Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Present to Current Favourite Commercial (and Movie Thoughts)

And for those who want to see it in its full glory here it is.

This Toyota ad has been playing this month at Cineplex theatres. I don't usually notice the ads they play before movies, but this one really stood out to me. It's moving, uses a great song (which was apparently created for the ad...because many people online can't find a title or an artist), and it's Canadian! I went to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and Sherlock Holmes today with a friend of mine, and raved about the commercial once again to her. I explained exactly why I think it's a good ad. And here's what I said:

It's not your typical car ad, meaning there's no flashy driving, speeding, lights flashing, etc. It's simple, and it leaves you wondering. Why are they showing all of these clips? What is this ad even for? Until the statistic and voiceover came on, I couldn't have even given a guess. I like being kept guessing. One day I want to be able to come up with an ad this good. Of course, the writers were helped by a pretty awesome statistic, something you'd obviously want to be advertising (Toyotas are long lasting, so go buy one!).

Kudos to Saatchi & Saatchi.

I'll write a top movies of 2009 list sometime early in the new year, since I'll be out tomorrow night. However, I saw my last two '09 movies today, and wanted to give some brief thoughts on both.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus: I was supposed to see this last night, but my friend was unable to get a ticket, since I got the last one (curses to cheap movie Tuesday). We decided to go today, were able to get tickets very easily, and thought that maybe we should go see Sherlock Holmes as well. Anyways, this movie certainly left me thinking. Far from a "leave your brain at the door" film; I found myself having to concentrate really hard to follow the plot. Which made me very happy. The late Heath Ledger was excellent, as were Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, who all took over his role after he died. I enjoyed it very much, though it felt very bittersweet. I love Johnny Depp, and have for years, but I have also loved Heath Ledger for years. As a young teenager, it was my dream to see the two of them act in a film together. That dream came true today, but under the very worst of circumstances. Indeed, they never "acted" together, since Depp was simply taking over the role he was unable to finish.

The visuals were outstanding, and the acting was pretty good all around. I really like Tom Waits, who played Mr. Nick, and Lily Cole was just beautiful. She has the face of a doll:

It's an interesting fantasy movie...go and check it out.

Sherlock Holmes: This was more of a "fun" movie. I certainly didn't really need to think much through it. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law worked very well off of each other. This is my first real experience with anything Sherlock Holmes related (save for having one of the stories read to me as a kid, which I don't remember a thing of), so I can hardly judge how accurate it is to the books. I took it as a film alone as a result, and it kept me entertained. By the way, Eddie Marsan plays Inspector Lestrade in the film, I recognized him, but could not place where I'd seen him. Turns out, he played Scott, in the excellent Happy-Go-Lucky! He did a good job with a fairly small supporting role.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Viewing the French Channel

I had an interesting experience this evening. I ended up at my good friend's place, and after a marathon of Wii Sports Resort we decided to switch off the video games and watch some television. After channel surfing, we happened upon a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Only problem is: it was in French, and neither of us speak it. She hadn't seen the movie; she's seen the first Pirates and about half of the second, but we decided to watch a bit of it. I've seen all three numerous times, but it has been about a year, so I was giving her information about the plot from memory. It surprised me just how much detail I was able to give her, and how watching it with my commentary made it almost make sense for her. Ultimately, we tired of putting up with the poor dubbing, and changed the channel.

The experience made me think though. Is there a movie out there that would be great, or even better if you couldn't understand it? If the characters spoke a different language, and you had to decide what was going on through action alone. I can't think of any off the top of my head. There is one that would certainly be very bizarre without the subtitles. It's called Battle Royale. The basic premise is this: a class of high school students are sent to an island, given weapons, and told to kill each other. The last one standing "wins". I saw it after reading the book so it wouldn't be nearly as bizarre to me. I can just imagine it from the perspective of someone watching it un-subtitled, and without any prior knowledge, I think it'd be rather frightening.

Now I'm kind of feeling a Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and a Battle Royale double feature. What a strange combination. If anyone is interested in watching Battle Royale, I'd like to advise that the sequel is not much good. It brings up some very interesting points, but ultimately, it was poorly executed. Not a complete waste of time, but not a film I'd watch again (which is a shame because I got the two of them as a package). The first one is quite good though.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Avatar (and Soundtrack Musings)

I'm quite ill today, so I'll probably refrain from going into as much detail as I would like to on this topic (or so I say at this time, I may get carried away). Nevertheless, I wanted to get into this topic while it was still fresh in my mind.

First off: Avatar was a decent film. The visuals definitely made it what it was, storywise, it was pretty weak. Like I thought, it was a retelling of Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai. But visually, it was a masterpiece. I don't think I've ever seen a film look as good as this one did. The 3-D was the best I've seen in a film. The Na'vi looked so real, almost like they could walk off the screen. See it in theatres. Even if you don't "like" the story, it'll be worth it for the visuals alone. I was disappointed by the lack of character development though, and would like to learn more about the world of Pandora. It was just so fascinating, and so beautiful--almost like a character in itself.

Now, a topic most people aren't talking about: the soundtrack. I liked it. However, I recognized several bits of the music from other films. I sat there in the theatre at one particular moment wondering where one piece was from, because I knew it was from a film I'd seen multiple times. Y'know, instead of paying attention to the movie, I was thinking about music. I'd thought far enough that it was probably a violent movie, possibly a war film. Here is the piece of music in mind (I've included it as a link because the title of the piece contains a slight spoiler to the film, and I want to give people the choice whether or not they want to view it based on that fact):

Avatar soundtrack, piece 10 (begins about the 5 minute mark)

It's not the main musical composition of the piece, but still I recognized it! I did research when I got home, and found out that James Horner, the composer, likes to "recycle" his past music and rework it into his soundtracks rather than creating entirely new pieces. Therefore, I did more research, and John Tillnes a man who is obviously much more knowledgeable about music than I, gave me the insight I needed to solve my problem (with some help from the commenters as well). Apparently the repeating music at the end is called a "four-note motif", and it's a common theme of Horner's. After reading the comments, I finally figured it out: Enemy at the Gates! That motif is used quite liberally through out the film during really tense moments, thus making it stick out in my mind. It helps that I've watched the film numerous times. Here's the piece in question (again, linked to because of a slight spoiler):

Enemy at the Gates

Clearly the motif is used at the forefront of this piece, whereas it is a bit more subtle in the Avatar piece.

I found another, with a bit of assistance from a friend as well, the following piece is similar to many pieces of the Glory soundtrack:

Avatar Soundtrack, Piece 6

I've read that there are similarities to the Titanic score, among many others. I didn't catch any other similarities though, because my fascination with movie music is a fairly recent one. Before, I hardly noticed the music, save for a particularly good piece. That, and I haven't watched Titanic in over two and a half years, despite owning it on DVD. It's just too long to watch most of the time, I don't have the attention span for it. Gangs of New York is one of the very few "long" movies I can watch on even a semi-regular basis, because it's one of my favourites. However, I don't believe Kirk has seen Titanic, so that should be remedied at some point.

So how do I feel about Horner "borrowing" from his past sound tracks? It doesn't really bother me that much. He's clearly got a specific style, so if it works for one film, and can work for another...go at it. But it is a problem when the pieces are much too similar. Noticing that four-note motif was clearly distracting for me, but I also recognize that I'm quite nerdy about movies in general. For the casual fan, I doubt they'd notice. I don't think I'd say that I dislike Horner, his music is actually quite moving, but there are other composers out there that I like a whole lot more.

Friday, December 18, 2009

They're Tryna Mess with Conan!

If the rumours are to be believed anyway.

This upsets me. As everyone knows, Conan is my favourite late night personality, and I watch his show whenever I can. If they are true, it's really not fair to dump him so quickly. The Tonight Show has undergone a large (and positive) change this year, so of course viewership is going to be down. And to put that dunce, Jay Leno, on just before Conan is obviously going to affect the ratings of The Tonight Show, and not in a positive way. Who came up with the "brilliant" idea to get rid of five hours of prime time programming anyway? With Leno spouting his mouth about taking back The Tonight Show if offered to him, of course NBC is going to be tempted. Leno gave them good ratings because his demographic was much older than Conan's. I'm more in Conan's demographic, and I know I can't watch his show all the time because of school obligations and social commitments. That's the norm, plus many people my age don't watch any light night tv.

This reminds me of what I read about his very beginnings on Late Night. I don't actually remember any of this happening since I was a wee tyke, but from what I've read, he was almost fired several times in his first few years. But he started in '93, can't NBC have a little faith in him by now? He's a funny dude, and they should know it.

It's clear that NBC is scrambling because ratings are falling everywhere. I can't see lasting past this season because ratings have been taking a nose dive and it's expensive to produce. Plus the quality of the show is not great. I mourn for the first season when the show was actually....gasp!....good. Now I watch it mostly out of habit, and because I want to know how it ends. They're probably canning Trauma as well, from what I've read, and that's a show that has been getting better and better.

