Monday, March 2, 2009
You know your day is going to be good when you wake up and turn on the tv and the first thing you see is the part from the cheesiest scene in cinema history. You know the one from POINT BREAK where Keanu can't shoot Patrick Swayze so he points the gun up in the air and squeezes off a few rounds. I knew right then it was a good Monday. And then I just started to spread the good Monday news. The girl at Starbucks told me my "Carnies Need Love Too!" T-shirt made her day. And tonight I am spreading the good Monday vibe more and taking the D-Man to see a smorgasbord of Bruce Conner art films hosted by his long time art pal Dennis Hopper. I think they probably did a lot of shrooms together. Bet never the less Bruce is my favorite all around Amercian artist of all time because he worked in so many different types of art. And his films which would now be called "smashups" are thirty to fifty years later are better than any of the tens of thousands of smashup videos on YOUTUBE to this day. And Bruce Conner and Dennis Hopper were both friends with my mentor in cinema Stan Brakhage, they all had thinking different in common.
P.S. Fuck you Garfield you pasta eating fat cat, Mondays are what you make out of them. Get off your furry little bloated embittered depressed lasagna ass and move out of the sun beam. You might find a big beautiful world out there full of other tasty food.
Monday, February 9, 2009
So I have not posted for a while. And the slacker credo is to have excuses and I have them but that my friends is no excuse! So onward ho artistic soldiers...
In my previous post I was blithering away about film and reality in film. I had insinuated there is no true reality in film. Just films trying to get as close to possible at a certain reality. And I proposed the filmmaker best at this was and still is Stan Brakhage. I use both past and present tense there; because Stan is dead. But his nearly 380 films which range in length from a few seconds to many hours are still the most intense, original and real body of work that any director has come up with to date.
A little back ground might be needed for people unfamiliar with Stan Brakhage's films. And most people have never heard of him, even though he is considered one of the most important and influential experimental and documentary filmmakers in the history of cinema.
Stan was born in 1933 and died in 2003. He briefly attended college and then dropped out and started to hang out with other beat poets. But Stan quickly became what consider a visual poet. Almost all his films lack any narrative story, script or actors. Instead they are akin to poetry or music. All though Stan would say his films are mostly documentaries. Stan tried through camera movement, editing, trick photography and hundreds of other cinema devices to mimic what his mind and eyes "saw" not only emotionally but visually.
Stan was one of the few originals in cinema. Stan was so taken by film that he worked on a film almost everyday of his life. And he rarely got paid for it. Almost all of is 380 plus films are self financed. No studios, no producers, not even a lot grants. Stan made films cause he had too. He wanted no intrusion on his "vision", after all he was trying to closely capture what HE saw and felt. A true auteur.
Stan's first films had the same rhythms of beat poetry. But he soon developed a new cinematic language that was polar opposite of D.W. Griffiths narrative aesthetic. After WW II movies were still weighted down by sound recording. Previous to sync sound recording in the late 1920's cameras had the freedom to go anywhere, move any direction. But the advent of sound had literally locked them in a box. Stan freed the camera from sound again and made a whole new moving camera language. His style soon got ripped off and is still being ripped off.
After the early poetic films Stan took his new aesthetic and applied it to home movies filming his wife, children and pets. He was one of the first person to ever make a home movie about child birth. And his film WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING is no, daddy in the waiting room film, this is the true birthing process. This film is more bloody than any of the franchises of Friday the 13th. And when Stan ran out of money and film, he still made films. Literally taking all the bits of moths from his cabins light fixtures and gluing them piece by piece frame by frame onto clear film leader to make an animated film, MOTHLIGHT, which one might call a documentary on the life span of a moth from birth to scorching death.
Stan and D.W. Griffith are perhaps the most ripped off filmmakers of all time. Directors from Martin Scorsese to David Fincher cite Stan as an influence.
Even though he never made a film for a studio or with an actor spouting scripted dialogue the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who know the Oscar people who love big name actors, are wisely restoring and archiving all of Stan's films.
Some of Stan's films are available on Criterion on a 2 disc DVD set and word has it another 3 disc set in underway. But watching Stan's films on dvd is like watching Lawrence of Arabia on a tv, it misses the point. So if your local art house cinema, museum or college is showing any of his films, I recommend it.
More in a later post on how Stan Brakhage altered the way I think. And I don't mean just psychologically, I mean physically altering my brain as well.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
So I keep reading these articles that say the movie Slumdog Millionaire is glorifying slum life in India. Or at best, critics are saying the film is trying to have it both ways and show semi realistic poverty and an upbeat fantasy with a hollywood ending. I saw this movie last week and thought it was good but it did not blow my mind. But I would like to take issue with some of the recent critiques of this film.
First, let me tackle the issue of having it "both ways". This film does try to provide some realistic notions of poverty in India. The filmmakers used mostly uneducated Indian children who were not trained actors as the young kids in the film. They shot the film in many of the real slums through out India. And the scenes dealing with poverty are very harsh and shot with a hyper realistic quality. But Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog, also has made a love story fantasy with a happy Hollywood ending. So the critics are right he is having it both ways. But it seems to me these critics have forgot what they learned from some writer named Shakespeare in junior high english class. Mr. Shakespeare often used fantasy elements and comic relief to temporarily relieve the tension which made later dramatic scenes feel even more intense. He knew how to contrast and compare using these fantasy and comedy elements to put the overall story in a heightened dramatic context.
And even though this film is a fictional fantasy with a happy ending it is not a typical hollywood happy ending. Because one can not help but see how luck plays a part in these peoples lives. And many critics might see that as glorifying slum life because it down plays the reality of what becomes of most people in poverty. But that is the point. Danny Boyle is pointing out that these kids, while strong are also lucky. They survived, they had the integrity and dumb ass luck to make it to adulthood. Because lets face it, one's life is often set by good or bad luck. If you are born in the slums of India or the famine regions of Africa, that might just be bad luck. I was born in a country where I have never known a day of starvation. Sure, we have our problems in the U.S. of A. but I feel I had good dumb ass luck of being born here. So these kids having some good luck in this fictional film with so many harsh scenes shows how luck; good or bad plays in a person's life.
There are many scenes of luck and many scenes of struggling through the worst of man's inhumanity towards man in this film, if the critics can not see how they heighten each other, they might want to retake that junior high english class.
And let me says this, all film is fictional even if based on real events. Even the most realistic documentaries are fictional works of art. Someone decides what to shoot, how to film it and how to edit it. All these are biased acts. If you want realism, travel to the place and have your own experience. Cinema is an art form, not a perfect all seeing eye.
Now there are filmmakers who try to capture reality or a feeling of reality as close as possible. Which leads me to the filmmaker which is best at this, Stan Brakhage. But in good cliff hanger fashion; I will talk about Stan Brakhage in my next post. THE END.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Before I jump right into to this provocative titled blog, a little background info on my pad is needed to help with the feng shui of this post. First, I live in a historic building that has a few hundred people living in it. It's such a multicultural mix, one might think it is some kind of fascist enforced socialist Utopian housing project wet dream. But in reality, we're just one diverse hood!
Second, If you were to look at my apartment building from above you would see an "E" shaped structure with a roof top pool. Meaning three 8 story high towers all connected together with two court yards in-between the towers. I would just show you a picture but google earth won't let me cut and paste.
Thirdly, with so many apartments so close together, visitors usually make a note how the view is very Rear Windowesque. The other tower across from me is less than 40 feet away. And seeing as this building is over 80 years old, all the windows actually open. And we must be a pretty happy bunch here; cause no one has jumped since I have lived here. But any way, most people who have seen my apartment wonder why I chose the larger bedroom for my office and the smaller one for my actual bedroom. Well the smaller one is farther from the street, so it is more quiet. It also only has one window and is in the corner of the court yard; which makes it a lot darker. I only sleep in that room, ok well, not only sleep but you get the point. Sleeping is the bulk of the time spent in that room and I am one of those people that needs complete darkness. I always have the vertical blinds closed and even have a black curtain over the blinds I myself have never even opened the window since moving in years ago. But it is time to get on with the rant...
...So this past Sunday I stayed up late writing a short story. It was way past my bed time; seeing as I had an early call time at work the next morning. But I finally hit the hay around midnight. Closed my eyes and was ready for some good shut eye. But I couldn't fall asleep. Then I noticed there was light in my room. A little light will usually leak in around the curtain but this seemed a lot brighter than the normal leakage. So I pulled the curtain and blinds back and this ceiling light from the apartment across the way is beaming at me like it is a dwarf-dwarf star. But then my eyes dilate and come into focus and I see this Asian dude sitting naked in his window with a lap top that is not on his lap and this bright light beaming overhead. I did a double take because I had met the young lady who I thought lived in that apartment about a year before while waiting for the elevator because that apartment door is right next to the elevators. But she must have moved out! Because on this warm winter's night, it was still 70 degrees last Sunday night, naked Asian Dude sat in his window no less than forty feet away! And let me say, 40 feet is close enough to tell the stereotype of Asian guys being small, ain't true for this guy. So I quickly close my blinds and curtain cause I feel like I have done something dirty when all I wanted was a good night sleep. But I see the light leaking past the edges of my curtain and I can't sleep cause now I feel violated. Then I was thinking "what the fuck? Is this guy an exhibitionist or something?" Then I realized he was probably just hot and talking to some hottie girl on the internet. Which is fine but hey Asian dude, turns your lights off!!!! First off, I need sleep and don't need the illuminating reminder of you piercing the sanctuary of my sleep chamber. Second, I know it was past midnight but seeing as we are a diverse building; some kids might wake up to go potty cause they had too much tang, kool-aid, Redbull or what ever kids drink now a days and see you in your bright haloic glory. So simply put, turn your lights off Asian dude, so the rest of us can get a good nights sleep!!!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
BARACK OBAMA IS PRESIDENT! And even the dark, depressed and near suicidal Emos are happy and excited!
And I am excited for our future, dare I say, yes we can do anything if we put our minds and hearts into it.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Yes this is one of my films from the attic. But my favorite one. And the model in this film is Jake and her birthday is coming up, so I thought I would give her some props.
Plus I just did the CINEMA PICK OF THE WEEK in the previous post and picked a traditional narrative Hollywood film. So I had to spice it up with something non-narrative and non-traditional.
Seeing as our fair country is in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I picked the film PAPER MOON, about two con artists grifting during the depression, as my first cinema pick of the week. This 1973 film by Peter Bogdanovich breaks a personal cinema rule I have and gets away with it. I hate when movies are shot in black and white just to give an "old timey" feel. It's so gimmicky and cheesy. I have always felt color equals a specific time and place. So use it in historical films. If filmmaker(s) are making a movie that is symbolic or about another world or unreal place, black and white can work. But in period pieces, it usually is just a gimmick. But Paper Moon gets away with it!
And Tatum O'Neal as Addie Loggins is amazing. I saw this film at age five and instantly fell in love with Tatum. Ever since then, tomboys in overalls do it for me.
This film also seems appropriate because even though it deals with a pair of grifters; their crimes seem less than those bankers who just got almost a TRILLION dollars in bail out "loans" from us taxpayers.
And the grifters in this movie are trying to stick together in hard times, which we need to do in trying times like the ones we face today.
And the last shot in this movie is one of the best last shots in cinema.
Hopefully Mr. Obama can make things better so we all don't have to go out and grift.