Monday, April 5, 2010

yes men. yep.

OK, so the idea of culture jamming and keeping corporations "honest" about their true identity and impact is fun times. I especially liked the golden jump suit with phallus. However, I'm not quite sure how it relates to assignment 5, the video race... it seems more pertinent to the recycling exercise that we're doing, number 6. I've already been combing footage of a show that drives me absolutely bonkers, THE INSIDER. It's an entertainment news magazine that comes on every night and it is absolute horse squeeze. "Celebrity" gossip which usually amounts to what 80's tv show heartthrob is now in rehab. The show has so little and such inane content, I'm stunned that it remains on the air. I want to jam this crap to the fullest extent. The only problem is that it demands wading through all of the footage. Just thinking about it ticks me off. Each show features a segment breaking down host Lara Spencer's designer outfit as she stands oh-so-proudly before the camera, and to top it off, each night ends with the "best" and "worst" celebrity of the day. Is Christie Brinkley's ex-husband REALLY a celebrity? Come on, people. Let's aim a little higher.

Monday, March 22, 2010

rough theater

Intriguing article. It's an interesting notion that humanity is rough around the edges, and so should be its art. Andre's comment about AVATAR, and the time and place for high priced special effects was also true: I can appreciate both slick and rough modes of cinema. A recent example is a film called OVER THE G.W. which I just watched for the second time. It first came to my attention at the CUcalorus festival three years ago, and I got my hands on a DVD last week. I told my wife she had to watch it. She was reluctant, until I pressed play. The story is about teenagers with drug problems who get "treatment" at this shady Brooklyn facility. The cinematography is unintelligible at times, the editing is jarring, and every frame looks green. And it is immensely compelling. The roughness doesn't detract from overall viewing experience. Honestly, AVATAR left me a little ho-hum, despite the pristine tall blue people.
This is a good concept for me to ponder because I am prone to perfectionism when I work. The irony is that perfection doesn't exist. I'm chasing a shadow when I fall into that trap, and the truth is that sometimes the grit is what makes art compelling. The "ah ha"moment came with the illustration of the German musicians with their electronic notes, having to dirty up the sound to recreate the noise of life. When a clarinet is blown, more than a note emerges. The hiss of breath moving down the wooden cylander and the click of keys, the vibration of the reed... all of those elements including the tone of the note comprise the music that the clarinet produces. That's roughness!

Monday, March 1, 2010

reaction to film scratch junkies

The first two words I wrote while we were screening "St. Louise" were these: pure drivel.
I want to know who that was for. Was there an intended audience? Am I missing the point? Is there a point? Is the point that there is no point?
The definition of art is this: art is the selective recreation of reality based on the artist's metaphysical value-judgments. I'm not bold enough to say that this short isn't art. But I will say that I'm too ignorant to "get it."

Monday, February 22, 2010

best reading so far... by far

Just last night I finally watched a film that's been on my list (you know, the never -ending list of "must see" movies (my list is pretty long)), Amenabar's THE OTHERS with Nicole Kidman. Interesting. And what makes it interesting is the sound! Whispers, voices, silences. I'm not sure there's a single digital fx shot in the whole darn thing. Amenabar creates suspense and downright terror through his use of sound, and not only that, but he did the score himself. That is a rare feat.
The second thought that this reading spurred was in relation to dialog. I write daily, and always slave away over single lines, single words sometimes. Because I'm such a believer in the specificity of words, and consider their selection just as important as shot selection. Each word must be purposeful, each line deliberate. And I'm very classical in my approach. I want every line to accomplish the forward movement of my story, the revelation of my character, and the specificity of a unique voice. If I write a line and it doesn't accomplish at least two of those three elements, it has to go. But I digress. Why not think of dialog as music. That's what this article postulates and I love it. And it's interesting to consider how different filmmakers appraoch dialog. I just recently read the script for PULP FICTION, and can see why folks go nuts over Tarantino. He writes dialog like jazz. An improvisationsal element which is quite fun. Compared to say M. Night Shyamalan, who writes almost in haiku. He selects short bursts of phrases and what's not said is often just as important as what is. Fascinating.
The last thing I wanted to mention is a quote from the article, one that was highlighted in purple. It caught my attention too. "The ear listens in brief slices." Hmmmmm. Doesn't the eye see in brief slices? We view the world in cuts, no? Like when an optometrist holds up a finger and slides it in front of your face, and has your eyes follow it. When he watches your eyes, he's looking for them to click their way across. Our perception is of a smooth pan, but in actuality, our eyes are making a series of cuts, with our brain doing the rest. Persistence of vision? How about Persistence of hearing???

Monday, February 15, 2010

absence of artist. where'd they go?

Turns out I'm like most audiences and enjoy a good story. Shame on me. Apparently, the animation that I grew up on (Disney, Looney Tunes) has in fact been a hinderance to my own individuality and creativity! Gee, and I thought it was part of my inspired urge to get involved in the movie biz. Nope. Turns out it's just a restrictive, homogenous mass form, an industrialized cesspool of low-brow common-denominator detritus. Mickey Mosue? HAHHHH. Bugs Bunny?? SHHHHH. Who needs that when you've got the seizure-inducing brilliance of Stan Brakhage (did I spell his name right? don't care). Hey, come on. I can spot the work of ol' Stan from a mile away. He's an artist. His presence is all over his films! THAT's original!
Here's the problem: the work should be of more import than the artist. Beethoven referred to himself as a "receptor" of the music, and detached himself from ownership. There was a humility to his artistry. I'm all for creativity and originality. Bring 'em. But let's not make the mistake of thinking that the orthodox form is stifling simply because it is orthodox. The dominant form of animation is dominant because it works... it's what the majority of the people want. But I understand the aversion to mainstream animation. Disney is a huge corporation, they must be evil, right? But what do we say of the consumers who spend billions and billions on Disney fare? Disney produces a product that people want enough to spend their hard earned cash for. Can Brakhage do that? Hmmm.
But let me give this article its due. It is always helpful for me to categorize forms and genres, and the chart which distinguishes Orthodox and Experimental animation is useful. Honestly though, I think I'd rather read more from William Moritz. Anyone who honestly believes that non-objective animation "requires the highest mental and spiritual faculties" deserves to be read. I couldn't agree more. Thank god for the impossibility of removing subjectivity from the artist. Shoot, ALL art for that matter.

Monday, February 8, 2010

cameraless experience so far...

honestly, this isn't remotely what i thought i'd be doing at the start of the semester. cameraless filmmaking is a unique experience. at first, it felt sacrilegious to directly manipulate and alter filmstock, particularly stock that already had footage on it. during the very first exercise, i carefully scratched my section of film, handling it like an archivist. but then i saw some other students footage and they had hacked it up with sand paper, paints, and push pins... and it looked really interesting flying through the projector! my work was a little dull. so my thoughts so far amount to this: i need to play more. i need to allow myself the opportunity to really jack things up. that's been another realization: i worry about "messing up." but there's no possible way to do that here. this class is one grandiose experiment and an opportunity to be inventive. sure, a lot of the manipulation techniques i'll employ won't be home runs, but that's not the point. the ponit is to see what happens.
i have discovered a trick that i wil definitely use again at some point. microsoft publisher and powerpoint are great film tools. publisher offers much control over images (cropping, stretching, saturating, etc), and i've recently discovered that power point can be used as a pre-viz tool. load images and then create a slide slow. it's exciting for me to put those programs (which at one point i had to master for administrative horse squeeze), and put them to creative use instead. one quick for instance: i found a picture of a lovely girl in a swimsuit, and duplicated her image, changed it to b/w, and then created a template for my magazine transfer, all in publisher!
moving forward, i think i'll continue to gain more confidence with my experimentation, but the major concern I have at this point is that i don't know what is due when. that's my most pressing goal, to make sure I have my deadlines in place. i once read that the best part of film school is meeting people and having deadlines. otherwise nothing ever gets finished!

Monday, February 1, 2010

synesthesia. god bless you.

The first thing this article made me think about was anesthesia, or the insensitivity to pain. honestly, i could use some right now. this whole notion of evoking the senses through color and representations through blobs and what-not is a little much for me to handle. I'm an Ayn Rand sort of guy, and she keeps it real and attainable. Art is the selective recreation of reality based on the artists metaphysical value-judgments. In other words, "i think life is like THIS." And if that means life is like a tower of sponges or a spiraled pubic hair on a bar of soap, who am I to judge.

Carol Steen's red blob on black confounds me. This is what she saw during an acupuncture session? Thanks for sharing.

OK, it's time for me to take a time-out. It's time for me to turn off the judge machine and open my mind... my only concern is that I don't let my brains fall out. Synesthesia in art appears to be nothing more than a psuedo-scientific lark, attempting to empirically deconstruct the response of the perceiver. Good luck with that one. And here's a great quote from the article (wikipedia, no less!): "Perhaps the most famous work which might be thought to evoke synesthesia-like experiences in a non-synesthete audience is the Disney film Fantasia, although it is unknown if this was intentional or not." I can assure you, it was not. The Disney animators concretized (vis a vis Mickey and ballet and hippos) the evocations of some classical pieces of music. The artists were simply saying "I think these songs are like this. Now go buy tickets and popcorn." Let's keep it real, folks, and keep our artsy-intellectualism to a minimum.

But it does open up an interesting can of worms: what is the artist's obligation to the audience? Is it her job to evoke emotion? Is it her job to incite? Dunno. It seems to me that it might impossible for an artist to say "this is what life is like... to that guy over there." If we remove the individual from a work of art, we strip it of it's soul. Or is that artsy-intellectualism talk? I'm such a hypocrite.