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David Lynch on Meditation

4 Oct

catching

And now for something completely different: a book review of Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.

I don’t think I was ready for the combination that was David Lynch + transcendental meditation until very recently, and so that is why I think that Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity only came into my life nine years after its 2006 publication. This is the first book that I can ever remember turning back to page one and starting again immediately after finishing it. It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. I hope that even one of you finds it to be the same as a result of reading this review.

CloXhKAAn important reason this book is so near and dear to me is that David Lynch is also so near and dear to me. His voice is so distinct- I was thinking FBI Agent Gordon Cole from Twin Peaks- that it was easy to imagine him reading it . And although his voice is NOT transcendentally-meditative, it lulled me into a peaceful calm. Let’s just call it premature enlightenment.

Part of the appeal of this book is obviously learning a little bit about how David Lynch ticks. Some of its allure comes from the behind-the-scenes looks at a few of his enrapturing films. Yet another draw is Lynch’s description of transcendental meditation. I’m not quite there yet, but I am very, very interested.

At parts of the book, I found myself sitting in awe of his lessons, as if at the foot of a master teacher; at other moments, his sense of humor and his almost-childlike, brutal honesty broke the spell and snapped me out of the seriousness of it all. Those deep laughs of realization thrust me into the happiness of actual zen acceptance of the present moment, that true Buddha smile.

bloglogoAnd despite all of this praise, the true clincher for me was learning that yet another intersection of my life’s love and passion came into play: the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. This is an initiative that Lynch started when he realized how intense the stress and pressure is on kids these days. The Foundation teaches meditation techniques and with excellent results. According to Lynch (about students who have benefited from the Foundation, “Stress just doesn’t catch them; it’s like water off a duck’s back.” As an teacher and tutor, this hit so close to home. It still makes me tear up just ever-so-slightly. If I could ever get employed by this foundation I feel like I could really find my true life’s purpose. Well, probably.

I would like to share a selection from my favorite chapter, “Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit.”

“When I started meditating, I was filled with anxieties and fears. I felt a sense of depression and anger.

I often took out this anger on my first wife. After I had been meditating for about two weeks, she came to me and said, ‘What’s going on?’ I was quiet for a moment. But finally I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said, ‘This anger, where did it go?’ And I hadn’t even realized that it had lifted.

I call that depression and anger the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit of Negativity. It’s suffocating, and that rubber stinks.”

Its chapters are short little snippets about his life experiences, and the book takes no time to zoom through from cover to cover.

Thank you to my friend, Lindsey, who told me about this little gem.

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Everybody Must Get Stoned- Inherent Vice (2014)

12 Jan

inherent-vice-pta-joaquin-banner

Part Big Lebowski, part Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, part Boogie Nights. Sound intriguing? Read on.

When I saw the ad for Inherent Vice, I was like “meh, probably not for me.” That is until the very end when I read the fine print: “Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Based on the book by Thomas Pynchon.” I pulled a complete 180 on my apprehensions about the movie and dove in, head first, on the second day of its nationwide theatrical release. I haven’t done that in quite some time, and I am ashamed to admit that although I have this (rarely updated) movie blog, I prefer to wait until the movie comes out on Netflix.

PT Anderson is the architect for such movies as There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and my personal favorite, Magnolia (among others). In fact, my last review here was on his other most recent film, The Master, which, like Inherent Vice, starred Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist. And like The Master, I don’t think that Inherent Vice quite hit the mark of those past films for me. I did like it much more than The Master, with the once exception being that I am sad it didn’t/couldn’t include Phillip Seymour Hoffman, for obvious reasons.

docThe good parts:
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a perma-stoned Private Investigator in 1970’s SoCal, following a breadcrumb trail of several different cases that twist and turn and intertwine in unexpected and comically unbelievable ways. Doc is the most lovable Joaquin Phoenix that I have ever experienced, so that is the a plus. Because of his permanently stoned state, Doc finds it just as incredulous as the viewer that all of these cases so coincidentally cross paths. His intoxication- mostly all of the joints in the tri-state area, along with an occasional nitrous tank or bump of heroin- is absolutely contagious. As a viewer your eyes will turn red, your perception will become hazy, your sense of humor will sharpen, and you will experience this ridiculous journey almost as stoned as Doc is. It’s truly unexplainable, and worth viewing the movie for that entertaining aspect. In addition, my beloved Joanna Newsom is an inspired choice for the narrator of the film (with occasional physical appearances). The star-studded cast is also a delight, and you never know who is going to make an appearance next (unless you ruin it by reading the cast list ahead of time).

