Apple’s three new iPhone models come with significant optical upgrades—and a significant price hike.
Today, ten years after Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, Apple announced its latest product lineup which consists of three new models, including the iPhone 8, the 8 Plus, and the iPhone X. Each model comes with significant hardware and design upgrades, including new HD retina displays and an exciting new processing chip. The cameras are now capable of shooting at faster video frame rates (1080p at 240 fps) with improved image stabilization. Advanced image and motion analysis provide better video encoding. Here’s a closer look at each model:
“Everybody wanted more…” “The chandeliers happened as an accident.” The New York Film Festival has unveiled an official trailer for the documentary The Opera House, which is getting a special premiere at the festival this October. The Opera House is a profile of the world-renowned, iconic Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City. The film examines its history and development, beginning as the old opera house on 39th Street, before being rebuilt at Lincoln Center in 1966. This iconic building is known around the world, and has featured in many movies, TV shows, and is also the home of the Metropolitan Opera Company, and the American Ballet Theatre during the summer. I very much enjoy documentaries like this, they’re so totally fascinating with such extensive historical details and information. I’d love to see this. ›››
The Magic Kingdom colors almost every scene of The Florida Project. Sean Baker’s achingly beautiful and heartbreaking new film is set in Florida (obviously), very close to Disney, and nearly everything in the background advertises the The Most Magical Place On Earth. Tourist trap stores with huge painted signs advertising Disney merch constantly lurk in the periphery.
But the characters in The Florida Project occupy their own kingdom, one comprised of rundown motels and abandoned buildings. These might seem like squalid conditions, but Baker finds a way to make them seem warm and welcoming without ever trying to glamorize them. The sunsets are fierce and gorgeous, lush pinks and reds and golds, vast and seeming to stretch on for infinity. They feel like home.
Read on for The Florida Project review.
At the center of The Florida Project is Moonee (Brooklynn Prince, astoundingly good here), an adventurous child who rules over the kingdom that is the motel she lives in with her struggling mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). By day, Moonee frolics wildly through the motel courtyard and beyond with her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto). Whenever films deal with children as the primary characters they run the risk of treating the kids too precociously, or worse, portraying the children as mini-adults. The Florida Project never makes this mistake — the kids here always seem like kids. They’re occasionally bratty, occasionally cruel, but altogether good. They find adventure and fun wherever they can, and it’s often a joy to sit back and watch them act out.
Brooklyn Prince’s performance as Moonee is the glue that holds all of this together. The Florida Project plays coy with just who its main character is at first — at the start of the film, all of the kids seem to be receiving equal time. Yet as the film progresses, it becomes more and more about Moonee, and about how her world is in danger of falling apart while she remains cheerfully oblivious. I’m not sure how much of Prince’s performance as ad libbed, but all of it feels 100% genuine; the type of raw, lightning-in-a-bottle performance that actors twice her age can only dream of. An outsider might look at Moonee’s living conditions and worry, but to Moonee, every day is a wonderful adventure. There’s so much to do, and there are so many waffles to eat.
Baker keeps the camera low to the ground often, putting us firmly into the visual field of a child — we’re down there with them, and the whole adult world is looming above. That adult world includes Bobby, the kindly motel manager played by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe is an acclaimed actor with an impressive career, yet it cannot be overstated how phenomenal he is in this movie. There’s an unmitigated goodness to Bobby, a weary but kind soul who wants to do the right thing. A character like this would be easy to cheapen and turn maudlin, but Baker’s script and Dafoe’s performance never performs this disservice. It’s a quiet performance, and much of the power comes from the somewhat sad, knowing glances Dafoe gives to the world around him. But just as often there’s kindness — Bobby can grow frustrated with the kid’s shenanigans, yet he’s always willing to give them a second chance.
Moonee’s mother Halley will never be a candidate for parent of the year. She sells knock-off perfume and stolen goods to make ends meet, and when that isn’t enough, she turns to even less desirable methods. It would be easy to portray this characters as a monster; a terrible person doing terrible things. But that’s not how The Florida Project works. Halley is flawed, yes – at times almost devastatingly so. But Baker doesn’t judge her, and Vinaite’s performance – blunt and at times even abrasive – is pitch-perfect. Halley is flawed, yes, but she’s trying.
Everyone here is trying. Trying hard to get through their day to day lives; trying to find magic in a frequently unmagical kingdom. Late in the film, Moonee and Jancey are sitting on a tree having lunch. Baker keeps the camera in close on the two girls, not really giving us a good look at the tree they’re perched on. “Do you know why this is my favorite tree?” Moonee asks her friend. “Because it tipped over and it’s still growing.” At this point, Baker cuts to a wide shot, showing a huge, sprawling, toppled willow. It’s a breathtaking moment, and the line lingers, perfectly summing up the characters in the film. They may have all fallen at one point, but they’re still growing.
The final moments of The Florida Project unfold breathlessly — tension is mounting, and there’s the queasy sense that something terrible is about to happen, like a destructive storm about to break. And then Baker does something magnificent — he follows Moonee and Jancey on one last adventure before the credits roll. Is it real or is it fantasy? It doesn’t matter. It’s magic. We can all do with a bit more magic in our kingdoms.
“His current kills people!” The Weinstein Company has finally revealed the first full official trailer for The Current War, the film about the battle between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. I’ve been very excited to see this ever since hearing it was now in production. From Me and Earl and the Dying Girl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, comes this dramatic thriller about the early days of electricity and light bulbs, and the major business-vs-innovation battle of wits that took place. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, as well as Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Damien Molony, and Matthew Macfadyen. This is a fantastic trailer, full of energy and excitement, with some very creative editing and visuals. I’m still so very excited to see this film. ›››
“You’re gonna need guys as crazy as you are.” Time for a fun short to wrap up the week. The Heist is a meta-spoof comedy short mocking the heist movie trope of “assembling the team”. Made by filmmaker Luke Harris, they wanted to poke fun at this trope and other cliches from Hollywood, so they whipped up this short. It’s a direct reference to the scene in Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans 11 (one of my favorite heist movies) where they first meet up with Reuben and tell him about their plan. It’s short (only 4 minutes) and lives up to the promise of delivering some top notch spoofery. Of course, it’s also perfectly timed as Soderbergh has yet another heist movie currently in theaters – Logan Lucky (which I highly recommend seeing). Have fun. ›››
“When I receive orders, I assign them. And you kill.” Well Go USA has unveiled another official trailer for the badass Korean action film The Villainess, which opens in select theaters (NY & LA) this weekend. So if you think this looks good, you can see it now! We’ve written about this film before and featured a trailer a few months ago. Ok-bin Kim stars as Sook-hee, a trained assassin who tries to become a stage actress after giving 10 years of service as an assassin. But her dark past comes creeping back and she must take things into her own hands to finish her work and be free once and for all. The full cast includes Eun-ji Jo, Seo-hyung Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, and Jun Sung. This trailer is packed full of intense action and quotes from critics, and will leave you more than excited to see this. I’m looking forward to catching it sometime soon. ›››
The Big Sick, based on the actual life story of Kumail Nanjani and Emily Gordon, centers around Emily’s life-and-death medical crisis but is almost entirely character-driven. The medical situation functions most certainly as the inciting incident, and offers dramatic tension throughout; but this is not a medical mystery. This is a love story, with Kumail caught between his love for Emily and his loyalty to his parents, who expect him to cooperate as they attempt to arrange a marriage for him to a Pakistani and Muslim woman. Emily, meanwhile, is caught between her love for Kumail and her conviction that she has been led on and betrayed by him.
Kumail, now the “ex,” waits awkwardly at the hospital with Emily’s parents.
The focus is on Kumail as he gets in touch with the depth of his feelings toward Emily and eventually wins over her parents, who’ve been predisposed to dislike him but witness up close Kumail’s devotion to their daughter. The medical crisis is ever-present. But a clear choice was made not to lean on hospital drama mechanics in order to maintain dramatic tension.
The script chooses to stay close to the internal struggle of Kumail.
He loves Emily and needs to live that truth, to be with her in spite of his family’s expectations of him. He overcomes the hostility of her parents and wins their love and respect. Emily overcomes her fear and hurt and regains her trust in Kumail’s love. The human drama is framed, but not overshadowed, by the medical drama.
Strategizing how character drives plot, finding that perfect balance of external and internal stories, is the screenwriter’s task.
Which of the character interactions did you resonate with most in The Big Sick? How important is conflict between characters in the movie?
Here are some clips and the trailer for The Big Sick, a wonderful movie:
“Its been missing for 100 years…” Shall we go searching for Thomas Edison’s “last” invention? The Spirit Machine is an excellent low budget fantasy adventure short film made by filmmaker Timothy Plain. The story is about a father and daughter who go on a search for a long, lost turn-of-the century Edison device (called The Spirit Machine). There’s an impressive amount of backstory to this, and a good introduction that makes it captivating to follow as it plays out. Starring Andrea Ferreyra and Will Springhorn Jr. This has been described as “Indiana Jones meets The Prestige“, and inspired by 80s classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist. It’s not perfect, but I admire the ambition and the VFX are great. Fire it up below. ›››
Can “expressive writing” contribute to one’s mental, even physical health?
I flagged this BBC article back in June and finally got around to reading it. Fascinating stuff:
In 1986 the psychology professor James Pennebaker discovered something extraordinary, something which would inspire a generation of researchers to conduct several hundred studies. He asked students to spend 15 minutes writing about the biggest trauma of their lives or, if they hadn’t experienced a trauma, their most difficult time.
They were told to let go and to include their deepest thoughts, even if they had never shared these thoughts before. Four days running they did the same thing. It wasn’t easy. Pennebaker told me that roughly one in 20 students would end up crying, but when asked whether they wanted to continue they always did. Meanwhile a control group spent the same number of sessions writing a description of something neutral such a tree or their dorm room.
Then he waited for six months while monitoring how often the students visited the health centre. The day he saw the results, he left the lab, walked to his friend who was waiting for him in a car and told him he’d found something big. Remarkably, the students who had written about their secret feelings had made significantly fewer trips to the doctor in the subsequent months.
Ever since, the field psychoneuroimmunology has been exploring the link between what’s now known as expressive writing, and the functioning of the immune system. The studies that followed examined the effect of expressive writing on everything from asthma and arthritis to breast cancer and migraines. In a small study conducted in Kansas, for example, it was found that women with breast cancer experienced fewer troublesome symptoms and went for fewer cancer-related appointments in the months after doing expressive writing.
I’ve always thought writing can help an individual cope with emotional and psychological issues — stress, anxiety, grief. In reflecting on it, I guess that belief is precisely that, based solely on my personal experience having been a writer of some sort since I was a teenager and began to write songs. Writing has always been an outlet for me, a place I can go to work through my thoughts and give expression to my feelings, both in journals as well as scripts and short stories. But I don’t recall reading any articles on the subject. And now this.
The remarkable thing is that expressive writing can actually benefit an individual’s physical well-being, even recuperating from an injury or, as the article details, surgery.
What does the act of committing words to paper do? Initially it was assumed this simply happened through catharsis, that people felt better because they’d let out their pent-up feelings. But then Pennebaker began looking in detail at the language people used in their writing.
He found that the types of words people used changed over the course of the four sessions. Those whose wounds healed the fastest began by using the word “I” a lot, but in later sessions moved on to saying “he” or “she” more often, suggesting they were looking at the event from other perspectives. They also used words like “because”, implying they were making sense of the events and putting them into a narrative. So Pennebaker believes that the simple act of labeling your feelings and putting them into a story is somehow affecting the immune system.
But there is a curious finding which suggests something else might be going on. Simply imagining a traumatic event and writing a story about it also makes wounds heal faster, so perhaps it’s less to do with resolving past issues and more to do with finding a way of regulating your own emotions that makes a difference.
This might be the key, how the writer evolves the way they refer to an experience or emotional state over time so that it becomes a story. It’s no longer just expressing feelings, but rather making sense of them, putting them into a narrative framework.
In our lifetimes, we see, hear, or reads tens of thousands of stories. The basics of narrative structure such as Beginning, Middle, and End, the Protagonist, Conflict, Resolution exist within our conscious self as well as our unconscious and subconscious states. We know story on a gut level. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest we, as humans, have a kind of instinct to frame experiences as stories.
When we take an experience and craft it into a coherent narrative, we provide a context for the event and our associated memories and feelings. And in that context, we can understand it in a meaningful way beyond the direct experience itself.
Author Robert Anderson wrote: “I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew, to find out what I didn’t know I felt.”
I’ll bet that is at least part of why writing has a therapeutic benefit to it. Not only to express ourselves, but to create a story and through that enter into a world of self-discovery.
How about you? Does writing help you emotionally, perhaps even physically? How important is STORY in your daily life?
Mary Oliver is a treasure and one of my favorite poets. Here she speaks a fundamental truth: If you have discovered your bliss — in this case “creative power” — and you choose NOT to follow it, give it “neither power nor time,” that is a path which almost assuredly will lead to regret.
I resonate with this deeply. In the last year of my master’s program at Yale, I confided with friends and faculty that I was experience this precise inner dynamic: If I continued my path toward a doctorate, then a lifetime as an academic, I would forever regret not having pursued my creativity (at that time, as a musician, singer, and songwriter).
Indeed, I had a stark image which haunted me which I don’t think I’ve ever shared here.
It is night. I am reclined in a chair. At my expansive wooden desk. Its surface covered with academic books. A single light one of those green banker’s lamps. The dim light reveals my study. Hardwood floors. An oriental rug. Comfortable plush chairs. And floor to ceiling bookcases filled with gorgeous first edition tomes, many of them written in Greek, Latin, German, languages of my chosen academic profession.
But I’m not gazing at my comfortable room. My leather-bound books. My well-appointed desk. Rather my eyes have drifted toward a shadowy corner. There leaning against the wall is a guitar case. Covered with dust. Unopened for some length of time.
And as I stare at the guitar case, I have an overwhelming sense of sadness of what might have been, an alternate life I might have chosen, but did not.
And I am filled with… regret.
The creative life is a challenging one. The only guarantee is it is a struggle, not only somehow managing to cobble together what we euphemistically call “a living,” but also doing daily battle with all that goes with attempting to wrangle magic out of our imaginations into something resembling a story or a piece of art.
But if you are touched by your own “creative power”, and you give it time and focus, then you are following your bliss.
And THAT is a path toward a truly authentic life.
For more about the poetry of Mary Oliver, go here.