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  • On Tintin

    Being a young boy was an unrivaled stage of my childhood as far as wonder goes. Many of my days were frittered away in the threads of my own imagination. One minute I was a dastardly pirate, plundering the riches of some bewildered aristocrat at sea, the next I was some crafty aviator, flying fifteen thousand meters over the raging currents of the red sea. This wondersome manner of mine festered a need for more material, more figures to idolize, more adventure! My thirst was hardly quenched by the ‘baby stuff’ on PBS kids and therefore I ventured into the abundance of unknown media that was Netflix. It was there I found a title I’d vaguely recognized, despite my sparse life experience, The Adventures of Tintin.

    I was aware of this seemingly captivating piece of television due to my family’s common rounds through the public library. There, being the fiend for a good tale that I was, I regularly moseyed about the comic section, eyes caught by the enormous stature, and riveting artwork gracing every edition of Tintin. This fascination could not progress to indulgence however, due to a restriction put in place by my parents on account of the books’ violent subject matter and– as I know now (and I am thankful for their restrictions) but was oblivious to then– use of racist stereotypes. However, the show I came across in this instance was something created nearly 60 years after Tintin first hit the masses. Immense progress had been made in society, and therefore these stereotypes had been stripped from the story when adapted to television. Because of this, my parents allowed me to watch Tintin’s many adventures, an action whose significance I didn’t truly realize until many years later.

    You see, Tintin not only made me want to chase down evil heroin smugglers, roam the Himalayas with a drunken sea captain, and catch Al-Capone, it also made me want to see the world. Tintin and his band of comrades go to Egypt, Nepal, Peru, even The Moon! Although the show is animated in a style true to the comic, it still painted these places to be magical, and along with Tintin’s constant exposition onto the history of such places as well as the show’s overall lighthearted tone, I can say that this piece of telivision really made an impact on me.

    Ending Note: I did not care for the film

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  • College Basketball: In a League of its Own

    College basketball in its full, awe-inspiring manner, is arguably the most entertaining sport there is. While the NBA is obviously an enticing league, holding immense talent and personality, it often feels fruitless and job-like, despite being at the highest level. College, on the other hand, is almost completely the opposite. Players play with a great sense of urgency, as they’re only eligible to play for four years. Furthermore, it actually feels as though players care about their teams, as the institution you attend is undoubtedly subject to more resonation than some team you’re traded to.

    The most prominent aspect of the college game though is the ever-present possibility of ‘the upset’. Of course, this is an occurrence present in almost all major sports, professional or not, because to be frank, it’s difficult to win, even if you’re the best team. Now that may sound odd, but people forget how talented all these players really are. Maybe a team is a higher rank than their opponent, but is their opponent less talented? Who knows, but that’s why upsets are so frequent.

    The added prominence of these upsets at the college level is due mainly to recruiting. Because more prestigious universities want better talent, high school players are ranked, and the highest of the high are swooped up by said teams. That being said, because of factors such as exposure, size, and dumb luck, many of these high school players are overlooked. So, what happens? Smaller, less historically successful colleges sign these players, compile a team with much more chemistry and cohesion than many of the bigger ones and upset some unsuspecting juggernaut. While fans and analysts often rule this off as random, it obviously isn’t, as just like the players on their rosters, these so-called underdogs were simply overlooked. To keep it brief, college basketball is where the unknown becomes known, where any town can have a team to cheer for, and where anything, truly anything, can happen.

  • Charade: Insanity

    To tell the truth for your entire life is an incredibly dull feat. If I were to be on my death bed, recalling the many vignettes of my time on earth, and find that I had never lied, I would tell the poor fellows at my beck and call that I was going to make it after all. This is because telling the truth, in all its gallant glory, is no fun without lying. Charade is a piece of cinema that takes hold of this reality, and utilizes it to great effect, while not being afraid to open itself up and present a tone that tickled my fancy even sixty years later.

