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Guardians of the Galaxy (TheByteScene Review)

Date: August 9th, 2014

TheByteDaily

Guardians of the Galaxy

3 True-Sci-Fi-Epics out of 4

At this point in cinematic history, it should come as absolutely no surprise that the latest addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a hit. In fact, there was little doubt that director James Gunn would succeed at translating the cosmic comic book team to the cinema screen. Certainly, any doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy would succeed only truly came from the cinema elite and nervous fans worried that Marvel’s string of successes would somehow end with this latest feature.

Interesting is that, unlike the remainder of the MCU’s source material, this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy is only 6 years old. While the original Guardians were first introduced in 1969, the team containing the characters Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Gamora (including a rotating selection of other characters) was first introduced in 2008 as a reboot of the original 1969 team. Make no mistake, however, the idea that Marvel was interested in introducing a cinematic iteration of the team was never a sign of studio arrogance. As new and obscure as the characters may be, I find it very difficult to believe that Marvel would allow one of their properties under their direct control to perform poorly.

Whereas Sony and Fox have been fighting their hardest to maintain some control over their respective franchises with varying results, Marvel Studios has yet to truly produce what anyone can call a bad movie. Even their lowest rated and poorest earning films have still been at par with almost all of the best produced cinematic superhero offerings. What I’ve come to realize about the so-called “Marvel Method,” and what I hope other studios like DC hope to learn, is that the best superhero movies aren’t truly superhero movies. Instead, they’re genre films that simply happen to feature superheros at their core. Utilizing a more recent example, Captain American: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World succeeded because they worked within the confines of their respective genres (a spy-thriller and a fantasy film respectively) while also featuring an already popular series of characters.

Keeping in mind that the best comic books have been stories that just so happen to feature an already established cast of characters, Marvel Studios seems to have realized that making a good movie is all about focusing on the importance of writing, characterization, editing, and cinematography. There was a time when superhero movies were, at best, attempts to satisfy fans who wanted to see their favourite characters on film and were, at worst, cash grabs made by studios trying to push comic books. In today’s cinematic age, thanks largely in part to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero movies are nothing more than well-made genre films.

In this same vein of cinematic purity, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds because of its adherence to the qualities of great science fiction and its decision to subvert the boring tropes that bog down weak sci-fi features. Characters whiz about in deep space amid a gorgeous landscape of stars and galaxies and planetary conflict set to an epic score undercut by hilariously anachronistic pop music. Characters are diverse and well-written with their own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. There are multiple spaceship battles utilizing a variety of cool advanced technology. Most importantly, there’s a clear distinction between traditional effects, make-up, and CGI that makes even the most impossible visuals seem possible and real.

The main cast of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel as the voice of a talking tree, share a cohesive and familiar chemistry. Furthermore, the underlying themes of their friendship – wanting to do more with their unimportant lives – is surprisingly mature given the fact that Bradley Cooper voices a genetically enhanced raccoon and Vin Diesel’s only line is “I am Groot.” Cameos by Benicio del Toro (as Taneleer Tivan The Collector), Josh Brolin (as intergalactic warlord Thanos), and Glen Close further appease fans of the original source material.

Heroes aside, however, I was disappointed by the film’s cast of villains. Lee Pace stars as the film’s main antagonist, Ronan the Accuser – a warhammer wielding radical hellbent on the destruction of an entire galaxy – and I was left underwhelmed by the character. Compared to the broad scope portrayed by the film’s cast of heroes, Ronan is relatively flat and one-note. Secondary antagonists like Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) and Korath (played by Djimon Hounsou) are equally dull.

Cinematography by Ben Davis allows the film’s more poignant moments to shine, whereas action and grandiose scale are perfectly encapsulated in every subsequent scene. Director James Gunn has his tongue placed firmly in his cheek as the film finds the perfect balance between earnestness and not taking itself seriously in any capacity. Each sequence feels like Gunn is inviting the audience into his absurd, surreal vision of a very real galaxy.

Impossible to avoid mentioning are the film’s stunning colour palette – which should be used as a recruitment effort by NASA to convince people that space is awesome – and the film’s song selection – a collection of songs that score every scene with humour and emotion. Praise must be given to Tyler Bates, whose musical efforts deserve to be studied.

My only real complaints with the film are its forced efforts to tie-in the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy is undoubtedly part of the expansive MCU, and because of this fact, Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and the Nova Corps are introduced simply because future Marvel films require the set-up. Allow me to speak as a fan for a brief moment. Thanos was introduced as the man-behind-the-curtain in 2012’s The Avengers. It’s been two years, and moviegoers and fans alike have been waiting for the culmination of his grand plan, yet his reveal in this film is nothing more than an uninspired cameo. What should have been a grand reveal is admittedly rather weak.

Ignoring my complaints, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantasticsci-fi feature that stars a talented cast clearly in tune with each other and their director. It’s well written, well shot, well edited, and contains an absolutely amazing soundtrack.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subcribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

Avatar: The Legend of Korra [Season Two] (TheByteScene Review)

Date: July 1st, 2014

TheByteDaily

The Legend of Korra (Book Two: Spirits)

3 Dichotomous-Comparisons-Of-Good-And-Evil out of 4

Within the universe of Nickelodeon’s Avatar, everything is about maintaining balance. For every action, there’s an opposite reaction, and for every success there’s an accompanying failure. With the end of Book One, Korra had brought balance to the world, having completed her story arc while simultaneously connecting with her spiritual side and learning how to airbend.

The problem with the conclusion of Book One, however, is that Korra’s story was, for all intents and purposes, complete. The great evil had been vanquished, the great personal struggle had been overcome, and all was right in the world. To top it all off, series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko even wrapped up Korra’s romantic tribulations by bringing her together with Republic City firebender Mako.

Book One was never intended to be the beginning of a grand story. Quite the contrary, with The Legend of Korra‘s now first season, Michael and Bryan’s original intentions were to create a 12-episode miniseries for fans of their original show. It was a chance to tell a quick story about the next avatar and expand their creation’s universe, certainly not a chance to extend the franchise with four new seasons. With the revelation that Nickelodeon had picked up the series for three more seasons, all of the personal struggle Korra overcame with Amon and the Equalists had to be erased to make room for more character growth and more obstacles to bypass.

