The Music of Ready Player One

  Photo courtesy of   readyplayeronemovie.com

Photo courtesy of readyplayeronemovie.com

If you're like me you can't wait to see Stephen Spielberg's adaptation of Ernest Kline's incredible novel Read Player One. RPO is quite possibly my favorite novel I've ever read. In the book, the creator of the groundbreaking VR universe OASIS, David Halliday grew up in the 80's and his interests become the interests of every person in the world. The book is full of references to D&D, 80's video games, movies, and most importantly MUSIC! The trailers have already given us a taste of the awesome 80's soundtrack we can expect but I put together a playlist of all the songs and bands referenced in the book. Before you make it out to the theater this weekend satiate yourself with these killer 80's tunes courtesy of James Halliday.

Focus Up #1 - Diving into Solaris

That Hulu subscription that was getting a workout when Fall and Spring rolled around is probably going to waste right about now, with most shows on summer break. I know I’ve been rewatching Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but levitating French fries and over-confident milkshakes don’t exactly challenge the mind as much as I’d like.

Enter Hulu’s surprisingly awesome movie collection, which boasts over 900 Criterion Collection films. This summer, let’s not suffer through season 80 of America’s Got Talent or Battlebots, let’s watch some good shit. Time to dig deep people, and make this a summer of enlightenment. So, let’s ease into this and start with a three-hour movie that’s entirely in Russian. Enter Solaris.

Solaris starts with an interesting enough premise. In the not-so-distant future, humanity (the Russians) has set up a station over the ocean of the distant planet of Solaris and its’ ocean. The Ocean is alive, in a way; it has a conscious. It is aware. Our protagonist, Kris Kelvin, is recruited to go to Solaris to determine the station’s next course of action.

Solaris boasts a history of strange occurrences and sightings, and the once populated station now is only home to only three scientists: Snaut, Sartorius, and Gribaryan. Kris is sent to determine whether these men are fit for duty and whether Solaris should be shut down. However, upon arriving on the station, Kris learns that its inhabitants are not alone, and shortly after, the station receives another guest: Hari. Her past and her arrival is part ofSolaris’ mystery, which is explored in Part One.

Solaris is split into two halves, Part One challenging the viewer to believe the truth in what they are seeing (reality) versus what they know to be true (logic). The film does an excellent job of putting the viewer into the same perspective as Kris; his confusion is ours, as he explores and discovers the mysteries of Solaris. It’s important to remember Snaut’s words: “If you see something out of the ordinary… …try not to lose your head.”

Part Two of the film (it actually has a title card, “Part Two”) explains the mysteries of part one early on. The solution Kris presents in the beginning of the second half is downright hilarious, if technically a failure. But this is where Solaris starts to deviate from a mystery of how these things are happening to a question of if they should stop them. Kris is very content to continue his exploration of The Ocean’s mysteries, and morality and what it is to be a human being is a big player in the conversation.

“In his endless search for truth, man is condemned in his knowledge.” -Dr. Sartorius

Some excellent scenes of characters debating these facets and presenting their opinions take place. The scene after Hari wakes up and talks to Kris is outstanding, as is the birthday gathering for Snaut that really gets into the meaty parts of the morality discussions throughout part two.

You’ll love this movie if you:

  •  Love Nicholson’s descent into madness in The Shining, the conversations between Caleb and Ava in Ex Machina, the idea of ‘sentient, pure evil’ from The Fifth Element, or pretty much any part of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Are into groovy 70’s interior decorating mixed with futuristic sci-fi sets. The transition from hallway to library in Solaris is like walking from the Millennium Falcon into the mansion from Clue.
  • Like bald Russian Men arguing.
  • Adore lava Lamps.
  • Have three hours to kill, and want to be kind of freaked out for the last one of them.

You’ll hate this movie if you:

  • Thought Anne Hathaway’s speech about love being a scientific variable in Interstellar was a well-done, important part to the narrative (It wasn’t. It was really bad. Kind of ruined the character of Dr. Brand for me).

Solaris has a killer build-up to a great ending. Part Two is an awesome journey into morality and holding on to the past. It’s a slow burn at nearly three hours long, and this is pre-Star Wars ‘70’s Sci-fi, so don’t expect explosions and lightsaber duels, think more Star Trek: The Motion Picture extra-long tracking shots. But it is totally, 100%, absolutely worth a watch.

Film Review: Room

WARNING! SPOILERS! If you haven't seen this film I urge you to watch before reading I don't want to take away from the viewing experience.

"Good morning, Lamp," "Good morning, Plant" When Jack gets up in the morning he greets every object in the room like it's an old friend, because they are the only friends that he has, other than Ma. When we first meet Jack it is his 5th birthday. He excitedly wakes Ma and they bake a cake. When Jack gets angry that there aren't any candles Ma tells him that they can only ask for things they need. At this point it is clear that they are being kept in this room against their will. 

The room they stay in is dingy and spare but a lot of the time Jack and Ma seem quite happy. They make eggshell snakes and watch TV. Jack introduces us to his world. Explaining that there is Room, then outside of Room is outer space where all the TV planets are, and then there is Heaven.

In Jack's mind Room is the entire world and for the most part Jack is content in this world. Watching Jack the viewer is experiencing the same thing Ma experiences everyday: the joy of watching someone enjoy their childhood and the claustrophobia of it's limitations. At this point, I wanted answers about why they were there and who or what was keeping them from leaving. Jack tells us about the Aliens outside the door, who he is actually talking about is Old Nick. When Old Nick comes the first time it is clear that he is the one keeping them in the room and at night he comes-a-rapein' and drops off supplies.It is also clear that he is Jack's father. Ma's relationship to Old Nick is strange and very telling of their circumstances. Old Nick doesn't act like most kidnappers, he is actually somewhat kind and understanding. He seems to have some interest in Jack but Ma tells him to stay away and keeps Jack in the wardrobe when Nick comes. It is also strange that Ma essentially supplies Nick with a grocery list and he delivers it.

The second time we see Nick, Jack is watching from the wardrobe. When he makes a noise Nick wants to check on him but Ma distracts him by telling him to come to bed. This shows us that Ma has been in Room so long that she has somewhat gotten used to its terrors, and it shows that she will do anything to protect her son. She has accepted her fate and does not make any attempt to fight Nick or escape (except for the one time she tried and he broke her wrist). This duality is what informs Brie Larson's incredible performance. She won a Golden Globe and, fingers crossed, she will win an Oscar. You don't know when she'll shift from Happy Mother to Desperate Captive. Jack wanders out of his room that night and when Nick wakes and greets him Ma freaks out and hits Nick, which prompts him to leave and cut the power. This is Ma's breaking point and it inspires her to tell Jack the truth about Room. Here we find out that she was kidnapped at age 17 and kept in a garden shed for 7 years. Jack was born in Room and is so content because he doesn't know any other world. When Ma tells him that Trees and dogs and other people are real he fights her. Even though Room is an imperfect world it is still his world and he doesn't want it all to change so quickly. After some time Jack believes Ma and they hatch a plan to escape. After a failed attempt to get Nick to take Jack to the hospital, she rolls Jack up in a rug and tells Nick he is dead. 

The scene when Jack unrolls from the rug is very powerful because it is his first view of the world that, days ago, he didn't even know existed. As Jack struggles to unroll from the rug you feel his anticipation and curiosity pushing him harder and harder to escape. Of course the plan does not go how it was supposed to and Nick sees Jack is alive. It seems like all is lost when Nick catches up to him and grabs him. I was so scared that he wouldn't call for help like his Ma told him to, but luckily he does and a passerby calls the cops. When Jack is with the cops I was scared again because everything is hinged on a kid who lives in another world. Luckily the cops figure out what he is trying to say and find the location of Room. When the cops go to look for Ma and Jack waits in the car I realized that Nick would've had time to go back and kill her. Fortunately I was wrong, the cops emerge with Ma and there is a beautiful mother and son reunion (this is the first time that I cried). 

