In 500 Words: Dan In Real Life

Can it be that Peter Hedges has done it again? Can it be that this second-time director has, for the second time, made a movie that my mother and I both loved?

Yes. Yes, it can be. And this time around it’s even better than Pieces of April. Dan In Real Life is the best romantic comedy I have ever seen. I know I’m given to superlatives, but this ain’t one of them. I can’t think of a single other film—even along the lines of Happy Accidents or You Kill Me, or any of the classics I was introduced to in my film history class this fall—that works quite so well as a pure romantic comedy. Even Wristcutters, another recent favorite of mine, gets the formula wrong when it comes to romance. Sure, those films all have their merits and they work well on other levels, but often the romance at the core is still too gooey for my taste.

What sets Dan apart is that all the characters are three-dimensional, and none of them are too fragile. Moreover, nobody is overly concerned about the fragility of anyone else. People are self-centered, everyone has flaws, nothing is easy, everything is complicated—in short, it’s like real life.

The problem with a script like this is that you have to be very careful that it doesn’t get too mean, and that in turn means that you have to get the casting right. Well, they got the casting right. Steve Carrell is terrific as Dan (and I’m overjoyed to see him branching out from his usual material—I still think he should have won an Oscar® for Little Miss Sunshine), the three daughters give brilliant performances, the parents are spot-on, as are all the siblings and peripheral family members (did you know that Dane Cook could act? I sure as hell didn’t!). There is not a single performance in the film that I took issue with, and that in itself is difficult enough.

Dan In Real Life is a study in perfection. I don’t mean to apply this word in its bubbly, James Lipton-esque use, but rather as a real, quantifiable critical term. In fact, many of my favorite films are fraught with imperfect elements. Still, perfection is not to be scoffed at; Dan has a perfect script, economical but thorough, and ultimately rewarding. It has perfect casting. It has perfect timing. It has perfect editing, and even a perfect soundtrack. To be fair, ‘perfection’ usually means that fewer risks were taken, and granted, I would be loath to describe any aspect of Dan as ‘risky.’ But so what? Not every film has to challenge the boundaries of cinema, or make its audience question basic underlying beliefs. Some movies can just be fun. And when I get to see an advice columnist’s teenage daughter, tears streaming down her face, stand up and scream across the lawn at her father, “YOU ARE A MURDERER OF LOVE!” yes, I’m having fun.

[rate 4.5]

Merry Christmas: World Peace, Ltd.

Merry Christmas from us and ours to you and yours. Time to worship at the altar of the sub-par Christmas-themed short film!

World Peace, Ltd.
World Peace, Ltd., a ghost of Christmas past.

This one was mostly not my fault, by the way.

Moving Portraits redux: the prints

A few weeks ago (what? Only four days ago? Whatever…) I posted about my final project in photo class, wherein I photographed people I had previously directed in films using a 16mm movie camera and planned on printing selected frames in the darkroom (that was a tremendously convoluted sentence, but it’s finals right now, so this is me until Friday. It’s best to just smile and nod and pretend not to notice when I start inverting my sentence structures and referring to my Ideation and Process class as “Team Hitler.”)

Anyways, after a marathon, ten-hour darkroom session on Sunday after which I could barely stand, I am now finished making the prints! And because I’ve got nothing more important to do right now, I’m posting them here! (Click the thumbnails to see larger images)

Ethan on 16mmGreg on 16mmMikhail on 16mmPaul & Mikhail on 16mmPaul on 16mmParker on 16mmRic on 16mm
Rosalie on 16mm (multiple frames)Rosalie on 16mm (single frame)Arin on 16mm

These are scans of the prints (11×14″ archival fiber-based gelatin silver prints). Unfortunately the scans don’t really do them justice. The actual prints have a beautiful luster and gorgeous fine detail in the blacks which didn’t transfer well to the digital files.

With a few exceptions, these are combination enlargement/contact prints. I see them as a great proof-of-concept and it really is true that the minute frame-to-frame variations offer a wealth of options for printing (and are just plain interesting in their own right). There are still a few technical issues to work out, however. I had some problems with dust and, because negative sleeves for 16mm film just don’t exist, I had to improvise storage containers and was constantly afraid of scratching my negatives. Because I had to work with larger-than-ideal 35mm negative carriers, the edges of the enlargements tended to fall out of focus. Most maddeningly, though, was that when I wanted to print a full-page enlargement I had to move the enlarger head and baseboard so far apart that I couldn’t turn the focus knob and look in the focusing scope at the same time, making the act of focusing exceedingly nerve-wracking. Still, I’m not done with 16mm photography. I plan on exploring it further, and possibly even delving into 8mm photography.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this, but I am absolutely totally deeply in love with darkroom work. So much so that you can expect me to wax lyrical on the subject in a post here once things at school have cooled off.

Moving Portraits

Just thought I’d share a sort vaguely of film-related tidbit: I decided that for my final project in photography class this semester I was going to take a series of portraits using my new Krasnogorsk K-3 16mm motion picture camera and enlarge them (the theory being that if I shoot 30 seconds of a person at 24 frames per second, that gives me 720 individual frames and a chance to choose between minute differences in pose and facial expression). Since I was going to be back in Colorado over Thanksgiving, I chose as my subject matter actors who I have directed in the past, as I felt this brings in an interesting and direct connection to the non-traditional process and medium being used.

My Krasnogorsk (pronounced “Krag-Norsky”) K-3

So I shot 200 feet of 7222 (Double-X) black-and-white negative film and sent it off to Maryland to have it processed and transferred to tape (I needed the tape since it would be incredibly impractical to make contact sheets for 8,000 frames of film).

Then, when I got the film back from the lab yesterday I went into the editing room here at MCAD and loaded it on the old Moviola flatbed editing table (or rather pleaded for help from the other advanced film majors in the room until one of them loaded it for me) and ran through the whole reel, snipping out the bits that I thought would make good prints). It was my first time using such a thing and I was terrified of it, but I eventually sort of got the hang of it, despite the general consensus that it was sort of broken and not doing quite what it was supposed to (placed as it is directly next to a Mac Pro digital edit station with a 50-inch plasma screen, the Moviola here sees very little use).

I fiddle with the Moviola

Anyway, I thought I’d post the transfer video file here for people to watch since some of those who are regular readers were photographed, and besides it’s just kinda cool (and the first film I’d ever shot with the K-3, which performed marvelously). It starts out with some stuff I shot outdoors at MCAD including a couple people out walking their dogs, but moves quickly onto my makeshift sweep in Colorado:

Click here to watch the transfer.

Dispatches from a Distant Place

Got back to the grind this afternoon.
Darn near ground my bones to dust.
Stayed up all night thrashing and clanging
in a symphony of blessed distraction.
Because when you’re busy you can’t be afraid,
And sometimes that’s the best that can be done.

Got back to the grind this afternoon.
Ground out three of these and two of those,
And half a dozen of the other.
It is not as cold here as everyone assumes.
Life goes on.
I’m thinking of you.

Plot outline for the unwritable script for the unfilmable film: THE FUTURE (Starting Tomorrow Evening at 8:14 PM)

Happy birthday, me!

  1. Jimmy Carter hangs himself in his Georgia home.
  2. Initial attempts to keep his cause of death quiet fail when it leaks that it was a suicide.
  3. There is a media circus.
  4. We all forget about the writers’ strike.
  5. The White House is put in an unenviable position due to the antagonistic remarks they had made about Carter in the past.
  6. Some speculate that the White House Press Secretary’s comment that Carter was growing “increasingly irrelevant” had been the direct cause of the suicide.
  7. Conspiracy theorists say Carter was killed for making too much noise about the policies of the current administration.
  8. The Democrats all start feeling sorry for themselves.
  9. They lose the 2008 presidential election to… Tom Tancredo!
  10. By his second term in 2014, all the bees in North America are dead and Manchester United wins the World Cup.
  11. Meanwhile, somewhere in Southeast Asia, a butterfly forgets to flap its wings and two hurricanes run into each other.
  12. For an encore, Barack Obama says something nice about President Tancredo and gets beaten to death by an angry mob of shoe manufacturers.
  13. It turns out that it wasn’t Jimmy Carter after all, but just a body double.
  14. The real Jimmy carter is living in a Yurt in Argentina (he herds goats for a living, but he has a bad hip).
  15. After that, things get kind of strange.
  16. Thailand, which has been keeping pretty much to itself for the past few decades, turns out to have been amassing an enormous military, and it conquers China.
  17. This really freaks out Japan, not to mention North Korea.
  18. President Tancredo, isolationist that he is, is at a loss (as you can imagine).
  19. Pakistan takes charge of the situation by nuking the hell out of Bolivia.
  20. This sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately leads to the deaths of millions, and also the scuffed elbow of a turkey farmer in Utah (who knew such stupid birds could be so violent?).
  21. Then there’s the grizzly bear that gets elected governor of Vermont in 2021 (it’s a fiscal conservative).
  22. Unfortunately, it is assassinated mere months into its term when hunting season starts, and it’s accused of eating the neighbors’ cats.
  23. But the lieutenant governor is an ocelot! (Which in itself is extraordinary, as one would imagine that bears and ocelots are natural enemies.)
  24. Then Vice President Guliani gets eaten by a pack of feral dachshunds.
  25. The New York Times headline the next day reads: AMERICA IS GOING TO THE DOGS.
  26. Bill O’Reillly gets so excited that he poops himself live on the air.
  27. Then, using a clever marketing strategy, Wal*Mart conquers Spain.
  28. Portugal, startled by this militant form of capitalism, turns socialist and launches itself into space.
  29. Several days later, France surrenders to Circuit City and Poland announces that it is now a major retail chain.
  30. The pressure that this corporatization places on the global economy completely devalues the dollar, the euro and the yen, forcing all major industrialized countries to adopt the buttermilk pancake as a unit of currency.
  31. IHOP shareholders rejoice.
  32. In the middle of the Mojave Desert in California, a bee the approximate size and shape of a league-regulation football sets off on a long voyage to Las Vegas, to find fame and fortune as a lounge singer.
  33. It is hit and killed by a dairy truck driving at full tilt to the national treasury.
  34. Geologists in Panama announce the discovery of a finite and non-renewable but very large deposit of naturally-occurring banana pudding beneath the ocean floor.
  35. Unfortunately, it went sour in 1997.
  36. Pundits decide that somehow this is all because of Communism.
  37. China fires back with accusations that the capitalist nations of the world have conspired to restrict the world supply of hush puppies.
  38. When asked why China has such an intense need for hush puppies, the Chinese ambassador to Argentina quickly and quietly resigns.
  39. Seeing the Chinese embassy in Buenos Aires thrown into turmoil, the Lizard People choose this moment to strike.
  40. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg reveals herself to be a giant iguana (and also a terrific ballroom dancer).
  41. Strangely, nobody seems to notice or care.
  42. Freely and without coercion, an aging David Bowie admits to a concert audience that he’s actually been a robot since 1971.
  43. Bowie’s next album, My Strange Insane Robot Brain, disappoints glam rock fogeys worldwide when, rather than being nominated for a Grammy®, it is instead eaten by a pack of feral dachshunds (same).
  44. Al Gore calls a press conference to announce to the world that, due to some oversight, he is still alive (and has been since 1948)
  45. An eventful year follows when the influenza virus discovers both fire and the wheel, within weeks of each other.
  46. This discovery sets the world of science alight (sometimes literally).
  47. In a tragedy of untold proportions, the People’s Republic of Portugal burns up on reentry.
  48. Jimmy Carter (he’s still alive?), cranky old bastard that he has become, merely points and laughs until he is knocked over and eaten by goats.
  49. “Bland and stringy,” report the goats, “but better than Walter Mondale.”
  50. IS THIS THE END FOR JIMMY CARTER!? Tune in next week to find out!

Because haikus are too damn long…

Even Jesus
Was born screaming.

12/17 of a haiku

Brevity is the…
Brevity is the soul of…

Happy Birthday to Me!/I live in a tree!/I eat Chinese dumplings/And I'm covered in fleas!

Hey, waddaya know! I’m turning 20 tomorrow! You know what would be a really great gift? Money.

But seeing as you’re all cheapskates, I’ve taken the initiative and am giving myself a birthday present: As a change of pace for this blog, for the next couple days I’ll be posting creative writing of various types that I’ve done in the past. I don’t have a regular venue for posting such things, and I think it’s high time that some of this ridiculous vitriol see the light of day.

I think I’ll start out today with a little poem that I wrote not long ago (yeah, I know! Me!? Poem!? WHAAAA–!?) The truth is that very rarely do I delve into poetry (and when I do, the results are either not pretty or incredibly concise), but every once in a while I get the urge to scratch something out in my notebook.

I should preface this poem by saying that Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets and I love his poem “Nightclub,” but I just thought there was some point of contention within it, so I wrote this in response:

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER POET LAUREATE BILLY COLLINS RE: “NIGHTCLUB”

Dear Mr. Collins:

You listen to boring music.

Very truly yours,
Andrew Gingerich

16 Heads publicity stills!

Hey, looky what I’ve got! Publicity stills for several people involved in 16 Heads and Counting that I shot over Thanksgiving! And then scanned into the computer!

On a related note, the Nikon Coolscan 8000 is my new best friend. It scans film up to 6cm wide at up to 4,000 dpi! How cool is that? (And it’s a testament to MCAD’s policies that someone like myself who has never even thought about using a film scanner before can just sidle into the service bureau and start pushing buttons.)

Anyway, I’ve got press kit photos for Ric, Rosalie, Ethan and myself based on the theme of… you guessed it… BLOOD! Here are the four I wound up choosing (click on the thumbnails to view them larger):

Ric Ney as AntonyRosalie Robinson as FranEthan Holbrook: the mind behind the madnessAndrew Gingerich directed it

I hope to get the rest of these portraits done in December.

And here, for your amusement, are some other good stills:

Ric dramaticRic straight-onRic fallingRosalie evilRosalie hornsEthan close-upAndrew full-bodyAndrew crazy grinAndrew bloody hand

If anyone would like prints of any of the super-cool pictures here, have I got a deal for you! I will be doing a limited run of these photos as 11×14 gelatin-silver prints on glossy fiber-based paper, and you can have one for a mere $40! And if you want more than one, I’m sure we can work out some sort of discount! They make really creepy Christmas gifts! Or, if you’d prefer something a little cheaper (or in color so you can see the red, red blood in those three earlier pictures), I can do high-quality inkjet prints ranging in size from 8×10 to 17×22 for only $20 each! Surprise your parents with a picture of Fran holding a bloody knife! Or me with a stupid grin on my face! e-mail me before December 13th to get your order in.

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