Mar 5, 2010

Indio Outio: Original Opening

The evolution of Indio Outio is something that I've enjoyed sharing since the trip took place in the late summer of 2009. I never really knew how it would all turn out as my plans for editing it continued to change over the months, but part of that was because of how much great footage I was able to capture. Better to have a lot of options than too few I suppose.

This intro was initially cut in September of 2009 and helped to establish the preview trailer that I debuted at the time (hence the same opening cuts, just played in reverse). The project was going to take on more of a documentary vibe, but the challenge to screen it or successfully upload the full project the way I wanted kept things in limbo.

My decision to share a series of edits as one loose project (Indio Outio) ultimately won over my personal documentary concept, but that's not to say that the edits aren't still personal. I did cut shots of my buddy Dave and I in where available, and all the music I selected was either stuff we listened to on the trip or that I had been listening to leading up to it. In any case, the individual edits for the various destinations replaced the need for a longer set of titles, but just to share a bit of the process I thought I'd still share this portion that had been sitting idle for so long. Enjoy!

Mar 3, 2010

Guy With A Library Card: Issue 04

My Hero
Written by M

If I had to pick one musical hero it would be the Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl, but this isn't about Dave. This is about someone who I feel I should respect but I can't bring myself to completely enjoy what this man does. By now you're probably cursing my name by the fact I'm still beating around the bush. But there is no easy way for me to raise this subject and this person, so here it is; this is about Micheal Moore.

I am a documentary person. I can't explain it. I love watching docs and I love being part of them from behind the camera. As Luke has found Editing, I have found documenting. This love I likely owe to my dad and his countless A&E Biographies, his obsession with bio-pics, news and anything to do with real people like Ali or Tretiak. I likely should have went through journalism school. All of this is why I have problems discussing Micheal Moore.

You see, I have very mixed feelings about him, created by his history and what he has done. Let's face it, without Moore documentaries would not be as popular as they are now. Roger and Me changed everything. It was fresh, it was entertaining and it was as Dave says “ordinary”. He created a large appeal to the everyday average person struggling in the world. Then Bowling came out. Even more people paid attention to him. And when he got to Sicko “the man” was afraid of him.

As a documentary guy I can't help but to watch his films. Personally, my favourite being Bowling For Columbine. I remember when I first saw it I thought two things; 1. He makes some good points and 2. why is my bull$h!t detector way off the charts? I never put thought into it until I started hearing things about how he manipulates images and audio. Then things kind of made sense. I watched the movie again and thought that it is pretty obvious what is full of crap and what isn't. Then I got mad, I thought this isn't even a documentary. Then my stance shifted and I though his tactics are actually pretty smart as far as how to compile an entertaining documentary.

Then the pitchfork came, it was called Fahrenheit 911. I had high expectations for this movie and was let down immensely. My radar shut down about three minutes in going “are you kidding me?” Ever since, I lost all respect for the man as a documentarian. I went more grass roots and appreciated the classic “just watch what happens” approach to docs. Unfortunately, that style lost out to Micheal's argumentative style. I started to look at most docs as if there are three sides to every story and this is one. I was very cynical about something I loved and it drove me insane. This was when I started to question film school.

Luckily, this very moment made me realize something that I had never thought profound before. All documentaries have a point. So I had to retool what I thought about docs and I came to the conclusion that the aim of any doc should be for truth within the subject matter. This still left our poor Mikey.

Now I've never taken the time to research what he had done and all of my opinions were based on face value of what I had seen. So on two separate occasions I ran into Documentaries about Mr. Moore on the library shelf. The first one I watched was called Micheal and Me. Which was garbage. It came off as 'Micheal is famous and I strive to be like him so lets see if my career can get a boost directly from him'. I call it doc because the truth was evident that this guy was desperate. Also, along the way you do learn a little about Micheal but it's not worth watching.

Then I found a doc called Manufacturing Dissent. In this one, a Canadian Journalist follows Micheal on his tours and talks to many people from many sides of the Moore debate. It is very news reel in flow and feel but was much better. The thing I like is that they really do strive to create a truth to what he does and why he does it. There are critics, there are fans and yes you still have to take some of it with grain of salt.

The problem I am left with is, I still don't know how to take the whole Micheal Moore issue. On one hand, he plays to much with the reality and context of his subject and material. On the other hand, if by doing so you can create something maybe a little more entertaining or make people spirited for something good, inspiring, and intelligent it may be worth it. In my lifetime, although I don't believe entirely in Micheal Moore and don't respect him, he has done enough to influence my work. The thing I try to keep in mind is trying not to lose the truth within the tactics. I guess the most important thing Micheal did teach me is to think for myself. In everything I watch, I choose to ignore what sets me off and take in what I do appreciate. Even if the aim is not truth it can become truth for me. The facts I can learn later.

So now to answer the question you all are thinking, why do I love Dave Grohl so much? You see, Dave helped change culture with Nirvana and then did his side thing that blew up huge. The impressive part is that he went from drums to guitar and vocals. With that he has also tackled producing, recording and almost anything in the industry you can physically do. This also spans from grunge to pop to punk to metal. Whether he's with the Foo or the Queens or Probot the man has done it all and has done it with success both financially and critically and, maybe more importantly, with fans. I can't help but feel he'll be the last of his kind. Dave you are My Hero. Mike you're a prick, but I can't ignore you. Oh, the conflict.

Mar 1, 2010

Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

In what I consider to be one of the most original and entertaining concepts for a screenplay, Good Bye Lenin directed by Wolfgang Becker, chronicles the rapid change in East Germany after the Berlin Wall falls and western ideology invades. While you may be thinking this sounds like a history lesson, the real twist is that it's about a woman who falls into a coma before the wall came down and wakes up after the bulk of the change has occurred.

The story centres around Alex, played by Daniel Bruhl, whose mother is the woman in the coma. Due to her fragile heart and weak condition she's bed-ridden and doctors warn that any shock could do her in - clearly an issue when almost nothing is the way it was.

Becker's film takes place in East Berlin which gives us a front row seat to the sweeping changes that occur while Alex's mom is out. For a young guy in his twenties, the shift is both energizing and overwhelming. The invasion of western culture is initially revealed tongue and cheek (hey, look at all the choices in the supermarket now!) but the onslaught becomes a burden to Alex's situation and creates a strong message for how despite the new found freedom, it wasn't really the Godsend promised either.

To keep his mother stable, Alex retrofits her flat back to its East German glory - from the nightstands to the curtains and various Communist paraphernalia. In her weakened state Alex's mother's room becomes a microcosm of the country that was. Although, finding her old favorite foods is now made more difficult when the single brand she had been used to has been replaced with an entire row of options - ironically, all the wrong options for Alex's predicament.

Becker's film, while both lighthearted and upbeat, is actually quite successful at examining this defining moment in German history. The situation that Alex finds himself in gives him the opportunity to create the best of East Germany for his mother, the country that it was supposed to be, the country that he never really understood like she did.  There's optimism in the message, reminding everyone that it was supposed to be so much better than what had become of it.

I think it's easy to historically classify East Germany or the GDR as intrinsically evil (especially if you're from the West). With a communist government, they were a rival for just over 40 years after all. However, what Good Bye Lenin does so successfully is highlight the ordinary people behind the system who were really just trying to live their lives as happily as possible. Let me make it clear, Becker doesn't make excuses for the country or the powers that were, but instead he paints a picture that contrasts the ideologies from an East German perspective. The film explores how in many ways the invasion of consumerism and a free market really just created a new form of disparity - further emphasizing the radical transition.

Imagine being in East Germany and suddenly seeing western business take over, the range in selection, the quality and choice increase. At the same time, picture the tackiness of it all, suddenly Burger Kings and Coca Cola everywhere you look, secure government employment replaced by minimum wage retail positions, and a shift in thinking from 'the good of the people' to the consumer driven 'me lifestyle'. While there are significant flaws in both systems, the point is that neither side got it right. And while the west paints the end of the GDR as a victory, the film simply suggests that being East German didn't mean or doesn't mean that your history isn't worth valuing.

It's both hilarious and heartbreaking to see Alex cope with his mother's condition, hiding the truth outside, and maintaining the reality he's created inside. He goes as far as filming fake news reports, and getting the neighbours and old friends to go along with the lie. It's a human story that reminds us of the values that we should uphold no matter what the system of government. 

At it's heart, Good Bye Lenin is really about moving forward. Alex's story is about paying tribute to all those who had their lives turned upside down in the chaos. It's about giving East Germany, and all those people who grew up there knowing nothing else, a send off, a glimpse at what it was supposed to be, and perhaps most importantly, recognition of a new unified German history for a country that's only been re-unified for twenty years now.

Good Bye Lenin! is a charming, funny, and unique movie that brilliantly incorporates the chaos and excitement that surrounded the end of the Cold War. It's no wonder that it's regarded as one of the revival films for German cinema. Whether you're in the mood to just kick back or sink your teeth into something a bit heavier, Good Bye Lenin seems to balance these traits with the best of them. Simply, the Cold War never seemed quite so wonderfully innocent.