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BQE to Finally Be Released

It’s about time!  Greg and I have been waiting for this for two years!

Back in 2007 our friend Sufjan Stevens made a short film/musical score called The BQE, a “symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York City’s infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.”  Since his last release way back in 2006, The Avalanche, Sufjan fans have been thirsty for more, having to settle for his excellent Christmas albums and contributions to various compilations (covers of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Castanets, etc.).  Even last month Sgt Grumbles and I had a conversation expressing our frustration over the non-release of The BQE, but come October 20 we shall be frustrated no more!

“The double-disc album will include the original film on DVD, the original soundtrack on CD, a 40-page booklet (with photos and liner notes), and a stereoscopic image reel (aka View-Master®), created by illustrator Stephen Halker…The limited edition vinyl is available as a double gatefold and includes the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, a large-scale 32-page booklet with liner notes and photographs, and a 40-page Hooper Heroes comic book.”

How exciting.  Take a look at this clip to wet your appetite…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

THE BQE- A Film By Sufjan Stevens from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

Patrick Daughters

One of my greatest secret interests is the music video.  I would tend to shy away from such an admission in light of the sheer wretchedness of what we often see on MTV, VH1, or countless other music television stations that have arisen over the years.  Music videos have become so uninspired, oftentimes more interested in conveying an image that builds up the artist as a superhero, a martyr, or a sex icon.  And when a video does employ any sort of storytelling, it is all-too-often meaningless, narcissistic, and void of any substance.

I always keep my eyes open for the artist who can capture a profound image, a profound concept, and a profound sound.  I am obsessed with engaging art in exhaustive ways (using as many senses as possible, and let’s consider the mind a sense for the time being), and it wasn’t until recently that I realized some of my favorite recent music videos have been directed by one person.  I’m talking about music videos that make you fall more in love with the sound because of what the images and ideas passed to you though the music video medium enrich the individual song with, enhancing your experience.

Even if you’ve not heard of Patrick Daughters it is possible that you have seen one of his very uniquely styled and directed music videos.  Some of my favorites are below.  Please enjoy.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

If you’re interested, this MGMT video by Eric Wareheim and this Danielson video by J. Christiaan Palladino are incredible, as well as anything by Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, etc.

Cry Baby

Today I was eating lunch at a friend’s house and the television was on.  The Fellowship of the Ring happened to be playing and if you know me slightly well you probably know that I adore J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films.  So while we cooked and ate our meal we watched along between the Fellowship’s arrival at Lothlórien and the breaking of the Fellowship.  If you’re familiar with the story from the film you know about a significant event that took place within that time period (which in the book actually took place at the beginning of The Two Towers, after the breaking of the Fellowship).

If you haven’t seen the films and you don’t know what happened this will be a spoiler: Boromir is killed.  Casting Sean Bean to play Boromir probably automatically gave American audiences a negative prejudice against the character (he being the antagonist in many films including but not limited to: The Island, The Hitcher, GoldenEye, and National Treasure [the only one I’ve actually seen]), which is further fueled by a general lack of Boromir’s strong positive qualities presented in the film (unless you watch the Extended Edition, which I highly recommend).  But if you’ve read the books you probably have a much higher view of Boromir, and his glorious final scene can be very emotional when you consider the honor and valor that Boromir demonstrated in his short lifetime.  I remembered that this scene really got to me emotionally, especially Boromir’s final utterance toward Aragorn, “My king.”  My eyes welled up with tears, like in The Two Towers film when Gandalf, Éomer, and the Riders of the Rohan appear at sunrise to defeat Saruman’s Uruk-hai army at Helm’s Deep.

I got to thinking about the subject and I made a short list of films that similarly moved me to tears, after which I asked myself, “Why?”  I discovered some interesting patterns that linked various films on the list:

Many of these categories can carry over into others (i.e. LOVE is tied to KINSHIP and TRIUMPH, etc.), but in general I see that these distinct themes appeal to what makes me human, or at least human in a broken yet hopeful state.  While looking at the list above I see the Gospel calling out to me, and the same can be said of a list of books, music, or visual art that has appealed to our emotions.

