Tag Archives: Plastic

It’s a man’s right to stop….

It’s nice to be able to sit at my newly repositioned pc (thanks to the female feng shui influence of my new flatmate) and get some words down on the blog. It’s been a nuts few weeks with a vast array of personal, professional and not so professional incidents and upheavals happening faster than a crowd fleeing the cinema halfway through the new Bond movie…. If they’ve managed to get that far.

On a Bond note, I’m not going to see the new picture. I didn’t enjoy the last one and have never really got what the fuss is about. Daniel Craig is a decent actor but I’ve always looked at Bond with a certain level of disdain, which kind of renders any trip to see the movie an inevitable disappointment.

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007: A load of old tosh

So, PLASTIC is finished, completed, done. It’s the longest (3 1/2 months) I’ve ever worked on one project which was great and I really think we nailed getting the atmosphere of the piece onto film. I’ve also just finished shooting a 3 minute experimental short of my own which goes by the working title SHADES OF REMORSE. This is my first crack at stop frame animation which is incredibly painstaking but wonderfully rewarding, it’s also the first time I’ve worked with an editor which is a strange experience. Handing over your tapes to someone and letting them get on with it is liberating but unsettling. Kind of like leaving your child with a babysitter for the first time, you just want to be calling every half hour to ask if everything’s fine…. is she sleeping ok….. Does she have a temperature??

From that lot it’s straight into pre production for the new Zach Rosenau picture THE INAUDIBLE CRIMES OF JASPER PIDGEON…. What a great title right? On this film I’m going to be his assistant director / producer which, considering we’re shooting the film on black and white 16mm on the tiny isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides over 2 weeks at the start of December, should present some interesting challenges and stunning results. I’m really looking forward to working with Zach; our views on cinema are very much aligned as is our passion for this project.

There’s been painfully little time for the consumption of pictures in the last 2 weeks, I feel like Christian Bale in the last third of RESCUE DAWN, all emaciated through a lack of movies. My new flatmate has been a terrible influence which has caused a tumbling off the wagon, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. The upside of that is her willingness to learn about and watch films. Last night we broke ourselves in gently.

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For all it’s predictability this is a great movie with some razor sharp dialogue, I particularly loved the way the stoner friends verbally rip up the character “Martin” (played brilliantly deadpan by Martin Starr) as he strives to win a bet that involves him not cutting his hair or shaving for a whole year, these relentless jibes really had me in stitches. From “The shoe bomber Richard Reid”, to “Scorsese on coke”, “Serpico”, “Cat Stevens” and “Late John Lennon”, the guy takes it from all angles. This movie is peppered with genuine laugh out loud moments and having not seen much of Apatow’s other stuff, I’m looking forward to checking out these films.

In honour of this film’s great dialogue, I’ve selected 3 of my favourite dialogue scenes in cinema. There could be many more of course but this is just to get the ball rolling. Feel free to chip in with your favourite scenes where the words are king…….

First up is the Return Of The Jedi scene from the Kevin Smith film CLERKS (1994). I just love the pace of the conversation and the blind logic of the reasoning. I read somewhere recently that Smith’s new film ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO was a rip off of the Judd Apatow approach to filmmaking. This is laughable as Smith was doing what Apatow is aiming for now a decade before he’d made a picture….. Enjoy.

From the comedic to the downright sharp, the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s visceral debut RESERVOIR DOGS (1992). There’s nothing that needs to be said about this scene other than it was the start of great things for Steve Buscemi, which in itself is reason enough to love it.

Last up is Dave’s leaving speech from the 1992 James Foley picture GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. Ed Harris is fantastic here as is Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. You just can’t take your eyes off this scene but it’s the verbal exchange that provides its power.

So let’s have it. The cinema dialogue scenes you never tire of seeing.

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Almost There!

The end is in sight, the edit on PLASTIC is almost over. The blog postings have been sparse of late to say the least, please bear with me dear readers; normal service will be resumed shortly.

I was thinking the other night, as I sat glassy eyed staring at Final Cut Pro wondering how the hell to solve a problem I had, that this play, at 40 minutes long, has pretty much been like editing half a feature. A short feature all the same but Woody Allen managed some good stuff in 80 minutes, ZELIG was less. I’m getting right into editing but will be happy to hand the baton to someone else for the upcoming short I’m making. A rest is as good as a change they say….

So all this editing has got me thinking about great editing in movies. I’m reading the Walter Murch book THE CONVERSATIONS just now and the man is inspiring. He demonstrates that there can be far reaching intentions in an edit, that the practice goes way beyond the mere splicing of film. Now that may be obvious to most of us but how many can name 10 editors that have won an Oscar? Walter Murch of course has cut many fine pictures. The directors cut of TOUCH OF EVIL for instance (what an honour that must have been) or APOCALYPSE NOW.

So great editing in pictures, pictures I remember being particularly well edited….. First up has to be:

Thelma Schoonmaker was tremendous on this film and of course, won an Oscar for her efforts. This clip isn’t the best, being youtube, but it gives a sense of the kinetic cutting that lends so much weight to the scene.

My second example is:

I love this film for so many reasons but none more than the editing. The Soviets were at the top of their game in the 20’s and the impact of that cinematic revolution can still be felt today. Dziga Vertov made MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA in 1929 and it still stuns me to this day. The way he marries cuts perfectly to the pace within the frame, which is often very fast, is breathtaking.

If you haven’t seen this film, please do. The small clip below doesn’t begin to do it justice but it gives you a taste of what could be…… enjoy.

PLASTIC

If you’ve been hanging about the dark corridors of this blog for a bit you’ll know I was working with 30Bird productions over the Fringe Festival, filming and editing their show PLASTIC. I’m happy to say I’ve now finished the “trailer”

The director of the play, Mehrdad Seyf, gave me a free reign to shoot what I wanted, when I wanted and in any style I felt would complement the piece which was incredibly liberating and gave me scope to approach the play in a cinematic way. Posted below is said trailer.

The Last Salesman

To celebrate finally getting the editing on PLASTIC underway, and the continuation of my new life of sobriety (6 days and counting) I treated myself to a black and white double. First up was the 1971 Peter Bogdanovich film THE LAST PICTURE SHOW.

This is Bogdanovich’s 3rd film but the first in which he was responsible for what’s on screen from start to end. His first movie, VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN, (based on a night out in Brechin perhaps) was actually a recutting and dubbing of the Russian sci fi film STORM PLANET. Producer extraordinaire Roger Corman had bought the rights to the picture so, as he was renowned for giving hungry young filmmakers a break (we NEED a Corman in Scotland) gave the eager Bogdanovich the task of redubbing the picture into English, shooting some extra scenes with cave girls in clam shell bras and basically creating a whole new, but utterly awful movie. So bad in fact he went by the pseudonym Derek Thomas in an attempt to forever distance his name from it. All the bad press (and there’s LOTS of it) makes me want to see it.

His second, and far superior effort was the 1968 film TARGETS. Corman was again involved in this production which led to a few conditions for the director. Firstly, he had to use stock footage from the 1963 picture, THE TERROR, which Corman himself directed. Secondly, he had to hire legendary horror actor Boris Karloff for 2 days as he owed Corman some time on his contract. Bogdanivich managed to satisfy both demands to brilliant effect and produced a hugely enjoyable movie. More on that later.

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is a coming of age tale set in a tiny Texas town that has the appearance of a place not evolved or improved since the days of the early settlers, this despite the film being set in 1951-52.


Bogdonovic was meticulous in setting up a genuine aesthetic for this picture. The cinematography of Robert Sutees creates a starkness of space that compliments the barren expanse within the minds of the townspeople. I have to stress; this is not through a lack of intelligence. The town seems to have a hold on the people that remain there. They’re all searching for someone to call their own, someone who provides a basic level of contentment, but with such a minute population to choose from, massive compromises are made to ward off the threat of being alone. There’s also no score in the movie. All the musical elements are provided by practical means: a radio that happens to be on for instance, or by someone putting a tune on the juke box. Bogdanovich was insistent that the music only be from the period of the film or before, all in the name of authenticity.


Sonny Crawford

The search for stability is the driving force of all the pictures main characters. Duane Jackson (Played by a very young Jeff Bridges) has the best looking, or the single good looking girl in town Jacy Farrow. (Cybil Shepherd in her first role) Jacy does not reciprocate his feelings leaving the boy in a constant state of confusion and frustration that leads to him leaving town. Jacy herself has no clue what she wants. Being pretty, she has her choice but when the guy she wants gets married, she has to find another man quick for fear of ending up on the scrap heap. She has a liaison with the man her mother is having an affair with then ends up with Sonny Crawford, Duane’s best friend but again, this is not without upset. Sonny has a confusing search throughout the picture. Timothy Bottoms plays the part incredibly as Sonny goes from disappointment to disappointment but remains resolute and dignified. The strong writing brings a recognisable conclusion to everyone’s journey although not all are successful.


Jacy Farrow

This is a picture of huge complexity considering the setting and people we are dealing with. The human condition is delicately explored with the subtle strengths and weaknesses of the individuals being gently explored with great skill.

The film won 2 Oscars for the great supporting cast and was nominated for another 5. It was also the catalyst for the coming together of Bogdanovich and Cybil Shepherd, a famous Hollywood scandal.

My first exposure to the Maysles brothers work was about 15 years ago via a horrifically fuzzy VHS copy of the 1970 film GIMME SHELTER which featured The Rolling Stones notorious concert at the Altamont speedway in 1969. This is a gripping piece of documentary. Not only does it display what can go wrong when you hire the Hell’s Angels to do your security (Who’s idea was that?) but it also documents the end of the Hippy era. There was no free love at Altamont, only bad acid and outpourings of violence which in some cases, proved fatal.

Two years earlier they’d been in slightly less drug crazed company to make the documentary SALESMAN. For anyone who’s had to sell anything in their time (I certainly have) this film feels as relevant today as it did when it was made. The pressures that go with the job, the frequently uncomfortable interactions with the general public as you try to get money out of them face to face and the destructive effect of losing your belief are all on show in this gloriously honest picture.

The movie follows 4 salesmen round the United States. They’re in the bible business which means the word of god can be paid up at $1 a week. Like any sales environment, there are people who are more successful than others and it’s this competition, disguised as an honourable effort to spread the word of god, which is the most interesting element.

The clip below shows Paul, the films main protagonist and character having most trouble with the job, out on a couple of sits. Look out for the way he tries to turn people around, the faces of the people being sold to are especially wonderful. I watch this and immediately think of Jack Lemmon in the film GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. You wonder if he watched this picture while preparing to bring Shelley “The Machine” Levene to life.

I’ve been away

The usual cinematic musings have been on the coolest of back burners due to an unprecedented amount of time spent hanging about theatre types at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been working with the 30 Bird production company on their fantastic show PLASTIC, which they asked me to film.

Theatre doesn’t get a lot of press on the blog, not surprising considering it’s cinematic allegiances but I have to say folks, if you’re in Edinburgh just now and are looking for something to go see, don’t go watching the usual ridiculous amount of comedy on offer, you can get that any time, get yourself down to the Pleasance Undergrand and check out what is a very unique visual experience. Mehrdad Seyf has created a piece which lingers in your consciousness long after you leave the space, which is not the norm for a fringe show. A special mention should go to my ex flatmate and good friend Claire Hicks who has produced the show, god that girl works hard. (She drinks tea in nightclubs you know)

Check a review HERE.

I can’t let the post pass without mentioning at least one flick. During some rare and much needed free time I took in the 1992 Robert Altman film THE PLAYER starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a hot shot Hollywood producer and features cameo appearances from…. well just about everyone. During the making of documentary, it’s revealed that had all the stars been paid their normal fee for appearing in a film, the picture would have cost in excess of $100m in salaries alone.

I make no apology for the size of the movie poster, it is HUGE though, there can be no doubt about that. I particularly like what this poster does, it actually tells you something about the picture. The strip of celluloid fashioned into a noose captures the nature of the film. Hollywood has no soul and no moral. No matter how powerful you may think you are, there’s constantly someone behind you looking to take your place by giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

The way that Altman uses cameo appearances from the likes of John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and Burt Reynolds as themselves, casually seen dining in the restaurants that Griffin frequents, is a clever authentication of Griffin’s world. Richard E. Grant also turns up (with Dean Stockwell as his agent) playing a ridiculously overplayed but highly believable scriptwriter who’s trying to get his film made. The shallow nature of Hollywood is portrayed perfectly as initially, he’ll not allow his self proclaimed work of art to be altered in any way but later on in the picture, we find out he’s sold his soul to progress himself by allowing the studio to butcher his work.

The film is full of these little comments on the “system” of Hollywood.

The main premise of the film however is Griffin’s obsession to find a disgruntled writer who, in an effort to repay him for ignoring his (or her) work, sends him increasingly threatening, anonymous notes. This series of hostile correspondence unnerves the normally callous executive so much that he decides to seek out the perpetrator.



This element of the film, although the main focus, is probably the weakest. The comments and observations of the selfish movie merry-go-round are far more engaging and interesting than the search for the poison pen. There’s so much going on in this picture however, that you forgive this weakness in appreciation of what it actually accomplishes.

THE PLAYER could have easily been used in a recent essay I wrote on postmodernism in film. The first 8 minutes is one of the strongest examples of homage in cinema. (Gus Van Sant’s version of PSYCHO maybe takes that prize) Not only does Altman use the same one shot opening that Orson Welles used in TOUCH OF EVIL, he actually has the characters reference the film in conversation during the shot.

I’ve uploaded the full scene onto youtube for your enjoyment. Just for the record, he apparently used take 3.