Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alex Buono and SNL's Djesus Uncrossed

Like many of you, Saturday Night Live has always been one of my favorite shows on television. I've always been amazed at how the cast, crew, and writers can assemble a full live show in only a week. However, in recent years, filmed segments have become more and more prevalent on the show, with the rise of The Lonely Island's digital shorts and other pre-taped skits. These segments also interest me for a couple of reasons: they almost always perfectly capture the tone of what they're trying to parody; they excellently utilize the hosts and other special celebrity guests; and they have amazing production value for the short amount of time they're assembled in. As a fan of these skits, I was thrilled earlier in the year to discover the personal blog of Alex Buono, the DP for SNL's film unit. My favorite post of his details the production of Season 38's Djesus Uncrossed sketch, a parody of Tarantino's Django Unchained, starring that film's Christoph Waltz.

The blog post details the full production of the sketch, from Buono receiving the script at 9am on Thursday morning to the finished sketch airing around midnight on Saturday night. Some highlights include insight into a location scouting process where shooting was to begin the next day, the insane shooting timeline required by SNL's tight production schedule (the crew never shot with Christoph Waltz during the day), and the specifics of aping Tarantino's distinctive visual style from a cinematographer's standpoint. This specific sketch required the use of a crane to capture the cinematography of Bob Richardson, Tarantino's go-to DP, which is a rarity for SNL. Buono's entire blog offers insight into the kind of work that goes into a high-stakes, high-pressure production job. The technical advice throughout the blog is invaluable, and it also gives you a real sense of how crazy a real-world shooting schedule actually is. Below you'll find links to the Djesus blog post, the main link to the blog, and the finished sketch!

WARNING: The violence in this is pretty cartoonish, but you may not want to watch it if you're squeamish.

DJesus Uncrossed (Saturday Night Live) from razorgrind on Vimeo.


Ladies and gentleman, we as a nation of media consumers are faced with a new and deadly threat to the enjoyment of that consumption free from guilt. This threat is known by one name and one name only: HATE WATCHING!! (insert ominous bum, bum, bum). This describes the behavior of someone who consumes something that might not like/agree with and then will run to their blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook, and other forms of media just to complain or critique how much they hated what they just saw. This phenomenon is not only just confined to the more banal forms of social media however, as it has begun to see more and more prominence in the main-stream"gotcha" media, as Sarah Palin would say,  and is seen as a valid and legitimate type of reporting. In my post I want to focus on the television show SMASH!, an erstwhile NBC series about Broadway competition and fame, because it is a particularly egregious example of the kind of hate watching tactics that I am referring to. Beyond that I would like to discuss the Miley Cyrus 2013 VMA incident, as well as the If You Seek Amy controversy as they will help to underscore the point that I am trying to make.


(From Left to Right: Anjelica Houston, Andy Mientus, Jeremy Jordan, Katherine McPhee, Jack Davenport, Leslie Odom, Jr., Megan Hilty, Krysta Rodriguez, Christian Borle, Debra Messing, and, Jennifer Hudson)


Even though I loved SMASH! I will be the first to admit that it was not without its share of problems. It was replete with a bacchanalia of fantasy induced musical numbers that made little sense to the plot that was happening around it, which only served to jar an already dissatisfied audience. Below you will see two examples...


This is The 20th Century Fox Mambo which was originally seen on the second episode of the first season of SMASH!, entitled "The Callbacks." This song occurs as Katherine McPhee's character, Karen Cartwright, vies with Megan Hilty's character, Ivy Lynn, in the final callback for the role of Marilyn in the workshop. We see Karen in her call back for Marilyn and originally she begins the number performing it as just as herself with some minimal props that are created from every day things such as a broom and a swivel chair. However, about half way through the number, we are hit with the first of many fantasy sequences that the series would become known for, as Karen transforms into Marilyn and performs the rest of the number as her. This kind of disjunctive plot upset many of the already alienated viewers who felt that this kind of fantasy hurt the already poorly written story. Below is another example of things even further in decline.... 


A Thousand and One Nights was originally seen in the twelfth episode, entitled "Publicity" in which Karen and Karen's boyfriend, Dev meet Rebecca Duvall, a famous movie star who was courted to play Marilyn, and Dev and Rebecca begin to argue about which one of them is better for Karen, which on its face is absurd but we will get to script and character problems in the next paragraph. Anyways, in an effort to escape the "awkward" (and I mean that both in the real and meta sense), Karen turns to a television that is playing a Bollywood movie and then snaps into some elaborate Bollywood dance sequence. The problem that this sequence presented is that all the main characters were present in Karen's fantasy but some of them, like Julia Houston's son, but she had never ever had a scene with and consequently had never met.    


Which is a perfect segue way into my final point about the reason why SMASH! ended up not fairing well as a series is because the way the characters were written and a general abandonment of any human emotion coming from the characters. Basically, peoples main contentions with the show where that the characters felt wooden and that there was very little continued advancement of them.   

Behind the scenes the problems were many, with jealousy, feelings of betrayal, and, fights crept in and ultimately ended up sabotaging what the pilot indicated to be a successful, cutting edge, musical television show. If you want to find the gossip about it I recommend that you Google it because I refuse to engage with people that want to use this as fodder to claim I hate SMASH!, because in fact I don't. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all involved in the series and what it was able to accomplish.    


I am going to keep this very brief because I don't want to give them a ton more attention but after SMASH! became train wreck in the eyes of it viewers people began to create scathing and rather hilarious reviews about their opinions of SMASH! as a series. Again you can look these up for yourself because I don't want to be responsible for continuing to propagate them but this negativity often overshadowed the legacy that the show has left behind it. 




Regardless of whatever hate may be out there about SMASH! I want to take this opportunity to express my opinion of what SMASH! has meant to me and the legacy that this sadly short lived series has left behind. The first thing that is important to remember is that this was not a realistic portrayal of what Broadway is (I'm looking at you learning an entire aerial silk routine the day before a performance) because it is television. If you are looking for a realistic portrayal of what Broadway is you might want to become a Broadway star and live that life, or even better yet go see a Broadway show because that will be packed with all the Broadway realism that your heart desires.  


Secondly, this show helped to boost exposure and audience knowledge of what a Broadway musical and what the creation of a musical looks like. This is tremendously pivotal because you are helping inspire people to pursue a passion or educating people about a career in theatre. 

Finally, this show left behind two extremely great original new musicals in its wake, Hit List, and Bombshell. Hit List has seen a concert debut at 54 Below under the eyes of Ms. Jennifer Tepper, the newly appointed head of programming at the venue and there are talks being held to do a concert for Bombshell as well. Additionally, I have written a full version of Hit List and hope to take it to Broadway one day. 



On a related note to hate watching, Miley Cyrus' performance at the 2013 VMA's, or Video Music Awards as it is known, bears speaking of because it relates to a larger issue in our culture. Miley Cyrus obviously was being provocative when she did this...

And this... 

But I am about to blow your minds with what I am about to say next. Are you ready? Are you really ready? You sure? Ok then, well here I go. 


That is not me giving her permission or saying that I agree with what she did, this is me saying that she is a grown woman who is capable of behaving in a fashion she chooses. She doesn't need your approval to do whatever she is going to do. In fact, what bothered me more then her shoving a foam finger around her crotch, or grinding up on Robin Thicke was the people that said the day after, "I had to sit through that trash." NO!!! YOU DIDN'T!!! You could have gotten your lazy butt out of your chair, grabbed the remote, and CHANGED THE CHANEL!!!! (Gasp*, such a revolutionary idea, I know). No one is forcing you to watch this, you chose to watch her do what she did and so you have about zero right to the complain how much you didn't like it because you didn't take the obvious step to correct your discomfort.   



If You Seek Amy was a song that appeared on American pop singer's, Britney Spears' album entitled Circus. The title is obviously provocative and shocking and up to the Britney standard of selling sex but I am not going to tell you flat out what the title is, I'll leave that one up to your imagination. Needless to say, controversy ensued when a mother in New Zealand gave the song to her daughter of seven who proceeded to run around saying the title. The mother then got mad because there was no parental advisory sticker on the song. I am going to keep this really simple and just get right to the bottom  line, (1) Britney Spears is not responsible for raising your kids or making music for them, (2) you as a responsible parent should know that Britney Spears isn't appropriate for a seven year old to begin with and then with that knowledge not give the song to them.  


So what is the conclusion/moral to this post: 


When Will Film Die?

How many movies in a theatre have you seen in the past year that were shot on film? You could probably count them out on one hand. And at this point everyone knows why that is. Money, money, and more money. With the cost of everything else that is squeezed into a film production it is easy to understand why cutting something that is so expensive is reasonable. Digital movies are cheaper, most times easier to make, and way easier to manipulate in post production. The fact that cinema is dead is nothing new but the question is whether film stock will disappear forever?

The simple answer is no. Film is what created this industry and art form into what it is today. And with all the signs of film dying out it may look like it but the fact of the matter is that film will always have it's place. In a similar way to painting you can see the evolution of the materials used to create that art. Using acrylic paint does not mean that your painting is any better than a painting with oil paint. It is just different. And like movies that choice is made because of cost or the personal preference of the filmmaker. The way I see it is that without digital their would be a lot less films and a lot less films means a lot less stories. And who wants that? I don't care what you make your film on or what type of camera you used, just make a film. 

I will not lie and say that you will see a lot of film in the future of Hollywood but with enough money or power their will always be analog. Directors like Chris Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and Quentin Tarantino have fought through the Hollywood main stream to support film. And even in July banned together with the help of their respected studios to support Kodak in it's effort to continue the production of film stock. Nolan and Tarantino have been behind film since the start of their careers and Abrams is currently shooting Star Wars: Episode VII on 35 mm. Hollywood will and always be a business and it's not a surprise why you will rarely see a movie shot on film in a AMC or Regal. In a way it's sad to see less and less of film but always remember that its out there. And movies will always be made. 

Check out the story below:

Long Live the B-Movie

I'm finally back on campus...back for another semester, another year of college life and all the challenges, stress and struggles that come with it. I find myself transitioning into the IC flow once again and with the first day of classes now over, the summer's relaxation seems distant. Last night offered a nice opportunity, though. It was a chance to become immersed in the atmosphere of a film favorite one last time without the bothersome reminders of deadlines and upcoming assignments hanging over my head. I had a 9am, but my materials were all together and I had nothing better to do, so I figured why not pick something fun and practice some cinematic meditation. Naturally, my choice was Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II.

Now, Evil Dead II was never a film I expected to love. It's a bloody, zany horror comedy with extensive practical effects work and a wild, untamed energy. The film is relentless in its commitment to the weird and outlandish, the demented dark humor and the gory kills. Prior to this summer, the world of 80's horror schlock was not one I was familiar with. Stubbornly holding onto my Criterion collection and the ponderous art house cinema I treasured, there was something about that era/genre mix that made me uneasy. The addiction to foreign art house film is overstated, as I am not one to shy away from the occasional blockbuster (Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?) or hesitate to revel in some unabashedly comedic cheese (I'm looking at you, Coming to America). Still, 80's b-horror was an untapped area for me and I wanted to finally give it a shot.

The power of camp compels you!
Fright Night was the beginning of my little endeavor. Not a perfect film, but perfectly entertaining for what it is. Vampires, flamboyant hair styles, an 80's dance club and Roddy McDowall. All good fun, but I was only scraping the surface. Next came the gut-busting Re-Animator, the ridiculously unintelligent The Stuff and the comic book come to life, Creepshow. It all crescendoed in my first viewing of Evil Dead II. The film was mad. Limbs were flying. Cartoonish blood geysers everywhere. Bruce Campbell gets into a life-or-death scuffle with his freshly possessed right hand and a mounted deer head comes alive and laughs hysterically as all the other objects in the room follow suit. 

Taxidermy has never been so lifelike.
By the time the credits rolled, I knew I had just seen an instant favorite. The film didn't take itself too seriously and had the best balance of horror and comedy that I'd ever seen. The one-liners were goofy, the story was strung out and yet, there was something endearing about it. This wasn't the end of the horror-thon, though. Twenty films (including the dreadful Maximum Overdrive and Galaxy of Terror) would be viewed before my movie intake went back to normal, but none would reach the heights of Evil Dead II.

Don't worry, I'm getting there!
So, patient reader, why is it that I have gone to the trouble of sharing my adventures in the 80's campiness of ghosts and ghouls, monsters and slashers? It's because today we talked about passions. What do we want to do? What makes us happy? I've recently had my doubts about filmmaking. I question my abilities. Am I up to it? Is it genuinely enjoyable?

Peter Jackson, circa 1991
Perhaps I should pair Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (AKA Braindead) with Evil Dead II on this point. Here are two films that convey an excitement, a zest for filmmaking in every frame. With the energy, the tone and the sheer creativity of visual effects, scenario setups and comedy, they showcase a go-for-broke mentality and no matter how bizarre the subject matter is, one can't help but admire the spirit of these two directors. I'm not the only one that saw past the gore and bad taste, as Raimi was given the chance to direct the Spider-Man trilogy and Jackson went on to make Lord of the Rings. Noticeable passion kickstarting flourishing careers and more ambitious projects.

Not bad, Mr. Jackson.
Watching Evil Dead II again reminded me of the fervor that can come with filmmaking (even under extreme budget constraints). I won't necessarily be breaking into the realm of b-horror this semester, but I aim to recapture the same passion that was expressed in so many of the 80's horror flicks I viewed this summer. For all their indulgences and gross-out tactics, these movies represent a level of creative commitment and raw enthusiasm that is often missing from today's soulless studio tentpoles and pandering, end-of-the year Oscar bait.

Long live the B-movie!

Friday, May 2, 2014

180 Rule in Film

So there is this rule in film that is called the 180 rule (I don't follow rules!). For people who do not know what the 180 rule is or just want a refresher on what exactly the rule is, I have the perfect blog for you!
In film making, the 180-degree rule is a basic guideline regarding the on-screen spatial relationship between a character and another character or object within a scene. An imaginary line called the axis connects the characters, and by keeping the camera on one side of this axis for every shot in the scene, the first character is always frame rightof the second character, who is then always frame left of the first. The camera passing over the axis is called jumping the line or crossing the line.

There are a couple of times though that the 180 rule can work to your advantage! 


The imaginary line allows viewers to orient themselves with the position and direction of action in a scene. If a shot after the original shot in a sequence is located on the opposite side of the 180-degree line, then it is called a "reverse cut." Reverse cuts disorient the viewer by presenting an opposing viewpoint of the action in a scene and consequently altering the perspective of the action and the spatial orientation established in the original shot. 


There are a variety of ways to avoid confusion related to crossing the line due to particular situations caused by actions or situations in a scene that would necessitate breaking the 180-degree line.


Either alter the movement in a scene, or set up the cameras on one side of the scene so that all the shots reflect the view from that side of the 180-degree line.

Camera Arch move

One way to allow for crossing the line is to have several shots with the camera arching from one side of the line to the other during the scene. That shot can be used to orient the audience to the fact that we are looking at the scene from another angle. In the case of movement, if a character is seen walking into frame from behind on the left side walking towards a building corner on the right, as they walk around the corner of the building, the camera can catch them coming towards the camera on the other side of the building entering the frame from the left side and then walk straight at the camera and then exit the left side of the frame.

Buffer shot

To minimize the "jolt" between shots in a sequence on either sides of the 180-degree line, shoot a "buffer shot" along the 180-degree line separating each side. This lets the viewer visually comprehend the change in viewpoint expressed in the sequence.

The 180 rule is REALLY important, everyone but me needs to follow it!

8 Things I Learned From Making A Short Film

This is it... Last blog post of the year. I'm not saying I've looked forward to this day since the first blog post, but... yeah. Just kidding, Arturo (please don't fail me)! I had a lot of fun with my last blog post (100% because of the GIFs), and since we're nearing towards the final days of Fiction Field I, I felt like wrapping things off with some valuable lessons I've learned, assisted by the power of moving images. So here we go.

8 Things I Learned From Making A Short Film

1. Choose Your Positions Wisely

You're finally in your groups, and it's time to decide what you're going to contribute to the film. STOP. Before you go volunteering for a position, think. How much work do I actually want to do? Do I want to be responsible for the failure of this film? Do I know anything about lights? Am I organized enough to catch every single continuity issue there is? Thankfully, each member of my team were equally competent in their positions and we learned a lot along the way. But, looking back, I probably shouldn't have volunteered for three positions. Although it was extremely rewarding, I don't think I've ever been this exhausted in my entire life.

2. Always Pick Comedy

Just kidding. But seriously, really think about the type of movie you want to make before you decide. Think you can handle talking about suicide, murder and depression for four months? Are you sure? You can try as hard as you might to crack jokes on set, but trust me, it'll start to weigh you down.

In the end, you might have something that will leave an impact in your audience, but be prepared to accidentally become the most morbid person in your creative writing class.

3. Don't Do Anything Embarrassing

This, unfortunately, is inevitable. But if you can avoid it, try. On a film set, inside jokes at the expense of others is a long, grueling experience. Extremely hilarious when it's someone else, maybe not so much when it's you. If you do something worthy of your ridicule, you can be almost certain that you're going to hear about it every single day, of every single shoot.

It's one of the only things that keeps the group together and no one kills anyone. So maybe think twice before you clap the slate in the actress' ear, or don't lose your pants the night before a shoot. But if you do, thank you for your sacrifice for the cause.

4. Birthdays Don't Matter

Prepare for your best friends, roommates or parents to hate you if their birthday happens to fall during production season. Doesn't matter if they're Jesus, thou shalt not party on a shoot night.

But hey, if it's your or a crew member's birthday, cake on set is ALWAYS appreciated.

Thanks for being born, Paul.

5. Take Lots of Naps

All nighters are going to happen. More than once. When post production rolls around, you're going to forget what going to bed before the sun comes up feels like. The only good thing about this is that your other professors may let you slide on a few assignments due to your new zombie-like nature.

So if you have a chance to fit in a nap, take it. Squeeze in an hour in between classes, or put your head down at the library for a few minutes during a study break. Doesn't matter where, but trust me, you'll need it.

6. Keep Your Cool

Tension will thicken and tempers will rise. This is what happens when seven extremely different personalities are forced to work together for four months straight, running low on sleep, food and sanity. If you are a producer or director, it is especially important for you to keep calm during these times. People are going to snap and mental breakdowns will happen, and as tempting as it is to join in the anger and misery, you have to pull through and mediate the situations.

The storm will pass, and when it does, you'll be in a much better place if you didn't punch your crew members in the face.

7. Make Sure You Like Pizza

This will be your diet for the next few months or so. Maybe you'll get some bagels and coffee in the morning on a good day, but most likely it will be frozen pizza from the night before. So suck it up, and accept the cheesy goodness that is shitty delivery pizza.

8. Appreciate Your Crew Members

Your crew is like your family. Probably more so since you spend way more time with them than anyone else. Everything you do affects the group, and you can't do much without them. And just like family, they may get on your nerves, and you'll most likely get on theirs, but at the end of the day you have to love them. This semester, I had one of the greatest groups I could ask for. I made so many friends and memories, and created something I was truly proud of. Without them, this semester could have gone horribly wrong, and I thank each of them for not kicking me out (yet). Shout out to the members of Team Falcon (Patricia, Paul, Amelia, Kelly, Mike and David) for all of the hours and hard work that you put in and sacrificing their lives to create a twenty minute short film about butterflies. I love you all!

Now all we have to do is survive the premiere...

"I'm Shmacked"

     In honor of tomorrow being the holiday known as Kendall day and the fact that I have completely run out of things to talk about for these blogs I'm going to discuss the "I'm Shmacked" film crew. I'm Shmacked is a group of people that travel from college to college and record and document the parties. As you may know two years ago they came to Ithaca College's end of the year celebration known as Kendall Day.

Warning: Arturo you may not be 
happy with what you see

     The I'm Shmacked crew creates a lot of controversy in its wake. Everyone knows that most college students drink and party, but usually it is not documented to such an extent. One of the big fears is that if a student is captured in one of these videos how would that affect their future employment goals. If a potential employer sees you in one of these videos would that be cause for them to not hire you. However there are many students that are not worried about being discovered in one of the videos because their name is not tagged in it and would never come up in a Google search of them. 
     A possibly more serious concern is the possibility that when students hear about the crew coming to their school does that make them more likely to act wild in a way to be the most exciting video. That very thing is possibly what happened at the University of Delaware. Cops say that the arrival of the I'm Shmacked crew turned what would have been a peaceful Monday night into a "near riot".
     Some students also voiced their concern that after seeing these videos colleges may be forced to crack down on their drinking and parting policy to counter public outcry.   

The End...

Well, after many sleepless nights, stressful mornings, and seemingly endless nights of shooting and production, it's with great excitement I welcome the end of the semester.  My team and I have worked tirelessly for months on our film Black Butterfly, and I cannot wait to see all of our hard work pay off.

I knew Fiction Field was going to be a challenge, but it was more than just many hours of hard work on a school project.  This course pushed me far outside my comfort zone, placing me in positions of authority I wasn't quite sure I could handle at first.  Arturo's expectations seemed impossible at times, and I didn't want to disappoint.  Despite my shaken confidence, my group remained supportive and encouraging throughout the production.  Every one of us had something valuable to contribute every shoot.  The overall open-minded atmosphere among us allowed our ideas to flourish fully and received critique positively.

Black Butterfly is more than a final project to us; we gave our all every day, constantly striving to improve and refine the film.  I appreciate the honest feedback from my fellow peers and classmates, as well as from Arturo.  Criticism is difficult to give and receive, and I am grateful to have honest peers with my best interest at heart.  While we remained competitive with each other, we didn't let that taint our relationships.  Many friendships were formed during the semester, and everyone's willingness to help others was truly admirable.

Thank you to everyone and anyone who assisted in the creation of Black Butterfly.  Our cast and crew sacrificed many hours of their time to help us make something great.  Their dedication never ceased to amaze me, and didn't go unnoticed among my teammates. We never would've been able to have such a wonderful experience without the generous donations of friends, family, and others who believed in our innovations.  Thank you to everyone who provided honest, genuine feedback in hopes of our improvement.  Lastly, a huge thank you to Arturo and my teammates, Meghan, Patricia, Kelly, Paul, Mike, and Dave.  As cliche as it may sound, you have each taught me something valuable.  Thank you for challenging me to better myself each shoot, and I hope you all had a great of an experience as I did. You're all so talented, and it was truly an honor to have worked with each of you!

Two Masters Talking

So after last week's gratuitously long blog post, I will attempt to keep it concise this week. One of my favorite film directors of all time is Martin Scorsese. Another one of my favorite directors of all time is Paul Thomas Anderson. And lo and behold, here is a talk between them!

In terms of people I look to learn from on a variety of levels (Writing, composition, camera movement, kinetic nature of editing), there are few film makers I try harder to aspire to. Any words from these men (I'd listen to these guys rattle off their grocery list) are gems of insight and it is amazing that there is video of a talk of them speaking with each other. So watch it and learn!!!

"Wind reel and print"

Well, it has come to that time of the semester here at Ithaca College when things start to get a little hectic with finals, finding a ride home, re-shoots, laundry, Kendall day, figuring out textbook rental return dates etc. Living in the college world, these stressors are supposed to be taking over my life, However, while working on my Fiction Field Production class short movie assignment, I quickly found out that "Manage Your Time 101" should be offered and be a requirement for all Parkies, if not every student in college.My experience working with my crew was one I will never forget. It was my first time writing for this type of assignment, and also taking on the job of Script Supervisor, never did I ever think that I would be in the local supermarket passed midnight on a school night. I wasn't expecting the amount of time I was about to spend with my classmates outside of out normal classroom setting. I wasn't sure how well we would all get along, if our ideas would even work well together, or if I even felt comfortable sharing my ideas aloud.

 I quickly had a reality check at our first shoot when it was 2:30am on a Monday night, cigarette smoke clouded the living room from our countless takes of cigarette puffs, and I realized that at that moment, this was what I came to college for. This is what I am meant to be doing. I then didn't even want to imagine where else I would be if i weren't in that clogged up smoky living room.

It always amazes me when its the end of the semester and in some of my classes, I maybe know the persons name who is is sitting next to me, the professors name, and thats about it. In others, I know everyone, everyone knows me, I am invested, and overall enjoy my time spent in the classroom. In this class, on the first day I knew about half of everyones names solely from being in classes with them in a previous semester. Once our "teams" were made for our movies, I had two ways of approaching the situation. One, I let my position be assigned to me, don't put too much opinion, and just flow. Or two, speak my mind, let my personality make its way out, and genuinely enjoy my time working with these 7 other people until the semesters over. Im happy that I chose the second route, because what came out of working with those 7 other people, was so freaking cool. I had no idea the amount of talent I was surrounded by, and if I was just open to it, I could learn a lot from these kids. Not only were we able to work together, share our ideas, and produce an amazing short film. We were able to have fun, and work as friends We created awesome memories together, and some pretty amazing friendships that I will forever be grateful for.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Controversy amongst the 4th Estate

For those of you who don't know, here is a quick lesson on our government in the U.S. as it pertains to the topic of discussion. As some of you may know, our democratic government runs on a series of checks and balances through different branches of government. We have the Judicial, Executive, and Administrative branches constantly trying to keep each other in line while maintaining different powers. Although we have these three estates watching over each other, we have developed the mainstream media as a 4th estate to really make sure things are being run legally, ethically, and morally. The three branches are controversial enough as it is on how they run things sometimes so we trust the media to subside some of those dilemmas with they're exposing of the truth. But what if the 4th estate was manipulated by the government, what if these news networks were not exposing the truth the way they should? Where would that leave us?

Well, I bring this all up as CBS is in a pretty sticky situation with their News president David Rhodes. David Rhodes happens to be brother with Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser. It has been brought to light that CBS may have been going soft on the report about the recent Benghazi, Libya attacks in 2012 due to the close ties between the two Rhodes brothers. In defense of the matter, CBS has here been having current discussions about the attacks without David Rhodes being present.

It is scary to think that the White House has such close ties to such a major news network. It makes you wonder if there is more to the stories that are being reported by CBS and any other news network for that matter. Personally, I feel it is highly unethical to have the deputy adviser for the president have family relations with the President of a major news network whether they are in close contact or not. If you're brother asked you to cover something up to protect his job, would you? Something should be done about this controversial issue fast or else may be continued to get a government edited version of the news.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris Defends HIMYM Finale

WARNING: spoilers ahead

If somehow you still haven't heard about how the HIMYM series ends, do not read any further!

When the beloved show How I Met Your Mother aired it's season finale a few weeks back, many viewers were outraged.  How could they drag the show on for 9 seasons and the mother is dead the entire time? Everyone who was rooting for Barney and Robin were left disappointed, and many fans felt that the ending was "an easy way out."

The show's star, Neil Patrick Harris, made an appearance on "Late Show."  He told Letterman he was a big proponent of the season finale.  Harris defended the ending, saying that Barney isn't the type of character that is going to settle down and change out of the blue.  "You want Barney to be the guy you bring your mom home to, but Barney is the guy that wants to bang your mom," Harris told Letterman.
He continued to defend HIMYM, saying that "sometimes people's growth doesn't mean they grow up."

Do you agree with Neil Patrick Harris? Watch the video below, and decide for yourself what you think.

Athletic Supporting

Commercials made by sportswear companies all follow a similar formula. They involve pump up music, usually rock or rap, a very fit and muscular person working out while wearing the product. This appeals to a limited amount of people that are already in shape and good athletes.


There are a few instances though where the companies go for the other audience, the 'fatties' and the 'losers'. This is the audience should be exploited more. I believe they will respond more positively to advertisements and spend more money chasing their fitness goals.

The second ad in my opinion is much more effective. There is a much larger population of unfit people, especially in America. Encouraging people to work out and be healthy is more motivating than showing already very fit athletes working out.

ADR at its finest?

So these past couple of weeks have been really stressful for me and I know many other people as well. Well I wanted to share really well done ADR (automatic dialog replacement) that I found that will make all the stress go away!

Okay the ADR in these clips aren't exactly right or what the character was saying before it was altered but you have to admit it was pretty impressive. If the content that they were saying wasn't so weird it would be pretty believable.
These videos were done by youtuber badlipreading. The about section of the youtube page says "I put 
words into other people's mouths." I guess that is true!
Well I hope this made your stressful life just a little bit better or at least distracted you from doing something important!

Todrick Hall and Virgin America: A Good Combination

If you have never heard of Todrick Hall, let me explain to you just how cool he is. Todrick is a YouTube sensation and an amazing choreographer, dancer, and musician. One of my favorite videos he has done is Cinderfella; a parody on the classic Cinderella love story. The video that I am referring to though, has a different impact than some of Todrick’s other videos. This video is a creative publicity and advertising tool created by him in partnership with Virgin America Airlines. We all know how monotonous and boring the safety instructions at the beginning of a flight can be, but Virgin America and Todrick Hall decided to turn that around and make it a fun and entertaining experience. This video is just another example of Todrick’s brilliance, considering he choreographed and created the entire idea.  Not only did this video go viral, but Virgin America is now able to use this videos on all of their flights. This might encourage travelers to choose Virgin next time they are planning a trip.

Not only is this a great move for Virgin America, but it is also positive for Todrick. Him doing this video was just another tool for him to get his name out there. Being associated with this large company was a smart move to further propel his career.

         I think this safety video is a very clever idea. The song is catchy and the dance is creative. I think it is a great promotional tool and something that other airlines might consider doing when evaluating their informational process. Not only would I recommend this video purely for entertainment, but I would also suggest that you take a look at some of Todrick’s other work. Below is the Virgin America video, as well as Cinderfella, which I mentioned earlier.

Smart Things

     Ever see the Disney Chanel movie Smart house and think wow I wish my home could be like that. . . without the robot "Mom" wanting to keep you hostage. Well Smart Things is a pretty cool bit of technology that allows you to completely automate your home and can make it almost as cool as Smart house. You can use your cellphone to talk to your home and have your home talk back to you by using some of the devices that come with the smart things package. Your home will know when you wake up which will tell your home to turn on lights, start making coffee and could set your temperature. Here is a video showing a demo house with smart things technology in it.

     Although it does sound pretty neat smart things is pretty creepy at the same time. Having you home making your life easier could be nice, but having it know so much about you an your family makes me uncomfortable. Also if you want to completely automate your house it could start to get pretty expensive. The starter pack is $200 and comes with some cool stuff to get you, well started. But the more you want your house to do the more you have to pay. 

Camera with Ridiculous Frame Rate

As my title suggests, this camera is indeed crazy fast. How fast? Try one TRILLION frames per second.

Now you see what were dealing with here. This camera is so fast that it can be pointed at a fucking apple and the footage will make you have to change your pants. The purpose of this camera is to capture light moving...let that sink in because we now have the power to see light move. The camera was designed at M.I.T. and is used to experiment with photons. One of the people who created this camera, Ramesh Raskar, gave a TED talk about the camera and its future potential. 

Around the 6:27 mark is the start of a cool animation that explains how they use this insanely fast camera to see things around corners. The full potential of this camera is astounding and the future practical uses for this kind of photography interlaced with other technology is amazing. Cameras don't always have to shoot movies...they can do other things like bend the laws of physics. 

Kid President

I love Kid President videos. He's such cute little kid! I'm sure someone writes his script for him but it's so right. He takes things that we hear all the time like "give the world your everything" and "do the best you can" and he makes it not cliche and awful to hear. I think he reminds us of things that we often forget. The music in the back of this video is so perfect too. It's just noticeable enough. It's not overpowering or harsh. It's gentle and calming. Just like his words.

Foley Can Make or Break Your Film

So I was on one of my favorite websites, and stumbled upon a video called "bad foley." Now, coming from an audio minor and a person that simply appreciates the art of sound in general it was almost disturbing to see how bad sound in film can really be. Even though this video was made as a joke, it can really make you appreciate how much time foley and mixing go into the process of film making. Especially with scenes that do not require that much natural sound, its the art of creating the deceives the audience to make them believe it is real. I encourage everyone to take a look at this video, it will make you laugh, or if your a sound guy, possibly cry.

On Simba’s General Assholery, The Poor Parenting Technique of Mufasa, and The Errs of a Male Focused Society

            Lion King’s a solid flick. Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, the film serves as an interesting riff on Hamlet with the pieces re-arranged to make it kid friendly and a superb musical accompaniment courtesy of sir Elton John that worms itself into your brain for years to come. But people misread the film. Specifically, the character Simba. Canon has it that Simba is  a deeply sympathetic hero whose bravery and tenacity in the face of tragedy serves as model of virtue that we all should aspire to exemplify a daily basis. This interpretation is, in fact, misguided fallacy, a misappropriation of story resulting from the buoyant, cartoonish, and musical atmosphere of the film. If you look at the movie on an objective level, Simba turns out to be an entitled, self-involved asshole raised in to a culture of privilege and indulgence by a father whose sole moment of proper parenting was dying.
            At the start of the story, Simba’s a young lion. He’s a boy acting in boyish ways: a tad immature, overly adventurous, and a disrespect of authority. It’s understandable because boys will be boys. You don’t slip out the womb full of wisdom and insight. Mufasa knows this and early on trues to implore upon Simba the virtues and requirements of a leader and, to an extent, of any halfway decent human being (Or lion, whatever, you know what I mean). But these type of ideas take a while to ferment within a personality, so Simba’s still off being a rambunctious little lion that he is.
Uncle Scar, the film’s agent of chaos and evil, tells Simba about this cool forbidden elephant graveyard. Simba, of course, wants to go. Zazu, being they kind of guy who, likes his King’s kid being alive and stuff, tells Simba not to venture off. Simba goes anyway, roping his innocent friend Nala along for the shenanigan. Disobedience, especially within small children, is if not forgiven, than understandable as long as it is the exception to their behavior, not their general mantra of behavior.
But before they take part in their disobedience, they need to get rid of Zazu. And they do so with a musical number called “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”. Simba riles up all these Pride Land animals (Who no doubt were enjoying their afternoon perfectly fine before Simba came along and brought his little song and dance routine, I’m sure) and performs this big musical number which subdues Zazu by pure chaotic force. Their handling of Zazu is not really the issue here though. What is bothersome is the lyrical content of Simba’s song. He sings about how he cannot wait until he will not have to bow down to authority. He is a power hungry crown chaser who wants to be in charge just so there’s no one above him telling him how to act. This mindset is not necessarily role model material, but one chalk it up to the pitfalls of boyhood I suppose.
Simba and Nala get to the elephant graveyard and, what do you know, it turns out to be dangerous and they nearly get eaten by hyenas! Like Zazu warned them! Mufasa sweeps in and saves the two children at the last minute. Now this is an opportunity for true parenting. If Mufasa handles this moment properly, a stern yet not entirely unsympathetic approach, this could become a real character forming moment for Simba that clearly defines for him the line between right and wrong. This line could go on to guide Simba years later during his time as king. Precision is necessary in this moment.
 Instead, Mufasa has about thirty seconds of glaring and grimacing before tussling his son’s mane and basically saying, “Hey, just don’t do that again.”
NO! Just no! This style of parenting, the type where your kid messes up and you let it slide just this one time because he definitely learned his lesson and will NEVER act like this again because you told him not to and it’s different then when you told him earlier not to do that thing because you, as a parent, really mean it now, breeds the absolute worst type of person. These are the type that not are not only unable to understand the nature of consequence, but are also unaware of its very existence. Such a force has never been a presence in their life because their parents excuse them of it. These people act in a reckless, selfish manner because that’s all they’ve ever known. And it is not as much that Simba is a horrible person in this particular moment, but that he would have grown to become one had everything in his life not gone to shit. Had Mufasa been able to keep up his parental style of fostering a privileged and consequence-free environment for his son, then, to draw a parallel to our world, Simba would have become that jock asshole in high school that got a brand new 50,000 dollar Porsche for his birthday and purposefully crashed it so he could get a new one, this time with the correct plush interior. Which is why Mufasa’s was at his best as a parent when he died.
Mufasa’s death is tragic on a variety of levels. Drawn beautifully, evocative voice acting and fantastic sound design, it’s a powerful moment that sits inside the viewer long after the movie’s over. But the situation Simba is put in may be that part that hits hardest. Simba’s childish ways end up leading to his father’s death (Or so Scar leads him to believe). Losing a father is hard enough, but having to bear the emotional brunt of responsibility for it as well is a form of psychological baggage so complex and weighty that I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. (Actually, I probably would on him, but probably not my third or fourth worst ones.) From a removed perspective though, this is an important and beneficial moment for Simba. There is no one there to excuse him for his actions this time. No one to say it’s ‘All okay.’ (Yet.) Simba’s forced to confront his personal flaws and deal with them. Hopefully, this will shock him out of his boyhood ignorance and thrust him into adulthood.

NOPE. After a brief period of angsty though really understandable period of moping, he runs off into the forest with Timon and Pumba and becomes the Disney animation equivalent of a stoner, preaching apathy and hedonism while munching on an endless amount of edibles. For years, he lives for the sole purpose of escaping the pain and guilt of his actions. If nothing else, as a kid, Simba at least had ambitions of leadership, no matter how egotistical and selfish they were at their core. But now he just sits on his ass all day thinking about the latest ways to please himself. Presented with the chance to move past his flaws and embrace the basic emotional requirements of becoming a mature adult capable of leadership, he doesn’t as much say no as ignore the opportunity all together.
Guilt, regret, shame. These emotional bedrocks are what ultimately carry us from childhood into adulthood. We confront these emotions after an array of mistakes, big or small, and deal with them, making promises and pledges to ourselves to not make these types of mistakes again. And in the process of fixing the ills and foibles of our personalities, we turn into better people. (Which is why the axiom “No regrets” is, pardon the vulgarity, utter bullshit.) Without regret, you have no reason to grow as a person because you are utterly content with the one you are today. So why bother trying to fix it? Simba makes that choice of apathy every day of his life for years. Sympathy for his tragic upbringing aside, this is not someone I aspire to become.
Simba, after years of indulgences escapism, is forced to confront his past during a chance encounter with Nala. After some passionate cuddling and nose rubbing, Nala asks him to come back to the Pride Lands and assume the throne because only he can stop Scar from making such a muck of things. (Nala, despite all of her other fantastic personality traits which we will get to later, clearly is not skilled in the art of character assessment.) Simba being Simba, he does not want to confront the emotional burden of his father’s death and refuses, angrily running off into the forest. All his old friends and family, even his mother, are in danger of dying out due to this egotistical tyrant. But hey, Simba comes before everyone else.
Simba eventually changes his mind though after encounters with floating flower petals and a monkey that’d get psychiatric help if he knew what was good for him. He goes back to the Pride Lands and fights off Scar, has a baby with Nala and rules over the Pride Lands. After basically an lifetime rife with moments basically calling out to him “Hey, get your shit together!”, he finally does. And you know what, kudos to him. Seriously, well done. It’s not easy changing, but we’re all glad he did. And so he ends the film as a fairly noble king and everyone likes him. But he should not be given all that much credit for this. Simba has been given such a dearth of opportunities to change himself, and he only acts upon them once everyone he loves pesters him to do so, as opposed to finding that change within himself through introspection and revelation. I’m not saying he is the worst person ever, but he’s not all that great, and he’s definitely not role model material.
Even as he grows up, Simba is not the leader the Pride Lands deserves. Nor is Scar (A man too enraptured in the thralls of jealousy and selfishness, despite his clear tactical qualifications and cunnery, to ever benefit the masses. Also, he’s just a big jerk). Nor is Mufasa, (Too na├»ve and kind hearted to make the types of decisions that need to be made as a king, i.e. Ned Stark). The leader the Pride Lands deserves is Nala. Look at this girl. Powerful, smart, yet not without compassion. She is a gentle soul who is not cruel yet knows what needs to be done for the kingdom to thrive. But can she be the ruler of the Pride Lands? No. She’s a girl.

Lion King ends up being about the faults of a society that empowers and breeds male egotism as well as the consequence that such institutional bias births. Scar, Simba Mufasa, none of them are fit to rule. Nala, the best candidate for leader, is relegated to being nothing more than a muse, a mere inspiration for passion and fortitude for Simba when he needs it most. And it’s a god damn shame that it works like that.