From tearful heartbreak to tearful elation the Gospel has radically given us a schema with which we can understand the universe and our place in it, and it is not simply a cold, purely logical grid to look at the world (which probably kept me from crying when Mr. Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).  Through Christ we’ve the opportunity to come to God with our brokenness and to be able to experience true kinship and love as we inhabit a broken yet redeemed world.  Because of what God has accomplished throughout history we also have a hope for the undoing of this brokenness and a time when injustice is eliminated.  Tears of joy will most assuredly follow.

What films have made you cry and what is the underlying meaning of your tears?

Eight (Films) Is Enough

MY BEST FILMS LIST OF 2008 (I only saw 22 films this year, so it seemed like choosing ten of them was skewing the odds a bit—here are eight for 2008:
1. Wall-E…likely, there is no explanation needed here & you’ve probably seen it and thought it was pretty amazing yourself. (There is hope for us tubs of lard!)
2. The Dark Knight…same as above (except for the tubs of lard part). I will say that I wasn’t that blown away for the first 20 minutes, but then…something changed, and it became unbelievably captivating for the next two hours. Except for the part where he drives the “Bat-pod” up a wall—a sell out moment in an otherwise powerfully engaging, intense and haunting film. Christopher Nolan is pure gold (pretending Insomnia never existed).
3. Son of Rambow…now this may require a bit of explanation. A British film which some list as being released in 2007—but since it had it’s limited release here in May 2008 & because I’d love to sing its praises, we’ll include it in this year’s list! When I originally heard the pitch (two English kids remake “First Blood” using home video cameras) I was uninterested. Somehow, I ended up seeing it and deeply enjoyed every single moment. It transported me back to the transitional years between my childhood and adolescence with it’s 80’s setting & soundtrack, had me laughing loudly at the stunts the kids do in their film (obviously effects of some sort) and hit some deep places with its depiction of one of the young boys who is part of a Plymouth Brethren church (which places a high value on separation from secular culture), yet who feels drawn to creative expression, particularly as a way of dealing with his father’s death. Don’t make the same mistake I did—see this soon!

This movie is bloody good.

This movie is bloody good.

4. In Bruges…another example of a film I had no desire to see—I couldn’t quite tell what it was even about from the preview. But someone (perhaps YOU?) recommended that I see it & I’m so glad I did—the acting, cinematography, script are all excellent. It is dark humor on a pitch black scale, but there is also tremendous beauty and some glimmer of hope and redemption in this story of two hitmen running from the aftermath of a job gone very wrong. If you need a happy ending, don’t watch this. If you can deal with a morally complex dark comedy, this should be mandatory viewing. It’s sad that marketing almost killed this for me (the same thing happened a few years back with Moulin Rouge!).

The advertisements may suck, but the film does not.

The advertisements may suck, but the film does not.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…I almost jumped out of my seat when the screen FILLED with buttons in the first minute of this film (for some psychologically undiagnosed reason, I can’t stand buttons), but it really is an incredibly engrossing & lovely film. I deeply enjoyed all 3 hours of it and was actually holding in HUGE SOBS at the end. After I left the theater, I started thinking maybe there were some problems with the plot, a bit of sentimentality glazing the characterizations (the old folks home in the movie seemed pretty idealized) and that on a subconscious level, the whole last third of the film may have been an apologetic for irresponsible parenting (I won’t give away exactly how this works), but on the whole, it was just incredible viewing. David Fincher is one of the great cinematic geniuses of our time.
6. The Fall…my friend Katherine, whose taste I implicitly trust, recommended this & as I was watching it, I became seriously bummed that this film seemed to fall under the “buzz” radar (it took a few years to even GET a release, but was “presented” this year by none other than David Fincher!), however it does make sense that something as odd as this would miss a big audience (as a film, it’s kind of a blue rose). Roger Ebert put it on his year’s best list and I’ll just point you to his review for further details. The visuals (set design, cinematography, etc.) are simply unparalleled in my mind.

Criminally underrated.

Criminally underrated.

7. Prince Caspian…this is a bit of a surprise to me as well. But I thought this was an excellent piece of fantasy—I found myself lost in the world of the film in a way I had not since the final Lord of the Rings trilogy (certainly not in the first Narnia movie). I’m not a C.S. Lewis purist, so perhaps that helped!
8. Iron Man…you saw it (over 500 million served!)—superb superhero film of a comic that I frankly knew nothing about. Robert Downey is the freaking phoenix.

Films I Wish I Could Have Seen that Might Have Made It On the List, But Which I Will Probably Not See in the Next 3 Days:
Transsiberian, Pineapple Express, Blindness, Slumdog Millionaire (update: saw it, loved it–it would probably fall somewhere between 4-5 on this list), The Brothers Bloom, Revolutionary Road, Synecdoche, New York, Waltz with Bashir, Defiance.

Any additions from your viewing of 2008 films? Anyone else remember the 70’s show “Eight Is Enough”?

Bibleman Begins!

Bibleman Begins!

W.

This is my [hopefully not too] awkward first post.  While I’d like to write about the Gospel or something more strictly theological (since politics have been invading every facet of American existence for the past 21 months…maybe with the exception of the rural South), I am choosing to write about the current American President, George W. Bush.

Comedic persona Neil Hamburger (one of the most inappropriate comedians I’ve ever heard) once told a joke during a stand-up routine that went about like this:

“Hey, is it just me?  Is it just me or is George Bush the worst president in the history of the United States, huh, am I right?”  The anti-Bush crowd during this routine–not unlike the national crowd, which according to at least one poll is composed of 70% of Americans–cheered at this rhetorical question.  Hamburger continued,
“Which makes it all the harder to understand why his son, George W. Bush, is in fact the best president we’ve ever had.”  This punchline was followed by a wave of “boos” from the displeased crowd.

It seems possible that we live in a “post-Bush” culture, one that ignores the fact that he exists or at least looks forward to the day when he will cease to.  Though I would not consider myself as a “fan” of Bush’s presidency to nearly any extent, I find it perplexing that our culture is so infatuated with hating him.  Perhaps we don’t realize that Bush is ten years younger than John McCain, which means that we potentially have another decade or more of President Bush in the public eye.

He’s a truly fascinating person.  If you’ve not seen Oliver Stone’s W., I suggest you do.  It’s a well-crafted caricature of Bush’s adult life and the various people who have surrounded him.  I left the theater with a far more empathetic attitude toward the man, who is portrayed as a simple guy who was caught up in a wave of dirty politics.  The guilt of the Bush Administration is really shifted toward Dick Cheney in the film.  Maybe I’ll post something about how impressive the film was, especially for a film that only took half-a-year to shoot, edit, and release.

But in addition to the empathy I gained toward President Bush, I was also filled with a sense of mourning; mourning for a man who has been painted as a villain in our culture by not-as-much-fault-as-America-thinks of his own.  He is already among the deceased presidents of our generation–Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan–yet has been painted with more dishonor than Herbert Hoover.  He’s still in office until January, yet we replaced him with an over-publicized bout for the seat of the 44th President of the United States nearly two years ago.

Any conclusion or resolution?  Maybe we ought to not view those in the public’s eye as demigods.  Maybe we ought to not expect our political leaders, nor any other person, to make the perfect decision every time.  Maybe we ought to demonstrate a little grace toward those who we label as unlovable.  As I’ve said, I’m no fan of George W. Bush as the Commander-in-Chief, but I’m fairly certain that he did what he believed was best for America most (if not all) of the time.