May 17, 2007
Peril at Sea

Last weekend saw the worst day of sailing yet. All my fears about being in charge of a sailboat came to pass - with the lucky exceptions of actually capsizing, someone drowning, or a Great White attack.

Bottom line, we lived and learned without exceptional damage to property - but our nerves were shot and my pride deeply bruised.

We had not been out in over a month and we were deliberately going out later in the day to have more wind. Two unwise moves right together, in retrospect.

It turns out that you can get rusty on certain things; like, being able to turn the boat. Twice we went to tack and... simply did not have enough steam for it. Which meant that we had to make a quick 270-degree jibe the other way. OK, but both times - it was in the motor lane, with plenty of stunned, better-moneyed onlookers being inconvenienced. Much scornful advice was hurled at us, all of it hurtful, all of it accurate. You don't truly know what it is to feel like a schmuck until you've seen a shocked expression looking down at you from a big expensive boat into your shabby, poorly-piloted boat going the wrong way.

Then, once we were in the correct place, doing the correct thing - a yacht called the JUST BECAUSE eased up behind us... and hit us. It was a glancing blow, and nothing besides superficial scratches were put on the sailboat - but this fellow never changed course, never slowed. We yelled, we screamed, we tried to turn - nothing.

All factors considered, Mr. Bigyacht was in the wrong in at least three ways I can think of - but coming on the heels of so much of my own boneheadery, I did not have the satisfying fire of righteousness in my stomach, just a queasy, slightly-guilty and slightly-angry feeling that made us want to go home.

Then when it was time to put the boat in the slip - I overshot. And the engine died. So then we went floating past the slip, Ami scrambling from bow to stern to make sure we didn't damage the other boats we were bouncing off, and me scrambling to get the engine turned back on to guide us in.

The kind of day where you have to remind yourself that it DOES get better than this.

Posted by Chris at 4:10 PM

Ouch! Yikes! And also: You're sailing a boat off the California coast, buddy! Some people don't have food. So you were a little embarrassed and you got clipped by a yacht... You could be in a Mumbai alley begging for the jellylike skin left in the rice pot. (Just to put things in perspective...) Better luck on the next outing, though. Oh, and another thought: Ever since I saw Dead Calm, I never wanted to go boating. It totally creeps me out. Thanks a lot, Billy Zane! You ruined boating for me forever!

Posted by: Leigh at May 18, 2007 12:31 PM

Oh - I didn't know the "people are starving in India" card was in play. I suppose that would basically negate just about anything I'd have to say about movies or boats. If you wanted to play it, I mean. "You like green highlights in film? Congratulations, jerk, kids are being forced to make Nikes in Bangladesh."

Point... TO YOU.

This'll certainly make it hard to post my review of "28 Weeks Later" - I mean, what about the global warming problem?

Posted by: Chris at May 18, 2007 3:31 PM

Crap. Okay, I might have played that card without thinking. Maybe I was drunk. (Let's see, I posted that comment at work... Yes, yes I was drunk, indeed.) And last week I was having a "serious crisis" about finding the perfect wedding shoes, so I am totally humiliated by your clarity. Dammit. Point TO YOU, sir. Point to you.

Posted by: Leigh at May 21, 2007 8:43 AM

Leigh, You must be related to Chris, because I can see the long luxurious trails of the Genome of WRONG. Point to Chris. During the great global peak oil crisis at the end of this decade, the modern economy will crumble and the modern world will be plunged into barbarism. The North will again be at war with the South, the rest of world will eat itself and....ASIAN PIRATES will take to the seas. Only Chris will have the knowledge and the swinging dingy to take them on, defend the California coast and the dry southwest and save YOU, Leigh, from becoming a lovely sarong....MADE FROM HUMAN SKIN!

Posted by: McFattyYOHO! at May 21, 2007 5:38 PM

Point to McFatty.

Posted by: simon at May 23, 2007 10:32 AM

Hi all - I have not posted in ages but I think poor Leigh is being accused of being me, Chris's fabulous first cousin from AZ.

Posted by: Vickery Leigh at May 25, 2007 2:30 PM

Point to Vickery.

I'm sure Chris would save you too, Vickery, from being a fabulous first cousin sarong MADE FROM HUMAN SKIN. You'll have to ask him who he'll be saving first though. I've been your friend for nearly nine years now. You won't let pirates get me, willlll you? (cue large precious moments eyes)

Posted by: McFattyYOHO! at May 29, 2007 3:08 PM
May 11, 2007
I make lists about things and keep the lists

Sometimes I keep lists of things I notice in movies, things I would like to "use" one day, but they often are so esoteric that I wonder how it will ever be a thing of practical use.

I started making lists of different films that had a lighting look I liked, either throughout or in a certain scene. One of my fears about filmmaking is: Talking to the Director of Photography. This person is the key to the whole technical deal, and I wanted to be ready with a list of ideas for him.

I noticed that in both "Pulp Fiction" and "JFK," the middle ground seemed to be lit to be "hot" - meaning, it actually glowed a little bit. Look at the scene in Frank Whaley's apartment, look at the Oswald interrogation scene. I've always wanted to try this, but who knows if it will be remembered or appropriate when the time comes - as with all my lists.

I randomly had jotted down that in the Barbra Streisand movie "Nuts," I loved the way they often lit the middle ground, but left the fore-and background dark, almost creating a stage.

Talk about a disparate group of films - here are some from a list I could probably label I LIKE GREEN HIGHLIGHTS:

Dirty Pretty Things
Jason vs. Freddy

The wildly divergent list goes on. There are films in the Criterion Collection and films that might be on VHS down at the local mom and pop video store. And finally I began to figure out that what I liked about the movies' look was, simply: they used green or red back-lighting in some scenes.

Ha. Yep, that's it. It took me a while to figure this out, but apparently I prefer a very theatrical look to film-lighting. I think it might be a reaction to the fact that many home-grown, low-budget movies I've seen appear to have been made in someone's apartment, with stark white walls and brown furniture absorbing every detail. When I was making "The Plant" I wanted to avoid this; I think I expressed the idea to friends Simon and Macy, who know more about such things than I do, as: "I think I would like this to look like one of the old Star Trek shows - you know, where the lighting is kind of mod and 60s'ish?"

As I recall, Macy intuited my obscured meaning, put a green gel on one of our rented lights, focused it on the wall behind the actors, and I gasped at the magic.

Jessica had picked a red shirt for her character's costume for that scene, and the whole image just POPPED, as they say.

I had also noted than in "E.T.," the cinematographer had not only used a palette of purples and ambers, he'd actually used bulbs this exact color in scenes where the lighting element was a part of the scene - like a bare bulb that was visible. Look at the lights visible in the frame when Michael leaves Elliot to say goodbye with to E.T. in the makeshift lab. That was an amazing highlight to me, so I made sure to show some gelled lights in "The Plant" as well. The approach was scattershot (and caused lens flares galore) but I loved it.

I saw on the special features of the "Ikiru" DVD the other night that Akira Kurosawa found the best way to light black was with red lights - and the best way to light green was with reflectors painted blue. That makes it on the list too.

Posted by Chris at 4:44 PM
May 9, 2007
Mazinga's greatest foe... or IS he?

Mazinga meets one of his greatest foes - HAROLD Q. THUNDERPANTS. Or... is he a friend?

You'll love him... or WILL you?

Posted by Chris at 4:14 PM
May 8, 2007
Spider-Man 3

Quick, time to put the "Simple Plan" DVD in - or "Spider-Man" 1 or 2 or "The Gift." Now is a time to focus on why we love Sam Raimi, so we can keep things in perspective.

We went to see this with an opening night audience, which is always a gamble. And this time we lost, because most of the audience were Jr. High school age, which means that from a manners perspective, they were basically feral.

Unfortunately - most of the asshole comments they were screaming out, I sort of agreed with.

"HAHAHA, it's Emo Spider-Man!" one of them yelled during the Black Suit phase, to the delight of his peers. I turned in my seat to end his life, but stopped - because he was right. Ouch.

The screenplay for Spider-Man 3 felt like a first draft, and a lazy one at that. It felt like the early version where you throw in every single idea you have, then later on someone smart is supposed to come back and streamline it. But no one smart ever came along. It's hard to believe this is the version they ended up shooting - this being Sony's big release.

The whole thing is a mystery. I guess when a movie becomes not just a movie, not just a franchise, but a corporate commodity, the idea of packing in a bunch of villains into one story must seem like... "added value." More bang for your buck, I guess? But having three villains in the film was just as unnecessary as it was in any of the Joel Schumacher "Batman" ice capades. Sandman, as awesome as his effects are, as much as I like Thomas Hayden Church, didn't need to be in the movie. And Venom should have made an entrance about a half hour earlier.

Too bad that they felt they had to tack more information onto the Uncle Ben story - it dilutes Peter Parker's guilt, which seemed vital in making him a hero. Now that it turns out he DIDN'T let the killer go - doesn't that change things for him?

The dialogue in places was so awful it was distracting. The previous films have always been a bit simplistic (How many times have Aunt Mae or Uncle Ben solemnly spoken the exact subtext of the story to Peter?), but it always felt like a choice by the writers to keep the dialogue spare. Here it was overtly bad. I don't think you ever want a character saying "I forgive you" in a movie - unless they don't mean it.

I'm sure that Raimi and Co. will invoke the oft-used "homage" excuse, but I've never seen a lazier entrance by a movie's villain. The black goo that turns Spider-Man into Venom arrives randomly on Earth... in an asteroid... that lands right next to Peter Parker. OK. And the Sandman is created by... a particle experiment... that happens to be going on in a pit... a convenient ten yards or so away from the fence he just jumped. All right. I would have preferred them to cut to a "REEL MISSING" card like they did in "Grindhouse." Giving a character temporary amnesia is also one of the tricks you're supposed to leave to the soap operas.

For the DVD release of this film, with all the inevitable making-of featurettes, I would gladly forego all the "He / She Was Great To Work With" promos and the "Look How We Developed Special Software to Make the Sand Look Real" shorts in favor of a simple documentary explaining the evolution of the "Peter Parker Dances and Plays Piano" scenes. I'd honestly like to know - who thought that was a good idea? How did it survive every script meeting, every filter? What did they think when they were shooting it? Did it seem like a good idea throughout the whole long process?

I suppose I could ask the question of the movie as a whole. What changed in the development process since the last film? Because the budget of the movie became a headline recently, the natural tendency is to find fault there, but that seems too easy. Lots of big expensive movies turn out good.

The effects, though - were great. And I DON'T think that goes without saying. The first movements of the Sandman were so amazing the sequence could have been a short film in itself. Venom was legitimately creepy, as was the spider-movement of the goo. And there were some high points in the movie that didn't make me feel like I'd just wasted my time. I liked the "catching the ring" segment and I liked the resolution of the Harry Osborne plot. But overall - a surprising disappointment.

Posted by Chris at 9:25 AM

That's too bad. The "Emo Spider-Man" heckler is one reason people shouldn't read reviews before a film. Armed with a pre-chosen opinion and the sledgehammer witty put-downs (I saw "Emo Spider-Man in two reviews) of critics might tempt the less self-restrained among us to howl inanities at the screen and ruin things for strangers in the dark. The cinema isn't perhaps the best place to go if you crave attention.

Posted by: simon at May 8, 2007 5:19 PM

You're exactly right - although it turns out the cinema is the PERFECT place to go if you crave attention for your skills with a laser pointer.

Luckily whoever brought theirs to the movie that night only did the pre-show entertainment (outlining the eyes, boobs, asses of the women in the opening slideshow of ads - it was hilarious, I assure you), not anything during the main feature.

Posted by: Chris at May 9, 2007 9:40 AM
May 2, 2007
"Lapsing Into French" with Anthony Lane - 2nd edition

Because sometimes an intellect is so vast, just one language won't do.


CONTEXT: A look at the career and allure of Barbara Stanwyck.

USAGE: "...Stanwyck, playing a dancer, explains her froideur to a vaudeville comic who has the hots for her."


Posted by Chris at 11:44 AM