Film Essent Archive for April, 2011

How to Have a Royal Wedding in the Age of Social Media

This picture of Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice arriving for the Royal Wedding is my favorite pic from the official photostream of the wedding. Check out those hats. You have to have been born a royal to pull off outfits like those with your dignity intact.

If ever there was a sign that we are firmly entrenched in the age of technology, with no way out except perhaps the robot apocalypse, it’s surely the way the British Royals took advantage of the Internet and social media in the handling of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

The Official Royal Wedding website was flush with information for royal watchers — everything from the Official Royal Wedding Photographs to the live feed of the wedding itself, to information for those coming to London for the big day.

There’s a link to the Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund that was set up so well-wishers could donate to charitable causes rather than send the Duke and Duchess tons of stuff they don’t need, and so many Official Videos you could kill an awful lot of “work” time watching them.

Point being: It was smart of the royal family to recognize that William and Kate are of a younger generation, and to use that to their advantage in satisfying the hunger of millions of royal watchers to feel “in the know” by putting tons of information out there — while also carefully controlling what was put out there. Can you even imagine the meeting where someone sat down with Queen Elizabeth to explain to her why there should be an official Royal Wedding website, and what Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are?

Or maybe I’m not giving her enough credit. Maybe Her Royal Majesty is already savvy to the ways of the Internet age, and she’s hanging out on Facebook playing Farmville all day and tweeting under some anonymous name.


The Royal Wedding is Over. You May Now Stop with the Snark.

I didn’t wake up at 2AM to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but I get why a lot of people did. The Internet is chock-full of Royal Wedding coverage today — but it’s almost as chock-full of people writing about how stupid the wedding is, or how stupid people are for being interested in it. To which my response is: Really?
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Image of the Day: Getting the Shot

Awesome photo from Liquid Night, part of a series of photos up there now of people perched in precarious places. Which I guess spoke to me at the moment because I’m feeling precariously perched myself with keeping various balls up in the air. Or some such psychobabble.

Enjoy the imagery, and Happy Thursday.

Journalist on a mooring in the port of Amsterdam taking photographs of the visit of the French President Armand Falliéres to Holland in 1911.

[From the Nationaal Archief]

So You Wanna Be a Drummer?

Adventures of Power director Ari Gold is nothing if not tenacious. After raising enough money to restore a music school with the first Power Saves the Music Charity Auction, he’s moved on to hosting an air drumming competition and giving away a ton of cool prizes, including a $3,000 drum kit.

All you gotta do is make a video of yourself air drumming, upload to YouTube, and enter. Members of Styx, Ween, Rush and more are involved in the contest … so, no pressure, but if you want to win, you’ll have to bring it.

Roger’s Voice

In honor of Ebertfest, happening this weekend in lovely Champaign-Urbana, here’s the TED Talk Roger Ebert recorded last month about the human voice, and how the loss of his voice has changed the way in which he communicates.

Warning: It gets a little tear-jerky around the 17 minute mark … darn you, Chaz.

Breaking News! The Rent is Too High!

The Washington Post has this story today about the crunch in the rental housing market, which apparently is migrating up from lower income families to pinch the middle class even more.

Here in Seattle, where foreclosed houses are saturating the market and former homeowners are looking for rentals, rent prices are worse than they were when I first moved out here 16 years ago. We just renewed our lease, and had to negotiate like hell to keep the rent increase down to JUST $110 a month.

One of the things the Post piece addresses is the lack of new low-income housing. What it doesn’t get into, so much, is the problem addressed by the doc The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: that because there are incentives to build low-income housing, but not so much to maintain them, part of what happens is that even when lower-income housing is built, it quickly deteriorates once they build it and fill it.

We’ve seen that first-hand over the past two years at the apartment complex my oldest daughter lives in in Seattle. She moved in (with my mom) when the place was so brand-new, they were the first tenants in there besides the maintenance guy. She stayed another year, with her fiance, after my mom moved out. And when I say “lower income,” btw, what that means is that they are “just” paying $1100 a month for a very tiny two-bedroom (technically, it’s a 1 1/2 BR, but we’ll be generous).

In just 24 months, this complex has gone from being a nice place for lower-income families to a crime-ridden ghetto. The police are out there several times a night. Little kids are running wild around the grounds at 2AM. It’s Lord of the Flies over there. They are moving out this weekend, into a bigger, cheaper apartment in a small quad in Shoreline.

It’s certainly not news to any of my friends in NY and LA that the cost of rent is ridiculous. But as my friend Hank Stuever (who also writes for the post) pointed out: Since when is the “norm” for rent and utilities 30 percent of pre-tax income?

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Un-Happy Days

So some of the folks from Happy Days are suing CBS over unpaid percentages of merchandise revenue. Not that there’s anything wrong with that … there was certainly Happy Days merchandise — all kinds of it, check it out! — and someone profited from it.

Anyone have the Fonzie Garage? How about a full set of 35 Happy Days RC Cola Cans? Anyone? Anyone?

Oh, I jest, I jest. Who doesn’t love Happy Days? I used to watch that show religiously, back in the day. But how about the bigger question not being addressed by the lawsuit: Does Henry Winkler get a monthly residual check based on the number of times anyone uses the phrase “jumped the shark?”

Looks Like a Swell Swell Season

The film I most wish I was seeing at Tribeca right now is Swell Season, which Peter Knegt just wrote up for indieWIRE. The doc follows Once duo Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard (my super-secret musician boyfriend) during their three-year tour following their Oscar win, in a film that started out to be a doc about musicians who won an Oscar, and ended up capturing the end of Irglova and Hansard’s personal relationship in the whirlwind aftermath of that glory.

I’m hoping (fingers crossed, fingers crossed) that Swell Season will be playing at SIFF next month, and that I’ll be able to write it up from here. Given that SIFF runs for something like 89,000 days, I should be able to squeeze it into my schedule, if it’s on their slate (which is due to be announced May 5, I think).

For now, though, here’s the trailer for Swell Season. A good trailer is about setting up the the story and creating a desire for “more” without being too long or giving away too much. And for me, the trailer for this little film does that just about perfectly.

More, please.

Also, if you’re interested in hearing about the behind-the-scenes action, here’s a video of the post-screening Q&A from Tribeca, from indieWIRE’s Peter Knegt:

Why is the Elvis Mitchell Story Getting so Personal?

So, in case you haven’t heard the sound of gleeful cackling across movie blogs and Twitter, Elvis Mitchell is no longer Movieline’s chief film critic. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’m reading out there (especially in comments of the various stories) is much more a personal sense of … happiness, I guess, for lack of a better word … at the perception that one of entertainment journalism’s biggest, most elusive personalities has gotten his “comeuppance.”

Much of what’s going on around The Elvis Issue feels less about recounting Elvis Mitchell’s job history than it is about peoples’ personal issues with him. Rarely, if ever, is the personal sexual history — or, for that matter, their IRS troubles or border hassles over cash in a cigar box, or anything not related to their job — of any person who just lost their job a matter for public discourse. Even if you consider Elvis to be more “public persona” than “person,” a news story about a film critic being fired (presumably) over an issue related to a review is certainly not an appropriate place for that kind of discourse. Is it?
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Happa-tai Easter

Happy Easter from Sakura Con in Seattle. In honor of the largest anime convention in the Pacific Northwest, here’s one of my favorite weird Japanese pop culture things ever, from Happa-tai (Green Leaf Group), a group of Japanese comedians spoofing boy bands with their wildly popular (in Japan and among anime fans, at least), crazy song Yatta!

Warnring: Once seen, it can never be unseen. You’re welcome.

How Many Scott Pilgrims Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?

We’re off to Sakura Con, the Pacific Northwest’s biggest anime con, this weekend. My husband and I will be kept busy-busy schlepping our six kids plus a couple of their friends all over the Washington State Convention Center, going to panels, and admiring all the awesome costumes that blossom over downtown Seattle like cherry blossoms each April.

