Monday, March 27, 2017

"Susan Slept Here": 1954 comedy shows when a screenwriter needs to have his own skin in the game

The 1954 romantic comedy “Susan Slept Here”, directed by Frank Tashlin and based on the play by Steven Fisher and Alex Gottlieb, might just barely fit into today’s controversy over hosting people.

Dick Powell plays Mark Christopher, a struggling screenwriter, who lets the authorities leave him in charge of a female juvenile delinquent in his apartment, with his motivation to use her story as subject matter for a movie script.  Is that a good reason to support someone, to have your own skin in the game?

He winds up marrying her in Las Vegas (imagine this in today’s gay context, maybe with immigration or asylum seekers) and the movie winds up in the Sierras.

It was a garish Technicolor production that I barely remember seeing with my parents at age 10 (in the days when movies had short subjects first, and had to come to the neighborhoods).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

OAN's Trey Yingst interviews Sean Spicer, and it's like a short film

I’m going to treat this as a short film, "OAN Sits Down with Sean Spicer", link here .  OAN is a “moderately conservative”, center-Right news site in San Diego.

The ten minute video shows the young White House correspondent, Trey Yingst, 23, interviewing Sean about the job of press secretary.  Working for Donald Trump to spew his message must be the worst job in the world.

But Sean says he was honored to get the position on Dec. 21 when Trump called him in to his office in Trump Tower, after Trump had worked for the campaign.

Trey Yingst had helped start “News2Share” at American University in Washington DC as an undergraduate and reportedly skipped classes to do conflict journalism. Has reported from overseas locations like Gaza, Rwanda and Ukraine.

Yingst nearly always gets called on by Spicer in conferences and asks blunt questions.
I still wonder, will Donald Trump some day invite Troy McClain into the administration?  Troy “took one for the team” on The Apprentice during its first season.

I can name some people who would get through all of Donald Trump's "boardrooms" on "The Apprentice" and get "hired".  How about Richard Harmon, Timo Descamps, Jack Andraka, Taylor Wilson, and Trey Yingst.  Seriously, Trump really did attract good people to "The Apprentice".  (Not so much celebrity appearance -- although all the people I listed are celebrities now, but weren't always.)  I wish he could do that as well as president as he did when hosting his own show.   If I were president. I would peer vet all my cabinet appointments and judicial nominees -- against universities, law schools, professors, tech or engineering companies, military commanders, and the like.  I'd have the best staff ever.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Nuclear Power Play" trio of films at DC Environmental Film Festival at Carnegie Science Center

The program “Nuclear Power Play” at the DC Environmental Film Festival tonight (March 22) at the Carnegie Science Center on 16th St NW opened with two important shorts:
Nuclear Winter” (12 minutes),produced by the Pulitzer Center grant winner Kit Roane and produced by Retro Report, traces the debate on extreme global cooling that could result from the dust cloud after a nuclear war.  The debate started in 1983 (about the time Ronald Reagan proposed Star Wars), and was spurred by Carl Sagan.  Now there are proposals to reverse climate change with a “nuclear winter” idea by clouding the atmosphere with sulphite particles. The short film has a couple excerpts from “Dr. Strangelove”.  Even a limited nuclear war, like in the Middle East, would have a huge effect in contaminating the rest of the world.   The New York Times also offers the film on YouTube.

As Pentagon Overhauls Nuclear Triad, Critics Advise Caution” is a PBS report on the Pentagon’s upgrade of the three components of its nuclear capacity:  submarines, long range bombers, and ICBM’s.  It is also produced by a Pulitzer Center grantee, James McIntyre (in the QA afterward).  There is a general impression that continuing upgrade of all three tiers increases tensions because it increases the expectation that the US really could (as under Trump) use these weapons – but Obama was quite vigorous in supporting the weapons system.

The program also included the 73-minute documentary “City 40”, Samira Goetschel, about the hidden city Ozersk, Russia, which provided nuclear weapons during the Cold War and still has political vestiges of secrecy under Putin today.  I have a review on Wordpress from having watched it on Netflix here

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book self-publishing services connecting to pitch-fest for film development

iUniverse (arm of Author solutions) recently announced it was offering a service to help authors develop their books into screenplays and enter them into “PitchFest” events, link.

While this is interesting, I have already developed a screenplay, called “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, along with Hauge analysis (link).  My material is so eclectic that it doesn’t lend itself to cookie-cutter techniques.

I recommend people interested in movie development also look at Project Greenlight (Feb. 10), as well as try to find screenwriting clubs in their cities (Minneapolis-St Paul was excellent when I lived there).  Try also to get to know IFP chapters (in Minneapolis it is IFPMN).  In some cities, clubs can arrange table readings and stage readings (they were done in the Jungle Theater near Lake Street when I lived in Minneapolis).  Try to get to know the production facilities (in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, as well as Vancouver and Toronto).
There is a certain culture in the indie film world as to what kinds of  "domestic comedy" or "dramedy" scripts get somewhere.  The Duplass Brothers seem to get this right.

Some of the younger actors and producers and directors seem quite approachable on Facebook and Twitter – even given Hollywood’s “Third Party Rule”.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Fast Five" (aka "Fast and Furious II") airs on NBC, pure action genre

Back to stereotyped commercial crowd pleasers tonight. Or maybe Nielsen-ratings pleasers.
NBC aired Universal’s 2011 spring genre action film “Fast Five” (previously “Fast and Furious II”), directed by Justin Lin, tonight from 8 to 11.

This seems to be about bad guys chasing each other.  The story concerns ex-cop Brian O’Oconnor (the late and handsome Paul Walker) teaming with ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) to regain their own freedom and that of street racers, against a rogue businessman (Trump?) and federal agent (Dwayne Johnson), with most of the action in the streets of Rio, Brazil.

But the film starts with a spectacular bus crash on the Arizona interstate, and then there is a scene where an Amtrak train is destroyed at a bridge that appears to cross Lake Powell.  The tag team jumps into the lake and we don’t see what happens to the train. The bridge would fall, just like in “Cassandra Crossing”.

The action scenes are well staged in both the slums and beaches of Rio.

The film has a long epilogue and preview of future sequels.

Wikipedia attribution link for Rio picture by Chelsyyuan, under CCSA 3.0. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Unusual video short film exhibit at Smithsonian Hirshhorn in Washington DC; non-profit documentary or art film will need more private support under Trump's budget "manifesto"

On the way to a screening of “Voices of Chernobyl” (to be reviewed soon on my Wordpress blog) at the Ring Theater downstairs in the Hisrhhorn Museum of the Smithsonian in Washington DC tonight.

 I found another video exhibit downstairs of unusual experimental short film.

Here's the inventory:

Agniezska Polska: “I Am the Mouth”; Helen Marten: “Orchids: Or a Hemispherical Bottom”; Ed Atkins:”Warm Spring Mouths”; Josh Kline: “Patriot Acts”; Ian Cheng: “Emissary in the Squat of Gods”.  Kline’s video included an animation of a speech by Barack Obama.

The Smithsonian could certainly come under pressure in Donald Trump's budget (as will PBS), and need more private sources of sponsorship, funding and investment.

Vox called the president's budget proposal a "Manifesto".  Is that an allusion to me, since my first book (DADT-1) was always called "The Manifesto". 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Stranger Fruit" at SXSW will provide a controversial video of Michael Brown's barter before his death in Ferguson in 2014 n

Since I moved most of my movie reviews to Wordpress, I don’t usually “preview” films that I expect to see later, but I do think this is appropriate for “Stranger Fruit”, directed by Jason Pollock, showing at SXSW in Austin TX, shows new footage of Michael Brown in a convenience store in Ferguson MO before he was shot by Darren Wilson in August 2014 ,leading to the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement.  (This video seems to refer to activity hours before the shooting.)

The claim is made that barter of small amounts of marijuana in exchange for tobacco products is common in convenience stores in poorer neighborhoods and is not usually of concern to police.

However, local prosecutors have disputed the film’s claims.

The Washington Post has a story on the controversy by Kattie Mettler here.

SXSW site is here.  I can't find the film's own site or Facebook page yet.

The fact pattern certainly suggests that Brown did charge Wilson’s car and that Brown’s own behavior when first approached by Wilson (which sounds hard to explain) contributes to what happened later. However, here is a recent article on Wilson’s remarks.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Ferguson protesrts Aug. 14, 2014 by Loaves of Bread, CCSA 4.0.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"Voyage of the Damned": the journey of Jewish refugees in the MS St. Louis in 1939

Given the reinstitution of Donald Trump’s “Travel Ban 2”, this might be a good time to recall the 1976 film “Voyage of the Damned”, directed by Stuart Rosenberg based on the book by Gordon Thomas.

The long film (155 minutes in theaters, 182 in video reissue) traced the voyage of the MS St. Louis, which departed Hamburg in May 1939 with about 937 passengers, mostly Jewish refugees, on what turned out to be fraudulent papers issued in Cuba.  The ship, when turned away from Cuba (after joyous passage) after allowing only 29 passengers to disembark, tried to head for Florida (where FDR, not yet fully appreciative of the Nazi threat, turned them away) and then Canada and then the UK (which took over 200 passengers) before returning to Antwerp.  It’s estimated that over 200 refugees would die in Nazi concentration camps, many in Poland.

Stars included Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner and Lee Grant.

I remember seeing the film around Times Square (I was living in Manhattan) a few days after Christmas 1976.

The film was distributed by Avco Embassy in the US (a quasi indie company then) and J. Arthur Rank in the UK (well established in European films in earlier times).

Wikipedia attribution link to P.d. picture of boarding in Hambrug taken in 1939.  I have visited Hamburg once, in 1972.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

"Quantum Theory" and the movement of consciousness among dimensions (and "The Paradox of Procreation")

Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves to Another Dimension at Death” (9 Min) is a mouthful or words for a title from this little film strip from UFOMania.

It’s based on a book “Biocentrism” by Robert Lanza.

Does consciousness create the physical universe, or is it the other way around?

Well, practically all religion will accept the idea that God created the universe, perhaps at the Big Bang, and made all the physics constants just right for life.  Or we may be living inside a statistically improbable occurrence.

Procreation would seem to imply creating new conscious beings by conscious choices (of mates).  That implies that living beings have some discretion in how they change the Universe and reverse its entropy.

Nevertheless, some kind of consciousness had to pre-exist (God).  Is it reasonable that a filament of consciousness of sentient being continues after death, maybe in the unused dimensions of string theory, maybe bound to dark energy  Maybe the information from each life layers a black hole..

So then maybe that consciousness re-assembles and attaches itself to the microtubules inside the neurons of another newborn baby, for reincarnation.  But then the parents are no longer practicing procreation.  Instead, they are facilitating life for a “being” who already exists and needs another chance.  Childlessness (and homosexuality) seemingly denies these beings future incarnations.

There seems to be a reconciliation in the idea of distributed consciousness – bees and ants have it, but so do orcas and dolphins, to some extent.  Humans experience it maybe as eusociality, or maybe something like the “wisdom of the people” which authoritarian politicians want to exploit.  Somehow to learn what this is, you need walk in someone else’s shoes.  If you’re a gay man, you want to sit in your lover’s lap (like a particular scene in “The Dark Place”, Dec. 2, 2014 here). Or maybe you can be a young filmmaker who meets his older self (like Danny in “Judas Kiss”) and has sex with him, never to mention it again.  Or maybe, as Reid Ewing once said, you can counsel your younger self.