Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Strangers On A Train

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Strangers On A Train is one of Hitchcock's best psychological thrillers. Farley Granger stars as Guy Haines, a tennis star, who meets the mysterious Bruno Antony (played by Robert Walker) on a train. Guy is in the midst of a love triangle, which Bruno knows about through tabloid magazines, and Bruno tries to entice Guy into a plot in which he will kill Guy's wife, if Guy kills Bruno's father. They both get what they want, the people in their lives that are holding them back are out of the picture. Guy, thinking it all a joke, laughs it off, and tells Bruno he's in, not realizing that Bruno goes through with his part of the plan. Now Guy must either kill Bruno's father, or go to jail for the murder of his wife.

Expertly constructed, Strangers On A Train is one Hitchcock film that is not to be missed. You can tell Hitchcock went all out on designing great shots to have, including one that takes place in the reflection of a pair of glasses. With large set pieces, including a major tennis match and a carnival, and a pretty amazing performance by Walker as a psychotic in sheeps clothing, the film is a classic. 

Django Unchained

Tarantino is one of the most contested directors of this time, and he leaves plenty of room for upset with his new film, Django Unchained. Spike Lee, in fact, who admits to not having seen the film, has already lambasted it. To him, and others, I can only say - chill out. I saw this film with a very heavily mixed audience, and the one thing I can say about it is this - We all sat in that theater, for almost three hours mind you, and laughed at the same jokes, jumped in our seats at the same surprises, and cheered for the same good guy(s).

I don't think that Django Unchained, the story of a slave set free by a bounty hunter in exchange for help with capturing some pretty awful people, has an ounce of inflammatory filmmaking in it. It is Tarantino at what he does best - Pulp Fiction (conveniently the title of one of his films). It's funny, it's violent, it's action packed, and in the end, (SPOILER ALERT) the good guy wins.

I had a lot of fun watching this, and everyone else who was there had a lot of fun watching it. It's a great movie. One of my favorites of 2012.

Blackmail and Murder! Double Feature

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Most average American's don't realize the fact that Alfred Hitchcock's career began in the silent cinema in England. The Belcourt showed two of his early sound films, Blackmail and Murder!. Both are fairly simple stories, Blackmail is about a woman who accidentally murders a man who is trying to take advantage of her. She runs from the scene, but not without a panhandler seeing her. She thinks she may have gotten away with it, with the help of her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, but soon enough, the panhandler reappears, and he wants compensation to keep his mouth shut. Murder! feels like it may have been a partial inspiration for Twelve Angry Men. A woman is found murdered, most likely by the hand of her dazed and confused roommate. Even though he caves to the pressure, and votes her guilty, one of the members of the jury believes her to be innocent, and sets out on a quest to prove it.

I'm not a huge fan of pre-war filmmaking. I know that's sacrilege, but the era these are from is especially awful because, with the advent of sound technology, filmmakers literally had to redefine the way they made films. Everything seems clunky about them - the dialogue, the acting, the way that they're edited together. Both of them have good moments, but, as a whole, are a little difficult to watch.

Rear Window

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Rear Window is kind of amazing in that it almost pre-supposes things like reality TV. The whole premise of the movie is based on how much people are fascinated with other people's "normal" lives. Jimmy Stewart plays LB Jefferies, a photographer who has been injured and laid up in his apartment. He spends all of his time in a wheelchair, watching the lives of his neighbors, through their windows. One day, though, he thinks that he might have witnessed one of the neighbors, a man by the name of Thorwald (played by Raymond Burr) murder their wife.

Hitchcock does an amazing job at giving you the run around here. Most of the time, you're not quite sure whether Thorwald did it or not. Every time Jefferies seems to come up with some bit of evidence against him, there's evidence that say's he didn't do it. The more obsessed Jefferies becomes, the cloudier things get. I think it's an interesting comment, too, that he gets his girlfriend and nurse involved in the spying. They are both hesitant, at first, but eventually fall into the paranoia, much like a show like Honey Boo-Boo will start off with a few watchers, and balloon based on how many crazy and stupid things that little girl and her family can cram into an episode.


NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Rope is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I had seen it years and years ago on DVD, but had always wanted to see it on the big screen. Rope is the story of two post college grads, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger), upper crust society types, who decide to try and commit the perfect murder by killing a "lesser" friend of theirs, right before a party in which his parents and girlfriend are some of the guests. They stuff his body into a large trunk that sits in the very living room they are entertaining their guests in. But the two can't seem to keep it together. Between Brandon's "it's written all over my face" non-gloating, and Phillip's paranoia, they tip off one of the party guests, Rupert (played by Jimmy Stewart) that something is wrong.

Rope was based on a stage play, and, I would imagine, is even more suspenseful in that arena. However, Hitchcock does a pretty amazing job at mining every bit of suspense and awkwardness that he can from the film. Often times thought of as one of Hitch's lesser films because of it's "single take" set up, the lack of cuts actually helps to keep the feel of watching a live play.


Looking back on this year, it has been more than I had assumed possible, I suppose. In 2012, a few major things happened -

- I paid off the initial production costs for PHX
- We achieved a solid second pass of PHX that will, hopefully soon, become a very close to completed third pass of the film
- I edited a lot of stuff, improving my skills, and finally had enough pieces I felt confidant about to build an editing reel
- I got to shoot with Rhys Darby at Bonnarroo for five days
- My friend Jeremy Adams and I began to shoot a short documentary on Nashville artist Herb Williams, which I hope will be coming out soon in the new year

Most of all, though, I feel like I graduated this year. I feel like, with the experience that has been afforded me, I can say that I'm an editor and a shooter. I still have things to learn and more experience will only make me better, but, it was kind of like the realization of finally being able to call myself a director after PHX was shot. I feel like I'm finally "growing up", so to speak.

What does 2013 hold? Well, as stated above, the release of that Herb Williams doc. Also, I'm really hoping for PHX to be finished. We have some technical and financial hurtles to pass through, but we're still moving forward. Jeremy and I will also be shooting another piece in Seattle in February, and have a couple of more ideas on the slate. I finished the first draft of Midway Park, and will be revising that, as time allows. Could we possibly be shooting Midway Park by the end of the year? Who knows... Anything could happen, but that would be pretty awesome!

Ultimately, though, what I hope 2013 holds is this - I want to make films, become better at what I do, and have fun doing it (and, making good money at it would be nice, as well).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Loneliest Planet

Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet is an incredibly subtle piece of filmmaking. At times, too subtle for its own good, but, for the most part it works. Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg play a young couple who are traveling through an area of the world that used to be part of the Eastern Bloc countries. They hire a guide to lead them across the wilderness, and, like life, on a long enough time line, things go wrong, and test their relationship to its limits.

The Loneliest Planet is beautifully shot, though some of those shots, specifically the extremely wide ones of the characters walking across vast expanses, seem like filler. The acting is first rate. I never had a moment where I didn't buy these characters as who they were, and, while it is admirable that Loktev stuck with the reality of trips like that - Lots of hiking, which, after a while can be really boring - It sometimes makes the film a little boring. I had a full range of emotions while watching this film, from intrigued, to sad, to angry, to bored, to amazed. I would say The Loneliest Planet isn't perfect, but it's still pretty amazing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Also working on -

An, as of yet, untitled short documentary on artist Herb Williams, with my friend Jeremy Adams. He's shooting, I'm editing. We also have several more in the works. Good to be busy.

Above is a non color corrected screen grab from the raw footage.

