Diary of a Mad Filmmaker: Quality Souls, Discount Prices

“Hi. I’m Stan McReynolds and I’m here to tell you about Wholesale Souls, Incorporated. Quality souls at discount prices. We pride ourselves in the quality of our souls.

“If you’d like to make spare money, you can make a lot selling your soul. Since we’re a wholesaler rather than a retailer, more of the profits go to you.

“Souls are valuable investment items. Souls have made great gains in value over the past decade, and promise to in the future. Many investors agree that souls make a great part of any long-term or short-term portfolio.

“And after you sell your soul, you can still lead a perfectly normal life.”

And after you sell your soul, you can still lead a perfectly normal life.

You can still lead a perfectly normal life.

A perfectly.

Normal.

Life.

“So the next time you want to buy or sell souls, think about Wholesale Souls, Incorporated.”

Help! I'm being eaten!

As evidence that I’m not being overly whiny about movie scheduling and that I really AM being eaten alive, I submit exhibit A, a screenshot of my iCal for next week. Green entries are school-related, and purple entries are film-related (click for a larger view):

Being eaten by Wholesale Souls, Inc.

Thank you for your pity.

Wrapping it all up and rapdily going insane

OK, here’s the deal with the movie. This may be a rather long post, because I’m trying to figure out for myself how I’m going to get all this done (but I will, don’t worry!).

Today I’ll be shooting another scene with Elephant A. Antibody, an unusual chap who shows up in a hospital around the start of the third reel. In the scene we’re shooting today, he gets thrown off a bridge by a blind person. This would be easy if we had all the necessary permits and a construction budget or a wire rig, but we don’t. So I’m not sure how we’ll do this (but we will, don’t worry!).

Then tomorrow evening, I’m grabbing the last few shots I need from the living legend Stan McReynolds (also playing a character by that name—but as far as I know, the real-life Stan McReynolds is NOT the devil incarnate). This will actually be pretty easy (Because I’m saying that now, this part will invariably be the most difficult to get done).

I’ll be editing Friday, Taking Saturday off to go see Garrison Keillor (yay!) and then I’m going to get all the screen close-ups, document shots, and location shots on Sunday. After that, I’ll be getting the last scenes with James (played by the incomprehensible Gregory Ley) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then I’ll be shooting another final scene bit with an as-yet uncast character. After that it’s a bunch of ADR and sound mixing and image grading and polishing and such, and then I’ll pop in the music (and I WILL have some, don’t worry!)(and I’m sure it’ll be good!) and then the movie is DONE! FINITO! AND GOOD RIDDANCE!

At this point the end is in sight and it looks like it’ll be in about two weeks. Which is a good thing because graduation is the 27th of this month and I need to premiere the film before or very soon after in order to get a good-sized audience.

But in the meantime I’ll be slaving away with only one monitor. That’s right, my primary 19-inch flat panel is on the fritz, banishing me back to a single-monitor setup with a fuzzy 15-inch CRT and effectively cutting my desktop real estate in half. NOTE TO SELF: NEVER buy an off-brand monitor.

Anyway, you can expect to hear about the PREMIERE in a few weeks and a couple weeks after that the DVD will be available online. And I am SOOOOO ready to be done with this thing. I’ve been working on it for more than a year now and I’M SICK OF IT!!!

In 500 Words: Brazil

PREFACE: This is another review I wanted to get around to writing because I’d been so eager to see this film, and now I have. Again, the review is exactly 500 words. Count them if you don’t believe me. No movie news right now, but things are a-happenin’, so expect an update by tomorrow afternoon. And now, without further ado:

Brazil is a classic of modern cinema and perhaps the best film to emerge from the pop-culture hell that was the 1980’s, but you’ll hate it if you watch it for the story.

I’ll admit it: I LOVE Terry Gilliam’s films. I would be the first to be a Terry Gilliam apologist, if there was anything to apologize for (except for Brothers Grimm; there was no excuse for that). What Gilliam does exceptionally well is craft a completely immersive world. That world is what Brazil is all about; the story here is merely a device with which to show us the world Gilliam creates. And of all his films, Brazil is Gilliam’s most ambitious.

Set in a place described only as “somewhere in the 20th century,” we can immediately discern (based on several large explosions and militaristic police operations towards the front of the film) that there are a number of things that have gone horribly wrong in this society. More unsettling, however, are the little glitches—the things that are just a bit off. The elevators tend to stop a foot or two shy of their intended destination. Once-beautiful architecture is now attacked from all sides by tangles of ductwork. The plastic surgeon stretches the woman’s face just a bit too far—and himself appears to be made entirely of plastic.

What I love about the grotesque society presented in this film is that it is so obviously and unabashedly a comment on our own society: bureaucracy, plastic surgery, even thermostat repair—all taken to their absolute extremes. What we are offered here is an objective view of our own madness. One of my favorite moments of the film is during a chase scene in which the police (the “bad guys”) crash their vehicle, which explodes into a fireball. Our protagonist celebrates this victory with excited whoops—until one of the “bad guys” opens the door of the burning vehicle, staggers out, his clothes on fire, and dies in the street. In that moment, Gilliam unleashes on his audience a tremendous gotcha—calling us out on our lust for wanton destruction and our desire to see the protagonist prevail at any cost. There are precious few moments like this in cinema, and this one is to be particularly cherished because it is impossible to anticipate, nor does the film dwell on it afterwards. It is merely presented to us as evidence that we are implicit in what we see on screen.

Add to this the fantastic visual style of Terry Gilliam and absolutely stunning special effects that still hold up after twenty-one years and you get a film that is a feast for the eyes and mind and you get a film that is wonderful to watch, if you’re prepared for it. You need to go in prepared to be stimulated, not entertained. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to every frame and you will have a film experience not paralleled before or since.

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