Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Rejection Means

I remember reading a short fiction piece in Seventeen magazine (when I was fourteen, of course). In it, our hero goes to the mailbox to check for a letter from the college he applied to and finds a small, thin envelope decorated with official school insignia.

At the end of the fifth week of compulsively checking my mailbox daily, sending up little prayers to the mail gods that something, something would be there, I turned my key in the lock yet again, almost on a whim. It had been nearly three months since I turned in my application, and not a word. I started to imagine wild possibilities -- maybe they never lost it, maybe they think since I turned it in late I actually meant to apply for next next year's program, maybe my letter got lost in the mail, the way emails disappear into an internet void - only this was a dead letter closet or worse, simply the wrong mailbox.

But yesterday, when I swung back the little gray door of my mailbox, there was a letter. A real, tangible, school-insignia letter, and the words of that short story ran through my mind the moment I saw it:
Too thin to be an acceptance letter. Rejection.
It was indeed too thin, a single piece of paper folded business style inside the envelope. Even so, I held my breath a little as I opened it, then unfolded the paper. Maybe grad school doesn't send big giant acceptance packets; maybe I got in after all.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Music Videos and Silent Films: A Match Made in Movie Heaven?

If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a pretty big fan of music videos as a genre - when done well, they have all the entertainment value of a feature-length film distilled into three minutes of sold gold goodness. They also, more often then not, bear a certain resemblance to ye olde silent films of yesteryear, telling stories that exist outside the lyrics and allowing the music to become an accompaniment to the action of the film.

Unsurprisingly, some videos have taken this comparison even farther. Two examples stand out in my mind immediately, the first being the video for "Tonight Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins.

A fun story, right? Boy and girl go up in a rocket ship to the moon, beat some aliens with umbrellas, take a dip in the sea to hang with mermaids, and live happily ever after. Seems like I've seen some of this imagery before . . .

"Voyage a la Lune" by George Melies is the first-ever movie made with an actual plot - before that, it was all movies of people sneezing, horses running, sunrises, trains, etc. Here, we see true theatrical mastery: a storyline and special effects, with lots of women in short pants thrown in for kicks. I believe they call it "cheesecake."

A final note: My apologies for the distracting voiceover, it was better than some of the ridiculous soundtracks I found out there, but still it's very distracting.

From the more recent end of the musical spectrum, we have "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie. In the video, the mysterious Doctor reveals the 'Living Dead Girl' to the carnival-goers, to varying degrees of horror and amazement. When she escapes, the townspeople chase him out of town.

Pretty old fashioned looking stuff -- so old fashioned looking, in fact, it shouldn't be a surprise that the video's imagery is taken almost verbatim from an original silent film called "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" directed by Rober Weine. The highly stylized sets seen in both films come out of German Expressionism, an art movement that sought to manifest psychological moods in environment. The film is nearly an hour long, but if you have the time to watch it, I promise you won't be dissappointed -- but if you don't and just want to see the carnival scene, the fun starts around 7:56.

Good times, right?

Everything I need to know, I learned in Master Class

When I started college, I wanted to major in three things: Creative Writing, Art, and Vocal Performance (singing opera professionally, for those who haven't wandered into the world of music degree titles).

Sadly, that was not to be - I realized that although singing will always be something I love, I simply do not love it enough to give up everything else. Yet even as I've left the world of professional singing in my past, the lessons I learned there continue to resonate. The most important of these lessons came from a guest speaker in my master class.