January 31, 2014

Two 2013 Fest Faves Are Now Available: G.B.F. and STRANGER BY THE LAKE

Now that awards season is in full swing and the studios have their prestige pics playing theaters everywhere, January and February are often a slow time for mainstream films. Unless that is you have interested in naked Zac Efron in THAT AWKARD MOMENT... whose Tomato Meter hovers around 20%! However, if you're looking for a couple good indies, there are two films that were popular on the festival circuit last year that are now available in various forms of commercial release.

G.B.F. is Darren Stein's hysterical high school comedy about a teen gay who a sough-after prized possession, or Gay Best Friend, by the three most popular girls in school. The film is a romp filled with some great one liners and a hilarious performance by Paul Iacono (from MTV's HARD TIMES OF RJ BERGER) with Megan Mullally as his very progressive mom. Also, I'd recommend checking it out in a theatre near you if possible as its fun to see with an audience--their FB page has more info. Or you can stream it on iTunes too.

The other film is about 180 degrees from G.B.F. in terms of content and style but is still a must-see. The French film STRANGER BY THE LAKE, directed by Alain Guiradie, caused a sensation at Cannes last year for it's bold depiction of an all-male cruising area in which some nefarious deeds take place. I caught it at the NY Film Festival and thought it was great. The dialogue is sparse, the scenery is gorgeous, and the sex is serious--this film would actually deserve an NC-17, whereas G.B.F.'s "R" rating still baffles the mind. Anyway, STRANGER is a sexy and atmospheric dramatic thriller that is pure cinema with shades of Hitchcock as well. It's in theaters this week with trailer below.

January 24, 2014

It Was 30 Years Ago Today--Apple Introduces Macintosh

30 years ago today, just a few days after a remarkable Super Bowl commercial touting it's new product, Apple introduced the Macintosh computer to the world and personal computing would never be the same. Below is the video of a very young, charming Steve Jobs introducing the new machine to loud hoots and hollers and he slips in a 3.5 inch disc (remember those!) and the small B/W screen starts to some some graphic and letters. By our standards today, it seems pretty ho-hum and the audience reaction over the top. But this was the first personal computer with a graphical interface...and it truly blew people's minds.

I have fond memories of the original Mac. I remember a guy in my college dorm who had one, which amazed everyone (it retailed for nearly $2500 bucks!). And then, a year later, the computers were available to everyone in the Boston College computer center. I remember writing my first short stories and crafting the plots for my first films using the Mac. I even used it to draw some characters for an animated cut-out film (ala SOUTH PARK) that I shot on Super 8. I'd like to get that one online one of these days! In the meantime, here's Steve Jobs and the Macintosh...

January 22, 2014

Paramount Will No Longer Make 35mm Film Prints

This week the LA TIMES reports that Paramount Pictures has officially announced that it will no longer release its films on actual film. ANCHORMAN II would be the last of its movies to hit theaters as standard 35mm release prints and, conversely, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET would be the first of its flicks to be distributed only digitally. This is big news and marks the beginning of a big transition for the major studios that began nearly 10 years ago with the introduction of digital projection technology.

Originally, digital projection was seen as a potential boon to indie filmmakers. In summer of 2003, BOYS LIFE 4 (a project I executive produced which included my short BUMPING HEADS) was released digitally in 20 cinemas across the county. It saved a lot of money on the cost of striking film prints but, at that point, it limited our release somewhat as a lot of theaters were not yet equipped for digital screening. A decade later, some indie cinemas are still trying to make that expensive upgrade because if they don't, they may have to go out of business.

The NEW YORKER has put together an interesting and beautifully shot short film about such a theatre in Hudson, NY. The Fairview is a small 3 screen art house that shows indie fare but is struggling with the upgrade. Fortunately, the local community there has helped support the transition but it might not be enough to make it happen. A compelling look at the changes and challenges in commercial cinema today.

January 21, 2014

FROZEN Viral Video Has Twins Singing "Let It Go"

I'm a big fan of the new Disney animated film FROZEN, which cleverly reimagines the standard princess story and has some great Broadway-style songs to boot. In fact, there was a recent official announcement that Disney is developing the movie as a stage musical though there is no date on when it might hit the Great White Way. 

Since it's release in November, there has been some serious viral video action based off of FROZEN's big hit song, "Let It Go" originally recorded for the film by Bway star Idina Menzel. Now, there are all kinds of kids singing the song on YouTube, with various stages of professionalism and polish. But the one that really caught my eye was first posted on Vimeo where it has racked up more than a million hits. Now it's on YouTube where it passed the half-million mark today.

Maddie and Zoe are twin 4-year old girls singing the song as a duet for their dad, cinematographer Aaron Mendez. They perform the song with such heart and verve and excitement (including the awesome yawn halfway through!) that it has clearly taken the crown in the viral derby for "Let It Go" covers. However, this take does require some previous knowledge of the song/lyrics to fully enjoy the girls truly unique version. At least, that is, until someone adds subtitles. 

January 15, 2014

A TIMES Profile For Sundance Head John Cooper As Fest Hits 30

There's a great NY TIMES profile of John Cooper, the director of the Sundance Film Festival which kicks off it's 30th edition in Park City this week. Though Robert Redford usually serves as the public face of the festival, John has been with Sundance for more than 20 years. I met him back when he was programming the short films in the '90s.

He selected my film POOL DAYS for the festival in 1994 which was quite a boost to my career as a young filmmaker just starting out after finishing film school at NYU. I didn't realize that he actually helped create the idea of screening shorts at Sundance, which originally was playing only feature films when it started. Anyway, he's been such an integral part of the festival for many years as the head programmer that it's great to see him getting more recognition for his tireless efforts promoting independent film as the festival begins it's third decade.