October 31, 2010

Creature Features: IT Came from Citizens United!

Aren't you glad Hallowe'en will be over in a matter of hours? Can't end too soon for your Projectionist.

Today we come (thankfully) to the end of our barrel of conservative agenda movie trailers and teasers. And today, I've saved the baddest for last: a trio from (drumroll, please)…

Citizens United.

That would be all I need say, save for the fact that David Bossie's group is about more than sly money used to grease the wheels of conservative politics in the States. It's about making expensive (to me at least) agenda flicks that, when they don't take pot shots at famous people (not just Michael Moore, but also Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), rail against all they see as wrong with their belovéd America. (Never mind that America, when viewed on a globe, is one big, three–part continent where you're expected to get along with your neighbors. But who needs that pesky fact when you can be busy making flicks like Border War?)

Ah, but elections happen in two days, so this time we'll give you previews for the three DVDs they have been pushing online in recent weeks — starting first with Generation Zero:

©2010 Citizens United Productions No. 1, L.L.C.

Not shivering yet? How about a peek at Battle for America?

©2010 Citizens United.

Got the chills now? Time for the creepiest of the lot, Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman:

©2010 Citizens United / Victory Media.

Gonna dare yourself to order these discs? Do so, and… you become ONE OF THEM! (Demonic laughter in the background.)

No, seriously, you can't buy these videos and not accept Citizens United membership. I checked.

It's scary enough to watch these guys make monster movies. Watching them is even scarier, because the horror (for lack of a better word) "creeps" over you bit by bit.

But enough for another year, everyone. Try to enjoy 31 October. And, please, as Radio New York International's Pirate Joe would tell listeners: "Don't! Vote! Republican!"

Seriously, though, please vote with your head. See you at the polls.

October 30, 2010

Creature Features: Eye Spy for the MPI

…and I don't mean the company formerly known as Maljack Productions, Inc., or MPI Home Video. (Although they will sell you a Region 1 DVD or Region A Blu–ray disc of Tom Six's The Human Centipede [First Sequence], or all the Dark Shadows episodes you want.)

No, the MPI in this case is the Moving Picture Institute ("promoting freedom through film"). They were in the news recently (not the newspapers regularly devoured by your Projectionist) when one of their own, John Papola got to share a Templeton Freedom Award (with collaborator Russ Roberts) for a little rappish number called Fear the Boom and Bust.

See, these guys — Friedrich von Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, I believe — meet in a bar…

Courtesy John Papola & Russ Roberts.

For the record, Messrs. Papola and Roberts' piece got them an Innovative Media trophy and USD 10,000 (plus 1.5 million hits for Google's YouTube).

O.K., that's impressive. Give them props, even if the message of the video makes you ill. The Moving Picture Institute favors free market politics, and the movies they choose to get behind reflect a free market/conservative philosophy.

Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of this MPI. (I would have preferred they use another name, to avoid confusion with the company once notoriously known for releasing the Faces of Death franchise.)

Last night, we gave you trailers for The Cartel and The Rubber Room, two films attacking the education establishment, both of which the Moving Picture Institute have backed. (Sorry, guys, but I refuse to use just your initials — please see the opening paragraph above.) Today, I'll give you the previews for three more titles that could be considered inflammatory, starting with Nick Tucker's 2008 feature Do As I Say, which tried to puncture holes in the public reputations of former U.S. Vice–President Al Gore and moviemaker/gadfly Michael Moore (who has been used to getting skewered in the past, and always survives each attempt, including this one).

Again, no need to feel bad if you didn't hear of or catch this one. It seems to be yet another fly–by–night title that faded fast (and in any event, you can buy a DVD if you really want to):

©2008 Do As I Say Productions, L.L.C.

Say, I did promise you "rancid Greenpeace soldiers," so how about a taste of Mine Your Own Business (also out on disk)?

Courtesy New Bera Media and the Moving Picture Institute.

Or how about U.N. Me ("you and me"?) for a few laughs?

©2010 Disruptive Pictures.

The Moving Picture Institute does help back some films that, judging from their descriptions, don't seem as outraged (or is that outrageous?) as these three. We'll deal with them post–Hallowe'en. Or maybe post–Election Day in the States (Tuesday 2 November).

Besides, the real chillers are yet to come.

October 29, 2010

Creature Features: School of the Teaching Dead?

You know something is up when no less than four "non–fiction" features target the educational establishment in the United States.

I will review one of them, Madeline Sackler's The Lottery soon, but here's the teaser in the meantime:

©2010 The Lottery, L.L.C.

You probably have already heard of Waiting for "Superman," Davis (An Inconvenient Truth) Guggenheim's recent take on the subject — only because three big names (Viacom's Paramount Pictures, Participant Media, and Walden Media) poured their cash into the project. So far, Guggenheim's film has been a public lightning rod for pundits on the side of unionized teachers (or representatives of their unions) and united in their distrust of charter schools. (You will have to visit Paramount's site to view the theatrical trailer, which I can't embed without it launching automatically.)

But the Moving Picture Institute ("promoting freedom through film") has gotten behind two other features that unionized teachers and their supporters will dread if they are not already — namely, The Cartel (due out on DVD 1st December):

©2010 Bowdon Media.

… and one with the creepier title of The Rubber Room (Flash rules the film's website, unfortunately):

©2010 Five Boroughs Productions.

What'll be tomorrow's chiller, people? Maybe some rancid Greenpeace soldiers?

October 28, 2010

Creature Feature: I heard it through the tannoy

Courtesy of 5–Second Films, every cashier's (and supermarket manager's) worst nightmare:

©2010 5–Second Films, L.L.C.

Heaven help the "closers"

October 27, 2010

The 800–pound monster in the room

Nina Paley is clearly an expert on the stuff of nightmares, such as what happened to the TV Shack website, among other web destinations:

Courtesy Nina Paley.

If that's their dinner, I'd shudder to think what (or who) would constitute "desert."

Creature Feature: Trailer for I Want Your Money

Beginning tonight, your Projectionist is bringing you teasers and trailers for some of the creepiest movies available to humanity. That is, if humanity is depraved enough to demand them.

Case in point: The trailer for the recently–released (and subsequently yanked) agenda flick I Want Your Money, which purports to show "how… big government programs have been tried in the past at great moral and financial cost to the nation."

But is it for real? Or has Ray Griggs merely put an Obama costume on a over–worn boogeyman?

I embed. You decide.

© 2010 RG Entertainment, Ltd.

But good luck finding a theatre that's playing it right now. Most likely they've made room for Lionsgate's (supposedly) final Saw flick. Stressing the word "supposedly."

Just One Story… Episode 7: Owl

Finally! The long overdue Episode 7 of Just One Story… is here for your viewing pleasure.

We still have a couple of Haitian tales to share with you — and this time, it's the story of "Owl" (from the collection The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales), who has to… well, "face" a very real obstacle to love.

Once again, drummer Oneza Lafontant is backing the delightful Diane Wolkstein — all the better to give this story its crucial "beat."

Take it away, Diane!

Story ©1978, 1997 Diane Wolkstein.
Video ©2010 Diane Wolkstein/Philip David Morgan —
Promenade Digital [Mediaworks].

Creative Commons License
This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Hmm… shall I give you Episode 8 in time for the Hallowe'en weekend? Hmm? Cric?

October 26, 2010

Creature Feature: Pest Control

A lite appetizer for you courtesy of 5–Second Films (who do much more than just give Chico, California a bad name):

©2010 5–Second Films, L.L.C.

You think that's a monster movie? Stay tuned, folks. The real chills come later this week.

Feature Presentation: Welcome to Chico!

Courtesy of 5–Second Films (one of the marginally–sane net–studios on Vimeo) is their quickie series Welcome to Chico! — the kind of show you might wish was never made in your hometown.

Definitely NSFW time…

All ©2010 5–Second Films L.L.C.

All we want to know is… what did the people of Chico do to deserve this?

P.S.: The "old–school" wavy look on all three videos is intentional.

October 24, 2010

VOD: An Invitation to World Literature

Just learned that the WGBH–TV/Seftel Productions series An Invitation to World Literature is now streaming for free at Annenberg Media's Learner.org website.

Of special interest to me is Episode 7, which deals with the Asian epic Journey to the West (also known as the Monkey King Epic), and which has my friend Diane Wolkstein as one of the guest experts.

Here is the episode description provided by the Annenberg people:

"The powerful and mischievous Stone Monkey King brings chaos to heaven and earth. Freed from a mountain prison in order to guard a Chinese monk on his journey to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India, Monkey seeks his own spiritual transformation. Modern performance, contemporary art, and Buddhist philosophers provide a rich context to the ancient tale. Featured cast members include playwright David Henry Huang, storyteller Dianne [sic] Wolkstein, and translator Professor Anthony Yu."

I wish I could embed Episode 7 directly, but Annenberg clearly doesn't "get" YouTube or Vimeo (unlike those of us who actually do, and with good reason), so you will have to:

1) go to the Annenberg site linked above,

2) scroll down the episode list until you reach Episode 7 ("Journey to the West"),

3) find the "VOD" (video on demand) icon and click on it, and

4) make sure you allow pop–up windows for the Annenberg site (Firefox may be set to block them, so you will have to un–block them and refresh the page so that the window opens and the video loads).

Look at it this way: you won't have to petition your local PBS station to air the series, let alone in prime time.

I'll say more after I've had a chance to view the episode.

October 9, 2010

DVD Review: Beware Dogs and moments captured

Beware Dogs (2008)
Directed by Spandan Banerjee
FilmKaravan/Overdose DVD, NTSC all region
CFBC rating: V/U

©2008 Overdose Films Pvt. Ltd.

When I began the Just One Story… series, my intent was clearly to document live storytelling as it happens. I had no intent to do a "polished" or "stylized" series of videos — all I wanted was to capture a series of moments when art is created, however "small" it might seem to the larger world.

The Had I been aware of it sooner, I could have taken my inspiration from Spandan Banerjee's delightful forty–five minute featurette Beware Dogs, made in 2007 at an aging mansion in the Karol Bagh section of Delhi, India — a space that has served as the "workshop" for the musical group known as Indian Ocean.

Thankfully, FilmKaravan obtained the North American rights to Mr. Banerjee's little film and released it recently on a limited–run DVD. And, with some stylistic differences aside, it seems like we're both interested in capturing "moments."

Mr. Banerjee and his camera team got the green light to visit with and record the band — Susmit Sen, Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam, and the late Asheem Chakravarty — as they were working on music that would be used by Arindam Mitra for his film Shoonya. At the time, the band had very little to work with — no footage or script, just vague ideas supplied by the producers. The title itself means "nothingness," and as Mr. Chakravarty observes, how do you work with that as a cue?

Despite this limitation — or, perhaps, because of it — we witness the four musicians gradually piecing together the words and music to the song that they hope will satisfy Mr. Mitra and his team as their own movie gets made.

And the way the members of Indian Ocean make music is itself remarkable: they actually rehearse and create together, in a space that allows for anything and everything to happen, when any one of the four can step in and make his contribution to a tune. It's an organic approach that they take to the level of art, never releasing a song until it is "ripened," as they put it.

The beauty of Beware Dogs (and the forty–five minutes of extra deleted scenes) is that Mr. Banerjee never intrudes or gets in the way of the band's brainstorming, but merely records it as it happens. Except for some stylistic touches (post-production effects or overlaid stills and live concert footage), he keeps the proceedings as natural possible. Quite simply, we are free to witness the "brewing" of music as it happens, as free from interference as is possible. It's something I try to do with Just One Story…, and it's a pleasure to see this in a film made far from where I live.

My one concern comes directly after the Central Board of Film Certification rating card is displayed: we suddenly hear someone (one of the band members?) giving driving directions to the old mansion in Karol Bagh. (The cover art shows a large statue of Hanuman, a nearby landmark, and the film's title is a reference to the two words on a metal plate attached to the gate of the manor.) While the band as a whole may have had no qualms about the driving directions being on the soundtrack, who else might take this as a breach of their rights to privacy?

That aside, I can strongly recommend Beware Dogs not only as a welcome look into the creative process of making music, but also certainly in how we as video–makers can document that process. Of course, fans of Indian Ocean will want this disc, too — especially as a souvenir of the band's celebrated line–up since Mr. Chakravarty's passing away in 2009 — but even those new to the band (as featured in Anusha Rivzi's black comedy Peepli [Live]) are encouraged to check this one out.

I also encourage newbies to hit Amazon.com for Jaideep Varma's feature Leaving Home — The Life & Music of Indian Ocean (Cartwheel/EMI India, NTSC all region, CFBC rated V/U), a rich feature–length documentary that not only offers more of their rich sound in the raw, but also allows the band members to tell their own story in their own voices and words. It's a rich enough feast at 1 hour 55 minutes plus almost a full hour of extras&hellip but one of those extras is a prevue for an even longer cut of the film (more than four hours), promised for Christmas Day. Talk about giving the fans a big present!

And let's not forget about Peepli [Live] (CFBC rated A), due out on DVD from UTV shortly — and just in time for gift giving.

[UPDATE 2010.10.14: Amazon.com has notified me that my copy of Peepli [Live] won't ship until at least… December 6th. Fine, I'm a patient man.

Meanwhile, FilmKaravan must really love my review — they've cross–posted it verbatim!]

[UPDATE 2010.12.30: That longer cut of Leaving Home has arrived.]