December 31, 2008
We shot a handful of scenes for St. Nick that were intended to denote the passage of time, all of them tied to various holiday imagery. But over the course of the editing process, I realized that time served the film better as an elusive abstraction, and all such concrete pinions never even made it into the first cut.
Here, though, in honor of today's date, is a scene that was supposed to represent the turning of the year:
That bit of music is from Lubo Fiser's lovely score for Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders, which I always imagined playing over this scene - early indication, perhaps, that it would be hitting the trim bin. Still, for all the scenes in the finished film that weren't in the script, this one actually was:This is, I realize, a rather inauspicious debut of official footage from the film. Oh well, whatever. There's a lot more where that came from.
December 30, 2008
Ones To RememberI began a piece some time ago called 'I Am So Proud Of You (with a detour through Synecdoche),' in which I planned to detail the ways in which Don Hertzfedlt has, with the second installment of the trilogy he began with Everything Will Be OK, achieved exactly what Caden Cotard spends his life pursuing in Charlie Kaufman's own desperately compounded fable. But, just a few paragraphs in, I put the ideas on the back burner and left the country, and traveling was followed by a great amount of busy work, and so it is that this would-be-essay languished on the vine. All that remains is this: I Am So Proud Of You is, I think, as good a pick as any for film of the year. Certainly as good as Synecdoche, NY, and just as full of grand and complex thoughts about life and death and bodily fluids and years rapidly advancing, coming to ends and beginnings, back and forth, over and over, until one slips indistinguishably into the next.
Shining like pinpoints in my own elapsed miasma is that holy triumvirate that held my sense of cinematic inspiration above the water: those would be Mr. Lonely, Silent Light and Flight Of The Red Balloon, all of which I wrote about here, here, and here, and all of which are about as good as great gets. And Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, which I exclude from that grouping simply because it doesn't look like it fits in the same sentence. If any one of those had been the only film I saw this year, I couldn't complain.
But since that wasn't the case, I can say that I also loved letting myself go to various degrees in The Fall, The Strangers, The Dark Knight, Iron Man. And then there was a whole raft of amazing little movies that not enough people saw and which, more and more frequently, are being made by filmmakers who I count as good friends. Yeast, The Pleasure Of Being Robbed, Present Company, Goliath, Nights And Weekends, The Adventure. I don't feel entirely comfortable qualifying them, and I imagine the lines there are just going to keep blurring.
But casting all these aside for a moment, as I might as well do because the ones worth keeping will find their own way back, the very best movie I saw this year was Two Lane Blacktop. When i saw it on the big screen earlier this year, I wrote: "I mean, shoot, I know there are better movies out there but I'll be darned if I can think of any of them right now, so maybe there actually aren't."
Six months later and I still can't think of any.
Stay tuned...I've got one more thing to put here before this year is out.
Posted by David Lowery at 9:36 PM
December 28, 2008
Four reasons why going to see Elf at midnight was the best way to spend my birthday
- The part where Buddy goes to the Gimball's perfume counter.
- The part where the little girl from the doctor's office is watching TV and says "Thanks, Buddy!"
- The part with Mr. Narwhal, which is one of my favorite scenes ever. Narwhals are amazing.
- Pretty much all the other parts of the movie.
December 25, 2008
Ciao opens in LA tomorrow, and it just received a glowing review from the LA Times, which for Yen I assume trumps any other Christmas present he might have received.
And now to return to cleaning up the emotional mess that Benjamin Button made of me.
Posted by David Lowery at 7:15 PM
Arvo Part now.
Gorecki's 2nd in the morning and 3rd in the afternoon.
Vince Guaraldi at some point, for sure.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:03 AM
December 23, 2008
Also found via Filmmaker, and instantly bookmarked: Daily Routines, a catalog of the regular grind through which artists of note put themselves. The categories include filmmakers and painters, but it's for the writers that I return, looking for that familiar sense of solace that one always finds in reflecting on what works for others; for, if it works for them, it'll work for me, although we all know deep down that the reason we writers scour such accounts is for proof that great material materializes out of thin air - or, if not that, then the frenzied, uninterrupted rush of inspiration that forever waits right around the corner.
Posted by David Lowery at 8:44 PM
December 22, 2008
Hohokam on DVDI'm sitting here in the San Jose airport, waiting to find out how many more hours my flight is going to be delayed, looking through weeks of old news that's all new news to me. Amongst the more personally relevant items: Frank V. Ross' Hokoham is now available on DVD from IndiePix. This is the first of Frank's triumvirate of (officially recognized) features to be released; I say it's about time. This slice of desert dystopia is, I think, the film that marked Frank as a creative force to be reckoned with - if only people would pay attention!
Allow me to make a slight digression, to Karina Longworth's year-end recap at Filmmaker Magazine:
Now, I lie awake at night worrying if people who are making films as personal and indifferent to Hollywood commericalism as those by Gerardo Naranjo, Matthew Newton and Frank V. Ross will ever get to have a career anything like Steven Soderbergh's –– because before we can even wonder if they'll ever get to prove their mettle through the moderately-budgeted studio films which lead to the franchise blockbusters which result in the clout necessary to mount completely uncompromising 4.5 hour dream projects, we have to wonder if they'll ever see success on the level of the million-dollar Sundance sale.
At this point, when the best the filmmakers Karina cites can hope for isn't much more than distribution-by-way-of-festival-run, I can't even begin to picture Frank making a studio picture - which wouldn't be a bad thing at all if all these non-studio masterpieces he's been making were given the time of day. This release, hopefully, is something of an upswing, one which will continue when Audrey The Trainwreck bows next year; and hopefully, by then, Present Company and Quietly On By will be available as well. Until then, watch Hohokam. It doesn't deserve your attention; you deserve it.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:52 PM
December 21, 2008
Excerpt from a letter to a friend
...The first day I arrived here in Monteverde, I found myself plagued by those same ungodly tooth pains with which I was beset upon my arrival in Chicago two months ago. They were so inflamed that, after a day in bed, I marched myself straight to Dr. Francisco, the only dentist in this moist and verdant hamlet. He sat me down and promptly gave me five fillings. Then he informed me that my upper righthand wisdom tooth was broken - the source of all that misery! I asked him if he could remove it and he laughed and then shot me full of novacaine, got out his pliers (his assistant ran screaming from the room) and yanked that sucker out. The novacaine took effect about five minutes later.
...There are several differences between going to the dentist in the states and in the mountains of Costa Rica. One is the price - even if I had insurance at home, I wouldn't have gotten away so clean. Furthermore, in the US, your fillings will not be smelted by a sixteen year old girl who's decided to hang out in the office that day because she has a passing interest in dentistry. Your dentist will not say things like "Jesus Christ, that's a strong tongue!" And lastly, because the federal government has classified extracted teeth as medical waste, you don't get to keep the spoils of your oral surgery in a cute little rubber mouse manufactured explicitly for making keepsakes of old molars and such. It's the perfect souvenir.
A few more days down here and then it's time to play catch-up.
Posted by David Lowery at 1:01 AM
December 6, 2008
Having been here for a week now, I can safely say that the best part of this trip thus far has not been traipsing under giant rainforest waterfalls...
...or standing on the lip of an active volcano...
...but going to see High School Musical 3, dubbed in Spanish. The language was beside the point; we loved it so much that we went home that night and watched High School Musical 1 in eleven YouTube installments. That's the sort of thing that great memories are made of!
A few nights prior, I was walking down the street and, in one of those moments where context temporarily evaporates, I thought to myself that it'd be fun to shoot a movie here.
Then I realized that I was shooting a movie here.
I've got to get ready for a six hour bus-ride tomorrow. I'm getting a lot of reading done.
December 4, 2008
"Deeply sincere and exceedingly slow..."
Manohla Dargis isn't a big fan of the movie. I hate it when you get bad reviews that you can't really disagree with, even though you do disagree with them (if that makes any sense). Her review is basically a less snarky version of the Village Voice pan (which, on the plus side, has the best WTF headline ever). Their shared argument - that the film's aesthetic is as much of a cliche is as those it eschewed - is one that sort of came to a head between Sundance and Cannes last year, which is when Dargis printed this painfully astute screed:
To make a festival film, you must first choose a location, ideally a remote region only lightly touched by modernity, where the people say very little and an unseen authority rigorously enforces laws against smiling. You will film the landscape and its inhabitants in long takes with minimal camera movements. Though the characters will generally do very little — walk, smoke, sigh — their more significant actions characteristically will be undertaken in the absence of a discernible motive.
Ah, zeitgeists! Always beating us to the punch.
The very first Ciao trailer
Actually, I take it back about never quite nailing it with the trailer for Ciao. During some downtime on set after the first week of production, I cut together a trailer from what little footage we'd shot so far (as well as some dialogue lifted from rehearsal footage shot in LA the previous month). It never saw the light of day after we finished shooting, but looking at it again, I think it captures the movie better than anything else. Too bad we couldn't actually afford the Godspeed.
The official trailer can be viewed here.
December 1, 2008
Ciao is opening
Ciao officially opens in New York this Friday. It's so strange to think that the movie we helped Yen make over two years ago is finally going to get an honest to goodness theatrical release. The trailer is playing before Milk and other films in select markets; the poster is in newspapers and magazines. There are our names, right there in the credit blocks. It all feels somewhat legitimate in a new and rather strange way. So if you're in New York this week, or San Francisco the week after, or in Los Angeles at Christmas, please do go see the film. The better it does at the box-office over the next month, the further it'll go beyond its initial ten-city platform engagement. Yen will be attending all of these opening weekends, too, so say hello if you're there.
Cut to a month ago: the trailer was about to go online, and Yen prepared me for the worst. The studios advertising team had cut it, and I was fully expecting to see an ad promoting a film about a hot European fling, set to throbbing club beats. The funny thing is that, when Yen first started writing the script four years ago, that's exactly what he set out to do: not to create an entirely superficial film, per se, but to write one with just the right ingredients to be marketed as such, with the idea that such a package would woo investors. That didn't pan out, of course, and all the better, because before too long that script evolved into something far more intimate and personal and, of course, uncommercial. That's the same film that ended up selling, and now here it is on the big screen. Even more impressive, that's exactly what it's being marketed as. The trailer does make me cringe a little bit - the sound mix sets my teeth on edge, and the glossy text effects have the odd effect of making the movie look more low-budget than it actually is (or maybe just as low-budget as it actually is) - but all the same, I'm a little bit jealous of what it does right. Yen and I tried to cut a trailer time after time, and we never managed to distill the essence of it into two minutes quite as simply as this one does. I would always err on the artsy, abstract side, while Yen tried to cram more of the plot in. The studio trailer takes a median approach. Maybe the music and the crossfades dull Yen's intentions, maybe the critical quotes are more niche than we'd have liked, but regardless: here's to Regent for taking a risk and not selling the film for what it isn't.
So now we're on press watch. Slant gave it an honest, even-handed pan. New York Magazine's blurb was positive. I think we're all just holding our breath for the Times...