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Idiots’ Diary #7: Cinema Mixup

So things are going smoothly – I'm setting up a number of signings and showings in LA and NY. Then I'm talking on the phone to Tom Akel of MTV who's setting up a new animation web channel (he even wants to bring back Liquid Television) and wants to do some interviews and maybe show some of my shorts, when I get this panicked call from my NY press agent; the dynamo Phyllis Bishop.

Blogs

THE TILLMAN STORY (2010) (****)

When the news first broke that Pat Tillman left behind millions of dollars to join the Army, I made assumptions about what kind of person he was. After seeing Amir Bar-Lev's wonderful documentary, I learned what it makes you and me when you assume. However, I do take consolation in the fact that it seems most people thought about the same thing. But the real problem is that the people who knew otherwise and had the responsibility to tell everyone the real story made another one up.

So who was Pat Tillman? He was a low-key sort of guy who hated talking about himself. He married his high school sweetheart, but only after he and his brother Kevin decided to enlist for three years. As a defensive football player, he loved to hit the opponent as hard as he could. On the other hand, Tillman graduated from Arizona State early and summa cum laude. Following his college football success, he signed with the Arizona Cardinals where he broke team records. While his teammates drove luxury cars to practice, he rode his bike. After 9/11 he did enlist, but never publicly told anyone his reasons.

Animation Blogs

Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 16

The Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum hits Hollywood this week as they kick off their exclusive and elusive star-studded six week podcasting tour of the west coast animation dynasty. It's FFAFLA 2010! Join Alan, Joel, Computer, and Sam Olschan as they tinkle and toast their way into the hearts of the industry's most influential celebrataunts and debuties. Special guest and International Manimator of Mystery, Mike Overbeck, gets things going as he discusses his commercial work, personal films, unemployment animation time-fillers, and interrogation spy techniques.

Blogs

Idiots’ Diary #6: Mailing Lists

This week my goal is to compile a master contact list of friends, associates and acquaintances. Since the film “Idiots & Angels” is opening on the 6th of October at the famous IFC Center in NY and on October 29th at the Laemmle Sunset in LA, I need a groundswell and a firestorm of publicity. I want to get packed audiences; I have to have big long lines of people eager to see my new animated feature stretching around the blocks. I've sworn to do anything possible to pack the houses, as long as it's legal.

Blogs

ANIMATOR INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL – A FEAST FOR EYES AND EARS July 12 through 17 2010 Poznan, Poland

Photos Courtesy Wojtek Wardejn, Animator Festival
When Nik and I were invited to ANIMATOR 3rd International Animated Film Festival, July 12 through 17th in Poznan, Poland, we were told that it was an animation and music festival.  The description doesn’t do justice to the emphasis that the festival organizers place on the marriage of animation and music.

Along with two competition screenings each day and a myriad of special programs, every night there were screenings of animation with live music.  There were also two screenings for young people each day and workshops for children of all ages.  Because I had the privilege and honor to be on the jury, my days were fully taken up with watching the 82 films in competition and then with jury meetings.

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – The Classics Come to Blu-ray

After some busy weeks of releases, this week is a little more before a monster release week next week. Classic tales on film come to Blu-ray this week, as well as an Emmy nominated TV movie and a 1960s French classic.

Pick of the Week
Hamlet
William Shakespeare’s HAMLET has been adapted for the screen dozens of times. The tragedy won Sir Laurence Olivier an Oscar for Best Actor and Picture. However in many ways Kenneth Branagh’s version of the domed prince’s tale is superior. At just over four hours, this 1996 rendition feels better paced. The natural approach to the material certainly makes it more accessable to a modern audience. The all-star cast includes Branagh, Richard Attenborough, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Judi Dench, Gerard Depardieu, John Gielgud, Rosemary Harris, Charlton Heston, Derek Jacobi, Jack Lemmon, John Mills, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Robin Williams and Kate Winslet. It puts the whole play on film with an Oscar nominated screenplay, Art-Set Direction, Costume Design and Musical Score. Branagh’s performance is especially interesting – is his Hamlet mad or just pretending? It’s hard to say.

Blogs

8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION (2010) (***)

This documentary about California's Prop 8, which defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman, has a specific point of view. Director Reed Cowan sets out to paint the Mormon Church as bigots who campaigned to take the rights of gays to marry away after it had been granted by the State Supreme Court. A point of view is fine, but are Mormons or other anti-gay marriage proponents going to read or watch past this point? So in the end, the film is preaching to the choir. But for those in the pews, the song can be moving.

Narrated by Oscar-winning MILK screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the film begins with a retelling of the events that led up to Prop 8 being passed. It uses the hook of a gay couple who were married on the first legal day in California to set the emotional stage. Then it goes to tell how the Mormon Church organized its followers and other religious organizations to help get the Prop passed. The tone is like a shocked whisper when nothing revealed is all that shocking. It's based on secretly obtained internal documents from the church and treats them like they are the Pentagon Papers. There is no doubt from the way the details are told that it still hits a raw nerve for the filmmakers.

Blogs

BLACK ORPHEUS (1959) (***1/2)

Director Marcel Camus takes the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice and transplants it to 1960s Rio de Janeiro. Driven by an ever present bossa nova beat this tragic love story takes place during Carnival where the poor and the rich mingle in the streets in celebration. But Death is lurking in every corner.

The innocent Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn, SWEET MOVIE) flees to Rio to escape from a mysterious man (Ademar Da Silva) she believes wants to kill her. She turns heads as she roams the streets trying to find her cousin Serafina (Lea Garcia, ORFEU). She particularly catches the eye of Orfeo (Breno Mello), a poor trolley car conductor who is known throughout the slums for three things   his guitar, samba group and playboy status. The problem with him finding true love with Eurydice is that he’s engaged to the loud Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira).

Design Blogs

Transformational Learning for the Conceptual Age

Delving into specifics programs, curricula, institutions and methods, it’s important to review the breadth of the issues we face. Every progressive, generative and future-focused learning framework (whether personal, corporate or institutional) MUST be designed, build and assessed as an interdependent system of connections among people, the environment and the process of acquiring skills and knowledge.

Blogs

Miyazaki – no, not that one – directs 'Tales from Earthsea'

By Joe Strike | Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 3:57pm

Fathers and sons – both onscreen and off – figure in Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea. Onscreen, a teenage prince kills his royal dad and makes off with the man’s sword; offscreen, Goro Miyazaki, the son of Japan’s best-known animation director takes over a project his dad initiated but never found the time to direct. Wish fulfillment or mere coincidence? Does a sword equal a man’s career? You be the judge…

Comedy Blogs

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) (***1/2)

Best videogame adaptation ever! Wait, but it's adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel. This send-up of videogame culture is frantic and funny. It uses videogames as a style with wit and ingenuity. Director Edgar Wright, the maker of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, has taken a simple, quirky love story and blown it out into a grand cinematic spectacle that had me smiling form the moment the 8-bit version of the Universal logo came up on the screen.

Blogs

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) (***1/2)

Best videogame adaptation ever! Wait, but it's adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel. This send-up of videogame culture is frantic and funny. It uses videogames as a style with wit and ingenuity. Director Edgar Wright, the maker of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, has taken a simple, quirky love story and blown it out into a grand cinematic spectacle that had me smiling form the moment the 8-bit version of the Universal logo came up on the screen.

It is announced right from the start that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, JUNO) is dating a high school girl. Now you might be thinking that a 22 year old dating a 17 year old is one year short of being right, but Scott seems too innocent to expect anything more than a kiss. Scott just likes the adulation of Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) even though his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick, UP IN THE AIR) thinks there's twisted fantasy fulfillment going on in him dating a Chinese Catholic school girl with the uniform and all. But he seems satisfied with her simply being amazed at his knowledge of the origin of Pac-Man's name. She of course thinks he's awesome because he plays bass in a band called Sex Bob Omb.

