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Thursday, July 31, 2008

HD on Disc vs Streaming

Much disagreement remains about what will succeed: HD movies on optical disc, or streaming movies over broadband on-demand. LG is hedging its bets with its latest Blu-ray player that can also access 12,000 movies and TV shows through Netflix.

The two companies first announced their plans at CES in January, when details of a set-top box to be developed by LG was released. It is not clear whether the Blu-ray player is the device that was described, or if the two companies still plan a standalone Netflix box like the one from Roku.

LG's player, the BD300, requires a wired connection to the network, and will allow Netflix movies to start in as little as 30 seconds from the point the title is first selected. Users would be able to fast-forward and rewind through the streams.

Full Story At

Excluding cinephiles and collectors--and films that are exclusively on disc, I'm not sure what incentive there would be to have discs if folks can instantly download any movie. Especially when people realize how many movies they own that they don't watch. For the average movie goer, it may become more and more evident that having a instant catalog of thousands is more cost effective and saves more space than having a collection of a few hundred.

The one set of folks who I anticipate will still buy the discs are families with kids. Kids like physically owning the movie and until technology progresses far enough, being able to stream movies in the back of a mini-van or to any portable player is probably a few years off.

Scrabulous returns to Facebook as 'Wordscraper' with circular board

WAHOO!!!!!! (emphasis mine)

By Michael Hatamoto, BetaNews

July 31, 2008, 2:41 PM

After being officially removed from Facebook less than two days ago due to a legal threat from Scrabble maker Hasbro, Scrabulous has returned to the social network site with a new name and visual changes.

Dubbed "Wordscraper," the Facebook application is technically a new word game, but it retains certain similarities to the now defunct Scrabulous.

There are several different visual changes to the board, with the square tiles now being redesigned as circular tiles making the board look fairly different from a regular Scrabble game. The most interesting feature of Wordscraper is a user's ability to customize the board for each new game they want to play.

The custom board can be made to look like a regular Scrabble game, although the brothers behind the service will likely be safe legally, because it is up the users to make the change.

The rest of the article can found here.


Some of you folks may find this intriguing--and others are probably thinking, hey I read about this months ago, well phooey on you. Cinemocracy "is a platform for commentary and inspiration for citizen reporters, activists and filmmakers" and they'll be screening the top 10 selected films at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Visit to learn more. But do it quick, deadline is tomorrow.

My personal favorite is this one:

Movies Ahead of Their Time: The Best Man (1964)

When pundits and party leaders began contemplating--dreading--a brokered Democratic convention at Denver this year, the first movie that came to mind was The Best Man. A 1964 film about an idealistic liberal candidate who the powers that be admire, but are still unsure of, isn't in the pantheon of revered political films. Films like Primary Colors (1998), The Candidate (1972) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) are far more well remembered than The Best Man.

The story revolves around Henry Fonda's William Russell vying for his party's nomination. Although there are others at the convention, it's really only between Russell and Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson). One of these two men will be the nominee. And when it comes down to it, most folks think Russell is a thinker and Cantwell is a doer.

The former President, Art Hockstader, who everyone at the convention is trying to get the nod from, sums up the party's reservations with Russell best with this: Power is not a toy we give to good children. It is a weapon. And the strong man takes it and uses it. If you don't go down there and beat Joe Cantwell to the floor with this very dirty stick, then you've got no business in the big league. Because if you don't fight, the job is not for you. And it never will be.

I'll leave you to find out what the dirty stick is. And once you find out what it is, you won't be surprised that in 44 years, things haven't changed that much.

Written by Gore Vidal, this one of those flicks that isn't easy to label as conservative or liberal. The fact that we're still having essentially the same debates, only with different issues, is why this movie matters. Beyond just being thought provoking, it's just a damn good flick that should get more recognition. Hopefully this flick will find the light of day again and will be re-released on DVD--a commentary by politicians as well as film folks would be so kick arse. Until then, watch A Man For All Seasons if you haven't. In some ways it covers some of the same thematic ground.

(Interesting side note and to put the The Best Man in greater context: China successfully tested its first atomic bomb in 1964 and the first Vietnam protests had started the year before in 1963.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Have You Seen Chop Shop?

Chop Shop is easily one of the top 5 films I've seen this year, along side Medicine for Melancholy.

Shop does--and so does Medicine--what I love best about great films. It just starts. No exposition. No montages. No foreshadowing.

These chunks of a review from Movie Zeal say it best:
The characters are given no back-story, and probably have little future; the only thing that matters in Chop Shop is the action in the moment.
...Chop Shop isn’t really about plot; all that exists or matters in this film are the characters and their actions. There’s a good deal of Italian neorealist influence here as well, albeit without the philosophical pretensions.

My greatest complaint about storytelling now days, is we rarely get to see a character make a decision and then watch the outcome. Too many films are about watching a character contemplating a decision. Talking about a decision. Or dreading a decision they made.

If you're looking for something interesting to check out, rent this flick. If you have Netflix you can watch it online now.

Pineapples, Watches and the MPAA

Something struck me as I was cruising through Peter Bart's Variety Blog and I reread his Apatow post. I looked at the above poster and I couldn't help but think about what is exactly in the MPAA's handbook that forces the removal of a gun pointed at the audience in Watchmen's trailer, but allows a piece of media that has several subtle and not so subtle references to drugs and guns--pointed or not.

I'm not against this poster. In fact I love this poster and I can't wait for the flick. But, the tagline, the smoke and Franco's expression all reference weed. And everyone on the poster is packing heat.

Just from a curiosity standpoint, I really would love to read the guidelines for advertising that studios must meet to have their ads approved as safe/friendly for public consumption.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Web Experiences: Hulu vs Scrabble

Hasbro finally won the battle to shut down the popular Scrabulous on Facebook, in favor of its own Scrabble. Scrabulous had nearly 600,000 daily users by the time it was shut down. It maybe unfair to expect Scrabble to perform on the same level so early out the gate. However, it doesn't help expectations when this is what you read the first time you try to play:

We're working on some tech problems and Scrabble will be ready to play as soon as possible!

