116 – An Update

So, yeah… I’ve been working for the last few weeks on my new show and I haven’t written a single entry in that time. I feel guilty about this every day, but hey I’m really busy. My wife is still in South America, so between tending to the zoo, doing my job, taking care of the house, and trying to keep myself fed I haven’t had a lot of time to write anything. Right now I’m staring down a looming deadline, so naturally I’m writing a blog entry.

My current show has been a very fun change of pace from the types of shows I’ve been cutting for the past two years. This one is a docu-drama. Basically that means it is all reenactments intercut with interviews. It is very similar to cutting narrative, but the scenes get broken up a bit by narration and interviews. I’m really enjoying working on it, but it is a ton of work. I constantly need to balance letting scenes play out against letting the interviewees tell their story. Of course the first assembly came in really long, so right now I’m cutting it down while simultaneously adding new material and refining the story. You know, editing!

Anyway, I should get back to work.

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115 – Back to Work

After two months off I am finally getting back to cutting. It has been a tough two months and I’m glad it’s over. But as the turnaround on my new show is quite tight, I already feel like I’m falling behind. So, I will have more to say later, but for now I must edit.

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114 – Six Films part 2

Here are six more films I’ve recently watched and my impressions of them.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I was far more impressed with this film than I expected I would be. The production design and wardrobe is phenomenal. Charlize Theron is creepy and and mesmerizing as Ravenna, a.k.a The Evil Queen. This is the gothic, truly Grimm-inspired version of Snow White I’ve been longing to see. Sadly, I think the film has been overshadowed by the tabloid scandal involving Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders, but do not let that stop you from checking this film out. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Grade: A-

The Broken Circle Breakdown

An Oscar nominee this past year in the Foreign Language category, this film is the story of a relationship between a bluegrass musician and tattoo artist turned singer. Though the film is in Dutch (with English subtitles), all of the music is in English. I found this to be a really beautiful film. Great cinematography, fantastic editing, powerful performances. As directed by Felix Van Groeningen and edited by Nico Leunen, I really loved how they played with time throughout the narrative. We are constantly moving forward and backward through time to see how the relationship between Elise and Didier unfolds. Admittedly, I’m not much of a country music fan, but the bluegrass music in The Broken Circle Breakdown is pretty awesome. This film should be on all cinema and music lovers’ must watch list.

Grade: A

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Where to begin…

After seeing the trailers for this online and in IMAX 3D I avoided this film like the plague. It looked to be terrible, however, it is currently on HBO so I figured why not just watch it. It starts out okay. The prologue definitely felt tacked on. I understand why Peter Jackson put that scene in, but it would have been better to just start with Bilbo in The Shire, writing his memoirs. For the first forty minutes I though it wasn’t so bad, but then the journey to the Lonely Mountain begins and things go downhill quickly. There was no need for Jackson to flesh out this story into three films. All of the added material only serves to stretch the story to the point of mundanity. Many scenes play out much longer than they need to and many characters that were not in the book didn’t need to be added to the film. I will say that the “Riddles in the Dark” scene is great, and is probably the one key scene to this whole film. In the end I felt justified in my avoidance of this movie. There are maybe 3 good scenes. When the whole trilogy is released I’m tempted to take a page from The Phantom Editor’s playbook and cut my own version. I think I could get the whole story into a single 2 hour film.

Grade: C

Oblivion

Oblivion is yet another film that I was more impressed with than I thought I would be. The production design is amazing and the use of projection instead of green screen lends a sense of realism that has been lacking from a lot of science fiction films in recent years. Tom Cruise, as usual, is a lot of fun to watch here. Without giving anything away, this film presents a really cool take on a post-apocalyptic Earth. It is definitely worth checking out.

Grade: A-

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I was flipping through channels one day and saw that this was about to start. Having nothing better to do, I watched it. I’m glad I did. I watched it again a few weeks later, and again, I’m glad I did. This was a really funny and touching film about the final days of Earth. Steve Carrell gives a nuanced performance that I found completely relatable. There are some great cameos throughout the film from Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, William Petersen, and others. The premise is that a giant asteroid is headed for Earth and it will be destroyed in 3 weeks. How do you spend your final days? It’s a really great concept. Seeking a Friend for the End of the Worldwas written and directed by Lorene Scafaria.

Grade: A-

Mud

A fantastic and largely unseen film about a fugitive and two young boys who find him and try to help reunite him with his love and escape those who are hunting him. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character, Mud, and he gives one hell of a performance. This is a completely character driven film that should be studied for crafting performances. Mud was directed by Jeff Nichols and edited by Julie Monroe.

Grade: A

Bonus round: Out of Sight

I’ve seen Out of Sight several times over the past few years. I don’t really know why it took me so long to get to it. It is now one of those films that I’ll watch any time I come across it while I’m flipping through channels to find something. Expertly directed by Stephen Soderbergh and masterfully edited by the legendary Anne V. Coates, Out of Sight is a master class in filmmaking. Like Chinatown, it should be required viewing for anyone wanting to be involved in films or television. It is by far Soderbergh’s best film and it is also Jennifer Lopez’s only great performance. She is proof of what a great director and a brilliant editor can do for an actor. Out of Sight defines cool when it comes to filmmaking. If you have not seen it stop whatever you are doing and watch it right now. The hotel bar scene alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Grade: A+

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113 – Six Films part 1

This is not so much a review as it is a rundown of six movies I’ve watched recently and my impressions of them. More entries like this will follow soon.

The Lego Movie

Everything is indeed awesome! This movie thoroughly blew me away. I absolutely loved everything about it. The look was stunning, the storytelling was impeccable, the casting was spot-on. This was not only a well made story, but really felt like love and creativity was poured into the making of it. The animators did a superb job of bringing Lego to life while simultaneously retaining a sense of realism with the plastic bricks. I loved the subtle details, like fingerprints on the plastic. I really thought it was cool how the entire Lego universe was in fact made of Lego. Lego clouds, Lego water, Lego dirt. If this doesn’t win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars next year I will be sad. This is my favorite animated film since The Incredibles. In fact I would put this up on a pedestal with the original Toy Story. A true masterpiece of animation and filmmaking in general.

Grade: A+

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass knows how to make an intense thriller. This is a story that the whole world is familiar with. You know how it ends before it even begins, yet it keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire two plus hours. Tom Hanks gives yet another fantastic performance and newcomer Barkhad Abdi was completely convincing in his role as a Somali pirate. He definitely deserved his Best Supporting Actor nomination and I think it would have been nice to see him win. I am curious what sort of career lies head of him if he continues to act. One thing I really like about Paul Greengrass films is the tight collaboration between Greengrass, DP Barry Ackroyd, and editor Christopher Rouse. Every frame was expertly executed. I really thought Rouse had a lock on the Editing Oscar, he did such an amazing job with this film.

Grade: A

Gravity

Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Editing. Despite the implausibilities of several things in this film, I was thoroughly entertained by it. Alfonso Cuarón has pushed visual effects to a new level. This film is vastly superior to and will likely have much greater impact than that other VFX showcase, Avatar. I completely disagree with the Academy that this was the best edited film, but the care with which it was assembled is impressive. I can’t really bring myself to say that this film was edited in the traditional sense. It was very carefully planned. The choreography and execution of each shot is beautiful. Unlike Children of Men where I thought the extremely long takes were a distraction, I never really noticed them here. Cuarón was so much more effective here at sucking the audience into this film early on. I wasn’t aware of the long takes here because I was too caught up in the story.

Grade: A-

12 Years a Slave

A truly beautiful and heartbreaking film from Steve McQueen. Powerhouse performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, and many others. This should be required viewing for all Americans. It makes me sad that people refuse to watch it because it deals with a difficult subject in such a direct way. This film deserved its Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay wins. I was beyond thrilled that Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress. I was sure that the Academy would give it to Jennifer Lawrence, but I was happy to be wrong. Nyong’o’s performance as Patsey was haunting, gut-wrenching, and amazing. She is definitely someone to watch for in the future.

I was actually a little sad that 12 Years a Slave only took home 3 Oscars. I think editor Joe Walker did an amazing job with this film and I would have given him the Best Editing Oscar. In a perfect world Ejiofor would have tied with or beaten Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor. He did an amazing job in his role. In the silent moments where the camera lingers on his face he conveys such raw emotion that you feel as if you are looking into Solomon’s soul. What Ejiofor can do with a look is mind-blowingly powerful. And the decision from Walker to hang on some of those looks was brilliant. My only complaint about this film is that you do not get the sense that 12 years has actually elapsed. I don’t know if this was an oversight or a conscious decision, but simply aging the actors a bit more with makeup would have helped enormously.

Grade: A

Dallas Buyers Club

Another amazing film that far too few people have seen. This one is a bit controversial because of the changes that were made in regards to McConaughey’s character Ron Woodruff. The real man was not a homophobe and it is said that he was actually a bisexual. I can understand why the changes were made from a storytelling standpoint. Making Woodruff a straight man and a homophobe provides a more dramatic story arc for his character. I can look past those changes because the film is important and moving. McConaughey gave a career defining performance in this film. Many years from now he will be remembered for two roles, his debut as Wooderson in Dazed and Confused and Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club.

I also thought this film was well edited by Martin Pensa and director Jean-Marc Vallée (under the pseudonym John “Mac” McMurphy). This was my second favorite in the Best Editing category. I was less impressed with Jared Leto’s performance in this film. I found him a bit bland and, to me, it seemed as if he didn’t fully understand what it means to be transgendered. I actually think there were four better choices for Best Supporting Actor this past year, but unfortunately none of them won it. Many in the LGBT community are comparing Leto’s performance to Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy in Gone with the Wind. What was seemingly groundbreaking at the time will be looked back at as ignorantly clichéd in years to come. I can’t say the faults I found with Rayon lie entirely with Leto. He didn’t create the character, he merely played her. All that aside, he was good in the role, but not great.

(Not to take away from McDaniel’s accomplishments as an actor, her Oscar win for the role of Mammy was an important win for actors of color in a time where racism was far more rampant and overt than it is today.)

Grade: A

Nebraska

I was incredibly bored with this film. I have enjoyed other Alexander Payne films, but this one was terrible. I thought the characters were uninteresting, the look of the film was dull, and the writing was bland. I felt like editor Kevin Tent relied too heavily on dissolves for transitional moments. Bruce Dern was the best thing in this movie, and honestly, I thought he was just playing himself. I wanted to stop the movie after about twenty minutes, but I stuck with it to the end. I wish I hadn’t.

Grade: D

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112

Every day at 11AM an alarm goes off cross my devices. A simple message accompanies this alarm: Write something! For several months I diligently obeyed this alarm and wrote something, but then my job on Ghost Hunters ended and I found that I wasn’t motivated to write something every day. Without actually cutting something every day, I found it difficult to come up with something to say day in and day out that would be relevant to my journey as an editor. Yes, I have written many short film reviews on days where I didn’t have something else to say, but my goal is not to be a film critic. That isn’t to say that I won’t continue to write reviews, just that I don’t want that to become the sole focus of my blog. I will soon be starting up on another show and hopefully that will put me back into the writing mood.

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111

I can no longer count days. It has been far too long since I’ve written an entry to be able to count days; henceforth I shall use just numbers. (Not to mention, I started writing this one day and finished it on another day.)

So my period of unemployment continues. Tanja left for Ecuador a few days ago and I’ve been managing the menagerie all by myself. These guys want to eat ALL THE TIME!!! I have been looking for a gig in between all the feedings and also getting some things taken care of around the house. After years of procrastination, I finally have all of my email accounts cleaned up. Well mostly. Anything from 2012 or earlier has just been tossed into a folder called “old.” If I really need to find something I can just use search.

Next up: Do something about my website. I haven’t updated it in several years. I need to rethink my approach to the site and probably simplify it at the same time. Also on the agenda is to sort through my personal film and TV library. My shelves are overflowing and I need to get a handle in everything. A trip to IKEA could be helpful, but I don’t really want to spent money on anything until I have some coming in again. For now I’ll probably just trim the fat and box up a few titles for later inclusion in the library.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve watched a few things that I want to talk about, so (if anyone is still reading) look forward to those posts. I’ll start by saying it has been a mix of awesome, good, mediocre, and bad. I’m trying to wrap out this week by seeing as many of the Oscar nominated films as I can before Sunday. With that said… I need to go watch a movie!

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Day 110 – Slacking Off

After all the effort I’ve been putting in to trying to write something everyday, it seems I’m starting to slack off a bit. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m not cutting anything right now. Because of that fact, I’m not really thinking about the day to day tasks of editing, thus I don’t have a lot to write about. Rather that bore people with the mundane details of my life during unemployment, I will just wait until I have something to write about before I write new entries.

So fear not Andrew (and other readers), I am not falling back on my old ways just yet. I have plenty more to write… I just don’t know when I am going to write it.

Auf Wiedersehen for now.

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