EMMY AWARDS II — musings

August 30, 2010

I thought Jimmy Fallon was funny.  I really enjoyed the opening skits.

No real surprises in the big categories.  Mad Men has been a critical favorite for awhile, and I’m a fan of the show myself.  I’m glad Modern Family took the comedy award.  Though I like Glee, I think it is more uneven than Modern Family, which only had one or two blah episodes the entire season.

I really would have liked for Kyle Chandler or Connie Britton to win as a way to recognize their fine work on Friday Night Lights and, perhaps, to give the show a boost.  For the same reason, I wish Men Of A Certain Age had gotten more visibility in the nominations.

It was a pleasure to see Jim Parsons win for Big Bang Theory – he is hilarious.  I kind of wish The Colbert Report had edged out The Daily Show this year, though both are worthy.

HBO had solid wins in the movie and mini-series categories (here’s where I need to confess that I didn’t get through Pacific).  I was not displeased to see Temple Grandin win in its category, though I personally would have probably picked You Don’t Know Jack as best film.  Both Claire Danes and Al Pacino won for playing the title roles in those films, though, and both were excellent performances.

Seeing all of this good (and some great) work on television celebrated gets me excited for the new fall series…



August 29, 2010

Is it just me, or is the awards show sort of funny this year?  Maybe it’s because there are some good new shows.

One disappointment for me, though, is that Men Of A Certain Age was not submitted for consideration.  I did love the first season.

Glad to see that Modern Family is getting some accolades.


August 29, 2010

Director Aaron Schneider has mainly worked as a cinematographer previously – and I hadn’t particularly noticed his work – but he seems to really hit his stride as a director with the lovely, understated, yet indelible, film Get Low.

Just writing about it now makes me want to run out and see it all over again.

Robert Duvall plays a hermit in rural Tennessee during the 1930s.  When he decides to give himself a funeral while he’s still around to participate, he encounters a woman from his past (Sissy Spacek – one of my all-time favorite actors), a smarmy funeral home owner (Bill Murray), and his earnest and kind associate (Lucas Black).  All of the performances are spot on.

The story is rich, too.  I don’t really believe in “universal themes” because I think we say that in reference to Western thought rather than something truly universal over time and place, but some narratives do accomplish a great deal with astonishing economy.  Get Low is one of those stories that feels even greater than the sum of its considerable parts.

As with another recent favorite of mine, Winter’s Bone, I wouldn’t change a frame.   I keep thinking of this film, of particular images and how they were framed, of certain lines and what they conveyed, and, especially, the revelation from Robert Duvall’s character Felix Bush of what it is like to discover in a moment that you have a heart.

There is so much to love about this film.  Go see it.


August 29, 2010

You know, I read the book (twice, I admit it) and believed it felt honest emotionally even if the travel scenarios were contrived.  I even think I picked up a few useful elements from the memoir that I continue to consider now, years later.

The movie didn’t work for me.  The main reason for that is Julia Roberts.  I couldn’t stop thinking of Julia Roberts when an unknown or lesser-known (more age appropriate for the role) actor would have given me some space for willing suspension of disbelief.

The locations were lovely.  Supporting actors like Richard Jenkins (always terrific) and Javier Bardem (so good – not a surprise – and so sexy – sometimes a surprise) couldn’t keep me from thinking “Why is Julia Roberts pretending to be Liz Gilbert?”  It just felt wrong.


August 24, 2010

Mad Men is starting to hit its stride again (hooray!), and Rubicon is holding its own.  Time soon to start thinking about the new and returning fall series, but mostly I’m looking forward to seeing Get Low on Friday!


August 18, 2010

If you missed Kiran Deol’s film Woman Rebel at RiverRun this year and also missed the HBO2 premiere tonight from 8:00-8:45, then you have another chance to catch it on HBO2 on August 26th at 11:45 a.m.

The documentary short (a little over half an hour) tells the engrossing story of a Nepalese woman who joins the People’s Liberation Army to fight for equality for women and a better standard of living for the poor.

First-time filmmaker Deol has delivered a compelling story – with a few surprises along the way – that demonstrates remarkable social change in Nepal over a relatively short period of time.  Check out this film.

PELADA — Playing this week only at a/perture

August 16, 2010

The documentary Pelada, which takes a look at pick-up soccer games around the world, will play at a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem Tuesday, August 17 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 18 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Thursday, August 19 at 2:00 p.m.  Information about tickets is available at http://www.aperturecinema.com/ and it should be noted that this is a family-friendly film.

I had a chance to pose a few questions to one of the directors of Pelada, Ryan White.

1. The film is a personal documentary – in a way at least – because Luke and Gwendolyn, both college soccer players, are traveling around the world looking for pick-up games and narrating the film that includes reflections on how soccer is part of everyday life for a wide variety of people in various countries.  Yet. you and Rebekah are also credited as directors along with Luke and Gwendolyn.  How did this team approach to filmmaking work?

Four directors isn’t normal, and I think Pelada is in some ways an experiment in collaboration that way.  From conception of the idea all the way to the very end of the film, it’s been the four of us – there was never any more on the road with us, and there were never any less. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t trying at times – when you have four people traveling and shooting together, it can get stressful at times. But we all learned each other’s styles very quickly and learned to funnel that into something productive. And when I look back on the completed film now, I see all four personalities in it. I think it kept us on our toes and never allowed us to get lazy as filmmakers – there was so much brainstorming, discussion, and debate that went into each story we shot, that the collaboration made it just a really thorough, no-stone-left-unturned type of filmmaking. Would I do it again? Probably not any time soon. But do I think it worked for this film? Without a doubt.

2. Obviously, three of the four of you played college soccer, so that’s a natural, but how did the actual idea to make this film come together?

I’m the non-soccer player, the outcast. But I knew Gwendolyn from college – we studied documentary filmmaking at Duke together and gained a real appreciation for each other’s filmmaking styles. After school I continued on that path and went into filmmaking and she left that world and went into writing. She and Rebekah had played college soccer together and they came up with the idea behind Pelada. Gwendolyn and I hadn’t spoken for years but she called me up one day and said, “So hear me out: I have this idea for a movie.. .” I thought it was a brilliant idea from the moment she pitched it to me – and frankly was shocked no one had this movie before – so I signed on right away. I think we were all young and stupidly ambitious enough to think we could pull off making a movie in 25 countries – and that stupid ambition serves us well.

3. Where did you go on this trip and how long did you travel?

We went to 25 countries on 6 continents. When all is said and done, we were on the road for about a year.

4. What was the most surprising thing you learned (not necessarily, but possibly, about soccer) while making this film?

I’m not sure it was surprising, but one thing I gleaned from the Pelada experience was that the world we see in the media is not that the world that exists in actuality. Nothing is as scary or exotic as it seems in your head before you get there. We intersected some pretty large world issues during all of our travels:  we were in Jerusalem during a terrorist attack, we were in the slums of Nairobi just months after the election violence there, and we were Iran just a week before their own election violence began. But when you’re in all these places you realize very quickly that these issues that we see all over the news don’t run people’s lives. People are out there just living their day-to-day to lives. And so perhaps that’s the greatest thing I learned is that none of us are really that different. You can shoot over the course of a year in 14 languages across 6 continents – from the “axis of evil” to the slums of Africa to the urban sprawl of Tokyo – and when you get to know people in all of these places, I think you get a sense of how similar we really all are.

5. What would you do differently if you were starting the film now?

Raise more money from the beginning! I don’t think it would have been possible, but funding a documentary (especially during a recession) can be grueling. Our lives have been so cliché struggling filmmakers and unglamorous at times over the past three years that it’s embarrassing. So we were forced to fund the film as we went, and we did more fundraising whenever we ran out of money. But it would have been nice to try to raise the whole budget from the very outset of the film so that no time and energy had to take away from the creative process once shooting began.

6. What are each of the four directors working on now?

Gwendolyn is back to writing and Luke is in law school, so they’re putting filmmaking aside post-Pelada. Rebekah and I are both in it for the long haul –  for the past year we’ve been working together on a film about gay marriage in California and the recent federal trial that happened in San Francisco which overturned prop 8. Couldn’t be much different than pick-up soccer….. but that’s what I love about this job.