150-word track review: SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK – Joji

cant you seeJoji continues to impress me with his unmatched understanding of music. I was incredibly skeptical about his newest venture as I noticed he’s been departing from his older lo-fi roots instead focusing his efforts on more commercially beneficial sound. However, his newest single for his upcoming sophomore album BALLADS1 has dispelled any sort of fears that I’ve been mulling.

It’s a Joji song in its purest form. It’s about failed love with a beat that mixes lo-fi percussion and R&B style melodies. It seemingly follows the narrative build from Joji’s prior single “Yeah Right” that evidently deals with similar subject matter.

It’s impossible for me to adequately describe my love for what Joji does. He’s able to put out an amazing track month after month and stands out among his contemporaries.  I implore you to give this track a listen, who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself slow dancing to it.

The painful truth behind The Truman Show

truman-e1536190104152.pngIn some aspects, The Truman Show is a better representation of our current world than the one it was meant to reflect. Originally released in 1998 the film centers around Truman Burbank in a society that, unbeknownst to him, is completely fabricated. The time period is enough to establish the film was supposed to reflect the post-cold war era, where Americans were still paranoid after trudging through years of potential nuclear war. It also was created during the time when reality television was becoming something of a phenomenon. Programs like Survivor and Big Brother became massive commercial powerhouses spawning versions of itself worldwide.

As their influence began to reach farther the more they became more and more a part of everyday life. At home or in public, conversations shifted to be about the people onscreen. We now had a weekly stream of programming that gave us something to talk about. And it was all real. Right? Well, that’s the thing. We don’t know how much we can separate the fact from farce. I suppose that’s the salient allure of reality television. To attempt to read between the lines of a show that in its simplest form is just a by-product of its superior predecessors.

However, the show within The Truman Show attempts to circumvent this potential discrepancy by making its main character as authentic as possible. The only downside is that to make him feel and act real, he must not know everything around him isn’t. Truman’s first inclination of this truth comes at the beginning of the film when a stage light falls in the middle of his picturesque suburban neighborhood. The light is marked “Sirius” after the real-life star system. It’s widely known as the worlds brightest star. This would prove to be the catalyst for a new wave of discovery for Truman.

Many cite the appearance of Truman’s deceased father as the reason for why he begins to question the reality he’s been conceived in. Even the director of the fake television show says the same thing later in the film. However, many are quick the write off the strange happening that occurs right at the beginning. Not only does it allude to something much more sinister for Truman, but it also resonates with the audience as well.

The whole premise itself is rather ironic and opens up a lot of conversations about existentialism, societal values, and consumerism. Is Truman’s life really worth living if everything is a lie? What does The Truman Show tell us about our reality that we can’t seem to figure out ourselves? Well, there’s certainly a lot to unpack in those sentiments.

Existentialism is a philosophical theory that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. As an audience can we say Truman is really living a free life governed by his own will? The natural response would likely be no. As his entire life has been determined by the producers and writers of his show. There are set rules he’s playing by. Rules he’s unaware of. So isn’t it fair to say that because he has these rules he’s unaware of he’s still technically living his own life? Regardless of the predetermined events he still has the ability to live, the things that happen to him are simply out of his control. However, isn’t this the case for everyone? Not just Truman. Here in lies the central argument used by Truman show fans. It’s why within the film there are people who want to free Truman and others who don’t. In fact, it’s the director, Christof’s, rebuttal to Sylvia when she argues for the release of Truman.

He could leave at any time. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.

It’s that use of the phase vague ambition that makes Christof’s words seem so persuasive. In truth, we all hold some sort of vague ambition to go out and do something. American culture since the beginning of time has been based around the idea of “The American Dream.” It’s the de facto ethos that drives society. Its what makes the character of Truman so inspiring, not only in our world but in the fictional world of the movie itself. To many in the film, Truman is seen as a hero of sorts, a cultural icon whose influence is shown in the movie to have spread well beyond America. It’s here where the audience learns about what society values.

I’ll never forget the final words the movie plays out on. When all is said and done and Truman finally reaches the end of his 29-year long torment he utters his catchphrase whilst looking straight into the camera before heading out into the great unknown.

In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

Now, this alone would have been enough to appropriately end the cinematic masterpiece that is The Truman Show. However, the true final line of the film solidifies the overall intent director Peter Weir had when he created this film. The true final words the film ends on comes from two policemen who were shown watching the show throughout the film. As Truman leaves through the black door, the transmission is abruptly cut and one of the policemen remarks:

Let’s see what else is on.

As all great things begin, they must also end. And in the end, we’re left with a promise of something else that may be on. The insatiable audience is left craving more and yet we search for something else. The next craze to obsess over before another one follows in its wake. History continues to repeat itself. Truman was simply a passing fad that seemed to have overstayed its welcome. As the world became used to the prospect of reality television we became increasingly apathetic to its potentially damaging effects. Not just to the actors in these shows but the people watching them.

There have been several instances of reality television stars experiencing intense hardship after appearing on reality television. Real World: New Orleans alum Preston Roberson-Charles detailed the overwhelming wave of negative feedback and struggles he experienced after appearing on the show. However, there’s also a flipside to this painful truth if you consider the fact that our current President, Donald Trump, initially gained notoriety due to his appearance on the reality television show The Apprentice. While the prospect of a future president coming exclusively from reality television seems very unlikely, the thought is enough to spur some interesting debate. You never know, often times fact is stranger than fiction.

Additional Reading:

Continue reading “The painful truth behind The Truman Show”

A light criticism of “desktop films”

searching.jpgSearching is the directorial debut by Aneesh Chaganty and tells its story almost entirely through a computer screen. While there’s nothing new there it’s certainly an interesting choice, especially for someones very first feature-length film. However, that begs the question. With this inherent stipulation cinematically, does the film still manage to be entertaining? Surprisingly, yes.

I went into this film without knowing a single thing about it. In passing, I may have seen a few promotional videos here and there but none of it seems to stick in my mind. So when the first thing I saw was a computer screen I was more than just skeptical of the film’s fidelity. The main issue with choosing to make a film that takes place entirely on a computer screen is the inherent lack of visual stimulation. When the majority of the screen is simply white space the audience is practically inclined to get bored. However, I think Chaganty uses this to his advantage. There’s always a logical reason for why the audience is able to see what’s happening, whether it’s on security cameras or newscasts. Chaganty also isn’t afraid to make computers do things they normally can’t. A risk I think was well worth the slight loss of immersion. Often times, the point of view will begin to zoom in on a specific detail or element on the screen, which makes for some incredibly tense moments.

All in all, I was satisfied. While the film’s storytelling is formulaic at times, the overall mystery albeit thrilling is a bit predictable in some moments, and it sometimes gets confused about what its overall purpose is; the one thing the film consistently manages to be is entertaining. At this point, I’m just searching for a movie that takes place entirely on a PlayStation party chat.

Additional Reading:

Continue reading “A light criticism of “desktop films””

150-word track review: Cake – Scott James

shelter

Scott James grapples with the loss of innocence in the opener to his 2017 album Shelter Island Heights. He begins by saying:

Now I’ve done it too. It’s funny how it happens.

These ominous words carry their tension throughout the track as James continues to lament his choices even going into denial halfway through as he repeats in the chorus:

Course I’d like to lose it. Won’t you help me lose it.

As the listener reaches the end, the drums and horns kick in to form a beautiful ballad that compliments its melancholic tone. A stark contrast from the soft guitar that the track begins on. The whole track just simply feels like it builds up to that one moment of musical euphoria. Where the listener is immersed in the desolate world. It’s clear no one does build ups like he does. Listen to it, should be a piece of cake.