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How Would You Rank The Christopher Nolan Films?

nolan

This past week, there’s been the usual discussion between Nolan nerds over how his latest film, Dunkirk, fits in with the rest of his work. I normally stay out of these ranking conversations because my rule of thumb with Nolan is that his movies take time to process and analyze, for better or worse. Sometimes, his movies seem better on the second watch or months later. Sometimes, they’re worse. I doubt Dunkirk will be any different, either way.

Go on…How Would You Rank The Christopher Nolan Films?

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The Comments Section Is Dying

comments section dying

Go to any mainstream news or entertainment website, and you might notice that the comments section has either been removed outright, or it’s a wasteland.

This is probably why NPR, a platform known for its robust community of thoughtful commenters, recently announced that they’re doing away with their comments section in favor of social media interactions via Facebook and Twitter.

Because we all know how thoughtful and intelligent comments are on Facebook and Twitter.

NPR‘s reasoning for this move is along the same lines as most other mainstream sites who’ve already gone down this road. Their in-article engagement is a small fraction of how many people communicate when their social media profile is already logged in. On the surface, this makes a semblance of good business sense. Why not give the people what they want?

I’ll answer that.

Because you shouldn’t reward people for choosing not to read an article before throwing up their opinion on it, just so they can give their two cents on a headline that’s either taken out of context or is simple clickbait.

Because Facebook and Twitter comments are a proven cesspool of negativity, bickering, and intentional ignorance.

Because not everyone wants to have their name, picture, work history, and friends list displayed to thousands of strangers on a daily basis.

Because not everyone wants to create a Facebook or Twitter account.

Because a lot of us who do have accounts don’t want to hunt down the article on Facebook or Twitter (especially on Facebook, which is terrible about archiving these sorts of posts), just so we can gain whatever possible insight we can from the ongoing conversation.

Because abandoning your platform’s natural-born community of loyal readers in favor of junk food social statistics is in bad taste.

Because it’s a bad idea. Period.

At the top of this page, you’ll see an image that paints a picture of the “noise” from social media. The ironic thing is that NPR actually attached this image to their announcement to go exclusive with social media comments. I’m guessing this is a subtle hint that even the editors hate this decision just as much as we should.

Unopinionated: ‘Birdman’ Was a Good Movie, And That’s OK

birdman unpopular opinion

Every Tuesday, I examine an unpopular opinion in film and argue against it. This week: Why do so many people hate Birdman despite its huge success? 

There are a lot of ways to dislike a film, and sometimes for the worst reasons. So is the case with Birdman, the 2014 dark comedy that won the Academy Award for Best Picture over the likes of Boyhood and Whiplash (my personal favorite film of that year).

The film has been widely praised as a return to greatness for its star, Michael Keaton, as well as the cementing of Alejandro Iñárritu as one of Hollywood’s premiere filmmakers, just as long as he keeps signing Emmanuel Lubezki’s checks.

Like with most movies that achieve high praise among critics, Birdman’s detractors are quite vocal about their distaste for the film’s supposedly undeserved success. And since seeing the film myself in theaters, I’ve been one of those harsher critics.

birdman unpopular opinion

But Birdman isn’t a terrible movie. It’s above average, I would argue, and its resonance with film buffs as a great film, or even a work of art, has plenty of merit for the same reasons all of Iñárritu’s films achieve critical success. Technically speaking, the film is quite masterful.

Birdman centers around an aging actor named Riggan, who once played the superhero, “Birman,” and has yet to find gratification beyond that peak fame he acquired. It’s an obvious parallel to Keaton’s true life, as he of course portrayed Batman in the 1989 Tim Burton film that inspired the majority of that character’s evolution in film, television, and even video games.

To prove he is an actor who transcends the schlock that made him famous, Riggan directs, writes, and stars in a Broadway show adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The title alone is a clear dig into the type of love that fans heave onto their heroes, and this is played out in a satisfying way as we constantly see people stopping Riggan to take a photo, while he stands there unamused. Even when teenagers admit to not even recognizing him, proving that indifference really is the true opposite of love.

This is a film that makes its audience feel clever for catching these clues and making snide remarks about the current state of the superhero genre. Yet so much of it is loud and on the nose, including a fantastic scene where Riggan tells off a Broadway critic for all of the reasons most of us haven’t even bothered to articulate. In fact, the same criticisms he lobs at her apply nicely to Birdman itself.

birdman unpopular opinion

But is anything within Birdman really all that smart? Viewers don’t have to work hard to grasp the film’s deepest themes, and the camera itself even holds your hand by never violating its one-take structure and giving you a specific sense of where everything is laid out. Optimistically, this is an enjoyable trick that shows off the best of Iñárritu and Lubezki’s ability to enliven even the most mundane sets (some of them being gross to even look at), but for some, it comes off as a magic trick, in that finding out the illusion sort of spoils the fun.

But this is no reason to dismiss Birdman, for the same reason you put up with a brilliant friend who acts pretentious from time to time. There’s value in watching an imperfect character study that allows itself to get swallowed in the creative process, which we see with Riggan and his co-stars as they wander backstage with a never-ending purpose. Though it doesn’t amount to anything reasonably profound in the end, Birdman feels like a film that doesn’t even care about its own ending. It’s a show off in the best way possible.

And Birdman is among a long list of films that tackle the existential crises of fame. It’s just a shame that the unique and crafty questions it brings up aren’t answered in an equally compelling way. Without getting into spoilers, its resolution comes straight from the Hollywood playbook of rushed ex machina, and an ambiguous ending does little to assuage this. But the ride itself is still pretty satisfying as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

Grade: B


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

How to Make It as a Movie Writer

how to make it as a movie writer

Are you trying to make it as a movie writer? Are you trying to separate the great from the clickbait?

A movie writer, as you can imagine, is someone who writes about movies. Not to be confused with screenwriters, who are actually writing movies.

Anyway, on this special episode of the Now Conspiring podcast, Maria decided to take the reins as host and address what it takes to make it as someone who, well, writes about movies.

We’ll talk about tips, tricks, and little-known secrets to avoiding the most dreaded of article types: clickbait. 

And we’ll also discuss how we’ve gotten to where we are as bloggers, as well as all of the mistakes we’ve made along the way.

Enjoy the show, and feel free to rate and subscribe to our show on iTunes! We super crazy appreciate it.

[SIDE NOTE: The movie for the image above is James Franco playing Allen Ginsberg in 2010’s Howl. For whatever reason, he was the first person I thought of when putting this podcast together. Go figure.]

Chivalry Isn’t Dead. It Just Looks Different.

Chivalry means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But it certainly isn’t “dead.”

The popularized version might be. That is, if you define the merit of a concept by how it permeates culture. In that sense, many of us (myself included) would concede that the “mainstream” version of chivalry as defined by “knights in shining armor” and a strict code of etiquette is certainly an afterthought for most people.

And if you only define chivalry literally, then I suppose you consider it to have been dead since the days of medieval knights in shining armor.

But that’s not the type of chivalry we’re talking about, and it’s not even close to what our elders would call it.

The widespread view of chivalry comes down to various types of acts that are influenced by a holistic attitude. The acts in question are things like opening doors for others, taking someone out on a nice date and exercising manners.

As I said before, these acts are influenced by an attitude that begs them genuine. The attitude is a layer of sincere respect for the person receiving the kind acts you’ve bestowed upon them.

Put that way, it’s easy to see why chivalry doesn’t have to be constrained to just one gender or even role someone may play.

Chivalry can be an extension of how you treat your parents, friends and neighbors. Not just your lover. But that’s getting out of focus.

Sticking with just the lover thing, chivalry is commonly placed on the shoulders of men, and I believe rightly so. That doesn’t mean men are the only members of society to be chivalrous. It just means that chivalry is expected from men by men.

We set the example, basically, and it’s no one else’s fault when we fall short (no matter what Elite Daily tells you). Women shouldn’t have to tell men that they need to step up their manners, for example. Men should be telling each other.

Now, this is the part where we lament over how men are no longer chivalrous. It’s “dead” or something. But I think you’re talking about something else. The acts we associate with chivalry are falling by the wayside, maybe. Fewer men seem to be willing to evoke the symbol of a “modern” gentleman, whatever that means (because it’s so difficult to easily define what a modern gentleman is or is even supposed to be).

chivalry

The idea of doing things to prove that you’re chivalrous isn’t as popular these days for a lot of reasons. But that attitude of respect and dignity toward the opposite sex? If you pay closer attention, you’ll find that many men and women still exercise this. No one has to tell you that respect is a good thing. It’s something we still expect and appreciate when we see it.

Over time, I think it’s been easier for women to see through the empty, fake chivalry that men use to receive a reward. That is, men who use chivalry as a tool, instead of a lifestyle, to win the woman’s body over her heart.

So men have adjusted. Many aren’t as quick to “fake it” and be a nice guy because they know it’s futile. You either have that attitude of chivalry, or you don’t. If you do have that attitude, you’re still not a perfect gentleman. You’ll still make mistakes. But you’re working toward that role when you default to the idea of being kind, over being reckless.

I see chivalry everywhere. Not as much as I see disrespect, sadly. But I still see it when men ask a girl on a date face to face instead of texting her. I see it when someone opens a door for someone else, regardless of gender. And I see it when men don’t rush intimacy out of respect for the other person and themselves.

And yes, many men exercise “traditional” chivalry honestly and successfully.

Of course, I suspect my standards might not be high enough. If you’re like me, you were raised to always go the extra mile when it comes to respecting others. Not just with your attitude, but with actions that reflect that attitude. I just wouldn’t be so quick to judge one man’s chivalry over another’s. You know, unless it’s terrible.

 

Thanks for reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

The Pixar Detective, Chapter 9: Our Doom

Hey everyone! Welcome to The Pixar Detective, a serial novel I put together based on the Pixar Theory. The following is a fictional story that explains the theory that all of the Pixar movies are connected and exist within the same universe, using original characters and artwork. The story answers a lot of questions you may have about this theory, but through its own ongoing narrative.

The story originally launched in April, and we’ve recently completed Part 1!

It is available as an iBook on iTunes, which you can check out here. If you can’t use iBooks, you can also download the PDF version. 

Once you’re finished, check back to our Table of Contents, where we’ll be continuing the story through Part 2. A new chapter is released every two weeks on Tuesdays. And please be sure to leave your feedback in the comments for us to read through. Enjoy!

pixar detective chapter 9

 

PREVIOUSLY, ON THE PIXAR DETECTIVE.

In their continued search for Mary, our heroes found themselves within the secretive (and dangerous) government facility known as the Hexagon. But Stevin and his new friend, the monster known as Mr. Sumner, have been captured by the facility’s head madman, the Maestro.

pixar detective chapter 8

Meanwhile, Wallaby decided to go his own way by sneaking into the Hexagon by himself. Unfortunately, he was discovered by the strange, seemingly unstable agent known as Flo. With a few strategic lies, Wallaby convinced Flo that he is also an agent, and she agreed to escort him inside.

wallaby

Also inside the facility is the mysterious “super” known as Sadie. A girl who has the power of “Dominion.” But what is this power and why is she important? We’re about to find out.

sadie

Use the prompt on the sidebar to subscribe for updates or just follow me and Kayla on Twitter to stay connected – @JonNegroni – @KaylaTheSavage

Creativity Winks.

I’m writing this as I ride a bus on my way to a bookstore in San Francisco, where I’ll be picking up my own copy of Creativity Inc. 

The book is written by Ed Catmull, who you may know as Pixar’s current President, along with Amy Wallace.

It’s a book about creative leadership, or to be more specific, creating an environment that allows people to create. And maybe not just create, but be incredibly creative. You can imagine why Catmull has the authority to write such a book, considering he’s been in charge of one of the most creative companies in the world (and not only when it comes to movies).

creativity winks
You can click the image to purchase the book for yourself and/or read reviews.

So I’m pretty excited to get my hands on the book, as I’m sure it will provide valuable insights into how I can foster a creative environment for myself. Which is why I’m writing this post and titling it “Creativity Winks.”

Because I certainly can’t lend anything as credible or even profound as Catmull or anyone else in Pixar’s leadership. But before I inundate myself with the wisdom of the experts, I do want to share with you my takeaway about what it means to be creative.

And that’s just it right there. Being creative is missing the point entirely. Everyone is creative, especially about things they care about. Some people try to say that “creativity” is being inspiring when it comes to a topic they aren’t passionate about. But that’s definitely not it either (they’re just confusing skill and empathy with originality).

Creativity winks at us. Our minds (depending on who you are) flash brilliant moments of incredible originality almost routinely. It’s just up to us to play those moments out. Or save them for later.

That moment when a catchy tune gets caught in my head – and I realize I’m the one who thought it up – is a “wink” of creativity that will be lost forever in a matter of minutes. Unless I take out my phone and record my humming. A few days later, I’m figuring out the chords for a new ukulele song I’m writing (yes, this is a true story).

Creativity also winks at me when I write fiction. Some of you may follow along with my serial novel, The Pixar Detective, and I’ve been asked routinely how I come up with the story and characters on such a consistent, uninterrupted basis.

Well I’m certain that if I tried to write an entire chapter of The Pixar Detective in one sitting, I’d produce something that isn’t my best work. And that’s because it takes time for flashes of creativity to arrive. For some of us, it can take hours, days, or even weeks.

What I’ve found, though, is that the frequency in which these “winks” arrive is progressively increased as we apply those ideas when they do come.

In other words: the more you create, the more creative you will become. It’s a simple, but hopelessly ignored concept.

So creativity winks at us. And I’ve learned from experience that some of the most brilliant ideas we can come up with are as fleeting as they are wonderful. But if you take the time to write them down and play them out, you’ll immediately set yourself apart.

Thanks for reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

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