Beating Up on a "Classic"

By Jason Haggstrom, January 4, 2011

Did I say this blog was going to be about cinema? Well, it is… mostly. The primary goal of this site is to explore movies, but you can expect the occasional deviation into other realms of interest. Like hockey. It’s not unusual for me to watch a movie every single day of the week, but on those nights where I don’t take in a film it is most often because I am watching hockey. This past weekend, the National Hockey League (NHL) presented their annual "Winter Classic," an outdoor game aimed at drawing in new fans. The unfortunate reality is that the Winter Classic is actually televised hockey at it’s worst.

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Tron: Legacy and the Viability of 3-D in a 2-D Medium

By Jason Haggstrom, December 18, 2010

I went into Tron: Legacy not with the hope that it’d be great, but that it would give me a reason to believe in 3-D as a viable technology for the medium of film. Avatar came with the promise to revolutionize 3-D which it failed to do. With Tron: Legacy, I was hoping for something really psychedelic, like having the film’s many glowing lights pop out into 3-D space, completely ignoring their physical attachment to the objects in the frame. In actuality, the film didn’t go that far (though its use of yellow often disturbs the eye like blue LED Christmas lights), but what it did do is worthy of both acknowledgment and praise.

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The Movies of my Childhood, Coming in 2011: Wolverine

By Jason Haggstrom, November 27, 2010

The first issue of the 1982 limited series, Wolverine, starring the popular X-Men character of the same name was the first comic I ever bought off a comic store wall. For those who are unfamiliar with comic shops (yeah, I know, that’s most of you), the method of displaying prominent, pricey back issues used to be hanging them on the wall behind the counter in what amounted to a giant mural of comic covers arranged in a grid that went from floor to ceiling and from one edge of the wall to the other. This was an incredibly cool way to showcase comics. As a kid, when you bought an issue off of that wall (and left a hole in the collage), it made you feel like some kind of comic-acquiring rock star. When I saw the first issue of the series with Frank Miller’s cover drawing of Wolverine in close-up, beckoning an unseen opponent to step forward and meet his demise, I knew I had to have it. When I finally cracked open the book, its classic opening line only re-confirmed that I’d made a fantastic purchase. "I’m the best at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice." That’s some serious attitude. That’s Wolverine. Or, at least that was the Wolverine of the comics, especially in the first decade of his existence.

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Variations on RED, White, & Blue Black

By Jason Haggstrom, October 15, 2010

The movie RED opens in theaters today, but don’t take the fact that I’m commenting on it to be an indication that you should rush out to see it or anything. In fact, I’ve found that far more interesting than the prospect of the film itself is the variations between the French and American posters used to market it. Where the American posters overwhelm the senses with the iconography of violence and mayhem, the posters in France indicate that the film is something else entirely: a black comedy.

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Print the Legend, Forget the Truth

By Jason Haggstrom, September 24, 2010

The truth: I haven’t seen I’m Still Here, the new film documenting Joaquin Phoenix’s downward spiral as he abandons his acting career in an attempt to become a hip-hop artist. The film sounded intriguing in a Lost in La Mancha kind of way. Where that film captured the destruction of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote film, I’m Still Here promised to bear witness to the destruction of a very real, and very famous man. There’s often a simultaneous thrill and horror to be found in watching something real be destroyed. I find it all too natural to view terrible events captured on film as cinema even as—or precisely because—I understand that there’s only a television or movie screen separating me from real terror, suffering, and in some cases death. But with this week’s revelation that everything we’ve seen from Phoenix over the last 18 months—the bizarre interviews, the rap concerts, and the unfortunate fights and falls—has all been part of an elaborate performance (so soon after the film’s premiere no less), I’m left wondering if the film still has relevance.

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My A Serious Man Fan Art

By Jason Haggstrom, August 21, 2010

The Coen Brother’s A Serious Man wasn’t just my favorite film of 2009, it also arrived with my favorite poster from the year as well. The poster features a beautiful color palette—a faded away blue sky and Larry Gopnick’s washed out skins tones—that makes the photograph appear as though it were a forty-year old document held on to from the time in which the film takes place. The image shows Larry staring off the poster’s edge—looking for God or maybe looking for the Coens; for Larry, they might just be one and the same. Unfortunately for Larry, the photo he calls home has been encased by a thick, yellowed matting that holds him as a prisoner in the Coen’s constructed world. This poster is a phenomenal achievement in design that replicates the film’s era by way of the nostalgic photographs that often define it. At the same time, the image conveys the film’s theme of looking for answers where there are none to be found. Fantastic.

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A Night at the Starz Film Center

By Jason Haggstrom, July 24, 2010

I originally wrote this essay back in 2008 as an assignment for a college English class. The task was to write a first person narrative from a personal experience similar to what you might hear in one of those fantastic ten-minute long journalistic pieces on NPR. I was inspired to revisit and publish this piece by the splendid series of short essays the experience of seeing a film at a movie theater at, "Slide show: The movie experience I can’t forget". In particular, Kartina Richardson’s remembrance of watching Pickup on South Street with a crowd for the first time resonated deeply with me. I had a similar experience when I saw my beloved Out of the Past with a crowd for the first time when it played at The Starz Film Center in downtown Denver.

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Mad Men in Still Life

By Jason Haggstrom, July 23, 2010

Leading in to the Mad Men season four premier this Sunday, AMC has published a series of stunning portraits by photographer Frank Ockenfels 3. His images are dramatic works of art that capture, in the most iconic sense, some of the characters and themes from the show and its upcoming season.

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Daddy, What is Stop Motion?

By Jason Haggstrom, July 18, 2010

My kids love Chicken Run, the masterpiece of stop motion animation by Aardman, the studio responsible for the equally brilliant Wallace & Gromit series. But, being that Samantha and Kristen are six and four years old respectively, it’s hard to convey to them how such films are created. For weeks, the girls have prompted me with such questions as "How do they make the chickens move if they aren’t real?" and "Do they have batteries?" They’ve seen the documentaries and marveled at miniaturized sets, characters, and the dozens of interchangeable heads that allow each character to possess a myriad of facial expressions. Still, they don’t really understand exactly what the process behind stop motion is.

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The Search for Answers in A Serious Man

By Jason Haggstrom, June 21, 2010

The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man is a film about suffering, religious tenets, miscommunication, and the way we perceive the universe and our existence within it. But the most common reaction to the A Serious Man is one of confusion. The film is complicated by multiple narratives, the idiomatic language of Jewish culture, and a highly ambiguous finale that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. It’s a rare film that doesn’t wrap up all of its plot points and answer all of its questions by the end of the third act. For some viewers, coming away with no answers or proper resolution is the film’s undoing. But a close inspection of the film reveals it to be a narrative about the unknown. It’s a narrative designed to convey the confusion about our existence in the universe and how we, as a species with the cognitive ability to ask questions, must find contentment when we aren’t given answers.

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