Can You Kill Shakespeare

Posted by Tim Posada On 12:52 PM 0 comments
Posting's been tough this summer with school then moving then working. In the meantime, here's a link to a profile I wrote about the creators of this comic book called Kill Shakespeare. Check it out, lemme know what you think.

Films of 2010 thus far

Posted by Tim Posada On 2:19 AM 0 comments
This is truly the worst year for the mainstream film. I'm not fully up to date on the smaller budget films but I hope they're doing better than everything else. Let's a take a look at the year in film thus far to truly understand how bad the year's additions have been.

The Book of Eli: cute premise with a boring outcome. It masks religious depth with superficial action that's more insulting than inspiring.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Greek mythology is great, but Chris Columbus has last his directing flare. Bad acting and a storyline that just felt too insulting.

Shutter Island: Martin Scorsese is becoming too predictable, creating a film that, while a branch out for the director, treads on territory better suited for someone like Christopher Nolan.

The Wolfman: I'll never know how Anthony Hopkins, Benecio del Toro, Hugo Weaving, and Emily Blunt all signed off on this one. Even worse, this is the director for the upcoming Captain America film. I fear for the future of my favorite superhero.

Alice in Wonderland: While cute and moderately enjoyable, Tim Burton has done so much better work than this. Remember Big Fish and Sweeney Todd. The film's uneven and largely uninteresting despite a large amount of CGI wonders.

Clash of the Titans: Let's just face it. The original wasn't that amazing and the remake was far worse. Sam Worthington is a promising actor but the director needed a screenplay worth telling. It tried to be 300 without action, decent acting, or good pacing. So boring.

Date Night: Fun stuff but largely disappointing considering the star power of Tina Fey and Steve Carrell.

Iron Man 2: I saw Iron Man three times in the theaters. I could barely sit through one screening of the sequel. It was enjoyable but far too slow, cliche, and riddle with unnecessary scenes. Plus, the film score was almost satiric. I still have faith the third installment will be better and the upcoming Thor film looks amazing.

Robin Hood: It was Gladiator with a jumbled plotline. In the end, who cares.

Prince of Persia: Fun video game and a dull, and rather racist, film with great actors trying to pay the bills on their summer homes.

Shrek Forever After: A sad end the a franchise that started so well. Old jokes and a plotline that cheapened any sense of character development for everyone except Shrek.

Get Him to the Greek: Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a fantastic comedy, but this spin-off greatly needed the original screenwriter to keep the magic alive. Funny moments, but nothing that caused my stomach to hurt.

Eclipse: The Twilight films are nothing but disgusting examples of filmmaking, proving that tween audiences greatly need to branch out and find something with more artistic worth...with less sexist storylines.

The Last Airbender: I'm pretty the sure the year climaxed with this pile of shit. It dishonored the cartoon it was based on. Just awful, awful, awful.

Amidst the year that will go down in the books as the death of the blockbuster, there were a few gems...just a few. Kick-Ass was wonderful. The Losers had good action and fun wit. Toy Story 3 debunked the myth of the terrible third film. The real winner of the year though is How to Train Your Dragon. Finally, Pixar will be properly dethroned at the Oscars and the Dragon is the one to do. It remains the only truly great film in 3-D.

I'm saddened by how bad this year has been, thus I've turned to TV shows for refuge. Sons of Anarchy, Nip/Tuck, Supernatural, and The X-Files. Hopefully, when the weather cools down, Hollywood might rediscover entertainment. Until then, I remain very annoyed. Hopefully Despicable Me, Inception, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will change my mind.

TV After "Lost"

Posted by Tim Posada On 8:11 PM 0 comments
So the series finale of Lost aired last night, and I was only slightly disappointment. After six years of this show, I never thought it would end the way it did: three parts ambiguous, one part answers. But perhaps letting us know everything would ruin it. Show creator J.J. Abrams's Cloverfield monopolized on the mystery of the unknown, having a huge monster simply show up and destroy. Just like a viral video, a bunch of people filmed something horrifying and we never discovered the reason why anything happened. Lost functions is a similar way, allowing the audience more power in the interpretation process than other shows provide. However,much like the ending of Battlestar Galactica, I'd prefer a few more answers. What I like about TV shows to begin with is the time needed to develop stories and make the conclusions that much more satisfying, but many of them don't seem get there. Answers, perhaps I'll post more on this later. For now, still processing the end. My Lost friends and I will all have to find a new show to watch. Wipeout here we come.

Reflections on Academic Blogging

Posted by Tim Posada On 3:31 AM 0 comments
Over the past semester I've been attempting to be more aware of the direction of my blog writing, creating the feel of an academic blog. This isn't entirely new for my writing hear as my first post was a two-part argument where I claimed that church worship music represented Adorno's idea of standardization. Based on my personal experience of church music as a worship leader, I went into detail about a genre of music I felt was created based on a different standard of music making, one that tried to create a "neutral" sound, like elevator music or anything else that ignores cultural roots. Since then, the blog has existed between discussing my academic career and simply posting whatever I want, like my favorite post about using a women's bathroom and just writing about it as a story akin to something on This American Life. This semester, I tried to consider using the blog both more frequently, posting 10 times, and trying to examine what I'm posting about in a more academic way. For myself, academics comes in my personal approach to fan-related topics and attempting to contemplate their deeper meaning. I think I was successful in this on most posts, while others were posting because I just wanted to write about something and other venues just wouldn't cut it.

I've been blogging since 2005 on this site and I'll continue to do it now and in the future. One of my favorite moments remains when author David Dark (one of my favorites) found me and posted that he was intrigued by my enjoyment of first-person shooter video games coupled with one of my favorite books by a pacifist author, John Howard Yoder. This has been a wonderful space to be a part and I hope turning into a more academic blog will help me find the community that comes with it online, something I haven't been able to really do yet. Welp, it's been a great semester learning how use technology in more academic settings. Here's to more of it in the future.

My latest project

Posted by Tim Posada On 12:23 AM 0 comments
After much blood and tears, I've finished my first paper of the semester. For my Visual Research Methods course I had to create a space for it online. I love creating web space stuff even though it is a very frustrating process. Anyways, click here to read the paper.

Words of the semester

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:48 PM 0 comments
This is my second semester at Claremont Graduate University in the cultural studies program. I'll be finishing up my second master's degree this fall and hopefully moving into the PhD right after. My former degree in theology and culture gave me a very different take on cultural studies, thus I learned much about the discipline last year, learning about such key ideas as the culture industry, understandings of the bourgeoisie, subaltern studies, and many other concepts. I though it'd be fun to list those special key terms that continually come up this semester and have guided my research.
1. Cultural capital: my thesis focuses on fan studies, specifically fanboy culture, and the idea of cultural knowledge attained that provides various groups with power and status keep appearing everywhere I turn.
2. Authenticity: through studying Digital Storytelling and other forms of media that focus on portraying groups, the idea of something being "authentic" provides me with new ways to analyze not just non-fiction but fiction as well.
3. Diaspora: sure I'd heard the term before but my Transnational Media Theory course provided deeper insight into its use.
4. Double consciousness: D.E.B. Du Bois coined phrase provides exciting possibilities for my future studies on various groups and migration but also can be used for my specific focus in superhero studies, examining the duel role of a costumed hero and an "everyday" person moving through life split between two opposing identities.
5. Reappropriation: like the work "juxtaposition," I was just really excited to learn how to use it in a sentence.
6. Agency: understanding the role media texts play in people's lives, moving past simple explanations of escapist consumption.
7. Hybridization: I'm still working on what it means exactly in reference to idealized understandings of the effects of globalization, but its use continues to intrigue me.
8. Participatory culture: I've already learned about active reading and the more I read by Henry Jenkins and John Fiske help me understand this idea of engaging culture and making it a more active, rather than passive, part of daily life.
9. The Lesbian gaze: I've heard and read about the male gaze, but learning hot to distinguish between a lesbian and transgender gaze in cinema was new and incredibly helpful for understanding how the camera function in film.
10. Visual culture: I didn't know the phrase existed before this semester and I continue to want to know more about it. I did an video essay on an aspect of visual culture at the beginning of the semester and I'm a little bummed because I really would've loved to write more about it.

A fanboy waxes academic

Posted by Tim Posada On 3:19 PM 0 comments
So lately, I've been rather excited about the future of many things superhero related. First, off they just released the first image of Thor in the Marvel Comics movie scheduled to hit theaters next year. I love the character because of his relationship to my favorite superhero team the Avengers (featuring such characters as Iron Man, Captain and America later on starring my favorite line up in the New Avengers: Buck Barne's Cap, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Hawkeye), but I've also respected their choice on approach. Rumor were that the role of the Norse god of thunder would be done by a WWE star, but they chose to go a very different direction. The film large features a British cast with Thor cast as an Ausie actor. Further, Kenneth Branagh, known for his Shakespearean film directing and acting is overseeing the project. The film will also tie into the crossover universe they're creating between other Avengers character films like Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America, all leading up an Avengers film. Now, they've cast comic book film familiar face Chris Evans as Cap in his solo film and my jury's still out on this choice. However, many of my concerns were appeased after he provided a hysterical performances in the Vertigo/DC Comics film The Losers that came out last weekend. Here's a link to my review on the film for my newspaper job. Let's hope he can buff up and be serious as the star spangled hero who's captured my heart (even though I never consider myself a patriotic person...I'm still fleshing that one out).

This all then leads me to some news about this universe I'm more excited about, Marvel's choice of Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers. Whedon may seem like an odd choice to many since his only feature film job was the 2005 film Serenity, based on his canceled TV show Firefly. This is the man behind such wonderful cult following endeavors as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel (to of my favourite TV shows), and the webisode experience Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. He also has history with Marvel Comics, writing for the series The Astonishing X-Men, along with writing continuing comics volumes for his TV shows. All that to say it's exciting to see someone direct this film with a personal investment in the characters and Marvel Universe.

This is all very exciting to discuss for two reason. First, May 7th will mark the third comics film this year with Iron Man 2 (The Losers and Kick-Ass came out over the past couple week). Second, I've been finishing up my thesis on fanboy culture. As you can probably tell, I approach the subject with great bias and it's been a challenge to address that bias in an academic way. I've spent so long trying to take first-person out of my paper writing and leave it to blogging and film reviews (even with film reviews, I waited over a year to use personal pronouns, allowing myself time to develop an audience that would be OK hearing my me personally in such a setting). My thesis has been both fun and exhausting, trying to determine what research to use and when to back off the scholarly works and tell the story myself. I'm proud of the direction it's taken and plan to try to publish it. Without providing too much spoilers for it, I'm taking up the challenge of determine what fanboys like. By collecting and categorizing user responses to superhero films I attempt to understand how fanboys (myself included) interpret popular superhero films. The project began with the questions of how do fan communities oppose popular film texts they find insulting. The project morphed into something very different as my sample group showed less signs of resistance to the media production system (somewhat to my dismay because I greatly hoped to find that fanboys (I do addressed the gendered use of the term as well) resisted the idiocy of Transformers 2 as much as I did). Instead, I learned more about what constitutes a good superhero film for the group. I'll leave it at that for now and simply close with, "It's a good time to be a fanboy though I do hope he does get a little smarter."

702: It's Just the World We Live In

Posted by Tim Posada On 7:28 PM 1 comments

We're back with another original video. This one's called 702. The premise is a zombie horror-comedy mockumentary that questions the nature of objectivity and journalistic involvement in a post-apocalyptic setting where the end of the world makes critical analysis through say film a rather fleeting endeavor. I've always wanted to make two films, a documentary about the house I live in and a zombie movie. I never thought that I would just merge to two ideas together and go from there.

Here's how it all came together. I proposed an idea to a three other classmates and then we started writing. We went through several drafts before filming. Here's a link to the first draft I created, and here's a link to the second draft Saralyn created based on our brainstorming. And even during shooting, the process was very organic. My roommates just sat in front of the camera and talked. I also had a bad spill out of my attic, fracturing my ankle-caught on video and in the film. After that happened, we had to rewrite some parts and pass off my lines to other people who could still walk. It was difficult to keep a 12-person crew focused and quiet during shooting. We also had trouble finding a day that worked for everyone. Luckily, my two roommates who had to get to work decided to call in and say they couldn't make it.

