One small step for man, one giant leap for Damien Chazelle

Movies

Damien Chazelle’s new biopic about Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon has exceeded my expectations for a film on one of history’s most renowned events. It’s an expedition of a movie that starts with Armstrong slipping through one of Earth’s outermost layers of atmosphere to take a look at the horizon between space and his home planet. That is, until he begins to lose control of his shaky aircraft before somehow managing to make it back to the earth’s surface safe and sound. It’s these first few minutes of the film in which you get a closeup look at what it’s really like being inside a vehicle as a test dummy in the early 1960s. Just a reminder: the Moon Landing happened in July of 1969, so we have a little less than a decade to cover in two and half hours. I found it interesting that they had decided to start in 1961, rather than the landing itself, but after watching it, I understand why.

I think after “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” I had expected something of a fast-paced, upbeat film, despite the underlying darker truth of what it really means to “achieve the dream.” This film is sort of a slow-build drama with high stakes and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s worth it in the end. The slow dance between Neil’s personal thoughts, his domestic life and his inner struggle with the job he signed up for sets the right tone for the man they were depicting. It was a constant back and forth getting to know Armstrong as a person, and then having the film show something or someone else when you started getting too close, as a sort of barrier. It was fitting for the type of man Neil seemed to be, which was very private and guarded, and not entirely warm even in his own home. I never knew too much about the famous astronaut, let alone that he had a daughter, and within the first thirty minutes you’re shown that he had a young daughter battling a brain tumor, and later lost her to it. The rest of the film shows him as a quiet man who doesn’t let anyone in too much; maybe it had a lot to do with losing his baby girl, or the fact that he had lost many people in his life, including other fellow astronauts along the way.

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Regardless of the distance you feel between Neil, and the other characters, you get a very intimate look at characters’ individual personal lives and a better impression of what being an astronaut is really like—at least for the time. They switch from a 35mm to a 70mm as soon as they break through the atmosphere and get into outer space. It changes the way you see space and contrasts between the two. What really got to me was the terrifyingly loud and chaotic rumble of being in a shuttle on its way to the moon, with the speed and the lights and sounds. It changes your outlook on what it is like to be buckled into a spaceship, hoping to god you don’t die on your way up. Then suddenly, they’re in space. They’re weightless, and it’s completely silent and peaceful aside from their quiet exhales of relief—including your own.

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We all know the story, at least most of us, and we know that these people made it out alive. The thing is, you don’t really know the costs it took to get there. NASA enlists a group of men to come on board for their plan to make it to the moon, to beat the Russians, and you know that. You know about the space race, you hear that Russians kept reaching these milestones, and beating the Americans to the punch, and the deeper into the movie you get, the faster your heart beats because you see how desperate NASA was getting. The Americans genuinely had a hard competitive nature, and they were willing to risk anything to put a man on the moon before the Soviets did, as fast as they could by whatever means necessary. So they test these ships, they create moon landing gear, they educate the men on the protocols, and prepare them with everything they could possibly need, but you see them inside these test shuttles, and you hear that it sounds like they’re in a tin can essentially, and you question NASA’s priorities. Three astronauts died in what should have been a simple test run.There was an electrical issue and they caught fire very quickly within the oxygen-filled chamber and they had no way out because there was no emergency latch. It’s shocking.

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Neil commanded a spaceflight called Gemini 8 and was to test the docking of two spacecrafts.The docking was successful until they begin spiraling out of control. While Neil is communicating with mission control at home, his wife Janet Armstrong can hear everything that’s going wrong with the test. She rushes to the control center and argues with them for putting not only her husband’s but all the other astronaut’s lives in danger. They take risks. They try to make her understand that they have everything under control, and she says  something along the lines of, “You’re just a bunch of boys playing with toys, you don’t have anything under control!” It’s then that you realize she’s right. They’re risking everything for the chance to beat another nation at what seems like a game.

You know, you always think, “Man, it must be scary flying out to space, but how cool.” At least, I did, and then you just don’t understand what it’s really like, until now. This film provides a very good look at what it feels and sounds like. You finally get to understand the actual fear of the unknown. We as viewers know the story: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the moon’s surface, and they made it back alive. But now you see this movie and you get a deeper understanding of the reality they were facing, the fact that they might not make it back home at all.

