Friday, March 30, 2007

FILM Blades of Glory

It took me a long time to warm up to Will Ferrell, though I still can’t bear to watch reruns of that damn cheerleader sketch on Saturday Night Live and I haven’t yet seen Talledega Nights, but I must admit that I really enjoyed Blades of Glory. Ferrell is funny in it as the hyper-macho figure skater who is blissfully unaware that figure skating is the most feminine of the sports. The fact that he teams up with the most feminine of the male figure skaters (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) is inevitable.

There are three reasons why this movie works so well.

1. Craig
2. T.
3. Nelson

As the supporting “coach” character, Craig T. Nelson is given the difficult task of selling the premise. Why would he encourage the return of two egomaniacal rivals fallen on hard times, much less coach them? The answer happens in a pivotal scene where he’s watching TV and sees a news report that has footage of the two skaters fighting backstage at a children’s skate show. He watches the fight, he pauses his TiVo, he rewinds, he watches, he rewinds, he pauses again. Though it’s never explained in dialog, we see exactly what he sees: during the fight, the two naturally perform lifts and throws that will translate perfectly onto the ice.

Nelson inhabits his coach character with the intensity of a mad scientist. It’s as though he doesn’t realize he’s a supporting character, not that it would matter to him anyway. I would totally watch a spin-off project with him; maybe not a feature film, but certainly a half-hour profile of the character for Comedy Central.

The rest of the movie (the stuff without Craig T. Nelson) also works. The humor grows organically out of the characters instead of through pre-imagined situations that they had to shoehorn the characters into. Heder’s Jimmy MacElroy has the benefit of a backstory (he was adopted by a man who raises Olympic medalists), and even Ferrell’s macho, womanizing, drunken, innately talented Chazz Michael Michaels has more depth than you would expect. And the pacing never slows, which smooths over some of the bits that don’t quite work like a zamboni over center ice.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

FILM Spy in the House of Optimus Prime

I'm still friends with most of the publicists in Seattle, which gets me into screenings and sometimes a little bit more. Sometimes swag will make its way down to me. The latest piece is a t-shirt from the new Transformers movie. I never watched the Transformers when I was younger (I think I'm just a year or two out of that age range) and I never saw the original animated movie (famous for being the final roles of both Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers; also for using the voices of Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem and Robert Stack).

Anyway, this new Transformers t-shirt has a symbol for the Autobots (the good guys) on front, and the symbols for Autobots vs. Decepticons on the back. Nowhere does it actually say "Transformers."

I like this t-shirt, and have worn it around town several times. Every time I wear it somebody, usually an adult male in his 20s or 30s, tells me something about how they used to love the Transformers, or how they're looking forward to the new movie. Usually they'll drop references to characters that I know nothing about. They see me as a fellow member of this cult, someone who shares in their nostalgia for a TV show from the ’80s where trucks turned into fighting robots.

But I'm not, and I have to admit it makes me feel like a bit of an imposter. That won't stop me wearing the shirt, though. I like the abstract design of it, and the fact that it's not your typical movie-hawking t-shirt. I like the fact that it is written in another language, one that only fans of the show can read. I like the fact that it exposes this normally quiet Transformers cult. And I'll no doubt keep wearing it long after the summer release of the film when it, once again, turns into a small cult item speaking a secret language.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

FILMMAKING - Perfect Sport - ... and That's a Wrap!

Funny how working 12 to 16 hours a day, six days a week, can get in the way of the habit of blogging. We wrapped Perfect Sport more than two weeks ago and I’m just now writing my wrap-up of the film. But I need to get this out of my system before I can move on to more current things, so here goes.


I remember the first day on set. I hadn’t met the director yet, and we were setting up the first shot. The lead actor was giving a lot of input. I mean, a lot. I was wondering when the director would step in and put that actor in his place! And then I found out that, yes, the lead actor was Anthony “Tony” O’Brien, the writer, star and the director of the film. So that was why he was giving so much input and people were listening.

Tony is an impressive figure. At age 22, he has already starred in and directed his own feature film. It’s enough to make you hate the guy. And that’s jealousy speaking more than anything else. He claims he’s going to edit the film himself, also, but I hope he finds someone to do that and guides the choices, because it’ll be good to have someone piece the stuff together with an objective eye and without memories of what the shots were intended to be.


It wasn’t until well into the shoot that I found out that our lead actress Jessica Rose, was famous. You may be asking why it took me so long. Well, that’s because I had heard about the whole lonelygirl15 phenomenon without ever investigating. It was one of the first “video blogs” to make it big, and then got even more famous when it was discovered that it was scripted. To learn more, just click on the link.

But that’s not all.

Another of the female characters is Fallon, the slutty younger sister of the lead character’s best friend. During the party scene, I remember Tony encouraging her to dance even more seductively for the crowd of rowdy extras, and then turning around at the monitor and saying things like “Harvey’s going to kill me.” Or maybe that happened during the scene where Fallon seduces Tony’s character and gives him a blow job in the bathroom.

Turns out Fallon was being played by Stella Keitel, the daughter of Lorraine Bracco and Harvey Keitel. Rumor had it both Harvey and Lorraine were talking (seperately) about visiting the set, but neither one did. And I don't think Harvey would have killed Tony for the stuff we shot. Then again, there's still time.

The other “name” was working behind the scenes. One of the producers on the project was a young man named Zach Mann who, as it turns out, was a cast member on The Real World: Key West.

Here’s the kicker about this whole “fringes of fame” bit that I’m writing, which was emphasized by the Perfect Sport sound mixer Steve Jones when he stopped by the coffee shop where I am writing this to drop off my birthday present: We are getting old. If we were younger and more tuned into the whole MySpace and Internet worlds, we probably would recognize all of the above names.

And really, the true audience for this high school wrestling movie are people who will recognize Jessica Rose by sight, and know who Zach Mann is from watching MTV. So there.