Monday, December 11, 2017

Golden Globes 2018 Nominees

I was so excited this morning to learn that my two favorite films this year have been nominated for multiple Golden Globe awards. Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN) received three nominations in Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Picture. It's too bad that the Best Director ignored Luca Guadagnino, but I think the Oscars will recognize him, he really deserves that honor, even though he won't win. And why not? Because Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water is the director I think should win this year, and his film received seven Golden Globe nominations.

I plan to see Call Me and Shape of Water at least once more in the theater in the coming weeks. If I see CMBYN once more, it will be for the fourth time and that will be the most I have seen a film during its theatrical run. Another film I wanted to see that received several GG nominations today is I, Tonya. I had a ticket to see the movie on Saturday along with the cast Q&A, but Toyota in Pasadena found something broken on my car and thankfully the warranty covered it, but, it added on 3 hours to my already long visit at the shop. So I had to cancel the Q&A.

I'm so happy to have found some interesting films and performances to support this Oscar season. I am no longer focusing as much attention on another actor who seems to have put acting on hold, and this just allows me to enjoy the work of artists who deserve the praise for their brilliant hard work.

The Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) award nominations are this Wednesday, and if CMBYN does well there in the acting categories, it's safe to say that both Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer will receive well deserved Oscar nominations in January.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My Twitter Brand Change

I created my Twitter account way back in May of 2009. And since I'm a creature of habit, I have been using the same name handle (@FassFass) and an image of an actor all this time. As of today, I changed my Twitter to @Theatreof Zen and I uploaded my own personal picture. Now that I'm in LA and really exploring the world of film with a first hand perspective, I need my Twitter account to reflect a bit more professionalism, and correlate it to my actual hobby of being the editor of this blog. It's been a long time coming and it's a relief to finally make this change to focus on my branding. I will continue to focus on current events, politics, and the entertainment industry.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Reasons I'm Living in LA!

As the month of November is coming to a close, I find myself stopping and thinking to myself that one of the primary reasons why I moved to Los Angeles is to be a part of the machinations of the film industry. I have accepted the fact that I will not find a career job within the industry, but I could still enjoy it very much by being on the periphery and enjoying film screenings, celebrity Q&As, and attending film festivals. Just in the past week, I have made big decisions that will permit me to be a part of a fascinating world that is part of the entertainment industry.

Firstly, I went ahead and joined Film Independent at the Film Lover level so that I can vote in the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards. This is a big step in the direction I need to take to become even more active in the industry, meet people, and be exposed to more films via free screenings so that I can write more about the films I love. Additionally, at the Film Lover level, I will receive screeners of the films that have been nominated for Spirit Awards. This is a huge deal, and a lot of responsibility comes with this voting ability. So I'm super excited about this next venture in my hobby life. I have been so disappointed and stressed out with my job search and with my other blog in which the muse of my blog has taken a different turn in his life at the moment. But all that be as it is, I'm grateful for my love of cinema which has allowed me to escape the crap of life and enjoy beautiful films.

Timothée Chalamet

In recent weeks, I have seen the Justice League (B+), and The Shape of Water (A), and Call Me By Your Name ( Review: A) - a film that I will see for a third time this Saturday, which will be another Q&A with cute Timothée Chalamet and director Luca Guadagnino. I love this film so much, and with Timmy winning the highly coveted and influential NY Film Critic's Circle Best Actor on Thursday, he now seems to have a clear road to receiving an Oscar nomination, and with enough good will and luck for him, he could actually win. But that's a different blog post at the right time.

And another big event I'm looking forward to is driving to my beloved Palm Springs to attend the Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival Gala on January 2nd. As I write this article, the general seats are still available at $350 a pop. Trust me, this is a good bargain because when I attended the Gala in January 2016, I had to pay $1000 to attend, and I was squeezed in as a favor. But I got my ticket weeks earlier and I will be attending with my Canadian snowbird friends again. Timothee will be an honoree for the Rising Star Award - Actor, and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) will receive the Rising Star Award - Actress. More celebrities will be announced, but you can see the tentative list here. I consider myself to be so lucky to be able to attend an event like this. And then I will drive back to Palm Springs to watch a few movies Jan 5-7.

Being in LA is allowing me to live out my interests of participating in events that support the film industry. If I can't be in a paid creative part of the industry, I can be a spectator up close.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name (A)

With the world in so much turmoil as of late, it takes a simple love story to give us a little hope about the world and humanity. Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Andre Aciman's 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name is that movie that we all need right now. Set in the early 80s in Northern Italy, a precocious gorgeous 17 year old American-Italian boy, Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet, is living with his family in a large villa when they welcome a guest archaeologist scholar into their home for six weeks. The scholar, named Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, is a very handsome, laid back American whom immediately stirs something deeply within Elio. Oliver takes note of this and begins to leave hints to young Elio of his interest, or is it an annoyance? The bohemian upper class lifestyle of Elio's family permits him to have a free spirit attitude towards life. And his interactions with his parents reveals that they respect his individuality, and encourage his creativity and self-expression, as well as exploring his sexuality. When Oliver invites Elio for a bike ride into town, it is a test for both of them to explore exactly what is happening between them, and they become honest with each other because their attraction to one another is palpable. The brewing sexual desire between Elio and Oliver is beautifully consummated one evening and they opened a door that will eventually have to be closed.

Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful love story that you will never want to end. There are moments that make you so nervous about which direction Elio and Oliver's journey will take you. But when Elio's father, played by Michael Stuhlburg, explains to Elio about how lucky he was to have the experience to love Oliver, and be with someone who makes you love yourself and life, and how much his father supports what he experienced, it is a heart warming moment that makes you wish all parents of gay children were as compassionate and loving of their child.

Being in Los Angeles has afforded me the opportunity to attend special screenings of films, and as a subscriber to the LA Times, I was lucky to attend the screening of this film, and the Q&A afterwards with the director and actors. Below are three short videos I recorded from the Q&A which reveal insights into the filming process, Armie's dance sequence, and Timothee talks about the fruit moment. I can't wait to see this movie again, and after it has received six Spirit Award nominations, I believe it will make it all the way to the Oscars with hopeful nominations for Armie and Timothee. Call Me By Your Name will seduce you into viewing it at least twice in the theater as I already purchased by ticket to see it again on Saturday afternoon at Arclight Hollywood.

Grade: A

Armie Hammer (Oliver) and Timothee Chalamet (Elio)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Film Review: Blade Runner 2049 - A+

It is extremely rare that I watch a film and want to see it again immediately. This is the case of Blade Runner 2049, the follow up sequel to the incredible Blade Runner (1982). I was completely mesmerized within minutes by the cinematography, music score, sound design... all the technical awards should just automatically start inscribing BR2049 on the name plates. Set 30 years after Blade Runner Rick Decker (Harrison Ford) disappears, an LAPD Blade Runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is placed on a mission to find Decker because he's the literal key to an important missing link that was recently discovered, which could destroy the so called system of order, or rather, the wall, between humans and replicants.

The replicants are synthetic humans created strictly for slave labor, and there are older model replicants that need to be destroyed. They have been replaced by newer models that are more obedient to the demands of humans. After Officer K kills one of those Nexus model replicants, he uncovers a well hidden grave site that opens a pandora's box of world changing truths. However, the organization that creates replicants learn the truth discovered from those buried bones and are desperate to find Decker. Blade Runner 2049 explores the question, 'Do AIs have a soul'? We certainly see in BR2049 that they are more human that humans in this world, and yearn for the truth to come out so that they can use that information and take control of their own destinies.

Director Denis Villenueve's beautiful, almost meditative journey through an otherwise dusty and dreary landscape makes this 2 hours and 44 minute film go by so quickly because you lose yourself in its beauty, and the anxious moments watching the twists and turns to the climax of this fantastic exploration of human greed, abuse, and oppression over the artificially designed.

Grade: A+

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Film Review: mother! 4/5

I attended the screening of Darren Aronofsky's mother! yesterday at The Landmark in Los Angeles as this was a special sold out screening due to the Aronofsky Q&A after wards. As many of you know, I'm a sporadic novice film reviewer. I don't get paid to review films, and I buy the tickets to the films I plan to write a review on. So when I want to review a film, I have no bias and I really want to give my opinion about a film. With that said, mother! is the rare film that tests my ability to articulate myself about the perfection of a film that I believe is a unique cinematic treat, and should be seen by as many people as possible, although a mere faction of its audience will appreciate it.

mother! is an unconventional film as it starts off with a hint that it is not based in the realm that we humans live in, but instead, it feels like a stage play. Off the bat, you smell the elements of biblical allegories that tug at your sleeve of things you may remember from the bible. Jennifer Lawrence stars as the wife of her writer husband, Javier Bardem. They live in a remote... suspiciously remote, very large house that she remarkably has reconstructed all by herself. She loves to keep a beautiful, clean, bountiful house, and she yearns to have children one day. But her husband is curiously distant, but he plants her hugs and kisses at the appropriate time. He gives off sociopath vibes, but she loves him so much, and want to make their home beautiful and happy, she gives him his space. One day, a stranger comes by, played by Ed Harris, and he becomes too ill to leave. The husband, who never asks his wife to be part of any decision making, invites this strange man to stay. The wife is concerned, but obedient. Too obedient, maybe it's the age difference. Then the next day, the strange man's even stranger wife comes to be with him, and she is wonderfully played by Michelle Pfeiffer. This woman is immediately dismissive of the wife, as if the wife is intruding into her space, her life! Then things really start to unravel.

The wife is haunted by images in her home of past and future decay, a mysterious heart slowly corrupting, uninvited numerous rude stranger guests who are enthralled with her husband, and boy does he love the adulation by these selfish interlopers, and the blood shed by sibling violence which opens up a pathway to a source of power. But with all this going on, this leads to a crescendo of beautiful, crazy, audacious, funny, mindbogglingly, breathtaking, 25 minutes of Seriously, WTF?! Writing about it would be too spoilerish and it has to be seen to be believed! At the Q&A, Darren Aronofsky spoke about how this sequence brings a grin to his face. As the viewer, your mouth will be agape.

And that's not all! The final 10 minutes of mother! is super disturbing in a way that will offend those who are religious and concern those who are feminists. Birth, sacrificing for sins, cannibalism, a woman physically assaulted. All the horrors we read and see in the news of today's world events are captured in these two separate sequences of mother! And in the end, it starts all over and it makes eerie sense.

I've been reading about people walking out of the film, some having panic attacks, and I read on Twitter that the Academy screening had members standing out in the lobby during the last 10 minutes of the film. The real meat and potatoes of the film! Jennifer Lawrence deserves an Oscar nomination for mother! and the film deserves some tech noms as well, especially with cinematography, sound, and editing. This is a film that makes you think about the world today. How we treat mother Earth, how we treat women, how we become blinded by adoration and addicted to that adulation.

I'll go see mother! again, but I need time to still process the first viewing.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Home for Labor Day

I have been so busy that I can't even bother to update ToZ, but alas, since it's the end of August, I need to keep up the theme of one post per month. However, I'm even more compelled to post this blog article today because I learned that I lost a dear friend back in Michigan over the weekend. I worked at a not so good organization from July 2013 to October 2015. If it weren't for my friend Dana going through the same difficulties, and both of us using each other to be a source of support and private laughs, we would have lots our minds and been even more sad and frustrated.

Dana died suddenly this past weekend due to a rare and aggressive cancer that apparently was just only discovered in the past few weeks. She spent her final weeks at the University of Michigan hospital, where she died. Since the day I left that company in October of 2015, I've been in regular contact with Dana via text messages and phone calls. The last time we texted was on August 1st. She was just checking up on me as usual, and she told me that she was starting a real estate investment company. She wanted to hang in at the 'hell hole' for just a few more months, and then she would be all set to go work for herself. I last spoke with her on the phone back in April. What's so sad is that Dana was only 52 and still had so much to live for. She wanted so badly to leave a bad job that she had been at since 2013, but because of the bad economy in Michigan, and the stigma of the place she worked at, no one would hire her. Because I've lost so many lovely people in recent memory, I have some to accept that death is just a part of life, and it releases the person from the misery that was in their lives. Dana provided a great reference for me upon my move to California which helped me secure my first job. I never had a of friends in my life, just those select few cool people, and Dana was one of them. Dana is no longer sick and in pain, and she is not working at the hell hole anymore. God speed my dear friend, and thank you so much for being there for me. ♥

As I plan to go home to Michigan for Labor Day weekend. I think this particular weekend is going to be THE weekend when I go home to visit family from now on. I look forward to making a pit stop in Ann Arbor to get some U of M paraphernalia, and eat a meal at my favorite sushi restaurant! I'm happy to see family and a few friends again, and to get away from my current "job". I've been interviewing, but haven't found the dream job yet. I know I will soon, I've made it this far to California, I'm not giving up now. The weekend after next, I go see Eddie Vedder at the Ohana Music Festival, and the weekend after that, I'll see director Darren Aronofsky for a Q&A at The Landmark for his upcoming film, Mother! starring his girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence. Since I'm missing out on TIFF this year, I'm looking forward to seeing at least one film that is making the festival rounds that is highly anticipated. After getting the email that tickets were available, I went to the website and had a hell of a time trying to buy tickets. I was lucky finally getting a ticket to this film and Q&A as it sold out quickly for a convenient Saturday afternoon screening.

I want to update ToZ much more frequently moving forward. I miss writing for ToZ, and it's always been cathartic and a source of stress release when I update the blog.

Monday, July 17, 2017

First Summer in LA Update

I haven't updated my blog in a while because I've been so busy. Since my last blog post, I have treated myself to a weekend to Palm Springs; dedicated 24 hours of volunteer time to the LA Film Festival; participated in a short internship that was a dud; continued to have phone and in person interviews for jobs; continuing to learn more about the transition job I'm currently at; house sitting 4 cats and a dog for six weeks at a discount of rent; and preparing for my mother to come for a short visit this coming weekend.

It's good to be very busy, but I'm trying to enjoy myself and also enjoy living in my new surroundings of LA County. I find myself trying to remind myself to pace my life and that all good things will come to me in time. It was an incredible life change just moving here on my own with not a lot of money and  no job lined up. But with all things considered, I'm lucky and doing well... but, I could be doing better: living my dreams. I created the image above with words of inspiration that just came to me. I think it's spot on. I often think about all the planning and hard work that got me to this point, and I look back on those crazy days with a sense of pride in myself. And I know that in a year's time, I'll look back at my challenges now and be even more proud of what I accomplished, but in my next step in life, I WILL have that dream job or at least be at the dream company that will allow me to pave a dream career.  But these things take time, and I'm in the most over populated city in the country, competing with people just as ambitious, educated and skilled as I am. So things are going to work out for me, I just have to keep at it and I'll get the job and home I have dreamed of for a long time.