Movie Lover's Short Movie Reviews: Writer's Retreat

by daniellestemarie Email

Writer's Retreat is a slasher film that takes place at an English home where writers of varying skills have gathered for a workshop. What's not to love? As this writer watched it, I thought it was utterly brilliant. And speaking of brilliance, keep an eye on the impossibly talented and beautiful Poppy Drayton. I couldn't take my eyes off her as she stole every scene effortlessly.

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Hesher and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

by daniellestemarie Email

I have a walnut-wood polished case for 20 films that I deem highly important. I have a large cabinet for all the other films-- some of which I love very much, yet don't quite make it to the case. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the only actor with three films in the case.

The first two are Brick, and Manic. Brick is a dystopian noir masterpiece that leaves you scratching your head as to who was what and what just happened. It's genius. Joseph is in such brilliant form that my artistry aches to ask him just how he transformed into that character. Manic, a film where he plays a young guy with severe bipolar issues speaks to my heart, because I have bipolar level I as well. He got inside my head in that piece, and that's not an easy place to navigate.

The third film is the best. It's an astounding piece of genius, called Hesher. Never has a metalhead been conveyed so realistically and authentically on the screen before (full disclosure: I am a metalhead currently listening to Spectral Wound and The Ocean Collective). Another strange film that has no cellphones and no obvious clues as to what decade we're in, Hesher takes the prize. I was so moved by Hesher that at the end I cried. Here's a young man that seems to have had problems with family (been there), and yet does his dysfunctional best to bring another family together. And he succeeds, in his own crazy way! The character of Hesher should get his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt right next to it. Joseph is going to win 2-3 Oscars for Best Actor someday, and he deserves them. If you are reading this, Joseph, then let me say 'thank you so damn much' for your choices in movie projects. You rule the pack, and I can't wait to see what you do next. Oh, and I just watched 500 Days of Summer last night and it was another brilliant film! Keep going!

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The Three Levels of Writing and Enlightenment

by daniellestemarie Email

Interview with the Poetess (The following interview was conducted by webcam, February 9, 2014, between myself and a student named Dawn B. from Adler Graduate School in Minnesota. She is a getting her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology there, and it turns out that she discovered a few of my books in the university library. She contacted me to ask a few questions, and I agreed to answer. The following is the transcript of our chat.)

Interviewer: “Danielle, what are some of the steps you go through when you are writing?”

Danielle: “Well, there are many; one could say billions, even, if paying attention to all the tiniest steps. For instance, just getting a cup of tea and lighting a candle in the morning could be thought of as about 5,000 or more tiny mental steps—things we aren’t even aware of. But, to answer your question with what is probably most interesting is what I call the ‘working backwards from Z to A method.’ This is something I designed based on the works of many great scholars, such as Joseph Campbell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, James Joyce and more. Even the Bible book of Revelation is in this idea.”

Interviewer: “Fascinating. Please tell me more.”

Danielle: “Well, there are basically three levels of experiencing life. Now, levels are arbitrary and anyone can make up as many levels as they want, but for the purposes of understanding what I do—what my goals, or aims are in my writing—then let’s use this three category method.

“The first level, which is the transcendent level and the highest knowledge of all, is the letter ‘A’ in my method. This is what I call the ‘Internal Aum!’ level, because it is the place beyond words or symbols. It’s simply a spiritual breakthrough where all of a sudden you see something in a different light. It’s similar to what Joyce termed as an epiphany, where you are beholding the radiance of something.

“Let’s say, for example, that you have looked at the night sky thousands of times, and usually, it’s just maybe you on your way to your car, or whatever, and you think, ‘Oh, nice night out,’ or something like that. But one night, for no real apparent reason or rhythmic conduition, you see the stars and you stop, and you look, and no thoughts at all come. You just stare and time disappears somewhere, and for that moment, you are as lost as you are found, and yet none of that either. No words can describe the exact experience. This is what is important to understand about writing: that it can never do the experience justice. So, it’s a transcendent experience and that word, ‘transcend’, means that it goes beyond all categories. It even goes beyond the category of itself.

Interviewer: “That is a really interesting idea, and I think I have had a few moments like that in my life.”

Danielle: “Yes, most of us have. We just sort of feel like we are suddenly daydreaming but we have no thoughts, and that is a key difference. It is here that we get a glimpse of the eternal, and that thing out there and whatever there is inside of us becomes exactly the same thing, and we see it and are so struck we can’t speak or properly relate it to anyone.

“Now, the second level is that of symbols. We use symbols in our lives to describe the first level of experience. Some have a crucifix, others have a strand of beaded crystals. I have several Buddhas and Tibetan statues, like Yamantaka, and Hindu statues like Saraswati. These symbols are meant to help us find that ‘Internal Aum!’ moment again, or help take us to it for the first time. This is the letter ‘S,’ in my category. So, the symbol can work to get us to the transcendent from either ‘A-S or S-A.’”

Interviewer: “I see what you mean. I have some unicorn statues I keep around because one day I had this strange moment at my uncle’s farm where I thought I saw one in the clouds and I became sort of ‘Lost and Found,’ as you described it earlier.”

Danielle: “Exactly! Finally, the third level is words, writing, you know— general conversation. The Catch 22 of this is that no words can describe a transcendent moment, because to do so would mean we are automatically not transcending. Do you see this?”

Interviewer: “Kind of like trying to describe a rainbow?”

Danielle: “Not exactly. You can describe a rainbow. But you cannot give the “Internal Aum!” moment that each person might feel upon seeing one. That moment transcends everything, even the rainbow. Remember what the word ‘transcend’ means, and get to really understand it, because this is so important to your spiritual life. Once you think you understand it, then know you cannot understand it. Then I will tell you where to go from there, because, strangely enough, it gets deeper and more complex to let the mind just ‘go.’

“This final level of words is ‘Z’ in my category. Here is where art comes in, and now it gets really tricky. How does one, as an artist of any type, bring their words or symbols to describe the category of ‘A’, the transcendent experience, so that the reader or viewer might have their own transcendent experience? As a poetess and authoress, how do I take the reader from ‘Z to A’? Because you see, I can’t just say, ‘Oh, go have a lifealtering experience,’ and then that would work. If it would work, I wouldn’t be necessary to this ecosystem! At least, not in an artist’s capacity!

“So, the way I approach any poem or book is that of working from Z to A. My first poetry books were titled ‘A Glimpse to Open,’ and so that is what I was describing: that these words, precisely constructed, just might help you have a transcendent moment. In the first book, there is an opening essay where I describe a transcendent moment I had after writing my own book! I titled the essay ‘Inside a Glimpse,’ because that is—if I have to use words—what it feels like for me to have a transcendent moment. It’s as though I suddenly gained a glimpse of something beyond understanding. A glimpse of something beyond a glimpse!

“My advice for young writers is to get to know their thesaurus and dictionary very, very well. The words you know help expand the options for your art. It’s that simple. Study psychology and learn how to reach the human soul. The soul, of course, being the whole body. I have been actively studying writing as an art form since I was 7 years old. You have to drop words in a precise order to bring people along, to help them to the granulated seashores of white bones and ether.”

Interviewer: “That’s really beautiful. Wow, thank you so much for your time! I think humanity would best be served if I just let you get back to writing. I do have one more question for you, though.”

Danielle: “Sure.”

Interviewer: “I made a note of a word you used earlier which I am not familiar with: ‘conduition.’ Is that a word you made up or is it real?”

Danielle: “Is there a difference? That is the word I gave you, the interviewer, to help you have your own transcendent moment. Like I said, I have been studying this my whole life. Is it real? Is it fake? Does it have meaning? You tell me. Or, you can just walk away from this interview and maybe have an ‘Internal Aum’ moment and understand/not understand. And then I know I will have done my job right.”

Interviewer: “Thank you Danielle. I believe I will do just that.”

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Movie Lover's Short Movie Reviews: Infinitely Polar Bear

by daniellestemarie Email

Anyone who knows me, or has read any of my books, knows one defining characteristic about me: I am a bipolar artist. Not only do I write the most elegant of prose for added poetic roses, I also sculpt, draw, paint, film and do martial arts. So, when this film about a bipolar man trying to keep a hold of his family came along, well, you know I was all over it. And, what a great film this was! Chloe and I both adored it. The acting, script, filming, and sensitivity towards bipolar were all extraordinary. We LOVED this one!

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Movie Lover's Short Movie Reviews: Mandy

by daniellestemarie Email

Mandy is that rare film which tells a great story whilst you, the viewer, are transported to another world where love and determination actually mean something (even if the main characters are bathed in blood). If you haven't seen the director's other film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, watch it as a way to pre-study what you will be experiencing. Phenomenal, (both) films.

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