art

Hollywood Movies; a commodity?...and other sidetracked thoughts...

The distinction of movies as art, commerce or technology is not an easy one to make, once you extinguish the emotional commitment to one or a combination of the others. The filmic language is probably easier to differentiate itself from photography, whose had a historically more contentious relationship with itself as art work (see here for just a glimpse and one sided take on the subject) . Films just have more moving parts.

But the other argument to make is that most filmmaking, most of the time in it's largest scale is really closer to being a commodity than it is an art. Hollywood churns out a product, a seemingly efficient one, although still messy that resembles a factory process. Now, we all know that this is not true in the same way you produce a cereal product, but, it's main goals is too redo whats worked as sound business practice. However, we all know that repeating a historic process doesn't guarantee a future. And that is precisely where we are now.

My biggest question on the matter of the filmic language is whether or not the form itself demands a need for universality. The means of production and execution have historically been massive. One Hollywood blockbuster could get at at least 100 hundred startups up and running. But that's not the point. To make the money back, you basically need not offend a large group of people, but at the same time, give them a very mediocre experience that's worked in the past. That's top down, middle of the road commoditization. That's what you get at the grocery store. And since, at that huge level of production costs, Hollywood thrives as a monopoly, minimizing risk is the top priority. But, as we all know, a monopoly who doesn't innovate, implodes eventually. 

The real issue is whether movies in the way they are created and marketed could continue to sustain itself in the longer run in a world where media elsewhere keeps downsizing and splitting of into smaller, but more dedicated niches. Even in entrepreneurship, the shift is too micro.

But micro was historically never intended for narrative movies, which had for years depended on a large segment of a population, mildly agreeing with it's storytelling because of habit, to recoup the large costs of production. Of course, Hollywood also created some(a large percentage) of the most memorable movies in the history of the media. 

I believe for now, that the move to niche is only possible, if niches for these new stories exist. And even if they do, is it economically viable for creators to keep producing, or, are we not doing the work necessary, to create another language with similar tools? Or do need to spend the energy on new tools and platforms?

Because supply is everywhere you look. The other part of the equation is undoubtably lessening.

what kind of sleep is this pumkin....

Two or three times a year I am burdened by insomnia.  Actually, I'm not quite sure I can call it that because in my most natural state, I am of the species of animal that thrives in the night.  But, adulthood makes that a difficult condition.

All through my teens and college years I had a habit of staying awake almost right before the sun came through the horizon.  I always schedule my classes at UCLA to occur afternoon, and when I couldn't, those classes were hardly attended.  I learned to pass classes with technique instead of attendance.  

In high school, my senior year marine biology class attendance was under 20 days total that semester, because of the unbearable 8am start time. Most of those days where quiz or test days. The teacher whom I won't name lead the class with a round of applause everyday I would show up (terrible social reinforcement). At the time, I thought it was funny what I was able to get away with, but I can't imagine how any of this was helpful instruction. To my benefit, I did receive an A in class with the usage of my survival "technique".  This was also when I figured out that the educational system that I was receiving in the public schools was a sham.  This gut feeling, even though I continued through a similar system for many years afterwards, persisted.

As a first generation immigrant, schooling was a necessity, not a choice. It is almost impossible to describe what this feels like, but I can assure you, other immigrants of certain cultures understand this very well.

insomnia, can't quite shake this lovely feeling, oh baby.....

insomnia, can't quite shake this lovely feeling, oh baby.....

  

the never ending story....

Sometimes creative projects take a very long time to finish.  Especially in these modern times, when you can control the flow with new tools and without the same financial pressures of previous times.  Storage is cheap. Film stock and processing is not.

But, process changes with technology.  The context of creation is the factor.  Creativity is not an internal force exerted unto the outer realm.  It is a reaction to the outer realm.  This is our rebellion against the ambiguous rules set force, by unforeseen energy, into human order.  

We try to mimic nature, or in our esteem, to conquer its beauties in words and visuals, to make sense of the chaos.  But this chaos is our flame.  This chaos is our master.  

Tokyo Godfathers - holy shit

The last few days had me rewatching, and in some cases discovering for the first time Satoshi Kon's masterwork animeography in full. 

I was absolutely floored by his 2003 work TOKYO GODFATHERS, one of only two of his works I had not seen previously. The superb characterization and the hauntingly realistic and desolate city landscapes make this an absolute treat. Choosing to focus on detail instead of the usual spectacle, the city becomes all too tangible.  

Tokyo is almost always historically realized as a packed, bright wonder full of flashing lights and bustle, recalling Western interpretations like LOST IN TRANSLATION.  It is fetishized in Western movies.  And that is absolutely part of its identity.

Kon chooses instead, the everyday sights that people who actually inhabit that environment experience; the alley ways, the crevices, corners, the not so wondrous cityscapes and mundane, grey skylines punctuated by the cold, wet snow.  Instead of the Shibuya crossing for example, we get a small corner store, and a drunk asshole who can't stand bums.  

The scenes are rendered in wonderment by their sure realism.  One of my favorite moments was a three shot master through an everyday, ordinary road safety mirror. This is detail; this is knowing the world in which you create.  Maybe I just haven't seen enough anime, but I can't recall many people making this type of choice.  It harkens too a moment in Miyazaki's KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, in which Kiki stays in bed, stretching, pondering a thought.  I had the same feeling at that moment as well, although one was a shot selection, and the other a characterization.  But Kon does both here, and does it damn well.   

This was also one of a few anime films in which a live action remake could easily be achieved. However, this would be a grave mistake because you won't get better performances or a more fantastic ambience then what was achieved here.  The characterization is totally alive.  The tone is spot on.  It goes every which way, and this is not hyperbole.

i could go on and on, but I'll leave it here.  If you haven't seen it, go find it.  Be ready to experience that sense of wonder that appears when form fits perfectly in its container.  But, I'm not a reviewer, and this is the farthest thing from that.  It's just a personal recommendation. But if you didn't like it after being influenced to see it based on this written journal, you just haven't developed the goods yet.  Seriously.  Peace.  

A beautiful example of a master shot that creates the experience.

A beautiful example of a master shot that creates the experience.

 

This is not the Tokyo we are familiar with in modern movies. (at least not me)

This is not the Tokyo we are familiar with in modern movies. (at least not me)

Relevancy When Clocks Go Wild

The question of relevancy is always an important one when the arts, cinema or any cultural element is discussed, thought about, and perused towards some end.

We can always put our heads down and slog through the terrain, to do what we love without ever needing to be self aware of our place, or our goals, both collectively and individually.  But, that's a simple pursuit.  Valid as any, but, shallow in scope. 

Instead, and often, we think deep and long about our place in the world.  And, as the world changes in rapid succession, in a culture that Alan Moore deemed "The Culture of Steam", when discussing the immediate future, certain trends emerge.  And to clarify, I believe Moore was discussing the ungraspable future culture, as predetermined by technology and its interplay with our old world evolution.

This is the time of the instant update.  And, you can look no further than the emerging talent of today to really understand what this means.  In music, the perpetual mixtape was the start, but the further you push that along, the more you get to the current state.  Just like instagram, music has also morphed into the weekly song/video style most prominent in hip hop.  I like to use hip-hop as the example, because it's elements are very immediate.  It's production, usually fast, and wordplay doesn't necessarily need to be written.   

Acts like Lil B and Riff Raff elude to a changing landscape where they are always on the cycle of relevance, because, they mimic the culture of the internet itself.  They are both shrewd, entertaining and showman promoters.  They are a new species of music artist.  Self aware, skilled, entrepreneurial, shameless and momentum oriented.  And regardless of what you think of them, they continue turning critics into fans, by sheer willingness to be out there, to take the brunt of "haters".  

In an alternative way, if Riff Raff put out a few videos, and waited for something to happen, nothing ever would.  This is a critical difference between the old and the new.  The closest example in the film world would be someone like Joe Swanberg.  But perhaps, there are countless other "video" artist who are better examples whom I just don't know.  Tim and Eric immediately came to mind as the television version, but the metaphor is not as clear.  Adult Swim nurtures these changes, and was willing to take those risks years ago.  In the world of books/blogging, look no further then Seth Godin.

In a disposable age, perfectionism isn’t valued because we just don’t have time for it.  By the time it’s perfect, the world moved 10 steps ahead.  I know, your ol school idealism doesn’t want to deal with it.  Whatever. 

The question is, in this new landscape, what if you turned it off.  What if your video didn't come out on that Wednesday, or that you stopped your twitter'ing and vine'ing and facebook.  What if you get sick?  What if you don’t make three films a year?  And what if, you weren’t birthed into a career before this all happened?  You know, in the old timey days (pre 2005) when things work different? 

The constant hustle and digital sharecropping reminds me of Jaron Lanier's critique of the internet and the middle class.  You can hustle on that street corner all you want, but, when you get sick, well, you're fucked.  But, at least you’re relevant.   :) (smiley face)

Meta-Burban

I've been in the Judge Dredd editing booth trying to wrap a cut of something, before I have to turn it in to someone else, who has to do something to it, whom then has to pass it on.  

And beside writing a million fucking death defying scripts, I just haven't had time to be consistent with updates.

So, with that said, here is a piece I did a million years ago. It's sell able.

Goons forever,
am

Transient

pop + trash + culture + memories.

Low culture, sometimes deemed "trash culture" is where we are.  Escapism, transfusion plus fetishizing  is the state. Pop lives in this space mostly, but, it's always had the ability to move between cultural hierarchies.  At present, it loves trash, the audience devours it, and the appetite grows because priorities have changed. 

But, can we truly call anything pop anymore?  Exceptions exist, but when history is perpetually the present, it's difficult to have a true pop culture.  Pop relies on memories.  It happens, and it was that thing, but then it goes away.  It was silly, and we loved the novelty of it.    

However,  thing's don't really go away anymore, they get continued, rebooted, or dressed in a new shiny shell.  And we don't have the options to forget.  We only have options to filter.  And boy oh boy, that net is polluted.  

curiosity.

What drives us forward?  In our younger development, we were propelled towards things in large part, because of a little thing called curiosity.  The shapes, the sounds, the textures, the possibilities of the world elicited a feeling of amazement, and a need to find out.  It was a world of endless wonder.  Limitless in scope and full of options.  A simple turn of the head informed of new opportunities.  

Then we grew up.  John Cassavetes has an interesting quote about MAN when he turns of age, and in his time, it was around 23.  I can't recall it of the top of my head, and instead of accuracy, I will paraphrase for affect instead.  Basically, he says that people lose interest in discovery around their early twenties.  All that music that got you moving, or art, or literature, or movies that challenged you, or where worthy of further investigation, all gone.  You grew up.  You put on your 3 piece, and got on with life.  The pattern, set in stone.

But what happened to life?  Curiosity was exchanged for order.  It was sold to dogma.  In our time, this process happens a little later.  Maybe in your late twenties, but possibly into you're early thirties.  We give up our search, usually by blaming the lack of time.  

Now, of course priorities change.  You have a baby, we get married, we have a multitude of responsibilities.  Shit, you have to provide for yourself.  Something that our 16 year old, first world self’s usually didn’t bother with, nor fathom its complexity.  But, what happened to the search for wonder, amazement?  Where does it go?

Do we just crawl to our evolutionary predisposition?  Does biology dictate that curiosity is not of value anymore.  “I AM WHAT I AM”, we love to say, as if, cemented from the beginning of time.

Isn't that a counterintuitive remnant of our past human life?  And here, I inject blatant commercialism that might resinate, since millions of dollars where spent to get you to buy something, by first associating two very different things.  "Stay thirsty my friends."

a light glistens.

a light glistens.

The WHY's man, the WHY'S, man.

Ideas abound.  And so do scripts, treatments, synopsis's, scribbles, etc.  The challenge then and now has always been two fold (not true, but I like 2's).  Although, technology, access and credit cards make it a bit less strenuous at a certain threshold.   

A) The resources = Money, equipment, talent, time, etc.  

B) The "Why's".  Why do you want to invest the A's for the B's?  Be specific.  Search for the answer to the question, because this clears the clutter.  And, then you can judge whether the A is really worth the B for a particular project.

We can never predict the future.  You can write a 5 year, 10 year, 1 month, 7 month plan all you want.  And, I'll be the first to encourage it.  But, the world probably has other plans.  

You roll with it.  Don't put all your faith on a "singular" preconceived plan, one that is destined to change.  That's what life is.  One continuous ocean of swirls and currents and big FUCKING WHALES AND GIANT SQUIDS.    

The Cosby's vs Tarkovsky

Does size and scale matter in how we perceive works of art?

How about in cinema?  

It seems that a certain threshold is subjective, but that in the majority, a standard must be reached before subjects are comfortable enough to identify said object.

In the case of cinema, this is the budget threshold, which most often refers to production value.

Although we have seen a large influx and adherence to lo-fi in almost all areas of media (music, video, design) it seems that its consumption is temporary and best served on short segments.

The feature film is altogether a different animal.  When we think of scale, does the medium of film in this day and age, have any rights to claim itself to art.

I'm sure this might get your blood boiling.  but give it a good swirl in the noggin.  

Movies are, and always will be a business masquerading as pop-art.  Once this distinction is made, our reaction to it is clearer. After all, is Tarkovsky any more arty than The Cosby show?

The answer of course is yes, but it becomes incredibly difficult to define properly.  And if so, to what degree and who gets the rights to final assessment?

Much Ado About Nothings

I spend the least amount of time I can these days going through feeds that refer to filmmaking.  

Ironically (wrong word here), filmmaking is the thing I spend most of my time doing. I just try not to pay attention to the daily "news", since I think it's a destructive habit in the long run.  Especially in a field that naturally cycles so slow. (this is obviously changing, like in every human endeavor)  

The latest fad.  The newest thing.  Something happened in crowdfunding.  Panasonic released a new 10k digital camera.  So and so just released her 10th film.

All this constant noise.  All this to do about nothings.  I think it's better to focus on the task's at hand.  In front of your face.  Or, your family.  Your world.  Your puppy. Take care of that first.  And when some time is left over, get better at other things.  

The rest of it, what Ted Hope happened to say today, or what's in the latest post at Filmmaker Mag, or what gang sign Justin Bieber threw up today  (see what I'm saying) probably doesn't matter in the big picture.

Now, I'm not saying that stuff isn't important.  It is, it's domain knowledge.  You might benefit from it.  But, not everything second.  Probably not everyday.  And, if you're trying to make a mark, like a real lasting one, why thread in the water with all the other fish?  

A little bit of Charlie Munger, Charlie Parker, and Charlie Brown will get your head clearer then your retort at someones latest blog post about NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING or HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY IN 60 MINUTES.  

Stay original.  Don't worry about the noise.  Don't worry about the grain.  Grain is beautiful after all.

The new model?

-Does a new model exist?
-Does it have gatekeepers, and if so, who are they?
-Does an audience exist?
-If so, do you create the audience or do you find them?
-Why do you do what you do? (be specific)
-Do you hold the same heroes in your "calling" as you did 1/3/5/10 years ago?
-Is your "calling" going to exist in 3/5/10 years?
-What's your great fear(s)? (don't be shy, this might be helpful if your not too cynical yet)
-What's your favorite color and why?

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