Star Wars - The Force Awakens Review

Because the internet didn't have quite enough opinions and think pieces about the latest Star Wars film, I sat down with Rob Mitchelson to give you an hour long review of it. As always I'm much more efficient at speaking than writing so this one off podcast episode was the best way to get all the ideas out.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

We were raised by Star Wars. Many of us were also raised by parents, but to our recollection, it was Star Wars first and foremost. You’re probably a lot like us. Maybe you are part of our generation, young enough to approach the films without any cynicism. You were obliged (forced) to improvise a lightsaber to duel with, making your own sounds- The best one we ever came up with was made of a flashlight and some cellophane. You reenacted scenes, you role-played the characters in your backyard before that was a thing you were allowed to do at conventions. You might have even been blown away by finally seeing the letter-boxed editions of the tapes, catching that frog-lizard dude just on the left of the frame on the way to Jabba’s palace.
Tyler can’t remember first watching Star wars, only the feeling of having watched it for the 20th time, over and over on those VHS tapes. Imagine Tyler as a child, still somehow a beardy photographer, tucked away in a cozy cabin in the woods, staring at a tiny department store-brand television, preparing himself to be a Jedi. 
Rob had some dubs- Illegal Beta dubs, or maybe taped off the TV? Movies took decades to hit the small screen, as far as he remembers. Rob did catch Return of the Jedi in the theatre, already so very familiar with the Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but too young to realize what was waiting for him on the big screen. Despite graduating film school, and being a supposed cynical artist, Return of the Jedi remains one of his favourite films, a narrative and visual aha moment.
For people like us particularly, but for all ages of unabashed fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, the news a sequel to Star Wars was coming was secretly what we’d been hoping for all along. The theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy was fun (Technically Han didn’t shoot first, because Greedo never shot, so, Han just shot. Bad Han!), and the news of the prequel films was exciting (Rob was not auditioned for Anakin), but not exactly what you’d been wishing for. You’d probably made some foray into the extended universe, role playing games that quantified the speed of the Millennium Falcon and the size of Star Destroyers, endless comics about what Han was doing on a Thursday night between New Hope and Empire (being awesome with Chewie), and trawling the early internet for blog posts about a guy who knew a guy.
With huge expectations on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, making the movie would have been daunting. We imagine JJ Abrams pooping his pants a little, as we all collectively, metaphorically, folded our arms and said “Oh yeah?”. This is a movie which was required, in some respects, to win back our trust from “those prequels”, but at the same time fit in with them. We needed to meet old friends, but also meet new heroes to cheer for, and new bad guys to boo at. We wanted to return home, and yet be surprised. The Force Awakens seemed to walk that line.
In this podcast, we’ll discuss our new heroes, and how quickly we got to like them (pretty quickly). We’ll discuss our new villains, and particularly Kylo Ren and all of his fun-to-watch internal conflict, as well as how he compares to Darth Vader. We spend some time talking about potential character development, potential character backgrounds, and possible secrets- as well as which fan theories don’t matter (Rob even asserts we don’t care if Rey is related to another important Jedi).  We break down the mirrored storyline form A New Hope, and its hits and occasional misses (Yeah, okay, it’s MUCH bigger than the Death Star, we’ll allow it.), as well as the characters in their new roles as echoes of the original trilogy.
If you don’t have an hour, We’re both very satisfied with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It has a familiar feel, both narratively and visually to the original trilogy, it seems to have heart and yet not take itself too dangerously seriously. 
Tune in, and stay, if you like, for another 30 minutes of meta-narrative discussion too. We’re doing that 2 fingered Jedi-Mind-Trick wave to get you to listen.
- Rob

Christmas Gift Guide: 2015

If you're shopping for a special someone who is into clothes, coffee, games or photography, then I hope you'll find some inspiration in my 2015 gift guide. It's a few of my favorite items I bought this year, and a few of my most wanted.

Bread and Boxers lounge collection

Bread and Boxers basics

A long search for the perfect t-shirt finally lead me to this Swedish brand. They keep it simple and affordable, with a perfect slim fit of shirts, underwear and loungewear.

Hairo V60 Coffee Dripper

HARiO V60 COFFEE DRIPPER

Most home made coffee either tastes mediocre or is a pain to make. This elegant porcelain dripper brings out the perfect taste with minimal effort every time.

Winter accesories from Banana Republic: black scarf, hat and gloves

Gloves, toque & scarf

You didn’t get this far in life without these winter basics, but in case yours need an update you can find these beauties at Banana Republic. The best part is the leather gloves are touch screen ready.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

A hilarious and poignant book about the consequences of the public outrage on the internet. It will give you something to think about next time you feel the impulse to tell off that idiot on Twitter.

Filmish

Filmish

If you don’t have time to attend film school, or even to read the books a film school student would read, this illustrated guide will help you fast forward through the basics. 

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Swims Brogue Boots

It’s cold and wet out there and if you are tempted to throw on some giant winter boots to deal with it, there is a better way. Elegant and waterproof, these brogues will transition from slushy streets into the office. 

