Monthly Archives: January 2009

Stephen Colbert Loves Archie Moore’s…

…Well, not exactly. But as part of his daily piece on the tragic buffalo wing shortage, Stephen Colbert reported about a major spill of buffalo wing sauce outside of none other than my favorite restaurant Archie Moore’s in Fairfield. This wing/sauce shortage is certainly a tragedy, but maybe Colbert’s mentioning will provide Archie’s with as boost in business. That is, because any time Colbert seems to put his name on something it turns to gold. Those grizzly bears have nothing on him.

Here is the hilarious clip in its entirety:

Jon Stewart: Savior of the Economy?

Last month, I reported about how Jon Stewart’s hard pressing interview of Mike Huckabee about the issue of gay marriage earned him a spot as the most reliable name in news. Last night, he outdid himself once again. While interviewing Gwen Ifill and talking about Obama’s new economic stimulus package, he claims that the money shouldn’t go to the banks, but rather to the people who owe money so they can pay off their debts. He then followed it by saying this will happen in “a land of rainbows and unicorns.” I don’t know a thing about economics but, that idea is pretty brilliant. Could it work? Does this plan sound plausible to you? Why haven’t any other news anchors thought of alternatives? Is anyone in Washington (or the media) listening? 

See the interview below:

Today’s Sign of the Apocalypse

Ideas for remakes of classics get thrown around in Hollywood nearly every day. Most, especially when its remaking a classic, annoy me. Some don’t just annoy me, but make me very angry. Today, I found out that Independent studio Cypress Moon (yes, indie studios can make mistakes too) is planning an unnecessary remake of the 1967 classic “Bonnie and Clyde.” “Bonnie and Clyde” was known along with “The Graduate” for being one of the films from 1967 that broke America from its innocence and hinted at the growing counterculture movement. It’s lightning fast, excessive violence doesn’t fail to shock today and its story is still as entertaining as ever.

So, why is it being remade? And an even bigger question, why is the remake planning on starring “Lizzie McGuire”‘s Hilary Duff and Kevin Zegers, star of four “Air Bud” movies and “MVP: Most Valuable Primate?” I wish this last sentence was a joke, but unfortunately it’s as real as Kevin Costner’s Oscar.
Hopefully this idea will go the way of Michael Bay’s “Rosemary’s Baby” remake and get axed as soon as possible.
Read the full story at:

Back Home

Sad news. I have officially left Park City and Sundance in return for Westport and Staples. Instead of the Rockies, I get the Long Island Sound (not necesarrily a horrible thing). However, if I want to see a movie, at least I have the option of seeing “Hotel For Dogs” instead of “Push.” Oh, joy.

Sundance Day Five: A Long Day’s Journey Back to Westport

Okay, I’m not back in Westport yet. However, today was my official final day at Sundance. And what a bitter goodbye it will be. I will get to the overall reflections of the Festival in a little bit. First off, let’s reflect on the last day.

Last night, the Sundance award winners were announced. This morning, I attended the World Dramatic Winner. It was a Latin American film called “The Maid.” It tells the story of a tired, old maid working for an upper class Chilean family. She considers herself part of the family but as the family hires new maids to help her out, she begins to feel more and more alienated. I have mixed thoughts on the movie. It was an interesting and very relevant idea for sure. However, the execution could’ve been much better. The movie only runs around 90 min but feels close to 2 1/2 hours. The film doesn’t really get interesting until its final act, but the payoff in the end makes the whole film worth it. The true highlight of the film is the performance by Catalina Saavedra as the subject of the film, Raquel the maid. She brings complexity and a surprising amount of humor to the character by showing barely any emotion, not even a smile or frown (until the end). In this light, Saavedra’s performance evoked Richard Jenkins’s performance in “The Visitor.”
The second film I saw today, the Dramatic Prize Winner, I have no doubts about but only absolute praise. That movie is “Push.” “Push” is an emotionally devastating drama that is both extremely depressing yet uplifting at the same time.
“Push” takes place in Harlem in the late 1980s. The story revolves around Precious (Gabby Sidibe), an overweight black teenager. She lives on welfare with her father, who rapes her, and her mother (Mo’Nique) who abuses her both physically and emotionally. The film is so realistic and some scenes so painful that at times you want to leave the theatre but you want to stay and find out what happens to Precious in the end. 
What shocked me the most about “Push” was the performance by Mo’Nique. Mo’Nique is usually known as a stand up comedian in such works as “Phat Girlz.” She totally transforms herself in this film as a monster who goes on shockingly long rants against her daughter that are so incredibly insulting. Despite the horrible things about her character, you still feel slightly bad for her in the end. It may be a little early, but I am officially starting my campaign for Mo’Nique as Best Acress Nominee for the 2009 Oscars. Her performance simply won’t leave my head and is the kind of performance the Oscars were made for.
So, now I say goodbye to the Festival. It is a day that is mainly bitter, but not sweet. I learned so much from Sundance. I realized the true difference between independent and mainstream cinema. I saw some films you’d never see in a theatre near you, films that were funny, devastating, strange, and most of all, daring. The filmmakers at Sundance are there to carry out their dreams and do whatever they can to protect their artistic visions. And to protect and express their artistic visions, they do that well.
Here is the order (from best to worst) of the movies I saw at Sundance:
1. Dare
2. Push
3. Paper Heart
4. We Live in Public
5. Spring Breakdown
6. Mary and Max
7. Humpday
8. The Maid

Sundance Day Four: Short (Films) and Sweet and Snowy

One of the many expectations I had for Sundance (besides meeting Michael Cera) was that it would snow every single moment of every single day. However, it was quite warm this week and the closest we got to snow was rain. So today I gave up on the idea of snow as I gave up on the idea that Amy Poehler would ever come back to the Festival. I decided to trade in my boots for my more comfortable Converses. I went to see a movie, wearing my Converses, and not long after a movie, Sundance was hit with its first snow storm of 2009. It would’ve been nice if I had my boots…but I digress.

I began my day not with a feature length movie but a series of shorts. The shorts worked kind of like an episode of “Saturday Night Live”: the ones  that were good were really, really good and the ones that were bad were pretty awful. The top short film was “Asshole” which was simply a comedy about a guy with sleeping and other very unnatural issues going to a doctor and explaining his issues in a very Asshole way. It is a tiny, hilarious gem of improvisation. That one scene wouldn’t have worked well as one full feature but the character from the movie certain deserves his own film.
The bottom of the short film barrel was “The Dirty Ones.” It was dull and meandering with some of the most artificial dialogue I’ve seen in a movie. The story would’ve been great in a full feature length film, but the writing needed some major improvement.
Another great short film was the surreal Australian “Miracle Fish.” The ominous shadows and camera work brought back memories of “The Shining.” In this light, director Luke Doolan has the potential to be another Stanley Kubrick. I had the honor of sitting next to Doolan during the short films and he answered an important question for me; Australians do enjoy “Summer Heights High” and they do find Jonah extremely offensive.
Later on, I went to see the highly talked about claymation picture “Mary and Max.” The film tells the story of a lonely 8-year-old Australian girl Mary* (Toni Collette) who lives with her workaholic father and alcoholic mother. She writes a letter to a man in New York named Max (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Max turns out to be a reclusive, obese Jewish man with Asberger’s Syndrome. They mail each other for years and develop a strong overseas friendship through the good and bad times.
Does “Mary and Max” deserve all of the praise it has been getting? Yes. My one problem with it is that it dragged on a little too long but besides that it was nearly flawless. It contains absolutely brilliant comedy and a large amount of tragedy. Despite the fact that it was an animated claymation film, it is far from a kids movie. It’s humor will most likely not be understood by younger kids. I do believe though, that “Mary and Max” is already a strong contender for best animated film next year.
Later on, I treated myself to a nice sushi dinner where I tried all kinds of new fish. I sat at the bar and chatted with producing couple Elana Krausz and Chris Dimassis. Hopefully, the over indulgence of sushi I consumed won’t turn me into Jeremy Piven.
Tonight, the award winners were announced. Tommorow, I will be seeing winners “Push” and “The Maid” for my final day at the festival. Oh God. The tears are coming! The tears are coming!
*Two different references to the continent of Australia! In one post? Woot!

Sundance Day Three: The Really, Really Indie Part

My third day at Sundance started very, very early Friday morning; or maybe really late Thursday night (Not sure, my perception of time has been warped thanks to the two hour time difference and “Lost”). The day started with a late night/early morning screening of “Dare.” Despite the fact that I only got four hours of sleep following the screening, it was worth it. “Dare” is so far, and may end up being in the end, the best film at Sundance. “Dare” follows around three teenagers from Philadelphia as they go through their last semester of high school. The three kids are the good girl, Alexa (Emmy Rossum), the lonely outsider (and Alexa’s best friend) Ben (Ashley Springer), and the jock Johnny (Zach Gilford). The film is told in three segments, each segment focusing on one of their lives (but tying into the lives of the other two) and showing how each character goes from blissful innocence to painful maturity.

The film works as an extremely accurate portrayal of teen angst. It is very honest and manages to be both funny and tragic at the same time. While each of the three acts focuses on all the actors, each act does a great job of focusing on one of the single characters and going deep into their mind. Each character goes on a different journey, but the emotions they feel are relatively the same.
After the movie ended, the cast and crew held an extremely informative, and very explicit, Q&A. Director Adam Salky explained to me his many influences for the film, one being his own life and another being “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (funny, because I thought of that comparison in my head as I watched the film). The “Y Tu Mama Tambien” aspect is from the film’s exploration of confused sexuality. “Dare” was originally based on a short film that the writer and director did together that involved only Ben and Johnny–the character of Alexa came later on. Rossum didn’t even have to read the script to know she wanted to do the movie. In order to prep the actors for the movie, Salky and writer David Brind got the actors to bond with each other and worked with each of them individually. It helped the actors work together easier and it shows in the fantastic chemistry they show on screen.
Next, I went to an early screening of “We Live in Public.” It is a fascinating film about the beginning and the future of the internet told from the story of internet pioneer Joshua Harris. As a note to my readers, Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, this guy did. Harris helped start up the internet and did many “projects” where he explored the use of cameras invading people’s private lives as a metaphor for where the internet is going and how it will eventually take over our lives. He showed that soon we will be able to display live every aspect of our private lives. He did this experiment in 1999, years before the creation of Facebook and Video Chat. Harris single-handedly predicted the future of technology.
Unfortunately, low stocks on the internet and Harris’s excessive spending caused him to loose his fortune. He now lives a private, happy life in Ethiopia. Harris attended the screening today and continued discussing his ideas on technology and plans for the future. As the director put it, this movie is “the story of the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.”
In the evening, I went to see “Humpday.” It has received lavish praise from audience members and critics alike. My take? Although the movie contains hilarious dialogue, fantastic acting, and a pretty daring story, the movie as a whole was just meh. I was entertained but there were pretty long stretches of the film where pretty much nothing happened and I just waited for something exciting to happen. 
“Humpday” is the story of two best friends from college. One has settled down and married, while the other is still single, exploring and okay with one-night stands (these two characters seemed very similar to the main characters of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”). When free spirit comes to visit married man, he convinces married man to participate in an art project of his for an upcoming film festival. The project? A porno about two straight men having sex. Yes, this premise is strange and funny, but it doesn’t really go as far as it could with all the material it had.
Once this movie ended, the cast and crew stepped up for a Q&A. As they conducted this Q&A, my appreciation for the film began to heighten a bit after finding out how it was made. The story involved much improvisation. The cinematographer stated that when dealing with the actors the crew decided to “back off as far as we could and let them do their thing.” This worked, because it let the actors work together and create backstories for the characters and ultimately a high level of believability in what could have been such a ridiculous film. 
Before today, I’d already seen multiple movies at the Festival. While they can be considered independent, “Paper Heart” and “Spring Breakdown” were already on the radar and contain big name stars. They do not fully constitute as indie films. The three films I saw today were true indie films. They were filmed on microbudgets, contain few stars, and came to the festival just hoping anyone would pick them up. It was skill, not star power, that would bring them good luck and success.
While watching these three movies today, I realized the true difference between an indie and Hollywood film. Anyone of the three movies I saw today could’ve been a big Hollywood film. However, while the purpose of a big studio film is solely to tell the story, the purpose of the indie film is to show the journey and not just the destination. “Humpday” looked nothing like a traditional Hollywood sex comedy, as it contained short snippets of no dialogue or a character simply traveling from place to place. “Dare” used different colors and camera techniques to portray the mood of each characters’ story. These small nuances usually don’t make it into major blockbusters. Even as big studios try to pass of works as character driven and awards worthy they still lack this distinctive quality that only an independent filmmaker can pull off.

Sundance Day Two: The "Breakdown"

Today started early, but on a much cheerier note than yesterday. I arose before the sun did in order to get a good spot in the ticket line. My spot was decent, but thank God for ticket scalpers. Because of them, I was able to get myself a “Spring Breakdown” ticket (more on that movie will follow). I then purchased a ticket to the 11:30 PM showing of “Dare” tonight. Because of the late timing, my reaction to that movie will be in tomorrow’s post.

During the day, I went to a New Frontier exhibition. I saw a series of short films, met students (both college and high school) from across the country, and saw the future of editing films.
My lunch wasn’t as exciting as yesterday’s when I met and chatted with Ms. Hughes. It was an ordinary, quiet lunch. But afterwards was when the excitement came. As I walked up and down Main Street, searching for celebrities and industry insiders, I came across a tent. In the tent, stars like Woody Harrelson, Josh Brolin, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Redford read off from “Voices of American History” (which, I have no doubt in my mind, is the work of Howard Zinn. Unfortunately, I could not get in but I watched the action from afar and even got glimpses of a few faces.
I decided the only way I’d ever see any of these stars up close was to wait for them to leave. So, I proceeded to the back exit door and waited for the show to end so I could snap a few photos. I felt like a paparazzo. Indeed, two paparazzo stood at the side door waiting as well, hoping to take a few good photos. They were both slightly overweight, one was mild-mannered but the other was a stereotypical, obnoxious member of the paparazzi cult. He triumphed in getting footage of Michael Cera and Makuley Culkin while say that they were a bunch of d**ks. I stood and waited and waited. I realized then that I understood what it was like to be a paparazzo. They stand and wait for a famous person to walk by, stick a camera in their face, and then sell it for money. Sounds kind of pathetic, but i still like taking pictures of famous people.
I unfortunately never got those photos because I had to rush to “Spring Breakdown.” “Breakdown” was not as good as “Paper Heart” and felt pretty predictable at parts, but it was still a joy to watch and a slight diamond in the rough of a comedy. The story revolves around the lives of three best friends (Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch) who have lived as outsiders since college. One of them is forced to go on assignment for the senator she works for to keep her college daughter safe while she is on spring break. The trio, hitting a mid-life crisis, decide to go down together and redeem themselves for the years of fun they missed in college.
The story is the classic revenge of the nerds premise but from the female perspective. From the female rather than male perspective, it allows the film to parody the treatment of women in society. Most of the jokes hit, and the film boasts a fantastic cast of both recognizable and unrecognizable stars. Unfortunately, it is going straight to DVD. It makes me sad when studios will pick up a comedy like “Pink Panther 2″ and leave something as funny and original as “Spring Breakdown” to rot in direct to DVD infamy. Hopefully, some people will discover it and enjoy it while ignoring the fact that it pretty much had the same fate as something like “Friday the 13th XXXXVVVIIIII.” That number might be wrong though. I’m sure they’ve made more.
Since today was the Oscars I feel like I have to comment on it. I am glad for the victories of “Slumdog” and “Milk” as I put “Benjamin Button” and “Frost/Nixon” on my to list. Meanwhile, it is a shame “The Reader” got a best picture nod over so many other great movies this year (“The Dark Knight” or even “Tropic Thunder” deserved that spot). I am thrilled though to see Mickey Rourke in the running and “In Bruges” as well. The best song category is probably the worst. Although all three of the songs chosen were great, the Academy could’ve filled the other two spots. Bruce Springstein’s “The Wrestler” song being snubbed is outrageous. Also, showing a little love to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”‘s three genius original songs, “Inside of You,” “Do Something” and “Dracula’s Lament” all deserved recognition. But unfortunately, I do not run the Academy.
So now I rest, and maybe do some homework or watch “Lost” (I’m leaning towards the latter) to prepare for my very late showing tonight.

Sundance (Official) Day One: Disappointments, Surprises, and Phone Calls with Publicists

I will admit, for a film addict in the heaven that is Sundance, I was not too happy this morning. First off, I was two hours too late for tickets. That meant “Spring Breakdown,” “The Informers,” and “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” amongst others were totally sold out. Then, I found out that Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi had left just one day earlier along with John Krasinski and Amy Poehler. Blurgh.

Then, I decided to stop moping around. Something cleared my mind. Maybe it was the mountain air. But whatever it was I suddenly began to realize that I was now amongst the Hollywood elite. Not just the actors, but the producers, directors, and even production managers. I met a girl named Karla from UCLA who has a stop-motion animation short playing in the festival which I should be seeing tomorrow. She is just one of the many who see the festival as a beacon of hope, where dreams of a future in Hollywood may come true (or “where wings take dream,” as George Bush would say. Man, I’m going to miss Bushisms). With her influences of Terry Gilliam and “Sesame Street,” she’s ready for anything.
Later at lunch, I sat with a group of strangers with a lot to say. One of them was Elizabeth Hughes, a Unit Production Manager (UPM) and had a documentary at the Festival entitled “We Live in Public.” Her job is to manage the budget and decide how to spend investors’ money. 
Hughes had much advice for anyone aspiring to enter the film industry. It is no easy journey to the top. She offers three tips: internships, meet and talk to everyone, and prepare to be professional 100% of the time. Always follow up with everyone (that includes business cards) but don’t forget, you will always be working.
“The film industry doesn’t have hours,” said Hughes.
Things got even better when I attended “Paper Heart.” Sitting just a few rows behind me was Mike White. You may know White from “School of Rock” but he also wrote several episodes of “Freaks and Geeks.” I met him, took a picture with him, and told him how much I appreciated his work. I was so shocked/nervous I forgot to tell him the everlasting praise I had for him for being a part of “Freaks and Geeks.”
But, the real reason I was there was to see “Paper Heart.” The movie is directed by Nicholas Jasenovec and stars Charlyne Yi (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Jake Johnson, and Michael Cera. There is also a huge amount of cameos, but I won’t give them away. The film starts out slow, but once Cera joins in, the film picks up speed. I will try to not give so much away but what makes “Paper Heart” so unique is the way it is shot. It mostly abandons typical narrative style and becomes kind of a documentary within a mockumentary. It follows Yi (playing herself) as a version of herself who is awkward and unsure of what true love is. She goes all “Borat” and travels cross country to find out what random people believe love is. And then she meets Michael. I’ll give away not much else.
“Paper Heart” embraces the beauty of awkward humor. Cera is awkward as usual and Yi is just as awkward. Her body movements and long pauses may be painful but they’re also loveable. She is the female Cera and a new face to look out for in comedy. I predict by the end of this year she’ll become a huge star (one of the entertainers of the year? Maybe?). 
I spoke with “Paper Heart” director Jasenovec after the movie ended. He explained to me that the movie really had no script and was basically just a five page outline. He believes it makes the story feel more natural and realistic. He couldn’t be more right. The final moments of the film remind me something of the final moments of “Lost in Translation.” He believed this style worked best because it helps the audience see the events through her eyes and that “the only way to understand love is to experience it.”
Later, I went to a restaurant called Bandits and had some buffalo wings with a side of steak covered nachos while staring at paintings of cowboys. My first truly western experience topped my first true experience in the film world. Tomorrow will be another adventure.
Tomorrow, I will be waking up very early in hopes of getting more movie tickets. I could be finding out what homework I should catch up on now. Or going to sleep. But then I remember, “the film industry doesn’t have hours.”
P.S. I unfortunately missed the season 5 premiere of “Lost” tonight. Hopefully, I will be able to watch it within the next few days and write about it. That means until then, keep your mouth shut about any twists, turns, and shifts in time.
P.P.S. Today was the first full official day of Obama’s presidency. As much as I like Obama and won’t miss Bush, I will definitely miss Bush’s very positive effect on humor in America. Here is one fine example and one last chance to show this clip while it’s still slightly relevant:

Sundance: The Arrival; First Impressions

As I speak, I am now sitting in my hotel room in Park City, Utah waiting for the Sundance festivities to begin (for me, at least). Tomorrow, I will be seeing “Paper Heart” starring Michael Cera and if God is on my side, I will also be able to run into Cera and interview him. Throughout the rest of the week, I plan on seeing “The Informers,” “Spring Breakout,” “Rudo y Cursi,” “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” and “Humpday” amongst others. Hopefully, I will snag interviews with the stars and directors along the way.

It’s quite dark out but tomorrow’s daylight will hopefully reveal to me my first sights of the Rocky Mountains. But so far, I’ve driven by a McDonalds and an Olive Garden leading me to believe that the city of the independent film might not be so indie after all.
Side note: I saw “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” today on the plane and I believe that it’s one of the year’s best films. Hopefully, I’ll get a review in of it sometime. Oh yeah, Obama gave some sort of speech today.