Tag Archives: Film Making

Frontier(s)

This is one of those films that I have a love/hate relationship with.  I absolutely love the new wave of underground French Horror films.  I would argue that the wave actually started with the Spanish film Them (2001), though it really started to take shape with the grossly overrated Inside (2004).  By that time you start to see many of the new tropes start to take shape, with homages to the home invasion films of the 70’s and creating a genre around them with the kind of gristly anticipation of Rami’s original Evil Dead.  One of the kind of weird tropes has been that of a pregnant female protagonist.  This film is not original in any of the devices that it uses, but it is one of the more prominent and popular films to come out of this film movement, probably because it is a hodgepodge of so many other famous and better films, and often tries to say so much that any meaning often gets lost to the audience.  One of the biggest reasons for this has to be the frantic editing pace that seems to be taken from a bad Michael Bay rip off.

One of the first things to note is just how much this film looks up to and tries to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973).  Unlike many other home invasion movies, this film is not about people breaking into the victims home, but more about trespassers in a strange world.  Unlike TCSM, or the much lesser House of Wax remake, these victims have been invited to the property under the guise of it being an inn so that they can be exploited.  To fully understand that this inn acts as a new state, as the victims are literally fleeing the city and the state, which has become a fascist police state that has come down hard on muslims/those of Middle Eastern decent.  While I do kind of shutter at that stereotype, the film is rarely if ever subtle and painting in the widest strokes imaginable.  The allusion here is to refugees that have been invited to a new host country only to be further exploited.  Since they are already refugees in France, the real message is that France, and as the obtuse Nazi references strongly imply, all of Europe has exploited immigrants.

The normal trope of chastity and sinful behavior causing death have a new place here, with the Muslim characters refusing vice at the hands of the Nazi inn keepers, as this now references to cultural assimilation and giving up more traditional values, though it is hardly only the inn keepers that are assimilating them, as the female protagonist is already pregnant.  Also interesting here is that the female is French and it is the traditional male that has succumbed.  I can only speculate that the reason for this has to do with avoiding controversy if the roles were reversed and a traditional Muslim girl were impregnated by a sympathetic French man.  This is an attempt to show that there is some solidarity with citizens against the state that resides with minorities, thought the film’s ending rather roughly contradicts this message.  The woman, after having killed all of the Nazi’s that have conversely killed all of the Arabs that she was running with, she then quite solemnly turns herself back into French authorities, maybe to protect the child that she was contemplating aborting at the beginning of the film.  To me this could only mean that at some level she is both accepting her place in the fascist regime, though I can appreciate the argument that because she is going to be in prison that she is actually sacrificing her own freedom in order to honor her friends that have fallen.

As with many of these types of films, there is a heavy emphasis on what one has to do to survive, and that violence is actually the lowest common denominator of what makes society and civilization tick.  Non violence, while preferable to violence, is always going to not withstand those that choose to enact violence on the nonviolent, and that as much as we may try to remove ourselves from that message, we always have to harden ourselves for the potential of defending ourselves.  She literally escapes death through a puddle of pig shit and blood, arising free yet changed from the experience.  Her turning herself in is in a way admitting to herself that even though she survived, that there are more out there like the Nazi family and that she is incapable of protecting herself and her child indefinitely, and that she does in fact need the state’s violence to protect her, though submitting to those terms is also submitting to their selection of suppressing the immigrants, to which her child has a heritage.

Ultimately the film suffers from being too literal and confused, much like the editing style that does keep the audience from emersion in the film, though with some many contradicting ideas and possible meanings, you can say that you will not have a hard time at least getting in the mindset the film wants you to get in, even if you can’t agree on a concussion.  Then again, that sounds very French to me.

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The Anorexic

I really haven’t given much of an update in a while as to what I’m up to.  My most recent project is a documentary that I was hired to do regarding the state of Maryland’s taking the child of a family because the child had anorexia and had complications resulting from the disorder.  The child had already been in treatment, prior to the state’s involvement.  Going into this, I knew that there were a lot of questions that would need to be asked, especially regarding why the state felt like they needed to take the child away, which can become a rather hairy subject when the person paying the bills is the person who is going to be under a great amount of scrutiny, hypothetically paying me thousands of dollars to make a two hour inditement of him being a bad parent, and yet he was steadfast in the truth that the government is overstepping their bounds and that other parents should be aware of what is going on, though his politics are a bit right of my own (proud centrist) I can definitely appreciate a parent that is upset and lashing out.

