Friday, April 06, 2007

[Television] I find this tv...acceptable

My new favorite TV show--

The above video is just one of nearly two dozen similarly brilliant short videos made for this new show.

It's a filmed-comedy-sketch show that premieres on VH1 every Friday night (9Central) and replays numerous times throughout the week and is also available on their website, (it's just, no dot com) What makes this show particularly interesting to me is that it's attempting to wrangle this viral video phase the world is going through and bring some order to it.

The premise of the show is that each week, they debut five short "pilots" for new continuing sketches, each one about two and a half minutes long. Of those, you can go to the website and vote for the two you like best, and new episodes of those will be filmed for the next week's episode.

These 'official' pilots are produced by the repertory company, but each week, they play one user-submitted video, also voted on by the website visitors (actually, you have to be a registered member to vote... it's free though).

It's a really neat concept, and so far I'm loving it. Of the skits that the official group have produced, I've really liked almost all of them. In fact, out of 21 current skits, there are only two that I'm lukewarm on.

The people behind this show are executive producer Jack Black, and the group from Channel101, the people that have been doing stuff like this before they started getting financed by VH1/Viacom. Previous Channel101 alums are the Lonely Island guys, of which three of them are now SNL writers/performers. They're living the dream all us video producers nurture.

I could tell you about the funniest videos, but thanks to embeddable flash video, I can just show you. There's a bunch of them, and they are all funny. Enjoy. And if you like these, there are many, many more at the official website.

Monday, April 02, 2007

[Movie Review] Curse of the Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower may be the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. It's certainly not the best movie I've seen, and there's a lot about it that left me scratching my head afterwards, but one thing that's not in doubt is that you've never seen anything like this.

Like most movies in this genre ("Hero", "House of Flying Daggers", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), the movie itself had lots of inscrutable parts. In fact, I had trouble scruting most of the second half of the film. You think you have an idea of what's going on, but then people start flying and balancing on top of a flower, and armies start popping up out of nowhere and you realize you probably missed a key bit of explanation twenty minutes earlier. The plot of this movie concerned secrets and revenge and the repression of women in 10th century China, but none of that mattered.

No, all that matters is that from the first frame to the last, this movie is a feast for the eyes. The image included at the top of this post is just one example of the orchestra of color you will experience. At no point do you ever really feel that you are seeing something real, or that this is in any way a true representation of the period, but I'm sure it's exactly what that period FELT like.

Here's a link to a gallery of still photos from the movie, which really don't do any justice to seeing this stuff in motion.

I don't have an HDTV yet, but I may have to get one just to watch this film again, to see it in even richer detail.

"Curse of the Golden Flower" is Chinese director Yimou Zhang's third wire-fu, period film, coming on the heals of the almost-but-not-quite-as-beautiful films, "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers." After this unofficial trilogy, I'm not sure what ground is left for Zhang to cover in this genre. I'm sure there are hundreds of other Chinese legends yet to be filmed, but are any of them unique enough for him to spend his time on? Fortunately, he's just as well-known (in Asia) for his non-genre films, and I'm eager to check some of those out.

In addition to the stunning art design and cinematography, I have to also commend the acting in this (despite the sometimes bewildering directions the story would take). Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat were both mesmerizing and prove once again that foreign actors and actresses should stick with films that allow them to speak their native language. Gong Li was forced to speak English in "Miami Vice", and as a result, her entire performance was awkward and stilted. In a similar vein, I've never liked Penelope Cruz, but I'm curious to check her out in "Volver" (for which she was nominated for Best Actress) since she speaks in Spanish in this movie, rather than English.

So, to sum up, Curse of the Golden Flower is a mesmerizing movie, beginning to end. If you're one of the lucky few that is able to follow the plots of these Chinese "Wuxia" legends, then you'll really like this movie. As it is, I'm looking forward to seeing this movie again, in the highest resolution possible.

Story: Five Teeth. Overall: Eight Teeth.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Getting into Gear 2007

So, thanks to the flurry of activity by the writing group I'm a part of, I'm re-inspired to get off my butt and get creative again. Even though my job actually requires me to be creative on a daily basis, it's not the sort of creativity that leaves me with any sort of satisfaction at the end of the day. Well, sometimes...

Anyway, I've ideas for countless screenplays, short films, novels, essays, graphic designs, photographic composites and artwork, etc etc etc. I just need to stop procrastinating and DO them. At least ONE, anyway.

So hopefully this blog will act as a sort of accountability partner for me. Something that will guilt me into increasing my creative output.

Next really big project coming up is 48 Hour Film Project 2007. We did really good last year (link to the video "Eternal" on our Irony Coast YouTube page should be on the sidebar on the right), and we have every intention and expectation to win this year... That's coming up the weekend of May 18th. Should be fun.

Still need to finish my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm only 17,000 words from reaching my target, and I still really like my story, so I have no excuse not to work on it.

I also need to pick which screenplay I want to work on. "Paper Heroes" has the most work done on it, and the one I think has the most potential to be made into a film. "Sword of Texas" has a lot of work done on it as well. "Camp David" is the one most easily filmable by my film group, and the one that has gotten the most positive feedback and requests that we actually produce. Plus, there are a few ideas I've come up with over the past month or two that are jumping up and down trying to get my attention. Tentative titles for these are "The Royal Family", "The Lion and the Lambs", plus my untitled Vegas heist film, and my untitled serial killer movie.

Plus, there's still the "Zombie Wrangler" short film that's percolating, and the "Flunkies" webisodes we need to produce before half of our cast moves away.

Lots to think about. Lots to do.