Comments on watching and making films.

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010/2011

2010. I can't say I wish it would have lasted longer. It had its ups and downs. Not as difficult as 2009, but there have been better years. I look back at my post from last year and, well, I won some, I lost some. Indefinable Orbits is shot, developed and telecined (decided not to edit on film for this one). It still needs to be edited together, so I got close to that one, but fell short just a little bit. I have written more on scripts, but haven't seen any completion on them. I ended up making PHX, though we shot about eight months before I had thought we would because of some time constraints that came about. The film is being handed over to an editor to be finished, and I hope that 2011 will see the completion of it. Canon did release the 24p firmware update for the 5D, but I haven't found myself motivated to use it for a lot of projects. I just love using film too much.

What will 2011 bring? I don't know, honestly, and the thought of sitting down and making a to do list is not one I can entertain. I don't feel like this is going to be a year to make goals, as there may be some serious shifting in my life. So, I'm just going to make a goal to do what I can, and finish what I can. Hopefully, I can achieve that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kevin Willson's "Birthday Wish" and "Chainsaw"

I don't normally post commercial's on here (actually, I never post commercials on here), but I worked on these two and am really proud of how both of them turned out. They were directed by Kevin Willson, who I really enjoyed working for.


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Chainsaw - Doritos from Kevin T. Willson on Vimeo.

Red

Red was a movie I almost didn't see in the theaters. The trailer looked cool, but everytime the chance came up to see it, I shrugged it off and went and saw something else. I did manage to make it, though, before it went out of theaters completely, and, man, am I glad I did.

Red stars Bruce Willis as Frank Moses, a retired black ops agent who has fallen in love with a case worker he regularly deals with, Sarah Ross (played by Mary-Louis Parker). When the CIA flags Frank, and tries to assassinate him in his suburban home, he kills the assassins one by one, and then takes off to try and retrieve Sarah, believing that she might be a target. The CIA, realizing their failure, and the potential mess that could ensue, puts Agent William Cooper (played by Karl Urban) on the job. Cooper is highly trained in assassination, and may be the only one who can take him down. Moses, with Sarah in hand (and freaked out), teams up with some of his old cronies - Marvin, Victoria, and Joe (played by John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman, respectively), to find out why the CIA wants him dead.

First of all, this movie is not only a top notch action film, but is also hilarious. I found myself laughing constantly. Everyone does a fantastic job at hitting all the right marks. Parker is fantastic at being the unwitting love of Willis's life, Malkovich is fantastic as a crazed weapons expert, and Mirren is just awesome. Freeman isn't in much the film, but is solid, and Urban plays a fantastic "straight man", if that is even what you can call him. Director Robert Schwentke manages to mix humor and action in a way that is completely enjoyable, never cheesy, and always natural. This film really hit it out of the park, and I can't recommend it more.

True Grit

One of the Coen Brother's biggest success tales was with veteran actor Jeff Bridges, when they teamed up to make the now classic The Big Lebowski. The team is back for another go around in a remake of the classic John Wayne western True Grit.

The film stars newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, a teenager looking to hire a bounty hunter to track down her fathers killer, a man named Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. She asks around town, and the one answer she seems to get is that US Marshall Rooster Cogburn is her man, but Cogburn (played with every ounce of crotchitiness Bridges can muster) isn't interested in this little girl's problems, until she throws some money into the mix, that is. Offering him a hundred dollars (a considerable wage for the 1800's), he agrees to take on the task of tracking down Chaney. Along the way, though, a Texas Ranger named LaBeouf (played by Matt Damon), who is also hunting Chaney joins in on the search. The problem with finding Chaney, though, is that he has gotten in with a gang of dangerous men, and finding him also means having to deal with them.

The performances in this film are rock solid. Bridges doesn't even have to try to master a roll anymore. Damon plays LaBeouf with every bit of swagger, self righteousness, and self importance you would expect a law man from Texas to have, and Steinfeld gives Mattie Ross a sense of determination that one can't question. Barry Pepper is also a welcomes site as Lucky Ned, the leader of the gang Chaney has fallen into.

So, with all of these great performances, great cinematography by frequent collaborator Roger Deakins, and a solid story based on a best selling book is this movie not everything I had hoped it would be? Don't get me wrong, it was enjoyable, and I liked it, but I was expecting to love it. The Coen's previous "Neo-Western" No Country For Old Men was a revelation, a personal best for almost everyone involved. So how is it that True Grit turned out to be a minor let down? I don't know... I'm glad I saw it, don't get me wrong, I just didn't have that sense of excitement and amazement that I usually get out of having seen something truly incredible, which is something I know the Coen's are capable of.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky has had an extremely interesting, if somewhat limited, career. He started out with the ultra-low budget PI, which got the attention of the indie film world. He followed that up with the devastating Requiem For A Dream, which garnered him critical acclaim and made the world take notice. He took years to come back with his personal pet project, The Fountain, which, while an interesting idea, couldn't stand up to his previous efforts. He came back with The Wrestler, which proved to also be a come back for its star, Mickey Rourke, and now brings us his fifth feature in 12 years, Black Swan.

Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as perfectionist ballerina, Nina. When the senior dancer of the company, played by Winona Ryder, is forced into retirement, the leader of the company, Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel) chooses Nina to be the lead in his production of The Black Swan. As Leroy challenges Nina during the rehearsal process, he brings on Lily (played by Mila Kunis), as an alternate who shakes up Nina's life. As the rehearsal process for the ballet continues, Nina's world begins to fall apart and she has a more difficult time separating reality from fiction.

Black Swan is hard to nail down. I liked the last twenty to thirty minutes of it, but the first two thirds of the film felt like a hard mess. Pretty much all of the main characters are extremely one dimensional, to a point where you get bored with them, and the only thing that keeps all of it going is the fantasies that Nina keeps having. Aranofsky borrows a lot of technique that he established in The Wrestler, but he used it to better result in that movie. The handheld cinematography doesn't work as well for this film. The neutral color pallet, though, was something that I did like. Aranofsky sticks, basically, to three colors throughout the film - white, black, and grey. There are other colors that show up every once in a while, but those three are the primary ingredients.

Ultimately, Black Swan feels like a film that can't decide what it wants to be. Is it trying to be a horror film or an intense psychological thriller? I think it spends way too much time trying to be both. What is real and what isn't? Normally, that question would be what makes for an interesting time, but in this film, it just makes things confusing and difficult to watch.

I wish I could speak better of the film, considering that I think that Aranofsky is one of our greatest directors, but I feel like Black Swan is trying to do to many different things, and not doing a great job at any of them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New screen grabs from "Indefinable Orbits"

I finally got the last footage from Indefinable Orbits transferred, and will begin editing soon. This little film (probably not more than 2 minutes) has taken me about two years to shoot because of certain shots I needed that I couldn't get right away. Anyways, still need to record the voice over, but will be working on the picture edit till then.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cam Archer Interview



Cam Archer discusses aspects of his new film Shit Year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trailer for Kurt Markus's Documentary on John Mellencamp

I'm highlighting this because it was all shot on Super 8. Love the look and feel of it. There's nothing quite like Super 8.

