I'm scared of Sweden!

One thing I love looking for are genre pics for the Dark Horizons section of our festival. It's fun. Last night I saw this scary Swedish vampire movie that totally freaked me out! It's called LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (the title refers to the fact that vampires must be invited inside) and it's about a young female vampire and her much older familiar who move into an apartment next door to a young boy.

The director's introduction was an invitation, setting the tone of his "very very cold" homeland. Also they briefly mentioned that it's kinda becoming a big moment for Swedish film, one reason being that the film THE KING OF PING PONG just won an award at Sundance.

But now I'm scared becasue we have to go up to Sweden for the Goteborg Film Festival tomorrow! I'm gonna be terrified the whole time that the sound of tiny feet crunching in the snow will be following me!

We party with Hester Scheurwater

I got invited by the experimental short filmmaker Hester Shuewater to her home for a dinner party the other night while I'm here at the Rotterdam FF. AFI FEST was lucky enough to have one of Hester's films BABY, at the festival this past November and not only is she crazy talented but also super nice. I got to meet Hester's family and a bunch of other festival people in a private home which is such a nice and different experience especially since I'm going to be jumping through festivals for another 2 weeks

Also at the party was AFI FEST 2006 aulm Eveline Ketterings. Her film WHEN WE ARE BIG was a real high point for our fest 2 years ago and it was nice to see her again, and to hear a local resident's view of the festival.

Hester's place is beautiful and in a fantastic neighborhood right in the center of town. I'm so jealous! Also I'm the lucky programmer who knows that not only can she make fantastic films but she is also a wonderful cook!


Lane meets Rotterdam

So I don't have photo uploading capabilities yet, I'm working on it. But when I do I'll be sure to post photos of the countryside nuclear reactors and the legal drugs. Yes, this place is very strange and very beautiful. The festival so far has been very impressive, while I haven't really seen a single movie that has blown me away, the overall approach to the programming is inspiring. One thing that first impressed me was the festival director's welcome letter, in it he goes on to explain the "Free Radicals" section fo the festival:

"Free Radicals is a term borrowed from chemistry and is used for special molecules or atoms that occasionally provoke fierce reactions. It is striking how many audiovisual makers today do not strive for technical perfection any more, but often seek out a coarse and ragged quality. They prefer creating and distributing a primitive yet pure work above sticking to the enforced formats of the visual industry. During the 37th festival, Free Radicals stand for such an artistic and aesthetic attitude and these can be found at the core of several programme sections: Cameron Jamie, Robert Breer, Paul Sharits, Exploding Cinema and Starting from Scratch."

I'm loving the Cameron Jamie stuff, putting this artist in this context is amazing, in additon to showing a number of his films, they also have much of his visual work on display and are doing a number of live perfomances with his imagery and music by people like The Melvins. Also, they invited him to curate a 12 hour movie marathon of "Strange American cinema that transcends the usual genres and labels." Rad. I'm putting them all on my Netflix list.

I've been seeing about 4-5 films a day with long 12 hour days but I'm loving hauling around this weird city. So I've seen low budget hijacker films, cyborg love story anime and dazzling classic films from America and China. I'll try and post more detialed stuff soon, but the downtime between films is being spent on other work so it's hard to upload. And I promise to add pics soon, to not do so would be VERBOTTEN!


We visited The Bunny Museum

Susan and I went to The Bunny Museum in Pasadena this weekend. It was fun and she got to pet some cute bunnies. I think the statement on their website that you should plan on spending an hour there was a bit of an overestimation. Here is another pic of me appreciating the "garden of broken dreams." (Their term not mine.)

I'm off to Rotterdam

I leave tomorrow for the Rotterdam Film Festival! It's my first time there and I'm SUPER excited. I'll post as many updates and impressions here as time allows. This is the first leg of a multi-festival tour so more updates to come over the next few weeks.


The Terminator show and the Singularity

Last night they mentioned overtly the Singularity on the Terminator show! A good sign of some smart writers not shying away from big concepts, in my humble opinion. Despite the apt complaints about sci fi being too derivative lately, I'm into this show and don't want it to get cancelled too soon!

Outside The Orange Box

I finished playing The Orange Box over the weekend (Thanks MLK!) and I highly recommend it. I've blogged about it before here but I also love the Half-Life games included in the box which I never got a chance to play all the way through before. It's expansive and immersive at once with great writing and clever controls. I also liked the linear nature of the game, having a single path to find and follow was comforting and fun and the open sandbox games can seem a bit draining and exhausting at times, making me lose interest. So I think that's it for me and The Orange Box, I'm not that much into the online multiplayer games like team fortress 2 which is also included (unless someone twists my arm.)

Congrats to Josh Raskin

Oscar noms today and as usual a bunch of AFI FEST films got nominated. I'm especially happy for the animated short I MET THE WALRUS by Josh Raskin. The short section is the most competitive and receiving recognition there is quite spectacular. Also I MET THE WALRUS won an award (pdf link) at our fest this last November. Congratulations Josh!


Watching out for WATCHMEN

So Warner Brothers is finally going to adapt the comic book Watchmen into a film. I'm quite conflicted about this. I still cant believe they are making this, that after all these years and false starts it's actually shooting somewhere on this planet. It's natural I think to be excited about further exploration or promotion of one of my favorite stories. However, I also feel strongly that comic books don't often translate well into film, nor do they need to be. Watchmen in particular is a prime example of a story's strength coming from its use and knowledge of comics grammar. There are dozens of examples that a deep read of the book reveals, from innovative and extraordinary use of a nine panel layout to the overall color layout of the book being a color palindrome.

I hope the film doesn't tarnish the book, it's a project I'll be watching very closely. To that effect, Zach Snyder is keeping a production blog on the project here. I can't wait for comic con this summer to learn more!

On a sad note, DC Comics has screwed the creators of this book out of their promised ownership rights. the deal was that ownership of the property would revert to the creators when DC stopped publishing the book. DC however, is never going to stop publishing the book, and continues to put out copies of the trade paperback every year.

For Your Consideration

Two major Oscar controversies so far this year. And unlike the usual worship of the cult of the celebrity that the Oscars have become these stories actually have a bit of cultural depth to them.

First off is the list of shortlisted documentaries for the Oscars. Documentary filmmaker AJ Schnack teamed up with Indiewire to produce a second curated list, highlighting the serious oversights and deficiencies of the Oscar list. It was an amazing year for docs and it seems like the Academy was a bit asleep at the switch here.

Then the same sort of situation seemed to have occurred with the short list for Foreign Language Oscars. It's not that the films selected aren't good films cause they are but the Academy seems to be seriously missing out on the greater cultural trends. One example is Mexico's official selection being off the list when Mexican film is experiencing a brilliant renaissance. This cultural movement even has a name, La Proxima Ola.

Oscar needs to get its head on straight and realize that these two important directions in filmmaking (docs and international) need more consideration. As the Golden Globes clearly showed this year, the self congratulatory celebrity worship aspect is clearly the least important and shallowest aspect of Oscar.



Why you never need to order Pizza Hut in Los Angeles

The first reason is here, Casa Bianca. It's a little farther away from me than these other places, and there is always a wait to get a table but it's absolutely fucking worth it. My friend Micheal Bodie referes to this as the crack cocaine of pizza. He is right.

If I could marry a pizzeria I'd probably pop the question to Il Capricio on Vermont. In the months leading up to this place's opening it was a source of constant excitement. The day it first opened was like a beautiful dream. In an alternate universe, this place and Secret Headquarters are right next to each other and I'm in fucking heaven.

Next up is Village Pizzeria on Larchmont which I don't get to very often because I rarely venture outside of Silverlake. But I gotta mention it because I love how their Meatball pizzas come out, they slice the meatballs into delicious discs with crispy edges, yum!

Also I should mention Nicky D's which is a decent pie but I like it better for a dine out that a delivery, doesn't travel as great as some of these others. Maybe that's just the one time I ordered a large clam pizza by myself. A mistake.

Remember, don't get tempted by super bowl ads, there's never a reason to call pizza hut. And if you ever are considering Domino's remember it was founded by an evangelical Christian so every dollar you are giving them goes to supporting Pro Life and the banning of contraception. Enjoy!


My old Sundance shirt rises from the dead

A couple of years ago, my buddy Jon Korn and I made up these shirts for Sundance with a picture of Brittany Spears and a quote from her about the festival. Then today I see the quote is the first line of this Indiewire story. Funny stuff. The quote is: "Sundance is weird. The movies are weird - you actually have to think about them when you watch them."

Amazing comic book ends its run

The critically acclaimed comic book Y-The Last Man ends its run with issue 60 on February 8th. It's a sci-fi book about the last man on earth, like the cliche pickup rejection. One day all the men drop dead and only women are left in the world, and one man. It's the farthest thing from a sexual fantasy that you can possible imagine as the creators of this story delve deep into the reality of what would happen if this bizarre situation really occurred. Submarines around the world are scuttled, Israel has the most battle ready army, when the American government begins to rebuild there is a huge power shift as all the republican leaders have died off leaving only Democratic politicians and Republican widows. It's an amazingly well thought out book and I'm actually excited to see it end.

As a fan of comic books, I used to twist on the hook for years while my favorite characters rehashed the same stories over and over until the became unprofitable. I don't really read super hero books like that anymore. I love stories that are finite (if epic) a great example of this being the TV show Lost which has recently made the historic decision to wrap itself up at a predetermined point. It's something I admire British television for, being able to go out on top and not endlessly pursue squeezing every last possible cent out of a creative endeavor. This is what destroyed the Sopranos for me.

Another great thing about Y The Last Man is that is works so well as a comic, I remember being blown away by the striking visual composition on the final page of the first major story arc. This was something that could never be accomplished the same way in a film version or in any other medium. I strongly encourage everyone to check out this book, its a fantastic example of the strength power and potential for storytelling in modern comics. You can read the entire first issue for free with the first link in this post.

Wearable computing and Macbook Air

It's hard to match the excitement from last year's macworld announcement of the iPhone, but I'm pretty excited about the Macbook Air. Not because I really want one personally but because closer to Wearable computing!

I read Rainbow's End and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom recently and am obsessed with a future with wearables!


Excellent Spanish Horror film

I finally got a chance to see WHO CAN KILL A CHILD recently. It's a movie I heard about a long while ago but was unable to find a copy of anywhere. Then I read this article on the AV club where Eli Roth outlined which films would make a perfect 24 horror marathon. I am not a fan of Roth as a filmmaker really but I do respect him as a cinephile. I want to throw all of those movies on my netflix list except maybe CANNIBAL HOLOCASUT, too much, too gross. But the half hour short film TOBY DAMMIT by Fererico Felinni sounds amazing! But the best info I got out of his list was the fact that WHO CAN KILL A CHILD had finally been released on DVD.

The film was as brilliant as I thought it would be. It's the story of a British couple who find themselves on a small island where all the adults have inexplicably been killed by the children. They are then faced with the horrific titular dilemma to escape with their lives. Tons of gross fun and really creative scares along the way, it's sort of like a cross between BATTLE ROYALE and THE WICKER MAN with a large dollop of CHILDREN OF THE CORN tossed in. I highly recommend you watch this 32 year old overlooked delight. Scary!

I love this pic by Cory Doctorow!

If you know me, and you know my predilection, nay love for the word "nosh" you might begin to understand why this photo by superblogger Cory Doctorow tickles me so. If you don't understand, let's go out and have a nosh so I can explain how my obsession works and what it has to do with the film BEETLEJUICE.

Michel Gondry's son is also crazy talented

What is it with the offspring of cool directors also being talented film artists these days? Alfonso Cuaron's son Jonas Cuaron had a film at AFI FEST called ANO UNA which was crazy brilliant. Now I hear that the son of Michel Gondry is working on a film with his dad and Daniel Clowes has agreed to write it?!? Here's the kicker, the kid is only 16 years old! He looks to be exactly the kind of crazy teenager that I want Michel Gondry to have. (Btw I can't wait to see Michel Gondry's new film which is premiering at Sundance next week.) Check out Paul Gondry's animated video for the band the Willowz below:


Rock Band light and smoke machine kit?!?!

I'm trying to steer this blog more towards film and festival related bits, but I never promised anything (hence my sub-header of "culture reporting".) It's impossible to resist throwing a quick rumor out here. According to this post, there will be an "Interactive Light and Smoke Stage Show" offered for Rock Band this summer. We spend a good amount of time playing Rock Band this weekend and I often like to joke that this game was made specifically for households like mine (three male roommates, hard partying lifestyle.) I can't imagine how this would work or why anyone would ever need one. Still, I'd probably buy it for laughs if it is indeed a real product.

Rogery Avary in fatal DUI crash

This is sad news indeed. Roger Avary is an incredibly fantastic writer and filmmaker. He was driving a car this weekend that crashed killing a man and severely injuring Avary's wife. I was very much influenced by PULP FICTION in High School and his follow up film Killing Zoe is a unique and relativly little seen gem. Recently he has worked with one of my other favorite writers Neil Gaiman to create BEOWULF which I haven't seen yet but sounds like a fascinating team-up. His most recent directing work was adapting the Bret Easton Ellis novel THE RULES OF ATTRACTION, which I thought was very faithful while imbuing it with his own distinctive flair. It's a provocative film and he had been rumored to follow that up with a film based on Ellis' novel Glamorama which I also love. Sadly I think this will not happen now.

Avary's own website which I was reading quite a bit back around the RULES OF ATTRACTION days, is now password protected. I wonder if this is in response to his arrest? If so it seems like a weird thing to make a priority, who locked the site, his assistant? And why not leave it open for people to leave condolences or notes of sympathy?

UPDATE: According to his Wikipedia page, Avary had closed off his website to the public way back in late 2005 "with no explanation or notice." I guess I just haven't noticed until now.

An oldie but a goodie

This essay is about the 2006 AFI FEST but I only just was shown it today. I want to give it a quick link because it says lots of things about AFI FEST that I agree with and the writer has a strong point of view. Unfortunately I don't hear these opinions about film being expressed enough. It's an original piece, tell me what you think.



The five Sundance films I'm excited to see

The Sundance Film Festival begins this week and I'm not going up this year, but the films look fantastic! Here is a list of five films I'm most excited to see from Sundance 2008, not necessarily for professional reasons, more personal ones.

I already talked about BAGHEAD here. I hope the Duplass brothers have a successful year at the festival. The word on the street is that the Writer's strike will generate even more sales up at the festival, and I hope these guys get some good buzz.

The next film is from Sundance's Frontier section. The Frontier section is a showcase for experimental and cutting edge films works. (Not a showcase for Westerns as one of my friends assumed, with hilarious results.) These films all tickle my interest but the one I want to see primarily is CASTING A GLANCE. It's an experimental documentary about the incredible, singular artwork known as the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake. I'm bummed I didn't take the drive out there to see the Jetty this November when I was in Utah, now I'll probably make a pilgrimage there if this film is as good as I'm hoping it could be.

Another Frontier title I want to see is FEAR(S) OF THE DARK. It's a collection of short subject works by a number of animators and illustrators on the subject of fear. All of these artists look fantastic but I'm most excited for Charles Burns. He's one of my favorite comic book creators living today and his book Black Hole is simply an amazing work.

How excited am I for this next film, GOLIATH? You have no idea. I've only seen the short films of the Zellner Brothers before but I love them. Also the premise and tone of the film seems hilarious. One of my favorite shorts of theirs is FOXY AND THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD which also is loosely involving an animal, the titular Foxy (a dog.)

In a very different vein is the documentary, STRANDED: I'VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED IN THE MOUNTAINS. It's the true life story behind the survivors who were the subject of the film ALIVE. I know it looks a bit sensational but I'm willing to give it a shot. On a personal note, my girlfriend Susan's dad was a producer on ALIVE. and she has some great stories about being on the set when she was little.

Well, that's my early buzz list, if you are going up and get to see any of these films, drop me a line I'd love to know what you thought.

Hipster clothing models

I went to Barney's Beanery last night and someone told me that my buddy Duncan is the hoodie model on their website. Too good to believe but the proof is right in front of you. Unfortunately Barney's site is a big flash mess so I can't link to anything but their main page, but if you want to dig in there yourself, it's in there.

Another great group of t-shirt models can be found at the site for eEvil Ink Design. Check out this guy! They have some really cool shirts there, spend some time poking around the site.


Golden Globes Schadenfreude

The cancellation of the Golden Globes have made me (and many others) more intresed in this event than ever before. The drama leading up to the cancellation and the horrendous mess that I assume will air this coming Sunday is fascinating. With the declining audience interest in award shows and in self-congratulatory exercises, the Globes grow increasingly irrelevant each year. I'm still intrested in the Oscars mostly for nostalgic reasons but generally am bored with the American obsession to collect everything into lists.

Cloverfield Spoiler

Alright I admit I'm a little excited to see this movie next week. There were some advanced screenings this week and one guy who went drew a picture of the highly anticipated monster at the heart of the pic. The thing I like about this is that it illustrates (get it?) that no amount of metal detection or night vision can prevent someone from getting images out of a film. Also it's a great example of spoilers generating more excitement for a film. Here's the image.



Dark Horizons

The last post mentioned the Korean film THE HOST, which I was delighted we got to show at AFI FEST in 2006. It reminded me that back then I wrote this essay about our then newborn Dark Horizons section of the festival. I still like the final note of this piece as it helps me define a programming section that might otherwise be more indiscernible.


SECRET SUNSHINE is a masterpiece

I finally got a chance to see this film at LACMA this past weekend. I don't want to say too much about what happens in this film because the surprises this story holds give it most of its power. But this is one of the most amazing films I have seen all year.

I'm always quite disappointed if a film comes through AFI FEST without me having seen it. Usually so disappointed that I end up never seeing the film out of spite. I'm glad I decided to let that go and see SECRET SUNSHINE. AFI FEST has a strong history of showcasing amazing Korean films. This film will never have the mainstream success of a JSA or HOST or even a D-WARS (just kidding!)

This might be one of the most profound and brilliant films to come from any corner of the cinematic world in a long time. As an ardent and enthusiastic atheist I love the existentialist message of this film. It is articulated in such a purely cinematic way, showcasing the grammar of cinema brilliantly. From the director's statements I've heard, this is clearly his intention. The entire film is so grounded in the physical world and the base nature of objects in space that the ethereal nature of religion and misguided faith is painted as inconsequntial. Love it.

But that's what I got out of it, what did you think?

The Best Pub Trivia in Los Angeles

Is Booze Clues! (Also the funniest name for a pub trivia evar.) It's run by my friend Dave who is the perfect mix of smart and fun for a trivia quiz. I even got to guest host one night, read the nice things Dave said about my stint here. And, super bonus mega linking, check out this LA Weekly article about the pub quiz! I know all the people in those pictures! And they all cheat.


Positive side of the WGA strike?

Most people who have written about possible positive sides of this horrible strike situation have had one of two things to say. Either it's been some kinda snarky joke like the last comment on this Defamer thread. Or it's been some horrific statement from some executive who is actually delighted he can just run nonstop reality tripe and not have to bother with those pesky creatives. (Seriously, example here.)

But call me a cock-eyed optimist but I think there might be an actual positive side to this whole mess eventually. Maybe audiences deprived of the usual glut of entertainment options will begin to miss, to actually crave what solid writing provides: storytelling. Rather than a focus on celebrity, or effects, tastes might favor character more than ever before. The irony would be of course, that this focus on character and story is the opposite of what many arts organizations discuss these days. In my experience, arts organizations spend an inordinate amount of time discussing new media, podcasts, facebooks, and the like. The very things, the WGA is striking against! Here's to hoping the strike pulls the focus back where it belongs, on story.

2001 screening in 70mm!

This is one of the most astonishing films of all time IMHO. It's incredible to think that this film was finished a full year before man walked on the moon, the whole design still looks so advanced, so futuristic, its incredible.

The news I have is that Arclight is having a rare screening of a 70mm print of 2001 A SPACE ODDESSY in the Cinerama dome. ( Check out that original poster!) A little birdy told me that tickets are almost sold out, so act fast. If there is one film I'd want to see on 70mm more than any other it's this.


Maddening Lost news

Lost is my favorite show in the world right now. All its past sins were forgiven with that amazing season finale last year. Kevin Smith sums it up nicely here saying "Who gives a f--- about the polar bear, who gives a f--- about the smoke monster, any of that — all the f---ing sci-fi weirdness just took a backseat to, like, ''Holy s---! Why did Jack and Kate stop being friends?"

So I'm extremely excited for the new season to begin. However the producers of the show are warning ABC not to begin the season until the writer's strike is resolved. They claim that the last episode they have in the can is a cliffhanger that would work well if it lasted a week but "could end up driving people insane" if it went on longer.

I don't want to be driven insane! This is the worst strike news I've heard ever!


P.T. Anderson wins my vote for best film of 2007

Admittedly I have not seen ALL of the big pictures yet, but I'm going to have to agree with the general consensus and call THERE WILL BE BLOOD my favorite film of the year. I already loved Anderson's work before this film (I even remember the joy at doing a deep reading of MAGNOLIA for a freshman college class years ago.) Two reviews can be found here and here which do a good job of celebrating this powerful and haunting film work.

I'm a bit sad that the film didn't get a chance to play at AFI FEST this year, that would have been huge. (And a disclaimer, no films from AFI FEST are eligible for my title of best film of the year since I love them all equally.) I don't understand exactly why we didn't show the film. I was told that it would not be ready in time for our festival. However, it seems to have been screened here in advance of our festival dates. Curious.