Tag Archives: writing

Les Misérables

Les Misérables

lesmisFour Golden Globe nominations, eleven Critics Choice awards, four Screen Actor’s guild nominations, and the NationalBoard of Review winner for best ensemble cast (to name a few).  An accolade list with this much praise would imply a movie that may have completed its theatrical run, and be headed to DVD.  However, in this case, as of this writing, the film is not yet released.  This film is Les Misé

In our time, movies are created and destroyed in the minds of critics.  Their reviews, before the movie has even hit the public eye, create a prepackaged buzz that can guarantee a film’s success weeks or even months before its first ticket is sold.  In this particular case, winning awards before the general public has even viewed the introduction, the Victor Hugo novel turned musical turned Christmas event of 2012 seemingly has its position secured.

For those uninitiated; the story told a thousand times over: spanning from 1813 to the French June Rebellion of 1832, on its surface tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French convict released from the prison system after 19 years for a string of infractions rebuilds his life; and in doing so, we see a myriad of subplots surrounding the heart of Les Misérables.  The film focuses solely on Valjean, and his pursuit by police inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe.  True to the original, the surrounding stories of commoner Fantine [Anne Hathaway], Cosette [Amanda Seyfried], Marius [Eddie Redmayne], and Éponine [Samantha Barks] are not left out.  Repopulating Hugo’s original masterpiece.

Possibly the most interesting bit of this film, is a brave new approach to the on-screen musical.  Past stage musicals turned film, such as Moulin Rouge or more recently Sweeny Todd, were created by bringing a cast into a studio.  Their vocals were recorded, machined and produced to create a pitch perfect, tempo regulated experience of the original works.  However, with Les Mis; the vocal tracks are recorded with the film.  Each actor can control their own tempo, and speed.  The sounds of their actions remain true with the vocalizations during the movie; giving a more realistic, to-the-moment response and reaction more often experienced in a stage performance.  Only after the final performance is recorded, is the finished film produced with a full orchestral composition. The actors are given the freedom to act- change their emotional response based upon their situation, and not have to assume or judge months before they’re in costume, or sometimes before having even met, with their costars.

As so much is homogenized and sterilized in the creative works of our society, it is refreshing to be able to experience media without having a team of experts take out every bit of the human element that made it in the first place.  While there is certainly a time and a place for the computer perfected aural performance, the decrepitude and absolution of revolutionary era France, surrounded by the squalor of poverty and hunger; a perfectly packaged scene seems almost disingenuous.  As carefully crafted characters pour their hearts upon the stage, without the emotion- the audience could easily be lost of the distraction of perfection.   Ultimately reminiscent of period films of the early 1990’s, trying desperately to convince the audience of a filthy vagrant, with perfectly white teeth, plump with craft services; or warriors, fresh from battle, in machine hemmed blues and gold.  The performance is accepted, but ultimately safe, and not imbued with the gravity it deserves.

Les Misérables was screened on November 23rd, 2012; and closed with standing ovations.  Originally slated for a December 14th public release, postponed to Christmas Day due to the conflicting release of blockbuster film, The Hobbit.

Budgeted at $61 million, with a total running time of 2:40.  Les Misérables hit US theaters Christmas Day, 2012.

Cloud Atlas

CA1“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present; and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”  This is the tag line seen on ambiguous commercials and adverts for Cloud Atlas.  It doesn’t seem to tell you much about the general feel or message of the film.  After the first viewing it becomes clear, there is no more succinct way to describe what this film is trying to say.

At its core, Cloud Atlas is six separate story lines, concurrently interwoven to convey the same message.  While it may sound convoluted or difficult to follow, in execution it stays clear throughout.  This is achieved by the stark contrast of the visual styles utilized by the Wachowskis (The Matrix series, Speed Racer) and Tom Tyker (Run Lola Run, The International) directing each piece independently.  Each section is so visually different, the audience is immediately aware of the shift.  From a voyage in the Pacific in 1849, to a post-apocalyptic Hawaiian island, each shift is like watching a separate film entirely.  Muted browns, and creams in 1973 San Francisco jump to vibrant blue’s and sun-swept reds of the South Pacific seas in the 1800’s, that may then open the door to deep technical blacks and greys of Korea, 2144.

That is not to say this film is all art and story.  At just under three hours, total running time, the filmmakers certainly are asking for an investment from the viewer; but that amount of time is completely necessary to not only weave such a movie together, but also let you watch how it is built.  Like a magician doing a card trick for you, slowly; showing you every move of the cards without knowing the prestige at the finale.

An ensemble cast compliments the intricate story telling.  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, and Hugh Grant are among the credits; each playing several different roles throughout, breaking through race and gender roles.
CA2The same cast is utilized in each story, but they are not the same lineage in each time line.  Villain, hero, love interest, antihero, misanthrope- while intentions may seem apparent at the onset, most often they don’t play out as expected.  This is not a story of reincarnation.  This isn’t a story of fixing the wrongs a person may have committed in their lifetime.  This is not karma, justice, man versus man, or man verses environment, but it is a flowing stream of consciousness of how each person may experience the effects of every time before; and ultimately, something bigger than themselves.

It would be overly simplistic to say the movie begins as many tales: with a very old man, scarred and tattooed, resting by firelight; introducing a tale in the darkness.  Immediately we are introduced to our timelines, each one visited only long enough to get comfortable; then seamlessly transitioned into the next storyline.
CA3Chatham Islands, South Pacific seas, 1849; an American is conducting business, when he is confronted by the violent whipping of a Moriori slave.  Cambridge, England, 1936; a young musician is on a quest to compose his masterpiece (the eponymous Cloud Atlas Sextet).  San Francisco, CA, 1973; a reporter gets a unique lead on global conspiracy.  United Kingdom, 2012; a publisher falls under an extreme set of circumstances brought on by a client.  Neo Seoul, Korea, 2144; a clone is giving a final interview after the tumultuous conditions that lead her to trial.  Lastly, a post-apocalyptic Hawaiian Islands (revealed in the credits as 2321), the remnants of human civilization learn the conditions that lie at the core of their beliefs.

None of the stories told seem to have any relevance to one another; and therein rests the wonder of the original storyteller’s vision.

Cloud Atlas has currently finished its theatrical run, is available from the right sources now, but will ultimately be released on Blu-Ray, Ultraviolet digital download, and DVD on February 5th,.

When I Learned How To Drink

When I learned how to drink the first lessons I learned were what I could drink.  To avoid the sugars, to appreciate the burn, the fun was in the drunk, in the inhibition.  I learned how to dance, and how to sing.   Those people that judged you didn’t matter, and you were to enjoy life, as best as you could; and still, they didn’t matter.  I brought something new, they had never seen before; and the things I said were new, and they had never seen them before; when I drank.

The second thing I learned when I learned how to drink is what I could do.  The social iniquities were lost, and who I could be.  I found the humor and attention; the fame and infamy, so I stopped pretending to be who I wasn’t.  I spoke, I preached.  I said what was on my mind, and the drunks laughed, or scowled, or agreed or disagreed.  I poured what was in my mind out for consumption, bitter or sweet.

The third thing I learned, when I learned how to drink, was to allow adventure.  I learned to go, and live, and fuck the rest.  It was mine, and it was my experience for my story, all the stupid chances and immature risks .  My stories were eternal, and they were mine, and no one else could have them.

The fourth thing I learned when I learned how to drink was what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t draw, or paint, I couldn’t design or create, or sing, or dance; because the ability of my hands would not develop along with the creativity of my mind, so I put down the pen when I drank.  I didn’t draw, or write, or sing or dance or learn, because they’d see in, and that wasn’t why I drank. I didn’t want them to see in, I wanted to see out.

When I learned how to drink, the fifth thing I learned was to be quiet.  Things people told me, things I saw for sale, and that last drink.  They were unnecessary, and if I wanted to buy them or needed them so bad or should have expressed them, I would have done so while sober.  So I stopped opening my mouth, my wallet, my mind, and my expression; when I drank.

When I learned how to drink, the sixth thing that I learned was how to control myself.  To not let go, to not act like a child and not let those around you see the weakness in your drunken mind, the expression or the vulnerability.  To stop being someone I wasn’t and hold perfect control. So I stopped letting myself play up to who I was when I drank.

Lastly, when I learn how to drink, I will learn how to speak.  How to be as eloquent as I was before I took the first sip.  When the drinking has happened, and I’m keeping complete control, and not spending too much, and not drawing or writing to express myself, or trying to be the life of the party, then I’ll learn how to speak, and how to be me, even when I’m not in control anymore, to say the things I was thinking before.  How it was better to not have to apologize, and stay to yourself, when I learned how to drink.  Then, I will stay to myself, and not dance, and not sing, and not draw; because when I drink I wont be sure of me; so I’ll be the best me I can be, and if I don’t, but no one else is around, then I wont have to apologize anymore.

So, when I learn how to drink, I will be me; even when the “me” isn’t here anymore, when I drink.