Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holy Blu-ray, Batman!

I was barely paying attention to the fight between HD-DVD and Blu-ray (mostly because I knew if I paid attention, I'd have to get one...) The only time it really registered on my radar when it first came out was when I saw a display in Staples near the Blu-ray drives for computers. Looking at the specs, I was rooting for Blu-ray to come out on top, but my heart told me the mass-market consumers would probably go for the dumber option.

Fast Forward to this time last year. I tend to put stupid shit on my Christmas list every year. My in-laws ask for a detailed list with model numbers and distinct descriptions because I tend to want high-tech shit that nobody else knows about. One year my list included a Bell UH-1. I didn't get it.

Last year, I put on my list, "Blu-ray or HD-DVD player with any/all available Pixar and Pirates of the Caribbean movies." That was my Bell UH-1 for 2007.

Funny thing is, I fucking got one. Based on my list of movies, my wife's parents got me a Sony Blu-ray player. The one thing in my favor as far as getting the "right" box was that I picked all Disney movies. Disney was a firm supporter of Blu-ray from the beginning, along with Fox and a few other big studios. The day I realized that those studios, with Star Wars, James Bond and other huge franchises were Blu-ray exclusive, I knew I was going to be on the winning side of the battle.

Fast Forward to February 2008 -- A week before the big consumer electronics show in Vegas.

Warner Brothers announces that they will no longer offer HD-DVD titles and will be Blu-ray exclusive. Within weeks all of the other studios follow.

The question then turned to - "When will it take off and start replacing DVD in homes the way DVD replaced VHS?"

Now, a year after I first started to allow my interest in high-def home video to get beyond slightly-curious to full-blown hi-def geek, the answer to that question is becoming clearer.

Last week, Warner Brothers released what is probably the biggest film of 2008 on Blu-ray and DVD.

And how is The Dark Knight doing on Blu-ray?


A week after hitting store shelves, the Blu-ray release of Warner Brothers 'The Dark Knight' has sold over 1.7 Million units worldwide, shattering all previous Blu-ray sales records. The film, which stars Christian Bale as the caped-crusader, is set to break $1 Billion at the box office, and some execs feared that home video sales would be hurt by such success. Those fears were alleviated after selling through 600,000 Blu-ray units on the first day, and sales of the landmark title have been continuing at a record pace.

The worldwide numbers include retail and rental sales in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Benelux, and Australia. The majority of sales came from US buyers, which bought over 1 Million units of the title. Blu-ray sales represented nearly 13% of all home media sales for the title, which sold 13.5 Million units on home video formats.

In comparison, 'The Matrix' DVD release in 1999 - which is generally recognized as the title to spark sales of the [DVD] format - sold 780,000 units in one week. The Blu-ray release of 'The Dark Knight' has more than doubled that accomplishment.

Blu-ray has been recognized as one of the most wanted items this holiday season, and consumers are responding aggressively towards lower player prices and the high definition releases of many film favorites. Interest in the format has exploded as consumers budgets become tighter and they realize they can get the same or better movie watching experience in their home with Blu-ray for a lot less money.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

painting a picture of a picture

My friend Michael took a picture this past summer. It looks like this:

I liked it and thought it would probably make a nice painting if I could muster up the time and energy to attempt it. Finding a nice 18"x24" canvas just sitting around (in a store, waiting to be bought...) I scratched out a representation in charcoal.

A day or two later, I attacked it with the paints. I used broad tones as a sort of underpainting, but it was a pretty thick underlayer.

Last night, I started putting more detail into it. It's not finished yet, and it's not a true representation of the photograph, but I like it so far. I think it captures the mood of the original photo in a different way.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Movies & Toys

I like movies. I'm probably addicted to them. My mother claims that I will watch any movie. Moreover, she claims that I like any movie I watch.

I'm sure this isn't true, because I remember hating every minute of The Doom Generation. If I ever see Greg Araki, I might just have to punch him in the jaw.

