Friday, September 28, 2007

Return to the Future - Part 2

This is the second part of The Future:

Things I remember about the second day of shooting on The Future are mostly obscured by the horrifyingly low temperatures we encountered at the rec center. Though it had been chilly by the caves, the temperature dipped far far down when we concluded our weekend's shoot. I think my parents made us meatballs for lunch and when we called it for a break to eat, the heat in the cars couldn't come on fast enough. Even with high-tech thermal underwear, it was a struggle to speak without a quivering voice.

Hardship begets bonding on film shoots. Whether it's the cold of The Future or the thunderstorm that swooped down on us when we shot Saltwater, I feel lucky to have gotten through those hardships, creating a vivid, common experience with my collaborators.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rounders at Ten

My alternate-history, turn-of-the-century sports opera Rounders is now ten episodes young.

I'm updating every Monday, at least until I can speed up the process, both at my site and at Komikwerks, which has picked it up as part of its online showcase.

I feel like I'm skirting dangerously close to copyright infringement by drawing Chipper as sort of a Jewish Superman, but what the hey. Tom Strong is basically Supes with graying temples.

Cereal is Dope.

To this day, I can't buy sweet cereals without feeling massive health guilt. But maybe I just can't tolerate the racism.

My parents never let me have sweet cereals. Instead, it was Cheerios for life. That or barely sweet variations were on the menu when my mom was groggily making me breakfast on frigid mornings before school. When I got old enough to control my own breakfast destiny, I stuck with the Cheerios but added a spoonful or two of sugar to the concoction. The Cheerios became just a vessel. Your brain and your parents think you are still eating a healthy cereal but you've snuck in some sweetness that your spoon can mine with the dull grain matter.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I don't think anyone sits down to watch The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift expecting to like it. Even people who liked the first two Fast & The Furiouses don't viscerally anticipate satisfaction. People who like racing might trick themselves into expecting joy but it's more out of obligation than anything else.

I don't expect to like third installments in franchises with loose definitions of continuity. I don't expect to know people who expect to like movies where product placement is a foregone and vivid conclusion.

So you can understand a certain amount of incredulity on my part upon discovery of my parents not only watching but LIKING The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift.

Just after arriving at and flopping into a chair in my parents' living room in upstate New York, I asked them - avid cinephiles - if they'd seen anything good recently. As it turned out, they had seen something "good" that very night just before I arrived. In fact, it was "arresting" and "visually sublime" too.

"Have you seen The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift?" my dad asked.
"Have I seen The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift?" Had I heard right?
"It's good," my mom noted from her perch on the couch. "Yes, very good," added my dad.
I blinked. "The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift?!?" I repeated.
"No," I definitively answered.
"Oh, you really should," one of them declared with confidence.
"Shut up," I replied, sensing a joke at my expense.
"I think it's on again in a few minutes." My dad started leafing through the listings for the multiple HBOs on their DirectTV. "HBO West. In 2 minutes."
"Did you know people race like that in Tokyo?" my mom asked, more confirming her knowledge of a racing subgenre I was not yet hip to. "Do you know what drifting is?"

In short, I watched all of The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift (saying the full title at all times is expected) later that evening. Any doubts I had about my parents' feelings for The Fast & The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift evaporated after they rewatched its first act with me.

"See? Isn't this great? That's great. Look at that shot!" My dad could barely contain his excitement. "This storyline kind of has to go." But he's still a realist.

The story is fairly goofy.
The characters are poorly developed. Even Bow Wow FKA L'il Bow Wow.
It is completely worth watching. It mostly has to do with the visual quality of the racing scenes, the way Tokyo is photographed, the different manners of car fetishization and the way it's paced - moving the action along at a good, unpretentious clip.
It is fun to watch.

These days, I don't expect to like most movies that come out. I get worked up over a couple new releases that appear in my wheelhouse but cynically and inappropriately feel that my time is too valuable to waste on movies with a chance of being less than perfect. I think this is symptomatic of an overall less hopeful viewpoint I've been employing as a means to being lazy and not risking smirking contentment for the chance of seeing something that exceeds expectations.

When I was younger, I had the reputation of liking most movies, of at least having a hard time saying anything negative about a moviemaker. I don't want to give up my ability to be critical in a sophisticated and constructive manner but maybe it would be good for me to return to a more naive, forgiving vantage point. What my parents illustrated for me is the value in not being a slave to my expectations, in not assuming that presentation or context necessarily guarantees worthlessness. It is good to take a risk and it is good to be surprised.

My expectations for The Fast & The Furious 4: Ready! Set! Greenland! have yet to be determined.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Return to The Future - Part 1

Have a look at The Future.

We made this movie a ways back - say 2003 - in the early part of the year when upstate New York was still very snowy. I had been wanting to make a movie using the cement mines in Rosendale as a backdrop. They are majestic and intimidating and in retrospect, very dangerous places to shoot videos. Giant icicles hung from the roof of the cavernous mine and occasionally just dropped down onto the rubble that had preceded the icicle's descent with a fall of its own.

We shot during the day and stayed at my parents' house in the next town over. At night, we made a second movie, thinking that the right way to honor such an excellent, unique location would be to overextend our limited time there. The upside to shooting there in the dark was you couldn't tell if there were icicles above you. But really, we were in a part of the cave where at least in the morning, there hadn't been anything hanging above us.

Needless to say, we got out with our lives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Film Everything

Even if you don't agree with the film everything philosophy, I recommend trying something like this:

Filming yourself in such a prone state distracts from an unpleasant procedure.

Big shoutout to my dentist and hygienist who I've been going to since I've had teeth. When I was young, I went through a cavity phase, accumulating 12 total fillings in the process. I asked my dentist once if there was anything I could do to forestall future novocaine-infused drillings. His reply: "No. Your teeth are angled in a such a way that you will end up with cavities." To be honest, I bet the interaction was a bit more grey and could have been helped by heeding their request for more flossing.

I didn't floss then but I'm starting now. I promised my hygienist I'd do it every other night. As you can see, she is not to be messed with on promises.