About High and Lo

Movies and politics. Each has their high art and low art, important and trivial aspects. I graduated from Drew University with a bachelor’s degree consisting of a political science major and a theatre arts minor. I hope to put all that knowledge to work for me here on High and Lo.

How Taxi Driver and My Uncle Changed My Life

While I’m not sure I ever got to know him as well as I could have, having more of a father/daughter dynamic to our relationship than anything resembling peers for so long, my Uncle Allan was a formative fixture in my life.  I grew up two blocks away from him and my Aunt Mickey’s house and spent innumerable days playing X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with my cousin Eric. He was someone who I saw as a man of few words, as a result occasionally intimidating to a shy little girl, who would speak up when he felt he had something of value to add. He wasn’t interested in talking to hear himself speak. Regardless, as I got older, I saw him for the warm man he was, and hearing stories, decided he had an adventurer’s spirit like I did. He always seemed to be looking to learn and along those lines, he never made a purchase without thorough research and took his choice of movies very seriously – or at least more seriously than the average film goer.

That last bit – the film part – is why I bring up my Uncle. Growing up I loved movies the same way any kid did. Going to the movies was a treat, a mini adventure. Films like Aladdin and The Lion King made children everywhere laugh and sing all the way home.  However, while I grew up on Disney’s new classics and watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins ad nauseum in the comfort of my own home, I also begged my parents to take me to see the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie. Kids will inevitably watch anything.  With that in mind, a future cinefile rarely grows up with any discernible taste in movies.  It takes, I think, an inciting incident to inspire a passion for movies.

For the longest time I never even considered what that inciting incident was for me until I started planning my old Hollywood themed wedding.  As my now husband and I narrowed down classic films for our centerpieces and thought of film related details I kept wondering – how did I get here?  How did I become a person who loved movies so much she couldn’t get married without including them? And then, inevitably, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I can still see myself sitting on my Aunt and Uncle’s couch in Point Pleasant Beach, back to the open window, hearing the train and cars go by. I was somewhere between 12 and 15 and I sat there on that familiar, comforting couch with my cousin and my Uncle Allan in the arm chair to our right and watched Taxi Driver for the first time.

If I told you that I remembered my reaction to Scorsese’s masterpiece like a crystal clear photograph in time I’d be lying. I don’t, however, remember being horrified. There were no nightmares or ill effects like the terrible dreams that haunted me after seeing The Wizard of Oz when I was very young.  I was probably warmed up to the experience from several annual viewings of John Carpenter’s Halloween –the one violent movie my parents would let me watch because, along with It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, it was my mother’s favorite Halloween tradition.  But still, there are several things I clearly remember from watching Taxi Driver that very first time.  One, I knew that if my parents knew I was watching this movie they would be furious. They never would have let me watch it at that age. Two, I was old enough to know who Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro were, and that people thought very highly of the film. These first two facts added a distinct feeling of mystique to the whole experience. And finally, three, though I strangely enough have not seen the film since that day, the overhead tracking shot through the carnage Travis Bickle has created trying to rescue Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp, is still perfectly etched in my brain.

Looking back at my memory of the film, it wasn’t the gore or blood that made the shot stand out in my head – maybe it helped a little – but it was the first time that I can clearly remember taking note that the camera was doing something, acting as an observer, a character in the film itself.  This was the first time, for me, that a movie had transcended the realm of entertainment and into art.  Ever since then I have descended further and further into the world of film, trying to experience everything it has to offer, on a constant, possibly endless, quest to eradicate my blind spots.  I can say without a doubt that movies are the one true passion I have in my life and perhaps if my Uncle hadn’t chose to show me Taxi Driver all those years ago another inciting incident would have arisen.  But, he did, and as a result the simple fact remains that my Uncle Allan, a wonderfully dry humored man and not at all easy to impress, a man I can clearly see laughing hysterically sitting in his sister-in-law MaryBeth’s living room at a family gathering of some kind having run over from his house two blocks away with a copy of Best of Show because we all just had to see it (my equally formative introduction to Christopher Guest), is responsible for igniting my lifelong love of film.

