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April 30, 2005

Tomorrow is May 1st. The final countdown officially begins, for me. You have no idea how excited I am, and will continue to become, despite myself.

darth.jpg

(That's a photo of my first Darth Vader action figure, one of my prized posessions. The head is a little messed up because I had a habit of chewing on it when I was a baby.)

I've bought my tickets. I'm listening to the soundtracks. I'm not dressing up like a Jedi (I did that once, for Phantom Menace - in high school, no less - and once was enough). I'm aware that at this point, even if I'm disappointed, it'll take a full week or so for the realization to hit. With that in mind, I went ahead and bought my tickets for the midnight show on the 18th - and then another one for the 8:30am show the following morning, for the first show of opening day. The best case scenario would find us getting back in line again later that afternoon. And by us, I mean myself and James, who is the only friend I have who shares this excitement. Everyone else sort of just laughs at us. Which is fine, I understand. But this is the last Star Wars movie - the last time I'll get worked up like this - and however I feel about the content of the films themselves, there's no escaping just how much the concept means to me.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:20 PM

April 29, 2005

You know, I don't think I've mentioned our esteemed leader and his policies since early November. I think I'll keep that trend going, especially since anything I might have to say at this particular moment has just been posted by Filmbrain, with more lucidity and wit than I might have managed.

In other news: Soderbergh just did something crazy! And possibly really cool. This won't be the last I have to say about this...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:43 AM | Comments (2)

April 28, 2005

I was paging through the last issue of Black Book the other day and came across an incredibly striking image: a human hand, with five dead mice worn on each finger - like finger puppets. The lower half of the mice had been cut off, and they appeared to be bleeding slightly where the fingers entered their torso.

It was an evocative and disturbing photograph, and it was the frontpiece of an article on Nathalia Edenmont, a Russian artist who has inspired much ire lately for her artwork, most of which involves animals, all of which Edenmont has slaughtered for the sole purpose of making art out of them. She claims that the killing is done humanely (I love that oxymoron), but that's irrelevant to the questions her work raise: is it ethical to kill animals for artistic purpose? It's the same predicament one finds when viewing the work of someone like Damien Hirst, whose art is undeniably powerful - undeniably artistic - but which is too troubling in its implications to wholeheartedly accept (if one can accept it at all). Marco Evaristti's infamous fish-in-a-blender exhibition falls somewhere within the same realm, although its intent is far more pointed and hence more valuable, (i.e. Evaristti's intent could have been to make martyrs of the fish), if not necessarily excusable.

There's also the interesting matter of degrees: Example A is acceptable, but Example B is not, and so forth. One can't condemn, say, Francis Ford Coppola in the same manner as Hirst because the slaughter of the oxen he depicted (in one of the grandest examples of juxtaposition in the history of cinema, no less) in Apocalypse Now was the byproduct of a native ritual that would have taken place had the cameras been there to capture it or not. Or Lars Von Trier, who purportedly found a donkey that was already going to be put down (by a vet) to provide a carcass fit for mastication in his upcoming Manderlay (the scene has been removed from the film, due to Von Trier's wariness over animal rights protests overshadowing the themes of the film - this, after John C. Reilly left the cast of the film over that issue). Where does one draw the line?

In my case - taking into account the fact that, as a vegan, my own opinion might be considered weighted - I cannot approve of Edmonton or Hirst's artwork, or the killing of an animal for the sole and explicit purpose of creating art, on a very basic moral level. But I also cannot dismiss it as art, and I cannot say I don't appreciate the aesthetics and underlying intent of the images. There was a quote in Black Book (I have to paraphrase, as I don't have the issue in front of me) that decried Edmonton's photography as "beautiful, but fascist," and I can think of no better way to describe it myself. Or consider Hirst's statement, that "you kill things to look at them." That's a cringe-worthy quote, but of course, we keep looking, and cringing, and looking.

PETA has waged protests against all of these artists, and rightly so. Edmonton has been fined and faced with other legal issues over her work; so was the curator who displayed the blender exhibit, although the charges were dropped; again, rightly so, at least by societal standards. There are those who would invoke censorship over exhibitions such as these, but I think the ethics of the matter are too grey (not on a personal level, of course, but overall) to venture into the troubing waters of censorship, or indeed to even make any sort of decree on the subject at all; the lack of respect shown towards animals in our culture is so overwhelming that one can't make any sort of ultimatum in just one category without risking hypocrisy in others.

