Ashley Inside My Head

Movie Therapy

I mentioned in my very first post that I spent a number of years working at a video rental store called Family Video. If you’re from the Midwest, you may have heard of the company or even rented a few Midweek Specials in your day; and if not, boy, did you miss out. With all of the video rental businesses in the U.S. closing their doors (read: Blockbuster), at last check, that makes Family Video the largest (hell, maybe the only) movie and game rental franchise in the country.

I cannot even imagine how many total hours I’ve spent in my lifetime so far watching, and often rewatching, movies. Ahead of movie release dates for DVDs (almost always a Tuesday), stores receive inventory around 5 days in advance, and staff are allowed and sometimes recommended to “screen” the titles in that advance time frame. I spent a lot of weekends in high school and college watching great movies but also watching some really shitty B class movies. (Don’t tell anyone I admitted to that.)

The point here is this: I love movies. I think I passed this love onto my baby brother…well, that and my music taste, for better or worse. So when I come home to visit, we usually bond over a good movie. But since he’s young(er) and hip(er), he often has seen way more recent releases than I have. On this recent visit, I had to admit to not yet seeing Unbroken, so we sat down for a typical family watch party.

There are always great take-aways from movies, like the faith in humanity you regain watching a really great drama, or the way your wheels continue spinning after an intense thriller. Movies can pull you out of yourself for a good 2 hours and plop you right back into reality with the hint of a credit reel. If somebody did their job right, you talk about what the experience was like for you for a good 30 minutes post-film, and use it for at least some workplace chatter on Monday.

Here’s my recent movie-watching reaction (spoilers ahead): What I hated about Unbroken is that you sit through the whole thing and then Angelina Jolie thought maybe you were an idiot watching and didn’t get the message, so she wrote it out for you at the end before the credits. “Louie learned that forgiveness is greater than revenge…” or something equally uninspiring. But what I loved about Unbroken was the message that spoke so much louder to me, and that was the importance of perseverance. To me Louie showcased what it means to get back up when everyone around you is expecting you to stay down, and continuing to get back up especially once people are rooting for you.

I think it goes without saying that Unbroken probably spoke to you in a totally different way, and maybe you were cool with Angelina’s moral being spelled out for you to cap off the movie. But with movies, the message doesn’t have to be the same for me and for you, and the conversation that ensues because of that difference in emotion and opinion is what keeps us on our toes. And, from my video rental store days, it’s likely why I am an A-Class BS-er today. (I couldn’t afford to curse anymore in this post!) I think I was something of a movie therapist for customers when they returned those stacks of VHS tapes and DVDS…

– Ashley Respecki

Gabriel Inside My Head

If You Could Fly, Would You?

I don’t know how many people have gotten the opportunity to see Michael Keaton’s new film Birdman, but it is, to say the least, interesting. With a stellar cast that includes Zach Galifianakis and Edward Norton, the film follows washed-up actor Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton), who, after turning down a fourth installment of his well known superhero role “The Birdman,” tries to re-launch his career by putting on a Broadway play which he writes and stars in. You can imagine how much heat he receives for even attempting to do this. Throughout the movie, it seems as though Riggan, constantly taunted by the voice of his Birdman character, has been blessed with telekinesis and the ability to fly. None of the other characters are ever around to witness this. This little motif struck me to be a representation of the internal battle we all have with our past selves.

Attempting to do something new and different can be scary and intimidating in the beginning – like all new challenges. However, in many cases, we can be our own worst enemy or obstacle when trying to move forward on a new path. From then on, a battle incites within. Like Riggan allowing all the critics and his fears to dictate his performance, we let outside distractions block our way and then may use them as excuses not to continue. But sometimes listening to the voice inside is just what we need. When Riggan ultimately gives in to the Birdman character, his “larger than life” movie star persona is revived. After his psychological transformation, Riggan puts on an opening show that turns each sour critic sweet and gains him the respect he sought so earnestly.

In the final scene of the film, we see Riggan’s daughter, Sam, find her father flying outside of the window. Riggan finally decides to let his inner Birdman fly. Hence, my title. If you have the opportunity to take that stomach-turning leap into something potentially awesome, do it. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from trying to fly. Who knows? Maybe you’ll just soar.

– Gabriel Oigbokie

Gabriel Inside My Head

Karate Choppin’ with Your Head Up

As this technological engagement continues, my passion for movies and television will become very apparent, starting now. I’ve been in sort of a rut lately about where I’m headed in this crazy thing we call life, but recently I was flipping through the channels on the tube and came across a favorite movie of mine. Before we get too far into this, I have to give a short history of my love for martial arts movies. High flying kicks, lightning fast fists, and tons of harnesses and cables couldn’t create a more beautiful picture. Who doesn’t want the strength to break stone slabs with an open hand?! I’ve always loved the greats like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (a god amongst men). But this particular film stars the very talented Jet Li, who may be in a class of his own.

Jet Li’s Fearless tells the story of Huo Yuanjia, a martial artist who lost everything due to his aimless greed and ambition. But after this tragedy, he rises from his lowest point to become a peaceful, wise, and confident man. Through his hardships, he understands the fervor and confidence with which he fought his enemies is just what his country needed to save its identity from being washed out by British colonies. This simple moral truly spoke to me at the time. From watching one man’s journey, I learned that even in your worst moment it only takes that tiny spark of courage to pick yourself up and make a change. Hopefully you don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to realize that it only takes a bit a confidence to inspire millions or even pitch that idea you’ve been sitting on for two months. Telling yourself “just try it” can take you from zero to hero before you can turn around. With all that in mind, I hope you feel as if you can take on the world, level by level, one karate chop at a time. And remember inner strength is the strongest of all.

– Gabriel Oigbokie

Inside My Head

Beautiful Things

I did a bit of traveling last week – a few days in Austin for a meeting of leaders in the architectural community and then on to Salt Lake City for some quality friend time and the Sundance Film Festival. While this work and play seem unrelated on the surface, it was interesting to see the overlap and the similarities between architects and filmmakers who, in the most basic sense, want to leave the world better than they found it. Architects are interested in addressing client desires and challenges through practical, sustainable and beautiful design. Filmmakers are interested in sparking conversations through relatable, compelling and beautiful stories.

My favorite beautiful experience from the week had to be Dope, a comedy/crime drama/love letter to 90’s hip hop (yes, the music is as good as you’d imagine). The movie was funny and poignant, and you so badly want everything to work out for the trio of high school seniors who bring the story to life. What was more exciting than the story, however, was the energy in the small Park City theater. This was the world premiere and the writer/director, cast and their friends and family had all shown up for the debut. As the lights came down and the title screen showed up, there was cheering from the large reserved section in the back. That cheering and the loud, appreciative laughs for the first joke (the first of many well-executed and timely jokes), invited the rest of us to enjoy this experience as a group. It was an endearing and inspiring movie that took advantage of having the audience on its side to ask some big questions about race and our expectations of people in our society. Those big questions brought uncomfortable silence, cheers and a few tears. It was an incredible experience to share all that with everyone in the theater, including those who brought the story to life.

I’m so grateful to have been a part of that audience, at that theater in that moment in time, and I hope many more people will have the opportunity to experience Dope. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to more beauty, however it may appear.

Dope director, Rick Famuyiwa, and lead actors