Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trailers Trashed

So today I have three trailers: The horrible, the great and the good.


This first one is everything wrong about trailers and about a lot of Hollywood movies. These crimes are, in no particular order:

-CG animals voiced by people like Owen Wilson, in what may disturbingly be his first post-suicide attempt role.

-CG animals in general. This horrific trend is creepy and 100% unrealistic. But, the shit sells, and the kid demos certainly seem to keep making these films their money back. This all makes me nostalgic for Milo and Otis: http://videodetective.com/titledetails.aspx?publishedid=3327.

-Stereotypical racial assignments to animals, notably latinos actors (who are almost certainly going to be George Lopez, or the poor man's George Lopez, Carlos Mencia) as chihuahuas and other pointy-eared excitable breeds. Makes me sick to my stomach.

-Movies based off of pre-existing though meaningless properties. In this case, Marmaduke. Has anyone ever actually read a Marmaduke comic? They're fucking lame.
 What Producer Asshole (captialized, as I assume that's his credit on the film) saw this comic and said, "hey, that's a great basis for a movie."

-Music choices: "California." This once decent song has been used and abused far too many times to have anything left. It's been used in every other movie and TV shots that takes place in California  for the last decade. "California Love," by 2Pac? Ugh...

A Serious Man

This is probably my favorite trailer of 2009, and it works great for several reasons, again in no particular order:

-It sells the film, without having to give away the plot. This should be the goal of most trailers, but unfortunately most editors/producers/etc are too lazy to create a film that has anything worth concealing and needs a trailer with imagery capable of doing what this does. This trailer says both a lot and a little. What do we learn? We learn that this is a man, probably a professor and probably Jewish, who is going through some kind of overwhelming breakdown. In short, we get to know the what, without knowing the why.

-It is quick. There is a succession of shots, cut to a sound that we eventually see is from the man getting his face repeatedly smashed into a wall, which increasingly build tension: wife saying she wants a divorce, a man saying everything's going to be fine, a man saying that they've had denigrating letters about our protagonist, a repeat of the everything's going to be fine shot, a car slamming into another, the man saying he needs help.  It all builds to the longest scene we get:  the receptionist for the Rabbi goes and asks him if he would see the man. It's very slow. She comes back and says no, he's thinking. BOOM! Music! Credits! Coens! The thing is like a short film.

Get Low:

Things I like about this trailer:

-Robert Duvall in a crazy beard, who eventually shaves it and stills stays crazy.

-Bill Murray not as a CG animal.

-The time period/context.

-Again, this is a trailer that sells itself without selling itself out in the process. A mystery is revealed to us over the course of the trailer; a crazy man has been living alone and now wants to stage a funeral for himself while still alive. Everyone is sort of afraid/in awe of him. He may have dark secrets, and everything is promised to be revealed at the funeral.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birdcall's Trailers of the Week

I love trailers, oftentimes more than the movie itself. The creation of a trailer is a very fine art, though often isn't given it's due respect. You want to sell the film without giving too much away; give fleeting glimpses of interesting scenes; write in sentences, not paragraphs. Ideally...

So this is my first weekly "Trailers of the Week" entry. Let's see how long I can keep it up. This being the first one, I tried to scan the media outlets that I read and collect some of the ones from the last month or so. The Trailers of the Week series is not necessarily going to be about new trailers, but rather trailers that I liked, or for movies that I am looking forward too, or ones that I am merely amused by, or ones that I think are interesting in some way, or... This first entry is probably the least curated. In the future expect less and of higher quality. Here I chose a bunch that caught my eye.

The first entry is definitely one that I am looking forward to: Greenberg. Noah Baumbach is among my favorite working directors today, with only a tiny handful of competition. I eagerly await everything the man puts out. Buzz is good on this one, and it's my most watched trailer of the last month.

This next one caught my eye this week. I like slice of life films that show the lives of regular people. I'm not sure if this is that, the trailer text places it all within the context of modern day Iran, a place that I don't often hear a lot about cinematically.

This is one of those films that are usually either loved or hated by people, even though the content is hardly political or scandalous. Instead, it is the very minuteness of the story that bothers people. This minuteness gets labeled pretentiousness. That said, I am wary of the genre, these post-mumblecore indie dramas about white kids trying to connect, even though I myself would be a fine candidate to make one. They just seem so pretentious, haha. Maybe it's just projection: I don't really hate them, I hate myself for making them and others for having beaten to the punch with their pretentiousness.

And now, for something completely different:

Michel Gondry, he's on that list of working directors I adore, though lately he seems to be grasping at straws (Green Hornet? Really?) and making me wish Charlie Kaufman didn't decide to become a director (j'adore Schenectady, New York though). This is a doc about his family, or his grandmother, or something.

Luke Wilson, where art thou? Through some twist of fate, watchers of Bottle Rocket fifteen years ago decided that Owen was the brother to become a star. Fast forward to present day and our Anthony is now schilling for AT and T. Yeesh. Whatever pays the bills, I guess. This is the first movie I've seen Luke in in a long time (I didn't seen Henry Poole, that one with jesus on the house, or whatever) since his great cameo in 3:10 to Yuma in... 2007. Good to see him with work. He really should call his friend Wes up though...

This is the latest from Luc Besson. You know, the guy that did The Professional, 5th Element, The Dive and other films of beauty? I get the feeling that Angel-A, his last effort, didn't go over well, though I thought it was lovely. This one is based on a series of french graphic novels I've never heard of. Looks like fun.

This is for another one of those low budget indie coming of age dramedies that I love/hate.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

History, courtesy of Chicas

This is the program from the night that Lead Singer had its "premiere" at the Video Show at school. 

It was a magical one. Looking at the program again, the importance of the day comes out. I see everyone that was there. In this era of bills and loan payments, it'd be easy to regret the whole damn thing, but I don't.

I made connections, both professional and personal, ones that irrevocably changed me. It's weird to feel nostalgic for three years ago, two years ago, but I do...

Now Hiring: Young Company with little income but lots of moxy

So it looks like Birdcall is going to have it's first official employee, probably. While the details have yet to be worked out, he is going to be working on editing the pilot episode of a show about sexual fetishists to be pitched to HBO, etc. I was hired months ago but am just too damn busy and it's been falling by the wayside to much, so I am bringing on a fresh set of eyes and hands to get it going again.

I wish that I was busy because of important things that I was editing, but instead it's mostly bullshit- MediaPlace night work and MontyQ's, the pizza place where I am some sort of lesser manager now. One day I will break those bonds...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Muppets + Beatles = Bliss

I am a huge fan of the Muppets, plain and simple. I also happen to be a pretty big Beatles fan. So...things like this make me happy.

this song is "act naturally," which actually wasn't written by the beatles, but was covered on one of their albums by Ringo. below is "with a little help from my friends." kermit's opening line is great.

I hope the new Muppet movie will be good. Jason Segal wrote the script and is starring in it, so that's a plus.

Origin Story

Warning: This blog is self important. If taking your own shit seriously or someone making something out of very little makes you uncomfortable, this ain't for you. "Birdcall" is a pseudonym, but also an entity larger than myself, something other people have had and have vital parts in. I speak of Birdcall like it's MGM, with a storied and vast history, when, well, there isn't one yet. This is a little weird, sure, and probably makes the ol' ego feel good, but that's just how it is. The dramatic tone of voice is one that i am probably too comfortable in. Get over it or move on.

So people often ask me where the name "Birdcall" comes from. Back in the day when it started, when I started making films and thinking that I might want to do this for a living (living? is that what this is called?), all of my filmmaker friends had "companies", or so it seemed to me. Quotations because I am not sure of their legal status, and really, that wasn't the point. The point is doing something bigger than yourself, something greater than masturbation. Maybe not that much greater, but you have to admit that there is a difference between the two. Now when I peruse Craigslist posts in my desperate hours, I see all kinds of assholes with companies and it makes me a little cynical. Especially because they have the nerve to ask for interns. Anyway... I decided, before the release of my first short (and first video work ever), "Just a Glimpse," I decided to make one of my own.

 Among the greatest inspirations for me are the films of Wes Anderson. Now, let's not get into the last few films or his representations of nonwhites or his signature style/cliches, okay? Whew...The first three of his films are huge for me and I can quote a lot of them till the cows come home. 

The first idea that I came up with was "Wildcat Films," a reference to Eli Cash's failed first novel and the above moment of absurd genius from The Royal Tenenbaums. A search revealed that a Wildcat Productions or some such existed in the UK. So, I moved on. I wanted something that was a little obscure, out there, but ultimately terribly amusing to me. So, I went with Birdcall. Birdcalls are actually in several of Wes Anderson's films, but I was actually more taking inspiration from the two moments in Bottle Rocket. I actually captured and uploaded these for this purpose.

The first video comes from the opening scene of the film. Technically, the bird call is the first line of the film, if you think about it. It is off screen, made by Dignan (Owen Wilson) to get Anthony's (brother Luke Wilson) attention. Great scene. I also captured all the way up to the 75 year plan bit, to better illuminate my previous post.

The second video is from a later scene. This comes right after Anthony has had sex with Inez for the first time and their love is in its first bloom. Dignan is being left out and not dealing with it terribly well. The bird call comes in the bar, when Dignan is being beat up and makes a bird call to Anthony (who doesn't hear it) for aid.

More (self-glorifying) history later.

My Amazing Adventures with Michael Chabon

I've been rereading all of my Michael Chabon books recently and am currently (breezily) making my way through "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," his Pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece.

I am pretty crazy about everything that Chabon does and think that he's my favorite contemporary writer. Sorry Nick Hornby, your work is getting stale. Unlike Hornby, Chabon is only becoming more inventive as time goes by and is terribly prolific. I think his most recent work was "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," which takes place in an alternative history where Israel was quickly destroyed following its foundation and America granted Jews a tiny piece of Alaska. It's classic noir, following a detective solving a murder on the eve of reversion back to the US.

Chabon's books (I almost wrote films) have since 2000's Kavalier and Clay become great mixes of genre, blending noirs, history, fantasy, while staying rooted in characters. The internet tells me that his latest is actually "The Final Solution," with "Manhood for Amateurs," a collection of essays, the most recent overall. I can't wait for the latter to come out in paperback, as manhood is often central to his best fiction. His characters frequently are confronting, struggling against, their own sexuality and masculinity. (I believe that in cover of my version of "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," his debut novel and UC-Irvine masters thesis, it says something about Chabon being in a homosexual relationship for some period. He's now married with kids.) I tend to really identify with his characters in this, and perhaps as a result have a real soft spot for "Pittsburgh."

Technically, my first exposure to him was when I saw the film based on his second novel "Wonder Boys," in high school. He has flirted with Hollywood, doing scripts and rewrites but has never had a huge hit, critical or otherwise. Chabon actually wrote a script for Spiderman that never made was supposed to be sweet. "Pittsburgh" has been turned into a film, though based off of the trailer and my reading, it seems like a poor film translation of the work and as such I have yet avoided it. I will see it eventually. Producer Scott Rudin bought the rights for "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" and it is set to be the Coen Brothers' next film or the one after that, which gives me much more hope than "Pittsburgh" did at this stage. Its director previously did "Dodgeball."

Anyway, check him out. Birdcall vouches for him.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

75-Year Plan

So I am holding true to my promise. I came back with better images. For those of you not familiar with these images, they are from Wes Anderson's first feature, Bottle Rocket. Dignan, a naive go-getter, creates them for Anthony (played by Owen and Luke Wilson, respectively). The information contained herein I think can be widely translated to plenty of lives, including my own, suggesting things like "develop outside interests," "wives and family- very crucial," and most relevant right now: "through a constant Regimen of Activities We begin to Learn a Craft." Amusing, but wise- a great combination. Click on them for larger versions.

(These are scanned from the Bottle Rocket Critereon Edition DVD, which is my way of jabbing at those that download/stream these things)

Maybe I should make one. If someone else does it, I will. Kevin...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Start of Something Something

so i am making a blog. how original. i don't know what it will be exactly. mostly a place for me to post random shit and to talk about what i'm working on or grooving on. and to figure out, publicly, just what birdcall is.

i thought that this was an appropriate image to start things off, as it is the film to which birdcall
owes its name and one which is an inspiration, both in its content as well as origin story. i will try to find a better image later.