Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

27 October 2008: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

synecdoche-new-yorkThis really and truly was a rather bizarre movie. If you got it then you were among the elite who understand filmmaking of this caliber and if you didn’t get it, then it might have provided for water cooler conversation fodder for the following Monday. I enjoyed it but did have my moments of unabashed confusion and bewilderment. Also, only someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman could pull off something like this (see ‘Love Liza).

New University Newspaper: Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’

Kaufman Goes Mental in ‘Synecdoche’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 6 | Oct 27 2008

It seems as though with the release of “Synecdoche, New York,” the inevitable and long-awaited directorial debut from one of cinema’s most prominent writers has finally come to pass. Charlie Kaufman creates a world where he plays puppet master for not only the verbal level of character interaction, but for the film’s overall display as well. Kaufman’s work is enhanced by the truly all-star cast, which runs the gamut of Oscar worthies to independent film starlets. While the audience experiences the stellar script materializing before its eyes, the content does, however, veer off course as things wind down into overly symbolic and somewhat impractical referential gestures.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a small-time theater director whose life we enter as he fittingly premieres Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” at the neighborhood playhouse. His wife, Adele, played by Catherine Keener, is a painter of miniscule art and, like any Generation X suburban couple, husband and wife prescribe to marriage counseling. However, things run amuck in Caden’s life when Adele takes their 4-year-old daughter and her paintings to Berlin, pursuing her career and an alternative lifestyle.

In a series of encounters, Caden strikes out with buxom box-office babe Hazel (Samantha Morton) and is followed by a lanky and balding guy. Later, Sammy (Tom Noonan), creates a surrogate wife and daughter with his plays’ perpetual female lead, Claire (Michelle Williams), and takes part in a liaison with Tammy (Emily Watson) among other things. After a whirlwind of experiences, Caden realizes his mortality once his body’s automatic functions start shutting down, and he embarks on a life-long theater project funded by a MacArthur Fellowship.

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24 October 2008: Film Notes – Persona

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

personaOne of the other ways we participated in film notes was by answering a question based on one of the readings assigned to us that week in correspondence with that week’s screenings. Susan Sontag had written an article when Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Persona’ had been released called ‘Sight and Sound’ and we were to use that in reference to the stated question.

Film Notes: Sontag [“Persona, Sight and Sound”] explains that there is a theme of doubling in Persona, how does it operate?

Persona, Ingmar Bergman, 1966

Susan Sontag delivers ideas around the sense of doubling in Persona by finding dualities in the mode in which the film’s narration operates. She furthers her notions of doubling in this sense by exploring ways in which the narrative sheds light on how other thematic elements play on Ingmar Bergman’s prominent ideas on doubling throughout the film. She focuses on this dichotomy between the “traditional narrative” and a “new narration” (188) in terms of giving a duality to narrative in general. These two modes of narration are what separate other films from Bergman’s Persona for Sontag in that the “traditional narrative” showcases a clear explanation for action-reactions. The “new narrative” is a purposeful dismissal of a clear explanation, deliberate in leaving the audience with their own ideas about the overall film. She also goes through an explanation of the doubled notion towards a psychological theme in Persona. Sontag pairs the psychological awareness in the existence and diagnosis of the psychiatrist with Bergman’s overall dismissal of psychological importance as this diagnosis or nearly anything medial-related is never really mentioned again.

Sontag also delves into polarities seen in Persona as well as The Silence, in terms of giving a thematic driving force to Bergman by looking at his contemporary work and still upholding Persona as above to the rest. She describes the “polarities of violence and powerlessness, reason and unreason, language and silence, the intelligible and unintelligible” (186) in what seems like a parenthetical afterthought. However, it’s evident that these found “polarities” are true modes of doubling in terms of one theme since they are the opposite sides of that singular theme’s spectrum. In this, Sontag creates two forms of one. For example, with “language and silence” it is a mode of communication that is represented twice-one is through the verbally audible or readable form of language and the other works as communication by creating an utter void of verbosity. We obviously understand Alma through her incessant speech because we hear her language and understand the words. Similarly, there is a reason why the psychiatrist in Persona has a long monologue of understanding towards Elizabeth even though she has heard nothing from her patient. In this way she provides modes of understanding the way in which doubling operates in Persona.

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20 October 2008: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

120x160 I've loved you so longFor this film, I had the chance to sit in a round table interview format with the film’s director, Philippe Claudel, and lead actress, Kristen Scott Thomas. They were both a total joy to be around and made me love the film even more than I already did right after the screening.

New University Newspaper: An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’

An Impressive Debut for Claudel in ‘Long’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 5 | Oct 20 2008

There’s an unspoken desire in most of mankind to live a life of unconditional love and perpetual care. Parallel to that lies the fear of being utterly forgotten and ultimately ignored without reason. First-time film director Philippe Claudel delves into these underlying themes with “I’ve Loved You So Long.”

In a beautiful film about the unfaltering love between sisters and a family unit comprised of blood relatives, adopted children and colleagues-turned-stalwart friends, Claudel’s freshman effort is a true work of expressive art.

The film opens with Juliette, a woman teetering towards the start of middle age. In a desolate train station, the camera has no choice but to focus heavily and entirely on her, an empty shell of a human being. She mindlessly takes a cigarette to and from her face, the Pall Mall soft pack at her side, already a character staple. She looks dead in the eyes and entirely void of emotion. Her overall gait looks as though she has lost hope and has maintained existence through some sort of catatonic state for a long time. Not to mention she has just finished a 15-year stint in prison, and is now re-emerging into a society that had once judged and shunned her into oblivion.

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6 October 2008: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

nick-and-norahThis was a really fun film. Doing research I wondered why all my generation of pre-pubescent to young adults had Judy Blume and ‘Are You There God, It’s My Margaret?’ to quell our insatiable thirst for the knowledge of that uncharted plain called adulthood.

New University Newspaper: Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’

Music Exhales Love in ‘Playlist’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 3 | Oct 06 2008

Love stories have narrative arcs that no doubt withstand the test of time. It’s for this reason, however, most feel that when they’ve heard one, they’ve heard them all. It’s rare that in this day and age, artistic media produces a love story with any inkling of originality. It’s probably what makes director Peter Sollett’s latest, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” such a breath of fresh air.

Nick is lovelorn and tormented by his ex-girlfriend, taking mental health days off from school and from his band mates. It’s finally a search for an elusive favorite band that takes him out of his house and onto the streets of New York with his friends.

It’s the sleepless journey of one night that packs in growing up, experiencing the importance of friendship and self discovery bringing Norah to Nick, and finally, Nick to Norah.

Michael Cera truly is the emerging generation’s prince charming. In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” he plays Nick, the bass-playing, quintessential teenager lost in emotional woes of love gone awry. Audiences across the board have grown to love his demeanor with his characterization in Sollett’s film being no exception.

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3 October 2008: Film Notes – Angel-A

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

angel-aFor the last of the three-part film history series, we went through modern filmmaking in a flash of a variety of genres, country-specific filmmaking and form spanning from Andy Warhol to video art. We had to sign up for “film notes” and in groups, write about a certain aspect of a particular film. Whether it be cinematography, editing, acting…whatever. I loved this film so much and was excited to participate in film notes for this Luc Besson masterpiece.

Film Notes: cinematography – camera movement, angles and lighting

Angel-A, Luc Besson, 2005

The use of various cinematographic techniques in Angel-A are very specific to the genre of filmmaking this particular film falls into, Cinéma du look. The camera movement throughout the environment of the Paris setting gets as much out of the city’s architectural beauty as possible. In order to accomplish this, the camera takes extreme long shots of the characters as they make their way throughout the city. Even when both Angel-A and André are static and are having intimate conversations, many of these moments are captured in establishing shot fashion. The camera sits far, far away and centers the two characters as small, arm flailing and gesticulating creatures in the middle of the frame. It is convenient, and probably purposefully done, that many of the events take place on the cobblestone, Parisian streets and amongst a mélange of key areas of French culture. From the train station to Sacré-Cœur to the ever-present Eiffel Tower, the film could pass as a tour video if not intended for greater and better things.

