A Manchester Masterpiece

Watch Manchester by the Sea. I feel comfortable making such a bold demand because I can confidently place this movie “up there” on a mental list of fascinating films.

If you’re the kind of person that prefers to go into a movie without prior knowledge and opinions to taint your thoughts, then stop right here.


manchesterAlright, you’ve been warned. Here goes!

Turns out that I am unsure where to start because of all the sub-themes and emotions buried in the layers of this film.

Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a taciturn Bostonian custodian who gives off an initially funky vibe. The first few minutes of the movie are mostly silent: Lee shovels snow, Lee watches TV alone, Lee goes to a local bar, Lee gets in a fist fight at the bar.

What is this guy’s deal?

Lee’s backstory is revealed in the peppering of back-flash snippets during the two-hour stretch. Yeah, I quickly changed my mind about him.

Unrestrained display of raw moments lends this film its poignant emotional punch. There is no shying away from showing agonizingly awkward silences between uncle and nephew or panic attacks induced by frozen meat.

I’m no expert but I think it’s safe to suggest that Michelle Williams qualifies for an Oscar nomination. The scene in which she encounters Lee near a general store parking lot left me speechless.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-01-21At several points in the film, Lee is shown driving quietly alone. There’s nothing to it. Nothing interesting happens; he just drives and occasionally uses the turn signal.

Such familiar slowness reminds me of French film style. Perhaps this could annoy an impatient viewer, or make the film seem unnecessarily drawn out. But I appreciate these scenes because it makes the story seem more down to earth. Ordinary people don’t simply cut from one location to the other, driving must happen in between. It provides for a more fluid narrative.

So I have to disagree with critic David Eldestein, who calls the film draining (but also worth seeing). The slowness is actually refreshing. Lee still goes through the daily motions of life. And quite frankly it helped me relax between intervals of such intense emotional tension. These moments coupled with Patrick’s comic teenage shenanigans keep the movie fresh and lively despite the dark subject matter.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-02-41I am far more in sync with the Chicago Sun-Times’s claim, “What a miracle of a film. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan delivers the cinematic equivalent of a great American novel. Casy Affleck and Michelle Williams give career-best performances… If this film receives anything fewer than 10 Oscar nominations, it’s an injustice.”

Again with the French film style, the movie ends with an indefinite resolution. Gosh, everything about this movie is frustrating yet genius at once.

I juggle with my interpretations of some characters- Lee, Randi, and Patrick in particular. I was so quick to make judgement calls about them. He’s insensitive, she’s uptight. The film progressed to unravel their stories that shattered by initial judgements. I was proven gravely wrong about each character with each new bit of information revealed about them. I took this is a lesson I should apply beyond the movie.

I think I’ve decided on the “meaning” of this film; but I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, and then change my mind again the day after that.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-01-21This is exactly what constitutes a masterpiece though. It sticks with you long after you’re no longer in its presence.

So please, in case I have not made myself clear: watch. the. movie.



Musical Awakening Reflection

I do not know how I wake up. I almost never do know. What is the precise noise, smell, temperature change that prods a body into consciousness? Something at 8:30 AM – a stray sliver of light from the blinds, a soft shuffle of feet, or the neighbors’ Russian talk show wafting through the walls- prodded my body into consciousness. Often times, I am conscious at 11AM, and by 1AM I have mustered up the willpower to bid farewell to my warm cocoon of an abode.

Pushing my back away from the mattress, I teetered on my twiggy arms: panic. What the hell am I going to do with myself today? Mechanically I walked to my desk, pulled out a square of yellow paper. I guess what the hell I was going to do was make an origami moth.

Moth completed, I fluttered to the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised. Feel good, look good. Right? Well apparently it doesn’t quite work the other way around- feel bad, look bad- because, I still looked good. 

Idleness is so tedious.  

Naturally, I feel the urge to turn to art for a sense of comfort, of guidance. Not visual art this time.
the-vaccMy newfound music craze sprouted from my binge watching “New Girl.” I reached the closing scene of an episode that features Jess and Nick driving away into the moonlight to the song  “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines.

That was all it took. Before I knew it, I listened to all of the Vaccines’s albums on the Spotify premium account that my best friend lets me mooch from him (thanks Jack). The Vaccines can help cure me (heh. Witty, I know). But in all seriousness, I have found my band. Or, I guess that it kind of found me.

Considering that I haven’t had a favorite band since the Jonas Brothers, this is a pretty thrilling discovery. Actively listening to music is just not something I normally did before. Sure I had a melange of songs, but they ranged from German rap to Italian opera. Obviously, there was no consistency or coherent music genre. Yeah, that did made it pretty awkward when someone tried to get the conversation going.

Them: So, what’s your favorite musician/band/song/genre?

Me: Shifts nervously on feet. Dramatically sucks in my breath, you know, like how people do when they are about to deliver bad news. Aha.. well, I don’t really listen to music.

Them: Sharp gasp. Wait, what?

Me: Heat crawls to ear tips. Yeah..uh haha.. I mean I just don’t actively listen to music but it’s not like I hate it or anything. I mean I still listen to what’s on the radio and stuff.

Them: Pulls a closeby friend into the conversation. Hey dude, get this. She said she doesn’t listen to music.

Dude: Makes large bug eyes and snickers. What? Are you serious!

the-vacc1In all honesty, I did not understand why music was central to a lot of my friends’ lives. “It speaks to me” pffft, stoner blabber. Headphones equated to antisocial. Hardcore fans were sort of weirdos. I used to scoff at my younger sister’s trash indie music because all the songs sound the same. Now, that isn’t outrageously untrue, but once I researched lyrics and did nothing but listen to the music- and I mean really do nothing, just sit and breathe and listen- it made sense. Listening to music from the same genre is a special experience. The songs tend to produce similar chords and vocals, which in turn elicit similar and nuanced emotions from within myself.