And, despite my total devotion to Nicole Kidman and anything she is in, I can say for sure that I hated every minute of Batman & Robin, but I watched it all the way through. And I wouldn't part with my Chase Meridian poster. Also on the Nicole Kidman front, I have still to this day not managed to make it more than 30 minutes into The Portrait of a Lady. It's just way too fucking boring.


I've been hunting for Blu-ray bargains. Blu-ray, being on the cutting edge and all that, is still enjoying the "HEY THIS IS NEW LET'S CHARGE A LOT MORE FOR IT" days when it comes to buying movies. But there are some good deals to be found. For example, I got Transformers on Black Friday for $9.99. I got Reservoir Dogs and Crash at Wal-Mart tonight for $10 each.

But, in searching for crap on Ebay, I forgot that I was in the TOYS department (as I was watching the special features on the Transformers disc and wondering whatever happened to my Megatron and my Soundwave guys) and I punched in a new search. "Blu-ray" I typed into the box.

But, since I was still in TOYS, I got the results for Blu-ray toys.

Now, you might not think there are any results for Blu-ray in the TOYS department, but you'd be wrong. You see, last year when Disney/Pixar released Cars on Blu-ray, they included a coupon with it. Actually, all Disney movies come with a code you can punch in online and get points toward prizes. And, just like with Skee-Ball, if you collect 50,000 points you get to pick something you might, but don't really, want.

But, with the Cars Blu-ray, just punching in the coupon gave you an immediate reward. The reward was a blue version of Lightning McQueen as seen in his dream sequence when he is wearing the Dinoco colors. Sure, it was a few bucks for shipping and handling, but I figured my little boy would like it, so I paid the whole two-dollar shipping and handling charge. A few weeks later, a little blue car showed up in the mail. It was made by Mattel, and was clearly a Hot Wheels style car, but it didn't say Hot Wheels on it.

So, back to my search results... there is the blue Lightning McQueen shown about 30 times on the page. And I stared in amazement at the prices. $49.99 with five bids and two days to go. $99.99 buy it now. Over and over, most with bids above $50. I clicked on the Completed Auctions option and saw prices from $45 to $99. For a free toy. All the auctions said the same thing: Limited edition of only 15000, never available in stores, the promotion has expired there is no way to get a new one ever.

So, hoping for the best, I went to find Roland's blue Lightning McQueen. I wasn't sure if it would be scratched up or if it would still look shiny and new. He hadn't played with it much, but I recalled several times he was playing with it making ramps in the living room.

After a few minutes of looking around, I found the little blue car in the bottom of a box of other cars. I picked it up and looked at it hoping for the best.

And right there on back of Mr. McQueen - along the top edge of his spoiler was exactly the thing I was hoping for. The paint was scraped off right down to the metal. There were dings and scratches in other places, too.

I never thought for a second that I would sell the car on Ebay, even if it was in pristine condition. On the contrary, I was elated to find that it had plenty of signs of being played with and loved by a little boy. I think that's especially fitting for this Pixar toy given the way Pixar's Toy Story 2 plays out.

But, thinking about it now, I'm tempted to take a picture of it and put it on Ebay anyway. I would do it if there wasn't a stupid fee just to list something. I could take a picture of it showing off the scuffs and list it as "Blu-ray Lightning Machine Car - Limited 15000 - Absolutely Perfect." I'd put a starting bid of a million dollars on it with a Buy-It-Now of infinity.

No matter how much money some collector thinks those cars are worth wrapped up in their plastic bags or their custom collector cases, it's worth infinitely more to me to know that my little boy has loved playing with that car.

Monday, December 01, 2008

New painting

Since I got out of the hospital earlier this year (an all-together unpleasant experience, which I'm not going to post here) I haven't painted very much. I started a landscape painting but it still sits -- mostly white with a dozen shades of green denoting leaves and grass and shadows.

