Over the years, I have read tons of books with my nine year old daughter that I love for reasons of sentimentality (The Monster at The End of This Book) and/or nostalgia (The Batman Chronicles, etc.). And I see why she likes things such as The Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Zita the Space Girl, Big Nate, Mouse Guard, and the Harry Potter series, all of which I would’ve devoured had they been around when I was coming of age as a reader. But while we share a love of reading, we haven’t yet shared a love of reading the same things, though given her love of age appropriate graphic novels and narrative fiction, I’ve long figured it’s only a matter of time. And lo and behold, she recently started reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which is dark, offbeat, scary, and utterly magical. And now that time has come and life just got better.
My annual ongoing review of summer movies got off to a bang this year (Part 1: Man of Steel & Part 2: This is the End & Monsters University), before being stopped cold by the interruption of the most insanely busy four month stretch of work I’ve ever had in my life. Between making American Lawn and an unusually intense number of high pressure, time sensitive institutional tasks, I had to cut my extra-curricular activities to the bone, and so I did. But I never stopped going to the movies, even as I didn’t see as many as I normally do. It’s just something I love doing too much to ever give up; for me they are not only escapist entertainment, but intellectual stimulation, artistic inspiration, salve, therapy and any number of other things as well. Thankfully, that magical moment that for so long seemed so far in the distance—in which the brutal torrent would at long last give way to normalcy—has finally arrived and so now I’ll be catching up via a series of short micro reviews of 100 words or less.
Elysium is an over-long mish mash of recycled sci-fi tropes that goes nowhere. Matt Damon is characteristically solid, but Jodie Foster utilizes a cryptic accent that had me laughing out loud almost every time she spoke. In fact, she was so bad she might have been good. I can easily imagine a future in which her campy performance garners a cult following as a result of endless airings of Elysium on TNT. I wanted much more than I got from Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9. As it turns out, it isn’t better up there at all.
As a life long comic book junkie, I have a low bar where super hero movies are concerned; I am predisposed to like them, so just don’t bore me and show me something I haven’t seen before and we’re good. Train-top fight scenes are as old as the movies, but James Mangold’s The Wolverine showed me a thrilling one atop a bullet train that I’d definitely never seen before. But despite some intriguing moments, most of the rest of the damn movie bored me to tears, despite Hugh Jackman continuing to kill the role.
It’s rare that a movie recovers from the blood in the water that comes with a highly publicized troubled production, but Marc Forster’s World War Z did exactly that. In addition to a terrific performance by Brad Pitt, it’s the pacing that makes this movie. Unlike the non-stop bombast of its summer brethren, WWZ alternates between terrifying action sequences and moments of repose that steadily build the anticipation. The climax is remarkably quiet and unbelievably tense. And I’d certainly never seen roiling tidal waves of zombies before. It’s one of the best zombie movies ever, and easily the scariest since 28 Days Later.
American Lawn at the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival
Last Friday night (11/8/13), American Lawn was the opening film of the 40th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. It was one of the best festival experiences I’ve ever had and it was an unbelievably satisfying way to open up American Lawn’s festival run. Festival Director Thomas Phillipson took amazing care of the filmmakers, including putting us up for the weekend at The Crystal Hotel, which is in a Flatiron style building located at the nexus of awesomeness in downtown Portland. Jake’s Famous Crawfish, a Portland institution and one my favorite places, is on one side, while across the street is a sex shop, so that every time I looked out the window of the room mannequins all dressed up for a good time appeared to be looking at me. And Powell’s City of Books is just down the street to boot. I was able to park the car in a parking garage and not think about it again until I left. I walked all over that city! Additionally, there’s a saltwater soaking pool in the Crystal’s basement of which I made liberal late night use.
The screening of the Shorts I Program took place at 7PM on Friday at the Whitsell Auditorium inside the Portland Art Museum. It’s a spectacular space and it seats just under 400 people. It was completely packed and there were people standing and watching on both sides in the back. It was like the opening night of a play—there was a palpable buzz in the air and you could just tell people were really excited to see the films. The anticipation just about killed cinematographer Jess Lawrence and I, especially knowing we were going to be the first film of the festival.
Shortly after 7, Thomas came up and gave a brief speech welcoming the crowd and thanking the sponsors and then the lights went down and we were on. That moment of darkness when you know you’re up is exhilarating and terrifying all at once. You make movies to be seen by audiences, but a million things can go wrong and it’s hard not to worry about them. The scariest part of any festival screening, even more than flopping, is technical difficulty, especially when you’re screening from a digital file, which we were. It was freaking spectacular! The image was vividly sharp and the colors were gorgeously saturated and the sound was plenty loud and crystal clear. We had played the finished film to private audiences twice before and while they were both good experiences, you just don’t know what you have until your movie plays for a crowd of strangers who have no familiarity with you or anyone in your movie. It’s like live blind peer reviewing—you know whether it’s working or not as it’s happening. And man, did it work! People laughed from start to finish and Jess and I sat there with big stupid grins on our faces, just as happy as we could be. And once it ended, the stress of not knowing what was to come was gone—for the rest of the fest we could immerse ourselves in other films and get to know a lot of other filmmakers, which is exactly what we did.
In addition to its embrace of short filmmaking, one of the things I adored about the NWFF and wish other festivals did is its mixed genre programming. When you see shorts at other fests you either see one or two play before a feature or you see shorts blocks in thematic groupings: doc blocks, comedy blocks, animation blocks, experimental blocks, etc. Conversely, at the NWFF the shorts blocks, as programmed by Sundance Senior Shorts Programmer Mike Plante, were entirely mixed and all genres played together, which resulted in my being exposed to a bunch of films I might not have otherwise seen, which was a really great thing. I especially liked Lewis Bennett’s Hey Vancouver, This is You on Craigslist, Adam Sekuler’s In Transit, Adrienne Leverette and Rob Tyler’s Nemo, and Anna Sandilands and Ewan McNicol’s The Roper, which was my favorite of all the films I saw.
On Saturday morning/afternoon there was The Northwest Filmmakers’ Un-Conference, which was a BarCamp style conference. I’d never been to one of these before, but it was pretty neat. We spent the morning coming up with topics and then creating sessions that were spaced out over different time slots. It seemed like a hot mess while it was being organized, but Thomas told us to trust him and that everything would come together seamlessly, and he was right. Everything was filmmaker generated and then the sessions, though technically organized by themes, organically went in the directions the participants wanted them to go. It was pretty interesting and I met a lot of cool folks!
About my only complaint is that I wasn’t able to stay on Sunday, during which I could have seen some features and another shorts block. But work called, and so home I came. But it was a fantastic experience and such an honor to have had American Lawn selected for inclusion at the NWFF. Jess and I are so lucky to be a part of the vibrant filmmaking community up here in the great Northwest! And now American Lawn goes dark for a couple of months, as it’ll be a while until we start hearing back from other festivals and a longer while still until we start playing at them. But what a start we’ve had!
This Friday night, November 8th, our new doc short, American Lawn, will be playing at the 40th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival at 7:00PM in The Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium inside of the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon. This year’s Festival Judge is Sundance Film Festival Senior Shorts Programmer Mike Plante and we couldn’t be more happy to have been selected for inclusion! Both myself and cinematographer Jess Lawrence will be in attendance and participating in the Q & A after the showing. While we tested different cuts innumerable times and have twice played the final version for private audiences, this will be its first public festival screening. This is a fantastic festival (Sterling Hallard Bright Drake played there last year) and a great place for American Lawn to make its debut. It will be more than a month after this before we start hearing back from other festivals, but this is an auspicious beginning for what we hope will be a long festival run.
We are the first film in Shorts I, so we are essentially opening the festival, which is both rather awesome and kind of terrifying! Again, the screening is at 7:00PM on Friday, November 8th in Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum. Tickets can be purchased here and also at the door for $6 to $9. If you’re in the Portland area come on out and see a wildly diverse slate of independent short films and then join us for the opening night party at the Broadway Metroplex immediately afterwards!
Like the rest of America, over the years Bedford Falls has worked hard to make Halloween safe and fun for kids. For the most part it has been successful as all the downtown businesses hand out candy as do the students in the dorms at Bedford Falls U. Additionally, the local YMCA has a free event with games and an indoor maze and plenty of candy. It’s rather nice, but there’s an antiseptic quality to it all. Having never known anything else, I’m sure contemporary kids are fine with it, but as I grew up in an era in which trick or treating exclusively meant knocking on strangers’ doors, I can’t help but feel a little curmudgeonly about it.
And so this year I talked my kids into for the most part skipping the organized events and instead going door to door and seeing what comes of it. In particular, in Bedford Falls there are two parallel streets on which there’s big old turn of the century houses and the folks who live in them are predominately gray haired, meaning they remember Halloween from back in the day and they do it up right. Many of the houses are dressed up as haunted and the ones that aren’t still have the porch lights off and candle-lit pumpkins adorning their steps. If you are 6 & 9, as my kids are, and have only ever had people hand you candy as you walk by a booth or a place of business, it’s rather intimidating, which is exactly as it should be.
My kids both wanted me to walk up to scary doors with them, but of course I refused. ”You want candy?” I asked. ”Take a chance and see what happens!” They got into the spirit of things quickly enough and we spent two and a half hours going up and down both streets and it was awesome. My daughter was a fantastic Batgirl and my son was the Pokémon character Pikachu, which proved rather hilarious. All the kids kept telling him what a great costume he had, while all the old people answering doors kept asking, “And what are you supposed to be again?”
We came home tired and happy and watched Pixar’s Toy Story of TERROR! which I had DVRd and saved specifically for post-trick or treating on Halloween night. Both kids then proceeded to have full on meltdowns—crying, screaming, yelling, and carrying on as though possessed—before passing out cold and sleeping soundly until the next morning. Best. Halloween. Ever.
“If Breaking Bad held up a dark mirror to the psyche of the American male in the early years of the 21st century, Eastbound & Down is the fun house mirror version of the same image. It’s no less insightful, it just comes laced with one-hitters, F-bombs, and whatever the hell Stevie Janowski is.”—From Grantland writer Andy Greenwald’s insightful “Eastbound & Down’s Spectacular Final Season.” Right from the opening shot of the premiere episode, I knew something special might be going down during this final season!
SUPERHEROES: A NEVER-ENDING BATTLE is the first documentary to examine the dawn of the comic book genre and its powerful legacy, as well as the evolution of the characters who leapt from the pages over the last 75 years and their ongoing worldwide cultural impact. Premieres on PBS on October 15 2013.
I’ve got the DVR all set up and ready to go. I’m excited to see what they do with this!
“I don’t know that there’s anybody on any team currently in the big leagues that is a grittier gamer.”—Said by Joe Buck, in reference to Dustin Pedroia after he made an excellent defensive play on an Austin Jackson grounder in game 2 of the ALCS. It was a great play, but really, why does defensive prowess warrant mention of a player’s supposed gamy grittiness? Really, where the f*ck is Fire Joe Morgan when you need it? Please come back, Mr. Schur. You’re needed and missed.
And just like that it’s over, a demoralizing 3-0 A’s loss that seemed like an even greater beat down than it was. That’s what happens when your team doesn’t get even get a hit until the 7th inning. The A’s pitchers did a fine job. If you hold your opponent to 3 runs you should have a shot, but the A’s hitters were awful. This is not to say Verlander wasn’t outstanding, but the hitters were tight and you could see it early on and it only got worse as the game progressed. It was a painful end to what was otherwise a wonderful season. Just like last year, it’s hard not to think the A’s didn’t blow this series. They had it in game four and they let it slip through their fingers. I wish I loved another sport I could throw myself into with the same passion and reckless abandon—something that doesn’t last 6 months and have so many games and require so much time. Maybe this would lessen the pain of defeat when it happens, as it will more often than not, no matter who you root for. Only one team wins the last game of the year and that’s just the way it is. But I don’t love any other sports like baseball. I just don’t, and I’ll be back next year, as I have every year dating back to the mid-1970s, ready to invest my entire heart and soul into the 2014 Oakland A’s.
Despite the difficulty of the loss, there was some magic yesterday. Last night we had the cast & crew screening of American Lawn, the doc short I made last summer. My 6 year old son and 9 year old daughter both make an appearance in the movie. My son didn’t really want to go and he’s really too young for it anyway, but my daughter was all fired up for it. So my son went to soccer practice and then home with his mom, whereas my daughter and I got our gloves and played catch out under the golden birch trees in the front yard. It was a brilliant fall day, crisp and clear and lit perfectly by a dazzling sun sitting low in the sky. Her previous all time record of consecutive catches was 20, which she broke last night with a new record of 39. This was followed by a joyous spontaneous happy dance of an unfettered quality never before seen around these parts. We then went inside and sat on the floor in the living room and ate chili and sourdough bread and watched the first four innings of the game, before hitting the DVR and heading to the screening. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day drudgery of parenting and find yourself asking why you ever had kids in the first place and then you have an afternoon like that and you wonder why you didn’t have more, even as you know better. The screening was packed and we were delighted with how well the film was received and the Q & A was a lot of fun. My daughter was beside herself she was so happy to see her visage up there on the big screen and while I’m obviously biased, I do think she killed, getting the two biggest laughs of the night. And of course she asked a question during the Q & A, because that’s just how she rolls.
And then I came home and met three of my favorite friends here and we picked up the game from the fourth inning on and it all went to hell. But having those moments with my daughter and having the screening go so well did put things into perspective somewhat and as hard as it was and as devastated as I feel, without those things it would’ve been worse. And now baseball is over, or at least it is for me. I just can’t watch another inning. It’s so much easier to watch the playoffs when your team doesn’t make it. I’m completely devoid of emotional investment and I just watch for the pure love of the game, hoping to see good games and historic moments (game six of the 2011 World Series comes to mind). But I just can’t do it this year. How can I watch the Tigers and Red Sox when I know it could’ve been the A’s? If Coco just catches that ball in game two last year … If Straily doesn’t groove a fastball to Jhonny Peralta … If Martinez’s ball is untouched and Reddick catches it … It’s just too much and I can’t do it.
And so I turn to fall in Bedford, my favorite time of the year. The pumpkin patch will be visited repeatedly, as will the corn maze. I’ve been fire roasting peppers of all kinds and putting them into everything. I have a huge stash of local blueberries from the summer and I’ve been making blueberry pies with abandon. I had my first fire of the year the night before last as the lovely Diana Prince and I sat in its glow and drank spiced cider and rum and watched the season premiere of American Horror Story: Coven. I’ve had worse nights. Hell, most nights are worse than that! I’m transitioning from summer high balls into my beloved winter old fashioneds and Manhattans, which make everything better. I’ll live and life will go on and the ritualistic pleasures of fall and winter will get me through the dark days ahead, but in the back of my mind all along I’ll know that the world won’t truly be right again until opening day of 2014 and right now that seems like a very long way away.
“Your laws mean nothing to me. Last night I had a taste of the A list, and it reminded me of something I’ve known for a very long time: I’m better than you.”—To my way of thinking, Season 1 of HBO’s Eastbound & Down is unassailable, but seasons 2 and 3, despite occasional high points, leave a lot to be desired. A little Kenny Powers goes a long way and the assaultive repetition of ugliness ceases to amuse, or at least amuse anywhere near as consistently as it does in that magical first season. And then came the recent premiere of the 4th and final season, featuring a domesticated Kenny Powers trapped in the ceaselessly repeating pattern of married life with kids, and I’ll be damned if its critique of suburban malaise wasn’t the most pleasurably insightful thing I’ve seen on TV in as long as I can remember. Over the course of the concluding 6 minute stretch during which Kenny finally rediscovers his true self I just sat watching with a big stupid grin on my face. And then I immediately watched the sequence two more times. Who knows what happens over the remainder of the season, but that premiere episode is as good as TV gets.
Breaking Bad, the Cult of the Contemporary, and THE BEST SHOW/CHARACTER/PILOT/EPISODE/SHOWRUNNER EVER!
I like AMC’s Breaking Bad a lot. I really do. I was fortunate enough to catch a Terry Gross Fresh Air interview with Bryan Cranston right when the show first came out, so I got on the bus early and have enjoyed the ride immensely over the last several years. I never had to binge watch it, which with this kind of show I actually think makes for better viewing, although as people have rushed to catch up over the last several months many have spoken at length about the unique virtues of binge watching a show whose five+ seasons take place over a time period of no more than two years. Maybe so. In any case, it’s a great show and I’m delighted to have been witness to it as it happened. That said, for f*ck’s sake, can we please stop with the hyperbolic historical relativism as concerns Breaking Bad, its actors, and their place in TV history?
I consume a sh*t ton of media about media and it feels like all anyone has written or talked about the last month is Breaking Bad and how it’s the greatest show ever and Bryan Cranston’s performance as Walter White is either one or two on the all-time list, depending on where you rank James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano. The Grantland Network’s B.S Report and Pop Culture podcasts, of which I’m normally quite fond, are particularly guilty of this. I have no doubt that Breaking Bad is one of the better shows in TV history, and I’m particularly fond of Bryan Cranston, et al. But when people discuss it in the pantheon, the only other shows they normally include are The Sopranos, Mad Men, and The Wire. Again, all great shows, but that narrative ignores over 50 years of previous TV history, focusing instead on only what’s most immediate in our cultural memory. It also tacitly suggests that drama is somehow inherently more “important” than comedy, a line of thinking that’s always troubled me—it’s why Mark Twain isn’t spoken of in the same vein as Faulkner or Hemingway when he damn well should be.
I’m less inclined to rank something as part of an “all-time” list than I am to group things as belonging in the same conversation. And Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, and Jason Alexander belong in any conversation about the best ongoing performances in TV history. Not to mention Ted Danson and Alan Alda. And the shows they were on, despite all the hyperbole surrounding Breaking Bad, were all actually far more culturally important than BB is in this era of narrow casting. Let’s certainly celebrate Breaking Bad and revel in the end of the series. The show deserves it. But let’s not do it in such a way that presents the show as part of a tiny four member club that excludes the whole of TV history that came before our present moment and assumes that nothing else to come could possibly compare.
“Some have dismissed Enough Said as too ‘minor’ and ‘TV-ish’ to resonate with Academy voters, but I’ve heard those terms often enough in recent years to understand that ‘minor’ often stands in for ‘female’ and ‘too TV-ish’ is code for ‘this movie actually has a script in which people talk to one another.’”—From Mark Harris’ “Let the Games Begin,” the first installment of this year’s recurring Oscar prognostication columns in Grantland, which are a must read. While I always like to read what Harris has to say about the merits of individual movies, even better is his sharp insight into the broader industrial and cultural insights the marketing and reception of certain films suggest.
Still have family and friends who turn their noses at your interest in superhero comics? Well, now you can tell them that even PBS has devoted time to them. This October superhero comics get the same documentary treatment that stuff you studied in school (unless you were lucky enough to study…
I’m normally not much of a reblogger, but this was just too exciting for me to pass up…
So today I’m buying my first issue of Wonder Woman in the new 52 in a long time. It is a villain’s issue featuring Cheetah and it is written by John Ostrander with art by Victor Ibanez Ramirez. Why I will buy a comic for Ostrander should be pretty easy to figure out.
Anyway, the issue has one of the best Wonder Woman panels ever which is just ready made for a Meme. And here is that panel:
Last week our jobs took both myself and the lovely Diana Prince to Seattle, where, in addition to fulfilling our obligations to our respective employers, we had a number of adventures, the best of which were two incidents that took place on Seattle’s light rail. The first happened en route to downtown from the airport. At the University Street station, as he was exiting the train a man stopped in front of our seats and leaned over and said to me, “A man and a woman, that’s what I’m talking about,” followed by 30 seconds of completely unintelligible gibberish before he concluded with a nod of the head as he said, “that’s some buuuulllllllsssshhhhiiiiittttttt.” And then he smiled and stuck out his fist for a fist bump. I bumped my fist with his and off he went. The lovely Ms. Prince asked, “What the hell was that?” and we just started cracking up. Apparently we give off a hetero vibe into the ether, because it’s not like we were sitting there tonguing each other on the train—we are very low key people. But this guy sussed out the nature of our relationship and my guess is he was offering his approval. I also assume he was a massive homophobe. Which brings me to the second light rail incident, or at least will shortly.
Friday night we went to see the Mariners play the Angels at Safeco field. Weird game in that King Felix pitched and he seemed dominant, striking out 10 and only giving up 3 hits, but he was really inefficient and threw a ton of pitches and was out after 6 innings. It was also tough because there are not two teams I dislike more in baseball. Well, okay, abstractly there’s the Yankees and Red Sox, but the Angels and M’s are divisional rivals and the hatred runs the whole of my life and it’s visceral, especially towards the Angels, who are actually pretty good a lot of the time and are the A’s traditional rival. But still, it’s baseball on a Friday summer night and I’m in the city and there were plenty of seats available. It’s not like I had a choice—I had to go! But Safeco is the worst best stadium I’ve ever been to. It’s just gorgeous. Easy to get to, great sight lines everywhere in the park, and super fan friendly. And populated by the most disinterested set of fans imaginable. The team is not good, but so what? You should love your team through thick and thin, or boo them if you’re mad at management for not putting a good team out there for a decade now, but for some reason baseball is an afterthought in Seattle. People go and they seem to have a good time, but they aren’t paying any attention to the game. I’ve been in Safeco a number of times decked out in an A’s jersey and hat to see the A’s play the M’s and not one time has anyone even looked at me sideways. Not once. Let’s just say the same thing wouldn’t happen in Oakland. And you can say what you will about that being representative of easy going Northwest culture, but that’s not true. They are amazing football fans. In fact, the only time there was any excitement at all on Friday was when they showed fourth quarter highlights of a Seahawks preseason game on the Jumbotron. The place went into a frenzy. Over a preseason football highlight. And then it was over and they went back to ignoring the game. Seattle is in general a great sports town—they love the Seahawks, the Huskies, the Sounders, and so forth, but for whatever reason it’s a terrible baseball town. But I digress. It’s what happened after the game that completes my tale of adventures on public transportation.
After the game we caught the light rail to head back downtown. While we got a seat, the train was unsurprisingly SRO and hot and humid. There was a man in the seat in front of us who was already on the train when it stopped at the ballpark station, at which the train instantly went from almost empty to packed to the gills. He had an iPad and as near as I could tell he was sex-skyping with another man. It’s not like I wanted to look at what he was doing, but he was sitting right in front of me and he was holding his iPad up for all the world to see, and at that moment that included everybody on the train behind him. On his screen was a naked man lying on his side on a bed with one hand propping up his head and the other drawing little circles in front of him on the mattress upon which he lay, all the while looking into the camera with come hither eyes. Mercifully, the guy with the iPad had head phones in so we couldn’t hear what the guy on the screen was saying, but you only needed one side to get the gist anyway. And then all of the sudden the man becomes self-conscious as he realizes people can probably see what he’s doing, so he turns the iPad screen in an attempt to keep that from happening. Unfortunately, he turned it in such a way that the screen was then reflected at four times its size onto the window behind him, so that now it’s like there’s a big screen TV displaying his partner to the whole train car. And, even more bizarrely, he has in his lap what looked to be a potted jade plant which he lightly stroked up and down the entire time this was going on. And he had no idea his screen was being projected onto the window behind him. The entire train was aware this was happening, but everyone just kind of looked down and tried as best they could to ignore it. It was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen. I’m just glad the “that’s some bbbuuuullllllshhhhiiitttttt” guy wasn’t on this train too, because something tells me he wouldn’t have let this go so easily.
And then there was all that good eating and drinking and seeing offbeat movies and crazy street art and everything else that comes with being in Seattle. Man, I sure do miss living in a big city.
“You reach a point where you absolutely hate cutting anything else, only you have to, and there’s just no way around it. You begrudgingly keep chopping and chopping. You get to where you need to be, only you never feel great about it. When it’s done, you don’t feel like you’re done. You never feel like you’re done, actually. The end result? You hope people love it, you hope you honed your filmmaking chops, and within a few days, you’re already thinking about your next project. The truth is, you’re probably never striking it rich with a documentary, no matter how good it is. You do these movies because you love the craft itself.”—At the end of “The Eagles’ Greatest Hit,” his massive Grantland treatise on Alison Ellwood’s Showtime Doc, The History of the Eagles, Part One & Part Two, Bill Simmons perfectly sums up why those of us who love the documentary form continue to make film after film. Whether you’re making shorts or features, the editing of ridiculous amounts of footage is an arduous and seemingly endless process that’s often done in a vacuum and you never really know how it’s going to play until it does so in front of an audience, which sometimes isn’t until months after you’re “done” with the film. It’s excruciating. And awesome!
“People keep saying to me, ‘Are you pissed off at Jim Carrey?’ No, I’m delighted with Jim Carrey, this is amazing. For your main actor to publicly say, ‘This movie is too violent for me’ is like saying, ‘This porno has too much nudity. We’ll have to go and see this now.’”—Kick-Ass 2 Writer/Producer Mark Millar, as quoted in Steven Hyden’s insightful Grantland essay, “Career Arc: Jim Carrey.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I loved the first one and this certainly doesn’t make me want to see it any less, even though I’m not crazy about the Millar/Romita comic upon which it’s based.
My friend Josh Karp, AKA Budo, just released Barcelona, the first single from his upcoming album The Finger and The Moon, which will be released on October 8th. Josh has done the music for several of my films, including American Lawn, Sterling Hallard Bright Drake, and Walla Walla Wiffle, all of which are much better for his contributions than they otherwise would have been. He is an amazing, always evolving artist and his music is incredibly reflective of his personality—inventive, surprising, and more than a little whimsical. Check it out!
“The desire for a bright green, evenly clipped, thoroughly artificial lawn comes from the same place as the desire for strict dress codes, all white neighborhoods, and dead hippies.”—From “Ban Lawns,” a rant by Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. While I don’t necessarily share his point of view, some of our interviewees in American Lawn most certainly do! One of the best parts about making the new documentary was discovering the passion discussing lawns with people inflames. It’s not a subject about which there’s neutrality. People pick a side and are serious about it to an extent that surprised us.
“Walter White is going to die and we’ve known it from the first miserable moment we made his acquaintance. What makes Breaking Bad’s final season unprecedented in TV history is that for the first time, an entire audience has willingly bought tickets to the same grim destination.”—From “And Then We Came to the End,” Andy Greenwald’s excellent Grantland piece about the upcoming conclusion of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Greenwald and the overwhelming majority of folks who watch BB may well be right, that for Walter White it’s not a matter of if, but only where and how. And if that’s how it goes down, I’m fine with that. But a part of me wants him to live, not because I’m rooting for him, but because his dying might in some ways render all that’s come before it a little less disturbing. It would be a Hays Code era ending—the bad guy, despite being the central character, must nevertheless pay for his sins in the final reel, lest the audience come to believe that crime does in fact pay. And what applied to Scarface (both Muni’s and Pacino’s) and Little Caesar and Cagney in so many memorable roles and countless others from that period must also apply to our own era’s Walter White. What makes White so terrifying is that he’s the embodiment of the central tenant of all noir, roman, film, and otherwise, the idea that all of us, given the right set of circumstances, are capable of terrible deeds. But whereas noir characters from Walter Neff to Jesse Pinkman and Skyler White go over to the dark side when the right circumstances come their way, they know they’ve broken society’s moral code and they come to be haunted by their decisions. Not so with Walter White—there’s a psychopathic switch in there somewhere that got turned on that can’t be turned off, hence he’s become a monster (SAY MY NAME!) and in our cultural narratives the monsters of the world, the Tony Montanas, have to die as punishment for their actions. But in the real world, evil often wins out and Walt surviving the series’ end, especially if Hank or Jesse or Skyler don’t, would be the most horrific ending of all and if any showrunner has the guts to do it, it’s Vince Gilligan.
“Cespedes is going to catch fire here and we’re going to ride him all the way home to the promised land.”—Oakland A’s staring pitcher, A.J. Griffin, after Monday night’s 9-4 win over Toronto (as quoted in Susan Slusser’s SF Chronicle recap). Man, I hope he’s right. After consecutive 3 hit games, Yoenis has gone 1-9 in two straight A’s losses. With Cespedes playing somewhat horribly for the last two months the A’s have still managed to be good. But if he plays well, they have a chance to be special; if he doesn’t, they might be in trouble, despite their current record.
“…at a certain point, there needs to be an accounting for the fact that there is an ugliness that burbles beneath the surface of too many Comic-Con events, sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional. That’s not a task for the Con itself. It’s a task for nerd culture, and one that will require an earnest attempt to understand why this sort of ugliness rises up so often around women, lest all the nerd culture stereotypes prove unfortunately true.”—From “A Day Inside Comic-Con’s Hall H: Worshipping in the Ultimate Movie Church,”Todd VanDerWerff’s fantastic Grantland piece.
“Children prepare for a sea voyage with a toothbrush and a Teddy bear; they equip themselves for a trip around the world with a pair of odd socks, a conch shell, and a thermometer; books and stones and peacock feathers, candy bars, tennis balls, soiled handkerchiefs, and skeins of old string appear to them to be the necessities of travel, and Amy packed, that afternoon, with the impulsiveness of her kind.”—From John Cheever’s “The Sorrows of Gin.” I wonder if Wes Anderson had this in mind when he was creating the magnificent Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) for Moonrise Kingdom???
“It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact,” she said after the match. “Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.”—Marion Bartoli, in response to a BBC broadcaster’s on-air musings as to whether her father taught her to be “scrappy” because she was never going to be a “looker” (as quoted in Louisa Thomas’ Grantland piece). This is a perfect response to an amazingly stupid and insulting line of reasoning. A throat punching was clearly warranted, but this is even better.