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Just saw the David Tennant / Patrick Stewart / Penny Downie Hamlet.

Two comments:

1. fuck yeah! This is a great production, generous in length but not painfully over-complete like the Branagh version. It's just about everything it could be without taking major liberties. Stewart and Downie are masterful and Tennant's eternally sophomoric personality suits Hamlet well.

2. Yet another version in which rocks fall, everybody dies and they don't bother to tell us WHO IS KING NOW, which would have driven Elizabethan audiences totally batshit. This is one thing the Branagh version really nailed, with Fortinbras' special forces infiltrating the castle during the fencing scene.

It's on Netflix. Definitely worth waiting for the red envelope to arrive.

Short shameful confession: I totally thought Penny Downie was Edie Falco for the entire film. I've never heard of Penny Downie before but I'm a fan now.
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About 1,000 people have watched Foggy Bottom Woowoo. Far more than have watched almost any of my other original YouTube videos (I'm, uh, not counting my remake of Charlie the Unicorn). Considerably more than the number who watched the 48-hour films I made with other people more talented than myself.

So why do people watch this film, more than any other "weekend movie" I was involved with?

Sometimes there's a coincidence that leads people to watch something— 1,000 people have also watched a music video of mine titled "Rise to the Occasion." There's pretty good evidence they were looking for other songs by that name.

But in this case, not so much. The best explanation seems to be that people just like this doofy little film.

I could be grumpy because people didn't like my later movies as much. But honestly I'm not. I wrote (*), acted (in three roles) and directed, and while the end result is very slackly edited in the beginning, it builds up momentum and goes somewhere. And there's a rant about socialized candy. Which is more than you'll get from a lot of 150-minute Hollywood clunkers.

The lack of tight editing in the first half stems from the fact that this was my 48-hour practice film and I held myself to the deadline... learning Windows Movie Maker (O the sophistication!) as I went along. But setting low expectations and then exceeding them has always been a good trick, right?

One of the fun things about the film is the unusual feel of the video itself. People who actually know something about film have asked me about that. The super-narrow aspect ratios, the sort-of-analog-ish sound, the lack of any telltale "this was shot in NTSC / consumer-grade mini-DV / something crappy" feeling even though the actual specs are very low... there's a certain charm to it.

This was purely the product of circumstances— I owned a digital handheld camera of a certain early generation, I hadn't bought the "better" mini-DV camera I would use for my first 48-hour film yet, and my bedroom wasn't deep enough to set up a wide shot. Also... I didn't have time to clean off two bookshelves. So the set got narrower and narrower. Which turned out awesome. Constraints can be powerful aids to creativity.

I often wish I had the original video files kicking around to reedit them, but there's no point. They don't have enough resolution to do much more than improve the timing. I could shoot the whole thing again, but making another solo film would be a better way of channeling that urge.

I may never get around to it though, and that's fine. Foggy Bottom Woowoo is a snapshot of where I was in my life at the time: a continuing education student recently re-enrolled at the school of creative hard knocks. In the wake of two personal disasters, I felt a powerful need to experience joy, to make good trouble, to make art whether anybody saw it or not.

This particular weekend, I was a filmmaker.
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Watch my contribution to Star Wars Uncut! Whee!

Thanks to Jeremy and [ profile] glaucon for their voice talentz, and to Eleanor for the sound effects (she's a mixcraft diva now).

Those who have been under a rock can learn about the Star Wars Uncut fan remake project here.
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The South Street TLA Video is closing. 15th and Locust will stay open for "as long as the community supports it" but the writing is on the wall.

This is sad. I'd rediscovered the TLA in the past year or two, getting rid of my netflix subscription because I want a movie when I want it (or Eleanor wants it), not days later, and the "Netflix Now"streaming service almost never had what I wanted.

I'm told Netflix Now has improved, but this still suxx0rz.

Granted I don't rent a hell of a lot of movies, owing to the art form that has cheerfully taken over my life, but I'll have to make a pilgrimage or four to the 15th and Locust store while I still can.
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A modest majority of reviewers liked Hamlet 2.

I think this is because film reviewers are frustrated actors who relate to the premise, which isn't half bad.

This blinds them to the fact that the movie stinks.

It is just thuddingly unfunny. The invisible quotation marks that are supposed to make everything funny simply don't work, apart from maybe five minutes at the end, and not even that because they throw away most of the potential of the premise. The lead is trying to be "irritating" but he's just irritating.

It's what Christopher Guest movies would be like if Christopher Guest sucked.

Oh gack

Jun. 17th, 2008 03:24 pm
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Eleanor's Dad Camp movies so far this week: Pom Poko, Golden Compass, Return of the Jedi.

It's the "improved" Return of the Jedi. I didn't think that would matter since it's, uh, not a great film to begin with. But oh man, that new ending with everyone celebrating in the streets across the whole darn galaxy? I'd rather hear the Ewok song than hear
Jar Jar Binks (or his countryman) yelling "weesa FREE!"

Also, didn't they just screw themselves out of a plot for movies seven, eight and nine if everybody instantly accepts that the emperor is dead and openly celebrates without repercussions? Maybe in all those Star Wars novels I don't have time or inclination to read Jar Jar gets strung up by the authorities five minutes later. We can hope.

Something I'd forgotten about Jedi, though, is that it's not meant to be taken seriously. It's a campy collection of "once more for the memories" moments with a good cast and on that level it works.

Pom Poko is of course wacky enviroprop and pretty fun. Golden Compass is much more faithful to the book than I'd been lead to believe and by and large I enjoyed it, but yes, they blew it when they tried to remove all religious commentary and wound up just disappointing everybody instead of just pissing off Pullman's critics. They also choose a very flat place to end the movie, but you really can't end a Hollywood movie where that book ends. They didn't change it, they just stopped short of it, leaving open the possibility that the sequel would begin with some pretty scary stuff. Of course, it seems unlikely that The Subtle Knife will ever be filmed. And how the hell do you script a watered-down version of Amber Spyglass?
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Eleanor just watched "The Empire Strikes Back" for the first time. She's all about it. Couldn't shut up and watch the movie to save her life, but she's all about it.

When we got to the bit where they put on little respirators and then go run around in a cave (well, a sort-of-cave) on a freaking asteroid and I was tempted to grouse all science-like about a movie in the fantasy genre, Eleanor firmly reminded me that "the point of Star Wars is that Star Wars is awesome." Quite right.

It's such a tired subject, but not having watched the best of them in such a long time, I feel compelled to let fly with the old familiar cry:

"It's so good. The actors had so much fun with it. Okay, there was only one girl, but she kicked lots and lots of ass. Even Return of the Jedi is a pretty good time. And then... and then three movies of purest crap!

What the hell went wrong?"

I think it was a classic case of "when nobody can say no to you, you write stupid movies and they get shot as written." Also, a younger generation of actors who grew up on Star Wars and were too overawed to do their jobs and make the movies not suck in spite of themselves.

Sigh... what a shame, what a shame.

Empire definitely plays well with the "Chewie and R2 are secretly in charge" theory. Whole 'nother movie with that in the back of your mind.
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Eleanor has entered the "Star Wars is awesome" stage of child development.

In her opinion, Leia and R2 are the principal badasses.
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I can't do that much to improve the sound on Goodnight Jeannine (*). The fact is that we goofed when we (a) went ahead filming in the bar after discovering that the fridge couldn't be unplugged, and (b) never really gave overdubbing a shot. After that, well, it is what it is.

I've been advised that ADR is Hard And Scary, but I haven't found it all that difficult really. I need to give myself credit for what I do know— I'm pretty fly when it comes to chopping up and rearranging audio snippets. And I think it's significant that many of the better 48-hour films were narrated or overdubbed (if you paid close attention it wasn't that hard to spot the latter, but it didn't detract). With practice I think I could manage it for a 48-hour film. So long as I got straight to work Saturday night, that is.

But anyway, enough groaning on my part. Here are some great things about this year's film: Bobbi Block acting in a Lindsay Harris script. The Slater wimminz and their incredible location-finding and musician-finding skillz. The all-singing, all-dancing, self-motivating philadel crew, the friendship of which I am daily grateful for. Hearing the words "when we do this next year..." from people I absolutely want to make a movie with again. And discovering (even if too late) that we have more video editors and sound people in our midst than I knew. You can bet I'll do my darnedest to bring those resources to bear on next year's film.

There is already talk of participating in other festivals this year. As for how involved I'll be... well, we'll see. Like I said, I'm deeply involved in an art form already and I'm serious about giving it the energy it deserves. But I'd love to help out and keep on catalyzing good things.

(*) Those who haven't seen it can find it in my earlier post today.
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I'd like to work on the sound for this... a lot... before youtubing it. But I won't keep the non-locals on my friendslist waiting any longer. You deserve a chance to see what everyone else saw, warts and all.
Watch the film! )
The Windows Media version is missing one credit: thanks to [ profile] opadit for the loan of her lighting rig.
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Just got back from the 48HFP afterparty. We had a great time. The winning films (not ours) were thoroughly deserving.

Many members of the Greater Delaware Avengers have expressed that (a) shit yeah we're doing this again, and (b) we're not doing jack until we get sound right. Hearing sentiment (a) expressed by people with serious professional-grade skillz was greatly inspiring. Sentiment (b) echoes my own strong feelings in the matter.

I already have an art form— salsa— that takes up 99% of my free time, with the other 1% divided between writing the occasional sonnet and everything else, so where film is concerned I see my role as catalyzing matters and helping creative people in my various spheres to find each other and get together and make good craziness happen. Folks who previously were not involved have outed themselves, or been outed, as film editors and sound people and all sorts of good things. This is good, because as a producer if I am doing something myself I have already failed. 2009 looks interesting. And if Laura has her way there might very well be more films in 2008. q00l.

Yes, I will be posting the film to youtube, after I give (b) a little more love as a learning experience.

Martini drinkers in my life, be advised: Silk City serves a fine martini, but the Continental is undeniably superior.
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Timecatcher: judged the best 48 hour film project film of 2007, worldwide. Hebrew with English subtitles (you won't have any trouble following it). Under 7 minutes, you have time.

It is indeed an amazing piece of work, especially considering it was made from scratch in 48 hours.
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Wednesday at 9:15pm at the International House, 3701 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. Twelve films (including ours, natch) for ten bucks. Such a deal!
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Yes, the Greater Delaware Avengers made a movie this weekend! Yes, we finished on time! Yes, it will really be screening on Wednesday at the International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, at 9:15pm! Yes, you should get there early to get a ticket ($10) for screening group D!
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I'm part of the 48 Hour Film Project again this year, along with improv goddess Bobbi Block, [ profile] ms_violet (an accomplished playwright), skilled director [ profile] mrl24, location mavens [ profile] glttrgirl and her sister Ann, the remarkably talented rookie director Laura, a convincingly deranged Brett and possibly real-for-serious videographer [ profile] nohx at the editing controls.

"What?" a festival of short films made during a 48-hour period beginning this Friday night and ending this coming Sunday.

"When?" Wednesday April 30th, 9:15pm.

"Where?" The International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.

"How much?" a $10 ticket gets you twelve awesome short films on the big screen.
Of which ours will of course be the most awesome. In part because you will all be bringing your aunts, all of whom will vote for us! Yeah!

"Is there an afterparty?" Hellz yeah there is. The official 48HFP afterparty will be at the Silk City Diner, with prizes awarded at midnight. Those who are still mad about the demise of the old Silk City may wear black armbands.

There are no advance ticket sales. Please arrive early to be sure of a ticket and a seat!

"I want more!" If you love this stuff as much as I do, I suggest arriving earlier so that you can see another screening group of short films starting at 7pm. And if you love this stuff to a scary degree, there are groups of films being screened on Tuesday the 29th as well at 7pm and 9:15pm.

"Should I RSVP?" You don't have to, just show up! But RSVP comments here or by email would be awesome.
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I am really feeling the lack of multitrack video capabilities in Windows Movie Maker. So at the suggestion of various and sundry, I have finally given the Cinelerra CV video editor for Linux a try. I installed some nice Ubuntu packages and typed cinelerra.

A very cool-looking interface come up. It was frozen and unresponsive.

I got this message at the console:

PluginServer::open_plugin: /usr/lib/cinelerra/ undefined symbol: __sync_fetch_and_add_4

Google reveals one other guy reporting the same problem, with no response other than "try building everything from source."

I experienced something he didn't: after about ten minutes, Cinelerra woke up! And after I cancelled the random dialogs that came up due to whatever flailing I'd done in an effort to get a response out of it earlier, it segfaulted and crashed.

Yes, I will file a bug report. But I don't have time to debug Cinelerra, alas. I have a movie to make in less than two weeks. (;

Anyone know whether the cheapest edition of Sony Vegas includes multitrack editing? As in "these two cameras were running at the same time, so let me sync up the tracks and then cut unwanted chunks out of both with a single action and decide which one is visible at any given point and so forth? Rather than chopping them up into chunks the hard way?"
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Further travelogue from the Land of Linux on my Dell Latitude D610. For those just tuning in, I junked XP due to ugly, ugly instability and performance problems.

Video Capture

I didn't have my heart set on editing video with Linux. But just for laughs I plugged in my el cheapo cardbus firewire card and hooked up my camera. Then I installed Kino, an allegedly user-friendly video editing program for Linux. I did this via the "add/remove" menu, nothing weird or complicated.

I fired it up; it didn't see the camera. But it did display a message about not being able to access a device.

Now, it's true that this could be a showstopper for a less technical person. Kino should say something more directly helpful. But if they at least Googled the message, they'd find out that you have to start Kino as root.

Ubuntu should provide options to run certain applications as root— just because I prefer the convenience of a GUI doesn't mean I'm not smart enough to make that decision. There's no checkbox to launch an app as root, that I can see. Vista has a "launch as Administrator" feature, which is sensible, and Ubuntu should offer something comparable.

Anyway, I sarted it as root from the command line. And I clicked capture. And O HAI, I'm pulling down my daughter's after school play.

Then I then hit trouble— stuttering and other unhappiness. Then the laptop shut itself down... gracefully... with a message explaining that my CPU was overheating.

This was a frequent problem in Windows-land, too. The laptop adjusts its speed to account for activity and temperature issues, but sometimes it outsmarts itself and overheats. So I looked at the power management options and found ways to manually limit my CPU speed without too much command-line fiddling around. I had a terrible time with this in Windows. I had to do a little Googling but overall it was much easier in Ubuntu.

At work, I have a USB fan stand for my laptop, so I don't tend to have this problem at work.

Once I had a cool-running laptop and dialed back the preview quality (not the quality of the real captured video), Kino had no problem pulling down the video. Nift-o. But it crashed at the end of the process.

That's not so cool... Kino has been around a while and should be stable for the basics by now. And where is the dialog inviting me to send in a trace of the crash? Why doesn't Ubuntu offer that option when any program that is part of a standard package crashes? It shouldn't be hard work to report a bug in an open-source operating system. It's easy to send in those traces in Windows (although Microsoft may or may not care if it's a third-party program).

But when I restarted Kino, it apologized and pointed out that it had recovered all of my video. Okay, not exactly feeling warm fuzzies, but I've got my video. I'll buy that.

I added titles and did some light editing rather painlessly, but couldn't immediately export the video for y'all because too many pieces are missing. Kino depends on the mjpegtools and/or ffmpeg to actually output the Internet-friendly video formats y'all know and love. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, these can't be provided as standard equipment in a free operating system. So figuring out what to do about that is my next step.

I've also heard good things about kdenlive, an alternative Linux video editor which has a very Windows Movie Maker—like interface but is not yet available as an Ubuntu package as far as I can see.

Monitor Troubles

If I hook up my external monitor before booting Ubuntu, it spots it and fires it up at its maximum resolution. If I hook it up later, it still spots it... but assigns it a crappy resolution and refuses to go higher. Yuk!

I'm not sure why this happens, but since Ubuntu boots in less than a minute, I can live with it until I have some time to play with it. I still want to get a "one big desktop" configuration going, and I know that's going to require some hand-tweaking anyway.

I want to reiterate that my laptop is already working vastly better than it was in Windows. An end to the awful pauses and crashes has made me vastly more productive at work. Good is a huge step in the right direction— perfect can wait.

September 2014

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