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! 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.