The editing process was pretty enjoyable as well. Unlike the video essay, where I tried great a very tightly edited package, there weren't as many cuts here and that made things dramatically easier. Since I was stuck on a couch for several days after the great fall, I started editing earlier. I approached it by thinking about a mix of documentary styles and viral videos, thus the final product was a mix between a heartfelt exploration of place and something more akin to Cloverfield or Quarantine. We had some challenges with footage since we ran out of time to do reshoots and some shots didn't fully show everything going on (people running, fake blood, etc.) but the final product was very raw and looked great to me. I also found another challenge in choosing music. I didn't want to use any music that I couldn't get copyrights for, thus the music in the film was either created by me (three songs), a bluegrass song made by my friend, another acoustic song made my another friend, and, during the credits, a rock song performed by Nick Maldonado's band Destroy the Runner, the fine gentleman who got someone to cover his shift and drove up from San Diego to play the lead zombie in the film.

We went into the project to create a piece that questions the nature the documentary and, really, the point of higher education when people are dying. However, the final project did so much more as the interviews revealed some fascinating things about representation. Horror-comedies often critique their own form and we do that here too. We have some cliche moments: Elliott saying "I'll be back" and then getting killed first; the final showdown where several people die; the angry locals at an outsider who caused the problem in the first place; and the issue of representation. As in most horror, women usually remain in subordinate roles, either by dying first or relying on male leads to protect them. Here, we stay with that by having two girlfriends/fiances already dead prior to the incident with significant others with nonchalant responses to their permanent absences. Further, the death of the female documentarian solidified this view. This gender issue was not intentional prior to filming. One story about Bryan having to mercy-kill his fiance was actually rooted in a real dream he had but the story Roy tells was just something that he jokingly said (with his actual girlfriend in the other room) during filming. Even though no as visible in the film, we also had two female zombies (no intentional but more based on who could show up for the day). The other unintentional representation came after my injury. Anyone in a wheelchair or with a crutch dies first in these films and, well, I needed to because my actual ankle was the size of a softball and I couldn't run to the care, thus I died early in the final showdown so I wouldn't cause the swelling to grow.

I'm very proud of the final project and it's given me new energy to start doing more writing and filming like this. Welp, with that said, hope you enjoy the movie and be sure to pay attention to the credits, there's a few easter eggs in them.

Worst/Best Week Ever

Posted by Tim Posada On 11:57 AM 0 comments
This past week was one a tough one. I had the normal routine for the week - preparing lectures, doing class readings, meeting with the student newspaper staff, etc. - but this week, everything hit at once. Paper due Tuesday, rough draft of thesis due Wednesday, not too bad. Then...Friday came. The day start relatively early (especially for me), with a meeting at APU at 8am, about the nature of the role and nature of the student newspaper on the college campus. I had to leave the meeting early at 9:10am to head to Monrovia to present at the Christians on Diversity in the Academy conference. When I first sent in a proposal for this conference, I thought I was requesting the usual 15ish minutes slot to present on my research but when I was accepted, I found out I had an hour (bring it on). My session was titled "It's Just a Movie: An Oppositional and Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Reading Film." I provided an approach to viewing film for people without a film background that would allow for an appropriate use of the medium that considers film technique important along with a greater attentiveness to issues of representation and ideology. Here's a link to my PowerPoint presentation.

After the conference, I returned home to prepare filming for a class project. It was quite the event. There's four of us involved in the project with 9 people involved in shooting. I won't give away the details of the content of filming just quite yet but say we had a lot of fun doing it. We filmed from about 12:00pm to 4:30pm. We got a lot of great stuff and a bunch more we didn't plan on getting. We did have a few interesting set backs however. We filmed at my house and when I attempted to get out of my attic, I thought it would be appropriate to just jump out, not realizing I was falling about 8 feet. Most of the weight landed on my left foot. I thought I broke it. We had to revamp a bunch of the shots we were filming because I couldn't walk without a limp and in fact can barely stay on my foot. Sure it was a damper on the day but the film footage we got was so fun.

