Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The place where henceforth I'll do it to it.

I had a writing studio for 10 months. And now it’s gone.

It was strange, the space came to me at a time when I felt I needed it. I was having trouble writing while surrounded by all the distractions of home: the Internet, a fridge full of food, boyfriend, soft comfy bed, etc. Having the space allowed me to write two screenplays and a smattering of other stuff, so it worked.

Lately I’d been going less and less, feeling guilty for not using it… feeling extra guilty for not using it and paying for it.

So it’s gone. I still have to write. But now I don’t have to trek across the river to do it. I’ll do it right here. There will be more distractions, no doubt. But that’s just the way it is. The hamster in my head gets angry when I don't write. Makes me feel fat and useless and slobbering, dirty almost, when I don’t write. When I do, it seems like it’s okay that I take up space, ingesting and excreting, daily polluting this world with my big American-sized carbon footprint.

So there it is, my new space, wedged in the corner of the bedroom. Wish us luck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nameless Blogger Passing Holy Judgement (with thanks to Mary Shelley)

You might remember what happened the last time the Company tried to catch some Film Festival Fun up here in the great Northwest. Well, this time we bought our tickets early and showed up with oodles of time to spare and see a part of a film festival we sure as heckfire did.

In particular we saw "Shorts II: the Judges Selection," part of the NW Film Center's 35th Northwest Film and Video Festival. It featured nine shorts produced by people living in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver BC. The judge who did the selecting is a New York director who used Oregon as the setting of her two films. I haven't seen either, but now would like to, if only to look for tendencies or artistic impulses within them that in some way mirror the tendencies or artistic impulses that informed her selection process.

If they were anything, the selections were eclectic. Now I'm not in the business of critiquing fellow filmmakers. I can't say that I was overly delighted with each and every one of the selections. Some I didn't like all that much, though in at least one film, that was the point. I can say that I'm glad we went, if only to see what else is out there, to see what other people are choosing to do with cameras in these northern lands of no sun and so much rain.

The night started out with Smile by Julia Kwan, a film about a Chinese-Canadian family getting ready for their free Sears portrait. It was a subtle character-driven piece about disconnection and other family joys. I thought it worked. Laugh, cry, all that. Of course, I'm a sucker for subtle, character-driven narratives. When you see Fine Arts that fact will no doubt be wholly and perhaps excruciatingly evident.

Smile was one of only two narrative films selected and the only narrative with dialogue. The other nod to story on film came towards the end of the evening, in a piece called The Rifle Workbook by Vincent Caldoni. Set in a nebulous late-nineteenth century Appalachia-esque time and place, it tells the story of towns folk who meet an angel figure in a forest and, after offering up tokens and personal effects, they receive in exchange a lost member of their community. It was a simple story, nicely shot with cool oldey timey film effects. It is also further evidence supporting my position that you can add emotional impact to anything with a soundtrack of either Philip Glass, Godspeed, or, in this case, Explosions in the Sky. No, believe me, it's true. While testing the camera, Brandon filmed me washing the dishes. He edited a two minute bit together with music from The Truman Show and profundity ensued. Try it, you'll see.

Another highlight of the evening was a dance number filmed in Prague called Aboard the Pater Noster by Daniel Conrad. Aboard the Pater Noster translates to "aboard Our Father." In the Q&A following the screenings, Daniel explained that the Pater Noster is the name of the strange (and a little dangerous looking) elevator device that he used in the piece, basically a series of phone booth-sized wooden boxes that are strung along a vertical conveyor mechanism, like beads on a rosary. The short begins with the dancers doing slow, confined movements inside the elevator boxes. This segment goes on long enough to border on tedium, which makes the subsequent explosions of movement and music--on buses, on the streets of Prague, in old museum-like hallways--seem fully alive and unrestrained. Awesome. Beautiful to watch. Made me wish I were more bendy and rhythmically endowed.

The other selections ranged from documentary to performance art to art pieces--all with varying degrees of success. One piece actually elicited a boo from some Podunk audience member. Another made more than one member of the Company physically ill. And of course the warmest applause of the evening was reserved for the tell-it-like-it-is noble homeless guy doc.

In all, I'm glad we went. Sometimes you have to be reminded that it's not just you out there using your strength and will to force something into existence that is bigger and hopefully a little better than its constituent Frankenstein parts. And who knows? Maybe in a year or two from now, some nameless, opinionated blogger will be passing holy judgement on just such a monster offered up by this humble Company. How awesome would that be? Snarky as that future demi-pundit may be, t'would be a blessing that our poor creature was alive enough to be commented upon, before being borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Good Films to Comfort Us in Our Waiting

Brandon edits. We wait.

There's a fifteen second scene with Sam at the window that has this beautiful angle of sunlight in it. It's a great shot. One of the best. Unfortunately it also has about a hundred pieces of dust that light up like Christmas when the sun hits them. Brandon has to go through each frame and erase each piece of dust with After Effects. It has to be done one piece of dust at a time. Take the first piece of dust, erase it from frame one. Go to frame two. Erase that piece of dust from frame two. Go to frame three, etc. Until the end of the scene. Then go back to frame one and start the process all over on the second piece of dust.

To put it in numbers: 15 seconds of footage at 24 frames per second with approximately 150 pieces of dust equals around 54,000 instances of erasing. Poor Brandon. Luckily he recently acquired something to give him solace when his eyeballs are about to explode.

While we wait for that, we can turn our sights to Other Movies. For the first time in a long time, there are movies coming out that actually look interesting, to me at least. Because of the remnant producer-y tendencies that prance about my mind, I've categorized them. They break down nicely into five general groups: Obvious, Hopefully Beyond Mumblecore, French, Guilty Pleasures, and Runners Up.

OBVIOUS Films made by people I already know I love (or at least like):

Doubt December 12 limited, December 25 wide.
The writer of two of my favorite movies of all time, John Patrick Shanley, wrote the stage play Doubt that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He's now adapted it for the screen and directed the film of the same name starring Meryl Streep, PSH, and Amy Adams. Nuns, Priests, accusations. Top of my list.

Synechdoche, NY Out now in the big cities, hopefully out soon elsewhere.
Charlie Kaufman directs! We liked all that other stuff he did, right? Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine, hey, even sorta kinda Human Nature. This is another opportunity for Philip Seymour Hoffman to show off his acting skills. Watching the trailer for this movie, I'm reminded of a conversation I was having at a wine and cheese thing where this Film Major was saying how there are a few great active male actors out there (PSH being primary among them) but not so many female thespians working their stuff these days. It was one of those situations where you want to scoff, not dignifying such drivelling inaccuracies with a response, but instead are forced into the melee, throwing every piece of evidence you can think of into battle. Grrr. Interestingly enough, an unusually large number of the names I threw at him appear in this film: Dianne Wiest, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Hope Davis. Also Michelle Williams, and I don't know yet if she's one of the good ones, but could be.

Rachel Getting Married, Out now. Even in Portland.
Jonathan Demme getting back to his roots, or something like that. It's getting good reviews. That says something, but I don't always know what. Sometimes after seeing one of those everybody-loves-it movies, I think the rest of the world saw a different film than I did. This one seems like it could be a well done, straightforward, humanist family dramedy thing. When done well, stuff like that is why we watch movies.

HOPEFULLY BEYOND MUMBLECORE Three films made for very small amounts of money that promise to move beyond "Um, I don't know, y'know":

Good Dick, Out now in the big bads, might not make it beyond that.
Indie love story set in LA. Andrew sums the premise for us thusly, "She's a ferociously bitter loner who spends her evenings jerking off (if that's the right word for, you know, a woman) to bad softcore porn flicks, and he's the semi-homeless video-store clerk who rents her the movies." Hilarity ensues.

Momma's Man This one probably won't make it to a screen up here to the Big Rainy.
Son of uber artsy filmmaker and artist writes and directs this weirdly autobiographical narrative about a son who goes to visit his uber artsy filmmaker and artist parents in their curiously hermetic and museum-like New York apartment, and refuses to leave. The parents are played by the director's real parents and it takes place in their actual apartment. Another guy plays the son. Andrew interviews him here.

Pleasure of Being Robbed No screens, apart from a brief, already over stint in NY.
Features a main character you're not supposed to like. About a young woman who wanders New York being a clepto. Fun. Here's Mr. O'Hehir's take.

FRENCH Trois films en francais:

A Christmas Tale Came out in May in France, Limited release November 14th
This is the same director who did Kings and Queen, a film the Company watched and one that elicited very mixed reviews. Jeffrey and Ariana were not impressed. Brandon liked it. I hated it, couldn't stop thinking about it for two days, then realized I loved it. This film also shares some of the same actors with Kings and Queen, including Mathieu Amalric, the very attractive actor who is extreemly adept at playing worriyingly unstable men.

I've Loved You So Long Out now in NY. No plans for Puddletown.
Heartbreaking, heart wrenching, tear-filled, emotional encounters between two fantastic actresses. In French!

The Class Limited release December 25th.
An inner-city Parisian high school teacher wrote this film about his experiences. He stars as the teacher and his actual former students play fictional high school student characters they developed themselves.

GUILTY PLEASURES Movie connoisseurism is like maintaining a well-balanced diet and sometimes you just have to eat candy bars.

JCVD Limited release November 7th.
Yup. Jean-Claude plays himself as a washed up action star. Very meta.

Freakin' everywhere November 11th.
I was first awakened to the already widespread phenomenon that is the Twilight Series when I was asked to write an In-Store Audio (Yup, those annoying garbles of words you hear above you while you're trying to buy groceries are written by a person. And that person is sometimes me) to announce the release of the fourth instalment in the series. While researching what to write in the ISA script, I found the author's website and became fascinated, not only because she writes about vampires, which I love so much, but because she's a Mormon housewife who writes wildly bestselling young adult novels about vampires. I read a few chapters. Plain, easily digestible, action-driven pulp about hot teenagers. I'm totally on board. Brandon refuses to see this movie with me. Anyone interested?

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Spreading awesomeness everywhere January 23rd.
Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

RUNNERS UP They look good. No cartwheels, maybe a jumping jack or two.

Sunshine Cleaning Coming March 13th
From the people who did Little Miss Sunshine. Apparently they like the word Sunshine.

Milk In theaters November 26th
Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Gay rights.

Fears of the Dark In NY now. Don't know if this will make it to wider release.
Comic artists make scary stories on film. Neat.

Okay. Perhaps the longest post in the history of this blog. Hopefully you're excited as I am to know that not every movie that comes out these days sucks ass. Although you'll notice from the release information I was able to find that not a lot of these will be coming to a theater near you. That's why there's DVD. But want to see High School Musical 3? Or Max Payne? Throw a rock and you'll hit a movie palace playing such dreck, no problem. And do us a favor, throw it hard.

And now I need to take a shower.

Yay film!