What I Watched: World War Z

What I Watched: World War Z

Anyone that uses this to choose songs on their iPhone is a sociopath right?

Anyone that uses this to choose songs on their iPhone is a sociopath right?

Anonymous said: You mentioned you're learning French, what are you using to teach yourself? Are you taking classes?

I took French in high school and college and studied abroad in Paris so I’m not totally starting from scratch, but I haven’t used my French in years so I might as well be.

I was using Duolingo when I first started which was good at first to get me excited about getting back into it, but eventually I grew tired of it. I don’t see what good it will do me to learn how to say “I am a red shark” (an actual prompt I was given). 

I started listening to Michel Thomas’ French audio courses which have been much more helpful. 

I’ve also just tried to constantly immerse myself in French whenever possible. Reading French children’s books, listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg and subscribing to French news podcasts. 

When I was staying in Paris I found the best way to learn how to speak was to just jump in the water and flounder. Even if at first you kind of only sort of know what they’re talking about on a French podcast you begin to reconize words and phrases very gradually. You’re never going to get really good at speaking French unless you go way out of your comfort zone and surround yourself with the language so that’s what I’ve been trying to do as much as possible. 

By this time last year I had watched 40 more movies than I have so far this year. I’ve got some catching up to do.

What I Watched: Anchorman

What I Watched: Anchorman

I first saw No Country For Old Men in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival. I was exhausted and hot and hungover, but even in that cramped screening room I knew that I was watching something profound. I was speechless for many hours afterwards, ruminating over the film and trying to piece it all together.

I’ve probably watched it ten times since then and with every successive viewing I’m more and more convinced that it’s one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen.

Part of why I think I like it so much is because of the mystery it contains. Particularly in the visual landscape. So many things seem like key pieces of the puzzle, shots that they let linger on screen that seem as if they must be important, they must contain some sort of meaning for the story or characters but what?

The one shot I’m especially thinking of is in the roadside gas station when Anton Chigurh is talking to the attendant right before he forces him to submit to a fateful coin toss. He unwraps a piece of candy and sets the wrapper on the counter. The camera pauses on it for about five seconds as the wrapper crudely unfurls, a seemingly loaded and significant shot, but why? What does it mean? I think that it means nothing, and I think that’s the key to the entire movie.

I used to think this movie was about a lot of different things; death, religion  even terrorism. But I’ve slowly come to believe that the movie is actually about life itself and the utter mystery and randomness of it all. All the major events in the movie are totally random and the entire time all the people in this universe are left to try to grapple with the consequences. They’re all trying to cull some kind of meaning out of the fabric of the narrative and all end up coming up frustratingly short. 

The inciting incident of the entire movie, Llewelyn Moss finding a briefcase full of money, happens completely by random. He was just out shooting deer on the prairie and happened to stumble onto the scene of a horrific crime which in and of itself seems to have occurred at random. Llewelyn was just in the right place at the right, or depending on how you look at it, wrong time and ended up with $2 million in his possession.

One of the more interesting characters in all of this is Ed, played by Tommy Lee Jones. He’s been around block a few times and is much smarter than he leads you to believe. He tries to use all of his experience and common sense to try to find some tenor to the mess that surrounds him. But even with his years of experience he can’t because there is no sense to be had. Him trying to figure out why Chigurh goes and shoots up a hotel is like trying to figure out why a coin toss lands on heads or tails. He assumes it’s because there’s a new breed of evil lurking out there, but as Ellis assures him, it’s always been this way.

Aside from Anton, Carson Wells is the only character who seems to understand the kind of nihilistic rules of the game that they’re playing. He’s brought in as a kind of last ditch stopgap to try to reign in this entropy. He’s dealt with Anton before and knowingly laughs when Llewelyn pretends to know how to best him. But even Carson falls victim to the chaos, blown away by Anton in his hotel room after repeating the common refrain of many of the victims, “You don’t have to do this”. Of course he doesn’t have to do it, but that doesn’t change a damn thing.

It’s easy to conclude that Chigurh is an agent of this elusive chaos, killing people based on the result of a coin toss, or sometimes even without it. He isn’t driven by anything and he seemingly has no motives, a suitcase full of millions of dollars doesn’t even entice him, he’s just there to fulfill some sort of destiny that people are “accountable” for.

But even Anton Chigurh is subject to the forces of randomness, he is struck by a car running a red light and almost killed at the end. What does that mean? What does Ed’s seemingly prophetic dream about his father at the very end mean? What does any of it mean? I don’t know and I am starting to realize that that’s ok.

