Friday, March 30, 2007

Ever busy...

From IMDb News:
A MySpace blogger who had vowed to go on a hunger strike so long as American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar remained on the show touched off expressions of concern Thursday when she failed to update her daily blog. On the TMZ gossip site, an editor wrote, "Let us know you're OK. And have a steak or something -- Sanjaya isn't going anywhere any time soon." Later in the day, the anti-Sanjaya blogger, known only as "J," posted a message apologizing for not keeping her website current, then concluded: "I am still feeling kind of weak but okay. not at the point of hospitalization yet, thank goodness. it won't be long now until Sanjaya is gone!"
A friend called me tonight very distraught. She had been typing out a speech she was supposed to give at a women's retreat for three hours and somehow it didn't get saved. I worked with her on the phone for about half an hour to no avail. I could sympathize with her, though, because the other day I spent an hour writing an email to someone only to have a connection failure when I clicked "Send." Then, yesterday I had spent an hour editing some video footage only to find later that my work had disappeared. So, I've been saving things like a madman this last day-and-a-half.

This week has been crazy busy for me. I've had lots of homework in the past few days. Its been really stressful, but not enough to make me do anything rash like eat cafeteria casserole or eggs. I've been helping the guys on my hall with their movie for the college film festival. I guess I can say its my movie as well, but I really don't think I'd benefit from having my name attached to the ideas behind this project. In any case, I've been trying to make it as good as I possibly can by shooting all the footage, editing it, and getting a friend to write an original score so the movie has a chance of winning Audience Choice.

Also this week, we had the most random hour of 24 ever. E-V-E-R. There were so many impossible impossibilities and freak happenings in this episode ... it was amazing. We also introduced 24's first autistic character. Everybody clap! Even though this episode had one of the most tense scenes in 24 history, it still can't redeem the sloppy writing that is becoming characteristic of season six. Its a mess. But its still 24.

While we're on the subject of television, Lost was amazing this week. Another feat of excellent writing from the crew at ABC. I'm convinced that even a "bad" episode of Lost is written better than most any other TV show. This week was structured like an old-fashioned mystery that stuffed some characters from the past that we hadn't seen in a while (Doctor Arszt, Boone, Shannon, etc) into the mix. This episode made me not hate Niki and Paulo. I now know the reason for their existence (however short it may have been). Wednesday's episode answered some questions I've had for a while too, which is always a good thing when it comes to Lost.

I would really like to do a serious narrative or documentary project, but need to find something that is within my technological range and my ability. I've been limiting what I watch (sans a TV show here and there) to things that I think will be worthy of my time. Hence, I've been surrounded by a lot of excellence and when I think about setting out to do a project, I always get discouraged because I know I probably won't end up making anything of consequence. It'll come, though. I just have to wait.

I was listening to some Bach piano music today. I really want to learn some new Bach now. I haven't played him (or any other composer of piano literature, for that matter) in a long time and am feeling a great need.

Wish me luck in this next week. It's going to be another toughy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

35mm Film Shoot

Around two months ago, my roommate decided he wanted to shoot something on 35mm. About three weeks ago, he finally got around to shooting it. He got the film processed and telecined last week and recently took some screen grabs that look pretty amazing. He has a real talent for lighting a set and some of this stuff just looks awesome. Still frames don't do it justice, but still, it looks pretty darn good.

I wish I could take credit for some of those shots, but, sadly, I only script supervised. Anyway, I think they look beautiful and look even better when they are moving. He says that doing this project has spoiled him for digital because film looks so much better. I agree. But it's so expensive. So is the life of a film student, though.

I watched Tornatore's Malena last night. There are so many beautiful metaphors in the film and I really, really liked it. Tornatore is very Fellini-esque (not always a bad thing) and overly sentimental at times but I can't help it: I absolutely love his style of filming and will probably end up imitating it if I ever make a film. I know what Flannery O'Connor says about indulging in sentimentality, but please forgive me if I like a little sentiment every now and then. Anyway, Malena was a very good, extremely beautiful, and sad film. The townspeople in this film make me sick with their attitude: "The voice of the people is the voice of God." It hurts even more when I realize that I'm capable of alienating people out of jealousy or my own "righteous indignation." Monica Bellucci is exquisite as the beautiful Malena whose crime is her beauty. And, of course, the movie is made whole by Ennio Morricone's score that he garnered an Oscar nomination for. A little romance does the heart good sometimes even if it just goes to show that "the only true love is unrequited love." I'm guessing we've all felt that feeling of unrequited love every now and then.

I *might* be going to see The Lives of Others tonight. I've been wanting to see this film for so long and am extremely anxious. As usual, I'll probably be seeing it alone because I don't have many friends here that can appreciate a good, artistic film. But I'll leave them to wallow in 300. Or Shooter. Or anything else that will satisfy blood lust and end up in the Top 5 weekend box office charts.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pirates, magic, and hymns...

Before I go into a lengthy rehash of a seminar I attended this weekend, I’ll share a few things with you.

First of all, the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has been released. It was the Russian version, but even without English dialogue it looks pretty amazing. I’m not sure when the English trailer is being released. I was going to post it here, but YouTube took it down. Poo on them! Some pretty awesome stuff though ... sword fight between Davy Jones and Jack ... giant whirlpool ... ship careening off a giant waterfall. Needless to say, I can't wait and will definitely be seeing it at a midnight showing first thing.

I also finished a promotional video for my friend Brett’s magic business this weekend. I might have showed some of you one earlier, but this is much different with a ton of added stuff. Some of the footage of magic tricks doesn’t look too great, but, mind you, I didn’t shoot that footage. Let me know what you think.

This weekend here at Bryan, we had a Bryan Center for Critical Thought and Practice seminar. This time it was on the worship wars in churches, although it didn’t really talk much about the wars. Aside from the unintentionally humorous introductions by the esteemed Dr. VanEaton (Mr. Moneybags) I learned a lot of things from it this weekend and, after it was over, was very glad that I went. I’ve written a bit more about this weekend, but thought I would just point out the main thoughts that got across to me from the very gifted speakers I heard this weekend.

In today’s culture, we come to worship as spectators wanting to see a performance.

When talking about worship services he has seen in churches, Professor Pullen said, “They had the science down, but not the art. Art is where feeling and meaning is portrayed in music.”

When it comes to hymns, music bonds with words to make a complete, meaningful whole.

By taking away hymnals in churches and only projecting words, we are facilitating musical illiteracy.

In today’s society, we don’t have our bodies or minds dressed very much for worship.

Any enthusiastic Christian can write a worship song, but only the good stuff will survive the test of time.

We must worship totally, personally, and humanly.

When the Bible talks about God’s glory, it is referring to God’s beauty. Love, truth, and beauty are grounded in who God is.

Music must be grounded in a theology of worship which is grounded in the being of God.

I wish my generation appreciated hymns more. I wish that new life could be breathed into my peers through the powerful texts of some of these songs. Dr. Pullen said that hymns are not old and rusty, we just need to be willing to dust them off and make them ready to use again. He led us in a couple of hymns, explaining how we should sing some of the phrases and really mean them! It was great. My room mate came away saying that it made him want to learn more about music. That makes me very happy.

I also came away from this weekend with a favorite hymn to add to my list. The words have really gotten to me this weekend ever since Dr. Price said them yesterday. It’s called, “If All You Want, Lord,” written by Thomas Troger. It has a pretty un-original tune but amazing words.
If all your want, Lord, is my heart,
My heart is yours alone –
Providing I may set apart
My mind to be my own.

If all you want, Lord, is my mind,
My mind belongs to you.
But let my heart remain inclined
To do what it would do.

If my heart and mind would both suffice
While I kept my strength and soul,
At least I would not sacrifice
Completely my control.

But since, O God, you want them all
To shape with your own hand,
I pray for grace to heed your call,
To live your first command.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New things ... and some old.

I've been introduced to so many new things recently either by other people, or simply searching around and finding them. I thought I'd share them with you here.

No. 1: I've been reading alot of Flannery O'Connor. I really love her short stories because her vision is so fantastic. I have never seen a modern writer infuse a Christian Worldview into their stories as well as she does in every single one that I've read. I'm mad that it has taken me so long to find out about this woman ... truly a treasure.

No. 2: Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire are two of my new favorite musical artists as far as modern music is concerned. I don't listen to too much new stuff, but this whole Indie Pop stuff is really appealing to me, partly because the lyrics are so creative and thoughtful. We need more artists like these guys.

No. 3: Heroes. This is an amazing TV show and definitely rising to the top of my all time favorites list with each episode. This show has such a unique vision in that its style is so much like a graphic novel. The camerawork and lighting are unusually superb for a TV show and the recent casting of Malcolm McDowell as Linderman is absolutely inspired. Yes, it took that show a while to find itself: the Desperate Housewives ripoff monologues in the first couple of episodes were a bad idea and there was some unnecessary sexual content in the shows beginning chapters. Luckily now, though, Heroes has turned into a genuinely creative, clean (sans the violence), and wonderful show. It may be a bit of a Lost ripoff, but its the first real good one and is getting better as it continues to emerge.

No. 4: Through A Screen Darkly by Jeffrey Overstreet. Any Christian interested in film or art in general owes it to himself to read this book.

No. 5: Chloe on 24. Entertainment Weekly stated it best in their review of Monday's episode:
There was a Chloe Classic Moment last night: When she had to go into the CTU room where Logan was being detained to tinker with a computer, she engaged the ex-prez in some awkward conversation and then abruptly shut him down with ''Sorry, I'm feeling ambivalent — I'm gonna go.'' It's as if the writers suddenly remembered how to write for Chloe: She has to articulate with stiff propriety and frankness the inner thoughts other characters have but don't reveal.
I would write more but I need to be off. Maybe I'll continue the list later.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Comforts and Concerns

It’s good to be home.

This morning at church was one of the best church services for me in recent memory. One reason was that the music selection was superb (“Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” etc.). The pastor’s sermon was good, too. I got to play special music and received a few complements. It was encouraging, even though I don’t really like complements that much. I’d rather hear people tell me they were blessed by what I played than impressed by it.

In that same vein, I’m reading through Jeffrey Overstreet’s book, Through A Screen Darkly, at the moment. What a wealth of insight about faith, art, and culture! The thing that has stuck with me most from the book so far is something he says in the first chapter: “When we give others something excellent, we reflect that standards of heaven.”

It’s such a blessing to me when something I have put my heart into blesses someone else. That’s why I love art and believe so much in its power … excellent art, in any form, can give us a glimpse of glory. I can’t imagine that that momentary transcendent feeling I feel while watching a powerful film or listening to beautiful music is what heaven is going to be like all the time!

I’ve been on an Ennio Morricone kick since the Oscars. I find that I don’t like his older stuff as much as his newer stuff. His older music was for a lot of westerns and doesn’t make for extremely easy listening, even though it is still good music. His later music has such musical maturity and passion that really could only come from a lifetime of experience. It’s gorgeous.

I’m listening to the score from The Mission right now. If you haven’t seen that film, you should right away. Morricone wrote a beautiful theme for oboe that represents a priest in the film. To make a long story short, the priest is a missionary to a remote tribe. In the end of the film, Morricone unites that longing oboe theme with tribal drums and voices. It’s a bit of very powerful musical storytelling. God has given Morricone a gift and has given the world some excellent music through him.

We had four friends over tonight. Two of them are very committed Christians, and two are not saved. During the course of our dinner, one of our Christian friends (whom I love dearly) had absolutely nothing good to say about anything. Now, I know I have my vices, but it hurt me to see a good Christian person eating with a non-Christian without anything good to say … at all. No wonder culture thinks of Christians as demeaning idiots. Many Christians complain about our culture’s views of Christianity without looking at the trouble inside of them. I’m included in that number sometimes.

Well, if you’re reading down here, you have a good amount of patience. I applaud you. Thanks for reading and I promise to make things a bit more entertaining next time. Today was a day for thought, though … and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.