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

The bad parts:
Although I am sure it is simply preserving the old school sentiments of 77-year old author of the novel, Thomas Pynchon, I cannot help but detest the sexist nature of this movie. The female characters are neither complex nor do they seem to act as agents of their own desires, but rather they exist as objects for the male gaze. (Although Joanna Newsom’s character, Sortilège, is actually rather sage and omnipotent, the only female character represented thusly). I find this incredibly frustrating, because I tend to like controversial movies that many people would find uncomfortable or that pushes boundaries of human decency, but I am somehow unable to get past this part of Inherent Vice, as much as I wish I could just ignore it. I am just sick of seeing movies that are so obviously written for men and by men without much consideration for women other than as some kind of accessory to the far more important male characters. This is my complaint with two of Wes Anderson’s recent movies as well: Darjeeling Limited and Grand Budapest Hotel.

Inherent-Vice_612x380I’ll give the movie a B, because I still found it wildly entertaining, and it is an uncomfortable movie. And as I mentioned, I am always a fan of those. Just like when I went to the theater to see Life Aquatic, I found myself laughing aloud a little more often than the rest of the moviegoers. Joaquin Phoenix and his constant high confusion kept me in a state of trying-to-hold-back-giggles throughout the movie, and although it was 2 and a half hours long, it didn’t feel as painfully long as I thought it might (thinking back to There Will Be Blood).

One Last Round with Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master (2012)

13 Sep

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died in February of a heroin overdose, I was crushed. I’ve always treated celebrity deaths as sort of a joke. This is probably not the first time I have mentioned my Celebrity Death Poll in which friends and I would each list 3 celebrities we thought may die soon- yes I’m aware I’m going to hell for this. Upon hearing of PSH’s death, however, I felt like I got hit by a ton of bricks. It’s the only time I cried when someone famous died. And…I have to admit… (cue Unpopular Opinion Puffin): puffin robin williamsPhilip-Seymour-Hoffman-1000-x-1000-1Now that we got that out of the way, let’s return to the original intention of this post. Paul Thomas Anderson, director of such films as Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and Boogie Nights, recently brought us a new film, The Master (2012). Considering it is by one of my top 5 favorite directors, and it stars my dear Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the leader of a 1950’s cult (which is perhaps a nudge to Scientology), I don’t know what kept me from watching it.

the_master_turkish_poster_color_highTo be honest, it wasn’t my favorite PT Anderson or PSH film. Maybe it’s because I don’t like Joaquin Phoenix that much, and he’s pretty much the centerpiece of the movie. As an actor, I suppose he did fantastically in portraying the unhinged and out-of-control character, Freddie. I read this article in the New Yorker  by Richard Brody about the genius of the film and the way that the acting mirrors the way people talked, walked, and acted in the 1950’s, but I guess it just takes something different to impress me.

I think I had postponed watching The Master until my mourning for PSH subsided, and I thought it would serve as one last, perfectly preserved, piece of his cinema to enjoy, as I don’t see any posthumous work of his coming out. In the end, I was disappointed. As usual, my mark of a good film is whether I would like to see it again. I bought Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood, so that I could watch them over and over again. Unfortunately, The Master won’t be joining that collection. At least the movie has a great score, done by Jonny Greenwood.

Spring Breakers (2013)

12 Apr

spring-breakers_new-poster_topslice

One more bucket list item completed: To see movies by my favorite and most-beloved directors in the theater when they come out. I dove into the finish line with this one, because I didn’t expect theaters in Asheville, NC to stop playing it in its third week running. When I went to look up the weekend showtimes yesterday, I discovered that it would be showing in first-run theaters one last time, last night. So for the spring-breakers-IGN-poster-debut-610x903first time since Moonrise Kingdom, I shelled out the ridiculous rate of $20.50 for two movie tickets. Perhaps what is more ridiculous is that I have a movie blog but don’t pay full-price very often to see new movies, but that shit ‘spensive, y’all. I am happy that maybe two dollars out of that ridiculous sum made its way into Harmony Korine’s hands, because Spring Breakers did not disappoint me in the least.

When I say that Spring Breakers is Korine’s most accessible film, I do not mean to condemn him for “selling out,” nor do I mean to say that most mainstream Americans could stomach this movie or pick up on its subtle message(s). This film occupies an uncomfortable limbo that I love that is between mainstream and totally “out there.” And I want everyone to see it. But then again, I still want everyone to see Gummo and that movie is certainly not conventional or remotely comfortable for 98% of the population. This movie is so much like Gummo, but because it is more accessible, I think it is more easily digested. When I say it’s like Gummo, what I mean this: Korine is famous for presenting uncomfortable or unbelievable characters, but believe me you, these EXACT people exist. In the hundreds. From

My favorite Spring Breakers promo material, snagged off of lostinthemultiplex.com, but I can't seem to find the original artist.