Therefore, if they get rid of Conan, I'll most likely have no reason to watch NBC anymore. Am I the only one who sees the network either doing a large restructuring or going under sometime in the next few years? It is not doing well at all. Maybe one good thing that would happen if Conan gets fired is that at least he's off that sinking ship. Surely another network will snatch him up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Feelings on Christmas

I don't particularly like this time of year. I could even be called a "Grinch" by some, though I don't think I am. I've got a good explanation as to why I don't like this time of year, and I hope you all bear with me while I get into it.

My birthday is a week before Christmas (and my brother's is December 3rd). I hate this fact, because it makes for a very busy December, and I get overwhelmed when I'm too busy. Why can't my birthday be any other time of the year, so that the celebrations are more spread out? Celebrating my birthday is tough for me as well, for the same reasons I'm about to get into.

When I was in high school, I was really depressed. I don't like to get into details, especially in a public setting such as this, but I'm fine now in that department. But the holidays are tough when you're depressed. Imagine having to pretend even harder that things are "okay", not just okay but "awesome" for a whole month? It was always tough for me to do. I wondered why the Christmas "magic" didn't hit me the same way it hit me when I was a kid. I was also an insomniac back then, and I remember one very early Christmas morning where I sat in front of the computer listening to "Happy Christmas (War is Over) " by John Lennon (my favourite Christmas tune) and U2's "Window in the Skies" on repeat because I couldn't sleep and for some reason the voices of Lennon and Bono cheered me up.

Then the December before last and last December were still a little rough. Both times I was dealing with boy issues and obviously such things put a damper in the holiday season. Last Christmas I loved someone very much who I saw for the first time in several months on my birthday. We had decided over the summer to continue whatever our relationship was when he came back to the city in December, but he showed up to my party and made it clear he wasn't interested. It became very clear when he refused to kiss me at the end of the night. I went home, from my own birthday party that night, and cried all night. I had to pretend everything was okay a few days later because it was my friend's party, but after going home the next day, I spent it moping, and had to be pulled out of the house by friends to celebrate our own version of Christmas. But I basically spent all the days leading up to Christmas crying every minute of the day, until I saw this individual and we actually talked about it and he told me he wasn't interested. It still broke my heart, but I'd done so much crying by that point I accepted the time anyway.

Christmas Eve last year was okay because we went to see family. I still spent a lot of time there hoping I'd feel my phone vibrate and that it would be him, deciding he wanted to see me. Christmas Day was also a nice day, but it was all the same thing. My mind was preoccupied by someone who I have long realized wasn't worthy of more than a second thought.

So why do I still dislike Christmas? I have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me dearly and treats me like gold, the best friends on the planet, and an amazing family. Surely I should be out there carolling, and wearing tinsel wrapped around my head? But I can't. The magic has been ruined. I know there's never a good time to hurt, but I think Christmas is the worst time of year to be depressed or get your heart broken. And I've experience two heartbreaks over Christmas, and several years of really terrible sadness before that. I think I stay unenthusiastic over this time of year in order to protect myself. If I'm not excited, I can't be disappointed when it goes wrong. But I think that tactic is a bad one because I think it will be a good Christmas, because things are all set up to go RIGHT and not go wrong. But it's hard to let down that wall, and I've actually been a little sad these past few days, because my birthday and Christmas are coming up, and the painful memories have been rushing back. My birthday party is actually going to be on my birthday again this year, and I'm worried I'll be sad, because of all that happened last year. But I've got great friends coming, and Kirk will be coming so it should go well. :) Maybe then the Christmas spirit will come out.

But right now, I've got John Lennon on repeat, and that's about as full of Christmas spirit as I can get. It's just fine for right now. We put up the decorations earlier this week. I got told by my Mom a few weeks back that I "better not turn into my Dad" (who hates putting up decorations until about December 13th), because I said that Christmas decorations should not be put up until at least December 10th. But I think I've already become my Dad in that regard, like Father, like daughter in yet another way. I don't think he's one to get super enthusiastic about Christmas, but my Mom is. She gets so disappointed on Christmas morning because my brother and I don't react with the glee we used to when we open our gifts. I'm appreciative of course, but very...stoic. I like Christmas dinner, because the food is delicious, and it's just time spent with my family, which is always nice. We usually watch a movie in the evening as well, which doesn't happen often enough.

If you all see me running through malls dressed as an elf, you will know that either I've embraced the Christmas spirit, or I've gone mad. Happy Holidays!

Oh, and to keep it somewhat on topic, what's your favourite Christmas special? And your favourite Christmas movie? For me, I always liked Christopher Christmas Tree as a kid. As for movies, depends on what counts as a Christmas movie. Edward Scissorhands, my favourite movie, takes place during Christmas, but I don't really count it. I do count Love Actually, so I can say that one is probably my favourite. I also enjoy It's a Wonderful Life, and Elf. And while we're at it, favourite Christmas tune?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Alpha Prime One

It's now Winter break and even though I'm excited about the time off, it's a little bittersweet. I am going to miss everyone in Section 1, and especially our dynamic. We were loud, crazy, and always super fun. I love how supportive we all were of one another, and how close we all became. I've made many very close friendships that mean the world to me. And every day going to school after the first few days, I had a smile on my face because I knew that the day was going to be fun, because everyone makes it fun. You really couldn't be sad for long around everyone because we are such an enthusiastic, barrel of sunshine bunch. Don't all be strangers, everyone!

That being said, I am looking forward to coming back to school to not only see my friends, but to meet new ones too! I can't wait to meet everyone in the new Section 3! And of course, going to more excellent CreComm events with new people, and with old. I just want to say thank you to all of Alpha Prime One for making my CreComm experience as excellent as it has been. You're all wonderful folks.


And to keep this blog entry somewhat relevant, I started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 yesterday. My brother, Steven, came downstairs and watched me while he was playing on the computer, and continually marvelled at just how poor I was at the game. I don't think I quite get it yet, here's a snippet of our conversation:

Me: Hey, when they say get cover, where do I go? Does someone come to give me first aid?
Steven: No, you just go and hide until you're better.
Me: But that's not how war works. You don't just 'get better', I was shot, why am I not dead?
Steven: It's just a game.
Me: ....I just died again...I fell off a cliff.
Steven: I didn't even know you could do that.
Me: I did it three times.
Steven: Man, you suck.

Aww man, I love shooters, but I really am no good at them. I'm better off sticking to Harvest Moon. But back to the game for me I think. It's fun, though I do much prefer the Resident Evil series.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home Stretch, and Blind Buys

One last exam tomorrow, and I'll be free for three weeks. I'll be using this time to do the things I haven't had time for: reading, video games (my brother got that new Call of Duty game and I'm itching to try it out), and of course, more movies! I've been pretty lucky when it comes to getting theatre films in: I manage my time pretty good and they're usually date nights for Kirk and I. But that means I don't watch nearly as many at home. I actually have several movies I've "blind bought", but never watched! Here's a list of some of the ones I have, that I've never seen:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints: I really like Robert Downey Jr, and I bought this a year and a half ago, because it sounded interesting. Unfortunately, I've never watched it, claiming to have never been "in the mood" for it. I'll try to put it in during Winter break.

The Green Mile: I got it in a 2 for 1 deal along with The Shawshank Redemption (which I'd also never seen, but I watched it and it was amazing) and still have not seen it. The long running time has been keeping me from getting on it, but I can see it being a "date night" movie.

Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series: I got this well over a year and a half ago as well, on a recommendation from someone. I have yet to watch a single episode. In my defence, I am notoriously bad for watching tv on DVD. I have been trying to get through all of the early ER seasons for years now, but I go through stages where I'll get through an entire season in two weeks...only to get bored and stop for a year. That's partly why I've never put it in.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season: Take the above excuse, and add onto it the fact that I received it from someone shortly before our relationship ended. That kind of soured it for me, so I honestly can't see myself ever watching it.

Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man: I put these three together because I got them with the "Ultimate Edition" of Van Helsing. Van Helsing is one of my favourite "guilty pleasure" movies, so I just had to have the collector's edition, which came with these three movies. And I've never watched them. I will though, most likely starting with The Wolf Man, since the remake is coming out next year.

Spanglish: This one belongs to my parents, but I've still never seen it. Never had a whole lot of interest in it, but maybe one day I'll put it in.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop: My brother got this one as a gift. Again, could not be less interested in it if I tried, but who knows? Maybe one day...

I'm pretty sure that is all of them....not as bad as I'd thought actually. I collect DVDs (as well as books....and my ticket stubs), and on last count had about 120, and I know I've bought a few more since then. CreComm has kind of killed that habit since I haven't bought a single DVD since before I started school. I have a few on my Christmas list though, so I'm hoping to get a few.

Have you ever "blind bought" a film? It's a bad habit of mine. I usually only do it with films I've read about at length (so I'll be sure I'll like them), or ones that come highly recommended (as with The Shawshank Redemption, heard nothing but glowing things, but knew nothing about the plot until I put it in).

As for Winter break, I am hoping to get a chance to check out Adam Resurrected. I think it sounds really interesting, although a guy I know said it was "ridiculous", but not necessarily in a good way. Jeff Goldblum is awesome, however, so even if it is not very good, it won't be a waste of my time at all. Plus there's going to be a ton of awesome movies coming out, The Lovely Bones, Avatar, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, even Sherlock Holmes looks like a ton of fun, although way over marketed in theatres. Personally, I'm most looking forward to Doctor Parnassus, Heath Ledger's last (incomplete) role. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell save the day by helping to take on Ledger's role, plus Christopher Plummer, and Tom Waits are in it! Directed by Terry Gilliam (I really need to see Brazil and Twelve Monkeys)! I have high hopes for it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Drive By Post: Weekend Movie Viewings

I see a lot of movies, and managed to catch two in theatres this weekend. Here are my brief thoughts (then back to studying).

New Moon: I saw it as a glimpse into the psyche of a modern tween girl. Apparently they like awkward looking, buff, consistently shirtless men. I have moral objections to the Twilight series, but that's for another entry. For now, I'll say the movie wasn't great, but hearing the excited squeals of the tweens in the audience, and the sheer awkwardness of numerous shirtless men on-screen was amusement enough for me. Keep your shirts on boys, a little mystery is good for a woman on occasion.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: This one was fun. It was an adult movie hidden in a kids movie. The animation was fantastic, and it was hilarious. George Clooney especially did a great job voicing his character, Mr. Fox. Another excellent Wes Anderson film.

After studying, I think I'm gonna put in Love, Actually. First Christmas movie of the season!

And now I leave you with more great movie music: The Lonely Shepherd by Gheorghe Zamfir, from Kill Bill.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thank You to my Readers (and Happy Holidays!)

It's nearing the end of the semester, and I'd like to take a moment and say a genuine thank you to all of my loyal readers. Here are a few in particular:

Amanda's Mom- Thank you for being so supportive, not only of Amanda, but all of us. It really means a lot to all of us.

Kenton- Your comments are so awesome, thank you very much for reading all my entries! Love your blog too.

Kirk- You're the most supportive boyfriend ever, and it means a lot that you read all of my work. :)

Melanie- You have been an excellent instructor, and I feel I learned a lot. I also enjoy reading your blog, it's very informative.

And for everyone else who reads: Thank you. And happy holidays for everyone, be sure to take it easy (and indulge just a little bit)!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2009 Cannes Lions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Yesterday I went to the 2009 Cannes Lions presentation with Kirk and some of my fellow CreComm classmates. I'd never been before, and it was a great experience.

Here's some background: I've never been a commercial fan. When I watch tv with my Mom, she teases me because I bolt out of the room when they start playing. Therefore, I've never thought it would be something I would enjoy. But after this first term in CreComm, I've started to strongly consider majoring in Ad. I really enjoy it, and think I could be pretty good at it. So I've been trying to make more of an effort to sit through commercials because I may end up writing them for a living. They're not great most of the time, but I can recognize when they're doing an adequate job...and when there's no redeeming quality to them. I've even seen some gems on television, such as the recent Viagra ads that I'm sure we've all seen. They're brilliant.

The Viagra commercials are just a few of the ads presented at the WAG last night. There were many other gems, including a very moving condom commercial from Japan. It managed to get its message across in a nice way, without being overly preachy.

Here is another Canadian commercial for Shreddies cereal. It is in regard to the recent ad campaign concerning the "new" diamond Shreddies. Before CreComm, I under understood this campaign, after all, it's the same cereal, right? But the campaign was light hearted, generated interest, and kids especially might want a box of Shreddies to see the "new" diamond shaped cereal pieces.

So last night convinced me that really great advertising can be funny, and can really move you. What I have sworn not to do is use a bunch of cool shots or images, and make something so long, that it feels like a short film...and not make any mention of what the product being advertised actually is. I feel that is what the Grand Prix did. I thought it was visually quite compelling (though I loathe clowns), but I had no idea what it was advertising! I did a bit of looking around just now, and it is an ad for a Philips 21X9 tv, and the commercial intended to look cinematic, and show what it would look like on this television. Here is a link to the ad being played on the television being advertised, and a description from Philips: commercial. Now that I understand it a bit better, it's not as bad...but I still hate clowns, and I still believe it's a bit too difficult to understand. However, maybe it was just getting late when that ad played last night.

I'm very glad I went, because I saw some commercials from all over the world, and other countries have rather different ways of advertising than Canada and the US does. I didn't much care for the British commercials, because they were quite long, and I felt that they dragged quite a bit. I'm used to my commercials being short and sweet (or at least bearable). I'll definitely be going next year, especially if I end up majoring in Ad.