War of the Worlds

Millsworks has a good posting today on the 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles broadcast of 'War of the Worlds'.

Rob also mentions Elia Kazan's terrific picture, 'A Face in the Crowd'. This film is one of the prophetic movies that satirized the popular media and foreshadowed the modern media's love of spectacle (Joe the Plumber). Rob also points out another prophetic film, Network and I would like to add a third (always best to have a trilogy), Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole", also known as "The Big Carnival". Wilder's film is about a Chuck Tatum, a washed up newspaperman who exploits the story of a man trapped in a cave. Instead of helping the man out quickly, Tatum manipulates the situation and turns the site into a media circus. It foreshadows such news outlets like 'Fox News' which seeks to manufacture and manipulate the news it's covering as well as people's opinions of it.

'Ace in the Hole' didn't do well in it's day - it's dark and cynical and most audiences at the time felt it was over the top. Criterion released a great print of the film on dvd.

From IMDB:
When the film was released, it got bad reviews and lost money. The studio, without Billy Wilder's permission, changed the title to "The Big Carnival" to increase the box office take of the film. It didn't work. On top of that, Billy Wilder's next picture Stalag 17 (1953) was a hit and Billy Wilder expected a share of the Stalag 17 (1953)'s profits. Paramount accountants told him that since this picture lost money, the money it lost would be subtracted from the profits of Stalag 17 (1953).



One of my favourite bloggers, Jim Henshaw, has once again lit up his flame thrower and let loose on the Canadian film industry and the critical establishment that seemingly supports it. This time he attacks our industry for it's inability to support films that might actually connect to an audience. We excuse our filmmakers and create some sort of 'artistic' rationale that allows failed writers and directors to make new films that don't represent the actual experiences/feelings of Canadians. And despite what our cultural institutions tell us, our experience isn't much different to the rest of the world. In some sort of bizarre cheer leading, the 'critics' are often pulling their punches and judging our home grown talent with kid gloves.

Jim's article is a frank critical look at Paul Gross's new film Passchendaele. I decided to avoid the film as I gave four hours of my life to the CBC mini-series 'The Trojan Horse', written and directed by Gross. This series, despite some good ideas, fell flat on cliches, absurd situations and lazy story telling. Jim was more adventurous and his article can be read here...

I've often complained that we export most of our great talent. It is exploited in Hollywood as our home grown filmmakers have contributed wonderful films to the canon of great movies. We need to get past the idea that 'entertaining = bad'. 'Citizen Kane' is entertaining. 'The Godfather' is wildly entertaining. We need to change the equation and realize that 'art' and 'entertainment' are not at odds.


New Tools for the Indie Filmmaker

October 19, 2008 from angus giorgi on Vimeo.

Rob Mills sent me a link to the new Canon Digital SLR (EOS 5D Mark II) that is capable of 1080p video at 30 frames per second. What is amazing about this camera is that it uses a 21 megapixel sensor and it gives a filmmaker access to the entire lineup of Canon compatible lenses. The camera isn't perfect and there are complaints that the video runs at 30 fps instead of 24 and it writes the video with H.264 compression (it isn't uncompressed or Raw like the actual photographs). This may be so but many people don't understand the importance of the lens. If you have a cheap lens you'll get a cheap picture. Garbage in, garbage out.

Despite these 'flaws', this new leap forward in image gathering means that more independent filmmakers will have access to high end tools that will put them near equal footing with high end productions. This camera is being sold for $2700 dollars (body only)! Compare this to the 'affordable' Red One camera that sells for $17,500 for the body of the camera. All in on the Red camera, you're looking upwards of $25,000. Red is going to announce a new camera that will retail in the neighbourhood of the Canon price tag. Red One did something brilliant in their design. They decided to ignore the standard formats of video (HD, Ntsc, Pal) and brought out a camera that could capture the video raw and then allow the user to encode the video the way they want. This set them apart from the Hd and HDV cameras as well as the new Canon which does bring it's images in on that wonderfully big 21 megapixel sensor but has to write the video to a standard hd format.

Beyond all this geek talk, 2009 seems to be a year of change for the independent filmmaking community. I've met people that lament this as they like the elitist elements of making movies. What these folks don't really consider is story. No matter how wonderful the tool, the artist needs to have an idea. The pencil has been the most accessible tool for writing but few people are creating great novels or poetry. Still, it helps that the filmmakers have access to a tool that will allow them to create images that will be equal to their creative ideas.

Kudos to Cinematographer Alan Doyle and Editor Angus Giorgi for sharing their footage.


Apparently I'm Speechless...

Lately I've been guilty of excessive amounts of work. I've also been entertained, watching the world swing by.

The show's been good.

The biggest thing on my mind today has been what will happen to American satirical television if Obama wins? These satirists have gorged themselves on the presidency of George W. Bush. And just when you think you couldn't do any better for political humour, along comes Sarah Pailin! Ironically, it's in Jon Stewart's best interest for a McCain/Pailin presidency. As Kenny Banya would say - "it's gold Jerry, gold". Those pinko American liberals should think twice before casting their vote next month as they might be creating an undesirable void in American humour for the next four years...

Consider your vote carefully.