Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, April 25, 2011

DVD - Tales From The Gimli Hospital

Tales From The Gimli Hospital is aueteur Guy Maddin's feature debut. Made in 1989, Maddin spent years watching films with his friends, and, after having made some shorts, decided to throw his hat in the feature ring. Like almost all of his films (excluding Dracula:Pages From A Virgin's Diary), there are certain autobiographical elements to the piece, and it is heavily influenced, visually, by the silent cinema. This is before his jump into faster montage style cutting, a la early Russian cinema, and is smoother and a lot less obtuse than some of his more recent work.

The story focus's on Einar The Lonely, played by frequent Maddin collaborator Kyle McCullough, who, after developing a plague like sickness, ends up in the Gimli Hospital, waiting to die. He meets Gunnar (Michael Gottli), who shares the bunk next to him, and regales the beautiful nurses with all kinds of stories. When Einar attempts to do the same, to gain the interests of the nurses, he is constantly rebuffed. As Einar gets to know Gunnar more and more, though, he realizes he has a dark and terrible connection to him.

Gimli is a great first feature from someone who learned everything he knows about story and filmmaking method from simply watching films. This was in the late 80's, so there probably weren't a whole lot of filmmaking books available, and they probably weren't easy to find in Winnipeg, Canada. Maddin keeps the story moving and is, obviously, developing his visual style, even from this extremely early point in his career. Gimli may not be the best way to start watching Maddin films, but it is definitely one of his better pieces.


I've thought for a while about how to review Suckerpunch, and now that the film is almost out of theaters, doing so seems like a bit of a waste of time. So, for future reference, I will simply say - This was the most nonsensical, ridiculous, mind numbing, draining film I have ever seen. I spent most of it wondering why ANY of it was happening, and, to be perfectly honest, the only thing that kept me awake was the sheer loudness of it.

An online reviewer, Sean Rhodes, encapsulated my feelings about Suckerpunch perfectly - It is a 14 year old boys wet dream. I only wish I had written that review first.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time Marches On

Time is something that none of us can really seem to master during our lifetime. When we're kids, everything seems to take forever. The eight hours you're at school never seem to end. Playing with your friends seems short, but then you have dinner, homework, and that weird space of time between that and being forced into bed by your parents seems like forever. As things move on, though, more responsibility is put on your plate and time seems to go faster and faster. By the time you're in your twenties, you're so busy that years have gone by and you can barely remember what happened.

I was looking for an old blog post when I came across some of the pieces I wrote back in 2008 about submitting The Definers for a Texas Film Production Fund grant. One of the posts was about sending the script to Greta Gerwig to review and see if she would be interested in signing on to play one of the leads. This was post Hannah Takes The Stairs and pre Greenberg. I honestly thought I had a decent chance. She wasn't a professional actress at that point, just doing stuff with friends, and she seemed to be interested in taking risks. I received a note from her a few weeks later expressing that she was just too busy to work on it (she was working on Swanberg's Nights and Weekends and had just gotten off of Ti West's House of the Devil, along with being in the early stages of being courted by a "Hollywood film", which I'm assuming was Greenberg).

I do wonder what things would have been like had she said yes, and had I received the TFPF grant. Obviously, The Definers wouldn't just be something in the back of my mind, a script that's gathering dust while I try and figure out how to make it. Who knows, I could get really lucky and find someone to throw some funds at it, and actually hire Greta legitimately, but... I'm not going to hold my breath...

The Limousine's "Internet Killed The Video Star"

Directed by David Dutton

Julien Mokrani & Samuel Bodin's "Batman: Ashes To Ashes"

This video contains graphic violence and some sex.

John Henry Summerour's "Sahkanaga (Trailer)"

I can't wait for this. Every since seeing his short film Chickamauga (which this feature is based on), I've been waiting to see the extended version.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reconsidering Silent Hill

This past month, Hollywood began production on a new Silent Hill film, a 3D sequel to the Christophe Gans 2006 horror/thriller. I was reading about it, and was surprised at how much bad press the original was getting. I remember seeing it in theaters and liking it (much to my surprise). I wasn't expecting much, and, honestly, I think the only reason I ended up seeing it was because a friend wanted to see it. What I remembered about it was an incredibly atmospheric and mysterious film that had a horror backbone, but felt like something more.

I recently got the DVD from Netflix (oddly you can buy it on iTunes, but not rent it), and was reminded of how much I REALLY like this film. Roger Avary's script has been heavily criticized for being vague, but... I just don't get it. There are parts where Avary almost spoon feed's you information. How can it possibly be vague? You're pretty much presented with most of the facts by the end of the film, and I think the mysteries that are left is part of what makes Silent Hill so amazing. It reminds me a lot of Kubrick's The Shining in its ambiguous nature. There are a lot of things that Kubrick never allows us answers for, and while Gans does allow us, by the end, to learn a lot of the ins and outs of the mysterious town of Silent Hill, he also leaves us with just as many questions as he does answers.

If I can make one complaint about the film, it's that the back story that is eventually given (in the form of a Super 8-esque flashback sequence) feels a little tacked on, as though the studio was like "Okay, we have to give the audience something". I feel like the back story maybe could have unfolded a little better throughout the film through little clues and meetings with other characters, but that was the choice that was made. It also feels like the whole cult angle is REALLY cliche, but it is based on a video game, and cliche tends to run rampant in video games.

For me, personally, I feel like Silent Hill has some great freak outs, some great scares, amazing atmosphere, and the building blocks of a really interesting story. Why it takes so much flack, I have no idea.