Midway Park - Update

I'm almost 60 pages into the first draft. Pretty excited about it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Sessions

The Sessions is a rare and amazing film that I think too few people will get a chance to experience in the theater, either because it's not available where they are, or they are too shy to go see it because of its subject matter. The story centers around poet and journalist Mark O'Brien (played by John Hawkes), who has a disfunction that has robbed him of the use of his muscles and keeps him in an Iron Lung most of the time. After doing a story on sex and the handicapped, Mark decides that he wants to try and have sex, to see if it is something he can do and enjoy. With the blessing of his confidant, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), he hires a sex surrogate, Cheryl, played by Helen Hunt.

The Sessions approaches its subject matter with a certain dignity and respectful nature, being sure to simply tell the story how it is, and not try and stoke the audience into feeling sorry for O'Brien. I think that is one of the things I liked most about it - They never went for any kind of cheap sympathy, or tried to make you cry, director Ben Lewin simply told the story of a man seeking help to feel whole, while still trying to stay connected to, and honor, the traditions he holds dear.

I really enjoyed this film, and I really hope people take a chance to see it. It really is something special.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly is a great mix of those 1970's small time gangster pictures, and a more modern cinematic aesthetic. Directed by Andrew Dominik, whose previous film The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, was a stroke of cinematic genius, Killing Them Softly reteams him with star Brad Pitt, who plays Jackie, an enforcer who has to set things straight when a couple of low level doofus's knock over one of the mob's card games.

Pretty much everyone turns in a great performance in this movie, which is overtly about America and its seedy reality, but, is in a smaller way about growing old and tired. Again, the cinematography is gorgeous, the editing flawless, and the story is fantastic.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

To be perfectly honest, if this film would not have been directed by David O. Russell, I would have never gone to it. Early trailers made it look like stereotypical romantic comedy fodder, but, later trailers, and the knowledge of Russell as director, changed my mind.

Silver Linings Playbook is the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man who has just been pulled out of the state mental hospital by his mother, to come home and be with his family again. Pat has had a difficult past, mainly stemming from his bi-polar disorder, but feels positive about where he is. So positive, in fact, that he hopes to win over his estranged wife Nikki. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) at a dinner, and enlists her help to try and get Nikki back, although she's clearly in love with him. She has emotional problems, as well, stemming from the sudden death of her husband. Together, the two make a life conquering, dysfunctional team, that attempt to get things back to some semblance of happiness for each other.

Cooper is pretty good in this film, and goes to further prove, he's not just the guy from The Hangover. Jennifer Lawrence is at her crazy/sexy best. Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver play Pat's mother and father, and are fantastic. The biggest surprise here, though, was Chris Tucker as Danny, Pat's friend from the mental institute. Tucker actually gets to act here, as opposed to being Rush Hour Chris Tucker, and he does a really good job. Hoping to see him in more stuff soon.

This film was better than I expected. It was fun, meaningful, and I think David O. Russell is hitting that Soderbergh stride of being able to produce amazing independent style films, and larger budget Hollywood fare.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I was talking to a friend the other day about Spielberg and how his career trajectory has changed. In the beginning, he made really well crafted audience pleasers. Nowadays, he seems to split his time between those well crafted audience pleasers (Tin Tin and War Horse being his most recent) and making equally well crafted passion projects, like his latest film, Lincoln. The problem with the latter type of project, the one made from passion, is that, while they are well crafted, they are often times the kind of movies I like to call "One and Done". In other words, you see them once, it was enjoyable enough for you to not want to leave, and then you never have any interest in seeing it again.

While the performances were commendable, the cinematography outstanding (though, in my opinion, not as inspired as many have written), and the writing well done, Lincoln is, ultimately, kind of mediocre. While the events it covers are definitely important events in the history of America, and even the world, ultimately, it's two hours of guys arguing with each other. Honestly, the conflict of Joseph Gordon Levitt's Robert Todd Lincoln, who wanted to join the Union, but his mother and father were against it, is the closest thing the film really comes to having an interesting story.

I like Spielberg's stuff, and I think he is still a valid and creative filmmaker, but, for me, Lincoln joins the likes of Munich, War of the Worlds, and The Terminal, as a somewhat mediocre film from a filmmaker who is the standard bearer in Hollywood.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Holy Motors

My attitude towards this film is as follows - There was some really cool visual stuff in there. Things I've never seen before. I'm glad I had a chance to see it. Other than that, I really don't know what else to say.

If you don't like "experimental" films, I would recommend you don't see this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I'm a huge fan of Robert Zemeckis, or, at least I was until he started doing all of the 3D animation work in the 2000's. I've never cared for that type of animation, and the stories were all kid's tales, so my love affair with Zemeckis took a hiatus. I still left a light on for the man, mind you. How can you not, when you're talking about the man who made the movie that got you interested in making movies? (Forest Gump, for those who haven't read it here before). I'm glad I did leave that candle burning, because he finally came back from the dark side, so to speak, with Flight, his first live action film in close to a decade.

Flight tells the story of commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker, an alcoholic, drug using, out of control divorcee. In fact, we meet Whip in the opening scene of Flight in a dirty hotel room, a naked woman at his side, empty beer and liquor bottles everywhere, as well as drug paraphernalia. Whip goes from this, to flying a plane in a matter of a few hours, a job which he is OBVIOUSLY not in good enough physical or mental shape to take on. The plane takes a dive, and Whip, somehow, manages to crash land it successfully, with a very minimal loss of life. He's praised as a hero, until the evidence starts stacking up against him.

Flight isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it immensely, and, for a director who hasn't been in the live action arena for a long time, I thought Zemeckis's come back was as much as I could have hoped for. The cinematography didn't feel as clean as most Zemeckis films do, but I liked it a lot. Washington is always great when he's put into a great role, and Don Cheadle was awesome, as well, as Whitaker's lawyer. My only two complaints would be the subplot where Whitaker falls in love with a recovering junkie he meets in the hospital, which feels like it was never taken to its necessary conclusion, and, really, could have just been stripped away completely, and John Goodman's drug dealer character. I love John Goodman, don't get me wrong, but this dude just seemed way to over the top, especially for his age. His flamboyance just came off as fake to me.

Two very minor things, though, in a comeback film that leaves me wanting a lot more from a filmmaker that I can't seem to get enough of.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recent Work

Second Harvest Food Bank, Middle Tennessee from Stewart Schuster on Vimeo.

This is a video I recently edited for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Cinematography by Jeremy Adams.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (w/Commentary by Rifftrax)

This was a special screening of Birdemic at the Belcourt, with the fella's from Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the house. I can tell you that, like The Room, having some kind of commentary or group that can make you laugh through this is an absolute necessity for this film. Birdemic is SO BAD that to have to watch it, by itself, is more of a punishment than anything else. What's wrong with it? EVERYTHING. It is, genuinely, one of the worst movies ever made, and I don't mean in that "So bad it's good" way either. It's just bad.

Philip Bloom's "Ponte Tower"

Ponte Tower from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Seven Psychopaths

It wasn't easy to buy the ticket for this one. To be honest, it didn't seem very funny, and, with it's ensemble cast, not having that funny of a trailer seems like a death sentence in my mind. However, I really enjoyed writer/director Martin McDonagh's previous feature In Bruges. Seven Psychopaths tells the story of Marty, a Hollywood screenwriter played by Colin Farrell, who is trying to write a screenplay based on a title he has already sold. He reluctantly turns to his friend, Billy, played by Sam Rockwell, for help with the script, and gets caught up in Billy's criminal enterprise of stealing peoples dogs, and then returning them for the reward. When Billy steals the wrong dog, though, Billy, his business partner Hans (Christopher Walken), and Marty get on the wrong side of the dogs owner, Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson.

