‘Blair Witch Project’ 15 Years Later

blair

The year 1999 has been getting a lot of buzz lately.  It’s been argued as one of the best years in film history, with movies like Fight Club, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, and of course The Blair Witch Project being released.  15 years later, plenty of people have taken it upon themselves to revisit some of these movies to see if they stand the test of time, and what made them so revolutionary for their time.

What’s interesting about The Blair Witch Project, which was released 15 years ago this July, is that, while it’s considered to be a breakthrough in horror cinema and even film as a whole, it only holds a star and a half user rating on Netflix.  How can something so highly regarded by so many critics be so universally hated by today’s movie streamers?

Let’s start at the beginning.  Blair Witch has always garnered some interest from me.  I can be very critical of horror movies.  I often roll my eyes when I have movie nights with friends and they pick some terrible 2010s horror film.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like horror movies, but they can’t be too redundant and they have to be done right.  If you ask me, Blair Witch definitely fits that criteria.  I first watched it with a friend this summer.  He told me it was the movie that introduced him to the horror genre – something I still find odd today when there are movies like The Exorcist and Halloween that exist.

If you haven’t seen it, Blair Witch is a found footage movie.  It’s actually the film that popularized the found footage horror film genre.  Movies like Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield can thank the low budget 1999 horror film.  The difference between Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, however, is at the time, people didn’t know whether or not Blair Witch was real or fiction.  This is something that, to me, is admirable.  It’s something that you won’t find in cinema today, and almost an argument that the lack of technology and resources in 1999 made the horror genre scarier.

bl2

Blair Witch follows three film students who travel to Burkittsville (formerly Blair), Maryland in October of 1994 in order to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair witch.  Heather Donahue takes colleagues Josh Leonard and Mike Williams to Burkittsville to interview locals and go in search of a cemetery in the woods.  They were last seen the day before they entered the woods and were never found again.  Footage of their camping trip was found deep in the woods buried far below the ground.

As the audience watches the camping trip unfold on-screen, it soon becomes obvious that the trio has no idea where they’re going.  Heather, who originally assured the other two that she knew how to get to the cemetery, takes a while to admit that she’s lost.  The map that was given to her before entering the woods leads them nowhere.  After several days of walking during the day and camping at night, they start to realize that they’re traveling in circles.  Despite walking a full day in one direction, they end up in the same place they were the day before.

Suddenly the stories of the cursed Blair witch, and Rustin Parr, the man that murdered seven children out in his house in the woods nearly 50 years before the events of the film, become very real.

Perhaps the reason Blair Witch holds a bad rating on Netflix is because there’s never any “jump out of your seat” scares.  Not even toward the end.  The terror that comes with this film is subtle, but it stays with you long after you’ve watched the movie.  It helped instill the idea that sometimes offscreen scares can get the biggest reaction.  There’s very, very minimal gore and nothing that pops up on screen that will make you scream aloud.

For me, the thing about Blair Witch that scares me the most, is finishing the movie and thinking that this could happen to me.  The subtlety about it.  The fact that it’s so lowkey.  It makes it all the more believable.  There’s a reason why people, at the time, thought it was all real.  Going camping in the woods and getting stranded, unable to leave no matter how hard you try, hearing terrifying noises at night, and waking up to find bundles of sticks and piles of rocks that were not there before… That is terrifying.  Something about it just sends chills down my spine.

bl1

Donahue, Leonard, and Williams all went by their real names for the film, grounding it in reality.  A website was set up dedicated to the film, and is still active today.  It’s been updated, however, to advertise the film on DVD.  At the time it served as a promotion for the movie.  Pictures of the “lost” filmmakers are featured on the site with backstories about them.  A mythology section is set up to explain the timeline of the Blair witch legend, the story of Rustin Parr’s murder spree, and the events that happened in the film.  In addition, photos of things like Josh’s abandon car, found footage, and the filmmaker’s found equipment make it all the more real.  This website is so 90s – and so creepy – it makes me want to have a mini heart attack just looking at it.

