Across The Universe

Musicals on film are often a hit or miss. Some belong on Broadway, while others like Across The Universe (2007) portray an era both accurately and artistically that is too often forgotten. The story follows Jude (Jim Sturgess) from Liverpool to New York City. Jude goes to America to find his father and instead finds himself amongst an eclectic group of friends trying to survive through the counterculture and anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Jude’s life story alludes to John Lennon, one of the four Beatles, which the music in the movie comes from, as both Jude and John Lennon came to New York City from Liverpool and followed an artistic career. John Lennon, however, was not deported like Jude at the end of the movie.

The 30 songs chosen for Across The Universe covers events from 1963 to 1969, but is condensed into a two year period for the film. The movie alludes to people and celebrities that the Beatles either had some form of relationship with or stars that rose around the same time the movie takes place. For instance, Sadie (Dana Fuchs) represents Janis Joplin, which can be seen through her drinking habits and heard through her rough singing voice. The scene where Jude uses strawberries for an art piece parallels Stuart Sutcliffe, once a bassist for the Beatles. Jude creates a splatter-paint portrait of a strawberry, a Jackson Pollock-like style, which Stuart was also heavily influenced by in his own art. The bus in the scene with Dr. Robert (Bono) is the same bus the Beatles used on their Magical Mystery Tour. It’s also very similar to the bus Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove. At the party before the cast gets on the bus they can be seen drinking “electric” kool-aid referencing Tom Wolfe’s novel, Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.

The director, Julie Taymor, did well by referencing accurate events and places. For instance, there was a violent student protest in front of Columbia University in the Sixties and an explosion that occurred in a New York townhouse on West 11th Street due to an organization called “Weather Underground”. The last scene where Sadie and the Po Boys are singing on the roof top is referenced to the Beatles concert on a rooftop in London where the police stopped them during the song, “Let It Be”. Cafe Huh?, the club where Sadie and Jimi Hendrix sang in the movie was the same club in Greenwhich Village, called Cafe wha?

Along with an authentic portrayal of the era, artistry comes forward in the film through the blending of dialogue and music transitions. Although the Beatles music can be listened to on loop, the music video portion of the movie doesn’t take over the rest of the screenplay as it often does in other musicals. The music videos are more or less used to cover exposition and montage within the screenplay. During the use of “Let It Be”, the scene covers Daniel’s (Spencer Liff) death and his funeral as well as the funeral of little boy in the war who first started singing the song. This was a simple set up to show that war was bigger and affected more people than just the few characters in the movie. One of the best uses of transition in Across the Universe is the scene where Max Carrigan (Joe Anderson), Lucy’s (Evan Rachel Wood) brother, goes off to war. The song, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” plays in the background. As Max reports to his official he sees the poster of Big Ben singing “I want you, I want you so bad.” He is then placed on a conveyor belt, denoting him to one of thousands of soldiers portrayed like G.I. Joes. The music video ends with Prudence (T.V. Carpio) sitting outside the apartment window admiring Sadie and the scene is back to the life of Jude and his eclectic friends.

What could have been a terrible portrayal of the Beatles music, turned out to be a fully thought out portrait of the Sixties. Across The Universe starts out in a simple fashion by looking into Jude’s eyes as the camera zooms in. The camera does the same thing in the end when we see Lucy standing on the opposite rooftop, ending the movie in a relatively similar way. This loop allows the audience to tie up any loose ends and have a sense of completion. Across The Universe is a nicely wrapped present of artistry and authenticity.

Found Fiction From Facebook

Me forgetting headphones = me having to hear fourteen year old girls talk about how stupid their boyfriends are because they don’t have “swag”―fuck my life. The English language has been reduced to but a mere shadow of its former self. And all I hear: Wobbledy, wobble, wo-wo-wobble, wobbin’. That same moment you send a message to the person of topic―face palm, like a bag of crushed assholes. Get it while the gettin’ is good. And now for super vaudevilliany. I saved 3 bucks on a blender today. I had to kill 3 people to get it. Just living the minimum wage dream. Lmao UGH. My first attempt at jellyfish shots. Been free-boobin’ it all day. Pre-party yo! Now seriously regretting not getting that panda bear onesie. Guess it’s time to get my shop on. Bitches love cake. But, love is just greed. I hereby declare that I am Count Chocula. Baba booey. Baba booey. Baba booey. Sometimes when you’re stuck in traffic it helps to scream at the top of your lungs. I’ve been obsessed with Supersize vs. Superskinny lately. If that shit doesn’t send you running (quite literally) for the hills, nothing will. Like the guy at Safeway: “So my sister just got pregnant―I mean, whatever I guess, YOLO right?” Loling? That’s short for like lollygagging or something, isn’t it?

Be young. Be dope. Be proud.

Shots right away! I’m gettin’ a garbage disposer installed in the shower tomorrow. Yes, dinosaurs were created by the CIA to discourage time travel. FACT. Culture Fighter fights the drive. Oh dt―ur hilarious. And I read: Mars rover finds something. Head of mission says it will change history. No one says what it is―nobody says anything. At all. There are two self-promoting sides to every story. If v-neck was a colour, it would be my favourite. And here’s a casual talk:

Lyke Omg skyp3 me!
Broken, only u kay thx
Send pix

Damnit! They drew all over my face while I passed out drunk―I’m a horrible babysitter. And they say: Happy Birthday Mr. Dressup! Thank you for giving us the gift of tickle trunks worldwide! As part of Mr. Dressup Day you should add some new junk to your trunk! Nothing says Friday like a beer during your after work bowel movement. Didn’t see this coming, going to go pick up B from her period surgery. The weekend gives me so much ping pong power, it’s great. I killed a unicorn. Ahh the hypocrisy of the pro-lifers. What the F is cray cray anyways? The guy who named chimichangas should be given more authority to name things. The only intelligent thing:

If matter cannot be created or destroyed, that means what you are has always existed and will always exist. So what makes pre-existence and post-existence different? In the words of the late, great Mark Twain, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Almost Famous

Almost Famous (2000), written and directed by Cameron Crowe, is an honest look into the life of rock’n’roll stars in the 70s. William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a young writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, follows a band called Stillwater around the country as he steps away from the boundaries of his regimented life. The film is loosely based on Cameron Crowe’s life, who also wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, and the band Stillwater, is a composite band of all the musicians he wrote about during his travels. While being awarded two Golden Globes and nominated for numerous awards, Almost Famous breaks the rules of screenplay.

Early in the movie William befriends the editor of Creem Magazine, Lester Bangs, a music fanatic who likes to hear his own voice. A common rule of screenplay is to have short dialogue between all the characters in the scene. However, as Lester and William have a meeting about music in the café, Lester does all the talking. The scene is approximately three minutes long and besides a few three-word lines, William hardly talks at all. Although this defies the rule of screenplay, this sets up the expectations of the audience for William’s life to go haywire when thrown into the rock scene. Lester says, “You came at a bad time for rock’n’roll, the war is over.” Near the end of the movie this battle between the infamous passionate metal and conveyor belt metal comes to a head when the band Stillwater doubles their shows, abandons their bus, and flies to a new city nearly every day, all for the money.

The most heart-throbbing scene is when no one does any talking at all except for two lines by William and Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) near the end. Tiny Dancerby Elton John, plays in the background as the audience watches a montage of the bus on the road and the members of Stillwater relaxing after an argument about the band t-shirts which only featured Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). William says he has to go home, one of the repeated lines throughout the movie. Penny Lane leans over and says, “You are home.” It takes three words to sum up what it’s like to be on the road in the 70s.

Absolutely my favourite movie for the richness of culture and Crowe’s atypical screenplay. The story is not only about William Miller, or Cameron Crowe, and how he got started as a writer, but how he influenced the people around him. William’s character only changes a fraction, although he experiences a lot of new things such as love, sex, and drugs, but he changed the outcome of Penny Lane’s suicide and Russell Hammond’s morals. William was able to find deeper meaning in rock’n’roll beyond the groupies and throw-down parties. A story about accomplishing dreams, big and small, and as Penny Lane puts it, “It’s all happening.”

The New Dead Poets Society

We are first led into a parking garage on Granville Island, a secret location behind the parked cars and unfinished drywalls. Red carpet covers the cement ground. Surrounding the hidden room are tables lit with candles, a bar with wine and beer in the structure of a little house, and benches around a heat lamp littered with books by Jennica Harper, Elizabeth Bachinsky, and Marita Dachsel.

Taryn, my Misfit Lit co-owner, and I are initiated with a simple pink string tied around our wrist. We are then handed a warm blanket to cover our legs as we sit at the table reading the poetry we are about to witness as performance art.

In the first round of the three performances we are led to a back room of some unknown building across the road. The walkway to our seats is curved in the shape of an oval so we can’t see where we were going, only the single person leading us around the bend. After the line halts, a quick glimpse around the dimly lit tunnel reveals the stools in which we take our seats. In front us is a wall with holes to fit our face and peer through like a looking glass. The lights come on and everyone stares at each other’s newly painted bodies surrounding the holes. I had previously read What it Feels Like For a Girl so I knew the narrative beforehand. There are two actors: one girl of fifteen years old and a lady in her thirties. Although the two characters in the poetry book are both in highschool, the main narrator, Jennica,  wrote the poetry book as if looking back on her life. The oldest actor parallels this concept of age; in between the scenes, she narrates her opinions on the new experiences that are thrust into her world. This is an ingenious take of a solid written book where the absence of a fabricated setting and complex props have the most to say.

The second stop of the night is in front of an abandoned warehouse. The rusted white door slides open and we walk into a cluttered garage with biohazard buckets and smog blurring our vision. It’s as if the fog breathes heavy along with us in anticipation. Elizabeth’s performance is not a narrated story like Jennica Harper’s, but a collection of poems strung together to paint a portrait of Ukrainian identity. The three performers instantly catch our attention when they walk up to our row and glare into our eyes only a couple feet away. Sometimes we don’t know whether to keep connecting with the performer or look in another direction. Again the props are simple, but we are able to interact with the tin can photographs handed out to us as we take a seat on one of the biohazard buckets. A couple times we are asked to move around for different settings and videos projected on carpentry plastic.

The final stop before being uninitiated from the night is Marita Dachsel’s house of poetry. There are six rooms, each with a different poem recited in a different setting. The first was simple: head phones, the sound of a frying pan to match the sculpture in front of us, and crushed eggshells litter the floor. Even the stench of rotten eggshells adds to the overall piece in a pleasurable way. My favourite room contains an antique dresser with a mirror. Taryn sits on one side while I sit across from her. We place the black top-hats on our heads and check ourself out in the mirror. Not until the the end of the poem does the mirror turn into a window and we find ourselves staring into each other’s eyes laughing at all the vain things we might have done when we thought the other wasn’t looking. The final room is a white hallway with billowing curtains covering the windows, a place that reminds me of the freedom of childhood.

What becomes of something we typically read on paper under the lamp light in our bedrooms is an interactive performance where we not only listen, but feel, touch, and smell the poetry. Even the second time seeing Initiation Trilogy, the magic still crawls through my veins.

Tree of Life

My surprise is when I walk into my University Writing for New Forms of Media class and Ross Laird has set paint on the tables. Yes, we are painting in a University class and most of us aren’t art majors, but our objective is to get in touch with our creative side, to find meaning beyond the distinct lines of ink on paper. The goal is not to paint a detailed scenery or landscape, but to brush emotion onto a blank canvas. This isn’t an exercise created for fine arts students, every one participates, even the artistically impaired. Being creative doesn’t only mean playing an instrument, building sculptures, or writing an award-winning novel. Creativity applies to the structure of a business, to advertisements, to a new product, building a website, or just about anything else you can think of. My idea of creativity is getting in touch with my emotional side, allowing those emotions to flow from me and produce a combination of mediums in my writing I would not normally think of.

What appears as a tree in my painting stands for so much more. In the swipe of brush strokes I get to thinking about my outlook on life and how much it has changed over the past two years. Previously I would get caught up in the negative aspects of my life, deeply unsatisfied with my lack of accomplishments. I am always looking at the things I haven’t achieved. However, I learnt that this particular outlook is only going to drive me down further. Life is a tree. The cliché for the tree of life shouldn’t be chopped up to a literary metaphor and overlooked so quickly. On one side of my painting there is a red weeping willow, the strokes pulling you back down towards the ground. On the opposite side is a living tree, its branches stretching upwards towards the sky. It’s no coincidence the colour green represents inspiration and creativity.

Most of us would like to chill out on the right side of the painting. Sometimes we do, our life takes a positive turn and we are enthralled by our career, friends, family, or hobbies. Then sometimes something less positive happens in our life and we ask ourselves, ‘Why can’t everything in our life just go well for once?’ My experience in my studies at University have been a positive experience for me. Creative writing: my classes, my individual projects, my poetry readings, have taken off faster than I expected. This leaves me smiling when I go to bed. However, sometimes my social life, my relationships, the cost of school can get me down. Before I would allow these negative aspects and heartbreaks to make everything in my life seem unfair or disappointing. Well, the truth is there will always be negative and positive aspects to our life. We have to choose what direction we are going to focus our attention. As we climb higher, our roots get deeper. The question here is which side of the tree are you going to climb?