I've been fending off the urge to paint for about a month now (mostly due to the fact that it takes quite a bit of time just to set shit up to start painting and with a new baby I don't really have a whole lot of time. Oh. I forgot to put a post about that. We had another baby. Oliver was born on October 20th, 2008.

I finally found some time when my wife took the kids to visit her family at Thanksgiving. I chose not to go with her, opting instead to visit my own mother. This left me home alone on Wednesday evening. I got Batman Begins on Blu-ray and watched it start to finish. I had also gotten Hellboy on Blu-ray for $4.00 so I threw that in and grabbed my sketch pad.

While watching Hellboy, I started sketching the ideas that had been floating in my head. None of them seemed to be going anywhere, so I sketched the cat as he was sprawled out on the couch. I tried a few more times to get what was in my head on paper, then I gave up. I decided to just my subconscious guide my hand and I started drawing lines and curls. After a few pages of this, I ended up with a few elements I really liked, so I set up the paints. What you see above is the result. While I have a name for this one, I'm not going to say what it is at this time. I think it probably gives away too much of what I see in it and I'd rather people see it and get their own impression without being burdened by someone else's viewpoint.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rules for the Workplace

Rules for the Workplace
(use at your own risk)

  1. If you come to work late then you MUST make up for it by leaving early.
  2. Lunch "hour" is really about 90 minutes, especially if you have to leave the office to eat.
  3. Lunch hour does not necessarily consist of 90 contiguous minutes. Thus, when I'm checking my GMail at 3:15, I can assure you that I'm making up for the 15 minutes when I was interrupted by some idiotic question while I was on my lunch hour.
  4. If you work in a cubicle and use a speaker phone you must die right now.
  5. If you work in close proximity to other people, it's really a good idea to take a shower every day. Or, if you can't manage that then AT LEAST every other day. Deodorant EVERY DAY is a prerequsite to even coming through the front door. Especially if you stink.
  6. Jeans are perfectly fine every day of the week as long as you wear them with black (or brown) loafers and a button-down shirt. Even I can't authorize the use of sneakers or a T-Shirt, even on Friday.
  7. Do not approach people who are dilligently typing while also listening to earphones. They can't hear you. Try IM or e-mail, even if they sit right next to you.
  8. Do not, under any circumstances, come to talk to me next to my cubicle and let off a fart. For fuck's sake certainly don't do it twice in a row.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

6 steps to FAIL

1. Load up van with trash from your garage.

2. Drive to county landfill.

3. Drop of old air conditioner at Metal Recycling pile.

4. Drop off old office chairs at the "Swap Shop"

5. Put it in reverse and do a backwards U-Turn over to the cardboard recycling dumpsters.

6. Get halfway to the dumpster (all of about 75 feet) and get broadsided by the BACK END of a roll-off dumpster. Which is on the back of a truck. Going backwards. Only it wasn't there when I started backing up. In fact - it was coming toward me from the road - FACE FIRST- when I started backing up. I have no idea what sort of magic it takes to do a 3-point turn in .003 seconds and cover half of a parking lot in reverse, but that dude sure has the power.

Van was tipped up at a 45 degree angle getting pushed across the lot. The one picture shows the groove the rear wheel (opposite the side of impact) made after the tire exploded and the van was nearly pushed over by a stinking garbage truck.

At least nobody got hurt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cover Painting

Bands play cover songs. I guess artists can do cover paintings.

I learned a lot about playing guitar by playing other peoples songs. In much the same way, I'm learning a lot about color and composition by recreating an existing painting.

This one is in-progress, but it's decent enough to show, I think.

Also worth mentioning, aside from the ruined Onions painting, this is the only one I've ever done in more than one sitting. All of the rest have been done start to finish in a span of about two hours. This one was started in April as a sketch on canvas and a light blue wash (which can still be seen in the village). While this was drying, my son decided it would be a good idea to smear some white paint on it with a fan brush. Up until this week, it's sat on my kitchen table looking a mess.

I sat down Tuesday night and started working on the sky. I immediately found the small 16x20 canvas size to be limiting. It's excruciatingly difficult to get the brush patterns to appear distinct at approximately one-quarter the size of the original. Thus, I decided to let the first stage dry and I'd try to get the finer detail with a teeny-tiny sable brush later.

Wednesday I did just that. The stars with lots of white around them were done with the small brush. The stars with more yellow were done with a bigger brush and I don't think they look as good. But if I layer some more shades into them with the smaller brush I think it will clean up quite nicely.

Starry Night:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trees pt. 3

This week we went outside again and I painted the same scene as last week, but from a different angle.

So far, I like this one best.



This is a painting I started the week after I had done the one of Woman and Drapes.

I had some red onions in an orange bowl, sitting on a vibrant plaid tablecloth.

To get started, I made a color chart of the main colors I would be using - crimson on one side and ultramarine on the other. In the middle I got the tones for my onions.

I did another with cadmium red and cadmium yellow to get the orange tones for the bowl.

From the beginning, bowls and plates have been my downfall, but after several attempts at a sketch I got the bowl looking exactly like I wanted it to. I then got the onions in there and drew in some guidelines for the tablecloth and then transferred the whole thing to the 16x20 canvas I had brought.

I started with the onions and somehow I managed to achieve the translucent purple of the onion skin so that it looked like they were ready for you to pull them right out of the painting. I got the shades of the bowl in the right places and worked on the shadows for the onions. Then I made mistake number 1 - I put a dark shadow under the bowl with accounting for the varying shades of the tablecloth. Imagining what it would look like once the cloth was colored I saw the shadow would look shitty, so I scraped it off.

I had taken so long on the sketch that I was now out of time, so I took this one home unfinished. The plan was to finish it the next week, but I had to miss that class due to my little boy getting sick. So, this painting sat around unfinished until mid-June.

I threw it onto my little easel at home one night and started working on the tablecloth. The paint clumped up and wasn't cooperating. I knew right off the bat that I was having trouble because the tablecloth wasn't actually in front of me. But I kept working on it, wanting to have it finished for the "show" we were going to have at our last class.

In working on the tablecloth, I kept in mind my failure with the shadow and I used darker versions of the tablecloth colors to work on the shadow. I put paint on. Scraped it off. Put on different paint. By the time I was happy with it, I had messed up parts of the bowl, so I worked on fixing that, which meant that since my color mixes were all different I had to touch up the whole thing. And then I got orange all over a big chunky glob of paint making up one of the onions and being that it wasn't a nice clean flat section of canvas I couldn't just wipe it off.

So then I made the colossal mistake of touching up the onion. And with two or three strokes of my brush the translucence was gone and they were lifeless blobs of dark paint.

So here it is in all of its glorious failure -- Onions:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Painting inside

I enjoyed painting trees last week and I was looking forward to doing it again.

However, it was raining when I got to class so we couldn't go outside. I set up an easel in front of the still life the instructor had assembled, but it was not inspiring me at all. So, I moved my easel over to the window and took in the view looking across the back of the college.

I was looking at an angle out the window. Had I looked straight out, I would have seen the same tree I painted last week. Thus, I took in the view across a torn-up section of ground littered with construction equipment and a giant muddy puddle. On a short hill above this mess were four trees just before the main highway. Across the road was a corn field surrounded by huge trees.

Here is Shitty Day (View from a Window):

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We went outside to paint for class yesterday.

The sun was just going down as we were finishing and it was casting some amazing colors - the kinds of colors I never knew how to see before I started painting.

Here's one of Trees:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Art Class

I'm taking a drawing and painting class one day a week at the local community college.

We started off with pencils and charcoal just drawing shapes and learning shading. I find charcoal to be far superior to pencil for getting my ideas across and making things looks more like actual things.

I haven't captured any of the pencil and charcoal output, so I'll have to try to remember to add that in here later. On the fourth class, I brought my paints and an 11x14" canvas. For this class, we had a model sitting in front of a lot of draped panels with some still life kinda stuff on tables near her. We were told to concentrate on an area of the scene which featured a lot of different cloth textures and colors and to work on the folds and how they interacted.

I stood just looking at the scene for about ten minutes, just totally unsure of what to do, then I reached out with my charcoal and started sketching on a paper. After about ten more minutes, when I was happy with the paper, I transferred the sketch to the canvas.

So... here is Woman with Drapes:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Peach Blossoms

One of my books from the library has some step-by-step exercises on how famous artists created their works. That one of these showed how to do one of of Van Gogh's Peach Blossoms seemed too good a deal to pass up.

So here's my take on Vincent's Peach Trees in Blossom - Souvenir de Mauve. I urge you to click on it so that it blows up to full-resolution which shows the detail of the brush strokes and the thickness of the paint.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oil Painting

I've been to Michaels about 20 times. I initially went to get some real sketching pencils and a decent drawing pad. But I find myself standing in the aisle with the oil paints wondering how I can justify the nearly-certain $200 outlay it would take to get started in this particular medium.

Student grade paints - $5 a tube for 37ml. That holds less than a travel-sized toothpaste.
Brushes - from $2 to $40. Seriously.
Turpentine - $8 and up
Brush cleaning jar - $15
Canvas - $8 to $100
Palette - $12

Then there are the thousands of things I have no idea about like Liquin and Gesso
and which brands are OK, which brands are crap...

Contrary to my nature, I don't buy anything the first time. Or even the next few times. I just look. Then I go to the library and get some books. I had first gotten a drawing book and reading just a few pages from it let me produce things which actually resemble the things they're supposed to be. So I got one on painting. It had some suggestions on bare-minimum equipment and which brands to avoid. It also said to spend as much as you can afford on brushes because you'll end up replacing cheap ones so they end up costing more in the long run.

So I made another trip to the paint aisle and I still couldn't justify putting a large investment into something that could turn into a total disaster. Just as I was giving up, vowing that I should probably take a class where they provide materials to at least get a feel for this stuff, I turned the corner and spotted, "PAINTING FOR DUMMIES!"


And laying on the bottom under some other stuff was a single "OIL PAINTING FOR DUMMIES." It was $9.98. It came with 2 brushes, six paints and three 5x7" canvas panels. I bought it as well as a decent brush ($5 all by itself) to go along with my Dummies set. I also got a 2-pack of 9x12" canvas boards and a few sheets of canvas paper for practicing exercises from the book.

My painting book had some exercises at the beginning showing how to make lines and simple shapes. One showed how to easily make a rose with only two colors. I tried this first on a sheet of canvas paper. I think I still have it somewhere. It kinda looks like a flower but not really. I certainly doesn't look like anything from that book.

The next thing I tried was a simple landscape with a limited color palette. This was done on one of the 9x12" panels. I call it Cliffside Village:

It doesn't really look like the one in the book, and that makes me like it a lot more than if it did. It's kinda like my take on a view of someplace I've never been.

The next night I grabbed the first thing that was at hand and quickly sketched it onto one of the small panels that came with my Dummies set. Let's call this one Roland's Firetruck:

A day or so later I tried another one on one of the bigger canvas panels. Again, I started with a freehand sketch and then attacked it with paint. This is a Martin D-15:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art - a rediscovery

I think I've always been a little cynical about art.

I was probably nine or ten when I was first exposed to art outside of school. In this case, the art came in the form of paintings when my mother developed an interest in works by Matisse and Monet. The paintings in our house were actually big 24x36" exhibition posters. While I found some of them to be interesting, they didn't light any sort of spark in me.

At some point shortly after the framed Monet posters started appearing on the walls, she purchased a small oil painting at a local gallery. I found this painting to be slightly more interesting due to the physical structure of the paint - something which the posters lacked completely. I remember staring at tiny sections of the painting looking at how the various layers of thick paint crisscrossed each other. But still, this painting of what might have a been a summer day on a street somewhere in Tuscany didn't move me.

In sixth grade, we were introduced to the works of M. C. Escher. These paintings, as well as the ones by Dali I would discover a little bit later, caused me to marvel at both the technical execution and the twisted thought processes that must have gone into their creation. But still, tho I littered my own walls with the likes of "The Persistence of Memory" and "Bonds of Union" my emotions were never inspired by any of these images.

I remember trips to the National Gallery where I would wander the whole thing, following behind my mother who seemed to be marveling at every other painting. I recall being intrigued by the size and scope of something by Jackson Pollack - but I know now that I was too young to appreciate it beyond the fact that there were cigarettes and other shit stuck to it.

The most memorable of these trips - probably the last time I went with her and which would have been when I was in high school, I recall being touched for the first time by a painting. It was just a small one - an outdoor scene of an olive orchard or some other trees (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was or who might have painted it) but it blew me away. I was first entranced by the technical execution. The whole thing was dabs of paint - but it wasn't a blurry catastrophe so I'm sure it wasn't a Pissaro. It was sharp and in focus even close up. And to my surprise, I found that when my brain was finished thinking about what had gone into making such a thing appear on a canvas, I realized I could feel a shadow of what the artist had been feeling as he stood in front of that scene.

On Sunday we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

We first wandered through pre-Columbian art from the Americas then ventured into an exhibition of American Modernist paintings. The memory of what it felt to look upon that small painting years before was barely registering in the back of my mind as I walked through the collections on the museum's first floor. I could remember that I had been moved, but I didn't remember the feeling.

Erika was determined to see the Rodin sculptures so we checked the brochure and it said they were located in the Cone collection. This was on the 2nd floor, so we took the elevator up and stepped out into a huge hall which was lined with ancient mosaics from the Roman Empire. Again, my art appreciation was entirely cerebral - I marveled at the size of the things, at how old they were and how much work it must have taken to get them here from halfway around the world - and from under tons of earth.

All this changed just a few feet further down the hall. A door on the left opened into the Cone Collection. As you step into the first room of the gallery, you are surrounded by Matisse. These were some of the same images that had been on my mother's posters but the difference was staggering. The colors were incredibly vivid. Where the posters were flat and lifeless, the texture and thickness of the paint made these pictures seem alive.

As I walked among these paintings - slowly and carefully, trying not to miss the slightest detail, I felt a warmth growing inside of me. I went from room to room and found that while the Cones certainly had a lot of Matisse, they didn't have a lot of any other single artist. The other rooms featured works from Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso, and tons of abstract expressionists I'd never even heard of. As I took in all of these, some did nothing for me and I found at these points my mind was engaged, thinking about the details or what went into the execution. Others just caused me to stop and take them in, with no thought other than to stand there and absorb the sensations coming in.

And then it happened for real. I had just turned from looking at a very blue Picasso - a work which made me think about the technique - and I found myself looking at a pair of boots.

It's not a very big painting. It shows two boots - one upside down, the other looking worn and ragged. They could be inside next to the front door or outside next to the front step. Whatever the case, I could only stand and stare, my mouth hanging open like an idiot. I felt my stomach lurch and I had to take a step back because I thought I might fall over. Hanging next to it, and painted in a similar style was a small landscape with trees and a woman walking toward a house in the background. The feeling was still there when looking at this one, but it was stronger looking at the boots. It was such a strong feeling that it wouldn't surprise me to find out that these particular boots were never worn again because their owner -some close friend of the artist - had just died.

Van Gogh's Pair of Boots (1887)

The cards next to each of these paintings said, "Vincent Van Gogh." What they didn't say - but which was instantly clear to me - is that Van Gogh had more passion for painting than could be found in a combination of any ten other artists whose works were hanging on these same walls.

I had never shown any aptitude for art in school, but I left the museum feeling a need to draw or paint.

So here's my first stab at making art. I know it's not perfect - the glass doesn't seem to actually be on the table - but it's a start.

Sesame Oil, Sponge Ball, and Glass (#2 pencil on cardstock)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Aronofsky

I bet a lot of people don't even see this movie.

I bet a lot of the people who see it hate it. Most won't even try to understand it.

But Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is a fantastic, stunning film.

I first learned about Darren Aronofsky in 1998. In the days when DVD was brand-new and I had very few of them on my shelf, I kept finding myself drawn to the same DVD box. The cover had the symbol for Pi overlaid on a series of numbers. I'd never heard of it, but I kept picking it up everytime I saw it. Probably the fourth or fifth time I saw it, I gave in and bought it.

Pi was Aronofsky's first feature-length film. It was filmed on black-and-white reversal film which makes it look unlike any other feature film. But my fascination only started with the way the film looked. There was no overt sense of "this is the story, you can watch it now" like with most films. Instead, the first time you watch Pi, you have no idea what the fuck is going on. Even when you think you understand what's going on, you're still left wondering what the fuck is happening. In fact, you pretty much feel the same way the next time you watch it, too.

In the Fall of 2000, I caught wind of a new movie from Darren Aronofsky. To my dismay, it was only playing in New York and Los Angeles. I sent e-mails to the distributor begging for it to be released to more theaters. Being that the film was unrated, many theaters were unwilling to show it. Slowly (and certainly having nothing to do with my pleas) it was released to more and more cities. It eventually made its way to a tiny art-house theater in Bethesda. Kingo and I made the trip down one evening and took in the spectacle.

Requiem for a Dream is first and foremost an emotional roller coaster - at least as far as the first long drop on a theme park rind. It starts out dark and drops long and hard into the darkest, bleakest parts of humanity. Anything else it is - and it is certainly a lot of things, most of which pummel the senses -- it is dark and intense and it leaves a mark on anyone who sees it. I highly recommend it to anyone willing to undergo a true experience unlike that given by any other film.

It was my love of these two films which led me to pick up "The Fountain" on Blu-ray Disc. I had not heard of The Fountain until I was holding it in my hands at Blockbuster. But it said right on the cover, "Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky," so I knew there was no way I was leaving without it.

As it turns out, The Fountain was supposed to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It was supposed to be made for $70 Million. At the last minute, Brad Pitt backed out. The film was put on the shelf for a few years while new stars were found. A few years later, with the budget cut in half, the film was made with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

A brief technical note before I go off on this thing -- I'm not sure whether it was due to the budget or Aronofsky's vision, or maybe a combination of both, but whatever the case the visual effects in this movie were not computer generated. Instead, the glorious star fields and nebulae which (according to some people) land this film in the sci-fi genre (wtf? I mean, really - wtf?) were all created organically and filmed with macro techniques through a microscope. Once again Darren Aronofsky manages to put amazing images on screen which are unlike any film before it.

The Fountain starts off similar to Pi. The viewer has no clue what is going on. Gradually, the pieces fall into place and you get a better sense of the narrative. But the narrative is only surface noise on a breathtaking achievement.

With The Fountain, Aronofsky's emotional roller coaster is back in full swing - but this time the ride is complete. The visuals, combined with Clint Mansell's score, take you from light to dark, dark to light. They go through the deepest guts of hoplessness and despair one moment and then sweep into perfect, hopeful, contented bliss. That the bliss is found in a character's last living moments speaks volumes to the level of insight and introspection Aronofsky has put into this film.

Ultimately, The Fountain is about life and death. But which particular interpretation of life and death is left entirely up to the viewer.

For me, it told a story of Karma -- Where a man loops through the same hopeless thread of existence until he finally manages to make the right choices. There are lessons to be gained here, but what they are will differ with the individual viewer. When the right choice is made, a new path is created for the next experience. The real beauty of the film lies beyond the amazing visuals. The best part about it is that each person will see something different depending on their own particular beliefs and how they view the world.

Perhaps even more than all of that, the best recommendation I can give you is this -- I want to see it again, and soon.