Thursday, March 31, 2011

Policy Change.

This site no longer accepts anonymous comments. Comments may still be left with google accounts, Open ID, etc.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Open Letter to That Guy In the WHALE Comments, Because the Meshugana Blogger Won't Post it as a Comment.

Okay, I'll bite.

First-- apropos the "only conclusion" you can reach, that there's some kind of quid-pro-quo at work here. Well: habeas corpus. I wrote this review, what, two years ago, a year-and-a-half? If I was supposed to have gotten something in return, I'd have received it by now, yes?

Second-- and this is assuming the same person has been responsible for all these recent comments, and if I'm incorrect in that assumption, mea culpa-- it's claimed that there's no "story, plot, conflict, or purpose". I'd say that it's true that the version I saw-- and I must stress that I saw a cut the filmmaker made two years ago, and that the new cut, according to that filmmaker, is different in many ways-- was not overly concerned with "plot", telling a story, or resolving conflicts.

But, you know, I *like* a lot of movies that could be termed "plotless". One of my favourite movies, INTO GREAT SILENCE, is literally 2 and a half hours of monks praying, feeding cats, making wine, and sewing. It's about as far from plot and structure as one can get, and I love it; the film absorbs me into the world of the monastery in which it takes place. And I'd wager that you'd find that film "boring", or that you'd say it was just a worthless bunch of assembled (film) clips.

Motlagh's film *does* have conflict: conflict between the son and his father, the constant sense of the protagonist being outside-looking-in and isolated from the other characters. Isolation that is emphasized not only by the way the film is structured, but by scenes in which he's absent from his own diary-style film. And this is something I really dug about the film, is that he made choices-- experimenting with form and structure to produce different, desired, and on-purpose effects. Like I said in my review-- and, again, I don't know how much this has been altered by the film's newest cut-- I don't think all these choices necessarily work or do all the things Motlagh wants them to do.

But he *doesn't* just shoot a bunch of footage of his friends shooting the shit and slap it on the screen; he *doesn't* just fall into the easy, lazy trap of naturalism; he *doesn't* fetishize verite as the film he made is inherently-- sometimes off-puttingly-- stylized. So, to my mind, just labeling the film a "worthless bunch of assembled video clips", implying that they're haphazardly slapped together with no rhyme, reason, or thought is beyond disingenuous.

Speaking of disingenuous-- I'm sorry, but I have to ask: do you really want to have a conversation/debate/what-have-you about this? Because it's one thing to say, "I didn't like this film," or "I disagree with the reviewer", or "I didn't like the choices the director made," or, "This is why I feel the film was not very good." That's the kind of discussion I'd be very much interested in having.

But when you come around to these parts with a chip on your shoulder-- just decrying how BAD and WORTHLESS it is, and putting the word movie into quotation marks (which, F.Y.I., is a surefire way to make your host lose his temper, and I think I've done an admirable job of not losing that temper during this thread)-- well, it makes me think that you're not really interested in talking about the film, or about the pitfalls of independent films that are too personal to connect with audiences, or whatever. It makes me think you just want to be a Negative Nancy and make jokes about the title of the film and sling the same-old same-old "indie film is an incestuous circle-jerk" bullpuckey.

And, as to that, again: habeas corpus, because our own films, for the most part, still languish in obscurity and have never so much as played a festival.

Now, I could be wrong about this; maybe you do honestly want to have a honest-to-goodness conversation, and if I've misread you, then I apologize.

If you seriously want to talk about Motlagh's film, then I'd ask that-- as civilly and respectfully as possible-- you detail your problems with the film. "Worthless" and "pointless" are not "problems"; they're invective. They themselves are worthless and pointless, because there's nowhere a conversation can go, nothing for an understanding to be built on, no place for anyone to respond.

And if you're not interested in having a conversation, then that's fine; I just won't respond again.

Because I'm a Midwesterner, and as a general rule, I can't see why two human beings can't be polite, respectful, and civil to one another. Whether the discussion is art, politics, or religion-- can't we all just get along?

Personal Reminder

Don't feed the trolls, don't feed the trolls, don't feed the trolls.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two New Seahorse Reviews

A long time ago, Matt Barry, writing over at Rogue Cinema, had some nice words to say about our film:

I was intrigued by the Russells’ decision to let several scenes play out in one long, uninterrupted take, which is well-suited to dialogue-driven character comedy such as this. ...

Son of a Seahorse works as a quirky, off-beat indie comedy, sometimes raunchy but often good-natured.

And while we're keeping the phrase "quirky, off-beat indie comedy" as far away from the DVD cover as possible, we did appreciate his review.

Simon Abrams-- who, as he discloses at the top of his consideration, is a friend of ours (though we've never met)-- also had some kind words to say about the film, over at Extended Cut, claiming to be

impressed by the way that writing/directing duo Tom and Mary Russell used such a broad style of acting to make a movie filled with jokes consistently uncomfortable. David Schonscheck plays up Nick Kilpatrick's mercurial attitude by constantly over-acting. In any other context, this would be grating but the longer the film goes on, the more apparent it becomes that the Russells are trying to alienate you. If anyone needed proof that a character study doesn't need to follow a sympathetic character in order to be ingratiating or even just satisfying, this is the film. A worthy descendant of King of Comedy.

What I think emerges from these two reviews, and the three (two negative, one positive) that have preceded it, is that the film is one that can be looked at in different ways. A. A. Dowd said that

The Russells are [not] cut from any shape or variety of traditional Hollywood cloth. These two are loud and proud indie guerillas. They favor marathon takes and lengthy digressions, long shots and longer conversations. It's tempting to lump them into the mumblecore camp, except their sense of humor is somehow both drier and broader, with an affinity for garish caricatures and bizarro non-sequitors. ...

Son of a Seahorse is all over the map. It sets up Nick as a kind of perpetual straight man, and then subjects him to the judgments, scolds, rants and taunts of various weirdos and walk-ins. Schonscheck has a certain hangdog charisma, but he's also inconsistent. His performance seems to fluctuate in proportion to his co-stars, who range from accomplished improvisers to transparent amateurs. The first scene, for example, works like gangbusters, mostly because Schonscheck is evenly matched by Swanberg. A later encounter with a raving lunatic (Tom Russell himself, moonlighting as an authentically unhinged cameo player) establishes the lead as a skilled comic foil. He's undone, alas, by some faulty support– from lisping cartoon bit actors to deer-in-headlights non-professionals. (I definitely could have done without the tired There Will Be Blood parody, too.) ...

If Son of a Seahorse often seems like a different movie scene to scene, its saving grace is its uniting principle: that marriage is the most rewarding pain in the ass you'll ever willfully subject yourself to. It's hard not to have a certain affection for any film that deals with married life in a way that's neither cloying nor rigorously cynical. The Russells, husband and wife filmmakers with a word or two to share on the subject, invest their hit-or-miss comic enterprise with an endearing breadth of genuine feeling.

Nick Rombes (author of Cinema in the Digital Age) gave the film its shortest but possibly most complimentary public review, over on twitter, where he called it "a hilarious, terrifying film."

And then there's the Filmrogue (not to be confused with the above-linked Rogue Cinema) podcast review, which basically accuses us not only of incompetence but, I guess somewhat amusingly, fraud. (The link that pops up in a google search is, perhaps thankfully, broken.)

Like I said: diverse opinions. Hopefully this will translate into more interest in the film when the DVD is re-released in the next few months.