Back on the foot. Luckily, I didn't break it-just a bad sprain. As the day went on, my leg got worst. The roommates took care of me and busted out the frozen vegetables and icing tools. I couldn't move for the rest of the day. As the swelling got worse, I couldn't put any weight on my foot. Suddenly, a phone ringing or the need to go to the bathroom became a chore only resolved by hopping on one leg. I ended up using crutches for the rest of the day. I was a little worried at night because my bed isn't close to the ground but I found a way into it. I kept the leg elevated and wrapped, planning to go to a doctor, but then I woke today and I can move the leg more and put some weight on it. That's a nice twist I think. Anways, this week=crazy. Friday=crazier.

I'm online!

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:02 PM 0 comments
So for those of you who don't know, along with adjunct teaching journalism, desktop publishing, literature, and writing compoistion and attending Claremont Graduate University for my second master's degree, I also write film reviews the Beverly Press in Los Angeles. It's a local newspaper for the Wilshire, Hancock Park, and West Hollywood area with about a 12,000 a week run. For people that subscribe to our paper and the Los Angeles Times, it's actually distrubted with that paper every Thursday. Well, the website just got a new template that's more user friendly. In the past, PDFs of the weekly paper were there for upload and now individual stories can be accessed. It's nice to have a direct link online to your work. Only one of my reviews is online right now, but I imagine they'll be updated more often. Here's the link.

The above is a video essay I've created about the significance of Captain America's assassination and rebirth with a gun on his belt (something the old Cap didn't have). Over the last three weeks plus, I've clocked anywhere from 2-6 hours a day on this puppy. I started by gathering video clips from YouTube and DVDs, along with soundbites from Podcasts, radio broadcasts, and special effects sound offline. I've got footage from all over the place in there: video blogs, fan news videos, Fox News, the Colbert Report, NPR, and film clips. Then there's the exorbitant amount of comic book stills and covers from DC and Marvel Comics.

After I gathered all the pieces, I spent a lot of time just playing around with how to organize it all. I decided to take a journalistic approach. I let the stills and video clips go first, telling a story of a character once revered to murdered. I originally planned on a voiceover but then I just kept creating it without one, everything seemed to just flow so well. Finally, I did run out of audio clips and decided that I wanted to insert my voice in it, vis-a-vi, voice of God style. I looked at the clips I'd created and wrapped my voice narration around the edited content already there. I recorded the audio with my iPod, using the voice memo application, and emailed myself the files when I was done. I did have to redo one clip because it peaked when recording (and you can probably tell which clip it is since I couldn't get it to sync). Before this project, I didn't know how to get images to move across screen, something I had to learn since I was dealing with vertical comic book covers over a horizontal visual space. Thankfully, somebody posted a YouTube tutorial to do just that. The second to last main piece was locating sound effects. The beeping sound at one part of the video in one beep copied and pasted many times over--and the military document that goes with it is several different frames, one for each new letter added to a sentence. Everything else was just learning how to structure it all. Thinking of essay form greatly helped with that process after several changes to the structure.
It was a conscious effort not to choose "Patriotic" songs because I wanted to show that what's been happening in the Captain America storyline is helping redefine how the character wears the American flag on his chest.
The last part of the puzzle was music. It was a conscious effort not to choose "Patriotic" songs because I wanted to show that what's been happening in the Captain America storyline is helping redefine how the character wears the American flag on his chest. Instead, I chose mood music from Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream), Cliff Martinez (Solaris), Nine Inch Nails, Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica), and The Appleseed Cast.

I used KeepVid to rip videos offline and Quicktime to convert them to use in Adobe Premiere. I also used Photoshop to prepare images for video, edit some images ("Dust and Speckle" helped me smooth out a few), and create some photo art as well. The biggest problem I encountered with this projects was Premiere's tendency just to shut off on occasion without warning...and more importantly a chance to save the work I'd done. This process alone added several hours of work. It was an exhausting process to create this film but I'm very broad of the final product. I've done other videos before but never without having to shoot anything. It was both a challenge to solely use other people's material and refreshing not to have to worry about importing.

