Die Hard + CONvergence = SWEDE HARD!

At CONvergence 2012, I was marginally involved in a remake of Die Hard, which was filmed in one day on a budget of pocket lint and powdered sugar. After months of post-production (read: burning stuff in Jerry’s garage), it is finally here: SWEDE HARD!

If you are not familiar with the concept of “sweded” films, I have written at length about the process. In a nutshell, a group of people remake a popular movie with nothing except low-tech techniques, handmade props, and gumption. The concept originated from a Michel Gondry film called Be Kind Rewind.

The team that put together Swede Hard is a strange lot. Jerry Belich (who I collaborated with on the sweded Hobbit trailer) and Brian Quaforth wrote the script. Jerry teamed with C. Robert Cargill (aka Massawyrm on Ain’t It Cool News and co-writer of Sinister) to direct. Minneapolis comedians Kelvin Hatle, Joseph Scrimshaw, and Duck Washington lead the cast, which also includes Tim Wick, Jerry Belich, Cargill, Bill Stiteler, Eryn Sophia, and Sharon Snyder. I provided some script editing, one piece of voice work, the “pregnant lady”, some camerawork, the glass-walking gag (of which I am proud), and Everclear.

Oh, and Jeremy Messersmith provided the music. I don’t even know how that happened.

So, here’s Swede Hard! I’m pleased as punch to know these gloriously silly people.

Thursday Night: PowerPoint Karaoke!

Remember that PowerPoint Karaoke will be invading a stage (hopefully) near you on THURSDAY NIGHT! See improv comedians bravely attempt to give a PowerPoint presentation for a deck that they have never seen before.

This amazing event happens at the Bryant-Lake Bowl on Thursday, November 29th, at 10:00pm! Doors will open at 9:30pm, so arrive early and have a beer!

This month, we are partnered with Fearless Comedy and Vilification Tennis, so this month’s presenters are: Matt Allex, Molly Glover, Nick Glover, and Anna Weggel. (Plan on seeing some awesome husband-versus-wife action!)

And I’ll be there slinging slides, so I’ll be looking for YOU.

Tickets are $7 ($5 with a MN Fringe button), and can be purchased at the Bryant Lake Bowl website!

If you like doing the Facebook thing, you can do that here:

Please attend! Laugh! Drink beer!

Cinematic Oddities: The Cremator

A few nights ago, I saw that The Cremator (1969) had popped up on Hulu Plus’ streaming service, under the Criterion label. I knew little about the film, aside from the fact that it was one of only 6 films on IMDB’s Top 50 Horror Films list that I’d never seen. So I watched it.

I was almost immediately struck by the sense that, if it were in English instead of Czech, Stanley Kubrick might have directed the film. Cinematographer Stanislav Milota makes liberal use of non-standard lenses, particularly fish-eyes and other wide angles, to set a sense of unease. Like a Kubrick film, The Cremator almost looks more like a moving album cover instead of a film. Aside from that, the subject matter, focusing tightly upon a crematorium operator who descends into sociopathy, is also quite Kubrickian. Open that with a striking papercraft-animated opening credit sequence, and add a dollop of some of the blackest comedy I’ve ever seen, and you have something that almost looks like a black-and-white mash-up of The Shining and Dr. Strangelove.

To say The Cremator is a horror film may put some viewers on the wrong track. It is the definition of a slow burn, where you feel uneasy — but you don’t know quite why — for about 3/4ths of the running time. It’s the little details that are unsettling, and you might miss them if you aren’t paying attention. Kopfrkingl, the main character, becomes creepy through the minutest of gestures. He touches the back of the neck of a new employee. In his morgue, he touches up the hairdo of a corpse like the meticulous attendant he is… and then uses the same comb on his own hair. He launches into long monologues, which mostly make sense… mostly.

When the film has patiently developed its central character, it lets a whole new aspect of the story bloom out of seemingly nowhere, yet, of course, it was lurking in the corner the whole time. This film rewards patience.

Rudolf Hrusínský, who pays Kopfrkingl, is perfect in the main role. He fills the screen with his presence. He is the engine that runs the entire film.

According to Wikipedia, “the film was banned after its premiere in 1969, and remained in the vault until the collapse of the communist system in Czechoslovakia in 1989.” Thus, even though the film earned acclaim in Czechoslovakia upon its release, it was largely forgotten for many decades. I am thankful that the digital age has now made such a strange cinematic treat available once again.

New Geek Life: Planck vs. Avogadro

Enjoy Episode 175, where we talk about Le Grand K and other awesome things!

A Silent Movie Primer

From The White Shadow.

Last week, news channels announced that one of Alfred Hitchcock’s long-lost silent films, The White Shadow, had been found. Only about half of the full print exists, but it is nonetheless the earliest Hitchcock work that currently exists, and you can watch it right here on the web.

Alfred Hitchock is only one amazing director that his/her start in the silent era of filmmaking. The silent era is an amazing period of film, where the language of visual, in-motion storytelling was still being created out of nothing, and where all stories had to be told on the strength of their image. Directors who were forged in that era often went on to create sound films that birthed the golden age of filmmaking.

Some of these silent era experiments in film either did not work or do not age well; some silent filmmaking is difficult to endure even for an intrepid film nerd. However, there are a great many silent films that are fascinating, even 90 or 100 years later.

After a couple conversations I had last week about Hitchcock’s very early work, I realized that even some film fans I know aren’t very familiar with silent moviemaking. Thus, I figured it might be nice to assemble a Silent Film Primer: a list of silent films that could pique the interest of casual film fans.

Please keep in mind that the list below is not a “best of” list. It should not be judged by what it omits (“You forgot my favorite one!”). It is merely meant to be a list that highlights particularly nifty silent films that I believe would be fun for people who aren’t already familiar with very early filmmaking.

Let’s go! Continue Reading →