Entertainment

“Call Me By Your Name and I’ll Call You By Mine”

Several months ago while watching movie previews before a picture I was seeing, I saw the preview for a film that really piqued my interest. When that movie, Call Me By Your Name, came out on November 24th, I anticipated the time when I’d finally be able to see it in theaters. It was only released in major cities initially before making its way to this armpit of a place that I live in. I saw it about two weeks ago and it was one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a while.

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, an artfully precocious 17 year old and Armie Hammer as Oliver, a 24 year old doctoral student who joins Elio’s family at their summer home in Italy for a 6 week period. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman. It depicts the love affair that develops that summer between Elio and Oliver. The screenplay was adapted by James Ivory and the film was directed by Luca Guadagnino.

The film begins at Elio’s family’s Italian countryside home in the summer of 1983 where Elio, his mother (Amira Casar), and father (Michael Stuhlbarg) anticipate the arrival of their summer guest, Oliver. Since Oliver is new in town, Elio takes Oliver on a tour of the area later that day. Elio also explains how he spends his summers. It’s not long before Oliver begins to partake in the summer activities of swimming in the river, hanging out with friends, and going out at night, and their love for each other begins to blossom.

Since being released in November, the film has received an assortment of critical acclaim and accolades. It was recently nominated for 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ivory), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens). It received nominations at the British Academy Film Awards (4), the Critics’ Choice Awards (8), the Independent Spirit Awards (6), the Golden Globe Awards (3), and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (1). James Ivory received a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Chalamet received Breakout Actor Awards from the National Board of Review, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the Hollywood Film Awards.

Like I said, I saw the film two weeks ago after anticipating seeing it for about two months. I was captivated by its beauty. Being set and filmed in Italy definitely adds to that. The story itself is special though. It’s almost a coming of age type of love for Elio as a teenager. He has such a strong infatuated love for Oliver throughout the film. Oliver subtly shows his interest for Elio as well, when finally they take the next step. Plus I wasn’t sure how that peach scene would play out, but now I totally get it! Since seeing the film, I’ve also begun to read the novel. My friend told me that there are many parts in the novel that were cut out of the film so I’m eager to compare them.

I highly recommend checking out this film. It’s such a great and powerful love story that isn’t a cliché romantic film or romantic comedy love story. It’s been in and out of theaters all over the country for the last 2 months. I’m sure it won’t be long before the film is released on streaming and DVD/Blu-ray too. If you wanted to see if before the Academy Awards airs though, I would make plans to see it as soon as possible because it seems to only stay in theaters for a few short weeks.

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Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

The Soft Glow of Electric Sex Gleaming in the Window

Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition. From the tree, to Santa, to gift exchanges, each holiday tradition spans years and cultures. Year after year families engage in the same practices surrounding the holiday and holiday season. They might eat certain foods or partake in certain activities. One of those activities might be a tradition that started in 1997 thanks to the Turner Broadcasting Company. Every year since 1997 at least one of the company’s television networks have aired A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight, starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas Day.

The film, which was released in 1983, has become a Christmas classic and a favorite among many. It was based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and written by Shepherd along with director Bob Clark and Leigh Brown (Jean Shepherd is also the movie’s narrator). It stars a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a nine year old boy who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. The story takes the audience through the Christmas season with Ralphie’s family and friends set in 1940’s Indiana and focuses on Ralphie’s quest for the greatest Christmas present ever despite warning from multiple sources that he’ll undoubtedly “shoot his eye out”.

The movie is family fun comedy all the way. I’m sure if you ask fans of the film, everyone will respond with a different answer for what their favorite part is because there are so many great scenes to choose from. Mine involves the infamous Leg Lamp, the “Major Award” that Ralphie’s father receives for winning a contest (the title of this post is a phrase from the film used to described the lamp). In the scene where it is speculated that Ralphie’s mom breaks the lamp out of her displeasure for it, the father and mother have a an argument that ends with Ralphie’s father deciding to glue it back together. On his way out the door to get glue he yells the phrase, “Not a finger!” and I laugh every single time. It’s the way actor Darren McGavin (Ralphie’s father) delivers the line that gets me, but it’s also because the statement seems indirect and unfinished. He clearly means not to touch the lamp, but instead of saying “Don’t lay a finger on it!”, he says the phrase “Not a finger!”. I love it.

