Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Noticed a few pals on Facebook had changed their profiles to green squares. Why? I think it’s well explained in this Hollywood Reporter article. Basically, the company that did the visual effects for Life of Pi has filed for bankruptcy. Despite winning the Oscar for their work in Pi, the company has fallen apart and won’t get the well-deserved chance to parlay that success into future projects. The film’s director, Ang Lee, was quoted on the subject along the lines of wishing visual effects could be made cheaper, which set off much of the anger online from various VFX artists. Why can’t movie stars–basically glamorous puppets–be cheaper? What about directors…grossly overpaid and still having the balls to take possessory credit for a film they couldn’t possibly make by themselves? And little attention is given to studio executive salaries (which in many cases make actors look impoverished) because, well, the public doesn’t see them enough in front of the camera to care. It’s easy to see why the artists are pissed off, their amazing efforts being cheapened by Hollywood greed.

But I think this goes waaaaaay beyond what happened with these VFX folks. Artists in general have always been among the first to be screwed in all the entertainment industries–except for those actors with the best agents, I suppose. We musician folk have been struggling with crappy pay, royalties that pay higher for vocals than they do for instrumentals and producers looking for the cheapest possible music and sound for their projects…FREE if possible.

Screenwriters? Yeah, they’re paid fantastic money–if the script is actually bought. If the script is actually put into production. But that money still pales in comparison to what the glamorous puppets, the director and various executives get. Why?

Because there’s always another asshole willing to do it cheaper, if not for free.

I remember being at a GDC lecture a few years back and sure enough, another voice in the crowd tried to plead his case that doing work for free was a great way to build experience, connections and credibility. Sure, if you’re doing an indie project where everyone is involved from the ground floor and sharing the success equally. But that’s the exception more than the rule. The majority of projects involve someone paying to get their goods produced. As long as someone is willing to do it for half of minimum wage or less, those producers will always have the upper hand and arts as an industry, whether it’s music, vfx or whatever, will continue to evolve backwards into a sort of hobbyist profession.

I have no idea how to solve the problem. I’m back in school studying Business Marketing in hopes of getting a little more business sense into my game. But I don’t think that’s going to allow me to charge more for my creative services when I’m finished. Right now it seems more like backup skills in the job market as I wrestle with the growing truth that even if I score the ultimate, high paying audio or writing gig it doesn’t mean anything for the long term. There’s always going to be someone else in the wings hoping to cut me out of the loop, offering the same thing for cheaper.

Solve that problem and we might get closer to that respect instead of further away from it.


Read Full Post »

I just watched Bulworth for the first time last night. I watched five minutes of it when it first came out on video, but that was because my parents were watching it when I came home from work. I was always interested in checking it out, but it just slipped off the radar until last week, when I saw the chance to lock it into my DVR.

Then I put off watching it for another couple weeks. Being a political film from 1998, what if it’s stale or dated? I’ve got episodes of Robot Chicken to catch up on! But there was nothing on during my dinner last night so I decided to give it a few minutes…and ended up watching the whole thing.

What struck me was how relevant the subject matter is fifteen years later. Yeah, some of Warren Beatty’s raps were a bit tired, but you could argue they were supposed to be cliched to begin with because he’s a sixty-year-old white congressman trying to freestyle. But telling the African American church their issues would be ignored because they don’t pay Democrats or Republicans enough to care was funny…and uncomfortably true.

Talking about health insurance companies making our health care a nightmare, suggesting the only solution is socialized medicine…an argument that has only gotten stronger in the fifteen years since this film was released.

It’s not a perfect film. I agree with Roger Ebert’s comment, “Bulworth is not a perfect movie, nor could it be. It’s too messy and takes too many risks.” But here I am a day after watching it, jotting down some thoughts in my blog that no one will read! And Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four.

Warren Beatty is a stud. An actor/filmmaker of his success and stature making a film attacking high profile establishments is ballsy and RARE. Where the heck has he been? Sure, the documentary film industry has exploded in my years since film school, filmmakers getting their visions out there in every place from Youtube to Sundance, but most of those only succeed in finding their niche audience (Michael Moore being the rare exception to the rule, a strongly opinionated documentary filmmaker who is profitable). You think we’ll ever see, say, Johnny Depp or Jennifer Aniston fronting a major Hollywood release that calls out the ineptitude of our political parties? Probably not because the higher authorities behind the scenes would never bankroll much less distribute such a film. And even if they did you’d find various political windbags (bankrolled by various corporate entities) breaking a sweat to condemn them.

The only* notable Hollywood figure who regularly gets strong political views in the mainstream is Aaron Sorkin, the man behind The Newsroom, a show that’s been a bit hit and miss for me, but I appreciate what it’s trying to accomplish. Sorkin was one of the co-writers of Bulworth. Respect for a guy who has never been afraid to put his political views to paper even in the early stages of his writing career

*Totally freestyling this blog post. Feel free to call me on my BS in noting exceptions I’ve missed!

Read Full Post »

A post for the filmmakers out there…

Haven’t been much of a blogger lately because I’ve been working! But I posted a question on one of my linked in groups and I wanted to pass the thread along because I’ve gotten some great responses. I’m working on a short film with a bunch of different background rumblings based on where the scenes were shot. Voiceovers have one roomtone while the action in the room has another…and other shots for the same scene were shot at another time so those sound different, etc.

Got some cool pros to engage on how to handle this stuff. Check out the discussion.

Read Full Post »

I remember being a kidlet, movie fan, worshiping all things Lucas and Spielberg–when it was all about Han Solo and Indiana Jones. I took my movie geekdom even further by telling classmates which movie studios they should invest in based on their upcoming summer releases. We’re talking a 12-year-old in the mid-80s who sucked at math and had no idea how the stock market worked. But I was hitting up the local video store at least five nights a week on average, keeping up with every new release, slasher film and teen sex comedy I wasn’t supposed to see. I KNEW which films were going to be big.

Well, not any better than the average movie buff–which is pretty much anyone with Comcast and/or Netflix.

I’m trying to figure out how old I was when I realized which films truly made an impact on society or the world. I’m talking an impact that we still feel to this day, such as when we randomly bust out our favorite movie quotes or discuss the films we can watch at any time, any hour. If it shows up on the telly, the remote gets put back on the table. Obviously it’s a question that not everyone will ever agree on, but there are those films where you say the name and everyone–whether they like it or not–remembers it, recalls the impact they felt first seeing it.

When I was a kid those films were easy to name: Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Later in college, suffering through the Film Studies program at UC Santa Barbara* I realized the beauty of Hitchcock and Rear Window, Blade Runner, Gene Kelly and Singing in the Rain. Foreign Films, as they carved out identities explicitly different from the Hollywood Machine. As I cruise further into the grown up years (still obsessed with Fun Dip) I find the writing more important than ever. I want characters having witty conversations, doing smart things–or at least, understandable to their characters. And if things blow up or a supermodel runs by in slow motion I’m cool with that as long as the writing is there.

What’s my point? Look at the list of all time worldwide box office grosses, as found here at Box Office Mojo

1 Avatar
2 Titanic
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
5 Toy Story 3
6 Alice in Wonderland (2010)
7 The Dark Knight
8 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
9 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
10 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

The most profitable films in history. This is a terribly subjective subject. Obviously ticket prices are way different now, more people wait for video, pirate it, etc. But still, a great film is a great film. Even bad ones generally achieve profit through continued exposure on cable, so it seems the current state of mainstream films is that all of them make a profit, but obviously not all of them are good. How many of the films in the above list do you think will stand the test of time? Which ones have you brought up with your fellow movie buffs in discussion, something along the lines of, “Yeah, just like in that film…” then you start exchanging your favorite quotes?

Avatar? Sort of the Napoleon Dynamite of box office champs. Everyone saw it, some loved, some hated. I thought it was cool, but like Lucas’s latest three Star Wars films I was happy to see it once and leave it at that. A great film draws you back to it again and again. You pick up details you missed the first time around (FIGHT CLUB???) The familiar dialogue still moves you. The scene you know is coming still puts a smile on your face even though you’ve seen it a dozen times. Is there anything in that list that succeeds in that?

Titanic? Blew me away. I remember sitting in the theater as the credits were rolling, thinking…wow…Just wow. But reflecting on the film now I only recall the swell yet formulaic love story.

The rest of this list is merely sequels or adaptions of books. Doesn’t make them bad films–I loved Toy Story 3 and The Dark Night for starters. Am I biased towards the idea of classic films being original works? Looks like it. Return of the King was fantastic, as it bloody well should have been, considering the source material. Maybe that predictability on my end creates the bias? Either way, the truly great films that stand the test of time on this list are more anomalies.

Let’s check out the all time box office films adjusted for inflation, thanks to Box Office Mojo again…

1 Gone with the Wind
2 Star Wars
3 The Sound of Music
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
5 The Ten Commandments
6 Titanic
7 Jaws
8 Doctor Zhivago
9 The Exorcist
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The differences between these two lists is striking! Gone With the Wind came out 72 years ago. No cable or video games back then, so perhaps it benefits as a blockbuster because of that, but it’s success even by today’s standards is still amazing! I know, folks in 1939 didn’t have video games or Comcast to distract them, but surely they had many other activities available to them, and yet they still made the effort to see THIS film!

Star Wars? Darn right it should be in the top ten! I’ve been teaching the main theme to my guitar students for years and I can only recall a couple students who DIDN’T know it–and that was because they were under six. Like it or not (and I find much of the dialogue cheesy as hell as I get older–yet still love it) you can’t deny the film’s impact.

Sound of Music? Torture I had to sit through on countless holidays, but there it is, playing on the tube AGAIN! It’s a classic.

All the films on this list have some place in film history that transcends box office grosses. They achieved some sort of impact, be it among fans who still love watching three dudes battle a shark or Snow White and her impact on animated film. Go further down this list and the anomalies are reversed from the previous list. Avatar is #14, between Ben Hur and Return of the Jedi**. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is #20, between The Graduate and Fantasia!

What is it about the top grossing films in the first list that is lacking from the second? Or maybe the question is WHY do the films in the first list fail to achieve in a way the second list does? I’m not even sure what I’m asking, but the situation plagues me! 😉

*Had to use the word SUFFERING! Go ahead, tell me how useful that degree is in the real world. Not that I don’t appreciate the diploma… 🙂

**Yes, a sequel…but can I argue that it was an amazing one that went so much further than the first? Or do I reserve that honor for The Empire Strikes Back, which is #12 on the list?

Read Full Post »

I haven’t seen many of the Oscar nominated films this year other than the obvious Toy Story 3 and Inception, one of which should win but will probably lose for reasons lacking common sense. Also saw The Kids Are All Right, which I’ll complain about below, but I don’t want to complain about what was nominated yet, I want to chew them out over what they overlooked*.


I watched this a week ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. I know it wasn’t marketed properly, but a film that is directed this well, written this well and acted this well should have gotten proper recognition anyway.

This whole film takes place inside a coffin where Reynolds’ character is trapped, held for ransom by terrorists. No flashbacks, no scenes of the other characters he talks to on the cellphone left inside. Rodrigo Cortez rocks his directing chores, maintaining a constant sense of claustrophobia, creative use of light and darkness, pushing the many ways you can explore this premise under such a restriction. I was never bored, not for a second.

Ryan Reynolds…cool actor, liked Van Wilder, can’t stomach the romantic comedies, though he’s never at fault in them. But after this role the guy is an acting stud in my book. Give him more roles like this!

Now for the SPOILERS…turn your eyes back to the top of the screen NOW!

The ending of Buried. I hate it. After 90 minutes of one brutal defeat after another I can’t help wonder if a happy ending would have given this film a better buzz, better box office and ultimately the Oscar noms it deserves. We moviegoers like to see our heroes beat down mercilessly yet ultimately prevail–that’s a quality roller coaster ride. For Reynold’s character to take that beating and STILL ultimately get screwed is a big letdown.

But at the same time I feel…respect for the actual ending. Dammit! This film had the guts to release the Kraken and go for broke, a complete, epic failure for the film’s hero. I don’t want this ending, but I can’t deny it’s a realistic outcome of the circumstances. It almost defeats my selfish need for a Hollywood-style ending.

Now I’ll complain about one of the Best Picture nominees I’ve seen, The Kids Are All Right. Good film, great actors, interesting story. I enjoyed it, OK? But who wants to explain to me why it deserves to be among the top films of the year?** I’ve got my Mom’s killer chili recipe. I love it, make it a few times a year, but there’s nothing unique or gourmet about it to justify awards. Yeah, I just compared an Oscar film to my Mom’s chili–you know I’m right! The Kids Are All Right is a great example of quality storytelling and well fleshed out characters***. Buried is a unique film across the board. Reynolds, Garcia and writer Chris Sparling created a great character restricted to a coffin for the entire film. Isn’t that a worthy achievement for a nomination, at least?

I mean, those two films are nothing similar, but if you’re going to pick ten films for best picture I would have considered switching those two.

Oh yeah…the comparison to 127 hours, another guy trapped in a tight place. Looks cool, but I haven’t seen it and I’ve already made a fool of myself going off on these other two films. 😉

*MANY things, by the way! Tron: Legacy and Scott Pilgrim vs the World should have EASILY gotten visual fx nominations, regardless of whether you liked the films–REGARDLESS!

And Daft Punk should have been tagged for their Tron Score as well…great stuff.

**In THIS country, by the way. If you aren’t keeping at least your pinky on the pulse of world cinema you’re missing out on some great stuff. Deal with the subtitles, you wimps!

***Julianne Moore and Annette Benning should have gotten a shared nomination. If they win they get to saw the trophy in half or each get a mini statue. But to nominate one over the other in this case is really lame.

Read Full Post »

I see a Craigslist ad last week, a short film needs some sound editing. I send them my link and get an email a few days later saying they liked the film on my site and think I would be a good person for the project. So I call this team up on the phone and talk details.

They need sound editing AND music for a twenty minute short.

I tell them my rate is $60 a minute (though I reviewed their ad later, which said they’d pay $500), but this biz is all about negotiation, more interested in building the resume than shaking them down for cash, so I stress that’s a starting point, not an rigid demand.

They tell me they’re trying to figure out how to compress the short (currently in five sections) into a format they can email for me to check out. They don’t know how to send large files like this, so I suggest yousendit.com because it lets you email up to 100 meg files. They say COOL…will send film for me to look at in the morning.

I don’t hear back for a few days, so I send a followup, asking if they are able to send the files. She gets back to me, saying they got a bid for $300 and that the compressed version of the film they “could” send was really crappy and “they don’t want to work that way.”

[Slaps hand into forehead]

First, I can see $300 for a little music or just the sound editing. But BOTH for a twenty minute short??? Freakin’ amateur filmmakers…know they need professional help, but don’t want to pay for it.

Second, the sound is independent of the image, dolts! As long as I can see what’s happening onscreen I can compose 24 bit music and sound for a “crappy” picture that you can import into your finished, crystal clear 24 bit DVD.

I could see whipping out some music for $300, but sound editing is laborious, time consuming! Crossfading pops & clicks, filtering out undesirable sounds–if they can even be removed. Adding the right ambient sounds (foley) and making them fit into the soundtrack. I like doing it, but I like making music more. Both on the same film? By the time I’m done I could have made more money working at Starbucks.

I’m writing this blog instead of sending hate mail, but I’ve got a tab open with the mouse arrow over the send button. HELP ME!!!

Read Full Post »

OK, it’s not *my* work exactly. I worked with director Ole Goethe on his short film last year, A Man to Hug & Kiss. I handled a bunch of sound editing duties, adding footsteps, environment sounds, cars driving by in the background…those little things you don’t notice unless they’re not present!

Ole got his film into the Sacramento International Film & Music Festival. A Man to Hug & Kiss is playing along with several other shorts on July 31st. If you’re in the area you should stop by and scream at the end of the film how amazing the sound editing was!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »