Monday, March 06, 2006

Spent the weekend celebrating my escape from Alca-blahhs... and so I ate too much, drank too much, drove around too much, seeing my friends who all bought me food and drinks... and engaged in movie overload. I'm sure everyone's Oscared out, so I'll spare you my opinions on this year's fiascoes.

But I gotta mention that this year has provided further evidence that the Academy doesn't know shit. An argument I used in my favor when Henry and us other film geeks once again debated the so-called classics.

I think it began by us pointing out that there's some socially and politically charged movies this year, perhaps in the wake of tumultuous times -- war, gov't scandal, etc. Much like the cinema after Vietnam and Watergate... only not as good. We listed all the great films from the late '60s and '70s, and someone mentioned Network.

"Yeah, I didn't care for that one so much," I said.

"It predicted where television would go!" Henry said, and added, "if they were wrong, you wouldn't have a job, Mr. reality-TV writer."

"Fine, Network gets the psychic-friends network pat on the back, but the movie still wasn't that great. Every actor was so over the top with that 'I'm mad as hell!' bullshit."

"Over the top?! Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight. There's three Oscar-winners for ya."

"Yeah?" I said, "I got three words for you: Dances. With. Wolves."

That stopped the Scorsese-robbed Goodfellas fan cold.

Still, I think we armchair critics are too critical. Movies ain't so easy, ya know. I remembered the difficulties of filmmaking... and that's just the little cheapo shoestring indies.

Back in film school, we had to do a short-subject documentary. None turned out Oscar nominate-able, but the process was always challenging. Another time, I'll talk about the one I did... it actually turned out good... but I also helped other students, like Ralph with his video love-letter to his pickup truck.

We drove up to the San Gabriel Mountains to provide some good scenery. I filmed him talking and driving about his adventures with the vehicle, then got out and did some scenes of him zooming past. Finally, he wanted an overhead shot.

He had me climb up atop a tunnel leading into the mountains, then rest the camera with the lens pointed downward over the road. I had to lean over and turn the lens to follow him as he drove past and disappeared into the tunnel.

I suggested that I just stand with the camera on my shoulder and point downward. It would provide about an extra five feet of height, would still give the desired look... except for the last part in which the shot is straight downward. But that's the part he wanted most of all.

I explained to Ralph I'm not afraid of heights... if I'm standing safely from the edge of a precipice. But get me leaning over the edge awkwardly in the mountain winds, balancing heavy equipment from falling a good ten yards over a busy road, I get a little nervous.

But the director insisted. So I let the auteur get his way, even if it was gonna kill me.

Of course I managed... it's what us brilliant cinematographers do. Despite my vertigo, we got the shot and his documentary turned out okay, too.

But he told me later that he had to overdub that scene. The visuals were great, but the sound was just me grumbling, "Bastard doesn't know what the fuck he's doing. 'You'll be fine,' he says. Yeah, right. That the same thing they told Vic Morrow."


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