When the film was released a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it didn’t receive much success. Its popularity grew through television specials and home video release. The success of the film even allowed for a museum to be created in its honor. The house where the exterior scenes were shot for the film was purchased by an entrepreneur/fan of the film and converted into a museum comprised of re-created sets and props from the movie. It’s located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, the city where portions of the movie were filmed. It opened in 2006. Also, as of 2012, A Christmas Story is a part of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which preserves U.S. film heritage making its classic status pretty legit.

If you’ve never seen A Christmas Story, it’s about time you do. It airs for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas day. The start of the marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on TBS. If it’s part of your Christmas traditions, then I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If it’s not feel free to add it in there along with baking Christmas cookies and decorating your tree. Or don’t make it a tradition at all and just watch it once or watch it randomly next June (To be honest, I’m sick of traditions and created a tradition where I try to do something new each Christmas). It’s funny and enjoyable regardless of its classic appeal so go check it out. I triple dog dare you.

 

The Greenback Boogie

When you’re a big fan of something, whether it be a band, song, movie, TV show, actor, team, athlete, etc., you tend to want to know more about whatever it is you’re a fan of. When I became a Pretty Little Liars fan in March 2011, I did just that. I started learning about the show, the crew, the books, and the actresses who play Emily, Aria, Hanna, and Spencer, the show’s main characters. I learned that Ashley Benson is a huge jokester on set. I learned Lucy Hale has a dog named Jack. Shay Mitchell loves pizza and Troian Bellisario has the best taste in music (according to my definition of best). What does that have to do with anything? Well I also learned about who the girls were dating at the time and how Troian’s boyfriend, Patrick J. Adams, was actually a guest star on Pretty Little Liars in the second episode of Season 1. Not to mention, he’s just as cool as she is so I started following him too.

Shortly after his guest appearance on PLL, Patrick landed a starring role on the USA Network legal drama, Suits. The longer I followed both Troian and Patrick on social media the more I realized I should probably check Suits out, especially since Troian spoke so highly of it. Fortunately I had an unbiased friend who also watched Suits so I asked him about it. He had the same response and encouraged me to watch. I bought the first season on DVD (the show was on its second season at the time) and I was captivated from the very first episode.

Created by Aaron Korsh, Suits is about the workings of a powerful New York City law firm, Pearson-Hardman (which is now known as something else but I didn’t want to post spoilers) and how a bike messenger named Mike Ross (Adams), who has an exceptional memory of anything he’s ever seen, heard, read, etc., convinces one of the best attorneys at the firm, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), to give him a position there as an associate even though he never went to Harvard Law (or any law school for that matter) and acquired a law degree. From there, drama related to every day and not-so-every day law firm life ensues, while the very few who know Mike’s secret stand to protect it and him from being figured out.

Suits is now in its 5th season and has been renewed for a 6th season. Through its run on USA Network, Suits has received several award nominations and has garnered positive reception from critics and fans alike. For me, it’s one of those shows that you need to pay attention to. If you don’t, you could miss something since much of the drama involves legal practices. However, it’s doesn’t go above your head if you know nothing about law. Plus, there are plenty of funny moments in the show that keep it from being all drama all the time. Fans of the show have come to love the movie line banter between Harvey and Mike, Harvey’s awesomely confident and clever secretary, Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), the strange and sometimes annoying antics of Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), another top attorney at Pearson-Hardman, and the mystery of what exactly the can opener ritual is. Like in any good drama, there’s also the element of romance. The chemistry between Mike and fellow co-worker/paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) is some of the best I’ve seen on television. Their scene in the copy room at the end of Season 2 is one of the show’s most memorable.

Suits really has it all. It can be serious, nerve-racking, funny, sad, sweet, and totally badass all in one episode. For those interested in legal dramas, this isn’t one to miss. Even with five seasons in the books, it won’t be difficult to catch up because the story will hook you. Suits currently airs on USA Network, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Watch and be prepared because at some point you’ll get Litt Up!

California Here We Come

I’ve been such a slacker in the last week and half by not updating this blog. I’ve been busy though. It’s a busy time of the year. You know, Christmas time, when everyone does at least one thousand and one extra things besides all the things they do on a normal basis. Secondly, I haven’t been able to come up with a good subject matter for the next post (obviously I finally have but we’ll get to that).

I guess I could’ve taken the easy way out and wrote about Christmas music or Christmas movies, but I’ve been lacking Christmas spirit for the past 2 years. I’ve had no desire to watch A Christmas Story or listen to Bayside’s cover of Angels We Have Heard On High or anything like that. In fact I haven’t really had any desire to involve myself with anything Christmas-y until last night when I was wrapping gifts (I consider gift wrapping as something you have to do..it’s not really a choice unless you want your loved ones to hate you) and realized it was the first night of Hanukkah. Then I knew exactly what to write about. Christmas episodes. More specifically Chrismukkah. But even more specific than that, The OC.

Like any TV show I have fallen absolutely in love with, I started watching The OC during it’s second season. The first episode of Season 1 aired back in August of 2003, but I started watching it in 2004 and it’s been one of my all time favorite television shows ever since. I just made it sound like it’s still on, but it’s not. It lasted a total of four seasons ending in 2007. In my opinion and I’m sure other viewers can agree, the show really died after Season 3 along with one of its main characters (no spoilers…promise).

The OC was a drama set in Newport Beach, CA and followed the fictional lives of teenagers, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and their affluent families through their interesting and eventful life challenges. That’s kind of a poor description of what the show’s about, but if I told you the show begins when lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) decides to help his teenage client who lived a pretty tough life growing up in Chino, CA (Ryan) by taking the boy in to live with him and his family in his huge home in Newport Beach then maybe you’d have a slightly better idea of the show. But maybe not, cause I really didn’t mention much about Seth, Marissa, and Summer.

Seth is Sandy’s nerdy, comic book/indie music loving son and eventually becomes like a brother to Ryan as he helps him adjust to his new school, with girls, and all the other fun that comes along with living with a well-off family in the OC. Marissa aka “Coop” (Summer’s nickname for her) lives next to the Cohens and becomes the love interest of Ryan shortly into the series, but she also has a multitude of issues in her own life which play a factor in their roller coaster of a relationship. Summer is the long-time crush of Seth and also Marissa’s best friend.

Now you’ve got a better idea of the whole thing, but if not you can always watch to find out more (wink wink). In general though the show covered all sorts of teen and life issues in it’s 4 seasons of existence, but it also had a yearly tradition of including what fans would look forward to around the holidays, a Chrismukkah episode. Chrismukkah was a hybrid holiday created by Seth that combined both  Christmas and Hanukkah and involved both sides of his family’s’ holiday traditions (Sandy was Jewish and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), Seth’s mom, was Christian). To quote Seth’s description Chrismukkah is “eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents,” and it left fans, myself included, wanting to take part in this epic celebration. It was so epic that even though it’s been 8 years since the last Chrismukkah episode aired, I still wished I had another one to watch last night (first glimmer of any Christmas spirit this year for me). In fact, if I have time, I may even try to watch a Chrismukkah episode in the next few days.

Besides Chrismukkah, the OC was incredibly important to the indie music scene of the early 00’s. Along with soundtracks for each season which had indie songs that were featured on the show, it also included episodes where bands like, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Subways, etc. played a few “live” sets at the local hangout/venue, The Bait Shop, which debuted in the second season. Plus, Seth was the coolest, nerdy, indie kid you’d ever want to meet, and I don’t think Phantom Planet ever had a better or more well-known song than “California” (the theme song for The OC). The show really did a lot for those bands and indie music from the exposure it gave. Although this post isn’t really about music, I do recommend checking out the track listing for The OC soundtracks and giving some of those songs a listen, especially “California” if you can’t already hum those all too familiar opening notes.

Along with Laguna Beach, The OC was one of my favorite television shows while in high school. It was actually one of the first shows I would watch religiously as new episodes came out every Thursday on Fox. And like Laguna Beach, it played a role in creating my desire to visit Southern California. It was the show that initially made me want to visit SoCal and then watching Laguna just added to it (naturally I visited Newport Beach on my trip to California last year as well).

It really is unfortunate that The OC ended when it did. To me it feels like something that was gone too soon, but I guess if you saw the 4th season you knew it was inevitable. Luckily I received the 4 seasons of The OC as Christmas gifts every year as they came out from my grandpa and I can watch the old episodes any time. I think they’re available on Netflix as well for anyone wanting to check it out. If not there, then I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. Since it’s one of my all time favorite shows I’m gonna have to say that you should check it out no matter what, but especially if you’re in the mood for some Christmas and Hanukkah themed entertainment in the next week or so (watch one of the Chrismukkah eps!). Captain Oats would want you to (if you don’t know who that is then you better watch the show). Anyway, Merry Chrismukkah from me and the Cohens and I’ll leave you with a wonderful description of the holiday from Season 1 by the man himself, Seth Cohen.

Whiplash

Yesterday, I was able to take advantage of $5 Tuesday’s and see the movie Whiplash starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. I saw the preview for it a month prior and was interested because of the focus on drumming in the film (I played the drums for a while and they were my first instrument). Not only that but I sort of have a connection to Miles Teller. I don’t know him personally nor have I met him, but his father was childhood friends with my uncle. I guess my mom also knew his dad from the times he used to hang around their home growing up. So because of that little connection, my interest in a film goes up when he’s in it.

Whiplash is about a young aspiring musician, Andrew Neyman (Teller), in his first year of school at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music based in Manhattan (according to the film this fictional school is one of the most prestigious music schools in the country) and his relationship with his feared, hard-nosed instructor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher recruits Andrew to join his elite studio jazz band shortly into the movie where he learns of Fletcher’s highly demanding teaching methods. Throughout the film Fletcher shows Andrew just what it takes to be one of the greats using his not-so-kind approach.

As a musician and especially as a drummer, I loved this film. The particular style of music played in it (jazz) isn’t one I’m familiar with as far as playing goes, but I know enough to know that jazz is one of, if not the most difficult style of music to play as a drummer. This film is more than just music. It shows a person’s drive, passion, and desire to become the best at what he loves even when faced with someone who is willing to challenge him in the most difficult ways. The mental and physical struggle to prove Andrew’s desire to be the greatest drummer of all time is exhibited beautifully in the movie. It’s hard to not be inspired by it. It’s also hard to believe that this film will not be considered as part of the Oscar buzz. Just like it’s main character, it’s worthy of high achievement. So if you get a chance to see this, I recommend you do.

 

Boyhood

About a month ago, I was watching an episode of Live! With Kelly and Michael and Ethan Hawke was a guest promoting his new film. I first caught the film’s name when they were about to cut to a commercial (originally I wasn’t even paying attention whatsoever). It was called Boyhood. On the talk show, Hawke spoke about how neat it was to see the kids grow up, but himself and co-star Patricia Arquette just got old looking. I wasn’t sure what he meant by this. That’s when I heard the movie was actually filmed over a 12 year time frame. It blew my mind. I had to see it because I had never heard of that being done before and I figured it was something special.

So a few days later I saw the film. I initially worried that it wouldn’t keep my interest since it was almost 3 hours long. I had nothing to be worried about though. Not only did it keep me entertained for its entirety but I also left the theater feeling unexplainably positive. I love when movies give me that feeling and I loved this movie.

I would classify it as one of those “coming-of-age” type films, yet it was not over done. It covered some major life events, but not to the point that it got too cliche or too cheesy. Through the events in the movie the audience is able to see how life shapes the main character, Mason, from point A of being an active 6 year old to point B of being 18, in college, and trying to figure out the world. (Hawke plays Mason’s father in case you were wondering.)

Because filming did take place over 12 years, I think this movie had an advantage over others that have occurred through time. It was so culturally relevant through the clothes, music, and interests of the kids/parents in it. It was as if the writers/producers/director/etc. took current events from the year they filmed and incorporated them into the feature such as the 2004 presidential election and the pop culture craze of Harry Potter. This attentiveness to detail of each time period added to Boyhood’s specialness. Of course, watching the characters grow and age was pretty special too.

I know this film came out a month ago. Its time in theaters is probably coming to a close soon enough if it hasn’t already. But still, go see it. If its not in your local theater, keep a look out for the dvd release. I promise you’ll want to say you say this film. I promise you’ll be captivated. Mostly, I promise this journey through time is worth it.