His reasoning is to give more red tape to the government before they are able to separate children from their parents with his case hopefully being heard by the supreme court in Maryland.  After a few interviews and background discussion with educators and people in the medical field, they have very mixed opinions, as they believe it to be already too difficult with so many children being abused at home or being neglected.  Some of the points I will be exploring is the way in which once the state takes custody of a child, the state then appoints a lawyer to represent the child to the state, when that lawyer does not take into account the wishes of the child.  The state giving out bonuses for children to be taken away from their homes to social workers.  Why the state has their doctor give the prognosis of children in question, even in cases that go beyond that doctor’s scope of practice, and more so that when other medical professionals regard that prognosis, that there are no repercussions?

I have to say that it is still too early to give my opinion.  There are many questions I want answered on both sides and totally understand why many people are so suspicious of his claims, and see how some could see the parent as bringing this situation on himself, but look forward to talking with the other side’s legal team soon and look forward to sharing my conclusions.

Dexter

I’m often asked, I think it stems mostly from stupid college entrance exam questions, what fictional character most represents me.  My answer has always been Dexter, from the TV show Dexter.  This seems to scare people, and I kind of get that.  I mean the whole purpose of the show is that you have a likable character that is moving to the dark side, which is kind of the modern television story arch that has been seen on many other popular television shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.  The supposed tragic path of the fallen hero.  These shows are designed so that the audience basically roots for the bad guy in a kind of wish fulfillment, though at the end of the day we all know that they are going to have to pay the piper for all of the bad deeds they have done.  We all wish that we could kill the annoying people in our lives at some people.  I think this kind of story thread is most evident in the first season, when Dexter’s girlfriend’s ex husband shows up and makes things difficult for everyone.  I get why it would be just so much easier to kill him than deal with him.  There are people in my life that I wish would just go away, but that isn’t what I am talking about.  I haven’t killed or planned to kill any of the such people in my life in a serious way.  The reason I identify with Dexter to the extent in which I do, is that he doesn’t fit into society.

There are lots of other characters that don’t fit in society in literature and film.  Salinger was ripe with such characters and while I do love Salinger, and think that he is a far better writer in many ways than the show runners of Dexter, especially in the latter seasons, Dexter is unique is that he doesn’t really have any desire to be a part or to be separate from society.  Dexter is an amalgamation of personal impulses and personal rules to govern them.  Because he is so different from society, he has to fake so much of his life so that he doesn’t freak people out.  I, as mentioned previously, have Asperger.  I also was horribly abused as a child, and have had a rather rough life since then.  I don’t say any of this to complain.  It is the only life that I know, and I’m sure that there are people in the third world that would laugh at my struggles.  I have also had a pretty amazing life, but when I talk about the dark parts of myself, there has only ever been one person that has ever listened to what I had to say and related to it.  Most people are instantly revolted or shocked.  Some are sympathetic and want to be a shoulder for you to cry on, but most just look dumbfounded, as if this new information does not compute within the framework of their existence.

There has been a rather strong division in me to do what is morally right for people that I care nothing about.  It takes a lot for me to find value in a person.  I generally don’t like people.  There are individuals that I care immensely for, but you have to earn that in my book.  Unlike Dexter in the initial seasons, I do long for the kind of lifelong romantic connection that he has with Hannah in the latter seasons.  While there was much more about big bads and getting away with things in the early seasons, it was really his trying to find himself in the latter seasons that I found to be the most interesting.  Season 5, for its flaws, was the first time that he found someone that he could relate to, after the most he had really hoped to achieve for himself was to be able to propperly fake it with a family, mirroring the Trinity killer from Season 4.  While I don’t love season 6, I really did enjoy the religious angle and how Dexter could relate to such things, and wish that many of those themes had carried over into the final seasons.  I think one of my favorite moments of the series was Batista talking to Dexter about faith and God.  The last seasons seemed to be in too much of a hurry, cutting out those little moments of awkwardness that let you know just who Dexter was, and that he was never really going to be normal, so he had to focus on the things that he could be in control of.

QT

Quintin Tarantino.  He is the shadow that all American independent film makers live in.  I loved Pulp Fiction.  I love his love of films, but I have to say that I love him more as a talking head than I do as a film maker, and it has been more and more this way for a long time.  I don’t mean to disrespect him.  I want to love him, but the 90’s version of him, the prefame scripts, it is long gone.  True Romance, Natural Born Killers, PF, Reservioir Dogs, all original.  Now he wants to put “his” spin on popularish genre movies.  It is like after PF he has had huge performance anxiety.  Everyone was doing Pulp Fiction knock offs. Some were really good.  I don’t blame him that his next film was Jackie Brown, and way different than PF.  It was a cool, unique one off.  Then the long break.  He did a lot of live theater and found himself.  He did Kill Bill.  I didn’t hate it.  Either part, though I thought it could have been one film.  I let him go on plot holes, cause it is a movie movie.  Not what we were used to, but it was fun.  Also, not the best revenge movie ever made.  People Talk about it being the film version of the television show that Mia had been on from PF and it is interesting, but not great.  Then we get Inglorious Bastards.

I loved the opening scene.  One of the single best scenes ever in a movie.  The scene in the basement is very similarly good.  The rest of the film is crap.  You can’t mix camp and real violence.  It worked in his early work because these were not from the narrative, but character driven.  Hitmen talking about sex before a kill.  It seems real.  Stranger than fiction.  Having a 70’s style cartoon introduction kills credibility for everything interesting you might want to say.  Similarly, killing Hitler is silly.  It is like trying to wish away bad things in the world rather than address them. That is what art is, is addressing the world to people.  Sure, escapism is great.  I love it  If his genre was truly the WWII adventure film it set out to be, then go for it.  But make it ridiculous.  Making a film go back and forth, with a silly story of the girl and her black lover.  Who cares.  The race card is not edgy anymore.  I feel like I am being beaten over the head rather than entertained.

By the time we get to Django, I mean any credit we might give him for bringing up slavery as a topic just seems so outdone by the superior 12 Years a Slave.  It is a silly idea of a Western, with a couple of great scnes that should have been tightened up.  I can’t tell if I am supposed to take any of the violence or the situations seriously which is a weird world to set such a serious subject, unless he wants us to escape from the reality of it as well.

The one plus side I’ll give him is Death Proof, which had the one great car wreck scene.  I love the idea of giving the audience so much of what they want from build up that they regret ever wanting it.  I love to punish the audience.  You want a car crash, well not the one I’m going to show you.  Again, great ideas, but poor construction.  I really want him to go back and make some old school stuff. Something set in the really real world.  I’d love if he handled Natural Born Killers 2.  He now wants to do another Western.  Then maybe another coule of genre films before he retires.  He wants to retire before he tarnishes his brand, but the sad fact is that I fear he already has.  Now the stories are about him as celebrity.  With the script being leaked, the lawsuit, on again off again.  Great publicity.  I wish I was in that position, but it isn’t honest.  It isn’t the man on the street.  I know that he has paved the way for so many.  The indie circut would not exist without him  All the stories I hear about him are of him being very helpful to artists, and I love that.  I want to be that.  But what upsets me is that so much talent will not be discovered.  So many better films will not be seen because he is the system now.  He is there to tell you what to think as much as everyone else is.  He is safe.  As much as he says he doesn’t want to talk about violence in movies, he pushes the issue.  It is his Golden Goose.  I really wish he would do a Rom Com.  No violence, no cursing.  Just all working on form and composition and story.  Somethign about him as a person.  Something personal and vulnerable.  I want him to evolve and come around to the potential we all wanted him to have.

Network Dating

A friend of mine brought this up to me, as she is really trying to find the man of her dreams.  She really wants this, but is also, and rightfully so, not willing to settle.  She rights her own dating blog, and is very successful with it.  I might mention it later, but don’t want to try and run this on her coat tails.  She has become an actress that I work with, but we started out dating.  The dating thing didn’t go very far, but we had a lot in common and it has been great working together when she has time for my projects.  She is my muse in a lot of ways.  I have made some connections this way.  You go out on a date, and before you know it, you feel close enough that you are willing to do each other professional favors.  You need a lot of those in the entertainment media business.  You help work and build each other’s portfolios.

The flip side of that, which my friend pointed out, is that you never really know if you are dating or networking.  Networking is a huge part of what we do.  Sometimes it is not about having the best ideas, as everyone in the field has ideas, some brilliant, most not, but about getting those ideas to the people who are going to promote your projects and get them out there.  I go to bars now, not to drink, because you don’t want to come off as too much of a party person, but to just meet people and tell them about my story.  I kind of hate it and resent that I have to do it, but it is part of the job.  Along those lines, I talk to a lot of people.  We conference to more greatly go over ideas.  By the nature of two people having drinks or a meal together, sometimes one or both gets the wrong idea.  I’ve had men who assumed that I’m gay, I’m not, who thought me being a film maker was just a ploy.  Some women who I have no interest in tend to think I’m flirting when I’m not, to assume that I’m a creep.  I’ve had girls that I have worked with, who I respected very much, that I would have done anything to be in a relationship with them.  It has come up after we stopped working together and they were with someone else, and they had no idea.

