Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

the problem with Borat

So you might have heard of this movie, with this guy who pretends to be from Kazakhstan, exposing the "true" America. More likely, even if you haven't heard of any movie that's opened in the past month, you've heard of BORAT.

There's no question that BORAT is, more than occasionally, really damn funny. It's also in my mind incredibly problematic. The difference between BORAT and the (even funnier) JACKASS 2 is that, after JACKASS 2 did something in public in front of unsuspecting people, they copped to who they were, and got release forms signed, and if you wouldn't sign one, they'd pixelate your face or not use the footage. BORAT, by contrast, claimed to be a small production not intending to distribute in the States, and often not only set things up under entirely false pretenses but maintained those false pretenses well after the fact. (One first-hand account can be found here.) This is a massive breach of filmmaking ettiquette (and, most likely, law); further, expect people who aren't nearly as funny to duplicate the same kinds of stunts in the near future; further, as a result, expect any serious but seriously underfunded short-film or documentary filmmakers to have increasing amounts of trouble getting releases to film places.

Additionally, the film really tries to have it both ways: by being "documentary" it's supposedly telling the truth about the intolerance of America or some-such (as if the average person around the world would somehow be more tolerant of him), while by being "drama" they can set up any sort of thing they want and pretend it's real (like the RV, being driven by crew members, which has our memorable and memorably racist frat boys who are supposedly travelling across country in it). Plus the editing (while quite good) is very, very stacked, leaving any patina of "truth", or cause and effect that's not revealed in the same shot, as being highly dubious as best.

Anyway, the ever-brilliant George Saunders (of PASTORALIA and CIVILWARLAND IN SEVERE DECLINE, two must-reads if there ever were any) rips open the film's hypocrisies in his own inimitable way, entertainingly and depressingly pointing out the issues at hand.

Monday, November 27, 2006

on a lighter note

or something:

I came to New Zealand a little less than three years ago. At the time, I owned 0 (zero) keys.

I now have fourteen* in my room. I'm not even really sure what six of them are for, other than that one of them looks like a car key and I suspect it was given to me for safekeeping as a backup key for a car that's no longer a going concern. Another one's for a car I sold, and another one is for a desk I sold. Three others are for production companies I'm not working for anymore, and the other three live on my key chain.

So: fourteen keys. And none of them lock the drawer on my new desk. (I assume. I haven't tried.)

Also: I switched to writing on Sundays for the Nonalignment Pact. Just so you know.

*Addendum: Make that fifteen!** Found one attached to a lock.

**Addendum 2: Found two more. Seventeen keys. What the hell? They're clearly more frisky than I am.

the two sides of comics.

2 1/2 days apart, I've had two of the most powerful - in very different ways - reactions I've had to writing in a while, and they're both blogs about comics. Kind of.

Saturday morning, I spent about an hour and a half reading The Comics Curmudgeon, and I don't know the last time I laughed that hard, that often. Possibly TALLADEGA NIGHTS. It's funny with a capital FUNNY, I tells ya!

And then there's the other side of things. Tonight, I read this blog from an unnamed female comic creator, who, having got really fed up with the whole industry on any number of levels, spent three days writing one of the most raw, powerful, and simultaneously well-written memoirs I've ever read. And it left me with two powerful lessons, lessons I probably should have learned by now but have difficulty internalizing.

1. Be careful of what you give of yourself to an industry you're passionate about, because it feels no obligation to give back.

2. The ideas, the thoughts, the images we put into the world have more of a ripple effect than we imagine.

I started to elaborate on the second point, and then second-guessed myself. Suffice it to say that I'm thinking a lot about what to work on next at the moment, and that it's certainly informed my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

you don't throw oranges on an escalator!

Robert Altman died today. He was 81. You might know him as the director of such films as NASHVILLE, THE LONG GOODBYE, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, THE PLAYER, or SHORT CUTS, to name just five masterpieces.

Tonight Jonny and I cracked a bottle of red in his honor and watched CALIFORNIA SPLIT, which I had never seen before and is unequivocally a sixth. It's a deceptively light piece about two compulsive gamblers who team up, and the deftness with which Altman lets the plot and characters unravel is really astonishing. Plus, it has the line which is the title of this blog, which would automatically mean it was a pretty good movie.

I tried the lentil recipe that Scout posted in a comment below. It did not work well. I mean, it seemed good in theory, and tastes good bar the lentils, but the lentils were not cooked enough and husky. I think the problem is that brown lentils that come into this country are heat-treated, which I think screws with any attempt to cook them normally. And/or, perhaps, my oven is not accurate.

But I will not be experimenting a third time with brown lentils in this country. Unless I find some indigenous, non-heat treated ones.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

am i the last one ...

... to hear about 30 second recreations of classic films with animated bunnies?


Quick media roundup: Saw Ratatat last night, who were quite good, but couldn't really overcome my bias towards hearing the songs faster and looser live on account of they play to a rhythm backing track. Opening act was Shaky Hands, a local four piece channeling the best of Interpol, At The Drive-In, The Cure, and The Rapture. Definitely recommended; they play again December 8th, with one of my other favorite discoveries of the year, Wellington's So So Modern. Prior to that, watched OUT OF THE BLUE, the adaptation of the true murder of 13 people in Aramoana (a small town in the South Island) in 1990. Don't know if this will get theatrical distribution in the States, what with lack of name actors and general Kiwi-ness, but it's a really powerful film. Recently read: AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, by John Green, who is a friend of a friend who I've never met, but his book was recommended warmly and I do the same. The story's about an eighteen-year-old who's been dumped nineteen times, all by girls named Katherine, and disconsolately turns to trying to deduce a mathematical theorem that can chart the course of all his relationships. It's written for young adults, and there's a certain tidiness to it as a result, but man do I wish this book had been around when I was fourteen or so; it probably would have been my favorite book.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

dark days

if you feel like ruining your morning and find out what passes for civility in the Congo these days, read this. Only strong stomachs need apply.

I firmly believe that evil is not only a useless but actively harmful concept in thinking about why people do things, because I think most people make sense to themselves, even the bin Ladens of the world. But the specific horror of this atrocity leaves me unable to come up with any other explanation about how the decision making process in the brain becomes so convoluted that this actually seems like a good idea.

I finally saw AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (warning: highly annoying music on website) Friday night, which regardless of your "position" on global warming I urge everybody to see if they haven't already. (As Gore says, repeatedly and convincingly in the film, "This is not a political issue. This is a moral one.") One of the many, many statements in the movie is that it is highly likely water sources will continue to disappear from Africa (the evaporation of Lake Chad stuck with me particularly vividly for some reason). Which means, barring a miraculous turnaround, a lot of poor people's situations will get a lot, lot, lot worse.

Which I suppose means, as far as the depths of barbarism go, we've seen nothing yet.

In personal news, I managed, I think, to talk myself out of a pretty cool (albeit very short-term) job. Memo to self: say probably yes then no, not probably no then yes.

I don't mean to be depressing, as it's actually been a reasonably good week, all things considered. But waking up to that story ... yeesh.

So I will conclude with a semi-humorous anecdote. Yesterday was the first day in a long time I had not much on, so after spending most of the day watching flicks (TRISTRAM SHANDY, KEANE, and VERONIKA VOSS), decided to go for a walk, clear my head, give some thought to things, which I hadn't done since I got back. I've been having some various small job offers popping up, and also some potential long-term gigs, and for the first time in my professional life as an editor I need to start making some serious choices about what type of jobs I'm looking for, what sort of lifestyle I want to lead, etc. Which is nice, but does take a bit of thought and consideration.

So I did that, and spent time considering greater purpose in life, la di dah, and all in all I felt really, really good. And I'm walking home ...

... and a bird shits on my head.

{addendum: it has come to my attention that this may be perceived as a metaphor. it is not. i walked under a tree, felt something, wiped my hand through my hair, and it came out brown. i rushed home and showered. i never saw the bird, though. anyway.}

Nothing better to keep you grounded, I suppose.

Friday, November 17, 2006

addendum to the lentil situation

I went to bed at 1 AM, and they weren't done, so I left them stewing in their own juices with the burner off overnight.

I got up, and the lentils weren't done, so I turned the burner on high and promptly forgot about it til I smelled something nasty 45 minutes later. (My sense of smell is probably my least developed sense. At least I have glasses for my eyes.)

I have spent, off and on, 30 minutes so far cleaning out the bottom of the pot, and it's still not clean.

Also, they're still not done. Unless brown lentils are supposed to resemble sunflower seeds in texture, in which case this has been a futile endeavor.

Next time, I am not using brown lentils.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

something I learned tonight

If your vegetable peeler is dull, peel with the opposite hand. The loss in time by using your less coordinated hand will be more than made up for by the speed the sharp and typically unused edge on the opposite side offers.

This probably won't work if you're a lefty living with a bunch of right-handers, but for me it worked wonders. However, it meant I succeeded in completing my cooking prep tasks, but now my lentil stew is cooking, and it is cooking very very slowly because I made a stupid amount. Also for the first time I used brown lentils instead of orange lentils. When Beth sent me the recipe she told me "orange lentils turn mushy, brown ones keep their shape". This is apparently true. More problematically, it also means that the resulting agglutination that normally is created has instead been replaced by a soupy base. Also, the lentils aren't cooked yet. I would like to go to bed now. I wonder if I leave the stove on low all night what would happen.

Instead, I will regale you with my executive summary of the 2006 24-Hour V Movie Marathon, which should not be read by anyone who's even remotely sensitive or likely to be offended:

1. LADY TERMINATOR - 80's Thai (?) TERMINATOR knockoff, so naturally it features (RASA SPOILER FOR SOMETHING YOU LEARN IN THE FIRST TWO MINUTES) a woman with a snake in her vagina that kills men by biting their cocks off. Also a shitload of guns. Anyway, this fucking rules. Never a dull moment, plenty of batshit insane ones, lots of great bad dubbing, super powers added at the 11th hour, and the infinitely quotable line "I'm not a lady, I'm an anthropologist!"

2. STREETS OF FIRE - never saw this before - it's a 80's rock and roll musical, but cross-bred with the 50's, cross-bred with westerns, and vaguely sci-fi. (I turned to Annette at one point and said, "He's from the town where the motorcycles are from." And in the movie, it's true.) Pretty enjoyable, Walter Hill's an energizing filmmaker. Willem Dafoe's hair, though, is problematic.

3. BURIAL GROUND - an Italian zombie film that turned out to be completely unscary and turgid but at least was intermittently wildly entertaining in its ineptitude, and astonishingly perverse to boot. (It says something that this film has a better sex scene than the actual sex movie in the 'thon, though it mostly says something about Italians, but the whole sub-plot with the man-boy and his mom ... oh my.) Plus the only film I've seen where zombies make extensive use of tools, which puts them one up on the human protagonists in this film. There's even a ninja zombie who shoots a blow dart ... no, look, stop laughing, I'm serious ... oh, never mind. Fine then, I won't tell you what the other one does with a scythe.

4. CRANK - the only new film that showed at the festival, and everyone who I've described it to says "like SPEED, only human!" - the concept is that our protagonist is injected with some kind of drug and unless he keeps his adrenaline level elevated, he dies. Chaos ensues. Completely reprehensible and absolutely entertaining. The sort of film an editor loves to watch, because you know how much fun they had editing it.

5. TROLL 2 - everyone knows that Nilbog is goblin spelled backwards, right? A hard sit insofar as I've watched it once already this year, and it plays much better fresh, but seeing it with a room of unwitting people was a treat, and if you haven't seen it and love bad films you really must. Even better, afterwards we had a call from the father in the film, who's now a dentist in Alabama, and only recently discovered the burgeoning cult following. Apparently the Italians who directed the film spoke no English, so everybody was pretty much freewheeling their performances, and most of the actors (locally recruited in Utah, where it was shot) hadn't done much acting beyond high school theater. Gee, go figure.

6. TOP SECRET! - yup, the 80's Val Kilmer comedy. It holds up surprisingly well, although by current comedy standards it's leisurely paced; two things that surprised me were the high hit-to-miss ratio of the jokes and the number of jokes about filmmaking. (For instance, when a German picks up a phone that seems to be in the foreground, and it turns out just to be a large phone.)

7. BEHIND LOCKED DOORS - unreedemably tedious and unpleasant (as in long, uncomfortable rape or near-rape scenes) without actually being transgressively interesting. Although it is kind of interesting/creepy that the guy who locks the doors (so to speak) looks like a dead ringer for Henry Kissinger.

8. LISZTOMANIA - I've loved this film from my only viewing on a pan & scan VHS eight years ago, and seeing a near-pristine 35mm print of it was pretty much a religious experience. (I think just about everyone else hated it.) What makes the film is the audacity of the direction it goes with the ending. I dare not speak more, other than to say that I first discovered this film when Jim O'Rourke claimed in an interview his hobby was trying to figure out how LISZTOMANIA was funded. If you can get money for Roger Daltrey playing Franz Liszt, with Ringo Starr as the Pope, you can get money for anything. Or, perhaps, you can never get money for anything again.

9. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! - I didn't grow up with the thunderbirds, but this movie is really fucking boring. I swear it opens with a ten minute spaceship getting ready to launch sequence. It's an exciting exercise in puppetry and production design, but as a movie it blows.

10. TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA - A film I've been meaning to see for years and years but never got around to it. A bit slow in pace to play this late in the 'Thon, and the cliched opening meant it took a while to get into it (in the first post-credit scene, our hero cop gives his retiring partner a fishing rod, but the partner has to do one last job before he retires - care to guess how that goes?), but still really fucking good.

11. HOLY MOUNTAIN - Not sure if it's mean or brilliant to play this after 18 hours of consecutive movie watching. I'd never seen any films by crazed Mexican mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky before, and was shocked that despite it being very easy to argue it's a load of crap it sort of seemed like a masterpiece. (*TINY LITTLE SPOILER*) It says something when you're watching a movie where suddenly a guy's breasts turn into tigers and he's shooting milk into another guy's mouth, and you don't even *react* because it's just par for the course. If only he'd succeeded in getting John Lennon to star in the film.

12. BLACK AGENT LUCKY KING - Never heard of this blaxploitation film before? There's a reason. (Apparently it's also called SOLOMON KING, should you be trying to find these films on IMDB. Which I recommend, at least in the case of TROLL 2, as it has some of the funniest user reviews ever.) Pretty much the lamest crimefighter of all time. Also a crap print, so it's possible that all the action scenes have disappeared over the years. (Other reports indicate that there were three reels missing. I thought I didn't fall asleep for that long.)

13. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - Never saw this before. Fanbloodytastic. I didn't have any idea how it would end, and it's perfect. Plus it's got Leonard Nimoy!

In sum, or if you were too lazy to read the above:








Should you require more detail - like 22,000 words more, including copious spoilers, and a reveal of my "net handle" on the Headstrong board (ooh, the suspense!) - go here.

The lentils still aren't cooked. And I think I might have just added too much chili paste. Hmmm.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A 3-book week.

It's rare that I finish three books in a week. (I didn't start any of them this week - they've all been read concurrently - but every once in a while, I actually finish things I start reading.)

WORLD WAR Z, by Max Brooks, is definitely the highlight and a must-read for anybody who is even faintly interested by the premise: an oral history of the zombie war. Make no mistake, this book is not a pisstake or a quick cash-in on a zombie craze, but a well-thought out and well-researched book imagining what would happen if zombies really did start taking over the world. (One hint: scuba diving would suck.) Very, very highly recommended.

DIARY is not Chuck Palahniuk's latest, but is the latest that I've read. After being very into him for a while I got burned out, so it was quite nice to revisit his stuff with a fresh eye. He has a certain style that he tends to wear into the ground, but in bursts it's compelling, and the story definitely kept me hooked.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF HAPPINESS is the third book I've read by Alain De Botton, but unlike the other two (STATUS ANXIETY and HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE, both of which I inhaled in a day or two) it took me quite a while to get through this. I think that's partially because I spent a good chunk of time earlier this year reading some of Christopher Alexander's books, and he treats many of the topics that De Botton takes on in much greater detail. De Botton also has a frustrating habit of truncating his thoughts dramatically, striving for a deep profundity in every clipped sentence when really an extra sentence or two would actually drive the point home instead of leaving it semi-floating in the ether. I don't mean to be too critical, as I really did enjoy it, albeit some parts more than others. (Sample amusing quasi-rhetorical question: if architecture can bring out the best in us, then why did Goering have such a nice house?)

Oh, and I survived the movie marathon. If anybody cares speak up and I'll post a blow-by-blow.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

words for the ages

From IMDB's SAW III page, the Quotes section begins thus:

"Where are you going! Help! You cant leave me here!"

Um ... yeah. "Here's looking at you, kid." "One word: Plastics." "Where are you going! Help! You cant leave me here!" Do I need to go on? Do I need to explain that a quote is something that, say, is quotable? Memorable? Not used in about two hundred other movies prior?

With any luck, I will not be deliberately not seeing SAW III shortly. I realize that's a confusing sentence, but let me explain. For the last two years, the Movie Marathon has shown SAW movies. The first year I didn't go; the second year I left the theater when it started. It's not just the gruesomeness; it's the unnerving glee with which these films seemed to be embraced as mainstream entertainment, when they appear to be (from what I've read) excuses for endless onscreen torture. (See also: HOSTEL.) I don't want those images in my skull, I don't want my stomach churning, and so I sit outside if it comes on.

Anyway, this year, hopefully it's a moot point, as they've promised to only show old school movies. But at the same time, there is always some surprise, last minute change. Last year we were informed beforehand we wouldn't be getting SAW II for instance, which relieved me ... until, well, they started playing SAW II.

So yes: with any luck, I will not be deliberately not seeing SAW III shortly, but will instead be watching 24 hours of other mindwarping material, hopefully lighter on the "torture" side of things. But we shall see.

I will report back when I gain the ability to form sentences. Maybe Thursday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

mood indigo

is the song playing now. Not significant of anything else, in a pretty good mood. About to sack out but a quick update of various things.

The Nonalignment Pact is now online. What this is is me and a bunch of other Houstonians/ex-Houstonians writing about music. Seven of us, to be precise, and each of us get our own day to post. (Mine is Mondays.)

I'm still full bore busy. In addition to helping NZ IDOL hit the finish line and this new program I'm working on for Jam TV, I'm cutting a couple items for my friends in Galadina, who are debuting their live comedy stylings in mid-November in LA. Which means that this will be the first LA screening of anything I've done! Pity about the clock wipe.

The parking situation at my work is bad, so I've taken to taking the bus in (about a half hour) and reading on it and walking back (about an hour), powered by headphones and iPod. I'm pretty happy doing this, although it helps the weather has been great. Hopefully I can keep it up for the remaining 4 weeks or so of the job, maybe I can work off some of the beer and Mexican food from the States.

I managed to squeeze in a trip to the NZ IDOL wrap party on Monday night. (In case anyone is wondering, Matt won.) I showed up three hours late, thinking it might be dead, but it was anything but; conversely, this meant that everybody was much drunker than I was. Fortunately (?), I caught up. I always question if things like this are good for networking or not; on the one side, you see a lot of people, but on the other side, they're drunk and probably don't remember. Plus as an editor, there's lots of people involved (camera people, makeup people, the Idols themselves) that I never really met before, and it's kind of strange introducing yourself at a wrap party. Ah well, had some free drinks and a few laughs and managed to say goodbye to people that I'll probably not see until eighteen months from now when we randomly wind up on the same production again. Such is our industry.

This weekend, I am attending the Movie Marathon. 24 hours of the craziest cinema ever committed to celluloid, and this time no crap new releases to get in the way. While I long for an empty weekend where I can just sleep and relax, this should be a hell of a lot of fun.

In lieu of sleeping this weekend, then, I will go to bed now. Nighty-night.