Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lazy Sunday #261: Honest Trailers

It’s Oscar night. The hours long televised schmooze-fest dedicated to enshrining the most essential aspect of film making -– how important movies are.

There are a lot of good films competing this year. Solid entertainments with great stories, phenomenal actors, breath-taking special effects and musical scores that sweep us into the fantasy.

And we’ll be assured that every single one of them is –- important.

Not just a good time deliciously augmented with popcorn, a satisfying way to spend a date, a rewarding option to kill an evening, a respite from the real world or just good fun even the kids will get a kick out of.

Nope. These damn things are important.

Real important.

So important your life will be far poorer for missing even one of them.

Because that’s the impression hammered at you with every new trailer trumpeting the coming attractions.

And when a film makes a few bucks or gets some good reviews or is nominated for some trophies, the Hollywood marketing machine is all over us to make sure we understand it’s really because they’re not just good movies –- they’re IMPORTANT.

Nobody has grasped this concept better than the people behind an Internet sensation entitled “Honest Trailers”.

Spawned by the same demented folk who created the essential film website “Screen Junkies”, “Honest Trailers” delivers trailers that instead of hiding the faults and over-hyping the virtues of major Hollywood releases, simply reverses that process, hyping the faults and ignoring the virtues.

And delivering that message with the same “you simply cannot afford to miss this” passion of the modern day trailer.

Movies. Better than ever. And oh so important.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes It’s Not Just A Movie

When you live and work in Hollywood it’s often hard to remind yourself that there’s a real world beyond the klieg lights and the billboards.

Amidst the executive tantrums that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other workplace, the self-aggrandizing star demands and requisite red carpet goodie bags loaded with free bling, it can become difficult to grasp the realities of the true lives lived by those depicted on the silvered screen.

Fact is, there is a very real divide between those who make movies and the people or events on which the content of those movies are based.

It’s a world in which celebrities passionately take up political causes yet heap scorn on a famous brain surgeon for deigning to speak similar truths to power; a place where facts are often the first casualty in crafting drama and the fates of those dramatized forgotten in the quest for shiny statuettes.

A while ago, I pointed out that the current fave in the Best Picture category, “Argo” ignored the real story of the rescue of American diplomats from Iran in 1979 to concoct a pretty good movie that didn’t have as much basis in fact as it claimed.

It’s interesting to note that as the “Argo” plot has become more widely questioned, even producer, director and star Ben Affleck has changed his “the story that’s never been told” mantra to the old reliable “Hey, c’mon, it’s only a movie”.

Tomorrow night in Canada, CTV’s newsmagazine “W5” and renowned investigative journalist Victor Malarek will present a reminder of the real story that was known as “The Canadian Caper” for four decades before Hollywood took an interest.

Since CTV isn’t on the dial inside the Thirty Mile Zone, few of those who make movies there will see Malarek’s story. But millions in their audience will and might not be as easily suckered the next time “based on a true story” gets flung around.

Meanwhile, “Lincoln”, currently listed in Vegas as 9-5 to take home the Best Picture statue, has it’s own factual problems.

Recently, in response to a sincere request from the State of Connecticut to change two lines of dialogue in the DVD version so as not to continue to malign the reputations of its Senate representatives of 1865, screenwriter Tony Kushner remarked, “I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I made up dialogue, imagined encounters and invented characters.”

Basically, the writerly version of “Hey, c’mon, it’s only a movie” -- even when a copy of said film is being gifted to every school in America for educational purposes. 

In other words, Tony Kushner’s a guy who takes the big meetings now. He doesn’t have time for anybody’s dead ancestors –- or what your kids grow up thinking is History.

But the above are mere show biz quibbles compared with the fate of one character depicted in Best Picture dark horse contender “Zero Dark Thirty”.

Among those who gathered the intelligence which eventually located and led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden was a simple Pakistani doctor named Shakil Afridi (pictured up top).

Shortly after the SEAL team raid on bin Laden’s compound, Dr. Afridi was arrested and sentenced to 33 years in prison in Pakistan, where he is reported being repeatedly tortured.

The lack of action on his behalf by the American government has been widely criticized. And nobody associated with “Zero Dark Thirty” has spoken out in support of the man without whom they wouldn’t have had a movie to make in the first place.

Today, an ad appeared in the Hollywood trade papers asking somebody to do just that, on Oscar night, when Billions are watching.

Will anyone do so? We’ll have to wait until Sunday night to see.

But leave us not forget the examples of “Argo” and “Lincoln” or that Oscar night is the grand-daddy of all movie parties –- and I’m just not too certain that anybody who hopes to keep working in Hollywood might willingly poop it.


…and nobody said a word. You’re so brave, Hollywood. So brave.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 260: Gravity Is A Mistake

I’m sure my regulars have been wondering about the lack of blogging of late; suspecting this space is soon to mimic all those once iconic Canadian showbiz blogs that have shuffled off to obscurity.

To them and those eagerly living in such hope, I say “no”, I’ve just been stupid busy.

Which is not to be confused with my normal state of busy being stupid.

At the end of periods like this, I am in need of what I call a “Brain Flush”, meaning a wringing out of the internal sponge, clearing the mechanism of all the gunk gathered from too much focus and too little sleep.

Used to be I could do that in an afternoon spent doing something adrenalin fuelled or otherwise lacking an intellectual quotient.

One of my faves in this regard has always been the amusement park. Nothing like the terror of that first drop down a rollercoaster track or unexpected 360 roll in a tin can replica of an F-16 to snap you out of the fog of what has begun to pass for daily life.

If you ask me, Gravity is over-rated. If we all lived with the possibility of suddenly being slingshot off the planet by a momentary change in magnetic polarity we’d be a lot more “in the moment” and a lot less concerned with bullshit like political speeches and cruise ships stained with poo.

As an affectionado of all things amusement park, I’m especially impressed by the physicists and engineers who spend their lives designing new ways to freak the crap out of us.

Therefore, let me introduce you to one of the best in this regard, a man who has never allowed the laws of nature or the frailties of the human body to deter his quest for the ultimate thrill ride.

Enjoy Your Sunday!

The Centrifuge Brain Project from Till Nowak on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 259: La Luna

I love 3D. Always have.

I can’t remember the first time I saw a 3D movie or what movie it was. But I know I loved it. Loved the experience of things flying out of the screen so believably that you ducked and weaved in your seat to avoid them.

And loved that experience so much that for a couple of years afterward, I’d go to the movies, wolf down my popcorn and spend the first few minutes of the feature transforming the box (popcorn came in boxes back then not tubs) into glasses in the hope of enhancing my film-going experience.

The process of constructing popcorn movie glasses was simple. So simple a child could do it. Tear off the top and bottom flaps to create a rectangular tube. Then fashion the narrow sides into spatulas (the parts of glasses that go over your ears) and shear away enough of the front and back to make room for your head.


A lot of film aficionados will tell you that the end result is a comparable viewing option to the look of most current 3D offerings which appear muddy, dark and less crisp than their 2D HD versions.

I don’t care. I love 3D. The same way I love it when one of those Imax movies they show in museums and science centers flies you over a cliff. It makes the experience real.

Slowly but surely, 3D is coming to the internet. Youtube already has a selection of 3D channels and many other sites are beginning to embed 3D video.

Like movie theatres and 3DTV, you still need glasses to watch these films. And if you don’t have glasses, you can order them for free from any number of online sites.

The National Film Board of Canada will ship you two pair –- and up to ten if you can convince them they’re for institutional use. Simply send your name and address here.

Once you’ve got them, you can watch such lovely little films as the one that follows. Nobody will toss things out of the screen at you, but you’ll still be moved.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 258: Bye Bye Miss American Pie

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the day we celebrate and venerate all things American. Football. Chicken Wings and Chili. Excess and Commerce with a half time break for music.

The mid-game mini-concert usually features an act either at the peak of their career or who’s made a shitload of money for the music industry and might convince grandma to watch the game.

In the days before Vegas Sportsbooks took bets on what past hits or hairstyles would be featured at halftime, I remember Chubby Checker being wheeled out to the midfield stage. The network big shot hosting the Super Bowl party I was attending smirked, “Hard to believe Chubby had room in his schedule for this.”

Television and films have traditionally only embraced what was new and exciting in American music long after its star has begun to wane. Despite notably exceptions like Ed Sullivan and the Monkees, it’s almost impossible for those bringing something new and innovative to the music scene to have those national stages.

It’s a point poignantly brought home by the fact that this year’s Super Bowl falls on the anniversary of “The Day The Music Died”, February 3rd, 1959, when three of Rock ‘n Roll’s first stars, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash.

Volumes have been written and dozens of films made about those men and the tragic final tour that bonded them forever in death. And much more has been posited about what music would be like today if they had survived.

Whether or not they would have changed things can never be determined. But I’m fairly certain that had he lived, sometime in the 1970’s when the Dallas Cowboys were a football superpower, Buddy Holly would have been on that halftime stage.

And most of those watching would have found him old and tired, one of those American icons who had to be given their moment if only to prop up somebody’s flagging music catalogue.

Here’s a sample of what Buddy Holly had to offer. And the unforgettable song about what happened to “the music” after his death.

Bye-Bye Miss American Pie. Make Way for Super Bowl Chili.

Enjoy Your Sunday.