Friday is always my favorite day of this con, just because downtown is still dense with working professionals who always look a little askance at their yuppie turf being invaded by a bunch of young people (and old people like us, too!) dressed up in an astonishing array of costumes.
We popped downtown yesterday to grab our badges, having learned the hard way last year that if you wait until Friday to do so, you get to wait in line for maybe three hours to pick up the badge you paid for six months ago, because for some reason they won’t just mail out badges like Pax does. So all we have to do is check into our hotel and hit the ground running.

Judging from the percentage of costumes we saw just last night, there’s going to be an awful lot of Scott Pilgrims running around downtown Seattle this weekend. It’s the perfect costume for the slacker guy who doesn’t want to dress up in something “dorky,” but whose girlfriend insists on cosplaying and dragging him with her. Okay, so I’ll be Scott Pilgrim and you be Ramona Flowers, babe. Pretty much win-win for the guy — he gets to toss on jeans and a t-shirt and grab his bass (and who in Seattle doesn’t have a bass lying around?), and walk around with a hot chick in purple leggings and a blue or purple wig all weekend.

I’ll take some pics of the better costumes we see this weekend to post later, so you can see the insanity for yourself. Happy Easter weekend!



The Royal Wedding Reality Show

I confess to having an unseemly fascination for the media hoopla around the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Aside from the undeniable fact that William is slowly morphing physically into his father while Harry has officially become the Hot One (who saw that coming?), the Royal Family’s use of internet technology around this whole thing just feels weird.

The British royals always feel to me about as old school as old school can be, and yet here they are, with an official web page, plans to live stream (and live blog!) the wedding online, and the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, talking about the importance of the upcoming nuptials on YouTube.

Actually, I’m not making fun of that video … I like what he has to say about marriage, and about how “to be a witness is more than to be a spectator.”

When Prince William was born back in 1982, my friends and I were at the water park in Oklahoma City, and they actually interuppted the piped in pop music to announce his birth. The birth of a prince was officially a Big Deal, even in Oklahoma.

I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like, to have to grow up with the weight of a country on your shoulders, the world watching your every move, waiting for you to screw up, scrutinizing your face for streaks of tears at your mother’s funeral. Nor can I imagine what it must be like to be Kate Middleton, finally marrying William after years of tabloid media following their every move. The royal family may be loaded, and Kate will ride to her wedding in the fabled glass carriage, but marrying a prince doesn’t come without a cost. Her life will never be her own again.

This whole thing is just weird, isn’t it? And yet, no doubt I will be watching, because it’s an historic moment and all that. Will you?

Weird Al’s Gaga Saga Finds a Happy Ending

In case you’ve been losing sleep over the Weird Al Yankovic-Lady Gaga feud over his parody of her song “Born this Way,” you can rest easy now. Not only is the feud over, but apparently it never happened to begin with.

The drama — written about in loving and humorous detail over on Weird Al’s blog — began when Weird Al decided he wanted to parody Gaga’s song with his own take, “Perform this Way.” Although fair use covers what he does, it seems the Weird One, out of respect for the artists whose work he parodies, always seeks their approval. And until Gaga, he’d always gotten it.

So Weird Al wrote about all it, and “leaked” the song onto YouTube, and lo, all across the Internet, Weird Al fans and Lady Gaga detractors responded in a wave of outrage over Her Gaga-ness refusing to allow Weird Al to include his parody on his album. Who the hell does Gaga think she IS? everyone seemed to want to know.

Turns out, though, that apparently it wasn’t Gaga herself who was being all demanding and unreasonable, but her manager (or so she says, who really knows but Gaga herself?) and Weird Al has now been granted permission to use the song, and will soon be recording the video that fans are frothing at the bit to see.

You couldn’t make up this kind of free publicity … right? Here’s the song on YouTube, you’ll have to wait for the real video along with everyone else. The song is pretty brilliant, but so is over 700,000 YouTube views before the album’s even ready to release.

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Passione Gets a Playdate

John Turturro’s Passione, a lovely little doc that explores the history of Naples through a delightful blend of storytelling, music and architecture, finally has a New York release date. The film will have its US premiere in a two-week run at New York’s Film Forum, June 22 – July 5.

I caught Passione at Toronto and found it enchanting … though watching even the trailer, a person could get the impression that most everyone in Naples, even the old people, spend their days radiating sexuality, singing and dancing, and engaging in passionate affairs. Then again, for all I know, maybe they do. Here’s my review of the film from Toronto. You can watch the trailer below.

1,000 Monkeys: To Absent Friends

Dear Monica,

Today is April 20, which means another year has passed in which you didn’t, like me, grow another year older. You are forever 16 in my memory, while I have grown older and not particularly wiser, through marriages, divorces, pregnancies, deaths. My oldest daughter is nearly ten years older now than you were when you ended your life.

I think you, more than anyone, would have understood how completely ridiculous it is, the idea of me as the responsible adult to a houseful of children, much less with a daughter turning 26 and getting married this year. You were the one who wanted a family back then, while I dreamt of running off to Europe to write poetry or novels while shacked up with a handsome but poor musician, or some such romantic nonsense. You always believed more than I did in the idea of some kind of happily ever after, while I was the one who obsessively read Sylvia Plath for clues to her mysteries, which I guess makes it all the more odd that you left, while I stayed behind.

One of the curious after-effects of your death — or at least, how your death affected me — is that I tend to instinctively reach a hand to people who’ve gone through, or are going through, a devastating loss. Everyone grieves differently, of course, but at least someone who’s experienced losing a loved one to suicide knows better than to offer bullshit bromides by way of condolence. No one really knows what to say to make it better, because the truth is, there’s nothing they can say that will make it better.

It is what it is: this person you cared about, valued, loved, has chosen to end their life, and they didn’t consult you about it or stop to think how it would hurt you. Maybe a part of them even wanted to hurt you, get back at you in some way, and that too, makes you angry, because they will always have the last word. And I have to tell you, for a lot of years there was as much anger in me as grief at you, for making a choice that threw my own life into such turmoil. People are narcissitic that way. We can only experience pain and loss, really, through the lens of how it feels to us. We grieve selfishly for the person we lost, because what we’re really grieving is the eternal, infernal absence of that person in our lives. We grieve for the loss of the person we were before, and will never be again.

The pain and sadness that a suicidal person feels doesn’t just disappear into the ether when that person ends their own life; it just shatters into countless little shards that pierce the hearts of everyone who loved that person, and those shards, they don’t go away.

So when someone I know is dealing with losing someone they loved, I don’t tell them it gets better (it does, but usually not in the way you think), or that eventually they’ll be able to think of that person without it hurting so much (ditto). That rawness that feels like an open wound will heal, of course, but there will always be a scar there that wasn’t there before, and you might as well accept that and not try to hide from it. You’ll go along for a long time not thinking about it, just living your life, and then out of nowhere a song, or the flavor of mocha ice cream, or a character or bit of dialogue in a movie, will stir some memory. And there it is again, and yup, it still hurts.

I drank a strawberry daiquiri in Sarasota last week, and thought about your birthday, and remembered the time we made daiquiris with rum pilfered from a friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet, and we made them way too strong and got crazy drunk and stayed up all night, listening to Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd while your lava lamp threw crazy shadows around the room. I wondered the other day if I still have the VHS tape somewhere of us singing and performing that dorky skit in the talent show at church camp that last summer. We were happy and laughing and just being silly girls in that video, and then somewhere on the other side of that moment, just a few short weeks later, you plummeted down a rabbit hole and then you were gone.

The truth is, even though the missing you still hits me out of the blue sometimes, I wouldn’t really want it any other way. Because those little moments that slice the soul do, eventually, mellow until they feel bittersweet rather than too excruciating to bear. There’s still a tear somewhere inside that will never completely heal, but that pain also serves to hold a place for the person you loved and lost in your heart. And in the end, maybe the pieces of us we leave behind in the hearts of others are all we really have to show our lives had any meaning at all.

Happy birthday, my friend. Wish you were here.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon