Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just When You Think No One Is Paying Attention: Entry 105

It always happens when you least expect it. With my little internet portal connected to various local filmmakers and affiliates, there are (I only assume here...) a few people that stop by, cop-a-squat, and read this diatribe from time to time. Apparently, in an fit of "local nobody frustration" and "DVD post-post production hell", I mentioned something that actually sparked the fire behind a comment or two. Amazing. I'm not even using my charismatic sarcastic charm here normally reserved for those asinine postings about apologies to Martin Scorsese. I'm actually shocked that someone left a meaningful and pointed comment.
The details are about Indie Memphis, our favorite local film festival. I (perhaps prematurely - as noted) made mention about the possibility of exclusion from the local film festival, and how some relationships seem to reach around the normal gauntlet of film festival acceptance procedures for a sure thing screening.
(To read the short blurb and responses click here):
If I offended anyone, I apologize. The comments were not meant to be hurtful... just an observation that had sparked comment from several local filmmakers in Memphis, as it has been a point of desired clarity over the years. It should also be noted that Indie Memphis is not the only local film festival that takes a previously screened local movie into that area of consideration/thanks-for-playing. We all want our babies to be seen... and we all have to play by the rules. That's the way the festival game is played.
A COWBOY'S SILVER LINING, was the first film to sell out a screening at Indie Memphis in it's then 7 year run. It was a thrill. I think that everyone involved in that cinematic adventure was tingling with excitement having viewed the long-stretched line that turned the corner. I am proud to have been involved in that. I felt bad for the people that had to be turned away. I think that there are still some people that haven't seen the film because of the screening being sold out that night (not to say that they didn't have ample opportunity further down the road).
ACT ONE, another local film, pulled off a sold out screening last year and went home as the festival's sweethearts. They made a great film. I'm also proud of them and have made great relationships with those filmmakers.
You can sell out seats at a film festival. Being local certainly helps. Like anything involved with film - be it financing, hiring actors, garnering locations, borrowing equipment, marketing, or pushing the screeners out to festivals - there is an amazing amount of politics involved. Politics require relationships. Although as "politicians" we may not see eye-to-eye on every occasion, there are times where we need each other's vote to get something done. I've seen it happen. Local government is one of the most draining and frustrating things I've had to cover in my 10 years of local news. There are times where I wish I could have stolen those precious hours of my life back... but I digress.
Truthfully, (and again I may be speaking/writing out of turn here), I don't think that DIVINE MANIPULATION OF THE THREADS made the cut this year. We should know sometime in September. After sending out the screener, I realized that the DVD copy I mailed off for consideration had trailers and sponsor cards attached to the front end of the disc. Knowing what little I do about the pre-screening festival process... that would have been an instant eject from the player. So, in a rush to make a limited deadline, I probably screwed that one up.
It's not the end of the world.
Our DVD is still being mastered, by the master Trai Forrester - himself. I do know that when all is said and done with this DVD debacle, we will have paid out more than a fair share of money and will have a DVD that will definitely work. However, at this point it's still a waiting game to see when we'll get all of the discs back. Fun huh? Welcome to my personal hell.
Look, for all of you that actually give a crap... sorry if things written were taken personally. Filmmakers vent. Normally people don't pay them any attention. If we end up being involved in the festival, fantastic. I know a hell of a lot of people that will come out and see the film... a lot of them still want copies of the movie, yes... I know... I'm trying. If we're not in the run of things... I guess we'll have to work on our relationships.
On the other hand, we're still in the running for all of the 2007 feature festivals (with a few exceptions). I guess not getting the damn things finished until Feb. of 2006 helped us out. Man, that was a long time ago. And to think, we've got to figure out a goodbye party before too long.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Public Apology to Marty Scorsese: Entry 104

My valued vacation time spent in the Fall temperatures of a San Francisco summer has given pass to finally calm the torrents of tedious work and sleep deprivation. I have enjoyed the weather. I have enjoyed the realms of making plans that involve "no plans." For today (Thursday) my only plans involve traveling to Coit Liquor, purchasing a bottle of 6 dollar wine, a small triangle of sharp cheese, and walking directly across the street into Washington park to "drink with the bums and pidgeons." My own little Kerouac dream in the shadows of City Lights Books. Sounds fantastic, no? Well these are the last few vacation days of my roaring twenties. There are some that would openly state in astonishment, "Pffft, you're under 30? You have nothing to complain about." Well, do not misunderstand me good knight... I am not making complaints of gray hairs and old age (today anyway). I have to take this small moment of clear-headed opportunity to give accolades to a grand mind of film and the arts.
Martin Scorsese has bled scenes from films that have been wiped away by a handkercheif and tossed into the garbage that fair far better than the majority of crap that has been slung across the silver screen throughout the last 15 years. However, Marty has never won the love of the golden boy, Oscar. It's a shame, truly. There was a time when I thought Mr. Scorsese's time had come and gone... that the fantastic creative genius that he polished with RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, and TAXI DRIVER had been passed over and had stiffled somewhere on the rough and rugged path.
When seated in the theaters of my youth, I shook with excitement when BRINGING OUT THE DEAD was the next greatest project from Martin. We thought that it would be in a similar vein to TAXI DRIVER. This, unfortunately, was not the case. Although it was a film splashed with genius and humor, it was no TAXI DRIVER. I had truly hoped that that GANGS OF NEW YORK would be a masterful violent return to Scorsese's previous roots. Unfortunately, I felt that Martin's hope and love of Leonardo DiCaprio was perhaps overzealous. Leo, though a talented actor (at times - like the picture that I'm watching right now, ROMEO AND JULIET) didn't bring it home for me. Thank God, Daniel Day Lewis took time off from beign a shoe cobbler to actually put some decent acting in that film. My argument states that Martin was either slipping, didn't get as much out of the pictures as he was putting in, or had bloated his budgets to the point that the keen and sharp vision of his films had become a milky cloud of mediocrity.
His last film, THE AVIATOR, I skipped. I just didn't think that it was going to be worth the time and effort of sitting through a period piece/biopic. It also called on Leo to once again carry the film. I just let it slip on by without a further thought.
There were conversations that pointed the various elements of the film and whether or not it was true Scorsese material. Time went on and I still did not watch the film.
While in San Fran, I sat down during a late evening and finally watched THE AVIATOR. Martin, I'm sorry. I apologize for all of the ill comments that may have passed my lips about your film or film making ability. THE AVIATOR is a fine movie. I actually enjoyed it. Now, it was not the kind of element that stuck to the ribs as did your previous films. However, the sets were expansive and seemingly expensive. I did notice the CGI but it did not distract so far as to pull me out of the film. Even Leo's acting seemed to fall into place. Kate Blanchett's turn as Katherine Hepburn was frighteningly realistic. So, well done, my good man. Well done.
With this said, and hopefully accepted with a smile and proverbial handshake... I would like to add that I dearly look forward to your next film, THE DEPARTED. Even though it is a twist on a "Hong Kong remake" I will see it opening night. I love Hong Kong Cinema... and from what I've seen of the trailer, Nicholson f#(king rocks. Now, Leo should do fine... Damon will more than likely keep it interesting... but Nicholson... I'm impressed with what I've seen on a two minute trailer my good man...
So, kudos. We might have to talk about this later though. If you need to reach me... perhaps sending a message through the Steely Dan website will work. Apparently they've had some success with Wes Anderson.


Monday, August 07, 2006

The Man In Charge Of The Broken Circus

I wanted to take a small break from the woes and wisdom of the Rusted Sun Films DVD/Independent movement struggle... and share with you a bright shining moment that had taken place exactly one week ago.

Let's just start this whimsical little conversation with a short statement of fact. Tom Waits is an eclectic talent that is either loved in the extreme measures that are usually reserved for those celebrities that grace the cover of grocery aisle magazines -OR- he is despised by the types that prefer to learn about "music" through a weeknight telecast of American 'Idle'.
Okay, are you with me? On the same page? Good. Now sit down with a tin cup, a bottle of whiskey, and I'll relay the story of a heat-dipped Memphis night that melted down the glass and steel like the fires of the underworld had clawed it's way through the pavement. Hell had not frozen over... the broken carnival of Tom Waits just remembered a spot on the side of the highway where they left a baby. That little child had been raised by wolves and waited for the return of his brethren... finally they had returned. (Christine had also decidedly taken a 'perhaps misguided' opportunity to return to Memph-o for the show. I suppose that was an added bonus for me).
On Friday August 4th, the long awaited reappearance of a minstrel in scare-crow form stretched an ominous shadow across a cemetery drape stage curtain. The hanging arms were raised through a tidal wave of glorious screams and chants that easily could have been mistaken for a locomotive attempting to stop on a dime. Dressed in what would have appeared to be "grave-digging-attire" Tom grabbed the microphone and growled through an opening rendition of Singapore. The mad-capped night had begin to sling sweat like a Filipino hooker dancing for her next John. A smile stretched so far across my skull that I was certain my teeth would rocket out of my head like poison darts into the backs of necks of the sonic-shaken fans seated directly infront of me.
The Orpheum was a can of Albacore Tuna in oil. Everything seemed to slip and slide through familiar songs of Tom Waits yore as well as a fist full of rumbled tunes from his latest album, REAL GONE. At a spot set aside for breathing room, Tom turned to the knights keeping musical vigilance just behind the brim of his bent and busted hat and with the wink of an eye, the troupe took leave stage left. As they slowly melted into the blood red curtains they left a void. It was an awkward moment that seemed to mimic the silence just before a junkyard dog viciously attacks. The dark empty spaces were only to be replaced by a piano that received an overzealous series of wall rumbling wails... rivaling that to the monstrous human chorus that greeted Tom, himself.
Tom tinkled through a few stories, switched his gravel chewed voice from 4-wheel drive to a soft and subtle 1st gear... either that or decided to take a half rusted muffler from an old Dodge Rambler and attached with duct tape to his vocal chords.
For some it marked the memories of a familiar bartop setting... a stretch back to the piano ballad past that Tom was most known for. Instead of the Cuban shouts and hacks of a literal blues explosion, they could slide headfirst into fond memories of strings, sad piano swoons, and blurred midnight drunks. I truly believe that the asshole next to me needed this little interlude. There were a couple of body odorous Midtown hippies that needed to get up and leave a few of times during the show. The seating in the Orpheum does not leave any room for such antics. Now, when one has to visit the lavatory or perhaps quickly run up/down a flight of antique carpeted stairs for another Jack and Coke, the entire aisle has to raise from their seats so that said person(s) can follow their desire. The man seated one over from my left (next to Christine) became vocally agitated with these two individuals and (I believe) threatened to crush their skulls. It was getting out of hand, even for a bearded self-obsessed prick. I do remember at one point that the man stated, "I paid 77 Dollars a piece for these tickets." Yeah, so did everyone else. I would have given you 10 Dollars to shut the f#({ up.
The night poured on, the piano took a bow and the band returned for a continued stomp through the tales of greasy spoons and the eternal search for a truly bad cup of coffee. Eventually, Tom took his leave... a small teasing moment of pleasure just before an encore return. However, his son, Casey Waits, who had been clamoring behind the drums all night did not return. I suspect that it has something to do with the song just before they left the stage. It appeared that the young Mr. Waits jumped the gun on a return during GOIN' OUT WEST. I was seated in the balcony and I could tell that it caught 'ol pa's attention.
So they finished up the two hour night with a ten minute version of SINS OF THE FATHER took off his hat, smiled a devilish smile, wiggled a finger or two, and left his screaming fans dearly desiring more.
The young boy sat in the crowd, fighting tears. His family had come home... but only for a short time. After all of the clank, boom, and steam he had found that he wasn't left by mistake. He was a gift from those that felt it necessary to share their vision with the world. His mission was to spread the word, to share the misadventure, and to bring us all into salvation. It was a big hat to fill. He remembered the fateful words shared on stage, "We'll do this again... We'll definitely do something again. But like I told you last time... save your money." And with that, the tears dried, a smile returned... and the adventure continues