We appreciate all the great feedback we've received over the past week and as a result we're making changes to Scrabble for its official launch in mid-August, including a streamlined app with the option to turn-off animations for faster gameplay and full keyboard functionality for those who prefer this way to play.

Please continue to let us know how we can make Scrabble - the best word game on Facebook - even better!

- The Scrabble Team

While over at Hulu, they've been releasing one movie or tv show a day as part of a Summer promotion. I clicked on Raising Arizona and the film came right up. It was seamless. If I wasn't at work, I could have easily watch the whole movie with no problem.

Whatever product you're releasing to the public, frustration shouldn't be one of the features.

Crispin Glover at the Plaza next Month

Crispin Glover AKA Dueling Demi-God Auteur and The young man's inner psyche*, is coming to the Plaza Theatre at the end of August.

He's bringing his film What It Is? and there's several events planned for the evening. Including a signing and a Q&A.

Supposedly, the flick Glover is coming to Ponce with was made on a $125,000 budget and was a decade in the making.

From screening Xanadu to William Castle classics, The Plaza is turning into a fine place to find not-average film here in the ATL.

You can buy tickets and see info for the event at The Plaza's website.

* Dueling Demi-God Auteur and The young man's inner psyche is Glover's role(s) in the film.

Women in the Movies: Quick Glance at AFI's Top 100 List

4 RAGING BULL (1980)
9 VERTIGO (1958)
10 WIZARD OF OZ, THE (1939)
11 CITY LIGHTS (1931)
12 SEARCHERS, THE (1956)
13 STAR WARS (1977)
14 PSYCHO (1960)
15 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
16 SUNSET BLVD. (1950)
17 GRADUATE, THE (1967)
18 GENERAL, THE (1927)

So I read the Hollywood to Women: Drop Dead post over on Indiewire. In it, it links to the recent studies about the low number of women behind the camera, on the screen and reviewing/critiquing films.

It got me to thinking. We've got a 100 years of film behind us, what has AFI chosen as the 20 best American films as of 2007. Surely, there's got to be some strong feminine energy--can you tell I used to write poetry--on that list.

Here's just some cursory observations:

Excluding Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz, all the films on the list revolve around the journey of a central male character. Consequently, both films are based on bestsellers.

Star Wars features the only female character whose actions are catastrophically essential to the plot. Princess Leia doesn't help steal the plans, Luke never meets Obi-Wan, learns about the force or leaves Tatooine and the Death Star is never destroyed.

Maybe I missed a named somewhere, but Betty Comden, as a writer on Singin' is the only above line name who isn't an actress. There's not another female director, writer, or producer to be found on the list. Hopefully, I'm wrong on this one and I just missed somebody.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Seth Rogen the new Steve Martin?

As I've posted on here before, seeing rated R flicks make a comeback is something I endorse wholeheartedly. Step Brothers wasn't a good film--I still laughed quit a bit--but, for totally selfish reasons, I'm glad to see it do $30 million its opening weekend.

A huge reason I'm a fan of the R film is attributable to Steve Martin's early career is a huge reason for that. The Jerk, The Lonely Guy, and The Man With Two Brains are three films that any kid from the 80s most likely remembers with some fondness.

And even at their most silly and absurd, there's a level of technical genius to the humor that's missing now days--just being able to improv ain't enough. When asked what's the best joke, Chris Rock answered the best joke is a written joke. Shooting from the hip is a great quality, but being able to write a joke that works period is a lost art in films.

What's also missing from too many comedies, is that likable everyman/everywoman quality. Gilda Radner was believable doing silly. Gene Wilder was believable. Richard Pryor was believable. Steve Martin was believable. And what all these guys could do was also write and create memorable characters, situations and lines. The Jerk easily has to be in the top 20 most quotable films of all time--and thanks to Carl Reiner, the film is consistently visually funny.

Seth Rogen co-wrote Superbad which put Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plasse in the comedic driver seat. Superbad is chock full of memorable moments and quotable lines. He co-wrote Pineapple Express, which has buzz and it looks to be funny as hell. And Pineapple's trailer already as many standout moments--quote wise and visually, thanks to David Gordon Green and his cinematographer as some the great comedies of the past.

For dudes, Seth is a guy you recognize and want to hang out with. The jokes he tells, you want to listen to. And the situations he gets into, most guys can relate with on some level--even the only in the movie moments, like burning a cop car (it's about the camaraderie...and wanton destruction).

How will we know if Seth is the new Steve? When the remake of Parenthood lands on Seth's desk, we'll know. We'll know.

"Original" Fanboys Cut Finally Sees Light of Day

It's interesting how much lackluster attention this film has garnered now that it has had its "premiere" at Comic Con. The cancer plot that kicks off the movie remains intact and the drive to create an American Pie like flick have been squashed.

Comic Con is so much about upcoming releases, and the production nightmare Fanboys endured has rendered its status as an upcoming release moot. (A rough cut screened to the public way back in July of last year) I'll be shocked if this film registers barely a blip on the cinematic radar.

For all the hoopla about this film being cut to hell and back. For all the blog posts about fanboys rising up to protest the films butchering. One would expect more buzz.

Until one realizes that the film is competing with all the major studios officially launching their marketing campaigns for their 2009 slates. How can a low budget love note to geekdom that's going to be released in September of 2008, battle half a dozen year long campaigns? Answer is, as the climate is now, it can't.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mad Men: Melancholy Cool

AMC's Mad Men makes its return for a second season this Sunday and its been a year too long for me.

As implied in this post title, the show is indeed a mix of melancholy and cool. It's a vision of the 60s that, like The Sopranos, isn't afraid to embody as many contradictions as possible.

Here's the 4 reasons you should check out Mad Men:

1) Art Direction and Production Design - As it should be, nearly everything in this show is about two or more years behind where you'd think it would be. It's 1960 in season one, but the clothes and houses looks like it's 1958. Not only does this make the show more accurate--high fashion and the really cool stuff always takes few years to be truly mass market--but it adds to the show's themes of America being in constant transition. Everyone is simultaneously experiencing the past and the present.

2) Advertising as metaphor and prism- Setting this in the advertising world allows for some interesting observations on post-WWII/Cold War life in America. It also opens the door for characters to discover and revel things about themselves. Watch for Peggy's special encounter with an exercise belt that's brimming with literal and figurative connotations. And watch Don's inspired campaign for Kodak's Carousel that comes much too late as another prime example.

3) Secondary characters galore - All great television shows have secondary characters that come into their own. One of the best combination of moments is in episode 12 "Nixon Vs. Kennedy" and the follow up in episode 13 " The Wheel" when one indiscretion totally derails a character's marriage. An entire season's worth of character arc occurs in a total of 5 minutes across two episodes and is totally believable and is even more devastating for being so.

4) Don Draper and Peggy Olson - Too much to explain here, watch the show.

Rome International Film Festival Founder Resigns

RIFF founder resigns from movie festival Barry Norman, who bought the annual Rome International Film Festival from Dahlonega to Rome in 2004, has resigned from the group. Norman was both founder and executive director.

Full Post

It's sad to see Barry no longer involved with Rome, and hopefully the RIFF folks will continue the great tradition he started there. If you haven't attended, do. It's a great walking festival and North Georgia is just beautiful in the Fall. Fest unspools this September.

Are Sequels and Remakes a Sign of No Imagination?

MGM finally announced what half the fanboy world already knew, Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) has signed on to do a sequel to Robocop. Harold and Kumar are getting a third outing (doesn't that violate the puff, puff, pass rule?). John Waters has agreed to outline a sequel to the musical Hairspray which was itself an adaptation of the stage musical, which was an adaptation of the original film.

When I first really started getting into film, I used to get upset at the announcements of remakes. Sequels were wholly dependent on who was involved and could the story logically continue. Which means I usually hated the idea because half, or all, of the original cast were out and the new story wasn't/or couldn't flow straight from the original.

Eventually, my disdain for remakes and sequels before I had seen them disappeared. What brought me around was the history of Hollywood itself. Since the early days, the biz has cannibalized its own catalog repeatedly. Sequels were a natural part of the cycle. And franchises, long before they were called such, were a huge part of the studio system.

There's the The Thin Man films (featuring the great Nick and Nora Charles), of which 6 were made, two of which are considered true classics. Before Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland there were more than half a dozen versions of the story. Sherlock Holmes holds the record for appearances on film at 200 plus, with Dracula coming up a close second. Considered one of the greatest romances in film history, An Affair to Remember (1957) is a remake of Love Affair (1939), and was directed by the same director, Leo McCarey. Of course, there's Hitchcock, who remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Jimmy Stewart in 1956.

When you realize that the 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much* and the 1957 An Affair to Remember are much more entertaining films than their counterparts, it's much more enjoyable to wait and see what comes of a remake or a sequel.

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan revived an entire Trek franchise and is still considered the best of the lot. Godfather II is an academy award winning masterpiece in its own right. And the recent The Dark Knight has proven that a superhero sequel can approach Best Picture status.

So are sequels and remakes a sign of no imagination? Do they lack heart and soul. No. Badly made sequels and remakes are signs of no heart, soul or imagination. But, doesn't that apply to all films?

*And yes, I do think that the 1934 version is much more entertaining and fun that the remake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Screenply Competition Regular Deadline is Tomorrow!

Spread the word folks, tomorrow (Friday, July 25) is the regular deadline for the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition. So break out those scripts and submit. Visit for more info


Go directly to

Remember, we're accepting both short and feature scripts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Filmmaker Mag's 25 New Faces in Indie Film

Filmmaker Magazine issued a press release that listed their picks for the next 25 names in independent film who "are not only innovators [they] believe will be impacting tomorrow's film scene, but they're also artists engaged in a vital re-think of what it means to be independent today." One name I immediately recognize from the Atlanta Film Festival is Daniel Robin - short film, "My Olympic Summer." Daniel was only one of five chosen to create a new short film for consideration by Spike Lee for his film with Nokia Productions. "Each [of the five filmmakers] will shoot their 3 - 5 minute film on a Nokia mobile device. Their films will revolve around the overarching topic of "humanity" and, along with submissions from the general public, will be considered by Spike Lee for inclusion as part of the third act on his film for Nokia Productions."

Read the other names and entire press release here.

**Update: This came to me from Bret Wood (local filmmaker and one of last year's Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition winners) - "Daniel Robin has just moved to Atlanta and is going to be teaching film/video at GSU in the Fall. So not only is he an AFF alumnus, he's now a member of the local filmmaking community. Pretty cool." Yes! That is very cool!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MPAA Says No to Pointing Gun At Audience

Most of us understand that movie bullets aren't going to suddenly fly out of the screen and into our bodies as we sit there, vulnerable, in the theater.
Still, the Motion Picture Association Of America doesn't want to take any chances, which is why they told the director of Watchmen, Zack Snyder, that he couldn't have a guy pointing a gun at the audience in the trailer. Snyder replaced the gun with a walkie-talkie.

Full AV Club Post

Visit Worst Previews to See Walkie Talkie/Gun Switch

The MPAA has been under constant fire for the last few years for it's alleged biases in its rating system. And last year, it took a some hits when it gave a pass to advertising for the film Captivity starring Elisha Cuthbert. This latest revelation isn't going to discourage the opposition to the org's policies to holster their weapons. Puns intended.

America and Hollywood's history of content regulation goes way back. For many years, most states and large cities had censorship boards. And you can look to places like China to see how, in their full glory, they work. The MPAA's rating system and regulation of movie advertising was intended to allow films to retain their creators original vision, while giving consumers the power to self-censor what they see. Mucking with the films themselves definitely traipses into censorship territory. Adversting is another beast entirely.

Unlike most products themselves, advertising is designed and created to invade the public's awareness on a daily basis, choice is not option. With that in mind, setting reasonable and clear standards makes sense. However, one does have to question if the MPAA's objection here is reasonable. Whether the gun is pointed at the audience or not, doesn't seem to make much sense if the gun itself isn't objectionable.

It's interesting that this came out a few days before yesterdays ruling that threw out the FCC's fine against CBS for the 2004 Superbowl incident.

From the AP:

In siding with CBS, the 3rd Circuit panel found that the FCC strayed from its long-held approach of applying identical standards to words and images when reviewing complaints of indecency.

"Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing," the court said. "But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."

Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a group of TV writers, directors and producers, said the ruling helps preserve creative freedom on the air.

"The court agreed with us: the FCC's inconsistent and unexplained departure from prior decisions leaves artists and journalists confused as to what is, and is not, permissible," he said.

Full AP Story

The amount of outrage the Captivity fiasco created--even fans of horror objected to the advertising--demonstrated that there will always be lines that we collectively don't want to cross. The questions that have always been difficult to answer are who does the regulating, who defines the lines and in light of changing standards, can the regulators remain consistent.

Tom Who?! Tom Cruise.......THAT'S who!!

A few of us from the office saw a sneak screening of Tropic Thunder last night and loved it. I was really looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. in blackface--who else could successfully pull that off? As we were waiting for the movie to start, Charles leaned over and told me that Tom Cruise was supposed to have a cameo appearance in the film. What? My immediate thought was "Why?" The movie started and Robert Downey Jr. was hilarious, just as I expected. What I didn't expect was how incredibly funny Tom Cruise was going to be. He not only has a cameo, but he practically steals the movie with a few short scenes. He plays a great character--an emotionally unstable yet ruthless studio boss. This could definitely be a come-back role for him. More cameos like this, please, Tom!

Dance of the Dead Poster

Gregg Bishop, director of Dance of the Dead posted the Official Lionsgate / Ghosthouse release poster on his Facebook page this morning. Man, it's a sweet. Dance was a huge hit everywhere it played. At the Atlanta Film Festival it sold out three shows--and you can catch it again at the Rome International Film Festival this fall. The DVD drops Oct. 14th.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cinetic adds Film Film Finishing Fund

Cinetic founder John Sloss said that the company has closed on financing from Aver Media to establish a fund for features in varying states of completion. It marks Cinetic's first fund of any kind.

"This is set up as a tool for us to assist filmmakers and financiers," Sloss said. "We've seen countless films that could benefit from funds such as these, and we are now in a position to help."

The new service comes on the heels of the 2007 launch of Cinetic's digital-rights management company, CRM, a platform for the sale of digital rights, and Cinetic Management, created upon the arrival of new partner Bart Walker. Partner Robert Nathan will take on a more active role with the company's new venture and CRM, which recently hired former South by Southwest Film Festival producer Matt Dentler as head of marketing and programming operations.
Read Full Piece at Hollywood Reporter

Lights Dim on "At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper"

That's right, "At the Movies" is no more. Thirty-three years of film history will officially come to an end the weekend of Aug. 16.

It would be hard to deny that, before the age of blogging, "Siskel and Ebert" were the populist critics people came to rely on for knowing what was good and interesting at the movies. And Roeper, Siskel and Ebert were consistently entertaining doing it.

Read Anne Thompson's Full Blog Post

A Comment on Guardian's Teaser Trailer Post

Setting aside the question of whether the dystopic franchise has already been destroyed thanks to the travesty of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the wanton act of vandalism that was The Sarah Connor Chronicles, what do teaser trailers do for the audience? At best, they indulge us with an intriguing line or a spicy plot hint. At worst, they are like that Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. It promises to be the bleakest adaptation so far (although I bet they still won't touch Harry's Draco fixation); therefore we get a clip so literally dark that there are no strong images at all, just a black screen, one line of dialogue and the title rendered in silver-grey. Thrilling.

In the case of Terminator: Salvation there's a shaky montage of tepid shots that have long passed into the mythology of the series: the human skull being crushed by the symbolic machine foot, the vibe of military-industrial paranoia, the hulking silhouette of a human-detecting machine rising above the horizon.

Nearly every one of these shots could have been created from outtakes of the previous films and the TV series. The trailer becomes nothing more than the harbinger of yet another degradation of what was once a daring, feminist, technologically-apt marvel. It must be said that science fiction and fantasy fans, being tech-minded, are already very net-friendly and therefore susceptible to the lure of teasers and spoilers.

Guardian Teaser Trailer Blog Post

Yes, it's true that recently released Terminator 4 teaser has little new in it. However, it's this one image that excites me most about T4. And to me, this image is new. There's a grandness--and beauty, look at the composition of this shot!--to this one shot, buried almost smack in the middle of the trailer, that gives me hope that McG is going to give us his own vision of the future.

T3's biggest fault probably lies in essentially reconfiguring Sarah Connor's story and journey from T2 and asking the character of John Connor to be his own "man" while essentially hampering him with almost the same issues that his mother did. (The entire ending of T3 could have been and should have been the beginning of T3. Imagine the kick ass movie it would have been then.) Continuing the predestination thread, after Sarah herself has come to the conclusion that the future is what they make, is a step backwards, not a step forwards.

This one shot hints, and maybe I'm reaching--the final film will tell, that John's own journey will be his own. One man, not wrestling with just personal demons, but with the responsibility of a world larger than he is. A landscape that dwarfs him. We'll finally get to see John struggle to be apart of the world and not someone desperately trying to separate himself from it.

More Encounters With Werner Herzog

It is a total misreading of the sequence that Bill Jirsa (the linguist) does not care that possibly during our conversation a language has died.

I had to cut him off and summarize his travails with academia, as this was a highly complex story which went on and on for about forty minutes. The next following sequence with the computer expert and traveler Karen Joyce I had to cut short as well, and give only some taste of her way of exploring the world, as she went on non-stop for about two hours - without ever making a full stop or a comma in her tales. There was literally no chance during editing to ever get out of her most wonderful stories. I love both of them dearly, and they have forgiven me that my film's total running time had to be under two hours.

No one is a phony in my film. They are most fascinating human beings, and I wish I could have them as friends forever, even though our encounters were so brief.

Read Roger Ebert's Journal and Werner Herzog's Full Comment

There's a discussion on Roger Ebert's online journal prompted by Herzog's Encounters at the End of The World between Ebert and art critic Daniel Quiles.

What the discussion reminds me of is how easily it is to read more--or more accurately, what we want to read--into a film and filmmaker than is there. Take this bit from Quiles writings:

In "Encounters," it is the highly skilled masters of their languages (the scientists) who are idealized, while the professional adventurers of McMurdo, who labor in miserable conditions at high salaries to fund globetrotting excursions for the rest of the year, are bores and phonys, akin to the buffoon running around the world breaking Guinness Book records.

Hearkening back to the Kubrick connection I made in a previous post, it would be easy to see the horrific demise of Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket as a damning of the Marine's training. The entire first half is so disturbing that a cousin once recounted sneaking into the film as kid and having to literally vomit at the end when Private Joker kills the sniper.

Reading into the film that Kubrick is anti-war or pro-peace would be, and is, too simplistic. Otherwise my cousin's reaction--who at 13 had already seen his share of war films, and in 1987 would have had no emotional connection to the Vietnam War Era--wouldn't have been so extreme.

Herzog's own comments just reaffirms my belief that Herzog isn't as dismissive of people as many would think. As a filmmaker, he's going for a level of complexity that goes beyond what most documentaries, at least in the modern context, dare to go for.

Even as he packs Encounters with amazing images of exotic wildlife, he's not romanticizing nature or trying to attribute human traits. What traits he does link between humans and animals in the wild are traits shared by all life. And as he's interviewing people, Herzog appears to be looking at his subjects with a level of objectivity that forces us to really think about what they are saying. Again, not assigning some traits to the scientists and then to the laborers, but finding traits tha both share in common.

He allows contradiction to enter the discussion. Note where Herzog cuts off the discussion with the Guiness Book "buffon." Herzog only cuts after the man mentions how beautiful and desolate Antarctica is. The man's quest for inane records (like rolling the farthest) maybe silly, but even he's able to see Antarctica as more than just another place to break a world record. Although the topic of discussions are different, in many ways, he's no different than the Eastern European who, by always carrying his emergency pack, has never escaped Eastern Europe. They're both ironic figures.

The danger as a viewer is to allow our own biases, or reading, to elevate some subjects above others and to look for what seperates a linguist from a Guinness world record holder, than to find what connects them. Even if that connection may lead us to make some disturbing revelations.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Paula's Take on The Dark Knight

This is the exact review/deconstruction from my blog, but I wanted to post it here as well. Please note that this in no way negates Charles' review or opinions, already posted here. Also of note: This contains if you haven't yet seen the movie and plan on seeing it, you might want to refrain from reading this.

First, let me preface this blog by stating that I did like The Dark Knight. I thought it was a good movie with lots of intricacies for which it deserves many kudos. My overall rating of the movie is an A-. I do have a few problems with it that I think could've been easily rectified. I've tried to write this deconstruction in somewhat of an organized way.

Blatant Character Problems:
1. Beginning scene where the Joker places the smoke bomb into the bank manager/hero's mouth--why didn't he remove the smoke bomb from his mouth? His arms weren't paralyzed.....he'd been shot but was still able to move his arms and hands. Our natural human reaction would be to remove the obstruction from our mouth. (This character was played by William Fichtner.)

2. When Two-Face is in the car with Maroni and he gives Maroni a chance with fate with the flip of the coin, the first coin toss is heads--rewarding Maroni with his life. But then Two-Face flips the coin again and it comes up on the dark side, which Two-Face used as a reason to shoot Maroni's driver. This action fails because it breaks the character's behavior and code. The whole idea of chance (used by the Harvey Dent character) has always been given to the recipient....the person making the choice. The driver here is robbed of the chance and Two-Face made the choice for the driver, although he tried to pass the blame off to Maroni.

I do like the symbolism of the double-headed coin prior to the accident and Dent still using the coin flip as though he's leaving things up to chance (all the while knowing it will always come up heads--always being the winning recipient, especially over whomever plays along with his game), and then the coin changing after Rachel's death (thereby illustrating that we can only control actions/reactions and not the fate/actions of other people).

3. After the interrogation of the Joker, when Batman lied to the police about which person he was going after (Harvey Dent or Rachel Dawes), he actively contributed to her death. It's supposed to be against Batman's moral code to not kill, but this act of lying was a kill by omission. The Joker had given Batman two addresses, even taking into account the possibility of an address switch, Batman and the officers appear to show up at the same location (albeit at different times)--where Dent was being held.

As a student and lover of philosophy, I absolutely loved the many philosophical questions packed inside the movie. There was the classic Prisoner's Dilemma, Ethics vs. Utilitarianism, Taoism, Existentialism, Kant's Categorical Imperative, Game Theory, and quite a bit more. For all of that, thank you, Mr. Nolan!! Each of those are individual blogs in and of themselves.

The Joker
I seriously hope Heath Ledger gets an Oscar for his performance. Ledger played the part perfectly. From the first moment the audience is introduced to the Joker, it is clear that he is a fully developed character. Ledger added just the right amount of creepily insane mannerisms (ie: tongue slithers, lip smacking, walking oddly in a nurse's outfit, etc.). A great example of how Ledger fully embodied the character of the Joker was during his crashing of the fund raiser thrown by Bruce Wayne for Harvey Dent. After the Joker crashes the event, Rachel Dawes steps up and instructs him to stop tormenting people (not her words, but it's the sentiment). The Joker, liking what he sees as he turns to her voice, tries to be a bit lascivious and straightens his hair as he walks toward her. He delivers all of his lines excellently--especially when he says, "Hi," after entering the den of the mobsters.

I think Christian Bale was just an okay actor for this role. This seemed like a walk-on role for him and he didn't seem to bring anything particularly special to the character. And, what was up with Batman's voice? I know his voice needs to be somewhat masked to protect his true identity, but the voice was just a little too over the top, especially in the last 1/3 of the film (which seemed even more melodramatic).

Other Characters and/or Problems
1. I think the whole subplot of the snitch was superfluous. Seriously, if that whole storyline was cut out, it could've shortened the film and the audience/story wouldn't have lost anything.

2. The ending was a bit melodramatic. After seeing it a second time I do appreciate it a little better and can forgive some of the dramatic voice-over (which is only a semi-voice over since Gordon is supposed to be talking to his son), but I still think it's kind of a cop out and a cheap way to bail out on the audience.

3. There also appeared to be a couple of times that the movie could've successfully ended. After the great street chase/truck flip scene, with the Joker and Batman, would've been an ending because the Joker had been caught and taken into custody, while Batman was saved by Gordon and is recovering. I know the problem with ending it here is because Two-Face had not yet been created, but, nonetheless, it was a natural ending. However, the movie pressed on. There was another spot it could've ended, but it's not as strong as this example.

Oscar Question
Okay, I definitely think Heath Ledger should get an Oscar for his performance. My question is, if he is nominated, for which category will it be. I'm not really sure how/who determines the particular category for the nomination. For example, could/would Heath Ledger be nominated for the Leading Male, or would it be Lead Supporting because the Joker wasn't the protagonist in the film? Is the Leading vs. Lead Supporting based on the protagonist vs. the antagonist?

That's it for now. I know I'm forgetting some parts but the movie was so long and involved. I truly liked it though.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Encounters with Werner Herzog

As a staff--well partial staff, Dan's on Vakay and Elizabeth was hard at work on the Fall Workshops--and with one our board members Ashley Epting we headed over to Landmark Midtown Art Cinema to catch Encounters at the End of the World.

Of Herzog's work, I've only seen Rescue Dawn. Herzog is another one of those directors who I know I need to see more of his catalog. But just from those two films, it's obvious that Herzog is interested in not only man's physical relationship with his environment, but man's psychological connection as well. It raises the question of do men adapt to their surroundings, or do men find surroundings that allow the most prominent aspects of their personality to thrive?

As expected, Herzog encounters scientists who are studying everything from the constantly changing nature of Antarctica's landscape to the life cycle of penguins and seals. Yet, he also has run ins with the support staff, who interestingly, have degrees and backgrounds almost as diverse as the actual scientists themselves. A heavy machinery operator is a philosopher, a former banker drives a 67,000 lb bus and a linguist runs the greenhouse.

What the banker, philosopher and linguist all have in common is that they're adventurers on some level. People who crave the new. At least, that's what they say. Herzog hints that for some, they're running away from the overwhelming confines of civilization. He then flips that and hints that many of the hallmarks of civilization are replicated in the wild. When a penguin becomes disoriented and wanders off towards the mountains, where it will surely die, it's obvious from both Herzog's narration and what he's shown us before, that he's linking the behavior of the people he's interviewing with their environment.

At one point, Herzog interviews a man from Eastern Europe who escaped in the days when Communism was still in effect. It's been several decades, and the man is still always prepared to escape. His always packed bag includes a tent, cooking utensils and a portable raft. When the man tries to recount how he escaped Eastern Europe all those years ago, he can't find the words and is on the verge of tears. Herzog tells him he doesn't have to continue and the man looks grateful when Herzog lets him off the hook.

As with Rescue Dawn, Herzog demonstrates a sense of humor that I would personally label Kubrickian. Like Kubrick, Herzog likes finding the absurd and the contradictory in humans. Although, since this is a documentary, Herzog can more directly point to and comment on that absurdity. In voiceover, he cuts into the linguist's story about how he wound up in Antarctica saying that the linguist's story was too long and complicated. And Herzog asks the question of why smaller creatures like ants are much like humans and keep insects to milk, but chimps, who are closely related to humans don't. He then cuts to a watercolor image of a chimp looking stoically at the sunset. As he pulls back, he reveals that the chimp is sitting on the back of a goat, as if the chimp was a cowboy.

Gabe, who has seen quite a few Herzogs, calls him misanthropic. Since I haven't seen enough of his work, I can't quite say if I agree or disagree. But, I have to say so far, I don't find Herzog so. He seems to be like Kubrick, who apparently can come off as cold, calculating and a bit anti-human on film, but in person is described as child like in his ability to revel in any and every topic that man is connected to.

I'll probably never get around to it, but I'd love to watch Rescue Dawn and then Full Metal Jacket just to see what interesting connections come up. I have sneaking suspcion I'll find two films and two filmmakers that compliment each other on multiple levels.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Dark Knight Prediction

"That's unprecedented," said Harry Medved, spokesman for advance online-ticket seller Fandango.

Medved says that by noon Pacific on Thursday, Fandango had sold out 1,200 showings of the film by itself. It was on its way to beating the old record for advance sellouts set by "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" in 2005.

Fandango officials believe "Dark Knight" could bring the company its biggest single day in ticket sales on Friday, eclipsing "Sith" and "Spider-Man 3." "Knight" accounted for 94% of all Fandango's ticket sales by early Thursday.

Market Watch Piece

Of everyone in the office, I'm the most bullish when it comes to my predictions. I'm almost always over by $5 to 10 million. I'm probably going to be way over on this one as well, but I'm going to guess (putting hand to forehead) that The Dark Knight is on it's way to a $165 million dollar haul. I would predict The Bat could be the first film in history to nearly touch the $200 million dollar ceiling, but at 2 1/2 hours, that's near impossible. Somewhere, some idiot suit is upset that they didn't butcher the hell out of The Dark Knight to get a running time under 2 hours, you can trust me on that one.

Word of Mouth....The Dark Knight

Reading my emails and lo and behold what do I find? Several friends effusing about The Dark Knight. The instigator of this is local comic book artist Wilfredo Torres. I already had faith in the movie, but I have to say Fred's word is always an extra stamp of approval in my book.

Let me put it to you this way... I haven't been to bed yet. That's how hyped up I was after watching that movie.

I remember when they were first talking casting, I was rooting for Adrian Brody to get the part. I always liked Heath Ledger but I just couldn't see it... now I can't see anyone but him ever playing that part which makes his passing that much more of a loss. I kept reading all these reviews and people kept saying that 'Ledger dissapears into the role' and it's absolutely true - Heath Ledger does not appear in this movie. It's just the Joker. That evil, sick and twisted psychopathic genius that we've been reading about all these years brought to life in diabolical fashion and he gives Batman and all of Gotham Holy Hell.

I mean sure, we all know who the leads are, Batman / Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon and The Joker but there's another character prominently featured that is just as important and plays just as big a part - Gotham City and the people that live in it.

Spider-Man 2 was awesome, definitely the best of the three. Superman 1 and 2 were also great films that I love but Dark Knight gives us something that none of those movies even came close to giving us... real honest to God scary ass, menacing villains and a vulnerable hero who is struggling with all his might to do the right thing even when he's not sure what that is. No one in this movie has heat vision or the proportionate strength of a spider and by the end everyone has been broken or tainted in one way or another, no one get's away clean on this one.

Dude - fake an illness and go see this movie.

Two Stoners and a Trio of Oblivious Actors...

Maybe I'm off the mark here, but the potential impact Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder could have on the industry may be felt for years.

Judd Apatow's slate of R films has already reawaken the industry's appreciation for films that are decidely not for the kiddie set. However, I for one haven't been convinced that the folks writing the checks are fully on board. Live Free or Die Hard went PG-13. The next Termintaor 4 is rumored to be heading towards a similar PG-13 rating as well. A real sign of the "family friendly" rating's pull is that if Beverly Hills Cop IV ever gets off the ground, it may too be PG-13. Putting Eddie Murphy in a non-R BHC would almost be a sign of the apocalypse.

However, if Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder can...well...deliver the thunder, we'll hopefully see the end to studios using a PG-13 stamp to water down R films, just so they can supposedly milk a few more dollars out of the public.

Live Free or Die Hard only did $135 million dollars. If you adjust Die Hard's gross into 2007 dollars, it would have made $150 million. For all the hype of going PG-13 has, I think it could be argued that wrapping films that should be for adults in a PG-13 bow doesn't bring in the extra butts the studios think it does. A film about killing a whole bunch of folks, is still a film about killing a whole bunch of folks. And a film primarly about relationships aren't more attractive to the tween set even if you add fart and penis jokes. (And let's be honest, it's insulting to parents who feel bait and switched)

If Pineapple and Tropic (which just 5 years ago would have been decidely PG-13, regardless of what studio it was at) can open north of $25 or $30 million and cross the $100 million mark, we may officially see the end of PG-13's status as a primary marketing tool.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Effortless Brilliance acquired by IFC

indieWIRE reports that My Effortless Brilliance, winner of a Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Direction for Lynn Shelton at the 2008 Atlanta Film Festival, has been acquired by IFC Entertainment as part of the IFC Festival Direct video on demand service. IFC will release the film in August.

Is Dr. Horrible the Future?

It's only got 3 acts and the free version of all 3 acts will vaporize from the web this Sunday at midnight, but Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible is definitely--as he describes it--an Internet Miniseries Event.

For something dreamed up during the Writer's Strike and ultimately, more or less, the length of a sitcom episode, the hype on Whedon's project was high. The response was so overwhelming for the first act, it wasn't till sometime into day two of release that the Dr. Horrible site was back up after crashing the first day.

What's probably one of the best takeways is how, even though the novelity of Dr. Horrible being on the internets was a key PR/distribution component, Whedon and crew have seriously treated the launch of Dr. Horrible.

They did so by one, using names--with cult like status, two, limiting the window to less than a week, and three, doing the press rounds no differently than if Dr. Horrrible was a network show. Whedon and crew have treated Dr. Horrible like a credible property and not just a neat experiment. The fact that Whedon seriously looked at the potential bonanza of ancillary products (T-shirts, stickers, statutes, etc) speaks even more volumes about the seriousness he treated this project.

Now, here's where Dr. Horrible truly could be the harbinger of things to come. With XBox, the PS3, Roku and Vudu all entering the fray to deliver content to your TV via the web, we could definitely see not only more Dr. Horrible like events, but films, indie films in particular, could benefit.

Imagine a film debuts at Sundance and it generates amazing buzz. Instead of a normal distribution deal, it goes straight to the web and it's a Free Mini Event that goes through Netflix and is downloadable to over 15 million XBox's and Roku's. Getting just a few thousand of those eyeballs in the first 24-48 hours of release maybe enough buzz to generate true revenue from the DVD sales and digital downloads once the film is no longer free.

The one thing most Sundance films can't capitalize on is the large amount of press they receive. By the time they hit theaters, or even DVD, 6 months to a year has passed for most films. In that time frame they've lost all momentum. Interested audiences have fixated on other films, or, worse, still craving to see a film, never learn when and where a film is playing till long after its hit their local indie theater. And you can't discount the impact the downsizing of Entertainment Journalism has. Once a piece has been written on your film it's rare that same outlet is going to do another in depth piece at time of release.

Up until the late 1980s, there were few TV projects that could generate advance buzz, or final audience numbers, like a Mini-Series. Only something like Maude's abortion, Ellen's Puppy Episode, Dallas's Who Shot Jr? and M*A*S*H's finale could generate so much notice before a show aired. But, those were established shows, with some kind investment from audiences.

Mini-Series Events that incorporate a well publicized launch date and window, could recapture the magic of a Roots or a North and South.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

XBox and Netflix...(My) Life Has Just Gotten Easier

Sony has been pushing hard to make the PS3 a beast of a home entertainment system. Their Blu-Ray has won the next-gen format wars and in terms raw processing power, the PS3 can kick my Xbox's arse.

However! Xbox Live has been one of the main reasons I've enjoyed my Xbox. In terms of extending the life of a game, battling a half dozen or so folks over the internets has made dropping $60 on a disc infinitely more palatable. I was playing Call of Duty 4 several months after I beat the game, primarily because online makes at a different experience each and everytime out. Even now I'll occasionally pop it in just to hop online.

So how can Microsoft make my Xbox even more enjoyable? Streaming movies from my Netflix account is a big step.

It's hard to keep up with my Netflix discs (I still don't know where the 3 I have out now are) and there are times when I'm just not in the mood to watch the ones I have. Being able to satiate my film-jones on the fly (the prospect of sitting through a 3 hour epic is someties just too daunting) is a way to further cement my brand loyality.

Only issues I see right now is that 10,000 titles to choose from is still much too small of a selection. Especially as you peruse the titles. That there aren't more popular titles available could dampen this initiative before it has a chance to get off the ground.

Yet, what makes this announcement even better is that I can avoid scooping up the Roku. I was perfectly willing to drop a $100 on this little desktop device, but now that I already have my own "Roku" why bother?

Atlanta Film Festival Exec Director Gabe Wardell at Doug Dank Tonight!

The Doug Dank Project is a new long-form style improv show, fusing the unpredictable and impulsive nature of improvisation with the steadiness and permanence of true life stories.

Fueling the fire this week : Gabe Wardell - Executive Director of the Atlanta Film Festival

Gabriel Wardell has worked for festivals and non-profits for over a decade, at levels from projecting for Slamdance and the Atlanta Film Festival, to programming for the AFI Silver Theatre, producing the inaugural edition of SILVERDOCS, and hosting Cinema Sundays at the Charles in Baltimore. He has written film criticism, a sports column, and freelance articles in publications such as Film Threat, The Baltimore Sun, The Jewish Times and City Paper. Gabe developed an interest in independent film at an early age—his mother can even be seen in John Waters' Female Trouble, having her monster beehive hair-do teased silly by Dribbles.

Wednesday Night (July 16th), PushPush Theater at 10pm!!

only $5.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition Now Accepting Entries!

The Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition looks to discover high quality screenplays and then help the writer further develop and refine their script through an intensive workshop retreat with professional writers and filmmakers.

The Atlanta Film Festival
has a 32 year history of discovering and nurturing new filmmaking talent, including showing early works by Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, and Victor Nunez. Beyond showing completed films, the Atlanta has been involved in helping filmmakers at various stages of the filmmaking process through programs such as Perfect Pitch, the Southeastern Media Award, and Fiscal Sponsorship. All films start with a screenplay, so the Atlanta Film Festival wanted to help screenwriters develop their screenplays by awarding winners of the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition the opportunity to workshop their script with industry professionals at a weekend retreat. The first screenplay competition was held in 2007 where the winners received dedicated feedback from Traci Carroll, Joy Lusco Kecken, Michael Lucker, Molly Mayeux, Kent Osborne, and Doug Sadler. The first year was an overwhelming success for winners and mentors and was called "the single most productive and educational experience I've ever had, in terms of developing a screenplay and plotting a film career," writes winner Brett Wood.

Screenplay Competition Submission Deadlines and Fees:

Earlybird: June 27, 2008

Features: Standard - 35.00, Student - 30.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 30.00

Shorts: Standard - 30.00, Student - 25.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 25.00

Screenplay with Coverage: Standard - 145.00, Student - 135.00, Atlanta Film Festival member - 135.00

Regular: July 25, 2008

Features: Standard - 40.00, Student - 35.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 35.00

Shorts: Standard - 35.00, Student - 30.00, Atlanta Film Festival - 30.00

Screenplay with Coverage: Standard - 155.00, Student - 145.00, Atlanta Film Festival - 145.00

Late: August 22, 2008

Features: Standard - 50.00, Student - 45.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 45.00

Shorts: Standard - 40.00, Student - 35.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 35.00

Screenplay with Coverage: Standard - 165.00, Student - 155.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 155.00

Extended: September 5, 2008

Feature: Standard - 65.00, Student - 60.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 60.00

Shorts: Standard - 55.00, Student - 50.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 50.00

Screenplay with Coverage: Standard 180.00, Student - 170.00, Atlanta Film Festival Member - 170.00

Feature Screenplay

Feature screenplays are unproduced screenplays that are over 50 pages in length in standard screenplay format.

Short Screenplay

Short screenplays are screenplays that are 25 to 50 pages in standard screenplay format using 12-point courier font.

Screenplay with Coverage

The Screenplay with Coverage category is for screenplays of any length up to 130 pages. In addition to eligibility for the contest and prizes, entrants in this category will receive coverage by an industry professional covering areas such as storyline, character development, and format.

In general, coverage will be provided 6 to 8 weeks after receipt of screenplay. If coverage will be more than 8 weeks, writers will notified by email.


1) Screenplays must not have been previously optioned, purchased or produced.

2) Entrants must also submit a logline/summary of the screenplay, no longer than one page.

3) Screenplays must be in English, formatted with 12-point courier font.

4) Screenplays shorter than 25 pages or longer than 130 pages will not be accepted.

5) Screenplays must be copyrighted or registered material.

6) Please note that the prize for the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition is a workshop retreat to further polish the screenplay with guidance by industry professionals. The retreat will take place in Georgia November 14-16, 2008.

The Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition will provide travel from within the U.S., Canada, or Mexico as well as room and board for one for the retreat.

7) All entrants must be 18 years of age or older.