Tag Archives: The Shorthorn

“SPOTLIGHT” Review (✫✫✫✫)

“Shine a light, and let the whole world see.”

In the Boston Globe story on the 1990 Church abuse scandal, the Spotlight team reported that there were over 130 sexual assault victims from just one Catholic priest. In the film Spotlight, we eventually learn that over 80 Boston priests were sexual predators, and were being continuously circulated from parish to parish. If those numbers are consistent, how many victims of sexual assault does that spell out for Boston? My math came down to over 10,000.

I don’t know if that’s accurate because I haven’t dug much further into the Boston Globe’s reporting, but I don’t think that matters. What matters is that Spotlight made me think of those victims. It made me think about the people that you don’t normally think about, the problems that you don’t think exist, and the secrets that you don’t think are being hidden behind prayers and confession booths. Like any great piece of reporting, Spotlight brings importance, urgency, and truth that needs to be known about. If Spotlight isn’t the best film of the year, it is definitely the most important.

The Spotlight team consists of lead editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) and reporters Matt Carol (Brian d’Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo). The team is specifically reserved for investigative reporting, previously breaking stories on transit mismanagement and political corruption in Massachusetts. At the time when they were given this assignment, it was not as a follow-up to a news story, but to a column written and published by one of the Globe’s staffers.

At first, no one really thought much of the project. When originally pitched, it had to do with the Catholic church finding out that one priest had sexually assaulted children in six different churches, and did nothing about it. But when the team kept digging, they found out that it was bigger than they anticipated. Much bigger.

While watching Spotlight, I was thrusted upon an early memory of one of my first major news assignments. It was a story called “Seconds Away,” and it was about a university alumna who was just seconds from crossing the finish line before it blew up during the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The story wasn’t that she survived. It was that she went back the following year to finish crossing the line that she never did.

While getting ready for our interview, I was excited, nervous, and petrified all at once. This was a woman who had survived a near-death experience. She had faced something few other people have had to face, myself included. I didn’t know how to approach it. Was she comfortable with me talking to her? Would I be insensitive by asking serious questions? Would I be disrespectful by asking what was going through her mind? What would that say of me as a person, by asking her to relive something traumatic that she already went through?

The reporters and editors behind Spotlight face these same questions and concerns of morality every day they step into the office. Yet, they handled this difficult subject in the same way that the movie does: with grace and respect.

The greatest thing that can be said about Spotlight is its transparency: in how its characters charge towards this groundbreaking story and the emotions and conflicts they experience while doing their jobs. Writer-director Tom McCarthy, who was raised Catholic, juggles this behind-the-scenes story with real people’s traumas and emotions in mind. The result is a portrait that is genuine, astounding, mind-blowing, and heartbreaking all at once.

Take the interview scenes as a demonstration of this. During the film’s first scenes, Spotlight reporters sit down with a few sex abuse survivors, their brokenness and vulnerability made evident on the spot. The interesting thing you’ll find in between these intercut scenes is that it’s not Rachel McAdam’s mannerisms we’re noticing. It’s not Mark Ruffalo’s reactions or face of shock we’re noticing. It’s the supporting actors playing these victims, whom I can’t even identify off of the film’s cast list. Every detail of them is absorbing and introspective.

We notice the gay man in a coffee shop as he twiddles his thumbs nervously on his coffee cup. We notice the skinny drug addict sweating, entering the room cautiously, seeing scars up his arms from when he injected himself with heroin. We notice that while their testimonies are overwhelmingly tragic, they talk about it casually and on a whim; like it’s a scar that has already been healed, but will never go away. We listen to their silence as they quietly relive their traumas, the quivering in their voice as they slowly speak, the tears building up in their eyes as they come to once again realize what they are. I find that so compelling, that one of the best things in this film are the actors that I can’t even name.

The rest of the film is like that: finding value in the areas that you can’t exactly point out, but you know they are there. For instance, who’s the main protagonist? You could argue Rezendes, because he has the most visible reaction from working on this story. In reality though, this story is impacting the entire Spotlight team and more. It impacts everyone, in ways that nobody realizes until it walks right up to their doorstep.

This movie takes time and dedication to build up its story and collect the necessary information, just like Spotlight’s reporters do. In doing that, this is undeniably a slow film, but the pace doesn’t matter as much as the payoff. Spotlight deserves to be sought out. It is one of those rare films that not only makes us better viewers, but also better human beings.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Meeting With Aaron Sorkin

I can now say two things about my journalism career: that I have interviewed two Academy Award winners, and I have met the man responsible for me even writing in the first place.

Last week, I got to interview screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for his upcoming film Steve Jobs. He’s also been behind a lot of Hollywood’s more intelligent and well-crafted films, including A Few Good Men, Moneyball, and The Social Network, of which he won an Oscar for.

The Social Network in particular is special to me. It was my senior year in high school the year it came out, and I knew almost nothing about which direction I wanted to go with my life. I knew two things: that I had a creative mind, and that I enjoyed reading and writing.

While I had these skills, however, I didn’t know how I could translate that into a career. Yes I was writing my own short stories and poems, but I saw those more as hobbies than I did as a means of sustainment.

That is, until I saw The Social Network.