You can hopefully see the breaking type of cinematic experience Blair Witch was during its day – pulling together low budget footage, the internet, and word of mouth to create something so much bigger and more impactful than intended.  The movie is largely open for interpretation, especially with the final scene.

[Major spoilers ahead]

Toward the end of the film, Josh goes missing while on watch one night, leaving Heather and Mike to fend for themselves.  In the last stretch of the movie, Heather finds Josh’s bloody shirt wrapped in a bunch of sticks along with what appears to be bloody teeth or bone.  Mike and Heather hear what sounds like Josh’s screaming from afar and go looking for him – eventually leading them to what is assumed to be Rustin Parr’s old home.  The final scene shows Heather walking around with her camera in search of Josh.  She eventually heads down to the basement where we see Mike standing in the corner.  In the stories of Rustin Parr’s murders, he would make one child face the corner while he murdered another.  In this final scene, we see Mike facing the corner for just a moment before the camera drops to the ground..  We can only assume that this is when Heather is killed.

bl3

One fan theory states that Josh was singled out from the beginning.  His belongings were tampered with.  Much like Rustin Parr before him, the spirit of the Blair witch possesses him and drives him to kill his friends.  When we hear him screaming, we are hearing him scream as he pulls out his own teeth.  Heather and Mike go to the old home to be killed by him.

Another theory suggests that the three filmmakers travel back in time at some point during their trip.  Rustin Parr’s home is originally believed to be burned down, but we see it at the end of the film.  In addition, the characters are never able to find their way back to the road despite walking for hours.  What might explain this is the fact that the road wasn’t even there yet.  Traveling back to a time when the road hadn’t been built – perhaps a time when the Blair Witch or Rustin Parr still inhabited the woods.  The footage had been said to be found deep below the ground in a place that it couldn’t have been placed in recent years.

Just thinking about all these possibilities is giving me chills.  This is something that modern horror rarely does.  Something so subtle and open for interpretation, I believe, is a great way to go to get scares.  You might not be screaming while watching the film on Netflix in your living room.  But when you go to bed, the next time you travel through an area densely populated with trees, the next time you go camping, or even the next time you go out for a drive alone in the dark, you’re going to be thinking of this movie.  At least that’s what I did for some time after viewing it.

I think that’s a great achievement for the filmmakers.  Despite its low Netflix rating, arguments by many that it’s not scary, and rants about its out-of-date grainy camera style, The Blair Witch Project is one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen, and it definitely holds up fifteen years after its release.  Cheap scares seen today can never hold up to the offscreen scares in this movie.  It saddens me to think that we probably won’t experience a cultural phenomenon like this again, but it’s nice to look back and appreciate something that had such an impact on a popular genre today, and to know that it was truly revolutionary for its time.

Advertisements

Teddy Dunn on Duncan Kane and the Bad Boy Mentality

Duncan-KaneAs a Veronica Mars fanatic, I should probably be following in Rob Thomas’s footsteps by google alerting him and the cast (although I would probably be getting tons of results from Rob Thomas (the whore) singer, and tons of Frozen related KB stuff).  A cast member I didn’t expect to be reading an interview from anytime soon is Teddy Dunn, the actor who played Duncan Kane, Veronica’s original love interest for the first half of the series.

Duncan was written out of the show mid-season two and never returned except for a short appearance in the season two finale.  Since then, Dunn has left acting behind altogether to pursue a law degree.  He now works at a law firm in New York City.  You can read an exclusive interview between Dunn and Yahoo! TV here.

Citing his experience on Veronica Mars as a turning point in his view of acting, he says he no longer has any desire to be a part of the entertainment industry.  Originally pursuing acting as an art form, Dunn says he soon realized that acting is more of a business.  A business that he would rather stay out of.

While people like Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, and Percy Daggs III can cite their good times shooting Veronica Mars, Dunn doesn’t seem to be as thrilled about the experience.  For starters, he originally wanted the role of Logan, which would eventually go to Dohring.  It took several pleas from Thomas to get Dunn to screen test for the role of Duncan.  Beyond that, there was some definite confusion regarding the character and how he should be played.  At first seeming distant from everyone, Dunn was originally told that Duncan had a mental illness.  He was told that Duncan was bi-polar.  Dunn did his best to play the character that way, but after seeing audiences react badly to this, Thomas had him try a different approach.  This was something he struggled with.

Although fans saw Veronica and Duncan as clear love interests early in season one, they soon became aware that Veronica and Logan’s tension and dislike for one another could lead to a great romance story.  Veronica and Logan’s first kiss toward the end of season one in “Weapons of Class Destruction” is still cited as one of the defining moments of the series, and unfortunately, Duncan and Veronica never quite measured up in fans’ eyes.

Duncan has been cited as “boring” compared to his counterpart, and it appears that most fans never really warmed up to him, or if they did, they threw him aside when they became aware of Logan and Veronica’s budding romance.  They are definitely the fan favorite.  And if you try to explain why Logan is a bad suitor for Veronica?  All the horrible things he’s done to her and others in the past?

Well, fans will simply tell you that Duncan had sex with his sister.

A storyline in season one involved Veronica possibly being Jake Kane’s daughter.  This would mean that she was Lilly and Duncan’s sister.  At the end of season one it’s revealed that Duncan is the one who “raped” or rather, just had sex with Veronica at Shelley Pomroy’s end of the year party.  Even though Duncan thought Veronica to be his sister at the time, both were under the influence of GHB.

“When I read it, it actually to me made the Duncan character make all the much more sense as to why he had to stay away from her, as to why he was so despondent to her, as to why he had to just cut it off without any explanation. Just sever the ties and say I can’t be around you because I’m so attracted to you, but you’re my f—king sister,” Dunn told Yahoo! TV.

“I think that [they were both roofied] also changes the perspective of it a little bit. I think people forget that great detail.”

ustv-veronica-mars-teddy-dunn

 And while there are no hard feelings for Logan and Veronica’s romance, he still has a hard time understanding why fans forgive Logan for all the bad things he’s done.  For tormenting Veronica, organizing bum fights, drugging Duncan and Veronica at the party, and just being an all-around jackass.

“How does he get a clean pass? I don’t understand that,” Dunn says. “I think my character was largely a sympathetic one. I don’t think I necessarily got the opportunity to show it all the time. I would have liked to see one of the scenes I had tested with which brought out more of Duncan’s true colors before Lilly’s death. I would have liked to explore that a little bit more than I got the opportunity to.”

As someone who likes Logan and Veronica together, I can definitely agree with that.  From experience with several different fandoms, it’s easy for me to see that many (mostly women) try to justify the bad boy suitor’s actions while simultaneously explaining why the good guy is actually the worse of the two.  This is so blatantly obvious in the case of Veronica Mars with Logan and Duncan.  Even after all the horrible things Logan has done, fans are still ready to tear down Duncan while building up Logan.  Veronica’s other main love interest, Piz, is often given similar or even worse treatment than Duncan.  Actor Chris Lowell often jokes about the horrible time he had playing Piz on the show because of fans’ backlash.  Piz was innocent, sweet, funny, and an all-around good guy.  If anything, he’s probably the most identifiable person for me on the show.  And yet, he still gets trashed by fans.  They’ll do anything to throw him to the ground.  He’s a coward.  He can’t stand up for Veronica.  Blah blah blah.

My point is, even if you prefer Veronica with Logan, there’s no need to trash talk a perfectly good character.  People will do anything to make a normal, likable person seem like the devil.  In Duncan’s case, he obviously wasn’t perfect.  And I think Thomas and crew did their best to make him more complex.  His mental disorder definitely added something to the game.  Fans love to talk about both Veronica and Logan having troubled lives in high school.  Logan’s father abused him and (spoiler) turned out to be a murderer.  On the other end of the spectrum, Duncan’s sister was murdered, he discovered his girlfriend was actually (though turned out to be false) his sister, and he was drugged at a party by his best friend – resulting in a traumatic sex experience with the girl he believed to be his sister.  If anything, the guy has his own issues.  Whether or not Thomas played on them enough is debatable.  Whether or not fans give him too much of  a hard time for being a bland, unrelatable character is not.

