Rhythm Thief Cast & Crew Reunite

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[Reblogged from my article at Renegade Cinema]

This past evening I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the 1994 indie film Rhythm Thief, which as some of you might remember, I previously wrote about in an article calling on Criterion to pick the movie up for distribution. There is something about this film that has mystified me since I first saw it and even though I have had multiple opportunities to sit down with filmmaker Matt Harrison to discuss his work, it was starting to sink in that no amount of Q&A’ing was going to help me figure out what was going on with this movie.

Tonight, I’ve made some progress. The film screened as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Cinématek Overdue” series. Along with a screening of an actual 35mm print (which I rarely see these days), the event included a wonderfully detailed and enthusiastic Q&A with Harrison and his cast and crew, including actors Jason Andrews, Kevin Corrigan and Kimberly Flynn.

Aside from the usual battle stories which I had already been familiar with, one of the key components I discovered that makes this film special is the obvious rapport the participants have with one-another. It’s clear to me now that Rhythm Thief works because it is a film made out of love, not just love for the craft, but love between the people involved and that love, which has lasted two decades, is exactly what has been translated onto the screen. This is an element that is so important to the creative process, but is often overlooked by young indie filmmakers today, many of whom would easily sacrifice a friendship or two in exchange for time on a Red Epic.

Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas wrote in his Anti-100 Years Manifesto, “The real history of cinema is invisible history: history of friends getting together, doing the thing they love.” I’ve used this quote before and will again because it’s important and absolutely true. Today I witnessed that same love,  between all of the people involved in the making of this 90′s classic and I realize too that I can see that love come alive every time I take a gander at the work they all created together. Thankfully, I have taken a major leap forward in demystifying this amazing work.

Thanks for putting up with my romanticism.

-E

Rhythm Thief is available for streaming on YouTube, Amazon and on DVD through Netflix and Kino.

[Reblogged from my article at Renegade Cinema]

2nd Week Push for Seed & Spark

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[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary]

Hey everyone,

Now that we’re in the middle of our second week of fund raising through Seed & Spark, I thought I’d send in an update and give the project another push. I have been in communication with the high brass over at Seed & Spark about the progress of this campaign. It turns out that their success rate on getting projects funded is 70%. That’s a good ratio (better than Kickstarter). I would hate for us to wind up outside of that 70% – so here is the second push for this particular blog.

Additionally, I wanted to thank everyone who has pledged to the campaign and helped spread it to their contacts. It means a lot. You folks recognize how important this film is for everyone involved and I’m beyond happy to see that. Thank you so  much.

Direct Link URL:  http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/spaceship 

Best,

Eric

[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary]

Seed & Spark | The Spaceship

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[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary in its entirety]

Hey everybody,

We’ve launched a campaign to raise finishing resources through the website Seed & Spark. Please help us by contributing and just as improtant, spreading the word about our film and funding efforts. We’ve found the people for a Seed & Spark incredibly helpful and delightful to collaborate with and some of our peers have really jumped on board to get the word out. I hope you join us too!

-Eric

https://www.seedandspark.com/studio/spaceship

[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary in its entirety]

Mister Roberts (1955) at A World of Film

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Excerpt reblogged from A World of Film:

From the getgo, Ford wanted to shoot the bulk of the movie off of Midway Island, where several years before he had been wounded while shooting b-roll for The Battle of Midway, a World War II documentary. When the production first approached the  Navy about cooperating with the production, the Navy turned their backs, citing the Captain’s sociopathic character as “detrimental to their image”. Ford responded by going directly to the Chief of Naval Operations and thus, secured the use of the USS Hewill, which stood in for the fictional Reluctant, along with permissions to film at bases on Midway and on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.

For a young Jack Lemmon, being cast onto this film as Ensign Pulver was the biggest break of his career. Lemmon had many stories to tell about his work on the picture, some of which he recounts on the film’s DVD audio commentary. Among the many stories, he remembers having his screen test spliced to the end of dailies on one of Ford’s earlier movies, just to get him to watch it. On developing his character, Lemmon described Ensign Pulver as “not needing a great deal of research”, “you just kind of get the guy” he said, “you don’t even have to understand the Navy to play him.”

During the production of the film, Lemmon started a long-time friendship with Cagney, which lasted until Cagney’s death in 1986. Years before Mister Roberts, Lemmon starred in live television. In one particular performance, Lemmon decided to play his character ‘left handed’ for one episode, to see if anyone would notice. No one did, neither his wife ‘nor the director of the show. A few years went by and when Lemmon finally met Cagney at the airport before heading out to Midway, the first thing Cagney asked was “Are you still fooling people into believing you’re left handed?” As Lemmon and other people have noted about Cagney, this is an example of Cagney’s ability to observe human behavior and adapt these observations to enhance his own performances.

“Pappy Ford” used to pull tricks on his actors. As Lemon said, “he was famous for it.” He used to try and trick actors into giving the performances he didn’t think they were capable of, and many actors used to resent him for it. One incident had Ford telling Cagney that he wanted him ready at 6AM sharp for a scene. At the last minute, Ford would send an assistant to inform him that he didn’t need to come in at all This would go on for many days. Cagney recognized the behavior, as it had been described by other actors who had previously worked with Ford. He knew was Ford was up to. When Cagney’s first shoot day finally arrived, Ford attempted to catch him and Lemmon off guard, by sending an assistant to inform them an hour before the new call time. Cagney and Lemmon were smart about it and to prepare for this possible circumstance, they secretly rehearsed the entire script, front to back, so that Ford would get an actual performance and not a forced reaction. Lemmon believed that actors have to be in control of what they’re doing but Ford felt if the scene was thrown at them, it would bring an added element that couldn’t be “performed”. Ford told Lemmon at the end of this day “that was damned good work.” Ford never tried to pull this stunt again, at least, not on this film.

[Read more at A World of Film]

Barry Lyndon (1975) – Stanley Kubrick

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Re-blogged from A World of Film:

Kirk Douglas once said of Stanley Kubrick “he’s a talented shit.” I often avoid talking or writing about the work of Stanley Kubrick because I find that his seemingly meticulous approach to every aspect of the craft is a little too forced for my taste and if you’ve read enough of my blogs and articles as it relates to other people’s films, if there’s one apparent constant is my lack of appreciation for contrievity. But Douglas was right, Kubrick was one of the most talented filmmakers to have the opportunity and freedom to create. Aside from my balls to the wall fear of Kubrick loyalists, I’m actually a huge admirer of his body of work and specifically of his film Barry Lyndon. This week, I’ve made the conscious and cautious decision to attempt to separate allegations from fact and hopefully introduce all of you to the beauty of this magnificent film. So throw away your pre-conceived ideas of who Kubrick was, forget the conspiracy theories and accept for a moment, this down to Earth essay on his 1975 masterpiece: Barry Lyndon.

Read the entire article at A World of Film…

Philadelphia (1993) – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

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Phil One SheetThe 1993 dramatic film PHILADELPHIA is a prime example of how good mainstream film-making used to be. Hollywood doesn’t make films like this anymore and if they did, it would hardly ever be as successful as this Academy Award winning masterpiece. It’s a different business with a different core audience.

Philadelphia was directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Philadelphia is an important work of cinema because it was among the earliest of films to tackle the subject of HIV/Aids and homosexual discrimination in a mainstream format.

The film is a little more than loosely inspired by the real life Geoffrey Bowers case, where he sued his employer for wrongful termination. The importance of the film is often overlooked on many of the film lists I’ve been reading lately, but its production and release is vital in understanding the improved social attitude regarding homosexuality and sexually transmitted diseases in North America.

The film opens up with a wonderful montage of images from the great City of Philadelphia, some dramatic in style, a-typical landmark shots to solidify the setting of the story, but most of the images are seemingly documentary or news-like. Often times Demme allows the “extras” on the street to break the forth wall and wave to the camera as it moves along the streets. This sequence engages the audience head on and makes one thing clear: this is a very real story about a very real problem. The sequence screams: Listen up! This is YOUR world and YOUR neighbors we’re portraying here so don’t think for a second that we’ve made any of this up for your entertainment. The sequence plays beautifully against the incredibly heartbreaking Bruce Springsteen single “Streets of Philadelphia”, which Demme had commissioned specifically for this film. It was important for Demme to have the film appeal to as broad an audience as possible and having Springsteen whip up this amazing song worked wonders.

Opening:

The movie is largely a courtroom drama, with witness testimony and bureaucratic nonsense. But it’s also a relatively light approach to what is normally a heavy, depressing subject matter. There is also a great deal of humor peppered throughout, but the spine of the story is always there, as it should be. The general “vibe” of the movie is clear in the trailer:

Trailer:

I am pleased to be adding this to Film Anthropology’s Essential Cinema list, under the General Category. If you’ve seen the film, please post your thoughts here. Were you old enough to attend the original release when it hit theaters? If so, I’d love your memories and a description of the audience reaction at your local theater.

-E

DISCLAIMER: About FA Essential Cinema List: The General Category list is not numbered, but a drop of essential titles that everyone in the movie watching world should know inside and out. Philadelphia is the first to be added to the list publicly, but it is not the most ‘nor least vital title here. There are more and they are all equal.

TMNT The Movie: Criterion Collection

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Should the original live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film be a part of the Criterion Collection? In an article I wrote for Renegade Cinema, I make my case for why this should happen.

The original live action adaptation of the comic book property TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES is one of the most original, dark and gritty children’s films I have ever experienced. I remember seeing it in the movie theater when I was a child growing up in Maine and to this day, no other kids movie has been able to top this one. Here is my reasoning for why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) deserves the Criterion Treatment (or an equally thoughtful release).

Read the rest of the article here.

2013 Mainstream Favs

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This New Year I had the pleasure of watching two excellent films that bring hope to this film enthusiast’s heart and am excited to be highly recommending both of them to you. Out of all the mainstream films I saw in 2013, these films are by far my top recommended choices (and coincidentally I watched both of them on the last day of the year).

The Wolf of Wall StreetTHE WOLF OF WALL STREET / dir. Martin Scorsese

The Wolf of Wall Street, which I caught yesterday afternoon at the Battery Park Regal Cinemas, is the latest Scorsese movie and boy is it ever a true Scorsese movie. With a narrative structure similar to Goodfellas and the intriguing charm and whit that comes with just about any movie DiCaprio is involved in, you can’t go wrong. Scorsese approached the material with his usual detached method, allowing the audience to make their own judgement on the central character and thus allowing room for reflection once the house lights came up.

Scorsese didn’t fail to remind us of his genius time and time again. Every moment of the film is priceless and there are plenty of moments that can extracted and used as an example of a “good cinematic moment”. My favorite scene is probably the most hilarious and poignant of the entire movie, as it illustrates in its own unique way, the point of the character and at large, the combined character of all the young men and women working on Wall Street. In the scene, DiCaprio’s character recounts a time when he had to drive back home, nearly incapacitated on drugs, without scratching the car or getting into any accidents. We believe him and that’s that until a few hours later when he’s woken from his drug induced nap and arrested by police. As he’s taken outside in handcuffs, we see the banged up Ferrari and then we flashback to the actual drive home, where DiCaprio manages to hit every single car between his point of origin and his destination. This scene is a wonderful metaphor for how these Wall Street criminals view their actions – as not being that harmful to anyone when in fact, they’re destroying everyone in their paths, including innocent bystanders.

Jonah Hill gave an Academy worthy performance and I would be willing to bet that if he were to collaborate with Scorsese in the future, they’d surely have a winner. The exhibition of the film was meaningful to some notable degree as the theater I saw it in is only a few blocks from Wall Street and only a block away from the marina at the World Financial Center, which was a prominent filming location for the movie (scenes of this location even made it into the trailer).

NOW YOU SEE MENOW YOU SEE ME / dir. Louis Leterrier

Last night I rented, through an on-demand service, the movie Now You See Me. This movie wasn’t available at every movie theater in the city and the theaters that were showing it had very inconvenient showtimes so it’s understandable why I missed it during its theatrical run. Of all the movies to get the shaft by distributors this year, it’s shocking that this is one of those movies. Aside from a few minor issues with the plot, it’s actually quite a good movie and a good example of classic Hollywood storytelling.

The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Melanie Laurent to name a few. The story revolves around a group of young magicians with a kick ass stage show that involves robbing banks right before the audiences’ eyes, jacking the bank accounts of slimy insurance companies and all that Robin Hood-esque shenanigans we love in our heroes. While some important elements are predictable, the film still manages to hold its own regardless of how crazy things seem to get.

This is a film I can see being passed around from friend to friend, being shown at parties and what not. It’s that cool of a movie. It’s what Clerks was back in the day or Snatch in 2001. It’s the movie everyone asks their friends if they can borrow for a get together they’re having. It’s good to see fun movies like this are still being made.

2013 NOTABLE MENTIONS:

The Great Gatsby | Disney’s Frozen | Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues | Kick-Ass 2

Thanks all and looking forward to 2014!

Happy New Year,

-Eric