my life goes… I’m already bored of summer.

-Sarah

The Office (US)

“I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder-Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” – Pam Beasly Halpert

Last night was a big night for me; a show that had brought me through all the awkward stages in life finally came to an end.

I discovered The Office during it’s first season and was instantly a fan. I had never been interested in comedy television prior, but this show changed my perspective. It was different than other comedies. Unfortunately, I did not foresee it having a second season.

To my surprise, the show went on. Critics seemed to jump on the bandwagon but none of my friends cared for it (considering we were like 13). Luckily, I met a girl named Kellie around this time. Kellie also liked The Office. We are still best friends. After season three I bought the DVDs of all three seasons and would watch them in my living room after dinner every night. Eventually my parents jumped on The Office bandwagon as well. It was the first time I had introduced my parents to something that they genuinely liked. That was pretty cool to me at the time.

Kellie gave me this scarf with a Dwight quote on it a few years ago... We've given many Office themed gifts over the years including a Dwight bobblehead. We also call each other Mozart and Butch Cassidy.

Kellie gave me this scarf with a Dwight quote on it a few years ago… We’ve given many Office themed gifts over the years including a Dwight bobblehead. We also call each other Mozart and Butch Cassidy.

I cannot overstate my fondness of my show. It sparked my interest in television and comedy… a dream I am still pursuing today.

As far as the finale,

I thought this whole season was like a huge thank you to all of the fans. The writers knew that viewers would only be satisfied if every character had a great ending, and they made that happen.

I was so happy Dwight asked Jim to be his best man… he was perfect for the job! He put so much thought and effort into his best man duties, all for his love of Dwight. I lost my cool when Michael walked in and Dwight said “I can’t believe you came” and Michael responded “That’s what she said.” And Michael has kids! Everything was perfect!

I am sad that it is all over but at least I have closure.

As for the show as a whole,

A lot of people have hated on the series ever since Steve Carell left and my only response is that you’re all idiots. Yes, the dynamic was different… but that show never had me hung up on any specific character. I loved all of them and wanted to know all of their stories. And Michael’s story came to an end perfectly. There were a few episodes after he left where I was worried but the writing was still on point. In fact, I thought the last season was one of the best of the entire series.

I really appreciated the way they acknowledged the documentary within the show. It gave a very authentic feel to the entire series and made the ending so much more emotional.

It’s so dramatic to say this but Michael, Dwight, Pam, Jim, Angela… they’re all real to me.

“Do I get along with my coworkers? Well, first of all, I don’t have coworkers anymore, I have subordinates… so, have I gotten along with my subordinates? Let’s see. My supplier relations rep, Meredith Palmer is the only person I know who knows how to properly headbang to Motorhead. Oscar Martinez, my accountant, is now godfather to my son. Angela Schrute, my former accountant is now my wife. My top salesman, Jim Halpert was best man at my wedding. And office administrator, Pamela Beasly Halpert is my best friend. So, yes, I’d say I have gotten along with my subordinates.” -Dwight Schrute

The Great Gatsby

I want to start this post by saying that I liked this movie despite having many negative opinions on it.

I also want to say that I read the book in high school (for pleasure, not as a requirement) and that I cannot stand the Robert Redford version of this film.

I had asked a lot of friends what they thought of this film and for the most part they said it was good… but there was always an undertone of disappointment. My biggest fears going into this film were that it would not put enough focus on Nick as a narrator, Luhrmann’s style would be too weird for audiences, and that it would not be depressing enough. Is it weird to say that I am soooo happy this movie was depressing? A lot of people go into it thinking it’s a story about a rich dude who throws big parties… but’s it’s really a story about the superficiality of wealthy. I thought Luhrmann did a wonderful job at getting that theme across.

I saw this film in one of those tiny theaters reserved for only the shittiest movies, I’m not really sure why but I’d assume it was because I decided not to go for the twice as expensive 3D IMAX ticket. But, I will say that I regret that decision. Every scene of this film was set up with 3D in mind. Also, the music seemed way too soft… I’m not sure if that was just our theater but I felt seriously underwhelmed (if anyone had a similar problem or felt the complete opposite please let me know).

While I enjoyed most of the camera work, I am wishy washy about the set designs. At times I thought they were excellent and at others they were overwhelmingly tacky… outside of Nick’s house, for example, the leaves looked like hard, shiny plastic. It was very Disneyworld-esque. I also felt in the beginning like it had a Polar Express visual style… I was mostly just confused the whole time.

I thought Luhrmann’s style was very present in the film but at the same time lacking… I actually wanted this film to be really weird… Like Romeo + Juliet weird. I definitely feel like he toned it down for this one and it left me disappointed.

Now, I consider myself an artsy person, and much of this film seemed like a missed shot at being artsy. The music was the most disorienting part of the whole film. There were times when I thought it worked but more times when I felt like it was so wrong. I think a better idea would have been to slightly modernize 20’s style music… like the “Crazy in Love” remake.

The audio was the biggest flaw of the entire film and I don’t just mean the music selection. I can rarely spot the use of ADR (automated dialogue replacement) but I saw it all over this film. Most specifically in the car scenes. I thought all of those scenes had a great feel until one of the characters began talking. I don’t know if it needed more road noise of if the ADR was just plain bad, but it totally took me out of the moment.

A redeeming quality of this film was Tobey Maguire. He was exactly how I imagined Nick Carraway when reading the novel. All the acting was great in my opinion. A lot of critics felt it was overacted but I believe that was a part of the story. We’re talking about filthy rich, superficial idiots… they’re supposed to be a little over the top! I thought the overdramatic act was a necessary literary device. In comparison to the 1974 Gatsby, I liked these performances infinitely more. Mia Farrow is beyond annoying.

I felt underwhelmed for a good 80% of the film but I thought it picked up at the end. I don’t want to give away spoilers but I truly felt bad for the characters while still pretty much hating all of them (except Nick). I think it’s hard to get that mix of emotions across in a film but it was certainly there. All the themes of the book were present along with the same tone. I don’t think any other Gatsby film has successfully done that.

I still believe that The Great Gatsby is simply not meant to be translated to film… but this was a nice effort. It was good, not great. At least we got to see some cool clothing and jewelry out of it.

I’d love to hear other opinions on the film and any critiques I left out! Feel free to comment!

 

I’M FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE OFFICE SERIES FINALE TONIGHT, I WILL POST ABOUT IT FIRST THING TOMORROW.

 

-Sarah