Zach Goldberg

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ON CINEMA AND TIME

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“It’s the big element of our medium. The manipulation of time. The perception of time. The control of time. It’s kind of the building blocks of cinema. Time is a really powerful factor, but it is in all of our lives. You look at a picture of yourself when you were ten years old, stare at that for a second, then look at yourself in the mirror. That’s a powerful connection– you to that person. And we all have that.” – Richard Linklater

A powerful video essay by kogonada, with narration from filmmaker, Richard Linklater.

Thankful to be drifting through with you.

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I KNEW ROBIN WILLIAMS

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I knew Robin Williams.

Not personally. I never met the man. And, in the minutes after learning of his passing, I had to visit his Wikipedia page to recall that he left behind three children (Zak, Zelda, and Cody) and had been married three times.

I knew Robin Williams. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew him.

He also leaves behind an astounding, almost intimidating body of work. From television to the stage to the silver screen. From Mork from Ork to Popeye. From Good Morning, Vietnam to Good Will Hunting. From The Genie to Mrs. Doubtfire. From Broadway all the way to Neverland. He provided such an immense joy to my life. When I think of my childhood, Robin Williams immediately comes to mind. And when I heard he took his own life, I burst into tears.

I knew Robin Williams. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew him. I burst into tears upon hearing the news of his suicide, and it wasn’t just because his work, his beautiful work, meant the world to me.

Robin Williams lost a lifetime battle with depression. This is how I knew him. And this is why I cried.

Growing up, I struggled with depression and had an incredibly distorted view of my own self-worth. It’s hard to pinpoint when and how it happened and, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. It was there. It existed.

Film and television became my saving grace, providing context to a life I found increasingly difficult to understand. All art (on a base level) is just humans trying to forge a connection with one another or, conversely, explore why that connection sometimes doesn’t exist.

Ships passing in the night and all that.

I’m reminded of this reoccurring dream I have. I’m running through this forest and it’s almost pitch black. A dark emptiness. But it’s full of people. Everyone I know or ever have known. They’re there. I can’t see them, but I know they’re there. I catch blurs. I can almost touch them, but they’re always just out of reach.

Robin’s attempt to reach them came through his art. Through his acting. Through his stand-up. My god, his stand-up. The brilliance of it. It’s not hyperbolic when people refer to him as a “force of nature.” He was a shooting star. A supernova.

But if you go back and watch any of his performances there’s an almost indescribable sadness to Robin.  He’s always chasing something. A laugh? A smile? I’m not sure if that’s the answer. I think it’s deeper than that. He found one string to pull on, one opening, and – BOOM – off to the races, his mind working ten million times faster than yours or mine ever could.

It’s as if he needed this. It was his natural high, which I’m sure he attempted to replicate with the alcohol and the drugs over the years. He was a rocket ship shooting into outer space. But when that ship turns around and hurdles back to Earth… what then? You can’t fight gravity.

Because once the laughs stop, once the performance ends, the lights dim and the curtains close, it’s just you. You and reality. And that can be a very scary space to live in.

You know the saddest part of people declaring, “O Captain! My captain!” this week? At the end of the movie Robin, as he did in life, still has to leave.

I wish I could jump into some kind of time machine, find him, grab him and hug him. Tell him, as he told Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”

But I can’t. All I can do is remember that I knew Robin Williams and do my best to grab and hug the people that are still here. To give thanks to those who supported me through my struggles. To honor his memory by continuing to make films to maybe, just maybe, help another little boy or girl who might be going through a rough spot in their lives.

And then, when I think of my dream, I’ll remember that even if I can’t see the people through the darkness… I can certainly feel them all around me. And that it’s a beautiful feeling. That it’s enough.

I knew Robin Williams. And every time I watch one of his films or stand-ups, I’ll do my best not to cry, but to smile. Because in that moment, when he reaches me, he’s no longer dead. He’s brought back to life through my laughter. And because that connection has been made we can remember that we’re not alone. In that moment, we defeat depression.

We did it, Robin.

Thank you for everything.

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CITIZENS OF CINEMA, PART 11 – SCI-FI IN THE NUCLEAR AGE

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“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”

Welcome to the Twilight Zone: Science-fiction.

A personal favorite genre, science-fiction acted as an entry point into cinema for me. I was astounded that these questions could be asked. That these stories could be told. Mysteries of man and the universe that I had barely contemplated began to take up a substantial amount of space in my mind.

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CITIZENS OF CINEMA, PART 10 – THE MOVIE BRATS

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The 20th Century is the century of cinema.

The moving image is one of the most incredible creations of man. And I know that may sound hyperbolic for those who aren’t cinephiles, but I’m hard-pressed to think of something over the last 100 years that completely changed our culture and society in the way cinema did.

The relationship between film and life became reciprocal, each influencing one another. Yes, our world, events, and challenges inspired the films we created, but, in turn, the cinema changed our perspective in how we observe. How many times have you heard the expression, “It was just like out of a movie?” And it’s not just film. Because the moving image found a way to invade our homes as well with the advent of televisions in the mid-20th century.

We became a culture fully immersed in this new manner of visual storytelling and it truly did help form and fashion our collective narrative.

Enter “The Movie Brats.”

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CITIZENS OF CINEMA, PART 9 – ESSENTIAL

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There are some films you hear people discuss that you kind of just nod your head along to. You pay them little mind, because you expect them to be declared great and essential films.

But this cinema is essential for a reason. There’s something larger at play in these masterworks and the fingerprints of these filmmakers extend well beyond their individual films– they influence and inspire everyone that comes afterwards.

These three films won’t surprise you. They’re not deep cuts in the lexicon of cinema. But they’re three of the greatest and always warrant a return visit.

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CITIZENS OF CINEMA, PART 8 – PIONEERS

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Cinema is still a young art form, at least relative to the other great arts of the world. A few decades younger than photography and seemingly eons younger than painting and music, it’s really only been around for a little over a century.

But what a century it has been.

As with all great movements, it’s important to take a look back and reflect on the pioneers– those who paved the way for cinema to become, for me, the greatest and most emotive artistic platform for human expression.

So today, three filmmakers. Three masters. Three true citizens of cinema from around the world. Fritz Lang. Carl Dreyer. Dziga Vertov.

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CITIZENS OF CINEMA, PART 7 – THE GREAT AMERICAN MEDIA CIRCUS

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It’s all one big carnival.

While media sensationalism can be traced back further, it certainly came into its own at the end of the 19th century and reached a crescendo over the next 100 years. In an ideal world, the news media and journalism act as a fourth estate, keeping the populace well-informed in an honest and objective manner. But we don’t always live an ideal world and as the news and media industries ballooned in size and power and the need to build and sustain a larger audience grew… well, what’s the old saying?

“There’s gold in them hills.”

These three pieces of cinema rang the warning bell and, sadly, now work as a kind of signpost of where we were headed.

The carnival must go on.

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