Bree Eli Reads of the Week

  • What’s that? You want an awesome podcast of people discussing My Brilliant Friend? I got ya homie. 

Oscar 2015 Review – The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is everything a Hollywood movie should be: It’s faced paced plot, partnered with its stellar performances sheds light on a period of history that though well-known, clearly had some important aspects slip through the cracks.

That is the most intriguing part of The Imitation Game. While sitting in the theatre, all I could think about was why isn’t Alan Turing the only person anybody talks about? I had heard about him before, shuffled into some dinner conversation between discussions of how people’s weeks had been and requests for more potatoes, but the weight of his story had never been presented as anything more than a side anecdote. It puts into focus how much we take for granted these days, when the narrative of some extraordinary feat and great tragedy is brushed off as “oh, that’s cool,”

I am therefore grateful for The Imitation Game, because it brought to light something that was in the dark. But here’s the Catch 22 of the thing: I almost found the film too entertaining, but had it been less so, perhaps no one would have gone to see it. The performances were exceptional, but as a result the conversation is focused around Benedict Cumberbatch instead of Alan Turing. But again, if Cumberbatch’s acting hadn’t been so on point, nobody would be talking at all.

So I am torn with The Imitation Game. It was an exciting, well made movie that had me engaged throughout its duration. However, due to its Hollywood veneer, and its lack of subtle and nuanced storytelling, it didn’t hit the nail on the head quite as hard as it could have, which brings up the sobering question of whether or not people will be talking about Alan Turing after the Oscars, or whether they will only be talking about Benedict Cumberbatch’s next grand performance.

Liebster Award

I woke up this morning to a ‘ding’ on my cell phone. I turned over, and saw through my half closed eyes a new comment on this blog. The lovely ladies at Flick Lit Chicks had nominated me for something called the “Liebster Award.” Because I live in a bubble where I write on here and pretend that no one else reads it, I have never actually heard of the Liebster Award before, but includes talking about myself, something I’ll never turn down, so I thought “why not!”

I guess there are some rules for this award, as it’s an attempt to shine light on new blogs. So here we go:

1) You have to answer the questions given to you, and then you have to come up with questions to ask other people

2) You have to nominate other blogs, let them know you nominated them, and then link to them in your blog

Seems interesting enough! To be honest, I am always hesitant to participate in these sorts of things. I can’t pinpoint why, but they make me nervous! But it’s so nice that people thought about me, and I get that it’s a good way to shine light on some great blogs out there. So what’s the harm, right?

Let’s get to it!

1. What are you currently reading?

A couple of books! I am at the start of “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” by Elena Ferrante. It’s the third book in the Neopolitan series, and I am obsessed. That said, I find each book so intense that I need to take a little breather in between each one just so I don’t become consumed by them. So at the moment I am also reading #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, because I love me some Nasty Gal. This book is great too, because it emphasizes the hustle. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the Lululemon-hippie-yogi- mantra of “Do What You Love.” Doing what you love is great and all, but they leave out the part of “And Work Really Fucking Hard At It.” What I like about #GIRLBOSS is that it emphasizes the hard work that goes into being successful.

2. A movie you started watching but never finished, and why?

Oh man, a lot of movies! I think he most recent one was The Other Woman. It was SO bad. Like it wasn’t even a “so bad it’s good movie,” which I actually love. It was bad.

3. What are you doing while you travel by public transportation?

Ahh ok, I don’t actually travel by public transportation. Here’s the thing, I totally would, but Edmonton’s public transportation is just getting up and running, and the places I frequent don’t actually have subway or LRT routes to them yet. There are buses, but given the option to drive for ten minutes, or take the bus for two hours, I drive. That said, if I did take public transport, I would most likely listen to podcasts.

On a side note: Edmonton isn’t as small as I made it seem. We do have a LRT! Just not where I go.

4. If you could be another person for one day, who would it be?

Hmm, good question. I would probably want to Edie Sedgwick circa 1965. I have loved her for years and years. Her biography is the one non-fiction book I read over and over again. I just want to know who it would be like to be the darling of the New York underground scene, and what it would be like to be on that many drugs, because I am far to chicken to actually try them.

5. What is your favorite question to ask someone?

What’s your damage, Heather?

No, totally kidding. I’m not sure I have a favourite question to ask someone. Or if I do I haven’t actively thought about it. I’m not that big on small talk.

6. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?

“What does that sound coming from my phone mean?” It was the comment about this! After that it was probably how happy I was that it is a holiday Monday.

7. Who is your favorite actor/actress and why?

My favourites change all the time! Right now I love Dane Dehaan. He is just great in everything (except maybe Spiderman… but I blame that on poor material). But in In Treatment and Kill Your Darlings – So great. Other favs include Oscar Issac and Julianne Moore.

8. What is your favorite “book to movie” adaptation?

The Princess Bride, obviously.

9. Who is your hero?

Oh man, I don’t know! I don’t think I have one person who I call my hero. I do know that I am drawn to people with talent. And people who work really, really hard to get where they are. And people who are unapologetically themselves, and embrace it.

10. Which cartoon character do you resemble the most?

Simba! I freakin love Simba. That said, in University my friend used to call me Muppet, because apparently I am a cross between Beaker and Animal. I guess I don’t use my words.

Ok, now for the fun part! I get to create questions and nominate other bloggers. Is i breaking the rules if I do that in a separate post? Like I said before, I kind of write on this blog in a bubble, and as a result I haven’t had the opportunity to explore the other great blogs out there. I’m a horrible blogger, I know! But I really want to reach out to great blogs, I just got the find them!

Oscars 2015 Review – Boyhood

It’s hard to know where to start with Boyhood. It’s a coming of age story where you literally get to watch someone come of age. How rare is that? Well, it’s so rare that’s it’s never been done before, and now that it has been done, I’m not sure if any other “coming of age” story can ever compare.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love books, but anyone who knows me really well knows that I love books that have little plot, or at least love books that are not “plot driven.” I think that is why I loved Boyhood so much. Everything happened so organically, there was no moment where I was like “this is the climax,” or “this is the initial action.” Instead, what the viewer got was snippets into real life, and the result was beautiful. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Boyhood: beautiful.

I listened to Richard Linklater on Marc Maron’s podcast and he talked about how much he wanted to make a movie that just happened, and how much he wanted to find those moments in life that were true and mundane, and as a result were authentic and relatable. It’s funny though, because as relatable as Boyhood was, I am having a very hard time writing about it now. Which is how I know it really hit home with me. The best things are often ineffable, as frustrating as that is for someone who likes to push the things they obsess over on everyone they know (sorry mom).

This is the part where I should talk about the impeccable acting, the heart-warming story, and the direction. It’s hard with Boyhood. Of course the performances are stellar, in a subtle way that almost makes you forget that they are acting. Patricia Arquette was mesmerizing, but the actor who really stood out for me was Ethan Hawke. I always forget how great Ethan Hawke is, and he simultaneously warmed and broke my heart in this movie. I went from having great mistrust of him to rooting and loving him, and that’s all a testament to Hawke’s performance. Because it wasn’t an in your face “I’m a mess and now I have my shit together” kind of performance, but was a subtle, slow, progression. It took me by surprise and seemed seamless.

I have watched Boyhood three times now, and with each viewing I love it more. It stands apart from the other Best Picture nominees in every way. It makes me appreciate my life and realize that even though my life may not come with an initial incident, rising actions, climax, and denouement, that it’s still pretty exciting. Sounds so cheesy to say, but it confirmed my suspicions that everyone has a story to tell. That seems like such an obvious statement, but Boyhood brought it to the forefront.

I’m not quite sure what else to say about Boyhood. It’s one of those movies that was like a slow burn, and I’m not sure I realized the impact it had on me until I started writing this post. Which makes for a terrible movie review, because this is not objective at all and totally self-centered, but it’s what came out so I’m going to roll with it.

On a side note: I know it seems like I am loving every Best Picture nominee, but don’t worry, you haven’t heard me talk about American Sniper yet.

Oscars 2015 Review – The Theory of Everything

Usually when I am watching a movie I am thinking of the lead actors, who just happen to be playing a part. There’s Jake Gyllenhaal playing a cowboy, Winona in Heathers, and I’ve never been so impressed as when I watched Dane Dehaan in Kill Your Darlings. But every so often, an actor get’s so into a part, that I stop seeing the actor, and instead see the person they are playing. I forget that it’s an act.

That’s how I feel about Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Theory of Everything. He encompasses Stephen Hawking so completely I forgot I was watching an actor in a movie. I think the first time I had that experience was watching Tom Cruise in Collateral. Say what you will about him, but that scene when he’s in the cab, and that Audioslave song comes on, and the coyote runs across the road? Hooked.

Anyways, back to The Theory of Everything. This movie is as great as it is because of the impeccable performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Yes, the story is inspiring and their love is beautiful, but without these two actors I am not convinced I would have loved it as much as I did. I think this movie could have easily been a bore, but together they breathe life into it. Instead of watching a movie, I felt like I was watching someone’s life. Which I assume was James Marsh’s intention when directing it. Redmayne is never mimicking Hawking, but is instead  his movements are precise, and although the audience is able to watch Hawking’s body decay, Redmayne’s performance is always sure to let us know that the brain is still at work. We are able to witness great intellectual curiosity through a glance.

