Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Website

Visit my new website and blog at ianklein.me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Film Viewings 2010

This year marked a dramatic decrease in the number of movies I screened compared to last year. Convenience of going to the movie theatre played a major role in the amount of films I was willing and able to see on the big screen. There’s something too about going to the movies in New York that makes it more of an “event” than I often want it to be which sounds like a paradox but I find it more difficult to be spontaneous on this front than I am in Seattle. Even though I live in New York, I saw only three films in the theatres there this year.

Between an increased workload, a more regular TV schedule, more required and volunteer theatre viewings, film did take a hit. Because of this however, I think what resulted was a more fine-tuned viewing experience, forcing myself to be more selective when it came to the experience of sitting down, devoting my time to a roughly two hour visual treat that seemed to be split fairly evenly between solo and social viewings.

Finally, this year saw a rise in the critical conversations I had with films as I screened several films as research (e.g. The Merchant of Venice, Drag Me To Hell, House of the Devil), as a result of extended cultural curiosity (e.g. Heavy Metal, Little Shop of Horrors, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and through the Dialogical Film Club (DFC) which I list below.

The trend of fewer movies is likely to continue for awhile with the final semester of classes beginning in a few short weeks, work responsibilities and two big TV “events” I’ve embarked on—that is on top of other regular programming—which include a first watch-through of LOST (begun late December 2010) and the Great Buffy Rewatch hosted by Nikki Stafford and for which I will be guest-blogging several times over the course of 2011.

The list you see here and the “awards” I’ve given a select few stem only from my viewing record this year so I likely have missed many a cinematic gem.

May your 2011 be filled with many forms of pop-culture goodness.

Total Films Watched in 2010: 65

Average Per Week: 1.25

Films Seen in Theatres: 17

Most Frequent Film Companion: Kj with 12 films (7 in theatres, 5 via the DFC.) 41% of the films I saw in theatres were with Kj.

Films Watched Twice:
An Education*
Where the Wild Things Are*
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

*Re-watched not due to a fondness for the film but creative and psychological frustrations that merit re-viewings with a group of insightful minds.

Dialogical Film Club Viewings:
The Nines
Where the Wild Things Are
An Education
The Secret of NIMH*
All Dogs Go to Heaven*

*Screened as part of our DFC Summer Monday series under the title “Facing Childhood Cartoon Trauma–Double Feature”

Animated Features:*
Toy Story 3
The Secret of NIMH
All Dogs Go to Heaven
The Princess and the Frog
Heavy Metal
The Last Unicorn

*I was very tempted to include Avatar in this category, because really…

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA
The September Issue
Waking Sleeping Beauty

Best Documentary: Waking Sleeping Beauty

Top Films of 2010 (New/In Order of Viewing):
A Single Man
Toy Story 3
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Waking Sleeping Beauty (wide release in 2010)

Most Disappointing Films of 2010:
The Last Airbender
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
An Education

Viewings 2010
*denotes theatrical viewing

The Nines
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus*
The Hangover
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Julie & Julia
The Box
The Young Victoria
Where the Wild Things Are
A Single Man*
The Wolfman*
An Education*
Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA
Little Shop of Horrors
Where the Wild Things Are
The Runaways*
Out of Africa
Drag Me To Hell
House of the Devil
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Dead Alive
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Toy Story 3*
Up in the Air
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse*
The Last Airbender*
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice*
An Education
Shutter Island
All Dogs Go to Heaven
The Secret of NIMH
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World*
The Merchant of Venice
The Princess and the Frog
The September Issue
Heavy Metal
Legend (Theatrical Version)
The Last Unicorn
Star Trek (2009)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1*
Waking Sleeping Beauty
The Black Hole
Black Swan*
When in Rome
Sunshine Cleaning
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Bright Star
The Duchess
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Grumpy Old Men
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Easy A
Time Bandits
Tron: Legacy*

Monday, December 6, 2010

These Are The Posters In My Film Class

The title nearly says it all.

Since the first day of class in September, I've been pondering the significance is of the only five posters gracing the walls of the classroom which plays host to my film theory class, that over the course of the semester has taken us from Plato to Alberti, Lessing, Kant, Tanizaki, Lacan. One week left of the seminar and we have not watched one frame of film. It plays more like one of my English classes of yore than a film class, which is actually fine as I suppose the goal of the course is for me to carry this theoretical, philosophical knowledge home or into the cinema as may be appropriate-although, I have to say, I see far fewer films in the theater at this time in New York than at any other time in my life; yes, I'm terrified of bedbugs (see case-in-point.In any case, the choice to place posters of these five films on the wall has perplexed me to no end.

The easy and most likely answer is that each probably involves an alumni from the university's film program. Further adding to my sense of unease is the fact that I have not seen any of these films. My mind therefore makes the logical association: I am taking a film class in this room and this is the kind of art I have to aspire too-movies that have played no part in my personal history or burdgeoning creative aesthetic. What am I doing here? What are they teaching me? What kind of artist are they trying to make me?

I shouldn't judge. These could all be incredible films of which I have gone through life completely unaware-I have heard of Punch Drunk Love but have no predispositions thereof-though still none of them would scream "Rent me!" at the video store or "Queue me!" on Netflix. So, if you've seen any of these films, grant me some guidance and clarity of mind as to why these might be showcased so.

Are they worth adding to my queue? If you've seen them all, I'll even let you rank them for me.

Educate me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marriage & Shakespeare

The following was written as a brief hypothetical Playbill note which would frame Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice through a specific contextual lens-in this case, that of marriage.

The Present-Tense Pact: Marriage at the Time of Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is a play of pacts. At the crux of the play rests the legally binding agreement between between Antonio and Shylock over the lending and repayment of three thousand ducats over the course of three months. In order to seal this bond, Antonio and Shylock must solicit the presence of a notary and a contract is made. A simple procedure that works similarly today, but The Merchant of Venice is also about pacts of a different kind, pacts that function in far less simplistic manners today than they did in Shakespeare’s. This “pact” I speak of is that of marriage.

Marriage features prominently at the end of many Shakespearian comedies and the courtship that precedes it is ripe for dramatic play. The romantic comedy that ensues from placing one individual in a position of affection towards another who may in turn place his or her affections elsewhere creates the automatic perception of a throughline as courtship stories inevitably ended in marriage. There is rarely another conclusion—even a non-marriage would constitute a strong outcome if not unsatisfying—the play having nurtured the audience towards marriage through the “wooing and winning” involved in the courtship narrative.

The Merchant of Venice is not strictly a comedy, of course, yet highlights the matrimony of several couples. While the play does end on a rather cheerful note celebrating these happy unions, it certainly lacks the pomp and circumstance of some of Shakespeare’s other ceremonious endings. Perhaps this is because for all of Shakespeare’s emphasis on its dramatic weight, marriage was not always so grand an event in his time. In fact, the rules regarding its instigation were not so much delineated during most of the Elizabethan Era. Matrimonial law was a hotly contested issue for both the Church and the state of England from the middle of the 16th century onward. Finally in 1597 and again in 1604, the Church created a set of standard practices in order to combat the overwhelming ambiguity surrounding marriage touching on the wedding service procedure, registration, and licenses.

Nevertheless, the customs of local communities and other accepted practices varied wildly, but the most consistent of these appears to be the spousal contract created through the mutual, verbal conset of two parties to marry. This would have to be done in present tense words, per verba de praesenti—a practice we continue today with the present tense phrase “I do.” Even in the absence of witnesses, unlike Antonio and Shylock’s monetary legal agreement, the union could still be considered both “binding and indissoluble.”

With The Merchant of Venice, written around the same time as the Church’s first canonical revisions regarding marriage vows, Shakespeare may very well have been demonstrating the boundaries and multitudinous traditions of courtship that were taking place across England. Lorenzo and Jessica—the Christian and the Jew—elope happily, while Bassanio and Portia engage in a much more formal process culminating in their marriage too. In the end, for both couples—in spite of differing manners of courtship—their marital bonds are sealed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Three Dark British Plays

These are three of the darkest plays I've ever read. They're also all by British playwrights. They're more than slightly traumatizing, but I was not been able to put any of them down. With the one I did see, Blasted, I had the strange sensation of being moved and wishing the play would end as soon as possible so that I could leave the theatre-back to a safer place. These are not comfortable plays and that's why I think I love them-I see way to much unchallenging theatre. If you have time to read at least one of these, you'll be doing your psyche a favor.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Sarah Kane's Blasted at SoHo Rep upon a pre-move visit to New York. It features one of the most stunning set transformations I have ever witnessed and two incredibly skilled performances. It remains one of the most haunting theatre experiences I've ever had and continues to be a touchstone among theatre artists for groundbreaking theatre in New York.

British teenagers. Yet their conversations are more adult than most I've ever heard. I could listen to them talk all day. Simon Stephens' Punk Rock is crude, funny, and charming until...it's not. The ending had my stomach churning with horror and sickly sweet empathy-or was it pity? I had to crawl under the covers after I finished this one.

Imagine Peter Pan meets Lord of the Flies meets Where the Wild Things Are and you'd have done a halfway decent job of describing Polly Stenham's Tusk Tusk. What if the Darlings had never come home for their children that night in Peter Pan? What if Peter had never taken the children to Neverland? This is a story of true abandonment, loss and self-preservation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who showed up for the book release party Wednesday night for Smart Pop Books' Inside Joss' Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. It was a great turnout and the staff at Vig 27 was so accommodating. I met a lot of new Whedon fans in the city which I was really hoping to get the chance to do! Let's not wait until the next Whedon-related title comes out to get together again!

Pictures from the event are now up on Flickr! A few are below.

If you didn't make it to the event and still want to purchase a copy of the book, click hereor on the link to the right side of the blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disney Epic Mickey: Interview with Warren Spector

The level of sophistication, creativity and innovation that is being demonstrated with this game prior to its release is really phenomenal. I really hope Disney puts out a "Making of..." book for this title. If there were ever a more compelling reason to get a Wii, I don't know it.

Here's an interview with renowned game designer, Warren Spector who led the Disney Epic Mickey panel at New York Comic Con this past weekend: