« April 2005 | Main | June 2005 »

May 31, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, I recently found my first experimental film.

Well, not really my first - I just wanted to paraphrase that line from Hedwig And The Angry Inch because I'm listening to the soundtrack. But I was going through an old hi8 tape from the months after I bought my very first camcorder in 1997 (which I used until I made Ghostboy two years later), before I'd ever written a feature length screenplay, right after I turned sixteen, when pretty much everything I made was experimental. I don't generally understimate myself (did I really just say that?), but I was really surprised with the quality of some of the content. I'm not saying it was good - there are plenty of reasons I'll never show it to anyone - but this was back in the days when I didn't really know much about film; Lost Highway had just come out and I'd just become obsessed with Lynch, I think I'd seen one Godard film, maybe some Fellini; but I knew none of the film theory, history or technical skills that I know now. But there's still some really wonderful stuff there - stuff I have no memory of, and which surprised me completely. An assured sense of form, of pace, of personal style. It gave me reassurance (which I need now and then) that this whole adventure hasn't been based on a house of cards; that there's something inate to it, that goes beyond everything I've learned, perhaps. Watching this tape, I felt a rather overwhelming sense of relief.

Of course, if the 16 year old me saw the 24 year old me, he'd be pretty upset. I am pretty upset a lot of the time, actually.

The best clip from the tape was a sequence of randomly juxtaposed, non-sequential shots of me in various overwrought action-movie poses, prop gun in hand (I assume it was shot by my friend Adam, who was my partner in art at the time). Then the harsh pacing changes as, inexplicably, I sit down and wrap my head up in masking tape, twisting my face into a grotesque contortion. Then I walk away, and that's the end of it. And it's wonderful.

firstexperiment.jpg

There are a lot of other things on the tape, like a spider killing a caterpillar in my garage and me bleeding after cutting myself shaving, and then a long narrative sequence of my friend Ben waking up, driving and getting a midnight cup of coffee. I vaguely remember making that one, and I think it was potentially going to be the beginning of something longer, and the footage was shot to be edited. Looking at it now, paradoxically, the long takes of the passing scenery out the window and the passages in which nothing extraordinary happens perfectly reflects my current sensibilities.

I was talking to James the other day about how I think it's best to be able to act on instinct when making films, but that it's equally important to be able to back that instinct up later with an analytical explanation. I stand by this opinion, but now I think I see that more clearly how the former propensity naturally and fully informs the latter. I think my problem these days, at least on my bigger projects, is that I don't act on instinct enough. I don't trust myself to. Finding this tape made me think to myself that a.) so that's what I looked like when I had a lot of hair and b.) something needs to change.

Whether or not I get the grant, I think I need to make The Outlaw Son this fall.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:52 AM | Comments (3)

May 30, 2005

I was part of a skeleton crew for reshoots on Clay Liford's ghoulish anthology masterpiece A Four Course Meal this afternoon. I first saw the picture at a screening over a year ago, but Clay's been tinkering with it ever since, based on feedback from distributors and his own gut intuition. The footage we shot today was sort of binding for the three chapters in the film, and I actually ended up on camera - or, at least, my hands did (if one could compare this movie to Tales From The Crypt, then my hands would be the Cryptkeeper).

(One of Clay's friends from New Zealand was in town and helped out as well. He just came off The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, which reminded me that I forgot to mention that the trailer for that film didn't look nearly as bad as I expected it to.)

As small as this shoot was, being on the set, amidst all the lights and c-stands and C47s (not to mention fake blood) and like-minded people, made me realize exactly how long it's been since I've been in that sort of creative environment. I love the palpable sense of craft on film sets, particularly when there's an equal or greater sense of passion and fun shared by the crew. It's one of the things that makes desktop filmmaking a little bit less satisfying, and I have more to write, I think, but alas, this comp I'm working on just finished rendering...and oh! There it went. Final Cut Pro just crashed. I want a G5. And as long as I'm dreaming, I also want...well, that's a long list.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:04 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2005

I called James yesterday to see if he wanted to go see Paul Schrader's nearly-lost Exorcist prequel; he said that he and Amy had already seen it, and that it was astonishingly bad. "Like something you'd see late at night on UPN in the 70s" were his exact words, I think.

I had to see it for myself, of course; and you can now read my review of it, which is essentially just a prolapsed version of James' sentiment, with fancier words.

I'm not really feeling too horrific these days, but as long as I'm on the subject, I'll mention that the new poster for The Devil's Rejects is the finest piece of promotional artwork I've seen in ages.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:02 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2005

Reason number (incalculable) why my hometown is not included in my future plans: no filmmaker will ever write about Dallas the way Austin is written about here.

Of course, going back to school in the fall certainly isn't going to speed up my exodus...

Posted by David Lowery at 8:14 PM

The best part about putting together my TFPF application (last minute, as usual): alotting money for body piercings in the budget.

Elsewhere, Red Notes For A Blue Film didn't make the cut in the Berlin Today Awards, just as I, the eternal defeatist, expected. So that short script will hit the shelf for the time being. I thought about reversing the context and shooting it in the US with a European couple, but it just wouldn't be the same.

The upside is that this leaves me totally free to concentrate on Drift. So many people I know are shooting features this summer...I need to be ready to catch up with them in twelve months.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:44 AM

May 25, 2005

Despite my best efforts to thwart my own attempts at employment, I managed to procure for myself a summer job. I'm doing opening titles and additional graphics and animation for a documentary on slam poetry.

"But David," you say, "you're not an animator!"

Well, I am now. I went down to Austin the other day to discuss the project with the producers and directors; despite my inexperience, they really liked the handcrafted look of the demos I put together for them, and had the contract all drawn up and ready. The project due date is in August, but the lion's share of the work needs to be done within the next four weeks. And it's a lot of work. I'm looking forward to many long nights of tearing my hair out once Final Cut Pro and After Effects and Photoshop and my brain start crashing due to the wear and tear they're all about to be put through.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:09 PM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2005

The last entries of the NY Times Cannes Diaries found the paper's two critics distressed over an article claiming that there's no audience for challenging cinema in the United States.

The latest Series Of Letters from Matt Clayfield and myself could be seen in part as both a precedent and extension of this subject. We discuss the role of an audience in the creative act, the responsibility a filmmaker has towards an audience - and vice versa. Then we delve, ever so slightly, into matters of distribution and exhibition. There's less philosophy, this time around, and more practicality, less argumentation and more agreeing - but hopefully, it'll prove to be an interesting skim across the surface of a very deep topic.

* * *

Today is the 23rd of May, which means it's been five years to the day since I started this journal. If I was ever going to quit this thing (something I nearly did about a month or so ago), today would be a good day to do so.

Postscript: thanks to everyone who had kind words to say about the Star Wars video below, in the comments and elsewhere. You all made my day.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:26 PM | Comments (6)

May 21, 2005

The ten hour wait in line was wonderful. We arrived at two, and were the first people there. People kept driving by and giving us thumbs up, or telling us they'd be joining us later. By six or seven, the line started to wrap around the block. They let everyone in at 10:30. The lights went down exactly at midnight. And now it's all over.

As to what I thought of this final Episode...well, I don't really know how to put it without slipping into hyperbole. I've felt somewhat emotionally exhausted for the last few days. I know that might sound ridiculous, but I can't help it. A large part of it has to do with the film, which I loved and which I found very sad, but a greater part has to do with myself.

I filmed some of the line outside the theater with my digital camera, right before we all went inside, right when the excitement was at its peak. I was originally just going to put that footage online as is, but then I got a little too carried away, and now I've ended up with something that might embarass me with its sentimentality a few years down the road, but is nonetheless a sincere representation of how I've felt since leaving the theater:

inline.jpg
(14 MB / 320x240 / Quicktime)

I've got things I want to say about the film itself - so many things - but I'll wait until I can maintain a more objective point of view (you know, like a year or so after the DVD comes out) to discuss them. Suffice to say, I've already bought tickets to see it again tomorrow.

Posted by David Lowery at 8:55 PM | Comments (18)

May 19, 2005

Oh...

...........


...................

Well, I cried once during the movie, and once on the drive home.

Posted by David Lowery at 5:07 AM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2005

The completed draft of this short is thirteen pages. With the two appendices, it's seventeen. If I can make it without letting anyone read it, I will. The name of the script is The Outlaw Son, although I should probably add a Prelude or a Pt. One or something to that since I've wanted and will want again to make a feature along the same lines with the same title.

* * *

So today is pretty much the day. Twenty four hours from now I'll be in a dark theater, halfway through a film I've waited all my life and ten hours in line to see. I won't be reviewing it, of course. I will, perhaps, probably, make some deliriously ecstatic update around four in the morning, before we head across the metroplex to see the it again at a different theater.

I'll stop now, before this post turns deliriously ecstatic and I say something silly like how I wish this film was in competition at Cannes so it could win the Palme d'Or because Emir Kusturica is totally crazy enough to do something like that, right?

Posted by David Lowery at 1:32 AM

May 17, 2005

It's been three years to the day - and almost to the hour - since I threw the last cigarette I'd ever smoke out the window.

And I know this because...

Posted by David Lowery at 9:25 PM | Comments (2)

panwithus.jpg

I saw a short film this morning that was reinvigorating in every possible way; it was called Pan With Us, it was directed by a man named David Russo, and it can be seen on the big screen as part of this year's installment of The Animation Show, of which it is certainly, without a doubt, the highlight. In fact, although it's technically not a 2005 movie, I think it's best film I've seen so far this year.

I don't think any description of the film could due it justice; it is purely filmic, aside from the fact that it is based on a reading of the titular poem by Robert Frost. Comparatively, it has some similarities to the best of Michel Gondry's short form work, but it is a great deal more...staggering. It's four minutes long, and took over a year to make, and I know that doesn't really say anything about it, but just think about that for a moment while I hop pararaphs so as to avoid having to describe it further.

It's certainly been seen before; it won well-deserved prizes at Sundance and SXSW in 2003. Russo was named one of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces Of Independent Film that same year. The most information I found on him was in this article from last fall, in which he claims he's definitely not a genius. I'll take his word for it, and just apply that adjective (and its relatives) to this film.

So: go see The Animation Show, which is full of many good shorts, a few great shorts, and then this.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:06 AM

May 16, 2005

If you haven't been reading the NY Times' Cannes Blog (by A.O. Scott, whose also wrote a great review of Revenge Of The Sith, and Manohla Dargis), you should start now. The entries are short, so you can jump back to the beginning and catch up on the whole thing. The posts are witty, literate, and refreshingly unassuming; more film critics should keep blogs.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:35 PM

This writing has left me disguarded.

* * *

Bill Viola said:

"It is the invisible world of all the details of people’s personal lives – their desires, conflicts, motivations – that is hidden from our view and creates the intricate and seemingly infinite web of shifting relations that meets the eye."

I took this quote from this article by Yvette Bíró in the latest issue of Rouge, in which Viola's use of slow motion to develop an untraditional narrative is given close examination. The quote itself quite accurately describes the appeal of Viola's work, which I've been enamored with since first seeing Going Forth By Day at the Guggenheim in 2002, followed by the permanent installation of The Greeting at the Modern in Fort Worth. It's a mode of narrative I'm particularly interested in, although my goal is to uncover that "invisible world of details" in a more traditional time frame - as Gallo did in parts of The Brown Bunny, and as Van Sant's been doing with all his films lately (of those that I've seen, Gerry moreso than Elephant). I'm interested in the shift, in real time, in which something - something displayed - goes from mundane to interesting - and then perhaps back to boring, and then back to interesting again as new perspectives become available (in the way that a joke taken to certain extremes runs the gamut from hilarity to hilarity). By dragging a few seconds out to extended lengths of time, Viola skips any such transition; in a sense, he doesn't wait for any emergence of intrigue but instead dives headlong into his images and extracts the intrigue from them. An equally fascinating approach.

* * *

I was halfway watching Closer last night, mainly just to listen to the dialogue; but during the scene in the strip club, the way the dancers slid down their poles, upside down, caught my wandering eye. It looked sexy; it also looked sort of fun. So I went out to the pole in our backyard and gave it a try, and while I eventually managed a headfirst descent of some sort, I'm pretty sure it lacked any of the grace I was hoping to achieve. Thankfully, it was four AM and no one was there to laugh at me. My conclusion: stripping ain't easy.

* * *

Back to the second draft.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:15 AM | Comments (2)

May 15, 2005

"I like the way they feel in you when it's cold."

I've been working on this short screenplay for the past two weeks, writing and rewriting without really changing anything other than my own understanding of the material. And much of that rewriting is actually just thinking about rewriting, since a variety of things have conspired to keep me from the actual work. Freak thunderstorms killing the power. Books piling up at my feet. Furniture to move. And the fact that I'm uncomfortable with personal stuff. To all objective audiences, this'll just be a story or a fragment of a story, and perhaps not a very good one at that. It's a story to me, too, except for a lot of the things the people say in it, which are things I've said or that have been said to me or that I've wanted to say or have said to me. That makes it very hard to write. Everything has to be just right - but it can't be verbatim, because this isn't autobiography, nor is it a wish or an apology. It's just things I understand, or want to understand, or thought I understood, or really have no concept of but feel like writing about anyway. It is, I suppose, an indulgence.

So, I'm determined to have a draft finished by the time the sun rises in three hours. I'm down to two options as to the relationship between the two lead characters, which should make things a bit easier.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:30 AM | Comments (4)

May 13, 2005

I was going to start linking to all the developments and interviews and such at Cannes, related to the films there that I'm excited about. At first I was primarily going to cover the coverage Last Days (which from what I understand will actually be opening in the States this summer) and I had started copying down links to share later on. But what with the press conference yesterday with Gus Van Sant and Michael Pitt yesterday, and the realization that I was suddenly almost equally excited about the new Woody Allen film and the new Atom Egoyan film, and with the new Cronengerg film about to premiere and Austin's own Kyle Henry right there in the Director's Fortnight with his film Room - well, the floodgates are such that I think I'll just do the wise thing and leave the linkage to GreenCine...at least for the time being.

I will, however, mention this trailer I discovered, via Twitch, for a film I was completely unaware of: an adaptation of Bukowski's novel Factotum. After I saw Bukowski: Born Into This last fall, this was the first novel of his that I picked up. It didn't strike me as a book screaming for an adaptation, but the film has a great cast, and I really like the sort of appropriately drunken haze that the lazily lovely trailer evokes.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:23 PM | Comments (3)

May 12, 2005

solondzinterview.jpg

From my all too-brief discussion with Todd Solondz you can cull a handful of fascinating facts, including the numerical whereabouts of the budget of Palindromes (less than I thought), and how he managed to raise it in the first place (highly admirable).

This was the information I was most interested in, going into the interview, but it was as I was typing everything up I started thinking of all the questions I should have asked next. I chalk it up to the inherent awkwardness of telephone interviews, especially when one is afraid of telephones (as I am). I also noticed that, in print, there's quite a bit missing in terms of inflection and cadence and such - there always is, of course, but in this case especially. I wish I could just upload the video of me talking on the phone (I used my XL-1, since I knew it would pick up the speakerphone better than a tape player - and Quicktime made transcribing the whole thing incredibly easy), but since the interview was conducted for print, I'm afraid I'd be breaking some journalistic code or something.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:09 AM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2005

Two minute of tape left to trasncribe, I hop online briefly, and what do I find but the greatest thing since weather reports:

CANNES -- French sales and distribution company StudioCanal is backing the upcoming project from David Lynch titled "Inland Empire," sources in Cannes confirmed Wednesday. StudioCanal, a division of Vivendi Universal's French pay TV company Canal Plus, declined to talk about the project, which it has been trying to keep top secret. Even posters for the film on the Croisette and around the Cannes market have been covered until a grand unveiling scheduled for Thursday. StudioCanal is expected to handle world sales on the title, with its French distribution company Mars Films handling theatrical in France. It is unclear whether any cast is attached to "Inland Empire." Buyers already looking at the project say details remain hazy, in typical Lynch fashion. "It's about a film within a film. There's nothing to see, there's no script," one top international buyer said. "But when have you ever seen a David Lynch script in advance?" said another, implying that this did not affect the project's attractiveness.

No cast, they say - but just the other day, David Hudson at GreenCine linked to a brief interview with Jeremy Irons, in which the actor said he was working on a project with Lynch. Could this be it?

In any case, due simply to this announcement and the promise of a pre-production marketing image, Cannes just got even more ridiculously exciting than it already was.

UPDATE!

It is indeed the project Irons mentioned, and the cast also includes Laura Dern and Harry Dean Stanton. And he's already been in production for some time. And he's making it entirely on DV - a format he "waxes lyrical" about in this great article that just showed up in Variety (you don't need to be a subscriber to read it, so start clicking).

Posted by David Lowery at 5:59 PM | Comments (1)

I just got off the phone with Todd Solondz. I'll have more on that later tonight, once I transcribe everything.

For now, I've just written three new reviews (that will hopefully be worth your time) for three new films (that are definitely worth your time):

Kissing On The Mouth
Mojados: Through The Night
Me And You And Everyone We Know

I first saw Kissing On The Mouth at SXSW, but I had the chance to watch it again the other day, and appreciated it even more. I had seen Mojados (which was also at SXSW, although I missed it there) the night before, and the resulting reviews are very much of the same piece of mind.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:13 PM

Via a post from a few days back at Matt Dentler's Blog: Conor Oberst making excellent use of television.

I can't believe a network actually aired that - but thank god they did.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:49 AM

May 10, 2005

Before I move onto more interesting discussions of future works, let me provide a recap of where we're at with Deadroom (based on our meeting the other night). We're not necessarily counting on getting into any more festivals, although we're not discounting it either; we continue to receive invitations to submit with fees waived (from all across the globe now), which doesn't really give us an edge, or even much room to hope - but at least it's not costing us anything.

As far as distribution goes, we have two options:

a.) Try to secure home video distribution from a somewhat reputable company who may be able to market it on its potential art/indie/cult appeal.
b.) Release the (fully loaded) DVD ourselves.

We're not counting on the former, and I don't think any of us are interested in attempting the latter - mainly because we can't afford it. And to be honest, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of having the movie available on a commercial basis. Nor, though, do I want its availability completely unrestricted - we're not going to throw a copy up on our website, by any means. We came up with a handful of intriguing ideas; some of which are viable, some of which will never come to pass (my suggestion that we imitate the prohibitive release of the Cremaster Cycle and sell DVDs for $500 apiece is one such concept), and most of which leave a lot of opportunity for digital bootlegging - a concept none of us are necessarily opposed to.

I'm not condoning piracy here, but simply taking into consideration all of our options. Obviously, none of us care about making a cent off this film; if we did, well - we wouldn't have made this film in the first place. There's certainly an audience for it - our festival screenings have told us that much - but I think it's small enough that an unconventional release would not only be more interesting, it would just make more sense.

If a distributor does decide they want to pick it up, though, that's fantastic - all we ask is that we retain some say over the cover art and the extra features.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:37 PM | Comments (2)

May 9, 2005

Ce vidéo est brillant!

Posted by David Lowery at 6:08 AM | Comments (1)

May 7, 2005

oil.jpgI love English literature. I love the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. So when it was speculated last month that Anderson had adapted Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil! and had cast Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role - well, that was enough to get me to pick up the book and give it a read. I'd always meant to read Sinclair's The Jungle, but this was as good a starting place as any.

Now, having finished it, I thought I'd speculate further - but first, a short review of the book itself.

The novel is a marvelous read, mixing World history and American politics with a classical father-son melodrama. The lead character is young Bunny Ross, a would-be-playboy who loves his oil magnate father but is torn between familial duty and feelings that the oil business is corrupt and exploitative of the labor force which keeps it running. Sinclair has written the book in an overly enthusiastic, almost naive vernacular, ending practically every third sentence with an exlamation point and maintaining an eager, attentive perspective on the inner workings of the oil business and his characters alike. His prose is full of technical details and cheekily complex syntax, but is so breezy that the 527 pages he fills with it practically fly by.

Particularly interesting are the parallels to today's government - inadvertent ones, of course, which Sinclar surely would be chagrined to discover are all too obvious. A running theme of the novel deals with Bunny's feelings about the Bolshevik uprising in Russia; that, and whether or not the American government had just cause to maintain its presence in Siberia following World War II. Sound familiar? How about this sentence from near the end of the book: "It became clear to him: the purchase of the government was necessary if big business in America was to survive."

While Sinclair was an open socialist, the novel is not overt propaganda (save for the last fifteen pages or so). While he does condemn big business and a Republican government, and lampoons Evangelical Christianity, and criticizes various social and sexual mores of the time - it's most certainly a 'blue' novel - his intent is to raise valid ideas and important questions, rather than enforce any sort of dogma. Like Hugo's Les Miserables, perhaps (which this reminded me of, ever so slightly), the social concerns of the author and the story do not supersede the story itself, which, in a very Capra-esque manner, remains compelling and effective. As a progressive son who maintains a thoughtful and meaningful relationship with his conservative parents, I found Bunny's dialogues with his father particularly appealing - their attempts to try and understand each other felt very close to home.

So, what might we expect Paul Thomas Anderson to make of this?

First of all, it's set in Southern California, which means he'll be right at home. And like that locale, the father-and-son element so prevalent in the story is something that's been central to all of his movies, save for Punch Drunk Love; love, conflict and forgiveness of the paternal sort has rarely been portrayed as well as it was in Hard Eight and Magnolia. Furthermore, PTA has suggested in interviews that he's quite the bleeding heart Democrat, and Sinclair's politics - and certainly what has turned out to be a very allegorical prescience - must have appealed to him. Politics have definitely been on his mind - it was reported last summer that he was writing a part in an unspecified screenplay for California State Senate President John Burton. There are quite a handful of roles he might fill in this story.

All that having been said, I sincerely doubt that PTA's script is a slavish adaptation - all signs point away from that option. Consider: when I was halfway through the novel, there was another report, stating this time that the adpatation has been (re)titled There Will Be Blood. That's a far more foreboding, apocalyptic title, and I can't think of any element in Sinclair's narrative that this would be a reference to. Also, there's no real part for Daniel Day Lewis - the father would be the only option, and he's really too young for that part. Furthermore, the novel is too sprawling - adapted literally, it would either be overlong or severely, noticeably, truncated. It would come across, perhaps, as an unwieldy hybrid of The Aviator (minus the airplanes) and The Motorcycel Diaries (minus the motorcycle). In other words, as good as the source material may be, it would very likely not be a great film.

And honestly, who wants a literal adaptation? I'm much more excited when directors recognize outright that the two mediums are inherently different, and adherence does not often equate with success. Kubrick was always fond of finding relatively obscure novels or stories and adapting them - but to serve his own purposes, and not the book's. I imagine Anderson will be doing much of the same thing here - if his next project turns out to be this adaptation at all. I'll reiterate that this is all just speculation at this point - clearly, speculation I very much enjoy taking part in. And if nothing else, the novel was well worth the read, and that's all that really matters at this point, anyway. If it was all a ruse, then it was a ruse worth following.

So. On the subject of literature, I've just begun Cormac McCarthy's The Orchard Keeper, the only one of his novels I haven't read - at least until the new one is published in August. Also, spurred on by a post I made a few days ago, I decided to pick up Sterne's Tristam Shandy. I've only just begun it, but thus far, it's hilarous - and incidentally (or perhaps not), very similar in tone to 24 Hour Party People. I can already hear Steve Coogan narrating it...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:20 PM | Comments (1)

Everyone is vlogging these days!

Except for me. And I don't want or plan to. However...

...I couldn't be more pleased as punch to discover that my namesake, David Lynch, does, and is.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 6, 2005

After procrastinating all day and yesterday, and realizing that I couldn't use Werner Herzog's suggestion that "Academia is the death of cinema" as an excuse to avoid thinking critically, I finally sat down and wrote my review of Palindromes. I think it's missing a closing paragraph or two, however.

Stay tuned next week, when I hopefully will be able to provide some insight into how a project this challenging got off the ground in the first place...

UPDATE: I figured I might as well provide feedback on the movies I won't be reviewing this weekend.

Crash: I've seen Magnolia, and Crash, you ain't no Magnolia. Or Short Cuts. Or even Million Dollar Baby,for that matter, which was accused by its detractors of everything that this film is guilty of by a much greater margin. I really don't understand why the critics are loving on this film so much.

Kingdom Of Heaven: So. Boring.

House Of Wax: Why on earth did I even bother to sit through this? Oh yeah, I was procrastinating. See the extremes I go to?

So yeah, see Palindromes, if you haven't.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:13 PM | Comments (2)

May 5, 2005

An e-mail to Yen about Michael Winterbottom's Code 46, which we both just saw for the first time over the past few days:

Yeah, I was pretty sure you'd love it. For the first hour or so, I was thinking this might be Winterbottom's best film yet. It's not, in the end, but it's definitely up there. I think the one big flaw of the film is when Tim Robbins says "and then I fell in love with you." There's never any evidence that he's really in love with her, and it would have been more powerful if the word had been uttered for the first time by Samantha Morton, near the end. And wasn't the love scene at the end amazing? Actually, when you think about it, it's actually a rape scene - albeit the most romantic rape in cinema history.
Did you watch the deleted scenes? It's really interesting - you can tell they just used the production audio for them, completely uncleaned/unmixed. It completely changes your perception of what you're seeing - the scenes, which look as good as the rest of the film, nonetheless seem very amateurish. All because of the audio. Maybe we need to budget more money to sound mixing on all of our upcoming projects. Hmmm, I think I might write about this on my blog!

And so I did.

I'm very much looking forward to Winterbottom's upcoming adaptation of Lawrence Sterne's Tristam Shandy, which, rather than strictly adapting an unadaptable novel (widely regarded as the first self-referential postmodern piece of literature), seems to be taking the spirit of the source material and running with it (and gaining a new title, A Cock And Bull Story, in the process). The screenplay was written by Winterbottom's frequent collaborator, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who I recently decided I should pay much more attention to after reading this charming interview. I'm always quite interested in writers adapting material in untraditional ways, as Boyce did with The Claim (based on Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge) as well.

I've a post on a very specific (if speculative) example of a non-literal literary adaptation in the pipeline. For now, taking a cue from Matt who took a cue from GreenCine, let me too recommend Nicholas Rombe's new blog Digital Poetics. Of particular interest to me: his very first post, concerning editing outside of traditional juxtaposition. That, and his mistakist cinema post.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:24 PM | Comments (2)

May 4, 2005

I bought the new Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth, yesterday - perhaps more for nostalgic reasons than anything else. It's not really a progression, but it's definitely good; as good as Reznor's ever been, in many ways. His talent for pulling beautiful melodies out of all that distortion is pretty unparalleled, and his lyrics, while simplistic, have always cut to a certain core. To wit: what other industrial rocker could have had one of their songs so beautifully adapted by Johnny Cash?

But his music doesn't cut to my core the way it once did. This record would have meant so much more to me when I was sixteen or seventeen, back when I listened to NIN religiously. I was never much for hard music, but Reznor's was so sincere and so personal, and so reflective; I was a little too young for Nirvana, but NIN provided the same musical outlet for me that Cobain did for the kids who carved his name into their arm when he died.

I suppose I've changed; I don't have any desire to sit alone in the dark and listen to With Teeth over and over and over again. Even with The Fragile, which came out when I was 18 and is the only of his records I listen to with any frequency these days, my wholehearted love was waning. It's certainly not because I don't get sad and depressed any more, or that I don't use music as an emotional salve; perhaps it's just that my horizons were broadened, my tastes were refined, and now I simply have more music to choose from.

While I'm sitting alone, of course. In the dark.

P.S. The album isn't being issued with a Creative Commons license - but it might as well be, since Reznor is making all the elements of at least the first two singles available for download from his website, for fans to do with as they please (outside of making money, of course).

Posted by David Lowery at 10:39 PM | Comments (6)

May 3, 2005

''It will be a fictional drama that will draw from his life, but it will refract who he is into a cluster of characters played by different actors who will be him, but none of them him. It's probably the most honest way to tell anybody's story, because we look back on our lives and, hopefully, we occupy different selves that have changed and grown and [been] discarded. He's a great example of that. It's the only way to tackle his multiplicity.''

It's been about two years since Todd Haynes revealed that much about his gestating 'biopic' of Bob Dylan, I'm Not There: Suppositions Of A Film Concerning Dylan. First of all, that's a great title. Second of all, Variety announced the cast yesterday: Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Adrien Brody, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore and Charlotte Gainsbourg have all been selected to portray (representations of) Bob Dylan.

I always assumed Haynes would be casting unknowns, but this first-rate star power dashes my preconceived notions of the project - which of course is a good and wonderful thing (there's nothing quite like an idea of what a film might be like to detract from your appreciation of what it actually is). This is the type of film that has a high probability of being great even if it doesn't work completely. If all goes well, according to the trades, it should secure financing at Cannes in a few weeks and be shooting in the fall.

Of minor note: Haynes seems to be taking indirect casting cues for his three male actors from Terence Malick (whose The New World, starring Farrell, should be hitting theaters in December, right around the same time as Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, due December 10, and, hopefully, Van Sant's Last Days).

Also: the conversation between Van Sant and Haynes on the recently released My Own Private Idaho Criterion DVD is very much worth listening to.

And in addition: I was listening to Dylan's 'Time Out Of Mind' last night, which is one of those albums that has the ability to floor me every time I hear it. I'd have no trouble calling it the greatest of all his many records.

Completely unrelated: I'm going to see if I can write my review of Kim Ki Duk's 3-Iron by the time I go to bed this evening. Seeing it was a good way to start what's turning out to be a very busy day.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:45 PM | Comments (1)

May 2, 2005

Figures that the week after I get back from New York is when MoMA decides to premiere the new Chris Marker installation, OWLS AT NOON Prelude: The Hollow Men.

I'm not too terribly informed on Marker - I haven't seen Sans Soleil, for example - but La Jetee made such an impact on me that I get excited whenever I hear his name. This new piece sounds fascinating. I'm always excited, too, to see filmmakers exhibiting their work in museums - or, for that matter, creating the work with that form of exhibition in mind. I love visiting museums or galleries and ducking into the darkned alcoves where video installations play to relatively hypnotized audiences. Attention spans vanish in these contexts.

I haven't read the T.S. Eliot poem upon which Marker's film loop is based - but I have it in the collection on my bookshelf, which also includes the poem that provided a sort of (arbitrary) platform for one of the other pieces I'm currently writing, which I'm currently dragging my feet in finishing and which I had sort of promised to myself I'd complete before I post here again - but oh well, what can you do.

Posted by David Lowery at 6:27 PM | Comments (2)