Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chimes from the LDS Film Movement!

Recently, Richard Dutcher left his church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), not out of contempt for the church but the LDS film market and filmmakers. In the late-80’s Utah was being an open market for film not by Latter-Day Saints, but by actors and filmmakers buying up property to promote art. Let’s just use Robert Redford with Sundance as an example. This influenced a bunch of Utah natives (mainly Mormons) to explore their culture with the means of art and filmmaking outside of Sundance. It was a dream come true for many LDS filmmakers (Kieth Merrill, Don Bluth, etc.) in L.A. to contribute. The seeds for the LDS film movement were planted, but what really sealed the deal was Richard Dutcher.

His debut “God’s Army”, being a film about missionary life was groundbreaking in a sense for not proselytizing and giving insight into Mormon culture without being condescending. A critically acclaimed film that was relatable to LDS and Non-LDS people. The film itself played like a Mormon version of Roberto Rossellini’s “The Flower of St. Francis”. The trials and pitfalls of an LDS missionary trying retain faith from so many personal losses. His next film solidified him as the “Godfather of Mormon Cinema”. The film that gives him that pedestal is the one I am reviewing, “Brigham City”.

A movie told in tight dramatic exposition, juxtaposition and macabre about a serial killer in a small Utah town called, “Brigham City” (Oh, I get it). The questions of repentance, murder and morality do not even scratch the surface of this complex film. Richard Dutcher gives once again the title of Director, Producer and Actor, as he plays a no-name limping Sheriff and Bishop of “Brigham City”, who discovers the corpse of a mutilated girl out in the plains.
The premise is set in a small rural town, which feels like a horror-western a la “Man from the West”. The Sheriff/Bishop is doing double duty of serving the people and protecting them. Once the film progresses we feel that the latter is not as easy. He makes the hard decisions in both fields, the audience never getting a glimpse of the body already knows the horror he has to go through. The Sheriff argues with the young deputy about keeping this secret and letting FBI handle it leaving a philosophy as such, “ People don’t even lock their doors in this town and I don’t want them to start”. It is as if the Sheriff is doing what’s rational. Or knows how irrational people can get when they hear a murder in this town.

A simple murder mystery told with red herrings, but steeped in Mormon culture. The film seems to transcend the LDS genre, let alone the murder mystery. As the film goes on we find out that the victim was from out of state and assists with the Sheriff’s need to keep this under wraps. That is until another murder happens, this one being a local girl. It looks like the Sheriff has a lot on his plate and comprises his integrity to find this serial killer. The question of integrity comes earlier than you think, with the theology of “losing innocence to gain wisdom”. His actions are never justified or condoned with theology, but he realizes he has to do what must be done.

The movie is accompanied with the great cult favorite Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, The Thing, Ewoks: Battle for Endor) playing a role unlike the man who sells diabetes plans on TV. He is awesome in the film and plays Stu, the long retired Sheriff who is longing for his job and for a smoke. Matthew A. Brown who was in Dutcher’s debut, “God’s Army”, plays Terry who towards the end of the film has a complex role. The female characters are put through the ringer in this horror-tale, but not in a misogynistic tone. Peg (played by Carrie Morgan), the Sheriff’s assistant who helps out by going undercover at a local dive bar. Then there is April (played by Wendy Hoop), the FBI investigator who is skeptical about the Sheriff’s religion and his stress inducing actions.

The visuals are not a distraction; every shot seems budgetary like a true independent. Richard Dutcher seems to be only concern with content more than cinematography. The straightforward story telling and movement of actors in the camera quo Yasujiro Ozu who Dutcher is an admirer of. My favorite scene is when he rallies the town near the gazebo where every man in town has to pair up and search every house. One of the town folks ask, “ Does that mean we’re all suspects”, the Sheriff replies, “Yes, it does”. The Sheriff commands his community to search every house for a missing girl who may or may not be dead.

The Sheriff, as always, seems concerned about the community and looking out for one another, until you are at the point of trusting nobody. He draws a line between him as the Bishop and him as the Sheriff. Then again, he has to. Secrets and motives are revealed, and the act of protecting those around you from terror is unprecedented. Like “Halloween” before it, the commentary of families moving into small towns or suburban areas to escape terror will never truly escape it. An underrated gem that is never just a “Mormon” film, but just a film. And a good one at that!