Humans are on earth searching for meaning in it all, we see things that we think are important and call them signs or miracles and we put stock in what we may consider to be the meaning of life. But at the end of the day, objectively speaking, it’s all rather random and chaotic. Maybe those miracles and signs are just candy wrappers unfurling on the counter. 

One of the major perks of teaching yourself French is that you get to buy awesome French editions of books.

One of the major perks of teaching yourself French is that you get to buy awesome French editions of books.

What I Watched: Heat and Margot At The Wedding

Wendy Davis be mine.

Wendy Davis be mine.

“A ten-second video shown on a one-inch-high screen can’t really do justice to a Major League Baseball double play… but it’s the perfect format for a single daring skateboard flip.”

— I’m really enjoying “Present Shock”, but it’s deeply embarrassing whenever otherwise very intelligent writers try to talk about skateboarding.
Our three acquisitions from Onur Tukel’s show last night.

Our three acquisitions from Onur Tukel’s show last night.

Laying in bed thinking about Thomas Kinkade.

What I Watched: Masculin Féminin

What I Watched: Masculin Féminin





This is great. Not all stories are worth telling the world about, that’s for sure.

One of the very smartest things I’ve heard in a very, very long time

Thank God someone has finally said this.

thank you.

adteachings - you circulate such great stuff. Thank you.

I watched this video this morning and got really pissed off. I was going to let it slide, but as I was going about my day it got under my skin more and more and I’ll tell you why.

This guy is so full of shit.

I know it’s easy to like this video because he’s a famous guy and he’s kind of funny and snarky and he calls somebody “fuckhead”, but if you unpack it even a little bit you’ll find that his platitudes about storytelling are absolutely false, hollow and pretentious. 

First off uses the word “storyteller” as if it’s some qualitative badge of honor. Something that must be earned and is only bestowed upon the truly gifted. This is like when people go to a museum and see something that’s outside of their realm of comfort, understanding or preference and say “that’s not art”. I’m terribly sorry but you don’t get to choose what’s art and what’s not art. You can subjectively choose whether you like it or not, but either way it’s art. That’s why it’s so fascinating in the first place, because it’s a fluid notion and it’s sticky and messy and not clearly defined. You have to think about it and decide for yourself. 

It’s the same with stories, if somebody is telling a story they are a storyteller. You might think Michael Bay’s movies are horseshit (I don’t) but he’s still a storyteller. I don’t care if you think a story is worth telling, or boring or bullshit. It’s still a story and to say otherwise is paternalistic and elitist.

The second part that pisses me off is his notion of what a story is. He exclusively cites people who write novels and make feature films as people who “actually tell stories”.  This is the most dull, narrow understanding of what a story is that I’ve ever heard. 

First off, do short stories and short films not count? What about paintings? This painting by Edward Hopper packs more story and emotion into one canvas than many feature films can fit into two hours. How can you not look at this for even five seconds and glean a dozen things about these people, their relationship and their lives. Is this not storytelling?

What about this photograph by Gregory Crewdson? It’s pretty hard to look at this and say that photographers aren’t storytellers.

Painting and photography feel like kind of a given, what about music? Are you saying a symphony by Dvorak doesn’t tell a story? 

You can go even further down that path if you choose. What about dance? Abstract art? Architecture? What about SnapChat and vlogs? Are these not considered storytelling? You may not necessarily like or understand how a particular medium could tell stories, some of them may not be considered classic or “highbrow”, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re storytelling.

One of my favorite plays is Art by Yasmina Reza which is about a man who buys a painting that is just a white canvas with three faint lines drawn on it. The man’s friends lambast his purchase, descrying it as bullshit, meaningless and pretentious art with no worth or story behind it. But as the play goes on and they vigorously argue and discuss and ponder both the piece in front of them and art itself, they eventually each find their own personal meaning and narrative in the work. 

That’s what art and storytelling is all about. Serving as a mirror to ourselves, showing us bits and pieces of our own personalities and lives. Storytelling doesn’t have to just be a traditional, linearly structured narrative. Sure it can be, and it’s great when it is, but at it’s heart it’s about the transference of emotion, history and experience from one human to another.

I feel that Mr. Sagmeister doesn’t want to take the time to think about art and stories. His wants his stories spoon-fed to him in neat, traditional narrative arcs that take the form of novels and feature films and that’s fine. Clearly I love both. But to say that anything else isn’t storytelling is pompous and completely untrue.

There are many different kinds of stories out there and I’m happy to enjoy them all. 

(Source: vimeo.com)