Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Beat Goes On

Like much of the Midwest, we had snow yesterday.  Not enough to make the snowman I was intending to build, nor to have a snowball fight, but enough so that while I was driving around I was in a Christmas spirit, and out came the Bing Crosby and the Rat Pack, and the ever wonderful Ultra Lounge collection.

Today the snow is gone, and it's raining instead.  When I ran the lake it felt like late February, or a March that came in like a lion, and not the two weeks shy of May that it really is.

Except for the occasional game of Dominion with the Coltons, or an after-hours movie with Todd at the local AMC, I've been mired in the swamps of rewrites, and Script Frenzy, and working, and job hunting.

First the rewrites:  I'm attempting to again bring a draft of The Rider to a close.  Back in March I made a decisively deep cut into the story, losing a group of minor characters and a couple chapters worth of story.  Since then I was rewriting a chapter every couple days, hoping to use the relentlessness of the speed to bring draft 3 of the novel to a quick close.  Maybe get ready to start shopping it.  I've stalled because my attention got taken away with Script Frenzy, but will be hopping back on that here in a couple days.

Script Frenzy is a crazy sprint in the vein of NaNoWriMo.  The goal is to write 100 screenplay pages in the course of 30 days (April).  That's 3.33 pages a day for those slow on math, like myself.  After spending half the month developing a script, I'm working to hammer out most of the script over the course of the last couple weeks.  Head on over to my Script Frenzy profile page for details on it.

A week ago I was at a workshop at Michigan State University for iRODS (Integrated Rule-Oriented Data System), a database system that we're talking about integrating into the electronic library at my job.  Events like that make me realize how out of my element I am with technology, but also how much I've picked up in the six months I've been at my job.  I'll be posting more about it at my professional blog.

And on that note, I'm still deep in the job hunt, with something like 30 active applications, and already 20 rejections this year alone.  Keeping the chin up, but this sort of thing gets wearing on the ego.

I'm going to Chicago this weekend for the Bunny Rock 5k.  I'm hoping to finish a large portion of my Script Frenzy on the train down and back, leaving me open to work on the novel rewrites next week.

Now back to the work grind.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Source Code - A Review

First, a tweet-length review:

Source Code is an achievement of tight filmmaking, inspired acting, gorgeous cinematography, and gripping ideas. (112 characters)

Now the cumbersome review:

I'm leery writing this review because the best part about Source Code, as it was with Duncan Jones's previous masterpiece, Moon, is how we as the viewer walk side by side with Jake Gyllenhaal through the mysteries of the movie.  Learning as he learns.  Being surprised as he is.  Succeeding with him, and celebrating the ending right along with him.  All this without cumbersome 3D glasses and popping special effects to put us right in the moment.  It's what filmmaking should be about.  Real, honest engagement between the viewer and filmmakers.

As it is, the rest of this review is going to be full of spoilers because telling you much beyond what's in the trailer would break the fragile bond that makes this movie special.

Here's the premise:  A commuter train (cleverly CGI'ed to not be the Metra) is bound north to Chicago.  The train blows up and kills everyone on board.  This is apparently a warning shot from a terrorist who has designs to do something even worse (level Chicago).  Using a secret government program, The Source Code, Captain Colter Stevens is sent back to 8 minutes before the disaster into the mind of one of the passengers on the train, and in a way that is Deja Vu meets Groundhog's Day meets Vantage Point meets a point-and-click adventure the captain is supposed to explore the train for 8 minutes and figure out who the terrorist is, and what his motives are.  This is only a simulation of the events, so he can't change the outcome, can only explore and interact(?) with the world, and try to find clues before...BOOM!  Or is there something more? (This is a Duncan Jones movie if you remember).

Between each 8 minute permutation he's whisked back to this Source Code capsule where he's debriefed by Goodwin, an officer played by Vera Farmiga who acts as his handler, and as our guide for introducing us to the mysteries of what the Source Code is, and what Captain Stevens' mission is.  Disoriented and disillusioned (a classic position for Duncan Jones's characters to be in) Stevens begins to wonder if he can break out of the 8-minute cycle.  More importantly he wonders if he can save the people in there, and more than that save the girl, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who he wakes up talking to every time he's thrust back into the source code.  The girl who he starts to develop an emotional connection with (as Stevens in the body of one of the commuters).  To say more would be a travesty, even to those looking for spoilers.  Suffice it to say, this is a thriller, and there is a happy ending.

What the Source Code is, is a thinking movie.  Not a mindfuck film.  Not in the same way that Fight Club is a mindfuck, or the Usual Suspects, or anything by Shyamalan for that matter.  The twist, when it comes is surprising, but what is refreshing, and what keeps the movie working as well as it does is that the hero basically says "I don't care," and wrests control of his destiny back into his own hands.  This is what makes Duncan Jones movies so fantastic.  His heroes stare down the crush of the inevitable, the bonds of fate, the insurmountable odds of a deck stacked against them, and say "I don't care," and barrel on with the reckless joy and urgent need to succeed.

Duncan Jones is a master filmmaker who straddles the line between the intricacy and nuance of the "indie" film, and the breathless engagement of the blockbuster.  He can do in an hour and a half what would take Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, or any other cinema craftsman two or more hours to achieve.  His films are tight, and bursting at the seams with ideas.  What he can bring out of his cast and crew are inspiring performances.

This is exactly why I fell in love with movies.  This is exactly what I keep coming back and hoping to see.  This is exactly why you should go see it.