jan
08

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response – What is it?

Hello, Kevin here.

For those of you who are in English class with me, you might remember that I had talked about the strange phenomenon which is ASMR. As a reminder, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is generally described as a pleasant feeling usually starting from the top of the spine and gradually extending to the rest of the body. To sum up my presentation on ASMR, I had basically said that this feeling is induced by « triggers » which can be… anything, really. Watching people perform a certain task such as towel folding, nail polishing, or painting (Bob Ross comes to mind), listening to sounds, be they someone humming or the light sound of drops of water falling on a water surface, or even – real or fictional – experiences such as going to see a doctor for examination, or videos simulating such an occurence, as weird and strange as it sounds! The best way of knowing what I am talking about would be to try and listen to one of those with a headset since most of them feature 3D sounds recorded with a binaural microphone. Do note that the “triggers” used to induce ASMR are different from one individual to another, and so a trigger which works for someone may not work for another person. Interestingly enough ASMR cannot be felt by everyone and scientific research is yet to be carried out in order to know more about it. I remember that my first ASMR video ever was introduced to me by a friend, and it contained a ton of different potential triggers over a hour series of different sounds. That was then that I discovered that lightly tapping on a plastic surface in a quiet environment was one of my triggers. You can find the said video on YouTube through this link. If you are interested in knowing more about ASMR in general, you can visit this link and any of the websites linked in this introductory text.

 

This is it from me for today, hopefully this short article will have cleared up a few questions you might have had when I was doing my presentation, or simply introduce you to the ASMR.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions about the subject. Although my knowledge is rather limited, I will try to answer you as soon as I can!

 

FANTESINI Kevin.

mai
19

The Lost World

You may recognise the title from the screen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name; however I would like to talk to you about the first novel sporting this title: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original The Lost World, which has little in common with the film. Perhaps his most famous work after the Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, it depicts the fictional expedition, lead by Professor Challenger, into the Amazon and more specifically onto a mysterious and seemingly unreachable plateau.

400px-Cover_(The_Lost_World,_1912)The point of view from which the story is delivered is, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the novel. The events are related through the letters young reporter, Edward Malone, sends to his editor. Indeed each chapter is addressed to Mr McArdle and starts by either a short recap of previous events or by immediately setting the mood when the expedition group are in a tense situation. Doyle even plays on this sometimes having Edward write as though he only hopes his letters to be found when he is unsure of surviving or whether the letter reaches its correspondent at all.

This would have been particularly effective at the time of this novel’s first release (in 1912) as it was published serially in a well-known magazine. Although I wish I too could have experienced such a fresh and suspenseful reading, I found that the overall tone set by Doyle through Edward’s eyes and pen was still very entertaining. Moreover this novel being such a classic nowadays I already knew some of the main plot points, but nonetheless I caught myself several times pondering excitedly about events to come or the resolution of some predicaments the protagonist is in.

Not only is suspense well built in and between chapters but The Lost World handles the theme of discovery and exploration masterfully. Indeed it features great descriptions of the lush Amazonian jungle, taking us through what transpired as quite a varied landscape. The narration of the long journey to the actual destination and the preparations made, prior and during, really conveys the feeling of being involved in the expedition. Doyle manages to intrigue, if not amaze, his reader throughout the book.

The main characters composing the core of the expedition team are all well fleshed out and intriguing in their own right but the portrayal of the peculiar Professor Challenger outshines the rest. Behind the instigation of the whole journey he is depicted as an irascible individual convinced of his intellectual superiority, very provocative, aggressive even, in his speech and also prone to resorting to violence. He is a very interesting character whose interventions further contribute to the dynamic rhythm of the novel. Doyle later wrote four other stories featuring this prominent figure among the protagonists.

I will end this post by a warning, or at least a caution, some passages may shock you slightly as an underlying assumption of white superiority can be felt and more broadly that there is a hierarchy of “races”. Especially when it comes to the way the leading members of the team consider the rest of their party, composed mostly of natives. [Minor spoiler ahead] Notably it can also be perceived in their reaction to a specific primitive tribe and what they deem as acceptable or natural in how they treat them. However I thought this dated perception was rather enlightening; as long as you are well aware of it, the differences in mentalities helps to emphasise the changes since then. It can also be appreciated as a way to contextualise this piece of work and to some degree “ease into” a similar reading atmosphere, a kind of sample if you will.

 

-Guillaume C.

 

mai
14

Book presentation: Stephen King’s « The Dark Tower » cycle

Hello everyone!

I bet you know Stephen King. You loved the movies adapted from his books. Shining, Mist, Misery, Desolation… no, not The Lawnmower Man. Please. Anyway, great movies, but I think you haven’t read his books (I mean, the books that were not adapted into a movie or a TV show). What a huge mistake. Stephen King is an excellent writer, and almost all of his books are masterpieces. If you have the opportunity, read some, they absolutely worth it. Try to read Cellular, because a film based on it will be out in 2016. Basically, it is a story about people becoming zombies because of their phones (it is a bit more complex than that, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, sorry).

But I’m not writing an article about that. I’m here to talk about the major book series by Stephen King, The Dark Tower series. It’s a set of 8 books that tell the story of Roland of Gilead, travelling the Mid-World to find the Dark Tower. The Mid-World is an imaginary world invented by Stephen King when he was young, alcoholic, and addicted to heroin.

So, here is the background: the Mid-World is a parallel world that has lots of connections with our world. It is a blend of magic, chivalry, post-apocalyptic sci-fi and old westerns. The Mid-World and our world are maintained by 12 Beams, some sort of pure primal energy. The Dark Tower is in the center of all the Beams, and therefore its destruction would end the two worlds. Bad luck, some dark sorcerers want to destroy it, to create another world where they would be gods.

 

The Dark Tower

A concept art made by Guillermo del Torro. No big deal.

The main character is Roland of Gilead, the only remaining Gunslinger, an old order of knights founded by King Arthur. Roland has been trying to find the Dark Tower for years, without success. But somehow, he manages to enter our world and meets his future companions: Eddie, a junkie from the eighties, Odetta, a legless schizophrenic lady from the fifties, and Jake, a kid from the nineties.
Together, they will travel the Mid-World to find the Dark Tower.

latestThis is an un-official map of the Mid-World.

But, you know, sometimes, the journey is more important than the destination. Stephen King created a very complete world, with lots of elements, stories, cities, and characters. Roland and his companions will travel around this world and meet tons of people, villages, enemies, and will hear lots of stories. The places vary a lot from book to book: a post-apocalyptic city with a civil war, the remnants of old kingdoms, small villages with lots of traditions, huge forests, and even a time-travelling station.
The descriptions are very precise and it’s really easy to imagine yourself in that world, imagining extraordinary places, and roaming around with Roland. And if you can’t, there is a lot of fan art on the interwebs.

darktowerlongroad

Another very interesting thing, is that All of King’s books are connected with The Dark Tower series. If you read Black House (Territoires in French), From a Buick 8 (Roadmaster in French), Hearts in Atlantis or even Mist and Shining, you will see connections, sometimes obvious. In Black House, the final part of the story takes place in Thunderclap (Tonnefoudre in French), a very hostile place in the Mid-World. In Hearts in Atlantis, there is even a common character: the main character of this story is helping Roland in the 6th book. But the best and best exploited connection is definitely Mist. If you know the Dark Tower extended universe, you can guess where the mist and the creatures come from. I will not spoil it for you of course, but if you are a fan of Stephen King like I am it is really awesome to have additional knowledge of the stories because you’ve read The Dark Tower.

So, anyway, if you like Stephen King and you have lots of free time (the 8 books are about 4500 pages), give it a shot. It’s totally worth it. Plus, huge news, Sony Pictures decided to fund the Dark Tower movie project, by Guillermo del Torro. So, if you want to say to your friends “Oh my god, the books are SO much better than the movie”, you’d better start reading now 😉

Yours in reading,

Grégoire Meyer

mai
05

Unbroken : a short film review.

Unbroken is the second film directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the life of the Olympic athlete and World War II veteran Louis “Louie” Zamperini (whose life is described in Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken : A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption). Once a troublesome kid, Louis Zamperini became a very promising runner thanks to his big brother dedication. Joining the United States Army Air Forces as a bombardier during World War II, he had to survive in a raft for 47 days along with two other members of his division after their plane crashed in the middle of the ocean, only to be found by the Japanese Navy and sent to a camp dedicated to prisoners of war. There, he had to endure all the torments and cruel trials ordered by the war criminal Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe who tried to break him as much as he could.

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With this film, Angelina Jolie wants to pay tribute to Louis Zamperini who passed away on July 2, 2014 at the age of 97. If I was kind of afraid it wouldn’t match my expectations, it was a good exercise and a very inspirational story.

Let’s say it immediately, the film has been criticized and considered by some as yet another movie made to glorify the all mighty America, but it shouldn’t be watched with this mindset. You may regret the fact that Japanese soldiers were the only ones presented as cruel and merciless military forces. As long as you keep in mind that there are no nice guys and bad guys in times of war, you can concentrate on what’s important and the goal of this film : to portray the strength of mind of Louis Zamperini. And this detail is what makes this movie a little bit more than yet another story of epic American soldiers fighting against the Big Bad Japanese. You’re not watching an American hero trying to endure the treatment of Japanese executioners, you’re watching a formidably tenacious man keeping faith and hope even when exposed to the worst trials that humans can inflict on each other.

If you’re not interested in this kind of inspirational film, or if you’re fed up of those war environment movies, you can still do it your way : it’s a good and well-paced story, but not a masterpiece you’re forced to watch. In contrast, if a more insightful vision of the will power catches your attention, you should enjoy this production.

It deals with the faith of a man, of how your life and that of those around you can forge your mind, of how far one can go and endure just for the sake of not giving up. Not a masterpiece, but still an inspirational movie about a man whose will, story and courage command respect.

Maxime Bak.

avr
18

Freaks’ Squeele

freaks_01

Have you ever wanted to know how super-heroes came to be what they are nowadays ? How did they learn their skills and gain their fame ? If yes, then wait no more, and check out this fantastic series !

Freaks’ Squeele

Freaks’ Squeele is a comic book series, written and illustrated by Florent Maudoux. It tells the tale of Xiong Mao (a young normal « human » woman) and her two friends Chance (a demonic girl) and Ombre (a big nice wolf) as they enter the super-hero cursus of the F.E.A.H. academy. But, it is not so easy to become a super-hero… And between the classes and the crazy projects, to which you can add some problems with the management of the university and the bad relationship with students from other schools, life is not so simple for our three wannabes heroes !

The books are mostly in black and white, creating beautiful images based on light work, but there is always one colored chapter, which is also quite nice to see. The style of the author is frankly amazing, with a lot a realism, which is directly inspired from manga and cinema. It creates a very dynamic alliance, with a lot of details and different viewpoints.

 

freaks_ok

 

There are also a lot, and by a lot I mean truly a lot, of references from different genres. You will stumble upon a look-alike character of Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, and then see the face of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a photo without any warnings, before discovering that the archive’s room in the library seems quite familiar! And oh, where are your old Gaston Lagaffe comic books again so that you can check a thing or two ? And those are only three of a wider number of references, believe me!

Freaks’ Squeele is a seven books series, even if the last one has yet to be released. Next to that main story, you will also find two spin-offs currently in the making (one by another author, Sourya Sihachakr), and two little stories in the first and third Doggybags albums.

In short, if the style is appealing to you and you like stories which can be serious with a great deal of humor, don’t hesitate to run right now to your favorite library/book store : you won’t be disappointed.

 

freaks_04

Lucie PELLETIER

avr
03

Whiplash

Whiplash-Movie-Poster-18-724x1024Shot in only nineteen days Whiplash (2014) is the second film by Damien Chazelle. It tells the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a student at Manhattan Conservatory, who aspires to be the best jazz drummer ever. He wants to be the new Buddy Rich. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), his teacher wants to push him to excellence through humiliation, insults, psychological manipulation and cymbal throwing.

The relationship that builds up between the two characters is impressive. To reach his dream of one day becoming a great jazz musician, Andrew shows selflessness and embarks on a quest towards excellence. His teacher continues to push him to his limits, sometimes ‘till breaking point.
However, the film is not based on rivalry between Andrew and his instructor, but on the inner fight between the promising drummer and himself, recalling in passing Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky on the dance world. Both films show how far passion can lead, and sometimes even to the detriment of the people involved.
The young filmmaker makes ​​a film about the virtuosity and its underworld. It’s almost a sports movie, a movie about performance, but here, perfection and victory are bitter. The end doesn’t systematically justify the means …

The staging is intelligent, particularly highlighted by the epic last scene of the movie consisting of a very fast and panoramic movement back and forth between Andrew and his teacher. This has a fascinating effect, demonstrating the degree to which the young drummer pushes his performance. When the symbiosis between the teacher and the student starts, the camera then performs loose circular movements as if it’s carried by the music.
The scenes are long, to match the image of the film, in which the main character must remain in tempo and for a long time. So we endure with him, we feel his pain and we only want one thing: that the scene ends, but no…, it continues. The spectators must bear these hard scenes. The staging comes into play to highlight those moments emphasizing the importance of details (dust particles, drops of blood dripping …).

Whiplash is a masterpiece and the duo formed by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons creates wonders. From a relationship based on the respect of a student towards his teacher to a genuine confrontation taking all its meaning in this electrifying and breathtaking final climax. This movie leaves us with a uncomfortable feeling towards this world of passion and a head full of drum sounds!

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

CitizenFour

citizenfour

“For now, know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial,

every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write,

site you visit, subject line you type, and packet you route, is in

the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.”

Edward Snowden

Citizenfour (2014) is a documentary by Laura Poitras, who followed the whistleblower Edward Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greewald before and during the revelations that highlighted the NSA’s secret surveillance programs.

The images of CitizenFour are staggering by their simplicity. The major part of this documentary is in a hotel room in Hong Kong with discussions between Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald (reporter for The Guardian). And yet, in seconds, it is like watching a movie, a real fiction. The protagonists exchange encrypted messages, hide under the bedsheets to enter their 100 characters passwords, disconnect the phone from the room for fear of being bugged…

The intelligent editing contrasts with the figure of Snowden, forced to stay in this “isolation cell” with the growing media coverage of the scandal that is played outdoors. For example, Laura Poitras films the whistleblower, alone in his room, watching his tv screen which displays his face and the face of the journalist to whom he delivered information. It’s rather sureal !

For nearly two hours, the viewer is projected into a place where he can fear that everything that surrounds him could be monitored. Laura Poitras offers a dense movie that urges every citizen of the world to think about the deviance of our contemporary societies and policies.

Now, I will always remember this frightening sentence (which is an understatement): “It has become an expectation that we’re being watched”. And indeed, the fact that we could be watched has become a running joke even though it is not a joking matter, on the contrary…

More than a documentary about the NSA or a documentary about Edward Snowden, CitizenFour is rather the testimony of a journalist about freedom of speech.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

White Bird in a Blizzard

White-Bird-in-a-Blizzard

Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) centers on Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley), a seemingly regular teenage girl. In 1988 her world is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her mother, Eve (Eva Green).

Set over the course of three years, White Bird in a Blizzard tracks the growing mystery surrounding what really happened  to Eve and how it changes the passionate Kat as she attempts to grow into a young woman.

After two playful works that could give you the impression of a return to an assumed immature cinema (A Smiley Face, Kaboom), Gregg Araki reiterates in a genre he had transcended and which threw off moviegoers in 2005 with his surprisingly challenging drama Mysterious Skin.

A true art house movie with a very strong identity, White Bird in a Blizzard seduces us by its slow rhythm, its amazing photography with highlighted colors, its unforgettable soundtrack (The Cure or the album Music for the Masses by Depeche mode) and a dive headfirst into the eighties.

What is pleasant with White Bird in a Blizzard, are the different levels at which you can read this movie each in high quality staging. Thus, White Bird in a Blizzard opens like a family drama where it is expected to follow an investigation around the disappearance of the mother. However, we quickly understand that this is a sham to make us glide smoothly into the psyche of a teenager in search of herself.

Araki’s cinema impresses with its eminently pop dimension. He transcend the common, the trivial, even the vulgar through non-ordinary dialogues (where, in the cinema, do we hear adolescents speak with such detachment and sincerity about their sex lives?). His staging gives acute attention to everyday objects.

Nevertheless, in White Bird in a Blizzard, as in the delirious Kaboom, the modest chronicle of everyday teenagers is disturbed by the strange and the underpinned melancholy instilled by an impressive artistic direction. Araki dynamites with mastery every moment of the American ideal. He depicts the difficult transition to adulthood, with uncompromising direction.

White Bird in a Blizzard is a remarkable work of cinema. Sparkling, simple, sometimes dark and often funny, this movie leads the viewer into a real rollercoaster of emotions.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

Birdman

Birdman-Affiche-Michael-KeatonBirdman (2014) is the last film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu narrating the story of Riggan Thomson, former blockbuster film actor and who tries to become a theater actor. He will find himself questioning his talent and creativity while confronting his legitimacy as an actor and his search for recognition and love (by his family, the press, the public …).

Birdman is all about mainstream cinema; the whole idea is to play on the similarities between the character of Riggan and Michael Keaton (Batman and Batman Returns), the actor who plays this character in the film. From a life of fame to sinking into oblivion.

The duality between cinema (special effects, camera movements, multiple plans) and theater (no camera, staging, almost no effects) is at the heart of Birdman. Filmed almost entirely in a Broadway theater, it seems to have been shot in one long, single sequence shot in an absolute and smooth virtuosity. With no apparent cut, the action takes place uninterruptedly in the dressing rooms, corridors, stairs, stage and backstage.

This choice of staging breaks down the barriers between stage and backstage, between fiction and reality but also between fantasy and reality. This is effective and the process reaches a high point when this long sequence shot also takes away the barrier between the rationality and the madness of the main character. This shot is inspired by tradition cinema (Soy Cuba by Kalazatov or Rope by Hitchcock). The staging is justified, this isn’t just there to impress the viewer.
The music is diegetic, using only jazzy drums soun ds. This movie, through the use of this long sequence shot, the breaking of the fourth wall and its original music goes a long way in its suspension of disbelief.

The acting is very good and sublimated by the subjugating Emma Stone who proves she can play with talent any role. Keaton is not outdone, this role was made for him, this movie being a parallel between Rigann Thomson’s life and his own life.

This movie deals with artists inner fears, on their creations and the various interrogations related to it. But it also criticizes the Hollywood machinery with their blockbusters editorial line and our relationship to social medias.

Birdman has the air of an independent movie, but it is made of high-end elements. We are simply carried away by the furious pace of the long sequence shot and the music, the spectacle leaving us impressed and out of breath.

Tristan Peschoux

mar
27

The Book With No Name

the_book_with_no_name
 

The Book With No Name

Ever heard of « The Book With No Name » ? You should. It’s the first novel of the Bourbon Kid series, written by an anonymous British author, who signs as Anon. It’s a thriller/horror sort of book, but more like « lots of blood everywhere » than scary stuff. It’s quite funny, in fact.
The book is about a serial killer known as the Bourbon Kid, who can be considered as an antihero of some sort. The story takes place in a city in a western-like scenery, which is flooded by supernatural creatures (and, unfortunately for them, simple humans). We follow a police officer trying to understand the gruesome deaths that have been happening around lately. Then switching to the point of view of other characters who are more or less aware of what’s happening and the consequences of their own actions. Each character is very interesting, and very different one from another, even if in the end you’d better not get attached to one of them, because death comes around swiftly !
To speak about the book itself, it is very easy to read, because it is more like oral rather than written language with complicated sentences. In fact, that’s the peculiar style of the series. Also, keep in mind that swear words are used quite often (let’s say they are a very big part of the book), and that fighting and dying scenes are very well described (picture a Tarantino movie put on paper, and you’re quite close to it). The humor and the crude reality of the events are basically what makes this book a must-read, and you won’t have time to tire of it !
Up till now, it’s one of a series of four books : The Book With No Name, The Eye of the Moon, The Devil’s Graveyard and The Book of Death.

I personally liked all of them, but the last one was a bit repetitive (or maybe one of the main character in it annoyed me a bit more than those in the others).
Fans are very interested in seeing this book adapted as a movie (and what a show it would be !), but for now, there’s no information whether it is to be done or not. Even so, the Sojafilms website did a fan-made trailer for The Book With No Name and it’s really nice to watch, so if you have time, check it out ! It doesn’t spoil anything, thus it’s even an interesting way to understand the whole ambiance of the book if you want to be sure you will like it before reading it.

eye_of_the_moondevil_graveyard
Lucie PELLETIER