Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Blogs, New Clicks! (On blogging... and trailers!)

Here's a blog I wrote on MySpace back in 2007. Just thought it was worth adding to my collection on here. It's a bit dated in some of it's references, but... that's history, people! Enjoy!

On blogging... and trailers!

So I came to a conclusion about blogging today in the shower. I had been kind of opposed to the whole idea because I figured, "Why should I tell the whole world about all my most personal thoughts and feelings?" But then I realized, not all of my thoughts and feelings are all that personal. Some are pretty easy to just blurt out - even to a stranger! So here I go. This is the first of my random thoughts on random things, just to see what others reply with and all that. Dialogue is good.

So today's topic is... Movie Trailers!!!

So I saw the trailer the other day that came before Transformers (which was a fun movie) and I was really thrilled to see J.J. Abrams new trailer for a film that is as-of-yet untitled. Everyone loved it.

"In the trailer, seemingly shot on a shaky, hand-held camcorder, Manhattan friends are at a going-away party for a guy named Rob, who is leaving for Japan.

The band 'Wolfmother' blasts in the background, and in a flash the lights go out and a painful background howling is heard. On the TV screen, NY1 reporter Roma Torre reports a "thunderous, roaring sound."

Party-goers head to the roof, where fireballs attack. On the street, the Statue of Liberty's head is thrown to the pavement."

(from: BAIT BALLS OF FIRE - MORE CLUES TO HELP SOLVE MYSTERIOUS FILM PUZZLE by FARRAH WEINSTEIN of the NEW YORK POST)

And the fact that Abrams and company decided not to show us a monster or even give the film a name had a tremendous effect on us all. The amount that WASN'T shown was what we enjoyed the most. This is a timeless truth in suspense and most good storytelling... Spielberg did it well in Jaws - (we don't even see a shark until an hour into the film!)

But I had another thought in the shower this morning (- I do all my best thinking then). Wouldn't it be great if we could go into a movie BLIND? I mean, what if there were no trailers... anywhere - ever? What if we simply decided what films to see by the name alone? Or maybe they shouldn't even have names! Like Abrams' film! Well, I'm sure it will have a name eventually... won't it? (Maybe not!)

But what if you just had to pick a number? 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5? And whichever one you picked, that's the theater you went into. And then you'd sit down with your popcorn and your soda that's three times bigger than your bladder, the lights go down, and you watch a story unfold before you without any preconceived notions of what will happen?

What if, when I went to see 'Knocked Up' last week, i didn't know that the nerdy guy would end up in bed with the pretty girl? And what if I didn't KNOW that she'd end up pregnant, as the ads all imply? IMPLY!?! Nay! They TELL me that it happens! There's no surprise at all! They basically set up the whole story for me before I get there, AND show me most of the funniest scenes, so I don't have to bother laughing when I'm actually IN the theater - thanks Hollywood!

Why even start the movie at the beginning then? I've already seen the trailer so many times on TV alone that I know the characters and the set up when i come in! Just start the film around the middle of Act II and I'll follow along just fine! Then I can be on my way in half the time!

See, what I'm saying is that as much fun as it is to MAKE a trailer, or watch a trailer, they're just there to make money for the studios. A good story - a GREAT story - will make you jump at each and ever plot twist. A good story assumes you don't KNOW the story already, so it hits you hard with every punch. But a movie trailer... this is totally different.

A movie trailer is a very unique phenomenon, as far as the history of story telling goes. I'm sure Shakespeare had to advertise his plays, too. Everyone wants to know what the story is about. But I'm sure it's usually done with a tag line or something. When movies became big business, and trailers were developed into what they are today, it took all the mystery out of the story.

Have you ever watched a movie without knowing what it was about? Sure - we all have. When you're a kid, you see some movie on TV that you've never heard of and before you know it, you've sat through the whole thing. And if you're lucky is was a good one, and it kept you on the edge of your seat the whole time. I was actually lucky enough to go see "Groundhog Day" in the theater without knowing anything about the story beforehand. As soon as the hook hit, I was floored! It was brilliant and made my laugh so hard, I really did cry! I was, as stated previously, on the edge of my seat! And this was a comedy!

So, maybe it will never happen, but I'd like to suggest to all you filmmakers and producers out there - maybe some of us don't WANT to know what your movie is about. Just dangle a little carrot. NO! Only part of a carrot! NO! Just waft the carrot-smell our way and we'll come seek it out on our own! And when we find it, we'll love it so much more! I promise.

Oh, but not you, J.J. Abrams... you already know this. (Thanks for LOST!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Great "What If?" Film Trilogy of Spring 2011

All of a sudden, in the aftermath of the Oscar season highs, there's a small slew of films that seem to be rooted in some sort of a sci-fi/fantasy reality version of our own world. Like "The Truman Show", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Pleasantville" and, on a more-recent and grander scale, "Inception", these films are about the human drama that unfolds after a certain fantastical premise is introduced and accepted.

These films are "Limitless," "The Source Code" and "The Adjustment Bureau".

These films all seem to be coming out at the same time, so I've decided to make a thing out of it - calling it, "The Great 'What If?' Film Trilogy of Spring 2011," just so that they're all connected in my brain and now feel like one big event rather than just three separate and kinda-not-great movies. Somehow, I think this will make the whole thing more enjoyable. I say "What If?" because, even though every work of fiction can technically be called a "what if?" scenario, these films take something that is basically fantasy, throw it in with some (hopefully) interesting "everyman" characters, and as a result, certain events unfold that have less to do with the actual fantasy element, but - when done well - are engaging because of the characters themselves.

Let's take a closer look at these three films...

LIMITLESS (2011)



Starring Bradly Cooper (A.K.A. that hunky guy from "The Hangover"), Robert DeNiro... and a bunch of people who's names you've never heard before. Director Niel Burger had a small hit in 2008 with The Illusionist (staring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti). The Leslie Nixon screenplay is based on the Alan Glynn novel, "The Dark Fields".

In short, its the story of a man who is given a pill that will allow him to utilize 100% of his brain's potential power, unlike the rest of us mere mortals who are stuck using less than 5%. This is such a ridiculous concept (as using that much of your brain instantly would probably drive you insane and cause your head to explode) that it makes giving into the premise that much more of an act of pure will, but that can be fun, too.

To me, the funniest thing about this premise is that it's pretty much the same story as a 2001 episode of The Simpsons ("HOMЯ"), in which Homer discovers the root cause of his subnormal intelligence: a crayon that was lodged in his brain ever since he was a child. He decides to have it removed to increase his IQ, but discovers that being smart does not necessarily equal being happy.

I think that's pretty much what's going to happen in this film, too.

But here's the weirdest part of the premise: let's say that such a pill actually was created. And as the film seems to suggest, there is really only one single pill that is ever manufactured. Why does THIS Joe-Schmo get to take it? It's a top-secret drug being developed by the government, but somehow this average, everyday, unpublished copywriter is able to get his hands on it and gets to pop it back like a Tylenol... and it works!?

Okay! Sure! Why not? I'm in. Let's see where this goes.

SOURCE CODE (2011)



Starring Jake Gyllanhall, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga, "Source Code" is director Duncan Jones' first foray into the Hollywood Filmmaking machine since his beautiful and original independent film, 2009's "Moon" (Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey), was so resoundingly acclaimed.

"Source Code" is basically this: a guy is sent back in time in order to find out who was responsible for the eventual bombing of the train that he is on. He is sent back exactly 8 minutes before the train explodes and every time he fails to stop the bombing, he dies and wakes up back in his present time. Eventually, he decides that saving the hot girl is more important than his particular mission and goes rogue. It seems a bit like the premise of "12 Monkeys" but we know it's not going to be anything like a Terry Gilliam film.

The ridiculousness: As a human race, we've figured out time travel... and we use it to investigate a recent train bombing? How about 9/11? How about the assassination of Kennedy or Lincoln? How about Hitler!? I suppose there are some severe limitations to the technology. I guess I'll have to check it out to get the whole story.

And finally...

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011)



I think this one is going to be the best one.

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and the ever-creepy, ever-evil Terrence Stamp, "The Adjustment Bureau" is screenwriter George Nolfi's directorial debut. The script, also by Nolfi, is loosely based on a 1954 short story written by Phillip K. Dick, called "Adjustment Team." The film's score is done by one of my personal favorites (ever since he scored "American Beauty" in 1999,) Thomas Newman, and there are also two songs ("Future's Bright" for the opening sequence; "Are You Ready" for the closing credits) by Richard Ashcroft, front man of the British psychedelic rock band, The Verve.

Personally, of all of the aforementioned films, I see this film as the most invested in its weird, sci-fi element but also as the one that delves the deepest into what will probably turn out to be the strongest and most interesting characters.

Here's the premise: When aspiring congressman, David Norris (Damon), meets a mysterious ballet dancer (Blunt), he is instantly smitten and distracted. The whole world turns upside down, however, when a mysterious group of white men in dark suits and fedoras appear and inform Norris that he was not "supposed" to see the woman again - these men are the Adjustment Bureau; the people who keep the course of each and every person's destiny on track. Norris has skewed his own path, and has somehow been enlightened to the existence of the bureau. This knowledge empowers Norris to make a choice - to follow his given path, or to create his own.

The premise itself, although ridiculous in a realistic sense, is much more obviously poetry - a fantasy designed to highlight the battle of free will that we all struggle with; the responsibility of making choices and heading down certain paths in our own lives. And for this very reason, I believe this film has the strongest and most relevant theme out of the "trilogy".

So there you have it. Who wants to join me on this journey in seeing all three films as they come out in theaters!? Please leave comments below and tell me what you thought of any or all of the films discussed here. (Or any others! What the hell!?!)