DIGGEM “The Get Down” Official Music Video

21 Sep
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DIGGEM’s music video, produced by Grant Stoner (that would be me), Directed by Daniel Russell. You can also download free songs from DIGGEM’s upcoming album, “Meet Me at the Chain” here.

The 15 Best Films of 2011

06 Feb

AMENDED!!  now The Best 16 Films of 2011

Chloe Morezt and Asa Butterfield in Hugo

This is my first attempt at creating an annual “best of” list, and I have to say I really enjoyed the process. It forced me to analyze the films I’ve seen and really dive into the reasons I liked, or didn’t like a particular film. I admittedly did not even come close to seeing all the films in 2011, but I did see the ones that interested me, and some that garnered a lot of awards attention that I felt compelled to visit. This was a fairly weak year for movies, but as usual, there are many gems out there to be discovered. You may notice that The Artist is not on my list. No, I didn’t miss it, I just don’t think it’s deserving. Argue as you must… Otherwise, take a look, comment and enjoy!

 

  1. Hugo – I loved every minute of this movie. It touched on all the right notes (maybe just for me), and was shot in a gorgeous 3D. Filled with wonder and whimsy, I can’t wait to share this movie with my kids down the road.
  2. Drive– What could have easily been a run of the mill, cliché ridden action film achieved something extraordinary. The slow burn, sparse dialogue and sudden, jarring onset of extreme violence all work together in creating a film that is wholly unique, despite the familiar storyline. Beautifully shot and chockfull of incredible performances by Gosling, Cranston, Brooks and Mulligan, this film could easily go in to my top spot.

    Ryan Gosling and a hammer in Drive

     

  3. Warrior – I’ve gone back and forth between Warrior and Drive for the number two spot, but while I was completely swept up in this story and on the edge of my seat, I appreciated the subtlety of Drive over the “whack you on the head” power of Warrior.
  4. Margaret – Kenneth Lonergan directed this wonderful, emotional, heavy drama featuring a powerfully believable performance by pre-True Blood Anna Paquin. Yes, this film was shot in 2005 and spent six years in post production purgatory due to legal wrangling, finally being edited by Martin Scorsese and finished last year. The result is not perfect, but it is beautiful, epic, heartbreaking – everything art should be. Despite starring Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Jean Reno and Matthew Broderick, this film received a little ballyhooed distribution in a mere two theaters in 2011. Luckily, Cinefamily in L.A. brought it back for a week run in their independent theater and I just saw it last week, which is exactly when I even heard about the film at all.
  5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I just saw this superb film and had to add it to my list.  We don’t have enough cold war spy films anymore, and that is a sad state of affairs.  This is an intricate story, told with incredible care and shot, designed and directed with amazing detail.  I was instantly immersed in this world, and hope they make the other films from this trilogy by John Le Carre.
  6. Meek’s Cutoff Another under the radar release, this period drama is about three families’ attempt to cross the Cascade Mountains in 1845. Michelle Williams stars in this one, and I’ll admit that it’s probably not for everyone. It is slow, quiet and deliberate – which to me is the perfect depiction of their journey
  7. The Skin I Live In – Pedro Almovodar at his most technically genius, witty-est and, really, creepiest. Part melodrama, part thriller and part horror film, this is one movie that stays with you.
  8. The Tree of Life – It’s difficult to even explain this movie, but in essence it is visual poetry.
  9. Pearl Jam 20 – Admittedly I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan, but I truly thought Cameron Crowe made a really fantastic music documentary. Unfortunately, the first 10 years of PJ’s existence was a whole heckuva lot more interesting than the second 10, so the last part of the film at times feels rushed, but I still thought it was terrific.
  10. Rubber – A tire that goes on a killing spree using telekinesis? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought until enough people recommended this movie that I broke down and watched. So glad I did! It’s surreal, hilarious, and probably the most fun I had watching a movie all year.

    Robert the Tire in Rubber

     

  11. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – So, I haven’t read the books and really, really liked the original movie. That being the case, it was going to be tough to sell me on the merits of the Fincher remake. I have to say, I think this version is a superior film. It’s gorgeous, the music is fantastic, and Rooney Mara made me forget about Noomi Rapace. I do feel Daniel Craig is a little too handsome/movie star-ish for the role, but that’s a minor issue.
  12. Crazy Stupid Love – Loved Ryan Gosling’s performance of a total tool and player that you still actually like.
  13. Cave of Forgotten Dreams – I only regret not seeing this Werner Herzog documentary in 3D. I typically hate the 3D technology, but I do think there is a time and place for it. This seems like the perfect time and place.
  14. Moneyball – Great acting, terrific writing and solid filmmaking in general … but … even as a sports fan I couldn’t get engaged fully. I don’t feel the story has high enough stakes, so I found myself really not caring much at all.
  15. 50/50 – Touching, funny and well written, writer Will Reiser captures a very personal journey in his life that could have easily slipped into terrible melodrama.
  16. Bridesmaids – Certainly the funniest movie of the year, but that’s not saying a whole lot … there were some really bad comedies! But, this was a pretty damn funny movie, filled with the brilliant, scene stealing turn by Melissa McCarthy.

Jackie Brown at LACMA – The Realization of a Dream

07 Nov

by Grant Stoner

(article originally appeared here on ReelGrok.com)

I recently had the pleasure of attending LACMA’s Film Series screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown to celebrate its release on Blu-Ray disc this week. Considering the film was released 14 years ago, I’ll spare you the reviews, but I will say that it is certainly Tarantino’s most underrated work, and a film that I believe is one of his best. The 35 mm print that was screened looked great, even with the occasional film scratches that only added to the vibe of the film itself. While it was a blast re-watching a great film on the big screen again after all these years, the icing on the cake was the already scheduled Pam Grier and Robert Forster q&a along with the surprise announcement by curator Elvis Mitchell that Tarantino himself would be in attendance.

 

Having attended scores of producer-centric q&a’s over the years I’ve come to be very jaded by the prospect, and usually walk away underwhelmed by the experience. However, having never been in the same room with Quentin Tarantino to hear him talk, I was excited to see where this went. What was apparent from the start was the mutual respect/adoration/idolation going on between Pam Grier and Tarantino, but thanks to Mitchell’s deft moderating, the love fest was curbed and we were treated to some amazing behind the scenes nuggets, creative insights and terrific stories. Whatever you think about Tarantino, it can’t be denied that he loves movies, loves his craft, and adores his actors. One story that struck me as both genuine on the human level along with being genius on the filmmaking level is his regular practice of visiting his actors’ homes. He likes to feel who they are, and bring some of that into the character, and into the film. An example he and Forster discussed was that Robert’s father was a trainer in the circus, so Tarantino dressed Max Cherry’s (the character in the film) office with Ringling Brothers paraphernalia on the walls. Because of this, Forster really felt at home in this space, which translated a comfort level within the film.

 

What struck me the most, however, was the story about how Grier and Tarantino met, and that he told her he was writing a script for her. She was overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation, and felt how fortunate enough she was to not only be a part of, but be an inspiration for someone’s dream. I think as producers and filmmakers, we can learn from this by always remembering that above all else, we’re in the dream making business.

The Quiet Beatle?

12 Oct

On Martin Scorsese’s documentary film, GEORGE HARRISON- LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD – by Tom Beaver

For those of you who have seen Scorsese’s other music documentaries, THE LAST WALTZ (1978) and BOB DYLAN- NO DIRECTION HOME (2005), it will come as no shock that his latest, GEORGE HARRISON- LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD, is just as good and possibly better.

 

The film is a mature, lean (208 minutes seems like 120 with Scorsese at the helm) portrait of a man who was actively engaged in a constant search for meaning and/or spirituality in an imperfect (material) world. The stockpile of footage and photography that Harrison’s widow, Olivia, provides Scorsese with- is largely what makes the film such a joy to behold. The documentary plays like a moving photo album (with excellent unseen footage as well). It’s as if most of the photography was done by some eccentric uncle with an eye for original images (marvelous photos in the film- truly amazing). Martin Scorsese’s obvious affection for Harrison’s quest and the directors’ proficiency with objective interviews round out any frayed edges a viewer may be compelled to detect (I find people often NEED to find fault with Scorsese).

 

Most of us with at least two plus decades as living beings are aware of a beloved and enduring band known as The Beatles. Their early, rapid ascent to fame in the early 60′s has rarely been replicated and the delirium/near madness they instilled in female fans is certainly unparallelled. The music the “Fab Four” created transformed the medium and paved the way for many musicians to come (they are undoubtedly one of the most influential bands of all time). They evolved from (possibly the first) popular bubble gum band into the wildly imaginative, LSD laden explorers of the late 60′s (Magical Mystery Tour- anyone?). They seamlessly went from “I Want to Hold your Hand” to “I Am the Walrus” in less than a decade. It was my understanding that the radical transformation of the band was largely due to John Lennon’s restless talent and unpredictable ego. Scorsese’s film suggests otherwise. It may have been Harrison who propelled the group into different artistic directions. The film implies that Harrison had a deep impact on Lennon (and vice versa I’m sure). George’s interests sort of floated John’s way by osmosis. The film also scratches at the surface of a difficult and moody man who was extremely tough on himself. As Phil Specter (eclectic record producer and recent tabloid fodder) says in the film- “George was beyond a perfectionist.”

 

A terrific young guitar player (with a great haircut according to McCartney) and a unimposing arrogance, it seems destiny led the young Harrison to The Beatles. In 1964 the world was theirs for the taking. When the four went their separate ways in 1970 (much is made of WHY- but as McCartney says in the film- “It’s like a marriage, you love each other, but you get on each other’s nerves as well.”) Harrison immediately looked into uncovering the arsenal of writings he’d cultivated over the years (material not accepted by the other three? or not put on Beatles’ albums). A man as thoughtful and intense as Harrison is gonna’ have some tunes collecting dust in the attic- some of them wonderful- like MY SWEET LORD and WHAT IS LIFE?

 

Although Scorsese handles Harrison’s tale with genuine class and refreshing taste (Lennon’s murder in 1980 is sublime in the film and perfectly addressed), much of the credit must go to Olivia Harrison. The artist’s widow is a self-aware and vivid presence in the film whose perspective is fresh and clear on camera. You sense nobody knew George like she did- at least outside of The Beatles. Scorsese’s camera surveys this woman in a much different manner than Specter, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty or McCartney (other interviews in the film). The camera seems to comfort her- even caress her- as she speaks of her late husband with admirable poise and diction. After all is said and done- the film might not have been made without her complete cooperation. You can discern from Olivia in the film- speaking of her late husband is not a light matter for her. George was saint and sinner (or as McCartney says, “He WAS a red-blooded male.”) and the infamous triangle between George’s first wife and Eric Clapton (the latter musician swiped Patti Boyd, Harrison’s then wife, and Mr. Clapton comes across in the film as somewhat oafish and thoughtless) is touched upon in the film (it inspired the Derek and the Dominoes classic, LAYLA)- but not dwelled upon. Scorsese’s not concerned with earthly deviations/trivialities any more than Harrison was. He’s interested in Harrison’s spiritual quest. His desire to eventually vacate the body with some dignity. His obsession with Indian/Sitar music (very apparent in the documentary).

 

Harrison lived in the material world and spent a great amount of time making peace with the pain this entails. His obsessions were not unlike Scorsese’s. Both men are interested in the battered arena of the male soul, the sin littered path to salvation, the pitfalls of adulthood, the perils of violence and the creative impulse sparked by compulsion. Martin Scorsese has always been pre-occupied with ritual (sadly lacking in American society for the most part) whether it’s Christ himself (LAST TEMPTATION), hoodlums entering a cathedral (MEAN STREETS), Buddhists (KUNDUN), mobsters ordained in bloodbaths (GOODFELLAS, CASINO) or Boston cops and robbers circling each other’s corrupted methods (THE DEPARTED). In his latest documentary- one can easily detect Scorsese’s strong interest in Harrison’s need for a meaningful (unpoisoned) transformation of artistic obsessions into rituals.

 

The Quiet Beatle” as he was sometimes called, was actually speaking volumes through his own journey toward salvation and reconciliation with his “Sweet Lord.” Harrison died at the age of fifty-eight in 2001 of cancer.

 

In the most moving scene in the documentary, Ringo tells of the time his daughter was in the hospital and he phoned Harrison (who was also hospitalized at the time). Harrison’s response (please see film if curious) to Starr effectively summarizes the culmination of the man’s life work. He not only succeeded in his own spiritual evolution- he managed to leave us with some truly inspired and enduring music.

Free Sites for Freelancers

18 Sep

With typical nine-to-five jobs going by the wayside to more flexible schedules and work from home opportunities, now’s the time to put those creative talents you may have stuffed away somewhere to work. Whether you became a stay-at-home parent, or lost your job due to downsizing, you may need to bring in some extra income to supplement that monthly budget. Good news … if you’re a writer, graphic designer, web developer, or really any other creative type, there are a bunch of great free sites out there to not only display your talents, but to find jobs as well.  I’ve taken a look at a bunch of great sites for freelancers and came up with 5 of my favorites that will help you display your talents, look for jobs and make some cash!

LinkedIn

Everyone knows that the best way to find work is through people you know. Friends, family, past colleagues, college alumni, high school alumni, and heck, even daycare alumni! LinkedIn makes it easy to connect to those you know for a more meaningful relationship than what they had for breakfast. Tons of job listings are here, including freelance, and once you see a job you like, you can find out who in your network is connected. Awesome!

Behance Network

This is a very cool, very versatile site to showcase your creative portfolio, share it with the world, and seek out great freelance projects to work on. You can post any type of media on here, be it visual art, multimedia, graphic design or writing then not only can you look for work, but potential employers can find you as well. Plus you can cross promote the information to your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

Elance

Very similar in concept to Behance, Elance focuses a little bit more business and technically oriented. Like the other sites, you create your online profile, and businesses can search for your skills when they are staffing for a project. Alternatively, you can also search for job listings and bid on them for your services. It’s a free service, but your bid also tacks on 8.75% to the client cost for utilizing the service, but still no charge to you!

Demand Media Studios

This is a really terrific place for writers, filmmakers, copy editors, bloggers and experts to utilize their skills and make a pretty decent supplemental income working at home. Once you register and create your profile (no resume necessary, just a short bio), you start claiming writing or filmmaking assignments posted on the site. Clients include eHow and LIVESTRONG among others, and most writing assignments are short and easy, paying around $15 per article.

Craigslist

If you’re familiar with this online marketplace, there are certainly no bells and whistles to it, just people selling stuff, or hiring matching up with people looking for stuff, or looking for work. But, you can really find quite a few opportunities here under “jobs” or “gigs” if you’re proactive, everything from writing to website development to musical instruction, plus you can also post your resume in the resume section. It’s a hit and miss prospect, and since it is not necessarily moderated, you’ll want to do your due diligence before accepting an offer.

 

Please Do Not Pet Him … He is Working

14 Sep

an essay by Tom Beaver

 

I would like to acknowledge each and every human soul who has ever considered the phenomenon of urban imperfections and pondered the rare instances of magnificence in the city of Los Angeles. Both of these concepts parallel each other and are in occasional harmony. They co-exist and inform each other whether noticed or ignored.

One extremely effective way to experience cultural rot in an American city of your choice is to take the bus or train (if they are available and/or tolerable). The mind reels at the injustices of a culture in peril while utilizing public transportation and it is difficult to believe that such a hyper-progressive society cannot seem to reverse most sociological inconsistencies with any lasting effects. Such a culture would invariably evoke mixed reviews from surrounding countries. And we certainly do. Our nation has always solicited vivid retorts. Sometimes on battlefields- sometimes closer to home. If you are the boy picking a fight on the playground- you must be prepared to embrace some adversity. And America does resemble that brutish malcontent around the corner/waiting to trip you when you pass with smug indifference to his existence. The United States built its reputation on not embracing guff. This is not to say we haven’t had our knees knocked out from under us- but it is rare on our timeline. Over the last century and a half we specialize in taking the wind out of everyone else’s sails- in the name of nationalism, patriotism, and other “isms” that have little meaning beyond organizing crazed mobs and executing countless innocents.

Nonetheless- this is our landscape- and I think it’s fair to say that few among us are strangers to melancholy. Who walks this city with no sadness? Who does not wonder if things could be different? Who does not say, “Is it possible to alleviate some of these tragedies?” Which of us does not ache at the sight of humanity in distress- whether for a brief moment- or to the point of interrupted sleep? There are no undisputed certainties in this life with the exception of a mysterious birth and an unwelcome death. So where do we look for guidance? Who leads us to reason? Who do we follow (our governing bodies are in ruin- indeed- most of our institutions are defunct and/or dying out)? Who is enlightened? In this time? Who among us is AWARE?

I rode the Metro Rail in Los Angeles yesterday four times and many uninvited thoughts would not exit my mind.

The underprivileged riding the Metro Rail (literally/under the streets of the city) pay a dollar and fifty cents for a one way ride. Many of these people do not own cars for obvious reasons (economic, sociological, psychological, geographical/etc.). Above these passengers we have countless automobiles choking the air of Los Angeles with an unrelenting assault of poisons. In the high rise office buildings of downtown the armchair aggressors poke keys and stare into square screens communicating with the planet. Wheeling and dealing. To be sure. And at this exact moment in time, somewhere in this monster Megapolis, there’s a scruffy and stinking homeless man standing at a red light (waiting to cross/in no particular hurry) while a businessman with a briefcase stands beside him (waiting to cross/with an entitled sense of impatience). The one soul not so oblivious to the other. They are mirror images of a cultural twilight. Everyone is everywhere and watching- but not watching- and so everyone is right there- and yet- nowhere.

Of course- there’s a radical imbalance in this imagery. It is almost too Herculean to examine with any degree of intensity/diligence. It boggles the brain. It may be that the apathy permeating North American culture thrives as a direct result of our inability to face the unsatisfactory music? That is to say- the image of the lowest common denominator beside the highest- is somehow invisible to someone incapacitated by denial. The meek look positively strange next to the greedy and the greedy look uncomfortably out of place next to the meek. The irony being- greed creates such images in the first place. A lust for the neverending MORE makes such visuals a reality in everyday life.

This is no longer a secret. It has become universal knowledge that the gargantuan class disparity and racial prejudice (rampant in L.A.) in this country has gone unchecked for too long (perhaps a few hundred years or more?). The territorial blast of corruption in any modern city is made entirely possible by unethical, self-righteous half-wits mired in nepotism and economic bias. The amoral flourish in spite of the majority. The majority will always be mindless, lazy children in the eyes of the moneyed class.

L.A. looks like this in the train stations and at any bus stop all days of the week.

This conditioned acceptance of injustice is no different than the air breathed and re-breathed a million times in L.A. The air is infused with smog and the methodical disease of its populace. The cool indifference carelessly folding over the city in the form of pollution and stretching up to the suffocated palm trees and out to the contaminated ocean.

The pained individuals that lay defeated and pathetic on the underside of Los Angeles are mercilessly divided from those above. They are inaccessible to sunlight and immersed in the shame of their struggle for existence. You can see them scoffing at “proper” society and its immeasurable hypocrisy (the humble recognize evil instantly/the powerful tend to overlook it). Some may argue that these pitiful people are there by natural design. Darwinism. The cruelty of nature? Survival of the fittest (an expression that has come to change shape and meaning- for the “fittest” is now a power crazed hedonist that worships money and crushes anything jeopardizing his entitled path).

It is simply this- I defy any sensitive, intelligent individual to look upon the shocking desperation of an orating ruffian smelling of sour food and dirt- and couple this image with that of a man in an eight-hundred dollar suit barking into a cellular on his way home to his loveless family- this awful display cannot be lost on those who truly see. The juxtaposition is too gut wrenching and it makes the entirety of any landscape seem unstable. One cannot help but think- something is terribly, terribly awry.

These men, women and children (of the cities we built!) live in obscene degradation. They die every day so that others may take their place. And the acceptance of this fact materializes as a shield to the ridiculous apathy in the hearts of supposedly civilized men. How can one not expect this endless hole in the ground where the forgotten live to some day push upward and emit a legion of rabid vengeful hounds that annihilate us all?

Why do we congratulate ourselves for our “What can be done?” mentalities by expending incredible amounts of energy on meaningless activities (not worth naming- we all know what they involve)? We’re brutal in our neglect. Savage in our ignorance. Compassion is simply not marketable. You will hear, “What does it have to do with me?”- a popular response from the armies of the unaffected. Imagine the mental implications! The emotional immaturity of a person who sees himself as exempt from any and all pain inflicted upon his fellow man. Imagine what such a ghoul is capable of in regard to future generations- how this person could damage perspectives. The unborn have apathy and a lack of emotional responsibility waiting to usher them into the world’s grand scheme. How does one stop this? How do you stop a germ? Imagine the very concept of indifference being a virtue and visualize a culture that NURTURES such a mindset. It should not be hard to fathom- we live in such a culture.

But then there is also this.

The viewing of a sophisticated and loyal guide dog for the blind is a rare and delightful event. If you have seen one of these remarkable canines, and the beauty of the experience evaded you, I beg you to take note.


I stood across (on the train) from a guide dog leading a blind Korean woman. The busy brown Collie had a sign on him that said, PLEASE DO NOT PET ME, I’M WORKING. Wonderful! In a city ravaged by high unemployment rates- here was a male animal successfully plying his trade. Sitting directly across from this awesome spectacle was a seemingly homeless African American man with Rite-Aid bags tied around his ankles and a tremendous amount of negative space enveloping him. The stench wafting from the man was unbearable and thus- isolating. A young female walked up and gave this poor soul a dollar. The homeless man’s appreciation was as sincere as it was theatrical. The blind woman seemed to be aware of this activity. I say this because the blind woman was quite sturdy in her physical proximity to the homeless man and charitable girl. This was obviously due to her utter confidence in the guide dog. My peripheral attention went back and forth from the blind woman, the dog, and the homeless man. The black man had been temporarily satiated by a thoughtful girl and the dog was carefully supervising his blind woman. There was a balletic aspect to the connecting of energies. A communion that had a life of its own- independent of pre-meditation. It was sharply stated and unbearably touching to me.

Of this I am certain. If this unchecked and devastating lack of grace in America is not remedied to some degree, if a capacity for self-understanding and self-awareness is not brought back into our culture (a culture of endlessly ravaged nervous systems- constantly under siege), if we cannot meticulously examine that which causes ridiculous disparity and restructure this chapter of human history so overtly concerned with speed , if we continue to revel in the exactitude of our self-worship and our unnatural DISGUST FOR WEAKNESS- the consequences (the Future) will resemble the worst hell any man could possibly conjure in his deepest, darkest imaginative reservoirs.

Malick the Magician (THE TREE OF LIFE/2011)

01 Jun

By Tom Beaver

Jessica Chastain in Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE

Roughly five minutes into Terrence Malick’s mesmerizing epic THE TREE OF LIFE- the sensitive, attentive viewer may feel as if a powerful spell is being cast/a kind of pleasant fever that marks your every sensation. The spell, cast by a cinematic magician/an unparalleled master of sound and imagery, is meticulous and disciplined. The magician’s movie washes over you and asks only that you open yourself to what it is (deny your defenses). The film is a marvelous onrush of memories and dreams to be generously shared with the viewer’s sensibilities- EVERY sensibility- from head to toe. It is a raw and visceral experience aimed at your heart and soul with the ability to heal and cleanse. It is unlike most modern cinematic offerings- it has undeniable power.

Decades in the making (it has been said that Malick mused about this project in one form or another as early as 1978), THE TREE OF LIFE has been anticipated for two years and cinephiles (myself included) have been awaiting its delayed release for what seems to be ages. The movie lives up to its hype and surpasses it. It is a force of will and nature from a man who understands time better than any other filmmaker.

The story is simple but the themes are as ambitious and bold as any ever seen in a movie theatre. The narrative (a stream of consciousness flow/underscored by voice-overs/that pulls back and forth from sub-conscious and conscious states/highlighting the internal struggles of the characters) concerns a young boy growing up in Middle America with two siblings. The father, a stern and frustrated disciplinarian (played with a fresh and surprising masculinity by Brad Pitt) is engaged in a battle for his children’s affections. In direct opposition to his unrelenting rigidity is the graceful mother (Jessica Chastain, strong and on the mark). The parents feud and fuss over their children in a fashion that is both authentic to its time and infinitely troubling. We are made aware early on that a son has died. We learn this tragedy occurred when he was nineteen. Jack (played in later life by Sean Penn, who understands how to appear aloof instinctively) is caught between the parents warring natures. The film is book ended by the older Jack (Penn, seemingly dealing with his mother’s death/but this is only hinted at) and his reflections on his boyhood/memories of his lost brother. From these points the story goes back and forth from modern day (Jack’s job as an architect weaving in and out of modern structures devoid of character and life) and late 1950’s Middle America (neighborhoods and houses where nuclear families raise their children in suburban units). There is a sequence concerned with the creation of all life- but the less said about this- the better- although it is unforgettable in its precision and sheer audacity.

One gets the impression Terrence Malick is telling his own story here. It is known that his brother died and Malick is from the same place as the protagonist (Jack). Some of the film’s most effective scenes are obviously distinct memories of a time and place where a child forms his perspective of the world around him- through the lens of his parents opposing viewpoints. The mother is grace (she literally floats on air and speaks of “loving all things”). The father is grace under unexamined pressure and he’s forever disgruntled with the conflicting justices of the world (his rage as inescapable as it is perversely therapeutic). He is a failed musician in his eyes and his wife, a literal embodiment of the feminine, seems to unnerve his troubled core. There is a wonderful scene where mom tells the child “there is nothing to be afraid of…” She summons the child to the window (although the perspective of the shot implies she is drawing US to the window). The next scene is the father by the window holding his baby and looking both protective and fearful, forcing the crying infant into his breast, staring out the window and waiting for the world to disappoint him some more. Jack’s father is poised for disappointment. Jack’s mother deflects disappointment lest it be her husband’s expression. She is pragmatic. He is pushy and deeply exhausted.

The film’s sacred energy lies in its core elements. Malick’s trademark voice-over, his images of nature (sun rays through trees function like periods on sentences), the eliminated or muffled sounds of anguish and violence (the mother’s screams of pain over the death of her child drone away/a criminal escorted into a police vehicle bobs back in forth in the back seat as Malick deems his violence unworthy of sound), the camera lingers on children’s shadows while the triviality of adult confusion hovers in the background. This filmmaker is concerned with mysteries and peace. He shows us the world as it is and as it should be. He shows us the collective soul of the world as he sees it under the stress of being unavoidably human. The quote from the bible at the beginning of the movie is God’s answer to Job. Job asks why? Why do we suffer, struggle, die? Why is the universe indifferent to us? God provides no answers- only ambiguities. The answer to Job’s inquiries, according to Malick, lie in his own awareness of the “glory” in the surrounding world. The same glory that Jack’s father professes to be ignorant of- as Jack’s mother embraces it at all costs.

This movie has no concern with an audience’s lack of patience. The film asks you to exercise the same patience with it that you would a loved one- and for the right minds- it will shower light on deep arsenals that were previously darkened. Malick gives us an adult understanding of a child’s outlook on life. He does not hurry with his film. He unleashes imagery with a divine respect for time. He has simply created one of the most heartfelt and ambitious films you’ll ever see/the overall enjoyment and understanding of which- lies in your own capacity for self-awareness. The film compliments the individual sincerity of heart and mind and the reservoir of humanity that lies within everyone.

The man who made this movie is not pretentious (many have labeled him as such), he is not a selfish entity, he is not a reclusive madman, he is not a creature of ill virtue, he is not the “J.D. Salinger of the film world”.

 

He is simply a man who’d like to share the glory with you.

Seeking Film Producer: Must love long hours and constant rejection with no guarantee of pay

25 Feb

Posted by The Antidote on February 25th, 2011

by Grant Stoner, Antioch Student and Independent Film Producer

Producing a film, it seems, is one of the hardest things on earth to accomplish. Well, let me qualify that… Technology is making it increasingly easier to make a film, but making something that people will see? That’s an entirely different story…

Grant Stoner (left) with legendary producer Martin Poll and “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton

Ive had the pleasure of working with and learning under everyone from moguls to startups, nice guys to egomaniacs, and Oscar winners to work-a-day Joes. No matter which category they fall in, these producers have done the impossible: make a movie, and often multiple movies. For that they earn my respect.

I’ve been asked often what a producer does, and the truth of the matter is it’s complicated! The Producers Guild of America has worked hard to define that with its Producers Code of Credits, but there is so much more that it can be. What I’ve learned is, in essence, producing a film is like starting a business, and independent producers are the definition of entrepreneurs.

The Product

Like any new venture, it starts with an idea … a dream. Unfortunately, in the beginning, that dream will have to start as a hobby, because we all have to pay the bills! And, as some producers portend, the film landscape has forced even the “successful” independent producers to face the fact that independent film may be a hobby culture. But, I’m an optimist, so I digress…

See the rest of the post here: The Antidote

Oscar noms … where to (legally) watch them – or read them

26 Jan

by Grant Stoner

(Originally written for www.dotcomsformoms.com)

The film awards season is in full swing, and the big daddy of them all, The Academy Awards, announced their nominations yesterday in Los Angeles.  For the complete list of nominees, sans commentary, you can find it here on IMDB.com (Internet Movie Database).   There are probably several you’ve heard of or seen, but probably some you haven’t.  Here, you can also cross reference actors, writers or directors to find out what other films or TV shows the nominees have done.  Hey, that actually was Oscar Nominee James Franco in General Hospital over the summer!  If you like a bit more juice in your reporting, Huffington Post is rife with opinions and hindsight on who deserved the nominations and who got snubbed.  Over the next several weeks, news outlets, blogs and Facebook pundits will all be prognosticating and arguing over who will take home the coveted golden statue on Oscar night.  You can join the fun too, or at least have an opinion by seeing the films, and in some cases, reading the books many of the top films were adapted from.

Where to see ‘em in theaters

With so many categories and so many nominees, we’ll just stick to the big ones here, Best Picture and Best Documentary Feature.  If you’re one of those who like to read reviews before deciding what to see, Rotten Tomatoes is a terrific site, offering a mix of reviews from critics and everyday fans.  The reviews generate a rating percentage based on positive reviews.  65% positive and higher is considered “Fresh” and blow that is “Rotten.”  They have all the nominated films and their ratings here.

Many of the top films are still in theaters, and a few of them are getting re-released after receiving nominations.  These include Black Swan, The Kings Speech, True Grit and The Fighter, with 127 Hours, The Social Network and Winter’s Bone all getting re-releases (Winter’s Bone and The Social Network are also available on DVD).  You can hop on to Moviefone.com to watch clips and trailers, check for showtimes and buy tickets in your local area.

Where to find ‘em on DVD and Online

Along with the DVD releases above, Inception, Toy Story 3 and The Kids are All Right can all be purchased at Amazon.com, with many available to watch directly on your computer for a limited time with Amazon On Demand either via rental, or free with purchase of the DVD.  They can also be added to your Netflix queue or purchased and downloaded on iTunes.

Controversial political commentaries and environmental cautionary tales, along with the occasional bio, usually populate the documentary category.  This year is no different, with the Afghan war chronicle, Restrepo, natural gas exposè Gasland, the Brazilian garbage dump journey Waste Land, a look behind the financial collapse with Inside Job, and the story of a self-made street artist Exit Through the Gift Shop.  You can currently watch both Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop on DVD as well as through Netflix.com’s watch instantly on your computer feature and Hulu.comGasland can be purchased at Amazon.com right now, and will be re-airing on HBO Signature on February 2nd, and HBO On-Demand until February 20th.  Unfortunately Inside Job and Waste Land won’t be released on DVD until March, but if you live in a major metropolitan area, keep checking the websites to find out about screenings near you.

Where to read ‘em and learn more

Many of this year’s nominees started their lives on the written page, either as novels, or in the case of Restrepo, Sebastian Junger’s Vanity Fair article on Afghanistan’s deadly Korengal Valley, “Into the Valley of Death.”

All the novels on the list can be purchased at Amazon in paperback, or Kindle versions as well as Barnes & Noble in either paperback or eReader NOOK.  Here’s the breakdown:

Finally, if you see The Fighter, which follows the true story of boxer Micky Ward and his brother Dickie Eklund, who is a former boxer-turned crack addict, you can catch many of their real fights dramatized in the movie on Youtube. Along with that, in the film, Dickie is being followed around by an HBO film crew producing a documentary on crack in America.  You can watch that original, 1995 full-length doc here at SnagFilms.

Enjoy the films and tune in to the Oscars, February 27th on ABC!

The Future of Cinema

12 Dec

An Essay By Tom Beaver

One of too many old sayings goes something like this, “When the student is ready- the teacher will appear.” In terms of technology and filmmaking, this concept flip-flops into a righteous location upside the mass sub-conscious head. It is invariably a dare and a sharp blow to the skull. There is a red spot on every filmmaker’s face. This aggressive calling is the cosmic reverb (an assault on the flesh) of technology and its merciless advancements begging to aid and abet the fledgling filmmakers of the planet.

If one wants to make a film in this 2010 year of our Lord- one must simply have the gumption to “bake the goddamn cake.” Rise to the occasion. Gather the troops, build the army, wage war, read the headlines the day after…

Everything has changed. The way people think, act, react, dream, pro-create and interpret the world has forever been altered by technology. The efforts one might muster to pontificate on the duality of this age are immediately exonerated by the concise need for action. You cannot revolt against an immovable rock without seeming to be a fool. Technology is here to stay. And in the age of “Information Distribution”, the phrase “Actions speak louder than words.” takes on a whole new philosophical and moral meaning.
Between 1875 and 1890 the first motion pictures were being toyed with. Cinema is the youngest art form. It has been finding its way into the cultures of the world for merely 130 some odd years. That’s a faucet droplet into the Nile and it illustrates the excitement of an art form that has a power usurped solely by music.

The last 20 years have seen many exhausted avenues fill up with bloated bureaucracy and ill-examined box office receipts. The “Hollywood” film is no longer cutting it. The interest in this type of mainstream schlock (the sequel, the benign romantic comedy, the formulaic drama, the regurgitation of old scenarios, etc.) has waned in direct alignment with the idea of Capitalism itself (a concept that is literally gasping for air on its death bed).

The films I have made with my Independent Producing partner, Grant Stoner (THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, Elliott Sellers’ THREE DAYS OF SOUND, THE JUKEBOX MAN’S SON and AMERICAN NOCTURNAL) were made in the spirit of immediacy and inspiration. They were made as love letters to Independent storytelling. My desire to have artistic control over my projects and Grant’s passion for production value, creative development, marketing, film festival navigation and seeking distribution possibilities- couple to evoke and solicit varied (but immediate) responses. We make movies because we love movies and we have something to say. We make movies because we have hope for the future. We make movies because we are excited by life.

Our first short, THE NERVOUS SYSTEM (2009) concerned a female insomniac suffering from a slight mental breakdown. Our second short, AMERICAN NOCTURNAL (2010) was the story of a newly single father helping his young daughter with a report on an ex-president (Jimmy Carter). And the film THREE DAYS OF SOUND (2010) was written and directed by Elliott Sellers. I acted in this piece and Grant produced.

Grant and I have other projects we will execute in the near future. My screenplay, DESERT STORY is about a young female runaway who has a brief affair with a spiritually disillusioned man at a desert motel. This is our most ambitious project to date and would require significant funding as compared to our two short films.

As the future draws nearer and we approach the New Year, the filmmaking community may consider the banality of current trends in commercial cinema. I’m very certain that I am not alone in sensing the palpable exhaustion and sprinkled sighs of an audience when the trailers roll at the local multi-plex. There is a tidal wave on the horizon and it does not carry corporate monoliths lambasting intimate stories and shrugging off original scripts in favor of so-called “sure things.” You cannot create valid films by grinding them through test screenings. This is not a gamble (all true creativity is a gamble)- this is cloning (turn over a buck in favor of reaching the heart with artistry).

The approaching monsoon is alive with new and individual stories of amazing intimacy, precision, creativity and energy. They are films from the heart. The future is bleeding and ripe for cinema that can be created by anyone with the courage to pick up a camera and examine this life with honesty.

GRANT STONER

Film, Media, Marketing