Saturday 18 December 2010

Jingle Blogs

This guy in Dear Old Hollywood goes around LA looking at old film locations and buildings and offices and his blog is really quite fascinating. Salty Salutes has a way of talking about your favorite bands and singers, yet somehow knows all their songs that you never knew existed, despite spending your whole life collecting all their obscure tracks.

Scarlett Cinema: Women In Film Criticism is a blog I'm still figuring out. I must like it, I keep visiting. And although the "Dude who is the Godfather of film blogging Award" normally goes to John August, Ken Levine should also be considered. He's written for pretty much every TV show you've ever loved, and is not afraid to tell it how it is.

Sex In A Submarine is not something I've ever tried, but it is a blog I read. The guy who runs it has written a heap of films you've never heard of, but after ten minutes on his blog you'll do your best to change that. Simon & Jo at Screen Insight love movies, and do a great podcast, which regrettably I get around to listening to enough. But they're awesome, and they watch a lot of movies; and deserve a bigger audience than they're getting. So go be a part of it and you can be the cool ones who were there before they went mainstream.

I normally dislike blogs where the author has a giant image of themselves in the header. But Chris Edwards makes up for it by the incredible service he is doing to silent film at Silent Volume. And not only that, but there's a woman who writes poetry about silent movies, how cool is that? Have a look at Silent Stanzas.

After all that you'll be fed up with movies, so go take a look at Hyperbole And A Half. She's the most hilarious, creative and original blogger I know. Incredible. And let's end by being happier. Gretchen at The Happiness Project has been road testing every myth, method and idea about happiness for over a year; the results are inspiring and helpful. 

Care to share?

Friday 17 December 2010

48 Year Old Divorcee Blogging About Plants

I struggle with those blogs where people just ramble about whatever comes to their minds, do you know the type I mean? They post pictures of their cats and they give out "Most Fluffy Blog" Awards to their friends who have names like Deirdre and Marlene. But, as a change of pace; I figured I'd just write a blog without knowing what I'm going to say, and see where it ends up. I won't be blogging about my cats, because I killed them.

I've never owned cats, don't worry. I never even saw the show. I watched 'THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3' last night, that's the remake, not the original. I know we're meant to claim that remakes are the devil; but I'd never seen the original and this film I enjoyed. I'm not an action film guy. A few cars blow up and buildings explode. Great. But why should I care? But '..Pelham' was good. It had characters I cared about. This is what I need from an action flick.

1. A deadline. 
i.e. Get me the money, otherwise your family dies.

2. Someone who wants to get it all over so they can see their kid again. 
i.e. I need this to be over, so that I can finally be a good Dad to Little Billy.

3. Plausibility.
i.e. Don't have two guys running around shooting each other for two hours and end it with one of them suddenly inventing a phone that doubles as a ham sandwich, which poisons the bad guy, who suddenly announces that his ham allergy is deadly. 

Now, PELHAM, as I'll call it now, did have a few plausibility issues, but I enjoyed it! It was in New York, it was gritty, it was fast. It had the dancing guy from the 70's shouting "Motherfucker!" a lot. Great stuff. 

"JULIE & JULIA" is a good movie. It captures a different New York. It's the Nora Ephron New York. It's funny; on the making of thing on the DVD one of the producers says "This is a different New York to what Nora's shot before, it's gritty." Gritty? really? Just because there was a Pizzeria in it? It's hardly "DO THE RIGHT THING." Now that's a good movie. In fact; now I think about it -- Spike Lee and Nora Ephron are both very similar in that they draw you into their worlds. They make you care. They can have a fuckawful story but they get away with it; because they've wrapped you up and welcomed you into their worlds. They've put the heating on, they've made you coffee, and you don't want to leave. 

Julie Powell; as a real person, and as a film character; is really a great role model for success. She had a target which would test her. She had passion for something. She had a role model. And she worked her ass off. Her character spoke a lot, of feeling like Julie Child was in the room, and of having conversations with her as she cooked. To many, that sounds insane; but to anybody who wants to do anything extraordinary, it's the most normal thing in the world. Napoleon Hill was preaching that back in the day in his success books. It works. Unfortunately, I thought I was visualizing Billy Wilder in my imagination, but it was actually Bill Wiseman, from Barnsley, UK; who is currently unemployed and suffering from gout. Make sure you visualize properly.

With all this talk of movies set in New York, I should mention Woody Allen. I watched "ANYTHING ELSE" the other day. I love it! I hated it for a while, but on watching it a few days back I remembered that I actually love it, I just convinced myself I hated it after everyone said it was terrible. But I dig it. Sure, it sucks in so many ways and is a rehash of many past works. Woody was also clearly struggling with big changes in crew; this was the time when he was having to come to the realization that even though he'd had people willing to fund his New York movies all through his career, that was no longer going to be the case. 

But I love this film because; Woody knows comedy. More than that, Woody Allen knows Woody Allen's style of comedy. And if you are a big Woody fan, you'll find lots to love in this movie. There's nothing better than a scene with Woody going over the top and panicking. There's nothing better than a straight line, followed by a cut to a scene which results in huge laughs. There's nothing better than Woody making a joke about being Jewish. There's nothing better than seeing Woody Allen convince another character to buy a survival kit (which includes not only a gun, but water purifying tablets.) Watching Woody Allen is just a pure joy, if you're into that kind of thing. If you're not, you'll suffer. But don't worry, pretty soon after this movie, we all started suffering, again and again.

I am rambling. This isn't good is it? I will now write a paragraph in the style of a 48 Year Old Divorcee.

MJ emailed me. He wanted sex again. I just realized MJ has the same initials as Michael Jackson and some people think he isn't dead. What if it's him? What if he gets me pregnant? Would it really be his or would it be Macaulay Culkin's? F called. GH-N-Q didn't call. I was sad. I bought a Dicksonia Antarctica for the garden. It's so beautiful. N got the garden in the divorce, so I don't know where I'll put it. I'm so lonely sometimes. It reminds me of the time FB told me he wanted some. I thought he wanted a threesome with me and I. That was my fantasy, me and FBI. But it wasn't the case. He did want some, but not sex. He was after my Sasa Palmata. I told him the soil in his garden wouldn't be right, plus it didn't have adequate shade.

Anyways. I watched "SLUMDOG MILLIONNAIRE," too. I like Freida Pinto. I like the movie. I liked it more this time on DVD than I did in the cinema. The hype was so big then because I could hardly see the film on the screen; it was like there was some big giant sign in front of it say "OMG, THIS IS THE BEST FILM EVER!". That's why I didn't see "THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT" for ten years.

I'm going to stop typing now.

Care to share?


In November 2010, I wrote an article called Cinema In Your Country, where I asked everyone to share a bit about how movies are seen and perceived in their own countries. The post got some wonderful replies in the comments, and many  of you also contacted me by email. I was particularly intrigued by some emails I was getting from Saudi Arabia, where cinema's don't exist. I had no idea this was true; and invited Fatma M-Z, who lives in Saudi Arabia, to tell us more about it from their own perspective. 

Written By Guest Author Fatma M - Z

In Saudi Arabia, people don't need cinemas to follow and know about the international film industries like Hollywood, Bollywood and other foreign movies because they already know a lot about them.

Although there is no such thing as movie theaters all around the big kingdom, still, most people love movies and watch them the whole time. And to tell you the truth, young Saudis are big fans of Hollywood productions and they are following the movies box office regularly. And some are serious movie addicts.

If you are wondering how we get access to movies, DVDs and video tapes, then I'll tell you that our resources for movies are either movie stores, which are available everywhere, or through internet websites.

I think the reason why there are no movies shown publicly here might be because most of these movies seem to carry concepts and ideas that don’t suit our cultural traditions and Islamic beliefs. Generally speaking, the Saudi society is conservative and believe in preserving its Islamic traditions and life-style from vanishing by external factors and I believe that there is nothing more important than keeping one's identity and true belonging as long as it doesn't harm anyone else.

Some people think that the government is the one who is responsible for the absence of cinema in Saudi Arabia out of its strict intolerance but this is not true. Actually, the government has nothing to interfere with citizens's own affairs and they hold a neutral side; but they prevent this thing out of fear of opposition from people and once the majority of people accepts the establishing of cinema houses, nobody will mind as long as the movies shown are modified to suit the different variety of ages.

In the meantime, the actual change has started taking place in the big cities as mini cinemas for children as well as big 3D documentary films that are presented every weekend to entertain and educate both children and adults, and consequently, I think that big cinema houses will exist in Saudi Arabia very soon.

To be accurate and even in my presentation, I run small interviews in my college where I asked many girls about their opinions of the absence of cinema here. Most of them said that although they don't see why it is not here, they don't feel that it's necessary anymore because they have other alternatives and they get used to seeing movies at home.

However, some girls insisted that it's totally unfair and there should be cinema's for them to meet with their friends and watch movies together while others said that although young people demand its existence, we must respect the ones who don't as it's not a life or death issue and they mentioned that they don't see what difference will it make whether they watch movies inside their houses or out of it. 

Lastly, I believe that such changes are going to happen as the world is now getting more and more similar every day.

Big thanks to Guest Author Fatma M - Z, for speaking up and sharing some views from Saudi Arabia!

Care to share?

Thursday 16 December 2010

Actor/Director MELANIE MAYRON Five Question Interview

MELANIE MAYRON is a Director and Emmy Award winning Actress ("thirtysomething" - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series 1989.) Her latest directing project is MEAN GIRLS 2. With over thirty years of experience in the industry, on an incredibly diverse range of projects - a five question interview was never going to be enough. But that's what makes it fun! Enjoy!

If you could only act --OR-- only direct; for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?

Oh God, that's a tough one. I mean, once an actor, always an actor, right? But when I direct I seem to act out all the roles in my head in order to figure out how the characters would move in a scene so I can determine where to put the camera and how to exactly set up a shot.

I find I use more of myself and my talents when I direct, so maybe I would say directing... but it's a tough call because I LOVE to act.

How is directing for film different to directing television?

Directing for film and television is pretty close to the same. I mean, staging scenes with a camera is the same. That said, television is smaller screen than the screen in the movie theatre so in television I would shoot tighter shots and use more close ups than a film... but in a film I would do really wide shots too, and just in general frame everything much wider, so you see more of where you are and you see more of the actor's bodies.  And use the close ups more sparingly. So when you are in close on an actor's face you are there because it is a moment when you really want to be close to them.

There are a lot of people who were really passionate about the first 'MEAN GIRLS,' do you think the sequel will please them or is it for a new, younger generation? 

The first Mean Girls was very sexy and a bit more risque than this story. This story however has a bigger and more universal theme behind it, which is about friendship and betrayal. That is the sort of thing that everyone can relate to on some level. And it is geared more for the teens and tweens as the casting was all actors from ABC Family, The Disney Channel and TeenNick shows... Although some of the stars are from 90210 and Desperate Housewives too.

The film industry is insanely difficult to be successful in-- do you think there are certain character traits that separate the successes from the failures?

No. None. It is a crapshoot whether you get anywhere here. There are just so many very gifted people that come to Hollywood to try to realize their dreams, that the reality is it is luck, karma, destiny, whatever you believe.  But you do have to be motivated. And passionate about what you want to do and say.

The ratio of men-to-women in Hollywood, especially in Directing, is still a giant gap. Do you see this changing? What can we do about it? 

I suppose so. I do see more women's names on projects and I always want to look them up and see who they are. Slowly it is changing, although it still seems like there are only a few women on directing rosters say, in the episodic television world. Certainly more women are directing film and that is wonderful to see. I think to change it would be probably if there were more women in executive positions at the studios that would be looking for more women to direct. That would be nice.

Mean Girls 2 was shot in July in Atlanta. It will air on ABC Family on Jan. 23rd and be released on DVD in February 2011.

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Tuesday 14 December 2010

ONCE: Raise Your Hopeful Voice

"ONCE" gives us permission to do everything we want to do, and say everything we want to say. It was shot on a camera that is below the accepted industry standards. It starred people who'd never acted before. The lighting was terrible. It was about an Irish guy and a Czech girl singing acoustic singer/songwriter songs. It was only 83 minutes long. It didn't have any major drama, or twists, or explosions. It didn't have that cool-indie-film-vibe. 

"ONCE" didn't have a deceptive trailer, it didn't have an A-list cameo, it didn't have a twist ending, it didn't have a clever marketing campaign, it didn't have a dedicated social media team, the director didn't claim to be the "next" anyone or anything.

THE FILM HAD HEART. That's what it had and it's what it has. It's a film that people love and adore and need. It's a film that people watch when they're all alone at 3am. It's a film they watch with the family on a Tuesday night. It's a film they watched tucked up in bed with their lovers on a cold Sunday evening. It reaches everyone. It reached Steven Fucking Spielberg. All because it has heart. It has heart over everything. The camera shakes a bit? The heart is more important. The music isn't as catchy as a well-constructed soundtrack? It has heart. It got an Academy Award because of that heart. 

"ONCE" is proof that we can do it, we can make the movies we need to make and say what we need to say. We can make obscure movies about musicians in Ireland. Of course, we gotta know what we're doing. People with heart make bad movies all the time; but they also make good ones. This movie proves that if we make something astoundingly great, that's enough. It sounds obvious but - we get too caught up in all the junk; thinking about making things that are 'marketable' or 'original' or 'surprising' -- we get further and further from writing and making "ONCE". We become a confused mix of a director like Crowe making "ELIZABETHTOWN" when really if we follow our hearts we can be Crowe making "SAY ANYTHING."

"ONCE" is magic. It really is. The songs are so meaningful, the look in Marketa's eye is so beautiful and the tone of Glen's voice is beyond soulful. And it carries you away into its world for 83 minutes and it has nothing to do with what anyone is taught in film school, or has drilled into them by producers - it's the work of heart, and soul, and hard work, and experimentation and simple honesty. Simple honesty - what a thing. So rare. But what a wonderful thing. How can we get more of that into our work? We can watch "ONCE" a million times. Look at that moment in the film on 15mins 35seconds; the two characters share a look; I don't know whether it was improvised or directed or an accident. Whatever it was, it says everything. It says wow we sound amazing, and it says wow I'm falling in love with you and it says wow, this movie is gonna be awesome! It's the most honest look in the history of cinema and it came in a split second in a little Irish movie that almost nobody ever heard of but in the end the world heard of because it was so honest, inspiring, and unique.

If you want to write a 'hot' script, or you want to impress Hollywood; that's great! I'm excited for you and I would love to see your movie when it's done. But this is about the people who have it in their hearts to tell something simple and small. Because, actually, there aren't a lot of books or blogs or anything that support that. It hasn't been modelled for us enough. And of course, when it is; sometimes the movies are so small we hardly know about them. But "ONCE" exists. It's there. It inspired people the world over, it touched people, and yeah; it made money. It happened because a writer/director and a small crew and a dedicated producer and a wonderful cast made it happen, and they believed in it. They did the night shoots, they worked for little pay and they believed in something they couldn't quite see. It exists. For those of you who have projects in you that are like this; don't hide from them, don't bury them, don't believe there isn't a place for them. The world wants and needs these movies. 

If you haven't already; you can read my interview with "ONCE" Producer MARTINA NILAND right here

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