We showed this videos in class today and I do agree with the criticism. The video moves very fast. This comes from both my frustration with online videos I'd seen that stay on any one image too long without moving and my love for fast-paced film (yes, I did like the new Star Trek, along with films like 300, but not Transformers 2, that's the line). There was just so much to say in 5 minutes. I realize that my familiarity with the material made it difficult for me to notice this but, at the same time, I created a video that would appeal to Captain America fans on the viral webscape. My intention was to create something that move quick for people that already have a working knowledge of Cap but also something short enough that it could be viewed multiple times and still have something new to offer the viewer. That said, I definitely should've spent more time showing the main image I address. If I were to do this video again, I'd redo the voiceover to it flows smoothly, spend more time on volume settings, and extend it to about 8-10 minutes. I have enough footage here with images alone to do that.

Boys Don't Cry and the Gaze

Posted by Tim Posada On 10:05 PM 0 comments
The head of the cultural studies department Dr. Eve Oishi (my Transnational Media Theory instructor for a class at Pitzer) guest spoke in my Visual Research Methods class last Wednesday. We discussed several readings from The Visual Culture Reader on sexuality. I fount our first class discussion on Judith Halberstam’s “The Transgender Gaze in Boys Don't Cry” to be the most intriguing. Halberstam’s essay discusses the transgender gaze of the film, as opposed to the male gaze, which dominates the majority of Hollywood films and reminds the viewers of the often-male point of view of most popular films. For an easy example of this, just check both Transformers films and try to tell me that the camera doesn’t exploit Megan Fox’s body much like an adolescent male would (targeted demographic for the film).

Halberstam discusses that the first part of Boys Don’t Cry but transforms into a lesbian gaze at the pivotal moment in the film. Dr. Oishi played for us the clip in question and we engaged it. The clip of interest occurs after Lana (ChloĆ« Sevigny) learns that the man she had been dating, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), was not a biological man but a biological woman. Lana approaches Brandon in the secluded barn he lives in, not with anger but willing to accept him. However, the language used in this interaction changes the dynamic from a man and a woman to two women. With Brandon’s head in her lap, Lana says to him, “You’re very pretty,” something she wouldn’t have said prior to the reveal. The interaction here changes the way the two act and then turns the story from transgender to lesbian.

We also discussed the cinematic conventions used by the film that provide problems for interpretation. By earlier showing sex scenes and then, in this scene, fading to the aftermath, attempting to show the difference between showing sex on screen and implying making love, the film places itself within the tradition of other Hollywood films. In the end, Boys Don’t Cry sacrifices transgender politics for gay/lesbian ones. I must admit here, I have only viewed the scenes from class and haven’t scene the film, but I don’t imagine this is a far stretch. Gay and lesbian politics have won out in other cinematic examples as well, especially in the form of stories solely about white people, turning gay and lesbian issues into white issues of sexuality. Boys Don’t Cry then aligns with other Hollywood films because it simplifies something like sexuality, just as other films, like Crash or Pursuit of Happyness, simplify such things as race for the sake of a the story.

We ended this part of class talking about how most scholar, when analyzing films, tend to favor criticism based on how the film ends. I’ve noticed this feminist criticism of Thelma and Louise for ending with their deaths. The same criticism could be used here, as it ultimately ends with the death of Brandon Teena, leaving only assumedly heterosexual couples to find love without threat of death. Dr. Oishi discussed the Brandon’s home, an isolated little shack with nothing visible inside, just a bright view of the sky above when the door is open. The shack serves as a metaphor for Brandon; he won’t find hope in his life on earth, only in the sky. We discussed if just looking at the end should ignore the journey along the way of most films and I find myself torn.

