Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A guide for a religious viewing of Noah... Or WTH?

(forgive me, I really wanted this post out here but I'm writing from my phone - so let the spelling errors go for now - okay? gyahhhh)

1) Darren Aronofsky is not an atheist. Just go do some homework to figure that one out. Also, why would that ever matter? Maybe the dumbest argument against making a movie ever. Even if it were true he clearly has a better and deeper understanding of biblical texts than you. And that's just funny. I hope you're sad about that fact. 
Along those lines , i've heard several people complain about not being able to take their kids to this movie. WHAT?! Humanity was wiped out by drowning. The story ends with Noah being so drunk he's naked and cursing his son. The sacrilegious story of Noah is in your coloring books with all the happy smiley animals in a boat underneath a rainbow. That is sending the wrong message. The men of earth were wicked so God wiped them all out - man woman child! Let's get your story straight.
(not okay if the question is biblical accuracy - and hardly capturing the nature of the story)

2) Darren Aronofsky is not "Hollywood". He is far from it. He operates outside of the studio system, it's a pretty wellknown fact. If anybody refers to Noah as a "Hollywood movie", you can rest assured they have no idea what they are talking about.
Additionally, "Noah" was produced initially by none other than the main backer of "Passion of the Christ". Guess why the lava monsters look slightly like they're on the ScyFy channel? Answer: they didn't have a Hollywood budget.

3) "doesn't mention 'God' once": how dumb can a review be to judge a movie on it not mentioning a word? Now let's look at that logically, literally, and historically: The word God is an English reference to a higher power. Something the Old Testament doesn't even do because all of the names of God are mentioned in a way that references his/her manifestations. (Oh yeah, and it wasn't written in English). That is right I put in "her". Many of the names of God in the old testament are the feminine version of a word. "Shakina" (probably didn't spell that right) for example, references how a mother bear protects her cub.
Oh but wait. The young boy tells the main bad guy that his father told him no one is king because only God rules. So maybe you didn't see the movie? Also, the entire plot and force in the world is centered around "The Creator." Or, one all-powerful god of the universe.

4) "rock people": in the film these are fallen Angels. They were flung to earth to live in physical form by God for disobeying him. It is torturous and they must pull themselves from the earth melting everything around them creating their hideous forms which are essentially lava rocks. Now, biblically, there is reference in the very short few chapters of Noah, to fallen angels. Fallen angels that were breeding with humans and creating a race of giants. So the movie is not off-base using fallen angels existing alongside human beings.
But why did Aronofski choose to make them lava monsters? Well, if you were to do your homework, you would recognize these lava monsters as being characters in older stories of Noah. That's right Noah's flood story is older than what the book of Genesis goes back to. And I'm not even talking about the other older stories of a world wide flood, I am talking about Noah himself. What this would seem to tell us is that these stories come from one event. And their similarities would indicate that Genesis would have left just certain details out because they weren't needed, maybe. Let's think about why these details might be left out.  Maybe because - let's say this was an actual event that happened - when Abram was told by God to start telling everyone about the one true God and to change his name to Abraham, and start this religion, he would start about writing the Bible that we now have. He would take these true stories and focus on the points of The One Creator being in control. You see, the descriptions of the angels wouldn't be necessary to the greater part of the historical story.  He was born and came from a city that worshiped many gods. The gnostic bible (which was written first I'll add) believed that the creator was a doofus and demi-god who would create the world then destroy it and then create another one. The people of this religion worshiped the fallen angels as protectors and demi-gods and helpers of people. In a spiritual warfare, it would be wise to leave out their good deeds so that humans (who have a problem believing only what they see) wouldn't fall back in to those traps of worshipping "champions" (as described in Genesis' Noah). The point would be to erase the angels because they may very well have been good but these ancient people worshipped them instead of the true Creator. Think of it in terms of how history is written by those who conquered. 
So by all accounts these lava monsters very much fit into the biblical story of Noah. And if we treated the texts as history lessons, we'd need to include them by nature of using multiple accounts. In the movie they are used brilliantly to show how Noah could have built the ark "by himself", God allowed the fallen angels to help him. Additionally these fallen angels give us insight into the nature of God. It is biblically affirming that God required absolute obedience in the Old Testament. These fallen angels did something good by helping man but it was against the creators word so they were punished. And then in a surprise turn, these fallen angels are used plotwise, to affirm new testament beliefs that God is the redeemer, that he is forgiving and loving, and that being in the presence of God is the most wonderful thing. That is in this movie that the religious right has condemned without seeing! And it is blatant! Only this movie and the passion of the Christ are films that have showed these qualities of God without being super cheesy. And meanwhile it is the only movie I've ever seen to unabashedly show God as the old testament character who requires absolute obedience... or you die. 

5) "the movie is a liberal agenda-pushing film about vegans and environmentalists": NO. If you think that, you have a third grade level reading comprehension. Not only is this containing no agenda, though it is a part of the plot and character, but it is precisely pointed out in the chapters of Noah! What Aronofski does brilliantly, is to weave the clues to the message of Noah into the story that he has written. At the end of the story in Genesis when the family gets off of the ark, God gives them permission to eat animals and commands them to take care of the earth. After all that stuff had been written in Genesis, before the story of Noah, why would this story end with God's command to take care of the earth and make it a point to say it is okay to eat animals now? Maybe because those "wicked" people were manifesting their wickedness in raping the earth and then killing for meat rather than using the land the way it was intended. That is pretty logical to me and should be an okay summation. But Noah talks to his son about meat eating and using the earth when he explains why God is saving the animals. His son replies "because they are still living as they did in The Garden?" Again the movie confirms other pieces of Genesis and the nature of God and it is very simply woven into the script.
Noah is the last of the bloodline purely from Adam and Eve (in Genesis and in the film), and he is righteous in gods eyes because he is still living as the creator intended for man to live. Another affirmation of the book of Genesis calling Noah the only righteous man. And the word that is translated to "righteous" is referencing how just Noah is. This is another nice biblical affirmation Aronofski writes in when Noah proclaims "I want justice".

6) "Noah becomes a bloodthirsty psycho." NO. Again, if you can't understand what is going on in the movie then you have a third graders movie watching comprehension level. Just as an real life, God doesn't speak to us with a voice. Sometimes it is hard to know if we are doing the right thing, especially when it seems against our nature. Noah believes that the creator has chosen him to help all the animal species survive the flood but humans will die because they are wicked. He was chosen because he is so righteous and the only one with the guts to follow through with what God wants. All signs from the film have told us that this is a perfectly logical interpretation of what God wants, Noah isn't crazy, he is Godly. This is a part of the film that is only in the film and not the story of Genesis. Genesis does not give us clues as to what happened on the ark or what the humans were thinking. This is where it fills in a story to make it a movie. This is where it can sometimes get tricky, understandably. But this plot device is used in order to reveal the character of Noah and his family and God himself. It is also used to add the human element to this massive cataclysmic events.


Noah believes that God is telling him all the humans have to die because no one is able to have children and there are no more wives on the ship. All the signs in the film point to this. Okay that makes logical sense. When he discovers that the one who was not supposed to be able to have children is pregnant, and it was his wife's and his father's conspiracy that gave her the ability to conceive, he is angered because he believes they are going against God's will. He proclaims that if it is a female, he will kill the child. He is going to follow through with it not because he is psychopathic, but because he is, again, the only human with the guts to follow through with what the creator has ordered him to do.

Now, is this against the nature of God? Because I have seen a lot backlash about this particular part. So it seems to me we have forgotten the part that happened just 20 minutes earlier in the film (and about two sentences earlier in the bible) when 

the entire effing world and its inhabitants were DROWNED AND KILLED BY GOD HIMSELF! 

Oh yeah and remember when God tested Abraham by telling him to take Isaac to the top of the mountain to sacrifice him like a goat? This is nearly the same incident happening. Only Noah believes that this is the right thing to do just as Abraham believed it was the right thing to do. That is in your Bible!


**bonus) this movie ends with such a heartbreaking and bitter sweet dramatic conclusion, that you can't help but feel for Noah. It is a true mark of a fantastic film. But beyond that, it fits what is happening in our minuscule story in Genesis. 
Did you ever realize Noah's story contains the first mention of wine? The first time someone is drunk, he is so hammered, he's naked and yelling obscenities at his own son, cursing all his future children. Our hero Noah, being all drunk off his high righteous-horse. Nothing is really mentioned of this further, and it's certainly not in any Sunday school lesson you'll ever hear, why don't we want to touch this? So Aaronoffski tries to explore what might be going on there. Bold. 
I'll explain his take so you won't have to think too hard: There was obviously tension between the father and son. And throughout the film the buildup to this creates real tension and drama and speaks a lot to father and son relationships. There is a real human moment where we understand what a man would go through having survived this cataclysmic event where he had a chance to save more people yet was bound by his devotion to a higher power to "stay the course" or walk that "straight and narrow path". (You see what's happening here in this study of Noah? Now do you get where this is mining allegory for the Christian?) Noah truly has survivors guilt. That would explain why he would become so drunk. He is alone and depressed, something humans experience absolutely. Not only do we feel this human condition, but it is concluded between the characters that Noah was the one given the choice to choose forgiveness or not. Again, another bold and decidedly Christian theological choice for the film. 

As Christians we regard the story of Noah as an allegory for Christ. We can think of Noah as a Christ figure, or more relevantly, the ark itself. This film not only confirms that, but drives it home. It shows that God gives us the choice of salvation. That is in this film blatantly! It is unashamed to make biblical references, it is unashamed to show God as a killer for disobedience (as is most usually conveniently scanned over when people make "Christian" movies), and it is unashamed to show God as giving us the choice to except forgiveness (also usually glossed over in "Christian" movies unless it is incredibly cheesy with a melodramatic atheist-fall-to-his-knees moment). It is bold in these ways that not even Christian filmmakers can seem to tackle. And it is done so without a shred of cheesiness. More than I can say about any other single film ever made dealing with theology. 

Why any Christian would call this film sacrilegious is absolutely beyond me and I have been angered by the responses to the film. We should be supporting these movies over the crap that is being made by Sony and other studios that has no chance of ever having relevancy outside of youth group attendance. And that is created solely to make money off of you, making you think there is some sort of movement within Hollywood to make all films Christian in the future. It's an absurd marketing ploy you buy in to hook line and sinker, and it's shameful really (I'm looking at you, "God's Not Dead" - completely laughable Christ-sploitation cinematic trash).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bombs of The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger didn't suck. I happened to like it very much. I consider myself a connoisseur of Lone Ranger and Westerns in general. I didn't have high expectations and didn't read reviews, so I was going in pretty "blank slate". It was original, and certainly a much better take on The Lone Ranger than previous attempts, AND waaaaaaaay better than what audiences think they want to see (a realistic version of a man in a mask and white hat with a follower Indian in the 1800's... which is pretty stupid). It is definitely NOT a 20% Rotten Tomatoes score-worthy movie.

Where'd the BOMB come from? 

It was marketing:
The previews set it up for failure by showing the fantastical stuff (horse jumping off a train car - in a tree - etc). People interested in Westerns were turned off and those not interested thought it looked stupid. Once the movie got to those scenes I thought it worked though.

Another problem is this INSANE idea that Tonto HAS to be played by an Indian. It was a genuine turn off for people and as much as I'd like to see someone like Jay Tavre play Tonto, Depp is still the better casting choice. And did the American Indian voice, look, and essence so well. Also, the crow thing: it somehow became a big deal because it was different. Even with historical evidence of medicine men wearing birds like that, people couldn't get over it and judged it as a bad film because Depp was so clearly hamming it up. Turns out, not only is there the historical evidence, it is also a strongly motivated character piece and something that worked VERY well in the film's world.

If people don't go see a movie, it really has nothing to do with it being a bad movie.... 

BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SEE IT. And box office bombs are judged as such well before word of mouth has a chance to spread. Not enough people saw this opening weekend to kill the film by the time it did through word of mouth.

But what DOES kill a movie in the second weekend, every time? The critics, and the box office numbers. For some reason, audiences (who weren't excited about it in opening weekend) will read box office numbers from the first weekend like a score card, and judge the movie by that. Reviews of the film won't always keep people away, but when you add that to "no one saw the movie opening weekend" ... they tend to believe it's not worth their time.

It's very strange, this idea: "Well if no one saw it, I'm not going either." Or the fact that a movie will be advertised on TV with a preview and "The number one movie of the weekend" and it be based on the fact that everyone has seen it. And that ACTUALLY influences people to go to the film.

You want to see a terrible summer blockbuster? Go rent Battleship. I stopped talking to a girl after she texted "I saw Battleship yesterday, it was the best movie I've seen this year". You want to see a terribly acted, written, and directed film that people showed up for? See a real trainwreck, Transformers 3.

Here's a good review of The Lone Ranger, since they are so few and far between: http://okc.net/2013/07/09/review-lone-ranger/

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: One in the Chamber

Probably straight to DVD. And with good reason.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Dolf Lundren are assassins, and if that's not a great idea for a B-Movie then I don't know what is. And here's my real problem: Lundren brings his best performance since Rocky IV except that he has lines. So I'll call it the best I've seen of him. And Cuba, he's magnificent in this. He brings absolutely ZERO amount of his usual "on-the-verge-of-crying schtick". He is a haunted and deadpan cold assassin playing both sides of a Russian mafia war.

The problem here is Lundren is handled like a joke, and Gooding is handled like he's going to be up for an Oscar. The direction seems to be phoned in by two separate people that don't communicate.

I'm wondering if it was directed by a married couple. 

Lundren's action sequences are terrible, one opposer at a time type fights and gunplay. Cuba has to deliver some really cheesy over the top dialogue. The final sequence has Cuba taking the reigns on terrible stage direction and shooting up a club before the last badguy walks out with a girl Cuba has been protecting and says, "Enough! You are going to die. The question is, will she die with you."

And it actually takes 3 "Enough!"'s to get Cuba to turn around and find where the badguy is standing. Why this guy wouldn't just shoot Cuba in the head is beyond me... or rather beyond the married couple directing the movie. Clearly the wife wanted to see the emotional interplay of a damsel in distress and her protector (a smart, clever, cold deadon marksman) make the decision to drop his weapon. And the husband wanted the first part of the sequence where Cuba takes out an entire club of badguys without getting shot and without missing a single mark.

I do have to say, I really appreciate whichever one directed Dolf and Cuba's scenes together. There was  a real sense of weight of the battles the two had seen between the two.

This movie has a lot going for it and is worth a watch. But you'll ultimately be disappointed there wasn't more of the stuff you liked and how many little moments didn't make sense to the point you were dragged out of the story.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Collaborative Scheduling Tools for Free - Google Calendar

Keep your film's schedule on Google docs and you can do all sorts of fun things with it. Share the calendar with your cast and crew and they can set up notifications for scheduling changes. Set your AD up with text reminders for 10 minutes before each schedule break and keep the whole crew together! Tie in Google docs, and Google Maps and suddenly you have a dynamic producer's suite. Here's what our Agenda looks like:

(the calendar shows in realtime so scan to Sunday March 27th, 2011. Then click on the call time for 10am - notice the link to the map? That's our production locations so everyone can get specific directions from where they are and where everyone will be. Plus more features are included with the maps such as pictures. You could load in location scouting photos or even set photos for promotional use later.)

More to come with specific tutorials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Something" *Clicked* Today

Some things come naturally to some people. For me, it is writing. Writing a screenplay - even more so. I just "get it". I "get" the "blueprint" aspect, I "get" the mechanics of how people read over a white piece of paper when they really just want to have the thing "read". I "get" how to represent a scene/action/emotion on a page with black courier font text. I "get" how annoying quotation marks are.

I "get" actors. I get how I often over explain their character to them, that I might have too many ideas to try. I get that they want need as little as possible from me in way of explanation. I "get" it.

I don't get cinematography.

Oh, I have the knowledge. I can relay the knowledge. I can have a conversation. I somewhat understand the math of electricity and bulbs. I know key/fill/back/kicker. I know you're supposed to paint with the light. But none of it ever added up. I didn't get lenses, I mean I know depth of field and composition, but when we start talking millimeters... uh-uh. I can't do it. Can not do it.

Anamorphic, widescreen, ratios... I know these terms, I still don't get why a TV will sometimes squish a widescreen recording and still cut off sides in a letterboxed dvd.

Until today.

I guess working around the lights recently, solving some problems here and there, talking bulbs and wattage and then immediately cutting the footage and seeing the results - a technical education if you will - made it click with me.

I get it.

I think I just stepped up my game folks.

For years, left alone in a world devoid of cinephilic friends and no money to buy those with a cinematographic green thumb, I was honestly terrified to experiment, knowing I had no chance of looking professional without lighting. If I couldn't get a DP on board on the day, I had no other choice but to shut a project down.

Then I thought, "If I just had the $500 it took to buy a light kit, then I could take my time and experiment on my own. Then I'd get it. Well I never had the practical need for lights. So I couldn't possibly spend the money.

So I cut my teeth on wedding and highlight videos. I experimented with framing and editing. With distance and movement. The only real thing I learned about lighting from that was what an ND filter did. And that stepped up my game. The ability to use real Cannon lenses on the XL1 was the first step in an evolutionary process. I learned the correlation between the clouds and F-stops and Frame Rates. Now I can do it in my head.

Then I suddenly needed a steady cam. I obviously can't afford that but there are so many fun looking tutorials online to build one for $10, I had to try.

It mildy works. But what I really gained was a true DIY attitude. What I previously thought was for amateurs, I now realize can actually be for a realists looking to keep working. I often run from "DIY" because my nose is in the air. Or rather, a chip is on my shoulder. I have a deep need to only make professional pieces, it's a problem that has kept me from directing more projects because of money concerns. Being in Oklahoma, people throw around terms like "barebones" and "Do It Yourself" and the dreaded "Independent Filmmaker" phrasing that is supposed to be some sort of excuse for shoddy work! And I'm too good for that!...

(okay... easy... I'm working this out guys - I'm admitting I may have a filmsnob problem - okay? I'm working it out.)

I looked at these lights I used on Player's Court. They were expensive. They were amazing for my project because we were just experimenting with shooting style and character work. The lights helped be something more than that - closer to a visually finished project - so it could now be used to be shown rather than just good pre-production. Kent (the DP) and I talked so much about bulbs that in cutting I now UNDERSTAND the relation between distance and watts and direction.

And I saw that the true value of the professional lighting kits were not the lights at all. It was the "brushes". The barn doors, the diffusion, the things that truly allow you to "paint with light" - or maybe now more accurately, "paint with shadow". And then not just those features - but the system. Want to splash light here? move the barndoor in. want to not be so bright? drop in another scrim.

I had a moment when I REALLY needed a "softbox". Then I doubled the diffusion over and it worked fine. I was proud of myself for that. So I admired my work and recognized for the first time that I understood what I did. *I slap my forehead*
But not just that, I was looking at a clothespin holding wax paper! That's not official film gear! In fact, the fill light was one of those $5 clamp lights from Walmart, except it was black instead of silver and had a really expensive bulb in it.

Then the $300 600 watt light started having problems after the $150 300 watt light's fuse blew.

Then I remembered a number from my last trip to Walmart buying a screw to fit through a pvc pipe cap and in to my camera for the steady-cam. I did some math.


500 watts.



Across the aisle from potential steady cam pieces in Wally-World - a pile of work lights. A variety of builds. Some built to hang, some with nifty stands and wires to keep your fingers out of the burn zone.

$30 will get me 2 lights and a six-foot tripod stand that detaches into this crazy handheld device... Options.

It dawns on me that video is not film. There's a problem with too much light when shooting with video, rather than the way my training with film taught me to see "painting" - a major difficulty with darkness. That means that if I could get a wide enough flashlight - I could probably light a movie with flashlights! Light kits are built from the knowledge of film - you need light. So do I need that if I'm shooting video where light is the problem and the paint is shadow?

TWO 500 watt lights I can point anywhere. PLENTY of light. Now on to the brushes.

Direction - where the light is not.
Diffusion - softening how much shadow falls from the light against objects.
Reflection - changing the quality of the light's direction.

Direction - I'll take ideas for barndoor solutions, but the worklights have lips on them, so thin black metal plates clamped on shouldn't be a problem. You can also use anything to block light.
Diffusion - needed an easy way to carry two lights and a tripod and extension cords. I bought a plastic tub. A white, non-see-through, plastic tub. If I set it in front of the light, the light will not pass directly through. It will be defused. Add layers of wax paper to taste(keeping in mind the potential of melting plastic though - 500watts is some fast heat).
Reflection - line that tub with foil, point the light the opposite way, and shine it into a box of foil. Line it with silk and get it close enough - you have an umbrella.
Color - line tub with color gel.


I don't have to pay to experiment any more. I can shoot a short as the inspiration comes to me and still look professional! It can still LOOK like a movie!

I spent $40 on a light kit.




Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Slow Motion in Final Cut Pro 7

Here's a quick tutorial on how to do slow motion, reverse frames, or even fast motion.

And why rehash everything when this tutorial explains in greater detail all the bells and whistles and effects you can do with "Change Speed" so well. It's not video, but now you can intake at your own speed. Check this one out:


Monday, June 14, 2010

Film Criticism

Being brief, there's a lot to explore here later:

One of the films I saw at Dead Center was For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism” . The following panel was about the state of film criticism as well.

The film turned into a film snob rant on blogging and the internet and how it is killing film criticism. It was easy to feel inadequate as I quickly flashed to my favorable review of Iron Man 2 and even claimed Pepper Potts to be one of the best written female roles in cinema. Yes, I said that. I'll back it up in a later blog.

I also thought about how I do not invoke the entire wealth of film knowledge in to my reviews. And I felt like the group of girls in the film history class that all said they liked Transformers 2.

But here is what I've processed so far. I do know film. I could easily reference any French film with popular culture and tell you why any film didn't work perfectly. I can also tell you the real reason why no one cares to see French films - it doesn't have anything to do with reading the screen - it's that French films have recently failed to expand on and evolve with film grammar. They still largely rely on the fact that they are French.

(I've digressed - imagine that). Anyway,
the reason I don't pull on my vast knowledge of cinema, and quite possibly the reason why critics are losing jobs... is because there is a very clear difference in a review and in film criticism!

Explain to me how you can really provide a powerful discussion and criticism of a film without giving away major plotpoints. And in doing so, changing how the movie is seen. And in doing so, changing the experience and possibly breaking the connections and contexts you created. And then what benefit did you provide a reader?

On top of that, it's commercialism, not the wide variety of morons on the web, that have given way to an attitude of watching only what is new. And that's just the way it is. Too many films are out there now and people want to see what's new.

So to "review" a film and invoke a context (what the director of the documentary claimed is what good critics give their review) that is not accessible by the audience you are writing for is simply the critic showing you how smart they are... intellectual masturbation. And I'm just saying, you are probably going to lose your job writing reviews for the paper.

When a critic pulls an attitude that downs "blogging" and other mass pop mediums and plays it off as silly, I have to take an issue as an Educational Technologist. And when they act as if they are better than mass culture because they enjoy French films and won't review new films because it's pop culture and "I am just going to hate them all anyway", it's hard to feel sorry for them for losing their job.

I enjoyed the film, I loved the panel discussion (as much as I got to see), and the director did say he wasn't anti-web or ageist, and that if he could re-edit he would change how that attitude was portrayed. But you couldn't help but feel the animosity directed toward anyone without a cane or nose in the air.

And so... I've regrettably defended pop culture... I need to take a break... I don't feel so well...

I walked into that film with an attitude that I was know-more-than-you auteur and walked out re-evaluating myself. And feeling the need to defend my reviews. More on this self-made dilemma to come.

Mark one up for DeadCenter Film Festival for making me think.