Movie of the Day: The Thin Blue Line

This past week, I had the chance to watch Errol Morris’s 1988 classic documentary The Thin Blue Line, not to be confused with Terrence Malick’s war epic The Thin Red Line. The name refers to the police, being the thin blue line separating society from anarchy and is a re-work from a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Tommy.” The film is critically acclaimed; In 2008, Variety called the film “the most political work of cinema in the last 20 years,” the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry and it was named the #2 documentary to see before you die by Current TV, only behind Steve James’s 1994 timeless film Hoop Dreams.

The Thin Blue Line is a number of recent movies I’ve seen that transcends the label of documentary with the help of a very strong underlying narrative. The Thin Blue Line, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s Undefeated and James Marsh’s Man On Wire are all documentaries that have the ability to make you forget that you are watching a documentary, with the latter two winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The Thin Blue Line chronicled the story of Randall Dale Adams, a Texas man sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The story utilizes interviews, re-enactments and an interesting use of archival footage including newspaper clippings and courtroom portraits. Morris used re-enactments built carefully from witnesses’ statements at a time when they were still considered fresh and the film is often credited as the birth of modern crime-scene reenactments that are now commonplace in Cold Case Files and numerous other program on TruTV and the like.

Using the Interrotron, Morris is able to obtain startlingly personal, unsettling and revealing interviews

In the interviews, Morris uses a revolutionary device called an interrotron as pictured, which is similar to a teleprompter but uses a two-way mirror to project each persons face. As such, instead of staring into a blank lens, the interviewee is looking directly at a human face, which allows for eye contact through the use of video screens. As mentioned prior, the story has a strong underlying narrative and comes to a head in a climactic final scene, which is a poignant case of accidental genius. During one of the subject’s chilling confession, Morris’s camera had malfunctioned so all he had at his disposal was the audio of the interview. Morris decided to use the audio in the film while the viewer is subjected to an extreme close-up of a tape recorder. Without a face to match the voice, you can’t help but truly listen to the words, making the effect all the more powerful.

While Morris tells the story from a number of perspectives, it is certainly clear that this isn’t an unbiased account of the events. Morris went in with an agenda and expertly edited the footage to frame a number of the characters in a negative light. The Thin Blue Line is a true testament to the power of documentary filmmaking as less than a year after the film’s release, Randall Adams case was reviewed and he was subsequently released from prison. The Thin Blue Line was a fabulous documentary, a different kind of murder mystery and is highly recommended.

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I’ve decided to save this blog for things I deem to be blog-worthy and the Chelsea-Barcelona match on Tuesday undoubtedly qualfiies as such. Legends are generally created retroactively but watching this match, you couldn’t help but feel like you were witnessing a legendary affair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal my contempt towards Barcelona. I find them to be the hipster douches of world football. “Mes que un club” used to be a political statement, now it’s just further evidence of their snobbery and elitism. However good I think they are, they think they are much better. They believe their intricate style of possession and passing is watchable art. With that said, I fully acknowledge that they are a fantastic side, world champions and European champions which makes Chelsea’s feat even more impressive.

Like most, I gave Chelsea almost no chance in the tie. And for the first 43 minutes, everything went against Chelsea. A nearly impossible task rendered impossible. Within 10 minutes Gary Cahill is injured and replaced. On 35 minutes, Sergio Busquets put Barcelona ahead. In the 37th, John Terry gets sent off. In the 43rd Iniesta scores after Messi finds his finely-timed run. Barcelona is leading 2-0 and again order is restored. The question then wasn’t can Chelsea come back, it was how many more will Barcelona score.

Reduced to 10 men. Playing without both starting centre-backs. Trailing 2-0. Playing against the team lauded as the greatest in European club football history. Playing at the Camp Nou, a true mecca of world football, one of the world’s great sporting theatres in front of over 90,000 screaming Barcelona supporters. Chelsea were truly up against it. And then all of a sudden, a glimmer of hope. Frank Lampard’s through ball finds Ramires, moonlighting as a right back, who started his run in his own half and then brilliantly chipped Victor Valdes from 15 yards out. A true beauty of a goal.

A story straight out of Hollywood. You couldn’t have written a more dramatic script than the one that was unfolding. Three minutes after halftime, Barca won a penalty. Arguably the best player in the history of the sport steps up to take it. And Messi slams it off the crossbar. Chelsea are still alive. Barcelona continue to push forward. In the 83rd minute Messi hits the post. Barcelona, the best team in the world looked lost and frustrated. So used to teams coming after them, Barcelona looked out of ideas as 10-man Chelsea just sat back compactly and defended.

In the 90th minute as Barcelona pushed everyone forward, Fernando Torres, the 50 million pound flop got in behind the defense, calmly and coolly rounded Valdes and put it in the empty net. Chelsea’s spot in the Champions League final in Munich was clinched. It was chill-inducing as Torres ran toward the corner to celebrate as one outspoken Barcelona fan began yelling “puta” “puta.” You couldn’t help but feel good for him.

Against all odds, 10-men Chelsea, currently sitting 6th in the English Premier League, go into Barcelona and knock out the reigning European champions. This was the stuff of legends. The greatest upset in Champions League history. Tears welled up as Roberto Di Matteo ran around the field hugging everyone in sight. Rupert Brooke, the English poet who was killed in World War I once wrote “there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” A little piece of the Camp Nou is now forever England.

Below are some reactions to the game around the internet.

“So happy for Torres what a MASSIVE goal!!” -Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereereeeeees. I believe in miracles.” -Ruud Gullit

“Incredible what a game #Barca-Chelsea! I’m actually very pleased for Torres! He suffered a lot what a great goal! Congrats” -Robin Van Persie

“Unbelievable performance from Chelsea. I didn’t give them a chance with 10 men but they have defended heroically!” -Michael Owen

“10 Chelsea heroes out there tonight..#hatsoff” -Steven Reid

“Scenes of celebration on the Nou Camp pitch, where the Chelsea players are dancing with joy. Blues boss Roberto di Matteo is wearing the biggest grin you have ever seen on his face, and hugging anyone who comes near him.” -Chris Bevan

“What an extraordinary game. Astonishing. Sensational composure from Torres. Makes me proud to be English.” -Sam Shepherd

“I am trying to think of a more unlikely Champions League win than the one we have just seen. You really could not have made that up. Chelsea were down to 10 men against the holders and had no recognised central defenders left, yet they held out for a memorable victory. That last-gasp Fernando Torres goal was the icing on the cake.” -Chris Bevan

“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in football. Can’t say they don’t deserve it, they’ve been brilliant.” -Ben Weeks

“Everyone should find a nearby hat, put it on, and take it off again in recognition of what Chelsea have just done! Incredible.” -Daniel Hicklin

“I’m a United fan through and through, but fair play to Chelsea that was nothing short of HEROIC!” -Barry Travis

“I don’t think I have ever been so surprised in a football game in my entire life.” -Pat Nevin

“Unbelievable defending from Chelsea!! Good to see an English team in the final… Chelsea-Real Madrid final would be feisty!” -Rory McIlroy

“All I’m saying is what a game I have just watched, football is mad but that’s why its so great and we love it.” -Kyle Walker

“An incredible end to an incredible night as Fernando Torres’ finish ensures 10-man Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final after an evening of pure drama. The Blues did it the hard way, but their reward is a night in Munich.” -Phil Dawkes

Song of the Day: Heroin by The Velvet Underground

Part of what made the Velvet Underground so special is that they were unlike anything that came before them. Nowadays, it is harder to break new ground because everything has happened already. The reason the Beatles were so big is no one could compare them to anything prior, thus there was limitless potential. Velvet Underground was similar. They created a sound so unique, part-protopunk, part rock and roll that there was simply no predecessor. The Velvet Underground’s debut LP was titled The Velvet Underground and Nico, released in March of 1967 by Verve Records with Andy Warhol producing. Largely ignored and a commercial disappointment, this album is finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves. I can think of no other album that truly illustrates the versatility of a band better and Lou Reed’s lyrics had the courage to broach subjects that hadn’t been brought up in music yet and to this day haven’t been rehashed to the extent that Reed did it.

The above track is entitled “Heroin,” undoubtedly my favorite song not only on this album but of all time. This, as the name suggests, tackles a sensitive subject. The way Reed goes about is tremendous though and it transcends more than just heroin. The pace is fantastic, the foreboding, slow beginning transitioning into the frenetic upswing suddenly, building up steam and emotion only to slow again. The lyrics cover the sheer all-encompassing brutality of drugs, “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life.” They document how he used drugs as an escape or an outlet and how once he gets high he is able to ignore the greater problems going on in the world. More importantly this song is about more than drugs. It’s about mood swings, bipolar, depression, about from being on top of the world and the ability to be happy about nothing to being in the lowest of lows, a pit of despair. From a feeling of invincibility, to a cowering feeling of shame, regret, remorse, anxiety, fear, this song covers all spectrums. It is both eloquently beautiful and painfully sad all at once.

Lou Reed had the courage to discuss things that at the time weren’t socially acceptable but more importantly he had the skill to weave these lyrics into vivid stories, much like Bob Dylan, that left you feeling satisfied at the end of the song.

Note: The 1999 movie Jesus’ son with Billy Crudup and awesome cameos from Jack Black and Denis Leary was adapted from a collection of short stories by the same name by Dennis Johnson. Johnson’s title is taken from the lyrics of this song

The Beginning

“Growin up, and that is a terribly hard thing to do. It is much easier to skip it and go from one childhood to another.”
―F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the past I’ve always been hyper-critical about “Blogs” and “Blogging.” I found it quite pretentious, the ramblings of a marginalized group that can’t possibly bear the fact that the world won’t hear their profound ideas. While I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve changed my belief, nor would I deny the fact that I’m probably included in that aforementioned group, I’ve decided to give blogging a chance.

My intention for this blog isn’t to create some alternate identity far removed from reality that attempts to trick people into thinking my life is great. I don’t want to share with the world my wonderful life and breathtaking experience and oh the places I’ll go (yes it was a Dr. Seuss reference). Actually, on the contrary, this is probably leaning more towards the realm of self-deprecation. I have a quite a fragile sense of self and my life is riddled with irrational anxiety. I’ve become quite accustomed at fooling the world into thinking everything’s ok and the majority of those who know me, or think they know me, merely know the character I play. Few know the real me.  Frankly, this blog goes against every notion of self-preservation I have but I feel like its time to face this fear. This isn’t an attempt to gain pity nor do I find it my duty to report on the plight of the privileged young white male on the cusp of adulthood. This isn’t an American Beauty or Ordinary People expose on how suburbia breeds discontent. Rather, its just a fragment, a snapshot perhaps would be more appropriate, of a coming of age story.

My motivations for writing this blog are rather simple. I’ve experienced what has turned out to be a rather elongated period of depression. My life is characterized by ups and downs but this down appears to be here to stay, at least for now. For the first time since I got sober I feel this gaping void in my life, growing bigger and bigger each day. I’m attempting to use this blog as a medium to both express a semi-satirical dissatisfaction with the current state of my life and share some culture with others. In addition, I’m really quite bored and could use a hobby.

The title of the blog comes from another F. Scott Fitzgerald quote. The full quote is “The compensation of a very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young.” I picked this for a few reasons. The first is the irony as most of what I write is dripping with existentialism. The second is the notion of staying young. This is a time in my life where I’m supposed to be growing up and yet I’m so desperately clinging to this idea of childhood and innocence. Mind you, this isn’t because I had some sort of magical childhood. In truth, my childhood was probably similar to yours, filled with self-doubt, uncertainty, anxiety and confusion. In fact, I repress most of my childhood and my clearest memories don’t start until after I got sober, where I experienced a rebirth so to speak. I cling to my childhood not because I long for it, but because I don’t want to grow up. This is primarily motivated by fear. Fear of failure, fear of responsibility, fear of never being happy. Writing for me is a way to delay the inevitable, a way of blocking the future out, of making it seem so far off that I need not worry about it. Writing makes me feel ok.

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