Tag Archives: Harry Potter

An Ode to Movies

What’s a Jew to do in December when Hanukkah was, like, so November?

Everybody knows the Jews created the cinema to give their people a home during the Christmas month more widely known as December. (In my own cosmological version of the Universe, the Jews were a little nebulous puff of stardust that popped amidst all that big banging out and said, Let’s film this sh*t.)

This totally works for me, as I’m Jewish and movies are my favorite thing. In truth, there’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting silently for approximately 90-120 minutes and being transported to another world. There’s a subtext to be inferred here: Jonathan, you like movies because you get to escape your life for approximately 90-120 minutes. But, dear reader (Hi, Mom!), I promise I’m not indulging in film as a symptom of depression. I don’t like movies because they distract me from real life. I like them because they illuminate the emotions of real life, particularly the really hard and complex and messy ones.

That Time Someone Sneezed and Workers Left a Factory

Though my aforementioned creation story is unlikely, I think it’s worth mentioning the real history of movies. We’ve come a long way since the carnival novelty that peep-show parlors offered in the late 1800s. From spectacles of the past to full-blown stories of the present day, we’ve changed. A lot.

The history of film in one paragraph. (With videos!) Let’s do this:

The world in the 1890s was full of new things: cities, steam engines, hot air balloons! Motion pictures became a way to capture and record this rapid change. Thomas Edison was one of the first dudes to realize that these moving pictures could attract a paying audience—in April of 1894, Record of a Sneeze premiered in New York.

The Lumiere Brothers then improved upon Edison and showed that logical, organized, minimalist events could reveal a story (e.g., Workers Leaving the Factory)

Editing soon learned the power of a cut (e.g., The Gay Shoe Clerk, Edwin S. Porter, 1903)…

…and then Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, sound, movie studios, Hollywood, the Great Depression, Casablanca, film noir, TV, and Alfred Hitchcock happened. My film history class only covered origins through 1960, so we have to stop at Hitchcock because I don’t know what happened after that.

Kidding.

Meryl Streep and Beyoncé, the two finest actresses of recent decades, happened.

Sitting Is Boring?

My excitement always peaks when I hear one of my creative heroes talk about the allure of movies. Andrew Stanton, a fellow Pixarian, says movies are at their best when they infuse wonder. Martin Scorsese, who I’ve had the privilege of hearing speak a few times in New York, has a more technical answer:

 Light is at the beginning of cinema, of course. It’s fundamental—because cinema is created with light, and it’s still best seen projected in dark rooms, where it’s the only source of light. But light is also at the beginning of everything. Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light—which means the creation of forms. Which leads to distinguishing one thing from another, and ourselves from the rest of the world. Recognizing patterns, similarities, differences, naming things—interpreting the world. Metaphors—seeing one thing “in light of” something else. Becoming “enlightened.”

Charlie Kaufman says we like them because our brains are wired to turn emotional states into movies. And me (I have an IMDb page, just like my hero Charlie does!)…I think my attraction to movies is constantly evolving. As of late, I view movies as a mirror to the cycle of life. We’re born a blank slate, ready for experience to color us in. Similarly, when those lights in the theater go down, I take a deep breath, clear my mind, and mentally ready myself to be thrust into another realm—to learn a new world, really. Where are we? What’s the time period? Who are the characters? What are the rules of this world?

More important, there’s a deep and profound satisfaction for me in the knowledge that an ending is going to come—to know that I’m going to get a full story, realized from some subjective beginning to some kind of subjective ending. In that way, movies often take away the anxiety of real life in which the future is unknown and scary. Movies, for me, are sometimes more digestible than real life. I feel this way about all of fiction, really—movies, books, theater. They’re like snippets of life, safe and contained within the confines of the screen or page and stage on which they exist. And, for that, I love them all dearly.

A Year of Movies

In January 2013, I started keeping the ticket to every movie I see in theaters. Though I lost a few of them, my envelope is currently filled with 40 tickets. You know how I feel about recommendations, so I offer the following list as just that—a list of what I’ve seen recently and the impressions these films left upon me, starting with two older films that I just got around to seeing this year:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2009 (dir. David Yates)

I haven’t seen this one since it was released in 2009. If you’ve watched all the preceding movies, you may be able to notice something that happens with the actors in this installment: they got good. They’ve all settled into their roles (thank Moses Emma Watson stopped delivering every line with her dramatic huffing and puffing), and it’s really, really pleasant to watch. Plus, the sexual tension makes me giggle.

Stories We Tell, 2012 (dir. Sarah Polley)

Sarah Polley’s documentary is unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen. It transcends its genre as it addresses, in short, the philosophy of truth. The subject is Diane, Polley’s late mother. She’s shown in old home movies; yet, as the story unfolds, the footage becomes questionable and you may just start to wonder what’s real and what isn’t.

Frozen, 2013 (dirs. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee)

“Let It Go.” It’s magic. And totally a LGBT anthem. Just download it on iTunes immediately, okay?

Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013 (dirs. Ethan and Joel Coen)

The latest from the Coen Brothers finds us in the winter of 1961 in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. To watch this movie is to essentially watch Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a struggling musician, as he tries to find a couch to sleep on over the course of one week. The tragedy is that he’s a good musician, but not a great one. What makes me happy: Carey Mulligan (who never smiles), the cat that deserves an Oscar nod for his/her performance, and a young Bob Dylan cameo.

American Hustle, 2013 (dir. David O. Russell)

This one is a story based on the Abscam affair, the criminal investigation of the 1970s in which the F.B.I. called on a swindler named Mel Weinberg to help ensnare public officials. The cast is full of strangers: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (!!!), Jeremy Renner, and Robert DeNiro. It’s really a work of art. What makes me happy: every scene featuring an F.B.I. supervisor played by Louis C.K.

Nebraska, 2013 (dir. Alexander Payne) 

Payne (Sideways, The Descendents) likes his journey stories. His latest, shot in wide-screen black-and-white, follows old man Woody (Bruce Dern) and his son, David (Will Forte), from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. What makes me happy: the scene in which the men lounge around and watch football. It just feels so damn real.

Blue is the Warmest Color, 2013 (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)

The NC-17 Palme d’Or winner from this year’s Cannes Festival. A 179-minute exploration of Adèle, a high school student learning what it means to love and to be loved. She dates guys until she meets Emma, a girl with blue hair who changes her life forever. What makes me happy: Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) who act with their faces instead of their words, resulting in two of the most mesmerizing onscreen performances I’ve seen this year.

12 Years a Slave, 2013 (dir. Steve McQueen)

Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) is easily one of my favorite directors. His latest is said to be the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery. There’s a scene I’ll never forget in which Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freeborn African-American kidnapped into slavery, hangs from a tree with a noose around his neck, supported by only one foot as it barely touches the muddy ground. Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey in a performance I can’t describe with words. This movie didn’t make me happy, but it did leave me thinking about the thousands who never knew freedom.

Other 2013 notables: Blue Jasmine (for Cate Blanchett), Cutie and the Boxer, Spring Breakers (for James Franco), Don Jon (for Julianne Moore), Fruitvale Station, The Great Gatsby, About Time (for the lovely message about what it means to be a father and a son), The Way, Way Back, and Monsters University (for the DVD bonus features that I got to be in with my Pixar buddies!).

My first Hollywood movie premiere.

My first Hollywood movie premiere.

The End

So why tell stories? 12 Years a Slave offers an answer: because we can. The above films are film at its best. When I left the theater after watching each of these, the world seemed just a little bit heavier. In a good way.

Life for me, as it seems, has really become a series of moments that exist between whatever movies I happen to be seeing that week, month, or year. Movies have changed my life, and I hope that never changes.

I found this picture in a photo album at home in Maryland. The caption read, "Which way to Hollywood?"

I found this picture in a photo album at home in Maryland. The caption extending from the top of my white hoodie read, “Which way to Hollywood?”

(ON TOPIC) The OKCupid Profile of Every Gay Guy in San Francisco Ever

My self-summary                                                                                                  How can I sum myself up in just a few sentences? In short, I guess I just really love traveling and soaking up new cultures. Je suis un nuage, dans le ciel immense.

*Translation: I’m dope at French, bet you’re not LOL.

What I’m doing with my life                                                                               I’m a recent West Coast transplant working in the tech industry while freelancing as a graphic designer for an organic food startup.

I’m really good at                                                                                             Reading people. Call it a sixth sense, if you so dare. 😉

The first things people usually notice about me                                       This question is silly. Look at my pictures, and YOU tell ME!

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food                                     

  • Books: Food, Inc., Brothers Karamazov, Harry Potter
  • Movies: I have a boner for Wes Anderson.
  • Shows: Do we really have to put National Geographic/Travel Channel here, or is that already a given?
  • Music: Impossible to narrow it down. Tchaikovsky?
  • Food: Anything gluten-free, sulfite-free, cholesterol-free, yeast-free, sugar-free, pesticide-free (organic), and/or vegan! Nummy nummy.

The six things I could never do without                                                      Friends, family, traveling, love, oxygen, creation/expression.

I spend a lot of time thinking about                                                                 The impossibility of capturing my nonconformist mind in this text box. And YOU. Yes, you. 😉

On a typical Friday night I am                                                                          Trying to embrace the moment, and letting it embrace me back.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit                                               Google commercials make me cry.

You should message me if                                                                               You’re real, fresh, dynamic, and a wholehearted supporter of kale as the (one and only) way to reach Foodie Nirvana.

The product of one of my favorite OkCupid dates.

(THE LONDON CHRONICLES) #6: That Time I Got Pulled Onstage at a West End Show

I’ve secretly always wanted to be an actor/dancer/dope musician. Well it’s not such a secret so much as a very, very unfortunate thing for the self-proclaimed Lucky Ones who get to witness me and my Dance Moves in clubs. So when I got pulled onstage last week at a sold out West End show by one of the UK’s most popular comedians, I peed my pants. Metaphorically.

I went to see James Corden in “One Man, Two Guvnors,” the American equivalent of seeing someone like Robin Williams or Chris Rock in their respective Broadway shows. Corden plays the leading man, Francis Henshall, a potato-faced lad who attempts endlessly to woo a voluptuous lass called Dolly. In one scene, Francis asks the audience to suggest a good date for him and Dolly:

“This play!” a woman in my row yells.

“But if I’m in the play right now, how can I go see the play?” Francis quips.

Silence.

Then, before I even have time to decide in which theoretical universe this impossible feat could actually be accomplished, Francis grabs Dolly’s hand and walks down the front steps of the stage. Down my row. To my seat.

“Take my place,” he says.

I look next to me at my friend Juan, as if he’s going to magically produce an Invisibility Cloak to save me from the embarrassment of walking on stage and standing there like a proper idiot. But I quickly laugh and jog up those steps as instructed after quickly and sadly acknowledging that the wizard world of Harry Potter isn’t—gulp—real. No cloak could save me now.

The thoughts flooded. What should I do? Ah! That woman’s shirt is orange! Should I act? Can’t. Dance? Impossible. Sing? My voice sucks. I hate orange!

Time is ticking as these thoughts swirl in my brain place, and before I know it I’m doing the most half-assed cart-wheel that the whole wide world has ever been seen.

As I look out after my “cartwheel” is complete, the weirdest thing happens: Everyone cheers. They like my cart-wheel! They like me! I’m the shining star that my mommy always tells me I am! James then gets up from my seat and shakes my hand as we pass each other on the steps, and I pee my pants again. Literally. No not literally. Well kind of. No not really.

Back to reality. I was buzzing the rest of the show and erupted in applause when everyone took his or her bows. Corden came back on stage by himself for a final bow, but then he did the most peculiar thing. He reached down and grabbed my hand. And yanked me on stage with him.

Me and James! James and me! Center stage.

Then, without even thinking, I did the most beautiful cart-wheel that ever was and people cheered once again, but louder this time. I was on a high, and as I left the stage to join the crowds of people leaving, I welcomed the words of praise that strangers offered me as I made my exit.

And that, dear reader(s), is how James Corden and years of gymnastics as a young girl made my teeny tiny, unrealistic dream come true, if only for a few West End seconds.

Oh, the glory.

(ON TOPIC) My Big Gay One-Year Coming Out Blog Anniversary

Two blog-worthy anniversaries are happening this week. One year ago I wrote my first post on this blog. One year ago I also told my best friend Chelsea that I’m gay, marking the beginning of my “2010 Coming Out Tour.” With those achievements in mind, a celebratory blog post seems fitting.

I think these pictures speak from themselves, but I offer them as a visual answer to the question, “When did you first know you were gay?” Or, in other words, “How did anyone not know I was gay?!”

Enjoy!

Rainbow colors for a very straight rainbow drawing.

Purple and pink reinforcers

I would like the colors of the rainbow.

Assignment: Draw a self-portrait.

“The Rainbow Series” (1994)

Suggestive imagery

Yup.

I told everyone I was going to marry her because she was “cute.”

Yup.

So gay!

Letter swirls

My bedtime buddy would be a banana.

Gymnastics and Beanie Babies? Yup.

Cheers to reinforcing gay stereotypes!

-Jonathan

(ON TOPIC) Speaking Up: “Yo Miss Prada. Get yo stinkin’ purse off my seat.”

