3.31.2008

Festival censorship

A film festival is a place you don't usually expect to encounter any sort of suppression of artistic expression. However I've got an exclusive look at the cover of 2 different versions of a festival paper which were printed recently.

I think it gets a bit trickier when you put out printed materials, online and in the theatres you can do what you want but when you print something out and throw it into a person's hand things can get a bit dicier. We had a minor controversy at my festival last year over a bit of printed material, our quickguide went out with this photo in it, showing the naked posteriors of two young ladies:


And we had the local supermarket stuffing these in shoppers bags. So someone called up and complained and the supermarket pulled all the quickguides. I guess they trashed them.

So this year in Dallas, they had to trash a bunch of copies of their daily news because they had printed them with a slightly racy photo on the cover. I've spoke with a few staff here about this and its actually not as reactionary a move as I first believed it was. There are mitigating factors which make me understand the decision to destroy one printed version of the paper and replace it with a new one. Here are the two covers:
One of my favorite movies we showed at my festival a couple years ago was the documentary FUCK. Throw that on your netflix list for sure, it's a very smart and very entertaining examination of modern censorship. We were a bit worried we might not be able to print the full title of the film on our materials, but we did! I would have thrown a big fit if that had been held back for sure.

3.30.2008

Star Wars videos

Here is a brief respite from all the festival stuff (it might get a bit heavier soon.) I love these two short star wars videos. I was gonna just email this to my roommate but I decided to post here to share for all of you. This first one I bet a bunch of you have seen before.

Here is Darth Vader being a smartass:


Classic.

And then here is Darth Vader voiced by James Earl Jones, from COMING TO AMERICA:

http://view.break.com/436851 - Watch more free videos

Will Star Wars ever lose its poweful grip over me? I bet not.

Nathan Zellner tells me about GOLIATH


Last night I finally got a chance to see the new feature film by the Zellner brothers, GOLIATH. It's a fantastic film, very much in their style and very unique. There was lots I liked about this film, and I can't wait to see what they do next. One thing I noticed in the film was that it has some cool music in it and I especially liked the opening song. I got a chance to ask Nathan Zellner where that came from and it had kind of an unusual origin.

When they were at SXSW last year, they had stumbled into this band called The Finches. They checked out their myspace page, etc and got even more interested when they found out that the finches had written a song inspired by the film MCCABE AND MRS MILLER. Nathan tells me this is a film him and his brother love so they then contacted the band and got them to help with that opening number.

I love this sort of cross disciplinary interaction that can happen at SXSW like this. It's one of my favorite things about that festival, it feels more like a European art celebration. Except instead of painting and sculpture being showcased along with film, its music and interactive work.

I also love that the Zellners are into MCCABE AND MRS MILLER, it's one of Altman's best films and a fav of mine too. Pictured above is Nathan Zellner at a fancy party in Dallas, eating a plate of apples.

3.29.2008

Cinevegas art book

The Cinevegas Film Festival turns ten years old this summer. To celebrate the anniversary they are putting out this book of photography which you can purchase right now. It looks like they have one of those micro publishing deals set up where they are printing as many as they sell through the online service. I think it's a brilliant use of a film festival's content and of the new economy's long tail. Publishing on demand like this is a great example of the kind of on demand manufacturing which Wired profiles this month here.

WTF Dallas?

Check out this news story! A Dallas strip club employs a 12 year old runaway and stays open! The news story is accompanied with a helpful google map of the club's location. Presumably to help the pervs find the place. Oh, and they were employing a 17 year old stripper at the same time too.

The film behind the festival

Last night on HBO the documentary TV JUNKIE was on HBO. It's a film directed by AFI Dallas Artistic Director Michael Cain. It also won a special jury prize at Sundance. I love that this festival is being run by active filmmakers, it makes them understand the experience from a unique and important perspective. I had to passionately argue for this film to included in AFI FEST because some of my co-workers could not see past the "synergy" aspects of this programming choice to recognize that this was actually one of the best docs made that year. Throw it on your netflix list right now if you haven't seen it.

Festival breakfast

Yesterday morning I was super hung over after the opening night party here in Dallas. So I couldn't leave the hotel room for hours but I needed sustenance. Luckily there was microwave popcorn in my gift bag from the previous night which saved my life. Wouldn't it be great if opening night gift bags contained survival kits for the next morning? Maybe some veggie bacon or a breakfast burrito? I hate how gift bags have become comic-con style flyer depositories and I long for they day they will return to relevance and glory! (There was also a giant chocolate chip cookie which I reluctanly ate out of desperation.)

On another note, how come my Shootout posts aren't appearing in my google alerts? I can find them if I do a blog search but they are not triggering either the "afi fest" or "lane kneedler" alert. Weird.

3.24.2008

Mel Brooks' Oscar winning short

In 1963, Mel Brooks won an academy award for this short experimental film. It's hilarious and brilliant, mostly so for how simple it is. Below is THE CRITIC:

It's his first film, isn't it wonderful?

In Dallas and on the Shootout

I'm off to Dallas this week for AFI Dallas, and I'll be writing about it for the "Shootout blog" over on AMC. Head on over there to check out my coverage as I'll be only posting here sporadically. And if you are a new reader coming from the Shootout blog, welcome! You might want to check out the stories tagged "film." a little further down on the right.

3.23.2008

The end of New York Underground

At the beginning of next month is the "15th And Final New York Underground Film Festival." I never got a chance to attend this event but from some filmmakers and other programmers I talked to it seemed like they had provided a unique environment to discover some truly original stuff. I'm a bit sad to see it go after all these years, I hope the organizers have other cool projects coming in the future. (It sounds like they do.)

3.21.2008

The Maria Bamford Show!

As you already know I'm a big fan of the "Comedians of Comedy." Lucky me I stumbled onto the below online series by funny time lady-comedian Maria Bamford. I think it's a brilliant distillation of her particualr brand of comedy and particular brand of neurosis. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

If you like it, Super Deluxe has a bunch more episodes to fill your weekend with the Bammer! "Don't be a martyr, get a cart!"

THE GRAND


Last night in the bathroom of a bar I saw an ad for THE GRAND which is opening this weekend. Almost no one heard of this movie because it premiered in Tribeca where it got buried along with the other 1,000 films there. I think this film could have gotten a lot of great press if it had its big premiere at Cinevegas. Vegas happens in a much lighter news season and it could have gotten some better press. This to me is a perfect example of the damaging nature of Tribeca's insatiable hunger to gobble up every premiere it can.

But THE GRAND is very funny. It's a mockumentary about a poker championship. It's got lots of great talent behind it. There are hilarious performances from Ray Romano, David Cross (pictured above,) Cheryl Hines and Woody Harrelson among others. But I really like the improvised nature of the film, it works as a great gimmick here. The main characters are portrayed by people who know how to play poker and they really play the final game in front of the cameras for the movie. So it was unknown which character's back story was going to pay off in the end. Makes for good comedy, and good sport. Here's a scene:

Go Joe!


This photo was released to day showing the character Snake Eyes from the upcoming G.I. Joe movie. I'm not really excited for this big budget summer movie, it might be fun like Transformers, but maybe not. I'm not sure if the cultural milieu is right now for a lighthearted or nostalgic or playful look at war and terrorism but what do I know.

My buddy AJ is working on this film right now, doing second unit stuff and blowing up helicopters. They almost blew HIM up the other day accidentally. He was standing about 20 feet from a vehicle that they had packed with a bit too much explosive. When they blew it up he literally had to run from a fireball that came rolling at him. CRAZY!

3.19.2008

DeathBob NotePants

Death Note is a wonderful supernatural suspense manga. It's the best Japanese comic I've seen in a while. I was originally turned onto it by good ole Boing Boing who were turned onto it by my dealer, The Secret Headquarters. In the book, a young boy comes into possession of a magical notebook, and writing any name in the book causes that person to die. The book (and the world of the story) are governed by an increasingly complex and strict system of rules. A taut, driven cat and mouse game emerges from this simple premise. It's a hugely popular book which has been adapted into 2 feature films.

Hence the inevitable SpongeBob/Death Note combination below:


Found via Japanator

Sculpture maze


Warren Ellis (inspiration for this blog's name) posted a photo on his site today from the Holocaust Memorial sculpture garden in Berlin. It's hard to tell from some pics but the ground in this sculpture garden dips like a bowl in the middle so you go from being surrounded by knee high slabs to being lost in a geometrical maze. Here is a pic Susan took, click here for more. Running around and hiding in there was by far the most fun I have ever had in a Holocaust Memorial.

UPDATE: Susan just pointed me to this aerial pic which gives a better sense of scale.

TEKKONKINKREET


I finished reading this book, "Black and White" this weekend. The images in here are stunningly original and the story is a brash violent burst of creativity. My main comics dealer told me it was created in one long sustained marathon writing session, and the book's impulsive nature makes me believe it. It was made into a film called TEKKONKINKREET which showed at the Seattle Film Festival last year. I tried to hunt it down for our festival was told that Sony didn't have the film. Well we can see that just isn't true, what's up with that Sony? Another blogger has posted some scans from the film's art book here.

Wikihistory

I absolutely LOVE this super short story. As you already know I love to talk time travel. This story is in the form of an online subforum full of time travelers. All the new members try to kill Hitler on their first trip and must be admonished by the admins. Funny stuff. Found via Boing Boing of course.

Pizza Box technology

In pizza news the company "Best Pizza Box" have created a new type of pizza box. As you can see in the video below, it has a cord which divides it in half for easier storage and disposal. It's about time someone focused on much needed pizza tech! Check out the gentleman struggling with the "old" style of pizza box, he is having a rough time!

Robots killing humans


So this news pops up today about a man killed by a robot. It was a robot he built himself for the purpose of killing him, a kind of suicide bot. So I jokingly thought "it begins...." but then I did a bit of googling and discovered that robots have been killing humans for a little while now. The first human killed by a robot is generally thought to be Robert Williams, a man who worked in an auto plant and was murdered by a one ton robot. And last October there was this report of a robotic anti-aircraft gun "malfunctioning." That malfunction killed 9 and injured 14 and is probably the most terrifying incident of robot on human violence. The robot pictured alongside this article is not a movie prop but is an actual piece or ordnance patrolling the streets of Iraq today.

It begins...

Michael Cera to portray Scott Pilgrim


In an effort to increase the amount of awesome in the world today, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Michael Cera is attached to the adaptation of indie comic book Scott Pilgrim. You can read an issue of Scott Pilgrim here for free to see why this is one of those dream casting choices that makes total sense. If that alone isn't exciting enough, the director attached is Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright. Fanboys around the world are exploding in delight right now.

SECRET SUNSHINE wins top honors at Asian Film Awards

Congratulations to SECRET SUNSHINE for pretty much sweeping the Asian Film Awards which are held at the Hong Kong Film Festival. I already wrote about this film a bit way back here. I'm a big fan of the film's elegant articulation of its existentialist message. It actually reminded me very much of Joss Whedon comments on atheism here. Both him and Lee Chang-dong put an emphasis on the physicality of the worlds around their characters to illustrate the meaning that is derived from pure existence, rejecting the illusions of religion.

What other bloggers out there are comparing Whedon and Chang-dong? None!

Graphic Literature course reading list

The guys over at Comic Book Resources have created a short reading list for a "Graphic Literature course." It's a nice and elegant little list. The biggest surprise being that there is shockingly little outrage in the comments section. A comic book message board can be a scary place and here the readers show remarkable restraint. If you want to increase your comics literacy this would make for a fine start.

3.18.2008

Poetry Porn!

I don't read nearly as much poetry these days as I did when I lived in Boulder (I attended the Naropa Institute for a number of summers there.) So you probably won't hear me talking about much poetry here. However, New York magazine posted this little piece talking about a pornographic poem written by W.H. Auden, one of the most respected poets of the last century. They reprint the entire poem here for you to peruse, but I warn you it gets pretty hardcore! Click though if you want to read how a master of verse writes what every high school poetry student wants to write about! (Warning to any high school poets reading this, don't bother trying; it will be lame.)

3.17.2008

Food Fight

This video was featured on Boing Boing recently so I figured most everyone already saw it. However, Wired just got around to posting it today so maybe it's still new to some. Anyway this is the best online short I have seen all year. It's the last century of warfare as told in foods from the regions involved in the conflicts.

Irony and the film 21


The film 21 opens this weekend and I haven't seen it yet so I'm hesitant to pass judgement. However... from what I've seen so far it looks like the classic example of a Hollywood picture watering down its source material. I read the book "Bringing Down the House" and really liked it. The book has a great smart focus on the mechanics of card counting and the characters seemed original and honest (it is non fiction.) Judging the film by its cover, it looks to be a cocky shiny throwaway film, like a million I've seen before. The casting of beautiful young white actors especially makes it seem this way. The irony here being that the book is a parable of greed, and losing site of your original goals. Then the filmmakers did exactly this when reaching out for the biggest most marketable audience possible, dumbing down the source material. If the filmmakers did read the book, they clearly didn't take much away from it.

3.16.2008

Frisky Dingo


Tonight’s the penultimate episode of Frisky Dingo for this season, and I have absolutely no idea what will happen. I’m a huge fan of most stuff on Adult Swim but right now what I’m most enjoying is this. Frisky Dingo is hard to get a newcomer into sometimes because it’s like asking your friend who doesn’t drink to try crack cocaine. You should ease them into it with sealab 2021 at first and then when they are able to handle the far reaches of that they might be ready for this. I thought it would end after season when the earth blows up, but somehow the show overcame that ending and we are heading into the end of an extended second season.

There is an insider nature to many of these adult swim shows since I can tell that its a close knit group of actors and writers all palling around and I desperately want to be included in this group, frisky makes me feel like I'm being taken inside with the throwaway characters and comic riffs that are called back endlessly in a single episode. It’s a delicious drug that I’m not bound to come down off of any time soon.

The Invisibles


It’s a quiet Sunday here on Island Zero so I’m going to write a bit of a longer piece about a must read comic book.

I talked earlier about wanting a comic adaptation of Miracleman, but that comic is long out of print and unavailable (I have a complete set!) But if you were to press me about my favorite comic book of all, I would probably reply, THE INVISIBLES by Grant Morrison. It's an incredibly complex and rich massive modern mythology with very simple messages behind it. The simple message is this: disobedience. It's more than just a comic book, (in more ways than one) its a wake up call for your collective unconscious, a mind bomb aimed at your mediocre way of life, and an actual magical object shaped like a comic book.

Morrison said that he wrote The Invisibles as a way of describing an experience he had in Kathmandu. While he was tripping on DMT there he was abducted by Aliens. It's an unusual super team book, to say the least.

The story is about a group of anarchist rebels, a secret team known as the Invisibles. You might not even know you are a member of it. The invisibles consist of every counterculturalist you can imagine. The housewife who throws down the shackles of middle class and runs off, she's an invisible, even if she doesn’t know it yet. A lot of the book is about unlocking secret knowledge inside a person. (One of the main characters is a young kid from Liverpool who is recruited by the Invisibles and might be the next Buddha.)

As much as I love volume one (probably my fav) I usually recommend people starting with the thinnest volume, “Bloody Hell in America” to see if they like the taste. It’s a bit more of an action packed introduction but still with all the same ideas, (lots of time travel, chaos magic and tantric sex.)

This comic is one of those deeply rich works that you can lose yourself in further by investigating all the myriad works it references and draws power from. I usually forget so much of what I read that the fact I've retained so much of this comic after the years is a testament to its powerful construction. I encourage you to reach out and grab this book, it will grab you back.

Sunny in Philadelphia crew to make sci fi comedy?

One of the big topics at the bar last night was this news that our friend Charlie Day had a new show coming out with his producing partners Rob McElhenny and Glenn Howerton. We are all huge fans of their show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", if you haven't seen it, click your iTunes icon now. The new series is an office comedy set on the deck of a spaceship in between missions. It's titled "Boldly Going Nowhere." Can't wait to see more, don't screw it up Fox!

3.14.2008

Jim Finn's new movie to premiere in Ann Arbor


The Ann Arbor film festival just announced they they are lucky enough to be hosting the world premiere of Jim Finn's new film THE JUCHE IDEA.

I've only ever seen one other film by Finn, the very funny INTERKOSMOS. That is a homegrown communist propaganda piece in worship of the glorious East German space program. It's hard to describe how this is made comical but its not in the way you'd think. (Read Jon Korn's description on the last link.)

The new film is about a South Korean filmmaker who attends an arts retreat in North Korea, loosely based on an actual kidnapping. If you are looking for a film that will wrestle your brain to the ground and then give it playful slaps, look to Jim Finn.

Super 8 projection


This looks to be the perfect gift for the experimental filmmaker in your life. A Japanese site is selling a new hand cranked (!) 8mm projector for 80 bucks. If this had been available when I was in film school I would have snapped it up like there was no tomorrow. The Wired article I heard about this from seems to imply that there isn't anywhere left to buy Super 8 cameras or film but if you live in Los Angeles and have a healthy appetite for experimental film you know this simply isn't true.

In fact, I saw a 8mm feature film at the Rotterdam Film Festival this year. A film called SHADOW OF SAND. This Japanese feature is the story of a young girl who (I think) kills her boyfriend and is then continuing to talk to him and see him. The 8mm gave the film a unique look and style. The overall aesthetic of the film is steeped in Lynchian strangeness. Time moves in loops in places and a strange paranoia pervades the dialogue. I loved most of the Japanese stuff i saw in Rotterdam.

Anyway, cool projector.

3.13.2008

David Shrigley


We showed this short film at AFI FEST by artist David Shrigley. Then the other day I stumbled upon his photography site which is excellent. Of course Susan had known about this artist long before I did so she really deserves all the credit. Recently some smart person hired Shrigley to do the opening credits for the film HALLAM FOE. I want more Shrigley in life, you do too.

Little Athens


As I wait for tonight's new episode of LOST to begin I'm already worried about what to do after next week's episode and the 5 week hiatus before any new episodes. Lucky for you I have a great suggestion. I recommend you watch the 2005 film LITTLE ATHENS featuring Jorge Garcia. The film was an official selection at Cinevegas and AFI FEST. Here is what I said about it back then:
Athens, Arizona, is not exactly the cradle of civilization. Instead, it’s a town populated by young men and women struggling in an environment with limited options. They are pool cleaners, EMTs, tow truck drivers and pizza delivery boys. Writer/director Tom Zuber turns a deliberate eye on this world and illuminates beauties and horrors that lurk under contemporary society’s shadow.

Life in the Midwest is generally understood to be not the most exciting thing in the world. And sex and drugs are the two most common solutions to this problem. However, this is far from a drug-fueled teen sex comedy. Instead, the filmmakers approach this subject matter with a much more artful eye, reminiscent of the best American independent filmmakers.

Zuber’s languorous sun-soaked tale follows half a dozen kids as they navigate through a day in Athens. It is a town that has little bits of violence and disease, little signs of human decay. In other words, it’s incredibly similar to the world you live in right now.

Put it on your Netflix queue now and it will be here in time for the hiatus!

A vampire (film) in New York

The Tribeca Film Festival announced a bunch of titles this week for their upcoming festival. A few meh films in here but one stand out that I must recommend, the Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. I saw the film in Rotterdam and mentioned it briefly earlier here.

This brilliant and chilling vampire movie arrives from the cold city blocks of Sweden and proceeds to stomp snow all over the screen. The clever premise here is that a young boy (who is being bullied at school) gets a new neighbor one night in his apartment building. It’s an older man who seems to be living with a girl his age. Well slowly and coldly it is revealed that the girl is a vampire and the man is her familiar, doing anything for his devoted child queen, including pouring acid over his face in a memorable scene to avoid being identified and linked to her. Yes this is a movie with some gruesome scares but the main strengths came from the killer script (based on a bestselling novel) and the standout performances especially from the main girl who has an otherworldly and older quality, which makes her role impossible to remake. It’s a chilling, daring and terrifying tale that is a real crowd pleaser even while not ending quite where one might expect.

The title of the film comes from a Smiths song. If you are gonna be in NYC during Tribeca, I highly recommend this one.

Tim Burton's Superman concept art


This is a link to some concept art created for Tim Burton's unproduced Superman film (titled SUPERMAN LIVES.) Of course the film had many many troubled aspects which eventually led to its demise however, I cant help but look at these images and dream of what could have been. I'm especially impressed by the immense scale of this vision. This is the benefit of not doing an origin story in a Superman film, there is the potential for a true epic. Pictured here is the resurrection chamber.

Clinton's new running mate

This is sure to be the strangest twist to the Democratic Nominee race this year. As reported here, Clinton cited her trip to Bosnia as an example of her foreign policy experience. Well comedian Sinbad was on that trip as well with the First Lady and he has responded that it was not a hot zone incursion but a USO tour. A quote from Sinbad: "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.'" This is another thing we have to blame Clinton for, making Sinbad relevant again. In the comments of this story is the funniest slogan idea evar:

Clinton/Sinbad '08: Do we eat here or at the next place

New Zach Galifianakis show?

This is just the news I need to shake me out of a week long hangover. According to today's Hollywood Reporter, Comedy Central has ordered up a new show by Zach Galifianakis called Speed Freaks. Very little other details have been released but Lane Kneedler when asked for a comment said "New Zach Galifianakis show?"

3.12.2008

Denver Film Festival is hiring a new director

The Denver Film Festival is looking to hire a new Executive Director. Any festival people out there looking for their own fest to head up should take a look.

I've been to Denver a bunch since I lived in nearby Boulder for five years. It would be an interesting place to live, the city left me with a very noir feeling, it seemed to romanticize its grime and crime in a way that was reminiscent of a modern pulp thriller.

Globalized time

I was just telling a friend yesterday that I wanted to do more science or math related posts on here. Well, today I stumbled upon this piece calling for the globalization of time. Basically this man is arguing that in a increasingly globalized world it is silly to have shifting timezones, and it only creates confusion. Instead we should adopted the global standard of Zulu time, aka Greenwich Mean Time.

I like this idea, although most Americans resist this sort of change (see: the metric system.) I wouldn't mind calling right now 10pm, who says the afternoon has to be 3pm and not 10?

Side note: when Susan was forced to watch BBC news exclusively on our last trip, she thought it was weird that in showing the local times, New Delhi would be off by a half hour (instead of the standard hour for other time zones.) I told her this was impossible and didn't believe her. She had to take a picture of the TV next time it looped around.

Ms Pac Man is a feminist icon and is haunting a Boston family

Found via Kotaku is this story of a man who is trying to get rid of an arcade version of Ms Pac Man because it is haunted:

"Got a bad feeling the day it was delivered. Game started on its own in the middle of the night several times, had a tech service the machine three times (very pricy housecalls), but he couldn't find the problem. Three-year old daughter started talking about the 'man in the video machine', didn't think much of it, then my wife saw a dark figure move across the basement and into the machine."

Also this gives me the excuse to post the below video about Ms Pac Man. I know I've been posting too much video lately, I'll stop soon.



"She kept her own name motherfuckers!"

3.11.2008

Where is Mike O'Connell

Unfortunately his website is having a technical problem but Mike O'Connell is somewhere in Los Angeles right now....I think. If you are in Los Angeles you should seek out the next possible show by this madman. At AFI FEST this year we showed his unexpectedly original first film THE LIVING WAKE after it had a successful premiere at Cinevegas. O'Connell's madness swept across our entire theatre. Below is one of O'Connell's online videos not related to the film but still very funny. If you like it there is more out there.

Spore on the iPhone demo footage

How excited am I for the game Spore? Very. How crazy is it that they are making a version for my iPhone? Really crazy. It seems we have definitely diverged from the normal space time continuum and entered into an alternate dimension of super awesomeness. Check out this demo footage:

3.10.2008

Full Frame announces full lineup

Well there was a bit of speculating about what the Full Frame Film Festival would look like this year (longtime festival Director Nancy Buirski left earlier this year.) and now we have our first glimpse. There's some good stuff I've seen already, (FLOW, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD) some stuff which I haven't seen yet but am highly anticipating (MAN ON WIRE, FULL BATTLE RATTLE) and some stuff I have never heard of (this will be the best, the surprises.) I'm heading out there at the beginning of the month, straight from Dallas!

Spiral Jetty listed as one of top artworks in existence


The reason why I work for a film festival is that occasionally in my life I've seen a film which has changed me profoundly and radically altered the path my life is on. Well, the film CASTING A GLANCE had a profound impact on me as I already mentioned here. This week I stumbled upon 2 impressive lists of "must-visit" artworks, one from an art critic and one from a blogger. They BOTH list the Spiral Jetty! I must make it out there to see this soon, especially since oil speculation is currently threatening the integrity of the work. The tricky party will be how to go to Utah with my girlfriend and yet not visit her family...

3.09.2008

quarterlife sucks, watch The Burg

I just watched a mini-marathon of quarterlife on Bravo and boy did it stink. If you are looking for a great web series to watch (or adapt one for broadcast) you should check out The Burg instead. It's set in Williamsburg Brooklyn and is a show about a group of 'hipsters' living there. I live in Silverlake which no one refers to as Williamsburg West, but they could if they wanted to. As a hipster douchebag myself I really identified with The Burg. All the characters drink cheap beer and no one has any sort of a real job, just like everyone I know. Sorry quarterlife, but your cliche romantic mush is better suited for My So Called Life. Here is the opening of ep 1 of The Burg:



BTW, I know I'm a little late to the Burg dance, sue me!

Minchin's in New York


Tim Minchin is in NYC right now getting some great reviews. The Internet Gods tell me that I have a couple of readers in New York, so go out and see this guy. The online videos do very little justice to experiencing the live show, trust me. (Lyndsey Brown took this excellent photo.)

We are living in the future

It is just me or are more and more news stories sounding like something out of comic books? Every week there is some advancement in robotics or teleportation that reminds me of William Gibson's famous quote that "The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed. (This seemed especially true on my trip to Japan.)

The story this week that made me feel this way is this one from the Daily Mail. Russian scientists are preparing an experiment for this May in which "the energy produced by forcing tiny particles to collide at close to the speed of light could open the door to visitors from the future." That's right, it's a time machine.

I drive a robot car and carry around access to all human knowledge in my pocket, I love living in the future.

I hate daylight savings time

No matter how much I enjoy gaining an hour in the fall, it is never worth losing an hour in the Spring! It's pointless and I hate pointless exercises. If Arizona doesn't use it why do the rest of us? Well you can imagine how unhappy I am to read these reports that DST is not just pointless but also bad for public health and wastes energy!

3.08.2008

Best commercial ever

Many others will agree with me that Tim and Eric are comedy genius. Zach Galifianakis, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim were commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a film for their website. God bless corporate sponsorship with creative freedom, it creates insane collisions like this. The resulting commercial is below:


3.07.2008

MILLER'S CROSSING

I've been watching a lot of HBO's new series "In Treatment" this week and I really have been loving it. I'm a big fan of writer-driven work and this show is essentially 2 people in a room talking and nothing else. It's incredibly powerful and one of my favorite things about it is the show's star, Mr. Gabriel Byrne.

Byrne is an actor I've admired for years and one of my favorite films with him is the 1990 Coen Brothers film MILLER'S CROSSING.

It's been a big year for the Coens and I loved NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say MILLER'S CROSSING is their best film. The dialogue pops louder than a tommy gun and the operatic performances from a stellar supporting cast fuel the film's beautifully violent ballet. Maybe it just came along and hit me at the perfect age (14) but for me this film is even more fantastic than FARGO or any of their other more critically praised films. Don't believe me? Then let's look at a scene which is essentially just two people in a room talking. Here are the first five minutes from MILLER'S CROSSING:

Miracleman


Following up on my last post, the Alan Moore comic book I would love to see translated into a film would be his other superhero deconstruction, Miracleman. This violent and epic tale would translate much better to the screen. The comic was often about graphic visual explosions of comic book archetypes. The horrific violence that Kid Miracleman inflicts on London alone (see image below) would make for unforgettable images on film. Let's get this book out of its legal limbo and on to the screen! (Or at least back in print please.)

Nobody cares but me


As I mentioned here before, I'm very apprehensive about the upcoming film adaptation of the (greatest modern) comic book Watchmen. It's sort of a lose/lose scenario. If the movie sucks, then people ask me, "what is a good comic book" and I say, "Watchmen" the response will be: "I saw that movie it sucks." Then I hang my head and sigh. Alternatively if the movie is great then people will be like, "hey that movie was great, no need to read it now!"

The fact that it is a book that you hold in your hands and read is part of what makes Watchmen a magical creation. So some more production stills emerged this week and... I'm still apprehensive. At least it looks like it might be a good movie, but still in my heart Watchmen is a book. The film looks to abandon the incredible coloring work done by John Higgins and embrace a gritty/glossy cinematic style.

That being said, there is the 14year old kid inside me who would endlessly discuss with my little brother dream casting for our favorite comic books. The X-Men movie being the rare example of my childhood dreams coming true. So I'm torn, and I will no doubt be attending Comic Con this year mostly for the Watchmen.

The title of this rant is a quote from Watchmen:
Rorschach's Journal: A Comedian died last night, and nobody cares. Nobody Cares but Me.

MMOG film at SXSW

Via IO9 I just learned about the film SECOND SKIN premiering at SXSW. Before I got this job I was unemployed for 6 months and I'd play City of Heroes from the second my girlfriend left the house until I heard her car coming up the driveway. And when she went out of town, it was all day and night. I haven't played in months but I'll open the account back up if there is a double XP weekend I'm in town for. Sometimes I miss those days and seeing the trailer for this film makes me very nostalgic for that other world.

Buffy the Vampire comic


If you haven't been reading the new Buffy comic by Joss Whedon you have to start. Now. The latest issues brings a bit of silly controversy for including a potential female lover for Buffy. But having this comic in the news is simply an excuse for me to talk about how great it is.

These are the stories that Whedon could have told if they had given him 100 million dollars to make a Buffy movie. And Whedon wisely waited until his comic writing skills had been finely honed on The Astonishing X-Men. His skill with comic book pacing and layout is phenomenal. And the freedom of a limitless "budget" in comics allows for wonderful inventions like the giant-size Dawn and Xander's command castle. Season 8 (as they are calling the comic) is better than I could have possibly dreamed, its fast becoming my favorite thing at the comic shop every month.

3.06.2008

Transmogrification theatre


Check this out. First off David Cronenberg recently announced that he is creating a musical version of his 1986 film THE FLY for the stage. (Insane.) Then today George Romero says in an interview that he wants to remake the 1982 version of THE THING into a play as well! Here is a quote from Romero:

"I’d love to freeze the whole audience - first of all, we’d have to chill the whole theatre down to some sub-zero temperature.”

That sounds well, crazy but I'm on board. And Cronenberg's FLY is one of those movies that I never get sick of watching or talking about. I'm simply in awe of how great it is. The gooey tactile effects... the casting of Goldblum... brilliant. The musical comes to Los Angeles in September and you better believe I'm there!

FROWNLAND


I mentioned briefly here that AFI FEST showed 2 out of the 3 filmmakers to watch (according to the Independent Spirit Awards.) Well the missing third of that equation is opening this weekend in NYC for a limited engagement.

FROWNLAND is the best film we didn't show at our festival. It's an angry cinematic experience that gets under your skin; the film feeds off its audience's apprehension like an unpleasant addiction. FROWNLAND is the kinda film which has been actually starting shouting matches in theaters after the credits roll. These are fights involving actual real world grown ups, mind you. It's the sort of thing cinephiles and programmers wait around all year to see.

If you are in the NYC area next week go catch this film, if not it should hopefully (please!) be heading to a Netflix queue near you soon.

Full Dallas lineup


AFI Dallas announced their full lineup today. Lots to be excited about, here are a few highlight I'm personally looking forward to. I've mentioned BAGHEAD on this site a couple times now, maybe I'll finally get to actually see the damn film in Dallas now. I also just wrote about STRANDED here the other day, I knew at the time that it would be playing in Dallas but I don't want to ruffle any feathers with unwanted leaks. I'm glad Dallas is showing Heckler also, check out this post I had about that doc. GOLIATH is another film I'm very excited to see from Sundance, the Zellner brothers finally make a feature! One priority to see in Dallas for me is TIME CRIMES, it sounds like the best low budget time travel film since PRIMER (a personal favorite--Shane Carruth, where are you?) My final recommendation to you if you are going to be in Dallas is not to miss THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS. Also this is an excuse for me to link to my photo with Ellen Page again!

Pictured above is my girlfriend Susan Garbett and Senior Programmer James Faust.

Bukowski short films?

Well I missed this yesterday but apparently there was a screening of "ultra-rare Hank Films" in Venice. The description of the event is pretty vague (and maddening.) In this description it sounds like they are showing interview footage, possibly from the 240 minute long "Bukowski Tapes" by Barbet Schroeder. But maybe it's something else? I wonder if this short film based on a story by Hank is any good. But who am I kidding, I wasn't going to drive all the way out to Venice anyway.

3.05.2008

Ann Arbor announces their lineup

The Ann Arbor Film Festival announced their films for 2008. This is the most experimental and challenging festival in the US. There was an unbelievable 1st amendment controversy for this festival last year when the State of Michigan threatened to pull its funding. The controversy was ridiculous, and a sad commentary on the state of political leadership in this country. I'm happy to see they have rebounded from this drama and it looks to be another stellar year in Ann Arbor.

I don't know about many of the titles on their website (which is a good sign) but a couple standouts jumped out at me immediately. There is a new film from the always exceptional Martha Colburn. Also they are showing an older film from one of my favorite classical experimentalists Len Lye. I'm going to make it up there to Ann Arbor one year I promise!

Lunch with the time travelers


Yesterday I had lunch with three guys from the Echo Park Time Travel Mart. We talked a lot about the Terminator show, David Foster Wallace's essay about The Terminator, Somewhere in Time, Lost and a bunch of other fun stuff. Fun joking about paradoxes, murder bots and comic books.

I wish I could have lunches like that everyday, maybe I should visit Brooklyn just to befriend the guys at the Superhero supply shop!

North African pizza


Having a "pizza" google alert is much more depressing than you'd think it would be. Apparently there are lots of pizza delivery people being shot and robbed out there. That's why I was delighted to see this story pop into my mailbox today. At the big Pillsbury Bake Off there is an entrant who has a recipe for a North African-style chicken pizza." It sounds delicious! Listen to this quote:

"The recipe calls for chicken, spinach, slivered almonds, sweet orange marmalade, chopped dates, fennel, ground cardamom and grumbled goat cheese. North African-style chicken is similar to jerk chicken, but not as spicy. The use of citrus — the orange marmalade — adds a tang."

The chef got the idea from Mataam Fez, the fantastic Moroccan restaurant in Boulder, Colorado that I used to frequent when I lived there. I also think his pizza is a shoe-in when I read about the other competitor's pies.

"The competing recipes include a German-style sausage pizza, a chili-cheese dog pizza, an Italian chopped salad pizza, a 'Southwest Sloppy Joe pizza,' a Mediterranean pizza with a stuffed crust and a huevos rancheros pizza — with a big egg on top."

Gross!

Breaking Bad


One of the best shows on TV right now is Breaking Bad. I feel like they kinda tricked me into watching this by promoting it as "Bryan Cranston cooks meth" when in reality its really more about "Bryan Cranston deals with cancer." But I'm glad they baited and switched me into watching this because the show is constantly surprising me and is one of the most original things I've seen in the television medium in a long while.

One of the strongest aspects of this show is its amazing physicality. Not only does it depict the psychology and tone of humans who live in a desert, but it also depicts complex carbon based lifeforms and how they interact with each other and with the environment. The physicality of existence is of course evident in the crystal meth aspect of the show, but the real power of the show is in the transformation of everyday objects and elements into new experiences. It illustrates the magic of the world around us that is revealed if you use your knowledge of how things work and react. Using a bike lock to restrain a character against a metal pole is an example of this. Another example is when the main character uses a windshield squeegee and a car battery to produce a spectacular, cathartic explosion. A bathtub, a broken plate, all of these objects shrug off their pedestrian aspects to become something much more potent in this show.

This catharsis and more generally, change is the driving theme of the show. "Chemistry is the study of change, of death, rebirth and transformation" proclaims the protagonist in the pilot episode. And this theme of change could easily have devolved into cliche in less capable hands. Instead, coupled with harsh physicality and a unique environment it makes for a riveting and unpredictable new kind of storytelling.

I've long been a fan of Bryan Cranston and had high hopes for this show when I first heard about it. My hopes have been happily surpassed and I'll be sticking around for many more episodes to come.

3.04.2008

American Wiseman


The final film I'm catching up on writing about from my long trip is a retrospective title from Berlin. As part of a series called "The War at Home" they showed Frederick Wiseman's 1970 documentary BASIC TRAINING.

If there is any justice in the world, Wiseman should just get a blank check from our government to film whatever he wanted. The man is a national treasure. Well, at least Wiseman gets the government’s permission to enter so many public institutions and document them. His style is incredibly effective and still under utilized today. No narration, just footage of public institutions edited together for dramatic yet never judgmental effect. So definitive are his films that they often bear strikingly sparse titles, like ZOO or HIGH SCHOOL. I made the trek to Denver in my college days just to see HIGH SCHOOL, to this day that's still the only time I actually made it to the Denver FF.

BASIC TRAINING is a real cultural document not just because of the pallor of Vietnam that hangs over everything here but because he captures the actual shape and size of an institution that has been endlessly depicted in modern fiction. For all the other films that I’ve seen showing basic training I don’t think I’ve ever really seen it before seeing this. The absurdity and the aching humanity of trying to get a group of people to learn basic hygiene and killing skills is unbelievable.

STRANDED in Goteborg

Another film I got to see on my big trip was STRANDED: I'VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED IN THE MOUNTAINS. I wrote back here that I was excited to see this. It's another film that was in Sundance. (They are quite a global cultural leader, this year fifty films came straight out of Sundance to Berlin, fifty!)

This is a very polished documentary on the well-known story of a group of Rugby players who crashed into the Andes in 1977 and ended up walking out of the winter wasteland over 70 days later. This story was made into the book and narrative film ALIVE. The documentary is pretty amazing, a beautifully structured piece, which grabs you right from the beginning with the visceral and terrifying facts of the situation and rarely lets up for the duration of the film. The interview subjects have clearly thought and spoke about this an incredible amount in the years since, and they craft very articulate and moving stories from this horrific experience. The use of recreations is a bit strange but wholly necessary and it’s handled here with a deft and careful touch. The film is a bit long for such a well known story but the audiences seem to want to keep watching more and more of this tale, extensive technical problems during my screening at Goteborg caused no one to leave their seats.


An interesting side note, Susan's dad worked as a producer on ALIVE and she got to go hang out on the set as a little girl.

Terrified by FEAR(S)

Another film I saw on my big trip last month was FEAR(S) OF THE DARK. I had been anticipating this film since I read about the Sundance description. ( I mentioned it previously here.) The film did not dissapoint. Thank god I was not stoned this night in Rotterdam becasue this movie woudl have freaked me out beyond belief if I was high.

FEAR(S) is a fantastic animated series of horror stories by different directors. I’d never before thought I could find animation so terrifying, one wouldn’t think it had such potential for thrills. All the various sections have been conceived together to function as a whole; this isn’t a collection of shorts. I would love to find out where the initial idea for this program came from, and I’m also tempted to think it was conceived to support the final chapter, which is stellar.

The film begins first with a small chapter in a larger piece that intercuts the other sections. It’s a beautifully rendered smudgy animation about a nobleman with four ferocious dogs, as he walks the countryside, they one by one break off the leash and commit various escalating atrocities to the nobleman’s delight. It has the feel of a dangerous old children’s tale like Roald Dahl or German fairytales.

Next is a chapter by the brilliant artist Charles Burns. Using his signature style and themes the story is a tale of infection, mutation, sexuality and a shy male protagonist. Burns’ greatest strength is in his character design and he's created a beauty here with great physical and psychological design.

The next story is a beautiful shift in style to an almost computer slick animation concerning a young Japanese girl who moves to a new house which is rumored to be haunted by a dead samurai. Brilliant original hallucinatory images give this an otherworld feeling; as soon as you feel grounded again this film knocks you off your feet.

After this, another interlaced story begins to wrap around the chapters, this one being a purely abstract geometrical animation, which is accompanied by a voiceover monologue about modern liberal guilt and fears, universal yet under vocalized. This is a brilliant addition to a series on fears; it’s so different, so unexpected and deeply terrifying in a wholly unexpected way.

The next chapter is another tale of a young child discovering horrors in areas around a rural life. This one is a bit more light fun and also has great character designs. The writing is not as striking as the chiaroscuro animation style.

The final chapter in this series is the tale of a man who seeks shelter in an old house during a snowstorm. Here the use of only white and black really becomes a virtuoso performance. The use and effect of lighting in this film proves that no computer effects will have the same impact as strong writing and creative use of animation’s forced perspectives. This final note is also the scariest piece in the whole, not just the most formally dazzling.

Romero's Diary


I'm catching up on posting about some films from my big trip last month. First off I'd like to talk about the new George A. Romero film DIARY OF THE DEAD which played at Sundance before playing in Rotterdam where I saw it. These are two festivals I have great respect for and I'm a huge zombie film fan so this should be an easy one right? Not so much.

I’m really confused why such artistically minded, highly regarded festivals are embracing this latest mess of a zombie movie. (And why Scott Foundas, a critic who I usually agree with would write this positive review.) There are some fun gross out gags here and there but overall this Blair Witch gimmick meets zombie outbreak contains not a single original idea, believable performance or decent line of dialogue. A complete mess, still I had to check it out for myself. Romero was inspirational with his first film but that was forty years ago, and seeing him grasp for that continued relevance with ham fisted racial references in this low budget fiasco is just humiliating.

3.03.2008

Bukowski's grave



With the recent news that Bukowski's old bungalow is going to be designated a historical monument, it's time to celebrate (drink.) I really want to go visit Bukowski's grave, it sounds like a fun daytime (drinking) activity. Who's with me?

Kevin Jerome Everson in the Whitney Biennial


Kevin Jerome Everson's film EMERGENCY NEEDS which was featured at AFI FEST in November 2007 has been selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial opening the week of March 3rd at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Everson is a genius artist and I got to see his latest feature THE GOLDEN AGE OF FISH at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year. In fact, I was rushing to the theatre with Susan and we didn't realize that she didn't have a ticket until we got to the door. Who saved the day by offering us a free ticket? None other than KJE himself. So that was an exciting moment in Rotterdam. Additionally, Kevin is a current resident of my home town Charlottesville, Virginia! (He's an art professor there.) So kudos to Kevin for this incredible honor, I'm proud this incredibly intelligent artist is getting such a prestigious honor.

3.02.2008

The number 42


Here was our number for dinner last night. If you don't know the significance, Google the number 42. Another weird coincidence the other day happened when I was watching this movie about cosmic signs and synchronicity. One plot point was that 2 characters shared the same birthday. The birthday they shared was November 21!!!

3.01.2008

Happy Birthday Susan!


I went to Texas this weekend to visit Susan and celebrate her birthday. Guess where we went?

Dyson sphere lamp


In Dallas yesterday I saw these lamps which looked like Dyson spheres! I don't know if you can tell but it's a single light bulb surrounded by a shell of crossing thin strips of material. The most interesting thing about theoretical Dyson spheres is that they suggest we should not be looking towards stars for intelligent life. Sufficiently advanced civilizations would be harvesting and therefore hiding the stars they orbit!