Monthly Archives: April 2012

Film Annex Article #5: Film Annex Afghanistan Development Project

Couple o’ things:

1) My contract with Film Annex has been renewed for 4 more articles (w00t!)

2) From now on, the articles will be exclusively Afghanistan-oriented. As you saw last time, the founder is very into Afghanistan development. He’s even been interviewed by the United Nations about it (check out my WebTV channel for more the video of that interview BTW).

This article is about one of his projects, the Film Annex Afghanistan Development Project. No, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but it’s mission is still very cool: to present a new image of Afghanistan through web education, and to provide Internet to 160,000 Afghani school children. I think I mentioned the Internet thing in my article about Francesco Rulli, but it was so interesting I had to find out more. Luckily, I was given the opportunity.

Afghanistan and the Internet (Full article, as well as links to videos and more information, is available on my Film Annex page.)

 

Dun Dun Dun…Investigate

In my Netflix Instant Queue, I have probably about 100 movies and TV shows. Some of these are what most people consider quality and/or films, like Chinatown, The Graduate, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Lady Vanishes, and so on. But am I watching these? Nooooo. I’m watching Investigation Discovery   (ID) shows instead.

What the F is Investigation Discovery, you ask? I’m not entirely sure, but the television shows it produces found their way into my suggestion list, subsequently caught my attention and proceeded to take over my viewing life. From what I gather, ID is a network that produces exclusively real-crime television shows, displayed in a variety of formats but all with the express purpose of making sure you never trust anyone ever again.

I don’t know how they found me–probably because I watch a lot of crime dramas, like Pysch/Monk/Burn Notice/White Collar. Damn you USA Network, you lead them right to me!

Be warned, the shows listed below are NOT, repeat, NOT great television, and if you overdose on them you WILL feel like a terrible person. But if you like crime dramas and can apply any amount of willpower to the amount of reality TV you allow yourself to watch, you may proceed (with CAUTION). If nothing else, they have excellent dramatized reenactments. And by excellent I mean really cheesy and truly worthy of a circa 1993 Unsolved Mysteries episode. Now there’s a show that should be on Netflix–all 6,000 episodes of it.

(Oh Robert Stack, we miss you)

One last thing: the order in which these shows appear on this list is not a “best to worst” order or anything. It’s just the order in which I watched them. So, without further ado, I present to you Investigation Discovery TV.

I’m sorry for ruining you life.

Wicked Attraction

Format: 1 hour television show
Category: Reality/Crime
Episode Count: 39
Premise: A series of Bonnie-and-Clyde type crime duos wreak havoc in some area of the country (usually the south or the Midwest) before either being caught or dying in a dramatic and/or disturbing way.
People You Will Stop Trusting: All your married or otherwise coupled friends, particularly if they drink or do any manner of drugs.

Nightmare Next Door


Format: 1 hour television show
Category: Reality/Crime
Episode Count: 6
Premise:  Horrendous crimes committed in idyllic neighborhoods and sleepy towns where no one ever thought anything bad could happen are solved by tenacious salt-of-the-earth lawmen and women.
People You Will Stop Trusting: Your neighbors. Particularly if they seem super trustworthy now.

Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry?


Format: 30 minute television show
Category: Reality/Crime
Episode Count: 12
Premise: The subject of each episode is the spouse of a murderer/rapist/conman/general criminal, and they (of course) never suspected a thing.
People You Will Stop Trusting: Your spouse/significant other and everyone else’s spouses/significant others.

Believe it or not, this is probably the most upbeat of the ID shows. At least there is someone left alive in the end. And it also has the cutest opening sequence–you should watch one episode just for that.

Disappeared

Format: 1 hour television show
Category: Reality/Crime
Episode Count: 26
Premise: Families and investigators bear witness to the events leading up to a loved one’s disappearance. The worst part: it doesn’t look like they ever find the missing people. I stopped watching after two episodes–it was too sad.
People You Will Stop Trusting: Everyone, particularly your children, and anyone you really, really love. You will also lose all faith in the competence of law enforcement.

Deadly Women



Format:
1 hour television show
Category: Reality/Crime
Episode Count: 38
Premise: Each episode recounts the dark deeds of a handful of disturbed, murderous women and attempts to explain their behavior through psychoanalysis after the fact. I thought this was going to be like Snapped (which thankfully does not seem to be available on Netflix), but it seems to be a bit more historical than that–the first few episodes look at women who lived over 100 years ago.
People You Will Stop Trusting: Kittens!

J/K. It’s just women.

The saddest part is, this isn’t even all the shows ID has supplied to Netflix. I just haven’t gotten to the rest of them. So, if you happen to watch any of them before I do, let me know what you think:

Forensics: You Decide!
Solved
Real Interrogations

Film Annex Article #4: Francesco Rulli

As promised, my (potentially) final article for Film Annex, regarding the founder of the site, Francesco Rulli. After looking through his blog and doing some very light research, I’m impressed. He’s committed to small business and new entrepreneurs, as well as development in Afghanistan and promoting new opportunities for war veterans.

Suddenly, all my assignments covering the channels that deal with international politics and veterans affairs make a lot more sense. If this is my last article for Film Annex, I would like to say I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be involved with an organization like this, even if it was only for a little while.

And the next time I produce a short film or web series, you can bet you’ll see it on the Annex.

Founding Film (And So Much More!) (Full article, as well as links to videos and more information, is available on my Film Annex page.)

Netflix: Episode One

Yesterday morning was like every other, except when I sat down with my coffee and logged in to Netflix, I was assaulted by a surprisingly welcome ad. If you logged in to Netflix since then, you probably know what I’m talking about. And for those that haven’t, you heard it here first: Netflix’s first original series is now up for viewing.

"I'm a brand new guy over here."

Lilyhammer

Premiere Date (US): February 6th, 2012 
Format:
60 minute television show (although I guess webvision is more appropriate, considering).
Category: Fiction Comedy/Drama
Premise: Mobster Frank “the Fixer” Tagliano turns states evidence on the family and is relocated (at his own request) to the town of Lillyhammer, Norway. Once there, Frank must adjust to his new life as an immigrant while making friends with the town’s quirky population and learning to survive the subzero winter.
Original Broadcast Channel: None (the future is here!)
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (duh), Season 1 Episodes 1-8

I might be jumping the gun here a little bit because I’ve only had a chance to watch the pilot episode so far, but based on that one episode I can say with certainty that I’m going to at least watch the rest of the series, and probably enjoy it as well.

As with most pilots, there were rough patches. It took me a while to accept Steven Van Zandt as the hero of the story because he plays the stereotypical Italian mobster so well that it’s almost campy (such as his role of Silvio on The Sopranos). For the first quarter of the episode, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep watching just because I felt like I could not establish any kind of real emotional connection with Frank.

However, after Frank leaves New York and arrives in Norway, that mobster facade fades into something more genuine. He is still very over-the-top Italian, but because he’s not a mobster anymore, his interactions with people aren’t predetermined by the cold, suspicious distance that his former position required. He is learning how to be among people all over again, not as a mafioso but as a human being. By the end of the episode, I was almost happy they began his character with such camp–it allowed the character to change throughout the episode instead of being just a one-note “mob guy,” which would have sold the entire premise short, and it’s a journey that will continue to be interesting to watch as the series goes on.

"Youths from Oslo are the worst."
(My favorite line from the pilot).

Another notable quirk of this series, at least for the pilot, is that a majority of the dialogue is actually in Norwegian. Though Netflix is an established company, this is their first series, and it’s pretty risky to have that many subtitles. I’m impressed that they took this risk–it’s definitely different from what everyone else is doing–but if I were producing the show, I’d be worried it would turn people off to watching it, especially when you consider the lack of familiar faces and scenery as well (it appears to have been filmed in Norway with mostly Norwegian actors).

When it comes to web programming, 9 times out of 10 there is little to no production value. We’ve all seen web series with bad writing, shoddy sound, and sets that look like the director’s mom’s garage. However, since Netflix is already an established company with a recent revenue stream, Lilyhammer does not suffer from the budgetary restrictions that most web productions do, and consequently the production value is high, even compared to a lot network television shows. I’m a sucker for a good score and a sense of place, and Lilyhammer has both. The music transports you to a small European town where everyone knows everyone. The visual quality of the blue-white forests and the dimly light orange tavern gives you a sense of contrast between indoor and outdoor, warm and cold, that anyone in the Midwest can tell you is very palpable in the winter. It’s more than watching a show–it’s taking a 43-minute mini-vacation to another place entirely.

When I heard that Netflix was doing a web series, I assumed it would be similar to some of the other web-based shows I’ve seen so far (my forerunning predictions were mock-documentary style sitcom a la The Office or over-the-top sex comedy, probably animated). But I was very wrong, and glad to be so. Lilyhammer raises the bar for web programming, bringing it to a level of “legitimate” entertainment to rival the networks and, yes, even some cable channels’ lineups.

If you ask me, it’s about time.

Film Annex Article #3: AAA Country

No, it’s not about road-tripping across America (though that is a good idea for a short-subject video channel–I would probably watch that). This one is about America’s economic policies and how they play out both domestically and globally. 16 or so videos, really nice graphics, and pretty thought-provoking (as much as 1-minute long videos  can be). These ones also come with a set of questions to think about after you watch the video, so a little but more user-involvement than past channels.

AAA Country: Economy-Sized Questions, Super Short Format (Full article, as well as links to videos and more information, is available on my Film Annex page.)

Sidenote; I don’t know how I drew the political channel beat for Film Annex. I’m much more of a film and entertainment buff than a political commentator (which is why this website is dedicated to television/movies/games inside of current events). So, while these articles are solidly outside of my comfort zone, it’s been a fun experiment, though gauging my success and effectiveness is…well, basically impossible, since I have nothing in my past to really base it on.

Oh well. One more article and my contract is up (barring a renewal, which is really up to them). Next one is either going to be about Film Annex’s coverage of Afghanistan, or about Film Annex founder Francesco Rulli and the videos on his blog. Should be fun either way 🙂