Jim Jarmusch and the Art of Doing Nothing

 

Some of my favorite films, I’ve realized, are about nothing at all. Seinfeld made a $100 million fortune out of a tv show about nothing.

But no one does nothing better than Jim Jarmusch.

In his first independent film, Stranger than Paradise (1984) he told the story of Willie, a Hungarian immigrant who lives in New York City making a living off hustling poker games. His young cousin Eva comes to visit from Budapest on her way to Cleveland, and Willie is none too welcoming.

You’d think the story would be about their eventual bond – maybe Willie will come to terms with his Hungarian heritage, or change his way of life. But it’s a Jim Jarmusch film. Nothing happens at all. While Eva and Willie do get closer, it isn’t the point of the story. There doesn’t seem to be much of a story at all, in the sense that there’s no transformation of the characters. Willie, Eva, and his friend Eddie drift from New York to Cleveland to Florida, doing the same things they were doing in the town previous; watch television, talk about nothing, complain, and spend money. There’s no climax, no lesson learned, no real character development. Nothing.

And yet, it’s a damned charming movie that’s never dull. I found myself fascinated with these thoroughly boring individuals. They felt real, and so did the story. If there’s some formula Jarmusch has cracked, he hasn’t shared it. If any other director tackled this film, it’d be dull.

The same is true of Jarmusch’s Mystery Train (1989), and pretty much every film he’s ever made. In fact, while he was a graduate student at NYU rubbing shoulders with fellow students Ang Lee and Spike Lee, he was told by a professor that one of his films was dull. There was nothing happening. He told Jarmusch to go back and recut the film. Jarmusch did – only the second cut had even less happening. He had defiantly stuck to his guns. He wanted to make a film about nothing. And his teacher respected this.

Perhaps the lesson here is, the most important aspect of any film is the characters. The plot is irrelevant, but if the characters are unique and real the film will be engrossing. Jarmusch crafts his characters with a boundless empathy and curiosity that’s contagious. You can’t help but smile as you watch two Japanese tourists wander Memphis discussing their love of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. You can’t help but laugh when Eva accidentally comes across drug money. Perhaps Jarmusch is trying to teach us to listen more.

Or perhaps there’s nothing here to learn at all.

My 24 frame project

Its always fun working with Guillermo and Liana from 4381 productions, we help each other and get the projects done, also have a little fun here and there.  Now its time for the editing process!

Drawing a storyboard.

My drawings aren’t as good.  I do know what my vision is and awaiting for these images become a reality. It will be well done and come out to be very beautiful.

The Old Inspiring the New

During my senior year of High School – when I still thought computer science was for me *shudders* – I was enrolled in a very basic video course. In this class we were tasked with creating a stopmotion project. The stiffness of stopmotion inspired me to do something choppy and unnatural. It ended up being a Frankenstein-inspired tale of creator versus creation featuring a picture come to life. This project is not anywhere on the Internet at the moment, but it is one of my proudest video/photo creations, despite my lesser skills at the time.

Now, when tasked with telling a tale in way less pictures than even that for a “Cine Roman,” I feel inspiration from my prior work. The creator versus creation tale is not a new one by any means, but I’m a huge fan of it, and I believe there is plenty of interesting ways to twist and change the tale and still tell the message. Why is the creation/ servant/ offspring turning against its master? What justifies rebellion? How can what gives us life also oppress us?

I am still waiting on a faithful movie adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel.

Take on the challenge

Its time to get started on my first story bored, I’m both excited and nervous because of my handwriting, but I need to be fearless.

 

In the process of writing a short script. I am writing in a new genre which is particularly exciting. The fun stuff is just about over at this point, so now its time to properly format it all.

To The Fools Who Dream

La La Land is a film about dreams and ambitions. For both characters, Sebastian and Mia, there is a moment that the lighting made them look like they were on a stage. Each were in their own vulnerable moment. A single spotlight lit Sebastian as he played his piano with passion. It felt like he was yelling about the frustrations of chasing a dream that feels so close but was seemingly far away.

For Mia, it was an intimate audition. The lights go out and it’s just her and the camera. A single spotlight showing that she doesn’t care about who is watching her. As Mia sang about what it’s like to chase a dream, it felt like I was sharing an intimate moment with the character.

A single spotlight can create intimacy. Even old theater lighting can come into play when it comes to filming a scene. These two scenes reminded me just how important lighting is for a scene. The lack of light in a scene can invoke a feeling of understanding. Sometimes you don’t need four lights to make a moment happen. Sometimes you only need one.  

Why Hereditary’s Oscar Snub Matters

Toni Collette had every reason to be screaming after she saw the Academy Award nominations for Best Actress.

The 46 year-old Australian actress put on the performance of her career in the terrifying film from A24 Pictures. The film was a box office success, grossing $79 million off of a $9 million budget, received rave reviews from critics, and not long after its release had film journalists speculating about Colette’s Oscar chances.

A few, however, were wary given the Oscar’s tendency to look down on horror films in favor of more mainstream crowd-pleasers like Green Book and Black Panther. Their fears, unfortunately, were confirmed.

While it was always a long shot that Ari Aster’s feature film debut would snag the more prestigious nominations like Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Original Screenplay (though it was definitely worthy of being nominated in each category) – Collette’s snub is more troubling and indicative of the Oscar’s desperation to stay relevant with an increasingly uninterested audience.

All one can hope is that this year’s disappointing crop of Best Picture nominations, combined with the Oscar host controversy, will fail to increase the Oscars ratings. Perhaps then, the Oscar voters will veer away from shameless pandering.

But then again, we’re talking about an institution that failed to recognize Kubrick and Hitchcock. What the hell do they know anyway?