December 20, 2013

Michael Buble And Ben Aaron Have A Holly Jolly Bromance

Two of my favorite things, Michael Buble and WNBC's Ben Aaron, got together this week to promote Buble's annual holiday TV special and it looked like the beginning of a beautiful bromance.

I've written on here before about the gangly charms of Mr. Aaron and his genially goofy nature. Well it all served as a perfect complement to Buble's cool-dude vibe as the talked crooning and got along like brand new BFFs. Buble even got Aaron all giggly a couple times. They cracked wise about Christmas and chatted about each other's unique physiques, with Aaron lamenting his concave chest as Buble complimented his slim looks while comparing him to Andrew Garfield, adding that "if I looked like you I would be naked for this interview." Whoa--if only HBO did these sort of promos! ;)

In the end, they even posed together for a shared holiday greeting card with somewhat deranged expressions. I hope this holiday bromance lasts past the season and the promotional efforts for Buble's special. These two were not only adorable together but a lot of fun too!

December 19, 2013

The MPAA In Another Ratings Controversy With G.B.F.


This week a friend of mine's feature film G.B.F., a new high school comedy by Darren Stein, was given an R rating by the MPAA despite the fact that there are no F-bombs in the film and no nudity. The rating was for "sexual references", most of which you can catch on any TV-14 shows on a given night of television. However, the real reason behind this ratings is the MPAA's long-standing unofficial policy of "Instant R" for any film that has leading characters who happen to be gay. I know this from many industry meetings about feature projects of my own that have struggled with financing due to this situation that has unfortunately been around for decades.

Darren took to Facebook to protest the rating and the MPAA's bias against gay stories and characters. Many people were shocked to hear about it and it started a lively discussion in the comments which has now transferred to Gawker, which picked up the story yesterday with a more detailed dissection of exactly what is and isn't in Darren's film. When compared to most PG-13 high school comedies, G.B.F. seems to warrant that level of rating. Its absurd that a film about teens and meant for teens is not able to be watched by the majority of teens simply because there are gay characters. A similar situation happened with the doc BULLY last year .

Darren has been encouraged to appeal the rating but such an appeal is expensive for an indie film and is also no guarantee of a rating change with the incredibly secretive MPAA. But it would at least send a message that as filmmakers, we are not going to take this sort of discrimination anymore when it comes to the restrictive rating simply because characters are gay or lesbian.

December 18, 2013

Columbia Student Film Enters National Film Registry

Today's headline over at the Hollywood Reporter notes that PULP FICTION and MARY POPPINS made the cut of this year's 25 new entries into the National Film Registry. Each year the Library of Congress designates a new group of films for preservation as "culturally, historically, aesthetically significant.

But for me the real news was that Adam Davidson's classic student short THE LUNCH DATE, shot when he was at Columbia's film school in 1989, also made the cut. I don't know if this film has been seen much outside of film schools but it did win the Oscar for short film in 1990.

This was probably one of the first short films I saw as a grad student at NYU and it was really an instant classic. Beautifully shot in black and white at Grand Central Station, it tells a simple and nearly soundless story of a woman and a homeless man who end up on an unexpected "date". It really impressed on me the nature of visual storytelling as I was transitioning from being a writer to a filmmaker. Here it is below if you want to check it out.

December 12, 2013

The STAR WARS Holiday Special Gets Dissected Live

Last night, I went to the Parkside Lounge where the podcasters behind THE STAR WARS MINUTE, Alex Robinson and Pete The Retailer, took on the bastard stepchild of the SW franchise; the infamous STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Their 2-hour live podcast took apart the "special" which was essentially a variety program that aired on CBS just before Thanksgiving in 1978 (pre-empting THE HULK and WONDER WOMAN!) and was considered a critical disaster even though it got a respectable audience of about 13 million people...which is not too shabby for a Saturday night in the pre-cable era.

If you haven't seen it, you can watch the entire special online at Daily Motion. But be warned... it is extremely slow going and very bizarre. During the live podcast last night, Alex Robinson referred to the opening 20 minutes as a sort of "weird performance art piece" where only Wookie is spoken. The episode centers around Chewbacca's family on their home planet as they wait for Chewie to return for something called Life Day. When humanoids appear, it's in the form of short cameos by the SW gang; Luke (looking heavily made up post-car accident), Leia, Han, and even Darth Vader (in a clip swiped from the first movie and repurposed for the show).

But the true strangeness is the special guest stars--Harvey Korman in multiple "comic" roles, Art Carney as a local trader and Bea Arthur as a sassy barkeep at the alien cantina from STAR WARS. But wait there's more--Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship do a couple strange songs too. The one element the bloggers agreed was actually good was an animated short about halfway through that introduces Boba Fett. And it is pretty cool looking filled with trippy, 70s style animation of the familiar characters and some snappy dialogue as well. The rest, however, is pretty embarrassing and had little involvement by George Lucas, who basically licensed the characters for this one time outing which never aired again and still remains commercially unavailable. But thanks to the Internets, it lives on to baffle and amuse people to this day. Merry Christmas!

December 10, 2013

NBC Planning New Musicals After SOUND Success

NBC got a blockbuster audience of nearly 19 million people to watch the live broadcast of a musical last week. Given those spectacular numbers, they are already planning to do it again next holiday season. There's an article in today's TIMES saying that they've been getting lots of suggestions and have already narrowed it down to a few choices.

Though there was a cacophony of criticism about Carrie Underwood's performance as Maria, I just think it's great they are bringing the musical form back to television. I've always believed there is so much talent in New York theatre that could be presented in this way--hey, it worked pretty well in the 1950s and introduced stars like James Dean and Paul Newman to a national audience. In fact, SOUND OF MUSIC did the exact same thing with Audra McDonald last week.

Mainly known in NYC as an amazing actor/singer/Tony winner, Ms. McDonald is now a national treasure with her showcasing as Mother Superior last Thursday night.  It was a remarkable performance which was easily the highlight of the show and, during one of their songs together, actually made Carrie Underwood even better in her role (as many bloggers and critics have noted). I have seen her many times here in the city, most memorably in one of her first roles in CAROUSEL, and she is a truly incredible talent who deserves more attention on the national stage.

December 6, 2013

Hi-Fi Bri Hits Post Number 1,000 -- The Evil Selfie

After nearly 5 years, I hit my thousandth post here on Hi-Fi Bri today. This started as a daily writing practice in 2009 and though it's not always "daily," it has become something else with more than 6,000 unique hits a month!

So...to celebrate today's 1,000th post, I've got this awesomely evil selfie from none other than Darth Vader. His rare moment of vanity is actually the first post from the new STAR WARS Instragram that Disney has started to promote the sequels to the classic film which are due out in 2015.

As it turns out, Lord Vader was onto something this week as evil (or at least somewhat questionable) selfies were trending strangely enough. There was a flurry of media coverage, social and otherwise, over two incidents in which people took selfies in un-selfie like situations. The first involved a celebrity; Josh Romney, Mitt's son. While driving home, he watched a car wreck and helped saved the passengers. But then he took a smiling shot in front of the wreck. In the same way his father didn't understand the hubbub over his dinner party comments, the younger Romney also didn't get all the fuss.

The other selfie-shocker happened here in NYC. A man was on the Brooklyn Bridge threatening to jump when a woman in Brooklyn Bridge Park took a selfie with the man in the background. Fortunately the man was talked down from the bridge, but the woman was never fully identified as once she realized her faux pas quickly disappeared. This didn't stop the post from putting her on the front page and shame her selfie-ish behavior. LOL.

December 4, 2013

New Mickey Mouse Short Before FROZEN Is Amazing


There has been a lot of buzz about the new Disney animated film FROZEN, a musical about two princesses/sisters living in an enchanted land. Though it sounds like classic Disney, it is but with a modern twist (actually two!) which really take this out of the standard Disney-formula and make it really something special. It's one of the most enjoyable, entertaining and moving films the studio has released in many years.

But make sure when you go to see it to get to the theatre early. Not just to get a good seat but to see the new animated short that precedes the film called GET A HORSE. This Mickey Mouse curtain-warmer looks like something from the Disney vaults circa 1930. But it's actually a brand new film created by not one but two teams of Disney animators; one group recreated the classic Mickey look from that time period (B&W with a boxy frame and a very bouncy-style animation) while the second group did the 3-D work.  They even found some old recordings of Walt's voice to use for Mickey!

Now you may be wondering how an old-school short would have 3D but that's the true surprise and the real joy of this film which, I believe, is the most effective (and realistic!) use of 3D animation since the new process took off a few years ago with AVATAR. To say more would be to spoil the fun but this little short almost steals the thunder from FROZEN...almost. It's not nearly as touching and beautiful as that film but incredibly clever and hilarious too.

December 3, 2013

Paul Walker Movie HOURS Has Prophetic Tag Line


Over the weekend, actor Paul Walker died in a car accident. His death was a great shock to his fans and the Hollywood community in general. Though known for his roles in the FAST/FURIOUS films, Walker was trying to break out of that franchise and had recently completed two original features in which he had leading roles.

One of them is a film about a father trying to save his daughter during Hurricane Katrina called HOURS. The film was set for release next week and, despite Walkers untimely death, the producers have decided to keep to that schedule. What is truly strange though is the tag line of the film; "Every Second Counts". The poster was released over the summer and the distributor is not changing it for the release of the film. 

Walker was currently in production on the seventh film in the FF series. The producers of that film have decided to keep working on it, though it's unclear how they will deal with Walker's death as shooting was about halfway complete. The TIMES ArtBeat blog has an interesting item today with more details on the delicate nature of producing and releasing these posthumous films.  

November 22, 2013

HOUSE OF PAIN Super8 Film Now In HD On Vimeo

Last spring, in preparation for my B.C. class reunion, I got my Super8 films out of storage and had them digitized (finally) with a glorious HD transfer. I was hoping to somehow screen them at the reunion but then I ended up moving apts for the first time in about 20 years that same month. So I didn't have time to edit the transfers, get the sound in order, and output them.  Cut to a few months later and I've finally settled into the new place ... and I've had time to finish this project!

Today this new HD version of HOUSE OF PAIN is available for viewing on my Vimeo Plus page. This film was a wonderful collaboration with my fellow "History of European Cinema" classmate and good friend Donnamarie Floyd. We were given the option to do an AV project for our final instead of a 20-page paper and we looked at each other and were both like "hells yeah!" So we decided on a spoof of German Expressionism, a style that included classic films we loved like NOSFERATU and THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (from which we stole borrowed various elements). And we found the perfect scary location for it all--our infamous, off-campus apartment building nicknamed The House of Pain.  Donnamarie agreed to star on camera, I did the shooting/editing and the rest is Super8 history, as they say.

The transfer to HD was done by the good folks at Legacy Digital in California, referred to me by fellow filmmaker Jim Fall.  The great thing about this place is that they not only cleaned the original film but actually did not use a projector for the transfer; instead each frame is scanned digitally and the results were really great with none of the distortion that the old VHS version had. Our budget for the original film was $60(!) but this new transfer cost more than 4x that. Thus, on the Vimeo page there is a little "tip jar" button for donations at the bottom of the screen to help offset that as well as hosting it on Vimeo Plus in HD. So please give a little if you can and I hope you enjoy the film--I've had a lot of fun working on it and getting it out again into the digital realm. Enjoy! 


November 20, 2013

Selling Off The Remains Of Blockbuster On Craigslist

Blockbuster video recently closed all its remaining stores in the US after a 20 year plus run in the home video business. There is a strange story on Gizmodo about how many of those outlets have been placing items from the stores on Craigslist in an effort to liquidate the chains remaining assets. There are some standard items for sale (DVD cases 200 for $20) and some less than standard items (the spinning wheel pictured below?!) but all going for a song...relatively speaking.

I have to admit that there is some schadenfreude at work here in mine and other's interest/glee in this story. Though I miss the video store experience in general (Kims' Video RIP) I was never a Blockbuster fan as their selection was generally awful: 30 copies of LOOK WHO'S TALKING 2 and 0 copies of any title of interest. And on top of it were all those late fees that made the company millions when they were the king of the home video world. With all that ill will, I'm not sure if they're going to find a lot of takers for their leftover merch and swag. But on Craigslist, anything is possible.

November 19, 2013

The "Wonders" Of Old Movie Palaces In Queens And Brooklyn

One of my favorite movie-related blogs, Scouting NY, has an incredible post up this week about the old Paramount movie palace in downtown Brooklyn that was converted to a student center for Long Island University. Though the school turned the main auditorium space into a basketball court/gym, they also retained a great deal of the decorative features of the grand lobby and the ornate lounges. There are some remarkable before/after photos on the post which compare the grand luxury of the Paramount back in the day, to its more low-key quirkiness today. But some of the details, like etched mirrors and face casts on the ceiling, are very cool to see....mainly for the fact they are still there!

In a previous post this year, ScoutingNY took a Sunday afternoon tour of another repurposed movie palace on Jamaica Avenue in Queens. It was actually one of the five Loew's Wonder theaters in NY/NJ, all of which have remarkably survived. I have been to the one in Jersey City across from the PATH train which was pretty impressive. But this one takes the ornate-cake. It's Spanish-Moorish theming is totally over the top and has been completely preserved as it was when the theatre was in its heydey. The reason is that it was donated to a church group which regularly has services in the auditorium which holds 3,000-plus people. The photos are really incredible and reminded me of the Tampa Theatre in Florida (where I screened WTC VIEW and POOL DAYS) which has the same faux-Spanish village open-to-the-sky feeling inside. 

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see films in such a luxurious setting. Maybe even bad movies would have seemed good!  :)  Regardless, it would certainly have been an improvement over today's generic stadium-seating boxes. 

November 18, 2013

Stars Sings Showtunes At Marie's Crisis

Darren Criss was in and around town all week, spotted first at the Lady Gaga "rave" last Sunday, and then a couple days later in one of my favorite West Village haunts, old school piano bar Marie's Crisis. It was there that he took to the ivories and played "A Whole New World" from Disney's ALADIN as he sang along with Broadway star Lea Salonga. Quite a duet for a weeknight at Maries!

I have been there to witness other film/TV folks, singing (Heather Mattzarazzo, Parker Posey), but Darren Criss would have been amazing because he is so damn cute/talented. I'd seen him play guitar (famously) but didn't even know he plays piano too--and is pretty good at that. It's moments like these there should be some sort of gay bat signal to call me back to the Village for a bit of showtuning with the stars!

November 15, 2013

HBO's New Series LOOKING Stars AUGUST's Murray Bartlett

The official trailer went online today for the new HBO series LOOKING and it is looking good. I'm especially excited about the show as it stars Murray Bartlett, one of the leads from the feature AUGUST that I co-wrote with Eldar Rappaport. So it was very exciting to see him in the first shot of the trailer (and the promo image too!) as part of what looks to be a breakthrough show for the depiction of gay men on TV.

Though it's been informally referred to as "the gay GIRLS", the show seems like it will have quite a different tone and take given the creative team behind it. Andrew Haigh whose feature WEEKEND was one of the indie highlights of 2011, is directing with San Franciso-based filmmaker Travis Matthews whose infamous short I WANT YOUR LOVE and then feature with James Franco INT.LEATHER BAR pushed the boundaries for depictions of gay sex and intimacy in indie films.

LOOKING premieres on Sunday January 19th and will follow GIRLS when that show returns for Season 3 in January. I may just have to finally sign up for cable too and stop watching HBO GO at my friends houses to support this new show.  :)  "Looking" forward to it!

November 13, 2013

Fanboy Podcast Looks At STAR WARS, Minute By Minute

I recently discovered an unusual podcast which started back in June and, since then, has been doing daily episodes which examine the original STAR WARS film, minute by minute. The show is hosted by two self-professed SW super-geeks, Alex Robinson and Pete The Retailer. For each episode, they have a guest host who joins in a discussion in which they go over one minute of the film with a geeky microscope, talking about fan theories, SW trivia and cracking jokes too.

I listened to minute 116 which was a precise dissection of the moment in which Luke fires his mysterious photon torpedoes (or were they heat seeking cruise-style missiles?) into the Death Star causing it's spectacular destruction. I learned that this is not called the Battle of the Death Star but the Battle of Yavin (after the planet the Death Star nearly eliminates). Also, there was much citing of something called the Wookie-Pedia, which is a complete and incredibly detailed online glossary of all thing SW.

I thought I was a STAR WARS fan with a decent knowledge of the original trilogy and behind-the- scenes stuff. But these guys take it to a entirely different level. One of the hosts, I believe it was Pete, says he saw the original film about 35 times when it first came out in 1977, spending many afternoons at the multiplex watching it over and over. [I actually remember getting into a fight with my parents when I wanted to go see it a second time, which they considered to be a waste of money since I had already seen it!] Anyway, the podcast will end this week at minute 119 (skipping the 2 minutes of credits). They may move on to the next two films but no official word yet -- you can check their Facebook page for updates.

November 12, 2013

NYC Cops Have Keystone Moment With Broadway Bomb



I came across this hilarious viral video recently of the NYPD trying to arrest skateboarders during the  Broadway Bomb. The Bomb is a 8 mile skateboard excursion down Broadway from Columbia University down to the Battery.

Of course, the police were not too happy about this and tried to set up a sort of moving dragnet on the Upper West Side in hopes of netting some of the renegade boarders. But as the video shows to humorous effect, it didn't quite work out as planned. Though the theme music here is Benny Hill which is pretty appropriate this reminded me more of the old Keystone Cops movies from the Silent Era, which were not sped up intentionally but were faster due to a lower frame rate in those days of 18 frames a second.

Anyway, in the end, police issued about 35 summons in the end for a group that was estimated at 1,500 skaters.

November 11, 2013

New Book Features Hollywood Stars In Gorgeous Kodachrome

There are many actors like Errol Flynn and Gregory Peck who we are used to seeing in black and white. But a new book about Hollywood's transition to color, specifically to that electric brand of high contrast color known as Kodachrome, is out which features some glorious color shots of those and other actors like Danny Kaye and Marlene Dietrich.