    A daring decision from Stanley Donan to cast Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn as leads, two beloved figures in Hollywood at the time, because although the film’s marketability was heightened, its longevity was not (in theory). I find this to be the case with the majority of Hollywood classics from the same time period, as by using more and more revered names, especially in the golden age of the ‘movie star’, the creative direction of the film wanes. Contrary to this presumption, Charade is entirely its own film, Carey Grant is the suave frontman that he always is (although quite old) and Audrey Hepburn is as sly and hilarious as ever, yet it’s the unique setting, distinct supporting cast, and winding story, that truly makes this film what it is.

    So what is it? A film about money? Violence? Love? No, none of it (although all are present). I believe what Charade is really about, is the nauture of the fib. As the plot progresses, characters change names, reveal mind-bending secrets, and switch allegiances on a dime. This makes for a riveting, lightning-quick cinematic thrill, that sprinkles in a plentiful quantity of humor along the way. What I really love about this film, is the hollowness emmitted from films made in the same period (in the period of hollywood, with these same general actors, not in the whole world) and the lack thereof within Charade. This is a film packed to the brim with passion and identity, and is something that could serve as so many different genres it could spur one of its own.

  • On Bookselling

    As a young man without much job experience, the reader may be quick to write this article off as vain, or foolish. I for one find it both vain and foolish to write anything off. However for many, it must prove a taxing endeavor to endure the ravings of a seemingly entitled ‘kid’ on what it means to work hard. All of this aside, I will venture on.

    To me, a job is a gift, whether it be something you adore, or one you loathe, you are always making additions to your character, and isn’t that all we can really ask for? Bookselling is a profession I’ve wanted to enter since my earliest days, not an end goal necessarily, but a field that will nonetheless lead to personal improvement. This desire stems mainly from my love of literature and lacking a grasp of it, a grasp that I hope to tighten tremendously during my time. The utter fact that I was hired to a bookstore was bizarre, while I would like to think of myself as a well-versed and learned person for my age, I honestly have no idea. However, a sense of unease never entered my body upon arrival, and it has since remained that way.

    A principle many follow in the professional world is that of the two-bit employee, whether aspirations are floor level or they don’t care, I don’t know, but in contemporary society locating a hard worker is a troublesome duty. Although it may sound like I care about such mannered employees, it doesn’t strike me as a matter worth my time, for I can say that I put a total, even strenuous effort into my work. This way of going about things becomes leagues simpler when I care about what I’m doing. In this current sense, I have a great deal of passion for my profession, and although the work may seem mundane to some — shelving heaps of poetry, ringing up customers, recommending the odd novel, and so much more of the miscellaneous variety — I love it. To put it into perspective, I hold a genuine, burning excitement within me whenever school nears its end. Not because of the ceasing of worksheets, or cleansing of conundrum, but because of the simple thought that floats into my mind: I have work today.

  • The Future of The Indiana Pacers Looks Bright

    Indiana is a state that lives and breathes basketball, and that’s well known, but the Indiana Pacers haven’t achieved much since joining the NBA. To clarify, for being one of the smallest markets in the league they haven’t been disappointing by any means, but I’m sure any fan will tell you that they desperately need a championship in Indiana. That being said, the team they’ve got now is looking extremely promising, and will likely make waves in the coming years.

    So when have the Pacers succeeded? There have been a few instances. The first came in 2000 when the Pacers had a historic season and fought tooth and nail all the way to the finals. Of course, they were taken out by a Shaq and Kobe Lakers team, but the team won two games in the series and did well nonetheless. The second instance came in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, as Pacers fans saw their team reach the conference finals two years and a row. Both times Indiana fell short, losing to a Lebron James led Heat twice. Since these exciting years have passed, not much has gone right for the Pacers. Now though, the squad once again looks ready to compete for a title, putting together one of the most cohesive rosters they’ve had in years.

    Who are these special young talents in Indiana? The first name to come up must be Benedict Mathurin. This young man easily has the highest upside that a Pacers player has had since Paul George. On top of that, he is only 20 years old and not even half way into his first season. Personally I believe that when considering his sturdy frame, extensive repertoire, and hyper-competitive mindset, there is no limit on how good he becomes. Now, forget about Mathurin for a minute, as most will say he’s not even the best on the team, so who is? Tyrese Haliburton. What a player, someone who is still very young and possesses all the tools to be a perennial All-Star. This mighty-duo will undoubtedly be fun to watch, and if the role players around them can provide support, success is inevitable.

