Monday, January 25, 2010

Back into the Past!

I've been working on a film about my dad for some time now, and it's also encompassed my mom too. I felt I could not talk about one without talking about the other one. Of course not having dad here and relying on memory can be a tricky thing. Facts and events sometimes get distorted, so I've been painstakingly trying to piece together past family history. This includes me as well, and no matter how uncomfortable I am in front of the camera I need to record fragments of memory so that hopefully in the end it will all piece together.

I got the idea from Scorsese's film "Italian American" where the filmmaker interviews his mom & dad. If you get a chance to see it it's pretty funny and touching. Way back in 1996 I interviewed my mom. My dad had passed away a year earlier, and so with 16mm camera in hand I sat down mom and shot about two rolls of 16mm film. I basically set up a light and shot it. Took the film to DuArt Lab and had it transferred to videotape. I think it cost about $300 to $400 to process it and transfer it to tape. I also had to pay for the audio syncing of the video and audio since the audio was recorded on a Nagra 4.2.

It was a primer to my feature, and I learned quite a bit. One was that I needed an assistant camera badly. Doing it all is cool and ballsy, but quite stupid too.

Now with the digital realm I can just set up a Cannon GL and started recording. I used the same microphone I used on the 16mm shoot, and it worked flawlessly. I was back to the one man crew of my youth.

The problem is that my mom is older now, and memory and her frailty is of a concern. You don't want to push the lady, so I've come up with a wireless situation where I can record her where ever she is, and she can be comfortable talking.

I am using an audio-technica VHF wireless microphone. It's not the most expensive and best, but for what I want to do it works pretty good. I am also using an old Cannon ZR 60. Basically I'm using this as a audio recorder that happens to record video. After all it is the audio that is important here, and I want it to sound good. Also I can go almost anywhere with this, and have decided to also hopefully record my aunt and uncle. I've found out that if you just mike the person, and don't point the camera at them the person becomes a little more relaxed.

I will record video when I can, but right now I'm concerned with audio. With all this happening I am going through a treasure trove of family pictures that my mom has collected throughout the years. I 'm also going through my dad's home movies and transferring them when I can to digital. I even have old reel to reel tapes that I'm looking into transferring to CD.

This project is almost 14 years in the making. I've hemmed and hawed on doing it right, and struggled with putting something down. After all who really cares, but I.

I feel I'm racing the clock though. A lot of people have passed away since 1996, and one cannot stop time. Why I'm doing this is two fold. First off it's something for me to do. I haven't been quite active as I'd like to be in filmmaking, so this helps that. The other reason is that I want my boys to know their past. They never got to meet dad, and know only my mom. My boys are too young to appreciate their heritage now, but maybe someday they'll be interested in it. It's something I'm passionate about.

I've been kicking myself for my lack of enthusiasm for film, and this is one way to get a shot in the arm while testing the DV waters. I also don't want this blog to be just another blog about movies I've seen. There are too many of them and not enough nuts & bolts websites about filmmaking from the lower echelons of filmdom.

I'm supposed to be doing this for ME! It's about time I start doing more filming and less talking. So please forgive me while I kick my own ass into doing something I love. SO expect some masochism from me, and a lot of tough love from me. Time to re-awaken that guy who enjoys & sometimes hates the trials and tribulations of filmmaking.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Terminator Salvation (2009)

So I've been interested in seeing this movie for awhile. I'm a big fan of the Terminator franchise, and I really loved the original one, so I was looking forward to seeing this when I got the chance.

Well it's a good thing I didn't see it in the theaters. Picked it up on DVD as a rental and to tell you the truth the buck that I spent on the rental even seems too much. To put it more bluntly this movie is soulless. I even was surprised at Christian Bales performance. He seemed like he was phoning it in, and as for the directing I really can't say anything nice. I even recognized some shots or sequences that were done in the original movie. The one sequence I remember was when the Terminator was chasing Conner through the Terminator factory. It seemed like a direct lift from the first movie when Sarah is being chased through the factory by the Terminator. I had to play back the sequence, but I'm sure it was a direct lift from the first movie. What? Is McG (the director) saluting Cameron's first movie?

There are some interesting effects in the movie, but they are all worthless. The story seems to play out before Conner sends Resse back into the past. And it seems as though the Terminators are hunting Resse, so they know about the past future thing. My question is why didn't the Terminators off Resse right away. Instead they capture him, and put him in a cell. I mean really aren't these cyborgs a bit smarter then that?

The plot is laughable, and the performances really aren't that good, but I'll blame the director for that. And what's with the name McG? Reminds me of a McDonald's meal or something.

I have no really good things to say about this film. Sam Worthington played an interesting character, but again I blame all the performances here on the director, and at 2 hours and 15 minutes the film drags.

Save your money and don't bother renting or even buying this film. Watch ANY of the other Terminator films. Even Terminator 3 was a lot better then this. I just hope they continue the franchise because I like the films & storyline a lot. There is a lot of potential for the franchise to continue Just not with this film..

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moon (2009)

This last Tuesday the movie "Moon" was released on DVD, and so this week-end I picked it up. I had wanted to see the film when it hit theaters but it only got a limited release, and so I never got around to it.

Moon is directed by Duncan Jones, and stars Sam Rockwell in a sort of dual role. More on that in a minute. The plot of the film is this:

"Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems"

It's Sam Rockwell's movie since he is in it almost 99% of the time. It is no small feat to do this also. If you have one main character in your movie the story better be interesting, and the character identifiable, or you loose your audience. Fortunately Rockwell's performance elicits our interest and our sympathies.

The film reminded me of films back in the day. Such films as "Silent Running","Alien","Outland", and even a bit of of John Carpenters "Dark Star". The effects weren't all computer generated, and there was some model building done to show the surface of the moon and the complex where Rockwell's character lives. Maybe it's this, or possible the genre itself that reminds me of these older films.

I like films that show space as a lived in dirty environment. 2001 is the only film that shows it a bit more sleeker then the others I've mentioned. Yet the film reminds me of 2001 because of it's effects. Too much now is done with CGI, and though the effects are getting stunning and quite remarkable I still think it is sometimes not necessary.

But all things contribute to the liking of this film. The writing, the acting, the set design, and even the cinematography. That's what a good movie is suppose to do, and here Jones does it really well.

Are there some problems in the movie? Yes, but I believe those problems just didn't make it palatable to audiences in general. Such reviews like:

"Moon actually gets a little dull in the later reels, just when it should be peaking in mystery and tension." or "By halfway the film starts to feel like a mere exercise, one more effort to get maximum value from limited resources. Too much machinery, not enough dread" are valid reviews.

There does not seem to be a lot of urgency, or drama in the film. I myself liked the look, and feel, but their was no tension in the film. Jones does put in a count down to a ships arrival which is suppose to make us feel some dread, but we the audience already know what's happening, and so there is little tension. I know this film was done on a limited budget. I here the budget was about $ 5 million. For a sci-fi film that is low, and so as a filmmaker Jones needed to keep the costs down in his film. How is this done? By the simple trick of keeping the action in one location. That location is of course the moon, so the sets are very well done, and convincing. But again with little tension in the film there isn't much audience involvement.

Maybe that's what hurts the film. If you like sci-fi stories, and are an avid reader of sci-fi this film is for you, but for the mainstream audience it may be a bit too dull. Hence it's limited distribution I guess.

I enjoyed the film, and thought it was really neatly done. The old adage of leaving the audience wanting more may hurt this film. I really wanted to see Rockwell's character deal with his successful escape to Earth. But that would be a totally different type of film, and I think one more interesting. Also I had questions about the clones escape that was never answered. Like did the company design the clones with a limited lifespan so in order to protect their secret of cheap labor, or did the 1st clone die because of injuries due to his accident?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's what makes "Moon" so cool, and interesting. That's why I like it. It leaves me wanting more, and any movie that does that is good in my book. I recommend the film, and for those low budget filmmakers out there it is a sort of inspirational movie to watch. One can achieve an interesting and good looking movie with little budget. All it takes is ingenuity and this film has a lot of that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eric Rohmer 1920-2010

1977 Interview with Eric Rohmer from zenfoolio on Vimeo.

Eric Rohmer died on Monday at the age of 89. He was considered one of the pioneers of the French New Wave, and a film maker I admired. His films are a bit difficult to get into. They are more conversation, and dialogue. But it is through these elements in his films that Rohmer did some pretty impressive work.

I remember my first introduction to Rohmer in film class. The film was "My Night at Maud's", and after that it was films such as "Chloe in the Afternoon", "Pauline at the Beach", and "Claire's Knee" that cemented in my mind that Rohmer was an extraordinary artist.

The best thing though is that Rohmer left us with a lot of really good films to watch and learn from.

Adieu Mr. Rohmer. You will always be missed.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)

When one has children, and they're home on winter break one needs to do something that the kids like to do. One solution was to take them to the movies. For entertainment for children this movie hits all the right buttons.

For me it was a bit more slapstick then I cared for, but the kids loved it. The plot is lame, and the story is weak, but that's not the point in this movie. It's all about the site gags, and the funny situations our three main characters get into.

Even I at times enjoyed the movie. Especially when I heard my two boys laugh at the antics on the screen. If you have little ones you can't miss with this. I even heard the wife laugh a couple of times at some jokes, so it does appeal to a wide variety of people. Even I wasn't immune to the sophomore jokes ad antics.

It's fun for the family, and the kids will like it too.

So I won't go into detail about the movie because there isn't much to say about the film. It's meant to be a distraction, and it being released over the holidays is a smart move on the distributors part. Where & when else can you corner the kid market then over a holiday break. 20th Century Fox is smart. Smart like a fox!