Icon of the Day – Raj Patel

Yesterday I had a chance to attend the Profits and Losses filmmaker panel. I’m not going to lie here I thought this was another panel on indie distribution and surviving in a new media world. It wasn’t. Instead it was a discussion with directors, doctors, tax reform advocates and the “Rockstar of Social Justice” Raj Patel. I chose Raj out of all the speakers on this panel because of his enthusiasm and eloquence on the issue of poverty and hunger. I agree with Raj in his statement that there is enough food in the world to feed all the worlds hungry. I just imagine how one has hunger pangs after missing a meal and then multiply that by ten and extend that out over a period of years. Even more sadly, that kids suffer the most can only make one nauseous. Raj belief in the ability to not just define the problem but solve the world hunger crisis gives hope that humanity will save itself from its darker side of greed and violence. We are a long ways away from any true end to food inequality but with more people like Raj impacting the world there is at least hope that we as a society can harness our best intentions and bring at a minimum food to every man, woman and child on this planet.

Also while reading Raj’s blog I saw a great video he posted from the Daily Show about the terrifying nature of Newt Gingrich. I’m reposting here so others can see what life will be like if Newt Gingrich gets elected.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Newt Gingrich’s Poverty Code
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Sundance Film Review – Safety not Guaranteed

“Safety not Guaranteed” is the kind of film that makes you feel very awkward. Don’t misinterpret just from this statement. Awkward can be a good thing and it is in this film. It’s awkward because the characters relationship in the film are painfully real. The delusional formula that accompanies most film relationships is happily missing in Safety Not Guaranteed. Instead, it focuses on the humanity of very different individuals thrown together in the task of digging up a story about a kook in a time machine that might be entertaining. Little do these characters know that they are right about the story for all the wrong reasons.

The main character Darius, played by Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), strains to conform to a society of jigsaw pieces of which she’s in the wrong puzzle. Her pursuit of the time traveler is not for journalistic exploits but for personal reasons. From the moments she spies on Kenneth she sees not a weirdo, as the rest of society has perhaps labeled him, but as fellow kin who don’t quite fit into their cookie cutter society roles. Her foray into adventure with Kenneth is a welcomed departure from her lonely and depressing life as her father points out she is living. Aubrey’s own awkwardness in the role is palpable making her screen presence one of connection to the audience rather than observation for those of us who have felt disconnect from the mainstream.

Mark Duplass’ role as Kenneth straddled the line between crazy and heroic so well that one can never figure out the true nature of his madness till the very end. Kenneth is certainly crazy there is no doubt about that. But his portrayal of crazy is so lovable his awkwardness on the fringes of society is not pitied but commended.
Kenneth’s insecurity about his self adds complexity to his characters This dichotomy of boldness and fear of ridicule is played so well that one can only root for Kenneth as he strives to complete his time machine. Though Darius is the real center of this film it is the actions of Kenneth that drive all the action that occurs. His zany and criminal behavior are both hilarious and terrifying always leaving questions in our mind through the climax of the film.

Adding dimension to the film was a fantastic supporting cast. Jake Johnson’s portrayal of the confident yet broken character of Jeff added both needed comedic thread but a humanity in a form buried underneath crass and machismo. As the director commented, “Jake should get an award for best existential crisis while riding a go-kart.” Adding to that is the straight role of Karan Soni. His character, Arnau, is the most awkward and his insecurity with women and his meek behavior make one want to pity in him. The connection between the character of Mark and Arnau in the later scenes where Arnau is pushed beyond his strict social boundaries in an archetypal yet satisfying moment as Arnau overcomes his lack of confidence with women.

Though the investigation of Kenneth’s time machine invitation are at the heart of the plot, Safety Not Guaranteed is certainly a character-driven film that survives on superb writing and effective acting to make its point on screen. The director, Colin Trevorrow, is able to present a film with an outlandish premise without making it unbelievable or cheesy. Awkwardness pervades throughout this film but when you step away from the theater you may feel awkward yet strangely satisfied that the world is filled with awkward people like you and me and that’s ok.

Mo Bloggin’ Mo Problems

Boy oh boy who would have thought doing a simple blog would have been so challenging. The server my site is hosted on completely crashed yesterday and hostgator blocked my account until I fixed the issue that was causing it. Turns out the problem was google. Yes google. They kept trying to index a bad page creating excess CPU load for all you IT geeks out there. All I wanted to do was blog a little! After 1 day down I’m back in full force with several reviews coming and other musings. Sorry for anyone who got the 503 error. Sorry google you cant shut me down that easily!

The free list- Sundance Channel HQ

Where on earth can you get free lattes, mochas, lunch, wifi and other swag. Nowhere! just kidding…. It’s the Sundance Channel HQ. All you have to do is like Chase Sapphires facebook page and this can be all yours for the rest of the fest. And the coffee is made with real espresso by the way. This is unbelievably awesome. They even have chill areas including a bean bag room. This must be what it feels like to work at Google. Fair warning thought the doors open at 12 and food disappears quick. However, the coffee was flowing late into afternoon. If you are catching mid-afternoon show at Egyptian then this is the best pit stop you can make without breaking the bank.

Sundance Film Review – The Pact

The Pact blends the fear of the unknown with slasher story in a suspenseful and riveting manner. Caity Lotz steals the show with her perfect straddling of both heroine and potential victim. The slow build up leaves one to question what is going on but allows for the significant payoff at the end of the film. Intentional or not this film captures the classic theme of duality found in some of the greatest horror flicks of our generation.

The director admittedly stated that Cronenberg and Carpenter were of great influence in his upbringing and love for the horror genre. This influence is masterfully crafted in McCarthy’s unconscious presentation of the dual nature theme that recurs throughout the film. His ability to present the supernatural in a terrifying and cathartic manner brought the audience to the edge of their seats in the climax of The Pact.

For the unlucky few who inopportunely left early in this film they missed out on the amazing acting, cinematography and screen craft that makes this film a sure horror hit for this year. One must not also ignore the amazing production design as the creepiness of the house was created in the muted tones of worn-down wallpaper that gave this film a vintage horror feel. Rather than rely on ultraviolence as the main thread to instill fear in this film accomplishes it cleverly using our fear of the dark, the unknown, foreshadowing and seat gripping suspense backed by a score that complements without overshadowing the other elements in the scene. If you indulge in the delights of independent horror that is independent without b movie factor then The Pact will be a rare delight to scare and surprise you.

Icon of the Day – Festival Day 2

Today’s icon was the most on point of all the panelists I had the pleasure of listening to today. His vision of self-sustaining filmmaker/entrepreneur given the tools to promote his art was relatable and promising to those of who aspire to create an audience. Thank you Bob for your vision and your time to talk about your company in this video. Bob you are my Sundance Icon of the Day.

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