Yes, you’re talented. What else can you do?

The film composer Tom Holkenborg talked about how he keeps getting film work in this article. He says:

If you talk to other film composers and to people who work in the industry, the fact that you’re an original, talented musician is a given fact. What is left then? It’s, how are you as a person in a room? Do you deliver on time? Do you make the movie better? Do you understand what the director wants? Can you walk that really fine line of politics when things get sour and you help solve the problem?

– Tom Holkenborg, aka JUNKIE XL, composer of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Black Mass”

I love this.  This is how I feel about work too.  The fact that you’re talented and can actually do the work really well has become a given. You have to be able to go beyond that and be both great at what you do and good at actually working WITH people.

My Disappointment with Kickstarter

I’m sort of a kickstarter junkie. I love buying stuff that is new and on the cutting edge and i like to support people building cool stuff.  I often find items on Kickstarter that are ahead of their time and i usally sign up to support them. 

However, my last three big purchases from Kickstarter have turned out to be a disappointment.  Not so much because of what i received but because of how and when they were delivered.  Let me explain

Pebble Watch

  

Why I was interested – a watch that integrates with my smartphone!  All updates come to the watch.  I also liked the Runkeeper integration where i don’t have to look at my phone when on a run.

Why I’m disappointed – I like the watch (my review of Pebble Watch) but i ordered this May 2012 and received it over a year later.  By the time it hit the market, there were better options such as the Samsung or Sony watch.  Ordering it on KS didn’t give me the option of exploring the market nor did it give me a watch before it hit the market.  It just locked me into a solution. 

Narrative Clip / Memoto

Why I was Interested – I love recording my life.  The thought of something taking photos every 30 seconds sounds awesome. I was super into it. 

Why I’m Disappointed – Again, it took FOREVER for this.  I order November 2012 and received it almost 15 months later.  Even worse they kept sending emails about how close they were – even though they weren’t actually close at all. 

Veronica Mars Movie

Why I was Interested – I love the show. I was excited there’d be a movie and wanted to support that effort.  They’d give me a digital download that i could watch at home instead of going to the theater.  That alone was worth the price. 

What I was Disappointed – The digital download was only available in this crappy Flixster player which couldn’t, unlike every other movie file i own, couldn’t be played on my television.  Thus, i had to rent the movie anyway, essentially making me double-pay for the film.  I was happy to do so, but i was still misled.  Again i was disappointed. 

To sum up, i love Kickstarter and what it does. I think it’s a great company.  However, my enthusiasm for backing projects has gone way down. I’ll probably do some more but will likely only do it if i don’t need the product in any specific timeframe and only if my desire to support the project outweighs my desire to actually get the product described. 

 

SNL and Wes Anderson’s Parody Trailer

Saturday Night Live is definitely hit or miss.  Sometimes they can crush a skit but then the follow that up with 4 skits that aren’t even remotely funny.  That said, i watch every week and generally find myself laughing at least at a few of the skits. 

A recent skit that Diane and I both loved was this Wes Anderson horror movie trailer: 

What’s even better is the guy who created the short blogged the whole thing and talked about how hard it was to mimic Wes’s style – and how hard it is to film a horror movie trailer in the middle of NYC.   Its’ a great read if you love Wes Anderson films.  Makes you appreciate how hard his crazy style is. 

Well done SNL. This is why I’m a regular viewer. 

 

The wonder of film and the absence of Ebert

Ebert is the manI loved Roger Ebert.  Not just his writings, but everything he did as a journalist and movie lover.  I read his reviews, his books, his twitter stream and his newsletter.  If I watched a film and loved it, i would then immediately read Ebert’s review to see if he loved it too.  He had a great way of thinking about  a film and describing why it worked and why it didn’t that went beyond his “thumbs up” rating. Each review was more essay than review and that gave us a glimpse into the mind of Ebert as much as it did the quality of the film.  

I always loved this quote from Ebert that he wrote in his book where he talks about the tediousness of watching movies every day and the shift to DVD’s and Video-On-Demand: 

What I miss though, is the wonder.  People my age can remember walking into a movie palace where the ceiling was far overhead, and balconies and mezzanines reached away into the shadows.  We remember the sound of a thousand people laughing at once.  And screens the size of billboards, so every seat in the house was a good seat.  “I lost it at the movies,” Pauline Kael said, and we all knew just what she meant. 

When you go to the movies every day, it sometimes seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven and cowardly, more skillfully manufactured to pander to the lowest tastes instead of educating them.  Then you see something absolutely miraculous, and on your way out you look distracted, as if you had just experienced some kind of a vision. 

That is what we all love about movies.  I know that feeling of walking out of a theater after just having my socks knocked off.  That happened to me in a New Hampshire theater for “Saving Private Ryan” or as a teenager with “Pulp Fiction.”  That feeling of being blown away is just incredible and what sustained Ebert.

His passing left a big hole in the film world for me.  There are great critics like AO Scott, but I don’t know anyone else who can make me see a film differently or appreciate a film the way Ebert did.  He will be greatly missed.

Finally, I ask you, my readers, do you know of anyone who I should turn to now? 

Netflix vs. HBO

What’s the future of tv network or service?  It’s probably a subscription service that:

  1. Has exclusive content
  2. Is available on all the devices you own (TV set, mobile devices, iPad, etc.)
  3. Has a library of great content – both old television shows and movies
  4. Offers on-demand viewing of all it

Who’s leading the effort here? It seems to be HBO and Netflix.  Netflix is great for #2, #3, #4 whereas HBO is great for #1 and #3.  It seems to be a race for HBO to get on more devices and for Netflix to get more exclusive shows. 

 

Diane and I just watched the entire season of House of Cards and loved it.  We plowed through all 13 episodes in two weeks.  That’s how we watch most shows (on-demand) and not in HBO’s weekly format.  It’s only a matter of time before they all go that way. 

For me, I’m putting my money on Netflix.  First off, because it’s not part of Time Warner which seems to be stuck in the ways of the past.  Second, because Netflix has been pretty aggressive on all fronts and their winning here seems more likely than HBO figuring out the web and devices. 

Thoughts?

Django is Pretty Awesome

 

I have to say that the new Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained” is gory, funny, smart and thoroughly enjoyable.  That said, i’ve had people recently complain that it’s not very good.  To those people, i would just say that you need to remember that QT is the guy who brought you “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” – two other films with extreme violence (i.e. the ear-cutting scene or the gimp scene). So, if you’re expecting a nice little action drama about racism, you’ve got the wrong film.    

Some things I liked about it:

  • QT loves his dialogue and he also loves his Christoph Waltz. Putting the two together is like chocolate and peanut butter or milkshakes and Mike Lewis – it makes for some delightful scenes.  The way that Waltz is able to dig really deep holes and then pull himself out with his Austrian accent is pretty great.  Just like the climax of “Kill Bill” was a conversation between The Bride and Bill, the best scenes in DU are actually the verbal confrontations and not the blood spattering.  
  • Samuel L. Jackson plays Stephen, the head slave at the plantation. In all respects, he considers himself white and to see his turn of racism is quite something.  His betrayal of Django and Broomhilde was probably the most hateful action in the film.
  • There is a lot of violence.  As Ebert says, “When QT begins a movie, I believe, his destination is to aim over the top. The top itself will not do.”  And he definitely gets there in this film.

With both the violence, the rasicm and the comedy, you really don’t ever know what you’re going to get when watching a Taratino film, which in itself is a gift. 

Some good Reelist links about the film:

Zero Dark Thirty Weekend

This past weekend i saw three films nominated for best picture – “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Django Unchained.”

I liked ZD30 the best, followed closely by Django with Lincoln a way distant third.

Zero Dark Thirty is sort of an incredible film.  It’s definitely nothing like the other CIA film “Argo” – that film is much more standard Hollywood entertainment.  This film feels like it has a point – it has something to say.

My favorite part of the film is how it depicts sacrifice. In a selfish world where kids growing up want to be a rock stars, want to get more followers on Facebook, and smart college graduates are all headed to investment banks to try to figure out how to make more and more money, it’s almost refreshing to see a film where the central character puts her entire life above herself.

“Do you have a boyfriend? Do have have any friends at all?”

It’s so true that the people who truly end up making a difference in the world do it by dedicating their life to their craft. There a great interview with Billy Joel where he talks about his failed marriages.  He says that the problem is that once he starts working on an album, he can’t get it out of his head during the day. It’s there during the day, at night, while he sleeps, all the time.  Everything else takes a back seat till that album is done. His marriages just fell apart because of it.

That’s what’s great about ZD30. You have a group of people willing to take on that sacrifice. They are willing to get shot and blown up for their cause.  It might not work, but at least they’re willing to do try to do it, all day, every day in a country that hates us being there.

The scene with the head of the CIA,

“I noticed you’ve been working with us since high school.  Can you tell me what else you’ve done for us?”

“Nothing. I’ve done nothing else.”

Yep, that’s commitment.

I knew how the story ends when i entered the theater but it’s one thing to see Obama give a press conference and another to be on the ground, going into a house with night-vision goggles. That’s some serious tension.

This just vaulted above “Silver Linings Playbook” as my favorite film of the year.

PS: As for the torture – i don’t know what the big deal is.  First off, the scenes are not that brutal (have you see “Django”?).  Second, it’s not clear whether the torture did any good to getting Bin Laden.  How can you claim the film is promoting torture? Have you even seen it?  Come on.

‘This is 40’ and the new wave of comedy

I just saw “This is 40” last night on a double-date with my sister and TheBoss. I was hesitant going in because many critics have crushed Judd Apatow’s latest film calling it a sloppyoverlong, self-indulgent mess.

 

I felt differently though. I found it to be brutally honest and to go for uneasy truths over quick payoffs.  And this is the way comedy seems to be headed now.  The film feels less like “Knocked Up” and more like a 2.5 hour episode of “Louie.”

There’s a quote in Flavorwire from comedian Mike Birbiglia about how this trend is emerging, 

“I’d like to think that we’re part of a comedy movement right now that’s moving away from observational comedy and into something that’s more personal and real. But it’s just one person’s opinion — it’s what I prefer because I feel like it has more heart to it. It’s got more teeth. And I feel like in some ways it’s a response to the Seinfeldian era of comedy, which was observational to a point of brilliance. I mean, Seinfeld did it so well, and there were so many mimeographs of that style, and then at a certain point, those mimeographs became so boring … It’s actually more difficult to just tell your story, and tell it honestly, and admit that you’re wrong about things in a way that’s entertaining.”

I can definitely see this happening. It’s in the Louis CK specials and in Lena Dunham‘s “Girls.”  It’s a cool trend and I like where we’re headed. 

Prometheus: Sci-Fi Done Right

I saw the film Prometheus this past weekend, which is a Ridley Scott-directed prequel to the film Alien and I really liked  it.

 

Here’s what I liked specifically:

The Visuals 

The film just looks amazing.  Granted, I saw it in IMAX but it looked like it was made for the IMAX screen.  Just the first couple of a scenes when they are going over the landscape of Iceland/Greenland was incredible.   It was less of the tricks you see in big films and more of the awe you got from Avatar.  No matter if you liked the film or not, it was just so *lush* in its appearance.

Continue reading “Prometheus: Sci-Fi Done Right”

Marines vs. The Roman Army

 

This is a pretty great story.  A worker in Iowa was checking Reddit and saw that someone posted a question, 

Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]? 

He immediately posted a response and began it with a narrative of what that actual experience must be like.  His response got such a positive response that he wrote another, and then another.  The story he concocted was so awesome that he got signed by an agent and got a deal to turn it all into a Hollywood film.  

It’s a great story and even more interesting because it shows how modern-day publishing is changing.  I think Reddit and Digg are much more similar to future newspapers than the Washington Post or New York Times.  If we’re getting all our information on the internet, it makes sense for it to be an interactive medium we’re reading.  It also proves that “the masses” (i.e. some guy in Iowa) is just as capable of generating quality content as a journalist.