Thursday, March 26, 2009

Write you bastard, Just Write!

Okay in for a penny, in for a pound. I've decided to go all in. Why not? Script Frenzy is happening in April. It's where you need to write a 100 page screenplay by the end of April. No prizes, no competition, just writing for writings sake. I was a bit dubious at first, but I like what these mad men & women propose.

My screenwriting teacher back in the day told me it all happens in "your head". She was SO right there. We can be are worst enemies sometimes. This wouldn't be my first script, but it would be one for fun. For the sheer whim. I have two or three ideas, but I'm not sure of what I really want. So between my fathers little documentary, script frenzy, and real life my plate is full.

Hope I haven't bitten off more then I can chew. But sometimes you just got to shut-up, and do. Let's see how it works out shall we.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shadow World year two

Shadow Word: year 2 - 02. He's the Bad One from David S Kessler on Vimeo.

I like to call attention to people I think are talented and doing great work. One of them is David Kessler. He's an artist here in Philly who is doing some great video work on the streets of Philly. Head on over to his sight. He's doing episodes now in HD, and their interesting. I like his stuff, and he has a very keen eye. If I had some extra money I'd throw some his way, so if you do have some extra cash he has a donation button on his site. It's called Shadow World 2, and he puts together great pieces of art and social commentary without hitting us over the head with commentary. Instead he lets his subjects do the talking. Above is one of his newest videos which I liked. Take a look you won't regret it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Documenting Dad Part 1

Wow it seems like I've been lax and not done much here, but instead review movies I've seen. I have seen some interesting and inspiring films of late, but that's for another time. I wanted this to be about my film making exploits, and of late it hasn't. Maybe that's because of the day job and the grind, but I have to say that it's me too. It's my fault for not being inspired, and not taking the time to do what I truly love to do.

The thing is I just don't want to waste MY time. Finite resources, and finite budget, or should I say no-budget can only mean that I need to be creative in what I do. They say when you do a documentary you start off with an idea on what you want to do. Eventually it is what you shoot that dictates what you create. Ken Burns does a lot with archival footage and mixes it with interviews, and readings of letters and excerpts of books. I like what he does with that, but it does feel a bit anylitical. Movies like "Grey Gardens" or "Salesmen" are more viseral, and more impactful because WE see and HEAR the subject. There is no narrator to tell you the story.

In my quest to make a video about my dad it got more and more like that. I'm still trying to get the audio tapes transfered to a digital format, but even with those tapes it's hard to get to know the man except by second hand accounts. I am his son, and I do have my mother, but all that knew him as a young man are gone, and so I need to extrapolate from what I know to get a sort of picture of my dad as a young man. That's where the history comes in. I've been going over the historical timeline of when my dad grew-up. It is of a period of two world wars, a depression, and a demise of a country.

So I've been accumulating stock footage, and pictures, but it's hard to piece it all together. It's also hard being that it is my dad. Being objective is kind of hard. I'm still working on it, but it more difficult then I realized. At this point I don't know the length or the scope of the film.

As you can see it's hard to see where this might go. I have about two minutes of the film done, but there is a lot more to go, and I'm not 100% happy with the beginning. Maybe it's my own narration. I've set up a microphone connected to a DV camera near my computer. It's a better mic then what I recorded on at first, but I felt maybe I need to do a bit more narration that is scripted. Sort of setting up the time, and the place. I'll try and post the first minute or two next post and see if I can get some opinions from anyone reading this blog. I'd certainly appreciate it.

Till next time thanks for reading.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Taking Chance (2009)

HBO premiered a film last week called "Taking Chance". It stars Kevin Bacon as a soldier who escorts a fallen comrade back home to be buried. The film is short, and long in emotion. The film is directed by Ross Katz who was a producer on "lost in Translation" & "In the Bedroom". The film is written by Katz, and Michael Strobl, and it is a credit to them on how well they get it. PFC Chance Phelps was a real soldier who died in Iraq. Lt. Col. Michael Strobl was the soldier who escorted him back home, and he wrote the story about his experience taking PFC Phelps back home. It is due to this that it feels so real. There is no statements about the war, or agenda in the film. All it shows is how we honor the men that have fallen, and how they touch our lives.

Gone are the days where people spat on our soldiers and called them monsters, yet it still remains in our collective consciousness. After all it wasn't too long ago that this happened. Maybe and possible we feel guilt because of what happened back then. After all these people who wore the uniform weren't responsible for our countries foreign policy. They were following orders, and had no choice. This is what makes "Taking Chance" such a moving piece. Because here WE get it. Here WE understand the sacrifice, and here WE are shown it.

Taking Chance tries to show us the dignity and respect our military gives each fallen soldier. It also about LtCol Mike Strobl journey and how it changes him. There is not much dialogue here. All is said with images. Kevin Bacon gives a fine performance as LtCol Mike Strobl, and his facial expressions say more then words could have said. One reviewer called this a "Tone poem", and I whole heartedly agree.

On a personal note I found myself a bit emotional throughout the film. Why I can't say. Maybe it's in the eyes of my boys that I see this story. War touches us all, and with ever death we are diminished as a society and country. Katz gets it, and he understands it. Even a person like myself who knows nothing of military life. This is a finely crafted piece of filmmaking, and one that is worth seeing. It's currently playing on HBO's on-demand. Do yourself a favor and watch some good filmmaking, and a powerful story unfold. At the end we are even given a glimpse of PFC Phelps as a child growing up. It drives the story home, and makes one appreciate the sacrifice this young man made.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

WatchMen (2009)

I really didn't want to start my 300th post here with another review, but after seeing the movie "Watchmen" today I had to. Seems that there is interest, so let the debate begin. First of all is this one that I recommend. I'd have to say that with an "enthusiastic" YES!

Watchmen is yesterdays "Blade Runner". What do I mean by that? Well I remember seeing Ridley Scott's masterpiece way back when it came out in 1982. Even back then I knew I was seeing something special. I think even when the studio saw it they didn't understand it, and they screwed up the directors vision. Luckily with DVD we can now see Scott's film the way he wanted it. They even re-released the film in some theaters, which was great to see.

Watchmen on the other hand doesn't suffer from what "Blade Runner" did. Here the creators and the studios involved got it. Watchmen was something different. It was revolutionary when it came out in comic book form, which eventually became the graphic novel. I am and have not been a connoisseur of the graphic novel, but I am a lover of comic books. By the time the graphic novel became big I was away from comic books for some time. I still love the medium, and have great respects fir its creators. In fact my interest with "Wachmen" has peeked my interest into the graphic novel. I bought one today in fact. But let's get back to the film.

Is the Watchmen a good film. Yes I have to say. Zack Snyder does a good job here translating the novel into a cinematic journey of epic proportions. I am also very interested in the creators of the graphic novel, and have had interests in their story as well. Both Alan More and Dave Gibbons seem to be interesting storytellers, and I'm fascinated by Moore not wanting his name on the film. But that said I can't say that the film is less of a film without him. In fact I think the filmmakers and the studios stayed pretty close to the graphic novel almost to a fault.

The film seems to be episodic in nature, and maybe this is true because it was a comic book at one time, but on its own "Watchmen" works as a film. Some images are startling and breathtaking to look at, and the story is deeply layered here. It takes the superhero in areas that haven't been explored as much, and one of them is why do they do what they do? The performances were good. Some have complained that the performances weren't as good, but it didn't distract me from the story here.

I think what the studios and the filmmakers have done is create a film that will be watched often in the decades to follow. People will study the detail of this film. The art direction is fantastic. Even it's length did not bother me. Being a first time viewer of the "Watchmen" I knew nothing of them, and after the film ended I wanted to know more about their back story. Zack Snyder dose a great job here. The beginning sequence sets everything up, and it delivers.

Some have complained that it may be too unfamiliar to people, and that people will tune out, but I disagree. It drew me in, and I liked the back story. Even having it set back in 1985 was a very interesting thing for the original creators to do. If your looking for a standard superhero movie this isn't it. This one has some very dark elements, and it works. It's not a movie for the kiddies, but it works for us adults, and I really do think it is a film that can be put into a category of "great storytelling" movies. This movie breaks the mold of the superhero saga, and it deliciously fun to watch.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Blood, Boobs and Beast (2007)

John Paul Kinhart's documentary "Blood, Boobs, and Beast" is a loving tribute to the filmmaker Don Dohler. Don who you say? Well Dohler was a filmmaker who gained some prominence back in the early 70's and 80's for his B-films. He is most known for such films as "The Alien Factor", "Fiend", and "Night Beast". All productions that were lovingly created in Dohler's backyard of Baltimore. For the record I have to say that I was exposed to Dohler with his publication Cinemagic which I read voraciously in my youth. I am such a fan that I pre-ordered my DVD back in November of last year.

I was one of Dohler's kids I guess. I carried my cinemagic's around with me and learned from the articles on how to create some cool special effects with my Super-8 camera. From scratching laser blasts into the celluloid, to creating forced perspective shots I did it all. Getting the magazine in the mail was exciting, and it revealed a world of other filmmakers. It's hard to believe that before the Internet there were fanzines that connected readers to the things that they loved.

In todays market the films of Dohler are a bit cheesy and out dated, but they still contain the heart in which they were made. "Blood Boobs, and Beast" is a documentary that tries to capture what Dohler was doing. In later years Dohler rekindled his passion for film making and started a film company called Time Warp Films. Such films as "Harvester", "Vampire Sisters", and "Stakes" were created as low budget video fare to try and get back to filmmaking, but as this film shows it seems as though Dohler was less happy with the results. His fight for telling a story and making an exploitative film was at odds with himself and his partners. You can see Dohler was a gentleman who didn't like the exploitative elements in most B-films.

I'd like to thank the filmmakers for showing that side of Dohler, and showing us a bit more of Dohlers private life. Dohler knew what was important in life. Instead of going to a meeting he instead sticks around to see his grandson being born. His love for his disabled sister is touching and thought provoking. Even how he handles death both his late wife's and his own is courageous. But here is where I have a problem with the film.

I wanted to see more of that. The private man struggling to tell stories he loves to do, while at the same time struggling with a balance between family and obsession. In this case filmmaking. Everyone marginalizes Dohler as a filmmaker, and I find that sad. It probably funny to think that Dohler wouldn't care one way or the other about all this since he did what he did for love of the genre. In the end I felt a bit sad after watching "Blood Boobs, and Beast", and realized that a man of Don Dohler's caliber comes along only a few times during a lifetime if that, and it was sad to know that he is not with us any more.

In the end the documentary is a beautiful tribute, but one that could have been so much better had they explored more of Dohler's character, and less on the triviality of making a film. The film comes with one of Dohler's films "Nightbeast", and though I haven't watched it yet I'll raise a glass in his honor when I view it. Mr. Dohler you left us too soon. God bless!