Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extraterrestrials In The Trees.

I just watched a movie. I do this a lot. Ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you it's one of the very few things that i'm very good at. This particular film was the debut feature film by Writer/Director Gareth Edwards. "Monsters".
The film takes place six years after extraterrestrial life is discovered in our own solar system and the probe sent to collect samples breaks up and crashes upon reentry. Alien life-forms begin to appear and spread outward from the crash site and the entire area of the U.S./Mexican border is declared an infected zone. The American and Mexican militaries are in a constant struggle with the "creatures", attempting to stop them from spreading any further. Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist, is documenting the devastation in Central America. He is ordered to escort Samantha, his wealthy employer's daughter, home to the United States. The film follows their journey as they slowly make their way out of Central America and through Mexico, attempting to reach the U.S. border.
As well as writing and directing Edwards also shot, co-edited AND was the visual effects artist on the movie. Very much a one man show kinda guy, which has always been my favorite type of filmmaker for some reason. It's most of the reason I love Robert Rodriquez as much as a I do. I think it's that slightly roguish attitude. "Hey, i'm gonna make the movie I wanna make, for very little money and i'm gonna employ some really unique methods in order to do so". Everything was shot entirely on location in Guatemala and Mexico. There was apparently no script per se, simply a collection of paragraphs with general themes for certain scenes that Edwards wanted. The crew was tiny. Around 7 people including the two main actors and they traveled in a van shooting at different locations. They would simply drive until they found a site they liked or thought worked for a scene and would then film multiple versions of that scene with a huge array of improvised lines. All other characters in the film other than the two leads were allegedly persuaded extras. Edwards also filmed as many of the dialogue shots as he could with the actor's back's to the camera or at an angle in which their lips could not be seen. This enabled him to dub in whatever dialogue he wanted later on the editing process, thereby syncing different dialogue with certain takes.
The film was shot for about $500,000 with Edwards doing all of the visual effects himself with home bought software. This is obvious when watching the film. There is very little action and very few sighting of the actual creatures. This movie is first and foremost a love story, with the creatures and the infected zone simply creating the world it exists in. The two lead actors, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were dating at the time and are now married. Edwards wanted the relationship between the two characters to be as realistic as possible so he insisted on using an actual couple.
This movie really spoke to me for some reason. It wasn't even the story or the characters, neither were extraordinary. It was everything I just described. How it was made is what I loved most about it. I watch a movie like this and think "I could do this. I could sell everything I own, get a bunch of credit cards and max them out. I could find some people and a good idea and I could go out and make a film. I could". It's how some of the most interesting movies in history have been made. As long as you have an actual good idea and you're dedicated it has a good chance of working. Who wants to go out into the wilderness of the world with me and make a movie?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just two dudes.

My roommate and I went to Target the other day. I didn't really need anything. I was driving Colin there so that he could pick up a few items that one usually goes to Target to get. Soap, cat litter, sox, poster hangers. We were also there to get a frame for a signed Flogging Molly poster we had each obtained while at a signing/concert the night before in Portland. We got those things. But as is usually also the case when visiting Target, we got some other things. Things that you don't actually need. Now, Colin and I are by several technical and sociological definitions, men. We are both in our mid to late 20s. We live on our own (depending on how you look at it) make our own money, drive cars, have bills and other responsibilities. However in many ways and perspectives (most notably that of women and boring people) we are still very much boys. We have hobbies and obsessions. Colin is the biggest sports fan that I know and has collected countless items of clothing and memorabilia. I collect Comic Books, Records and Movies. We both spend alarmingly irresponsible amounts of money on said items. Most of our free time is spent watching t.v. and discussing either zombie apocalypse escape scenarios, top 5 lists for everything in our lives or who would win in various super-hero fights. Like so many our age we are also obsessed with our own childhood's pop culture history. We think back fondly on cartoons, movies and toys from when we were young. When thinking of toys I had when I was a child, most of the memories (other than actually playing with them) are of being in a store somewhere and begging my mother or father to buy it for me. When most people think of becoming an adult, they think of responsibility, self-reliance and a certain degree of confidence. These are all required for adulthood. However I believe that one of the most important moments on the road to becoming a grown-up is the moment that you realize that you can buy your own toys. The best part is that I still forget this sometimes. I'll be standing in a store looking at something and i'll realize that i'm my own damn person and I have money and I can buy this for myself because I want it. That's an great feeling. Some of you may be saying to yourselves "Um. That's shopping addiction." but it's only because you're cynical.
And so, we were looking for poster hangers, which happen to right next to the electronics department. It was there that we happened upon the Walkie Talkies. The cheapest set was $20 and said they had a range of up to 8 miles. We spent a few seconds discussing whether or not we could use them between the apartment and my work and then decided that it didn't matter and that we were too much of a sitcom duo to not own Walkie Talkies.
We walked a little further and that's when it happened. That's when we found ourselves standing the toy section, staring at Nerf guns, deciding which ones we were going to get. We were in the aisle for something like twenty minutes. We compared features, ammo capacity, color. Colin got a pump action rifle with a rotary clip an ammo belt. I got a simple six shooter and an extra pack of whistling darts. Don't get me wrong. I'm for gun control. But at the same time I will insist to the grave that plastic guns and violent video games have almost zero effect on actual gun violence. If you shoot people because either of those things somehow disconnected you from reality then there are two possibilities. You were either born a psychopath or you were raised wrong. That may seem harsh but I firmly believe in nurture over nature. We can blame movies and t.v., first-person shooters and the current state of society. It's just parents. It's just us.
Jeez, got serious there for a minute. Sorry.
My point is, most males belonging to the human race have a need to shoot each other with guns. It's written into our CPUs. We don't actually want to hurt or kill each other. We simply want to take cover behind walls and turned over tables and shoot at each other. Is that too much to ask without someone calling me immature or violent? I don't think so.
So find me a Wendy Lady to scwunch, some lost boys to play with and a hand full of pixie dust. Go straight to hell boring people. I'm never growing up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You love a stone.

Love stinks. But it's also really nice some days. For some us this was just another day. An unforgivable ploy by big business to make us buy chocolate, flowers and paper. A forced obligation to express affection for our significant others when we should be expressing it all the time. Pressure. To others it's day to be romantic, to give yourself over to the fun of it all. To let flowers and cards and little romantic gestures make you feel special. Make you feel loved and wanted. Even if you feel this all the time in your relationship it's a nice way to bring special attention to it. A simultaneous national date night. No matter which side of the issue you're on it's rare that this day doesn't affect you in some way. Whether you're up in arms about it, excited for a special day with a special person or sad as fuck because you don't have anyone. I've always been a little bit of all three. I've never been in a relationship on valentine's day and although I do feel a little down when it comes around I also enjoy it a little. I don't get depressed seeing people walking around town hand in hand with their sweethearts. I love seeing people happy. Seeing them enjoying the ultimate prize. Even if it's fleeting it's still worth it. Even if it's a silly little fling that will never go anywhere it doesn't make the moment any less perfect and important.

Today I had three very different valentine's day experiences in my life. My good friends the married couple, who's love is something I can always look on and not feel envious of but inspired by. My friends starting a new relationship with all the anxiousness, hope and adorability that comes with it. Finally, a friend and co-worker of mine had his girlfriend dump him. Today. Probably one of the most heinous, intentionally hurtful things someone could do. Who fucking does that? People with a special place in hell reserved for them. A place in hell with the people who give you exact change after you've already tendered a twenty in the register or people who don't like the Beatles. That's who.

Today I spent time with people who couldn't stop smiling and people who were probably the saddest a human being can be and it made me think about how this "holiday" is just about emotion. Be it good or bad, blissful contentment or aching loneliness. Today, no matter who you are, you cannot help but feel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lost in Mossflower Wood.

Brian Jacques died on saturday. For me and a great many of my generation, he opened our eyes to a level of storytelling that we had no idea existed. The Redwall series was, for most of us, the very first introduction to a wide range of very adult literary themes. The Triumph of good over evil. War. Moral responsibility. A very tangible, interactive sense of the creation and meaning of myth. An aspect of his writing that was new to me at the time was the use of multiple subplots and side stories with many of them featuring characters utilizing puzzle solving. These were also the first stories most of us read that featured a realistic depiction of death. Be it from natural causes, in war or by murder. The acts were described in a level of detail that at the time was unnerving but also exciting because it was something I had never experienced before. Words were making me feel. Not just the basic surface emotions, the more complicated ones that make you physically feel. My stomach felt uneasy and no matter how strange it seemed I knew that I wanted to feel this feeling. I wanted something brutal to make me feel queasy. I wanted something heroic to make me feel inspired. I wanted something pure to make me cry. I wanted something that sounded delicious to make me hungry. One part of the redwall series that has most stuck with me over the years would have to be Jacques habit of obsessively describing food with such detail and love that you could almost taste it yourself.

Before these books I had never cared about a fictional character before. I had never waited in anticipation to find out what they would uncover next. I had never cried when they died. I have since done all of those things with countless characters in countless mediums.

Thank you Brian Jacques. I hope that at this moment, You, Abbess Germaine, Constance the Badger and Martin the Warrior and walking together through the halls of Salamandastron. I hope you know what you meant to me. I hope that you know that you were the first of many to make me realize at such a young age, and never forget, what it is I love more than anything else in this life. Stories.