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It’s all very climactic in the end; you see the contrast between the people who were protesting NASA’s flight to the Moon vs. the astronaut’s safe return home wheney were congratulated and celebrated. It seemed like such a rewarding and positive experience for not only the Americans or the world, but for Neil who had left his late daughter’s bracelet behind on the moon asa kind of closure, despite the long journey it took to get there. The world watcas both Neil and Buzz stepped foot across the moon’s shadowy lunar landscape and maye that was the the important thing. I keep hearing people complain that they didn’t see them sticking the American flag into the ground, but they must not have been paying much attention because there was a brief moment where you do indeed see the flag, it’s just not a giant red dot in the middle of the screen because the important thing was that it wasn’t just a milestone for Americans. I admit, as an American, with a long streak of dark bits of our history, this is one of the moments I am most proud of and to say that it was ours who made it there first, despite the struggle. It’s incredible, but I think the point is that on July 20, 1969 the entire world got to see man land on the moon, and that’s what’s inspiring.

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Heavy Metal & Light, Fluffy Brioche

Life and Style

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Museums are great. Sometimes, when I haven’t visited one in a while, I forget, then I go back and wonder how I ever forgot. They basically encapsulate many of the things I love in a pastime: walking around, looking at things, learning, making fun of things I shouldn’t, touching things I shouldn’t, taking pictures and listening to the sound of my heels echoing on beautiful, hardwood floors.

This Sunday I managed to have a day off for the first time in a million years (a weekend day, no less!) so my friend Michaela and I paid a visit to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, which, for non-locals, is one of the more well-known museums in the cultural wasteland that is Orange County. The Bowers focuses on cultural art, with permanent exhibits featuring paintings, photographs and ceramics, and temporary exhibits featuring some real bad ass shit. The last time I visited, many years ago, I got to learn about mummies; this weekend I got to check out their Knights in Armor.

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It was pretty legit. Since I am not a history major or general medieval enthusiast, I can’t really review this exhibit with anything approaching actual intelligence but here’s a few cool tidbits my distracted brain managed to hold on to while perusing the place:

  • Knights’ weaponry was hella terrifying and often hella long. I’m talking spears that were twice my height, which although they were mostly used ceremonially, were still pretty impressive. What business does anyone have owning weapons that big?? That sharp?? That simultaneously brutal and primitive yet intricate and beautiful??This is some Game of Thrones shit for real.
  • Armor is sooooo uncomfortable looking. I realize the armor-smiths or whatever they were called had to keep on improving things as they went but wow, did the armor seem impractical no matter what era you looked at it. Face masks made out of one piece of metal alone, barely any ventilation holes and all over layers of clothing….I feel so bad for those poor Europeans. We watched a good half hour of an unchoreographed tournament between performers, who fought in what felt like 80 degree weather in five-minute increments at a time. Those poor babies were sweating their faces off. But also, god, did they look like they were having fun. LARPers always have so much fun. It’s great being a massive, unapologetic nerd, especially when you get paid for it.
  • At some point someone had the bright idea of inventing guns and ammunition. The metal now being somewhat penetrable, knights were given thicker and heavier armor, which, if I remember correctly, eventually led to the end of using armor altogether since it really wasn’t helping anyone anymore.

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Shortly after watching the tournament over at the courtyard, Michaela and I decided to try the in-house restaurant, Tangata. Tangata apparently means “mankind” in the language of the indigenous Maori of what is now New Zealand. The space is absolutely gorgeous. A wide, white interior with large windows and rows of skylights lets in natural light from every angle, while red, ribbon-like flower sculptures act as hanging decorations and sconces.

As millennials do, we had brunch. I had the brioche French toast, an impossibly thick, fluffy piece of bread soaked in syrup and butter and accentuated with a pinch of strawberries and blueberries.

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After lunch, we explored the rest of the exhibits. Particularly interesting was “African Twilight,” a series of stunning photographs by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher. The bold, colorful images depict the initiation, courtship and healing rituals of African cultures. The attire and customs of these communities are so removed from my humdrum suburban life they feel almost alien to me, and yet they flourish just across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a jarring experience to get such an intimate view of cultures so different from ours.

“Spirits and Headhunters” housed art from the Pacific Islands, full of feathered and painted masks, more big-ass spears, rowing oars and jewelry. Several of the artifacts contained either human or dog teeth or other parts, which prompted a group of students nearby to start a discussion about whether we should respect cultures that practice cannibalism simply because it is their culture. I’ve been reading a somewhat theory-heavy book on human dominion over animals so this conversation intrigued me. “I’m pretty sure we can all agree that eating humans isn’t okay,” said one guy. But can we, man? When we eat other species pretty indiscriminately? Why are humans off the table, especially the ones we don’t like?

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The Bowers Museum closes at 4 p.m., so we were politely told they were closing shortly after entering “Ancient Arts of China,” the last section we hadn’t visited. Bummer.

Still, it was a pretty jam-packed six hours. You never really get to do everything in a museum in one day, which is how they keep you coming back, I guess. I may just return for their Dia de los Muertos festival next month.

Thanks for getting through this obnoxious, un-edited blog post about one girl’s trip to a museum. I’m hoping I am able to get through more laid-back posts without overthinking them and taking two weeks to scrutinize them before deleting them from my drafts folder, telling myself they’re no longer timely and then congratulating myself for succeeding at low-key self-sabotaging myself. There may be a video about this museum trip coming soon, although it may be dark and full of noise because museums are hella dark.

If you feel like reading this a second time, take a shot every time I say hella.

The Unholiest of Nun Reviews

Movies

I want to start off by saying that I liked this movie—I did—I just have a few complaints, and maybe feel a little let down.

I must warn that there is bound to be several spoilers, so read at your own risk.

The Nun (2018) is the latest spinoff from the very same Conjuring universe that James Wan created. When the mysteriously dark but religiously-clothed figure received such interest from crowds who had seen the second Conjuring film, they decided a solo movie based on the character would not only be a blockbuster, but a great success. Was it a success? Sure. A critical success? Probably not.

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The plot starts with a young nun at a dark creepy abbey in the middle of nowhere, Romania, committing suicide. Her body is discovered by a young French-Canadian farmer making a delivery, he sends word to the Vatican in Rome, which call for a tired priest, and a novitiate (nun-in-training) to investigate the suicide and the disturbing abbey itself. They stay at the abbey and learn of its dark history, whilst having to fight for their lives against the demon who takes on the form of a creepy nun.

First of all, the movie as of now has a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I usually go refer to them for ratings because I generally agree with their scores for most movies, however, not with horror films. I try to separate the horror genre apart from the rest, simply because there’s so many genres within the actual horror genre itself. I also feel that the majority of film critics lack appreciation for the genre, with a few exceptions. It’s certainly hard to find a great horror film like The Shining, The Exorcist, or The Silence of the Lambs—but like I said, there’s so many different types and I think the point of horror is to be scared, or to feel a sense of anticipation, so I have my own rating system. It’s based on scare factor, makeup/effects, the score, performance, plot, and script.

The Scare Factor

When The Conjuring came out in 2013, I knew James Wan was onto something, it was such a simple and yet memorable horror flick, I put it at the top of my list, and the movies that came out in the same universe after it, I hold in high regards, because the scares are still eerie and disturbing every time I watch them. Horror films don’t scare me much anymore, it’s lost its effect on me, but these movies have done well, in trying to bring something new to the table, or recycling old scares and changing them up a bit. The Nun, had a few good jump scares but they were very predictable for the most part, they need to stop setting up scares because it doesn’t work, it ruins the scare.

I appreciated the long, slow creeping scares a lot more. The scene in the chamber where the nuns were gathered around with bags over their heads was a good one, I’ve seen this done more frequently in the past years but I enjoyed the way they did it this time. I liked when Irene went into the chapel and the backs of the nuns were scattered in the pews praying softly in the dark. I loved when Valak slowly came up out of the water over Sister Irene. And when the Father was chasing the boy spirit who had a snake come out of his mouth, my heart was racing.

I do wish Valak was a more prominent character, it should have made more appearances. I liked it more when it was in the Conjuring 2, and I think it might have been because it was so out of place, it was odd seeing a dark demonic nun in a regular household, and maybe this time around it was less scary because it was expected.

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Makeup and Effects

The makeup was simple and wonderful, my only complaint was that it was difficult to see and appreciate most of the time because the shots were just too dark. Valak didn’t need to be shrouded in complete darkness to be scary, it was scarier being seen at the end of a brightly lit hallway in a house, staring at the protagonist and slowly walking away. Darkness played too much of a big part in this film, and maybe it fit because it was placed in a dingy castle, but it can’t be scary if you can’t physically see anything. (Although they do well with pushing boundaries and forcing you to look at one thing when you might be missing the dark presence in the back.)

 Story and Dialogue

It felt a little dry, maybe too predictable, that good vs evil cliché that’s a little overdone, but I applaud them for their unique cinematography and quirky characters. It just a felt a little like it had been done before, this priest who feels guilt for losing someone he couldn’t save in the past, to the young almost-nun who’s a target because she’s so innocent, hasn’t taken her vows yet and happens to have visions that save the day in the end. Even the extra third wheel (handsome) French-Canadian guy who’s the comedic character for tension relief, but regardless of the clichés, it was probably the best I’ve seen of this type.

I wasn’t crazy about the ending in which they try to tie this one to the other films, because it just seemed a little too clipped together and forced. I understand that they needed a reason to have this film in the same universe when the same demonic nun character is seen years later by Lorraine Warren, but it didn’t feel organic. Maybe the gateway that they closed which was supposedly going to keep the evil locked away, should have stayed open for continuity.

The Music

The score was and always is perfectly dark and not too overbearing, it was very Conjuring-y, and I love the loud (what I believe to be) organ pieces, and chorus. It gets very loud but in the best way, and I felt that it fit this particular film the best out of all of them.

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Performances

Taissa Farmiga (the younger sister of Vera Farmiga who plays Lorraine Warren), did a fantastic job playing a character that you could care about. It’s hard to care about characters in horror films because for the most part they’re usually meant to be unlikable and disposable, but this time you wanted to root for them to succeed in the end, even for the comedic charming Frenchman, and the somber, kind priest.

The Easter Egg

If you plan to see this movie, definitely re-watch both of the Conjuring films, but watch Annabelle: Creation and pay attention to the photograph that the sister shows, and the dark figure looming in the shadows at the same abbey she talks about, because that very picture is placed on the wall in this film as well.

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In the End

Will there be another one? Probably. There’s definitely something alluring and creepy about a demon posing as something that’s supposed to be sacred, but what more could they do with this origin story when it seems they’ve already covered it in entirety? If there is another, I do hope they focus more on scares, plot, and staying true to what made the original films in the universe so disturbing. As long as it has the same feel, I’ll be on board.

The Joker + Harley Quinn: A Makeup Tutorial

Life and Style

As you all have possibly noticed by now, the blog is undergoing some changes to better fit what I’ve been trying to do–which is incorporate all aspects of my life as a passionate fan of a great many things into one whole business–with help. This particular format will no longer just be a primarily book based blog, but a blog of many topics. So to kick off this thing once and for all, I’ll start with a brief tutorial on a popular clown couple’s makeup, The Joker and Harley Quinn.

The Joker

Step 1: Start off with a white cream based paint.

(These photos were taken when I was already halfway through with The Joker unfortunately, but the steps leading up to this point are fairly easy.) We chose the Suicide Squad versions of these two, by basing the look around what clothes the models already had, however you’re welcome to change up the makeup in any way you want. These two characters have looked different in every movie, show, game, and book they have appeared in and I think it’s common knowledge that the basics are: White skin, dark eyes, and red lips.

Back to Edwin’s makeup, after the white cream paint is on the face and neck, set it with a setting powder or spray. Then go onto the upper and lower lids with a black paint and set it with black shadow. I wanted this joker to be a little more angry/aggressive looking, so I brought the shadow up to his brows.

Using a thin brush and black paint (or eyeliner) create the tattoos he has in the film.

Don’t forget the red lips. (I used a variation of different reds to get the deep red he has.)

Step 2: Creating the tattoos can be a bit challenging freehanded, so I’d recommend creating a stencil on some paper and coloring that in with black in the right spots. Particularly the “Damaged” tattoo across the forehead.

Step 3: If you have a green colored hairspray, I’d use that, if not, you can paint the hair with a green paint or yellow and blue mixed. I went over the paint with a green eyeshadow to loosen up the wet look and bring out the green in Edwin’s darker hair.

Harley Quinn

Step 1: Harley’s complexion in the film is a bit lighter than the Joker’s pale white, so I went in with a bit of white cream paint, and then back over that with a light liquid foundation.

Step 2: I set Veronikah’s pale base coat, with a light powdered foundation. In this case, I only worked on both models faces and necks due to time constraint and lack of paint, but I’d recommend going over all skin that’s going to be shown in the same light shades since both characters have that unnatural clown colored skin over their entire body.

Side note: At this point, Edwin the Joker had fallen asleep.

Step 3: Using a small angled brush and a darker brown shade of paint (or any brow tint you prefer), fill in those brows.

Step 4: By this point, you’ll want to go over the lids (in no particularly organized manner, it’s okay to be messy in this case) with a bright pink shadow and shade it all the way down the cheek on the right side, and the same with a bright blue on the left. If you have any fallout, that’s good, use it to your advantage and bring that down the face as well. It’s okay to change up shapes and ways of doing these things, as these are just fictional characters, it’s fun to make it your own if you want. There’s no rule to make it a carbon copy. I added more shadow onto the inner corners, because I personally like it, I think it brings the eyes out more and creates more of a focus on the eye area. So it’s okay to take out or add a few things and make it yours.

I went in with a liquid liner to create a small cat eye on both of Veronikah’s lids, and connected it on the bottom lid.

Step 5: Using a bit of grey eyeshadow smoke out the eyeliner all around to give it a slightly messier look, and don’t forget to add the heart and “Rotten” tattoo with a black paint or liner. As well as the bright red lipstick, and feel free to smear that down on the corner of the mouth. (Again, not necessary but makes it look more worn and messy.)

Now you should have an easy Joker and Harley look complete.