Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

23 APRIL, 2009

Film Spotlight: Paper Heart

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Decheesing love, or how Michael Cera went from cameo to Romeo in a never-signed-up-for-it way.

The only thing cheesier than the subject of love itself is a film about love. Unless its about love. Which is why we love Sundance gem Paper Heart — a wonderful documentary about Charlyne Yi, a girl who neither understands love nor believes in the very possibility of it.

Cherlyne embarks on a journey to dissect the nature of love, traveling the country and interviewing people — little kids in “puppy love,” couples who grew old and grey together, Vegas-wedders — to hear their stories about the ever-elusive subject.

And then comes the wildcard — Charlyne meets actor Michael Cera (of Arrested Development and Juno fame, among others) in order to interview him.

But the two grow increasingly fascinated with one another and something begins to boil between them, something that may just be, oh, who knows, love? Suddenly, the film director realizes that Charlyne and Michael’s relationship has taken a life of its own and has now become part of the documentary, which turns into a wonderful piece of anthropological field study of love in the very moment when it crystallizes. (HD trailer here.)

What we love most about Paper Heart is that it remains exactly what it set out to be — a real documentary — yet it’s about the very subject of all the world’s sappy fiction, exposing it in a refreshing new light that strips it of all the Hollywood glam and romantic scene music scores, leaving nothing but the raw and vulnerable human emotion in the heart of this universal phenomenon.

22 APRIL, 2009

Earth Day The Reel Way

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Just how stupid we really are, or what James Earl Jones and a giant humpback whale have in common.

It’s Earth Day, and instead of engaging in questionable eco initiatives, like watching Philly’s fountains turn green, why not call a few friends over for some essential viewing that will disturb, move, outrage and inspire you in that bitter-sweet way that An Inconvenient Truth did in 2006.

Here’s some help, with our selection of 5 new must-see films that explore our environmental sensibility.

THE COVE

2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner The Cove is a mixture of action, adventure, mystery and, as the tagline goes, “oh, and it’s a documentary”. The movie tells the story of a group of filmmakers, activists and free-divers, led by director Louie Psihoyos, who penetrate a hidden cove in Japan uncovering a terrible secret.

No spoilers here  – you’ll only know the secret after seeing the movie, but let’s just say that given the filmmakers are wanted by the Japanese authorities,  it’s going to be be good.

THE AGE OF STUPID

Director Franny Armstrong takes the scare approach to instill in us some eco sensibility. Half-fiction, half-documentary, The Age of Stupid shows Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite living alone on a devastated Earth in 2055. In this barren habitat, the only type of entertainment available to the poor guy is “old” documentary footage of us trashing the planet in the present day.

Troubled by questions like why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance, Pete suggests that the answer might simply be that we were really, really stupid. And he may have a point.

FUEL

Fuel is last year’s Sundance Best Documentary Award Winner, and covers a topic painfully familiar by now — America’s addiction to oil.

Director Josh Tickell drills the history behind the rising domination of the petrochemical industry — which may seem like a regurgitated discussion to some, but we believe these things simply need to be said until there is no longer a need for them to be.

Plus, there’s a cameo by one of our heroes — Sir Richard Branson — as well as other fascinating instigators like Josh Tickell himself and Robert Kennedy Jr.

EARTH

Sure, it may be unoriginally titled. But earth, out in the U.S. today, is a piece of remarkable visual storytelling about three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home.

The film comes from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy-Award-winning Planet Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by the one and only James Earl Jones.

It’s a story told through incredible action taking place on unimaginable scale at impossible locations. Full of mystery and intimacy and magic as we glimpse inside the worlds of our planet’s most elusive creatures, the film is an epic call for appreciation of the fragile world we inhabit, a moving plea for a new self-conception as actors in an intricate and brilliantly orchestrated system beyond our own existence.

You can catch the filmmakers hosting a special episode over at Current for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at their phenomenal adventure and creative process.

FOOD, INC.

By now, you know we’re big proponents of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. So it comes as no surprise that we find Robert Kenner‘s FOOD, INC. to be a compelling must-see. A merciless exposé on America’s food industry, it reveals all the hidden workings and often shocking truths of the government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA, lurking behind the consumer’s scope of vision.

The film features social entrepreneurs and sustainability visionaries like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface FarmsJoel Salatin, who together paint a grim picture of what we eat and how it ended up on our plates, brimming with an urgency to change what we eat in order to change where we end up.

For 13 more Earth-conscious must-sees, we highly recommend the selections in Yale’s Environmental Film Festival, as well as the two incredible forthcoming films presented at this year’s TED Conference and TEDPrize winner Sylvia Earle’s compelling talk on why blue is the real green.

07 APRIL, 2009

The MacGuffin Library

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The secret lives of props, or what Hitler and Mickey Mouse have in common.

Cinema history trivia: MacGuffin is a term, allegedly coined by Hitchcock, which stands for a cinematic plot device, most likely on object, whose only purpose and value lie in driving the filmic narrative.

So how would such an object — whose very essence, form and function are defined solely within the context of fictional circumstances — inhabit and relate to the real world? This is exactly what non-traditional product designer Onkar Kular explores with his project The MacGuffin Library.

The objects that he creates are neither products, nor sculptures, nor props, but a strange medley of all three, challenging the way we perceive art and design. They stand somewhat awkward and unsure of themselves, reminiscent, in all their black polymer resin glory, of Frankenstein’s monster.

Each MacGuffin comes with a one-page synopsis of a non-existent screenplay that inspired it. There is a plot for every taste as themes range from futuristic thrillers to midlife crisis dramas.

The exhibition is incredibly engaging since the role of each object is not specified in the adjacent synopses. Endless possibilities of interpretations and lively discussions arise.

Unlike other, more traditional art exhibits, where one sees, nods, and moves on, the enjoyment of The MacGuffin Library lies exclusively in the quantity and quality of the viewer’s own engagement. So go ahead, engage.

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