Side Note: As for Dutcher, he may have left the church but he has left an indelible mark on cinema. It has not stopped him from making films and exploring other themes. I will leave off with his last words to the movement he still loves, “I cannot tell you how much I have cared, and still care, about this movement. My love for the future of Mormon cinema has driven me to a passion that has expressed itself not only in my films, but (as you know) in bouts of public anger at filmmakers who, I believed, were killing a beautiful, unprecedented opportunity and a limitless potential. Miraculously, that opportunity and that potential still exist. It's just a little harder to see right now.

If this sounds like a farewell address ... well, it is.”

A Fight worth Fighting For!

“Who imposes the term of the battle will impose the terms of the peace”

The latest from playwright / screenwriter / mixed-martial-artist enthusiast David Mamet, leaving his prolific upbringing in the dramaturgical (Oleanna, The Winslow Boy, The Spanish Prisoner) and adds on to his list of action films (Spartan, Heist, “The Unit” television show). The film acts, feels and talks like a Mamet film but plays towards the convention of a Kung Fu flick. “RedBelt” is a morality play, if noticed, and a mash up of sleight of hand storytelling and samurai honor. A film that borrows from so many genres (kung fu flicks, noir, thriller and law room interrogation) that it deserves a genre unto itself. It is that good, original and entertaining without pandering.

The regulars from the Mamet workshop are all here: Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay and Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet’s wife). And here are the newcomers that are getting put through the ringer: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emily Mortimer, Tim Allen and Alice Braga. The cat-and-mouse that apply to a fixed boxing match now infused into a raw new sport. As Randy Couture (UFC Alumnus) says, “ Boxing is as dead as Woodrow Wilson”. I think he might be on to something. Thrill of boxing is gone, but the con games are still on.

“A man distracted is a man defeated”.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, an owner of a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojo who shouts out philosophical one-liners after another. His terms are that he does not teach people how to fight, but how to prevail. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays this with such force that he reminds me of Charles Bronson with a nappy Afro. The opening with Mike Terry sparring with one his own students suggests the type of camaraderie you get in Roadhouse. He paces back and forth telling him to breathe and, “Find an escape”. The student played by Max Martini (from Mamet’s show “The Unit”) gives up all hope and surrenders on the floor in a choke hold, Terry rebukes by telling him, “ You got tired, do not get tired. Let the other guy get tired”.
On a stormy night, a woman (Emily Mortimer) comes into the dojo and asks for help. In Mametian rapid exchange dialogue, Terry asks his student to take her coat for her and she jumps grabbing a gun and shooting the window. Like such improbability the dialogue carries the film. It’s a distraction for goofs, but it never mask the film’s true core. One accident leads to another that is brought up by Terry’s wife Sondra (played by Alice Bragga) telling him he has no money. A master in his own league and has to deal with the problems of rent and insurance. Like most Mamet films, finding money leads into the seedy sides of humanity. In this case, show business.

Soon discovering that his student was not getting paid at a nightclub owned by his wife’s brother. He goes on a quest to find out why and never gets a straight answer. This leads him to Chet Frank (Tim Allen) in a bar room tryst that showcases Terry’s skills. The camera follows the MMA moves in tight frantic close-ups. It never gets choppy and shows Terry’s philosophies come to life. It reminds me of that bar room fight in Steven Seagal’s “Out for Justice”, except more realistic. This encounter intrigues Chet to invite this man over for dinner. Terry realizing this will help his money woes soon realizes what price he might pay. Chet Frank is not always who he seems. Chet thinks Terry’s art and philosophies would be some assistance in his latest film, and makes him a producer.

Terry gives him his ideas on combat, which are later stolen by Chet’s manager Jerry Weiss (Joe Mantegna) and his publicist Marty Brown (Ricky Jay). Welcome to show business. Terry is overwhelmed by the double cross that he realizes the real motive was for to him compete in an under card for $50,000. Terry’s rule is to never compete, because there is no competition. He is not cocky, but realizes it is all show. He is pushed to enter the competition and realizes the unethical practicality of this “show”. He leaves the event in hopes of never compromising his integrity. As he exits he realizes he cannot go without one last fight.

The performances are good, especially Emily Mortimer playing a lawyer who was raped. She comes to Terry for assistance in defense, but first she has to, “Leave the outside with the outside”. Terry jumps her with a toy knife around her neck and asks her, “Where can you move”. Mortimer cries and shifts to the right leaving his shoulders exposed and he ask her, “Can you stab me? STAB ME”. Mortimer stabs him repeatedly shedding tears consistently. A scene like this would have been really sappy, but it was handled with such care.
Ricky Jay is an unsung hero from the Mamet canon, who provides laughs with his role as Marty Brown. A lot of MMA’s greats have cameos in this film such as Randy Corture and John Machado. I like Ricky Jay’s conversation with a promoter who says that his fighter was the biggest star in Brazil, Ricky Jay retorts, “Well, have you read the street signs here. Their American”.

Robert Elswit who did the cinematography on “There Will Be Blood” and a regular for Paul-Thomas Anderson film lends a new texture to the action. They both have good taste in director of photography, with Elswit usage of emphatic close ups and lighting amongst the actors. The spacious tight scope of Terry’s “academy” gives the sense that this is “his world” and everything outside means nothing. The bright red in the dojo and shadowy outside streets gives us the feel that we need Terry’s teachings to survive. Feng shui and minutiae seem an attribute to Mike Terry and Mamet alike.

David Mamet has been vocal about Hollywood, show business and film. My favorite quote from him being, “Movies possess unlimited power to entertain. They have, however, no power whatever to teach”. An entertaining film this is, yet with social commentary on the nature of show business. The film is rushed, crammed and unapologetic about its commentary, but hey what do you expect. This is a David Mamet action film. His brash views on corruption in general can be comparable to Sam Fuller. The cliché of throwing the fight and stolen gold watches gives this noir trope a fresh take and a different setting. Like Pulp Fiction: The Gold Watch segment with Bruce Willis, this film sees a new way out of an old story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Latter Days at Troma

This is me with Lloyd Kaufman.

More Pictures On the Last Days of Troma.

This is me with Peter Azen.(Below)

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Tales of Being a Troma Intern on my Latter at Troma

This little number was made by my bestest of friends, PETER AZEN. Another intern who turned aqusition manager and made the place really fun again. I miss him and hold him close to my heart, in a weird way!

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Tales of Being a Troma Intern

I don't know who did this, but this is funny as hell!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Days Interning at Troma Studios

Troma Intern Blog 1#:

The days working in the basement were fucking hell! But it was the best I time I ever had in my life. It was like the Walt Disney vault down there except that you won't see Jim Henson's body laying around. Everybody upstairs thought that getting that place done was gonna take the whole summer, we got it done in one and a half months. Ah yes, the basement. A treasure trove of lost forgotten Tromabilia, prints, reels, original art work, costumes and props all badly stored. Not only that but the place was unorganized to the degree of animation cells, poster art and reels were water damaged. Since Macdonalds moved next door there were rats that infested the area so good people upstairs spent a lot money in extermination. It worked, but every day was working in asbestos, rat poisoning and cockroaches...for free!

Troma Intern Blog 2#:

This piece is about Rob. A former intern who actually didn't enjoy it and Matt thought to interview him on his last days. Last I heard, the boy is out in the real world selling concert tickets on Ebay. Either way, I hope things are going good for Rob because he was funnier than shit.

Troma Intern Blog 3#:

This is the infamous interview starring me where after a month and a half of interning there I was granted an interview. We just got done with the basement and inventoried it and Matt(the one that works, not the one who conducts these interviews) was putting in his two weeks. Matt was pleased with the work I done with the rest of the interns in the basement and my work ethic that he called me up to see if I want to take his place. I was working at the Angelika Film Center ( and still am) when he called me and my sister has been hammering me to get a second job. I already knew how hectic the job is and also adding that to my job at the Angelika was quite a balance. I didn't refuse, but after I got the call I went to Battery park and to look at the sunset to clear my head and try to set things straight. It worked, but it took a whole evening to figure it out. I always wanted to work for Troma ever since I was kid and this was my opportunity. Matt said this would get your foot in the door in the film industry, which I knew was full of shit, but it closer to anything I ever came to. Shit man, and I was fucking 20. Anyway, I already knew the interview process from previous jobs and friends who have been interviewed by Michael Herz. Plus, not only I was being interviewed but Mike Uhlir( check Troma Intern Blog #5) who was a graphic intern and wanted the graphic design job...instead they gave it to someone else. So anyway, my interview was second to Mike, and all the stories I heard about Michael Herz's interview was pretty overrated. For some apparent reason he was telling me stuff I already knew and kept repeating himself and laughed at certain things I said. Not in a cruel way, but more like "Who fuck is this kid". He kept on telling me it's piss pay or low pay and a lot of responsibility, and I said I was cool with that. He siad the work is impossible(of course they always say that) and I said "I've been interning here for a month and half and you guys always say that and I'm like who the fuck finds this shit impossible. It's not impossible, it can be done its just a lot". And he started laughing. To tell you the truth it was good to see him crack a smile but I was serious and needed work at the time. But anyway, the process went okay and he like my somewhat of a resume and kept it...but in the end they gave it to Mike Uhlir. After sticking around and seeing Mike doing the job and suffering, I think Mr. Herz was right and was doing me a favor. I thank him for that!

Troma Intern Blog 4#:

This is the truth of countless low-budget filmmakers submitting their films to Troma and they put it through the test and let Interns watch them for tromatic elements like breast, gore and possibly a plot. But sometimes that never happens and we get mindless, hackfilled somewhat entertainment that no one else will pick up except for Troma. As bad as some acquisitions are, when I started their was some pretty good ones that they tried to acquire the rights to. Anyway, the majority is that most acquistions suck so always have low expectations and you might a gem.

Troma Intern Blog 5#:

This one features Mike Uhlir and the last of days for the creator of these wonderful shorts, Matt. Once Mike got the job and wanted to expand on his ideas of using the animation cells the interns found in the basement he also got interviewed. While working the second floor he never really got a chance to do anything with the animation cells and things went kind of horrible and he just decided to quit. But leaving a huge hole for me and Joe(new intern who will be featured and also got Mike's job), instead Mike is going to come in for free and do them, just like me. It sucks man, he was pretty cool dude and he was reason why I was so happy that I didn't get the job. I guess that saying from Luis Bunuel was right, never do anything for money that you would do for free, or else its slavery for money!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Yeah, since so many people came last month now that we have been advertised in the Portland Mercury. After a breaking record number in a 19 seated room, 18 people showed for R. Kelly night(What the Hell). And people came for the Tony Jaa double feature and others. Now I'm back and haven't sat down to write anything for this site in a while but I have seen a whole lot of new releases and will be getting back to it shortly! For now let's check out the films I'm showing UP AT VIDEO VERITE, BITCHES!

April 1st, Saturday April Fool's Trey Parker Double Feature
7.00 Cannibal! The Musical
8.30 Orgazmo

April 5th, Wednesday Psychological Horror Night
8.00 PIN

April 8th, Saturday 80's Kid Flick Matinee
2.00 Flight of the Navigator
Stuart Gordon Night
9.00 The Re-Animator

April 12th, Wednesday Sergio Leone Night
8.00 Fistful of Dynamite AKA Duck You Sucker AKA Once Upon a Time In the Revolution
April 15th, Satruday Troma Double Feature
7.00 Toxic Avenger
8.30 Lollilove

April 19th, Wednesday Larry Clark Night
8.00 Ken Park

April 22nd, Satruday Ivan Dixon Blaxploitation Double
7.00 Trouble Man
8.45 The Spook Who sat by the Door

April 26th, Wednesday Sergio Leone Night
7.00 Once Upon A Time in the West


Yep, I have post-poned the Early 80's Soft-core porn double feature twice and if no one shows up(which I'm hoping) I'm putting that to rest and that will be the end of that. Next month I'm not gonna so much because I'm so burnt out by the last two months! BUT THIS IS IT! CHECK IT OUT!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The DIESEL is at it Again, With a Huge Straight-no-Chase Comeback from Sidney Lumet!

Unlike most people, I have nothing against VIn Diesel. Their is a huge part of me that feels he can carry a film wether it's mind-numbing(Fast and the Furious, Triple X) or at least thought provoking(Boiler Room, Pitch Black). Arrogance that matches his bite, he proves to be a connisseur of theatrics with his recent involvement with attaing the rights to "Guys and Dolls". A child raised on broadway musicals, he knows the score and can deliver, with a helmer as Sidney Lumet(fan-favorite) you can't go wrong. My infatuation with Vin Diesel came to me when I was in high school and "Fast and the Furious" came out. THe way Vin Diesel presented himself in that movie with really memorable one-liner had impersonating him in the high school locker room. "Ask any racer, any real racer. It's doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is Winning", wow, that was pretty cool to some degree. Now here he is playing rambuctious in tone, but subtle in character, gangster in "Find me Guilty". THe true story of Jack DiNorscio, gangster who defended himself in a trial with 20 defendants and 4 prosecuters that led into a long, long ass trial. You get the sense of that while watching the endurance of what everybody had to goe through. I'm a big fan of courtroom dramas, two of my favorite sub-genres are "Post-apocalyptic" and "court-drama". I was sucker for this, but unlike most court room dramas this didn't play by the books, as it favored the usual bad guys as honorable good men and the prosecuter as sniveling tyrants. This had me howling at the screen and Lumet has made the most inventive film of the year. A courtoom drama with serious intent, but takes comedic turns. It's as if in the beginning of the violent opening turns into a Chaplin ordeal. It worked. Recently last year Lumet, won the Oscar for lifetime achievement and quoted Godard as a major influence. What way to show his appreciation by making this movie. Courtroom drama that isn't a courtroom drama, but a comedy about loyalty and not ratting on your friends!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Von Trier Experiment that Leads Towards Satirical Entertainment!

After the viewing of Von Trier's "Dogville" I was left disappointed and wasn't looking forward to his U.S.A. Trilogy. Supposely a trilogy steeped in controversy due to the fact that Von Trier criticizes the state yet he hasn't been due to "fear of flying. Nonetheless, the provacoteur and auteur is not without entertainment rights and its interesting to see what he has to say about the our red, white and blue. I had low expectations and came out surprise and really looking forward to the completion of this trilogy. It won't happen for another time now since Von Trier and put down "Washington"(The last in the trilogy) and did an office comedy "The Boss of IT All". Their is a camp of people who loved "Dogville" and hated this because of it's searing undermining lecture on democracy. Then their is the other side of people who hated "Dogville" and love this because of it's step forward and non-pandering to the masses. I'm one of those people. I don't believe that "Dogville" didn't pander to the anti-american masses, but just really thought it was a bad movie. For those with low expectations and hope, "Manderlay" is on the way.
A digital visual Beckett-esque that reaches out to the forage of Pasolini and Fassbinder. Pasolini because of it's moral storytelling political-cant. Fassbinder because of it's use of colors and feminist repertoire you see in the "Marriage of Maria Baun". I'm probably talking out of my ass, but this movie is that good where one can see these two connections. Von' Trier said in his book "Von Trier on Trier" of the influence of these two "homo-sexual" directors. He pointed out the fact of their lifestyle because somehow they had an understand of a female character.
Von Trier's understanding of these two artist is evident of Grace(Bryce-Dallas Howard) in "Manderlay".
Oh yes, the story. The story picks up exactly where the last one left with Grace back with her mobster dad after the massacre in "Dogville". They stop at a southern mansion that still practices slavery even though it has been abolish. Grace has taken upon herself to set these overseers right by capturing them with her father gang and switching the roles of slave and master. That's right cracker!!
It was a pleasant to watch, but a lot more complex to find out everyone's motive behind this experiment. Thus it's an experiment within an experiment, where Von Trier all on a sound stage here he adds a lot more props and cleaner transfer. Making it a lot more beautiful than "Dogville". Same experiment, but different motive.
Probably int he next installment it will be taken out of the soundstage and a lot more live props and shot on film. Who knows, maybe Von Trier might break his own rules and still make something original.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Back Again at the Video Verite Showing Movies. It's My Birthday Month and soon this site will Be Called "20 year-old cinephile"!

Here is the New Listing for the Month of March, and I'm Only doing Twice a week because I'm so burnt out from last Month!
March 1st, Wednesday-Bernardo Bertolucci Night
7.50 Intro
8.00 The Conformists
March 4th, Saturday Aliye’s Birthday Party WOOORRRD! I’m turning 20
Saved By the Bell Party
7.50 Intro
8.00 Saved by the Bell
March 8th, Wednesday Luis Bunuel Night
7.50 Intro
8.00 Los Olvidados
March 11th, Saturday- Tony Jaa Double Feature
6.50 Intro
7.00 Ong-Bak
8.45 Tom-Yun Goong
March 15th, Wednesday Pier Paolo Passolini Night
7.50 Intro
8.00 Salo: 120 Days in Sodom
March 18th, Saturday R. Kelly Tribute Night
7.50 Intro
8.00 Two Music Videos
R.Kelly “Down Low”
R. Kelly “Feelin’ on Yo Booty”
R. Kelly’s Magnum Opus “Trapped in the Closet”
March 22nd, Wednesday Luis Bunuel Night Again
7.50 Intro
8.00 The Exterminating Angel
March 25th, Saturday Ilsa Double Feature(Great Euro-Sleaze Entertainment! If You want to be sick to your stomach)
6.50 Intro
7.00 Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS
8.36 Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks
March 29th, Wednesday Last Night of the Month On Aliye’s Top Ten Films of All Time
6.50 Intro
7.00 Emir Kustrica’s Underground
Yep, Mark wanted me back again. You can bring beer, and on my birthday I'm gonna bring cake. The first Month was such a fluke month that I know what days work and what movies work! So come check it out, you'll have a blast!