I've been off for a week, so I did get a chance to see the new Borrowers animated film by Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, which is also known as THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY. It was cute in the way all his films effect you with a sense of purity for things that are childlike and innocent. It wasn't as imaginative in style or animation as some of his other films. My guess is that kids will be mildly interested. It would have been better if the love story between Arrietty and Sho was more intense and the villainous Haru was more diabolical. But don't take my word for it, the film was a huge hit in Japan and has been seriously praised for its music and animation. I thought these last two were consistent with the other films, but the story just wasn't that interesting. My guess is that Miyazaki is just another material object of consumer celebrity that needs to be washed down like gelatinous breakfast cereal to match his worldwide success with PONYO. Anyway, I'm not fooled. It's a mediocre film without the powerful effect you would get from SPIRIITED AWAY or PRINCESS MONONOKE.
Speaking of watered down breakfast cereal, my brother did get me another Murakami book for Christmas this year--the ever-popular 1Q84. Like Miyazaki, I believe Murakami is now the "in-thing" to read by people who want to pretend they are avid readers because he has received so much high praise--much in the same way people carry a David Foster Wallace book around or have it on their shelves. It's strange to me that such strange writers would generate so much interest. Both writers are a bit too conventional in their literary posturing for me to be captivated longer than a few pages, but it seems like lots of people like these types of super author books. I would rather read something more aligned with popular culture, like a James Bond book--or flip it and reverse it and get a poetry book like SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY--but it may be that the super author is the key to the literary market. If we look at trends in Hollywood--where stars end up receiving a higher value for their artistic work because of a history in the public eye, such as George Clooney--his work in THE DESCENDANTS will be rewarded with a politically correct Oscar--it makes sense that Murakami, Miyazaki, and even David Foster Wallace, would have their works filtered by the kind and steady gaze that accompanies fame. Literary branding, like star branding, is a business, and it will be done to dupe the masses. This is not to say that the writers or directors I've mentioned are not talented, or that their books are not appealing. I am simply singling out the lack of appeal for myself, and that a large part of the reader or viewership for these artists is created by the public's interest in creating icons. And, finally, and I suppose this is becoming the theme of this post, the fact that something is popular or famous intones with it a sense of hungry consumerism for more of the original, so consumers can either claim an identity by association or simply "pass"--as in "passing"--with the deemed appropriate products: cue a mental picture of a 1950s American suburb for historical reference.
The new millennia seems to be about how one can brand themselves and create a user friendly identity that is digestible, but does not go down as blandly as some of the commercial music of the 80's might have. Artists need to maintain a certain "hipness"--or replace this for any other term: rebelliousness, otherness, etc.--that instills a sense that the buyer is not being "sold" a mass product. Likewise, the trendy consumer must also navigate a world of commercial products and choose to acquire products based on occupation, or the likelihood that association with such products will help the consumer improve his or her occupation, or that the consumer will simply afford more financial freedom to buy more products--and this is the clincher--attain the true desire of any commercial association for the consumer: getting laid, either physically, financially, or spiritually, so that one is "laid out" or has become the recipient of some uber-minded false reality of completeness, like how enlightenment--as if there was such a thing--or a touchdown bring a state of repose momentarily for our consumer consciousness.
A film that reflects this circle of incompleteness rather well is Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY. Although the film begins with a premise on whether a certified copy is as good as an original from an art/commerce perspective, it shifts this concept onto how a relationship could or could not meet this ideal. Like Kiarostami's earlier films that play with the idea of reality, we are never given a clear line in which to digest the film. We are simply offered the possibility that the couple who interact in the film could potentially be or not be acting as a married couple, or that they are simply acting in this fashion to "act out" the ideas they discuss about originality--or that the film could be an intense meta-play on relationships and reflect the director's idea that his art of using Juliet Binoche and William Shimell to pretend to be a married couple is as good as if it really happened. The latter is my guess, but it really doesn't make the film any easier to understand, and, in all, it is an intellectual head game intentionally missing a few pages to activate participation into the question of its purpose and make the audience question reality and the fragility of relationships. The point is made elegantly, but this is not a film for people to watch and expect a satisfying experience at the cinema. This is for people who like to be fed a cinema that is artistically experimental for the sake of being experimental without being offered any answers but more confusion. But don't take my word for it, this film has had positive accolade from the jurors at the Cannes movie festival!!
So with shittier and shittier things being picked up by the populace, it makes me wonder whether things that are given an intellectual spin by the branding machine are, in fact, popular because they offer consumers an opportunity to be seen as intellectual themselves, or is it a different idea altogether: could commercial products that have an intellectual spin be spun as more intellectual in an effort by the governing bodies of discretion--the Cannes jurors, the New York Times, etc.--out of a fear that if we identify things as popular that are seen as less than intellectually sound that this would drive down the value of the governing bodies to tell consumers what is appealing from the onset? Could it be that if we actually lined up consumer sales with what was both mildly interesting and popular, that our critics would be discussing the latest romance novel or a good horror film, rather than paying so much attention to pseudo-intellectual art?
I wonder if that's why something like Mr. Brainwash is even more relevant in today's artistic culture and to our discussion. Here we have an artist who commercially produces a digestible art that is even more digestible given the success of his documentary EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. His pieces are created by a team of designers who construct to order Mr. Brainwash's fancies. One of his more recent pieces at ART SHOW 2011 in Los Angeles includes a portrait of Benjamin Franklin with headphones on, while a real stereo is placed on a table in front of the portrait. This is a simple arrangement, and upon close examination, the painting is not done with any specific skill. The art lies in the arrangement and defacement of what is not thought to be "hip." Historical figures would never listen to music, so isn't that otherworldly to see such a spectacle. And that's at the heart of this artist: each of his pieces reflect a more digestible version of the truth purveyed by other artist's of the 20th Century, and they are then remixed to ownership and as a product by Mr. Brainwash.
The truth of the matter is that Mr. Brainwash has very little artistic talent. His concepts are creative manipulations similar to a tee shirt salesman coming up with designs that will look good on a tee shirt, but which are presented in a large scale and on display from the guise of his fame and association/manipulation in his work of other artists, such as Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat. In fact, much of his current work is a large bite off the other artists depicted in EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey. In truth, his five minutes our due to be up any moment now. The only question will be if the media machine will spin him long enough in a dryer to create an icon, or will he just be an outdated Shrinky-dink in the next decade. My bet is on the latter, but don't take my word for it--his art show in Los Angeles was a huge success!!
So what is going on? Why all this shit for sale? When will we have a legitimate artist again? Will it continue like this?
Unfortunately, the ideas of fame and art have become intertwined and muddied in our reality driven era. It will be difficult to tell what holds merit or is simply being offered up as a "product" in the future. That is part of the appeal of Mr. Brainwash--everything he does is about offering the product. Everything is a concept. He doesn't need to paint a perfect picture or show other measures of talent. His talents are dictated by how effectively he is able to remix other works and market himself simultaneously. Such is the reality of today's art world. Which offers up the year's final questions: What will be the new art? Where will it be sold? What will be its effect? And will anyone care?
Kenneth Godsmith's "Uncreative Writing" delves into some of these questions. I will discuss his book, Momus (videos below), and fame--my favorite topic--in a bit.
The SHOPLIFTING film will be officially complete tomorrow. The only thing I'll do with it from here on out is submit it to a festival or sell it for distribution.
THE HUMAN WAR is still not complete. I wish it were done, but I have no idea how long that one will take.
The BRAD WARNER documentary will be done by next year. It just needs to be edited now.
That means this next year is just a recovery period of sorts. I've already started trying to get healthier and resting more. Next week we're off to Thailand, so we'll see if I can close my eyes and rest medicine.
I'm not sure what will happen in this next year. I have thought about putting some short films together. It'll depend on how much free time I have this summer. Who knows? Maybe it'll all work out.
When you get there, if you are still not sure, read the blurbs and an excerpt. Then buy it. Then buy it again for your other bag. Then buy it again for your desk, your cat, your western facing window. All will be thankful.
I believe Jim's book would be a perfect addition to Meow-Meow's library. We've discussed it and she agrees. Any book written by Goar can make her purr at least once before she puts it down.
I am finally down to two jobs and movie making. That means I have more time to take long walks, run, and do some writing. This week I am writing another screenplay for the next movie. I am curious what will happen. Everyday I've gotten up to write and I've been consumed with Hayao Miyazaki films. I've watched about five films in the past ten hours. They usually have the same theme of man vs. nature. Typically, there's a strong female heroine who stands up to some evil and finds herself. They are powerful films.
I would like to make an animated film as good as the ones Miyazaki is putting out. Maybe I will. Who knows?
Now it's late at night. It's just me and Meow-Meow up. She's curled up on the desk behind a portrait of my great grandmother.
I might watch another Miyazaki film. I might just turn into a forest spirit and listen to the wind.
If someone asks if you are from Iran, say you are Persian. Then explain the historical difference of Persia versus Iran in relation to Arianism with a complete disregard that being part of the Aryan people is not something that matters to anyone except "Ich liebe dick" Hitler.
Do not think that you can make rules up out of thin air. They have been around for millennia. Simply refer to your favorite books on the subject: "The Bible for Dummies" and M. Scott Peck's "Paths to Highly Effective Bowel Movements."
If someone says they thought Iran was Iraq, then punch them in the face. Afterward, explain that they're two different countries, while rolling your eyes and thinking silently to yourself, "Americans are so stupid," without realizing that you are in the same outfit as the person you are criticizing, and drinking the same "Cold Flu Fighter" from Jamba Juice off the corner of Sepulveda and Santa Monica Boulevard.
Now go eat four bowls of Basmati rice with saffron. When they ask you if you want tadigh, or the fried rice from the bottom of a pot of rise, say, "I am watching my figure." Then order two more dishes, including kashk e-badamjoon, some koo koo e-sabzi, and ask the waitress if she knows Farsi.
The volcanic island northeast of the island of Saint Vincent named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French has a drive-in volcano.
Arawaks, its first known inhabitants, might have called it something else. The English definitely wanted to, fighting over the island with France 14 times until the country declared its independence from them both in 1979.
Tourism is still vital to its economy of previously enslaved Africans and Caribs alike who are overworked and maltreated by European replacements to man sulphur springs and other vacation destinations that will help the market for bananas to become more competitive.
No one told him the French shot a Samoan attempting to steal an iron bolt He didn't need to know
Warfare as an instrument of political change was discarded, as was polygamy, abortion, "indecent" dances, and certain common articles of clothing (such as the titi, a skirt made from Cordyline terminalis leaves)
Later, other papalagi (foreigners) visited Samoa for its proximity to whaling grounds and the harbor of Pago Pago
Coconut milk, fresh fish, breadfruit, and tinned or fresh meat were dropped in favor of Western foods, a sedentary life, and higher risks of obesity and diabetes
People stopped fishing and the USA took control of its allotted region on June 7, 1900 with the Deed of Cession
Now Samoa is known to have only two distinct seasons: the hot and rainy season and the cooler evenings from May to November
(Above: cast and crew peak around the corner for our pre-shoplifting scene "Three Stooges" stylee.)
I didn't get to post too much during our filming of SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL these last two weeks, so I'll just do a monster posting now with brief commentary.
I scream an improv song with friends.
We shot a scene where Brad and Jordan are drawing graffiti with chalk on some walls in Brooklyn. The NYPD showed up, so we had to clean up our mess pretty fast.
Drew asked if he could get a shot of the cops. I wanted it, but I didn't want to be so blatant. Luckily, Aaron ignored me when I said, "Don't film them!"
We did a reading/filming at Melville House. It was pretty fun, but, man, was I tired. The whole crew was ready to kill me. The night before Derek, our AD, said I was micromanaging way too much. I'm just glad this was the last night. I needed maybe three days of sleep. But I didn't kill anyone. That's a good thing. And no one killed me, so we survived.
We shot an impromptu performance with some people from Ohio. They managed to make a gripping scene in under an hour. I didn't even expect to get this scene, because we didn't have any actors for it. But these guys rocked it.
Mark Parsia (DRUNK GUY) and Daniel Genalo (SKINNY HISPANIC) square off in our first jail scene.
We came up with an additional bonus scene of flipping back and forth between Jordan Castro and Mallory Whitten playing two roles, and then putting in Brad Warner and Joan Wolkoff. I have no idea if this will work, but Steph, our editor, said she was excited about the idea.
Jordan Castro reads some of his poems at Melville House.
Brad Warner and Joan Wolkoff discuss stuffed animals in the bedroom scene.
The cast is in full gear here, taking threats from our DRUNK GUY. Officer O'Grady of the Boardman Police Department was kind enough to offer his services during the shoot. He gave tips on how the scene would go, and even gave our DRUNK GUY (Mark Parsia) a nice bruise for his acting chops.
Afterwards, Officer O'Grady apologized and said, "I just went into gear."
That's a testament to Mark's performance.
Jennifer Bishop did a fun bonus scene with us in Brooklyn, where her character meets the "real" Brad Warner outside of shooting. Basically, we had their relationship come to a halt when Brad finds that one of our camera crew has gotten cozy with the leading lady - yes, it's all part of our faux documentary, etc. Of course, we have lots of real documentary elements in the film as well, so it might be tough to tell the difference.
Erin McCarson reads tarot cards as Tasha in of our apartment party scenes. She did this great improv in the picture above, where she tells some of our extras they are going to not make it as a couple, and have "difficult" children. I can't even say what she really said because it's so politically incorrect, but let's just say it was some funny shit.
Daniel Genalo contemplates how to get rid of the DRUNK GUY during the jail scene.
Daniel Genalo and Alfred Rutherford square off during the jail scene.
(The actual character names in the script for the two of them was taken directly from the book. Alfred [pictured right] was playing the BALD CAUCASIAN, and Daniel [pictured opposite] was playing the SKINNY HISPANIC. Obviously, I don't care much about ethnicity when it comes to roles, but Alfred was really excited for his credit to read "Bald Caucasian.")
Joanie and Brad observe the tarot reading during the party scene in Brad's apartment. Well, Joanie's character observes slightly.
Brad confronts me after I make him go into American Apparel with a helmet cam and he gets thrown out. He threatens to leave the film.
Brad going into American Apparel and getting kicked out by the manager.
Officer O'Grady and Chief Nichols were kind enough to let us film the squad cars during the jail scene. We got some nice exteriors, and some cool dialogue between Officer O'Grady and Brad.
Alfred Rutherford and Brad Warner await the jail scene to start filming. Actually, I think they are in the middle of the scene. Yeah, I think I can see Mark swaying along in the reflection of their irises.
Brad Warner reads from Sex, Sin and Zen at the Melville House reading on our last day of shooting.
I have a million pictures, but that's all I'll post for now. We'll have a new trailer up once we start our fundraiser for post-production (editing and color correction, etc.) on IndieGoGo.
We're actually kicking editing, etc. into high gear because a lot of our post production crew seem to think the film has a chance to make some big film festivals. I have no idea. I heard the word "Sundance" thrown around. That made me go: Hmmm. I don't know about that. Still, I believe in all the people involved with the film. I also know it's possible to have a great film because of the great job Andrew Crighton did as a Director Of Photography, and all the great performances from Brad Warner, Mark Parsia, Jordan Castro, and all the rest of our cast.
Who knows? I have no idea. Maybe we can make a big film festival. Maybe not. I kind of don't care though. I've sort of given up on that kind of stuff. I just want to make a good movie for all of us to see. You guys who read this blog, and all my friends and family.
At the same time, if everyone wants to give it a shot, I'll throw it out there. Who knows? Maybe some other people will like this movie too.
All I know is that I'm glad to have worked with so many talented people to make this movie.
Now I'm off to sleep and eat for two days before I go back to work to pay off all my credit card bills.
I read on Brad's blog comments about the late start at the Melville House filming, lack of free swag, and feelings that we were inconsiderate to the audience. I apologize for all things. I will be sure to offer a free DVD and tee shirt to all those who attended. I also apologize if you had thought the Melville House filming was a performance exclusively, and not a filmed event where you would have to sign releases.
I think an exclusive event that would showcase the writers staring in the film would be a good thing. I will try and set that up in the coming months. I will also be sure not to have any cameras there.
If you would like to receive a free tee shirt today, and were at the reading, please contact me via e-mail at email@example.com.
The SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL film crew is now in New York City. We rocked out Akron, Youngstown, and Solon.
Thanks go out to REVIVAL, Alesci's, Jeorgine's, Accent Media, the Boardman Police Department, StaXX, Officer O'Grady, the Castro family, Matt, American Apparel on Coventry, and everyone else who helped us out.
This is a film still from the film SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL. We are currently shooting in Ohio. We will be in New York City soon.
This is a picture of THE SHOPLIFTING BAND playing a song. It's a shot of their guitars. Now I will write a letter to my wife. Then I will show more pictures.
I hope life is good in Seoul. I am shooting the movie in Ohio. Things are pretty good. Jordan's family is really nice. His dad made steaks yesterday. I also ate corn. The corn was my favorite.
After dinner, Panauh challenged me to a ping pong match. I said I would beat him and everything. I didn't think anything of it. I was just joking. Afterwards, Sonny told me everyone has been commenting that I'm being a dick to Panauh.
Most of the times people don't realize everything that's going on. Then I thought, "They don't have to." I thought about how they said I should treat him not like my brother, but like everyone else. Then I was like, "Okay, I can do that."
That was yesterday.
The movie is going pretty good. Some moments are better than others. I like everything I watch. Even if it's not particularly good in one way, it's like like so bad it's good. Does that make sense?
I got a chance to think about you yesterday. I was like, "Man, life will be lonely for two months by myself." Then I stopped thinking about that. I watched Animal Planet for a while. It was 4:00 a.m.
This is a bit of a strange letter. I woke up this morning with a charlie horse in my calf muscle. Panauh helped massage it out for me. Then an hour later, he woke up and needed help with his back. I showed him how to do yoga poses for a while. I massaged his lower back, and then he fell asleep in the exercise room.
I guess that's the funny thing. People say to treat someone a certain way. I can only be myself. I guess I am a dick sometimes, but what can you do? I guess not be a dick, right?
Anyway, here are some pics from what we shot the last couple days.
Here is THE SHOPLIFTING BAND. Sonny and Jordan wrote a song. We choreographed this little music video for the end of the movie. It's pretty funny. The song's lyrics are made of gmail chats between Jordan and Tao.
They are a really good band. I enjoyed watching them perform. All they needed was a little choreography. Then they were like KISS.
On the first day, we shot with the MAGIC CAM/CASSAVETES CAM. Everyone wore the bike helmet with the camera on it to pay homage to John Cassavetes. Then we played camera operating freeze tag. Jordan and Noah were the funniest. That's probably what we'll use in the movie. Noah chased Jordan for like a good minute. The camera is bouncing and everything. It's pretty funny.
The first day was the documentary beach scene. I just asked them about writing and success. Sonny was playing his guitar in the background.
Noah got really funny in take eight. He started talking about being miserable, and how that was the answer for anyone who wanted to be a writer. Then he changed his mind, and said he wanted to be like Norman Mailer, and have two ghost writers and wine coolers.
Last night we filmed the final singalong in the movie. I lead them in something that was supposed to be like the Beatles "All You Need Is Love." It turned out really peculiar because it was improv. I guess you could call it Gospel 20's Swing. I don't know. I just know that when we finished Jordan said: "That was the weirdest experience of my life."
Today we shoot the poetry reading scene at Mac's Books in Cleveland Heights.