Best Music Video of The Year

30 09 2005

Recently saw Audioslave‘s new video Doesn’t Remind Me on VH1. Reminded me of Pearl Jam‘s ‘Jeremy'(Click on band’s weblink and watch video) and Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train. This video is an example of great storytelling and masterful editing. Videos rarely say anything these days, and director Chris Milk essentially made a powerful short film with the band’s material. The band made the decision of not appearing in the video and it tells something about them, “It’s the story, dammit!”

See for yourself.

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Homegrown, Yet Not Known (Maybe)

29 09 2005

Howdy everyone!

I’m baaack! Recommending some of the titles made in the US of A. Some are older titles, some are newer, and some you probably seen to death, yet need to watch it anew. Some are Hollywood, some are not, some are too good to stay under the radar, and some have just slipped through the saturated mass of lard infested movies.

Note: Prepare to see the word ‘brilliant’ appear many times throughout. Times like these I miss my ‘Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form’. Oh Roget, why did you have to be a couple of inches away from my arms reach?

KISSING JESSICA STEIN.

All you dudes would love to know it’s a woman talkin’ about kissing Jessica. All you ladies would love to know that it’s not a dude’s idea of a lesbian movie. It is, in fact, not a ‘lesbian’ movie. Hate that term. It’s a gem of a movie about two women in love!

IN THE BEDROOM.

Maybe I’m an idiot for thinking not too many have seen this great film. Maybe I’m not. Another gem!

13 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING.

I think I’ve talked about this little masterpiece before. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you are not an indie film lover.

PERSONAL VELOCITY.

Before making my third film, I’d watched this film over and over. Why? Beacause DP Ellen Kuras shot it on miniDV with almost no artificial lighting. The DVD devotes a commentary track with Kuras who talks about the problems and joys of shooting the movie on miniDV.

MiniDV or pinhole camera, I wouldn’t recommend it if the film was no good. Rebecca Miller does a great job of disappearing as a director and guiding a great cast of actors.

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS

Why George Huang did not become a sought after writer/director after this film, I’ll never know. A great first movie, yet people hardly know about him. Did you?

FREQUENCY.

I’ve seen this one how many times, I don’t know. Such a great, great movie! brilliant story telling with a lot of heart. Father and son stuff gets me and I’ve admitted to bawling my eyes out after watching this version of DEATH OF A SALESMAN with Lee J. Cobb. Also the Cat Stevens song ‘Father and Son’ gets me going too.

Anyway, FREQUENCY is a Hollywood production that gets better with repeated viewing.

STIR OF ECHOES.

This one got buried by THE SIXTH SENSE because they came out around the same time. This David Koepp directed film will keep you on the edge of your seat (Give me a break here. I can’t come up with anything smarter than that). Just in his early 40s, this guy’s credit list will either inspire or have people give up and apply to law school. Not that law school would be a bad decision.

PRAYING WITH ANGER.

Since we brought up THE SIXTH SENSE, check out this early Shyamalan pic where his cameo is so big, it ends up being the starring role. My intro to Shyamalania in 1998.

JACOB’S LADDER.

Cue Bob Dylan…How many listings must one film have, before you rent it and watch?…end cue. Yes, you’re right. I’ve listed this Adrian Lyne film numerous times already. So, why haven’t you seen this one yet?

LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND.

Brilliant film with John Hurt, yessiree…the Elephant Man himself. Question: How many films with John Hurt have you seen without realizing they had John Hurt in them? Click on the name link to his credit list and prepare to be shocked! Or pleasantly surprised, if that suits your heart rate. For example, did you know he played the billionaire S.R Hadden in my favorite sci-fi film CONTACT?

VANYA ON 42ND STREET

A brilliant film based on a classic Chekhov play. It may sound boring, but it is anything but. If I’m not mistaken, the location of the film is the current Ford Theater in Times Square, then almost in ruins. Brilliant performances by a cast of actors, including Julianne Moore.

THE SPANISH PRISONER and HOUSE OF GAMES.

Two David Mamet films. You will love both of them, no doubt.

MEAN CREEK.

A great indie film. Came out last year. Very well narrated with no boring moments.

DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS.

This one should not be missed. Just a wonderfully crafted film with some young actors. Animation sequences were used brilliantly to tell the live action story.

There you are, Filmophiles. Hope you enjoy the list of movies. If you don’t, too bad.

+++All of the above selections can be borrowed from New York Public Library.+++





Foreign Exchange Cinema

28 09 2005

Here, again, goes my film list.

Takashi Miike’s
GOZU.

You think you’ve seen it all? You think David Lynch’s films are far out? You don’t know weird until you’ve seen Miike’s films.

Hany Abu-Assad’s
RANA’S WEDDING.

A beautifully crafted film shot on location in Jerusalem.

Ken Loach’s
THE NAVIGATORS.

A foreign film listing? Maybe not, but I’ll put it in just to make you watch it. Loach’s characters don’t live on screen. They live off and show up on film. I consider him one of the great filmmakers. This film is funny, sad, and real. There’s no acting here. Just being.

Chi-Leung law’s
INNER SENSES.

Hong Kong’s answer to a little known, neglected film called THE SIXTH SENSE. SENSES is Leslie Cheung’s last film before he committed suicide. Cheung is well known for the enormous FAREWELL, MY CONCUBINE.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s
BRIGHT FUTURE

I’ve bragged about Kurosawa’s (not that Kurosawa) CURE many times before. CURE is one of my all time favorite films. (My all time fave list runs prett-y long, by the way). BRIGHT FUTURE can be paired up with GOZU, as two unusual ‘non-genre’ films, to watch back to back.

Again, all of the above can be borrowed from the New York Public Library (click on the sidebar link).





The School of ‘Panic Room’

26 09 2005

Was watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT the other night. Great movie! The extra features on the DVD, however, even more. One behind-the-scenes featurette covered almost everything from storyboarding sessions to the finished product in detail, complete with ADR recording, wild sound recording, costuming etc. While it’s a common feature on DVDs, I hadn’t seen any that has step by step progression of filmmaking in such detail. Being a big sound guy, I was amazed to learn that the sound recordist was essentially the director of all things sound in the film, even directing actors re: sounds and noises. The film has an amazing look and feel, and the DVD shows the viewer how exactly the filmmakers have acquired that. For aspiring filmmakers and established filmmakers alike, behind the scenes features are a great way to learn how other filmmakers work. You can’t have a better tool for learning with a pause and rewind button.

Sound desginers would appreciate extras on ‘Spider-Man 2’ and ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ DVDs, especially the latter where the car chase sceen is broken down into several segments that viewers are able to check out as an interactive feature.

Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Mexico’ bears a ’10 minute filmmaking school’ extra that pretty much gives the viewer an insight to his philosophy of filmmaking, which is a ‘who gives a rats ass how it’s done, this is how I do it, and so can you’ approach. Must admit to loving that approach meself.

All this was well and nice until I got the 3-disc set of David Fincher’s PANIC ROOM. Hands down the best extra features put in a collection. Worth every penny! Disc 1 has the feature with two separate commentary traks. Disc 2 deals with pre-production and production phase of the movie. Let me tell you what that contains, because it’s like going to film school with Fincher. The disc includes footages of every camera test, lighting test, and lens test they’ve donee before filming as well as provided tech specs of lens and lighting. It has footages of all the explosion tests, Previs demos, storyboard demos with two commentary tracks as well as two separate tracks with production sound and final mix of the first 20-30 mins of the movie. The production section features an hourlong documentary called ‘Shooting Panic Room’. For someone like me who always has a ‘How was that done?’ question when watching a film, these features are manna from heaven. It’s almost as good as being on the set. At least it was for me.

Disc 2 does the same. Separate sections on Scoring, Digital Intermediate, Sound Design, VFX, and a great section where certain parts of the film are demoed from the script stages to final mix, complete with footages of dailies and tests.

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors and to be able to see his approach to filmmaking in such detail is extra special. This is a must see or have, if you ain’t broke like me, for any filmmaker.

Did you know?

Nicole Kidman was cast and had worked for 3 weeks on Panic Room. After she had to leave the production due to an illness or something, Jodie Foster was cast in the last minute. Foster, eager to work with Fincher, left the Cannes Film Festival jury board and flew to work.

Useless information, you say. So why read this far, pal?





What is WHAT?

23 09 2005

And WHAT is what I’m here to introduce. WHAT is ‘Washington Heights Artists Theater’, an organization I’d founded earlier this year to create a community of artists living in and around the Washington Heights area. A site that would provide information, news and links to folks taking the A train home…or C…or 1. Fine, M4 and M5 buses too.

Be sure to click on the title to take a gander at the new site. Leave comments, suggestions, ideas and a check for $100…just kidding about the comments.

I hope to make a new meaning out of ‘What happened?’

OOOOOHH…I finally have my title subheader. Yipee!





Weir No Angel…But He Is One of the Best Directors

13 09 2005

Awesome title, ain’t it? Hate it? Oh don’t say that…I’ve stayed up all night to perfect it. Some respect in a plastic bag, please. Tabloid newspaper titles crack me up. I have to share a couple of examples…’Housekeeper stole Bobby’s Dinero’…or ‘Brown “Bagged”‘…after Michael Brown resigned, or ‘No Supe For You’…after some football team lost earlier this year. The list goes on…

Okay, let’s not keep ya’ll in suspense here. This post is about Peter Weir, the great Aussie di-reck-torr. Why him all of a sudden? That’s because I had a re-realization (it’s a blog, people. I can re-anything)…after watching three Weir films in a row (with long HBO breaks, and showering) that he has to be in my ‘Favorite Directors’list, the Top 10 kind. I wondered, then, why he hasn’t already yet. After tearing off a few sideburn follicles, I came to the conclusion that I have been blind to his magnificence. Yeah, that must be it.

Anyway, the films were ‘Dead Poets Society’ (my 4th or 5th viewing…wait, you’re telling me Robin Williams is not a real Captain?), ‘Fearless’, and ‘Master and Commander: Far Side of the Vearld…’ Of course, there’s the ‘Truman Show’ and ‘Green Card’ and ‘Witness’ and ‘Married…with Children’…kidding. But anyway, my point is…if you watch any of these films, especially the three I’d mentioned watching, you’ll see 3 things that gets a director the title ‘Great’ behind or after his/her name.

1. (S)He becomes invisible.

2. You let your disbeliefs hang out to dry.

3. And the big one…the story finds its ideal interpreter.

Watching ‘Dead Poets’, I realized (I realize a lot, if you’ve noticed) that each character, if played by the actors slightly differently, would have crashed the movie. A good director, after all, is like a conductor…thank you, but not talking about the Public Transportation kind. A good director makes unfolding of things look easy and effortless on screen. A good director finds a balance. Ah, balance…that’s the word. Most of all, a good director makes it look like there was no director at all. Which is why Woody Allen is up there in the Top 10.

So…this is my cue to rave about ‘Fearless’, one of the best films I’ve seen. The way photography, music, sound, and performance come together as unified story teller is a great example of a director understanding balance. The opening and closing sequence of ‘Fearless’ is just a small example of Weir’s brilliant filmmaking.
I would urge filmmakers to listen to…I repeat…listen to ‘Master and Commander’ once, and then watch the film with the sound turned off. You may want to do that with all your favorite films, but it will show you why Weir conducts great talent behind and in front of the camera with sure hands.

Note: DVDs are the best film school text books you’ll ever buy…or borrow.

Therefore, my friends, don’t feel weird about re-visiting Weir. (crickets chirping)Yeah, that’d be my cue to re-think the whole humor writing thing. You can stop sweating now, Dave Barry.





Untitled Diary Part 4: To Crew or Not To Crew

8 09 2005

Anyone who thinks (s)he can get away without a crew to make their film is nuts! The value of a good crew in any film is…well, priceless. If your vision is to be realized with the greatest precision, you need a good team of crew members. Then again, notice I said ‘good’ before I said crew.

What do I mean by a ‘good’ crew? Great schooling? Excellent background? Knows their sh…tuff? All of the above would be great, but would it be affordable for yor pre-Spielberg phase? I’ve heard a story and, it seems, so have a lot of other people, about an NYU student who spent $30,000 for a 10 minute student film. I’ve even heard that number to be just slightly, oh let’s just say $70,000, more. Bless that person for buying that MegaMillion ticket the previous year.

Getting back to the point here. Finding a good team of crew members who’ll work for ‘exposure’ and ‘great experience’ is very unlikely. Do you really think good gaphers and grips are sitting on their behinds and wondering, ‘How should I say no to Ridley Scott when he begs me to be in his film?’ (A lot of actors, writers, directors, on the other hand, do.) No, they are constantly working, networking, and working it. Is there a ghost of a chance you will get to work with them on your film?

And please, show some respect to Sound Recordists and Boom Mic operators. Even before you start filming, if you can. It won’t hurt you to consult with them while you go location scouting. Never say ‘we’ll fix it in post’…it’s obnoxious, and is akin to Wofgang Puck frying your steak and saying ‘ve’ll feex it at ze dinner taybol’…or something like that. Provided, again, if you’re working with a good sound crew. I’ve always thought yelling cut on a ‘bad’ sound take is as important as the ‘bad’ picture take. Maybe I love the aspect of sound too much, but if you disagree with me in saying that sound is not 60% of a successful film, then stop reading this post right away and go take off your speakers and watch everything silent. A lot of filmmakers tend to put a music bandage on bad sound in their films. It’s like putting bandages on a triple bypass cut. It’s obvious. Don’t the filmmakers listen to their favorite movies? Even better, don’t they listen at all? Music on film is almost always simultaneously playing with the ambient sound. You heard me?

Am I ranting here? I should really talk about what I’d started to. And that is, when do you not crew? When you possibly can’t afford to. Or when crew members won’t return your calls or answer your emails or postings. A lot of people think they can do crew work, but a lot of people think they can act too. Would you get people who think they can act in your film? I didn’t think so.

I have been proudly saying how I’ve filmed this project without a crew. Do you really think I would have done that if I had a great DP, camera operator, lighting designer, and a sound recordist available to collaborate with? Collaboration doesn’t mean getting your name on a separate card during opening or end credits. It seems everyone talks of collaborating because it makes them feel important. To collaborate means to bring in and share an aspect of individual filmmaking expertise to the set. It means being creative in the best and worst circumstances. It means to think of the film first. How many people have we worked with who think they’re incredibly talented with nothing to show for?

Therefore, if you can’t find the right crew, don’t crew at all. Sometimes the right crew person is the right person with the right attitude and drive, minus the experience. That person will do their best to learn on the job, and you’ll know if they’ll be helpful on the set. There’s nothing wrong with learning on the job. I’ve done that with radio and I’ve done that with this current project. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t have a crew. The amount of sweat I’ve let trickle down my forehead is testament to the hours I’ve had to put in to get it right. Learned a lot during the process. Best of all, learned my own shortcuts and…secrets. Thanks for asking, but not sharing them with you.

Do it yourself, and as much as you can handle, if there’re no options. The worst that will happen is, you’ll not get quite what you want. Any experience, whether or good or bad, teahces you something good, nonetheless. The best thing to learn from any experience is what NOT to do in future projects. Also, every project is a way to learn about your own self. You are bound to surprise yourself, but it has to be a challenge. “And that’s”, as Miss Martha would say, “is a good thing.”