Comments on watching and making films.

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.