Blogs

Idiots’ Diary #5: Big Meeting

So now the craziness begins. I've got 2 hard dates for Idiots & Angels: Oct. 6th at the IFC Center on 6th Ave in NYC and Oct. 29th at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in LA. So like Patton I'm devising a 2-prong attack. First, I'll invade NYC using low-cost but more personal forms of advertising: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Skype. We can save a few bucks and then I'll turn my forces onto LA.

Blogs

KICK-ASS (2010) (***1/2)

This comic book adaptation is not for everyone, especially little kids. Those that hated it really hated it. The film is violent as can be and puts an 11-year-old girl right in the middle of that violence as a gleeful participant. Defenders can tell detractors that they need to lighten up — it's only satire. But the detractors will come back and say how can you get any joy out of seeing a little girl beaten savagely by an adult? Well I'll make my attempt to tell you how.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, NOWHERE BOY) is just your average high school student who hangs with his friends after school at a comic book shop. He wonders why out of all the people who love comics why no one ever decided to try to be one. He freely admits that it’s a crazy idea because as he says his only superpower is to be invisible to girls. But he keeps fantasizing about the idea and like a serial killer one day fantasizing isn't enough. He confronts a pair of thieves and ends up in the hospital for months. But after he recovers, the urge is still there. He's like an alcoholic only addicted to putting on a green and yellow scuba suit and walking the streets looking for trouble. Well trouble finds him again and this time there are teens around with cell phones, making Kick-Ass an Internet sensation.

Blogs

EAT PRAY LOVE (2010) (***)

Based on Elizabeth Gilbert's wildly popular memoir, the film rendition has the tough task of taking a largely philosophical and observational tome and transforming it into drama. At one point the Liz character asks another character why he only talks in bumper stickers and the same can be said about the film. The story never delves too deep into what makes its characters tick. So what does this film have to offer then? It's part wish fulfillment and part pop philosophy pick-me-up and part gorgeous travelogue.

Liz Gilbert is played by movie star Julia Roberts. Some might find the episode regarding her buying big jeans a cruel joke when the rail skinny Roberts tries to squeeze into a size 0. But I digress. Gilbert has been married to Stephen (Billy Crudup, ALMOST FAMOUS) for seven years, but hasn't found wedded bliss. She decides she's had enough and files for divorce, but Stephen won't let her go easily. She meets a young actor named David Piccolo (James Franco, MILK) and falls into his arms like a cartoon character jumping off a high dive into a paper cup. But she's still not satisfied. She wants to make a bold change and take a year off, living in Italy then India and finally returning to Bali where the medicine man Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) told her she would have a short marriage and a long one, but didn't know at the time which one she was in.

Blogs

The Naming of Things: The Ray Harryhausen Theater at Sony Pictures Digital

Jon Landis gave the dedication in place of Imagework’s Ken Ralston, who had come down with something on the flight back from London where he had attended Mr. Harryhausen’s 90th birthday party. There was camera set up to record birthday wishes from Mr. Harryhausen. Luminaries Rob Cook and Sam Raimi, among others, attended. Raimi brought his kids, which I thought was awesome. I came to love science fiction, fantasy and horror movies sitting beside my grandfather in the great movie houses of old downtown San Diego. I always love to see people passing on their love of the fantastic to their children.

Animation Blogs

TALES FROM EARTHSEA (2010) (*1/2)

It has been reported that Ursula K. LeGuin granted Studio Ghibli the rights to her EARTHSEA series largely based on her love for Hayao Miyzaki's work. When Miyazaki was not available to direct the film, the studio hired his son Goro instead. Hayao publicly said his son was not ready to write and direct his first feature film. They should have listened to the master.

