Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How cheap should movies be?

Here are two things.

There was Robert Rodriguez promoting his first film, El Mariachi, shot for $7,000. He played up that fact. It was just seven thousand bucks. And almost all of it went to pay for film and processing. Which means that, if he had shot the movie in digital video, it would have cost about $400.

Then I saw Dustin Hoffman talking somewhere. He dismissed the myth that you could make a movie for no money. It took, he said, at least $10 million in publicity to make the public aware of a movie. (This was at least 20 years ago.) I'm not sure if he put publicity and advertising in separate categories. But since you have to spend a fortune on distribution, does it make sense to spend almost nothing on the movie itself?

But----is this right? Is the practice if spending millions on movies an artifact of an earlier era when movies had to be shot on film and distributed to theaters? If movies hadn't gone through that phase at the beginning, what would they be like today? Something like the Nigerian movie industry, "Nollywood", where movies are shot on video for $20,000 then sold on DVD for a dollar or two each?

I saw some guy from the MPAA belly-aching about movie piracy. If it went on, he said, movies would soon have the production values of common soap operas. Maybe he's right, and maybe, with technology being what it is, that's where cinema would have been if it hadn't been distorted by the irreducible costs of earlier eras.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Western towns

I've seen some old photos of western towns as well as ghost towns that look quite a bit like the towns in movie westerns. Why does that always come as a surprise?

But here's a question. Did towns in the old west have buildings that simply said "Bank", "Saloon", "Sheriff" and "Store"? Did they really not have names for things back then? And were there any towns that had more than one bank or more than one saloon, or more than one store?

And why do towns in TV westerns have only one church? Is everyone there a member of the same denomination? I've driven though very small towns in the South and gone past church after church after church. I've heard of towns in the west in the 1800s where there was no Baptist church so the Baptists gave in and joined the Methodist church, but they picked the Methodists because they found it the least objectionable, not because there was only one church in town.

Even in movies set in the present day, it's not uncommon for a town to have only one church. Look at Footloose.

Anyway, that always ruins low budget westerns for me. When they have banks with a sign that simply says "Bank", it makes it look like it was filmed at a tourist attraction somewhere.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Justin Bieber one more time

Okay, one more time about Justin Bieber. I did see the kid on Saturday Night Live when he was on there and I watched a YouTube video of him being shot on a TV show I've never seen. I spoke to a young woman who told me that her friends wept when they saw it. Even if you're not a fan and even if you know it's just a show, it is disturbing to see a teenage boy gunned down by police, even if it is Justin Bieber.

I heard, by the way, that one of the stars of the show now regrets saying that Bieber was a "brat". She said he was messing around with the food on the craft services table and rendered a cake inedible---I don't remember exactly---and I think she said he locked someone in a room. I'm not sure, but I suspect that, when teenagers spend too much time with adults, they don't start acting more grown-up; they start treating adults as if they were other teenagers. If you have teenage children, don't spend too much time with them.

But okay, the lawyers for Mariah Yeater, the plaintiff in the paternity suit against Bieber, says that Bieber needs to do the DNA test over again. They're worried someone might switch samples on them.

“I want a new DNA test with both sides together at a lab in California as soon as possible. As soon as I tell her to do it, she’ll do it. We need proper protocol and a chain of custody,” her lawyer said.

There being a vast amount of money at stake, that may be a good idea. It's not just child support. Bieber and the people around him would presumably suffer a vast loss of income if it turns out he's been lying all this time and is the father of this child.

I did see a clip of Bieber on David Letterman. Dave was very sympathetic. Characterized the girl in this case as a "weasel". I thought this was a bad move. What if Bieber went on the show ready to break down sobbing and admit that he was the father? Letterman made it much harder for the boy.

If Justin Bieber were my son, he would...well, he'd probably be going to high school and living in poverty with little hope for the future. He'd have no tattoos. He'd probably be overweight and in bad shape physically. So I guess I shouldn't worry about what early fame is doing to him.

Movie laughter

There's always that problem. Movie characters laughing at funny things---like circus clowns---that while the movie audience sits stone-faced in the theater wonder what the hell they think is so funny.

Charlie Chaplin found a solution to this in the movie Limelight about a British Music Hall comic. He performs his acts in the film in front of a live audience, but we don't hear anything from them. No laughter of applause. The only audience response viewers of the movie heard were from other people in the theater. Which might not work very well now with DVD.

Then you have the other problem with laughter in film.

I sat through the movie The Trouble With Harry in a theater. Hitchcock's only actual comedy. Every time someone says something "funny" in the movie, they all pause a moment for the audience to stop laughing and compose themselves before going on.

There were several scenes where they did this in Blazing Saddles. I don't know what the audience response was when it was released, but watching on DVD I never felt I needed a moment to recover after Mel Brooks exclaims "Holy underwear!" or that other scene where Cleavon Little pulls the gun on himself.

Jack Lemmon discussed this in the movie Some Like It Hot. Remember the scene where he tells Tony Curtis that he's going to marry Joe E. Brown? He keeps playing the maracas as he talks. He explained in an interview that Billy Wilder had him do that to give the audience time to calm down between lines.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What do you want from a silent film?

Would a really lousy movie be less lousy as a silent movie or as a sound movie?

It's like black & white movies. You have a handful of art and arty movies--high brow films--shot in black and white. Back during the fight over colorization, I sat in a theater watching the latest Dirty Harry movie thinking, "They should have done this in black and white!"

I've heard it argued that the use of color in cinema today is more advanced artistically than black & white cinematography ever was, and I'm sure that's true. But that's with people who are really good. What if you're not very good? What if you couldn't make especially artistic use of either black and white or color? Which would look less like crap?

And what about silent vs. sound film? Was Charlie Chaplin right when he said the best silent film would always be better than the best sound movie? Imagine Battleship Potempkin with synchronized sound. Imagine War & Peace, Taxi Driver, or anything else as a silent movie.

Okay, yes, synchronized sound was a boon to cinema. Sound cinema has no doubt surpassed silent film artistically. But, as with color vs. black & white, that's only with the people who are really good at it. For the not-very-good, or the extreme low budget filmmaker, which is superior? Maybe Chaplin was right, that the best silent movie would always be better than the best sound movie. Or maybe the reverse was true. But that doesn't apply to those who aren't making the "best" movies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

French guy makes new silent film

A new silent film, The Artist, shot in L.A. with French director and stars for $14.2 million

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius. He directed the two OSS 117 spy spoofs in France.

Well, for $14.2 million, it should be okay. Filmed in L.A.

Here's the trailer:


The story of a silent film star. His career is wrecked by the advent of sound while his wife's takes off.

Guy Maddin in New York

Meanwhile, Guy Maddin appeared in New York to present Tales from the Gimli Hospital Reframed, with new music performed live. With narration by Icelandic musician Kristen Anna Valltysdottir.

The original version was shot for $25,000, which means is cost less than the $30 thousand silent student film I wrote about a few days ago.

I don't know if they're handing out credit cards as freely as they used to, but all you have to do is max a few of them out and you'll be the next Guy Maddin!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Justin Bieber's taken the DNA test

Justin Bieber has submitted his DNA sample. In 3 to 10 working days we'll know. Is the boy the father of Mariah Yaeter's baby? Then it will all be over.

I saw a list of other celebrities who've repeatedly given DNA samples in paternity cases. So Justin should probably get used to it. And next time do the DNA test in the first place.

I'll be shocked if he's the father. And if he's not the father, I'll wonder what on earth that poor girl was thinking. Even if she never heard of DNA, her lawyers must have explained it to her. But she wouldn't be the first to make the charge knowing it would be easily disproved in court.

It's like a UFO case. There are cases of obvious UFO hoaxes and the people who pull them are often considered very honest and trustworthy, people who would never lie.

And that's what their problem is. They carry out the hoax as a gag intending to reveal what they've done. But they soon find it's easier said than done. It's easier to make the false claim than to admit that you've made a false claim, this after your friends and family have come to your defense and vouched for your honesty.

The girl can't very well back down now.

The girl's attorneys have pointed out that her representatives weren't present when the DNA sample was given. How can they be sure of the results? They had wanted to negotiate some protocol so they could be certain. Baby hadn't given a sample, last I heard.

It would be interesting if Bieber turned out to be the father.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Woody Allen on American Masters

Okay, I watched Part One of the Woody Allen documentary on American Masters on PBS last night.

Allen had become a gag writer in high school. He went from there to being a writer on Sid Ceasar's show. And with that, he got representation. Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins became his managers and they pushed him to bigger and bigger things. They got him to perform stand-up and to appear on TV gradually drilling his image into the mind of America.

And it's surprising now how much TV he did. They showed clips of him boxing a kangaroo, singing to a poodle, doing a big song and dance number on the Perry Como show, along with his appearances on the Tonight Show and Dick Cavett. Allen also appeared as guest host on The Tonight Show.Click on the photo above to see the video on YouTube.

And that's how it worked. Someone hired him to write the script for What's New, Pussycat and he was off and running.

I can't say I envy his early career. He must not have cared for it either since he hasn't been on a talk show in years.

I think about all the kids going off to film school. I don't know if it ever works. I was talking to a film school student here. I asked him what he hoped to do when he graduated.

"I'm going to go to Hollywood and direct movies," he said.

I was stunned by his confidence.

I tried to talk to him about some of the alternate routes people had taken to becoming directors---about the extreme low budget movies a few people were making back then. This was before digital video. It was probably before Hi8 video. But he wasn't interested. It was Hollywood or nothing, and it turned out to be nothing.

Look at the route Woody Allen took...from gag writer, to skit writer, to stand-up comic, to screen writer to director. Breaking into the movie industry is almost impossible. You have to use any opening you can find.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

All those Woody Allen movies

Woody Allen, Sonny Bono

Success in extreme low budget film isn't having people love your movie----it's having people watch your movie and thinking, "If this guy just had some money to work with, he could have made a pretty good movie!"

I don't know if you achieve this by overreaching and trying to make a movie that's much bigger than your tiny budget, or if you try to make a movie that looks professional but on a small scale. I don't know if one or the other or both or neither would work.

Make enough movies and sooner or later you'll be hailed as a genius! Either that or your one work of genius will be tainted by all terrible movies you made before it. Or, after all the bad movies, people will recognize your one great work as a fluke. I still can't take Ron Howard seriously as a director after Eat My Dust.
Before he hit it big, Sonny Bono would drive his delivery truck and write one song a day. It was just a matter of time before one turned out any good. Just by sheer chance. Hundred monkeys, hundred typewriters.

How many movies has Woody Allen made anyway? imdb.com shows 47. I've seen or at least knew about most of them. But there are at least eight that I've never even heard of.

Well, that's good. He's like a high brow William Beaudine.

In this age of digital video, of extreme low budget movies made for a few hundred dollars, what excuse do the rest of us have for not cranking out movie after movie?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner

I don't think I knew who Natalie Wood was when she died. I understood that she was a former child star and that she was married to Robert Wagner. I knew someone who had worked in a restaurant at Lake Tahoe and spilled coffee on her. But I wouldn't have recognized her if I saw her.

I remember one tasteless Natalie Wood joke that quickly reached us in Oregon after her death. And this was back before the internet and before TV had gone completely tasteless. I don't know how jokes spread in those days. I remember a kid in school doing some funny routine that I later learned came from a 1960s Soviet comedy.

Now the cops have reopened the investigation into Wood's death. The captain of the yacht she fell off of now says that he lied to investigators at the time. He thinks Robert Wagner was behind it. Wagner and Christopher Walken who was also present give different accounts of what happened, which probably isn't surprising after 30 years.

And, the captain of the yacht says he only remembered this new information under hypnosis. Meaning it's inadmissible in court.

Hart to Hart

I never watched Hart to Hart, Robert Wagner's TV show at the time of Wood's death. An Aaron Spelling series about a rich couple who go around solving murders. I didn't like the idea of a show about rich people.

I did watch the beginning of an episode a few years ago, and it was terrible. Apparently Spelling's thing was making incredibly cheap TV shows.

The episode starts with Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers. There's a chef they like. They used to eat at the restaurant at which he worked. And they put up the money for him to open his own restaurant and they're going to eat there.

They drive to the restaurant in their Mercedes station wagon. They go in. This supposed to be an expensive restaurant. But they're sitting in a booth. This is in a room with cheap wood paneling. There may have even been a napkin dispenser on the table.

There's a cheap hollow door with a door knob that goes from the dining room to the kitchen. The waiters have to use a door knob when carrying a tray of food?

They hear something. They rush to the kitchen! The chef has been murdered!

For the kitchen, they used the set of a cooking show. There were frilly curtains on the window. No one would believe for a second that that was in a restaurant.

Luc Moullet's movie, Brigitte et Brigitte, had an incredibly cheap restaurant set that was pretty good. The girls were sitting at a table with a table cloth in front of a blank wall. We see them reading the menu. Then a jump cut and we see them with empty dishes in front of them looking over the bill, wondering why they were being charged extra for napkins and silverware. "I didn't ask for those!"

A few years ago, I watched a couple of episodes of Spelling's old series, Charlie's Angels. One of the angels went undercover in a women's prison. A scene in the prison yard was filmed at a public swimming pool. Public pools are surrounded by high fences topped with barbed wire so no one will try to swim at night and drown. They figured it would pass for a prison yard. A prison yard with a swimming pool. The scene where the woman is admitted to the prison looked like it was filmed in a dentist office waiting room.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Woody Allen documentary on Ameican Masters

There's a documentary about Woody Allen coming up on American Masters on PBS.

I heard a review today on public radio and it sounds like it should be interesting, focusing on his process of making a movie. The review said they quickly went over the Soon Yi troubles.

One would probably be well advised to steer clear of Woody Allen. He likes to sue people. Mia Farrow noted this in her autobiography---he sued her for custody of her children. A judge ruled that, even if Farrow were an "unfit mother", the court wouldn't hand her children to Allen.

She sued his friend, Jean Doumanian, after his sex scandal. She took up producing his movies when no one else would finance him. He was paid millions for writing and directing movies which consistently lost money, but he sued her and claimed that she had skimmed $12 million in "profits". She countersued. Claimed that Allen had cheated her out of $19 million. It was settled out of court.

Woody Allen, Bill Cosby

Joan Didion wrote about the characters in Allen's movies Annie Hall, Manhattan and Interiors:
...They have “interesting” occupations, none of which intrudes in any serious way on their dating. Many characters in these pictures “write,” usually on tape recorders. In Manhattan, Woody Allen quits his job as a television writer and is later seen dictating an “idea” for a short story....

In Annie Hall, Diane Keaton sings from time to time, at a place like Reno Sweeney’s. In Interiors she seems to be some kind of celebrity poet. In Manhattan she is a magazine writer, and we actually see her typing once, on a novelization, and talking on the telephone to “Harvey,” who, given the counterfeit “insider” shine to the dialogue, we are meant to understand is Harvey Shapiro, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. (Similarly, we are meant to know that the “Jack and Anjelica” to whom Paul Simon refers in Annie Hall are Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, and to feel somehow flattered by our inclusion in this little joke on those who fail to get it.) A writer in Interiors is said to be “taking his rage out in critical pieces.” “Have you thought any more about having kids?” a wife asks her husband in Manhattan. “I’ve got to get the O’Neill book finished,” the husband answers. “I could talk about my book all night,” one character says. “Viking loved my book,” another says.

It reminds me of The Cosby Show. We see a stand-up comedian's idea of what it's like being a doctor married to a corporate lawyer. Cosby seemed to have no idea what's involved in either profession, so we see a doctor and lawyer who have no medical or legal knowledge. We're supposed to marvel at their high achievement but the only sign we see of it is that they're rich.

Look at old episodes of Maude. Even the joke of a doctor next door shows medical knowledge from time to time. Look at the attorney mother on the Beavis & Butt-head spin-off, Daria.

What was Allen thinking, making Diane Keaton a celebrity poet? It's an aging TV gag writer's idea of life as an educated sophisticate.

But I'll watch this thing on American Masters. It should be good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A few things

Well, since I attacked Mike McQueary for failing to call 9-1-1 in the Penn State thing, I should note that he says that he did report it to the police and that Sandusky stopped what he was allegedly doing when he noticed McQueary was standing there. Sandusky denied it happened at all.

And, what other corrections should I make?

Oh, yes. Ashton Kutcher tweeted his defense of Paterno when he had no idea why Paterno was canned. He walked through the livingroom, somehow oblivious to the news about the Penn State scandal even though he claimed to be a fan of the team, he saw that Paterno had been fired and assumed it must be because he was too old. He tweeted his outrage. Then thousands of people tweeted THEIR outrage at him and he was rather apologetic.

But doesn't that guy watch the news or read a newspaper? Can't he at least do a news search before he makes a public statement?

And Kim Kardashian's mother wrote a published memoir in which she claims to have cried her eyes out over Kim Kardashian's sex tape. I had mentioned an unpublished memoir by someone named Jaxson, a former publicist for Kim Kardashian that claimed that Kardashian and her mother showed no sign of being upset about it which gave him the impression that they were behind it.

And now police in Pennsylvania say Mike McQueary never filed a report with them.

And I don't believe Kim Kardashian's mother was telling the truth in her memoir. In one episode of her show, they tried to prevent the release of another sex tape----they call the FBI. It seems that Kim was making sex tapes when she was still in high school.

In spite of this, she had no problem with Joe Francis who owns the Girls Gone Wild business. Francis called the Kardashian home from jail. He was awaiting trial----they didn't bother bailing him out because, if they did, he'd just be rearrested on other charges and locked up again. I don't remember if he was in jail for tax charges or child pornography charges. But Kris Jenner was thrilled to talk to him and gushed over how wonderful his work was.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A You Tube celebrity

I posted a while back about YouTube celebrities. If you need a star for a low budget movie, would it make sense to use one? Or could you manufacture your own YouTube celebrity for your movie?

I only know of a few YouTube celebrities. There was Justin Bieber who's hit it big, and Tay Zonday who did a Pepsi commercial.

There's a kid named Dylan Eshbaugh who did a show on You Tube called "Dylan's Couch". He would sit on a couch and tell scripted but plausible-sounding anecdotes about his teenage antics. It looks like that series ended a couple of years ago. There were also videos posted of him on stage at acting camp. I googled his name and found that he had appeared in a short film when he he was eight or nine, and he was in an independent Canadian film called Echo Beach.

The movie trailer:


IMDB describes Dylan as the "host". He's shown in the preview speaking directly to the camera. Sounds like he's a narrator or a Greek Chorus.

Someone's $30 thousand student film

There used to be a website--probably still there--called D.U.M.P.S. which stood for "Directing Unsuccessful Motion Picture Shorts". They talked about student films. The people who made the site had apparently seen a lot of them and they produced a list of things the student filmmaker should avoid doing. For example, don't do that Vertigo thing where you dolly in and zoom out at the same time, and don't put the camera in something----like don't put the camera in a freezer and to film someone looking for something in a freezer.

They had a message board. Many people were offended by the attacks on student films.

One angry young fellow posted that he had spent $30,000 on credit cards to produce his student film, and then no one understood it.

It was a silent film. He felt, correctly, that acting was a problem with student films. It was never any good. So he avoided it with a silent film about a girl leaving home. Going to college? I don't know.

But it sounded like he made the thing with no soundtrack at all. When he submitted it to film festivals, they sent it back and pointed out that it had no sound.

I don't know what the movie looked like. $30,000 is a lot. At least it was credit card debt. He could declare bankruptcy, not like student load debt.

I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Thirty thousand bucks??? I spent all those years trying to think of a way to make a feature film for, like, a thousand dollars, and he spent thirty thousand on a short film?

Of course, that was in the days before digital video. It may even have been before Hi8. His options were limited and 16mm was probably the only choice. On the other hand, there is inflation----$30,000 then might be more like $50,000 now. How do you justify spending that much on a student film? You could make a feature film for that which would at least have a REMOTE possibility of making its money back.

Sounds like he borrowed 30 grand at 20% interest to make a silent movie about a girl moping around the house and packing her bags.

I should say here that the people on the D.U.M.P.S. website were sympathetic and understanding. They said they thought his movie sounded interesting and they understood his frustration going that deeply into debt making a movie with no real hope of making any money back. I had mixed feeling about it, but the fact that they were so nice about it made me feel free to think a bit more harshly about it.

How much do student filmmakers usually spend, anyway? Now, with digital video, the price must have come down. But they're talking about providing catering. I prefer Robert Rodriguez's thing---on El Mariachi, he didn't let any (unpaid) actor stay on the set for more than three or four hours so he wouldn't have to buy them lunch.

What the D.U.M.P.S. people don't mention

They don't seem to realize that a compelling short film is much harder to make than a feature. I can't think of good idea for a short film.

Writing a short story really is harder than writing a novel for a couple of reasons. One is that novels don't have to be that well written. Look at something by Jackie Collins, Sydney Sheldon or that Clancy person and imagine reading crap like that in a short story.

The other is that it's harder to come up with something compelling that would work in that form.

But they have these poor film students. All they do is study feature films. All they learn about is feature films. All they watch is feature films. Then they're expected to make a short film, something that's far more difficult to do well and something they've never been told anything about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jonathan Jaxson, Kim Kardashian's ex-publicist, spills his guts

Photo of Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush supposedly shopping for an engagement ring. They were never engaged. According to Kardashian's former publicist, Jonathan Jaxson, it was staged by Kardashian without Bush's knowledge.

Kim Kardashian's erstwhile publicist Jonathan Jaxson has written an unpublished memoir. He says that Kim Kardashian and her pimp of a mother knew all about her sex tape when it was released--that she had learned from her friend, Paris Hilton, that it would make her famous. He told about one publicity stunt Kardashian came up with that he helped her carry out.

Kardashian wanted it to appear that she had become engaged to her boyfriend, someone called Reggie Bush. They arranged that she and Bush would go into a jewelry store together, Kardashian would put on (her own) diamond ring and then they would come out together with photographers waiting to get the pictures. It would look like they went in to buy an engagement ring. Bush was unaware of any of this and broke up with her as a result.

Jaxson said that news of the sex tape came out the day he started working for Kardashian. Neither she or her pimp/mother appeared the least bit upset over it which gave him the impression that they had released it themselves.

Kris Jenner tried and failed to get Jaxson to sign a confidentiality agreement.


Long ago on this blog, I wrote about Balloon Boy. A father trying to get a reality TV show "accidentally" released a large balloon, then claimed that his 6-year-old son might be in there! They chased the balloon down, but Balloon Boy wasn't there. He had been hiding in the house the whole time.

I suggested that people looking for a career in cinema might show that kind of creativity! Not do something that stupid, but something. Jayne Mansfield dived into a swimming pool in front of photographers waiting to see Jane Russell. Mansfield hopped out of the pool and innocently discovered that her top on her two-piece swim suit had somehow fallen off. When Jane Russell came out a few minutes later, half the photographers were out of film.

It didn't work in Balloon Boy's case. The family was being interviewed on live TV and Balloon Boy, when asked, told the truth. The parents were arrested. Balloon Boy's Japanese mother almost got deported. Never enter into a criminal conspiracy with a 6-year-old.

The ghastly Kardashians did quite a bit better with their deal, although they were rich to begin with. Their father had already latched onto O.J. Simpson. Their dead father had disposed of a golf bag for Simpson when he returned to LA after the murders. Then, so he couldn't be called as a witness in the trial, Kardashian hastily got his law license back and became part of the Simpson defense team. His job was to sit quietly during the trial and not say or do anything. And he couldn't even do that right.

The first day of the trial, he sat leaning forward in his chair, his feet wide apart, staring down at the floor.

The other lawyers were looking up trying to appear as if none of the evidence being presented against their client bothered them in the least. Kardashian stared down at the floor as if in shame.

A commentator mentioned this. "What's Robert Kardashian doing there?"

"I'm sure they're going to talk to him about that."

He sat up straight after that first day. I don't know if they gave him a legal pad to draw on like they do with bored defendants.

Not even Kardashian was fooled. He didn't regard himself as one of Simpson's attorneys. We know this because he publicly stated later that he now believed Simpson was guilty, something no lawyer would ever do to his client or former client. The other attorneys in the case immediately filed ethics complaints against him.

"Huh? Ethics?"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Student films again

From Maddin's film, "The Dead Father".

There are a lot of "student films" on You Tube. Film students should take a good look at them and see what not to do. Most of them are terrible. Many of them now try to make a joke of how bad student films are.

I bought someone's student film on eBay years ago. It was apparently shot on video and they made a crude transfer to celluloid. It...well...it wasn't very good.

But I can't blame the film students. It would appear that making a short film that's any good is harder than making a feature film. You're taking some beginners---students, in fact---and asking them to make a short film, a form that few people could do well.

Look at the ones that are good. Robert Rodriguez's student film "Bedhead" was excellent, and I just watched Guy Maddin's film, "The Dead Father", both available on You Tube.

I don't know what role one's student film plays in your future success. But it looks like, if you make one that's really good, you won't have much competition. Instead of watching feature films, instead of dreaming about making features, film students might be well advised to put all their thought and focus on making decent short films.

Both "Bedhead" and "The Dead Father", by the way, were black and white and mostly silent with voice over narration. I think they each had a line or two of synchronized dialog. That probably helped them a lot. Scripted dialog and acting aren't a strong point in student cinema.

I watched a documentary on Maddin, part of the bonus material on the DVD. One of the actors in "The Dead Father" said that it was silent, so there wasn't much acting in it. I don't know what he defines as "acting" here, but I know what he means.

Guy Maddin and Robert Rodriguez were geniuses. Watch their movies to see what you could do, and watch the other student films to see how horribly wrong things can go.

Maddin and Rodriguez both made family films in their way. Maddin's was a surreal story made not long after the death of his own father. Rodriquez starred his little brother and sisters and a cousin in his movie.

It's hard to imagine that good grades in film school are going to be your ticket to success. The connections you make and your award-winning student film are the only things that will get you anywhere, and even then you're probably doomed to failure.

Ashton Kutcher's a moron

So, Ashton Kutcher tweeted his outrage about Penn State firing Paterno for failing to report the rape of a child by his assistant coach.

“How do you fire Jo Pa?” Kutcher wrote. “#insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.”

It turns out that Kutcher and Demi Moore did a series of public service announcements saying that "real men" don't have sex with child prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking. Which seems very strange. Does he think that patronizing sex-trafficked child prostitutes is so common that a PSA would make any sense?

Kutcher falsely claimed that 100,000 to 300,000 American children were "sold into sexual slavery" every year. The Village Voice attacked this claim. According to them, Kutcher was using a report that there were between one and three hundred thousand minors "at risk" of sexual exploitation. He took this and falsely claimed that that number of children had actually been "sold into sexual slavery". The real numbers are bad enough, but it's hundreds, not hundreds of thousands.

Kutcher responded by accusing The Village Voice of promoting child prostitution and called on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the newspaper.

And now he's defending Paterno. Does he think Paterno is a "real man"?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For God's sake, call the police!

I'll tell you the first Top Ten list I saw David Letterman read. It may have been the first one ever. It was before they did it every day.

An ad for English muffins at the time claimed they were one of "life's simple pleasures". But the ads for Van de Camp's Pork & Beans said the same thing.

So. They had a top ten list. Life's top ten simple pleasures.

And one of those top ten simple pleasures: Reporting people to the police.

We need to teach young people this.

Thirteen years ago, a grad student at Penn State walked into a locker room and found an assistant coach raping a little boy in a shower. If the grad student had run to a phone and called 9-1-1, the cops could have been there in a few minutes. Instead....

Instead, he called his father. His father said to tell the head coach. He did, and nothing happened. Why didn't he call the police???

I know that cell phones weren't as ubiquitous then. And now they don't allow cell phones in locker rooms because they all have cameras on them. But the guy couldn't run to a pay phone? He couldn't run to an office and made the call? Couldn't walk in and stop the assistant coach himself?

What's wrong with these people?


Herman Cain...well, it would be nice to see a return of the name "Herman" to general use.

Several years ago, I received a CD produced by a local middle school. The entire school sang on it. They wrote the songs themselves, about the importance of good nutrition---I can't remember what else. Something about the principal. An anti-racist song.

The name of each student was listed in the liner notes. I looked through the list. There were dozens and dozens of girls name Jacqueline, spelled various ways. It seemed like every fifth boy was named either Zack, Zac, Zach, or Zachary.

There wasn't a single boy with a regular name. Not a single one named John, Paul, Peter, Roy, Phil, Steve.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Andy Rooney

I remember Andy Rooney. I remember him pissed off that people felt bad about the death of Kurt Cobain. Cobain had committed suicide at age 27 after a struggle with heroin addiction and depression. Rooney ended his piece on 60 Minutes by reading the obituary of a man who died of natural causes in his late 80s after a long successful life.

"Save your tears for him," Rooney said.

I don't know if he continued to hold the view that the death of an extremely old rich person was the worst possible tragedy, far worse than the death of a guy in his 20s.

Well, too bad.

Lousy Swedes

The Swedes are getting worse and worse. The danger of Julian Assange being extradited by England to Sweden isn't that he'll be prosecuted for what one can safely assume are phony charges in Sweden. The Swedes apparently intend to hand him over to the United States so he can be prosecuted for exposing the U.S. government's treachery.

It turns out Assange hasn't even been charged with a crime in Sweden. He's just wanted for questioning, which the Swedes didn't bother doing when he was in Sweden.

Justin Bieber, DNA test

Doesn't seem like a paternity suit is that big a deal in this age of DNA testing. There's nothing to argue about. Just wait for the results.

A couple of family law attorneys commenting on Justin Bieber's case shrugged. If he knows he's not the father, he should take the test. It'll end any speculation. In fact, it's the only thing that would end speculation.

Of course, even if the boy knows he's not the father, his mother and lawyers and everyone else making decisions for him might not be entirely sure.

Now they're reporting that Justin's taking a DNA test and suing the impoverished unwed mother in question. I don't understand why he didn't simply take a DNA test to begin with, and I don't understand why he's suing someone with no money.

Hell, maybe he is the father.

Obviously he wouldn't use a condom. How would he get one? If I worked in a drug store and Justin Bieber came in looking for contraceptives, I'd take the tape from the security camera and sell it to the Enquirer. I don't know if he has a trusted personal assistant who could get him some. He should talk to his pediatrician about it next time he sees her.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kim Kardashian, $2 million ring

Aging whore Kim Kardashian is upset. She's divorcing her "husband" after two months of marriage and he wants the $2 million engagement ring he gave her back.

Kardashian's pimp of a mother went on TV and used the racist slur "Indian giver" against her son-in-law for wanting his property back.

Kardashian's husband, Kris Humphries, is a basketball player by trade. The money-grubbing Kardashians were angry because the players were locked out in a labor dispute. Now Kim would be the only breadwinner in the family! He would be living off her "work". But now these parasites are stealing $2 million from him.

Of course, that's the whole point of "reality" TV, to show us rich people who don't deserve to be rich. They hit their zenith with My Super Sweet Sixteen, horrible rich children throwing their big 16th birthday parties, spending millions, throwing tantrums.

"Don't you love me?" one asked when his father balked at buying him jewelry. What kind of 16-year-old boy wants diamond jewelry? In my day, teenage boys were humiliated by direct expressions of paternal love.

There was a South Park episode based on a girl on My Super Sweet 16. She threw a tantrum because the Acura her mother bought her was the wrong color, was only an Acura, and she should have given it to her during the party. The poor girl will have to live with that shame for the rest of her life, if she's capable of shame.

To be fair to some of the rich kids, they're the focus of attention in extremely big events. Most adults would fall apart planning functions like these, and these kids are only 15.

There was one where the rich girls were handing out invitations to a large crowd at kids.

"Uh. We didn't get ours," a couple of boys said.

The poor girls froze. They didn't say anything. They weren't stonewalling, they just didn't know what to say to the kids they weren't inviting. They should have planned ahead for this eventuality.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Film strips

I'll tell you an interesting fact. You know film strip projectors? Like they had in school? I don't know if schools use them anymore. But they were a popular toy in The Soviet Union. Children all owned them, had them at home. Children's books were put out in film strip form.

One time, I was watching Siskel & Ebert. Siskel felt that a movie about the American Revolution was boring. He said that film strips about the revolution---not films, but film strips---were more interesting!

Later, I was sitting in a theater. "This would be pretty good as a film strip," I thought.

Well. It's probably too late to explore the film strip as a narrative form. Although you could probably do the same thing pretty well as a You Tube video.