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December 29, 2004

My Ten Favorite Films Of 2004

There were so many great films this year, I can't even remember the bad ones. A few exemplary efforts have been rather arbitarily and perhaps unfairly excluded from this list. But you know how top ten lists go, and while I may be bad with numbers, I'm not that bad.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:02 PM | Comments (10)

December 27, 2004

I was strolling through the West Village yesterday, on my way to the Film Forum, when it finally began to snow that wonderful sort of snow that depends as much on the architecture as the weather. So I didn't get a white Christmas, but a white birthday was just as good.

One more year until that Orson Welles/Citizen Kane watermark...

Christmas Day itself was spent ice skating in the park, followed by an afternoon viewing of The Life Aquatic, followed by dinner in the wine cellar of an Italian restaurant (the only place they could fit our whole family). Then I went home and read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which my sister recieved as a gift and which I quickly appropriated. It's a pretty fine novel, overall, and I'm glad Peter Jackson is going to direct it; it'll be a sister film, in many ways, to Heavenly Creatures, and a strong change of pace for him after all these terrific epics.

The cat is out of the bag. If you read all of my friends' blogs, then you know that the exciting news that I was alluding to the other day is that Deadroom (which is screening tonight in Dallas, isn't it?) will be having its festival premiere at the prestigious South By Southwest Film Festival. I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we head the news: someone finally wants to show our movie! And when that someone is a festival as prestigious as this one...well, it's as good a Christmas present as anything else, that's for sure.

Also, more stupifyingly, I've been invited to the Berlin Talent Campus on the strength of Drift, which I submitted when I applied in October. I'm still really surprised, when I actually stop to think about it; it's weird to finally be one of those people who gets accepted into this sort of thing. I guess I'm excited -- I am excited -- but it doesn't quite feel real.

But, unless there's a tragic series of retraction, I'll be heading to Germany in February and then down to Austin in March. 2005 should be a good travel year. Speaking of which, I need to figure out what I'm going to do here in NYC for New Years. Right now, though, I've got ten blocks to cover to get to a screening at the MoMA in half an hour.

Top ten (plus) list is coming up next...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:00 PM | Comments (5)

December 23, 2004

A quick note while I have the time:

There was snow on the ground when I landed, but it's since turned to freezing rain. Nonetheless...I love it here so much. Sorta like coming home, in a weird way.

To top it off, the night of my arrival, I got a call from Yen about something very exciting regarding Deadroom. For some reason, no one else has updated their blogs with the news. Perhaps we're holding off for some reason? I'll keep my lips sealed for the moment.

To top that off, I just checked my e-mail, in this cafe here off of Times Square, and I received an invitation to something technically (although not really) even more exciting. I actually don't really believe it (an e-mail is so insubstantial -- I would have expected a phone call), so I'll hold off on talking about that, too. Needless to say, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Only saw one film so far (The Aviator), but that'll change starting tonight.

More later. But in case I'm not back online before Saturday: a very, very Merry X-mas, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who reads this, and also to everyone who I wished would read it.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:51 PM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2004

One of the things I'll be doing in between movies in NY is coming up with an outline/script for this experimental short film thing I'm working on, so that I can officially start shooting it when I get back.

In the meantime, I'll sort of reveal the nature of the project. I cut a 40 second test sequence together, from footage I shot over the weekend. Click on the image below to view it (Quicktime 4 required, 4.1 MB, etc.). Let me know what you think...

...but all the pages were blank

P.S. If you don't have a monitor with proper gamma balance (i.e. an Apple LCD screen) this footage may seem a little dark. Ah, for a world in which all monitors were created equal...my brother's having a hell of a time creating accurate textures for his CGI short, since his dual monitor system is made up of his Apple Notebook's screen and a PC CRT monitor and each one displays things completely differently.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:13 PM

I'm leaving for New York early tomorrow morning. Current temperature there is reportedly minus six degrees, with no precipitation. It better snow on Saturday.

So I'll be there for two weeks with pretty much nothing to do but walk around and watch movies. First up, I'll probably catch The Aviator (finally), but that's about as mainstream as I'll go -- there are so many other wonderful cinematic opportunities that I'm going to have to pace myself. I'll be arriving at the tail end of several exciting engagements at the Film Forum (Godard, Wong Kar Wai, film noir series, all coming to an end tomorrow), but that's okay because it looks like the new MoMA has plenty of screenings to offer. Not to mention actually visiting the MoMA itself, which was closed when I was last there.

Actually, I hope to get some writing done too. Handwriting. It's a daunting notion.

I'll have internet access, so I'll still be updating (so that if I see Jim Jarmusch again and actually talk to him this time, I can brag about it) and checking my e-mail regularly and such (if anyone in Manhattan feels like hanging out, by all means, let me know).

And I have another post or two to make before I leave.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:04 PM

December 19, 2004

"...and you know, in the end, I think if it’s interesting you go with it." -- Wes Anderson gives a great interview concerning The Life Aquatic to Paste (via Green Cine).

I wonder if the last few chapters of Return Of The King appendices would be as emotional to a non-filmmaker as it was to me. The footage from the very last day of shooting, where Peter Jackson just keeps rolling on the last shot, completely unable to call "cut," is a legitimate tear-jerker. I could die perfectly happy if I had an experience like that to look back on, and with such an outstanding lasting accomplishment to live on through.

I'm sitting here burning Deadroom screener DVDs (various people and institutions have started asking for them) and listening to Christmas music. Christmas is such a sad time of year, in such a wonderful, inexpliable way. All this so-called joy and Christmas spirit always feels so bittersweet, and I think that's why love it.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:25 PM

Yen and I got together and watched several hours of short films last night, in the form of two anthologies: Three Extremes (2004), a horror triptych from Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan and Chanwook Park, and Ten Minutes Older (2002), a collection of 10 minute shorts from a slew of international directors, including Jim Jarmush, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Aki Kurasmaki and Spike Lee. Regarding this: how do so many great directors get together for an anthology like this without me hearing about it until last night? As far as temporally restrained shorts go, this was far more satisfying (and even, in the case of Herzog's entry, enriching) than the similarly themed Lumiere & Co., with which it shares a number of the same directors.

Regarding Three Extremes, Miike's section was not only the best -- it was also one of the best things he's ever done: a dream-like ghost story, told with a sense beauty and restraint that he's always hinted at in his other films but never fully explored. His film is the first in the series, and it sets a mark that the two other films can't match -- not that they necessarily try. Fruit Chan's entry, Dumpling, has received the most acclaim, and it's a decidedly morbid and fairly hilarious little tale that actually managed to legitimately shock me, to the point that I gasped aloud. It had some nice Chris Doyle cinematography, too. Park's section, though, was horrible. Between this and my mixed reaction to Oldboy, I think I can definitely say that I'm not a fan of his work. It's nice to be able to dismiss the hype, for once, rather than get caught up in it. And if the rumors are true, and Sam Raimi wants Park to remake Evil Dead -- well, first of all, there's no point at all in remaking Evil Dead but if he's got to do it, he's got the wrong Asian director: I thrill to think of what Miike would do with the property.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:33 AM

December 17, 2004

Terry Gilliam says: "Wait for the donkey."

Posted by David Lowery at 3:59 AM

December 16, 2004

I was up until six last night watching the Return Of The King appendices, and I think I'm about halfway through them now. I think I want to show all three of the LOTR documentaries to the crews of every movie I ever work on from now on, just to get people fired up; I can't get over how wonderful and dedicated and involved the entire cast and crew was, and if I can ever achieve a working environment like that on my projects, I'll be a happy director.

I didn't start watching them until about three -- I spent the previous eight hours or so working on more tests for my new short. The results just keep getting better, but it's killing my back. I need some sawhorses. I'm not planning on actually beginning 'principal photography' until after the holidays, but there's a lot of trial and error to get through before then. Thank god the sun sets around five now, since I can't start until after it's dark.

So that and a few other tasks have been taking up most of my creative time lately, and I haven't been writing as much I should be; my review for The Life Aquatic is sitting in a nearly completed state on my desktop, along with an unfinished short story and a few other odds and ends. I meet with James every Tuesday to work on his new script, though, and that's been coming along well. Our different perspectives on things becomes more evident as we go along; the other day, we were writing a scene in which a couple talk while lounging in bed, and in a detail as minor as where each person was phyiscally situated in the scene, the difference between our personalities became suddenly clear. My instincts told me to have one person sitting up, their back to the other; James's notion, suffice to say, was more romantically inclined. Things like that, which I often wouldn't give second thought to when writing something for myself, make me think about myself a lot and whether or not I'm more misanthropic than I generally think I am. Another variable was in how we each go about dealing with younger characters. The children I write are wide eyed and very quiet, curious but a little bit afraid; his are prety much the opposite. This becomes problematic when we're both taking turns writing the same 13 year old character. It also goes to show how much we unconsciously draw from ourselves when writing, and how even the things we (and I'm using an all-encompassing collective 'we' now) think we've come up with out of thin air are biographically rooted in ourselves.

I've been dreaming more vividly lately.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:27 PM

December 14, 2004

It's always nice when you can wake up, wipe the sleep from your eyes, shake off whatever bad dream you were having, and then realize that The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King: Extended Edition is at that very moment available in stores.

Also: Chuck has a new teaser trailer of sorts up for Blogumentary...

Posted by David Lowery at 12:00 PM

So we thought we had the final cut of our film...but actually, that may not be the case. Restless audiences have a tendency to do that, I imagine, although I don't think the audience was nearly as restless as we ourselves were.

While being restless, I wandered over to the record store and read a great interview with Jonathan Glazer in Filter Magazine. While looking for it online so as to link to it, I instead came across this fine little interview concerning the art of collaboration, with a focus on the particular confederacy of Wes Anderson and the interview's subject, Noah Baumbach.

Oh, you know how they say, concerning various art forms, that if you can reach one person...? Well, we reached one person. And that's just fine, since that one person is the person that he is. I feel vindicated. Still tortured, but vindicated.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:29 AM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2004

I can list my favorite albums of the year -- I'm pretty sure I won't be getting much more before Christmas. The soundtrack to my life has been:

Bjork - Medulla
Joanna Newsom - The Milk Eyed Mender
Elliot Smith - From A Basement On A Hill
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus
Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
Tom Waits - Real Gone
Wilco - A Ghost Is Born
The Arcade Fire - Funeral
Morrissey - You Are The Quarry
The two bootleg Fiona Apple songs

Followed closely by Want Two, Uh Huh Her, and Smile. And of course, this list only constitutes the stuff I bought/was given that was released this year.

Hmmm...looking at that list, I realize I didn't buy any hip hop this year; I think I'm missing out on some really good The Roots/De La Soul/Mos Def records.

And speaking of those two Fiona Apple songs, there are some extremely dedicated and zealous fans who need your help in pushing to get the new album released.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:49 PM

We met tonight for what I thought would be a Deadroom meeting full of concessions. I've pretty much accepted the fact that, as I wrote in an e-mail to the guys earlier today, this film may not "push our careers anywhere near as far as it has pushed us artistically." But the meeting was actually quite positive and productive, and it reminded me that there are many avenues we've yet to explore. Between that and the focus on all of our respective upcoming projects, it left me feeling quite optimistic; and now that I'm at home, working on more test footage that's leaving me positively ecstatic (all 2 seconds of it), all of our troubles feel like they've evaporated completely.

So I saw The Sea Inside on Tuesday, A Series Of Unfortunate Events on Wednesday, Spanglish and The Life Aquatic yesterday, Clint Eastwood's wonderful Million Dollar Baby today and will be seeing The Woodsman on Monday -- at which point I'll have seen all of the notable 2004 releases, except for The Aviator and The Phantom Of the Opera. Of those two, I'm pretty sure only the former might affect the top ten list I've alreay put together (and I'm really hoping it does). I've also missed out on a few screenings of notable foreign films like Moolade and Nobody Knows and Notre Music, but I don't know if I'll be able to catch those before the year is out. In any case, I'm on new movie overload at the moment, and it's only leaving me hungry for more.

In case you might have missed it: Tim Burton's back.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:51 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2004

So...while on the one hand, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou isn't Wes Anderson's best film, it is on the other hand his best film. Know what I mean? Good, I thought so.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:10 AM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2004

I went to a round table discussion this morning with the director of The Merchant Venice, Michael Radford, and its leading actress Lynn Collins. I saw her walking through the lobby of the hotel beforehand, and once again was struck by how film actors always seem so much smaller in person. I had the opportunity for a one-on-one interview with them, but turned it down because I haven't read the play and thought I might suffer from a dearth of good questions; but that probably wouldn't have mattered, as both director and star were very loquacious and forthcoming, and also eager to bring up all sorts of fascinating historical facts, the best of which was Ms. Collins explanation of how 16th Century Venetian whores would paint their nipples with blood to accent them. Delightful! I wonder if Al Pacino would have been so forthcoming.

I'm off to take a gander at some stop motion fish...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:22 PM

Early prediction for best film of next year: Terrence Malick's The New World. Watch the trailer. I never thought a tagline like 'Discover America' could be so haunting.

I bought some lights, lit the set and did some test shots for this new short film today. As rough as the footage turned out, it was obvious that it's working. I'm really excited all of a sudden. After some minor editing and color correction, I tried to render them out at 2K (i.e. 35mm film) resolution, and the image held up pretty well. Almost as clear as a 35mm frame. Meaning, I could transfer this to film when it's done (it'll be short enough that it won't cost a fortune) and it'll look pretty good. Of course, it'll take about a week to render the whole film at that size, and I actually don't know if there's much of a point to having a film print, but it's always nice to know have the possibility.

Hopefully, next week I'll be able to put something from it online, and it'll finally be clear what exactly it is that I'm working on (if it's not already). I still don't have a script -- but that's sorta kinda okay, I think.

(Unrelated: if you don't check out the Yahoo news wire at 4 in the morning, then you miss out on stories like this. I always thought there was something odd about Tintin.)

Today was a landmark day for my little sister (and Deadroom star/post-production supervisor). She wrote and sent her very first e-mail. This is what it said:

der dav will you play with me love anne

Posted by David Lowery at 3:34 AM

December 8, 2004

I've always had a problem with wanting to do everything on my films; I'm going overboard on this new 'little' project, to the point that I'm sewing the costumes by hand out of fabric cut from old clothing. I'm a terrible seamstress, but it's turning out great anyway.

My wisdom teeth are killing me, I'm tired, and I already wrote 20 pages of screenplay today with James, so I shouldn't feel guilty about going to bed now. But, as always, I do anyway. I'll leave you with Ebert's marvelous essay on Fanny And Alexander.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:15 AM

December 5, 2004

Last night Yen and I settled down for another extended viewing session. (First we watched Chan-Wook Park's mega-hyped revenge film Oldboy. The first half lived up to the furor, and I still smile when thinking about the one-take fight scene or (especially) the ant on the subway. The second half, though, just kept getting worse until I really just didn't care at all. We followed that up with Thomas Vinterberg's It's All About Love, which Strand Releasing is apparently FINALLY going to give a limited release in the US. It's an endlessly intriguing film that is frequently so vague that it ceases to be narratively compelling. Still, it's worth seeing, especially for the final shot. Even though it's incredibly non-commercial, i.e. frustrating, I don't understand why a film with Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn would have so much trouble getting released in the US, and why a niche distributor like Strand would be the only one to pick it up -- kudos to them for doing so, of course. Then we watched Bright Future by Kiyoshi Kursosawa. I really loved his thriller Cure and really disliked his ghost story Pulse, but this was something completely different -- a supremely simple, deceptively subtle story of an alienated young man. It's so lax in its pace that it verges on being boring now and then, but the viewer's patience is eventually rewarded in full when the full, slightly surreal scope of the film is revealed. It reminded me a lot of Ming-liang Tsai's What Time Is It There, although it isn't quite as good as that film.)

Then we arrived at the crown jewel of the evening -- the Hong Kong DVD of 2046. Sadly, we had already decided not to watch it. Online reports warned of a ridiculously bad transfer and audio quality, and there was no way to justify watching it under those conditions. We did watch the first two or three minutes, just to make sure the DVD was indeed of inferior quality (it was), and they were tantalizing. There's really no way to justify watching it on the small screen at all, except that no US distributor has picked it up yet and we're going to go crazy waiting for it.

Although I suppose that if we were to end up in Europe early next year for some reason (fingers crossed), we'd have the perfect oppportunity to see it...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:43 PM

December 3, 2004

Finished up the first half of a movie marathon this morning with Kinsey (really good, for a biopic) Beyond The Sea, (also pretty good for a biopic), A Love Song For Bobby Long (terribly sentimental, and I mean terribly), The Merchant Of Venice (very good if, like the play, you can get over the possibility that Shakespeare might have been pretty anti-semitic, and is that something one should be able to get over?) and Ocean's 12 (very Godardian). Technically, I could have fit more in within the 24 hour period over which I viewed these, but there comes a point where you'd rather not risk oversaturation. I won't remember what to write in my reviews. After a good night's sleep, the marathon will continue tomorrow at Yen's place with...well, it's an exciting assortment of imported titles, I'll just say that.

On a less exciting note, James has revealed a tiny bit more about our recent disappointment than I have. Also, Kat Candler posted something that I'm sure a lot of us can relate to at the moment. On the other hand, a big congratulations go out to Brian Poyser, director of Dear Pillow, for his nomination for an Independent Spirit Award! He watched Deadroom a few months back and, while he didn't like it, his honesty and lengthy critique was much appreciated, and I know it at least helped me get a fuller idea of the type of response we'll eventually get from the film. If anyone else ever actually sees it, of course.

I think I'll get some work on this film of mine done while listening to Herzog's commentary track on Fitzcarraldo before I go to sleep. Now there's an inspiring movie.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:24 PM | Comments (1)

December 1, 2004

Some location test shots from my untitled short-film-in-progress:

They may look too dark, depending on your monitor...

Posted by David Lowery at 9:12 PM | Comments (2)