So I have this document on my desktop where I write ideas for future blog posts. I found one today that was already written. Apparently I was really angry after riding the bus to New York one day…

Let me set a scene for you: I’m on the bus back from New York City and the women next to me feels the need to claim not only her seat, but also a generous part of my seat for her precious Prada. Add to this her incessant phone conversation and her plump right arm, which rested undesirably on my left arm while she spread out for a royal slumber.

My question for you, dear reader(s) is the following: In situations such as these, do you speak up for yourself?

In talking to friends and family, the most common answer was, “I’d think about it but ultimately wouldn’t say anything.” And this makes sense because speaking up is totally easier said than done. Why? Because we care about what other people think about us. We just do. Do you really want to be perceived as—for lack of a better word—a bitch to those around you? I’ve always been envious of people who, without hesitation, would tell this woman to get off her phone. But are those people inconsiderate, or just highly confident? In other words, I think worthiness is also at the root here. Do you feel worthy of respect from those around?

Case Study #1: Shushing at the movies. Shushing is passive-aggressive and inefficient. We’ve all seen shushing lead to even louder shushing and then to whispering and then to actual screaming. Instead of diffusing the situation, you’ve actually turned into a massive prick and made the problem a lot worse. So what’s the solution? I say skip the shushing and whisper politely in the person’s ear to be quiet. And if they don’t respond favorably (in this case, by being quiet), slap them. At least you’ve made an effort to remedy the problem! Reward yourself with two Sourpatch Kids.

Case Study #2: An experience I had in my brother’s class in China tackles this issue from a different/more serious angle. Adam set the kids up in a mock debate situation, turned the clock on, and said, “Debate.” But here’s the thing: They didn’t know how to do it! As he explained to me after, their cultural tendency toward in-group harmony may have been at the root of the struggle. They needed reassurance that it was okay to argue with one another in the comfort of this classroom setting. It seems like they didn’t view themselves as entirely worthy of both holding and then expressing their own beliefs.

The message here is simple: Speak up. Everyone deserves to be heard and treated fairly. There was a man who sat next to me on the plane to China who constantly fell asleep on my shoulder, but I was different back then and regrettably kept my mouth shut. Now I can’t help but wish I could go back in time to tell him what I was really thinking up in my brain place:

“Excuse me. Sir? Yes you. Could you please get your PUNGENT HEAD OFF MY SHOULDER! Also, I see you’re reading Harry Potter? He dies in the end. Enjoy!”

(THE LONDON CHRONICLES) #2: Musicals, Misfits, and Lessons from the BBC

I empathize with Harry Potter and pals because it took seven books before they figured out how to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. (What’s the rule here? Can we say “Voldemort” since the series is complete, or must we keep mum for future generations?)

Similarly, I’ve been keeping up with this blog for nearly one year now and I still have no guiding approach to it. Considering a blog is essentially equal to a monster like Voldemort, I suppose I have to wait seven-books-worth of time before my blog comes together. Sorry, reader(s).

But for now, I shall continue with the London Chronicles. Here’s a list of 10 things I’ve learned at the BBC thus far:

  1. The teenager is the scariest specimen alive. They multi-task like mad men, and their social habits are inadvertently changing the online Experience as we know it.
  2. Producing a natural history program like “Planet Earth” is the most difficult thing one can do in this manic world.
  3. Be concise in everything you do.
  4. There are seven types of stories. (Kind of.)
  5. Interviewing people is an acquired skill that before acquisition may or may not make you pee your pants.
  6. Pitching shows is an acquired skill that before acquisition may or may not make you pee your pants.
  7. Google’s advanced search options rule.
  8. Creativity is…working against what your brain is trained to do.
  9. All live-action, big-budget hour-long historical dramas should be revamped as animated 30-minute reality shows featuring Ricky Gervais.
  10. The BBC Academy has taught me more in two weeks than most of my other classes ever have.

I swear I did more this week than go to class, so I’ll conclude with an obnoxiously long run-on sentence detailing the remainder of my activities: I got sick, finished the British TV series “Misfits” because I live in the UK now and have full access to its online content, visited an incredible Miró exhibit at the Tate Modern, experienced emotional flights of fancy while seeing “Legally Blonde” (the musical), attended a 9/11 service at Westminster Abbey, saw “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy” and left the theater confused but in awe, saw “Billy Elliot” (the musical) and left wishing I could dance like that little poof can, suffered from a minor anxiety attack as I realized I’m graduating in December, and finally took a day trip to Greenwich where I learned British people have a sense of humor and New Yorkers do not.

Pic of the Week: During our day trip to Greenwich, we stood on the Prime Meridian line. This meant we were in the Eastern and Western hemispheres at the same time. Nerdy!

Got it all? Catch ya next week.

Love,

Jono