12.28.2005

Top 10 of 2005

Of no particular genre, these were my best moments of the past year.

1. The SUV ad in TA91: Never mind that it's cheap, indulgent and about to be one-upped by a scene in "Southland Tales." Still the most satisying piece of moviemaking I did this year because it's wrong in just the right way.
2. "The 40 Year Old Virgin": If there was another worthwhile American movie that came out this year, I dare anyone to name it. I'm sure there were some good movies made in other countries that we'll see in 2007 or whatever.
3. Kanye West at the Hurricane Katrina benefit: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." At last someone on TV says something that is indisputably true. We used to have people who said shit like that in large public forums all the time. In a time when speaking up for the oppressed is being forced out of fashion, it was better late than never.
4. Winning 100K in one shift for the first time at work: Not that I get to keep any of it, but it was still a thrill.
5. Fell in and out of love a couple times: Painful but gratifying to know that the emotions still work.
6. Bought some mutual funds: No big whoop, but it was a mini-epiphany to finally take responsibility for making my own money grow. And they're doing great so far. At this rate, I'll be able to save $50,000 by the time that $50,000 will be worth what $10,000 is worth now. Anyway, short of buying a house that I can't afford and don't need, it's all I can do at the moment.
7. Turned 30: WTF.
8. DJed at the dayshift Xmas party. This was just pure fun. If you've never been at a private party with a bunch of 30-40something Asian card dealers, you haven't really lived. I got to play this ridiculous Korean pop song for Yunah and "Blasphemous Rumors" for my boss. Big rush.
9. Got a Prius: the perfect LA car, which, according to the media, affords "non-class-specific status" (because movies stars and regular hippies alike drive them) and also "gives the appearance of caring about the environment." (because obviously if you actually cared about the environment, you'd ride a damn bike)
10. Murtha denouncing the war in Iraq: Another minor moment of outspoken courage in a year when most, including myself, did less thant we could to fight the gigantic fraud that is the current U.S. administration. Of course, it's not our job to tend to such overwhelming crimes. It is Murtha's job, and he's one of the only people who seems to be doing his job with the interests of the real working majority of American people close to his heart.

12.24.2005

overheard at the table

Tonight this pleasant-enough drunk Armenian guy kept repeating to himself and to basically everyone on the table:

"Do you have a problem? Because if you don't have a problem I can give you a problem, no problem."

and also:

"Do you have a problem? Because if you have a problem I have no problem."

The guy was clearly some kind of drunken genius, because in these simple paired mantras he perfectly captured everything one needs to know about the gambling addict's worldview with respect to other people. I guess that's why they call them "problem" gamblers.

12.19.2005

moment of completion

Well, that TA91 business isn't done yet, but I just finished a video short. I kind of like it. I don't know if anyone else will.

....on another note, has anyone noticed how easy it is to make a President Bush headline? I think the form goes like this: "Bush [insert strong active verb here] [some totally generic statement / some flatly ridiculous claim]." I think this is why every time I check the news blurbs it's something like:

"Bush vows war is winnable"
"President asserts liberals weaken resolve"
"Bush attacks critics who are all gay"
"Bush demands peace in the near future"
"Bush declares tomorrow to be after today"

....in case the point is not clear, it seems to me that someone is working really hard to keep up the President's appearance as someone who Does Strong Things. Maybe it's just good journalism to use all those powerful verbs, but they sort of distract from the fact that Bush never really does anything that relates to the regular people who read this news, except, of course, send them to their deaths. I'm sure the President IS really active in his off-camera time, making deals, hustling on behalf of the elite, consolidating power, etc, but they never write about that. Instead we get crap like "Bush defends intelligence" which not only leaves out the information that made it a news story in the first place, but is so coyly inconsequential you can't really form an opinion about it. It's like, Bush defended what? A human right? An underserved minority? No, no. He defended a statement. In fact, he demanded, asserted, and bitch-slapped that statement up and down the block. What's it gonna do? It's a statement.

12.11.2005

another really great movie: "Girl 6"

Most people seem to hate "Girl 6." It's one of those movies that gets one star in the back of TV Guide. I'm not sure why. It's definitely a little pretentious, and you can argue about how much Spike Lee has to say about women's liberation from the phone sex industry. But the script is by Suzan Lori-Parks, who is one of those playwrights too daringly crazy to write any kind of proper cookie-cutter screenplay. It's beautifully shot, as most Spike Lee movies are, with a particularly, appropriately sensual palette of saturated colors and music-video compositions. It does that thing which pretty much only Spike Lee bothers to do anymore, which is show people of different races and classes co-existing in a world where they have to interact despite their beefs, because they're mainly working-class and don't live on Wisteria Lane. And there are many a piercing moment; the obvious ones such as when Judy the aspiring actress has to strip naked for an audition, or the lyrically beautiful shot of phones falling around a kissing couple on a New York street. But where some movies would satisfy themselves with a few such easy, manipulative images, the movie also has powerful intertwined themes; one of the most resonant to me is that feeling you get of being addicted to your job which is making you a whore. I'm sure a lot of people are in touch with this feeling, but for whatever reason it's one of Spike Lee's most reviled movies. And yet it has a soundtrack of classic Prince, for god's sake. The acting's all solid and none of the dialogue is embarrassing.
...It does suffer from a few too many subthemes crammed into one flick, and for that reason I chalk up its general critical and popular rejection to the David Lynch Rule (there's surely a much better name for this rule but I can't spend the time to find it). That is, people hate things that seem "weird" unless they're by David Lynch, who for some reason owns the only Weird Brand in cinema. People expect Spike Lee to be agitprop and indie, but they don't expect him to be subtextual and floaty and of all things, pro-feminist. So, because it does a few unexpected things, it's Just Bad.
....Did I mention that people are idiots? People are idiots.

12.05.2005

you never know until you try giving them $29.95

I think it's true that you never know until you try. That is why I can say now that I know that Match.com sucks. Before I just thought that, but I didn't really know.

Sigh. It's cold. I know, I'm in Southern California, but it is.

11.28.2005

ITABALIO

....Thanksgiving was pretty pleasant. I worked every day of the long weekend and drank a lot of wine, not simultaneously. Surprisingly, there was big action on the table, which kept things lively. I was expecting it to be dead. I've been working on making Gloegg, a hot Scandinavian wine punch that evokes for me certain high school holiday parties. I got the recipe from the Norwegian cinematographer who shot TA91. It was nice to communicate with him for once about something that didn't involve frame rates or color correction. One of my co-workers got married on Saturday, so we had to work an extra-long shift to cover his absence. After the shift, we spent a good few hours drinking, gossiping and watching "Tampopo" on my laptop. Still one of the finest films in history. All in all, a satisfying weekend. I spent just enough time writing and doing my LA Aspiring Whatever Hustle to feel that I was doing it, and yet not be consumed with the angst of it all. The rest of the time was just working, eating, drinking, gabbing with friends, talking shit about crazy gamblers, being buzzed, all the little thanks-worthy things that make up real life.

11.22.2005

see the stars are shining bright, everything's all right tonight

Like, I just went to the Depeche Mode concert. Ohmigod. It was RAD. A few thoughts:

....those songs sound much better now than I remember them. Of course there is a huge added element of nostalgia. But there is also added musical appreciation for the little hooks and melodic things which have outlasted, rightfully, a lot of other 80's pop music.

....there were a lot of very young Latino people there, There were also a lot of huge guys with goatees who looked like they could kill me with a shoulder twitch. I guess the band really is reaching a new wider audience. Either that, or all the skinny Europhile-geeks who liked DM when I was in high school grew up into huge guys who could kill me with a shoulder twitch.

...."Enjoy The Silence" is a great rock song live. So is "Policy of Truth" and "Everything Counts." "Just Can't Get Enough" was just kind of yknow, "Just Can't Get Enough." It could not escape its own essential synth-poppiness. But those other songs were elevated via guitar to full arena-size epiphanal grandeur, whilst avoiding the cliches of normal guitar anthems, because of the juxtaposition of all those tinkly little electric piano noises.

..."Everything Counts" is kind of a deep song. I never really got it before, I just thought it was one of those lyrical This-Rhyme-Is-So-Silly-You-Won't-Be-Able-To-Forget-The-Chorus kind of things. But tonight I really glommed all the verses about "contracts" and "careers" and decided that the chorus is an ironic reference to the bean-counting, labeling and parcelization that consumes our society, AS WELL AS being a pretty plea for salvation through the quantum interconnectivity of "Everything." I used to think it was only about that second thing.

....I was either a lot dumber when I was in high school, or a lot smarter.

....Dave Gahan does not seem to play an instrument except his voice and the occasional handclap, but tonight he really impressed me as a musician. It's not like he did anything really complicated or wacky, I can't quite explain it. It's like he's got this voice, this peculiar deep drone, and he knows exactly what to do with it. He's locked in to the dynamics and groove of the song (which, to be fair, are probably already pretty locked with computer assistance). He's not like, say, Adam Duritz, who may know a few guitar chords but comes off as a guy that they just threw up there to wiggle and make arrythmic rooster noises.

...on the other hand, maybe Gahan comes off well because he knows that at some point in the set, he doesn't have to do anything. They start playing one of those old songs and he just has to gesture to us (the audience) and we sing the whole fricking song for him. A testament to the power of simple words that rhyme, and Reason #1000003 why being a rock star is the Best Job Ever.

...my freshman year roommate in college was kind of a typical Asian O.C. homophobe. He suspected me of queerness because of my poster of Prince, but he looooooved Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, all that. This is my rampup to saying that Depeche Mode live has gotta be one of the most powerful queer-positive experiences ever, even though I don't know if they're gay or what. They don't seem gay or straight. Gahan (groan oh him again, look, step off, he's my new boyfriend) fuses the masculine and feminine energy into something...else. I mean, not that David Bowie and every other rocker with eyeshadow doesn't do that to some degree, but there's something kind of affecting about the way DM's frontman does it, maybe because he seems like such an average slight little Joe, not flamboyantly femme like the guys in Erasure, definitely not too manly or distinctively pretty like the guys in Bon Jovi or Whathaveyou. I would say something elementally queer about that one.

