Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival - 1st weekend

I haven't been keeping up with writing every day, so I'm going to sum up my first half of the festival in one post. Last weekend I saw the following films:

My Last Five Girlfriends was a British movie about one guy's perspective on his recent love affairs. It's a very stylized film, with some fantastical storytelling elements. Most of them work pretty well, but there's a carnival metaphor that gets stretched a little thin by the end. His take on the relationships feels very authentic, such that I left feeling it was kind of in the vein of High Fidelity, without being so winkingly clever. 

I saw two NYC documentaries which had some interesting overlaps. Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB gave a historical perspective on the infamous music venue, but also covered the recent attempts to save the place from being shut down. Blank City was about the independent film scene of New York in the late '70s and early '80s. Because the filmmakers in those movements (primarily No Wave and Cinema of Transgression) tended to also be artists and musicians, and also tended to have no money, they converged at downtown hangouts like CBGB. Jim Jarmusch, Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy & Thurston Moore appeared prominently in both movies. Even some of the same footage was used - in Burning Down the House it was used to show one of the bands who would frequently play at CBGB, and it was used in Blank City because it was filmed by one of the filmmakers being discussed. It was really interesting to see these two aspects of NYC history, side-by-side. 

I saw a pair of narrative movies - Stay Cool and Serious Moonlight - that are difficult for me to assess objectively because both of these stories had odd overlaps with some things going on in my life, or in the life of someone close to me. I've probably already said too much, but let's just say I was very distracted by thoughts like, "Oh, that's not how it would happen." Ha! 

In Stay Cool, a guy goes back to his home town after 20 years to give a commencement speech, and his interactions with friends, family and the principal and a teacher from his high school take place as if he was still a high school kid, despite the fact that he's 37. This is not a magical realism thing, like the Zac Efron movie. It's more like an acknowledgment of the way we fall back into old patterns of behavior when we get in those situations. I like that. But the way the film references the '80s, it feels like an attempt to preserve the decade in some kind of pristine pop culture museum exhibit. (Even the casting, which includes a bunch of '80s icons, like Dee Wallace, Michael Gross, Chevy Chase, Winona Ryder and Jon Cryer.) 

I saw Serious Moonlight mainly because it was written by Adrienne Shelly. This dark comedy was entertaining, but a lot more disturbing than I think it was meant to be. In part, this is because I found it impossible not to draw some eerie parallels between the story and Shelly's tragic demise. I was also disappointed in the choice of Meg Ryan as the lead. I don't normally enjoy her performances because she tends to play such simpering, cloying characters. At the beginning of the film I was optimistic because she seemed to be playing a very different kind of role. But just a few minutes into the plot she completely reverted to type.

The last film I saw on the first weekend was TiMER - a sort of science fiction romantic comedy. I loved the characters and the performances, and what the story was trying to do. It felt like a very well put together movie. There were some issues with the script, and as people asked about them during the Q&A, director Jac Schaeffer would laugh and say, "I had nightmares that someone would ask me that. Thank you." But the movie was so good spirited, and she was so good spirited about it, I would still recommend it, despite these minor flaws in the story.

Many more movies to come this weekend...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tribeca Film Fest tickets

Individual tickets went on sale this morning for the Tribeca Film Festival (for American Express cardmembers only). Here's what I'm going to see:

Thursday Apr 23
10:00 PM - My Last Five Girlfriends

Friday Apr 24
8:30 PM - Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB

Saturday Apr 25
12:00 PM - Stay Cool
6:45 PM - Blank City

Sunday Apr 26
3:00 PM - Serious Moonlight
9:00 PM - TiMER

Friday May 1
12:15 AM - Moon

Saturday May 2
11:30 AM - All About Actresses (Le bal des actrices)
2:45 PM - Shorts: Truth or Consequences
5:30 PM - The Girlfriend Experience
10:00 PM - Matter of Size (Sipur Gadol)

Sunday May 3
2:00 PM - Best New York Documentary Award Winner
6:00 PM - Narrative Emerging Filmmaker Award Winner

Still quite a few, but a more reasonable schedule than I set for myself last year

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sundance - Sunday, January 18

Hot Tub
Originally uploaded by Mirka23
I decided to take a relaxation day, and spent the day hanging around the townhouse. This included catching up on some stuff, and then taking a dip in the hot tub while looking at the snow covered mountains. Fantastic!

In the evening we went to theater right nearby that's also playing Sundance films. We saw Spring Breakdown, starring Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Parker Posey. It was pretty funny - I started giggling in the very first scene and kept going pretty much through the whole film. None of the stars were there for the Q&A, and the Director left pretty quick when no one asked him anything. But it was still a fun time, and it was nice to be so close to home when we got out of the screening.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sundance - Saturday, January 17

Charlyne Yi
Originally uploaded by Mirka23
My second attempt to get into a movie by way of the waitlist was successful. I went to the World Premiere of Paper Heart, a movie by Nick Jasenovec and Chalyne Yi.

It's sort of a documentary, sort of a narrative. The lines are blurred by the structure, which includes portions where Yi is interviewing real people and experts about the notion of what love is, intermixed with narrative scenes in which Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera play versions of themselves, forming and developing a relationship. (To further complicate things, the two are dating in real life.)

Part of the story of the movie is about the making of the documentary, which is impacting the blossoming (fictional) relationship between Yi and Cera. In these scenes, the director, Jasenovec, is played by actor Jake Johnson, adding another level of abstraction.

Though more straightforward than On the Road with Judas, which I saw at Sundance a few years ago, the layers of reality and fiction could prove to be a little mind boggling if you think about them too hard. But, it's not necessary to unravel that mystery in order to enjoy the film.

Yi, Cera and Johnson are all interesting, sweet likable people/characters. The documentary parts take a very ambitious topic - defining love - and shed just enough light on it to be thought provoking, without trapping themselves in an impossible task. The narrative parts are entertaining, and woven in so seemlessly, many people will probably not even realize it's not entirely documentary. They play with this conceit in some lovely, subtle ways, such as when, at the end of their first date, Cera asks if the camera crew wants their microphone back.

During the Q&A everyone came up on stage. Most of the questions were directed at Jesenovec and Yi, with a couple directed at Cera. When asked how they came up with this structure, Jesenovec said that Charlyne wanted to make a documentary about love, and he felt that she should be in it because her unique perspective (she doesn't really believe she's capable of falling in love) puts the interviews in context. But they also knew she would need an arc - to somehow develop and change her view over the course of the movie - and at the same time, he knew she was too stubborn to actually change. So they scripted an arc for her! Charlyne didn't disagree with this description.

Cera was asked when he became involved in the project. He said that he became involved with it at the beginning, and stayed involved right up until today. He concluded by joking, "And now I never want to talk about it again." I don't know what it is about him, but he can say the most straightforward things and it just comes out hilarious.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

LBP crew at Sundance

LBP crew
Originally uploaded by Mirka23
Ok, so the reason I'm here at Sundance is to hang out with my friends from Low Budget Pictures, who are here to meet folks and spread the word about LBP. Officially I should be helping them, but my help has mostly taken the form of having been here once before, so I could show them where things are and how to get around. They're the ones that are really working it, though.

In this photo you can see Chris "the Seavage" Seaver, Meredith Host, and Jesse Ames putting together press kits to hand out to important people. Casey Bowker, star of Ski Wolf and other LBP flicks, was elsewhere in our amazing townhouse at the time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sundance 2009

Ok, it's been a long time since I've posted here, and I'm not going to bother playing catch up. But now I'm at the Sundance Film Festival for the next week, and some interesting things are bound to happen. I'll post about them here when they do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

20 Years in a Nutshell

I recently connected up with an old friend from high school on Facebook. After a couple reintroductory messages back and forth, he posed this question: "Take me on a brief tour of your life these past 20 years?" What follows is my attempt to answer that question...

OK, let's see. What's salient and interesting from the past 20 years of my life?

In 1988, without a lot of forethought, I went off to college in Binghamton. That place was suitably depressing and boring to ensure that I focused on studies and entertained myself with recreational drugs and just generally acting crazy. They had no photography classes, which was disappointing, but I found myself drawn to film and video classes, where we did all kinds of weird experimental art projects with film, video, and computers and learned almost NO skills that might be useful in the "film industry". By my third year of college I was already sick of being there, so I spent the first semester of my fourth year studying in Prague, then I graduated early, and then spent another 5 months living in a suburb of Paris.

Coming back to the US in the summer of 1992 I determined that the last thing I wanted to do was be in New York, in the part of the country where I had lived all my life (albeit, moving around the NY metro area a lot). So, I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico with a friend who was going to grad school there. The friendship only lasted about a year after that, but I stayed in New Mexico for 7 years.

Hmm, what did I do in NM? Worked some crappy jobs; realized I had to go back to school if I didn't want to continue doing that; dated an immature manic-depressive guy for waaaaay too long (6+ years); got a Master's degree in, essentially, interactive media; worked for DoD contractors; went to massage therapy school in the evenings for a year; took a lot more recreational drugs (thanks to the BF, who was big into self-medicating); explored a bit of the new age thing going on out there (determined that some of it is sincerely spiritual, and a lot of it is just another market used to exploit people's neediness); made some life-long friends of the very creative, very nerdy type; and then ultimately realized that the only way to end this back-and-forth no-future relationship with the crappy boyfriend was to just leave New Mexico (which I had always planned to do anyway). So in the summer of 1999 I moved back to New York.

Back in New York there was an internet bubble expanding, so I took my background in interactive media and got a job at (website of Entertainment Weekly) right before the bubble burst. It worked out ok tho, because we had a lean staff that was part of a huge multimedia conglomerate, so they had enough resources to keep us on, and they didn't care what we did. It was like working at a little startup with the resources of a media giant. I got to play with web pages, build metadata systems, and write comic book reviews and articles about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do you remember our fellow classmate Rohanna? I lived with her for 3 years and then moved into my own place in the East Village.

Eventually the internet industry started to recover and then people (mainly AOL) did start to care about what we did at, and then it got kind of bureaucratic and boring. I stuck around for a couple more years, and then eventually moved on to being a consultant at [web consulting company]. This was a funny turn of events because when I first heard about that company, it was in 1999, in a Wired article about the two guys who ran the company, and I thought they kind of sounded like douchebags. Of course, a lot had changed since then, but I still never would have expected I'd someday be an employee of that company. Anyway, that's what I've been doing for the past 2+ years.

Hmm, that's a lot about work. My career has been pretty interesting, though. I've been writing and speaking about the Semantic Web for a while, and despite not being a particularly technical person I've built sort of a reputation and I've got the ear of some of the major people in the field, when I want it. So that's pretty fun.

I'd say that my life since moving back to NYC has been characterized by working and doing lots and lots of cultural things. In addition to the web and digital whatnot, I love to experience film festivals, comic conventions, museums, theater, live comedy, public art and mischief. This is why I can't see myself being in any place other than NYC. I also used to go see a lot of live music, but I kind of lost interest in that a couple years ago. Believe it or not, it's a lot of work to keep up with what's going on in the music scene.

Well, that's a lot of words, but I think that's about as brief as I can make a 20 year synopsis, and still have it make sense and be entertaining. How did I do?