Thursday, August 21, 2008

"I'm from lots of places."

The line is, of course, from that most wonderful of B-movies, "Highlander." In this case the utterer is about 500 years old and has, indeed, lived all over. But I use it too, when people say "Where are you from?" When you live in West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia before you're eight years old, you get to say that. But I guess I've always said I'm "from" Pennsylvania, specifically a little suburb of Philly.

As a kid, I'd look at a cartoon that took place in a suburb, and think "that looks like here," not knowing that basically all postwar suburbs looked pretty much the same. I envisioned Charlie Brown and Linus living down the street, or Billy and PJ from "Family Circus" tracing dashed lines through my own backyard.

And now, almost four decades later, I find out I was right. From Wikipedia's entry on "The Family Circus:"

Thelma and Bill were married in 1948. She moved from Australia to her
husband's hometown of Philadelphi Pennsylvania and eventually settled in the
suburb of Roslyn, Pennsylvania. The couple would have five children between
1949 and 1958.
Roslyn, PA. That's the little Philly suburb I'm from. The house we lived in was built in 1954. Quarter-acre lot, hedge fence in the back, a bunch of young families in their first homes, courtesy of the GI Bill. Playgrounds. Elementary schools. Churches. All within walking distance.

And faint hash marks in the back yard.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Retro Ad

I think he's saying "You're just like your mother." Brings up all kinds of possible angles!

Then again, had Benjamin been driving an A6 instead of that 1.6L Alfa, he might have gotten there before the ceremony...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trailer for "Laid to Rest" is up

Along with the teaser poster at left.

Trailer looks pretty good. We had a talented young editor on the set with us, who also directed second unit stuff. So he had a pretty serious jump on post-production before we even wrapped.

It's hard not to look at the sets -- including all of my own stuff on the walls of Tucker's house, and my own giant arse on that cot in the jail cell...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Smart -- very Smart

Went to see "Get Smart" today. I think it's one of the better re-boots of the old 60's shows (and there aren't that many left, really; perhaps I should option "My Mother the Car" before it's too late). Steve Carell hits all the marks, The Rock is at his best being a bit self-parodying, and Alan Arkin is a pro as always. It's a fun, silly, well-crafted movie.

One flaw, of course, is that the credits were missing the DC unit. Which means yours truly once again, is denied the thrill of a name on the screen. Alas.

Speaking of my films, I see that the trailer for "Red" is out. I'd read the book, and enjoyed it. It appeared from the sides that I read that the script was almost word-for-word from the book, and all of the scenes in the trailer seem familiar. I know it made it to Sundance, but I am unaware if its been picked up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

City Life, Part 33

The Girlfriend grew up in the Bronx, and went to college in Boston.

I grew up in rural Fauquier County, Virginia, and went to college in Fredericksburg. In the former, you parked in the field. In the latter, we had parking lots. So the art of parallel parking was a difficult one for me to master.

But man, as bad as I am, I can't compare with this woman...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some hate it hot

So the first day of shooting stills for the BBC production "In the Loop" was uneventful. We were inside the old terminal at National Airport ("Why do you call it 'National' instead of 'Reagan,'" asked one of the Brits. "Tradition. Same reason I call JFK 'Ildewild.'"). I love the old terminal. It's one for the few ones remaining that really hearken back to the old days of aviation, when flying was something special, and not just an exercise in humiliation by TSA agents. And of course the fact I once lived in a house that was designed by the same architect, Charles Goodman, will always leave a soft spot.

But most importantly, it was nice and cool inside the airport. I got fussed at by an actor for messing up his eyeline, and he was right to chastise me. I apologized and we had some nice conversations after that; the fact that I thought he was fantastic as King George III in HBO's "John Adams" -- which he had not yet seen -- probably helped.

Saturday, not so much. Once the fog burned off of NW DC, the Brits started melting. None of the had experience, I'm guessing, that charming combination of 99 degrees and 85% humidity, or whatever the hell it was that day. We went inside for a while, then banged out some shots outside The Black Cat. Then inside the club, which was deliciously cool.

Monday was mostly interiors, at the Hyatt. We ventured outside only briefly.

Then came Tuesday. Base camp was outside DAR, and at my 7:30AM call time it was already approaching 85. This was not going to be fun.

I just can't describe that heat. Fortunately for me, I was only lugging around a couple Nikon bodies and a dozen or so lenses. The poor grips, electrics, props and set people were carrying around their normal boxcars of stuff. And the actors -- they were dressed in dark, conservative, State Department type suits, and they were running. And not complaining. Some real pros on this shoot -- and some wickedly funny comedic actors to boot. I almost blew the first take in my professional career, trying to stifle a laugh at one bit of improv. I am really looking forward to this one coming out. Maybe they'll come back and shoot again.

In October. Yeah. Or March.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Still(s) the one

Yay -- a gig shooting stills again. It's been a while. Four days for a BBC production about the run-up to the Iraq war. Mostly British crew, British actors, ad-libbed script, and very funny. Fortunately I'm still stealthy with my blimped Nikons -- only got run into once, and that was by the boom operator, who's about 11 feet tall anyway.

Early call tomorrow -- sleepy time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Maryland Film Industry

Interesting, if somewhat disjointed, article about the film biz and Maryland, and the possible end of it soon:

I love the comments -- one genius suggests that spending tax dollars to attract helicopter factories is on par with keeping the film business infrastructure that's already established. Such short-sighted people are why we have so many empty warehouses and shut down factories in this area...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reel Work pays off, dog

We won -- a team I worked on for the International Documentary Challenge was awarded "Best Use of Music Genre," for our seven-minute mini-documentary, "Old Soul." This is especially rewarding for me, as I'm the one who found our subject: Musician, photographer, philosopher, and world-traveller Jason Hamacher. Jason and I go back quite a ways, to my first music video, in fact (Decahedron's "No Carrier"). Jason rang me up in the spring to shoot some video of his gallery opening of photographs from Syria, and when I was offered a role to shoot and help edit a project for the IDC, I suggested Jason. He was, I knew, great on camera and had a compelling story. This project was part of a five-day project: To write, produce, edit, and finalize a short documentary over an extended weekend.

We interviewed Jason about his mission to document ancient chants from Syria, a representative of the Syrian embassy, and a priest from a local Syriac Orthodox church. Shaz Mallick produced -- can't wait to work on the next one.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Laying "Laid to Rest" to rest

Final tally:

Number of days worked (paid): 39

Number of days worked (unpaid): 4

Longest shift: 29.5 hours

Shortest shift: 6 hours (wrap day!)

Coldest temp: 40 degrees

Warmest temp: 88 degrees

Number of rainy days: All?

Props lost: Toshiba laptop, silver lamp, clock radio, Canon printer, Ryobi battery charger, 2 of Mike's prop guns (which I must replace, grr), Garmin GPS.

Worst moment: Having to fire someone

Best moment: Dangling Lena Heady by her ankles. True story. We had this rig that was faking part of a wall, as the bad guy had (as the story goes) dragger her character out of her bedroom window. Part of the scene is shot with a remarkably life-like Lena dummy; the other part with Lena herself. When it's clear she isn't going to be able to hold on to the handholds, the F/X supervisor looked at his two scrawny high-school age interns, and shook his head, then noted my own 230 lb frame. "Bentley! Get over here." So for 45 minutes I'm stadling there, thinking, over and over, "I'm holding Sarah Conner by her ankles. I'm holding Sarah Conner by her ankles. My life has really gotten weird. I once wiped fake vomit off of Rutger Hauer's crotch. I put flowers into Christopher Walken's hand. I almost threw Stephen Gagan off his own set. I rode up in an elevator with Ed Harris, my mouth agape that I towered over him. I talked football with John Voigt. I cleaned out Russell Crowe's used food bucket (don't ask). But I have to say, dangling Sarah Conner was perhaps the high point of my long and illustrious art department career.

Profanities used: Incalculable

Sunsets seen: 29

Sunrises seen: 28

Vehicles driven: Seven: My Honda, Tommy's VW, Stephen's Corolla, the hearse, Tucker's truck, the sheriff's squad car, Chromeskull's Chrysler.

Days I wanted to quit: 3

Days I realized I have the best job in the world: 43

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Last looks

In LA, they have dedicated art department warehouses. Out here, there isn't enough business to keep such places alive, so we tend to use the remains of failed industries. On Syriana, we used an old warehouse from a closed factory. For Wedding Crashers, it was a semi-abandoned furniture store. For NT2, it was a closed moving company warehouse. This time, it was an abandoned storeroom at a (mostly) abandoned mental hospital. Five weeks ago, when I first saw it -- debris-strewn, peeling paint, broken windows, a vague smell (chlorine? urine?) in the back, no water, limited power -- I was in love. For the first time, it was my art department.

Over the next few weeks, it got full. Full of props, set dressing, severed human heads, various bodies, gallons of fake blood, power tools, sawdust, guns, everything a growing boy needs.

There were times I hated it. When it was 4AM, and pouring rain, and 40 degrees, and I was working on three hours sleep, it seemed a bit like hell. But mostly, it was home. For five weeks.

Today I cleared out the last of my tools. The faint smell of (chlorine? urine?) is still there, along with that weird clingy smell that the fake blood makes, and the stale odor of the literally hundreds of cigarettes smoked by our F/X interns. A family of wasps was already laying claim to a corner. A lone broom, Maryland state property, stood against the rusted old table saw. I took one last photo, clicked the lock shut, and remembered that stupid line from the Don Henley song, "I need to remember this." I first quoted that to myself in 1989, when I was moving from an apartment that I hated, in Greenbelt. And it pops into my head every time I see a place for the last time. Good places, bad places.

I remembered last Spring, when I was the last person on National Treasure 2; the rest of the set dressers had mostly moved on to other projects. Carl was off filling out paperwork, and Parker was loading scrap lumber into a truck. That warehouse was several times larger, but just as grimy, just as drafty, and just as full of old industrial memories, creeping in the ones we'd just created. I'd spent about five weeks there, too. I looked around, breathed in the dusty air one last time, and pulled the door shut.

It doesn't feel like filmmaking. But it doesn't feel like anything else, either.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A fitting end

The picture wrapped. Finally. After 13 hours of shooting, the sun was up, and we'd finished a big special effects shot. The last shot on the day was a closed set, an actress in a shower. So the rest of us got a jump on wrapping the sets, and the grips started assembling their miles of cable, tons of chromium steel stands, and shot bags. I dropped off a few things at the lockup, then, my car literally filled to the roof with personal possessions (including an oak sleigh bed), I headed up to my storage locker and unloaded.


Tuesday evening, we had our wrap party, at a lovely little private marina over in Eastport. As always with this production, the weather was abnormally cold. But everyone was having a good time. Drinks were aplenty, and we ran a few scenes for the crew, plus some (pretty funny) behind-the-scenes footage. Fun times.

Until, of course, Annapolis' finest paid a visit based on complaints about noise. Things got worse from there: One person arrested for unknown reasons, another for mouthing off to the arresting officers. The rest of us tried to figure out a bar in which to continue the party, but I got separated from the van. Realizing I was too tired to stay out anyway, I trekked home and got a great night's sleep. Which means I didn't get to make all the goodbyes I'd wanted to, but that's film.

And that's a wrap.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tick tock

Only a few days left. We're cramming scenes in like commuters on a Tokyo commuter train -- there's always room for one more. Last night I was told, suddenly, that we were to shoot the shower scene, the one scheduled for Sunday night. Of course, the location with the shower had no shower head. I was a aware, and one of the things I was supposed to pick up at Home Depot on Sunday was a new head; being told at 3AM that I needed one in 45 minutes created a slight dilemma -- but I actually found one. Installed it in minutes, noticed that it leaked like sieve, took it apart, repaired it with rubber bands and super glue, and put it back together, only to be asked on radio if we "have options for a different shower head." It's 3AM! The shot wasn't on the callsheet! Sheesh.

We wrapped on a Sean Whalen today (pictured), a very nice fellow who was perfect for his role. He brought in an enormous pile of cookies for the crew -- a nice touch.

Tonight I have to have another house dressed. It's close to being done, but there are a few remaining issues, such as smalls, curtains, photos, etc. Call time is 7PM, and it's 2 right now. I should be asleep, but a marching band rolled through the neighborhood an hour or so ago, and I can't seem to drop off again. Might as well head over to set now. That will of course mean another 18-19 hour day, but what the hell, this is why I get the big bucks (but not a Starbucks in the morning; apparently my Production Designer title isn't quite impressive enough to the young fellow who does the the coffee runs; he brings one for the director, the producers and the DP. No respect, I tell you, no respect!)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Setting thy houses in order

Two if them, to be exact: They're old caretaker's homes at the fringe of the facility. One is in decent shape, as one of the maintenance guys lived there until recently. The other is, quite literally, falling apart. My scenic put her hand through a plaster wall trying to paint it. The script calls for a certain southern poverty, but this might be overdoing it.

The line producer calls me at 1100 telling me that they're moving up the schedule one day. Instead of having two days and one night to prep the next set, I have one day, eight hours to be exact. So I scramble for set dressing, my carpenter bangs out the needed doors and windows, his helper scrounges for smalls, and I sit in the hotel lobby creating fake web sites. We're ready. It really wasn't that big of a change, as we've actually gone past the most difficult sets. There are five days left in the shoot, plus three more for wrap, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- and I'm pretty sure it's not a GP40.

When this movie wraps, I will have exactly one day before I start prepping for some commercials in New Jersey. And, in the middle of that, it looks like I'll be doing greens for a major feature that is rolling through DC in mid May. It's nice to be working, but it would also be nice to have a single day off this spring...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm getting too old for this shite

I'm not quite the oldest person on the set, but I'm in the top five. And with the exception of the effects supervisor, I'm pretty sure I work the most hours. That's a tough combination; the 21-year olds can do fine on 19 hours of physical labor after three hours of sleep, but those days are behind me. Plus I'm a notorious stress eater, and given that I operate in panic mode 90% of the time on this project, I'm gobbling down junk food like Rosanne at Hershey Park.

Yep. 19 hours. Our producer gave us a little pep talk on Monday about how we were going to run "a little long" over the next night. Call time was 7PM, wrap was 2:10PM. I was working about three hours before call, and three hours after wrap. Ouch. Too tired to sleep now, and need to be back on the set at 7:30AM on Wednesday, dress and build until 7:00PM, then cover the set for another 12 hours. I'm treating myself to one beer as a I write this, and it's not the crappy Natty Bo that we took from the set today, it's a nice cold Sierra Nevada. Of course, I can see the Natty Bo neon sign from where I'm sitting -- my rooftop deck -- and since it's 71 and beautiful out, for once, I'm pretty content. A cigar would be great right now, but my throat is a bit too raw. Half the crew was hacking and coughing today. The DP sounded like E.T., and the scripty pretty much coughed continuously for 19 hours.

Had a little spat with the construction supervisor today. De juro he works for me, but de facto he is best friends with the line producer, so it's sometimes difficult to task him. There are only seven shooting days left, and not that much construction to do, so perhaps I'll actually get through this thing.

After eating a pound of peanut M&M's a day, of course...

Monday, April 21, 2008

April Showers

...bring high water bills in May. Or so they say.

We're drenched. It's rained so damn much on this shoot, but tonight it was a downpour. The little tent area where makeup and sfx make their homes was literally flooded, an inch plus of standing water that simply could not be absorbed by the waterlogged ground. I'm happy I spent the $150 on new waterproof boots in March.

I'm beyond tired. I'd been trying to wean myself from the set, by slowly introducing two of my staff into the roles of on-set dresser and propmaster. Didn't work. The second unit used some of our props, and f'd up one of them -- without telling us. When it played back on A Unit, no one noticed that it was in the wrong configuration -- I didn't notice because I wasn't there, I was off set working on some web site props. The two folks on A Unit didn't notice because they didn't see what B Unit was shooting. Our script supervisor didn't notice, because she wasn't on B Unit -- no one was doing scripty for B Unit. Finally one of the grips (!) casually mentioned to me that the prop was wrong. I ran in, and sure enough, they'd done nine takes on three setups with the wrong prop. I told the director, who was furious. So now I need to be on set at all times -- I've taken over propmaster duties in addition to being Art Director and Production Designer.

Of course, this limits my ability to do any kind of swing work, and invariably I get dragged into set dressing too.

Today someone moved one of the props (a hero cell phone). I was pretty livid, but didn't say anything (other than griping in my blog). It took about an hour to find it, and the director was none too happy about that amount of time, as he wants the phone for himself when we wrap.

Tomorrow is going to be rough. The producers told us today to expect 16 hours of shooting, followed by a full company move. I generally arrive four hours before call, so it's looking like (another) 24 hour day for me. Ostensibly Tuesday is our off day, but I have five setups to have ready for Wednesday's call, so I might have to push on and prep those, followed by another 12 hours of shooting. I always thought when I became a department head my life would get easier, not harder...

Impressed some of the kids today by calculating how far off the lightning was (counting the time between the flash and the thunder). One insisted that light and sound travel at the same speed... and we wonder why the US is falling behind in science...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Safety first

I'm a bit of a safety Nazi when it comes to firearms on the set. Fortunately, the first AD shares this trait. So we go through the ritual of examining my 1871 .45 before each scene, or the weird shotguns that get called for in a couple of sets. I think some of the rest of the crew think we're obsessive. Too bad. If I'm going to wrangle weapons, I'm doing it my way.

The actor carrying the weapon is Kevin Gage, who is just plain a great guy. His character is not a hero, but acts heroically in this film. I've enjoyed a number of conversations about a variety of topics with Mr. Gage. In addition to being a very fine actor, he's a funny guy, and he also make sure to note the name of even the PA's. That means a lot to a crew member, especially compared with another actor, since wrapped, who shall remain nameless -- in addition to appearing on set drunk out of his mind each night, he was rude and abusive to just about everyone. Gage is a gentleman, and it's a pleasure to watch him work. Oh, and we could be brothers.. we're about the same height, and the same weight (although the distribution is somewhat different). Same hairline. Same bushy eyebrows and blue eyes. Same beard (well, I had to shave mine to play the sheriff). In fact, I also doubled for Gage in a scene, where his character is driving up to an old barn -- in his wardrobe, from behind, no one can tell.

In fact, I have now played three roles: Sheriff Tate, doubling for Gage, and, as of tonight, doubling for the killer. A few days ago, the director asked a bunch of the crew to write down a few city names, as the killer collects, shall we say, trinkets about his victims, and documents them electronically. I did my example. The director flipped through the dozen or so examples, grabbed mine, held it up, and proclaimed "THIS is a serial killer's handwriting." So I've got that going for me. So tonight, we needed an insert of the killer actually writing one of his labels. Wardrobe put me into the killer's jacket, I stood on an apple box (the actor who plays the killer is at least eight inches taller than I), and I wrote out "Miami #2" in my best serial-killer/architectural draftsman penmanship.

Have I mentioned lately that I can't act?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"It's beautiful here in Spring -- you'll love it"

Much of the crew for this film is from L.A. When I interviewed with the producers in March (which seems like March of 1955 about now), I assured them that while winters in Maryland are no fun, and summer absolutely sucks, our springs and falls are beyond comparison. So, naturally, it's been about 20 degrees colder than average throughout this shoot, and it's rained virtually every night. At one point lightning storms blew in over an exterior set. We'll work in the rain, but not in an electrical storm -- we scattered pretty quickly.

A few days ago we moved locations, from the Creepy Abandoned Mental Hospital (tm) to an old barn south of Annapolis. In that the production has but one truck, a former U-Haul renter which belongs to my construction supervisor, it ran back and forth all day, carrying effects gear, makeup, tents, tables, etc, until we finally got it to move all of the art department. Now, here's the thing: Before the move we shot for 13 hours. We had a ten hour turnaround, of which we spent about nine moving everything. Then we shot for 12 hours. You do the math. The director, who almost always remembers what it was like to be a grunt on a crew, seemed to have missed the timing factoid, and was getting pretty grumpy about there being any delays in setting up a shot. At this point I had to wrap my on-set people, as they were into their 25th straight hour. So I'm covering the set by myself, and the requirements for each take were as such: Tie down the semi-naked girl in the coffin, who will star screaming as the killer approaches. Wrangle the beat-up coffin, with its mostly broken hinges, into a position where its lid will stand up at exactly 91 degrees. Re-rig my tiny piece of minofilament that I will use to make the coffin lid fall. Then time a swing with a 20' stick that will hit a swinging light right as the actress throws her stunt knife. All this will happen while we're rolling sound, so I must be silent, and we're shooting with two cameras, one of which as an 8mm lens -- meaning the cameras "see" about 290 degrees of coverage. Oh and one of them is on a Technocrane, and moves about 10' during the shot. You do the math: Either I was in the shot, blocked by a camera, pulling too hard on the mono, the hinges on the $250 coffin were shearing off, my light-hitting stick was in the shot, etc. The director was furious. Oh, and meanwhile, the second unit was setting up a shot in which a drill bit comes crashing through the top of a coffin. Of course I'm the only one with a keyhole bit, so I'm rigging this setup between takes, and running the drill too. My poor Ryobi is too hot to touch, there's smoke coming from the bit, and I've already killed two batteries in prep.

I do in fact have the greatest job in the world, but sometimes it can be a bit stressful. Having always been a stress eater, that I've put on five pounds on this production should really come as no surprise.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Night Shoots

The first rule of the film is not to talk about the film. The second rule is "obey all rules." Or something like that.

So I can't go into detail. Suffice it to say that the latest project is a horror film being shot at an abandoned mental hospital. It doesn't get any more artistic than that, eh? But I'm actually enjoying myself: The director is a great guy, and he's spent so much time below the line that he knows how to ask for things in triage: Level one he has to have, level two would be nice, level three he doesn't give a shite. I love that. It allows me to plan and react, instead of just doing one.

And for the first time in a feature, I'm The Guy: Production Designer. Sure, it's a low-budget slasher film, and my staff consists of five people, so there is some serious title inflation going on here. But it is nice to not only be allowed to have input, but to expected to do so. Last night we shot the biggest and most involved set of the shoot, where we turned a 2,400 square foot office into a cramped, run-down rural sheriff's office, complete with jail cell. I've seen the dailies and it actually looks pretty good.

Oh, and once again, me with my everyman face has been plucked from the crew and stuck in front of the camera. This time I play a rural sheriff, big belly sticking out over the Sam Browne belt. I won't tell you what happens to the sheriff, but it's not pretty.

Call time is generally 6PM, and we wrap around 7AM. It's weird to come home in the morning and hit the sack. But, what the hell, I can never sleep at night anyway.

More to come. It's good to be working again.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oscar Project, Revisited

A few years ago, I set out to watch every Oscar-winning film in my lifetime. Then I expanded that to every Oscar-nominated film. Then I realized I'm older than dirt, so adding in all the films back to 1929 wasn't that much more. My categories were Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director. It actually took me a while to assemble the database: There are 1,148 individual films in that list.

Three years later, I've seen 532 of them, or 53.7%

I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew. Especially since so many of them aren't readily available. Turner Classics has churned up a few that were never released on DVD or even VHS, but a few remain, I color them dark blue in my database. And, sadly, five nominees are lost for ever (so I can knock that number down to 1,143! Woohoo!)

In this project, I've encountered some absolutely wonderful movies that I probably never would have watched, had I not assigned myself this task: "Best Years of our Lives" is one of the best films I've ever seen. "Gentleman's Agreement" was ahead of its time, "The Apartment" is still funny and charming. Even "The Broadway Melody of 1929," a title that made me cringe, was fun. I generally loathe musicals, but thought "Gigi" was enjoyable, and I liked the way the music was integrated into "An American in Paris."

On the other hand, there are some unmitigated disasters on that list, and they represent a few hours that I will never get back. "Around the World in 80 Days" was unbelievably pretentious; "Quo Vadis" was beyond absurd; and I'll never understand how "Ordinary People" beat out "Raging Bull" for Best Picture.

So my next goal is to check off all the Best Picture winners. I have 12 to go (well, 11.5 -- I started "Wings" but didn't finish it, it's still on the DVR). They are:

1 Greatest Show on Earth
2 All About Eve
3 All the King's Men
4 Going My Way
5 Mrs. Miniver
6 How Green Was My Valley
7 You Can't Take it With You
8 The Great Ziegfield
9 Cavalcade
10 Grand Hotel
11 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
12 Wings (finish it)

I have a feeling I'm going to despise "Greatest Show," but the rest, from what I've read the rest should be treats.

After that, what should I do? Crank out the Best Picture nominees? Or fill in the winners from the other categories? If I do that, at least I could make the claim that I've seen every winner in every major category for every year -- not many people can say that.

I just don't know if I have 500 more movies in me...

Monday, January 14, 2008

To 2008


Barry Bonds gets an asterisk next to his HR record

The NFL has two players murdered

The Patriots get caught cheating, but are allowed to continue to play, and wind up 16-0 (another asterisk)

Weakest film year I can remember -- no idea what will win Best Picture (can't wait for that press conference)

So, as I move away from the nascent film career, and focus on... hmm, retail? Fast food management? Sanitation? The opportunities are boundless for a 40-something who isn't a programmer, accountant, medical or legal professional. Is TSA still hiring?

Well, at least the political junkie gets to follow the election race.

You want fries with that?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wither Tourist Guy?

For some reason, I've found myself thinking of Tourist Guy lately. Perhaps it's because I've been slinging backpacks and such over the shoulders during holiday travel -- me and a few million of my closest friends. But more than that, I thought of the viral way in which Tourist Guy started appearing in other places -- at the Dallas Jail in 1963, at Malta behind FDR, next to a rabble-rousing Lt JG John Kerry in 1971. So I thought I'd make my own.

Where's Waldo?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Awaiting football justice

As I watch the New England Patriots go for it on 4th-and-1... with a 32-point lead... in the 4th quarter... I am starting to wonder about Bill Belichick. He's an enigma. We know he's a football genius, we know he cheats, and we know his son is a criminal. But I'm starting to suspect he's insane: He's having his star quarterback, who's kind of a prettyboy to start with, drop back into the pocket when the game is long over. He's having his star receiver (Moss), who's already had two seasons shortened by injuries with two different teams, run routes across the middle when the team has a 40-point lead.

I have news for Mr. Belichick: Not every coach is a gentleman like Joe Gibbs or DIck Jauron. If Belichick demonstrates his lack of class against, say, Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin will send 11 men on a blitz, have two of them do it offsides, and take out Billy's golden boy. This is, after all, the team that made Kimo von Oelhoffen a hero for deliberately taking out Cincinnati's Chris Palmer in a deliberate, post-play, attack-the-knee, cheapest of cheap shots.

Oh, and as long as we're at it, WTF is with the field at Gillette Stadium? Their artificial turf always looks like a wet parking lot during night games. Why any team with an outdoor stadium would chose artificial turf for a football stadium is a mystery to me anyway, but you'd think that for $325M, they could put together a field that isn't shamed by the local high schools.

We'll see how this goes. The 72 Dolphins were an amazingly talented team, led by one of the greatest coaches in history. It would be a shame if their perfect record was eclipsed by this crew of no-class cheaters.

Where's the love?

So when your home teams are pretty bad (Orioles, Redskins, Nationals) you try to live vicariously through other games. Often, it's not a matter of rooting for someone else, but rather rooting against the disliked teams. As I've said before, I really dislike the Steelers. Even though Cowher is gone, that stupid corporate logo remains on (one side) of their helmets. And their thuggish, classless tendencies remain. So last week I found myself cheering for a team about which I am completely neutral: The Cleveland Browns. A final second, 52-yard field goal by the Browns came up short, and the Steelers once again backed into a win.

So what happens this week? Same kicker, same length, same situation, and he hits the upright, it bounces behind the crossbar, then back into the field. The officials look at each other, the Ravens start to leave the field, and I'm saying "Wow, never seen that before." The officials finally sorted it out, and imho made the right call: When the ball crossed the plane of the upgrights, it was a completed field goal, and what happened afterwards was immaterial.

Still. A hard way to lose a game. As I type this, the Redskins are up 7-0 in Dallas. So maybe my week won't be a complete loss.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rediscovering Vinyl

What to do with the old records? I hadn't owned a turntable in years. And while there is a lot of sentimental value to those old discs, when you live in a little Baltimore rowhouse, storage space is a premium. And 250+ LPs take up a precious amount of space.

So. The Girlfriend and I went through our collective discs. We tossed the dupes, and those that we had on CD. Those all went to my old friend Rick, who can never have enough music.

The rest? Well I bought a $100 USB turntable, and have been using this very cool freeware called Audacity. And I've been ripping these old discs into iTunes, reliving some of the early 80s. The Cars. ZZ Top. Stanley Jordan. Stuff that I haven't heard in years. The Audacity software is a little intimidating at first, but it's surprisingly powerful. The "click removal" effect has earned its keep on some of my scratched-up discs. If only there was a way to tell it to only record for a set amount of time... I tend to set a disc a-recording, go off and do something else, only to remember a few hours later... and Audacity has been merrily recording silence for hours...

Speaking of which, I started recording "Building the Perfect Beast" before beginning this blog entry. Gotta go.