Online shorts VS the theater experience

Nash Edgerton's short film SPIDER is a big hit on Digg today. It's interesting to check out some of the comments people are leaving after watching this online. There are positive responses but also many people complain this 8 minute film was too long. It's an example of the different experiences people have from watching a film in isolation on a computer vs at a festival on a big screen. In the theatre this was one of the best loved films of our festival last year (and ended up winning the Grand Jury Prize.)

Old FILMEX trailers now on You Tube

Over on the "AFI FEST You Tube channel", we have uploaded all the old trailers for FILMEX which we scanned in from 35mm prints for our 20th anniversary. (AFI FEST is what the late great FILMEX evolved into in 1987.) Check out this one from 1981 starring some famous members of the 1981 Groundlings including Phil Harman and Paul Rubens among others:


Whiskey Awards

The big news in the world of whiskey today is that "a Japanese Whiskey has become the first variety produced outside Scotland to win the coveted single malt award in an international competition run by Whisky Magazine." But to me the bigger news is that there is a Whiskey Magazine! Why am I not working for this operation? Or at the very least I could have been a judge at this competition...I feel like I'm wasting my life! Well At least I know what subscription to sign up for once I stop recieving my copy of "Pizza Today." (Serious.)

Matt Berry

I will watch anything Matt Berry does. His too brief appearances on The IT Crowd led me to discover Gareth Marengi's Darkplace and this treasure:

Then, last Christmas my brother got me his rock opera AD/BC, a musical retelling of the birth of Christ from the POV of the inn keeper. Matt stars and wrote the songs. I gotta order some more import DVDs of this guy stat. Next on the list has to be the Darkplace spinoff, "Man to Man With Dean Learner."

Maybe it's just my brain and it's addiction to hooky songs but I think he's a genius. Also his acting style intrigues me. It actually looks like he is often out of sync, in lots of stuff. I think it's just that he is so strangely intense he seems to be out of sync with our plane of existence. I really think he has invented a whole new acting style here and would not be surprised if he blew up to become the next comedy mega star to come out of the UK.

Here is a sketch show with him that is a big hit on Digg today, it's titled "She Has A Boyfriend"

She Has A Boyfriend - Watch more free videos


Schrodinger's Girl

Well, this film has gotten a bit of interesting buzz online lately and no one has even seen it yet. First I saw this coverage from IO9 which said the film is "doing its best to use the web to gain an audience." Then I read on Warren Ellis' blog about the same film. Warren (patron saint of Island Zero) said he wanted to post the film's trailer on his site because the director "asked him nicely." Isn't that lovely?

Schodinger's Girl is a story of woman who travels between dimensions encountering alternative versions of herself some of whom help her with her inter-dimensional studies and some who try to hinder her. That's an interesting version of crowd sourcing. I'm going to contact the filmmakers and see if I can look at the film to consider it for my film festival. I wanna see more Sci Fi this year.

Arthur C. Clarke is still designing the future

In case you didn't know, recently deceased Sci Fi author Arthur C. Clarke came up with the idea for satellites Like in detail, with math to back it up, not just like how you can claim to have come up with stuffed crust pizza or whatever. Well, now another idea of his is coming to reality. DARPA is designing a weapon called the MAgneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition (MAHEM.) The idea is basically to "hurl a jet of molten steal through space using an electromagnet." And Clarke used this idea in his 1955 novel .Earthlight. Found via Gizmodo.

Joel Silver wants to ruin Wonder Woman

Producer Joel Silver has revealed that he wants the new Wonder Woman film to be a "genesis" story. This is what ruins most superhero films in my opinion. The least interesting thing about a super hero is usually his origin. Who cares that Hal Jordan was a test pilot? Now he's Green Lantern, he's a space cop with a magic wishing ring! Isn't that infinitely more interesting? When David Fincher was attached to do Spider Man he proposed that the entire origin story be told over a opening credits montage rather than an entire film. I'm pretty sure Wonder Woman is doomed now, but please someone bring me a superhero film without a training montage!


Cheezburger job opening

Attention anyone looking for a job. The best job in teh interwebz is available for you! Check out this job listing. "Can I haz cheesburger" is looking to hire someone to help them look at funny photos of cats. They require some minor skillz but just lie, if they had the skills to know you lied, they could do the job themselves. Right?


Holy. Shit.

In news sure to rock your world, the Arby's chain have acquired Wendy's for $2.34 Billion. The Thomas family is pretty upset about the news. The question everyone is asking is how the hell does Arby's have this much cash? The only person I know who will ever admit they eat Arby's is me. They are constantly being ridiculed like this:

I also take issue with the news story (which is surprisingly detailed) blaming Wendy's recent troubles on the limited success of the breakfast menu. Limited success with the breakfast menu? I am dying to get my hands on the breakfast menu! It's not a myth, it exists! Here is the proof!

In fact the reason why I haven't been to a Wendy's lately was that I went there for a morning recently and had a kinda chewy spicy chx sammy. (I think it was made the previous night.) But look at that proposed menu, are you kidding me? Sausage gravy and biscuit? Steak and egg sandwich? How good does that sound?

Senior Politcio dies at film party

Well, if you ever wondered why I liked working for film festivals here is your answer. The head of the French film sales company TF1 is under investigation after a senior political aide died at a party of his. It's not a murder thing, the Minister of Culture's chief of staff suffered cardiac arrest after ingesting a cocktail of alcohol and GHB. I can't wait to get to Cannes and rock the GHB parties! (Just kidding, I ain't going to Cannes either.)


I will NOT be attending Tribeca this year.

Just in case anyone was wondering, my programming travel will not be including a trip to NYC this year. It's hard times all over and our resources are stretched pretty thin so we have to choose selectively what travel is most valuable for us. I had a great time in New York last year and saw some interesting stuff but... Tribeca is the only festival of its kind since it is a for-profit entity. It's a masterpiece of marketing and publicity. Mostly it does this by having a sparse, simple marketing campaign anchored by celebrity presence. But it's difficult to saturate an area such as Manhattan with a festival vibe, no matter how much money you have. So while there is a value there for many people, I'm not convinced it would be a sound investment for me. At least not this year, maybe in the future the landscape could change.


Carolee Schneeman

Last night I went to "REDCAT" to see filmmaker Carolee Schneeman. It has been years since I've seen her work and I've never actually seen her in person. She showed 3 older films and 2 more recent works. My favorite film of hers is, of course, FUSES from 1967. It's amazing to me that I never get bored or anxious watching this half hour long silent experimental film. Possibly because most of the content is borderline pornographic. The film is one of those things that are so brilliant they seem almost obvious to attempt in retrospect. Painting on the film and layering in many other frenetic visual elements, there is an energy force being pushed between the two lovers and then pushed from the subjects onto the audience. It's a wholly unique film experience, seeing FUSES. The artist conveys a primordial mode of consciousness and in doing so expresses a inclusive and plural sexuality. It's a groundbreaking work and required viewing for anyone wishing to go further in erotic cinema.

Rosario Tijeras

The sexy/violent Colombian film, ROSARIO TIJERAS was on HBO last night. Based on a novel by the same name it is a steamy, bloody tale of a female assassin working in the slums of Medellin. We got to the premiere the film at our festival back in 2005 and (I hope) drum up some publicity and buzz to help it get distributed. I'm so happy now to see that this film is now showing up on regular cable here. The screening was a blast and it was so packed that the lead actress actually gave up her own seat so someone else could see the movie! So we got to hang out in the Arclight bar and wait for the Q&A. What's that you say? You don't believe that a gorgeous and deadly Colombian like Rosario would drink with me? Well here's a pic:

Steve Kurtz is cleared!

Happy news today comes from Artvoice. Artist Steve Kurtz has finally been cleared of all charges following his Homeland Security nightmare. Kurtz was the subject of a 2007 film titled STRANGE CULTURE which played Sundance and AFI FEST. It told the story of how after his wife tragically died in his home from a medical conditon, paramedics alerted police to "suspicious materials" they saw in Kurtz' home. Kurtz is an artist and his projects involve petri dishes and other non-harmful scientific materials. His work is well know and highly praised often dealing with such complicated issues as bio-engineered food. It was a long and trying journey for this man, I hope he can finally find some peace.

My dad came to this screening at AFI FEST, he dozed off a little bit during the movie and then had the gall to ask questions during the Q&A! The nerve!


Exhausted pilots fly armed drones

I wrote previously here about how our land based robots are terrorizing the human populace. Now this report reveals that the meatbag pilots who fly our armed drones though the sky are much more fatigued than normal pilots. (By normal I simply mean the ones who sit in the planes they pilot instead of remotely controlling a battle bot.) It's an interesting report, especially when it suggests that these joystick jockeys are routinely harassed by the other pilots. I mean, we are in a war zone here, can't we expect a little unity? (If you want to see some of the horrors these soldiers must witness, here is a You Tube video of some pilot POVs. Warning, it's graphic stuff.)

Reading this report was fascinating for me because I finally read the classic Sci-Fi novel Ender's Game last month. It tells the story of a military complex which trains children on war game simulators to become tomorrow's army. And the reality echoes the fiction even more since the entire book has a bleary eyed tone of men being pushed to exhaustion by the war machine.

Grant Morrison used drugs?

Grant Morrison was very entertaining on a panel this weekend at Comic Con New York. While there he talked about drug use and his creative process, briefly becoming a transvestite, and being transported on top of reality by Aliens in Kathmandu. My favorite line from the Q&A was this: "Like — have you seen the South American dwarf on the Internet? Have you guys seen that thing? That's the world we live in."

This man is my hero. I actually saw him in person walking around the floor of Comic Con in San Diego one year, I freaked out and when I turned around...he was gone. This is because he is magic. He also happened to be dressed like King Mob at the time, which is a character he created. It was weird.

Previous Grant posts can be found here and here.

This story found via IO9.


Free screening this weekend

Cinevegas is hosting a free screening at Beauty Bar this weekend of the much buzzed about (sorry) documentary SUPER HIGH ME. The film chronicles comedian Doug Benson's attempt to go 30 days without pot and chronicle the health effect. Benson then goes 30 days smoking weed every day and chronicles (again, sorry) those effects. Looks like fun and it's free!

Also this weekend don't forget to check out Chris Merrill's play. Starring Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Cy Carter, insanity is pretty much assured.

Rom-Com gets more open ended as time goes by

I got to see FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL last night and really enjoyed it. I've long thought Jason Seigal was solid young actor and now I can see he's got some writing chops as well. But the film got me thinking, how best do you end a romantic comedy these days? Endings are possibly the hardest thing to pull off in a story and it's interesting to see how they have changed in movie formulas over the years.

In classic romantic comedies like BRINGING UP BABY or ROMAN HOLIDAY (just to pick 2 at random) at the end of the film it implied if not established that the couple will end up married, forever. Happily ever after. However in contemporary films, in the end the couple are more vaguely together, and are willing to 'give it a shot' or 'see how it goes.' It's almost as if they are leaving room for a sequel.

I was thinking about this last night and I honed in on the idea that there was a single turning point for this shift in romantic movie endings. It's THE GRADUATE. Of course not all cinema immediately was changed, but it's another example of that film's great legacy. The protagonists ride off into the sunset toward their happily ever after. And it slowly dawns on them... that this is not really all that easy. And romantic ending were never really the same again.


Zach Galifinackis at Largo last night

Zach had a great set at Largo last night. One highlight was one of the openers Nick Kroll who you might know as one of the stars from the short lived TV series Cavemen. (Tom and I loved this show!) He's pretty great, I might start following his shows too.

Zach was solid as always. Probably my fave line that I remember (drinks minimum became a maximum) was "Is it a sexual innuendo if a tell a woman I want to put my sexual in your endo?"

The real highlight though was when he pulled a group of strangers off the street and onto the stage. I had heard of him doing this before but never seen it myself. The "deer in the headlights" moment of realizing you are being thrust onto a stage was priceless. I also enjoyed when one of the girls told Zach that she knew who he was, his response: "you are gonna finger yourself when you get home tonight." Then they did a shot of tequila together on the stage, had a few more laughs and called it a night.

Ricky Gervais in GTA IV

Ricky Gervais will appear in the game Grand Theft Auto IV. He recorded a (mostly) original short set and was motion captured for the game. So as you are going around killing people or whatever, you can pop into a comedy club and just happen upon Ricky doing his stand-up. And then you can pop him in the head with a lead pipe I suppose, although I don't know who would want to. (Except Karl.)


Oklahoma film festival censors creative marketing

There is a small film festival in Oklahoma called Bare Bones. They have a lot of info on their website encouraging their filmmakers to promote their own films and offering friendly suggestions. Well, a horror film called A BEAUTIFUL DAY tried to promote their Bare Bones screening with some You Tube videos. Unfortunately idiotic school administrators were shown these videos and got scared it was some real (albeit vague) threat. They called the cops and the cops called in the FBI. When the filmmakers caught wind of these knee jerk reactions to their promotions they helpfully called the police to explain and then took the videos down off You Tube.

Well, the Bare Bones festival has now pulled the film from their line-up. I don't know what the motivation for this is. I suppose it's some sort of punishment for the filmmakers. Although how the filmmakers can be held responsible for the hysteria and idiocy of authority figures is beyond me. For shame, Bare Bones. Festivals should foster and encourage creativity not kowtow to the cult of fear.


The world ends next month

Well, I have long believed that the world was going to end on December 12th 2012 (end of the Mayan Calendar and of Terrence McKenna's time wave) but it look like it might happen much sooner.

Next month, they are beginning a series of experiments in France which involve powering up the Large Hadron Collider and using it to solve some physics mysteries, unlock secrets of the universe, blah blah. (Here is a list of the times it is being typoed as the large HARDON collider, in the MSM, including the NYT, hence my illustration.) But some people fear this device might create a miniature black hole or even be some sort of Genesis point for time travel since that's the furthest back they could go. Yeah, it's possible all the time travelers from the future might start showing up next month in France. It's fascinating and kinda scary fun stuff, if you want to read about it. IO9 has a great summary here and here is some news about the various lawsuits being brought to try and stop the experiment.


Excellent political fiction

I rarely post political stuff here but I couldn't resist with this one. It's a scenario in movie treatment form of what might happen if there was a complete deadlock at the democratic national party this year. It's written by a former writer for the West Wing, one of my fav shows, so it's stirring stuff. If you wanna kill a few minutes today give this a read, it's fun.

THE BIRDS without the birds

Artist Martijn Hendricks has completed a video art project entitled "Give Us Today Our Daily Terror" which is an exact copy of Hitchcock's 1963 film THE BIRDS, but with every bird digitally erased from the image. You can see some excerpts from the project on his site and the result is a strange, titillating and unsettling work. What is it with deletion and pop culture these days? First it was Garfield, now Hitch.

Matt Dentler quits

Big news in the festival world today, Matt Dentler has resigned his position as the Festival producer (and programming identity) of SXSW. Dentler was a powerful force at SXSW since he began producing the film festival in 2004. His strong programming choices and his role as a prominent blogger helped shape the face of contemporary cinema over these years.

He is being replaced by Janet Pierson, a producer from a decidedly older generation of American independent cinema. Her contributions to the festival should provide a decidedly different tone for SXSW than her 28 year old predecessor had.

Dentler is taking a position at Cinetic Media as head of marketing and programming for their Digital Rights Media organization. This is a huge shakeup in the festival scene, I guess spring has brought change in the air, can you smell it?


Party beyond Earth's gravity

I've long wanted to live near the shuttle launch pad and throw parties for shuttle launches. The idea was this: I'd be able to email all my friends around the world with the schedule for the next few month's launches, then if anyone wanted to make the trip anytime, they could rely on the fact that in my little beach house there would be a party to watch the rockets. People from different parts of my life could meet each other... I'd stay in touch with everyone... It'd be great.

This Saturday is "Yuri's Night." On April 12th, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space, orbiting around the Earth once during a 108-minute flight. Exactly twenty years later, on April 12th, 1981, the United States launched their first Space Shuttle into space.

So I looked online and the only Los Angeles Yuri's Night party I saw was at Cinespace in Hollywood which sounds kinda cheesy and not really what I'm into. I'd prefer to have a party where you could see the night sky, for one thing. Maybe I'll throw together a small get together at the last minute in my backyard. Although in all honesty, I'll probably end up just getting drunk by myself and yelling at the stars.

UPDATE: In looking on the map where the closest launch to me is, Vandenberg Airforce base is just north of the Wine Country! Wine and rockets, together at last! Although I'm not sure how we can be awake for the 4:47am launch time. Well, we have until June 15 to figure it out.

Poly Poly Oxen Free

There has been a lot in the news lately about Polygamy, which I want to point out is very different from Polyamory. Ever since I took a Social Construction of Sexuality class back in college I've considered myself to be polyamorous. For those in the don't know, this basically is an alternative lifestyle to serial monogamy. In serial monogamy you can have attachments to as many people as you want as long as you break one off before moving to the next one. Where as poly is not so much. Sometimes this leads to big family of amorphous couples living in houses together raising children. But for me personally it's mostly just about letting go of the jealously of thinking that just because my partner is attracted to someone else they wont be attracted to me. I would never do anything with my partner's knowledge and consent (keystones of polyamory) but I just don't start with the same assumptions that monogamists do.

There was a fascinating Wired article about the polyamorous culture recently here. It talks about how the Internet has helped Polyamory find a name for itself and is helping launch the concept into mainstream consciousness. Fascinating stuff.


Will an original alien please stand up?

I'm so sick of alien species in science fiction looking vaguely humanoid. It makes little sense to me that any sort of sentient species would be a lizard-person or a insect-person. Star Trek is the worst at this suggesting that a completely separate race would look like a person with some bumps on their heads, or longer ears.

Alan Moore came up with brilliantly original ideas just for the background of one Green Lantern story. One alien was a super intelligent smallpox virus. (This made them difficult to socialize with.) Another sentient being was an "abstract mathematical progression." Now THAT is clever alien design, a mathematical theory so complex it becomes self aware. The main character in that story was a being named Mogo which was an intelligent planet sized ecosystem. Essentially a sentient planet.

With all the various environments for life to evolve in it just makes sense that alien races would look nothing like humans. For example, life that evolved on a gas giant planet like Jupiter might be shaped like long thin jellyfish types. The incredible gravity and lack of a solid crust would create much different lifeforms. Can you imagine what type of structures a civilization shaped this way would come up with? Or what their spaceships would look like? Can you?

Craig Zobel

Craig Zobel is one of the co-creators of the Internet animated series Homestar Runner. He also made one of my favorite films from last year, GREAT WORLD OF SOUND. It is one of those incredible cinematic gems that straddles genres and defies descriptions, fueled by amazing performances (especially the underrated Pat Healy) and an incredibly authentic background.

The premise is simple, a guy down on his luck lands a job with a record company. The job is to travel the country with his new partner and sign local talent to the label. Of course the musicians need to put up a little bit of money to prove their dedication to the recording label. It's a dryly funny look at the broken state of music recording, salesmen and the American dream. It won a bunch of independent awards around the country and is available on netflix right now.

Craig's next film sounds incredible. It's titled TURKEY IN THE STRAW. I could give you a brief description of the plot but instead I'll just mention two cast members, Amy Sedaris and Paul Rudd. Yeah.

What got me thinking about Craig today was this news that there is a Wii game coming out based on Homestar. It's called Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Like I needed another reason to get a Wii.


Adapt this comic

Two things led me to this idea. First is simply the sad boring state of the movies today. And second is the continuing coverage of the film adaptation of Watchmen, the most highly regarded comic book of all time.

The comic book I would love to see someone try and adapt is Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol. I already wrote a bit here about his amazing series The Invisibles, but that story has to actual function as a comic for a number of reasons. If someone tried to make a film out of Doom Patrol it would undoubtedly be one of the most original and outrageous films made that year. Doom Patrol is a classic superhero team story. The team features Cliff Steel, a man trapped in a robot body (who later learns even his brain is machinery and begins to question the nature of identity.) It also features Crazy Jane, a schizophrenic who has different super powers for each of the dozens of identities in her head. The third member of the team is Remus, a half man half woman hermaphrodite covered in bandages and housing a "negative energy spirit." Other significant supporting characters included a sentient roadway named Danny The Street.

It was weird stuff.

The storyline and villains were even weirder beginning with a showdown with a character named Red Jack who claimed to be god and Jack the Ripper. One of my favorite story lines had the DP battling the Brotherhood of Dada. Dada and surrealism were major influences on this comic book as well as other sources such as Czech animator Jan Svankmeyer and William Burroughs.

The effects budget bringing a story like this to the screen would be substantial, and the audience appeal is admittedly a bit limited. But still who out there has the guts to try and pull off a truly ambitious comic adaptation? Consider this a challenge!


A slut at the festival

Well, I missed this last weekend for a number of reasons. (I was busy, in another region of the country and probably drunk.) But one of my favorite bloggers out there, Tracie "Slut Machine" Egan apparently was a participant in the New York Underground Film Festival. They put on a live game show called TUBE TIME. It sounds like the point of the game is a competition who can find the best online videos. I hope you did good Tracie, sorry I missed it!


Please read in a southern accent

I've just returned from a rainy weekend in Durham North Carolina where I attended my first ever Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. My mom grew up in Durham and my grandparents and other family lived there so I have a bunch of lovely childhood memories of the place. My cousin and his wife still live there and they seem to think it's a crime ridden haunt, but that's another opinion. Anyway it was very interesting to come back to a place like this (childhood memories) for a film festival (adult occupation.)

Well the verdict in a nutshell was that I was absolutely delighted by the festival. Such a refreshing change of pace from the frantic corporate sponsored events I had attended in other locales. The whole place seemed to be melding high minded cinema with a southern genteel charm. (The same southern charm I normally find unsettling but oddly this time not so much.)

I saw almost 20 films over the weekend, a few I really liked. Probably my favorite was the doc BIGGER, FASTER STRONGER by Chris Bell. It was sort of similar to the doc HECKLER in how it starts with a narrow premise and evolves to a larger thesis. While HECKLER began with hecklers and then expanded to discuss criticism in general, BFS starts off talking about steroid use and grows to become an examination of America's desire to succeed at any cost and even the general hypocritical nature of our society overall. Bell's film also does this while both maintaining sweetly personal tone and a cheeky sense of humor. Bravo.

That's just one highlight of the weekend. Well done Full Frame you've given me the vapors, please invite me back next year for another mint julep.



Overheard in Texas

Maybe I'm just picking the wrong shuttles, but here are some of the things I've heard on my trip:

"I don't like shorts, I don't ever watch em."

"I don't want to watch that film with subtitles, I don't want to read."

And "Fuck L.A. I've never been to California but I hate L.A."

That last one came from supreme asshole of the festival, this guy who was telling me that when he makes a movie, it will go to either Toronto or Sundance first and then to SXSW and that he wouldn't show in Dallas. Despite the fact this asshole lives in Dallas. And that he is drinking for free at a Dallas party.

Joss Whedon internet musical

I'll be keeping a close eye on this as it develops for sure. According to various reports, Whedon is creating an online musical called "Doctor Horrible's Sing A Long Blog." I'm not really clear what that means or what it will look like but I'm sold. Neil Patrick Harris stars as the evil Doctor Horrible (!) and Nathan Fillion as the strapping hero. Here is the official site which doesn't have much on it yet, and then here is the fan blog...for the blog....