Speaking of the direction, James Marsh is able to avoid the often drawn out nature of most biopics. In The Theory of Everything Marsh was able to give us snapshots into different times in Hawking’s life without dragging on for too long at any particular point. When a time in Hawking’s life was done being expressed, Marsh moved us along at just the right time. There were nuanced moments of what was to come, but the audience was never beaten over the head with foreshadowing.

Suffice to say that what I found most impressive about The Theory of Everything was the stunning performances of the actors in it. They were a pleasure to watch, and on Sunday we will see if Redmayne’s performance takes home the prize.

Oscars 2015 Review – Whiplash

“I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us”

- Lolita 

Did any of you read Lolita in High School or University? This is the passage that came to mind while watching the final twenty minutes of Whiplash, and I couldn’t get it out of my head for a long time after. Because that’s what Whiplash will do to you. It lingers in the pit of your stomach, and that’s because Whiplash is simultaneously gratifying and unsatisfying.

How far would you go to be “one of the greats?”

These are the questions explored in “Whiplash,” the film by director Damien Chazelle staring Miles Teller as drummer Andrew Neyman and J.K Simmons as his teacher Terence Fletcher. If you are looking for a film that will leave you with some sort of closure, this is not the film for you. This movie is an open-ended exploration of the power of manipulation.

To give a brief synopsis: this is a film about a student and a teacher, and the extent each are willing to go to in order to be remembered.

Andrew Neyman did not come from a musical upbringing: his dad is a teacher and his mother abandoned him as a baby. But he does love music and he does have talent. He makes no qualms about wanting to stand apart from the rest. There is never any question of modesty, even in the beginning. And yet, Teller plays Neyman in such way that his ego isn’t a turn off, you still want him to succeed.

Terence Fletcher is good, but he is not “one of the greats.” He teaches at the best music school in the country, and every student wants to be in his band, a band that always wins first place. The students whisper about him as he passes, they do not dare to look him in the eye. Fletcher is intense, and like Andrew, he makes no qualms about wanting to mentor “one of the greats,” or the actions he is willing to take to achieve that.

So here you have two people, one that wants to be great, and another who wants to be the reason for greatness. The combination of the two is as twisted as it is entertaining. Fletcher preys on Neyman, he knows that Andrew’s drive extends beyond his self-respect. Fletcher recognizes this: Suddenly the fact that Andrew’s mother left him is a weapon. Whereas initially it appeared as a simple question about Andrew’s upbringing, it is now a tool used to demean and drive Andrew to prove himself in Fletcher’s eyes.

From the outset, it seems as though Whiplash is a story about a young man who wants to be great, and an abusive teacher standing in his way. However, early on the viewer learns that this is not the case. Instead what is presented is a relationship between student and mentor that is based off manipulation and one-upping. Every action, every emotion, every word that comes from Terence Fletcher is calculated, and it works. Andrew abandons the rest of this life to be “one of the greats,” although as the movie goes on it becomes unclear if he wants to be “one of the greats,” or “one of the greats according the Terence Fletcher.” Andrew however is not a meek student, desperate for Fletcher’s approval, though he certainly wants that as well, but he is also a student with an enormous ego and drive, making the pairing of the two even-keeled in the end.

There is no happy ending. Nothing heroic happens here. A kid practices and practices, ignores everything else in his life, and as a result achieves greatness, but only so far as it relates to Fletcher’s approval. Andrew doesn’t overcome anything, there is no evidence to suggest that he ever reaches Charlie Parker status. In the moment when you think he has, in the moment where he screams “Fuck You” to Fletcher in his transcending performance, Fletcher adapts. He turns the tables and starts encouraging Andrew, and it is only in this moment that Andrew is finally satisfied. Like that quote from Lolita, they become undistinguishable from each other. The question of whether or not Andrew goes on to be “one of the greats” is left open-ended.

So no, there is no closure in Whiplash. Instead what the viewer is left with is an honest portrayal of the dynamics between teacher and student, and the notion of just how far manipulation can go.

I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It was one of those movies I was left thinking about for a long time after, which is rare. I love when I movie can surprise you, because that’s so rare these days. And Whiplash certainly surprised me.

Bree Eli Reads of the Week

  • That Brian Williams news is juicy and all, but I can’t stop reading about Jon Stewart. Here’s a great article about the comedy man who made a big impact on the news.
  • Any of you wondering what the 2004 Crossfire appearance is all about? I’ve linked to it for ya:
  • Not technically a “read,” but I’ve got Rhianna’s performance from the Grammy’s on repeat this week. She was on point last Sunday.
  • Ok, Ok, some of you are interested in the Brian Williams debacle. Here ya go.