As our December sun is setting

Movie: Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Caden (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a play director, builds a life-size replica of New York City and puts on a play mirroring real life with brutal honesty.  The story revolves around Caden’s relationships with several women who seem to fade in and out of his life throughout the years, including his wife, his daughter, and the woman working at the box office.  This is one of the most moving movies I’ve ever seen, giving off a very palpable feeling of loneliness.  The artistic genius of director/screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is astounding as the movie constantly plays with the concept of a play within a play, while juggling quite a few other motifs along the way. The acting by the supporting roles is brilliant throughout, and Hoffman gives a performance that I think is Oscar-worthy.  The film is hard to watch at times and very saddening, but it’s ultimately a very rewarding experience that deserves multiple viewings.  8/10.

Movie: Green Zone (2010)
After going to several bomb sites to find them empty, a soldier gets involved in a conspiracy surrounding the source of information on WMDs, questioning the reasons behind why he’s fighting at all in the first place.  The story is great, full of suspense as the secrets unfold one by one, but it suffers from one-dimensional characters. The acting is merely satisfactory, mostly due to weak characterization.  I’ve seen Matt Damon and Brendan Gleeson both do better than this with more complex characters.  The special effects were good, but the cinematography suffers from excessive usage of shaky-cam early on.  Not exactly the best war movie I’ve ever seen, but watchable, and I like a good conspiracy movie.  I personally think Paul Greengrass did better on the latter two Bourne movies.  7/10.

Book: C.S. Lewis – Till We Have Faces (1956)
The book is an allegorical fable about the Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche.  The twist is that it is told in the perspective of Psyche’s half-sister.  Orual, daughter of the King of Glome, writes her account against the gods, explaining how the gods took her sister Psyche away from her.  Being a work of contemporary fiction, the language is very modern; however, that never takes away from the ancient setting of the book.  Lewis’ style is very vivid  even as he skims through years in a matter of a few paragraphs, yet he takes his time to explain every detail when it matters most.  The story is told in first person, so you really get a good look into the character of Orual.  Her development is amazing, I’ve never seen a character go through so much change since I watched the Anime series Twelve Kingdoms.  I don’t think I’ve ever been moved so strongly by a work of literature.

Music: Meg & Dia – Here, Here, and Here (2009)
This is the perfect followup to their fist studio album Something Real (2006) as their sound progresses and matures in the best ways possible.  These songs are fuller, richer, and even  a little more experimental, while still carrying on such an attractive feeling of honesty.  Like its predecessor, Here, Here, and Here offers a wide variety of sounds and styles, ranging from the angry “Inside My Head” to the ballad “Bored of Your Love” (featuring guest vocals by Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s) to the country-inspired “Agree to Disagree.”  Dia’s impressive vocals are the icing on this very talented…cake.  The album seamlessly mixes indie, alternative, pop, and rock, and though it sometimes reminds me of a few things, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve heard anything else quite like it.  Tegan and Sara better be careful, because this pair of siblings is catching up.  9/10.

Music: Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005)
Some people might call Death Cab “sleepy.”  Sleepy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Eisley’s music is sleepy, but in such a beautiful manner.  Some might call Death Cab “boring.”  I can’t see how anyone can say such a thing when the catchy bass line to “Summer Skin” demands your attention  and the wonderful piano of “What Sarah Said” makes you want to catch every note.  Death Cab may be soft and quiet, but they are not sleepy or boring.  Some might call them “depressing.”  Okay, I’ll have to agree with that one, but I have to say that Ben Gibbard’s heavily metaphoric lyrics are the best part of this album.  “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” has some of the saddest yet most beautiful and touching lyrics I’ve ever heard.  On the other hand, “Soul Meets Body” is one of the most beautifully uplifting songs I can think of.  I would always mention Jimmy Eat World as one of my top three most favorite bands of all time.  I’m starting to like Death Cab for almost all of the same reasons.  9/10.

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