I think death is a powerful, pertinent and important subject, and it can and should be utilized by artists - but this can be done without impatiently jumping to the killing floor. I've depicted 'found death' - animal cadavers I've just happened to come across - in both my films and photography; as long as one does this in a respectful manner, I see no real moral perplexitude in it. An ultimate example would be the work of Jeffrey Silverthorne, who takes literal 'still life' photographs - posing human bodies post mortem. His art is haunting, unsettling, beautiful. It is also - most importantly - respectful.

For your consideration:

View Nathalia Edmonton's most recent gallery exhibition; other work can be found through a Google search.

Damien Hirst's artwork can be found at his unofficial website.

View Jeffrey Silverthorne's Woman Who Died In Her Sleep here.

Examples of my own related work (relatively mild in comparison), as mentioned above, can be seen here, photographically, and here, cinematically.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:36 PM | Comments (5)

April 27, 2005

Ah, to be back home and penniless again. I always feel like I'm starting from scratch again after returning from film-related adventures. Until I can remind myself where I was and what I was working on when I left, I'm always sort of adrift.

But I think I'm back up to steam now (I've got other people's films to produce, after all). I've got some more substantial writing on the way (not counting my review of Melinda And Melinda), both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, here are a few links of note:

1. From a student newspaper, a very well meaning but unintentionally humorous article on our lecture at the Texas Film Festival earlier this month - humorous primarily for the mis-spelling of one of our recommendations.

2. Slate.com on the Fiona Apple album leak. There have been other articles written about this, saying much of the same thing, but this is one is the most substantial.

3. Yen's Philly journal.

4. Moriarty's excellent account of his visit to the set of Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride. I had to skip a lot of it for spoiler reasons, but I was interested to learn that the animation is being recorded via digital still cameras. Just like my film! Only with a difference of large handful of megapixels per frame.

Speaking of that film - I managed to finish three shots between returning from Berlin and leaving for SXSW, and only last night did I finally hit the switch on all the lights, dust off the set and get back to work. By the time I finish it (hopefully by late May), it'll have been so long since I began it that it'll end up being pretty anticlimactic. But at least it'll be done - and (I think) done well. I have about three seconds of footage en route between the camera's memory card and my hard drive as I write this, all ready to be imported into FCP and animated...

Posted by David Lowery at 12:57 AM

April 25, 2005

The ballot results from the Philadelphia Film Festival put our audience exit scores at 3.65 out of 5. Not too bad at all, all things considered. Of all the firsthand positive reactions we received, the best would have had to be the fact that one gentleman liked the film enough to actually pay to see it twice.

All in all, I think it's safe to say that if our festival run is over (and I hope it's not, of course, but you never know), we went out on a really high note - the folks we caught sneaking out of the first screening notwithstanding (people always leave, but it's funny and awkward when you catch 'em in the act).

I'm sure the other guys will have their own stories and insights. And since Nick doesn't have a blog, I'd like to invite him to relate, in the comments section below, the thrilling story of how he discussed the finer points of good guacamole with Malcom McDowell. The table is yours, my friend.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:55 PM | Comments (2)

April 24, 2005

The best individual moment of our soiree the other night was when I took a moment to realize that there were three conversations simultaneously going on - one in English, one in French, and the other in Cantonese. Geoffroy is in the wine business, so there was no shortage of social lubrication, and many of us were in the (indpendent) film business, so there was no shortage of discussing what would be or what should be or what Tori Spelling is like in person. At one point, we went up on the roof of the building and looked at the city, drenched in a fog that was still there at 6am the next morning when I went with Yen to the bus station that would return him (and, subsequently, me) to the Philadelphia airport, and which didn't disipate until long after I took a walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, hoping to see a sunrise that took place behind that far more lyrical wall of gray condensation. It felt like October.

Yen's as good a cook as he is a filmmaker, by the way.

I saw Melinda And Melinda the night before I left Dallas the other week; it was good, but even better was seeing Woody Allen in Central Park on Thursday, taking an afternoon stroll with Soon Yi. I should have invited them to our party - theirs would have been a declination to cherish!

Posted by David Lowery at 5:17 PM | Comments (3)

April 22, 2005

The Canne lineup this year is remarkably drool-worthy. And trailers for the films on the list have begun to surface. Von Trier's Manderlay looks good, but really excites me is this French site for Van Sant's Last Days. The trailer is a bit obscure(d), but it fits in perfectly with the really beautiful design of the site. Here's hoping that the film will be the third consecutive masterpiece for Van Sant.

Speaking of my favorite American auteurs and Cannes: there's no trailer yet for Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, but given the level of secrecy he's maintained thus far, I suppose the revalation of the title is enough for now.

I went to the Met to see the Diane Arbus exhibition yesterday, as soon as I got into town; it was fantastic, and the Max Ernst retrospective that was also on display was a nice surprise. Today, I think I might catch some Harold Lloyd at the Film Forum. And then Yen is throwing a sure-to-be-fabulous dinner party for some of our NYC friends (including Jessica and Geoffroy, whose lovely pad we're crashing at - Jessica was involved in Deadroom at one point, before she moved out East, and is featured in the ancient teaser trailer we shot a year before the movie).

I imagine the only way I'll ever stop romanticizing this city is to actually move here.

Posted by David Lowery at 9:07 AM

April 20, 2005

I forgot to mention: the coolest thing about our screenings was that Ti West, director of the brilliant horror film The Roost, was in the audience the first night, and his sound designer Graham Reznick dropped by for the subsequent show. We met both of them in Austin, and they mentioned there that they'd try to make it to our Philadelphia screenings, since they didn't live too terribly far away. And sure enough, they showed up. It was great to see them again, and it meant a great to deal to us to have their support - they're both incredibly talented guys.

The festival is pretty much over. There's a closing night party tonight, and then we're heading off to New York in the morning. I had a dream last night that a freak snow storm preceded our arrival.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:55 AM

April 19, 2005

Out of the 200 something films screening at the Philadelphia Film Festival, I managed to catch a grand total of...nine.

The best: Miranda July's Me And You And Everyone We Know. Also file under: top ten material. Meeting Miranda was another high point of the festival.

The craziest: Miike's Izo, which was thirty of forty minutes too long but still pretty swell.

The film with the most incredibly erotic pregnant sex scene I've ever seen (actually, the only pregnant sex scene I've ever seen): Off Beat (the director's name slips my mind at the moment).

The festival will be posting ballot results in the next day or so, so we'll see exactly what percentage of people hated Deadroom. James' theory, which seems to be upheld by the way the Q&A sessions have always gone, is that 25% of any given audience will love it, 25% will hate it, and 50% will find it "interesting." We know the people that love it really love it because they stay to discuss the film with us for at least thirty minutes after we all get kicked out of the theater so that the next screening can begin. It never fails.

I'll leave you now with a link to my, and Nick's, first appearance in a Society column. I believe James and Malcom McDowell were somewhere to our left when the picture was being taken...

Posted by David Lowery at 11:57 PM

For a moment there, I thought I might give up this whole thing. Not filmmaking, of course. Just blogging.

But that moment's passed, and I'm back.

Highlight of today (aside from our great second screening on the East Cost): getting the chance to ask Steve Buscemi about the progress of his adaptations of William Burrough's classic novels Queer and Junky. They're coming along, he said.

More highlights to come, once I have time to backtrack...

Posted by David Lowery at 1:32 AM

April 11, 2005

But you know, what I really like are monsters...

Posted by David Lowery at 3:43 AM | Comments (1)

April 10, 2005

This new Werner Herzog film, Wild Blue Yonder, sounds amazing. In its focus on cultural assimilation, it almost seems to be a science fiction extension of Herzog's piece for the Ten Minutes Older anthology.

In more personal news, a side effect of this prolonged illness may in fact be that I'm cured of my addiction to caffeine. That said, I wonder how much a cup of coffee might speed up my convalescence.

At the very least, it might have certainly helped when I stumbled, like "a man in the depths of an ether binge," into Fed Ex the other night to attempt to mail an application package to...somewhere...I don't...remember...

Posted by David Lowery at 9:40 PM

April 9, 2005

Sometimes your friends write things that make everything you write seem a little beside the point.

Which is the reason links were invented.

Meanwhile, at GreenCine, David Hudson writes:

How to review a friend/acquaintance's film? Straight-ahead honesty is the most helpful approach, as Matt Clayfield demonstrates. Flaws are noted, unflinchingly, but in the end: "Deadroom is one film by four directors, not four films by four directors, and that's at once both its greatest strength and its most subtle and effective of its charms."

Excellently said on both counts.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:08 PM | Comments (2)

April 8, 2005

It's that time of year that invariably finds me filling out grant applications, fellowship applications, workshop applications, budget forms, production outlines, etc. For the past two years, these have all involved Deadroom, and its a sign of (my) times that all the projects I'm pushing this year are as brand new as they are numerous (three features, one short, and that's just of the ones I want to direct). As I've mentioned before, deadlines are fast approaching, and practically speaking, I need to have all these materials in the mail before I leave town next Friday.

So of course, I had to get the flu this week.

As if spending 21 of the past 24 hours in some stage of passive delerium wasn't enough - I'm now going back to bed.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:58 AM | Comments (4)

April 6, 2005

Along with David Hudson, Al Franken and a host of others, I was the recipient of a copy of Chuck's Blogumentary back at SXSW last month. I just now finally got around to watching it. My thoughts:

The first quarter of the documentary is a fine primer on the blogosphere; intended, perhaps, for the unitiated. Then Chuck moves onto several case-in-point stories, such as the whole Trent Lott takedown, and (most compellingly) an extended sequence on embedded reporter/blogger Stuart Hughes. There's also a terrific chronicle of Howard Dean's blog-fueled rise and fall that infuriated me all over again.

Where it really starts to get good, though, is when Chuck's camera comes off the tripod, turning it on his closer friends, his girlfriend Lori (who starts a blog in response to the whole Dean fiasco, and who is also seen drinking Silk vanilla soymilk and using Apple computers - what a killer combo!), and himself (when, at the end, he accidentally deletes his blog). Just as one of the most thrilling aspects of blogs is the possibility of personal introspection unavailable in standard journalism, Blogumentary gets really good (and interesting as a film) when Chuck's life starts to creep in around the edges of his reporting.

But then, suddenly, it's over. In a recent post, Chuck wistfully noted the critique of one gentleman who took the film as a work in progress. I'm afraid I'm of the same opinion: while I do think the film could be a little tighter, both visually and sonically, I also think it shouldn't end when it does! How about a version 2.0, Chuck?

Although in many ways, since all the original material in the documentary is registered under a Creative Commons license, the torch has been passed. Perhaps you think the Stuart Hughes or Howard Dean sequences would make good feature documentaries all by themselves (and they certainly would) - well, go ahead and make it, and use the footage Chuck has shot as your jumping point. This is the first Open Source Documentary; Chuck has taken the first step in ensuring that future documentarians won't have to go through the same rights hassles that are currently blocking the release of his film, in its current state.

I'd help out by passing my copy around to interested parties, but somehow I managed to crack the DVD while re-inserting it into its case. Way to go, me.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:08 PM | Comments (5)

April 5, 2005

More of the same, yet very different, possibly better, either way another must-read: another take on the same Fountain set visit, via those lovely Suicide Girls (by way of GreenCine).

Posted by David Lowery at 11:40 PM | Comments (1)

Moriarty has his on-set report from The Fountain online at AICN, and it's the best glimpse at the film yet. Particularly tantalizing information include the contributions of macro-filmmaker Peter Parks; the description of Hugh Jackman's head cast; the producers explanation, by way of Kubrick, of the studio's dedication to Aronofsky's vision; and a hint at a contribution to the soundtrack from David Bowie, along with Bowie's original influence on the project (which makes me feel like I'm almost - but not quite - treading on Aronofsky's toes with Drift.) Anyway, it's a must-read.

I mentioned in the comments that I'd type up some of my notes for the workshop James and I gave last week (scrawled in my Strand journal en route to the festival). Here are two portions that I know actually made it into the panel (which was and remains a bit of a blur):

When one looks at art, the experience should be both reactionary and reflective - the reaction should give way to the reflection. What most mainstream movies do is function on a completely reactionary level - and the worst ones don't even offer that, providing instead a rather hypnotic (here my train of thought must have outpaced my pen, because the sentence abruptly ends, continuing with a new idea)...
In many ways, I hate the term art film; it is too exclusive, too separative. Film, after all, is inherently an art form. But it is one that has been marginalized by commercial concerns, so that we now have this term to celebrates the presence of what should be commonplace. It is important for both audiences and filmmakers to recognize the artistic nature of film - to embrace it- and to cultivate both a marketand a product that does not supercede integrity for commercialism.

Elsewhere on the page, I have several arrows pointing to brief explanation on the subjectivity of our ideas, the importance of films as a form entertainment, the value of critical thought, and lists of directors and films that should be sought out, viewed, and, above all, enjoyed. In the middle of the page, I've written the question: so why do you do it? But that's actually an idea for a line of dialogue for a screenplay.

And that's basically what we talked about for ninety minutes.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:46 AM | Comments (2)

April 4, 2005

I'm back home now, with a two week respite until what is for now the last festival in this current slew of screenings. Hopefully some of the fests that recently asked for screeners will like the film enough to give us more reasons to travel throughout the rest of the year. But if not, hey, it was a good run - and hey, we won the Best Narrative Feature award in the Director's Choice category at the Texas Film Festival this weekend, which was pretty surprising/pleasing. A huge thanks to the directors in question is in order, for recognizing what the film for what it is (or almost is) and inflating our egos throughout the closing night party (which we were late to because we got caught up watching Hellboy in the hotel room).

A few more words about the festival: one of my favorite things about it, aside from the awesome people who ran it, was the proliferation of international films they screened, especially in the shorts category. There were some really oustanding efforts from around the world; they should call it the Texas International Film Festival. Also, on the last day, I saw one really amazing short film from Texas called Termination, directed by Paul Alvarado Dykstra, which was a prizewinner at SXSW last month - and very deservedly so. It was just about perfect, and in that perfection I found it quite inspiring. Paul had some very good things to say on the war stories panel, too - while I, on the other hand, managed to ramble aimlessly, as per usual.

So yes, a two week respite now - that will be filled with all manner of me trying to meet deadlines. I spent the day before I left frantically touching up the last act of Henry Lee, after having finished that Drift rewrite, and I'll be continuing on that today, along with trying to finish up those two short film scripts that are both only five pages long so far.

I'm also in the process of downloading Matt's new short. Also of interest (and great relief) are the contents of his post dated Sunday, April 03.

POSTSCRIPT: it was at the closing night party that we heard about the Pope's death. Although I'm not a practicing Catholic, it certainly struck me as a momentous, palpable passing; just as seeing him greet the crowds at Saint Peter's in Rome a few years ago was notably impressive in a larger-than-life sense. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Church in his wake.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:38 AM | Comments (1)

April 2, 2005

Rodriguez's latest was both as good as I had hoped and as bad as I expected; which isn't to say I didn't like it. But the comics are works of art, and the film, as beautiful an imitation of that art as it is, is still just an imitation; there is a loss inherent to such slavish adherence. More on all that, though, when I write up a full review next week.

Here's how cool this film festival is: Lauren, our chaperone-abou-town, is doing my laundry for me.

I spoke to Nick a few hours ago. He's down at the Ozone Film Festival with Yen at the moment. Their first screening of Deadroom was this evening, and it was an odd sort of success; I'm sure Yen can provide more details on his blog when he returns. The second screening will be occurring tomorrow at 5:00 - precisely when the one at the Texas Film Festival begins. Which means, via the magic of cell phones, all four of us will be able to be present at the Q&As in both states. It's going to be confusing as hell, but we're going to try it anyway. And once that's over, the closing night party will commence...

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the Ozone festival will be having a midnight screening of Fulci's astounding masterpiece The Beyond. I'm going to kill my co-directors if they don't go to see it.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:51 AM | Comments (1)

April 1, 2005

The week continues. The movies don't start until about three or four every day; thus, we've ended up spending a lot of time in our hotel room, watching films on television (The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad was on this morning!). This is precisely the reason why I don't have cable TV at home. This is precisely the reason I hate TV, in general. I'm not getting anything done.

We spent some time with Brett Ingram today, whose brilliant documentary Monster Road we saw last night. Then we watched the Student Academy Award Winners from last year, which included the brilliant Danish short Between Us, which probably won't be topped as the best of the fest thus far, (certainly not by our film). Then we went to the bar. I now know the meaning of the term 'party town.' And to think that it's not even the weekend yet...

A few quick links found via my rushed late night blog perusings:

Bjork!

Bergman retrospective!

Congratulations!

Also, there's a mildly interesting discussion forming (or perhaps dying) in the comments section two posts down.

First thing tomorrow morning: Sin City.

Why do I have the feeling that James is writing about the very same things I am at this very moment?

Posted by David Lowery at 3:17 AM