...it is possible that I just like anything which shares my initials.

...I was gonna sum up with some kind of theory about the relationship of music and time and sense-memory, how music travels through the years and becomes better or worse as nostalgia happens and historical perspective happens and critical standards change....but Who Really Cares. DM is sooooooo coooooooool! DM forever! Thank you Los Angeles and good night.

11.21.2005

dude

I did my first shot involving greenscreen today, in the guestroom.
Aaaaaand I'm finally figuring out the intricacies of the Chroma Key tool in Final Cut.
Pretty Cool.

11.17.2005

that's so un-PC

So the guy on VH1's "I Love The 80's" just said, re: Long Duk Dong in "16 Candles", "...you couldn't get away with that now. it would be too politically incorrect."
....it's really fascinating that nowadays you can call something "politically incorrect" instead of "RACIST." Somewhere along the way the whole idea of "PC" got to be so annoying that the backlash against it ended up enabling and validating a whole generation of moronic bigots. Now being "Un-PC" is considered pretty cool. As is, I guess, being white and privileged and in control of everything whilst maintaining some cute exotic Asian acquaintences. When in fact, it is all pretty f-kin' retarded.

11.16.2005

reel season

It's the time of the year in LA when everyone in the entertainment biz is updating their reels. All the actors, cinematographers, composers, et al., are revising their video demos to feature their most recent work.....and indie director/editor types like me are needed both to provide and compile the source material. I like working on my friends' reels, a process which usually means blasting away every consideration of plot and sense from the original work and just finding that part where the subject looks good, or says something, in the interest of best showing off their ability to act/emote/speak English/etc. However, it's another facet of the LA-Life that makes you have to consider art in purely pragmatic, transactional terms, a video resume which basically reduces the value of the original movie to its relevance with your next potential job: I can do this, I can act like that, I can create this feeling, I'm the one that you want.
....It's a personal thing because at this point my movie, which is not yet officially available for public viewing, has been fodder for a good number of reels. Like a lot of independent movies, it is still waiting to be seen by a wide audience, but bits of it are already floating out there in the DVD players of agents and producers who are preparing for pilot season and looking for whatever they look for.

11.09.2005

eek!

I was tickled to find a piece of copy I wrote for my old job at the shady manga dotcom/publisher company was reprinted as someone's profile blurb at MySpace. It was originally the back-cover blurb for volume I of Tomie by Junji Ito, a horror comic about a Japanese schoolgirl literally from hell. I won't even link to it because a) I'm lazy and b) I found out that the publishing company's nearly gone defunct, so it does me no good if anyone buys the comic and I don't respect them enough to give them the publicity. Although it is a really good manga if you're into the cautionary-tale-of-beautiful-girl-who-bites-your-head-off sort of thing. It gave me a little schadenfreudic (sp?) satisfaction to find out the fate of my previous employer. Because I love comics and I love sound effects, it was in many ways the best job I ever had, certainly the best suited for me. But the place was horribly managed and run with a sweatshop mentality if not the actually sweaty trappings, and I had a feeling it was going nowhere. Of course, many people profited in the dotcom boom on ventures that should have gone nowhere, so I was always nagged by the feeling that I should have stuck it out. Fortunately, it appears that that's not the case. Now if only I had held onto my shares of that stupid search engine....
...anyway the point is, the first two volumes of "Tomie" were the only reasonably solid comics that I think came out of that place, so it's nice to see that it's still out there in the horror-fan consciousness, if only in the form of its ad copy.

11.07.2005

hahahahah

There was the most hilarious fight at work today. The details of it are just too arcane to get into, but it ended up with these two middle-aged Chinese men screaming "I fuck you!" at each other. Just another vivid reminder that having a lot of money usually makes you very stupid and infantile. Unless of course you're Terrell Owens, who is a GENIUS. That man should be in charge of our missile defense system.

11.04.2005

match.humanrace.com

If one reads enough online dating profiles, it is easy to gain the impression that every person in the universe likes hiking and harry potter.

Not that I'm against hiking.

11.02.2005

i am a headcase

I really have this problem that I am addicted to going to work, even though it's so annoying. I'm scared of my days off. Lately I've been so miserably ineffective at using my free time fruitfully that I get anxious about having any. I mean, I do things, but generally the things are web-surfing, writing (but more often deciding what to write), editing, re-editing, editing-system-crash-recovering....stuff that is so solitary and navel-gazing that it seems to take place outside of real time. My work is the only place where I engage the world, for better or for worse. I get to be around people, a lot of them horrible, some of them my favorite people in the world. And I don't have the constant anxiety about "what should I be doing NOW to further my filmmaking aspirations" because a) i instead focus on doing my regular job, which i do about as well as it can be done, and b) there are people screaming all the time and it's hard to think about stuff like that.
....It's kind of like the reason I watch sports; because it's always actually happening. It's not a prefab experience like all other forms of entertainment, including live TV news. It's not rote and absolutely unvarying like many of our daily routines including paying bills, eating, drinking, going out to random anonymizing places in LA in the attempt to be "social," and putting self to bed. It's.....hard to explain. It is REPETITIVE, often agonizingly so, but because there's gambling involved, it is by definition not completely predictable. With each hand there's a cycle of preparation, anticipation, and resolution, which has a very satisfying rhythm for goal-oriented freaks like me. I suppose that has something to do with why people get addicted to gambling. It lets you live out your life in little repeated narrative trials instead of the long open-ended one. But I'm getting too abstract. Basically it's a cushy job that takes my mind off the other b.s., and doesn't allow for the same feeling of existential horror that results from being a Windows-based office zombie. And all that would be great if I could get back the feeling that when I'm not at work I'm actually living a life instead of re-reading an unfinished memoir I wrote about myself in high school.

10.31.2005

happy halloween

OK. I finally figured out what my next short film is going to be about. And when I say film, I mean of course digital video. I wouldn't know a film camera if it hit me in the nose. But the DVX100 can do anything with the right coaxing. Those people who say that HDV will fast replace mini-DV are a bit cracked, IMHO. Anything HD is more expensive and labor-intensive in the editing process than regular DV. And if you want expensive and labor-intensive, you should just use film, duh. Anyway, the movie.
....It's going to be a bit....arty. Also edgy, quirky, passionate, gritty, and "compulsively watchable."
....It's Halloween. I'm in a better mood. So alert the media, already.

10.27.2005

breaking new ground

There must be a way for me to get what I want just by whining about it.

It's against common sense, of course, but SO IS EVERYTHING ELSE THESE DAYS. Our pop culture regularly rewards people for being dumb, slutty, mean and mediocre....I think it's all in how flagrantly you display your human failing.

SOMEONE PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME, DAMN IT.

Not backpedaling from that one. Totally not backing off.

10.20.2005

southland tales

I think it's a bit funny that Richard Kelly's next movie is going to be called "Southland Tales," and is purported to be a sci-fi non-traditional musical which features a parody of hypersexualized car commercials.

It's funny because I wrote a play called "Southland," and a non-traditional musical called "Vapor Tales," and they're the two pieces of which I'm most proud, so if I were smart I'd combine them into one script called "Southland Tales," but I obviously can't do that now. Also, one of TA91's centerpieces is a parody of hypersexualized car commericals.

Now, that'd all be Whatever, if it weren't for that I'm a huge huge fan of Kelly's first movie, "Donnie Darko." I loved it in that intimate way that you love cult movies or bands that they feel are speaking directly to you, voicing something that you thought would not be voiced. I actually saw Donnie smile at me, right at me! (Giggle!)

It's just a funny feeling you get when you feel that you have some kind of distinctive aesthetic/perspective and then you see someone who seems to have a very similar perspective get all famous and adulated and stuff.

I'm not delusional enough to think it's a case of plagarism; I think most cases of alleged plagarism just result from the zeitgeist, with people having the same inspirations separately, as a result of floating around in the same soup of culture and influences. I like to think that if I have some artistic affinity with Richard Kelly, it's not a bad thing.

By the way, I also invented "The Matrix." Ask anyone in my theater company. Damn it.

10.19.2005

renewed TA91 satisfaction

Just finished another pass on my movie. I shouldn't call it editing now, but I did do a lot of work on titles, music and color effects. It's kind of awesome now. This movie is like a recipe for soup that I keep making over and over with basically the same ingredients. Sometimes it's a really good batch, and sometimes it only seems good because it's food on your plate. But having said that, I made a really good pot of TA91 this time.

Also, I just read this headline that said something like "Unions Want A Piece of the Podcast Pie"....the "Pie" being the profits Disney and Apple are making off their podcasts. Now, it's not like I have something against Disney or podcasts or anything like that (except maybe a vague loathing), but I just need to point out that saying "unions want a piece of the pie" is almost the same as saying "people want to be paid when they work" except that the former is in that retarded ownership-society language that makes us think unions are just some other player in the game of corporate fatcats fighting over money. Except Lest We Ever Forget, the unions represent the people who worked to make the pie, and Disney represents the people who, yknow, sit at their desks and plot ways to grab all the money. Yes it's true. Disgruntled employees stealing your profits every day in the form of their salaries. It's a scandal and an outrage.

10.16.2005

Sideways (the best independent film of whatever year it was, by me)

EXT. LOVELY CALIFORNIAN WINO HANGOUT

Two dudes sit around getting sloshed, in a remarkable portrait of middle-aged sensitivity and angst. Nearby, a filmmaker eats from a cheese plate.

MILES: Glug, glug. Not drinking any fucking Merlot.

JACK: Balls! Buddy, you're like my penis. I don't know how to say it exactly, but you evoke my dick.

MILES: Why won't she call? I'm so money, baby. I'm going to pour grape juice all over myself.

Miles does this. Jack whips it out. A film critic laps grape juice off of Miles' toes.

FILM CRITIC: Amazing! Hilarious! How do you feel about accusations of elitist yuppieism leveled against your film?

JACK: If you want to see a movie about people with no fucking phone, go rent "Raising Fucking Victor Vargas."

MILES: I know grapes. Actually, I know about grapes which serve as a metaphor for me. I learned how to make metaphors for my suffering in Dramatic Writing 101. That's what separates this film from standard Hollywood fare like "Cold Mountain" or "Swingers."