Spirits therefore, is troublesome as a season specifically because it serves as a character and partial series reboot, tying in Book One’s accomplishments while wiping Korra’s personality slate clean. At the conclusion of Book One, Korra had gained insight and maturity. At the beginning of Book Two, however, Korra is back to her snarky, arrogant self. She ignores Tenzin’s advice, clashes with Mako, abuses her avatar powers, and proves to be a general annoyance to audiences who have already witnessed her evolution.

By all accounts, Korra is now a full-fledged avatar, having mastered all four elements and gaining control over the omnipotent Avatar State. As far as anyone is concerned, her journey is complete, and any other adventures are merely extensions of her responsibilities as the avatar.

The first half of Book Two, therefore, attempts to present audiences with a compelling reason to continue watching Korra’s journeys as avatar. To do so, the show uses spirits and the spirit world as one more lesson Korra must master in order to truly call her journey complete, introducing the character of Unalaq (Korra’s uncle) and the concept of dark spirits.

I prefer to look at Book Two as consisting of two halves. The first half, comprised of the first six episodes, is the weaker portion of the season. The animation is weaker, the plot struggles to find a meaningful foothold, characters are all but rebooted to their Book One selves, and the lack of a compelling villain makes watching the show feel like a bother.

Many of my major complaints with the first half of Book Two have to do with the weak animation. For visual mediums, two components are paramount: Visuals and Writing. Weak writing can be forgiven in favour of marvelous visuals, and weak visuals can be forgiven if the writing is entertaining and compelling. Sadly, the writing and animation of the first six episodes in Book Two are mediocre at best.

The decision to switch from Korean Studio Mir to Japanese Studio Pierot proved to be a major misstep on the part of the showrunners. Though the series’ painting-like backgrounds remained, characters are static and lifeless. Furthermore, action sequences driven by kinetic movement are boring and lacking in vitality.

Issues with the first half of Book Two extend beyond visual quality. In terms of writing, because Michael and Bryan were busy setting up mythology and plot-threads for the second half of Book Two (and by extension, the rest of the series) the first six episodes are all posturing and no payoff.

Episodes like Rebel Spirit and both Civil Wars are heavy on build-up with little delivery, and feel tedious to sit through. It goes without saying that episodes one through six are better when watched a second time, but the expectation that audiences will sit through boring television the first time around is a dangerous risk to take.

Perhaps Book Two’s greatest failing is the lack of a compelling villain in Unalaq. Certainly, he does bad things and hurts people, but his reasons for doing so are difficult to ascertain. I don’t mean that I don’t understand why he does what he does, I mean that I don’t really care that he does anything in the first place. Unalaq is introduced as the spiritual leader of the Northern Water Tribe intent on unifying the Southern Tribe into his control. He’s disappointed with the world’s lack of spirituality, but because spirits and spirituality have always been secondary concepts in the Avatar universe, it’s difficult to truly identify with his concerns. Unalaq becomes one more villain acting simply because he’s evil.

Starting with the masterful Beginnings episodes, both Studio Mir and writing the Avatar series is famous for make a return. Telling the story of the first person to gain the title of Avatar, Beginnings describes how Aladdin-like street rat Wan goes from stealing bread to saving the world. Answering long-standing series questions about the nature of bending, the origins of the Avatar spirit, and the role of Spirits, Beginnings is the best part of Book Two, and perhaps a highlight for the entire Korra series.

Choosing to animate the pair of episodes with an East Asian ink wash painting and woodblock motif, Studio Mir’s returned involvement with Korra serves as a series return to form. Following Beginnings, the remaining episodes in Book Two (and the rest of the series) are animated by Studio Mir. With the Korean studio return dynamic facial expressions, a camera that shakes and stutters with every punch, and characters who don’t feel like static images on a page.

Most importantly, Beginnings serves as the long-awaited explanation for the actions of season villain Unalaq. He plans on opening the gates between the spirit and mortal planes using the power of the ancient dark spirit Vaatu. Once Unalaq’s motivations are made evident, he becomes more than just another bad guy. Yes, it’s the standard fantasy fair of light versus dark, but for a season composed of tedious and seemingly disconnected plot threads, it’s good to know that there is method to the maddening first-half chaos.

Despite my grumblings, the first half of Book Two isn’t without highlights. Howard Hughes-like inventor and businessman extraordinaire Varrick helps keep things interesting even though his involvement in the main plot is minor at most. That being said, Varrick is the secondary plot’s driving force, working with Asami and Bolin to create propaganda against Unalaq. There’s a satisfying undercurrent of duplicity with Varrick, and much of Book Two’s first half is more interesting because of the scenes where characters (and the audience) struggle to identify his alignment.

Also part of the secondary plot, Tenzin’s relationship with his immediate and extended family serve to raise questions of legacy and family in compelling ways. Tenzin’s arguments with his siblings Kya and Bumi bring years of tension and difficulty to the surface while also adding an extra dimension to the character of original series lead Aang. It turns out that Aang wasn’t the greatest father to his three children, and they all blame each other and themselves for not being able to live up to his expectations.

Interesting is how the series tackles the issue of brotherly love. Disregarding the Tenzin family drama, every major villain introduced in the Avatar universe – Ozai from The Last Airbender, Amon from Book One, and now Unalaq – is somehow bound to a brother.

The idea that two brothers could walk down wildly separate paths is at the heart of the balance dichotomy inherent to the Avatar franchise.

Without a doubt, Book Two’s most compelling storylines have very little to do with Korra, whose childlike insistence on barrelling through obstacles instead of rationally thinking about them cause trouble in-world and with the audience. My real gripe with Korra’s character has little to do with the way she was written and everything to do with the reboot Michael and Bryan felt was necessary for the series. Korra’s decision to abandon her airbending and spiritual mentor Tenzin in favour of spiritual guidance from Unalaq, for example, doesn’t make sense within the context of her Book One self.

Indeed, most of Korra’s decisions seem contradictory to the growth she achieved in Book One. I look forward to seeing how Korra’s character will continue to evolve following the conclusion of Spirits, as I have no doubt that her character will bear closer resemblance to the Korra at the conclusion of Book One now that Book Two has ended.

