What I Enjoyed, August 2017

My foray into foreign cinema continues with films by Godard, Wai, Bergman, and more.

August was a nice month. I got some work done, traveled to Maine for my brother’s wedding, and watched a lot of wonderful films from new-to-me directors.

Continue reading “What I Enjoyed, August 2017”

What I Enjoyed, July 2017

The film and literature highlights of the month, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and quite a bit of David Lynch.

July was a good month. It wasn’t too warm in Portland, and I spent most of my free time working on my film projects and reading. Here is what stood out for me in July.

Films

The NW Film Center’s David Lynch series continues, so I’ve mostly just been watching David Lynch films. I did watch Dunkirk, Okja, and Atomic Blonde this month, but neither of them really stood out to me. Here are the films that did:

Eraserhead

Eraserhead (1977) - Henry 2 - David Lynch

I got to see it in a theater, which was awesome. But the audience reaction was unexpected and strange.

Eraserhead was even better the second time around. It’s absurd and impressive.

The Elephant Man

I love the story of The Elephant Man and the story of friendship that is told. It’s a beautiful and moving film. Black and white treats it very well, and it has aged wonderfully.

It is interesting seeing Lynch work within the confines of a time period, linear narrative, and pre-existing script. I really do think he’s one of the only directors who could have pulled this film off.

The make-up, costuming, and settings are all superb.

I really like how focused the story is. A film that’s just over 2 hours that focuses on one story line, following John, feels so rare these days. It was refreshing to watch.

The pacing in the middle is poor, but it ultimately redeems itself in the end.

The 35mm print was in great shape, but the audio mix was rough. The dialogue by all characters was very straining to understand. I’d like to rewatch it with subtitles in the future.

The Elephant Man doesn’t rank in the upper echelon of Lynch films for me, but I truly did enjoy it.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I saw 2001 for the second time, and it rose to a new level for me. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack lately too. The classical music is a great fit.

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet Title

My sixth viewing of Blue Velvet really cements it as my favorite film. Within the first 10 minutes I got lost in the small, dreamy, American town of Lumberton again.

With some movies I can’t help but think when it’s going to end or when the next exciting thing is going to happen. But with Blue Velvet, by the time the credits roll, I can’t believe two hours have passed.

This time around I really appreciate Alan Splet’s sound work. Like a lot of early Lynch works, it totally sets the mood. I’m convinced Alan Splet was a master of sound.

Also, I’m pretty sure Angelo is playing piano at The Slow Club. It’s the little things with Lynch I appreciate on subsequent viewings.

I really love this film.

Books

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

My Lesbian Experience with Lonliness Cover

A very relatable memoir-style manga that tells the story of a young woman overcoming her anxieties and discovering her sexuality. It handles depression, dealing with family, anxiety, and sexuality in an approachable but still impactful way, especially with the aid of the visuals. Very much worth reading.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick

Do Androids Cover

I spent the second half of July mostly reading this book, the source material for the film Blade Runner. What a pleasant surprise. PKD’s writing is refreshingly simple and shows a lot of restraint for a sci-fi novel. I love that it takes place over a single day, and that it’s not an epic in length. The dust-ridden San Francisco is more relatable than the chromatic shine and wonder of most sci-fi that I’ve read. The biggest surprise is how well this stands on its own compared to Blade Runner. While they share similar concepts and themes, they have distinct characteristics that I appreciate.

The introduction of the word kipple may just be my favorite part.

Looking Ahead Toward August

August should be a good month. I have some travel coming up, which is a great time to watch movies and read. There will be more David Lynch as the series continues. I started reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace after finishing Do Androids…?, so I imagine that will take up most of my time since it is quite long. I’ve been enjoying it so far, but I wanted to read a significant portion of it before writing about it.

What Makes a Book Cover Great

Thoughts and analysis on what makes an appealing and beautiful book cover.

Collage of book covers pt 1 (1Q84, Uprooted, Morte, The Setting Sun, No Longer Human)

As I work on the book cover designs for my own books, I keep asking myself, What makes a book cover great? Over the last few months, I have been saving my favorites to try to answer that question. Here’s what I have come up with.

  • Abstraction — I enjoy more abstract cover images that represent something in the book but can be interpreted in a number of ways. It gives me space to think about what it means, and that meaning may change as I read the book and as time passes.
  • Setting the mood — The Uprooted cover does a really good job of communicating the atmosphere of the book. The golden colors, typography, and imagery screams fantasy, and it is done so well.
  • Simple & clean — I dislike covers that are cluttered with text and images. In general, the less there is on the cover the better.
  • Contrast — Looking at all of these covers together makes it clear to me why contrast matters. The eye focuses on the typography or the imagery first, and then it flips to the other. It there’s no contrast, it’s difficult to comprehend both the imagery and the text. When they both blur together, nothing is distinctive.
  • Clear title typography — I want the title to be parseable and understandable from a distance. I love it when a book shouts, “Here’s my name!”
  • Tasteful typography — Picking the right typeface goes a long way. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or stylized. It needs to fit the theme, be clear, and not clash with the rest of the design.

The difference between a great cover and a middling-to-bad cover is huge. What one sees when they pick up the book every time they go to read it is important. Plus, if the book is forward facing at the store, it’ll catch people’s eyes. On digital bookshelves, the cover is what sets a book apart among a sea of others. Cover design shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Here are some more of my favorites:

Collage of book covers pt 2 (The Face of Another, Factotum, The Castle, Reflections, Men Without Women, A Wizard of Earthsea, Spring Snow, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Silent Cry, Kafka on the Shore, Ico)

I also created a Pinterest board where I’ll be adding new ones as I come across them.