My Uncle was too sick to make it to my wedding in February and passed away while I was away on honeymoon. I feel like all our best conversations were ahead of us. The last time I saw him before we left for Mexico I hugged him and said, “We’ll see you when we get back.” I never really said good-bye and so, maybe all our best conversations are not lost and still wating to be had. Thank you Uncle Allan. Rest in peace.

It’s Time to Go to the Mattresses – How Can Movie Lovers Take Back Theaters?

Tonight a local theater was showing The Godfather for one night only. I can’t remember the last time I saw The Godfather. I was certainly around 12 or 13 and the only scene that stuck with me all these years later was the toll booth scene. Of course other tidbits had gotten to me as so much of The Godfather still permeates pop culture to this day. But by and large this was like seeing the film for the very first time for me and on the big screen no less. My boyfriend and I arrived a half hour before showtime. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up and I wanted a good seat. When we walked into the theater there were only three other people there. By the time the showing started, however, the theater was easily 3/4 full. A large group sat behind us, taking up the entire row, and as the lights began to dim and the previews started, though wary I didn’t think too much of them continuing to talk a bit. This was The Godfather after all and the median age of those in attendance was at least 40. Surely these people knew how to conduct themselves in public.

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The Hunger Games – In Theaters Now – A Review

Any film adaptation of a book is automatically saddled with hefty expectations.  Make that book a beloved phenomenon and the filmmakers really find themselves in a battle they can’t possibly expect to win. Director Gary Ross, his cast and crew found themselves in such a battle when they signed on to adapt The Hunger Games for the screen.  Any writer or director who has adapted a book for the screen will tell you that you can’t please everyone. There will always be at least one fan out there who simply cannot believe you changed the color of this or the order of that.  There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to fans of literature understanding the basic differences between book and film – not everything on the page is suited for the screen and several hundred pages of the written word does not fit into the roughly two hours allotted for any given film.  As a fan of both the Hunger Games series and film in general I do not envy the task that Ross and his team undertook and stand to undertake with the next two films in the series.  Now, more than ever it seems that fanboys and fangirls alike have grown a rampant sense of entitlement when it comes to their beloved comics, characters, books, etc.  If you don’t like how something’s done why not start a petition to have it changed? It’s ludicrous but it’s the time we live in and the time in which The Hunger Games was released into theaters full of entitled, rabid fans.

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The Hunger Games – Outrage and Fatigue Sets In

It only took a weekend but I already have Hunger Games fatigue.  It seems every website I visit has a plethora of articles debating whether the film is successful or unsuccessful, Katniss is too sexy or the heroine young women of today need – it goes on andon.  As a fan of the books I am happy to see the series become a full fledged phenomenon. I’d rather hear about Hunger Games than another word about Twilight.  And yet still, I have this unshakeable feeling that people are taking this a little too seriously.  Suzanne Collins’ books are ripe with social commentary and criticism and so I understand the need to analyze the film and whether or not it accomplishes anything the book does in terms of social critique.  However, I don’t really see the need to overanalyze these things to death.  One reviewer said that the movie invites us to voluntarily watch children fight to the death which overrides the book’s social commentary.  Is the film as successful as the book in its social critique? Absolutely not.  But to argue that the movie actually makes u sinto some kind of blood thirsty monster because we choose to watch it is absurd.  No one is walking into that theater because they want to see kids kill each other. They’re walking in because they want to see Katniss triumph. Speaking of our heroine, a columnist asked the question, was Katniss portrayed as too sexy in the movie? I find this utterly ridiculous.  Jennifer Lawrence is of course, quite beautiful and the filmmakers don’t really go to any great lengths to actively play down her beauty.  However, everything she wears covers way more than half the teens I saw in the audience of my showing.  There’s never any cleavage, belly bearing etc.  The only time Katnissis dolled up is when she’s supposed to be – Caesar Flickerman’s talk show for example.

And beyond my own personal annoyances I come across this article yesterday thanks to a friend on Facebook:

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Random Thoughts, Random News – Lohan, John Carter, Tonto, Oh My!

The first runaway hit of the year?

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted last so I thought I’d get back into the swing of things with a smattering of news and notes from around the web.  I’m finally starting to get over what has been a weeks long battle with my sinuses so let’s hope for some great blogs in the days/weeks to come. Let’s get started shall we?

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John Carter – Fabled Failure or Secret Success?

Opening next Friday (March 9) is the new Disney blockbuster John Carter, previously known as John Carter of Mars.  The film, starring Friday Night Lights favorite Taylor Kitsch, as the titular John Carter, is based off the sci-fi novel, A Princess of Mars written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s the first live action film directed by acclaimed Pixar director Andrew Stanton whose previous films are the beloved Finding Nemo and the straight up brilliant (in my own humble opinion) Wall-E.  There has been a lot of chatter surrounding John Carter, most of it ranging from cautious to negative. They say there’s no such thing as bad press but I have to imagine when people are already predicting your film will be the biggest flop of all time, that can’t feel good and doesn’t do much to entice people into theater seats. For better or worse I plan to be there opening weekend to support Mr. Stanton’s work at the very least and with that in mind I thought I might take a closer look at this mysterious blockbuster.

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2012 Oscar Wrap Up

Well the Oscars have come and gone yet again.  Overall I really enjoyed last night’s telecast. There were a few semi-surprises but nothing truly jaw dropping occurred.  There was no landslide winner last night as The Artist and Hugo each took home 5 awards.  The Artist won where it counted though winning three of the night’s biggest honors – Picture, Directing, and Lead Actor. I correctly predicted 18 of 24 awards. 75% isn’t too shabby at all. I was surprised that Meryl Streep pulled out the Lead Actress win over Viola Davis who seemed like the heavy favorite.  Perhaps the most surprising award to me was Hugo winning Best Visual Effects over the final Harry Potter installment and more importantly, over Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  

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Road to the 2012 Oscars – My Predictions

Critics always like to describe any given year as one of two things – a good year or a bad year for movies.  It’s a highly subjective and fairly ridiculous thing to do really.  I like to say that it’s almost always an interesting year at the movies and I would say that 2011 is no exception.  Though the Academy made a handful of rather glaring errors with this year’s nominations the majority of their picks are pretty sound. And with the big night quickly approaching I thought it was finally time for me to break out my predictions for the 2012 Oscars.

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This Means War (Now in Theaters) – A Review

There’s something I heard once. I don’t know if I read it in a review or heard it on a podcast but I think it’s pretty stock and trade among film critics – don’t put a good movie in the middle of your shitty movie. Early on in This Means War Chris Pine is riding an escalator down into a video rental store that’s too vast to be real these days and the camera pans to a scene from Young Frankenstein.  At that moment I thought to myself, “Yikes it could be all downhill from here.” Well the good news is it wasn’t downhill.  Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly uphill either.  This Means War is a pretty standard half good movie.  All the pieces are there for a well crafted, witty romantic comedy but they just don’t come together in the end. It’s not offensively bad, Transformers 3 taught me the true meaning of offensive filmmaking, but it’s not worth an $11 movie ticket either.  It’s the kind of movie that’s entertaining enough but completely falls apart once you start to think about it too much. In the end, it’s a perfectly fine date night rental.

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365 in 365 … #8 is a Doozy. My 1200 Word Rant on Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Last night I was up until midnight watching a two and a half hour epic. No, not Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai or Frderico Fellini’s 8 ½ – I finally gave in and spent time of my life that I will never get back watching Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  I have so much to say so let’s just start at the beginning. The first time I saw a trailer for Dark of the Moon I was actually pretty intrigued.  It sounded like a plot with a lot of potential or at least more potential than the first two films, to spin the Transformers into the moon landing and play off conspiracy theories surrounding the moon landing in a different way. I actually enjoyed the first film on that popcorn munching, pure mindless entertainment level. I wasn’t expecting a JFK-esque moon landing drama from Michael Bay but I thought hey this might make Dark of the Moon more than a third installment of robots fighting.

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