Archive for November, 2011

So the annual showcase at the Cineteca Nacional is over and that usually leaves me with an emotional void from the lack of that photogramme orgy that a bunch of films represent to my eyes. So it’s sad that yesterday I was watching Hannah Montana: The Movie with my dad on tv. Really REALLY sad.

I had the chance to see great films over the last weeks, films that are usually awarded in top European festivals and that may have a very slight chance to be distributed comercially.

Miss Kodak and I went to see the new Aki Kaurismäki film, Le Havre. After six years in hiatus, the most international Finn after Nokia brings us his classic Scandinavian cold humour, the almost unexpressive faces of the actors and a heart warming story without being corny. Kaurismäki’s fans (like me) will not be disappointed. In this film, shot in the harbour city of its title, an old shoe polisher helps a young illegal immigrant to reunite with his mother.

Argentinian and Brazilian cinemas are the best in Latinamerican. In general, their great quality is not only technical but also in the stories they depict and it is produced under very difficult conditions since budgets are not normally huge. This time, the Argentinian film El Hombre de al Lado (The Man Next Door) by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat is about how a small neighbours’ incident grows and grows like a snow ball with a great and surprising twist in the end that will leave viewers thinking. It is a film that will not leave anyone indifferent. It is a great balance between the macabre and a very black sense of humour. The weight of the film lies on the two neighbours in dispute played by Daniel Aráoz and Rafael Spregelburd, a light-minded redneck and an obnoxious architect, respectively. In short: a remarkable film! Mexican cinema has still a LOT to learn from its Latinamerican neighbours.

It was not disapointing but Le Gamin au Vélo is not the best film by the Dardenne brothers. As usual, in the almost documentary style that characterises the Belgian fraternal duo of filmmakers, Cyril, a kid is abandoned by his father in a youth farm where he can have the chance to get a new family. A kindhearted hairdresser welcomes Cyril to her life to stay over the weekend where they will start to develop a mother-son bond that goes beyond the blood links. For the first time in their fiction work, they include music and a famous actress (Cécile de France) but the characters feel a little dumb whereas in their other films they are naïve and almost fighting in the wild to survive, most notably in Rosetta, 1999 Palme d’Or winner. As I told before, not their best film but still a good one.

Once upon a time in Anatolia is Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s new film. Long takes inside cars with equally long conversations that reminded me of Abbas Kiarostami‘s certain film, this is like a CSI episode Turkish-style since an heterogenous group of policemen, a district attorney, militars, crime scene technicians and a mysterious doctor is lead by a couple of criminals who do not seem to remember where they buried another man after a drunk quarrel. This film reaches poetic heights with beatiful images and a stroy that needs the viewer’s commitment through his/her interpretation. Indeed an interesting film full with lyrical imagery, bucholical landscapes, nostalgic rainy weather and subtleties. Highly recommended.

Next Sunday, I’ll finish the review of the films seen last week and a reflection about the state of filmmaking in the world. Hey! iCarly is on! Oh my, how sad! Really sad!

Have a nice week and remember: in the cinema, the man who always has the final word is the guy who selles you pop-corn!


Mike Mills’ Beginners

Posted: November 21, 2011 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays
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Without a doubt, Mike Mills’ Beginners is one of the best films of this 2011 that is going straight to its end in some weeks.

Since I have only three students in one class at one of  the universities I teach at and they are not very participative and since the subject I “teach” them is Camera and Lighting II where we get to watch movies, I told them to get films for the class and later comment about their image attributes (something they’ve never done so far and I lost hope to see this in my lifetime), besides, Miss Dawn‘s clon attends that class and it’s really disturbing and uncanny.

Anyway, one of my students took a bootleg copy of the film he downloaded overnight and it was this neglected jewel. Last week, I went to see it again to the National Film Archives in Mexico City since it was the only venue that still screened it. It was released commercially in theatres but it soon was taken out as I guess audiences realised it was an intelligent (BRILLIANT!) film and it was not a Farelly Brothers idiotic film or 30 minutes or less.

To my surprise, this little film (and I say little not in a pejorative way what so ever!) has appealed to some people as the theatre was packed and I guess word-of-mouth has been crucial to keep this movie alive as Saint Georges Mélies intended.

In this film, Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a thirtysomething illustrator who, remembers his dying aging father Hal (played magnifently by Christopher Plummer) who reveals he is gay soon after his wife dies. Oliver then meets Anna, a French actress (played by French actress Mélanie Laurent) who also has to deal with her own demons from the past as they become more committed as a couple.

This film is a great mix of great acting that gives birth to great and enduring characters even Arthur, Hal’s “orphan” dog, the houses, cars, objects (Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki states that objects speak for themselves) and Oliver’s illustrations by Mills himself are well designed characters and that comes from an intelligent script that is structured through flashbacks.

Mike Mills,  known for his illustration cover art for artists such as the Beastie Boys, Beck or Sonic Youth, is a self-taught filmmaker who made commercials and music videos (most notably Air’s Sexy Boy), was first interested in documentary work, inspired by the Maysles brothers and Errol Morris. Afterwards, he shot narrative shorts and was a founding member of The Director’s Bureau with fellow director Roman Coppola (another filmmaker with a neglected jewel: CQ)

Mills brings us a remarkable film, a combination of melodramatic comedy with a romantic one, without ever falling into the corny side of Meg Ryan’s films in the mid-1990’s, sentimental but always with a self-contained acting anchored to reality. In short, this film leaves you a great flavour, that life can be indeed painful at times and that we all carry the burden of the past in our shoulders but it shows that love can be present in different states and stages.

It is an optimistic human tale that achieves an intensity seldom seen in big-budget films, this is a great film that also speaks about the nostalgia of memories and how they define us. I really can’t praise enough this film.

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who always has the final word, is the one you sells you the pop-corn!

(Mike Mills’ biographic lines come from the extint RES magazine issue Volume 4 Number 4 from July/August 2001)

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star in Beginners

On November 16th I attended a media conference. The conference was hosted by one of the cellphone companies in Israel, maybe the big one, and it’s the 4th one they have made. It’s the first one I attended. Actually, I wasn’t sure that I would get accepted, as I just quit my job (I still had the name of the last company I worked for on the name tag) and I am just starting my walk on the media-path. Never-the-less, I went there. The reason I applied is because of the list of lectures, and even more – the list of lecturers.  I thought to myself that if at least I got the chance to be there (among 1,499 other media people) I might as well write some notes and upload to the blog. Let me just say that all of the lectures were 30 min’ long, some felt like they went too fast, some felt like it went forever. Some were interesting, some were people only talking about themselves/their companies.I bring to you part I:

 The first lecture was by Gunther Sonnenfeld, a Digital brand strategist, ‘ThinkState’. His lecture was about ‘The next thing in the content world’.

In a nutshell, what Gunther said is that these days culture defines business, and more importantly, that if not so long ago content was king (and maybe afterwards – consumer), now the king is dead. Hail the new king – context. Content is still relevant, but context is what makes it relevant to the individual.

The way the studios used to make films or TV shows was first making the pilot/film, then get a focus group, and the studio representatives would sit behind a two-way-mirror and write the marks and decide how to proceed. That’s not the case today. These days the studios get the vibe before even shooting.

The next lecture was by Brian Graden, who is the former President of Programming at MTVVH1 and few others channels. But what strike the audience the most about him is that he was the guy who brought Southpark to our lives (you can debate if it was good thing or not, I say it is good, but none of us can ignore that this step changed the way animation is made today). He was a producer in Fox at the time, and he saw a short video Trey Parker and Matt Stone made. Back then they were film students. He asked them why they don’t make another one, and the reason was funding. So come Christmas he contacted them, gave them $20,000 and asked them to make a short Christmas-card animation. And they came up with The Spirit of Christmas which became Southpark as we know it.

What was interesting about this was that Comedy Central, a niche channel back then, which barely had 500,000 views, was airing that show, and on the first episode they had more than 6 million viewers. The buzz was so big. Apparently the Spirit of Christmas video was virally spreading on the universities network, that it created the buzz for the first episode.

Actually, Brian said another interesting thing. When they showed the show to the focus group, they hated it. If the production company had gone with their opinion, Southpark would have never been created.

Two more things he said about creating content are:

  • Invent before they demand it.
  • Play with people’s head.

I think those two topics, among the change SP have brought to the animation world, is something I need to address separately on one of my other posts, shall there be a demand.

So that was part I. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe post a comment, start a discussion, and of course – share.

Brian Graden telling how Soutpark started

Films… films… films…

Posted: November 14, 2011 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays

My  Assistant told me this week: Master, what are you watching?

And I answered: Films… films… films…

Paraphrasing Hamlet by the immortal Bard, my neglected Sunday of this week will indeed be neglected since I’ve been really busy these last days because I am being bombarded by an orgy of films this month.

November has been known to Mexico City’s art-film audience’s as the month of the National Film Archive International Showcase (Muestra Internacional de la Cineteca in Spanish) since 1971 with certain exceptions when it was programmed in the spring or twice a year and it used to be big: as many as 24 films were shown in this showcase’s best years.

It was difficult to attend because you had to get a pass valid for all the screenings (if you wanted to see all the films) and you had to go everyday at the same hour, the parking lot was packed (fortunately I don’t drive) and the queue lines were like those found at theme parks on summer holidays.

Now, the exhibition network of this showcase has grown over the years and it’s easier to see great films that otherwise big chains would not programme. So I will be attending screenings here and there since there is another showcase, an exhibit called Blockbuster (do not confuse with the soon-to-be extint video rental chain) at the Contemporary Art University Museum in Mexico City where video artists selected films that have been important and influenced their work like Fellini’s 8 1/2, Welles’ The Trial, Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore to name but a few.

So this Sunday, late afternoon in Mexico City I will not review a specific film. As I write this lines, I’m in fact sipping a hot cocoa cup sitting down in one of the coffee houses at the Cineteca Nacional (the good and fast one, not the slow and the one with bad tempered waitresses) after seeing the Dardenne Brothers Le gamin au vélo and Mike Mills’ Beginners. In a couple of weeks I will review the former, while the latter will have its turn next Sunday.

And it’s not really a negleted Sunday just because I’m not reviewing a film but in this windy autumn afternoon (actually don’t let the date fool you, in this part of the globe it’s still Sunday) I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect while I watch people get in line to get inside the theatre and experience a film.

I do say experience and not see because films are experienced with every part of our bodies and I keep wondering (and in fact that is part of my doctoral thesis) what will happen when cinemas are shut down?

I do believe in the power of the film image IN the cinemas but the industry, the exhibition chains and even the public are heading into another direction by prefering to download the films and watching them at home.

I asked my Film students to write an essay about the future of cinema and the results were desastrous: most of them downloaded the whole thing from the internet so it shows the poor interest they have not only in cinema but in life as well.

This makes me rethink and rethink about a radical change of career and do something else since this panorama affects me emotionally: what will happen to us if our youth doesn’t care about anything? And the bad news is that it’s not exclusive to Mexico.

I don’t want to sound like Grandpa Irving that told me the past was better, that’s even the thesis of the whole Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris, one of the saddest films Woody Allen has ever made because indeed what will ever happen to us if we don’t look to our past with interest not to make the same mistakes?

I dragged myself out of bed this morning to get to the cinema on time because,  eventhough my constant depressions, films keep exciting me and the ritual of going to the cinema as well are the kind of things that I’m happy to live for. Cinema is life.

If there are still a bunch of us “crazy” people – despite the fact we must commute, whether it rains or it shines, the packed parking lots or annoying movie-goers – who attend cinemas and be enraptured by the moving images there’s still hope. Cinema is there for us and enjoy it while it lasts, it sooths us from loneliness, it shows us differents cultures. Cinema is life.

So let us be protected by the healing darkness of the film theatre.

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who always has the final word is the one who sells you the pop-corn!

It’s Friday

Posted: November 11, 2011 by Two Dope Boyz in 2 Dope Botz, Angry Man, Neglected Sundays, Photos, Videos
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We added a new page, of Neglected Sundays, where we’ll centralize all of them.

More updates of videos and photos are to come. Lately I have been busy making videos for contests. More about that in the near future. We are also working on some new updates for the blog. We have some cool ideas (Neglected Sundays was one of them and it’s on the air now) and we are working hard to bring them to you.

Please let us know if there’s anything else you would like to see, comment and share!

My students Polly Pocket Girl and Big Jim Dude (they are dating by the way) asked me this week a question: Did you like  [Terrence Malick`s] The Tree of Life?

The first reply couldn’t be more spontaneous: HUM! Because that question doesn’t have an easy answer but here’s a try:

The virtual impossibility of Hollywood to make new icons (think for instance in the new Steven Splieberg’s Tintin film mixed with Indiana Jones’ DNA), the perpetual remakes or all the superheroe movies from recent years are just some examples, clear examples about the creativity crisis cinema is suffering.

Nowadays, it seems that there is other cinema where films are not just entertainment but the true art form that has been neglected to films mainly for economic reasons: an entertaining film makes big bucks, intelligent films don’t.

Films like Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), last year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and now The Tree of Life, seem to dictate the tendency of this “other cinema”.

This French Riviera festival has been known to legitimise trends by judging awards from the past: François Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour for the French New Wave; the Dardenne Brothers’s Rosetta for the New European Realism or Thomas Vinterberg’s Celebration for Dogme 95 just to name a few.

The Tree of Life feels a lot like an experimental film disguised as a mainstream film: big stars appear on it like Brad Pitt (also one of the producers of the film) and Sean Penn, two of the greatest actors in Hollywood.

This new Terrence Malick’s film has no plot therefore, the synopsis can just be a thin stroyline (a family with three kids  in the late 1950’s and its dynamics) that serves just as a pretext to talk about very important subjects: guilt, pain, growing up, love, parenthood, in short, it talks about life and its different stages.

If you expect to see a shirtless Brad Pitt from the unbearable Legends of the Fall, the greatness of this actor is that he is now choosing roles according to his age evolution. In this one, he plays an apparently cruel family man who prepares his kids for the cruelty of real life by being distant and authoritarian.

The film depicts us self-contained characters, great acting and over all transmits us states of mind and conciousness (or unconciousness for that matter) for us to think about (one of the great sins of Hollywood or Mexican mainstream  television: make us think!!!) rather than a straight storyline.

It’s what Ray Carney wrote in the foreword of Rick Schmidt’s excellent book Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices back in 2000: Make a movie that is narratively inconclusive or open to different interpretations. (Yet another sin!)

The cinematotography by Emmanuel Lubezki is simply breathtaking. The camera work is exquisite.

After the morally objectionable The Thin Red Line (the enemy is actually shown as the “bad guys” when  the film screamed for a more complex good vs. bad story) and the Valium-esque The New World (actually I prefer Disney’s Pocahontas!!! and that’s an over-statement), Malick offers us a film that is not to like or not but to contemplate with clear resonance to the metaphysical works of Ingmar Bergam (even actress Jessica Chastain has a striking ressemblance to a young Liv Ullmann), Carl Theodor Dreyer or Robert Bresson.

Famously reclusive Terrence Malick studied philosophy and it shows in this film as Jean-Luc Godard declared that cinema is the modern way to make philosophy: The Tree of Life is a clear example of it.

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who has the final word is always the one who sells the pop-corn!

Losing fingers is easy…

Posted: November 4, 2011 by Two Dope Boyz in 2 Dope Botz, 600D, Canon, Videos
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So this is a part of an upcoming shot. Ok, wait, let me rewind a bit. A while back few friends of mine and myself formed a small group for making videos. Nothing serious, none of us is a pro, but we do it for fun. Most of the videos are for competitions (I will post few of those very soon) and the rest are just for the sake of making them.

A week ago, while working on another video, I thought it would be nice to make an extended version. Usually in those competitions they give you a time limit (30, 60 or 90 seconds for each video), and sometimes we just want to show a bit more than what they allow us. This case is exactly it. We shot it while knowing that it probably won’t make it to the final version,  at least not that graphically, but we sure liked the idea.

So this is not perfect, but it is what it is: