Movies & Film

Lost Days Video Short by Leslie Fandrich

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Sun soaked and wistful, this beautiful video short by my dear friend Regina Garcia totally made my day yesterday. It makes me yearn for summer (and youth if we are being totally honest here.)

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Regina told me about filming this last summer in Canada with Goh Iromoto and I couldn't wait to see it. They didn't disappoint. I want to be that girl in the film. I love every single scene but especially the night scene by the bonfire. It's just gorgeous.

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Regina and I went to college together and I have always loved her approach to photography and styling. She has always photographed beautiful strong women and her portraits of children (including my own Milo and Quinn) are fun and playful.

Keep an eye on her, I think she has even more beautiful, creative work to come.

The Magic of the Drive-In Movie Theater by Leslie

It's still light outside when the cars and trucks start to line up. The box office opens and families, young couples or car loads of friends begin to roll by, heading off to screen one, two or three. They turn down their favorite row, back into the spot, tune the FM radio to 89.9, pop the hatch and pull out the lawn chairs, blankets and pillows. The kids run around on the grass in the headlights that have not yet been turned off. The sky begins to darken, the excitement builds, the wind blows and everyone grabs their popcorn and gets cozy and comfortable. When the first stars start to flicker in the night sky, the screen comes to life. There is just one preview, the movie starts and hundreds of people relive one of the greatest American traditions of the 1950s, watching a movie at the drive-in.

Waiting for night to fall and the movie to start at the Warwick Drive-In.

I remember going to the drive-in with my parents when I was a kid. There was almost nothing as thrilling as getting ready for bed and then getting in the car to drive to the movies. My sister and I got to stay up late, we ate buttery popcorn out of a big brown paper bag and we fell asleep in the backseat watching strange movies like Enemy Mine while our parents snuggled in the front seat. It was a magical summer experience and I am so thrilled to be able to give my kids the same memories at our own local drive-in theater in Warwick, NY.


The front row gave us lots of grass to lounge on.

In 1932 Richard Hollingshead began some tests in his driveway with his car, a screen attached to some trees and a 1928 Kodak projector to determine placement and sound issues for an outdoor movie theater. He found that the front of each car needed to be elevated to see over the car in front of it. He applied for a patent and on June 6, 1933 he opened the first drive-in Camden, New Jersey. Hollingshead's company, Park-It Theatres, licensed the idea to Loews Drive-In Theatres, Inc., but was not able to collect royalties. Park-It took Loews to court but eventually the patent was invalidated and Hollingshead was never able to profit from his idea. In the book, Drive-In Theaters: A History From Their Inception in 1933 by Kerry Segrave, there is a quote from Hollingshead which shows that he was quite bitter about the situation.

According to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association (UDITOA), at it's peak in 1958 there were 4,063 drive-ins in operation across the country. In the 60's that number began to fall, but it was the 10 years between 1978 and 1988 that was the hardest on the industry, with 1000s of drive-ins closing due to an increase in property values that made selling for redevelopment very attractive. Today, there are about 380 drive-ins across the country, with only one still operating in it's birthplace of New Jersey. 

The lone theater in New Jersey is the Delsea. It closed in 1987, reopened in 2004 and seems to be doing well today. Drive-ins have been experiencing a resurgence in the last 10 years, partly due to high prices at the multiplex. A drive-in ticket at our local theater is $8 for an adult, $5 for kids and free for kids under 4. Your ticket buys you a double feature. At the Starlight Drive-In in Atlanta, where there are six double features to choose from, prices for adults are just $7 and kids are only a buck. That is a much better deal than a traditional theater and way more fun.

Browse through this list of drive-in theaters in the US to see the drive-ins operating in your state. There are also listings for Canada and Australia. The top five states for drive-ins are: Pennsylvania with 33, Ohio with 30, New York with 29, Indiana with 21 and Texas with 19. (as of September 19, 2010, source UDITOA)

Sunsets are always pretty up on the hill at the Warwick Drive-In.

Kung Fu Panda 2 at the Drive-In. The kids loved it.

It's an unforgettable experience, watching a movie under the stars in the open air. When we went last weekend, the place was packed and the air was buzzing. It was the beginning of the summer and people were just thrilled to be outside. I hope we will go again and again this summer. I love supporting a local, family owned operation and I want it to stay in business, so we always buy our refreshments there. Most drive-ins make their money at the concession stand, so if you want to keep the place open for years to come, make sure to buy your popcorn there. 

There is another option for those who find themselves nowhere near a drive-in. It's the backyard movie extravaganza! All you need is a laptop, large speakers, an LCD player, a large white wall and for a big crowd maybe a rented popcorn machine. Here are more tips about how to create a backyard theater on the cheap. We hosted a backyard movie party in 2005 and that summer we watched many fantastic movies in our backyard, including an epic Lord of the Rings marathon. 

However you do it, I hope that you are able to get outside this summer to enjoy a movie. If you regularly attend your local drive-in, remember going when you were a kid, or have hosted a backyard movie party, I'd love to hear from you in the comments! If you haven't had the pleasure of watching a movie outside, I encourage you to get outside and make some lasting memories.

For Earth Day: Watch "The Mountain" by Terje Sorgjerd by Leslie

For Earth Day today, you must watch this incredible video by Terje Sorgjerd. I saw it posted at Karen's site a couple of days ago, and his Aurora video is also worth a look. He captures such beautiful images. My favorite part is the rolling clouds at 00:45, they look like water.

Watching this video just reminds me how wondrous, breathtaking and beautiful our little planet is. It is getting harder and harder to find perfectly untouched pieces of nature. The U.S. National Park Service is a great place to discover our national parks and get involved. In Canada, you can visit Parks Canada and get involved there too. Visiting our national parks is a fantastic way to spend the summer, getting out into nature is a wonderful way to relax and spend time with your kids. Go camping or hiking and teach them to admire and cherish our natural world. So much of our time is spent "plugged in" and "wowed", it's so important to disconnect and listen to nature.

Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers": What's the Story? by Leslie

Maybe it's all the time I've been spending over the last few weeks in my own head, writing and imagining scenes, but this video from Lykke Li (pronounced "licky lee") has mesmerized me. I feel like I need to create a back story for this video. It's so amazing. Watch it, then scroll down for my break down.

So initially, I was not all that impressed with the video, it seemed so literal, the girl following the guy. But then there is that moment where the music stops and you hear her breathing and all of a sudden I was the girl. When the music starts again and she starts running, I caught my breath.

She's like a ghost in the billowing black shroud. I imagined she was mad at him, they had a fight and he ran away and she was chasing him and was going to attack him, but that seems too simple. I thought, "she can't run in those shoes," and then she fell and took them off and continued running barefoot in the snow. What a beautiful thing. Running barefoot in the snow. No one does that. 

She catches up to him and I am waiting for the attack, but he turns to her and he looks so sad, and then he cries. Why does a man cry? It's heartbreaking. What happened to this man? And she touches his face and kisses him and I'm crying now too. But then! That look at the end, where she looks at the camera. What secret is she keeping? Who is she?

Ahhh. I love it. 

Can you tell me? What story can you imagine behind this video? On Youtube, crstrong78 wrote, "The guy was a soldier. The woman in black was someone he killed and felt regret for killing. He is being chased by the memory of her ghost until he can't go no further and relents to the sorrow of his sins. Her kiss which he is initially unwilling to accept seems to present forgiveness, but the last glance lets us know it's the kiss of death."

Some side notes: My husband Chris loves her other song, Get Some. Watch that one too, it's good. Doesn't Lykke Li look like Lady Gaga? I thought it was Lady Gaga at first, doing some side project, but apparently not. Here's her official website, I love how it's black and white! How unusual and cool.

My Take on Banksy's Film "Exit Through the Gift Shop" by Leslie

Have you seen the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop? What did you think? Did you know it was nominated for an Oscar? Will Bansky, the anonymous and mysterious graffiti artist from London, be at the awards tonight? There are spoilers in this post, so if you haven't seen it, stop reading and go watch it now.

I loved the beginning of the movie, with all the behind the scenes footage of creating street art, stuff I had actually seen in New York and London. Space Invader, one of my favorites, plays a critical role. But by the end of the movie I was simultaneously laughing and getting totally irritated, when the main character, Thierry Guetta aka Mr Brainwash, just clearly does not take any of what he is doing seriously. Or at least, not as seriously as you would think a serious artist with a major art exhibition would take things. So, I had to wonder, is he a serious artist? And then I wondered, what *IS* a serious artist? And then, what is *ART*? Eep. To say that this movie made me think is an understatement.

Mr. Brainwash charged obscene amounts of money for a derivative pieces of art that he didn't even make himself and strange, rich, art collectors, who seemed to be jumping on the bandwagon of the most current trend, were actually buying it. It was amazing. Thierry was laughing at them, Banksy was laughing at Thierry and I was laughing and wondering at the whole lot of it. Is the point of art these days simply to make money? Is that the mark of a successful artist?

After the movie finished I started looking up articles online to try to get a clearer picture of what I had just seen and what I found was of the opinion that this movie was a farce entirely created by Banksy, but I'm not so sure. I like the idea that the first half of the movie is true, real footage and a real story about Thierry and the graffiti artists that are shown and that the second half, after Thierry shows his terrible documentary to Banksy, is puppeteered by Banksy though not entirely scripted by him.

I don't think that Thierry is an actor, he is not making it all up, but I do think that he has been set up to make a point about modern art and artists and art buying. Banksy is having to struggle with many moral issues that come along with a street artist gaining notoriety and celebrity. He is facing all kinds of decisions about how to present himself, who to be and maybe even how to make a living creating this art. Pushing Thierry into the limelight allows Banksy to explore these themes in a public way without actually having to do it himself. Thierry is a willing guinea pig, happy to be taking these opportunities, and becoming his dream. I just don't think he is in on the joke.

The introduction of money, into any endeavor, often changes it. As soon as people are paid for something, their credibility and reputation are questioned. Do they really think or feel a particular way, or are they being paid to say something. The artist isn't making art to make art anymore, or to make a statement. The artist is now making money. They can be bought and they can be influenced. 

If you are a street artist, or a punk musician, or an indy band and all of a sudden you start making money, you are a sell out. But is it such a bad thing? Don't we all want to be paid to do what we love? Why is being profitable so at odds with an alternative, renegade viewpoint?

I think the reason is that the artist's message, and by extension the artist themselves, is often diluted or even undermined by where ever the money is coming from. If the sponsors, or the audience are at odds with the message, then it feels inauthentic. It's not true anymore. You can't TRUST it.

Banksy's art is all about truths, he likes to point out the forces behind the facades, the little nuggets of wisdom behind a complex idea. If you take it off the street and put it in an art gallery, it has the potential to loose it's context and it's credibility. It doesn't always mean the same thing on a white wall with a price tag on it.

But Banksy has shown that you can make money at this if you are careful. He's staged exhibits at galleries, his LA show Barely Legal featured a massive elephant in the room, he has published books and has now made an Oscar nominated movie, profiting all the way. And yet, the Banksy Shop, on his website, doesn't actually have anything for sale.

So, with all of this confusion, juxtaposition and contradiction, it's hard to say what Banksy will do at the Oscars tonight. Will he simply not show up and let the producer pick up the award? Will he claim his prize wearing a monkey mask? Will five people go up on stage, all claiming to be Banksy? I am very curious to see what he will do next, that's for sure, but I do hope that it's something different. Though different at this point, for Bansky, might be something as normal as just being himself.

Breakthru Films' Animated Peter and The Wolf by Leslie

I have a deeply ingrained fondness for the music and story of Peter and the Wolf. When I was a little girl I had a Disney read-along book, the ones with a little 45 record in the back flap, and I would listen to it over and over again, turning the pages when the bells chimed. It might have been my first introduction to classical music. The book was made from the Disney animation, but I didn't see that until just recently. My memory is of the record and read-along book and it really imprinted on my brain. So much so, that as an adult, a few years ago I tracked it down on Ebay and purchased it, just so that I could see and hear it again. (Yes - we have a record player. Chris is a true music fan and loves old records.)

So, I was thrilled to discover a new version on Netflix of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. It is Breakthru Films' stop motion puppet animation, and it is utterly magical. There is no dialogue, the animation is very well done, the puppets are incredible and the eyes and expressions on Peter are breathtaking. I laughed and gasped and really enjoyed it. It's a wonderful interpretation and the kids enjoyed it too.

 It has won two major awards at the Annecy Festival and also recieved a BAFTA nomination. You will have to check out Netflix or your local video store to see the movie, but this is a great video that shows the making of the film.

Peter And The Wolf, The Making Of from Adrian Hedgecock on Vimeo.

 

Date Night: Beowulf in 3D by Leslie

Chris and I went to a movie for the first time since Milo was born! Yay for us! That's over a year and a half without going to a movie theater. We dropped him off at Chris's sister place at 3:30 and went to the 4:30 showing of Beowulf in 3D. It was a 2 hour movie and we did a little shopping at our favorite Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya after, so we got back around 7:30. Milo did not cry even once while we were gone, and while Gloria said it seemed like he was checking in all the rooms shortly after we left, he didn't really miss us. Having Jake there to play with him makes a big difference and he loves chasing their cats around. "Kitty" is his newest word. I'm so glad that it went well for him and for us!

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The movie was fun, written by Neil Gaiman, and filmed using "performance capture" to allow for blending special effects with live action and for creating the 3D effect. I'm too tired to do a review, but it was thrilling, gory, sexy, enchanting, funny and engaging. The 3D was really cool and we saw 2 previews for live action films, one of which is a U2 concert. Neato. Here's info on the original Old English heroic, epic poem.

God's Highway Video by Leslie

Our friend Petter filmed a video for Swedish singer Tobias Froberg and it features Chris's race track! It's a beautiful video, elegant and sweet, and I think it's pretty cool that we were a part of it. My favorite part is the crash sequence and the night shot of all the cars driving by that dissolves into a day shot on the same part of the track. They were at our house for an afternoon and while Petter, Ryan and Chris filmed in the basement, Petter's girlfriend Serena and I played with Milo upstairs. It was such a fun day! Serena plays the girl in the video. She's a fabulous up-and-coming actress that you can see in The Architect and The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

Send my Cousin to France! Support Canadian Film Shorts! by Leslie

My cousin Luke, a film student in Regina, Saskatchewan has been selected as a finalist in a National Film Board of Canada contest to "Make Shorts, Not War". We are trying to send him on an all expenses paid trip to France this summer to act as an official videographer for the Canadian youth delegation attending the 90th anniversary ceremony of the Battle of the Somme. [Post edited to remove voting information since the contest is now over.]

"A Chill in the Air is a poetic documentary exploring changes of seasons in comparison to the recovery after war. Nature undergoes regular cycles of loss and renewal. In war, we need to believe that those who sacrificed their lives did so not in vain, but for future generations.

Luke Fandrich, 21, is a third year film production major at the University of Regina. He started writing short stories at the age of 12, when he discovered his passion for filmmaking and bought his first video camera. Self-taught, he explored as many facets of production as possible with projects ranging from animation to experimental to documentary and comedy. University taught him the basics and opened up the world of film; however, his greatest achievements have been made personally. Still learning new ways to express himself with each project, he continues to push himself to expand on old ideas with each project. Not knowing where movie-making may take him, he’s just enjoying the experience."

I am so proud of my cousin and look forward to seeing his career develop once he graduates. It's a Christmas tradition in my family to view his new projects and over the years I've seen him trying new things and steadily improving. The short film for this contest is one of my favorites, besides the family ones that he has done, and I love the genre title "poetic documentary".

Good luck Luke!

The Last Pear on the Tree & Death Cab for Cutie by Leslie

It smells like rotting pears out in the backyard. The squirrels have been picking the pears, taking a few bites and dropping them to the ground, where they rot. I suppose I should pick them up, but maybe the bugs and the birds can have a feast too. Under the shade of the cherry tree it isn't too hot. The sky is perfectly blue with just a few puffy clouds and I can hear the electric sound of the cicada bugs in the trees. Robin eats them if they end end up on the ground and she usually gets a belly ache and won't eat her dinner. Batman is out here too. He only seems to enjoy being outside when I am out here, otherwise he would rather nap on the couch in the air conditioning. I can't water today, due to water restrictions, but other than the potted plants which died weeks ago, everything still seems to be green and alive.

I have been busy organizing all my paper collections so that I can begin an illustrated journal. It's amazing how many things I have stashed all over the house. I find ticket stubs, brochures, paper samples, flyers, letters, cards and other scraps of paper picked up in my travels in a number of drawers, boxes, closets and envelopes. Some of it is sort of organized, but most has just been put into whichever spot I was stashing stuff at the time. I feel like the squirrel in my back yard. I collect paper for either two reasons, to document things I've done and places I've been, or because I liked the way something looked. I am going to attempt to collect them into some kind of series of books. But I wonder, are they more precious just as they are, or will they be more compelling weaved together into a cohesive format?

I don't want to spend all of my time reflecting on the past though, and I plan to start drawing and painting about my current daily life and future dreams too. I've always loved being creative and crafty, but I feel like it would be neat to tie everything together into a book and give myself a context. I've been inspired by Danny Gregory's drawings and books and by a few book binding and handmade journalling books I have picked up lately at Pearl Paint. I can do a painting, but I feel like on it's own it isn't as powerful as when it's combined with writing and artifacts from life. 

We saw Death Cab for Cutie at the Central Park Summerstage with the Decemeberists and the Stars (from Montreal). It was a great show and so cool to be outside under the full moon. I love DCFC and have been listening to their record Transatlanticism since my sister gave it to me for Christmas. Such great songs. The Stars were cool and energetic and I gotta love the Canadians. The Decemeberists were kind of folksy with a violin, accordion and stand up bass. I didn't immediately like it, but they had some great moments and I loved that they were doing something different. Chris and I couldn't figure out the violin player though, she looked sooo bored. Hardly cracked a smile at all, but the lead singer made up for it.

In other news we have seen two interesting films in the last two weeks, "Grizzly Man" and "2046".

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog, was a portrait of a very strange man named Timothy Treadwell. He lived in Alaska among the world largest brown bears and considered himself their equal and their protector. He was ultimately killed, along with his girlfriend, by the creatures he loved so much. The movie raises interesting questions about not only the character of this man, but also about how humans should best handle wild animals. It seemed to me that he didn't respect the bears and their way of living. He saw human characteristics in them and was appalled when they actually behaved like bears.

2046 by Wong Kar Wai, is a visual feast of 50's era fashion, futuristic fantasy, hot bodies and artistic directing. This film ignores a typical linear story and jumps around in time and place. It's difficult to follow, but you almost don't need to. It isn't important to necessarily understand what happened when, but to see how different story layers and characters overlap and reference each other. 2046 is a continuation of an earlier film called "In the Mood for Love" in which the main character has a heart breaking love affair with a married women. In the new film, the same main character (and actor) recovers from that earlier affair by becoming involved with many beautiful women whom he cares about, but will never let himself be hurt by. It's a complicated, beautiful story which I need to see again.