Discovering music is not only the external experience of finding combinations of notes, words, and instruments that appeal to your personal tastes, but, on a deeper level, a force that encourages introspection, curious questioning, and self discovery. Why do I like this sound? What makes me feel emotional about these words? How does this relate to my life, right now? 

As I continue to delve into this musical awakening and explore The Vaccines among similar artists, I’m comfortably settling into a consistent taste. Who in the heck would have guessed that my favorite genre is indie rock? Not me. And, more specifically, english indie rock.

Although I am in a deep honeymoon phase of marveling over the newfound genre, I appreciate other artists completely foreign to me.


Coffee and Cigarettes (2013), a film by Jim Jarmusch, introduced me to Iggy. No, not Azalea. Composed of a series of short skits, the film features individuals sharing a moment, a conversation over, well, coffee and cigarettes! During one of these skits, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet up in a musty looking diner. Iggy Pop has most melancholy and sincere gaze I have ever witnessed, and his face is really comforting to me for a particular reason that I am unable to pinpoint. Awkward and uncomfortable, the exchange caused me second hand embarrassment just from watching the two men interact. But I loved it, in a way, the raw flow of events.

Iggy Pop is captivating, so I explored his music which caused me initial disappointment. This voice lacks the soft and sympathetic tone from the movie. I searched through the Post Pop Depression album and nearly got depression myself (alright, not a very original play on words, I’ll admit). Ready to give up, I absent mindedly clicked on the last song left- “Chocolate Drops.” Eureka! Soft voice! The lyrics! It is perfect.

Thanks to Chocolate Drops, with revived energy I scrolled and clicked on the album Aps. Instantly I was hooked. Iggy Pop sings retakes of songs in French- La Vie en Rose, La Javanaise- with his endearingly unapologetic American accent.

It only felt it fair to give Tom Waits a chance, too, although he did not intrigue me as much. His distinctive raspy voice and daring themes failed to reach me. Only one tugged at my heart strings: “If I Have To Go.” Here, there is no raspy voice, no theatrics.

demarcoThen I rediscovered Mac Demarco. I mistook that gap toothed smile and head of scraggly golden locks as an indication of his music having abstract lyrics infused with many references that would fly over my head. But you can’t judge an album by its cover. He sings clearly, and enunciates his words, words that make sense- Let Her Go, Let My Baby Stay, No Other Heart, Without Me.

There are sprinkles of other small treasures I unearthed. “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Maccabees, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala, “Lead Existence” by King Krule, “Warned You” by Good Morning, “A Lack of Understanding” by the Vaccines, “Parking Lots” by Plums, “Looking out for You” by Joy Again, “Processional” by Weedeaters, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean, “If You Wanna” by The Vaccines, “Hold Up” by Beyoncé.  

High top black converse paired with rolled up jeans and a leather jacket, I ride the bus feeling like a badass. King Krule’s “Baby Blue” crackles at my eardrums. I’ve really been missing out.

Infinity remains to learn about this music world. I want to behave like a sponge to soak it all in; but a productive sponge who labors at building up a steady knowledge of music. Like Spongebob-Squarepants-at-The-Krusty-Krab productive.

From discovering english indie rock to my desire of becoming Spongebob, it is obvious that listening to music is taking me on a journey that I am, for once, perfectly content with having zero control over.

Shower me with any recommendations that come to mind, I would be thrilled to give them a listen.   

Header image: Mac Demarco

Chaplin’s World

My recent visit to Chaplin’s World in Corsier sur Vevey, Switzerland left me feeling starstruck. Chaplin’s World, opened in April 2016, consists of both a museum dedicated to Chaplin and his personal home – Le Manoir de Ban – in which he spent the final years of his life.

The museum is extraordinarily organized, inviting, and interactive. After watching a ten minute introductory film on Chaplin, the guests begin weaving their way through informative panels, excerpts from films, and Grévin wax figures. I really didn’t expect to run into Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Sophia Loren, Oona O’neill, Buster Keaton, Roberto Benigni, Federico Fellini Paulette Godard, Winston Churchill, The Tramp, and multiple Charlie Chaplins! Guests are welcome to interact with small staged sets from Chaplin movies and take pictures.

chaplin barber

Frequent chuckles and occasional fits of laughter from guests as they watch a movie excerpt testify to the pleasant and amusing atmosphere that accompanies the museum visit. Besides being extremely entertaining, however, the museum is immensely insightful.

Did you know that Chaplin wrote, played in, directed, and produced his own films? I certainly didn’t. His particular work ethic of involvement in each step of production is a trait I find admirable and impressive.

Furthermore, his movies starring his famous character The Tramp are deeper than a mod tim. dic. cc.surface level silent comedy. They communicate political and social messages pertinent to the contemporary issues of the time. Modern Times comments on the changing of the industrial, modernized world and the struggles of the Great Depression. The Great Dictator, in which Chaplin plays the roles of a fascist dictator and a Jewish barber, condemns Hitler, Mussolini, and anti-semitism.

I sincerely marvel at Chaplin’s talent; he was able to create a harmonious melange within films, which were charged with heavy sociopolitical subjects, yet laugh-out-loud hilarious.

After visiting the museum, I watched my first full length Chaplin film, The Gold Rush: I laughed uncontrollably. Laughing alone is a difficult thing to achieve, and a film capable of bringing me to do so is a confirmation of true quality. It is special to laugh alone, not out of social convention, but out of genuine amusement. You’re a wizard, Chaplin!

If you get the chance, I strongly recommend you pay Chaplin’s World a visit.