Archive: Feb 2007

Fandango – wasting the opportunity

I love Fandango’s core service. Buying tickets is simple, elegant and most importantly it works.

But Fandango probably realized recently that it has all this wonderful data that it could use. For example, it shows me all the films I’ve ever watched. Great — that plus Netflix would be a good encapsulation of most everything I watch.

More recently though, Fandango has discovered “community”. Why shouldn’t Fandango have ratings and reviews? It’s all the rage and everyone is doing it. No reason at all. Except they have no clue how to do it.

Recently I watched Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday. I bought the tickets on Fandango and watched the movie on February 12th. I got this email on the 13th from Fandango asking me to review the film.

Great, I thought. How prompt. Let me go review it. I click on the link and log in. This is what I get:
Error page

Hmm. Fine then, I won’t review it, but why waste my time guys? Oh, but it gets worse.

I get another email on February 15th telling me it is my “Last Chance”. I ignore it. Last chance? I wish. I get yet another email on February 17th with a different title (asking me to tell the community about myself), but with the same request to review Black Friday. Okay, I will give it one last try. Alas, I get the same message again.

Don’t you think if you send me THREE emails asking me to do something that I should be able to actually perform the action? Getting the basics right is important if you want to build community. Either fix the issue or stop emailing me. I’d have been equally fine with either option.

Fandango, please get the basics right.


Fair use and documentary films

I am very interested in how culture evolves, how technology and art are inspired, and how prevailing laws enable or choke that innovation. I read Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture when it came out and was fascinated with the history of innovation and his hypotheses on where we were headed.

I’ve been meaning to find Lessig’s blog and today, someone emailed me a link to his blog that talks about an exciting new development in the documentary film world. The Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices outlines all the ways documentary filmmakers can follow the rules on Fair use and protect themselves. Those filmmakers who are certified to have followed those guidelines be able to get insured and therefore, their films will be able to get released. Earlier, the risk of getting sued was so high that some of these films never saw the light of day.

What a great step. Setting out the rules of Fair Use, easing the process of getting clearances, reducing the risk of being sued and therefore, increasing the capability to innovate. Excellent. (Thanks for the email, Evan!)

On a similar vein, watch this informative video on Net Neutrality which will have a big impact on how we innovate, communicate and create (although the video gets a little preachy/angry towards the end).

Video via: Lessig’s blog


First draft

For me, writing the first draft is the hardest thing.

I think of an idea and just twirl it in my head for a few days. I think about it any time I am free… images running through my head. I’ll hit an issue. Some issues are deal breakers – if it destroys the premise or makes the whole story seem silly, poof, the idea is banished. I’ll start the same process with another idea. I usually try to work around deal breakers if I can. It might need a dramatic shift in some of the original hypotheses/characters, but I’m not attached to them yet.

Then, I write it all down in a treatment. Usually somewhere between 3 and 7 pages of prose. At this stage, I find it useful to share. I remember for one of my treatments that I shared with my workshop, the group felt that the ending seemed odd – the character was too strong to pick the option I had picked for her. I felt part of it was not understanding the cultural mileu of India, but I could also see their point. That ending… well, I am still torn on which direction to go on that.

Once I feel I have an idea that can work and outline that seems interesting, I write. Since I’ve spent so much time thinking, the writing usually goes pretty quickly. For the first section of the screenplay anyway…

The middle section is icky. Conflict arises, conflict gets worse, all the character motivations need to be ironed out. This is where I stall. Procrastination, pontification, loathing of the script, scoffing at the idea. Every tool is used to delay addressing the prickly issues.

The resolution has probably been in my head for a while. I may have a couple of alternate endings. I try to pick the less obvious/convenient one. Once I get done, I can’t look at it any more. I need time away before I can come back to it.

How does this compare to how you write? Any suggestions?


The Hand

The Hand is part of a compilation DVD called Eros. It includes three movies/shorts by Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh, and Michelangelo Antonioni.

I’m just going to focus on Wong Kar Wai’s “The Hand”, which kicks off the trio. The Hand is like a lot of Wong Kar Wai movies – it is a sad, sad love story. The Hand is about a prostitute (another favorite WKW theme), Miss Hua, played by the fabulous Gong Li and her tailor, Zhang (Chen Chang). It traces the life and the decline of Hua and the enduring love and loyalty of Zhang. That’s the story. That’s all there is to it — well, there are some details like her getting heartbroken over and over again, supporting a gigolo lover and finally falling ill and being destitute, but at the core, it is a sad, sad love story.

But it is so much more when you are watching it!

What I love about watching a Wong Kar Wai movie is that it is like watching thousands of frames of art. Every shot, no, every minute, no, every second, no, every single frame is unbelievable. WKW worked with cinematographer Christopher Doyle again and again, they are phenomenal together. The colors are amazing, the framing is phenomenal, the camera only moves when it absolutely should, the shot is held and held and held (no fast action cutting here), the details of production design ares stunning. I could go on and on, but the visual package is just mind blowing.

There is a scene where Zhang comes to Hua’s apartment for the first time. It is shot from inside the stairwell and the camera is static. We see Zhang through a distorting green glass, outside the building. The stairwell has very striking railing and the whole image is stunning.

There are so many of these. Like the shot when Zhang is waiting to meet Hua for the first time. He’s in the living room while she entertains a customer (the gigolo). We see a shot of the living room and the back of Zhang’s head. The customer leaves in the foreground and Zhang just sits there motionless, unsure of what to do. The shot is beautiful – red living room, dark suits, the sounds around Zhang, people talking, Hua calling him in, but he’s rooted and the camera is rooted to him.

And like the scene where Zhang visits Hua in a rundown motel. She’s trying to give it one last try to make her lifestyle work and she needs a new dress. Zhang takes her measurements with this hands. He runs his hands slowly over her shoulders and then around her waist. The moment is drawn out, Hua is crying, the cinematography is fabulous and I am crying with them. The acting is very good. The sheer emotion when Hua realizes that Zheng loves her. Loves her the way she deserves to be loved. But there’s too much of her life that has gone by, too many bad decisions made that she can’t change. That everything is just too late… too inevitable… None of this is said. It is the acting and the visuals.

Why is it called The Hand? Because the first time Hua meets Zhang, she gives him something to make him understand why she’s important, why the clothes he will make for her are important, a feeling he can carry with him every time he makes her a dress. She gives him a hand job. I know what you are thinking, but it is done with class. Hua is in control – she is showing Zhang who’s in charge. And there is a final hand job at the end, when that is all Hua can give. She’s not in control. She’s open, giving, finally when it is too late. That one is emotional and sad. A sense of desperation, of finality. And beautifully shot and cut together.

The Hand like any WKW/Doyle collaboration is a visual feast. The images evoke the emotion. The images can make me cry. While it is only 43 minutes long, this movie like 2046, and Happy Together will stay with me. The visuals are burned into my brain.

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