Saturday, January 31, 2009

Idol Chatter

This evening I co-emceed the Lampeter-Strasburg Idol contest, which is basically the American Idol of LS High School. I shared hosting duties with Kristi, another fellow WJTL-er. We had a lot of fun and I had a good time testing out some jokes and improv in front of my largest audience yet. I thought it went well and the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves. My pal Ashlea recorded our banter and I've decided to share a couple of fun moments. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sundance, Ya Make Me Angry

A couple of years ago I posted a blog about my disappointment with the Sundance Film Festival's selection of work for their Short Film category. Well, I'm back, and I'm still disgruntled.

This year they have chosen 10 films and made them available on iTunes for a free download (do a search for "Sundance Shorts" at the iTunes store). Each of them starts off with a title card informing you it is a Sundance Film Festival "Official Selection." I watched all ten of them and all I can say is, wow. I've gotta stop trying to make short films that are good.

I'll admit, I didn't loathe them all. There were a couple I really enjoyed and one of them deservedly got an Oscar nomination. I'll give you a brief rundown of each of the films so you can feel my cinema pain.

This film takes place in an acting class and features two students performing the "Orgasm" scene from When Harry Met Sally. Of course, the acting teacher does his thing where he imparts wisdom and then it comes out the girl in the scene never had an orgasm. So what does the teacher do? He tells her to remember having a new puppy and what that joy felt like (because, of course, an orgasm is like owning a puppy. Am I right, ladies?). The girl tries it again and the teacher is still unhappy with her performance so he kills her imaginary puppy. Yea, I know. Huh? C-

This was a cute little film about a quiet, mousy woman bumbling her way through life and the odd relationship she shares with her boss, who can't understand why she's not more excited about being in charge of the merchandise in the basement, and her therapist, who is the one in most need of psychiatric help. The filmmaker(s) did a great job at capturing the mood and the humor. B

I have no idea what this stupid cartoon was about. It started off with some old guy in the desert looking at a jellyfish. And then he ended up masturbating. Sounds like film festival material to me! F

A guy recorded a phone conversation with his mother and hap-hazardly edited it together into a re-telling of the time as a kid he ate a hamburger and he thought it gave him AIDS. And the he made a cartoon about it. Pointless and rambling. D

A hip-hop star and his manager are driving in the car on their way to a big meeting with a record label. Suddenly, the ingenue begins to hear beats in his head that no one else can hear. I really liked it up to this point. But then he got mad at his manager because he couldn't hear the beats and throws him out of the car and drives to his sister's place to get a hug and they hug and hug and hug and then it just kinda ends. D

Another animated feature, this one stop-motion animation about a redneck who lives in the woods and rips apart animals. Cue the fake blood. Squish, squish, splat, splat. Then he goes to heaven and does the same thing to God. Blood, blood, blood. This is what happens when you open the Sundance Film Festival to 7th graders. F

Ok, this one was cool. A foreign film (Dutch? Swedish? I'm not sure) where our Napoleon Dynamite-esque hero is a struggling magician trying to impress his parents (whom he still lives with) and the cute neighbor girl. This was the only live-action short I watched where the cast wasn't "acting"; everything was natural and sincere and really made the story come to life. A-

When you think of independent film, you think of movies like this. You know, the kind that revolves around a 10-year-old boy who watches men pee in the bathroom and then tells his teacher he's gay and then goes out and hops in a car with an old guy he met in the public restroom. F

This was the first of the 10 short films I watched and it enraged me. It's a series of shots of different labs with computer-generated magnetic waves bouncing around. There are magnetic buzzes and pops and crackles and the CG magnetic waves move in time with the sounds. Meanwhile, an actual scientist is off-camera, droning on and on about magnetic fields. Seriously. For 6 minutes, that's all this film is. No story. No plot. Not even any characters. Just facts about science read over pictures of science labs. For six minutes. What the F

This was my favorite of the ten, and is also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. It's the story of two funeral directors, a father and son, and how the simple task of picking up a corpse and bringing it to the cemetery unravels into a hilarious Laurel and Hardy-esque folly of errors. It's a pretty morbid story, I know, but the animators bring a fun feel to it without any of the characters ever saying a word. Well done guys. Good luck against Presto at the Oscars. A

By this time you may be tired of me complaining and whinging. "If you think it's so easy, why don't YOU try it?"

I don't claim to be the next superstar of film, but I'm pretty happy with my last two projects, The Failures of Ed and The Blanket. And after watching the latest batch of Sundance entrants, I think it's time I seriously begin laying the groundwork and figure out how to get something in.

I feel pretty confident. Even if you watch my short films and think they're horrible well...seeing how that seems to be a prerequisite anyhow, I guess I'm halfway there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zesty Fresh Death

When I die, whenever that is, those who are still around are more than welcome to remember me in almost any fashion they wish. Maybe you'll write a song or even a blog. Maybe I'll live on in a goofy video you pass along to a friend or perhaps through a story that is told to others. Regardless, I hope you'll remember me fondly and know that I'll see you on the flip side.

Can I make one request though?

Whatever you choose to do to let THE MEMORY OF ED stay alive, please don't let me live on via a message scrawled on your car window with a bar of soap. I've seen this a few times in town, and as heartfelt as the gesture may be, no matter how many curly-Qs or wavy lines are drawn around the message to add extra...I don't the end of the day.....yeah.

I won't appreciate it, I'll tell you that right now. If anything, I'll be in heaven making fun of you. "I made that dude laugh so hard this one time, and this is all the thanks I get? A poorly written hard-to-read message on the rear window of an '82 Chevy Nova scrawled with a bar of Irish Spring?"

I guess I just don't know how this got started or understand the mindset. If I'm going to pay tribute to a friend of mine, I don't get why I'm going to rid myself of my ability to see while I'm driving in the process. How ironic would it be if, in my grand attempt to memorialize someone who's passed, I backed over a third grader because I couldn't see out my rear window?

I'm not trying to be cold or unfeeling. But let's be honest. At the end of the day it's an obituary written in soap. And nothing says "I'll remember you forever" like an obituary written in soap.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Sarcasm Implied

Yesterday Sarah and I stopped by Subway on our way home from work. As I was paying for our sandwiches, I noticed a cardboard flier affixed to the cash register, looking me in the eye. There was a picture of Bob and Alison from TV's The Biggest Loser smiling underneath a huge Subway logo. There were bright letters exclaiming "TAKE THE FRESH FIT CHALLENGE!" as The Biggest Loser logo loomed in the background.

Underneath it all in small print were these words:

"No celebrity endorsement implied."

Of course not, Subway. How would someone ever assume such a thing?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Top 10 Movies of 2008 Pt. 7

The seventh installment of my Best Movies of 2008 series is brought to you by Lisa Blowers. Lisa is the multi-award-winning (she loves when I mention that) host of The Kids Cookie Break on WJTL. She's also an rabid movie buff and we've worked on a couple of fun short films together, like The Art of the Cookie and The Blanket.
I watched a lot of movies this year, but did not see much from 2008.

If we go "to the movies" it's most likely a kid pick with my son, or a documentary or indie film at Penn cinema, or Point of View.

And you Eddie my friend helped me confirm that my tastes don't run main stream as I see that most films I saw in the theater last year weren't even on your list!

Here's what I saw:

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Makes the case for Intelligent Design.  I thought it also made the case that people on  opposite sides of an issue can no longer have a healthy debate, especially over an issue that stirs up passions like the one addressed in the film.  I find that sad.

beautifully filmed...Charlie Chaplin meets 2001:A Space Odyssey! Fun catching all the references and I had to laugh hearing Sigourney Weaver as the ships computer.  Think I liked it better than my son Alex.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
helped put the Javier Bardem No Country For Old Men nightmares to rest. Take off the wig and you have a hot leading man!

The Tale of Despereaux
cute, but my nephew and son were a bit disappointed. They studied the book in 4th grade and according to them "the book is better" as it almost always is!

What Just Happened
Barry Levinson's latest film.  Satirical comedy-drama starring Robert De Niro as fading Hollywood producer trying to survive in his career. Cameos abound-Sean Penn, Robin Wright, etc. and it's worth watching to see a heavy-set Bruce Willis playing himself as a temperamental actor refusing to shave his long beard for a new film. Definitely NOT The Player, but Levinson nails the satire all the same.

My fave of the year (of what I saw) was the French film Tell No One
It's a thriller, murder mystery. Has elements of The Fugitive & Vertigo. Complex at first, but satisfying action thriller with plot twists and turns and a great sound track including U2!  If I didn't know Kristin Scott Thomas was British I'd think she was French!

Of course my ALL TIME FAVE of 2008 was the Indy film "The Blanket" by the up and coming director Ed Placencia.  Still blown away by the kid in the leading role.  Reminds me so much of home.  Wonder if he's always that intense?  And the!  And cute too!

Of course there are SO MANY films from 2008 that I wanted to see and still plan to thanks to Netflix & iTunes!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Top 10 Movies of 2008 Pt 6

The next chapter in my Best Movies of 2008 series is written by Stacey Gagne. Stacey is the office manager at WJTL which basicall means she's the glue that holds all of us broken pieces together. Stacey is not only the person everyone else goes to to bounce ideas off of and get an honest opinion, she also has a Beaker doll on the shelf in her office. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

So many I still haven't seen and want to.  I hope I'm a busy movie goer before Oscars!!  I can guarantee that most of these movies would not have made my top 10 if I had seen the others.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Ugh, if I had seen anything else this year trust me this wouldn't have made the list.  I actually fell asleep at one point.  There was so much cheese... I couldn't take it.

Sex and the City
Embarrassed that this makes my top 10... but you'll have this.  It was what I expected... except a lot raunchier.  Entertaining and fun to watch with the girls, though.

Get Smart
This one had its funny parts, but I think I had higher expectations.  Steve Carell is always fun to watch, though

Entertaining but a little too cheesy.   Love Will Smith and Jason Bateman.

Baby Mama
I could probably watch Tina and Amy recite the alphabet and still be entertained.  Simple plot, fun to watch with a group and "get your laugh on"

The Other Boleyn Girl
Beautiful cinematography, great acting (because it made me hate most of the characters).  I felt like studying up on my history after seeing this.

88 Minutes
Great edge of your seat movie.  Al Pacino is great.  Some decent twists.

The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian

I think I liked Narnia: LWW better because it was the first, but am sure I will watch every movie of the series.  I feel like I need to see this one again.

27 Dresses
Great chick flick/love story/watch over and over kind of movie.

Wow, bawled through most of this movie.  Such an intense mood set from the beginning of this movie.  It broke my heart several times.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Top 10 Movies of 2008 Pt. 5

My Best Movies of 2008 series continues with a quick column written by Alyssa Breneman. Not only does Alyssa keep a blog that's too deep and insightful for me to leave smarmy comments, she's a book-reading fiend, an incredible photographer, and like the rest of us, she's a dancing dweeb.

I have realized that I have only seen maybe 10 movies... so here is my top five... and remember these are only out of the ones I have seen.. probably would be others in the top five if I had seen more... but I am no movie snob!

5. 27 Dresses
It was a good romance comedy.. and I think James Marsden is hot!!! And he finally got the girl!

4. Vantage Point
I am a sucker for a thriller and one where you have no idea what is going on till the end!!

3. Australia
If I could, I would live there! So I loved the scenery and of course thought the story line was interesting with the little boy.. Too sweet!

2. Dark Knight
I admit, I was disappointed when the girl died, but thought it was very good! Christian Bale's voice rocks... I'm Batman!

1. Penelope
James McAvoy has become my favorite male actor ever!! Such a good movie with a good message... and surprise Mr. Bingley??