Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cinematic elite

2008 might be the year in which I finally leave my bourgeois cinematic roots behind and fully embrace the critical "aristocracy" of film elitism. I am much closer now to being a true movie elitist than I ever have been, and I am quite happy about it. But it has taken a few years to get to this point, during some of which I watched (and enjoyed, much to my embarassment) some very poor movies. My low point was in 2001, and after a time away from film, I have gotten to be a better movie watcher each year. Now, I watch fewer "bad" movies than I ever have, and it is seldom now that I watch a film that is not up to my increasingly high standard. I have at least half-a-dozen serious film-watching friends with whom I can freely discuss relatively obscure projects with certainty that they will understand me. I can freely scoff at the unwashed masses who vaunt Transformers as the best movie since "Dumb and Dumber". And I can back up my arguments with logic and precedent about film history, and not simple statements like "it was cool." I will admit that I have a long way to go, and that I have far too many films that remain in the "you haven't seen that yet?!" category - enough that I cannot be a true elitist yet. But, at the very least, I know that I need to watch them, which is more than can be said for the people who rushed out to see Meet the Spartans this past weekend. There is also part of me that is still enthralled by decidedly non-elitist genres - like superhero films - but I can still avoid the really bad entries into those genres, for the most part. My goal by the end of this year is to have reduced the films I am embarassed to have not seen significantly, and to watch three or fewer films that I regret watching. Then this time next year I might truly be able to look down at the movie-going proletariat with genuine disdain, mixed with the hope that if I could escape their ranks, anyone can. But I can only help those who want to be helped; maybe that's why I'm teaching high school - to teach them that there is more to life than National Treasure 2.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Borrowed time

I have written about some of the frustrations of teaching, but the one that is really getting to me now is the fact that it seems like I am constantly living on "borrowed time". Everything I do that does not use time productively only takes time from what I "need" to do to teach (which itself is difficult to tell from the "things that would be nice but just can't happen), the time for which comes from "less important" things that I "need" to do (like relax, have a social life, and sleep). I find it very draining that there is very little lag time in which I have the liberty of not "having" to do something - I even have to schedule my breaks and my break activities to maximize my time. I, of course, am not a robot, and so I do not use all of my time as efficiently as I could, but my work is such that I am penalized if I do not. I am probably at a point at which I am "wasting" less than one hour in any given day, even though that time is almost always still put to good use. So I am still seeking the way to reduce that slack time while still allowing myself to live a human life. But maybe I just effectively denied myself that possibility when I took a teaching job. Time to revisit priorities, I suppose.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Movies and music in early '08

You might be asking yourself, "just what movies and music is D looking forward to in the first quarter of 2008?" Well, my friends, I'm here to tell you, and it's looking pretty bleak. As usual, there are very few movies that I want to see in the first few months of the year. This year, there are only three that have caught my attention: Cloverfield, a possibly very innovative sci-fi monster movie shown from a very limited perspective (the new Blair Witch Project, perhaps?), opening on January 18; U2 3D, the first live-action film shot, edited, and shown entirely in 3D from stops on the Vertigo Tour, opening soon; and Michel Gondry's new movie Be Kind Rewind, which features Jack Black and Mos Def hamming it up in imitating famous films, opening February 25. Other than those movies, I will be catching up on 2007 films I have missed so far, including: No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, Charlie Wilson's War, 3:10 To Yuma, Sunshine, I'm Not There, Talk To Me, and American Gangster. To the cheap theatre and DVD racks for me!
The music scene is a bit better, but possibly weaker than last year's early releases. I'm looking forward to: Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman's solo EPs Fall and winter (Jan. 15); Edison Glass' sophomore album Time Is Fiction (Feb. 5); a live Muse CD/DVD (reportedly Feb. 19); Moby's new album Last Night, which celebrates the New York DJ scene (Mar. 10); Gnarls Barkley's Atlantis, just to see what they do to follow up St. Elsewhere (April 1); the second half of Thrice's four-EP Alchemy Index project (in April); and possibly new albums from P.O.D. and Leeland. I hope the rest of the year will be a bit better, but it's actually kind of nice to have some space to catch up on some long-postponed listening (the White Stripes and Radiohead come to mind) and to enjoy some old favourites. Or maybe to save my time and money for planning that upcoming wedding...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Americana

Judging by the already stifling coverage of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, American politics will be saturating even Canadian media at a feverish pitch for the next twelve months. With so much of our focus south of the border, it seems like a good time to do a bit more investigation of culture that is deliberately "American." Of course, it's hard to define just what that means, but I think it will be interesting to juxtapose my observation of this election with taking in cultural touchstones from America's history. Most of my investigation into American culture has come through music: albums like U2's Rattle and Hum and The Killers' Sam's Town are among those that provide very interesting perspectives. But there are "American" movies and novels that also might be worth reading, if not only to see what "American" actually might mean. For example, I'm reading The Great Gatsby right now, and I intend to read some Faulkner next. Ah, the read, white, and blue.I think that this might turn out to be a very interesting investigation, and I'm curious to see where it goes. Maybe Sufjan Stevens will add to this process and finally release his next state-focussed album sometime in the next 12 months. Or maybe I'll just have to listen to some more Johnny Cash - American VI should be released within the year. I'll try to keep y'all posted, y'hear?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Year of freedom

It seems like every year of my life has an identity; sometimes I know what things will be like at the start, and sometimes I don't know what it was all about until it's all over. I blogged about what 24 might be like around this time last year, and I was right that I had a good year; I just did not have any idea how busy it would be, or that I would have a teaching job so soon. All I knew a year ago was that I was finishing school, that Ariann was back in the summer, and that I had no idea of what was next for my life. I ended up back at camp and had one of the best summers I have ever experienced, and that led to moving to Caronport. I guess I had a bit of transition in the past year. I kind of knew what was coming, but I was still blindsided by most of it - in a good way.
So now I'm 25, and trying to figure out what 2008 will be like for me. The verses I got from God over and over again came from Isaiah 61 - "The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me" - and 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." So this promises to be a year of freedom, and I believe that means being freed from some of the things that have held me back. I will have a wife in six months, and it is quite possible that at this time next year that I could own a decent car, pay mortgage on some form of habitation, and be in year two of my teaching career. I really cannot say for sure what is in store, but I do know that as long as I have the Spirit of the Lord that I will be free - and that's what matters.

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