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.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

TIFF '08 - Day 2 (for me)

I overslept this morning. I guess I was just exhausted from getting up early yesterday, traveling and then walking all over Toronto.

I started my day by attending a panel at the Match Club that talked about alternative distribution, specifically digital (which is what Cinetic pushes). The panelists were Matt Dentler (former SXSW producer) and Janet Brown from Cinetic Rights Management. They were interviewed by Shane Smith, who is the executive producer of inflight entertainment at Spafax. It was pretty interesting, especially given the state of film (independent or not) right now - getting theatrical distribution is tough and expensive. The straight to DVD (and now digital) model doesn't hold the same negative connotations it once held. So many people have HD TVs in their home, and a lot have stereo/surround sound, making it a much better visual experience than going to some theaters. I personally enjoy seeing movies on the big screen, but I do like to have options. Having options was exactly what this panel was all about. Thinking about alternative distribution early on in the project is advised. Sites like, iTunes, and YouTube can all show feature-length films and reach across the world, via marketing and virally.

I saw a few movies today, but didn't really like any of them. They were okay, but none just blew me away.

I went to see Firaaq, but ended up leaving (along with several others). I didn't think the acting was that good and couldn't get into the story because of it.

Then came UNIVERSALOVE, which was beautifully shot. It had somewhat of a BABEL feel to it, with several stories happening at the same time, and all involving love in some sort of way.

My last movie of the night was a French film, UNSPOKEN. I really wanted to like this movie. It does a nice job of introducing the characters to the audience just through the shots, without any kind of dialog. You later learn a lot more about the couple's life, the loss they're suffering and wish they would just talk to each other - hence the title. The movie was too slow, but an excellent example of shot progression.

Friday, September 5, 2008

TIFF '08 - Day1

Well, I've always wanted to go to the Toronto Film Festival and today I got my wish. Dan and I landed in Toronto around 1:45pm. We grabbed our luggage, rode the bus to the subway and then went to our respective hotels. After dropping our bags we met back up at the Sutton Place Hotel, which is the festival headquarters. I registered, picked up my badge and found Dan in the industry computer lounge. What follows is my day in pictures. So exciting!! (for me, anyway)

I saw this ad in the onflight magazine and loved it!

Dan is declaring NOTHING!


Subway station monitor is running ads promoting Toronto Film Festival.

View from my hotel room window! Awesome!

Industry Computer Hook-up - Carpe WiFi!!!


Movie break. We saw HUNGER. It was good, but sometimes difficult to watch because of brutal violence.

Bright Lights

City Nights

No Rice-A-Roni here.

Didn't your Momma tell you not to drive your car on the table?!

Wha? (Why?)

Maybe we should build some bridges with this china.

Lots of HOT spots.

And lots of HOT girls in short shirts and high heels!

That's it for tonight. A panel, a few movies and lots of cool peeps.....that's on tomorrow's agenda. Peace out!