I wrote this article for "Taste of Cinema" for the "Top 10 Fictional Drugs in Movies".
Top 10 Fictional Drugs in Movies
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
(Click to enlarge)
This is my crew photo for "The Jay Leno Show" I worked there from late October 2009 to January 2010. It famously didn't last that long. But it made a good impression on my life.
The longest gig I'd ever had before working on this show was two years as an editor in a newsroom in Alabama. Yes this one.
In Los Angeles though the longest gig I'd ever worked was 3 months. I guess the little over 3 months would cut it. Because when "The Jay Leno Show" ended I didn't know if it would go on . . . and I didn't know it would go on for the next 3 years.
To start things off I'd like to say JAY LENO is easily one of the most approachable and nicest people I've ever met. NO not one of the nicest people in the entertainment business, just one of the nicest people I've ever met.
I'll miss the crew, I'll miss the experience, I'll miss waking up with a purpose (for at least a short while) and I have too many great stories to count.
I can't think of anything more to write. There are too many great little moments to categorize. "Tonight Show" crew and friends, I'll miss you and I'll miss the experience.
I cannot articulate into human words what this crew and this experience means to me. "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" crew is truly the best crew in television and some of the very best people I've ever met, you have touched my heart and changed my life forever in ways I can't articulate. I LOVE YOU GUYS!
Monday, January 20, 2014
About 3 years ago I got a text from my buddy Briant
(The tall guy in the photo, the one that's not me is my brother) shot me a text and said 'Hey my friend's band "Moon Taxi" is playing in your town. Their first LA show. I'd love it if you could come and check them out. Just find Trevor or Tommy and tell them I said hi. I can put your name in and get you tickets compted.' Sure, I said. . . I mean why not, a free rock show and on the plus side I love meeting artist, at a famous venue like that, I'd never been, seemed like a cool night. So I called up my buddy Jerry and my buddy Matt and said 'hey wanna go to a free rock show tonight at the Viper Room'. 'Yeah' they said. It was a decent show. One of the two didn't like their sound at all. There were maybe 3 other people in that venue besides us. We got compted, and I doubt anyone else there had even paid to see a band that was unheard of . . . especially in LA, there were about 10 bands playing within a 5 mile radius that night. They were good, but nothing special, nothing I remembered past the name, the adventure of it and the endorsement of my long friend Buru.
Never heard of them, but I know my friend Briant's proclivity with music. I gave them a shot, it wasn't a miss, it wasn't a hit, but it wasn't a dud, they were a good band. So what was it?
Truth is, I'd seen many great bands in my time, and I'm not talking professionals, I'm talking fun bands that get dubbed that immortal word, 'LOCAL'. They felt like a fantastic local band. Not stars, not yet.
My first gig in production was a music video for a southern band called 'Analog Missionary'. I love them, they were a great band, but quite experimental. Not sure they had what it took to make it big. (If you don't blink you can see my teenage self at the end of this.) Then after collage when I was just figuring out that I even wanted to be in LA I shot a music video and followed around a band called "Undertoe Hopscotch" (not kidding that were there name, and I loved them, and loved the adventure of them, still listen to there C.D. out here in LA, I keep it in my car, for nostalgic purposes and I really respected and loved those guys.) In the span of 2 years I only missed 2 of their shows. Moving equipment, trying to set up dates with other bands, overall being a supporter and even going to a music conference with the drummer in Atlanta to try to build the bands brand. Well life took a hold of us I moved to LA, and the band split up, wives, kids, careers the whole nine yards you hear from every art story if you stay with it long enough, for the most part. Aaron the lead singer still writes and I do see him occasionally when he swings down through LA. Which is more than pleasant. But this blog entry isn't a story about lost dream fizzling out. Like I said, I still listen to their C.D. and still know several people who keep that band close to their heart, even ones that weren't directly involved. And we got tons of great stories.
You see I didn't start this blog to ramble about my past. But to establish a tone...a mood, and an understanding, that being an artist, musician, actor, filmmaker, whatever is HARD. And if you don't knock them dead the first shot out of the gate and every shot after...you might as well stop.
But like I said, you should trust your instincts.
Oh not mine. I'd remembered the name and followed them on the Facebook, but I didn't honestly give "Moon Taxi" much thought after that night at "The Viper Room". I'm talking about my friend Briant's instincts. Over the 3 years after that he kept mentioning them and reminding me about them. Then finally without me calling him I noticed on their tour, "TROUBADOUR" . . . one of those crumby but legendary LA dive-venues that makes shitty burgers and you could probably score heroin if you tried. (I did not try) And I decided yeah fuck it, I'll go, it is their second show back in LA and I won't ask for compted tickets. I'll buy, I'll support. This would probably be a better show...I mean they seem to be picking up. You see I watch Letterman every day he records, give or take (don't ask) (and they were on there two months ago) and Conan on Wednesday What was I saying, they were definitely picking up in popularity.
But I still didn't expect much. They were a band from Tennessee my buddy knows well. I followed around local bands for years, none of them made it anywhere accept obscure reviews in obscure magazines no one reads. And I work in the entertainment industry and know a plethora of actors, writers, and directors who 'worked on that thing, with that guy' but none of them had 'broken out' yet. Lots have worked on huge projects, but they weren't the huge project or the 'next big thing'.
And then I sat in the Troubadour, two hours early and ate a crumby cheeseburger. I'd posted I was going on FB and invited maybe one or two of my friends, didn't make a big deal on it. And it slowly started to fill out.
It got more and more crowded and before the show I sat and talked with an old asian man who'd saw them on a trip to Tennessee and 'just had to see them again'.
Was this the same band I'd seen years ago?
I was not just blown away but had that rush of energy I only get at stadium shows with major bands like Muse. And then that rush of seeing great live music kept coming in song, after song, after song. They had it, they had the audience by the balls. Every cord, every nuance, from bass solo, to drum solo, to keyboard solo, to jumping off the amps was perfectly timed. It wasn't just a band playing anymore it was a show. To the point you're jumping up and down and cheering and beginning to lose energy but you keep going, sweating and all. They had it. And I mean they had IT.
They had that thing that great artists, musicians, actors, directors, whatever IT that irreplaceable and unforgettable thing when you know a thing is going to succeed. The Troubadour, on the other side of the country they started in was packed to the gills, and I can imagine like a plague the word of mouth from that show would turn these men in the next coming years into a household name.
This had never happened before from cocoon to beautiful butterfly I'd witnessed over 3 years or not even over three years but like a drastic sharp cut to time, cause I'd not followed them over the past 3 years the full evolution of a band from good performers almost fresh out of the garage to soon to be legendary ROCK STARS.
I've seen probably 200 shows in my life but I was blindsided by "MOON TAXI" at the 'Troubadour' last Thursday night. They were poise, perfect, knew when to play it fast, knew when to play it slow, and knew how to move to their audience.
I'd witnessed a full transformation. It was the same style but perfected.
I couldn't recommend this band more, and I couldn't recommend seeing them live more.
I bought their album and was blown away just as much by their album and it's variety and near-perfect mixing as I was by their show.
If you love music . . . check out "Moon Taxi" right now!
And if you're an artist remember...keep hustling, keep hustling, keep hustling.
Friday, January 17, 2014
(The above one was never used in the film "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and substituted for one like the below one which is mostly CGI*)
I'm sure you can easily spot the difference, though I will say the CGI is pretty smooth but in movement I think moves too mechanically and too smoothly unlike an actor in makeup but that is just my eye.
I'm a huge fan of practical makeup. I think CGI is good at augmenting things, like taking out limbs or making see through cheeks and the like but I don't think an entire prothstetic should be substituted for practical makeup.
Makeup is an art and considering big budget films using CGI more than makeup and puppetry it seems I'm starting to get annoyed by the so-called 'Makeup' category at the Academy Awards.
Yes I was overall happy with the Oscars this year. (2013) The nominations for score rather annoyed me. There is some beautiful music out this year. I was almost sure Llewyn Davis would get more love than it did. I didn't like the film but I certainly respected it. (If that makes sense) And the obvious fact that "The Great Gatsby" was nominated for set design and not visual effects confused me. Because if you watch the VFX reel it's pretty clear that they didn't build anything for the film. But the same argument is being made about "Gravity" and the validity of lighting on a set vs lighting in a computer environment. "Gravity" is shot well, but it's a VFX film the weight of the visuals don't come from a great lighting direct (well they do but not in that way) but from a VFX crew mostly. Unlike a film like "Llewyn Davis" which is lit brilliantly by Bruno Delbonnel. (But playing devil's advocate I know tweaked in post) Yeah and Lana's song was beautiful for 'Gatsby' it was a great year this year I think. And everyone's 'snub list' will be different. I could see certain actors being switched out for others and no one would notice or care. I could go on for the entirety of my diatribe about past oscar failures (Shakespeare in Love*) But I won't I just had a strange epiphany about makeup . . .
Makeup . . .
Because I love horror movies. WHO DOESN'T! Monsters kick ass!!!
(*Jack Pierce - Frankenstein)
One of my main regrets in life is not having enough money to buy Jack Pierce's real makeup-photography book at auction a few years ago.
(*Tom Savini - Saturn Award Winner - *Day of the Dead)
When . . . of the 2013 released films
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"The Lone Ranger" are nominated for makeup instead of . . . a makeup heavy film like . . .
"The Evil Dead"
You gotta say to yourself WTF Academy? Remember I'm not judging the "Evil Dead" as a film. I'm judging the category for makeup. The practical makeup effects in this film look amazing, the trailer gave me chills and when I saw the film despite a few plot hangups the makeup effects scenes were PHENOMENAL. So why is a film that rely's on one makeup effect like "Bad Grandpa" or relies mostly on the actors "Dallas Buyers Club" or a film well I won't judge Lone Ranter I've not seen it . . . but from the trailers I hope there are much better makeups than Johnny Depp's face in this. . . oh wait, William Fichtner is pretty good but . . .
no seriously, why isn't there any horror love in this category anymore ?
There are genuinely brilliant and iconic makeups in horror history . . .
I am starting to think Hollywood is starting to consider the "Horror" community a separate community from the "film" community as a whole. Like we're a clique, a niche, a fad, or any number of buzz words. But year after year after year after year horror has excelled, relished, and thrived in practical makeup. Now don't get me wrong I know 'The Exorcist' 'Wolfman' and 'American Werewolf in London' all received their due and even 'Carrie' (70's) for performance.
But why was "Cinderella Man" nominated a few years back for simple cuts and bruises in makeup which is most makeup artists bread and butter and starting point and not something else . . . ?
Makeups can create characters more often than not . . . but we, The Horror Community . . . create NIGHTMARES . . .
I'm not saying horror should automatically win . . . but I am impressed by how little I ever see it nominated, with few exceptions like "Pan's Labyrinth". And I'm also not saying this year they deserved any special treatment, but whenever I think about it I just assume both the Academy and Horror community haven't even tried yet they seem to be the only film genre genuinely excelling in trying to create new makeups and looks year after year. Yes the occasional character makeup or fantasy make up and usually old age makeup wins...but why not so often a good old fashioned monster.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
I truly thought there wouldn't be a film this year that could hit me as powerfully as "12 Years A Slave" did. But "Her" did. Though I only have the POV of having freshly seen it, it hasn't stewed in me as long so we'll see how long it grows with me.
I believe Spike Jonze has directed an honest satirical emotional masterpiece.
Theodore Twombly (a brilliantly rhythmic & bizarre character name) in and of itself sets the tone.
He works at a company that writes other people's personal letters for them, as bizzare a concept as that is to understand, I get it. It's making a statement about how impersonal we are to each other as people or can be. And yes it's a sci-fi film but in a minimalist since the way "Children of Men" and "A Clockwork Orange" are sci-fi films. The story isn't so bogged down by technology the characters and story seem to take a back seat but the kind where the atmosphere and tech are flavors that are intricate parts of the story. And it never forgets that, there is never a particularly showy moment of tech in this film. And I love that.
It's a concept film. And I don't mean in the basic way of 'can you fall in love with "your computer" ?', but much deeper than a movie about someone who well falls in love with his computer.
Yeap, this guy. The same guy who may be the basis for Nihlism, a lot of modern philosophy, most science fiction (especially that involving robots), perhaps the concept of soul, and the basic concepts of classic films like "The Matrix".
Rene Descartes ~ "I think therefor I am"
Because you think, do you truly exist ? No . . . I'm asking you there sitting right there in this theatre some very personal questions about yourself, do you think because you exist you have the right to fall in love with who or what you please ? Seriously what would society think of you ? Your peers ? What would you think of you ? Do you text ? When was the last time you actually looked at someone and they meant something to you ? You can laugh cause this is a comedy / You can cry because this is a romantic drama / and you can damn well think about how you yourself may be involved in bizarre relationships because of technology. Can you escape it? Do you want to? Does it make you feel free? Does it make you feel trapped?
Do you know how to love another person . . . ?
What if you fail ?
He falls in love with his computer. It formulates its own thoughts and has a rich beautifully quirky personality, it's bubbly and fun and Scarlett Johnson's voice is amazing to listen to.
Her - Alternate Trailer / Arcade Fire from S7Thomas on Vimeo.
The performances are perfect.
Here is why this film got to me more than it may get to others. YES I have been in love. YES she's no longer around. YES I still remember her. YES it can still hurt at times.
Ever receive a text from a lover . . . ?
You know, a text ? Words on a screen not dissimilar from the words your reading now, like words...from a specific person? Did they mean anything to you? But they're just words on a screen? How could they mean anything deeper to you?
Several years ago I was in a long distance relationship. All we had over long periods of time were our voices and our words. We were thousands of miles away. That's all we had. But to tell me she meant less to me and I meant less to her because we weren't physically in front of each other would be a complete and utter falsehood. Because it never mattered. Sex and kissing, yes those are important but when you love someone it's there heart and soul you love, it's their feelings, their spirit, not their body...not all the time.
I know because moments after the credits rolled I turned on my cell phone and received a text from a beautiful girl I know, a sweet text, directed right at me, and it meant something to me. And she wasn't physically in front of me.
Love is tricky because when you fall in love with a person or a thing they become a part of you and you of them, like a reflection that just feels right. You can laugh, finish each others sentences and there isn't much you can do to explain it. It's like a dream principle you're everyone in your dreams and everyone is you when you run, fuck, fly, fight or fall in love. You are everyone in your dreams.
Your reality is different, but is what in your mind any different than your idea of it?
"Her" is brilliant because it speaks to that. And technologies way of distancing ourselves from ourselves. But to me doesn't make it any less real. And it's because it's relatable so much so to me. That it's frightening and hits me in that deep, deep, way. The truth is you can't feel the warm breath on the back of your neck from a computer.
"Her" is a masterpiece.