Meet John Smith

As an avid Veronica Mars fan, I’m on Dunn’s side.  The guy has expressed a little frustration with his character and the material (or even lack thereof) given to him.  He’s even expressed little interest in returning to the franchise in character.  Up until this point, I had questioned Dunn’s relationship with Thomas.  There’s been very little to no mention of his character or the actor himself by Thomas or the cast.  And with Ryan Devlin (season three’s Mercer Hayes) replacing Dunn as Duncan in VM‘s new web series, it was definitely questionable. As it turns out, Dunn isn’t sure he wants to play Duncan again, even if he is to consider coming back to the acting world.

In a way, I feel bad for him.  He ended up playing a character that wasn’t exactly the one that was pitched to him.  And then he ended up hated by fans.  The complexity of his character often wasn’t allowed to show through, and now there’s very little room for him to return.  Even if fans are clear about who they want Veronica to be with, I still say she had something special with Duncan, as she had something special with all her love interests.  I still would wish to see Dunn back on screen alongside Bell one day – that is if VM ever returns again to some sort of screen.  To me, Duncan will always be somewhat of a missed opportunity, but still definitely an essential part in making Veronica Mars what it is today.

Is Miles Teller Wrong for Speaking His Mind?

DIVERGENT

Miles Teller (Project X, 21 & Over, The Spectacular Now, and most recently Divergent) was all over the internet in the news yesterday for comments he made to The Hollywood Reporter regarding his experience shooting Divergent.  Discussion of his new indie film, Whiplash, or plans for a musical with Emma Watson weren’t what were making headlines.  Instead, he was ridiculed for making the following comments:

“When I first read Whiplash, I was feeling dead inside. I didn’t have an interesting part (in Divergent), and I’d taken the film for business reasons: It was the first movie I’d done that was going to have an international audience. I called my agent and said, ‘This sucks.’ He told me about Whiplash.”

Perhaps it was an attempt to promote Whiplash, which was praised by critics earlier this year at Sundance and will be seeing a limited release in theaters next month.  However, it didn’t go without some consequences.

The 27-year-old actor was praised for his work with Shailene Woodley in last year’s indie coming-of-ager The Spectacular Now.  Teller reappeared on screen with Woodley back in March in Divergent, the first of four films based on Veronica Roth’s series of YA Hunger Games-esque dystopian novels.  With plans to appear in a reboot of Marvel’s The Fantastic Four next year, Teller is on his way to stardom.  However, with comments like the ones he made to THR, he might have some problems along the way.

Unlike The Hunger Games, Divergent wasn’t as well received by critics.  You can generally expect, however, for the actors who are still currently involved in the franchise to keep quiet about their distaste for it (see Twilight franchise).

Like other actors before him, Teller has been in hot water for speaking out against a project he’s been involved in.  Katherine Heigl withdrew her nomination for an Emmy because she felt the material given to her didn’t warrant enough to receive that award.  She was soon after written out of Grey’s Anatomy and is still nearly universally hated for what she said.  Megan Fox spoke out against the Transformers franchise and Michael Bay, later to be absent from the third installment of the series.

So is Teller headed for the chopper?  Is there going to be someone to replace him in the role of jerk Peter in future Divergent installments?  Well, soon after his comments went viral yesterday, the actor released somewhat of an apology via Twitter:

Rather than apologizing for his comments, Teller seemed to state the complete opposite of them.  If he’s never done a film for “business reasons,” then why did he tell THR that’s why he signed on for Divergent?  It seems like a quick fix to make the studio happy and to prevent some future conflict.  I say for someone who will most likely appear in three more Divergent movies, it’s probably good for Teller to issue an apology, even if it doesn’t seem genuine.  If Teller were a prominent actor in a franchise that I deeply cared about, however, I probably would be upset with him.

For someone who’s paid an immense amount of money to act in a film, promote it, and be a nice guy about it, Teller doesn’t seem to be doing a great job.  If a prominent Harry Potter actor were to come out with these comments, I probably wouldn’t be too happy with them.  I can see where the backlash is coming from.  No one likes someone talking bad about them or things associated with them to other people.

I’ve seen several comments about Teller’s smugness.  To be fair, I feel like most of this comes from the type of characters he’s known to play: usually assholes, or egoheads, or buffoons.  Some of it, though, seems genuine.  Some people who have met the actor in real life have claimed he has a bad attitude.  I can’t necessarily disagree considering I’ve never met him.

All that being said, does Teller still have the right to make these comments?  You bet.  I don’t necessarily blame him for saying them either after watching Divergent myself.  He never exactly went into a lot of detail regarding the experience.  He simply stated it wasn’t enjoyable.  People seem to have problems with celebrities speaking their minds.  I’d like to point out that they’re people too, and they have opinions.  Teller, while “smug,” or “a jerk,” or what ever, is still a person who has thoughts and opinions.  Is it right for critics and audiences to state their negative opinions, yet somehow wrong for Teller to do so?

I think when people have a major issue with an actor saying anything slightly negative about something they’ve been involved in, it becomes more of an issue with our society.  People want them to shut up.  To keep to themselves.  Granted, free speech has consequences, but it’s there for a reason.  I, for one, while not exactly understanding of his half-hearted Twitter “apology” and somewhat empathetic of Divergent fans who might be upset by this, stand by Teller and his right to free speech.

‘Veronica Mars’ Turns Ten

 vm-Veronica-Mars-splash

A long time ago we used to be friends.

Ten years ago today the public was introduced to spunky teen private eye Veronica Mars and her band of friends (mostly former friends and enemies) in the fictional beach town of Neptune, California.  The neo-noir television show was never a ratings booster for UPN, but it went on to be critically acclaimed and a cult favorite.  With its movie premiering earlier this year, a new book series, and a spinoff web series on the rise, Veronica Mars just might be more popular than ever.

The first thing you probably notice while watching the pilot is Kristen Bell’s cringe-worthy hair and clothes.  Rewatching the show with my girlfriend (her first time) has me defending it, almost embarrassed to say this is one of my favorite television shows of all time – if not my favorite.  Watching teenagers sport bad early 2000s clothes and hair (“Don’t worry, it gets better as time goes on”) with somewhat corny background music is a little rough, but when it comes down to it, Veronica Mars is so much more than that.  There’s definitely a reason why it’s still being talked about 10 years later, and there’s a reason why it was resurrected from the dead seven years after its cancellation.

Veronica Mars, while perhaps stuck in a three year time period in the mid-2000s, still stands the test of time.  There’s been nothing like it since it went off the air in 2007.  Veronica has been dubbed as a replacement for Buffy, but there’s been no replacement for her.  A clever, resourceful, and sassy young woman who uses her wit to outsmart others.  What more could you want?  Forget Marvel superheroes.  Veronica, with her intelligence and “take shit from no one” attitude, is the only superhero I need, and to me, she’s the superhero of the 2014 box office.

Not just one, but several compelling overarching mysteries seen over the first two seasons are part of what makes the show so great.  Since viewing the show for the first time about a year ago, I’ve watched it twice, and I’m currently on my third run.  I guarantee you it won’t be my last.  I’m a little late to the game, but Veronica is and from now on always will be one of my favorite on-screen stories and characters.

I think it really says something to be this relevant 10 years later, and to have gained so many fans (myself included) in that period of time.  Despite what people say about me or my beloved little cult television show, I’ll fight for it until the end.  I’m sorry, is that too sappy?  Well, you know what they say.  I’m a marshmallow.

‘The Maze Runner’ and Issues Encountered with Book-to-Movie Adaptations

maze runner

I’ll have to admit that The Maze Runner didn’t capture my attention when I saw it on bookshelves several years ago.  As someone who had finished two-thirds of The Hunger Games (and still hasn’t finished Mockingjay – we’ll see if I can manage to do so before the film’s November release), I was pretty much over dystopia.  The first two Hunger Games installments were great and I thoroughly enjoyed the movies.  The last few years, stories told via YA book and film have been dominated by dystopias.  I’ve read my fair share of book synopses featuring disappearing adults, teenagers with wiped memories, and children killing each other in their own societies.

The Maze Runner isn’t entirely different from its YA counterparts, but when I read the book last month I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  The book isn’t perfect, but it’s a breath of fresh air for me.  It only made sense for a film version to be released.  And with Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’brien starring as the lead, it was to be expected that the film would garner enough attention for a film franchise.  20th Century Fox seemed to know this, as the sequel started pre-production before the release of the first installment, and its release date was just announced today as September 18, 2015.  Wes Ball’s feature length debut has gained plenty of attention.

Going into the film I was well aware of its mixed reviews from critics.  I didn’t have the highest expectations, but I wasn’t expecting a Mortal Instruments (see here) either.  Walking out, I couldn’t say I was disappointed, but the movie definitely didn’t exceed my expectations.  It faulted from issues with adapting books into films.

The_Maze_Runner_-_Trailer_A

It’s expected that The Maze Runner would include some changes, but I would say at least 60% of book events were either changed or left out.  The book takes place over several weeks with the main character introduced to the world of the Glade, an open field surrounded by a large maze that teenage boys have cultivated into a community over the process of three years.  Thomas has no recollection of anything before he was brought into the Glade by the Box, a crate that carries up a newcomer boy with amnesia every month along with supplies.

Author James Dashner has created a whole world full of colorful characters, original slang, and terrifying creatures much like the world of Harry Potter.  Unlike the first Harry Potter film installment, The Maze Runner doesn’t really give viewers much time to take in this world.  For a very brief moment we get to know more about it, but soon after we are whisked away into action sequences and change triggered by Thomas’s arrival.  In its 113 minutes, it’s definitely hard to capture the same feeling the book gives off, but I found myself viewing several unnecessary changes on screen.

For starters, the complexity of some characters were really simmered down.  In the book, one of the film’s antagonists, a Glader named Gally (Will Poulter), was given more of a backstory.  The relationship between Thomas and another fellow Glader, Alby (Aml Ameen), is more strained in the book than we see in the movie.  Minho (Ki-hong Lee), a runner of the maze, is less of a hero in the book than he’s made out to be in the movie.  Conflict is placed much more in the hands of Gally than we see in the book.

Another change I have an issue with has a lot to do with the main plot of the book and how the characters escape their entrapment in the Glade.  In the book, Thomas seems to have been sent to the Glade in order to help the Gladers escape.  To solve the maze.  To find a way out.  In the movie, Thomas just appears to coincidentally be involved in the Gladers’ escape.  Granted, Thomas does do a lot to challenge the rules enforced and set in place by the Gladers over the years in order to change things.  But when it comes down to it, the whole mystery of the maze seems much less complex than portrayed in the book, and the characters could have much more easily found a way out without Thomas’s help.

maze-runner-2jpg-a29df7_960w

Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), a girl who shows up in the Glade not long after Thomas, feels less important in this adaption than in the book as well.  The connection felt between Teresa and Thomas is weaker, and their backstories are less emphasized.  She acts more as a background character than a centralized part of the plot or important counterpart to Thomas.  Another character who entered the Glade coincidentally as the others are about to escape.

I can see how the changes were made for cinematic effect.  Certain things that worked on page might not work on screen.  Building Gally up into more of a villainous role was a good decision, but less emphasis placed on other plot elements was not.  The Maze Runner attempts to simplify its story to make things easier for the viewers, but in the end, it loses much of the complexity and inner conflict that made the book worthwhile.

When a friend asks me whether the movie was good or worth seeing, it’s hard for me to respond.  I usually try to read the book before I see the film, but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it or not.  Some of my favorite films are based on books that I’ve never read, or I have and still enjoy the film better perhaps because I watched it before reading the book.  Would I have enjoyed The Maze Runner better had I not read the book first?  More importantly, what would I think of it?  What do I say to someone who hasn’t read the book and doesn’t share my preconceived thoughts?

I would say the film was good, but not great.  It’s definitely worth your time to watch.

But more than anything I would say you should read the book.

My Issues With Social Media

By now you’ve probably seen countless of articles arguing against social media.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that platforms like Facebook and Twitter probably aren’t good for our mental or social health.  We all take issue with staring at a screen for several hours a day, and yet we  continue to do so.

I’ve deactivated my Facebook account several times before in attempts to live a more productive life.  I always come back.  And even as I’m writing this on my laptop, I’m considering opening a tab on my computer to check Twitter.  I’ll own up to my problem.

Social media, in theory, is a good thing.  It’s a place to connect with the people you love.  Whether it’s through pictures, videos, funny posts, or encouraging words, social media is supposed to be a positive experience that allows you to be closer with friends, family, and even strangers.  To be fair, it’s a good idea, and it can be very useful.

But much like life itself, social media isn’t always a positive experience.  Aside from the wasted time spent looking at your phone or computer screen, social media can actually add to a feeling of disconnection if you’re not careful.  And many people are not careful.

The problems I’ve been having with it lately stem a lot from negativity.  Tonight I spent some time with some good friends.  One of which left before the others, and right after getting home she decided to post a Facebook status about us and how we had made her feel excluded in our get-together.  Granted, now looking back, I can see how she felt that way and I understand.  What I take issue with is her little effort to try to communicate with us what she was feeling.  She didn’t talk to us about it much before she left, and she didn’t even bother to text or call any of us to tell us about it.  Instead, she decided to talk about us (not by name) passive-aggressively on a public domain.

Most of us have all been guilty of it.  A friend or family member does something to upset you.  You don’t want to confront them about it so you flee to Facebook or Twitter to share your thoughts.  It’s an easy habit to fall into.  Again, I’m not denying that it’s something I haven’t done before.  But it’s certainly something I’ve been trying to be better about.

I feel like for so long now social media has been a negative force on my life.  I’ve had friends get upset with me for seeing photos or tweets or status updates involving me with other friends.  They see photos of me with some of my other friends and are upset because I’m with someone else besides them.  Or maybe they get upset because they weren’t invited to tag along.

Either way, these are things that the person wouldn’t have knowledge of if it weren’t for social media.  For example, if I didn’t have a Facebook account, I wouldn’t be able to see my friend’s status updates about what a great time they’re having with their other friend.  I wouldn’t be able to get jealous because I’m sitting home alone on a Friday night with no plans.  I wouldn’t be able to form irrational thoughts in my head because of constant delving into people’s private lives on a public domain.

For a public place, social media has gotten pretty personal.  There are some people who do a much better job with keeping their private lives separate from the public life they want to display on social media, but there are always going to be people who overshare.  And even when you don’t overshare, it’s still unsettling to think about how much information people can obtain about your private life (who you were with last weekend, where you went, what you did) on your Facebook page or your Twitter account or your Instagram profile.

Even after all of this, I still understand the appeal of social media.  Without it, I probably wouldn’t be keeping in touch with many of the people that I do.  I probably wouldn’t be meeting new people through common interests and experiences.  It still can be a force for good.  But when people write passive aggressive Facebook statuses about their friends for the world to see, when people get a little too upset over little things they see on social media, when prying into people’s private lives becomes a norm, I think we have a problem.

Everything needs to be taken in moderation, and social media is no different.  I’m still going to use Facebook and Twitter and Instagram because they’re things that help me keep up with people that I care about.  They’re things that help me feel connected to not just friends and family, but also the outside world.  I just have to remember that they’re public domains not for things that should be kept private.  I have to remember that spending too much time on there, and taking everything I see on their too seriously, is not good for my mental health my relationships with other people.  I also have to remember to disconnect often, and go out and live my life without the crutch of media for a social experience.

‘Boyhood’ Is the Voice of a Generation

Boyhood-main

I’m a tad late on this, but Boyhood is by far one of the best films I’ve seen all year, if not one of the best films I’ve seen in my lifetime.

If you haven’t heard of it, the film, directed by Richard Linklater, known for the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise trilogy, was filmed over the period of 11 years between 2002 and 2013.  Boyhood is the product of 45 total days of filming, mostly centered on the main character, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he ages from a 6-year-old boy to an 18-year-old young adult heading off to college.

Now let’s take a moment to think about all the effort that has been put into making this film.  Coltrane said that Linklater would generally get the cast together every summer to film.  Going into the project, Linklater had to know that Coltrane and his family would be reliable enough to commit to doing this.  Even though it wasn’t much effort on Coltrane’s part to shoot for a week or so every summer, the idea that this has just been part of his life for the past 12 years is astonishing.

In addition to Linklater and Coltrane, both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke had to commit to playing Mason’s parents this whole time as well.  Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, played Mason’s older sister, Samantha.  Several other actors portrayed characters over several years as well.

994126_427997737339243_5745957271549955984_n

The film starts with a 6-year-old Mason.  As the film progresses, we see learn more about Mason and his family.  Mason’s sister, Samantha, is older than him by only a year or two.  Their parents have been separated for a little while now.  Mason and Samantha’s father, Mason Sr., has just reentered their life after living in Alaska for roughly a year.  He’s decided to move back to Texas.  Their mother, who is trying to piece her life together by going back to school, is upset with their father for his irresponsible and childish behavior.

Boyhood doesn’t accomplish anything big in terms of plot, but I wasn’t exactly expecting that when I walked into this movie.  Linklater didn’t have anything intricate planned when starting this project.  He knew it would end when Mason headed off for college.  He filled in the gaps as each year went by.  And we don’t just see Mason grow up on screen.  We see Coltrane grow up as well.  As Coltrane started getting older, Linklater started sitting down with him to discuss what was going on in Coltrane’s life year by year to get an idea of what should be included in the film.

boyhood-ethan-hawke-ellar-coltrane

Coltrane grows before our eyes from a sweet, artistic boy to a cynical, moody teenager, and eventually to a more responsible young adult.  Several rants about we hear in the film from Mason are beliefs that Coltrane actually holds.  In addition, much of Coltrane’s physical appearance in the film was determined by his own decisions regarding his appearance in real life.  Most of his haircuts are his own real life haircuts.  The ear piercings we see on him during his high school years were done prior to filming.  Coltrane called up Linklater to ask him if they were okay, and the director actually liked the idea, and okayed them, similarly to how he okayed the blue nail polish that could be seen on Coltrane’s fingernails while filming one day when he was in high school.

Coltrane’s acting isn’t exactly superb, but there’s something grounded in his presence on screen.  This movie isn’t about the performances anyway.  It’s about much more than that.

“I just want to do anything I want, because it makes me feel alive, as opposed to giving me the appearance of normality,” a 16-year-old Mason says.  Don’t we all?

boyhoodbyrichardlinklater1093447TwoByOne

As someone who’s roughly Coltrane’s age of 19, watching this movie was like a flashback into my own past.  Seeing Mason watch Dragon Ball Z on his tube TV as a child, going to the midnight release of the sixth Harry Potter novel, sporting long surfer hair in middle school, seeing all the signs for Obama in people’s yards during the ’08 presidential election, and much more reminded me of my own boyhood and growing up over the past decade.  In a way, this makes it much easier for me to relate to this film.  But really, anyone can relate.  Mason grows up in an ever-changing environment.  He experiences love and heartbreak, gain and loss, change.  Really, what more is life all about?

I think it’s easy for us to think of our parents and their parents, taking into account all the defining moments of their life, whether it be related to pop culture or not.  But when analyzing my own life, it’s hard for me to consider all that’s happened during my lifetime and compare it to all that’s happened during my parents’ lifetime.  Because I’m younger, it’s easy to feel like these events are less valid than their own experiences.  Watching Boyhood will make you think about life and how it’s just composed of all these small moments.  It makes you sit down and think about all the small moments in your own life that have made you who you are today.

The simple-minded cinema-goer might go see Boyhood and think, “Yeah, it’s kind of cool what they did, but so what?  What was the point?”  If you’re asking this question, you obviously don’t understand the simplicity of the story being told before you.  The story of a boy turning into a man.  A story that we see every day in our own lives.  That’s probably why it feels so familiar, and that’s probably why it’s so captivating.

a_560x375