Moustache power

Pictured below: me, Mike Plante and Morgan Spurlock at Cinevegas 2008.
Like Mike said, "You do not want to fuck with this festival."

2 Guys 1 Story

I just thought I'd pass this little nugget of wisdom on. I recently got back from a screenwriting conference with these guys and found their perspective on film to be totally insightful. Even if you're not interested in the industry and you just like movies, you should totally check their website out:



Good news for DEAR ZACHARY

One of the best films I saw at Silverdocs, DEAR ZACHARY has been selected as the first film from the new MSNBC Films division. As reported here by Indiewire, MSNBC will support the documentary during its festival and theatrical release. Congratulations to director Kurt Kuenne, his film is a powerful work and I hope many more people get to see it as a result of this deal.


IDA profiles my drunken antics

Hilarious... (to me at least) Tamara Krinsky posted a picture of me and my cohort Jacqueline Lyanga in the Director's Suite of the Palms. Click here for my Documentary world infamy.


Silverdocs unlocks unusual subjects

To be honest with you it can get a bit dreary watching 7-9 documentary films a day at a festival. But while the political environmental or socially conscious films are great here, I‘d also love to point out a few films which focus on less conventional subject matter that are unexpected highlights from the first three days of Silverdocs 2008.

First up is a delightful and silly documentary about Dust titled, DUST. It’s one of those docs that proves there is no subject that can’t be made interesting in the hands of the right filmmaker. The film is a fun trip thought various lives and experiences all related to dust. There are filmmakers who explain the nature of dust on film, art preservationists, OCD housewives and on and on.

And then there’s GONZO. Recently featured at the AFI Dallas film festival as well, I can’t do a better job of getting you excited for this film than this trailer does:

Finally I’d like to mention HI MY NAME IS RYAN. This is a sparkling and polished doc about the Phoenix outsider art scene, which made the American artist seem as vibrant and relevant now as ever. The artist that accomplishes this and that sits at the center of this film is Ryan Avery, a cherubic and tortured young man who begins confounding every preconception you make about America’s youth, performance art subcultures and even human beings in general as soon as you meet him. This is the only film that was at both Cinevegas and Silverdocs this year and it’s one to watch out for. I can see Ryan Avery coming as the next big cultural movement in America and this unusual and accomplished film is the crest of that wave.

Silverdocs is doing a fantastic job so far of highlighting the power of film to illuminate the cobwebbed corners of society.


Cinevegas farewell: the best gift bag I've ever gotten

I've gotten a number of film festival gift bags over the years but the ones from Cinevegas are the most fun I've ever seen. Not because they are filled with high price tag items, but because they are filled with fun and creative ideas. The people who work for this fest do it because they are passionate about the organization and want all the attendees to have fun. After all, it is supposed to be festive, right?
Check out the Cinevegas band-aids! Hilarious!

And the classic Cinevegas temporary tattoos. (Get an actual Cinevegas tattoo and get festival admission for life!)
I love that they made branded nude pens! Some had stripping nuns.
And here are festival branded chocolates...

(Not pictured--a Cinevegas branded plastic funnel. Terrifying for it's deliberate absence of suggested uses.)


Cinevegas day five: the no pictures night

Nothing happened at Cinevegas last night*. Nothing at all.

*This post sponsored by the Sapphire gentleman's club, official gentleman's club of Cinevegas 2008.


Cinevegas day four: the arts

Last night was the site-specific installation piece by Takashi Murakami. This unique performance was an animated film projected on the Lake of Dreams, the unique outdoor waterfall venue at the Wynn. The film was titled PLANTING THE SEEDS, here are some IZ exclusive photos:

The festival continued today shifting the focus of the programming to increasingly varied art forms as they relate to film. First was a screening of the two art documentaries THE COOL SCHOOL (illustrating the Los Angels emergent art scene that grew from the legendary Ferus gallery) and BEATUFUL LOSERS (about the increasing influence of former ‘outlaw’ artists on the mainstream art world.)

Acclaimed artist, actor and Cinevegas Chairman Dennis Hopper attended the films as well as a panel discussion, giving the artistic proceeding a sense of relevance and immediacy. It was almost like a mini-biennale as the festival continued to challenge the town of Las Vegas with provocative artists for the city that has seen it all


Cinevegas day three: the emotional truth

New this year in the neon desert is the Pioneer Documentary section of the festival. At the top of the festival was LAST CUP a fun doc about the world series of Beer Pong. This was a smart programming move for Cinevegas as the premiere screening was filled with a boisterous crowd freshly lubricated form the adjacent casino floor. Even more synergistic was the post-film-Beer-Pong-challenge in the Festival Headquarters. Tables were set up offering festival attendees a chance to challenge the World Series finalists and, of course, drink lots of Busch Light.True athletes.

Another big documentary here was THE END. This is a fantastic documentary about East End London Gangsters, made by the daughter of one of these terrifying men. It’s a quite beautiful (all B&W) and articulate examination of these violent lives and (of course) the cyclical vortex they come from. There are fascinating and entertaining stories, of young bullied childhoods, and of social groups below struggling to reach out of the gutters. The men also speak articulately and well about the changing nature of the East End neighborhood. Also they speak of horrifying violent acts inflicted by them and their mates. The lingo and slang is one of the best things about this film and many of the subjects have subtitles helping to translate their English to English. The filmmaker gets incredible access and insight from her subjects, possibly as a result of her being the female child of their mate. However the probing nature of the film and its smart aesthetic choices make me feel confident that this director has many other successful projects ahead of her as well

The docs here in Vegas have been fantastic, but one of the best documentaries isn’t really a doc. SHE UNFOLDS BY DAY uses a hybrid form of filmmaking. Director Rolf Belgium cast his own mother as an elderly mother who is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s. The narrative is laid out in a loping, recursive style and the filmmaker keeps returning to shots of nature, spiders and bugs and particularly wolves. The wild nature surrounding us is then contrasted with the presence of the most appealing character in the film, a fox terrier named Jacques. This is a beautifully meditative story that reflects the emotional and deeply personal experience of living with a family member who is slipping through your fingers. While some scenes in the film are obviously staged and written, the film has more of a documentary core than a fiction one.

In all forms of storytelling, it is always more important to capture the emotional truth, even if that comes at the expense of some factual details. The docs in Vegas so far have this emotional truth in spades.


Cinevegas day two: the bleeding edge of fringe filmmaking

While most moviegoers this weekend were watching HULK 2 or (shudder) INDIANA JONES 4, I was sitting in a theatre experiencing some of the most outrageously original and unusual filmmaking happening in America today. The late show in Vegas consisted of 2 short films and a feature. First up was this short by Tom Barndt and Samara St. Croix:

They were commissioned by Cinevegas to create that film as part of an online viral video campaign to celebrate Cinevegas’s 10th anniversary. Next up was another short by Tom and Samara, THE CLAY HEAD; these filmmakers were at AFI FEST 2007 with the hilarious and insane film THE MARK. As difficult as it might seem they have possibly surpassed that film with this latest venture, which depicts the aftermath of human contact with a supernatural totem.

Then came the feature presentation, SCHOOF. This is the latest work by filmmaker Giuseppe Andrews, a 29 year old filmmaker who lives in a trailer park in Ventura CA and has completed 23 feature films to date. As with all his other films, SCHOOF is populated with his neighbors and shot in his own backyard. The story is basically that a wave of madness is sweeping the world. This loose story framework serves to prop up an increasing outrageous series of scenes and characters. It’s truly difficult to describe this cinematic experience and do it justice. Just realize that psychosis is just a jumping off point that leads to necrophilia, giant hamsters, and the oversexed elderly. Somehow, despite it’s complete absence of production value, the film remains compelling for the total duration. There is no way to predict what will turn up next in the film, and that is more than I can say for what’s in the multiplex today. Unfortunately while every town in America is offering the other cinematic plague of madness known as THE HAPPENING right now, there is no other place in the world now other than Vegas to experience the singular SCHOOF. However, with the hyped sexuality of Vegas contrasted with its doughy tourist reality this actually seems like the perfect place to experience SCHOOF.


Cinevegas day one: the no budget genius

On the first day of the festival so far a highlight has been Jake Mahaffey’s WELLNESS which premiered earlier this year at the Rotterdam Film Festival and is the filmmaker’s second feature length film. The film is a quintessential festival film: smart, challenging and very low budget. WELLNESS tells the story of a middle-aged salesman who is trapped in a pyramid scheme, which has consumed him completely. WELLNESS shares many traits with another indie film playing here in Vegas later in the festival, GOLIATH by the Zellner brothers. GOLIATH tells the story of a man whose life is unraveling and who goes off the deep end when his beloved cat disappears. Both films depict men more trapped by their place in society and their professions than defined by them. These two films are also both incredibly funny and soul crushingly bleak at the same time. This complex form of hybridization is difficult to define, call it bleakedy

WELLNESS is a true work of art, complex and challenging, provoking the audience to engage with the film work and to argue the character’s motivations and thoughts. So little is spelled out for the film it contains myriad possibilities within itself. Is the protagonist aware he is being deceived or is own his self-deception even stronger? And what is the significance of the wasps’ nests? (This obsession is a beautiful touch in an already very delicate film.) The final treat comes in the end credits where it was reveled that a relative of the director played the horrific boss in the movie. Whether this was sibling or father of the directors it was an inspired bit of casting and is another example of limited means sometimes leading to surprisingly accomplished filmmaking.


Landmark obscenity trial rages in Los Angeles

You may or may not know that there is a trial going on in Los Angeles right now for what may be the "most extreme obscenity trial in U.S. history." Here blogger Susannah Breslin interviews the director Ira Issacs who is accused of the obscenity charges.

Isaacs, 57, is charged with four counts, including importation or transportation of obscene material for sale. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors also are seeking forfeiture of assets obtained through his video sales.

These movies are indeed very extreme and are not available to anyone but consenting adults. The case against Mr Isaacs is basically that there are some things that no-one should ever be allowed to make, see or distribute because the works are so shocking.

I'm not a legal expert or anything (and any IZ readers who are, please feel free to weigh in) but the importance of this trial seems to me to be resting on The Long Tail. Basically as things become easier for anyone to find, should there be some art or expression so vulgar that it must be unobtainable?

Also, the trial took an interesting turn this week when it was discovered that the federal judge overseeing the case had posted sexually explicit material on his personal website.

WATCHMEN viral video campaign

While I mentioned before that I am quite...torn about the upcoming WATCHMEN movie, I have to admit I quite like this viral video that Topless Robot featured. I'm still terrified this movie will ruin the book in one way or another, but I really really like the feeling that commercials and other ephemera from the Watchmen universe are seeping into our world.

No pizza for me

Rabid readers of Island Zero know how much I love pizza. In fact, I won over my girlfriend's heart by getting her pizza gifts for Valentine's day. Well, then it should come as shocking news that I have been forbidden from eating pizza. I went into the doctor's office last week for a routine checkup and blood test. Well, when the blood work came back it told the doc that I had an elevated level of...something (can't recall the technical term.) I swear to god he said pizza, no more pizza. So I'm trying to go 8 weeks until my next appointment without pizza. It's been only one week and...I'm miserable. There is no way I will make it the entire stretch but if you want to make bets on how long I can last, I'll start taking action. I never thought I would make it this long, so it's starting to get a bit interesting.


WTF photo of Lucas

This photo of Georgie Lucas boggles my mind. Was it photoshopped? (And if you need an explanation of why this is so strange ask Kevin Smith, or just google the phrase on Gerogie's shirt.)

Tim and Eric prank call

Not having internet all week sucks. It's petty much the same thing as having my legs chopped off for a week. The wort thing is that this sketch keeps running through my mind OCD style. I'm gonna warn you that it's not funny so don't try and find the humor here. Just posting what I hear inside my head all day long.


About my poor output...

Sorry I haven't been able to post in a while, between not having internet at home and getting really busy at work it has been hard. I just need to hire a few more Island Zero interns and I'll be up and running again. (If you are interested in this position I will be interviewing poolside at the Palms hotel in Las Vegas from noon-2pm this saturday and sunday.)


indieWIRE interviews Nina Davenport

Check out this interview with documentary filmmaker Nina Davenport. Her film OPERATION FILMMAKER has been winning awards from starting at the Rotterdam Film Festival to its US premiere at AFI FEST and beyond. Her perspective as a young documentarian is interesting, and if you have not seen it yet, be sure to check out OPERATION FILMMAKER, it's fantastic. You can save it on your Netflix queue now!

McCabe and Me

I get to introduce one of my favorite Altman films ever this coming Monday. We are screening MCCABE & MRS MILLER at the Arclight Theatre in Sherman Oaks and I get the pleasure of presenting the film. It's part of a month long series of Warren Beatty films we are showing to coincide with Beatty receiving the AFI Lifetime Achievement award on June 12th. If you want to come see the movie this Monday, I'll give free tickets to any Island Zero readers who want one!


Universal Studios fire

It seems like something around Los Angeles is always on fire. This weekend the Universal Studios lot caught on fire. Preliminary television reports said that the film archives were included in the blaze. Fortunately the news today reports that while some video vaults were damaged, "Nothing is lost forever." What was destroyed in the fire were numerous parts of the studio our including the King Kong exhibit and the Back to the Future set and at least one full soundstage. Yikes!