Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't Expect Too Much, documentary about Nicholas Ray

I never understood Rebel Without a Cause. In what way was the character played by James Dean a "rebel"? He ran to the police to confess after the "chicken" fatality, he was upset that his father was wearing an apron and helping out around the house, and his big line--when he screams, "YOU'RE TEARING ME APART"--was because he wanted his parents to both agree and tell him what to do. He got into a knife fight because someone made chicken noises ("Is that meaning me? IS THAT MEANING ME?") And what kind of "rebel" wears a sportcoat to high school? At least it wasn't a blazer.

Saw a documentary, Don't Expect Too Much, about director Nicholas Ray teaching at a university somewhere. His students were excited about getting to make a feature film, but Ray thought that would be the perfect time to make a wildly experimental film. A little surprising considering how conventional his visual style was.

Ray said that he always loudly berated his assistant director the first day of production and that he never had to yell at anyone after that. But his students were afraid of him and alcoholism was taking its toll.

I always thought James Dean was a terrible actor. No human being behaves the way he acted. There was a scene in East of Eden that was the worst.

I've read quotes from Ray and Elia Kazan about Dean's limited acting ability.
Kazan wrote in his autobiography:
"Dean had no technique to speak of. When he tried to play an older man in the last reels of Giant, he looked like what he was: a beginner. . . . On [East of Eden], Jimmy would either get the scene right immediately, without any detailed direction . . . or he couldn't get it at all."
(I took the quote from this article:

Read something surprising related to this. According to underground film icon George Kuchar, he was offered Ray's teaching job first. Ray was their second choice. Kuchar turned it down because he was going to San Francisco to teach.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Kirk Cameron denies hating gays

You know why Kirk Cameron is so anti-gay? My theory is that he became aware of a substantial gay following when he was a teen idol. He probably searched the internet and found some gay pornographic Growing Pains fanfiction. That would have to be a bit upsetting to a heterosexual teenage boy no matter how open-minded. Heterosexual pornographic fanfiction would be no picnic, either.

If he wanted to kill whatever attraction anyone felt for him, he's certainly done that.

I watched a little video a website edited together. It took bits of a video on how to minister to gay people. You can watch it here:

 As the Huffington Post says, these are the most embarrassing moments from a longer video. It was clear to me that, when Cameron says "God hates fags" in the video, he wasn't expressing his personal view but suggesting something not to say, but Cameron got whatever religious undergarment he wears into a bunch and said he was being misrepresented.

Poor devil.

Heterosexual teen Kirk Cameron

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Charles Manson getting married

You know what Charles Manson getting married reminds me of? It reminds me of this Three Stooges short.

The Stooges are in prison about to be executed. They insist they're innocent. Three wealthy heiresses come in. They have to get married, quick, in order to collect their inheritance. Their lawyer has arranged for them to marry the Stooges. They get married and as soon as the ceremony is complete, someone rushes in, announces the real killer has been caught and that the Stooges have received full pardons from the governor. The horrified brides go home with their new husbands.

I sure wouldn't marry Charles Manson if I were that girl.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bill Cosby google

So I'm sitting here watching a woman who says she was raped by Bill Cosby being interviewed in CNN.

I tried to Google "bill cosby rape".

You know how little search suggestions come up? I started to type that and the only suggestion that came up was "bill cosby rap".

So I started to type "bill cosby rapi"---I thought the word "rapist" would come up, but their only suggestion was "bill cosby rapid city sd".

This is very strange.

I liked Bill Cosby once, back around the time I liked Joan Rivers and Gallagher. I watched the old Bill Cosby Show, but I couldn't stand The Cosby Show. It seems a little sick that people called him "America's Dad". The show was the first in a wave of discipline-oriented family sit-coms, shows with these weird, authoritarian fathers, like the father on Seventh Heaven who we now know to be a dangerous deviant. Is this what people want when they imagine their ideal father?

Cosby sent his own daughter to prison. Cosby was married and had an illegitimate daughter. The National Enquirer offered her money for her story, so she kindly gave Cosby the chance to buy the article instead. There was no advantage in this for her since she would have made good money from the Enquirer. She was trying to do the adulterer a favor.

One of Cosby's legitimate daughters revealed that she was sexually assaulted by Mike Tyson. Instead of calling the police, Cosby encouraged Tyson to get counseling.

But I don't know if Cosby's a rapist or not. I have no opinion and there's no reason why I should.

Some years ago, when Charles Grodin had a talk show in MSNBC, he took offense at the promos Cosby did for Turner Classic Movies. Cosby said he liked old gangster movies better because they didn't contain any swearing. If the best thing you can think of to say about classic movies is that they're not obscene, I'd say that you don't like them very well. In fact, the ads for Cosby's movies, Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6 consisted mainly of people coming out of movie theaters telling how happy they were to see a movie with no dirty words.

But Grodin took offense and brought up Cosby's illegitimate daughter as proof that he didn't have anything to be so high and mighty about.

Then there were his attacks on poor blacks:
"...with names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail." – Bill Cosby quoted at the gala event honoring the 50th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, May 17, 2004
Kiah Thomas, age 13, responded:
When I read the remarks you made, I wondered whether Shaniqua was sitting in the audience that night, and what she felt when she heard you mention her name. I wonder if she went to school the next day feeling proud to have been able to attend a gala event to celebrate a historic occasion like the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, whether she felt like she had been kicked in the stomach, or whether she just blew off the whole thing as just another old man talking too much.

In conclusion, I don't know if Bill Cosby's a rapist or not, but to hell with him.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Other people's community access TV

I found some public access TV channels for other cities on Roku. I was shocked! Their community access TV is so much better-looking than ours.

They are from bigger cities. They have bigger pool of talent. And it was fairly recently that our station switched to digital video and got away from analog.

I saw a play performed on community access TV in Seattle. Visually, it was beautiful just because of where it was filmed, but the sound was awful. They apparently used the microphone on the camera and the cameras were fifty feet away in the audience. You couldn't understand a word. They couldn't hide an audio recorder on the coffee table and get some sort of decent sound? We've had the same problem with plays on public access TV here, too.

They made very nice use of green screen for a fake TV set on one show, but it was a slick religious show which I don't think was locally produced.

I just turned on a religious show---just a guy sitting at his dining table preaching. I don't know what's going on. Maybe it's some weird sort of electronic stablization, but whenever he gestures with his arms, it looks like the camera is moving slightly. The camera is on a tripod. It's rock steady when he's still. But he moves and the camera starts moving. He could use better lighting and the sound is fine but he would be surprised at how good it would be with a decent recorder. It could be more trouble than it's worth, though.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fading Gigolo, Woody Allen, John Tuturro

Woody Allen was asked in an interview in the NY Observer why there were almost no black people in his movies. The interviewer said that Allen was "horrified" at the question and that he replied:
“Not unless I write a story that requires it. You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race, friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part."
He doesn't hire actors based on race and therefore won't hire blacks. And he sees nothing contradictory in this.

I read a long piece on about "nerd racism". The nerds are outraged that the Human Torch in an upcoming movie will be played by a black guy. The angry racist nerds they quoted sounded pretty much like Woody Allen and the dolts who are defending him.

"This isn't about race," wrote one angry nerd. "The characters are white! That's how they were made."

I bring this up because I just watched Fading Gigolo, written and directed by John Turturro and starring Tuturro and Woody Allen.

It was refreshing to see Woody Allen among black people for a change and to see him taking care of children.

It was also nice to see Hassidic Judaism presented as a dangerous cult for once.

There was a movie long ago, A Stranger Among Us, starring Melanie Griffith as an unconvincing police detective hanging around the Hassidim for some reason. One of them sees a TV. He gazes at it slackjawed. "It is so magical," he says.

It was stupid. Even if you've never watched TV, you know what one is, and, no, there's nothing magical about it.

Paul Schrader, the writer and director, grew up as a Calvinist. He was seventeen before he saw his first movie. He snuck off to see The Absent Minded Professor. He said he was "very unimpressed". He thinks his approach to movies is intellectual rather than emotional because he didn't watch movies when he was young.

Just because you've never watched TV or gone to a movie, it doesn't mean you're some kind of simpleton.

It's like adults who've never sat through an episode of the Brady Bunch before. If you grew up watching it, you can still stomach it, but a grown-up who's never seen it before just can't take it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian? Is she wrong to appear naked in magazines? To produce her sex tape? To (probably) have had her body surgically distorted to fit a freakish, confused feminine ideal? Maybe. I don't know. Does it matter? It's only Kim Kardashian for crying out loud. I don't care what she does. I just don't like that she's rich.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I don't know how much this thing cost, but it's been described as a "micro-budget" movie. A 25-year-old New York hipster artist photographer (although he uses a point-and-shoot camera) decides he wants to explore other cultures, so he drives down to Delaware to see some white rural teen rappers. He tells them he can help get them a record deal and can get them prescription drugs. He takes pictures of them. Unable to get a prescription for the drugs he wants, he steals his grandmother's meds. He's a horrible, horrible person, but in a realistic way---more realistic than most horrible movie characters.

The movie was entertaining, amusing. It was an attack on New York hipster artist types who seem like easy pickin's. I read an interview with the director who said that if they were such easy targets, why were there so few movies successfully ridiculing them. There was nothing very surprising, but I liked it well enough.

Available on Fandor.

It might make an interesting double feature with What Goes Up starring Steve Coogan as a reporter sent to the town where Christa McAuliffe, the teacher perished in the space shuttle Challenger disaster, lived and worked. Coogan arrives in town before the space shuttle launch. While the rest of the school prepares to celebrate the shuttle launch, Coogan reports on a class of outcast teenagers placed in a class in a separate building who are mourning the death of their beloved teacher. He had known the teacher years earlier in college, and he lets the students think he had been his "best friend" in order to get a story.

Available on DVD from Netflix.

Have things not changed?

It was the '80s. I was a dishwasher by trade. They were showing the films of Jon Jost at the university here. Jost himself spoke after the last movie was shown.

The whole thing was organized by the film department and they quickly scrounged up the money for Jost to stay and do an all-day filmmaking seminar, then a short workshop. I was working and could only go to the workshop.

Like I say, this was the '80s. Video8 had just come out. There was no Hi8 yet, or S-VHS. They was no digital video, obviously.

Jost said that if he were just starting out, he would film in Video 8. The Video 8 camcorders had flying eraser heads so you got clean cuts between shots. He said he would film the scenes in order, rewind and record over outtakes. All the editing would be done in-camera, and when you're done, you just push eject and there's your finished movie----he held up his hand like he was holding a cigarette lighter----a ten dollar video cassette!

One of the film students muttered something about a tape-to-film transfer, but Jost said, Naw, just show it on tape! If you wanted to show it to a crowd, there are video projectors.

Everyone seemed horrified. A movie that wouldn't be shown in theaters?

Jost assured them that, if it was their first movie, it probably wouldn't be any good anyway. And, yeah, he got that right.

I've told that story before here. I thought it showed how much things have changed. I figured that film students today assumed their work would go to straight to DVD.

When Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas talked about Hollywood "collapsing", it turned out that they meant that movies might go straight to video and pay-per-view rather than be shown in theaters. They said this to a crowd of film students. I thought it showed how out of touch with reality Spielberg and Lucas were, thinking that film students would be upset at the thought of people watching their movies on TV.

It recently dawned on me that I was wrong.

I was talking to a film student, marveling at the movie El Mariachi. It was shot in 16mm and cost $7,500. All but $400 of the budget went to pay for filmstock and lab costs. This means that the movie could (in theory) be made for only $400 (after adjusting for inflation) if it were shot on digital video. It would cost even less than that since muzzle flashes and blood spatter can be added digitally now.

The film student replied that it didn't really cost $7,500 because the movie studio had to spend a lot of money to prepare El Mariachi for theatrical distribution.

I didn't know what to say to that. The proper response would have been, "Well, duh."

The movie wasn't made for theatrical distribution---it was made for the Spanish-language home video market. And since I was talking about shooting on digital video as an alternative to 16mm film, I thought it was obvious I was talking about distribution on DVD. If you make a movie that cheap, it's safe to assume it's not going to be shown in theaters.

But this was what they always say about El Mariachi. They think they're debunking it to say that they had to spend money to prepare it for theaters, as if this were a necessary production cost, as if theatrical distribution was the goal for any movie.

I was a bit surprised. Film students are still obsessed with theatrical distribution. They still consider TV and home video beneath their dignity. They're living in the past. They're not taking advantage of technological changes.

Robert Rodriguez got in to talk with movie executives on the strength of his short student film, "Bedhead" (available on YouTube), which won at film festival after film festival. They asked him if there was any movie he wanted to make, and he suggested a remake of the movie he just did. He showed them El Mariachi and they said, no, what he had was good enough. They would just distribute the movie he already made.

If you want to be Robert Rodriguez, make a movie for home video and even if you don't end up with a career in Hollywood, you'll end up with a career in home video if you don't screw it up.