Once they are out of Room I was afraid that the conflict would be Jack's inability to adjust to the world, and the filmmakers set it up this way. I'll take this moment to say that Emma Donoghue's writing is so brilliant (she also wrote the novel) the story is revealed bit by bit at such a perfect pace and you never stop being surprised. I was surprised as the film went on to see that Jack actually adjusts quite well and it is Ma who struggles to re-assimilate. Another moment of brilliant filmmaking is when Ma is sleeping in her childhood room, the color is cold and desaturated like it was in Room and you hear the sound of Nick typing the code in and opening the door. Then she wakes up and the color is vibrant and Jack is watching Dora on a phone. Ma's depression soon leads her to attempt suicide. This was definitely the Dark Night of the Soul in the movie because for the first time in his life Jack is without his mother. While at first Jack is distraught, he adjusts. Jack forms friendships with his grandma and her boyfriend Leo. This is a prefect spot to talk about Jacob Tremblay's performance. This kid should top Quvenzhane Wallis and get an Oscar at the age of 10. Jacob made this movie. It is really all about Jack and he was so believable and natural when playing this character. The scene when Leo brings his dog to meet Jack is a perfect example.Jack has an imaginary dog and bonds with Leo over love of dogs. He is missing his mom but when he sees the dog he subtly becomes filled with joy and wonder, until he has a smile ear to ear and giggles when the dog licks him. 

When Ma returns from the hospital she sees that Jack is so well adjusted, he has short hair and is playing with a friend. The next moment I teared up was when Ma says to Jack, "I'm not a good Ma." and he says, "But you're Ma." She is the only Ma that Jack knows just how Room is the only world Jack knew, and he has no desire to change it. The fact that they could be happy with nothing but one room and each other shows how deeply they love each other. This is apparent when Ma returns and Jack is ecstatic. 

The final scene was cleverly done. Jack asks to return to Room for a visit and when they go back it is entirely different. He says, "This is Room?" "Did somebody shrink it?" In the beginning the room was like a small apartment. It was not a place you would want to spend 7 years but it was at least twice the size of Room in the end. In the beginning, the wardrobe has a little bed that Jack can lay out on, but when we see it in the end it is much smaller and Jack would've had to bend his legs just to fit. The genius of this movie is how we see everything through the eyes of a child. Jack narrates occasionally in his unique (and uneducated) way of speaking; when he first escapes, his POV shots are all out of focus because his eyes are not used to the sunlight; and we see how memories can be deceiving when the size changes in the end. The directing, writing, set design, and especially the acting in this movie are so phenomenal and do such a great job of sucking you into Room and into the mind of Jack. The final time that I cried is when Jack says to Ma, "Say goodbye to Room." Ma whispers a barely audible, "Bye Room," and the two walk away.

This film has such a happy ending because Jack and Ma have each other and they are free. However, I did not feel pure happiness at the end because the beauty of this film is the duality and the paradox. When you watch it the first time you are rally focused on Jack, but afterwards I kept thinking about Ma. Ma was locked up, raped, impregnated, and gave birth in Room. After two years, she had lost hope of getting out and Jack was welcome company. Ma had the most traumatic experience of her life and the most meaningful experience of her life simultaneously. The worst time of her life and the best time of her life are the same thing. Ultimately, this is why Jack adjust more easily because he still has happy memories of Room, but for Ma all of those memories are tainted with the horror of her captivity. She tells Jack that she told him the story because he was too young to understand. I think what she really wanted to do was give Jack a normal childhood and since she couldn't do that she made him believe that his fucked up childhood was normal. When Ma is doing a news interview the interviewed asks her why she didn't ask Nick to take Jack away so he could have a normal childhood and she is shocked, like it never even occurred to her and she responds, "But he had me." In the beginning Jack tells the story of how he came in a beam of light down to Room and made Ma's life so much better. He saved Ma's life and in a time and place where it seemed nothing good would happen and so it never occurred to her that they should part because he meant so much to her.Ma didn't just endure her captivity but she had to pretend that it was something beautiful so Jack could be happy. It reminds me of Life is Beautiful when he convinces the little girl that the Nazi's are just playing a game. This film shows how different adults and children think: Jack saw magic, Ma saw tragedy. Jack saw a world, Ma saw a prison. Every good parent tries not to screw their kid up completely, and despite everything they went through Ma succeeded in this.

I wanted to write about this film because after I watched I could not stop thinking about it. It is so powerful and emotional that I was laying in bed at 1am thinking about all of the things that I said in this review. This prediction might change but I am ready to give this Best Picture right now. It was one of the most powerful films I've ever seen and may be one of my favorites of all time. It is a film full of love which transfers to the viewer. So call you're mom and tell you love her, I think I'll do the same.

Bye Room.