Monthly Archives: July 2008

The unbelievable truth

still from May Dailies

This afternoon, I received a phone call from a friend, who happens to be on the board of an art gallery with me. He suggested that I head over to the gallery to allow prospective viewers in, as they were from out of town.

Well, one of them happened to be singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, who’ve I’d admired for years now.

I’ve had a few dust-ups with famous people, but none more personal and meaningful than today. Not only did Stevens look at the working hanging in Spool MFG, but patiently sat through my film, May Dailies, before commenting on how much he enjoyed it. I couldn’t sit in same room with him as he watched it, but I peeked in occasionally, as he chuckled at the incidental subjects or spoke to a friend he brought with him. This film, made specifically for an opening in early June, is still a bit rough in my eyes, though I’m at peace with it as is.

Stevens was wholly generous and kind, suggesting that the film reminded him of some visuals he used for his BQE performance last year. I offered him a copy of the film to take with him, which he accepted, and then went on his way (to go blueberry picking).

It’s hard for me to grasp acceptance like this, especially from not only Stevens, but musicians, who I seemingly gravitate toward more than filmmakers. Today turned out to be one of those magical days, where the gallery members felt relief at outside acceptance, and I, stumbling over my words, feel a bit better about my life. It’s nice sometimes.

Sufjan Stevens filming

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What should I do with my movie?

still from The Drift

 
Despite this being a film-centered blog, that is to say a blog not about myself, let me indulge. 

I am in the process of editing a feature-length documentary film, The Drift, about an Iraq War veteran’s experiences after serving overseas. It’s not so much about the conflict in the Gulf, but about the effects that the conflict had on said veteran.

Since I financed, shot, and am editing this film on my own, I have had little time to figure out what exactly to do with it, after I somehow figure out how to end it. I’ve been convinced, lately, by a couple of posts which suggest that theatrical distribution may be a bit less legitimate than in the past.

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Cinematographic poem

 

Films, films, 

The best resemble

Great books

That are difficult to penetrate

Because of their richness and depth.

 

The cinema isn’t easy

Because life is complicated

And art is indefinable.

Making life is indefinable

                             And art

                     Complicated.

– Manoel de Oliveira, Cinematographic Poem (1986)

First thoughts on Blu-ray

Though I don’t have precise means to judge Blu-ray for all it provides, the differences between SD and HD are immediately noticeable. Despite the fact that Blu-ray doesn’t offer full 35mm resolution (about 4 times less, to be precise), it provides the best digital home viewing experience thus far. 

I watched Eyes Wide Shut on a 1080p screen and it was stunning. Having watched EWS a dozen or so times since it was released nearly ten years ago (yeesh!), I know it more through its SD-DVD, which was never close to the theatrical experience I so loved. For starters, this Blu-ray disc retains the incredibly dense film grain of the 35mm experience, and is formatted in 16×9, providing the best yet copy of this film on video. The added resolution, nearly three times better than the SD-DVD, at least hints at what can be expected while viewing this film as it (truly) ought to be seen, which is theatrically. 

What’s thrilling about this format is that resolution is no longer sacrificed in the home video business. Despite the success of YouTube, which offers painfully dull and pixelated images, Blu-ray is promisingly ambitious and becoming increasingly accessible and more inexpensive. Though it may spell out the end of theatrical moving going as we know it, the trade-offs aren’t so painful. 

In the coming months, Vertigo, Chungking Express, Contempt, and Walkabout are all debuting on this new format. Even if iPod and YouTube resolution crunching is very much a thing of the present, the increasing amount of formats to choose from at least provides the illusion of variety.

[Click on the above still for a hi-res grab. It’s about 2/3rds of the 1080p frame]

Godard/Nader

Ici et Ailleurs

 

Ralph Nader ’08 campaign commercial

 

[Format quasi-borrowed by Mubarak Ali

SnagFilms

After having just acquired Indiewire, SnagFilms launches its beta site, with many a free documentary to watch.

Dig in.

a few thoughts on “Bulworth”

I’d forgotten about Amiri Baraka’s ominous presence, maybe Huey’s ghost, hanging over Bulworth. In some ways, it anchors this film from its sloppy visual tendencies, such as the overuse of zooms and a faux, handheld camera. Still, quite provocative ten years later, though Beatty never quite spells out socialism as it should be, and spends too much time playing catch up with black culture. 

When the film was released, there were theater ushers wearing political caps emblazoning the title of this film. Perhaps that’s why, in the end, it never quite works: it’s financed and marketed by the very people Beatty so desperately wants to destroy, or rather, shine a light on. Instead, like most political films out of Hollywood, the bankrolled product still has its corporate logo in every frame.