Stranger Than Paradise

1984 | Directed by Jim Jarmusch

This indie film has a lot going for it: great acting, unhurried pacing, beautiful framing, and lots of glorious black and white film grain. But the slack plot and deadpan style only resonated at a surface level for me.

I followed up the movie by watching an excellent commentary that discussed the movie's themes of identity and multiculturalism. I didn't latch on to these themes when I was watching the movie, but the additional context helped me appreciate some of the specific dialogue and plot choices.

Jan. 4, 2019

The Jungle

1904 | Written by Upton Sinclair

The book has become infamous for its description of Chicago's meatpacking industry in the early 1900s. The outrage from which led to the creation of the FDA.

But this is a small part of the book. The majority of which is an immigrant story. The story of Jugris Rudkus and his Lithuanian family who have recently immigrated to Chicago. They arrive with optimism and a drive to better their lives, but all this hope gets wittled away. As immigrants, they are a target for exploitation. And the work available to them in this newly industrialized city is harsh and unsafe. The first half of the book focuses on the trials of the family. The writing is simple and effective, and what they go through is harrowing.

The latter half half of the book slumps a bit as we follow Jugris's solo adventures and finish with a somewhat dated speech on socialism. Even with these flaws, the book is still absolutely worth a read.

"I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." - Upton Sinclair on the reaction to his book

As a companion to this book, I highly recommend Frontline's Trafficked in America documentary to see what similar exploitation looks like in modern America.

Dec. 31, 2018

Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, DC (1980-90)

2015 | Directed by Scott Crawford

A look at the people and the city from which which sprung out Fugazi, Bad Brains, and many other influential hardcore/punk bands. And the record label in the middle of it all, Dischord Records, which is still kickin' to this day. Along the way we learn about the origin of the straight edge movement and emo(core), both of which I was familiar with, but not their roots. Fun documentary, but a little long, even for someone who likes the music.

Recommended for those who like punk rock and also like niche musical documentaries.

Nov. 21, 2018


1990 | Directed by Richard Linklater

The classic Gen-X indie film from Richard Linklater.

The movie has no main character. Instead, it has a meandering camera that uses long takes to move between characters and stories, mostly unrelated. It's a movie about conversations and small moments, and not about plot. The unconventional structure is refreshing.

The people, the conversations, everything, it all felt familiar. I lived in this world in the early 2000s in Boston, even though this movie takes place in Austin at the start of the 90s.

Though the term slacker has negative connotations now, Linklater thought of slackers in positive terms. Something akin to a hippie or a beatnik. These are people who intentionally disconnect from mainstream society, not because they are apathetic or unmotivated, but because society isn't helping them, and they don't see what it offers.

"Slacker is inspiration to keep on with those passion projects—to go your own way despite the pressure to conform. Above all, the film taught me this: Those who wander may not be lost." - Eleanor Capaldi

Recommended for those who say "film" rather than "movie". You know who you are. You probably enjoy other 'films' like Breathless and Buffalo 66.

Oct. 4, 2018

Blade Runner

1982 | Directed by Ridley Scott

When I first watched the movie, the visuals were what left a mark. Now after seeing Blade Runnner 2049 and reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I've come to appreciate the themes the movie explores. The plot is fine, but less remarkable.

Dark alleys lit with neon, endless rain, noir lighting, and technology that is futuristic but also worn and textured. All of these are now visual touchstones that every modern sci-fi film taps. The impact of Blade Runner on sci-fi imagery, especially cyberpunk, cannot be overstated. And the movie still looks great 30+ years later.

What does it mean to be human? This is the overarching question in the movie. It plays out between humans and replicants. Replicants are 'robots' created by humans that are virtually identical to humans, but treated as property. Through out the movie, it's not clear if Deckard, Harrison Ford's character, is a replicant or not. This is an interesting way to point out that the answer to the question of Deckard's humanity doesn't matter. If as viewers, we can't tell if he is a replicant or not, does it matter if he is or not?

Oct. 19, 2018