I saw the film in November. It was a cold, chilly day, and I walked up to the movie theater in my sweats and hoodie like I was Mark Zuckerberg walking across his campus. Sitting in the theater, watching the film, I felt like Zuckerberg did when he realized the potential of his future creation of Facebook. The genius of the idea came rushing into his head all at once, like lightning when it struck Ben Franklin’s kite. So too did the craftsmanship of the film hit me all at once like I was flying my own kite in the movie theater.

The movie played out like a Greek tragedy of sorts. You had this character embodied with a mortal flaw (in this case, Zuckerberg’s social anxiety) which eventually leads to his downfall and, ultimately, his undoing. With the character of Mark Zuckerberg, however, his undoing is not the loss of his life, like it is in those old Shakespeare plays. His undoing comes in the form of social seclusion: with him being alone with only his genius and his ego to keep him company.

Oh, I had seen great movies before, but this one was different. It wasn’t great in the contemporary sense of going from plot point A to plot point B. This showed craftsmanship in which I hadn’t seen before. It’s uniqueness didn’t come from its premise or its ideas, but in how it told and expressed its premise and ideas. The intricate, witty dialogue. The complex and interesting characters. The closeness of its shots and the tightness in its editing. I had come to love and appreciate The Social Network in a way that I hadn’t appreciated even the most exciting and action-packed blockbusters.

It showed me that true excitement didn’t come from special effects. It came from interesting and compelling characters.

After watching the movie, I had one thought in my head: “I have to write about this.” So I went home, created a Facebook account (which is ironic, because the movie was clearly critical of social media) and wrote and published my first reviews online.

I didn’t know the first thing about film criticism. In fact, to this day, I attest the one that was written the worst was The Social Network (And also The Shawshank Redemption, which I had published previous to The Social Network for practice). But the quality of those reviews almost doesn’t matter. I had found a reason to write, and I initiated that ambition myself. I can always rewrite my reviews for The Shawshank Redemption and The Social Network, but my first experience at writing and publishing my own work is something I will never get to experience again. It is one of my greatest memories of being a writer.

Enter 2015, and I’m sitting down across from the man who more or less takes credit for being the writer who inspired me to become one myself. His most recent film, Steve Jobs, sports a lot of similarities to The Social Network. Both center on geniuses in their respective crafts. Both have character with social discomforts that make them seem more like aliens than human beings. But both go through these brilliant arcs in the film that shows changes to their characters and to their relationships with the supporting cast. The only difference is Steve Jobs ends on a more lighthearted note. The Social Network does not.

So there we were, Aaron Sorkin and myself, talking about the film and his processes in researching and writing the picture. The most interesting thing he said to me was that he wasn’t interested in telling Steve Jobs’ biography: he was interested in telling his story, and to do that required making inferences to the facts rather than writing just the facts themselves.

“It’s not a piece of journalism,” he said. “It’s a piece of art.”

While talking, I don’t think it dawned on him at how much of an influence he’s been on me, on how much his writing inspired me to write myself, or even that his screenplay had gotten me interested in writing about movies in the first place. Then again, maybe he didn’t need to know. He was an artist talking about his art, and we might have had a different conversation if he realized he was talking to a fan instead of a journalist.

Sorkin probably will never read this post, and it’s just as well. He revealed his brilliant mind to me, and that was a gift in itself. Maybe one day some young, aimless artist will read one of my reviews or stories and realize that they want to write their own reviews and stories too.

One day, but until then, I’m going to keep enjoying perfecting my craft. Just like Sorkin is perfecting his.

– David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , ,

For WDBJ. For Journalism.

Journalism is under attack. The reporters are the soldiers, and our battlefield is the space that we type in.

Well, typing for most, that is. Some are brave enough to put their faces and bodies on a different battlefield: a television screen.

Two reporters did just that Wednesday morning. By that evening, we had two more casualties to report.

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker was 24 years old. She loved Mexican food, kayaking and television. One of her favorite characters was Walter White of “Breaking Bad.” She fell in love with WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst, and the couple moved in together in early August. They were saving up money for a wedding. Hurst told his mother “I finally found my teammate.”

Parker was the first to get shot.

Her camera man Adam Ward caught it all on camera. In that moment, everyone watching the television was seeing the same thing Ward was: his colleague and friend getting shot three times as she tried to get away.

Coworkers have described both journalists as good human beings — people with emotions, concerns, quirks and characteristics that made them who they are. They were good reporters, and they were better people.

The violent taking of their lives is, in every sense of the word, senseless. Nobody deserves the fate that these two suffered.

What bothers me most about this case is that, despite how tragic the situation is, it isn’t the only time it has happened.

In the past 10 years, at least 40 journalists a year have died while reporting on a story, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The largest number of casualties was 74 in 2012.

Some were caught in the crossfire while on the other side of the world in Iraq or Syria. Others were publicly executed as a warning to others who would speak out against evil and violence. You might find it interesting that the area of coverage to suffer the greatest amount of casualties is not crime, but politics.

Whatever the case may be, journalists like Parker and Ward are all over the world doing their jobs. They have families, friends and lives outside of the newsroom just like Parker and Ward did.

There’s only one reason why Parker and Ward’s deaths are getting all the media attention and not others: it was broadcast on national television.

We can’t just care about the reporters deaths that we know about. We need to be aware of all the sacrifices that journalists make on a daily basis and why they voluntarily make those sacrifices. Too many journalists have lost too much for the sake of their jobs.

#WeStandWithWDBJ

Tagged , , , , ,

John Green visits Dallas for new movie

In the midst of the screams and cheers of excited fans, John Green signed as many autographs as he could when faced with an onslaught of books and movie posters.

The Indianapolis-based author behind novels like Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars recently came to Dallas to promote the recent film adaptation of his 2008 novel Paper Towns, which tells the story of a suburban teenager searching for his classmate and love interest when she goes missing. He came to the “Get Lost, Get Found” tour 4 p.m. Thursday at The Bomb Factory in Dallas and was accompanied by actors Nat Wolff, Halston Sage and indie band Saint Motel.

“Dude, I love Dallas,” Green said. “I love Dallas so much. Yes, to 4 p.m. on a blistering July afternoon. This is an amazing place.”

The event was hosted by YouTubers Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, who produce the channel ‘Just Between Us.’ Dunn said Green favorited a video where they were talking about “duck penises.” It wasn’t long before Green personally asked them to host the fan event.

“I had read The Fault in Our Stars, then I read Paper Towns when I heard they were making a movie about it,” Dunn said. “I think I was already following him and when he followed me back. I was like ‘What is happening?’”

Dunn wasn’t the only one to read book by John Green after hearing about the movie coming out. UTA sociology junior Skyler Vasquez did the same thing when she heard that The Fault In Our Stars was being adapted into a film in 2014.

“I read the book before the movie came out,” Vasquez said. “I immediately fell in love with John Green.”

She started reading Paper Towns when she heard it was being made into a film as well, Vasquez said.

Paper Towns is a little hard to get into at first, but it’s a great story,” she said. “You just kind of got to hang on for the first few chapters and then it’ll pick up.”

One element that fans of Green praise about his writing is his style. Burleson high school student Alie Shipman described it as “interpretive”, going so far as to compare it to finding clues to solve a bigger mystery.

“It was a really good book,” Shipman said. “I like the style that he writes in. I’m kind of a bookworm.”

Vasquez said she likes how Green immerses the reader in his characters.

“John Green has a unique way of developing characters that are so different from one another,” Vasquez said. “It’s almost as if you can put yourself in that character’s place.”

Green’s novel was based on his own road trip experiences, and his reactions when he and his friends came across a real “paper town.”

55ad5c45d33b2.image“I really wanted it to be a movie about imagining other people complexly, and how difficult it is to understand what it’s really like to be someone else, and how difficult empathy really can be,” Green said. “I think Jake Schreier, the director of this movie, did an amazing job of bringing that to the screen.”

With Paper Towns being his second book to be adapted to the screen, Green said this is supposed to be a less sad movie than The Fault In Our Stars. Also, unlike his scene that they ended up cutting out of The Fault In Our Stars, he will have a cameo in Paper Towns.

“I have a cameo. It’s in the movie. Almost no one notices it, but it’s there,” Green said enthusiastically. “I know it’s there.”

With Paper Towns releasing on Friday, fans are more than excited for Green’s second big-screen adaptation.

“I just feel so incredibly lucky, not just to have them made, but to like them,” Green said. “I like both of the movies so much, and that’s very rare for authors. I’m really grateful.”

– David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Afternoon With Alejandro Inarritu

“And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.”

– Raymond Carver

These were the words that director Alejandro Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful) chose to quote at the beginning of his meticulous film Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. It was also the first words that came back into my head minutes before I was to interview him.

This weekend, I had two great experiences happen to me. Firstly, getting to see Birdman, a viciously unique film that tackles it’s characters and themes with pinpoint precision: a masterwork by a master director. The second you already know. If you don’t, you didn’t read my first paragraph.

Alejandro gave myself, along with about ten other college journalists, the privilege to talk to him about his upcoming limited release. After seeing the movie, this surprised me, because there was a moment in the film where a journalist accuses the main character of injecting semen into his pores to maintain his young features. I suspect Mr. Inarritu hosts a very guarded spirit while being interviewed by the press, and I certainly don’t blame him for that if that is the case. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why Inarritu wanted to host the interview over the phone in the first place.

Anyhow, I had 20 minutes to listen to the director’s innermost thoughts, and while I only got to ask him one question, I enjoyed the experience as much as any other college journalist who participated in the call. While all of these aren’t my questions, these are the ones I found the most relevant to the film, and the ones I believed Inarritu would have preferred to be answered in the first place. So without further adieu, here is Alejandro Inarritu on the unexpected virtue of ignorance.

Question: Your film is unique, hyperactive and full of energy. How do you communicate to your cast the complex tone you’re wanting to portray?

Answer: I always try to be very specific, help them to clarify and simplify things by having a very clear objective. I think every scene has an objective, and every character has something they want to achieve in each scene. When you have cleared your objective, and to try one or two possible ways to get that done through an action verb, I think that would simplify the work not only for me, but for everybody.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced while making the film? 

A: It was a very short shooting — 29 days. We rehearsed a lot before arriving to the set, so basically it was a very intense and meticulous work of precision with actors, camera and crew. Everything was designed and matched the needs of the film that was basically predecided in rehearsal.

Q: You have a big role behind your scenes in producing, writing and directing all of your films. What is it like taking on all of those jobs at once? 

A: I have been lucky to have been the producer and be involved in all of my films in a very personal way. I think there is no other way to make it. I think if you have a film that is personal, if you are doing your own film, there is no other way to not produce it, because I think it’s a part of the film. Producing means a lot of decisions that will impact your film one way or another.

Q: In the movie, Riggan Thompson is overshadowed by a superhero role he played earlier in his career. In real life, Keaton is overshadowed by his role in Tim Burton’s Batman. Is that an intentional casting decision that you made?

A: Keaton adds a lot of mental reality to the film, being an authority and one of the few persons of his work that pioneered the superhero thing. But at the same time, he has the craft and the range to play in drama and comedy, and very few actors can do that. He plays a prick in this film, and I need someone who was adorable, somebody who you can really like. He has that likeness, that likeness that was required. All of these things made him the perfect choice for it. I think he was very bold in trusting me with this role.

Q: One of the things that is particularly interesting with the film is the long take. Can you talk about why you made that visual choice?

A: I wanted the long take to make the people really feel the experience of this guy. I think it’s important for every director in every film to pick the point of view, and in this case I wanted radical point of view, and the people were in the shoes of the character to experience his emotions. I felt that was the most effective way to do that.

Q: Why did you choose to portray mental illness in a film that is at least extensively a comedy?

A: I think ego is a part of our decease as a society. I think the ego is a necessity, but I think when the ego takes over and we attach our personalities to the ego, and he domains a person absolutely without being discovered or controlled. That’s mental deceit, and I see in a way Riggan Thompson suffering from that illusion of ego that’s distorting him. He thinks he does things that he does not do, he’s in like a manic state of mind. He’s an extreme case of ego.

Q: Is that part of the commentary?

A: Everything is part of the tone of the film. That’s why it opens with a guy meditating in tidy whites.

– David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

He’s Not Fat. He’s Fluffy.

Out of all of the celebrity interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of going to, I don’t believe I’ve ever had as much fun as I did speaking with comedian Gabriel Iglesias. Iglesias, who also goes by his comedic identity as “Fluffy” was born 1976 in California, which is also his current place of residence. After we introduced ourselves, he talked about how he’s been up since 6 a.m. promoting for his new movie The Fluffy Movie, in theaters July 26, and how he just got to eat.

That’s when I noticed his shirt, which sported a logo of a famous autobot that I loved from a series featuring transforming robots.

“Can I just say that I love your shirt?” I told him.

“Man, I love it to,” he replied. “Even though they don’t want me to market with it. They’re like ‘You should be wearing your old shirt!’ I’m like ‘Man, come on. Really?'”

As we sat down at got ourselves comfortable, me and the other journalists at the table starting asking him questions regarding his early beginning as a comedian. Before becoming the highly-popular comedic phenomenon that he is, Iglesias worked as a salesman for a company called LA Cellular, which would later merge with a company called AT&T.

“We call them the cancer phones, the ones where you put them against your head and you can feel like you’re talking with a microwave,” Iglesias said. “Like, you could use your phone as a weapon. If you dropped your phone back then, you could throw your phone, it was fine, it was industrial, it was meant to last. Not like now, you dropped it off a table, you’re like ‘Oh shoot, there goes 800 bucks.’”

Iglesias took his chance at comedy when he went into a club late into his career as a phone salesman. He even remembered the date that he first performed: April 10th, 1997.

“There was somebody  in the crowd that saw me and he goes ‘Hey, you’re funny. We got a comedy show at this nightclub next week. I’ll pay you $20,'” he said. “So after my first night performing, I already got my first paid gig.”

When I asked him about when he hit mainstream attention, when he became “Fluffy”, he corrected me, saying at how those were two different things.

“I was always known as the Fluffy guy, ever since I started,” he said. “That was always a nickname. In the beginning, people wouldn’t remember ‘Gabriel Iglesias.’ After the show, it’s ‘Hey, good job Fluffy!’ I’m like ‘Ugh, come on man, half of my name is already famous, work with me!’ I would be like, really?”

Iglesias said his career took off once he learned to use the name “Fluffy”.

“I just started embracing it so much that I started marketing it,” he said. “Now its to the point where years later, if you type ‘Fluffy’ in Google or Bing, I’d beat everything. I’m number one. I’d beat out bunnies, cotton candy, quilts, you name it. It works for me, and I’d rather people call me Fluffy than mess with my name. It’s one word, like ‘Cher.’ If I dropped Gabriel Iglesias all together and I just started going by Fluffy tomorrow, people would totally take it.”

Iglesias said that the key to his success has been through networking. That networking has been the key to everything.

“I know a lot of funny guys, guys that are hysterical, that will floor you, leave you bent over just laughing hard, but you know what? They’re really bad at returning phone calls,” Iglesias said. “They’re bad at social networks, they’re really bad at just dealing with people one-on-one, and you know, just negotiating and simple basic things that they’re crippled with, but they’re talented on stage. So someone like that, they need really good management, someone that’s going to be patient with them, somebody that’s going to understand them and speak on their behalf.”

After a journalist mentioned how Iglesias manages all of his own social media, Iglesias said handling it himself has been a big deal to him.

“I don’t want someone speaking on my behalf that’s going to say something I don’t want to say,” he said. “You can tell it’s me that writes the stuff because the grammar is so f—– up. I write everything with an ‘r’ instead of ‘a-r-e’, or a number two instead of ‘to’, I still don’t know how to spell ‘there’ the right way. I always jack that one up, people always correct me, and I’m like ‘Really? Why’d you got to correct me? You let the number two fly, you let the letter U fly, you let everything else fly,’ but I use ‘there’ the wrong way, and I spell ‘there’ instead t-h-i, uh, whatever. It’s so messed up.”

Man, my copy desk chief would be having a fit.

After talking about a time when he was drunk and cussed out his management team on a comedy club stage, Iglesias was asked if he felt like he got too open with his audience sometimes.

“Yeah, like right now,” he said, as the room erupted into laughs. “Probably shouldn’t have said that stuff.”

“But sometimes I do open up a little too much. But if I don’t open up to the crowd, man, I’m not even talking to you at home, I can’t vent about certain things at the house. It’s not the same. At home you get judged. On stage, people are like ‘You know what, I’m messed up like you. I get it.’ And again, at the end of the day, that’s one of the things that people can relate to, it’s like ‘Man, that guy, yeah he’s successful, but he’s still got s— going on.'”

As I conversed with him, I could tell through his speech that his audience was the thing he cared most about his career; about taking pictures with people at the airport and talking to fans as he sat down to order at the Pizza Parlor.

“Just common courtesy, a lot of basic things, they go a long way,” he said. “Any time I perform at a comedy club, talking to the staff, looking at people in the eyes, some people don’t want to just connect at all. You get off the stage, being like ‘Leave me alone,’ it’s like ‘No, why man?’ The staff, they’re the ones that are going to see people and be like ‘Hey, we saw a real funny show, you should come see him, he’s a real nice guy too.’ It goes a long way.”

Iglesias said that he tries to please everyone with his act, and when it doesn’t, he’s bothered by it.

“If somebody says a negative comment on Twitter, I take it so personal, and I care,” Iglesias said. “I care what people say and what they think, and sometimes I care a little too much to where I let it consume me. I’m learning the hard way you can’t please everybody, and that bothers me, because I just want to please everybody. I want everybody to be happy.”

After talking with Jeff Sewell, Improv Comedy Club General manager, for my Shorthorn article, I discovered that he has known comedian Gabriel Iglesias for years. He said that Iglesias hasn’t changed one bit, ever since he met him about ten years ago in Houston.

“He was totally down to earth,” Sewell said. “Everybody you talk to, everybody loves Gabriel. They never have a bad word to say about that guy.”

Iglesias said that despite some disappointments, he won’t change his act, because the Fluffy persona is what helped him sell out stadiums and arenas across the world.

“For people that don’t think I’m edgy enough, well that’s fine,” Iglesias said. “Go ahead, go enjoy whoever makes you laugh. I’ll have fun with my full house.”

To read more on Iglesias, go online at www.theshorthorn.com. My article has a whole slew of good little nuggets, including audio tidbits of some of Iglesias’ best stories that I couldn’t fit into my article.

Oh, and Gabriel also took a selfie with my cell phone.

Yeah. That happened.

-David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Twitter: I’m Sorry

Dear Twitter.com,

Hi. I know it’s been a long time. How have you been? Good, I hope. I know things haven’t been the same since, well, you know. I know we’ve been through a lot together, I know that you hold some things against me and I’ve equally held some things against you, but for at least the next few moments, I want to put that behind us just so I can talk to you.

I remember the first time that we met each other. It was August 2012, when my entertainment editor at the time told me that I needed to get a twitter account. The idea infuriated me. “Twitter?!” I thought. “Who wants to deal with that bull4#5+?!”

But I remained open to the idea. I knew for my new job as the film critic that I had to build a social media presence that would help me in my audience syndication, similar to how Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper developed their presence and identities on the blogosphere. But the idea intimidated me. I was never a sociable guy in high school and I wasn’t much better in college. How could I possibly succeed at being social on a site I knew nothing about?

Then I met you. Boy, was my world turned upside down. I was instantly attracted to how neat and clean your format looked, how bright and colorful your pages were and how each tweet was as legible as a line of text messages. But it wasn’t just how you looked: your assets were tantalizing, your tutorial simplistic and ideal and your interface user-friendly. I knew from the moment I met you that we had something special, something that no other blogger could ever match. You and I were more than a team; we were star-crossed lovers, taking down the blogosphere one tweet at a time.

At least, that’s what we both thought. It was good the first few months, with you filling up my feed with content and with me tweeting out stories and pictures as if I knew what I was doing. Soon though, we both started doing things that set both of us on edge, and I don’t think we’ve been the same ever since.

For instance, you would always punish me for writing a tweet longer than 140 characters, and always asserting me with the answer “No” when I told you to publish it. I would yell at you for telling me no and shout at you about why the hell it was 140 characters instead of 140 words. You said that the tweet would be long and unappealing. I told you that your rants were long and unappealing.

We said hurtful things to each other, and our passion and love for each other was all but gone. In short, the reality of the romance quickly set in, and while we kept trying with each other, things just weren’t working out between us.

You remember how things went from there. After talking for a long while, we decided to go our separate ways and see other tweeters.

I’m not going to lie to you, the experience really hurt me. Do you know what bothered me the most though? It wasn’t the fact that you were mean to me. It wasn’t the fact that you were strict or stiff about the boundaries of our relationship. It wasn’t even the fact that you criticized me for any tweet that was over 15 words. It was the fact that you never let me know how you truly feel.

Please don’t lie, it’s the truth. You never talked to me about why the tweets couldn’t be over 140 characters. You never talked to me about what was wrong with you when I had five bars of WiFi, or why it took so long to upload a small file photo. You never even talked to me about your needs, about what you wanted in our relationship and why I wasn’t satisfying you in the ways I was supposed to.

I was not hurt that you were seeing other tweeters. I was hurt because you never talked to me about why. Why did you never talk to me?

It doesn’t matter. I miss you, and I want to give this a second shot. I know, I know, you’re scared and you don’t want this to fail a second time. Let me assure you: I know my mistakes. We didn’t agree on the character limit or the picture space. So what? I don’t care about that. I want to make this work, and I’m willing to work on my mistakes if it means being with you again. This isn’t a joke, and this isn’t me pranking you. I feel like I can make this work. I need you.

If you want to give this a second shot, you can reach me at my twitter handle @dDUnn87. Funny, huh? Exchanging twitter handles just like when we first met.

I won’t pressure you with anything more. I just wanted you to know that I miss you and I want to give this a second shot. Please reach me if you want to as well. I hope you do.

Truly yours,

David Anthony Dunn

P.S.: I saw you online today. You looked lovely.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

“CANVAS OF SKY” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Paul Demer’s Canvas of Sky is a humble little soliloquy, a slight and pleasurable experience that takes you soaring through the clouds, into the heavens and then back to earth with more perspective on things than you’ve had before. It does more than highlight Demer’s talents: it makes him seem ahead of his years.

We open on a track that feels like it could be played in your car as you’re driving with the windows down: “Bound For Home,” which doesn’t waste time as it opens on a jamming rock ballad that just can’t help but make you feel like you’re in the ’90s. When Demer starts singing about a world beyond our own, you instantly know that he’s not regurgitating song lyrics. They’re personal, and they mean a lot to him.

“I still believe it’s true,” he begins at the chorus. “That every day we’re created new, and this life is not our own when we realize we’re bound for home.”

As the album continues, you continue to notice small glimpses of Demer’s values and of the things he holds closest to his heart.

“One year to 20, and I thought things would be different,” he sings in “Birthday.” “But my indifference is still turning a blind eye.” On “Open Your Eyes” he says “It’s hard to see the stars when your head’s down in the dirt, and when your heart’s ajar, the small things start to hurt.” He’s also admitted that he’s afraid of losing the things he values the most, saying “I get so scared of losing all I’ve gained, but the things I cling to keep weighing me down,” in “Soaring.”

The highlight of the album is easily Demer’s talents. If you look at the album credits, you’ll notice that Demer not only wrote and performed all of his own songs, you’ll also notice he did the instrumentals too, credited on most of the album as working on the guitars, bass, drums and even the viola. His voice also has great range, from his regular-pitched Adam Young-like voice to the higher pitches that he gives in the more impressive harmonies. Whether he’s jamming on his guitar or singing one of his own lyrics doesn’t matter. Every moment feels fresh, vibrant and new.

But it’s more than what Demer simply plays in the album, it’s also what he sings about, too. Throughout the album, you hear Demer constantly referring to a higher power that he can’t control, one that no one has ever seen but only some have ever felt.

It’s in “Maybe All Is Not Lost” where we most clearly understand who he’s referring to: God.

“You are turning this world around one day at a time,” he sings. “You are giving us eyes to see so we can find you.” He later says in the chorus that God comes to him when his strength is gone.

This is what I value most about the album: Demer can express his values and beliefs and it not be in your face or ham-fisted. It’s humble, serene and sweet, like he’s talking to a childhood friend and just modestly, but strongly, expressing what he believes in, not lecturing someone because they don’t believe in the same things he does.

There are a few instances where some decisions were made on the production side of things that didn’t quite make sense. In “Bound For Home,” for instance, there’s one moment where his voice track is significantly toned down for effect, and then it just suddenly juts into the regular levels in the middle of a lyric, instead of waiting for the verse to end to make a more effective transition. The album’s last track “Run” is mostly flimsy and forgettable, making me wonder why he chose to end the album on that track rather than “Constant” or “Open Your Eyes,” the album’s stronger tracks. The worst track, however, is easily “Neutrino,” where the instrumental track is as complacent as elevator music.

Overall, Canvas of Sky is a very noteworthy album. The small technical faults are there and the production can be better, but Demer has a gift that most other musicians do not have: genuineness. You can feel genuine passion and emotion behind the things that he sings about, and you can also feel that he genuinely believes in the things that he talks about.

Canvas of Sky does more than give you a good listen: it tells you that everything is going to be alright, and it will be.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Valentine’s Date There Is: You

I was 19 years old when I kissed a girl for the first time. I was about ten when I hugged one. I was six when I told a girl “I love you”. I’ve never been in a serious relationship.

Yeah I know, boo-hoo me, right? I’ve been in this song-and-dance routine long enough to know how this game goes. Yes, I’m single. Valentines Day translates to me as “Single Awareness” day. You tell people your sad romance story, people go “aw” after your confession, and you go about your own way so you can sulk about. Right?

Well to be honest, I haven’t felt like that in a very long time, and its strange because growing up, that’s the only way that I’ve ever felt.

It all started back in high school. I was attracted to one of my pretty brunette friends that sat in my English class with me. This is the kind of girl that you need to take a snapshot of and save it on your phone. Her hair was long and silky, and spread down her back like a river over a waterfall. Her figure was fit and voluptuous, looking more like a sculpture than a human body. She had this perfumey aroma that was both sweet and addictive. Saying that she was beautiful didn’t do it justice. She was spellbinding.

But physical beauty isn’t enough to make a fitting partner: she needs to be beautiful on the inside as much as outside. And in regards to her, I didn’t know which was more beautiful.

We got along well. Very well. We shared the same taste in movies, books, and television shows, we had the same interests, we both went to Church, we both believed in the importance of family and spirituality, and most importantly, she believed in being happy.

So what happened? Well, despite our friendship, I wasn’t a sociable person back in high school. Quite contrarily, I was a creep. I’ve struggled socially speaking to people all my life, and it was even worse when it came to girls. When it came to my advances, she was instantly intimidated and swatted any of the notions out of the way.

I was devastated, and for my first few years in college I sought a filler for this empty spot that laid in my broken being. Long have I struggled to find the answer until one day it was just handed to me.

I was at lunch with a few of my fraternity brothers. We were all laughing, talking about hot girls we would hook up with and what teacher was the worst at his job. All laughing stopped, however, when I got a message from one of my brother’s girlfriends, saying that she was going to harm herself if he didn’t call her back.

I panicked and showed the message to my brothers. One of them called another friend to try and mediate the situation while another sent a message to her, saying he wanted to reach out. The message was long and endearing, but the part that hit me like a train was this:

“Your happiness can’t be dependent on another person. People can encourage you and be your companions along your journey. However the decision to be happy is up to you.”

I looked at this message long and hard, trying to understand the meaning of it and how I could apply it to my life. Finally, I stopped thinking about it and decided to start doing it: I was going to be happy.

It took a long time, and I’ve had some bumps in the way, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be independently happy without someone else’s influence. Happiness doesn’t come in a relationship. It doesn’t come in a kiss, or a hug, or even in the words “I love you.” Happiness comes in a personal decision and mindset to being happy and being satisfied with who you are, even if you’re a flawed individual. Being in a relationship doesn’t add or lessen your happiness: it’s just an opportunity to share that happiness.

So to the single folks out there who are sulking about their situations, I implore you to think differently. Yes, you’re single. So what? There are thousands of other single people out in the world right now, and they’re in the exact same situation as you. I know that I’m the best valentine date there could ever be, and the best part about that is that its true for you as well.

Happy Valentines Day, everybody.

-David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vanessa Hudgens Is The Apple Of Our Eyes

I once again had the pleasure of sitting down at a journalist’s roundtable for an in-person Q&A with actress/singer/songwriter Vanessa Hudgens, who came to Dallas to provide publicity for her newest role in a wonderful little picture called Gimme Shelter, directed by Ron KraussHudgens, who started off her career as an energetic young singer in High School Musical has been everywhere and back again in her career, with film roles ranging from the family-friendly Thunderbirds and Bandslam, to that of the more adult-oriented Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers.

With movies like those under her belt, I’ll admit I went into the screening a little less than underwhelmed. After watching it, however, I couldn’t have been more surprised. The movie is not only emotional, relevant, powerful and provocative: Hudgens gives the performance of her career, portraying a troubled pregnant teen named Apple who runs away from her abusive mother in order to find a better life. Hudgens was so striking, so compelling and authentic that for more than half of the movie I barely recognized her.

I, however, did recognize the woman who came into our conference room, and just like with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was instantly surprised at how… human she was. Society builds up actors like they’re otherworldly deities of the sort, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The woman we were speaking to was not Vanessa Hudgens, but rather, a beautiful, humble young actress who had dreams, goals and aspirations and was at a high point at this portion of her life.

All of the publications were very grateful for the opportunity to introduce ourselves to her, myself included. The following transcript is a compilation of their questions and mine. See if you can guess which one is which.

Question: Hello Ms. Hudgens. How are you today?

Vanessa Hudgens: Good, how are you guys?

Q: Excellent. How are you handling the Dallas weather?

VH: It’s really not bad. I was in Chicago a few weeks ago.

Q: I have some family up in Chicago, its horrible up there. 

VH: It’s crazy, I was there for one day and it was the coldest day they’ve ever had.

Q: I’m sorry. 

VH: The wind was just so blistery. It was cold.

Q: So how’d you come to get involved with this project?

VH: Just like I would with any other one. My agent sent me a script, no urgency behind it at all, and it was just another one that was floating around. I gave it a read, and I knew that it was going to be my next project. I went in, I read for Ron [the director], sent him an email, and through the power of persuasion, I got the part.

Q: What was the most difficult experience for you during filming?

VH: You know, it’s really interesting because I don’t think of it as difficult. I think of it as exciting, because I was so passionate about the project I was more than willing to put in the work. The deeper I got, the more thrilled I became. I mean, I did have a moment where I personally broke down just because I was really uncomfortable in one of the scenes and I was afraid of someone getting hurt. Aside from that, I had Ron by my side, who was constantly putting me in the right direction, and I would kind of celebrate myself after every scene. It was a fun but challenging process.

Q: What scene specifically was that? 

VH: It’s so random, it’s the scene where I’m walking on the street and a pimp rolls up to me right before I get into a car crash. They wanted me to drive as close to him as possible. His name was Jeff, he was my bodyguard while we were filming in the dodgy areas. I just don’t like the idea of people getting hurt, and it just really freaked me out. It gave me serious anxiety, and I had to stop and remind myself how to breathe.

Q: Apple was dragged a bunch of directions in the movie, how do you think that could possibly parallel your career in the past few years? 

VH: I mean, Apple is strong. She’s such a survivor, and I love strong women. That’s one thing that really attracted me to her. But she does take her life into her own hands, and she doesn’t look at her circumstance or her condition and she has her own will. I definitely think that reflects my career. I had my circumstance, but I am taking things into my own hands as well and just fighting for the things that I want.

Q: Did you have any conversations with the real-life Apple about her relationship with the Chaplin? I mean, James Earl Jones is only in three scenes of the movie.

VH: Well, not necessarily. I feel like the religion and faith aspect is something that I see more so now after being able to see what it’s doing to people in the way that its connecting with people. But in the present moment, that wasn’t necessarily my focus.

Q: There is a moment early in the film where Apple is giving herself a pep talk before she cuts nearly all of her hair off as a sort of act of rebellion towards her cruel mother. Was that acting or did you really have to give yourself a pep talk before you did that?

VH: I mean, I would always try to stare at myself in the mirror before a scene just so I can remember who I’m playing, and I think that really just set the tone for me. But in that scene, I was cutting a wig. That would be way to messy to try to do that on film.

Q: I was just thinking of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with 50/50 in that scene.

VH: Yeah.

Q: And how did you prepare yourself with the birthing scene? That was one of the most moving scenes in that movie.

VH: Thank you, all of it. I mean, every single scene was just putting myself in that circumstance. I popped a bunch of blood vessels in my neck and in my cheek afterwards I realized, so I was really going for it. The most powerful part of that for me was when they put the baby on my chest. That was when the acting disappeared. I mean, there’s nothing more powerful and profound than childbirth. It’s a miracle. So to have that moment, even though I know its acting and I know its not my baby, putting myself in that circumstance it just really resonated in my heart and filled me with so much love and hope and its really overwhelming.

Q: Do you still stay in touch with the girls at the shelter?

VH: Yeah, one in specific, Darlisha, she’s the one who had the events happen to her with the mother, and she was in the shelter when I was there. We still chat, she’s amazing, she just got her drivers license which she’s very excited about, she’s studying to be a nurse, and she’s really starting to love herself and just seeing her transformation is really, really beautiful. She’s being released into this world, and she’s starting to become independent. And now she’s got a beautiful little boy. He’s amazing.

Q: What was it like working with Rosario Dawson?

VH: Incredible. She’s amazing. That woman is a powerhouse. She consistently surprises me in every single thing that she does. Just her dedication and her hard work and just how she really spreads her act over a wide spectrum. She’s an amazing actress, she really understood this character. I think she came from a poverty family growing up and she got it. She had seen this side of motherhood. She connected, I connected, we both understood our characters, so when we worked together it was just organic. Things were just happening naturally and we just let it play out. It was nice.

Q: Regarding your past filmography, how much different taking on this role and were you a little intimidated taking it on?

VH: Yeah, of course. It’s terrifying to really dive into something and not know if you can actually go there because you’ve never tried to before, and to know that it’s going to be documented forever. So there really is no second chances with it. It’s a complete 180. I’ve never really been able to transform myself like this. Everything. I mean, the way that I walked, the way that I talked, the way that I moved my face, it was so much fun. Because its really just creating someone new and living within that. I really had such a blast. If I could do something like this again but a completely different character I would jump at it. Because it’s really a dream role.

Q: I’d love to see it again. 

VH: Oh, it’ll happen.

Q: How was it walking away from it? 

VH: It sucked. It was really hard just because I think subconsciously, I stayed in the character the entire time. I put in so much work into becoming that person, stepping out of it would just be taking away from the work that I put in. So I got home, and I looked in the mirror, and I still saw Apple. I didn’t see Vanessa, I didn’t know who Vanessa was, I didn’t know what she was interested in, I just completely lost sight of myself. It took a while, it took a lot of time just taking care of myself and giving myself love and getting back in my body, and just being comfortable with me again. It was tough though.

Q: What are your expectations of the movie?

VH: I expect it to bring people healing, and to bring them a wider view of the world and of human nature. I think that a lot of humans naturally suppress pain and I think this movie brings it back up again, and you have to sit in that and you have to feel it and you have to deal with it. So I think from that brings a lot of healing and compassion. I got so much out of this movie myself and that’s what I love about it, is that it touches on so many different subjects. There’s abandonment, there’s abortion, there’s homelessness, there’s abuse, so I think everyone is going to get something different out of it.

-David Dunn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements