Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fingerpainting masterpieces

Once again, there is another case of some mother selling paintings done by her very young child and people paying sums of cash for them. This article, Toddler fools the art world into buying his tomato ketchup paintings, shows the child and his works.

Personally, I despise articles like these because right from the headline, the reader (who is most likely a casual art consumer at best) immediately takes it to be a full vilification of the art world. Apparently, art critics are just "too stupid" and "gullible" and can easily be fooled by mere "paint daubs."

Unfortunately, the majority of people feel intimidated by the modern art world. It sometimes makes no sense. Sometimes, it is too conceptual and leaves you feeling like you need some sort of decoder ring to understand it. When some article comes out about how a "toddler fool[ed] the art world" then we can all feel superior to this intimidating culture. We can laugh and pat ourselves on the back about how we would never buy canvas fingerpainted by someone who still shits his pants.

But here's the thing: I've looked at those pictures of this toddler's work. They're absolutely beautiful. The use of color and the raw energy in the marks captivate me. I don't care if the person who made it was 2 or 102, they still look amazing.

Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." And it's true. This kid is painting his paintings with the whole of his being. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of them or even if they're good enough. He's delighting himself in the act of painting and that's it. It's the purest form of artmaking there is. He's expressing himself purely through the colors onto the canvas. Sure, it may not look like some Thomas Kinkade piece of crap (Kinkade being a talented hack for people who think that art should be snow covered cottages), but it is a pure piece of expression.

The people mocking the art critics now may feel superior, but in my estimation, they didn't get it then and they sure as hell don't get it now. They just lack the ability to see the brilliance in front of them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Music Video Product Placement

I'm currently in the development phase of a music video with a friend of mine and while brainstorming our approach, we looked to mainstream hip-hop videos for inspiration. While surfing YouTube, we came across the video for Fergie's Fergalicious single.

At 2:51 into the video, there is gratuitous technology usage, as is typical. The multitude of dancers all take a listen to the song they're dancing to on an MP3 player that opens to reveal a small set of speakers. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the device is held in pure commercial fashion.

Since when did music videos start having product placement? It's literally a commercial within a commercial.

It's not like the label needed the cash to make the video (although you can tell that the budget for it must have been huge). What's happening is that advertising is getting so pervasive that ads are selling adspace in their own ads!

Sigh. I guess it's just all part of the machine to keep people buying crap they don't need. And more importantly, to keep people buying crap that they'll annoy me with on the el trains.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The End of Blockbuster?!

I just came across this post about the coming end of Blockbuster.

For the past 8 years, I've been boycotting Blockbuster due to their censoring of movies before and after production. Finding an unaltered version of Last Tango in Paris or even Terror Firmer was impossible. Even worse was Hollywood execs changing films in production to fit the moralistic nature of the company's leaders.

Finally, thanks to the power of Netflix, Blockbuster is on the way out and I, for one, am glad to see it go.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's official: I freaking hate Michael Bay.

So I had the unfortunate experience of watching The Island the other night. This makes for the third pile of garbage I've seen from Michael Bay; the other two being Transformers and Armageddon.

The thing that really pisses me off about Bay's movies is that everything happens so fast, there's so much spectacle of chases and fights and explosions and sfx, that people watch this tripe and think it's gold, never realizing that they just ate a huge plate of steaming fuck. Second to that is Bay's complete neglect to take his movies into any area where the situations or issues posed could get into any deep contemplation. Of course, who can talk about issues when there's a helicopter/car chase to be had?

Let's take The Island, for example. A huge population of people cloned and grown ultimately for perfect organ replacements for their DNA-original masters. They've no idea about their purpose. They're told a lie about a worldwide contamination and if they're lucky, they win a lottery to go to "the island": the only contamination-free zone on Earth to help repopulate the world. In reality winning the lottery means certain death as they're to be carved up for transplantation.

Yes, farming clones as organ replacements is wrong since the clones have a consciousness and sentience, but that's not an argument that many would counter. It's easy to be on the side of the happy little clones and their cutesy innocence. We can all agree on this and pat ourselves on the back for being humanitarians.

The thing that Bay brings up and skirts around is with Scarlett Johansson's character. Her original has recently suffered a horrible car wreck and has 48 hours to live unless she gets the transplants from her clone. Although she knows that her original is dying, she does nothing and doesn't even seem to care about the fact. Even after speaking via videophone with her original's very young child, she never contemplates her purpose for being: keeping her original alive.

I'm not saying that Scarlett's character should've sacrificed herself or not. I'm saying that you had a delicious ethical issue here and instead of ever devoting any time to it, we get another helicopter chase, some running from mercenaries, and a campy scene where the lead mercenary judges the owner of the cloning company as an unethical man. (A mercenary who saw nothing wrong with firing automatic weapons and bombs in crowded civilian areas, mind you.) Bay dropped the ball.

Add to that all of Bay's awkward expositions, needless secondary characters bloating the runtime to more than 2 hours, and an almost fetishistic love for all things military, and you have a celluloid shit sandwich. You get the equivalent of the teenager who thinks he's all grown up: able to recognize the complexities of adult life, but unable to deal or address any of them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

There is no spotlight in collaboration.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the benefit of seeing Electric Six in concert with opening bands We Are the Fury and The Gore Gore Girls. It was a great show and Electric Six were absolutely amazing (one of the best acts I've seen all year!).

However, the Gore Gore Girls didn't put on that great a show and it was for one simple reason: The failure to share the limelight. During the performance, in most of the songs, the singer also played lead guitar. The other guitarist was also more than capable of playing lead, but for some reason, only played lead on two songs.

The singer was wearing herself out trying to do everything and in the end, it just got embarrassing to watch. On the one instrumental where the 2nd guitarist actually played lead, the singer actually got up on one of the monitor speakers and danced around, stealing the spotlight from the lead performer. It became a boring ordeal of "Look at me! Look at me!" The indulgence grew tiresome and I was glad when it was over.

The thing is that when you're taking part in any kind of collaborative artform, you cannot ever assume full credit for the work produced. You also cannot try to garner all the attention that the work gets.

In film, there's all this worry about who's the author of the piece. Oh, it's the screenwriter. Oh, it's the director. Oh, it's the producer. The truth is that the author is the group of people who made the piece. Change any member of that key crew and you're going to end up with a different film. Ingmar Bergman's films wouldn't be the same without Sven Nykvyst. The Coen Brothers make different movies if the script is from someone else.

Film is the most collaborative art. It is completely unfair for one person to ignore the hard work of everyone else and proclaim themselves the author of the film.

I've had the unfortunate experience of working in the past with people who come from this mindset of sole authorship. There were many creative disagreements and a constant struggle to keep the ideas flowing freely back and forth. Unfortunately, the project devolved into a horrible power struggle, the flow of ideas stopped and turned into either outright dictation or passive-aggressive mind-reading. In the end, the project was absolutely awful and an outright heartbreak for me, who was hoping for turning out a great product.

If you're going to work collaboratively, then you need to remember that the key idea is teamwork. You cannot do everything yourself, nor should you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Photoshopping the flaws away

I was going to write this post a couple of days ago, but didn't get the time to plan out what I was going to say. However, today I saw an article in the Sun-Times about this very subject, so I'm weighing in.

There's been a lot of fervor lately over how Photoshop and photographic retouching are horrible practices that distort the reality of beauty and glamour and blah blah blah. These people are saying that beauty is some lie perpetuated by a dark, shadowy cabal in league with retouching artists.

Let's back off for a moment and look at the reality of the situation. Reality and Glamour are not the best of pals. Hell, the word glamour is the name of fairy-magic. Making something seem like more than it is. We put these models and celebrities on such high pedestals that their reality is that of glamour. No one wants to think of someone like Tyra Banks dropping kids off at soccer practice or Cate Blanchett scooping out a cat's litter box.

Yeah, Faith Hill may be an aging mother of three that leads a hard-working lifestyle and as such, doesn't look like a supermodel. But people have this idealistic idea of who Faith Hill is based on her music and public persona and so, when her image is put out to sell magazines, records, or whatever, she's going to be made to look like the goddess that people imagine. In this case, it's not the fashion world dictating what beauty is, they're dressing up a person in the expectations of the public who consumes these images. To put it simply, as Bill Maher once said, "Hollywood is your mirror."

Remember in the late 90's when some fashion designers tried to hype and use what they called, "ugly models?" We're talking bald women, odd shaped people, too skinny, etc. I don't know about you, but I didn't see a slew of bald, skinny chicks running amok through the city. To be honest, I don't believe that a small group of people could make the unattractive attractive, no matter how hard they tried. Attractiveness plays on certain triggers we have on an evolutionary level. Some guys may have a bald girl fetish, but most guys won't feel attracted to bald girls because a woman's hair is a sign of her health. Good health is attractive.

They reality of the matter is that throughout history, artists have always done what they could to portray their subjects in the most flattering possible way. Moles were just not painted. That spare tire wasn't scultped. Unfortunately, a camera mechanically records the light reflecting off of a subject. That means every mole, every flyaway hair, every inch of flab gets written in the emulsion for all time. It's up to the retouching process to bring out the "inner truth" of the shot, much like the painter may change a model's eyes to blue.

The Sun-Times article also talked about the harmful effect all of this evil retouching was having on teen girls who were undergoing fashionable eating disorders to look like idealized images. I find it reprehensible to place blame on retouchers. This is clearly a result of the public not having the tools to take a critical look at the media that aurrounds them daily. I mean, I've heard people calling reality shows "documentaries." To be ignorant of the retouching process is one thing, but even they most unknowing person has to realize that every photo is the result of a hair, makeup, and wardrobe team under the supervision of a professional photographer with professional lighting who is paid to use his expertise to make the subject look like a million bucks.

Retouching may be able to change reality, but it's only doing what so many artists have done for centuries and should come as no surprise.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer flick round-up

This past month has been a busy one for yours truly as I worked on a few projects that required a lot of HD work. Good stuff, good money. Makes me happy to earn.

Anyway, here's a list of flicks I saw this summer with a brief impression of each:

Knocked Up: I know it was a big hit, but I'm tired of clichéd gender war humor. Women don't get guys. Guys don't get women. Jeez. The lead guy is a lazy stoner and the the lead girl is an ambitious careerist? What a shock! At least it had plenty of funny moments.

Sunshine: Wow. Boyle and Garland should team up forever. The ending confused me a bit, but the film was amazing. This shows that not every sci-fi flick needs to be about quasi-goths shooting each other.

Simpsons Movie: Why did these past writers ever leave? Way funnier than the current show, the movie made me actually like the Simpsons again.

Ratatouille: While I thought that the "no stealing" moral was clumsily tacked on, this was just an amazing and fun film to watch. Brad Bird knows how to make an animated feature, that's for sure. Damn, I really loved this movie. I'll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD.

Bourne Ultimatum: Gives you what you expect to receive. Lots of chase sequences and a few good fights. Plot was kind of lame, but this is all about the action, not the story. That beaing said, there's nothing wrong with taking in the spectacle. D.W. Griffith did say film was all about the chase sequence.

Sicko: Wow. Reviewed in another post.

Transformers: Shit sandwich. Reviewed in another post.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar, where are you now that we need you?

Ingmar Bergman died. He was 89.

It was Bergman's work that really showed me the true power that cinema has. No matter which film of his I saw, whether it was Wild Strawberries, Winter Light, or Fanny & Alexander, they always stuck with me. The man was a total genius and a true auteur in every sense of the word.

The BBC article about it can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Review: SiCKO

As anyone who's looked at the mainstream cable news or read a political blog lately knows, Michael Moore's new documentary, SiCKO , just recently came out. Before the film even made it’s debut, people on both sides of the political fence were lobbing attacks at each other over the issue that SiCKO raises: The American Healthcare system is fundamentally fucked.

As far as this documentary goes, it's pretty standard Michael Moore fare. Moore takes a huge issue, puts a human face on it to show how Corporate America is failing the common man, and then pulls a few pranks to show how totally screwed up the whole situation really is.

Moore starts out showing a man without health insurance literally stitch his own knee wound shut because he can't afford the medical cost of an ER visit. The sad thing is that this isn't as grim as the film gets. Moore spends about five minutes on two people without insurance and then informs us that SiCKO isn't about them. In fact, SiCKO is about those who do have insurance and how the insurance companies have failed them.

After Moore presents some of the tragedies that a corrupt system has caused, he then proceeds to show us the medical systems of Canada, England, and France. In each case, the country provides universal healthcare coverage paid for by taxes. Moore then tackles the myths that our government has propagated about “socialized medicine” for years such as people being turned away, operation quotas, lack of doctors, etc. In each case, he shows that the myth is only a myth.

Finally, Moore ends the film with his set-piece: taking ill 9/11 rescue workers to Guatanamo Bay and demanding that they be provided “with the same healthcare that Al-Quaeda gets. No more, no less.” Of course, no help comes, so Moore gets them treated at no out-of-pocket expense in that most hated country, Cuba.

What strikes me most about the film isn't the film itself (although I was movedto tears of rage at how horrible our own system is when we could have a system that provides for all) but the polemic that has erupted over it. This is not a political issue, or at least, it shouldn't be. This is a humanity issue.

We're all very dependent on each other, despite what our rugged-individualist culture may want to preach. As such, we have to take care of each other if we want to continue as a species. People shouldn't have to choose which severed fingers to save based on their savings. People shouldn't be forced into poverty because of a cancer that developed. People shouldn't let a disease go untreated because they have to pay their mortgages. Even more so, the trust and money that people put into the healthcare providers should pay off when the unfortunate happens and they desperately need that care. Maybe, I'm just a goddamned pinko, but I think that the health of people is more important than the second homes of these millionaire HMO CEOs who profit off of denying treatment to those ailing.

All in all, I hope that this film helps turn the tide toward America adopting universal healthcare coverage for all. Unfortunately, Moore has been so demonized by the right-wing media that his film will most likely be another case of preaching to the converted, but let's hope that we can one day soon walk into a hospital without fearing bankruptcy.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Review: Transformers

On the 4th of July, I saw Michael Bay's newest recruitment ad for the USMC, Transformers. After the soul-crushing experience of watching this god-awful dreck, all I really wanted was those two and half hours of my life back.

Let's just get the requisite plot summary out of the way before I try to relate why I feel like a part of me died inside. Marines in the Qatar (a monarchy that punishes dissenters) encounter a giant robot that can transform into a helicopter. In the USA, a nerdy teen, Sam (Shia LaBouf), is special and unique enough to warrant soon becoming friends with more giant robots that can transform into vehicles. Complications ensue and giant robots battle each other while Marines shoot at said robots and Sam gets enough character to overcome his nerdiness, get the girl (Megan Fox), and attain the honorary rank of soldier from Josh Duhamel. The end credits roll while you feel cheated and Hasbro's shareholders masturbate with enthusiasm.

That being said, this long cartoon just didn't do it for me. One thing that could've helped would have been if someone told Bay that he isn't funny. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to endure one crappy gag after another. Here's a classic from the movie: a little girl clutching the requisite stuffed animal watches a 30-foot tall robot step out of the family pool. She says to the towering mechanoid, "Are you the Tooth Fairy?" Are you effing kidding? Sadly, this is the best joke in a whole movie whose jokes are so old and tired that they make Vaudeville humor seem cutting-edge.

As one might expect in a summer action flick, none of the characters are even worth caring about. I didn't care about Captain Lennox (Duhamel) and the fact that his wife and baby were back in the states, nor did I care about Sam and his lame attempts to impress the shallow-teen-hottie-who-isn't-shallow-and-holy-crap!-she-can-fix-cars love interest. I also snoozed through the boring scenes with Jon Voigt as the Secretary of Defense and the computer nerds deciphering alien signals. No one in the film was a three-dimensional character.

Most disturbing in this piece of propaganda is that the Autobots speak English while the Decepticons speak their native language. After a couple of scenes of Marines admonishing their Latino team member to "speak English" it becomes apparent that only true Americans speak English. The Decepticons become almost like foreign terrorists as they infiltrate military bases and even Airforce One. (The Latino Marine dies in battle.)

I could go on about stupid plot choices, hokey sloganeering, etc. but I want to get to the heart of this: this film offers nothing to say. Call me crazy, but I want more to a movie than just spectacle. A film should teach me something.

While discussing this with a friend of mine, he told me that it was a dumb, escapist summer action flick and that I shouldn't go in expecting some arthouse-quality film. To quote, "I wanted to see giant robots fighting and that's what I got." That being said, I can only retort that the "it's a dumb flick" excuse isn't good enough. In the past, we got great films like Hostel 2, Grindhouse, Night Watch, Spider-Man, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, etc. that all were spectacle-heavy, but had something genuine to say and share with us.

The problem is that we keep buying into the tease of the specatacle that the film offers, but never hold the filmmakers accountable for the lack of substance. Unfortunately, this movie will make a ton of cash and Hollywood will keep pumping out shit like this.

I wish I had gone to see Ratatouille instead. I'm going to have to go see Herzog's The Great Escape now. I have to feed my soul with good stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

EW's Top action movie?

So Entertainment Weekly listed Die Hard as the number 1 action movie. I'm sure that this has absolutely nothing to do with the new Die Hard film coming out soon. Nothing whatsoever.

Ah fuck, who am I kidding? Fucking marketing. This type of marketing pisses me off. Like how the Red Eye splashes the movie of the week on their Friday paper.

The NC-17 works when used right

In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, Mark Harris writes about the failure of the current MPAA ratings system and argues for the end of the NC-17 rating. He specifically cites the release of Eli Roth's Hostel 2 with it's over the top torture sequences and it’s R rating.

I do have to say that Harris makes a valid point about how even a 5-year old can get into an R movie with the addition of an accompanying adult. When I saw Hostel 2 a week ago, there were three teenagers in the audience (and thanks to the understaffed theater, these kids didn't even have that accompanying adult). Of course, the kids decided to irritate people in the audience with their incessant yapping and cell phone gabbing. I had dearly wished for an NC-17 rating on the film so I wouldn’t have to put up with that. (This is why I never see a movie on the opening weekend.)

I think the real issue to address here isn't that “the NC-17 rating…preserves the illusion that R-rated films like Hostel 2 are okay for kids,” but that the MPAA is a failure that either needs to be overhauled or done away with completely.

The real tragedy here is that Mark Harris touches on why a film like Hostel 2 can get the R-rating. There’s the single phrase, “The indies have it harder than the studio films.” That's it. But right there is your reason why Hostel 2 evaded the NC-17 even though it breaks a number of previous taboos for R-rated films.

Hostel 2, for all intents and purposes, is a studio film. It's being distributed by Sony. Sony and Lionsgate have the pull necessary to take a flick and push it through the MPAA with an R, while Killer Films and IFC films can't get John Water's A Dirty Shame through the MPAA without an NC-17. Aside from a pair of enormous, prosthetic breasts and a bare ass, there’s no nudity in A Dirty Shame and definitely no extreme violence.

The NC-17 rating works when it's implemented correctly and not undermined for the sake of a larger studio getting the coveted R-rating that will draw in the spendthrift teens.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Review: Hostel 2

Whenever you have a movie like Eli Roth’s Hostel 2 get released, you inevitably have the critics decrying the film as nothing more than pointless “torture-porn” and then suggest that we, the audience, should be ashamed for plunking down our $10 and chomping popcorn throughout the spectacle of dismemberment and other wholesome amusements.

While I do concede that there are a lot of really bad movies that feature such forms of body-horror and have nothing else to offer in terms of having anything to say, this has never been the case with Eli Roth. When I saw Roth’s first feature, Cabin Fever, I knew that this was going to be a director to watch over the coming years. Roth’s tale of camping friends and the fragility of that friendship in a generation that grew up never knowing a world without AIDS was complex and poignant, all within the oft-maligned splatter genre.

Then came Hostel, a film about America’s role in a larger global society. Roth depicted a scenario in which a poor European country made its bread and butter on selling wealthy European businessmen the opportunity to hack upon arrogant, American youth. At a time when Americans foster no goodwill in the larger global society, this film played on the fears arising from the disdain our country had fostered in the past few years.

Now comes Roth’s Hostel 2, his finest feature to date, where he turns his critical lens as a scathing indictment of the Upper Class.

Hostel 2 is about an American art student, Beth, who is studying in Rome with her friends Lorna and Whitney. Finishing their lesson, they decide to head off to Prague for the weekend. Unfortunately, the army of “gross guys” on the night train put them off and they get talked into visiting the wonderful town of Slovakia, home to fabulous hot springs, extravagant harvest festivals, and the best murder factory you ever saw.

Intercut with the story of Beth and her pals, is the story of Todd and Stuart, two American businessmen who win the online auction to be the ones to kill Whitney and Beth. (Lorna gets dispatched by another lucky bidder.) These two guys go into this thinking that having killed someone will give them a psychological, competitive edge in the business world. As the film progresses, Stuart and Todd make their way through the hunting club initiation and the girls get abducted one by one until both meet in a shocking and bloody climax.

By making the two soon-to-be killers American, Roth takes the focus away from the the nationality of the victims and murderers and focuses us more on the disparity between the classes. Here are the wealthy business types hacking up the lower-class backpacking kids. Their money buys them the experience to take a human life. In this case, life is literally worth less than commerce. In one scene the lives of homeless children are so undervalued that taking the life of a child is seen as almost a birthright.

While other reviewers may point and shout about how films such as this are horrible for depicting life and cheap and worthless, the real point is that Roth is showing us the mindset of the modern business model. Everything is for sale and for those who are wealthy enough, the social contract of morality doesn’t even apply. Why play by the rules when you can buy off the system?

If you can stomach the gore (which, in my opinion, wasn't that hardcore), then Hostel 2 is a great choice for a film to go see.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Review: Brand Upon the Brain!

Last night was the final showing of Guy Maddin's latest cinematic offering, Brand Upon the Brain! I had very much wanted to see it the opening weekend when the Music Box had the orchestra, Foley artists, castrato, benshi, and Crispin Glover to provide the sound. Thankfully, it doesn't matter how you dress up Maddin, because his genius will always shine through.

Brand Upon the Brain! is the second film from Maddin in which the tale is faux-autobiographical. It concerns a middle-aged Guy, who is now a world-renowned house painter, returning to his childhood home (a lighthouse doubling as an orphanage) to give everything two good coats of paint as instructed in a letter from his estranged mother.

Guy starts slathering on the coats of paint, covering up every crack in the walls as well as his remembered past. Guy then flashbacks to when he was a child. He runs and plays on the lighthouse island, always under the vigilant, ever-watchful eye of his mother. One day, he encounters Wendy Hale, teen detective/harpist. Young Guy is in love and helps her with her investigation. Over time, the traditional Guy Maddin themes of complicated lust, bizarre love triangles, and denied passion all come into play.

Brand, along with Maddin's other "autobiographical" effort, Cowards Bend the Knee, marks a real experimental approach to Maddin's storytelling. The image quality stays very grainy throughout, as well as high-contrast. It's as if Guy's memories are very black & white morally, but the recollections are hazy from 30 years' time. The editing is rapid, with character movement being highly treated, looking almost like stills being projected in a flip-book procession. I'm not quite sure what Maddin's intention with this editing approach is, but damn if it doesn't look cool.

Brand was an enjoyable film. Being Maddin fan of a few years now, I was overjoyed to see this and see Maddin furthering his work and aesthetic into more avant-garde territory. For the first-time Maddin viewer, I would suggest something more accessible, such as The Saddest Music in the World or Tales From Gimli Hospital. For everyone else, see this flick.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Haters Hating on The Secret

Okay, this post isn't really film or art related, but since I do believe that synchronicity does happen, I wanted to weigh in on all this.

The Chicago Reader published an article today about the latest self-help book craze, The Secret. Their article is just one of many now that refutes the ideas brought up in the movie and companion book.

For the most part, I agree with the Reader's article in that Rhonda Byrne (the woman behind The Secret) is a nutjob. I think that assertions she makes in her book such as "you're fat because you think fat thoughts" or relating the story of a woman who used visualization to beat breast cancer are irresponsible at best. However, nowhere in the film (I didn't read the book since the movie makes the point pretty well. The book seemed more like a way to keep milking the cash cow.) does it say that everything will occur with only visualization. In fact, in the film, they explicitly say that you must act when the opportunity arises to reach or further yourself toward your goal.

That being said, I'm trying to figure out why so many people seem to be so incensed by the idea of setting your intentions and manifesting them. Is it that scary?

The point of The Secret is simple: If you believe that you can do something, you can. There it is. Simple. There's really no magic to it. Fuck, we're talking The Little Engine That Could here.

This concept has been around for at least a century. Earl Nightingale talks about it in his audio program, The Strangest Secret, which was originally a pep talk to his sales staff. Napoleon Hill alludes to it throughout his book, Think & Grow Rich. James Allen writes about it in his book, As a Man Thinketh.

Honestly, what is bad about this? Teaching people to train themselves to think positively is not a bad thing. Bhuddist monks spend their lives training their minds toward positivity. We live in a culture that almost seems to glorify pessimism and constant kvetching. A little dose of real optimism once in a while is like a breath of fresh air.

I think the backlash against this not-so-secret Secret is that to accept the idea that positive thinking (and taking action when opportunity appears) is to also accept that you've limited yourself by your own negative beliefs in the past. That's a scary thought. Who wants to be the blame for all the bad shit that's happened to them? It's easier when you can say outside circumstances kept you working a dead-end job or your mother's lack of understanding caused you to quit your passion.

Positive Thinking isn't a bad thing and it isn't mystical, quantum physics alchemy either. It's just the belief (the faith) that you'll get whatever it is that you want if you believe and try hard enough. Rhonda Byrne just took an old idea and dressed it up in mumbo-jumbo, added in a lot of good ol' New Age guilt (It's your own fault you're in a shitty relationship since you attracted it into your life!) and got Oprah to hawk it. It doesn't matter how the message is delivered as long as it is delivered.

Here's a great link to another non-magical look at The Secret: Why Henry Ford Knew More Than The Secret.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Finally! Jodorowski on DVD!

It's about goddamned time!

A box set of Alexander Jodorowski's films, Fando Y Lis, El Topo, and The Holy Mountain has finally been released! Apparently, there is also a rarely seen earlier film included called La Cravate.

I love the work of Jodorowski so much. Who else could make a film about a vicious gunfighter who finds Buddha-esque enlightenment in a mountain cave with circus freaks and manages to include slapstick, naked monks being whipped with cacti, and explosions?

I've got to get this box set. I also need to find a copy of his later film, Santa Sangre.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I don't walk, I stroll.

I had to do a lot of walking today and I kept noticing that everyone was speeding to wherever they had to get to without any thought about what was going on around them. Since I had nowhere urgent to get to, I strolled everywhere I went, observing everything going on.

We live in this wonderful, amazing city of Chicago, but we're too wrapped in our heads to pay attention to the beauty and wonder of what's out there. It's a shame.

I understand that some of this is the result of defending ourselves from unwelcome intrusions upon our daily existence, namely those that come in the form of crazy, scary people in rat-skin loincloths, but this is an inevitable occurrence that happens when you try to be present in the moment instead of somewhere else. The crazy thing is that these disturbances help you appreciate the sublime things you normally don't notice all the more.

There's no real point to this other than that sometimes it's worth the effort and risk to get the benefit of those instances of beauty.

Haiku #6

Hot sweat on my skin
growing cold
from the storm winds

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Haiku #5

Bleary eyed
coffee in hand
waiting for clients

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Haiku #4

My fellow fringe-dwellers
Talking cinema
and breathing smoke

Monday, May 21, 2007

Living and Hacking Life

So, I've been negelctful of Shot Reverse Shot for the past week. I'm not apologizing.

For the last week, I've been in the "living life" cycle of things. I've missed a lot of sleep and lot of meals, but I've also gorged myself silly on excitement and adventure. I've expanded my horizons by playing a role outswide my experience and I've stocked the creative well like crazy.

The Haiku Challenge got derailed, but it's still on.

Also, I've gotten into this whole idea of lifehacking lately. Holy god, the tricks that people come up with to stay on top of the goals that they're striving for is amazing. Nothing short of amazing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Haiku #3

Staring out the train window
avoiding eyes in the reflection
Flat light on blank faces

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ways To Ruin Your Film: Blair Witch Syndrome

OK, you've got a bare-bones script, a small crew ready to work, and some talent on set. To be honest, your script isn't that good so you've given your actors permission and even encouragement to improvise based on the scenario of the scene. I mean, they're actors and they know the characters, right? Why even bother writing a full script anyway?

So you spend your shoot day going all Dogme 95 with it and you're swept by the powerful emotions coming from your talent. You're so excited that you're having a hard time containing your bowels. You thump yourself on the chest, proclaim yourself the next John Cassavetes, and call it a wrap.

Your movie comes out and all anyone sees of your genius is 90 minutes of people yelling at each other. 90 solid fucking minutes of circular argumentative yelling. Shit, if that's what people wanted to see, they could wait until Thanksgiving and announce to the family that they're getting a sex-change and joining the Moonies.

This was how I felt while and after seeing that god-awful, overrated piece of crap known as The Blair Witch Project. If you remember, three annoying film students go into the woods looking for a ghost, yell at each other for 90 minutes, and then finally die in a totally anti-climactic way. Here's a sample part of the film:

Annoying Film Student: Where's the fucking map?

Another Annoying Film Student: I don't have the fucking map!

Third Annoying Film Student: (with beard) I threw the fucking map away!


Another Annoying Film Student: SEE!? I DIDN'T HAVE THE GODDAMNED MAP!

Annoying Film Student: FUCK YOU!

Another Annoying Film Student: WHAT? NO, FUCK YOU AND YOUR FUCKING MAP!

Third Annoying Film Student: (with beard) FUCK THE BOTH OF YOU IN THE FUCKING NECK!

Lather, rinse, and repeat for 85 more minutes.

It was with The Blair Witch Project that I first discovered Blair Witch Syndrome. I remember watching an interview on Good Morning America where the two "filmmakers" were talking about their film and priding themselves on how great they were for setting up situations in the woods for their cast to come across and improvise about. Hence, the pointless yelling about a small, inconsequential pile of rocks outside of their tent in one scene.

The problem of Blair Witch is that of actors who have no ability to improvise. Unfortunately, not every actor can improvise worth a damn. Usually, with bad improv actors, scenes become quite circular as the point of the scene gets lost and the audience gets bored. Blair Witch could've done much, much better had the filmmakers casted actors who could actually improvise worth a damn. Maybe then the film would've really been spooky and I wouldn't have been dreaming about throwing those rocks at the cast and directors. (Yep, Blair Witch Project had two assholes directing it.)

There are plenty of wonderful, improvised films out there. The movies of John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh, and the Dogme work of Lars Von Trier serving as wonderful examples. Of course, these films had top notch talent and lots of rehearsals before the shoot so everything was worked out.

Thankfully, Blair Witch Syndrome is a rare condition that not many films suffer. The reasons for this are that the majority of sufferers are first-time filmmakers and those filmmakers are usually really wedded to their scripts to even entertain the notion of letting the actors improvise the whole flick.

Haiku #2

The birds are awake
hours before the sun
singing their joy

Friday, May 11, 2007

Haiku #1

The cool wind
pushes me along
like blossoms from a tree.

Jack Kerouac & Haikus

We all remember haiku from back in public school. The teacher would try to instill in us a desire to read and/or create poetry and the haiku was a nice, easy way to do that. 5-7-5, that's it.

Here's five syllables.
Holy shit! Here's seven more!
Have another five.

Promptly after class, we'd gather together and make as many insulting or fucked-up haiku as possible.

You're such a douchebag.
With a fat ass and bad breath.
You eat your own poop.

After awhile, counting syllables would get pretty boring, and we'd just start trading insults. That was the extent of haiku for me back then.

However, a few years ago, I was reading about Jack Kerouac (pictured above with cat, of course) and his haiku. I found out that aside from the fascistic syllable count, a haiku was supposed to capture a mood of mystery, poverty, isolation, or impermanence. Haikus have a feeling of the "now" and are more suggestive of a moment than they are descriptive.

Kerouac suggested that sticking to a rigid syllable pattern wasn't necessary since our language is vastly different from that of the Japanese. Instead of focusing on 5-7-5, we should just use three short lines.

Here are four haiku by Kerouac:

Useless, useless
the heavy rain
Driving into the sea

Perfect moonlit night
by family squabbles

Those birds sitting
out there on the fence
They're all going to die

In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
has died of old age
The video below is from a class project I did about 4 years ago where we had to make video haiku. The videos could've had text or not. They could've been haiku written by ourselves or others. I opted to take these four Kerouac haiku and marry them to video.

Finally, I've been inspired by French Toast Girl and her current project of producing a picture or significant progress on a picture for every day in May. While I came into May late, I'm going to attempt to create a haiku in the Kerouac style that follows the Japanese convention of catching a moment.

Here's the video:

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Advice to Film Students

I have a teacher from my first semester of film school who invites me back to talk to her class about what to expect in future semesters and after graduation. Once, after a decent talk (most times, the students couldn't be bothered to care about what future semesters hold), I came up with some bits of wisdom I would've liked imparted to me when I was a student.

1. Don't try to create a mini Hollywood movie. It's OK to copy stylistic things you find cool because you're still finding your voice. That's craft. However, your content should reflect who you are. Shoot the story that can only be told by you.

2. Embrace and explore the total lexicon of film, whether it be avant-garde, documentary, arthouse, film noir, etc. In the past, all great artists studied and trained in the techniques of the masters thus gaining the skills necessary to express their own visions and voices precisely.

3. Start thinking visually. Take up life drawing, collage, photography, design, etc. How can you show something with only images?

4. Feel free to create scripts without the limits of your own resources, but plan the films you're going to shoot around what's available.

5. Every year, go and look at your body of work to see the pattern of your themes & symbolism. This will also show you how far you've come and how far you've yet to go.

6. Take up another art form. John Waters does photography, David Lynch paints, Miranda July does performance art, Mike Mills is a designer/illustrator, Chris Cunningham sculpts.

7. Learn about business practices as well as personal finance. Commerce is a huge part of life. Making and managing money does not equal selling out. Doing something that goes against your values is selling out. Besides, the image of the starving artist loses its romance when your landlord want his back rent, your electricity is shut off and all you have is a can of boiled peanuts in your cupboard.

8. Get as much set experience as possible as soon as possible. Do everything. Talk to everyone.

9. Cultivate and maintain all of your contacts and relationships.

10. Don't stress out about trying to make a "perfect" production 1 or 2 film. You're still learning a process in a safe environment. Later, when you're at the helm of an advanced production, you'll have the chance to shine and show what you got.

11. It's true: lots of money and high-end gear can make a great film, but the project needs to be great to begin with. Think about what a beautiful piece of shit Van Helsing is.

12. There's more to life than film. Explore it. Learn new things. Read philosophy, science, metaphysics, trivia, etc. Have something to make films about.

13. Read the book, What They Don't Teach You in Film School. It's great.

14. For god's sake, take care of your health. You've only got one body and one life. You can't be at your peak form if you're dealing with aches and pains or you're malnourished on crappy food. Exercise. Learn to cook good stuff. Get the proper amount of sleep. There's a staff nurse for free to keep you healthy. There's a gym and personal trainer at Roosevelt for free for you to use. This is the most important tip I'm giving you.

Monday, May 7, 2007

An Awesome Quote

Here's a quote I found today:

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process, we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome, we may not know where we're going, but we will know we want to be there.

-Bruce Mau, from An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Review: Ice Cream Man

Ice cream that stares back? What a frosty treat!

It's not very often that a movie is so fucking awful that I cannot bring myself to finish it, but Paul Norman's 1995 horror-comedy, Ice Cream Man just stunk. We're talking "The Critics Simply Say, 'Shit Sandwich'" levels of stink here.

Having just checked the film legacy of Paul Norman, I actually now feel sorry for him. The most recent thing on his IMDb page is a piece of pure class called Sperm Bitches. I didn't have the patience to go through all 118 of his films, but I'm going to take a guess and say that this was his only mainstream, non-porno movie.

I just imagine Paul Norman on the set of this flick every day freaking out about how good it needed to be so that he could become a "real" director and break free of the porno industry. I mean, he even went so far as to work with kids for this film! (I wonder if the parents knew of Paul Norman's CV.) I imagine Paul begrudgingly signing the film over to a straight-to-video distributor and then, when the movie tanked, he shrugs sadly to himself and sighs, "Back to money shots..."

As a side note, this film was co-written by David Dobkin, director of Wedding Crashers. I wonder if he and Paul trade Xmas cards.

On to my review of the first 45 minutes of what could've been 84 minutes of pure misery!

We start out with the obligatory flashback of why Gregory (Clint Howard) is a fucked-up individual. You know you're watching a flashback because everything is in black and white. Apparently, the ice cream man of Greg's youth is gunned down in a drug-related drive by shooting. This takes place in an upper middle-class neighborhood where as we all know, drug-related drive-by shootings are an epidemic. Young, soon-to-be-batshit-crazy Gregory is first to the body. He sits on the curb, takes a push-up pop out of the murdered ice cream man's hand and proceeds to eat it. When his mother rushes to him, all the boy can say is, "Who's going to bring the ice cream now?" This is how we're to know he's now officially batshit.

Flashback and some pointless exposition out of the way, we come to the present day where dorky children mob the ice cream truck. Gregory is now the ice cream man, but instead of getting shot in those upper middle-class drive-bys, he just keeps rats and other filth with the ice cream. You know the rats are bad thanks to the synthesizer score mimicking the Bernard Herrman soundtrack to Psycho. Apparently, Gregory's childhood trauma has only caused him to have a flagrant disregard for food sanitation laws instead of becoming a homicidal psychotic as the movie's poster would have us believe.

The heroes of this tale of suburban terror are four children. You have the small, nerdy kid named Small Paul. You have the fat kid named Tuna. Then you have two more kids, but they're pretty normal sized, so you forget them pretty quick. Actually, the kid playing Tuna isn't really fat, so throughout the movie, his shirts are all stuffed with padding in order to give him bulk. Fat suit technology wasn't available yet in 1995, so tons of toilet paper had to fill the girth. (Despite Tuna's "obesity", the character does an amazing amount of cardio with all the running and biking he does throughout the film. Must be a low metabolism.)

During the first half hour, we're led to believe that Gregory has murdered two children, but then it's revealed that both kids are alive. Instead, Gregory has only killed a creepy trash collector and a barking dog. He also puts an eyeball in a cop's ice cream cone.

So the kids that he's supposed to have killed aren't killed and we never see him kill anyone else during the 45 minutes I watched. What the hell's the point? Obviously, Gregory is no threat to our main heroes, so what are the stakes? Some E. Coli poisoning from rat turds in the butter pecan?

Having passed the halfway point and watching a very awkward pursuit in a carpeted grocery store (complete with Doug Llewelyn cameo), I just couldn't take any more. I just couldn't.

I had known that this film would be bad, but I hoped that it would be bad in a fun way, not bad in a "what the fuck were they thinking?" way. This is not worth seeing, even for camp. Who knows, maybe Paul Norman has improved in the past decade and Sperm Bitches is a cinematic masterpiece. Then again, maybe not.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ways To Ruin Your Film: Alcoholics

While recently watching the very fun movie, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, I was ticked off at what I consider one of the worst clichés ever: The struggling alcoholic.

Here's the example from Dirty Mary Crazy Larry: Deke (Adam Roarke) is holding the wife and daughter of a supermarket manager hostage while Larry (Peter Fonda) collects the money. While waiting for Larry to call, we get a beautiful use of the Kuleshov Effect:

CU of Deke looking at something.
CU of a few bottles of liquor and glasses.
CU of Deke still looking.

Within those three shots, we instantly know that Deke is supposed to be an alkie and is struggling with staying sober. We can also safely assume that in some point during the film, Deke will also be very tempted to take a drink, but most likely will choose sobriety at the last moment of a long, internal struggle. If we're especially lucky, we'll be treated to a shot of Deke throwing the glass against the wall and wiping cold sweat from his brow.

Okay, we don't get the glass smashing, but we get everything else.

The biggest problem with most movies that include an alcoholic character is that the film doesn't benefit from the addition. Making a character a recovering alkie is a cheap and easy way to give that character "dimension". In Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Deke's character doesn't really have any depth to him. He's obviously the brains of the operation and he keeps their car running with his mechanical expertise, but outside of that, there's nothing to his character that hints to his humanity. Well, instead of trying to figure out how to improve the character and make him fuller, why not just say that he has a drinking problem? We'll show him struggling with it a couple of times and we're good to go.

At one point in the film, Larry decides to wait out the cops. They hide out at a bar. A bar. If you have an alcoholic friend, the last place you're taking him is a bar. That is, unless you really need that obligatory scene of the alcoholic struggling with the urge to drink.

If you have a character that's a little flat and you need to give them some depth, find something that may have more relevance to the story's theme. Maybe you have a character in a romantic comedy where the theme is that we have to open ourselves up to people to find love and fulfillment. Let's say this character is the buddy of the film's hero, but aside from some comedic dialogue, there's nothing being added here. Well, you could cop out and make him a struggling alcoholic complete with cool glass-smashing scene, or you could have him be someone who lost the love of his life because he was always so guarded, yet he never learned the error of his ways, so he advises the hero to close himself off.

If you have to have an alcoholic character, please make the addiction relevant to the story. Look at films like The Verdict and Clean & Sober for references to this.

A Foot in Both Worlds

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
-Anaïs Nin

Life is the fuel of creativity. As artists, we take our life experiences and transform them into works to communicate to others. We live life, and then we relive it as we create.

I find that in my own experience, I swing from extremes of extroversion and introversion. That is, I go through phases where my soul yearns to be out and about, gathering experiences. Then I go through phases where I only want to go hermit and retreat to my cave to process everything.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't find this kind of bipolar social life frustrating. Sometimes my desires and instincts are at odds. I may really want to go out, but instead, I stay in to work and create. Other times, I may have a deadline looming and need to work, but my mind is out in the fields staring at clouds.

I've often wondered, in the past, if instead of living twice, we actually just live two half-lives. However, I think the reality is that we tend to live more aware and more fully than the majority of our species who sleepwalk through life, paying little attention to the details of our existence.

Recently, I started walking to the Red Line el train from my apartment to get to and from work. This wasn't because of any sort of need or desire to increase my fitness level or to save money on CTA transfers. (I live a mile from the Red Line, but I live 3 blocks from the Brown Line and the bus could just as easily take me to the Red Line.) The weather was nice, the sun was out, and I really just wanted to walk.

Have you ever just marveled at how awesome it is to walk? We usually just take this for granted, going so far as to save ourselves the "hassle" of walking by driving our cars for a mile trip. But walking, though, feels so present, so real. The cool air breezing past you, the sun warming your back. The smell of cut grass and burning charcoals from backyard grills. If I had taken my camera with me, I could've found dozens of things to photograph that were interesting to me.

How many people could say the same? I'm not knocking other people; I know that everyone has things going on in their heads that's taking their attention. Hell, I get preoccupied a lot thinking about projects, women, whatever.

But I think that as artists, we tend to live so fully in the moment, that we take in more of life than a lot of people do. We have to take that downtime just to catch our breaths and empty ourselves so we can do it again. So, we live life sometimes in the moment, extroverted and then we relive it through our work, introverted.

A foot in both worlds.

Friday, May 4, 2007

In Defense of Shit

The poop joke, or what most critics (and snobs) would refer to as scatalogical humor, always draws ire from those paid judges of our cultural output. I, for one, am proud to say that I absolutely love toilet humor and am baffled by the people who deride such comedy as childish tripe, refusing to even crack a smile.

It is this very inability in some people to laugh at the absurdity of our own bodily functions that points to why poop jokes aren't just funny, but humanizing as well.

There is an old Simpsons episode in which Sideshow Bob is reunited with his brother, Cecil. In a flashback, we learn that Cecil originally auditioned for the sidekick position on the Krusty the Klown Show. During his audition, Cecil gladly smashes a cream pie into his own face in an attempt so show his comedic prowess. No one laughs. Krusty only says, "It's only funny if you got dignity."

Seeing Bob off to the side dressed in a very British-looking 3-piece suit and derby hat, Krusty orders someone to "throw a pie at Lord Fauntleroy there." Bob is taken aback at the creamy assault. His hat falls off and his hair springs out of control. The effect is hilarious.

This is why the poop joke is funny. We, the human race, spend a lot of time trying to preserve this illusion that somehow, we are above Nature. We wear fragrances to mask our natural scents, we streamline our food cultivation so we don't have to hunt or gather, and we treat sex as this insane taboo when it's the sole reason any of us were ever born. We're a species that doesn't like to acknowledge that we're just another kind of animal.

So, enter the poop joke to keep us in check. Poop reminds us that despite whatever our class, culture, society, etc. we still are animals. It makes no difference if you're Donald Trump or some street bum, you still shit.

A great example of the poop joke and how it works can be seen in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. In this greatly funny film, there's a scene where our two heroes are hiding in a women's restroom when in walks two gorgeous girls...

Let us pause for a moment here to reflect on the nature of gorgeous women. Our culture portrays beautiful women as almost-holy deities sent from Heaven to grace us all with their perfect beauty and presence. There's even a phenomenon called the Halo Effect in which we associate a myriad of positive traits with a person based solely on their being attractive. We tend to imagine gorgeous women as kind, intelligent, gracious, etc. So, pretty girls have a lot of esteem and dignity.

Back to Harold & Kumar hiding in the women's room. These two hot girls enter, each grab a stall, and proceed to take the noisiest, grossest-sounding "taco shits" ever depicted. It's downright explosive and hilarious. They go from being dainty creatures full of beauty and grace to filthy critters shitting themselves silly.

So instead of refusing to crack a smile when someone makes a poop joke, get off of your high horse and realize that yeah, it's fucking nuts that we shit. It's even crazier that all living creatures shit and that all of us drop ass every day. It's hilarious.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


I knew about Wikipedia, but I had no idea that there was such a thing as Wikibooks. Apparently, these are user-edited books on whatever. Here's links to some that are relevant to this blog:

Moviemaking Manual

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ways To Ruin Your Film: DJ Characters

There are multitudes of ways that one can totally fuck up a flick. Some are obvious, like casting the producer’s girlfriend for the lead role, but there are other ways that aren’t as obvious. These choices are sure to take the film down a notch or two in greatness. That’s what this series is about.

The Fog. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Vanishing Point. The Warriors. Psycho IV. Not the worst movies ever made, but certainly not the best. There’s something that they all have in common that hindered their potential. Can you guess what it is?

They all had radio DJ characters.

A film is about spectacle. It’s action. What does a DJ do? They sit. And talk. They talk a fucking lot. You can’t even say that the set it great. It’s a table with a microphone.

There’s nothing wrong with a lot of dialogue in a film. However, even the most talkative of films set their dialogue among scenes of some interest. Kevin Smith films set dialogue-heavy scenes in retail or work environments so that the characters actually have something to do while talking. (A good example of this “business” is the scene where Jack Lemmon reveals his past infidelities to Bruce Davidson over breakfast in Altman’s Short Cuts.)

A DJ sits by their self and has a one-sided conversation.

When it comes to having a DJ character, one has a few options. One can make them an actual player in the plot or keep them on as pure commentary. Let’s look at the above-mentioned films and see how their DJs play out.

The Fog

The Fog has what is probably the best use of a DJ character in a film. This film is Stevie’s (Adrienne Barbeau) story. She’s a single mom who just happens to DJ in an old lighthouse, which just happens to give her the first views of that weird fog rolling in. She’s also among the first to learn of the fog’s malevolence, causing her to strive towards protecting her son. We actually care about her character. Although there’s too much solo yakking, but at least her job and character works in the film.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
also takes its DJ, Stretch (Caroline Williams), and makes her a player in the events. However, the poor characterization keeps her from being worth watching. There is no character. She’s just a catalyst to get Dennis Hopper involved. If only Hopper had been involved earlier, we wouldn’t have to sit through so many boring scenes of talking to a microphone.

For all the flaws apparent in Chainsaw 2, their DJ is utilized better than in The Warriors and Vanishing Point. In these two films, the DJ acts more like a Greek Chorus telling you what you’ve just seen.

Vanishing Point

The worst of the two films is Vanishing Point and the ineptness of adding a character like Super Soul (Cleavon Little). Here we have a DJ who hears about the film’s high-speed chase on a police scanner and then just assumes that the driver, Kowalski (Barry Newman), is listening only to Super Soul’s broadcast. Quite an assumption for a DJ in a storefront radio station in some small town, but of course, he is blind, so how is he to know he works in a dump?

Super Soul proceeds to pass information to Kowalski in the broadcast. If that wasn’t bad enough, Super Soul starts to act like he has some psychic knowledge of Kowalski’s situation. At one point, the technician asks Super if he’s ready to say what he has to say to Kowalski. “I am,” Super replies, “but he ain’t ready yet.” Of course, Super Soul IS blind, and you know, the movies like for us to believe that the blind possess amazing sensory perception. Maybe Super could smell meth-popping Kowalski from two states away.

Of course, Super Soul never actually meets Kowalski, not does he ever do more than talk in a microphone. He dances like he’s having an epileptic fit for a bit, but that’s mot much better.

The Warriors

In The Warriors, the DJ is never personified. All we see is a mouth, a microphone, and occasionally a reel of tape. Here, the film at least sets up the DJ as a provider of information about the gangs over the airwaves. For us, she’s just a stylish exposition device. What keeps her from hurting the movie too much is that instead of trying to make her a player in the plot, she serves as a transitional device between the episodes in the film. It’s a nice touch, but highly unnecessary.

Psycho IV

The absolute worst use of a DJ ever is in the film, Psycho IV. This is the crappy sequel where Norman talks to a radio shrink throughout the whole goddamned movie. This DJ (CCH Pounder) is nothing more than a convenient confessional so we can endure boring scene after boring scene of Norman’s childhood. Yes, this film is set up like a clip show. Talk, flash back, more talk, more flashbacks. The DJ has no characterization.

One would wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just make a prequel instead. Of course, you wouldn’t then have the sadly-pigeonholed Anthony Perkins on the phone for 90 solid minutes.

In almost every instance, the DJ character is a band-aid of a plot device to keep things moving forward. If the film can not survive without an airwave Greek Chorus, then the script should be rewritten to work without one. A character must act and this isn’t possible talking into a microphone for scene after scene.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Introduction to Shot Reverse Shot

Yes, this is yet another blog about film and art. Yes, there are many blogs on this subject out in the blogosphere.

I don't care. This one is mine. You can read it or not.

Quick introduction on me and my intention for this:

I'm a filmmaker. Was a film student, but then graduation happened. Being a filmmaker is a lot like being a film student, only with more debt and projects cost more to make. Of course, there's way more freedom too. I feel that my position as a filmmaker gives me more credibility than what mere fandom would and more insight than a regular, journalistic critic in the newspaper would have for the process. Roger Ebert (who I do admire) has to watch 500 films a year. I don't know how anyone could maintain a non-jaded view of film with that much viewing. I have no time to watch that many movies. I'm too busy making my own work.

So what I'm offering you, the casual surfer, is a viewpoint on film from an artist's perspective. Don't worry about heady deconstructions or over-reading symbols for messages about masculinity in a post-feminist era and how it relates to the simulacra of our post-modern culture.

Sometimes I may review a film I've recently seen. Sometimes I may just call attention to a filmmaker I like. Other times I may just reflect on life as a filmmaker and artist. People who know me know that I'm of a very divergent mind. Besides, I like variety.

Either way, enjoy yourself. When you're done, go check out that masturbating cat video on YouTube. It's fucking awesome!