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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why you'll hate that you love NIGHTCRAWLER

I was watching Jake Gyllenhaal on Conan O'Brien last week discussing Nightcrawler.  He gave a very intriguing hook about the film.

"People are obsessed with getting information from their technology.  They don't care where it comes from or how it got there, but that it is there and it keeps them busy.  News about Obama, or a video of a kitty playing the piano are of equal value."  He said.

Then he and the eternally self deprecating Conan started discussing how people only experience life through technology now.  And I think it is true to a point.  I mean, we record an entire concert on our phone while missing the actual concert... when a fight breaks out we pull phones out to take pictures instead of helping... we are more focused on how the marriage proposal is going to look on camera than the actual proposal.

And then Jake said this:

"So in this film my character starts to assert himself in the moral cracks... it's like while everybody is looking down at their phones and disconnected, this guy kind of slowly starts running things."  


The Drive-esque tone and nighttime Los Angeles settings were already enough, but now I was hooked even more.

After my wife and I realized we weren't getting any trick-or-treaters coming to our door, we rushed off to see it.  And we were given a heart-pumping, creepy-crawly thrill ride. I can't think of another film this year that had me gripping my seat and muttering PG-13 expletives (sorry Jessica) like this one did.

Here's why I loved it, and why I recommend it as a must see.


Gyllenhaal's transformative performance is unsettlingly good.  He portrays the nuances of someone who is extremely disconnected with those around him, but has learned social cues for one reason and one reason only: survival.  Gyllenhaal also delivers one of the best monologues I've seen on film in a long time... in a no-cut static shot that took my breath away.

Gyllenhaal plays Louis, and is very good at being very bad.  And the scariest part is he may not even realize it.  He brings out the 'nightcrawler' in those around him to get what he wants (I apologize for the vagaries but I'm trying to leave out any spoilers).

Here is the most intriguing factor for me: There is really nothing wrong with the skills Louis has, and the work ethic he displays.

He climbs the job ladder exceedingly fast... he independently learns and implements impressive strategies as an entrepreneur... he rallies others around his cause and even helps them climb the ladder in the process; everything us millennials are told we need to do to prosper in an economy that has entry level employees in a strangle hold.  But do the ends justify the means Mr. Machiavelli? 

More specifically, the film explores the question, "When the moral line is being flexed further and further to achieve success, and in this case, just to survive... is there anyone out there who has enough conviction... enough self-worth... to walk away?  To say "enough"?  To say, "I'm better than this, society is better than this."

What this movie demonstrates so well is that the Nightcrawler mentality hangs around because of the belief that we have to compromise who we are to survive.  If we don't, we will be the only ones walking away and we will be left behind.  This is the world that Rene Russo's character lives in throughout the movie.

In a pivotal moment, it's what Louis describes to his disgruntled partner:

"Do you know what fear is?  Fear is False Evidence Appearing to be Real."

F-E-A-R is the Nightcrawler's main tactic.


"Nightcrawling" is a phrase coined by an almost equally creepy Bill Paxton when describing his profession as a freelance news footage gatherer in Los Angeles.  Gyllenhaal's character Louis is introduced to nightcrawling at the scene of a car accident on the 110 freeway.

He pulls over and watches as two cops struggle to pull a seriously injured woman from a burning car.  Then, Bill Paxton rushes in with his HD camera and intrusively, insensitively, films every inch of it.  Paxton even gets in the way of the policeman trying to save the woman's life, impeding the rescue to get the shot that's gonna get him paid.

It's appalling to watch Paxton ignore the people in need.  To be solely occupied with capturing the event.  To be so disconnected to allow himself to do that.  But to someone like Louis, it's not appalling.  It's enticing.  The table is set and Louis pragmatically starts his nightcrawling career, committing far worse atrocities as he goes.

For me, it is a demonstration of good story telling when a film doesn't rely on cheap tricks to thrill you.  I was emotionally effected not because of any startling images, or loud noises, or special effects; but because of the characters, their behavior, and the truth behind their terrible choices.

As the story goes on, I got the feeling that this guy is really just a product of our society.  A product of an extremely baron job market.  A product of a society obsessed with getting the story, getting the story out first, and getting the story clicks, views, and shares.  A product of a society that doesn't really pay attention to what you did to get on top, but once you are there, it will give you a Bio-Pic, a Reality TV show, a Book Deal, and start quoting you to employees to motivate them.


The heading is self explanatory.

To wrap it up, it's worth taking the thrill ride in the theaters.  Gyllenhaal is masterful, and continues to impress.  An Oscar nomination is in order for him no doubt.

Once you see it give me your thoughts below!  I haven't had nearly enough discussion about this film with friends.


Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Things About 'The Skeleton Twins' - A Movie Review

My wife and I were really excited for this one when we saw that it had two of our favorite SNL stars in it, as well as one of my favorites Luke Wilson.  You'll laugh your way through an exploration of some intense themes.  Hard thing to do, but the movie sticks with you.  Worth seeing.  Heres 5 things about it:

1. Bill Hader does well at playing a likable, interesting gay man who struggles to find purpose in his life.  He is layered, and free of any caricature type imitations of gay men.  He does this so well that his sexuality is the least interesting thing about him in the film.  Hader embodies the character and excels for pretty much the whole film, except for one or two scenes that required a little bit more depth than the comedic star brought in my opinion.  Although, I do believe his unique embodiment and portrayal of Milo will be enough alone to get him a best actor nomination.  

2. The film has the most epic lip-sync music break scenes of all time.  Both times I saw it, the theater was full of people singing along, and even in one viewing, applauding.  Worth the ticket price alone.

3. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader obviously have some great raw chemistry together.  The comedic scenes and even dramatic scenes display such a comfort level that it makes it easy for us to accept them as brother and sister.  Wiig does surprisingly well at playing both the dramatic and comedic parts of the film.

4.  The screenplay is fantastic, and the tight knit, talented ensemble brings it to life (Ty Burrell shows up for a large portion as well).

5.  Luke Wilson has my favorite moments in the film.  He brings a different style of humor but is equally as funny as Wiig and Hader.  However, his best moment, and in my opinion, the most impact-full  moment of the movie is his dramatic performance in one of the last scenes in the film. TEAM LUKE WILSON!

AFTER THOUGHTS (maybe read after you see the film if you're plan on seeing it):  For me, the film is an exploration about hurting others and hurting ourselves.  The film is dark at times - the film opens with a parallel cutting of both Hader and Wiig attempting suicide- and it forces us to acknowledge parts of the human experience that we would much rather pretend don't exist.  Out of the four main characters we encounter, three of them are suffering, and the only one who appears to not be suffering from self inflicted wounds (Luke Wilson) ends up with one of the worst draws of the lot. The first time I saw it, I felt like the ending kind of ruined the magic the film had been creating, but the second time I saw it I got something different.  Maybe I wasn't keen enough to pick up on it the first time, or maybe it was too subtle.  But the second time I noticed a great symmetry to the film visually and thematically.  When each character focused on helping the other get out of their misery, it seemed liked their own misery melted away.

MOVIE GOER FACTS:  No nudity or gore.  I believe there were a couple of "F Bombs".  Probably rated R because it deals with (mostly subtly) themes of Suicide, Alcoholism, Adultery, and Relations Between a Minor and an Adult.      

Monday, September 8, 2014

27 Year Old Man Confesses His Life Actually Not as Cool as His Instagram Account Makes It Look

--A speculative 'Onion' article--

Stockton, CA - A man confessed in public late saturday night that he actually had been exaggerating how cool his life was on his Instagram account.  The confession allegedly came at the Stockton High School Class of ‘04 Ten Year Reunion party. The man simply could not answer questions by old friends about his posts.    

“I just couldn’t take it anymore.  The more my old friends asked about all the cool things on my Instagram account, the more it weighed on my conscience,” The man said as he sat on the bleachers of the football field.  He asked to remain anonymous, ironically.  

“I was using tons of filters to look tan, or skinny, maximizing the angles of shooting to make it look like I was hanging out with a lot of people when it was really just strangers in line at the theater, or shopping mall, throwing in lines from poems and books I have never even read, using really vague references in the description to hook people into asking questions that I would never answer...  I mean over-gramming was the least of my offenses.  It’s been three years since I’ve uploaded a post without the hashtag ‘SorryNotSorry’.”

Eye witnesses of the confession shared what they saw:

“It was late in the evening when I asked Lance- I mean, him- who he had been camping with,” Said Jonathan, an old high school friend who got a scholarship to play football at State before blowing out his knee and using his hometown celebrity to become an insurance agent.  “He was already acting anxious the whole night, and that question kind of made him snap.  Turns out he was just by himself or with strangers in those pictures.”

“He was never looking at the camera in any of his pictures so we just thought someone was there taking them.”  Said Lisa, an ex-fling from High School who moved to the big city to study fashion design but married someone who convinced her to give up her dreams to be a stay at home mom. “It turned out he had been setting up the camera to take pictures of himself.  Staging all of them.  Some of his pictures were pretty elaborate...”’

The anonymous man proceeded to open up that night when authorities took a statement.

“I probably don’t even read ninety percent of the hashtags I put under my post.  In fact, most of the time I just do meaningless variations of the same word to see how many hashtags I can get.  I had decided that the more hashtags I had, the cooler my post was.”

Then he dropped a bombshell.

“I’ve never even used a hashtag as a search.  Not once.  And I think that is actually the whole point of them.”

“I didnt even know he still lived in town,”  Said Arthur, an old friend whose band is for sure going to make it big after playing in the Stockton City Parade for the eighth year in a row.  “There were all those pictures of moving boxes, and a lot of ‘follow your dreams‘ hashtags.  He always posted black and white pictures of him doing really artsy things... I mean sure there were four or five meaningless updates a day but I was happy for him cause he was getting tons of likes.  Well, I think he was getting tons of likes... not that I would know cause I don’t have Instagram.  Because Instagram is for like, narcissists. ”  

“I only get 75-100 likes per post because I like every single Instagram post I see,”  the man said after using his loyal customer card to get a free meal at the local Tasty Freeze.  “I commented on everything.  I tagged everyone.  I re-grammed everything.  I commented on links to blogs that I didn't even read and then entered every single givaway I could.  I was out of control.  I measured my self worth from my likes.  The numbers were a complete sham, and so am I.”

We learned that this system was called ‘trading likes’ and that officials from Instagram had become familiar of the growing epidemic.  

“We are aware of the incident and are taking the necessary precautions."  An Instagram spokesperson said the next day.  "I don’t mean to blame Facebook every time, but trading likes for likes and exaggerating your online personal is really something that spilled over from their platform.  Apparently, the offender has been on Facebook doing the same kind of exaggerative behavior for years, and no one at Facebook has done anything.”

Facebook did not return any of our requests for comments on the matter, but within minutes of contacting them our gmail was filled with identity theft notices. 

A day after the incident, his subscribers noticed he deleted his facebook and Instagram accounts, but we have reason to believe he is now on Spapchat under the account: @bigadventurecantstopwontstopartislifeisfamilyisdreamsisnow

Friday, June 27, 2014

The day our daughter was born - A new dad's experience.

“He doesn’t like to see me in pain.”  My wife said through her oxygen mask, as I re-emerged from the bathroom in the delivery room. 

Yep. Embarrassing I know. We were five minutes into pushing our baby out, and I suddenly felt rubbery legs and light headed.  That’s a weird feeling I'm feeling.  I thought.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish counting to ten this round of contractions without losing my lunch so I walked briskly to the bathroom.  

It wasn’t that I don’t do well with seeing blood (I actually hadn’t looked down there during the pushing yet at all). It was just that in the past five minutes things had become very intense. And it was true, it was very difficult seeing my wife going through what she was going through.  Jess’s stomach and mine seem to be in tune.  She had thrown up several times while in labor and I knew it was a matter of time before mine wanted to join the party. (For those of you who haven’t heard the story, after getting married we got about 5 minutes down the freeway before we suddenly had to pull over and throw up on the side of the road.  Turns out my nieces had given us the stomach flu a couple days earlier and our stomachs picked the same time to finally give in. Thanks Jacklyn and Jayden!)  

The truth is I had been fighting it since 2:30 A.M, eleven and a half hours before this, when we first found out London was on her way out.  I tried to lay back down in bed after she told me but my stomach flipped over and acid started turning.  Twelve hours before we would meet her for the first time.  And as only a handful of friends and family know; she almost didn’t make it here.

London came six days late.  Two hours before my wife started going into labor we had a good heart to heart.  A lot of fear and anxiety had come to a head.  She started playing the “what if” game again… what if this happens, what if that happens, what if it’s like this… .  I always liked to answer these questions back with, “What if we aren’t alone in the universe?  What if the sky falls on us?  What if Jack Bauer shows up in the middle of the delivery telling us we have to get everyone out of the hospital?”  Maybe not the best thing to do, but it always makes her laugh, and helps her (and me) realize that we can’t control everything.  No one’s experience is the same, and often with so many stories out there it’s easy to get worried about comparing.  Then I reminded her of an amazing quote that she actually gave me once:  

It was something I needed to remind myself later on in the delivery room. Watching your wife deliver a baby is extremely hard because it's out of your control. I counted her through her contractions and pulled her legs back for her but really you are just cheering her on. It's hard to surrender your will in that. But I believed in her.

Growing up I loved Transformers.  You know, those things that shape shift from animals or cars into giant robots that fight.  Yeah I had the transformers toys and everything.  But I didn’t know that my wife was one of them.  A woman’s body is a miracle.  I mean sure, the human body is a marvel, but a woman’s body is a miracle.  After my stomach settled down, I was able to watch my wife do something that physically does not make sense to my brain (autobots roll out!).  And oh yeah, I watched ALL OF IT.  

[This head to toe ensemble is from the "Staying Alive" collection by Hospital and features a blood, vomit, urine, and sweat stained gown (Feel free to test all of them at the same time while experiencing a contraction in the bathroom; we did!). The ensemble is completed by freezing cold washcloths and an oxygen mask for accessories.]  
Things had gone from my wife calmly half asleep going through contractions, to the nurse slapping an oxygen mask on her and telling her we needed to get the baby out right now.  Jessica had a fever of 103 (shout out to my foreigner fans), and the baby’s heart rate had been at a dangerous rate of 185 BPM for about 15 minutes.  Being surrounded by women who had all done this, or seen this before, including the nurses, my mother-in-law, our amazing friend and birth practitioner Isabel, and my wife who did her clinicals on a labor and delivery unit before she became a Registered Nurse, I sometimes had to ask them to interpret things for me while they spoke in medical terms.  Between my wife and I (mostly her) we had read several books, taken classes etc.  But the real thing is both much more spectacular and terrifying.

[I can't tell you how amazing Isabel is.  She is a birth practitioner from England and worked with us before the birth, during the delivery, and still helps us out now after the birth.  We consider her family.  From pregnancy massage to helping coach the birth and recovery, she has been a rock star.  We both love futbol and talked a lot about The World Cup. We joked that London better come before the U.S played Ghana later that day at 3:00 P.M so we could catch the game.  London ended up coming at 2:22 P.M. From that minute on I don't think we even thought about the game. But a day later I found out we won! She's lucky.]   

Our Doctor showed up just in the nick of time.  You know how Doctors are bred to be the calmest person in the room no matter what?  Well, our OBGYN took that idea wayyy to far. I call him our Surfer-Jew Doctor because he was so chill I just wanted to go catch some waves with him. Anyway, he entered taking his sweet time, looking around at us screaming and sweating, just chewing a big wad of gum (which he kept on chewing throughout the entire delivery I might add). I was not surprised. Eventually he suited up and started quarterbacking.  

My wife pushed London out in twenty minutes from when the Nurse told her we needed to get London out. It was a beautiful thing. Something, like I said, I am still baffled by (8 lbs. 4 oz!? How did all that fit in there??)  But there was a reason why I didn't really fully absorb the moment of London making it out, and it' s because she came out blue, silent, and completely limp.  

Surfer Doc sprung into action. She wasn’t crying, and she wasn’t moving.  And when I say blue, I mean -baby frost giant from the movie "Thor"- blue.  Jessica had seen deliveries before so I think she knew something was very off, and so she was asking what was going on before I could even ask her if she was ok.  Surfer Doc got London efficiently and calmly on a little work station thingy (my wife is going to roll her eyes at my lack of medical terminology here), and two respiratory specialists started working on her.  My wife couldn’t see her so she was watching me and I was doing everything I could to keep it together.  

I wasn’t worried after five seconds. I wasn’t worried after ten seconds, but after about thirty seconds of them working on London and seeing all the fluid getting pulled from her little body, and how much oxygen they were pumping into her and not seeing her lungs move, I started to crack.  Thirty seconds was a long time.  The tears I was holding back started to come as I started saying almost involuntarily “come on baby… come on London... come on London…”, and even the respiratory nurses in the room were starting to move with a little bit of panic.  

My wife squeezed my hand and yelled to the nurses, “what’s going on with her is she ok?”  And almost as if hearing her voice triggered it, London’s chest inhaled, her body flashed pink and started to move a bit.  Then her body flashed white and she stopped. And then pink again.  She coughed and coughed and then she was moving and breathing continuously.  The fever started moving in the right direction for London, and the medical staff worked on her while considering taking her to the NICU for quite some time.  Then she got stabilized and eventually a lot later, Jess was able to hold her.  

Words cannot express how thankful I am to those nurses who worked on London, and to our amazing Surfer Jew Doctor who knew exactly what to do. Anyone who has been in that position, you get it.  

When everything calmed down and she was ok, I turned to Surfer Doc, who was still chewing his gum. In an attempt to seem cool and memorable, I gave him a nod, brushed my nose with my thumb, and said, “nice catch Doc.”  

He gave me a half smile and an ever so cool nod back.      

When asked by nurses who will be giving the primary care for our daughter, we told them we will be giving about half and half.  This is not just something we say, it’s what we are preparing for.  Partially out of desire for it to be that way, and partially out of necessity because of our chosen professions.  But we like it that way.  We believe it’s important for her to grow up with a mom and dad that are both working hard and pursuing careers and education, as well as being involved in raising her.  We both believe that we should each be willing to contribute to her upbringing in a variety of ways.  We want her to grow up to be a strong and smart.  To care about people, and treat everyone in this world with love and compassion.  We want her to be a hard worker that believes she can do whatever she chooses to do with her life.  That’s how our parents raised us to think.  We believe those things are important for her.  My church believes the same.  Some of you know I’m LDS.  To some of you that may surprise you. And I'm fine with that.  

In 1997, the church put into one declaration, it's doctrine, what we actually believe, about gender roles and the family.  It’s called The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  Here’s an excerpt: 

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.  ...In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.  

It’s an amazing thing to think about, the fact that women do this.  That they are capable of doing this. That they want to do this.  Even the desire to do this is an admirable and noble thing.  It truly is a higher calling, in which I believe involves higher powers. I also believe the title of mother goes beyond the physical act of giving birth.   And that a family is more than just a man and/or a woman bringing a baby into the world. The same Proclamation I referenced above also states, "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." ...In relation to the composition of the family.

But I do understand now when I see my wife with London Jo that there is a special connection there.  A special bond between mother and daughter.  And I’m totally fine with it. Because I’ll have my own.  A different one, but just as important.  

I'm so glad this little girl made it here to join our party.  Just by the nature of how and when she decided to enter our lives I know she is a special one. It's a weird thing because I already can't really remember what life was like without her.

The other night we were sitting in bed with London and I said, "I don’t know if I ever want you to go through that again."  Jessica was holding her and said, 

Oh come on, I’m fine now. And what we get from it is infinitely better than what I had to go through.”

Kind of a perfect answer as I thought of the word infinite. I looked down at London and she just gave me one of these:

[So much 'tude already]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eric's Eleven

Why do I love heist/operation films like "Ocean's Eleven" or "Snatch" so much?  Maybe it's the intricate plan and seeing it play out, go all wrong, and then eventually go all right.  Maybe it's the slick dialogue, or the radical gadgets, or the exotic places.  Maybe it's just fun to root for the bad guys when they are seeking revenge on "the man".  One thing I do know, though, is that I love how each film always has a colorful and diverse cast of characters.  Each have their quirks and special skills.  

As a semi-professional day dreamer, I sometimes day dream about pulling off crazy heists/revenge schemes against the system, or in revenge of an oppressing, power hungry rich man.  Anyone?  No?  Just me?    

Over the years as I work with people, and make friends, I start to think about who I would pick as my group to pull off an elaborate operation... like Danny Ocean casting his team.  In all these heist-y, Mission Impossible type movies, each character has a specific role.  I've done my best to identify eleven stereotypes (mostly inspired by Oceans Eleven films, Snatch, Rock N Rolla, Mission Impossible, The Avengers and several other films) and then, just for fun, I have added who of my friends I would pick for each category.  Where would your friends go if you were putting together an elaborate Heist Operation? Which one(s) do you fall under? 

1. The Muscle - Everyone needs an enforcer.  The Muscle has physical skill that can be anything from acrobatics to hand to hand combat.  Intimidation and fearlessness are his skills.  On smaller teams, The Muscle is usually combined with The Transporter or The Loose Cannon.  (Bryan Stapely A.K.A Grid Iron)

2. The Architect - The Architect excels in setting up the other members with what they need to succeed.  He pays attention to the details and designs and constructs important parts of the gig.  Usually the glue of the group that keeps the whole team operating. (Dan Whiting A.K.A D-Dub)

3. The Face - Also can be referred to as The Mouth.  Cool, calm and collected under pressure.  Charismatic and distractingly charming, he's the king of misdirection, without ever telling a lie.  He's the point-man on the field.  Often sent to scout things out and fill in the unknowns. On smaller groups is combined with The Transporter.  (Alex Ungerman A.K.A Big Al)

4. The Transporter -  Simply get's things done.  Somehow has the skills to operate just about any vehicle, or weapon out there.  Always on time, and never fails to get something or someone from point A to point B.  Comes through in the clutch; he is the person you want taking the last shot.  (Jeremy Pendleton, A.K.A J-Scott Pennywise)

5 and 6. The One Two Punch - Always come in a pair, and operate as a duo.  With an un-expected and usually flawed (and sometimes romantic) relationship, it mixes as a potent chemistry that bodes well when they are on the ground working with people.  Can often be the most unexpected source of solutions when everyone else is dry.  The best teamwork and chemistry of anyone in the group. (Kyle Oram A.K.A, Knockout and Greg Larsen, A.K.A Super Gee)

7.  The Loose Cannon - Resenting to rely on anyone, The Loose Cannon operates on his/her own terms.  Although often undisciplined, no one is more capable and more unstoppable when their heart and mind are set on something.  Usually has the most raw talent or skill of the group.  On smaller teams, can usually be combined with The Grifter. (Kent Prewett, A.K.A VaeVictus)

8.  The Heart - Always the voice of reason and logic in the operation and get's along with everyone on the team.  Usually the conscience of the group, The Heart keeps the peace.  Always thinking clearly, The Heart's work ethic and steadfastness is incorruptible. Send him with anyone on the team to make sure they get the job done.  On smaller teams, can be combined with The Architect.  (John Bills, A.K.A J-Money-Dollar-Bills)

9. The Grifter - Usually given the tasks that the rest of the team doesn't know about, or are the most dangerous and most risky.  The Grifter thrives on working alone and bringing the successes to the team.  See's the board from another perspective and covers blindspots.  Often the right hand of The Cap'.(Robbie Pierce, A.K.A - The Shadow Visier)

10. The Cap' - Has the vision.  See's the pieces and where they are going.  The Cap' casts the show and knows team chemistry.  Usually calling the shots, The Cap cut their teeth early in the game by being either The Face or The Transporter, and can jump in the ring at any time to play almost any part. Never afraid to take the fall for the team.  Refuses to fail on a job. (Jess Phillips)

11.  The Godfather - Backing the operation with his experience and counsel, the Godfather is who the Cap' goes to for guidance.  Usually has the highest and safest public profile, and has his hands in many pots.  Fights for ideals and never forgets who owes him a favor.  Has the perspective and the inspiration the group often needs.  Nothing and no one is beyond The Godfather's reach. (Chris Clark, A.K.A - Uncle Chris)