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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 2008 Lineup Announced

The 10th Annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival announced its 2008 feature lineup. The festival is set for September 26-28th, in Birmingham, Alabama (where I hear they love the Gov'nr).

Competitive Feature Lineup Announced

Narrative Features
ADVENTURES OF POWER
COOK COUNTY
DARK STREETS
FIX
GOLIATH
GOOD DICK
HALF-LIFE
THE MAGISTICAL
MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE
MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY
PRESENT COMPANY
SKIPTRACERS

Documentary Features
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
'BAMA GIRL (Closing Night Film)
CRAWFORD
DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER
THE DHAMMA BROTHERS
FAUBOURG TREMÉ: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BLACK NEW ORLEANS
FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER
I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW
INTIMIDAD
KING IN CHICAGO
LA AMERICANA
PAGEANT
PIP & ZASTROW: AN AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP
QUE VIVA LAS LUCHA (WRESTLING IN TIJUANA)
ROCK-AFIRE EXPLOSION
THIS AMERICAN GOTHIC
WE ARE WIZARDS

Visit their website for more information and updates.

2009 Atlanta Film Festival Countdown Widget

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Can't Make It Big By Going Small: Or Fox's Crap Summer

Fox does have a powerhouse lineup of movies for next summer, so I'm certainly not predicting any precipitous fall from grace. But if the studio really believes it can continue to compete, year in and year out, without regularly working with top-flight artists, I think it will eventually find itself in decline. For decades, studios have tried, in one way or another, to take the risk out of filmmaking, either by laying off financing to outside entities or employing various sorts of quality-control formulas.

But art is elusive. It rarely responds to or can be regulated by any sort of formula. When Fox made "MASH" nearly 40 years ago, it thought the film was a disaster because it felt so far out of the mainstream. It turned out the film was more plugged into the emerging new culture than any of the studio executives. The same could be said about George Lucas' "Star Wars," or James Cameron's "Titanic," which was written off as an epic blunder before anyone saw a foot of footage. Great films come from great filmmakers.

The above is an excerpt from an August 11 La Times piece about the lackluster summer Fox is experiencing. It is amazing that Fox hasn't had one film cross the $100 million finish line. The crash of Meet Dave might be the most spectacular considering that in the modern era there's few bankable stars like Eddie Murphy.

Over the last few Summers, nearly every year, there's one studio that bites it hard. the most eventful I can remember is the one Summer that neither Disney nor Sony crossed the billion dollar line. Craptacular product, especially craptacular product back to back, will always result in craptacular results. Not bad, or mediocre, but craptacular. And that particular Summer, it had been especially bad for Disney. Pixar was a bright spot, but not only had they not released a film that might have added to the Mouse House's coffers, but even if it had, it would have been a painful reminder of how awful the once powerful studio's films had become. Sister Pixar gets straight A's, why can't you be like your sister?

One of the main issues is that few people within the Hollywood system speak up. Folks complain about the government being inept, but at least with the government the truth always comes oozing out in one form or another. And in government, the solutions aren't so cut and dry. Policy solutions today, can have an effect decades into the future (see the City of Atlanta's crumbling infrastructure). In film, folks clam up faster than Scrooge McDuck's wallet at Christmas.

This is a fear based business, in which few folks are willing to openly say why their films didn't work. And, even when they know why their films didn't work, there's even greater reluctance to make the changes needed to create films that do. In fact, studios are prone to allow the success or failure of one film to dictate the direction they take creatively with other films on their slate. Even Michael Mann's Manhunter was renamed from the original title of Red Dragon because the film Year of the Dragon was a flop. And they're not even closely related in genre or storyline.

Anne Thompson of Variety warned the director of Babylon A.D. against biting the hand that feeds him. He's been complaining that Fox's interference wrecked the film's chances before he could even assemble a rough cut. He should be encouraged to do so. As long as he's being truthful, there shouldn't be any reason he shouldn't be able to vent. (Although, having Gothika on his resume is enough to undermine his credibility alone. Which also has one of the worse posters in modern history by the way.)

All industries have their taboos and overt and not so overt rules of engagement. However, at least there, the rules aren't based on irrational fear, heavy emphasis on the irrational.

The movie industry is built on a bedrock of insecurity. Which is odd, because when you dig down deep enough, the industry as a whole is actually pretty solid. Star Trek's vision of the future aside, movies and television aren't going anywhere. It will reinvent itself and it may never look the same, but the same basic principles will exist.

1) People will go to the movies en masse
2) There will be people who love blockbuster/tentpole films
3) There will always be an arthouse crowd
4) There will always be work that connects with both the arthouse and blockbuster crowd
5) With no arms, an empty wallet and stuck in the North Georgia Mountains without equipment, filmmakers will find a way to make films (great, good, bad and the crappy)
6) Regardless of how many peope see it, there will be great work

The question is, will studios always have the heart to trust that good stories and visionary filmmaking is enough to put butts in seats? It's not simply that studios have to put more money into films. In fact, that's how we're in the mess we are now. The money cycle has infected everyone and all aspects of the industry to such an extent that now everyone is feeling the squeeze.

Even if you pare down the number of films released every year from the current 400 plus, down to something like 150 titles, the ratio of bona fide hits to right out bombs isn't going to change much. There will always be films that stink up movie houses like a dead rat trapped in a wall. Knowing that, why not swing for the fences artistically. Not every film needs to be Oscar-bait, nor should they be. But taking a few more chances is healthy for the industry as a whole. There's no such thing as no risk, and the sooner Hollywood embraces that, the better it will be for filmmakers, audiences and studios.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fall 08 ATLFF 365 Workshops Abound

Fall is in the air and school is back in session so it's a great time to take a film workshop or two! Some of our most popular workshops are back including the complete Screenwriting 101-103 series. Weekend Filmmaking, and Intro To Directing, Part I and II.

We also have some great NEW classes- Outside The Box:Creative Funding & Marketing For Your Indie Film, and Improv Acting For Film & Television, to name a few.

We also have partnered with Georgia State University to offer our members 10% discount for a new workshop they are presenting this Fall, Basic Gaffing & Gripping For The Beginner. This special workshop has certification eligibility for those who take it to provide a "leg up" in starting your production career in the local film industry! And... you can register conveniently through our website for this workshop.

I would like to take a moment and spotlight our first workshop of the season that anyone who has always wanted to write a script should take...Screenwriting 101. I cannot say enough about this class and our great Instructors (for ALL our workshops), and Jenna Milly, who is one of our Screenwriting Instructors (who also teaches at Emory and writes a column called "Scene Fix" for Script Magazine) is no exception! What her bio may not convey is her great rapport with her students and her comprehensive teaching style. Based on our feedback we have received from students who have taken her class, if this were The Olympics, she would definitely get the gold medal! In my opinion, there is no better workshop offered for the price and evening convenience in Atlanta for anyone who is a complete screenwriting beginner. Note- the early bird registration deadline is end of day TODAY for the best discount for this workshop! If Jenna's class does not fit in your schedule, because of the popularity of this beginning workshop, we have added an additional Screenwriting 101 workshop later in the season as well, taught by another wonderful Instructor, April Lundy. She is fairly new teaching with us but certainly not new to teaching screenwriting or new to the industry. We are already getting wonderful feedback as well on students who took her beginning screenwriting class this Summer. Check out her bio on our website to find out more about April and her workshop dates scheduled for November.

This is only a taste of many great workshops and Instructors, who I will continue to blog about throughout the Fall! I also welcome any suggestions or requests for workshops and am happy to answer any questions regarding any of the workshops available at present so feel free to email me at elizabeth@AtlantaFilmFestival.com

To see a full list of our Fall workshops, check out our Fall 08 downloadable newsletter, learn about our Instructors, or to register, go www.AtlantaFilmFestival.com. Hope to see you in class this Fall!

"Meet the Browns" Coming to TV

Tyler Perry, whose "House of Payne" sitcom could end up grossing more than $200 million in its first cycle through 2012, has signed a deal with TBS for a comedy based loosely on his theatrical movie "Meet the Browns."

TBS has commissioned 10 half-hours of "Meet the Browns," which stars David Mann in the title role of Leroy Brown, with Perry as exec producer and director.

According to Variety, another Perry show is on the horizon. The man has brought much work to the city and helped raised the profile of what is possible here. With Hadjii's Somebodies scheduled to premeire on BET on Sept. 9, the next few years could be some fertile and--more importantly-- stable ground for production in Atlanta.

Go Miniman Go

I can't believe Lego's Miniman is only 5 years younger than me. Tell me that Go Go Miniman chant at the end ain't catchy as hell. This is a part of Lego's 30th year celebration for the little man made of right angles and simple shapes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Catching Up With Nerdcore Rising

Word from Negin Farsad, Director of 2008 Atlanta Film Festival Selection Nerdcore Rising.

Nerdcore Rising is still on the festival circuit which means it still has me by the balls, so to speak. Of course, with this film, that means a lot more video blogging and online content. I just recently put up episode 6 of the film's companion web series "Nerd of the Week" -- its on the Chiptunes Nerd - those nutty kids that like to rip up their gameboys and make music with them. You can see that here:



Not too long ago we were the closing night movie at the DeadCenter Film Festival and the next major stop for me is the Penny Arcade Gaming Expo in Seattle. There are 55,000 geeks expected to attend this year and we get to screen the movie for them in a venue that might best be described as a "threateningly large monster hall." Needless to say, the nervousness has already set in and I'm pissing my pants well in advance of the screening date (August 30).

After Penny Arcade, we're off to some special screenings at ILM in San Francisco and the Hot Springs festival as well as some yet-to-be-confirmed fests and university screenings. And... if we're smart, we'll have the DVD on offer for cash monies very soon. I don't know if we're that smart yet...

We're showing like a regular theatrical release in Austin in October and there are a couple of other cities that will probably join the mix like Boston and New York (the hometown).

So, that's about it for now but I'll be posting video blogs more regularly as I get back on the road. The last few weeks have been pretty quiet but I have a feeling that Penny Arcade marks the beginning of some massive nerdery!

Observations from the August 22 Box Office: Or The Rocker Must Really Bite

Fox continued its run of disappointments with �The Rocker,� a Rainn Wilson-starring bid at another �School of Rock�; it came in 12th with $2.8 million.
That blurb from Variety's wrap-up of the weekend tally is an understatement of grand proportions, considering how much of a marketing push the film got. Myspace branding, constant commercials and Wilson front and center for the last few weeks did nothing for this flick.

I haven't seen it, but I'd say the underwhelming performance has less to do with Wilson, than the fact that, while the film is about a 40 something ex-rocker of a hair band finding fame, the target audience appeared to be teenagers and young adults who only have memories of the 80's via VH1 specials. The film might have had a chance if they had made a film that was designed for a crowd that remembers when MTV used to show music videos and Real World was a rare guilty summer treat that hadn't yet been run into the ground creatively.

This is a case when going R, and making more of a satire, would have probably done the movie wonders in box office coin.
...it's almost unfortunate that [Emma Stone] and [Anna] Faris couldn't spend more time together on screen, riffing off ridiculous and random lines of dialogue. Erik Davis -Cinematical
I can't say The House Bunny is the best movie of the summer. I can say--outside of the trailer of Richard Gere and Diane Lane's new film Nights of The Rodanthe--I haven't laughed as hard or as much as I did in any other movie this Summer. Tropic Thunder is a better constructed movie, but Ben Stiller isn't a better comedian than Anna Faris.

Stiller's characters are almost always too self-aware. They're characters playing a character for the benefit of an audience. It's a style of comedy that's plagued SNL for the last 15 years.

Faris is a throwback to early SNL, when the likes of Gilda Radner totally committed to the part. When Gilda becomes Rosanna RoseannaDanna, she is Rosanna. Her posture, her voice, everything shifts to reflect who Rosanna is. Even when the jokes aren't punching, the fact that Radner is this other character does a lot of the heavy lifting.



Faris's turn in The House Bunny is much the same. The movie is silly--which isn't a knock on the film, not all the jokes work and the setups are fairly routine--that is a knock on the film. However, Faris's timing is so finely tuned, her ability to find a laugh so acute, she does what Dane Cook only dreams about in his sleep. She actually is able to carry the entire movie and to bring the damn thing home. Even Emma Stone is able to work some serious magic with her role.

Faris exec. produced the film. Which hopefully means she'll be wrestling more control over her films and will be able to turn out flicks that take advantage of her ability to do both physical and verbal comedy with virtual ease. Me wonders what could she do in the hands of the Cohen's or teaming up with Amanda Bynes--Fest Director Dan's idea--to be a Lewis and Martin type duo on screen.

...oh and if you haven't, watch the trailer for Nights of The Rodanthe and try not to laugh. George C. Wolfe is at the helm, so it gives me hope about the movie itself. But, the trailer feels as if it could have been constructed from a dozen other movies. When you put lines like: "You gave me back my father. You saved him." Back to back with lines like: "He looks this good and he has a dirty mind, he's definitely a keeper" from the female--I have no personal life of my own--best friend, the trailer can't help but send me over the edge. Paula literally had to get up and move to the other side of Dan and Gabe I was laughing so hard and loud.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

IndieWIRE: Walking a Tight Rope and Swinging for the Fences: Across the Country, Non-Profits React to SFFS Announcement

Walking a Tight Rope and Swinging for the Fences: Across the Country, Non-Profits React to SFFS Announcement

by Eugene Hernandez (August 24, 2008)

"The rules of the game are in flux," noted Gabe Wardell via email last week, reacting to the news of the San Francisco Film Society's expansion into filmmaker services in the wake of the demise of the 32 year old Film Arts Foundation. "While some say the sky is falling, and others make bold predictions about the future of our independent film, the truth is that no one knows for sure what the future holds." Wardell, who runs the Atlanta Film Festival organization in Georgia, formerly known as the Image Film and Video Center, was just one of the veterans of the non-profit film sector surveyed by indieWIRE via email this week.

"The biggest mistake independent filmmakers (and distributors, and multi-national conglomerates...) have made is trying to be something they're not," explained Wardell, "In baseball terms, indie films have always hit for average. After a few towering homers, everyone started trying to swing for the fences." He added, "Indie filmmakers have always worked (and should continue to work) on the margins. When you are not expected to hit a home run every time, you can be creative, take more risks and push the envelope. If investment remains modest, filmmakers, actors and producers will continue taking risks and producing groundbreaking work. (Or else they'll go to Europe like Woody Allen...)

Adapting, Evolving, Reacting

"The world has changed so much since many of our organizations were founded," observed Rebecca Campbell, who runs The Austin FIlm Society, launched more than 25 years ago by Richard Linklater. "At AFS, we have tried to focus on evolving into a mature fundraising organization without losing our soul. It can make for internal culture clashes, but I'd prefer that to extinction. It is not necessarily a disaster when an organization 'goes under' or two organizations merge. It can be an opportunity to let go of programs that have outlived their usefulness."

"Years ago I predicted that this could happen as the media landscape began to change, and felt that the only way organizations could survive was to form partnerships or merge or configure themselves in whatever way they could to continue to do relevant work," noted Eileen Newman, former head of New York's Film/Video Arts and now deputy director at the Tribeca Film Institute, which recently merged with Renew Media. "Responding to the current needs of media artists is for me what matters most, if the San Francisco Film Society can provide services which enable work to be produced, for me that is the most important consideration. I work for an organization which just went through a huge change, with the goal of doing more as a merged organization than we could do if we were two separate organizations."

"There are always bumps in the road in any arts community, but this is a lot," noted Jane Minton, head of the IFP Minnesota, detailing recent challenges facing the arts community in her own Twin Cities. She said that the region has recently seen the closure of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune and the Minnesota Center for Photography, along with the departure of valued local adminstrators from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' MAEP and the Southern Theater.

"A clear issue is prominent in these cases," Minton added, "A two-way communication with the constituents. A few of these organizations made quick, decisive moves without communicating to their core users. Consequently, the constituents staged loud and pervasive revolts, calling the decision-makers out on the carpet...On this point, I commend Film Arts Foundation's board for taking the time to communicate with their shareholders, negotiate with the San Francisco Film Society to preserve key programs for filmmakers and ensure the ongoing health of the filmmaking community."

The Bay Area

A volunteer at Film Arts Foundation twenty-five years ago while working on "The Times of Harvey Milk" (for which FAF served as a fiscal sponsor), indie consultant and producer Bob Hawk later founded and ran the organization's Film Arts Festival, a local film showcase that continued for 21 years. "After leaving FAF in 1993, I continued to consider it one of the vital centers for indie filmmakers in the U.S.," Hawk added, "Over time it was increasingly distressing to hear of certain programs being cut back or eliminated. It's pointless to go into the politics of it all at this time. The technology of the indie world has radically changed, and the way business is done, and the way work is now distributed, exhibited and made accessible has been in great flux."

"The most important thing to me -- the fate of the members and their being able to continue to enjoy needed services, including those who have projects with non-profit fiscal sponsorship -- is that they are being offered continuity by having their membership atomatically transferred to the San Francisco Film Society," Bob Hawk noted, "They will now be safely under a very strong umbrella, strengthened immeasureably in recent years by the leadership of Graham Leggat, whose intelligence and acumen I have admired for years and whose head and heart are in the right place."

Continuing with deep responses to indieWIRE's questions, Gabe Wardell noted that the San Francisco Film Society will have to walk a tight rope in its new role. "Shifting focus from catering to film connoisseurs to serving the entire Bay Area filmmaking community is a jarring transition. As the ED of an organization that endeavors to cater to both, I speak from experience when I comment that attempting to serve the needs of filmmakers while cultivating and serving the needs of film lovers, demands the patience, balance, tenacity, and strategic planning of Philippe Petit. One errant breeze could lead to disaster."

Former Film Arts Foundation head Gail Silva, who attended Tuesday's press conference in San Francisco said the announcement, "provides the opportunity for SFFS to revive what was once a strong commitment to local indies -- the kind of commitment that FAF has been unable to deliver in recent years. Without question, the Bay Area film community deserves both first-rate advocacy and unwavearing support." Continuing she noted, "SFFS will quickly learn that local indies don't sit quietly in their seats, waiting for the movie to begin. They will be phoning, emailing, and showing up at the door demanding that their needs be met by their new guardian. And SFFS had better be ready to provide that service."

Serving Filmmakers

Asked how filmmaker services should change today, Atlanta's Gabe Wardell responded, "Ultimately this is up to the filmmakers to decide. If there's a legitimate demand, someone will serve it. Conversely, organizations that are failing are doing so because they offer services that are no longer valued/supported...or they cannot find funding to cover to cost of the costly slate of services on the menu." He added, "Rather than attempting to serve a filmmaker's every need, an information age non-profit organization needs to be able to direct a filmmaker to the source of services they seek...the organization, and its constituents are better served if you identify quality strategic partners who can provide the services BETTER than you can. It's a win-win-win."

"Filmmakers should speak up more about what they really need, and what they are willing to pay for," advised Campbell from Austin. "As it stands now, the bulk of our services are paid for by private donors--via celebrity events--and government grants. I would feel more secure if we had a wider base of smaller donors. How do you convert people who value independent film into valuing their local media arts organization and paying their dues?"

"Very early on, I realized that to succeed, a non-profit must function like a business," noted Gabe Wardell, "Too many aging and ailing non-profits are clinging to romantic ideas--too many arts organizations possess big hearts and want to be all things to all people. Yet we lack the deep pockets to do this." He continued, "Every non-profit must acknowledge the economic realities of the market, and adjust accordingly," warned Wardell from Atlanta. "You have to be brutally honest. You cannot afford to be romantic or nostalgic--or you face the very real possibility that you'll join company with has-beens and also rans."

Looking Ahead

"How media arts organizations move forward into the 21st century is an important question," noted Jane Minton from Minnesota. "We've all discussed the need to shed the old models. It's important in Minnesota to continue to survey where our film community is headed...The national models that I admire are the Renew Media/Tribeca merger model and Film Independent. Centering media NPO's around a film festival does seem to be an important trend. In Minnesota we are glutted with festivals and I am looking for an alternative to that model.

"I think this is a particularly difficult time, because we don't totally understand what the future will be, and now we hear so much about endings and closings," added Eileen Newman from Tribeca, reiterating that organizations like FAF emerged at a particular moment, driven by specific needs. "The familiar, beloved models may go away, but exciting new models of communication will replace them, and for me that's what matters most."

"Media NPOs need to be in touch with the needs of [their] members, honor the traditions of the past but don't cling to them, and be flexible enough to move to the next service the field demands," said Minton from Minnesota. "In the midst of these confusing times, we must reassure our core that management is on solid ground, the finances should be transparent and we must realize that service to our members and the field are why we exist."

Amidst all the talk of change, Bob Hawk struck an optimistic tone. "Although I am no longer a Bay Area resident," he said, "I will become a member of the SFFS immediately to show my support for what I trust will be a very fruitful coalescence of forces that will enrich the overall American independent film scene."

EDITORS NOTE: Leadership of both Film Independent and the IFP in New York did not respond to two direct email requests for comments.

Art in the airport: does ATL appreciate art?

Today's Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a troubling story about the fate of public art in the Atlanta air port:

Art may come down
By Moni Basu
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, August 24, 2008

"It’s sort of like taking a trip before the trip.

Glowing neon tubes —- rigid lines of an incomplete square, soft curves of an open circle —- greet passengers on their way to the concourses to catch flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Artist Stephen Antonakos wanted people to gaze upward as they descended by escalator into the bowels of the airport to catch the people mover. He wanted them to have a relaxing experience before boarding a plane.

So they have done for almost three decades.

“Four Walls for Atlanta Hartsfield Airport” was one of 14 public artworks commissioned by Mayor Maynard Jackson for the airport that now bears his name. Only four are still on display —- several pieces suffered irreparable damage from neglect and environmental wear and tear.

Now, Antonakos’ work could become the latest casualty.

Airport officials are considering taking down the installation, possibly to make room for advertising.

“We move art, we move advertising,” said General Manager Ben DeCosta in describing the airport’s “dynamic” environment."



Work by Stephen Antonakos in Texas

Irrespective what one thinks about the art itself, the fact that only four of fourteen pieces originally commissioned for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remain is a shameful show of neglect.

General Manager Ben DeCosta comments: “This is not a museum. Even in a museum, they change out the artwork.” Mr. DeCosta is being disingenuous--first shows his disregard for the art itself, then he insults our intelligence by suggesting he's following the curatorial practices of a museum by changing out the art work.

But Mr. DeCosta has no intention of changing out the work. He intends to reclaim the real estate so he can sell it to advertisers.



Should Mr. DeCosta succeed, this will be the most shameful thing to go down in an airport since the honorable senator from Idaho.

Prestige Picture: Vicky Christina Batman

Who is that actress in Vicky Christina Barcelona?


We all know show stealing Penelope Cruz...


and, of course, this being a Woody Allen 3.0 film, we know Scarlett Johansson...


...but who's the other girl playing Vicky?

Rebecca Hall.

A quick glance at imdb the de facto bible of film credits, reveals relatively few credits for her.

One credit that does stand out is 2006's The Prestige.



It is worth noting that Hall was first paired with her Barcelona co-star Johansson in the Prestige:



Also of interest to Dark Knight-loving audiences discovering Nolan this summer, pairings of Dark Knight stars Chirstian Bale and Michael Caine:



And of course, the Prestige also featured a supporting role of the coin!



...which returned in a much meatier role in Dark Knight.

Killing a Film Softly

I can't express my disappointment I experienced this Friday when previewing the movie listings in the Friday Atlanta Journal Constitution. (Yes, I still prefer to look at the movie listings in the Friday paper, rather than browsing online. When you have the entire smorgasbord of options in front of you and you can see the entire landscape, some things stand out.)



My disappointment stemmed from the location where the new film I.O.U.S.A. opened in Atlanta: the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 24.

Roadside Attractions
decision to open a specialty documentary film at a suburban multi-plex is paramount to sending a prisoner to Siberia. In fairness, for the masses headed home to their suburban gated communities north of Atlanta, bypassing the Hollywood 24 on the shoulder of 85, the film will be a roadside Attraction.

When opening a specialty film theatrcially, location is one of the most significant factors for success, along with marketing, timing, and critical review. (The quality of the film is often secondary--I've seen countless great films--like Mondovino--tank at the box office, while mediocre films--like Bottle Schlock--catch on.



We've seen this elsewhere this summer:
Danny McBride's Foot Fist Way opened on a single screen in the Atlanta market--way the hell out in Stonecrest, in a multiplex over 40 minutes from Atlanta proper. Paramount Vantage held the theatrical release of this film for like 2 years...and then dumped it in the suburbs, over a month and a half before Danny McBride was positioned to break big.



Meanwhile, now that we're headed into September, Danny McBride's stock has risen! He's featured in two of this summer's hottest comedies: Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express, and audiences are likely asking themselves, where can I see more of his work? Had Paramount Vantage held the release a few more months, they might have been positioned for a legitimate sleeper hit. Heck, had Paramount Vantage employed better strategy, the company itself might have survived...

Dan's been brave enough to see such specialty films as Midnight Meat Train and Uwe Boll's Postal upon their theatricial openings in banjo-strumming locales like Fayetteville and Riverdale.



The state of independent releasing is precarious. Small films need every possible advantage to succeed in a crowded, competitive marketplace.

When a distributor decides to open a film in Siberia, they doom the picture to failure.

There are reasons distributors dump a film:
1) From a desk in New York, one screen is as good as another. Getting the film on-screen is the thing. More often than not, such decisions show a distributor's ignorance about a specific market. But this is simply not true. All screens are not equal. Audiences are creatures of habit--and art house audiences have come to expect art house films at specific venues. The only time specialty films can perform in an unconventional screen is when the film crosses a tipping point and expands wide (Juno, March of the Penguins...etc) or when a film (like Passion of the Christ, the Tyler Perry canon) is positioned to reach a critical mass outside the art house hub.

2) They really don't care: Why would a distributor would choose to dump a film on purpose? They are contractually obligated to open the film on a certain number of screens, and by opening (in Siberia) they are honoring their obligation.



3) There just isn't any room on the desirable screens: In Atlanta, the Landmark Theatre is holding "art films" like Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!, Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder (I get it, they have to pay the bills, too!), and meanwhile, the UA Tara is holding tight to legit powerhouse art product, and doing quite well. I wonder why more companies, when they get squeezed by corporate theatres like Regal, UA and Landmark don't cozy up to independent theatres like The Plaza and Lefont? Seems to me these theatres are the last frontier for true indies.

I.O.U.S.A has been employing an aggressive and interesting marketing strategy. I've encountered the film numerous times on Google ads. They created a national opening event by staging a national town hall meeting (projected on digital screens throughout the country) with Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway; William Niskanen, chairman of the CATO Institute; Bill Novelli, CEO of AARP; Pete Peterson, senior chairman of The Blackstone Group and chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation; and Dave Walker, president & CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former U.S. Comptroller General. But based on their list of theatrical venues, it looks to me like they've misplayed their hand.



All I know is this: a group of 5 interested film lovers--the film festival staff--opted to see Housebunny on Friday, instead of I.O.U.S.A.

I'm sure we'll see the film eventually--as soon at it's available on Netflix.

A Few Pics From the Week 8/22

Women In Film & Television Atlanta's Navigating the Film Festival Circuit:
Donna Musil
(Writer-Director), BRATS: Our Journey Home
Brats
screened at the 2006 Atlanta Film Festival


Women In Film & Television Atlanta's Navigating the Film Festival Circuit:
Catherine Pfitzer
, Executive Director Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
Also pictured
Hadjii, Writer-Director Somebodies (2007 Atlanta Film Festival) and
Mike Brune
, Writer-Director The Adventure (2008 Atlanta Film Festival)


Women In Film & Television Atlanta's Navigating the Film Festival Circuit:
Gabe
, Executive Director Atlanta Film Festival 365
(shamelessly plugging the fest with free t-shirts)



Women In Film & Television Atlanta's Navigating the Film Festival Circuit:
Harry Musselwhite
, Creative/Program Director Rome International Film Festival



Line for the locals shorts at Atlanta Underground Film Festival


Jeremiah Prescott urges you to do your patriotic duty while
you're attending Atlanta Underground.



Waiting for the local shorts screening to start at Atlanta Underground.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rapid i Movement Hits the Sidewalk and Goes Underground

Just got word that Rapid i film Sturgess Fillmore Presents... Atlanta! just got accepted into this year's Sidewalk Moving Picture Film Festival. My reply, via IM was Hot Damn!

Then it hit me. I should blog about this. Because there's also Tibbet's Trust from Scott Balzer that's screening at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival this weekend.

Rapid i was created before my tenure here at the festival began. But, it plays into two of my personal passions. Encouraging local filmmaking and having fun. And seeing these two Rapid i films live beyond there initial screenings is what we hope for most. Films aren't like poems that sit in a diary, stuck under a bed, locked with a key. They're meant to be seen. And if they're good, to be enjoyed. And these two films definitely qualify.

Atlanta Underground Film Festival Screenings for Tibbets' Trust:

Friday August 23 8 PM Local Short Films The Plaza Theater
Saturday August 24 7 PM Comedy Short Films The Plaza Theater

Weird Stuff That Makes Me Chuckle

I was on the way to work this morning when I saw that there was a cop over in the right lane and just right behind me. This being Atlanta I'm doing the required minimum of 75. Since he was too, I didn't worry too much about slowing down. Then as he rode by I noticed that his pants leg was kind of high.





Weird observation? Maybe.

I'm just glad brother man had lotioned. As any brother knows, ashy legs ain't funny. They're just sad.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Best Movie Summer of the Last 10 Years?

Pretty much everyone kicks ass in this. Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson not only compete on the track, but in one of the single greatest grumbling contests ever put to film. Every time they talk to each other, they seem to drop their testicles lower in an attempt to hit notes so low that only whales and heavy machinery can understand them.

This pull-quote is from an Ain't It Cool News review of Death Race 2000. And I'd be lying if I said the final judgment, that the film is good exploitation fun, doesn't it make the giddy kid inside me happy. (Although, I still haven't seen the thing, so that may change.)

On the whole this has to go on record as one of the strongest Summers when it comes to movies. The shear number of hits this season pretty much confirms it. Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Wall*E, The Dark Knight, it's been a fun Summer for flicks.

There's some crazy madness out there claiming that 2002 is a contender, but I'm sorry, but the list of Spiderman, Men in Black 2, Austin Powers Goldmember, Minority Report, Bourne Identity, and Signs has to take a few hits just for Signs' inane premise of aliens--sans suits-- invading a planet in which 70% of it's surface can kill them. And Men in Black 2 takes the prize for most uninspired sequel since Battle for Planet of the Apes. At least Battle has the excuse of having a significantly lower budget than the other four Apes flicks.

Although it is ironic that in a Summer that includes The Happening, which is probably the best comedy of the summer, some folks would bring up 2002. And also The Love Guru, which I haven't seen, apparently shares with Austin Powers' not only Mike Myers as lead and writer, but also that movie's fascination with a particular male member and bodily functions as a source of humor. So maybe there is something to that 2002/2008 connection.

P.S. And I purposely forgot about
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones...as far as I'm concerned the prequels never existed...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Must Be The Crazy One

So apparently, out off all the folks here in the office who took a toke of Pineapple Express, I was the only one who didn't find it all that entertaining. In fact, I was bored through about 60% of it.

Two things that irked me were the underwhelming plot and the way so many scenes ran long past their expiration date.

What's ironic, is that if this had been straight stoner movie, the lack of a plot and the long scenes would have fit the wacky weed aesthetic that's been a part of the genre since forever. Even before the stoner film came into existence, movies featuring folks like Hope and Crosby or the Marx Bros. were just a string of loosly connected scenes, that had little narrative drive.

However, when you're trying create a stoner-action film, you can't ignore the plot. That's one of the key components of an action film.
The undercooked plot does several things, but its worse offense is that it renders the--equally underdeveloped--villians impotent as a threat.

Which is another problem with the film, so many side characters were never fully formed. They mainly existed to be an obstacle or complication for Rogen and Franco. The girlfriend character and storyline are both useless at best, and insulting at worse. And while I agree that the women characters don't get as much to do in the Apatow films as the men, I wouldn't have thrown out the mysoginistic label. Not until now. Rosie Perez's cop could have been a legndary comic foil, instead of playing second banana to the always awesome--even when the movie sucks--Gary Cole. It's never clear if she's working for or with Cole's Ted Jones. At one point its insinuated that she and Ted Jones might be equals, then they just seem to stop worrying about fleshing that out.

But, my greatest reservation about the film is that they take to long to get Rogen and Franco together, then they spend too little time getting us to understand why Rogen and Franco's bromance is destined to be.

Strangely, Rogen and crew make the same mistake that 99% of bad romantic comedies make. Which is they never give us a cogent reason why these two people would--not should--end up together. And while I could buy Franco having a man-crush on Rogen, it's never articulated why Rogen would call Franco is BFFF by the end of the movie.

You could say they were borrowing from the 80s/90s action film template, in which, for no logical reason, the leading man and semi-leading lady, decide to consumate their relationship in the middle of a gangland war, or after having their car shot to hell and back. The only reason these two people are in a shared predicament is by the hand of fate, and not out of actual choice. In otherwords, if these two people weren't been chased down by a T-7000, would they even notice each other from across a crowded room? Probably not. Actual sexual tension between them goes a long way to believability.

I really wish the first 20 minutes could have just been Rogen and Franco sitting back doing some doobies and doing some actual bonding. Even when they make jokes about a situation being homoerotic, or try to give their bromance a homoerotic subtext for comic effect, it never quite works. While Franco and Rogen work well together, there's no real tension. They're like that couple that gets engaged at the end of their Senior year of college. Everyone knows that its never going to last because they don't actually click. As soon as one of them moves away, one of them will quickly realize how much they aren't jonesing for the other.

I'm not totally down on the movie though. Because that other 40% that didn't bore me was all Franco and Danny McBride. In fact, the McBride/Franco dynamic when they're reminisining about their past adventures should have been the template for the entire movie. And to reinforce that comes the coda: the ending diner scene. Give me two hours of that and we're talking top 20 of stoner films. As is, this film doesn't even come close.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Aquarium in the YouTube Screening Room


Aquarium, the Narrative Short Film Grand Jury Award winner at the 2008 Atlanta Film Festival is available to view online at YouTube's Screening Room. You can find more information about the filmmaker, Rob Meyer at robmeyerfilms.com.

Bay Area Blockbuster: SF Film Society Plans Expansion as Film Arts Foundation Closes Its Doors

In a seismic shift within the Bay Area film community, the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), which organizes the annual San Francisco International Film Fesival -- the oldest fest in the United States -- today unveiled a major expansion in the wake of the simultaneous announcement of the closure of the city's 32 year old Film Arts Foundation. The latest non-profit film organization to face fatal financial challenges, Film Arts recently sold its interest in the local 9th Street building it shared with a number of festivals and arts organizations, paying down its debts in the process and paving the way for a deal with the Film Society. "Film Arts Foundation has essentially gone under," SFFS executive director Graham Leggat explained to indieWIRE late Friday, previewing today's announcement. "We managed to catch the ball before it hit the ground."

Following in the footsteps of the move this year by the Tribeca Film Institute in acquiring Renew Media, a recent re-branding of the Atlanta Film Festival and its year-round programing via the Image Film and Video Center, and the growing bond between Film Independent and its annual Los Angeles Film Festival -- not to mention the dynamic relationship between the Sundance Institute and its annual Sundance Film Festival -- the San Francisco Film Society announcement underscores the importance of film festivals as anchor events for bigger film organizations.

http://www.indiewire.com/biz/2008/08/bay_area_blockb.html

From the absorption of the mini-majors to the question mark hanging over indie distribution, the entire indie side of the film world is in transition. These shifts are significant and wide ranging enough that we're surprised it hasn't yet spawned its own name.

Monday, August 18, 2008

CNN: Is blackface Okay Now?

Don't Be A Reality TV School Dropout

Sorry...for some reason song "Beauty School Dropout" from Grease keeps popping in my head. Try singing it: "Reality TV School Droput..." Frankie Avalon would do it justice.

For those folks trying to get into the Reality TV game, they should check out the New York Reality TV School taught by founder and instructor Robert Galinsky.

Since the genre's template, MTV's "The Real World," debuted in 1992 and single-handedly invented reality TV as we know it, hundreds of spinoffs, remakes, retreads and rip-offs have cropped up to render the prototype nearly irrelevant. Moreover, post-"Real World" reality shows -- be they dating, competition or situation-based -- have become so formulaic that identifying each subgenre's stereotypical cast of characters could be a parlor game.

So far, more than 50 students have graduated from the school, believed to be the first of its kind. A one-night, three-hour workshop costs $139, and thus far has been more popular than the more extensive five-week course, which consists of five 90-minute classes and costs $299. Students enrolled in the one-night workshop receive a crash course in the essentials of reality TV.

You learn how to survive a reality "perp walk," in which your classmates boisterously berate or congratulate you based on a prompt shouted out by Mr. Galinsky ("OK, this girl just stole your grandma's purse and shoved her in front of a moving car. You're angry! Let her hear it!"). You learn how to compress your basic pitch to reality producers into 30 seconds or less ("Hi, I'm Juliette, I'm 19 ... and I'm bisexual"). You even learn how to react to "moles," or reality castmates who have been strategically planted for the sake of shaking up the drama and adding an extra dose of "reality" to the situation (more on those later).

Read the Full Article at Ad Age

Is There Any Need For a Caption? It's called a 'Perp Walk', so 'nuff said.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why You Never Take On A Challenge From Chris Burns In Pictures






As you should know, Atlanta Film Festival 365 isn't all we do. (Nor is film all we live for. Do not. I repeat! Do not engage Gabe in a sports discussion unless you are also a sports fanatic.) I was still photographer for a short this past weekend and this happened. Dan is a man that has gone to Sundance wearing only a thin jacket. So you'd think eating an entire pickle and drinking the juice and following that up with an entire Jolt would be a challenge that even Dan Slemons could take on. Alas...it appeared that the pickle--a hot pickle to be precise--was even too much for Dan.

Ask me why short film shoots can be fun--as well as frustrating and tiring-- this is one of them.

Fall Filmmaking Workshops Are Up!

Here's the entire schedule, friends. Festival members get a discount. And SIGN UP EARLY. Price goes up after the Early Bird Registration.

Workshop Page



August 23-24
Intro to Directing, Part I

September 2- September 30
Screenwriting 101: Developing The Feature Screenplay

Sept 20-21
Weekend Filmmaking: A Beginner’s Crash Course In Shooting And Editing

Sept 24- Oct 15
Outside The Box: Creative Funding And Marketing For Your Indie Film

Sept 27-28
Intro To Directing, Part I

Oct. 4-5
DV/HD Camera And Lighting Basics

Oct 7- Nov 11
Screenwriting 102: Act Two

Oct. 11
Documentary Filmmaking 101

Oct 18-19
Intro To Directing, Part II

Oct 25-26
Improv Acting For Film And Television

Nov 1, 2, 8, and 9
Screenwriting 101: Developing The Feature Screenplay

Nov. 15-16
Script Smarts: A Screenwriting Seminar

Nov. 18, 25, Dec 2, 10, and 16
Screenwriting 103: Finishing Your Screenplay

Nov 22-23
Basic Gaffing And Gripping For The Beginner

Dec 6
Complete Guide To Owning And Maintaining A Final Cut Pro Editing System

On Going
On-Camera Scene Study

Friday, August 15, 2008

Zeroes and Ones has No Borders

As reported by indieWIRE, Avi Zev Weider (pictured here with mentor Traci Carroll at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriting Retreat) has been accepted into the No Borders International Co-Production Market at IFP's Independent Film Week for his screenplay Zeroes and Ones, which was one of the winners of the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition. Avi will take part along with producers (former Executive Director of IMAGE and the Atlanta Film Festival) Anne Hubbell and Amy Hobby.

No Borders matches producers and filmmakers with potential funding and financing organizations from throughout the world. Recent projects which have been a part of No Borders are Frozen River, Half Nelson, Maria Full of Grace, and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

It's Not Blackface

The major debate surrounding Tropic Thunder concerns the use of the word "retard." What's been consistently mentioned by many folks is the surprise that Downey Jr.'s performance hasn't raised the collective ire of Black folks, or just people in general, across the nation. (I did find a few protests, but they're mostly minor.) In the minds of many, since Downey's role has been so integral to the marketing and plays so much more prominent role in the film's story, it would have been the likely target for blowback. Here's an example from Spoutblog:
Tropic Thunder is taking heavy fire, not for Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface performance, but rather for Ben Stiller’s spoof movie-within-a-movie, Simple Jack.
What irks me is that there seems to be a general misunderstanding of what is and isn't blackface. While Downey's character has his skin darkened, it's not exaggerated. He's not wearing the characteristic red lip outline or the black charcoal base. Nor is his military uniform even a part of the minstrel/blackface code. Most importantly, the archetype--stereotypical as it is, which is kind of the point--he's portraying doesn't have its roots in the minstrel tradition. As with Ben Stiller's Tugg Speedman playing Simple Jack, the archetype has more to do with actors and the lengths they'll go to for authenticity and to prove themselves as actors. (In Thunder, Speedman dons an awful bowl haircut and buckteeth to play the role of Jack.)

Christain Bale lost 63 lbs for The Machinist, only to pack back on 100 lbs to play Batman. Charlize Theron famously "went ugly" to play the lead in Monster. By most accounts, that she started her career as a model, only added resonance to the move. Actors have and do indeed go to great lengths to disappear into their roles. But, do they have to go so far? Even Orson Welles donned a fake nose for his role in The Long Hot Summer.

This is sliding into another tangent, so let me get back on track.

There's a little movie called The Watermelon Man from 1970. It's about a White man who suddenly wakes up Black. He tries to live his life the same way as he did before the inexplicable transformation, but finds his daily routine interpreted differently by his family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
To play the role Godfrey Cambridge (another great actor few folks know about) had to wear white makeup. When he turns Black, they simply removed the white makeup. It's not the most convincing effect, but it works enough for the purposes of the movie. Which is the most important thing. Could this movie be told any other way? Especially in 1970?

For the time period, being produced just a scant 6 years after the signing of the Civil Rights act of 1964, the movie wouldn't have been able escape the blackface label if a White actor had taking the role, even with Melvin Van Peebles behind the lens. Let's not forget that Sidney Poitier was still having to answer questions as a Black actor and not as just an actor.

Considering it partially plays on a few stereotypes of white people, could it be called whiteface? Note: I'm not saying that whiteface--if it exists--in anyway has the same negative impact that blackface does. I don't even to look it up to tell you that all 10 actors up for Best Actor noms that year were White*. Or that the top grossing films of the year all featured White leads. Okay, I did look at the grosses for 1970:

1. Love Story Paramount $48,700,000
2. Airport Universal $45,220,000
3. M*A*S*H 20th Century Fox $36,720,000

As you can see, this little movie did no damage. Nor did White Chicks--although the damage it did to the Wayans brothers' rep is probably more measurable. Why Keenen? Why?

It's now 2008. Does the term blackface have the same meaning? It's a question that Spike Lee tackled in 2000 with Bamboozled. And I think a look at this montage...




...from the movie reinforces for me at least, that Downey Jr. is not in, or doing, blackface. Watch for a key scene near the end--of Tropic and not this youtube clip--as Downey's Kirk Lazarus "reemerges" for further proof about what the film's poking fun at.

To say otherwise totally undermines the negative role real blackface had on Black actors, Hollywood, America's perceptions of Black people and Black folk's perceptions of themselves. Almost any Black person of a certain age can tell you at least one story about being told what to do or not do around White people, lest their actions reinforce particular stereotypes about Black folks.

Blackface spawned 150 years of racist films, radio programs, tv shows, stage plays and products. Blackface was not just a cultural phenomenon, it was an entire industry.

*Actually, James Earl Jones was nominated for Best Actor for The Great White Hope. Foot in mouth? Maybe a toe, but not a full foot. :-) Charles

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Podcasting, Workshops and 2009 Festival

Whoops. Looks like it's been a few days since we've thrown something up here on the blog. We haven't abandoned the blog, it's just we've been working on a few things. Like a new podcast.

We recorded a few this morning at fest director Dan's place. After a few tweaks I'll throw up the first one.

Elizabeth is in the midst of finalizing our Fall line-up of workshops. Improv returns for round 2. For you screenwriters, Screenwriting 101, 102 and 103 are on-tap and they've been lined up so you can talk all 3 this Fall back to back.

And Dan is in the middle of prepping for call for entries for the 2009 festival.

Don't forget that we've still got the Screenplay Competition going on...Late Deadline is August 22nd. AND, the early bird deadline (price goes up after tomorrow) for Intro to Directing, Part I is tomorrow Friday, August 15. We're encouraging folks to sign-up because Part II will be returning in the Fall, and we don't want folks to miss out.

And if you're really just here to read our opinions on all things film, don't worry, I'll probably toss up one of my long a-- posts up here today. Somebody or something will set me off...don't you worry about that. My opinions are like poop from a baby's butt, they never seem to stop flowing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Tropic Thunder Insenstive?

As you may have read, there's been some brouhaha about Tropic Thunder's fake movie Simple Jack. Here's a quick recap.

In Tropic Thunder Ben Stiller plays action star Tugg Speedman. In a bid to earn an Oscar nom and to elevate his image, Speedman stars in Simple Jack, a film whose poster's tag line reads "Once Upon a Time...There Was A Retard." According to Access Hollywood, the film was a critical and box office flop. In Thunder, Kirk Lazarus, played by Robert Downey Jr., explains to Speedman that if he wanted to win an Oscar, he should have never gone full retard.

The objections that have risen concern the film's use of the word "retard." Several groups who work with the disabled find the use of the word offensive. In response, DreamWorks and Paramount pulled down the site for the fictional Simple Jack, but have left the film itself untouched.

That the movie is untouched isn't a surprise. The film sports a $90 million plus budget and more so than the other fictional movies mentioned in the film, Simple Jack is so integral to the Tropic's plot, that a good 1/3rd of the film would have to be excised to remove all references.

If you visit Chud or Aintitcool, you'll find most folks from that side falling into the free speech, "let the movie be" camp. While if you visit Patricia Bauer's Blog, you'll find an example of Disability groups and proponents who are actively protesting the movie.

While it's easy to jump on the free speech wagon, what few of those folks acknowledge is that there are very few representations of those with disabilities on screen. Small or Large. It's true that as a satire of Hollywood, Thunder's take on Oscar bait films is pretty accurate--and fair. Yet, when it's a near lonely representation of those with disabilities, the film's meta-elements carry an extra weight of responsbility, unintended or not.

Purely as a comedy, Amos and Andy is funny. However, when the only other show featuring an African American in the lead is The Beulah Show, Amos and Andy runs into the same issues that Thunder does. Diahann Carroll, who starred in the ground breaking TV show Julia--the first TV show to feature an African American female lead who wasn't a domestic, once mentioned that she snuck off to watch Amos and Andy against her family's wishes. She thought the show was hilarious, but she didn't understand the impact the show had till she herself was on TV on a weekly basis. For the majority of Americans in the 1950s, the only African Americans who would be in their home on a regular basis would literally have been on their television. And believe it or not, for many people, they would have taken a show like that for face value.

Fast forward. Why hasn't there been a backlash about Downey in blackface? Well, because of Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Andre Baugher, etc. Although there is still a dearth of quality roles for African American actors--especially women--the industry has made significant enough strides in the last 30 years that Downey's role is possible. Folks can more comfortably laugh when the world's largest film star is Black, when one of TV's biggest hits is run by an African American women, and when, on the whole, you can name at least a dozen African American actors who are critically acclaimed, award winning, recognizable and are active.

However, it also has to be said that Downey's character in Thunder isn't Amos or Andy. Downey isn't wearing blackface in the minstrel tradition. He's not scheming someone, or acting like a buffoon. Even while staying in character, Downey's Lazarus is one of the more level headed characters.

The character of Simple Jack is the distillation of all the worse attributes that stigmatize those who are mentally disabled. He stutters, he has bucked teeth, he uses overly simplistic phrasing and he demonstrates an extreme lack of cognitive judgment. All punctuated by a bowl haircut and outfit that make him look like a man in Raggedy Andy drag. By all definitions, he could be considered the mentally disabled equivalent of a minstrel character. Which is the point of the film. And truth be told, the movie's point--that actors do take roles like Jack in a bid to earn awards--wouldn't have been made if Stiller had toned down the performance.

It reminds me of this scene from the show Extras:



One last point. Much of what Dave Chappelle did on The Chappelle Show was a brilliant deconstruction of race in America. His "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong" was probably the best commentary on why the concept of "Keeping it Real" is asinine. However, when he realized that America as a whole couldn't see past the joke, did he keep going--using a $50 Million payday as a convenient out? Or did he take his social responsibilities seriously? Chappelle famously said this when a crowd kept yelling "I'm Rick James, Bitch!" at one of his shows:
You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you're not smart enough to get what I'm doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.
And if you think Chappelle's reaction was out of bounds, consider the below pic from an ad featuring a the 2008 Spanish men's basketball team. Or, consider the Don Imus blow up that occurred after Chappelle was off the air. And how about these students who, in blackface, and for fun, reenacted the Jena 6 assault.


There are times when we as a society and world buy into our own hype. And that's a dangerous trap. Just because we may no longer hide those with disabilities en masse in special homes, out of public view, does that mean that we've truly embraced and integrated those with disabilities into our everyday lives. Just as America's making The Chappelle Show a hit meant that viewers grasped all the subtle and not so subtle commentary Chappelle was trying to make.

I'm not saying that what Stiller and crew did is wrong. Personally, I think the movie is one of the funniest films of the Summer. And much like Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles or this (warning: includes strong racial language) famous scene from The Jerk, the film's satirical jabs only have punch if they are subversive.

However, until there's a time when characters with disabilities, physical or mental, are standard characters on dramas and comedies, we can expect more folks to bristle at moments like Simple Jack. That's their right and should be understandable. What folks over at Chud and Aintitcool should be advocating for are more roles for disabled actors and characters.

And folks on the other side should keep in mind that the end of the Blaxplotation era didn't usher in a new age of enlightened and well rounded black characters. That took another 20 years. Just as it was nearly 20 years between the debut of Beluah in 1950 and Julia in 1968. So be careful what you ask for, you may just get it. Instead of being included, even negatively, Hollywood may just ignore you all together.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Screening

Comcast hosted a screening of Star Wars: The Clone Wars this past Saturday and some Atlanta Film Festival members and Comcast staff had the opportunity to attend.


Making the screening even more special, the GA 501st, folks that dress up as stormtroopers and other Star Wars characters, were on hand to take photos with the kids--and let's be honest, the adults. Some of the kids where just too damn cute, they were so excited to be in the pics. Check out more of the photos on our Facebook page and group.

Thanks to Comcast, Warner Bros., Turner and Cartoon Network.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac

I'm not a star, and I don't want to be a star. Stars fall. I'm an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job. - Bernie Mac

I was at a sneak peak of Star Wars today, handing out passes to festival members when a friend said he just got a text saying Bernie Mac is dead.

In the world of text messaging, news traveling this way has become common place. Someone gets the word first, then a few minutes later someone else will get the same text from yet another source. You don't quite believe the news and instantly you're browsing on your phone, hoping, that you'll find out it's a rumor with no basis in fact. Unfortunately, by now, you should know that it's rare for news like that to be fake. Too many people receiving separate texts from different people for it to be not true.

About 10 minutes after my friends text, Paula texted me, and then I knew that he was really gone.

While not quite the comedic rock star like Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy, Bernie Mac was a trailblazer in his own way. He's among a super-exclusive group of Black journeymen comedians who found a level of career success that didn't require them to achieve rock star status. And by his own admission, he liked it that way.

Back during the Original Kings of Comedy tour, my boy's date dropped out at the last minute and he invited me to use the other ticket. By far, Bernie Mac was the best of the four. DL Hughley was still using his you need Jesus routine that I'd seen a thousand times. Steve Harvey, who was bombing badly, only got into a rhythm when he started making fun of a heckler. And Cedric the Entertainer was good, but he wasn't memorable. Only Bernie Mac was the one we were quoting endlessly for weeks.

There was a truth to his humor that we could identify with. For me personally, when Bernie spoke about his sister going to rehab and his sister's kids, I instantly thought of my, by then, deceased aunt.

A schemer, she somehow convinced Blockbuster, not once, not twice, but four different times that her car had been broken into. In her closet were enough tapes to open her own video store.

My grandmother was once asked to play a part in a movie. When the production called, the hotel's number came up. Afraid that my aunt(s) had again gotten into some serious trouble and had torn up a hotel room, my grandmother avoided picking up the phone. Only later did she realize it was the movie folks calling.

When I was 13, me and my sister were down in Miami for Summer vacation and I had saved up a $100 to spend while I was down there. Somehow, the $80 I had left over after the first week, disappeared from my wallet. My aunt denied taking it, but I somehow doubt my grandmother had turned klepto.

As exasperating as my aunt was, we couldn't help but start laughing when we started talking about one of her adventures. We could entertain ourselves for hours.

When my aunt died, her husband drove up to the church. As soon as he opened the car door, Master P's I Miss My Homies came blasting out. It was an absurd scene. As sad as that day was, half my family had to literally bite their lips to hide their smiles. Even her funeral was going to generate another story. The type of story I could see Bernie telling himself.

Bernie was the flip side of Bill Cosby, with a heavy dose of Richard Pryor. He told stories about his family and life that were cathartic. Stories that allowed folks to look at the dysfunction in their own families and laugh at the good, the bad, the ugly, the true.

Warning, there's some serious language in this clip.