Archive for August, 2013

Lessons Learned from SPARK: A Burning Man Story

SparkDocumentaries mean different things to different people. For some, the didactic nature of a well-researched documentary can expand horizons and increase understanding of the world we live. For others, the documentary is meant to ignite the powder keg of social reform and change. I view documentaries as a quiet place to escape to when the world feels too big for me, and a means to reshape my focus through the lens of new knowledge.

SPARK: A Burning Man Story is a 2013 documentary by Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter that inspired me in ways I wasn’t quite expecting when I sat down to watch the film. My understanding of Burning Man as an event was limited prior to the film, based mostly on news reports and references on popular television shows. I fully expected to walk away from SPARK with a more thorough understanding of the creative process of the participants and organizers of the events, but I was surprised to take away lessons in balancing passion with practicality. Read the rest of this entry »

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Managing Expectations With Elysium

Warning: This review contains spoilers… lots of ’em.


To this day, District 9 remains one of my favorite science fiction films of all time. For an inaugural directorial effort, Neill Blomkamp showcased an impressive vision of humanity’s interaction and subjugation of an alien race. Blomkamp’s futuristic technology was gritty and tarnished, lending to a sense of realism that matched the film’s documentary-style sequences. Like many people, I have been (im)patiently waiting for Blomkamp’s sophomore effort, the Matt Damon helmed Elysium. Perhaps I did not manage my expectations properly, going in to the film, but I ended up walking away from Elysium feeling underwhelmed and extremely disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are several things that Blomkamp got right with Elysium. Blomkamp’s world building prowess is front and center once again in this tale of an Earth divided by class; the poor carve out meager-at-best existences in hovels on the Earth’s surface, while the wealthy and genetically privileged get to take up residence on Elysium, a technological paradise that orbits the planet. The technology of Earth in this film feels very realistic and believable. Nothing is too glossy or overly-stylized, and many of the weapons and gadgets used were admittedly fuckin’ cool without being ridiculous or too over-the-top. I also appreciate that Blomkamp is able to dump us directly into such a world with very little scrolling text or set-up. Context clues and a forward moving plot pull us into the atmosphere of the film in a way that is more show, less tell.

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