Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Gifts Filmmakers Want

Christmas Gifts Filmmakers Want

While we're on the subject, here's my book,

Sam Longoria's Digital Filmmaking Handbook.





Sam Longoria
Digital Filmmaking Handbook
Sam Longoria's Digital Filmmaking Handbook

Monday, November 23, 2009

Film Production - In Praise of Harlan Ellison

In Praise of Harlan Ellison

In junior high in Seattle, I remember tuning in the brand-new "Star Trek" show, completely by accident. Had no idea what it was. First episode I saw was "City On The Edge Of Forever." I loved it, and watched the show ever after. I did notice the quality of subsequent episodes wasn't as good.

In high school, my friend Merlin did something for which I am still grateful, slipping me a copy of Harlan Ellison's "A Boy And His Dog," saying, "This is the dirtiest story I have ever read." It certainly was. I HAD to read it, and enjoyed it tremendously.

Then I went away to Hollywood to make movies. I worked on a whole bunch of visual effects movies, most Oscar-worthy, with large budgets. Eventually, I grew tired of that and set out to create my own art.

For a dozen years, I owned an improv comedy theatre in North Hollywood. When I was painting the theatre seats, a nice lady volunteer helped me, and we got to talking. She listened as I went on and on about what books and shows I liked.

I mentioned Harlan Ellison's work, and why he was one of my absolute favorite writers, and she listened more intently. Then she told me some details I'd never heard. A little more conversation revealed her to be Harlan Ellison's ex-wife. Now THAT was an interesting surprise.

Then one morning, I went to put garbage into my dumpster behind the theatre. I couldn't, because it was full of Harlan Ellison's office garbage. Notes, envelopes, papers, all with his name. I wrote him a note, saying I had a dumpsterful of his garbage, and I wanted to put it on display at my theatre, with his name on the sign out front. My collection lacked the personal touch, and did he have any personal garbage? Fruit rinds, coffee grounds, that sort of thing?

I left my phone numbers, and he called me on most of them the next day, and we had some of the most fun phone conversations I've ever had. He's not just a good writer, he's a dazzling conversationalist, too. A very funny man. Why was his garbage in my dumpster? That's not important, but if you send me $2, I will make up something.

I've enjoyed Harlan Ellison's work for years and years, I have crossed paths with him several times, and he is brilliantly smart and creative, and that puts him at odds with lots of mediocre people. Long live Harlan Ellison!

Sam Longoria



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving - Movies I Love

Thanksgiving - Movies I Love

Man! I thought I knew movies. I thought, "Thanksgiving Day is coming. My favorite holiday. Good food, good company, an attitude of gratitude. Time to see the movies I always see this time of year."

Then, I tried to list them, but I couldn't.
Because there aren't any.

You may have already noticed this horrifying revelation yourself. There are no great Thanksgiving movies. It's true.

Christmas movies, we got. Every year, there is at least one brand-new studio movie meant to dilute and world-ize and cheapen the beautiful Christmas story. Happens every year.

New Year's Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, those holidays have movies, but not Thanksgiving Day.

Growing up, I remember the Rankin-Bass Christmas animations, and Charlie Brown Christmas, and "The Homecoming" for Christmas, and "It's a Wonderful Life" covered both Christmas and New Year. And the Dolly Madison snack cake Arbor Day special of course, everybody remembers those, but there was nothing for Thanksgiving, and that was my favorite holiday.

No guilt, no straining of one's finances, no responsibility for somebody else's Christmas joy. Nothing was expected of you at Thanksgiving, just sit down and eat. And to capacity! And beyond! A capacity unimagined at other times of the year. A creaking, groaning, falling-down packed stuffed fullness that seriously threatened to take you out, some terrifying excessive November. 

So I guess I really didn't need a Thanksgiving movie, just food.


So I roasted a turkey, and had WILD SIDE Theatre Actor friends over for Thanksgiving Dinner, several times. It was fun, and we weren't just a bunch of Hollywood refugees, stuck in Hollywood, away from friends and family. We were all alone, together.



Another John Hughes road-buddy movie set at Thanksgiving,

is 1991's "Dutch." Not as good a cast, and the story seems...familiar, about two guys who really want to get home, go through great difficulty getting there, and learn a lot...um...on the way.





Here's an odd Thanksgiving selection, but it has Thanksgiving significance for me.

I remember
Thanksgiving 1989. A bunch of us pale NW Evergreen animation people, at my pal Craig Bartlett's Hollywood place for a nice dinner.

I helped Craig with his 2x4 16mm animation stand, and our friend Matt Groening told us about his new animated segment for the "Tracey Ullman Show," a funny cartoon about Matt's family, growing up. 

A lot happened over the next 365 days. 



This is probably the ONLY REAL MOVIE ABOUT THANKSGIVING. 

Directed by Jodie Foster, who always has a special place in my heart, this movie is called "Home For The Holidays," with a great cast. Some favorite Actors, all in the same story. A little sordid, as modern holiday stories made by Hollywood refugees tend to be, but it is very funny.



After that, I need something for dessert - pumpkin pie would be nice. Here's a little home-made Thanksgiving pumpkin pie stop-motion video.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are warm and dry, and thankful to be home with your loved ones, for a lovely meal.


Broadway Danny Rose
Planes, Trains And Automobiles
Dutch
The Simpsons MovieHome For The Holidays
Pieces of April
Happy Thanksgiving Stop-Motion Video

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day - Best War Movies

Veterans Day - Best War Movies

November 11, Armistice Day. Veterans Day.

T
he eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Official cessation of hostilities in the First World War, the Big One, the Great War. The War to End All Wars. At least in Europe, and...for only twenty years or so.

"Once, all the Germans were warlike and mean,
but that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson, in Nineteen-eighteen,
and they've hardly bothered us since then."
-- Tom Lehrer, "MLF Lullaby," 1965

There have literally been hundreds of wars since 1945, the end of WWII, and I've quite given up on this being a peaceful planet, and ours being a peaceful species, that can get along with itself. After a certain point, I just had to quit hoping for any change in Humanity, and accept what IS.

(A good thing, too, that nobody ever asked for my opinion).

War will always be with us, whether you're pro- or anti-, and War is a favorite topic of filmmakers everywhere.

Veterans Day is a big holiday. Post Office and Banks are closed. Play the DVDs, open your eyes and heart, and solemnly reflect on Man's Inhumanity To Man.







Just so we don't get stuck in the Twentieth Century. Spartacus? War movie? Stanley Kubrick? Yes!



 
There were lots of war movies made during the Vietnam era.
"Full Metal Jacket." Best Vietnam War movie? Yes.





Also-Great Vietnam War Movie. Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."



Robert Altman's blood-soaked comedy, M*A*S*H. Set during the Korean war, but it's really about Vietnam.




Mike Nichols's Great, but too-cute-for-its-own-box office "Catch-22." About WWII, but really about Vietnam. (Recognize some Great Actors, as youngsters?)




Stanley Kubrick's end-of-the-world Nightmare Comedy about Nuclear War.
(Which we don't discuss any more, but it's more likely now than ever). "Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb."



Great Cast (Lee Marvin, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill), in
Samuel Fuller's masterpiece, "The Big Red One."





America is a land of contradictions. We believe passionately in Freedom and Rights, but historically, America has infringed some American citizens' Liberty.


This is the story of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most-decorated US outfit of WWII. Composed of Nisei (2nd generation Japanese-Americans), they fought valiantly, despite losing their Rights and Property and Personal Liberty. Their story is inspiring, in "Go For Broke"



Last, but certainly not least, here's Audie Murphy, the most-decorated boy soldier of WWII, who came home to a celebrated movie career.

Audie was 5'5" tall, weighed 110 pounds, crazy brave enough to wipe out German tanks and machine guns and soldiers, while he was sick to death with Malaria.

Audie won 33 medals, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. The movie story of Audie's life was Universal's highest-grossing film for 20 years, until it was topped by "Jaws."

Audie Leon Murphy. Somebody must have told him his middle name means "Lion," because he was brave as one.

I'm a big fan of Audie, starting with his heroic story, playing himself on the big screen, in "To Hell And Back."




Happy Veterans Day! May America and Americans live up to her proud heritage, and take the high moral road.
God Bless America!