Thursday, August 30, 2007
The questions I was asked astounded me.
The poll began innocuously enough, "Are you over 18 years old and registered to vote?"
As soon as I answered in the affirmative, I was reminded of Bette Davis' infamous line in All About Eve and we were off and running.
The first dozen questions were variants on terrorist attack scenarios. Things like, "What concerns you most: Dirty bombs, back pack bombs, improvised nuclear devices or nuclear weapons?" or gems like "Knowing the fact that transportable nuclear weapons can have enough destructive force to level Manhattan and killing hundreds of thousands, in whose hands would that frighten you most: A rogue state, terrorist cells, state sponsored terrorists, Al-Qaeda or Osama Bin-Laden?"
It was frightening to deconstruct the messages these questions held. Some politician somewhere, most likely a Republican, hopefully not a presidential candidate (although my gut tells me it was), is using this poll to shape his platform. And they're going to phrase the threat we're going to hear about over and over again on Fox News. The results of polls like these will determine whether or not Osama Bin-Laden will hypothetically be sneaking dirty bombs large enough to level Manhattan into the country or if Iran will be a state-sponsor of terror and probably involved in a plot to destroy us all with nuclear weapons.
Something tells me we'll probably hear it all, but this was only the tip of the iceberg for this poll.
I was asked how strongly I responded to words like oath and commitment and pledge and promise. I was asked which sounded stronger, a "Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear Proliferation" or the "Campaign for a Nuclear Free World." I was asked, honestly, a string of questions about what "scares me the most."
The show stopper though?
I was asked, and I'm quoting this from my notes, "Which word worst describes how to deal with a nuclear power: talks, negotiations or diplomacy."
My heart sank and I could no longer keep up my un-biased air I had put on to continue with the poll. "Are you serious?"
"Yes," the pollster told me.
"Those are all the best options. Can I say none of the above?"
"Ummm.... No. The only other answer I can input is 'not sure'."
I went with "not sure" even though I was pretty damn sure what my answer would have been, were it an available choice.
This was a thoroughly un-predicted and uninvited insight into the world of politics and, more than a dirty bomb or an IED, this is what scares me. These messages, this fear mongering, scare me much more than any anonymous terrorist threatening to attack inside the United States. Isn't speciously inciting terror in the populace this way every bit as evil as threats the terrorists make? Terrorists don't even have to make threats to the American people anymore; Republican politicians do it for them as a matter of political course.
Those responsible for this poll are already in the United States and their attacking it from within, decaying the fragile, wooden foundation of democracy and sanity as termites would destroy a house. Each fragile piece of wood is hollowed until it's a knotted, gnarled shell of its former self. Unfortunately, the political equivalents of exterminators are strong leaders and, at this point, all we have to fight these politicians with are would-be leaders acting like politicians.
(This originally appeared here, at the Huffington Post.)
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This one is called, "The Terror Within: A Look at the Republican Messaging Machine".
Let me know what you think.
(UPDATE: It's been featured on the front of the Huffington Post as well as the politics page. Yahoo News also syndicated it here. )
Monday, August 27, 2007
THE CORRUPT DEPARTED:
THE REMAINING FEW:
Viagra only helps erect the penis. We need to find a magic pill that enlarges the sack. And then give all the Democrats a year's supply. Cuz those last two on the list won't be touched unless there is a mass expansion of testicle power. Sorry, Nancy Pelosi.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Last night, I didn't take time off to just see Rocket Science. That would have been silly of me. My real reason for heading up to Salt Lake was the Tower theatre's midnight screening of Jaws.
This was a religious experience.
I love the film Jaws, I've listed as one of my top 10 favorite films for a very long time now. The film-making is top notch, the acting is amazing and there really just isn't a bad moment in the film. It's arguably Spielberg's best and it is truly a perfect 10.
It's equally funny and scary, equally warm but tense.
It's everything a thrilling film like that should be.
And to see it on a 35mm print at a classic old movie palace is a treat that I'll treasure for a long time.
The thing that blew me away the most was the sound. This was an original print with stereo sound. I can see where all of the fancy-schmancy 5.1 surround ex sound might help a movie, but a movie as solid as Jaws just didn't need the extra help. It stood on its own and the sound design was still a homerun. Even in "just" stereo, you felt like the shark was constantly right behind you. Granted, the John Williams music had a lot to do with it, but even when there was no music the sound was still designed so well that it was literally breathtaking.
There need to be more retrospective film events like this with original prints. Replicating the original experience is a fascinating thing to do.
So, I guess the lesson learned with this film is that it doesn't matter what kind of technology you're working with to make your film as long as you have a great film, it will shine through.
Last night, I took time off from editing (which I shouldn't have done) to go see a movie. I was going to take my wife to go see Sicko since she hadn't seen it but we were too late, so we saw Rocket Science instead.
Rocket Science is Jeffrey Blitz' narrative feature follow up to his amazing documentary Spellbound.
Rocket Science follows chronic stutterer Hal Hefner and his adventures after joining his high school debate team. He quickly falls in love with his much better debate partner, but she betrays him and switches schools, so he sets out for revenge.
This film was like a lightning bolt to my brain in one respect: I finally understand films about high school sports. Watching people compete in events you did is tremendously exhilarating and makes you pine for those glory days. I was a policy debater and I'm not bragging when I say I was at least pretty good, I know a few people that might be willing to vouch for that. Debate was one of the very few things I cared about in high school, so this film accomplished quite a bit with me in forcing me to reminisce about my days in competition. Afterwards, I really felt like I could go back and compete in another round, just one more, for old times sake.
But the film itself is fairly standard. I know it seems like I compare a lot of films to Squid and the Whale, but this film is beat for beat like Squid and the Whale with dashes of The Royal Tenenbaums (replete with a character named Wekselbaum and a narrator that sounds a lot like a lower cost Alec Baldwin.)
The film has moments that were very funny, but not as consistently as a Noah Baumbach or Wes Anderson film. I also felt like to appreciate a lot of the jokes, you had to have been a policy debater (but some of those jokes were the best, particularly the resolution and the sub-text it offers the film: Resolved: That the Federal government should teach abstinence only in school.)
The biggest let-down for me though was the fact that the ending was anti-climactic. I wanted to see a world class showdown of a policy debate, but there isn't one. It would be like a high school football movie where the team trains for the whole film for the state football playoffs and they don't get to play and nothing that was set up for the tournament was resolved. I wouldn't have minded seeing the lead characters I was rooting for lose, so long as I got to see a kick ass round of policy.
I felt that aside from that, the script was fairly solid, it was just too dependent on someone else's style. That being said, it was a competent ape of that style and I would be excited to see the next film Blitz comes out with.
I also want to write about my debate experiences now.
I've got some pretty good stories....
Thursday, August 23, 2007
* * * (Three Stars)
"It’s a dream-within-dream-within-nightmare-within-hallucination, wrapped in a cheese sandwich and sprinkled with bacon bits."
That's one description I found online for David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE.
To my immediate circle of friends, there's no surprise that I am a huge David Lynch sycophant. I have posters in my apartment for Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive. I own every Lynch film, Twin Peaks DVDs, Twin Peaks VHS, a documentary on Lynch, and 3 Lynch books. I just love the guy's work.
Being that I'm busier than God Himself nowadays, I missed TWO chances to see INLAND EMPIRE in the theaters. So I bought the DVD and watched it in two sittings. Here's what I thought:
INLAND EMPIRE is basically an unadulterated unleashing of Lynch's brain onto 3 hours of miniDV video. Studio execs, actors' schedules, money, time and the constraints of the medium of film were some things that Lynch had holding him back in some of his previous works. Here, he shot whatever came to his mind, whenever he could, without a script. That's right, no script was ever written. A thought or image would come to his head and he would call people up and go out and shoot it. One of the first of these was a post-Mulholland Drive short film called RABBITS with Naomi Watts and Laura Henning. Pieces from this short are filtered throughout EMPIRE. He used a Sony PD-150 (a video camera that cost around $2000) and so he could shoot for as long as he wanted without burning thousands of dollars on film stock. The image created is obviously video, in 30 frames, with some blacks and darks being grainy and there's even some times when (intentionally maybe) there is dust on the video lense. But the look of the whole project is amazing and ingenious.
INLAND EMPIRE, however, isn't a movie.
It's a painting that takes you 3 hours to look at. David Lynch, doesn't make movies in the conventional sense, he makes light and dark with some red and screaming spread over a canvas of thoughts and floating ideas. If you watch Lynch films expected to see a 3-Act character arc or a climax followed by a denouement, then you will severely disappointed. Because all of these "rules", among dozens of others, are bent and broken when Lynch suddenly has a monkey dancing in a strobe light with a bunch of crying prostitutes.
Story wise (what little there is), the film is similar to Mulholland Drive with a blond-haired actress who has wholesome values is thrust into the dark under belly of Hollywood and begins a downward spiral of moral corruption. This theme of "falling" or "throwing your pearls to swine" is a theme Lynch uses often. Laura Dern, who definently was Oscar worthy for acting out absurdity with perfection, goes from being warmly lit and well-dressed to messy hair with streaking mascara shots lit with only a flashlight in her face.
The ideas of space/time are dealt with in Lynch's often used analogies of alternate realities and the segue between dreams and reality. Another common theme used is the idea that who you were yesterday is literally a different person from the person you are today. And the person you are today has to literally come face to face with the version of you from tomorrow. Strange, I know. But it works. And I really liked this film. And I'll still like it tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It's featured as the top story on the Entertainment page.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
He's started blog about it.
I'm told I'm writing the Romantic-Comedy short.
Also, in case any of you are wondering where I've been with the short stories, I've been working on too many other projects. I've got two documentaries we're working on, some comic shorts, some film shorts, cartoon proposals, proposals for other films and other things of that nature. So, short story writing has, unfortunately, taken a back seat.
So.... There's a quick update.
Things are going well.
Also, on a sidenote: Has anyone else seen SuperBad? I haven't, but I've had no less than four different people call to tell me that it was very much like "The Fleapit Three" with a budget and that it seemed as though Elias and I (along with my little brother) wrote it.
Anyone seen both? Is this true?
This almost makes me want to see it....
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I managed to sneak a couple of hours away from editing last night to go and see Frank Oz's new film, "Death at a Funeral".
The film opens quite slowly, bringing all of the characters together to the funeral. Well, I would say that it opened slowly to me. It seemed as though the first two reels got plenty of laughs from everybody in the audience but me. By the beginning of reel three I was beginning to feel as though my $7.50 had gone to waste but the film really started to pick up.
I think, perhaps, the trailer was partly to blame for the dryness of the build up in the first two reels. We spend 25 carefully constructed minutes building to a key moment in the film that everyone who has watched the trailer has seen. It's the scene where Peter Dinklage explains to the deceased man's son that they were lovers. From that moment on, the film is laugh out loud funny until the shot before the last one. (The last shot in the film was a little disappointing to me, but whatever.)
All of the plot threads and characters that Frank Oz put together in the first twenty five minutes really pay off in the most hilarious ways. In fact, I laughed so hard during the rest of the film, I almost forgot how bored I was through the first two reels.
Overall, this is a fairly competently put together comedy. It's better than most comedies that have come out but it's not exactly an instant classic. It might turn out to be one of those comedies that really finds its own on video a decade from now, like Stallone's Oscar (shut up, I really like that movie) or Stanley Tucci's The Imposters (seriously, check this movie out again. It's like some type of 30s screwball comedy shot in the 90s.) Or even Frank Oz's own Bowfinger, that movie is hilarious.
This film is certainly worth watching at least once. Time will tell if it's worth watching repeatedly.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
This (among others) is the reason I wish I lived in L.A.
Why can't they do more stuff like this in Salt Lake? I'm asking you, everyone who works at the Tower and the Broadway and the Trolley Square.
Why? This is too cool to be beleived.
If I weren't working so hard on finishing this film on time, I'd consider driving out to Santa Monica for this retrospective.
Man, that would be cool....
Friday, August 17, 2007
At the moment, I can't think of another film I'm more looking forward to than Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream.
But nothing has been put out about it.
So every week or so I do a search of it and come up with things now and again. A few weeks ago I found a poster.
Today I hit the jackpot and found the trailer. It's about half way down the page.
This film looks amazing.
Watch the trailer and try to argue. You can't.
Doing my best to understand Christian conservatives is something I try very hard to do. I live in the most conservative, religious county in the country and trying to understand my neighbors is something I have to work at.
Most of them are hard-working and charitable people, so long as the government doesn't mandate the work or the charity.
Generally we get along so long as we don't talk politics.
But every time I think I've got my neighbors figure out, I read items like this one in my local newspaper.
That link leads to a letter-to-the-editor explaining that the American problem with immigration was caused by abortion.
Ramon Swapp from Fairview, Utah wrote, "These foreigners are not doing jobs that Americans won't do; they are doing jobs that Americans can't do, because their lives were terminated in the womb."
I'm sure this was printed in the paper because of the extremely preposterous nature of the opinion, but I can't help but think that this view isn't as rare as any rational human being would assume it should be.
What frightens me is that this level of discourse and logic is on the same level I've seen from some of the more outrageous conservative mouthpieces like Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter.
I truly want to understand these people so that, perhaps, they might be helped to see reason. I'm not sure they'll ever be able to, but one has to have faith in something. Maybe the best we'll get is that these religious conservatives might see glimpses and glimmering moments of truth now and again.
Ramon ended his letter thusly, "Global warming is not caused by man's misuse of fossil fuel resources; it is caused by misuse of sacred reproductive resources. God has merely bumped the thermostat up a few degrees to see if man will repent."
In all this madness, he acknowledged an issue as critical as global warming. It's not much, but maybe that's all we can ask for.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I had heard about the SlamDance controversy but I didn't know a film had been made. Steve actually turned me on to it because he had an alert that "This Divided State" had been mentioned in an article. So, Playing Columbine looks good.
According to a UK Guardian interview, we influenced the filmmakers.
Read that here.
In other news, we're cutting the film on two computers 12 hours a day. so.... there....
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
It's been percolating in me for a week now and it just kind of came out tonight.
So, click here to read it.
Let me know what you think, here or there.
UPDATE: This editorial was featured on the top of the politics page.
UPDATE 2: This editorial was featured on the front page.
Monday, August 13, 2007
1963 - 2007
We're busy editing and ready to kill ourselves doing so, but I just wanted to stop for a minute and let everyone know that a really, really kickass artist passed away this weekend. Mike Wieringo drew my favorite run on Fantastic Four that Stan Lee didn't write, helped Mark Waid reinvent the Flash and did some really good issues of Robin that Chuck Dixon wrote that I really, really loved. He also designed one of my favorite DC characters, Impulse, who has since turned into Kid Flash.
Seriously, take this time to check out some of his work.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
So, without further ado, here's Jason:
There were not as many good panels as there had been in the past so I decided that I would try to entertain myself by taking pictures of D-list celebrities that no one cares about at the con. Here is what those pictures look like: (be sure to click on them for larger versions!)
has no one to talk to. How did this happen?
And here's Wil Wheaton, Star Trek's Wesley Crusher,
just browsing around the con as a fan. Please.
Ferigno took to wearing a shirt with
himself on it, thus attracting nerds...
theme of this photo set might be "geriatric people in costumes..."
The fifty-plus Hogwarts students helped out on that front....
You can't tell in this picture, but this costume lit
my head on fire. You know, because it's so good.
Two-Face/Harvey Dent. Ta-da!
He told us that he actually auditioned for X3 and got the part, but they cut his scene.
I pray this Etrigan is in on the joke...
After several pictures, even this got a little boring. So I decided that I would start directing the pictures by telling them to do really extreme poses. This made the pictures seem a little funnier.
didn't think that was funny, even in the slightest.
he did and boy did he deliver!
Friday, August 03, 2007
I got dragged to see Hairspray last night. I was bored. It had at least four musical numbers too many and John Travolta wasn't the revelation everyone said he was going to be.
I shouldn't complain, everyone I was with had a good time and I didn't want to completely spoil their fun with my groans and eye-rolling. And the only joke I laughed at was John Waters' cameo and I don't think anyone else in the packed house knew who the hell he was.
Anyhow, it's good that you guys are all still stopping by.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
It's been interesting to see how many people have started to put the dots together on the connection between Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman the week after Bergman's passing. I'm not saying I don't think no one noticed, I'm saying I don't think anyone cared.
I just wanted to point everyone to a couple of good pieces.
First up is a very interesting interview with Woody Allen about Ingmar Bergman. Read that here.
Then here is a breakdown of Woody Allen's "Bergman-isms". It's an interesting read as well if you care about Woody Allen films.
Personally, I think Shadows and Fog is Allen's most overt Bergman-esque film, in style, tone, theme and story specifically. It's also a terribly funny film.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I’ve been so stressed working on this film that the only respite I’ve been able to take this week is going to the movies after work.
On Monday, I saw Danny Boyle’s new film, Sunshine.
Since there hasn’t been much marketing for this film, I’ll assume most of you didn’t even know it had come out. It’s been completed for a while, ready for release earlier in the year, but it’s only just now coming out.
I couldn’t say.
Anyhow, this film was really, really, really excellent. Perhaps the best this year. The film established a cabin fever early on and developed the most interesting psychological and moral dilemmas I’ve seen in a film in a long time. The team assembled on the spaceship, the Icarus II, have been tasked to reignite the dying sun. There’s a captain, a pilot, a comm Officer, a physicist, a psychologist, a techie and so on. For a crew this size, each character has an interesting and well-fleshed out personality.
Since the fate of the whole world rests on their shoulders, their personal survival is ancillary to their mission and the moral parameters of their actions are influenced by this fact to stunning effect.
The film is shot almost entirely in the confines of the ship and the claustrophobic effects of it got me squirming in my seat.
One of the things I loved most about the film was its adherence to actual “science” fiction. Characters were making calculations and computations and running physics models and constantly crunching numbers and the slightest mistakes can be fatal to the occupants of the shuttle.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the kid who plays Johnny Storm can act. He’s fantastic in this film, his character work is consistent and it helps prop the piece up. Also quite capable in their parts are Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) and Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later and Star Wars’ Dorme). The whole cast believes the environment and really do their best to bring you into it to the point where you’re literally on the edge of your seat by the end of the film.
I will say, however, that I felt the first two thirds of the film were perfect and the last third was merely pretty good. Bringing the religious zealot standing in the way of the Earth’s survival because he feels the destruction of Earth is part of God’s will was interesting, but not as interesting, I felt, than the human, personal dramas that the first two acts of the film set up.
The only other thing I had a problem with, and this is nit-picky stuff, the film really was amazing, was the voice over pieces at the end. The recall to the dream and the “particularly nice day.” These were clearly for the morons in the audience who weren’t paying attention.
The thing that disappointed me the most about this movie, though, was the fact that it’s only on 300 some odd screens. This movie is fucking brilliant, why isn’t it in wider release? Can someone answer me that? This movie belongs in the pantheon of great science-fiction films and it isn’t anywhere people can see it.
Then, yesterday, Tuesday, I was able to see The Simpsons movie.
It was good. It stood up with the funnier episodes of Simpsons, only longer.
I guess I don’t have all that much more to say about it. If I wanted to say all that much more about it, then I might as well do reviews of every episode of Simpsons I’ve seen and that would be pretty boring.