Friday, July 18, 2008

What are you looking at?


Rating 8.0

There are among us only few who give much thought to typefaces. Most of us are happy to know the difference between serif and sans-serif, let alone what a ligature is, or whether the spacing in our morning newspaper is proportional or monospaced. Surely, for most of us, pondering typefaces takes up about as much of our time as flossing our teeth, though we spend a great deal of our lives looking at a seemingly infinite variety of them.

The people we encounter in the documentary Helvetica, however, sound as though they spend every waking second thinking about typefaces before they go on dreaming about them at night. And of all the typefaces, Helvetica in particular receives an extraordinary amount of attention. Apparently, there has been an ongoing debate over the worthiness of Helvetica taking place just under our collective nose ever since it was developed in the late-1950s. This film places that debate center stage, in the surprisingly robust and spirited world of type design. Opinions of Helvetica range from those of pure admiration to outright disgust. One designer goes so far as to voice her moral opposition to it. Another is almost moved to tears by its simplicity.

Some of the most respected, innovative, and rebellious type designers of our time appear in the film, taking us on an engaging and often eccentric 80-minute tour of Helvetica’s history and how its use has evolved over the decades. We learn how integral its appearance is to the advertising industry and federal government, as they have increasingly relied on it for products and services ranging from AT&T to American Airlines and the IRS to iPods. We learn also of its stubbornness, how even the most coordinated attempts by designers to banish it to the past have been thwarted as new generations find it too irresistible to ignore. They are inspired by the challenge to make it new rather than bored by its conventional use. One could say Helvetica has transcended mere utility to serve as a sort of ambassador to the world. How? It just won’t go away.

Obviously a labor of love, Helvetica is the kind of film that is in danger of being overlooked as at first glance it may seem to be of interest to only a specialized audience, say, one with an advanced degree in graphic design. In fact, it should have broad appeal. Typefaces have an unusually strong influence on our everyday lives; their effects may be subtle but they are worth thinking about. To devote an entire documentary to only one typeface of course sells the whole industry short, but Helvetica does a fairly good job of framing the debate as one that enlightens the viewer to the many facets of type design, including the political, economical, and even personal ideas at work behind every letter of every word that we see – intended or not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Have I seen this already?

Yeah yeah yeah. You probably can't stand it when people browse the shelves, pick out titles and stare at them with that quizzical look on their face, wondering, "Have I seen/read this one before?"
We all have memory lapses from time to time. Especially today when we are so overloaded with sensory input.
Well. I honestly think that if the movie was that great, I would have a hard time forgetting it. So, on that note, here are the movies I remembered having watched for the first time and enjoyed in the past few years. Feel free to comment.
Dark City
City of Lost Children
Little Children
In The Belly of the Architect
I heart Huckabee
That's it for now. More will come to me later.

From the streets of Dublin...


Rating: 9.0

Musicals these days are lavish and carefully orchestrated. They showcase the sometimes questionable singing talents of A-list Hollywood stars or they animate the vocal talent and leave the singing to professionals. They are big-budget productions championed by the huge marketing efforts of major film studios. Actually, if you leave out the singing, most films could be described that way.

Fortunately, the best films of any genre don’t need all the hype. Instead, they rely on a strong story, well-rounded characters, and in the case of Once, a uniquely passionate and fully integrated score that should resonate with any audience. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the two lead actors, won this year’s Oscar (and Grammy) for Best Original Song Written for a Motion Picture. Both of them are professional musicians and they co-wrote several of the songs in the film. They are not professional actors – this is their first film, and they’ve both said they’ll likely never act again – but what they lack in polish they make up for in authenticity as raw as it is true.

Guy (Hansard) could be any bloke with a guitar. By day he works in his dad’s vacuum repair shop; by night he stakes claim to a busy sidewalk in Dublin, opens his guitar case for tips, and sings with an intensity that betrays his lack of professional ambition. (They have a word for it: busking.) Why isn’t he performing in a concert venue somewhere? His music is captivating and his personality is charismatic (though not without a wee bit of the Irish gloom), but no one seems to be listening. No one except Girl (Irglova), a Czech immigrant who stops to listen everyday from a distance as she makes her rounds selling flowers. When she finally engages him, the relationship that develops is almost startling in its integrity, which graciously continues to the final scene.

As Guy and Girl write songs together and inch their way toward a recording studio, they develop an awareness of each other that awakens in them that rare moment of introspection when one realizes the necessity of an honest relationship not only with others but with oneself. Much of this film acknowledges how difficult this can be. In one particularly well-played scene, Guy hesitantly plays one of his songs for his father on a tape recorder as they sit silently at the kitchen table. I won’t spoil the scene by telling you how it turns out, but I will say that the film pivots beautifully during small moments such as these, in turn drawing us deeper into the characters’ circumstances and bringing us to respect rather than question their actions. As viewers we are in capable, if unseasoned, hands.

If for no other reason (though I have plenty), I recommend Once on the merits of the character-driven script, which is so loyal to Guy and Girl that it confounds the viewers’ expectations in surprising, often funny, and ultimately meaningful ways. It is smart without being clever and affective without being sentimental. There aren’t that many films out there willing to take the risk. Once is a love story, sure, but more than that it is a story about loss and sacrifice, about acceptance and doing what it takes to get to where you want to go. We all have dreams and we all have realities. We want to realize one without letting the other get us down. The problem is to determine which one deserves our efforts. Once does an admirable job of working it out, with a memorable soundtrack to boot.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We could all use a little Spice in our dreams....


I had to recommend this one for all of you anime fans out there. Actually, you don't have to be a fan of anime at all to enjoy this one.
The director Satoshi Kon continues in his wonderful style of blending science fiction and reality. This one is based on a science fiction novel by noted Japanese author Yasutaka Tsutui. When a program that allows individuals to explore their own dreams is pirated, the results are mind blowing.
If you liked the Matrix, you will appreciate this one. It is Rated R, however, for one particularly unsettling death scene, so don't watch it with the little ones..

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wouldn't it be Great to be a Career Criminal?

Ocean's 13

Rating: 7.0
If you enjoyed Ocean's 11 and Ocean's 12, you'll surely enjoy this one, although in my opinion, it is slightly less enjoyable than the first two. Maybe it's because the surprise of all the celebrity cameos has turned into more of an expectation. You know how that goes.
In this one, Al Pacino plays a casino owner who stiffs one of Ocean's men big-time, thus upsetting him into a heart attack. Ocean, of course, must get back at the guy, who considers himself untouchable. I guess everyone in the casino business has criminal ties, because Pacino used to be one, and so did Andy Garcia, who pops up as his rival. Ocean tries to use Garcia, as well as all of his contacts, to ruin the opening night of Pacino's biggest, most expensive casino for high rollers (or, "whales") only.
The best best best part of this movie is Ellen Barkin, who at 53 and change, looks as good as any cougar could. She plays Pacino's next in charge, and spends most of the movie following him around like a puppy dog in a tight dress and Victoria Beckham bob.
Clooney plays the same, slick, lovable Ocean, who, despite being extremely adept at ripping people off, still has a heart of gold. I do not understand why people find this man so sexy. But, to each their own.
This one does drag on a bit too long (122 mins), but, then, so did the other two. In my opinion, any movie that lasts past the 120 min. mark should be definitely worth the time it took to view it. This one didn't reach that high in my opinion.
-Victoria Vogel

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cuteness + Science Fiction = Great Movie

The Last Mimzy Rating 8.0

Far into the future a scientist has made several attempts to save the world. This is his last try.

He sends Mimzy into the past to a couple of young 'uns, because only the innocence of children can save us. When a brother and sister find a strange paper weight type thingie on the beach, they break it open to find several objects, one of which is a stuffed rabbit named Mimzy.

The rabbit can speak only to the girl through beeps and chirps. SHe is able to understand Mimzy, and realizes why Mimzy is here. Mimzy is able to communicate to her and her brother, and soon they are freaking out their parents with the special abilities with which they have been endowed.

Rainn Wilson from the Office plays a science teacher at the boy's elementary school who is drawn into their world with his hippy wife. Soon the FBI catch on the Mimzy, and steal the rabbit to figure out exactly what makes it tick.

The movie is very entertaining. Children younger than 8, however, will most likely be bored. The story is somewhat complicated. But, this is a great movie for parents and their older pre-teen, and even teen children to watch together. The story is engrossing, and the rabbit is so very very CUTE!

Science fiction and mathematics buffs will also appreciate this movie greatly. The movie is based on a children's novel, and parrallels Alice in Wonderland somewhat.

The movie reminded me a lot of ET, because of it's cuteness factor, and because the boy looks freakishly simlar to Elliott from the popular 1981 movie.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

If You Drink This Much, You Will Die


Rating: 5.5

"If you drink this much, you will die." This is actually a disclaimer that appears at the opening of the movie. Now, is that a sign that this movie is not for younger audiences, or what?

Beerfest is the story of two brothers who decide to train to win the annual Beerfest in their dead grandfather's name. Beerfest is sort of a secret "fight club" competition that the brothers stumble across when they travel to Oktoberfest. Dear old grandpapa loved his beer, and took the recipe of some master brew to his grave. The boys discover the recipe, and use it to create their family's favorite beer in order to help them train. Training consists of, you guessed it, drinking. A lot. Very quickly. Which leads to all sorts of escapades.

The movie great for learning new drinking games, and for watching whilst drinking with your fraternity brothers. It isn't good for much else.