Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mississippi Film

Most people turn to Los Angeles or New York for the best in film.  Mississippians are trying to change that.  Over the last decade, the state of Mississippi has taken large strides in putting itself on the map in the film industry.

Many films have been already filmed in Mississippi, chosen for its earthy and natural landscapes, antiquated towns, and hospitality.  A Time to Kill, My Dog Skip, and O Brother Where Art Thou? were filmed entirely in the state.  Even Walk the Line was partially filmed in the Magnolia state.  These films have opened the door for Mississippi as a premier filming location.

The state has taken several measures to increase interest in film.  The state now has an Office of Film and Culture that handles all projects and promotion of film for the state.  The state has plans for a full scale production studio that competes with Hollywood in the city of Canton.  They hope the facilities will attract outside film makers to the luxuries of a large production facility.  The state has also started and incentive program that encourages filmmakers to the state financially.  

Mississippi has alot of supporters of the filmmaking industry running businesses in the state.  Many people are trained in work behind the scenes that are available to out of state filmmakers.  The state has a catalog for interested filmmakers of local people available to do any kind of work that may be needed on a set.  Some are individuals and several are companies.  One company that has put itself on the map state wide for its expanding film business is Eyevox.  Eyevox is a small production company that offers its services locally and for outside projects moving in.  They have producers, editors, set builders, animators, and camera men all on staff.  They have done it all:  from small company commercials to working with DreamWorks and HBO.

The state also supports its local filmmakers, however.  Locations statewide hold annual film festivals to showcase and promote local work.  The largest is probably the Crossroads Film Festival held in Jackson, the capital of the state.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Eighties

 This weekend I watched several eighties movies and realized how set apart they are.  They basically form their own genre for their common threads.  They seem to have the same actors, story, even music.
St. Elmo's Fire is one movie that comes to mind that is a prime example of the typical eighties film.  All of the stars were at the top of their game during this time.  Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Ron Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy,  and Mare Winningham were the perfect age for the relationship films of this decade.  They have all starred in other films together in this era as well.  Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson were in The Breakfast Club, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were in About Last Night.  Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy were in Oxford Blues.  Eighties movies tend to have the same people in them.  Several actors and actresses became very popular during this era and have not been seen in anything recently.   With a few other stars, such as Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, these people dominated the circuit in eighties Hollywood.  You can find one of them in every popular teen and young adult film of the decade.

The movies tend to cover similar subjects, nothing too heavy or controversial.  Each movie throws together a group of people from different backgrounds and by the end of the movie they end up together.  Eighties movies were all about relationships.  

They also tend to have soundtracks with only  music from that era.  Movies today seem to find a good mix of oldies, goodies, and up-to-date music to complement the film.  The movies of the eighties stuck with the synthesized pop tracks popular in that day.  The songs serve to set the mood and reenforce the ideals of the eighties film.  

It seems as if no one wanted to experiment with topics in that day.  Not that I have seen every film of the eighties, but all of the popular titles cover basically the same story.  No one tried anything new or different because the films worked as they were.  I am thankful that not every popular film today covers the same story over and over again.  I do enjoy the eighties movies, but simply for the reason that they are so genuinely eighties.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

I follow and purchase movies much more often than I do television shows.  I always thought buying seasons of popular television shows was unusual because most shows stay on television in reruns for a long time.  I prefer to watch them online now, so I didn't have a need to buy them for myself.  Also, they are very unaffordable.  However, I have grown attached to a few shows.  I find myself wanting to watch them all the time.

These shows are all comedies.  I find it hard to watch several episodes of an hour-long drama series.  It is much easier to stay interested in shorter episodes of a more comic nature.  Right now, at the top of my list is The Office and Flight of the Conchords.  Most are familiar with The Office, for it is award winning and stars Steve Carrell.  The show is lucky to have such a talented and popular cast to drive the humor and wit each episode has to offer.  This show has a strong following and I indulged in purchasing all three seasons.  I am now very popular on my hall with all my friends.

However, the other show is in one way even better than The Office.  Flight of the Conchords is overlooked because it only airs on HBO.  Unfortunately, many people don't get the channel and miss out on the great shows HBO has to offer.  Most shows are serious in nature about controversial and often overlooked topics.  They also tend to support smaller productions in hopes of promoting shows of a more "indie feel".  Flight of the Conchords is the channel's first move towards a comedic half-hour show. 

The show follows two New Zealand musicians in New York in their hopes of becoming a popular band, called Flight of the Conchords.  The show is obviously small budget, with a max of five reoccuring characters and only one or two solid sets.  Bret and Jermaine, who actually created the show and star in it, are so hilarious.  Each episode is filled with witty humor in awkward circumstances.  The best thing about the show is the music.  The two musicians sing their songs as a part of every episode.  They randomly break into song and sometimes dance, reflecting their current situation.  The songs are of every genre and every subject and provide the most laughs in each episode.

The minor characters are just as funny as Bret and Jermaine.  Their band manager Murray works at the New Zealand consulate while simultaniously managing their band.  They only have one fan, an obsessive love-struck Mel, that follows them around everywhere.  

I bought the first season of this show for a reasonable price.  One, it is my favorite show on television at the moment, and two, I want to spread it around.  I hope this show can become more popular and gather a larger following so it can gain the recognition it deserves.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Across the Universe

One of my favorite films of the year so far is definitely Across the Universe.  Surprisingly enough, I listened to the soundtrack for the film for a month before I saw the picture.  I fell in love with the creative covers for the Beatles' songs.  However the feeling and emotion of the film is even more a part of the music.  You can really only watch and listen to both.

Director Julie Taymor has perhaps never taken on such a monumental film production before.  Known only for this film and the Oscar-winning Frida (six nominations and two wins).  Across the Universe was no doubt a risk for the talented director, but she obviously had no fear in pushing the boundaries.  Her grasp and execution of the legendary music and Sixties era has never been presented in such an eccentric and emotional way.  I think she told a beautiful story, but what really stands out is her display of the era.  She managed to include several aspects of the Sixties:  the Vietnam war, the psychedelic atmosphere, and even the racial riots.  Her detail to sets, costumes, and locations makes the era come alive.

Nominated this year for only Best Costume Design, I feel this film deserved more recognition in the musical and directing areas.  However, the legendary costume designerAlbert Wolsky joining the crew did magnify the splendid screen presence of each character.  He craftily presented the era of the sixties and added to the personality of each character with his elaborate hippie attire.  

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the soundtrack.  The movie showcases fresh takes on thirty classic Beatles' songs while weaving a story around the message that each implies. Taymor chose unknown actors for her lead roles, wanting to find talented singer/actors and not just have big names tied to the project.  She chose two Brits Joe Anderson and Jim Sturgess has her two male leads.  They are both young and crazy enough to pull of the roles of soul-searchers Max and Jude.  The more famous Evan Rachel Wood plays Lucy, and although many know she can act, this is her first singing role.  All three shined as the lead trio, and their voices were amazing.  Perhaps the best musical sequence comes not from the stars.  The movie's interpretation of the Beatles' Let It Be solos two unknown African American singers.  A young boy and older woman belt this song better than any other character in the film.

Everything in this film portrays the Sixties in such a real way.  Taymor made every aspect of the film a part of the Beatles' classic songs.  Every character name was from a song, and several were references to other famous musicians of the time.  Janis Joplin is portrayed through Sadie, and Jimi Hendrix is portrayed through JoJo.

Taymor has commented that of the over 300 Beatles' songs, she only used 30 in this film.  She's up to teaming up with the same cast to continue the story.  

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Reservations

No Reservations is just another romantic comedy.  With a cooking twist, the story is a typical love story, but with a little girl thrown in to the mix.  The story follows a successful, yet stressed chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose life is thrown off by the sudden death of her sister and subsequent adoption of her neice (Abigail Breslin).  The young girl develops a relationship with Kate's assistant chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart) and they help Kate realize what is really important in life.

Zeta-Jones is talented in any role she takes on.  She has had many hit movies and many that have bombed.  I'm not sure if this movie will put more stars on her career, because the real delight are her co-stars.  Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin really light the screen.  I have not really followed Aaron Eckhart in film, so I was really surprised at his talent in the romantic comedy.  Even more so, his talent with children.  He had such a chemistry with Zeta-Jones and the young Abigail Breslin.
Now here is a star worth bragging about.  She is not even hit her teen years, but she has already hit the red carpet with an Oscar nomination.  Little Miss Sunshine was Breslin's debut, and the film went straight to the top.  She has quickly risen as the most talented child star out there right now, thankfully replacing Dakota Fanning.  Breslin has the sweet child face and manner, yet her roles are emotionally complicated and smart.  I think she will remain in the spotlight for a while.  Her next film, Definitely, Maybe, will boost her screen image as well.

This movie may fade into the many romantic comedies meant for a girl's night at home, but I think it deserves more merit.  In twenty years, I think people will look back at this movie and discover the start of a brilliant career for Abigail Breslin.  Look out for her, for she will continue to succeed on the screen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lost Popularity

Nothing has lost popularity, but quite the opposite.  It is amazing to me that ABC's "Lost" as maintained its fan base and now become one of the most popular show on television.  The network did an excellent job of putting off season four.  I am surprised that the fan base reaction wasn't anger for making them wait so long, but the delay seemed only to widen the fan base.  Everyone on my hall that has never seen the show is catching up starting with season one.  With thanks to ABC Online, every season of "Lost" is available in HD online for any viewer.  All of a sudden, everyone feels the need to see from the start the confusing tale of Oceanic Flight 815.  Lost parties happen every week, and everyone wants to know what will happen to the stranded passengers.

I watched the show religiously for the first season, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It mainly covered each passenger on the island in their life before the crash.  As I started the second season, however, the show included every twist, every conflict, every surprise possible.  I grew more confused with every episode.  New mysteries were introduced without the old ones being solved.  The most unusual discoveries were made on the show, none of which made any sense to me.  I couldn't stand watching the show anymore.  My roommate, the most devoted Lost fan I know, states that the confusion only continues.  However, more people flock to their televisions to see what twist in the plot lies ahead.

It is curious also that with the popularity of the show, the actors and actresses haven't made a stronger name for themselves.  It seems that they are all very talented, but only one has made several movies and become very popular.  Maggie Grace, or Shannon, has only recently debuted in The Jane Austen Book Club, and Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid, was in Bride and Prejudice that was quickly overlooked.  With some research I even discovered new characters from the recent seasons.  Elizabeth Mitchell, as Juliet, has perhaps the most films under her belt, but still she stays mainly under the radar as a Hollywood star.  The actor gaining the most fame from his beginnings in "Lost" is obviously Matthew Fox, who plays the main character Dr. Jack Shephard.  He has been on more magazine covers with Evangeline Lilly for the show than any other characters.  Yes, he and Lilly are perhaps the main characters, but the series is an epic following the lives of many characters and the show seems to stay attached to all of them.  Fox is the only one to gain notoriety off the island as well as on it.  Fox had a humble start on "Party of Five," a long running television series that no one seems to remember.  Since his popularity on Lost, Fox quickly gained several film roles, boosting his career.  

We Are Marshall was his first major picture to hit the screens.  I was pleasantly surprised at his portrayal of the grieving assistant coach.  He did a fantastic job, although his role as Jack has definitely trained him on acting in a tragic situation. He also has a movie releasing on Febuary 22, Vantage Point, also starring Dennis Quaid.  We shall see if he can branch out of the struggling, complicated soul sort of character.  Hopefully, the other stars of "Lost" will not go over looked.  I personally would like to see Jorge Garcia, more commonly known as Hurley, on the big screen with a hit comedy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Women in Power

It all started with Sex & the City.  Women were cast in the spotlight as working women who want it all:  the money, the man, the job, the respect.    This show let women know that they should go for what they want.  As popular as it was, networks caught on to the female needs.  Women want to see other women get the power they deserve.  And so began a string of shows, starring "women of power."  These women have it all:  the dream life.  However, the real issue is the struggles that women face in a man-driven world.  While these women have it all, they fight to keep a smiling face.  Now I know women love to see other living the dream, but it seems almost a turn off after seeing what these women go through.  I don't know if it's worth it.

The Recent Lineup

Two new shows started this winter focusing on women in the workplace.  The first is Cashmere Mafia, produced by Darren Star who also produces Sex and the City.  The plot follows four successful New York businesswomen in all walks of life.  Two are moms, two are looking for love, and all are fighting for power in the business world.  The women are taking over the New York scene.  I can't decide if these shows are empowering women or making them feel less like women.  No doubt that the shows are catered to a female audience, men don't usually prefer Prada and Gucci.  However, these shows cast hot, rising stars to portray their "women of power," so maybe men are attracted to the show.  

NBC cloned ABC's Cashmere Mafia with a small twist, which is making it only three women.  It is interesting that all networks can adopt this common and popular idea and make it work.  NBC's Lipstick Jungle even has Brooke Shields, who came out of mommyhood to show the world what women can be.  These women are all unexcepted by the men in the executive positions because they "don't belong."  One episode in Cashmere Mafia even went as far to break of one characters engagements over a publishing job.  When the woman got it, the man ran away.

These shows may be changing the way women view the workplace.  I think it may be empowering to most.  It's encouraging to see other women get the job done.  I am not sure that this is the best message to broadcast on every channel.  Because just maybe, women aren't always cut out for the job.

What do others think about the new "women in power?"

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Superbowl is still one of the most watched television events.  Perhaps, many viewers are as excited about the advertisements and they are about the game.  CNN reported an average cost per ad of about 2.7 million dollars.  If all of the companies pooled their money that they spent on the Superbowl advertisements, they might have solved the world's water crisis.  Doesn't the world need the ads instead?  Despite all the money spent, the ads stilled pleased Superbowl fans.

The commercials all went in different directions; they did not follow a pattern at all.  Some companies went with serious, to-the-point ads especially car companies.  One company's ads stood out to me mainly because they were unusual, sometimes grotesque.  One had a woman's heart leave her body and another showed a spider devour its dinner.  Budweiser definitely wins the prize for the spending the most money on ads, however they may also win the prize for the best.  Some funny, some touching, but all were pretty good.  I lost count of how many Budweiser ads showed, but their expenses topped the charts.

Some football players even filmed commercials for the event.  The Patriots joined together My favorite was the story of the oboe player turned football star thanks to his friend pulling him out of his grocery store job.  Tom Brady even made a joint commercial with the United Way.  Although it seemed he couldn't find the time to show up for filming it because his animated cartoon was playing football.

The halftime show was a little classier this year I think.  Steering away from the out of control and towards genuine rock and roll.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are getting old, but their songs will always be classics.  No one took risks this year for a repeat of the Janet Jackson fiasco, Petty pleases everyone.

It's interesting that the ads become so important.  Not that the Superbowl itself isn't, but it seems the talk of the commercials lasts longer than that of the winner.  The game was uneventful until the fourth quarter, so many looked to the ads to keep up the entertainment.  Advertisements are much more about entertainment than promoting the product in some cases.  Now more than ever, people expect for the commercial to please the eye before they will even consider the product or service.  That's why companies pay so much money for Superbowl spots.  It is their best opportunity to reach a wide audience and entertain.

Go Giants!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Movies for You

I found it very difficult since college started to keep up with the latest movie releases without spending money at the theater.  I have always kept a Netflix or Blockbuster account with my mom to continuously get new releases and classics.  
My grandfather passed away this week and it has had me pondering about how times have changed.  Everything is so much more expensive, even the movie theatre popcorn, but at the same time, it is so much more convenient.  Think about it.  The film industry has greatly evolved.  No more black and white reel films for everything is digital and exceptional color.  That is just the theater.  It almost pays even more to watch in the comfort of your own home.  With flat screen, LCD, HD, and I'm sure many other acronyms with a D, there is no need to go to the big screen for a theater-like movie experience.  Now we have even have surround sound, and my grandfather was lucky to get sound.  
The point I wanted to address was the evolution of movie renting.  With all this technology in film, the movie rental industry has caught on fast.  We as consumers expect the easiest and the best in every industry now.  The days of driving to the closest rental store are over.  Blockbuster offers online rentals and Netflix was created as competition.  It is so easy and even cheaper to rent movies this way.  I have not found anything wrong with the system so far.  Choose how many movies you keep at a time by the price.  Choose you films online.  The company does the rest.  I thought movie renting had met a new level.
Then, it got even better.  Film is now all online.  Networks put all of their shows easily accessible on their websites.  I don't have to worry about missing my favorite shows because I can always watch it online.  Of course, this convenience has led to the screenwriters' strike, which has led to no more new episodes.  It is still such a novel idea on the network's part.  I have even heard that Netflix and Blockbuster online offer online downloads and mailed movies so you can watch your rentals immediately on your computer or wait for them to send them to you.  Movies are the easiest thing to obtain now.  It would blow my grandfather away.
Check out the rates for online movie rentals.