Monday, January 31, 2011

John Barry

John Barry, my favorite film composer since Bernard Herrmann has died at age 77. If he had only written the James Bond movie soundtracks from Dr. No through The Living Daylights that would be enough, including (in disputed authorship) The James Bond Theme, since I spent the other part of my youth when I was not listening to rock & roll just listening to his music for the films. However, as this video tribute will attest, he was hugely prolific -- and memorable:

From The New York Times obituary, here's something I did not know, and maybe the secret of how he connected so well, bridging the classic cinematic values with contemporary taste without sounding hacky:
In 1957 he formed the John Barry Seven, a rock ’n’ roll band styled after the popular guitar-based instrumental group the Ventures. His group recorded several instrumental hits as well as “Hit and Miss,” the theme song for the popular television program “Juke Box Jury.”

As noted in a number of places, the theme for Bond comes out of the surf rock milieu. That drive, that motion.

Sadly, you only live once...but what a body of work.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Get to know the name of this Nobel Prize laureate. He's a uniter:
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition banded together Sunday around a prominent government critic to negotiate for forces seeking the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, as the army struggled to hold a capital seized by fears of chaos and buoyed by euphoria that three decades of Mr. Mubarak’s rule may be coming to an end.

The announcement that the critic, Mohamed ElBaradei, would represent a loosely unified opposition reconfigured the struggle between Mr. Mubarak’s government and a six-day-old uprising bent on driving him and his party from power.

So now there's an opposition figure. Just as the knife's edge is getting sharper:
Egypt's most prominent reform advocate called on Sunday for President Hosni Mubarak to resign after the powerful military stepped up its presence across the anarchic capital, closing roads with tanks and sending F-16 fighter jets streaking over downtown.

The army's show of force appeared aimed at quelling looting, armed robbery and arson that broke out alongside pro-democracy protests and have turned the cultural heart of the Arab world into a tableau of once-unimaginable scenes of chaos.

President Hosni Mubarak has been great for Israel, so the big questions is if whomever comes next, whether President or ruling party, will it continue to honor the Camp David Accords that cost peacemaking President Anwar Sadat his life?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Riot Like an Egyptian

What the heck is going on in the Arab world? Tunisia first last week, and now a threat to the 30-year Hosni Mubarak regime? From the people:

Police responded with blasts from water cannons and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out "Down with Mubarak" and demanding an end to Egypt's grinding poverty, corruption, unemployment and police abuses.

Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a calculated strategy by the government to avoid further sullying the image of a security apparatus widely seen as little more than corrupt thugs in uniforms.

With discontent growing over economic woes, and the toppling of Tunisia's president still resonating in the region, Egypt's government - which normally responds with swift retribution to any dissent - needed to tread carefully.

But as crowds filled downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square - waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that rang out in the streets of Tunis - security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.

It's the youth:

“It was the young people who took the initiative and set the date and decided to go,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday with some surprise during a telephone interview from his office in Vienna, shortly before rushing home to Cairo to join the revolt.

Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel prize winner, has been the public face of an effort to reinvigorate and unite Egypt’s fractious and ineffective opposition since he plunged into his home country’s politics nearly a year ago, and he said the youth movement had accomplished that on its own. “Young people are impatient,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think the people were ready.”

But their readiness — tens of thousands have braved tear gas, rubber bullets and security police officers notorious for torture — has threatened to upstage or displace the traditional opposition group.

That opposition group is typically the Muslim Brotherhood, who have definitely been repressed but are a no fun organization dedicated to instilling religious law.

Analysis and questions from Juan Cole, expert on the area:

One question is whether these demonstrations are food riots as in 1977 or whether now they want more, i.e. political reform. (Political reformers certainly backed the protests, but these groups, such as al-Ghad (Tomorrow) and supporters of former IAEA head Muhammad Elbaradei, are small and previous calls by them for masses to come out have gone largely unheeded. The Muslim Brotherhood did not actively back the demonstrations, though it allowed individual members to participate. These crowds were mainly newbies without strong political affiliation).

A second is whether the army and security forces will stand unified behind the Mubarak regime, as they have in the past. In Tunisia, the army refused to fire on demonstrators on behalf of Ben Ali. But Mubarak is a former Air Force general, who came out of the military to rule the country, as part of a military regime established in 1952. A caution: Egypt is not Tunisia.

Take a look:

The First Post-Modern SOTU

I think the President really seemed like The President as in totally settled into the job tonight much more so than at his last State of the Union Address, and the whole thing had a completely different vibe. Gone was the sentiment of "You lie!" will the chamber completely integrated from the Presidential podium down to the Dems and GOPers completely intermingled -- if you don't believe me, check out this NY Times chart.

Building off of his incredible Tucson speech, President Obama was deft in finding issues that both sides could cheer for, but in a setting where no one side was in a contiguous bloc. It's the perfect extension of the theme he introduced at the 2004 Democratic National Convention -- purple America. Who would have imagined. So sad that it took the shooting of Rep. Giffords to do it, but it's been put to good use and, as if on cue, her condition has been upgraded tonight to "Good."

I happen to agree with the President on reforming malpractice lawsuits (and trust he won't go overboard in any one direction) and urging private universities to allow ROTC back on campus. It's a new age, an all-volunteer army, and college is more expensive than anyone imagined back in the post-Vietnam era. We need the smartest officers we can get, and I like the idea of my alma mater being represented in the new gay-friendly military.

And that was the forceful, audacious balance he found tonight. Celebrating his triumph of military inclusion, with the soldiers there from the top staring stoically ahead -- how could we all not be proud? America true to it's ideals.

His main success was in articulating a vision for America in the 21st Century -- identifying the "Sputnik" type threat and offering a clear vision for an economically evolved America. He touted the best parts of healthcare reform and undermined the GOP by making their way look like "going back to how it was" as if it was so many years ago, offering to fix what doesn't work -- the reasonable, sensible, forward-moving leader in the room.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

How could the Republican response(s) not look small in comparison. Especially because the chosen one, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS) got unwelcome competition from Tea-Brainer Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), in her audacity of Sarah Palin-wannabee self-promotion.

Obama scored in the 80%'s on speech favorability in post-SOTU polling. As for Ryan, he reinforced my theory that today's Conservatives have taken over from the 1970's Liberal reputation for dealing entirely in unproven abstractions based on their own imagined notions -- per Jonathan Chait:

Obama framed every issue in specific terms -- here is a plan to improve education, here is a factory that is now growing due to my policy, here is a person who would suffer if we repeal health care reform. Ryan's speech existed almost entirely on the plane of abstraction. Obama's meta-theme was pitched straight at the center, while Ryan's was pure right-wing dogma.

As for Bachmann, John Amato has the best line:
Michele Bachmann was reading her short soliloquy on a teleprompter -- which she usually attacks Obama over -- but made a very bad technical mistake. It looked like she was speaking into the Tea Party camera and not CNN's, which gave it this freakishly creepy effect. Bad lighting and makeup didn't help her appearance either. If you saw it on CNN you wondered who she was talking to. Are you talking to me?

With Rep. Bachmann, hilarity always ensues.

If I were the GOP tonight I'd be as nervous about 2012 as they looked in the room. He's outplaying them like crazy. And he still has the veto. They can't just be the Party of No, they have to pass legislation...that he'll actually sign. That will even get through the Senate. They may screw around on the edges, but they've got to be looking at a resurgent 2012 incumbent and thinking about all those voters who he'll bring to the polls that didn't show up this past November.

If they pass any of the conservative items in his agenda, he gets to look bipartisan some more, reinforcing his core message. And to top it off they can't go on their wingy delegitimization -- dehumanization -- attacks in the post-Giffords environment.

