Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

You Know You’re in Turkey When…

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

(An American of Turkish heritage in Turkey)

By: Peri Unver

*These observations are not generalizations but merely my own personal ones that I have made this summer.

1.  You take your life into your hands whenever you’re in a car as drivers think the middle of the
road is the way to go.  Also, it’s not a complete day until you’ve been honked at least forty times.

2.  You are greeted first by a hello, how are you, kiss on both cheeks, and a comment on how much
weight you’ve gained.

3.  You can fist-pump to the break-up songs.  At first, it’s hard to tell that the song is telling someone off and it’s unsettling to then hear “Shake your booty on the floor now” (inevitably in the remix).

4.  People on the street are gladly willing to help direct you someplace or help you get out of a
sticky parking situation.  However, smiling (especially in the grocery store) is seen as a sign of weakness.

5.  The food is mouth-watering good everywhere and hole-in-the-wall, home-food places are best
(as in New York).  Places to eat are so clean that even in the food court in the mall there are fresh, open salad bars and buffets.

6.  The color of the ocean simply cannot be replicated and it is easy to see why the name is
turquoise, or “Turkish blue.”  It is easy to scoff (especially when you’re from California) at those with surf boards asthere are no waves in Turkey.

7.  The understanding of making a line at a bank or another established location is a circle.

8.  The price of everything, from clothing to food, is negotiable.

9.  It is a prerequisite that you must be able to sing and dance in order to become a Turkish
citizen.  You must also know the lyrics to Turkish songs as questions about that are always asked on game shows.

10.  In almost anyTurkish home you enter someone will be able to read your fortune from Turkish
coffee grinds (“fal”).

11.  The concept of personal space is a foreign one in Turkey. Wherever you are, someone might be virtually sitting in your lap and not even notice it.

12.  When you are going to watch a show at night settle in because you’ll be there for the long
haul, at least three to four hours.  When asked if the show is still on the answer will always be yes.  (It’s no wonder when on the Turkish version of Wheel of Fortune one of the slots is “tell a secret” and song and dance breaks are taken frequently.)  Also, during commercial breaks, you can indeed make a sandwich, take a shower, visit a neighbor, and still be in time for the next portion of the show.

13.  The relatively new law (2005) requiring accessibility for people with disabilities unfortunately falls short, as I personally witnessed this summer as I used a wheelchair.  Almost everywhere is not
accessible and the ramps are of varying widths and scarily, angles.  (Places from the movie theater and even an orthopedist’s office have a hill of steps and no lifts, ramps, or even handrails.)

Even with all of its quirks, it is a beautiful country to visit with much history, nice people, and amazing food.  So hos geldiniz (welcome) to Turkiye!

Summer Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman Lacks Heart

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

In the Disney version of Snow White, the title princess is a bit, well, boring.  Or is tame a better
word?  This summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman throws all of that sweetness out the door and exchanges it for a fierce, feministic tale.

Snow White and the Huntsman is as grim as the brothers’ tales themselves.  The story is the same,
young girl’s mother dies and father is taken in by beauty of a mysterious woman.

The twist is that Charlize Theron plays one of the most evil queens possibly ever to grace cinematic history.  Sadly, Ravenna has a tragic past, and a few good points too, about how men in that time used women and disposed of them without a second thought.  The problem?  Ravenna and her creepy, equally evil brother have one too many screws missing.

Theron takes her role seriously, too seriously perhaps, as she channels Ravenna’s pain through her tortured stare and her rage as well.  Theron is an exceptional actress, and this film no doubt belongs to her and Kristen Stewart (who plays Snow White), but it seems as though she is in a different movie as her performance is over-the-top.

Stewart is one of the most underestimated actresses of her era but she is given little to do in terms of dialogue.  The saving grace to the unevenness in performances and film itself is Chris Hemsworth, otherwise known as the Huntsman.  Hemsworth brings a necessary humanity and warmth that is otherwise lacking as both the lead actresses are a bit cold.

The special effects in Snow White and the Huntsman are excellent, as are the costumes.  Theron
is stunning in articles like elaborate headpieces and even a long, black, feathered “crow” coat.  These two aspects of the movie are worth seeing even though the film itself is far from perfect.

There are two last notes that are worth mentioning about the movie.  First, the prince (or William,
the Duke’s son here) would have been better left out as he does not even garner a part of the movie poster.  Rightfully so it turns out, as his role and consequence to the storyline are severely
limited.  The love triangle in this way is lopsided.  Second, the battle scenes could have lasted longer especially towards the end of the film (for example, galloping down a beach does not a fine battle make).

