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.

July 30, 2013

A Double-Feature On The Deuce

Last night, I had a lovely evening at the movies on 42nd Street.  I went to the newish summer film THE HEAT, featuring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Though I love both these actresses, I was truly drawn to the film because of its director, Paul Feig, who also helmed the summer smash BRIDESMAIDS. That film was one of my favorites of 2011 (though I actually didn't see it until 2012!) and one of the smartest comedies I had seen in a long while. Feig's work reminds me somewhat of Preston Sturges, one of my old time fave directors and a personal inspiration to me as well. He gets the screwy in screwball comedy while, at the same time, keeps the characters real and grounded in the world--something even Sturges (to high comic effect) often dispensed with. And THE HEAT is squarely in that tradition, though a more violent type of comedy with the slapstick elements taken to hilarious extremes.

THE HEAT was playing at the huge AMC 25 screen monster-plex on 42nd where tickets are now $14.50. Fortunately, the second half of our planned double feature was free, making it a deal almost as a 2-for-1 night. We took a slow stroll down 42nd (jammed with Euro-tourists even on a Monday) to Bryant Park where the free outdoor screenings have been going on now for almost 20 years to see Billy Wilder's A FOREIGN AFFAIR. This is one of my top Wilder flicks, and one that doesn't get as much play due to its grim setting and dark storyline. But leave it to Wilder to find the humor in devastated post-war Berlin, which he does to great effect while also making a steamy romantic comedy too (Marlene Dietrich helps on that front). Anyway, it was easy to get a seat shortly after showtime maybe because the film was not the usual Bryant Park blockbuster. And the film looked great on the supersized screen. All in all, a lovely night at the movies on ol' 42nd street!

July 22, 2013

A Summer of Big Budget Bombs--6 And Counting

A little over a month ago, Steven Spielberg aptly predicted the arc of the summer movies of 2013, saying that "maybe half a dozen mega budget movies are going to come crashing to the ground." Well, half way through the summer, six 100M-plus studio films (including the 250M LONE RANGER) have done exactly that as reported in today's NY TIMES.  You would have thought studios got the audience memo two years ago when INCEPTION, an original screenplay, was the big hit and must-see film of the summer. However, the sequels and quasi-sequels keep coming. 

The article makes an interesting point of how so-called original films like PACIFIC RIM feel a little too familiar (see TRANSFORMERS) and thus audiences are staying away. Of course, some of the summers biggest surprise hits were movies with modest budgets like NOW YOU SEE ME which broke out into true blockbuster-style grosses themselves and, nearly 2 months later, are still playing around the country. 

In Spielberg's widely reported remarks, he also predicted that the pileup of big-budget losses will change the paradigm of how studios make movies. Many have predicted this for some time but maybe with losses that could approach maybe a billion dollars by the end of the summer, the studios may actually change their game this time and look for new movies. One of my favorite memories growing up was the landmark summer of 1982, with so many amazing films (and yes, a couple sequels too). It was a fun filmgoing feast that has not been matched in recent years. Maybe 2014 (or more likely 2015) will be different.

July 16, 2013

Christmas In July At Joe's Pub With Three Lizas!

Last night, I got a break from the heat and checked out a new holiday-themed show called WE THREE LIZAS (pictured!) at Joe's Pub. I was there to write about it for Next Magazine's online blog THE NEXUS, which I contribute to sometimes.

The show, written by a former New Yorker Scott Bradley with music by Alan Schmuckler, was originally done by Chicago's About Face Theatre (where my good friend Andrew Volkoff is the Artistic Director) last Christmas and I hope that it will eventually make it here to NYC next Christmas. You can read my write-up for the show and my interview with Scott here. Happy Christmas in July! :)