While Psychopaths doesn't live up to its predecessor, it still has its funny moments. I think part of my problem with it is that it is very self aware when it comes to the writing process, and tries to be clever about it, but just ends up being obvious.


I don't really even know how to describe Samsara, director Ron Fricke's documentary slice of life on an international scale. It takes us to places we've never been, and probably will NEVER go, and does so in a way that exudes the kind of cinematic beauty that is rare because it almost necessitates not being connected to any sort of narrative. Samsara has a narrative, I suppose, in the sense that is a story about the world, both good and bad. The 70mm cinematography is colorful and larger than life, and so are the people, ceremonies, and landscapes of the film. A must see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I never saw Stallone's Judge Dredd film when I was a kid. I've always heard it's pretty awful, so I never really bothered with it. I had heard this one, though, was much more faithful to the source material. Seeing the previews, though, did not make me excited to jump on the band wagon for this, though, so I thought I'd take a chance to see if it would show up at my local dollar theater, and it did. For two bucks, I have to say, it wasn't bad. The plot is pretty simple - Karl Urban plays Dredd, a Judge in Mega City One, who, along with rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), is dispatched to Peach Trees, a housing tower that is ruled by Ma Ma (Lena Headey). Ma Ma and her gang have turned Peach Trees into the central hub for the production of a new drug that will bring them incredible power and money. When they find out that Dredd and Anderson have captured a high ranking gang member, they lock down Peach Trees, and dispatch the remaining gang members to kill the two Judges. Dredd and Anderson have to fight their way up the tower to Ma Ma, to end her reign of terror.

Dredd is what it is. I feel like it borrows its style, heavily, from 80's classics like Terminator and Blade Runner, and, had Dredd been released back then, it might be a classic. Now, however, it feels like an homage that is a special effects showcase. That, in my experience, never makes for a good film. Not that Dredd was bad, it just didn't feel like anything special.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man is Malik Bendjelloul's fascinating documentary on the musician known only as Rodriguez. A young man who released two albums in the late sixtie's/early seventies, that went absolutely nowhere in his home country of the USA, but became smash hits (unbeknownst to Rodriguez or anyone else associated with him) in apartheid era South Africa. To give away too much more information starts to chip away at the documentary itself, so I will simply say that it's a great and uplifting documentary and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In The Family

Patrick Wang's In The Family is, in my mind, the most complete film I have ever seen. The film takes place in a small Tennessee town, and centers around Wang as Joey, a contractor, who lives with his partner Cody (Trevor St. John) and Cody's biological son, Chip (Sebastian Banes). When Cody is killed in an accident, an outdated will is brought to light that leaves legal guardianship of the young Chip in the hands of Cody's sister, Eileen (Kelly McAndrew) and her husband Dave (Peter Hermann). Joey spends the majority of the film trying to get Chip, whom he considers his own son, back, fighting Eileen and Dave, who, previously were hospitable to him, but are now cutting him completely out of the boys life.

The amazing thing about In The Family, is that it hits on a lot of issues that the Homosexual community is facing right now, including hospital visitation rights, property rights, benefits, etc., and does so in a way that doesn't beat it over your head or poke you in the side and go - "See! See!". It simply tells a story and gets you to empathize with the character of Joey, who is a really stand up guy and who loves Chip the way a man who made a choice to take on the mantle of being this child's father would.

I encourage people to watch this. I really do. It's probably one of the best independent movies I've seen in a long time, and I really think it is life affirming. When we move past fear and hate, and into love, we can do so much more in this world.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Midway Park - The Beginning

I sent a letter out to a handful of local filmmakers I know, asking for help to create a new project while PHX is being finished. I didn't do a very good job of chronicling PHX, at least not publicly, so I want to do a better job with this project, tentatively titled Midway Park. I'm hoping that this letter will mark the real beginning of a real project that will follow up PHX -

This past week I had a Twitter exchange with Joe Swanberg. For those of you that don't know who Joe is, he is an indie filmmaker that has made about ten features since 2005 and also a couple of shorts. He announced on Twitter that he had yet another film coming out that was going to premier at AFI Fest, to which I tweeted back to him - "How do you find the time/money to be so consistently releasing stuff?". His reply was "Treat it like your 9-5 job and put the films on credit cards. Avoid industry bullshit and wastes of time". 

PHX has been under the knife, so to speak, for the last year, but it is coming VERY close to being finished. Unfortunately, though, there isn't much I can do, as the jobs that are left to be done are for other people (the final cut needs to be finished, the sound mixed, the color graded, etc), so, in the mean time, instead of sitting on my hands, I have decided to take one of the more simple ideas that has been kicking around in my head for a long time, and make it.

The last two years, for me, have been absent of a lot of joy, first because of the general experience I had making PHX, and second, because of the fact that I felt pressured by outside forces (mainly my parents) to not make anything until PHX was finished. The only problem with that is, PHX is out of my hands. As I said before, the  work that needs to be done on it is now in the realm of other individuals, whose talents are best suited for the job at hand. So I need to busy myself doing the things that I can best do, which is making something.

Midway Park is the name of this new project. It is the story of a soon to be college graduate, who returns to his small town after three and a half years away, to find that someone with a grudge is making it their mission to take revenge on him. It is inspired by the classic western High Noon, and is a story about how, sometimes, doing the right thing can, potentially, cost you your life. I have just finished the outline of it, and will now begin to work on translating that outline to a script.

In order to bring this from the pages of my notebook to the screen, though, I'm going to need help, and that is why I'm emailing you today. This is not me asking for money. This is me asking for your help. As many of you know, it takes a lot of manpower to put something like this together, and I am hoping to not make a lot of the same mistakes I did onPHX. Here are some of my more immediate needs, if you can help, or know anyone that can - 

Producer - I need a Producer. I didn't have one on PHX, and it would have saved me an INFINITE amount of hassle. If you, or anyone you know would like to step in and help to pull together the logistics end of this project, I need that help.

Script - I am going to begin translating the outline I have been working on into a script. One thing that has always been helpful to me is to have people who can read the script, and give me feedback. Is it realistic? Does it seem natural? Do the scenes make sense? Are they necessary? I have a reason to write down everything I do, but that doesn't mean it works. Having some additional eyes on it is always good.

Actors - I'm going to need actors, and, to be honest with you, I don't know anyone who acts in Nashville that is of the age that I'm looking for. The main characters are all in their early twenties, so, these are mainly kids that aren't even out of college yet. If you know of any actors that age, or know of any acting groups that have people that age, let me know. I would REALLY like to start looking into this as soon as possible, as I would like more time to work with the actors than I had on PHX.

Locations - Location-wise, things are pretty simple, but there's kind of a caveat. I want to shoot everything in East Nashville/Madison, so that it genuinely looks like a small town. Any locations that would be outside of this area (in real life), have to look like they belong in this area. That being said, we're looking at two houses, one a bit larger, preferably older, that the main characters family resides in. The other being something smaller, something that could be passed off as a "newer" couples home, in other words a first or starter home. We're also looking for a dorm room, the exterior of a University (which we could probably just steal from Vanderbilt or Lipscomb), a Police station, a Gun store, and a baseball field (preferably connected to a larger park or school). Their may be additional locations to follow, depending on how the script goes.

That's it for right now. I want to keep this train going. I don't want to walk into a festival with PHX and have someone ask me "What's next?" and my response is scratching my head. If I can walk into that situation and say "Well, we're about to shoot (or have already shot) another film" it's going to be huge. One thing I've learned from Joe is this - You have to keep that ball rolling. Don't stop. Always be moving towards the next project. That's what I'm trying to do, but, as all of you know, no one makes a film by themselves (well, some people do, but they're not very good). If you can help in any way, shape, or form, I would really appreciate it, and you know I am here to help you, as well.

We went to school to make stuff. Let's make stuff.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


In 2004, an unknown writer/director named Shane Carruth made a film about time travel named Primer. I was one of the, I can only imagine, few people who saw this film in the theater. I was thoroughly blown away. I have probably seen it, literally, a dozen times since, and it still never ceases to amaze me. I never thought anyone would release another time travel movie, at least not this soon, that would meet or surpass it, but Rian Johnson has done just that, with his new film Looper.

Looper tells the story of Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin who kills targets that are sent back in time from the future. The logic is, in the future, everyone is so easily trackable, that it is impossible to kill someone without the police knowing it, and being able to easily identify the killer. Therefore, the mob sends the target back in time, where they can no longer be tracked, and has someone like Joe kill them in the past. When Joe's next target is his future self (played by Bruce Willis), though, things become much more complicated.

I don't want to say too much, as I feel like this film could be easily spoiled. I will say, though, that I loved it. Not surprising, though, as Johnson's previous films have all been fantastic. Johnson's dystopian "present", which is our future, feels like something that could genuinely happen thirty or so years from now. Gordon-Levitt and Willis's back and forth is great. They are, genuinely, cut from the same cloth as characters, and you can see the youthful impetuousness in Joe and the aged wisdom (and desperation) in Willis.

To be honest, the make up prosthetics that Gordon-Levitt wears always bugged me in the trailers, but, as I was watching the film, I definitely got used to it.

Clement Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson's "Long Live The Kings"

LONG LIVE THE KINGS - Short film documentary - from SAGS on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wally Pfister on Film

"An artist has to be open to new technology, but my argument is, ‘Don’t make this equipment obsolete for the wrong reasons, because this format really is superior to anything else out there." - Wally Pfister

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Four years ago, I wrote a post called "A few thoughts on The Dark Knight". It wasn't a review, it was just a couple of thoughts that I wanted to write down because I felt like nothing I could say would be outside of all of the stuff that so many others have said. Having seen The Dark Knight Rises three times now, I would like to do the same thing -

1. This is probably the most perfect ending to this trilogy I could ask for. A lot of other people have denounced it, but, I think it's amazing and I love it.

2. It is one of the only movies I can think of that, while I don't agree with the ending, every time I watch it, any problems I may have with it wash away. When I'm separated from it, I can think clearly and identify the, relatively, few things I have a problem with, but when I'm watching it, I'm purely in love with it.

3. This is the only movie I can think of that has a significant "twist" in it, that has never lessened my enjoyment of watching the film on repeat viewings.

4. While I do LOVE this film, at the same time I feel like it was cut really tight to keep it from being too long. It feels like it should have been two films. At almost three hours long, and with the revelation that, potentially, noteworthy scenes were cut out to slim down run time, I'm wondering if we will see a three hour, or more, directors cut of this film? I'm assuming not, as Nolan has never done a director's cut of anything.

5. As much as I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I feel like the addition of Blake, as a primary character, was a lot. There's SO MANY characters in this film, it's kind of crazy sometimes. One of the things I think Batman Begins and The Dark Knight share, and do better than The Dark Knight Rises, is keeping a simplicity and economy to how many stories are being told. I feel the same way about Matthew Modine's character. He rarely feels necessary.

6. I have yet to see this in the normal theater. All three times have been in IMAX, so far. This is, truly, the way to see it, as over 60 minutes of footage in the final film was shot in the IMAX format. I do want to see it once in the regular theater, though, just for that experience.

7. Michael Caine's Alfred finally gets his day in this film. I feel like that character finally graduates to having some real evolution in this script.

8. Bane was the perfect villain for this one, and Tom Hardy was the perfect person to play him.

9. I don't understand what the big deal was about Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I have no reverence or nostalgia for Michelle Pfeiffer's performance, and it was 20 years ago. Someone's going to play that character again, eventually, and thank goodness it was done better than Halle Berry's Catwoman. I think Hathaway was perfectly cast for the role and she did the best job I could have hoped for.

10. In summation - I loved, couldn't ask for more.

The 8mm Revolution

"The 8mm Revolution" - SUPER 8 Movie Featurette from Cinelicious on Vimeo.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Yield from Stewart Schuster on Vimeo.

A film I made with Matthew Riley Alcorn and Elizabeth Hilburn.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Awesome, I Fuckin' Shot That!

In a poignant remembrance of Adam Yauch, who's Oscilloscope Laboratories has provided a portion of their content over the last decade, The Belcourt Theater in Nashville played The Beastie Boys concert film Awesome, I Fuckin' Shot That. Awesome... is a barrage of imagery and sound, editing footage together from some 50 Hi-8 cameras that were given out to various audience members. The film is an intense experience, as I would imagine one of their live shows would have been. As a casual Beastie's listener, the novelty could wear thin sometimes, since I wasn't familiar with all of the songs, but overall, seeing it on a big screen (and very loud) really did draw me in as an audience member.

Your Sisters Sister

Lynn Shelton is one of the best filmmakers to come out of the last decade (no, I will not use the "M" word), and she returns to the big screen with her newest film Your Sisters Sister, starring Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt. Duplass plays Jack, a man still reeling from the death of his brother, who is invited up to a family cabin for some "alone" time by best friend Iris (Emily Blunt). When he gets there, he finds Iris's half sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), and, after blasting through a bottle of tequila together, inhibitions loosen (and, apparently orientations, as Hannah is a lesbian), and Jack and Hannah end up in a compromising situation, which they spend part of the film trying to hide from Iris.

Your Sisters Sister builds on the small group dynamics that Shelton seems to be working on in all of her films (most of them have no more than three main characters), and it feel like she has really come into her own on this one. It comes off as a well crafted, relatively subtle, portrayal of love (both familial and romantic), loss, and loneliness. She really could not have chosen three better actors to play the roles. This is, in my opinion, a must see.

The Amazing Spider Man

Hey, remember that Spider Man movie that came out over a decade ago? Well, apparently Sony doesn't, because they spent a whole lot of money to remake it. The Amazing Spider Man, directed by 500 Days of Summer's Marc Webb, is a retread of the Spider Man origin story with, thankfully, more likable actors in the lead roles. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Red Riding Trilogy) plays Peter Parker, Emma Stone (Easy A, The Help, Superbad) plays Gwen Stacy (Parkers girlfriend in the comics before the legendary Mary Jane), and Rhys Ifans is Dr. Curt Conners, a man who worked closely with Peter's father, and who, eventually, becomes the villain of the film.

The real tragedy of this film is that Sony had a chance to do something REALLY cool with this, and they kind of fumbled it. Yes, they'll make they're money back, but they're going to have to try really hard on the next one to get over the collective sigh that audience members have been greeting this film with. Rumor has it, Sony did this film to keep the rights. Well, if they knew they were going to make a film anyway, why not just go ahead and make something new? Now, The Amazing Spider Man just ends up as a lost opportunity.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

DVD - Following Sean

Ralph Arlyck is a filmmaker who made an award winning short about a young San Francisco boy named Sean, who was growing up in the very center of the SF 60's revolution, with parents who were heavily into that scene. This original film was shot when Sean was only four years old, and he was already talking about all of the transient people staying in the apartment his family lived in, pot smoking, and things you would expect to come out of the mouth of a teenager, but not a child who hasn't even been alive for a decade. Following Sean combines this original piece with modern footage of Ralph tracking Sean down and chronicling his life as an adult over the course of several years. I didn't think I would like this, at first, but it turned out to be a really amazing documentary that really does a great job at observing its subject, not just for a few weeks or months, but over the course of years. We see Sean, who most people assumed would be doomed to a life of drug addiction and homelessness, when they saw his state as a child, become a responsible adult, develop job skills, and find love.

DVD - Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth is a great documentary about the history of the band that started out of the ashes of Nirvana, and grew to be one of the best rock bands of the past two decades. Every member of the band is present, all the dirty laundry is covered, and you really get a feeling of what the band is and who its current members are by the time everything is said and done. This is how you make a documentary on a band!

DVD - Valhalla Rising

Nicolas Winding Refn is, probably, one of the most interesting directors we have right now. He is one of those rare individuals who has managed to stick with making the films that HE wants to make, seemingly without regard as to whether or not they will be "blockbusters". His latest film, Drive, was a huge success, considering its small budget, and was one of my favorite films of last year. I decided to try and watch some of his older films, and, having already seen Bronson, I went next to his middle ages epic Valhalla Rising, the story of an epicly badass warrior, nicknamed "One Eye", who travels to a "New World" with a tribe of Vikings.

This film is absolutely gorgeous. It's cinematography is top notch. However, it is incredibly silent. In fact, "One Eye" is a mute, so the hero of the story never even talks. The story is, unfortunately, very slow, which makes it difficult, at times, to really keep up with it. It was just too easy to get distracted. It is a journey film that relies a little too much, in my opinion, on beauty shots and not enough on giving the audience something to pay attention too.

If you're a fan of slow, meandering cinema, very much along the lines of Aguirre, Wrath Of God, you will love this film. If not, I'm not sure the beautiful cinematography will save it for you.

DVD - Senna

F1 is something I've never had a particular interest in, but one thing that I can usually be convinced to watch are stories about people who are amazing at what they do, whatever that may be. Senna is the story of Ayrton Senna, one of F1's greatest drivers, his meteoric rise to the top of that world, and his death, which would shock F1, and the world. A really well done and informative documentary that manages to make F1 interesting, even if it's something you could care less about.

DVD - Winnebago Man

You've seen the video on YouTube - A crazy dude trying to make a video for Winnebago, back in the 80's, but his temper, lack of ability to memorize his lines, and the various bugs that always seem to be swarming around him, create a hilarious outpouring of expletives and attitude. Ever wonder what happened to that guy? Ben Steinbauer did, and he made a documentary about it. The film's entire premise cycles around finding Jack Rebney, the man in the video, and seeing what his reaction is to the online fame he has garnered. Winnebago Man is thoroughly enjoyable and very human, and I can't recommend it enough.

DVD - We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen

We Jam Econo is a great documentary for anyone interested in the seminal, but short lived, punk band The Minutemen. Effectively using interviews with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, along with other interviews with punk rock royalty, We Jam Econo is a perfect tribute to a short lived band, that made short songs.

DVD - PuttyHill

I remember Putty Hill from a few years back, because it was one of the first films I remember that was doing the online crowd sourcing thing. I had been looking forward to seeing it for a long time, to see what someone could do with the kind of money raised by sites like Kickstarter and Indie-Go-Go. Well, now it seems like almost everyone is doing that, and Putty Hill has lost a lot of its luster as being one of those early adopter films, but its still worth watching on the merit of Matthew Porterfield's vision alone.

I can't really tell you what it's about, because it's a sprawling story about a large group of people, and, to try and distill that into a basic plot summary, would just tell the whole story. Better to just see it for yourself. But I can say this - The film is about a community of people who deal with the suicide of a mutual acquaintance. Writer/Director Porterfied weaves "reality" and fiction into something that you can't really call documentary, and you feel strange about calling fiction, as some of it seems, genuinely, real. It's a very experience oriented film, and you feel like your witnessing everything that's happening, first hand, almost as though you're really there.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Introduction To NAGRA Sound Recorders

An introduction to NAGRA reel to reel analog audio recorders. I used one of these on my final student film, and the quality was amazing. I still regret that I didn't use one on PHX.

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson has a problem. While he spent the early part of his career creating quirky films with a distinctive style, and becoming a charmed director, he has spent over six years dealing with the fall out of that distinction, and an audience that has begun to turn away from his films because, well, they're so "Wes Anderson-y". The man can't help it. He has a vision, and it just so happens that all of his visions contain the same basic elements. While his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, doesn't stray from the directors trademark style, it does it in such a way that the style seems more fresh, somehow. Whereas his previous live action offering, The Darjeeling Limited, felt like a tired retread, Moonrise Kingdom, about two pre-teens who run away and lead a whole island on a chase after them, feels like somehow fresh blood has been injected into the Anderson machine, and he's got a second wind. The film had me laughing the whole time, and it's two young leads - Jared Gilman as Sam, and Kara Hayward as Suzy - had me rooting for them until the very end.

Moonrise Kingdom has Wes Anderson back in style, and it is good to have him back.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Daniel Thron's "Spoiler"

Spoiler from spoiler movie on Vimeo.

This is one of the best short films I have seen in a long time. Watch it. Very well made.

DVD - Blank City

Blank City is a fantastic documentary about the film scene in New York City in the late 70's and early to mid 80's, specifically in the East Village. Showing lots of clips from films that most people will never get to see, and touting interviews with the likes of icons like Amos Poe, Lydia Lunch, Eric Mitchell, Jim Jarmusch, Beth B. and Scott B., Glenn O'Brien, and more, the film is pure candy for anyone interested in that era of filmmaking or NewYork City history, or both.

DVD - The Roost

Ti West is someone who I became interested in after having seen House of the Devil. That film was extremely well done, and felt like a return to what made old school horror films so great, valuing suspense and dread, over gore and shock. I recently watched his debut feature, The Roost, and, while the film about a group of young adults on their way to a wedding getting sidetracked to a farm with some malevolent evil waiting for them was not quite up to par with his later film, or his most recent film, The Innkeepers, once it got going, it got a lot better. Its major handicap was its molasses pace in the beginning. You can see that West is trying to establish that dread and suspense, but in this film, it just ends up being a little much, and you end up looking at the clock after a while. Overall, it was a decent first feature, and if you haven't seen any of his other films*, I can vouch that House and Innkeepers are considerably better.

*I haven't seen Cabin Fever 2 or Trigger Man.


Headhunters is the tale of Roger Brown (played by Aksel Hennie), a corporate recruiter who doesn't make near enough money to afford the wealthy lifestyle he leads. In order to do so, he steals high priced art. When a mark shows up in the form of a potential recruit, Roger goes into action, but the man he's trying to recruit, and steal from at the same time, is not who he appears to be.

Headhunters is one of my favorite films of the year, and it is in no small part due to the performances of every single actor in the film. The direction was perfect, the cinematography was gorgeous, and the story was tight. I feel like if I say too much, I might give something away, because this film is built on moment after moment, and I would hate to spoil any of those for anyone. With that in mind, I'll simply say that I LOVED this film, and I think if you watch it, you will too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

CineMolesters Ep. 4: Prometheus

 There are mild SPOILERS in this, so if you haven't seen Prometheus, don't watch this.


It was, then it wasn't, then it kind of was, then it "shared DNA". There has been a lot of speculation and a lot of back and forth about whether Ridley Scott's new film Prometheus is an Alien prequel. Let's just get this out of the way now - it totally is. There are little sign posts everywhere.

The film follows a crew of scientists on a mission to find the origins of man. What they find, though, is enigmatic, and extremely dangerous. God bless Ridley Scott for not giving everything away, and keeping some kind of mystery to the story of the Alien saga, while still giving us something interesting to watch.

My biggest question, going into all of this, was - Will this film be worth it? The original Alien, and its sequel, Aliens, are classics, to say the least. While Alien 3 had its issues, it's still a worthwhile addition to the cannon. After the vomit inducing Alien: Resurrection, however, I feel like the story was played out. There was nowhere else to go with this. That Prometheus is a prequel gives Scott ground to do a lot of things, but still, do we NEED a prequel?

My answer is no, not really, but I'm glad we got it. Scott shows us a whole new world, one that he could not have created back in the late 70's, and it is pretty amazing. The star map sequence is especially breath taking. Ultimately, though, for all of his vision, the story feels like it's too busy trying to meet an arbitrary set of expectations, as opposed to unfolding naturally, in the way that the original Alien did. No one can deny that Scott's original film is, well... a little slow. It builds tension and dread in increments, and that is part of what makes it so amazing. It is that epic roller coaster climb to the top of the hill, and then down the other side. While Prometheus has its moments, they always feel expected, and that, inevitably, takes some of the fun out of it.

Don't get me wrong, the film was enjoyable, it just felt like they were trying to hit points of audience expectation all of the time, instead of giving us the "WTF just happened and everything goes down hill from there" factor that the original Alien, and to some extent Aliens, did so well.

One note about the 3D - To me, the really wide shots were where the 3D came alive for me, but the rest of the time, it was actually kind of distracting. The biggest problem for me was when someone's helmet display was framing the screen. My eyes had a difficult time scanning the image with so much going on  in the foreground, middle ground, and back ground simultaneously. I would, actually, like to see this in 2D, and see if I enjoy it more visually.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Castles In The Sky: The Films of Studio Ghibli

My Series Pass and tickets to Castles In The Sky: The Films of Studio Ghibli at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN. One of my favorite things that's happened in a long time. Saw so many great films, and will be writing about them soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stephen Schuster's "The Balance Of Dark And Light"

 My brother made this short documentary on artist Ron Pippin. It was my pleasure to help him out during the shooting, and I was blown away when I saw the final product. I'm really proud to have been a part of this, and I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

House of Radon's "PressPausePlay"

This is a must watch. An extremely well done documentary that explores the relationship of artists to technology and how technology has changed art and how we interact with it, especially within the past five to ten years. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Silent House

Silent House is a movie that rides the line between an ability to be genuinely scary and falling into predictable non-scariness. Elizabeth Olsen plays Sarah, a young woman who has returned, with her father and uncle, to a disintegrating vacation home that they are trying to clean out, fix up and sell. Things take a wrong turn relatively quickly, though, after her uncle leaves to go get something in town. Sarah starts hearing noises, her father disappears, and she ends up locked in the house with an intruder, and the apparition of a little girl.

Silent House was a strange experience for me. Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens, who play the Father and Uncle respectively, are not particularly good actors (or, at least, their skills don't show through in this film). Add to that the fact that Trese (the father) looks like he can't be more than ten years older than Sarah, and Stevens looks to be the same age as her. Olsen may only be in her early twenties, but she doesn't look it.

The film is done in one 80 minute (give or take) shot, and the break down of my enjoyment of the film kind of went like this - I was interested for about the first twenty minutes. Then, the next forty minutes, my interest waned to the point of me feeling like the movie was going to end predictably, and I would be leaving the theater upset, but the last twenty minutes ended up being a bit of a surprise, which redeemed the film from being a total waste of time and money.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DVD - Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey explores an aging Manhattan hotel in the 1970's, along with, sometimes, its occupants. Akerman trains her camera on the hallways, lobby, elevators, and various rooms in the hotel.

While this would, ultimately, work better as a series of stills in a gallery, rather than a film, there are interesting moments in it, but its hour long run time (completely silent) is prohibitive for almost anyone except hardcore fans of observational cinema. There are moments that definitely peak interest, such as a group of elderly women who sit in the lobby, or rooms that are captured with their occupants in them, but this is the kind of film I wouldn't recommend unless your into staring at the same thing for long periods of time.

DVD - Hot Coffee

Hot Coffee is director Susan Saladoff's exploration of the world of Tort Reform and the fight against "frivolous" lawsuits. The film is centered on a case from the 1990's, in which an elderly woman successfully sued McDonald's after having severely burned herself after spilling coffee onto herself. The woman won her case, but, because of the way the press handled it, and smear campaigns by McDonalds and the politicians in their pockets, the woman was made out to be a gold digger, suing for something that other's say is really her fault.

Saladoff does a great job at bringing out the information on this, and several other cases in this documentary, and one is left to contemplate how much of the truth we actually get from the press and the corporate spin machine. You also feel like a bit of a fool when you realize the extent of damage that this reform, which was supposed to be good for us, has done. I highly recommend Hot Coffee. It's an incredibly informing piece, and has made me think twice about a lot.

DVD - News From Home

It is the late 1970's and Chantal Akerman has just moved to New York. Through locked off shots of the city in a wide variety of locale's, and voice over of Akerman reading her mother's letters to her over this period of time, the audience is given a sense of the kind of varied emotions a parent goes through when their child not only leaves home, but ventures across an ocean to a new, mysterious place.

News From Home can be incredibly slow at times, with long shots of the city (anywhere between two and three minutes long, probably having been shot on 100' reels of 16mm). It's the letters from Akerman's mother that put the film in perspective and give it a life. Otherwise it's just a bunch of shots of New York City, and, for the most part, not always interesting ones. The film is interesting, to a point, but it should really be about half of its running time, or less.

DVD - La Chambre

This is the synopsis from Criterion's website - In Chantal Akerman’s early short film La chambre, we see the furniture and clutter of one small apartment room become the subject of a moving still life—with Akerman herself staring back at us.

That pretty much sums up the film. It's multiple 360 degree shots of Akerman's apartment, for about ten minutes. Not much else to say.

Monday, March 5, 2012

DVD - The Changeling

George C. Scott was in a lot of films during his career, and the best thing I can say about The Changeling, is that it was one of them. It's not really a horror film, but rather a murder mystery with supernatural elements to it that moves at the pace of playing a board game with dead people. Even though, in reality, Changeling isn't that slow, it feels slow, like it was a decent Twilight Zone episode that got stretched out into two hours. The film also feels terribly dated, which doesn't help it... I suppose all films that are made in a certain time period end up that way, but this one is one of those films where all of the fashion, the cars, the lighting, and the editing techniques shout "THIS FILM WAS MADE IN THE 70's!!!". Changeling gets a lot of credit for its having influenced so many other directors, and I see where that comes from, but, ultimately, this is one of those movies that network TV used to show on Saturday afternoons and you usually caught it because there was nothing else to do.

Nova's "Secrets of the Wild Child"

As this doesn't seem to be an official upload, don't be surprised if you stumble across this post and the link doesn't work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

KCRW's On The Record:LA Vinyl


Penned by Max Landis and Josh Trank, Chronicle is the story of three high school seniors, cousins Andrew and Matt, and popular guy Steve, who discover a hole in the woods, which holds an unexplained phenomena that gives them telekinetic powers. But, as the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility...

Chronicle is nothing new. Normal people being given super or God like powers is something that's been done. A lot. I will say, though, that Trank makes it interesting. It was, for the most part, a thoroughly enjoyable film. My gripe? The whole "found footage"/first person shooter approach. In the film, Andrew, who is an outcast at his school and has a less than ideal home life, buys a camera to record everything that goes on his life with. Hence, we see (almost) the entire film from his perspective.

Which is stupid.

And pointless.

This movie spent a TON of money on special effects. You're telling me you couldn't have spent a few extra dollars to shoot this from the third person? Mix it up a little! Give us some different camera angles! This "found footage" thing is SO over played, and, as if it didn't seem gimmicky enough in a normal movie, in this one, it was just DRIPPING gimmick. Because of that, if I was going on the five star method of rating, I would say that a movie that could have been a solid four stars, got knocked down to three, if I'm feeling generous. Two to two and a half, if I'm not.

One thing that I do want to note, though, is that Steve is played by Friday Night Lights alum Michael B. Jordan, and, even though his role doesn't particularly require a lot of depth of character, he does a great job, as does Dane DeHaan, who plays Andrew (which is part of why it's a shame this is a first person perspective film. This kid should have been in front of the camera more.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kill List

Kill List has been blowing up the blogosphere, and I finally got a chance to see it. The film centers around two friends, Jay and Gal, who are partners in the assassination business. Ex soldiers who know how to do little but kill, Gal brings a job opportunity to Jay, who has fallen on hard times since an injury has forced a prolonged break from their work. The job isn't as cut and dry as the two think, though, and some pretty heady stuff happens to them on their journey.

I don't want to give anything away, because it might ruin the experience of watching the film, so I'll just say that the direction it takes is completely out of left field, and was a surprise considering the trailer, which would leave you to believe this is a pretty standard assassin film. The acting is amazing in it, and director Ben Wheatley is a master at building an odd and uncomfortable tension as the film moves forward. While I do HIGHLY recommend this film, it is not for those who are averse to onscreen violence. One particular sequence had me covering my eyes because of it graphic violence, and at least one person in the theater I was in got up and left.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Room

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is legendary. I remember when I first moved out to LA, there was a billboard for the movie on Highland, near where I lived. I always meant to go see it at the Sunset 5, where they had monthly midnight screenings, but, unfortunately, took it for granted and now Sunset 5 is no more. Well, I got the chance to see it at the Belcourt theater in Nashville, and, while the film lives up to its atrocious pedigree, the experience of see it with an audience is what truly made the whole thing worth it. I definitely do not recommend renting this movie and watching it by yourself. Wait for a screening and go to that. It seems like every screening I've ever heard of has people in attendance who are well aware of all of the standard Room jokes, and the audience participation is what will take this film into the "bearable" territory.

If you do plan to go to a screening, The Onion's AV Club has put together this handy guide to all of the crowd participation stuff.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hollis Frampton's "Critical Mass"

Just watched this (available below in three segments), and it is intense, and, I really like it. It's almost hypnotizing, in a way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Artist

Hollywood has a way of patting itself on the back with films, which is why it seems odd that a French filmmaker would pull together two French leads to make a film that comes off as another Hollywood mirror gazer.

The Artist stars Jean DuJardin as George Valentin, a prototypical silent film era star, who, upon the invention of sound, is forced out of the studio he has made countless dollars for. When he mounts his own production, he sticks with the same type of silent movies that made him famous, and tanks, costing him everything. Berenice Bejo, who plays Peppy Miller, an actress discovered and made famous by Valentin, feels bad for the star, who has fallen into a self destructive cycle, culminating with him lighting his apartment and belongings on fire, in hopes that he will also be consumed by the flames. When his dog manages to get him rescued, and Valentin is taken to the hospital, Miller visits and opens her world to him, letting him get back up on his feet, and even bringing him back into the fold of the studio that had tossed him aside.

This film is pretty much drivel. I don't recommend it at all. The only redeeming aspect of it is Miller's obvious love for Valentin. She seems to genuinely care about the man, but The Artist's hit you over the head, and then beat you while you're down message of pride coming before the fall is just Hollywood giving itself a pass to push aside the very people that made it what it is today. So many stars, talented people, were simply tossed aside when sound came in to play. A whole generation of potential was thrown in the trash, almost overnight. Sorry Hollywood, but The Artist won't convince me you were in the right, and considering how people have rediscovered some of the awesome talent of the silent era through home video, I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one who's calling shenanigan's on this one.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay has only released three feature's in the last ten+ years, but her debut, Ratcatcher, is one of the most solid first outings I have ever had the pleasure of watching, and her newest, We Need To Talk About Kevin, is a smack in the face to remind you of how amazing indie filmmaking can be.

Tilda Swinton plays Eva, the wife to John C. Reilly's Franklin, and Ezra Miller's Kevin. Eva and Kevin, from the moment he is out of the womb, have a contentious relationship, one that grows more frightening all the time. They are like to rooster's in a cage, fighting to the death all the time. Franklin never seems to notice Kevin's awkward and disturbing behavior, seeing as how it is always directed towards Eva, and almost always happens when he is not around. But is it just a matter of Eva's perspective, or is there something genuinely wrong with Kevin.

Ramsay really creates an amazing and skin crawling dynamic between Eva and Kevin, and, in fact, Eva and the whole world. One wonders how much of this is real, and how much of this is going on her head. Well placed clues along the way, though, allow you to put together an informed concept of who this woman is, and I can't think of ANYONE more suited to bring out the subtleties and mannerisms of Eva than Tilda Swinton. This really is one of her best roles.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of my favorites of the year, and Ramsay packs a lot of punch into it. I highly recommend seeing it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ira Glass Talks About Producing

Ira Glass discusses the realities of producing his first feature, Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me, in this hilarious interview -

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Steve McQueen knocks it out of the park, again, with his second feature, Shame. His first, Hunger, about IRA prisoner Bobby Sands and his hunger strike in prison was a quiet masterpiece. McQueen has re-teamed with the actor who played Sands, Michael Fassbender, and brings you the story of Brandon, a New York City high roller who's world of sex addiction is thrown into chaos when his sister, Sissy, played by Carrie Mulligan, shows up out of the blue to stay with him for a few days.

McQueen brilliantly pulls us into Brandon's world, one that is so well defined, that the slightest invasion by anyone, especially his "know no bounds" sister, throws everything in his life into complete havoc. As if his sex addiction isn't enough of a high wire when it's under control, out of control, Brandon turns into a monster before our very eyes, even going so far as to slip into a gay bar to try and deal with his needs after striking out.

Shame spares nothing, and, as such, carries an NC-17 rating, but if you are the kind of person who actually likes watching a movie for adults (and I don't mean an adult, read: pornographic, movie), then Shame is highly recommended. However, because of its graphic nature (it is considered pornographic by many), use your discretion before picking it up to watch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Bringing together a gaggle of British stars to bring to life this best selling novel, director Tomas Alfredson still can't seem to find the sweet spot. Not even the legendary Gary Oldman can save the story of a retired MI6 agent who is pulled back into action when it is discovered that there's a mole in the organization. With roster that includes Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, and Colin Firth, you would think this film would be a shoe in to be amazing, and, while some people can't praise it enough, I found it to be a bit tiresome. I don't feel like Alfredson ever really developed the proper tension to keep me in the story, and I kind of wonder how others were able to do it. It never feels like there's that much at stake, and I think that is the films primary problem. Yes, there's a mole, but... Who cares? The film did have some great scenes in it, was beautifully shot, and the production design was gorgeous, but overall it just kind of fizzled for me.

Into The Abyss

Werner Herzog returns to documentary filmmaking with Into The Abyss, a relatively even handed look at two convicted felons, friends who helped each other commit a crime, one of whom is on death row. You can tell Herzog is struggling with the fact that he is trying to make a film that may, hopefully, turn people against capitol punishment, while, at the same time, obviously fighting with his feelings towards these men, especially Michael Perry, the one who is about to be executed. Into The Abyss doesn't so much ask you the questions as lead you too them. It makes it very clear that people were murdered, in cold blood, and for very little, by these two, but always stops short of saying Perry deserves the death penalty. You can tell even Herzog isn't sure. He wants to say spare this young man, let him serve a life sentence, but Perry is so despicable, Herzog just can't seem to do that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise is back for another go round as Ethan Hunt. It's hard for me to say too much about the family of MI movies (this one being the 4th), because I've only seen the first one, and that was over a decade ago (I remember not liking it that much). As for this one, it was alright. It seemed like a pretty run of the mill Hollywood action film. Supposedly Cruise did all of his own stunts for it, but, I don't really care about any of that stuff, so it doesn't really make me like it anymore. The one thing that I do want to give the MI team credit for, though, is the fact that they went a great route with shutting down the agency, and basically leaving these guys on their own with their wits and whatever else they could come up with. Other than that, I saw it once, it was alright, but I will probably never watch it again.

Matt Kazman's "Hi, I'm Philip"

Matt Kazman's "Flagpole"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, arguably two of the biggest filmmakers of our time, have combined to produce an animated version of the classic comics series Tintin. The film stars Jamie Bell, who voices the titular character, Tintin, who buys a wooden ship, only to become embroiled in an adventure wherein he is attempting to solve a generations old mystery. Tintin is chasing down Rackham, who has stolen a piece of information from him, a clue to the mystery. He ends up on the boat of Captain Haddock, who is being held captive on his own ship by Rackham. Haddock and Tintin team up for some Indiana Jones style action, and take us along for the ride.

I loved this film. It really reminded me of seeing films like Indiana Jones when I was a kid. It was a fun adventure with universal themes, and the animation and voice acting were top notch. You can't expect much else from Spielberg, I suppose. The guy is a master at what he does.

Monday, January 2, 2012

PHX Trailer

This is the trailer for my first feature film, which will, hopefully, be making festival rounds by the fall of this year...

DVD - Pearl Jam Twenty (aka PJ20)

There's not a lot to say about this doc. If you have even a mild interest in Pearl Jam, I think you'll like it. As a casual listener, I really enjoyed it. It was cool to see so much footage from their career, and hear the story of the band, as told by the members themselves.

Edward Burns and the Socialization of Indie Cinema

Article by Christina Warren

“Twitter has fundamentally changed the way I make films,” film director, actor, writer and producer Edward Burns told me. At first blush, that might seem like an audacious statement, but in an era when full productions can get funded on Kickstarter and feature-length films are shot on consumer DSLRs, that boldness gives way to practicality.

Thanks to social and digital, the independent film movement is in a sort of renaissance. Not since the rise of the “indie” movement in the 1990s — when unknown filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez rose to prominence — has there been so much disruption in the business of filmmaking.

It’s a world that Burns knows well. In 1995 Burns’s debut film, The Brothers McMullen, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Shot for just $28,000, the film would gross over $10 million at the box office, becoming one of the biggest independent films of its era.

Sixteen years later, Burns is still making films without the aid of expensive crews, big studio contracts or pricey equipment.

Burns’s latest film, Newlyweds, is now available on VOD and Vudu. It comes to iTunes on Dec. 30, 2011. Although the film will have a small theatrical run in Chicago and San Francisco next month, VOD and iTunes are the delivery methods of choice.

We spoke to Burns earlier this month as he prepared for the Newlyweds film release. He talked about the changing nature of making film and the importance of social media to tie it all together.

One of the more remarkable aspects about Newlyweds is that it was shot in 12 days for $9,000. Burns laid out the budget process on Twitter and explained the process on his YouTube channel.

Burns used the Canon EOS 5D Mark II to shoot the film, along with a few stock Canon lenses. The quality of the output that filmmakers can get from prosumer DSLRs like the Mark II is stunning. Furthermore, he believes we’re only two or three generations away from having cinema-quality video sensors in our smartphones. The film director further reduced costs by using natural lighting and having cast members wear their own clothes and do their own makeup.

Burns talked about the very real implications these changes are having on young filmmakers.

“When I was in school making McMullen, I had to scrimp and save to buy film stock. You usually got poor-quality film stock or ends of other reels. That’s why movies from that era have that grimy, grungy look. A kid coming out of film school today won’t have that problem.”

Of course, lower barriers to entry also mean increased competition. Still, Burns doesn’t see this as a bad thing. “Why shouldn’t filmmaking experience the same disruption that every other industry has experienced?” he asked. “It’s happened in music and literature. Why should filmmaking be any different?”

For his last project, Nice Guy Johnny, Burns was able to crack the top six in iTunes the week it was released. “This was a film with no budget, absolutely no money for marketing — outside of traditional morning show press stuff — that appeared next to major box office hits.”

Edward Burns credits Ted Hope for convincing him to join Twitter. Hope, a prominent independent film producer in New York City, explained to Burns it was crucial that he find 500 followers to share and promote his message. Hope’s thesis — which he has since revised to include 5,000 fans — is that connecting with the people that really care about your work is the most effective way of getting things seen.

Hope was right. Since joining Twitter, Burns has found numerous opportunities to answer questions from fans, share insights about his filmmaking process and, of course, promote his projects.

Studios spend tremendous amounts of money raising awareness as to the digital and home video availability of their films. Edward Burns was able to accomplish that with Twitter.

Burns turned to the social web while working on Newlyweds as well. When it came time to get a poster for the film’s debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, Burns turned to the online community. Fans voted for their favorite submissions. The winner of the poster contest not only got to keep the rights to his artwork (he’s now selling prints and t-shirts on his own website), he also got flown in for the premiere.

When it came time find a song for the closing credits, Burns once again turned to the online community and then chose the winner from the submissions.

Although Burns hasn’t cast anyone directly using YouTube, he agrees with our assertion that online video is the new casting tape.

Watching Newlyweds, I would never have expected that its production budget was only $9,000. The film is endearing, funny and real, a story about a newlywed couple whose “honeymoon” stage comes to an abrupt end thanks to some unexpected drama from both sides of the family.

It’s very Woody Allen-esque, reminiscent of Husbands and Wives and Hannah and Her Sisters in its understanding of relationships.

After watching Newlyweds, I was struck by how difficult it is to find a good relationship film — be it comedy or drama — in the theater. Even harder to find are those smaller ensemble films. Once a staple in cinema, these types of stories are often pushed to the sidelines in lieu of franchise films, family comedies and big-budget action films.

Thankfully, in the era of iPads, connected HDTVs and more widespread indie distribution, filmmakers are still able to tell these types of stories.