John Mellencamp Trailer from Rounder Records on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cyrus

The Duplass Brothers have been working steadily in independent film since they started shooting short films in the early 2000's. Their debut feature, The Puffy Chair, followed by their psuedo horror film Baghead were both highlights of the last couple of years. Their hard work has finally paid off and, with Cyrus, the Brothers move into the low budget studio territory, but still manage to keep the spirit that got them here in the first place.

John C. Reilly plays John, a guy who is looking for love as his ex-wife is about to get remarried. He meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party that his ex-wife and fiance are throwing, and the two hit it off. Molly is very secretive, though, when it comes to talking about her life. When John follows Molly home, he finds out what she's been hiding - Her grown son, Cyrus (played by Jonah Hill), still leaves with her, in a sort of time capsule single mother/son relationship. They do everything together. They're best friends, and when John starts horning in on his mother's time, Cyrus becomes jealous, and when Cyrus becomes jealous, things get weird.

Cyrus is a humorous indy, and, maybe, the Duplass Brothers best film to date. Everyone brings in a great performance, including Jonah Hill (who I've never been a huge fan of). It's not the kind of film that has you rolling around on the ground laughing, but it definitely has its great moments, especially when things escalate between John and Cyrus. The Duplass Brothers have made something super solid and funny, and have shown what studio heads seemed to forget regularly - that a funny film, or any film, really, can be made for a reasonable amount of money.

Wall Street 2 - Money Never Sleeps

Sequels that are made just for money often times end up being slap dash and horrible. Fortunately, at least in my opinion, Wall Street 2 - Money Never Sleeps, was not made for money, but rather to continue the same themes but put into the context of the current financial climate. The first film was about pure greed and the way that it was affecting normal people. This film is about the same kinds of greed, except, instead of affecting the employees of a small airline company, this Wall Street disaster effects the entire economy of the United States, as well as the lives of its protagonist's, soon to be married Jake and Winnie (played by Shia LeBouf and Carrie Mulligan).

Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas reprising his role from the first film) has just gotten out of prison and is looking to rebuild his empire. When Jake Moore, a hungry, but successful Wall Street wiz kid's firm begins to meltdown during the housing crisis of 2008, he looks to Gecko to be a mentor and tries to reunite Winnie, who just so happens to be Gecko's daughter, with Gordon, in exchange for the chance to be Gecko's right hand. Gecko, however, always has a few tricks up his sleeve, and, while he loves Winnie, he knows that gaining her forgiveness and trust back is almost impossible. Money, however, even in times of panic and insolvency, can always be made. You just have to know who's backs to step on.

I'm not an Oliver Stone fan. I don't care for most of his work, but I did love the original Wall Street. I had high hopes for this one, and, while it didn't quite hit the same mark as the original, it was still a great film. Douglas is as slimy as ever, and LeBouf finally found a great fit in the fast talking, fast thinking Jake. Carrie Mulligan feels criminally underused in this film. I would really liked to have seen more with her, but, you get what you get. Josh Brolin, as a take no prisoners banking executive, brought on the pain, and played the type of role he's best at - the relentless bully. The film will leave you thinking about the current financial climate (at least, as of 2010), and will hopefully, in coming years, leave audiences to think about, and question, the way that they do business with banks and investment firms, and making sure that they are really paying attention to what they are doing with their money and with their signatures.

It's Kind Of A Funny Story

As you get older, it often times gets harder to take movies about kids who blow out of proportion their problems as teens or young adults. Maybe it's that you're older and don't care, maybe it's that you understand that the world doesn't end tomorrow, or, maybe, it's just a case of the old "Been there, done that, people have bigger problems than you, get over it" syndrome.

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (the directing team responsible for the fantastic films Half Nelson and Sugar) bring to life the story of Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a teen on the cusp of graduating from a fairly prominent New York City school, and having a breakdown because of the pressure being put on him by parents who want him to succeed, schools that want massive amounts of his time and energy for their rigorous admissions process, and trying to keep his secret crush on his best friends girlfriend a secret, among other things. Craig decides to check himself into a mental hospital, assuming he will be there for a few hours and they will give him some medications. Instead, he's admitted for a one week mandatory stay. In the hospital, he meets various characters, most importantly Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis) who becomes somewhat of a mentor to Craig. During his time at the hospital, Craig learns from the traps that the other patients are snared in, to be himself and have confidence and courage, and to not be afraid of failure.

This film was funny, and, at times, endearing, although some things seemed a little contrived. A lot of things seemed to work out for a lot of people by the end, and I get that this is supposed to be a comedy and a fun time, and I support that, but at the same time, I feel like reality, which has always been such a high priority for Boden and Fleck, seems to be brushed to the side in favor of an "Everything is going to work out" message. Boden and Fleck do a great job of making you feel better about yourself by the time the film is over, but I also left feeling a little off because it felt like the kind of thing that Hollywood had managed to get their paws into and sink something that, probably, could have been a lot better. I don't know, though, it may have been all Fleck and Boden. Gilchrist does a fantastic job at hitting the notes of a kid with 0% confidence or courage, and Galifianakis is always fantastic. The supporting cast was pretty amazing, especially Adrian Martinez, who's straight delivery of some of the films funniest lines was spot on.

This Is It Collective's "Bad Things That Could Happen"

Bad Things That Could Happen from This Is It on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kanye West's "Runaway"



I don't really know exactly what to say about this. I love a lot of the visuals. Some of it seems a little laughable, but I'm not sure how much of that is its association with West or if it really would be laughable if it were someone else.

Will Hoffman & Daniel Mercadante's "Stoop Sitting"

Everyone Forever Now - "Stoop Sitting" from Everynone on Vimeo.

The American

Anton Corbijn is a world renowned photographer and music video director who made his first foray into feature filmmaking with the exceptional biopic Control, which follows the life of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. His follow up, a purely fictional narrative based on a novel of the same name, is The American, starring George Clooney.

The American follows a spy/assassin, Jack (played by Clooney) who is on the run from the mysterious "Swede's". He has a talent for pretty much everything, but his main game seems to be guns. A man who is, assumedly, his boss, tucks him away in a small Italian town to hide him from the Swede's, but gives him the task of building a very particular snipers rifle for a fellow assassin. While spending time in this nowhere village, Jack comes into contact with some of its inhabitants, and begins to break his rule of not getting close to anyone.

Corbijn directs a solid piece of work, extremely quiet and meditational. This is NOT Jason Bourne. If Terrence Malick ever made a spy film, The American would be it. Corbijn follows the emotions which pour over Jack's face during various points of interest in the film, and much of the action (or inaction, as it may be) is fairly subtle, as opposed to being given the modern treatment (quick cuts, lots of close ups, etc.). Clooney brings to life a carefully calculated man who is slowly unravelling in his old age.

While the film is adequate, one would most likely go into it expecting something more dynamic, and that, I think, is its shortcoming. It defies expectation, but not in a particularly good way. The marketing just didn't hit the mark. I enjoyed it, as much as I could, I suppose, but its hard when you go in expecting apple's and you get pecan's. It's not Corbijn's fault, by any means, it the studio's for mis-marketing, so I can't really blame him, or Clooney, who, like I said, did a fantastic job with the character he has to play. Overall, I would suggest the film, with the caveat of making sure people understand what it is BEFORE they watch it.

Jakob Lodwick's "The Fashion Model"

THE FASHION MODEL from Odwick on Vimeo.

Future forward

It's almost November, which means the year is coming to a close. I was looking at my entry "2009/2010" and realized that some of my predictions (or goals) had been met, some had not (though there is still time to meet said goals). I look forward to writing my "2010/2011" entry, as I see a lot of things changing in the next year, and beyond. I have a back log of film reviews to put up, and, hopefully, Indefinable Orbits (which was supposed to have been long finished by now), will be done by years end.

It has been an interesting year for me, as far as film goes. I have seen a lot of great films, shot my first feature (PHX), and have been working on several ideas. I'm currently preparing one short, Little Fox, which I am very much looking forward too, when the time comes to shoot it (definitely next year). I am hoping to both shoot and edit on 16mm. Though I shot Indefinable Orbits on 16mm, I am considering getting it transferred to HD and editing it, with a possible edit and finish on film later.

More info to come at the end of the year when I write my wrap up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let Me In

Recreating something that's amazing is not easy, and, unfortunately, that is what Hollywood tries all too often to do with amazing foreign films. Some piece of cinema from across the pond will find its way into the hearts and minds of a world audience, and Hollywood barges in and say's "Let's take this idea, stylize the heck out of it, put some gore and tits in it (if it's horror, or a lot more graphic nudity if its drama), slap a new name on it and call it our own". The only problem is, all too often, they completely miss the mark of what made the original so good. Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield fame, however, managed to push the Hollywood machine to be as close to in line with the original film Let The Right One In, as this American version, Let Me In, could be.

Let Me In is the story of a young boy, Owen, who is tortured in school and comes home to a loving mother who is, often times, rendered impotent as a parental figure due to the toll her divorce is taking on her. One evening, while playing in the courtyard of the apartment complex where they live, Owen spies an older man with a young girl moving into the apartment next to his. Eventually, they meet up in the very same courtyard. Her name is Abby. She's about his age, stand offish, and doesn't seem to be bothered that her feet are bear in the sub-freezing winter temperatures of Los Alamos, New Mexico. As time goes on, Owen and Abby begin to become friends, but a string of murders in the area are about to change both of their lives.

Let Me In is an admirable re-make. It gets some of the tone right, but it still doesn't reflect the quiet desperation that is evident in the Swedish town that the original is set in, nor does Kodi Smit-McPhee quite reach the malevolence of Kare Hedebrant in the same role. In a "no surprise there" move, Let Me In never covers the question of gender that the source material does, but if it did, Lena Leandersson definitely makes a better young child of slightly questionable gender than Chloe Moretz does. That being said, Smit-McPhee, Moretz, and Richard Jenkins as Abby's care taker, all deliver great performances in the film. The stylization tactics that Reeves uses (streak filters, very shallow depth of field, CG or overcranking for Abby's attacks and retreats, Abby's makeup effects), come off as being overkill, as the original brought the same world to life without all of those extras.

Another big problem I had was with renaming the film. Changing it to Let Me In takes all of the steam and meaning out of its original title. Let Me In could be the name of any horror or drama. Let The Right One In is so perfect because of its ties to Vampire lore. A vampire can not enter the domain of a human being without that human saying they may come in. If they do, bad things will happen to the vampire (read: death). So, "Let The Right One In" is not only important on the level of a human being having power over whether or not he/she will allow the vampire to enter the home, but it has another meaning as well with these two little children - Let the right one in, guard yourself around those who may try to do harm to you.

I'm not trying to bash Reeves. He did a great job, and, like I said, Let Me In is a very admirable remake of Let The Right One In, but ultimately, this is another case of Hollywood remaking a foreign film that doesn't need to be remade. If you haven't seen the original, I would highly recommend it. I would, actually, recommend seeing both, but if you only have time for one, definitely make it the Swedish version.

Monday, October 4, 2010

DVD - It Came From Kuchar

The Kuchar brothers are two of the most famous artists to come out of the late fifties, early sixties avant-garde film movement. Their Sins of the Fleshapoids has become a classic of that era, and while George has made, literally, hundreds of short films since that time, his brother Mike has taken it a little slower. The film, by director Jennifer M. Kroot delves both into the history of the Kuchar brothers, but also tries to discover what their modern lives are like. Kroot did an amazing job of getting George to open up about (most) of his life, while brother Mike is considerably more closed off. It's amazing to see these two guys, who are so high in the pantheon of Avant-Garde and personal cinema, still pushing forward, even in their old age, and still creating meaningful things.

Luis Gisperts "Smother"

Smother from Tristam Steinberg on Vimeo.

The Social Network

I don't feel like David Fincher has ever been a particularly zeitgeist oriented director. He's always focused more on stories that feel eternal, yet relevant. The Social Network breaks a bit of new ground for him, in that the story of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg is very now. This is a worldwide revolution that is changing day by day, hour by hour, maybe even second by second and Fincher is trying to catch lightening in a bottle by encapsulating the creation of an ever evolving thing, which, in reality, is not just Facebook, but the entire social networking platform and the internet itself.

Jesse Eisenberg, in another great role, plays Zuckerberg a nerdish malcontent who, because of a bad break up, invents a quick game called face smash, which pits the girls of Harvard against each other in a contest of who is the hottest. While this gets him in deeply hot water, it also births the idea for a new type of social networking site aimed specifically at colleges, and, originally, meant to be localized only for the school you were in. It begins a massive growth, though, and becomes a monster, and makes monsters of all involved, especially Zuckerberg.

Fincher is in perfect Fincher form, using every tool at his disposal to tell the best story possible, and, truth be told, I can not think of a single thing that didn't jive with me. Jesse Eisenberg brings a certain naivety to Zuckerberg, on one hand, and a certain amount of evil genius on the other. Andrew Garfield plays the amazingly excited, but soon ousted co-founder Eduardo Saverin who ends up fighting against Napster founder/late in the game Facebook contributor Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), resulting in him being left out in the cold, and suing Zuckerberg for a multitude of things. The film, at its core, is about how these apparatus's (specifically Facebook) come into existence, and how a simple idea can make people millions, and also drive a chasm between them that is so incredibly deep and wide, it will never be able to be closed. It made me feel bad, somewhat, for Zuckerberg's character, because he's obviously a douchebag, but he's a douchebag because he can't connect to people in a meaningful way. Odd for a guy who designed a site that is all about connection.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cheap art & Cheap Sex

Cheap art is like cheap sex.

Article by tara

Cheap art & cheap sex whittle away at your soul. They don’t give you much and they allow you to give even less. Cheap sex may not have strings but it pulls achingly at your heart over time. Cheap sex never pays off. Cheap sex may feel good at first but it feels bad much longer. Cheap sex is a transaction, not a relationship. Its tit for tat. Heavy [petting] on tit – short on tat. It’s confusing, often reckless, always thoughtless. Its of the moment (or born of the past) and not for the long haul.

Yes, cheap art is a lot like cheap sex.

Cheap art is desperate & dirty. It puts the emphasis on dollars (though few) and not on inspiration. There’s no promise of the future, only questions of now. Cheap art has no value for the consumer, little meaning to the creator – its wasted effort.

Cheap art disregards the beauty of the temptress and ignores the eye of the beholder.

No, there is no such thing as cheap art or cheap sex.

Even when you put a price tag or a limitation on them, they cost big in the long term. Art & sex are things to be valued. Cherished.

Art & sex require investment.

Commitment is putting your money where your heart is.
Kelly Diels

What is cheap – dollars & cents or careless flings – is neither art nor sex. It’s a thrill – a whim. Here today, gone tomorrow. A thrill with consequences.

When it comes to selling art, great care must be taken. Value and meaning should be considered together – never separated. Putting a low price tag on a piece of art is like donning cheap pleather pants and wondering why the guys who try to hook up with you wear Ed Hardy t-shirts.

There’s no respect. An investment requires respect, trust. You can give away art & sex for pennies on the dollar – but don’t expect much in return.

Just as you invest your soul in each brushstroke, idea, word, or touch to create your personal brand of art, you must ask the consumer – your partner – your patron – to invest. Artist & patron are lovers. They are equal halves in a relationship of great importance. The demands & responsibilities of both are great. One most hold the other accountable – gently.

If you’ve been giving yourself away, it’s time to own your worth. Time to forget cheap and look for an investment. Your art – and your body – are not toys on the shelf of a dollar store. Treat your art with respect, ask – confidently – for an investment, and never let “cheap” get in the way of your success.

Casey Affleck Nearly Broke After 'I'm Still Here' Disaster

Casey Affleck Nearly Broke After 'I'm Still Here' Disaster

Article By Will Leitch

The fiasco that is "I'm Still Here," the mock-documentary aboutJoaquin Phoenix's apparently fake meltdown over the last two years, has been all-encompassing. The film was a box-office flop: It has earned only $259,000 to date after months of pre-release hype. It's been eviscerated by critics and has been generally received as a smug movie-star kiss-off to a gossip-obsessed public.

Phoenix has taken his fair share of hits -- and he'll surely take more when he returns to David Letterman's show tonight -- but the film's true casualty might be its director, fellow actor Casey Affleck.

Affleck, also Phoenix's brother-in-law, tells The Daily Telegraphthat the two-year odyssey of making the film nearly bankrupted him and left his own career in ruins.

"Having something at stake is a great motivator and once this thing became public for me that was very helpful because there was no question: I had to see it through, no matter how long it took. I went broke. I hadn't worked for more than a year, and I was pouring money into the movie. I had to stop for a month to do The Killer Inside Me. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to finish the film - I was out of money. There was a lot at stake financially and, if we had left [the hoax] there, it would have been very damaging to Joaquin's career."

If Phoenix can survive Letterman's interrogation tonight, Hollywood seems eager to welcome him back. He has already been attached to several upcoming plum roles, including a potential Oscar-bait turn as J. Edgar Hoover's lover Clyde Tolson in Clint Eastwood's biopic "Hoover." (Leonardo DiCapriois expected to play Hoover.)

Affleck has been less fortunate. Despite receiving excellent notices for his roles in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (starring opposite Brad Pitt) and "Gone Baby Gone"(directed by his brother Ben), Affleck doesn't have quite the cache that Phoenix has. He's acted in only one film since 2007 and is currently in production on Ridley Scott's "The Kind One," about an amnesiac mob soldier. But if you saw his appearance on Jay Leno last night, it's obvious Casey is deep into damage control.

At least matters are going well for one member of Casey's family: Brother Ben is bathing in the good notices and big opening grosses for his movie "The Town," and some are even whispering that the film could be an Oscar contender. If Casey needs a career boost in the next year or two, he doesn't have to look far for help.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim was ripe for film adaptation, but its, honestly, a little surprising that someone took it up. With six volumes, Pilgrim would be VERY easy to do wrong. Enter Edgar Wright, the hotshot British director who has won the hearts of a world wide audience with the success of his previous efforts Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. When it was announced that he was taking on Pilgrim, there was the normal groans, but the consensus seemed to be that if anyone could do it, he could.

Michael Cera stars as the films titular character, Scott Pilgrim. Scott lives his life in a relative daze, wherein he is the king of his own universe, and all of his friends are simply there to reiterate how awesome he is. He plays in a band, Sex Bob-Omb with his friend Steven Stills (Mark Webber) and ex-girlfriend Kim Pine (Allison Pill). He's going out with 17 year old Knives Chau (he's 22), and living in a small studio apartment with his gay friend Wallace Wells (Kieran Kulkin). His world is turned on its head, though, when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to date Ramona, though, he has to break up with Knives. This isn't the least of his worries, though. He also has to defeat Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends, a league of pissed off guys (who happen to have super powers) that Ramona has left in her wake.

The biggest problem with adaptations is that the fans are always going to scream bloody murder if anything is changed or cut out. I've read the series, and I can tell you right now, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this film! Wright did excise some things, but I think it was definitely for the better of the film. All of the parts were cast perfectly, especially Winstead as Ramona. She is the lynch pin of the whole story, the instigator which is the cause of all of the drama. Cera plays Pilgrim with a perfect amount of absent mindedness, narcissism, and light heartedness. Wright uses the old video game motif set up in the graphic novels to amazing effect, and the special effects in the film lend themselves perfectly without being overbearing or ridiculous. Pilgrim is one of the best films of the year, and may go down as being a high point in the careers of many of its actors.

Inception

I don't hesitate to say that Christopher Nolan is easily the rightful successor to, and our generation's, Steven Spielberg. His mastery of storytelling is top notch, and while Spielberg often seems to make sacrifices and compromises to sell every bit of his films to as broad an audience as possible, Nolan seems to have gotten away with being able to avoid that. Movies like The Dark Knight, Insomnia, and Memento are uncompromisingly dark, even in their sheer genius. While Inception shouldn't strike anyone as dark, it is, without a doubt, uncompromising.

The film follows a band of, well, let's call them agents (it's never defined in the film exactly what they are). Their job is to use a complex system of gadgetry, chemicals, and their own minds to inhabit someone's dream and steal their secrets. The group is led by Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who, of course, has a complex history which most of the film hinges on. His objective is to find a legal way home so that he can visit his kids in America without being arrested upon entry for the murder of his wife (which she framed him for). He is offered a job by a mysterious Asian man (who's mind he had broken into earlier), with the promise that, upon the jobs successful completion, strings would be pulled and Cobb would get to return home legally. Cobb rallies a group of top experts to invade the mind of the heir of one of the worlds largest companies, and sets forth to do the job that will take him home.

Inception is amazing. In fact, it's beyond amazing, though I don't know what other word I could use that would really qualify just how awesome it truly is. The story is the key to it, and it's so solid, and so labyrinthine, that one barely has a chance to catch it all on the first go (the film definitely demands multiple viewings). The acting is top notch, and the effects are truly amazing. Nolan sets the bar so high with Inception, one is left to wonder if anyone will be able to top it, and if so, when will it happen?

DVD - The Brothers Warner

As time goes on, it seems like we are getting more and more little leaks about the goings on of early Hollywood. A fascinating world which has been, for almost a century, kept under a relatively tight lock and key. Historians are finally digging up the dirt, though, as studios are releasing more paper work and artifacts that paint an often times negative portrait of the movers and shakers that ran Hollywood.

The Brothers Warner is a film about four immigrant brothers who came together to try and carve out a small piece for themselves in the earliest phases of film distribution, and ended up building a studio who's legacy continues to shine bright. It discusses what each of them brought to the table, the good things that they did, and the not so good. The Brothers Warner is a well made and informative documentary, and for those of you that are interested in Hollywood history, you will enjoy this.

DVD - The Good Times Kid

Azazel Jacobs has had the pleasure of growing up with one of the most well known and respected Avant-Garde filmmakers as his father, Ken Jacobs. Now, this is not to say that The Good Times Kid is a product of nepotism by any means, or that Jacobs had some sort of advantage because of who his father is. The younger Jacobs, though, was obviously paying attention to what his father was doing, picking up pointers on filmmaking from a technical and storytelling standpoint.

The Good Times Kid stars Gerard Naranjo as Rodolfo Cano, as well as starring Jacobs as Rodolfo Cano. We'll call them Cano 1 and Cano 2 (Naranjo and Jacobs). When Cano 1 receives a notice to report for duty to the US Army, he is, understandably confused. He never signed up for the Army, nor is there a draft, so, believing he is the only Rodolfo Cano, he goes to the Army offices to straighten things out, when he meets Cano 2. Cano 1 follows Cano 2 home, finding Cano 2's girlfriend has set up a birthday party for him, which he refuses to take part in, as he's leaving her. Cano 1 invites himself into the house, and meets Diaz (played by Sara Diaz), Cano 2's girlfriend, and strikes up a relationship with her, which leads him deeper down the hole of trying to find out who this other Rodolfo Cano is.

I have no idea if there was any script involved, it seems like scenes were a loose idea that the actor's improv'd their way through. The acting was solid, though, so I can't say it was bothersome to me in any way. The story was fairly simple, and it seems as though they just used whatever things they had available to them for sets, props, etc. Most of the time, these kinds of films don't come off that great. You pretty much know that everyone involved had big plans and no resources. This film, however, didn't let it show. Everything about it was authentic enough that, even when you could tell they were utilizing what was at hand, it didn't seem like a compromise. Jacobs, Naranjo, and Diaz really created a (very small) world that the viewer could inhabit and enjoy themselves in for an hour and a half.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jakob Lodwick's "Aurora"

Aurora from Odwick on Vimeo.

Resistance Forms Against Hollywood’s 3-D Push

Interesting New York Times article on a backlash against 3D -

LOS ANGELES — A joke making the rounds online involves a pair of red and green glasses and some blurry letters that say, “If you can’t make it good, make it 3-D.”

The fans of flat film have a motto. But do they have a movement?

While Hollywood rushes dozens of 3-D movies to the screen — nearly 60 are planned in the next two years, including “Saw VII” and “Mars Needs Moms!” — a rebellion among some filmmakers and viewers has been complicating the industry’s jump into the third dimension.

It’s hard to measure the audience resistance — online complaints don’t mean much when crowds are paying the premium 3-D prices. But filmmakers are another matter, and their attitudes may tell whether Hollywood’s 3-D leap is about to hit a wall.

Several influential directors took surprisingly public potshots at the 3-D boom during the recent Comic-Con International pop culture convention in San Diego.

“When you put the glasses on, everything gets dim,” said J. J. Abrams, whose two-dimensional “Star Trek” earned $385 million at the worldwide box office for Paramount Pictures last year.

Joss Whedon, who was onstage with Mr. Abrams, said that as a viewer, “I’m totally into it. I love it.” But Mr. Whedon then said he flatly opposed a plan by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to convert “The Cabin in the Woods,” a horror film he produced but that has not yet been released, into 3-D. “What we’re hoping to do,” Mr. Whedon said, “is to be the only horror movie coming out that is not in 3-D.”

A spokesman for MGM declined to discuss “The Cabin in the Woods.” But one person who was briefed on the situation — and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the studio was in the middle of a difficult financial restructuring — said conversion remained an option.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Marvel Entertainment said that studio had not decided on two or three dimensions for “Avengers,” a superhero film Mr. Whedon is directing.

With the enormous 3-D success of “Avatar,” directed by James Cameron, followed in short order by “Alice in Wonderland,” by Tim Burton, film marketing and distribution executives have been clamoring for more digitally equipped theaters to keep 3-D movies from crowding one another off the screen.

By year’s end, there will be more than 5,000 digital screens in the United States, or 12.5 percent of the roughly 40,000 total, easing a traffic jam that has caused 3-D hits like “Clash of the Titans,” from Warner Brothers, to bump into “How to Train Your Dragon,” from DreamWorks Animation, to the disadvantage of both.

Tickets for 3-D films carry a $3 to $5 premium, and industry executives roughly estimate that 3-D pictures average an extra 20 percent at the box office. Home sales for 3-D hits like “Avatar” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” have been strong, showing they can more than hold their own when not in 3-D.

A 3-D movie can be somewhat more costly than a 2-D equivalent because it may require more elaborate cameras and shooting techniques or an additional process in the already lengthy postproduction period for effects-heavy films. But the added costs are a blip when weighed against higher ticket sales.

Behind the scenes, however, filmmakers have begun to resist production executives eager for 3-D sales. For reasons both aesthetic and practical, some directors often do not want to convert a film to 3-D or go to the trouble and expense of shooting with 3-D cameras, which are still relatively untested on big movies with complex stunts and locations.

Filmmakers like Mr. Whedon and Mr. Abrams argue that 3-D technology does little to enhance a cinematic story, while adding a lot of bother. “It hasn’t changed anything, except it’s going to make it harder to shoot,” Mr. Whedon said at Comic-Con.

In much the same spirit, Christopher Nolan recently warded off suggestions that his film “Inception,” from Warner — still No. 1 at the box office — might be converted to 3-D.

On the other hand, Michael Bay, who is shooting “Transformers 3,” appears to have agreed that his film will be at least partly in 3-D after insisting for months that the technology was not quite ready for his brand of action.

“We’ve always said it’s all about balance,” said Greg Foster, the president and chairman of Imax Filmed Entertainment, which has long counseled that some films are better in 2-D, even on giant Imax screens. “The world is catching up to that approach.”

A willingness to shoot in 3-D could persuade studio committees to approve an expensive film. But the disdain of some filmmakers for 3-D — at least in connection with their current projects — was on full display in San Diego.

Jon Favreau, speaking at Comic-Con about his coming “Cowboys & Aliens” for DreamWorks and Universal, said the idea of doing the movie in 3-D had come up, but he was not interested. Contemporary 3-D requires a digital camera, and “Westerns should only be shot on film,” Mr. Favreau said. He added: “Use the money you save to see it twice.”

Stacey Snider, the DreamWorks chief executive, said Mr. Favreau and the studios involved had mutually agreed that 3-D was not right for the film. But, she added, a discussion about 3-D was inevitable.

“It’s na├»ve to think we wouldn’t be having it on any movie that has effects, action or scale,” Ms. Snider said.

Earlier at Comic-Con, Edgar Wright, the director of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” an action-filled comic-book extravaganza from Universal, similarly said that his film would arrive in two dimensions, at regular prices.

(People briefed on Universal’s approach to the film said 3-D had been considered very briefly. It was rejected, however, partly to avoid straining what promises to be a young audience with high ticket prices, partly because the already busy look of the movie might have become overwhelming in 3-D.)

The crowds cheered, as they had in an earlier Comic-Con briefing by Chris Pirrotta and other staff members of the fan site TheOneRing.net, who assured 300 listeners that a pair of planned “Hobbit” films will not be in 3-D, based on the site’s extensive reporting.

“Out of 450 people surveyed, 450 don’t want 3D for ‘The Hobbit,’ ” a later post on the Web site said.

But in Hollywood, an executive briefed on the matter — who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate negotiations surrounding a plan to have Peter Jackson direct the “Hobbit” films — said the dimensional status of the movie remained unresolved.

Asked by phone recently whether die-hard fans would tolerate a 3-D Middle Earth, Mr. Pirrotta said, “I do believe so, as long as there was the standard version as well.”

In his own family, he said, the funny glasses can be a deal-breaker.

“My wife can’t stand 3-D.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Street art is a movement that has been brewing for some time, and probably came into consciousness, primarily, because of the mainstreaming of artist Shepard Fairey, with his Obey series, and his infamous Barack Obama "Hope" poster. Street art is generally put up hastily, because of its illegal nature, and is not meant to last in any way. It is guerilla art at its core. It is made for the purest reasons - to make art and share ideas with others. There is, generally, little if any money involved in it, as most of it is spray painted, glued, or otherwise illegally attached to various surfaces. These are secretive people, and most only want the joy of getting away with it, and having their art seen by the general public. Banksy, one of the most prominent members of this movement, and its most private, befriended a man named Thierry Guetta, who was going around and documenting these street artists and had been doing so for years. The two became acquaintances, friendly enough that Banksy agreed to let Thierry tape him, as long as his identity remained secret. It was all fun and games until it wasn't anymore, and that was when Banksy decided to turn the camera on Thierry.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is one of the most fascinating documentaries I have seen in a long time. It explores the very nature of art, whether it is inspired or simply manufactured, and who has the right to call themselves an artist. It could also start an incredible discussion on how people who think they are art aficionados, are, many times, just sheep following a herd. A very small herd, but a herd none the less. This film makes you realize that, even with the best intentions, anyone can turn into a monster while looking for their little piece of the pie. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this film to anyone who is interested in art in general, and the discussion of what makes something art. I'm not a huge fan of any of the people featured in this, but I think the questions behind why they do what they do, and how they do it, is part of what makes all of this so interesting.

Iron Man 2

Comic book films. For so long they were done so poorly, people began to shut them out completely. Remember David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? How about the Joel Schumacher directed Batman's? Or even, and I know I'll catch flak for this, the Tim Burton directed Batman's? Recently, ever since Christopher Nolan's exceptional reboot of the Batman series, and even Bryan Singer's X-Men movies (Singer, not Rattner), comic book movies have started to get better. They are more interesting, more realistic, and feel more relevant than ever before. Iron Man was a successor to the groundwork that Nolan laid down in Batman Begins, and director Jon Favreau took all of those cues to build the film into something enjoyable on almost every level. Iron Man 2, however, is a different story.

We are back with Tony Stark and company for the follow up, and this time Tony has, effectively, shut down war, seemingly, single handedly. In fact, he goes so far as to boast this during a senate trial that comprises much of the opening part of the film. We are also introduced, in the opening, to a character, Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), who is obviously after Stark and is building his own version of the miniature reactor core that Stark is using to power the Iron Man suit, and to keep himself alive. Vanko succeeds in this, and meets Stark in Monaco, where he uses the core's energy to try and kill Stark. Unsuccessful at doing so, Vanko is captured and imprisoned, but not without catching the notice of Stark's direct competitor, Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell). Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison, and throws endless amounts of money at him to build a knockoff of the Iron Man suit that Hammer can sell to the US government (since Stark is refusing to hand over his suit), but Vanko has his own plans.

Iron Man 2 is not a complete failure. It manages, at times, to entertain, but one has to wonder if Favreau really intended for the film to be as dull as it was, or if the studios tied one arm behind his back in order to try and make the film that they thought audiences wanted to see. Pretty much everyone in this film, even Robert Downey Jr., is criminally underused. Favreau seems to bring Stark back as the unapologetic, full of himself millionaire playboy, with only a tinge of the maturity we saw developing in the first film. Paltrow, as Pepper Potts, Cheadle as Rhodes, Rourke as Vanko, ALL of these people had parts that had potential for something greater than was up there on the screen. Scarlett Johansson's character, especially, felt tacked on, as if she was almost an after thought for Favreau and company.

The film failed because, unlike the first one, it was more about action and explosions than it was about character development. I'm honestly surprised they didn't throw in some boobs, just to round out all of the cliche's, but, they were gunning for the PG-13. Iron Man 2, while not the WORST it could be, is still, in my mind, one of the biggest let down's in the category of sequels to great first films. Favreau, I hope that we can blame the studio's on this one, and not you. And, if that's the case, I hope we see a director's cut that is everything many of us wanted out of this film in the first place.

Donald Miller talks Toy Story 3 and living a great story

Donald Miller, one of my favorite writers, did a three part blog series on the lessons he pulled out of Toy Story 3 on a subject he often focuses on in his own writing - Living a great story. It's the primary theme of his latest book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. The blogs are short but informative, and I encourage anybody to read them -

Toy Story 3: What We Can Learn From A Great Story -

Monday, June 14, 2010

PHX Blog - Saying goodbye is hard to do

Tonight we say goodbye to Matt. He is returning to Nashville tomorrow morning, so that he can teach summer classes at our alma mater. I was talking to Kat the other day, about how long I've known all of these guys, when I realized I have known Matt for 9 years. That's crazy, right? I remember our first semester at Watkins, when we met. My roommate at the time, Tim, became absolutely fascinated with Matt (he has always been an interesting character), and told me that I had to meet this guy. I did, and we've been friends ever since. I love Matt. I would go so far as to say that I love him like a brother. He is an amazing and creative talent. Soft spoken but focused and clear about what he wants. Thanks, Matt, for coming out, and for being a part of PHX. We will ALL miss you.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

PHX Blog - The Importance of Great People

We've been shooting, now, for six days. I have learned a lot of things, but the most important of these is how truly important it is to have amazing people to support you. My friend, Amethyst, has been the back bone of this project, taking on everything from local casting, location scouting, and scheduling, to helping to plan out menu's, and getting people and things to the places they need to be. Jeremy Adams has been the glue that has kept the project together cinematically. He is always there to talk about the shots, the quality of the performances, or whatever else may be necessary to discuss a long the way. Josh Nix is my go to guy and is always available for anything I may need him to do. Matt Christy, last but certainly not least, has been running sound, and making sure all of the things we can't hear are heard by someone. These people are a team, and they are all here to make this project happen.

This is what it feels like to not only feel like you are living your destiny, but also be supported by the amazing people who surround you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

PHX Blog - Dear Independent Filmmaker, Go screw yourself.

Permits are something that I've always had mixed feelings about. Most of the time, I feel like they are used, simply, to make money for Film Commissions that are really only helpful to big budget productions. Today, that opinion was reinforced. In talking to the Phoenix Film Commission about shooting a scene at South Mountain (a state park), I was tasked with three things -

1.) a 100 dollar fee for the permit. This is not outrageous, and seems about on par with similar shooting permits.

2.) A Ranger must be paid to be in attendance during the shoot. They are paid 30 dollars an hour, for a minimum of 3 hours. While I think this is reasonable, for the most part, I can't help but wonder if a Ranger makes even close to 30 dollars an hour when he or she is just on the job.

But here's the kicker -

3.) A One MILLION dollar certificate of insurance must be submitted in order to get the permit. Now, hold up, don't freak out. The insurance policy doesn't COST a million dollars, it's just for a million dollars. However, this doesn't come cheap. To break it down, a scene, which we can probably shoot in less than two hours, will mostly likely require a full day of insurance. A full day of a million dollar policy could cost up to a thousand dollars. I can tell you right now, a thousand dollars for two hours of time is RIDICULOUS. Now, it will probably be less, but even a few hundred dollars for a few hours is ridiculous. What is a state park in Phoenix but some (beautiful) mountains, a lot of dirt, and some scrub? Don't get me wrong, the parks are gorgeous, but how could ANYONE do a million dollars worth of damage? What is the value of dirt and scrub bushes?

On top of that, I'm left to wonder, after all of the wild fire's in California, do the State Park's have insurance? I mean, let's be honest with each other, hundreds of people, maybe even thousands of people a month come through those parks. Do they ever check all of those people to make sure they have insurance? What if their point and shoot camera explodes and a spark from it scorches half of the park? That person, more than likely, does not have personal liability insurance that covers burning down a State or National Park. I don't know of anyone that does. What if someone is injured because of something that happens in the park? Is it not the park's liability to take care of that? And yet, I don't see an insurance certificate posted on the gate's when you drive in. You can camp there for a minor fee, have a fire for a minor fee, but you can't shoot a single scene, with three crew members, two actors, no lights or other extraneous equipment, without having a million dollars worth of insurance?

EPIC FAIL Phoenix Film Commission!

PHX Update - The Power of the Postcard

PHX Update - The power of a postcard from Stewart Schuster on Vimeo.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Barry Jenkins' "Tall Enough"

Tall Enough from Strike Anywhere on Vimeo.

PHX Blog - First and Last word (at least on my end)

Yesterday, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times blog asked me if she could write a story about PHX, after finding one of the fundraiser postcards in the Phoenix Public Market (a grocery store one of my friends happens to work in). She emailed me some questions, I sent her back as detailed a response as I could to each one. The article was written, and released later that day. You can read it here, and make up your own mind about it. I will say this, though - I am doing this project because I love Phoenix. I visited there many times over the past four years, and it is an amazing place. My only hope is that that shines through in the film. For all of you that are supporting this film, whether it is through monetary donations, giving your time or talent, or simply sending your love and support while I try to overcome the seemingly impossible odds to put together an independent film with very little resources, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

DVD - The Carter

Lil Wayne is crazy. CRAZY. The Carter is a documentary about him. After watching it, you may find yourself sitting in your chair, staring forward, and wondering if someone could really live like that, and, if so, how long could they possibly survive. Dude is in his mid-twenties and it seems like he's already on the quick road to being a burnout. The Carter is a little disturbing, a little disheartening, and a lot ridiculous. Does he honestly think that not drinking alcohol is a great way to stay healthy considering all of the weed he smokes and the cough syrup he mixes in with soda and drinks? Seriously? And having sex with lots of random women? How long will it be before he catches something? Ultimately, he's living "the dream", but what it really all comes down to, is that this guy who is, supposedly, a genius, may barely make it to tomorrow unless he cleans himself up.

DVD - Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Dreams and passion can be a hard thing to balance with real life. When you're young, it's so much easier to take off and do your thing, at least for a little while. At some point, though, you either have to take flight, or accept the fact that you're dreams are grounded. This exactly what happened to the "almost-were" members of the 80's metal band Anvil, and the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil, is like a painful reminiscence of opportunities lost, but it's also a great story about the human spirits ability to endure when someone is passionate about something.

The story goes something like this - Back in the 70's, during the cold winters of Canada, two friends, Robb and Steve, decided they would create a rock band, and vowed to rock forever. Anvil was born, and the band toured relentlessly, becoming known by thousands along with other bands like Metallica, Megadeath, Judas Priest, and other denizens of Heavy Metal. Fast forward thirty some-odd years, and the members of Anvil are working day jobs in Canada, and playing the occasional gig, while their other contemporaries are millionaire rock stars. Steve and Robb, after realizing that people DO remember them from back in the day (with the help of a lot of name dropping by people like Slash and Lars Ulrich), decide they want to take the band back out on the road, and record a new record.

Anvil:The Story of Anvil shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of being friends, being in a band, and being older men with responsibilities. All of these things combine to add an unbearable weight on both the band, and everyone associated with them. But, I think what is amazing about this story is the resilience these guys show about their dream. As an artist, the one thing you crave the most is the recognition of others, and, although they get it from some of their peers, they are so incredibly unknown by the general public, it's almost laughable, but they keep pushing forward. They really do live up to that promise of rocking forever, no matter what. Anvil is inspirational in its tale of people not willing to give up, but its also a very real tale of the consequences of such dedication.

Monday, May 3, 2010

PHX Blog - Kickstarter is officially launched!

The Kickstarter is officially going for PHX. You can see the page here. Please consider checking it out, and if you believe in independent film, please donate to the project. This film is as independent as it gets. No studios, no producers, no middle men. Just a script, some actors, and a very small but dedicated crew who believes in what we're doing.

