People-Watching

Did any of y’all see this movie? It wasn’t well advertised. Brought to you by the nominations at SXSW 2015:

ex machina

ex machina

I have to say this is one of the most bizarre thrillers that I actually enjoyed. Written and directed by Alex Garland, a London filmmaker. f

A young programmer (Caleb) wins a mysterious contest, which buys him a trip to the massive estate of the CEO of the company he works for. Turns out Nathan, the CEO, has secret projects of his own, as he unveils artificial intelligence at its finest. Ava, his current prototype, is an ingenious, amazing robot, whose self-aware intelligence is beyond doubt. During the week that Caleb is supposed to be testing her AI, Ava manipulates and surpasses even the human intelligence that she is confronted with.

“If you’ve created…artificial intelligence it’s not the history of man. It’s the history of gods.” ~Caleb.

machina4

There’s so much foreshadowing in this movie! And you don’t realize it until the end. The plot twist is so sudden and unreal that you just have to sit there for a couple minutes during the credits and comprehend what you just saw.

I won’t ruin the movie but I will point out several things that I thought was interesting. Ava is an AI prototype. We don’t ever know what AVA stands for. Session One: When Caleb asks how old she is, she says “I am one.” Caleb asks when she learned to speak. “I always knew how to speak,” she replies. We never see Ava sleep in the movie. We do see her draw during the night, look intently at the security cameras–all thoughtful activities.

machina7

The movie isn’t about Caleb winning this trip and meeting with an incredible AI robot. The movie is about the evolution of this AI robot. During the first session, we see that she is ominous and quite self aware, then Second Session: she starts asking Caleb questions. The first emotional expression we see on Ava’s face is after Caleb says his parents are dead. She begins to empathize, sympathize, or is it all an act?

Session Three: Ava shares rumors about Nathan (the CEO) and how terrible he is to her. She needs to escape or she might be shut down and her memory deleted. Appealing to Caleb’s emotion now…

Throughout the sessions we see her become more and more…advanced. Not technology-wise, but in human emotion, interaction, and manipulation. She dresses up, puts a wig on, and timidly asks how she looks. Oh how well she already knows young men!

machina8

Caleb asks Ava if she could go out of her room, where would she go? She answers that she would like to go on a date with Caleb to a traffic intersection. To people watch.

What has she been doing in the movie so far? People-watching. It’s how someone like her evolves. The movie revolves around people-watching.

When I noticed this I was quite proud of myself. That’s exactly how Ava escapes her prison: by people-watching and observing what they care about and what they want most. Manipulating Caleb, succumbing to Nathan and his “cruel” dictatorship over her: its all just simple people-watching. She’s more modest than Nathan’s other prototypes, she has a sweeter face, and she has a cunning mind. Recipe for manipulation.

machina2

Go see this movie. Bootleg it. Rent it. Its a thriller you don’t want to miss. Flawless foreshadowing. Perfect plot twists. Of course the movie had its plot holes, but many indie film festival winners do. This is one where the plot holes didn’t get in the way of the fascinating concepts.

Ex Machina does not disappoint.

Blown away,

J.L. Cordova

Death in Romantic Poetry

My final paper in British Literature. I enjoyed the professor. The content sort of puts me to sleep. Too many poems. But here’s what I got out of it. An A paper:

Death in Romantic Poetry

Throughout literature, death is a commonly used topic. From the loss of soldiers in Wordsworth’s ballads to Beth’s heartbreaking illness in Little Women, it is a strong, emphatic, impactful subject matter. Death is a unique topic, in that there is no one particular view on death. Each person—each author—has their own view on death, dying, leaving this world and going onto the next, or maybe just decaying into the dust, cold and forgotten. There are many different views on death in Romantic literature especially. This is a time when society was exploring more, discovering more, and thinking more. New inventions were used. New types of writing became popular. And more concepts of life and death were pondered. In The Roots of Romanticism by Isaiah Berlin, it says that Romanticism was the most recently largest movement to transform the lives of the Western World (Berlin, 1). Duncan Wu’s Romanticism says that the word “Romantic” meant “fanciful”, “light”, and “inconsequential” (Wu, xxx). These words accurately display the mindset of the Romantic Period, and it sets the stage for Romantic literature. This does not necessarily mean that the poems during this period were “light and airy”. Rather, because it was such an inventive time, most poems sent messages of hope. Thus, death is portrayed in a unique way. The Romantic Era brought new and fascinating views on death.

Some Romantic poems focus on death’s appeal to people’s emotions and imagination. Because death has such a strong impact on the living, Romanticism sought to explore it. For example, William Wordsworth wrote a beautiful poem called “We are Seven” and it deals with a little girl who has lost two siblings to death. “Then did the little Maid reply/ ‘Seven boys and girls are we/ Two of us in the church-yard lie/ Beneath the church-yard tree’.” (Greenblatt, 278). Wordsworth portrays death as it appeals to the little girl’s emotions and imagination. Her view on death is imaginative, optimistic, and innocent. “You run about, my little Maid/ Your limbs they are alive/ If two are in the church-yard laid/ Then ye are only five…” Wordsworth says (Greenblatt, 279). The little girl proceeds to explain how the graves are green, they are side by side, and she eats, knits, and plays with them. “ ‘O Master! we are seven’ ”// “ ‘But they are dead; those two are dead/ Their spirits are in heaven!’… ‘Nay, we are seven!’” (Greenblatt, 279) This little maid is convinced her two past siblings are still alive. Little children have such active imaginations and their optimism is prime. “A simple child…What should it know of death?” begins this beautiful poem (Greenblatt, 278). It compels the reader to imagine death as just another form of being.

Another Romantic poem in which death appeals to emotion is a short, two-stanza rhyme by William Blake. Blake was known for his creativity with imagination (Frye, 153). “The Sick Rose” sparks the imagination as it compares a rose and a worm to a girl being stripped of her purity (Wu, 196). “O Rose, thou art sick/ the invisible worm/…Has found out thy bed/ Of crimson joy/ And his dark secret love/ Does thy life destroy.” Picturing a filthy worm penetrating a beautiful garden rose appeals to emotion as well, as it compels the reader to imagine an everyday rape. Many comparisons in poetry appeal to the imagination of the reader. “Does thy life destroy” (Wu, 196)—destruction. Death. How? It doesn’t say. We can only imagine.

The appeal to emotion and imagination is only one way the Romantic poets viewed death. Another common way was by emphasizing and expressing life. John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” truly has this technique. In the poem, the speaker knows he is aging and that death is coming, thus he expresses life and the beauty of the nature around him. “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! /No hungry generations tread thee down/ The voice I hear this passing night was heard/ In ancient days by emperor and clown” (Greenblatt, 927). Keats wrote this poem after his brother died of consumption (Wu, 1396). Yet he expresses the “tasting of the Flora”, a description of a gorgeous glass of wine, flowers, incense, pastoral eglantine…all these things emphasize the beauty of nature, and the narrator is ecstatic to be alive, experiencing all of it (Greenblatt, 928). “Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well…Fled is that music: –Do I wake or sleep?” (Greenblatt, 929)

Dorothy Wordsworth also expresses life in her poem about nearing death. Also a strong Romantic influence (Zimmerman, 113), “Thoughts on My Sick-Bed” was a personal poem to Dorothy as she herself was confined to a sick bed. She received the first spring flowers at her bedside, and this poem was what she wrote after she saw them in her room (Greenblatt, 417). “Couchant within this feeble frame/ Hath been enriched by kindred gifts/ That, undesired, unsought-for, came//…The violet betrayed by its noiseless breath,/ The daffodil dancing in the breeze/ The caroling thrush, on his naked perch/ Towering above the budding trees” (Greenblatt, 417). The imagery in this poem is fabulous, as Dorothy truly expresses the life around her, while her own fades away. This poem is full of parallelism, comparing her own state to the state of things around her. She even ends the poem with a sense of comparison: “No need of motion, or of strength/ Or even the breathing air/ I thought of Nature’s loveliest scenes/ And with Memory I was there” (Greenblatt, 418). It is easy to forget how truly beautiful and fascinating nature is. What better time to remember than while thinking about death?

Finally, the Romantic poets also portrayed death as a new beginning. They implied a new life—a beacon of hope—perhaps death wasn’t the end! Going back to William Blake, who wrote many poems about death (Frye, 154), we see his poem “The Chimney Sweeper” from The Songs of Innocence. This poem talks about two young chimney sweep boys, one has a dream where they and all the other chimney sweep boys died in “coffins of black”(Wu, 183). But that was not the end. “And by came an Angel who had a bright key/ And he open’d the coffins & set them all free/ Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run/ And wash in a river and shine in the Sun/…And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy/ He’d have God for his father & never what joy” (Wu, 183). This dream of the chimney sweep (Tom) implies a new life after the filthy, disgraceful life he led now. His dream was a vision of heaven. It was hope for him the next morning, as he was “happy & warm” (Wu, 183).

Percy Bysshe Shelley also uses death as a new beginning in his poem “Ode to the West Wind”.  The “West Wind” is the spirit of autumn, as it blows in and marks the death of summer (Greenblatt, 791). The poem implies new beginnings by referencing mythical gods of the afterlife. “Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere/ Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!” These two references are from Hinduism: Siva the Destroyer and Vishnu the Preserver (Greenblatt, 791). “Of some fierce Mænad, even from a dim verge…” A Mænad is a female worshipper of the Greek god of vegetation (Greenblatt, 792). So these references to gods imply a new beginning—a mythical start to autumn. Shelley concludes his poem by reminding his reader of the continuous cycle of seasons. “The trumpet of prophecy! O wind/ If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” (Greenblatt, 792) The Romantic Period was, indeed, heavily influenced by the Bible and Greek Mythology, both of which have severe afterlife beliefs—a new beginning for those right with God(s). (Berlin, 3-4)

Many other religious references imply new beginnings after death, even when the poem isn’t about death. For example, William Blake’s “The Lamb” has the Christian references of Jesus, pure and without sin, sacrificed for the sins of his people. “For he calls himself a Lamb/ He is meek & he is mild/ He became a little child/ I a child & thou a lamb/ We are called by his name” (Greenblatt, 121). Also from Blake, in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, “Energy is eternal delight/ Eternity is in love with the productions of time/ God only Acts and Is, in existing beings or Men” (Wu, 208). When Blake references eternity, of course he means the afterlife, especially since he proceeds to write about God living in Men. Consequently, poems can still reference death in a different and unique light even when the poem doesn’t revolve around death itself.

Death was a common and intriguing subject in the literary world during the 1700 and 1800s (Berlin, 1). The Romantic Era brought new and fascinating views on death. In literature, poets appealed to emotion and imagination, the expression of life, and new beginnings when writing about death. Romantic poets such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley truly capture death in these lights. The common topic of this time period is not only a creative one, but also thought-provoking and exciting.

Best regards,

JJ

The Story that is Cinderella

collage Cinderella

Ah don’t we all know about the smashing servant girl who fits into the glass slipper and lives happily ever after.

Saw Disney’s 2015 “Cinderella” at the Alamo Drafthouse today. Their pre-show had a bunch of little animated shorts based off of Cinderella. It made me think of how cliche this story actually is. Its one of the most famous Grimm fairy tales of all time, wouldn’t you agree? Then I started thinking how many movies have been made about Cinderella. Then I went home and researched Cinderella. So let’s talk some Cinderella.

cinderella_glass_slipper_fitting

1899: The first movie to come out about this old folk tale was a 5 minute live-action flick made by George Méliès, a French filmmaker. Called (wait for it) “Cinderella”. It was considered a huge failure after it was released and didn’t go very far, as it had very little critique. Give it a watch and you’ll appreciate modern filmmaking. Turn on your iTunes too because it has no sound.

I’m sorry. But that’s funny.

1911: “Cinderella” starring Florence La Badie as the servant girl. A 15-minute U.S film by George Nichols. Its also a silent film. Its sort of difficult to watch–more like a play than a movie since there’s no sound. But La Badie makes a beautiful Cinderella…in a Wild West show maybe.

hqdefault

1922: Enter Walt Disney, who made a cute little Cinderella short as he just started out his career in movie-making. It’s a Laugh-O-Gram piece that is, what do you know, silent. Just watch a little bit; you don’t have to watch the whole thing. You’ll smile I promise–sounds like a Charlie Chaplin flick.

1950: Then in 1950, Disney’s company was in major debt. He poured all his money into one last animated feature in hopes that he’d get another chance at life. And he got it! The “Cinderella” we all know is one of his most famous pieces. Its still one of the most beloved Disney movies of all little girls. Perfect porcelain skin, tiny feet, enchanting voice…I mean who doesn’t love “Sing Sweet Nightingale” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”???

ella gif

1957: Seven years later, thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we have the most successful Cinderella story to-date. Featuring Julie Andrews as Cinderella, this musical written for television captured the hearts of 60% of Americans during that time. It was truly a success, as it boasted the largest audience in history. Why was it so amazing? So many popular actors and actresses of that time we’re in this musical: Andrews, Howard Lindsay, Jon Cypher, Ilka Chase, Edie Adams…and the score was filled with so many songs that we don’t see in newer editions of Cinderella. “Stepsisters’ Lament”? Come on, I even want to hear that one.

Beautiful Julie Andrews <3

                 Beautiful Julie Andrews <3

1997: Here’s an interesting one. A Cinderella movie with African-American actors, (the first of its kind). Brandy Norwood, Whitney Houston, and Whoopi Goldberg starred in this direct-to-television broadcast with over 60 million views on the original air date. (Whitney Houston was the fairy godmother by the way, in case you were wondering.)

brandy and whitney

Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston

2008: “Ever After” of course is today’s most popular adaption of the Cinderella story. A mash-up, but a good watch and brilliant storytelling. Starring Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott, I’m sure most have you have at least heard of it.

Postcards-ever-after-13865859-500-333

2015: And now we’ve come to Disney’s newest creation: “Cinderella”. Live action, starring a Downtown Abbey slut and a Game of Thrones perv.

Cinderella-2015

Oh you know I’m joking. It was the same old story, with the addition of a few things from the original tale, and the same old happy ending. I was actually really happy they developed an actual relationship between Cinderella and the Prince. That seemed more realistic.

fairygodmother

Cinderella was called “Ella” for the majority of the movie, which was refreshing. The costumes and colors, especially on the stepmother and stepsisters–gasp. Very well done.

Casting and acting…it was decent. Lily James (star from Downtown Abbey) proved herself to actually be a good actor. Pleasant surprise. Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter were quite rightfully cast. (They never cease to please me. I can’t get over how much I love Carter in this movie).

There you have it! A [brief] history of Cinderella movies. Obviously there are many more, but these just give you an idea of how far this movie+filmmaking has come. Thank the Lord for digital.

Feeling accomplished [for looking up so many Cinderella movies],

J.L. Cordova

Tomorrow’s the Ball!

Erm…okay not a ball. I wish.

I finally gave in and decided to go see the famous Disney movie, which now has 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m going tomorrow, but I wanted you all to witness my predisposition: I’m not expecting much.

I’m a die-hard fan of original Disney classics–the ones Walt worked on himself. The animated version of this fairy-tale being one of them. And I don’t particularly care for the casting of this live action film either (Helena Bonham Carter is a major exception in her brilliance)

cinderella.glass.slipper

You’ve witnessed my prior expectations. To the theater!

Yours,

Jael

Look Out for Ducklings

My newest film project!!

If you haven’t seen my last movie and you are at all interested, please by all means: Love Has Wings That was my first solo project and its won several awards at various film festivals.

This new one, however, is quite shorter and its purely an experiment for fun on my part. I had never worked with children before, so it was quite an adventure. Silent film. Mixed with a little taste from the classical composers, I thought it turned out pretty well. Caution: adorable kids in this film.

Look Out for Ducklings

Inspired by the famous book, of course, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Let me know what you think!

Best regards,

J.L. Cordova

Halfway to the Moon

Bored as a 2015 fax machine sitting in biology class, I scribbled something in my notebook, to which I woke up the next morning when I sallied forth to conquer my homework. The scribble was this:

“Darling, if you spent even half as much time in productivity as you do in people-drama, you’d be halfway to the moon by now.”

 peter pan

That instantly depressed me. For obvious reasons. For one thing, why did I write that instead of the construction of a plasma membrane (which was probably what I should have been writing). But after that flash of frustration passed, I began to think about that statement a little more.

Now most of you don’t know me. I don’t post that much so how could you? You know I love to write. You know I love good books and exciting movies. You may even know my real name is not J.L. Cordova. But even still, I’ll add a little more to that stack of knowledge: I can’t be a people-person for a long amount of time.

belle

Now I don’t mean friendly personality and energetic voice and expression. I’m a server at a restaurant. I’m a good people-person in that sense. I mean actually hanging out with people and being part of a group of friends–like in How I Met Your Mother, Friends, or heck even Big Bang Theory.

Why? I’m a strong introvert. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that since I act the opposite when I’m out in public or at work. But honestly, whenever I become part of a group or find a group of friends…I can’t keep it for long. Either they silently push me away, I step out unnoticed, or maybe a little of both. Of all people, I think I need social interaction and the friend-feeling more than anyone. But I have found over the past couple of months that I cannot be “part of the group” for very long. Good friends? Haven’t had more than three or four in my whole life.

mrsteak

Why am I saying all of this? Its my blog I do what I want. But I’m also getting depressed again, as I feel this notion of isolation once again. Naming names and pointing fingers is pointless and unnecessary. I work at an environment where we are all family. Everyone knows everyone and there’s a group of friends here and a group of people that hang out all the time there…mingling here and there…a big party every once in a while where EVERYONE is together at one place and time. I loved this for awhile. I had a ton of fun. I was even friends with a couple people like me, who were quiet, country kids like me who doesn’t like socializing THAT much. Just enough to keep us human.

Oh how to explain this without sounding arrogant and stand-offish…

I’m best when I am alone.

"In a world of my own..."

                “In a world of my own…”

I was an only child for 7 years. My parents were still in school for some of it. I lost my grandmother and great grandparents when I was too young to understand death. When I was 18 years old my brother died from a genetic disease. About a year later one of my close managers at work was shot in her apartment. I’ve lost a lot of friends during these times. Its pointless describing pain.

I just…I have a more serious personality than most of my peers. Maybe that’s why I can’t stay interested in people’s shallow mindsets. I wonder about how insignificant humans are compared to the vast space of the universe, while they worry about what bar they’re gonna go to Friday night. I work towards my life’s dream career in my free time–They play video games, smoke, sleep, go to work, repeat, repeat…repeat… I watch Netflix; they go to concerts. I’m waiting for a man to treat me right; they’ll sleep with anything that moves. I feel like there’s more to life than my daily routine and my purpose has yet to come…but their purpose…well, they’re living it.

lilo

My solution? Well the obvious one is to be the different one and pursue the goals as intended. Most of the time its easy. I’m drifting into that state again, though. That state where I feel left out. Where the cute guy that flirts with me turns out to be…well, lets just say not a virgin. Where the girls I called my best friends are…hanging together and I wasn’t invited. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. Its such a normality now. It just hurts. Every time. And every time. I feel more useless and awkward and different. The sudden urge to get up, leave without warning and never return…is followed by the temptation to text that hot guy knowing he won’t text back…then an urge to drive off and be rid of it all…followed by a risky Facebook post obviously pointing fingers out of frustration…sigh. Introverts go through more than you know, World. More than you know.

merida

I’m not insecure; I’m confident. I’m not desperate for attention, though I would welcome it if from the right people. Don’t get me wrong I love being an introvert. We view the world in such a unique and inspiring way. After all…”if I spent even half my time in productivity as I do in people-drama, I’d be halfway to the moon by now.”

walle

Mentally drained,

Yours forever,

J.L. Cordova