Another big issue is that I am not going to go after someone completely as long as there is a chance that we are going to work together.  There are things about myself that I enjoy, that I would never just share to a crew of people, because it is none of their business, and I’m going to be more reserved.  I went on a date once with an actress, and she told me at the end of the date that she preferred aggressive men, and I seemed rather laid back and timid.   Generally, I am the opposite, but I didn’t want to scare of her wanting to work with me later.  A similar thing happened not too long ago when I went on a date with a girl I met online.  We had talked for a while, and she worked at a company that I really wanted to work at in the same field as me, and she said she could get me a job, hours before our first date.  Now, for the date, I’m again on my best behavior.  Despite that we had been talking for months, this is a job that pays a lot of money.  By the end, she lost that connection with me, and receded her offer to help me get the job.

I have dated actresses and photographers that worked with me before.  I had an ex girlfriend that I have stayed close to over the years tell me how unprofessional that appeared from the outside.  And while I completely see her point, there are two points that I completely think that you have to consider.   The first is that I would love to have a long term relationship that I worked with in this field.  i love to talk about my work and my stories, and would love to have a muse that I could come to at home, and work with.  The second is that so much of my life revolves around work, that it would be nice to have that person in that work.  If my partner is not, they often feel completely left out by my schedule, especially at night.  But there is the risk of offending the cast/crew with favoritism and people in this industry are often rather flaky.

In terms of me giving advice or telling you how to do this, I don’t feel that I am in a position to tell anyone else how to live their life.  I can give you my experience and warn you of the dangers that I have seen or encountered, but I am not where I want to be.  I am sure that there are other better ways to get the job done.  I would love to have advice myself, but like anything else, you learn from doing, so my only advice is to get out there and work at it.

Phil Robertson

I really have had a hard time with this one.  I really can see both sides to this one and I can also see why both of the main view points on this is completely wrong.  I should probably start off by pointing out that I am not Christian, but I am religious.  I am Celtic Pagan, and while I don’t want to go too much into my own personal faith here, because it really doesn’t matter in terms of who I am as a person, it scares me that someone claiming to have a faith is being viewed the way that it is being viewed.  I have absolutely nothing negative to say about gays of any sort, in terms of their lifestyle being a sin or what have you.  I really don’t care what people do in their own homes, and am in no place to judge about sexual propriety.  Pat would probably also tell you that I am going to hell as well.  To him, or at least to many Christians, all people, of all other faiths, that are not Christian are going to go to Hell.   That is what he believes.  I understand this idea that even though those were his beliefs that he should have kept them quiet because he represents this other company and that they have a right to fire one of their employees that does not agree with their company line.  But this isn’t somebody who is truly representing the company.  That is like saying that any of the other reality stars that the A&E network carries represents the network.  Mr. Robertson is not their CEO, and really doesn’t represent the company any more than the crazy cat lady from hoarders.

One of the first things that upsets me about this is just how little of an actual argument or a reflection of religious freedom in this country this ploy for attention is.  Consider just how much support the Duck Dynasty clan have received since the controversy.  The controversy would not have come about if there had not been consequences.  I mean really think about the average viewer response had he said what he said, the LBGT movement reacted like we can expect them to, and A&E simply been like, he is a religious redneck with a shotgun, deal with it.  Did you really expect him to embrace you?  I’m pretty sure that even fans of the show would have thought that was a little harsh, but because he was banned from the show, even if it was just on paper as he was reinstated just before new episodes that were filmed well before all of this so they would include the patriarch, will now be that much more advertised.  Because there was a reaction, that was well calculated to make him look like a martyr, sales of the Duck Dynasty merchandise has skyrocketed, and guess who owns all of that.  It is not the Robertson family.  What would have been an interesting campaign is if fans of the show actually boycotted the show, realizing that even though the t-shirts they were buying had the face of their favorite character, that in fact their hard earned money was going into the very pockets of the villain that fired the man they were trying to defend.

With that being said, once we have established that this is a commercial venture, and is being brought out inorganically to drive a divide amongst people without actually furthering the argument or actual thought, much like how abortion is talked about on campaign trails, not because any political figure actually has a shot in hell to affect the issue one way or the other, unless they are campaigning for a supreme court justice, which of course are appointed.  Why do politicians talk about an issue that they have no affect over (I’ve even seen local sheriffs talk about it)?  It is because they know that both sides are very passionate about the issue and they know that is a way to endear themselves, and keep the conversation away from they own record, or more complicated issues that most of our population doesn’t properly understand.  It is part of division culture, that we have to take sides with very little information, without ever really trying to examine the issues and a way to make them better for all involved.

So what is the religion debate in this country and how do I feel about it?  I agree with the first amendment.  I think that we as a population should be free to worship as we choose.  The problem with that, is that we are a country that is a conglomeration of a lot of different cultures, and there is a huge coloration between the two.  I also believe that there needs to be a separation between church and state.  It is the only way that a bunch of people from many different faiths can all not hate each other.  We have to be reminded of what we have in common, not constantly be forced to deal with why we are different.  I personally don’t care how or what you worship, but don’t want to be personally subjected to it.  There is a very annoying idea that I read about a lot concerning the founding fathers being Christians that would be rolling over in their graves that children are not allowed to pray in schools, and while I agree that many rights groups have taken things to an extreme, there is a reason for that.

Here is the point that we need to realize.  That religion can be offensive.  Religion is not PC.  Religion, if it intends to answer the question of where it is that we came from and connect that to where it is that we are going after we die, needs to be very, very old.  Ideals that might seem antiquated in modern society are the basis for what religion is.  While it might seem offensive, or against convention, but I think to put your faith into a religion, you have to take every aspect of that faith.  I hate the modern practice of picking and choosing what it is that you believe.  So many Christians that I know call themselves Christians, but they don’t believe in the parts that are against modern morals, and for us as a society to expect such convictions is wrong.  Religions are a bit racist, passing down old feuds and old societal rules that we can not properly judge without becoming a little bit bigoted for judging.

I recently read a post about the ACLU complaining about prayer for soldiers and how this evil organization was trying to take God away from men in uniform, who “obviously” need it going to war overseas.  I seriously doubt the ACLU would have become involved if their had not been some complaints from someone involved.  I served in the military and fought overseas.  I again am not Christian.  I was forced to sit through multiple prayers that were not even thinly hidden to be Christian in origin.  The only masking was as to what denomination that was being represented.  I would also like to inform you that as of when i got out in 2011, it was against regulations for the Army to hire Chaplains that were not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, or Hindu.  That means that Pagans, Wiccans, and Buddhists were out of luck if they sought spiritual guidance.  I also want you to guess how many times the Jewish, Mormon, Hindu, or Muslim Chaplains were allowed to lead prayer during ceremonies and other mandatory formations.  While I fully agree with the purpose of having Chaplains in the military, and that there needs to be that sort of counseling,  the existence of systemic bias goes a long way to show the issues with religious rights in this country.  Consider marriage in this country.  There are many definitions of family in the world.  There is the homosexual argument, but think of Polygamists such as in the Mormon and Muslim faiths.  Consider that many Pagan faiths do not believe in monogamy.  Consider how state laws set up marriages, so that if there is any infidelity that can be proven that the other partner gets a huge pay day.  Consider that in terms of immigration, they do not recognize homosexual or poly relationships of any kind.  You have to be in a monogamous Christian outlined household.  Then you think about the Muslims that live in Michigan, who play the call to prayer loudly, early in the morning.  Many non-Muslims have complained.  Think about gay pride parades that are almost pornographic.  I have a lot of kinky sexual practices, yet I can’t imagine an I like to choke people parade for white heterosexuals.  There is something about the majority that scares people.  They should just have to deal with everything, and then, there is the backlash that the majority, Christian, white people have in the form of Duck Dynasty.  They are a majority of this country, and while you might not think that if you live in a big city on the East coast, there is a lot of room between you and California.

The point is that both majority and minority should been mutually respectful of one another.  Both sides need to realize that to be tolerated does not mean that the other side has to like them.  That is ok.  We don’t need to continually keep picking sides, because the more that we do, the more that we allow ourselves to be used by a system that doesn’t care about us or the issues that they are presenting to us nearly as much as they enjoy controlling us and keeping us divided for their own profit margins.