Archive for the ‘theater’ Category

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

February 1, 2011

My friend and colleague, Shane Tea French, posted the following note on his Facebook page recently. I felt it should be shared.

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

SO . . . .

Most of you know me. What do I do? In my eyes? I am a FILM MAKER. Above all else. All I do leads down the path to making  films that better the world, change lives, express emotions, transform the human tapestry. To me. That’s what I want to achieve and strive to be in my LIFE. While you all get to get married, something I have forgone in the goal of MY ART, and have children….I make movies, videos, etc. (My children.) And everyone VERBALLY supports me. “Shane, you are so talented.” Thank you.

I worked on a film called BURNING INSIDE, an amazing film I am proud to have been involved with. More than the shitty MAIN STREAM crap I suffered through in L.A. (GARFIELD, FLICKA, THE CAT IN THE HAT, etc…) and sold my soul to SCUM who would soon turn the theater experience to an utter lack of originality in remakes and 3-D that you see today. Everything that that place represented disgusted me to such a degree, I like so many others, some call us “THE LOSERS,” could not take it and came back to the EAST coast. Now I live with my Mom (like a slightly more social Norman Bates) who supports me unconditionally and try to make films on the weekends when not literally wiping butts at my day job.

I EXIST FOR ONE REASON: TO BE INVOLVED WITH AND MAKE FILMS. NOTHING ELSE. NOTHING ELSE WILL SATISFY ME. NOTHING ELSE TAKES PRECEDENCE. I AM AN ARTIST AND THAT IS MY ART. I CHOOSE MY LOVE OF FILM OVER HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP. HENCE: MY LACK OF WIFE OR CHILDREN. BUT: THE FILMS I DO MAKE ARE MY CHILDREN.

So, please. Acknowledge them. (Unless your kid is in dire need of braces?)

This is what I want to do with my life and have wanted since I was 14. I am 38 years old and still haven’t let this world BEAT ME DOWN. Me and my friends in CT made a film (“BURNING INSIDE”) that is one of the coolest and most proud I have ever been to work on. Would I recommend it to any of my relatives? Honestly. No. To my college friends? Most likely yes. To a film student. Definitely. (And I think you would LOVE it.) But whether you like it IS NOT the point. What I need to continue, WHAT WE NEED, as independent film makers, people who do this out of a GUT WRENCHING PAIN OF NEED, something you can’t control, something that pushes, punches, guides, destroys you, makes you move, gets you out of bed when there is NO reason to move: WE NEED SUPPORT! Whether you like what we do or not. IF you are a friEND or RELATIVE, I need you to donate $20 (if you can spare it) to BUY the movies we make so we can continue to get the funding for our next films we plan to make. $20 bucks? Is that a lot? Imagine it is a birthday gift? Imagine you are coming out to see a show. WE NEED THIS TO CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WE DO AND NOT BE CRUSHED BY THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE THAT GRANTS YOU WITH FODDER THAT CHURNS YOUR BRAIN TO MUSH AND MAKES YOU FORGET WHAT YOU SAW IN A HALF HOUR???! Most of you want to come home and dissolve into your couch. I DEMAND TO BE PUNCHED IN THE CEREBRAL CORTEX AND LEAVE A FILM STILL THINKING. THIS IS ART!

I was granted unlimited access to the behind the scenes making of this movie and shot an HOUR LONG documentary which is featured on the DVD. I made my OWN movie to go along with the feature film. THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME! THIS IS MY ARTWORK, the ARTWORK I CHOOSE to do in this world! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE!!!! COULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME AND PURCHASE A DVD SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO MAKE FILMS THAT DON’T COW-TOE TO THE MAINSTREAM WHETHER YOU WANT TO WATCH THE CONTENT OR NOT?! At the very least, my contribution/behind the scenes documentary  will show you that hard work, dedication, sweat, sacrifice, and the amazing people who go after their dreams and attain what should be unattainable by shear force of never giving in is a sight to see……And we have FUN doing it.

PLEASE SUPPORT ME. I DO NOT have the $$$$$ for advertising and I need to feel like what I am doing is not being ignored. If my friENDs and FAMILY don’t want any part of my achievement, then WHY would someone who doesn’t know me care either? THIS IS WHAT I’VE DONE WITH MY LIFE.

Very Sincerely, Shane Tea French

BUY THE DVD: http://channelmidnight.com/


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Antietam

July 23, 2010

A few weeks ago I found myself standing in the middle of a picturesque field where 23,000 people were killed, wounded or missing in one day. Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD is the site of the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, September 17th 1862. During the American Civil War  Confederate General Robert E. Lee, emboldened by recent victories, decided to move his Army of Northern Virginia into enemy “Northern” territory. He was met near Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg by Union Army Maj. General George McClellan and approximately 75,000 Union soldiers. McClellan had a perfect plan on paper. Attack Lee’s flanks to spread the Confederate Army out then drive through the weakened center with the bulk of Union Forces. Unfortunately for McClellan the plan wasn’t executed as well as it was written. The Union General was a bit trigger shy and failed to commit all of his forces to the battle, giving Lee opportunity to withstand the onslaught. When all was said and done at the end of the day the 12 square miles of battlefield, with such landmarks as The Dunker Church, Burnside’s Bridge, Bloody Lane and Miller’s Cornfield, were littered with bodies and flowing with blood from both sides.

Standing in that field where so many people died almost 150 years earlier I paused and attempted to put it all into context. Even now, as I sit in my air conditioned house typing on my computer with electric lights illuminating the room, I find it impossible to explain or comprehend the difference between what it is like now with what it was like then. I can write all the words I want but can anyone reading this truly feel, experience or understand what those men and women went through?  All I can do is simply reflect on a few of the remarkable people from that day:

A bugler, Private Johnny Cook, was awarded The Medal of Honor for his actions at Antietam. He was only 15 years old.

Clara Barton arrived on the battlefield around noon and while bullets whizzed overhead gave comfort and aid to wounded, suffering soldiers. One of them was even shot dead while being cradled in her arms. Nearly 20 years later Miss Barton would be the founder and first president of The American Red Cross. No small feat considering this was 40 years before women could even vote.

At only 19 years old Sergeant William McKinley was in charge of the Commissary Department delivering food and coffee to soldiers on the battlefield. He would later become the 25th President of the United States.

As I struggle to put “life in 1862” into context in my own mind I think about other aspects of the era that I have recently had occasion to come across.

Approximately 22 years before Antietam, Edgar Allan Poe published “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He died only nine years later, just 13 years before the battle. Poe was a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland which is only 65 miles from the Antietam Battlefield. I wonder, despite the young age of many of the men and women on the battlefield that day, if they were familiar with Poe’s work? Poe creates a morbid, creepy, scary and strange world in his stories. His tales are fiction but the world that he sets them in is not, though it is one that seems very far removed from The American Civil War battles that took place only 65 miles and 20 years from Poe’s home and age.

I have also recently had the opportunity to tour the Thomaston Opera House in Thomaston, CT. The Thomaston Opera House was built in 1884, just 21 years after the battle at Antietam. Walking through this beautiful, decorative and venerable building seems, again, to be a distant world from the one that existed while 23,000 people died or were wounded in the soil of Sharpsburg, MD. As the ghosts of soldiers wandered the, still fresh, scarred, fields of battle, a different variety of ghosts began striding the planks of the Thomaston Opera House.

My capacity to comprehend the hell of Antietam increased only when I learned that it was the first battlefield in U.S. history to have been photographed before the dead were buried. Alexander Gardner took a number of photos of the battlefield just 2 days after the fighting had ceased. His images shocked and appalled viewers around the country, this was the first time the reality of war would seen by folks who had not participated. Until this point visual renderings of war were usually painted, often glorifying battle or at least, by the very nature of the artistic medium, giving a few degrees of separation from the terrible reality of war. Gardner’s photos really hit home. Today, despite the graphic on screen violence we see every day, these photos still pack a punch. It’s interesting to note that Gardner made use of a new photographic technology called stereography. Two lenses take simultaneous photographs and when the pictures are observed through a special viewer the image appears to be in 3-D.

A LONE GRAVE ON BATTLEFIELD OF ANTIETAM

CONFEDERATE DEAD ALONG THE HAGERSTOWN PIKE

CARNAGE AT BLOODY LANE

DUNKER CHURCH

A Painting by (Union) Captain James Hope depicting the "Artillery Hell" of Antietam. Notice The Dunker Church on the left. Despite depicting actual battle, this painting is clearly less powerful a representation of war than the Dunker Church photo preceding it.

Hello, I’m Henry.

March 30, 2010

Once again Bad Lit finds the coolest damn videos.

In Mike Everleth’s latest post he writes about a screening of Nosferatu (1922) at an upcoming film fest. The twist is that the silent film will be accompanied by a live dj (from Evolution Control Committee) spinning vinyl soundtracks from other movies. Mike writes up a more in depth description (complete with date and time) and embeds a sampling of the movie with the soundtrack that you should check out here. Although I have to say that some of the music is a little too on-the-nose (the James Bond theme from Dr. No as Harker escapes out a window using sheets) it is, ultimately, a really neat idea.

Coincidentally I was thinking about ways of enhancing potential screenings of a future project (possibly related to my “Light Reading” post the other day) by having live accompaniment of a minimalist soundtrack. (Potentially subconsciously inspired by the on-stage musicians in Ethan Hawke’s incredible recent Off-Broadway revival of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of The Mind“?)

You might hear more about this later.

Nosferatu (1922)

A Little Light Reading Tonight

March 26, 2010

This will make sense later…

“You shouldn’t forget the importance of entertainment” 01-15-09 to 01-22-09

January 21, 2009

Since starting this blog I’ve wondered what I will do to make sure that it remains a pretty regularly scheduled thing and at the same time, hopefully, remain interesting without becoming a boring log of what I did during the day. So I’ve decided that every Wednesday night I will post what entertained me during the previous week (movies, TV, theater, books (rarely) etc), Thur to Wed, with a bit of commentary and on Sundays I will post something about a topic that I find interesting, such as the Andrew Wyeth bit I posted previously.  And I might post anything exciting that happens in between.

Movies

Eden Lake: On the strong recommendation of a friend (who shall remain nameless because if people knew he liked this movie they might think differently of him) Kim and I went to Best Buy and purchased this “survivalist thriller” outright without seeing it first. It’s worth the money. This movie is so brutal that it is difficult to say I like it for fear that I might think that I am endorsing the actions in it. It’s tough and it brings me back to a time when I was young and seeing copies of copies (on VHS) of movies like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left  and Cannibal Holocaust and thinking that they were so cult and underground and brutal and unforgiving. That is what I wanted Hunting Season to be like. Eden Lake brutalizes Hunting Season. Be very, very careful who you recommend this movie to. If they don’t know you, they might think something is wrong with you. It is certainly NOT your average “let’s get scared and have fun!” type of fluffy “horror” movie. (See: My Bloody Valentine 3-D below)

Funny Games (US version): Last year we got Michael Haneke’s original decade old German language version through Netflix. Like Eden Lake it’s a pretty relentless, nihilistic, pessimistic, though less gory, pic that leaves you feeling dirty (and not in a good way). Based on a strong recommendation (Yup you guessed it, from the same unnamed friend that recommended Eden Lake. Now do you understand why he shall remain nameless?) we decided to get the Funny Games U.S. version that came out last year. The original was so good that we put off seeing the new one for fear that it might be tainted. Especially since the U.S. version is directed by the same director of the original. So we gave in, got the U.S. version from Netflix and watched it. It’s essentially a shot for shot (one shot in particular seemed different, probably because American audiences in 2008 are too A.D.D. to sit through the same shot for the same length of time as the original) identical, English language version of the original. And it stars Naomi Watts (great job, though not quite as good as the woman in the original), Tim Roth (a fine performance), Michael Pitt (EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE, better than the original I would say) and some other guy who did a really good job too (interesting that I can’t picture the guy that originally played the role). I’d say the remake is a fine substitute for the original. It would be interesting to see them side by side to see how the pacing is different 10 years later.

Ghost Town: A funny enough movie starring Ricky Gervais as a misanthropic (I related to him) dentist that can see ghosts, after dying for a brief time. Greg Kinnear co-stars and Tea Leoni rounds out the cast. Nothing wrong with this movie, Ricky Gervais is usually pretty dependable for a laugh.

Wild at Heart:  I received an Amazon.com gift card for Christmas and put it to good use purchasing Lost Highway, The Prestige and Wild at Heart. Kim and I decided to watch David Lynch’s excellent, violent, bizarre, and undeniably romantic road movie Wild at Heart. The pic stars Nicolas Cage (pre-Oscar) and Laura Dern as star-crossed lovers Sailor and Lula on the run from Lula’s overbearing, on-the-verge mother Marietta (played brilliantly by Laura Dern’s mother-in-real-life Diane Ladd). If you haven’t seen this you must, if for nothing else than for Willem Dafoe’s extraordinary personification of evil, Bobby Peru. If you have seen it, watch it again. And if you happen to get your hands on the Special Edition DVD make sure to watch all the neat little interviews.

Wrestling: This is one of those ultra-unknown super-low budget movies that you can find on Netflix and nowhere else, which is the real benefit of the mail-order service. Written and directed with heart by Jeremy O’Keefe, Wrestling is a watchable little flick about the drama that takes place in a small town during the summer between high school and college. The cast is populated with unknown actors (except Jeff Conaway) who turn in performances that are a bit uneven but acceptable for this level of production. Story wise, everything is pretty middle of the road without any true danger or consequences and life goes on. Biggest drawback, as it usually is on ultra-low budget productions (and I speak from experience), is the audio quality. If you enjoy what are now being called “mumblecore” movies this might be your cup of tea if you’ve already run out of Duplass and Swanberg movies to see. This was produced in 2005 and seems to be self distributed on Netflix so kudos to the filmmakers for getting it out there.

Max Payne: I like Wahlberg. I like noir. I like stylized movies. This entertained me for a night. It was worth $1 at the Redbox.  What more is there to say?

Vacancy 2: Skip it. Rent Vacancy

The Wrestler: Disclamer: I’m a big fan of Darren Aronofsky’s previous work (PI, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) so it would have to be a blunder of The Happening proportions to make me not like this movie. I also happen to be a Mickey Rourke fan from way back (Rumble Fish, Diner, Pope of Greenwich Village) so this was pretty much two great tastes that taste great together. The Wrestler is a super-gritty piece of cinema verite that at times felt like a documentary and, in case you haven’t heard, Rourke turns in the performance of a lifetime. It’s a bit of a departure for Aronofsky because there are no gimmicks (a la Requiem) no pseudo-religio-science (a la PI and Fountain) and this is his first pic he didn’t have a hand in writing. It’s just straight up character. The Wrestler may, and probably should win a ton of awards but it certainly won’t win Feel-Good-Movie of the Year. Check it out if it’s playing near you. I can’t wait to see it on DVD and start dissecting it. What do all those follow shots represent?

My Bloody Valentine 3-D: See it in 3-D. GREAT FUN! Good times. Better than you think.

Independent Lens: The Atom Smashers: An interesting documentary about Fermilab, home to the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. What’s a particle accelerator? In this case it’s a 4 mile tunnel underground where protons are supercharged and slammed into anti-protons. When they collide the protons smash apart, and the results are recorded. This is all in an effort to find the Higgs Boson which is the particle believed to give everything mass, also known as The God Particle. I found this documentary very interesting. A human face was put on the scientists who spend their lives in this monolithic facility in the middle of America. What’s also interesting about this is that there is a huge race to find the Higgs Boson before the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) comes on-line in Switzerland. Well it turns out that the LHC came on line in September 2008 but quickly had to be shut down (no not because it created a black hole), so the race is still on. There’s also a lot of reference to the dwindling U.S. government science budget of the last administration. Maybe that’ll change now and intellectual curiosity will be rewarded again in America. Check out this documentary. It’ll make your head spin faster than a proton around the Tevatron.

Lynch: A documentary about David Lynch. Basically an agile camera crew followed him around for about a year while he was working on Inland Empire and other projects. Interesting to me. It would probably be interesting to other Lynch fans, even if you already know everything there is to know about the man. But non-fans or people not familiar with his work or history might not “get it”.

 

TV: 

Fringe: Caught up on the last two episodes this week, and watched the newest one tonight. I think this show is finding its stride. I’m enjoying.

Big Bang Theory: I’m not a sitcom fan and I LOVE THIS SHOW. I get my serious fringe-science kick from “Fringe” and I get my funny physics fix from “Big Bang Theory”. This is definitely my season for watching TV. I don’t know if I’ll have room for “Lost”.

Theater

Cats: Kim and I went to the Shubert Theater in New Haven to see the touring production of, what used to be the longest running show on Broadway. I had never seen “Cats” before and, honestly, didn’t know a damn thing about it (pretty shameful for a student of theater, I know) except that it was based on poems by T.S. Eliot. It turns out that all of the songs (Except “Memory”) are T.S. Eliot’s actual poems from his 1939 book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats ” set to music which makes it a little more interesting. Otherwise it’s pretty thin on plot, the bulk of the show is musical numbers introducing and about the various standout cats in the group. The vocals were very difficult to hear in the first half of the show but overall it was a good, worthwhile time. Didn’t blow me away though. I wonder if “Chicago” is coming back to town anytime soon.   

 

I think that’s about it for this week. Make sure to tune in on Sunday.