Category Archives: Films

FA Article 11: Sam French and Development Pictures

Oh man…I am REALLY letting this stuff slide, huh? I can’t help it, though. New job + trip home + + 100 degree weather + peanut butter chocolate Rice Krispy squares= total lack of motivation. If it makes you feel any better, this is not the only thing I’ve let slip lately (though that makes ME feel a bit worse…)

Oh well. It’s July. Nothing gets done in July.

This week for Film Annex I stumbled upon a really cool interview with Sam French, founder of Development Pictures in Kabul. This is the company that produced Buzkashi Boys, one of the first narrative short films to be shot entirely in Afghanistan. He also talks about the previous total destruction of the Afghan film industry, the role of social media in rebuilding a prosperous country, and, of course, his view on Film Annex’s Afghan Development Project. A cool guy, a great interview–I really recommend you take a look.

Read my blog on Film Annex to find out more.

Viewer’s Choice: Hugh Hefner

So I’ve been watching a lot of porn lately.

No, not for that. Jeez. No, I’m doing research for a new web series I’m writing (it’s going to be super awesome and I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it as it comes along. DISCLAIMER: it’s not going to be actual pornography, so you can all relax). Anyways, as an additional, more academic approach to the topic, I’ve also been watching a lot of documentaries about the porn industry, and Hefner’s biography happened to be one of them.

NOTE: This review was requested by my friend Tim. So we all have him to blame.

Er, I mean…thank.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (2009)

Biographical Documentary
Running Time: 2 hrs 4 mins
Plot: From his humble beginnings as a cartoonist to one of the most iconic celebrities in America, Hugh Hefner’s life has been one of controversy, conflict and, though it may come as a surprise to some, high ideals and commitment to excellence.
Available on: Netflix

Before watching this documentary, I didn’t really have an opinion on Hugh Hefner. I didn’t like him and I didn’t dislike him. I’ve never been a big fan of Playboy, but it didn’t offend me either. To me, naked women are boring. However, after watching this film, I have to say I have a great respect for Hefner.

Yep, you heard me right. Respect. Now before you get all hot and bothered about how I could possibly respect a man who distributes pornography for a living, read on. Here’s a list of awesome things I didn’t know about Hugh Hefner before I watched this documentary:

  • He’s a proponent of free speech. Seems obvious that he would be, but it never really struck me just how involved he was until now.
  • He is a ridiculous perfectionist. He reviews every issue, every picture, in painstaking detail to make sure it’s fit for publication. Yes, okay, it’s pictures of naked people. But so what? Commitment to perfection is still commendable in any artistic pursuit, even porn.
  • He was a huge civil rights activist. His television show, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959-1960), actually featured a lot of African-American musicians and racially mixed ensembles that couldn’t book a show at most other venues.
  • He was an outspoken anti-war figure during Vietnam, and his public appearances reflected that opinion. One event the documentary notes in particular is the appearance of the rock group Country Joe and the Fish on Hefner’s second short-lived television show, Playboy After Dark  (1969-1970), where they performed their extremely controversial anti-war song “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag” .

He’s also responsible for giving me my new favorite quote to live by: “If I was going to be damned, I wanted to be damned for what I really believed, not what they pretended I believed.” It sounds a little trite, and maybe it is, but as I find myself applying it to situations in my life, it has given me a startling amount of clarity. People are judgmental no matter what. You can’t get around it. So you might as well be judged for what you actually are rather than what people think you are. Be yourself, and everyone else will just have to find a way to deal with it.

Now, I am just as liberated and modern and blah blah blah as the next woman, and as such I don’t presume to tell other women what to do with their lives. Maybe I don’t want to put on rabbit ears and tail (I think I’d look better in bat wings, or maybe as some kind of jungle cat), but far be it for me to tell other women what they can and can’t do with their lives. Maybe Playboy objectifies women as sex objects, but if the women in the photo is fine with it, then that’s fine with me. I know some people will say that this objectification causes men to see all women as sex objects, but to me it’s all about context. Sometimes women are sexual, and sometimes they aren’t, and men are not so stupid that they can’t tell the difference.

Okay, maybe some are. But those men are going act like jerks anyway, naked pictures or no.

Good-for-You Film: The Graduate

I felt so bad after last week’s junk TV article, I’ve decided to start a thread of posts called “Good for You Films (and Television).” These are the must-watch classics/quality films and TV shows that, lucky us, are available for free on Netflix, Hulu, or wherever I can find them. Maybe this will help us pull ourselves into a less depraved state of viewing.

And by us, I mostly mean me.

The Graduate (1967)

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft
Running Time: 1 hr 45 min
Plot: Dustin Hoffman is a tremulous college graduate (hence the title) who isn’t sure what to do about this future. While he’s figuring out life, the universe and everything, he carries on an affair with the wife of one of his parents’ friends. Then, because he doesn’t have enough issues, he begins a relationship/falls in love with her daughter.
Available on: Netflix

Once in a while, it’s fun to watch a movie that makes you feel super smart if you went to film school or have a naturally cinematic eye.  I could spent an article talking about the cinematography and how at every turn it constricts or marginalizes Hoffman’s character, reflecting the way he is constricted in his life…but that feels kinda impersonal. Plus, if my textbooks were any indication, it’s nothing new that you can’t find covered in a dozen other books by people who are way smarter than I am.

I will say that, having seen this, I can see it’s influence in a lot of other films. Garden State is really the one that I kept occurring to me in terms of cinematic style, general themes, and the role of music in the story. Watch them back to back and see what I mean.

Instead, I’d like to talk about something that really effected me: the treatment of the main character, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) by the film as a whole. The only reason the cinematography is so effective is because it puts you in touch with Ben’s psyche, and the only reason that works is because you spend the entire film with Ben. He is in every scene, certainly every shot. I feel like in contemporary film, it is rare to spend an entire film with one person–not a pair of people, not jumping back and forth between subplots, but with ONE person. Especially someone who spends so much time in silence, wrapped up in his own brain. These silences are where the cinematography really has a chance to shine and it feels like he is speaking volumes.

It’s this connection between the excellent camera work and a hands down brilliant acting job by Dustin Hoffman that really drives this movie into your heart. You’re not placed inside the character, but right next to him, and you go through everything with him, feel exactly what he feels, especially the really uncomfortable stuff. It’s the kind of reaction, and the kind of film that you watch and say, “I want to make a movie like that.”

Jobified!

As some of you know (aka those of you who know me in the real world, outside webland), I recently quit my 9-to-5 soul suck of a job to focus on the stuff I love: writing and filmmaking. Recently, I got a gig as a guest blogger on FilmAnnex.com, a company that allows filmmakers to post their videos with ads and reap some monetary rewards. If this strikes you as a nice meshing of my interests, you would be correct sir!

So, look for me on Film Annex (here is my profile link). I will also be cross posting on LOTW whenever I’ve got a new article up. So far there looks to be a lot of fun, interesting, thought-provoking and weird videos on Film Annex, so there should be plenty for me to write about. It’s something I’m doing on a trial basis, but with hard work and some luck I hope to make it a permanent thing. Either way, it beats the heck out of working for the man.

The Joy of Hatemas

Personally, I LOOOOOVE the holidays (all five Os of it). Sit me down in the middle of a mall with a cup of coffee and an IPod full of yuletide tunes and I’m in heaven. However, I know that many people don’t share my love of the crazy Christmas season. For some, it’s the most woeful time of the year. Especially if everyone around them is walking around in a candy cane scented cloud of good cheer.

But never fear, my grinchy friends! I’ve got a list of angry, explosions-and-anger fueled diversions that are still holiday-appropriate. Add them to your holiday arsenal and whip them out when your elfy-type friends and loved ones (such as yours truly) gambol in your general direction with a glass of wassail and a brightly sugared snowman cookie and chirp, “Let’s do something CHRISTMASSY!”

Note: If the above image just sent shivers of disgust down your spine and made you want to hurl glass ornaments against your garage door, then you’re definitely in the right place.

MOVIES
The Ref (1994)

Denis Leary plays a cat burglar who gets trapped in a sleep Connecticut town after a botched Christmas Eve robbery. With the police closing in, he takes a middle-aged couple with marital problems (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) as hostages. But as their bickering and bitching continues regardless of the life-threatening situation, you start to wonder who the real victim is, especially once the rest of the family shows up for Christmas dinner. Also starring Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns.

 

 

 

 

 

This is probably the most blatantly Christmas-themed of the films I offer to you, but with Leary’s snide comments (not to mention filthy mouth), the fact that it’s Christmas only makes the bitterness that much richer and more enjoyable, not to mention frickin’ hilarious.

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis stars as the iconic John McClane, a New York City cop on vacation in LA as he tries to reconnect with his estranged wife and daughter. However, the Christmas party at his wife’ company is hijacked by a group of terrorists (or so it seems…) led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). With all the employees taken as hostages, it’s up to John McClane to save Christmas…er, I mean, everyone’s lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, do you really need any more reason to watch this movie? It’s a classic, holiday or otherwise, and if you haven’t see it yet–for shame!

Psycho (1960)

A secretary (Vivien Leigh) hopes to gain a better life by stealing a large sum of money from her employer and leaving town. On her way to her long time and somewhat illicit lover, she stops for the night at the Bates Motel, run by unassuming hotelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Hilarity ensues!

And by hilarity, I mean murder, cover-up, investigation, more murder, and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s weird but true–Psycho is technically a Christmas movie! Maybe the best kind of Christmas movie for some of you, as no one learns a valuable lesson and there is not a flake of snow to be found (it’s primarily set in Phoenix, after all). The slate at the beginning of the film puts the first day of the story in the beginning of December, and if you look carefully during a few scenes, you can spy Christmas decorations. Take that, girlfriend-looking-to-cuddle-up-with-a-heartwarming-Christmas-tale! No Rudolph for you this year!

BOOK
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

This collection of six short stories depict a darker, more unusual side of the holiday season. The range in form, from straight narrative, to a holiday play review, to one of those family update Christmas letters you might receive with a picture of a smiling family. My favorite is “Dinah, the Christmas Whore”, mostly because it’s based on a real life occurrence (at least, it’s written to make you believe it is). It’s also the most sentimental story in the bunch, so if you’re looking for something harder, I would suggest “Christmas Means Giving,” which is a beautiful, biting piece of satire on consumption and one-upsmanship.

 

 

 

Holidays on Ice a small book, only 134 pages and about half the size of a standard paperback, but if I had to do it over again I would buy the audio version, read by Sederis himself. The stories are written as if they should read aloud anyway–more specifically, read aloud with Sedaris’s endearing deadpan delivery.

Besides, reading is a solitary activity, and holiday resentment just isn’t the same if you can’t share it with the people you love via audio transmission.

GAME
Angry Birds Seasons

You play as a group of birds (or a murder of crow…birds…if you want to be excessively irate and don’t mind pushing definitions just a bit). Several green pigs stole your eggs and hid them being a series of rickety structures and ill-placed rocks. Retrieve them by hurling your feathery squadron at the questionable strongholds.

The Holiday version of Angry Birds (entitled “Seasons Greedings,” in case you weren’t sufficiently irritated yet) functions like a 25 Days of Christmas calendar, with 25 levels for you to play as you count down to Christmas Day and the end of your torment. Play one level a day for extended catharsis, or play all at once to really blow off some steam.

As a nice bonus, if you acquire Angry Birds Seasons to expunge your Christmas rage, you will also have access to other holiday editions as well, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Just in case your hatred is the kind of gift that gives regardless of the season.

Merry Hatemas, Every One!