Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Sundance and a certain nostalgic

So I've paid the fee, done all the submission info required, and should be sending the DVD in post tomorrow or Friday. Then wait until December to see if its accepted or not. This was the first I've sent and is not as difficult as expected.

Have been ill recently so things are slow, might still be slow for a few days, save for don don's contributions.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Alexander Sokurov's Cinema of the Soul

They call me don don Vermicelli (serious hat on)

As a great admirer of the films of Alexander Sokurov it was with anticipation that I sat down to watch his 1997 film Mother and Son. His film is quite literally stunning, his ingenious use of lenses and a muted colour palate to create a world at once recognisable as our own but also an ethereal dream-scape is testament to his ability to truly 'create' in cinema. Mother and Son is a film with virtually no plot other than a son caring for his dying mother. In my opinion this is film as it should be, Sokurov doesn't try to tell us a story or even study characters, his film is elemental and sensual what he does is show us not only the inner life of the two characters but his own. What we see in the images of the natural world and of these characters faces, hands and bodies is also their inner selves rendered visible, the wind, trees and skies are their fears, sorrows, hopes and joys. Sokurov's synthesis of content and form is utterly flawless, the rhythm of the film is something like meditation. Sokurov has often been compared to Andrei Tarkovsky mostly erroneously, based on the fact that they are both concerned with similar themes and indeed knew each other, Tarkovsky's influence though can be felt in this film more so than Sokurov's others, especially in the way he allows the film to breathe and allows it to unfold itself without being artificially forced. Both directors rather than using images to create a film, use a film to create images, it is the flow and movement of these images that create cinematic truth and elevate cinema to something 'real'. Watching Mother and Son I am reminded of Werner Herzog when he talks about creating, 'landscapes of the mind' and that cinema is the search for, 'an ecstatic truth'. In Mother and Son, Sokurov creates landscapes of the soul, in such a way that the actors like in Robert Bresson's films do not 'act' but simply 'are' the characters in front of your eyes. For me it is undoubtedly his masterpiece (so far), it is the kind of film that the cinema exists to show.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Chimpan A to Chimpan Z

They call me don don Vermicelli.

A man walks into his local multiplex and looks at the choices, after a moment he wanders up to the ticket desk and utters a sentence no human being should ever have to utter in this troubled world of ours; "One for Space Chimps please..." Yes, 'Space Chimps' the hilarious tale of some chimps sent into outer space, brought to you by the same people behind, 'A Cardigans Life' the moving and humorous tale of a discarded, poverty stricken cardigan who with the help of a soiled bra and a dishcloth rises through adversity to build an international drug cartel. On the imdb page for 'Chimps' a (presumably) young reviewer says; "...nothing special, nothing memorable but it's cute for the kids..." That really says it all doesn't it? What we are dealing with here is essentially a digital turd. Having said that, I don't think your average child has the intelligence to fully appreciate sparse parametric style in the films of Robert Bresson, having said that, he did once make a film about a talented donkey, who if i remember correctly became a racing driver in the end.

The Chimp's Dubious Tale

A bit of silliness below.

The chimp has no manners.
At two it flips a burger.
At three it gets off from work, stretches, belches, asks boss for an advance, which it doesn't get.
At four it ponders the nature of its feet. Or whatever the hell its feet are called. It can't remember as it's downed half a bottle of whiskey.
At five it rests, thinks about job-hunting. Thinks better of it, won't bother. Has a good life with current job. Well goodish. It's in the back, doesn't have to show manners to that type who wander in for burgers.
Drunken flashback. Trapped in a capsule. orbiting cracking blue. Was that a giraffe floating amongst fireflies, winking at it in a mocking tone.
Then the thump, thump, thump of the outside, the capsule creaking.
Thump thump thump.
Thump thump thump, the giraffe exploding, space piranhas exploding from its inside, coming at him.
Chimp watches, unsure what to do.
Screams like a girl. Or what he thinks a girl screams like, from movies.
Wakes. Sweating all over. Like at work.
Furious. Attacks the neighbours dog, a small dog that it roasts and eats. Then more whiskey. Drown out the sorrow.
Is now ten. Prepares to be a beast. Looks dapper when it stands straight, which it manages for a few seconds before crumbling into visual bad back and facial incoherence.
At eleven it crashes a nightclub, smacking around dull creatures while demanding respect. Jump and hits, jumps and hits. Gives its intended. It thinks. if it remembers right, which it can't be sure of.
At twelve it knows that it wanders the streets, as it feels the gravel on its face, can taste the cold dryness. Pulls away, tastes, pulls away, tastes.
At one it manges to look at itself in a mirror and wonder. Is it a man or a chimp?
Is a chimp of course. Those gorgeous locked knuckles gives it away.
Next morning it wakes.
Glasgow. Hates Glasgow.
Sweating, drags itself to work.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Poor little Batman, always stating the subtext in self-hatred (HAS SPOILERS)

I was very impressed by The Prestige, with its terrific, carefully built atmosphere, odd characters who made selfish but intriguing decisions, a winding story that had interesting undertones throughout, that went beyond plot mechanics, it's a film I would consider one of the best mainstream films in the last few years, especially on rewatching.

The Dark Knight is a disappointing film in comparison. In an undemanding level it works as entertainment. As a Batman fan from childhood onwards, there were many pleasures, from seeing Batman at work, some of the Joker's schemes with their sick humour, Gary Oldman underplaying as the one sane man, especially seeing two-face done sort of right. These are basically moments of pulp influence, that you can watch in the film, that kicks into another level at a few moments.

Problem is that the film takes itself very seriously in a way that drains, both in continued sense of entertainment, and in working of the director's ideas, that a serious film-maker should avoid. Every good moment usually returns to an uninteresting talky base, a large proportion of the film made up of scenes shot in flat distance, always with the city in background, getting old because the city was never staged dramatically. Distance is used, then dull back and forth coverage, rarely engaged visually by its own dramatic space, to let actors wander around the set and actually suggest character. They mostly stand still, locked by stiff staging. The direction felt uncomfortable in using dramatic visuals to tell the story.

I noticed this film was talky because the talk was extremely bad generally. It was unfortunate as The Prestige, while not having great dialogue, did have a sense of pace, kept the pretentious musings to a minimum, had fun with them. Good dialogue usually tells the story. But this film's dialogue tells you exactly what the characters want, without elaboration. Everything is subtext explained so that characters cannot dodge what they mean, show what they are through action, indirect communication, even in silent close-up. Never happens as there is more subtext to explain away.

Talk is bad especially with Batman. He's a dull, paternalistic psychopath who won't shut up, give sense of character nor say anything a learning-disabled adolescent wouldn't think. Essentially if your lead character is a bit thick, it really ruins a lot of the pleasure, especially if the film-maker doesn't notice it, or finds it profound in some way. What's worse is that he is defined through the dialogue, very rarely in interaction, that you never get a sense of darkness, or craziness, interior monologue or even a man thinking, so the sense of him being dramatically real in this world is lost, not to mention the reason why he does any of his actions. There's never a sense of a guy crazy enough to dress up as Batman. There are dramatic moments, where he has to decide whether to give himself up as being Batman, or he has to deal with the death of his love, that he does nothing, in action nor reaction within a series of scenes that defines the character as a person. It was a one-scene cliche, talk subtext of his pain then move on. Such a horrific treatment for the lead character, who has a tendency to be sketchy anyway, that leaves the film with a gap in connecting with the centre of the film and to lay groundwork to actual themes.

This film manges to make Christian Bale, a very good actor who can do crazy, seem like he's channeling Adam West, but without the intentional humour. But he does seem to be unconsciously in love with Harvey Dent, so there is gay subtext, which helps and is always nice to see in a Batman film. At the end, the interaction feels like moronic, repressed ex-lovers bitching to one another and not a serious study of morality, which I think is what the film-maker's intended. Most of the other actors come out a little better but no-one is defined as they lack purpose in drama, are moving plot point to plot point.

Everyone talks like children. There's a marriage proposal that's painful, is so basic, so soapy, that I was disgusted. Even the Joker has dull dialogue, is more idiotic the more he talks. The first time he's threatening but the more he speaks the more everything sounds repetitive. They are using The Killing Joke as a source, which has terrific Joker speeches, not in a terrific for a comic book but just terrific bits of madness, yet are not using the scenes in the film, which is a waste. Ledger does best in the film, does get the character, is a genuine threat always, is one of the few actors who use physicality to define character, in the way he holds himself, but is over-used as he really has nothing to say that isn't post-adolescent. I had enough of him halfway through the film, even though he's another villain I genuinely like. Things picked up towards the end, with his schemes to escape prison and to mess with the swat teams but what he had to say remained dull. Jack Nicholson was actually a more interesting version, had character oddities in dialogue.

With such an extensive running time it manages to miss major dramatic opportunities, from the psychological creation of two-face, which is a little sketchy, to the way Wayne interacts with the world, to the human reaction to the joker's schemes, extends the film for the sake of action, leads to sequences that bloat the film, which is about half an hour too long. There's a lot of sequences designed to showing Batman toys that simply don't give story. Some of the casting of supporting actors is bad, a finale section on boats ruined by both casting of actors who are bland and indistinct, having modes of dull scared or dull noble, to an outcome which is sentimental and lacking in real-world character defining actions.

Despite so much time wasted on action it tries so hard to be serious, define itself as being in the real world, to lay those genre influences and stretch them, redefine the comic book genre in a serious context. But the characters are written as defined in broad strokes, cannot connect to their visual world. As a crime story, unlike great modern crime, like Heat or TV's The Wire, there are no actual characters to propel the story, just mood. So the charge of watching an interesting character in the underworld (metaphorical but also subtly physical in urban landscape in the crime genre), making difficult choices, showing intent, going with or against intent, is missing. There is no charge as the scenes are either fun action that lack story or are unintenionally funny scenes that are entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

The film ignores the wonderfully absurd aspect to the characters as tries to treat it seriously. It but comes across as a film ashamed to be what it is, to define itself seriously to what it is, which is a comic book movie. It's kinda like the Road To Perdition, another film with nice visuals that was kinda moronic for a lot of the time, because a lot of comics are moronic. But as with any story, done with the proper respect for the imaginative qualities, of playing visuals to action, you can get something great from it. But this film lacks that imagination, in tone and detail.

This sounds a little more rough than I feel. I did think it was fun but it was just stupid, not the great film made out in many reviews. It was a quality drop from Nolan's previous film, which made me think of him as someone with potential. I hope he stops with this one as to me he's wasting his time on something that he's always pulling away from.

Despite his narrative flaws, Tim Burton did a lot more with these characters, psychologies, their situation, with the visuals, small details.. I think the 60's Adam West series was more true to its own ideas. Heresy maybe but I simply dislike films that aren't true to themselves, are ambitious, are "literary" yet simple-minded to the point of being ignorant of human nature, not engaged by the potential of material.

Til next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel

Captain's Blog

They call me don don Vermicelli.

What does one write on a blog? What is a blog? These are the questions that have plagued mankind since the dawn of the internet, way back in 1912 when Sir Henry Bockwurst III made his original 'pneumatic internet' from some children's shoes and frozen butter. We all know the story of Bockwursts tragic life, how after several failed attempts to launch his idea, he spent his last days in an asylum after claiming God had instructed him via an angel to stir fry his own head. A true pioneer, he can best be summed up by his comments upon being seized by doctors from the asylum; "My goodness...Have I gone mad already?"

All too human, all too mad, we salute Sir Henry, author of : The Internal Combustion Crystal - (Madness and Sanity in The Human Mainframe Infrastructure).

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Old Annuals

Found old belongings today, childhood annuals and toys, which felt odd, as I thought they were long ago thrown away.

I haven't seen them for years, haven't thought about many for the longest time. I found an old Dr Who annual from the 80's (Colin Baker on the cover) Conan annuals, Bash Street Kids, A Team, V, Star Wars. I even found an annual for an old show called Simon & Simon, which I barely even remember.

It's odd seeing what you were passionate about when you were eight or nine suddenly found, sometimes in good condition, sometimes barely kept together by tape. I remember obsessively poring over some of them.

Other objects I don't really remember having much of an effect on me. Found train sets, cars, things like that. The annuals jumped out. I liked toys but was in my head a lot at that age. That's not something that really changes I think, can be horrific to what you are still like today, how it relates to your mindset when as a child, makes you wonder how much you truly change.

The annuals don't quite relate to what you think today but seeing them you can remember what you felt like when they were important, when you were obsessed with only certain things, when a television show meant a lot to how you saw your world, emotionally was important to your existence and day to day handling of life, as I was very much a TV child. When the thought of having these objects was of priority importance, something to annoy parents over, to eyeball obsessively whenever I was in a shop where they were for sale.

That's the nostalgia trip for today. You kind of lose that feeling when you get older and finding this brings it back to me.

And on that farm there was an...igloo?

Looney Tunes might be, outside the best work of certain great directors, such as Bresson, Bunuel, Ozu, Bergman and Kubrick, the greatest achievement in film. Definitely better than Scorsese.

Outside of the obvious surrealism and absurdity on display, a rabbit in a dress fighting an idiot gambler on a southern steamboat, Bugs attacking a dream to get his way, Daffy finding his background, body and voice redrawn manipulated, two mice attempting to commit suicide, causing all sorts of problems, there are simple logistics within the actual animations that are superior generally to most output.

So here are my pretentious reasons.

Reason 1: No human characters of limited range to kill and dull the fun. Humans are rare and not very interesting, as they are in many a live-action films. Most in fact.

Live action films essentially set up an absurd premise, a shaky narrative drive with many side alleys that don't illuminate anything, are designed to kill time, show ill-defined pretensions, all reaction tied to characters sketched to avoid offence, with few genuine defining actions on a real level, stretched to a very long running time. Cliche in character is stated as unique rather than examining the cliche, is worked to create an emotional response that is manipulated, mashed usually into bizarre absurdity that is frequently immoral if you have a chance to think on it. Isn't Gangs Of New York a Looney Tunes film without gags or good pacing? It's a Sylvester and Tweetie cartoon. (Day-Lewis makes a good Sylvester the Cat. As a Looney Tunes fan, my hat goes off to you sir)

Yet because it is humans and fiction they get a pass. By using human actors it suggests a focus on humanity so is humane (unless its a lot of CGI which throws up the absurdities involved again), because its fiction the absurdities usually explained away as its not serious. Because it is humane and apparently emotional. Very few manage to avoid this sentimental and rather inhumane view of vaguely defined humanity with random events put propelling them. Yet Looney Tunes thrive on that absurdity and make it focused.

Looney Tunes are cynical about all of story and humanity's aims, as are the films of Bunuel, Lang, DePalma and Schrader. We're idiots looking for some reason, finding nothing, fall into absurd actions that make things worse. In Looney Tunes you are aware you are watching a fiction. Characters are aware that they are a fiction. Aware that they are doomed. They play in all the roles. They are to the point. There is a fun sense of play on tragedy and limitations of their set-up. They are not within the implicit pretension that moves through any live-action film (including my own most likely).

Reason 2: Existential despair with laughs. Essentially, save Bugs, they focus on the loser character. But that can be easy. Chaplin and others in silents did this. Animation frequently take this path (although Looney Tunes were the first to perfect it). It was a convention to have a loser character.

Yet Sylvester The Cat, Wil E Coyete, and Daffy, the on-screen poet Laurette of loser-dom, are three of the dumbest, most pathetic wretches ever created, creatures whose entire existence is an affront against fate. Fate treats them unkindly again and again. Then blows them up, runs them down with a train, blows them again. Two out of the three are simply trying to get a meal, to survive. Daffy is trying to gain self-respect, and respect of others, which is even more difficult in these cartoons.

It's simply so funny yet depressing. It kind of resembles life more than much fiction because fiction if frequently kind to its characters and life is less so, save usually in friendly or familial situations. It's repetitive in the way jobs can be. Looney Tunes does seem closer to the simple life than sentimental, two hour fiction.

Reason 3: The pacing of this damned fate can be astonishing. Its very simple. They get to the point fast, don't mess around yet know when to slow down, so when a character is doomed, the set-up can be tortured, is funnier and more twisted than the fate. With the three idiots mentioned above, the funniest elements are anticipation, the watching of them torture themselves in ways that are genuinely familiar and identifiable to most humans approaching a difficult decision, a failed situation. Within the confines, stripping away melodrama to cause and effect, of focusing on smaller actions, the absurdity of the situations makes the situation funnier and more identifiable, before moving onto the next situation, that is usually even worse.

Reason 4: Supporting and side characters. Side characters such as Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam do tend to be funny, frustrated, not quite as complete as a central character such as Daffy or Bugs. They are frustrated. They can be the chased or the chaser. It depends but as in your face, annoyed, annoying as many a character you'll meet in daily life and wish they would just go away. The Looney Tunes are very aware of how annoy a human being can be.

Small characters who pop up in one or two cartoons such as the two mice torturing a neurotic cat are also wonderful and eccentric but would make me goo off on an odd tangent and this posting is already pretty long.

Anyway, those are my reasons and I'm sticking to it.

I'm now going to watch 24, or as I call it American's torturing Muslims (minorities generally but usually Muslims). It's deeply immoral, is right-wing yet so much fun. Its a total witless Looney Tune cast-off without an ounce of a brain (twenty hours rather than 5 minutes so it does tend to stretch into absurd conversations and actions, yet is as dumb as any looney tune minor villain). At least it fills that immoral gap that you need as a human.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

A Friend Joins Me

I will not be alone on this blog. A friend of mine will introduce himself, hopefully tomorrow, and will be blogging from then on.

He will hopefully give the blog a little variety, rather than it just being all me, as we set-up.

He will hopefully offer many a strange comment.

You tube

Trailer is also up on you tube at:

Teaser Trailer

Here is the teaser, up after a few attempts and a few dumb actions on my part. Hopefully it'll come up fine.

Trailers From Hell

For those, like me, with a taste for the schlocky B-movie, I have found a site that may be of interest. Trailers From Hell. Click on My Blog site list to the side to find it.

It has trailers of many a cult film, commentaries from a (small) range of directors.

You have John Landis commenting on The Bride And The Beast, written by one Ed Wood Jr, or Joe Dante on The Beast Of Yucca Flats, starring Tor Johnson. Then there's Creature From The Haunted Sea, a Black Lagoon rip-off with legendary writer Robert Towne in a supporting role. Or the Ed Wood written Mesa Of The Lost Women. They comment also on better films but these are far more colourful, don't you think.

Then take a wild guess at how many of those films listed I actually own. (Or even those on the above list)

Monday, 21 July 2008

More Images Yet No Trailer

Problem with uploaidng a trailer for the film. Something to do with the type of files uploaded. Have asked for information from the creators of the editing software so hopefully a teaser will be up soon.
So we have more images. Won't do any more for a bit. There are only so many that you can put up before it gets very dull. Something more interesting and writerly will follow.

Five Nostalgic Images

Above are five more Nostalgic images. Hopefully the trailer will be up pretty soon. Am finishing it off.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Nostalgic Image

So as there is a film, here's an image. More will be uploaded as I go along.
There will be other areas written about, not simply the film, which will be in the background. There is a plan to serialise a couple of ideas I'm playing around with, which are tied to a main project but won't be from that. I'll write other odd ideas as stand-alones. Some silly things. Some views of fiction and non-fiction I've seen or read of course but it won't be dominating.
So that's the plan. Fiction and non-fiction.
Hopefully it'll work.

Opening Blog

This is a very basic opening blog. It'll get better. Is more or less an intro and a test.

My name is Peter. I'm a writer and director who is trying to get ahead. I have made two feature-length video productions. The latest is the Arubian Nostalgic, which has recently been completed and is being prepped to be sent to festivals. I have also done other sorts of writing.

This is all for now, save to give a link to a terrific website that people in should be aware of.