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman takes on far more than many summer blockbusters as it shows the remnants of a war-torn land and gives us a fierce look at how strong princesses and queens can be.  Sequel anyone (as it looks like there may be one)?

 

 

PAC-12 Network: Plus or Minus?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

It is my first real week of summer.  And yes, I am already bored.  My general routine for curing boredom involves 1) indulging in crappy TV 2) attempting to repair my sleep debt (impossible) and 3) keeping up with my sports teams like no one’s business.  Being that I’m not emotionally invested in basketball (read: I’ll-watch-it-but-eh), that leaves me Giant’s baseball and my football teams, the Niners and of course our Stanford football team.

Amidst my avid googling, I came across this SF Chronicle article.  It notes that our first football game of the season (at home v. San Jose State) has been moved from Saturday, Sept. 1st to the night before at 7pm.  That is right, ladies and gents, we will have a Friday season opener.  While this may not be that significant in and of itself, I think it gives us Stanford fans something to think about.

While Friday home opener is a little disappointing, the change itself is not the most significant part of the story, especially since not many students will be able to attend anyway (you can count me there).  It leaves me to question, how many more times/dates will be switched on us to satisfy the PAC-12 Network?  Looking at other team’s schedules, we aren’t the only ones to have Friday night games (which I’m not that opposed to. High school anyone?), but some teams even have Thursday games scheduled.

With late Thursday classes and sections, I wonder, if we do have a home game yanked to a Thursday, how many people will we lose?  How many season ticket holders won’t go because of work early the next morning? How many students will have a mandatory attendance section?

Our home game schedule already sucks, as noted by Kabir earlier this year (article here).  We have only three home games while school is in session.  USC happens before school starts.  Big Game was moved to… OCTOBER.  While I may be a tad (okay, REALLY) emotional about this since it will be my last football season as an undergrad, I still feel like any Stanford undergrad who attends home games probably feels like they got cheated…just a little bit.

The upswing to all of this, of course, is that every PAC-12 football game will be televised nation-wide, which is great for revenues and visibility and especially great for Stanford alums that live out of area.  This is an amazing perk and will be great for the conference and for our school.  I am personally hoping for a full season of hard-hitting football in which last year’s middling PAC-12 contenders really step up, and we give SEC fans something to think about.

Still is the weird schedule worth the perks?  I, for one, am on the fence.  Let me know what y’all think!

Do you think the PAC-12 Network brings more good than bad?

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How to Own the Stanford Housing Draw

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Okay, okay, I’m kidding. There’s no way to beat the draw. (I mean, it is just a random number that you have no control over. Sorry.) But you can do the next best thing: avoid it altogether. Put your housing out of the lottery system and into your own hands.

Disclaimer: This is written for those who want to live in a tier 1 or tier 2 house. If you’re into FroSoCo and the like (“FroSoCo and the like” meaning, uhm, just other tier-3 houses!), you can put your housing into pretty much anybody’s hands and you’d still be set.

French House is a Tier 1/2 house, but you just might be able to live here all 3 upperclass years...

So, let’s say you want to live in a tier 1 or 2 house all three upperclass years. You look at that recent Daily draw article and sigh. A 784 to get into Xanadu, a 1159 to get into Durand, and a 360 to get into French House… It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see what’s happening if you get a 1500-3000 draw number: you’re not getting in. So what do you do? You don’t let it come to the draw at all. Here’s how:

1.      Staff (Tier 3)

Staffing is pretty much the sweetest deal ever. You get a single. You get paid. You get to plan what happens at your house (and have people listen to you, too). You get a leadership position for your resume. You get to brag to your friends about being on staff. You get to use tier 3, and still live wherever you want. Perfect, right? Right.

OK, there is a caveat – namely, you can apply for staff and not get selected. But there are so many houses, so many staff positions, and so many senior staff who have to be replaced that you probably will be selected. In fact, in my 2 years at Stanford, I’ve never heard of anybody applying for staff and not getting any staff position (but then again, I guess people wouldn’t exactly publicize that). But even if you don’t get selected, you’re not worse off than if you hadn’t applied for staff at all (well, ok, except for the bruised ego. But then just don’t tell anyone you were rejected and move on).

(more…)

Memes and Extremes: ASSU Judgement Day

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This article is a response to Kristi.

Everyone has their quirks, especially here at Stanford, where high achievement is often the result of hyperorganization and highly developed time management and planning skills. Where Stewart MacGregor-Dennis differs from most students is that he posts his thinking online for all of Stanford to see. This can make him a target, but it also means that you know the candidate you are voting for. Spending his personal money on maintaining his social media (if you look through his ODesk account, he has only spent about $50 services related to his campaign) doesn’t seem to be an issue pertinent to his ability to be President.  And in the end, it’s all transparent: everyone can see his likes, twitter followers, and ODesk account. Why is the most controversial issue in this campaign the idea that a candidate might actually try to maximize his social media footprint? Some tactics may have been misguided, but to claim Stewart is unethical or that he was trying to dupe the student body is laughable. We all know how the internet works: things that get liked or followed get more likes or followers. But everyone can still see who is liking and following what.

Stewart MacGregor Dennis and Druthi Ghanta

The current attacks on Stewart aren’t focused on his experience, or his platform. They don’t critique the things he has done working for the ASSU, and they don’t question his plans for the coming year.  Instead, they focus primarily on his personal life. This isn’t problematic in and of itself—politicians open themselves up to scrutiny by the public. Stewart, perhaps more than any other student at Stanford, lives his life with transparency.

Much has been made of the infamous 40 page life plan, his propensity for mind mapping, and his active tweeting. These are all ways in which Stewart has combined the private and public spheres of his life. This is quirky, and it’s easy to look at a 40 page life plan and crack jokes (you have, after all, forty pages of material to work with). However, the things that look eccentric in Stewart’s personal life are the things that make his successful in Stanford student government. Life plans, mind maps—all of these are indicative of a strong vision and a passion for organization.

The ASSU needs a President that can keep track of it’s  its over 650 student groups, the over 40 university committees with student representation, and branches of government like the SSE, SSD, Undergraduate Senate, and Graduate Student Council. And if it takes a thousand mind maps to make it happen, then that’s what it takes. Next year, I want Axess to be improved and upgraded further (a la SimpleEnroll), co-hosting small grants for students groups, and affordable summer storage for students and student groups. These things affect Stanford far more than a few unwanted emails or the number likes on a Facebook status ever will.

Vote for the candidates whose platform you support on April 12 at ballot.stanford.edu.  

Update: This is Rachel Rose. This article was posted to my personal Facebook, but thanks Adam for the reminder to be clear for those not on Facebook.

Enough is Enough: the ASSU Titanic

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

This article reflects my opinions on the current student government and the upcoming ASSU election.

I’m pulling the Brett Favre clause and coming out of retirement on writing about the ASSU.

Why?  Because, at a certain point, misconduct and misrepresentation become so blatant that something must be done.  The current ASSU Vice President should not be reelected.  Period.  Freshmen: this is for context.  Upperclassmen: for the love of God and Stanford, please vote.

This is the man who brought you forty page life plans.  The man whose laundry list of goals included bringing the most entrepreneurial animal to campus.  Whose student government claimed the title of “world’s most effective and innovative student government” before the school year had begun.  Whose campaign of “transparency” produced emails that were cut off due to exceeding Gmail length limitations.

Those things were harmless and mostly just lame.  But recent discoveries have surpassed the realm of the pathetic and entered that which is morally dubious and downright reprehensible.

Coming soon to a Newsfeed near you. (photo credit: Sam D'Amico)

Consider the following:

If the ASSU President serves as the face of the Stanford student body, is this the face we want?

In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We will all live with the consequences of this year’s election for a year to come.  Make your voice heard and VOTE on April 12 at ballot.stanford.edu.  

To use your own words, Stewart:  #BOOM.

Leave “The Hunger Games” Fully Satisfied

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

There has been a lot of speculation, expectation, and hype for the long-awaited The Hunger Games movie premiere.  Some critics have celebrated the film and others have been quick to point out the film’s flaws.  With all of the excitement it is almost impossible to leave The Hunger Games fully satisfied, but Hollywood gives it a valiant effort.

After several threats from my older sister, I finally read all three books of the Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, making sure to finish well ahead of the movie release.  I am glad I did, because it seems as though some of the critics have not read the books.  In this movie’s case, knowing the material ahead of time provides a richer experience.

Set in a dystopian, apocalyptic future where North America no longer is North America but instead Panem, a collection of districts ruled by the cruel hand of the dictatorial Capitol.  Every year the apathetic Capitol commands one girl and one boy from each district to compete in what is called the hunger games, a fight to the death where only one child will survive.  Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself for her younger sister when Prim is selected as one of the competitors. What is striking about these novels is the author’s fearlessness and ambition, as she captures a wide foray of human themes, from betrayal to resilience with a heroine that is both vulnerable and fierce.  Humanity drives The Hunger Games, an anti-war novel, from start to finish.

That said, The Hunger Games is a big load to carry.  Subtlety seems to be director Gary Ross’s forte.  That is both a positive and negative for the film.  With a PG-13 rating and a tricky subject matter, being subtle is a good choice in the scenes of the games.  However, Ross’s filmmaking style detracted when it is flitting back and forth to different places and is literally shaky.  Ross seems to be going for grit, but The Hunger Games could actually use more punch.

Some parts of the film are too subdued.  Avid fans will be upset that some details are changed, including who gives Katniss the mockingjay pin.  The garish Capitol is not so garish in the film.  It is understandable that the designers of the film did not want to go too over-the-top with the costumes but Katniss is supposed to be “on fire” after all.  In addition, the special effects are also not impressive.

The Hunger Games has an outstanding cast.  Jennifer Lawrence is strong as the lead.  Lawrence has quite a lot to take on as such a beloved heroine.  She captures the fierceness (as she did in Winter’s Bone wonderfully) but perhaps is a bit too stoic.  Maybe Lawrence could have used a little more vulnerability to let us know what Katniss is thinking, as we are unable to look into her mind as we are in the first-person novel.  Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, Katniss’s mentor in the games, and Lenny Kravitz brings gravity to the film as Cinna, a supporter of Katniss.  Rue is beautifully played by the young Amandla Stenberg.  In fact, the reaping and the scenes with Rue are the most touching of the entire film.

Elizabeth Banks plays the funny, silly Effie perfectly and Stanley Tucci is also great as the amusing Caesar Flickerman.  Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale (both in love with Katniss) are also very good.  A weak link unfortunately is Donald Sutherland as who should be the evil, snake-like President Snow.  Sutherland comes off neither sinister nor frightening.  He is not able to capture what Ralph Fiennes was able to when he played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.

Overall, The Hunger Games is done well and tries to stay as true to the book as it can.  Hopefully, the second installment will be even better as the filmmakers learn what worked and what did not.  Perhaps with the second installment they can capture and stress more the urgency of the work’s main theme, that against all odds we must never lose sight of our humanity.

(The soundtrack that has been released is sadly and surprisingly not used in the film.  “Safe and Sound” could have worked well.  Here it is, Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift Feat. The Civil Wars.)

Be Thoughtful About KONY 2012

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Joseph Kony, an African warlord leading the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has become an international sensation thanks to Invisible Children, a group of human rights activists. They been able to successfully wield social media to make people care about their cause. Kony is now famous because the world wants his arrest and prosecution for his “crimes against humanity.”

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube DirektKony 2012

I watched the KONY 2012 video. I clapped at moments of triumph for people in Uganda and didn’t allow myself to hide my eyes at the images of mutilation or abduction. Even though I’m the last person to follow major trends, considering the gravity of the idea and the sheer number of people attempting to share it through Twitter and Facebook, I understood  that it is something that I shouldn’t ignore.

After finally seeing the video for myself I learned a few things:

  1. Everything about the video was created to appeal to the youth of developed nations. There were cute kids, horror, and a mission deeply seated in social media and activism. Anyone watching that video can help by sharing it.
  2. This is a 9 year old problem, with circumstances that may or may have changed since the video was produced.
  3. There was both the Mumford & Sons and dubstep in the same video. And it worked. Both reflect the way the filmmaker appealed to the culture Gen Y knows and loves. It made it seem like the video wasn’t coming from a major stuffy organization, or a ragtag group of freedom fighters – it came from one of us. Or, at least, it was meant to feel that way. (more…)

Is Tech Entrepreneurship in a Rut?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Another tech bubble waiting to pop?

I recently read an interesting article in Business Week Online entitled, “It’s Always Sunny in Silicon Valley.”  This article analyzed the many ways in which Silicon Valley, like Stanford, often finds itself in a bubble, an “alternate reality.”  Essentially, author Stone suggests that given the localized prosperity that Silicon Valley enjoys, the region “may lose touch with the rest of the world” and the global financial crisis.

I’d argue that Stone got it right – sort of.  The article seems to underestimate the ability and nature of the tech gurus of Silicon Valley to barrage themselves with news and information from around the world using a variety of media sources.  It isn’t a lack of awareness that puts Silicon Valley in a bubble, but the difference in actionable priorities.  The modern tech bubble (as The Economist has deemed it) seems heavily oriented towards the consumer desires of the upper class and tends to choose redundancy over the risks of innovation.

“It’s like Pandora… for cats”

Look out, they're breeding!

We see it on campus as much as we see it in the modern tech climate.  iPhone and Android app classes are among the most sought-after on campus, and yet only those able to afford iPhones and Androids are able to benefit from their apps.  Luxury products and their markets grow out of convenience, rather than necessity or innovation (see examples here and here).  Some companies hiring on campus (both student-started and external) spend more time clarifying how their products are different from existing products than explaining how they work or why they’re relevant.

A recent Flipside article, “Friend’s Idea for Start-Up Just Google Docs” was funny mostly due to its frightening resemblance to reality.  Viral video “Sh*t Silicon Valley Says” likewise satirized the redundancy trend.  “How is this different from Facebook?”  “Think of it like an Instagram for hamburgers.”  “Think of it as a Netflix for YouTube.”  Phrases like these generate nervous laughter and amusement because the start up du jour often uses similar catchphrases.  The problems addressed by these redundant apps are invariably something more likely to surface in a “First World Problems” meme than on the UN Millennium Goals task list.  Some sources suggest that, “even though technology is more pervasive in our daily lives than ever, it’s stagnating.”

Does modern product redundancy have innovation in a rut? (more…)

#FreeFadi

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Have you ever met someone on campus that you were positive would change the world?

For myself and many others, Fadi Quran, Stanford ’10, is that person. He is an empathetic soul with a passionate and powerful voice and a very real commitment to justice. He’s also got a great sense of humor- he once made me laugh so hard that milk came out of my nose!

Which is why it’s especially hard to watch the following video of Fadi being pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested by Israeli police during a non-violent protest in Hebron on Friday:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

The Stanford Daily and The Atlantic have reported that Fadi was being detained in an Israeli prison in Moscowbya awaiting a hearing.  At the hearing Monday morning, the judge decided not to release him; instead, Fadi was moved to a prison in Ofer for another hearing the next day.

At Stanford, Fadi was an active promoter and participant of campus dialogue about Israel and Palestine.  Since graduating, he has been a part of other non-violent activism such as the Freedom Riders (modeled after those of the US Civil Rights movement), in which he and five other Palestinians rode buses to demand the right to travel freely. The protest in Hebron which he took part in called for Shuhadda Street, a street in West Bank closed to Palestinians, to be reopened.

The petition for Fadi’s release currently has over 2100 signatures (including Noam Chomsky’s and several Stanford professors), and the Stanford Daily has had consistent coverage, but we need to do more. Check out www.freefadi.org, sign the petition, tweet #FreeFadi, share on Facebook and in person— spread the word.

I know that people see the words Israel or Palestine and decide that this is a political debate which will upset people… something so complicated that they shouldn’t even bother. But this is not about politics, it is not an attack, and it is not complicated.  This is about a friend, a member of the Stanford community, an American citizen, a human being peacefully and non-violently standing up for what he believes in and being beaten and detained for it. In the words of one of Fadi’s own heroes and role models, Martin Luther King Jr., “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Fadi’s detention is an injustice that stands in the way of true and lasting peace. Do something about it: join the coalition for his release.

“The Vow,” “This Means War” and “The Grey”: Spring Misses

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Valentine’s Day and post-award season consideration means a mess of spring movies.  These end of winter into spring films are neither here nor there.  They are not in the realm of being nominated for anything and they are also not summer blockbusters.  Consequently, the movies end up being forgettable, in the grey area of film.  This means they are not horrible (sometimes) but are not really any good either.

Most of these types of movies make pulling out money for a movie ticket hard and yet when you want to go to the theater there is nothing else to see.  So, it becomes a decision of what will be the least painful.  Another way to think about these movies is to think that it will be an escape, just some mindless fun.  Otherwise it is best to wait for DVD since they will be out soon enough anyway.

This devoted moviegoer went to see three of these kind of films recently, sadly.  It was hard to stay away from the movie theater for too long and that is the truth of the matter.  “The Vow” was the first up.  Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams play a young couple, Leo and Paige, madly in love.  After a car accident Paige loses her memory of Leo and all their time together (interestingly she only forgets her husband).  Of course, she remembers her old life and that she is engaged to another man. (more…)

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method”: Moviegoers Feel the Chill and Are Left Out in the Cold

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method” are two of this year’s indie films with specific niches that garnered no big awards.  These two movies prove the unfortunate perception that smaller films are not always better and that sometimes not waiting for DVD is a mistake.  This is sad because many a time it is the small films that are undiscovered gems; they can surprise us, teach us, and open our eyes the most.