Last Airbender at the Super Bowl

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:12 AM 0 comments

So I just watched the Super Bowl 30-second spot for The Last Airbender, otherwise known as Avatar, if it weren't for James Cameron's film nabbing the copyright before Viacom could with their Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. I find myself both intrigued and worried about this one. The initial film teaser looked interesting enough and the SB spot looks even better but one uncomfortable truth remains, M. Night Shyamalan is still the director. His films started out interesting enough peaking with Unbreakable, but Lady in the Water and The Happening proved his fallibility. The guy doesn't seem to like people telling him when he's got a bad film on his hands. In that way, he pulls a George Lucas, biting off far more than anyone wants to chew.

Regardless, the story of Avatar remains a rather fascinating one. It's rare for a children's cartoon to pull off a three-arch story like it did, providing an unexpected level of intelligence from the viewer. This one's good prove of Steven Johnson's thesis in his book Everything Bad is Good For You where he argues that popular culture is actually making its consumer smarter and reflecting that they're getting smarter as well. Johnson's optimism is both refreshing and uncomfortable at once. I find I want to believe him but the recent success such films as Transformers 2 don't bode well for such statements. Still, Avatar is proof that the fantasy genre remains an under tapped playground for real narrative engagement, as films such as El Laberinto del Fauno and Princess Mononoke proved. Avatar, whose creators have said they pulled much from Hayao Miyazaki's work, tells a fascinating story about the connection of the four tribes of the world all connected through the four elements. Certain members of each tribe can bend their designated element: earthbending, waterbending, firebending, and airbending. Over 100 years ago the fire nation attacked the rest of the world and have been trying to claim dominion ever since. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, can resolve this war. What's most interesting about this story is how the war comes to an end. I won't give it away, but it's quite unique and not what most would think or expect. Anyways, it's totally worth the viewing and it's my goal to get my nephew into the show.

Oscar Announcements

Posted by Tim Posada On 12:31 PM 0 comments
So they announced the Oscar nominees. Quite an odd list:

Best picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

I don't know what to do with this list. First off, I'm so apathetic to Inglourious Basterds. I imagine the competition's between Avatar and The Hurt Locker though Up in the Air and Precious are strong candidates as well. Personally, District 9 is my vote - an absolute delight that had me engaged the characters and the premise the entire way through, even with the bloody conclusion. Tarantino films lost it for me some time ago and this one just felt way to predictable. I don't know why I'm so stubborn about this but I have no desire to see The Blind Side. It just looks shallow, aiming for cheap emotions rather really addressing social change. Again I know I should see but there's so much more out there that I want to see and this isn't close. Anyways, I don't know if this was the best year for the Academy to switch to a 10-film Best Picture nomination but it should be interesting to see what happens.

Juxtaposing News

Posted by Tim Posada On 12:58 PM 0 comments
As I log onto my iGoogle account I find the headlines for my news sources fascinating, ranging from the Leno/O'Brien showdown and Carrie Underwood singing at the Super Bowl to dry spells easing global warming and the death of J.D. Salinger. For myself, this has been a unique couple of days in the news. Salinger's death alone was rather a shock though I must admit that I have not read his renowned The Cather in the Rye, thus his death, while shocking, does not hit me the same way the death of Madeleine L'Engle or Stud Terkel's did. Yesterday proved to be a rather odd news day. Since December, I've been waiting for Apple to announce the much-rumored tablet (basically an over-sized iPod) they've been working on and yesterday they finally did. I sat with my roommate and watched the 1.5 hours presentation on the new product and its features. I'm both intrigued and underwhelmed by it. I find it quite interesting that Mac found a place some years back in education programs, providing the computers for school use and lasting software programs, yet their latest inventions, save desk and laptops, are not really meant for educational purposes. Not yet anyways. With all the PDFs printed out in a regular CGU class, purchasing a digital reader would seem like a financially sound one considering the cost of going to Staples once or twice a week, yet no one has really created a program with annotation capabilities. Current eReaders have trouble with annotations, turning something like reading in the Kindle and Nook into a passive experience with little real ability to take notes as you read. Sadly, the iPad (a name one NPR host said was probably created without women in the room) does not change this pathetic standard. They'll get there but for now, this new Apple tech doesn't feel like a step forward for education but another way for people to half engage their digital surroundings.

Oddly, I didn't mean to write that much about the iPad. What I really want to discuss is something far more significant that occurred yesterday. When I opened iGoogle to check out the video on the iPad, I saw a headline from NPR that caught me off guard: "Leftist Historian Howard Zinn Dies At 87." My roommate, a high school history teacher in Montclair, and I spent some time reading about his recent death and reflecting on his works, not just his most popular book A People's History of the United States. I'm sad to think the most exposure some will have to Zinn's existence comes in the form of a brief reference in Good Will Hunting. I'm not a history buff, but I greatly appreciate Zinn's work for helping not "rewrite" history like some of the naive would say but provide a holistic account of this country's formation. As Ronald Takaki and others would do later, Zinn told the story of the U.S. without the tone and bias of imperialistism. He tells the story of the U.S. with unrepresented voices. We don't just understand what occurs within "popular" historical structures but in everything. He also reanalyzes major historic figures and looks at everything they did. For example, Columbus is not some wonderful visionary who found an unpopulated world but a conqueror who enslaved people in a new land and introduced the "New World" to genocide.

While many could've potentially learned about Zinn in history, sociology, or ethnic studies courses, I came across him in a very different way. While in seminary I took the course Advocating for Social Justice and, for the final paper, we were permitted to write something related to our fields of study. I decided to write on the use of narrative film in social justice formation. My roommate had the Zinn reader and I began to read his essays. I was so fascinated by what he had so say. Until then, I hadn't really thought much about socialist ideas (besides the a few pieces of Marx I enjoyed) and Zinn wrote with passion about the connection between civil rights and socialism. I didn't find anything directly addressing the use of film in the liberation struggle, but his theories and ideas guided my research. I don't care much for patriotism. I find the term's meaning too ambiguous and no established institution has earned my trust--though I do find some hope in ideas presented by those like the musicians in the former band Boysetsfire when they sing, "Who will stand up? Who will fight? If you love this country, take it back from those who would destroy it! Protest is patriotism." I find in Zinn, and others like him, a new face of this country that cares more about that often prooftexted "justice for all." Here's to his life and may his death become a time to reflect on what he stood for and where we can go. For those interested, here's click here to check out NPR's story on Howard Zinn.

Sitting at home doing homework on Friday, I received a call from my friend Casey in Long Beach informing me of a midnight screening of Army of Darkness. This was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up, so I took the gf and we joined the LB people for a magical cinematic experience. For those who don't know about this film, it's one of my all-time favorites and definitely my favorite B-movie. It's the final chapter of the Evil Dead trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi, who would go on to direct the Spider-Man trilogy, Darkman, and Drag Me To Hell.

We went to the Art Theatre in Long Beach with about 50 other attendees. There's something so refreshing of viewing a film like this with people who share your enthusiasm. No need to justify this guilty pleasure that I feel absolutely no quilt about. I mean, what's so terrible about a department store worker who gets sent back in time to help Lord Arthur fight the Deadites with his boom-stick (double-barrel Remington), chainsaw (which takes the place of the possessed hand he had to lop off in the film prior), and remarkable ability to create enough gunpowder to take on a demon army. It's all just fantastic, with enough one-liners to make the world's top markers sad they didn't think of them first. This film is the accumulation of 50 years of western, action, and horror films. And the final product is just plane hysterical.

I will say, there are some rather humorous references that most people won't notice in the film; nods to The Day the Earth Stood Still, Gulliver's Travels, Tom & Jerry, and Tarzan, among others. Plus one character, the director's brother, has at least four bit parts, if you're paying attention. It's hard not the appreciate the detail in writing and the homage to film history. Plus, Evil Dead 2 was proved that film could be low-budget with a skeleton cast and still be a bloody good time. Like my friend Garret says, the first five minutes have dialogue and the rest of the film is AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! Anyways, some B-movies have stood the test of time and this was clearly fits the bill...unlike Daybreakers, which I saw the other week and couldn't get away from soon enough. Vampires sell themselves so I find it rather confusing to understand how some films can be so bad...oh Twilight, you wretched mess. With that, here's a clip with some of the magical one-liners: