by Bill Chambers I try my best to stay away from the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto's state-of-the-art cinematheque, during the Festival, because for a goodly portion of those ten days it becomes Pandaemonium with a red carpet. But I made what I hope is a self-explanatory exception for the Industry conference "Ad Infinitum: Bigger, Faster, Brighter Movies - The Changing Creative Landscape of Digital Entertainment," where Douglas Trumbull--who designed the lightshows for, among others, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Blade Runner; directed the cultish SF movies Silent Running and Brainstorm; and engineered Back to the Future: The Ride--debuted/previewed his new MAGI process, a digital replacement for his late, lamented Showscan. Trumbull took the podium to introduce a featurette on his work that set the context for UFOTOG, a short subject shot in 4K resolution and 3-D at 120 frames per second (fps). Although the piece dovetails with Trumbull's geeky interest in space invaders (the title is a portmanteau of "UFO" and "photography," just as MAGI is a weird anagram-cum-abbreviation for "moving image"), its raison d'être is to serve as MAGI's proof of concept. Good thing, too: as a narrative it's pretty incoherent.
by Walter Chaw You get into trouble when you expect the things you love the most in your life to be the salvation for bad choices. I was in a job last year that I hated. It paid well, and I took the money without thinking over-much that it was money for lying to people who trusted and respected me so they would continue to be productive for an organization that didn't care about them. I was good at this. To quiet the little voices that began to fray around the edges of "everything I'm supposed to do," I taught, and I wrote, and I identified myself as a writer and a critic and a teacher whenever someone asked me what I did. I came to Telluride last year at the invitation of a friend at a point where I thought of suicide a lot and couldn't figure out why exactly that was. I didn't review much anymore. I didn't want to watch movies. I didn't know what made me happy--I didn't understand why nothing made me happy. Then there was the attendant self-loathing where you realize you have it made and shouldn't you just stop complaining?
by Bill Chambers Just a heads-up that this week you can find me over at the great THE FILM EXPERIENCE, where I participated in the latest Best Supporting Actress Smackdown in the humbling company of actress Dana Delany, Pictures at a Revolution author Mark Harris, critics Karina Longworth and Kyle Turner, and of course TFE founder Nathaniel R. Once a month, Nathaniel invites a panel like ours to encapsulate and rate the five performances nominated for a given year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar (our own Angelo Muredda contributed to 1968)--a fascinating exercise when removed from the hype and politics of awards season. We were assigned 1973, and it was fun revisiting Paper Moon, The Exorcist, and American Graffiti through the prism of a single actor, as well as encountering a film I can't imagine penetrating my radar any other way, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. Subsequent to blurbing the five nominees, the six of us recorded a podcast--my first (you can probably hear the deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face)--that is now downloadable from iTunes. At several points, I got so caught up in what the others were saying that I forgot I wasn't there just to listen. My thanks again to Nathaniel for having me. Enjoy!
A brief but self-indulgent post to notify that "Bunga," the latest episode of my (poorly) animated side-project "The Monster Show", recently went up on YouTube--in 1080p!--if you feel like checking it out. You can also catch up with previous instalments here.
by Jefferson Robbins Back in September, I published the Kindle ebook The Curse of Frankenstein: A Dissection--a scene-by-scene analytical love letter to a film that shaped me, and discloses hidden depths the more one looks at it.
by Walter Chaw I'd been vaguely aware of the Mile High
Horror Film Festival its previous three years to the extent that I'd reached out at
some point to see about coverage, but it came to nothing and was easy for me
to ignore. Then a good friend moved from the Denver Film Society to the
newly-opened Denver location of Alamo Drafthouse as creative director, and one
September morning, I found myself driving down to meet with him and chat about
his new position. This Drafthouse is beautiful, by the way, and for cinephiles
in the Denver area, it's a hope devoutly wished, answered. If you don't support
this venue and its mission statement ("to save cinema," its co-owner,
Tom, declared to me proudly), you don't deserve it. Anyway, in the cavernous,
leather-lined lobby, I met my friend, who had just come from a planning meeting
with festival founder Tim Schultz. Handshakes facilitated, I got in
touch with ace PR guy Travis Volz a few days later, and suddenly found myself
sitting in a little booth across from Jim Mickle, director of a very, very good remake/not-really-a-remake of We Are What We Are.
by Bill Chambers The cause célèbre at this year's TIFF was critic Alex
Billington's 9-1-1 call. For those living under a rock, what happened was
that Billington entreated Festival volunteers to do...something...about the guy using his light-emitting cell phone at a P&I (press and industry) screening of Ti
West's The Sacrament. When they declined, Billington dialled emergency
services, live-tweeting the whole sorry affair as a gift to the gods of
schadenfreude. This is indeed absolutely childish and cowardly
behaviour, yet a similarly insufferable sanctimony deluged the incident in think pieces and @
replies, some of them from yours truly. Yes, crying wolf to 9-1-1 is irresponsible,
though I imagine Billington's wasn't the first or even second false alarm
Toronto EMS received that morning. Yes, P&I screenings are free, throwing
Billington's sense of entitlement into relief, although they do come with the
Faustian obligation to write about them at some point. (Something that isn't
made easier by a viewing filled with peripheral distractions.) And, sure,
industry folk need to be able to conduct business in a darkened theatre if it
comes to that, because TIFF is a buyer's market ultimately supported by the wheeling-and-dealing that happens over a ten-day period.
by Walter Chaw It's a six-and-a-half hour drive from my
home in Arvada, CO to Telluride on the Western Slope, and there are two ways to get
there. One way is all highway; the other way is all beauty. I took the
second route, and it made all the difference. I've been in a dark, difficult
place for a long time now, or, at least, long enough in the parlance of
near-crippling depression. I was caught in eddies; I had become inert. I had
almost completely stopped writing. Not just essays like this one, but reviews,
too, which I used to be able to pump out with I think alarming speed and ease.
Early on, someone asked my editor how I did it; at times over the last couple months, I wondered if I'd ever write like that again. Things are hard when you're dark.
Getting out of bed was a negotiation--getting out to a screening was a near act
of God. The thought of accidentally eavesdropping other people's thoughts was
agony. The times I did, of course, were good, because the guilt I would have
felt had I gone and not written on the privilege would have been untenable.
Would that the guilt of not writing on home-video releases have the same
Please excuse this self-indulgent post, but the latest episode of my side-project "The Monster Show", "Shrink-Ray," just went live, in glorious 1080p. Thanks for checking it out, I hope it's a pleasant waste of your time. If you like what you see, you can catch up with previous instalments here.
by Bill Chambers Recently, my brother Derek
and I--a failed screenwriting team if ever there was one--took advantage of the new technological democracy and decided to make our own web cartoon, spun off from
a short story Derek wrote ("The Monster Strikes") about a closet
monster who goes on strike and becomes roommates with his intended victim. For
years we had scribbled ideas for a potential TV show based on the concept,
though our initial desire to satirize sitcom tropes changed (evolved?) over
time as we realized we wanted to get away from meta humour and do something
more organically stupid.