September 14, 2007
Secure the perimeter!

Now I am caught up on my reviews.

Sunshine. It's a tough thing to follow up on 28 Days Later" even for Danny Boyle, so I won't get angry about this being a disappointment. I like "hard sci-fi" movies, with their unshaven astronauts sitting around realistic ship cafeterias, and their weary frayed nerves, and I love it when they find old derelict ships, but this one petered out towards the end. Too bad, the cast was great.

Catch 22. I watched this and Strangelove because I'm writing something in this vein. What a strong movie, what an amazing cast. Lest we forget what a great director Mike Nichols is, or how brilliant Alan Arkin is. Dark and hilarious.

Dr. Strangelove. What can you even say? See it, know it, own it. Obviously Peter Sellers was a comic genius - but let's not forget big, bad GEORGE C. SCOTT making me laugh throughout this whole movie.

The Mouse That Roared. Netflix served up this suggestion when I asked for Strangelove. Sellers in multiple roles, an anti-war film, although more in the Disney vein. Funny but I felt free to browse the interwebs while it was going on. I'm assuming Jean Seberg did better work elsewhere, maybe in Breathless.

Race With the Devil. Was there really a time when the likes of Warren Oates was a leading man? HELL YEAH there was! This is a bad-ass film from that time in the 70s when the #1 fear wasn't terrorists or aliens or the government, but SATANISTS! Yeah! The occult is after Warren Oates and Peter Fonda and their best gals in a road movie, so they'd better put the pedal to the metal This is a film that needs to be seen, and REMADE! Is there anything more terrifying than Satanists hiding a couple of rattlesnakes in your RV? I submit to you: no, but Warren is about to set things right with a 9-iron. Watch and enjoy.

Puffy Chair. I wish I'd seen this one before I made my independent film. You don't realize how simple and basic and real a movie can be sometimes. I wonder if the dad in this film - played by the real dad of the filmmakers, who also star - knows how good he was in his total of five minutes of screen time. People study for years to be that simple and good.

Death Sentence. So very silly, but about the time I started to realize this along comes a really exciting and creative chase in a parking structure. You can leave after that for about 20 minutes, (hopefully missing Kelly Preston's monologue) but then it gets kind of fun again. Apparently this is from the same book and character they used for the Charles Bronson Death Wish series. Kevin Bacon is better, though his decision to go vigilante is instantaneous and offscreen.

Separate Lies has many many actors I admire, like Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson, but this story of betrayal and manslaughter is so reserved, it's almost as if the director's driving motivation was to not make a scene - to let their little drama play out quietly and with some dignity. Emily Watson breaks a plate once, but that's it. Also, when and why was it that Rupert Everett started looking skeletal? Did we find this out and I missed it?

The Cat and the Canary (1927). Everyone loves a spooky old mansion with secret passage-ways, but I still drifted in and out. Not very hilarious OR very spooky, as I was promised by TCM's Robert Osborne. Maybe the Bob Hope version was more interesting.

Bourne Ultimatum. Congratulations, it's a strong trilogy! Not many of those. Very exciting, very fun. I enjoyed the CIA command center activities a lot. Lots of perimeters being secured of various radii, lots of ranking officers barging in and declaring higher and higher priority alerts, lots of tech people cross-referencing all data on known associates. Yes, perfect.

There's something to be said for the old style of movie fighting, though. It looks like Matt Damon and his fellow actors have actually studied some form of real karate. It's SUPER-quick and I can't understand how you wouldn't break someone's arm right off. And at the end of the car chase I expected the stolen cop car to spontaneously burst into tiny pieces like the Blues Brother's car did at the end (Also a cop car, as I remember it).

Posted by Chris at 10:26 PM
Terror Close to Shore

Last weekend was another one of those learning days on the sailboat, the kind that I have anxiety and nightmares about for weeks after. Thank God we had not invited anyone else along.

We went out later than usual, because the wind picks up in the afternoon. And boy did it pick up. The minute we passed the breakwater we were moving into swells of about four feet and the wind, instead of the 10 knots predicted by NOAA (it's all their site ever says for this area), was more like 15 or 16. (I'm cheating with that estimate - it's what one of my friends estimated when we were back at the dock. And a teacher had told me that at 20 knots, the waves are just starting to show white tops, which we didn't see.) That is not considered a lot of weather by any means, but when the boat started heeling, it REALLY heeled.

Instead of the comfortable 25 or so degrees or so I'm used to, we were tilting over to more like 45. Or would have been, if, every time we started to catch the wind, I didn't say to Ami, who was on the wheel, OK OK turn it back into the wind turn it back TURN IT BACK NOT THAT MUCH.

This was not a proud day for me. I mean I was VERY frightened. I knew that after being off the water for months (with appendix and travel), I'd need to ease back into it. But this was a harsh reminder that I'd had too much time away, and too many lazy days on the water.

When I took the helm from Ami, I started going into a real panic. TOO MUCH WIND. TOO MUCH WIND, THE BOAT IS HEELING TOO MUCH. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. No, I didn't scream and let go of the wheel - but I was terrified. I was afraid to ease the main for fear of suddenly optimizing the trim and REALLY heeling. I was afraid to cleat off the jib sheet - I wanted to be able to let it go in an instant. I was afraid to do anything but keep a death-grip on that wheel.

There was no way I was going to be able to put a reef in the main - we were really getting knocked around. So in the end, I turned the boat into the wind, gave the wheel to Ami, then went up and dropped the whole main like a curtain. It was as abrupt and inelegant as yanking a power cord out of the wall when a computer freezes up. But - it helped. We immediately turned around and headed back with just the jib.

The worst part, actually worse than the sheer terror I felt, was that Ami had been exhilarated. She was ENJOYING the heeling. And although I'd been trying to hide my rising panic, eventually she saw that I was white-faced, and it started to scare her too. Nice going, captain.

Well. By the time we were tying up, I wanted to go back and try it again. Why didn't I let the jib luff? Why didn't I ease the main far enough to spill the wind? I don't know. I'll do it next time. And next time I'll put a reef in the main to start with if the wind seems beyond my comfort level. But wow - these learning days.

Posted by Chris at 10:31 AM
September 5, 2007
$25,805.55 and other bullet points

  • Some travel over the last few weekends - to Seattle, San Francisco, and Santa Clarita, this last destination the site of near heat-exhaustion and also our first ever trip to at a shooting range. Lots of fun, and I can't believe they serve beer at the built-in restaurant.

  • I see that Apple has crossed the iPod and the iPhone, as we knew they would. I had just gotten an iPod for my birthday a month ago, which I love as one loves a plural wife, but which also shows that no matter when you jump on the Apple train, it is too early or too late.

  • Got a letter on Wednesday from Blue Cross that congratulated me, because they had decided to approve my emergency appendix operation. Got a letter Friday itemizing the care I received, which came to a total $25,805.55 of healthcare - of which Blue Cross informed me they were paying $0.00.

    I am told this is a standard first letter - but stay tuned.

  • Here's the sort of quote from a movie director that makes me roll my eyes so much I have to alternate directions so I don't strain my optic nerve. This is from the late great Michelangelo Antonioni:

    Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about. And perhaps not even then. Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life. Perhaps it has no plot at all, in the way you use the word. I depart from the script constantly. I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; thing suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together, and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about.

    Oh God PLEEEEEEZE. Until I realize - it is actually the perfect answer. If I am lucky enough that anyone should ever wonder how I made something, what would be better, to make it appear effortless, or to detail the tortures I went through? That's what blogs are for.

  • Put the second draft of "Creative Accounting" through the Final Draft machine and started working on the story for the next one. I present this treatment to some movie friends on Tuesday, then I head back into the chaos. I can pick about six things in "CA" that will stay, but other than that, it's back to the beginning. Looks like I picked the wrong screenplay to start worrying about the character arc.


    Black Snake Moan. Craig Brewer has said he wanted the movie to be experienced as one would experience the tracks on an album - which has to rank up there with calling your movie a "tone poem" for film-school excuses. But he is an original filmmaker and you should watch for his name.

    I especially like the way Brewer deals with race in his movies. There's a racial naivete to his films that I like - black people and white people interacting with each other without becoming minor, jokey or villainous stereotypes in each others' story. Race politics are there but he seems to desire a world where we can - if you can imagine it - get past them. Think about D.J. Qualls in "Hustle and Flow."

    "BSM" has that even though the campaign seemed to promise something very much the opposite - something along the lines of an exploitation experience - Sam Jackson with Christina Ricci in chains. The movie starts briefly down that road, but before it gets ugly we are assured that Jackson's character is a saint. And neither is Ricci simply a devil sent to torment him - although that would have been pretty interesting, and she absolutely owns the role of trashy trailer park temptress - but she, too is ultimately just a good soul as well. The movie's drama suffers slightly from Brewer's goodwill towards his characters, (the plot strains as it veers towards a happy ending that even includes a wedding) but his movies are still events to go out to the theatre for.

    Halloween (2007, dir: Rob Zombie). I guess the biggest surprise in this film is why I expected it to be worth seeing. It's not as if I was a big fan of "House of 1000 Corpses" or "Devil's Rejects." He's a grindhouse director - I get it. But apparently the iconic image of Michael Myers - even though I'm not even that crazy about Carpenter's original - worked on me more than I thought it would.

    In the end Zombie's movie is exactly as Loomis describes Myers - there is no intelligent spark, just lifeless evil. The Laurie Strode character was completely disposable. The movie, like Michael Myers, exists only to kill teenagers, no rationale required. Zombie added a bit of background info about the childhood that was promising for about twenty minutes, but that was soon over and we were into a boringly faithful (with some additional breasts and brutality) retread of the original.

    Posted by Chris at 5:07 PM

    why do you reject comments when they are good for you?

    Posted by: mary at September 11, 2007 2:37 PM