  • A Double Feature With Elliott Gould and Robert Altman

    Elliott Gould is an actor with a very striking presence. Not to say he’s obnoxious, or over-eager, rather he’s someone you’re always aware of when on screen. I don’t mean to speak as if I’m some expert, I’ve only seen two films with him, but both roles consist of tremendous performances. Now comes the matter of Robert Altman, a notorious asshole, but an astounding director all the same. The two films I saw that Gould starred in happened to be directed by Altman, and it’s apparent that this pairing is an extremely commendable one.

    The Long Goodbye

    It is with absolute sincerity that I say The Long Goodbye was one of my all-time favorite films before the opening credits had even finished. We open with a light being turned on, Elliot Gould has woken up. Muttering to himself, the disheveled yet agile fellow strikes a match on the wall, lights a cigarette, and begins the process of feeding his cat. Rather mundane surely, but he does it with such swagger, such energy, that it brings a burst of life into the scene. Gould’s bout is interrupted by two forces: 1. His picky cat and 2. A knock on the door. Appearing to be a friend of Gould, a mystery man enters the apartment, tells his host that he has done something terrible, and begs him to drive him to Mexico. Gould does so, but awakes the next morning to hear on the radio that his friend has been killed.

    From here we get a seamlessly executed neo-noir, seeing Elliot Gould as a private investigator of sorts who must investigate this matter. The bewildered protagonist finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the case, unearthing links to a famous writer, a mental institution, and the mob. There is a lot to appreciate about this film, the air-tight narrative, beautiful imagery, and riveting suspense. However, above all of this, what really makes this film so special is Elliott Gould. His character faces various perils throughout the film, yet he maintains his laid back, whimsical demeanor, and that tranquility makes for a one of a kind performance that will never age.

    California Split

    Gambling is not my thing. The high stakes, enormous rewards, and rush of it intimidates me, and frankly doesn’t seem worth it. That being said, films about gambling are entirely my thing and California Split may be the best. Once again Elliott Gould leads the charge, this time as an experienced gambler who wants to score big. The man teams up with an amateur who he meets in a casino brawl, and the two climb their way up the gambling world, paying off debts and hustling people as they go. Eventually, the pair head to Reno with a scheme to win big at craps and poker, and win big they do.

    This is a piece of cinema that has a lot more to it than it will get credit for. On the surface is a fast-paced, lighthearted film, about the highs of the life of a gambler. There is much more lying beneath though, as what this film is really about is the hardships of this lifestyle. Throughout the movie Gould gets beat up, robbed, scammed, swindled, and when he finally wins the jackpot it’s not enough for him. The final shot finds the young man with a broken nose, a drink in his hand, and a pile of money. Realization of how greedy humans really are has set in for the character, and furthermore he knows he’ll just gamble the cash away. Altman created a spectacular picture with California Split and the bittersweet atmosphere the film leaves you with is a feeling that won’t exit your mind any time sooon.

  • The Art of the Screenplay

    There aren’t a very large amount of distinctions between a novel and a narrative feature. One could point out the obvious, that a film presents a conscious image for the audience’s eye, but aside from this nothing sticks out. However, the screenplay is an item that perfectly melds the two mediums together, a feat not easy to accomplish, and for that, it is completely unique. You see, the novel paints a picture for the reader, a device utilized to fully envelop the audience in a chosen environment. Furthermore, the novel weaves a complex web of plotlines, carrying with it interesting characters and relatable tropes. What a screenplay presents is more than just imagery or plot, its direction. Rest assured this direction must then be carried out by a crew of professionals yet without said details being utterly precise a film will fall flat.

    A brief glance at a famed script may make my statements seem absurd, as many consist of vague instructions, bizarre dialogue, and lacking exposition. Yet the reason such aspects are common is because the screenplay is not a novel, it will not read like one. This will cause many to write the medium off as “purely technical” but I would argue that these are some of the most fascinating pieces of writing I’ve come across. How is that possible? Well, it is actually quite simple: the screenplay is the form of literature that is closest to real life, and it must be in order to emulate real life on the big screen.

    So what is a great screenplay? There are many amazing screenplays composed by a variety of masters in their craft but the first that really made me appreciate the medium was Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller. This is a terrific film and something that Altman had planned down to the last detail before the camera even started rolling. The description throughout this piece is deeply vivid, painting a picture many screenplays don’t bother to capture. Although I stated earlier that scripts are allowed vague detail, Altman’s exquisite groundwork shows the process of a true perfectionist and legendary screenwriter. Recognizing such intricacies is a difficult thing to do, and therefore a lot of people overlook how special a well-written film is. Nonetheless young writers will continue to put out screenplays, adding upon the generations of works preceding them, and hopefully in time, the art form will receive the eternal praise it deserves.

  • My Dinner With Andre

    To open this essay I must say that it feels quite odd speaking on this film. My Dinner With Andre doesn’t seem like something you can cover, there’s simply too much to unpack. It’s scary almost, watching something so real, so prying, so unfiltered, it’s amazing that such a thing still holds up. In short, the story is of a dinner, between two old friends: Andre Gregory, a successful stage director who stepped away from his craft at the peak of his career, and Wallace Shawn, a struggling playwright just trying to make ends meet. Our film opens with a lengthy monologue from Wallace Shawn, it appears he’s living a fairly fulfilling life, but still has many gripes with the world and isn’t necessarily content. Wallace also alludes to the more urgent matter of his dinner with Andre Gregory, someone who he believes to be crazy as that’s what he’d heard from others. However, upon the reunion of the two friends, Wallace comes to a realization that Andre isn’t insane at all, but rather extremely radical in his beliefs.

    The areas covered in this film that stuck out the most to me go as follows: 1. Habit 2. Sense of Self 3. Disagreement. Obviously, these ideas must be explained more thoroughly, so to start we’ll cover the dangers of habit. As both men begin to let their guard down the conversation shifts to a rather interesting topic: habit. Andre believes that many of us are lulled to sleep by our habits, doing the same thing day in and day out can make the time pass exponentially and make one feel like it hasn’t gone by at all. Breaking this is difficult, and I agree with such concepts despite habit being a natural occurrence.

    The flow of the conversation takes a turn yet again, as the topic morphs into a question: Why can’t people say how they feel, why do we put on this act? Now, this was a question that neither of the men could answer but their musings brought me to my own conclusion, that people create a facade simply because they assume everyone else is doing the same. I strongly believe that we would all be much more genuine, unmasked versions of ourselves if we were aware that everyone else was doing the same, as what are norms if they are no longer normal?

    As Andre and Wallace push on, they come to a rather eerie divide. Up to this point in the narrative, Andre has held the reins of the conversation, guiding its path like a conductor of sorts. Finally, Wallace gets the spotlight, and he makes it clear, that he completely disagrees with a majority of Andre’s views. Wallace says that the sheer lack of faith Andre has in the human race is not realistic, and not everyone needs to reach some epiphany that reshapes their world. For him, a loving girlfriend, an appreciation of the arts, and comfortable living are all he needs to be happy. What stuck out about this tirade though is the way Wallace goes about it, he shows tremendous respect for what Andre is saying and holds no hostility, yet maintains pristine clarity. This is how I think arguments should be made, nowadays people can’t challenge others without insulting them, and can’t be challenged without feeling insulted. This resurfaces the greater point, that this film truly holds inside it the answers to much of what is twisted in the world, answers to issues that only become more apparent as time goes on.

  • Intelligence in Basketball

    Basketball is a sport well revered as a simple one. Of course, there are facets of the sport that have extreme depth to them, but it seems that the only ones who have to deal with such complexity are the coaches. Considering this idea, I would say many would take intelligence within the game for granted, as physical advantages and years of experience stand out much more than the mind’s processes. However, a player’s understanding of basketball, further than just outmuscling, shooting, passing, and defending, is equally vital. The prototypical “genius” NBA player was the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Thomas, someone whose stature was dwarfed by the giants of the league, yet who still managed to stand out as one of the all-time greats. While of course tremendous skill was required of Thomas to be such a spectacle, what really put him over the top was his uncanny ability to read an opposing team, adapt, and play to his own team’s strengths. 

    The late 1980’s was a golden age for basketball. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird battled for titles, Dominique Wilkins soared through the air, dunking on every defense he came across, and a young kid named Michael Jordan began to rise the ranks as one of the most dominant players in the NBA. Through this flurry of talent, bulk, and status stood Isaiah Thomas, barely six feet tall, yet hanging with these titans, and eventually conquering them. The Detroit Pistons had never had much success in the NBA prior to Thomas’ arrival. Detroit was a small market and didn’t compare to the high-class, flashy atmosphere of places like New York City or Los Angles. However throughout the 1980’s the team slowly built themselves into a formidable foe for any team to face. How did they do this you may ask? The leadership, and quick whits of Isaiah Thomas.

    While the team’s success cannot be completely credited to Thomas, as it takes more than one person to win a Championship, his impact was undoubtedly the catalyst. Now, this finally brings up the question, how did he really do this? Well, the way the Pistons were run was sort of like a military of some form. Thomas played the role of the general, orchestrating his team’s offense, finding open space, and creating opportunities to score for him and his “soldiers”. Thomas’ supporting cast was no joke either, a young Dennis Rodman and a brutish Bill Laimbeer were key contributors to both championship runs. All in all, it would be silly to say Isaiah Thomas wasn’t one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but one must acknowledge that what really sets him apart from so many other players, was how amazingly smart he was when he was on the floor, proving to audiences worldwide, that basketball isn’t only about physical gifts.

  • Weekend – Jean-Luc Godard

    As someone who has experienced the likes of French cinema time and time again, I thought myself to have a sound understanding of what the genre has to offer. A Godard film here and there, some Bresson, a bit of Demy, they all seem to fit into a sort of mold. However, unbeknownst to me, these pictures were only scratching the surface. This grand idea became apparent as I gazed soulfully at the beautiful, horrible, unreplicable mosaic that is Jean Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967).

    I had to compose this essay as soon as possible, while the film’s contents still take refuge in facets of my mind. I desired to write about Weekend because without something on the page, my opinion will be blurred, even to myself. The bones of the story are simple, elementary almost: A wealthy couple embarks on a holiday in order to visit the woman’s ailing father. Not necessarily a horrid plot on its own but the details are what set this film apart from anything I have ever seen. To begin, these people are horrible. The man and woman are constantly bickering, cheating, separating, and so forth. Godard writes possibly two of the most unlikeable leads you can have, but there’s a point in that. The underlying goal of the two is not to come to the old man’s aid, but to strip him of his wealth in the form of inheritance. Whether that means they have to wait for his death or kill him, they don’t care.

    This all seems fine, a fairly straight-forward plot in its essence, but its tightly woven web progressively comes undone as odd characters spout avant-garde nonsense at our leads, who are just as confused as we are, even breaking the fourth wall and calling such tropes “idiotic”. From this point on the film almost completely loses its shape, the couple’s car breaks down and they walk the highway, seeing more and more smashed cars with soulless corpses inhabiting their ruins. The two hitchhike around, never seeming to cover any ground, and the situations, and characters they come across become progressively more unhinged. I thought that I’d be able to make sense of this film by writing about it but it’s only made it more confusing. At first glance, you would think the choices made by Godard were utterly random, yet there’s a sort of uniformity to it all. The scene that gave me the slightest gleam of light as to what the point of this all was, came at the end of the film. The couple has just gotten picked up by a garbage truck and stopped to have lunch, here, the two men running the truck speak to the camera about discrimination, corruption, and other prying matters, all while chewing big sandwiches. This scene allowed me to discern Godard’s purpose in creating Weekend was to mock surrealist cinema – a medium that had been milked dry in the 1960s – while also implementing legitimate philosophies and ideas. Such a film could never be made today, and perhaps that’s what makes it so impressive, that Godard, someone hounded for being pretentious, was able to poke fun at his own style of movie, while also creating something meaningful in its own right.