Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jeremy Adams' "Herb Williams - The Call of the Wild"

HERB WILLIAMS "The Call of the Wild" / short documentary from Jeremy Adams on Vimeo.

This is a short documentary that was shot and directed by Jeremy Adams and edited by myself. Hope you enjoy!

All The Light In The Sky

No Budge, Kentucker Audley's website dedicated to giving smaller, independent films an opportunity to gain an internet signal boost that they might not otherwise gain by just self releasing on YouTube or Vimeo, recently hosted a "secret" (and limited time) screening of Joe Swanberg's new feature All The Light In The Sky. I had a chance to see the film, and I have to say, I truly feel like it is Swanberg's most accomplished film yet. I am putting it on my list of favorites of his, alongside Hannah Takes The Stairs and Nights and Weekends. 

The film stars Jane Adams as Marie, an aging actress, who is visited by her niece, Faye, played by Sophia Takal. During their visit, Marie see's the spark of youth she is missing, while Faye revels in the spoils of war that only someone who has been around long enough to achieve these things might have. Kent Osborne makes an appearance as a friend of a friend of Faye's, who ends up getting involved with Marie. Larry Fessenden also pops up in a great performance as Rusty, Marie's neighbor and surfing partner.

Moments are the key to most Swanberg films. You're not looking to get the typical Hollywood formula out of these films, and, if you are, you'll be leaving frustrated. Moments like Marie's conversation with her agent, in which she slowly gives into the idea of an extremely low budgeted film in order to just be doing something, or Faye's fear of being caught by Marie if she shows some skin to her boyfriend over Skype. There's an amazing moment with Marie and Dan (Osborne), where they're trying to figure out whether it feels right to kiss. All of these moments, and some pretty gorgeous cinematography, add up to another great piece by Swanberg. Adams perfectly encompasses that late thirties/early forties malaise of actors who have given up a traditional family structure to further their career, and the emptiness and loneliness that can breed when that career slows (which is natural for almost any working actor short of the 1% superstars).

I wish we would have had more time with Faye. It felt like her character could have been explored more and  issues could have been addressed from the perspective of a younger character, but, ultimately, this is Marie's film, and Adams commands the screen in a way that, as a viewer, you don't question that.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D

**I did not see this movie in 3D.**

There are some experiences you have in the movie theater that are so utterly confusing and depressing, you don't even know what to say about them. This was my experience with Texas Chainsaw 3D. The original film is, to this day, one of the best horror films ever made, but in the forty, or so, years that have followed, Hollywood has desperately tried to capture that magic again, but never has been able to. All of the follow ups, short of (surprisingly), Marcus Nispels Platinum Dunes produced remake, have been a sorry attempt to make a franchise out of lightning in a bottle. This newest addition is no different than all of the others.

Texas Chainsaw 3D's first mistake is immediate. The film begins with an opening credits sequence, which is, basically, a highlight reel of the original film. By the time the credits are over, one is left to wonder - Now that I've seen all of the most important parts of the original, why am I still watching this? And that's just a few minutes in. It gets worse. The film is supposed to be a direct sequel to the original. The next mistake it makes, though, is that, once you've sat through the aforementioned highlight reel, they immediately change the story. We pick up at the farm, probably half an hour or an hour later, and the sheriff, who, at this point it is presumed, has talked to Sally (from the original film), has come to the house to arrest Leatherface and the three other members of his family - The Old Man, Grandpa, and the Hitchhiker. Now, SOMEHOW, in that short period of time, those four people grow to, like, TWELVE people. WHO ARE ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE??? A shootout ensues, Leatherface manages to escape, and a baby girl is torn away from one of these (illegitimate) family members. She grows up (and, mind you, if this film was actually following logic, would be in her late thirties or early forties at this point) to be an artistic butcher shop worker named Heather (assumedly in her early to mid twenties, because, apparently, she went into stasis for twenty years). When Heather finds out that she is inheriting a piece of property in Texas, it is revealed that she was adopted (even though she was actually stolen). Looking to discover more about her roots, her and a small group of friends head up to the farm where, of course, they discover Leatherface and craziness ensues.

You could write a BOOK about everything that is wrong or ridiculous about this movie. That anyone, on the money side, who read this script thought that it was a good idea is BAFFLING. I'm not going to bother going into everything, it would take too long, but just know that this film is RIDICULOUS and, honestly, most of the horrible sequels that have been made to the original film are better than this one.

One thing I do want to mention, though, that ABSOLUTELY KILLED ME, was the fact that they brought Gunnar Hansen back (the original Leatherface) to play an unnamed member of the (illegitimate) family, who dies in the opening flashback sequence. If this  is, in fact, a direct sequel, why not have Hansen play Leatherface? What was the point in bringing in some other guy to play him?

Again, so much that is ridiculous in this film.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh's final theatrical film (for now, at least...), is a taut and surprising thriller. Side Effects stars Rooney Mara as Emily, a young woman who's mental health is in a fragile balance, after her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is sent to prison for Wall Street indiscretions. After Martin is released, she begins seeing a psychologist, Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who begins prescribing her medication. An event happens, which I won't spoil for you, that launches everyone into a downward spiral.

I can't really say too much else, because, as I said, I don't want to spoil it.

What can I say about the film from a technical standpoint? It's pretty awesome. It's Soderbergh. Would you expect any less. That he is retiring is, literally, humanity's loss. He's one of our best, and still has, at least, twenty more years of making amazing films in him. It's his choice, though, and while Side Effects isn't a Traffic or Ocean's movie, he's still going out on top.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Impossible

Disaster films are, generally, more about special effects than they are about story, but The Impossible manages to side step that pitfall, and create a story driven tear jerker, with amazing effects to boot. Naomi Watts (in what is probably the best performance of her career) and Ewan McGregor are parents who bring their three sons one a trip to Thailand for the Christmas holidays. While there, One of the largest tsunami's on record hits the coast, right where they're staying. The rest of the film is the aftermath of this event, but I don't really want to go into it, because I don't want to spoil anything.

The film was made by a Spanish production company, which explains why it's a good film. Hollywood would have jacked the budget up, cut anything remotely resembling story or good dialog out of the script, and tried to sell it as a summer blockbuster. This film was perfectly executed and needed to be released just the way it was. The acting and directing are amazing, and the cinematography, while often times the result of having to work around the effects, is still gorgeous.

This is one of the best films of the year. It will stick with you for a long time, afterwards, and I LOVE films like that. I highly recommend it, and if you get the chance, see it in a theater. It really is something amazing.

DVD - A Safe Place

Part of Criterion's BBS Productions box set, A Safe Place is Henry Jaglom's debut feature, and all I can really say about it is this - I didn't get it. It appears to be, roughly, about a woman's relationships with the men in her life. I mean, that's the closest thing to a plot I can figure out. A Safe Place is definitely the most experimental (other than the insanity that is Head) of the BBS films, and, because of that, feels completely out of place. It feels like a film school undergraduate project that happened to be shot on 35mm and star Orson Welles and Jack Nicholson. I've never seen any of Jaglom's other films, but, I can tell you that starting out with A Safe Place doesn't excite me to see more.

DVD - Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

David Gelb's Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is an inspirational documentary about one mans dedication to his craft, in this case being a Sushi chef. Jiro, alongside his oldest son and a host of apprentices, operates a small Sushi restaurant which, because of the reputation it has built up over decades, has a month long waiting list, and charges upwards of three hundred dollars per meal. The point of the film, however, is not that this man has built a business which, by its nature, is exclusive, but that his dedication, hard work, and energy have brought him success and freedom, which, even though he is Japanese, sounds like the American dream.

This is a must watch, and probably one that could use to be watched again and again (especially if you need a little job related pick me up).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Matthias Grunsky Discusses Using A 1970's Sony Tube Camera For Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess

Matthias Grunsky, the cinematographer for all of Andrew Bujalski's films, including his newest piece Computer Chess, made the above video, and also wrote a blog post detailing his work with the Sony AVC-3260, a 1970's era tube based video camera that was used to shoot the entire film. Both are interesting, especially for techies. A few years back, I had the idea to shoot my script, The Definers, on one of these cameras, as opposed to shooting it on Super 8, as I had originally planned. Realizing, now, that they had to have an electrical engineer come in and modify the cameras... I might just stick with Super 8, if I ever get to make it.