Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie Of The Day - Minority Report

MINORITY REPORT (2002) d: Steven Spielberg

What was billed, and released, as a summer blockbuster I think slightly hurt a film that is more than that. While there is action and a star lead this Steven Spielberg film, based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, is really an old fashioned film noir.

Three people have the pre-sight of people being murdered so the Pre-Crime division gets the scattered images from the "precogs" and decyphers them to discover who is going to be murdered and by whom. Then they swoop in and arrest the person before the crime happens. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) heads the unit until one day one of the visions reveals himself murdering a stranger. This leads to an unraveling of a mystery with twists and turns and even a few action sequences. But this science fiction film is at heart an old fashioned film noir set against a science fiction backdrop. And I absolutely love film noir so this film was really something when I saw it in the theatre upon release. This is also arguably, after 'Saving Private Ryan', Spielberg's best film since 'Schindler's List'. A tight film with some real suspenseful moments and a climax that is about character not explosions. So strange that a big budget sci-fi summer movie with state of the art digital effects is more in line with the low budget black and white films of the 1940's. And desevedly so. An underrated film and one I was happy to revisit.

RIP Dennis Hopper - The Man Who Saved Hollywood

I'm sure everyone has heard of the passing of Dennis Hopper. It was only a matter of time unfortunately with him having cancer but it's still sad when it happens. Much will be written about he and his movies. His drug years. His amazing up and down career. His friendships with all kinds of people including the late great James Dean. A man who lived life to the fullest (perhaps too full sometimes) and has left a mark unlike few before him. However one such mark is the fact that the man saved Hollywood.

During the 1960's Hollywood revenue had dropped drastically and the studios were on the verge of bankruptcy. People weren't going to the movies as much and with the social climate at the time more kids were getting high and/or protesting the war (specifically the draft more than the war but that's a whole other thing) so no one was invading their local theatre for the latest Hollywood had to offer which wasn't really much. The films being turned out at the time were not ones anyone wanted to see. Hollywood had lost touch with the current crop of moviegoers. They were in a downward spiral until one actor decided to make his own movie. A hippie drug biker flick starring he and his buddy and a few friends. The film was 'Easy Rider'. A low budget film that no one at the studios even understood. And quite frankly some of us in the audience didn't either. But the film struck a chord with the people at the time and it became a huge success. Hollywood scratched its head and decided they were out of touch and knew their only hope was to grab onto young directors and let them do their thing. Out of this came the careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Brian DePalma, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese ... and the list goes on and on. These filmmakers in turn redefined Hollywood and soon both the amazing films of the 1970's came about plus the birth of the modern blockbuster.

If not for 'Easy Rider' then who knows what would have happened. All because one man decided he wasn't seeing the films he wanted to see and went out and made his own. 'Easy Rider' isn't just about the hippie movement of the 1960's but about how one man created something that he felt was missing and it ended up changing everything.

That man was Dennis Hopper. Rest in peace.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Movie Of The Day - Collateral


It's no secret one of my favorite filmmakers is Michael Mann. I just think he makes such amazing films. His action films are a clear example of the kind I want to make. They have the action but have a very strong dramatic element to them which I love. One such film is 'Collateral' which stars Jamie Foxx as a cab driver who picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a hitman who came to town to take out five people. The two of the them are fantastic in their polar opposite characters and the film plays out almost as a bizarre buddy picture only on a more serious note. There's action, surprises, but mainly just great characters. An amazing film from an amazing filmmaker. I hadn't seen it in a few years but experiencing it again on Blu-ray sure did make my evening. And inspired me as well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Star Wars Day

Today is 'Star Wars' day and to celebrate it I am posting this special post for it. I know I've gushed over 'Star Wars' in the past. And for those that know me personally they have heard it to death. It's hard not to though. The usual fan boy celebration of the films and the mythology and yes, even the lightsabers can be found everywhere. However, 'Star Wars' has very personal meaning for me. It takes it to a different level of appreciation because I might be a different person today if not for it.

When I was 3 going on 4 my parents took my sister and I to see it at the theatre. When your that age pretty much anything bright will grab hold of your attention but this was different. I was completely mesmerized by the powerful iconic images on the screen before me. It was such an awe inspiring moment that it changed everything. I became fascinated by the moving image. By visual storytelling. Whether I was watching movies or TV I found myself studying it even before I knew what the technical aspects of it were. When I played with my toys my eye became the camera. I would move in real close for a close up or pull out for a wide shot. I would repeat actions so that I could view them from different angles. All before I knew what any of that was. I didn't know about camera angles, editing, cinematography. I just wanted my imagination to mimic what I see on the screen.

As I grew older I learned more about the filmmaking process and knew from a very young age that a director was what I wanted to be. It's all I knew how to be. People would tell me how cute it was and that I would grow out of it. But I didn't. It only became more intense as the years went on. Even when people told me I needed to find a "real" career to invest in I was determined. I even had teachers tell me to give it up only to come around and tell me to keep going no matter what after they saw how determined I was.

I made my first feature film 'Distortion' which I literally just finished. It was many years in the making and I made it on my own with almost no money. But my love of movies and of filmmaking stems back to that one moment when a young child was completely enthralled by the film playing out in front of him. 'Star Wars' changed my life and I cannot be more thankful. I don't know who I would be today if that had never happened. Quite honestly I don't want to know. I like who I have become. I only hope that little kid who dreamed of becoming a filmmaker one day feels the same way.

Here is the one moment from any film that I feel defines me. It is only fitting that it is from 'Star Wars'. That sense of dreaming for something that seems so far away. Hoping one day to reach it.

Thank you 'Star Wars' for everything you have done for me. May the Force be with you.