Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Movie Critics and Audience Viewers Never Think Alike

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Is it just me, or has the gap between critics and regular viewers become wider than usual? Movies that critics love, viewers find disappointing. Current examples include Wolf of Wall Street, Her, 12 Years a Slave. All of these were loved by Critics and given 5 stars very frequently. But by the public… mediocre, ripped into by many, deemed overrated. The exact opposite is true for the likes of Lone Survivor (which viewers particularly loved) and Ride Along, yes the one with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.

The latter is what tends to make money (Grown Ups 2 being an example you often hear, critics hated it, yet it banked $120+ million). Perhaps Hollywood has the average human mentality and preferences understood as a money making blueprint after all. They like silly comedies that let them forget their days otherwise and the theme of underdogs overcoming in conflict, particularly war movies in the US (less so in other markets).

I looked around the web for a bit, to see if it was a “is it just me” moment. As usual with the web, those moments are quickly crushed. There are some interesting comments and analysis of this so called gap, one that was worth a read was this one on the NY Times – not just as a post itself, but the user comments (which perhaps is a biased audience and publication in itself, but that’s another post).

Some of general consensus included a bit of bias for both sides such as:

– Reason for the discrepancy is that the public writes reviews for movies they LIKE more often than for ones they don’t. (hmmm…. totally not true, public love to complain actually)

– Most moviegoers watch a film to enjoy it for what it is, and don’t necessarily mind formula or cliche dialogue. These films are comfortable escapes. (yes, that I agree with)

or

– Just because the masses seek easy and cheap movies to wash away their daily routine does not make them better movies (similar to above, and often mentioned in this way).

– It’s basically an intelligence gap! (ouch, as if you never found a bad song/movie/restaurant/bar/person/etc to be good)

– Imagine that Michelin food critics were required to rate all restaurants, including fast food chains, airport concessions, etc. (ha, amusing analogy), which went well with…

– Just because McDonald’s is convenient and easy and cheap it doesn’t make it a good meal (um, but movies aren’t cheap these days).

– The conversation should be less about the difference between expert-popular taste, and more about why the people no longer value expert opinion (not quite, there may have been a gap all along, they just openly disagree in places you can see nowadays such as online)

Look further back and you find another open debate at Screenrant – which kicks off with:

– “Opinions are like armpits – everyone has them and some of them stink,” so the old adage goes. This phrase rings doubly true when it comes to movie critics and their reviews of films.

There’s more analysis of the top flicks that experienced this large disparity (both ways) at The Guardian and I’m sure there’s often many articles and discussions about this, the more I look, the more I ask people, etc.

Perhaps this post is guilty of catering to users (viewer equivalent on the web) rather than experts. I’ve covered the point, the topic at end, cited examples and trends instead of digging too deeply into my own thoughts and put some one-liners that sound all too familiar in context. Hmmmm, I feel like I’ve got the movie formula down pat now.

In the end, see what you want to see. I used to get annoyed when people went to see movies that I thought were pointless (e.g.: most sequels and remakes, rehashed romcoms, overdone war movies, etc). But these days I get it. Movies are entertainment. Paraphrasing what a friend of mine says about indie film making in general – sure, you want it to be an art, but if you also want people to like it and you want to make a living out of it, you have already compromised.

Let us know what you think. Does it even matter what viewers or critics say, and why its often the opposite of one another?

An Idiots Guide – Short Film with Notes From The Director

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Well after having our lead actor go MIA and 5 inches of rain pour down in half an hour, seeping into Bowbarr and delaying our shoot, we are proud to present our latest short “An Idiot’s Guide (On How Not to be an Idiot)”. This movie is only possible after years of extensive research where I had to work in food service jobs and hang out at local bars in college towns in order to understand the makings of an idiot.

The original cut was 11 hours and 47 minutes long and was to depict the whole night from start to finish, with various moments for directors and actor commentary. But Niall felt that our message would not reach a wide audience at that time (good thing he didn’t see the director’s cut at 32 hours and 28 minutes – known as the “Full Weekend Edit”). We compromised at 7 minutes and 58 seconds (though I feel that simply isn’t enough time to cover the subject). Since so much info was cut out, here are a few tips on how not to be an idiot that was not covered in the film. Note that this includes the coffee shop morning after scene and the emergency call scenes that have been cut from the original 32 hour cut – if it was up to Niall, we’d be left with 5 minutes.

1. When you order your latte, DO NOT look at your phone! You know that person that stands across from you as you mutter something unintelligible while you play Fire Drop on your Iphone? That is a human being who deserves the human decency of eye contact and undivided attention when you order. After all, this is the person who is making your drink and can add any ingredient they wish…even if it’s not on the menu.

2. If you’re going to call 911 because you “ditched going to rehab and drank all night instead” and now you don’t feel good, remember to put your ginormous stash of weed away first. On calls classified as “altered mental status”, cops come along with EMS too. While her husband was laughing hysterically and walking around in only his tighty-whities, the cops seized the contraband as we were wheeling out his wife. Wonder if he was still laughing when he came home and found his pot gone…if he made it home.

3. Do not walk into a coffee shop, sit at a table, open your laptop, not order anything and then ask if you have “free-wifi”. Just don’t.

4. Do not use Starbucks language when you place an order at a respectable café. It just makes you look bad and you will definitely be the target of ridicule amongst the baristas when you walk away. Not to mention you drink bad coffee.

5. If you’re going to complain about Mexicans, make sure that the person you are complaining to IS NOT MEXICAN. Not all Mexicans look the same. Many have European roots and are not “brown”. See the term conquistador.

Editors note: Thanks Justin for the post, and thanks to everyone that helped make the film on that stormy day in North Carolina.

Documentary Films, A Retro Wave of Comfort?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I read an article this week at http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/edelstein-documentary-is-better-than-filmmaking.html – and wanted to do more than drop a mention and a tweet, however time was slim, as somehow this week’s been action packed.

Still, the thought lingered for more than a minute, so I was convinced it had me wanting to open it up for discussion. Why are documentaries somewhat hip now, where they used to make people cringe back in the days?  My thought was that not only are the stories more in depth, but visually because the gap has grown between how documentaries and mainstream films look – that the visual feel of these movies have that natural sort of comfort to it.

Films at home on DVD or in the theater are “sharp” these days.  Too sharp perhaps.  But VHS tapes with a slight decay to the visual sharpness were just as captivating too.  Film tries to look too refined, too real these days.  The art has perhaps transitioned from story line to presentation and technique.  But who’s really buying all this CGI “that” much more than handcrafted effects in the past (you could fit the blade runner city on your desk and it may look amateur now but did it affect the movie that much?  would it have been that different if they replaced that with a fully customized effect with a living population?). Has it changed the experience of the movie that much? If so, please chime in. Personally though one of the great things about documentaries is that it has a bit of a blur to it. Its not as sharp visually or audio-wise.  Plus the storylines are pretty good too these days.

PS: Warmth in these documentary images below was taken from the article pic, linked above and also in New York magazine, though I couldn’t find their version online. If so, I’ll link to that too.

 

Movie Sequels, Trilogies, Prequels & Correlations in the Economy

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

We often hear about how Hollywood is churning out sequels left and right more so today than ever before. Even movies that were not that big are getting sequels these days (example: Grown Ups 2), or even movies that were full on flops (Smurfs 2?!), or sequels that should have long been killed (Scary Movie 5, Fast and Furious 6 – and part 7 is set for a 2015 release, Bourne 5, etc). But it’s not ending any time soon, because the business is of playing it safe and releasing “sure shots” when it comes to movies generating revenue even if the actual movie is crap.

Interesting list of sequels in the works at http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/24211/111-movie-sequels-currently-in-the-works

Even movie sequels you left for dead “The Last Exorcist, Part II”, let alone “Bill And Ted 3” and “Blade Runner 2” are looking to cash in. And while “A Good Day To Die Hard” would technically be Die Hard 5, they’ve already planned a part 6!!! Or 21 Jump Street 2 (which isn’t even based on the TV show, but taking the branding of it as a marketing chip). This lack of creativity in Hollywood perhaps?! Even first parts are based on existing stories such as comic books or novels. And while many of these blockbusters are not my thing, I’ve seen a few of these in the cinema thanks to various friends of mine convincing me its worth a shot. Perhaps there are a couple that I didn’t mine, but then again, some of these movies that people loved, I felt were horrendous. Even the special effects looked too much the C in CGI. This used to really frustrate me when I was younger. WTF is with these movies, where’s the plot, etc.

It doesn’t bother me anymore though and I attribute a good portion of it to a couple of people telling me (on separate occasions but within the same month) several years ago that its mainly because when they go see movies, they want to “escape”. They want to veg out, escape their day and be entertained. Upon hearing this, it clicked. Not everyone is a film snob, wannabe writer, director, actor, etc. Most people don’t mind playing it safe and seeing a sequel to something that they know they liked, or seeing a movie because a one-liner and some special effects that make fictional things come true on the big screen looked cool and can compensate for any bad acting. Movies don’t always have to be memorable or meaningful I learned. So I thought and realized, yeah sure, I like a lot of comedies that in many people’s eyes are pretty stupid perhaps. However, its unique, it’s focusing on the acting, the delivery. But there’s more to it than that. Escapism indeed is a big source of why people watch these movies. And that factor peaks more at certain times. When times are tough, more people want to escape. When attention spans are short, more people want to escape. And both of these were factors recently.

When the economies are good, more descriptive flicks make it to the big time. Think about the wave of documentaries that crashed ashore in 2004-2008 (actually there still is a lot of strong documentary films out there, but its reverted to a more artist/critic based fan base). Or how movies transitioned in the 80’s to 90’s and then blew up into more of a business model. Thinking about compiling research on this, I looked around for info and things that could back up or counter this argument: and for the former, things like this piece from the LA Times – http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/26/entertainment/ca-chocano26

Or this detailed research piece at http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2012/07/sequels-and-adaptations-in-popular.html – where he “went through every year from 1936 to 2011 and tallied how many movies in the box office top 10 were a sequel or adaptation”. Though this can be misleading, as a top 10 list does not a market overview make, however still a great start (and way more time spent than I could pull off, so much thanks to this person, who has a few really good reads on his blog overall by the way) – and this graphic shows the recent explosion of sequels.

However, the level of adaptations (usually a book that gets made into a movie, so still more unique than say a sequel) has been around for a while. The study and blog post around it, compares movie sequel trends and escapism to some extent with homicide rates rather than economies, however traditionally crime and bad economies do go hand in hand, so I felt that this was a good resource of info when looking to get some data myself. And it backed up my thoughts about creativity in movies correlating with “boom times”, such as the 60’s and 80’s, and lack of during down times like the 70’s, early 90’s, and the 2008 wave when the economy took a hit (which in years prior such as 2004-2007 was a big documentary run).

Despite the recent recovery, there was been a down trend in box office revenue, as feeding sequels out one after another seems to be running out of gas. And maybe people want substance sometimes, or at least the right mix of it. As per this quote on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/movie-attendance-economy-recession_n_1097904.html – where “Stephanie” a woman in her 20’s commented “The end product doesn’t have to be a mishmash of expensive stunts and large explosions. If there’s something a little more interesting happening underneath the surface with that script and with the main characters, I’m going to walk away from the theater much more satisfied and likely to return” – so perhaps its not just me after all?

Overall, its a piece I’d like to build on when I get more time, but the thing is, its not a surprise to see that film is a business like many others, and like in other industries, it takes a few standout pieces to revolutionize it and push things forward within that industry. Do we think we can contribute that? We hope so, and that drives us. But unlike when I was in my youth, I know not everything has to have that message and there are many reasons people will like something. Good acting, good stories, good scene/visuals that feel real, and most importantly good delivery, that’s something we want when putting down money to see a film whether as a means of escaping or not.

Note: This post was tweeted with the hashtag #2013movies – and I discovered that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this summer’s crop of movies, mainly commenting about the more anticipated sequels.  One guy even commented that movies need not be good for this summer’s crop, just get them out in 3D. Escapism is in full swing I guess!

Commentary About The Filming of The Torment – All In One Day

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Guest post from our own Bryan Reklis. (Editor Note: If I could sync this piece to the film as a sort of commentary, I would).

Hello person. I’m glad that you are looking at these words right now. I’m going to write more words about the filming process of The Torment (a short horror film that I co-directed, DPed, edited, and scored as a part of Dead Red Eyes). If that is something you are interested in, keep reading these words. If not then I’m honestly surprised you’ve made it this far. Seriously, if you aren’t interested, why aren’t you doing something that you are interested in? This is the internet; no one will see you leave. If you aren’t interested, may I suggest the Kid President pep talk video? I know you’ve probably seen it already, but it’s still super adorable and inspirational. OK, I’ll shut up and talk about the filming process.

The Torment was filmed in one day (one long 14 hour film session) in a shitty apartment building on Rosemary St. in Chapel Hill, NC. I used to live in the apartment building and had been forced out because they were going to tear the building down and make it into not-shitty apartments. Luckily, my landlady let us use the entire building for filming before it was demolished. It was a micro-budget filmmaker’s dream. Speaking of micro-budget, our budget was so small that we couldn’t afford to pay any crew members. So, to make up for that, we just asked the actors to be crew members. There were a total of four people who participated in the production process from a non-acting stand point (and three of them also acted, me being the only exception). I was the only one with production experience, so I ran the camera (a Canon 60D with a Sigma 17-55 2.8 lens) and lighting (A basic Arri lighting kit with additional soft box setups from Cowboy Studio). I trained Justin Mejia (the co-director), Brooke Hamrick (actress and production assistant), and Rob Priester (lead actor) how to run audio when they weren’t in front of the camera. Audio was recorded with a Sennheiser shotgun mic into a Tascam DR-100. It was a true team effort that was fantastic to be a part of.

Filming a 30 minute film in one 14 hour session is absurd. When I think about it, I still can’t believe we pulled it off. Everyone worked so hard and had such great attitudes that it was one of the greatest filming experiences of my life.

After filming, we had an extremely tight turnaround for post production because we were submitting the film to a local horror film festival. The only thing that is more astounding to me than filming a 30 minute film in one day is editing it in 7 days. I edited the film on Final Cut Pro 7, and did color correction with a Magic Bullet Looks filter.

Filming occurred on a Sunday, and the film was finished the following Sunday. At some point on Wednesday, I realized that 30 minute films need a lot of music. I knew exactly where I needed music and exactly what I wanted, but when you have no budget, you can’t afford music. So, I did the only thing that I thought I could do in such short time. I recorded the score myself (Editors note: one song late in the film and at the end is courtesy of one of Niall’s bands). Necessity is one hell of an inspiration. Using the equipment that I had available (from Atlantic Creative, thank you to them), I recorded the score with my Fender P-Bass on a Peavey practice amp by clipping a Shure Lav mic to the front of the amp and praying for good results. Necessity is one hell of a creator. I would have never made it through that crazy editing week (of which I had to still work my full time job) had Justin Mejia (director, producer, actor, Dead Red Eyes co-founder) not been super supportive and encouraging. Also, he brought me dinner basically every night, which was amazing.

So that’s it; that is the rough story of how The Torment was made. We used the same equipment and software for Alphabet Soup give or take a lens or so. If you have more questions about it, I’d be happy to answer them. If you are thoroughly bored by this, go watch that Kid President pep talk video? Seriously, isn’t that video so good? Anyways, thanks for reading all these words. If you just skimmed this and are now reading these words, but you didn’t read all of the words. Thanks anyways, but not as much.

And remember, the Lord can touch you anywhere, Bryan Reklis