At first before I saw both of these films I wondered why they had not been nominated, especially for the Oscars.  Keira Knightley was applauded by her peers for what they called a fearless performance and Ralph Fiennes had directed a modern take on Shakespeare (usually an Oscar favorite). (more…)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Boy’s Search

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

My mother recently said that there has yet to be a strong movie made about 9/11.  Not only is it a difficult subject to approach, there is the question of perspective.  By this I mean should the movie be more political or personal?  Should the movie try to represent many people, many families, or just one person?  In the case of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” the film is about the latter viewpoint.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” received mixed reviews from critics, mainly negative.  The fact that it made it onto the roster of Best Picture nominees for the Oscars is a surprise.  The film overall is far from perfect.

A young boy named Oskar struggles with the tragic loss of his father, who was in the Twin Towers on what he calls “the worst day.”  He tries to overcome his fears in a world that makes no sense by creating a puzzle that he believes will give him some more time with his father.  Along the way Oskar meets many people and finds that even when we would wish for nothing more than to be alone, we simply cannot be on life’s journey. (more…)

Remembrances of Movies Past

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This year’s two biggest standouts and award winners are “Hugo” and “The Artist.”  Both films have a big thing in common.  Besides being beautifully directed, artsy, and uplifting, “Hugo” and “The Artist” are an homage to classic cinema.  The movies also both champion the preservation of film.

Martin Scorsese surprised many by directing a film that children could actually see.  “Hugo,” set in Paris, is about a young boy who has lost his father.  Hugo lives in a clock in a train station, where he must hide from gendarmes who would take him to an orphanage.  His life changes when he finds the key to a robot that his father was trying to fix. (more…)

Movies With Heart: Capping Off Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

As this Valentine’s Day is coming to a close why not wind down with a movie or two, or three?  Don’t worry, these aren’t the usual Nicholas Sparks picks.  Here is a quick list of movies, quirky and poignant, that won’t add to your toothache or your heartache.

“Lars and the Real Girl”:  Ryan Gosling is at his best (and his best is pretty darn good) in this touching, quiet movie.  This sleeper was overlooked and underrated.  Gosling plays a man who is painfully shy and must come to terms with being an adult with the help of his brother and sister-in-law, some kind friends, and a girl who is not entirely “real.”  One of the funniest parts is when Gosling quickly chucks a flower away in order for the girl he likes not to assume it was for her.

“Sense and Sensibility”:  “Pride and Prejudice” (the BBC version of course) is wonderful as well, but Emma Thompson arguably did a better job with “Sense and Sensibility” than Austen herself.  The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping, as is the soundtrack.  Kate Winslet and Thompson play Marianne and Elinor, sisters and best friends who are navigating the waters of upper crest society and marriage in a time when women were not able to even dream of becoming anything that they could call their own.  Elinor aptly states that it is “a bit bewitching” to think that one’s happiness rests on another person.  In this case, it is not hard to imagine and it is wonderful to watch.

“Once”:  This movie is a great surprise.  “Once” won the Academy Award for Best Song for the beautiful “Falling Slowly.” Falling Slowly, Once Lyrics The song could describe what one feels while watching the movie itself as two underdogs struggling to find their way find each other instead.  “Once” shows how we can indeed make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it is just through passing by.  Another strong aspect of the film is the music.  The lyrics are haunting, describing everything from heartbreak to discovery of self.

“Lost in Translation”:  Ships passing in the night seems to be a favorite subject in literature and films alike.  Sofia Coppola manages to do this subtly, though.  Scarlett Johansson (in her strongest role, possibly) and Bill Murray are two Americans who have trouble adapting while visiting Tokyo.  They both feel lonely in a city crowded with people and find some solace in each other.  These two have a connection right away even though the odds may not be in their favor.

“Roman Holiday”:  There has to be at least one classic pick, right?  “Roman Holiday” is full of fun and truths as well.  Gregory Peck (sigh) plays a journalist who believes he has landed a big story when Audrey Hepburn (playing a princess) lands on his doorstep.  In one day they find that they can relate to one another and learn to really care for each other.  The most memorable scene?  Watch it and find out (it is at the end). (more…)