Blogs

TALES FROM EARTHSEA (2010) (*1/2)

It has been reported that Ursula K. LeGuin granted Studio Ghibli the rights to her EARTHSEA series largely based on her love for Hayao Miyzaki's work. When Miyazaki was not available to direct the film, the studio hired his son Goro instead. Hayao publicly said his son was not ready to write and direct his first feature film. They should have listened to the master.

The land of Earthsea is out of balance. Dragons have been spotted over the sea. The King walks to his study and is stabbed by a young man who turns out to be his son Prince Arren (Matt Levin, BLADES OF GLORY). Arren flees and winds up in the desert where he meets the Archmage Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton, HOT FUZZ), who takes the young man under this wing. When they arrive at the city of Hortown, Arren has a run in with slaver traders led by Hare (Cheech Marin, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), who try to enslave the scared young woman Therru (Blaire Restaneo), who is the ward of Sparrowhawk's old friend Tenar (Mariska Hargitay, TV's LAW & ORDER: SVU), a former witch. Sparrowhawk soon learns that the evil wizard Cob (Willem Dafoe, ANTI-CHRIST) is behind the turmoil in Earthsea. The male wizard who looks like Cher needs Arren to obtain immortality.

Blogs

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S EUROPEAN VACATION (1985) (**)

The first VACATION film was a comedy with a satirical purpose. The sequel had only one purpose – being a sequel. In a perfect sort of way, the film represents everything cliché about bad follow-ups. The ante is upped, while the general premise is slavishly copied. Original actors didn’t return and needed to be replaced with lesser versions. The actors that remain start chewing the scenery to make the tired material seem funny.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase, FLETCH) puts his family on a FAMILY FEUD-rip-off called “Pig in a Poke” and wins a trip to Europe. Clark is again eager as ever to have the best family vacation ever. His wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo, HAIR) supports him the best she can, encouraging the kids to embrace their father's enthusiasm. Their daughter Audrey (Dana Hill, SHOOT THE MOON) doesn’t want to go because she can't imagine leaving her boyfriend. Their son Rusty (Jason Lively, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) is a more willing traveler, eager to meet the loose European women. The all-expense paid trip turns out not to include good hotels or swanky transportation.

Production Blogs

You mean we actually didn't run out of money? Or, How I learned to stop fearing and love the Budget.

How would you set about making a film without knowing what you had to spend and where you should spend it? It can be done but there had better not be more than two or three people involved and no poduction schedule to meet. It would be far easier to make a simple budget and to know what you need and when you will need it.

Comedy Blogs

THE OTHER GUYS (2010) (***)

I have mixed feelings about this buddy cop comedy. I went in hoping for a satire of outlandish cop flicks. For the most part that's what I got. Then the film hints at something more, dealing with desk cops doing "boring" police work to catch the biggest thieves like Bernie Madoff. I really wish this area had been developed deeper instead of focusing on unconnected and very broad character moments. Then again some of those moments are really funny. But then again some of them aren't.

Business Blogs

Idiots’ Diary #4: Finding an Indie Cinema in NYC

I've narrowed my list of available NYC indie cinemas to 2: IFC Center and Cinema Village. Both are quite good and have a history of showing animated films. Both theaters seemed interested in Idiots & Angels, so I sent each booker a screener of the film plus the great reviews it got from Variety and The Village Voice. My plan, and I do have a plan, everybody should have a plan, is this…

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – Blu-ray Crumbles

Another busy week for Blu-ray this week. Criterion has Terry Zwigoff’s docs. Great library titles come to Blu-ray for the first time. A duo of 2010 releases makes the Buzzed About list.

Pick of the Week
Crumb
In my original review of this 1995 doc, I called it a collection of bests. One of the best docs, portraits of an artist, tale of an eccentric family, and examination of sexual hang-ups. Robert Crumb might be viewed as an odd bird when simply looking at his sometimes sexually perverse art, but wait until you meet his brothers. I love the film’s honesty and humor and heart. This is one of the very best films of the 1990s.

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