30 September 2009

Hear My Voice!

For the past couple of weeks, we've been gearing up for the endlessly mentioned and plugged Project Twenty1 Film Festival, which is finally and excitedly taking place this very weekend. If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, then you are a lame, lame loser who has nothing better to do than slothfully meander through the Internet as your eyes dissolve from screen erosion.
Me too.
But in an effort to get more people off their ass and talking about us, Chris and I subjected ourselves to an interview from the brilliant minds behind The Reel Skinny, a movie review website that you should immediately bookmark and subscribe to, right now. To listen to the podcast and hear me curse (but not too badly - it's PG level blueness), click here.
In other news, the good folks at Project Twenty1 have released the 2009 edition of their film competition screening promotional trailer thingie-majig. It's embedded below. I probably won't update the blog again until after the festival (sorry all two of my followers), but when I do, I hope to have some choice pictures to put up. Last time, I forced myself to take only black and white photos, and am planning to do so once again. If any are mind-blowing enough, I'll slap them up here.
See you in Philly!

18 September 2009


A trusted source has informed me that if I mention Saffron Burrows in my blog posts, I'll get more hits from the many people randomly Googling her name (probably in the hopes of finding naked pictures). So I would like to start this entry by naming my Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies:

Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies
  1. Deep Blue Sea - Remember when she got eaten by that shark and everyone was all like"Whoa! I totally thought she'd end up boning Thomas Jane!" It was awesome, right?! Uh, spoiler alert, I guess.
  2. Gangster No. 1 - Paul Bettany tried to run over a naked guy in a parking garage. And then later he tortured someone else to death and we saw it from that guy's point of view. It was pretty sweet. Saffron Burrows was in this movie too.
  3. Frida - According to the IMDb, Saffron Burrows played Gracie. I don't recall that character. Salma Hayek did get naked, though. And those paintings were very nice. OH! And there was that bus accident in the beginning where Frida Kahlo got pwned.
  4. The Bank Job - I haven't seen this movie, but I've heard it's pretty good. And it features merkins. That's a word that doesn't get used often enough.
  5. Wing Commander - I haven't seen this either, but it's supposed to be incredibly awful. Not even fun-awful. I wonder if it's been a My Year of Flops entry yet?
Way back in 2006, I briefly wrote for a film news website. At some point the management changed hands, and I seemed to get lost in the shuffle, so I quietly made my exit and lamented the loss of the spare change they graciously paid me for my reviews and posts. Before I left, however, the new boss told us that we should be writing more lists. It didn't matter what their subject was or what was in them, it was just important that people clicked on them, and forwarded them to their friends, and vociferously debated over your careful rankings of the Top 20 Heist Movies Where Something Goes Wrong Because of a Dopey Bank Employee. In my spare time, I would try to think of list ideas, but not just any ideas - ones that felt new to me, and sparked my interest in actually writing them. That is, lists I would actually feel passionate about and avidly defend.

I couldn't come up with any.

If I were given the challenge anew, I still wouldn't be able to come up with anything (okay, maybe one), and here's the reason why: pop culture lists generally suck balls. Back in the day, when the AFI was first getting into the game, they were helpful and useful, but lists' hasty adoption and rampant proliferation across the face of the Internet have ruined them for our lifetime. One can no longer go to the IMDb Hit List (which is the good kind of list) without finding at least one trash list entry. Just today it was The 10 Most Iconic Opening Scenes in Cinema History. (Also, dude, no Once Upon a Time in the West? Come on. And yes, I'll say it, Blue Velvet is overrated, especially the beginning. "Oh look! There's worms under the ground of this idyllic suburban back yard! Get it?!" Sometimes I think David Lynch took a while to let go of the film school mentality.)

The worst lists are those where the writer has selected only the most obvious choices and provided the minimal amount of words necessary to complete the piece, offering no worthwhile insight, commentary, or criticism. A close number two are the ones that make you click through multiple pages to see their selections one by one in a crass attempt to up their hit counters. (I'm looking at you on both of these, Entertainment Fucking Weekly). The best ones provide you with a fresh angle on old material, or inspire you to add even more selections to your already-bursting Netflix queue.

But my list fatigue is even starting to affect my enjoyment of those. The A.V. Club's weekly Inventory is usually a reliable time waster, well-written if nothing else, and they will soon be releasing a new book that looks very suitable for bathroom material (and I mean that as a compliment). And yet every week, when they put up their new collection of 36 Movies and Television Shows Where Precocious Kids Get Slapped in the Mouth, I can barely find it in me to click through. ME! A writer! Procrastination is our lifeblood! Just in the course of writing this I've stopped three times to play Solitaire! "Can't you just tell me about something you like or don't like on its own terms?" I think. "Why must you arbitrarily cluster it with other things it may or may not be related to?"

The entire point of pop culture lists is to stir debate and get everyone talking about art, ideas, and why or why not something is good. But that never really happens. If you agree with them, you just flit from item to item, nodding your head and thinking "Yes, that is correct," and your knowledge is not deepened or enhanced in any way. If you disagree, you just get indignant for no reason. "How could you leave out that 'Kids in the Hall' sketch from the list of Best Sketches About Dry Cleaning?! How did an ignoramus like you even get this job?!" Ranked lists are even worse, forcing you to quantify the unquantifiable, and then argue about it. I would dread coming up with a list of my Top 10 Movies of All Time, because, naturally enough, I love a lot of different movies for a lot of different reasons. Is Rushmore better than Sunset Boulevard? I don't know. I just want to embrace what I love, and flog what I hate.

Comparing and contrasting films can be very edifying, and can highlight differences and similarities where none were previously seen. When lines and connections are drawn, they reveal a complicated but beautiful patchwork of relationships and causes and effects. And that is perfectly wonderful. But please, can we stop doing this through lists? How about the next time you think of a list idea, write out your choices, and then examine them for a way to link them up in a more satisfying way? For instance, turn your list of the Top 17 Badassed Badasses into a meditation on violence and fear, and what draws us to figures with repulsive morals. Or take Twenty-Three Female Characters Who Need to Man the Fuck Up and apply it to the evolution of feminism as represented in films throughout history.

All I'm really asking is that you think just a little bit more. Now if you don't mind, there's a surprisingly long list of Saffron Burrows movies I have to catch up on.

Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies I Haven't Seen but Might Actually Watch
  1. The Bank Job - Jason Statham? '70s London? Merkins? Sign me up!
  2. Enigma - Only because I read the book in high school.
  3. Fay Grim - I'll have to see Henry Fool first, though.
  4. In the Name of the Father - Daniel Day-Lewis, mothafuckas!
  5. Welcome II the Terrordrome - I'm going purely on title with this one. I don't even want to know what this movie's about.

17 September 2009

"Things go round and round, don't they?"

If you follow film news in the slightest, you (should) have already heard about Henry Gibson's death today. He was "only" 73, which struck me as odd, because with his white hair and lined face, I've thought he was in his 70s since at least 1989. Every time I saw him in a new movie, I'd think, "Hey! It's Henry Gibson! I can't believe he's still alive! And working!"

I suppose this is a result of repeated viewings of The 'burbs as a child. In that film, Gibson played the head of the Klopeks, a family of [I can't believe I'm issuing a SPOILER ALERT for this] mass murderers who attempt to kill the lovable then-comedic actor Tom Hanks. As I haven't seen it since I was a kid, I don't know if The 'burbs is a good film, but it was certainly one that left an impression, and so will always belong somewhere in the dark cockles of my heart.

It was also the reason for Henry Gibson becoming one of my very first "Hey! That guy!"s. You know what I'm talking about: those actors who wow you more than the leads, yet who aren't famous enough for the press to track their every move, and so when you see them in other movies, you brighten up, as if you have come across an old friend by accident. That's the way I felt no matter what role Gibson played. Even when he was the Neo-Nazi in The Blues Brothers, I wanted to clap my hands in delight. He projected that special type of confidence that says, "I got this acting shit down. You're not gonna be groaning at anything I say or do, no matter how poorly the film is written." It's something all good character actors possess in spades, which is why they should really be the stars.

Now, finally, he really is gone. Most of the time when a celebrity dies, I don't feel much, especially when they've made it to a relatively ripe old age. We all have to go sometime, and it's tough to get sad and pensive about the passing of someone you didn't actually know. I like to think of this as a mature perspective, but I sometimes fear it's disguised callousness. This time, though, it's different. While I still can't truthfully admit to having crying jags all day, I also cannot deny feeling the loss. When I read the news, I gave one of those disappointed "Oh"s. Then I did the closest thing to an emotional outburst in a situation like this: I told a coworker. Even now I'm bummed, and I know the next time I see a movie with him in it (I recommend Nashville, by the way), I'll think "Hey! It's that guy! I can't believe he's--Oh, fuck."

Mourn ya 'til I join ya, Mr. Gibson. (Thanks to the A.V. Club for finding the extremely ghoulish yet entirely appropriate clip below.)

14 September 2009

The Man Behind the Camera

The second (and probably last) official trailer for "TUMBLER: the boom" is now online! This one features more of our very talented cast, and some of the beautiful music Alyssa Robbins generously contributed to the film. Watch it and feel your excitement blossoming.

In the time since my last post, I've been busy writing this, snorting that, and so haven't been as prolific an Interneter as I should be. My apologies. Perhaps most notably and wonderfully holding me up was a visit from Anthony "The AEG" Griffin and Shirley Clemens Griffin, the head and lead actress of our sister team, Team With No Name. Whilst here, they treated Chris and I to a viewing (several, actually) of the complementary film to "the boom," "TUMBLER: the echo."

I should say, first of all, that I co-wrote "the echo," and so you should perhaps take that into consideration when I say that I fucking loved it. Of course, I try to be as objective as possible, and am even harder on myself than I am on other people's films, but at the same time, I'm pretty damn compromised when I give my opinion on it. Perhaps it would be better if I tell you that my writing had nothing to do with why I loved it? What made me squeal in delight was Tony's gorgeous black and white cinematography (hmm...is that the right word to use when it's video?) and Shirley and David Prouty's fantastic performances. As it turns out, our films match up pretty well; there are similarities and differences where there should be, and hopefully they help illuminate our stories and themes. Some of the matches were intentional, but a lot were happy accidents we won't hesitate to take credit for.

We try to keep things in perspective, but we're damn happy with how the films turned out. The true test, though, will come during the festival and we start hearing the opinions of people who haven't worked on the films and don't know us. What will their reaction be? I can honestly say that I do not have a clue. I can see them liking them, I can see them hating them. I hope it's the former. That's all I can really say for now.

Over the past week or so, the good folks at Project Twenty1 have been busy themselves, and they've hammered out the official schedule for the festival. "TUMBLER: the boom" will be playing during the Red Screening on Saturday, October 3rd, at 3:00 pm. "the echo" will playing during the Blue Screening, which is the same day at 5:00 pm. As it turns out, that Saturday will be a big day for us assorted Michiganders, because Fairview Street, a feature film shot by Tony (curiously enough, also in black and white), written and directed by Michael McCallum, and starring me (in a small weaselly role) will also be playing that day at 7:45 pm.

The festival wraps up on Sunday with a third screening of competition films, and then the awards ceremony. So if you're in the Philadelphia area, get your ass to these screenings and watch some quality filmmaking. If you don't like our films, there will be plenty of others for you to enjoy.