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Star Wars: Battlefront

Games from movies have a mixed track record but this gorgeous nostalgia nugget is exactly what I need this holiday season.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

It can be hard to find time for an RPG sometimes, but when art direction, strong narrative and open world come together like this, you make time. 

Mastin Labs Portra color film pack, film emulation presets for Lightroom

Mastin Labs: Lightroom film presets

Quit messing around with retro filters and step up up your game to professional film emulation. Each film pack might seem pricey, but they have become an indispensable part of my workflow. For a deep dive into Mastin Labs listen to episode 7 of the podcast.

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ONA camera strap

This padded leather strap from ONA is as comfortable as it is stylish. Or for something with a few less buckles, Cecilia is another great option. To hear a full discussion listen to podcast episode 34.

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Canon G7X

If the phone in your pocket isn’t quite scratching your photography itch, this compact can step up your game. It’s got tons of resolution, a quick lens and the video quality is better than I thought was possible out of a camera so small. 

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Sonos PLAY:1

If you are looking for a modern home audio solution it’s hard to beat Sonos. You get better-than-it-deserves-to-sound audio quality, streaming in as many rooms as you want, and for a reasonable price. You could probably buy a new one every Christmas. One complaint though, it could really use some aux inputs.

Packing Guide to Photography at Fashion Week

It’s hard to know just what to bring on a big trip. Last year I shared my packing list for our trip to Asia, so I thought it would be fun to update the list for our tour of fashion weeks. We were gone for 3 weeks: New York, Toronto, London and Paris. I was faced with the problem of packing just enough gear to cover all the events, but also dressing presentably enough to attend fashion events, which is harder than it sounds.

Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS,  Canon Elan 7n, 40mm f/2.8 pancake, Hamilton King Khaki II
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS,  Canon Elan 7n, 40mm f/2.8 pancake, Hamilton King Khaki II

If I haven't said it before, the Canon 5D III is the best camera I've ever worked with. It is the backbone of everything we shoot and is the gold standard I compare all new cameras too. When we shoot style photos, the 70-200mm is still the lens I trust. Because of it's length it creates beautiful focus separation with the subject and it has the range to shoot a variety of images.

To make up for the massive weight of the zoom, the 40mm pancake is a perfect complimentary wide lens.  Super sharp, light, and cheap. It never feels like a burden to carry and always amazes me with it's image quality. 

If you are a Canon shooter and have any interest in film, you really owe it to yourself to pick up an Elan 7. They are fantastically designed prosumer cameras that you can pick up for peanuts on eBay. I've had mine for over a decade and it's still going strong.

As I fall further in love with watches I can't leave out my current favourite, the Hamilton King Khaki II. Automatic ETA movement, Swiss made, with day and date complications.

Canon G7X, Contax T2, iPhone 6
Canon G7X, Contax T2, iPhone 6

Most of the travel photos from our trips end up being taken on small cameras. After carrying the giant 70-200mm for a while, it's a relief to play tourist with something light and easy. The G7x is great for it’s beautiful video quality (and vlogs!) and wifi ability. So when a photo needs a little more quality than the iPhone can provide we can transfer photos between them and post them on the go. 

Even though the quality looks similar between the iPhone and Canon on social networks, the huge advantage of the Canon is being able to crop into it's 20MP images, and shoot raw in case you capture something really amazing. 

Sadly, my beautiful Contax didn't see much action on this trip. Social media and Ania's blog were the priorities so I just couldn't wait for film. Still, I took a few and am excited to see how they turned out. 

As a photographer no one is paying attention to you and that is the way it should be. A monochrome outfit is as much about being practical as it is about style. I heard about a photographer who was new to fashion week and wore a bright orange jacket. He drove every other photographer crazy because when he was in the background of a shot, all you see it a bright orange coat. Stick to simple colors, which for me is black, white and blue.

Photographers don't need a three piece suit to to fit in at fashion events. Just keep it clean and minimal.

Frame denim jeans, COS shirt, Kenzo sweater, Bread & Boxers t-shirt
Frame denim jeans, COS shirt, Kenzo sweater, Bread & Boxers t-shirt

Here are my favorite basics I picked up along the way. Frame Denim provided some extremely soft and comfortable jeans at the presentation in NY. COS opened their first store in Toronto and I love their aesthetic. I picked up this shirt and long jacket that I wore almost every day of the trip. There is a limited selection of Kenzo items in Calgary, but in Paris they were everywhere, Ania talked me into their awesome eye print sweatshirt. I've been on the hunt for a perfect every day tee and I may have found it at Birchbox with Bread & Boxers. Finally, it rained in every city we went to you and life would have been a lot more miserable without them. This handsome little Hunter umbrella saved us again and again.

Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, wearing COS coat, Kenzo sweatshirt, Frame Denim, and Ecco shoes
Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, wearing COS coat, Kenzo sweatshirt, Frame Denim, and Ecco shoes

I'm still far from a perfect packer but I think I did pretty well on this trip. Notes for next time: bring a flash and leave one of the film bodies at home. 

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