Another key area of cinematography employed by this Cinéma du look film is in the mode of camera angles, which is important because of the height difference between Angel-A and André. It may be somewhat ridiculous that Angel-A is so much taller than André but the camera angles that follow their interaction serve to establish a relationship for the two. In their first meeting and discussion, we have a high angle from Angel-A’s perspective as she’s talking to André and a low angle from André’s perspective when he’s talking to Angel-A. This establishes a hierarchical leveling between the two and is seen in how Angel-A is more capable of taking care of André’s problem than he is capable of taking care of them himself. When Angel-A forces André to admit that he loves himself in the mirror, the camera is dead steady on both of them, showing that she has come down to his level to assess him problem.

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29 September 2008: TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

tv-on-the-radioMan this is such a great album. Honestly, though, not as good as some of their previous releases, but comparatively to what was coming out around the same time, this was really great sounding. It also helped that I had heard some of these songs live at Street Scene in San Diego the week before, which was right before I heard the album for the very first time in its entirety.

New University Newspaper: TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’

TV on the Radio Progresses on ‘Science’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 2 | Sep 29 2008

TV on the Radio is the kind of band that continually embraces a very experimental nature. Each track is a cohesive exploration of sound and harmony, a sign that the band continues to seamlessly transcend genres and styles.

Its new album, “Dear Science,” is no exception to this already established impression, showcasing this collection of bandmates at their most creative to date.

The band has come a long way since frontman Tunde Adebimpe and guitarist David Andrew Sitek’s self-released demo, “OK Calculator,” an obvious pun on a Radiohead favorite “OK Computer.” “Dear Science,” is the follow-up release to its 2006 celebrated epic, “Return to Cookie Mountain.” With the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist, Nick Zinner and the omniscient David Bowie adorning the band’s various projects, much was expected from the new album.

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29 September 2008: Peter Through the Ages

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

peter-the-anteaterFeatures pieces are always fun to write because they’re less strictly newsy and allow more leeway on artistic writing. It was fun delving into the history of our school’s very notorious mascot, especially the nervous page flipping on New U archives from the late 1960s. Each of those nearly Bible paper-thin pages had coverage on the mascot elections and everything. It was all very fascinating.

New University Newspaper: Peter Through the Ages

Peter Through the Ages
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 2 | Sep 29 2008

So you found out you’re an Anteater. You probably haven’t started practicing chants of “Rip ‘Em ’Eaters” for sideline cheers just yet, and you may have to ignore the snickers for a while when you tell your friends back home your sporting event war cry is a ferocious, “Zot!”

And how about explaining to them that accompanying hand gesture? Haven’t heard of it yet? Try bringing together your thumb, middle and ring fingers to make hind legs and a tail. Have your index and pinky fingers stand tall to make arms ready for a bear hug defense. Your hand may cramp now, but it’ll become second nature by Winter Quarter. It’s your Anteater, and it’s reared and ready to attack.

Prompted to cheer by an enthusiastic and enlarged plush anteater, it’s what UCI fans in the stands motion and call out at games. With this symbol at the helm, being an ’Eater is a source of pride.

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2 September 2008: A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

vicky_cristina_barcelonaThis was a rather welcome little surprise from what I thought I would expect. The story was intriguing, the filmmaking was great and well, I couldn’t get the theme out of my head for weeks. Regardless, it was an excellent film and doubtless proof of what Woody Allen can do to and for his supporting actresses.

New University Newspaper: A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’

A Bit of Spanish Flair in ‘Barcelona’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 35 | Sep 02 2008

There’s a reason why Woody Allen’s latest film’s title is a sole statement of the film’s lead characters and location. For a director who has made his life’s work an explicit form of storytelling, we should expect nothing less. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is no exception to this established mode of filmmaking.

The complexities of each character’s storyline cross paths by means of some philosophical rant about the meaning of this or that. All the while, the story arc remains intact, divergent through no tangent. Still, new elements are introduced, making things increasingly interesting as the story of two best friends spending their summer in Spain plays out.

The characters in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” struggle with problems and philosophical life-altering issues on their own separate planes of existence. The character of Vicky, played by UK-native Rebecca Hall, is the neurotic New Yorker and every bit as one-track minded and talkative as our lead male in “Annie Hall,” except that Hall executes the part extraordinarily well.

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12 June 2008: Animated Actions Speak Louder than Static Words

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

tiger-01I was so in love with the film when I first saw it in theaters that I jumped to the first chance I got to work with it in some form through my Film & Media Studies classes. All majors are required to take a writing class and I happened to select the one that focused on writing about the transfer of a text from comic book to film. It was absolutely perfect and I had never had such a great time writing a final until this assignment, especially since I did exceptionally well on the paper.

Animated Actions Speak Louder than Static Words: Media Formats Effect the Presentation of the Plight of an Expatriate Youth

The translation of Persepolis from graphic novel to film is one of the more unique examples of artistic endeavors that have transcended varying forms of media. Many comic book adaptations have made their way through popular culture with the perennial summer blockbuster hit the likes of Spiderman, Batman and X-Men releases, especially with their subsequent sequels. Persepolis, however, has managed a different place for itself within this genre of adaptation. As it has maintained a sense of originality in its presentation, it has procured the belief that comic books and graphic novels can be considered to be high art in graphic novels, filmic and literary forms. The release of Persepolis also amplifies the poignant effect such simplistic visualizations representing a landmark moment in the political history of a nation can have on those who consume the media. Further, Persepolis as a film also comments on the differing cultures of those who consume graphic novels and those who take part in film culture and how the availability and power of each media form, combined with the narrative content in author Marjane Satrapi’s work, effects the reception of the text as a whole.

Coupled with the graphic notions of content are the literary and artistic qualities of Persepolis productions that create an overall oeuvre d’art[1]. Thematically, a story that accounts the development of a youth over their integral periods of their life is considered a bildungsroman. This literary genre follows the processes of an individual’s maturity and the tears and wears along the way. As the very first panel presents a first person introduction of the character at 10-years-old, we can expect the rest to be a qualifiable account of the author’s life throughout the remainder of the text. We follow the author as she experiences the most trying times of her life and end with her leaving this world that has reared her behind. Also, taking into consideration Persepolis is somewhat of a memoir, we know exactly what has become of our protagonist as her media projects are being consumed.

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2 June 2008: Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’

Posted by Christina on March 20, 2009

roman_de_gareThis really was a very excellent film. For me, it was fun because it was in French but other than that, it was a thrilling, suspenseful and mysterious film that kept me guessing until the very end.

New University Newspaper: Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’

Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 41, Issue 31 | Jun 02 2008

With immense talent to share with a world of film patrons across the globe, French film director, writer, cinematographer and producer Claude Lelouch has been steadily creating masterful works since the early 1960s. Spearheading the success of his future projects was the extremely well-received “Un Homme Et Une Femme” for which Lelouch took home several major awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay.

Lelouch remains relentless and returns with another originally- crafted work with “Roman de Gare.” From beginning to end, the audience is left guessing as the turbulent life of each character unfolds throughout the expository demeanor of the film. Lelouch makes the film an amalgam of varying forms of art and places them together seamlessly.

“Roman de Gare” explores layers of reflexivity as stories and scenarios surrounding the main protagonist, Pierre Laclos (Dominique Pinon) turn out to be the subject of an explosive novel by a revered author. Whether he is a ghostwriter, a pedophilic murderer or a husband abandoning a stabilized life of security, Laclos is obviously the key that ties everyone together. Just how and by what means is uncertain and having that question answered is what leaves the audience gaping in suspense until the very end.

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