Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let The Right One In

I saw this movie last night. It's good and different, but in a good way. You should see it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Media Viewing Preferences

A very hot topic on the festival circuit right now is alternative forms of distribution. Translated, this means - "What is the best way for your movie to be seen by the most amount of people?" Theatrical distribution for most films is not an option, and probably shouldn't be for a lot that do get it. Even if one does have a theatrical release of a film, distribution is still an area of great interest and concern, post its theater run. The goal is to get the film seen by as many eyes as possible while extending the life of the film. Currently, the hottest solution to this problem is digital distribution. This is basically online distribution with video on demand (VOD), via sites like YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and Tivo. Digital media companies (ie: b-side, Cinetic Rights Management, and IndieFlix) assist filmmakers trying to secure digital rights for their films and offer the filmmaker an audience they would never get theatrically. The selling point is the ability to get the movie in front of eyes around the entire world - literally - via the aforementioned internet sites and various other mediums.

Online viewing is by far the easiest and possibly most cost-effective way to reach the masses. But, I honestly don't think online movie viewing (of feature films) is going to be very successful, when viewed from one's computer screen. I think this for a couple of reasons: 1) People prefer to watch feature-length movies with others (making it a shared experience) and, 2) The computer is an interactive device (which is counterintuitive to movie watching).

Movie Viewing is a Shared Experience
While people do watch movies alone, I feel like the preferred method is to do it with others. Entertainment (movies, plays, etc) is usually enjoyed in pairs - or more (a pair of tickets). Watching things with other people enhances the storytelling and story-receiving experience. When watching a show or movie with family and friends, it's common to look at each other after hearing the punchline of a joke, or after a tragic turning point. Watching alone removes that experience and sense of connection with the other person, or people, and possibly even from whatever it is being watched.

While online media sites like YouTube and iTunes work incessantly to improve the quality viewing (specifically for movies), in hopes more people will watch their content from their computers, they cannot change the viewer's environment. This is where TV and computers differ. TVs are created to go into rooms that allow for, and usually invite, multiple people. The computer monitor, is typically attached to a laptop (note the singularity of "lap") or a stationary desktop ( again, designed for a single user), designed for offices or work spaces - a much less friendlier environment for movie watching.

While computers now come equipped to watch DVD's and access the internet - enabling a laptop or PC to act as a TV - it is still primarily designed for a different purpose and for a single user. Having access to internet sites that allow the user to watch a movie online, streaming or via download, doesn't change the singularity of the event. How many times have you moved a chair over to a friend's computer monitor to watch a feature-length movie? Short movies, TV shows and user-generated snippets rule for online viewing.

Computer Monitors vs. TVs
Computer monitors/displays are attached to computers - which also come with a keyboards/mouse/printer, etc.. This is an interactive single-user device. The act of viewing a movie is meant to be a passive one, allowing the viewer to access the imagination via the story by simply watching and absorbing it. Watching a movie on a computer tempts the viewer with access to other items (email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc) and subliminally suggests multi-tasking.

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to just sit in front of laptop and not interact with it - even while watching something short. I can have multiple windows open at once and "multi-task." I can "watch" an old video clip of George Carlin on YouTube while I write a blog. This is not quality viewing. If I were a filmmaker, I would want the audience to be fully engaged in my movie, and not just look up when they hear story-altering music or laughter. While some people might be able to fully engage in an online feature without checking their email, or updating their Facebook status, I am not one of them (nor are most of the people I know). Dividing one's attention across multiple media at a single time compromises comprehension of the media being put out (movie) and also the ability to optimally perform the additional functions (email, letter, etc).

The Convergence of Interactive Media
In October, I blogged and reposted an article from the New York Times announcing that Netflix HD Streams Coming to XBox. The article's title aptly describes its contents. This is an example of an interactive product (XBox) converging with a non-interactive product (TV) and producing a desired result - shared movie watching experience.

