May 18, 2010

A Personal Pause

As has been obvious for the last few months, my work schedule and wedding preparations have caused my movie viewing to plummet like Al Pacino's film career since The Insider. I don't think I've seen a proper new release at the theater for going on three months now, which probably hasn't happened since the early 90's.

Of course my blogging has followed suit, and now, with my wedding and honeymoon upon me, I'm going to take an official hiatus for the next month or so. I'm participating in the White Elephant Blogathon and should have a post up for that on June 15, but I may not be back to full speed here until early July.

While there exists a risk that I will struggle to get back into form upon my return, right now I really look forward to reestablishing my movie routine this summer. Although I've missed a good half of 2010's films, I've been keeping up on news and reviews from fellow bloggers, and I don't think this break will do anything to convince me that life offline will somehow provide a more enriching film experience than I've discovered with so many people online. Thanks to all of you who have been reading for the last three years and have made this a worthwhile hobby.

I'll be back in what I'm sure will feel like a flash.

Concerning the Next Decade: An Open Letter to Hollywood

May 2010

N Highland Ave & Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028

Dear Hollywood Producers, Writers, and Directors,

I write to you at this critical time on behalf of the worldwide movie-going public. They have not requested that I write this letter, but the situation is urgent and, selfless hero that I am, I accept that it is my duty to save the world of cinema using the judicious power of this blog. Maybe you'll make a movie out of my story one day. You have a lot of bad ideas like that, actually, which is why I'm writing this letter.

The American movie industry is, depending on who you ask, either in the midst of a record-breaking profit bonanza or an apocalyptic creative crisis. You obviously know the former to be true as you are currently being read this letter by your assistant, who works much harder than you give her credit for and who doesn't have the heart to tell you that the eco-luxe boutique lodge she just booked for you in Koh Kood lacks an on-site acupuncturist, or that the Maserati dealer just called to let you know that the platinum gear shifter you requested won't be available for two more months, or even that the organic wheatgrass smoothie you're drinking right now isn't actually organic.

Indeed, in spite of your obscene wealth you really do have a lot of the daily inconveniences and problems that wear us plebeians down on a daily basis. I'm not sure how you cope, but for relief from life's boredom and pain many of us head to the comfort of our local movie theater. There, we find ourselves presented with a variety of new releases each week provided by you and your peers. A few offerings are worthwhile but most are offensively bad - not that you would likely know, since the only thing you're watching is your bank account balloon as our hard-earned dollars pour in.

May 17, 2010

Reel Life #7

Don't ask me why it's been nearly a year since my last installment of Reel Life. Suffice to say I've marked dozens of news articles over the months and the process of separating the wheat from the chaff was fairly tedious. So I'm simplifying these descriptions a bit - herewith is Reel Life #7, and my usual disclaimer: "This feature gets to the heart of my blogging and general film philosophy: bringing that which I see on screen into real world applications for my daily  life. With these examples, the flow just happens to be in the opposite direction. Please feel free to share your comments on these stories and suggest or email me others that you find. All rights reserved if any Reel Life stories ever make their way to the big screen...just kidding...but not really..."


"China's Cyberposse"

I had never heard the term "human-flesh search engine" before reading this fascinating article, and I'm still not entirely sure I understand how it works, but my take-away was that you can't get away with much in China if the public decides to point their collective finger at you. All it takes it for someone to call a renrou sousuo yinqing on you, and then: "The goal is to get the targets of a search fired from their jobs, shamed in front of their neighbors, run out of town. It’s crowd-sourced detective work, pursued online — with offline results. " Online vigilante justice, completely legal and shockingly effective at tracking down "one person in a nation of more than a billion".

Project Possibilities: Feature length film series, feature length documentary

"The Jihadist Next Door" or "Profile: 'Jihad Jane' on Main Street" or "Imam's Path from Confronting Terror to Teaching Jihad" or "For Times Sq. Suspect, Long Roots of Discontent"

Laura Poitras, I have found your next film. The Oscar-nominated director of My Country, My Country and this year's The Oath is reportedly planning to finish her trilogy of documentaries about Iraq War/War on Terror by focusing on a domestic subject. You can't do much better than recent profiles on Omar Hammami, Colleen LaRose (aka "Jihad Jane"), Anwar al-Awlaki, or Faisal Shahzad. How and why did these Americans turn on their own country?

Project Possibilities: Feature length film, feature length documentary 

May 11, 2010

2010 P.O.V. Season Preview

 P.O.V. logo courtesy American Documentary, Inc.

The schedule for the 23rd season of PBS' acclaimed P.O.V. documentary series was released more than a month ago, and technically the season started with the broadcast premiere of the Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. in late April. However, the regular schedule does not begin until late June, giving you plenty of time to mark your calendars and sign up for email reminders for the titles that you don't want to miss.

May 9, 2010

MSPIFF 2010: Week 2 Roundup

The final week of MSPIFF 2010 (yes, the one that ended ten days ago...) proved alternately frustrating and fulfilling. I only made it to an additional four films, easily amassing my lowest total since I moved back to Minnesota four years ago. There was a long list of films that I missed, but I prefer to reflect on the fact that nothing I saw was outright terrible.
My Only Sunshine - Plans to see the sold-out Today's Special were foiled on a packed-to-the-gills Friday night, so we opted for a Turkish film, My Only Sunshine (an appropriate choice as we'll be on our honeymoon in Turkey in just a few weeks). As breathtaking and vivid as the cinematography was, My Only Sunshine does not make Istanbul a particularly appealing place; maybe compare it to New York City as seen in Chop Shop. On the other hand, it was fascinating to observe the environment and cultural quirks of Istanbul that I'm sure we won't see on our brief and touristy stop to the teeming seaside city of 12 million people. My Only Sunshine is a slice-of-life story as experienced by Hayat (Elit Iscan), an adolescent girl living with her troubled father and dying grandfather (the effects of emphysema caused by smoking have truly never been captured on film as they are captured here). You expect it to develop into a warm coming-of-age tale, but despite a few laughs and a completely tacked-on happy ending, it's an altogether bleak depiction of a lost childhood in Istanbul. Nonetheless, I remained engaged throughout and the production had the decidedly "foreign film" feel that I specifically seek at these festivals.

May 3, 2010

Kelly Reichardt: Off the Beaten Track @ the Walker

It's unclear to me whether this is a coincidence or the beginning of a trend, but for the second year in a row the Walker Art Center is holding a May retrospective featuring the work of a highly acclaimed American independent film director who most people have never heard of. Last year it was the rising star Ramin Bahrani, who most recently earned gushing praise for a short about a plastic bag (his third feature, Goodbye Solo, was one of my favorites of 2009). This year, it's Kelly Reichardt ("Off the Beaten Track", May 5-14), an understated filmmaker whose career has developed just as quietly, if not quite as rapidly, as Bahrani's.

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