You need movie ideas? Julian Dibbell writes in Wired about the physical world economies of online games like Ultima Online and Everquest.
The messy complex of characters and possessions that had been Troy Stolle’s virtual identity was broken down into parts far more valuable than the whole. The priciest items were listed on eBay within a day or two, and one by one they went off to the highest bidder.
But the most valuable of all was the last to go. Not that Kiblinger lacked for house buyers in the month that Stolle’s tower stood at auction. He sold one property to a single mom in Colorado, another to a manager for a database company in California. Yet another went to a woman in Virginia, who bought the house for her mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer whose last link to reality was her Ultima sessions with her daughter…
At first he thought the previous owner was a character named Blossom. She handed off the deed. But Blossom turned out to be one of Kiblinger’s avatars – and not even Kiblinger at the keyboard but his cousin Eugene, who gets $10 an hour to run around Britannia doing the deliveries that used to take up most of Kiblinger’s workday.
Steven Johnson writes about an idea he’s had, how to do a movie about nanotechnology right. Turns out Michael Crichton had wondered the same thing, and wrote a book about it. Turns out that book, at least the good parts, are similar to ideas Johnson has been mulling over (and writing and publishing on) for a while, too.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, “how’d that be as a movie?” is a question I’m always asking myself, too. Tonight on Dublog, was this sentence which captured one idea I’ve been wrestling with lately. From Jennifer 8. Lee’s NY Times article about Google’s Live Query display:
people who shouldn’t marry
“she smoked a cigar”
mr. potatoheads in long island
pickup lines to get women
auto theft fraud how to.
Stare at Live Query long enough, and you feel that you are watching the collective consciousness of the world stream by.
You want to come up with some movie ideas, too? See how many movies you can make from this: The Weekly Standard‘s engrossing report from a Christian retailers’ convention. There’s a lot more to Church Merch than just the Prayer of Jabez brand family, after all. (You thought it was just the best-selling book of 2001? You need to repent, brother.)
The enlarge-my-territory prayer [of Jabez] also appears on wristwatches, bumper stickers, pens, candy bars, Jabez: A Novel, and much else. “It’s from the Bible, so I guess they couldn’t copyright it,” muses one CBA exhibitor. Several others tell me that editors are scouring the Bible in search of another nobody with star quality.
Louis Begley spoke before a screening of About Schmidt last night. An extremely genteel guy, he explained why he’s quite pleased with the film, even though it differs significantly from his novel. For Begley, “write what you know” means Schmidt (“known as Schmittie to one and all”) is an Upper East Side lawyer, recently retired to Bridgehampton, something, presumably, a vast majority of the screening audience knows well, too. Consistently for Alexander Payne, “film what you know” means a studied exploration of the middle of Middle America: Schmidt is an Omaha actuary whose retirement plans involve a Winnebago.
The only disappointment Begley voiced was the elimination of his saucy Puerto Rican waitress character who (brace yourself) teaches Schmidt to love again. Or, more precisely, she “teaches Schmittie the transformative power of sex. [audience titters] You laugh. It’s true. Maybe you’re just too young to understand.” But then he gamely allowed that Payne may have been poking fun at this idea with Kathy Bates’ hand-painted clothing-shedding hot-tubber. Um, yeah.
While I’ve heard it described as a comedy, the laughs were all at things that are quite real outside the culture capitals; if you’ve been there, or are honest about being from there, your laughter is slightly embarassed and at yourself. (I’m not talking about my own proto-mullet here.) Begley sounded a little resigned when he said he couldn’t see the future holding anything good for Payne’s Schmidt. As I did in September, I have disagree and side with Payne. If taken at the most superficial level, you could argue that Schmidt’s transformative experience at the end is a pretty meager reward for all that preceded it. Why, it’s practically a, um, a money shot. What it may be is the difference between sex and love.
[12/12 update: Alexander Payne will be on Studio 360 this weekend. AND he will be given the Work In Progress award by the MoMA Department of Film and Media next February. Stay tuned.]
In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones takes a while to get to an interesting story of Mark Rothko’s masterful series of paintings, originally commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant. It seems Rothko painted them in contempt and withdrew them in disgust after checking out the Cafeteria of Power and deciding the moguls would be insufficiently cowed by the art. Two of Rothko’s overt influences: the “bricked up windows” of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library vestibule, and Pompeii’s Villa of the Mysteries (“strange,” “luxurious and hellish,” a Dionysian attack on Mies/Johnson’s rational order ) [12/12 update: The Times reports Vivendi Universal is preparing to sell the Seagram collection, which would have included the Rothkos in the Four Seasons.]
On another note, Laura Winters, long the NYT‘s and Washington Post‘s go-to journalist for a new generation of independent and foreign filmmakers (and Harvard alum), gives Vogue‘s celebrity coverage an upgrade with a profile of plays-a-writer-in-Adaptation Meryl Streep. Problematically, Ms Streep and the two actresses I’d pick to play Laura in the movie–Ms. Danes and Ms Foster–all went to Yale.
Early in the editing of Souvenir November 2001, I decided to eventually expand the short film into a related series of shorts, all ultimately interconnected a la Kieslowski’s Dekalog (See the movie index for more references).
A couple of weeks ago, it became clear that the original documentary project which spawned greg.org could fit in this Souvenir series in some way. The result of this confluence: Souvenir January 2003, a short film about a man’s quiet appreciation of ironing. Look forward to your comments.
Doing the family thing in Hawaii for a while. greg.org implications:
Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki, image Nausicaa.net
Poetry was the reportage or weblogging medium of choice for the British in WWI. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is an exhibit of 12 WWI poets at the Imperial War Museum in London. [Alan Riding wrote about it in today’s NY Times.]
From Siegfried Sassoon’s “Prelude: The Troops”:
DIM, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless…
BOING BOING HAS A LONG ARTICLE ABOUT “MOBLOGGING.” I DOUBT THEY WROTE IT ON A CELPHONE…
Video Still, 1997, Guy Richards Smit, Team Gallery
Just got back from a screening of Guy Richards Smit‘s video works at MoMA Gramercy. Guy’s been making funny Fassbinder-esque musical-esque shorts. He also showed a trailer from his current work in progress, an imaginary Sartres sequel, Nausea 2. Very smart, entertaining stuff. Small worlds being, well, small, Nausea 2 co-stars Rebecca Chamberlain, who stars in Souvenir November 2001. (She sings, which isn’t surprising, because she’s a performer, and she’s quite good.) And I was also surprised to see Souvenir‘s DP, Jonah Freeman turned up on a boat in one of Guy’s earlier works. Hey, sailor!
A very promising gig for those interested in the editorial and creative process: James Danziger, former 20th-century photography dealer and current editor of the cool culture zine The Mixture, is speaking December 3 at the Apple Store in Soho as part of their “Made on a Mac” series. We’re in Hawaii on the 3rd, so I hope someone will patch me in via mobile. Anyone want to burn through your Cingular minutes for me?
And apparently never coming to a theater near you, if you live in the USA, that is: 11′ 09″01, the compilation of short films related to September 11. I wrote about the Toronto screening in September. Now in Salon, Sarah Coleman writes about a recent screening of the film at Columbia. Coleman: “By not listening to what the rest of the world has to say about [Sept. 11], Americans run the risk of isolating themselves in a cocoon of self-righteousness and arrogance.”
A negative example of precisely one of my main motives for making Souvenir November 2001, which follows characters from a city that’s habitually open to the world at a time when it seemed like America could suddenly relate to a suddenly sympathetic world. When we could transcend a chronic exceptionalism and connect, realize that terrible things have happened before, and that we can learn from the horrors and tragedies that others have gone through. I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that the only way to read and process and remember September 11th is as a sympathy-shaped cudgel a self-righteous US swings to clear a path for itself.
The last couple of days have been pretty productive, and I’ve managed to get out the second complete draft of the As-Yet Unannounced Animated Musical (AYUAM or AM for short) script. It’s probably even less fun to read about an unannounced than it is to write cagily about it. Sorry. Here on the weblog, I’ve been trying to come up with thematically consistent and entertaining links and clues over the last few weeks, creating a scattershot mosaic of references that, if pieced together, should amply prepare you/pump you up for the actual story. In fact, though, I count on the short attention span-weblog format to keep the dots unconnected. (For better or worse, I don’t have an army of decoding gamer/readers, a la that secret A.I. promotion a couple of years ago).
Where it stands: The story, plot and action are all in place and pretty tight. The present/future/flashback narrative structure makes sense, too. At least as much as it’s gonna. In addition to our (anti-)hero (it’s based in part on a true-crime story, remember), there are 3-4 other major characters, depending on how you count. Of these, I’m still only fully satisfied with the characterization of two of them. The other three are close, but not done. It’s a combination of action/reaction, dialogue, and how they change/reveal themselves over the course of the story.
[For an example of how a script can change by bringin’ in the big musical guns, check out this draft of South Park, which predates some of Marc Shaiman’s contributions.]
“Mormon cinema on a mission for profits”, an article that causes me a crisis of faith, frankly. Like to know more? Check out LDSfilms.com, a good old-fashioned portal, with Mormons I knew/knew about (Aaron Eckhart, Neil LaBute, Walter Kirn) and Mormons I didn’t know about (Tom Hanks, Matthew Modine). No obligation, and no one will visit your home.
Commercial production house Zooma Zooma is hosting The Reel Truth [Quicktime], a hi-larious, sodium pentathol-laced short film, set on the set of a commercial. My favorite scene is the one with the MBA client in it:
INT – SOUNDSTAGE
Accompanied by the ass-kissing PRODUCER, the suit-wearing BRAND MANAGER visits the set to consult with the DIRECTOR.
BRAND MANAGERCan I look through the camera?
DIRECTOROf course, of course.
It’s a little known fact that some of the world’s best cinematography is the result of input from arrogant, pinheaded business school grads like yourself.
BRAND MANAGEROh, Naturally. (pause)
I think we should go tighter. I don’t really know why, or even what I’m talking about, but this is my sole creative act this year, aside from choosing the color of my minivan.
This just confirms the genius of my original idea: What if we make the business school grad the director? My brilliance dazzles even me sometimes… [via BoingBoing and this Jim Griffin]
Followup: According to AdAge, director Tim Hamilton made the short as a sequel to Truth in Advertising, for an awards show. And if you have to ask his nationality, well…
It’s not quite like whipping out your copy of Lolita at the playground, but it sometimes feels weird to read Gravity’s Rainbow “in public.” Can’t say if it’s the book itself, which is rather unsettling and is shot through with Strangelove-ian absurdity; my used paperback copy (which I sought out for instant authenticity, as if I pulled it off that cinderblock bookcase I apparently had in apparent grad school); the conspicuous tape job (I was clearly the first person to crack the spine. Documenta packing tape ROCKS, by the way.); or general marginalization anxiety (Anthony Lane, quoting and reviewing Mason & Dixon: “‘What we were doing out in that Country was brave, scientifick beyond my understanding, and ultimately meaningless.’ He sounds like a reader of Thomas Pynchon.”).
1. In the middle of a crowded contemporary art auction at Christie’s. (Just during the lulls, the Bleckners and the Basquiats).
2. At Singin’ In The Rain, which I found to be kind of corny. Or is it just me? Wendy Wasserstein loves it and claims it’s not “cloying or campy.” In some moments, the saturated colors and weightlessness prefigure Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I like much more (and which turns out to be anything but weightless).
The Comden & Green “Moses Supposes” song is pretty good, though, possibly because it tries even a little to fit into the story. And I came away really admiring the long, near-stationary takes during the musical/dance numbers, the “master-master”, if you will. It’s the diametric opposite of Moulin Rouge (110+ edits/min in songs). I’d like to reference/adapt this in the Animated Musical, and I think it can work well, as more than just historical homage.
Long choreographed shots of musical scenes live on in the auteur-y crane/steadicam shots directors show off with (cf., The Shining, Touch of Evil, The Player, Goodfellas, Boogie Nights, Bonfire of the Vanities even).
Video games have turned this symbol of technological virtuosity, literally, into child’s play: first-person shooters are long, unedited takes by definition. Machinima takes advantage of the game “camera” to turn a programmable/alterable game engine into a virtual movie studio. Somewhere in between Scorcese, Anderson Lara Croft is my story, Singin’ in the Rain meets Quake III.
“Mistral Island Manuscript acquired by Univ. of Texas”
According to this report from last week, Pynchon collaborated with Kirkpatrick Sale in 1958 to create a musical set decades in the future, where IBM controls the world. Sale gave “Luddite” its contemporary meaning and “wrote extensively on the political, economic, sociological, and environmental impacts of technology.”
I’m backing quietly out of the room…
Pynchon and animation: “Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it’s hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn’t sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, ‘people who read and think.'” (from “Is it OK to be a Luddite? in the NYTimes.)
And Pynchon and comic books: Charles Bock’s loong, engaging ArtKrush rumination on Tolstoy, Great Art, and growing from the X-Men to, yes, Gravity’s Rainbow.)
And some (non-Pynchonian) animation links: Toon Shader, a software tool for bringing hand-drawn cel animation and computer animation together, created by Michael Arias, a CG Guru who works with Hayao Miyazaki, called the greatest animation artist ever (people at the Mouse think so, too, you know).
A Village Voice article by Anthony Kaufman about cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ ability to make beautiful DV.