Also in my post, I mentioned the HDTVs designed to stream online videos on-demand, without the additional use of a set-top box (ie: XBox, cable box, etc). The technology making this possible is tru2way. October ushered in Panasonic's first tru2way HDTV retail stores in Chicago and Denver. According to the press release, "These tru2way HDTVs will allow consumers to access all digital cable services such as electronic program guides and the full range of interactive and video-on-demand programming – all accessible directly via the television’s remote control - without the costs or clutter associated with a traditional external cable set-top box." This is a joint effort for Panasonic and Comcast.

Earlier this month I attended the International Film Festival Summit and listened to a panel discussion on this topic: Distribution Revolution or Evolution? , moderated by Mike Jones of Variety. The panel's conclusion (my takeaway): It's a toss up and the filmmaker needs to make his/her own decision based on what s/he thinks is best for the film.

A couple of weeks after the conference, Cinevegas' Roger Erik Tinch wrote a blog, "Distribution and Consumption in 2009," sharing his thoughts. His conclusion: "Ultimately it’s all about harnessing the speed, accessibility and virality of the internet to bring home viewing content back where it belongs: on the T.V."

I agree with Tinch. Shorts are fine to be loaded and viewed online in hopes of viral takeoff. Features should follow a different model. Online trailers are great and are necessary to inform, but the feature-length movie itself should be watched in comfort, with people paying full attention. If it's not in the theater, then the next best place is at home, on TV.

One of my goals for 2009 - Get Woody

Instead of making a New Year's Resolution that would resolutely go unresolved, I've decided to set a couple of goals for myself. One goal: Watch all of Woody Allen's films.

According to IMDB, there are 39 (not including the one that just completed & not counting TV) films to see. Now, I'm trying to figure out a strategy in which to watch them: chronologically, ad hoc, etc... Any ideas or suggestions you might have will be gladly accepted and appreciated. Thanks to IMDB, below are all of his films (directed) from the most recent.

1. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
2. Cassandra's Dream (2007) ... aka RĂªve de Cassandre, Le (France)
3. Scoop (2006)
4. Match Point (2005)
5. Melinda and Melinda (2004)
6. Anything Else (2003)
... aka Anything else, la vie et tout le reste (France)
... aka Vie et tout le reste, La (France)
7. Hollywood Ending (2002)
8. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
... aka Im Bann des Jade Skorpions (Germany)
9. Small Time Crooks (2000)
10. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
11. Celebrity (1998)
12. Deconstructing Harry (1997)
13. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
14. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
15. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
16. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
17. Husbands and Wives (1992)
18. Shadows and Fog (1992)
19. Alice (1990)
20. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
21. New York Stories (1989) (segment "Oedipus Wrecks")
22. Another Woman (1988)
23. September (1987)
24. Radio Days (1987)
25. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
26. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
27. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
28. Zelig (1983)
29. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)
30. Stardust Memories (1980)
31. Manhattan (1979)
32. Interiors (1978)
33. Annie Hall (1977)
34. Love and Death (1975)
... aka Guerre et amour (France)
35. Sleeper (1973)
36. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)
... aka Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (USA: short title)
37. Bananas (1971)
38. Take the Money and Run (1969)
39. What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)

Another blogger, Sujewa Ekanayake (DIY Filmmaker Sujewa), turned me on to Good Small Films: A cinematic blog about Woody Allen, which turned out to be really cool. You should check it out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Synecdoche, NY - or any other town where depression lives

I'd been wanting to see Charlie Kaufman's latest movie, Synecdoche, NY, before it left the theaters and I finally did Friday night.

I write this blog without reading any other reviews of the movie. That said, I'm sure there are several points of the movie that I will miss - simply because of the film's complexity. The movie is existential at its core. The first theme I see in the movie is Nietzsche's thoughts on Eternal Reccurence. The overly simplistic premise of this theory is that time is infinite, but matter is finite. We are finite beings, and as opposed to actually dying and/or being reincarnated, one lives the same life over and over again (because there is a finite amount of matter - meaning us- in an infinite span of time). So, the takeaway here is: if your life is infinitely cyclical, make it the life you'd want to live again and again, forever.

The movie starts by dropping us into the lives of the Cotard family. Caden Cotard, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is an overweight, thirty something sycosis-suffering husband and father. Caden's wife, Adele, played by Catherine Keener, is an unhappy woman, around Caden's age, longing for a more bohemian-type lifestyle, or just some other life and lifestyle than she's currently living. The couple share a four-year-old daughter, Olive, who suffers from her own obsession with the color of her poop, but still oddly enough appears to be somewhat of a normal kid. The family is an artistic one - Caden a live-theater director and Adele a painter. The couple seem to be on a continual search of something other than what they have, although neither know what it is they want.

We attend a regularly scheduled marriage-counseling session with Caden and Adele. Caden sits on the left side of the couch in somewhat of an upright position while Adele is on the right side, slouched down and leaning over the side - illustrative of any 15 year old teenager forced into therapy that she "obviously" doesn't need. Adele confesses to the therapist, played by Hope Davis, that she's fantasized about Caden dying so that she can start over again without feeling guilty. Caden doesn't appear shocked by the confession. We know their separation/divorce is inevitable and kind of hope for it, so both of these people can experience some sort of long-term happiness.

Caden wraps rehearsals of his latest apt production, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and returns home to share the accomplishment with Adele. Adele is happy for Caden, but informs him that she will not be able to attend opening night due to another engagement. Caden is clearly disappointed. It's obvious that Adele does care for Caden and vice-versa, but you realize that it's only a legal relationship at this point. Adele does manage to make it to the second night of the play, but it lacked the specialness of opening night. Hazel, the box-office attendant, played by Samantha Morton, readily and eagerly fills the vacancy on opening night. The two share a mutual attraction but Caden remains committed to his emotionally absent Adele.

The table turns when Caden is anticipating a trip to Berlin with Adele and Olive, where Adele will premiere her latest artwork. As the couple huddle over their kitchen bar for breakfast, Adele announces that she thinks only she and Olive should travel to Berlin. Caden is somewhat taken aback and Adele apologizes for hurting his feelings. Adele leaves with Olive and we are left with Caden, and all of his pustules - literally. Here is where the movie changes and somewhat resembles Being John Malkovich, also written by Charlie Kaufman.

Time passes but Caden doesn't seem to notice. He receives a fellowship grant that will allow him to produce his magnum opus. He rents a huge "stage" large enough to hold a city, which is a good thing because that is exactly what Caden proceeds to build, albeit unintentionally. Caden starts pre-production of his play, which he never titles although he tosses around lots of potential titles. The problem is that the play is only a reproduction of his life with Adele. Life continues to happen around and to Caden and he even thinks he's actively engaged in it, but he is not. (For example, Caden finds himself in a relationship with an actress named Claire, played by Michelle Williams, but only mechanically - he's not at all enganged in the relationship - even though the two produced a daughter, Ariel, whom he often calls Olive.) He is on an unknowingly mission to find the vanishing point in his and Adele's life. The actors in his plays take on the earlier life of Caden and Adele, but only starting at the point in which we are dropped into the picture. The movie continues to evolve like this and eventually catches up to itself and then surpasses it, with actors portraying Caden and the others involved in his life moving directly in front of Caden and the real "others" in his life. The movie ends when Caden becomes the directed instead of the director.

So many things happen between the time Adele leaves Caden and the end of the movie. It would take me several days, perhaps weeks, to intelligently write about the many complex layers in the movie so I will only focus on just the one. First, meet Sammy Barnathan - a very odd man who we see early on in the movie but don't find out that he is a real person (as opposed to someone in Caden's imagination, for example) until Caden is casting for his masterpiece. Sammy, claiming not to be an actor, auditions for the role of Caden and admits to following Caden around for years, taking notes. He knows the way Caden thinks and can accurately anticipate and predict Caden's actions and reactions.

Second, note that Hazel is still around. Granted after giving up on Caden ever reciprocating her feelings, she moved on, bought a house (that stayed on fire during the entire movie), married a decent man and had three boys (although she only admits to having twins). However, several years pass and Hazel loses her job at the box office and calls on Caden. She is once again sucked into Caden's controlling vortex and ends up losing her husband and children, although she doesn't seem too disturbed by it.

Caden proceeds to develop his play and uses cast members to portray himself, Claire, Ariel, extras in his real life and eventually Hazel. The only two people not cast are Adele and Olive. He is recreating his life and when one thing doesn't seem as it should, he starts from the beginning again. This is the rehearsal that never ends - hence, the Eternal Recurrence reference above. The characters (real and projected) age. However, they never evolve into anything other than themselves. What's interesting is that the actors playing the real people (ie: Sammy and the actress playing Hazel) actually begin to make their own decisions outside of the rehearsal. For example, Sammy and the actress playing Hazel actually do get together and truly enjoy each other's company, but Caden gets jealous and tries to intervene. Naturally, Hazel submits to Caden's advances and loses Sammy. This is where the play catches up to itself and changes again.

In an effort to wrap this very long blog and not scare away future readers, I will say this: Go see the movie. Then see it again, and then a couple more times. Charlie Kaufman spent years preparing the script and then shooting the movie and crafting it just right. The least we can do is spend a few hours watching it, a few more hours thinking about it, and then hopefully a lifetime seeing how it applies to our lives.

Think about Eternal Recurrence. If you are doomed to live your life over and over again, what things would you change right now?

I leave you with the trailer:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

For the love of puppies

So, Mike has been fostering a beagle dog and her four little pups for the past three weeks or so. They are so cute. Luckily, the canines all already have homes but they all just needed a place to stay until the pups are six weeks old, so they can travel to NYC. Mike got a call from the lady who had told us about the pups we rescued a few months ago asking if he'd be willing to foster them because homes had been found for them, but they were currently in an animal control center and about to euthanized. Since they had homes, he agreed. A volunteer got them from animal control and brought them to the house.

The mother's name is Georgia and each one of her pups have been given names of cities from Georgia. For example, Savannah is one the female pups' name. I don't know all of the names (apparently this was already done when Mike got them). But they're very cute. See for yourself:

I know there is a problem with pet overpopulation, but I hate that animal control centers euthanize animals so indiscriminately - doesn't matter the type, age, background, circumstance, etc - if an animal is in the center for X amount of days/hours it gets put down. If it weren't for animal rescue groups, a lot of these animals would've died and missed out on living a happy, healthy and purposeful life -- improving the quality of life of a senior, helping a physically challenged person with daily living, and/or making a family feel complete. Animal control does not take any steps to help relocate the animal or to see if the animal might actually be a lost pet.

I'm glad there are animal rescue groups exist, but I think it's also our responsibility as pet owners and pet lovers to do our part in reducing pet over population. Be sure to get your pet spayed or neutered. If you have neighbors or friends who need help with this, give it (spaying/neutering) to them as a gift. We've had several neighborhood strays spayed/neutered. There are many affordable ways to get animals (including the "at-risk" neighbor's "pet") "fixed." A couple places to check out are: SPAY - USA and the American Humane Society.

With the holidays approaching, a lot of people will be giving puppies or kittens as a gift, including our new President-elect. Please considering adopting from your local animal control center and encourage others to do the same. (Please note that sometimes there is a difference between an animal control center and an animal shelter.) Most animal control centers are funded by the local government whereas a lot of animal shelters are nonprofit organizations, funded by individual donors and/or grants. Please start your search at your local animal control center (this is where they euthanize the animals if they are not adopted within X amount of time), then move to your local animal shelter if you are unable to find the pet that meets your needs.

Other possible gifts are time (through volunteerism) and money/supplies. There are several ways to volunteer your time: 1) become a foster home for a pet in transition, 2) help out at a local shelter - great opportunity for family volunteer time and giving back to the community or, 3) help a rescue group by trying to locate homes for displaced pets. Shelters are in continual need of money and supplies. If you have resources but no time, write a check to a local no-kill animal shelter and/or drop off a load of supplies (be sure to call and see what their specific need is at the time), most of the time the donations are tax deductible - based on the shelter. Below are a few links you might find helpful:
  1. American Humane
  2. ASPCA
  3. ASPCA Facebook
  4. ASPCA MySpace
  5. Animal Rescue Site
  6. Petfinder
Please feel free to add your own links that you think others might find helpful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I haven't blogged in a long time. I need to write more because I'm noticing that since I've cut down on my blogging, I'm having more difficulty expressing myself. I know some might object to that statement since I don't seem to have a problem sharing my opinion, so I'll clarify it this way -- articulately expressing myself. It's so much easier to express oneself in writing because the writer can take her time and edit craft statements and opinions. Verbal expression is much less thoughtful yet assigned the same weight.

Yesterday, I rented the first season of Twin Peaks. I know it came out in 1990, but for some reason I seemed to have not been involved with mainstream society in the late 80's and early 90's. I remember people talking about Twin Peaks, but I have no recollection of even having access to it. I've watched the first two episodes. The second one was very good - lots of great one-liners. The first episode started with a "previously on Twin Peaks" clip which I thought was odd since I'm watching the first season. Was there a movie or something that was a prequel to the TV show?

I also rented Fellini's "8 1/2." I recently watched Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" and LOVED it! So, 8 1/2 was suggested to me. Eventually, I'd like to write a blog about the both of them.

I'll stop here. Hopefully this short post will give me the blogging jump start I need to pick up blogging on a regular basis again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vroom, Vroom, Vroom

So, today Gabe and I got to go to the Atlanta Motor Speedway, as part of a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce event, sponsored by Office Depot. Unlike my mother, I've never been a Nascar fan. I've been to drag races and a demolition derby (which was pretty fun), but neither of those were on my own volition - I was always just tagging along. Likewise, had the Chamber not been holding their monthly networking event at the PepBoys Auto 500, I also would not have attended this. But, I am so glad I did. I really had a great time.

When we first arrived, we saw many RV's and people were camping out in the parking lots, with their portable TVs and lawn chairs. We found our assigned parking lot and proceeded to the gate. There is this moat, a moat of sponsors, basically surrounding the entrance to the speedway itself. Various sponsor tents piped music out to the crowd - it was like dueling rock songs. Gabe even recognized Harvey Danger.

Once inside, we made our way to the pedestrian tunnel that led to the infield (which is quite an envied area to be in, I understand). We saw several more RVs along with many racers' buses and trailers that carefully transport the multi-sponsor racing cars. Office Depot, who sponsors Carl Edwards (#99), had a nice tent with food and free samples. (I love me some free goodies!)

Outside the tent was a mock #99's race car. Also on hand was one of the best things EVER! A Nascar driving simulator! Three people could get in the Nascar Sprint Experience simulator and race at a time. You raced against each other, and 22 other simulated cars. Right off the bat I immediately spun out and got turned around. Once I got turned around and made it back on the track I did okay. I placed 21st out of 22. Gabe came in after me. ;) Yes, that made me very happy. In all fairness, the simulator was a bit odd and it felt almost like you were driving something that was in the air, not like a car on a road. It was a lot of fun.

After racing, we went back in the tent because they were having drawings - with various prizes. I sat down and wasn't really paying attention, because I never win anything, but I heard Gabe say that they were going to call my name. I didn't believe him, but sure enough they did. I won two Grand Stand tickets to Sunday's race! Knowing how big of a Nascar fan my mother is, I texted her and told her the good news. I'm not going to be in town on Sunday, so I'm giving the tickets to her. She's so excited.

It was time to head out to the track because the cars were about to start driving for the qualifying race. We walked back through the pedestrian tunnel and headed up to the grandstands. The cars were lining up. Then, one by one, each car took off with such a force. We stood close to the fence that surrounded the track. The first car that came by was so loud and SO fast! I, intellectually, knew that the cars went fast - 180-200mph, but I was shocked seeing the cars speed by me. I felt the vibration from the cars. I have to say, I was so amazed and amused and excited. It was really spectacular. I had no idea how exhilarating it was. I'm sure I'd get bored with it all after an hour or so, but the short time we watched the qualifying was terrific.

So, thank you, Office Depot and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

iPhone Limitations - Know Before You Buy

I was one of the ones who drank the Kool-Aide, or bought the Heineken, or however you want to say it. I was dazzled by the iPhone and had an opportunity to get one of the new iPhone 3G's, along with several of my coworkers. While I don't hate it, it has several limitations that my "old phone" did not.

Bad things about the iPhone:
1. You can't forward a text message
2. You can't receive a photo in your text message
3. You can take a photo and send it to someone else's phone (you can send it to an email address)
4. It does not have video recording capability
5. The battery dies quickly - especially if you actually use your iPhone
6. It's service is exclusive to AT&T, (and I've not been at all impressed with the coverage, since switching from Verizon)

Good things about the iPhone:
1. Internet capability is great
2. Mobile applications can be added that are great (ie: Twitter, Facebook, Sportacular, Movies and Shazam)
3. YouTube
4. Retrieving and syncing email
5. The maps application actually acts very similar as GPS

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TIFF '08 - Day 6 - Slummin' to a Revolution

It's Wednesday and I'm already kind of sad to be leaving Toronto on Friday, but also kind of ready to get back home. Weird how all that works.

I started the day early and had to get to Sutton Place Hotel for a meeting with a young lady who requested to meet with me, and ask questions about submitting films to festivals. She works as a Canadian consultant to filmmakers, helping them to decide which festival might be appropriate for their film, marketing strategies and so forth. These are important questions and points that filmmakers need to ask themselves. Blindly submitting your film to as many festivals as possible isn't smart and it can be a costly venture. You should definitely research festivals and look at the types of films they screen, requirements (ie: premiere status, formats, etc), and lots of other things. A resource filmmakers might want to check out is "Film Festival Secrets" by Christopher Holland, due out October 2008.

The first movie of the day was WENDY AND LUCY, starring Michelle Williams (the late Heath Ledger's ex-wife and his baby momma). This movie was very well done, purposely slow, and Williams' performance was great. It's a story of a young woman and her dog (Lucy), down on her luck, traveling to Alaska in search of a new start at life. Strapped for money, we watch her make a decisions that lead to disproportionate consequences, which are a pretty realistic reflection of current society. Directed by Kelly Reichardt, the film runs 80 minutes long. While it's a nicely done film, I believe it could be cut in half to 40 minutes (without losing its nuance and sentiment) and actually have a nice shot at a nomination for the Academy Award (especially given the nominated narrative shorts last year).

Next was lunch before getting in line for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (which is an excellent name for a rock band). I've eaten pizza numerous times already and today was no different. We found a nice little Italian place with a patio and had some pizza. Mike had visited the Royal Ontario Museum earlier, while I watched my movie. He said the museum was fantastic.

The next movie on the agenda was at 3:00pm at the Ryerson. The Ryerson theater is located on the campus of Ryerson University and holds a massive number of people, close to like 600, which seems to always fill to capacity during the screenings. The screen is also massive, so it actually works. This is also where the midnight madness screenings are held.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is Danny Boyle's new flick. A couple other films that he's done are TRAINSPOTTING and 28 DAYS LATER. This was probably the most interesting, colorful and unique film that I've seen so far in Toronto. The story is about an Indian (dot not feather) boy from the slums who made it on the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." What follows is a colorful account of his life lessons of hard knocks that provides him with some, or all of the, answers to the difficult questions asked during the game show. Had I just read that this movie was about a boy on a game show, I doubt I would've seen it. I'm so glad I didn't know much about it going in. The movie was a huge hit in Telluride and Dan pushed me to see it. So glad I did! (By the way, this was not the screening where Roger Ebert was whacked by a person in front of him.)

We had a few hours before the final screening of the day and decided to walk over and see the CN Tower, the famous one that looks like the Seattle Space Needle. Below are a few photos.

The final screening of the night was Steven Soderbergh's CHE (part 2), starring Benicio Del Toro. This movie is broken into two parts, although should probably be watched together. The problem is that no one wants to sit through a four and a half hour movie. The movie is a biopic about Che Guevara, the revolutionary primarily responsible for Fidel Castro's successful coup d'etat of U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Part two of the movie is well done but somewhat slow - it focuses on Che's revolutionary mission in Bolivia. Part one (which we will be seeing tomorrow) spotlights Che's actions in Cuba - so we're seeing it backwards.

Steven Soderbergh, Benicio Del Toro, and Lou Diamond Phillips were all at the screening. Below are some photos.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TIFF '08 - Day 5 - Gotta love porn!

I started off the day with SUT. This is a Turkish film about a boy and his mother, both confronting the traditional and contemporary ways to live life. The opening scene of this movie was fantastic! It's one of the most stunning openings I've seen in a long time. It's all v-e-r-y s-l-o-w m-o-v-i-n-g from there. I ended up leaving because life's too short.

I was really looking forward to seeing ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO today at the Elgin Theatre. The movie started at 3:00pm so that meant we needed to be in line no later than 2:00pm to get any kind of a good seat. We got to the theater right at 2:00pm and the line was already wrapped around the block. People in Atlanta think they've seen a line......they haven't seen anything! And, all of the people in line are completely used to it and consider it part of their festival experience. Interesting.

The movie was funny! It stars Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks (neither of whom were able to attend the screening). Also in the cast are Craig Robinson (from The Office), Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, and Katie Morgan [who has a hot little HBO On-Demand Late Night Special series of Sex Toys (which I watched in its entirety - for blogging research purposes only, of course) and Porn 101]. Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, and Katie Morgan were on hand for a Q&A after the screening. Kevin was his usually funny self and provided the audience with a couple great stories. This movie is due to hit theaters October 31st, but recently received the kiss of death - a NC-17 rating from the MPAA. So, here is the red-band trailer.

We finished the evening by watching MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, a film by Barry Jenkins. This film was good and reminded me a lot of the kind of movie Spike Lee would've done (if he hadn't tried to venture off into wherever he is now). The story is about a couple who wake up and meet after having a one-night-stand. The audience follows them through the next 24 hours and we watch them get to know each other (as do we), in an effort to provide some sort of meaning for the affair instead of making it a cheap, drunken mistake. Jenkins was able to touch on race and relationships here in a very successful and not "in-your-face" sort of way. This film was recently selected to kick off Independent Film Week in NYC on Monday, September 15th. Below is the trailer.

More photos from TIFF '08:

Cheech & Chong! (Zack and Miri screening)

Kevin Smith Introducing Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Kevin Smith

Kevin and Cast

Love this!

****Update**** Zack and Miri Make a Porno is rated R. It was originally given an NC17 rating but Kevin Smith and the Weinstein Company appealed and won the dispute. Read more here:

TIFF '08 - Day 4 - Gimme Some Sugar

I saw my favorite TIFF movie today (so far) - Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's, SUGAR. Miguel "Sugar" Santos is a baseball player living in the Dominican Republic trying to get scouted by a major league team in the states. He gets his wish when he's asked to report to spring training camp and then lands a starting pitching position with The Swing, a minor league team in Bridgewater, Iowa. The film does an excellent job showing the difficulties of being a fish out of water - Sugar was plucked (albeit voluntarily) from his small shanty, where he lived with his family, friends and girlfriend, and placed in an all-white, Christian farm community. Even though the old couple who take him in are kind and sincere, they're no replacement for Sugar's family and friends. What follows is Sugar's struggle with his current situation, his hopes and dreams of the future and the decisions he makes as a result.

The compelling story drives the movie from the onset. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE STORY! Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are the creative team behind HALF NELSON, one of my other all-time favorite movies. While Sugar isn't as fragile of a film as Half Nelson, Boden and Fleck are successful with character development, story structure, editing and cinematography. Boden was the editor on Sugar and Half Nelson and she is wonderful at it. The duo also teamed up with the same shooter they used in Half Nelson. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, it definitely ain't broke for Boden and Fleck. Sugar will have a theatrical release sometime this year.

I started the day off with YOUSSOU NDOR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE. This was a wonderful documentary about the very politically controversial, African, Muslim, Grammy winning musician Youssou Ndor. While the film is a tad too long, it is very inspirational and captivating. There's also something very evocative about African music and drumming - although this one is more Muslim centered. Youssou played at Amnesty International Live 8 concert and has some collaborations with Peter Gabriel, shown in the film.

The middle movie of the day was Larry Charles' RELIGULOUS, with Bill Maher. This is Bill's and Larry's attempt at a fair, but skeptical, look at the three main religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). Naturally, cynicism and sarcasm are the main attractions to this film and there's a lot of it. The film feels a little Michael Moorish at times, but it seems to recover nicely. Don't go into this movie thinking you are going to be enlightened on the ways of religion. Only go see this movie if you are a skeptic, like sarcasm, are familiar with and like Bill Maher, and aren't easily offended (when it comes to mocking/questioning the logic religion).

Random photos from Toronto:

A four-seat stroller (with babies in them!)

Condom Shack (I should've shown this to lady above)

Monday, September 8, 2008

TIFF '08 - Day 3 (for me)

I started the day off with ME AND ORSON WELLES. I liked this little movie. It's Richard Linklater's new film and stars Zac Efron and Christian McKay (who really steals the movie). This is a period piece, set in 1937, before Welles' Oscar winning movie, Citizen Kane. Efron's character, a wannabe actor, stumbles upon Welles one day and manages to impress Orson with his quick wit and cockiness (two traits Welles has perfected). The story describes the ups and downs that comes when working with a visionary genius. Claire Danes plays the love interest (of all involved) and portrays what it was like for a woman back in the day.

Me and Orson Welles was shown in the new AMC Theatre at Dundas Square. I really wish we had something like this in Atlanta (and no, Atlantic Station doesn't do it).

Mike arrived in Toronto in the late afternoon, so today was my day to start watching more mainstream movies. So, on the agenda was THE WRESTLER, starring Mickey Rourke, directed by Darren Aronofsky. Yes, you read that correctly, Mickey Rourke, and let me just say that I wouldn't be surprised he scored an Oscar nomination. Rourke plays a washed-up wrestler barely living paycheck to paycheck, trying to hold on to the bare threads of fame created in the eighties. He was known as Randy "The Ram," and even had an action figure. (Hulk Hogan comes to mind here - although I think he's more successful.) Marisa Tomei stars as an older (30 something) stripper, Cassidy, just trying to raise her son. The similarities in their lives are obvious and the two do a great job together on the screen. (Plus, Tomei is practically naked throughout the entire movie.) Evan Rachel Wood comes in as Randy's estranged daughter, Stephanie. My only problem with the film is that this storyline might be superfluous, but it still doesn't detract from the film enough to matter. I just learned that Fox Searchlight picked up this film today (Monday). So, look for it in theaters sometime soon.

The Wrestler was shown in Toronto's famous Elgin Theatre, and there were stars everywhere. And, no, I'm not above gawking and taking photos - I'm completely on that level (just so I can share it with you). ;)

Elgin Theatre (aka: Visa Screening Room)

Director and cast, sans Marisa Tomei (Rourke looked like a complete train wreck)

Mark Ruffalo (in town for The Brothers Bloom)

Mark Ruffalo talking to Julian Schnabel

Adrian Brody

Yes, Marilyn Manson, who was with Evan Rachel Wood, showing lots of PDA. YUCK!

The last movie of the evening was MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA. Let me start off by stating that I like Spike Lee, but this movie was a complete and utter mess. No offense, but it's a freakin' MIRACLE that a producer/production company actually signed off on this script, much less ponied up the money to produce it. It's way too long, I didn't care about the characters, the symbolism was way over the top, too many storylines that almost immediately lost my interest, and a few Paul Thomas Anderson moments (long scenic shots with loud momentous score), without the climax. This movie needs serious fixing before anymore eyes are thrust upon it. But, I haven't lost faith in Spike. I just hope he (as the parent of this baby), can recognize its deformities and take it to the proper surgeon for reconstruction.