David Wills new book HOLLYWOOD IN KODACHROME has more than 200 photos like this which show us these and other actors in living color (as they used to say). Doesn't Peck look absolutely charming in that red turtleneck? While Flynn looks downright sexy and almost contemporary (Ryan Gosling-esque?) in his dapper suit.

The book was featured recently on Vanity Fair's Hollywood blog along with 14 other shots from the book, including people like Cary Grant and even Ronald Reagan. It conjures up the height of the glamour during the studio system heyday of the 1940s, a era that I am espeically fond of when it comes to the films themselves. Thus, I am adding this to my Amazon Wish List in advance of the holidays (HINT).

November 8, 2013

One Of the MALTESE FALCON's Is Up For Auction

One of the original Maltese Falcon's from the classic film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart, is up for auction today. This Falcon, which is made of resin and weighs only about 5 pounds, was used during filming when Bogart or others had to carry the statue as the two main Falcon's were made of lead and weighed nearly 50 pounds. This lighter bird was also used in the iconic publicity photos for the film with Bogie and the bird.

This falcon was discovered at a NJ yard sale back in 1991 by a film producer who noted the Warner Brother's serial number on the bottom and set out to research its provenance. High resolutions scans of the press photos and of the bird in question showed similar bubbles in the plastic which confirmed the authenticity, along with some interviews with people who worked on the film who were still alive.

If you're interested, the bird will probably go for a cool half million. Not bad for a legendary hunk of plastic!

November 7, 2013

The LES Goes Back To Its Past, Courtesy Steven Soderberg

I saw this remarkable picture on Twitter yesterday, shared by the Bedford & Bowery Blog (there are a few more shots on their site as well). This is not a Hollywood set but the actual corner of Orchard and Broome Street, redressed with hay and dirt to look like New York City circa 1900. All this effort was done for a new miniseries that Steven Soderberg is directing about the Knickerbocker Hospital, entitled THE KNICKS. The show is about doctors and nurses at the hosptial and the then-revolutionary treatments they used in an era of disease and high mortality rates.

It's amazing they went to this all effort to recreate this old fashioned street but, in the end, it was probably cheaper than a) building this on a backlot and b) doing it as a CGI-genereated faux street scape. As the price of EFX has risen sharply, the new mantra in Hollywood these days is "don't fix it in post"--- whereas the old mantra used to be the opposite.  

November 6, 2013

The Doc I AM DIVINE Is Divine

A couple years ago, I posted about an Indie Go-Go campaign that a friend and fellow filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz was doing for his documentary about the actor Harris Glenn Milstead, who was infamously known as Divine. The feature I AM DIVINE hit festivals a year later and is now having it's NYC theatrical run.

After supporting the project, I finally got a chance to check it out last night and it was awesome. For a huge Divine and John Waters fan like myself, the film is a treasure trove of interviews from the Dreamland-scene and new information (to me at least) about Divine that I didn't know. Being more a film person, I was surprised to find out that Divine was such a disco star with multiple records and tours even. I just knew of her big hit "You Think You're A Man", which was a club staple in the 80's/90's. It was also fun to hear about Divine's theatrical work, here in NYC and also in San Francisco with the equally infamous Cockettes. And the personal story about his mother and his family was really quite touching.

Anyway, even though the film has been running for a few weeks the theatre was packed on a Tuesday night and even got applause at the end!  The last time that happened in a movie was when I saw LINCOLN last fall. Who knew that Divine would ever have something in common with one of our greatest presidents.  :)  Anyway, it's well worth checking out as the run has been extended to November 14th at Cinema Village...or looking for it at a local indie cinema near you.

October 18, 2013

DONUT SHOWDOWN Is An Awesome Competition Show About Donuts

I was recently informed by a good friend who knows me well of a newish show on the Cooking Channel called DONUT SHOWDOWN. It's actually a Canadian show in which a bunch of "donut chefs" come on and compete in the somewhat redonkculous manner that has become common on these crazy cooking shows (see CUPCAKE WARS).  But still, it was very entertaining to watch the finalists try to create the ulimate Japanese themed donuts. Wait--what? Let's just say rice and donuts are not two great tastes that go great together!

The show was so absurd that at times it played almost like a comic parody of a cooking show, ala SNL. This was not hard to do as when you take something like donuts dead seriously--it's just going to be funny when you start talking about the texture or mouth feel of a donut. The real revelation of the show was one of the contestants, Dan Dunbar who was not only super-cute but made some killer donuts.  He happened to be from Brooklyn too where, along with business partner Patrick Holliwell, he runs a vegan donut shop in Bushwick called Dun-Well Donuts. How is it I did not hear of this artisanal donut wonderland? Oh yeah--it is vegan. But I'm willing to give it a shot as many are calling it the best donut in the city, including the NY Daily News. Maybe even this weekend as i'm sure they've got a killer apple cider flavor just for fall.



October 16, 2013

Neil Patrick Harris Is Hedwig!

After singing and dancing up a storm at awards show telecasts, Neil Patrick Harris will finally have a Broadway show of his own. He is starring in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, which will make it to the Great White Way finally after a years-long off-broadway run, a feature film and countless productions around the world. The glittery/glam poster for the new show was released today and posted over on the Hollywood Reporter's website.

I saw the original show three times, with the show's writer/co-creator John Cameron Mitchell playing the lead and then Michael Cerveris and finally Matt McGrath. I even saw the show's first "workshop" production which happened at the infamous Squeezebox night at Don Hill's, where John took the stage in that feathered wig and started telling stories about being a East German/cross-dressing/babysitter. At the time, it was all kind of amazing, strangely funny, and somewhat baffling but when the band kicked in, Hedwig truly rocked and the crowd really roared.

Anyway, I'm excited to see NPH take on this iconic role and bring his own spin to this now-legendary larger-than-life character. And also to see director Michael Mayer, known for his work on SPRING AWAKENING and the TV show SMASH!, breathe new life into this classic show and score. Hedwig takes her wig off the shelf and takes the stage at the Belasco on March 29, 2014.

October 14, 2013

SNL Throws A Popular "Boy Dance Party"

Lately, it seems that the best material on SNL is often the pre-taped sketches. Last week, they did one of the more daring satirical pieces about the Republican party shutdown of the government with Miley Cyrus as Michelle Bachman. It was seriously out there--and almost reminded me of the edgy material from the show's original run back in the '70s. This week, they kept things a little bit lighter but it was just as funny with a sketch about a "Boy Dance Party" which happens in secret after the wives and GF's leave their men behind to watch football.

Taran Killam killed it with some awesome dance moves, particularly the "shake that sack" move. He is the go-to hot guy on the show these days, sporting some serious guns. Oh--and there's also Bruce Willis doing his best to keep up with the boys as well. Good stuff.

October 9, 2013

What's Scarier Than POLTERGEIST? A POLTERGEIST Remake Of Course

Everything old is remade again lately in H'wood and now supernatural horror classic POLTERGEIST is getting the treatment. This movie is so iconic it would seem hard to do a remake but it hasn't stopped new versions of movies like CARRIE, which is due out later this month.

Some interesting details have emerged though; the script is by a New York playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire, who specializes in plays about lost children (at least his play and then film RABBIT HOLE is about this topic). On the casting front, indie favorites Sam Rockwell and Jane Adams have major roles as the dad and a parapsychologist. And there is also a GHOST HUNTERS-type character from a reality TV show who is exploring the spirits that take over the new families' home. No word on whether the house is in a subdivision that was built over a graveyard.  :)

There is one thing that probably won't be in the movie--the TV static which is the entryway for the ghosts. TV static as it appears in the original film doesn't really exist anymore because broadcast TV's don't turn off at a certain hour at night. Remarkable to think that was actually a thing back in the day. But now, TV is 24/7 on broadcast, cable, online, your phone, etc. I imagine, to a younger person the scene of the TV static might even be somewhat confusing but back then it was super creepy. The original scared the bejeesus out of me as it cleverly took the mundane households items (like a TV, or a clown doll, or a piece of leftover meat in the fridge) and turned them into supernatural things.

So I'm skeptical if they can scare things up in the same way the second time around but we'll see. POLTERGEIST redux will likely hit theaters late next year.

October 8, 2013

Daniel Radcliffe Is Always Smoking And Apologizing

This Sunday's TIMES magazine had a lengthy profile of former HARRY POTTER star and now (literally) indie darling Daniel Radcliffe. This week the film KILL YOUR DARLINGS (directed by my colleague and fellow NYU grad John Krokidas) features Radcliffe as he makes quite a break with his wizardly past by playing gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg. This piece, however, is not the usual celebrity fluff. The writer Susan Dominus had some serious access to Radcliffe who seemed unguarded in speaking with her about the challenges of international, inescapable Beatles-style fame at the ripe old age of 23. Apparently, he feels an intense need to apologize to many fans he meets, in fear of not coming across as a nice guy. It's sweet and almost a little sad, realizing how intensely he cares about how each one of his fans personally perceive him.

Radcliffe also comes off as extremely ambitious as well (given the spate of unusual projects he's taken on since retiring his wand), as well as being quite smart, somewhat geeky, and a big NFL fan(!). He is also very open about how he drank too much for a few years and even showed up on set drunk for one of the Potter films. The tales of his drinking at pubs are all the more remarkable in that he wasn't hounded by tabloids and didn't become a Lindsay-style child star train-wreck. He has since quit drinking but does smoke quite a bit--so much so that that was the number one reason he moved out of his parents home at age 17.

Radcliffe has been an outspoken and impressive ally of the LGBT community, supporting one of my favorite charities the Trevor Project. And in this article he again makes a wonderful yet simple statement about how he doesn't understand all the fuss regarding his current role in DARLINGS. "I honestly don't know what the big deal is," he says, adding that "people have been having gay sex for as long as they’ve been having straight sex, period." Nicely put. All in all, this profile is a great read in that not only do you get a nice long peek into his fishbowl-like life, you actually get to know him a little bit more, rather than just getting the usual PR lines standard in a piece like this.

October 3, 2013

Controversial French Film STRANGER BY THE LAKE At The NY Film Fest

On Monday, I went to the New York Film Festival and saw a new French film which had debuted to much acclaim and controversy at Cannes earlier this year entitled STRANGER BY THE LAKE.  The film, set at an idyllic lake in the country which is a gay male cruising ground, is about desire and death. It's gorgeously shot and includes some controversial man-on-man action which goes about as all the way as I've seen in a conventional narrative film. But to call this a conventional narrative film is to miss the filmmakers' point as well. There is a dreamlike and somewhat surreal quality to the proceedings and the disturbing plot as it unfolds. It has been called a gay Hitchock film and likened to REAR WINDOW, two comparisons which are apt.

Anyway, it was great to see the film on the big screen at Alice Tully hall and even greater to get to hear director Alain Guiraudie talk about the film afterwards, via a translator, at a lengthy Q/A. He really made the translator work as he gave incredibly in-depth answers to simple questions, adding insight to his process as a filmmaker and what the film means to him.  This is one of those movies that, whether you love it or hate it, its images and scenes will likely stick with you long after the film is over. That's because what he is doing is pure cinema--visceral, visual storytelling that, while at times highly erotic, is also thought provoking in that it willfully breaks many conventions of standard filmmaking. Some of those breaks can be frustrating while others can be shocking.

Due to the film's explicit nature and lots of male nudity, it was a tough sell for distributors, especially in the notoriously puritanical US theatrical market. Naked women having sex = NC-17. Naked men having sex = don't even bother. So Strand Releasing, the distributor of my earlier films, acquired the title and will release it here unrated in early 2014--starting with a run at Lincoln Center in January. You will probably be able to see if online at some point but it's definitely worth seeking it out in a theatre.

October 1, 2013

Disney Encourages Second-Screening At LITTLE MERMAID Re-Release

Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID is currently re-released in theatres as part of an advance promotion for the film's ultimate release in October on Blu-Ray DVD. To get people excited and hopefully generate some additional traffic to the theatres, Disney told people to bring their iPads for a "second screening" experience in which a live app plays during the movie and kids or adults can play along on their devices. 

I'm all for re-releasing classic films but this second-screen approach is ridiculous. There are enough problems with adults using their devices in movie theatres these day so to encourage children to do so it only going to cause trouble down the line. Disney says this is a special one-time only event, but what happens when the next Disney movie comes out and that same five-year old wants to bring their iPad? Children will start to think it's perfectly normal to watch an iPad and/or iPhone while watching a movie. Not only is it not normal, it's rude to other people in the theatre not to mention distracting to the viewer/use themself. 

There has been some uproar over this risky bit of marketing, most notably from Andrew Wallenstein VARIETY'S digital editor who admits this idea turns him into a Luddite. And, in checking the weekly box office, the re-release is not even listed in the top 100 grosses so that may be a sign the experiment was a big flop. Let's hope so--when you go to the movies, you should be there to watch a movie. And maybe eat some popcorn. If you wanna second screen in the privacy of your own home, go for it--I often do (depending on how good the show or film is!). But the movies should really be free from this sort of digital distraction. 

September 27, 2013

The Gays Are Getting Engaged In Primetime

This week, the broadcast networks started their traditional fall season with premieres of many shows, old and new. The premieres of two network stalwarts, ABC's MODERN FAMILY and Fox's GLEE, were notable for sharing a similar storyline; on both opening episodes, two of the main male characters were engaged as a direct result of the Supreme Court ruling this summer.

Cam and Mitchell on MF had been long rumored to be tying the knot this season...in fact some viewers were getting impatient with the show, wondering what was taking them so long as they had already adopted a child. Cam and Mitchell's proposal was comically brilliant as they both schemed to outdo each other with the best engagement scenario, only to be foiled in a most ordinary way (no spoilers!) leading to what was actually a completely charming/moving proposal.

Over at McKinley High, Kurt and Blaine finally figured it all out and got back together after some ups and downs over 2 seasons of their relationship.  Being show kids, they did their engagement waaaay over the top with a surprise flash mob proposal scenario involving the Warblers, the Cheerios and just about every cast member of the show singing and dancing to the Beatles "All You Need Is Love". It was extravagant and insane and a little bit ridiculous--just like GLEE in general. But it was also groundbreaking television in its own way as it ended with a big, passionate kiss too. I can recall 10-15 years ago when this sort of event on primetime network television would have sent advertisers scurrying and executives panicking. And now it seemed the most natural and normal and romantic thing in the world--which it should be, obviously! :)

Anyway, big shout-outs to both of these wonderful shows for celebrating gay couples committing to one another. Until that is, the proposals get called off...after all, this is TV and they've got a whole season full of drama to fill.

September 25, 2013

A 7-Hour Documentary About FRIDAY THE 13TH

The horror film FRIDAY THE 13TH cost half a million dollars to make and grossed nearly 40 million dollars when it was released back in 1981. A success of this magnitude in Hollywood demands not only one sequel but, believe it or not, 11! That's right--there have been a total of 12 FRIDAY films over the last 30 years, one where Jason even went to space.

Given that ouvre, a fanboy/filmmaker named Daniel Ferrands decided to make an epic documentary about the FRIDAY series. His film, CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, is a 7-hour exploration of the series of movies in which Jason, wearing his iconic hockey mask, slays his way through countless teenagers and even a few adults. There's an article by my friend Erik Piepenberg in todays' TIMES arts section about the doc and why that length was necessary to tell the story of Jason. Actually, it sounds like the film is 12 mini-docs (one for each FRIDAY movie) that have been strung together.

Unfortunately, Ferrands didn't get Kevin Bacon or Crispin Glover (who made appearances opposite Jason) to open up about their horror stories. But he does have lots of remembrances from other cast and crew. Apparently, there's even a gayish FRIDAY too--the seventh one in the series. I knew that NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET's sequel is infamously homoerotic but didn't know Jason swung both ways too, as it were. Will have to check that one out...and the mini-doc too.

September 5, 2013

Doc About Cantor Fitzgerald Opens, 9/6 NY and 9/10 US

For almost five years, I worked as the associate producer on a documentary about Cantor Fitzgerald, the company whose offices were at the top of the World Trade Center. OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY follows the story of Cantor from September 11th up to the 10th anniversary of the attack which killed more than 600 people who worked for the company. Theirs was the largest loss of life of any single entity that day.

The film is directed by Danielle Gardner, a mentor of mine from when I was in film school. Danielle's brother worked at Cantor so the film started as a deeply personal project. But over time it evolved into telling the remarkable story of this company that lost a majority of its employees on that one terrible day was kept in operation so that they could help support the families of those left behind. It's an incredible tale of resilience and resolve and you can see it in theatres this weekend, when it opens at the Regal Union Square on September 6th.

Additionally, for those not in NYC, there is a special screening of the film happening on September 11th at theaters across the country...for more info on that visit the ScreenVision website. There will be a live Q/A following that screening with Danielle and Howard Lutnick, the company's CEO who survived because he was taking his son to his first day of kindergarten. That's a part of the Cantor story most people know but this film tells the rest of the story. I am very proud of my work on this project and I hope you can check it out this coming week. 


August 30, 2013

A Broadway Viral Video "For Good"

In a week filled with Miley Cyrus' bumping-n-grinding which went super-viral after the VMAs, this amazing video from a Kristen Chenoweth concert at the Hollywood Bowl feels like something of a cultural antidote. With 2.6 million views, it just may be the remedy for too much Miley.

Chenoweth asked a random audience member to come up on stage and join her to sing "For Good," the now classic number from the role she originated in WICKED.  Sarah Horn, an unassuming teacher from Riverside California, raised her hand when Chenoweth asked who knew all the words to the song. Well, not only did Horn know the words, she is actually a vocal teacher who was somewhat obsessed with the show and that song and (surprise!) even knew the harmonies.

The quality of the video image is a little rough but the sound comes through loud and clear. Horn has a lovely voice and not only stuns the crowd, but also Chenoweth too. There were cynical Internet allegations that Horn was a plant but Horn actually thought she wouldn't get chosen because there was a plant!  Horn reveals this detail in a great Q/A with the Hollywood Reporter about her once-in-a-lifetime experience. All in all, it's really a great counterpoint to the Miley-madness which has filled the August news vacuum this week. 



 

August 26, 2013

Carol Channing And Justin Vivian Bond Put On A Show In Cherry Grove

I was out on Fire Island this weekend and was lucky enough to attend this one-night only show at the Ice Palace--Carol Channing and Justin Vivian Bond. I wrote about it for NEXT magazine's blog, which you can read here. It was really a special night to get to see these two performers talking, gossiping and even singing. I had previously seen Carol a couple years ago at a Broadway benefit at the New Amsterdam Theatre where she came out kicking with a line of chorus boys. At 92, she is not a little more frail but still sharp, funny and somewhat wicked too.

She is really quite the storyteller as well--one of my favorites was a touching tale she told about the Kennedy's, post-assasination. She'd been to the White House for a couple dinners and invited Jacqueline Kennedy to bring John and Caroline to see HELLO DOLLY on Broadway. Before the show, they met the star backstage and Caroline fancied one of her prop purses and Carol gave it to her--much to the chagrin of stagehands who said they could not come up with a new purse before curtain. Justin started the night with songs about love and the evening was a true lovefest; the audiences love for this iconic performer and her love of her especially devoted/obsessed LGBT fans.

August 22, 2013

In Other News, Wentworth Miller Comes Out As A 41-Year-Old

A big story online yesterday was former PRISON BREAK star Wentworth Miller, long rumored to be gay and caught by papaprazzi with partners, officially came out as a gay man in a letter to a Russian film festival. He not only turned down their invitation to attend the festival but also, in strong language, condemned Russia's current anti-gay policies.  If you're going to have a coming out press blitz, I thought this was an effective way to use that opportunity to make an essential point about the injustices currently happening in Russia towards the LGBT community. 

However, there was one bit of his press release which struck me as even more shocking which is that he listed his age as 41. I mean, wow...who knew? This surprising fact did not pass the notice of the saavy editors at Buzzfeed either, who put together a lovely homage to this handsome gay man in his 40s who was not only proud of his orientation but also his age too. Wentworth is giving us 40-somethings some real gay juice, as the kids say. More power to him!

August 21, 2013

In 1990, Spielberg-Lucas-Scorsese Talked About The Future Of The Movies

The Tribeca Film Festival email alerted me to a fascinating video on YouTube; a one-hour special interview, done by Siskel and Ebert, of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese back in 1990 about the future of film. 

The thoughtful, intercut discussion with all three directors touches on many topics, including the role of technology in film (Lucas has a few things to say) and also the preservation of the movies, which is a cause these three have brought to prominence since then. Spielberg notably talks about looking into the original elements for JAWS and finding them in a shambles. Cut to last year, when a definitive Blu-Ray restoration of JAWS was released. Spielberg also promises that there will never ever be an ET sequel...and he's actually kept that promise. Lucas, on the other hand, promises three new STAR WARS films and most of us wish he didn't keep that promise. :) 

Late in the show, they all talk about the future of HDTV which was just making it's first impression with some experimental sets. There is even a widely expressed concern that people will stop going to the movies with the home movie experience being the same as at home. But Lucas aptly predicts that the movie theatres will be home to more spectacles and personal films will gravitate towards the home screen.

August 19, 2013

NetPix: MUD With Matthew McConaughey

I recently got a chance to see one of the sleeper indie hits of the summer, MUD. It stars Matthew McConaughey but really the stars of the film are two young boys, 14 year olds in the deep south on the verge of manhood played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. Their performances are subtle and powerful by the end. And overall the movie is a wonderful piece of filmmaking telling a story that has many surprises along the way, especially towards the end. I didn't know much going into the film which I particularly like...I don't think I had even seen a trailer. I had just read online and heard from friends that it was a film worth seeing.

In addition to McConaughey, who gives a great performance as the eponymous and mysterious character named "Mud", there are a couple other well-known actors in surprising roles in the film. This was also great in that I had no idea they were going to be in the film and was impressed how they really immersed themselves in these particularly unglamorous roles in a rough-and-tumble milieu. Though I didn't see this one on NetFlix (which has lately not become a home for new films, unfortunately), you can catch it on iTunes or Amazon. It's a great corrective to the bloated and oversized films (many of which are bombing) of this summer.

August 15, 2013

The Price Of Applause....Literally

There is a disturbing yet somewhat fascinating article in today's TIMES about Russia. No, not all the anti-gay violence and laws being passed. But it's about a sort of semi-secretive cabal that is paid to generate applause at certain moments in at the Bolshoi Ballet. Yes, you read that all correctly.

The story, from yesterday's Arts section, is about a practice that is apparently over a hundred years old where a group of 30 or so well-placed "claqueurs" can start a wave of applause when needed, to boost an actors energy (and give them a chance to catch their breath) or to just boost their ego. All for a price too. It's run by a mysterious and somewhat sinister sounding fellow named Roman Abramov, who officially the Bolshoi Ballet itself had a no comment about.

The practice was apparently common in many theaters until the late 1800s. I'm actually surprised that some savvy Broadway producer hasn't taken up the practice himself but, at $150 a pop, a group of 30 professional audience members would take a chunk out of the box office. Then again, Bway shows are famous for filling the seats with friendly audience members and friends of the production for nights when the critics show up. But something this organized and also somewhat sinister does not seem to be happening here. At least yet...

August 8, 2013

There's A New Feature Film This Fall All About CBGB

In 2006, the infamous rock club on the Bowery CBGB closed after a 30 year plus run, an eternity for a New York nightspot.  The space is famous not only for it's disgusting bathroom (now sorta on view at The Met) but also for the bands it broke; Blondie, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Patti Smith, who closed it down with a final set on the evening the music died.

This fall, there's a new feature film about CBGB and it's equally infamous owner Hilly Kristal. The trailer debuted online yesterday at the Hollywood Reporter's website and it features Hilly (played deliciously by Alan Rickman) and tons of celebrity band impersonators. The Rickman stuff looks great, the bands...could be iffy. The nutty Hilly and the "decor" of the joint were always the real interest of that place. I went to CBGB a few times in the '90s and I have to say the hype was a little much to live up to. As the tag line for the movie says "50,000 bands and 1 disgusting bathroom" and that kinda sums it up. So there were maybe 20 legendary bands that came out of the joint, another 200 or so really good bands if you're generous and maybe 300 bands that didn't suck. So that leaves the other 49,480 bands to deal with. Which meant that if you were invited to see someone's band at CBGB, well...you do the math.

Anyway, it looks like they've rebuilt the Bowery on a backlot for this movie as that current stretch of NYC street is unrecognizable from it's grungy "heyday". In fact, the CBGB is now a John Varvotos store. Times they have a changed....

August 6, 2013

YouTube Video Of Two Guys Kissing Gets Age-Restricted

A friend of mine who is a budding performance and video artist Idan Bitton recently posted a sweet video on YouTube called "First Kiss" in which he kisses another man....for a Warholian hour an a half. :) But that's it. They are just kissing. No nudity. No suggestion of nudity or anything else really. Sure, they are two obviously sexy guys but well, that's sorta the point too.

Anyway, the lack of truly offensive content in his video did not stop Google from flagging it a few days ago and now it is age-restricted on YouTube, only for those 18 and older. If you search for "kissing videos" on YouTube, you will find lots of much racier content of heterosexual couples kissing. Thye are not only more suggestive of actual sex but there is a whole series of instructional videos on "dirty kissing" for guys and girls. That series is not only not age restricted but it has millions of hits too. 

In fact, you will find heterosexual couples up to all sorts of non-age restricted nonsense all over YouTube (and the Internet at large for that matter). However, if it's two men kissing then that is too much for the youngsters to handle? I don't buy it. Despite this ridiculous restriction, Idan's video has racked up 50,000-plus hits in a little over a week and generated a very lively and overwhelmingly positive discussion in the comments section. The users of YouTube are apparently much more enlightened and un-shockable than the people flagging the videos. As the most recent comment today read, "what community standards is Google upholding? That of the Russian Parliament?" Well played, sir.


August 2, 2013

Summer Reading And Viewing For Your iPhone/iPad...Courtesy of Me

As the dog days of August begin, I know that a lot of you will be at the beach or up in the country--for some of you I will be staying at your beach/country houses! :)  So I thought it would be a good time to suggest some fun summer reading and viewing, specifically of my very own summery projects.

First off, a few years back I wrote my second novel TALE OF TWO SUMMERS (Simon and Schuster) and it's still going strong, as perennial summer love stories seem to have staying power!  Now it's even available to download for beach reading on your iPhone/iPad for  $11.99 in the iBook store or just $10 on Kindle. On top of that, you get two summer love stories for the price of one...what's not to like!

The other summer-themed projects are movies; first there is AUGUST, a sultry summer romance about a love triangle set during an LA heatwave, which is now available on iTunes as well as streaming now on Netflix and Hulu Plus. This is a film that I co-wrote/produced with Eldar Rappaport and stars Murray Bartlett, who is featured in the upcoming gay HBO show set in San Francisco. The other feature is THE WAY I SEE THINGS, which I executive produced, that was written and directed by Brian Pera and is about a summer road trip that goes awry with some unlikely/lovely detours in the South. It was just released on Amazon Prime (which is free if you try the service for a month).

So check one or all three of these out in your summer downtime, and I hope you have a lovely and relaxing August. And thank you for your continued support of all my creative works.

August 1, 2013

There Goes The Pizza Box, 1957-2013 RIP

So I leave the Village for less than two months and the place falls apart!  

One of my all-time favorite local spots and my personal best-slice-of-pizza joint Pizza Box closed up shop unceremoniously last Thursday. I saw this picture posted on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York and felt a Proustian-pang for yet another vestige of my NYC youth. It had been there 55 years and wondrously felt like it and the guys behind the counter were always friendly, especially to the locals like myself.

Though the pizza there was great and draft beer only 2$, what was truly special was the outdoor seating area which gave a glimpse into the priveleged backyards of the stately town homes on Macdougal and Sullivan which shared an impossibly lush garden space with suburban-sized trees more than 60 feet tall. This secret garden was one of the treasures of living in the neighborhood as you could retreat to the relative quiet of this leafy space and have a slice and a beer and maybe even a cigarette (if someone else had a pack!). 

In the six weeks since I moved from the Village to Astoria, this has been the second notable retail death in the neighborhood--the first being Joe's Dairy on Sullivan. What's next...Once Upon A Tart? It makes me sad to see things changing like this but it also reinforces part of why I left in the first place--the Village is just not the homey local place I used to know anymore.

July 31, 2013

It's Summer Kickstarter Season! 3 Projects I'm Supporting

Yes, it's summer again....when thoughts turn to Kickstarting your latest creative endeavor. It seems that June through September is the high season for the website Kickstarter, where creative types like myself can crowd-source their projects to the people via Kickstarter, which has lately become popular via famous folks such as Zach Braff and the VERONICA MARS team. Even original indie guru Spike Lee has taken to the site with a somewhat vague proposal for a million dollar movie.

But all those celebs aside, I wanted to focus some well-deserved attention on a few truly indie projects that I'm supporting that are raising funds for some very worthy and entertaining projects. My good friend and collaborator David Zellnik wrote a wonderful new musical with his brother Joe called YANK!, which centers on the story of a gay soldier in WWII writing for the Army's in-house paper.  I have seen this show 5 times in various workshops and professional productions and each time I'm absolutely charmed and moved by it's story and music. Now they are recording a cast album and are raising 35K to do so. You can check out details and some snippets of the songs on their Kickstarter page here.

The other two projects I'm supporting are more in my wheelhouse--a short film and a web series.  The web series is the second outing by writer/director Adam Goldman, who made the incredible show THE OUTS (which if you haven't seen you should watch!).  His new show, WHATEVER THIS IS, follows the misadventures of two roommates who work on various film/TV gigs...a different one apparently for each episode. I went to the premiere last night at the Knitting Factory and it looks great, with the same sharp writing and quirky, realistic characters.

The other short is by a first time filmmaker Mark Allen, who I've known from way back in the day (like early 90s!) when he was well-known downtown go-go boy. Since then, he's been writing, performing and a regular on NPR. Now he's putting together his first short film which sounds sorta experimental and very cool, with details on his Kickstarter page too (along with a funny video starring socks!).

So check out their pages and video and give a little if you can. These days, the entertainment you get is the entertainment you support.