Thursday, January 17, 2008


Joe Wright cemented his place as a new, seriously talented director with his latest film, 'Atonement.' Having already made some noise with his first film (the generally well received adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice (2005)') Wright continues to bring history to the screen. 'Atonement' was a greater challenge, requiring vast amounts of skill to do justice to Ian McEwan's 2001 novel.

The movie spans several decades and moods. Three distinct time periods tell the story of Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her little sister Briony (played by three separate actresses) and Robbie Turner (James McAvoy). The story follows these three as their lives take place in the 1930's upper-crust home of the Tallis' where Robbie is Cambridge-educated son of the groundskeeper, and through the devastation of WWII in France.

The film opens before the war, at the palatial estate of the Tallis family. Cecilia has been fighting her attraction to Robbie, the son of the Tallis' grounds keeper, for years and Briony has her own school girl crush on him. The sexual tension between Robbie and Cecilia is palpable.

On a momentous day, with the 'clarity of passion,' Cecilia and Robbie finally act on their sexual attraction to each other due to a farcical miscommunication. This act is witnessed, but not understood by 13 year old Briony who misinterprets the act as something violent committed by a sex maniac. Another tragic event that evening, the rape of a cousin, forces Briony to accuse Robbie of these things which places his future in jeopardy.

The film then jumps ahead to 1939. Robbie is an ex-con fighting in the army in lieu of sitting in jail. Cecilia has become a nurse for the war effort and is now completely estranged with the her family who prefer keeping the untidiness of that fateful night tucked in the past, rather than revisiting it to learn the truth. It's during this time that Robbie and Cecilia have one, fleeting encounter in London before Robbie reports for duty. In a scene that will surely stick in the minds of viewers long after the credits stop rolling, the two reunite with few words, but acting that screams volumes. In an obvious attempt at penance, Briony has also become a nurse, deserting her place at Cambridge. Now 18, she has come to grasp what she has done to Robbie and her sister and seeks to make atonement for the ruined lives she caused.

Scriptwriters faced quite the task of taking McEwan's sprawling and complex tale and turning it into just over two hours running time. Yet, the feel of the film isn't rushed. All the elements work together to create what can only be considered an instant classic, a masterpiece, and an obvious favorite for this year's award season. The moving and emotional original score by Dario Marianelli ('V for Vendetta,' 'Pride and Prejudice') works hand in hand with Wright's vision for the film, adding to the splendor of the 1930s privileged life in the upper class and underscoring the devastation of war, death, and love lost.

The art direction alone is prime example of cinematography as art, pay attention Oscar. In perhaps the films finest moment, a single camera shot of over 5 minutes follows Robbie on a beach in the city of Dunkirk as 300,000 British soldiers await evacuation. Wright uses the shot to sum up a scene that must have taken thousands of words in the novel, to show the horrific reality of war. The camera weaves and darts and just when you think it will cut to the next shot, it stays with Robbie as he wanders past crumbling buildings, a singing choir, and euthanized show horses.

Even though each individual element of the film is fantastic (scriptwriting, directing, acting, etc.) the film is somehow more than sum of it's parts. Even with all the talent that went into this film, it wouldn't have been the masterpiece it is if Wright had forgotten the simple power of McEwan's words. One can't help but get excited about this new comer and his newest film-as-art. This is not your father's period piece, and 'Atonement' is something no one will soon forget.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Countdown to Sundance

There's only three days until Sundance 2008 officially opens it's doors. Well, 4 days for us schmucks who couldn't cough up the $4,000 for carte blanc packages that would actually allow the attendance of opening day events. But who cares! It's time to Sundance.

The previous few years have consistently delivered completely satisfying experiences that left me hungry for the next year of experimental art film.

I'll be seeing six film this year. Some I've awaited with great anticipation, some are risky choices based on plot summaries, directors and actors, and others were chosen on a whim as I waited in line to buy these tickets.

Of the six films I'll be attending, I'm most excited about two. First is Michael Haneke's remake of his own 1997 Austrian film, 'Funny Games.' An alarming film about the glorification of on-screen violence. The cast (starring Tim Roth, Naomi Watts and Michael Pitt) encourages one to hope for on-screen magic as a home invasion turns into something more sadistic and a family is forced to play 'funny games' throughout the night with the hope of surviving.

The second film is 'Choke.' Directed by Clark Gregg (his directorial debut) this adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel follows Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) as he schemes and cons to support his deranged mother in an expensive private mental hospital. As always, Palahniuk explores the darker side of life. Hopefully, the other works of Palahniuk translate to the big screen as well as 'Fight Club.'

The other screenings I'll be attending include Alan Ball's feature-length directorial debut of 'Towelhead,' starring Aaron Eckhart and Toni Collette, George A. Romero's 'Diary of the Dead,' (who can help but go see a zombie movie directed by the Romero?), Tom Kalin's Savage Grace (Julianne Moore and Stephen Dillane), and finally, 'Ballast,' directed by Lance Hammer.

Hopefully, this year's experience will outshine the last few years were I discovered 'The Descent,' 'Black Snake Moan,' and 'The Illusionist' among others.

Pictures and stories will follow.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aspen Ridge Managment's Redemption and 'Margot at the Wedding'

I seriously edited my last blog and for good reason. As you can tell, I don't update my blog anymore so I forget about what I've written. Well, I seriously bagged on Aspen Ridge Management and Brookview Apartments in my most recent blog.

The thing is, later the day I wrote the blog, I worked through e-mail with a woman named Hilary. I'm not sure what her position is with the company, but she's the one constantly answering my e-mails even on weekends and after hours. I wrote what I thought was a calm, temper-free e-mail (although I'm definitely biased) explaining my concerns and how I felt it was simply not fair what happened in my apartment. Based on recommendations from BYU, I wrote an e-mail requesting specific...recompense? Compensation? Is that the right word?

Anyway, Hilary wrote me back almost immediately explaining why certain things happened the way they did (which was actually understandable and made me feel like a dick because I may have, just maybe overreacted). She was completely kind, not at all on the defensive or offensive. She just responded to my request.

I left part of deciding how to work things out up to her discretion. I expected to receive a portion of what I wanted, but she responded with a much more generous offer than the things I asked for.

Never have I actually had a landlord/management company that is so accommodating, reasonable, and willing to do anything in it's power to keep their tenants happy.

I now feel quite bad about ragging on Aspen Ridge in my blog because it was a completely unfair representation of their management style and their go-the-extra-mile customer service. So just know, if you ever live in one of the complexes managed by Aspen Ridge, you will be in good hands. I will definitely live under their management again. You can put money on that.

In other news. Noah Baumbach's latest film, 'Margot at the Wedding' was truly inspiring. As somewhat of an experimental film, the movie does not follow a specific plot line but allows the incredibly well developed characters to take us where they may.

The film follows a family of intelligentsia on the East coast who can't help but manipulate and hurt each other. The best part is, they're smart enough to know what they're doing. The characters are so real, you can see at least a part of the worst of them in yourself. It's a hilarious, yet uncomfortable film to watch. Baumbach is truly one of the more gifted young directors of our generation.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Long time no blog...

It's been a while since my last blog. A long while.

Although a lot of things have happened that are worth writing, I just haven't gathered the motivation to do it.

For instance, I saw Bjork perform in Las Vegas. It was life changed. I found out there are other pople like me out there.

Christmas came and went. So did New Years.

I spent Christmas in Idaho with the family. The gifts were great and so was the company. My bro-in-law and I got to spend some quality time saving the world from the Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil 4. I really feel like I used my free time during the holiday break to accomplish something great.

I received the Radiohead In Rainbow's discbox set from my mom for Christmas. It included two 12 inch vinyl albums. It's awesome and collectible, but really...what am I supposed to do with them? Buy a record player?

The discbox included a second cd aptly titled In Rainbows [Disc 2]. It's pure musical magic that hasn't stopped playing on my iPod since I got it.