Monthly Archives: August 2011

Filmmakers SEE THIS MOVIE!

You guys remember Super Size Me? That movie where that guy ate McDonalds for a month and almost died? Well, he’s back. And he’s made an absolutely brilliant and scary documentary.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a documentary about product placement in the film industry. Morgan Spurlock (aka the Super Size Me guy) sets out to create a movie that is nothing but product placement, based on the assumption that product placement is what makes blockbusters. The film is extremely meta. For example, you’ll watch Spurlock go into a pitch meeting with potential sponsors to get them to fund the film, and that meeting winds up becoming a major plot point in the film they are funding (and a scene that you are now watching–see? Meta).

As an aspiring screenwriter/filmmaker myself, it was heartening to see the business side of the film industry in action. There’s a good 20 minutes spent watching Spurlock at work: glad-handing, smiling, making deals, and all of a sudden it seems so…easy. These people are not the big bad suits in the board room–they’re mothers, fathers, brothers, people like my friends. Even I, the lifelong introvert, found myself thinking, “Hey…I could do that.”

As the story continues, the client list grows, as does the number of strings. Eventually and on numerous occasions, Spurlock expresses concern about how fuzzy the line is between sustaining your work and selling out.

How easy it would be to end up drowning in the whirlpool of commercial money and not even know it? If you’re making a film with a scene in a restaurant, why not use a restaurant that’s going to pay YOU to film there, right? It beats the hell out of paying for it or, harder still, finding a place that will let you film for free. But how far can you travel down that road before it takes you beyond necessity? How long before you sit down and write the line, “Yeah, walk away like you always do, in your Guess jeans and Sketchers” into your script?

Near the end of The Greatest Movie, it seems like everyone is telling you to sell, to promote your “brand”, and that no one ever got anywhere in America by being quiet. And I found myself thinking, “God, that would be so much easier. Just forget my ideals ever existed and become who they want to see. Smile, and shake their hands, and life would be a breeze…as long as I could live with that gaping hole in my chest.”

I think everyone who’s thinking about making a film, and particularly about getting involved in Hollywood films, needs to see this movie. Whether we like it or not, movies are a business, and before getting into it, we (that’s me included) all need to figure out how far we’re willing to “buy in” to the machine. Better to draw a line now–at least then you’ll have a shot of knowing when to turn back now.

Week 2: Mouse’O’Lanterns

First–this has nothing to do with my previous post. I’ll get to Toddlers and Tiaras later this week. And hoo boy–stay tuned for DRAMA.

Second–in addition to Nazis, rhinestones, and Adam Scott, I’ve taken to watching History Channel one-offs and destination television, of which there is much to be found on Netflix. I guess 43 minute examinations of witch lore doesn’t come with a very hefty rights fee. Anyway, today I found a special on Disney’s “Hidden Attractions” in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

I know as a fairly liberal youth in the post-Fight Club era, I’m supposed to hate the whole Disney enterprise for their commercialism, their increasingly terrible filmmaking decisions and the fact that the whole is just kind of…creepy. And I do. I do hate all of this very much.

But I’ve got to say…there is something weirdly fascinating about the parks themselves. It’s like a religion, and the kingdoms are these plastic, pre-fab little meccas where their worshippers flock. And, also like a religion, it’s hard not to get sucked in. As I watched a segment on Disneyworld’s super-special holiday events, I found myself wondering whether or not it was too late to get down to Florida for Halloween this year.

I’ve never been one for the blood-and-guts, chainsaws-and-Leatherface, scare-the-living-hell out of you Halloween fare. I’m more the white sheet, pointy-hat, Trick-or-Treat in a mall type of girl. Ergo, I might be the only post-puberty human being on Earth who likes the idea of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. They throw up the green and purple lights all over the Magic Kingdom, toss a few comically lumpy bright orange jack-o-lanterns in the grass, dance around in the streets, eat candy and ride the spinning teacups into the night. Now that’s my idea of a happy Halloween.

And then they tell me that that Disneyworld and Disneyland ban alcohol. Game over. Stupid family values….they ruin everything.

Week 1: First Weekend

Between working 21 hours in 2 days and unpacking 3 years of shit-you-acquire-because-fuck-it-you’ve-got-the-space, I’ve lost 3 pounds and completely forgot about being disconnected from the American viewing audience. For a while, anyway.

I did feel a bit at a loss on Friday morning (Day 3) when I went for Breakout Kings and was forced to surf through the Netflix Instant Queue instead. The thing is, I don’t even *like* Breakout Kings that much. Too serious, which is really unfortunate considering Jimmi Simpson has some of the best comedic timing and delivery I’ve seen in recent years.

However, the one-dimensionality of show is exactly why it worked great for Friday mornings–it’s a semi-interesting grey cloud that I can stare at for maybe 15 minutes, get bored and become inspired to…I don’t know, clean my bathroom or something. What it lacks in story and entertainment it makes up for in encouraging my domestic productivity. Thanks, Breakout Kings!

Sans DVR, this Friday I had to clean my bathroom without encouragement. Rough, but doable.

Saturday afternoon was when the truth really sunk in. I usually spend Saturday afternoons clearing out the DVR of all the show I record during the week (usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-20 hours). But this weekend, there was nothing to clear, of course. So…to the Netflix.

(to avoid making this post any longer than it already is, I’ll just mention in brief the shows I’ve begun watching. I’ll go into detail later when/if I get more into them. If I run away screaming instead, I’ll be sure warn you).

-1) WWII in HD: 10 part miniseries about WWII as told through the experiences of 12 people and including “never before seen,” “newly enhanced” footage. The never before seen I can sort of believe, the newly enhanced…well, we’ll see.
-2) Toddlers and Tiaras: reality show about infant-to-preteen-aged beauty pageant contestants, most of which is set in the Southern United States from what I can tell.
-3) Party Down: Bygone Starz half-hour comedy series about a group of off-the-clock (read: out of work) actors/party caterers in Hollywood.

So…yep. Nazis, rhinestones and Adam Scott. I’ll let you know how this goes.

Day 1: A Farewell to DVR

Cable was officially disconnected yesterday. They do it remotely so there was no one to meet with, nothing to sign. Just a pushy customer service agent trying to convince me to upgrade, even though the whole point of this is to save about $100 a month in order to not default on student loans.

The shift has been minor so far. I just moved the last of the big stuff from the old apartment to the new one on Sunday, so the DVR/box never even saw the inside of our new digs. Plus, I’ve been so busy unpacking, cleaning, organizing and doing all the other stuff a move entails that I haven’t had much of a chance to notice it’s missing.

Then…I had to go back to the old place to box up some stray glasses and the food from the fridge, and there it was. It was the only thing on the floor in the living room, covered in dust bunnies and dirt film, it’s cords all unhooked and strewn about in a haphazard manner that I’m sure was the result of our moving the TV and entertainment center in a hurry.

I know there’s a lot of programsleft  unviewed on that DVR. The last time I looked at the DVR list, there was:
-4 episodes of Alphas
-5 episodes of Falling Skies
-1 episode of Louie
-1 of Heat Seekers
-The entire series of Breakout Kings. This isn’t “unviewed,” it’s something I used to put on in the background on Friday mornings while I had coffee and did chores.

Since then I know a new Leverage has recorded, which is particularly upsetting–it is one of the only television shows I own all seasons of (Sex and the City, Mr. Show and Jack of All Trades are the others, the first I got in installments as Christmas presents and the last two only come in complete series sets).

I had considered leaving just the TV in the old apartment until Monday, but the though of sitting in an empty apartment, on the dirty floor, staring at a TV in the dark seemed a bit too close to addict behavior for comfort.

After it was moved, I did briefly consider bringing the TV back to the old place so I could watch up the last of the stuff. Yep, I thought about dragging a 40-inch flat screen 5 miles down a highway in order to view my last pixels of cable.

I have a PROBLEM.