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Posts published in “About Filmmaking”

Things that inspire me.

While browsing the Apedogs the other day, I came across a thread where folks were filling out these influence maps. I thought it was pretty cool so I did my own. See if you can identify all my sources. I almost definitely could fill out an entirely different second one of these.

After thinking about it a little bit more, I realized that I failed the Bechdel Test SO HARD. Terrible! It doesn’t change what my influences are, but it sure makes me look like a misogynist. Oops!

If you want to do your own, download the PSD here.

And, if you head over to Apedogs, check out the speed paint thread. Amaaaaaaaaaazing.

Inspiration, The Impending Summer, and Change.

Here I am on the tail end of some major life changes and I feel like something is missing. I’m settled in my new apartment, my finances have leveled out after the move, I’ve been working regularly, and playing a lot. The transition into this new phase is basically over and I’m starting to feel a little antsy about it. Not antsy about the transition, but antsy about what’s next. That familiar tightness in the chest is back, that feeling that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not creating enough, that I’m wasting such valuable time as I’ll never have again. Hedonism has become dull, a chore, a worn out play-thing destined for the bottom of the toy chest. All the playing is a nice distraction from life when I’m stressed and stupid and trying to avoid my feelings (as I’ve been doing since the beginning of February), but when I’m not really avoiding anything all the hedonism does is inspire feelings of guilt and shame. Loss? I don’t know. Maybe that’s too strong a word. It makes me feel bad and dumb.

After cranking out the piece for Hunter earlier this year and my subsequent rejection, there has been this tiny little whisper in my brain chanting its disheartening mantra of “Fuck it,” which is a terrible attitude to seeping through your subconscious. Astute Black Laserites will notice that I’ve posted nary a single photo all year. It’s May. You’ll also notice that I’ve not posted any other writing besides the Hunter piece. And that I’ve made ZERO progress on the three music videos I’ve assigned myself for this year. Pathetic. This year’s theme is flailing around, begging for attention, and I can’t seem to muster it. What is my deal? I’m trading my work time for play time as a way to rebound, but it’s not having the affect it should. Quite the opposite, I think.

With this warm weather anxiety firmly gripping my chest, I’ve been thinking of a few simple ways to change things up, to put my brain into a different place. Let’s explore, shall we?

  • Buy a bicycle – I really want one. I think it would be nice to have one to ride around on in the summer time. On the other hand, it’s been 15 years since I’ve ridden a bicycle regularly and riding one around NY scares me more than a little. It’s something I need to overcome.
  • Lose a little weight – Nothing drastic. Just a little. I could stand a little definition. It will help me feel better, no doubt. I don’t really know how to do this, but maybe the bike will help.
  • Read more – This is another weird thing. I think I’ve read maybe 2 or 3 books this year? Again, it’s May. That is a surprisingly low number for me. I like reading a lot. It makes my brain function better and helps me write.
  • Work less – I’ve been working nonstop since October and I’m ready not to work for a little. I can afford it. Thankfully, most of June and parts of July and August I’ll not be working. Super.
  • Pick up the guitar again – It’s been a million years since I owned and played a guitar regularly. I’d like to get one again and flex that part of my brain so long dormant.

All in all, not an insurmountable list. With any measure of diligence I should be able to accomplish these things and they will open the flood gates of my brain so that I might be able to get some damned work done when I’m not working. What is this crazy work compulsion I feel about? Weird. Anyway, I’d like to work more.

And lest this come off as some whiny bitch and moan session (it’s not intended to be), here’s something I find inspirational.

Nature by Numbers.

In the past science considered nature random, disorganized, messy. They thought that only human created geometries were perfect, the square, the circle, and other various permutations of lines meeting lines. Then they discovered fractals and realized that nature is, in fact, largely based on math. It’s just that the math was more complicated than they were expecting. Go, nature.

This video is a beautifully animated piece that explores this connection between math and the natural world. Definitely worth a watch. Enjoy.

Ride, Rise, Roar trailer.

Every once in a while, it strikes me that I know a whole hell of a lot of stupidly talented, creative people. And, really, few things make me as happy as being able to share their work with you guys.

Even better, in light of my recent David Byrne post, my film-school friend Marshall, sent me the trailer for a new film on which is he was one of the two main photographers. The film’s called Ride, Rise, Roar and chronicles the creative process of Byrne and mixes it with live performance. But I’m fucking up the description. Let me just quote what they wrote on Vimeo.

RIDE, RISE, ROAR is a David Byrne concert film directed by David Hillman Curtis that blends riveting onstage performances with intimate details of the creative collaborations that make the music and show happen.

Shot with multiple cameras over several concerts during the 08/09 tour, the film blends the energy and charisma of classic Talking Heads with the heartfelt pathos of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s most recent collaboration.

Between the 14 live songs, the film achieves an unprecedented intimacy with David Byrne and the band, documenting behind-the-scenes auditions, rehearsals, and interviews with key players while revealing the creative process that led to the show’s unique fusion of pop music and modern dance.

RIDE, RISE, ROAR celebrates Byrne’s extensive career as a musician and testifies to the creativity that keeps him going today.

The trailer looks completely amazing. Do yourself a favor and click through to the Vimeo page here and watch it in HD fullscreen.

Great work, Marshall! I hope you keep on killing it.

Fuck you, Event Horizon.

I first saw Event Horizon theatrically way back in the late 90s (remember those?). I was with some friends, probably Deegan, and I remember walking out after the film thinking that it was the biggest piece of shit I’d ever endured. But time eases such pains and since 1997 I’ve heard from someone whose opinion I trusted that it’s actually an all right film. I thought that perhaps I’d judged the film too harshly. Perhaps I had missed the obvious brilliance within the film. Perhaps some of the subtext had flown right over my 15 year old head.

I threw the film onto my Netflix queue and it arrived yesterday in the mail. After doing the dishes while listening to Hall & Oates and making myself a sensible dinner, I sat down to give Event Horizon a second shot. I am nothing if not a giving man. I placed the blu-ray disc into the PS3 and waited for my mind to be blown.

Well, if you have taken anything from the title of this post, my mind was not blown. I mean, the movie blew, but my mind remained entirely unblown. Event Horizon has to be one of the most formulaic pieces of crap I’ve ever had the extreme misfortune of forcing upon myself. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me ruin it for you.

It’s the future! People live in space! A few years ago the government sent a super secret spaceship to the far reaches of outer space and it disappeared! Zip forward to now, which is still the future, and a small, rag tag group of ethnically-diverse soldiers are on a spaceship going to investigate a distress beacon on the far side of the solar system! A scientist rides along with them! Uh-oh! After they get out of hypersleep or whatever they call it, the scientist tells them, in a feat of unrivaled expository pseudo-science, that the distress beacon belongs to the Event Horizon! The ship was a super secret experiment in faster-than-light travel and on its first trip out, it disappeared! What happened to it?! The rescue crew boards the ship and all sorts of really spooky things start to happen! Hallucinations! The lights flash on and off! Bloooooooodddddd! Soon after boarding things start going to hell—literally! Turns out when the ship’s experimental drive punctured the fabric of the universe it went to hell and came back alive and evil! Really! That’s the actual plot point! The original crew is all dead! Scary! The scientist along for the ride who, coincidentally built the fancy engine thing, gets pulled into the evil will of the ship and then starts to sabotage their efforts to escape! Oooooh! Then the captain and the scientist have a stand off and the scientist gets sucked into space! But the ship brings him back to life! Convenient! Then they have another stand off and end up traveling through the darkness dimension but we never find out what happens to them! The end! It actually says “the end”!

I think I can sum up the whole film and my feelings about it with one photo and a related caption.

Oh no! Your eyes! What happened?! Oh, you saw Event Horizon? I understand.

Indulging in every stupid horror cliche, Event Horizon is so mired in banality that I couldn’t even see through to the positives that it does have. It’s a well designed film, to be sure, but that’s not enough for me to get past just how fucking awful the script is. Every single word made me cringe. And I LOVE bad science fiction. It’s great. But this is bad science fiction trying to be GOOD science fiction and GOOD horror and it just doesn’t have the chops to do either. It just plain sucks. Every time there was a dramatic pause before one of the characters revealed something…. dramatic, I wanted to punch the TV in the face. I wanted to fly to England, grab Paul W. S. Anderson, and punch him in the face over and over and over. And then I want to punch him in the face for the Resident Evil films, for Mortal Kombat, and for the rest of his fucking trash body of work. It’s like he’s taking other, better films, distilling them to their common beats, making those beats dumber, and then making the movie over again ineptly. Just terrible.

Do yourself and favor and never see this movie. I’d ask for my two hours back, but I’d only waste them.

Tyson (2008)


Last night Juli and I watched Tyson, a documentary on the legendary and oft reviled boxer, Mike Tyson. It was quite an illuminating experience and really helped flesh out the character of Mike Tyson in my brain. Before the film, all I really could have told you about him could easily be summed up in the following list.

  • He was a boxer.
  • He went to prison.
  • Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
  • Don King.
  • Robin Givens.
  • Face tattoo.

Comprehensive, right?

Now, the film struck me in two distinct ways. First is that is has humanized Mike Tyson for me. Where once he was this media icon, a person I heard about on the news but about whom I knew nothing, now I feel like after hearing his nearly incomprehensible, insane rambling for 90 minutes I understand him for what he really is: a frightened man-child who was thrown into a world he had no tools for coping with where people wanted to take advantage of him because he was able to dominate guys in a boxing ring. It seems clear that this man who can barely form a coherent sentence, nearly breaks down crying when talking about his childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and whose minds wanders wildly onto all sorts of tangents is ill equipped to deal with the world on any level, much less a high demand career surrounded by men trying to use him to fill their bank accounts. What Mike Tyson needed was a mentor and a hug, not managers and trainers and millions of dollars.

Of course, I’m not excusing his behavior. There is no doubt that he has done some terrible things in his life. He readily admits this, in fact, explaining his explosiveness after release from prison as being driven by the fear of never wanting to be back in that position of powerlessness again. Really, it is an extension of his childhood fears resulting from growing up in the ghetto and constantly having to fight physically and mentally not to get killed. You can see when he talks about it that he’s pretty messed up inside, confused, angry, uncertain. You can tell when his speech degenerates from his normal bumbling patterns of repeated phrases and half finished sentences to venom filled curses that he is, if nothing else, being honest about his feelings.

Tyson’s is a harrowing story of what can happen to people when the enter into a world of fame and riches without the grounding needed to cope. It’s really sad that this man who was indomitable in the ring was eventually brought down because, as a person, he was incapable of making sane, healthy decisions for himself. I know that sounds like a truism, but in Tyson’s case, it’s rather acute. The peaks of his successes and the valleys of his defeats are so much more extreme than what most people could ever dream of experiencing that his tale serves as almost like this abstract object lesson, this parable of how not to live your life.

Second, what struck me about the film was that it really doesn’t follow traditional documentary techniques. Based on Tyson’s clothes and the set ups, it’s like they had four or five days of one on one interview with the man and then used that interview SOLELY as the basis for the film. Where as other films might get interviews with people from his past, from his current life, director James Toback has used only Tyson’s words, along with a smattering or archival footage, to tell the story. It is incredibly effective. To enhance the sense that the inside of Tyson’s head is a jumbled mess, Toback overlaps sections of the interview both visually and temporally with bits of dialog coming in on top of each other and trailing off, a web of ideas and thoughts barely distinguishable from the next.

So, long story short, go see it. You have no excuse.

The Thing from The Thing’s perspective

Is John Carpenter’s The Thing the best horror film ever made? Well, don’t let me ruin the rest of your life for you, but the answer is, “Yes.”

Is it, then, any surprise that the best horror film ever has inspired the best piece of fan-fiction ever? One with perhaps the greatest ending line I’ve read in ages? No, no it is not.

If you’ve never seen The Thing, go. Do so. I’ll wait.

Ok. Wasn’t that good? I know. So awesome.

Now, read “The Things” by Peter Watts. It’s long, but worth it.

Go. I’ll wait.