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.