Ironically, despite Book Two’s conclusion bringing on great change for the Korra series, there is now a satisfying return to normalcy in the Avatar world. In a cathartic way, The Legend of Korra has shrugged off the burden associated with being a descendant of The Last Airbender, and with a firm understanding that Korra is not its predecessor, the show has a chance to truly achieve the greatness it deserves. Truthfully, along with the return of Studio Mir, Korra accepting that it will never be The Last Airbender makes me the most excited for Book Three.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

A Week Without Hot Water; How I Learned to Love the Basic Luxuries (TheByteWeek Issue 18)

Date: November 10th, 2013

TheByteDaily

A Week Without Hot Water; How I Learned to Love the Basic Luxuries (TheByteWeek Issue 18)

The normal human body temperature is 37°C; limits are +/- 0.5°C, but I must make the point that the average healthy body temperature for every single human on the planet is close to 37°C. This internal temperature exists on a very fine razor’s edge and a few degrees Celsius in either direction is often enough to tip the balance and make an individual incredibly uncomfortable. This isn’t to say that the body can’t handle extreme external heat or cold, because it can, but once the body’s internal temperature changes, life becomes uncomfortable.

Thankfully, because of the inconsistent distribution of humans — a species that literally spans the globe — we’ve all become accustomed to varying levels of external comfort. What we should be able to agree on, however, is the idea that hot water — whether for cleaning or otherwise — is intrinsic to our existence. I write to make the point that no human should ever have to exist without hot water for bathing, cooking, or cleaning, and anyone who argues that water doesn’t need to be That hot hasn’t gone a week without hot water.

In developed nations, the average person spends approximately 10 minutes in the shower. Without taking the environmental repercussions into consideration, 10 minutes in a warm shower can be relaxing, calming, and comfortable. It’s enough time to enter dirty and leave clean, and it’s more than enough time to shampoo, condition, use a loofa, and shave. In those ten minutes, the average person sets their water temperature to 40.6°C, which one will notice is 3.6°C higher than the normal body temperature. One will also notice that 40.6°C is the average hot water temperature, and it’s true that the real number might be higher or lower depending on the person.

In those ten minutes, using water set to a temperature of 40.6°C, humans are decadent. We sing, we dance, we rehearse arguments we’re never going to have, and we clean ourselves. The first three minutes in the shower are safe moments. We wash away the day’s tribulations at night, we prepare ourselves for the day in the morning, we stand still and let the healing properties of water help us overcome our fears and insecurities. Minutes 4-10 are dedicated to cleaning and returning to a state of comfortable zen. Then we’re done.

Cold water showers don’t take 10 minutes.

Cold water showers aren’t set to 40.6°C. Cold water temperature is determined by the outside temperature — it’s water that hasn’t been heated by an internal water heater yet. In cold climates, cold water can be close to freezing; Anchorage, Alaska’s average cold water temperature is 3.7°C. That’s 33.3°C less than the normal body temperature, and is a whole 36.9°C less than the average hot water temperature in developed nations.

I found that my body took 2 seconds to realize that the water was cold; it took 15 seconds for the shivering to become uncontrollable. After half a minute I couldn’t stop shaking, and after 45 seconds I lost feeling in my extremities. At a minute I realized that my heart rate was racing and it then occurred to me that my body thought it was under attack. 15 more seconds and the headache kicked in; the cold water, and the fact that blood was rushing back to my chest to allow my heart muscles to continue pumping caused the amount of blood in my brain to drop substantially.

A minute and a half and the headache became a migraine. I’ll pause and mention that warm clothes, warm milk, medicine, and six hours were all it took to get rid of my headache.

During all of the time in the shower, my breathing was erratic due to the shivering, which ironically only made things worse. Breathing is important for maintaining homoeostasis — the body’s natural increases and decreases — and staggered breathing reduces the amount of oxygen we inhale while messing up the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale.

I was effectively choking myself.

Two minutes after I first entered the shower, my face and head muscles were so constricted that I didn’t realize that I’d gotten cold water in my ear. Normally, water enters your ears regularly throughout much of a shower, but the difference between warm and cold water is the effect it can have on your sense of balance. Hot water doesn’t do very much — it’s effects are negligible to the point that it really can be said to not do anything at all. Cold water, contrarily, if run through the ear canal can lead to headaches, infection, loss of balance, vomiting, temporary hearing loss, and permanent deafness.

Our ears do more than listen. Liquid within the ear works alongside our cerebellum to assist in maintaining balance and posture. That liquid exists at 37°C, and if cold water happens to interact with the ear canal, the liquid’s temperature eventually lowers causing a host of problems that begin with falling over and end with deafness.

After two minutes and 15 seconds, I concluded my shower. In that time, I got wet, used soap, cleaned off the soap, nearly asphyxiated, and I gave myself a migraine that lasted six hours that took careful treatment to rid myself of.

This was on the first day.

Ignoring the obvious physiological ramifications, I found I was soft-spoken, quiet, exhausted, easily irritable, and not at all willing to perform any activities other than curling up with a warm blanket in bed.

It’s true that the human body is resilient; it can acclimate to a variety of different conditions, including cold water, without resulting in serious permanent harm. I also admit that hot water is a luxury, but in no way do I believe that it should be anything less than an expected necessity. Ignoring the future fresh water crisis that the world is going to face, hot water should be a given for every single human on the planet.

Not fulfilling this basic requirement — not allowing one’s fellows the basic luxury of hot water — is and should be tantamount to a universal human rights violation. Hot water is undeniably a luxury, but it shouldn’t be.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

Sociology is Serious Business; Never Doubt That What You Do Makes A Difference

Date: November 1st, 2013

TheByteDaily

Sociology is Serious Business; Never Doubt That What You Do Makes A Difference

Hey man, I need help on a sociology paper. I have to write about four current issues in Canada and I can’t think of anything. Canada’s too perfect!”

You, sir, are in luck. Your country’s a mess and your government is in shambles; your world isn’t fairing much better, but we’re going to start small and see where we end up.

Three people you call senators are under investigation for monetary fraud while one of them is trying to systematically bring down your Prime Minister in what can only be called a revenge-fuelled blaze of glory. Your Prime Minister is denying being involved in any way, shape, or form, even though there seems to be several metric tons of paper trails that lead to him, his office, and the staff staffing his office. On top of all of this he’s got a racist foreign minister and enough people in his hand-picked senate that are unreliable, untrustworthy, or both.

Wonder about the official opposition and realize that your country has five parties to elect as its primary governing body. The party most of your fellows consider as their country’s natural governing body had – in the last federal election – its worst showing in history. For the first time, since the inception of your country, the “Natural Governing Party” has dipped below second place. What’s impressive is that the official majority’s leader is losing global battles regarding intolerance, war, hatred, prejudice, and inequality, while the Liberal Leader is busy trying to figure out whether to legalize or decriminalize pot.

I still genuinely can’t figure out what the official opposition is trying to accomplish – other than the downfall and eventual obliteration of the official majority.

Your country sits on the biggest untapped oil reserve in the world, and is involved in an oil pipeline project that your people have been actively protesting since its ideological inception. Worse yet is that your democratically elected environmental leaders are caught between increasing GDP and decreasing the mindless destruction of an entire ecosystem. Your fellows say no to the pipeline, but yes to the jobs because of an economic recession that they’ve barely overcome – and your politicians are caught in the middle trying to figure out what to do.

There’s a planned mining development in the James Bay Lowlands that will prove absolutely catastrophic to both the surrounding environment and the Aboriginal populations that have done nothing but suffer since the inception of this country’s initial foundations. People will suffer if this idea ever comes to fruition; living things, of all shapes and sizes will have their futures irrevocably altered for a scarce commodity that only guarantees short term profit at the risk of long term devastation.

Regardless of what a corporation might say, it’s in the business game; it’s nothing personal, I promise, but that’s tough to explain to the creatures who will receive no further answer than “Tough.”

You see, your country, just like every democracy, suffers due to the divisive dichotomy between profit and morality.

Sadly, when it comes to a large corporation like a country, it becomes almost impossible to produce an end result that satisfies both the consumer and the ethicist, so we settle for an end result that satisfies neither. The consumer feels the profits are too low, and the ethicist feels the complacency is too high. The environmentalist suffers as the Arctic melts while the oil baron is aghast as to why there aren’t more rigs in the Atlantic. This dichotomy divides both sides of the house, and splits the nation’s attitudes down the middle.

Every aspect of the democratic process is riddled with the bullet holes of profit and the stab wounds of morality. Since democracy is the only mode of government that seems to be equally unfair for everyone, instead of unequally fair for a few, every aspect of a democratic nation is dually torn between Righteousness and Money.

On top of all of this, there’s a heavy-set man overfilling the chair of leader of the biggest city in the country, and the press can’t help but make fun of his numerous public and political failures. The man’s only crime is having a troubled and public private life and being almost entirely ineffectual as a leader, and it seems that the newspapers are intent on asking for both his resignation and utter condemnation.

You, however, are a student getting an education and trying to do the best you possibly can. You’re trying to enjoy the numerous advantages youth provides while simultaneously taking advantage of the glories that adulthood offers in a way that doesn’t result in your dire annihilation.

So where do you fit into all of this?

You’re the future of this country, along with everyone who thinks making fun of Rob Ford is cool, and you’re almost convinced that the problems this country faces are out of your reach and well beyond your limitations.

Don’t let that pressure get to you. Never underestimate the power of a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens; never doubt that what you do makes a difference.

And read a newspaper every now and then man. It’ll do your sense of civic duty some good.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

Date: October 7th, 2013

TheByteDaily

A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

It goes without saying that Canadian schools, are in dire need of reform. The two loudest arguments blame teachers for not teaching properly and parents for not letting them teach, but I believe that one of the real problems lies in the grading and prescribing of tests. The current test-taking system, in which students are given a single chance at writing an assessment to gauge how much they remember is flawed because it leaves many students mindlessly memorizing and regurgitating facts for the sole purpose of getting a good grade.

I believe that a greater understanding of course material can be given to students by simply allowing multiple attempts at quizzes, tests, and exams.

In the new test-taking model, the concept of grading remains unchanged. When students write a test for the first time, their papers will be graded normally, but after receiving their letter or number grades, students will be given a three day grace period to consider retaking an exam on the same material. If students choose to retake a test, 3/4 of the exam will be old questions from the original test while the remaining 1/4 will be new questions to gauge whether or not students truly did take the time to review the material and prepare again. If students choose to ignore the opportunity to retake the test – because they were satisfied with their initial grade, or otherwise – their grade for that particular examination will remain the same.

For each subsequent retake, students will be given three days to weigh their options, and the 3/4 distribution will continue to take effect. Eventually, I expect the grade of the student to approach a near perfect state, while simultaneously leaving the student with a firm understanding of the material.

With this model, less emphasis is placed on achieving a good grade, and more emphasis is placed on doing well and understanding the course material.

Instead of forcing students to memorize an arbitrary number of facts and details in the hopes that their preparation pays off, students will be expected to understand their course material in order to constantly do better. For the argument that students will simply memorize answers from the initial exams to take with them to the next ones, I make the case that real learning is the result of constant repetition in addition to understanding.

Mathematics and the physical sciences prove this. Word problems in math, chemistry, physics, and biology enforce the need to understand subject concepts and the need to know how to solve the problems that are given. Purely memorizing the solution of a single kind of word problem in any of these disciplines only works for other word problems if the questions are the same but the numbers are changed. The so-called “Plug-and-Chug” method of problem solving, where a question is solved by simply plugging numbers into a formula, ceases to be a legitimate problem solving tool the instant a differently worded question is given. It’s simply not enough to know what the variables refer to, but also how to mix, match, and reconsider variables in different situations to work towards an answer.

Pure memorization is harmful because it leads to students dumping out information and knowledge at the end of each assessment in order to fill their minds with more information that will eventually be dumped out. Simply put, pure memorization is to the mind what bulimia is to the body; a rapid, morbid intake that concludes in nothing more than a harmful purge, leaving the individual wanting, unsatisfied, and worse off than before.

In this way, the “Multiple Retake-3/4” model (MR34) of test-taking takes the best lessons math and physical science can teach: The best way to learn is through constant repetition, understanding, and a wide question bank to practice from. By literally allowing every student an equal opportunity at achieving a perfect score, grades – wide ranging number values – stop serving as an indication of a student’s intelligence. The MR34 method adds an additional benefit: Instead of having certain students who excel in certain subject while struggling in others, all students are given an equal chance at excelling at all of their subjects.

Despite these benefits, there are issues to be addressed beyond the time and effort teachers would need to add to their schedules and classrooms.

Chief among these issues is the argument that schools aren’t designed to give every student an equal opportunity at success, and that having a large pool of intelligent students over-saturates the job market. However, the MR34 method allows the best and brightest to maintain their spots, much like the current test-taking standard. Students aren’t forced to retake their tests, they are simply encouraged to do so; just because the opportunity is present to every student, that doesn’t mean that every student will choose to take advantage of it. That is to say, the best and brightest will remain the best and brightest, but those who aren’t faring as well have a chance to do even better. Instead of having the “Smart kids,” the “Average kids,” and the “Not-Smart kids,” classrooms will be filled with the “Really Smart kids,” the “Smart kids,” and the “Kids who didn’t take advantage of the benefits that the MR34 offers.”

Furthermore, the students who have “One bad day,” or who suffer from test-anxiety, will have an opportunity to make up for their temporary misfortune.

Another concern lies with post-secondary acceptance, post-graduate acceptance, and job-searching: How do universities and other such institutions determine whether a student is worth accepting if every student has good grades? In these cases, extracurricular activities, teacher referrals, interviews, and a more intensive round of selection must take place in order to determine an applicant’s aptitude.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the MR34 is completely useless if post-secondary and post-graduate institutions don’t adopt similar reforms. If students accustomed to retaking tests ad infinitum are forced to adapt to a system where a single test is the difference between success and failure, I hypothesize that a noticeable drop in attendance records, class GPA, and entrance numbers will occur.

Furthermore, there are professions that are specifically designed to avoid the possibility of a redo. Medicine, engineering, law, and other such backgrounds place employees in pass or fail situations on a daily basis; a single incision is the difference between a successful bypass and death, one wrong calculation can result in an entire suspension system failing, and a single unprepared argument can be the difference between freedom and life in prison.

Understandably, a strong argument can be made against the MR34 on this basis alone.

However, I argue that the surgeon who measures 10 times to make a single cut is less likely to make a mistake than the physician who immediately prescribes ACE inhibitors without running diagnostic tests first. For medical colleges, engineering programs, and law schools that adopt the MR34 model, it’s the job of the teachers and instructors to insure that every student they pass has the necessary skills for the field they have studied.

The MR34 doesn’t make it easier to do well; I propose that teachers maintain their exams’ level of difficulty. Instead, the MR34 model forces students to review their notes, and engage in constant testing to gauge their level of understanding in a way that could potentially reduce the anxiety of passing. In fact, the MR34 doesn’t even make it easier to get into a specialized form of education. In the cases of med school or law school, the respective standardized tests will remain unaffected by the proposed model; the MCATS and LSATS already follow a similar model to the MR34 anyway, with an exception being that test-takers are not given 3/4 of their old exams on their next attempt. Neither are test-takers given three days to consider retaking the exams with the 3/4 rule in place.

I propose that a strong step towards a more efficient, and well-informed student body is by taking test-taking reforms into consideration. I believe that the Multiple Retake-3/4 model of test-taking, though merely a rough idea now, can prove to be highly beneficial to both students, society, and the future of this country. By reducing the emphasis on answering a question correctly, and increasing emphasis on understanding why an answer is correct, I believe that students will be able to gain a better understanding of their studies, in addition to acquiring a wider, farther-reaching skill-set.

I believe the MR34 can be the future of education in Canada. Education and knowledge, after all, are the two most important tools for a well-informed and confident electorate.

As always, this has been your Admin, the blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

Date: September 7th, 2013

TheByteDaily

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

I fear becoming a movie critic.

To anyone who claims that fear isn’t real, and that it’s nothing more than a metaphysical extension of danger, I say this: Start writing movie reviews. There’s something about criticizing movies – compared to criticizing music, books, or even theatre – that somehow manages to enrage entire populations of the educated world. Truthfully, there’s something about criticizing movies that makes me fear writing too many movie reviews without producing a completely unrelated article. Even if I consider writing an opinion piece about movies instead of an actual movie review, I still manage to send nervous chills down my spine. Interestingly enough, for anyone who pays attention to my frequent absenteeism, it can be noted that most of the articles I write before a major hiatus are about movies.

There’s no need to be needlessly ambiguous with my critical fears; my worries have nothing to do with the enormous public backlash my reviews conjure within society. Quite the contrary, I absolutely love it when I start a needlessly detailed and incredibly laid out argument about the current trappings of the silver screen. Putting it delicately, I’m afraid of writing too much about movies because of the small percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the need for criticism, critique, reviews, or opinion pieces on the current state of art, media, life, the universe, and everything.

Putting it indelicately, there are people who don’t understand why it’s important to criticize everything, and these people scare me. Granted, previous articles have approached the ridiculous notion of “Questioning Everything” with the necessary quizzical-questioning glare that Socrates himself would surely embolden. Still, I find it’s far easier to tackle a single sample rather than the entire population, so I’ll continue discussing my fears nonetheless. Back to my point, I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who unironically argue the need to criticize.

I hope my point is made clear even at a perfunctory glance: I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who argue that we don’t need to argue about movies. I’m scared of writing too much – too often – about movies because of the people who attempt to dismiss, dismantle, and destroy the idea of criticism while simultaneously exercising, employing, and engaging their very rational desires to criticize and argue. Despite what a poorly educated pacifist might say, the universe runs on the intrinsic idea that there are positives and negatives, and these positives and negatives always interact even on microcosmic scales.

I admit that my explanation of quantum theory distracts from my argument regarding criticism, so I’ll be brief in my digression.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? Because that’s the whole point; without criticism, without argument, and without debate, things have a tendency to fall towards calculated tyranny and an eventual acceptance of blatant complacency.

Certainly, for all of my criticism of Transformers: Dark of the Moon not a single penny was withheld by the people who helped produce its billion dollar profit margin.

That is a very strong argument against film criticism.

For all the time invested into pointing out cinematic flaws, people still watch “Bad” movies, and for all the work done pointing out cinematic ingenuity, people will still avoid “Good” movies like I imagine medieval Europeans avoided the bubonic plague.

This is a strong argument regarding all forms of criticism.

Eventually, regardless of the work one might put into criticizing anything, one’s effort will be an exercise in futility. Presidents won’t be impeached – they’ll be re elected; governments won’t fall – they’ll simply become more intent on inconspicuously brutalizing their people; and Michael Bay won’t be driven out of Hollywood by a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches – he’ll go on to direct another Transformers sequel and Pain and Gain (which, admittedly, wasn’t absolutely terrible).

I argue that results are only one part of the overall structure, and that meaning and knowledge are equally important derivatives.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? It’s so we can learn something instead of sheltering ourselves in a cocoon of safety and self indulgence. Why is it so important for me to call a movie bad? It’s so I can start an argument and try to understand why I might be wrong, and why someone else might be right.

I’m still scared of becoming a movie critic, but thanks to this article I’ve learned that I’m only scared of being called one. I might never pursue cinema in any way after this article, but at least now I know that my fears are less physical and more entirely immaterial.

In any form, criticism is an extension of self-examination, and I argue that there are few things less frivolous in this universe than attempting to understand this universe.

This has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC (EK)

Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Date: July 3rd, 2013

TheByteDaily

Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Our universe consists of a series of indisputable rules, laws, and restrictions. This is a fact, and while many may disagree with science, religion, philosophy, and politics, the fact remains that universal laws are indisputable. Matter will never be created or destroyed, regardless of what belief system an individual adopts, and the universe will consistently move towards entropy until the inevitable heat death claims the life of the last particle in existence despite what anyone might say about anything. Universal laws serve as the building blocks of our own existences; despite attempts to prove otherwise, universal laws somehow always serve as the foundation of some philosophy, ethic, or principle. Large corporations are comprised of smaller individuals like big things are made up of little things like protons are comprised of smaller quarks.

It’s important to never confuse a universal law with a human aphorism or logical proof; while humans ideas are based off of larger cosmic philosophies, self evident paradigms that serve as pseudo intellectual aphorisms are very rarely so.

The reason why things are always in the last place we look is because one normally stops looking once one has found what one is searching for. Likewise, “Whatever can wrong will go wrong” is a simple idiom that emphasizes the importance of double-checking figures, and following up on work – making sure to not let overconfidence get in the way of a quality task. They’re idioms and anecdotes – helpful reminders to lighten up or take things more seriously, to be more careful or carefree, or to be a better more thoughtful person. It’s very rare for so-called “Self-evident” logical proofs to be either logical or self-evident, but languages cling to colloquialisms simply because they are simple and straightforward, and help teach a moral or a lesson.

That being said, I continue with no small grains of salt when I say that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we barely notice, some of  the most important events are the ones we pay almost no attention to, some of the most important work is the one done on a daily basis, and some of the most important people are the ones who simply do their jobs. Yes, these are all so-called “Self-evident” logical fallacies that can be easily debated and disproven, but I’m going to try my hardest to prove a commonly ignored point.

I speak of the minimum wage warriors slogging through demeaning jobs on a daily basis so the rest of the world has easy access to packaged processed goods instead of having to grow it themselves, spending months harvesting crops and livestock. I refer to the workers who help serve as the foundation and backbone of large corporations simply by driving a bus that helps millions get to work. I refer to the individuals working two or three thankless dead-end jobs to satisfy their own needs who are never given enough gratitude for doing something that no one else wants to. I refer to the bus drivers, dishwashers, porters, housekeepers, trash collectors, waiters, meatpackers, amusement park workers, janitors, non-celebrity cooks, cubicle drones, and so-called office slaves who make life easier for all the people lucky enough to not have to.

Dead-end jobs are, by definition, jobs that allow for little opportunity or upward mobility for those forced to work them. They’re not jobs people generally want to do, and the people who are unlucky enough to do them most likely do it because they have no other choice.

Before I continue: Despite the loud cries of those lucky enough to be in a position to be heard, there are countless reasons why people have no other choice than to work thankless, mind-numbing minimum wage professions that barely qualify as occupations above slave labour.

I digress however: Dead-end jobs are professions at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.

As long as people desire easy lives, someone’s going to have to work at a waste treatment plant to insure the water coming into the toilet is as clean as the water coming out of the sink, and that the water coming out of the sink is safer to drink than water coming in a prepackaged bottle. Salaries are not determined based on desirability – which would create a paradoxical and ironic problem – and these individuals understand this truth on a continuous basis. These individuals are people working some of the most thankless and undesirable jobs, all while effectively maintaining the existence of an at-least-desirable planet.

That these are also the people we rarely recognize, or even acknowledge, only adds to that difficulty; that the world is mostly run by people doing their jobs is an understatement. I argue that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we pay the least attention to because this doesn’t seem to be a self-evident logical proof; it’s not even a logical fallacy. It’s a concept of neglect that serves as a slippery slope argument that leads into justifying aggression or misbehaviour towards people in jobs that we feel we don’t have to do, towards people in jobs we feel we should never have to do, towards people in jobs we know no one should ever have to do.

The idea that waitstaff don’t deserve tips simply because they choose employment as waitstaff is absurd and ludicrously shameful. The idea that it’s acceptable to verbally assault a porter simply because he serves as the face of a company is actually more than a little terrifying. The idea that service people deserve to be harassed simply because, by definition, they require the money of those they service is disgusting.

I recognize the importance of competency in public professions, and I realize that incompetence is often horrifically mind-boggling for some, but I argue that the incompetent make up a bleak minority of the population and that even the incompetent deserve respect for attempting to gain credibility competency. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t give anyone a right to harass them. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t deserve ridicule, they deserve encouragement for a speedy and efficient learning curve.

Ultimately, the issue lies with the population that fails to understand the universal law of respect: Working a low-end job is no excuse for the arrogance and presumption of power over such a person.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Man of Steel (TheByteScene Review)

Date: June 16th, 2013

 

TheByteDaily

 

Man of Steel

 

4 Superpowered-deity-figures out of 4

 

The world isn’t ready for a superman.

 

For the duration of Man of Steel’s 143 minute running time, that is the single most discussed question the film attempts to tackle. Ignoring the multitude of philosophical questions that arise at the existence of a superman, none is more pertinent than the issue of how we as a planet will react to their existence. In my conclusion, the world isn’t ready for a superman.

 

The planet Krypton’s core is about to collapse on itself from an accumulated waste of resources over countless generations. The Kryptonian scientist Jor-El alerts the high council of this information, only to have the elders scoff at his insubordination and arrogance. The Kryptonian general Dru-Zod enters the council chamber announcing a coup d’etat, claiming that the high council has reigned for too long producing too little for the people of Krypton. Zod agrees with Jor-El’s sentiments, but differs in the application of his beliefs.

 

Played with little effort by Michael Shannon, General Zod lacks the gravitas one would attribute to a military general, or a villain of any kind. Instead, he serves as a man forced to play his hand at the announcement of the genocide of both his people, and his planet. Under different circumstances, Zod would be less of a terrorist, and more of a revolutionary. Played masterfully by Russel Crowe, Jor-El has given up on his planet’s salvation, and has placed his faith and his hope in his newborn son, Kal-El. Sending Kal-El to Earth in a ship marked with the House of El’s seal, the Kryptonian scientist knowingly changes the fate of both Earth and Krypton.

 

Believing that the day will come when Kal-El will be able to lead the people of Earth into the sun, Jor-El assumes that we will be ready for the arrival of a saviour.

 

This son of the house of El grows up on a farm, raised by two Kansas farmers in the town of Smallville, USA. Their names are Jonathan and Martha Kent, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. The boy is raised as their own; naming him Clark, Jonathan urges his alien son to hide his powers to avoid exposing himself to the horrors and condemnation of the human world. Struggling to find a balance between helping and hiding, Clark’s eventual journey is chronicled in flashback sequences edited to near perfection with the events unfolding on-screen. If there’s anything wrong with the movie, it’s the herculean task Jonathan asks of his adopted son. The idea that a hero must hide himself away for the right moment, hiding his powers, and forcing himself to avoid being an instrument of salvation is almost incomprehensible. Regardless of the audience’s own beliefs, it’s impossible to deny the truth in the elder Kent’s words; the world is not ready for a superman.

 

Henry Cavill plays a different kind of hero than Christopher Reeve; Cavill’s is more stoic, more real, with fewer lines of witty banter or snappy dialogue. What can be said in a paragraph of monologuing is delivered through a single glance, half a minute’s worth of dialogue is resolved in a conflicted stare. Cavill is able to portray a character bogged down with the notion that he must wait for the right moment, while never knowing when that moment will reveal itself. His acts of heroics are carried out in the shadows, and when his moment finally reveals itself, the burden of truth weighs heavy on his shoulders.

 

This is a Superman in an age where supermen no longer belong. This is a superman struggling to come to terms with both his humanity, and his alien heritage. That he falls for the human Lois Lane, played well by Amy Adams, and is forced to battle his own people to protect his adopted home is only the tip of Superman’s existential crisis.

 

Interestingly, action carries the majority of the film; the movie opens with the destruction of Krypton, and only takes breaks to let Clark Kent grow up and General Zod to distance himself from humanity. Whatever exposition exists in quiet, solitary moments, but philosophy, symbolism, and imagery permeate the entire movie. For a summer blockbuster so full of action and movement, and a hero so impossible to connect with, David S. Goyer writes a script begging to be challenged and analyzed, and a character begging to be related to. The film grows with the character, allowing the audience to grow in turn. The soundtrack is deep, eclectic, and visceral, giving a conflicted character varying levels of resolve. Hans Zimmer manages to perfectly convey the Superman that Zack Snyder has directed.

 

The film concludes that the world needs a superman. I argue that this is true; we need a superman. However, I genuinely believe that the world is not yet ready for one. Man of Steel is one of the greatest representations of the Superman character, and should be congratulated on finally bringing the essence of the character to mainstream audiences. By focussing on the man, and using the super as a plot hook, the film manages to convey a universe larger than our own, inhabited by beings beyond our comprehension.

 

I end with a final word regarding the movie’s critical and popular reception. This movie, and every aspect of it’s release including its soundtrack, has divided audiences.

 

It should.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the avid blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

Star Trek Into Darkness (TheByteScene Review)

Date: May 17th, 2013

TheByteDaily

Star Trek Into Darkness

3.5 Ignored-Federation-Directives out of 4

 

The last time J.J. Abrams had his name attached to a Star Trek movie, he managed to reboot the entire film franchise while finding a way to introduce new viewers to the original series that captivated and entertained audiences for years. He was able to craft a well-written movie that focused on its characters and their relationships to each other, while insuring that cinematography, special effects, sound direction, and editing were all treated with respect and admiration. Utilizing the original series as a framework, Abrams insured that the rebooted film would have its roots planted firmly in the original franchise, meaning that though the film would be exist in its own universe, it still treated its source material with respect, admiration, and honour.

 

This time, with the ironically named Star Trek Into Darkness, he managed to do all of that again, recreating what was amazing about the original series in a fresh, interesting way tying characters, plot, and the original mythos into a single comprehensible and incredibly comprehensive beast of a movie.

 

With Klingons too!

 

The Enterprise crew is tasked with finding and eliminating John Harrison, a man at the heart of a terror attack on a Federation records facility in London who ends up killing Kirk’s mentor and the man who encouraged him to join Starfleet. The plot concerns itself with revenge, and thanks to the presence of Spock, Kirk, and McCoy, there’s quite a bit of discussion regarding the moral and ethical virtues of revenge.

 

What made the original Star Trek series so amazing was the way each character fulfilled a role on the Enterprise, all while existing beyond their titles. Each character received fair treatment, and their characterization did not begin and end with their positions onboard the travelling vessel. The importance of the entire crew of both the Enterprise and the actors starring in the show tied the show’s plot together with the overarching themes of exploration, adventure, and science.

 

In order to insure the new franchise succeeds, Abrams expertly tackles the disjointed unity the crew shares in their infancy by having them constantly bicker, banter, and crack jokes with one another in a realistic and human way. Kirk is Captain of the Federation vessel, but he is still young and naive despite his experiences. Spock, the analytical, logical Vulcan mind shows his humanity with his friendship with Kirk, romance with the ship’s communications officer Uhura, and the relationship he shares with the rest of the crew. The loss of even a single central character marks the loss of a family member in the mind of both the remaining crew, and the audience. This familial importance is central to the second Abrams helmed Star Trek film, with the movie actually beginning in media res with Kirk almost losing Spock at the risk of violating the Federation’s infernal Prime Directive.

