Comments on watching and making films.

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.