Monday, August 20, 2012

You've Got Mail!

I recently re-watched this wonderful film.  Now, when I say that I "re-watched," I feel that this distinction is necessary from just plain old "watching again."  When watching the film, which is of course part of my chic-flick infested DVD library, I felt that I was watching through a new pair of eyes.  It is not that it has been years and years since I watched the film, for I have often caught at least part of it while flipping through the channels.  What made this occasion different, was my purposeful choice in watching the movie from beginning to finish (as is intended by all directors) and the fact that it has been many years since I watched this film religiously.  That's right, this film was part of a large group of films that were not only a regular part of my daily life, but also helped to shape me into who I really am.  For example, my love of coffee, tea, and the cute, quirky shops in which they are sold sprung from the many scenes in which the characters can be seen consuming these products in different venues.  Another prime example would be how I came to decide that daisies are my favorite flower.  Right again, Meg Ryan's character Kathleen Kelly's favorite flower is the daisy.  I will leave off that subject with those two examples, for a whole series of blogs need to be written about how different films have formed most of my opinions and strange hobbies.

The subject that I do want to cover about this freshly experienced viewing of  You've Got Mail! is how my interpretation of its message and its beauty were completely opposite from what I held to be true prior to today.  When I was religiously watching this film as a teenager, I found the use of technology very interesting and fun.  Greg Kinnear's  character, Frank, seemed hilarious in a way that older generations always seem amusing to the younger.  His nostalgia surrounding his obsessive purchases of typewriters seemed silly and his refusal of embracing any technology that he did not understand, stubborn.  Now that I live in a world where communication has taken an irrevocable turn toward technology reliant mediums, I have more sympathy for Frank's hypocritical stance of accepting an electric-run typewriter but not a laptop.  As our world gets further and further away from reality and stretching into the seemingly endless world of virtual reality, I have those same fears of the ever-changing new devices and obsessions of technologies left behind.  A rotary phone was once an  unimaginably wonderful convenience, but today a phone that you have to physically dial numbers and can't generate pick-up lines at the same time seems like something that could never be considered convenient at all.  With this viewing of the film, I have indeed discovered its true conundrum.  The main them of the story-line is a stream of emails between two strangers and the giggly talk of all the inappropriateness of chat-rooms, messaging, and the like.  Within that story, however, the main characters are booksellers.  Granted at the time of the film's release, the "world wide web," as it was still commonly called, was just in its infancy.  With the nooks, tablets, pdf files, and every other electronic form of information, literature, news, and commentary that can be ascertained in this day and age, it is a more ironic story.  I am sure that you are thinking that even this blog is hypocritical, for it is after-all a blog, and that is unfortunately true.  But this medium is the only way that I could have more than my boyfriend read this message (though there is still that risk).  Hypocrisy or no, this film highlights a struggle that I feel many people experience with the emerging technological world, whether to embrace the convenience or worry about facing the consequences of it.

Beyond the scary innuendoes about the technological world, this film has a beauty to it that I never before completely comprehended.  Sure, in the past I thought the witty comments emailed back and forth were cute and humorous.  As I watched the film on this occasion, however, I realized the poetry in the words.  Tom Hank's character, Joe Fox, particularly seems to have this gift with his poetic descriptions of New York in the fall, bagel dust on the streets, and the wonderful decision making process of ordering coffee at Starbucks.  This film is filled with more beauty because of its ability to make you create things with your own imagination in a way only a book requires.  The viewer is never shown a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils delivered to Kathleen, but I am sure that we all imagined what they would look, smell, and feel like.  Beauty also lies in what the camera does show you.  There are many incredibly magnificent scenic shots throughout the city and in the sets.  From the fall leaves, the view across the river to NJ, bagel dust, and great wood paneled rooms, offices, and stores this film shows the beauty of New York City in a way that is untouched by the chaos, noise, technology, or hustle and bustle.

If anything, this last viewing of You've Got Mail! assured me that it belongs not just in my DVD library, but in all film libraries for it can entertain as a cute and simple story, but underneath has something more special to say.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

V for Vendetta

I have recently watched the movie V for Vendetta  for the first time.  It was recommended to me by a friend, knowing my love of anything British and my curiosity of what the future holds.  The things that stood out the most for me in the film, were not the basic atrocities that the English government had committed on its people, for an extreme right government secretly causing the demise of the previous world and blaming others in hate, is in all likelihood very plausible.  What did stand out to me were three things:
  1. The use of very slender, all touch cell phones.  The movie was filmed in 2005.  Although smartphones had already been created, and I am sure they were well on the way to releasing touch screen phones, as of yet there was no such product available on the public market.  I wonder if those who watched the film for the first time, having never owned an IPhone or Droid,  even realized or wondered about the type of phones that the characters were using throughout the film.  For me the the connection between such a corrupted world as the one portrayed in the film and the widespread use of the technology that is common place today, is a connection that is entirely too easy to make.  How easier could it be to control a population than through technology that is indeed "smarter" than most people.  A device that is connected to the world in every facet can also connect you to any facet of the world whether you want to be or not.  Please do not misunderstand me.  My IPhone is sitting in my pocket, so I will be a victim along with the rest of you.  But it does make one wonder, did the creator of the movie think that far ahead about the future of the cell phone industry.  My curiosity continues when thinking about the original storyline being created in the 1980s about the 1990s.  I have not had the privilege to read the graphic novel series or to even see the illustrations. But I do wonder if the use of that sort of technology is depicted and if the author had the same ideas. 
  2. Another very important message that I read from the film which was not overtly pronounced, is the lack of any racial variation in the people of this new Great Britain.  There is reference to one black individual who is also assumed to be an homosexual.  The film does point out extreme atrocities to both homosexuality and to the Muslim population.  No part of the film ever speaks specifically of race, has only slyly recruited an entirely caucasian cast, aside from the singular black homosexual male.  My curiosity here is not that such a oppressive government would not do hideous things to people that may at all seem different.  My curiosity lies in the fact that I am not entirely certain that the lack of diversity was intentional.  My hope is that it was purely intentional, and the director or creator did not want to force every message down the audience's throat.  This hope is fueled when remembering the short scenes in Larkhill and the individuals on whom the virus was tested.  Those scenes do have quite a bit more diversity than in the rest of the film, and were said to take place before the virus epidemic which eventually killed hundreds of thousands of people.  
  3. My final thoughts about this film surround the idea that it all started because the "war in the United States spread to Great Britain."  The United States is referred to as Godless and that the Colonies are just a giant leper colony.  Does this reflect England's snobbery over us Yanks?  Yet, one of the main characters is played by an American, Natalie Portman.  Is this film a message about how connected we in the west really are, and if one falls we all fall then just start pointing fingers?  With the European Union in the state that it is, the "Great Recession" still seemingly in full swing, and the "Communist" country of China having so much power, it is easy to think that we may very well be able to answer some of these questions first hand.  Just a question of who will fall first and how far.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mary Barton

My knowledge of such a famous author, can once again be attributed to film. I first encountered Miss Elizabeth Gaskell's work through watching North and South, a Masterpiece Theater release. The ingenious of the fantastic story in joint with the illumination of the relationship between the north and south of England, particularly in the eighteenth century, keeps me going back to watch it again and again. Ok, so Richard Armitage is also a big draw.

The point is, this film lead me to want to read another of her works. My choice was Mary Barton. Although I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before, it seemed that the title Mary Barton rang at least a few bells. This book is a great piece of Victorian Literature. The base storyline is a love triangle that ends in murder. Within that story lies so much more about the political and socio-economic climate of the north of England at this time. Her writing engages the reader to think more deeply about Unions and what they really stand for. Socialism is presented in a way that many would never put such a name to it. The publication is contemporary with Karl Marx, and affiliation is too negative and referential to the Soviet Union and China. This book does not just focus on a one side's view of the economic contingency. In the end, you see the opposing view of the rich man's perception of the poor man who murdered his son to prove his point about the lower lot in life.

I believe that this book should make perfect source for any Western civilization class in order to highlight the Victorian Period. More subtle than Dickens, more real than Austen, and more politically revealing than Hardy, it makes a great addition to any academic library.