The next two years -- bigtime Presidential politics, America. Strap in.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Pawlenty View

I just viewed this opening campaign action-packed web video ad from former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is obviously running for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination:

While Josh Marshall says calls it, "part of the 'sci-fi-archival-footage-jet-fighter-heroic' genre, with perhaps an homage to Minority Report worked in," what it most reminded me of was the infamous Parallax Corporation montage, used to test potential assassin recruits in the Alan Pakula-directed 1970's political paranoia classic starring Warren Beatty, particularly as it speeds up towards the end:

Were Pawlenty's media consultants actually inspired by this great work of violent patriotic psychosis?

You be the judge.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On the Rise

President Obama's job approval ratings are polling close to 50%. In some cases hitting it. This is, no doubt, due to his Arizona speech and to his legislative wins during the lame duck Congressional session. We'll see what happens after Tuesday night's State of the Union address, when some Dems and GOPers will be breaking tradition with mixed seating and the President will call for infrastructure spending.

We are entering a very interesting political period. While unemployment remains way too high, corporations are making big profits again, and there will surely be lots of acquisitions this year. The President was handed a favor by voters in that he now has a Republican House of Representatives to make him look moderate. In fact, it's the GOP that has the most difficult task, to my mind, in that they must keep their extreme wing in check -- right after it won them the election.

The past week has seen Republicans making their most pointed criticisms to date of half-Governor Sarah Palin, while Presidential candidate Mitt Romney just won the New Hampshire straw poll, the first (non-binding, but indicative) race of the GOP Primaries. Romney is from the business wing of the Republican Party, but with President Obama reaching out to businesses and, it appears, already helping them to grow profits, I'm wondering what he'll be able to sell America. Elect him because he laid off workers when he was in private industry? Uh, ok.

President Obama's Presidential re-election campaign, whether he means for it to or not, begins on Tuesday night. One imagines that his opposition, having been burnt yet again for having mis-measured him as wounded, defeated or failed, will be more wary moving forward.

Or maybe just a little more flustered.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book 'em

Cheers, Attorney General Eric Holder. I love when our U.S. Justice Department does some of the nuts and bolts work like this:
The criminal accusations spanned several states and several decades, encompassing figures from seven mob families, and led to the arrest of nearly 125 people on federal charges on Thursday.

There were murders, including a double homicide over a spilled drink in a Queens bar. There were the more run-of-the-mill activities associated with organized crime: racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking, money laundering, gambling and the like.


The sweep began before dawn, with 800 federal agents and state and local investigators fanning out across the region. The targets, officials said, ran the gamut from what they called small-time bookmakers and shakedown artists to mob middle managers and the entire current leadership of the Colombo crime family, as well as two senior Gambino family figures. Prosecutors said 34 made members of New York’s five crime families — Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese — and crime families in New Jersey and New England were among those arrested.

Sounds like a Hollywood movie. To come.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wiki Means Fast

Here's the history and current scoop on maybe the best reason to create a World Wide Web:

Video and infographic by JESS3, of course.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy MLK Day

America's homegrown terrorism again:
An incendiary device found along the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., was "likely capable of inflicting multiple casualties," the FBI said today.

On the plus side, former Senate Majority Leader and physician, Dr. Bill Frist, is telling his fellow Republicans to accept health care reform as "the law of the land" and move on.

I found myself taking a fresh look at Dr. Frist a few years after he left public office, when he appeared on the Real Time with Bill Maher and was quite sane and humanitarian, something he and his party were not especially known for during the W. Bush years on GOP dominance. I especially liked when he gently, but firmly, rebutted Maher on anti-vaccination b.s., one of Maher's most misguided positions.

So credit where credit is due, to the FBI and Dr. Frist. Happy Day After MLK Day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Final Verdict on Ricky Gervais

The best piece on last night's Golden Globe Awards today is, unsurprisingly, Pete Hammond in Nikki Fink's Deadline. As The Social Network solidified it's leading candidate status, along with Colin Firth, Christian Bale, arguably Natalie Portman and Melissa Leo, the only thing anyone talked about was returning host Ricky Gervais:
From inside the Beverly Hilton International ballroom, jaded journalists at my table in the back seemed genuinely shocked at just how far host Ricky Gervais went to insult the organization he was working for, not to mention everyone else in the room. It was as edgy a performance as these things can possibly be and, like him or not, it kept your attention. Ryan Gosling told me it seemed "like David Lynch was directing the show". I thought it refreshing to see someone go so un-PC on NBC.
The President of the Golden Globes even threatened his host's career:
"Ricky will not be invited back to host the show next year, for sure," the HFPA member said. "For sure any movie he makes he can forget about getting nominated. He humiliated the organization last night and went too far with several celebrities whose representatives have already called to complain."
Eventually he corrected that, as I'm sure calls were made by representation, but the final verdict is exactly what this commenter, skd, says on another Deadline post:

The Golden Globes went from an irrelevant awards show with questionable methods of choosing winners, to a major hit (17 million viewers on the deadest night of the week, Sunday!?). Yeah maybe the HFPA and NBC will grumble within earshot of those who were grilled last night, but privately they are jumping for joy. In the age of cable tv, you got to push the envelope…hard, or you will be irrelevant, boring and without viewers. No one was going to watch the Golden Globes, until Twitter and Facebook came alive 15 minutes into the show. You can’t buy that kind of PR.

Exactly. Makes Gervais look like some kind of genius.

Who can do whatever he wants.


The Fighter is a great movie and I wasn't expecting it. It's director David O. Russell's most sustained and successful film, with a great story wrapped in a true indie spirit, shot in the streets and gyms and crack dens of Lowell, Massachusetts.

It's based on the true story of a great boxer, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who's a solid guy in every sense, but he's 31 and has his last shot to be more than a stepping-stone. His half-brother, an ex-boxer named Dickey Eklund is his trainer, but he's in it for the crack money. His mother is his manager, and she's toxic as well. In the trailer it looked like Christian Bale's astonishing performance as Dickey might overturn the narrative ship, but it's actually just an extremely sharp and powerful reflecting subplot, particularly during a point where the story bifurcates, and when it reunites it's with a vengeance.

As much as its a boxing movie, it's about family, asking what do you owe your fellow family members, and what do they owe you. Melissa Leo's transformation in her role as the mother is a departure from anything I've seen her do before, the hair and outfits and the shoes, but also the incredible specificity she achieves in how she so expertly applies guilt, shame and loyalty in dealing not just with her two sons but her seven heinous daughters as well.

Amy Adams is the other big name in the movie, has a notable upgrade on the noble girlfriend role, and she gets Lowell, gets to curse, and actually has an impact on the story. She and Wahlberg make a convincing couple in their love scenes together, very sweet. It's a tribute to Wahlberg's success here as a leading man that all those around him are getting accolades, while he holds down the fort with quiet decency and a body he trained for four years to play the role.

Wahlberg evidently held the movie together over a long gestation as well. It makes sense for him to go back to Massachusetts, as he did so well in The Departed. When you see the real Micky and Dickey for a few moments at the end of the movie, it all makes sense.

These two guys appear to be exactly who they are in the movie. Two inseparable brothers, one who's silent and steady, the other who can't shut his mouth.

True love.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our Nation's Leader

Compare and contrast:

She's so little now. She will be shunned by more than before her response.

Obama did the right thing - he raised our national spirits. He tied this tragedy into the American democratic tradition. The timeless practice of constituents meeting with their democratically elected representatives. To the democratic dreams of a young girl who will not live to put her ideas into practice.

This was big narrative. He told an epic tale of the tapestry of decent, admirable, everyday heroic people killed, and noted their political divisions to emphasize how much more alike we are -- humanity is more important than politics. And he smiled in a surprisingly reassuring way when he did it, warm but strong daddy stuff. All that we're grateful for, spreading credit, not blame.

His goal: to inspire out of the darkness. "Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes."

He led big time tonight. He's leading again. We'll see how it goes with the legislating, but his bipartisan schtick seems to be sincere. He hasn't wavered from his One America theme but he's not shying away from acknowledging the hard stuff in doing it. And he ended up inspiring hope.

This photo caught my eye:

Obama with the young hero who was so valiant and just happens to be a gay American. And there's Sen John McCain (R-AZ) looking on so irrelevant from somewhere in back.

You know, the man who gave America Sarah Palin.

For the record, I agree with Matt Osborne, "I Blame Jared Lee Loughner." I can't even bring myself to reprint his already iconographic mug shot in this blog. I took one look at that picture when they first released it and got it immediately. This guy is just going out of his way to look like the most major asshole he is. The type of asshole who would assassinate a politician and not care who he took down along the way, the most selfish type of organism alive, doing it for some psychotic pleasure, that itch that can never be scratched enough.

Maybe someone out there has the heart to pity his soul, but the way I see it, that's a long way off. He hasn't done the work.

So I don't blame Sarah or Rush or his poor parents or anyone else for this tragedy but the really awful malformation of humanity who planned it all himself and ruined countless lives just to satisfy his sick urges. All the hate mongers out there who feed off of the most atavistic American forms of resentment and fear, who make their living off of stoking it, they are just a more modest form of asshole.

That toxic young man is the real deal.

Finally Coming Back

Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig might just make a great Bond together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Now We Know

Tea Party raises money off Gifford assassination attempt six collateral deaths.

Now we know.

We also now know that Tom Delay is guilty.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Rolling Tragedy

Does anyone believe that the political violence in Arizona this weekend that seriously wounded a Congresswoman, killed a U.S. District Judge, a 9-year old girl, a 30-year old community activist, a 76-year old pastor and two other septuagenarians along with wounding another 14 people, is going to be the end of it?

Does anyone believe that any of the violent rhetoricians, from Beck to Palin, are going to take even a modicum of responsibility for shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater?

I think we're about to see the shunning of Sarah Palin, especially by the GOP elite. You can't propagate something like this:

..and try to justify it by saying that it's "It was simply crosshairs like you'd see on maps," as Palin's spokeswoman, Rebecca Mansour, has laughably tried to ass-cover with on TV, post-shootings. This is just too yucky, too ugly, and since everybody knows that Palin is essentially a grifter with no cause other than herself, and no policy intelligence beyond mean and pandering to the lowest resentful denominator, she'll be on the downward slope. Watch to see if they start cutting her time on Fox.

As for Arizona, it's the new Florida, the new South Carolina, the new Texas:

But after the fatal shooting of six that left Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically injured, Arizona has shifted from a place on the political fringe to symbol of a nation whose political discourse has lost its way.

The moment was crystallized by Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff, who, in a remarkable news conference on Saturday after the shooting, called his state “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.


While many states have nonrestrictive gun laws, Arizona’s zeal for weapons has often made headlines. It recently became one of just a few states with a law that allows people to carry concealed guns without a permit. Last summer, Ms. Giffords’s Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, had a campaign event in which voters were invited to “shoot a fully automatic M-16” with him to symbolize his assault on her campaign.

The state also allows for weapons in bars, which is unusual. Last year, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, Pamela Gorman, ran on a pro-fun platform; a campaign video depicted her firing off rounds several times.

This is the state that made ethnic profiling a police responsibility. Add to it this piece of Arizona Tea Party electioneering:

I don't see Arizona tightening up their guns laws anytime soon, not with a non-leader like hack Governor Jan Brewer, not with such hatred for "the other" in their legislative body. America has long had a love affair with guns and if Columbine didn't end it, high school students for heaven's sake, than why should this?

The nation will be keeping an eye on how our leaders -- particularly those on the Right -- respond to this event over the next few days and weeks ahead.

Friday, January 07, 2011


The GOP started their new run in the House by reading their own bowdlerized version the U.S. Constitution, for example conveniently leaving out slavery, much as their core constituency wants to believe slavery had little to do with the Civil War.

When they read the section on having to be born in America to become President they got interrupted -- a birther screamed to Jesus before being arrested by Capitol Police.Link

The GOP had two members vote illegally, i.e. not officially sworn in, and asked for permission from ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep the votes in the record.

Their next big media event is a vote, without debate, to repeal the historic healthcare reform enacted this past session under Democratic Linkleadership. Odd choice if they're really fiscal conservatives, as it will add $230 billion to the deficit and leave 17 million Americans uninsured, i.e. just like before reform passage.

They're claiming any new programs have to be offset by an equal amount to spending cuts, yet have exempted tax cuts from their proposed rule, as if they are magic beans. Yep, more deficit. Like they gave America with the Bush tax cuts they all voted for.

New House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is already backtracking on his party's promise to reduce spending by $100 billion this year.

And Rep. Darrel Issa (CA-R) has had to backtrack wildly from calling Obama "the most corrupt President", saying a day later he meant the Administration, not the President himself, and again today backing further by saying he meant "corrupt like a computer." WTF are you saying, Darrel? Awesome session start for you, sir.

Awesome session start for all these clowns.

At a time like this, there's only one thing to do:

(Groucho and Eddie Murphy rule.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Another Web Video Breakout Story: The Voice

Okay, this is moving, and it's all happened over the past few days, it appears. Over 8.7 million views and counting:

The Reddit community got behind Ted with people offering a suit, a phone and now he's been offered both a job and a home by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here's him all cleaned up and telling his tale, video from WNCI-FM in Cleveland this morning. Very emotional but very deserved, and he's going to be a huge radio star -- his voice has already been heard by millions.

Nice story to start 2011.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Producer

There's a great interview by Mike Fleming with top dog movie producer Scott Rudin in Deadline: Hollywood that is not to be missed. He's won the 2008 Best Picture Oscar (the statuette that goes to the Producer/s) for No Country for Old Men and this year he has The Social Network and now True Grit headed for nominations galore, both great at the box office as well -- as Rudin notes, might have been low-budget indies in years past.

Rudin has an infamous reputation for working and firing assistants brutally, although I haven't heard if he's mellow in old age, but years ago I heard this same story from an interview comments post:
A good friend, Peter Hrisko (RIP), worked as an assistant to Rudin several years ago. He met Rudin at LAX one afternoon to pick him up after a flight. During the drive back, after Peter respectfully tendered his resignation and gave his two weeks notice to pursue his own writing career, Rudin asked him to pull over, then kicked him out of the car and made Peter walk home. This became a legendary story for a while. Still, even Hrisko himself maintained respect for Rudin’s skill and tenacity at his work and could laugh about the immature shit. Says something I guess that even he couldn’t badmouth Rudin.

What's obvious is that high-quality, bold directors want to work with him because he gets the dough they need and protects their vision. What makes a creative producer rise above the financial/executive producer is how he helps the writer and director develop their vision, keeping the whole schema of the movie ecosystem in mind:

DEADLINE: These are two very different projects. How did you support each as producer?
RUDIN: They needed very different things. In the case of True Grit, it has always been, pulling together the financing, pulling together the cast, running the marketing, giving them what they need. They need no help of any kind making the movie. They don’t want it, and I wouldn’t presume there was anything I could tell them about the making of a movie. We worked great together because we know what we each do and that’s a very comfortable place. There are aspects of the movie they’re very happy to run on their own, and aspects they are happy for me to run alone. We got that very clear and right the very first time we worked together on Raising Arizona, so I go back with the guys basically to the very beginning of their careers.

DEADLINE: Will they take a script note from you?
RUDIN: Yes. I have done that, and I do. We did a lot of work on the script of No Country, and on True Grit. There are big differences between Charles Portis’ book and this movie, and some of the best things in No Country are their invention. They are so brilliant at the calibration of moment to moment narrative that they can break down material better than almost anybody I’ve ever worked with. Most of the things we talk about on the script have to do with the math of the story. Is this clear? Is the context clear? Have we set something up as well as we need to? One of the big challenges in True Grit was getting the bookend idea to work. That wasn’t in the first movie. A lot of equity went into making sure we had done that right. That end narration got rewritten several times in post.

DEADLINE: And your role on The Social Network?
RUDIN: I worked very close with Aaron Sorkin on the script. A lot of the really good thinking about how to tell it out of the litigation, the big structural ideas, came out of those conversations. David Fincher needs no help in making a movie. He’s a brilliant filmmaker who has more mental calibration available to him than any human being I’ve ever met. The way he handled the anthropology of the movie was extraordinary. He really got so brilliantly underneath the culture that the movie was describing. He knows what it’s like to be 19 and come up with something and have somebody older and more monied try to take it away from you. Things he didn’t know, like the Harvard and Palo Alto parts, he learned. He’s recreating a very specific time and place and doing it with an unbelievable level of detail, confidence and skill, in service of Aaron’s script. I’m most proud of the unlikely marriage of those two collaborators. But it worked out so that it feels completely inevitable.

It's that combination of taste, financial leadership and showmanship that makes a great movie Producer. Read the whole thing, the best film interview I've read in awhile.

Congrats to Mr. Ruden, the passionate guy.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Filmmaker Star is Born

Roger Ebert, again proving himself the most relevant film critic writing, blogging and tweeting today, on Jamie Stuart's Idiot with a Tripod:
This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject.
(1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent classic "Man With a Movie Camera." (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency. It was filmed during the New York blizzard of Dec. 26, and Jamie Stuart e-mailed it to me with this time stamp: December 27, 2010 4:18:18 PM CST.
Here you go:

Here's the British TV piece on Stuart:

New York Blizzard - ITV Daybreak VT from dantv on Vimeo.

Jamie has docu skills - the Ebert page has his NYFF piece, along with Dziga Vertov's original classic city rhythm documentary, Man with a Movie Camera. As for Stuart's formal choices, they're a combo (digital camera and editing) of new (digital camera and editing) and old (lenses):

"Technically, for "Idiot with a Tripod," I shot with my Canon 7D and edited it with Final Cut Pro. Early on, I was able to vary things a little more -- I used macro diopters for the close-ups during the day shots, my portable slider for the dolly shots and also, a 75-300 zoom for the rooftop shots. I was more limited at night because of the weather conditions, so I stuck with my 24mm, 50mm and 85mm -- all of which are manual Nikon lenses. Which meant that in the middle of that maelstrom I was changing lenses, wiping off the lenses and manually focusing/adjusting each shot.

It's the tripod that makes the difference. The more widespread, obvious and easy choice would be to shoot it all handheld, like every other Internet doc. The tripod, and the high-quality prime lenses are what give the piece the stability, more what we've come to expect from our own smartphone still photography as opposed to our Flip/smartphone videography.

I've recently joined the app-only social network, Instagram, and it's like getting a zillion of these images daily (have to do a lot of following others to get others to follow you). Stuart's success is making it meditative without being boring. If you accept his artistry (intention and execution) it's his training and facility in this speedy digital format that makes all the difference, because what's unique about this short is that it straddles the line between artistic documentary and news.

He got it out in hours. Not a year. Not even a week. Barely a day.

Open access: instantly everywhere as long as people watch it. Y'know, the old tree falling in the forest.

Because if a video is posted but nobody streams it, is it truly distributed?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A New Soul

The first part of this G.K. Chesterton quote was making the rounds on the Internet this past weekend:
The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.
Here's the whole quote:
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
- G.K. Chesterton
If you really like the quote, join the society. That said, I'm in agreement. The slowdown for the past ten days whether you traveled, were snowed in or just hung with the family is a time for reflection on the year gone by and projection onto the year ahead.

2010 was a tough year, losing a mother and two friends, working extremely hard in business and with family, but on the flip side I bought my first electric guitar, played every night since and wrote eight songs along the way. And then I kept this blog going, albeit instituting Friday and Saturday nights off.

Looking ahead I hope for a combination of engagement and peace, if that makes any sense. I want a growth year, no matter how it happens. Having learned so much over the past several years, one hopes for something more than a New Year's resolution. One hope to have evolved, positive direction, maybe that new soul Chesterton prescribes.

Fresh, at all costs.