Wednesday, December 31, 2008

21st Century Distribution

Always looking to see if there's a better way to distribute ones film I came across CreateSpace. Here you send them a DVD of your film, and upload your cover art, and DVD disk art and they take care of the rest. Now this sounds promising and they have an agreement with Amazon too, so that's an incentive right there, but read the fine print before you sign.

CreateSpace has a fixed fee of $4.95 per unit. Then they take 15% of your listed fee. So let's say you're selling a DVD for $14.99. They take $7.19, and you get $7.80. Not bad I guess considering their printing out your movie and doing the shipping. But now if someone buys your movie from the Amazon link Amazon Inc. takes 45% of the list price of your DVD, and there is still the $4.95 fixed price. After the fees you get $3.30 per disk.

Talk about the big guy socking it to the little guy. Can someone tell me what's wrong with this picture. I know Amazon is a BIG company, and I know they do lots of business, but do they actually think this is fair? I mean you yourself still have to bang the drum YOURSELF for your product. You have to get it out there and seen & reviewed. YOU have to drive sales to the product. Amazon doesn't do this. They provide links to your product from various sources including IMDB. Not bad, but still the old build it and they will come doesn't fly. So why the high percentage? In this case it's the name, and they may be correct in charging you that rate, but I wonder how they base that on. After all newspapers and TV stations base their advertising rates on ratings. What does Amazon base this on? I'm sure they can show me graphs and charts on how well a product does when it's listed on Amazon, but does anyone consider what the product manufacturer had to spend in order to drive traffic to the link. After all is said and done is it worth it? For some I suspect it is, but for us or for me it certainly isn't.

I'm not complaining about CreateSpace. They seem to do a pretty good job. I've in fact ordered a film I was interested in seeing that they carry, so it's a win win for the content providers out there.

But because it's Amazon does 45% sound fair? I talked it over with my business partner (my wife) and we both agreed that at this time we'll stick to our good old guys at FilmBaby. They seem to be working on other avenues such as video on demand, and wholesale selling to stores. It's not that we've made a ton of sales from them, but it's the comfortableness of the deal.

I mean I'm always amazed. I mean stores and even on-line retailers are selling films for less then $14.99, and most have Hollywood talent that help promote their films. How does the small guy even compete I can't say, but I still think there are markets out there to exploit. Right now those markets such as i-tunes are closed to us micro cinema auteur's, but the day will come when those companies realize that shutting people like myself out isn't in their best financial interest. A dollar is a dollar, and it doesn't matter if it comes from Universal, or some micro cinema creator. Eventually the walls will fall, but till then look for the deals, and keep on tooting your own horn. The best deal you can get is cutting out the middle man, and dealing with the artist directly. Those days are coming, and for some they are here, but it's taking a bit longer for the rest of us.

To everyone who reads this I thank you for taking the ride this past year with me. I hope to make it more interesting in the coming year, and hopefully I'd like to write more. The future is wide open, and filled with uncertainty, but it is a new frontier, and that's exciting.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mamma Mia (2008)

First let me get out of the way that I happen to be an ABBA fan. Okay I said it. I know not many people say that out loud, but for this review I have to say it and be done with it. For those not in the know ABBA was a Swedish band that had many hits during the 70's and early 80's. ABBA gained immense international popularity employing catchy song hooks, simple lyrics, and a Wall of Sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way I have to say that the film Mamma Mia is a film that uses ABBA's songs to tell the story of a young girl who invites three men to her wedding in the hopes in finding out which one is her father. Throughout the film there is singing and dancing as mother (Meryl Streep), and daughter (Amanda Seyfried) confront each others history. Some of the songs of ABBA have been rewritten to fit the story. Originally a Broadway play and a successful one at that the film follows close to form the play. But the film does lack the plays energy. I have talked with many people who have seen the play and all loved it. The play Mamma Mia is a play that was/is interactive. In other words the audience gets to interact with the actors and the songs in the play. In the film that interactivity is gone, and that's what hurts the film. I do believe the distribution company (Universal) re-opened the film a few months later with lyrics on the screen for the audience to sing-a-long. On the DVD you can watch it with lyrics or without, which is a nice feature.

Meryl Streep does a good job here, and it looks as though she is having some fun in the part of Donna, and the rest of the cast do a great job. Who would think that Pierce Brosnan is such a gifted singer also. The film is a jubilant celebration of the mother/daughter relationship and the love between good friends. No matter how corny and cheesy some may find Abba, it is hard to resist the films many charms. Even at the end of the film their are performances by the key actors as they sing two ABBA songs, and they look like their having a ball, and why not. That's what Mamma Mia is all about "having a good time".

Is it a film worth seeing? If you like musicals I would think this film is for you. For mom's and their daughters I'm sure it strikes a cord, and for us ABBA fans there is a sense of nostalgia when listening to the songs. The film also has a message of sorts and it's not a bad one to espouse to that knowing yourself doesn't come from knowing your past, but who and how you lived your life is more important.

Either your a fan or not. That's how it breaks down in the end. Either you'll love it or you'll see it as a useless feel good film that Hollywood manages to pump out once in awhile. As for me the songs do it for me, and I do like the performers in it, so I liked it. But be warned after viewing the film you'll be humming the lyrics to the songs, and depending on your viewpoint that's either a good thing or a really evil thing. You decide.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 and onward!

I sometimes don't know what to write here. Another review, talk about an interesting article I came about on film making, or just try and toot my own horn. They say it's about subscribers, and I believe that, but I didn't start this blog to try and out do other film sites. I just wanted to be part of the discussion about film making, and more importantly indie film making.

A lot has changed over the years in film making and in distribution. The Internet is a big factor now, and it can make ordinary folk like myself get heard. So that's a cool thing to do.

So what have I been up to? We;; this time of year it's about the holidays for me. I try and re-connect with old friends, and try to share the spirit of the holiday. Of course my mind is never far from film making. I've been writing sometimes, but the projects get bigger, and then the frustration kicks in because for me it's hard to come up with money to finance the addiction. In these lean times money goes elsewhere, and when you have a family you want to do right by them. I'm not saying the dream is dead, but I need to be smarter, and sometimes a bit more ruthless. Ruthless you say. That doesn't sound good, but when I mean ruthless I mean ruthless in stretching a dollar.

I always hated people doing movies and not paying their crew or actors. I mean aren't peoples time worth something? it's gotten rougher out there and I'm all sure we can agree on that. Money is tight, and it's harder to fiance that film you want to do. I always thought a collective is a cool thing to do. Have a bunch of artist work together on each others films, but that isn't so realistic nowadays. People have to work and get some money to pay the bills that are coming due every month. After all the bill collector doesn't say forget this months payment. Nope you miss a payment and you got penalties.

So what's a filmmaker to do? I've been tempted to just dissolve my company, but there's something I need to do before that happens. One more film. This time a bit more personal, and made a bit smarter. Maybe it'll happen maybe it won't but I need to try. So I've given myself deadlines, and a goal.

A favorite filmmaker of mine is Roger Corman, and I love how he produced films. Quick and fast. Every dime went on the screen. I'm not saying that his films were groundbreaking, but he was himself a revolutionary in film making. Is it quantity or quality now. Corman amassed a few hundred films under his production company. In toady's market there is already quantity. Quality is what matters now in today's market place. Getting the film seen is the important thing. So I'm going to try and see what I can do. Something quick and something people would be interested in seeing. Maybe serialize a film, and release it that way, and the DVD would be an after thought.

There is a lot to think about and a lot to do in 2009. Let's make 2009 an interesting year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Copyright

NPR had yesterday an interview with Lawrence Lessing. In his new book Remix, law professor Lawrence Lessig explores the changing landscape of intellectual property in the digital age. In the interview Lessing discusses the new forms of copyright such as the creative commons. I then came across the video "Good Copy, Bad Copy". The video discusses the new digital age and how current copyright law is being challenged. Though the film discusses the music business it does have a section on film copyright and it has an interview with the chairman & CEO of the MPAA Dan Glickman. In the film they discuss Nigeria's booming film industry all without the help of copyright.

It's an interesting look at how and where the future of copyright is heading. My only problem is I'd rather have the individual protected as a copyright holder rather then the corporations who seem to want audiences to have a limited access to their catalogues, or to charge them for it. I'm not saying that someone shouldn't make a profit on their labor, but instead we should figure out a way to compensate the artist a bit better so he or she can make MORE of his or her work.

It's how new genres are developed and born. Take a look at the video, and if you can please make a donation to help them differ costs for producing the videos.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Bucket List (2007)


I caught "The Bucket List" on HBO the other night, and sort of enjoyed it. It was a bit schmaltzy though, and predictable, but worth seeing on cable. Both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson play men who are given not long to live. Nicholson's character convinces Freeman's character to do the things that they haven't done before their time is up. Throughout the picture the two characters become closer and we are privy to certain secrets or regrets that they have had. i enjoyed the performances of Freeman and Nicholson, but the script seemed forced, and overly dramatic. Rob Reiner directs the film, and he does a good job at making us feel empathy for the characters, but again the schmaltz factor is hard to overcome.

I like what the movie had to say, and its message, but feel that the film could have done this in a less heavy handed way. I can see where this movie could have gone into absurdity, but Reiner doesn't let the movie go in that direction. of course it would have been interesting if the characters were a bit like ordinary guys. Sure Freeman's character is a auto mechanic, but Nicholson's character is wealthy and the two begin jetting all around the world to complete their "list". I had thought it would have been a lot interesting to see what ordinary men would have done under the circumstance. But I guess that's another movie, and maybe I'm just being picky.

I did like the performances, but then again Nicholson & Freeman are two excellent actors. I also enjoyed the message of the film, and liked the idea of two strangers actually becoming good friends in a short amount of time. Some of the cinematography is beautiful, but I did think I saw some process shots that were filmed in a studio instead of the real location. Hey even Hollywood has to adhere to budget constraints. I mean do you know how much it costs to fly a movie crew around the world?

So do I recommend this or tell you to skip it? I enjoyed the film ultimately, and found it entertaining, and yes I did get a little misty eyed, so I did feel the movie was cathartic. I see why the film didn't do so well. On one hand it's not a ha-ha laugh riot film, and on the other it's a film about dying. Maybe a bit too real for its audience. If you can catch it on cable one night it makes for good viewing, and makes you think. HBO is currently running it, and I'm sure it's on their on-demand menu. Hey you could do worse.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revisting Spike's "She's Gott'a Have It"

Spike Lee is a filmmaker who is a strong filmmaker. I've always thought his films are inventive, a bit experimental, and of course provocative. He's done so many films since "She's Gott'a Have it. In each film you can see how far Lee has come, and how good a filmmaker he's become. When I feel uninspired I go back to films that impress me, and have inspired me. She's Gott'a have it was Spike's first film, and when it premiered it made waves. A small little film about a women (Noela) and her relationship with three men. Lee even plays one of the men in the film.

The film was shot on a shoe-string, and the budget is said to be about $250,000 dollars. For a first feature it has some interesting performances in it, but you can see that the film is a bit crude due to it's lack of resources, but what resources Lee has he uses and he uses them effectively. Lee says in interviews that it was only during "Do the right thing" that he became comfortable with dealing with actors. In "She's Gott'a have it" Lee doesn't seem to be lacking in that area. Maybe it's the quality of the actors, but for such a small film he makes good use of the actors performances. A lot of times the actors talk right to the camera breaking that "fourth wall" and letting the audience in. In some films this would slow down a film, but here it doesn't. Instead it makes us more and more interested in the characters. Some would say that this was a cost cutting technique, but here in this film it works. After all filming interviews isn't too difficult, but it is the way Lee, or should I say Ernest Dickerson, the films director of photography, who makes those shots stand out.

The film was shot over the course of 12 days, and it was Dickerson's 3rd film as a DP, and Dickerson contributes a lot to the film. Lee knew Dickerson's talent, and was very confident of his DP, and it shows. Lee & Dickerson point to the film "Raging Bull" as big influence on how they shot "She's Gott'a have It". From the speed changes and sound design "Raging Bull" influenced a lot of Lee's need for experimentation. In the book "Spike Lee: that's my story and I'm sticking to it" Lee is quoted as saying that Scorsese was always playing with the medium of film and using it to heighten the experience the film was giving the audience. It was Dickerson's suggestion to shoot the film in black & white. Both were fans of such films as "Stranger than Paradise", "Breathless", and "Rashomon".

Like any good filmmaker Lee knew who to contact when he had trouble such as fast-action sex scene. It is there that he turned to Barry Brown for help. Brown also assisted in the sound design.

After watching "She's Gott'a have it" and reading Spikes books about the making of the film, and his latest on his career and his films you have to come to one conclusion, and that is Lee surrounds himself with good people who can contribute to the film. From the actors to the crew I sincerely believe Lee learns how to make a good film, and that's what a good director is suppose to do. All through the making of his first film Lee's production was on the verge of shutting down, but he managed the momentum, and in the end made a really good film.

I still think the film works, and it is pretty unique. Of course having come out when it did the film seemed to be just waiting to explode in the national scene. But as Lee continues to make films he gets better always pushing the medium further and further. Back when "She's Gott'a Have It" was playing Lee even knew how to market himself and the film by selling merchandise to the crowds waiting on line to see his film.

Spike Lee remains and will always be one of America's most prolific film directors, and you can see all this in his first feature "She's Gott'a Have it". It's all there, and Lee has only gotten better as the years go by.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Delgo" Has Worst Wide Release Opening Ever


According to the numbers the movie "Delgo" has the worst wide release opening ever. According to box office the movie earned a measly $511,920 this weekend on 2,160 screens, not even breaking the top ten.

"Delgo" is not the only major wide release bomb of the year. Three of the ten worst openings for films in over 2000 locations came out this year. The raunchy teen sex comedy "College" and the thriller "Deception," starring Hugh Jackson and Ewan MacGregor, both tanked, garnering the sixth and ninth worst openings ever respectively.

What can we take from all this? That no matter how big you open a film and it isn't from a major studio that's backing it up in its marketing your doomed to failure. Making a movie is half the battle the other half is getting it noticed and out to screens.

The story is interesting on how and who was responsible for the film. Apparently Marc Adler decided he wanted to direct and produce a $40 million computer animated kids' flick completely independent of Tinseltown behemoths like Disney and Dream works. When no body was interested he went to a distributor for hire and released it himself. The reviews were awful and that kept theater goers from coming.

Now not for nothing, but Adler had some stones to release it his way. I'll give him that. But it's hard to release something without major studio marketing. Adler even started this project back in 2001, and toiled away on a very low budget. Adler even got names to voice the characters, but in the end it was the story. I'm sure this film will do well on DVD because the children's market is a lucrative one.

This is one more example that the distribution of films have changed, and is changing as we speak. Not only for animated fare but as well as art films, thrillers, and action/adventure films.

Check out the Yahoo article here: Yahoo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)


So I was in a mood to see a good sci-fi film, and I decided to see "The Day the Earth Stood Still" starring Keanu Reeves, and Jennifer Connelly. I am a fan of the 1951 film. Unfortunately after seeing the film I can't say that I'm a big fan of this one. Don't get me wrong I like the performances, and I even like what the writers did by updating it to to days subject matters. But with all the build up the film let's you down in the end. I actually thought there should be more. Sure the world has stopped, but why. The film explains a lot of the motivations of Reeves character, but in the end I don't buy it.

After being rebuked by the U.S. government Reeves character goes on a journey. In this journey he finds out that the human race is worth saving. There's an appearance of the character actor James Hong who I think is NEVER used well enough. In it Hong plays Mr. Wu another alien agent who had come to the earth over 70 years ago. I was actually more interested in his character then any other, and he is only in one scene in the film. Had the filmmakers decided to concentrate on his character I think this film would have benn a lot more interesting. But that's a personal opinion, but if you decide to see the film look for the scene.

Some critics have complained about Jaden Smith's performance. Smith is the son of Jaden and Will Smith, so maybe that's why the critics want to paint a bulls eye on him, but I didn't think he was that bad. He had heart, and I did well up with tears when he brought Reeves character to the cemetery where his father is buried. Maybe I'm just a big softy, but come on guys Smith's acting was fine. It's the writing that doesn't work.

Take for instance how Reeves' character (Klaatu) suddenly is convinced that the human race is worth saving. After visiting a Nobel prize awarded scientist (Professor Barnhardt)played by of all people John Cleese and listening to a recording of Bach Klaatu realizes that there is more to us humans then our destructive capabilities. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it. I think a good idea would have been going on a journey with the child (Jaden Smith) and viewing some of man's other traits, and then seeing man isn't the monster he usually is represented as. I mean wouldn't a super intelligent alien being need more then a recording of Bach to decide that the earth was worth saving. In the beginning of the movie Klaatu says that his species is much different then our own, and that we (mankind) would be scared of our difference. In other words the writers just took the easy way out. Maybe I'm asking for way too much, but please don't talk down to your audience. Have some respect. After all this is a science fiction movie, and we are capable of imagining other worlds and other species.

But this is is a mainstream movie with a BIG budget, so no experimenting please. Cut and dry and leave it at that. Maybe by doing so you create a Bigger film, and a longer one at that, and remember films need to be a certain length to fit in to a theaters schedule. Maybe I'm again nitpicking, but I thought "the Day The Earth Stood Still" could have been a much better film. I even liked Keanu Reeves acting as Klaatu. He plays the character with little emotion, but there is intelligence behind those eyes, and a longing to connect with his human hosts. Jennifer Connelly is cast well, and works here too.

In the end as I walked out of the theater I said"that's it?". Maybe leaving them wanting more is something, but here it's not a good thing. After all the build up of this film I was disappointed. There is some good material here, but not enough to be excited by it.

Also a note about the effects. I believe that even the helicopter effects were done via computer, and I noticed. Not a very good sign. I thought they looked a bit strange, and then thought that it may be a computer image. In fact a lot of this film is done via computer effects. A lot of the times I didn't have a problem with it, but on occasion I began to play the game guess the computer image. I guess it's normal in today's films to have it, but I lament the days of real effects work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Death of Indie Film as a Business Model

There is a really interesting rant, or I should say opinion over at Mike Curtis's Blog HD for Indie. In it he discusses the demise of independent film making as a business model. Actually when was ever "indie" film making a viable business model. Of course you can point to the success in the field and say look at so and sos company and how it evolved, but that was then and this is now. Curtis says that with every success there are several failures, and it's this point that I've been hammering away. You could put even me in that category, but I'd like to think of myself as a success just because I got a movie made.

Finding an audience is a problem. Not that there isn't an audience, but that the competition for that audience is intense. How can the little guy compete with films budgeted at $50 million and marketed for $35 million. Also there is a lot of FREE content out there now, so why pay. At what threshold can you make a product and still make a profit on it. That's the key question that has plagued entrepreneurs of every sort. It doesn't matter if your making films or making napkin holders. It's simple economics, and it's hit the independent film community hard.

Go on over and read Curtis's article. He has some good points, and yes maybe it's a bit pessimistic, but he raises some GOOD points. I do like some of the comments he is getting too. Some people also see a silver lining in all this. After all just because you can make a film doesn't mean you should. But I'd like to be on the opinion that from every change there comes innovation. With innovation comes new ideas that may propel "indie" film making to new heights. That is my hope, and my dream. So the storm is here, but with every storm there is a clearing. I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Film school

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Being involved in education, and having a love of film I get asked about film schools a lot. Which one to go to, which is the best, how to I apply, and so on. First let me say that I strongly urge young men & women to seek out educational opportunities, and if they have a chance they should pursue what interests them. That being said is it smart to go to a school and major in film production or mass communications when the economy is in a free fall. I mean who has the money to go into a career where competition is tenacious, and employment is questionable?

If I had known what I know now would I have gone to the school I went? For the record I went to Brooklyn College which is a city university in New York. My major was film production, and I had a minor in TV production. The answer to that question would be a resounding "yes". I would have done some things different, but I still would have gone. After all my love for film permeated my youth, and it was an extension of my love of photography that drove me to the cinema.

But since I've gone to school there has been an explosion of programs at various different schools all catering to film making and the study of cinema. So let's dive in, and see which one may be for you. I'll start with my own school Brooklyn College. Brooklyn College offers a degree in film production and/or cinema studies. Since I've been there the school does offer some new programs such as a BA in screenwriting, and a BA in film marketing. These programs are degree programs and you are required to take elective courses for that degree. Brooklyn College also has a certificate program for people who just want to learn filmmaking, screenwriting or just film studies. This was not available when I went to school so I have a degree in film production. I took electives, and at the time grudgingly endured the other discipline's.

I look back at my college days with a certain amount of nostalgia, yet I know full well that my education helped me in the years after school. I was technically proficient in making films, and I had a well rounded college experience. My writing improved, my analytic skills improved, and I was a more well rounded individual. Of course between my schooling, and my work experience the computer became a more and more dominate force in my field. Who would have thought that all you need is a camera and a computer and you can make films just like the pros do. It is this simple yet defining technological breakthrough that has changed filmmaking and media in general.

Which brings me to film schools, and if they serve a purpose or not. Such schools as the New York film academy or the Brooks Institute are good schools to learn the craft of filmmaking. Such schools schools as UCLA, USC, NYU, Columbia, and School of Visual Arts are great schools also, but they are degree programs. If you go to any one of these expect to shell out money, and get a well rounded education in the arts. Sure they have equipment, but these schools are universities, and they produce individuals with a well rounded view of the world. They are NOT trade schools. If you want them go to schools like NYFA, or the Brooks Institute. I'm not saying that these schools are inferior on the contra they immerse the individual with technical data and you learn by doing. When you graduate from one of these schools you will know how to put together a film, and work on any film or TV crew. If this is what your goal is go for it, and make no mistake you will love every minute of it, but beware it is intense.

Such schools as NYU or UCLA teach their students more then just film, and this is great because in such a volatile economy one could use all the knowledge one can accumulate. To be flexible, and know other things isn't a bad thing.

So is film school worth it? In my case it was, and will always be, but with all these new programs out there, and these new schools out there worth anything? The certificate programs are shorter but more intense. I don't know about their placement program, but I have heard of successful stories where students go on to successful careers in the field. But like everything you should look into the schools internship programs. It is here where you will see if the school has any good "in-roads" to the industry. Because it's not sometimes what you know, but who. Maybe it's a bit cynical, but in order to get a job you need to know people in the industry, and you need experience. So choose a school that is at the forefront of the industry. One that has connections to companies and individuals in the arts, and movie making industry. That's how you'll get a bigger bang for your buck.

I don't regret my schooling, but I do regret not taking full advantage of some of their internship programs. For me it was monetary, and I needed to work to pay for film stock, developing, and text books. If this is you then try and get a paying internships.

I do believe that film schools produce a better filmmaker due to the exposure of films he or she sees. In today's climate DVD's and the Internet can provide that for you, but then you would be denied learning and working with your peers. The most fun and the best times I had was working with my classmates on projects together. Some of those people have drifted away, but there are bonds forged in that classroom that sometimes precede careers. That's what I carry away from my filmmaking days. With today's youth they are even more proficient in media, and all that is standing in their way is having that one good break to launch their careers.

In the end you have to know what YOU want, and what you can afford. Is there a way to make a career without film school? I'd have to say yes, but the odds increase in your favor when you attend one of these schools. The connections you make and the friendships that you forge are very important in your career. Get out there network, and show your work to others. Learn all you can, and always read about new innovations. I wish you all the best of luck, and a full filling education and career.

Friday, December 05, 2008

R.I.P. Forrest J. Ackerman


I just heard that Forrest J. Ackerman had passed away yesterday. Ackerman was a man who touched a lot of lives, and if you happen to be a fan of horror and sci-fi movies you know he was the publisher of "Famous Monsters". I remember hiding several issues from my dad since he thought they were garbage, but a lot of adults didn't get it. To a boy of 8 or 9 those magazines were a peek into the world of the fantastic. Ackerman was 91, and even at his advanced age he commanded a lot of respect and was still active. He will be missed.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Road


Okay so I had to write this while still being inspired. After getting my latest Filmmaker magazine I read an article about a movie called "The Road". It is being directed by John Hillcoat, and it is from a novel written by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is the author of the "No Country for Old Men", so this is not a story from an unknown author. The story is a post-apocalyptic story about a man and his son traveling across a burnt out and desolate United States. It is not an easy read, and from what the article author explains in Filmmaker it is NOT an easy film to watch.

The movie is being distributed by Dimension Films, and looks to be released in early 2009. The movie was filmed mostly in Pennsylvania, and was chosen for its tax breaks and its abundance of locations that looked post-apocalyptic such as coalfields, dunes, and run-down parts of Pittsburgh. The abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike was used for much of production. The director also said of using Pittsburgh as a practical location, "It's a beautiful place in fall with the colors changing, but in winter, it can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal. We didn't want to go the CGI world." Filmmakers also shot scenes in parts of New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and on Mount St. Helens in Washington.

My wife and I have been to many parts of Pennsylvania and she can recall when I said that this would be a great place to film. Many of those locations were desolate, and far in-between known civilization. At $ 30 million dollars I can only hope that they captured the full extent of PA's location.

I had and have been working on a story about a post apocalyptic world, but much more scaled down then this. After all I don't have 30 million to spend. The article along with the photos I've seen on-line look very promising. I'm sure it's not a feel good film, and from what I hear it isn't, but I like the director has to say. He is more into depicting "realism" and NOT using CGI which sometimes can look fake as I've said in my review of "Diary of the Dead".

Anyway this looks to be an interesting film. I really like the "realism" angle. Sort of that Italian neo-realism that happened after world war 2. After all the studios were all gone, so filmmakers were forced to use locations as their sets, and to a large extent it was successful. Then came the birth of the French New Wave and cinema wasn't the same ever again.

Sometimes old things become new, and sometimes the older ways are still the best. My challenge is to use locations as part of the story, and use them effectively. Having too big of crew can be a problem and having to little can also be a problem. It is that balance that one needs to make an effective film on a budget that Hollywood would consider insignificant. "The Road's film website isn't up yet, but I'm sure in the next few months the film will get more and more attention, and especially because of its subject matter and the times we currently live in. Check it out and take a look. I think you'll be impressed and interested.

Dan in Real Life (2007)

I had a chance to watch the movie "Dan in Real Life" starring Steve Carell and directed by Peter Hedges. I watched this movie because my late grandmother loved it so much. She was a big movie fan, and loved comedies and family dramas, so I thought I would watch the first ten minutes of the film and see how I liked it, and I soon forgot about the ten minute rule, and watched it straight through. The film is filled with sentimentality. "Dan in Real Life" is about a widower (Carell) who is raising three girls by himself. Dan Burns (Carell) and his daughters are heading up to a family get together that they have every year. While there he meets a women (Juliette Binoche) in a book store while out getting a paper. They talk and share a cup of coffee, and fall for each other. But here's where the conflict happens. After Binnoche's character leaves and Dan heads back to the family he meets her again only this time as his brothers girlfriend. So hence begins a few days of torture for Carell's character.

Now I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but I have to say that Carell does an excellent performance as Dan Burns. He does a slow burn, and you do feel some sympathy for him and his predicament. Binoche does a fair performance as the girl caught between two brothers, but this is Carell's movie, and he does one heck of a job as a love lorn widower of three girls. This is Peter Hedges second movie he's directed. Hedges also shares writing crets here with Pierce Gardner. Both writers I'm a bit unfamiliar with their other work, but do know Hedges received an academy award nomination for "About a Boy" with Hugh Grant.

If you're looking for some holiday movies with a feel good ending then "Dan in Real life" is your type of film. The jokes and humor are not laugh out loud funny, but they are funny and that's a credit to again Steve Carell's acting abilities. Diane Wiest is in this too yet she does not have as much to do here as she Carell or Binoche. There are good performances all around by Dane Cook, John Mahoney and Brittany Robertson. The film in itself is well done, and something of a simple pleasure. There are faults, but they are only nit-picks. I felt that the scene where the family makes fun of a blind date that the family is setting up Dan with is a bit cruel. I know that when the girls eventually does show up she is just the opposite of what they all expected. There are a couple of scenes that telegraph the ending, yet they work in their own way. I'm sure the writing could have been a bit better and more realistic. After all it deals with a man who has lost his wife who he adored and loved. How does anyone coupe with a loss of a loved one is a difficult thing to write about, and yet this is a comedy and we can't get bogged down with heavy emotions.

Again I did like this film, and thought it sweet and sentimental. In the end we all know Carell's character and Binoche's character get together, but how they get there is fun to watch. So if you're looking for a sentimental and sappy film about family, loss, and re-discovered love then "Dan in Real Life" is your cup of tea. Just sit back and enjoy the characters, and smile. In the end that's what makes "Dan in Real Life" a film worth watching.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Diary of the Dead (2007)


So I finally sat down and watched George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead". I am a fan of Romero's, and I do like his work, but Diary is a film I was very much disappointed with. The premise is interesting. Have a bunch of students videotape there experiences as the Dead start coming back. Make them film students doing a horror film, and add your own irony to the film within the film. Throughout the film we the audience are subjected to the "narrator". You know the one who tells us what is happening and who tells us of her or his plight. In this case the narrator is Debra Moynihan played by Michelle Morgan. The narration seemed to get in the way for me. I felt detached and I didn't care at all about our protagonists. Also the narration is annoying at times. I can hear Romero hammering away at a point about civilization and whether we need saving or not. For freaking sake please! don't lecture me. I can figure this out myself. Ultimately the narration detracts from the story, and weakens the movie.

It seems as though Romero has also raided the stock footage cabinet. Romero has taken a lot of news footage from disasters, wars, and riots and added them into the film to portray the world gone made. I don't think this works effectively for me as well as the beginning of the Zack Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead" scene where the characters literally wakes up to a world of the dead, and Sarah Polley has to run for her life. The shot of a car zooming across the highway and one smashing into a gas station says it all. This all happens in the first few minutes of the film, and we know the world is in chaos. In Romero's "Diary of the Dead" he has none of that. Maybe it was due to budgetary constraints, and the way the film is set-up. I think Romero wants more of a personal view of the zombie outbreak, hence the name "Diary of the Dead", but that never happens for me.

Instead I'm introduced to various characters I really don't care about. I feel bad for the narrator Debra, but instead it feels like a video game, and not a very good video game. I always think that for a film to work you need to feel empathy or at least care about the character or characters. In this movie I didn't feel a thing.

There are some interesting effects in the film, but you can see that it was digitally enhanced, and that too takes a way from the film. Digital is good when done right, and done in scenes where you can hide it, but here its obvious that the effects are digital.

Also Romero is a victim of his budget. Romero adds a new side to the zombie film, but by now haven't we seen it all. The effects don't sell it anymore it's the story, and here it's the same old tale told a bit differently. In the end I just shut it off and realized I'd seen all this before, and wasn't interested in seeing it again. Sorry George, but Diary doesn't do it for me, and maybe it's time to move on to some more fertile ground. I still love ya, but in a media obsessed world Diary just makes me want to change the channel.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008)


Ever since Daniel Craig has become the new Bond I've had a bit of excitement when another 007 picture is released. Now don't get me wrong I've been a Bond fan since seeing Dr. No way back when. So it's a little hard for me not to like a Bond film though there are some that I don't like, but Craig's introduction as Bond in "Casino Royal" was a breath of fresh air into a franchise that seemed to have run out of steam. Ian Fleming's Bond is a man who does what he has to do and it may not be morally right, but he does it. For Queen and country is Bond's operatis mondi, and he does it so well. The Bond films have or should I say had gone away from that and focused on the technology, and the fantastic villains that Bond was up against. Never did we get a look into Bond's heart and what makes him tick as we did in the last two Bond films, and that can be attributed to it's writing and Craig's acting.

In "Quantum of Solace" Bond is on a rampage of revenge. Only Bond does a slow burn, and we see every expression on Craig's face as his character goes through some hard choices. What makes the series viable and real for me is Craig's acting. He plays a Bond you don't want to mess with. Behind those beautiful blue eyes is a killer who will not hesitate to kill you if he must. He also portrays a venerability unlike other Bonds before him. His relationship with Vespar in "Casino Royale" is one that Craig makes us believe in.

I've always thought that James Bond the character was much more interesting then any of the villains or people around him. That's what invigorates me about the Bond franchise now. When I heard Daniel Craig was the new Bond I wondered, as well as did the rest of the world how the franchise would fare. But in Craig's hands Bond comes off as if Ian Fleming were channeling Bond's spirit. This is in no small measure due to Craig's superb acting abilities. Take a look at Craig's films such as "Layer Cake", "Munich" and "Flashbacks of a Fool", and you will see an actor who can play it all. It is no wonder that Craig plays Bond so well he is just that good of an actor.

Okay but how was the film "Quantum of Solace"? I've answered why I like Craig, and the new Bond franchise, but what of the film itself which was directed by Marc Foster. Foster directed such films as: The Kite Runner, Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball, and he does an apt job in Quantum of Solace. The problem with the film and this is a nit pick is that the cuts are fast and furious, and there is little time for the audience to absorb it all. I blame non-linear editing for this at times. Cutting on a 17 to 21 inch screen or screens and not projecting it can make an audience member dizzy. Yes I know it is an action/adventure type film, but there have been Bond films in the past that didn't rely on the fast cutting, and yet they still elicited gasps from their audience.

I know I'm getting older and the eyes aren't what they were in my youth, but sometimes the information on the screen is a bit overwhelming, and it forces audiences to go wow because they actually don't know what they've seen, and then it's onto the next shot. But this is my general peeve in the cinema today. Maybe I would do the same if I had all the toys that a big budget film like "Quantum of Solace" has at it's disposal. When I mean "toys" I mean Steadicam, blue screen, dollies, cranes, and other neat filmmaking equipment.

But I still loved the film. I loved Craig's performance. I loved seeing Judi Dench, and Giancarlo Giannini who are also superb actors in their own right. Three other actors need also to be mentioned and they are Olga Kurylenko who plays Camille, Gemma Arterton who plays Strawberry Fields, and Jeffrey Wright who plays the CIA operative Felix Leiter. All play against Craig magnificently.

For me Bond is back, and he's back with a vengeance. I'm setting my watch for the next one as we speak. Viva La Bond!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Christmas on Mars (2008)


2008 - Christmas On Mars - Trailer from George Hussein Salisbury on Vimeo.
Came across this film and thought it looked cool. It's playing till the end of the year if not the end of time: New York City at: The KGB Complex's Kraine Theater .

The plot you say what is it? It's Christmastime, and the colonization of Mars is underway. However, when an oxygen generator and a gravity control pod malfunction, Major Syrtis (the Lips' Steven Drozd) and his team (including the Lips' Michael Ivins) fear the worst. Syrtis also hallucinates about the birth of a baby, and many other strange things. Meanwhile, a compassionate alien superbeing (Coyne) arrives, inspiring and helping the isolated astronauts. You got that?

Now whose it from? Psychedelic rock band the Flaming Lips present Christmas on Mars: A Fantastical Film Freakout Featuring the Flaming Lips, a glorious science fiction film that marks the directorial debut of the Lips' visionary frontman Wayne Coyne. Seven years in the making, Christmas on Mars features original music by the Flaming Lips ("The greatest U.S. band today" - The Guardian), with acting performances by all band members, and many others from their Oklahoma City-based team. Comedian Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and actor Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Two Days in Paris) also appear, as does performer Steve Burns of the band Steve Burns and the Struggle (who had also appeared in children's television show Blue's Clues). Bradley Beesley and George Salisbury co-directed the movie with Mr. Coyne.

Hey any movie with Steve Burns in it can't be all that bad can it? Another way on how to promote your film.

Interested in buying the film check Amazon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Repo The Genetic Opera


I first heard of this film from the podcast The Biz. It's an interesting way to market a film and something I think will be the norm in the not so distant future. I've always said how do you rise above the noise, and this is one example. The guys at Lionsgate are pretty shrewed in their attempt to market a film that has a core audience, yet the film needs to break out from that core and into some of the mainstream.

The film is a Gothic opera, and from the clips, and the trailer it looks quite interesting. The soundtrack has been a top seller at Amazon, so there is money in them there hills. Being that it's Halloween I would think that this would be the opportune time to release this film, but the films release date is November 7th at selected theaters. Why on November 7th rather then October 31st is any body's guess. The one thing I don't like is that I can't put links to the trailer. I would think viral marketing would be a GOOD thing for this movie. After all it's rabid fan base would be the ones to try and sell it to others. Why the studio doesn't use it's fan base is a mystery to me. Instead it uses MySpace & it's own website for the film located here: http://www.repo-opera.com/

In the interview with the director of the film on the biz he mentions illegal downloads of the movie, and maybe it's the studio who is being overly cautious since they have some money invested in it. Maybe the best idea would have been to open it in theaters and release the DVD of the film at the same time. Being that sometimes impulse buys by consumers are more prevalant on occasions or holidays. Hence the Halloween season. After all Hallmark has said that Halloween is the second biggest shopping holiday after Christmas.

The director Darren Lynn Bousman and the two writers of the film Darren Smith & Terrance Zdunich are putting their heart and soul into the movie with this short tour. From the look and some of the songs I've heard they have an interesting film which I hope doesn't get lost in the vapor of the Internet

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Film analysis



There is no one better then Matt Zoller Seitz in talking about film and film analysis. The above is proof of that. I'm always astounded to find articulate men and women who really love what they do. Mr Seitz seems to be one of those people. I could link the various articles and films he's done and examined, but there are too many. So just google his name and follow the above analysis to his Youtube account, and find out for yourself how good Mr. Seitz is.

Film has always meant more to me then an entertainment vehicle. Mr. Seitz shows us that film can be more then entertainment, but art in itself.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore 1927-2008



From the LA Times obit section by Jocelyn Y. Stewart :

Rudy Ray Moore, the self-proclaimed "Godfather of Rap" who influenced generations of rappers and comedians with his rhyming style, braggadocio and profanity-laced routines, has died. He was 81.

When antiheroes and pimp suits ruledMoore, whose low-budget films were panned by critics in the 1970s but became cult classics decades later, died Sunday night in Toledo, Ohio, of complications from diabetes, his brother Gerald told the Associated Press.

Though he was little known to mainstream audiences, Moore had a significant effect on comedians and hip-hop artists.

"People think of black comedy and think of Eddie Murphy," rap artist Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew told the Miami Herald in 1997. "They don't realize [Moore] was the first, the biggest underground comedian of them all. I listened to him and patterned myself after him."

And in the liner notes to the 2006 release of the soundtrack to Moore's 1975 motion picture "Dolemite," hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg said:

"Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that's for real."

When it came to his own sense of his accomplishments, Moore was never burdened by immodesty.

"These guys Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac claim they're the Kings of Comedy," Moore told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2003. "They may be funny, but they ain't no kings. That title is reserved for Rudy Ray Moore and Redd Foxx."

The heyday of his fame was in the 1970s, with the release of "Dolemite" followed by "The Human Tornado," "Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law" and "Money Hustler."

The way Moore told it, his introduction to Dolemite came from an old wino named Rico, who frequented a record shop Moore managed in Los Angeles. Rico told foul-mouthed stories about Dolemite, a tough-talking, super-bad brother, whose exploits had customers at the record shop falling down with laughter.

One day Moore recorded Rico telling his stories. Later Moore assumed the role of Dolemite, a character who became the cornerstone of his decades-long career as a raunchy comedian, filmmaker and blues singer.

"What you call dirty words," he often said, "I call ghetto expression."

But long before "Dolemite" debuted on theater screens, Moore had found fame -- and fans -- through stand-up routines and a series of sexually explicit comedy albums.

Not only were the album contents raunchy, the album covers featured women and Moore nude and were too racy for display. So store clerks kept the albums under the counter. Without airplay or big-studio promotion, the so-called party records were underground hits.

"I put records in my car and traveled and walked across the U.S. I walked to the ghetto communities and told people to take the record home and let their friends hear it. And before I left the city, my record would be a hit. This is how it started for me," he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2001.

Although contemporaries such as Foxx and Richard Pryor found success with a broader audience, Moore's stardom was bounded by the geography of race and class: He was a hit largely in economically disadvantaged African American communities.

According to his website, Moore was born in Fort Smith, Ark., on March 17, 1927.

In his youth Moore worked as a dancer and fortune teller and he entertained while serving in the U.S. Army. But his big break came with the recording of his Dolemite routine:

Dolemite is my name

And rappin and tappin

that's my game

I'm young and free

And just as bad as I wanna be.


By the time Dolemite appeared on film, he was the ultimate ghetto hero: a bad dude, profane, skilled at kung-fu, dressed to kill and hell-bent on protecting the community from evil menaces. He was a pimp with a kung-fu-fighting clique of prostitutes and he was known for his sexual prowess.

For all the stereotypical images, Moore bristled at the term blaxploitation.

"When I was a boy and went to the movies, I watched Roy Rogers and Tim Holt and those singing cowboys killing Indians, but they never called those movies 'Indian exploitation' -- and I never heard 'The Godfather' called 'I-talian exploitation,' " he told a reporter for the Cleveland Scene in 2002.

Late in life, Moore saw his work win fans far beyond his African American audience. There is a "Dolemite" website and chat room that boasts a cross-cultural collection of young fans. Such interest won him mainstream work in an advertisement for Altoid Mints and a commercial for Levi's jeans.

Though Moore built a career on talking dirty, he was very religious. He took pride in taking his mother to the National Baptist Convention each year and often spoke in church at various functions. He rationalized his role as a performer.

"I wasn't saying dirty words just to say them," he told the Miami Herald in 1997. "It was a form of art, sketches in which I developed ghetto characters who cursed. I don't want to be referred to as a dirty old man, rather a ghetto expressionist."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Taking the next step?

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Okay so it's been awhile, and still I haven't really done anything film related for myself or my company. In fact I've been toying with closing the company and just giving up, but part of me is screaming no, and so I've decided not to. At least not right now. So much of the filmmaking landscape has changed since I was in school. Now anyone can make a video, and post it. There is so much out there that it's hard to cut through the clutter, and that's what it ALL is clutter.

Movies to me or just films in general exist to tell a story. What is out there a lot is just little vignettes of people jumping up and down saying "notice me please". It's always been about the work for me, and lately I can't do it justice. My little funny video gets a ho-hum, and a smile, but it was just to prove a point. The point being that making media is easier now more then ever. It's being relevant that is much more difficult.

Aren't movies suppose to entertain? Aren't they suppose to tell a story and touch an audience? Well of course they are. There is nothing wrong with short funny videos or even serious ones at that. It's kind of neat to have a new venue for short films. The only time you really saw any shorts were in film festivals, and that was only a limited audience at that.

I would like to make a GOOD film I can be proud of and that says something long after I'm dust. Call me weird I guess, but that's how I feel about it. That doesn't mean I'm against making comedies or horror films for the masses. In fact I think more and more that the next BIG genre will come from the web in a very interesting way. SOmewhere someplace someone is working on a new an interesting way to present new and different stories. The Farm girl that Coppola talks about is happening right now. We just need to find itr through all the clutter.

I've just been stagnant, and the day job burns a lot of energy from me as well as being involved with the family. It a hard balance to maintain, and some days I feel pretty drained. So there is little time to do the traditional filmmaking that I so love. Time is always at a premium, as well as resources. But I'm still here enjoying the changes in the weather. I always loved this time of year, and the mind is always brimming with new ideas and thoughts.

Writing is a good way to keep motivated, but I miss production. I never thought I say that, but I do. The chaos that comes with making a film is sometimes exhilarating, and can be very addicting. I hope to do at least one more film in my lifetime. Something that means a lot to me. Deadly Obsessions was a film that I wanted to prove that I could do, and now my second film would be an affirmation of the things I learned on my first film. The bug is biting, and I'm still here, and this isn't the end, but something of a new beginning. At least that's my hope.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Last Barbeque


The Last Barbeque from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

Sorry for not being a bit more updated. I was sidelined by illness. This is a little short I did to help teach my boys about movie making. I figured we all enjoy it, and that maybe someday they would like to do something. It was just an intro. My little one was the ham, but my oldest was a bit more aprehensive.

Filmmaking started to take hold when I was around 8 years old. It's then that I inherited a simple Super-8 camera from my grandmother who passed away suddenly. In my teens it, meaning filmmaking was a BIG force in my development.

I just want to rekindle the LOVE for the medium again. I hope to do more shorts of the same, and see what develops. I'm not entirely out, but the bug is biting, and I have to do something before I explode and the Internet seems like a good place to show it. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Babylon A.D. (2008)


So I headed down to the local theater and figured why not. I had heard that the film wasn't any good, and though the film is a bit uneven, and nonsensical I kind of enjoyed it. It isn't a great piece of cinema but it has its moments. Vin Diesel does his best, and you can see he isn't challenged too much by the material. I heard the director Mathieu Kassovitz is even talking bad about this film. He explains about studio interference & studio lawyers getting in the way.

Truthfully I didn't mind it. The movies is a sci-fi action adventure. The story is somewhat interesting, and what I really liked about the film was the atmosphere. Kassovitz paints a bleak future, and somewhat mirroring the future in a film called "Children of Men". I'm sure there are some interesting outtakes that the studio cut, and maybe we'll see those in the DVD release of the film, but as for now the film doesn't suffer too much from it.

The film is about a mercenary played by Vin Diesel named Toorop. He is hired by a Rusian crime lord Gorsky played by an almost unrecognizable Gerard Depardieu to smuggle a girl named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) from a Mongolian convent to New York.

Along for the ride is Michelle Yeoh as one of the convent's sisters. The film does all the ABC's of an action film. Everything is thrown at our hero's but the kitchen sink, and they survive against all the odds.

I felt that there was material that was left out due to the length of the film. Vin Diesel's character makes the leap into believing in Aurora too quickly for my tastes. After all he is a mercenary whose seen his share of the wicked world. His belief in Aurora comes a bit too quick, but I feel that some of the directors explanation for this has been cut. Like I said before maybe we'll have to wait for the DVD release to find out if they'll include it.

All in all it wasn't too bad. From what I'm hearing a lot of people didn't like it, and there are only a few critics who seem to like it. The studio (Fox) dropped this film without reviews or screenings for critics, so it shows how much faith they have in this film. Had this film been made a few years ago I'm sure it would have a BIG powerful studio backing with it's marketing department right behind it. But in a world where the Iron Man's & batman's reign this picture doesn't have much of a chance. If I was the director I would be more pissed at how the studio is treating this film then it's others.

To round it up. The film is okay, and I did like the atmosphere. Vin Diesel does his best, and he makes it work onscreen. Not worth going out of your way for, but you could do worse.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In Defense of Swingtown


I know, I know surely I can't be a fan of Swingtown. I mean it's such a soap opera, but hold on wait one second. I think it has merits. Sure its all about three couples in the summer of 1976, but the characters are getting better written as the show evolves. At first you can say yeah theres the marriage which seems to be imploding slowly, and then there is the couple who have a more modern way of looking at marriage, but as the series progressed this summer some of those stereotypes began to melt away.

Here's the premise in a nut shell:

"The early episodes take place in the summer of 1976, when the Miller family relocates to a more affluent neighborhood in North Shore, a suburban area north of Chicago. Bruce Miller (Jack Davenport) is a futures trader working his way up in the business, while his wife, Susan (Molly Parker), is a housewife.

Tom and Trina Decker (Grant Show and Lana Parrilla) are the Millers' new neighbors. Tom, an airline pilot, met Trina while she was a stewardess. The Deckers have an open marriage, and quickly befriend the Millers.

Roger and Janet Thompson (Josh Hopkins and Miriam Shor), the Millers' neighbors and friends from their old neighborhood, are envious of the Millers' new affluent neighborhood. They try to maintain their friendship with the Millers, but are appalled when they learn about the Deckers' open marriage.

The Millers' daughter, Laurie (Shanna Collins), explores her relationship with her summer school Philosophy teacher. The Millers' son, B.J. (Bruce Jr.) (Aaron Howles), has a strained friendship with the Thompsons' son, Rick (Nick Benson), as a result of their move, and B.J. befriends Samantha Saxton (Brittany Robertson), an enigmatic girl who lives next door.


Now sure it all sounds all too familiar, but as the series progressed. The Deckers become a bit less modern, and in the end Trina is faced with a dilemma that is a contradiction to her and her husbands lifestyle. The Millers family is just the opposite. Their dreamy little nuclear family is melting down, and Susan realizes that there is more to her and the world. Molly Parker plays the character beautifully, and reminds me of Jill Clayburgh character Erica in "The Unmarried Women".

It's a fact I grew up in the seventies, and the series gets the era right. Maybe audiences aren't seeing this because CBS isn't promoting it as well as it should, and that's their fault. Already they moved it to Fridays at 10PM instead of Thursdays. Now I know summer shows have a lot to compete with. Lets face it not many people are not in front of their TVs on a Friday summer night, and in an era where the Internet, and Play stations rule it becomes a bit harder to draw that audience.

So that's why I'd like CBS to try harder. It may already be too late for the show. The finale of the show airs next week, and there is somewhat of a cliffhanger, but yet we are promised a full filling episode where if the series ends then it will leave it's audience happy and content.

I still think the show holds a lot of promise and that the actors who portray the characters on the show do an extraordinary job at fleshing the characters out. I really would LOVE to see this series go for a season two. I would bet dollars to donuts that it's second season would be twenty times better then it's first. All I'm saying is hey CBS give the show a break, and renew it. Put it in your fall or spring program line up. It will do better. Because after all how many cop and procedural shows can you do in a season? Give Swingtown a chance.

Monday, August 04, 2008

What ever Happened to Orson Welles?

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I've been reading the book What ever happened to Orson Welles? It's written by Joseph McBride, and he has a history with Welles as did Peter Bogdanovich who eventually wrote several books about Welles and his films. What struck me about this book is that it is about Welles last 25 years. It's about what he was doing, and his tenacity for creating uncompromising films. Some of it is sad, while other parts are very revealing and quite inspiring. I came across this clip on YouTube and was pretty excited to see it since in the book McBride discusses the making of "The Other side of the Wind". It is even listed in Filmmaker magazine in the category of the Top 10 Greatest Movies That Were Never Finished.

I'm a big fan of Welles' earlier works. Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and A Touch of Evil are all classics in my book, so I was very interested in hearing about his later years.

It seems as though Welles struggled throughout his later years, yet he was always busy. An interesting note is that Gary Graver became an important person in Welles life. In fact so much so that I believe it is Graver who was responsible for shooting and producing Welles' later films. Graver and his wife had been trying to resurrect "The Other side of the Wind" since Welles' death, but only coming close once with Showtime. Now that Graver as well as his wife have passed away I'm afraid that the public will NEVER see Welles last big film. From what the book explains only a few shots remain to be filmed. Most of the actors have even passed away, so I'm afraid this clip above is the only thing we'll see for now.

It made me think how great Welles would have LOVED the video revolution. In the book McBride does say something about it, and quotes Welles:

"Always pushing the bounds of cinematic technique, Welles said in his 1982 appearance at the Cinematheque francaise, "I'm very interested in making films with video - we've been experimenting with it just now." As far back as the shooting of Citizen Kane he had wondered aloud why it was necessary for film to go through a camera, and his great cinematographer Gregg Toland, just as much a visionary, predicted that some day the image would be transmitted electronically, bypassing film entirely.

Welles declared at the Cinematheque that it would be only a few years or even a few months, before "we will be using tape with greater facility then we use film today and with the same definition... I like the look of the video very much and I like video sound even though it's bad - probably what's why - and I love the control that I have over color and many other things." But he cautioned that whether or not video became a "new form" would be up to the new generation of filmmakers: "There is a great temptation to use the electronic world as a cheap form of movies. It's in your hands."


All in all I enjoyed the book. I didn't like the explanation sometimes of how or why a scene didn't work in a particular movie. I was more interested in Welles method of work then why something may or may not have worked. After all that's all subjective, and I'll draw my own conclusions after I see the film.

Welles was a fascinating artists and one that I like very much. The book is inspirational when we hear how Welles struggled to put projects together. Welles was busiest until he died, and it's a testament at an artist who didn't compromise, and who was a genius that Hollywood shunned. Orson you'll always be awesome to me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)


So today was the day I went to see "The Dark Knight", and though I would love to say that I loved it I can't. I'm not saying that I dis-liked it too. So what Karl, which is it? Either you like something or you don't. No in-between. That's not what reviews do. So maybe I won't call this a review. An observation, and leave it at that.

First off Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is really good, and I love the dynamic between Batman & the Joker. Both are two sides of the coin, and one can never be without the other. Christian Bale as Batman works for me. Bale gives Batman depth, and underneath Batman's exterior lies rage. I think when Bale dons the costume he is sort of channeling Dirty Harry. I think it's a bit over played. The snarling and the teeth seem a bit over the top. Ledger gives just the right amount of insanity that the Joker is and should be.

Okay, okay so what's not to like about the movie? Well it seems a bit over-produced to me. What do I mean? Well Christopher Nolan the director loves to work the camera, and he does so a bit too much. Nolan loves to circle the camera and give us a 360 view of the scene, and he does this a bit too often for my taste. Again there is the over the top performance of Bale which distracted me. For me Batman is a vigilante who enjoys what he does. His hate, and disgust for his enemies drive him more then the duty he says he owes Gotham city. That's what makes Batman such an interesting superhero. The movie touches on this a bit, and in the end leaves us as Batman becomes a so-called out-law, but it isn't done as effective as I'd like.

Also the technology that Batman has seems a bit far fetched. Batman or Bruce Wayne is the man who creates all of Batman's toys. Here it is Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the scientist who designs those wonderful toys. I love Freeman, and enjoy seeing him, but again it doesn't seem right. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but when a movie makes me think for a moment about the reality of the scene then the movie fails to entirely captivate me.

The movie does seem a bit long to me, and though I have no problem with long movies it just seems to put everything in it. Maybe what I'm most upset about is that Batman is rated at a PG-13, which in reality should be closer to an R. There are dark themes and dark elements in this movie. Batman has become the "Dark Knight", and is no longer the Batman of the 60's and early 70's. I like what they've done to the character. It's more in line with what Bob Kane wanted for his character. I just think that marketing to kids younger then 13 is wrong, and that's what Warner Brothers seems to be aiming at. I guess I'm pissed because I can't take my 6 year old who loves superheros. I've been a fan of Batman for as long as I remember, but every time I go into a Kmart, or Target store I'm looking at toys aimed at my little one. It sucks that I can't take him, but I do hope when he is older we can sit down and see it together, and maybe I'll feel different. It's just that I hate the duality of corporate greed. Sell the movie yes, but not to a young audiences that aren't ready for such images, but that's what they are exactly doing. .

Yes, yes I know the MPAA rating is just a guide for us parents, and I thank them for it, but really people do we have to sell the violence also. I know they have out cartoon versions of the dark Knight series, and I think I'll be looking at them with my son, but for now the "Dark Knight" is off limits to the boys for now.

Merchandising. It's all in the merchandising of the film, and that's where I feel studios have failed us, and created less then stellar products. Oh! what I wouldn't give for such filmmakers as Selznick, Griffith or Chaplin. It's all corporate now, and the bean counters have taken over the studios, but that's another problem all to itself, so maybe another blog entry for that

So there you have it. Did I enjoy myself at the movie. You bet. I always do, but when I finish digesting it I wasn't too thrilled. Is "The Dark Knight" a good popcorn flick? I have to say yes indeed. Is it great cinema? It has it's moments but I'd have to say no. Is it good summer escapism? Absolutely.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Writing & Musings, and a new beginning!

I've been writing a bit more then usual in the hopes that something catches fire. I downloaded the screenwriting program Celtx and am trying it out. It's a free program, and I wanted to see how the program preforms. I usual write my screenplays in Final draft, but wanted something new.

I'm actually re-writing an old script while getting a feel for the Celtx program. So far so good, but I'm still getting used to the script formatting shortcuts. There's a lot I want to do over the Summer, and as usual the day job takes a lot out of me, so after all is said and done there seems to be never enough time for the things I love.

Over at John Oak Daltons blog he has some interesting insights about microcinema, and grass roots filmmaking. If you get a chance take a look over there and read what he has to say.

The one thing I love about the Internet is that there are people out there who are going through the same thing you're going through. Their interests and desires are all out there, and it's a bit invigorating to know one is not alone. Hey misery loves company I guess, but at least there are people who get or who are trying to get the bigger picture. I've never been a follower or a member of some clique. I subscribe to the theory that Marx subscribed to. That is Groucho Marx , and he said "I never would be a member of a club that would have me as a member". But it's nice to hear and read about others who aspire to create movies that have a meaning, or that are just plain fun to watch. Sure I'm a fan of the French "new wave", but I love a good old B movie. Some of my fondest memories were going to see movies about monsters, boogie men, or zombies.

So no highfalutin aspirations for me. Just some fun and anarchy that filmmaking can bring, and maybe someday I'll make that film that will speak to others. Till then I need to write, write, and write. Maybe something will click.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

There will be Blood (2007)


It took me awhile to finally see this movie. The movie is based on an Upton Sinclair's novel entitled "Oil". The film is a good representation of how those early years of oil prospecting were. Better still is Daniel Day-Lewis' performance of Daniel Plainview an oil speculator who is driven to obsession about the black crude stuff. The cinematography in the film is barren and beautiful. One understands the plight that these men had and how alone they must have felt in their obsession. The landscape was unforgiving, and people did die. Fortunes were made, and better men were broken by their failures as well as their success. If you like character studies you'll enjoy "There will be Blood". Lewis' performance is stellar, and I believe he his performance is academy award worthy, but does the film stand up as a whole? That's the question I posed, and for me it didn't.

Take away the performance and all you have is some really stark visuals. I also felt that the length of the film seemed more then it should have been. Ultimatly was I interested in this man's obsession? I must confess that I lost interest mid-way through the film. I was more interested in how Plainview (Lewis) became the way he was. I understand that oil was his obsession, but why did he always have to win? What was the root to his obsession, and for me that distracted me from the rest of the film.

The ending also wasn't fully satisfying for me. I know Paul Thomas Anderson is a good director. I love most of his films, and I find him to be a gifted director and writer. I also would love to see how he rehearses his actors. It seems that in every film he does he gets a lot out of his actors & they give good performances time and time again. I just felt that in the end the film could have gone on some more, and that Anderson decided to end the film there because of it's length. I understand the theme of Plainview always wanting to win is what Anderson wants to nail home to us, and his final act does do that. But, again I've still learned little about Plainview's character except for his unnatural obsession for winning.

Maybe I'm asking too much, but I do think another interesting film would be how the man was created in the first place. There must have been significant events in Plainview's life to shape him the way he was shaped. What I did like was the relationship to his son or his supposed son. In the end we find out the truth, but at one point he disregards the son, and tosses him aside. His guilt for doing so never rings true to me, and the way Lewis plays it he seems racked with guilt when in actuality he isn't. Like I said the performance of Mr. Lewis is astounding, and well done. But it seems a bit overplayed too. Especially when the end comes and we find all that we've seen were false, and that the man we followed is a soulless bastard. Maybe that's the films best trait, but half way through the film I just don't buy it, and lose interest in the character. Maybe that's why I didn't like it as much as the critics liked it. In the end I felt I had wasted my time on this man, and did not care what happened to him.

If you see the film on DVD make sure you get the wide screen version, and see it on a big enough screen. The cinematography is outstanding, and like I said the performances in the film are interesting. I can't wait to see what Anderson does next. For me Anderson always delivers even when it's a bit uneven.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Film vs Digital (the argument continues)

I read a lot about production, and sometimes I come across some really good interviews with either a filmmaker or cinematographer or editor. In a recent interview in the magazine "Student Filmmakers" I came across an interview with Richard Crudo ASC. He is a director of photography and more recently a director of a film entitled "Last Night".

The interview is in the November 2007 edition, so if you want to read it you can go on over to Student filmmakers website and see how to acquire it.

The part I thought of interest is where Crudo is asked about his opinion about digital technology today and his opinion on HD cameras.

"Clearly digital technology is the future of what we do. There's no question about that. Unfortunately, the future isn't here yet. And the industry has been sold an enormous bill of goods with regard to what this technology's current capable of doing..."

Crudo goes on say "Primarily digital needs to improve in these areas: color space, contrast, quality of the blacks, and resolution. We need a interoperable system of color management. We also need a widespread adaptation of Technicolor's Digital Printer Light System, which is an absolutely brilliant way of returning control of the dailies process to the cinematographer."

"The ASC has gone a long way in driving a lot of efforts in these areas, and we will continue to do so. In many cases today you've got digital technology- a brand new way of doing the same thing - reinventing the wheel. But the trouble is that the wheel is too often surrounded by a flat tire. The unfortunate thing for us is that rather then starting at a point at least equal to the best of what the existing technology delivered (i.e. 65mm), digital started at a point 40 notches down the pole. Through a massive wave of diabolically smart marketing, people (some producers, studio executives and others who don't know any better) were taught to believe that anything new is automatically better. And they bought it no questions asked. It's another tool in the box that has its own applications. But to me the downside still outweighs the benefits. For the thinking cinematographer, digital technology is still not at the point where we need it to be. And it's not going to be for a very long time."

I kind of agree on this. If you said I can do it cheaper digitally then on film I would be the first to tell you that you're wrong. I could shoot on film and edit on film, and still produce a film cheaper then you could do on digital. Why? Because in digital you're hit in post production with the expenses. Everyone may be able to edit on Final Cut or Avid, but you have to output it eventually, and that's where it's going to cost. The old argument that something "new" is better is horse shit.

I'm not saying digital is wrong, or it's evil. I'm just saying that it isn't there yet, and for people to tell you that You YOURSELF can produce product like Hollywood does is a lie. You can get your film to a certain stage, but if you want or need worldwide distribution then it's going to cost, and don't get me started on E & O insurance. But I digress, and so I'll close with Richard Crudo's comments on digital technology. In his comment he explains the crux of the conflict which is "image capture".

"(Image capture) represents the dividing line between people who think digital technology is the answer to every question and the people who think it represents an incomprehensibly poor way of "improving" things. In its simplest terms, it comes down to this: people who prefer digital technology above all always use the term "image capture" in relation to what we call "original photography". People who have come through the filmic tradition, who have that discipline in their bones, will use the term "image creation". The best way to think of the schism is to imagine a bunch of engineers dictating to artists what they think the artist will need instead of the other way around. This is one of the biggest factors that's slowing the actual maturation of digital technology - which we're all desperately hungry for."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sharkey's Machine (1981)

I've always been a fan of this film and after coming across this review by Matt Zoller Seitz I had to post it here too. I agree with Matt that the film is a classic. The photography and the editing all point to a well crafted and interesting film. It's a film that should be viewed again, and appreciated.

Matt does a fine piece of cinema appreciation, and I agree with him on the films merits. Sharky's Machine feels like a simple exploitation type film, but it has deeper roots then that. Maybe that's why I like it. I was surprised it did moderately at the box office, but then again the beauty of DVD is that people can re-discover hidden classics, and that's what Sharky's Machine is a hidden classic.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some interesting thoughts about Indie filmmaking!

This Sunday I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Art houses being empty, and having a hard time surviving in today's economy. I do believe that the independent film distribution model is undergoing a change. There is more product and more specialized markets now. Meaning you can target the audience you want to see your movie. Instead of wasting money on advertising that won't draw in your audience you can now specifically target that audience you want to see your film. Of course this also means narrowing your film audience which isn't good if a film is going to be successful. After all you want your audience to be diverse and not narrow.

I also came across this interview on indiewire called "Yes, the sky really is falling". It's a cold hard look at distribution in today's digital market. It's not a fun read, but it has some eye opening stats that every producer should know about. I found it quite honest in it's portrayal of today's indie market place.

Yet I still have desires to do some more work. Maybe it's something I just want to say, and get out there, or maybe it's me chasing that notion of making a BETTER film. After all you learn by doing, and so far I feel I've learned a lot.

We'll see how it all pans out. I'm still writing, and I need to get something I'm in love with finished first & then see take it from there.