Friday, May 29, 2009

Beginning Filmmaking (2009)

I caught this little documentary Thursday, and I still haven't forgotten about it. It is on HBO this week, so if your interested check HBO's programming. I believe it is on at 3 PM Saturday the 30th on HBO family. That's EST.

Why am I writing about this. In some way the documentary caught my interest. I had my oldest boy Kris with me, and we started to watch the film. He grew impatient, and at times lost interest in the program, but for me I was very interested in it.

The film is about filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt's attempt to interest his young daughter in filmmaking. He starts when she is four, and it ends when she turns five. It was interesting to see how a small child plays with a video camera. I myself have tried to instill my love for movies in my boys, but it has been a futile attempt. I learned that one cannot dictate what a child likes or dislikes. They are their own masters. I tried to do that with trying to do a small little film called "the last Barbecue".

My youngest turned out to be a ham, but my oldest was nervous, and unsure of himself. I did not get mad at them. I smiled and said it was okay. I've come to the conclusion that the boys love fantasy and action. Star Wars, dinosaurs, whales, and the ocean are what they dream about. Their creativity in their playing is a sign of some good story telling, and my oldest seems to like to write, and draw.

Getting back to the film "Beginning Filmmaking". I liked how the Mr. Rosenblatt let his daughter be her own person even though it was not what he would have liked. In the end it was heart warming to hear Rosenblatt's daughter, Ella, on what it was like to turn 5.

If you get a chance go watch it. I think you'll like it, and for the parents in the audience I know it will hit some familiar territory about parenting. For people who don't have families it will be an interesting look at a young girls journey into self expression. That's what this film does. It has something for everybody.

The film is 23 minutes long, and showing on HBO's family channel. Check your local listings.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What's Wrong with Dialogue

I saw this on in an article by Jane Ridley in the NY Daily News about Tarantino's next film "'Inglourious Basterds", which premiered at Cannes:

"However Jones attacks its length, adding: "its director should certainly have trimmed more of its flab".
Mike Goodridge of Screen International agrees. He says it "offers considerable challenges to the attention span of mainstream audiences" and "devotes much of the running time to dialogue"

I'm tired of people thinking dialogue is a waste, or boring. For those with short attention spans please leave, and keep playing your video games. I guess I can go on, and on about this, but if you take a look at a lot of the films of the 40's and 50's there was nothing but dialogue, and it was GOOD dialogue at that.

Maybe I'm an old fart, but damn just watch the movie for the story. If the dialogue is too pretentous you'll know. If you liked the movie good, but if you were bored by the all the dialogue stop going to movies. Instead just continue on going to those amusement parks. I'm sure you won't be bored there.

The article is pretty interesting about how critics see Tarantino. I've enjoyed his films, and he takes his material from some very obscure, but interesting films. Tarantino is also original, and I just want to say that. He's a favorite, and I'm sure his film will just do fine.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

I've been a fan of the series for a long time, and hearing that they wanted to re-boot the series and show the original crew only younger I was a bit skeptical about the results.

Well rest assured my doubts as well as millions of others have been put to rest. J.J. Abrams has rebooted the series and as I've said before this Trek is not your fathers Trek, and that's a good thing. Origin movies are hard to do, but here Abrams does it well by casting some top notch actors in the roles that will clearly define their careers. Giving it an alternate reality is an interesting plot device, and having Lenord Nimoy in it kind of ties a nice bow on the trajectory of the Trek storyline.

I'm not sure about some plot holes in the movie that made me think WTF. It's only after I had viewed the film that I began thinking about the holes in the story, but then again Trek is meant to be a ride you don't forget or should I say an experience you bond not to forget. The core of the Trek series has always been the friendship between Spock and Kirk. In this film we see that bond begin.

It's a good summer movie. Hopefully the studio won't ruin it with stories that will be senseless and pointless to the franchise. I remember when Trek 2 came out and it was hailed as a very edgy Trek. Why it was called that was due to no small part to Mike Nichols who wrote an interesting and very personal Trek. It was in that movie that we saw how complex, and intricate the relationship between Spock and Kirk was. In the most recent one we get to see how it begins, and I hope the studio doesn't loose the focus on what the series is all about. In the end Trek is about the dream that man gets to explore space, and explore. It's a view of the future that has hope, and that humankind has a destiny. Maybe I'm reading too much into the series, but as a little boy it was those story lines that made me watch the series so intently. That is what is at the heart of Trek, and its characters are beloved folk hero's in American pop culture.

It's well worth the time if your a fan. If your not a fan you may want to skip it, but I think you'll enjoy it even if your not a fan, and that is what Paramount Pictures wants. After all it's a re-boot, and this isn't your fathers Trek. This Trek is meant to be for another younger generation, and hopefully not anger the loyal following it already has. Because after all what Mel Brooks said in "Space Balls" is true. "Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising", so viva the franchise!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The State of Things

Last night I was watching "Frozen River" the indie film starring Melissa Chessington Leo in a breath taking performance of a single women raising two boys. I was a bit saddened to see that she did not get the academy award for her performance in the film. I hope to see her someday again real soon in another film. But this is not really about the film "frozen River" or Melissa Chessington Leo performance. Instead it's about indie film in general.

There are so many other people out there who have more experience in this train of thought then I do, but since I did make a film, and have tried to get it shown I figured I could add my voice to all those other voices. As many of you who know I'm not a fan of the "mumblecore" films. In fact I just don't see how these films make any money at all. I see films like Susan Buice's and Arin Crumley's film "Four Eyed Monsters" and admire the work they put into that particular film. I even bought the first pressing of the DVD because I missed it when it was playing here in Philly. And there is the point. How does one make a film and make any money back when we live in a society where we are bombarded with so much information, and product?

I'm a married guy with two boys who has a day job that keeps him busy. I do live in a metropolitan city where art films do come, but can I afford a train ride to and from where I live, the price of a ticket, and a meal all to see an indie film that I know I'll enjoy, but be tapped out after seeing it. Why not just rent a movie from one of the DVD kiosks that have popped up in many local supermarkets. There it's about a buck a night, and I can watch it in my own home. Of course that would be after the kids are asleep, and that's if the lady of the house isn't too tired from her day also. Because lets face it seeing a movie alone especially a indie film is no fun alone. But I digress I guess. This is about "indie" films making money.

"Frozen River" was distributed by Sony Pictures Classic, and guess what their no longer a company. According to box office the film made a little over 2 million. After seeing the film I have strong doubts that the film ever showed a profit, but i could be wrong. I haven't seen the DVD sales, and I'm sure the DVD marketing is touting the movies theatrical release. Again It's a GREAT little film, but how do you make a film like this and make ANY money. "Slumdog" hit the jackpot, but that was a studio hyped film. It had a slow roll out and the company saw it had legs and so it struck more prints, and then went national. One film out of who knows makes it, and that's even very optimistic.

So again how do we as filmmakers make ANY money off our work. The Internet is an answer, but again a lot of the studios have co-oped the marketing and selling of films here on the net. Niche film making is good, and profitable, but you need to make sure that your product isn't more then your overhead. There are some filmmakers out there that are doing it, but I actually question a lot of their figures. The film business is not known for its transparency. In fact it hides its stats and figures like a close guarded secret.

I've wrestled with continuing on in my film making endeavors, and I really don't know what I'll do. I keep moving forward, and I grow weary of the game. It's all about perspective I guess, and priorities. I still have a deep love for film making, and would like to do some more films, but there are other things in life that I love doing, and I don't want to ignore them. Is all this "indie" talk just BS?, or is it something that may transform "indie" film making. Maybe that something will propell indie film making into a new direction, and onto a new plateau. As for right now I still think some interesting films are being made, but is there an audience who will go and see these films? The answer for me is that there isn't, and the business is transforming into something else. Everyone is trying to second guess what that is, but I don't believe anyone knows.

I still think Coppola was right about the farm girl in Idaho making something on her laptop that will blow distributors and audiences minds. It's being done everyday, but in what shape or form is any body's guess. Well that's my two cents, and for what it's worth I'd like to believe something unique is coming and that it will propel cinema into a new stratosphere of creativity and story telling. How cool would that be? We shall see.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dom Deluise 1933-2009

I hate writing these. I enjoyed Mr. Deluise's performances, and I even watching him on the Dean Martin Variety show way back in my youth. So it's with a heavy heart that I write about his death. I could go on and on about his credits, and his biography, but I'll leave that to the pros. I just loved him as an entertainer. Mr. Deluise made me and my family laugh. In good times and in bad times. In a way that's what a true star does. He or she makes us forget our dismal little problems for a moment, and makes us laugh. Mr. Deluise had done so much that he brought joy and laughter to so many of us.

It saddens me to hear about a loss of such talent, but the best thing is that he left a lifetime of work for us to watch, and laugh all over again.

Good night sweet prince. You made us laugh with you, and you will be missed by many. God speed.