JACK: Plus the fact that I'm not just an actor, but a washed-up actor.

FILM CRITIC: Genius!

Two female fantasy figures approach, also sloshed.

STEPHANIE: I need to be spanked!

FILM CRITIC: That's the best line of dialogue ever written!

MAYA: Miles. Miles Miles Miles Miles Miles. Miles Miles Miles, Miles Miles. Release me, Miles.

MILES: I Hate It When People Pay Attention To Me. STILL not drinking any fucking Merlot.

JACK: Hey look. Some interesting fat people.

STEPHANIE: But YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME!

FILM CRITIC: That's the truest sentiment a filmmaker has ever captured in an original vision such as this one! I was sort of afraid to say anything about the abortion movie and the one that dealt with teenage sexuality, but this is a yarn that I can unabashedly hail as ....****....exhilarating....a delight! Much more penetrating than "Cats."

JACK: I once penetrated a cat.

MILES: I sure hope someone notices that I'm the best actor ever.

MAYA: Don't give up, Miles. Keep at it. Stay the course. Someday you'll have a track record, and then no one will care what you do next. Least of all me.

MILES: You're so non-judgemental, aligned with my interests, available and photogenic! Your physical beauty must be a sign that I can be redeemed. Going to run away now.

Miles runs away. Stephanie clobbers Jack with a bowling ball.

MAYA: Who wants a beer?

10.14.2005

psyching self up

wondrous, withering and replenishing,
approaching and imaginary,
within the realm of possibility,
true and trying, present and anticipatory,
a halo, an idea, a change in aspect,
a non-existent reason to live,
a reason to run,
a hand full of watermelon seeds,
at the end of the world, at want for nothing
but a device which might
witness and record this light.

10.13.2005

more fees, please

It's funny how you can pay $10 to get a really decent car wash, or $2 to get a Vietnamese sandwich, both of which involve some physical labor and care. And then you can pay $99.95 to your web domain registration company to do, basically, nothing. put dibs on some web address that is already your name or a word you made up....give me a break.

10.10.2005

2nd acts and American lives, yadda yadda

There's this axiom around the entertainment industry that you never get the second chance to make a first impression. The thinking is, if you're an aspiring filmmaker, you should make your first shot your best shot, because people are very quick to develop lasting opinions about you based on the first thing they see, and you don't want the stigma of "that guy who made that one awful movie."
...While this is true to some degree, because people can be very inflexible in their first impressions, I don't think it's any kind of principle to get hung up on or live your life by. Of course, I don't think you should NOT try to make your first film your best film, because who knows, you could die tomorrow. But in terms of having a successful "career" (and I use the term despite the nauseatingly anti-artistic taste it creates in my mouth), I don't think it's any kind of dire situation if it happens that your first film isn't wonderfully received, and the simple reason is this: Kid Rock.
....Kid Rock is currently a talentless suck-ass rich and famous rock/rap star. But before that he was just a talentless suck-ass white rapper, and everybody knew it. That is, everbody who was pop-culture-attuned enough to know that there were some white guys trying to cash in on the hip-hop bandwagon by making miserably dinky records back in the 1980nothings. He was an unpopular joke, a guy whose name would be forever associated with some of the most worthless music ever made by humans.
....And then....in the 90's....everyone forgot about it! Kid even got a "Best New Artist" award at some kind of crackpot recording industry function. His music was still lame, of course, but now it was lame and LOUD and POPULAR. It was as if a collective popular amnesia struck, and no one called him on the fact that he had already had one shot and blown it by creating music of awesome feebleness.
...So that should give everybody hope. Even if you're really really bad in a public way, sometimes the public forgets about it and gives you a second chance to be just as awful, except the second time they reward you with an ex-Baywatch actress. Imagine if he had come back the second time with a record that was really good? Now that would have been something.

10.09.2005

just a fantasy, picture in a magazine

I was watching "Before Sunset" today and thinking about male fantasies. Not just the typical "I never thought this would happen to me, with two cheerleaders, in an ice cream truck" kind of fantasies, but the kind that are articulated in a subtle way in the majority of films, TV, and literature, which have always been of course totally male-dominated arenas. The fantasy in "Before Sunset" is something along the lines of, "A self-involved leering geek meets a really smart socially conscious woman who flirtatiously pours her heart out to him for hours while he replies with banal small talk." Julie Delpy's character is a kind of muse who inspires men with her wit and openness, but it's hard to see whether she gets any inspiration in return.
...I'm guilty of this too. Most movies and books are written by men, most "really strong female characters" are written by men, and men tend to use their artistic license to create an idealized female character from time to time, someone to foil, transform, or otherwise reward the male subject, whether by helpful wisdom, charming eccentricity, or sheer babeliciousness. As hetero-male fantasists, we indulge the option to create that woman who we'd really like to meet and hang out with who would maybe save our soul in the process. So we get characters like Buffy, or Clarice Starling, or the Bride, or pretty much anyone Lucy Liu has ever played. Characters who may be loved by women and men alike, and whose only fault is that they may be just a little too awesome.
...So my question is, what is a typically female fantasy? If you watch enough softcore HBO specials, you might get the idea that most females fantasize about barbarians and whips and chains and wolf masks and stuff. The skeptic in me thinks this is just women internalizing the society-imposed passive/submissive role, which is not dissimilar from the male fantasy expressed in "Before Sunset," that is, You Won't Have To Do Too Much. The Fantasy Object will be so cool she will take care of all the conversation and sexual initiation for you. Basically, at heart, neither gender wants to work too hard, which is cool.
...Or I could be wrong. I mean, I really don't know. It's easy to find a few examples of female-authored fantasy figures in books or movies, and just as easy to find in them some embarrassing concession to the male gaze. Is it only possible for a woman to get to an authorship position if she embraces the female chauvinist pig within her? Or is Ethan Hawke REALLY the ultimate babe that every modern woman secretly dreams about and it's just my problem that I can't see it?
(....this is the part where the blogger arrogantly poses a big open-ended question, with the blind presumption that the blog has some sort of readership, and that readership will feel so stimulated by the blogger's deep thoughts that they will have no recourse but to respond.)

10.08.2005

we're all in this gridlock together

So I'm about to park my car behind Spaceland to go drink beer and see Earlimart (in that exact order) and this black convertible pulls up behind me, and the driver waves for my attention. I roll down my window, pretty sure that this guy is going to berate me somehow for my bad/slow driving. (It's my experience that middle-aged guys in sports cars frequently feel the need to educate you on the fact that the speed limit is merely a guideline, not a rule, and should be matched or exceeded whenever possible because, yknow, they've got places to be) Anyhoo, it wasn't that. He says to me, "Hey! Did you know that there's going to be a law that Priuses can drive in the carpool lane? You could drive alone in the carpool lane!"
...I said, "Oh, really? Great." And he drives on.
...I have heard about this law. It's not setting my world on fire exactly because my daily commute doesn't have a carpool lane, and I already drive pretty slow as I mentioned, so the occasional opportunities to use a carpool lane don't have a big effect on my driving time. But it's fascinating that a total stranger in a sports car felt compelled to tell me about this just because he saw me driving a Prius. At first I paranoically assumed it was, in fact, some sort of veiled criticism on my driving (I'm a little bit self-conscious about the driving, can you tell?) along the lines of, "Y'know, they made it a law that you can have your own lane apart from us normal speeding people, y'damn hippie." But that didn't really make sense, so I then attributed it to the general good nature and community feeling of people in the Silverlake area. But it still didn't explain why a Totally Random Guy would stop me, on the street, at night, just to edify me on a trivial piece of traffic law regarding my car.
....Then it hit me: it's not trivial at all. For many LA people, it's a Major Thing. In this city, most of us spend a good chunk if not half our waking day in our cars. Long, deep and meaningful conversations can be held which entirely consist of giving driving directions (there are a lot of irritating and misleading conversations to be had in LA, but there is nothing sexier than someone giving you EXACTLY the right directions for how to get somewhere). So it's a significant matter, which needs to be communicated. Wouldn't you flag down a stranger to say, "Hey, aliens from space just landed in Echo Park," or "Hey, someone just found a cure for cancer!" For LA people, I think, a free pass to drive in the carpool lane is potentially that important. Because after all, we're talking about MY CAR.

10.06.2005

10 assorted thoughts

1. That "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" movie was really entertaining and should become a long-lasting franchise. Not because it was such a good movie, but because dodgeball is such a Wonderful, Wonderful Game. 2. I don't know why I didn't get this before, but the War on Terrorism is like a wannabe 21st Century version of the Cold War on Communism. 3. Whenever DirectTV service goes down, a message appears on the screen saying "all satellite signals are subject to interference from the sun." Which really lets them off the hook, because, yknow, you can't complain about the Sun. 4. Sinead O'Connor was great. Great songs, great voice, and great at not being a bimbo. And just a slightly more compelling personality than, say, Gwen Stefani. What did Sinead do that was so bad, anyway? Suggest that the Pope might be a big-ass force for evil? Could we all just live in the current century and realize that that is allowed? 5. There is a new New Balance commercial that says you should do sports for love, not money, and of course you should do it for love in New Balance shoes. But I do like the commercial, just 'cause it's such a darn hopeful sentiment. 6. Many forms of happiness can be found at www.retrojunk.com. 7. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do tomorrow night. But it's Friday, and I don't have to work. I really should do something. 8. I've become much better at talking to new people at a time when I meet fewer new people than I ever have at any other period of my life. What's up with that? 9. One of the most difficult things that regular people must do on a daily basis is put up with the behavior of rich people. 10. My name is totally Domino Harvey, I am totally a bounty hunter.

santa ana

I was going to bed in my gloomy way last night, caught in that stillborn pre-dawn hour when it feels like nothing is moving, everything on TV is paid programming, and you're just as asleep being awake as you would be actually sleeping. Various feelings of overwork and underachievement nagged at me as I tried to muster up metabolically sufficient excuse to call it another day. (I'm the kind of guy who reasons, if all your days at work are more or less the same, couldn't you just repeat Tuesday indefinitely until something in your routine changes? and thus not suffer the wasting effects of time's passage)
....Then in the dark I could hear the Santa Ana wind coming through the crack in my window. I could hear it rustling around in my room, jostling the door, trying to run through the house. The motion and sound of that wind brought me such a strong feeling of comfort (probably enhanced by the Tylenol PM), just the tactile sensation of movement in the stillness, as well as the formidable presence of Mother Nature, who has been so hard on us lately, but also provides us, elementally, with everything we need.

9.29.2005

past/forward

So I went to the VC 35th anniversary event tonight which was just so fun. First there was the retrospective of of Asian American's contributions to music video featuring clips from the Jet's "Crush On You" as well as Clarendon Hills and some bunch of Chinese dudes doing "Straight Outta Canton." Then there was Dustin Nguyen's black-and-white Spider-Man shirt. Then there was free beer for some reason flowing at the unmanned concessions stand. And there was the beautiful ampitheater which looked for all the world like it was made to transform into a gigantic beige skullfaced colossus. But the most personal satisfaction came from when the composer for TA91 found me after the show. He liked my choice of music for the 30-second short they showed as part of the "Digital Slam" series. It was a string quartet rendition of Radiohead's "Let Down." It was also definitely my favorite part of the short, and I was hoping someone would notice it.

9.28.2005

eight hours later

well the angst situation is still pending resolution, but in good news, i woke up for the first time in three days without a severely annoying case of post-nasal drip. in other words, i took a breath, and then let it out. enjoy!

i really would like someone unrelated to me to be nice to me right now

...because I feel sorta lousy. My family members can't be the only people who openly tolerate me. I like my job, but not because the people there have ever done or said anything pleasant to me, ever. I'm uninspired and languishing, like all my creative projects. I wouldn't whine about it so much except that I heard that complaining about middle-class privileged problems is a really great way to attract the opposite sex, or any sex for that matter. I feel blah. I want a hug. At this point I think I would pay someone to notice that I need a hug. Lame.

9.26.2005

achoo

I went back to the Bay Area this weekend for my sister's birthday, and was all phlegmy and coughing the whole time. It wasn't just inside my parent's house. I felt a weirdly oppressive air everywhere. It's as if after five years of continuous exposure to Los Angeles pollution, I'm now allergic to Bay Area air. It's too floral and verdant. I stepped off the plane in Burbank and was like, aaaaahhh. It's like Gene Hackman says in that movie, "I don't trust air I can't see."

9.19.2005

money is stupid

...as everyone knows, but I didn't really realize How stupid until I started to see people regularly losing tens of thousands of dollars on a card game in which the only skill is counting to nine.
...so I'm trying to be responsible and save up some money now, which is relatively easy when:
A) your favorite food is Vietnamese sandwiches ($2.50 Can buy Happiness)
B) you have DirectTV and a reliable internet connection so that weird entertainment just comes your way instead of having to leave the house for it
C) you, and by you I mean I, abhor travel.
...of course because of my stinky non-entrepeneurial worker-bee mentality, the money can only accrue at the unimpressive rate, that is to say the distressingly constant trickle, of my middle-class salary. And of course I still am in debt to the nice people who helped fund my movie. But brushing that aside for the moment, I have to consider; the only reason I've ever saved money for anything was to accomplish some artistic project. If I save money now, the likelihood is that I'll blow it all on this wonderfully low-tech dogme-style movie I'm trying to shoot. But maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I should actually invest in or buy something that is going the help me break free of the daily financial grind, like a small business or a piece of property. I mean, I've already made one movie using a good chunk of my own money, which is like a total aberration in this business (in which it is industry-standard to not attempt making a film until you are sure you can waste at least $100,000 of someone else's money, and it's a news item whenever a movie star with the net worth of a small country does the unheard-of thing of financing the picture with his own money! gasp!). Anyway point being is, having already done that, it's not required that I do it again, it's just kind of a loop in my thinking. Maybe I should be thinking about saving up to throw money at something else.
...If only I knew what that is.

9.15.2005

just watched....

...the movie "All About Lily Chou Chou."

boy that was a fcked up movie.

i was going to make the generalization that i like more Japanese movies than Chinese movies because, excepting the kung-fu movies, most of the Chinese movies that we get over here are terribly sad. however, never are the Chinese movies as fcked up as this Japanese movie was.

it had the same basic concept as Better Luck Tomorrow, i.e. good kids becoming bad kids, but was a thousand times more visceral. it's weird, (and a little racist, but) the kids in this movie with their scrawny figures and perfect school outfits just seemed like they were really, yknow, GOOD, so the way they transform was just so much more affecting. i guess because i knew some of the people involved in Better Luck Tomorrow, and also because from early in the film you zero in on how contemporary American they are....i didn't have this rosy ideal that they were proper and innocent and that corruption was going to be a big fall for them. also, they don't wear school uniforms.

speaking of Asian American, i went to the Sherman Oaks Mini-Golf Palace tonight....Every Single Thing about that place reminded me of Better Luck Tomorrow. I'm not sure why, I think maybe they shot a scene there, plus there were all these asian dudes in white t-shirts with spiky hair, but the point I'm telling you is that the place was just resonating with Better Luck Tomorrow-ness.

9.13.2005

OK enough blogging about disaster for a while

I'm sorta lonely. I feel compelled to point this out on my blog because of its function as the new emblem of narcissism. The blog is the place where even people who aren't lonely come to be alone, and wallow in the self. Plus it's a great passive-aggressive tool for, yknow, trying to get people to care without really trying.
...I can go a whole day without speaking a full English sentence to anyone. At my job, I often try to speak as little as possible, so as not to contribute to the general din. If I do speak, it's usually in some kind of broken casino English, "Two thousand you got," "Sister we can't do like that," "Every day no problem," ad nauseum.
...I talk to voicemails. I whisper little things to my co-workers. I blog and write emails. I work on my movie projects, which involves regular meetings with the writer, director, editor, producers, and investors....that is, me.
...I miss community, I miss evenings in bars with friends who aren't married or planning their weddings to their dog or their children or whathaveyou.
...Today was a funny day at work because I was the only male on the swing shift out of 4 employees. Our company is male-dominated so that hardly ever happens. The whole day was spent doing an unusual amount of errands for my female coworkers and the predominantly female players; changing chips, fetching cookies, fetching turkey jerky, can you put this here, can you put that over there....it reminded me a lot of having a longtime girlfriend, or actually having 3 girlfriends, which I've never had. It also reminded me that women tend to ask for things that they want, whereas men tend to not ask for things and resent the fact that they don't have them. Generally speaking.
...For example, my face is sunburned, and I resent the fact that I have to go get aloe vera for myself if I want to have any. I don't even see my roommates enough in the daylight hours to ask them if there is any in the house. The last time I needed the stuff, I got it for myself. Whenever I need something, I pretty much get it for myself. Or I don't, and go without it. No one knows that I need it. No one has the option to worry about it.
...Of course, the grass is always greener, and I know I'm lucky to be self-sufficient and free and financially independent and all that stuff. I guess lately I'm suffering from that Not Very Hooked-Up Feeling. And I don't just mean in that romantic way, but in that "supplied with aloe vera and recommended reading material and snacks and all the other little tchotchkes that somehow find their way into your hands when you are a very hooked-up person" kind of way.

9.12.2005

oh no you don't get off that easy

So Mike Brown, director of FEMA, just resigned.
....Clearly the guy, a Bush appointee, was set up as the scapegoat for the administration's pathetic response to the disaster. They needed someone to blame, bad, before the blame is assigned to higher parties, like for example:
...The Department of Homeland Security, which seems to have proven out as another useless and partisan level of beauracracy....and a dept. that I have a personal beef with because they still owe me 800 dollars...
...The President, who really could've done...anything. Remember during the election when the talking point was "Bush's leadership" as if that was something that actually existed? Well, it really doesn't. Instead of a guy who extends compassion and support for the weakest members of his flock, we have a guy who looks for photo ops and tries to appear ass-kicking. Useless. The fact that he tries to squirrel out of trouble by scapegoating a toady is no less lame just because it's been done by every president in history.

9.11.2005

we must reiterate this point until something happens

I admit I'm kind of a nerd for the LA Weekly, but this week there was an article that gave me a moment of clarity.
....We all feel a little helpless after the hurricane; we all want to help, we all feel insignificant in the face of the disaster's magnitude. We all can and should contribute to relief. Some will and some won't, it is a big old country.
...But here's the big point I got off the Meyerson article: It is our Government's job to deal with these problems. It is their main job, and they failed it in a huge way.
...It is not the individual citizen's job to anticipate and repair the effects of hurricanes; how could it be? That kind of thing is not for the private sector. Individual relief efforts are courageous and necessary, but yes they are subject to human flaws, limited resources of non-profit groups, lack of organization, and individual opportunistic profiteering scams. It's a murky business just figuring out the best, least flawed way to help.
...The only thing that can handle disasters of this scale is the government. That's why we pay taxes, so that an organized power will protect us from the gigantic problems. Things that we can't work out on our own, or on a small community level. Like where highways should go, and what to do if a hurricane happens, even if they hardly ever do. I may have an opinion on how to solve all these problems, but so does everyone else, hence it is the job of democratically-elected government to override the individual inconsistencies and know the best possible path for the common good.
...It is NOT the government's job to, say:

- start wars on other countries for no adequately-explained reason
- redistribute wealth so that the rich become richer
- play political games to make itself look better

...those are just, like, hobbies. The citizenry would do just fine if government forgot about them.
...but we need them for hurricanes. They are bigger than one person's ability to act, so we had to create something that is big enough to act on behalf of all of us. And we created the most powerful force ever, which is the collected resouces of the U.S. Government. And it spends most of its time doing bullshit. It encourages us to accumulate individual wealth. It expects somehow that the most successful wealth-accumulators will take care of building levees and helping the sick and powerless in their spare time.
...They won't. But someone has to. So, to help the victims, and to help ourselves from becoming victims, we need a better governing body. ASAP.

9.09.2005

"Operation Angel Island"

...is the name of Los Angeles County's aid project for the hurricane victims. For those of us familiar with Chinese American history, that's a little funny. It recalls Chinese Exclusion Acts, paper sons, the struggle of emigration, the threat of deportation. Stuff that I'm fairly sure hurricane victims would not want to apply to their already-grievous situation. "But it's angels cos it's Los Angeles, get it, and we're an island because we're like, above water, teehee." Oh well, I guess they had to call it something. Sigh. Cute names, bad times.

9.08.2005

open letter to Michael Moore from the Bush Administration

Dear Michael,

We were busy, OK?
There's a war on. Two wars.
We're showing compassion and demanding things now.
This is a big disaster. It affects everyone, not just the people it disproportionately affects.
Floods happen. What can you do?

Stay the course,
GWB/DHS

9.05.2005

reset

Just watched a new cut of the movie with new, recently-arrived music and a large amount of sound design. Just thrilling, it is. Not a bad flick at all. In a few more weeks the thing will be sonically in the bag. Then my last big hurdle is where and how to do the color correction and online session. And after that, if I have any money left over, going to buy self a pony.

Haaa, not really. I don't like ponies. But I do like having Labor Day off.

...I would like to add that I just found out that the film "Lemming," which played at the Cannes Filmfest this year and was just picked up by Strand Releasing, was directed by a guy named Dominik Moll. That is very close to my name. If I was a German guy, it almost certainly would be my name.

9.04.2005

ok this is a little terrifying

...not "life and death" terrifying, more like "viral marketing permeates every pore of my being" kind of terrifying.

I got a spam as a comment on a blog post (try explaing that sentence to someone living in 1984). The comment is readable on the post right before this one. It's for chronic back pain or something. I mean, what the hell?

is this a joke? It's not even content-related, for the love of Pete. Is everyone who reads my blog (all 20 of them) secretly waiting for the right time to jump in and sell me a bottle of Cialis (taladafil)? I challenge you to reveal yerselves.

apparently I can get on TV just by doing this

(recited, deadpan, suggesting detached irony about something)

Loose. Foot loose. Kick off your sunday shoose.
Please, Louise. Pull me off of my knees.
Jack. Cut back. Come on before we crack.
Lose your blues. Everybody cut. Everybody cut.
Everybody cut footloose.

9.02.2005

In California, we have earthquakes and sometimes fires. Earthquakes happen everywhere all at once, but generally cause the most damage to tall buildings, manmade structures. Fires can happen anywhere, but rarely does a fire destroy an entire city.
....I've never been to New Orleans, but I'm sad that this has happened. My sadness is worth not much, to be sure.
....It's humbling to imagine a disaster that displaces an entire city's population. The idea that every single person had to evacuate, regardless of class or subculture, is kind of outside my experience. The image of the Superdome filled with thousands of people including the homeless and the poor and the fringe dwellers....how does that work? I mean obviously our infrastructure has already in some way failed these people on a daily basis while they somehow scrape by, so what happens now that the government has to contend with every single person in the city as a survivor of the disaster? When the city is habitable again, does everyone get re-inserted into their original place in the system? Is that even possible? I've never been there, I can't imagine it, I have no idea.

8.31.2005

i am against the government regulating art

....but there really should be a federal task force to eliminate the show "Entourage." Damn does that show suck. I watched it because I was happy to see an actor I know has a pretty good supporting role in it. But the show itself, oh my god. Retarded stupid awful. Out of all the classist money-whore scumbag shows out there right now, and there are a lot, it's probably the worst. Because people on the show say things like...

"I could live with her in a one-bedroom apartment in Chatsworth and be happy. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true."

....If someone actually said that to me, I would reply, "No. That doesn't sound crazy. But the fact that you could think a happy life in a one-bedroom apartment sounds crazy? Hold on a second." And then I would get in my car and run over them. And back up over them. And then find all that person's poser friends, freeze-dry them and feed them to undernourished kids in Africa.

Another actual exchange of dialog:
"Do you think he bought it?"
"Hook line and sinker!"

No One Actually Says That. I am around a lot of career liars, and never after speaking a lie do they turn to a friend and ask "dyou think he bought it?" And even if that did happen once or twice in human history, the friend did not reply "Hook, line, and sinker." Because human beings do not say things like that. Possibly someone would say that if they were a brain-dead wannabe actor monkey whose every utterance is a poorly-chosen pop culture reference or a bad bit of movie dialog. But those people are not human beings. They are not even amusing idiots. They are just worthless non-fishing chumps who somehow have their own show called Entourage.

8.30.2005

even in dreamland, chaste

I had a dream I was going to have >ahem< let's call it a reckless carnal encounter with an archetypal 20ish blonde girl....yknow, the type of person who is just beating down my door in real life...which is funny because usually my erotic phantasma involve people I at least sort of know, ANYWAY, there are three people lying in this bed, and me and the girl are about to embark on carnality, but then I feel kind of bad because there's this other guy in the bed and I think maybe he likes her too or else why are we all sleeping in a bed together? So I back off a bit.

In that moment of hesitation, the whole dream changed. I'm thinking, let's just go to another room. But we can't go to another room because my sister arrives. And then my mother. Just as quickly they disappear, and are replaced by a couple of my good friends, whom I'm ordinarily very happy to see. And then there is word of some sort of contagious medical crisis and we have to go to the Salvation Army and buy supplies before we leave town. Unnamed idealized cheerleader girl is still along for the ride and there is still the vague idea that a tryst is going to happen once we're all settled. But then someone in our ragtag crew has to go shopping so we have to wait for him.

Then, seriously, zombies attack. Mass chaos erupts. People in the streets, setting fire to buildings. We have to run away and jump into a truck as radioactive lumbering beasts are clawing at us. We speed away in the truck, hoping that it has enough gas to get us out of the city. Around this time I'm thinking that Melrose Place girl and I are never going to have a private moment and I should've just bitten the bullet when I had the chance.

Then I woke up. Really, it was like "The 40-Year Old Virgin" crossed with "28 Days Later." A big, fat, encoded, neo-Freudian mofo of a dream.

8.22.2005

sometimes i decorate myself in depression
because it's easier than the other thing
depression is different from frustration
frustration is when that thing you could be accomplishing keeps not happening
depression is when that thing that will never happen keeps not happening
and i like to think that
depression is a luxury for
people who have done something

wee poem redux

speak up
now is the time to ruin everything
in a minute
the freeways of L.A. will laugh
at the idea of intimacy

i drive home in a hybrid
the braking system is so clever
it recovers the unfinished
surges in my step,
the unfollowed flourishes

medically safe and sound
with a heart barely buoyed by
strategic desperation
except inside i'm seasick
stomach full of conversation
inside i'm lightning
like metal in the microwave

the timing is perfect
we are both alive.

8.19.2005

bloggerpost

discussion over yesterday's bloggerpost made me want to clarify something....

If this blog has a theme besides TA91, me, complaining, snarkiness, casinos, film industry satire and gooey poems, I HOPE that it is this: you are the target audience for an ongoing corporate acquisition of the human race. And when I say "acquisition" I mean something like "homogenization/subjugation/stupidification."

OK I guess that is a lot of themes for one blog. But anyway, the argument goes something like this;

Language is an imperfect means of communication but it's the only one we have.
So controlling language is a significant part of controlling humans.
All corporations want their product to occupy space in your brain, so that not only do you buy it, you think about it in a certain way and you associate it with positive satisfaction of your needs.
The easiest way to do this is to create a brand.
The most effective way to do this is to have your brand name replace a neutral word in the language. Like how some people say "Kleenex" instead of facial tissue. "Kleenex" is a brand name, not a thing. So anytime people use this word, they're associating it with the brand and giving free advertising.
This is a form of controlling language towards the end of selling more product.
Altho it seems that Apple didn't invent the term "podcast," whoever did either works for The Man or is a big jerk.
Because "podcasts" could exist without Ipods. But the word implies that they could not. And that your ability to get or make podcasts is somehow counterfeit if you aren't participating in the Ipod I-bullshit experience. Which is not true.
So to sum up, anytime a brand name replaces a word in the English language, I think something bad is happening.

Did I mention that I love Macs? They're SOOOO much better than PCs! :)

8.18.2005

isn't it ironic....

....That Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson from "Kids" are kinda big movie stars now, and the two boys who played the sexual predator male leads who made their lives such hell are not?

....That webcasts are now called podcasts? (that's not ironic really, but it is silly)

....That owning a thing called an "Ipod" or anything these days that starts with "I-" or "My-" means you are just like everyone else?

....That Cingular and AT&T merged to form the AllOver network. As it, "It's all over now, human race." (i guess that's only ironic because it's called "Cingular")

....That I was going to light a candle for the fallen dead in Iraq last night, but ended up writing about Scarlett Johannsson instead?

....That the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim translates into The The Angels Angels of Anaheim?

....That in the beginning of "Kids" Chloe Sevigny's character goes, "I HATE sucking d--k," and look what happened to her with that nice Vincent Gallo fellow. (the theme here is that "Kids" is an Ironic-ass movie)

....That as art, specifically movies, get worse and worse, marketing schemes get better and criticism more relativistic and slavering, so it is easy to gain the impression that art is actually better now that it ever has been before? (Spider-Man 2)

....That nerds are no longer bookworms....bookworms are now really, really strange.

....That VH1 used to be the female-oriented MTV and now it is the let's-make-lists-of-hot-chicks-and-zoom-in-on-stills-of-their-boobs-while-some-geek-makes-extremely-deadpan-comment channel, whereas MTV seems...actually a little...I dunno...progressive? (i'm not sure, 'cause these days I mainly watch VH1)

8.14.2005

and you know you're in really bad shape when...

...the video for the frickin Bright Eyes song with all the couples in love on the same couch gives you that swelled up feeling like your heartsac is full of rainwater.

I mean it didn't get me in When Harry Met Sally. And the song is not that great. But in terms of ordinary-looking people looking overcome with love, it's a minor editing feat.

This suceptibility to corny/anthemic music is getting bad. I may have to have this checked.

By the by, that new Gay Cable Channel LOGO, on which I saw the above-mentioned Hedwig-directed weepy video, is great. How can you not love a channel whose programming consists entirely of obscure indie films, musicals, and the occasional Erasure video?

8.13.2005

Songs for Getting the Heck Out of This Town

Today I made myself a CD mix for the commute to and from work that was so satisfying I was almost weeping in the car.
...I have pretty cheezy taste in music, I'll admit. Altho I like to think I have a fairly diversified knowledge of musical genres, in my heart's soundtrack I am a sucker for major key melodies, suspended chords, 1-4-5 bubblegum poppy epiphany. Like, anything from Van Halen to Roxette to the Carpenters to gooey Asian pop can get me on a regular basis. While I appreciate the subtleties of more sophisticated music, sometimes the melody line of a Stevie Wonder ballad is just too interesting to really get under my skin. And I'm not much into those minor-key hooks that have infected the world in a thousand recent compulsively-listenable dance-pop songs, "Can't Get You Outta My Head" ad nauseum. They are catchy to other people in a way that I don't get.
...Anyway, I was thinking about this as I was nearly-teary over my new mix and realized that I had put 4 or 5 songs in a row with highly similar, tastelessly simple, pop-rock choruses. "Yellow", T'pau's "Heart and Soul," some unforgivably corny Counting Crows song...anyway, a sequence that almost certainly makes the mix unlistenable to most normal humans, even those that would like hearing one of those songs at a time. But that's OK because I wouldn't want a lot of other people to have my taste in music, lest we all die of diabetic shock. And plus, as I've blogged before, it's My Car and in its lonely confines I can listen to Any Damn Thing I Want.
...It's a sad and pathetic thing to realize, but those popular, formulaic, ditzy songs indulge my delusion that I'm part of some greater heroic narrative in the course of my day-to-day getting by in Los Angeles, and that my long-suffering struggle against Whatever is always approaching its climactic moment (to occur roughly halfway through the guitar solo).

8.10.2005

funniest exchange overheard at work today

A: "My friend, you wanna bank with me?"
B: "No."
A: "How much?"

You have to understand the culture of kum-kum banking in Cali casinos to appreciate why this is funny. Or actually you don't. An equivalent dialogue would be something like,

A: "Hey you wanna go on a date with me?"
B: "No."
A: "When should I pick you up?"

...but it's funnier than that really, because it's in this environs where everyone lies and no one listens to each other and...oh forget it.

...the other funny exchange which I almost forgot:

A: "Today is Chinese Father's Day."
B: "Really? I didn't know there was a Chinese Father's Day."
A: "It's today."
B: "Happy Chinese Father's Day. Is there a Chinese Mother's Day?"
A: "No."

8.06.2005

traffic jam in los angeles at night

Driving home, the 5 North is jammed. Anomalous. Traffic should happen during the day. There's some kind of construction ahead that has closed all but the far left lane. Weird human sounds like teenagers on a roller coaster coming from somewhere...is there a rave going on underneath the overpass? Seeing the details of the freeway scenery at this hour is strange....I usually pass them so quickly. Never really appreciate that there are plants growing on the shoulder, giant concrete tongues arcing under and over each other, with strange acoustic pockets that form a cone of silence for a few car-lengths, then lurch forward a bit and all the cars in the distance (the ones that were smart enough to take the 101) sound like ghostly blitzkrieg fighters wailing through the night. The headlights are warm, hovering. The Ford Explorer in front of me is playing some kind of game with the car in front of it. Their driver door opens for a minute and then shuts. Sharp white light flashes inside....a camera or a video game, maybe. The Explorer irritates everyone for awhile as it waffles over whether or not to exit on 7th and the precise point where the pylons are merging us into one lane. People honking behind me, I have the sudden absurd fear that a gunfight is going to break out. I keep hearing that weird ecastic rollercoaster screaming fading in and out of earshot. The Explorer exits, the honking stops, and then it's mysterious quiet again, the engine hums melting into one low white noise. Feels oddly harmonious, this. Moving incrementally in little surges, tectonically, as things should move on the Earth. I feel a little happy that the speeder idiots are being stifled. We're all in this morass together. We hypnotize each other with our lights. We all get into that one lane eventually.

8.05.2005

dim sum should open earlier

Was up all night and hoped desperately that there would be a dim sum restaurant that opened for business early so that I could get some tender dumplings and rice noodles with shrimp before calling it a night. I got to the Empress Pavilion at around 6 AM, got to see Chinatown basking in the lovely dawn light, and inflicted my best bad Chinese upon a local only to find out that the place doesn't open til 9. Doh. To bed now, the grim knowledge reinforced that if I ever want to have dim sum again I will actually have to wake up in the morning to get it.

8.02.2005

i tell ya

....as soon as there's a way for people to play online poker on their cell phones, Western Civilization is pretty much over.

8.01.2005

X-MEN 3 (An upcoming crappy sequel by me)

EXT. X-SCHOOL - DAY

The X-Men sit around waiting for Dark Phoenix to arrive.

WOLVERINE: I'm the best there is at what I do, but I....I....I've forgotten my lines.

The director keeps filming regardless, hoping for a bit of Chris Tucker-esque divinely inspired improvised screeching.

CYCLOPS: We have lines? I was acting with my eyes.

The director finds an angle on Cyclops that makes him look most like Tom Cruise.

FRASIERBEAST: It was my understanding that the only important thing was to get $10 out of the sucker fan base.

The director, distracted by the sight of a passing Asian woman, lets this alarmingly candid insight stay in the film.

ROGUE: Don't y'all forgit DVD sales! I garun-damn-tee ya there'll be lines on the DVD extras!

The director indicates his faithfulness to the fans by having Rogue speak with a ridiculous accent.

CYCLOPS: Man, Jean's just so, y'know, dead. Life is a bummer. Let's go fight Magneto.

The X-Men travel somewhere. The director indicates this by having a shot of a plane moving left to right across the screen.

EXT. MAGNETO'S ISLAND LAIR - NIGHT

Professor X and Magneto debate future of Mutantkind.

PROFESSOR X: Say what you want, all the mutant movies have made money.

MAGNETO: They are obviously mediocre.

PROFESSOR X: MIddle America wants to see mutants. They want mutant cheerleaders, mutant funny dwarves, mutant retarded whores with hearts of gold....

MAGNETO: Have you tinkered with their minds, Charles? Made them believe that they want films made by talent agents and focus groups?

PROFESSOR X: MADE MONEY! MADE MONEY! HELL-OOOO....

Magneto staples the Professor's mouth closed.

EXT. THE SURFACE OF THE SUN - (NIGHT?)

Onslaught and Dark Phoenix sit atop Asteroid M, getting stoned.

DARK PHOENIX: Heeeyyy...I can move this rock....with my mind....!

ONSLAUGHT: Dood, this has been a TERRIBLE year for the U.S. box office.

DARK PHOENIX: I read that. Like, 60,000 times. With my mind.

ONSLAUGHT: Do you think that just because Hollywood has the best PR and publicists in the world, it's right that they should make headlines about how their crappy movies aren't making enough money as if it is some sort of national tragedy?

DARK PHOENIX (weeping uncontrollably): It's so sad....first the genocide in Darfur, then "Kingdom of Heaven" underperforms...WHAT NEXT?!

ONSLAUGHT: I think I'll destroy the world.

DARK PHOENIX: With my MIND.

Onslaught and Dark Phoenix attack, killing all the X-Men. Comic book fans know, however, that this is a good thing.

FADE OUT.

7.29.2005

i am the biggest work nerd

Today we had a meeting for work and gee whiz I was specially recognized by the boss for being a big work nerd, covering people's shifts and whatnot (she must have conveniently forgotten the three months I took off last year to shoot TA91 which inconvenienced everybody else on the team) and I got a nice gift certificate for Best Buy which I should probably use to buy something boring like blank media but will most likely end up putting towards 2 or 3 overpriced DVDs.

So that was pleasing, and gives me yet another excuse to wax sentimental about my co-workers. I really like the lot of them. Because of the particular nature of our job, in which the two major skills are a) watching over tons of money that does not belong to us and b) accomodating very nasty customers, we're all good at a few basic things that it seems precious few people in LA can do At All. Maybe it's because the other people I know in LA are disproportionately actors, artists, and wannabe film people, but i find it a rare pleasure to be with people who are all responsible, incredibly trustworthy, and have basic social skills. For example, we have a habit of always checking in with each other about trivial stuff like directions and starting times and parking....stuff that, in the film world, is reserved for that one unglamorous job category of production coordinators/managers, because it is naturally assumed that only one person on set can be expected to care what time it is or where we are. Actors and directors are too cool for that stuff, and are considered cooler based on how late/lost/clueless they are about real world logistics.
...Also, because we work with the most overreactive, infantile people on earth, we are good at identifying and defusing potential dramas and creating/imposing a kickback atmosphere. This is the exact opposite of what most people in LA are good at, which is creating drama out of nothing and throwing star tantrums every time the sky turns blue. Rather than trying all the time to be The Most Interesting Person You Will Ever Meet, we work hard to be pleasant and not give anyone an excuse to start screaming.
...Did I mention? SO Trustworthy. Because of the money thing. I may vote differently from some of my co-workers, but I would trust pretty much all of them with the keys to my house, PIN number, and mother's maiden name. Because they just don't dick around and they always pay you back.
...These are small things, to be sure, but precious. And I must again emphasize, things which are the opposite of the most common personality traits of the average Los Angeles citizen, for whom day-to-day organization is a service provided by a paid lackey, co-workers are the people whom you have to beat out for the next job/gig/big audition, flakiness is a career move, and trust is something you never ever show, unless you want to end up robbed, raped, and denied residuals from your new identity as an unpaid Internet porn star.

7.25.2005

guerilla filmmaking satisfaction

I took a frickin awesome shot of one of my friends the other day. It's nice for me cos I know nothing about lighting or cinematography so whenever I manage a good shot it's like a happy accident that nothing is mis-exposed, horribly out of focus, or just plain indiscernable. But this shot was great. Natural twilight through the window, falling on half her very expressive face, the other half in total shadow. Ornamental window objects blessedly sort of out of focus in the background. Balanced kind of blue. A real movie-type shot. I quickly dislocated a shoulder patting myself on the back and went on to get some crappy footage of blurs and parts of people's feet and things.

7.23.2005

i need a place in LA that is open after 2 AM

The problem with getting off work at 2 AM is that there's nothing to do after work except go home and putz around. I've become nocturnal to the point where I usually don't go to sleep til 5 or 6 AM, just as the rest of the world is coming awake. In those hours of putzing around before dawn/bedtime, you can't get any business done, there are few people you can call on the phone, all the parties are over, and very few restaurants are open. So one is basically limited to the insular homebound pursuits e.g. websurfing, solitary drinking, and blogging. It allows for plenty of introspection, but the tradeoff is that I'm asleep or confined at work during the part of the day when most of the world is getting its shiznit done. It's like being on vacation from the ratrace all the time, and yet no one else has chosen to go to your vacation spot.
....All this would be alleviated if there were a couple reliable, non-drug-infested establishments in the LA area (not including casinos) where I could go and be around people still prowling around in the wee hours. Ideally a place where I could get a relaxing after-work drink, although I guess California law makes that one tricky.

7.20.2005

Bwahhahahahaha

I added a sound design element to the movie today that is one of the best ideas I've ever had.
No, really, sometimes my ideas suck, but this I'm really proud of. It add something that is so sexy, so wrong, so pretentious and so uniquely appropriate to the moment, that I can't help but feel proud.
The sound design in general is coming together. It really sounds like a movie now.
....To paraphrase Torrance in "Bring It On:"
Awesome! Oh Wow!
Like totally freak me out!
I mean right on!
Target Audience Nine Point One!

7.18.2005

guidelines for talking about dreams

A) Don't talk about dreams that you only remember abstractly, like where you were in a dark place and had a funny feeling about something....this is kinda dull because everyone has dreams like that, that they don't remember very well. No one wants to hear about that unless they are a professional being paid to listen to you.

B) Don't talk about the dreams where you're in your underwear at school or you're falling and you wake up right before you hit the ground....again, everyone has dreams like that.

C) Don't analyze your own dreams for sexual content....everything can have sexual content.

D) Don't talk about dreams where something really weird and surreal happened, unless it's somehow specifically relevant to the person you're talking to. IT DIDN'T REALLY HAPPEN. So big whoop.

E) Do talk about dreams that involve specific people known by the person you're telling the dream to, doing something funny or uncharacteristic....your subconscious thoughts about the people in your life can be interesting to others, because it's like getting to peek at your id.

F) Do talk about your erotic dreams involving specific people...again, the details of your id might be interesting to others. Unless the specific person is Monica Bellucci or Brad Pitt or someone typical like that, in which case who cares.

G) Do talk about your nightmares out loud, not necessarily to make conversation, but because the process of letting the scary thoughts out into the conscious world will lessen the chance that your subconscious dredge them up as future bad dreaming.

H) Don't talk about the dreams where God spoke to you, or there was a brave new world where no one suffered, or where you had relations with a family member (exception to F, above). These are all kind of creepy.

I) Do talk about dreams where something bad happens to someone you know; some would disagree with this, because I believe there are some superstitions that say if you dream someone's gonna die, they're really gonna die. But I think it's a good conversation piece because maybe talking about it will ward off the chance of it happening. Plus whenever a friend is hurt in a dream and I wake up to reality and they're fine, there's a sense of relief and refreshed love and appreciation for that person, and I think telling them about it is a sort of small way of saying that you care.

7.16.2005

nothing makes me feel older than...

....this fancy Sony Ericsson cell phone I just bought off craigslist to replace my old crappy Motorola one. It has many features and no manual. It has features that make me, an aging, stodgy, narrowminded human go, "harumph! what could that ever be good for?"
....if I was a 15-year old kid, I would already have this phone loaded with a pile of mp3s, taken a zillion pictures, pumped them into my laptop for photoshopping and then back into the phone to be assigned as wallpaper to each individual addressbook entry, downloaded an obscure Thai exercise video for the media player, composed a song, and of course, have about a thousand ringtones. And I would have finished all that within 12 hours of purchase, just in time to be already bored with the new gadget today and anxiously awaiting the new improved model with the tracball.
...I do not even know how to get a new ringtone into my phone. So I am behind schedule.
...I don't know Bluetooth. I don't know syncing. I don't know if these things work with Macs. I don't know where to look these things up. I have never in my life successfully picture messaged anybody. I don't even have these features enabled on my cellular plan. Whoa. I just said "cellular."
....I am old.

7.15.2005

free press!

TA91 was mentioned in, of all things, the New York Times yesterday. It may be unreadable if you don't have an online subscription, but it's in there. What it says is:

Is it worth spending thousands of dollars to retrieve files? It was for William Storkson, a motion picture sound designer in Novato who lost four reels of work on the independent film "Target Audience 9.1" when an external drive connected to his Apple Power Mac G5 malfunctioned. He had bought the drive as a backup three months earlier, when his Mac's two-year-old external drive started to falter. That drive was by this time dead.

"To rebuild the data from scratch would have taken me one to two months of 40-hour weeks," he said.

....it's hilarious because of all the minor disasters that have happened in this process, this is the one that got media coverage. Never mind that the Department of Homeland Security still owes me $800 for BREAKING INTO OUR FRICKIN GRIP TRUCK BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT WE WERE TERRORISTS. (See my earlier entry.)
...of course I'm extremely glad that all these pitfalls were overcome in the end. But if I'm going to read about my movie in the nation's newspaper, and I know that the major drama of our shoot was a story involving unhjustified property damage, imagined bomb threats and the majority of the Van Nuys police force, it's a little underwhelming to read about some company reanimating a bunch of bits in a malfunctioning metal box.

7.12.2005

War of the Worlds (A Summer Mega-Event Film By Me)

EXT. NEW JERSEY

An alien spacecraft arrives and annihilates all of Tom Cruise's homies.

CUT TO:

Tom Cruise indulging Dakota Fanning's request to pee.

DAKOTA FANNING: Daddy! The aliens are coming to kill us! Should I stand here and scream?

TOM CRUISE: The important thing in the middle of this genocide is that you and I discover what it means to be a family.

An alien spacecraft arrives and vaporizes some more of Tom Cruise's non-relatives.

DAKOTA FANNING: Daddy! The spacecraft is coming for me! Should I stand here and scream?

TOM CRUISE: All that matters is blood. The rest are just strangers.

An alien spacecraft arrives, impales some random person who is not a legal dependant of the Cruise household, and starts sucking his blood.

ALIENS: All that matters is blood! Blood!

TOM CRUISE'S LIVER: Sake! Sake!

TOM CRUISE: Shut up! I need to protect my helpless children so that they can grow up to replace my useless ass.

DAKOTA FANNING: Daddy! The aliens are killing people in exactly the same way people were killed in the Holocaust, 9/11, and the Rwandan massacres! It's almost as if they watch The History Channel for ideas on how to create blockbuster visual entertainment based on tragedy! Should I stand here and scream?

TOM CRUISE: You are the finest actress of your generation.

Fast dolly in toward Dakota Fanning's eyes gawking. Her eyes reveal the innocence of a whole generation of children who stare helplessly at the thing that's going to kill them. This shot repeats 8000 times over the rest of the film. Sometimes mirrors are involved.

TOM CRUISE: I killed an ambulance driver so that my daughter would not feel icky! And my son and wife are alive too! I win the War of the Worlds! I win! I win!

Fast dolly in towards Dakota Fanning's eyes. The camera hits her in the nose.

DAKOTA FANNING: Ow!

The world ends.

FADE TO CREDITS.

7.08.2005

now we are three wee poems

Some people are all dolled up
Some people are solar and radiant
and some people are like being with the moon.
Some are skinny and wise
some are svelte and stupid
some think they're fat and some think they're right.
Most people stress me out
and if not, I soon learn how
even that bloody sun sucks when I'm driving into it.
But I like being with the moon
I like losing and reflecting and
coming up with ways to continue the night.

age aint nothing but a number

Aaliyah said it best, RIP.
....I know that there's nothing intrinsically different about being 30. For legal purposes it's the same as being any age from 21 to 65. Oh except that in 5 years I believe I can run for president. I guess it's the feeling that one should be more responsible for all the things that I avoided taking seriously in my 20's. Like having a 401K, personal health care, etc. I still have no special urge to get hitched or have kids anytime in the near future. I'm still dumb about a lot of things, and the things I used to be precocious at I guess I'm just at an acceptable level now. It would be nice if suddenly people started taking me seriously because I'm no longer this 20something kid mouthing off, but I highly doubt that's gonna happen. Wherefore the perks?
....I think I've accomplished a good number of things for this age. I've almost finished a feature-length movie, started a theater company, co-written some songs that I like, learned and forgot how to play guitar, eaten snake, loved and lost, transitioned successfully from being alive in the time of no Internet to a guy who knows how to use a few different kinds of software, tiled a bathroom, and already have spent more time playing cards than most people will in their entire lives. Most importantly I've met a lot of interesting and precious people at different stages of my life, many of whom showed up at the bbq on Monday. This is lucky. Lots of people don't know anyone on whom they can count to not punch them in the eye, much less say a nice word.
...I guess there are some things I would like to work on in my encroaching geezerhood, if only to make this artificial mantle of "responsibility" worth something. To wit:
- Be more self-sufficient so as to relieve portential burden on my endlessly gracious and generous parents.
- Contribute something towards making the world a better place, as opposed to making my DVD colllection a better place.
- Write fewer run-on sentences.
....Anyhoo. On to the 30's.

7.01.2005

vegas baby

Turning 30 on Monday.
Going to Vegas tonight.
Movie issues pretty much under control.
Yup.

6.20.2005

OK, that's it....

I'm starting another movie.
....Someone told me that Wong Kar Wai made Chungking Express and Fallen Angels by shooting a lot of random shit and then piecing together the stories with voiceover, shooting more scenes to fill in the gaps as needed.
....I'm sure many awful movies have been made following the same method.
....However, don't let that stop you from Paypalling me a modest donation to go to the audio equipment fund, or alternatively offering up a wireless lav microphone set, which is what I really need.
...The idea is to shape the story through a series of dogme-style, low-tech weekend shoots in natural light settings, and do the more complicated, exactingly scripted stuff later when we know exactly what we should be spending money and resources on.
...There is a story starting point, though. It's not going to be Koyannisquatsi, or however you spell that.

6.10.2005

and now, a wee poem.

Nobody knows
it's nothing
a secret
like Saigon
and surgery
and the taste of rootbeer;
things no one can talk about
because they involve
more than just seeing
and a certain ingredient of
embarrassment.

And that makes it all
so gorgeous
unassailable
and specific to
the smile-and-don't-
say-anything situation;
that feeling that
comes from whispering,
secreting secrets
to nobody else
that nobody knows.

6.07.2005

I like me some Primer.

Got the Primer DVD the other day and have been watching it more or less constantly since. What a great flick.
It's really great to hear a commentary track where the filmmaker talks about things like not having enough money for lights and props and stuff and having to work around it. I hate it when commentary tracks seem to be people showing off how much money they wasted by saying stuff like "well we had a gigantic dolly shot with four banks of pyrotechnics firing against a greenscreen but after we looked at the dailies I decided it Just Didn't Look Right. So we did it this way instead..."
...Yes. Thank you. It's fascinating and informative that you wasted the budget of an entire indie film on a shot that you didn't use. Your inability to plan is an inspiration to all filmmakers.
...Well anyways the Primer commentary has none of that. It's all real world problems and extremely clever ways of figuring them out. The guy is sharp.

6.03.2005

ARGH?

Okay, I'm suddenly concerned that my blog makes me look like a dickhead because I was just reading this other guy's blog and he came off as a total dickhead. He might be a nice guy in real life, it's just in his blog he chooses to write about things which make him seem petty, callous, and superficial. Probably because those are the things that bother him enough to make him want to write about it. But since I also blog more often when I'm upset then when I'm satisfied about something, I worry there's someone out there who thinks, "who is this guy and does he really think that the dialogue in Ocean's 12 is the biggest problem in the universe?...for the love of..."

ARGH, addendum.

There is also something about human nature that prefers drama to tranquility. No one would actually say this, but it is true. It's an Id thing. People like to start crap. Some people like to fight and make up in endless looping pointlessness, rather than just not fight. People also like to be the victim of the other person's bad behavior. So they can have something to complain about. I know I do.

5.31.2005

Why....?

....do people like mediocrity better than complexity?
Why do people like stupid reality shows and hate movies that you have to think about?
People HATE not understanding things.
They also hate having headaches. Complexity gives you headaches.
I don't like headaches either.

5.29.2005

The neat thing about not going to film school is

....you get to figure things out for yourself and they seem exciting. Like associative editing, I think that's what it's called. There are all these cool ways to use a cut to tell a story without saying much. For example there was this cut in TA91 that hasn't been working for a long time, going from Gillian in one room to Molly in another room. It always just looked weird and I wasn't sure why. Last night I rearranged it so that Gillian is doing something different at the cut point which results in her having a very similar expression as Molly when we cut to her. Nothing really changes, but the transition feels righter, and more importantly, by the expression, a connection between Molly and Gillian is felt (in theory).
...Anyway that's probably filmmaking 101 to a lot of people but it's still cool to me.

5.25.2005

Hey, that Sith was pretty good.

Was it another one of George Lucas' occasional perverse strokes of storytelling-structure genius to make Episodes I & II very lame, thus making our expectations extremely low, so that Revenge of the Sith would seem relatively pretty good? I don't know. Is ROTS actually better than the first three movies because the emotional turns are bigger than in any of the first three? I don't know. Are Red Vines actually tasty, or do I just kinda like them because I ate them in high school? I really don't know about that one. But here's what I liked about Episode III:

....Anakin Skywalker has about twelve more actor beats to play than he had in Episode II, and he is pretty convincing with all of them. In Eps. I & II, his basic beat was, "I want to drive the speeder faster....faster!.,..ooh look, hot chick." This is the same defining non-motivation that Luke managed to get over by the end of A New Hope, and thank god. In ROTS, Anakin has to handle real problems, like What To Do With The Evil Guy When He Is The Only Person Who Is Nice To You, and How To Do The Righteous Jedi Thing When All The Righteous Jedis Act Like Dorks. They feel like real, hard choices, and I was feeling the consequences. As other geeky critics have already noted, friends make the difference. Luke had friends and an excusably touchy-feeling relationship with his sister, Anakin had no homies and the love of Natalie Portman. Which one overcame the temptation of evil? Hmmm....
...Even though they used the phrase about a thousand times in the original trilogy, ROTS was the first Star Wars movie where I really felt "The Power of the Dark Side." OK, I needed the Emperor to explain it literally. I'm dumb. But whereas that Dark Side-Light Side thing used to seem like the distinction between what color sneakers you choose to wear, here it was really articulated as modes of self-interest and selflessness. The Dark Side makes a sympathetic case as a whole philosophy of life which nurtures the psyche and doesn't include the words Greed, Vindictiveness and Sense of Entitlement. Meanwhile the Light Side Jedis are artfully revealed as having all the flaws that the right usually accuses the left of having, e.g., grating superiority complex, lack of humanity, and a tendency to speak in mushmouthed equivocations. Like this blog. This blog wallows in the Bleeding Heart Eastern Mystic Liberal Side of the Force.
...Which brings me to what I learned from the movie that I wasn't expecting to learn (me being one of those know-it-alll righteous liberals). When the hype for the prequels started, I didn't get the big deal about seeing How Anakin Falls. I just wanted to see the good n evil battle play out maybe with some nice C-Wing or J-Wing fighters, and was sorely let down on that point. I didn't care to know how Darth Vader became evil, because in experiencing the original trilogy, I took it for granted that that Evil was just what he was. That was the role he filled. It was nice, sure, that he became Good in the end, but it seemed more a romantic expression of Good's inevitable triumph than a moment of innate redemption.
...In Episodes I & II, my perspective didn't change much, because due to the lazy and frankly annoying characterization of Anakin, I continued to feel, "Yknow, that guy's gonna end up evil, and it's no big tragedy, because something about him is inherently off." I mean, "Wizard!" Whatever.
...In this flick I finally got it. He wasn't always evil. He even tried really really hard not to be evil. And maybe somewhere in the personal histories of the George Bushes and Saddam Husseins and Donald Trumps and Kenneth Lays of the world, the real-life figures who deal out various sufferings upon the innocents from behind layers of inhuman armor, there is some reason why they act this way. And the reason that people try to be good is inextricably tied up in the reason that they end up bastards. That, I felt, was kind of deep.
...Lucas has talked about how he likes movies which are implicit and abstract about their social issues, rather than didactic and polarizing like Farenheit 9/11 or the entire Bush administration. He kinda pulled it off here, much to my surprise. Any movie that has a battle scene with empty seats of democracy being launched as bludgeoning projectiles wins a few symbolic points in my book.
....Sure, there are still a bunch of hammy moments and weak lines that do nothing but break the mood. But unlike the first two prequels, there's actually a mood to break. And there are no J-Wing fighters, yadda yadda. Overall, though, in this film's attempt to explore evil's causation, I felt much more the active mind of George Lucas the human being, a filmmaker leaving his own fingerprints on the film, an artist trying to make something more than a stem cell for videogame spinoffs. And it more or less closed this ridiculous nerdy subplot of my life satisfactorily.
....And finally, on a totally meta-pop culture note, it was nice to see Detective Simone from NYPD Blue finally get a chance to raise a child with his wife, after enduring the injustice of dying young and being reincarnated as an Alderanian Senator a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

5.19.2005

and now a few words about co-directing

I'm told co-directorships are not allowed by the DGA, which is silly, but as this may go towards the long-term mental health of directors perhaps this saves them on insurance payouts.
...Co-directing is somewhat insane when you consider the godawful number of decisions a film director has to make which now have to be filtered through two people. The two people contradict each other. They debate while the rest of the crew has to wait for instruction. They give everyone, especially each other, massive headaches. No matter how well planned, they will have sudden creative inspirations....often, against all that is holy, SIMULTANEOUSLY...which will send the ship flying in multiple directions.
...That said; it's good to go in with a partner.
...On an indie film set particularly, the director often has to be several places at once, because he/she may be doubling as cinematrographer/wardrobe/craft services/what have you, and everything needs to be done at once. In such situations, it's good to have more than one person who can offer decisive creative authority. On TA91, where microbudget perils endangered our shotlist on a pretty much daily basis, we were several times lucky enough to be able to split the crew into two units to shoot two scenes at once. Each director got to work on the stuff that they were good at, and eager to shoot, with the trust that the other would get the right shot over in the next room.
...Also, it belies the whole anti-democratic director-centric BS that so distorts people's ideas of what filmmaking is about. There's a popular illusion that the director's all-powerful vision spontaneously creates every single element of the movie. While it's much better to have a vision than to not have one, a vision is something you can have in the desert after eating hashish. It doesn't actually generate a movie. The movie happens because the director is good at his/her job of working with people who do certain things much better than he/she does, like act, rack focus, sew, etc. and sort of funnels all those skills towards a single end which is something like the director's vision. It's not an easy job, which is why you need directors, or else actors would just sort of act aimlessly about paperclips for 24-hour marathon handheld shots. But it is just one of the jobs on a set. Every job has a vision which in some way makes it into the movie. You know that feeling of seeing a movie which clearly had a strong vision, but that vision pretty much sucked? With a co-director you have some checks and balances.
...Lastly, and this is the thing I just figured out recently, a partner whose interest in the movie is the WHOLE movie, not just the individual success of a shot or a performance or a makeup job, is good to have when you're losing your mind. As painful as the working relationship can be, as difficult as it is to come to creative compromise (remembering that Hitler also had what could be called an "uncompromising vision," I think of compromise in the positive sense), it can be fruitful to have two people pressuring themselves to do nothing but make the movie a little better. The producer wants the movie to be finished and financially viable, and most actors want the movie to favorably showcase their talents. The director who is also the movie's producer, like me, often wants to give in to producerial concerns. And when I'm really wanting to do that, my co-director offers and idea for how to make the movie better. It's not always an idea we agree on, for sure, but it keeps that channel open. And it's an agonizing process, a lot of the time, but I don't think it's wasted time. In the end, it's much more true to the spirit of collaboration and co-existence that artistic ventures should be about, rather than this cover story of individual brilliant geniuses.