Also, if you're on any social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), please consider spreading the word about this project to the people that follow you, are friends with you, etc. You never know when someone might see a project they are interested in, and decide to donate.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

PHX Blog - How Telecine destroyed my chance of shooting film

My number one goal in my "professional" filmmaking career has been to shoot everything I could on film. Let's be honest with each other, film will not always be around. It has another ten to twenty years before the monster that is digital will probably swallow it up. Don't get me wrong, I would like to see film around for, at least, the rest of my lifetime, if not beyond. There is something truly magical about it, and that is why I desperately wanted to shoot PHX on film, more specifically Super 8 Ektachrome 100D and Vision 2 200T. So why couldn't I? Well, with the budget I have, affording the film was no problem. The developing wasn't really an issue either, as it would be about the same cost. What killed it? Telecine.

For those of you that are somewhat unfamiliar with what Telecine is, it's actually quite simple. A Telecine machine scans each frame of film, and converts it to a digital video signal to be put onto tape or hard drive in order to edit on a computer. Most telecines are now HD capable, but there are very few that are capable of doing Super 8 in HD. After having called this handful of places and talking to folks at each one, and getting transfer rates and attempting to talk people down (quite unsuccessfully), I realized that the dream of doing this project, with the money available, was over.

The breakdown was simple - The industry standard rate for Super 8 transfer seems to be 3:1, which means for every hour of film you have, you are charged for three hours of Telecine. Now, most places that run standard definition (SD) Telecine's, will give you a 1.5:1 transfer, especially if they just throw it up on the machine and let it go (no color correction at all), but I couldn't get any of the places I called to give me a break, except one - Frame Discreet, in Canada. Unfortunately, though, the break they ultimately were willing to give me was still a little too expensive for the budget. Can you imagine if my only choice was some of these other guys? Figure, roughly, eight hours of footage, at 3:1, and a rate of 300 dollars an hour. Got your number? Needless to say, that's more than the whole budget of my film.

It was a tough decision to make, but, in the end, I had to go HD. We just don't have enough money, or time to go back and reshoot anything that might get messed up, to shoot on film. It's unfortunate, and I hate it, but, it's what's best for the project. Maybe if this one does good, we can do film for the next one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

DVD - Even Dwarf's Started Small

Werner Herzog has always been considered two things - a maverick, and a crazy lunatic. Once you know that, his whole body of work somehow makes a lot more sense. I don't know what to tell you about Even Dwarf's Started Small. I enjoyed it. It's crazy. It seems beyond real, as though it were shot as a documentary in some other dimension, instead of being a fictional film. It's an interesting study in malevolence and rebellion on the part of individuals who are being forced to live in an institutional setting, and how, often times, rebellion can get out of hand. That's about it, really. This is just one of those ones you have to check out for yourself.

DVD - Downloading Nancy

Not all films are meant to be mindless entertainment. Some filmmakers transcend the trappings of Hollywood and decide that, instead of making a movie like Transformers, they are going to make something that explores the human condition, hopefully without judgement, in order to shed light on the way we act and react to our world, and how we can improve the way we do both of those things. Johan Renck has done exactly that with his feature film Downloading Nancy, which explores the life of a person who's very essence has been shattered from a young age, and how her needs and wants effect those around her.

Maria Bello, in what may be one of her best roles (although it's neck and neck with her role in A History of Violence), plays the title role of Nancy, a woman who was heavily abused as a child, and because of that abuse, has been twisted in such a way that abuse is the only way she knows how to feel love. Her husband, Albert (played by Rufus Sewell), can not understand her needs, and refuses to give into her constant bating. He almost has to steel himself against her, so as not to give into the physical abuse she craves so much. By the time the audience joins the story, Nancy has met someone online, a man named Louis (played to stunning perfection by Jason Patric), whom she has contracted to meet her in a far away town, abuse her, and, eventually, kill her. The film follows Nancy, her run-ins with her husband and her counselor, her self-destruction, her death, and Louis's confrontations with Albert.

Renck gives the film an ominous cleanliness, and a blue tone, that makes you feel as though you are in a sterile, hospital like environment the whole time. His production design is painfully middle American, and you can almost sympathize with Nancy for putting up with such a drab existence for such a long time. Maria Bello brings this character to life in such a way that, I, as an audience member, felt so much empathy for her, that even though I would never want anyone to kill themselves, I felt like I just wanted her to have what she wanted so badly - A way out. Rufus Sewell is both reserved and explosive in his role, balancing the two in a high wire act that makes me believe this is a guy who has more talent than he, often times, lets on, and Jason Patric is devastating as a man who grows to love Nancy so much that he will make the ultimate sacrifice to give her what she wants.

I really liked this film. It seemed to be heavily panned when it was doing the festival circuit, and barely saw any kind of release, but this is just one of those films. It's not for everyone. You have to be okay with being taken places that you may not want to go too, or shown things you may not want to see or agree with if your going to get anything out of it.

Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men, discusses shooting the series on film

QUESTION: Why did you want to produce Mad Men on film?
WEINER: It's the aesthetics. I've now come to realize, and I think that they proved this technologically, that a sampling of the world that goes on in film at 24 frames per second has been perfected to produce a lifelike experience, the way that you would see it with your eyes. There's nothing that competes with it. I can tell the difference, and until I can't tell the difference (between film and video), I will stay with film. Also, I don't think the great cinematographers are comfortable working with video. They don't get the looks and blacks they want. There is rigidness to working in video, maybe because it doesn't have the chemical elements. It's just not the same thing. When I shot my $10,000 movie, I shot it on (KODAK) Plus-X and Tri-X 16 mm film. Working with film made a huge difference.

DVD - Alexander The Last

Joe Swanberg, like many of his contemporaries and many auteurs from the 1970's golden age of filmmaking, tends to focus on smaller stories about people and their intimate problems, and his newest film, Alexander The Last, is no different.

The film focuses on the relationship between two actors, Alex (played by Jess Weixler) and Jamie (played by Barlow Jacobs). The two are working on a play together, and Alex allows Jamie to crash on her couch while her husband, Eliott, is on tour with his band. She enjoys the company, and insists on setting Jamie up with her sister, Hellen. When things get serious between Hellen and Jamie, though, Alex realizes she has feelings for Jamie, which is a triple threat because 1) She's married, 2) She's in love with her sister's boyfriend (after she set them up), and 3) They're starring in a play together that is very sexually charged, and they are, therefore, very close to each other, in rehearsals, at all times.

Alexander The Last is a good film, but, ultimately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Hannah Takes The Stairs or Nights and Weekends. Maybe its the chemistry that he built with the star of both of those films, Greta Gerwig (who was also a collaborator in the writing and directing process), or maybe it was the over simplicity of the story. It feels like everything in this film is laid out from the very start, and you instantaneously know, from the beginning, where he is going with all of this.

Justin Rice stands out in his role, having made steps to better himself as an actor since his debut in Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation (which he did a pretty good job in. If he ever decides to not be a musician, he could have an acting career ahead of him). Jess Weixler and Amy Seimetz are also great as the two sisters her always on an edge of love and hate with each other. Jacobs, as Jamie, seemed to closed off for a film that is so intimate and so about the internal goings on of its characters. It's not that he did a bad job, but I'm not sure he was completely right for the part, or, maybe the part wasn't right for him.