My favorite Spring Breakers promo material, snagged off of lostinthemultiplex.com, but I can’t seem to find the original artist.

Xenia, OH (Gummo); from weird-ass St. Petersburg, Florida (Spring Breakers); yeah, they’re real.

I avoided reviews of this little gem before seeing it, because I wanted it to be fresh when I finally caught it in the theater. I had read some murmurings on Facebook from friends whose opinions I respect that it was a fantastic movie, so that eased the doubts I had after seeing the trailer some months ago. These doubts may have returned in the first few minutes of the film, which were filled with beer-soaked, bouncing, spring break titties and lines of irritating dialogue from college coeds about how much their lives would suck if they didn’t go on the adventure of a lifetime by going on spring break. But I soon realized the underlying message of all of the “annoying” parts of the movie (like James Franco’s character, Alien, whom I couldn’t stand at first but then I learned to absolutely love him), and I turned to embrace this ironic commentary.

Riff Raff on the left, Franco to the right

Riff Raff on the left, who was the inspiration for Alien (Franco) on the right. (Source: animalnewyork.com)

No spoilers from me -like I said, I benefited from coming at the movie with a fresh outlook. But even from the trailer you’ll know that four Disney starlets (technically three plus Korine’s wife) go on spring break and get into some unsavory activities unbefitting of their reputations. They meet Allen, a.k.a. Alien, who is James Franco’s hilarious rendition of a Florida gangsta white boy, (inspired by this guy) and they all get into some more shenanigans. I laughed a ton throughout this movie, mostly at Alien’s antics and because he reminds me of someone I know (I’ll never tell…)

Please go see this movie in any capacity you can. Keep an open mind and try to put your annoyance at the beginning of the movie on the back burner. While I don’t condone the actions of these spring breakers, I kind of want to jump up and down on a bed in my bikini wielding a gun after seeing the movie. I think I’ll settle for finally getting to read some other reviews, starting with our dearly departed Roger Ebert, though just maybe I’ll go fill my pink squirt gun with some rum. Spring break 4ever bitches.

Stroszek (1976)

1 Mar

Stroszek coverIt is a pleasure to review one of my favorite foreign films by one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog. Stroszek is a poetic Herzog take on the American Dream as an unattainable myth for immigrants to the US. There are many subtle laughs along the way, but overall the movie leaves you with heartache on behalf of the title character and his attempt to improve his life by starting anew in the US.

While it is not a documentary, Herzog based this story on Bruno S., the actor who plays the title character, and there are several scenes that are shot in his actual tiny apartment. Herzog has a knack for picking out interesting human subjects to showcase in his movies. And although not based on the true story of one particular German immigrant, it isn’t hard to imagine the story that unfolds as one that is based in the reality of those who immigrate to the US these days.

The film introduces us to Stroszek as he is being released from jail where he was serving a short stint for some drunken misconduct of stroszek-Brunosome sort. He is released and heads straight to the nearest bar to pick up where he left off. Stroszek is motivated to leave his native Germany when he and his lady-friend, Eva, are both tormented and abused by her pimps. The two of them set off for Wisconsin with Bruno’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Scheitz, in search of the American dream. In the states, however, they are met only with obstacles and people who either take advantage of them or simply don’t understand them.

"Can't stop the dancin' chicken."

“Can’t stop the dancin’ chicken.”

I have a penchant for melancholy movies, and Stroszek is one of the best. This is a must see in my book; it is a movie that graces my current Top 10 list.

P.S. If you listen to Ratatat, you may recognize a sample from this film in the song, Drugs. ^^^Please watch that music video, it’s hilarious. It practically had me in tears of laughter when I saw them perform at Camp Bisco 10.

The Future (2011)

12 Nov

I finally found the time to watch Miranda July’s newest film, The Future. You may have seen in a previous post that I am quite a fan of hers, whether it’s her book writing or screen writing. I love her over-the-top awkward, quirky, emo, indie, hipster ways. Though in my image search for things to include in this post, I found that there are a lot of people who cannot stand MJ and her unconventional ways. I even had to wait for my boyfriend to be out of town to watch the movie, because I am allergic to haterade.

In this movie, married couple Sophie and Jason are about to adopt a cat. They have one monthbefore they can bring it home. This sudden deadline of responsibility falling upon these two thirty-somethings shakes them into living this month as if it were their last. They quit their shitty and unfulfilling jobs, and set out to explore new and exciting territory. Jason becomes metaphysical, taking everything as a sign from the universe that he’s on the right new path for him. Sophie loses faith in herself and her ability to act upon her new goals as a recently liberated and unemployed dancer. They both develop secret habits and secret lives, which serves to drive them further apart than when they were stuck in their mono

Paw-Paw

tonous daily rut. Their story intertwines with the narration of Paw-Paw, their rescue cat. This is an element that might be hard to take by those who have a weak stomach for July’s quirk. I flinched at some points of this odd narration, especially in the choice to open the movie with it. In the end, Paw-Paw’s monologues were the most heartfelt parts for me.

I approached this movie with my thoughts on Me and You and Everyone We Know. I expected a subtly humorous account of real life trials and tribulations through that uncomfortably intimate lens that July uses in her work. I expected a chronological narrative  bringing together a myriad of characters, and I expected to take the events of the film at face value. The Future is not that kind of film. It starts off realistic, but as it goes on, you have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, the real from the imagined, and the literal from the metaphorical. It stirs up your consciousness a little bit, and I like that. It’s a thinking wo/man’s movie, not to be watched distractedly out of the right eye. It requires a certain amount of engagement, and I liked that. All of the necessary themes are here: relationships and fidelity, life and death, time and space, “mid-life” crises and our attempts to find happiness and fulfillment.

Grade: B+
I liked it better after it was over and I had time to reflect upon it. It’s a movie I would prefer to watch alone.

I leave you with July’s “Shirt Dance.” Love the song: Master of None by Beach House. Toro y Moi does a bitchin’ cover of the song as well. Doesn’t get much more emo/hipster/indie than that!

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

16 Jul

Wes Anderson has made some of my favorite movies of all time, and because of my profound love for them, he can do no wrong. He is the equivalent to a tenured professor in my directorial lineup, and his movies will always hold a special place in my heart. It is perhaps because of this attitude that I happily came out of the theater after seeing Moonrise Kingdom today, satisfied with my viewing experience. It may have also helped that Asheville Fine Arts Theater serves beer, which is always a welcome movie companion, but also far too rare at movie theaters showing new films.

You cannot discuss Wes Anderson without mentioning his eye-catching way of presenting setting, costume and props. Every scene is a beautiful stage front, set up so meticulously that your eyes drink up every square centimeter of the screen. I tumble into the world of the film when the long, slow, panning shots take you through a detailed and complex tour of the setting. When I first saw The Royal Tenenbaums, I was enamored with scenes like this one, where Margot Tenenbaum meets her brother at the bus station for the first time in years.

In The Life Aquatic, it was the beautiful way they presented the Belafonte, Steve Zissou’s boat. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, it was the intricate and adorable little props and costumes he used.

Moonrise Kingdom, unsurprisingly, carried on Wes Anderson’s attention to beautiful cinematography and a feel for a vintage-inspired detail. This made it so that even if the plot wasn’t capturing my full attention or making me fall in love with the characters, I was still wrapped up in Anderson’s world. All it takes is a little bit of nerdy Edward Norton and unexpected appearances from Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel to keep my attention and adoration for Mr. Anderson alive. (Although I think I speak for anyone and everyone when I say we all could have used some more Bill Murray in our lives throughout this movie).

I think that some may take issue to the movie for being a little “too cute,” which is undoubtedly why movies intended for an adult audience don’t often feature young children as main characters.  Anderson could have spent more time spent getting us connected with Suzy and Sam, our young love birds and the protagonists of the film. However, the flashbacks that did focus on a whirlwind tour of their separate pasts and  what drew these two misunderstood and somewhat neglected misfits together to plan to run away were some of my favorite parts of the whole movie. For me, a fanciful account of two tweens in love is still a little far from the world I know and relate to right now, even though I should probably just be drawing parallels between my world and theirs and leave well enough alone the literal story.

As I said, I still came out happy. I doubt I could ever come out of one of the worlds Wed Anderson has painted and not feel a little bit sunnier. From the awkward still shots of a character’s deadpan expression to the maps and charts and detailed accouterments that Anderson

I recommend that you see this movie. I would give it an A, I will buy it when it comes out, perhaps in a Criterion Collection format. Yeah, I said it… I think you will enjoy it, and it is definitely better than what else is going on out there at the theaters right now. Plus, I want Wes Anderson to make as many movies as possible so that he can continue to delight me with his whimsical filmmaking. So please give him more money so he can continue to pour it into meticulous set design and the like!

Shutter Island vs. Inception

15 May

This entry is only intended to be read by those of you who have seen both Shutter Island (2010) and Inception (2010). I wouldn’t want to spoil one or the other for you, but if you have read this far then I have probably already ruined it for you since I am comparing the two because they are so freaking similar.

DiCaprio as Cobb in Shutter Island

Ok, so maybe I am overreacting a bit. Shutter Island is about Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall investigating the disappearance of

...as "Teddy Daniels" in Shutter Island

a patient from a high security mental hospital for the criminally insane; Inception is about collaborative dreaming within dreams. And while I haven’t yet looked up on the interwebs anyone else’s opinion about the matter, does it not strike anyone else as odd how much Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters in both of these movies resemble one another? And unlike some movies that are similar yet span time and even genre, these two movies have the same main character and came out in the same year.

with Mal

So let’s get down to brass tacks, ladies and gentlemen…DiCaprio’s character in both movies is a mentally and emotionally unstable man. He is intelligent, but troubled because of the loss of the love of his life (Michelle Williams as Dolores [1. meaning pains in Spanish by the way] in Shutter Island and Marion Cotillard as Mal [2. meaning bad in Spanish, evil in French, fyi]  in Inception).  And these aren’t lost loves simply because they left him and broke his heart, but they both died in unconventional and haunting ways, leaving DiCaprio’s character(s) to lament and mourn through unhealthy and other-dimensional ways. Hallucinatory dream-like states reunite DiCaprio with his dead wives, and you feel sad along with him.

with Dolores

In the films you get little hints that he should not be visiting these women in the depths of his mind, but you initially don’t see what the harm is, he is just grieving as would be expected. Towards the end of the films, however, it is revealed that these women were crazy, and in one way or another (whether directly or indirectly) had a hand in their own demise. What is more, DiCaprio’s characters themselves also play a role in the death of these women, thus twisting the knife in the broken-hearted torment of his loss.

I have to say that I prefer Inception to Shutter Island, and despite my annoyance with the similarity of these main characters, I still rather like both movies for what they are. I can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to Inception more other than a.) I saw it first, b.) I love dream-things, c.) I saw it at a time that really gave the movie special meaning to me based on life events and d.) (I know this is a cinephile sin) but I am not exactly in love with Scorcese’s work. I know I shouldn’t generalize what makes a movie “masculine” or “feminine,”- and in general I don’t believe I prefer one “gender-genre” to the other- but I think Scorcese’s is just too masculine, rough and grizzled. Inception seems to me more artistic, delicate and lyrical. It doesn’t set out to scare the viewer as Shutter Island does.

Have you seen both? Let me know what you think.


The Elephant Man

3 May

A recent trip allowed me to spend some quality time with a caring community that restored my faith in humanity. I had just experienced a week full of love, sharing and kindness that left me with the feeling that people aren’t just not-all-that-bad, but that we are all connected through love and all of our actions affect one another and we are capable of making great things happen, of changing the world, through this love. Why am I sharing this with you? Because then I saw David Lynch’s The Elephant Man for the first time, and it led me to think, “man…people are shit.”

Luckily, I have since shaken off the feeling of disappointment in humanity. However, the feelings of sadness associated with this movie will be with me for a while. This film is based upon the story of Joseph Merrick (John in the film), known as the Elephant Man, whose deformed appearance led him to be a freakshow attraction in England in the mid- to late-1800’s.

In the film, Merrick begins as the main attraction in a little sideshow with an abusive alcoholic “owner.” Due to repeated abuse, he is hospitalized, and Dr. Frederick Treves takes a particular interest not only in Merrick’s physical deformities, but his mental capabilities as well. While at first Merrick appears to be mute, it turns out that he is actually eloquent and intelligent. He becomes more of a revered celebrity than a sideshow attraction as high society takes an interest in this brilliant man who is at the same time so physically abnormal.

The true sadness in this film lies in the fact that Merrick comes to feel truly accepted and loved, only to be cast back down again into a pit of misery. Although a sad film, it is beautiful in a way that only David Lynch could have been responsible for. The themes are both timeless, yet modern, and the fact that it takes place in the 1800s and is shot in a way to make it look older really adds to the bizarre feeling that the movie gives you.

I believe that I am behind the times in getting to this movie, but better late than never. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s your turn now.