Friday, July 27, 2007

FILM Regional Filmmaking

Once again I did not post a link in a timely fashion, but here's a link to an article I wrote about regional filmmaking and the Mumblecore movement. In it, I mention Brady Hall's June and July, Lynn Shelton's We Go Way Back, Andy MacAllister's Urban Scarecrow, and Matt Wilkins' Buffalo Bill's Defunct.


Or not.

Monday, July 16, 2007

TV Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

I used to watch and love the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" show HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW. He would ineptly try cases for other characters in the Hanna Barbera universe, like Shaggy and Scooby getting busted for possession of marijuana or Fred Flinstone up on charges as a Tony Soprano-like crime boss.

The new season just started... and it's a huge disappointment.

The following is from an email I just sent to my friends and fellow fans about the show.


"Speaking of things that have lost their step, I watched the first three new episodes of HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW and they sucked. Haven't watched last night's episode yet, but I'm not rushing to.

"In one sense they're reeling from the fact that Stephen Colbert left to do his TV show. It shouldn't have sent them reeling, because his boss was a fairly minor character in the scheme of things, but they devoted the first couple of episodes to the death of his character and who would take over the law firm. As though we cared about the law firm. Or the people who worked there.

"It used to be that the shows were all about the cases that Birdman would take, and the other characters in the Hanna Barbera universe. He didn't take one case in those first three episodes. Instead the writers think we care about the bad and poorly plotted soap opera that they're trying to craft. We don't.

"The new episodes of HARVEY BIRDMAN remind me of when SEALAB 2021 went into the toilet, and it's happening just as quickly and dramatically."

FILM Steve Buscemi's Interview

At this year's SIFF, I introduced Steve Buscemi when he presented his new film Interview, which he directed and stars in, and ran the Q&A afterward. It's about a news journalist assigned to interview a starlet (Sienna Miller), and because he thinks it's beneath him he comes in completely unprepared and contemptuous. Buscemi shot it in script order, in just nine days, using three cameras, and it works. To me it didn't feel like a stage play, but because it takes place almost entirely in just one location, those who don't take to it can level that criticism.

Another reason I like the movie is that it reminds me of the worst interview I ever did when I worked at The Stranger. I won't tell you who it was. To find out, you have to go to the above link.

Friday, July 13, 2007

FILM Michael Moore's Battle Royale

Michael Moore is a magnet for controversy, and that tends to be good for his movies. It keeps his name and the name of his movies in the news, and free publicity is almost always good publicity.

His latest flap was an argument with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, which I wrote about HERE. As I say in the piece, the topic of health care is important, and it's good that he's pushing it forward in an election year. No wait, next year is the true election year. Anyway, it's got all the politicians abuzz. You see, Moore is great at finding the problems in a system. Unfortunately, unlike Al Gore, he's not good at suggesting solutions. That's up to other people. Oh well. Hopefully there's somebody out there who believes our health care system can be fixed. Me? After seeing Sicko, I'm not so sure it's possible.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

FILM Oliver Stone's Lost Iranian Movie

When Oliver Stone made the news by trying to make a documentary about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I wrote this piece for about his travails. You see, Iran turned down his request for access to Ahmadinejad, saying that even though Stone was critical of the Bush administration, he was still part of the Great White Satan. Instead of taking the rejection in stride, Stone fired back with an insult. It was all pretty funny. Go to the link for more of a play-by-play.

FILM Transformers

As you can tell from all the links I've been posting, I've been writing for More specifically, I was brought in to write for their "indie" section. Last week, after having seen Transformers, I wrote an entry that suggested five indie/art films that you could go see instead of the giant robot movie. What I didn't realize was that the powers that be over at were going to post my article on the main page (for a while) and in the mainstream movies link, along with being posted on the indie page. That was unexpected and cool, because it threw my writing to audiences that don't usually click the "indie" link.

As you can see from this link, many of the people who wrote in were critical of my being critical of Transformers. I tried not to be too negative about the movie, either, because the special effects truly are amazing to behold. You take for granted that the robots are giant and heavy and can cause massive destruction, and you forget that they are creations of a computer.

My criticism was that the story was unfocused. Sure, it was energetic and enthusiastic, but the military stuff seemed like it was added for no reason other than to have a couple more action set-pieces, and the romance was charming (thanks to the performances) but had little to do with the robot battle that ends the film. The commentors pointed out to me that I was looking too hard for a story, when this is really just supposed to be a big and fun action film. That's fine and dandy, but I was still often confused.

Most if not all of the people who commented on my article grew up watching Transformers. I remember them, but I was a little too old to get into the show. The story was made for the fans, with tons of references to the cartoon and the original animated film. Because I wasn't familiar, most of the in-jokes went over my head, which only added to my confusion.

But it was a relatively pleasant confusion. Like I said before, the performances were pleasant. I'm looking forward to Shia LaBouef in the new Indiana Jones movie because I'm sure he'll have more of a character to play off of, but he was charming in this film, especially when his performance (and, to an extent, the film) settled into a groove. John Turturro was also cinematically engaging with his over-the-top performance, even though it didn't really fit the tone of the rest of the movie. That didn't matter because it was fun. And the robots themselves were often goofy and charming.

So I liked the movie, but there's no way I could like it as much as the fanboys. My biggest criticism is that I wish it was about 20 or 30 minutes shorter, because I did start getting bored. But if it was shorter? I may have loved it.

TV On and Off the Lot

I've been watching the Steven Spielberg/Mark Burnett reality show On the Lot, though it's been harder and harder to get myself to watched the taped episodes that I have on my TiVo. What started out as a really fascinating show (marred by too many contestants in its early stages) has become a boring show that does on television what the Internet does better: show short films and have audiences vote on them.

I wrote about the show at