Monday, January 31, 2011

The Center of the World (2001)

I caught this film on IFC on demand, and I got sucked into the film slowly.  The film is directed by Wayne Wang a director I am familiar with, but I haven't seen much of his work.  His films The Joy Luck Club, Chan Is MissingBlue in the Face, and Smoke are indie favorites.   The Center of the World is a sort of erotic tale between a women and man and their three nights in Vegas.    The plot of the film is described best here:

"A San Francisco computer wizard, who has made his millions in the digital world, meets a beautiful stripper at a gentleman's club. Immediately attracted to each other, the two take off for Las Vegas, where, for three days, they explore the limits of their sexuality and the nature of passion and pleasure"

The interesting thing here is the characters.  There is quite a bit of sex, and male and female nudity in the film, but that's not what makes the film so compelling to watch.  This film isn't for the raincoat crowd.  In fact sometimes the sex gets in the way and some scenes do play on a bit too long.  There are two scenes which are liked were when the characters confess a truth about themselves in conversation. Those two scenes seemed to ring true to me, and more of that was lacking in the film.  I'm sure the film was exploited for its mature content, but I would be doing this film a big disservice if I said that this film is nothing more then a sexually explicit film and nothing else.

The film is about two characters who seem to be drawn to each other.  Money and sex are the catalyst that put them together, but their is something else, which the movie never quite delves into that draws them together.  Florence is played by Molly Parker , and Richard is played by Peter Sarsgaard.  These two actors do a wonderful job inhabiting their characters.  It makes the movie compelling to watch.  I'm sure with lesser actors this would not have been such an interesting film.

Like I said the film does drag in spots, and I do feel Wayne Wang puts filler in as we see our characters wandering Las Vegas.  I would have liked more honest dialogue between the two and to know why they are this way, and who they really are.  But I'm not going to say don't see this film because of its weak points.  I like the honesty of the characters and some of the erotic scenes are interesting.  Both actors are beautiful, and there is no averting ones eyes when their on screen.  You are almost a voyeur of sorts, and the director does this on purpose.  It's that voyeuristic feeling that compels the audience to watch.

In the end the film is open ended.  You decide how you think it goes.  Their is no moral high ground here.  Sex is for pleasure in this film, and it shows how we sometimes define it as love or lust.   The film shows that there is a fine line between lust and love, and that both are not necessarily bad.  The film was shot on digital video and the photography is pretty intimate, which adds to the films appeal.

If your interested in compelling characters and some erotic imagery I think you'll like the film.  The film was written by four individuals including the director Wayne Wang.  Also I was pleasantly surprised to see Miranda July as one of the writers here.  I consider Ms July a very good filmmaker in her own right and her film Me and You and Everyone We Know is a superb film.  I believe that it is Miranda July's and Ms Siri Hustvedt's writing that makes it ring true.  They bring a women's perspective, and maybe that's what makes the film so viewable.  All in all A good film, and one that shouldn't be overlooked. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blue Valentine (2010)

While watching Blue Valentine I became engrossed in the characters.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play Dean and Cindy.  The movie is divided into past and present.  We are shown how the two met and the circumstances that lead up to their marriage.  The other half of the film is how they deal with the marriage falling apart.  Director Derek Cianfrance does this in increments throughout the film, and he weaves it all together nicely.  First off the performances by Gosling and Williams are dead on, and you can see that they really inhabited the characters, and made them their own.  The film is 112 minutes and in some way I feel that it goes on a bit too long.  I'm not saying I hated it for its length what I didn't like is the pacing of it.  It felt a bit too showy for me and that the actors and the director were trying just a bit too hard.

In the story the couple have fallen into a rut, and both seem complicit in the marriages demise, but for there to be so much drama in the story seemed like the writers were putting everything but the kitchen sink into the film.  Cindy's problem is that Dean seems to be happy with just being, and he seems to have no ambitions.  He is a man who works as a painter, and a mover at times, and though he seems to have other talents he does not use them.  He is happy to be in a family helping to raise his daughter, and love his wife.   I don't know if this is so much of a problem.  Dean's character seems to be a straight up decent guy.  Now there are other factors that may make Dean something of a problem, but the movie only hints of these problems.  One is his drinking.  He does not come off as an alcholic, or an abuser of liquor, but in an argument with Cindy he dismisses it as occasional.  In the end he does show up drunk at Cindy's work, and things escalate from there, but again I didn't see all of Dean's faults.

Cindy on the other and seems happy when they marry as we see in clips, but somewhere something changes in her.  Her Grandma plays a significant part in her life, and in the beginning she talks about falling in love and how does it feel.  I really liked the scenes with Grandma played by Jen Jones and Michelle Williams.  I felt that there was something left out that we needed to know.  We see that Cindy's home life is not that of Ozzie and Harriet.  It seems that both her mother and father have a rocky marriage and one were arguments happen more then talk.

Like I said we as the audience we are given clues, and glimpses of where these characters come from, yet everything doesn't add up to the total melt down of Cindy and Dean's marriage.  I've heard that the script had been re-written several times due to other actors being involved.  Maybe something got lost, but there seems to be something missing.

Don't get me wrong I kind of liked seeing this film.  It's a hard film to sit through.  The performances seems very real, and I really thing Ryan Gosling should get a nod for his performance as Dean.  Ms Williams is already nominated for an Oscar, and to leave Gosling out seems wrong.    Originally the film got an NC-17 rating due to explicit sexual content, but I don't see where.  I thought the scenes between the two were original and pretty raw and honest.  The camera is always in close-up and we watch the emotions on the actors face, and feel their emotions.  These scenes make the film so reverting to watch.

It true that I did want to see Cindy and Dean get it together and pull through as a couple, and there is a scene towards the end with Gosling as his daughter tells him to stay which is just heartbreaking.  But then maybe the film wouldn't be as honest as it is.  I so wanted to stay longer and see what happens to Dean and Cindy, and maybe that's the movies true meaning.  Life does not always have happy endings.

A note about the cinematography here.  The past performances were filmed on film, while the present day was shot on digital video.  Derek Cianfrance does this so well, and the blending of the two mediums give a feeling of different times between the characters.  I don't know if it is the color or just the way it feels but the two distinct time periods give two emotional vibes that the director uses very effectively.

All in all I really liked the film, and I can't say I hated it.  The performances are strong, the production value is beautiful, and the the characters are people you might know, which brought it home for me.  If you get a chance see the film, and see for yourself.  I have this one warning though.  After watching it you will think differently, and the characters will stay with you for some time after the movie, and maybe that's a good thing.

The Social Network (2010)

After watching David Fincher's film "The Social Network" I have to say that along with Aaron Sorkin's screenplay the film really involves its audience in the characters circumstances. I did not really come to this film expecting anything, but I found myself very involved in the characters.

The story takes place in flash back mostly, but the way Fincher does it you don't mind at all, and it does not draw you out of the movie by doing so. Mark Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook is drawn with a very brood brush. You wonder if any of the film is based on actual events, or whether it's taken from many different accounts. I would assume that the filmmakers painted the characters in brood strokes due the fact that the characters in the movie are based on actual people who are still alive and working. Being that we live in a very litigious society I would think that the filmmakers are walking a tightrope of sorts. Still this does not distract from the story. The story is strong, and when you strip it all down the story is about two friends who betray each other.

How Fincher shows Zuckerberg create Facebook is remarkable. You are drawn into the creation of what would become a successful venture beyond any ones expectations. Even its creator, and that's what makes it fascinating. The characters are the ones we are so drawn to. Fincher portrays Zuckerberg as a driven individual who is very gifted in computer programming, yet lacks the social skills to deal with people. Every innovator or inventor had a vision and Fincher shows Zuckerberg as that individual. The flaw of our hero is his social graces. What Zuckerberg wants he gets. Zuckerberg's vision is all consuming and their is a cost to that and Finchers shows what that cost is. Our characters are not evil or good. They are just driven individuals and Fincher shows us even before the creation of Facebook that we are a society driven by class, and status. Fincher and Sorkin do a remarkable job at holding up a mirror to all of us and showing us that our love of status is what fuels Facebook itself.

The cinematography is sepia in tone or it feels that way. There are no bright colors in this film, and it's pace goes back and forth from future to past with ease. The dialogue is crisp, and the characters are engaging.

I cannot find any faults to this film. In fact it sort of scares me. How a simple invention like Facebook can dominate a landscape such as ours. Zuckerberg is not guilty in creating something like Facebook. He is only its inventor, and he saw that it had a life of its own through its users. Early in the film we see that in some way Zuckerberg was driven by status. It happens right in the beginning of the film when Zuckerberg's girlfriend ends their relationship. Through their dialogue you can hear our main character talk about status, and worth. It's a set-up for the whole film to come, and Fincher does it so well.

What "the Social Network" ultimately does is that it creates some interesting characters who create a phenomenon known as Facebook. Whether Facebook is good or bad is still too early to tell, and in a way we are all complicit in Facebooks success. The movie itself does not hold any judgement to anyone of the characters. Instead it shows us how we were the ones who created the monster in the first place, and whose to say that it is a monster. Maybe it’s just evolution, and Facebooks time has come and Zuckerberg was the only one who could see that. Either way it's a very well made movie and quite engaging. Jesse Eisenberg gives a wonderful performance as Zuckerberg, and I also liked Andrew Garfield who plays his best friend Eduardo Saverin. I do believe that the writing will get an Oscar for Aaron Sorkin. Also Justin Timberlake is good as Sean Parker, and critics should take note of that. All in all a very well worth movie to watch, and one that exhilarates and frightens at the same time, but only in a sutile way, and that's what makes "The Social Network" a very good film.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Angry Nerd Guy!

His name is James Rolfe, and I've been watching some of his videos as the character "The Angry video game Nerd".  He reviews video games of past and present, and he has a large fan base.  Mr. Rolfe did this for fun way back when, and it mushroomed on him and he now does it for pay.  Rolfe wants to be a filmmaker, and has announced his intention to make a film based on his character "the angry video nerd guy". 

I think that is awesome, and it shows how one man's cleaver invention has become something popular among fans.  His fans get him, and see his love for what he does.  That's why his fan base is so big and strong.  Theirs no bullshit here if you pardon my expletive, and the fans see that.  Rolfe is a very good filmmaker just by his videos alone.  They are well edited, shot well, and written. 

I look forward to seeing some more of his videos.  I'm not a huge fan of video games myself, and I cannot imagine the time Mr. Rolfe puts in to creating even one of his videos.  These videos are intricate, and yes he does play every last one of them.  Right there he should be given an award just for doing so.  Rolfe is amusing, and funny, and I've laughed more then once at his antics.  I wish him all the best, and hope to see more of him with more personal projects in the future. 

His website is at Cinemassacre Productions.   You'll find tons of videos there that will amuse you.  My favorites of course are the ones that are movie based, but his game reviews are funny as well.  I wish him and his team much success.

And this should serve as an example on how doing something you love to do becomes something bigger, and eventually a career. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nice Guy Johnny (2010)

After watching "Nice Guy Johnny" I thought to myself this is what niche film making is all about.  What niche you ask?  The niche of "twenty something angst" movies.   There seems to be a lot of movies that have come and gone, and I can only classify them in that category.  These movies are not to be confused with "teenage angst" movies.  Those two types of genres are completely different.  In the "teenage angst" movies it's all about authority, and sticking it to those who have authority over them.  Parents, teachers, and pretty much any grown up above 18.  "Twenty something angst" movies are about the many choices one has in life and picking that choice even though it may not be the grown up thing to do.  Usually "twenty something angst" films deal with careers, love, and or sex.  "Nice Guy Johnny" is about career, sex, and being happy doing what you love, and not letting society dictate to you on how to be happy.

These are all good subjects and have been explored throughout cinematic history.  Cassavetes did it with his first film "Shadows."   Director Mike Nichols did it in "The Graduate".  I mention these films because they are far superior films then Nice Guy Johnny.  Now I'm not saying I hated the film.  I respected the work, and all in all the production is well done, and well made.  It was reported that the film was done for $25K, and it looks very good for a film made for that much money.  But I'm thinking it's more of a publicity stunt to garner press for the movie then it is the actual budget.  The film looks really good, and I doubt that if you add up all the deferments that the cast and crew took took while making this film you would find that the budget is much higher then reported.  That's not a bad thing and it certainly doesn't make this film a bad film.  What does make the film a poorer film then the other films I've mentioned is the incessant music that comes up forcing the audiences emotion.  Once in a while that is okay, but the filmmakers hit us over the head with one tune after another.  The only reason  I can explain the music is that the filmmakers want to push the soundtrack as well as the film, which is fine, but don't tell me that it's great film making when you use the music as a crutch.

The interesting thing about this movie is that Edward Burns the director has released this to the web first, and has bypassed conventional film distribution, and I think that this is the one thing that sets this film apart from others.  As I explained it's a niche genre, and by targeting your audience directly through the web Burns builds on a built in audience.  It's what a smart filmmaker does when faced with such diverse products that both cable, the Internet, and film studios churn out.  In interviews Burns says that it is the future of how films will be distributed in the future by filmmakers themselves.  The deal with "Nice Guy Johnny" is that Burns leases the film to companies and he doesn't give up his ownership in the film.  In time he will build a library of films that he can sell, and that will hopefully make him and his investors money.  It sounds like a very smart business plan, and it will be curious to see how it plays out, and if it can be a viable way to make films in the future.

Burns is no stranger to releasing a film this way.  His film "Purple Violets" was released on itunes first.  There have been no figures on how much was made, and who made what, but apparently it was successful to a point, hence his release of "Nice Guy Johnny" in almost the same way.

There is more wrong with the film then right, but it still is a very nice and sweet film about "twenty something angst".  Edward Burns even plays a part in it, and he's pretty funny in it, but it's nothing we haven't seen from Burns before.  The best performances in the film were Kerry Bishé  as Brooke, and Max Baker in a small part as Max.  I wasn't a big fan of Matt Bush who plays Johnny.  At times I thought his character got on my nerves, and he played too "nice".   I mean there is a scene when he is talking to his fiance's father, and you just want him to explode and make a definitive gesture about his independence, and his love for what he does.   Marsha Dietlein plays Nicole (the fiance) and she plays it as a stereotype.  It would have been more interesting to see some more depth there, but there was none in the screenplay so I can't fault her there. 

This brings me to story.  I loved the theme, and I love what the story is about.  Passion for ones love (career, relationship, or other).  I feel it falls flat.   I hate that the characters are all one dimensional, and that there is no surprise for us.  It's all so typical, and the ending is seen coming a mile away.  That's why I'm not a big fan of this film.  If you like this type of movie I think you'll enjoy it.  Maybe you have to be a certain age to really love this film, but to me it says nothing new, and it does it poorly.  Other films do it better.

With that said I'm a big fan of Edward Burns.  I loved his film "The Brothers McMullen".    Even "She's the One" is a favorite of mine.  Burns is a good filmmaker and with good material Burns hits home runs, so I'm sure he'll do so again.  So if you like films that are whimsical, and about "twenty something angst" you may like this film.  For me it lays flat, so I can't recommend it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goodnight Siagon

This is a video I did way back when I was in college.  It was a final project in my TV production class.  It was done live, and there is no editing.  I left everything the way it was.  I was pretty interested in the era of Vietnam.  Even wrote a script about a platoon of soldiers fighting in Vietnam, and their day to day adventures.  It wasn't very good and it sits somewhere gathering dust, but soon after "Platoon" came out, and the film was everywhere.  Oliver Stone's film was one of my favorites, and it was a great story. 

This video is a small tribute to the men who fought in Vietnam.  I even met some and talked with them about the war and how they returned back to civilian life.  Those stories still reverberate in the old mind.  Especially now with the conflicts that we as a nation are in now.  My buddy Marty was the guy who played in the production, and he did a pretty good job.  I was happy with it, and after getting my grade I threw the tape in a drawer and forgot about it.  I just recently found it, and so hence before it goes into "video oblivion" I figured I post it here.  The project was done live, and as the song plays we had to cue Marty as to whether he was on camera or not.  The whole class participated and each student had his or her crew position.  It worked out well, and looking back at it we learned a lot in those production classes back at Brooklyn College.  Anyway I figured I post it.  It's all part of the collective now, and maybe that's where it should be.

I said it then, and I'll say it now.  To all the veterans past and present.  Thank-you for your service and sacrifice.  You are always remembered.   God Bless.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Bridging the Generations

Bridging the Generations: Korean War vets from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

This was done my first year I worked for the Lenepe Regional school district.  It was done quickly.  It's still very engaging to hear about these men's adventures.  A teacher was involved in getting the veterans.  We had a student crew, and I produced & directed it from our small TV studio in the school.  Figured it belongs up here as previous work, and its something that interests me.  I had some very interesting conversations with the veterans while taping the shows.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A Look Back to the future?

Early Work from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

I've been digitizing some old reels and projects.  After seeing this it's amazing what we did before NLE editing.  The two commercials from the cable association, and Illinois Power actually aired.  My movie knowledge helped in that one.  The Merrill Lynch one was what they call a "Steal-a-matic".  That's where you steal scenes or shots from movies, and other commercials to create a new one so the client can visualize what the agency has in mind.   The client didn't want it.  All I remember from that project was cutting the audio.  One of the guys in my department was a big help, and I really learned a thing or two from the tricks he'd do on the A/B roll edit system.

The last was a college project we had to do.  It was my friends project, and we shot it with a very lovely model.  It was shot handheld, and that was a big mistake.  I think we shot two or three 400 feet rolls of film, and after getting it back we had to edit it.  I remember my friend and I sitting at the flat-bed editor for hours cutting to the track she decided to use.  We had film hanging like spaghetti all over the editing room.   Reminds me how far editing has come.  We were all racing to get the project finished before its deadline.  The money and time we spent at Kodak, and at the Labs were not to be believed.  Thank God for student discounts!  

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Hi I'm Carl by Jack Tew

Hi I'm Carl from Jack Tew on Vimeo.

Sometimes you come across things you want to share, and this is one of them.  while uploading some new material I came across this short film by Jack Tew.  Of course I was interested because of the name of the film and my own name.  I figured why not.  I have a pet peeve sometimes that Hollywood stereotypes characters called "Karl".  Either the character is a moron like Bill Murry's character in "Caddyshack", which I really found funny, or "Carl" is bad guy like in the film "Ghost", or the original "Die Hard".  Either way the name seems to have no middle ground.  In this short film I liked the character "Carl".  I felt for him, and felt his loneliness, and desperation.  When the women he fancy's calls his name you just want to cheer.  It reminds me of the film "Marty" starring Ernest Borgnine.  A great film and one where Borgnine won an Oscar for.

The film was shot with the Canon 7D and it looks sharp.  I wasn't too thrilled by some of the lighting where the characters face was in ugly shadow, but the majority of the film is lite well.  I would be curious to find out if it was lite with balanced florescent bulbs.  What ever it was lite with it does give the feel of a cold and desolate existence, and having worked in places like that I like how the filmmaker conveys this through nuance's in the photography.

The score is wonderful too.  Very minimalistic, but quite effective.  Stuff like this inspires me, and makes me really want to do more character pieces.  Mr. Tew, you rock, and I can't thank you enough for that nice slice of life.  It put a smile on my face, and warmed the old heart.

If you like this you'll like Mr. Tew's other short "One Night Stand".  It's pretty funny, and well done.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Deadly Obsessions re-cut trailer

Deadly Obsessions - Revised Trailer from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

It's been a long time coming, but needed to re-cut my films trailer.  So here it is.  Now I'm satisfied. 

More editing to come of various works.  From weddings, to short films, and even some commercials, and old industrials. 

Part of the on-line portfolio.

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009)

Part One hits you with a two by four.  Part two kicks you in the privates, and part three wallops you to the ground.  That's what the Red Ridding" trilogy does.  It is a film that creeps up on you and swallows you whole, and you just hope that you make it to the end.

The "Red Riding" trilogy is based on four crime novels written by the British author David Peace.    The trilogy was adapted by Tony Grisoni, who has worked on several films by Terry Gilliam.  Each movie is directed by a different director giving each one a distinct different feeling.    The entire trilogy runs 305 minutes, and if you sit through it one after the other your a better person then I am.  The plots are intricate, and sometimes difficult to keep straight, yet it does keep one on his or her toes.  Characters come in and out of each episode, and we are thrust back in time and then forward in time at lightning speed.  To boil it all down to a theme I would have to say that the "Red Ridding" trilogy is about the evil that men do in the world, and how all are culpable in these deeds including the innocent.

Part one is entitled "1974".  there we are introduced to a young reporter who is covering a news about the latest disappearance of a young girl.  As he digs he uncovers a pattern, and more and more police corruption.   In Part two labeled "1980" we are introduced to a inspector who is given the job to investigate a rash of murders of women.  As he and his team dig deeper he uncovers the truth and how the police are implicated in the murders.  More and more corruption is found, and our inspector finds out what is really going on.  The last in the trilogy is called "1983" and it is the final installment of the "Red Ridding" saga.  Here another inspector in the police department is given the task to investigate the disappearance of another little girl, which is a repeat of what happened in part one.    This inspector is from the inner circle of the police department and is complicit in the cover ups and corruption of what is known as "the North".

The film is a very brooding and telling tale of evil, and how good men do evil things to cover up more evil deeds.  The location of this story is in West Yorkshire, the city of Leeds to be specific.  Leeds is presented as a featureless location where towns look almost to the point of ruin, and the moors of England are decaying and decrepit.  the cinematography is excellent along with the pacing of the film.  The feeling of disgust and hopelessness creeps up on you, and makes the film something that the viewer can't turn away from, yet there is a strong compulsion to do so. 

The movie is distributed by IFC, and should be seen on video just for the sake of the viewer taking his or her time to view it all, and absorb what is happening.  The film was released theatrically in New York, and was accompanied with intermissions, but I salute all who sat through all the viewings at once.  I can only imagine after seeing it for 5 hours that one would feel almost numb.   This is a compliment to the filmmakers.  The story and the characters are all reviting to watch.

The film reminded me of those film noirs of the past, only this film hit harder and below the belt.  Somethings you never see coming.  Now that's not to say that this film is bloody and gross.  The murders happen off screen, and we do see bodies, but they are only glimpses, and what we see stays with us.  A film dealing with murdered little girls and women is something hard to watch.  We are exposed to all kind of depravities in the film, and yet we become more and more numb as the film goes on.  We the audience want closure and we are compelled to see it, but this is the real world, and justice is severed differently here.  Corruption is rampant, and society seems to be decaying.

In the end the viewer is brought out the other side and there is some sort of closure.   Only there is a cost to our characters.  Maybe that's what makes this film so worth seeing.  Despite the decay and depravity of it all there is some good.

I'm a big fan of the author Jim Thompson, and this filled certainly reeks of his influence.  But also the influence of James Ellroy. 

The cast should be mentioned, but they are all good and all should be mentioned when talking about this film.  I'll just suffice to say that if you really want to know who is in it see the list on IMDB.  The interesting technical aspect of these movies were that they were shot with different formats.

Part one was shot in Super 16mm, and it has a lot of handheld work, and feels very gritty.  The second part was shot in 35mm, and feels like your standard police drama, but with a big kick.  The third part was shot digitally on the RED camera, and is used very effectively.

All I can say is that these films are well done, and should be seen if your seriously into making films.  If you love crime dramas then get ready to be walloped and stunned.

Films like these get me excited and show how good stories can be made by having good material to work with.  So if you dare watch these films, and prepare to be amazed, but take it slow.  I think it works better that way.  One can digest the plot lines and the actions slowly and really get a better scope of the film as a whole if you sit through each one and take your time in seeing the next one.  But if you do see it all at once be prepared to be shell shocked.  This film pulls no punches and is one riveting story.  I highly recommend it.