Unforeseen Consequences

Wind turbines sitting idle in the fields of Jasper County, IN, near Wolcott. Shot with Kodak Portra 160 using a 1994 Hasselblad 500 C/M.

Twice, now, my family has made the drive from Richmond, VA, to Wauwatosa, WI. On the way up we drive through a massive wind farm in Jasper County, IN. My jaw drops and I squeal like a little kid with wonder at these behemoths. So this summer I finally stopped on the way back and took some photos.

I’d rather have these around than coal power plants, but I caught some interesting anecdotes from a gas station clerk. He told me that if you stand near the base of these massive towers, you get nauseated because of the low-frequency resonance of the blades passing by, or something like that. I want to verify that for myself, but sounds like I should be glad I kept a healthy distance :-D

He also told me that, while the land owners get healthy payments for leasing the land, the whole character of the countryside has changed. Not because of the giant propellers themselves, however; he talked about how it used to be pitch dark at night, and you could easily see the stars. Now there were fields bursting with these turbines, each with bright red strobes to warn off aircraft. And they all seemed to flash in synchronization, creating a night full of endless flashing from black to red.

Something something no free lunch, I guess.

(500) Days of Summer

Why can't this movie be as good as it ought to be? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads in an unconventional, indie rom-com? I wanna see that. And I did for a long time, keeping this movie in my watch list for years after its release, never quite getting a chance to watch it, until this afternoon. The problem is that I've heard rumblings about the unevenness of (500) Days of Summer in the intervening years, and while I've tried not to let writers and friends prematurely influence my opinion, I couldn't help but worry.

And for good reason. Not since Little Miss Sunshine have I seen an movie so concerned with checking off boxes on a list of indie cinema attributes. Greeting card writer that's also an aspiring architect? Check. Non-stop soundtrack that makes the whole enterprise feel like a feature length music video with dialog? Check. Quirky friends? Check. Scads of peculiar visual flourishes? Check. The whole movie felt expected.

Now I understand this was the first feature length work for the director and his pair of screenwriters, and boy does it show. Camera shots and movements that seem ill chosen for the moment, or perhaps for to get a cool still for a poster. Dialog and themes that telegraph character behavior. I didn't hate this movie, but I wish, perhaps, it had been created by some folks with either more under their proverbial belts, or more inherent talent for visual storytelling.

Oh yeah - and JGL's character? Almost completely unlikeable to me. It's hard for me to root for our hero when he's obsessive and jerky so frequently throughout the running time. Still, it's hard to deny some solid performances by the leads (and almost exclusively the leads). Along with an interesting take on the genre, they saved the movie for me quite a bit.


All is Lost

Tonight I finally got around to watching All is Lost. This is the second feature from writer and director J. C. Chandor (a Jersey boy!), and whoa Nelly, is it fantastic. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie so purely concerned with visual storytelling - so fully taking advantage of the medium. And Robert Redford proved that he's still one of the best with a nearly wordless performance none the less full of emotional intensity.



[vimeo 18555817 w=640 h=360]

fourteen actors acting

actor jesse eisenbergThe New York Times has an incredible feature on their website right now called Fourteen Actors Acting, wherein the aforementioned thespians act out classic screen types in gorgeously filmed black and white videos. No sound but the harrowing music by Owen Pallett. All shorts were directed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

Be sure to see the accompanying still photos from Sundsbø.
There's also a nice (though brief) behind-the-scenes about the whole project.

from above

[vimeo 17460706 w=640 h=360]

From Above from ploafmaster on Vimeo.

Finishing up my test reel with some footage from a hotel room in Virginia Beach.

Gymnopédie No. 1 by Erik Satie

happy up here

[vimeo 17458889 w=640 h=360]

Happy Up Here from ploafmaster on Vimeo.

This is the clip from my test reel of Super 8 film. I'm pretty happy about it, considering I'm no film maker, editor, or what-not.

Shot in downtown Richmond where folks gathered to watch my friend Lindsey rappel down the side of the Suntrust tower.

Happy Up Here by Röyksopp

True Grit (1969)

I was kinda pumped the first time I saw the trailer for the Coen Brothers' take on True Grit. I figured, though, that I oughtta give the John Wayne classic a whirl, seeing as it earned him his only Oscar, and tread the ground of Charles Portis' 1968 novel first (I intend to read the novel next, actually).

So yeah. John Wayne, whose acting I typically find a bit tepid, was quite good in this movie. This movie with its gorgeous location shots. This movie with it's frequently awkward editing choices. This movie with the weak-sauce supporting job by Glen Campbell.

The stand out for me in this movie, however, was the character of Mattie Ross. Mattie, played reasonably well by Kim Darby, is a strong female lead. I may have been more than a decade from nativity when this film released, but there's still a relative dearth of wide-release movies* with female leads as competent and confident as Mattie. She's portrayed as independent, intelligent, business-savvy, and capable of keeping up with grizzled veterans of the open range. Bold and fearless, she's a teenager chasing down a killer without regard for her own life, but still looking out for her travel companions. I'm sure this was rare enough in '69, but it's a shame we don't see more characters like hers in contemporary cinema without it being an underdressed pistol-weilding Angelina Jolie.

The movie, overall, was pretty entertaining. John Wayne's dialog was fantastic. I really wish the directing and editing had been better executed, but it was still worth the watch.


* This inference based on the top 10 grossing films each year for the past five years.

out of time

Fantastic short film shot on Super 8 using - apparently - a single cartridge. Seems a little long for that to be true, but it doesn't change how good this is:

[vimeo 15601149 w=640 h=480]

out of time - a straight 8 film by duncan wellaway from straight eight on Vimeo.

Berkeley Girl

Check out the video for Harper Simon's Berkeley Girl, shot entirely on an assortment of Super 8 film stocks. There's a little extra significance to my posting this, but I'll get to that later this evening.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfXv6RBPEdI?fs=1&hl=en_US&hd=1&w=640&h=385]

The King's Speech

Boy, howdy, does this movie look good...and part of its concept, at least as provided by the trailer, reminds me of the play, The Madness of King George III.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aS4hoOSlzo&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3&w=640&h=390]


I laughed so hard at this I almost wet my pants:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2yD4yDsiP4?fs=1&hl=en_US&hd=1&w=640&h=385]
(via jnonfiction)

simon's cat

Please do yourself a favor and watch a few of these short films about Simon's Cat. It'll make your day filled with jolliness.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tuf61OjvoPQ&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_GB&feature=player_embedded&fs=1&w=640&h=385]

Brad Bird directing M:I-4?

Mission Impossible 4...blah blah blah...Tom Cruise replacement...blah bla-- what?! BRAD BIRD is directing? The same Brad Bird who directed some of the finest animated films to grace the silver screen?

I'm actually motivated to see this now.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

So I just got home from watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with Valerie. Two things must be said before anything else:

1. My wife is a trooper and sweetheart for actually wanting to see a comic book movie with me, especially one steeped in video game and indie rock nerdery.
2. Regardless of my feelings about this movie, you should go see it. It's a cinematic achievement for the visuals alone - not because it's broken new ground in special effects technology, but because it's extraordinarily creative in the translation of the books to the screen. While there are many direct visual quotations of certain panels, there are plenty of cleverly designed extras and embellishments along the way that help merge the worlds of fantasy and reality.

But what did I think? Well I loved it...mostly.

Besides the joy of seeing a beloved piece of visual literature on screen, I appreciated many of the acting choices, the directing glory of Edgar Wright, and the sound track. Seriously, there was some tasty and grungy-dirty rock in this movie. The pace was exhilarating without feeling rushed. The references to video games (both visible and audible) activated my nostalgia gland. There were movie and television tropes galore used simultaneously as parody and loving homage.

So why the "mostly"? Well it has to do with some of what didn't make it from the books to the screenplay. And no, I'm not hemming and hawing about picky details that I would have loved to see (THE EXISTENTIAL HORROR THAT IS HONEST ED'S, for example). This movie was nearly two-hours and it flew by. So it wasn't simply that anything was missing; important character-development elements were missing. Some missing details made a few relationships and decisions hard to believe in the movie. And there were crucial bits left out that relate to Scott's maturity and reconciliation with his own bad behavior. So while don't mind that it wasn't a 6-hour canon-fest, some of the emotional weight that makes you care about Scott, Ramona, et al. just wasn't there.

I wonder, to some extent, whether this problem comes from the film developing simultaneously with some of the later volumes of the book. I can only speculate.

Ultimately I enjoyed this movie, though. I'll likely see it again, and I'm quite likely to buy the movie when it comes out. It lived up to 99% of the hype in my mind, but that missing 1% means a lot to me.


Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation

Here's a totally sweet animated short created by Adult Swim that covers a portion of the Scott Pilgrim series not included in the movie. It's great prep on opening night!


black and white and Rome all over

As much as I love to cook, the main reason I've been such a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain is his writing. I've never eaten food prepared by the guy, but I've consumed his words on many occasions, and they're almost always fantastic. I'm also a huge fan of his show No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Here my love for food and travel mixes with my love of good film making as his crew has continued to push the boundaries of documentary television production.

With the love of his writing and No Reservations in mind, Mr. Bourdain's post today about the upcoming Rome episode is outstanding. The episode could end up being a flop, but reading about it was entertainment on its own. The care for detail, nerdy film references, the willingness to take risks even while riding high in critical acclaim, all rendered expertly in words that were a joy to read.

But I have a feeling the episode won't be a flop. I'm quite looking forward to it.

like a man possessed

I sure hope I don't haunt your dreams...


FACE from ploafmaster on Vimeo.

The Listener, as visually interpreted by Dust

Patrick tipped me off to this super-hot video created by Dustbrand Films:


Ozark Empire, or a snake oil salesman comes to your town. from DAN SMITH on Vimeo.


Whoa...check out the new Terry Gilliam joint:


Vicky Christina Barcelona

Vicky Christina Barcelona is Woody Allen's 2008 romantic comedy and, man, it was kind of a snooze.

Valerie's latest arrival from Netflix gave me mixed feelings; on the one hand I was looking forward to wading in a bit more to Allen's catalog, but I wasn't particularly excited about this flick going in. I don't think that later sentiment interfered with my viewing experience. I think, rather, that a number of elements of the film got in the way...

It was no help that the film started off giving me more than a few bad first impressions. Intrusive and awkwardly-voiced narration. Characters who are more concept than real. An image of Barcelona that I might see in a tourist guide. Add to all that a script that felt like it was written by an advertising copywriter and acting like a community theater audition, and you have a recipe for a mostly wasted movie.

Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz both acted quite well and saved it a bit, but I was repeatedly dragged back to negativity by cheesy scene transitions (an awkwardly jarring dissolve...oi) and Scarlett Johanssen's bland rendering of the screenplay.

Maybe I just need to bump Annie Hall to the top of my list to see what the real fuss over Woody Allen is about.


Long Photograph

Sad and beautiful.

[flickr video=3622918484 secret=da6c566c59 w=580 h=387]

Intriguing: (500) Days of Summer

I found out about an upcoming film, (500) Days of Summer, on /Film and this clip just pushed it to the "must see" list for next month:

[yahoo id=13912766 vid=5275322 w=580 h=365 thumburl=[l.yimg.com/a/p/i/bcs...](http://l.yimg.com/a/p/i/bcst/yahoomovies/8954/87209025.jpg)]

Sherlock Whoa

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4K3aM5H5KM&hl=en&fs=1&w=580&h=353]

(via trey)

Star Trek (2009 Film)

I've never been deeply in to the Trekkie world, but I just got back from a late showing of J.J. Abrams' version of Star Trek, and holy Ron Gettelfinger, was it awesome. Here are some stand-outs:

1. They freaking used Futura for the in-movie titles!
2. I've seen a lot floating around lately about the heavy doses of lens flare in this movie. My opinion on the matter is that, whatever the purpose, the flares help establish a rather unique-feeling visual style. I say unique-feeling because I've not really researched whether it's been done before. Either way, I feel that it helped the aesthetics.
3. The film score was considerably better than I expected. They smacked you in the face with it early on and it stood out as an aural guide at just the right moments. While I really dug hearing "Sabotage" in the first act, I was happier to have strong symphonic music carry throughout most of the story.
4. Okay, Heroes really just needs to die now, because Zachary Quinto is more Spock than he'll ever be Sylar.
5. Simon Pegg, I love you.
6. I feel like they hit a number of marks on the Geek Check List with the Vulcan Death Grip, Mind Meld, and countless quips from the original series.

I would see this in the theater again with any of my friends that haven't yet checked it out. Definitely a good start to my spring/summer movie season, and a great new direction to the Star Trek franchise, I hope.