 

This mention of the Prime Directive marks the beginning of an onslaught of nods, references, hat tips, homages, and callbacks to the original series and the original films. Which is to say nothing of Leonard Nimoy’s brief cameo as Spock Prime.

 

A common criticism of the original Abrams Star Trek movie was that the film spent too much time stopping mid action to quote the original series in a self-referential way. As a way to insure the audience realizes it’s watching a Star Trek movie, many believed the script was interrupted to bring back a kind of nostalgia. The detractors who felt the first film’s script was weaker because of the Original Series nods will not enjoy this Star Trek movie. The only critical solace I can provide for those detractors is insisting that Abrams does a masterful job of uniting new and old in a single interesting package.

 

I realize that my defence may fall on deaf ears.

 

Star Trek Into Darkness features remarkable performances from each member of its crew, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the rogue Federation officer turned terrorist John Harrison is brutal, terrifying, and, quite simply, fascinating. He plays a character at odds with the Federation (just like literally every Star Trek villain ever) who embodies everything Starfleet stands against. His horrific brutality is fascinating because it invokes a performance that is both the antithesis and a parallel to that of Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk.

 

Suffice it to say, Cumberbatch’s soft spoken terror is played to great effect, and he is a worthy adversary to Kirk, the Enterprise’s crew, and the entire Federation as a whole.

 

Fascinatingly, the latest Star Trek film is everything that a good episode of Star Trek should be. It focuses on the characters, the villain, the Federation, and on the USS Enterprise’s evolving nature as both a peacekeeping vessel and the unifying force that brings together the assortment of personalities that form its crew. Abrams has crafted a sequel that is equal to its original film and the franchise from which it deviates. There’s a kind of consistency that isn’t always afforded to sequels – which many feel should bigger and bolder than the originals. Abrams takes this notion and spins it on its head, creating a sequel that is neither bigger nor bolder, but is, instead, simply amazing Star Trek.

 

As far as Star Trek movies go, that’s an accomplishment all unto itself. As far as movies go, that’s a compliment of the highest magnitude.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (TheByteScene Review)

Date: May 16th, 2013

TheByteDaily

The Great Gatsby

3.0 Pink-suits-and-yellow-cars out of 4

 

Let it never be said that Baz Luhrmann’s directing lacks in style, or subtlety. Certainly, a few odd choices, and perhaps a few unnecessary slips and tumbles, but let it never be said that Baz Luhrmann cannot produce an entertaining, enthralling, and enchanting film that captivates and connects with its audience on an intrinsically emotional level.

 

For all the modern film techniques that Luhrmann utilizes to great effect, for all the modern, edited, remastered, and remixed tracks that make up the bulk of the film’s soundtrack and score, and for all the special effects and CGI the film splashes on screen, the heart of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic burns on with a passion that only rivals Gatsby’s. Surrounded by no small amounts of pomp and pageantry, the film’s core characters exist in a vivaciously raucous stage that stands to parallel everything Fitzgerald intended to stand for in his criticisms of the decade, its decadence, and its people.

 

For those unfamiliar with the story of the eponymous Great Gatsby: kind, trustworthy, and considerate Yale graduate Nick Carraway realizes that there’s money to be had in bonds and Wall Street, throws away his aspirations to be a writer, moves into a home in Nouveau-Riche West Egg, befriends the mysterious bachelor Jay Gatsby, and finds himself being the confidant of a parade of characters each subsequently more wealthy and extravagant. All over the course of a single summer.

 

Written into an almost soap-operatic love story, Gatsby is hopefully in love with Nick’s cousin, old money Daisy Buchanan, who is married to old money Yale graduate – and former polo player – Tom Buchanan. Nick finds himself involved in their lives through a series of hushed whispers and quiet voices, eventually becoming a part of a magnificent tapestry of lies, deceit, and infidelity. All over the course of a single summer.

 

For those unfamiliar with the story, Baz Luhrmann’s bombastic rendition serves as a perfect entry point to understand the plot’s underlying themes, and to enjoy the characters in a slightly more abridged version than would be expected. For those familiar with the story, the latest revisioning of the classic plot is a reminder of why the book is so highly regarded, and before I continue, praise must be paid to Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton for their respective portrayals of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan. Each actor, through some subtle and some not-so-subtle reveals, portrays minute details of their character in an almost spiritual way. Suffice it to say, DiCaprio is the Great Gatsby, as much he is a great choice for the role of Gatsby.

 

The film’s special effects, CGI, and cinematography must be equally lauded for producing a genuine portrayal of the parties that Gatsby throws. Onscreen, the parties are a regal mess, muddy and chaotic in a calm, serene, and methodical fashion. Music, lighting, fashion, people, and effects create a blissfully tormenting view of the parties that are described as being wildly extravagant and sublimely gauche. It’s impossible to view the chaos on screen with anything less than a yearning desire to be a part of the rambunctious display of excess that make up the mystery surrounding Gatsby.

 

Remarkable that the windows are intact, let alone the house not caving in on itself after the first hour.

 

Despite the ceremony and fanfare awarded to the party sequences, The Great Gatsby was in no need of the post 3D conversion. While quite pretty to look at in the added dimension, this is not a film that demands to be viewed with the depth spectacles. It’s evident that certain sequences were edited specifically so someone would have an excuse to demand the conversion (and the added price tag that goes along with it), but viewing the film in the original 2 dimensional format is more than satisfactory to enjoy the entire experience. In summation: This time, 3D literally adds nothing to the experience.

 

The soundtrack, an eclectic combination and remastering of current hip hop, rock, jazz, and R&B tracks, edited and produced by Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted, and Jay-Z add a modern twist to the film’s Roaring Twenties backdrop. It’s fascinating watching characters do the Charleston to a will.i.am produced and performed beat, if only to realize that music is timeless. All it really takes is the careful application of imagination for the arts to work harmoniously coalesce, and it’s unnecessary to say that the soundtrack is the perfect anachronistic juxtaposition for the film’s 1920’s framework. Some will leave dissatisfied with the musical selections, others will marvel at the fusion jazz that infuses the film with charm.

 

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a film that doesn’t lack charm, panache, flamboyance, or subtlety and is made better for it. The acting, directing, cinematography, editing, plot, effects, and parties are all a reminder of what talent can produce. They’re also a steady reminder of what achievement can be found if just the right amount of hard work mixes with talent.

 

Gatsby would be proud.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK